Five* Podcasts I’m Really Enjoying Right Now

You may not realize this, but I’m a bit of a podcast addict. Before we moved closer to my job, I had about 3-4 hours of commute time each day, and I filled a lot of that time with either reading or podcasts. When I’m doing chores around the house, I’m usually have a small portable speaker or headphones connected to my iPod, and I’m catching up on the two dozen or so podcasts to which I subscribe.

However, some podcasts are must-listen for me–the ones I’ll listen to first, before I move on to the others. I wanted to share 5 of them with you. (Okay, more than 5, but several of them are part of the same network of shows, so I’m counting them as one.) These aren’t my top five favorite podcasts of all time, but they’re up there.

Here we go:

When We Understand the Text (WWUTT): This podcast (and Youtube channel) by Pastor Gabe Hughes is a great source of Biblical teaching and encouragement. Pastor Hughes teaches through the Scriptures exegetically, verse-by-verse, and with a clarity and discernment that benefits the hearers. He also answers listener and viewer questions about tricky theological issues, and does so in a manner that’s pastoral, intelligent, and direct. If you are looking for a good daily podcast for Biblical teaching, WWUTT is worth your time (especially since each episode is less than 30 minutes).

The Art of Manliness: Brett McKay’s website “The Art of Manliness” has been a great read for me over the last few years. Though some may hear the name and assume this is a macho, “bro” site that reeks of misogyny and cheap beer, AoM is actually a website that seeks to elevate the classical masculine virtues of strength, honor, and integrity. In short, AoM aims to help guys become gentlemen. The weekly podcast features interviews and discussions of wide-ranging topics, from Greco-Roman concepts of honor and wisdom to the best way to get a close shave and how to handle money and invest for the future. I think it’s worth checking out.

The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins: This weekly podcast by the author of The Art of Work explores the topics of creativity and productivity. Jeff Goins and Andy Traub provide insight and encouragment for writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs. I’m really starting to tap into the writing life myself, so this podcast has given me lots of good ideas and encouragement, as has Jeff’s most recent book.

NPR’s Radiolab: Okay, this is my most mainstream choice on the list–but to be fair, I never claimed these were all undiscovered gems. Some of you may think Radiolab’s too mainstream, and others may think that it’s too liberal. Both groups may be right to some degree. But I really like interesting stories, and Radiolab delivers on the story front. It’s well-produced, well-researched, and fascinating content. If you like stories that are strange but true, Radiolab is your go-to. (And I like it even better than “This American Life.” There, I said it.)

The Goliverse network of podcasts: Okay, this is definitely a cheat, but I’ve saved my favorite for last. Number one with a bullet on my list of favorite podcasts is always going to be something produced by Steve Glosson, a beloved podcaster from small-town Georgia. Steve has got a big heart and an infectious laugh, and as a result he has developed a growing and loyal fanbase (though he would insist they’re listeners and friends, not fans). The flagship podcast is “Geek Out Loud,” with the tagline “Your safe place to geek out on the internet (for everything except Twilight and Star Trek).” Steve and friends cohost more than a half-dozen other podcasts that cover topics from pro wrestling to Disney movies to TV shows like “The Flash” and “Star Wars: Rebels.” Once in a while, when the show is broadcast live on Mixlr, there will be a call-in segment for listeners to interact with the topic at hand. Every time I listen to Steve and the gang, I feel like I’m hanging out with good buddies around a kitchen table, just talking about whatever. That makes the Goliverse family of podcasts my must-listen, no matter what else is going on. If you enjoy geeky fun and pop culture, these shows are for you.

Advertisements

Na-No-What-Now?

As far back as I can remember, I have loved stories–hearing them, reading them, and telling them. I was the nerdy kid who took his 8th grade homework assignments (write 10 sentences using your new weekly vocabulary words) and turned them into a serial adventure about American and Soviet spies locked in covert battle.

I wrote short stories all throughout high school. When I went to college, I changed my major from Journalism to English, because I loved fiction and wanted to write books. During college and into my early 2o’s, I wrote more short stories and the first part of at least 2 novels. But something happened. I stopped believing it was worth the effort. I liked the idea of “being a writer” more than the actual work of writing.

Over the last 10 years, I stopped writing fiction regularly. I’d blog and write poetry, but I felt like the idea of being a novelist was a “childish thing” I needed to put away. Sure, I would still bring it up from time to time, as I’d run into story ideas that intrigued me, but I told myself that I couldn’t really pursue something like that. I had to grow up and move on.

