Links I like

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How pornography is affecting our brains

This is a very interesting:

(HT Adrian Warnock)

New Harper Lee novel

Harper Lee is best known for her up until now only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. In just a few weeks, her second will be released, Go Set A Watchman—which is a sequel to Mockingbird, but was actually written before it.

What Sex Trafficking and Gay Marriage Have in Common

This is a good interview with David Platt on his new book, Counter Culture.

Quietness vs. prominence

Ray Ortlund:

The upward glance to the higher place of visibility and recognition destroys quietness of heart.  Francis Schaeffer, in his sermon “No little people, no little places,” counsels us to look by faith beyond our place, wherever it may be, into the greater battle raging in the heavenlies today, the real battle of our generation that bears no necessary relation to the seeming prominence or obscurity of the soldiers involved, and trust that the Lord of hosts is deploying each of us most effectively right where we are, moment by moment.  Human appearances can be false.  Divine strategies are unfailing.

 

Jonathan Edwards complete works available online for free

The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale Divinity School has made these available to view online for all interested in the work of one of America’s greatest pastor-theologians.

Political Outrage and the Kingdom

Nick Horton:

“It’s a lot easier to be indignant than broken-hearted.” Dr. Albert Mohler

When I heard the quote above a few days ago, from the mouth of Dr. Mohler as he gave an address on cultural engagement, I was immediately convicted. I’m an American son, a patriot. I have Army generals and foreign war veterans in my lineage. I’m related to men who stormed Normandy France to defeat Hitler and free Europe. They didn’t fight for THIS America, I thought.

Yet, before all of those things I am a Christian. I belong to God and have a heavenly citizenship in his Kingdom. I am an Ambassador for Christ whose purpose now is to herald the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. How should that line up with my love of my earthly home? Just as Dr. Mohler said; broken-heartedness.

How to pray for TruthXchange 2015

truth-lies-large

This evening, TruthXchange’s 2015 Think Tank kicks off, and after a long (loooooong) day of travel, I’ve finally made it to the promised land. Or at least, a land without ice and snow (I’m easy to please).

With the fun getting started this evening (if you’re attending, be sure to say hello), I wanted to suggest a few ways you can be praying for us over the next few days:

Wisdom for the speakers. The conference theme, Generational Lies and Timeless Truths, is an important one. There is so much confusion out there among Christians in particular on a host of issues, from sexuality to social justice, and we want our messages to be as helpful as possible to our hearers.

The wellbeing of everyone working behind the scenes. TruthXchange’s staff and volunteers have been working tremendously hard to make this event great. Please be praying for the health and wellbeing of all those people, that they would be able to enjoy the fruits of their labors and they’d have the bandwidth to handle any unexpected surprises (my delay last night was definitely one of those).

The practicality of the messages. We want people to actually be able to do something with what they learn at this event—specifically to be stronger witnesses for the Lord in their every day lives (and I want this as a speaker, too).

The centrality of the gospel. Because of the very nature of the subject matter, it’s easy to skew negative and treat the topics as though everything is going to hell in a handbasket. And while there are many things to be concerned about, we want to focus on the good news, and why the Christian worldview—and more specifically, as a faithful follower of Jesus—is so much better than the alternatives being offered in the culture today. Please pray that each speaker would keep focused on the main thing: Jesus Christ.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just a couple of new deals to start you off today: Doxology and Theology by Matt Boswell is 99¢ and The Pastor’s Family by Brian Croft is $2.00. Both are well worth it.

7 Lessons from 50 Shades of Grey

Tim Challies:

On one level, this is just another in a long line of films with a storyline that portrays sex and relationships in ways far removed from God’s design. But it is so much more than that. I believe that 50 Shades of Grey can serve as a kind of cultural barometer that alerts us to the colossal changes that have been occurring in recent years, and to the consequences they bring.

So what can the 50 Shades phenomenon teach us today? I teamed up with Helen Thorne, who has written Purity Is Possible: How To Live Free of the Fantasy Trap, and together we prepared 7 lessons from 50 Shades of Grey.

Privately Criticizing Those You Publicly Praise

Mark Jones:

Social media has brought about many interesting phenomena. Some of them are quite irritating.

Someone can be privately critical of another person, but still praise that same person publicly. I’ve seen it happen. In South Africa we have a name for these types of people. They are called “bless you brothers”. They bless you to your face and curse you behind your back. It is pharisaical, and this type of behaviour happens a lot more than we imagine or care to admit.

