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10 Reasons Racism is Offensive to God

Kevin DeYoung:

I’ve grown up my whole life hearing that racism was wrong, that “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” (to use one of the first definitions that popped up on my phone) is sinful. I’ve heard it from my parents, from my public school, from my church, from my college, and from my seminary. The vast majority of Americans know that racism is wrong. It’s one of the few things almost everyone agrees on. And yet, I wonder if we (I?) have spent much time considering why it’s wrong. We can easily make our “I hate racism” opinions known (and loudly), but perhaps we are just looking for moral high ground, or for pats on the back, or to win friends and influence people, or to prove we’re not like thosepeople, or maybe we are just saying what we’ve always heard everyone say. As Christians we must think and feel deeply not just the what of the Bible but the why. If racism is so bad, why is it so bad?

What I Learned from Elisabeth Elliot in Her Last Years

Jennifer Lyell:

There is much I could share about those days I spent with Elisabeth, but one experience is particularly on my mind as I write while flying home from her funeral service. The moment came in a simple circumstance with Elisabeth, arguably the most influential Christian woman of the 20th century. We were far off the beaten path in a place where there was no fanfare for this spiritual giant who had given so much to Christ and his kingdom. I sat holding her hand, but the microphone was gone. The lines waiting for an autograph were gone. The pen would be pointless. She sat struggling to stay awake even as we journeyed on. And I was full of a righteous anger I’d not previously experienced.

Bros before Marios

This is a bit older, but it’s pretty funny nonetheless:

God Will Use Even You

Steven Lee:

I have not written a New York Times Bestseller, and no one has publicly endorsed, recommended, or vouched for me. I don’t have any letters after my name. I can’t charge an exorbitant hourly fee for my time. I don’t speak on any circuits, have given no TED talks, and have been the keynote speaker less than once. No buildings, streets, or hospitals have been named in honor of me. I have an unimpressive family background and do not come from a long line of important people.

And that is okay. Really, it’s just fine.

The danger of being theoretical Christians

heart

Buzzwords make me want to die inside. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about in the business world or ministry world, they are just painful. I cringe every time I hear “strategy” or “strategic” (or worse, “strategic strategies”). I squirm when I hear the term “missional.”

It’s not that these words are bad. But what gets me is how easily they can be bent toward passivity or, worse, theoretical living. I know of lots of folks who talk about the importance of strategy all day long, but it doesn’t go beyond talking about why it matters. We believe it in theory, but actually building one and then following it, that’s something else. I’ve heard dozens of sermons about being missional or reaching the community around us, but it doesn’t really seem to go beyond the hypothetical. We believe in the idea in theory, but when it comes to actually doing something like getting to know our neighbors, oh my goodness.

Now, here’s the thing: For me, I don’t have an “everyone else should do better at this” attitude, because I’m just as bad as everyone else. I live in my head. It’s easy for me to live theoretically, but not move beyond theory. And this won’t do, because, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it well in Seeking the Face of God, “People are not interested in something theoretical.”

The thing that always convinces people is reality. If they see there is something about our lives, a certain quality, a certain calmness and equanimity, the ability to be more than conquerors in every kind of circumstance, if they see that when everything is against us, we still triumphantly prevail whereas they do not, they will become interested in what we have. They will want to know more about it. I am convinced, therefore, that the greatest need today is Christian people who know and manifest the fact that they know the living God, to whom His “loving-kindness is better than life.” In other words, nothing is more important than an assurance of salvation. (122)

This is what we’re to be about, isn’t it? We’re to be people whose knowledge and love for the Lord are clearly visible. Who recognize that salvation is truly of grace and live like it’s true. So what does that look like?

It means we quit running around as though we’ve got to do “enough” in order to earn God’s continued love. It means we speak up about our faith with confidence, at the right times and the right ways, not to beat people over the head with the gospel, but because we speak about what we care about. We don’t pretend we’ve got all the answers to every question, because we don’t. And we do our best to be honest about the fact that we’re totally going to blow it on nearly everything I’ve just said. And we can do that because we know that we are secure in the loving-kindness of our Savior.

That’s a little bit of what it looks like to live as something more than a theoretical Christian. And a theoretical Christian is exactly what we must not be. The world doesn’t have time for it, and neither do we.

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The Easiest Way To Self-Publish

David Murray shares about a new tool he’s using for self-publishing called PressBooks. It looks pretty neat.

Why donations of free media are almost always a bad deal

This was interesting:

When someone gives away free media, it’s possible they’re being truly philanthropic and donating something of value. More likely, though, they’re unloading “garbage” on you — media they haven’t been able to sell because it has little or no value in the marketplace. They’re just going for the tax deduction.

