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Theology resources on sale

Over at Westminster Bookstore, you can get three excellent books for $20 while supplies last:

Why not rather be cheated?

Jared Wilson:

When we become eager to enact God’s wrath through personal vengeance, it’s often because we distrust God’s ability to deal with injustice Himself. Or we distrust Him to do it in a way that satisfies us. When we lash out, fight back, take up zealous causes, angrily pontificate, feud on Facebook, tsk-tsk on Twitter, and berate on blogs, aren’t we, in essence, saying God needs us to set people straight? All too often what we’re really protecting isn’t God’s honor, but our reputation or influence.

The Novel as Protestant Art

Joseph Bottum:

So, here’s a proposition: The novel was an art form—the art form—of the modern Protestant West, and as the main strength of established Protestant Christendom began to fail in Europe and the United States in recent decades, so did the cultural importance of the novel.

The proposition begins to unravel as soon as we offer it, of course.

The Hobbit: how it should have ended

Yep:

Don’t mortgage the mission

This is a must-listen.

The 2 Deadly Interpretive Sins

Brandon Smith shares from Kevin Vanhoozer’s Is There a Meaning in This Text?

Mr. Rogers and the Importance of Christian Kindness

Chris Martin:

Obviously, I never knew the guy personally, so I can’t speak to his kindness in real life or his Christian faith (though he did go to seminary with R.C. Sproul and was a Presbyterian minister for a time). But, I get the sense Fred Rogers was a genuinely kind, good-natured person.

What would it look like if Christians treated their real neighbors with as much kindness as Mr. Rogers treated his fake ones?

The golden age hasn’t come (yet)

golden-age

Close your eyes and imagine what you would consider the golden age of Christianity:

  • Was it in the earliest days of the church, when the Apostles and all the followers of Jesus had all things in common?
  • The middle ages, during the high point of Christendom?
  • The heady days of the Protestant Reformation, when men such as Martin Luther and John Calvin recovered the gospel from its near total abandonment?

Or maybe it was the days of the Great Awakening in North America in the 18th century, the second Great Awakening in the 19th, or the renewed revivalism of the 1950s and 1960s? Or the early days of the seeker movement, or even the emergent/emerging movement(s) of the later 20th century and early 21st?

We all have these times in our minds, these eras we’d love to get back to if we could—as though they were moments where we had it all figured out. But the important thing to remember, and this is something I was greatly encouraged by in my recent reading, is there is no golden age of Christianity.

At least, not yet.

Remember, the early church everyone seemed to want to get back to for a long while? Don’t forget that while they had all things in common, they were also horribly persecuted, and had all kinds of doctrinal disunity, sexual immorality and other misconduct known among them (particularly in Corinth). So yeah, we didn’t have it nailed then. Christendom had many wonderful qualities and great gifts it gave to the world (including universities), but it was also in this age that the Roman Church traded heavenly gain for earthly prestige and power. The Reformation, for all its positive benefits, also saw continued splintering and internal fighting between its most powerful voices (to say nothing of the violent fighting between Roman Catholics and Protestants). And in later years… Well, you get the idea, right?

There has been no golden age of Christianity. But there is one coming—but is not one we can run back to, or we can progress toward. It is one that will come through God’s power, in God’s timing. So even as some of us fear what is to come, as we see the West shed its last vestiges of its Christian heritage, and the increased persecution of Christians in the Middle East, we can still have hope—and are right to have it. The golden age hasn’t come yet. But because of the hope we have in Christ and his resurrection, we know it will come.


Photo credit: St.-Anna-Kirche via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Emotional blackmail in the church

Jared Wilson quotes John Piper, and it’s a doozy.

Reading for Information vs. Reading for Delight

Erik Raymond:

I certainly don’t know the precise reason, however, I have a hunch that it is somewhere between what Jacobs observes and what I concluded about my lack of devotion to the Omaha newspaper: we don’t delight in the Bible. We just scan it for information we don’t drink it in and digest it.

What do we do about this?

The open letters Christian keep writing on social media

Will Adair gets it.

Wishing Away God’s Design

Owen Strachan:

Over the last 50 years, American Christians have watched as our society has fashioned a brave new order for itself. Feminism and the sexual revolution have transformed the American home. Many men have lost any sense of responsibility for their family. They’re tuned out, passive, and self-focused. Many women feel great tension between their career and home. They are told by secular lifestyle magazines to pursue perfect “work-life” balance, but it’s hard to find. Increasingly, the sexes are in competition. These troubling developments represent phase one of the transformation of men and women.

