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Review: You Can Do It! By Tony Dungy

Super-Bowl-winning coach and bestselling author, Tony Dungy, tries his hands at a children's book with You Can Do It!. Written and illustrated for children in probably 1-3 grade, Dungy tells a true story from his childhood. Linden, Tony Dungy's younger brother, didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew up. He only knew he liked to make people smile. The Dungy's dad would regularly tell them, "Whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it. Trust God and dream big!" Tony knew he wanted to be a football player. His sister's knew what they wanted to do, be nurses or doctors. But Linden didn't know. His dad told him to pray that God would help Linden find his dream. The next day, while getting a filling at the dentist's office, his love of making people smile found its dream: Dentistry. The Dungy's dad told them to dream big and they did: Professional football and dentistry. And years later, both dreams came true.

Dungy writes in the afterword, "I'm glad I had parents that helped us to dream. I'm glad they taught us to pray about things that were on our mind. And I'm really glad that God answers our prayers...Our parents taught us to dream, but they also taught us something more important. Whatever we dreamed about, we should tell God because He is the one that can make those plans succeed."

It is good and right to teach children of a Christian household to pray to God, to tell Him what's on their mind, to ask him for things. God says in Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." My concern for this book lies in what is left unsaid and with how, without further guidance, God is made to look like His primary concern for us is to give us our dreams. God cares so much for His children that He died to save us from ours sins and reconcile us to himself (see 1 Peter 3:18). God is the greatest gift we could ever desire, and if you delight yourself in Him, He gives you Himself. But nowhere in the Bible does God promise to give us what we dream or everything we ask for (see James 4:3). The God of Dungy's You Can Do It! may give children the impression that God lives to make them dentists, professional football players, and nurses. It is true that the one who seeks to glorify God in everything (Colossians 3:23-24) will likely succeed, and the children should be taught to work hard and honor God in everything, even ask him for wisdom and guidance and blessing. However, the answer to these prayers is not always, "You can do it!" Sometimes, often it will be to say "no" to worldly success and the things that seem to matter here, and instead give trials. The message to a child who is being taught to honor God should be, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" (Luke 12:31) and then even in the face of losing everything, Jesus says to those who have trusted in Him, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).

I am thankful that Dungy wants to encourage kids to dream big and try hard. I recognize that this book had a different aim than that I described in the paragraph above, and I suspect Dungy might even agree with my paragraph. He was emphasizing something different. Something I think that without qualification or explanation is dangerous or even wrong to emphasize. My fear is that much of Christianity today takes the statement "have faith" to mean little more than "have faith that God will bless you [in this world], and He will." Dungy makes many statements similar to this (For example, Dungy's dad when Linden was wondering if he would ever have a dream says, "Just keep having faith."). It is right to ask of God and have faith that He will do what's best. But if getting what we want is the focus of where we put our faith, we are missing everything of Christianity. Have faith in God to save you from your sins and give you Himself. Because of misplaced priorities and a high likelihood of communicating unbiblical and ungodly priorities, proceed with much caution; if it is to be read to a child, do so with much discernment and emphasis on what is missing from this picture of God.

Keywords: dungy,review

Are You a Prostitute?

How can Romans say that apart from the new birth nothing good is in you, when you know that you do good things and that you don't do all the evil you could do? The answer has something to do with prostitution.

Keywords: piper

Consider Your True Riches (Quote: Dave Harvey)

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though
he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by
his poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9).

If you measure true wealth by material assets, you won't
come out looking prosperous. Like everyone, you have more
than some and not as much as many others. But if you measure
your riches through what Christ did at Cavalry-God's
wrath appeased, our sin atoned, our soul redeemed-you're
immediately transformed into the richest of the rich. Grace
moved Christ to become poor so we could become wealthy.
When the gospel gets big, covetousness becomes weak.
Are you feeling richer yet? Remember the words of John

When someone sets his affections upon the cross and the
love of Christ, he crucifies the world as a dead and undesirable
thing. The baits of sin lose their attraction and disappear.
Fill your affections with the cross of Christ and you
will find no room for sin. (Sin & Temptation, 52)

