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Crossway’s put a number of titles in John Piper’s The Swans Are Not Silent series on sale for $3.99:

Life is Short: DON’T Have An Affair: Praying through Proverbs 7:18-26

This is much-needed.

Reflections on a Planned Parenthood Protest

John Piper:

This morning I was one of several thousand people who gathered in St. Paul, Minnesota, to say to Planned Parenthood that killing children is not an acceptable response to crisis pregnancies. And to say to our government that killing children should not be funded by tax dollars. Among other things.

Here are seven short reflections on the morning.

Stop and Enjoy the Ordinary

Tom Schreiner:

Ecclesiastes is realistic. It teaches us that life under the sun is often empty, futile, and absurd, and yet it does not run us into the rocks of despair either. The conclusion of the book functions as the lens, the perspective, by which the whole of the book should be read. “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14). When we understand that this world isn’t paradise on earth, we are reminded that nothing is more important than a right relationship with God.

Josh Duggar and the nature of repentance

Marty Duren:

It is easy to think our “Christian duty” fulfilled in castigating the wrongdoer, since neither fingers nor tongues wag as comfortably to the mirror. However, there are, for all of us who follow Jesus, a few lessons to be learned.

Hiding Our Gospel Light in Our Draculaic World

Chris Martin:

The idea of lighting a lamp and covering it is so ridiculous, we must read it and ask, “Why would Jesus even address the covering of a lighted lamp?” He address the ridiculous because its reality. By the light of the gospel, there is nothing hidden that will not be found and nothing secret that will stay that way.

Six of the most awful words for your soul

legalism-attractive

They’re not, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” (That’s seven words.)

No, the words I’m thinking of are, to some degree, as equally terrifying as these ones, though. These are words that, in the right context, can be life giving. They’re an invitation, a call to respond. But when they’re used wrongly, they have the stench of death upon them:

“Here is what you must do.”

Encouraging action is a good thing, obviously. James makes it very clear that faith will lead to works, as does virtually every other letter in the New Testament. And the Old Testament law itself is built upon the same relationship as the commands of the New: we are always acting in response to who God is, what he has done and through his enablement.

Always. 

And yet, you’d never know it to be so based on what some of us who claim the name of Jesus write and speak. Far too many books have been written and far too many messages have been delivered that forget a basic truth of Christianity—the contrast between legalism and spirituality. Rather than emphasizing true spirituality—rather than recognizing that we live supernatural lives as those brought to life by the Spirit of Christ—the focus turns, and we’re encouraged to live by our own effort, under our own strength.

But the problem with this is it doesn’t work. And it never has, as Ray Ortlund reminds us in Supernatural Living for Natural People:

Legalism is externalized holiness, while spirituality is internalized holiness. And spirituality produces the kind of people the law had in mind all along. The ‘law of sin and death’, as Paul calls it [in Romans 8:2], is human virtue confined to legalism. It is trying to meet the challenge of God’s holy law through our own self-mastery. Really, it only reinforces sin, concealed under a veneer of self-righteousness. But still, legalism is attractive to the human heart, because it reduces righteousness to humanly manageable dimensions. It reduces holiness to sin management, behavior modification. Lacking God’s Spirit, however, it only produces death. It hollows a person out. It turns righteousness into a role play, and make-believe moral character is unsustainable.… [B]oot-strapping ourselves up by God’s law does not deliver us. It only intensifies our frustration. It binds us to our sinful patterns, even as it makes us pretend to be something we really aren’t.

Legalism’s hollow promise leads to hollow people. We don’t need to hear, again, how we can pull ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps. And when you are weary of trying, when you are ready to cry out and ask who will rescue you “from this body of death” (Romans 7:24), remember that God has given us the answer—Jesus Christ! He has paid it all, he has given all, and he sustains all—but he doesn’t expect us to do it all. Not alone, not ever.

