Crash the Chatterbox

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How do we hear God’s voice? Are all negative thoughts really bad for us? My thoughts on these questions and more can be found in my review of Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God’s Voice Above All Others by Steven Furtick over at The Gospel Coalition:

First, let’s talk about the good of this book. Furtick builds his argument, or rather his counterargument to the lies we believe, around four “confessions”:

  1. God says I am. Overpowering the lies of the enemy in your insecurities.
  2. God says he will. Overpowering the lies of the enemy in your fears.
  3. God says he has. Overpowering the lies of the enemy in your condemnation.
  4. God says I can. Overpowering the lies of the enemy in your discouragement. (Kindle location 382)

“These are truths about God and truths about you that come straight from God’s Word,” Furtick writes. “So by filling our spiritual ears with these four declarations of truth, we receive and respond to what God says about who he is and who we are in him” (Kindle location 371).

Taken on their own, these confessions (or, more accurately, declarations) are actually pretty helpful. What matters isn’t what I, or others, think about me but what God says about me. What God says he will do and what God has already done is more than enough to overcome my fears. What God says I can do—or, more correctly, what he’s empowered me to do through the Holy Spirit—is more important than what others think I can do.

But the devil, as they say, is in the details. And the details, I’m afraid, spoil Crash the Chatterbox. I’ll limit myself to four significant errors I see in this book.

Read the full article at TGC.

How now shall we act online?

A while back, I had the opportunity to sit down with my friends Dan Darling and Derek Rishmawy to discuss how Christians should approach using social media and engaging online conversations (and controversy) in a Christlike manner:

Thanks to Dan and all the folks at the ERLC for the opportunity to be a part of the conversation!

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to yesterday’s monster list, several volumes in B&H’s Exalting Jesus commentary series is on sale for $5.99 each:

Zondervan’s also put a number of books on sale focused on gender roles (from both sides of the debate, although weighted pretty heavily egalitarian):

Contend giveaway at Goodreads

This week, I’m giving away 3 copies of Contend to Goodreads users. Enter here:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Contend by Aaron Armstrong

Contend

by Aaron Armstrong

Giveaway ends September 14, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

5 Things You Must Do To Protect Yourself Online

My gmail account was compromised a few weeks back mostly due to my own foolishness. This is good advice for all who want to avoid having the same happen to them.

I’m Glad I’m Not the Same Guy Who Wrote Blue Like Jazz

Donald Miller:

These days when somebody says they miss the old Don, I get it. I understand. He was a super nice guy. But he really wanted to please people because he believed if he took a stand people would leave him. As much as I love the old Don, I don’t miss him.

“I just don’t feel like I’m being fed”

There is a lot of truth to this.

How to Decide About Your Next Job

John Piper:

In 1997 I put a list of Bible texts together to help folks think through what job to pursue. Below I have taken that list and added comments to flesh out more specifically what I had in mind.

My prayer is that these thoughts will help saturate your mind with the centrality of Christ in all of life. He made you to work. And he cares about what you do with the half of your waking life called “vocation.” He wants you to rejoice in it. And he wants to be glorified in it.

May the Lord position you strategically in the workplace, as only he can when his people care deeply about these kinds of questions.

9 Things You Should Know About Intimate Partner Violence

You definitely need to read this.

Evan’s story

Replant

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Can a dying church live again?

It seems like such a simple question. As long as there are people present and the Bible is faithfully preached, there’s every chance. But even so, there is no guarantee. Conflict, turf wars, wounds from church splits, and numerous other challenges are very real threats attempts to revitalize, especially the dreaded seven words, “But we’ve always done it this way.”

Can those obstacles be overcome? Yep. But it won’t be easy, which is why Replant: How a Dying Church Can Grow Again exists. In this short book, Mark DeVine and Darrin Patrick share the challenges facing prospective replanters through the story of DeVine’s efforts to rejuvenate First Calvary Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri.

Who is prepared for this task?

