Tuesday, March 18, 2008

2008 Christianity Today Book Awards Announced

For two decades, the annual Christianity Today Book Awards have recognized outstanding volumes that shed light on people, events, and ideas that shape evangelical life, thought, and mission. This year, 49 publishers nominated 359 titles published in 2007. Christianity Today editors selected the top books in each category, and then panels of judges—one panel per category—voted. In the end, we chose 10 winners and also recognized 11 awards of merit.

The 2008 CT Book Awards

THERE IS A GOD: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind
Antony Flew with Roy Abraham Varghese (HarperOne)

Biblical Studies
THE JESUS LEGEND: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition
Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd (Baker Academic)

Christianity and Culture
FAITH IN THE HALLS OF POWER: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite
D. Michael Lindsay (Oxford)

Christian Living
CARING FOR MOTHER: A Daughter’s Long Goodbye
Virginia Stem Owens (Westminster John Knox)

The Church/Pastoral Leadership
THE CALL TO JOY AND PAIN: Embracing Suffering in Your Ministry
Ajith Fernando (Crossway)

Lisa Samson (Thomas Nelson)

Charles Taylor (Belknap)

Missions/Global Affairs
DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS: Pillars of World Christianity
Lamin O. Sanneh (Oxford)

THE JESUS WAY: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way
Eugene H. Peterson (Eerdmans)

RESOUNDING TRUTH: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music
Jeremy S. Begbie (Baker Academic)

Contemplative Spirituality; What is it - And are you a Part of it

definition: contemplative spirituality: a belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in mysticism and the occult but often wrapped in Christian terminology; the premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all).

spiritual formation: a movement that has provided a platform and a channel through which contemplative prayer is entering the church. Find spiritual formation being used, and in nearly every case you will find contemplative spirituality. In fact, contemplative spirituality is the heartbeat of the spiritual formation movement.

How Widespread Has Spiritual Formation Become?

I encourage you to do your own research on the ministries listed from the link below.

Read this list of ministries that are promoting it. Please pray for the leaders of these groups that their eyes may be opened.

No more Mr. Nice Christian

Where did this idea originate -- that Christianity is about being “nice.” It is an odd outcome and irrational progression from Jesus, whose very arrival on earth threatened to overturn everything -- the Roman Empire, the Jewish religious powers and most significantly, the lives of every human on earth. We're coming up on the Easter season, and Jesus died on a cross. The Christian story has a resurrection, but it also has a lot of messiness in it. If you want to tell the Christian story, it's not just a feel-good story. It's a story that has substantial pain and suffering and sorrow in it, just like our lives do. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not just about comforting the afflicted it is also about afflicting the comfortable. Being Christian is not just about being nice.

Click here to read more.

Huckabee May be New Face of Religious Right

With the race for the Republican presidential nomination behind him, now-former candidate Mike Huckabee has many possibilities ahead: from potential vice president to GOP adviser to another run for the presidency. But, observers say, one thing seems to be certain: Huckabee is now the new face of the evangelical movement, gentler than Pat Robertson, who transformed his failed presidential race into a movement of the religious right. “I think he reflects in many ways what I would call the new evangelical center,” said author Ron Sider, the president of Evangelicals for Social Action. “He simply is not the old religious right.”

Click here to read full story.

Film Explores Bumper-Sticker Theology

Nestled in a tiny office space above a video-rental store, filmmakers Dan Merchant and Jeff Martin are preparing to launch their first movie together. The two members of Lightning Strikes Entertainment have spent about three years investigating a nationwide disconnect between Christians and their fellow Americans for their documentary, “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers.” The movie explores what Merchant calls America's “bumper-sticker culture” -- people tell others what they think but aren't willing to consider conflicting views. “Clearly we've decided to have the national debate ... on our cars,” Merchant said. “We won't talk to each other about these issues, but we'll stick the `God said Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve' or `Who would Jesus bomb?' on our cars.”

Click here to view the trailer.

Click here to read full story.

Millard Erickson Draws Parallels Between Theology and the Disciplines of History, Physics and Economics

History, physics and economics allow people to clearly examine theological truths, just as reading glasses enable one to explore Scripture said Millard Erickson during the annual Gheens Lectures at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, March 4-6.

Erickson, distinguished professor of theology at Western Seminary, is perhaps best known for his systematic theology, "Christian Theology." The professor used the example of glasses allowing one to read Scripture to illustrate the role history, physics and economics play in theological understanding. Read entire story.

Americans Identify Their Most Important Relationships

What is the single most important relationship in your life today? And what social group or network of people is most significant to you? We posed these questions to a national sample of adults and discovered that people’s family and faith are important connections. As usual, some subgroups of the population differed substantially from the norm – and some of those differences reveal some of the deepest challenges facing the Church. How would you have answered these questions? How would your friends have answered? Take a look at the national results and the analysis and consider what it means for America, for your church, and for you.

Click here for full report.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Video: John Piper Lashes Out Against the Health and Wealth Prosperity Gospel

I praise God for men like John Piper that are willing to speak about this travesty of lies. The prosperity gospel is no gospel at all it is not even biblical. With so many Pastor's being concerned with making people feel welcome in their churches they forget they are there to arm the sheep with information to pick out the wolves. In most American churches the wolves run free in the name of "getting along", "not being devisive", "evangelicalism", and being "seeker sensitive". As Pastor's we need to be honest with our congregations and name the names of those that will mislead them - especially those that write worthless dribble for sale at your average Christian bookstore. Take a stand for the glory of the Lord in the face of the world.

Praise God that He is Sovereign

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.

The assertion of God’s absolute sovereignty in creation, providence, and grace is basic to biblical belief and biblical praise. The vision of God on the throne—that is, ruling—recurs (1 Kings 22:19; Isa. 6:1; Ezek. 1:26; Dan. 7:9; Rev. 4:2; cf. Pss. 11:4; 45:6; 47:8-9; Heb. 12:2; Rev. 3:21); and we are constantly told in explicit terms that the Lord (Yahweh) reigns as king, exercising dominion over great and tiny things alike (Exod. 15:18; Pss. 47; 93; 96:10; 97; 99:1-5; 146:10; Prov. 16:33; 21:1; Isa. 24:23; 52:7; Dan. 4:34-35; 5:21-28; 6:26; Matt. 10:29-31). God’s dominion is total: he wills as he chooses and carries out all that he wills, and none can stay his hand or thwart his plans.

That God’s rational creatures, angelic and human, have free agency (power of personal decision as to what they shall do) is clear in Scripture throughout; we would not be moral beings, answerable to God the judge, were it not so, nor would it then be possible to distinguish, as Scripture does, between the bad purposes of human agents and the good purposes of God, who sovereignly overrules human action as a planned means to his own goals (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; 13:26-39). Yet the fact of free agency confronts us with mystery, inasmuch as God’s control over our free, self-determined activities is as complete as it is over anything else, and how this can be we do not know. Regularly, however, God exercises his sovereignty by letting things take their course, rather than by miraculous intrusions of a disruptive sort.

In Psalm 93 the fact of God’s sovereign rule is said to
(a) guarantee the stability of the world against all the forces of chaos (v. 1b-4),
(b) confirm the trustworthiness of all God’s utterances and directives (v. 5a), and
(c) call for the homage of holiness on the part of his people (v. 5b). The whole psalm expresses joy, hope, and confidence in God, and no wonder. We shall do well to take its teaching to heart.

The Dark Night of the Soul

The dark night of the soul. This phenomenon describes a malady that the greatest of Christians have suffered from time to time. It was the malady that provoked David to soak his pillow with tears. It was the malady that earned for Jeremiah the sobriquet, “The Weeping Prophet.” It was the malady that so afflicted Martin Luther that his melancholy threatened to destroy him. This is no ordinary fit of depression, but it is a depression that is linked to a crisis of faith, a crisis that comes when one senses the absence of God or gives rise to a feeling of abandonment by Him.

Spiritual depression is real and can be acute. We ask how a person of faith could experience such spiritual lows, but whatever provokes it does not take away from its reality. Our faith is not a constant action. It is mobile. It vacillates. We move from faith to faith, and in between we may have periods of doubt when we cry, “Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief.”

We may also think that the dark night of the soul is something completely incompatible with the fruit of the Spirit, not only that of faith but also that of joy. Once the Holy Spirit has flooded our hearts with a joy unspeakable, how can there be room in that chamber for such darkness? It is important for us to make a distinction between the spiritual fruit of joy and the cultural concept of happiness. A Christian can have joy in his heart while there is still spiritual depression in his head. The joy that we have sustains us through these dark nights and is not quenched by spiritual depression. The joy of the Christian is one that survives all downturns in life.

In writing to the Corinthians in his second letter, Paul commends to his readers the importance of preaching and of communicating the Gospel to people. But in the midst of that, he reminds the church that the treasure we have from God is a treasure that is contained not in vessels of gold and silver but in what the apostle calls “jars of clay.” For this reason he says, “that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Immediately after this reminder, the apostle adds, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:7–10).

This passage indicates the limits of depression that we experience. The depression may be profound, but it is not permanent, nor is it fatal. Notice that the apostle Paul describes our condition in a variety of ways. He says that we are “afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.” These are powerful images that describe the conflict that Christians must endure, but in every place that he describes this phenomenon, he describes at the same time its limits. Afflicted, but not crushed. Perplexed, but not in despair. Persecuted, but not forsaken. Struck down, but not destroyed.

So we have this pressure to bear, but the pressure, though it is severe, does not crush us. We may be confused and perplexed, but that low point to which perplexity brings us does not result in complete and total despair. Even in persecution, as serious as it may be, we are still not forsaken, and we may be overwhelmed and struck down as Jeremiah spoke of, yet we have room for joy. We think of the prophet Habakkuk, who in his misery remained confident that despite the setbacks he endured, God would give him feet like hind’s feet, feet that would enable him to walk in high places.

Elsewhere, the apostle Paul in writing to the Philippians gives them the admonition to be “anxious for nothing,” telling them that the cure for anxiety is found on one’s knees, that it is the peace of God that calms our spirit and dissipates anxiety. Again, we can be anxious and nervous and worried without finally submitting to ultimate despair. This coexistence of faith and spiritual depression is paralleled in other biblical statements of emotive conditions. We are told that it is perfectly legitimate for believers to suffer grief. Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Though grief may reach to the roots of our souls, it must not result in bitterness. Grief is a legitimate emotion, at times even a virtue, but there must be no place in the soul for bitterness. In like manner, we see that it is a good thing to go to the house of mourning, but even in mourning, that low feeling must not give way to hatred. The presence of faith gives no guarantee of the absence of spiritual depression; however, the dark night of the soul always gives way to the brightness of the noonday light of the presence of God.

By R.C. Sproul