The Legacy of Good Leadership Is Sacrifice: Why Jesus Was the Lion of Judah

In the last book of the Bible, one of the elders in heaven says to the apostle John in Revelation 5:5, “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered.” Jesus, as we know, is the Lion of Judah. And as we come to the first book of the Bible, to the climax of the Joseph story (which is the climax of the whole book of Genesis), we get a glimpse into one of the reasons why. We might ask it this way: Why is Jesus “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” and not “of the tribe of Joseph”? Joseph is Jacob’s favored son. And Joseph is the focus of the last main section of Genesis (chapters 12–23 for Abraham; 24–26 for Isaac; 27–36 for Jacob; and 37–50 for Joseph). Judah and Joseph, of course, are half brothers, both sons of Jacob, along with ten other half brothers. Judah is Jacob’s fourth son, by his wife Leah (Genesis 29:35; 35:23). But Joseph is Jacob’s favored son, one of only two by his favored wife, Rachel — and Joseph is plainly the focus of Genesis 37–50, not Judah. As we know from chapter 37, Judah and his brothers were jealous of Joseph (verse 11) and hated him (verse 4) because of their father’s special love for him. And Joseph’s dreams didn’t help. He reported seeing them all bowing down to him. The brothers came to hate Joseph so much that they sold him into slavery and gave their father the impression that Joseph was dead. But even in slavery, God was with Joseph. Joseph worked in the house of a man named Potiphar, who soon put Joseph over his whole house. When Potiphar’s wife lied about him, Joseph was sent to prison, and then, even there, God’s favor remained… Read More

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A Song for Every Psalm, Released Weekly for 150 Weeks

On January 1, Christian folk band Poor Bishop Hooper will release a song based on Psalm 1. In November 2022, they will release a song based on Psalm 150. Every week in between, they will release new songs that work through the Psalter. That’s 150 songs, released one per week, for three years. The ambitious EveryPsalm project is just the latest creative Bible-set-to-music project from the Kansas City–based band (composed of husband-and-wife duo Jesse and Leah Roberts), whose 2014 album Foreign Made landed at number 21 on TGC’s list of the best Christian albums of the decade. EveryPsalm is also the latest encouraging example of what has become a renaissance of Scripture-based music in recent years. From Sandra McCracken’s Psalms to Bible albums from The Corner Room (e.g., Isaiah 53, 1 Corinthians 13) or Psallos (e.g., Hebrews, Jude), the most inspirational Book in history is inspiring a new generation of musicians. The most inspirational Book in history is inspiring a new generation of musicians. I asked Jesse Roberts to talk about the EveryPsalm project, Poor Bishop Hooper’s excellent Advent EP, and his advice for aspiring Christian artists. Who is Poor Bishop Hooper? How do you describe your music and mission? We began performing under this moniker a little more than six years ago, after we were married. What started as a simple duo playing simple songs (Leah on upright bass and myself on guitar) has since become a wide-ranging array of full-band expressions, trios, songwriting, and more. A few years ago our music became a full-time ministry, which led us to create a nonprofit. Our mission is to serve people by musically communicating the gospel. We focus on underserved communities (prisons, rural communities, urban poor) with our live experiences, and encouraging the global church through Scripture-based songs. What inspired you to tackle the ambitious EveryPsalm project? Years ago I began writing lyrics/poetry out of the psalms as a daily habit. It was a beautiful time,… Read More

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4 Reasons Christians Should Support Banning Pornography