DeVine was, by his own admission, an unexpected choice for this job. He was primarily an academic—a seminary professor—not a vocational minister, nor a church planter. “What prepares a man to imagine that he can stroll into an old, proud, dying city church in the Midwest and have his way with it?” he asks.

What allows a man to suppose he can wrench the levers of power out of the hands of a small but entrenched and fierce pack of lay Christians habituated to having their way—to imagine he can do so despite decades of failed attempts at pastoral leadership?

Given what he and Patrick describe in this book, I’m not sure there’s anything that could prepare a man for such a task. DeVine found himself in the midst of a disaster: a church controlled by an elite few who intimidated congregation members, controlled committees and bullied their pastors into leaving. And this had to end:

The prevailing culture of the place, despite a superficial sheen of interest in the gospel, expended its energies largely in nostalgia, defense of personal perks and privileges, and the sabotage of would-be pastoral leadership. The more I researched the recent past of the church and examined its present state, the more convinced I became that only radical steps—including multiple and likely bitter confrontations with the lay cartel—held out much hope for spiritual revival.

As DeVine details the events that took place to eventually dismantle the lay cartel, readers see something pretty incredible: the rest of the congregation begins to stand up to them, as well. DeVine’s actions remind us of an important value: leaders shape the culture. When a leader cowers in the face of opposition, the congregation likewise cower. This is how the “cartel” took control of the church, in DeVine’s experience. It was because of a lack of strong leadership—not strong in the sense authority, but a humble confidence in the Lord. A willingness to be courageous in the face of opposition. And when a leader does that, it empowers the congregation to follow suit.

Perpetuating popular evangelical stereotypes

In terms of practical value (specifically “how-tos”), Replant doesn’t have much to offer. It’s really not that kind of book, something the authors themselves readily admit. But that doesn’t mean there are no practical takeaways. Most are in the form of principles, such as the one above. There are some, however, that don’t sit quite as well.

For example, early in the book, the authors assert that, “When churches settle into extended periods of decline, they sometimes adopt a defensive rhetoric that touts spiritual growth or spiritual health over numerical growth.” While there is an element of truth in this, without question, it’s not quite as clear cut as they make it seem. Some declining churches absolutely do adopt defensive rhetoric around spiritual growth. But many apparently thriving churches do the same around their numerical growth. The reality is a bit more complicated than that.

Growing in numbers doesn’t equal gospel-fidelity, as any number of churches around North America bear witness. It’s hard to make a case that Lakewood Church is a bold outpost for the gospel since its pastor preaches another gospel. Numerous so-called evangelical megachurches—such as Elevation Church—seem more enamored with their rockstar pastor than with the Lord Jesus. And then there are churches like those of my friends’ Noel and Tim, churches that are intentional about making disciples, training leaders and sending out people in order to spread the gospel through church planting. Their congregations are small by some standards (around 200 or so, which really isn’t all that small), but they are gospel lights in their communities and seeing it spread.

There are other curiosities as well—not necessarily good or bad, but things I’d love to have seen discussed in more depth. DeVine’s family was not with him while he served as the interim pastor of First Calvary. And this, he explains, was a good thing, for they were spared an enormous amount of hardship. But as I read, I wanted to know more about how that dynamic affected the family, even from afar. Of how much were they aware? Who did DeVine have to confide in and seek encouragement from during that time? The picture painted is, perhaps inadvertently, a continuation of the “leadership is lonely” paradigm, and that should not be.

If one church can revitalize, so can another

That’s not to say, however, that you should not read the book. In fact, I’d especially encourage those who are considering replanting to consider this. Every replanting situation is different, filled with its own peculiarities and personalities, after all; in some ways it might even more more difficult than planting an entirely new church. So those who are pursuing this mission are in short supply of encouragement. That’s really what this book has to offer: it’s the story of how one church was replanted and revitalized. And that should give readers hope that if it can happen in one church, it can happen in another—perhaps even their own. It won’t be easy, but it will be possible.