We shouldn’t be surprised that people can be so duplicitous.

Everyone’s a Theologian

This month’s free audiobook from Christian Audio is Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul. Get this one!

A lifestyle so good it’s mandatory!

An interesting op-ed from Kevin Williamson, arguing that for all its loud clamoring, “[cultural] progressivism is not about evidence, and at its heart it is not even about public policy at all: It is about aesthetics.”

6 Principles for Effective, Redemptive Communication

Justin Taylor:

In seeking to provide compelling answers to genuine questions from those outside the faith, Powlison studied the biblical model for effective, redemptive persuasion. He notes that “Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman in John 4 and Paul’s speech at the Areopagus in Acts 17 provide rich examples of what these communication tasks look like in action.” Below is an outline of what he saw in Scripture. I find these to be helpful reminders for us in evangelism and for all of our discourse as we seek to win the world to Christ.

New and noteworthy books

New and noteworthy

One of my favorite times of the day, after coming home and greeting my family is seeing what mail has arrived. This is not because I love finding out how many bills there are each moth, but because there’s often a new book waiting for me from one of the many Christian publishers out there. It’s been a while since I’ve shared what’s made its way into the house, so here’s a quick look at a few of the most interesting in the latest batch:

Ordinary by Tony Merida (B&H Publishing)

Ordinary is not a call to be more radical. If anything, it is a call to the contrary. The kingdom of God isn’t coming with light shows, and shock and awe, but with lowly acts of service. Tony Merida wants to push back against sensationalism and “rock star Christianity,” and help people understand that they can make a powerful impact by practicing ordinary Christianity.

Buy it at: Amazon

Who is Jesus? by Greg Gilbert (Crossway)

Intended as a succinct introduction to Jesus’s life, words, and enduring significance, Who Is Jesus? offers non-Christians and new Christians alike a compelling portrait of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, this book encourages readers to carefully consider the history-shaping life and extraordinary teachings of the greatest man who ever lived.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Behold the King of Glory by Russ Ramsey (Crossway)

In this carefully researched retelling of the story of Jesus, Russ Ramsey invites us to rediscover our wonder at his sinless life, brutal death, and glorious resurrection.

Featuring forty short chapters recounting key episodes from Jesus’s time on earth, this book expands on the biblical narrative in a fresh and creative way—giving us a taste of what it would have been like to walk next to Jesus and experience his earthly ministry first hand.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney (Crossway)

This looks to be excellent:

In this book, Joe Rigney offers a breath of fresh air to Christians who are burdened by false standards, impossible expectations, and misguided notions of holiness. Steering a middle course between idolatry on the one hand and ingratitude on the other, this much-needed book reminds us that every good gift comes from the Father’s hand, that God’s blessings should drive us to worship and generosity, and that a passion for God’s glory is as wide as the world.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Look and Live by Matt Papa (Bethany House)

All of us live in the tension between where we are and where we ought to be. We try our best to bully our desires into submission. And we all know, this is exhausting.

Are you tired? Stuck? Still fighting the same sin you’ve been fighting for years? The call in these pages is not to work or to strive, but to lift your eyes. You don’t need more willpower. You need a vision of greatness that sweeps you off your feet. You need to see glory.

Buy it at: Amazon

Jesus Outside the Lines by Scott Sauls (Tyndale)

I’m curious about this one:

Whether the issue of the day on Twitter, Facebook, or cable news is our sexuality, political divides, or the perceived conflict between faith and science, today’s media pushes each one of us into a frustrating clash between two opposing sides. Polarizing, us-against-them discussions divide us and distract us from thinking clearly and communicating lovingly with others. Scott Sauls, like many of us, is weary of the bickering and is seeking a way of truth and beauty through the conflicts. Jesus Outside the Lines presents Jesus as this way. Scott shows us how the words and actions of Jesus reveal a response that does not perpetuate the destructive fray. Jesus offers us a way forward – away from harshness, caricatures and stereotypes. In Jesus Outside the Lines, you will experience a fresh perspective of Jesus, who will not (and should not) fit into the sides.

