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10 Reasons You Should Study Ephesians with Keri Folmar

10 reasons blog graphic (2)

by Kevin

Keri Folmar has just released her third 10-week inductive Bible study for women with Cruciform—this time on Ephesians. We wanted to share 10 reasons why you should consider studying this weighty book of the Bible with Keri’s help:

1) It’s an Inductive Study

There are few truly inductive Bible studies for women written by a woman. This resource will center your focus on the words from Paul’s letter and help you articulate his intent in writing to the church at Ephesus.

2) It’s Spiral Bound

We make these Bible studies spiral-bound so that you can easily write in them.

3) It’s Designed to Encourage Interaction

The pages of these studies have lots of room for you to write your reflections as you pray over God’s Word.

4) It’s for Individual or Group Use

You can go through these studies on your own or with your family and friends.

5) It’s Available in Bulk Discounts

If you want to purchase numerous copies, we offer three levels of automatic discount: 8+ books=10% off, 25+ books=15% off, 50+ books=20% off.

6) Men Could Get Involved, Too

Men, you could pick up this study for your wife. If you are willing to forbear the flowers on the covers (they’re very theological tulips, after all), you might also want to lead her through it.

7) It’s a Tested and Cherished Tool

Keri first led women—in both the U.S. and Dubai—through these studies. They were birthed in the context of discipleship.

8) It’s Part of a Series

Before Keri published this study on Ephesians, she also labored to help women study Philippians and James. By God’s grace, this series has been warmly and widely welcomed.

9) It’s Commended by Other Women

Keri’s studies have been endorsed by Connie Dever, Kathleen Nielson, Kristie Anyabwile, Gloria Furman, and others. For example, Diane Schreiner says, “Keri Folmar has done it again! Now she has made Ephesians a book to delve into, unfolding its message with accuracy and clarity. The questions are inductive and applicable, helping us to understand Paul’s intent and what Ephesians means for our church involvement and our personal lives.”

10) It’s Commended by Other Churches

Churches across half a dozen denominations have purchased Keri’s studies in bulk—and the response has been great.For example, Molly Blass is on the Women’s Ministry Council at First Presbyterian (PCA) in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and has led a group of 75 women through Keri’s studies. She writes, “We don’t want to be women who are ‘always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth’ (2 Tim. 3:7). Keri’s material helps carefully guide us into truth, but it also includes pointed application questions that the Spirit can use to help us examine our own hearts.”


Grace; A Bible Study on Ephesians for Women, by Keri FolmarYou can now purchase Grace: A Bible Study on Ephesians for Women.

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Two Sins Deeper than Pride (and easier to kill)

Two sins deeper than pride (1)

by Bob

Prideful sin is no small matter. The biblical warnings against it are bone-chilling. And none is more frightening than this: “God is opposed to the proud” (James 1:6).

We’ve been told over and over: Pride is the root of all sin. Kill pride and your other sins will topple, too. Sounds easy but it isn’t. Pride is slippery. As soon as you think you’ve got a grip on it, it pops up somewhere else nearby—usually closer to your heart than it was in the first place.

Frontal attacks against pride usually fizzle out. Have you noticed that, too? If so, try the indirect approach I learned while working on a recent book on spiritual warfare.

Roots Grow in Soil

There are two sins that actually run deeper than pride. Picture them as the soil from which the root of pride draws its nourishment and support.

Thankfully, these are two sins you can easily battle head-on. In fact, you can “condition” these two soils (that is, poison them) every day. Do this long enough and consistently enough and you will find the root of your sinful pride withering, thus weakening the whole malignant ecosystem of sin in your life.[Tweet “Two ways to weaken the malignant ecosystem of sin in your life.”]

The Soil Called Ungodliness

Jerry Bridges is my friend, mentor, and sometimes co-author. In The Bookends of the Christian Life we wrote, “the opposite of godliness is ungodliness, the disregarding of God. All expressions of pride are rooted in ungodliness, because you must first disregard God before you can be prideful.”

