3 reasons why I try to expose my kids to lots of different kinds of books

books-kids

Tuesday night, the UPS guy arrived at the door with our latest Amazon order. I secreted away the box as quickly as I could in order to avoid too many “What is it Dads”. (I was only partially successful.) I opened the box, and pulled the two books out. Perfect, I thought, we’re going to have fun reading these.

“Hey, Abigail,” I called into the living room. “Want to see what we got today?”

“YES!”

I presented her with two new comic books: Tales of the Batman: Len Wein and The Mighty Thor by Walter Simonson vol. 1. Abigail went supersonic with delight.

This is one of the things I love about being a dad. I love being able to share the things I loved as a child and youth with them (like comics, which I still enjoy). But more than that, I love being able to expose them to as many different kinds of books as possible (as does Emily). There are a few reasons for this:

1. We want them to find books they like to read. As you can imagine, we place a high value on reading in our home. With certain exceptions—we tend to avoid books that glorify witchcraft and death, and books series where every instalment has literally the exact same plot, for example—we really don’t care what they read as long as it’s close to age-appropriate. So we’ve got superhero comics, we’ve got fantasy novels, we’ve got historical fiction, and classic works all readily available. And because they have a lot of different kinds of books available to them, they tend to read pretty widely, even if some days Abigail simply reads and rereads Bone during resting time.

2. We want to help our kids as they learn to read and develop their vocabulary. Hannah, our middle kid, refuses to let us help her as she reads (unless it’s her idea). In fact, she gets pretty ticked if we notice she’s doing it at all! One of the great things about having comics in the house, though, is we’ve seen Hannah sounding out the onomatopoeias in her quest to master reading. The variety of books also helps the kids develop their vocabularies as they’re exposed to words they may not be otherwise.

3. We want to help our kids understand the world around them. The same night we introduced Abigail to Walter Simonson’s Thor, we also wound up having a discussion about something she read in her book about Princess Isabel of Spain. In that book, a Catholic priest informed the young princess that it was inappropriate for her to learn about math and science because she was a girl. (Abigail was quick to point this out as being wrong, in case you’re wondering.) This allowed us to explain about how God created men and women, the equal value and dignity we all have by virtue of being made in his image, and even talk about how sin causes conflict between us. That’s kind of a big deal, and the type of thing you don’t really get from Walter the Farting Dog (although nothing’s wrong with Walter the Farting Dog… except his horrible flatulence).

That, in a nutshell, is why we try to expose our kids to as many different kinds of books as possible. And it’s pretty exciting to see how they’re developing as little people as a result.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H has put a number of digital Bibles on sale for the next few days:

Also on sale:

Who is the Most Influential Person in Your Life?

Who’s the person who most influences you? You are.

8 Verses For Christians Who Think Homosexuality And Same-Sex Marriage Are No Big Deal

Jeff Medders:

A low view of scripture doubles down on a low view of God, which results in a low view of sin, which ebbs into accepting and normalizing sin, which dominoes into celebrating sin. For Christians, the Bible isn’t something we can edit, ignore, or tailor to wear another culture’s clothes. It is what it is. Rather, the Bible edits us, showing us our own sin, reminding us how to follow Jesus as new people living from Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Titled, Not Entitled

Meghan Rayno:

Everyone is gifted in one way or another. Whether we are called to serve on the mission field, in the ministry, in the workplace or in the home, God has individually gifted us with the skills and knowledge needed to do His work. When we use our gifts wherever He places us, we glorify His name and reflect His character.

However, we all have a sinful tendency to pride ourselves in our title, position and abilities. For those of us who have earned a title by a diligent use of our gifts, this can be an especially difficult spiritual battle. Here are 7 humbling truths that we would do well to remember as we seek to combat pride and continue to honor the Lord with our gift.

Are we preaching Christ or preaching about Christ?

Ray Ortlund shares a doozy.

Cheering Costly Obedience

Lindsey Carlson:

Those of us with easier pasts may not feel as compelled to push back the darkness in such costly ways. We’re happy to serve by putting money into offering plates, bringing a few canned goods to the food drive, or mentioning Jesus if he comes up in conversation. But I wonder if it’s too much of this “safe” service that causes it to be infrequent, passionless, done more out of a sense of obligation than of gospel gratitude. While God certainly uses “safe” endeavors for his eternal purposes, we should desire to carry the cup of living water to those who need it at any cost—and with consistency, passion, and joy.