Buy it at: Amazon

Comfort the Grieving by Paul Tautges (Zondervan)

Until the end of time, when the curse of sin is finally removed, suffering will be a large part of the human experience and a large part of that suffering will be walking through the painful reality of death.… Those who shepherd others through the pain and loss that accompanies death should seek to offer wise and biblical counsel on these precious and painful occasions. This book is a treasure chest of pastoral theology that will equip you to reach out to those who grieve with the Christ-centered comfort of God rooted in the gospel. The theological foundation espoused here, as well as the numerous practical helps that are included, will help any servant of the Lord to point the hearts and minds of the bereaved to the ‘man of sorrows’ who is ‘acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3).

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

The Happy Christian by David Murray (Thomas Nelson)

I started reading this, but had to put it on hold due to course priorities. However, what I read was excellent:

Hopelessness has invaded much of our culture, even reaching deep into the church. But while the world is awash in negativity, Christians have resources to live differently.

In The Happy Christian, professor and pastor David Murray blends the best of modern science and psychology with the timeless truths of Scripture to create a solid, credible guide to positivity. The author of the acclaimed Christians Get Depressed Too, Murray exposes modern negativity’s insidious roots and presents ten perspective-changing ways to remain optimistic in a world that keeps trying to drag us down.

Buy it at: Amazon

Romans 8-16 For You by Timothy Keller (The Good Book Company)

Look for a review of this in the next week or two:

Join Dr Timothy Keller as he opens up the second half of the book of Romans, beginning n chapter 8, helping you to get to grips with its meaning and showing how it transforms our hearts and lives today. Combining a close attention to the detail of the text with Timothy Keller’s trademark gift for clear explanation and compelling insights, this resource will both engage your mind and stir your heart.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Why Does God Love Us?

R.C. Sproul Jr. answers here.

Spending an Evening with Atheists

Douglas Groothuis:

This was easily the most hostile group I have ever addressed in thirty-six years of public speaking. I spoke after an hour and half of anti-Christian propaganda and was on stage with an atheist before an audience of many atheists. Nevertheless, I think my opening comments refuted important claims in the film—I needed several hours to respond to all the errors, many of which were absolute howlers—and I attempted to fairly and calmly respond to all the questioners. I was not stumped by any of the questions or comments, but I always wanted to say more; I am a professor, after all. I tried to give Will ample time to respond, but he often wanted to move on to the next questioner. He seemed quite nervous. At several points, I was able to present the essential gospel message, once in response to a question on hell: Jesus came to save us from that fate.

Champions for life in every generation

Daniel Darling:

When Roe v. Wade is overturned (and we pray earnestly for that day), it will not end the prolife movement. Other threats will emerge and require the same Spirit-fueled fortitude I saw at the March for Life. If every human trafficker were brought to justice, there would still be attempts to treat human life as a commodity. If every immigrant were welcomed, if our communities were perfectly integrated, still you’d see attempts to value one ethnic group over another.

This reality is not cause for despair, but a source of hope, for in our mission as followers of Christ we find distant echoes of the kingdom to come. Because the march for life is not just a once a year protest, but a daily way of life. Because the march for life doesn’t end on the steps of the Capital or the Supreme Court, but in that city whose builder and maker is God. When we march for life, we’re marching to Zion.

 Ask Celebrity Pastor: How Do I Improve My Sermons

Stephen Altrogge offers a long overdue new edition of fake celebrity pastor Tyler Hawk’s advice column. (Remember friends, satire.)

The incomprehensible evangelist

We can't assume pre-existing knowledge

My oldest daughter is very clever and creative. When she was six, she would often have conversations with her stuffed cat, Hershey. Eventually, she developed what she called “kitty language,” even writing down a series of symbols in one of her notebooks. It was cute… but it was also entirely incomprehensible.

Sometimes, we Christians seem like that to outsiders. We have our own special language, much of it derived from what we find in the Bible (though some of it comes from… well, I have no idea where). But there’s a problem: most people today don’t have any clue what’s in the Bible. Reading The Heart of Evangelism reminded me of this. Jerram Barrs writes:

The words that we hear every Sunday in most of our churches and that we use in our prayers are no longer part of the everyday language of our society. People simply do not talk about justification or sanctification, nor about redemption, salvation, or sin. Language that is precious to the Christian is an unfamiliar dialect to most people around us. This means that church as usual and sermons that don’t acknowledge this problem are difficult for our contemporaries to relate to, just as computer language is incomprehensible to many of us! (139)

When considering how to share Christ with others, this is incredibly important: We can’t assume pre-existing knowledge if we want to communicate the gospel clearly. There are some words that we can probably avoid using, to be sure, but what I never want to do is avoid a word like “sin,” for example. Instead, I want to explain it in a way that makes sense. That sin isn’t simply the “bad things” we do, but a problem within our being—a compulsion to pursue anything other than God as most desirable, and to reject him though he has made his existence plain to us through many means.

