Books I’ve Read Recently

deyoungWhat Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung. It’s a question all Christians, and many non-Christians, have asked, “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?” In this very timely book Kevin DeYoung answers that question. He correctly states that “the Bible says something about homosexuality” (page 10). God is not silent on this issue and DeYoung does an excellent job in this book of communicating what God has said in regards to homosexuality. The book is nicely broken up into two parts. Part one deals with what God, through His Word, says about homosexuality. DeYoung carefully walks the reader through the main passages of Scripture where God addresses homosexuality and clearly explains what God is communicating. In my opinion, this section contains some of the very best interpretation and explanation of the central passages of Scripture that deal with homosexuality. The second part of the book deals with the common objections many have to what God has said in His Word about homosexuality. I was very pleased with how DeYoung tackled some of the hardest questions regarding this topic with a balance of boldness and grace. Overall this is a book I believe every Christian should read. It will help the Christian understand what the Bible says about this issue and also equip them to have grace filled conversations with those who may not agree with what the Bible says.

REASON-largeThe Reason for God by Tim Keller. This is a Keller book that has been around for a while now but I have never got around to reading it. I decided to pick it up and give it a read since at the time I was in the middle of an apologetics series with our students. With Keller’s background in preaching to and dialoguing with the skeptics in places like Manhattan, he tackles in this book the common objections to the Christian faith as well as the reasons one should instead believe in the truths of Christianity. Common questions like “There can’t be just one true religion?”, “How could a good God allow suffering?”, and How can a loving God send people to hell?” and many more are answered by Keller in this book. Then in response to all those questions Keller spends the rest of the book explaining the truths of Christianity and the reasons one should have faith in it. This is a book that’s perfect for both the person who is firm in their faith as well as for the person who is skeptical of the Christian faith all together.

41mG8HhtgDL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Anxious for Nothing by John MacArthur. This is a new edition of an older MacArthur book called Anxiety Attacked. I picked this book up to read in preparation for a sermon on the topic of worry. This book ended up being more than just a help for my sermon prep but was actually a game changer for me as a person who struggles with stress and anxiety. MacArthur covers a lot of ground in this book. Everything from key Scripture passages on anxiety are clearly explained to understanding how other people help or hurt you in the area of anxiety. What I loved about this book was MacArthur’s balance of theology and practicality. MacArthur helps the reader understand what God’s Word says about anxiety as well as how to apply what it says to their daily lives. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who struggles with worry, stress, or anxiety. It will be a blessing.

Another book I read recently that I chose not to review was Rx for Worry by James Gills. I am currently reading a few books on the topic of marriage, sex, and dating that I will review soon.

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Freebie: Parenting eBook for Helping Teens Answer Tough Questions

Issues-and-Answers-Cover-250pxBeing a parent of a teenager is hard. I am not there yet, but from my observations and conversations with parents of teens, I know it’s not an easy task. Teenagers are in a stage of life where they are questioning everything and trying to figure out who they are. They are asking tough questions and parents need to be ready to answer them. The good news parents, there are resources available to help you out! I want to share one of those resources with you today that is totally free!

Roland Boyce has written an eBook called Issues and Answers: A Handbook Providing Biblical Answers to Questions of Children and Youth. In this book, he gives parents the tools they need to answer questions regarding topics such as homosexuality, abortion, dating, divorce, pornography, and many more. What I love about this book is the how the writer addresses each topic and gives parents the tools they need to talk to their teenagers about it. For each topic, he gives a Biblical synopses, modern reasoning, responses, resources, fact, and a life lab. Click here to see more details about this book from Tim Schmoyer.

If you are a parent of a teenager, or any age child really, do yourself a favor and download this eBook. It’s free and will be a great resource as you talk to your teenager about tough topics. All you have to do is click the link below to view and download this great resource for yourself.

Click here to download “Issues and Answers”

Is Jesus Really the Only Way?

Recently, we just finished up a series called Get Real in our middle school ministry. During the series we addressed major questions many people, including Christians, ask about Christianity. For example, “How do we know God is real?” or “If God is so loving than why is there so much suffering in the world?” The question I tackled a few weeks ago was “Is Jesus really the only way to God?” I want to share the main ideas from that talk in this post and hope to share why we can believe that Jesus really is the only way to God.

A popular belief in our culture is that all religions are equal. Not only are they equal, but they all lead to the same place. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what religion, or path, you take, we will all end up in the same place. Some people may choose Christianity and if that’s works for them then it’s all good. Or some people may choose Islam, or some other religion, and if that’s best for them then it’s all good. We call this belief “religious pluralism.” You see this kind of thing pop up in things like the coexists bumper stickers. You know, those stickers that spell “coexists” with the symbols of different religions. As good as all this sounds, it couldn’t be any further from the truth. In John 14:6, Jesus makes a claim that goes against any claim that all religions are the same or that all paths lead to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus claims that there is only one way to God and that’s through Him. How do we know that’s true? Let me share with you three other things that support Jesus claim that He is the only way.

