Monthly Archives: May 2014

Updates Links and Deals

New post publishing schedule:  “Updates, Links, and Deals” posting on Thursdays; weekly articles publishing on Mondays (beginning June 9; this week’s article will publish on Sunday).

One another’s I can’t find in the New Testament

How do we respond to brothers in error?

Some encouragement for the overwhelmed, overtired mothers in your church

What a new pastor doesn’t know – but needs to know that he doesn’t know

Deals:

The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts is FREE in multiple electronic formats this month, from Ligonier Ministries.

10 Awesome and Free eBooks online

300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans – FREE for Logos this month

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Book Review: Taking God at His Word

Taking-God-Word-3D-880x1024

Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014) 144 pp.

Kindle version  Hardcover

Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me is a book that is clear convincing, and enjoyable.  It is a book about the Book.  Why a book about the Book?  I think the answer to that question is also the answer to another question.

What makes a Christian book a good Christian book?  I have pondered this question lately and concluded that good Christian books are distinguished from the others by their cultivation of an increased hunger for God’s Word, a deeper love for Christ, and a more obedient life.  The main thrust of this book is to point us away from itself and make us want to dig into the Bible, and it is an excellent Christian book.

Taking God at His Word starts off showing the exuberant and ecstatic nature of Psalm 119 as a love poem to the written Word of God, as DeYoung aims not only to help us think correctly about the Bible, but to have an appropriate affection and appreciation for it.  He proceeds to show how God’s Word is more reliable than our personal experiences, and that it is sufficient, clear, the final authority, and necessary.  Chapter 7, “Christ’s Unbreakable Bible,” is my favorite section.  There He shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, as He surveys the context and content of Jesus’ teaching about the written Word, that

it is impossible to revere the Scriptures more deeply or affirm than more completely than Jesus did.  Jesus submitted his will to the Scriptures, committed his brain to studying the Scriptures, and humbled his heart to obey the Scriptures.  The Lord Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior, believed his Bible was the word of God down to the sentences, to the phrases, to the words, to the smallest letter, to the tiniest specks – and that nothing in all those specks and in all those books in his Holy Bible could ever be broken.

The book closes with a challenge to be faithful to the Scriptures, and points us to resources for more in-depth study about the doctrine of Scripture.

For me, reading this book accomplished the following things:

1. It renewed my love for God’s Word.  Taking God at His Word is near the top of my favorite books list because it makes me want to read the Bible more.  I have approached my reading and thinking on the Word of God with a new vigor and excitement since reading DeYoung’s book.

2. It reinforced my confidence in God’s Word.  I continue to hear the historical reliability and relevancy of the Word of God attacked in the culture at large as well as from individuals I know, but this book reinforced what I already believed by helping me confirm my confidence in the Bible, especially by comparing my view to Jesus’ view.  If the eternal, perfect, omniscient Son of God taught that the Scriptures were historically reliable, we ought to believe Him rather than the naysayers, no matter who they may be.  For instance, take DeYoung’s commentary on Jesus’ handling of the historicity of the Old Testament book of Jonah:

It’s hard to justify Jesus’ language about the men of Nineveh rising up to judge Capernaum on the last day if most or all of the Jonah story is not to be taken literally.  It would be like making that literary allusion to the men of Gondor and then issuing a very serious warning to your audience that the orcs of Mordor will rise up to judge and condemn them.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense.  As T. T. Perowne put it, commenting on the very real danger Jesus considered his hearers to be in, ‘And yet we are to suppose him to say that imaginary persons who at the imaginary preaching of an imaginary prophet repented in imagination, shall rise up in that day and condemn the actual impenitence of those his actual hearers?’  Quite the contrary.  In the Gospels we see Jesus reference Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Isaac and Jacob, manna in the wilderness, the serpent in the wilderness, Moses as the lawgiver, David and Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, Elijah and Elisha, the widow of Zarephath, Naaman, Zechariah, and even Jonah, never questioning a single event, a single miracle, or a single historical claim.  Jesus clearly believed in the historicity of biblical history.