Sinful pride requires disregarding God—that is, behaving as if he does not matter. When you realize this, it becomes much simpler to battle ungodliness. How? By remembering that God does matter, infinitely above and beyond everything else. In practical terms, you can do this by deliberately recognizing God, for who he truly is, in all things, and doing so until this kind of God-honoring becomes habitual. Try it, and I think you’ll soon discover this is a powerful, if indirect, way to poison a root of pride.

This approach amounts to an intentional, content-specific version of what some have called “practicing the presence of God.” The best way to do this is to study, memorize, and regularly recall Scriptures about who God is and what he has done for us in his Son.

The Soil Called Unbelief

Deeper still, below pride and below the disregarding of God, is unbelief, the deepest sin of all. If ungodliness behaves as if God does not matter, unbelief behaves as if God does not exist.

The opposite of this unbelief is biblical faith. Genuine faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit necessarily results in humility. Battling unbelief, therefore, is our second indirect yet powerful means of battling pride.

An excellent way to engage in this battle is simply to ask Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Jerry and I have made it a habit to pray this nearly every day. [Tweet “The simple prayer that @JerryGBridges prays nearly every day.”]

Next, remember that when sin was about to strike, Jesus told Peter, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32). Then, remember that Jesus prays for you, too (Romans 8:34).

Jesus is concerned about your faith in him. Ask him to pray for you the way he prayed for Peter—that your faith may not fail!

My life is far from a picture of humility. In fact, I’ve been aware of pride mustering its forces within me even as I write this. But I will not approach this battle head-on (except to take my sin to the cross and repent from it). Instead, I will deliberately regard God, by remembering where every good thing comes from (James 1:16-18). And I will pray, asking ask him to help my unbelief, so that I might see his unseen hand at work in me.

I’ll pray the same for you, too. By the time you read this, know that I already have.


Good News About Satan; A Gospel Look at Spiritual Warfare, by Bob Bevington

Bob Bevington’s most recent book is Good News about Satan: A Gospel Approach to Spiritual Warfare.

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The Ingredients of Family Discipleship

THE INGREDIENTS OF FAMILY DISCIPLESHIP (3)

by Tad Thompson

Almost every evening around ten o’clock, I am drawn downstairs from the family room to our kitchen with a gnawing craving for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This is one of my favorite moments of the day. Waiting there in the pantry, simply for my indulgence, is a homemade loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a little bear-shaped squeeze-bottle full of honey, and a bag of potato chips. The other necessities await me in the fridge: an ice-cold carton of milk and cherry jelly.

Most evenings this ritual plays out perfectly, except for those rare, sad times when some key ingredient is missing. I can live without the chips or the honey, but every so often there is no milk, or we are low on peanut butter, and my hopes for the perfect PB&J vanish.

Some ingredients are simply necessary. This is one reason why I find cooking shows to be an exercise in frustration. When these chef-gurus prance out into their professional kitchens—the kind missing the one wall where the TV cameras go—all the latest high-end culinary equipment is at their disposal. They know things about preparing food that we mortals cannot grasp. Worst of all, they regularly cook with ingredients that have never once been on any shelf in my local supermarket. What is the point of showing people how to cook with ingredients they don’t have? Without the right ingredients, everyone knows that a recipe is useless.

Maybe you feel a similar frustration when you hear a pastor announce that it is primarily your responsibility to disciple your children. Perhaps you have inventoried your spiritual pantry of biblical knowledge and, if you are honest, it is not as well-stocked as it needs to be. You know you need ready access to fresh, useful spiritual ingredients if your children are to become, as the psalmist wrote, men and women who set their hope in God. But you’re not quite sure what those ingredients are, where to get them, or how to prepare them.[Tweet “As parents, the call to family #discipleship only ends when we die. #parenting”]

Tell you what, let’s go to the supermarket—a really nice one. It’s a supermarket of biblical truth. As we stroll the aisles and review the wares, you are probably going to feel overwhelmed. There is so much your children need to be taught! That’s OK. Embrace that feeling. Your sense of helplessness will push you to rely on the grace of God as you take the exciting journey of family discipleship.

Perhaps your children are not exactly children anymore. If so, remember that your call to family discipleship only ends when you die. You have a lifetime to cultivate truth in the hearts of your children. Even when they are adults with their own families, you should lovingly and prayerfully encourage your children in their walk with Jesus. The nature of the parental role changes as our children mature, but its essence does not, and we are called to steward faithfully all the days the Lord has entrusted to us.

As we walk through the supermarket of biblical content, I want to show you seven “aisles”—seven categories—of biblical truth. Thinking in categories helps us to understand and teach God’s Word clearly. Imagine a supermarket that stocked its shelves randomly. Trying to find a particular item in aisle after aisle of jumbled chaos would be a nightmare. In a similar way, approaching the Bible without appropriate categories will often produce a certain bewilderment. But categories help us think and teach far more effectively.[Tweet “Learn the 7 key ingredients of biblical #discipleship. #parenting”]

Theologians have worked for centuries to compile the biblical data into accessible categories. The seven key categories covered in Intentional Parenting are:

  • The Gospel
  • The Big Story (Biblical Theology)
  • The Big Truths (Systematic Theology)
  • The Great Commission
  • Spiritual Disciplines
  • Christian Living
  • Worldview

Yes, it’s a formidable list. Yet it helps create a manageable structure, ways of thinking about how and what you ought to pass along to your children. In fact, if you will commit to learn from each of these seven categories, you will have all the right ingredients at your fingertips for a lifetime of fruitful learning and teaching.

An adapted excerpt from Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design, by Tad Thompson. Click here to learn more and read another sample.[Tweet “This looks like a good way to create a structure for family #discipleship. #parenting”]  
Intentional Parenting; Family Discipleship by Design, by Tad Thompson

 

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Street-Level Apologetics

STREET-LEVEL APOLOGETICS

by Joe Coffey

There are two basic ways to discuss your faith with non-Christians. You can testify to what Jesus has done in your own life—how Christ has changed you through the gospel and what being a Christian has meant for you, your family, your church life, etc. That’s the “fruit” side.

The other way is to talk about why Christianity makes sense.

Almost any substantive conversation you might have with unbelievers about Christianity will touch on both topics. And the fact is that we would probably talk a lot more with unbelievers about how we have been changed if we felt we could talk more freely, confidently, and intelligently about why our faith makes sense.

What we need are some basic tools for use in street-level apologetics. After all, faith in Jesus really does make perfect sense, and you don’t need to be a scientist, an historian, an archaeologist, or a philosopher to understand why.

This was the “equipping mission” that pastor and author Joe Coffey took on when he decided to write Smooth Stones: Bringing Down the Giant Questions of Apologetics. He says the book exists for two reasons.

First, too many people think that believing in Christianity means blind faith, against all evidence, the way a child believes in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Second, every few years a new book intended to undermine Christianity becomes a bestseller and shakes the faith of many. Yet the arguments in these books are rarely compelling.

In Smooth Stones, therefore, Joe Coffey gives Christians a simple introduction to the plausibility of Christian faith. He examines six key questions:

  1. Is there a God?
  2. Does science disprove God’s existence?
  3. Is the Bible authentic and true?
  4. Why is there evil and suffering?
  5. Aren’t all religions the same?
  6. Is Jesus for real?

Joe acknowledges that the most important thing is to be able to discuss the “fruit” part of our experience, because that’s where the core of our faith lies. But most of us are especially weak the on the “makes sense” part. Again, why are we weak? Most often, it probably comes down to the fact that we don’t feel equipped to say anything intelligent—so we say nothing, for fear that our bumbling will just make things worse.