Dave Harvey
Worldliness (ed. C.J. Mahaney)
Chapter 4

Keywords: coveting,gospel,quote,richness,worldliness

Never Once Has He Pardoned An Unpunished Sin

God “will not acquit the wicked;” how prove I this? I prove it thus. Never once has he pardoned an unpunished sin; not in all the years of the Most High, not in all the days of his right hand, has he once blotted out sin without punishment. What! say you, were not those in heaven pardoned? Are there not many transgressors pardoned, and do they not escape without punishment? Has be not said, “I have blotted out thy transgressions like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thine iniquities?” Yes, true, most true, and yet my assertion is true also — not one of all those sins that have been pardoned were pardoned without punishment. Do you ask me why and how such a thing as that can be the truth? I point you to yon dreadful sight on Calvary; the punishment which fell not on the forgiven sinner fell there. The cloud of justice was charged with fiery hail; the sinner deserved it; it fell on him; but, for all that, it fell, and spent its fury; it fell there, in that great reservoir of misery; it fell into the Saviour’s heart. The plagues, which need should light on our ingratitude did not fall on us, but they fell somewhere and who was it that was plagued? Tell me, Gethsemane; tell me, O Calvary’s summit, who was plagued. The doleful answer comes, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!“ “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It is Jesus suffering all the plagues of sin. Sin is still punished, though the sinner is delivered.
But, you say, this has scarcely proved that he will not acquit the wicked. I hold it has proved it, and proved it clearly. But do ye want any further proof that God will not acquit the wicked? Need I lead you through a long list of terrible wonders that God has wrought — the wonders of his vengeance?
(read more...)

Keywords: gospel,sin,spurgeon

Poisoning Yourself from the Gilded Pill of Popular Entertainment-Spurgeon

Writing of London's Christian's undiscerning consumption of the media of the day (opera), Spurgeon writes the following. How much more applicable is this to us today. Have you exposed yourself to any gold-covered poisonous entertainment lately?:

Ye can sit in theatres to hear plays at which modesty should blush, I say nought of piety. That the ruder sex should have listened to the obscenities of La Traviata is surely bad enough, but that ladies of the highest refinement, and the most approved taste, should dishonor themselves by such a patronage of vice is indeed intolerable.

But because the pill is gilded, ye suck down the poison: because the thing is popular, ye patronize it: it is lustful, it abominable, it is deceitful! Ye take your children to hear what yourselves never ought to listen to. Ye yourselves will sit in gay and grand company, to listen to things from when your modesty ought to revolt. And I would fain hope it does, although the tide may for a while deceive you.
Spurgeon, C. H.
Spurgeon's Sermons: Volume 3 (electronic ed.).
No. 137 "Mercy, Omnipotence, and Justice"

Keywords: entertainment,spurgeon

426 Years to Study the Bible? How About 3?

I am so glad that I was taught, and many in my church were taught, very early on the importance of understanding what a passage meant in its original context before trying to apply it. In this day of KLove Power Verses where life is brought to us in 15 second soundbites, it is tempting in our study of the word to want a quick pick-me-up, emotionally stimulating experience from the no more than 5 minutes.  This tends can tend to make the 21st century reader of the Bible assign the emotions or thoughts that first come from reading the text to the text as the meaning of the text. We have unwittingly adopted the post-modern assumption that the text's meaning is that which the reader gives it (therefore it is not improper or impossible for a text to have as many "meanings" as it has readers).  The tendency in modern Bible readers puts us in danger of seeing only in the Bible what we thought was already there; the passages which don't line up with what we understand and like about Christianity are in danger of being skipped altogether since they don't produce the emotional high for which we are longing or simply misinterpreted to fit in with our system.


I praise God, therefore, that early on in my Christian faith I was taught (and had modeled for me by both of my early spiritual mentors, Daryl and Walter) the importance of understanding what the original authors were communicating to the original audience. Without this information I do not understand the text and can't even begin to apply it to my life and heart accurately. I was taught the importance of observation and interpretation (what it meant to them in their time) before application. I was taught to see the importance of sitting long and thinking deeply about a single sentence in Scripture, to read it in context, to analyze each word and how it functioned in sentences, to probe the historical setting for information that would be helpful to proper short, I was taught the benefits of spending hours and hours in a single passage. The Scriptures opened up to me because I saw what was there and gave the Spirit time to drive it into my heart; the application flowed naturally from what I saw was there and was more profound and God glorifying than what I would have found in a five minute quickie Bible read and respond.

