How to Settle Your Soul After an Unsettling Year | Influence Podcast


This past year was an unsettling one. I like to think of it as the Year of Three Ps: pandemic, protests, and politics. Each one fomented conflict, but taken together, they were a conflict force multiplier. And that doesn’t even taken into account the normal stressors we face every year.

How can followers of Jesus Christ experience settled souls in the midst of unsettling times? That’s the question I’m talking about with Dr. Jodi Detrick in this episode of the Influence Podcast. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

Dr. Detrick is a personal coach, public speaker, and most recently author of The Settled Soul: Tenaciously Abiding with a Tender God, published by Gospel Publishing House. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, she loves to talk to people at the heart level about things that matter most.

P.S. This podcast is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

Jesus the Great Philosopher | Book Review


In the 1920s and 30s, European archaeologists excavated the Roman colony of Dura-Europos in eastern Syria. Sassanid Persians laid siege to the city in 256 A.D., so residents prepared its defense by stuffing soil and debris into the houses and rooms built into the city walls. To no avail, unfortunately, at least in terms of the city, which was defeated and never rebuilt. Seventeen hundred years later, however, the archaeologists uncovered a treasure trove of art and artifacts, all protected by the very soil and debris that had proved so useless against the besieging Sassanids.

One of those treasures was a house church decorated with frescoes of scenes from the Gospels. Interestingly, in all those scenes, the artist depicted Jesus as wearing the clothes and hairstyle, and standing in the typical posture, of a philosopher. Which poses the question:

Have you accepted Jesus as your personal philosopher?

If that question seems strange to you, it’s probably because you think of a philosopher as a tweedy Ivy League professor — no doubt an atheist! — talking in academic jargon about highly speculative questions that no one in real life ever even asks.

Regardless of whether that’s an accurate picture of contemporary philosophy — and in my experience as a college philosophy major, it’s not — that’s certainly not the way the ancient world thought about philosophy. As Jonathan T. Pennington writes in Jesus the Great Philosopher:

On the contrary, philosophy was the necessary bedrock for individuals and society. Philosophy in the ancient world was the lodestar, the scaffolding, the guide by which humans could experience true happiness; it was the vision for life itself. Philosophy provided the vision for the Good and the goodness of life.

Once you understand philosophy that way, as a vision for life itself, it makes perfect sense to see Jesus as a great philosopher — the Great Philosopher, in truth. To follow Him is to live out His wisdom in every area of your life. And didn’t He say, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10)? If Christ didn’t come to offer us a partial life, why in the world would any of us settle for one?

Unfortunately, many Christians do exactly that because they have an attenuated understanding of what Christianity is. Instead of a philosophy for the whole of life, they see it as a religion, as a doctrine of salvation, as something that pertains to the spiritual life.

According to Pennington, the problem with this attenuated understanding is fourfold:

  1. “Our Christian faith is often disconnected from other aspects of our human lives.”
  2. “We naturally look to other sources — alternative gurus — to give us the wisdom needed to live flourishing lives, to find the Good Life.”
  3. “We have stopped asking a set of big questions that Holy Scripture is seeking to answer—questions about how the world really works, and how to live in it.”
  4. “We limit our witness to the world.”

In order to correct this wrongheaded interpretation of Christianity, Pennington surveys the “big ideas” of the Old and New Testaments, then examines how the philosophy of Jesus educates our emotions, restores our relationships, and prepare us to live happy, human lives. As he does this, he compares and contrasts Christianity with alternative philosophies, both ancient (the ones the writers of Scripture engaged) and modern (the ones we do).

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself at this point, It sounds like Pennington is just reducing Jesus to another philosopher, teacher, or guru. That’s not who Jesus is, according to Scriptures! And you’re right, of course, that’s not who Jesus is. At least not merely. Christ is God Incarnate, a truth that Pennington affirms.

But that truth about the Christ the Incarnate Word doesn’t lessen the importance of acknowledging Jesus as your personal philosopher — it deepens it! Here’s how Pennington puts it:

In comparison with the Christian philosophy, all other views on relationships, emotions, and happiness are fractional and incomplete (and sometimes just flat wrong). Or to think of it constructively, because Jesus is the actual Logos — the organizing principle of the world, the agent of creation, the being that holds the whole universe together — this means that his philosophy alone is whole, complete, and really true.