Then something strange and wonderful happened: I got married to a woman who not only loves and cares for me, but who believes in me. I married a woman who doesn’t think that being a writer is a crazy, childish dream. Over the last year-plus, every time the critic in my head has said “Why bother?”, hers has been the voice in my ears saying, “Why not?”

So, after some deliberation and encouragement, I decided I’m going to take on a new challenge. This year, I’m going to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), starting on November 1st. It’s a worldwide challenge to write a 50,000-word book in 30 days. It’s an incredibly intimidating task, but I need to take on this challenge. And I’m telling you fine folks, because I need to go “on the record” so I don’t back out.

So, starting this Saturday at midnight, the NaNo clock will begin counting down, and I will have 30 days to write like I’ve never written before.

(By the way, what this means for the 4thDaveBlog is that, for the month of November, I’ll be posting some lighter content. From time to time, I’ll update you on the writing process. And if any of you would like to submit a guest-post, I’m definitely open to that. Hit me up at the4thdave at gmail dot com.)

The question you may be asking at this point is, “What in the world are you going to write about?”

In the last few months, I’ve started kicking around a new story–a mystery/thriller about a man with a dark past who is trying to figure out how to live as a “new creation” in a violent world. It’s a story about faith and doubt, and about holding onto black-and-white moral values in a grey-scale city. And it’s a story about defending those who can’t defend themselves against the wolves who seek to devour them.

The working title of the novel is “Good Shepherd.”

As you can tell, I’m pretty excited about it. I’m pretty nervous too, but I’m hoping the excitement wins out. The most important thing is that I’m ready to challenge myself in a new way, and do something I’ve always wanted to do but have been too afraid to try.

=====

What about you? Can you think of a time when you’ve really challenged yourself to try something new or scary? Or, do you have some specific words of wisdom for me as I begin this event? Please share below!

The4thDave Reviews: “Know the Heretics” by Justin Holcomb

As the saying goes, “Those who don’t know history will be doomed to repeat it.” Or, to quote a more inspired author, “There is nothing new under the sun.” This is especially true when it comes to the history of Christian theology. There really aren’t any new heresies–just old heresies with new coats of paint. That’s why it’s so vital for Christians to have a good understanding of what they believe and why they believe it. When they encounter new teachers and new teaching, it will help them recognize the true and spot the false.

Justin Holcomb’s short book, “Know the Heretics,” seeks to do just that. Holcomb highlights 12 false doctrines that the Church has faced over the centuries (all but one of them in the first 500 years of the church). Each chapter describes the historical background of the teacher and doctrine in question, why it was heretical, how the Church responded to that doctrine, and the contemporary significance of each heresy.

A Useful Overview…

Know the Heretics provides a pretty good overview of the context and issues at hand with each false doctrine. Holcomb seeks to provide an objective description of each scenario, and makes clear why each doctrine in question was dangerous to Christian belief and understanding. If you don’t know Arius from Athanasius or Pelagius from Polycarp, this book will make you familiar with some of the key figures from the post-Apostolic era. The “Contemporary Relevance” sections were also sometimes helpful in drawing lines to connect false belief across a distance of centuries (though I think Holcomb could have gone farther with this by being more specific about current religions and teachers who espouse the falsehoods examined here).

…With A Questionable Conclusion

The book’s conclusion is a bit more concerning. In the Introduction, Holcomb defines orthodoxy as “the teaching that best follows the Bible and best summarizes what it teaches–best accounts for the paradoxes and apparent contradictions, best preserves the mystery of God in the places where reason can’t go, and best communicates the story of forgiveness of the Gospel.” He goes on to distinguish between heresy (compromising an essential doctrine) and heterodoxy (potentially wrong belief about a non-essential doctrine). He states that, in the early Church, there were fervent discussions and even heated arguments between Christian leaders about doctrine, but the charge of heresy was reserved for those who taught things contrary to the essential truths of the faith. Holcomb strongly cautions modern believers against being quick to assign the label of “heretic” to anyone who teach wrong doctrines.

To some extent, I understand and agree with this. There are false teachers who are wolves and heretics, denying primary doctrinal truths and devouring the foolish and untaught. But there are also bad teachers, who are themselves deceived and need further growth, maturity, and training. Bad teachers should be questioned, challenged, even silenced; but that doesn’t mean that these men (or women) aren’t born-again believers, and it doesn’t mean they are beyond hope.

