Review: Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me

Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me
Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rarely do I give a new book 5 stars, but this is an exception.

In a mere 120 pages, DeYoung covers clearly what we need to believe about Scripture. The Bible is enough, clear, final and necessary, as God's inspired Word.

"If authority is the liberal problem, clarity the postmodern problem, and necessity the problem for atheists and agnostics, then sufficiency is the attribute most quickly doubted by rank-and-file churchgoing Christians" (45).

DeYoung has a knack for defending Scripture against liberal assaults and also pointing out evangelical weaknesses in the next breath. He lays out the classic theology from the Reformation, and applies it to today's issues.

"The unity of Scripture also means we should be rid, once and for all, of this 'red letter' nonsense.... If we read about homosexuality from the pen of Paul in Romans, it has no less weight or relevance than if we read it from the lips of Jesus in Matthew" (118-9).

- He takes on the neo-orthodox view of Scripture posed by Barth
- Does God still speak today?
- liberal higher criticism

"If Jesus is right in how he handles the Bible, then boatloads of higher biblical criticism must be wrong" (104).

An easy read, but packed with truth, I highly recommend this book!

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Take Part, and Hope

Communion after preaching on Noah sending out the dove.

This table points to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is why I break bread and pour wine every week. We are showing you the sacrifice, symbolically. The main point of this meal is to remember – that’s what Jesus said. Sometimes we think a better way would be to watch a movie of the crucifixion, if we are to remember what happened. But we are also to participate in His death. The main thing isn’t the breaking, the pouring or the gory details. The main thing is our eating and drinking with faith in our hearts.

At the cross God was pleased with a sweet-smell. At this table, as we trust in the sacrifice at the cross, God smiles on you. He is pleased with You in Christ.

Here at this table is your olive branch from God, your sign that the earth will be renewed, that you will be renewed. God gives you a symbol of hope amidst death. Even as the carnage comes into sight, as the waters go away, new life comes into sight, too. Remember that dove, hovering over the waters.  The Holy Spirit hovers here, offering you God’s peace instead of punishment.

This is your sign that God has remembered you, and it is the way God has given you to remember Him.


Don't Forget!

When God called Jonah, Jonah ran away. God swept him into the storm waters and he almost drowned. But God preserved Him in the fish, and there Jonah remembered God, verse 7. In the middle of his misery, still stuck in the fish, Jonah acknowledges God, repents, and remembers God.

We tend to think that forgetting is an excuse. Children, sometimes we offer it up as an explanation of why we didn’t do what mom or dad asked. Oh, I’m sorry I forgot. It may explain, but it does not excuse. It is a sin to forget, not an excuse. God calls us to keep Him in mind. To keep our neighbor, our family, our friends in mind. We are to Love God with all your mind.

Let us confess forgetting God for most of our moments.



Flood, Baptism, Communion and Faith

1 Peter 3:18-22
"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him."

Noah was saved through flood water. We are saved through baptism water.

The real saving is done by God’s grace, and our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus. But God gives us signs and seals of that saving, and usually He uses them to apply the saving work of Christ to us. The Word rains down and waters the earth and doesn’t return void, Isaiah 55 says. The ark worked for all who went in – it kept Noah safe. Baptism works for all who believe – it washes us clean. This Supper works when we come in faith – it actually feeds our faith. Here is your door into the ark. You have the opportunity here to enter the ark of Christ with Noah.

Now, some honesty about the ark and about us. In here the air sometimes feels stuffy to us. Manna again? It’s all we ever get. Same routine week after week. Can’t do what we want, can’t do this, can’t do that. Can’t I just live a little? The siren song of the world calls to us, even as God shows us so clearly the judgment that sin brings. We still want what we want.

Instead, Let us thank and praise God for giving us a life raft, giving us a wonderful cup to drink, in place of the cup of wrath Jesus drank. Jesus drowned in God’s flood so you could survive to see the new creation He has for you.


Are You on E?

