Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few for the history buffs among you (thanks to Tim Challies for the head’s up on these):

And finally, several editions in B&H’s New American Commentary Studies on sale for $4.99 each:

On Newsweek’s desperate swipe at the Bible

Michael Kruger responds to this fairly awful article at Newsweek.

Is your church functionally liberal?

Ray Ortlund:

The liberal churches I’ve known are not openly hostile to the Bible.  They like the Bible.  They want their preacher to use the Bible.  They have home Bible studies.  What makes them “liberal” is that the Bible alone is not what rules them.  They allow into their doctrine, their ethos, their decisions, other complicating factors.  The Bible is revered, in a way.  But it is not the decisive factor.  It is only one voice among others.

The Time Is Ripe for Radical Generosity

Dan Olson:

Today we pray for revival, but are we living lives of radical generosity in the same manner that our forbears did? Put another way, is true revival stifled by our comfort and affluence?

When I describe radical generosity, I’m talking about joyfully giving all of one’s time, talent, and treasures for the sake of God’s kingdom and a heavenly reward, without expecting any (earthly) return on investment.

You Ask Not Because You Have Received Not

Lore Ferguson:

When I was young I asked for something specific from my parents. They were always generous parents, as generous as they could be in a family of ten. But in this they said no, that one of my younger brothers would be the recipient first for various reasons. But then that same brother died in a sudden accident and our world shattered in every direction. No one was thinking of promises made to children, we were all just trying to survive the catastrophic blow that kept on beating us from every side. Not until a friend asked me this year did I realize I still carry with me a post-traumatic-stress from those few years. I encased myself in getting through it, being strong, protecting my youngest siblings, protecting myself, most days just surviving. My dead brother would never receive the gift, but I would also never receive the gift, because who thinks of gifts when the ground is coming apart around you?

My favorite books to review in 2014

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Recently, I shared some of my favorite books to read in 2014 (many of which I reviewed). Today, I want to share a few of my favorite books to review.

These are not all books I enjoyed, nor are they all books I’d recommend you read yourself. But all were books that challenged me in some way as I tried to figure out how to best review them, whether because of disagreements with the content or because the genre was something I’d never tackled before.

So, with that in mind, here are the reviews I most enjoyed writing in 2014:

Rising Above a Toxic Workplace by Gary Chapman, Paul White, and Harold Myra

Why’d it make the cut? Business books in general are pretty tough to review. And this one was especially tricky given the content of the book, and avoiding speaking ill of others.

You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan

Why’d it make the cut? This was fun to review simply because it wasn’t a typical marriage book—since it isn’t really a book about marriage.

Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick

Why’d it make the cut? Because writing anything that remotely resembles a balanced review of a book by someone as polarizing as Furtick is nigh-on impossible. (Read the review at TGC.)

Why We’re Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.

Why’d it make the cut? Okay, this wasn’t a review in my traditional style. However, reading the book again after several years away from it, it was fun to see what would still be relevant in it today. Apparently, quite a bit.

Is it My Fault? by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

Why’d it make the cut? There was a lot that hit close to home reading and reviewing this one, which made both a lot more challenging than I anticipated.

The Adam Quest by Tim Stafford

Why’d it make the cut? While last year’s Mapping the Origins Debate was a good—if a bit stuffy—take on the origins debate, this book was all about the people behind the views. We often leave out the human factor in these debates, but it is absolutely necessary if we intend to have meaningful discussion with those holding differing views.

Invest by Sutton Turner

Why’d it make the cut? In some ways, this was even harder to review than Driscoll’s A Call to Resurgence, the book that spurred the events that ultimately brought an end to Mars Hill Church. Why? Because it was, ultimately, a book about turning your senior pastor into a celebrity, rather than making much about Jesus.

The Gospel Transformation Bible

Why’d it make the cut? Because it’s a BIBLE.

Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke

Why’d it make the cut? Bethke’s youth—both in age and experience in the faith—shines in the book, for better and worse. The entire time I read this book, and as I reviewed it, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was really the right time for him to have written this. It’s not bad, but his strongest ideas are heavily borrowed from others.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Amazon’s also got a whole pile of Kindle books on sale for $2.99 or less right now.  And be sure to also check out $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of books and resources on sale, including the ePub editions of Gospel Wakefulness and How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home.

Our Obligation to the Unreached

David Platt:

Well over one hundred years ago, a single missionary named Lottie Moon, serving in China, began writing letters challenging the church back here to send and support more workers to go there. After her death on the field, her challenge was heeded in the formalization of an offering in her name. Even if you’re not a Southern Baptist who has given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, her life is a reminder of why we must give to send and support missionaries serving among unreached peoples in unreached places.

But my aim is to show you not simply why we must give, but also why we must go . . . however, whenever, and wherever God leads.

Leery Chinese officials target county’s thriving Christian communities

Two days before Christmas, members of a rural Christian congregation in the eastern city of Wenzhou welded some pieces of metal into a cross and hoisted it onto the top of their worship hall to replace one that was forcibly removed in October.

Within an hour, township officials and uniformed men barged onto the church ground and tore down the cross.

The Best Is Yet to Come

David Baggett:

Recently I read an article about C. S. Lewis in which the writer suggested that part of Lewis’s enduring appeal is that he never lost his wide-eyed wonder and playful childlikeness in his work. It made his eyes twinkle and the Oxford don’s writing dance and sing. I suspect that’s right. G. K. Chesterton once wrote that God “has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” This makes me sad indeed, though, when childhood has to be left behind and downright tragic when childhood isn’t what it was meant to be in the first place.

A Year With Newton Reading Plan

Mike Leake shares his January’s reading plan for his upcoming year reading through the works of John Newton.

Canadian doctors preparing for ‘all eventualities’ in case top court strikes down ban on assisted suicide

This is a story to watch.

success and suffering

“Success and suffering will either darken your heart or make you wise, but they won’t leave you where you were.”—Timothy Keller

Our Lord and God, our brother and friend

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Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.—Isaiah 7:14

Let us to-day go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi, let us see him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in him, and can sing, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Jesus is Jehovah incarnate, our Lord and our God, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire. Let us notice at the very first glance his miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son. The first promise ran thus, “The seed of the woman,” not the offspring of the man. Since venturous woman led the way in the sin which brought forth Paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise. Our Saviour, although truly man, was as to his human nature the Holy One of God. Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to manhood its ancient glory; and let us pray that he may be formed in us, the hope of glory. Fail not to note his humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as “a virgin,” not a princess, or prophetess, nor a matron of large estate. True the blood of kings ran in her veins; nor was her mind a weak and untaught one, for she could sing most sweetly a song of praise; but yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she stood affianced, and how miserable the accommodation afforded to the new-born King!

Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendour.


Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening (Photo via Lightstock)

Christmas specials and me

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I have a confession: I’m not a big fan of Christmas specials, movies or very special episodes of our favorite sitcoms. It’s rare for me to enjoy a Christmas special in general. Every once in a while, I hear about a special or movie I should check out… but I never do. Here are a couple:

1. Elf

This came out when I was still trying to figure out if I actually enjoyed Will Ferrell or not. Sometimes I’m still trying to figure that out, actually. But when I saw the trailers for it years ago, it just didn’t look all that interesting. Am I wrong?

2. It’s a Wonderful Life

Yeah, I know. This is one of those “how could you not have seen it??” films. But here I am, having never seen it. Nor do I plan to.

And then there are the “classics” I’ve seen and really, really hate. Here are two of those:

1. Home Alone

Seriously. This movie is everything that is wrong with an entire generation.

2. Jingle All the Way

No… just, no.

However, lest you think I am a complete Scrooge, there are a few I genuinely enjoy. Here are two:

1. A Muppet Christmas Carol

This is one of my favorite takes on Dickens’ classic story. Michael Caine is wonderful in this.

2. Die Hard

Second-most violent Christmas movie ever made (behind Home Alone):

 

Honorable mention: Community—“Regional Holiday Music”

Glee parodies + Jehovah’s Witnesses + Christmas = the greatest espionage story ever rapped.


Photo credit: katiescrapbooklady via photopin cc

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Immanuel, the story of the Bible

This is a nice piece by Ryan Higginbottom.

What are we teaching our kids to treasure?

Jeff Hutchings:

Many of us have spent time and money meeting with lawyers to ensure our treasures/property is inherited by our children. It is important that we identify what we value and how that plays out in our lives, because our kids will value what we value.  My hope is that as I raise my kids I will be able to lead them towards things of eternal value rather than just an earthly value. I want them to have eyes that turn away from earthly things.

How can I help my children understand eternal values?

 How to Change Your Mind

Joe Carter:

After reading the entire post the vast majority of readers will snicker at such a hyperbolic claim and never implement the method I outline. A smaller number will consider the advice intriguing, my assertion only a slight exaggeration, but will also never implement the method. A tiny minority, however, will recognize the genius behind the process and apply it to their own life. This group will later say that my claim was an understatement.

This post is written for those people.

The Deep Magic of Christmas

Barnabas Piper:

Christmas hurts. “The most wonderful time of the year” is not for many people. And all the sentiment and smiles we can muster do nothing to dull the pain; they merely mask it.

10 Ways We Can Remember to Be Christians this Christmas

Kevin DeYoung:

We love Christmas. We can’t wait for the day to come, and many of us can’t wait for the season to be gone.

But whether you love every nook and cranny about the holidays–or consider most of it “noise, noise, noise!”–there is no excuse to be grinchy and scroogeish. Here are ten ways we can remember to be Christians this Christmas.

On Being Extra-Scrooge-y

Catherine Parks:

But now I see myself–I’m a cynical 80-year-old in a 31-year-old’s body. I hear about Santa bringing toys to children around the world, and wonder why he doesn’t visit the slums of Mumbai. My Facebook feed is an absurd string of terrible news from all over the world mixed with videos about how to tie a ribbon or fold a napkin. (And let me tell you, nothing brings out the self-righteousness in me quite like social media.) But I know cynicism and a critical spirit are not the answer to over-sentimentalizing Christmas. These things just increase my awareness that I lack love–it’s easy to think I love strangers in Iraq, and yet the truth comes out as I have no love for those who don’t think like me in my own social circle.

HT: Tim

A year of time-tested theology

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It’s easy to get stuck in a reading rut. When you read the same kind of stuff, over and over, year after year… you get a bit worn out, y’know? That’s why, each year, I put together a new project to keep my reading from becoming stale. In 2014, I had the re-reading project, going back to a book I’d read in the past—some Christian, some non—to add a little more variety.

In 2015, one of the new projects I’m taking on is a fairly big one:

A year of time-tested theology. 

Beginning January 1, 2015, I’ll be reading (and in some cases, re-reading) a number of time-tested, trustworthy works of theology. My goal is to read four major works in the year, the first two being:

The remaining two I’m still deciding on, but I’m open to recommendations. One I’m considering, though, is Augustine’s Confessions.

This is going to be a fun project for a few reasons:

1. 2014 was a pretty dry reading year for me. There were a lot of really good books, but I felt pretty “meh” about the year overall. But old books are a lot of fun. I like seeing how people used language in the past and seeing how it’s evolved over time.

2. I really need to reconnect with theology that predates the Internet. I’ve been spending a lot of time with books written in the last 60 years or so, to some degree at the expense of far too many older, time-tested works. It’s time to correct that, lest I become guilty of chronological snobbery.

3. The reading is spread out. I’m not trying to set myself a crazy goal of reading one of these every couple of weeks or anything like that. These works take time to digest. My schedule for this project means I’ll be reading each work over the course of three months, on average. In some cases, this will still be fairly aggressive, but in others, it’ll lots of space. And with school coming up, I’ll need to make sure I have that space.

Some of my reading will inevitably be discussed here over the course of the year (but I’m not committing myself to a strict weekly series or anything like that). I really want this to be an enjoyable project for me—and if you’d like to join me in it, let me know what you’re planning on reading!

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just a couple to add today, in addition to yesterday’s list:

And if you missed these last week at, these titles by C.S. Lewis are still on sale:

The Loins of Leah

Lore Ferguson: “Rachel was loved, Leah was hated, but God brought the Lion of Judah through the loins of Leah. Don’t waste your suffering.”

The healthy leader

This is really helpful

Let’s Rethink Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs

Russell Moore:

But then this man explained why he found the music so bad. It wasn’t just that it was cloying. It’s that it was boring.

“Christmas is boring because there’s no narrative tension,” he said. “It’s like reading a book with no conflict.”

Now he had my attention.

Top Ten Theology Stories of 2014

Collin Hansen highlights a few of the most significant events of 2014.

Joy to the World: A Christmas Hymn Reconsidered

Alyssa Poblete:

Watts’s father issued a challenge. He told Watts that if he struggled with the songs they sang, then he ought to do something about it. Perhaps he should attempt to write something different. This moment set Watts on a lifelong pursuit to write lyrics that exalted Christ and reminded Christians of their hope in his saving work on the cross.

This desire is evident in the way he wrote “Joy to the World.” Watts was inspired to write the timeless tune while meditating on Psalm 98. Verse 4 gripped him: “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” And this is exactly what Watts set out to do. Little did he know that this song would spark a joyful noise that would ring through the ages.

My favorite articles to write in 2014

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Good writers will admit that it takes a lot of effort to write—not to simply to write well, but to write at all. It’s actually a lot easier to not. And very often, we writer types tend to be our own worst critics… but even so, there’s always something we’ve written we genuinely like.

Today, I want to share some of my favorites written in the last year. These are articles representing some of the work I’m most happy with from the past year, although not necessarily the most read (though some of them are).

I hope you’ll give them a read if you haven’t already:

The day ISIS got a little closer to home

We often fail to realize how closely connected we all are. We look at the world we live in—specifically our North American context—and assume the way we live is “normal.” The persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria is a powerful wake-up call for us, if for no other reason than it reminds us that persecution is actually normal for Christians. It’s not something we read about in our Bible and think, “Gosh, I’m glad things are so much better now.” For many believers in over 100 nations, that’s life: beatings, wrongful imprisonment, verbal abuse, and martyrdom.

Ministry Idolatry

This is actually an article that’s existed for several years, but a few months ago, I rewrote it from scratch. I like the new version a lot more:

If a friend falls, will we encourage people to pray for him and his family (which is right to do), as well as to pray for those he’s wronged (which is equally right and necessary, as Matt Redmond has reminded us)? This is hard in some ways, because it requires us to challenge the idol of our preconceived notions and also the idol of “credibility” (and the danger, again, as Redmond has pointed out, is when we fail to speak out about glaring abuses we actually lose that which we sought to keep).

7 signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher

Not too long ago, my wife was feeling a bit down, and a super-nice lady whose kids go to the same school as our daughter gave her some books to encourage her. Funnily enough, they all happened to be prosperity theology books (which has led to some entertaining and positive discussion around the house).

Every so often we all stumble into prosperity theology, usually unwittingly. While occasionally you’ll get a nugget of helpful truth (in the same way that you’ll find some helpful things in your average self-help book), there’s a lot of goofiness which can make for a fun night of “Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie.” So, how do you know if you’re reading a book written by a prosperity preacher? Here are seven signs.

If the gospel isn’t in it, should we be singing it?

So there’s a completely accurate report rumor going around that I’m pretty persnickety about music. Like, to the point that I have trouble singing most Sundays. This isn’t because there’s anything terrible with the music at our church—far from it, our church has a pretty robust music ministry (but thankfully no lasers or smoke machines)—it’s just I find myself thinking about the words we’re singing more often than not.

The reasons for this vary: sometimes it’s considering how those words line up with my own life at that moment. Other times, it’s contemplating whether or not the words are actually undeniably Christian, or if they’re just kind of feel-good gobbledygook.

Thankfully I am not alone in this.

How to talk when we talk about God

What kind of pronouns should we use when we talk about God?

We typically default to the masculine “He,” but should we?

Is there anything wrong with referring to God as “she”?

While the answer might seem obvious, it is worth considering. After all, as Christians, we want to speak of God in a way that is pleasing to Him. So, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering how to to talk when we talk about God.

160 of the most terrifying words I’ve ever read

The fact that we can so easily deceive ourselves about the state of our souls. That we can say the “right” words, have a good marriage, go to church regularly—that we can be the model “good” Christian—and only be kidding ourselves. That what we think of as fruit may not be fruit at all.

“But where is the Holy Ghost to be seen in their lives?” 

3 passages I want to preach (but have been afraid to)

By the way, this summer I got over my fear and preached two of these passages:

I’m going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret: preaching is really hard. It’s a task that can (or should) make even the most confident man a little weak in the knees. One of the things that’s always freaked me out has been trying to choose the right passage to preach… What if it’s the “wrong” message for the church, or what if I do injustice to the text? And let’s face it, some texts are significantly harder to teach than others.

Here’s a look at three books I want to preach, but have been afraid to.

Would Paul have used video? Here’s a better question…

The question of whether or not Paul would use video is an important one, but I wonder if it might also be the wrong one.

Would Paul use video to share the gospel? Probably, sure. But, more importantly, what would he use it for?

The preposterous inconsistency of secular sexual ethics

…who draws the line when it comes to sexual ethics in the postmodern secular worldview? Is it purely individual? Is it a constantly moving target? Is the line drawn, as in some views, based on how “good” the fruit appears to be? In the end, it comes down to all sexual preferences being all equally fine, unless they’re too icky or inconvenient for us.

Christian, don’t begrudgingly affirm God’s Word

Public personalities like these aren’t alone in doing the dance. At some point or another we all do it. And as I’ve watched it happen (and occasionally been caught in it myself) time and again, one of the inevitable pieces of fallout is we wind up just having to come out and say what we were trying to not say.

This almost begrudging acceptance of the truth—we really do have to say what the Bible says.

See what made the cut in years past:

My favorite articles to write in 2013

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few to start off your week:

The Unbreakable Laura Hillenbrand

This profile of Laura Hillenbrand is well worth reading.

Advice for a New Elder

Garrett Kell:

Our church recently recognized a brother named Mark to serve as an elder. To welcome him, I reached out to a few dozen friends who serve as elders at other churches and asked them to send me advice they would give to a new elder. Here’s the summary of what they would say to a young man who is stepping in as a new overseer.

What each country is known for

Mary’s radical declaration of consent

Karen Swallow Prior:

Last Christmas, placards proclaiming “God raped Mary” were posted around the property of a Youth for Christ chapter in Toronto, Canada. Likewise, an atheist web site claims of the biblical story, “There was no asking Mary ‘Hey, do you consent to this?’, she had no choice, god just knocked her up and told her afterwards.” Then there’s the Internet meme depicting an illustration of Mary emblazoned with the words, “You think you got it bad? God raped me.” Even some lighthearted half-believers—who concede the historicity of Mary, but not the supernatural circumstances around her son—theorize that she was raped, not by God, but by a Roman soldier, as portrayed in a 2002 BBC documentary.

However, whether one considers the scriptural account to be the inspired word of God or merely a literary text, understanding it properly requires an accurate reading of its actual words. Whether one interprets the story of Christ’s birth as literal or metaphorical (or both), a faithful reading, as is true of the reading of all texts, starts at the literal level. I am a Christian, the kind who believes in the literal virgin birth of Christ, as well as his literal death and bodily resurrection. But I’m far less offended as a Christian by unbelieving than I am as an English professor by misreading.

A dangerous passion for growth

Andrew Heard:

The most dangerous people in our Christian community are the leaders and evangelists who not only long to see growth but who also have the closest sympathy with the needs and concerns of the sinners we are seeking to reach. That is, the people who feel most keenly the needs of the unconverted sinner, who feel most keenly their pain and the difficulties caused by the churches that are meant to be attracting them: these are our most dangerous church members. Why? Because that sympathy for the sinner can very easily overpower any other concerns, such that they see almost every issue through the lens of what will make it easy or hard for the sinner to connect in to church life. And because they long to see these people won to Christ and part of his people, they will feel most keenly anything that might potentially make it hard for them—things like what we say, what we do. They will even see some biblical ideas and practices as concerning when it comes to reaching unbelievers.

Christmas Is the Greatest Mystery

David Mathis:

It is a glorious revelation, and it’s also a great mystery. This is the greatest mystery in all of history, how God himself became fully human without ceasing to be fully divine, that God, in all his God-ness, united himself with all man-ness. Church history has coined it “the hypostatic union,” the joining of two distinct natures in one undivided person (“hypostatic” is just a fancy word for “personal”). Jesus is fully God and fully man in one spectacular person.

When you love the world, you abuse it

do not love the world

We should not love the world because we can neither have nor enjoy its pleasures long. It may be that they will leave us, but if not, we must leave them. And the stronger affections we have toward anything, the more bitter the affliction when we leave it. Strong affections bring great afflictions to men and women. In Luke 12:19-20, we see how short a man’s time is. The fool there had built up a great estate: “Thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: Then whose shall those things be, which thou has provided?” We have many such fools in the world who store up much here, thinking they shall live long and be at ease. As some used to say, “Well, when I have made such a fortune, then I will give up the sea and live at ease.” But before that comes, “You fool, this night you are taken away from it in the midst of your pursuit of it.” So we cannot enjoy the things of this world. Therefore, seeing the time is short, as the apostle said, use the world, so as not to abuse it. Use the world you may, but do not love it, for then you abuse it. Use the world for your necessities, to further your journey to heaven, to further your accounts before God. But do not abuse it, do not love it. The time is short.

William Greenhill, Stop Loving the World, 61

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week there’ve been quite a few really good deals on Kindle books. Here’s a recap along with a few newer ones:

One Sentence That Pastors and Church Staff Hate to Hear

Yep.

Tomorrow’s promise, today’s indulgence

Jeremy Walker:

We can do the same thing spiritually. We promise ourselves that tomorrow is the big day, the day when we will really begin to pray against a particular sin, wrestle against a particular temptation, address a particular habit. And what happens? First of all, our own sinful hearts will incline to one last fling, one last binge – after all, we will be taking ourselves in hand tomorrow. But more than that, Satan will begin to whisper. He will assure us that we might as well give in to temptation – after all, we can repent later and start over the day after. And how often does this happen?

Reading in the age of Amazon

Hundreds of millions of tablets and e-readers have been sold, but today we’re still inclined to think of a book as words on a page. Amazon’s success with Kindle has hinged on recognizing how much more they can be. So where does the company go from here? In a series of rare, on-the-record interviews for Kindle’s 7th anniversary, Amazon executives sketched out their evolving vision for the future of reading. It’s wild — and it’s coming into focus faster than you might have guessed.

A Time to Speak Webcast

If you missed this webcast earlier this week, you can watch this important conversation on race now.

That’s What Gospel Do

Mike Leake:

A couple of years ago Jarrod Dyson, the speedy centerfielder for the KC Royals, scored the game winning run by tagging up on a pop up to the shortstop. If you don’t understand baseball just know that in order to do something like this you have to be crazy fast. Dyson is crazy fast.

When being interviewed after the game, Dyson quipped, “That what speed do”. And it stuck. Now every time Dyson uses his legs to wreak havoc in a game—the announcers will inevitably say “that what speed do”.

Jarrod Dyson has the speed to change a game. In the same way, times infinity, the gospel changes things. Don’t believe me look at this.

3 things I loved about Through The Eyes of Spurgeon

Through the Eyes of Spurgeon, the new documentary directed by fellow Canuck Stephen McCaskell, was released yesterday. This is something we’ve been waiting a long time for. Why do I say “we”?

Because I was part of the team that made it, writing the screenplay.

This is one of the coolest projects I’ve been a part of in my professional career, one that, a couple of times, I honestly wasn’t sure was going to come to fruition. But here we are. The movie’s out there, and it’s pretty great. Here are a few of the things I loved about being a part of making this film:

1. The process of writing a screenplay and seeing it translated to film.

This was the first time I’d written something of this length for the screen. I was surprised by how similar it is in some ways to writing a book. It takes a ton of time to do this right, but most of the time is spent in the pre-work—in the planning and research. Reading biographies, building an outline, figuring out how to describe the scene. Making lots of revisions. Having friendly disagreements about what to include and what to cut in order to keep the documentary from turning into a trilogy… the process of working all this out is a lot of fun, in part because it’s so challenging.