There was a problem here, however. I spent almost two years in daily study on the book of Galatians. I can say with confidence that I understand Galatians better than any other book of the Bible. Galatians has owned me. However, I will probably only have 40-50 years of life to study the Bible. Galatians is a relatively short book: 149 verses, 0.2 verses per day. The Bible has 31,102 verses in it. At that rate it would take me 426 years to study the whole Bible. So maybe in heaven, I can do that but not here. I am conflicted. How am I to use all that God has said in His Word and still use it responsibly?


Read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plans are great. In one year you get to see all that God has said in His Word. But here is a danger. Reading approximately 85 verses per day, usually in a time limited to 30-60 minutes per day (some try 15 minutes), puts us in danger of grasping onto what we like or what is emotionally appealing and skipping the rest. My mind can only grasp usually one concept at a time and can't hold a thought for long, so in a reading plan that I did for 4 years (M'Cheyne's). What I found myself often doing as I read through the Bible was focusing on passages that talked about my favorite theological topics or those topics that were easy to respond to (and I think I did this appropriately, and it was right), but I just didn't give thought to the passages that were harder to be affected by. I was letting the ease with which my emotions were gripped by a text define the texts relative importance and instructive weight to me. I was learning, and I was learning from God's Word, but I was not learning all that God's Word said, thus falling short of my initial goal in reading the whole Bible.

As I talked to others about what their read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year readings looked like, many were similar, but I found many would use stories to springboard into lessons for themselves that were nowhere to be found in the story (i.e. using David & Goliath as a call to be a braverisk-taker ; while a good thing to do and maybe a proper response to understanding the theme of the story, this conclusion can be made devoid of understanding why that story is in the Scriptures, really devoid of even understanding where it is in the Scriptures and why God did what He did in David and Goliath, there are many other examples, but that is for a different blog post on a different day).

It was all of the above and more that led me to change the method of my whole-Bible reading and lead my smallgroup to do the same. Starting at the beginning of 2007, we began a study of the whole Bible: One book every two weeks (with some exceptions). We started in Genesis and over the period of just under 3 years, we will read all of the books of the Bible ending in Revelation. This week we are in Nahum. We use Dever's Message of the Old Testament & Message of the New Testament as pastoral guides in our reading.

In each book the goal is consistent with the goal when we study a single verse. We read the entire book with an eye to understand what major themes the God-inspired author of the book wanted to communicate. This is done by observing the flow of thought in the book, repetition of ideas, purpose statements, etc (observation). Once we understand the main point(s) of the book as a literary whole (interpretation), we are able to fit the individual pieces (sections of the book) into this whole, so we are able to be careful that we are understanding them in context. In two weeks, we are able to discern the theme and at least a rough outline of each book. This will guide us in the interpretation of any single verse, as it provides the context in which the verse must be understood. Finally, we state what this book teaches us about God, what this book teaches us about man, and how the truth of this book must affect us. The level of study here is certainly not as thorough as a 2-year study of Galatians, but it has served me and my group well to help us understand what the Bible is about.


In summary, as we look at each book, we ask the following big-picture questions:

  1. What would the author of this book say that this book is about?
  2. What is the message/theme/purpose of the smaller sections of this book in light of the purpose of the whole?
  3. What does this book teach you about God?
  4. What does this book teach you about man?
  5. How must this book affect you?

If you are interested in how we do this, would like to try to follow the model in your own study, or hijack the study guides for your own Bible study or smallgroup, feel free. The study guides (treasure sheets) and some other resources that have helped us in our study are available on our church website.

Keywords: bible,reading,smallgroup,study

Repentance Must Be the Goal (Quote: Leahy)

Repentance was a dominant note in apostolic preaching. this has been equally the case in tiems of revival and spiritual awakening. People begin to see sin as god sees it - Rebellion agaisnt God. They become aware of consequences of sin: "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4,20). That note of repentance is no longer struck as it once was...The "easy believism" of our time does not pierce the sinner's heart, nor does the emotionalism that often passes for evangelism. That note must be recaptured as a matter of urgency if our preaching is to be really effective. Men and women must be made to see the cross through their tears, with "a godly grief" that "produces a repentance that leads to salvation" (2 Cor. 7:10).