5 Free Classes on Ethics

Andy Naselli shares some great options for free classes on biblical ethics.

The Redemption of Boredom

Michelle Lesley:

But whether you love chemistry or not, we’ve all been there. For you, maybe it was Shakespeare, or sitting on hold waiting for the cable company to answer your call, or one of those pointless, endless meetings at work that a two paragraph e-mail could have covered. Have you ever noticed how many boring moments there are in life?

Why I keep waffling about starting a podcast

waffle-podcast

So, every so often, I entertain the thought of starting a podcast. Why? Mostly because I like trying new things.

Podcasting, while not being something new, seem to have exploded in cultural awareness… and maybe that’s why I waffle on the idea, too. Am I entertaining the idea because it’s cool to do right now, or because I actually want to do one and have something to contribute?

Can you see my dilemma?

On the one hand, I really do like to do things that are fun and interesting. Those things also usually take a fair bit of work (which doesn’t scare me in the least). On the other hand, is what I’d do in one actually interesting enough to people who aren’t me that they’d benefit from it?

I guess it depends on the idea, doesn’t it?

Currently, I’m toying with the idea of interview style discussion of practical ministry combined with discussion (and possible debate) over the most important meal of the day. Personally, I could have a lot of fun with this, in no small part because of the idea of combining my love of preaching and pancakes. Plus, I’m Canadian, which means you Americans might hear me rant about that weird white sauce sausage gravy.

So what do y’all think? Should I hit the go button on this or keep waffling?


Photo credit: Waffle via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

The world’s mightiest… friends?

This is amazing:

Christ and Pop Culture’s Future

Alan Noble:

Some exciting and depressing changes are afoot at Christ and Pop Culture. Our Editor-in-Chief and the founder of Christ and Pop Culture, Richard Clark, is stepping aside and taking a position at Leadership Journal as Associate Editor. For years now I’ve been saying that some publication is going to swoop down and snag Richard because of the tremendous job he did with creating, managing, and cultivating CaPC for the last seven years. With our leader moving on, CaPC is bound to start looking and feeling a little different. For one thing, beginning in April, I’ll be taking over as Editor-in-Chief and Tyler Glodjo will be the new Managing Editor. The loss of Richard will be difficult for CaPC, and it is going to create some significant challenges, but it is also motivating the editorial staff to dream about CaPC’s future and vision.

Albert Mohler on keeping the Southern Baptist faith

Really enjoyed this Q&A.

Nine traits of mean churches

Thom Rainer:

I love local churches. But I have to admit, I am hearing more from long-term members who are quitting church life completely. One member wrote me, “The non-Christians I associate with are much nicer people than the members of my church.”

Ouch. That really hurt.

So, after receiving the second email, I began to assimilate all the information I could find where church members had written me about their “mean” churches. They may not have used the word “mean” specifically, but the intent was the same. I then collected characteristics of these churches, and I found nine that were common. I call these the “nine traits of mean churches.”

Toward a Graciously Historic Sexual Ethic

Scott Sauls:

As Scripture unfolds from Old Testament to New, we see a progressive tone in the way it dignifies and empowers women, ethnic minorities, the enslaved, the infirm, and the oppressed. But when it comes to sex and marriage, we actually see a more conservative tone. Jesus reaffirms the male-female, one-flesh union in marriage. Qualified elders must either be single and chaste like Paul and Jesus or be the “husband of one wife” (that is, one-woman men). Jesus restores dignity to an adulteress and then tells her that if she’s going to identify as his follower she must stop committing adultery. Unlike Philemon and the slave issue, then, there is no hint in Scripture of “emancipation” for sexual relationships—including committed and monogamous ones—outside the male-female marital union.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put three excellent Easter-related titles on sale this week:

Also on sale:

Good news for Alzheimer’s patients

This research in Australia looks promising.

Islam and Christianity are not comparable

Larry Taunton:

At this moment I am in the small, quiet French town of Labastide-Rouairoux. Recently, the tranquility of this village was disturbed by the discovery that one of its sons, Quentin Le Brun, had joined ISIL. No less than 3,000 other Europeans have done likewise. “Jihadi John,” who was raised in London, is the most notorious of these. Now what, exactly, is the modern Christian equivalent of this phenomenon? The forty-something members of the Westboro “Baptist” Church?

