Golgotha vs. Calvary?



I’m enjoying working my way through Donald Macleod’s new book, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (IVP, 2014). It’s highly readable and a theological feast. Here’s a taste:

9780830840618Christian devotion almost invariably refers to the place of crucifixion as ‘Calvary’. The word, however, does not occur in the New Testament. It was introduced into Christian tradition by the Vulgate …, which used the Latin calvariae to translate Luke’s reference to ‘the place called the Skull’ (Luke 23:33). It has the advantage of being much more euphonious than the harsh gutturals of ‘Golgotha’ (Mark 15:22; Matt. 27:33), and well adapted to the purposes of poetry and hymnody. But in that very euphony lies a danger. It is easy to sanitize the cross, rob it of its horror and imagine Calvary as a place of serene, evocative spirituality….

God had chosen the site, and the atmosphere. The act was barbaric; the site, with the detritus of previous executions still lying around, horrific; the procedure a shambles. But precisely because it was all these things it dramatized the ugliness of sin while at the same time proclaiming the Son of God a despised, accursed nobody for whom there lay beyond the cross only the horrors of hell. We cannot, dare not, reduce the cross to a crucifix or Golgotha to a rose garden. The aesthetics of the crucifixion are in keeping with its criminality. (p. 13)

Book Review: Redefining Leadership



stowellI like to keep up with books on leadership, not to find out the latest fad or fashion but simply to recalibrate and be reminded of the all-too-often leadership essentials. In every sphere of life, I want to be the best leader I can be. I want to continually grow and be challenged. At first glance, Joe Stowell’s book, Redefining Leadership: Character-Driven Habits of Effective Leaders, is simple in its message: the “best leaders are driven by Christ-formed character.” But as you read and begin to unpack the implications on everyday life, you realize how profound these points are. This book is written by a leader for leaders. I benefited from this book and I especially commend his practical application of the Beatitudes (chs. 9-12) for leaders.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.


My Wife Has Tattoos: Marriage, New Birth, and the Gospel

Originally posted on Unspoken:


Photo credit: Todd Balsley

by Spencer Harmon

Today is the day of my wedding.  And I am not marrying the girl of my dreams.

If you would have told me when I was a teenager that my wife would have seven tattoo’s, a history in drugs, alcohol, and attending heavy metal concerts I would have laughed at you, given you one of my courtship books, and told you to take a hike.  My plans were much different, much more nuanced with careful planning, much more clean-cut, and much more, well, about me.

You see, it wasn’t my dream to marry a girl that was complicated.  I never dreamed that I would sit on a couch with my future wife in pre-marital counseling listening to her cry and tell stories of drunken nights, listing the drugs she used, confessing mistakes made in past relationships.

This isn’t my dream – it’s…

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Is God Anti-Gay?


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ImageFaithfulness to God in our generation will be tested and made clear on the issue of sexual ethics. If you’re looking for a pastorally clear and wise word on same-sex attraction, this little book is well worth the $7.

Sam Allberry: “Ever since I have been open about my own experiences with homosexuality, a number of Christians have said something like this: ‘the gospel must be harder for you than it is for me’, as though I have more to give up than they do. But the fact is that the gospel demands everything out of all of us. If someone thinks the gospel has somehow slotted into their life quite easily, without causing any major adjustments to their lifestyle or aspirations, it is likely that they have not really started following Jesus at all.”

Samuel Miller: Be a “Hard Student”


9781601782984I’m devouring James Garretson’s new biography on Old Princetonian, Samuel Miller (Reformation Heritage Books, 2014). This is a great read for pastors! Samuel Miller urged his students to “acquire the habit of close and fixed attention in study. I know not a more fatal defect in a student, than the want of this habit” (330).

Miller continued:

“Make a point, then, of being a ‘hard student’ as long as you live. Keep up the habit of reading much, reflecting much, and writing much, as long as you have strength enough to open a book, or wield a pen. Content not yourself with merely that kind of study which will qualify you to prepare your sermons with success; but let your constant aim be to make rich and solid additions to your stores of professional knowledge. For this purpose constantly keep under perusal some great standard work. And never consider yourself as having gotten though a year well, unless you have carefully read seven or eight such works, in addition to all your other studies. This will render your sermonizing more easy and delightful to yourself, and more profitable to others. It will keep up the activity and tone of your mind. It will avert premature dotage; and better qualify you, in every respect, to do your Master’s work” (335-336).


