Friday, November 30, 2012

...and speaking of giveaways...

Some of you may remember the Advent Giveaway we held last year. For the twenty-four days of December leading up to Christmas we had a giveaway every day. It was a lot of fun (and a whole heckuva lot more work than I was bargaining for)!!

So we're doing it again, albeit with just a few changes:


I felt we sacrificed content for giveaways all of December last year, so we're paring it down to one giveaway per week, running all week, starting each Sunday. Hopefully this will leave space for more meaningful content in between the giveaways. Don't worry, there will be multiple prizes and multiple winners each week!

As always, we'll be using the PunchTab widget for our giveaways, so the more you share (through Facebook, Twitter, or your own dedicated link) the more entries you get.

The big prize for the final week will be a complete set of Theologian Trading Cards, so be sure stay on top of these giveaways!

Be watching for the first giveaway starting this Sunday!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Giveaway time!

So who doesn't like free stuff?! Today marks the beginning of a series of giveaways for Theologian Trading Cards! Check out the Zondervan Academic blog, Koinonia, for a chance to win a free set. All you have to do is link the giveaway to one of your social media accounts, blog, etc., and then leave a comment on the Zondervan post.

Editor's note: It seems that Norm wasn't the first person to think of Theologian Trading Cards. Turns out that way back in 1993 the theological powerhouse of television, The Simpsons, had a similar idea:
Bart: "Oh boy! Free trading cards!"
Milhouse: "Wow! Joseph of Arimathea! Twenty six conversions in A.D. 46."
Nelson: "Whoa, a Methuselah rookie card!"
Flanders: "Heh heh, well boys, who'd have thought learning about religion could be fun?"
Bart: "Religion?"
Milhouse: "Learning?"
Nelson: "Let's get out of here!"
Though you'd get a kick out of that. - Jared

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

3 Reasons You Should Follow Us On Twitter

A few months ago we made an appeal to our readers giving 3 Reasons You Should Like Us On Facebook. Just as a recap, those reasons were:
  1. Facebook is two-directional.
  2. Facebook is conversational.
  3. Facebook is relational.
    (Side note: if those three points sound like they're saying the same thing, you'll just have to read the post to hear me explain why I don't think they are.)
 So today I want to make a similar appeal to you, our readers:


3 Reasons You Should Follow Us On Twitter
  1. Twitter is to the point. Yeah, we can get wordy, we know. Twitter forces us to get there and get out. (Hmm, I coulda tweeted that)
  2. Twitter is made to share. Twitter content is simpler to share than the same content from our blog or Facebook. With literally one click of the button, you can retweet anything from our page onto your own.
  3. Twitter gets exclusive content. We're always reading something, and while we will quote an extended passage once in a while on the blog and write a book review here and there, Twitter gets the majority of favorite quotes. I always read with my cell phone handy so I can punch out an instant update when ever I come across a good, tweetable quote.
(Bonus Reason): We're approaching the season of giveaways again (and I believe there will be a Theologian Trading Cards set in the mix!), so you should follow us on Twitter if you want to stay on top of the giveaways and earn extra entries.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Who are you following?

If you have a Twitter account, you know that on your main page there are two categories: Following and Followers. Following: Those are the people or groups who have a Twitter account that you are following. Every time they tweet something, it comes to your Twitter feed. Followers: Those are the people or groups who are following you. Every time you tweet something, it goes into their Twitter feeds. I am following John Piper and CJ Mahaney, for example. They, on the other hand, are not following me. Then there’s Facebook, where you don’t have followers; instead, you have friends. Everything you post on Facebook can go into your friend’s accounts. Unless they have blocked your posts and you are a friend in name only. That would mean they count you but they don’t follow you. Let’s not even talk about LinkedIn or Google Plus or Pinterest, all of which have ways for you to follow people or be followed by people. The social media world knows all about followers. But, do they really? Do they know about following in the same way the Bible speaks of following?

When I was 15, I lost the person who best represented to me what a follower of Jesus Christ looked like. My greatgrandmother died that year. My first memory of Grandma Hauser was when I was probably 4 or 5 years old. I was at her house and eating a Lifesaver. I swallowed it whole and it got stuck in my windpipe. I started turning blue and Grandma Hauser put all of her 98 pounds into a blow to my back. The Lifesaver came out and the breath came back in. My lasting memory of Grandma Hauser was also of her hands, not hitting me in the back but folded in prayer. She loved Jesus with all her heart and talked to him every single day. I would sneak down the hallway sometimes just to take a peek at her kneeling by the bed with her hands folded, praying. Grandma Hauser never even dreamed of Twitter or Facebook, but I was one of her followers. That’s for sure.