Thank God for William Tyndale

Love this.

Homecoming

Kara Tippetts finished her race yesterday (March 22, March 22, 2015), after a long battle with breast cancer. She is known to many for her open letter to Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old who decided to end her life via doctor-assisted suicide in November.

A Good Mentor Slows You Down

Mike Leake:

There is a way to move towards truth and to love your church at the same time. And this way is a road that is bumpy, less-travelled, winding, and takes much more time. Yet, I am convinced it is the way of the Master.

So what slowed me down?

Mentors. Seasoned pastors. Dead theologians, like John Newton. They opened my eyes and threw anchors in my shorts to slow me down a bit.

Keep a close watch on your life and illustrations

Jared C. Wilson:

We all know a good illustration when we hear one in a sermon. But I for one think sermon illustrations are way overrated. Yep, I said it. I think too much emphasis is put on illustrations in how we train preachers and in too many actual sermons. You shouldn’t trust your illustration to do what only God’s word can. And that’s where many of us often go wrong with illustrations. Here is more on that though, and some other wrong ways preachers often use illustrations in their sermons.

Creation and the Trinity stand together

creation-trinity

One of the most shocking things to me is how little Christians are encouraged to think deeply about creation and the Trinity.

I’m not talking about all the various arguments for methods of creation, views on the age of the earth or anything like that. Nor am I referring to attempting to understand the complexities of what Scripture reveals of the equally divine natures of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and how we can have a God who is three yet one. No what I’m referring to the central reality of creation being a divine—and more specifically, a Trinitarian—work.

Bavinck summarizes it well, writing:

Creating is a divine work, an act of infinite power and therefore is incommunicable in either nature or grace to any creature, whatever it may be. But Christian theology all the more unanimously attributed the work of creation to all three persons in the Trinity. Scripture left no doubt on this point. God created all things through the Son (Ps. 33:6; Prov. 8:22; John 1:3; 5:17; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:15–17; Heb. 1:3) and through the Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 33:6; Job 26:13; 33:4; Ps. 104:30; Isa. 40:13; Luke 1:35).1

And for the Christian, Bavinck says, this is something we absolutely cannot lose our grip on. When we treat the Son and Spirit as mere “instruments” in the work of creation, as though the labor of creation were somehow divided between them, we reveal (at best) a woefully deficient view of God, and at worst, a deviation from the doctrine of the Trinity itself (a la Arius).

“All things originate simultaneously from the Father through the Son in the Spirit,” Bavinck writes.

The Father is the first cause; the initiative for creation proceeds from him. Accordingly, in an administrative sense, creation is specifically attributed to him. The Son is not an instrument but the personal wisdom, the Logos, by whom everything is created; everything rests and coheres in him (Col. 1:17) and is created for him (Col. 1:16), not as its final goal but as the head and master of all creatures (Eph. 1:10). And the Holy Spirit is the personal immanent cause by which all things live and move and have their being, receive their own form and configuration, and are led to their destination, in God.2

Creation is a divine work. It is a Trinitarian work. If we lose our grasp on the Trinity, our doctrine of creation collapses. The two stand and fall together.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of these deals from Crossway:

Also worth checking out:

How a Twitter Feud over Same-Sex Marriage May Doom Payday Lending

Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra shares how a pastor and state legislator, and the openly gay owner of a coffee shop formed an “unlikely” friendship and have joined together to battle high-interest loans. Good stuff here.

The Law and the Burden of Love in Harry Potter

Jake Meador, compares redemptive themes in Les Miserables and Harry Potter:

In Les Mis, a man is restored to life by the love of a man. In Harry Potter, a man is restored to life by the love of… the law?

5 Ways to be a Good Parent Without Quitting Your Day Job

Aaron Earls:

Does this mean you and I are bad parents because we have a job outside of the home? Is quitting your job and never leaving your family the standard of being a good father or mother?

I don’t think it is. In fact, I think this line of thinking can actually be harmful to your child.

Here are five ways to be a good parent without quitting your day job.

The PCUSA’s long and boring shuffle out of Christianity

David French:

The drift from biblical orthodoxy to spiritualized leftism has profound real-world consequences. The church isn’t just shuffling out of Christianity, it’s shuffling out of existence. The church has lost 37 percent of its members since 1992, and the trend is accelerating. According to Christianity Today, “in 2013, membership declined by 5 percent as 148 congregations left for other denominations — the largest annual membership loss in nearly 50 years.”