Smooth Stones can unmuzzle you to start to speak freely about your faith with confidence and clarity. Click here to read the Introduction and all of Chapter 3: “Is the Bible Reliable and True?”

Smooth Stones; Bringing Down the Giant Questions of Apologetics, by Joe Coffey

 

 

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(This article was adapted from one that originally appeared on challies.com.)

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The Freedom of Personal Delights

The Freedom of Personal Delights (2)

The Freedom of Personal Delights

The atoning work of the Son of God gives God’s adopted children great freedom: we come alive to God’s lavish love through a new legal status as adopted sons and daughters of the living God. But through adoption, we also receive personal delights that propel us forward into a missional way of life.

The Freedom to Delight in Subjective Wonder

Our objective status as adopted children should lead us to subjective (experiential) wonder, as we saturate ourselves and marinate in these great truths of how much God loves us. Our legal rights are intended to become personal delights. Adoption is not just a great doctrine to be intellectually understood as a part of good systematic theology. It’s meant to rock our world, to move us to “palm up” adoration and worship of such a God who would love such a people like you and me. The objective reality of our adoption should generate within us an unspeakable joy—one that brings much glory to God.

Paul shows us what this looks like in Ephesians 3:14-19. In this text we discover how adoption brings us into a process of being re-parented by the only perfect Father. In the original Greek, the passage begins like this, “For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom all Fatherhood derives its name.” Paul literally says that adoption is critical because there is only one Father who can deconstruct every earthly illusion about fatherhood. No human father can ever fill the Abba-shaped vacuum in our heart. And no human father can ever abuse, ignore, abandon, or wound us so badly that we cannot become alive and healthy through relationship with God as our Father. There is only one perfect Father, and we get to know him only through the gospel of his grace.[Tweet “Divine adoption yields personal delights that propel us into missional living. (@ScottyWardSmith)”]

Sigmund Freud said we created the notion of “father” and projected it upon God, but Paul says exactly the opposite, that the very category of “father” comes from God to us. Our heavenly Father is the Father from whom all Fatherhood derives its meaning. And this Father loves us so much that he has given us his only begotten Son to make us his adopted sons and daughters.

As Paul pondered the greatness of our Father and the glories of our adoption in Christ, he broke into a prayer in which he asked God to give us the power we need to experience the multi-dimensional love we have been given in Jesus—a love, Paul says, that is so great it surpasses knowledge. Even throughout eternity we will never exhaust our knowledge of God’s love, and yet we are called to grow in our experience of this love on a daily basis. As we come alive to the Father who loves as no other father does, we are re-parented into that knowledge.[Tweet “Freud: we created “father” and projected it on God. Paul: that’s backwards! (@ScottyWardSmith)”]

The Freedom to Delight in Gospel Transformation

Indeed, adoption grants us the freedom to come more and more alive to our Father’s lavish love. But this is no mere selfish experience or religious high. God’s love is a transforming love. Consider 1 John 3:1-3, where the apostle John positions himself like Paul, with astonishment, and bids us join in his astonishment:

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

We must read these words with a certain degree of humble incredulity, because who could be more unlikely to be called the children of God but you and me? But that’s just the point: we are declared to be God’s children legally. It’s something God has done for us in full view of our ill-deserving condition. But now, as we come alive to the radical implications of our adoption, we begin to live a whole new life. Such lavish love propels us into godly living. The indicatives of our adoption lead to the imperatives of transformation. Only the gospel gives us the motivation and power to please God from the heart—to offer our Father the obedience of faith and love. Only gospel astonishment will lead to gospel transformation.[Tweet “Christians are the only people who don’t have to pretend about anything. (@ScottyWardSmith)”]

The Freedom to Delight in Safe Vulnerability

Lastly, we consider a freedom that binds all these personal delights of adoption together: the freedom of never having to pose or pretend about anything before God. We are given the freedom of crying “Abba, Father” in our brokenness, our joy, our sadness, our suffering, our prodigality, our elder-brother self-righteousness. Christians are the only people on the planet who do not have to pretend about anything.