3. It reaffirmed my desire to stand on God’s Word.  Though Taking God at His Word is a relatively short read, it has sufficient depth to effectively stir appropriate emotions, to convince the mind, and to motivate both the reading of the Bible and the faithful proclamation of it, even in the face of opposition.  The clarity of DeYoung’s presentation reaffirmed for me that there is no reason to be ashamed when critics attack the written Word of God.  Jesus’ church has believed it, stood on it, and propagated it for generations, with good reason.  It is what it claims to be and it is what He said it is.  The world is to be challenged to accept it, and Christians are to be challenged to stick with it.  There is no reason to abandon our faith in God and His Word, nor to back down from it’s bold claims, since they are true.

In reading DeYoung’s book, I noticed one area where I would like more clarification, particularly concerning what is and isn’t clear in the Bible on some issues where it and many mainstream scientists disagree.  In his chapter on the final authority of God’s Word, he writes,

If all the facts could be known perfectly, we would find that the Bible and science do not contradict each other.  Christians have nothing to fear from rigorous scientific investigation. And yet, if the Bible is our final authority – as it surely was for the Bereans – then we must be hesitant to scrub the Bible when it seems to contradict the ‘assured results of science.’  I sympathize with Christians who struggle to reconcile what they hear from scientists and what they see in the Bible about a particular issue.  We should not be quick to dismiss these questions.  It is possible to read the Bible wrongly.  It is possible for the church to miss the mark for a long time.  But every Christian should agree that if the Bible teaches one thing and scientific consensus teaches something else, we will not ditch the Bible. I am not for a moment arguing for obscurantism when it comes to the hard questions concerning faith and science.  Pastors who haven’t had a science class since the tenth grade are often too cavalier with the tough issues raised by geology, biology, and genetics.  But surely it is the mark of a Christian to believe everything the Bible teaches no matter who says it can’t be so.  Academic journals are not infallible, let alone high school textbooks or fifteen-second sound bites.  As Christians we must always be willing to change our minds when we see that we have misread the Scriptures, but that is a far cry from setting aside the Scriptures because for the last five years – or fifty year or a hundred and fifty years – some scientist have informed us that we can’t believe in the historicity of Adam or that the universe was created out of nothing by the word of God.

DeYoung seems to squarely argue that the Bible is absolutely reliable and to be trusted even when accepted “science” contradicts it, but he is not altogether clear on exactly what we can trust the Bible to be altogether clear on in this arena where there is much conflict.  Is theistic evolution, which is accepted by popular evangelical leaders like Tim Keller (who, together with DeYoung is on the council of the Gospel Coalition) a legitimate interpretation of the Bible?  (For the record, DeYoung has blogged against theistic evolution here.)  Is the Bible clear or unclear about the age of the earth?  Was there or was there not death before sin entered the world (cf. Rom. 5:12)?  While these questions have brought forth books dedicated to such topics by other authors, it would have been helpful to discuss some of the intersections where people have to make a decision, and give some criteria for assessing some of these specific controversies.

Even with this little caveat, DeYoung’s writing refreshed, instructed, and encouraged me greatly, and I highly recommend it.  Our view of the Bible is directly related to how much we trust the omniscient, omnipotent, faithful God who revealed His Word to man.  If we trust Him, we take His Word for everything, and not just for “spiritual” matters.  As DeYoung writes, “Our teachers, our friends, our science, our studies, even our eyes can deceive us.  But the word of God is entirely true and always true.”

Special thanks to Crossway for providing a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Click here to view or listen to Pastor DeYoung’s 2014 Together for the Gospel Message, “Never Spoke a Man Like This Before: Inerrancy, Evangelism and Christ’s Unbreakable Bible” 

Updates Links and Deals

A good overview of how to study the Bible from the Navigators

How does a pastor address unnecessary speech fillers in his sermon?  Um, this should, you know, uh, be helpful….

Jesus believed every event of the Old Testament – good to remember when we hear skeptics deny these.  Let’s stick with the view that the Son of God has.

Why so many churches hear so little of the Bible – “An impatience with the Word of God can be explained only by an impatience with God. We all, both individually and congregationally, neglect God’s Word to our own ruin.”

Deals:  

My book Keeping the Faith in a Christian College is FREE each Sunday in May for Kindle.  I wrote this in hopes that it will help students and graduates of Christian colleges that do not hold firmly to the truth.  It’s also just 99 cents the rest of the time if you buy the print version from Amazon.  Here are two excerpts:

Christ Defines a “Christian View” of the Bible

Unshakeable Truth for Unstable Times

The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts is FREE in multiple electronic formats this month, from Ligonier Ministries.