A lot to take in? Sure. But we have to help people see that there’s a lot packed into a tiny word like “sin,” if we want them to understand the problem they face. But when we fail to consider our context—when we fail to really acknowledge the biblical illiteracy of our culture (and, sadly, our churches)—we risk our words being seen as incomprehensible as my daughter’s made-up play language. And that just will not do.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And here are a number of R.C. Sproul titles on sale:

CROSS 2015

Be sure to check out the CROSS simulcast, featuring John Piper, David Platt, Mack Stiles, Thabiti Anyabwile, Kevin DeYoung and Matt Boswell on February 27.

Will Heaven Have Oceans?

Dennis Johnson:

A friend discovered the joys of body surfing in midlife, when she and her husband moved to Southern California, within 40 miles of the beaches and breakers of the Pacific Ocean. So she was understandably troubled by Revelation 21:1 and the prospect that ocean’s azure waters and surging waves will be absent from the coming new heavens and new earth. A few verses later we read that God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

To such miseries, sin’s toxic byproducts, we say, “Good riddance!” But, we wonder, once the curse-stained first heaven and earth have given way to a new heaven and a new earth, why must the new cosmic order be sans sea, while we’ll still stand on terra firma?

The Demise of the iPad is Greatly Overblown

Jonathan Howe provides a great counterpoint to Wired’s recent article.

Six Days

Paul Taylor offers a response to Justin Taylor’s article on the six days of Genesis 1-2.

Deflate-gate and over-inflated outrage

David Prince:

This is merely one small example of the unhealthy, but pervasive, perpetual outrage culture in America. We seem to be losing the ability to discuss anything with a sense of proper proportion. Too often in sports, politics, culture, and in everything else, we simply pick a side and defend it without question, and we vilify the other side without question. Professional wrestling used to have the market cornered on an over-exaggerated portrayal of heroes and villains with manufactured emotion and outrage, but it seems like every topic in America now sounds something akin to an episode of WrestleMania. Subtlety, nuance, and proportion are always labeled compromise in this outrage climate.

Daredevil climbs a frozen Niagara Falls

This is incredible (and terrifying)!

Pursue unanimity, not uniformity

unanimity

There are times when our doctrinal disagreements can hinder more than help. There are some things that can be set aside for the sake of gospel work.

Just think about competing views on baptism for a moment. Some of us are convinced infant baptism is biblically acceptable; others believe that only those who have confessed faith for themselves should be. And this is important: only one position is right. One is absolutely correct. The other is completely, flat-out wrong.

But should our convictions on an issue like baptism (as important as it is) get in the way of our partnership in the gospel?

No.

I’m not saying we cannot debate, sometimes with great passion. Nor am I saying we can’t disagree strongly. But if we believe the same gospel—that, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)—can we not partner together?

One would hope so.

Now, without question there are some we absolutely cannot partner with—fundamentally because we believe a different gospel. Evangelicals cannot partner with Roman Catholics on gospel matters because we fundamentally disagree on how we are made righteous before God. Those who believe there will be judgment for unbelievers cannot partner in gospel work with universalists. Those holding to man’s depravity cannot partner in gospel work with those who deny the existence of sin.

But whether we are continuationist or cessationist, Baptist or Presbyterian, Christian celebrity or one who has embraced obscurity, if the essentials are in alignment,1 we should be able to work together. We may not have uniformity, but we absolutely can and should have unanimity.

One can’t play Scrabble while his partner plays Candyland, after all.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And don’t forget these from earlier this week:

Today is also $5 Friday sale at Ligonier. They have a whole bunch of great resources on sale, including:

  • Why We Trust the Bible teaching series by Stephen Nichols (DVD)
  • The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (ePub and MOBI)
  • Think Like a Christian teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • When Worlds Collide by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield by Steven Lawson (hardcover)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

How Jesus Would Act in a Homosexual Bar?

C. Michael Patton:

I have a family member who lives in an apartment that backs up to a homosexual bar. I can imagine that in the church, there are people who think this is wrong. It’s not that these would assume she might be a homosexual, but that why would she, being a Christian, even dare live in such proximity to such evil. I am sorry to say this, but its very sad—no, tragic—to say that the church is filled with such a mentality. Oh, they have their verses to justify it, but these are always based in unbiblical emotional passions that cannot ever be justified.

Hold on, it gets worse so hang with me.

Lessons from the School of Prayer

An excerpt from D.A. Carson’s Praying with Paul:

Throughout my spiritual pilgrimage, two sources have largely shaped, and continue to shape, my own prayer life: the Scriptures and more mature Christians.

The less authoritative of these two has been the advice, wisdom, and example of senior saints. I confess I am not a very good student in the school of prayer. Still, devoting [space] to their advice and values may be worthwhile before I turn to the more important and more authoritative of the two sources that have taught me to pray.

Among the lessons more mature Christians have taught me, then, are these.

“Does God Care if Your Favorite Football Team Wins?”

Derek Rishmawy:

How we answer the question, “Does God care a whole lot about the outcome of football games?” reveals much about how we understand God’s love, sovereignty, and care for the world.Some might hear the question and interpret it, “Well, is God rooting for a particular team?” Unless you’re a total fanatic, convinced that God himself favors your home-team, your gut instinct is “probably not.” It seems inconsistent with his universal love for all. Still, in Scripture, God did pick Israel to be his chosen people, and within Israel, he is seen to bestow special grace on various figures, either for particular purposes in redemption or his own good pleasure. God loves all, but he also seems to focus on particulars.

Christ and Pop Culture LIVE: With Real People, In a Real Space, With a Real Audience (We Hope)

If you’re going to TGC, this could be a lot of fun. Am I going to TGC? That remains to be seen. But if I am, I sure hope to be at this.

On the Christian’s anger problem

Aaron Earls:

Too often we seek to baptize our rage and treat our temper as sanctified, when in reality we are merely trying to find a biblical sounding excuse for being a jerk.

So how do you differentiate between man’s anger in James 1 and the ability to be angry without sin in Ephesians 4? I see three questions that we need to ask about each situation in which we feel anger rising in us.

I think we should treat each one as a gate that has to be passed through to before asking the next one. If the answer to only one is negative, then we should question whether or not our anger is biblical.

Looking for Love in all the Right Places

Lore Ferguson:

Here is what I know about looking:

When I was young, rebellious and caustic, rolling my eyes at my parents at age 10 and sneering at them by age 15, they would say, “Look at me when I’m talking to you,” and I felt seen, exposed.

I knew I was already seen and exposed, but I felt it. I felt it when I saw their disappointment or disapproval or anger at me. When I saw it in their eyes. I felt that. I felt every weight and every sin and every bit of my flesh rolled up and held in their parental gaze. And I looked away. I could not hold that look for long, my sin was too great, their anger too heavy.

The good news in Abraham’s story

good news-abraham

There’s an old children’s song that goes like this:

Father Abraham had many sons
Had many sons had Father Abraham

I am one of them
And so are you
So let’s just praise the Lord.

I’ve never really liked this song, though, admittedly, I never heard it until I was an adult. 

The problem I have with it at times is the rose-colored glasses view of Abraham himself. He is the man of faith. He is the one who followed the Lord away from all he had known, not knowing where he was to go, and believed God’s promise to bring him to the land he would show him (Hebrews 11:8-10). He is one of the few to be called a friend of God in Scripture (James 2:23).

And yet, when you really consider Abraham… this was one messed up guy. A paragon of virtue, he was not. He grew up a pagan man. And though he believed God, he also had a habit of doing things his own way. On the journey, not once, but twice, he lied and said Sarah was his sister, and she was given to foreign kings as their brides (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18). Why? Because he feared for his life. Could you imagine if the song included some of the other details of his life?

Father Abraham sold his wife
And pretended she was his sister
It’s kind of creepy
Oh, yes it is
So let’s just praise the Lord.

Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

But it doesn’t get better. Though he was promised a son by Sarah (Genesis 15), Abraham—at her encouragement—took Hagar as a concubine, and had a son with her, Ishmael, who would be the father of the Arab nations (Genesis 16). So he not only was a liar who prostituted his wife—because he got paid by these kings, too—he was a polygamist, to boot.

How could God use a man like this? How could this man be a part of the family line of Jesus?

Before we get all judgmental and self-righteous on Abraham, it’s helpful to remember: Abraham’s story is, in many ways, ours.

