People occasionally ask me what I'm reading, so I thought that today I would share my current reading list for anyone interested.
I just finished The Epic of Eden and will have a review of it up at Passion for Preaching today.
My current reads include:
Worldliness edited by C.J. Mahaney.
Spurgeon on Leadership by Larry J. Michael.
The Soul Winner by C.H. Spurgeon
The Reagan Diaries by Ronald Reagan. (This is a large read that I digest a little at a time.)
The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm (Wyatt and I are reading this one together).
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
People occasionally ask me what I'm reading, so I thought that today I would share my current reading list for anyone interested.
Monday, December 29, 2008
As an avid reader and lover of books, I am always excited to hear of the reading habits of others. The Wall Street Journal has a great article by Karl Rove, former adviser to the president, on the reading habits of President George W. Bush. Possibly most interesting is that the President reads through the Bible each year. If nothing else, this might help you to see through some of the stereotypes of the president as backwoods and uninformed.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 10:03 AM
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
“For God loved the world in this way; He gave His Only
Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish
But have eternal life.” - John 3:16 HCSB
I love Christmas. My anticipation grows day by day as it approaches and I hate to see it go. I love the gift giving of Christmas and there is nothing like giving gifts to those whom you love. Many people say that Christmas is not about gifts, but today I disagree. I believe that Christmas is all about the gifts. For you see, Christmas is the celebration of the greatest gift of all. Jesus was more than a baby born; he was the gift of God given to all mankind. Christ was a gift given freely out of love. But, what is love?
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says"Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish, is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." So, what is a gift given out of love? It is a gift that requires nor expects anything in return.
I read a story recently about an elderly woman who was blind. Her young pastor stopped to visit her and could not help but notice the beautiful Christmas tree in her living room. Taken back by this display of visual beauty in the home of a woman with no sight, he could not help but ask. “Mrs. Johnson,” he said, “your tree is beautiful, do you decorate it every year?” “Oh yes,” she replied, “my nephew and I get the lights and decorations down and we have the best time decorating the tree.”
The young pastor, as confused as ever, asked in reply, “why would you spend so much time decorating a tree that you can not even look at and enjoy?” The wise lady responded, “Pastor, not everyone is blind.”
That is a gift given in love. A gift that she will never enjoy for herself, but that will bless the lives of others. Christ was a gift much the same. After all, how could God enjoy watching his Son suffer the pains of this earth? Imagine the Heavenly Father wincing with every skinned knee or bloody nose of his son. Certainly, as he grew, God could not enjoy the ridicule Jesus faced, and need we even mention the pain of the Father as the Son hung from a cross? No, God’s joy was not in watching His Son suffer, rather, his joy was found in seeing His creation redeemed.
All gifts of love require some form of sacrifice, only God’s sacrifice was much greater than any of us can imagine. I’ve brought this gift this morning to remind us that Christmas is about gifts, it is about the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. This gift is beautifully wrapped and the anticipation for what is inside is great because of the beautiful exterior. Christ deserved to come to earth surrounded by beautiful splendor; but instead, the greatest gift of all was laid in a feed trough and wrapped in plain cloth. An ordinary entrance for the world’s most extraordinary child…Jesus, the Messiah, the Light of the World, the Son of Mary, the Son of God!
Posted by Craig Thompson at 6:00 AM
Monday, December 22, 2008
This should be shown in churches, evangelism classes, and should become a mainstay in missions courses...
Penn of Penn and Teller is an atheist. His response to being evangelized after a show may surprise you.
"I don't respect people who don't proselytize. If you believe that there's a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, and you think, 'Well, it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward'...How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize?"
Posted by Craig Thompson at 6:00 AM
Friday, December 19, 2008
Baptist Press is out with an article today reporting the outrage by the homosexual community at president-elect Barak Obama's selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration ceremony. In Gay Activists Outraged Over Warren Invite, one might develop the assumption that both the president-elect and Rick Warren seem a bit surprised by this gross over-reaction from the homosexual community.
Kelly reports the swift response from the homosexual community this way:
"Your invitation to Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans," wrote Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign, which describes itself as "the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization." "By inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table."
Commenting on this situation, Albert Mohler has written a rather extensive article chronicling, not only this situation, but a short history of Rick Warren's social sympathies that have often put him in line with many liberals. Warren has always been a "cool" pastor, but this situation has put him squarely on the fringe of "cool" and his support of Prop 8 in California has nearly demonized him among those who celebrate the normalcy of homosexuality.