Then there was my pastor, Burke Holland. When I was in my late teens, he was the one God used most to teach me the Bible. I loved his preaching and I respected his life because what he talked about in the pulpit on Sunday, he walked out in the community all week. You could say I followed his teaching, his conduct and his aim in life literally, because it was under his ministry that I promised the Lord I would be a pastor. Burke is past 80 now and is a follower of this column, getting them as an email once a week. But he is one whom God used to shape me.

The Bible has much to say about following. Jesus called 12 disciples to a radical new life with the words, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Paul commended Timothy for following Paul’s lifestyle, character, and even Paul’s willingness to be persecuted for his faith in Jesus Christ. He even told the church at Corinth, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

I’m not concerned too much with whom I follow on Twitter, or who is following me. But I am so thankful for the men and women whose walk with the Lord I can follow. I also am humbled by the knowledge that some follow my walk with the Lord, just as they do yours. May God help us!

J. Mark Fox is the author of “A Faithful Man,” his latest book, and the pastor of Antioch Community Church on Power Line Road in Elon. You can tweet him at @jmarkfox. You can find all of Mark’s books on Amazon or other online sellers.Email Mark at markfox@antiochchurch.cc

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Theologian Trading Cards: What's Up With The Question Mark?!

So Theologian Trading Cards finally came out on the 20th (Yay!), and there has been a lot of enthusiasm about the sheer geeky-ridiculousness of the concept. Overall, initial reactions have been incredibly encouraging. At the same time, as a new author I have to confess that its been a little nerve-racking to wonder what sort of reviews the cards will receive; will people enjoy the set? Will people appreciate both the humor and the learning intent? What aspects of the set will be critiqued? Now, I have reviewed a lot of books since Christians in Context was launched five years ago, and I will definitely say that its different to be on the receiving end of a review. If anything, this will certainly change the way I evaluate the work of others.

One thing I've noticed early on is that comments and reviews have generated some common questions or themes. Given that the set is not exactly like your average book, I think Theologian Trading Cards immediately generates curious questions about the thought behind the decisions that led to the final product. That in mind, I thought I would create a few posts over the next few weeks that get into the nuts-and-bolts of how the cards were created. The first question I was hoping to address is to unpack why there are a small handful of cards in the set that lack an image. This is largely a case where creative vision meets practical reality. I will also say that the question was largely addressed in a recent Q&A posted by Scot McKnight on November 12th on the Jesus Creed blog. Readers here may find that post interesting, as it takes up a number of questions that help to unpack my thought as the set was created. Below is the excerpt that specifically explains the process of securing images for the set:


"Could you explain the cards that contain no image, but instead have a question mark in the image spot?
Finding images for all of the individuals in the set was a daunting task, even with an individual assigned by the publisher to assist exclusively with that piece of the project. In a number of cases, we were simply not able to find an image that could be used for the card. There were several reasons for this: in some cases it was simply a case where no image existed. This was true for some of the heretics in the very earliest era of church: People made images celebrating the lives of those who made tremendous contributions to the church, but they weren’t necessarily creating art featuring heretics. In some cases there may have been an image that existed, but perhaps not in a high enough resolution to be used. In other cases we might not have been able to acquire rights to use an image. Nevertheless, we needed to have something on the card that communicated our dilemma in some form. It was actually the silhouette one commonly sees in social media profiles when someone has not included an image of themselves that first inspired the current design. Perhaps there’s an art contest in our future to see what readers might envision as fun renditions of individuals who lack that artistic image on the front?"
Now with all of this in mind, I also had to decide first, did I either want to eliminate a few of the figures from the set, or did I feel that retaining the cards for the sake of the learning intent was worth it? I chose the latter; I just really felt that while I wanted the set to be fun and novel, I also knew the learning intent underlying the entertainment value was crucial. As I mentioned early on in the post, this was one of those instances where creative vision met the constraints of practical reality.
Perhaps some original art pieces in a second edition (if the publisher decides this is prudent in the future) will refine the concept a bit more! If you have a set already, please tell me what you think.
Norman Jeune III, author of Theologian Trading Cards (November 2012)


Monday, November 19, 2012

When the problem is held up as the solution



What if you went to the doctor because you couldn’t sleep and he told you that your problem was that you sleep too much? “You’re sleeping two hours a night? That’s your problem! You need to sleep no more than 10 minutes a day,” he says as you nod off in his office. Or, what if you went to a nutritionist because you want to eat better and she told you that your biggest problem was an over-emphasis on healthy eating. “Eat more doughnuts and candy,” she said. “And fried stuff. Cram that in more often,” she adds, as you nod your head in disbelief. We have a hard time understanding, and rightfully so, when the problem is held up as solution. Or, do we? Not really. At least, not when it comes to the whole idea of “loving yourself.”