How to Prevent a Gospel-Centered Fizzle Out

Erik Raymond:

We are well into this new and widespread recovery of the centrality of the old gospel. I continue to see and hear of lights being turned on for people. Those precious, robust theological truths of yesterday are gripping hearts today. While I rejoice in this there is also something of a rock in my throwback theological shoes: these truths are being recovered because they were once under-emphasized.

What Are Some Concerns You Have With the Homeschooling Movement?

R.C. Sproul Jr shares five things he believes are a current danger for homeschoolers in America. It’s good stuff.

Four Tips for Dealing with Church Antagonists

Rob Hurtgen:

For some reason it seems every ministry will have antagonists. Those who—for a variety of motivations—set themselves against you as the leader, the ministry strategy, and, in extreme instances the church, itself. Most often—at least it has been my experience—antagonists are not evil people. They are men and women who say they love Jesus and are concerned about the church. However, they become antagonistic when the pastor and other ministry staff do not conduct ministry they way they think it should be done. When decisions that are made that are not decisions they would make. Often their preferences and their issues–theological persuasion, political temperament, worship style, etc.–become elevated as dogma and those who are not full agreement with them are quickly dismissed as spiritually immature and intellectually faulty.

Schaeffer on the Christian Life

schaeffer-review

One of the people I’ve not read nearly enough of is Francis Schaeffer. Maybe you’re with me on that. But this is something I realized, after reading How Should We Then Live?, I realized I needed to correct. But where to start?

While some might suggest starting with a seminal work like one of those found in Schaeffer’s TrilogyThe God Who Is There, Escape From Reason, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent—I’d recommend taking a step back and getting a better sense of the man himself. And probably the best place to start is with Schaeffer on the Christian Life by William Edgar. Divided into three parts, Edgar examines Schaeffer by:

  1. Helping us understand Schaeffer the man and the era in which he lived;
  2. Summarizing the fundamental beliefs undergirding Schaeffer’s views—his “countercultural spirituality”—as well as their application; and
  3. Examining how Schaeffer lived out his faith, trusting God for all things.

Praying like God would really answer

While I found much of the biographical sketch fascinating (more on it in a minute), it was the final part—Schaeffer’s dependence upon the Lord for all things—that I found captivating. Francis Schaeffer was not a man who gave lip service to trusting God. He really believed it. And this really hit home when Edgar recounts a question Francis asked his wife, Edith, “What if we woke up one morning and our Bibles were changed? What if all of the promises about prayer and the Holy Spirit were … eliminated from the text? What real difference would it make in our lives?” (129)

This question wrecked me.

I’ve reflected on this in greater detail elsewhere, but cultivating a healthy prayer life has been one of the most challenging parts of my life as a Christian, and is probably my most significant area of weakness (aside from all the other ones). It’s not that I don’t believe in the importance of prayer, nor do I disbelieve in God’s working through it. Just the opposite—I take God at his word in regard to his promises, and I’ve seen him work quite powerfully and obviously through prayer. Yet, when it comes down to brass tacks, I still struggle with this disconnect, and prayerlessness can easily reign in my life if I’m not watchful. Schaeffer’s rebuke, that far too many Christians sit in the “chair of unfaith,” stings (131).

This, of course, has major implications in my personal life (to say nothing of my current and future ministry). But it is also where I took a great deal of encouragement from the Schaeffers’ example. Edgar describes the Schaeffers (and indeed, all involved in the L’Abri work) as people who prayed like they meant it. Whether it was for the finances to ensure the lights would still be on or for the salvation of a visitor, they truly believed prayer made a difference. They trusted that God would indeed answer (132).

How I’m seeking to apply this is through repentance and simple obedience in the area of prayer. Though not terribly profound, this means when I am asked to pray, or I feel any sort of compulsion to pray, I stop what I’m doing and pray at that moment. While this has lead to a few funny looks from my wife who might suggest praying about something and has been met with “okay, let’s do that,” it’s been a really, really positive experience for me.

First, it’s helping me to remember that—blasphemy aside—there is no wrong way to pray. Prayer is not magic; it is communication. And though reverence and respect should be obvious, it should reflect a true relationship.

Second, it’s helping me relearn the proper posture for ministry. I’m not some sort of super-person that can do all things through sheer force of will.

Finally, it’s a reminder that, if I want to see people move toward Christ, I must be praying that God would move them. I cannot make someone a Christian. I can no more make someone a genuine Christian than I can make a rock become a tree. But God can, and so I need to pray he will do it.

