On comparing space probes and hungry kids

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Last week, the big story in the news was the European Space Agency’s Philae probe landing on comet 67P. Some called the landing historic (which it is—landing a probe on a comet is pretty unprecedented). But others—notably many Christians—received the news with a fair bit more cynicism. In fact, more than a few times I read how some folks they couldn’t believe we would waste billions of dollars while millions of children around the world go hungry.

Where, oh, where are our priorities, people?!?

I get this reaction, in some ways. I mean, I work for an organization that helps these very children. I’ve met those children, and been in their homes. I actually have a half-decent sense of what their daily lives are like.

But I’ve gotta be honest: comparing space probes and the needs of hungry kids is kind of silly. And when I see it happen, especially when it’s folks who I know are actually quite intelligent and thoughtful, it’s disappointing. Here are three reasons why:

1. It’s fauxtrage. Most people who appear upset about this, and make this silly comparison, aren’t really all that upset. Remember #BringBackOurGirls? #TakeDownThatPost was more effective.

2. It’s naïvely simplistic. While lamenting the fact that billions of dollars were spent on this project, I saw many a mention of it only taking $400 million or so to eradicate world hunger. So shouldn’t that money have been used for that purpose? As if we just throw enough money at a problem and it’ll go away.

This suggestion (which tends to be most strongly advocated for in socialist-leaning nations such as mine) overlooks a significant problem: it’s not true. Without getting into a long treatise on the subject, we can’t forget that world hunger has more to do with explicit human sin (expressed in corrupt governments) and the natural outworking of the curse (work being fruitless toil) than a lack of money. Changing life for the poor starts with changing the hearts of people.

(And if you want the longer version, read Awaiting a Savior, if you’d be so kind.)

3. It’s demeaning to the people who work in that field (and the “poor” children who want to). Imagine you sponsor a child with an organization like Compassion, and that child wants to be an astronaut or an engineer when he grows up. So, he works really hard in school, and eventually, has an opportunity to go to university. There, he takes a degree in Aerospace Engineering, and graduates with honors. Finally, he gets his dream job, and starts working for a space agency, and eventually helps design a new probe or spacecraft. What would you say to him if his work were to be used in a similar scientific endeavor? Was he wrong to pursue his dream—and actually, by God’s grace, accomplish it?

What we fail to realize is that behind space exploration is not a faceless committee, but people. People who love what they do. People who are passionate about space and engineering and exploring the universe God has created and placed us in. To call their work a waste is demeaning, not only to them, but to the people who dream of doing it someday. (To say nothing of overlooking the fact that none of the money has been wasted—remember, people get paid to work in this industry, and some of them likely even give to charitable organizations!)

So how about this: when we’re concerned with what we perceive as wrong priorities in the world, we should ask ourselves two things:

1. What is it that prevents me from celebrating human achievement and marvelling at an element of God’s creation?

2. If I’m truly concerned about the needs of the poor, am I supporting organizations that are making a difference in their lives to the fullest of my desire and ability? 

When we do a little bit of heart checking, we usually find we’ve got less to be fauxtragey about.


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How a French Atheist Becomes a Theologian

Guillaume Bignon:

If French atheists rarely become evangelical Christians, how much rarer it is for one to become an evangelical Christian theologian. So what happened? One might argue that with 66 million French people, I’m just a fluke, an anomaly. I am inclined to see it as the work of a God who says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy” (Rom. 9:15). Hearing the facts may help you decide for yourself.

How to Succeed in Evangelical Twitterland

Jared Oliphant:

Not every pithy saying I conjure up needs to be shared publicly, and almost all of them serve the church only minimally, if at all. The textbook definition of aphorism is “a short phrase that expresses a true or wise idea.” Evangelicals could use a hefty dose of truth and wisdom to go along with our publicly posted ideas. Whether that translates into a large following, a bunch of retweets, or any other form of human praise should pale in comparison to quality and faithfulness of content, whatever its form.