The Prodigal Church

 

prodigal-church

Years ago I went to a church conference focused on bringing up the level of creativity and the production values of the Sunday morning worship gathering (or experience, as they preferred to call it). As the band turned their amps up to loud enough to make my ears bleed, and lead the group through 13 or 14 rounds of “whoa-oh-oh-oh, whoa-oh-oh-oh-ohs”, I decided it’d be a good time to hang out outside. Not too long after, I was joined by another attendee. We chatted for a while about what we’d been learning at the conference, and this person lamented, “It just seems like a show, not worship.” I agreed. This person was right: it was a show.

And I suspect that’s what’s going on far too often in churches all over North America.

People who know me well (and, let’s be honest, people who don’t know me all that well at all) know I’m not a fan of what’s called the “attractional” approach to church—the big show, felt-needs oriented style of church popularized in the 80s and 90s by the likes of Bill Hybels and Rick Warren. Why am I not a fan? It’s not because I’m grumpy and/or only like hymns. Though the aims of its practitioners are noble, this approach encourages people to act like consumers rather than grow as disciples. And that’s totally antithetical to everything the worship gathering is supposed to be about.

Jared Wilson gets this. He’s served in attractional churches, and seen the fruit of the model. Or, rather, the lack thereof. But rather than spend an entire book railing against everything that’s wrong with attractional churches (because, hey, who doesn’t like hearing how they’re doing everything wrong?), Wilson simply asks, are you sure about that? Are you sure the smoke machines, lasers, sermons on being a better whatchamacallit and skinny jeans are what the world needs? Maybe what we need to do is go back to the Bible, not to do away with innovation, but to recover a sense of wonder and awe at the glory of God—and build our lives and worship around that! That, in a nutshell, is The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo.

And it’s quite spectacular.

The practice of preaching and the priority of people

What will surprise most readers of The Prodigal Church is its tone. Wilson strikes a delicate balance, simultaneously calling us out for acting like pragmatic knuckleheads while making us feel really good about it. There’s no sense of animosity toward practitioners, but great—and I believe warranted—hostility toward the practices themselves.

Take topical preaching, for example. While it isn’t wrong per se, what is questionable is the practice of putting together messages based around ideas I as a preacher might have (with biblical support), rather than preaching the text itself. And to preach in an expository fashion—that is through an entire book, verse by verse or passage by passage—is considered lazy or cheating by some, such as Andy Stanley. Wilson has some harsh words for this criticism, notably asking, what’s the fruit of the topical/applicational focus?

“What is the fruit of having treated the Bible like an instruction manual?” he asks.

[W]hen the church is run as a provider of spiritual goods and services, and slowly stops asking, first, “What glorifies God?” and begins asking more and more, “What do our customers want?” what the customer wants becomes more central to the life of the church. The functional ideologies of pragmatism and consumerism erode our theology, which becomes more flexible and less faithful. (73)

Or, more succinctly, “To teach and preach in this way is implicitly to say that the Bible can’t be trusted to set the agenda, and that my ideas are better than the Bible at driving change in my audience” (72).

This is what we need to understand: Pragmatism puts humans at the forefront, rather than God. They, functionally, become our gods. So you need to resort to more pomp and circumstance to keep them coming back. More programs, flashier gimmicks, bigger, better… whatever.

The only problem is it doesn’t work.

But faithful preaching does. The kind that puts the Bible at the forefront, puts Jesus in the place of greatest prominence, does this. And it isn’t cheating:

It is in fact hard work, at least spiritually, because it always necessitates dying to ourselves. The sermon prep may not take as long—thank God!—but the impulse to go first to Christ can be more difficult, and counterintuitive. We must have a stronger faith, to trust that a sermon mainly about Jesus will “help people grow” more than our set of tips will. (80)

Inviting prodigals home

In every chapter, readers will see Wilson avoiding cheap victories. He doesn’t go for the easy joke (usually). He doesn’t resort to nasty ad hominems, which are the weapon of choice of people with a weak argument. Instead he points out the issues with a deficient view of worship, a weakened approach to preaching, and offering programs as a substitute for shepherding congregations, and says, it doesn’t have to be this way. Things can be different, but it means giving up control:

Part of moving forward and away from the functional ideologies of the attractional church is also abandoning ourselves to the sovereign mercy of the Spirit, who cannot be measured or leveraged or synergized or whatever. (162)

And this is what we all hate, isn’t it? We like to think of ourselves as the masters of our own destiny. That when we hear “There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves,” it might actually be true. And this is where we need the gospel—not simply as an add on at the end of our message, but as part of what we live and breathe as Christians. We need to recognize that we don’t need to make our own fate, God’s got that handled very well, thank you very much. We don’t need to put on a big show to draw people in, Jesus has it covered.

The gospel is not made more powerful by a dynamic preacher or a rockin’ band: those things might adorn the gospel in an excellent way, but the gospel cannot be improved. The message of Christ’s sinless life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection is capital-S Spiritual power all unto itself. (163)

The best way to get it into the hands of others

Since I finished reading The Prodigal Church, I’ve been thinking about how to get it into the hands of those who really need it. And the truth is, we all probably need it, to greater or lesser degrees. Many of us attend churches that have embraced the attractional ethic, if only in part. It’s definitely true of  my own church and the network we’re affiliated with since most of them have embraced the principles of corporate worship espoused in a not very good book. But how helpful would it be for me to hand it to my pastors and say, “Here you go, read this?”

Probably not very. Instead, here’s what I’d recommend: read it for yourself and see what God brings to mind about your own life and attitude. How do you express your worship privately? What does reading the Bible look like for you? How are you seeking to love and serve those around you, beginning with those in your local church? Don’t simply read it to try to determine everything that’s wrong in your church (or the one down the road). Let what you learn change you first. Then you’ll be in a better position to pass it along to others—and they may be more inclined to give its message serious consideration.


Title: The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo 
Author: Jared C. Wilson
Publisher: Crossway (2015)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new deals for you:

And today’s the last day to get these ones from B&H:

That “Billy Graham” Rule

Appreciated this piece from Sharon Hodde Miller:

What I struggle with is how these rules can make certain people feel–especially single women, who are already a more vulnerable population in our churches. When applied too bluntly, the rules make single women feel like temptations or seductresses, rather than dignified sisters in Christ.

Will the multisite movement grow-up?

As someone with very serious concerns about the multisite approach—particularly in the mode of having a TV screen for your pastor—I am very glad to have read this:

When the multisite model (defined as one church in two or more locations) works, once-empty pews are filled with worshipers and an older church’s legacy lives on while a larger church expands its outreach. But when things go poorly, multisite churches can become another struggling American franchise, precariously built on the brand of a celebrity pastor—and one step away from collapsing like a house of cards.

Posture in Post-Christendom

Tim Brister:

Christendom is dead. For some, this is a time of lament. For others, it is a time of renewal and revival. I want to offer my reflections on the three different phases of Christianity and culture and the corresponding posture for Christian cultural engagement.

Pastors Who Don’t Delegate

Thom Rainer:

Failure to delegate will always limit a pastor. He will not be able to expand the ministry of the church because that ministry is limited to one person.

Often the pastor who does not delegate gets overwhelmed and essentially stops functioning. At other times, he may move toward workaholism until the inevitable burnout takes place.

Controversy or Complacency

Tim Challies:

But as I read 1 Timothy and hear Paul warn about these controversialists, I hear him sound a second warning as well. This is a warning about a second kind of person who sins very differently but no less seriously. If we have controversy on the one side of the equation, we have complacency on the other. This, too, is a sin and it, too, is very dangerous.

When I don’t know where I’m going with something…

stop-working

“I have no idea where I’m going with this,” I said.

I’d been working on an article—one of the many sitting in my “to-write” pile—and it wasn’t coming together. I had my thesis down (I think), but the rest of it wasn’t coming together. Emily, with her usual wisdom, simply responded, “Well, maybe you should stop working on it then.”

So I did.

I currently have somewhere around 25 different writing projects in various stages of development. Most of these are articles (though a couple are book proposals that I’m particularly excited about). Some will even turn into something. But a lot are just not coming together.