Title: Replant: How a Dying Church Can Grow Again
Authors: Mark DeVine and Darrin Patrick
Publisher: David C. Cook (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a whole bunch of new deals for you:

Finally, the New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology series is on sale for $3.99 each:

Oprah, edited

Drew Dyck had some fun with the Oprah quotes on the sleeves at Starbucks.

Gungor, Questions, and the Doubters Among Us

Trevin Wax:

For better or for worse, evangelicalism’s lack of authority structure and ecclesial identity open the door for campus ministries, parachurch organizations, and singers, writers, and moviemakers to fulfill the role of quasi-theologians. This is why, when celebrities cross the boundaries of their conservative audience, they get an earful from their constituency, who, rightly or wrongly, feel betrayed by the star’s defection.

The left’s response to Gungor and Jars of Clay was to celebrate an artist’s willingness to boldly “ask questions,” to be “authentic,” and to reformulate Christianity in ways that take into consideration our contemporary setting. The conservative response was to decry these artists as defectors from the faith and to write them and their questions off.

My Facebook feed was filled with both responses – those who praised the courage and creativity of Gungor, and those who condemned their unorthodox views. Both attitudes left me unsatisfied. Here’s why.

On Nude Celebrities, Virtual Voyeurs, and Willing Victims

Tim Challies:

But there is still another aspect of their victimization I want us to see: The very fact that these women took these photographs in the first place is proof that they are victims of the world, the flesh, and the devil. I assume they were all willing participants in these photo shoots, but they were victims even in their willingness—victims of those forces that makes them believe they are nothing more than their beauty, their sexiness, or their sexual desirability. They are victims of the lust that drove them to inappropriate sexual relationships outside of marriage. When we understand sin, we understand that a person can be a willing participant and victim at the same time and in the same act.

Karen Swallow Prior’s recommendation for a novel every Christian should consider reading

Probably the most unique selection in this series so far. (Also, by far one of my favorite blog series from Justin Taylor.)

When Pastors Experience Depression

Thom Rainer:

Depression was once a topic reserved for “other people.” It certainly was not something those in vocational ministry experienced. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that ministers rarely admitted that they were depressed. After all, weren’t these servants of God supposed to have their acts together? How could pastors and other ministers who have the call of God on their lives experience the dark valley of depression?

Ministers often feel shame and failure when they go through bouts of depression. And their reticence to tell anyone about their plights has exacerbated the problem.

But today more and more ministers are willing to talk about this issue. Articles in Christian Post, the New York Times, and Paul Tripp’s Gospel Coalition blog address the problem candidly and proactively.

The Cloak of Righteousness

Lore Ferguson:

This morning I woke thinking of all the ways I have failed, all those I have failed, and all the failures yet to come. How could a holy God condescend to me? How could he fit his goodness as a cloak on me? Surely I have toed the line of arrogance and fear and anxiety and lust and envy and all kinds of sin, enough that I have gone out the bounds of his demands.

But if Salvation is to “make wide” or to “make sufficient,” then the salvific act was one that spread wide around the boundaries of every one of my days and sins and weakness and proclivities and covers them all.

God doesn’t have time to worry about such little things, right?

If God provides

The other day we were on our way home from Port Huron, MI, when our car started making some shady sounds. A grinding/vibrating sound that sounded like maybe one of the brakes had seized. (Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be something catastrophic, to my savings if nothing else.)

Sunday night, as we prepared dinner, Emily and I talked about how much we were willing to spend on repairs. It’s important to have a “do not pass go” line because, at some point, it’s just not worth fixing a vehicle. Of course, when that happens, it’s also helpful to have a fair bit saved up in order to actually pay for a new one. Which we don’t (yet).

One of the things we don’t do all that well is pray over “little” issues. Years ago, as new believers, we were exposed to a lot of damnably stupid teaching on prayer. One video we watched, featuring an ultra-hip (now ex-) pastor, openly mocked a person who would pray for such seemingly insignificant things as a parking space, as though doing so would be a waste of God’s time and yours.