The Unsung Heroes of Church Life

Melissa Edgington:

But, this weekend I was struck like never before by how much the church needs other types, too.  It needs the nursery workers.  It needs the cooks.  The quiet, smiling watchers who look for needs they can fulfill.  It needs the table wipers.  The nose wipers.  The toilet cleaners.  The church needs the people who will remember to bring the plants inside when it’s going to get cold overnight.  It needs the list-makers.  It needs the huggers and the handy men and the hand holders.

In fact, all of these people and countless others are essential to the church.  They are the real heartbeat of it.  They are what make things go, what make people feel special and welcomed, what make the children feel loved and safe and maybe just a little spoiled.  These people, these ceaseless title-less workers, they are the very heart and soul of the church.

 

Mothering in the Internet Age

Betsy Childs:

Between websites and message boards and Facebook groups, women have access to more parenting data and advice than ever before. Mothers can keep up with the latest safety standards and nutrition trends. They chat with women across the country whose children have the same ailments. They can even connect with other mothers online during a midnight feeding!

Given the wealth of information, do younger women still need older women when it comes to mothering? I’ve seen the research-oriented culture of modern mothering drive a wedge between young women and older women. Older women mock young mothers for being so safety-conscious. Younger women dismiss older women because they don’t know the latest car seat safety standards, or they suggest that the baby would sleep better on his stomach.

Give Me the Doubly Offensive Jesus, Please

Trevin Wax:

Jesus said He came to call sinners to repentance. The church is offended that Jesus’ call is for sinners. The world is offended that He calls for repentance.

That’s why the world minimizes His exclusive claims until Jesus is reduced to a social justice warrior who affirms people as they are. And that’s why the church minimizes His inclusive call until Jesus is reduced to a badge of honor for church folks who think their obedience makes them right with God.

Five ways we live like we’re under the Old Covenant

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The Old Covenant is glorious, but the New Covenant is even moreso, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11. It’s ministry is of death (since the Law’s power is to reveal our sin but not to save), where the New’s ministry is life and righteousness. It’s design is temporary, intended to give way to something permanent.

We know this to be true, at least intellectually—so why do we keep living as though we were still under the Old Covenant? And what does that look like?

During Sunday’s message at our church, Leo, one of our pastors, suggested five ways we live this way:

1. We do it literally. There is a growing movement that believes Jesus is the Messiah, that He truly died to atone for our sins and rose again… but also believe it important to worship on Saturdays (the Jewish Sabbath), celebrate the Old Testament festivals, be circumcised, and maintain a kosher diet. But does the New Testament give room for this? Yes and no. If it’s a desire to follow the model of Christ—for example, to eat as He ate during His earthly life, or to worship on the day He would have—it might be a grey area governed by Romans 14.

However, the difficulty is when those who practice such things move beyond merely following a model to working to earn our right standing before God. It’s easy to slip into that mindset very quickly, because our default mode is to try to earn our own salvation. But the ministry of the Old Covenant—including all its feasts and dietary laws—though it was glorious, was a ministry of death. It could not save.

2. We do it ceremonially. Others look to traditions, rituals, sacred sites and human mediators for our salvation. Now, it’s not that rituals and traditions are a bad thing; they can be quite helpful in help us in our experience of worship. But our salvation is not dependent upon their observance. And Roman Catholics might believe the Pope is the vicar of Christ and head of the church, but he is a mere man. We do not need to look to another person as our mediator between us and God. We have one in Christ, who doesn’t merely reflect God’s glory (as Moses did), but reveals it in Himself.

3. We do it dutifully. It’s so easy to turn our practice of spiritual disciplines—prayer, fasting, meditation, Bible reading, memorization, and so on—into a system of merit. Consider your reaction when you get behind on your Bible reading plan: do you do a cram session to get caught up, but don’t allow time for the text to work on you? Or do you roll with it and move forward, faithfully spending time in the Word despite the fact that you’re not going to make your deadline? (Can you tell I’m speaking to myself here?) But you are worth more than the number of verses you have memorized and how many times you’ve read through the Bible in a year. We study God’s Word to know God, not to earn anything from Him.

4. We do it doubtfully. This is one of the most sinister. A season of depression or a disappointment may grow into something deeper and deadlier than we could imaging, robbing us of all joy and leaving us in a place where we don’t believe God could possibly forgive us. But to this, God’s Word says to us that our great high priest—Jesus—is able to sympathize with us in our weakness. He knows our struggles as well as we do. He is acquainted with grief and sorrow.

5. We do it fearfully. Finally, some of us fall prey to a spirit of fear. We live in fear of the Devil, as though at any moment he is going to come after us. We live in fear of death, our foundation uncertain. We live in fear of hell, and so our faith becomes about not wanting to go there, rather than looking forward to spending eternity with Jesus. But Jesus knows His own, and not one will be lost, so we need not fear.

When you consider where you are in your walk with Christ, do you see yourself in any of these five categories?

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:16-18)

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Do You Hear the People Sing?

Marshall Segal:

What does Sunday morning sound like at your church?

More specifically, what do you hear when your church worships God in song? What is the defining sound? For some, it will be the old, massive, beautiful organ — a full, enduring, and familiar tone. Others would say it’s the energy of an electric guitar and the deep pounding of a bass drum. Maybe you have one or two vocalists you love. They could sing the encyclopedia on Sunday morning and bring you to God.

I enjoy and appreciate all of the above — I really do — but I believe the defining sound on Sunday morning should be the singing voices of God’s people. It’s been taught and lived out at our church, and I love it. And I don’t think that my love is a matter of personal preference. I wouldn’t have chosen this style of worship for myself six years ago, and the music I listen to Monday–Saturday rarely sounds like Sunday morning at Bethlehem.

No, I believe there are principles for corporate worship that transcend cultural and personal preferences and fill music with unusual meaning.

 A Romantic View of Ministry

Nick Batzig:

…there is a danger for men who are pursuing ministry to fall into what some have called “a romantic view of ministry.” Recognizing the high call of the pastorate, and knowing that God is doing His greatest work in the world through His ministers in the church (Eph. 3:10), many have come to embrace faulty views of the ministry. During the early days in seminary, I had foolishly developed something of “a romantic view of ministry.” I had a burning desire to preach and longed to have a Spurgeon-esque type ministry to multitudes who needed the unadulterated preaching of the word and Gospel. During the first year of my studies, one of my professors said to the students in our class, “Get every wrong view of ministry out of your head. Get rid of every romantic view of ministry.” What I didn’t want to hear then, I now tell every man at New Covenant who express interest in pursuing a call to ministry. While the ministry is a most glorious calling, it is anything but romantic. Here are five things that foster “a romantic view of ministry.”

Holy relics: the acoustic guitar

I love this article by Martyn Wendell Jones a lot:

Novices and masters alike find that God will establish the work of their hands when they are holding a guitar. Three or four chords can get an apprentice praise leader through a basic repertoire, and God will be glorified in her getting through. The same praise leader might learn in following years the key to a meandering style of finger plucking, and she will thereby become able to produce the soft cascade of sounds that carry the words of a pastor’s closing altar call. So might she move from glory to glory.

15 Right Responses to Our Christian Celebrities

Tony Reinke asks Thomas Kidd and Karen Swallow Prior how we should respond to Christian celebrities.

The Unbelievable, Incomprehensible, Mind-Blowing Power Available To Us

Mark Altrogge:

My first year as a Christian I didn’t know the truth in Romans 6 that believers are no longer under the dominion of sin. I didn’t realize that I had the power of the Holy Spirit to put my evil desires to death. My ignorance of the power available to me resulted in much needless misery. Paul wants his readers to know about this awesome power they can access so he prays that God would enlighten their hearts to know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward them.

How cruel unbelief is

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It is one of the strange things in the dealings of Jesus, that even when we arrive at this state of entire spiritual destitution, we do not always become at once the objects of his justifying grace. Long seasons frequently intervene between our knowledge of our ruin, our hearing of a deliverer, and the application of that deliverer’s hand. The Lord’s own called ones frequently turn their eyes to the hills, and find no help coming therefrom; yea, they wish to look unto him, but they are so blinded that they cannot discern him as their hope and consolation. This is not, as some would rashly conclude, because he is not the Saviour for such as they are. Far otherwise. Unbelief crieth out, “Ah! my vileness disqualifies me for Christ, and my exceeding sinfulness shuts out his love?” How foully doth unbelief lie when it thus slandereth the tender heart of Jesus! how inhumanly cruel it is when it thus takes the cup of salvation from the only lips which have a right to drink thereof! We have noticed in the preaching of the present day too much of a saint’s gospel, and too little of a sinner’s gospel. Honesty, morality, and goodness, are commended not so much as the marks of godliness, as the life of it; and men are told that as they sow, so they shall reap, without the absolutely necessary caveat that salvation is not of man, neither by man, and that grace cometh not to him that worketh, but to him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly. Not thus spake our ancient preachers when in all its fullness they declared—

“Not the righteous, not the righteous—
Sinners, Jesus came to save.”

Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Saviour

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Four Dangers for Complementarians

Gavin Ortlund:

Of course, many people will disagree with complementarianism—often quite vehemently—no matter what we say or do. But the truth is offensive enough without our help. We don’t need to add to its offense with our own faults and foibles. I therefore list four dangers to which we should be particularly sensitive, even while we stand firm in the face of pressure from our more aggressive critics.

Does John Piper Regret Partnering With Mark Driscoll?

Hear his answer at the link.

10 1980s PSAs You Might Have Forgotten

Aaron Earls unearths a collection of the best/worst PSAs from the 1980s. For example:

The One and the Many

Kevin DeYoung:

There are many ways God uses to get us to where he wants us to go. But there is only one message he gives to save us from sin.

The problems in our day is that we get the one and the many reversed.

Are house churches biblical?

Interesting piece from Preston Sprinkle:

But we have to distinguish between what is described and what is prescribed. Unless I’m missing something, the New Testament never prescribes (i.e. commands) that believers meet in homes as opposed to meeting in a building. It simply describes that this is what they did in the first-century.

How NOT to Read the News

Daniel Darling:

We live in a time where we are exposed to more news headlines than at any time in human history. In the ancient days of news, anchors checked the AP newswire for stories and reported on them and people in their homes watched or people in their cars listened to radio. Today, everyone, is essentially checking the wire, all day, through social media. We also live in a time when it’s has never been easier to publicly express an opinion. Before the Internet, if something happened, you might have picked up the phone to call someone or perhaps you might discuss it at work, around the water cooler. But today we are all pundits, all with commentary on what is happening right now.

Quite often this new reality is leveraged for good. If a disaster strikes, more people can be informed than in previous generations. Social networks can be good conduits for raising money for important charity, for networking and communicating with wider groups of people. In many ways, the new paradigm has flattened leadership, forcing organizations to be more transparent and less hierarchical. All this is good.

Still, followers of Christ need to think through how they process the news, particularly how we react to the headlines that come across our screens every day. Here are three tips I think that might help.

My five favorite podcasts

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I used to listen to dozens of podcasts; these days, I only listen to a few. Some I dropped because I grew bored with them. Others, because the material was no longer helpful or beneficial for me to listen to. But there are a few I consistently enjoy (even if I don’t listen to every episode):

1. 5 Minutes in Church HistoryStephen Nichols offers listeners digestible glimpses back at the people, places and events that have shaped the story of Christianity. (And for the 90s alt-rock nerd, yes, that is The Cranberries being used as the intro music.)

2. The Briefing. Albert Mohler’s daily analysis of the news from a Christian worldview is a must-listen in the Armstrong home (full disclosure: my wife has a crush on Mohler’s brain). It’s obviously very “America” in focus, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the first we go to each day.

3. Mere Fidelity. Matthew Lee Anderson, Derek Rishmawy, Andrew Wilson, and Alastair Roberts’ Reformed-ish podcast is consistently enjoyable and always worth your time. Be sure to check out the “Ask Us Anything” edition and the response to Peter Enns.

4. The Village Church (sermon audio). In all honesty, I don’t often listen to sermon audio from other churches these days. But when I do, it’s typically this one. Chandler’s long been a preacher I appreciate. The current sermon series, A Beautiful Design, is tremendous.

5. Renewing Your Mind. R.C. Sproul is one of the most brilliant theologians of our day. His ability to distill complex ideas into something intelligible for the average person is nothing short of astounding, and this audio feed is one of the best resources to help you understand the life-giving truths of historic Christianity.

So those are a few of my favorites. What are some of yours?


Photo credit: Colleen AF Venable via photopin cc

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Book deals for Christian readers

A few Kindle deals to start you off:

Today’s $5 Friday deals at Ligonier include:

  • The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond (hardcover)
  • Believing God teaching series by R.C. Sproul Jr (DVD)
  • Thus Says the Lord teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)

Finally, you can get Banner of Truth’s lovely three-volume set of The Complete Works of John Bunyan for $59 at the Westminster Bookstore. This might make a really snazzy Christmas gift for the theology nerd in your life.

Not That Kind of Homosexuality?

Kevin DeYoung offers a whole pile of block quotes to remind us of an important truth: “Scholars all of different stripes have said the same thing: the cultural distance argument [about homosexual practice] will not work.”

Prepare Today for Tomorrow’s Conflicts

David Noble:

Regrettably, many church leaders overlook the reality of spiritual warfare. We mistakenly believe that being attentive to Satan and his schemes is unnecessary when our congregations are flourishing. Sometimes we assume that merely thinking about spiritual warfare invites trouble.

The most important thing about any church

Ray Ortlund:

The most important thing about any church is not their structure, their governance, their systems, their musical style, not even the nuances of their theology within a gospel framework, whether Baptistic or Presbyterian or Anglican.  Those things matter.  But the most important thing about any church is its spirit.

Little Things Matter

Kim Shay:

Young women who stay at home with your children, hear me: the scope of your service is not what makes it valuable; bigger is not always better. You don’t have to do elaborate things to serve and to encourage. The smallest of gestures can encourage someone more than you can possibly know. You may not be writing books, going away for weekends to speak at conferences, or traveling across the world to minister to someone, but you can be an encouragement right where God has put you.

Gotham Begins

Such a great parody trailer (language warning: there is a bleeped out bit of cussing at the very end):

Rising Above a Toxic Workplace

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I have a hard time imagining what it’s like to work in a “healthy” workplace. I mean, I know they exist. I even have friends who work in places they absolutely love. But I’ve worked in more unhealthy ones than not. And some have been downright toxic. Like, hearing the owner of a company I worked for curse a blue streak at my supervisor repeatedly. (Did I mention they lived together, too? Yeah, I worked in a soap opera.)

If Rising Above a Toxic Workplace is any indication, it seems as though my experience isn’t as out of the ordinary as I thought. In fact, according to Gallup, “seven of ten US workers are either ‘going through the motions’ or flat-out hate their jobs” (11). Thousands of people dread going to work every morning, wondering if they can survive another day, or if today will be the day they say “when” and resign. It’s to these people that authors Gary Chapman, Paul White and Harold Myra primarily write this book, providing insight, encouragement and practical strategies for survival. What they’ll find are numerous stories of men and women just like them who have faced the choice of how to cope—and when to quit.

Toxic bosses aren’t necessarily evil—they’re just over their heads

What these stories (which comprise the vast majority of the book) help us see are the choices before us. Consider Melanie’s story of a coworker who was a victim of the Peter Principle—a cheeky description of one who “keeps getting promoted till they reach the level of their incompetence. Often they are promoted into positions of power without the skills to exercise [it]” (29).

Melanie’s colleague, Brenda, was one of these. When she was promoted, Brenda became ornery and “even nasty… She was losing our respect,” Melanie said (29). She would pick a staff member and harass her, and this continued until Melanie finally had enough and told her “I love my job here, and I like you as a person, but I can’t respect you as a boss. I’m no longer going to sacrifice my life here” (30). And so she quit.

But what’s especially helpful in Melanie’s story is the question that arises from it: although Melanie’s husband suggested that Brenda had an evil streak, it might have been just as likely that she simply had no clue how to do her job. When people are overwhelmed, they perform out of their weaknesses, rather than their strengths. Thus, when a person with limited or no leadership skills is elevated to a management position, he or she is doomed to fail. This doesn’t excuse the behavior, by any means, but it should help us consider our responses to these people.

I once knew a man who was Peter Principled; he was a nice guy, fairly decent at the job he had, but he wasn’t someone I would ever have considered a leader. He just wasn’t wired that way. Yet, he wound up in a position he was completely ill-suited for. I knew the moment I heard about it he wouldn’t last. And he didn’t—the job crushed him.

Why do I share that, and why do I find Melanie’s story so helpful? Because it’s a reminder that we should have sympathy even for bad bosses. Very often they’re not bad people; they’ve just over their heads.

We also need to remember that churches and non-profits are just as susceptible as any other organization to becoming toxic. “Appeals to ‘the cause’ create pressures to conform to unhealthy codes. Poisons in ministry culture range from subtle fumes that slowly sicken to flames that scorch. Some workers suffer quietly for years while other get fired” (54). (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

Learning from toxic bosses and cultures

As depressing as reading so many stories of toxic environments can be, we can also learn much from their example.

First, as the authors point out in a survival strategy: toxic work environments naturally make people frustrated and angry. And if we’re not careful, we can become bitter. And bitterness will only make us toxic, too. We need to “find ways to nurture [our] inner reserves and gain perspective. Develop toughness, but resist embittered resentments” (35). We can’t “let bad leadership start to sour [ours].”

Second is to consider what’s right. When the opportunity for a promotion comes our way (if it happens), we need to consider:

  • Am I actually the right person for the job?
  • Has God wired me for this sort of work?
  • Do I have the necessary character and gifts?

Just because an opportunity comes our way, it doesn’t mean we need to say yes. For the good of our colleagues, organizations, families and selves, sometimes the best thing we can do is say “no.”

Finally, we need to remember that our workplace—whether we work in a church, charity, or multinational conglomerate—are all susceptible to having toxic cultures, and we are all responsible for how we contribute. Through our actions, we will either spread the toxicity, or we can can be a voice for health.

Being part of healthy change is probably the hardest. In fact, it’s much easier to continue on in patterns that tear down, rather than build up. And in some organizations, the healthiest thing we can do is leave. I know many people who have done this. But sometimes the hardest thing—staying and fighting for change, either until it happens or they get sick of you and you get fired—is the right thing to do. It’s risky, but sometimes the risk is right.

Helpful tools for gaining insight and developing a plan for change

Rising Above a Toxic Workplace is one of the business culture books you see all-too-rarely: one that actually talks about the problems in a workplace as though they’re problems by speaking to the people most affected by them. Whether your organization is healthy or toxic, and whether you are a leader or a staff member, this book will offer you many useful tools to help you see where you and your culture are at and develop a plan for change.


Title: Rising Above a Toxic Workplace: Taking Care of Yourself in an Unhealthy Environment
Authors: Gary Chapman, Paul White, and Harold Myra
Publisher: Northfield Publishing/Moody Publishers (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

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And over at Westminster Bookstore, you can get Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real With God About Sex by John Freeman for $9.99 or $7 when you buy five or more.

The Great, Redemptive Multi-Tasker

Nick Batzig shares a great meditation on Christ.

The King Who Never Married

Petar Nenadov:

It’s an odd story when the king never marries. Ancient kings not only married, but also married again and again. And if dozens or hundreds of wives could not suffice, there were always concubines.

Wouldn’t a king who never married be some kind of lesser king?

Is World Magazine A Muck-Raker?

David Murray:

This New York Times headline caught my attention yesterday: A Muckraking Magazine Creates A Stir Among Evangelical Christians. I scrolled through my mental rolodex and couldn’t imagine what magazine they could possibly be writing about. I clicked through to discover that it was World Magazine they were referring to.

Yes, World Magazine! A muckraking magazine?

Stunned, I could only assume that World Magazine had suddenly fallen into Rupert Murdoch’s hands, or that the highly-respected editorial team had been ousted in a Hollywood Reporter coup, or that I had missed some World-shattering online revelations in the week since I’d last read the magazine.

Not alphabet soup: the truth about Psalm 119

Jesse Johnson:

Psalm 119 is the longest poem in the Bible. It is the longest prayer in the Bible. It is the longest acrostic in the Bible. It is the longest chapter in the Bible. It stands at the center of the Bible, and it is about the Bible. The longest Psalm is a psalm about Psalms. The most intimidating chapter in the Word is also a chapter about the Word.

Seven books Christian women should read

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I love recommending books (clearly, since I seem to do it a lot). The books we read shape so much of who we are, and so we ought to think carefully about what we read. Recently, I was encouraged to share a list of books every Christian woman should read. I loved the idea… but I also realized pretty quickly that me making recommendations for ladies might not be the best idea. At least, not if I’m doing it alone. In light of that, I’ve called in some help in the form of my friends, Kim Shay and Staci Eastin. So, here are our recommendations:


Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung (recommended by Aaron)

Although it wasn’t one of my all-time favorites by DeYoung, there’s a lot of wisdom in the book that all of us would do well to heed (especially busy stay-at-home-homeschooling moms). While not all busyness is bad (after all, God made us to work), we need to be careful in learning how to rest well, even as we strive to work well.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


The God Who is There by D.A. Carson (recommended by Kim)

Kim says, “I think this should be read because it gives a good overview of the biblical narrative and redemptive history. I have found that having a big picture understanding of Christianity has helped me approach the more specific areas with more thought.”

In this basic introduction to faith, D. A. Carson takes seekers, new Christians, and small groups through the big story of Scripture. He helps readers to know what they believe and why they believe it. The companion leader’s guide helps evangelistic study groups, small groups, and Sunday school classes make the best use of this book in group settings.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup (recommended by Staci)

In Practical Theology for Women, Alsup uses the power of theology to address practical issues in women’s lives. Her book opens with a general discussion of theology and addresses the most fundamental and practical issue of theology: faith. Then sheexplores the attributes of God the Father, Son, and Spirit fromScripture, concluding with a look at our means of communicating with God-prayer and the Word.Throughout the book Alsup exhorts women to apply what they believe about God in their everyday lives. As they do this, their husbands, homes, and churches will benefit.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


God’s Good Design by Claire Smith (recommended by Aaron)

Feminism is part of “the cultural air we breathe”—it’s so ingrained into our society that it’s just a given. It’s the status quo, and no longer something to be questioned. But Claire Smith wants us to see that, despite arguments to the contrary, men and women really are different—and that’s exactly the way God intended it. In God’s Good DesignSmith examines the critical texts surrounding gender roles, offering valuable insights into the debate over the responsibilities of men and women within the church and home.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Bound Together by Chris Brauns (recommended by Kim)

Kim says, “As women, we balance a lot of ‘stuff,’ like motherhood, work, marriage, family, church, and sometimes, we don’t see how our actions affect others. We can get caught up in ‘life’ and act more in reaction than decisively, not realizing how something now could affect someone a couple of years down the road. It left me thinking for a long time after.”

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Made for More by Hannah Anderson (recommended by Staci)

Is your identity based on a role? Is it linked to a relationship? Do your achievements influence how you view yourself? What does your family say about you? Who are you as a woman?

Honestly, these are not the right questions. The real question is, who are you as a person created in God’s image? Until we see our identity in His, we’re settling for seconds. And we were made for so much more…

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Pleasing People by Lou Priolo (recommended by Staci)

Staci says, “Everybody struggles with fear of man and anxiety, but I do think they are particular stumbling blocks for women.”

Full of Scripture and challenging to the reader, Pleasing People takes aim at a problem common in all of us: the desire to be liked by others. But the book also wisely delineates when pleasing people is biblical. The penetrating exercises throughout the text will help readers see how this sin manifests itself in their lives. Pleasing People will be useful for both personal reading and group study.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Anything you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments!


Photo credit: EJP Photo via photopin cc

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Kindle editions of the NIV Application Commentary set are on sale for just $4.99 or less each:

Being Content with Saying No to Truly Good Opportunities

Randy Alcorn:

I once felt guilty about declining most requests, so I was reading a dozen books a year for endorsements, saying yes to friends who wanted me to speak, meeting people who were coming through Portland, etc. But then I was always behind writing my own books, and writing is my primary calling. Now I decline nearly all speaking requests (I travel and speak maybe five times per year, and often there’s a second angle to what I say yes to—staying extra days to see my kids and grandkids, getting vacation time with Nanci, etc.).

My advice is to care about people but use discernment, and don’t live to please them. We are to live out our lives before the Audience of One. In the end, His approval is the one that matters. If our goal is to hear others say, “Well done,” we won’t have time, energy and perspective to do what we need to do to hear Him say it. Paul said, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

The real voice of Darth Vader

Oh my…

My journey away from contemporary worship music

Dan Cogan:

Over the years when I would occasionally hear a hymn, the language was always strikingly foreign, with Ebenezers and bulwarks, diadems and fetters. Which only served to confirm my bias that hymns were simply out-of-date. They had served their purpose. They had run their course.

The problem with my youthful logic only began to dawn on me about seven years ago. I had come to recognize that these ancient hymns accomplished something that the new songs weren’t. While contemporary worship seemed to take the listener on an exciting and emotional rollercoaster, the old hymns engaged the mind with deep and glorious truths that when sincerely pondered caused a regenerated heart to humbly bow before its King.

A Plea To Pastors and Pastor Search Committees

Mike Leake:

About five years ago when we were moving from Missouri to Louisville a particular church was in contact with us about coming on board. They requested an audio sermon. We weren’t set up very well for recording sermons but we figured out a way to get a couple sermons recorded.

I sent the audio to the church and heard NOTHING. Of course they may not have received the sermon. But I wouldn’t know that either because they never responded to my email where I enquired as to whether or not they had received the sermon.

So my only assumption was that they must have hated the sermon, thought I was terrible and that I was a heretic. I’m exaggerating a bit, but it was incredibly discouraging.

On the wrong side of history

Carson, Keller and Piper tackle this common objection.

What should I review?

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Every so often, it’s fun for me to ask your advice on what to review. The very first time I asked was back in 2010, and wound up reviewing Sun Stand Still as a result. The next time, I reviewed The Gospel Transformation Bible and Delighting in the Law of the Lord. And most recently, with your encouragement, PROOF and Facing Leviathan.

And now, I’d love your help once again! Here are five options I’m considering:

…or something else! If these choices look a bit too “safe,” recommend something else!

So how about it—if I were going to review one of these books, which should it be?

Let me know in the comments over the next couple days, and I’ll let you know which to expect a review of in a few days.


Photo credit: EJP Photo via photopin cc

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Discipleship in the “Age of Authenticity”

Trevin Wax:

Another good word for “authenticity” is non-conformity. The point of non-conformity is being true to yourself as opposed to whatever self others may want you to be true to. That’s why much of the drama in our culture of authenticity comes from the casting off of societal constraints. Note the four areas Taylor mentioned in his definition.

31 movies with one letter dropped from the title

This is awesome.

New Advent resource: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy

Desiring God has released a brand-new Advent devotional from John Piper. Get yours free at DesiringGod.org.

Being a Non-Conventional Intern

Joey Cochran:

Not for me. I’m a non-conventional intern. I graduated with my Th.M. from Dallas Seminary in 2009, then entered my first pastorate in Tulsa as a High School Pastor. After four years, I departed as an associate pastor and have been a church planting intern with Joe Thorn at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois for the past year.

I remember one of the first times I shared this story with another pastor. They asked: “Aren’t you taking a step back?” Well, yes, and at the same time, no.

The Missing Ingredient in Many Sermons

Erik Raymond:

Like cooking, preaching can become bland. It can fail to have that freshness worthy of the gospel table. There are many reasons why. One could identify a lack of preparation, lack of understanding, poor delivery, and shallowness. We would not disagree that under-cooking the homiletical meal is a problem. But there is something else that can make preaching bland: the deadly reality of not being personally wowed by the subject.