He was not a man of outstanding moral character, it’s true. But neither are any of us. He was not a man who consistently did what was right. Neither are we. He was not a man who, though he believed, even believed consistently. And that can most certainly be said of all of us, too. (Or at a minimum, it can definitely be said of me.)

If his character and actions were the measure of salvation, he would have been damned for all eternity—just like you and me.

And there’s the good news in Abraham’s story. “Abraham believed, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:16; James 2:23a). It was his faith that saved him, that declared him righteous. It was not his character, nor his performance. It was faith alone alone that saved him. And it is faith alone that saves us as well.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Resist or accommodate evil

Jeffrey Ventrella argues against a “third way” in the US marriage debate. Regardless of your thoughts on this topic, the article is worth reading:

Today, religious liberty is again being suppressed. Business owners are increasingly coerced to participate in and contribute to same-sex ceremonies. King’s principled wisdom is once again needed. And yet, some people of faith like Russell Nieli tell us to express dissent but nevertheless comply with these coercive demands, arguing that this comprises a “third way.” But would this not functionally reduce King’s brilliant logic and historic analysis to being no more than a private expression, devoid of real-world traction, rather than a costly but principled call to action? Would this not wither these worthy writings?

While I am grateful for Nieli’s thoughtful and nuanced approach to this topic, his proposed solution for business owners facing legal pressure to contribute to same-sex ceremonies ultimately fails.

An Open Letter to LifeWay Trustees

Mike addresses a serious issue here.

When to Overlook A Fault

David Murray:

Yes, some offenses require repentance before granting forgiveness, but there are other offenses that must be overlooked if we are to survive in any relationship (1 Peter 4:8; Prov. 10:12; 12:16; 19:11). But when to do what?

Here are some questions to ask to help us decide if we are to “cover” or “overlook” an offense.

Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods

While I am inclined to believe the creation days were 24 hour periods, this argument from Justin Taylor is worth considering. I’d love to see a thoughtful response to this.

The Gospel Language

Erik Raymond:

It is said that author J.R.R. Tolkien created over 14 languages for his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some have observed that for Tolkien language presupposed a story. The language he created served to communicate his story in a particularly compelling way. But it was the story that brought the language alive. It gave it texture.

In the Scriptures we also find that language paints the drama. Think about the early chapters of the Bible as if you have never read them before. You have themes and concepts like mercy, grace, covenant, blessing, inheritance, promise, rest, etc. It is here, early on in the story, that God begins to show us the budding flowers redemption and restoration. This is the gospel language. God created it to serve his ends in communicating the most fascinating, soul-arresting, hear-stirring, joy-producing drama in history.

What our bestsellers say about our discipleship

What our bestsellers say about our discipleship

Seriously folks, we’ve got to do better than this.

By now, you’ve almost certainly seen the list of the top 25 bestselling Christian titles of 2014. But, of course, there’s one slight problem… Virtually none of these titles are identifiably Christian.

This should greatly concern us, and I truly do mean greatly.

On this list, we have:

  • Multiple editions of a devotional book wherein the highly mystically-influenced author writes as Jesus in the first-person, listening to what he says and writing it down for the rest of us to read. Its sequel is on the list, too;
  • Two editions of a book that flat-out contradicts the Bible’s description of heaven (and whether or not we are to even speak of such things);
  • Two books on personal finance;
  • One book endorsing borderline pagan forms of prayer;
  • Four books from a reality-TV famous family;
  • Two books by prosperity preachers, and therefore not Christians at all;
  • One end-times obsessed bit of crazy, with two more prophecy-focused titles alongside it;
  • Two self-help books and a diet book;
  • One memoir-ish book by a man compelled by love to do unpredictable things;
  • One book on women’s issues; and
  • One book on the importance of being a church member.

So, by my count, at best we’ve got two Christian bestsellers that are actually Christian. A few are written by Christians and published by Christian publishers, but offer little to nothing of substance in terms of interaction with Scripture, and little to no gospel. And then there’s the bigger problem: the ones that should raise major red flags for any editorial team looking at the material biblically.

Now I get that publishing is a business, and editorial teams have to look at what will realistically sell in the market. But my concerns are two-fold:

1. That publishers that should know better than to produce silly nonsense, do anyway. Again, I get that publishers have to make money in order to keep the lights on. I also get that not every publisher will (or should) publish books that only a particular segment of Christians would agree with. But to publish material that, in some cases, flatly contradicts Scripture (and in some cases, stand behind those books even in the face of overwhelming criticism), defies reason. Seriously guys, can we do better here?