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Today is the last day to get these books on literature from Crossway:

Also on sale are:

Why I Am Going To Protest Planned Parenthood

Today, there are protests going on at Planned Parenthood sites around America. Jeff Medders explains why he is going to be a part of one in Texas.

Ashley Madison and Who You Are Online

Tim Challies:

One of the great deceptions of the Internet is that it allows us to think there are two parts to us, the part who exists in real time and space, and the part who exists in cyberspace. But events like this ought to make us realize that when you go online you display and expose who and what you really are. And who you really are will eventually find you out. God will not be mocked.

3 Things to Remember Before You Criticize Someone’s Theology

Justin Taylor:

Critique—done well—is a gift to the one being criticized. (“Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” Prov. 27:6a). We should welcome the opportunity to have our thinking corrected and clarified. We see see in a mirror dimly and we know only in part (1 Cor. 13:12), but God has gifted the church with teachers who often see things more clearly than we do at present. In God’s providence and through the gift of common grace he may also use unbelievers to critique our views, showing our logical mistakes or lack of clarity.

How One Group of Dads Invests in Their Sons

Bob Smietana shares the story of a group of concerned fathers who chose to intentionally start discipling their sons.

Is There Any Actual Demand for Same-Sex Marriage?

Joe Carter:

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. One question the Court ignored—and which few people ever truly considered—was whether there is an actual demand for same-sex marriage.

Tell the story that’s *yours* (For the Church)

enticing-enough

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:

We tend to follow a pretty standard three-point summary:

  • what your life was like before becoming a Christian
  • what happened to draw you to Christ
  • what your life is like now.

I’m pretty sure that there’s no Christian who couldn’t divide up their story in this fashion.

But that doesn’t mean our stories are meant to fit neatly into a template.

The first time I realized this was when I tried to share my testimony in Honduras. It was 2006, I’d been a Christian for just over a year, it was my first missions trip, and it was super-awkward. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what happened (though I did), nor was it that I was particularly uncomfortable in front of a crowd (though I was). What made it awkward was the way I was telling the story wasn’t right.

Remember the standard three-point summary? Well, usually when you hear it, it goes something like this:

“Before I was a Christian, my life was a mess. I was living for myself, joyful on the outside but empty on the inside, numbing my insecurities with drugs, alcohol and/or sex with random strangers. One night, things reached a breaking point—I hit rock bottom—and I gave my life to Jesus. After that, I realized I’d found what I’d been looking for and now I’m living my life for him, serving in my church and found an extra five dollars in my coat this morning.”

Okay, that probably came across a little cheeky, but I don’t mean it to be glib. When I hear how God has brought someone to this obvious breaking point, and taken them through the proverbial fire, and when I see how their lives have been changed through their relationship with Jesus Christ, I am so thankful. But not everyone has an obvious rock bottom moment. And for some of us, the story doesn’t get better at the end.

Keep reading at For the Church.

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Anything is Possible if You Work Hard . . . Until it Isn’t

Dan Darling:

“Anything is possible if you work hard . . . ” this is a message that we hear, over and over again, a credo embedded in the ethos of many Americans. I say “many” because the realities of those of us who have grown up in safe, relatively affluent suburbs is vastly different from my brothers and sisters who’ve grown up in more hope-starved, crime-ridden, opportunity-free precincts of American life.

Do All Infants Go to Heaven?

Sam Storms:

This is more than a theoretical issue designed for speculation. It touches one of the most emotionally and spiritually unsettling experiences in all of life: the loss of a young child.

The view I embrace is that all those who die in infancy, as well as those so mentally incapacitated they’re incapable of making an informed choice, are among the elect of God, chosen for salvation before the world began. The evidence for this view is scant, but significant.

Planned Parenthood: Invitation, Explanation, Indignation

John Piper:

Indignation is cheap. Anyone can get bent out of shape. There is no great moral capital in human anger. It comes easy. But the absence of anger (and sorrow) in some cases is a sign of a disordered heart.