Penelope Lively on the Need for Narrative

la-la-ca-0130-penelope-lively-308-jpg-20140205“We have this need for narrative, it seems. A life is indeed a ‘tick-tock': birth and death with nothing but time in between. We go to fiction because we like a story, and we want our lives to have the largesse of story, the capacity, the onward thrust—we not only want, but need, which is why memory is so crucial, and without it we are lost, adrift in a hideous eternal present.”

— Penelope Lively, Dancing Fish and Ammonites, p. 24.

David Platt Preaches at Southern Seminary



1899952_738540522832823_1248517819_nDavid Platt today preached one of the most clear and convicting messages I’ve heard at Southern Seminary’s chapel. From Genesis 1, he looked at four biblical foundations relating to God and his dealing with us. He then offered four cultural implications relating to abortion, sexuality, justice, and the Great Commission. If you have the chance, make sure to listen to this sermon.

“I am zealous to show that followers of Christ do not have the option of picking and choosing which social issues we’re going to apply biblical truths to. I am zealous to show that the same gospel that compels us to combat poverty compels us to defend marriage; and the same gospel that compels us to war against sex trafficking compels us to war against sexual immorality in all its forms…. [W]e do not have the option of deciding which battles we’re going to fight and which battles we’re going to flout.”


Albert Mohler on Reading: Four Quick Thoughts


Q: What is the most important advice you would give to others on reading?

A: I can’t give just one word there. Two or three. Realize that when you read, you are putting investments in a bank from which to draw, even if it doesn’t appear to have direct relevance. Second, use your books, don’t just read them. Mark in them, keep a conversation in them. Third, don’t build a book collection; build a library and make it work for you. Fourth, realize you’re never going to read everything. We will die with things we wish we had read. But the fact is too many people do not read. The problem for most is not that they are learning too much, but that they aren’t learning enough.

— Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 216.

Birdsong — Martin Luther’s Theology of Music


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Luther-s-Theology-of-Music-9783110310283_xxl“Birdsong is the paragon of creation’s praise to its creator. So exemplifying the reciprocity of the gift, birdsong is a [sic] both a gift of God and gift to God. Furthermore, the birds give instruction to humans and embarrass them by their singing…. [B]irdsong is a living reminder of God’s endlessly giving goodness. Compared to humans — who would despair when they do not have a food store for at least two weeks — birds continue to sing though they do not necessarily know where they’ll get food tomorrow. God has made birds our masters, to teach us to trust in God and to cast all our troubles on him.”

— Miikka E Anttila. Luther’s Theology of Music: Spiritual Beauty and Pleasure. Theologische Bibliothek Töpelmann Band 161. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013. pp. 88-89.

Is Productivity a Fruit of the Spirit?



Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 88:

Yes — and this goes to the heart of this book. Most of the time when people look at the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 22 – 23), they think in terms of character qualities. The fruit of the Spirit, it is thought, is about who you are, not what you do.

I certainly do not want to dispute the primacy of character in the Christian life. That is one of the key themes of this book: Who we are is more important than what we do, and the true basis of effectiveness in our lives is not strategies and techniques but character. But character always manifests itself in action (see, for example, James 3: 13 – 18), and it turns out that the fruit of the Spirit does apply to what we do as well as who we are.

For, as we’ve seen, being productive is about doing good for others — creatively, competently, and abundantly. Understood in this sense, productivity is indeed a fruit of the Spirit, for this is actually the meaning of “kindness,” which Paul lists as one of the chief fruits of the Spirit.

We often think of kindness in rather dull terms — simply as being “nice.” But as Jonathan Edwards points out in his book Charity and Its Fruits, to be “kind” doesn’t simply mean to be nice. Rather, it means to be proactive in seeking good for others. It means to be free and liberal in doing good. Hence, when Paul says that “love is kind,” he means, as Edwards summarizes, that love “will dispose us freely to do good to others.”

As we’ve seen, that’s exactly what productivity is. Hence, productivity is indeed a fruit of the spirit.


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