2. That we, the consumers, actually buy this garbage. The only reason publishers bring books like this to the market is because we—the consumers—shell out cash to buy this crap. When we look at a list like this, we are right to be concerned, but our criticisms should not primarily be levelled at publishers: we need to look at ourselves.

What is it about these books that appeals to us? How have we let ourselves go so far astray from the true and sure word of God that books by guys who want you to accumulate stuff in this life sell hundreds of thousands of copies? When books that purport to speak for Jesus read more frequently than the book through which we come to know him at all?

In the end, our bestsellers say more about the state of our discipleship than anything else. We read junk because we don’t see how much better God is. We read fluff because it’s easier than being challenged to conform to the image of Christ. We read nonsense because we don’t really believe that what God has for us is better than the temporary pleasures of this life.

And it’s got to stop. We can do better than this. We must do better than this.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

New Fantastic Four trailer

I know purists haven’t been keen on the news they’ve heard about this film, but the trailer looks interesting. Thoughts?

Baptizing “Masculinity”: The Real Reason Men are Leaving the Church

Luke Harrington:

I wonder, if we are serious about attracting men to church, if the solution is less to infantilize them by waving steaks and guns in front of their noses and more to challenge them by teaching the rich ideas and contentious debates from the Christian tradition. Clearly there’s no shortage of important questions to be debated. Is human nature as corrupt as Calvin claimed? Is the will as free as Wesley taught? Is God as transcendent as Aquinas believed? Are the Law and the Gospel as separate as Luther wanted them to be? Is Christ as fully present in the Eucharist as Iranaeus argued?

My Baby’s Heart Stopped Beating

Jasmine Holmes:

As soon as the thought came to my head, I felt horribly guilty. I know you’re not supposed to think those things, and when you do, it’s certainly not nice to admit them. But there it was, clear as day: I was jealous.

13 Ways You Waste Your Money

Good stuff here from Tim Challies.

Addressing Cultural Issues in the Pulpit

Daniel Darling:

How do pastors preach on contemporary cultural issues? Or should they? This is a question every pastor faces as he contemplates both the spiritual needs of his congregation, the questions swirling in society, and the weighty commission to preach the Word of God. When I pastored, I constantly wrestled with when to address certain topics, how to address them, and in what format. I’ve also observed and watched pastors of large and small churches organize their preaching. Here are a few ways I’ve seen pastors address contemporary cultural issues.

How do you get to know unbelievers?

get to know unbelievers

I’m only day into seminary and I’m already challenged.

My first seminary lecture dealt almost exclusively with outlining the requirements of our term paper: a 10-ish page personal letter to an unbeliever with whom we have a close relationship. Now, the challenge for me is not trying to think of unbelievers to write to. I have no less than eight people in my close family to whom I could address this—my parents, my sister, my niece, my in-laws, my sister-in-law and her husband. And then we have a number of non-Christian and nominally Christian friends on top of that.

But as I listened to Jerram Barrs’ lecture, I realized just how easy it is to find yourself in a position where you have no one in your life who is an unbeliever. And if you’re someone like me, who works with Christians, and serves with Christians and meets with Christians… man, it is difficult to get to know non-Christians.

That’s actually one of the things I miss about working outside of a ministry context. While many of my co-workers love that we can pray at work, and that we have staff meetings where we sing together, there is one thing we miss out on, one of the things I think we probably need more than singing songs: the opportunity to build relationships with non-Christian co-workers and share the faith with them.

And it’s actually something I wish I had taken more opportunities to do when I did work in those environments.

Now, at the time, I don’t know what stopped me from being more intentional about this. Maybe it was because these were the same people who knew me before I was a Christian, and saw me working through the mess of my earliest weeks, months and years as a believer… Maybe it was just that I was chickening out. The truth is, I really have no idea why I didn’t, only that I didn’t.

But for me today, it’s harder than ever to meet and get to know non-Christians, largely because I’m not really the type that does small talk or social engagements well. Work made socializing a little easier. So my daughter’s dance class really helps. Making sure I actually talk to baristas at Starbucks (and frequent the same ones) really helps, too.

These ways don’t work for everyone, obviously. But even still, we are all still responsible for getting to know non-Christians. We are called to share the gospel and make disciples. So, friends, who are the unbelievers in your life? How are you intentionally getting to know non-Christians?