Doubt’s role in developing stronger Christians

But this isn’t all I’ve seen and appreciated in Edgar’s reflections on Schaeffer. One of the things Edgar does well is he doesn’t create a picture of Schaeffer that pretties up his weaknesses. In fact, it’s his recounting of Schaeffer’s greatest spiritual crisis that made me respect him more. During the 1950s, Schaeffer became increasingly concerned with how he had been less than loving to those with whom he disagreed. Eventually, having been “plunged into the depts of doubt,” he came to the point where he had to “rethink ‘the whole matter of Christianity.'” (53, 55)

He decided in the midst of this dark night of the soul that the only honest way forward was to rethink his entire theology and Christian commitment, even at the risk of finding it not true in the end. (53)

Some readers might be concerned with such a decision, but it’s important to remember that doubt is not the enemy of faith in some respects—it can be the catalyst for a stronger commitment. It all depends on how we are approaching resolving our doubts though. Let’s say I start having doubts about whether or not my faith is even real, if it’s not just some happy clappy placebo effect that ultimately doesn’t actually mean anything. If I just let my doubt linger, and never really deal with it, guess what? It’s not really doubt: it’s unbelief. But if I recognize it and decide to do what I can to resolve it, my doubt can actually be a catalyst for a stronger, more certain commitment at the end.

Schaeffer reemerged a free man—one who recognized the need to balance truth and love, for they are inseparable. The journey through doubt resulted in a changed man, one who better reflected his savior. That’s the role doubt can play in our lives: it drives us to cry along with the desperate father in Mark 9:24, “Lord I believe; help my unbelief!” Schaeffer knew, as that father did, that if we call to the Lord in this way, he will answer.

Reading Schaeffer on the Christian Life has been good for my soul, and its compelling and challenging portrait of “countercultural spirituality” really looks like leaves me wanting more in all the right ways. I trust it will be the same for you as well.


Title: Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality
Author: William Edgar
Publisher: Crossway (2013)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

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Talking About ‘Inside Out’

Jeremy Pierre:

While Inside Out overstates the primacy of emotion in human motivation, the movie nevertheless helpfully forces the audience to acknowledge that emotions make up a major part of why we do what we do. For Christians, acknowledging this is vital to discipleship, which requires that we love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). In other words, Christians value emotions because they are part of how God designed us to worship him.

The Best Way To Teach

Tim Challies:

As someone who both writes and preaches, I have been struck by my tendency toward hypocrisy in this way. I know that I am capable of teaching what the Bible says about marriage (or anything else, for that matter) even when I don’t act what the Bible says about it. I am capable of writing “8 Ways to Guarantee the Flame Lasts Forever” while acting as if I don’t care if it lasts another 5 minutes.

3 Ways I Know I’ll Never Be “Ready” to Be a Dad

Chris Martin:

One reason a lot of young couples don’t have kids, though, is that they don’t feel “ready.” The common phrase you always hear about being “ready” to have kids is similar to the one about marriage, “No one is ever ‘ready’ to have kids (or get married).” Both statements are true to a point—a lot of marriage and parenting is only learnable via experience.

In reality—I’m not even a parent and I know this—you are never “ready” to parent because there’s nothing quite like parenting. Below are three ways I know I’ll never be “ready” to be a dad, even though I plan to be one anyway.

Foolish, ignorant controversies

Landon Chapman:

The meteoric rise in social media has enabled folks from around the globe to exchange information and converse, both audibly and visually, with great ease.  As the platform has continued to grow and mature, developers have simplified its usage to the point where even those with the most basic of personal computing knowledge and/or extreme time limits, may quickly and easily engage their not so geographically close peers.  Of course, it is likely that none of this information is new to anyone reading this article.  Rather than crafting yet another piece lamenting the many reasons why social media is destroying our culture, faith communities, families, etc., I want to instead focus on a Biblical issue to which the widespread adoption of social media has contributed.

The big list of Christian podcasts

Clayton Kraby’s put together a great (and very thorough) list of podcasts touching on topics of interest to Christians. No doubt you’ll find a few in there that you’ll want to subscribe to.

The number one Christian conversation killer

speech

There are certain words that are conversation killers:

  • Hitler (doesn’t matter what you’re comparing, if you bring in Hitler, the conversation is over)
  • Nazi (whether grammar, brand, or any other modifier one may choose to use)
  • Homophobe (because, well you know…)
  • K (because it’s a letter, not a word)
  • YOLO (because it it makes you look like an idiot)

In Christian circles, we have our own conversation killers, in addition to the ones we’ve picked up from the surrounding culture. Most of these are buzzwords like “missional” and increasingly “gospel centered”—the terms and phrases we either overuse or just haven’t bothered to adequately define, thus rendering them meaningless. But there’s one word to rule them all—one forged in the fires of Mount Doom:

F-U-N-D-A-M-E-N-T-A-L-I-S-T

“Fundamentalist” is a big word, and not just because it has 14 letters. It’s one that some—usually those who prefer the term “progressive” to describe their doctrine and outlook—use with alarming frequency, arguably more than some folks use “heretic.” And for Christians, it really is the ultimate conversation killer. After all, no one wants to be called a fundamentalist—homophobe we can handle. Out of step, ditto. Being on the wrong side of history, no problem. But “fundamentalist”? No way—that’s like being the kid who had cooties on the playground during recess!

Okay, I kid a little. (Maybe. Probably not.)

But you often see the F-word used by the desperate, the folks who put something out there but what they’re saying doesn’t really have legs. Here are the two ways I typically see it play out:

1. To defend preference. There’s a great deal of freedom in the Christian faith, on this I hope we can all agree. And there are certain things we cannot reasonably be too hardline about. For example, if I were to say all alcohol consumption is sinful, I’d have a hard time squaring that with Scripture. Now, I don’t drink due to personal conviction, so for me it would be sinful unless I had a change of conviction (which I have not). That is perfectly within the bounds. However, if I were to say “and you drink can’t either—everyone,” I’d be on the wrong side of the Bible (Romans 14:1-12).

However, there are other things that aren’t really up for debate (even if we still debate them anyway). If we’re participating in occult practices or taking part in spiritual practices from other religions, we’re going to have a hard time squaring that with the Bible. We point to Paul’s words about eating meat sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians 8, and say that idols aren’t living things, but ignore that later he warns us against participating in idolatry itself in 1 Corinthians 10:14-21. We talk about Paul’s freedom in eating meat sacrificed to idols—but we forget that he’s talking about meat purchased in the marketplace, not being part of the sacrifice itself.

In our day, it’s things like yoga, The Walking Dead, and 50 Shades of Creepy.These are the things where we disagree (rightly or wrongly). But if we’re going to disagree, let’s at least make sure that our views are based on something a little more substantial than “I like it,” “it feels good,” or “it works for me.” Actually have a good argument.

2. To defend syncretism. This is the second time the f-word is typically dropped—on the clear black and white issues like the supremacy of Christ, the authority of the Bible, who goes to heaven and hell, sexual morality… Big stuff. Fun fact: I once read a blog where the writer called Scripture’s command that a man spiritually lead and provide for the needs of his family (cf. 1 Tim 5:8; Eph 5:22-33) a misogynistic, patriarchal attitude and anyone who says different is, well, you know…

On big issues—the things where the Bible doesn’t give any wiggle room whatsoever—it’s not being fundamentalist to say “Nope, Christians can’t affirm XYZ”. It’s not unloving or unkind. It’s just being honest. And when we resort to name-calling and conversation killers rather than engaging people honestly, it just says we’re desperate, proud and kind of lazy. It might be easier to demonize those we disagree with—regardless of our position on the theological spectrum—but it’s not worth it. And I don’t think any of us want that.


An earlier version of this post was written in 2010.

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Also on sale are several volumes in Crossway’s Knowing the Bible series ($5.38–$6.99 each):

The Story of the Most Daring Cliffhanger in ‘Next Generation’ History

Really enjoyed this behind the scenes look at one of the best stories to appear on Star Trek.

How to Conquer the Grumbles

Michael Herrington:

Last week, in preparation to preach from Philippians, I began tracking how often I grumble. How often do I complain either out loud, under my breath, or in my mind? I’m ashamed to say it was far more than I would have suspected.

Paul says we should do all things without grumbling or disputing (Phil. 2:14). He then goes on to describe four characteristics of what we will become when we do so: blameless, innocent, children of God, and above reproach. He’s not talking about salvation with these terms; that was accomplished by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. He’s instead talking about how others will perceive us. He’s talking about an outward revelation of an inward reality.

In Search of True Evangelicalism

C Michael Patton offers a framework for defining evangelicalism.

How Pixar Enchants Us

Michael Cavna at the Washington Post:

Arguably no film studio in the world expends so much energy actively trying to fail. And succeeding at it. Time after time, in 15 mostly acclaimed feature films over two decades, Pixar’s history is littered with big and beautiful and once-treacherously unwieldy failures — epics of initial underachievement and momentary monuments to the quagmire of the creative mind.

I Just Agreed With Richard Dawkins

David Murray:

Although we usually disagree on just about everything, I recently found myself in the strange position of agreeing with Richard Dawkins as he came to the defense of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Timothy Hunt, who’s been hounded out of his important and prestigious job for foolish comments he made at a scientific conference in South Korea.

How do we keep these things from happening?

medium_6952507370

This weekend, the news broke that Tullian Tchividjian resigned as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, after admitting to an extramarital affair in a statement provided to the Washington Post.

There’s so much that could be said about this issue, and no doubt, much of it will be in the days (or hours) to come. Some of us will make the mistake of reading most of it (not that all the commentary will be bad, but because most of it won’t be necessary). So, naturally, I’m writing something related to it that I hope you’ll actually read and find helpful.