1. Jesus is the only way God provided. In Matthew 26:36-44 we read about Jesus going to a garden to pray before He would be betrayed and arrested. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew He was about to be beaten, spit upon, and murdered on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. In complete agony He prays to the Father and asks Him if there is another way to do this. He asks God that if it would be His will, could He get out of doing this. But we see Jesus complete surrender and determination to follow God’s will. Jesus goes to God three times and basically asks Him if there is another way. And three times God doesn’t repond. There is no other way. The death of Jesus as a sacrifice for sin was the only way. God’s silence screams this truth from the pages of Scripture! Think about it, if God had another way would He really send His only Son to be nailed to His death on a cross? This sacrifice only makes sense if what we believe is true-Jesus is the only way!

2. Jesus is the only way that fixes our problem. Everyone enters this world with a common problem called sin. All religions recognize this is some way. They may not call it sin, but they realize this world is broken and things are screwed up. So all religions, or paths to God, try and fix this problem. Some try and say that all we need to do is be better, try harder, and hope our good outweighs our bad. Sadly, all religions, except Christianity, just puts a band-aid on our problem. Only Jesus actually fixes the problem. How does He do that? He becomes a curse for us and take our sin upon Himself. In exchange we get His righteousness which means we continue as if we have never sinned. We are justified and stand before God perfect because of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:21 explains this great exchange to us.

3. Jesus is the only way transforms our life. No one actually experiences life change outside of Christianity. All other religions don’t change a person. In actuality all they do is become an “add on” to someones life. But Jesus comes and gives us a new start. The Bible calls this being “born again” or the “new birth.” We literally go from death unto life and experience a whole new life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” No other religions can make that statement. In their book Red Like Blood, Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington tell a story about a situation the famous evangelists Dr. Ironsides found himself in. At a Salvation Army event, Dr. Ironsides was called to the platform to share a few words. On his way up, a outspoken atheists started making remarks and yelling at him. The atheist called Ironsides out for a debate between Christianity, which he claimed was false, and atheism. Ironsides looked at the man and said this: “Yes, I will debate you this Saturday morning. But there is one condition. You bring one person whose life has been transformed by the power of becoming an atheist and I will bring fifty ex-alcoholics and fifty ex-prostitutes whose lives have been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. And then we will debate.” Christianity is the only religion that has to power to change a life.

All religions, or paths, to God are not the same. There is only one way and that is through Jesus Christ. That is the only way God provided, fixes our sin problem, and brings transformation. No other ways to God claim those three things.

Click here to view my speaking page where you can hear the audio of this sermon as well as other sermons I have preached in the past.

Suggested Bibles as Gifts for Graduating Seniors

bible-stackIt’s that time of year again. Your seniors are graduating and in a few short months they will leave your student ministry to start a new chapter of their life called college. If your like most student pastors during this season, your searching online for that perfect graduation gift to give your seniors. Even though it’s been done since Adam and Eve graduated high school, I think giving your seniors a new Bible is the way to go. But if we want them to appreciate the Bible and actually use it, you need to invest in getting them a good Bible. Let me suggest a few of the Bibles I would consider giving your graduating seniors.

ESV Thinline BiblesIf you have a lot of seniors and a tight budget this may be the Bible to go with. Usually the ESV thinline Bibles are pretty cheap ($20-$30) and are very popular. Their simple Bibles that are easier to carry around or throw into your book bag. You can get this Bible in many different colors, materials, and designs.

ESV Study Bible. This is the Bible of choice if you want to give your students the best! This is what we will be doing for the next few years. The ESV Study Bible is by far the best study Bible out there right now. It’s a pretty large Bible, but is packed with study notes, book introductions, maps, charts, and other resources. This is a Bible your seniors will not only find helpful in college, but for the rest of their life’s. The only bad thing is the price. This Bible is not very cheap, but if you dig around online long enough you cab find a good deal on this Bible.

Apologetics Study Bible (HCSB). I haven’t used this study Bible much myself, but I have heard some great stuff about it. The notes and resources includes within the Bible deal with apologetics and answering common questions in regards to defending Christianity. Since many students head off to secular universities where professors will discredit Christianity, this Bible could be a great tool for them during those college years. Check this Bible out and see if it may be a good fit for your students, especially those headed to secular colleges and universities.