As you can imagine, this is incredibly frustrating. But it’s also part of the work of writing. And make no mistake, writing is work. There’s this notion out there of the inspired writer—the one who sits down to write and every word is breathtaking, a joy to read. And then when you actually start writing, you realize, this kind of stinks sometimes. Why? Because sometimes what you’re writing just doesn’t work.

I learned about this the hard way. When I was early in my writing career (not that I’m terribly far into it now, mind you), I would crank something out and be done with it. This was partly out of necessity, and partly because I didn’t really have people to bounce my work off of. And so when I look back on blog posts I wrote five or six years ago, ones I remember fondly, I cringe a little. Some actually do hold up, surprisingly, but most are pretty awful. Silly, sloppy, blech. They feel like novice writing because it is novice writing. There were posts that were really more or less about nothing at all, or had the start of a good idea that got lost along the way.

Bloggers fall into this trap pretty easily, of course. When we set our schedule, we expect ourselves to meet it (even if no one is reading). We do the daily blogging thing because it’s what someone we read does, but then run out of things to say, and so our blog dies. And while I’m a fan of daily blogging (otherwise I wouldn’t do it), it’s not for everyone. The schedule makes a terrible master and not everyone thrives under pressure.

And even if you do find pressure helpful, you’ve still got to deal with the fact that sometimes what you’re writing just isn’t going to come together the way you’d hoped. It’s not going to work. You’re going to have enough material to fill ten books, and none of it’s going to be useable.

If you’re an aspiring writer, you need to learn to be okay with this. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on a screenplay, a kid’s book, a novel, a blog post, or a theology book, you’re going to hit a point where you don’t know where to go with it. And sometimes the best thing to do is stop. Maybe not forever, but just go on to something else.

Put down the pen.

Step away from the keyboard.

Write something else.

Clear your head.

And then get back to it. The draft will still be waiting for you. Cool?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Both of Joe Thorn’s excellent books are on sale this week for $3.99:

Also on sale:

Jesus is on the wrong side of history

This is an older piece by Trevin Wax, but it’s well worth reading.

What if the baby isn’t healthy?

Micha Boyett:

My son Ace was born seven weeks ago. He is my third baby, a boy like his brothers. He has blue eyes and sandy brown hair that’s making way for blonde. He can already reach out and grab the toy that hangs over his head. He has rolled over twice (accidentally, I’m pretty sure).

Yet everything feels different. My pregnancy with him was different.

In December my husband and I received a prenatal diagnosis that shook us. Though we shared it with close friends and family, we didn’t tell anyone else.

Student in a School of Fools

R.C. Sproul Jr:

When I was a younger man I looked upon virtually every conversation as an opportunity for battle. As a college student I regularly called my dad after class and let him know of the great victories I imagined I had won. He, being wise, cautioned me—you can learn something from all of your professors. You’ll serve yourself better being a discerning student than a tilting Quixote. Trusting the teaching of my own father, I have sought to be just that, a discerning student.

The message of the Bible in a sentence

Dane Ortlund asked 26 pastors and scholars to give it a shot. This is what they came up with. Bonus points to Greg Beale for providing a paragraph while keeping it technically a sentence.

‘Apollo 13’: When Will We Be Going Back?

E. Stephen Burnett:

The film showcased Americans’ boredom with the space program … and today our disinterest in space exploration is even worse. Today the answers are the same: Not anytime soon, and likely no one alive today.

The film showcased Americans’ boredom with the space program — until astronauts’ lives were at risk — and today our disinterest in space exploration is even worse. As a Christian, this renews in me a groaning for lost opportunities but even more for a lost paradise.

I also ask what the film’s Lovell left unasked: If we’re refusing to go back, why is that?

The Fresh Prince theme as a blues song

YES!

HT: Aaron

We talk about hell so we can marvel at grace

hell-scare-straight

I’ll be honest, in the last while, I can’t remember the least time I read a book or blog post or heard a sermon that spent much time dealing with hell. Now, there are some good reasons for this, obviously. If you’re preaching and it’s not really relevant to the text you’re focused on, you probably don’t need to bring it up. If you’re writing on marriage, you may not need to deal with it (unless it’s to counter the “marriage and/or singleness is…” attitude).