Mohler writes in The High Cost of Being Cool:
The outrage directed at Rick Warren must be seen in this context. It is a genuine outrage expressed by gay activists and their liberal allies. To these Obama supporters, it is unthinkable that the President-elect could have chosen Warren for such a prominent role. As one letter to the editor in Friday's edition of The New York Times expressed the sentiment, "Barack Obama’s choice of the Rev. Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration is as if Lyndon B. Johnson had selected a pastoral proponent of racial segregation to deliver the invocation in 1965."
Here is the deep irony -- Rick Warren has devoted enormous energy toward the goal of defusing the culture war and creating common ground. He has attracted the criticism of many conservative evangelicals who have been concerned about how these efforts have been positioned and for what often appears as comments at their expense. At times, Warren has even had to issue clarifications in order to make his generalized statements more specific. If the President-elect wanted to choose a figure recognized as an evangelical in the public eye, but sympathetic to much of his stated agenda to unite, he could scarcely have chosen a more recognizable figure than Rick Warren.
But now many of Obama's own supporters attack Rick Warren as if he is a hate-driven homophobe, which he clearly is not. All that was necessary to bring on this opposition is Warren's opposition to same-sex marriage and his support for Proposition 8. Now, he is grouped along with the most strident and careless as an apostle of hatred.
It doesn't take much. We would all like to be considered cool. Cultural opposition is a tough challenge and bearing public hatred is a hard burden. Being cool means being considered mainstream, acceptable, and admirable. Believing that same-sex marriage is wrong is enough to turn "uncool" in an instant, at least in many circles.
I am not throwing Rick Warren to the wolves over this. He now finds himself in a whirlwind, and he will not be the last. Pastor after pastor and church after church will face a similar challenge in short order. No matter how cool you think you are or think that others think you are, the hour is coming when the issue of homosexuality -- taken alone -- will be the defining issue in coolness. If you accept the full normalization of homosexuality, you will be cool. If you do not, you are profoundly uncool, no matter how much good work you do nor how much love and compassion you seek to express.
With an eye to history and to the future of Warren and many conservatives like him, Dr. Mohler points out that a time comes when we often have to choose to be cool or to be true to the gospel.
Liberal Protestantism came to this conclusion long ago, and those churches desperately want to be considered cool by the elites. Having abandoned biblical authority, there is nothing to prevent them moving fast into coolness. The only barriers are outposts of conservative opposition, but they will not last long.
Many in the "emerging" and "Emergent church movements also state their intention to transcend the divisive issues like abortion and homosexuality. Some of these represent the quintessence of cool in cultural identification. But for how long? Eventually, the issue of homosexuality will require a decision. At that point, those churches will find themselves facing a forced decision. Choose ye this day: Will it be the Bible or coolness?
Both of these articles are interesting.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 9:58 AM
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Faith had its moment in the spotlight during the presidential campaign: A pastor (Rick Warren) moderated an encounter between John McCain and Barack Obama; former preacher Mike Huckabee made a creditable run; Rev. Jeremiah Wright's "God D--- America" sermon sideswiped former protege Obama; John Hagee's remarks on Catholics and Jews exploded on McCain. Indeed, there seemed to be such parity in piety between the two major parties that faith may have been cancelled out as a factor. A late October poll showed that only one in 10 Americans regarded the country's moral and spiritual condition as their foremost electoral criterion. Obama captured 53% of the Catholic vote (up 13% over John Kerry's 2004 tally) despite claims by several bishops that voting Democratic was tantamount to sin. Faith was simply not a primary concern by election day. By then, the mortgage and debt crises had very clearly pushed religion off the table.
Jesus warned us about this. You cannot serve both God and money (Luke 16:13), were the words of Christ, and yet we as Christians have somehow forgotten his words. When only 10 percent of Americans regard the moral and spiritual condition of the country as their foremost concern in the country, it is evident that their pocketbooks have become their gods.
