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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NLT Mosaic Bible: Exclusive guest post from contributor Tom Fuller

Today I am pleased to introduce Tom Fuller, a pastor, worship leader, and contributor to the new NLT Mosaic Bible project. Check the post from yesterday to read my own review of Mosaic, and don't miss out on the giveaway a couple posts earlier to win a free copy of Mosaic! With those points of housekeeping, I turn it over to Tom.

Tom Fuller: An email crossed my computer way back in February of 2008. The email was from the editor of a unique project and the invitation it contained was exciting – the opportunity to contribute a meditation to a new and unusual Bible project.

As an author I am always interested in new opportunities to use my craft. As a pastor I am always excited to help promote the teaching, understanding, and application of God’s Word. When I took a look at the subjects, the choice for me became obvious right away – worship.

My wife and I started leading worship at a then small Calvary Chapel in Santa Barbara California back in 1978. We met in the YMCA and were so poor that even to mike my guitar I had to jury rig a holder to my vocal microphone stand! That didn’t stop us from falling in love with worship. We’ve spent the last thirty-plus years learning about and helping people come into the presence of God. Having the chance to put some of those thoughts down in a permanent form was a wonderful blessing. I accepted the invitation right away. Then came the hard part: how to present worship in a meaningful way in just a few hundred words!

The guidelines for my worship meditation read: “Through worship, we find a way of reflecting back to God His glory. Worshipful environments are places where God's people can express their adoration to Him through various mediums.”

The words “worshipful environments” stuck out at me. What are some of the places and situations in the Bible where worship was the focus?

I first thought of Joshua. In Exodus 33:11 there is a great statement about Moses’ young assistant: “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.” The “tent” was the tabernacle in the wilderness – God’s presence among His people, the children of Israel. While Moses conversed with God, Joshua stood by – he wasn’t the main focus there, God was. But when Moses left to speak God’s word to the people, Joshua stayed behind, perhaps to linger in the afterglow of God’s presence. There was something that held Joshua. He didn’t just visit God’s presence, or even just spend time with God. Joshua refused to leave God’s tent at all!

I thought of our headlong flight in and out of the presence of God on Sunday’s. We rush into church just in time for the music to start. We’re hassled and hurried and try to close our eyes and focus on the Lord but our minds are moving so fast that before we know it the music is over and the sermon has begun. Instead, what would it be like if we never left God’s presence? I’m not talking about walking around singing praise or with eyes closed. But I am talking about living a life where God is right beside you all the time – where you live in his presence. You may not be in conversation constantly but you remain in proximity to the almighty.

Next I thought about one of my favorite Bible people: Jehoshaphat. In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat had come from a place of major error and God’s discipline. He may have thought that his positive response would save him from difficulty, but in reality it merely prepared him for the battle to come. Old enemies approached and threatened to destroy his nation. Jehoshaphat reacted with fear, and then faced God. He sounded the alarm and invited everyone to join him in seeking the Lord. The answer came from an unusual source with a very unusual method of fighting. Jahaziel came along to give God’s answer to their plea. The man was descended from Asaph, David’s worship leader, and he told Jehoshaphat that they need not fight in the battle to come. Instead of taking up spears, they were to take up songs of praise. In this wonderful miracle the singers sang and the enemies dropped like flies.

How many times do we fret and worry and panic when trouble hits? If we would only come before God with honesty, then sing before Him with all of our hearts. What victories would we see? More importantly, we could be still before Him, casting our cares to Him, running into His strong tower, being enfolded in his wings. What peace we would see in the midst of the storm?

Finally, though, my mind went to another section of Scripture – one not used often to teach on worship. At the time I was teaching through the gospel of John and remembered Mary. In John 12, as Jesus’ crucifixion approached, he joined His good friends Martha and Mary for one last meal before the trial. While others may have enjoyed the time, oblivious to what was to shortly transpire, Mary did something shocking – she took a jar of very expensive ointment and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. It says “the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

There was something so all consuming about what Mary did. Yes, she anointed Jesus for burial. But thinking about all that Mary did, I could sense that something much more beautiful was taking place. I imagined her feeling the jar in her hands – a year’s wages in one flask. I could hear the sound of her breaking the jar open, I could feel the ointment on her hands as she approached the Lord. What expression was on the Lord’s face as she came near, then bent down on her knees? Then the soothing cool ointment applied to the warm flesh of a Savior – whose feet would soon feel the sharp pain of a Roman nail. The smell of the nard filling not only her nostrils, but the entire house!

It got me to thinking about the all consuming nature of worship. Jesus was to die for her –t o take the blame for her sins, and ours. Worship, I realized, isn’t just about living in God’s presence, it isn’t just about focusing on God as we see Him move on our behalf and give us peace. Worship is the expression of a whole life given wholly over to the One – the Lamb of God, who will always bear the scars of our sin, but whose hands are always held out to us in love.

That’s when I knew this would be my text. It wasn’t the most obvious choice, but an unusual passage fit this unusual project.