The Happiest People in the World

John Knight:

The statistics are remarkable.

  • 99% of those surveyed are happy with their lives.
  • 97% answered yes to the question, “Do you like who you are?”
  • 99% agreed with the statement, “Do you love your family?”

Do you know of any group of people, of any economic status, educational level, age, ethnicity, or geographic region, who approach those percentages? Who are these happy people?

People living with Down syndrome.

Why I try to pray right away

Prayer

“Well, how about we pray right now?” My wife looks at me with a stunned expression as these words come forth. We’re in the car, discussing whether or not it would be possible for us all to go to an event at the end of August, one that is a 14 hour drive away. This, naturally, means a long time in the car, overnights in hotels, and, of course, money. So, right there, in the car, at a stop light, we prayed and asked the Lord to provide the means for us to go to this particular event as a family if it were to be his will.

This has been something I’ve been striving to do more and more frequently of late. But why? Because of some pretty serious conviction that set in while reading William Edgar’s, Countercultural Spirituality: Schaeffer on the Christian LifeIn the book, Edgar shares a question Francis Schaeffer posed to his wife, Edith—one that proved to be a defining moment for them:

What if we woke up one morning and our Bibles were changed? What if all of the promises about prayer and the Holy Spirit were removed from the Bible by God himself, not as the liberals might remove them, by demythologization, but really eliminated from the text? What real difference would it make in our lives? (129)

How would you answer this?

And I don’t mean what is the “right” answer—how would you, the person reading this post at this moment, actually answer it? I suspect, if you’re anything like me, and if you’re anything like so many Christians among us, it might not make that much of a difference at all.

And that’s what got me thinking. Cultivating a healthy prayer life has been one of the most challenging parts of my life as a Christian, and the area of my greatest weakness. It’s not that I don’t believe in the importance of prayer, nor do I disbelieve in God’s working through it. On the contrary. I take the God at his word on this, and I’ve seen him answer prayer powerfully and overtly. And yet, when it comes down to brass tacks, I still struggle with this disconnect and prayerlessness can easily reign in my life if I’m not watchful.

The tough thing about prayer is setting up more rules doesn’t really help. You can’t tell someone to pray more better and expect it to go well. You can’t set up an arbitrary schedule, committing in your heart that you will pray every day for two hours a day when you’ve spent most of the last month praying for barely 10 minutes during a week.  stirring “Pray more harder,” doesn’t really help, nor does scheduling prayer times throughout the day (though I’m not against such things). But something you can do that is helpful is simply to pray when it occurs to you to do so. If someone suggests praying, then pray. If someone asks for prayer, do it right at that moment, do it. It doesn’t have to be deep and profound. It just has to be from the heart.

And this is what I’ve been doing since I read this question from Schaeffer; and as a result, I’ve probably prayed more in the last couple of days than in the last two weeks. Why? Because if we believe in God’s promises about prayer, our lives ought to be shaped by that belief. If we see an ongoing pattern of prayerlessness, then we need to ask what we really believe about this?

If we believe God’s promises about prayer, then we ought to pray. If we are to break out of the grip of prayerlessness, the way to do so is to pray our way out. It’s not easy, but if we believe prayer makes a difference, we ought to pray like it makes a difference.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Discovering God’s Will by Sinclair Ferguson (Paperback)
  • In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson (Hardcover)
  • Believing God by R.C. Sproul Jr. (ePub)
  • Truth Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

Why PhDs in Theology Commit Adultery

This is worth watching:

Why I’m Not a Feminist

This is so good.

Things I Would Do Differently If I Were Raising My Children Again

Mark Altrogge:

My children are adults now and several have children of their own. We had lots of fun as a family, and I have lots of great memories of raising our kids. But in retrospect, I think I would have done a number of things differently. So I share them in hopes that younger parents might benefit and not make some of the mistakes I did. Some things I would do differently.

Do Pre-Jesus Mythical Figures Debunk Christianity?

Brandon Smith takes on the articles we’re sure to start seeing come at us again over the next week or two (because, y’know, Easter).

Getting Off Scot-Free

Mark Dance:

Get ready, because tax day is coming in four weeks. We also need to get ready for Passover and Easter, which start on the same weekend in two weeks. What do these three events have in common? Our debts. I will begrudgingly and eventually pay my debt to the government, but quite frankly, I cannot afford to pay my sin debt.