Although I’ve met Tullian, shared emails periodically and had a couple of Skype calls (for an interview a couple of years back), what I know of him mostly comes from his books and preaching. I’ve never attended his church, so I don’t know what the culture is like there in terms of the whole creepy pastor-celebrity worship thing that sometimes happens in churches with pastors who have a large platform. I don’t know what his accountability structure was like at his church, but I do know from what we see in the Post article that there was some form of authority playing an active role in his life, one looking out for his good—and not merely his platform.

So please don’t read this as someone trying to do armchair detective work and pinpoint “the real problem”. I don’t want this to be assumed to be a rant that comes across like the self-righteous boasting of the Pharisee who prayed, “Thank God I am not like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). And likewise I don’t want to offer the despicable “nobody’s perfect/we all make mistakes” sentiments you often see when a high profile Christian is found to be engaged in disqualifying sin.

So why I am I writing this then?

Honestly, I think I mostly want to address one question: How do we help ensure these sorts of things don’t keep happening? This sort of sin is heartbreaking on every level: It’s awful for the people involved. It’s devastating to a local church. It hurts so many people on so many levels, both inside and outside the church. And we need to treat it as such. And one of the best ways to do that is to figure out how we protect our pastors, our fellow church members, our friends, our family, and ourselves from crossing that line we’re all only one or two wrong decisions away from.

Now, here’s the first thing we need to remember: Sin isn’t a problem for “celebrity” Christians alone. Sin is no respecter of a person’s anonymity or notoriety. So we can’t say point a finger and say, well, of course XYZ happened—look at the size of his or her church, platform or whatever. Nor do we point fingers at theology in general. While sometimes the sins we see committed (or we commit) are the outworking of a deficient theology, the problem can’t be neatly pegged on a theological system. After all, as we’ve seen, it’s possible to learn directly from Jesus and still fall prey to the fear of man and be guilty of hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14). So while it’s tempting to say that sin is the result of being too light on law or too free with grace or something like that, we need to look at a different area of our lives. The problem we face is certainly a theological one, and there’s no one answer to the problem, but I wonder if it’s helpful to consider our view of the place of the church in accountability?

More pointedly, how do we answer these two questions:

Who really knows us? If you’re in a North American evangelical church with a congregation larger than 200, there’s a good chance that you can easily hide if you so choose. You could come every single week, sit in the same seat, and leave again without ever being noticed. It’s possible to do this (in fact, I know of one church in my city that’s known for being the church you go to if you want to hide, which I’m sure is not the leadership’s intention whatsoever). And if you’re a pastor, it’s possible to set up your entire life in such a way that you never, ever have to deal with the people who are (allegedly) being shepherded by you. While it might be convenient, perhaps even appealing, there’s a pretty significant problem with this set-up: if no one knows us, there’s no one to protect us from ourselves.

Now, make no mistake: letting people know you is risky. It means you actually have to let them know you. They must know things about you, and not just what you’re looking at on the Internet. After all, we have CSIS and the NSA for that (hi, guys). We need to have people who can ask us about just about anything in our lives—and expect a real answer. If you don’t have someone who’s willing to call you out when you’re full of crap, you might have a problem. Speaking of which…

How highly do we esteem ourselves? How we see ourselves is just as important as anything else. If we act as though we are somehow above certain sins, we’re almost certainly going to fall to those very things. Bloggers know where I’m coming from on this: If someone doesn’t read my blog today, am I going to lose my mind and check my stats incessantly? How do I react when others experience greater success than me? How do I react when people leave my church and go to the one down the road? Do I actually believe that if Jesus is to increase, I must decrease—or do I just affirm it with my lips all the while thinking I’m a pretty big deal? All of this, though, is just an expression of autonomy—which is really just a polite way of saying “I worship myself.”

I’m not exaggerating when I say we’re all only one or two wrong decisions away from being in a similar situation as any number of Christian leaders who’ve committed adultery, become domineering or otherwise abused their authority. I don’t wonder, “How could this have happened?” when I learn about adultery among pastors or any of the other sins we see being committed. I grieve over them because I know exactly how they happen. It just takes one decision. It happens in an instant, and happens in the heart long before it happens in the body. That’s one of the things I love about people who know themselves well: they’re not naïve enough to assume they couldn’t do something similar, and so are intentional about being faithful, God-honoring men and women (in every sense).

And this is one of the things that terrify me about the advice I see offered in leadership circles. It’s the whole, “Nobody gets your struggles/leadership is lonely/you’re a snowflake” thing. Which, incidentally, is the same kind of stuff someone trying to tempt you into sin will say to you (as many a woman or man knows). The problem, of course, is it’s complete bunk. It not only sets up the pastor as being somehow in a different class than other believers, but it leaves him without the protection that comes from being a part of the body.

Which brings me back to something sorely lacking within evangelical churches today: accountability. Is this the only issue? Nope. Like I said, when it comes to sin in general, and sin such as adultery in particular, it’s a lot more complicated than just accountability. Nevertheless, it is an issue. The gospel doesn’t just save us from sin, but saves us into community. And among the many ways community helps us is to protect us as people know us. To continually call us all to live in light of what Jesus has done and continues to do in our lives. Is accountability a perfect failsafe? Nope. But you and I need it nonetheless—desperately. Likewise, we need to carefully consider how we would answer these two questions: Who really knows us, and how highly do we think of ourselves? The answers to those may make a world of difference for ourselves, our churches and the world around us.

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This week’s deals from Crossway are focused on reading and understanding the Bible:

Also on sale is Has the Church Replaced Israel? by Michael Vlash ($2.99).

Stop The Racist Jokes

Jeff Medders:

Racism is satanic. And so are racist jokes. We can often feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin with the race conversation. Let’s start here: No more racist jokes. No more. Zero. I’ve heard too many jokes about Mexicans (my race) swimming across and doing manual labor. I’ve heard too many jokes about Asian people’s eyes and driving. I’ve heard too many jokes about Black people’s hair—it’s all wrong. And as Christians, we must adopt a zero tolerance culture toward racism.

Take heed

Nick Batzig:

Consider the following: If an innocent man could choose a piece of fruit over the infinitely valuable God (Gen. 3:6); if the most righteous man of his day could get so drunk that he passed out naked before his sons in his tent (9:21); if the most faithful man of his day could father a child with his wife’s handmaiden (16:1–4) and twice hand his wife over to other men (12:11–15; 20:1–2); if the mother of promise could laugh at the words of the God of promise and then lie to Him about doing so (18:9–15); if “righteous Lot” could greedily pick the most materialistic and sexually depraved place for himself and his family to live (13:8–13), and could hand his daughters over to the sexually perverse men of the city (19:4–8); if the son of promise could show partiality to his oldest son because he liked his hunting skills (25:28), and he, too, could hand his wife over to another man (26:6–11); and if the namesake of Israel could swindle his brother for a birthright (25:29–34), then so could I.

Evolution not Dissolution of the Parachurch

JD Payne:

Though much of my twenty years in vocational ministry has been connected to the local church, I have also been significantly involved in parachurch (i.e., alongside of, not in competition with the local church) ministries. Even extending back to my college days, campus ministry was a major part of my leadership development process. Seminaries, mission agencies, and other parachurch organizations have always been near to my heart. Much Kingdom good may be found with such ministries.

However, my concern with such ministries, both when I was immersed in them vocationally as well as now, is that we were never evolving.

His Eye is on the Sasquatch

Jared Wilson:

I like to think about those creepy fanged fishies deep in the Mariana Trench, swimming around in the murky darkness of the oceanic fathoms, their dangling bioluminescence their only lantern into the future. Most of them we will never see — at least, not on this side of the new earth, where we don’t have the lung capacity or the mechanical capacity to withstand the pressure of such depths. There are species down there we have zero clue about. I think of exotic fish in clear pools of water in the darkness of undiscovered caves deep in the jungles that human feet will never enter. In the thickest centers of the wildest forests, there are species of insects and birds that are yet undetected.

What’s the harm if pastors aren’t theologians?

Good stuff from Kevin Vanhooser:

HT: Derek

Honoring our imperfect fathers and imitating our perfect Father

imitating-god

I don’t remember wanting to be like my dad growing up. That sounds insulting, but it’s not meant to be. Not really.

See, my parents split up when I was a kid, so beyond our scheduled visits, I really wasn’t around him all that much. I didn’t really know him all that well so I couldn’t know whether or not I wanted to be like him. And what I did know was filtered through my particular biases and bitterness. It hasn’t been until I became an adult—and more specifically, after I became a Christian—that I got to see my dad for who he is and learn more about what he’s really like.

He’s not a perfect man, by any means. Nor would he claim otherwise. He’s committed many sins, and made many mistakes. And yet, what’s been helpful to me has been seeing how he lives in light of them. Here’s what I mean:

When he’s wronged someone, he apologizes. And although he knows he can’t undo the hurts or damage of certain decisions, he does his best to make amends. But he also knows he can’t make someone forgive him. He is not responsible if someone cannot find it in themselves to forgive him—regardless of the amount of effort he could put in, he can’t make it happen.

What’s all the more amazing about this is my dad is not a Christian. At least, not yet (but I hope he will be, someday). Yet, he still models an aspect of repentance that I want to do likewise. There’s no way for me to make someone forgive me. There’s nothing I can do to remove bitterness from someone’s heart. I can make restitution, to the degree to which I am able, but I can’t guarantee that my actions will result in reconciliation. This is a good thing to learn, and to see modelled, and to follow suit in. But I also don’t want to stop there, any more than I want my own son to stop at wanting to be like me.