College Devotional Bible (NIV)This is another Bible I have not looked into much yet, but it seems to make a great gift for graduating seniors. One of the most important things a college student can do is get into a regular habit of spending time in God’s Word everyday. This Bible is designed for college students who are busy and need a plan in place to read Scripture. It includes a reading plan that goes through the college year.

These are just a few of the Bible out there that will make great gifts for your graduating seniors. You may notice that many of these Bibles, especially the ESV Study Bible and Apologetics Study Bible, have popular students versions of them. I didn’t share those because I think college aged-students have outgrown the “student Bible” days. Those are great for middle and high school students, but not for college students.

3 Ways to Make Sure Your Students Don’t Become Deists

Deism is a movement that started in the 17th-18th century that attempts to replace Christianity with a nonrevelatory religion of a transcendent but impersonal deity (The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics by Hindson and Caner). Basically, deism is the believe that there is only one God, but God is not necessarily personally involved with His creation. He only “steps in” when people need help. People who embrace deism are more concerned about the “moral codes” and principles from Christianity than actually having a relationship with God. They see Christianity as a religion that is moral and worth embracing, but not necessarily getting involved in a relationship with God.

The moment I mentioned the word deism some of you wrote me off thinking it is not very popular. Before you stop reading this, let me just point out that this is probably more popular than you realize. Our culture is filled with people who “profess” to be Christians, but don’t actually “possess” a relationship with God. So called “Christians” in our culture live by Christian moral and regularly attend church, but they do not necessarily embrace a personal relationship with God. We see this in Scripture in Matthew 7:21-23. Sadly, students in our culture embrace this idea of deism without even realizing it. They don’t come out and say, “Hey, I’m a deists!” Their lifestyle says otherwise. They embrace religion and even Christianity, but don’t actually consistently walk with God in a personal relationship. They call on God or post “Christian Facebook status” when things get tough, but they don’t have a personal relationship with God that changes their entire being. The National Study of Youth and Religion found that 13% of teenagers who believe in God had a Deistic concept of the divine. This percent is only growing as our culture become less Christian. This type of deism that students embrace is labeled Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Some might say at least students are embracing God and Christianity, but the problem is just embracing the truths of Christianity is not enough to save! Place your faith and trust in Christ’s finished work on the cross for your sins is the only way to be saved (John 14:6, Romans 10:10-13). We must embrace the truths of Christianity because we have been changed (2 Corinthians 5:17) and born-again (John 3:3). The danger in students becoming deists is that they may never have saving faith and will one day spend an eternity in hell apart from their Creator.

As student pastors, parents, and people who care about the spiritual life of students, how do we make sure students embrace a relationship with God and not a form of deism? Here are 3 ways I believe we can help students stay away from any form of deism:

1. Teach students what deism is. As I said earlier, many students embrace a form of deism, but don’t realize it. As student pastors and parents, we must explain to them what deism is. As we do this, we must show them the fallacies in it and how it does not line up with the teaching of Scripture. In a way, we must do apologetics with our students. We must poke holes in the false religion of deism (this form of apologetics is called polemics), but also proclaim God’s word and the truths of Christ (this for of apologetics is called positive apologetics). Students who understand and see deism as a false view of God will be more likely not to embrace it and hopefully embrace a real personal relationship with God through Jesus.

2. Tell them God wants all of them, not just part of them. This is the core of this issues. Students see God has just a part of their life, not their whole life. This is what Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is, making God part of your life and only going to that part when you really need help. My youth professor in college illustrated this concept like an egg carton. Students life’s our like an egg carton. They have a bunch of different parts and they place something different in each part. So when they embrace God, they put Him in one part. That one part doesn’t effect their entire life. This is dangerous! God demands us to lay down our bodies! When you lay down your body, your laying down everything! God doesn’t want to be a part of students life’s, He wants to be their entire life! They need to embrace Christ as Lord of their life! They need to know and be encouraged to do this!

3. Don’t be a “Christian Deists” yourself. Sadly, many Christians, including student pastors and parents, are somewhat of “Christian Deists” themselves. We embrace Christ and have a personal relationship with Him, but we seem to only go to God when we need help or when we are preparing a sermon. We don’t spend consistent time with God daily. We don’t have constant communication with God in prayer. If we are not careful, we will embrace a form of “Christian Deism” that will rub off on students. God demands everything! Are we really giving Him everything as leaders?

Deism is a scary thing because it is so easy to live it. As student pastors and parents, we must be on guard of this in our life’s and the life’s of the students around us. The bottom line is this, God wants all of us and He wants us to have a consistent, daily, personal walk with Him. Lets model and teach students this kind of faith.

Recommended Resources:
Soul Searching Documentary-This is a must have DVD for student pastors and parents.
The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel