I didn’t realize my new book on Hell had hit the shelves until Tim Challies mentioned it on his blog.VGTH

Why a book on Hell? Interesting story:

Apparently some market research found that a trending topic is non-fiction “afterlife tourism” or first person narratives of people who claimed to have been to Heaven or Hell. This egregious genre is one of my pet publishing peeves (for evidence, see my review Heaven is for Real…Well Duh!) When my agent was approached by a secular publisher (Sterling Ethos, New York) looking for a book compatible with that genre, we instead pitched the idea of a non-fiction, biblical explanation of Hell framed in the first person of the Rich Man in Hades whom Jesus mentioned in his parable in Luke 16. Sterling loved the idea and the journey began. In keeping with the after-life tourism theme it is titled A Visitor’s Guide to Hell.

I should warn those who intend to read the book: though this sobering topic must never be treated flippantly, anyone who knows me understands that I can’t even preach a funeral sermon without using levity. This bugs some people, and I understand that. But I think in this book I avoid being glib while still being myself.

Also readers should bear in mind that this is not written only to an Evangelical market but is intended to be evangelistic. My intention was that the book could be given to an unbeliever, who would find it engaging enough to complete and be exposed to a clear explanation of the gospel.

Here is a snippet from the introduction, followed by the table of contents…

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Shoulders of GiantsIt was Isaac Newton who famously penned the sentence, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” In saying this, he meant to communicate his respect for and dependence on the great minds that had come before him. Whatever advances he was able to make, he recognized that he stood upon the work of those who had come before him, giving him greater views of the heights he was to ascend.

We’re very familiar with that principle in the Christian life. And if we’re not, we should be. I am able to make greater progress in my pursuit of Christ in my day-to-day life by reading the insights of those who have come before in this race, and who have long since reached the glorious finish line after a lifetime of faithfulness.

Today I wanted to gather a bunch of quotes that I’ve come across lately. I discovered some as I enjoyed some leisure reading over the Christmas holiday. Others I found as I work on a research project for seminary. And others I came across on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, as friends shared them with me. It’s by reading the thoughts of spiritual giants like these — by standing on their shoulders — that I am helped along in my worship of Christ. And so I wanted to share some of them with you. Read them slowly. Take them in. I hope it makes for an encouraging Friday.

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As I’m sure you’ve heard, yesterday a Newspaper office in Paris was attacked by gunmen who murdered twelve people. The specific targets were the paper’s editorial cartoonists, and the motive for their murder was the fact that they had often drawn cartoons disparaging Mohammad.

While the attack was swiftly condemned by many political leaders—France’s own president called it “an exceptional act of barbarism”—it was also met by many people eager to protect the reputation of Islam. The fact that the murders were done to avenge the reputation of Mohammad and that the politically correct response was to protect Islam’s reputation is ironic indeed.   Continue Reading…

Perry Noble replied to the controversy addressed below with his own blog post. In it he apologized for what he said about the Hebrew word for “command.” The post below is not edited in light of that, but instead we encourage you to read Noble’s post.

commandmentsOver the past few weeks noise has arisen over the recent Christmas Eve service preached by pastor Perry Noble. Among other things, he performed a sweeping edit of the ten commandments in Exodus 20 during the sermon.

His justification for doing so was three-fold. God spoke to him, telling him to preach a message in which he edited each of the commandments, then he received affirmation from fellow-staff to do so, and a Jewish friend told him that there is no word in Hebrew for, “command.” The claim is made that instead of “Ten Commandments that you have to keep…they’re actually ten promises that you can receive when you say, ‘Yes,’ to Jesus.”

So, for example, the first commandment, which says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod 20:3), is better understood as, “You do not have to live in constant disappointment anymore.” As a sidenote, the commandments are not promises to which we say, “Yes,” but standards by which we are shown to be condemned so that we would see and sorrow over our inability to render ourselves acceptable to holy God, repent, and embrace the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ for acceptable righteousness.

So, the errors here are significant. First, this is a remarkable edit and jumbling of Scripture (which others have sufficiently addressed). But there are some other issues which merit consideration, especially for those of us who stand behind a pulpit each week.

One issue here is the sacredness of the pulpit. By pulpit, I do not mean a physical stand which sits in a church, but the spiritual act of preaching the Bible. Biblical preaching is to be a sacred endeavor, because of the sacredness both of the office of pastor and the task of preaching. Further, the sacredness is not ourselves, but the God we represent, the God for whom we speak, and the word of God from which we preach. In that sense the pulpit carries with it a sacredness.

Consequently, here are some considerations for the sacredness of the Christian pulpit:

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Friendly fire is a devastating reality of war. In the velocity of action and unrelenting conflict battlefield weapons can be redirected toward the wrong target with unforgiving consequences. The trauma and scars of physical combat are compounded for everyone involved when the source is someone wearing the same uniform.

What takes place in that regrettable scene on a battlefield is sadly a reality in the church as well. Despite the obvious differences in force of action, there is also a difference in motive. Friendly fire on a battlefield is right intentions in the wrong direction. Friendly fire in the church is wrong intentions in the wrong direction.   Continue Reading…

corks with datesAs every sommelier worth his saltine crackers knows: good wine comes from tortured grapes. It is a dusty secret Californian vintners accidentally unearthed that the more the grape has to struggle for survival, the higher the quality of wine that can be gleaned.

Thus, arid and gravelly mountainsides are good for nothing, horticulturally speaking, save for some masochistic grapes, notably the Bordeaux varietals. Grapes harvested after a season of longsuffering produce a vintage that insiders will dub “a good year.”

This phenomenon is not an idiosyncrasy of oenology alone, but of theology as well.

If I ask you what makes a good year in your life, you may reply with one or more of these generic blessings: physical health, career promotion, relational fulfillment, financial prosperity (or at least solvency). But you’d be wrong.

Well, you would be half-wrong. A good year is whatever improves our sanctification, i.e. what makes us more like Christ, draws us closer to God, and increases our usefulness in giving God glory.

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New Year 2015As we enter the beginning of the New Year, many people are reflecting on the previous year and how they’ve lived their lives, and are making resolutions and determinations to live better in the coming year, whatever that may mean. The process seems to involve a kind of refocusing on things that are important to us so that when we will have come to the end of this next year we will look even more favorably on it than the previous one.

Though I’m a day late, as we anticipate the challenges and opportunities of 2015, I want to write an open letter of sorts that focuses on the most important realities in the world. And the addressee of my open letter is you. No matter who you are—whether young in the faith, a seasoned saint, or not a believer in Jesus at all; whether we’re good friends, have only spoken a few times, or if I don’t know you from Adam—I can think of nothing more profitable that I’d like to say directly to you. And perhaps the most interesting distinctive about this open letter for 2015 is that it’s nothing new. It’s the same old message for a brand new year, because it’s the only message that is sufficient to transcend all times and cultures. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope you’ll read carefully.

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2015 New Year celebrationWe have turned the calendar to begin another year. It’s 2015. Beginning another year is often a good time to pause and reflect on Moses’ prayer: “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). One way to put feet on this is to consider areas for personal change in the new year. Things like resolutions can be a helpful way to take action along those lines. But it’s no secret that resolutions typically lose their glamour and allure quickly.

 

xxxxxx-food-hangoverHaving attempted to keep resolutions in the past, I’ve found a few things that have worked well for me. These are resolutions that have provided a launching pad for other resolutions; or, resolutions for resolutions. I have not perfectly implemented these resolutions, but when I have kept them, they provide the framework to build in other more specific resolutions. And some might put them all to work, while others one or two.

In either case, here are a few resolutions to consider for new year’s resolutions:

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December 31, 2014

Top 10 posts of 2014

by Jesse Johnson

Top TenThe Cripplegate blog is in its fourth year, and our readership is increasing every month. But in looking back over 2014, we noticed something unusual: this year, many of our most read posts were actually from previous years. In fact, seven of our top ten posts were originally posted before 2014. People are finding them through Google searches and Facebook shares, meaning that our most helpful content is not even necessarily recent, but is in some ways timeless.

Here were our top ten most read posts of 2014, as measured by unique IP addresses to view them:   Continue Reading…

December 30, 2014

Our Blessed Hope

by Nathan Busenitz

clouds_2I imagine it as a sunny morning with just a few clouds in the sky. What a whirlwind the last few weeks had been. Just six weeks ago, the Lord had been wrongly arrested, falsely accused, and unjustly crucified. Peter and the others thought it was the end, their dreams and expectations dying on the cross that day too.

But then, just three days later, Jesus rose from the grave. In the weeks that followed, He appeared to His disciples on numerous occasions, explaining to them why His death had been necessary as the Savior of the world.

The Lord interacted with His followers for forty days after His resurrection, appearing to as many as five hundred at one time. The resulting anticipation was high because the hope that had died on the cross had risen again — there was no longer any room for doubt.

Nearly six weeks later, Christ assembled His disciples on the Mount of Olives for one last lesson. As they gathered around Him, He instructed them, “You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

And then, He ascended into heaven. Continue Reading…