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

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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?

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A couple of new Kindle deals for you today:

Two years of no lies

I didn’t realize how often I lied until I stopped lying completely.

It wasn’t an intentional decision. Two summers ago I did my first ten-day silent meditation retreat, and we were required to sign five vows to join the program, including a vow of honesty. I didn’t know this until I arrived. But when you’re about to begin ten days in silence, signing your name on a vow not to lie does not feel like a bold step. At the end of the retreat, however, we were told the vows, which also include no killing and no stealing, now apply to the rest of our lives.

We Are Gomer

Brandon Smith:

Throughout the Book of Hosea, we see both the loving-kindness and frustration of God with his people. Like Gomer, they refuse his repeated attempts at reconciliation and continue to ignore his love. But we must remember that God did not leave Israel to continually wallow in her own desires. At least not entirely and not forever.

God, Science and the Big Questions

Be sure to register for the livestream of this webcast if you can’t attend personally. Looks to be excellent.

Shut up and Shut Out: Pursuing Wisdom by Saying Less

Kyle Worley:

To know when to speak with wisdom and when to stay silent in wisdom, we must draw near in silence to the One who is wisdom.Everyone has something to say. Now, more than ever before, they have the tools to say it to the world. ISIS beheads another innocent aid worker? TV channels will cover the pictures in “Breaking News” graphics. Post a Facebook comment about the heartbreaking death of an aunt suffering from disease? People you haven’t talked to in years will Like your post. In a day of live-tweeted tragedies and executions broadcast online, I fear that we have lost the sense that there are times when the wisest thing to do is refrain from commenting. Sometimes, there is nothing to say. I fear that we have forgotten that silence can be the loudest and wisest word spoken.

Your next Bible might be a hologram

I sure hope not. But this is interesting stuff from Stephen Smith.

Ethan Hawke, C.S. Lewis and What It Means to be Human

Aaron Earls:

In a somewhat surprisingly insightful interview (though with corse language) on the Nerdist podcast, host Chris Hardwick spoke with actor Ethan Hawke about his role in the critically acclaimed Boyhood, the time travel flick Predestination, and, oddly enough, Hawke’s philosophical musings on life.

The conversation turned to the self-destruction of numerous individuals in Hollywood with both Hardwick and Hawke discussing the dual pull humans face. “You vacillate a lot,” Hawke said. Then, mimicking the internal dialogue of so many, he continued, “I hate myself. I’m a genius, I was wrong to hate myself.”

So how do we manage to swim in between those two whirlpools? How do we find the balance between hating oneself and over-inflating oneself?

When Your Church is In Trouble: Tell the Truth, Face the Future

Good stuff here from Trevin Wax.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A new level of archery

This is amazing:

Josh Harris resigns from Covenant Life Church

Really impressed with the way Harris handled this announcement (and his reason for resigning, too).

7 Thoughts on Sacred Time

Nick Batzig:

Among the diverse and manifold truths revealed in the Genesis account of Creation, we discover that God set apart two spheres of worship–sacred time and sacred space. Since all that God created was created in time and space, it should stand out to us as a matter of supreme importance that He then set apart a certain portion of that time and space in which man might worship Him. While the idea of sacred space surfaces in the account of God’s planting of the Garden of Eden–the prototypical Temple from which all the other sacred spaces from Creation to New Creation in Scripture take form–sacred time is first discovered when God set aside one day in seven for His image bearers to come together to worship Him. As Iain D. Campbell has so helpfully pointed out, “As God gave man sacred space in Paradise, and sacred time in his weekly cycle, he gave him a constant reminder of what he had made him for.” The idea of sacred time is one of the most significant–and yet, one of the least understood and embraced–needs of our lives as creatures. The teaching of Scripture as to the usefulness and purpose of the Sabbath Day helps us better joyfully embrace our need for sacred time in our relationship with the Lord. Here are 7 things to remember when approaching this subject.

The Techniques of a Sexual Predator

Tim Challies shares an important quote from On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Children Abuse at Church by Deepak Reju.

The strangely competitive world of sci-fi writing workshops

But a workshop isn’t all fun and games. Receiving critiques can be painful, especially for writers who are insecure. People may lash out, attempting to tear down their toughest critics or perceived rivals, and the experience of writing on a deadline is too much for many students, some of whom burn out and never write again, though this too can provide a valuable lesson.

All Paths Lead to God

Kevin DeYoung:

All paths lead to God, but only one path will present you before God without fault and with great joy.