I hope you enjoy reading my meditation on worship. You can find it in the 10th week of Pentecost. I pray it spurs you to study, meditate, and worship – like you’ve never done before!

You can get more info on me from my website: or my church site:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: NLT Mosaic Bible

I am typically very skeptical of most themed Bibles and even most study Bibles. The repackaging of every translation of the Bible into a Bible for men, for women, for kids, for tweens, and even horse-lovers (I'm not kidding, check it out) just smacks of commercialism.

Tyndale has avoided this trap and subsequently the new NLT Mosaic Bible is a very beautiful and unique Bible that follows the church calendar year beginning with Advent (See an 84 page pdf if you want to see just how beautiful). The Mosaic portion draws art, quotes, and reflections from various Christian traditions from every continent and in every century.

The Mosaic Bible is actually two books in one and, given my aversion to themed Bibles, I initially thought it would be better separated as an NLT Bible and a Mosaic Study Companion. However, the NLT Bible and the Mosaic portion are nicely cross-referenced so that you can easily find passages on a specific topic from the church calendar or art inspired by a text (for instance).

Mosaic is a broad sampling from the Christian traditions, though I feel the editors were careful to ensure that the material used actually pertained to the subject matter. This was a potential pitfall as they were using excerpts from writings by such notables as Karl Barth, Albert Einstein, Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, Erwin McManus, Sufjan Stevens and even J.R.R. Tolkien (yes, Lord of the Rings is in here). While some of it feels a little forced at times (perhaps in an effort to be relevant), it is not so much so that it becomes distracting.

Michael Spencer from had a helpful caution to Mosaic readers about the excerpt selection: "A section that oriented the reader to the various traditions and their historical roots and theological distinctives/commonalities would have been useful in seeing just how Athanasius and Brian Maclaren “fit” into a common Christianity. If a user of Mosaic is committed to a “generous orthodoxy,” the approach of Mosaic is positive, but if someone buys the Bible and is in a church where Maclaren or Catholics are denounced or ruled out of orthodoxy, there will be confusion."

If most readers are like me, we have largely ignored the church calendar year. However, my wife and I were both so impressed with this Bible that we plan on working through the church calendar together this year. If you have never observed the church year, would like to become more familiar with it, or would like to better understand the wide range of influence from church history and tradition, this might be a good place to begin.

Check back tomorrow for a guest post from one of the contributors of the NLT Mosaic Bible!

Book Review: Hollywood Worldviews by Brian Godawa

I love movies. They are part of the language of our culture and generation. I believe that many in my generation absorb their beliefs and worldview from the movies they watch without even knowing it. I also believe that our entertainment in general (but movies specifically) shape our values as a culture as much as it reflects our values as a culture.

This is why, if I were so gifted, I would be making movies today. Movies that put the themes of the Gospel, of fall and redemption, of substitutionary atonement, on the silver screen in a way that makes it real and palatable to the average viewer. And this is why I loved Hollywood Worldviews by Brian Godawa so much.

Godawa is a Christian in the industry, making (and thinking about) movies with just such a motivation in mind. Without endorsing all movies wholesale, Godawa makes an argument for the value of movies to instruct, inform, and simply reflect the God-given creativity in the creature and the beauty of creation around us. Speaking of finding the value in movies, Godawa says, "Because all truth is ultimately God's truth, we can find what we think is true in a movie and dissect what we think is false".

Godawa goes straight to the hot-button topic for the Christian concerning movies, addressing "Sex, Violence and Profanity" in Chapter 1. His key point about such issues is that "context makes all the difference between moral exhortation and immoral exploitation of sin". In following chapters he begins to address the Hollywood worldviews such as existentialism, postmodernism, and other worldviews. These chapters were some of the most personally enjoyable, as I saw many movies I've watched in a completely different light.

Even for those of you who don't spend much time talking or thinking about worldviews, this book has much to benefit from. In particular the first and last chapters lay out some excellent guidelines and principles for watching and engaging with Hollywood and it's culture. This book was well written, even better thought-out, and I endorse it to anyone who likes movies. I'm assuming that's all of you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Win a FREE NLT Mosaic Bible!!!

Exciting day! For the first time on this blog, I get to give away something! Today is the release date of the New Living Translation Bible: Mosaic Edition. You can preview or buy your own copy over at

Stay tuned for a review of Mosaic in the very near future, as well as a guest post from one of the contributors!

And now for the giveaway instructions: simply post a comment (or e-mail it to me, I must be able to contact you if you win) on why you think you should win the copy of Mosaic.

Also, double your chances of winning and head over to the Christians in Context blog where I am a contributor as well and make a submission on that blog's giveaway in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Greg Koukl on Conversant Life

I heard a quote I really liked from Greg Koukl made during an interview on
"Narrow-mindedness is different than having a narrow view. We have a narrow view. That is, we believe we are right in [our Christians convictions] and therefore other views are wrong. All of the claims of truth are narrow.

Narrow-mindedness does not have to do with the view, it has to do with the person. It's a vice of thinking. A narrow-minded person is a person who is stuck in his view and is not willing to consider alternate views. I have a narrow view, but I am certainly open to considering other people's points of view and dealing with the evidence for it."
Note his point that all claims of truth are narrow. That is, they narrow certain other claims of truth out. No one claim of truth can be truly all-inclusive, because it will, by definition, narrow out those claims of truth that are exclusive.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Review: Love Is an Orientation by Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin has written one of the most illuminating and challenging books of the year, pressing his finger in on a sore spot in the side of Christianity with Love Is an Orientation. The church's relationship with the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community (or lack thereof) has been a black eye for us and a favorite straw man for anyone wanting to bash the church.

I found myself agreeing more often than not with Marin's approach and reasoning, attempting to "elevate the conversation" rather than cut it short. One insightful point was that both the GLBT and fundamentalist communities will often ask closed-ended questions in order to force you to simply "pick a side" in the fight. (Questions like: Do you think homosexuality is a sin? Do you think that someone can be gay and Christian? Are GLBT people going to hell? Hint: there are better answers than a simple "yes" or "no".)

While I agreed and resonated with his approach to love, accept, and build relationships with the GLBT community, there was one full chapter with which I could not agree. When it came time to finally address the passages in the Bible about homosexuality (or the Big 5 as he called them), he considered the particulars, interpreted them into an overarching principle, and then ignored the particulars. In this way, he never addressed the individual verses themselves, bypassing them in a sort of contextual paraphrase with the surrounding verses.

I do feel that Andrew Marin soft-pedalled more than necessary around the homosexuality as sin issue. Since I work in the travel industry, I spend a lot of time around hotel and airline employees where the GLBT percentage is higher than average. Yet I am baffled by the need to treat them any different than any of my other co-workers. I work with one guy who is living with his girlfriend. I work with another who is rumored to be having an affair. Yet I do not feel compelled to go all "fire and brimstone" on them about their sexual deviance. While I am not softening in my mind the fact that they are sinners and in practicing sin, that sin is peripheral when it comes to my relationship with and evangelism towards them. I love my co-workers, I care for them, I want them all to see the superiority and beauty of Jesus. I want them all to believe on Him for salvation.

While Marin (in my opinion) at times erred too far on the side of diplomacy, perhaps he is a product of fundamentalism erring too far in the opposite direction for far too long. This is an important work for the Christian church, not always for the answers he gives, but for the questions he raises and the dialogue he starts.

Book Review: My Story Bible

Now I know what you're thinking, this is not the standard fare for my blog. But I do have a six-month old now, and so my blogger book review program may feature the occasional children's book. As the resident artist in the Totten family, my wife also made some contributions to this post, so what follows is the first official Totten family post.

My Story Bible by Jan Godfrey and Paola Bertolini Grudina is a great introduction to the Bible for young children. I was very impressed with the hand-drawn pictures on every page that illustrate some of the most memorable stories in the Bible. I was surprised, however, to find how many of the biblical stories were witnessed by butterflies, ladybugs, bunnies, birds, and cats. I kid.

There are 66 stories in My Story Bible. However, before you think that there is one for every book in the Bible (there are 66 of those too), I must clarify that they picked 66 of the most dominant, important, and memorable stories from the Bible, not one from every book. Noticeably missing are stories from Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I said noticeable, not necessarily unfortunate. Also, missing is the account of Hosea and his prostitute-wife Gomer. All in all, good editorial decisions for a children's Bible.

All kidding aside, my wife and I are very pleased with My Story Bible and have already begun reading it to our daughter. She really likes the butterflies and bunnies.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Book Review: Did the Resurrection Happen? by Gary Habermas and Antony Flew

Given the two names on the front of this book, I was initially intimidated at the prospect of picking it up for fear I would be subjected to a pedantic debate between two intellectuals using terms and ideas on par with their intelligence. To my surprise, this was not the case.

Did the Resurrection Happen? by Gary Habermas and Antony Flew read less like an advanced theological textbook and more like a conversation. This is, of course, because two-thirds of this book were originally conversations. The book is divided into three parts, the first of which was basically a transcript of a debate between Habermas and Flew that took place back in 2003 during an event held by the Veritas Forum. This section was an engaging read and altogether too short.

The second part was also a transcribed conversation between Habermas and Flew (long time friends) regarding Flew's journey to theism, an event that sent shock-waves through both sides of the atheism/theism debate. Through both of these sections I was pleasantly surprised to find the conversational style a very accessible read a la Lee Strobel (minus the hint of feigned scepticism).

If one section seemed cumbersome and out of place, it was the third. Written by the editor, David Baggett, it was actually longer than either of the first two sections. Unfortunately, it fell victim to the very intellectual inaccessibility who's absence made the first two sections so enjoyable.

While this book won't be convincing to the most hardline skeptics, Christians and the doubters and seekers of Flew's sort will find this a very accessable read.