After all, God doesn’t have time to worry about such little things, right?

And yet, we see something very different in Psalm 8:3-4: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Setting aside the christological elements of these verses for a moment, we see something pretty incredible: David is in awe of the mystery of God’s care. What shocks David here is that the God who created all the universe is not distant. He is near to us and intimately involved with every detail of our lives. That he has numbered every hair on our heads. He has determined all the days of our lives. There is not a single event that happens, whether a hair falling from our heads or a piece of dust floating down onto your shoulder, that the Lord is not aware of.

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! … Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (Luke 12:24; 27-28)

This is the mystery of God’s care: that he holds all of creation together, and yet is actively involved in the minutest details of our lives. Do you believe this? Do you believe that right now, God is working all things together for your good—that there is nothing that happens in your life that escapes his sight? Or do you believe, as the song goes, God is watching us from a distance?

Events like our car problems are an opportunity for me to shake off the “little faith” attitude of the man who mocks those who pray for “little things.” If God provides for sparrows and clothes the grass in splendor, will He not provide what His people need? I’m not saying this in some sort of goofy “name it and claim it” sort of way. Instead, it’s a reminder to me that God truly is involved in the most mundane aspects of my life.

We had another car problem about a week ago. The repairs cost $100, though they could have been significantly more had the problem not been easily resolved. It is right to see this as evidence of God’s care. I had $100. I did not have significantly more. We have this latest problem. We have no idea what it will cost to repair or if we have to say “when” on this car. We can only trust that the Lord will provide what we need, when we need it in the way we need it.

And that’s the thing that should give us great hope and encouragement: God is not disconnectedly watching the events of our lives play out. He is actively engaged. He really does care for us and provide for us, no matter how insignificant it might seem.


Photo credit: mohammadali via photopin cc. Designed with Canva.

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The Barney-Stinsonization of America

Chris Martin:

Sleeping with countless women with no strings attached seems like paradise to countless young men, but throughout the show, in between his seductive tricks and sexual triumphs, one reality remains:

Barney is enslaved by his sexual freedom.

And there’s reason to believe he isn’t the only one.

We are in the midst of the Barney-Stinsonization of America, and the most popular song in the country is proof of that.

He must increase, our churches must decrease

Jared Wilson nails it, as per usual:

See, nobody ever said, “We changed our music style and revival broke out.”
Nobody ever said, “We moved from Sunday School classes to small groups and the glory of God came down.”
Nobody ever said, “You would not believe the repenting unto holiness that happened when our pastor started preaching shorter sermons.”
(I’m just sayin’.)

No, all those things and more can be good things. Done for the right reasons, those can be very good moves to make, but the glory of God is best heard in the proclaimed gospel of Jesus Christ. So that’s where the glory-aimed church is going to camp out.

We all talk a big game about the glory of God, but it is a rare church that takes God’s glory seriously as the purpose of everything.

Having Boldness to Enter the Holiest

L. Michael Morales:

The Book of Leviticus is the heart and center of the Pentateuch. The theological heart of Leviticus—and, therefore, also of the Five Books of Moses—is the Day of Atonement (Lev 16). On this most sacred day, the high priest of Israel would bring the blood of sacrifice into the holy of holies to cleanse both the tabernacle dwelling of God and the camp of Israel. Ultimately, every other sacrifice and ritual in Israel’s cult derived its meaning and significance from this annual entrance into the earthly throne room of God. Worship in ancient Israel was through the chosen and anointed mediator, the high priest. Significantly, then, in the Pentateuch “messiah” refers exclusively to Aaron the high priest—he is the one anointed with oil, whose mediation allows God’s people to draw near in worship.

Why Twitter is a bad place to do theology

Mark Jones on the problems with trying to do theology well in 140 characters or less.

