Links I like (weekend edition)

Is it My Fault? 

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s excellent book, Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence is on sale for the Kindle for $3.99. Do not let this deal pass you by.

Age of Ultron, Heaven and Previews that Oversell or Undersell

Joey Cochran:

I’m not gonna Jesus Juke a punchline at the end of this article. I’m going to show you my cards right here. The reality is movie previews are similar and dissimilar to Sunday Worship. Movie trailers preview movies and they often oversell; Sunday worship previews heaven and it cannot oversell.

And speaking of Age of Ultron

I’m pretty sure this doesn’t oversell the movie:

Four Kinds of Church Leaders Who Won’t Lead Revitalization

Thom Rainer:

So why aren’t more church leaders being intentional in leading church revitalization? As I have conversed with church leaders, I have found four types of church leaders who are resistant to leading church revitalization.

A Day in the Life of Stock Photos

Aaron Earls:

Stock photos serve a purpose, but very rarely is that purpose to show what real life actually is. While your life is full of ups and downs, stock photos pretty much just establish an impossible to meet standard of every day life.

So what would it be like to live a day in stock photo life? Nothing like your life or mine.

It’s a Genesis-to-Revelation Issue

This is a really good interview with Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger about their new book, God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey

What I learned in the 2014 readers survey

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A few weeks ago, I asked you to participate in my first-ever readers survey. The survey was intended to help me learn a little bit more about you and how I can better serve you through this blog. Here are a few of the key content-related findings:

Post frequency: The vast majority (88.8 per cent) think the amount of content is just right.

Why it matters: This is helpful to know since it apparently means I’m not overwhelming the majority of you with daily posts. A few people suggested an increase in frequency, which I found fascinating, but because I need to sleep sometimes, I’m going to have to say no.


Most and least enjoyed content: Of the content you most enjoy, theology and Christian living articles tend to be the favorites, followed closely by “links I like” and book reviews. Of the content least enjoyed, only a handful of people responded, but of that handful, most are not fans of family-related articles and quotes.

Why it matters: This is helpful because it means that, more or less, I’m on the right track with producing content you actually want to read. That said, I do want to take seriously the “least enjoyed” responses, which is why you’ve probably noticed that I’ve reduced the number of posts sharing quotes on the weekend.


On the change I’m considering: Regarding the big change I’m considering—that is, the addition of sponsored posts—you’re overwhelmingly (76 per cent) neutral or (15 per cent) warm to the idea. But for both positions, there is a directive from you: sponsored posts need to add value and not be giant commercials.

Why it matters: I’m still mulling over the idea of sponsored posts, and I believe it is something I’d like to introduce at some point in the near future. I’ll continue to investigate what this could look like, and when I’m ready to make a decision, I’ll make an announcement.

Thanks very much to all who participated in this first survey. I’m looking forward to doing it again next year and seeing what more I can learn from you so I can better serve you. (And if you haven’t participated, you still can: the more responses I have, the better my information will be.)


Photo credit: hfabulous via photopin cc

Links I like

Book deals for Christian readers

Here are a whole pile of Kindle deals to get you started (note, most of these are academic references, but books you’d likely want in your library):

Also on sale are a number of volumes from the ZECNT series:

And a few volumes in the Expositors Bible Commentary series:

At Westminster, you can get a great deal on Resisting Gossip by Matthew C. Mitchell. Get a 10-volume pack for your small groups for $50 (includes five copies of the book and five participants guides), individual copies for $8 and digital editions for $4.

Finally, today’s $5 Friday deals at Ligonier include:

  • The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (hardcover)
  • The Christian Mind: 2012 national conference messages (DVD)
  • Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible (ePub)

The Presidency of the Holy Spirit

Ray Ortlund:

Our forefathers used to call this “the presidency of the Holy Spirit,” when the Lord himself would preside over the gathering of his people in such a way as gently, wonderfully to take charge.

I have seen this.  Doubtless, many of you have as well.

The Most Honest Atheist In The World

David Murray engaging with Crispin Sartwell’s article at the Atlantic, Irrational Atheism: Not Believing in God Isn’t Always Based on Reasoned Arguments And That’s OK.

McDonalds vs organic food

This is amazing (be sure to turn on the subtitles):

The Softer Face of Calvinism

This is a really good interview between Kevin Emmert and Oliver Crisp, author of Deviant Calvinism.