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Living in a virtual reality

Audio is starting to come online from this year’s TruthXchange Think Tank. Be sure to check out Chris Poblete’s session, “Living in a Virtual Reality.” It’s fantastic stuff.

Why Doesn’t God Just Remove that Sin?

JD Greear:

This isn’t the question of a skeptic trying to prove that God doesn’t exist—the famous apologetic “problem of evil.” No, this is the personalquestion of a believer trying to discern what in the world God is doing with the continued struggles in his life. It is the question of someone who reads, “For those who love God, all things work together for good,” and trying to reconcile that theological truth with her present circumstances.

Listening closer

Jeffrey Overstreet:

What is it that makes a piece of music meaningful to you? For me, it could be anything: subject matter, wordplay, a guitar tone, a rhythm track, something unexpected, or the circumstances in which I first heard it. This is why, as a critic, I make a distinction between the albums I would rate as “excellent” and the albums I would rate as “favorites.” Any honest music lover knows that we love or hate songs for more than just their measures of artistic excellence. Most music critics enjoy confessing “guilty pleasures.”

Of Serial Killers, Hiding Sins, and the Glorious Hope of Forgiveness in Christ

Kevin Halloran:

Even though sin should be so evident to people, many people don’t believe in the sinfulness of humanity exactly because humans are good at covering up their tracks. It’s not natural in our culture to walk in the grocery store and point at the guy stocking shelves and say, “He’s a sinner going to hell!” But if he doesn’t know Christ, that is true.

Top 10 Punctuation Mistakes

Quotation marks used for emphasis makes babies cry.

The Millennial “Adulthood” Delusion

Chris Martin:

Being an adult doesn’t mean locking in a 9-to-5 job and procreating. Being an adult doesn’t mean having everything figured out. Being an adult isn’t some threshold you pass through at a fully mature and developed stage of life. There really isn’t one, anyway.

Considering the cost of education

education-debt

If I could do it again, I’d like to think I’d do it all differently… but I’d probably be lying. What am I talking about? College.

See, I went to college (the first time) from 1999 to 2002, studying graphic design at a community college in my city. I didn’t have any real savings—though I took two years off between high school and college, all I had to show for it in the end was the beginnings of a debt problem!—and no significant experience managing my personal finances.

My parents did what they could to help, but in the end, my education was paid for almost entirely with student loans. So, when I graduated, I had a diploma, no job and about $15,000 in student debt demanding to be paid.

Now, I get it: for many people, this isn’t a large debt load. In fact, it could have been a great deal more. I was initially accepted into a private art school in the United States, when I had aspirations of being a comic book artist. Had I gone down that road, I would have had at least $60,000 to contend with (and likely much more). And today, as a seminary student, I’m reminded of this once more. When I paid my tuition for one course at the end of January, it was roughly two thirds of the tuition for my entire first year of community college.

But at the time, this was a terrifying amount of money—especially since my first professional jobs only paid $10 or $12 an hour. I was making the minimum payments every month (and then only barely), with a plan to have it all paid off within 10 years (because that was the way the bank structured it).

I don’t currently have any student debt. Lord willing, I won’t accumulate any as I complete my seminary degree (and if you’d like to be a part of making that a reality, I’d surely appreciate it). And if the Lord allows, our children will not have to worry about student debt (though they may need to make some concessions to make that a reality).

But I am concerned for many out there who are going to college and university. And I am greatly concerned about many young people who are going to seminary. What I’m concerned about is that too many of us are failing to consider the cost of our decisions. We are becoming slaves of the lenders (Proverbs 22:7) for degrees that may not actually help us move forward in our future goals and ministry—or worse, in some cases may actually hinder us!

So what are we to do here? Here are five recommendations:

First, examine ourselves. What are we really passionate about? What do we want to do with our lives? Will it allow me to better serve the Lord? These are questions that I wish I’d asked myself more carefully during my first go-around in post-secondary education, and I think I asked fairly well prior to applying for seminary. I want my education to have a purpose, to allow me to move forward in my ministry and career (even as I gain some level of personal satisfaction just from having done it).

