My favorite articles to write in 2014

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Good writers will admit that it takes a lot of effort to write—not to simply to write well, but to write at all. It’s actually a lot easier to not. And very often, we writer types tend to be our own worst critics… but even so, there’s always something we’ve written we genuinely like.

Today, I want to share some of my favorites written in the last year. These are articles representing some of the work I’m most happy with from the past year, although not necessarily the most read (though some of them are).

I hope you’ll give them a read if you haven’t already:

The day ISIS got a little closer to home

We often fail to realize how closely connected we all are. We look at the world we live in—specifically our North American context—and assume the way we live is “normal.” The persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria is a powerful wake-up call for us, if for no other reason than it reminds us that persecution is actually normal for Christians. It’s not something we read about in our Bible and think, “Gosh, I’m glad things are so much better now.” For many believers in over 100 nations, that’s life: beatings, wrongful imprisonment, verbal abuse, and martyrdom.

Ministry Idolatry

This is actually an article that’s existed for several years, but a few months ago, I rewrote it from scratch. I like the new version a lot more:

If a friend falls, will we encourage people to pray for him and his family (which is right to do), as well as to pray for those he’s wronged (which is equally right and necessary, as Matt Redmond has reminded us)? This is hard in some ways, because it requires us to challenge the idol of our preconceived notions and also the idol of “credibility” (and the danger, again, as Redmond has pointed out, is when we fail to speak out about glaring abuses we actually lose that which we sought to keep).

7 signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher

Not too long ago, my wife was feeling a bit down, and a super-nice lady whose kids go to the same school as our daughter gave her some books to encourage her. Funnily enough, they all happened to be prosperity theology books (which has led to some entertaining and positive discussion around the house).

Every so often we all stumble into prosperity theology, usually unwittingly. While occasionally you’ll get a nugget of helpful truth (in the same way that you’ll find some helpful things in your average self-help book), there’s a lot of goofiness which can make for a fun night of “Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie.” So, how do you know if you’re reading a book written by a prosperity preacher? Here are seven signs.

If the gospel isn’t in it, should we be singing it?

So there’s a completely accurate report rumor going around that I’m pretty persnickety about music. Like, to the point that I have trouble singing most Sundays. This isn’t because there’s anything terrible with the music at our church—far from it, our church has a pretty robust music ministry (but thankfully no lasers or smoke machines)—it’s just I find myself thinking about the words we’re singing more often than not.

The reasons for this vary: sometimes it’s considering how those words line up with my own life at that moment. Other times, it’s contemplating whether or not the words are actually undeniably Christian, or if they’re just kind of feel-good gobbledygook.

Thankfully I am not alone in this.

How to talk when we talk about God

What kind of pronouns should we use when we talk about God?

We typically default to the masculine “He,” but should we?

Is there anything wrong with referring to God as “she”?

While the answer might seem obvious, it is worth considering. After all, as Christians, we want to speak of God in a way that is pleasing to Him. So, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering how to to talk when we talk about God.

160 of the most terrifying words I’ve ever read

The fact that we can so easily deceive ourselves about the state of our souls. That we can say the “right” words, have a good marriage, go to church regularly—that we can be the model “good” Christian—and only be kidding ourselves. That what we think of as fruit may not be fruit at all.

“But where is the Holy Ghost to be seen in their lives?” 

3 passages I want to preach (but have been afraid to)

By the way, this summer I got over my fear and preached two of these passages:

I’m going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret: preaching is really hard. It’s a task that can (or should) make even the most confident man a little weak in the knees. One of the things that’s always freaked me out has been trying to choose the right passage to preach… What if it’s the “wrong” message for the church, or what if I do injustice to the text? And let’s face it, some texts are significantly harder to teach than others.

Here’s a look at three books I want to preach, but have been afraid to.

Would Paul have used video? Here’s a better question…

The question of whether or not Paul would use video is an important one, but I wonder if it might also be the wrong one.

Would Paul use video to share the gospel? Probably, sure. But, more importantly, what would he use it for?