The American Jeremiad

Matt McCullough:

Rhetoric of decline is almost always rhetoric of persuasion. It aims to diagnose a problem and prescribe a solution. We must be careful to assure the prescriptions and their expected results don’t go beyond what God has actually promised.

What do the attacks in Ottawa mean for us?

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Yesterday, something most Canadians never imagined possible happened: a gunman shot and killed 24-year-old Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, as he served as part of the ceremonial honor guard at Canada’s National War Memorial. The gunman, identified as 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau1, then moved toward Parliament itself, where he continued his attack where he injured at least two more people before he was killed.2

Wednesdays events mark the second such attack on Canadian soil in the last week. On Monday in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed by a young man, recently converted to Islam with strong ISIS sentiments.

Last night, my wife and I watched Prime Minister Stephen Harper address the nation and use a word many of us might have been thinking, but were still surprised to hear him say: Terrorist. 

“In the days to come, we will learn more about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had,” Harper said. “But this week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world.”

The idea of a terrorist attack in Canada probably seems bizarre. I mean, it’s Canada. We’re all nice and polite and we have criminals who plan massive maple syrup heists. We have incredibly complex gun laws that require people to apply for permission to think about buying a gun.

We don’t have terrorist attacks. Except, it seems, we do.

So, we need to consider how these events should affect our thinking and our living. At the very least, I need to consider this and I’m hoping you’ll do so with me. Here are three things I see as important takeaways:

1. We should not ignore this event. It’s helpful for American readers to understand that when events like this happen, Canadians don’t stop everything they’re doing and watch the news. In America, I’m guessing this would have shut everything down: everyone would be paying attention. That’s just not how it works here.In fact, there are a good number of people here who won’t have any idea that there even was an attack on Parliament. We tend to have a laissez-faire attitude about most things in Canada: politics, the economy, education, Jesus… arguably everything except hockey, coffee, and beer. So when the attack happened, most of us were doing our regular jobs. Some of us were paying attention, but for many, it was more or less business as usual. I would love to see this change in my fellow Canadians, and in me. This doesn’t mean we need to become overly paranoid, but should acknowledge we are not immune to terrorism, and we would be foolish to think otherwise.

2. We must not use it for our own interests. Thankfully, so far at least, no one has taken to the airwaves and touted the need for more stringent gun regulations, nor do we need anyone making up conspiracy theories about Harper government trying to force a police state upon us.3 Because we don’t know the full story of what happened yesterday—specifically the motivations behind the events, though it’s almost certainly retaliation for Canada’s involvement in the coalition against ISIS—we would be foolish to rush to any sort of conclusion or use it as a launch pad for personal or political agendas.

3. We need to pray. Ottawa is a city filled with lost people. Toronto is filled with lost people. London (where I live)  is filled with lost people. Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver… every major Canadian city and nearly every community is filled with lost people. But every Canadian community also has at least some faithful Christians. And every faithful Christian desperately needs to be praying right now. We need to pray for wisdom for our government and for the authorities investigating these events. We need to pray that any accomplices still at large would be brought to justice. That further plans would be thwarted. And most importantly, that there would be opportunities to be powerful witnesses to the family of Cpl. Cirillo, to those who were injured in Wednesday’s shootings, and to the millions upon millions of lost people in our nation.


Photo credit: martisak via photopin cc

Links I like

The Expulsive Power of New Affection

Dan Kassis, a voice-over artist in Spring Hill, TN, recently recorded Thomas Chalmers’ sermon, The Expulsive Power of New Affection, as a birthday gift for his pastor. He’s since made it available for $3 to raise funds for The Bridge’s relocation efforts. I’d highly encourage grabbing a copy of this, as well as keeping your eyes open for more recordings of great sermons and essays from Dan in the future.

God Is in the Grocery Aisle

Lindsey Carlson:

It’s sad, but sometimes I allow the food in my cart cart to label me. If I walk down the organic aisle with its pesticide-free, non-GMO, “real” food, I feel good about myself and my mothering. My pride gladly wears the labels “informed”, “wise”, and “caring”. But if my shadow darkens the aisle of the processed, chemically-bathed “non-food,” my fearful heart wants to hide in shame.

Help publish the next book from Michael and Hayley DiMarco

Michael and Hayley DiMarco are preparing to publish their next book and curriculum, House of Grace: Big sinners raising little sinners, but they’re taking a different approach: instead of going through traditional publishers, they’re publishing it themselves. The manuscript is written, and they’re trying to raise enough funds to edit, design and print the book. Take a look, and if it’s something that appeals to you, I hope you’ll contribute.

Working on Learning to Rest

Nick Batzig:

If you’re anything like me, you know that you have to be intentional about learning how to rest. It’s hard for some of us to downshift. Some have a bent toward laziness and others a tendency to overwork. Phil Ryken has made the helpful observation that busyness stems from the same sinful root as laziness. Both are sinful manifestations of an idol of control. When we overwork, we try to control of our own lives and guide it to a selfishly motivated outcome. We are trying to secure what makes us feel good in life. Those who are lazy do exactly the same thing as those who overwork. If Satan can’t get us to try to do so by the vehicle of laziness, he will do so by tempting us to burn the candle at both ends. There is a sense in which just as those who are lazy need to turn to the Lord in repentance and faith and work hard at learning to work, so those of us who are inclined to overwork need to turn to the Lord in repentance and faith and work hard at learning to rest. In order to grow in our ability to rest, we must know ourselves. We must be able to examine the patterns of our thoughts and actions. After all, the Proverbs tell us that “the prudent considers well his steps” (Prov. 14:15).

Some Uncomfortable Questions

Kevin DeYoung asks some uncomfortable—but important—questions.

Does 1 John 2:27 Mean I Don’t Need My Sunday School Teacher?

Mike Leake:

In 1 John 2:27 the apostle tells his readers, “you have no need that anyone should teach you.” He says this because they have been “anointed by the Holy One”. As a result of this anointing they don’t need anyone to teach them.

What about us?

Is this an affirmation that if I have the “anointing of the Holy One” that I’m fine missing Sunday School? After all, if I’ve got God Almighty teaching my heart then, I don’t need nobody teachin’ me nuthin’.

Why it’s good to disagree with your past self

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It never fails. You write something, you put publish it, share it, do all the stuff you usually do with a blog post… And then, a few years later, you come back to it for some reason, and realize “Wow, I’m not sure I agree with that anymore.”

When this happens, I actually get pretty happy. Though it might seem strange to say, I don’t want to agree with everything I’ve written over the last six years. Why? Three reasons:

1. I’m not the same person who wrote it. Someone told me you’re the same person you were five years ago except for the people you meet and the books you read. Which, is really a coy way of saying, you should be a very different person if you’re doing it right. A few years (or a few months) from now, we may no longer agree with a popular figure who once was a strong influence. We will meet people and have experience which will affect us in ways we may not even be consciously aware of. We will be exposed to new ideas and new ways of thinking through the books we read (at least, as long as we’re being appropriately diverse in our reading). These changes and influences may be conspicuous or subtle, but they will most definitely happen. And that is most definitely a good thing.

2. I’m a different kind of writer than I was then. A few years ago, I had no idea what kind of writer I wanted to be. Much of my old writing was (in my opinion) sloppy and filled with unnecessary filler (far too many thens and thats and such things). I wanted to be taken seriously, so I used more words instead of better ones. Today, I’m more looking to have fun with words than to present myself a certain way. I want to write in ways material that’s fun to read, and usually this means making things shorter.

3. I’m being refined by God. One of the ways I’ve seen God most at work in my life in this regard has been a slowly increasing concern with character over results. Results can be manufactured, as we all know. But no matter how hard we try, character can’t be. I want to have the kind of character that’s marked with the fruit of the Spirit, to be the kind of person who is self-controlled and considerate. I have a long way to go, but when I look back on things I wrote or said a few years ago, I have confidence that the Lord is at work.

Links I like

Free eBook: An Essential Guide to Christian Accountability

My friend Jacob Abshire’s put together a terrific free eBook discussing “the concept of teaming up to kill sin and practical ways to thrive in it.” Head over to Jacob’s blog to download your copy.

Steve Jobs on Leadership and the Idol of Approval

Eric Geiger:

Jony Ive is the senior vice president of design at Apple and is known as the great design mind behind the products at Apple. In a rare interview, Jony shares some lessons he learned from working with Steve Jobs. In the interview, he recounts a conversation with Steve where Steve rebukes him for leading to be approved, for wanting approval from his team more than anything else.

