Beyond Opinion

Update: My new book with Len Sweet, Jesus: A Theography (Thomas Nelson, hardcover, 424 pages) is available in hardcover, Kindle, the Nook, and Audiobook (MP3 and CD). You can order these editions by clicking here. Family Christian, Barnes & Noble, and now LifeWay also carry the book.

Before we plunge into today’s topic, here are the top five most popular posts this month:

Jesus & Paul Under Fire and the 2012 USA Presidential Election

Alan Hirsch Responds to Critics Who Misrepresent His Work

Jesus Isn’t Contained in Our Boxes

Remembering the Perfume

What Happened Before the Foundation of the World?

Last month, my Answers to Skeptics series was viewed by countless numbers of people. And it’s turned out to be far more popular than I suspected. Especially the post entitled Is the Bible Reliable?

In my Missional Living post, I listed my top 5 books on defending the gospel.

Since then, I’ve come across a book that I’d add to the list at #6. It’s called Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias. My publisher, Thomas Nelson, released it.

In Beyond Opinion, Zacharias (who was once a Hindu) turns the shredder on high and obliterates common objections to the Christian faith.[Continue Reading...]

Howard Snyder

One of my all-time favorite theologians and historians is Howard Snyder. Snyder is currently a professor at Tyndale Seminary in Canada and served as a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary. He’s a prolific author who is known for “thinking outside the box.”

Howard was very kind to endorse two of my books The Untold Story of the New Testament Church (2005) and Pagan Christianity (2008).

Recently, I caught up with Howard to interview him on his prolific work. Should any of these titles interest you, just click on the links and you will be taken to Amazon for the best discounts available. I have most of his books on my bookshelf.

Your book The Community of the King is my favorite title of yours. I like it so much that I selected it as part of my Best 100 Christian Books Ever Written list. Tell us the story behind that book. What motivated you to write it and how did you write it? [Continue Reading...]

Jesus Isn’t Contained in Our Boxes

Update: Jesus: A Theography is now available on Audiobook. Listen to the Introduction for free. Click here to order the Audiobook.

Just when we think we’ve solved Jesus, He turns the tables on us.

Jesus often comes to us in unexpected ways and through unexpected means.

Just think about how He came to Earth. For centuries, Israel had waited for a political Messiah. They expected Him to lead a rebellion and free Israel from Roman oppression.

But how did the Messiah make His entrance into the world? He came in a way that made it easy for His own people to reject Him. He came as a frail baby, born in a feeding room for animals. There He was. The promised Messiah who was expected to overthrow the mighty Roman Empire and set Israel free from Gentile oppression. A needy Nazarene born in a manger.

When Jesus grew up, He ate and drank in their presence and taught in their streets (Luke 13:26). Yet they didn’t recognize who He was. He was unassumingly modest, of humble origin. A mere craftsman; the son of a craftsman.

He grew up in the despised city of Nazareth, fraternizing with the despised and oppressed. But more startling, He befriended sinners (Luke 7:34). As such, the people of God didn’t recognize Him. Why? Because He came in a way that made it easy for them to reject Him.

And what about the disciples? Read the story again. Jesus continued to break out of their expectations. He couldn’t be pinned down, figured out or boxed in. The Twelve were constantly confounded by Him. His teachings were offensive. His actions scandalous. His reactions baffling.[Continue Reading...]

Remembering the Perfume

Recently, Life Today with James Robison published the following excerpt from Jesus: A Theography on their website.

“She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

~ Mark 14:8-9

We tend to forget that crucifixion was the ultimate form of torture. The science of exquisite torture has never been equaled, much less exceeded, than in crucifixion. The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was no exception. Crucifixion was more than an ugliness blotted out by Easter, more than a speed bump on the road to resurrection.

Part of the cruelty of crucifixion was the emotional as well as physical torture.

There is no odor so bad

as that which arises

from goodness tainted.

—Henry David Thoreau

Yes, Jesus’ physical agonies were beyond imagining. But the emotional agonies were even worse—the humiliation of being stripped naked, with all bodily parts and functions exposed for the humiliating gaze of the public; the mixture of blood and sweat and urine and feces and refuse creating a nauseating stench, the smells of death that kept even the families of the crucified at a distance.

But what cut even deeper were the emotional agonies of Jesus’ spirit. The Bible unabashedly testifies to Jesus’ sense of total abandonment, defeat, rejection, and betrayal. In many ways, this was where Jesus was really crucified in spirit. Not on the cross but in the kiss. The cross crucified Him in body. The kiss crucified Him in soul. He was truly despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

Jesus was really betrayed twice, first by the kiss of Judas, then by something that cut even deeper: the kiss-off of Peter. The disciple who stuck with Jesus the longest after Jesus’ arrest, when accosted by a servant girl in the courtyard of the high priest, denied he knew Him. Before the barnyard cock crowed, the second betrayal took place.

Of Jesus’ closest friends, one denied Him, all betrayed Him, and, save John, all ran away.

Now do you know why Jesus said to remember “her” (the woman who anointed His head with fragrant ointment)?[Continue Reading...]

BibleWorks

I’m continuing my series of reviews for various Bible software programs. You can see the rest of the series in the Archives under the Reviews category.

My plan is to review a different program each week.

The publishers of these programs were gracious enough to send me copies of their software to review on this blog.

Each review will give a rating for various categories along with an image of the software from my computer and the link to the official website where you can see a demo and order the program.

This review is for BibleWorks 9

BibleWorks

I tested the program out on my PC using Windows 7.

The ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5.

1 is poor. 3 is average. 5 is excellent.

Here’s how I rated BibleWorks 9.[Continue Reading...]

My Interview with Tim Challies

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Today I interview author and blogger Tim Challies, one of the early pioneers of the Christian blogosphere.

Tim’s blog ranks in the top 5 of all Christian blogs on the Web.

Last year, Challies wrote a book entitled The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion

Here’s my interview with Challies:

What motivated you to write The Next Story and what do you hope to accomplish in and among those who read it?

Tim Challies: I suppose the motivation was largely a growing realization that I was not doing a good job of living in a distinctly Christian way in a digital world. The new realities of this world were running me over, so to speak. I knew that life had changed, I knew that I was grappling with new difficulties, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on them. I came to see that a lot had been written about life in a digital world, but very little had been  written about it from a distinctly Christian perspective. I began to do the research and a book was born.[Continue Reading...]

Alan Hirsch Responds to Critics

Update: I just learned that my new book Jesus: A Theography with Leonard Sweet just released on Kindle this morning. Click here to order the Kindle version now.

Earlier this year my friend Alan Hirsch released a book called The Permanent Revolution.

Like any book that challenges the conventional wisdom, Alan and his-coauthor Tim Catchim received a fair bit of criticism on their book. Among other things, Hirsch was accused of “vilifying people in the clergy” and far worse accusations.

As I’ve often said, criticizing a work on its own merit is one thing. Like me, Alan Hirsch welcomes constructive criticism. Neither of us claims immaculate perception and we’re both learning and growing . . . as are all Christians.

However, setting up a straw-man and then lighting a torch to it is another thing altogether.

As I’ve demonstrated in past posts (below), misrepresenting someone’s work is a tactic that some will pick up to dismiss an important contribution. But “we have not so learned Jesus Christ” to wield such tools (to quote Paul).

So You Think You Disagree?

Hearing One Side of a Story

The Art of Being a Jerk Online

Misrepresentations

A Word to All Authors – Aspiring or Actual

Anywho, Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim wrote an interesting response to one critic who misrepresented their book. With Alan’s permission, I’m republishing it here.

Every reader and every author would be wise to read Hirsch’s response as it highlights the typical hand-waving tactics that are used to try and discredit someone’s work.

Point: every dubious critique has the same anatomy. Hirsch’s response, therefore, applies perfectly to all works – written or spoken – which have been misrepresented by others (such as N.T. Wright, who regularly gets distorted by his detractors).

Here it is . . .[Continue Reading...]

What Happened Before the Foundation of the World?

Today, my new book Jesus: A Theography with Leonard Sweet officially releases. Scroll down to the end of this page to see where you can order it at the best discounts available. I regard this book to be my most important work next to From Eternity to Here and Jesus Manifesto. I hope you will pick up a copy today if you haven’t ordered one already.

“Every word of the God-breathed character of Scripture is meaningless if Holy Scripture is not understood as the witness concerning Christ.”

~ G.C. Berkower

All Scripture finds its organic center and unity in Jesus.

For this reason, the biblical narrative has its beginning in the creation of the universe through Christ, its middle in the earthly life and ministry of Christ, and its end in the reconciliation of all things in Christ.

There’s an overarching unity to both Testaments. And Christ is the unifying agent.

Part of that statement is not entirely accurate. While Genesis begins the scriptural narrative at the point of creation, the Second Testament tells us that the narrative actually begins somewhere else.

The Jesus story doesn’t begin in Bethlehem, Nazareth, or even Israel. According to the Second Testament (that is, the New Testament), it begins long before them. It begins in the dateless past, before angels or atoms.

In chapter 1 of my new book with Leonard Sweet, Jesus: A Theography, we narrate the Jesus story as it happened before creation and get a breathtaking glimpse of the preincarnate Christ—the eternal Son, the preexistent Word, Jesus before time, Christ before creation.

The Second Testament contains numerous texts that give us insight into Christ before time. And the First Testament (that is, the Old Testament) supports those texts.

Considering Jesus before the world began is mind-boggling. We feel we are fumbling in the dark, groping for words to express the inexpressible.[Continue Reading...]

Jesus and Paul Under Fire

Like many of you, I’ve been watching the news coverage for the 2012 USA presidential campaigns.

(For those of you who are reading this post in the 2050s, this was the race between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney long, long ago.)

Like many of you, I’ve also seen some of the “attack ads” on both sides. And I’m looking forward to the upcoming debates . . . in the same way that I was glued to the O.J. Simpson “Trial of the Century” back in the day.

Like that trial, I expect the debates to contain the elements of mystery, drama, comedy, excitement, and suspense.

Now why do politicians spend obscene amounts of money on ads which attack their opponents – most often falsely?

Because they work.

In general, people are gullible and will believe whatever they hear or read without checking the facts or going to the sources themselves.

On that score, Rick Warren made this comment recently: [Continue Reading...]

The Olive Tree Bible Reader

I’m beginning a series of reviews for various Bible software programs.

My plan is to review a different program each week.

The publishers of these programs were gracious enough to send me copies of their software to review on this blog.

Each review will give a rating for various categories along with an image of the software from my computer and the link to the official website where you can see a demo and order the program.

This review is for the Olive Tree Bible Reader.

I tested the program out on my PC using Windows XP.

The ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5.

1 is poor. 3 is average. 5 is excellent.

Here’s how I rated the Olive Tree Bible Reader. [Continue Reading...]