“I Have Another One…”

Tullian Tchividjian:

Sam confesses an infidelity to Sheila, and she forgives him. Sheila confesses an infidelity to Sam, and he forgives her. Everything seems to be back on track until Sheila says, “I have another one.” Sam says, “It’s okay, don’t worry about it. This is what it’s all about…honesty and forgiveness.” But then she says that it’s Cliff, from Cheers (the frumpy mailman played by John Ratzenberger). “Cliff?!?!?!” Sam explodes. This is over the line for him. He can’t take it and storms out of the room, calling off the marriage.

All too often, this is how we think of God’s forgiveness, and why assurance eludes us.

Evangelicalism’s Poor Form

Alastair Roberts:

Whether designed to clarify evangelicalism as an object of study or analysis, or to police its supposed boundaries, definitions of evangelicalism have generally tended to occlude the cultural, institutional, and sociological dimensions of the movement. This is unfortunate, as it is precisely these elements that are most salient in the experience of many within it. Evangelicalism is not There is a sort of evangelical folk religion, most of which is largely unauthorized by pastors or elders.typically experienced as a set of abstract and explicit doctrines or beliefs held by individuals, but more as a distinctive cultural environment within which such beliefs are inconsistently and idiosyncratically maintained. The official beliefs of evangelicalism exist alongside a host of other miscellaneous elements and the cross-pollination from the surrounding society, all sustained within local churches and a shifting constellation of denominations, movements, ministries, groups, and agencies.

Alive and full of power

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

If you look back across the history of the Christian Church, you immediately find that the story of the Church has not been a straight line, a level record of achievement. The history of the Church has been a history of ups and downs. It is there to be seen on the very surface. When you read the history of the past you find that there have been periods in the history of the Church when she has been full of life, and vigour, and power. The statistics prove that people crowded to the house of God, whole numbers of people who were anxious and eager to belong to the Christian Church. Then the Church was filled with life, and she had great power; the Gospel was preached with authority, large numbers of people were converted regularly, day by day, and week by week. Christian people delighted in prayer. You did not have to whip them up to prayer meetings, you could not keep them away. They did not want to go home, they would stay all night praying. The whole Church was alive and full of power, and of vigour, and of might. And men and women were able to tell of rich experiences of the grace of God, visitations of his Spirit, a knowledge of the love of God that thrilled them, and moved them, and made them feel that it was more precious than the whole world. And, as a consequence of all that, the whole life of the country was affected and changed.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival

August’s top ten articles at Blogging Theologically

top-ten

Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in August:

  1. Being all about Jesus: thoughts on Mark Driscoll, anger, forgiveness and grace (August 2014)
  2. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  3. When is saving repentance truly seen? (August 2014)
  4. I’m giving away a personal library! (August 2014)
  5. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  6. Kindle deals for Christian readers (August 2014)
  7. Five books every Christian should read on prayer (August 2014)
  8. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011)
  9. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  10. Five biographies you (and I) should read (August 2014)

And just for fun, here’s a look at the next ten:

  1. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)
  2. Seven books to read on Christianity and homosexuality (August 2014)
  3. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  4. Everything hidden will be revealed (August 2014)
  5. 5 words on extemporaneous preaching (July 2014)
  6. Accidental double agents in the pulpit (August 2014)
  7. 16 timely quotes from Why We’re Not Emergent (August 2014)
  8. Choosing a New Preaching Bible (November 2011)
  9. Let’s do some catalytic visioneering… and stuff! Because we’re leaders! (August 2014)
  10. What does the Bible say about worship? (March 2013)

