Beginning at Moses: Who is the Serpent Crusher?

The legend goes that Ernest Hemingway is eating lunch with some fellow writers at Lüchow’s, a German restaurant near Union Square in Manhattan. Hemingway, with a background in newspaper was known for his writing style, is challenged to write a novel in six words. He scribbles down these six words on a napkin: “For sale: Baby shoes; never worn.” For anyone who has lost a child, these six words put a knot in your stomach. Without explaining the background or incidents, Hemingway captures our affections. Whether this story is true or apocryphal, the point stands—good stories don’t need lots of words. Leaving something to imagination is powerful.

The Sound of the Gospel in the Garden

Not to be outdone, God has crafted the grandest story of all time. However, the story was veiled in darkness until the arrival of the God-man from Nazareth, Jesus Christ. The first hint we get at Jesus arrives in Genesis 3:15.

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Review: G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim’s God Dwells Among Us (IVP)

God Dwells Among Us exemplified biblical study in service of every day mission. Beale and Kim state upfront, “The goal of this book is to strengthen biblical conviction for sacrificial mission” 14. In this regard, this book succeeds on all fronts. They argue further,

“Mission does not begin with the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, but mission is God’s heartbeat from Genesis 1 until the new heaven and earth become the dwelling place of the Lord God Almighty in Revelation 21-22” 16.

They accomplish this by first laying the foundation for this claim.

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Review: N. T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus (IVP Academic)

The Challenge of Jesus challenged my understanding of who Jesus was and is. In a way that Wright often does, he chops the feet off both conservative evangelicals and liberals. This can be both a strength and weakness. I found my understanding of the significance of the Temple for Christ’s vocation and for the gospel story expanded (more on that later). My only gripe if I must have one was that in several places bold statements are made without citation (see 45, 106, 131, 147). In many cases, these were statements I quite agreed with and wanted to further dig into the topic, but there was nothing to follow up on.

The Challenge of Jesus shows off Wright at his best. He interacts with the historical Jesus crowd and he does so on their terms as a historian and, in my opinion, conclusive shows that Jesus was a real person who actually died and actually was raised from the dead. He also very deftly situates his task within the its proper context. He shows why we needed the Enlightenment (19-20), where modernism failed, and where postmodernism took over and where it too failed, and he does all this with an eye towards who Jesus is.


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Our Eschatological Gardner

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. – John 20:11-18 see also Matt. 28:1-10, Mk. 16:1-8, Lk. 24:1-12

John tells a story of mistaken identity. Mary and other women arrive at Jesus’ tomb on the morning of his resurrection. The synoptics recall the women conversing among themselves to the effect of “Who’s going to roll the stone away?” But when they get there, the stone is already rolled back and as one might expect they are afraid and confused. Now all the Gospels report that the women went into the tomb and an angel proclaims Jesus’ resurrection. John then fills out the story with some other details.

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Review: Mike Cosper’s The Stories We Tell

Some Christians are allergic to the surrounding culture whether that’s books or tv’s or movies. Before Mike Cosper submerges the reader into the pursuit of understanding these cultural artifacts, in the Foreword Tim Keller says,

[In] the end, learning this discipline—of seeing God’s story in the stories we tell today—will be a way for us to deepen our own understanding of and joy in the gospel we believe. (12)

That’s what most Christians must understand before they might be willing to give this kind of cultural handiwork a fair hearing. Knowing the cultural stories you are already submerged in assists in seeing God’s story with clarity. Cosper calls stories “a great gift from a great storytelling God” (25 also see 216)—and he’s right. That’s the heart of what Cosper is striving for and what he achieves.

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Review: J.A. Medders’ Gospel-Formed

“Above all, worship Jesus. Make much of Jesus. It’s about him” (13). Jeff starts Gospel-Formed with this admonition. I take it as his target for the book, and so it’s only fair to measure the success of what Jeff does by it. I’ll cut to the chase and argue that he achieved his goal. He starts off reminding his readers it’s all about Jesus and to take in the Scriptures through out the book which are the real focus because they tell us about Jesus. And I think he hits his mark. Jeff gives us a gospel punch that will capture our attention and drive our gaze to the risen Savior.

Gospel-Formed is designed for daily reading. Jeff recommends reading one chapter per day for one gospel-packed punch. The chapters work well with this format. They each do stand alone, but there’s also steam that builds as he progresses through each chapter and each section (Worship, Identity, Community, and Mission).

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Culture Creators: An Interview with Jonathan K. Dodson

One of my favorite ongoing blog series is LifeHackers' How I Work. Simple questions about how people in a variety of workplaces get stuff done. As I read more and more of these, I kept thinking about wondering about creative people I know and what their answers might be. That got me thinking. Why not host an interview series at my own blog with Christians who are working with excellence, who I admire, and who do creative stuff? I was concerned about getting enough people to host a meaningful series, but the yeses kept rolling in. So here we are.

Who is Jonathan Dodson? Jonathan K. Dodson (MDiv; ThM) serves as a pastor of City Life Church in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship, The Unbelievable Gospel, and Raised? He has discipled men and women abroad and at home for almost two decades, taking great delight in communicating the gospel and seeing Christ formed in others. Twitter: @Jonathan_Dodson


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On Earth Peace Goodwill Towards Men

For many the holidays are a time of joy and merry-making with family and friends. We all have our own traditions. My family enjoys going to the local science center to view the amazing lights. We also enjoy taking carriage rides in a neighboring Mayberry. I shouldn’t forget the food. We love to consume some seriously good eats. And would it be Christmas without watching the classics? Elf. Miracle on 34th Street. It’s a Wonderful Life. Home Alone.

However, not everyone’s traditions and family time is joyful. It may the first holiday season after the loss of a spouse. Or because of a divorce, it may be one where children are with the other parent. Or maybe the family gets together but it’s guerrilla warfare.

What if Christmas isn’t very merry? What if Advent doesn’t feel hopeful?


For those of you who approach the holidays with fear, or doubt, or anger, or anxiety, hear the word of the Lord in Isaiah 9:6-7,

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Jesus is the Better Atoner

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis argues that “we feel the rule of Law pressing on us so ­ that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility...human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it.” He says that even though humanity knows what is right and wrong, “they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it.” Truth and untruth are hardwired in us but it’s in the dabbling with untruth that we know there is a culpability. It is in the “breaking” that we taste the bitter loss of innocence. The result? We just can’t seem to get out from under the anvil of guilt.

It all finds it origins in Genesis 3. “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:7­8). After disobeying God, the first actions of our first parents were to cover up and hide. These are the activities of ones who find themselves mired in disgrace.

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Our Earthy Future Home

During the Arian controversy of the early church, Arius’ heresy spread through song. The heterodox presbyters wrote songs that the common man could easily learn, so while the Church determined Arianism was heresy, the popular vote went for the heresy. It’s not a stretch to say that what the church sings it will confess.

Many in the church today have a wrong view of end times and that has a lot to do with the songs she has been singing. In the tradition I grew up in we often sang,

This world is not my I’m just a-passin’ through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

A song meant to steel our nerve as we sojourn through this dark and perilous world. It’s a song that sets the Christian apart from her culture, neighbors, and the world. We do not engage and create anything in this world worth relishing, rather we are waiting to be called to Gloryland by angels where we will meet friend Jesus and shake hands with our loving family.

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Review: Jonathan K. Dodson’s The Unbelievable Gospel

“Evangelism,” says Dodson, “has become a byword” (11). And it’s true. My church background is in fundamentalism, and many of the young people coming out of that movement are weary of “evangelism,” at least in the way it was prescribed in their churches.

I’ve sat through my fair share of evangelistic meetings and old time religion camp revivals (old time a la 1900s, but don’t tell them) where the preacher guilted people into their brand of evangelism. “If you don’t carry tracts with you . . . ” they might say. Or “How dare you leave your pastors alone on soul winning night . . . ” as if soul winning could be checked off in a single night. These types of “cultural and personal barriers” (14) are what Dodson strives to overcome in The Unbelievable Gospel.

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#AscensionSeries14 Recap & Resources

We finished our #AscensionSeries14 and my hope is that encouraged you to consider how essential the ascension is for a complete gospel and for robust Christian living. Below are the articles in order of publication (click the photo banner to read) and also some further resources if you would like to read further and expand your horizon on the ascension.


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Essential for Worship and Life #AscensionSeries14

Evangelicalism, properly conceived, has been from the beginning cross and gospel centered. Even with the streams of pietism arising within certain circles, the historicity of the cross and resurrection have kept it grounded in the real world of God’s historical activity of redemption. More recently, evangelicals have paid more attention to the resurrection for the Christian life beyond just an apologetic Jesus’ crucifixion.  

But let us consider this question: in all this does the doctrine of the ascension get minimized or neglected in our evangelical theologizing? Even more, while the cross should be central to the devotional life of the Christian, what role, if any, does the ascension of Christ in the devotional and worship life of the believer? Does the average believer understand the significance of the ascension for the Christian life? Far too often, one cannot help by wonder if the doctrine of the ascension is relegated to a sort of “and Jesus lived happily ever after” ending to the story of redemption.

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Establishing the Kingdom #AscensionSeries14

As a father of two young children I am painfully aware of the necessity for ritual. Some might prefer the word “schedule” but I think this downplays the necessary participation of all parties and the genuine benefit derived from participating in the “schedule.” Pertinent to the subject of Christ’s ascension are the rituals surrounding my departure to and arrival from work. There are hugs and kisses as I walk out the door. There are awkward shouts and dances of exaltation when I walk in the door. It really is quite cute coming from children. They’re young and oblivious for thirty-seconds to whatever had been going on in their day. Everything stops. Dad is the main event.

Unfortunately for some Christians, the ascension and return of Jesus Christ is unintentionally similar to this. The results are not quite as cute. Christ’s disciples were sad and confused as He went up to the clouds. The questions about His kingdom continued to persist. The answers remained vague enough for the disciples to persist in their misunderstanding until Pentecost.

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“All Authority is Mine” #AscensionSeries2014

When God creates Adam, he says man and woman are made in His image. They are children of God and sub-creators. They are commanded to have dominion and multiply.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Gen 1:28

Adam’s first task is naming the animals and tending the Garden. Adam and Eve later start a family and begin filling the earth. This command from God is called the creation mandate.

As a Neo-Calvinist, this text is crucial in understanding our responsibility in our current fallen world to engage in culture making and also in viewing God's work in non-Christians as they create. This wasn’t a one time command. It didn’t stop when Adam and Eve sinned. It’s something that we should still be doing—with one caveat.

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The Full Circle Gospel #AscensionSeries14


Jesus wasn’t always in the flesh.

John 1:14 reminds us that "the Word became flesh." Becoming flesh means Jesus existed before His incarnation. In our quest to prove the veracity of God becoming man so that as a man, he could do what only God could do, we sometimes caper right past the beauty and mystery of one aspect of the incarnation’s import. Before it, Jesus didn’t have skin.

When John claims that “in the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was God,” he is implying that Jesus had been around long before his earthly arrival. Before the God­-man was a God­-baby, he existed eternally in perfect community with the triune God outside of time and space.

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