As Christians, we must be different. The state of our economy is of grave concern to many people, but the nature of our God is such that he owns all that exists. Before we give our attention soleley to our bank accounts, should we not concern ourselves with storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19)? Where are your treasures today? I can assure you that your personal calendar and your check register will tell the truth whether you are comfortable with admitting it or not.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 8:30 AM
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Dr. Russell Moore of Southern Seminary has written two very good articles on the eschatology of parenting. Today, because I believe many parents can benefit from these articles, I have copied and pasted both articles in their entirety below. You can find Dr. Moore's articles in their original form on his blog at http://www.russellmoore.com/.
The Eschatology of Parenting
Yesterday I helped a toddler clean up a 44 ounce cup of Coke Zero he’d spilled everywhere (yes, it was mine; and no, there were not 44 ounces left remaining in it when he found it). I answered forty questions about whether Jesus made Lego blocks (so stay tuned for my new sermon series on “The Logos and the Legos”). And I disciplined a tantrum thrower and a sulker.
All of that was about the end times.
When we think of Christian eschatology, we tend to think first of prophecy charts or apocalyptic novels, but nothing is more eschatological than parenting.
A parent disciplining a child, for instance, communicates to the child the discipline and judgment of God in ways deeper and more resonant than any Sunday school lesson (Heb 12:5-11). A parent who will not discipline a child for disobedience, or who is inconsistent in doing so, is teaching that child not to expect consequences for behavior.
In short, a parent who will not discipline is denying the doctrine of hell.
At the same time, a parent who disciplines in anger or with harshness teaches a judgment of God that is capricious and unjust. An abusive parent, worst of all, ingrains in a child’s mind a picture of God as a ruthless devil who cannot be trusted to judge justly.
Parental discipleship and discipline ought always to have repentance and restoration in view, picturing a God who is both just and the justifier (Rom 3:26). Discipline should be swift and fair with quick reconciliation between parent and child. Long periods of “time out” do not communicate the discipline of God; they communicate the isolation and exile of hell.
Parents who spend time with their children, especially at meals, demonstrate something of the harmony they want their children to long for beyond this life. It’s a longing to eat at another Father’s table in the kingdom of Christ.
Moreover, we should teach children to respect and acknowledge authority, attributes necessary for citizens of a democracy for a short time, yes, but more necessary for subjects of a kingdom forever. Teaching children to refer to adults as “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Jones” or “Pastor Doe” and to say “sir” and “ma’am” (or the culturally equivalent signifiers of authority) is about more than politeness. It is training children to recognize proper hierarchy and authority when the veil is lifted and we see face to face.
Those of you who are parents probably grow weary and discouraged sometimes. I know I do. It seems as though you’re not “getting through” sometimes, that your children aren’t responding the way you thought they would. Keep hugging. Keep kissing. Keep chastising. Keep teaching. This is a long-term project. You’ve got a long-term project in front of you. And there’s a lot at stake.
After all, parenting isn’t about behavior modification. It’s about Christian eschatology.
How "Hellish" is Time-Out?
Some commenters on the last post have raised the issue of “time out” as a tool for discipline, especially in light of my statement that extended periods of “time out” don’t communicate well the discipline of God over his children.
Some asked, “What about the exile?” Others noted, “Since godly parenting demonstrates belief in hell, why shouldn’t we employ a means that captures the isolation of hell?” Good points all.
First, the key issue in my argument isn’t with “time out” if by “time out” one means a short period of isolation in order to prompt the child to calm down or to reflect on the gravity of the situation. The key issue is extended periods of “time out” in which the regular discipline of the home is to remove the child from the life of the family.
There are homes in which “time out” is a means of social control in the household. Rather than disciplining and restoring, children are routinely sent into isolation for long periods of time.
Second, discipline isn’t punishment. God doesn’t punish his children. He disciplines them. This is the argument of Hebrews 12. Discipline pictures hell only in one way, that actions have consequences. This is why Jesus calls us to the self-discipline of the gouged-out eye or the cut-off hand rather than face the justice of God in hell (Matt 18:7-9).
Discipline isn’t condemnation though. There is no condemnation for those who’ve been adopted into the household of Jesus (Rom 8:1). The quickness of discipline is itself a sign of acceptance. Those who are perishing aren’t disciplined at all. They are given over to themselves, and their judgment comes upon them in the end (see, for example, the pattern of Esau, also referenced in Heb 12).
God’s discipline though is swift and purpose-driven. He seeks not to isolate but to drive the erring sheep back into the sheep-fold, to welcome the repentant son back to the table.