Earlier this month, four Republican members of the U.S. House sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General recommending that he declare “the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority,” and that he advise U.S. attorneys to start prosecuting the “major producers and distributors of such material.” The Congressmen point out that as a candidate, President Trump signed an anti-pornography pledge stating he would enforce federal obscenity laws to stop the explosion of pornography. “This pledge has so far been ignored in the Trump administration,” they note, “with the result that the harms of illegal pornography have continued unabated, affecting children and adults so acutely to the point that 15 state legislatures have declared that pornography is causing a public health crisis.” The letter, and its endorsement by some social conservatives, sparked a backlash from many people on the political right. A large number of conservatives and libertarians (including some who consider themselves followers of Jesus) are complaining that regulating or banning pornography goes against their political principles* As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat sardonically responded to the anti-ban conservatives, “Whatever happens in the legal/cultural battle over porn itself, I’m quite confident that the claim that ‘obscenity laws are un-conservative’ will eventually sound like gibberish to everyone save scholars of late-20th-century American political arcana.” Remember When Christians Hated Porn? What is most shocking about the shift is that is anti-ban position is either held by or silently supported by many Christians. That wasn’t always the case. Evangelicals, in particular, once considered it our duty to prevent the spread and normalization of porn. For example, in 1976, evangelicals were scandalized that a presidential candidate would agree to be interviewed by Playboy magazine. As Jerry Falwell, a Baptist pastor and co-founder of the Moral Majority, said in 1981, “Giving an… Read More

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He Made Them Male and Female: Sex, Gender, and the Image of God

Is “gender” a social construct? Should male or female be a matter of personal choice? Are there more than two “genders”? Ten years ago, these questions were unheard of apart from English and Women’s Studies departments at secular universities. But as peculiar and even sacrilegious as it may sound, many people today would say yes to all three. Maybe your kindergartener has a playmate being raised “gender neutral.” Or your coffee shop is starting to use name tags with “preferred pronouns.” Or a bit closer to home, you might have a family member who is “transitioning.” Although the modern West has lost its boundaries and celebrates a plethora of so-called gender options, how should Christians understand and critique today’s concepts of gender in light of Scripture? We begin with understanding, and not conflating, four categories: sex, gender, norms, and callings. Sex: Male and Female The term sex has a couple of definitions. It can refer to the act of sexual intercourse or the categories of male and female. For this discussion, we’re focusing on the second definition. Sex as male or female is an objective, binary classification. In this sense, sex refers to divisions based on reproductive functions. Many today, however, claim that sex is not objective but arbitrary. For example, some assert that sex is “assigned” at birth. This is simply untrue. The sex of a newborn is observed physically by the baby’s sex organs and confirmed genetically through a DNA test. “God intended for the woman to complement and not duplicate the man.” Tweet Share on Facebook But what about people who are “intersex”? Does this exceptionally rare condition (by all counts, one in thousands, not hundreds) prove sex is nonbinary and on a spectrum? No. Intersexuality is a biological phenomenon where an individual may have genital ambiguity… Read More

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Win Souls: Don’t Offend People Needlessly

We should desire to win souls for Christ, and their souls can only be won by receiving the offensive message of the Gospel. With that being said, we need to make sure our attitude and conduct don’t add a needless offense to the message. View the full sermon, “Transformation For Proclamation (Part 4)“.

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FMBRF: Sheep without a Shepherd

From one of today’s texts in our Friday Morning Bible Reading Fellowship – The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.  And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.  Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mk 6:30–34. What do you do with sheep who are without a Shepherd? Jesus answers best: Teach them. We need nothing more than we need the Word of God – to know Him through what He has revealed in His speaking and acting. This is of cosmic and eternal importance to the souls of all we meet. Do we see people “Shepherdless”? Not being led and sustained by Christ Jesus? Then we need to bring them to Him. It is an emergency. We need to note that in this account, Jesus’ first concern was not their physical, social justice or even psychological needs, but first and foremost, their reconciliation to the Father. Don’t get me wrong, the other things are not unimportant – but the Gospel is primary. The other things may and should follow, but they cannot take the lead. But what of this teaching? What is it so necessary for those in such outward distress to hear? 1. They need… Read More

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Will All Nations Be Reached Before Christ Returns?