10 Awesome and Free eBooks online

300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans – FREE for Logos this month

Book Review: Knowable Word by Peter Krol

kwPeter Krol, Knowable Word (Cruciform Press, 2014) available for Kindle and in paperback, 120 pp.

Reviewed by Doug Smith

When I was a child, I had an unusual fixation with instruction manuals.  I actually enjoyed reading about how to use a toy, game, or electronic device.  There was just something about reading a description of how something was supposed to work, and figuring out how to understand the description, comparing  it to what I was doing, and seeing if I could apply what I just read that I found satisfying, especially if I got a better result than what I had previously achieved.

I can’t think of any higher compliment about Knowable Word than that it is a good instruction manual that is enjoyable to read and easy to use.  Three attributes that distinguish Peter Krol’s book from other books on hermeneutics, or how to interpret and study the Bible, are its brevity, clarity, and practicality.

Knowable Word is a brief, quick on-ramp into the world of Bible study.  There are plenty of tomes on Biblical interpretation.  There are books about an abundance of introductory matters about Bible study that never actually get one into the Bible study.  Some of these books are hundreds of pages, but Krol’s is only 120.  Its length makes it possible to read in a couple of hours.  Reading it in a single sitting can help the reader more easily get the whole picture of what the author is saying, and get to work putting the book into practice.

Knowable Word is a clear book.  Its clarity is achieved by its focused vision to present a method of Bible study that is faithful to Scripture, easy to remember, and easy to apply.  The three step method?  Observe.  Interpret.  Apply.  Krol grounds this traditional “OIA” method in Scripture, showing how Jesus used this methodology to point out things to His hearers (Matt. 21:42-44).  He also shows how it works in normal human communication, as we see something, consider its meaning, and then choose a response based on what we have seen and interpreted.  Krol also gives an overarching vision of the Bible as a book that points us to Christ.  He takes us to Luke 24 to show us how Jesus viewed Scripture as pointing to Himself, and challenges us to look for themes that relate to the suffering and death of the Messiah, the need for repentance and forgiveness of sin, and the proclamation of the good news to all nations (Luke 24:46-47).

Krol’s writing style is direct and straightforward.  He does not get bogged down with a myriad of alternative views of scholarly theories, but focuses on explaining the OIA method in a simple manner.

The author primarily limits his examples of Bible study methods to Genesis 1, which he takes on its own terms, rather than importing ideas foreign to the text to shape his interpretation  This approach remains consistent throughout the book.  We do not have to constantly change gears to other types of literature as we are learning the method.

Krol gives clarity by way of contrast.  He argues that familiarity is our biggest enemy to observing what Scripture actually says, since we are not as active to observe that which we believe we already know.  Presuming that we understand something is an obstacle to discovering the right interpretation.  The inertia in our lives makes it difficult to want to budge and dig into the hard work of application, which leads to change.

Knowable Word is a practical book.  Krol quickly and clearly shows us how to put our Bible study into practice.  He focuses both on our internal beliefs and character as well as our outward actions toward others.  Examples from his own life, as he applies his study of Genesis 1 to his own aversion to home improvement projects, are illuminating and give good suggestions for us to think about when applying the Scripture.  The book also provides exercises and access to printable worksheets for working through the phases of observation, interpretation, and application, with suggestions of the things we need to look for and consider.

Krol’s book is a great instruction manual for reading the Bible.  It doesn’t go on forever, but gives you the basics so you can jump right in and start studying.  It doesn’t over-complicate things, but is clear in its instruction.  It’s practical, and you can immediately see the usefulness of the method Krol explains.  Knowable Word is thorough and clear enough that you can read it once and remember its gist as you put its principles to work.  Yet, it is a good reference to go back to when needing to remind yourself how you can dig deeper.

Knowable Word is a helpful resource that can introduce readers to basic Bible study methods they can learn “in five minutes” and master “over a lifetime,” as Krol states in chapter 1.  I plan to use this book to help others of all ages learn how to study the Bible for themselves, in hopes that they will better know Jesus and pass this method on to others as well.

The book also has a website with resources here.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free eBook of this title from Cruciform Press in exchange for an honest review.

