May 19, 2010

It's almost here!!

Hello Dojo readers,

I wanted to let you all know that my Revelation DVD course is about to be released! Here's a low-res preview version of the Leader Intro from the first disc.

I've worked really hard on this DVD set and I've been determined that it be the best, most engaging and most affordable in-depth study of the book of Revelation on the market! Please tell your Pastor, Deacon, Bishop, small group leader, Christian Education Director, Sunday School Teacher or Campus Minister to order a copy! The first 10 people who pre-order before June 1st get free shipping! (Email to place a pre-order)

Thanks for all the support, everyone. And a special thanks to Americus First UMC in Americus, GA for hosting the study!


April 27, 2010

More resources I've released...spread the word!

I've just released the entire "Apocalypse Now??" course on audio CD in a 10-disc set that people can now purchase. The cost is $35 (plus P&H). Here's a description of the course:

War in the Middle-East! One-world Government! Tsunamis! Earthquakes! Are we living in the “Last Days”? Is Armageddon right around the corner? What does the Bible teach about all this? Is the Apocalypse at hand?? Questions like these concern what theologians call “eschatology”, that is, study of the end-times. In this course James-Michael Smith leads participants through a survey of various ways Christians have looked at the end times and the relevant Biblical passages. Challenging popular misconceptions put forth by the media (both Christian and secular), “Apocalypse Now??” will equip the reader of Scripture to understand and interpret the Bible’s teaching on eschatology in a thoughtful and reflective manner and read Scripture on its own terms rather than through the lens of modern imagination. Regardless of one’s end-time views, this course will challenge as well as edify the believer in their walk with the God who controls all human history!

I'll be releasing my Revelation DVDs soon as well! Stay tuned for more details.

To order any of my current available DVD/CD resources, use the Paypal button below:


April 21, 2010

Apocalypse Now?? - weeks 1-8 available for download now!!

Weeks 1-8 of my 10-week course on End Times called "Apocalypse Now??" are available to listen to online or download into iTunes!

If you haven't had a chance to take this class, you can follow along or subscribe to the podcast at

There are other messages available there as well. Check it out...and tell you're friends!!


April 13, 2010

Need help getting rid of 2 EXCELLENT resources!

In the ongoing effort to keep my Biblical languages up, I recently got a copy of Zondervan's Reader's Hebrew and Greek Bible.

I had the original Reader's Hebrew Bible and Reader's Greek New Testament separately, but I found that I didn't use them very often because I didn't want to have to carry around both books. Now that I've got the 1-volume version, I'd like to get rid of the separate volumes. They're in practically brand new condition (except for a couple of pencil notes and highlighted words here and there) and I'd love to get them in the hands of someone who would use them. They're perfect resources for keeping your Hebrew and/or Greek up, as each page contains glosses at the bottom for words that occur less frequently. And the bindings are that sweet Italian Duo-Tone that feels so nice in your hands! :)

I'd love it if I could get $20 for the NT and $30 for the OT. (They retail at $34.99 and $49.99 respectively...what a bargain!) You could pay through paypal and I'd ship them at no charge.

Any takers?

First come, first serve. Lemme know at

They really are great resources!

April 8, 2010

The Gospel and modern Judaism

Here's the video link from my latest Examiner article on the subject

April 7, 2010

What are the 'Bible Codes'?

Are there really secret codes embedded in the Biblical texts which, by using computers, we can now decode in order to gain insight into current world events?

Find out HERE...

The 3-Legged Stool of Dating...

April 1, 2010

Next batch of "Bible for the Rest of Us" available!

I just released my next batch of my "Bible for the Rest of Us" DVD course after selling the first 50 I had printed up.


...I've lowered the price.

Now EVERYONE gets the original alumni price of $50.00!


So, those of you who couldn't afford the original $100 price for the course (which was STILL a bargain!), now you have no excuse whatsoever! So order your copy today before this batch sells out as well!

And if you don't know what "Bible for the Rest of Us" is, go here


March 28, 2010

A preview of my upcoming DVD series...

From the back cover:

"Revelation is easily the most widely-misunderstood
and confusing book in the entire Bible. And for many,
it's the scariest!

Is Revelation a detailed map of political world events
that we are currently experiencing? Or is it a symbolic
allegory describing the general triumph of God over
evil? Or. . . is it something else entirely?

Ironically, Revelation was originally written to make
things clear to 1st century Christians!

In this DVD course James-Michael Smith leads viewers
through the Book of Revelation, focusing on the people
and events to whom the book was originally written.
Only when one sees what Revelation said to the original
hearers are we then prepared to step back and see
what this mysterious and misunderstood apocalyptic
text has to say to the people of God throughout the ages.

And--perhaps just as important--what it doesn't say."

March 26, 2010

A spoken-word message that I couldn't agree with more!