Frederick S. Leahy
Is It Nothing To You: The Unchanging Significance of the Cross (amazon)
pp. 80-81

Keywords: leahy,preaching,quote,repentance

Should We Ignore the Imprecatory Psalms?

Piper summarizes how we are to honor all Scripture, imprecatory Psalms included, as God's Holy Word. He tells an impacting story from his days in Germany when as a 25 year old man, he first saw Bible denying liberal Bible scholarship at work, demanding that these Psalms never ever be quoted around them. Like Piper says at the end, "O God never never never let me go there..." not even in a subtle evangelical way.

Keywords: piper

Why God Doesn't Fully Explain Pain by John Piper

This by John Piper entitled, "Why God Doesn't Fully Explain Pain" is worth reposting here in it's entirety. Very helpful and humbling:

 One of the reasons God rarely gives micro reasons for his painful providences, but regularly gives magnificent macro reasons, is that there are too many micro reasons for us to manage, namely, millions and millions and millions and millions and millions.

God says things like:

  • These bad things happened to you because I intend to work it together for your good (Romans 8).
  • These happened so that you would rely more on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1).
  • This happened so that the gold and silver of your faith would be refined (1 Peter 1).
  • This thorn is so that the power of Christ would be magnified in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12).

But we can always object that there are other easier ways for God to accomplish those things. We want to know more specifics: Why now? Why this much? Why this often? Why this way? Why these people?

The problem is, we would have to be God to grasp all that God is doing in our problems. In fact, pushing too hard for more detailed explanations from God is a kind of demand that we be God.

Think of this, you are a blacksmith making horseshoes. You are hammering on a white hot shoe and it ricochets off and hits you in the leg and burns you. In your haste to tend to your leg you let the shoe alone unfinished. You wonder why God let this happen. You were singing a hymn and doing his will.

Your helper, not knowing the horseshoe was unfinished gathered it up and put it with the others.

Later there was an invasion of your country by a hostile army with a powerful cavalry. They came through your town and demanded that you supply them with food and with shoes for their horses. You comply.

Their commander has his horse shoed by his own smith using the stolen horseshoes, and the unfinished shoe with the thin weak spot is put on the commander’s horse.

In the decisive battle against the loyal troops defending your homeland the enemy commander is leading the final charge. The weak shoe snaps and catches on a root and causes his horse to fall. He crashes to the ground and his own soldiers, galloping at full speed, trample him to death.

This causes such a confusion that the defenders are able to rout the enemy and the country is saved.

Now you might say, well, it would sure help me trust God if he informed me of these events so that I would know why the horseshoe ricocheted and burned my leg. Well maybe it would help you. Maybe not.

God cannot make plain all he is doing, because there are millions and millions and millions and millions of effects of every event in your life, the good and the bad. God guides them all. They all have micro purposes and macro purposes. He cannot tell you all of them because your brain can’t hold all of them.

Trust does not demand more than God has told us. And he has given us immeasurably precious promises that he is in control of all things and only does good to his children. And he has given us a very thick book where we can read story after story after story about how he rules for the good of his people.

Let’s trust him and not ask for what our brains cannot contain.

Keywords: pain,suffering

The Clothes Christ Lost

"Ah, the shame of crucifixion as God's well-beloved Son was stripped naked, according to custom, and nailed to a cross, exposed to public view. Think of that! you do not want to look. One's instinct in such an awkward situation is to avert one's gaze. Do not turn away. Face the shocking reality of that hour. 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29). Behold him now, as he was never seen before and as he will never be seen again. Behold the utter shame to which the Lord of glory lovingly submitted as he died for sinners. His nakedness symbolized all the shame that would have been ours for ever in hell and which we so richly deserve because of sin. There is nothing more shameful than sin. Christ, the substitute for sinners, bore all that shame to the full. Yes, think of that!"