But I suspect one reason we shy away from talking about hell is we don’t get why it matters to us as Christians. We easily imagine every mention of wrath or hell as being straight out of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (despite most of us never having read it). We hold it at an arm’s length because it’s too unpleasant to deal with. Because we don’t want to be scene as fear-mongering—trying to scare people straight.

But preaching about hell, writing about isn’t about scaring anyone straight (at least not ourselves). Not really. We should grieve, certainly, as we consider what awaits those who die apart from Christ, and we should warn them to flee from the wrath to come. But there are good reasons for believers to think about hell, too. And chief among those is to help us appreciate the grace we’ve been shown. Sam Storms puts it this way in To the One Who Conquers:

Thinking about hell and the second death has immense practical benefits.…It is remarkable how tolerable otherwise intolerable things become when we see them in the light of the second death.… It puts mere earthly pain in perspective. It puts tribulation and poverty and slander and imprisonment and even death itself in their proper place. The collective discomfort of all such temporal experience is nothing in comparison with the eternal torment of the second death in the lake of fire.

The one who conquers, said Jesus, “will not be hurt by the second death.” Not even when Satan viciously accuses me of sins we all know I’ve committed? No, never, by no means ever will I be hurt by the second death. Not even when others remind me of how sinful I still am, falling short of the very standards I loudly preach and proclaim? No, never, by no means ever will I be hurt by the second death. Not even when my own soul screams in contempt at the depravity of my heart? No, never, by no means ever will I be hurt by the second death.

And that for one reason only: Jesus, in unfathomable mercy and grace, has suffered that hurt in my place. (73-74)

I will never be hurt by the second death. I never have to fear for the wrath to come. Why? Because “Jesus, in unfathomable mercy and grace, has suffered that hurt in my place.” Amen.

June’s top ten articles at Blogging Theologically

top-10

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

 

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  3. 5 books every new Christian should read (May 2014)
  4. Six books every Christian should read on prayer (August 2014)
  5. How do we keep these things from happening? (June 2015)
  6. What should the church expect as same-sex marriage moves forward? (April 2015)
  7. Five phrases Christians should never use again (May 2015)
  8. Seven books to read on Christianity and homosexuality (August 2014)
  9. Long preaching isn’t always good preaching (May 2015)
  10. Five books Christian dads should read (June 2015)

And just for fun, here are five favorites written over the month:

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.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Happy Independence Day, American friends! Hope you enjoy a great day of celebrating, fireworks, delicious food—and get to avoid any weird patriotic services at church this weekend. Speaking of which…

I struggle with patriotic worship services

Marty Duren:

My discomfort with patriotic worship services culminated when visiting a church during vacation. The front of the auditorium was covered by an enormous American flag. Beneath the flag was the opening for the baptistry where the pastor baptized a new believer.

Under the American flag. With no cross in sight, I suppose it was covered by stripes. It was not surreal for me; it was troubling. The imagery was all wrong.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just few for you today, starting with A Comedian’s Guide to Theology by Thor Ramsey ($1.99). Thor’s book from Cruciform Press, The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever, is well worth considering, too. Also on sale:

And today’s the last day to get these deals from Crossway:

How to Distinguish the Holy Spirit from the Serpent

Sinclair Ferguson:

How do we distinguish the promptings of the Spirit of grace in His guiding and governing of our lives from the delusions of the spirit of the world and of our own sinful heart? This is a hugely important question if we are to be calm and confident that the spirit with whom we are communing really is the Holy Spirit.

Pastor, You Should Share The Pulpit

Steve Rahn:

We are not a large church. We don’t have a staff—just me. It’s not a necessity that they fill in. I’m not out of town or anything. It probably even seems a little strange to some folks that I’m at the service but not preaching.

I love to prepare and preach sermons. Love it. It’s easily my favorite part of pastoral ministry.

And these men are not getting paid to preach (whereas I am) and they have fulltime jobs outside of the church (I don’t). So why have them preach?

The Final Break Between God and Country

Thomas S. Kidd:

So here we are, a week after the gay marriage mandate, and the Fourth of July is upon us. What should we do? One appropriate option—one we have always had—would be to politely ignore the Fourth of July in our families, and our Sunday services. Again, what does 1776 have to do with our worship? Around the world, our Christian brothers and sisters from Nigeria to Nepal will not say anything about the Fourth of July. Why should we?

Evangelism in a Culture of Religions Nones

Jonathan Dodson:

Rehearsing a memorized fact, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins”, isn’t walking in wisdom. Many people don’t know what we mean when we say “Jesus” “sin” or “cross.” While much of America still has cultural memory of these things, they are often misunderstood and confused with “moral teacher” “be good” and “irrelevant suffering.” We have to slow down long enough to explore what they mean, and why they have trouble with these words and concepts. Often they are tied to some kind of pain.

The kind of fundamentalist I want to be

the fundamentals

With the exception of a few “badge of honor” types, no one really likes to be called a fundamentalist these days. But that’s really just because we use it as the dirtiest Christian cuss-word we can think of—as a pejorative or conversation killer. There’s an image of the fundamentalist as a joyless, angry, fire-and-brimstone preaching, King James reading, hymns-only singing cranky pants who has his tie just a bit too tight on Sunday mornings.

And while there are some who probably fit the stereotype a bit too closely, we really only think this way because we’ve actually forgotten that being a fundamentalist is a good thing. We should absolutely be fundamentalists—at least about the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

So what are the fundamentals? What are the things that make Christians Christian?

There are a number of formulations, but I believe the best place to look is to two ancient creeds: the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creeds. These were two of the earliest formulations of Christian doctrine, and so they have much to say about any discussion of fundamentals of the faith.

The Apostles’ Creed summarizes the fundamentals this way:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.

Amen.

Here we have a few basics: we have God himself, that is his nature (the Trinity) and his character—the maker of heaven and earth and the author of salvation. We have Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin, who was crucified and rose again, and now sits at the right hand of God, from which he will return to judge the living and the dead. We have the Church, both universal and local, and the future promise of the resurrection to new life in the new creation. In other words:

  1. God as Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit
  2. The virgin birth and divine nature
  3. The atoning death, resurrection, and eternal lordship of Jesus
  4. The centrality of the Church (as what we are saved into)
  5. Christ’s future judgment (resurrection of the living and the dead, heaven and hell)

In the Nicene Creed, we have something similar:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Nicene Creed provides essentially the same formula, but makes explicit one element that is assumed in the Apostles’ Creed: the authority of the Scriptures. So from it we get:

  1. God’s nature and character
  2. Jesus’ virgin birth and divine nature
  3. The work of Christ (perfect life, atoning death, resurrection and eternal lordship)
  4. The Church
  5. Christ’s future judgment (resurrection of the living and the dead, heaven and hell)
  6. The authority of the Scriptures (for all of this was “according to the Scriptures”)

Later groups would again redefine these fundamentals, sometimes with as few as three points (as I offered in my book, Contend, which condenses a few of the essentials seen in the creeds together), or as many as 90, as in Torrey et. al’s The Fundamentals. But they all come back to what we see in the Creeds. And where we choose to narrow down, it tends to be in relation to Jesus specifically, such as highlighting the historical reality of his miracles, the miraculous nature of his birth and his bodily resurrection—all the stuff that tends to be heavily under fire in our day and in every era.

But fundamentally, everything comes back to these six points we get from these two ancient creeds.

And this is what we have to remember: without these key truths, there is no Christianity. 

We need the Trinity, as confusing as it can be. We need the true gospel message—including all the sticky bits that make us seem like weirdos (because, y’know, they’re weird). We need the Church, both the reality of the universal invisible body and the local communion of the saints. We need the promise of Christ’s future judgment and final victory over sin and death as it’s what gives us hope. And we absolutely need the Scriptures—in all their inspired, inerrant glory—because without them, we have no clue about any of this stuff at all!

These are the fundamentals of the faith. 

And if believing these things is what it means to be a fundamentalist, sign me up!

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The Thin Line Between Faith and Foolishness

Michael Kelley:

At some point, when you are in a rhythm and cycle and you’re not satisfied with the results, you have to go back and look at the way you are doing something, or the assumptions you had in doing that thing to see what needs to be corrected.

40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags

Good questions from Kevin DeYoung.