As someone who loves hip hop/spoken word AND believes that the folk-theology behind the teaching of modern Rapture proponents is extremely unbiblical, I was overjoyed to find the following video online:

It's by T. Michael Halcomb, a Ph.D candidate at Asbury Theological Seminary. Check out his site, for more of his videos and resources.


March 12, 2010

'Under God' upheld in what?

'Under God' upheld in what?

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Best book on Revelation I've ever read

Hey everyone,

I just finished reading the BEST book on Revelation that I have ever come across HANDS DOWN! (And since that's an area I've specialized in over the past decade of study, I don't wholeheartedly endorse whole books on it flippantly). I wanted to share it with the Dojo readers.

If you want to understand the structure, themes, message and RELEVANCY of this most enigmatic book of the Bible, get your hands on a copy of Craig Koester's "Revelation and the End of All Things." You won't be sorry.

It's rare that a book combines the guided tour of a commentary with the literary phrasing of a devotional. Koester's book accomplishes both in my opinion.


March 2, 2010

The Dojo...on your iPod!!

Hey everyone, as you can tell from the above audio player at the top of your screen, I've found an online service that allows me to publish audio messages for people to listen to online or download right into iTunes. This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time!

So take a moment, head over to and download to your heart's content! And talk it up to others. I may not have the online listenership of John Piper or Tim Keller...but it'd be nice if someone other than immediate family members were encouraged through my teaching! :)

And as always, if you'd like to bring me in to teach or speak at your church, ministry, school or even small group, don't hesitate to send a request to me at


ps: And don't forget, I get paid for daily traffic to my examiner click on 'em frequently!

March 1, 2010

Another civil discussion about abortion (again, YES it can happen!)

Here is the second discussion I had last week on Facebook regarding the subject of abortion. For the first discussion, click here


James-Michael Smith:
More food for thought..."Even though we do not qualify or disqualify something as a person on the basis of what it can or can’t do, it’s still worth noting that fetuses display aspects of their personal nature while still in the womb."

Again, another omission: women were not seen as persons in their own right for most of history. And there are still many who continue to chip away at that personhood.

This is definitely true. I notice personality traits in Noah now that he had while he was still in my tummy. And he makes some of the same faces that he did in the 3D ultrasound. It's pretty amazing.

I don't think it's an omission, so much as an assumption. Of course women have been denied personhood (as have black people, Jews, Hutus, Serbs, Aboriginies, Native Americans, etc.). I think this is why the early pioneer feminists such as Susan B. Anthony were so vehement in their denunciation of abortion; it continued denying personhood to the most vulnerable persons in society (an around the world more females than males are aborted due to continued misogynistic practices and cultures). This is why, I believe, groups like Feminists for Life ( are so important in the abortion debate.

I would love to see the pro-life movement really explore women's personhood. I find that aspect often neglected. (And now, since abortion discussions are some of my least favorite ones to have, I will excuse myself.) :-)

I agree on both points, Katey. Pro-life should (and its best proponents do) seek to consistently fight the root causes that enable abortion-on-demand to be an option. More than picketing and rhetoric are required (though both of those were instrumental in both the abolition and women suffrage movements, and shouldn't be jettisoned).

I also agree that the conversation about abortion is not always comfortable. And while I respect your desire to not continue discussing it, I'm of the opinion that ALL opposition to culturally-condoned social injustices (be it abortion, apartheid or sex-trafficking) will result in uncomfortable and unpleasant conversation, but conversation that is necessary if people's views are to be challenged and ultimately changed.

Thanks for your comments!

I'm beginning to lose hope that there truly is any common ground in discussions about abortion. It often seems like it comes down to a discomfort with women's sexuality. Opposition to abortion is often teemed with a resistance to comprehensive sexuality education, access to contraception, etc. Although I am in favor of abortion rights, I do believe... See More that we all should be working towards a world in which the situations that cause women to choose abortion are reduced significantly. That's why my current work is focused on increasing access to family planning for women around the globe.

So, it's not about discomfort for me as it is feeling like I'm often beating my head against the wall!

I think it's only the loudest (and most extreme) voices that find no common ground, Katey. That's why I constantly refer people to thoughtful opponents of abortion-on-demand who are in no way anti-woman (such as FFL). I think, as pro-life feminists have argued from the beginning of the movement, that abortion-on-demand actually works against women's rights and full-personhood because it implies that the 'solution' for women in responding to pregnancy is to 'be free' to act like a man (i.e. abandon the child with as few consequences as possible) instead of focusing on how to make men more accountible for upholding and honoring the parental role and responsibility a pregnancy should naturally entail.

I also agree that family planning is crucial (as do most abortion opponents I know); we just believe that once a life has begun, ending it willfully and not in an act of self-defense is not a viable option, anymoreso than the cultural practices of infanticed via exposure and abandonment.

Katey, very eloquently put. It's not an easy topic. Absolutely, i agree that access to family planning is pivotal. Sex education is pivotal. I, too, support choice, but think the reduction of the need by education is where it's at. it It's incredibly difficult to find common ground.

JMS, I find the site you've listed...I'm not sure..not necessarily thoughtful. Some of the medical references are sketchy, and the strident tone seem patriarchal and frankly, anti-woman. Hey, that's just me though.

The site's author is probably more conservative (culturally speaking) than I am and as a result, likely not as intentionally sensitive to such issues. Frankly, Evangelicals in general have been unbalanced and ill-equipped in the debate on abortion--often relying on slogans and fervor at the expense of empathy and respect. It's something that many of us lament and seek to remedy. But I agree with the site's casting the issue in what I believe is the correct context; that of a human-rights issue rather than a "religious" issue. That's why I also encourage people to check out non-evangelical approaches such as:

Libertarians for Life

Atheists and Agnostics for Life

and of course Feminists for Life

Here's a great quote from the following article that articulates where I stand:

"What would make abortion unnecessary? Flexible school situations, freedom from stigma, fairness in hiring, more flex-time, part-time, and home-commute jobs, better access to prenatal and obstetric care, attractive adoption opportunities, a whole garden of safe family planning choices, support in learning how to handle our sex lives responsibly, and help with child care and parenting when we choose to keep our babies: this is a partial list. Yet these changes will never come as long as we're lying down on abortion tables 1,600,000 times a year to ensure the status quo. We've adapted to this surgical substitute, to the point that Justice Blackmun could write in his Webster dissent, "Millions of women have ordered their lives around" abortion. That we have willingly ordered our lives around a denigrating surgical procedure--accepted it as the price we must pay to keep our life plans intact--is an ominous sign."

I will explore these sites as I seek to understand both "sides" of the issue.

I've always admired the late Justice Harry Blackmun. Unfortunately, I feel the particular quote is somewhat taken out of context, plus, after research, I do not find that he issued a dissent in this case, rather the opposite, nor can i find that quote anywhere online in legal documentation.
However, that does not mean it doesn't exist.

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

And thanks to you, Melissa for good discussion on an important and often-incendiary issue!

February 28, 2010

A civil discussion about abortion (yes, it can happen!)

Last week I posted two links on Facebook to articles at A few of my friends on Facebook, two of whom are Pro-choice, responded. What ensued was a really good discussion of a really controversial issue. Too often such conversations devolve into demonizing, stereotyping and other generally unhelpful tactics. I wanted to share these two conversations because the did not involve any of those things. Hopefully they can serve as a model for future discussion that is honest, challenging and fair.

The discussion is copied below:


James-Michael Smith - Food for thought...

It's a real shame that this article does not address poverty. Women of color are in poverty at incredibly disproportionate rates, a factor which often influences their decision to abort.

True. Poverty is definitely a factor that can't be denied.

there's a section on that site (which i think is mostly wack, frankly) - which kind of refers to the poverty issue in a very snide way, along with rape - on which the site's writers' stance is unacceptable to me. This does not encourage helpful dialogue on the topic (the site, not you, jms)

Melissa, are you referring to their stance on rape or their stance on abortion not being an acceptable solution to pregnancies which may result from rape? I'm familiar with their stance on the latter, but not the former.

JMS, sorry..i was not clear..referring to their stance on abortion not being an acceptable solution or option to pregnancies which may result from rape.

Gotcha. Yes, that's definitely where we differ then. Those of us who oppose abortion-on-demand see abortion after rape-based-conception as doing violence to both victims of the crime (mother and child--one fatally!) and thus only compounding the problem. It prevents the highest good from coming out of the worst of situations. The perpetrator of... See More the crime should be brought to justice and the community should rally around and support his two (or more) victims, ensuring that they are cared for physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. This is what all my fellow Christians who oppose abortion-on-demand should champion. Anything less is hypocritical and not truly "pro-life."

As an aside, almost every pro-life piece of legislation ever suggested makes exceptions in cases of rape and incest, in addition to the mother's life being in danger. And since these make up less than 3% of all abortions performed in the US annually, many abortion-opponents would be content with allowing for those options.

Another thing for the pro-life community to take on then: ending violence against women and girls in every situation. I'd love to see a partnership with Eve Ensler and V-Day!

I agree; these issues are essential human rights issues. Often it's hard though because supporters of feminist issues are hostile to those who oppose abortion-on-demand and vice-versa. This is where the issue gets complicated by one's politics and worldview. Injustice should be exposed and opposed in all its manifestations though, whether against women in the home, the school...or the womb.

Could you define what you mean by "abortion on demand"? It sounds too much like "movies on demand" in my opinion--like something done non-nonchalantly or without forethought. Or, I picture women banging on clinic doors.

yes, Katey. that would be a powerful alliance.

The rape issue is particularly disturbing to me since it is and has been used a tool of war and genocide.

per Amnesty International's information on violence against women..."Many acts of sexual violence - including rape, gang rape, abduction and sexual slavery, forced marriage, *forced pregnancy, forced maternity*, and sexual mutilation - constitute torture under customary international law. These acts are considered war crimes and constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Convention."

it's a tough subject.

Yeah, this is why it's hard for me to support Amnesty Int'l. Forced pregnancy is a crime for sure. But "forced maternity" ASSUMES that the destruction of life in the womb is not equally as oppressive and one not being allowed to do so is tantamount to torture, war crimes, etc. This, IMO, is a fundamental logical inconsistency on the part of AI ... See Moreand hinders many who would otherwise support them wholeheartedly from doing so in good conscience.

I had this discussion with a friend at my campus ministry in college. She couldn't understand why I wasn't an enthusiastic supporter of AI. But it's basically the same reason I couldn't enthusiastically vote for Obama (see the following blog entry where I discussed this with Arrested Development's frontman, Speech, for more on that!

A lot of people aren't down with AI, and sometimes they (AI) go over the top in areas, but- in this one I'll have to peacefully disagree about the logical inconsistency.

however, i completely respect your again, well thought out take on your beliefs and am going to read your talk with Speech now...


^ That's a rhetorically poor move on the part of the lawmaker. But I assume the logic is that if you prohibit abortion in general, but allow it in cases of rape, in order to keep people who weren't raped but wanted to get an abortion for reasons aside from life-endangerment (which can be verified by a doctor for instance) from simply claiming rape... See More exemption, they must be willing to testify that they were indeed the victim of rape in a legally binding sense. I think it's an ill-worded attempt to close what could be seen as a loophole.

Also, to clarify, Katey (and anyone else reading this), "Abortion-on-demand" is the term used to describe legally unrestricted allowance for abortion--abortion as a constitutional "right"--as opposed to abortion in the 'hard cases' (such as rape, incest or danger to the mother's life). All pro-life advocates oppose abortion-on-demand, but hold varying views on some of the hard cases.

fair enough...i think even pro choice people(me) cringe at "abortion on demand" like "cable on demand" as a terminology or buzzwod/phrasek, but ...the cases as we've cited in the conversation make the area very..grey. the article Katey links...Barbara Boxer has a point (in my book)...

what a beautiful, wonderful discussion. It is open and respectful dialogue like this that our society, politicians and media often do not promote. We can have no dialogue when we are entrenched in our "pro-choice"/ "pro-life" labels that are pitted against each other.

It is dialogues like this that go beyond the labels to pick apart the real issues (not the black and white facade of an issue)...with that we are really able to listen to each other.

Katey's original point about poverty is well taken. Any attempt to curb abortion-on-demand (or, as I call it, abortion for convenience) is faulty if it does not address issues of poverty. ... See More

Though my stance on abortion is very similar to JMS' I did vote for Obama and I wrote about why in my note.
(I think you should be able to access that...)

I wish more people were like you all, so we could have real dialogue and understanding about such important issues!

Stay tuned for the second discussion we had...


Is Chile's earthquake a 'sign of the End'?

Is Chile's earthquake a 'sign of the End'?

February 22, 2010

No room for spiritual Lone Rangers

My church, Good Shepherd, is currently in the middle of a series called "WE" which is all about community and its central role in the Christian life. So when I came across the following quote on this subject while prepping for my upcoming weekend seminar on the Book of Revelation (which I'll be teaching March 19-21 at Americus First UMC in GA), I thought it was one of the best statements on the subject I've ever come across:

The gospel is never for individuals but always for a people. Sin fragments us, separates us, and sentences us to solitary confinement. Gospel restores us, unites us, and sets us in community. The life of faith revealed and nurtured in the biblical narratives is highly personal but never merely individual: always there is a family, a tribe, a nation – church.… A believing community is the context for the life of faith…. Love cannot exist in isolation: away from others, love bloats into pride. Grace cannot be received privately: cut off from others it is perverted into greed. Hope cannot develop in solitude: separated from the community, it goes to seed in the form of fantasies.

--Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, pp.42-43

I found the quote in Ben Witherington's excellent commentary on Revelation (a work which I highly recommend!).

Walking together...

February 16, 2010

Finished the best NT theology book I've ever read

Some of you may remember that I've been reading the late G.B. Caird's "New Testament Theology" (here's my initial post on it). I bought it years ago when I saw it on sale for 50% off in a bookstore and it sat on my shelf until I recently picked it back up for some unknown reason.

That reason may well have been the prompting of the Holy Spirit...because this is the most refreshing and insightful book I've read on the NT in...well...ever!

I should be clear that this doesn't mean I always agree with Caird's conclusions. But despite occasional areas of difference, I was simply blown away by how much Caird brings out of the NT's teaching as a whole and if I were a professor I would have this on my required reading list.