Whether our fathers are believers or not, whether they’re good men or not, they’re at best a blurry image of the one whom we are called to imitate. And as Thomas Watson reminded us long ago,1 the one we are to imitate is God, our Father in heaven.

“The child not only bears his father’s image, but imitates him in his speech, gesture and behavior,” Watson wrote. “If God be our Father, let us imitate him” (cf. Ephesians 5: 1). So we imitate God in forgiving others, in pardoning offences and sins committed against us. We imitate him in his works of mercy, being rich in good works; being “merciful even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

“He who has God for his Father, will have him for his pattern,” Watson wrote. So we honor our imperfect fathers and we imitate the good we see in them. But we also honor them by not settling for imitating them, but by only being satisfied in imitating our perfect Father in heaven.

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Today’s the last day to take advantage of these deals from Crossway:

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The Cross and the Confederate Flag

Russell Moore:

White Christians ought to think about what that flag says to our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in the aftermath of yet another act of white supremacist terrorism against them. The gospel frees us from scrapping for our “heritage” at the expense of others. As those in Christ, this descendant of Confederate veterans has more in common with a Nigerian Christian than I do with a non-Christian white Mississippian who knows the right use of “y’all” and how to make sweet tea.

On a related note, Jon Stewart offered quite a moving statement on the The Daily Show. There are a few bleeped out cuss words (naturally), but it’s worth watching as he gets to the heart of the real issue.

Goodbye

Lore Ferguson:

In seven days we leave Texas, our unexpected home.

The realization of what we’re leaving hits hard these weeks. God has disciplined us here and loved us, taught us and grown us, trained us and now sends us, and I don’t think either of us expected any of this. Five months ago he was a tall bearded near stranger and I was entertaining thoughts of life-long singleness and service to the local church. We were okay, you know? We were content and serving the Lord and our church and how much can change so quickly?

The Most Painful Interview I’ve Ever Watched

David Murray reflects on Brian Williams and the closest he came to saying “I lied.”

When the Wages of Sin Is a Grandbaby

Kim Ransleben:

Her weeping came ahead of her presence, causing my heart to pound. As a mom of three, it wasn’t the first time a crying child had entered our bedroom hours after we thought they’d gone to sleep. My mind went racing through the evening, then over to her to find the trouble, so I could do what I’d done so many times: soothe the hurt, ease the fear, or comfort her in sickness. The familiar words tumbled quickly from me, “Baby, what’s wrong?” But I had absolutely no context for what she’d say next.

She’d just finished her first semester at college, had found a great job, had made sweet friends, and had found a place to serve in a local church she really liked. There wasn’t a mention of a young man yet, though her dad and I had smiled at the thought we could be a few short months or years from meeting him. But no matter where we thought her life was, her tear-filled words came nonetheless: “I’m pregnant.”

Five books Christian dads should read

  
I’m a first generation Christian—meaning I’m the first in my family (as far as I’m aware) to come to faith in Christ. As you can imagine, that means I’m flying by the seat of my pants as a Christian parent. Though, to be fair, that’s probably all parents (at least more than we’d like to admit). As a dad, I’ve tried to read as many helpful books as I can, as well as modelling for my kids what a Christian man looks like (and often having to apologize for not modelling it well).

Thankfully, I’m not alone in this. No matter if we were raised in a legacy of faith or are coming to faith as a parent, we all have a ton of room to grow. Here’s a look at a few of the books I’ve found particularly helpful as I’ve been trying to figure out this whole parenting thing.


The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller

Parenting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Our marriages are the context in which we raise our children. So we would be wise to do all we can to make sure our marriages are actually healthy. In The Meaning of Marriage, the Kellers reflect on their 30-plus years of marriage to offer a very strong and biblically faithful look at what makes a lasting marriage. Read it carefully and make lots of notes. (For more on this book, read my review.)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


Intentional Parenting by Tad Thompson

Intentional Parenting is among the most practical and insightful guides to family discipleship available. Its “Now Make It Stick” section, a series of questions for personal reflection that allow the reader to take stock of how they’re doing, where they’re strong, where they’re weak and what they can do to change, is probably the most helpful (and challenging element). Dads, you need to read this book. (For more on this book, read my review.)