When an evil is as massive as the killing of human beings is in our nation, large and hard words lose their force over time. What is needed is real stories, real experience, real glimpses — not just of the babies, but the hearts of those who kill them. We are getting those, in this peculiar cultural moment.

Kindness Is Not Weakness

Russell Moore:

Listen to Christian media or attend a “faith and values” rally, and you’ll hear plenty of warfare speech. Unlike past “crusades,” however, such language is directed primarily at people perceived to be cultural and political enemies. If we are too afraid of seeming inordinately Pentecostal to talk about the Devil, we will find ourselves declaring war against mere concepts, like “evil” or “sin.” When we don’t oppose demons, we demonize opponents. And without a clear vision of the concrete forces we as the church are supposed to be aligned against, we find it very difficult to differentiate between enemy combatants and their hostages.

A Plea to Churches to Use Their Bibles

Jim Elliff:

Without turning back to a visible and rigorous commitment to the Bible, churches will continue to lead the way in moral decline, giving credence to all kinds of errant and ungodly ideas. Why are some churches, for instance, on the vanguard for homosexuality when the Bible clearly places homosexuals outside of His people? Homosexuals are to be loved, also a biblical truth, but repentance is necessary for homosexuals to be accepted into the visible body of Christ. Only people without the word of God as its guide can miss this easily discernible message.

Good writing, prioritizing and gospel communication

words-servants

Some of the best advice I ever read about writing came from Seth Godin.

Now, I know Godin’s a pretty divisive figure for some—he’s either beloved as a marketing genius, or he’s derided for speaking almost exclusively in buzzwords and sound effects. But when I was a brand-new writer, there was one thing he wrote on his blog that made writing make sense to me. He wrote,

Most people work hard to find artful ways to say very little. Instead of polishing that turd, why not work harder to think of something remarkable or important to say in the first place?

In the years since reading this, the advice has stuck with me. And the more writing I’m exposed to—whether from paid professionals, authors, bloggers, or folks writing emails in the office—the more I realize just how hard a time we have communicating well.

I’ve read entire books where the author’s said virtually nothing. I’ve read three page letters that could have been a paragraph. (I’ve probably even written a few of them.) We would all do well to remember that brevity is essential to good communication. Although I’m a fan of playful writing and treating writing as art (points I discuss in greater detail in the Write More Better eBook), it’s easy to forget that communicating simply is an art, too.

In their book Made to Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath, put it this way:

Simplicity isn’t about dumbing down, it’s about prioritizing.… What’s the core of your message? Can you communicate it with an analogy or high-concept pitch?

A commitment to simple communication doesn’t reject beautiful writing. It reminds us that our words are servants of the message. And this is where I see much to be encouraged by in the Scriptures.

In the Bible—and especially in the gospel message—there is a marriage of simplicity and beauty in thought and form. The message of the cross is profoundly simple in many ways: the entire gospel message can be summarized as simply as “Jesus died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures… he was buried… he was raised on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). It’s a simple statement, but it’s foolish to treat it as simplistic. It tells us the major beats, yes; but invites us to delve deeper. It hooks us. It makes us want to discover more (or at least it should).

That’s the kind of thing that I’m talking about—that’s what simple and simply good communication does.There are other examples, of course: many of Jesus’ parables, John’s epistles and even much of Paul’s writing can be easily understood, and invite us to plumb their depths. And that’s the point: in the same way the Bible embraces this “profoundly simple yet simply profound” form of communication, so should we as Christians. We need to recognize that the gospel isn’t a complicated message (even if its implications leave our heads spinning). We need to be thankful for that fact. And when we write, we should always make it our aim to let our words serve the message, rather than our message become muddled by our words.


This post is adapted from an article originally posted in June 2010.

Photo credit: Aftermath of the Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

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Lots of good stuff on sale today:

No Such Thing as Free Porn

Cam Triggs:

In the isolated dark office, sin disguises itself as “free” — free of cost, free of accountability, and free of consequences. Don’t believe the lie. Deconstructing the phrase “Free Porn” may save your marriage, and ultimately your relationship with Christ. Here is a truth we desperately need today — there is no such thing as free porn.