What Millennials Misunderstand About Marriage

Aaron Earls:

Millennials, perhaps more than any other generation, grew up with the reality of broken homes and divorced parents. But in their efforts to avoid those mistakes, they often go in the wrong direction and end up in the same situation.

In the NPR story, “For More Millennials, It’s Kids First, Maybe Marriage,” we meet Michelle Sheridan, her boyfriend Phillip Underwood, and their children. Their lives were characterized by scraping by with low income jobs and government assistance as well as having no real desire to get married.

Their reasoning continuing to live together without the rings sounds like many other millennials and the common misunderstandings they have about marriage. Here are four things Sheridan, Underwood and millennials in general miss about living together and getting married.

Faith To Keep Praying For Your Unsaved Children

Mark Altrogge:

Nothing concerns Christian parents more than the salvation of their children. And God is concerned even more than we are.

God created the institution of family to reflect his own desire and love for his family. He sent his Son to bring us into his family.  When God saves us he adopts us as his children. He becomes our heavenly Father. He loves us as his precious children and makes us joint-heirs with Christ. Scripture is filled with his promises to parents.

The “S” Word: Three Models of Submission

David Murray:

These words, especially the “S” word, sound horrendous to most modern ears and also to many Christian ears. That’s partly because most people’s idea of marriage comes from Hollywood. But it’s also partly because we may have had awful experiences or seen terrible examples of this biblical principle being abused.

That’s why it’s so important to begin any consideration of submission with the husband’s duty to be a Christ-like leader and a Christ-like lover in a complementary relationship, and also with confession and repentance over our past failures in these areas.

Laboring that Vancouver Might Reflect the Beauty of Christ

Alastair Sterne:

The city is crying out for renewal, yet it is also becoming more and more irreligious. Statistics Canada projects that by 2031, almost 33 percent of people living in Vancouver will not align themselves with any religion. And those who currently checkmark “no religion” in Vancouver already exceed any other metropolitan area in Canada. Religion, and Christianity in particular, has been relegated to the corridors of personal opinion. Religion is seen as deludedly useful for self-help but useless for anything else. People are welcome to believe whatever they wish, but they should not be so mistaken as to think their beliefs have any usefulness in the public sphere, or accuracy about how things really operate in the universe. This is deeply problematic because the issues that plague Vancouver find their ultimate resolution in the very place they’ve determined to be deluded and useless.

You and Me Forever

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If you’ve read more than one or two Christian marriage books, you may have noticed they tend to follow a pretty standard template. For a marriage to be successful, husbands and wives need to:

  • Understand how God has intended them to be (with some sort of discussion of Genesis 2);
  • Have frequent sex;
  • See how their relationship represents the gospel (as per Ephesians 5); and
  • Have frequent sex. Frequently.

And then Francis Chan went and wrote a marriage book. Or did he?

Chan and his wife, Lisa, give readers a decidedly different take, one suggests that as good as it is it try to make your marriage better, our main focus—whether in marriage or singleness—needs to be something bigger: God. This is the big idea behind You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. The Chans want readers to picture marriage as a vehicle for mission, an opportunity for Christians to carry out our mission to make disciples of all the nations.

Sounds pretty lofty, huh? So how’d they do?

Marriage problems are God problems

“As a pastor for over 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that most marriage problems are not really marriage problems. They are God problems,” Chan writes (20). “They can be traced back to one or both people having a poor relationship with God or a faulty understanding of Him.”

This, among all the many wonderfully helpful things you’ll read in this book, is probably the most important—and also the most contentious. While sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, certainly, many of us are too quick to call everything a cigar.

Or (to mix metaphors) we treat symptoms, but not illnesses. The problem with this is what happens when you leave an illness untreated? It only gets worse (and in some cases, eventually kills you).

So think about it in a marriage: if a husband is domineering, it’s because something is deeply dysfunctional in his relationship with God, if one exists at all. If a wife commits adultery because another man understands her and makes her feel special, it’s because something is deeply dysfunctional in her relationship with God, looking to other people for affirmation instead of the Lord.

