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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Gospel

The gospel has been rocking my world lately. Along with God's sovereignty and Him seeking His glory in all things, this has been the foundation of my life. The gospel changes everything. It doesn't just change my standing with God. It changes the way I live my life. It changes the way I view sin. It changes the way I talk about myself. It changes everything. Literally everything.

Since I have learned so much about the beauty and ramifications about the gospel in the past year, I'd like to just offer up the resources I've had to you all. I'm sure there are plenty more that I'm forgetting, so please post some as comments if you think of any.

A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent
I just finished this book last week. It's short (about 70 pages) and just packed full. The opening is 31 reasons to preach the gospel to yourself every day. I will probably be reviewing those pages for however long God keeps me alive. Read this book.

How the Gospel Changes Us by Timothy Keller
This is not a book. It's really not even a sermon. It's more like a seminar that Keller did. Either Dayton Merrell or Matt Childers introduced me to this a couple years ago. Anyway, this was the beginning of gospel-centrality for me. If I could put two resources in your hands and be left at that, this and the Primer would be those two. Listen to it. It's only like an hour long.
*Along with that is this little paper "The Centrality of the Gospel"

The Cross-Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney
This was a great book (another little one). Mahaney gives very practical ways to remind yourself of the gospel every day.

God is the Gospel by John Piper
I didn't even read this book. All I read was the introduction, but it has impacted my life in a way that I will probably never fully understand. I read the introduction to this book sitting in Barnes & Noble at the mall waiting on a friend. This was in the middle of my topsy-turby summer after my freshman year of college. Hearing that Piper talk about God as my final and ultimate reward answered questions that I had been wrestling with for months and months. Since I read that, everything has been colored by God as the all-satisfying reward of Christianity. [I plan to read the actual book as soon as my dad finishes.

What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
In this book, Greg Gilbert showed me the simplicity of the gospel message and that in that simplicity, it's power is not lost. He also made some distinctions for me that I needed to hear.

The rest of these are great sermons that I have run into in the past year. They have shaped my view of the gospel and its effect on my life.

"Giving Thought to Gospel 'Math': Why Jesus + Nothing = Everything" by Tullian Tchividjian
"Intro to Galatians" by Mark Driscoll
"Getting Out (Exodus 14)" by Tim Keller
"Preaching the Gospel to the De-Churched" by Matt Chandler

There are obviously many other things I could have put on here that I just can't think of right now. I hope these help us never forget the gospel.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Love Wins

Last night I finished Rob Bell's book Love Wins. I want to be honest with you all. It was a frustrating few days reading through that book. I'm still frustrated. I'm frustrated for a lot of reasons. Some I anticipated. Some I did not. Earlier today I sat down and started to write a review of the book. I stopped about a page in. I'm going to try something that I don't try very often. I'm going to keep my mouth shut. That doesn't mean I'm not going to talk about the book and what I think about it. I'm sure I will have many conversations in the days and weeks to come about it. But not here. Call me or email me if you'd like to talk about it. Really. Do that. I'd love to talk about it.

One thing I will do is offer up Kevin DeYoung's review to you:

At first I felt a little ashamed to offer up someone else's opinion on this topic instead of my own. But honestly (I'm working on that) mine would be filled with bias, emotion, and frustration. I don't think those are bad things (except bias), but they typically don't make for well articulated points. There is some sanctification that needs to happen there. I'm praying for that. Not to mention, DeYoung is much more qualified to write a proper book review than I am.

I would like to say something about the frustration that I feel though. Yes the frustration comes from someone disagreeing with me. I know I have a problem with that. But as I read through the pages, I realized this frustration and anger (let's call it what it is) was coming from a much deeper place. As he made points and claims, my friends faces would pop into my head. I would think, "I'll bet that resonated with him" or "I know that is an area that he struggles too." My anger came from the realization that my friends, people I care about could be led astray by these things. What I kept thinking the entire time, especially during the chapter The Good News Is Better Than That, was that exact thing. I kept thinking, 'The gospel is so much better than this!' I hurt for my friends. I hurt for people who were brought up with some of the terrible misconceptions about the gospel that you can tell have influenced Rob Bell. But I want to plead with them not to come up with something and go with it just because it makes them feel better. Because the gospel is so much better than that. It's so much richer and more joy-giving than we could ever imagine.