Second, plan your education route. These considerations should leads us to ask about the route we’re going to take: do we need a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree? Are we more suited to a technical skill and thus would be better served by going to a trade school or apprenticing? Are we risking making ourselves overqualified and therefore unemployable by pursuing too much education? (And this is all I’m going to say right now about Christians and PhDs…)

Third, save and find creative ways to pay. A desire we have for our children is that they complete their post-secondary education as close to debt free as possible. One of the ways we’re helping with that is by starting their savings plans now. While we’re not talking huge dollars at the moment, they’re already off to a good start. This should be our approach, regardless of our age and stage in life. Investigate scholarships, grants and bursaries. Save for as long as you can. If we’re serious about doing something, it’s better to wait and do it right without creating new stresses for our families.

And this is where I have grave concerns for many going to seminary. Let’s be honest: seminary is crazy expensive, and ministry jobs tend to not pay all that well (I’m already in a ministry job, so I’m not concerned about that part). While making money isn’t the primary motivation for people getting a degree, and certainly shouldn’t be a factor regarding ministry, it’s a reality we need to be mindful of. For a number of us, seminary is a must. For many more, we’d be better served by just listening to RTS lectures on iTunes U.

Which leads me to my next point…

Fourth, if we take on debt, commit to repaying as quickly as possible. Although the Bible doesn’t explicitly call debt wrong (though it comes awful close and never puts it in a positive category), we cannot forget that it is a type of slavery. If you borrow money, it must be paid back in a timely fashion (whether that’s the timeline agreed upon between the borrower and the lender or sooner). Do not approach this lightly. Do not be careless. And certainly do not choose to not pay it at all or declare bankruptcy in an attempt to get the debt wiped out. If you do this, as many people in my home province have done for decades (to the point now that your student loans stick with you even in bankruptcy), you are stealing from the lender. So if we’re going to take on debt, we need to take the responsibility to pay it back seriously.

Finally, pray and seek counsel. If you’re not praying throughout your education planning, you’re almost certain to make the wrong decision. If you’re not seeking wise counsel from others, you’re probably going to blow it. We all have blinders, and we all need God’s wisdom—and the insights of others—to help us see what we would otherwise miss (both positively and negatively).

Education is a wonderful thing. But be wise as you pursue it. Be sure to carefully consider the cost.


An earlier version of this article was first published in 2010. Photo credit: Pile of Cash via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A Tip for Seminary Students

Mike Leake:

I came to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall of 2009. I was excited to be able to learn from some of the world’s greatest professors. I figured I would learn so much and that I would grow in my relationship with the Lord in ways I didn’t imagine. My first semesters didn’t disappoint.

After awhile, though, my soul started to ache a bit.

Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting

Heather Barwick:

Do you remember that book, “Heather Has Two Mommies”? That was my life. My mom, her partner, and I lived in a cozy little house in the ‘burbs of a very liberal and open-minded area. Her partner treated me as if I was her own daughter. Along with my mom’s partner, I also inherited her tight-knit community of gay and lesbian friends. Or maybe they inherited me?

Either way, I still feel like gay people are my people. I’ve learned so much from you. You taught me how to be brave, especially when it is hard. You taught me empathy. You taught me how to listen. And how to dance. You taught me not be afraid of things that are different. And you taught me how to stand up for myself, even if that means I stand alone.

I’m writing to you because I’m letting myself out of the closet: I don’t support gay marriage. But it might not be for the reasons that you think.

Of Crows and Crowns

Check out this video for a new song from Dustin Kensrue’s upcoming album, Carry the Fire (which you should really pre-order):

Are All Christian Denominations in Decline?

Joe Carter tackles the common notion that all denominations are in decline. But is it true? His answer: Not even a little bit.

Christians and college debt

Samuel Jones:

Student loan debt is no longer a minor macroeconomic footnote. Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies instead dubs it a “time bomb,” a gravely serious economic stranglehold on millions of Americans. Collins notes that student loan debt is already higher than the US’s total credit card debt and will, according to some economists, balloon even more at the turn of the decade. One report released last year estimated that 70% of graduating seniors carry debt out of college and that the average student debt was just south of $30,000.

Glory Hunger

Glory hunger (1)

As positively unchristian as it sounds to say, it’s not wrong to seek glory. In fact, it can be quite good—as long as we’re seeking the right glory. This, however, is where we all fall down because the glory we seek is usually for ourselves. We want people to think we’re a pretty big deal. We want to make a name for ourselves. We want to be somebody. And we will gladly rob God of glory and honor to get it.