Now, before you run to fire off a rebuttal to me, listen for a second. I am not suggesting we need to hate ourselves. Not at all. But the truth is, what the Bible holds up as a big problem, our culture has embraced as a golden solution to nearly every social ill. Google “self-esteem” or “loving yourself” and browse some of the millions of selections that come up. Take a walk through the “self-help” aisle at your local bookstore and read some of the titles that promise to teach you more effective ways to love yourself, to make yourself happy, to ensure you “look out for number one.” It’s a popular theme in music, as in Whitney Houston’s smash hit, “The Greatest Love of All.” Some of the lyrics include, “Because the greatest love of all is happening to me. I found the greatest love of all inside of me … Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all.” A blogger wrote this about Houston’s song: “Forgive me, but I have the greatest video montage of all in my mind for this. It would include a series of images representative of what is being spelled out here. First you would see a man in a field with his arms wrapped around himself, dancing and leaping for joy. Then you would see a man in a straight jacket embracing himself in a mental institution. Then the scene would shift to a woman holding flowers, boldly proclaiming that she bought flowers for herself because she deemed herself more than worthy. The video then would conclude with a recent news story about a woman who recently proposed to and married herself with many emotional onlookers” (Man in the Woods).

With all due respect to the memory of the late Whitney Houston, the greatest love of all cannot be found “inside of me.” Quite the opposite. Looking inward for hope, help, self-esteem, courage, joy, peace or love is the very thing the Bible teaches us not to do. Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul as he writes his last letter to Timothy: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self.” He goes on to describe 17 odious symptoms, things like arrogance, pride, brutality, treachery and more. It’s a nasty sandwich pictured there, with the top piece of bread being “love of self,” and the bottom piece being “not a lover of God.”

That’s the answer. The opposite of self-hatred is not self-love. It is love for God, which produces a healthy love for others. The solution cannot be found “within us.” It can only be found outside of us, the creature, and in him, the Creator.

J. Mark Fox is the author of “A Faithful Man,” his latest book, and the pastor of Antioch Community Church on Power Line Road in Elon. You can find all of Mark’s books on Amazon or other online sellers. Email Mark at markfox@antiochchurch.cc

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Good deals are afoot!!!

I'm a fan of books. I'm a fan of Tim Keller. And I'm a fan of getting a good deal on things. And for a limited time, all these things are merging into one big ball of awesomeness and I'm a huge fan. For those of you who grew up in the 90's, this is how I imagined this all going down:
"Books!"
"Tim Keller!"

"Good deals!"

"By your powers combined, I am the Westminster Bookstore sale!" (For those of you who are completely lost, that was a reference to Captain Planet and the Planeteers.)
Tim Keller has been busy lately. In the span of a year Tim has released The Meaning of Marriage, Center Church, and now Every Good Endeavor. In the last month I received the first two books from the Westminster Bookstore (the bookselling arm of the Westminster Theological Seminary). And for a limited time the Westminster Bookstore has a killer deal on Every Good Endeavor (70% off your first copy), so I figured I'd also take this opportunity to rave about my favorite online bookseller. Here's three reasons they at the top of my list:
  1. Westminster Bookstore consistently beats Amazon's prices. Take these three books for example:
    And remember, for a limited time your first copy of Every Good Endeavor is 70% off list price.
    That brings it all the way down to $8.09!
    Insane.
  2. Shipping is free on orders over $49. Sure, that's twice what Amazon require to reach free shipping status, but I feel better supporting a Christian bookstore. Besides, this time of year with Christmas fast approaching, who has trouble spending $50 on books? (Click here for full shipping rates.) But I don't mind paying for shipping even when I don't hit the $49 mark for another reason, and it's point number three:
  3. The books are packed and shipped better than I've seen anywhere else. If you've ever received a book in the mail that's been mangled, thrashed, and trashed in the shipping process, you'll appreciate the Westminster Bookstore as I do. In fact, to show you exactly what I mean, I took a picture of my last order to show you how efficiently and securely they ship your books:
Yeah, they shrink-wrap your books together to a firm cardboard backing.
So what are you waiting for? Christmas is coming, good deals are out there, and the clock is ticking. And if I've sufficiently convinced you, please use the links in the book titles above to make your way to wtsbooks.com. That way we get a little credit and you will be supporting the continued literacy of this blog and our ongoing battle against asininity and cretinism. (To be completely honest, I had to use a thesaurus for those two words.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