Here is, in my opinion, one of the best passages in the entire book as far as summary goes. It comes from the last two paragraphs of the last chapter of the book:

Thus we come to the end of our journey. For Jesus, Israel had been called to be the saved and saving nation, the agent through whom God intended to assert His sovereignty over the rest of the world; the time had arrived when God was summoning the nation once and for all to take its place in His economy as the Son of Man. If the nation would not listen, it must pay the price; but at least Jesus, and anyone else who would share it with him, must fulfill the national destiny. The light to the Gentiles, the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, the son who clings to his Father for his very life, the king who ransoms the people for whom he must stand as surety, and the servant who dies for the many, fill out his picture of Israel as God intended it to be. So deeply does he love his nation, so fully is he identified with its life, so bitterly does he regret what he sees coming upon it, that only death can silence his reiterated and disturbing appeal. He goes to his death at the hands of a Roman judge on a charge of which he was innocent and of which his accusers, as the event proved, were guilty. And so, not only in theological truth but in historic fact, the one bore the sins of the many, confident that in him the entire Jewish nation was being nailed to the Cross, only to come to life again in a better resurrection, and that the Day of the Son of Man which would see the end of the old Israel would also see the vindication of the new.
And if the theology of the New Testament began with ways in which Jesus thought and spoke about himself and his people, it was precisely because, as the agent appointed by God to be the fulfillment of Israel's destiny, he later came to be recognized, first as the fulfiller of the destiny of the human race, and then, in consequence, as the bearer of a more-than-human authority and the embodiment of a more-than-human wisdom.
If anyone is looking for a summary of the New Testament's teaching, particularly focused on the person and work of Jesus, Caird's "New Testament Theology" should be at the top of your resource list. It's worth every penny of its admittedly hefty pricetag! (Though you can find it for half, or even a third of print cost here)

Brown student meets Jerry Falwell...

Check out my review of Kevin Roose's "The Unlikely Disciple"

And if you enjoy it, you'll also enjoy my review of Daniel Radosh's "Rapture Ready"


February 4, 2010

Ultimate Fighting...Jesus??

Ultimate Fighting...Jesus??

An article I wrote on the recent NY Times cover story about churches using MMA to reach men with the Gospel.

Also, New Testament scholar Scot McKnight was kind enough to re-post it on his blog, Jesus Creed.

January 31, 2010

Christians arrested for taking orphans from Haiti

Christians arrested for taking orphans from Haiti

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You really CAN teach an old Dawg new tricks!!

I'd like to give a big shout-out to my fellow GA Bulldog Herschel Walker for not only stepping into the MMA cage for the first time tonight...but for doing it at the age of 47 (when most other pro athletes are playing golf or marketing 'as seen on TV' products!).

Not only did Herschel compete, though. He won in dominant fashion! The associated press reports:

Former NFL star Herschel Walker stopped Hungarian fighter Greg Nagy in the third round Saturday night to win his mixed-martial arts debut. Walker drove Nagy into the fence early in the third. After a flurry of punches, referee Troy Waugh called the fight.

"The experience was exciting," Walker said. "This is the hardest thing I've ever done."

Still trim and fit at 47, Walker used his strength advantage to wear down the 26-year-old Nagy (1-2). He appeared to be close to the win near the end of the second five-minute round, but Nagy managed to extend the bout.

Walker was the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner while at Georgia and played professionally for Dallas, Philadelphia, Minnesota, the New York Giants and the USFL's New Jersey Generals.

In his football days, Walker dropped jaws with a workout regimen that included upwards of 3,000 situps and pushups everyday. He also holds a fifth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Walker, a 1992 U.S. Olympian in the two-man bobsled, turned his attention to MMA about 2½ months ago when he moved to San Jose, Calif., to train at renowned American Kickboxing Academy.

Herschel said from the beginning that any proceeds from the fight would go to charity...which means that some fortunate charity will be receiving a pretty big check!

Congrats from the Discipleship Dojo, Herschel!

You did the Dawgs, the state of Georgia, and dedicated martial artists everywhere proud tonight.

January 23, 2010

What I'm reading

I'm always reading 4 or 5 books at any given time, so I thought it'd be a good idea to share some of them with the Dojo readers.

Right now I'm reading "New Testament Theology" by the late Oxford scholar G.B. Caird. The book carries a hefty price tag, but you can access much of it for free HERE. Caird was one of the greatest NT scholars who ever lived and has influenced many of the top scholars in the field today. His commentary on Revelation (now out of print) is one of the best I've ever read. And reading "New Testament Theology" is like sitting in a seminary classroom once again. The way Caird wove together the overall teaching of the NT on various topics is nothing short of majestic. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

The will of God is, as we have seen, an ambiguous concept. It is interesting therefore to find the distinction between God's antecedent and His consequent will draqwn, though without technical terms, in the Marcan debate about divorce (10:1-9). Moses permitted divorce, and Jesus never for a moment suggests that he was wrong to do so; the Law of Moses is God's Law. But the commandment in questions (Deut. 24:1-4) was given in consequence of human hardness of heart to protect the rights of women and the institutions of marriage and family. Jesus penetrates behind the positive Law to the intention of God the Creator that man and woman should live together in lifelong partnership. He is not initiating a new and harsher Law, but is insisting that the Torah will be wrongly interpreted unless it is constantly referred back to the intention of God who gave it. [p.47]

Jesus is first left with the Twelve, doubtful even of their allegiance, and is then deserted by them so that in the end he stands alone; and the whole world, including the disciples, stands under the judgment of having rejected the light or of having received it with only a half-hearted faith. it is at this point that Jesus' hour arrives, when he must realize the judgment of God, not by executing it on others, but by bearing it himself. If their condition is such that they cannot come to the light and so join him where he abides in the bosom of the Father, he can join them where they are, under the judgment of God and in the death which is the wages of sin...By accepting a death in which he could be identified with sinful men and women, Jesus drew all into the unity of his own person, so that the judgment by light, under which the world stood utterly condemned, became instead the means of the world's salvation; and Satan, who appeared to have won a total victory, entitling him to claim possession of all unbelieving humanity, suffered instead a total defeat. [pp.79-80]

He [Satan] tempts people to do wrong, not because it is wrong, but because it appears to be right. [p.110]

To be pardoned by God is to live no longer by one's merits buy by His grace. Those who insist on dealing with others according to their deserts betray their own inability to comprehend the meaning of grace and therefore their incapacity to receive pardon. The forgiving spirit is a condition not of God's offer of pardon but of our receiving it. To refuse to forgive is to refuse to be forgiven. The elder brother must share the feast with the prodigal, not have one to himself. [p.116] all the annals of human vice, no power is as destructive or demonic as perverted sincerity. [p.147]

Retaliation wins a victory for wrongdoing, by recruiting the victim into the army of hatred and violence. Wrong propagates itself by chain-reaction, and can be stopped in its career only by someone who absorbs it and lets it go no further. [p.156]

In the death of Christ the love of God has been manifested, but only in order to be shared. [p.161]

The ongoing process of salvation is the progressive appropriation in the experience of believers, individual and corporate, of all that had been accomplished once for all in the representative and inclusive person of Christ. [p.179]

I'm only halfway through the book, but these are just a few gems that have been mined from this work which is, in my opinion, the best book on NT theology as a whole that I've ever read. I commend it to everyone who wants to gain a clearer and more profound grasp of the message in the 27 books that we call the New Testament!

January 11, 2010

OT resource review: ZIBBCOT vol.2

A few months ago I had the pleasure of reviewing vol. 1 of Zondervan's Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. The good folks at Zondervan sent me vol. 2 and asked that I review it as well.

The overall strengths (and few weaknesses) of the series are the same from my last review, so rather than cover them again, I'll let the interested reader go there for an overview.

Vol.2 covers the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth and 1&2 Samuel. And once again, the reader finds a wealth of visual information on the background of these books covering Israel's transitional period from wandering ex-slaves to a mighty people united under the Davidic monarchy.

There is so much that could be said about this volume to commend it, so I'll focus on a specific in order to give an idea of what to expect overall.

I was very pleased to see how ZIBBCOT treats the famous David and Goliath episode. I've written a number of articles on the account of David and Goliath and how it often gets told in a distorted manner due to it's popularity as a children's story and lack of close attention to the text. Things such as Goliath's height, armor and method of death are often overlooked or embellished for the sake of retelling. ZIBBCOT does a fantastic job of putting the reader back into the tail-end of the 2nd millennium BC with numerous images of artifacts from the period. From a section of scale armor, such as Goliath would've likely worn (p.347) to a relief depicting mealtime in an army camp (p.349), to an Egyptian depiction of a captured Philistine warrior (p.352), ZIBBCOT delivers exactly what it promises--a commentary on the world of the text with multiple illustrations to aid the reader in reconstructing the story.

However, especially refreshing was the note on 1Sam. 17:49. I other than occasional reference in a footnote here and there, I've never seen the subject of where the stone struck Goliath discussed in any detail other than the traditional view that it struck him on the forehead. But the word "forehead" in the Hebrew text is a variant of the word "greave/shin guard" that appears earlier in the chapter when describing Goliath's armor. Thus it's possible (if not likely) that the stone struck the "forehead" that Goliath was wearing on his leg (i.e. his shin armor), knocking him facedown on the ground so that David could quickly grab his sword and decapitate him with it. This alternative view is rarely found in popular commentaries on this passage, yet in ZIBBCOT we find the following:

Struck the Philistine on the forehead (17:49). Questions have been raised concerning whether a stone from David's sling could have struck Goliath's forehead, given the kinds of helmets that Philistines are depicted as wearing (see illustration). But the biblical text does not suggest that Goliath's armor was typical Philistine hardware but exceptional (see sidebar on "Goliath's Armor" at 17:5-7). That said, it is interesting to note that the Hebrew word rendered "greave" in verse 6 (mitscha), which occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible, is very close, if not identical, to the Hebrew word for "forehead" (metsach). Noting this curiosity, A. Deem has suggested that David's stone finds its mark not in Goliath's forehead but at the "greave" in the gap required for walking. It is difficult to decide between these two interpretations; in either case Goliath is toppled and quickly dispatched by David, using Goliath's own sword (v.51)

Thus, a small but significant detail which can very much change one's understanding of this traditional story--and one which is usually hidden away in dusty academic journals or little-used critical commentaries--is presented to the reader and explained in an easy-to-understand manner. And rather than making the argument one way or the other, ZIBBCOT simply notes the possibility and allows the reader to draw their own conclusion. This is a commendable quality in a commentary and is the norm for this series.

This is but one example among many which gives a good understanding as to the purpose, nature and approach ZIBBCOT takes. In the very helpful introductory essay "Methodology: An Introductory Essay," General Editor, John Walton, lays out the value of such background study in regard to intepreting Scripture:
Susscessful interpreters must try to understand the cultural backgroud of the ancient Near East just as successful missionaries must learn the culture, language, and worldview of the people they are trying to reach. This is the rationale for us to study the Bible in light of the ancient Near East. What we contend, then, is that comparative studies has three goals in mind:
  1. We study the history of the ancient Near East as a means of recovering knowledge of the events that shaped the lives of people in the ancient world.
  2. We study archaeology as a means of recovering the lifestyle reflected in the material culture of the ancient world.
  3. We study the literature of the ancient Near East as a means of penetrating the heart and soul of the people who inhabited the ancient world that Israel shared.
These goals are a the heart of comparative studies and will help us understand the OT better.
Since comparative studies is pretty foreign territory to the average Bible reader, ZIBBCOT is a crucial resource for every pastor, teacher, Bible study leader and anyone else who studies the Bible seriously to have within arms' reach. If you're looking for more information that will open up the world of ancient pre-monarchic Israel in a new and exciting way, ZIBBCOT vol.2 is tailor-made for such study. I recommend it wholeheartedly and look forward to working my way through future volumes.

January 8, 2010

The Dojo gets a new address

Just wanted to let everyone know that the Discipleship Dojo has a new web address. It's now

Shorter, easier to remember and easier to tell others about! So help get the word out and let's keep the training going nonstop in the Dojo!


Ehrman says not to trust the accuracy of Biblical text

Ehrman says not to trust the accuracy of Biblical text

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January 3, 2010

The Samurai of Truth

This is a guest post written by my friend Olatunde Howard, author of "The Mind of Christ." Olatunde and I became friends when I was in college and have been through some of the most amazing spiritual adventures I've ever had together.

The quotes are from the ancient Samurai classic Hagakure, the spiritual applications are Olatunde's. This is a perfect guest post for the Discipleship Dojo, from a master swordsman!


The Way of the Samurai of Truth:
My Renewed Commitment for 2010

By Olatunde Howard

"The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. And every day, without fail, one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai."

  1. I know that my old self, the deceived self, was crucified with Christ, and that my body of deception was rendered powerless, that I might no longer be a slave of Deception.
  2. I consider myself dead to Deception and the law of truth that exposed it and aroused it, and alive to Truth in union with Christ Jesus.

"If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one's body and soul to his master."

  1. I present my self to the Spirit who is Truth as His slave to obey Him, as one brought from death to life, and I present my tongue to Him as an instrument and weapon of truth. In presenting my tongue, I present my body and heart, for my tongue is the rudder of my body, and from the overflow of the truth in my heart my mouth will speak truth alone.

"It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all ways and be more and more in accord with his own."

  1. I live in union with the Spirit of Truth who is truth, who guides me into all truth (God’s word is truth), and I do not fulfill the deceptions of the flesh.


The Daily Prayer of the Samurai of Truth

My Father in heaven,

You who are Light and in You there is no darkness,


No darkness.

At all.

In the name of Jesus, the way and the truth and the life,

And by the Spirit of truth who is truth,

According to your word which is truth,

And as a member of your household, the pillar and foundation of truth,

I approach you according to the gospel of truth,

Sanctified by the truth.

Having accepted Jesus as my Savior from deception, the essence of all sin,

I renounce all deception and every deception.

I make this confession before all men and women.

I totally surrender to your Spirit of Truth who is truth,

I have one desire,

One cause for which I was born again

And have come again into the world:

To bear witness to the truth,

Speaking what I know and testifying what I have seen and heard.

Therefore, my Father in heaven,

Please fill me with your Spirit of Truth

That I may be empowered to bear witness to the truth.

Thank you for hearing and granting my petition, which is in accordance with your will.

I submit to the Spirit of Truth, to God who is light,

And resist the father of lies, the prince of darkness.

The Daily Meditation of the Samurai of Truth

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable…meditate on these things.

In seeking truth one honors the Creator’s holiness; the Numinous; the Supreme Uniqueness. Truth by definition is exclusive. This is the Creator’s holiness. This is the creation's holiness. God is who He is, and He is no other, thus no other should receive His honor. This is truth. This is honor. This is holiness. This is Numinous.