However, in the conclusion of Know the Heretics, Holcomb’s standard for distinguishing between orthodoxy and heresy is the Nicene Creed. He writes:

If a believer authentically holds the Nicene Creed, we should not call them a heretic, no matter how strongly we believe they are gravely in error on the details or on other doctrines. A good shorthand for heresy, then, is to ask, “Can they say the Nicene Creed and mean it without their fingers crossed?” If the answer is yes, they may still be wrong, and they may be heterodox, but we cannot call them heretics, because they fit within the bounds of historic Christianity.

I have to disagree with Justin Holcomb. While the Nicene Creed was and is useful to the Church, it’s just not sufficient to encapsulate the primary doctrines of the faith. Yes, the Nicene Creed is Trinitarian; and it affirms that Jesus was incarnated, crucified, buried, raised, and ascended. There is some language about one Church and one baptism…and that’s about it.

The Nicene Creed, by itself, is missing a few doctrines that I would call “essential.” Specifically, it does not address the doctrine of man, the doctrine of salvation, or the inspiration of Scripture. While these doctrines will necessarily draw more distinctions than Holcomb wants to, I would argue that they are still primary doctrines of the Christian faith. Just as the church councils convened to address the various heresies of each century, clarifying more and more what Christians believe, it is just as important to articulate essential doctrine now, in our time, as the question of what we believe about the Bible and about sin and salvation are constantly challenged.

Final Verdict: Know the Heretics is a basic overview of heresies in (mostly) the first 5 centuries of the Church that does a decent job of providing historical background. However, it feels watered down when it addresses how these ancient heresies relate to contemporary religions and religious teachings. Ultimately, his very limited definition of “essential doctrine” serves to weaken what could overall be a useful introductory text, and that keeps me from being able to recommend it.

If you’re interested in studying the development of doctrine amid heresy in the Early Church, I would commend to you For Us and For Our Salvation by Dr. Stephen Nichols, which covers much of the same information and includes selections from the primary texts.

=====

Please Note: I was provided a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. The preceding comments are purely my own.

Four Reasons Justin Beiber *Should* Join a (Good) Church

My college roommate and longtime friend Trevor has started blogging again, and I love to read his thoughts. (You can check his work out here.)

This week, Trevor shared a provocatively-titled post called “4 Reasons Why Justin Beiber Shouldn’t Go to Church.” The point of Trev’s post was to poke a righteous finger in the eye of American Christianity’s obsession with fame, and he rightly points out that we have a tendency to latch onto celebrities for the sake of benefiting ourselves.

However, I disagreed with some of Trevor’s conclusions. He writes:

Bieber will be better off having a core group of believers around him. People of faith that knows who he is. If he hasn’t already, Justin needs to surround himself with people that will disciple him and can look beyond the wealth and fame. He needs people in his life that see him as a regular human being and not a superstar. These need to be the people that love and encourage him even when he falls. And fall he will. The Church that Jesus established is one of people. Not of brick and mortar and an order of service. The Church is the collective group of people who follow Jesus. Justin is a part of that group. He just needs to find a few of them to walk through life with.

I agree that, if Justin Beiber is indeed a born-again Christian, he needs people around him who will tell him the truth and disciple him. Every Christian needs that. But that’s not all he needs. It’s not all we need, either.

Every Belieber–I mean, believer–needs to be part of a local church: a church that gathers regularly, celebrates the ordinances, proclaims the Word, and instructs believers.

So, here are 4 reasons why Justin Beiber should join a good* church:

  1. Because God commands us to gather together.(Hebrews 10:24-25) It is the common expectation of all the New Testament authors that the church of God gathers together on the Lord’s day, in their local contexts. And since we believe that the Bible is breathed out by God, carrying the authority of God, the commands to meet together regularly apply to all Christians.** Furthermore, the metaphors that the New Testament uses to describe the Church (a body, a family, a building, a temple) are all “group” metaphors. The idea of a lone-wolf, “just-me-and-Jesus” Christianity is foreign to the New Testament. It’s primarily in the context of a local body of believers that we can practice the many “one-anothers” of Scripture.
  2. Because Justin needs to be under the authority and care of pastors/elders. (Hebrews 13:7, 17) Just as the New Testament talks about the Church meeting together in local congregations, those meetings are presided over by pastors and elders who have responsibility to care for the flock of God. These shepherds should have oversight over Justin’s spiritual life, providing counsel and at times giving rebuke and correction. This isn’t something that brother-to-brother accountability can fully provide. Young men, and especially young men with power or prestige, need to learn humility by submitting to spiritual fathers.
  3. Because that’s where Justin can partake in the ordinances of faith. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are two practices that are specific to the Church, and are (in a sense) sacred to us. They do not bring salvation or earn/accomplish the grace of God in our lives, but they are part of our life together as they symbolize what Christ has accomplished for us in His death and resurrection.***  These shouldn’t be practices that you do by yourself or with a few friends, in order to “check the box.” They are public demonstrations performed corporately with a church body, because we are all part of Christ’s body on earth.
  4. Because the church needs Justin.  (I Corinthians 12) I’m not talking about Justin’s fame, his singing ability, or his money. Each believer has been given spiritual gifts, not for the purpose of personal benefit or even personal worship, but for the building up of the body. If you are a Christian, your spiritual gifts are not for you–they’re for the rest of us. Every Christian needs to be part of a local body so that they can use their gifts for the common good. Not only that, but Justin should be part of a local church so that, as he becomes a more mature believer, he can begin to pour into others, while still under the authority of a pastor/shepherd.

Here’s the most important thing: The reasons Justin Beiber needs to be a committed member of a healthy church are the very same reasons that you and I need that, too. The Christian life is designed to be lived in community with other believers, under the care of loving and hard-working shepherds.

To conclude, I’ll paraphrase a much-respected “menace” of the Christian interwebs:

Let me encourage, exhort, and plead with you to be with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s day. It’s good for your soul, it’s good for the church, and it’s obedient to the command of Christ. And that goes for you, me, and Justin Beiber.

=====

*Yes, I am qualifying the statement. Just joining any old church isn’t enough. What I’m talking about is the kind of local church where the Bible is preached and believed, and people are committed to sound teaching, training in righteousness, and preparation for ministry in the world. You know, a real church.

**Some would argue that meeting together with believers is “church” enough, and may even cite the verse about “two or more being gathered together.” To those folks, I would suggest first that the context of the passage they are citing (Matthew 18:15-20) is referring to issues of church discipline, a concept instituted by Jesus which requires a) elders/pastors, and b) a specific, known group of believers who have submitted to the authority of those elders/pastors.

***I realize I’m approaching this issue from an evangelical/Baptist standpoint. Just roll with me here, folks. If you’re Presbyterian/Lutheran/Catholic, we disagree on these issues. But no matter what you believe about the ordinances/sacraments, we all agree that these are practices done as a body, right? That’s my point.

3 Simple Words to Help Fight Worry.

A few years back, I had the opportunity to preach at my church’s Thursday night service a few times during the summer. This service was specifically geared toward college students and young adults.  I was pumped. I love teaching the Bible more than just about anything else, and getting a chance to do so from the big platform was a delight.  But about 48 hours before I was to preach, I was hit with an almost-debilitating depression.  Swirling jets of self-doubt and despair, unspecified sorrows, panic.  Utter darkness. And I thought over and over again, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.”

As I lay on my bed, in the dark, worrying over what was to become of me, a thought broke through the fog, flickering bright, with three words.

“Remember what’s true.”

When we’re faced with moments of despair, and our emotions threaten to overwhelm us, we need a rock. Something solid.  Something we can put our trust in.  For me, this rock is made up of what I know and believe to be true:

  • That God is both sovereign and good.
  • That Jesus lived, died, and was raised to redeem sinners, of which I am one–and as Paul would say, most days I feel I’m the foremost.
  • That the redeeming work of Jesus, applied to me by the Spirit of God living inside me, clothes me in His righteousness, so that when God sees me, He sees me as perfectly righteous, just like His Begotten Son is.  Because of this, I am accepted, justified, loved, even liked.  I am adopted as a son, and given full rights as heir to the glorious inheritance I have in Christ.
  • That because God is both sovereign and good, and I am a justified, accepted, adopted son of God, whatever He calls me to, this He will equip me for.  He will not abandon me, reject me, deny me, or give up on me.  All of my sin has been forgiven: past, present, and future. All of my sin has been fully paid for, and the righteous wrath of God against me has been fully satisfied, by the substitutionary death of Jesus.  Because of this, I don’t have to fear divine condemnation.
  • That based on these truths, I am free and able to live boldly with faith in the knowledge that I am never alone or unloved.

I believe these things are true.  I don’t always act like I do–and I suppose one could argue that my actions sometimes belie what I truly believe. But I will say that, even when I am faithless, He is eternally faithful. And I affirm these truths, and seek to live by their light.

And there in the dark, less than 2 days before I was scheduled to preach, I started preaching to myself, like the Psalmist. “Why so downcast, oh my soul? Put your hope in God.” And so I did.

In the years since that night, I’ve gone back to that simple phrase, those 3 vital words, to keep me grounded.

So. If you are being tempest-tossed by your doubt (and I know some of you are), I invite you to try this: remember what’s true.  Write it down. Say it aloud. Pray it out. Do what you gotta do to remember.  And rest in that truth.

Have a good weekend, fam. Grace and peace to you.

=====

[adapted from this post on the “A Better Story” blog]

What You Deserve.

It’s amazing how obvious and yet still effective marketing is.  The one word that hits my ear like a sour note every time I hear it in a commercial is the word “deserve.”  You deserve a new car.  You deserve to be thin and sexy.  You deserve to be happy.  You deserve this gooey, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie.  You deserve it.

The question that’s never asked, by the advertiser or the consumer, is “why.”  Why do i deserve it?  What have I done to deserve it?  Who says?

The more I read the Bible and study my faith, the more I realize that I don’t deserve anything.  That’s not true–I deserve punishment, as a traitor to the King of the Universe.  I certainly don’t deserve mercy, or love, or joy, or the pleasure of a warm bed or a cool drink or a gooey cookie.  I deserve to suffer as a lawbreaker.  But God extends common grace to all people, gives us these simple pleasures.  The danger at that point is that we think these things are anything but gifts.  But apart from this understanding, people start to think something is owed to them.  Who owes them? They can’t say–the universe, fate, karma, some amorphous, nondescript cartoon version of “god.”  But they are convinced they are owed.

Friend, we are owed nothing.  Yet God’s mercies are new every morning.  Time to start thanking Him.

=====

[originally posted on the “A Better Story” blog] 

Thirty-five.

Wanna try something fun? Go back and find old journals or diaries you wrote when you were younger. Flip through those and think about how big those problems loomed in your life. It’s a hoot. As for me, I didn’t keep paper journals to record my innermost thoughts–no sir. I published them online for the world to see.

Five years ago, I was writing about how I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get married and how I fretted that I couldn’t really make plans for life that allowed for the appearance of a Mrs. 4thDave. My friend Will rightly assured me that such things would work themselves out. I didn’t believe him then, but he was right. New relationship, new life, new plans.

I turned 35 on Wednesday, but for some reason I decided to be mopey for a good bit of this week. After some gentle but pointed questions and comments from my patient and gracious wife, I was able to work through the cause of my malaise. Part of the problem was that I was focusing on what I didn’t have rather than what I did.

So yesterday, as I shared early-evening burgers and wedge-cut fries with my lovely H., I decided to take stock of where I was on that auspicious day:

  • I’m married to an amazing woman, and we have a super-sweet dog.
  • I feel like I’m actually gaining some traction professionally, and things seem to be going well at work.
  • We are getting connected to a really wonderful church family in our new community.
  • I’m actually excited about writing fiction again.
  • We live in a (rented) house that is roomy and charming.
  • All our financial needs are met.
  • I’m in reasonably good health.

(I feel like I should have added a spiritual bullet point acknowledging my relationship with God through Jesus, but I think that was the understood foundation of all of this.)

All this to say: I’m doing really well, friends. Real-talk. I’m incredibly thankful for the rich blessings of God. The light and momentary setbacks and frustrations are even now being outmatched and outshined by the kindnesses I experience on a daily basis.

Please understand: No bragging, humble or otherwise, is intended. I recognize all of these blessings are gifts–the lavish kindnesses of a Heavenly Father who gives good things to His children.

I just wanted to say, for anyone who’s wondering: I’m doing well. Thanks.

“What’s Your Foundation?” (Matthew 7:24-27)

[This is the post-facto manuscript of my last Sunday School lesson/sermon at Champion Forest Baptist Church. I can’t think of a better way to end my time with that fantastic group. I hope this blesses you as well.]

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

(Matthew 7:24-27)

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents a picture of the ordinary life of His disciples—while at the same time demonstrating how radically different that life appears to the rest of the world. Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon are an impossible task to follow on our own, but His work of redemption on the cross and resurrection from the grave accomplished this impossible task on our behalf, so that anyone who repents of their sins and puts their faith in the work of Christ is cleansed of their sins and credited with His righteousness, giving us right standing before God through Christ. Once we are born again spiritually and given the gift of the Holy Spirit living within us, we can seek to obey the commands of Jesus in the Sermon and live out this ordinary radical lifestyle by His power and grace.

Jesus closes out His sermon with a picture of two builders and two foundations. I’d like to make 3 observations and a final plea.

 

Observation #1 – Everyone builds their lives on something.  Notice that the wise man builds on a rock. In the Old Testament, God is described as the Rock of His people (Psalm 18:1-3). Later, Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ is called the rock upon which the Church is built (Matthew 16:13-20).  In Luke’s version of this teaching (Luke 6:46-49), he includes a few more details: the wise man digs down deep to lay a good foundation. This wise person is the person who comes to Jesus, hears His commands, and obeys them. Remember, you can never obey God or please God apart from faith. So we can rightly recognize that the wise man is also someone who came to Jesus in repentance in faith (or, “poor in spirit” [Matthew 5:3]).

Don’t miss this: the wise man builds his life on Jesus and on His teaching. The foolish man builds his life on anything else—there is no middle ground.  Look at verse 26—the foolish man hears the words of Jesus as well! But hearing isn’t enough. James writes in James 2 that faith without works is dead. So our works follow our faith—we come to Jesus, we hear His words, and we obey them in faith.

On the other side of the coin, we can’t fall into the trap of the false converts in Matthew 7:21-23. Mere works aren’t enough either. Church attendance isn’t enough. Sunday school isn’t enough. These are exterior works. Jesus just said that mere works is not enough to prove that the heart has been changed. So what is being described here? A wise man comes to Jesus in faith, repenting of sin and trusting Him as Savior, and “builds his house” on the foundation of Jesus and His word. Living faith produces the fruit of obedience.

Observation #2 – The storm is coming. Earlier, in Matthew 5, rain was a sign of blessing for this farming society. But in the Old Testament, storms are a symbol for God’s judgment.

In Ezekiel 13:8-16, we see that false prophets have reassured the people that no judgment was coming, but God declares that judgment for sing will come as a storm does. Hmm—false teachers, false believers, and a storm of judgment. Sounds like Matthew 7, doesn’t it?

Some see this storm as representing the “storms of life,” and in some sense, having a foundation in Christ does keep you firm in the normal troubles and struggles of life in a broken world. You will face the storm, but you will not collapse. But I think there’s something else at work here.

Jesus is speaking here of the last storm, the judgement of God against sin on the Last Day, the Day of the Lord. The question Jesus raises is: On the last day, will your house stand?

The Bible teaches that if we are in Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1) and that all our sin was placed on Christ and judged at the cross (Isaiah 53; II Corinthians 5:21). So when the final storm comes, if Jesus is your foundation, He will secure you against destruction.  But anyone who is outside of Christ has no such protection from the wrath of God.

Observation #3 – This is an issue of life and death, not just “life improvement.”  Building your life on faith in Jesus and obedience to His teaching is hard. It’s challenging, painful and may seem like loss in the short term.

Though popular preachers and teachers may say otherwise, we don’t come to Jesus or call people to Jesus because doing so makes things easier or safer in this life, or more materially prosperous.  If that’s why you follow Jesus, you’re not following Him at all. Your life is built on sand and bare ground.

We come to Jesus and build our lives on Him because we are sinners who have earned every drop of the storm of God’s wrath, and Jesus Christ is our only hope of salvation. Though we are by nature children of wrath, enemies of God and rebels against His kingdom, He has graciously made a way to cleanse us of sin and adopt us as His children, by grace through faith in Jesus alone—His death and resurrection securing our justification and hope of a future inheritance.

So here is my final plea: be reconciled to God. Repent and believe the Gospel.

Some of you may never hear me teach or see my face again. Let this be my final word to you: repent and believe the Gospel.

  • You may have grown up in church and read the Bible cover to cover.
  • You may be a rebel, running from God’s authority.
  • You may be wrecked with guilt, afraid of God’s judgment and not quite able to believe that God can be merciful.
  • You may be an upright person on the outside, trying to keep the rules and earn your place in God’s kingdom.
  • You may be a prodigal who has reached the end of yourself and is on the long road back home.

