The Carta Jerusalem Atlas

What is the most important city in Bible history, or for that matter, all of human history? Jerusalem. You might say it is God’s own city. In every Bible student’s library there should be at least one volume that explains the city in terms of Biblical history, significant events, and geography. I suggest this volume by Dan Bahat and published by Carta as your first choice.

The author’s life has been dedicated to the history of Jerusalem and it shows on every page. In a responsible way, he has sifted all the reams of archaeological data and recreated a fine history. Though the author is Jewish, I feel he is fair to Christians in telling the story. I might squabble over a detail here and there, but overall it is the most thorough available.

He begins by sharing the topography of Jerusalem as it surely played a factor in many events. Then he reviews basic archaeological elements before launching into its historical beginning, at least in terms of importance, with the Time of David, or the First Temple Period.

He deftly takes time with especially important features like the city’s water supply. You would be surprised how prominently that fits into several Bible events. The discussion of Jerusalem in the times of Christ are particularly helpful.

In what I consider a bonus to the Bible study help, Jerusalem’s history on down to the present times is given. If you have a desire to know the events of the 1900s, which includes the history of the modern state of Israel, you will have all you need here.

The graphics are well done in the manner we expect from Carta. The overlapping over the map of the current city makes this an exceptional resource if you are planning a serious trip there. A fine map for a modern pilgrim as well as a good index concludes the volume. This book is a great resource!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Find this volume and many other fine Bible study helps here.

Related Post:
Bible Atlas–Finding The Right One


Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh

A good biography will grip you, move you, and challenge you. In really getting to know someone in all the dynamics that make him or her the person he or she was, you find out things about yourself and, perhaps, what you would like to be. When Mr. Marsh takes pen in hand on Bonhoeffer that is exactly the experience you have.

Mr. Marsh can write–that is obvious. He delved into his subject until he had something to say. He took a multifaceted view and hid nothing. Even what could have been mundane information, like certain academic pursuits, was woven together to show us the man progressing to become what he finally became in magisterial prose.

As you go along you find Bonhoeffer to be a spoiled kid far into adulthood, indulgent, lazy in physical work, and a lover of extended travel, and at times, a man with a temper. Still, you could not help but admire him. There is duplicity in us all, yet Christ can raise us above it. Though his theology was a good bit to the left of mine, I firmly believe he was a believer who not only loved the Lord, but grew to love Him more.

As with any of us he wrestled with some of the hard choices of life. In the end, he far more came down on the right side, a side fraught with danger and pain. I do not know what he died thinking, but he died a victor.

The only negative of the book was the suggestion that, perhaps, there was a homosexual attraction for his dear friend Bethge. That seemed a cheap gimmick for our ages’ fascination of homosexuality. The friendship was as close as possible, but Bethge always clearly refuted this suggestion. With no compelling evidence given, and knowing what a painful charge it would have been to Bonhoeffer who lacks the privilege to be alive to refute it, I suggest you toss it out so this otherwise great book will not be marred.

Still, this page-turner you will enjoy reading!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.


Soulwinning–The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (IBTR #30)




If there is anything Independent Baptists can hang their hats on, surely it is their soulwinning efforts. It has seemingly always been an emphasis. Even if we must point out areas worthy of reform, we must give credit where credit is truly due. Independent Baptists have carried the Gospel all over the world. Even the problem areas worthy of concern are not an issue in most Independent Baptist churches as only in a few is it a serious issue.

The Good

Can you imagine the number of doors knocked, the tracts given, the Scriptures printed, collated, and given over the years? It is absolutely incalculable. I have seen some of the boldest people among us walk right up to some brawny, agitated guy and tell them that Jesus came to save.  I have seen so many times what I believe to be deep sincerity in one telling of the Blood of Christ that falls down as droplets of eternal life. I have seen the going and going, even when results were meager, all because Jesus is worthy.  This is praiseworthy, and in addition to saying to God be the glory, I must say it is a heritage I am happy to be part of.

The Bad

Sometimes, and I pray it grows rarer still, there is a pressure that spiritual people can always succeed in soulwinning efforts as long as proper (sales ?) methods are used. The teaching goes that the more spiritual you are, the more souls you will win. The Scriptural proof is quite dubious, but it is heralded as the Bible’s teaching no matter what. It is that old Gamaliel line of reasoning. Remember Gamaliel reasoned likewise before the Sanhedrin to deliver the Apostles in Acts 5:34-50. Though the Lord used it to get the Apostles out of jail, the logic of his argument was flawed to the core. If it were true, how would you explain the far greater growth of Islam over Christianity today?

Along those lines, how would you explain more souls being saved in the Book of Acts than during Jesus’ ministry? Most Bible students would answer “the Holy Spirit”, but if your belief is that it is the spirituality of the soulwinner that is key, then what have you just said about Jesus? Or what about that Christian we disagree with on many points, and therefore assume is less spiritual than we are, who wins more souls than we do? That is a tricky explanation to come up with, wouldn’t you agree? I guess when our thinking goes here we conveniently forget that we only plant and water, but there is Another Who gives the increase. I mean He exclusively gives the increase despite whatever illusions of grandeur we may become infected with.

The Ugly

The ugliest side of this involves the abuse of hungry souls in an effort to prove we possess the spirituality that only numbers can prove. I have heard church members and college students confess an intense pressure to deliver. A few crossed the ethical line in the sand to work in the barren fields of manipulative tactics. I have heard with my own ears the regret of some who more or less tricked someone into saying “the prayer” and ran back to the church to show the notches in the gun while Heaven shows nothing in its record book.

Then some people who do these things get elevated, they become the gurus. Some boast mind boggling numbers. Strangely, the attendance in their churches never really increase while baptisms run in the hundreds. Weird things happen like one child being baptized ten times, and of course counted in the statistics every time.

Since I believe this is a small majority of our churches, let’s not be intimidated when they dole out the spirituality awards. Let’s not allow ourselves to be ridiculed as long as we know we are faithful in giving out the Gospel. Giving the Gospel is, and always will be, a worthy activity. Let us be humble before the God Who gives the increase. That still is our mandate.

Find all articles in the series here.


Hey Preacher, You Just Never Know!

Sometimes you cross paths with a story that puts things in vivid perspective. It exposes your warped thinking and shames you for the energy you have invested in misspent emotion. Whether it be a pastor, or really anyone actively attempting to serve the Lord, we fall far short of four in calculating two plus two. The story, with a link for you to follow and read for yourself below, involves a missionary who left the field after some years of hard labor thinking he was a failure. Wait to you read what was recently discovered!

How often does it dog you? How often do you run from the nipping at your heels from a general sense of failure? How often do you size it all up and calculate it nothing? Besides the lunacy of forgetting that the Lord gives “the increase”, what makes you and I think we even know what we are talking about?

It seems to me we had better wait for the Lord to sort it all out. We ought not form opinions of ourselves, or others, until the Lord has added the final ingredient. To not wait on Him is like gathering all the ingredients for fried chicken except the chicken! It is time to wait on final grades now. But hey, in how it all turns out, you just never know.

Link to great story.
Picture is from that great blog post–hope you go read it!

Related article :
Success versus Victory


The Return of the Kosher Pig–A Book Review


Here is a definitive volume on the “Divine Messiah in Jewish thought” by Rabbi Itzhak Shapira. The candor of this volume comes from the author as a Rabbi deciding to delve into who the Messiah truly is. Trained to despise Christianity and Jesus Christ, his journey took is profound. These pages show the depths to which he dug and the thoroughness of his work. He went through all the documents that make up Jewish thought since Bible times. There is nothing superficial as you would usually find in such writings. What would satisfy one already a Christian will not satisfy an Orthodox Jewish person. He even explains why that is so when he goes at the heart of what Jewish writings actually say.

He begins by explaining why Christianity is so offensive to Jewish people. It is our belief of God becoming a man that they find complete idolatry. This he calls for a Jewish person “the ultimate uncleanness.” Hence, the pig, the ultimate unclean animal, is Christianity. He then sifts through, not only the Old Testament Scriptures, but the writings all through the centuries that define Jewish thought.

He finds extraordinary things in their writings. The pig (animal) will be kosher again when the Messiah comes.He finds that the midrash says the pig of Christianity will return when Messiah comes. You have to wade through a great deal of information, but you will be surprised on several occasions on what previous leaders and writings have said. It is clear–Jesus Christ fits perfectly into what their own writing say. It is not enough, as he says, to just quote Isaiah 53, but his findings, on the other hand, will give the most studious Jewish person pause. It may lead them to Christ as well.

This book is heavy and so is three stars to the uninitiated, but it is five stars plus for one immersed in Jewish thinking. I will then average it and give it four stars. It will make a fine reference tool as well.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Why I Am Remaining An Independent Baptist (IBTR #29)


Baptist01Recently, someone suggested that I quit being an Independent Baptist. Their reasoning was that since I no longer held to all positions that they personally felt defined an Independent Baptist I should leave. I have nothing to say about that person as they are certainly entitled to their own opinion, but I will say that I am still, and plan to continue for the forseeable future to be, an Independent Baptist.

At the same time, as this blog series shows, I do not want to be associated with some trends and practices held by those who call themselves Independent Baptists. For the record, even in those cases, it is the practices more than the people that I battle for change. Whether it be someone else’s standards or preferences, abusive practices, or an overall mindset that some call IFB, I feel perfect liberty to disagree without feeling the slightest need to remove the label Independent Baptist from myself. That some have chosen to leave (who I still love and respect) has no bearing on my choice either.

I can give you two good reasons:

1. Independent

As an adjective as I use it here, it means “free from outside control; not depending on another’s authority” (from first result on Google for “definition of independent”). Think what a lousy Independent Baptist I would be if I allowed any individual, periodical, or group tell me to stop being one! Really when someone purports to speak for all of us in narrow terms and particulars it is they who deny, by definition, what it means to be an Independent Baptist. They may have switched the adjective to a noun, but I never have.

2. Baptist

The Baptist heritage is one I embrace. I just added to my Klock & Klock collection the 2 volume The History of the Baptists by Thomas Armitage and I marvel as I peruse its pages and see our history. It is a history of Christ and His Word first and that is exactly what I want my life and ministry to be about. In fact, the distinctives of Baptist thought are still where I stand. There are a few of them that some disagree on though they dearly love our Lord, but my understanding of the biblical evidence brings me down firmly on the side of these distinctives. Someone came up with an acrostic in the 1900s that summarizes well where we stand out, and have stood for centuries, from other Christian groups.


Biblical Authority

Autonomy of the Local Church

Priesthood of the Believer

Two Ordinances

Individual Soul Liberty

Saved Church Membership

Two Offices

Separation of Church and State


That last one was added on a little later, but no matter what one may think of them, they are what Baptists have historically stood for. These things I believe.

Notice I bolded two of them because 1) I treasure them, and 2) they are so pertinent to this discussion. When I think of what Christ paid to make me a priest where I needed no other mediator with God but Him, and the corresponding soul liberty that sprang from it, I will never lightly give it up–especially just because some man or group told me to. They are not my priest. If fact, and I am not trying to be a smart alec, it would seem they would have less right, again by definition, to the name Independent Baptist than I would. At least that is what this Independent Baptist with all his soul liberty thinks!

Find all articles in the series here.


Be The Dad She Needs You To Be by Kevin Leman


I certainly want to be the Dad she needs me to be, don’t you? Since three of my six children are girls, I was totally intrigued by Dr. Leman’s subject. Fortunately, the book lived up to its expectations for me. My wife has read several of his books, but this was my first one. He is worth reading! In an engaging, personal style, he gets you thinking on deeply important subject matter. I laid this book down with definate  knowledge of where I need to tweak my parenting of my daughters.

He masterfully explained how girls are so different, and so bewildering to we fathers, yet they need us so badly in their lives. The sobering fact that the kind of confidence she will have in life, and the corresponding choices she will make, particularly about relationships, will come from me. He then spends the balance of the book telling me not how to be a perfect Dad, but a good Dad. A Dad who really impacts her life to the good.

He leads past the idea that we can just criticize and command them to be the person we want them to be. We must purposely leave an “indelible imprint” on them. Sadly, we actually will leave one no matter what–that is why we must be purposeful. We must realize that every child we have is different so we have to know her heart. There is no foolproof little 10 Steps To Perfect Parenting. In the case of daughters, ours is the relationship that matters most.

He explained how we Dads are different, but that is good. She needs our approval, not another girlfriend in us. She needs me to live a “disciplined, balanced” life in front of her to give her security. He coached us in how to be involved in “the talk”. That is something we would rather pass off to her mother, but she needs to hear about men from me. If we don’t, some other guy will! He also gave counsel on when there are catfights under your roof–we can be a help!

There is so much more here. He has my ear even more because of how his daughters turned out, and how they now cherish him as father. What could be better than that? Thanks Dr. Lehman for an awesome book!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.


Related Posts:

The Good Dad by Jim Daly

Father Hunger by Douglas Wilson


The Task Of Preaching The Bible

Imagine many years ahead (though not a certainty) and a Bible to find messages to preach three times a week. Several times I have heard pastors say that one of the biggest problems is always coming up with ideas to preach on. They say they really struggle with new sermons.

I have a different problem. So much so, that even the title of this post is misleading. I am sitting on my back deck, in near perfect temperatures, thinking about what I am going to preach on. You see I am soon to get my new building to make into a study and then I can bring all my books to South Carolina. (Thank you Jesus!) So, I now am thinking of which books of the Bible to preach through. I am overwhelmed!

Am I going to tackle Colossians, Philippians, or I Peter? Or what about the Minor Prophets I really have been thinking through? I have really had my eye on Micah, is that the one? Then I have always wanted to preach Ecclesiastes, and actually Nehemiah. There would be I Kings, but I Samuel really beckons.

Then there are the books I have preached through in the past that I would like another shot at. The craft of making my sermons, such as they are, is likely, for the better or the worse, fully developed. I would love to work through those books again in any event!

No doubt it is hard work, though I must confess that perhaps my sermon preparation methods are more cumbersome than most. But I relish the work as the most pleasant I have ever known!

There are texts to flesh out all over the Bible for textual sermons on Sunday morning, then all those books of the Bible to develop into a series of expository messages–not that running commentary thing that some do, but take it by natural units ands make a fully developed sermon. Notice I did not mention topical messages as even the best preachers, whoever they are, are really blessed if they can have even 30 great topical messages in one lifetime. ( I’d be lucky to have 3) No, I am speaking of this matter of preaching His Word. That privilege of being aided by the Holy Spirit to inject a little creativity into sharing only what is His Word–that task is one of ceaseless joy.

Overwhelmed? You bet! I will never live to get the whole thing preached! I will not have to scramble to find something to preach on, but be ever chasing the elusive dream of preaching every text. There is no hope of making it. But what a rich life to be called to preach and try.


Spurgeon And A Lesson On Handling Critics

Spurgeon-608x279Having just read a story from the life of Spurgeon and being inspired by it (Link below to the short, but gripping story), I thought how difficult it really is to handle a critic. In that we can not live totally above being open to real criticism, nor is there ever a shortage of those peddling off-base criticism, we had better figure out how our Lord would have us handle it. For we who name the Name of Christ, that is all that matters, isn’t it? That is what you will see in Spurgeon’s advise to a fellow preacher if you will take the time to follow the link and I hope you do.