Audio Transcript Today we have an important missions question from a listener named Zach. “Hello, Pastor John! A friend and I have been reading your book Let the Nations Be Glad. It has been a blessing to both of us as we each pursue our roles in missions. Thank you. I’ve been wondering if Christians will have to reach every unreached people group, or at least every unengaged unreached people group, before Jesus returns. It seems to me that the disciples lived as though they believed Jesus would return any day. And the Bible certainly speaks of Jesus coming at any moment. Also, looking at Revelation 14:6, I wonder if that passage is saying that if Jesus returns before we as Christians have accomplished the task to reach all the unreached, the angel will take care of the rest, so to speak. What do you think?” Let me preface what I’m going to say with the statement that I am so willing to be corrected on this. I’ll say more about that maybe as we go along, so please don’t hear me having the level of forcefulness in this as I might with other teachings that I find to be clearer. But I do have convictions, and I’ll tell you what they are. ‘Then the End Will Come’ The way I would express my understanding of the Bible is that Jesus clearly commanded us to make disciples of all the peoples, tribes, languages of the world (Matthew 28:19; Revelation 5:9). He gave us his Holy Spirit and power to that end (Acts 1:8). He promised to be with us “to the end of the age” for that purpose (Matthew 28:20). And he said that the end would come — that is, he would come — when this task of witnessing… Read More

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Good News Homes in a Bad News World

“We can’t give our children what we don’t have. You can’t sit here and say, ‘I want my kid to love the Lord with all this soul and his might and his strength. I want my child to stand for what is right in a culture that’s telling him to go one way. I want them to stand firm’—but you’re not doing any of it. You can’t put that into your child when you’re not willing to spend time in the Word, not willing to attend church on a regular basis.” — Benjamin Watson Date: March 31, 2019 Event: TGC 2019 National Pre-conference, Indianapolis, Indiana Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast. Related: Find more audio and video from the 2019 National Conference on the conference media page. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Greg Lanier on 1 Corinthians (Part 1)

A huge challenge for us as Bible teachers is to figure out which instructions in the epistles are binding on believers today and which were unique for to the particular time, place, and audience to which they were originally written. In this conversation Greg Lanier, associate professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, works through the first 10 chapters of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. These chapters address matters of wisdom, divisions, sexual immorality in the church, lawsuits among believers, marriage, idolatry, and eating food offered to idols. Lanier demonstrates how, on each issue, Paul presents theological grounds for his instruction and then applies it to the issue at hand. Lanier contends that while many of the other epistles focus on the basics of the Christian message, 1 Corinthians is an application of that truth. Lanier’s new book, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to How We Got the Bible, releases this month in the UK and in February 2020 in the United States. Listen to this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible. Written resources on 1 Corinthians recommended by Greg Lanier: Audio resources on 1 Corinthians: Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Masters of Self: Cultivating Gentleness in an Age of Outrage

ABSTRACT: We live in an age of outrage, an age when anger inflames our public discourse, disrupts our families, and distorts the church’s witness to the world. If the vice of anger is among the severest spiritual afflictions of our age, then the virtue of gentleness is among the most needful spiritual medicines. Far from weakness or mere “niceness,” gentleness is self-mastery flowing from humility and the fear of the Lord. Christians cultivate gentleness in union with Christ, the fountain of all gentleness, who gently invites us to draw freely upon his inexhaustible fullness. For our ongoing series of feature articles by scholars for pastors, leaders, and teachers, we asked Scott Swain, president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, to explain the biblical virtue of gentleness. Until recently, the inability to control one’s anger, because it was somewhat rare and exotic, was something we could laugh about. Late-night talk show hosts lampooned road rage. Anger Management was the title of a 2003 comedy film starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson. Today, lack of impulse control is no rarity and no laughing matter. We live in a world aflame with anger. A recent New York Times documentary tells the story of the online “Outrage Machine” that, with a little misinformation and a viral hashtag, can rally a social-media mob and destroy a person’s life. On college campuses, many have lost the ability to interact reasonably with opposing viewpoints. Students complain of being triggered by “microagressions” and demand the summary dismissal of anyone who would offend them, calling for “safe spaces” where fragile perspectives can rest unchallenged by opposing arguments.1 When it comes to public discourse, we have become a culture that sees red. Our constant state of unhinged political outrage makes us unable to process reality, unable to determine wise courses… Read More

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The Three History and Biography Winners from the CT Book Awards