The 7th Planned Parenthood Video + 4 FAQs

Yet another video has been released, this one more horrific than the last (if that’s possible). Justin Taylor provides a helpful FAQ here.

Why I Don’t Blame Planned Parenthood

Camille Cates:

While confessing the sin of abortion may seem like it heaps more judgment and condemnation on you, God’s Word reveals something entirely different. When we turn to Jesus Christ in our conviction of sin—instead of shifting blame over it, justifying it, or simply ignoring it—we find hope and healing in the one who bore God’s wrath for sin on the cross.

Guardian Angels?

Nick Batzig:

“You must have a guardian Angel watching over you!” You’ve either heard it said or have said it to someone after their life took an unexpected and much needed turn for the better. It might seem like an irrelevant question in our post-modern, technological, post-enlightenment, scientific world; but, I care deeply about whether or not there are such things as guardian Angels appointed by God to watch over believers.

Contentment Isn’t Natural, but it Can Be Learned

Michael Kelley:

At that time, what I intended by putting that verse in my locker was to remind myself that I could run one more 40 yard dash through Christ who strengthens me. I could do one more drill through Christ who strengthens me. I could knock one more guy over through Christ who strengthens me. But then one faithful Friday night, my high school football team lined up across from another team – the Dumas Demons. And after the game, I saw a group of those Demons kneeling in prayer on the 50 yard line. And though it hadn’t struck me before, I suddenly came to the realization that there were probably actual Christians who played for the other team. In fact, there might even have been one Christian with Philippians 4:13 taped in their locker. So as I was trying to knock someone over with the power of Christ, so also might someone have been trying to knock me over with the same power.

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A few new ones for you today:

Be sure to also check out this sale at Westminster Books on Rico Tice’s Honest Evangelism, which you can get for as little as $7.

The Divisive Person Is The One Who Departs From The Truth

Jared Wilson:

The person who objects is often told they are “singling out” this particular sin as over-important, as more important than unity! But it is not those who protest who are singling out particular sins. It is those bringing the revision, the ones asking, “Did God really say…?”, the ones who suggest it should now be normal what we previously agreed was objectionable who are singling it out, elevating it above the agreement. They are the ones making it the sticking point.

Writing With Authority

Mike Leake:

It’d been an ongoing discussion. One of those that isn’t heated but its just a difference of opinion on how to “do church”. The guy I’d been going back and forth with stopped into my office and gave me an article from LifeWay on the very topic that we’d been discussing. The article agreed with him and not me. The article landed on my desk with the thud of authority. “See, I’ve go the dudes at LifeWay on my side in this one. The people who are experts and ‘in the know’ agree with me on this”.

When You Get The Raw End Of The Deal

Mark Altrogge:

I’ve never experienced the horrible injustice some do on a daily basis, like Christians in North Korean prison camps or victims of ISIS. But like everyone else, I’ve been wronged at times. For trying to be kind, I’ve gotten scorn. A few times, after spending hours and hours trying to help someone, I’ve been blamed for their troubles. I’m not complaining and don’t feel like I’m a victim. I know many who have tried to help and bless others far more than I have, only to be despised and blasted on Facebook or worse.

5 Ways to Spot the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

While we want to assume the best of everyone sitting across from us in the pews, Jesus told us to be wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing seeking to infiltrate the body (Matthew 7:15).

But He didn’t want us always looking over our shoulder, fearful every person we shake hands with or strike up a conversation with in small group will stab us in the back.

We are Dust and He is Rest

Lore Ferguson Wilbert:

Heschel says, “If you work with your mind, sabbath with your hands, and if you work with your hands, sabbath with your mind.” I adopt this phrase and wear it as a mantra. I chop the basil and the spinach, press my thumb and index finger testing a ripe tomato, check on the chicken twice. I rest with these rhythms, these constants.