Pick a path, any path–it will take you to God. Trust me: you will stand before Him one day. You will meet your Maker. You will see the face of Christ.

There are many ways up the mountain, but only one will result in life instead of destruction.

Take away the foundation and lose everything

Inspiration-Bavinck

There are certain statements that are trigger warnings for me—at least, when I see them made by a Christian writer, speaker or pastor. References to 1 Corinthians’ famous “everything is permissible” statements (but only because I almost always see them used in the exact opposite way Paul meant them). Nearly any time someone says Jesus doesn’t judge, so we shouldn’t either (again, because, it’s used in almost the opposite way it’s meant in Scripture). And when someone calls the Bible something like a “different kind of center,” or a people group’s collective and growing understanding of God, or some other such thing… oh boy.

When those kinds of statements come up, I usually know where the author or speaker is going, and it’s always to a bad place. Why? Because they’ve lost their footing, having abandoned the foundation of the Bible’s authority: its nature as “God-breathed,” or inspired.

Herman Bavinck understood this all too well, living through the rise of late 19th and early 20th century liberalism. And he knew exactly where it would lead:

There is in fact only one ground on which the authority of Scripture can be based, and that is its inspiration. When that goes, also the authority of Scripture is gone and done with. In that case, it is merely a body of human writings, which as such cannot rightfully assert any claim to be a norm for our faith and conduct. And along with Scripture—for the Protestant—all authority in religion collapses. All subsequent attempts to recover some kind of authority—say, in the person of Christ, in the church, in religious experience, in the intellect or conscience—end in disappointment. They only prove that no religion can exist without authority. Religion is essentially different from science. It has a certainty of its own, not one that is based on insight but one that consists in faith and trust. And this religious faith and trust can rest only in God and in his word. In religion a human witness and human trust is insufficient; here we need a witness from God to which we can abandon ourselves in life and in death. “Our heart is restless until it rests in Thee, O Lord!” (Reformed Dogmatics vol. 1, 463)

This is something we’ve got to get. The arguments we’ve seen re-emerge over the last 20 years or so, the positions put forward by the likes of Brian McLaren, Rob Bell,1 and the like, are little more than the recycling of 19th century (and earlier) arguments by those who’ve attempted to revere the Bible in a sense, while undercutting the foundation of its reverence. We want to treat the Bible as having some sort of limited authority. And yet, unless we take seriously the foundation of its authority—that is, unless we truly embrace its inspired nature in its fullest sense—we’re only going to be disappointed. And worse, if we persist down this road, we’ll be lost in utter darkness.

Links I like (weekend edition)

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The five stages of hating your job

Downton Abbey — What Are Americans Really Watching?

Albert Mohler:

Americans by the millions are still tuning in to watch Downton Abbey — now in its fifth season — eager to enjoy the continuation of the saga of the Earl and Countess of Grantham and their household. According to press reports, 10.1 million Americans watched the first episode, apparently quite ready to be transported by drama into another place and time. This season, one looming issue is the arrival of a socialist government in London.

But, do Americans have any idea what they are really watching?

Stop trying to read the Bible in a year!

Joey Cochran:

Maybe it’s because I am weak. Maybe it’s because I’ve never successfully done it. For whatever reason, anytime people start talking up or talking about reading the Bible in a year, I get queasy, like when there is a strange odor in a room. My mind also immediately wanders to the Aesop fable of the tortoise and the hare.

Yes, I know reading the Bible in a year is ambitious. I know it is a huge accomplishment. I know that it’s a way to flex some sort of spiritual muscle and maybe even etch a new notch in your spiritual belt. Maybe it’s also supposed to be a bucket list item or something; it does seem awfully like running a marathon. Still, what is with our obsession to read the Bible in a year? I’ve just never understood it.

The 2015 March for Life in photos

This is really encouraging.

The Wizards of Oscillation

S.D. Kelly:

For those of you keeping score in the art-off between James Franco and Shia LaBeouf, Shia LaBeouf is winning. Lately it has been one triumph after another for Shia, from his stint as a performance artist last year to his co-starring role in the most recent Sia video, where he darted around a giant birdcage trying to escape the repeated attacks of either his id or superego or alter ego—I dunno, something Freudian—in the form of a twelve-year-old dancing girl in a white-blonde wig. If only Franco could have been in the birdcage match with Shia instead of tiny dancer Maddie Ziegler in the video, how great it would have been. It would be a tremendous cultural moment to see the two of them face off directly, John Woo-style (without having to wear each other’s actual faces of course, or shoot at each other with a gun in each hand—that’s just excessive by anyone’s standards).