If “time out” in your house is a tool to prompt thinking, while the child waits for swift discipline and restoration, then have at it. If “time out” is a means of punishing the child by removing him from the fellowship of his family, then you’re removing him from the very means of discipleship he (and we) so desperately needs.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 8:18 AM
Monday, December 15, 2008
Posted by Craig Thompson at 9:12 PM
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Christmas is all about the presents...isn't it? Of course it isn't, but I believe Christmas is all about the presence. The presence of Christ. After all, he is to be called, Immanuel, which means God With Us. Matthew testifies to this in Matthew 1:23 and the book of John tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Enjoy your presents this Christmas, but remember to celebrate the presence of Christmas. God became a man and dwelt among us. That is the miracle, that is the reason we celebrate. Don't miss the best part of Christmas.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 9:19 AM
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Posted by Craig Thompson at 3:14 PM
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Here's a collection of links for your Tuesday:
1. A God of Wrath?
This is definitely not the picture of God that we normally sing and preach about. This is not a cuddly teddy bear God; this is a God of terror. We know that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11) but he punishes never-the-less.
2. Ten Favorite Books from Trevin Wax
Every December, I select the ten books that I most enjoyed reading during the year. (See 2007 and 2006 lists.) Please note that I am not giving a blanket endorsement to everything in these books (after all, some of them contradict each other at points). I choose ten books a year based solely on how much I enjoyed reading them.Here are my top ten picks for 2008
3. The Epic of Eden
This is a book I'm reading right now. I'm about 70 pages into it, but so far it is the most interesting Old Testament Introduction book that I have ever read. I'll post a review of it soon, but you might be interested in it for now.
4. Big Picture Story Bible
Wyatt is getting this book for Christmas and I would strongly recommend it for anyone with small children. It collects the Bible into one big story with lots of colorful pictures.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 7:48 AM
Monday, December 08, 2008
Posted by Craig Thompson at 9:40 AM
OK, so the title may have caught you off guard, but check out the post below copied from Denny Burk, the new dean of Boyce College at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is good stuff...
The Protestant Reformation has come to the Grammys! On Saturday, one of our students here at Boyce College was nominated for a Grammy award. His stage name is “Flame,” and I wrote about him here in October. He’s a hip-hop artist with a gospel message—one that is rooted deeply in the reformation tradition.
According to the Grammy website, Flame’s “Our World Redeemed” has been nominated for “Best Rock Or Rap Gospel Album.” CMSpin.com has the details of the story, and the Associated Press reports that the Grammy Awards will be broadcast on February 8 on CBS. You can be sure that we’ll be pulling for Flame.
Here’s a link to Flame’s album. If you haven’t bought it yet, you really should.
Our World: Redeemed (2008)
Russell Moore interviewed Flame on “The Albert Mohler Program” last Spring. You can download it here or listen to it below.
Here’s Flame’s Website.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 9:31 AM
Thursday, December 04, 2008
USA Today writes:
Parents and policymakers need to take action to protect children from being harmed by TV, the Internet and other types of media, a report says.
Researchers have done individual studies for years to learn how media affect children. A review released today, which analyzed 173 of the strongest papers over 28 years, finds that 80% agree that heavy media exposure increases the risk of harm, including obesity, smoking, sex, drug and alcohol use, attention problems and poor grades.
Some of the links are particularly strong. For example, 93% of studies found that children with greater media exposure have sex earlier. Authors say the soundest studies are those linking media use with obesity, while the evidence linking media exposure to hyperactivity is weaker.
The study provides overwhelming evidence of the importance of limiting children's use of media and teaching them to critically evaluate the ever-growing volume of text, images and sounds with which they are bombarded, says co-author Ezekiel Emanuel of the National Institutes of Health. He says the report also urges Hollywood and technology makers to create entertainment that is less toxic and more family-friendly.
Let me suggest just a few things that you can do to benefit your children and aid them in their spiritual journey.
1. Limit TV time. Of course, limitations mean censoring as well. Just because it comes on TV does not mean it has to come on in your house...
2. Limit Computer Time. This probably goes without saying, but too much time in front of a computer is not a good thing. You should also have filtering and accountability software installed on all of your computers to protect every member of your family.
3. Family Devotions. When specific times are set aside for family devotions, your children are being immersed in a Christian worldview.