The sweet freedom of forgiveness

Someone has said that the two most important words in the English language are, “I’m sorry.” There is power in those words, power to heal and power to set free. Perhaps the second most important words in the English language are, “I’m forgiven.” But what happens when we ask for forgiveness and we don’t really believe we have received it? Or we say, “Well, I know the Lord has forgiven me, I just can’t forgive myself.” Friends, that’s an awful place to be, yet it’s home for many people who refuse to accept the sweet freedom of forgiveness that is offered in Christ.


C.S. Lewis said, “I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”

I love the story of the young boy who was throwing rocks one day down by the barn and he decided to do the very thing his father had told him not to: He took aim and fired off a few rounds at the chickens. Then, he was horrified when one of his salvos hit his father’s prize-winning rooster, a bulls-eye to the head, and the rooster fell over dead. The boy was sick to his stomach with fear, and tearfully replayed the event over and over in his mind, hoping for a different result. The bird was still dead.

So, the boy tried to cover his sin by hiding the rooster, but that didn’t work. He was miserable with guilt, and in bondage like he’d never experienced. He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t even play because of his guilt. So finally, he retrieved the evidence of his sin and went to confess to his father. To his surprise and great relief, his father embraced him, forgave him, and together they buried the rooster.

The boy was free again. He could eat, play, sleep and work without guilt. For a while. Then, he lay in bed one night and played back the tape in his mind of the rooster-slaying incident until, overcome with sorrow again, he went out into the moonlight and dug up the carcass. He carefully brushed it off, cleaned it up, put it in a box and carried it to his father, asking for forgiveness with tears. The wise Dad embraced his son once again and told him that he had already forgiven him, and together they buried the bird one more time.

All was well for a few days, until one of his friends began to ride the boy pretty hard about the rooster, reminding him of how many prizes it had won. The boy tearfully dug up the bird again, but it had decomposed badly in the summer heat. He cradled this object of his father’s past affection and went to pay for his sins once more.

You see, the boy had been forgiven by his father’s grace, though he didn’t deserve it. But he never released his guilt and accepted God’s gift. Because he was more me-focused than Godfocused, he fell right back into bondage by trying to “earn” something God had freely given.

The sweet freedom of forgiveness cannot come through the flesh, through our works, or through anything we do. The most precious of all freedoms can only come through the work that Jesus Christ did on the cross. Freedom and forgiveness are works of God’s grace! Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

J. Mark Fox is the author of “A Faithful Man,” his latest book, and the pastor of Antioch Community Church on Power Line Road in Elon. You can find all of Mark’s books on Amazon or other online sellers. Email Mark at markfox@antiochchurch.cc

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Five Things Worth Celebrating on Election Day by Kevin DeYoung

I appreciated these reflections from Kevin DeYoung over at The Gospel Coalition, especially as a balance and a balm to the burning anxiety that many of us can feel going into election day:
  1. I'm thankful I get to vote. "As annoying as the pandering and obfuscation can be in debates and rallies and advertisements, isn’t it better to have a system where politicians desperately want your vote rather than a system where the politicians don’t have to make anyone happy except for a class of warlords and plutocrats?"
  2. I'm thankful that the nastiness of our politics could be much nastier. "We should all be grateful than no matter what happens today there is a very, very good chance that Obama will begin another four years or Romney will take office without the nation descending into civil war. The peaceful continuation or transfer of power is a remarkable gift."
  3. I'm thankful for the Electoral College. "I’m glad that the election does not come down to voter turnout in the same megacities every four years. I’m glad that because of our confusing process, the most powerful man in the world has to make inroads with people from all over the country."
  4. I'm thankful for our two party system. "The present political climate may seem polarizing, but the parties themselves cannot be prone to extremes. This may be disappointing when we feel like the “extreme” position is actually the right one, but on the whole it’s better for the peace and stability of the country that our parties must gravitate toward moderation and must find a way to form a broad coalition of supporters rather than only courting a narrow slice of the electorate."
  5. I'm thankful for checks and balances. "Given the realities of human depravity and the corrupting influence of power, I’m grateful no one, not even the President, has the authority or the power in this country to make all his dreams come true."
    (Read the entire article here.)
And, of course, this has always been the ultimate antacid for me every election season: the sovereignty of God even over American politics. This is not an excuse from getting involved and casting informed and biblically grounded votes, but it is a corrective to the Christian political rage at our country's supposed descent into a modern Sodom or Gomorrah.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
(Romans 13:1 ESV)
Pray for our country today, and pray for our president tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pressure cookers of resentment