3 Types of Fundamentalists and Evangelicals After 1956

Justin Taylor:

For an excellent analysis of mid-century fundamentalism up until the rise of the Religious Right (with special attention on the Baptist South), see Nathan Finn’s currently unpublished doctoral dissertation, “The Development of Baptist Fundamentalism in the South, 1940-1980.”

Finn shows that one common mistake in analyzing fundamentalism and evangelicalism is the assumption that they are simple, monolithic categories. In reality, there are subcultures within both, containing different visions and suspicions, even if united in some significant ways.

The unnoticed marks of godliness

I really enjoyed this.

5 books Christians should read on Church history

5 books

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it, as the old saying goes. And while you might want to roll your eyes, here’s the rub: it’s absolutely true. I’ve outlined my reasons for encouraging Christians to read church history in greater detail previously, but it bears repeating: if we do not know the issues the church faced in the past—particularly our conflicts and controversies over doctrine—we will absolutely fall prey to those errors once again.

Here are five books (plus a little something extra) I’d recommend every Christian read on Church history:

Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley

Now in its fourth edition, this is by far one of the most accessible and helpful overviews of the entire history of the Church—from the time of Christ right up to the turn of the 21st century—you’ll ever read. Without question, if you only read one book on this list, make sure it’s this one.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


Know the Heretics and Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin Holcomb

Although published individually, these two volumes should be read together. The first outlines 14 major turning points in church history—moments where, had a different decision been made, we would have lost the gospel altogether. The second looks at 13 creeds, confessions, and councils from across the spectrum of the Christian faith, with an emphasis on these still matter to us today and the impact they have on our faith. Both are absolutely essential reading for those taking their first steps into studying church history.

Buy Know the Heretics at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

Buy Know the Creeds and Councils at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon


Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe

This is a fairly gruesome book, which should be no surprise given its title. But this book is a recounting of the persecution faced by Protestants (and proto-Protestants) during the time leading up to the Reformation and beyond (it has subsequently been updated into the present day, with a somewhat broader focus). Although some—notably Catholics—have questioned Foxe’s work as a historian, this is still a volume worthy of consideration.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


2000 Years of Christ’s Power by Nick Needham

This is a tricky one because it’s actually the title on the list I’ve not read (yet). So why include it? Because it comes with highest of recommendations from many people I trust, including the pastors of my local church. This three (someday to be four) volume series is provides an overview of the major eras of the Christian faith: the Early Church Fathers, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance and Reformation.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


Bonus resource: Church History courses at Ligonier Connect. Ligonier has a number of interactive, video-based courses on church history taught by W. Robert Godfrey, Stephen Nichols, Michael Reeves, and R.C. Sproul. These are well worth checking out.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a whole bunch of great resources on sale, including:

  • Heroes of the Christian Faith teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • A Survey of Church History, Part 3: A.D. 1500-1620 teaching series by W. Robert Godfrey (DVD)
  • Mark by R.C. Sproul (ePub and MOBI)
  • Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching by various authors (ePub and MOBI)
  • The Promises of God by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)

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

And finally, be sure to check out this great deal on a new curriculum for middle schoolers at the Westminster Bookstore.

Jesus and Scripture

Andrew Wilson:

Post-evangelicals often present the options as (1) an infallible Bible and an infallible Church, or (2) a correctable Bible and a correctable Church. But if we were to present these options to Jesus or Paul or Moses – or Gregory, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Wesley, Spurgeon and the rest – I suspect they would splutter in astonishment and tell us about option (3): an infallible Bible, and a correctable Church. That, surely, is the way to preserve divine authority and human humility; a word from God that never fails, and people that frequently do.

Today I stopped being afraid of the social media mob

Really appreciated this piece by Matthew Paul Turner.

The Worst Ever (Mis)Quotation Of The Bible?

David Murray, continuing his series reading through Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now:

The more we read and study the Bible, the more painful it becomes when we hear a verse quoted out of context and even used to advocate for the exact opposite of the verse in its context.

In reading through Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now, this pain is fairly constant. But the worst context-ripping and heart-rending example is Osteen’s use of Colossians 3:2 in Part 1: Enlarge Your Vision.