My message to each and every one of you is the same: repent and believe the Good News that Jesus the Son of God came to earth, lived a perfect life in our place, died for sinners, and rose again victorious.  If you have already believed it, cling to it as a beautiful promise of God—a guarantee that you are His.

Jesus died to save sinners. Do you understand that you a sinner? Then He died for you. Repent of your sin and believe in Him and be saved!

Because if you do not, on the Last Day, the rain will come, the flood will rise, the winds will blow and beat against your house, and your house, your life, will fall. And great will be the fall of it.

Today is the day. Repent. Believe. And be born again.

The4thDave Recommends: “Mormonism 101” by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson

In recent weeks, a Florida megachurch in the south had Glenn Beck come speak. As the pastor introduced Beck with a few minutes of explanation and caveats, he said something amazing: Beck worships the same Father and the same Jesus that this church worships as God.

In that moment, the pastor revealed a stunning misunderstanding or willful ignorance of what Mormonism teaches. When Beck started speaking, he insisted (as he does every time a Christian church dares to give him the pulpit) that he is a Christian, just like they are.

Is this true? Is Mormonism another denomination of orthodox Christianity?  The answer, based on the truth of Scripture, is a clear and emphatic “NO.”  In fact, Mormonism preaches a different gospel, and the Apostle Paul stated in no uncertain terms how we should view those who teach a different Gospel than the one handed down from the apostles.

If you have doubts about this, or you need help explaining this to others, I urge you to pick up a copy of Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson’s Mormonism 101. This book gives you the information you need to recognize the fatal errors of Mormon theology and understand once and for all that Mormonism is not a Christian off-shoot or sect, but is in fact a cult that has co-opted the language of Christianity and completely changed its message.

Mormonism 101 is exactly as it sounds: a primer and introduction to the writings and theology of Mormonism. McKeever and Johnson, presented clearly and systematically. The authors rely on primary texts and quotes from Mormon leaders and experts to explain their beliefs.  Often, the authors will present areas where the teachings and teachers of Mormonism contradict or over-write each other.  Finally, the authors present how orthodox Christianity addresses each of these issues, and where it clearly diverges from Mormon teaching.

There are 3 aspects about Mormonism 101 that really stand out to me: its level of research, its tone, and its clarity.

The book is well-researched. Each chapter has detailed end-notes that point to primary sources and quotes. Each claim is documented with chapter and verse. Each chapter begins by defining words that mean different things to Mormons than they do to Christians. This helps the reader understand the language differences that distinguish the two religions so greatly. Each chapter ends with summary statements and discussion questions, which facilitate using this book for personal or small-group study.  The level of detail that the authors include in the book has helped me understand Mormon thought a little more, rather than just know how to better debate with them. One last great feature in the book is an appendix that briefly describes 15 logical fallacies to be avoided when discussing theology with non-believers. This is a great feature to close out the book and remind the reader that this information should not just be studied, but used as well.

The tone of Mormonism 101 isn’t insulting or dismissive. The authors state that they care about the Mormon community and want to engage them with compassion and truth. Some of the questions at the end of the chapters are posed to Mormon readers, revealing the authors’ intention for this book to be a conversation starter between both sides. While the book draws unambiguous distinctions between orthodox Christianity and Mormonism, it does so without needless insult or belittling language. Any offense a Mormon reader could take from the book is solely from its content, rather than its tone.

The best quality of this book is its clarity. Each chapter presents an aspect of Mormon theology with clean lines and clear facets, and then just as clearly points out its inconsistency with the Scriptures. As I read, I never felt confused about what was truth and what was error. The authors take great care to equip the reader with not only information about Mormonism, but training in true doctrine as well. The chapter on Mormonism’s teaching of grace and works ends with a careful discussion of how Christianity defines justification, salvation, sanctification, redemption, grace, and glorification. This helps the Christian reader come away from the book with greater understanding of his or her own faith, as well as how to defend against the questions a Mormon would pose.

Final Verdict: Mormonism 101 provides an approachable and thorough introduction to the doctrines of Mormonism, along with insightful and helpful instruction in essential doctrines of orthodox Christianity. This volume is certain to help the Christian reader grow stronger in their understanding of Christianity, as well as lovingly challenge the beliefs of Mormons who are seeking to understand how orthodox Christianity is different from their faith.

=====

Please Note: A complimentary review copy of this book was provided to my by the sponsor, in exchange for an honest review. The above thoughts are my free and unbiased review of the book.