Spurgeon learned his lessons the hard way. When he was just starting out he faced a most ugly attack from the Right by extreme Hyper-Calvinists. Beyond theological disagreement, they were just ugly. (In fact, there is an example of it in the linked story). In his later years they came attacking from the Left in the Downgrade Movement. It was just as ugly.

Probably like Spurgeon, if we ever come down on a biblical position, we will find enemies coming from both directions. That is not to say that truth is just a middle-of-the-road proposition, but that every good road has a ditch on either side. Wreck in either and you will damage your car, but I digress…

Spurgeon, in my opinion, gives us quite the Christ-honoring example. He always spoke passionately about what the Scriptures taught, he confronted trends or ideas that ran against Scripture with equal earnestness, but he treated individuals with grace. Don’t think he couldn’t have said more! Spurgeon was one of the wittiest men who ever lived. He had the ability to filet you with words, but he chose not to.

It all came back to Christ. Please follow this link to read this story for yourself.


Related Post: Charles Spurgeon


Grace Killers! (IBTR #28)

Have you felt it? Have you had someone, or even a whole church, never let you live past your lowest point? Have you had the load of condemnation strapped to you back and cinched too tight to ever be loosened? Have you, a child of God, a recipient of grace, had grace stripped out of your hands every time you would dare drink in its soul-quenching properties? Then you have faced them–Grace Killers!

Grace Killers lurk everywhere the children of God exist. Perhaps they repackage themselves for whichever group or denomination they are in, but they are the same. Being an Independent Baptist, I, of course, have seen them most in action there. So I encourage each of us to learn to spot grace killers and not let them do their dastardly work.

To some we are where we _____. Always. Our brothers and sisters in Christ now define us by what we once did rather than by what Christ has done. We all have low points in our Christian life. Maybe someone for a short time fell off the wagon into drunkedness. Perhaps someone had marriage difficulties or even a divorce. Maybe they got in trouble with the law. There are so many possibilities, sadly, in this corrupt world. The problem is that when we arrive on the positive side of repentance, when we experience the warmth of the grace of His forgiveness, and when we feel the joys of restored fellowship, we have some who act as if grace never came. Well, it did come, so we must label these accusers as Grace Killers!

The question is whether grace is as spectacular and far reaching as the Bible presents it to be. For the record, it is. To some, however, we will always be that person who messed up, or that divorced person, or that guy who got in trouble. They will recommend we have no opportunities. They will whisper as if we are still in the backslidden state. They would condemn us to stay in the dark place, encourage others to keep us there as well, but what is forgotten? Grace.

But grace is part of the fabric of the Christian life. No grace, no Christianity. To weigh others down and be a Grace Killer is to deny the very system whereby we were delivered.

Grace Killers do a gruesome work. Have you ever noticed the abysmal record we have of retaining people after a church discipline process? Particularly, those who respond with repentence? They almost never stay around. Why? They can never escape the dark shadow. The oppressive weight of condemnation never lifts. It was all fine with Christ. He gave us Galatians 6:1, remember? No, the problem is Grace Killers! They never let it go.

I do not deny that sin has consequences–that is the nature of sin. But we do not ever have to always live under the guilt–that is the nature of grace!

We can’t help what others say and do, but we can champion grace. Demand the rights and privileges of all God’s children as those rights and privileges were purchased by the Blood of Christ. No Grace Killers can actually even give a little wound. They can’t take it away–it is our eternal possession. Ignore them then. But remember too those around you in the clutches of these Grace Killers. Lift up those who are constantly weighted down by those who deal in condemnation.

Grace Killers live in a house of cards. When you realize they have no power, not even a spiritual BB gun or spitball, the cards come tumbling down. Treasure grace and never let anyone obscure it for you or someone around you.

Find all articles in the series here.