I know I ranted. I do that. If you're reading this, I love you. It may not seem like it all the time, but I do. I stay up praying for you guys often. I pray that you wouldn't be led astray to some false picture of the gospel. That is still my prayer. That you would be grounded in the Word. That God would protect you. That's all. Read Kevin DeYoung's review. It's twenty pages, but it is well worth your time. He is a smart man who loves the Lord. And like me, he cares about what people are being taught. And read your Bible. It is the Word of Life.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rob Bell

This has been a big topic on my mind and amidst my conversation for the last two days, so I figured I'd go ahead and write something about it. Rob Bell is coming out with a new book called "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived." It doesn't come out until the end of March, but Bell and the publisher (HarperOne) have made a promo and written a blurb about it. Here is the promo video and then the blurb from the publisher.

"Fans flock to his Facebook page, his NOOMA videos have been viewed by millions, and his Sunday sermons are attended by 10,000 parishioners—with a downloadable podcast reaching 50,000 more. An electrifying, unconventional pastor whom Time magazine calls “a singular rock star in the church world,” Rob Bell is the most vibrant, central religious leader of the millennial generation. Now, in Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith—the afterlife—arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic—eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins." (from

I'm not going to make a lot of comments about this. I plan on reading the book at some point. Hopefully soon after it comes out so I can open up some discussion on it. But this is just to let people know what is going on out there.

Here are two blog posts that I read yesterday from two men whom I very much respect:
Kevin DeYoung
Justin Taylor

I love you guys

Soli Deo gloria

Friday, February 11, 2011

Devotional Thoughts

I realized yesterday that I haven't mentioned anything on here about my recent postings. On one of my last postings (the one about Systematic Theology I think), someone from a website called commented and asked me if I'd like to start writing for their website. After I realized it wasn't someone messing with me, I agreed to do it. I've written two devotionals for them now (I'm supposed to write one every two weeks but I kind of slacked in that first part of school). These are the links to them:
-Beginning in a Humble State
-Gospel Motivation

It's kind of a nice set up, because, like this blog, I can just write whatever has been on my mind as of late. Different though, is that people are reading it whom I have never met. So that is pretty cool. The website is pretty centered around the Christian Rap culture. And obviously most of my friends aren't running with that crew (although their are a few going strong). I pray that God can use this jar of clay to spread the treasure of His word (2 Corinthians 4:7). And hopefully Paul's words will ring true and show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to me.

For the people who do know me and haven't talked to me in forever, I'd like to update you because you probably won't see me for awhile. My summer plans have changed. I'm no longer coming home for the summer. Through a series of really cool events... actually just through Harrison Dell's word of mouth, I got offered an internship at Muskogee Church of Christ for the summer. I decided that it was an opportunity I just couldn't pass over. So, I'm going to spend twelve weeks of the summer working with the youth group in Muskogee, Oklahoma. I've very excited about it and would very much appreciate your prayers. So that's my short little update. Hopefully this weekend I will have time to comment on what I've been reading and learning lately.

Soli Deo gloria

Saturday, January 8, 2011


God is good. I think I give lip service to that a lot, but I don't really stop and dwell on it very much. He is watching over me, and He promises that He is causing all things to work together for my good (Romans 8:28). The reason I say this now is because of how He has shown His providential work over the last couple of days. As I told you, I'm reading Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. It's a great book. I love the content, and I love the thought process of systematic theology. But there are two prevalent dangers when reading something like this. I mentioned the first danger the other day. That is reducing the Bible to facts that we need to memorize and figure out. When we do that we miss the overall story of the Bible and how God has revealed Himself. The other danger may not be as obvious, but it is there I can promise you. It is the opportunity for pride to well up in me. I'm learning things that I have never known before. In that I am learning things that I know a lot of the people around me don't know. My human nature tells me that I am better than them because of that. I get things that no one else gets. That makes me better. God is good.