The same can be said of virtually any problem we face. They all start with our relationship with God. And that’s what makes it so contentious. Chan’s tendency is to get to the heart of an issue right away, rather than easing his audience into that knowledge. And because of his, shall we say, abrupt style of springing such things upon us, it’s easy to be turned off. But the more you sit with what he says, the more you realize it’s true (most of the time, anyway).

Marriage is for mission

This theme continues throughout the book, as both Francis and Lisa continually remind readers that marriage is a tool for the spread of the gospel:

Beautiful people make beautiful marriages. Jesus is the most beautiful person to ever walk the earth. Your best shot at having a beautiful marriage is if both of you make it your goal to become like Jesus. (91)

Our mission does not call us to neglect our marriages. But a marriage cannot be healthy unless we are seeking His kingdom and righteousness first (Matt. 6:33). (97)

Whether as individuals or as couples, our mission is to make as many disciples as we can during our time on earth… We should be constantly asking ourselves the question: How can we free up more time and resources for making disciples? (98-99)

There is an urgency to the period of time in which we live—after Jesus’ resurrection and before His second coming. We have callings from God, and those callings are bigger than our marriages. Seeking His kingdom must be our first priority, and if we’re not careful, marriage can get in the way. (114)

This, again, is a necessary reorientation for many of us (even if there are some cautions I want to address). We should be examining our lives from the perspective of our clearly stated purpose: to make disciples. If we are in Christ, each and every one of us is called to this in some way, shape or form. There is no denying it.

And if we have children, mission starts at home. We want our kids to know the gospel, to see the beauty of Christ, to see Christianity as something more than just going to church for a couple hours on Sunday. We want them to see that it involves sacrifice, sometimes including sacrificing time with them for the sake of the gospel…

How much should mission disrupt marriage?

But we also want them to see something else: sometimes the sacrifice we make is saying “no” to a good opportunity in order to be with them. Chan writes:

I work a lot. And I definitely travel more than most. Hardly a week goes by where I’m not jumping on a plane, wishing I could just stay home with my family. Some would call this bad parenting. I would argue that. I don’t neglect my children by any stretch of the imagination, but there are many times when I know God has called me to serve Him in ways that disrupt the family routine. I genuinely believe that it’s good for my kids to observe this. (165)

I sympathize with this a great deal. There are times in our lives when our family routine is disrupted. Because of work commitments or speaking engagements, I’m away from home probably five to six weeks of the year. While that might seem light in comparison to the schedules of many authors, speakers and pastors, we take it very seriously. When I have the opportunity to speak somewhere, we consider not only the opportunity, but the cost for our kids who are all very young. And there have been many times when I’ve had to say no to really good opportunities because where I’m most needed is at home playing cars on the floor with Hudson.

(There was also the time I went to Nashville and back in 36 hours when Emily was days away from giving birth to the boy, but…)

The point here is simply this: sometimes where we will be most effective for the sake of the mission will be away from home. But this is not license to “take care of the ministry and let God take care of your family,” as so many of a previous generation advocated (with their lives if not their words). I fear for the one who neglects his family in the name of Christ, because I can’t see it going well for them. Instead, what we need to do is find the right balance (in as much as something as unbalanced as ministry is). While we might have good opportunities to be used effectively away, sometimes it’s still best to be right here.

A marriage book that’s not about marriage

You may have gotten to this point and thought, “Great, it sounds like Crazy Love: Marriage Edition.” As tempting as it might be to say, it’s not entirely true. Yes, it has all the emphases of “radical” Christianity that you see in Crazy LoveRadical and so many others. No, it’s not without it’s problems (personally, I do feel Chan’s explanation of disrupting the family routine could be better fleshed out). But in the end, You and Me Forever succeeds in giving us a different kind of marriage book—one that’s less about marriage and more about the gospel. And that, for me at least, is a welcome change of pace.


Title: You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity
Authors: Francis and Lisa Chan
Publisher: Claire Love Publishing (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The theme of this week’s Crossway deals is pretty transparent (but very welcome):

Also on sale:

What We Can Learn From Gamergate

Richard Clark:

It all started with a scandal. One woman slept with other men, and one man took umbrage, posting personal chat-logs with her as “proof” of videogame nepotism and corruption. The result was “Gamergate,” a videogame-related witch-hunt the likes of which none of us have ever seen before.