The book is available for $5.99 for Kindle and $8.99 for paperback.

This view was originally posted at my personal blog.

Updates Links and DealsFour ways to minister to older saints – in the process, they actually end up ministering to us.

Common problems in modern preaching – It’s easy to have our pendulums swing to one extreme or the other.

Stephen highlights a helpful guide to choosing commentaries

A new website, and a new video, on inerrancy.  Worth the time to watch (and only a couple minutes)

Good article on the “Closing of the Collegiate Mind”

Deals:  

stmwI highly recommend this video.  It’s available for free as a digital download that will play on computers and mobile devices.  Here’s the info, from Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis:

You can download this video free until Sunday night. (It’s normally $12.99 on DVD.) Share this with your friends and encourage them to download and view “Stop Trusting Man’s Word” too! Simply go to the Answers in Genesis online store and download it now. I think you’ll find a whole new level of confidence in the truth of the Bible!

The special code to use for the free download is: TRUSTING. We can’t afford to do this sort of thing too often, but right now you can download it free.

 The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts is FREE in multiple electronic formats this month, from Ligonier Ministries.

10 Awesome and Free eBooks online

My book Keeping the Faith in a Christian College is FREE each Sunday in May for Kindle.  I wrote this in hopes that it will help students and graduates of Christian colleges that do not hold firmly to the truth.  It’s also just 99 cents the rest of the time if you buy the print version from Amazon.

300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans – FREE for Logos this month

DEAL ALERT: Free AiG Video Download “Stop Trusting Man’s Word”

stmwI highly recommend this video.  It’s available for free as a digital download that will play on computers and mobile devices.  Here’s the info, from Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis:

You can download this video free until Sunday night. (It’s normally $12.99 on DVD.) Share this with your friends and encourage them to download and view “Stop Trusting Man’s Word” too! Simply go to the Answers in Genesis online store and download it now. I think you’ll find a whole new level of confidence in the truth of the Bible!

The special code to use for the free download is: TRUSTING. We can’t afford to do this sort of thing too often, but right now you can download it free.

Should Preachers Recycle Their Sermons?

recycle2Recycling is good, right?  I mean, if we can reuse a container, or repurpose materials for another use, that’s conserving resources and avoiding waste.  By the same token, when you have labored to prepare a lesson or a sermon, it would be a shame to never use it again, right?

I think the answer is yes and no.  I believe it depends on the circumstances and the reasons.  Let’s start with the no‘s.

You Shouldn’t Recycle a Sermon When…

  • you are a pastor of a church and the sermon may still be fresh in the church’s memory.
  • you are a guest speaker and you’ve preached the same sermon at the same church you are scheduled to speak at again.
  • the sermon was terrible (and you know it).  There are some sermons that I have preached that can make me cringe when brought to mind… better to scrap them and take a completely fresh look at the passage, if I’m preaching on the same passage.  (I certainly haven’t attained to John Wesley’s description of his own sermon preparation abilities described in his journal.  He indicated there that he could not improve on sermons he had preached thirty years before!)
  • you’re too lazy to prepare.  (In this case, tell them you’re not prepared to speak on that date and that they will need to secure a different preacher; that’s much better than going ahead when you don’t care enough to prepare.)
  • it’s been a long time since you’ve preached it and you’re not really familiar with it and it’s just something from the file.

It Makes Sense to Recycle When…

  • you are preaching to a different audience, especially if the sermon is still fresh on your heart.
  • you had a real emergency or essential interruptions that made you so busy that you didn’t have time to thoroughly prepare for a fresh message without having to sacrifice other things, like most of your sleep.
  • you are a pastor, had one of those weeks, and it has been years since you preached the message.
  • you need to write a blog post, article, or book.  If your sermon was worth preaching, it’s probably worth turning into some kind of written form, and may justifiably become the basis for a larger work.  I’m thankful that many preachers from the past “recycled” their sermons into written form so I can “hear” them across the decades and centuries (otherwise, it would be impossible, as audio recording hasn’t even been available widely for a century yet).
  • you’re speaking at a conference or special event (especially if you’re a pastor; if you have the option, use what you think is one of your better sermons, if you think it would fit the occasion).
  • you are speaking at a special event, and a sermon you preached in the past has been requested.