Why delight in the Word?

Delight

Why delight in the Word?

When a person delights in it, when he or she meditates on the Bible consistently, and the Holy Spirit is working in him, there will be fruit. It will always be there, even if only incrementally at first. But why does that fruit exist? Consider Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)

The metaphor the psalmist uses in Psalm 1:3 is that of a tree in fertile ground, a healthy one that bears fruit in its season. Does a tree need fruit? Does it do the tree good? I mean, it doesn’t nourish the tree. The soil does that. It doesn’t give it life. The water does that. But its fruit does spread life—the fruit begets and nourishes new life.

In the same way, it’s not the fruit of our faith that gives us life—the living water that Christ gives us and that we come to know in His Word—that water gives us life. Our fruit benefits those around us—serving as encouragement to them, and perhaps being a catalyst for them finding new life in Christ.

So just think of one biblical example of two people who bore tremendous fruit for a moment: Timothy and Epaphroditus. In Philippians 2:19-27, Paul wrote that, “there is no one like him [Timothy] who will be genuinely concerned for your [the believers at Philippi] well being.”

There was no one like Timothy, among all those with whom Paul served. Think about that. Timothy was incredibly self-sacrificing. He would, without question, put aside his own interests for the sake of others. He wanted to see the gospel’s work completed in their lives. His love and concern—his Spirit-wrought love of others—was the fruit of his faith. Similarly Epaphroditus, Paul’s “brother” in the faith, his “fellow worker and fellow soldier and your messenger and minister to my needs,” was greatly distressed because Philippians had heard he was ill. He wanted their hearts to be glad. His desire was for their joy.

That is good fruit. That is the kind of fruit that nourishes and begets life. That’s the kind of fruit that comes from a life devoted to the Lord, to knowing his Word, to meditating on it day and night. The Spirit will always work through his word to bring about this kind of fruit.

Friends, if we are lacking in fruit, our response should not be to try harder or make promises to do more better. Instead, let’s turn to the word of God. For as we devote ourselves to the word, the Spirit will bring about much fruit.


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

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Why Gay Marriage Can’t Be Christian Marriage

Ben Witherington:

At the end of the day either we realize that gender matters, and gender difference is essential to a real Christian marriage, or we totally change the definition of what counts as marriage, what counts as husband and wife, what counts as mother and father Biblically speaking. It is in no way surprising that in the most individualistic and narcissistic culture on the planet, that Americans would like to be able to even choose their gender, their own biology. But in fact you can’t do that, and since gender matters Biblically speaking when it comes to Christian marriage, you also do not have Biblical permission to redefine marriage, husband, wife, mother or father.

I Don’t Know, And That’s OK

Nick Horton:

Why are so many of us uncomfortable saying the words, “I don’t know?” It’s incredibly freeing, I recommend you try it  some time. We give voice to the truth that we are not God when we do so. The expectation of full and total knowledge is nothing more than unmasked pride, quivering in its rush to be like God. Yet we will never know everything, now or in Heaven. Omniscience is a divine attribute and as such does not convey to us.

The Distracted Worshipper

Check out the first part of a new series at the Leadership Resources blog.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bible Rebinding

Matthew Everhard:

There is no book called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bible Rebinding, but if such a volume is ever to be written, I have a feeling that I may inadvertently be its protagonist.

Incidentally, The Bible Design Blog may well be my new favorite blog.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say to Your Wife then…

Erik Raymond:

We have all heard the expression, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” This may be good advice for elementary school children but it is not preferred for husbands.

Am I saying, “Feel free to insult your wife.” Hardly. Instead I am saying that we need to try harder, look deeper, pay more attention.

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Crossway’s put a number of books focused on literature on sale this week:

Also on sale:

The Rest of the Story

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Too often we seek out spiritual highs with all the fervor of an addict. We seek out those mountaintop experiences, often times priming the pump with a special book, going to a favorite conference, playing over and over a peculiarly moving bit of music. I’m not in the least opposed to spiritual heights, books, conferences or music. Resting in His grace, rejoicing in His favor, drawing near to His presence are precious gifts, and sometimes, valuable memories.

When America Put Pastors in Prison

Thomas S. Kidd:

In 1774, James Madison wrote to a friend in Pennsylvania about troubling developments in Virginia. There were reasons to worry about oppressive British taxes, of course, but that was not Madison’s primary concern in this letter. The “worst” news he had to deliver was that the “diabolical Hell conceived principle of persecution” was raging in the colony. “There are at this [time] . . . not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in [jail] for publishing their religious sentiments. . . . Pray for liberty of conscience to revive among us.” While today we tend to think of early America as a bastion of religious liberty, many in the colonial era lamented its absence.

Why Some Evangelicals Support Trump Even Though They Know Better

Dan Darling:

Donald Trump may have views that look nothing like the conservatism of Buckley, Kirk or Reagan, but that doesn’t matter. To Trump supporters, he’s wearing the team jersey. He is their guy. His craziness, his intemperate statements, his past history of not championing anything remotely like conservatism–this is irrelevant. For some who are angry at Democrats and even angrier at establishment Republicans, Trump sounds like he’s on their team. Even if he really isn’t.

Forgiveness Is a Marathon

Vermon Pierre:

Forgiveness doesn’t come cheaply or easily. It always comes at great expense to the one wronged. In some cases, it comes with permanent cost. The wronged parties must “take it on the chin,” allowing themselves to be physically, emotionally, or spiritually wounded by the offending party instead of seeking an equal measure of revenge. Christians do this in imitation of Jesus, who faced sinful rebels and yet still suffered and died so that we might be forgiven and reconciled to God.

8 Things You Won’t Find in Heaven

David Murray:

Heaven is so heavenly that it’s often hard for earthly creatures to understand what it will really be like. That’s why the Bible often describes heaven in terms of what will not be there. For example, the last two chapters of the Bible tell us eight things that will not be there.

Ministry is not the enemy of marriage

ministry-marriage

There are many great men who are unworthy of imitation as husbands. I am thankful that Charles Spurgeon is not among them.

One of the things I loved about working on the Spurgeon documentary last year was learning about Charles Spurgeon’s marriage. I’ll be honest, though, I was kind of terrified about what I’d find out. After reading of how awful so many marriages were—such as those of John Wesley and A.W. Tozer—I kind of expected that with Charles and Susannah Spurgeon. I was expecting the story of a wife quietly resentful of her absentee husband, whose mistress was his ministry.

But that wasn’t what I found. What I found instead was a marriage deeply united and centered around the gospel. Charles was a man deeply devoted to his wife. His heart was for the Lord first, yes, but of earthly ties there was nothing greater for him, and for Susannah also. She was his steadfast companion through trial and illness, joy and hardship, success and controversy.

And years after his death, as she compiled Charles’ autobiography, she testified that her love continued to abide:

Ah! my husband, the blessed earthly ties which we welcomed so rapturously are dissolved now, and death has hidden thee from my mortal eyes; but not even death can divide thee from me, or sever the love which united our hearts so closely. I feel it living and growing still, and I believe it will find its full and spiritual development only when we shall meet in the glory-land, and worship “together before the throne.”

This is the sort of love all married believers should aspire to—a love rooted not merely in our enjoyment of our spouses, but in our union with Christ. This is the kind of marriage I want to have, and by God’s grace, am trying to cultivate. One that centers on the gospel and reveals the beautiful mystery of gospel as it was always intended to do. May ministry never be a hindrance to that.

Lord, never let ministry be an enemy to marriage, but rather ministry be a blessing to marriage.

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The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis is $1.99 at the moment. There’s also lots more great stuff from B&H on sale:

Why Don’t You Like the Christians You Know?

This is a compelling three minutes from John Piper.