Gamergate is an online controversy centered around both the treatment of women in videogames and ethics in videogame journalism. The active campaign operates primarily out of the concern that there is a general “groupthink” in videogame journalism centered around feminist and generally progressive concerns.

Of Michael Landon and Brittany Maynard

This is so good.

Bible Ignorance

Mark Jones:

People who have an excellent understanding of the Scriptures really impress me. If there’s one thing I detest, besides Manchester United, it’s Bible studies or theological discussions where the Scriptures function like the crumbs in a bag of chips: you get to them only if you’re desperate.

As someone who has had the pleasure and displeasure of examining candidates for the ministry, I can tell you that many candidates suffer from a lack of basic bible knowledge. They (kind of) know their five points of Calvinism – I wish they knew the other twenty – but they have no idea what the five Levitical offerings are. They know two Latin words (duplex gratia), which they say ad infinitum, ad nauseam, but they don’t even know whether the cupbearer, the baker or the candlestick-maker forgot Joseph in prison.

The Church and Women at Risk

Lindsey Holcomb:

Violence against women is a global epidemic that affects women and girls of all socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, religions, cultures, and ethnicities. Some women and girls, however, are particularly vulnerable to abuse. The phrase “women at risk” or “at-risk women” is used to describe women most susceptible to exploitation and violence, such as women and girls living in poverty and girls younger than 18.

Because life can be tragic for women, it is crucial to have a biblical understanding of how the church can protect and care for women at risk.

Abraham, Cultural Distance, and Offering Up Our Moral Conscience

Derek Rishmawy:

All too often in these discussions of troubling texts, we collapse the cultural distance between us and the biblical characters. Human nature is, in many ways, constant. Conscience is one of those basic human features. Across cultures, everybody has a clear sense of right and wrong, norms against which we must not cross, and an internal compass about these sorts of things. That said, any student of culture knows there are some significant variations across cultures as well. “Self-evident truths” held by post-Enlightenment Americans are not all that apparent to equally intelligent Middle Easterners or citizens of the Majority world. The conscience of a 1st Century citizen might be very sensitive about an issue you and I wouldn’t blink twice about, and vice versa. Our cultural presuppositions and plausibility structures do a significant amount of work here.

Where does this come in with Abraham? Well, I think it becomes a factor in two ways: cultural distance and revelational distance. These two are bound up with each other.

Christian, don’t begrudgingly affirm God’s Word

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This past week, the folks at Hillsong found themselves in a bit of a pickle as founder Brian Houston, when confronted on the question of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. In attempting to provide a winsome answer, he said that it’s too important to reduce down to a “yes or no answer in a media outlet,” which many conservative evangelicals took to mean Houston and Hillsong are fudging on what the Bible says.

Fast forward a couple of days. Houston clarified, saying, “My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”

Houston’s not alone in doing “the dance”—not wanting to deny the Bible, but wanting to keep entry to the faith as free from obstacles as possible. Tons of pastors (and “pastors”) have faced this. Even Joel Osteen (who has the most inoffensive to unbelievers personality on earth!) has been ambushed on the question. In the end, he said he didn’t believe it to be God’s best for people.

Public personalities like these aren’t alone in doing the dance. At some point or another we all do it. And as I’ve watched it happen (and occasionally been caught in it myself) time and again, one of the inevitable pieces of fallout is we wind up just having to come out and say what we were trying to not say.

This almost begrudging acceptance of the truth—we really do have to say what the Bible says.

Now, I get it. Many people want to avoid putting up a stumbling block to unbelievers coming to faith. They don’t want to be seen as “those Christians”—the ones who are always fighting about this or that, or who are considered hateful or bigots. But dancing around the Bible isn’t the answer.

We don’t really need to do the dance. We don’t have to be backed into a corner where we begrudgingly accept what the Bible says. Not if we are viewing the Bible as we are meant to.

If the Bible is the word of Truth (James 1:18; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:15), shouldn’t we be more comfortable standing by it? Not with a begrudging acceptance, but with a heartfelt confidence?

Shouldn’t we be willing to treat God’s word as, well, God’s Word?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few by Gary Thomas ($2.99 each):

Also on sale is Your Guide to Writing Quality Research Papers: For Students of Religion and Theology for $2.99 and John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aitken for 99¢.

Adventures of a church introvert

Yep.