Like a dad watching his son inch closer to the cookie jar God has been watching over me. Two days ago I went to lunch with Mr. Webster. I didn't plan on it. I wasn't even going to leave the house all day. Abby forgot her lunch, so I took it to her. Lo and behold, my good friend didn't have anything to do the rest of the day so we went to lunch and hung out. Amidst the conversation he gave me two things that I want to tell you about. One very randomly came up, the other obviously had been on his mind. The first was a video of Voddie Baucham. Watch the video and then we can go on... Okay if you watched it, I don't even need to say anything. If you didn't, just know that there really couldn't be a more humbling nine-minute clip than that. The second thing was something I didn't expect. There really couldn't be anything more opposite of systematic theology than this. It's called The History of Redemption Video. This one is a little longer, so you don't have to watch it right now. Just click on "Watch the Sermon" when you want to. It is a walk through the Biblical story (using only Bible verses) to show God's story of redemption in a concise way. Very sobering. And a great reminder that I can't stop at understanding a bunch of facts about God. He's given us revelation about Him, not in the form of a math book, but a story.

Praise God for His providence in my life. Praise Him that He is watching over me and doing things that may seem very small but have a huge effect on me. I pray these things can have some effect on you too, and that you can see your Father working for your good.

Soli Deo gloria

P.S. I left a note in comment form on The Weight of Glory to clear up any confusion.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Newfound Love for Systematic Theology

"I'm in love, I'm in love, and I don't care who knows it." (Thirty bonus points for whoever gets that reference) I haven't been working at all on this break, so I've had nothing to do for the past three days. Since I'm always ticked that I don't have time to read, I've decided to redeem the time (Webster reference). I bought Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology book over the summer but have really only cracked it once. Now, I've decided to dive in.

That is where we meet my new love: Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is exactly what it sounds like: a system of theology. Think really good topical preaching. Instead of going through the Bible (like I have been doing), it goes through different topics and looks at what the whole of Scripture has to say about that one topic. Obviously there's some overlap, but that brings me to why I love it so much. Working out theology systematically forces you to answer all the questions. Because you are looking at the whole of Scripture, you must look at all the Bible has to say at a particular topic. In that way, it protects us from reductionism. Reductionism (as Mark Driscoll explained it to me) is the fault of only looking something in view of part of Scripture. The one topic that he talked about a lot was not reducing Christ to only his deity or only his humanity. It really is cool because so many holes in my view of God are because I'm not looking at everything that the Bible has to say about him.

I will heed Driscoll's advice here. He warns against an overuse of systematic theology because it takes away from the story of the Bible. We lose the narrative of God's history of redemption when we only look at individual facts and truths about given topics. So I want to be sure that I am not putting too much emphasis on a book like this. However, that does not change the beautiful ability of systematic theology to give me a full view of Scripture. So I will continue to sing its praises while remembering that it cannot be the end of my study.

Another favorable aspect of this book (I'm sure it is done in other works of systematic theology, but this is my only reference point) is that it shows false views of certain topics and where they come from. An example is the chapter on creation, which I'm reading right now. After Grudem explained how God relates to his creation (namely that it shows His character and He declares it to be very good, but that He is distinct from it and rules over it), He explained materialism, pantheism, emanation, dualism, and deism, which are all false views of God's relation to creation that contradict the account of the Bible but have shown up over the years.

Now you might be asking yourself, "Why in the world do those things matter to me?" I'm glad you asked. (Another Webster reference) These are all views that not only non-Christians, but professing Christians have of God and how he relates to creation. Since they are all forms of reducing Scripture to just some of what it says, they all have Scriptural backing and evidence. Having a solid view of the truth along with a clear understanding of the lies that culture tells, gives us the ability to recognize those lies when they show up. I can't tell you how important this is. I have had so many instances that someone says something and I think to myself, "That doesn't sound right." But then they show me a Bible verse and say, "Look, it says it right there." Having a knowledge of where they are going to point gives us the ability to ask important questions. Not shove their faults in their face and yell at them, but ask good questions to make sure that we have a clear understanding. It is a way to love our brothers and sisters around us (as well as people who are apart from God). Because if God is totally and completely good, then a clearer understanding of Him increases the joy we have in him and the awesomeness and outrageousness (may not be words, don't care) of his love for us. The clearer we see him, the better he looks and the more we are blown away by him.