7 ways handwriting can save your brain

This is really interesting (HT: Aaron Earls)

All I really want

Red Rubber Studios did a great job on this new music video for Deni Gauthier:

What to Do When We’re Prayerless

Jon Bloom:

If prayer is the native language of faith and we’re struggling with prayerlessness, then the first thing we need to do is look for a faith problem. There’s a faith breakdown somewhere and until we get that fixed, our problem will remain.

How do we fix this?

 

It’s getting real

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Yesterday was kind of a big deal on this education journey I’ve been on. I completed my registration for my first course at Covenant Seminary, and paid my tuition. My books have been purchased, and are sitting on my coffee table (see the list here). So, next week, I begin studying apologetics and outreach with Jerram Barrs.

I’ve gotta say, I’m incredibly nervous in some ways. I have no idea what it’s going to do to my schedule yet. A healthy work/life/ministry balance is not something I’m terribly familiar with. I’ve got a bit of anxiety about whether or not I’ll actually do well in the class. I’ve not been a student (formally) since 2002…

Making my tuition payment is a big part of what brought up all these jitters.

All of a sudden, it got real, y’know?

But beyond the jitters, I’m still excited. Yes, it’s getting real—but it’s also getting real (if you follow).

But one of the greatest stresses has been the financial side. When I went into this, I didn’t have a clue if I would be able to pay for it. I mean, we’ve definitely got our needs covered (and a number of our wants, too), but no one’s making it rain.1

And this is one of the things I’ve been most thankful for, which is to see how God has provided. He’s done it through regular people—both friends and strangers—giving to my YouCaring.com fundraiser, and well as providing some really cool opportunities that have allowed me to earn a little extra income. And because of that, I was able to pay for the tuition for my first course without incurring any debt.

There’s still a long way to go, obviously—and not just on the finances side—but I am very grateful and encouraged. Being able to start my first course in the black is wonderful gift from the Lord. And however the Lord provides, I’m more confident than ever that it was the right commitment to make. Thanks for helping make this first step possible!


Photo credit: the tartanpodcast via photopin cc

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

The top selling “Christian” titles of 2014

It’s deeply concerning when the majority of bestselling Christian titles aren’t Christian, isn’t it?

4 Reasons to Stop Obsessing About Heaven

Mike Wittmer:

It’s no accident that in our heaven-obsessed culture, nearly half of “born again” Christians don’t believe their bodies will rise again. How can such persons be saved? As Paul told the overly spiritual Corinthians, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Cor. 15:13–14). You can be more spiritual than God, who raised his Son from death. You can be so spiritual you’re no longer Christian.

Abortion bill dropped amid concerns of female GOP lawmakers

Oh dear.

How To Self-Promote Without Being Gross

Barnabas Piper:

My friend, Russ, and I were talking about it recently and his observation was spot on. It does feel gross to promote one’s own work. In today’s publishing and arts world, though, it is necessary. If you want to be read you have to promote your work (or have a great team of people to do it for you).

Self-promotion is such a big deal that it has become a cottage industry all its own. People have built entire consulting businesses and product lines around building “platform.” Platform is the magic word, the silver bullet, the Holy Grail for any writer (or artist of any kind). It is what gets you noticed, get’s you published, and sells your wares. If thought about rightly platform is a tool and a resource, but it has become the primary end for many instead of the means it ought to be. When this happens self-promotion truly “feels gross.”

Here are two rules to remember when promoting your own work to avoid the platform trap and that nasty feeling.

 5 Scientific Problems with Current Theories of Biological and Chemical Evolution

Justin Taylor shares five areas of science (as identified by the Discovery Institute) that pose serious problems for neo-Darwinianism.

Women’s Discipleship and the Mommy Blogosphere

Hannah Anderson:

What I’m beginning to realize is that church leaders may not be equally aware of its power. Two weeks ago, conservative uber-blogger Tim Challies asked readers why a piece he had written, “Why My Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers” went viral. He seemed surprised that it was his most shared post and was still garnering attention even months later.

All I could think was, “Welcome to the mommy blogosphere, Tim.”

Can we be politically disengaged as Christians?

politics

As a Canadian, I find American politics intriguing. The way Americans engage—regardless of their views—is astonishing, and somewhat refreshing. Every time I see it, I’m reminded of how different not only our governments are1 but also how different we are as people.

By and large, Canadians don’t care about politics the way Americans do, certainly not to the same extent at any rate. So the debate on, say, the most recent State of the Union address, would likely never happen here.

