A Year of Books – 2016

The books I've enjoyed over the past year

Early in my life I developed a love of books. The library was the nearest thing to heaven on earth to me as a child. I have a similar feeling when I peruse a book store today. I love the feel of books, their smell, but most of all I really love to learn. A good book is the distilled wisdom and insights of great thinkers. Here are the books I’ve read in 2016. Each one was a worthy journey. They are listed in no particular order.

Saturate Field Guide: Principles & Practices For Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life Jeff Vanderstelt, Ben Connelly
The Man to See Evan Thomas
Introduction to Global Missions Zane Pratt, M. David Sills, Jeff K. Walters
Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions John Piper
What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission Kevin DeYoung
   
Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? Roland Allen
A God of Many Understandings Todd Miles
When Missions Shapes the Mission: You and Your Church Can Reach the World David Horner
 

Contagious

Jonah Berger
Andrew Carnegie David Nasaw
Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires Selwyn Raab
Augustus: First Emperor of Rome Adrian Goldsworthy
Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership Barry Strauss
Caesar: Life of a Colossus Adrian Goldsworthy
Napoleon: A Life Andrew Roberts
The Glory of Heaven John MacArthur
Thoreau: Walden / Civil Disobedience Henry David Thoreau
The Customer Service Revolution John R. DiJulius
The Virgin Way Richard Branson
Post Captain: Aubrey/Maturin Series, Book 2

View Series

Patrick O’Brian
Extreme Ownership Jocko Willink, Leif Babin
#AskGaryVee Gary Vaynerchuk
Smarter Faster Better Charles Duhigg
Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times H.W. Brands
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Brain Maker David Perlmutter, Kristin Loberg
Real Marriage Mark Driscoll, Grace Driscoll
Living a Life of Fire: An Autobiography Reinhard Bonnke

Nicholas the Generous

stnicholasicon-1When it comes to church history, the average church member is unfamiliar with many of the individuals God has used to shape His people throughout time. There is one ancient Pastor, however, that is spoken of frequently in christian homes. The legend behind Santa Claus is the fourth century Bishop Nicholas of Myra.

Nicholas was born March 15, 270 AD to a Greek Family in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. He became the Bishop of Myra in Lycia. Incidentally, both Patara and Myra were visited by Paul during his missionary journeys.

Although he was born into a wealthy family, Nicholas lost his parents to a plague when he was a young child. During a trip to Jerusalem, Nicholas was converted and ultimately leveraged his inherited wealth on behalf of the poor children of his homeland.

According to one source, “He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and gifts. Perhaps his most famous act of kindness was helping three sisters. Because their family was too poor to pay for their wedding dowry, three young Christian women were facing a life of prostitution until Nicholas paid their dowry, thereby saving them from a horrible life of sexual slavery.”

Nicholas lived during days of great persecution for Christians. Roman Emperor Diocletian, who reigned from 284–305, hated Christians and filled the Roman jails with them. Since Bishop Nicholas served during one of the great persecutions of the church, much of his adult life he was in jail, where he frequently faced routine beatings. But then something unforeseen happened once Constantine became emperor which has proven to be a pivotal moment in church history.

On Oct. 28, 312 at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, the Roman Emperor Constantine was battling to become the soul ruler ofraphael1 the Roman Empire. According to historians, at a decisive point in the battle, Constantine looked up to the sun and saw a cross of light above it, and with it the words “by this, win!”, Constantine commanded his troops to adorn their shields with a Christian symbol, and thereafter they were victorious.

At the Edict of Milan, Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal in the Roman Empire. Later in the Edict of Thessalonica, Christianity became the official state religion. From that point on, the Church was less influenced by Jerusalem and Judaism and it now fell under the influence of Rome and its pagan religion.

Constantine sought to establish unity of faith and practice throughout the new “state” church. The First Ecumenical Council was held in 325 at the summer home of Constantine in the city of Nicaea. It is said that there was hardly a man in the room that didn’t have the scars of persecution.

Hundreds of Bishops gathered there to refute the false views of Arius, a presbyter from Alexandria. Arius denied Christ’s deity. Among the Bishops gathered for the Nicene Council was Nicholas of Myra. He was among those in favor of affirming the Deity of Christ.

The Original Nicene Creed of 325 AD (popular version) 

nicene-creed-1We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day he rose again ascended into heaven; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost.

At one point while Arius was addressing the council, Nicholas’s rage got the better of him. According to some of his biographers, Nicholas stood up, crossed the floor to Arius, and promptly punched him in the face. Maybe Santa wasn’t always so Jolly?

The Legend- 

Because he Pastored in a seaport he became most popular among the Greek and Italian Sailors. He was their Bishop or Pastor. Keep in mind that most of these sailors had worshiped the Pagan Roman and Greek gods — so they were accustomed to praying to Poseidon prior to conversion. It was very common for converted Christians to replace their pagan traditions with Christian substitutes. Nicholas became the replacement for Poseidon and a type of Patron Saint for Sailors.

The year of Bishop Nicholas’s death is uncertain, but the month is firmly believed to be December. As the story of his generosity spread, the stories of his life grew and grew. He was becoming legendary. In the sixth century, a church was dedicated to him and named for him in Constantinople. His image was depicted more in the Middle Ages than any other except those of Christ and of Mary.

In the late 1100s the Catholic Church began to officially recognize Sainthood. It was after this that Nicholas was officially declared a Saint. December 6th became the day when the Catholic Church celebrated St. Nicholas. It really had nothing to do with the birth of Christ, but rather a celebration of this man, St. Nicolas the Bishop of Myra.

December 6th was a kid’s favorite holiday. That is when parents would hide toys in the kids wooden shoes if they were Dutch and in their Stockings in Germany. They got candy, it was great and very popular.

To reflect that legend, images of him carrying bags bulging with gold coins began to appear. As this legend moved northward, the story takes an even more interesting turn. In Germany, the tradition arose of giving gifts to each other in the name of St. Nicholas. This also became a tradition in the Netherlands.

The Dutch word for St. Nicholas became Sinterklaas. The German word eventually became Santa Claus. 

These celebrations of gift-giving occurred on December 6, the anniversary of his death. The gift of a gold coin was highly prized and showed great favor.

In the midst of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther wanted a Protestant alternative to the Roman Catholic practice of celebrating the Feast of Saint Nicholas. Instead of giving gifts in the name of Santa Claus on December 6, Luther started the tradition of giving gifts in the name of the Christ child, Christkindl, on Christmas Eve.

The word Luther coined, Christkindl, also evolved over the centuries. It would become Santa Claus’ other name, Kris Kringle. This effort of Luther’s to move away from the Santa Claus tradition inadvertently veered right toward it.puritanchristmasban

As the Reformation continued to mature, St. Nicholas fell out of favor with Protestants, who did not approve of canonizing certain people as saints and venerating them with holidays. Yet, over the next few hundred years, the people’s desire to celebrate St. Nicholas didn’t go away. The protestant church was divided on whether or not to celebrate Christmas.

As a result, the Puritans in America began to combine St. Nicholas Day and Christmas, but they would often celebrate on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day.

Preaching to Men

Jesus became a man.  He called and discipled men. As a matter of fact, under his influence some of those men went from being weak, self-centered individuals to strong, courageous world changers. Why then do so many modern churches have a noticeable gender gap of 60% or more in favor of women? There are many factors that contribute to this and all are worthy of examination. (For more information listen to “The Art of Manliness Podcast, Episode #253.) In this post, however, I want to address the role of the sermon in reaching men.

Let me be clear – women have played a vital role in the history of the church. Christianity honored and lifted women to positions of prominence that were unknown in first century Judaism. This article isn’t meant to define the roles of men and women. (My position on the role of men and women is articulated well here.

I do want to mention a few things worthy of consideration if we are to reach and disciple more men for Christ. As I see it, there are at least seven areas that we need to consider when attempting to disciple men from the pulpit.

      1. Illustrations – Jesus employed illustrations that resonated with both men and women. He talked of the kingdom in terms of marriage, but he also talked of it in terms of farming and fishing.I challenge you to look through your illustrations and evaluate them. How many were more appealing to women than men? I often think to myself, “If William Wallace (of Braveheart) were in my congregation would this sermon move him?”.
      2. Attire – Some preachers seem to think more about their hairstyle than they do the content of the sermon; many men find that problematic. Men are accustomed to looking to coaches for direction, not pop stars. Spend less time in the salon and more time in the woods if you want to resonate with guys.

         

      3. Emphasis – When you approach a text, what angle do you typically emphasize? For example, when preaching on “Peace with God” take advantage of a marvelous opportunity to talk about how we were at war with God. Show the men that God doesn’t loose wars. Present Jesus as a Warrior, Prophet, Priest and King worthy of their worship.


      4. Challenge – It resonates deeply with a man when an accomplished brother challenges him. Let him know that you expect a lot of out of him and so does God.
      5. Tribe – Men are tribal by nature. That is why fitness tribes like Cross-Fit have resonated so deeply with men. Consider swapping your terminology from emphasizing “community” or “family” and talk more about your “tribe”.
      6. Content – The way to a man’s heart is through his mind. At all costs we must avoid serving a regular diet of “chicken soup for the christian soul”. If men are to be resurrected as godly leaders of the church, home and nation – they must be men who think deeply.
      7. Example – Men want Pastors they can personally respect – therefore, it is essential that the Pastor embody the message he delivers. That doesn’t mean sinless perfection – but it does mean transparency about your struggles and a legit attempt to live for Christ.

These are some of the things that resonate with me as a man – what sort of things would you add to the list?

The Nature of Christ

The States of Christ 

  1. Pre-Incarnate Christ – So remember that there was never a time when Jesus did not exist. He was not created. He was eternally a part of the Godhead.
  2. Incarnation – The word means – in the flesh. Chili con Carne – with meat.
    But then he became a man through auspices of Mary, conceived of the Holy Spirit. So you will read several times in hebrews about how Jesus was the first born, or the begotten of the Father? those references are typically referring to his incarnation or his resurrection. Not his eternal state.
  3. Resurrected Christ – The current experience of Christ is that he has been raised from the dead. He inhabits a glorified physical body. He has ascended to the right hand of the Father.
  4. Eternal King – There is a sense in which Jesus rules and reigns right now in a literal sense. So he was able to command the Apostles saying, “all authority has been given to me – therefore go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and lo I am with you to the end of the age”. So in one sense he has all authority – but in another sense all things have not yet been subjected to him in an objective sense.

The Latest Episode of Maximum Life with Zach Terry

A Humbling Response 

After a long day playing on the lake with the kids, my wife and I treated ourselves to a late night dinner at the Waffle House. As we were checking out, I noticed a gentleman wearing a Vietnam Veteran cap. It was Memorial Day weekend, so it seemed right to pick up his bill. He thanked me, but he had already paid. I extended my hand and said, “Well, let me thank you for your service.” He took my hand, looked me in the eye and said with a smile, “You’re worth it, you’re an American.”

I know a lot of men join the service because it seems like the right next step. Perhaps some join because they are deeply patriotic. Others didn’t join at all but were drafted into service. Whatever his motivation for serving had been, he had thought deeply about what it meant for him and for our country. He had come to the conclusion that ultimately he wasn’t serving a collective ideal, he was serving and defending people, and a people that he deemed worthy of life and liberty. 

I will think about that answer for a long time. Am I really worth all he saw and did in Vietnam? I don’t know that I am, but I want to measure up to what that man saw in everyone privileged to be called an American. 

What Do I Believe About the Bible?

 

W.A. Criswell once said, “Possibly the most theologically accurate, intellectually deep, morally inspiring song ever penned by the hands of men goes like this-”

Jesus loves me this I know, For the bible tells me so…

How can you believe that the world was created out of nothing? The Bible tells me so.

How can you believe in a Flood that destroyed the old earth? The Bible tells me so.

How can you believe that forgiveness is possible and available? The Bible tells me so.

How can you believe that after you die, you will see God? The Bible tells me so.

In a day where Moral Ambiguity, Situational Ethics and Relativistic truth seem to be the rule of the day – nothing can be more culturally out of step than to begin a sentence with, “The Bible says” or to open a lecture with the request, “If you have your bibles, please open them”. Yet that is how we begin every service. The most important defining characteristic of any church, or of any christian is what the believe about God’s word. And by the way – what you do, IS what you believe. 

The Bible is a collection of 66 documents (39 OT and 27 NT) written over the span of 1,600 years by over 40 authors on 3 different continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe) in 3 different languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic) that reveals one unified, progressing and unfolding message – which we call the Gospel.

Authors of the Bible include kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statement, doctors, and scholars. The books of the bible fall into various genres or categories like history, sermons, letters, songs, poems, apocalyptic literature, prophecy, each of which contains their own interpretive norms.

The shifting genres are the main reason that people have a difficult time reading the bible. They read from book to book without taking into account the shifting genre. Imagine switching from reading a newspaper to watching StarWars. You have moved from non-fiction to fiction, from a print media to a video media. Both authors are trying to communicate something, but if you don’t take into account the shifting genre and media type you will be a very confused person.

The same thing can happen when reading the bible. For example, the interpretive norms shift majorly from reading Proverbs (short pithy wisdom literature), to 1 Corinthians (which is a letter), to reading Revelation (which is an apocalyptic discourse). One of the reasons there are so many weird interpretations of scripture is because people don’t learn how to read the Bible properly.

The OT was written on papyrus – a form of paper made out of reeds. The NT was written on parchment – prepared animal skins. The ink was typically made from Charcoal. Because these types of documents degrade so easily many copies were made of each book by meticulous scribes. Our modern translations are made from these ancient manuscript copies.

What do Christians Believe about the Bible? Broadly speaking – we believe it is the Word of God. But what each particular Christian, Church, or Denomination believes about the Bible varies widely.

There are 5 words used to describe our view of scripture. They are as follows:

  • The Bible is Inspired
  • The Bible is Inerrant and Infallible
  • The Bible is Authoritative
  • The Bible is Sufficient

Let’s break down each one of those statements:

  1. The Bible is Inspired – 

The word inspiration in this context means more than how one might say, “Shakespeare was an inspired playwright” or this person wrote and inspired song. We believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of scripture – that is, not only are the ideas of scripture inspired, but the very words are inspired of God. In other words, the human authors wrote down exactly what the Divine Author wanted.

That does not mean that the human authors like Paul and Peter were dictating as God spoke. (Incidentally, that is what Muslims believe about the Koran). The Bible’s writing is filled with the human author’s personality and perspective – the same way a letter you write may be. However, the Holy Spirit was using them as his pen to convey the very words he wanted to speak to his people.

 

2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The Phrase, “Thus says the LORD” occurs over 400 in the bible. “God said” occurs 46 times. So the we believe that the Bible is the word God wanted to give humanity

2. The Bible is Inerrant and Infallible

That is to say that the scriptures are true and accurate without any mixture of error. REMEMBER: The first question Satan raised was – “Did God REALLY say?” He perpetually raises that question over God’s word again and again. Typically Inerrancy has reference to the individual words and Infallible has reference to the scripture as a whole. 

Psalm 12:6 (ESV) The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.

The definition in simple terms just means that the Bible always tells the truth and that it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about. This definition does not mean that the Bible tells us every fact there is to know about any one subject, but it affirms that what it does say about any subject is true.

 

3. The Bible is Authoritative 

Bernard Ramm describes authority this way, “Authority itself means that right or power to command action or compliance, or to determine belief or custom, expecting obedience from those under authority, and in turn giving responsible account for the claim to right or power.” The bible has such authority.

To say that the bible is authoritative is to say that ONLY the bible is authoritative in the ultimate sense.

4. The Bible is Sufficient 

That is to say, The Bible is sufficient in all the areas it claims sufficiency. Wayne Gruden write, “We can define the sufficiency of Scripture as follows: The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly”.

2 Timothy 3:15 (ESV) and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

So you don’t need the Bible plus some other book to be pleasing to God. It is sufficient. Friend you will find that when another authority or book tries to speak to the issues that scripture addresses it will inevitably contradict or repeat what the Bible has said. If it repeats scripture – we don’t need it. If it contradicts scripture – we don’t want it.

CONCLUSION: What do you believe about the Bible? 

Do you read it?

Do you study it?

Do you meditate on it and memorize it?

Do you hide it in your heart?

 

Why don’t you recommit yourself like never before to being a student of the inerrant, inspired, infallible, authoritative and sufficient word of the Living God?