Even when we violate our peace with God through selfishness, we have freedom to cry out to him, to crawl into his lap, to be made whole. This is why we must continually preach the gospel to our hearts and to one another. Only in the assurance of God’s love for us as Abba will we surrender all the chaos, weariness, brokenness, and longings of our hearts to him.


An excerpt from Chapter 6, “The Freedom of Adoption,” by Scotty Smith, in Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father, Dan Cruver, Editor.

Reclaiming Adoption; Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father, by Dan Cruver
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Anchored in Grace: Help us choose the book cover

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by Kevin

The cover contest is now closed, but you’re still welcome to comment. We ended up choosing C, and we really appreciate everyone’s opinion. Wish we could make all of you happy… Congrats to Barry Standley for winning two free ebooks!

Jeremy Walker is a blogger with Reformation 21, a pastor in West Sussex, England, and a writer who has clearly marinated his heart and soul in Scripture and the works of the Puritans. He has also written a wonderful little book for us that together we have decided to call Anchored in Grace: Fixed Truths for Humble Faith. It’s coming out in June (there was supposed to be a May book but getting this website in shape threw us off track a little), and we could use your help finalizing the cover.

Here are the three leading candidates, in quick mockup form, using watermarked (no pun intended) images.

These images may seem small, but the fact is that with the prevalence of online retailing, if a cover doesn’t work at 2 inches high it doesn’t work at all. So, which one do you think we should go with, and why? Please leave your comments and your vote. We may not end up choosing the cover that gets the most votes, but we are very interested in your thoughts. Also, after a couple of days we will pick one of you at random and offer you your choice of any two ebook titles, in either Mobipocket (Kindle), EPUB (iOS), or PDF.[Tweet “Help pick the cover for @Reformation21 blogger Jeremy Walker’s book. Might win 2 other books!”]

While you’re here, you might like to get a sense of what this book will be like. So feel free to take a look at the draft introduction below, complete with British spellings (for now). Or visit the book page, where you can also preorder.

Click read the draft Introduction

INTRODUCTION

In his great treatment of spiritual warfare, The Christian in Complete Armour, the Puritan author William Gurnall speaks of what he calls “catechize-points.” These, he says, are “truths necessary to be known and believed.”[i] The truths upon which I wish to focus in this short book provide us with a stunning display of grace. They are truths which with Christians need to be thoroughly acquainted, truths with which pastors must thoroughly acquaint the people whom they serve. These are the paths to walk so that you do not miss your way to heaven, nor fail to honour the Lord God along the way. These are the anchor points of the faith that mature Christians need to point out to the generations following us. These are spiritual realities to reckon with. These are the gospel verities that must be defended against the errors and heresies that repeatedly threaten to undermine or overwhelm them, either by force or by fraud.

These are central truths. They cannot be pushed to one side or downplayed without restricting our views of God and twisting our views of self. They are determinative, in large measure, for our views of Christian experience, life, duty and joy. They help to define our gospel witness as the church of Jesus Christ. Get these wrong and so much else will be immediately and persistently skewed.

These are humbling truths. They strip away all the boasting to which proud and rebellious man is inclined. With searing honesty they make us face the facts about our own sinful hearts, our spiritual need and our utter dependence on the mercies and favours of God acting freely and graciously in accordance with all his glorious character and infinite being. They are truths that necessarily empty us of self before they fill us with Christ.

These are saving truths. These things are the ground of our hope. Fail to reckon with these things, and there is no deliverance for our souls and bodies. Again, there is a holy progression and a divine logic at work. Like a sick man, we must acknowledge the disease and accept the diagnosis in order to pursue the physician and obtain the medicine. With regard to our souls, we will not flee to Christ as Saviour until we are brought to acknowledge the salvation that we need as found in him alone. Then, and only then, do we run to him and hide ourselves in him and find all our joy.