Christianity Today released its annual books-of-the-year awards this week. Evangelical History readers might be interested in the winners for the category of history and biography. Their overall winner was Kathryn Long’s God in the Rainforest: A Tale of Martyrdom and Redemption in Amazonian Ecuador (Oxford University Press). One of the judges—Andrew Atherstone, tutor in history and doctrine at Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford—wrote: The romantic legend of Jim Elliot and his missionary friends, speared to death in 1956 by Waorani warriors, is firmly fixed in evangelical folklore. The subsequent Christian conversion of the Waorani is often recounted triumphantly as proof of God’s redemption of indigenous peoples, stimulating many missionary vocations and helping to raise funds for a new wave of Bible translators. At the other extreme, secular critics accuse the Ecuadorian missionaries of ethnocide, as “the new conquistadors” of Latin America. Long cuts through these rhetorical tropes, subjecting them to searing analysis. She provides a detailed reconstruction of Waorani religious culture from the 1950s to the present, examining the complexities and failures that have been airbrushed from the idealized narratives. Their Award of Merit—essentially the runner-up—was a tie between Darren Dochuk’s Anointed with Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America (Basic Books) and Grant Wacker’s One Soul at a Time: The Story of Billy Graham (Eerdmans). On the Dochuk book, one of the judges—historian Stephen Tomkins—writes: Anointed with Oil provides fascinating insight into how religion became embedded in the modern U.S. economy and how fossil-fuel capitalism became embedded in U.S. faith and values. It is a detailed and panoramic survey of the relationship between different approaches to Christianity and different approaches to industry and commerce. It contains colorful and potent characters and is lively despite its length. Dochuk’s style is always clear and fluent. He digs deep and gives the reader a strong sense of the… Read More

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Margin notes: Monarchs and Presidents and Democraises – Oh my!

Hebrews 1:8 (ESV) — 8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. Current in the political discourse of the United States today is the rising buzz about socialism. It is imagined, that if we would just change our present system of a Representative Republic to that of a “Democratic Socialist” one – so many of our present societal ills would be addressed and corrected. Perhaps. Perhaps some of those ills. But at best, only temporarily. Why? You may take this as axiomatic: No political system can rise above the moral corruption of those who administrate or participate in it. Any and every system throughout human history comes up against this unavoidable inevitability. We have had monarchies, oligarchies, tribalism, communism, representative republics, constitutional monarchies, commonwealths, totalitarian regimes, etc., etc., etc. They have all risen, mostly all fallen, and all but one will eventually fall: The absolute and pure monarchy of Jesus Christ when He returns. Now we may well argue which form of human government we might prefer for whatever reasons at any given point in history. But we absolutely must realize that each and every form is subject to the moral corruption of the human heart in its rebellion against the rightful rulership of our Creator through Jesus Christ – and not only will, but MUST end in harming its own people. There is no way to escape it. The bottom line is this – we do not need a better or different system, we need men and women to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. To be changed from the inside by His Holy Spirit. No form of human government can remain uncorrupted because all governments are the product of corrupt… Read More

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What’s the Deepest Desire of My Heart?

Audio Transcript What’s the deepest longing of the human heart? What’s your deepest desire? What’s the thing you want most? There’s an answer to that question, and it’s the focus of today’s episode. During the month of December, leading up to Christmas, I want to do something we’ve never done before. I’ve convinced Pastor John to read a few chapters from his excellent book Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. I love that little book. And this is my nudge to see if Pastor John will read it as his first audiobook. To that end, he recorded a chapter for us, for you, the APJ audience. You are hearing this for the very first time. Here now is Pastor John reading chapter one from his wonderful book Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, a chapter that answers the question, What is the deepest longing of my heart? The heavens declare the glory of God. (Psalm 19:1) God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6) Meaning of Heaven and Earth The created universe is all about glory. The deepest longing of the human heart and the deepest meaning of heaven and earth are summed up in this: the glory of God. The universe was made to show it, and we were made to see it and savor it. Nothing less will do. Which is why the world is as disordered and as dysfunctional as it is. We have exchanged the glory of God for other things (Romans 1:23). “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). That is why all the universe exists. It’s all about glory. The Hubble Space Telescope sends back infrared images… Read More

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