Remember The Pit

David Murray:

“Remember the hole of the pit from which you were dug” said Isaiah the prophet. It’s a spiritual exercise that the Psalmist models for us in Psalm 40:1-3. Although the exact nature of the pit is not specified – it could be the pit of affliction, of persecution, of mental distress, or of family trouble – it’s most likely it was the pit of sin and guilt.

Smoke on the Martyrs

David Parks:

We are in the midst of a global upsurge in attacks on Christians. Over the last year we’ve seen major atrocities in Kenya, Nigeria, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, and many other places. Make no mistake: Radical Islam is responsible for much of this. And even though the majority of Muslims are not violent, astonishingly high percentages are sympathetic to extremist violence.

In the midst of this, we see almost no concern from the leadership of the United States. While Christians are beheaded in dramatically produced videos designed to recruit more extremists and to incite fear, the White House has responded to the targeting of Christians in underwhelming fashion. Their condemnation has been disappointing.

And at a time when we need clear, consistent, and accurate voices, Christians in the West blow a cloud of smoke onto the issue by hanging their hats on a discredited and debunked statistic: There are simply not 100,000 Christian martyrs every year.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses: The Role of Tradition in Interpretation

Bill Kynes:

It’s true, human tradition can be a hindrance to divine truth. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for breaking God’s commands for the sake of their own traditions (Matt. 15:3). And the 16th-century Reformers rejected the magisterial authority of tradition espoused by the Roman Catholic Church. Shouldn’t we seek to emulate Restorationist leader Alexander Campbell, who counseled his followers to “open the New Testament as if mortal man had never seen it before,” no longer bound by the prejudices of the past? Why should tradition be important in seeking to understand the teaching of the Bible? Let me offer two lines of argument—one philosophical, the other theological.

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This month’s free book for Logos Bible Software is 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law by Tom Schreiner. You can also get Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews by Herbert W. Bateman IV for 99¢. Christian Audio’s free book of the month is Eight Twenty Eight by Ian & Larissa Murphy. Finally, Westminster Bookstore’s got a great deal on the updated edition of Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief by John Frame.

Help My Unbelief

My friend Barnabas’ new book, Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith, just released yesterday. Be sure to check it out.

You Don’t Really Know Who Your Friends Are Until…

Tim Challies:

You don’t really know who your friends are until their relationship with you becomes a liability instead of a benefit. Many celebrities, and even Christian celebrities, have learned this lesson the hard way. In the blink of an eye, or the release of a news story, they went from fêted to ignored, from celebrated to invisible. They learned quickly that many of their so-called friends had actually not been friends at all, but people thriving on a kind of symbiotic relationship where each benefited the other. When the relationship become a liability, their friends were suddenly nowhere to be found.

Our Unhealthy Preoccupation with Acceptance

Erik Raymond:

In thinking about this quite a bit over the last several months it occurs to me how gripped Americans, particularly religious Americans are by honor and acceptance. I live in Omaha, Nebraska. The slogan for the state is “Nebraska Nice”. Did you catch that? We are nice here. I grew up in Massachusetts. I am not going to say that people in New England are mean, but they are, in the words of Megamind “less nice”. We didn’t exactly take pride in our niceness. If someone complained about people being rude we would generally think you were a bit too sensitive. But here, if you say that Nebraskans are not nice it is like you said something about their mom. It is one of the worst things you can say to a native Nebraskan. It seems to me that one of the worst things you can say to American Christian, whether in academia, church leadership, the pew, or on the street, is to say that they either not relevant or not respectable. We seem to clamor for it with alarming intensity.

 

Four appeals to Christians embracing gay marriage

Gavin Ortlund:

I recognize that publicly affirming a traditional definition of marriage makes you vulnerable to stigmatization, so I’ve been a bit hesitant to write this. But I also think complete silence is a mistake. And at any rate I’ve never been able to suppress my convictions out of fear of how people will respond. It’s just not who I am. So I offer these thoughts hoping they might be helpful to some, even though they are somewhatad hoc and do not constitute a comprehensive statement on this whole issue.

How Social Networks Create The Illusion Of Popularity

One of the curious things about social networks is the way that some messages, pictures, or ideas can spread like wildfire while others that seem just as catchy or interesting barely register at all. The content itself cannot be the source of this difference. Instead, there must be some property of the network that changes to allow some ideas to spread but not others.