We are, for the most part, a politically apathetic people. And if we’re not careful, for our culturally-induced political apathy can quickly seep into our faith, as well.

But as Christians, this should never be. In fact, we should care deeply about politics.

By this, I don’t mean the old stereotype of marrying the Christian faith and political activism, seeking cultural transformation through legislation, as the Religious Right and Moral Majority have often been accused of. Instead, we need to think about politics Christianly–that is, in light of three realities: the source of government, our identity, and our obligation to society.

1. The source of government: God. God establishes all governments. He is their source, existing only at his good pleasure. They are his instruments, existing for our good, and requiring our prayers (even if their leaders’ values do not align with our own). Their laws are to be obeyed willingly and in good conscience insofar as they are not in conflict with the commands of God (see Romans 13:1-8; Acts 5:29).

2. Our identity: Ambassadors of Christ. In Christ, all Christians are citizens of the kingdom of God. Thus, our primary allegiance does not belong to an earthly nation but to the Lord Jesus. God has also determined the times and places in which we live. As such, we serve as ambassadors for Christ in those nations (2 Corinthians 5:20), with the local church functionally serving as embassies of the kingdom.

3. Our obligation: to point others to Jesus. As Christ’s ambassadors, God has charged us point the lost and perishing to Jesus Christ. We are ministers of reconciliation, through whom God makes his appeal. We are to be salt and light in the world, letting our deeds cause others to give God praise.

Seen in this light, how should we think about political engagement?

I would suggest that it is an extension of our role as Christ’s ambassadors, and of the command to love God and our neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). Thus, we cannot be “apolitical,” at least not in the way some may wish to be. While we are not all compelled to participate in the political process to the same degree, we all would be wise to participate. But to the degree to which we choose to participate, we have the opportunity to speak truth with conviction and compassion into situations where we might not otherwise.

We can show the lost the values of God’s kingdom in action, provided we stand by our convictions. And even when we “lose” temporally, we can be confident knowing that our loss is only temporary—and in doing so, we get to show that our hope for a better world comes not from politics, but from the promised return of Jesus, when he will usher in his kingdom in its fullness.

So, Christian, what do you think: should we care about politics?

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Am I supporting heresy?

Shaun Groves asks a very important question. Read this! (And if you’re wondering who “Ted” is, just Google one of the quotes.)

New book from Desiring God: Killjoys

Desiring God’s just released a new book on the seven deadly sins, Killjoys. Get the digital edition free or purchase a hardcopy at Amazon.

Top fonts of 2014

The recovering graphic designer in me found this fascinating.

How Should We Respond to Reports that a Fragment of Mark Dates to the First Century?

Justin Taylor:

How should we respond to something like this? I think it’s appropriate to be hopeful. As an evangelical, I believe the best historical evidence points to the New Testament gospels composed in the first century: Mark (mid- to late 50s), Matthew (50s or 60s), Luke (c.  58-60), John (mid- or late 80s or early 90s). If this discovery doesn’t pan out, it doesn’t effect my dating because the dating is not dependent upon the dating of manuscripts. If it does pan out—especially if it can be dated with confidence to the 80s—it would be a major discovery, because the oldest of anything is always noteworthy.

Why I Quit My Job

Chad Hall:

A huge myth is that people quit one job in order to earn more money elsewhere. While some people do that, they are in the minority. Most people choose to leave a job not because of profit, but because of purpose and people. Let’s define those terms.

An explanation of the covenants

This is an enjoyable video by the Bible Project (note: you probably won’t agree with some of the language used, but it’s nicely done nonetheless):

The Mingling of Souls

#Minglingofsouls

There are a dizzying number of marriage books available on the market—well over 150,000, in fact. And a few of them are even good.

Clearly, we have a lot to talk about. With so many titles available, one has to wonder: what else is there to say? Can an author write a book on marriage that genuinely adds something of value? Thankfully, the answer is yes. And Matt Chandler’s latest, The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption, is a great example. In its eight chapters, Chandler (assisted by Jared C. Wilson) offer readers biblical and helpful principles for love, marriage, and life together from the Song of Solomon.

Though it is not as thorough in developing a theology of marriage as Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage, and is more typical in its approach than Chan’s You and Me Forever, I was surprised by The Mingling of Souls for four reasons:

1. Chandler always—always—speaks well of his wife. You can tell a great deal about a man’s character by the way he speaks of his spouse. I’ve read so many books and articles on marriage where the (male) author paints himself as the victim, the faithful husband dealing with an unpleasant wife undeserving of his love. When he confesses sin in the marriage, it’s usually her sin he confesses.