If you enjoyed this you HAVE to check out Olatunde's book "The Mind of Christ" (which happens to be sporting a sweet cover design by yours truly!). In it, he looks at various aspects of the Christian spiritual life and what it means to truly "walk in the Spirit." I was fortunate enough to be asked to look over the manuscript before it was published and I can honestly say that Olatunde is one of the most gifted people I've ever known when it comes to explaining and illustrating abstract spiritual concepts in fresh and profound ways.

Be sure to check out his blog, Honor Comes Again, for more of his work!

For more on Olatunde or to contact him, look him up on Facebook:

January 2, 2010

They're here!! My 'Bible for the Rest of Us' course now available!

My DVD course "Bible for the Rest of Us" is now available and ready to ship!

The course consists of 3 DVDs containing sixteen 20-35 min. sessions covering topics such as:

* Why so many Bible translations?

* What is Inspiration?
* Can we trust the Biblical manuscripts?
* An overview of the Old Testament
* How do we interpret hard passages in the Bible?
* Are the Bibles we read today accurate?
* New Testament overview
* The importance of Context and historical background
* Famous misinterpreted or mistranslated passages in the Bible
* How to choose a good translation and study Bible

...and much much more!

The 4th disc contains PDF files of the leader's guide as well as the 50+ page participant's workbook. That means that individuals doing this study in a small group or Sunday school class don't have to pony up an additional $10-$20 for a workbook!

The cost of the complete course is $100, which includes the rights to print as many workbooks as needed. (Small group studies of this size and scope usually cost two or three times this much!)

Here is the front and back cover for the DVD case along with the text:


"Does studying the Bible sometimes make you feel like a dummy? You’re not alone! The Bible is a confusing book. But it’s not just for scholars and clergy-it’s for the rest of us too. This 6-session course takes a closer look at how to read, study, interpret and understand God’s Word more accurately and responsibly.

Each week participants can follow along in their workbooks (which are included in PDF format) as topics such as translation, inspiration, text-criticism, and interpretation are explored in detail. On-screen notes, charts and graphics help bring the information to life and provide an in-class feel ideal for small groups or Sunday School classes. The course is divided into five parts, with each session between 20-40 mins. in length:

Part 1 - Bible Basics (5 sessions)
Part 2 - The Hebrew Bible (2 sessions)
Part 3 - Interpreting the OT (3 sessions)
Part 4 - The New Testament (2 sessions)
Part 5 - Misunderstood Passages (4 sessions)

Whether you’ve studied the Bible for decades or just received your first copy, you’ll definitely be exposed to a fresh encounter with God’s Word each week!

"The perception in America is that Christians are products of a blind allegiance to the Bible. Unfortunately, this view is fairly accurate. Bible for the Rest of Us will change that. This course transforms a person's understanding of the bible and will empower them to grow into more informed and educated believers." --Chris Macedo - Pastor of Worship, Good Shepherd UMC

“James-Michael's "Bible for the Rest of Us" was an excellent experience. It was better than some of my seminary classes. James-Michael combines a heart for God and intimate knowledge of his word with a high capacity to teach with humor, wit and simplicity. Its a real treat for anyone interested in learning more about the Bible on its own terms.” --Rich Tuttle - United Methodist Pastor

“Standing on a firm theological foundation, James-Michael is able to clearly communicate the timeless truths of the Christian faith in a way any listener can understand and appreciate.”
--David Hickman - Executive Director, CharlotteONE

James-Michael Smith (M.Div, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is a teacher/speaker who writes as the national Methodist Examiner [] and The Olio []. He served for five years as pastor of discipleship at Good Shepherd UMC in Charlotte, NC where he oversaw the church’s PASSAGE school of theology, Discipleship, Adult Education, FUSION Young Adult Ministry, Men’s Ministry and Small Groups. He speaks on occasion at CharlotteONE: (, a citywide worship gathering of young adults in the metro Charlotte area. He loves teaching about and discussing obscure biblical passages, philosophy of religion, the Hebrew Bible, and theological or spiritual truths (as well as anything pertaining to the Simpsons, MMA, or Ron Burgundy)."

If you'd like to order this course, just click on the paypal link. Or you'd prefer to pay by check you can email me at for details on how to do so. If you are someone who has taken the course live (either at Good Shepherd or Americus First UMC) you automatically qualify for the almuni 50% discount! (If you have not, then please do not select that option...I'm using the honor system on this one, folks!)

Blessings in this new year,

Also, here are some sample clips from the sessions. Please share these with your Pastor, Deacon, Elder, Small Group leader or anyone else who may be interested in purchasing the course for their church! Depending on the success of this course, there may be more to follow! :)


Introduction to the course:

Scripture and Science:

What does it mean to be 'Lukewarm'?:

Bible for the Rest of Us DVD course

JM's Audio Teaching Archive

Check out for some of my messages and teaching sessions:

Bruce Lee quote of the day...