If You Recycle, Freshen It Up

If you decide to recycle, give some thought to how you do it.  If you were to recycle aluminum cans, you’d pour out the stale soda first, right?

If you have preached the sermon once or twice before, you probably can shake a few things out of it that weren’t all that helpful, or rework some parts of it to the audience you’ll be speaking to.  You may be able to use better illustrations, tighten up your introduction, or clarify your explanations.  If you’re not able to preach an absolutely fresh message, the least you can try to do is pray through the recycled message and improve it by tweaking, adding to, or reducing what is there.

Minimize the Need to Recycle

Recycling sermons could be problematic if regular.  It can stunt the preacher’s personal growth and make him stale to his audience, neither of which are good things.  So, what steps can you take to minimize the need to recycle?

  • Evaluate your own walk with God, and your own time in the Word.  Be careful that you don’t read the Bible daily just for the purpose of sermon preparation, but don’t be afraid or ashamed to let your sermon preparation flow from what God is teaching you personally from His Word.  For me, these are sweet sermons, because they have been processed in my own soul, sometimes chewed on for weeks, and the preparation time is easier for having digested the passage from devotional attention to it.  If you are constantly studying God’s Word without a definite preaching appointment in mind, you may be able to preach a new sermon without much trouble, even when called on with short notice.
  • Evaluate your use of time.  Are there some non-essential things you can give up to prepare a fresh message?
  • Evaluate your sermon preparation efficiency.  There may be some ways you can streamline (for example, consulting too many commentaries might be counterproductive, and definitely less helpful to you than directly meditating on and wrestling with a passage).
  • Consider how “on fire” and passionate you are the first time you preach a sermon, if that is your experience.  Many preachers lose that after the initial preaching event of a sermon (not necessarily in all situations, but probably enough to warrant pausing before automatically recycling).
  • Keep a sermon log so you know what you preached when and where.
  • Evaluate your abilities and consider how you can improve your skills.  Sometimes preachers feel at an impasse because they’ve not really learned how to study and communicate the Bible.  Get help from books, other preachers, etc.
  • Study the Bible together with someone else.  This can open a whole vista of ideas about topics and passages for preaching.  Read through and discuss a book of the Bible with your wife, a friend, or a small group of men.
  • If you recycle for the same audience, such as a church that you have preached the same sermon to in the past, it’s good to admit this to them at the beginning of the message.  This keeps you honest, accountable, and should shame you into avoiding this as much as possible.

Some Considerations to Remember about Recycling

Truth is truth and the Holy Spirit can use a message whether it is being given by that messenger for the first time or it is a reuse of the sermon.  The Bible itself contains much repetition, including some parallel passages.  Some famous preachers from the past have recycled sermons.  One example is R. G. Lee.  He preached “Payday Someday” over 1,000 times!

Nonetheless, generally speaking, it is probably best, even for supply preachers, to keep a fresh supply of messages coming, for the nourishment of their own souls and for the body of Christ.  Seek God through reading His Word and prayer.  If you have to recycle, recycle those messages that most spoke to you and that you think would help others look to God.  On the one hand, if it was good enough to preach once, it’s probably good enough to preach again, but, on the other hand, there are 66 whole books in God’s inexhaustible Word, and you could preach through each one in a lifetime and still never have to recycle a sermon.

Updates, Links, and Deals for 5/11/2014

Updates Links and Deals

Interview with Pastor Kevin DeYoung about taking God at His Word (Hoping to post a full review of this book in the next few weeks)

Interview with Dr. Alex Chediak on preparing your teens for college

Top Ten Christian Books (Plus One) For Graduates (in case you missed it last week)

Three on the Trinity:

How Does the Trinity Apply Practically to My Life

Trinity as Foundational for Family Ministry

How Does the Trinity Apply Practically to Your Life Today

“Ultimate Proof of Creation” – a good overview of apologetics by Dr. Jason Lisle:

Deals:  The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts is FREE in multiple electronic formats this month, from Ligonier Ministries.

10 Awesome and Free eBooks online

My book Keeping the Faith in a Christian College is FREE each Sunday in May for Kindle.  I wrote this in hopes that it will help students and graduates of Christian colleges that do not hold firmly to the truth.  It’s also just 99 cents the rest of the time if you buy the print version from Amazon.

300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans – FREE for Logos this month