The preposterous inconsistency of secular sexual ethics

…who draws the line when it comes to sexual ethics in the postmodern secular worldview? Is it purely individual? Is it a constantly moving target? Is the line drawn, as in some views, based on how “good” the fruit appears to be? In the end, it comes down to all sexual preferences being all equally fine, unless they’re too icky or inconvenient for us.

Christian, don’t begrudgingly affirm God’s Word

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.

See what made the cut in years past:

My favorite articles to write in 2013

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few to start off your week:

The Unbreakable Laura Hillenbrand

This profile of Laura Hillenbrand is well worth reading.

Advice for a New Elder

Garrett Kell:

Our church recently recognized a brother named Mark to serve as an elder. To welcome him, I reached out to a few dozen friends who serve as elders at other churches and asked them to send me advice they would give to a new elder. Here’s the summary of what they would say to a young man who is stepping in as a new overseer.

What each country is known for

Mary’s radical declaration of consent

Karen Swallow Prior:

Last Christmas, placards proclaiming “God raped Mary” were posted around the property of a Youth for Christ chapter in Toronto, Canada. Likewise, an atheist web site claims of the biblical story, “There was no asking Mary ‘Hey, do you consent to this?’, she had no choice, god just knocked her up and told her afterwards.” Then there’s the Internet meme depicting an illustration of Mary emblazoned with the words, “You think you got it bad? God raped me.” Even some lighthearted half-believers—who concede the historicity of Mary, but not the supernatural circumstances around her son—theorize that she was raped, not by God, but by a Roman soldier, as portrayed in a 2002 BBC documentary.

However, whether one considers the scriptural account to be the inspired word of God or merely a literary text, understanding it properly requires an accurate reading of its actual words. Whether one interprets the story of Christ’s birth as literal or metaphorical (or both), a faithful reading, as is true of the reading of all texts, starts at the literal level. I am a Christian, the kind who believes in the literal virgin birth of Christ, as well as his literal death and bodily resurrection. But I’m far less offended as a Christian by unbelieving than I am as an English professor by misreading.

A dangerous passion for growth

Andrew Heard:

The most dangerous people in our Christian community are the leaders and evangelists who not only long to see growth but who also have the closest sympathy with the needs and concerns of the sinners we are seeking to reach. That is, the people who feel most keenly the needs of the unconverted sinner, who feel most keenly their pain and the difficulties caused by the churches that are meant to be attracting them: these are our most dangerous church members. Why? Because that sympathy for the sinner can very easily overpower any other concerns, such that they see almost every issue through the lens of what will make it easy or hard for the sinner to connect in to church life. And because they long to see these people won to Christ and part of his people, they will feel most keenly anything that might potentially make it hard for them—things like what we say, what we do. They will even see some biblical ideas and practices as concerning when it comes to reaching unbelievers.

Christmas Is the Greatest Mystery

David Mathis:

It is a glorious revelation, and it’s also a great mystery. This is the greatest mystery in all of history, how God himself became fully human without ceasing to be fully divine, that God, in all his God-ness, united himself with all man-ness. Church history has coined it “the hypostatic union,” the joining of two distinct natures in one undivided person (“hypostatic” is just a fancy word for “personal”). Jesus is fully God and fully man in one spectacular person.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Right now, Amazon’s got a whole pile of C.S. Lewis titles on sale:

Also on sale:

And during today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org, you’ll find a whole bunch of great options like:

  • Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation by Anthony Carter (hardcover)
  • The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God by Jonathan Edwards (ePub)
  • Luther and the Reformation teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (hardcover)
  • A Shattered Image teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

How to Use the Back of a Napkin to Prove to a Jehovah’s Witness That Jesus Is God

Justin Taylor shares this simple method from Greg Koukl. Solid gold.

Open borders, closed church?

Great story on the implications of renewed diplomatic and trade relations between the US and Cuba:

How will the spiritual climate change now? Possibly a lot. Although only Congress can fully lift the Cuban embargo, Obama’s actions will lift bans on most investment and travel between the nations—unleashing unprecedented economic opportunities for impoverished Cubans.

Marriage in Light of Forever

This interview with the Chans is well worth reading (as is their book on marriage that isn’t a book on marriage!).

The Sacred-Secular Divide Is Pure Fiction

Bethany Jenkins, quoting Martin Luther:

It is pure invention [fiction] that pope, bishops, priests, and monks are called the “spiritual estate” while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the “temporal estate.” This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimated by it, and for this reason: all Christians are truly of the “spiritual estate,” and there is no difference among them except that of office. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 that we are all one body, yet every member has its own work by which it serves the others. This is because we all have one baptism, one gospel, one faith, and are all Christians alike; for baptism, gospel, and faith alone make us spiritual and a Christian people.

Is Worry Always A Sin?

Josh Blount:

Is that all the Bible teaches on worry: just stop it? That’s a simple answer, but it doesn’t map well onto the complexities of life. If your spouse is seriously ill and you’re not concerned, or if your child’s salvation means no more to you than tomorrow’s weather forecast, something is wrong. Worry goes right along with compassion and genuine love. The same Paul who wrote “Do not be anxious” also said of he faced “the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). He loved his churches, and that love carried with it the pressure of anxiety for their welfare. And in Philippians, before he commands us not to be anxious, Paul commends Timothy because he is “genuinely concerned” for the welfare of the Philippians (Phil. 2:20), using the same word for concern/anxiety that he uses in 4:6. So which is it: a sin, or something commendable?

Links I like

Is it Okay for Me to Church Hop?

Tom Fuerst:

But at the heart of all this, I have the firm theological belief that there is no such thing as a lone Christian. Rather, Christians only exist in families (not all families are biological). And, to turn a cliché, it really does take a village to raise a Christian. Church hopping is like family hopping. It’s just a stupid idea.

The Disciple’s Napkin

Tim Brister:

Over the past couple months, I sought to evaluate disciple-making in my own life and church community. In particular, I wanted to focus on the biblically prescribed means of grace as the foundational disciplines for laying a framework of discipleship that cuts across every sphere of our lives. I don’t want it to be said by anyone, “I cannot make disciples because it is too complicated, too difficult, too demanding, etc.” No matter where you are in the journey as a follower of Jesus, I want it to be said by anyone, “I can do that. I can be a disciple who makes disciples of Jesus.”

An open letter to a porn-using dad

If I could tell you one thing, it would be this: Porn didn’t just affect your life; it affected everyone around you in ways I don’t think you can ever realize. It still affects me to this day as I realize the hold that it has on our society. I dread the day when I have to talk with my sweet little boy about pornography and its far-reaching greedy hands. When I tell him about how pornography, like most sins, affects far more than just us.

Is it ridiculous to believe in a literal Adam and Eve?

This is really good.

10 Marks Of True Conversion

David Murray:

Shona and I have tried various strategies over the years to make sure that we are regularly discussing the Bible together, fellowshipping in the living Word. One thing we hadn’t tried, until recently, was for both of us to be reading the same book in our private devotional reading so that we can discuss the same passage when we get together. It also keeps us accountable knowing that she is going to be asking me what I thought about such and such a verse, and vice versa.

“I am profoundly grateful to God that He

“I am profoundly grateful to God that He did not grant me certain things for which I asked, and that He shut certain doors in my face.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount


Photo credit: gothick_matt via photopin cc. Designed with Canva.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And over at Westminster Bookstore, Joe Rigney’s new book, The Things of Earth, is on sale for $12 each or $8 when buying three or more copies.

How to Ruin a Moses Movie

Joe Carter:

In the future, this movie should be taught in film schools to show all the ways a movie based on a Bible story can go wrong. Here are a few of the lessons Scott’s film can teach future generations of filmmakers about how to ruin a movie about Moses.

Cultural References I Can’t Use In Sermons Anymore

Mike Leake:

I’ve been preaching to teenagers for about twelve years now. When I first started I was barely older than they were. In those good old days I could make a reference to something from my childhood and the kids would track with me. Now I just get blank stares when I try to use some of these.

Should Christians listen to the Serial podcast?

Russell Moore and Dan Darling discuss.

Jane Austen, Tim Keller, and the Happiness of Holiness

Derek Rishmawy:

After many long, inexcusable years, I finally sat down to read a Jane Austen novel; Pride and Prejudice, to be exact. I suppose I had avoided them in my youth because they were the type of thing my sister–a girl, mind you–read. Also, I’d been subjected to the film Sense and Sensibility as a young boy and I’m still not sure what effect that’s had on my disposition ever since. In any case, inspired by my English acquaintances and a sense of nostalgia for literature, I picked up the copy off the shelf last week and got to work.

Faithful Gardening

Travis Allen:

Though today there’s widespread disillusionment with the fields of weeds, many continue to engage in pragmatism. It’s distorting the gospel as it’s contextualized to other cultures and subcultures. And it’s turning the Sunday worship service into a staged event, with all the requisite accoutrements—rock band, “attractional” preaching, and support groups.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new Kindle deals for you:

Through the Eyes of Spurgeon

here’s the trailer for the documentary I wrote along with director/producer Stephen McCaskell (also one of the hardest working people I know) this year:

The Dumbest Thing I Ever Said

Erik Raymond:

What is the dumbest thing you have ever said? You probably don’t want to repeat it. Since, I think it is edifying, I’ll reset my moment. I was a new Christian and was talking to my wife one Sunday afternoon when I dropped this gem on her: “Christianity is so easy. I don’t see what the big deal is.” But, I wasn’t finished– “I read my Bible, pray and talk to people about Jesus. Then, we go to church on Sunday and hear someone preach. What is so hard about it?”

A Time to Speak

The Gospel Coalition is committed to God’s multi-ethnic vision for the church. We are aiming to do a number of things during the next several months to bring this important conversation to the forefront. On Tuesday, we are grateful to sponsor this week’s “A Time to Speak” event live-streamed from the historic Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Several of our Council members and other contributors will be participating, including Darrin Patrick, John Piper, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Voddie Baucham. We hope you’ll tune in on Tuesday, December 16, from 4 to 6 p.m. CST at live.kainos.is.

Moroni From the Realms of Glory

Tim Challies:

You’ve got to be careful what you share online. Over the weekend Facebook and Twitter were suddenly inundated with links to a new recording of the Christmas hymn “Angels From the Realms of Glory” mashed up with “Angels We Have Heard on High.” It was recorded by The Piano Guys and features David Archuleta, a one-time runner up on American Idol. It is a creative recording that intersperses shots of the musicians with video taken to record the world’s largest nativity scene. The song is beautifully sung and the music is rich; it is no surprise that it quickly gained over one million views. Well and good, right? Well, except for one thing: It’s purpose is to separate you from Jesus Christ.

The Christmas Story Is All Wrong

Aaron Earls:

The nativity scenes in our homes and churches have the figures neatly arranged around a quiet child wrapped in a clean blanket placed in a quaint manager in a Pinterest-worthy stable.

But if we allow ourselves to look past the sterilized sheen of those ceramic or plastic nativity sets, we know that wasn’t really the case.

Think of all the things that are “wrong” with the biblical Christmas story.

When God Speaks, We Should Trust

Jacob Abshire:

Mary must have had her back to the angel when he spoke because it was his greeting that troubled her, not his appearance. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” This was not your typical “hello”!

Describing her as “favored one” was pretty significant. It didn’t imply that she had or did anything in particular to warrant God’s goodness. Rather, it implied that God, out of His goodness, wanted her to be favored. He intended to make her the mother of our Lord. Now that is significant!

Links I like

The Role of Singing in the Life of the Church

Rob Smith:

Christianity is a singing faith. It’s one of the chief things followers of Jesus are renowned for, both down through the ages and now all around the world. While the proportion of singing has varied from time to time and from place to place, most churches today devote about a third of their gathering time to congregational singing and invest a considerable amount of time, money, effort, and energy into the musical side of church life.