In other words, when seeking glory is about seeking it for ourselves, it’s a very bad thing indeed.

This is where Glory Hunger by JR Vassar is so helpful. As in Dave Harvey’s Rescuing Ambition before it, Vassar assists us in combating the shallowness of our glory hunger as he examines its origins and the only source of satisfaction we will ever need.

We are all narcissists now

“Has a generation ever been so concerned with its own glory?” Vassar asks as he considers our nasty social media habits (58). After all, we value blog posts based on how many likes and tweets and pins and comments they receive; we tweet and Instagram our best duck faces (or, if you prefer, blue steel1). We consider ourselves more important because we have people following our Twitter account and Facebook page. We even have services like Klout which tell us how influential we may be.

We are, most assuredly, a painfully narcissistic generation, and it is destroying us:

Narcissistic people rarely have deep friendships and usually don’t really desire them. They have fans but not friends. They have the admiration of others but not intimacy.… Narcissists tend to use others to build up themselves, but do not invest or give in relationships. … A narcissistic glory hunger is destructive primarily because it means that one has taken a life direction that is opposite to reality. (58-59)

Don’t gloss over this too quickly. Stop and really consider it—and especially those of us who serve in some form of vocational ministry. One of the trends I see that absolutely terrifies me is the “lonely leader” archetype. No one understands him. No one appreciate him. Or at least, that’s what he tells himself.

The problem here is that it’s a delusion. Leadership is lonely only because we choose for it to be. The only reason people don’t know us or understand us is because we don’t let them. And I wonder if it’s because we secretly (or not so secretly) really like it? We like being seen as the embattled leader, standing up against the forces of the world and our defiant congregations, when, really, we’re just stroking our own egos. It makes us feel good to be admired from a distance because if people actually knew us, they’d see that we’re kind of a hot mess. We might look good on the outside, but we’re a complete disaster.

(Is anyone else getting a bit uncomfortable here?)

Refocusing glory by becoming realists

So what do we do about this? If we are so narcissistic that we love to be seen as being vulnerable (without actually having to be vulnerable), if we are so in love with our own selves and our own glory… we’re in a lot of trouble, aren’t we?

True though this may be, Vassar doesn’t leave us hopeless, though he does continue to push on us to think correctly:

Imagine attending the 2014 New Year’s fireworks show in Dubai, which, at a cost of nearly six million dollars, was the largest the world has ever seen. As you gaze into the sky in amazement, feeling the rumblings in your chest from the explosions, some kid yanks on your pant leg and tries to sell you a ticket for a viewing of the Roman candle he is about to set off.… We are the glory hogs with our little Roman candles; God’s just a realist. (83)

“When mans’s glory is raised against God’s, the bottom line of the riches of God’s glory reveals the utter bankruptcy of man’s” (82). Our attempts at glorifying yourselves can’t begin to compare with the glory that inherently belongs to God. We need to see it this way, not because we should wallow in self-pity, but because we need to realize that the only true rescue we can find from taking our eyes off ourselves! If we want to be free from a self-focused glory hunger, we need to be realists as God is a realist. His glory is better than ours. He is more important. We should seek to become like John the Baptist, who, after Jesus’ ministry began to grow, simply said, “he must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

And this is the cure for our insatiable glory hunger. This is the one thing that can satisfy it. It’s not in achieving whatever goal we’ve set for ourselves—it’s by taking our eyes off ourselves.

The cross deflates us and serves as a clarifying lens that allows us to see our true condition. When we are tempted to boast in ourselves, the cross tells us we are not awesome.… When you are tempted to think highly of yourself, remind yourself why Jesus had to die. Let the cross measure you, not your accomplishments or your failures for that matter. (90)

The happiest we can be is when we’re forgetting about “me”

If there’s one thing from Glory Hunger that should stick with us, it’s this:”The happiest people are those who are most free from personal glory hunger and refuse to compete with God for glory” (96).

We’re not going to be happy until we actually stop trying to make a name for ourselves. We won’t find what we’re looking for there. The world wasn’t made to function that way, nor were we. It’s only we stop thinking about our own glory and focus on God’s, that we will know true glory. And only then will we be satisfied. Glory Hunger is a strong reminder of this truth, and it’s one I hope will be appreciated by all who read it.


Title: Glory Hunger: God, the Gospel, and Our Quest for Something More
Author: JR Vassar
Publisher: Crossway (2015)

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon