Eight books I want to read this fall

eight-books-fall-2015

Well, here we are once again: The fall is more or less upon us.

Next week, kids all over Canada will return to school, the traffic will be slightly busier, and the Armstrong children will be hard at work with our second year of homeschooling. And, of course, as each new season comes, I like to take a moment to consider what I’m going to read over the next several weeks. Most recently, I shared what I wanted to read during the summer, of which I read all but one—Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke—and only because I didn’t get myself a copy. Today, I want to share a few books I’m reading (besides Reinke’s book) this fall:


The Unseen Realm by Michael S. Heiser

I’m currently reading this, and it’s very intriguing. Look for a review soon:

In The Unseen Realm, Dr. Michael Heiser examines the ancient context of Scripture, explaining how its supernatural worldview can help us grow in our understanding of God. He illuminates intriguing and amazing passages of the Bible that have been hiding in plain sight. You’ll find yourself engaged in an enthusiastic pursuit of the truth, resulting in a new appreciation for God’s Word.

Buy it at: Amazon


The Other Worldview by Peter Jones

I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how this differs from Jones’ excellent One or Two:

A cataclysmic change has occurred over the past few decades. Our culture as a whole has switched worldviews.

According to Peter Jones, all the religions and philosophies of the world can be divided into two basic worldviews. These two perspectives differ on the fundamental nature of reality. Is everything essentially one? Or does an irreducible distinction exist between creation and Creator?

In The Other Worldview, Jones explains the difference between what he calls “Oneism” and “Twoism.” He exposes the pagan roots of Oneism, and he traces its spread and influence throughout Western culture. Most importantly, he shows us why Oneism is incapable of saving anyone or truly changing the world for the better.

Buy it at: Amazon


Writers to Read by Douglas Wilson

In Writers to Read, Douglas Wilson—someone who’s spent a career writing, reading, and teaching others to do the same—introduces readers to nine great authors whose work deserves to be read. Whether it’s G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, or Robert Capon, the well-known and less-known authors Wilson examines are all masters of creative writing and worthy of study and enjoyment. Those looking to become better writers or better readers will find this book to be an invaluable guide for wisely selecting their literary mentors.

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Bookstore


The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung

This one will be interesting:

In The Biggest Story, Kevin DeYoung—a best-selling author and father of six—leads kids and parents alike on an exciting journey through the Bible, connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to Christ’s death on the cross to the new heaven and new earth.

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Bookstore


The Story of Everything by Jared C. Wilson

Pro-tip: If Jared writes it, there’s a good chance it’s going to be worth reading.

We’re all searching for significance—something deeper, richer, and bigger than what we can see in our unremarkable, everyday routines. The greatest news we can hear is that God has a very real purpose for everything in this life. In The Story of Everything, Jared Wilson explores the redemptive story that God is telling in and through the world, helping us see God at work in everything from cultures to creatures to commutes and play our part in his ultimate plan to make all things new.

Buy it at: Amazon


Faker by Nicholas McDonald

Have you ever felt like a faker? Facebook, Twitter and Instagramallow us to paint beautiful pictures of our lives. But many of us feel like fakers. If people really knew who we were, what would they think? Would they still care?

What would life look like if we stopped pretending?

This book not only explores that question, but provides the thrilling answer found in a short story told 2,000 years ago.

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Bookstore | The Good Book Company


A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The AT offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes–and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings.

For a start there’s the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz’s overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride, and while on the trail they meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson’s acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail, and as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America’s last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods has become a modern classic of travel literature.

Buy it at: Amazon


Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

In America, it is soccer. But in Great Britain, it is the real football. No pads, no prayers, no prisoners. And that’s before the players even take the field.

Nick Hornby has been a football fan since the moment he was conceived. Call it predestiny. Or call it preschool. Fever Pitch is his tribute to a lifelong obsession. Part autobiography, part comedy, part incisive analysis of insanity, Hornby’s award-winning memoir captures the fever pitch of fandom—its agony and ecstasy, its community, its defining role in thousands of young men’s coming-of-age stories. Fever Pitch is one for the home team. But above all, it is one for everyone who knows what it really means to have a losing season.

Buy it at: Amazon


That’s a quick look at what I’m trying to read. Some of it I’ll be done sooner than others, naturally, but I think it’s a reasonable goal. What’s on your reading list?

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Three new deals to get you started:

The Place and Purpose of Parachurch Ministries

Jon Saunders:

My concern with parachurch ministries on college campuses is that they often don’t simply come alongside the churce; they replace it. In the middle of the 20th century, men like Bright and Dawson Trotman rightly recognized that churches weren’t effectively engaging students. They rightly wanted to fix this problem. If not carefully monitored, however, their ministries may inadvertently strip our Lord’s disciple-making mandate from the very institution to which it belongs.

A Plea to Christian Men

Aileen Challies:

Men, you are supposed to be modeling holiness before the world (Titus 2:6-8). You are supposed to be cherishing your wives as Christ cherishes his church (Ephesians 5:25). You are supposed to be abstaining from all sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3). You are supposed to be fleeing youthful passions (2 Timothy 2:22). Why are so many of you failing at these basic tasks? Is it really that difficult? You would almost think that this one sin is beyond the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lazy Writing, Cheap Restoration

Kenneth R. Morefield:

A few years ago, a studio executive told me that the primary place in which the typical Christian film suffers, compared to its mainstream peers, is in the writing. Many Christian productions are willing to hire experienced, professional directors; even when they’re shot by self-taught cinematographers, the result is usually at least adequate. Christian productions now attract familiar stars: Robert Duvall in Seven Days in Utopia; Sean Astin in Mom’s Night Out; Cybill Shepard in Do You Believe?

But when it comes to screenplay writing, the genre seems stuck in a rut. It’s more committed to heavy-handed providential plotting than imaginative explorations of character or setting.

George Müller Did Not Have the Gift of Faith — Thankfully

John Piper:

What’s the difference between this amazing faith (which Müller called the “grace of faith”) and the “gift of faith” in 1 Corinthians 12:7–9, which says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit”?

Three Ways to Redirect the Spotlight

Eric Geiger:

Pride erodes trust, fosters disunity, and hurts relationships. It is repulsive to people. We all struggle with pride, and pride threatens to plague leaders—especially those who enjoy success and see fruit from their leadership. A tangible way to fight pride is to redirect the spotlight, to tangibly remind yourself and others that the results are really not about you. While redirecting the spotlight does not solve our struggle with pride, it is one way to give our sin new wounds.

Honor authorities, but fear God

heart

First Peter 2:13 starts with six words most of us probably really, really hate: “Be subject to every human institution.”

Admit it: you just bristled, didn’t you?

None of us particularly like authority. That is, in large part, because we are sinners prone to wanting to be our own authorities. But some of us also have a habit of being so concerned about our human authorities that we forget that they are also under God’s authority.

Yes, respect and obey the earthly authorities—whether parents, pastors, police or presidents—but don’t forget: they’re not the primary authority. God is.

The higher authority

 

In Luke 12:4, Jesus tells His disciples, “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.”

“Those who persecute you, those in authority over you,” he says, “the worst they can do is kill you. So don’t be afraid of them.”

Instead, fear God. Why? Because he can kill you and after that, he has the authority to cast you into hell.

So yes, we should obey the civil authorities, but we are to “fear” God over them. Simple, right?

Well, what happens when what the government orders comes into conflict with what God commands? Simple: We obey God first.

This is what the Bible continually shows us as the pattern of behavior for Christians. We are to honor the authorities over us, but not at the expense of our obedience to our Lord and Savior. Consider two brief examples.

Fearing God in the face of the fiery furnace

In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar sets up a golden image of himself that all the citizens of Babylon are to worship. But he learns that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—three Jews brought into the royal house as servants—refused to worship.

He calls them to him and asks, “Is it true … that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound… and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan. 3:16-18)

Their answer? No. We must worship God alone. We believe that he will rescue us—and even if he doesn’t, we still cannot worship false gods.

Fearing God in the face of religious leaders

And in Acts 4, Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews because they have been preaching Christ. And the council “charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4-19-20).

The council ordered them to stop talking about Jesus. Their answer: We must speak of what we have seen and heard because it is from God—and we must obey him.

Respect authorities but fear God

A lot of Christians in North America are wringing their hands about what is to come. They’re afraid of losing their religious liberty. They’re afraid of it perhaps becoming illegal to meet publicly, unless we are willing to tone down our message. They are afraid of the possibility of persecution (though thankfully it has not come to that yet).

But should the day ever come when Christianity is outlawed, what will we do? We’ll still meet together. Why? Because God has commanded it. We’ll still preach the gospel. Why? Because the gospel demands it. We must fear God and obey him over any earthly authority.

But we’re not there yet. The gospel is increasingly offensive, it is true, but by and large we are free to do what we are called to without fear of reprisal. And we should be thankful because as long as their requirements do not conflict with God’s Word, we should have no issue obeying what the law demands of us.  We should have no issue showing them the respect their position demands.

 

But we need never fear them. Fear is reserved for God alone.

 

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put two excellent books on biblical theology on sale:

What Katrina Taught Me

Russell Moore:

The apocalypses we experience now—whether in Katrina-struck America or earthquake-devastated Haiti or tsunami-ravaged Asia—remind us that this present order isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. The CNN meteorologists can explain the hurricane only in terms of barometric pressure and water temperatures. We know, however, that at its root this natural disaster isn’t natural at all. It is creation crying out, “Adam, where are you?”

What Our Enemies Teach Us

Erin Straza gives us a preview of the latest issue of Christ and Pop Culture.

Life Is Short. Love Your Spouse.

Ben Reaoch:

But why are so many falling for it? Why is it that Ashley Madison can boast of over 37 million users — with professing Christians among them? It’s because sin is just that enticing. And just that deceptive. To have sex with someone who is not your spouse can seem so exhilarating, especially if one’s marriage has become dull and boring. Sin clouds our vision, distorts our perception of reality, and if we haven’t fed our souls on specific truths to chase away the lies, one day we may find ourselves buying into the very lie we once thought was unthinkable.

Words of Unnatural Comfort in the Midst of Unrelenting Conflict

Miles Morrison:

Wars without worry, famines without fretting, disaster without distress. Jesus’ words of unnatural comfort in the midst of unrelenting conflict are a stark contrast to our own desires for self-protection and self-preservation. But with the promise of problems comes another guarantee: the end is not yet. Jesus doesn’t want us to feel overwhelmed by the troubles of this world, because they haven’t overwhelmed him. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) No matter what happens in this life, no matter what pain you experience or what problems you face, Jesus wants you to know that he is greater still. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.

10 Ways To Overcome Spiritual Weariness

Mark Altrogge:

Being a disciple of Jesus is hard. He said we must daily take up our cross and die to ourselves. He calls us to serve, love, and look to the interest of others. Following Jesus yields immeasurable joy, but we can also grow weary from day to day. Weary in parenting, weary in serving, weary in trials and affliction. When we’re weary we can find fresh strength, joy and motivation in Christ. Here are 10 ways to do that.

Why God wants us to know the end of the story

hope-present

I love reading a series called Elephant and Piggie with my kids. In fact, one of the things I’m least looking forward to when they get older is them not wanting to read these books anymore. One of the my favorites to read with the kids (in part because it’s a good reminder for me) is one called Waiting is Not Easy! The story goes like this:

Piggie has something special she wants to show Gerald. But he can’t see it right away. He has to wait.

And wait.

And waaaaaiiiiiit.

There’s a great deal of sighing and moaning and flopping and whatnot from Gerald, because waiting is not easy. But Piggie encourages him to stick with it. After waiting the whole day, he finally gives up. “It’s getting dark, we’ve waited too long!” he says.

Then Piggie tells him to look at the sky. He sees all the stars and it’s beautiful. And he says, “Wow, that was worth the wait.”

One of the things I’m reminded of when I read this story is the end of the Bible, and the vision of a new creation we see in Revelation: One where sickness and sadness are no more. Where there is no more death, no more tears, no more hunger or fear. There is joy and life everlasting, with our Lord Jesus ruling and reigning forevermore.

We desperately need this to keep us going as believers. If our hope were in some ethereal, vague or obscure better tomorrow, I really don’t know how any of us would get out of bed in the morning. Or look at the insane evils committed in this world and not become bitter and jaded. To become weary of doing good because, what’s the point, right?

Yet, when we read letters like 2 Thessalonians, written by the apostle Paul to a group of believers who were being lured into despair by false teachers claiming Jesus had already come, we see why we need this promise and the clarity the Bible gives. No one knows when Jesus will return except God the Father—not even Jesus himself. We aren’t to go about trying to discern when it will happen. We aren’t to look at the Bible for codes or evidence to add to a chart. Any time an individual proclaiming they know what only God the Father knows, they’re wrong.

Every time.

Without fail.

Always and forever.

The Bible doesn’t tell us about what’s to come so we can try to figure out what we’ve already been told we can’t know. Instead, these passage exist to give us confidence and courage—to give us hope—while we wait for that day to come. When we see babies murdered for the sake of convenience and a national leader thanking God for the organization responsible for millions of those deaths. When terrorists behead Christians for refusing to recant of their testimony. When otherwise sane individuals thank Jesus for rich dudes who build a political campaign playing on nothing but people’s frustration, racism and hate.

I don’t know about you, but I need the end of the story to keep me from running off and hunkering in a bunker somewhere. I need the promise of the new creation so I can keep pressing on in the call to make disciples and pursue a life of holiness. I need the promise because I want to live looking forward to that day, not to another day of whatever darkness the world has to offer us. I need it so that I might “not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).

That’s why God wants us to know the end of the story. And it’s really great news.

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to get these titles in John Piper’s The Swans Are Not Silent series on sale for $3.99:

Also on sale:

B&H has a number of volumes from the Perspectives series on sale:

What’s the one thing a church needs from its pastor?

Loved my friend Matt’s answer to this question:

Looking for abortion truth in big media

Sam Jones:

But sometimes we are confronted with such naked, aggressively obvious journalistic mischief that to not call it out would be to bury our heads and consciences in the sand. And then other times, the way something is misreported or misrepresented can be far more than a political scrimmage or a culture war skirmish; sometimes bad journalism is a matter of life and death.

In the case of big media, abortion, and the Planned Parenthood expose videos, we have a case of both.

Why Are Anti-Judgmental People So Judgmental?

Randy Alcorn:

There’s a growing trend I’ve noticed and have become concerned about: namely, that people who are anti-judgmental are SO judgmental of anyone else they perceive to be passing judgment. One, they’re often wrong; two, they’re just as harsh as those they condemn and continuously assume the worst.

There Are No Unanswered Prayers

Courtney Reissig:

In the painful years of waiting for God to answer our prayers for a child this side of heaven, we never dreamed he would have given us two at once. When we stare at the faces of our twin boys, in all their boundless energy of toddlerhood, and now as we stare too at the face of our newborn son, we are regularly brought to worship the God who not only answered our prayer, but answered more abundantly than we could have imagined.

The Importance of What We Do in Secret

Derek Thomas:

Inauthentic ministry was a charge leveled against Paul. The Corinthians said that there was discrepancy between the way he wrote his letters and the way he was in person: “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2 Cor. 10:10). It is a serious charge, and in his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul spends almost the entire time defending himself. The critique came from jealousy and therefore bore no legitimacy. But the fact is, the charge can be true—not of Paul, but of us. Leadership calls for genuineness, authenticity and transparency.

Concessions, confessions and untangling tangly bits (For the Church)

lord-over-bedroom

My series at For the Church, “Letters to a New Believer,” continues. The first post addressed the dangers of rushing into leadership roles. The second takes a step back to look at getting grounded in the Bible. The third, is my encouragement to tell the story that’s yours. The fourth is probably the most personally revealing thing I’ve ever written, especially since it deals with s-e-x:

Emily and I had lived together, more or less, since 2000. I say “more or less” because during our second year of college we both had separate dorm rooms, but she spent the majority of her time in mine. In 2001, we got our first apartment together. In late 2004, we bought a house together. And then in 2005 Jesus saved us and made a mess of everything.

When it came to realizing what the Bible says about sexual immorality applied to us, we were a little slow on the uptake. Granted, there were certain things no one had to tell us weren’t okay. While neither of us was addicted to pornography, we had some in the house. So we tossed it. (And as a side note, you never realize how much is actually there until you go to get rid of it all.) But when it came to certain parts of our living arrangement, we more or less continued the way we had been to some degree.

And then we got a call at work from Emily’s mother, one that I still probably need to go to therapy over. She called to let us know that Emily’s sister—who was supposed to come and live with us in the fall to attend university—had become sexually active with her boyfriend.

And so after we were kind of grossed out for a bit—because no one likes to think of their siblings doing things that are only okay for them to do—we realized something: if we’re not okay with her doing that, why was it okay for us?

And that’s when the elephant juggling a ton of bricks while standing on a piano delicately grazing our respective craniums.

Keep reading at For the Church.


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

Links I like

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What do if my pastor is on the Ashley Madison list?

A good word here from Ed Stetzer, who estimates that at least 400 church leaders will be resigning this Sunday (or in the weeks to come):

I know this is hard, but quiet resignations and hushed conversations are not the answer. Pastoral repentance is different—the Bible says it is.

I know of pastors right now who are negotiating a quiet resignation after an Ashley Madison related affair—but you don’t get to do that if you have taken on the office of pastor.

Aaron Earls also offers a good encouragement here.

The Mark of Christianity That is Disappearing from Our Worship

Trevin Wax:

As a part of corporate worship, confession has historically been near the beginning of a service. Once we have been summoned to worship God, and once we have seen and begun to experience His presence, we are like Isaiah – falling on our knees before a majestic and holy God, amazed when seeing the brightness of His glory, ashamed when seeing our sin for what it is. Before we can move forward in worship, or move outward in mission, we fall down in repentance.

4 Kinds of Pastors

Nick Batzig:

About five years into the pastorate–trying to discern my own weaknesses and deficiencies–I started to realize that there are essentially four kinds of men (the lazy pastor aside) who labor in pastoral ministry–“the Idealist,” “the Visionary,” “the Worker Bee” and “the Connector.” While these categories are somewhat over-generalized and a bit artificial (since we are all very complex people), I have found them helpful to my own ministry. Those men who fall only into one of the four categories either have to labor hard to surround themselves with the other three, or they do an enormous disservice to the congregation they pastor because of the greatness of the imbalance they create. Finding men with all four of these characteristics is beyond rare, because they are borderline geniuses. While this rare breed is often used mightily by God for the growth and development of the church, such a man must work diligently to fight against trying to micromanage everyone and everything in the church; otherwise, he too will do a great disservice to the congregation that he has been called to pastor.

5 Questions on Creating an Organizational Culture

Eric Geiger:

I recently sat down with Todd Adkins and Barnabas Piper to discuss leadership and reading for the “Five Questions Leadership Podcast.” You should check out the podcast, which has skyrocketed on iTunes, for some great content. Here are the five questions we discussed about organizational culture, with a few notes I jotted down after each question.

Cultivating a gracious climate in your church

Jared Wilson:

A message of grace may attract people, but a culture of grace will keep them. What our churches need, not in exchange for a gospel message but as a witness to it, is a gospeled climate. But how do you get that? How do you develop in your church community a safe space to confess, be broken, be “not okay”? What are some ways to cultivate a climate of grace in your church?

There is faith in asking

psalm-10

I love the Psalms, but they kind of freak me out. They’re shockingly honest about what life following the Lord is really like–and not every day is a Friday. Sometimes it seems like everyone’s got a perpetual case of the Mondays.

Psalm 10 is like this, right from the opening verse, opening with the question no one wants to admit they ask:

Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)

But we all ask it, don’t we? Somewhere along the way, we’re all going to have a moment where we’ll be asking, “God, where are you? What’s going on here? Why is this world a giant mess and you don’t seem to be doing anything about it?”

Many of us shy away from admitting it, simply because we’ve been told not that that’s not what faithful Christians say. But in the Psalms and in the prophets, we keep seeing the authors of Scripture asking this sort of question.

In Psalm 55, David the great king of Israel, the man the Bible calls the man after God’s own heart, cried out, “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!”

Habbakuk’s book opens with these words:

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?

Jeremiah, likewise, experienced so much turmoil in his ministry that he even went so far as to suggest that God had tricked him! (Jeremiah 20:7).

But those are not the only places we see it: Psalm 44:24, Psalm 88:14, Psalm 89:46… Over and over and over again, God’s people keep asking this question when they are so overwhelmed in the midst of trials and suffering, when they are overcome by unrelenting injustice: Where are you, God?

So what do we do with this?

There is faith in asking

Now, one of the things Christians really struggle with is being honest about the difficulties we face. We seem to have bought into this idea that if we don’t understand what God is doing, or opening up about what’s going on and how we’re feeling—to say that it feels like God is absent from our lives—that we’re denying him. We’re abandoning the faith or on the road to apostasy.

And to be perfectly clear, there is a kind of questioning God that is absolutely rooted in unbelief. It is presumptuous. And it is arrogant. When we do this, we’re really just trying to placate ourselves as if to say, “Well, God isn’t paying attention anyway, so I’ll just go do what I want.”