These are comforting truths. Here the soul—however stained or troubled in itself, however weak and feeble we know ourselves to be or fear ourselves to be, whatever challenges and obstacles we face, whatever trials and temptations lie before us—finds all that it will ever need. Here and here only we can rest in peace.

Finally, these are God-glorifying truths. They exalt God in Christ, they make much of him, they draw attention to his person and they shed light upon his work. Here his being and his doing are made manifest. Nowhere outside of salvation through the Lamb do we find such a high and clear revelation of who God is and what God is like. Here the glory of God shines in his grace as nowhere else, prompting lives of earnest service and songs of ardent praise.

My intention is simply to survey some of these fundamental truths—God’s display of his grace—in order that we might feel their sweet force for ourselves. In each instance, I will take what might be called an ‘epitomising text’—a short portion of God’s Word which encapsulates something of the truth in question. I hope to demonstrate that it is by no means the only Scripture that proves the point, and so to bring to bear something of the whole counsel of God upon the matter. My great concern is both to explain and to apply these truths. My intention is not first to be polemical, but I trust that as we see these truths springing from the pages of our Bibles it will be persuasive, to direct us and confirm us and encourage us in the things that God has made known. We must see that these are not dead letters, but spiritual realities that ought to grip our souls and govern our thoughts and deeds.

In so doing, I trust we shall be instructed, humbled, saved and comforted, and bring glory and honour to the God of our salvation as he holds before us in his word a display of his grace in Christ Jesus, his Son and our Saviour.

[i] William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour, 166.

[Tweet “”Fail to reckon with these things,” says Jeremy Walker, “and there is no deliverance for our souls and bodies.””]

 

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The Return of Cruciform Press

The return of Cruciform Press (1)

by Kevin, Tim, and Bob

Welcome to our all-new website and the “return” of Cruciform Press!

No, we never actually went away, but having put up with our original site for much longer than we wanted, we are thrilled to finally offer you a clean and simple e-commerce experience, great new book-display pages, several exciting subscription options, and various other goodies…including this blog.

So here we are, five and a half years after launching with just two books: Sexual Detox, by Tim Challies; and Wrestling with an Angel, by Greg Lucas. Today we offer 37 titles, with five more slated to be released by the end of the year. Every one of them is explicitly gospel-centered, easy to read, and weighing in at right around 100 pages.

We insist on keeping our books short, clear, and to the point for a couple of reasons.

  • First, the internet has made us all accustomed to reading more, but at the same time we’ve been trained to want things quick, fast, bite-size. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, but neither is it going to change anytime soon. We decided to accept that reality and give people the theological truth they need in small, inspiring, accessible packages.
  • The second reason is partially related to the first: Even when you love reading books, most of us are so busy (with ministry, church, school, work, marriage, family, or all of the above) that it seems like we don’t have much opportunity. At the same time, many of the best Christian titles, whether from a few years or a few centuries ago, can be long and often repetitive, making it hard to commit to plowing through them.

That’s why we’re all about consistency. If a book is from us, you can be sure it’s not only the same dimensions and price as all the others, it’s also right around 100 pages in length and featuring solid, gospel-focused theology in writing that we strive to make accessible to everyday people. And just so it’s super-easy for you to get good material on a regular basis, we offer subscriptions that deliver you six books a year for the lowest possible price.

It comes down to this: with Cruciform, you can keep growing and deepening your faith and your understanding of the gospel with minimal expense and in small chunks of time, efficiently used.[Tweet “Cruciform Press is “back” with an all-new website and some great features!”]

So while you’re here, please take a look around. Get to know the great features and options we’ve made available for you on this website, and consider signing up for the newsletter or taking advantage of one of our subscription offerings.

Thanks for helping us celebrate the return of Cruciform Press!