Anyway, that is my endorsement for systematic theology. And since I'm reading Wayne Grudem's book right now, I'll go ahead and advocate him too. I'm blown away at how humble this guy is in writing. He's so ready to show the other side of discussions and present evidence not only for what he believes but what other people believe as well. He mixes standing for explicit truth and having loving disagreement about some doctrine beautifully. It's been such an encouragement for me to be taught by someone like that. Also, he puts things in here that I don't think are the norm for this kind of book. At the end of each chapter he has application of what we have just learned and how that shows up in our lives and the way we understand the world. Then he has questions to ask ourselves about how these beliefs show up in the way we live our lives. And my favorite thing is that he ends with a hymn to meditate on what we just learned. I just love it.

So there it is, my full endorsement for Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. I hope some of you will take my advice and dive into this study of God and His revelation to us. It has already increased my joy in knowing Him so much (and I'm only like two hundred pages into it). I'd love to be able to discuss some of these things with you guys.

Before I leave I'd like to leave you guys with some resources. Most of them are sermons from Passion but there are a few on here that deal with Holy Hip Hop (or Christian Rap). I'm going to put a few interviews on here as well as some Lyrical Theology to give you a taste of what I have come to love. (Yes this is basically just a post of me endorsing things.)

John Piper's message at Passion 2011: "Getting to the Bottom of Your Joy"
Quickly I need to say some words about this. Piper's message (like last year) is one that I believe is foundational. This was huge for me and really got to the bottom of a lot of things in my life. It also showed me a lot of what my life was like from the ages of 15 to 19. I had the goal of people thinking highly of me. Jesus became a way to get to that end. I was still at the bottom. Now Jesus has become the bottom of that joy. This probably won't make sense until you watch it. So watch and listen closely. This is very important stuff.
Here is the link to the audio of Piper's message at Desiring God

Unfortunately the videos from Passion are no longer up on the internet. Piper's is the only audio up for now.

Here are a few interviews about Holy Hip Hop:
John Piper interviewing Lecrae at Passion 2011
Thabiti Anyabwile on Holy Hip Hop
Lecrae's interview with the 700 club about his life and Christian Rap

Here are some examples of Lyrical Theology and the gospel being preached through rap:
Shai Linne preaching the gospel
Lecrae- Don't Waste Your Life
Flame- Joyful Noise
Timothy Brindle- Liberation
Trip Lee- Satisfaction

You can also look at other artists. These are some of the guys who I listen to: Lecrae, Trip Lee, shai linne, timothy brindle, Tedashii, Flame, and Dayton told me I need to start listening to PRO so I'll put him on here too.

I've just mixed Systematic Theology and Holy Hip Hop. Hopefully nobody freaks out on me. I hope you guys use these resources and they give you a greater picture of and pleasure in Jesus.

Soli Deo gloria

Monday, January 3, 2011


364 days ago today I heard John Piper speak at Passion 2010. The message was "Is Jesus an Egomaniac?" That message laid the foundation for my life. Since that time I have listened to probably hundreds of sermons, read hundreds of articles, and read about ten books. But none of it makes any sense outside of God's passion for His own glory. I want to praise God for putting John Piper and the Passion conference in my life. He knew what he was doing when He got me to start talking to Heidi Tabor and Kaitlyn Schaefer in the student center about the Peace by Peace conference at Harding. That and a series of other events has led to a taking over of my life and a deep longing in me to see God glorified.

Tonight, John Piper will speak to another group of 18-25 year-olds. I assume He will bring some other form of the same message, with the underlying theme that God lives to see Himself glorified. Pray with me that hearts will be changed. Pray that hearts that are slaves of sin would become hearts that are slaves to righteousness. Pray that the Spirit of God would rest on people and save them from a life of worshipping things that will perish. Pray that, in His speaking, Dr. Piper would show the greatness of almighty God. Our God is jealous for the worship and allegiance that belongs to Him. Pray that tonight He would receive that from some who have held it back up to this point in their lives. And pray that collectively God would use this generation to proclaim His gospel. Pray that the name of Jesus would be lifted high among our brothers and sisters and that He would wake America up. I know this is a lot to ask for. But isn't it great to know that we worship a God who can deliver what we ask for, no matter how big it is?

If you want to watch tonight (or the two previous messages) go to the Passion live streaming web site. Dr. Piper's message should begin at about 7:45 ET. But check in early to experience some of the worship at Passion as well.

Soli Deo gloria

The Weight of Glory

Greek has not received much application from me yet. I have only been learning the language for one semester and you should know that I'm not re-translating my own version of the Bible yet. However, one application that has been very helpful is the understanding of individual words. A lot of it has been understanding the different roots of words and their connections to other words (etymology). It turns out that many of the religious words that we use today were taken from everyday words in the Greek or Hebrew languages. Now I'm not at all saying that we shouldn't keep using them. I believe that words matter and some words that we use are so packed with meaning and particular connotations in the Bible that we should keep using them. I'm just suggesting that we work a little harder at explaining them.

Some examples that don't really have much significance are words like Bible (βιβλίον), which is the Greek word for book, and scripture (γραφή), which was just the Greek word for writing. Another example of something that sheds a little more light is the name Deuteronomy. The word δεύτερος (transliterated deuteros) is the Greek word for second, while νόμος (or nomos) is the general word for law. Therefore it helps to know that the title of Deuteronomy literally means second law. It gives you a better idea of what the book is trying to accomplish. (And it turns out that the book really is a repeat of most of what has been said in the Law up to that point.)

The most useful thing I have learned when it comes to this study of etymology is the meaning of the word "glory". Glory has taken on a lot of meanings and carries a lot of connotations now days. We flippantly say things like, "My goal in life is to glorify God." I do not think that is a bad goal. In fact, that is the goal of my life. But when we say important statements like that, I believe we should have some understanding of what we are saying. And at its most basic level, understanding comes in individual words. So knowing what it means to glorify would have a large impact on how this goal plays out in someone's life. So glory, in its original everyday use, meant weightiness or significance. Think about that for just a minute. When Paul says in Colossians 3 that we should do everything, whether in word or deed, to the glory of God the Father, he is talking about showing God's significance, showing His importance.

Now obviously glory does not mean that everywhere it shows up in the Bible. When we talk about our glorified bodies we do not mean our significant bodies. That is talking about renewed bodies and honestly I don't know where the connection between the two words. I'd have to study further to get that. But this understanding of what I am talking about should not be taken lightly. When we talk about glorifying God with our lives and with everything that we do, we are talking about showing, in every action, how significant and important He is. That makes sense to me. So by reading my Bible instead of watching TV, I am showing that God is important to me. By talking about Jesus regularly in conversation, I am showing that He is important. This isn't just something I say sometimes. He is legitimately significant in my life and much more important in the grand scheme of things than other things that I could be doing with my time, money, energy, and efforts. Think about all the applications of this that show up in everyday decisions.

I was just thinking about this and thought I would share it with you. I also have a resource that I want to share with you and it is a good one at that. It is Mark Driscoll's sermon series called Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. In this series, Driscoll walks through the basic doctrine that we hold to as Christians. It is one of the most helpful series that I have ever listened to. A lot of what he says in here is foundational to my worldview. I listened to it last year so this is my second time through and it is rocking me again and also hammering home a lot of essential truths. Please, if you have any desire to listen to this, do it. He says a lot of things that are essential Christian beliefs that I had never heard before. Meaning I did not understand some things about Christianity that are basic and I should have known a long time ago. There are thirteen sermons, each of them being about an hour long. You can listen to these in two weeks without even changing anything about your day. Don't watch the 11 pm Sportscenter for the next two weeks and watch one of these each night instead. You may not know how well Kobe Bryant is playing, but you will know more about who God is and why we need salvation. Skip your daily watching of One Tree Hill and watch one of these. In two weeks you won't know what Chad Michael Murray has been up to, but honestly who the heck cares? I'm series, these truths will shape your life. Don't let what's on TBS tonight shape your worldview, let that be the function of the Word of God.

Well, I got on a little tangent there I guess. But oh well. Also, I have some things to say about Passion 2011, but I will leave those for later today. I love you all. I hope these things challenge you and that they somehow increase your hunger for Jesus.

Soli Deo gloria