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Books | Cruciform Press


Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

The difficulty some might face reading the book is because the focus is on bringing God’s grace into your parenting, it’s not as easy as following steps one, two and three. It’s offering more of the theological framework for parenting instead of drilling down into the nitty gritty details of specific situations, though many practical examples of how grace-filled parenting looks (and doesn’t) are presented. (For more on this book, read my review.)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

This is one of those “gold standard” books among many Christian parents, and for good reason: it’s biblical, compassionate, and extremely practical:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart is about how to speak to the heart of your child. The things your child does and says flow from the heart. Luke 6:45 puts it this way: ‘…out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.’ Written for parents with children of any age, this insightful book provides perspectives and procedures for shepherding your child’s heart into the paths of life.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


The Shepherd Leader at Home by Timothy Z. Witmer

This one has received a ton of acclaim from its readers as it compellingly addresses the important role of dad in the family:

Husbands and dads play a crucial role in the health and survival of the family. That’s why leadership expert Tim Witmer has written this book—to strengthen our efforts to lead well. He applies a biblical framework to the role of leadership in the home, showing how effective shepherding involves “knowing, leading, protecting, and providing for your family”; all the while communicating solid principles with a down-to-earth, relatable tone.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


Have another book you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments!

 

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3 ways to finish well

Eric Geiger:

A great player on our team finished his time with us this week. Matt Capps, who served as The Gospel Project brand manager, is beginning his new ministry assignment as senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, NC. I told Matt when we hired him from a church staff position that I would give him a high-five when he left our team to go back to the local church. Matt finished his ministry with us very strongly, with great passion and concern even beyond his last official day with us. He finished well.

Many people do not finish their roles well. They don’t end strongly. They mentally check out. They spend time working on their new role instead of finishing their current one well. How you finish your job reveals a lot about your character. Here are three ways to finish well.

Vanity Fair and Worldliness

Derek Thomas:

The Church Is Not a Sanctuary: On the Ground in Charleston

Peter Beck:

While many churches have abandoned Wednesday night prayer meetings or pastors have delegated such duties in order to focus on other areas of ministry, I love Wednesday nights. This week was no different than the Wednesdays before it. Our Charleston church gathered together. We spent 30 minutes in prayer worshiping God and making supplication for those in need. Then we settled in for our study of the book of Acts, the work of the Holy Spirit in the early church, and the power of prayer. We enjoyed a great time of teaching and fellowship, and we went home spiritually satisfied.

Fifteen miles away, another church gathered for the same purpose. Their meeting, however, didn’t end the same way. After nearly an hour in prayer, shots rang out as a visitor assassinated eight members and the beloved pastor of Emanuel AME Church. They’d gone to church to find peace in a turbulent time and they entered their eternal peace instead.

Our Culture of Reading

Matt Anderson:

As someone who began his public career by organizing the first conference for Christian bloggers back in 2004, I know well the triumphalism of the “new media” and the possibilities for improved and expanded dialogue with those we disagreed with inherent in it. Those possibilities may have come to pass in some small corners (like this one!), but more often than not the speed and anonymity of the internet brought out the least charitable and most polarizing aspects of our world. And that was among a body of people whose first movements in this world didn’t have screens in front of them. Those who are children now will struggle even more than we, unless they are fed a steady diet of books.

Jabez and the Soft Prosperity Gospel

David Shrock:

Through poor interpretive practices, any of us can sow seeds of soft prosperity. Though there are insidious false teachers who intentionally espouse health and wealth doctrine, many of us deviate from orthodoxy simply by means of inconsistent or unintentional methods of interpretation. For the sake of preaching the true gospel, this must stop—but not by exiling Jabez.

Christianity is costly (if you’re doing it right)

heart

One of the things that’s most interesting in all the doom and gloom reporting around denominational decline, the rise of the nones and the seeming collapse of Christianity in America is the fact that, as some commentators have said previously, what we’re really seeing is the rise of honesty among Americans.

It is no longer socially advantageous to be considered a Christian, at least not in any meaningful sense. So people who considered themselves Christians (even if in name only) are no longer identifying themselves as such. This is a very good thing for us overall, because it means, as Tim Keller once said, the mushy middle is falling out of evangelicalism, and what we’ll be left with is a stronger visible church as a result. A church that knows that, as J.C. Ryle once said, “it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standards of the Bible.” He continues:

There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a man in an arm-chair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of “counting the cost.” (as published in J.I. Packer, Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J. C. Ryle, p. 174)

Jesus told the crowds, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” He warned them against making a hasty decision to follow him. He wanted people to know that being a Christian would not bring about a life of ease and comfort. And this is what we need to remind ourselves of today, even as we continue to go forward in our mission to make disciples of all nations.

We need to be uncompromisingly honest on this point: Christianity is costly.

At least, if we’re doing it right.

That doesn’t mean we “sell” people a life of doom and gloom, though. Our song probably shouldn’t be a dirge or a fashionably sad pop song from the early 90s.1 But it does mean we embrace the reality of Christianity not being easy. It costs much to win the victory—and we should never be afraid to say so.