Friends, that’s probably not the person we want to go to for marriage advice.

This is emphatically not Chandler’s approach. As I read the book, I was consistently impressed at how Chandler avoids putting himself in the position of the victim. He lays the problems in his marriage at his own feet, rather than at his wife’s. And even where he does bring up an example of something she did that was wrong, he doesn’t focus on her action, but on his own ungodly response.

“The first seven years of our marriage were very difficult,” he writes. “I remember one occasion in particular because it marked a real turn in our marriage. I had said some very cruel things to Lauren that day. I was frustrated; I was angry. I thought she was selfish and self-absorbed, and I told her so. I admit with shame that I wanted to wound her” (202)

I’ll never forget this: Lauren came around the corner… and grabbed me. Then she pulled me really close to her, and she began sobbing. She cried and cried as she held me. She said, “I don’t know what happened to you, but I’m not going anywhere.” … It broke me. It wounded me in the good way, in the right way. It startled me and helped me in a way I could never foresee or imagine.… and that’s when I said, “I’m going to get help.” (203)

It’s easy for so many of us to point outside ourselves and treat our spouses as the problem in our marriages. It’s easy to play the victim. But to show the ugly side of yourself, to say, I was wrong or the problem is me, takes a great deal of courage and a tremendous amount of humility.

2. Chandler spends more time on teaching us to fight fairly than on sex. The chapter on sex clocks in at 24 pages, where the next one on fighting fair is 33. So why spend so much time on the subject? Because we’re going to spend a lot more of our waking time disagreeing with one another in our marriages than we are going to in our bedrooms. Sorry for shattering the glass, there, newlyweds. And let’s be honest, most of us don’t know how to fight fairly. Most of us have never even seen a married couple fight well.

And this is why we need to pay careful attention to the principles of fighting fairly presented.1 We need to be sure we’re fighting fair—we’re not speaking rashly or shaming our spouses, bringing up baggage or using children as leverage. And most importantly, we should strive for reconciliation—genuine, heartfelt reconciliation—as quickly as possible. “I’m not naive about the nature of some conflict… But as much as you are able as soon as you are able, make an effort to take at least part of the responsibility for the conflict, no matter how small that part may be” (167-168).

3. Chandler writes as if the marriage bed is to be kept holy. Because, y’know, it is. Rather than following the now all-too-common approach to the Song of Solomon and treating it as a ham-fisted sex manual (there are no edicts issued about what you “should” do, you’ll be pleased to know, ladies), Chandler emphasizes the fact that sex is holy and should be treated as such. This, again, is extremely helpful because it redirects our attention.

Rather than asking what we can or cannot do, Chandler encourages us to consider what does or does not bring God the most glory. And when God’s glory is our focus, a lot of our “can we” questions, are left behind.

[Sex] is meant to remind us of the God who gave it to us, who takes joy in unison with his people. We don’t need to overspiritualize sex to see it this way; we just need to approach it the way the Bible ordained and be grateful for it. Seeing sex as holy will also help us love our spouses more greatly. (133-134)

4. Chandler doesn’t write as one who’s got it all figured out. This is probably the most important thing about the book: Chandler’s tone is not like that of many books written by his contemporaries. He’s not the expert saying, “my marriage is great,” or even “my marriage used to be terrible, but now it’s awesome so go and do likewise.” Instead, he writes as one just like the rest of us—a man whose marriage has ups and downs, who is guilty of sinning against his wife, who frequently needs to ask her forgiveness, and who leans on the grace of God to be a good husband. And this, perhaps even more than its good teaching, is what makes the book worth reading.

It’s tempting to take the easy path when writing about marriage, to only confess the “safe” sins. But to reveal serious sin, to continually point to yourself as the problem in conflict… This is fairly uncommon, even among Christian authors. Yet, it’s only when we do this that we really get to give thanks to God as we see how the gospel has been at work in the author’s life. For him to be able to say, “All the time, I find so much new sin in me of which I need to repent.… But I know that Go dis faithful and that he will get the glory” (197), and know that the author actually believes this to be true. That is what we need more of in our marriage books—and more importantly, in our marriages. And if there’s anything that makes The Mingling of Souls a valuable read, it’s this.


Title: The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption
Author: Matt Chandler (with Jared C. Wilson)
Publisher: David C. Cook (2015)

Buy it at: Amazon