We’re All Sadists Now

Carl Trueman:

DeSade’s ideal world is that to which we appear to be heading.   Like him, we deny any intrinsic moral significance to sexual activity whatsoever and thus see it as something which is of no more ethical importance than buying a cup of coffee or eating a sandwich. In such a world, the celibate and the monogamous are increasingly counted as freaks, representatives of a defective, repressive cultural vision. Thus, the social pressure to be promiscuous becomes an integral part of the culture and the withholding of consent comes to be increasingly difficult, the act of social schismatics, freaks, and (to use the favored clichés of the day) the inauthentic, those who do not wish to flourish.

Why Gay Marriage Proponents Can’t Appeal to the Abolitionist Movement

Ben Reaoch explains why the arguments don’t hold water.

A big land mine for leaders

Brad Lomenick:

For many leaders, the greatest threat to our influence right now is our tendency to read our own press clippings, and continually put a “wall” up around us that protects us from any kind of honest feedback.

What It’s Like When You Publish a Book

Nick McDonald:

But here’s the thing. I published a book, and then I nudged it gently out into cyberspace. I closed my eyes, waiting for Christian Nirvana to hit me like a stack of reformed theology books from heaven, and…

And, what?

Well, what did you expect? Literally nothing happened. It was less exciting than brushing my teeth (of course, I have some molar caps that can make things PRE-TTY interesting).

It was disappointing to say the least. Yes people were very nice about it. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the lightning bolt from heaven, when suddenly, out of the blue…I’m perfect.

You’ve got to know God’s character

character

One of the things that’s always astounded me is how we don’t seem to really think deeply about God’s character. We might look at attributes such as God’s love–which is absolutely essential to our understanding of him—but if we do, we tend to elevate that to his essence. We don’t bother to get to the core of who God is.

But the thing about God is, he wants us to know his character and rejoice in it.

The chief attribute of God

Just think about Abraham for a moment. Abraham is one of the only men to be called a friend of God. He is the one to whom the great promise of an offspring who would be a blessing to all the nations was given. He was the one who miraculously was given a son when he and his wife were well beyond childbearing years. He knew God—he understood his character. And he wasn’t afraid to approach God on that basis. Consider Genesis 18:22-26:

So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

This is astounding isn’t it? Look at what he says in this bold appeal: “Far be that from you that the righteous be swept away along with the wicked,” he says. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

What is he basing this appeal on?

God’s character—he knew God was (and is) just. We know of his hatred of sin from Genesis 18:21, a sin so great that he came to personally judge it. Because he is a holy God, he would administer justice. He could do nothing else.

This is one of the attributes Abraham recognized—the attribute which is arguably the defining one of God. It is the one angels sing of (Isaiah 6:1-3), which prevents him from even looking at sin and not taking action (Habakkuk 1:13), of hating wickedness in all its forms (Psalm 5:5; 11:5).

But this same holiness also undergirds his compassion.

Holiness and compassion

That’s why Abraham could ask with complete integrity, “If there are fifty righteous people in the city, will you spare it?” And then again presume to ask about sparing the city for the sake of 45, 40, 30, 20 and 10. God in his compassion, his merciful loving kindness, would execute justice, but he would not destroy the righteous along with the wicked—and in fact, he was even willing to spare the wicked for the sake of the righteous!

That’s the sort of amazing God we serve—one who is generous as to extend mercy to the wicked for the sake of the righteous.

And that’s the gospel, isn’t it? For the sake of the true righteous one, Jesus Christ, wicked people such as you and me are spared what we are due and instead not only given pardon, but welcomed into God’s family. We are declared more than friends—we are children!

But that’s the thing about God: if we don’t do our best to grasp what we can of his character—understanding the natural limits we all face—we wind up with a lopsided view of him, one that doesn’t represent him at all. You and I, we have got to know God’s character as best as we are able. We have got to do our best to know and be thankful for every aspect of him, his overwhelming love and his perfect justness. His incomparable holiness and his unimaginable kindness.

We need it all. All the time. No matter what.