We will consider God’s judgment in the flood today, a somber warning of His just punishment on the wicked. One of the last teachings of Jesus before He goes to the cross, our Lord gives a sober warning to be prepared for His coming. Is the oil of the Holy Spirit flowing fresh within us? Do we eagerly look for the Bridegroom of our hearts, Jesus Himself? In this parable, all the bridesmaids fell asleep. That wasn’t the problem. Do you have oil and light to meet Jesus when He comes unexpectedly? Does Jesus know you?

Now, the point isn’t to scare us into confession this morning. If all you have is a desperate sense of self-preservation, you don’t have much real repentance, if any. But hearing of God’s judgment, and warnings to be ready can prompt us to remember our offenses against Him, and the mercy of the Savior.

Let us confess letting our gas tanks run down to empty, careless to the Spirit’s prompting, our conscience calling. 


Prayer at the Start of a Worship Service

Heavenly Father, you call us through Your Son to rest in Your fellowship. Help us set aside our restlessness now, we pray. We train ourselves to sit still for this worship service outwardly. Grant our hearts and minds to also rest and be at peace before You today.
Your Son Jesus is glorious, majestic, and full of mercy. Shine in our hearts so we can see His face and know Him fully. Direct us by Your holy Spirit to Your glory and greatness and grace. In this season of epiphany we remember that You must shine light on us if we are to see, if we are to worship You properly.

We are weak and need your help in this, we admit.



Experiencing God

The false teaching of mysticism has made deep inroads into mainstream evangelical Christianity today.

JI Packer, in Knowing God, chapter 20, writes of God guiding us in the Christian life.  He does not do so apart from Scripture.  The Spirit leads us to remember Scripture and apply it to our circumstances.  But we ought not to claim authority over our lives or others' lives if we hear a still small voice and if we cannot find a parallel obligation in Scripture.

Tim Challies writes of the false teaching of Teresa of Avila.  Many see her as a commendable person today, and in some ways she was.  The difference between godly meditation or contemplation, and damaging mysticism can be hard to recognize in the midst of religious experience, sometimes.  But it is a clear one.  Here is the question:

Am I giving more weight to my interpretation than I am to the Bible in evaluating what is happening?

We do this far more often than we realize.  But first

When Absalom chases David out of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:31-32), David prays that God would confound the counsel given to Absalom.  The next thing that happens to David: Hushai, a known royal advisor, meets him, and David sends him to confound Absalom's counsel.  This happens today.  After we pray for something we should watch our circumstances expectantly.  I do not deny this experiential element to our spiritual lives.


The modern man would assume, lacking all humility, that this was God, with a glib, "Way to go, God!"  David knew enough not to make such self-centered presumptions.  He continues to act deliberately and hopefully, but not presuming to know confidently God's intent in any given event.

Many people measure their piety

  • by how certain they are that prayer x led to event y, or
  • by the number or intensity of times when they feel God is leading them or speaking to them, or
  • by God speaking immediately - not through the Bible but directly.

These assure them that God is real and alive today.  They would doubt Him in the absence of these experiences.

Another way this goes wrong is tempting God.  Some find it pious to put themselves in a dangerous or precarious situation, and ask God, trust God, to rescue them.

Each of these violates the main guard rail against a false mysticism:

don't ignore Scripture for the sake of your experience.

The Bible tells us to wait on the Lord, and though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.  Mysticism and experience-driven Christianity ignore this, doubting God too deeply if He doesn't speak to them or guide them as they expect.  The Bible tells us not to endanger ourselves or tempt God - mysticism will do this to bolster its faith.


Covenant to Preserve Us from Flood

God established a covenant with Noah to preserve him and his family before the flood. God established a covenant with Moses and Israel to preserve them and their families before the plagues and Passover. God the Son established a covenant with the disciples in the upper room before the ultimate judgment of the cross. The blood of Christ preserved them from the wrath of God poured out on the cross.  And here in Acts 2 that covenant is continued and offered again freely to all Jerusalem and to us, and to our children. God extends his promises to you, just as your neighbor extends the tray of wine to you, expecting you to take the cup of salvation and pass it on to someone else.

But the promise. What is the promise? To preserve you from wrath as real as the flood. God has given you a way out. An ark is provided, a life raft. It is The Lord Jesus Christ. Not a boat we have to build ourselves. Not temporary, cramped quarters. Not an object but a person. In the indestructible life of Jesus, we find life everlasting. As we commune with Him, fear of the flood melts into peace of knowing Him.


Love God

Mark 12:28-31
"Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.   And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Here we have one of the few times Jesus answers a question directly. Often He will answer with a story or with a question back. But here we have the law interpreted straight from the Savior, the Son of God. The key to the whole law is love for God. Honoring, reverencing, obeying and adoring Him. Next is to love your neighbor. To help, to do for him what you would want done for you.

Let us confess our breaking of these commandments God has given us.


How the Poor Live

The latest Imprimis is a home run.  A description of the underclass from a British doctor serving lower classes and prisons for decades.  Here's the run down:
  • The violence of their lives, particularly between the sexes.
  • Households with shifting cast members
  • Asking who a child's dad is, is often embarrassing.
  • Twice as many 16 year olds have a tv as have a biological dad in the home.
  • Very large tv's, never off
  • Little means of cooking a meal, often no dining table.
  • Eating pattern is individual foraging, thus many are fat.
  • Illegitimacy rate is nearing 100%
  • They speak in terms that deny responsibility.  A murderer describing the act will say "the knife went in."
  • This denial and victim attitude fits well with the governments desire to save them.  "We pretend to be ill, and you pretend to cure us."
  • Independence is seen as not from the state, but from your family.  Often by getting dependent on the state!  Mothers are pleased to be on the dole, so they don't have to be beholden to the man they know to be "violent swine."
  • "There are no fathers."
  • Those on the dole used to say they "receive their check" on a certain day.  Now they say they "get paid."  For what?
  • We have "maintained high levels of state subsidized idleness while importing almost equivalent numbers of foreigners to do unskilled work."
An interesting P.S.: the homicide rate would be five times higher today, if we had the same medical technology we had in 1960.


On not Condemning the Immodest

Here is a helpful alternate perspective on modesty in what women wear at church.

I don't know the author, but it is important to deal graciously yet truthfully with the motives people have for dressing or acting immodestly.


Test-Driving Courtship

I'd suggest reading this article, if you are an advocate of courtship or parent-guided dating.

There are some healthy cautions in here, against "over-doing" the guarding-your-heart mentality.  But there is a lot to filter out as unhelpful, too.

I've read two of the three books pictured at the top of the article.  I assume they are meant to represent the beliefs critiqued by the article.  I can understand criticisms of people like Lindvall and Doug Wilson or Josh Harris for their views of how dating should go.  But Elisabeth Eliot?  Wow.

Children who grow up in overly strict homes usually have an adjustment to make.  They will tend to over-adjust by over-emphasizing (distorting, really) grace and under-emphasizing a healthy fear of falling into real sin.  Can grace really be over-emphasized?  Not the true version.  But it can be distorted, yes.  See Romans 6:1 for an example.

Teaching young people to guard their heart and stay emotionally pure before marriage is based on fear, causes shame and pride and dysfunction in future relationships, and over-emphasizes safety.  Thus says the article.

To say that guarding your heart is based on fear is a half truth.  Is the fear well founded or over-protective?  I don't leave my ipad in precarious positions high over hard floors, just to have the experience of losing something valuable, or just to avoid living in fear.  How much less am I careful who I give my heart to?  Neither do I have to put the ipad in a glass case and never open it to anyone.

It is true an overly scrupulous application of this can lead to false guilt.  Stollar calls it shame.  You feel guilty but haven't actually sinned.  If you start to like a guy, you haven't sinned.  It's what you do with that feeling that you are responsible for.  Does a person always have a piece of your heart, even if you break up and marry someone else?  That might be a little strong, but regrets do linger over romantic relationships before your marriage.  These need not be sinful, but it's always with you, and why not avoid regrets?  It's true that God redeems such experiences.  He is gracious and merciful.  But we don't go sin or act recklessly, that grace may abound, either.

Emotional purity teaching can cause pride?  Yes, it can.  But that's not an argument for or against the teaching.  Teaching any moral standard can cause pride, whether the standard is biblical, or extra-biblical.  The problem is the heart that exalts itself.  Bragging about not kissing (silly) or not saying I love you (disturbing) before the wedding does show a heart of pride.  Neither is required by the Bible.  But refraining from kissing before the wedding day does not make you a legalist or proud, either.

Emotional purity teaching makes you feel guilty for having a cross-gender friendship?  Almost every guy-girl relationship especially among young people is sexually charged, so to speak.  People should tread carefully here.  I think of Billy Graham who made it a policy never to be alone in the same room with a woman.  This is just a healthy precaution, not a proud and fearful Pharisee at work.  Of course, if your friend's spouse steps out of the room momentarily you don't have to freak out.  But a conscience sensitive to being in vulnerable situations is better than being oblivious to potential trouble.  This isn't a legalism versus grace issue.  We don't need to recreate a Victorian culture where men only talk to men and women only to women.  But social interactions should take into account that men and women are different, and not interchangeable as modern life tries to tell us.

Emotional purity over-emphasizes safety with formulas?  Yes, it can.  I've seen this attitude quite a bit.  If I just stay in God's ways I won't get hurt.  Putting this in absolute terms is a problem, but I think Proverbs does affirm anecdotally that obedience leads to life and disobedience to destruction.  Externalizing purity with outward rules alone is a problem.  But a heart of purity will lead to refraining from certain outward behavior.

One thing I learned from this article, especially at the end, is that if we haven't persuaded our children from God's Word of the rightness of how we raise them, the fruit won't get far.  The older our children get, the less we should impose extra-biblical, house-rule standards on them that they won't accept.  For clear Scriptural principles parents can  and should say, "As long as you live in my house you won't do x, y or z."  But if a teen won't accept your guidance, then parent-guided relationships aren't going to work and shouldn't be forced, no matter how much dad has bought into courtship.

Stollar calls the fruit of this movement rotten.  I would argue that that bad fruit comes from (truly damaging) over-zealous and -strict application of truly helpful Scriptural principles.

PS - I don't endorse this website, but it can be helpful in self-evaluation for homeschooling parents.

Going up the Ladder

John 1:49-51
Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”  And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Jesus promised Nathaniel that the angels would ascend and descend on him. What this means is that Jesus is the ladder connecting heaven and earth. Without him as our mediator we cannot commune with God. In him, we worship God with the angels. This union is so real, we could say that the Spirit catches us up to heaven in our worship, our communion, every Lord's Day. And this union will become more so in the great consummation. Jesus will come for His bride, take us to His Father's house, throw a wedding feast, bring us to His banqueting table, and His banner over us is love. How can a spiritual being take on flesh and be a bridegroom? This is a great mystery, but when it is Jesus, it is our salvation. Rejoice in the favor God has shown you in Christ.


Law as Grace

Never forget that the law begins with grace. Before there is law, there is grace. God gives Adam the gift of life before He commands him. God brought Israel out of Egypt before He gives them this law. Peter preaches the resurrection of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem, and then reminds them they killed him and calls them to repent. The very giving of the law and conviction of our sin is a gift.

So we have no excuse to call God unfair when He gives us this law, when He convicts us of breaking these commandments. Who here has not put another idol in place of the true God? Who here doesn’t try to change God’s grace or His standards to try to fit with our sin? Who here has always rested and given rest on the Sabbath to others?

Let us confess our breaking of these commandments god has given us.



Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had seen this at the library for a while, and it fascinated me. New concept - half picture, half word story. Not really a graphic novel. 500 pages that can be "read" in a couple hours. Reading for ADD kids??

So I finally got it and got 10 pages in, and realized it is the book behind the movie "Hugo," which friends have recommended to me.

The plot was fairly compelling. Boy copes with life without dad and then without uncle. Helping and trusting others, instead of keeping secrets and stealing, is the main theme. It borrows and commends the story of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods to give to men. The movies, or more broadly human dreams and imagination, are this gift.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but probably will.

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