William Barclay said, “There may be greater sins than touchiness, but there is none that does greater damage to the Christian church.” I found that quote as I was studying what Paul wrote to Timothy in his second letter, instructing him that leadership requires thick skin, someone who is not easily offended. In fact, a leader is one who “patiently endures evil.” It could also be translated, “Bearing evil from others without resentment.” This is a rare quality, isn’t it? Let’s face it. There are lots of people who cannot bear anything without resentment, much less evil. They get resentful at the stoplight for staying red longer than they think is just. Look at them the wrong way and you are off their party-invitation list forever. Others will allow you a wrong look or a cross word or two, but they are adding your missteps to an invisible scale that they keep in their memory. Woe to you when you finally tip the scale in the wrong direction. This is illustrated in nature, I discovered, with camels. Who knew? In his book, “Zoo Vet,” David Taylor writes, “Camels may build up a pressure cooker of resentment toward human beings until the lid suddenly blows off and they go berserk. In Asia, when a camel driver senses trouble, he gives his coat to the animal. Rather like Japanese workers who are reported to work off frustrations by beating up models of their executives, the camel gives the garment (a fit) — jumping on it, biting it, tearing it to pieces. When the camel feels it has blown its top enough, man and animal can live together in harmony again.”

Talk about getting your hump in a wad. And, just wondering, how many coats does a camel driver have to keep on hand? The problem with that whole scenario is obvious. If Carlos the camel owner is off his game by just a little, and doesn’t correctly read the signs that Carl the Camel is subtly sending him, it may be that Carlos, not his coat, is torn to pieces. Same way with you, as you face the wrath of Ken or Kara the church members. You may never know when you say the very thing that sends them into orbit. Or out the door. They won’t even give you a chance to offer them your coat or your hat to jump up and down and spit on. They just bolt. You may hear some reasons why they exploded later, as a friend of a friend of theirs tells you what they said about you on Facebook. Or, you may never know.

Paul’s instruction to young Timothy is clear: Don’t be a pressure cooker of resentment yourself. When the camels are spitting and stomping all around, you are to remain calm. You are to be quick to forgive and slow to take offense, not the other way around. That doesn’t mean a leader is as silent as a post. No, he is to be skilled in “correcting his opponents with gentleness.” This is part of the problem: Leaders who are unable or unwilling to gently correct evil behavior.

There is power in the life that refuses to drink in bitterness when others attack. It is the power that Christ himself displayed as he was mocked and beaten and spat upon and finally crucified. There is no more beautiful picture of Christ than that of suffering servant. “Like a sheep He was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearers is silent, so He opens not His mouth.”

J. Mark Fox is the author of “A Faithful Man,” his latest book, and the pastor of Antioch Community Church on Power Line Road in Elon. You can find all of Mark’s books on Amazon or other online sellers. Email Mark at markfox@antiochchurch.cc

Friday, November 2, 2012

Theologian trading Cards Sample: Augustine's Card

So now that we're getting really close to the release of Theologian Trading Cards, I have a few PDF samples that I'll be sharing over the next couple weeks. Hopefully this will give our readers a better idea of what one can expect when the final product becomes available.

What set would be complete without a card for Augustine, so here is an image of his card, front and back. What do you think?

Attached below is a recent comment from Scot McKnight on Theologian Trading Cards. He was one of my earliest supporters, when Theologian Trading Cards were mere blog posts:



 "I first saw this idea some time back and thought Norman Jeune's idea was fantastic. Not only because I loved baseball cards and had plenty of them -- and that my mother threw them all away -- but because some conversation around theologians by young theologians is important. I pray these cards will help educate students and then lead them to read the greats. I'll trade you a Luther for a Barth!"

Thanks so much for the encouraging words Dr. McKnight!

Norman Jeune III