4. Eat Together. I've written about this here, but suffice it to say that family meals are a proven benefit in the lives of your children (and in contributing to the health of your family).
5. Attend Church Together. Does this one need explanation?
6. Encourage Extracurricular Activities. Sports, dance, band, whatever it may be, get your kids involved in activities that benefit them socially and otherwise.
7. Play Together. That's right, play together. Find an activity you can do together as a family, the TV is not adequate family bonding.
The TV and computer are not intended to be your babysitters. As parents, you have been given the responsiblity to raise your children, so take your responsibility seriously or your children will reap the neagtive rewards of your failure.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 9:29 AM
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel.  Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
We follow Jesus and expect blessings and rewards. We complain when we suffer and question God's goodness, and yet, our Lord, was born in a feed trough and did not even have the money to pay the tax for the temple. This was not a great amount of money, maybe $100 (maybe even less), and yet our Savior did not have that money on him.
Of course, The Father provided to meet his needs and he will provide for ours, but should we truly expect to be blessed? Does God owe good to us, or will we not accept both good and evil from our God (Job 2:10)?
We serve a good God and that shall never change, but let us all beware when we believe that God owes to us better than even Christ had as he walked this earth. Luther writes it aptly this way:
Think of it, my kinsman, yes, my brother, the King of all creation in heaven and on earth, and of all creatures in them, lies there in such wretchedness! shame on me! Why am I so stuck-up? Why do I want to be so high and mighty that I never want to suffer anything? if the King of glory suffers as he does, for my sake, who do I think I am, anyway? Isn't it a fact, that I am a poor sinner who does not even deserve to lie on bristle. But here I am, lying on a bead of ease, while my Lord lies there on coarse straw in a manger for the cows!
But isn't this a disgusting deal? Here we see the humiliation and poverty in which our Lord Jesus lies for our sake, while w pretend to be aristocratic landowners who should get off with not punishment or suffering at all!
The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, volume V, 136.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 2:04 PM
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
I picked this up from JDGreear and thought it was worthwhile.
All pastors, by definition, are leaders. I have discovered, however, that many of them do not think of themselves as such. You ask them where they see their church going, what vision they are pursuing... and beyond bland banalities they have little to say.
For many pastors, I think one reason they fail to lead is they haven't learned to recognize the ways God has genuinely called them to be a leader. Let me explain.
Acts 26:16 has always been one of the most important verses to me in ministry (since my college pastor, Tom Wagoner, shared it with me in his office in 1994). In that verse Jesus tells Paul, "Rise up and stand on your feet, for I have made you a minister and a witness of the things you have seen and the things I will yet show you." Jesus had shown a part of himself to Paul that he had not shown to Peter, and Paul had a special angle on Christian ministry he was to add to the church. Jesus told him, "I gave you, and will give you, this insight on me. My calling on you is to add it to the body of Christ."
Over the years, reflection on this verse has propelled me into leadership. I don't assume that Jesus has shown me something that he has never shown to anyone else. However, I do understand that Jesus has let me see, experience, understand and feel certain things, and I am to add that to the body of Christ. This forms the core of my leadership fuel. I am a minister and witness of the things He has shown me and will yet show to me.
For many of us the best thing we could do is to get away with our Bible and maybe our wives or even a close friend and ask Jesus what he has planted deepest in our hearts. Talk them out. Pray them out. Write them out. Map them out.
Then lead the rest of us in them.
One note for those of you with the same idolatrous disease I have to gain recognition... don't try to be "novel," as if you have something new, never discovered before, to add to the body of Christ. I have discovered that the desire to be "original" is usually idolatry in me. Just try and understand what Jesus has shown you most powerfully from the Scriptures that the rest of us don't seem to understand as well, and then figure out the clearest way to help us all understand that.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 9:18 AM
Monday, December 01, 2008
I felt like I had to post this today. Christmas is a special time and some of our most nostalgic memories revolve around Christmas movies and TV Specials. TV Guide has a calendar of Christmas Specials. Maybe you can find this beneficial as you plan your family's holiday TV watching.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 10:22 AM
Still looking for something to be thankful for? Check out the Sign on Travis Agnew's blog and be thankful it's not in front of your church! And, for more entertainment, check out his Church Signs category.
If you like what you see, let Travis know, he's a great guy and he'll get a kick out of it.
Posted by Craig Thompson at 10:09 AM