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

Be eternally grateful for His rebukes of love

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Ah! brethren, when we were groaning under the chastening hand of Jesus, we thought him cruel; do we think so ill of him now? We conceived that he was wroth with us, and would be implacable; how have our surmises proved to be utterly confounded! The abundant benefit which we now reap from the deep ploughing of our heart is enough of itself to reconcile us to the severity of the process. Precious is that wine which is pressed in the winefat of conviction; pure is that gold which is dug from the mines of repentance; and bright are those pearls which are found in the caverns of deep distress.… If we have any power to console the weary, it is the result of our remembrance of what we once suffered—for here lies our power to sympathise. If we can now look down with scorn upon the boastings of vain, self-conceited man, it is because our own vaunted strength has utterly failed us, and made us contemptible in our own eyes. If we can now plead with ardent desire for the souls of our fellow-men, and especially if we feel a more than common passion for the salvation of sinners, we must attribute it in no small degree to the fact that we have been smitten for sin, and therefore knowing the terrors of the Lord are constrained to persuade men. The laborious pastor, the fervent minister, the ardent evangelist, the faithful teacher, the powerful intercessor, can all trace the birth of their zeal to the sufferings they endured for sin, and the knowledge they thereby attained of its evil nature. We have ever drawn the sharpest arrows from the quiver of our own experience. We find no sword-blades so true in metal as those which have been forged in the furnace of soul-trouble. Aaron’s rod, that budded, bore not one half so much fruit as the rod of the covenant, which is laid upon the back of every chosen child of God; this alone may render us eternally grateful to the Saviour for his rebukes of love.

Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Savior

Err on the side of original

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There are a lot of embarrassing things that can happen when you’re preaching. One time, and this was one of my earliest preaching opportunities, I completely blanked out. It was as though my entire vocabulary was lost, and I just stood there for what seemed like at least 15 seconds (which is a really long time to be silent when you think about it). Another time, I preached one of the worst messages of my life at a friend’s church. The entire thing was a scattered mess, and I felt like I wanted to die (especially when people were offering polite compliments).

There are some things I haven’t done, thankfully. (At least, not yet; there’s still time.) But you know what I expect would be really embarrassing? Being invited back to a church and preaching a message you’ve already shared.

At that church.

Toward the end of Preaching and Preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones shares a number of stories of preachers who had this happen. He wasn’t saying this to steer his hearers away from re-preaching a message, but to give wise counsel: if you’re going to do it, make sure you keep track of where you have already preached the message.

This is good advice, for obvious reasons. Although I prefer to not re-preach my own sermons, the odd time I have, I’ve made sure to note where so I don’t do it again.

But, I’ve got to be honest, sometimes it’s sorely tempting to just re-preach out of convenience. After all, I have a young family, a full-time job and multiple hobby jobs… it’s not like there’s a lot of time that exists to write new sermons every time I preach.

But there’s just something about the process of preparing the message that feeds and encourages me, even as the purpose is to encourage others. When I re-preach, I rarely have that same experience. I don’t feel truly prepared, no matter how much time I spend reviewing the text and manuscript. When I preach new material, it’s the message I need to hear, as much as it is the message for the congregation. For me at least, that seems to be a pretty good reason to err on the side of original. What do you think?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And here’s one for Logos/Vyrso users: Francis and Lisa Chan’s new book, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, is free right now (no idea how long it lasts, so act quickly). Finally, Christianaudio.com’s free book of the month is How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer.

Experience the power of a bookbook™

Can Everyone Be A Leader?

No, no they cannot.

The Princess Bride Syndrome

Ryan Shinkel explains how his position changed on same-sex marriage.

A tale of two Mars Hills

Eric Geiger:

A drift in doctrine, a drift from the truth, has a devastating impact. There is a massive difference in holding tightly to the “faith delivered once and for all to the saints” and continually questioning, as Satan did in the garden, “Did God really say…?” Putting on trial what the Lord has clearly declared is the antithesis of watching your doctrine.

One Mars Hill, and numerous observers, has been adversely impacted by a failure to closely watch life, and one by a failure to watch doctrine.

The absurdity of dividing God’s word from God’s work

Denny Burk:

Theological liberals have for many years sought to drive a wedge between God’s word and His person and work—as if we can be devoted to the one without the other. But this is an absurdity, unless of course one does not regard scripture as the very word of God. If scripture is not God’s word, then a wedge makes sense. If it is God’s word, a wedge makes no sense at all. And it serves no one to say that “the FOUNDATION of our faith is an EVENT not a BOOK.”