One small regret was not being able to be present for filming (travelling to Europe for at least three weeks wasn’t feasible with my family situation). It would have been a lot of fun to be on hand to help with any of the changes that always come up when people start speaking in front of a camera, and to actually be in these places that I’ve only been able to read about. (But like I said, that’s only a small regret.)

2. The response has been overwhelming.

Last night, I learned that the film had been played over 10,000 times in 110 countries. While many of those viewing were from North America, nearly every nation with an Internet connection is represented.

ttes-nations

On its first day, Through The Eyes of Spurgeon was seen in 110 countries!

I wasn’t sure how to process it when Stephen shared these numbers with me. And when you look at the map and realize that many of the countries are hostile to Christianity, it’s even more incredible. I seriously struggle with how to even describe that. It’s just… wow.

3. My new appreciation for Charles Spurgeon, our brother in Christ

One of the things that is so dangerous for evangelicals is our tendency to turn our heroes into celebrities. So when you come to a man like Spurgeon, it’s easy to see him as this man who was a mighty untouchable preacher. And mighty though he was, he was also a man.

What I loved more than the stories of his ministry and its effectiveness, more than the controversies he faced, and the books he wrote, was learning about his marriage to Susannah, and his struggles with depression and gout and frequent illnesses, and his feistiness as a child and an adult.

The human Spurgeon is much more interesting than the ivory tower dwelling hero we’ve turned him into. He was a man, one familiar with the same trials and temptations—and like us, did not always resist. This is something we should always remember. Spurgeon—like all the saints who’ve gone before him and since—is our brother in Christ. He’s one used mightily by God, to be sure, but he is one whom we will bow beside when we come before Jesus, not one we will bow to.

I hope you’ll check out the documentary if you haven’t already. Watch it with your friends. Watch it with your family. I hope it’s as much of an encouragement to you as you watch it as it was for all of us who played a part in making it.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Right now, Amazon’s got a whole pile of C.S. Lewis titles on sale:

Also on sale:

And during today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org, you’ll find a whole bunch of great options like:

  • Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation by Anthony Carter (hardcover)
  • The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God by Jonathan Edwards (ePub)
  • Luther and the Reformation teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (hardcover)
  • A Shattered Image teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

How to Use the Back of a Napkin to Prove to a Jehovah’s Witness That Jesus Is God

Justin Taylor shares this simple method from Greg Koukl. Solid gold.

Open borders, closed church?

Great story on the implications of renewed diplomatic and trade relations between the US and Cuba:

How will the spiritual climate change now? Possibly a lot. Although only Congress can fully lift the Cuban embargo, Obama’s actions will lift bans on most investment and travel between the nations—unleashing unprecedented economic opportunities for impoverished Cubans.

Marriage in Light of Forever

This interview with the Chans is well worth reading (as is their book on marriage that isn’t a book on marriage!).

The Sacred-Secular Divide Is Pure Fiction

Bethany Jenkins, quoting Martin Luther:

It is pure invention [fiction] that pope, bishops, priests, and monks are called the “spiritual estate” while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the “temporal estate.” This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimated by it, and for this reason: all Christians are truly of the “spiritual estate,” and there is no difference among them except that of office. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 that we are all one body, yet every member has its own work by which it serves the others. This is because we all have one baptism, one gospel, one faith, and are all Christians alike; for baptism, gospel, and faith alone make us spiritual and a Christian people.

Is Worry Always A Sin?

Josh Blount:

Is that all the Bible teaches on worry: just stop it? That’s a simple answer, but it doesn’t map well onto the complexities of life. If your spouse is seriously ill and you’re not concerned, or if your child’s salvation means no more to you than tomorrow’s weather forecast, something is wrong. Worry goes right along with compassion and genuine love. The same Paul who wrote “Do not be anxious” also said of he faced “the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). He loved his churches, and that love carried with it the pressure of anxiety for their welfare. And in Philippians, before he commands us not to be anxious, Paul commends Timothy because he is “genuinely concerned” for the welfare of the Philippians (Phil. 2:20), using the same word for concern/anxiety that he uses in 4:6. So which is it: a sin, or something commendable?