But what we need to recognize is that the author of Psalm 10 is not asking out of unbelief, any more than David, Habbakuk or Jeremiah did. He’s not looking for an out. He’s at the end of his rope. He knows what God has said about justice and mercy and compassion, and he knows the commands of God—that he is to love the Lord with all of his heart and to love his neighbor as himself—but he looks around and sees something other than that. He asks because in all of it, he feels the apparent absence of God, and for the person for whom the presence of the Lord is their greatest and all-consuming joy, that is a terrifying thing.

His question is an act of faith, and it can be one for us, too.

This is something I’ve had to learn and relearn numerous times over the last few years. When we lost a baby—and Emily nearly lost her life—during a difficult miscarriage in 2009, it was hard to understand what God was doing there, despite some of the good we saw from it. When Emily developed epilepsy three years ago, neither of us jumped for joy because we had a new opportunity to glorify God in our circumstances. When I was in a place where every single night I would come home from work begging and pleading for it to be okay for me to go in the next day and resign, and the answer was always no, I didn’t just shrug my shoulders and say, “Well, the Lord’s will be done.”

Life doesn’t work that way, and it’s okay to admit it.

But the point of asking the question isn’t to allow us to wallow in our despair. We ask not out of unbelief, but to help our unbelief. We ask because we need to be reminded, as the author of Psalm 10 did, of the sovereignty of God. He asked because he needed to remind himself that God would indeed act, that justice would be done.

The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:16-18)

He gives thanks to the Lord, who is king forever and ever—Jesus, the Son of God, the heir to the throne of David, the One through whom and for whom all things exist. The one who even now holds all the universe together and has promised that a day is coming when justice will be fully and finally served. Sin and sadness and death will be no more. There will be no more tyranny or tears. The fatherless and oppressed will rejoice and be strengthened. No man will strike terror ever again. Evil will perish. All the accounting will be done.

That’s what we all need, isn’t it? And the good news is, when we see the injustices in this world that seem to go unmet, we can have hope. No matter how frustrating things are, we need not despair. No matter what circumstances we face, we need not believe God has abandoned us. We need to remind ourselves of this, even as we plead with him to act and call on him to help the humble and oppressed. His is here. He is with us. He is good. And he is faithful to answer your call. He will do justice and man will strike terror no more.

So don’t think asking is an act of unbelief—there is faith in asking.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Should We Watch Murders on Social Media?

Russell Moore:

A videotaped massacre can easily be a kind of pornography, turning human beings—made in the image of God–into spectacles, all while giving the illusion of a safe distance between their suffering and the audience. We can justify watching this as “being informed,” but there is a very thin line these days between news and entertainment. The last thing we should ever be entertained by is the taking of human life. That’s why our early Christian ancestors refused to go to the gladiatorial games.

15 Ways to Fight Lust with the Sword of the Spirit

Kevin DeYoung:

The seventh commandment is not just broken in this country; it’s being smashed to pieces.

And sexual sin is not just an “out there” problem. Any pastor will tell you stories about how sexual sin has destroyed people in his congregation. None of us are immune from the dangers of sexual immorality. In a Christianity Today study from several years ago, 40 percent of clergy acknowledged visiting pornographic websites. Another survey found that 21 percent visit regularly. Yet another survey at Pastors.com found that 50 percent of pastors reported to viewing pornography in the previous year. And then there’s the underlying issue of the heart. The seventh commandment doesn’t just forbid adultery and pornography. It forbids every action, look, conversation, thought, or desire that incites lust and uncleanness.

So how in the world, in this world we live in, and with our sex-saturated hearts, can we obey the seventh commandment?

All are welcome here

Ray Ortlund shares a great quote from Octavius Winslow.

Amazon: Easy to Critique, Easier to One-Click

Lisa Slayton:

We may publicly condemn large companies like Amazon and praise small businesses like Hearts & Minds. But when it comes to buying our books and placing our orders, we usually go with the company that offers the fastest and cheapest option—without regard for how it treats it employees.

Who, then, is to blame for “bruising” workplaces, where people are treated like cogs in a machine rather than humans created in God’s image? It may very well be us, the consumers.

Let’s Reach Out with the Gospel to Women Victimized by Abortion

Randy Alcorn:

I encourage you to read through the following perspectives from Diane Meyer, a close friend of ours. In fact, she’s like a third daughter to me and Nanci. She lived with us when our daughters were small and she was a young unwed mother. We had the joy of seeing her come to Christ, and helped her place a baby for adoption.  (Just this last year she was reunited with her 33-year-old son and it was our privilege to be there with Diane’s family and the adoptive parents.)

Idolatry is dumb. Jesus is not

Idolatry-dumb

Though the word is more-or-less out of style, unless you’re counting reality TV shows that are also increasingly going out of style, the practice of idolatry is still going strong. In saying this, of course, I don’t simply mean putting little statues of wood and metal up in our homes and praying to them (though I do—and we have a store in our local mall that sells tons of them!). Human has this unique ability to worship… well, pretty much anything. And everything. Because we do.

I’ve had a lot of idols over the years, mostly of your average garden-variety types: TV, food, money, books… those sorts of things. But the thing I’ve consistently been challenged by, no matter how many years pass, is my tendency to idolize myself. I like to rely on myself, to trust that my smarts and grit are going to get me through pretty much anything. But that’s just dumb. Just like every other form of idolatry is dumb.

No idol can help us. No god of our own imagining can save us or direct us. And yet, we keep pursuing them. Why? Because idolatry is dumb, and we become like what we worship. This is something that Isaiah bitingly (and painfully) illustrates:

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” (Isaiah 44:12-17)

I’m not sure God could have made the point any more clearly than he did through Isaiah: Idolatry is an intentional act, a conscious decision to take something that we know has no power and ascribe it supreme worth. We would rather cut down a tree, chop up half of it for firewood, and use the rest to fashion for ourselves a god to worship than to worship the one who created us.

But it gets worse: We actually go so far to, as the one described above, to actually go ahead and plant the tree, nurture it, wait patiently while it grows, and then make our idol from it. That’s an extreme example, but it shows the depths of our insistence that we will not worship the one we ought. Worse, because we feel so secure in our wickedness, we think no one sees what we do, especially not God—we say in our hearts, “I am, and there is no one besides me” (Isaiah 47:10).

That isn’t just dumb—it’s ludicrous. And yet we keep doing it.

We keep doing it because we don’t want to turn to the one who has made us. We keep doing it because to do so requires us to end our arrogance and stubborn refusal to admit that we are not “I am”—that we are no, in fact, God. That God is God.

This is one of the reasons why I get so frustrated when I hear people speak flippantly about coming to faith or about making “decisions”. When we are as willfully obtuse as the ironsmith of Isaiah 44, when we take things we know are not God and fashion them into little gods we can control, a call to have your best Friday or to live like no one has a case of the Mondays isn’t going to do it. Promising happiness, health, wealth and motorcycles won’t do it either. Those things just feed the beast—they’re another dumb idol.

Our ridiculousness cannot be overcome by a motivational speech. It takes a miracle. And thankfully God has done that in the sending of his son Jesus, who though we cannot see him now, is no dumb idol. He is walking amongst his people, and living in them through his Spirit. He takes our dumb, hearts and turns them away from our pitiful idols and points them toward himself. He gives life to dead things, and makes us see our idols for what they really are.

That’s something no one else can do. That’s something only Jesus can do.

Idolatry is dumb. Jesus is not.

Don’t ever forget it.

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9 things to keep in mind when another Christian disappoints you

Erin Davis:

How are we supposed to feel when other Christians miss God’s mark? How can we cope with the chaos other people’s sin creates? What should we say (if anything?)

Here are nine things to keep in mind when another Christian disappoints you.

Partnering to Remember – The 1 Peter Memory Moleskine

Tim Brister’s launched the latest edition of the Memory Moleskine, this time focused on 1 Peter. The Memory Moleskine system is a great approach to Scripture memorization. If you’re interested, I’d highly recommend taking part in this project.

The 1982 DC Comics Style Guide

In the 1980s, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez was one of the premier artists at DC Comics. A group of fans on Facebook has shared over 200 pages of his artwork from the 1982 character style guide, much of which will be familiar to anyone who walked into a toy store in the 1980s. Check it out!

The Shrug That Scares Me To Death

Trevin Wax:

In New York magazine, for example, Rebecca Traister claims that the “big secret of abortion” is that “women already know how it works” – that pro-life efforts to show us the results of the procedure won’t really change minds, no matter how grisly the videos get. Quoting Frances Kissling, she writes: “Abortions are yucky… but after that response, there is a shrugging of the shoulders.”

That shrugging of the shoulders is what scares me to death.

9 Things You Should Know About Margaret Sanger

Joe Carter shares nine things we all should know about one of the 20th century’s most controversial figures. Tim Challies also makes a good point about being honest—even about someone like Sanger.

Darwin’s Theory Doesn’t Work in The Church

Barnabas Piper:

Darwin espoused the theory of “natural selection,” also known as “survival of the fittest.” While it’s true that these phrases in scientific circles mean something quite defined, in the wider world it has basically come to mean that the strong survive and thrive while the weak fall by the wayside. Those who make ate are those who deserved to make it. They survived, often at the expense of those who were weaker.

But isn’t that the opposite of what the church is supposed to be? It seems to me that the church should be the place that is definitively UN-Darwinian, where the weak thrive as the strong help them, a place that fosters the ideal of “survival of the unfittest.” What else would the bible mean when it says this in 1 Corinthians 12?

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Longevity and Millennials in the Workplace

Eric Geiger:

I learned a lot from my father about work ethic and offering your best, but I have not spent the last two decades in the same role or place. Few from my generation [Generation X] would quantify longevity as “the same role for your entire life,” and few from my generation will stay in the same role/place. In other words, longevity means different things to a Boomer and an Xer. And different things still to a Millennial.

You Really Don’t Need To Work So Much

This was really good:

Some people think that Americans just prefer work to leisure; a strong work ethic, according to this theory, has become a badge of honor for anyone with a college degree. If you’re busy, you seem important. There is also the pride that people can have in their work; they also find love and free food at workplaces, and go to conferences as a form of vacation. Others think the rise in work must somehow be related to inequality: as people at the top of the income ladder earn more money, each hour they work becomes more valuable. And there’s the theory that our needs and desires grow as we consume more, producing an even greater need to work.

Too Big Not To Fail

Jared Wilson:

If we look at Babel as the prototype for the pursuit of fame and power, we see a few interesting things by way of diagnosis. First, the pursuit of renown is really a pursuit of significance. Why do I want you to notice me, to tell me how great I am? Not because I fundamentally trust or value your opinion, but because I fundamentally distrust any notion that I’m anything in anywise special. The proof in that is that one ounce of praise from a few isn’t enough; I want more from many. Secondly, the pursuit of renown is the result of fear. “Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” We seek security in attention.

Like the Babelists, we build our towers, not knowing the great dangerous irony — that the stronger we get, the more vulnerable we become. The fall is prefaced by pride. The split second before the great collapse is the proudest we’ve ever been.

Is the Apocrypha Scripture?

Mike Leake:

The books in question were all written by Jews in what is known as the “inter-testamental” period (430 BC-AD 40). Some of these books can be helpful for understanding the history during this time. Other books are entertaining stories. Some sound like typical biblical Wisdom texts like the Psalms or Proverbs.

So why don’t we accept them as Scripture? There are 5 main reasons, but first I think its important to understand a fundamental difference in the way Roman Catholics view the formation of the canon and the way we Protestants view the formation of the canon.

Six Lessons Learned in the Waiting

Chris Hefner:

Nearly five years ago, I walked into Dr. Greg Mathis’ office and shared with him that I believed God was leading me to become a Senior Pastor. That seems like a long time ago. In some ways, those years seemed an eternity. In another sense, they passed rapidly. When I first shared with Pastor Greg, part of me thought I would enter into a Senior Pastor position quickly. Well, that didn’t happen. Let me offer some of the lessons I’ve learned in the waiting process.

The 2015 end-of-summer giveaway!

summer-giveaway-2015

One of the things I’m most grateful for about this blog is the opportunity to share great books with you—and this week, I have the privilege of giving away a number of new books in partnership with my friends at Crossway, B&H Publishing, P&R Publishing, Cruciform Press, Zondervan, Faithlife, and more!

Here’s what you can win:

And don’t be surprised if you see a few extra titles added before this giveaway is done.

How do you enter? Simple: Just use the handy-dandy Rafflecopter tool below (RSS readers, you’ll need to click through to enter). You’ve got lots of options there, and the more you take advantage of, the greater the chances of winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The contest closes August 28th at midnight. Enjoy!