Real leaders say “I’m sorry”

Eric Geiger:

If you never apologize, if you never say, “I was wrong,” you show people you actually believe you are always right. You reveal your foolishness, not your wisdom, if you never admit to being wrong. People are hesitant, as they should be, to follow someone who thinks he/she is always right. There is only One who is faultless, and it is not you.

Everything you wanted to know about Canada (but were afraid to ask)

Today is Canada Day here in Canada, eh.

It’s kind of like the Fourth of July except, instead of declaring war, we asked permission to move out of mom’s basement (true story). And 2015 is the 148th anniversary of our becoming a kinda/sorta/not really independent nation, and the 33rd of the existence of our formal constitution1. That’s right, America: we’re not only polite, but we take our time.

For those curious, here’s a look at how Canada works:

That was pretty helpful, right? And what makes it funny is it’s all true. Our head of state isn’t a President, or even a Prime Minister, but a representative of the Queen of England, the Governor General. And yes, we are indeed subjects of the Queen—a fact may Canadians aren’t actually aware of (or are in denial about)!

I spend a fair bit of time in America these days. And one of the strangest compliments I’ve received was at a conference when someone told me, “Wow, you’re from Canada? I can’t even hear your accent.” While there, I spend much of my time dispelling myths about the frozen wasteland our forefathers chose to colonize. We’re not dirty commies, we’re dirty socialists thank you very much. We’re just as racist as many Americans, just more passive aggressive about it. We don’t all really love Tim Horton’s—even McDonalds’ coffee is better. And our universal health care isn’t free—it’s all paid for with tax money.

Lots—and lots—of tax money.

And the service really isn’t all that good. Unless you’re on the brink of death. Then, it’s aces.

*Ahem*

Thankfully, few of my friends ask me about ice-fishing in July:

But the truth is, we really do have our problems—things Canadians only really understand:

Even so, there are things about Canada I do appreciate.

Despite being a socialist nation, we still enjoy a lot of freedoms, such as choosing the educational direction of our children. We still have the freedom to say more or less what we want, with few immediate repercussions (currently no one is coming to arrest me for some of the things I write). We make most of the world’s maple syrup (and it’s delicious). We’re the ideal neighbor for America—we’re quiet, polite and don’t call the cops when you’re throwing wild parties. And if that’s not enough, we even get to number William Shatner and Don Carson among us!

All that to say, Canada’s not too shabby.

P.S. Sorry again about Bieber. Sorry.

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The One Phrase That Will Help You Embrace The Cost of Relationships

Michael Kelley with one of the best things you’re going to read all day:

Every relationship you’re in is going to cost you something.

If you’re a parent, you know it’s true – your relationship with your children is going to cost you some patience, some frustration, or some preference. That’s why we eat at Taco Bell – it’s not because the fare is delectable; it’s because that’s where our kids want to eat. So we “eat” the cost and we take them.

Five Reasons To Take Strong Courage Today

Mark Altrogge:

There are times in life when we need someone to say to us, “Take Courage!” or “Take Heart!”  Like the time I was about to rappel backwards over a cliff.  I looked down and it was a long, long way and I’d never done this before.  My friend who had secured my rope to a tree assured me, “Just push off backwards.  You’ll be ok.  You’re tied to a tree.”

When we are discouraged we need to hear someone say, “Take Courage.”  Maybe you are facing an overwhelming situation.  Maybe you were recently been laid off or face an uncertain future.  Perhaps you are facing a serious health challenge.  Maybe you’re not facing a life and death situation but you’re facing several crazy kids who have the gift of frazzling. But at one time or another we all need to hear God say, “Take courage.”  Here are a few reasons we can.

Seven Warning Signs of Affairs for Pastors

Thom Rainer shares seven warning signs he’s gleaned from years of having far too many conversations with ministry leaders who’ve committed adultery.

5 Questions I Wished My Accountability Partner Would Ask Me

Brad Hambrick:

Without further ado, let’s begin to look at questions you wish your accountability partner would ask and why. These five questions are merely meant to be representative and to spark creativity (stale, repetitive questions result in withering accountability). Use them as a launching pad for the kinds of conversations you should be having as you establish lasting and enjoyable accountability in your life.

A public service announcement

HT: Mike