Frederick S. Leahy
Is It Nothing To You: The Unchanging Significance of the Cross (amazon)
pp. 60-61

DiscerningReader & Choosing What to Read

First on the list of ways that John Piper chooses what to read is Recommendations. There are thousands upon thousands of books out there, most of them garbage, many worthwhile, and a few precious gems. Nobody has the time or the mental capacity to properly read, digest, discern truth from error, and apply even a small percentage of those books. For that reason, quality book reviews from people who have demonstrated themselves over time as discerning readers can serve you very well as you decide what to read.

Secondly, knowing what is available is another difficult task. Generally, knowledge of available literature among the public is driven by publisher's marketing dollars and not the quality of the book. The internet has leveled the playing field a bit more. Books that a less mass-marketable but more edifying than those on the top-sellers list are made known to the evangelical world through blogs much faster and on a more wide-spread basis than simple word of mouth. It may not be time in your life to read a certain type of book, but keeping up-to-date on what is out there (as well as the quality and content of that material) will make you more able to quickly find and benefit from good books and spend less time wading through mediocre ones. When you are faced with a certain struggle or question, you will already know where to turn.

I commend to you, therefore, DiscerningReader is currently composed of reviews from a select group of reviewers that have proven themselves over time to be discerning in identifying error and commending truth. The site, designed by Tim Challies, is quickly growing and will soon include not only book reviews, but also book summaries and book previews. I recommend making DiscerningReader a regular part of your web-surfing routine.

Note: I have recently joined the DiscerningReader team as a reviewer, so you will find most of my book reviews generally posted on this blog, cross-posted on DiscerningReader as well.

Our Last Conversation Before He Committed Suicide

Below is my recounting of the dialogue that took place between my friend [friend] and me a few weeks before he committed suicide. The conversation is recreated from notes and my memory, so it isn't word-for-word accurate in all its details, but generally is an accurate recreation of the interaction and reveals the clash of competing masters between a Christian and non-Christian. I was hesitant to post this publicly. My heart aches as I reread it and remember my friend and recognize that He now knows intimately the God he hated and rejected, but he knows him as Judge and not Father. I beg, if you do not know God as your Master, Savior, Father, and Friend, that you read this. Your beliefs do not define reality; God does. Indeed, reality, even you and your thoughts, could not exist apart from the God you are avoiding. But God, in order to overcome your rebellion and still be just when He forgives you, killed His own Son, Jesus, on the cross in the place of those who would repent and trust in Him; then He raised Him from the dead, proving that death's hold on rebels had been broken.

The reason that I wrote this out and post it here is to demonstrate the rebellious futility of autonomous reason set over and against God's authority revealed in nature, in our hearts, and in His Word. It highlights John Frame's statement "Those who deny God do so, not because they lack evidence, but because their hearts are rebellious." It reinforces the necessity of the fellowship of Hebrews 10:24-25 in light of the warnings of Hebrews 10:26-27 . It reminds me that the only difference between [friend] and me-the skeptic and the apologist-is only God's saving and sustaining grace.

Keep reading. I think this dialogue is the practical outworking of my , which will later be posted on my blog. You may also want to read the letter I wrote to a doubting, believer friend who was asking the question, "Am I Only A Christian Because I'm American?"

I am sobered at shortness of life, the seriousness of sin, the preciousness of grace, the depth of humanity's rebellion apart from grace, the finality of judgment after death, the length of eternity, the goodness of the gospel, and the glory of God in judgment and in grace. I recognize that this is a sensitive post. It likely will offend some. I have thought long and hard before posting it; I am open to correction. Nevertheless, my friend lost his life due to the seriousness of sinfully misplacing authority. The futility, tragically, drove him to suicide. For those who agree with me on the following dialogue, let us not be arrogant. Our belief has nothing to do with us, but is all of grace. If you do not believe what I am saying, or if you are offended by what I say here, please consider thoughtfully my arguments before you comment. This is a change from the triteness and superficiality that has no view on eternity of most of what is on the blogosphere; it is intended to jolt us into awareness of eternity and our finiteness. That said, I invite all comments, and I expect I will get quite a few. Please try to interact with the content as your post, however.

(read more...)

Keywords: apologetics,evangelism,gospel



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