But why do we sing? What does our singing accomplish? What purposes does it fulfill? According to Scripture, God has both created and called us to sing for three principle reasons: to help us praise, to help us pray, and to help us proclaim. Let’s look at each of these reasons in turn.

90 facts about the 90s

An (Anti) Guide to Writing

Amber Van Schooneveld:

We act as if “writer” is an exclusive club and only a select few may proudly wear that badge. But talent can be found in the most aggravating places. I often encounter people who, upon hearing I am a writer, tell me that they want to write a book someday. That’s great. Writing books has always been one of my life goals too. But further into the conversation, I find that the last time they wrote was 10th grade.

It can be annoying when people bandy about your dreams so easily, like if I went up to an engineer and said I hoped to build a bridge someday, though I have no intention of devoting any time to the study of bridges. But the aggravating thing is that people who never write can, and in fact sometimes do, sit down and write something brilliant. Writing is not an exclusive talent and some (the best, in my opinion), do it naturally with no study. Writing is not an exclusive club, as much as some of us would like to make it.

The End of the World As We Know It

R.C. Sproul Jr:

I have long argued that Genesis 3 sets the stage for our lives, the Bible, and all of history. We live in a context of battle, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. I have argued in turn that that over-arching battle will be determined based on two other battles. First there is the battle inside the seed of the woman, between our new man and our old man. The more sanctified we become, the better things will go in the great battle. The other battle is within the seed of the serpent. There the battle is between the remnants of the image of God and their own fallen nature.

While it is Still Called Today

Lore Ferguson:

In the morning, when the sky is still blushed pink and the babes have just scattered to their lives, I sit in the corner chair and read, drink my coffee slowly and breathe. All of this month it has been the book of Isaiah and I can’t stop the tears when they come. The promise is overwhelming and I wonder what it was like to be the people who dwelt in darkness, deep darkness, waiting for their light to come.

The Church on the Fringes

Jonathan Parnell:

This vision for gospel witness goes deeper than a few “decisions” made or baptisms recorded. Paul’s ambition for the gospel’s advance is mature disciples of Jesus — disciples warned and taught and made wise in the knowledge of God. Any church’s mission that doesn’t include this is, bluntly, sub-Christian. Put more bluntly, any church’s mission that doesn’t dream of making mature disciples of Jesus actually defies the gospel itself. Jesus died to make new creaturesto make a new world. Any discipleship vision that has standards lower than this is short-circuiting the gospel’s power, and therefore, the power of God (Romans 1:16).

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

In case you missed them, here’s a look at this week’s Kindle deals:

Don’t Hide Behind “The Gospel”

Barnabas Piper:

The gospel is only a solution when it drives us to do, only when what we believe about the free grace of God in Jesus makes us move. Only when we can make the connection between the gospel and the centuries of racial inequality in the United States, the lasting impact on our government and social structures, and the insidious and subtle effects on our own minds and hearts is it a solution. (If you do not acknowledge racial inequality historically, societally, and governmentally please keep reading. The gospel applies to my view and yours; we both need it.)

Sinners Are Also Sufferers

Kevin DeYoung:

It is always true: we have sinned against God more than anyone has sinned against us. Which means our suffering does not excuse our sinning.

And yet, it is also true that every sinner is in some way, often in profound ways, a great sufferer.

7 Things I Wish My Pastor Knew About My Homosexuality

Jean Lloyd:

As a Christian, the conflict between my sexuality and my faith would become the deepest and most intense of my life. Now in my forties, I’ve gone from being closeted to openly lesbian to celibate to heterosexually married. The fact that I need to qualify my marital union as a heterosexual one reveals how much the cultural landscape has changed in that time—just as much as my own personal landscape has, though in very different ways.

Is Russell Moore a “Social Liberal”?

In which Samuel Jones nails it.