Theological Revolutionaries and their Potty Talk

Erik Raymond:

The only thing more difficult than understanding this moral confusion is keeping up with it; a new story seems to come out daily.

When you think through what is being said there is a common theme. These headlines have just as much to do with theology as they do anthropology. At every turn, the moral revolutionaries are asserting their claim to divinity, or at least to their ability to act like they are.

Resources on domestic abuse

Moody has put together a helpful collection of resources based on Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s book, Is it My Fault? (reviewed here). Bookmark this (pastors and counsellors, especially).

5 Bad Substitutes for Discipline

Tim Challies:

There is nothing easy about parenting, and nothing easy about the responsibility of training our children in obedience through discipline. Because discipline is unpopular and unpleasant, parents often find themselves looking for substitutes. In her book Parenting Against the Tide, Ann Benton lists five poor substitutes for disciplining our children—five poor substitutes that fail to address the heart.

Three Reasons to Attend Corporate Worship

Matthew Westerholm:

“Why do we have to go to church again?”

Children ask this question on a semi-regular basis. I know my three boys have given me many opportunities to answer it. As a worship pastor, I am embarrassed to admit that I have found myself facing another service and asking the same question: Why again? Did we fail last week, or do it wrong? Was last week’s service not enough?

I have not always had good answers at hand, beyond a biblical command not to neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), but over time I’ve drawn encouragement from a broader view of Scripture and godly Christian authors. Having faced the challenge to frame those encouragements in ways that kids can understand, and my own heart will accept, allow me to pass on my best three answers:

So why should we attend corporate worship?

God Wants Us To Want

Darryl Dash:

I used to think that God was happy with our grudging obedience. Do the right thing, grit your teeth, and everything is good with God. I’ve been increasingly learning that God doesn’t want us to do the right thing so much as he wants us to want to do the right thing. Big difference.

Unbelief commits nothing to God

unbelief

Unbelief leaves our dearest interests and concerns in our own hands. It commits nothing to God. Consequently, it fills the heart with distracting fears when imminent danger threatens us. If this is your case, you will be surrounded with terror whenever you are surrounded with danger and trouble. Believers have this advantage: they have committed by faith all that is precious and valuable to them in God’s hands. They have committed the keeping of their souls (1 Peter 4:19) and all their eternal concerns (2 Tim. 1:14) to Him. Because these things are in safe hands, they are not distracted with fears about matters of less value. They entrust these to God and enjoy the peace and quietness of a resigned soul (Prov. 163). But as for you, you keep your life, liberty, and soul (which is infinitely greater than these other things) in your own hands in the day of trouble. You do not know what to do with them or how to dispose of them.

Oh, these are the dreadful frights in which unbelief leaves people! It is a foundation of fears and distractions. Indeed, it cannot but distract and bewilder carnal people, in whom it reigns in full strength. Sad experience shows us what fear (the remains and relics of unbelief) produces in the best people.w ho are not fully free from it. If the relics of unbelief can darken and cloud their evidences, if it can draw such sad and frightful conclusions in their hearts (despite all the contrary experience of their lives), what unrelieved terrors must it produce in those who are under its full strength and dominion!

John Flavel, Triumphing Over Sinful Fear, 38-39


Photo credit: Sander van der Wel via photopin cc. Designed with Canva.

The weird and the witty: A choose your own autobiography

I walked into my local Chapters, making my usual bee-line for the Starbucks, when it caught my eye.

No, not Joel Osteen’s beautiful (and likely very expensive) smile…

osteen-book

(Although…)

No, something much more amazing. This:

NPH-autobiography

Autobiographies are weird animals. Most of us don’t have a life stories interesting enough to fill a book (or at least, one people would want to read). The same goes for celebrities, who also don’t really have lives that could fill a book you’d want to read, either.

And yet, here we are.

And here this is.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography may well be the most clever addition to the ever expanding line of celebrity life stories, simply because of the schtick of putting the reader in the driver’s seat of Harris’ life. For example:

You, Neil Patrick Harris, are born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on June 15, 1973, at what you’re pretty sure is St. Joseph’s Hospital, although it’s hard to be certain as the whole experience leaves you a little blurry.

The first person you encounter is, not surprisingly, your mother, Sheila Scott Harris. As the years go by you will come to learn she is a truly remarkable woman filled with love, kindness, fragility, selflessness, intelligence, wisdom, and humor. The kind of mom who will talk to you like a person and treat you with respect from the age of two. The kind of mom who will hold you in her lap for an entire four-hour car ride, lightly scratching your back. The kind of mom who teaches you the rules of Twenty Questions and then lets you guess the “right” answer even though it wasn’t what she was thinking, but does it subtly enough to keep you from realizing that’s what she’s doing. The kind of mom traditional enough to sing in the Episcopal church choir every week but hip enough to improvise a horrific death for a character in the bedtime story she’s reading you just to make sure you’re paying attention. The kind of mom who sews your Halloween costumes and plays the flute and loves to laugh and encourages you to pursue your passions and at one point trains to become a Jazzercise instructor and at another decides to go back to law school in her thirties and commute four hours each way every weekend for three solid years to make sure she spends enough time with you.

This is a pretty clever approach to an autobiography, one that shows a certain willingness to poke fun at oneself too rarely found in celebrities. But then again, Harris did start something of a career comeback mocking himself in the early 2000s, so…

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Brittany Maynard, Rachel Held Evans, and Not Giving Up

Samuel James:

What Evans is too tired to do is the hard work of theology. Putting together the doctrine of God’s love and mercy with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and righteous condemnation of sinners is too difficult. The paradox has created an irreparable dissonance within her spirituality. Rather than submitting to the view of Scripture that Jesus endorsed, and trusting in the goodness of the Spirit that illuminates the meaning of the Word, Evans believes she has to make a choice: Scripture or conscience, Bible or values, Joshua or Jesus.

A non-answer is an answer

Andrew Walker:

Let’s be very clear on that. It’s also a very vapid answer. What we’re seeing in many corners of evangelicalism is a pliability that makes Christianity an obsequious servant to whatever the reigning zeitgeist is. With non-answers like this, it isn’t Jesus who is sitting at the right hand of the Father. Culture is. Perhaps Hillsong would rather abide by a “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” policy on matters of orthodoxy. That’s their prerogative. But let’s be clear that this is not the route of faithfulness.

Sexuality and Silence

Andrew Wilson:

I’ve heard rumours of a silent trend beginning to take hold in some city churches in the UK and the US. I don’t just mean a trend that takes hold silently; presumably most trends do that. I mean a trend toward silence: a decision not to speak out on issues that are considered too sticky, controversial, divisive, culturally loaded, entangled, ethically complex, personally upsetting, emotive, likely to be reported on by the Guardian or the New York Times, uncharted, inflammatory, difficult, or containing traces of gluten. Since I do not attend a city church, but am a proud member of the backward bungalow bumpkin brigade, this is coming to me secondhand, and it may turn out to be a storm in the proverbial teacup, or even (for all I know) entirely fictional.

But let’s imagine that there were such things as well-written booklets which had been discontinued simply because they were about sexuality, and leaders who were avoiding making any public comments at all on controversial ethical issues, or churches whose lectionaries or sermon series were systematically avoiding passages which addressed pressing contemporary questions, presumably in the name of being winsome or wise or likeable or culturally sensitive, because of the number of Influencers and Powerful People in the area. Without knowing any of the behind-the-scenes discussions that had taken place—all well-intentioned, I’m sure—what would I say then?

Seven things.

How To REALLY Help Someone Change

Stephen Altrogge:

We tend to get this wonky, thoroughly unbiblical idea in our minds, that we can actually change people. That by the force of our will, we can move a person from ungodliness to godliness. We think that if we get sufficiently angry, they will see our point and change. They will feel the force of our anger, come under the cutting conviction of the Holy Spirit, and repent. Of course, this is complete nonsense. We know this both from Scripture and from experience.

The Healthy Elder Board Is a P.C. Elder Board

Thabiti Anyabwile:

The abbreviation “P.C.” has an almost universally negative connotation. We hear “P.C.” and we think “politically correct.” Being “P.C.” is synonymous with cultural capitulation, a kind of cowardice that refuses to call things what they are.

If that’s all the letters “P.C.” could stand for then we’d be right to suspect a “P.C. elder board” of unfaithfulness and ineffectiveness. But, thank God, there are other words for which “P.C.” can stand. And some of them actually help us define what a well-functioning eldership looks like. In general, I think we need “P.C.” elder teams. Here’s what I mean.