YOU CAN'T

The day I made my daughter cry

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Tears started streaming down her cheeks and drool dribbled down her chin. Her hands rose close to her eyes, fingers prepared to poke. And then, between sobs, she spoke: “But (hic) I really (hic) wa-wanted to win…”

And with that, I claimed the title of history’s greatest monster.

All because I made my daughter cry.

A few months ago, I shared a summer reading challenge for my daughter. Her mission: to read ten books over the summer and write a short summary of each as a comprehension check. We asked often about how her reading was going. She her typical answer: “I forgot; I’ll read some tomorrow.” As the summer progressed, we could see her starting to get a little anxious. We reminded her that it wouldn’t be a big deal if she didn’t meet her goal.

On August 31st, she had five books left to read, and declared she would finish them all before Labor Day was done. When I told her that she wouldn’t be able to do it and actually understand what she was reading, the tears began.

Now, we’re not strangers to experiencing consequences at the Armstrong home. Timeouts are fairly common, we’ve had to ground our oldest at least once already, among other things… but this time was different. This wasn’t a disciplinary issue. This was just the result of failing to do what was necessary.

This was a good learning opportunity for us, too, though. All the way through the reading challenge, we created the environment for her to do her reading, but we didn’t force her to do it because that would have been counterproductive. Our goal is to help her develop a love of reading, not see it as a chore.

As she cried though, a temptation came over me, just for a moment: to give in and let her have the prize anyway. As soon as the thought came into my head, I had to acknowledge it as wrong. If we’re trying to teach her to be responsible for her own actions, then it’s wrong to reward her for not doing what was necessary. Instead, we’re giving her the opportunity to try again with five books in September. Will she succeed this time? I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.


Photo credit: iacob via photopin cc

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eBook deals for Christian readers

The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper is $3.99 for the Kindle. Meanwhile, over at Westminster Bookstore, you can get any of P&R’s eBook titles for $1.99 each until September 6th. Here are a few you might want to consider:

Ruined by the Bell

Richard Clark:

Zack served not only as the central protagonist in the series, but also as the primary communicator with the audience. He had a habit of breaking the fourth wall, explaining the insane inner workings of the high school to the audience. And, while all of the other characters maintain a cartoonish and unthinking stereotype, Zack exhibits his ability to indulge in shallow self-awareness. Essentially, Zack seems keenly aware of the startling fact of his existence: he lives in his own television show.

8 Questions To Help Guard Your Heart

Mark Altrogge:

…we must pay attention to what is going into and coming out of our hearts. We must watch what we’re thinking. This doesn’t mean we should become self-absorbed or become overly introspective or constantly be thinking about ourselves. But we should be aware of our thoughts because our mindset affects our life. Here are seven questions we can ask ourselves to see how we are keeping our hearts.

Controversy: What Is It?

Joey Cochran:

But rarely do people ever step back and think about the very nature of controversies themselves. What are they? What makes them what they are? How are they resolved? Why do we never seem to get away from them? Is controversy all bad? What are the advantages to controversy? These are some of the question that I hope to answer over the course of time.

This Was Not My Plan

Courtney Reissig:

We had been in Little Rock for more than a year, having moved to plant a church with another couple from seminary. Because of the nature of a church plant, my husband took a corporate job. He was bivocational with the intent of going on church staff once we settled our school debt and the church could pay him.

In that first year and a half of working, though, he started noticing something about himself and his job. Others noticed it, too. He liked sales, and sales seemed to like him. His “day job”—which started as a means to a ministerial end—had suddenly become the end in itself.

Hearing that the trajectory of our lives might change, though, was unsettling for me. When he asked, “What if I am meant to do this forever?” all I heard was, “You will forever be alone with twins while I travel with my job.” I panicked. This was not how I envisioned my life.