Several decades ago, Evangelism Explosion popularized the diagnostic question, “Have you come to the place in your life where you know that if you died, you would go to heaven?” It’s a good question, obviously, but most of us have a lot of living before we die. So perhaps, in addition to that question about our eternal destiny, we should also ask this one about our temporal circumstances: “Have you come to the place in your life where you know how to live life to the full?”

Jesus does, so let us hold fast to his philosophy.

Book Reviewed
Jonathan T. Pennington, Jesus the Great Philosopher: Rediscovering the Wisdom Needed for the Good Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2020).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com.

Outrage Culture vs. Gentle Jesus | Influence Podcast


In late 2014, Slate magazine published a series of articles under the title, “The Year of Outrage.” If anything, the outrage in America has only worsened since then. Even Christians have jumped onto the outrage train. The results haven’t been pretty, for either society generally or churches specifically.

What would Jesus do? And how should Christians follow His example? Scott Sauls thinks gentleness is the answer to both questions: “Jesus has been gentle toward us,” he writes, “so we have good reason to become gentle toward others, including those who treat us like enemies.”

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to Pastor Sauls about how Jesus’ gentleness is the antithesis of outrage culture. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host. Scott Sauls is senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and author of A Gentle Answer: Our “Secret Weapon” in an Age of Us Against Them, published in June by Thomas Nelson.

How to Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry from Your Life and Ministry | Influence Podcast


John Mark Comer lived many pastors’ dream. He led a growing congregation (adding 1,000 adherents annually for seven years running) in the Pacific Northwest (one of the nation’s most secular regions). You’d think he’d be happy, but he wasn’t. He was burnt out, enduring most pastors’ nightmare.

Busyness, which according to Comer is “where your life is full with things that matter,” wasn’t the problem. The problem was hurriedness, “when you have too much to do and the only way to keep the quota up is to hurry.” Jesus was busy, but He never hurried. Hurry is of the devil.

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I’m talking to John Mark Comer about how to ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life and ministry. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

John Mark Comer is pastor for teaching and vision at Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon, whose mission is to practice the way of Jesus, together, in Portland. He is also author of The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, published by Waterbrook.

A Festschrift of Sorts for N.T. Wright by Critics Who Are Also Friends


 Nicholas Perrin and Richard B. Hays, Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011). $24.00, 294 pages.

Jesus, Paul and the People of God publishes the papers presented at the nineteenth annual Wheaton Theology Conference, hosted by Wheaton College on April 16–17, 2010. It doubles as a Festschrift of sorts for N. T. “Tom” Wright, whose books—whether academic or popular—alternatively influence and infuriate their readers, especially their evangelical readers. Its authors, though sometimes critical of Wright’s theology, are also personal friends.

The book, like the conference, examined Wright’s theology of Jesus (Part One) and his theology of Paul (Part Two). Following each chapter, Wright offers a short response to the author of the chapter. At the end of each part, Wright outlines the evolution to date of his thinking, using a “whence and whither” formula. The book includes a “Subject Index” and a “Scripture Index,” both of which are helpful for academic readers. A select bibliography of Wright’s books and articles would have been helpful, but it is not included.

For me, Wright’s two “whence and whither” essays were worth the price of the book. Wright is a prolific author. His three-volume series, Christians Origins and the Question of God, contains 2,016 pages of densely argued prose. The “whence and whither” essays helped me understand the gist of Wright’s portrait of Jesus, how he reached his conclusions, and how those conclusions apply to the life of the church today.

Of the other essays, two stood out to me in particular: “‘Outside of a Small Circle of Friends’: Jesus and the Justice of God” by Sylvia C. Keesmaat and Brian J. Walsh and “Wrighting the Wrongs of the Reformation? The State of the Union with Christ in St. Paul and Protestant Soteriology.” The former offered a provocative (and controversial) reading of Jesus’ Parable of the Pounds that got me thinking about economic justice. The latter helped me navigate the debate between Wright and John Piper on the doctrine of justification by faith and suggested “union with Christ” as a point of rapprochement between the traditional Protestant doctrine and Wright’s own interpretation of justification.

Jesus, Paul and the People of God makes an excellent companion volume to InterVarsity Press’s book, Jesus and the Restoration of Israel: A Critical Assessment of N. T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God (1999). If you are interested in the critical assessment of Wright’s work, especially from an evangelical point of view, these two volumes are a good place to start.

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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