The mandate for Christian ministry

Great stuff from Albert Mohler:

Links I like

$5 Friday at Ligonier

Today’s $5 Friday deals at Ligonier include:

  • Suffering and the Sovereignty of God teaching series by R.C. Sproul Jr (DVD)
  • In Christ Alone and By Faith Alone, both by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)
  • Think Like a Christian teaching series by R.C. Sproul (CD)

$5 Friday ends tonight at midnight.

Also, if you’re in need of a new Bible, be sure to take advantage of Westminster Bookstore’s big sale—50 percent off ESV Bibles until January 5th.

Losing Loved Ones and Having Regrets

Nick Batzig:

My mom had a sudden and massive heart attack last week. I never got to say goodbye. I never had the chance to tell her I loved her and to ask her to forgive me for all the times that I didn’t love her as I ought to have loved her. It was an extremely painful experience. Yet, in the face of extreme sorrow, the Lord graciously filled my mind with thoughts of eternity that I’ve never had before. One of those thoughts came on the ride to the cemetery. With anguish of heart, my Dad said, “I didn’t always love your Mom they way I should have. I know that I won’t be married to Mom in heaven, but I will love her perfectly for all eternity.” This, in turn, awakened thoughts in me that I’ve never had before. One of those thoughts was that Christ has purchased for believers, not only forgiveness of sins and a perfect righteousness but also the prospect of loving other believers perfectly in glory for all of eternity.

Gaiman reads Jabberwocky

I enjoyed this:

The Truest Kind Of Rest

Darryl Dash:

It turns out the rest is something much better than an extended nap in a hammock. George Guthrie speaks of this rest being we experience both now — today! — and later. It’s the end of entering striving based on our own works. The type of rest he’s talking about is resting in relationship with God because of what Christ has done for us. It isn’t inactivity; it’s all of life (including the things we do) from a foundation of security in what we have, and in what can’t be taken away.

This means we have freedom and permission to rest and worship no matter what is going on in our lives. It isn’t a legalistic obligation; it’s a gift that only has to be received.

 

When God Doesn’t Zap Away Our Sin

Tim Challies:

God gives that grace, but for some reason—his good reasons—it rarely comes in the form we would prefer. God gives it not in the form we want but in the form we need. We want God to zap away our sin, to instantly and permanently remove it. Those desires, those addictions, those idolatries—we want them to be lifted and to be gone that very moment.

The Greatest Need Of Young Mothers Is…

David Murray:

I am absolutely convinced that one of the greatest needs in the church these days is for older women to help young mothers get some time on their own without their kids.

I’m not talking about older women mentoring younger women. What most young mothers need is not more teaching and nagging to do better, but simply to be “delivered” from their homes and children for a couple of hours a couple of times a week.

How The Internet Brings Our Brokenness into Sharp Relief

Jason Morehead:

Technology can have a powerfully disruptive effect on authority structures. With its decentralized nature, the Internet, for example, makes it possible to disseminate damning information in ways that are impossible to find and stamp out, as numerous government officials both here and abroad discovered after the Edward Snowden leaks. This disruptive effect is not inherently evil. Indeed, it can be used for much good, such as highlighting government and corporate corruption. It can also make it possible to work more efficiently and effectively, revealing the shortcomings of whatever systems came before. But this disruptive effect can also give license to selfishness, greed, and egotism. Which brings us to Uber.

Links I like

Bob Jones University apologizes for failing sexual abuse victims

“On behalf of Bob Jones University, I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding, and support after suffering sexual abuse or assault,” said president Steve Pettit, addressing students and faculty earlier today. “We did not live up to their expectations. We failed to uphold and honor our own core values. We are deeply saddened to hear that we added to their pain and suffering.”

Look for the full report to be available for download at netgrace.org this morning at 11 am.

Inside Christian publishing

This is a really good interview between Dave Harvey and Justin Taylor.

The Danger of “Prove It!”

JD Payne:

Two phrases are commonplace that hinder the mission. One is often assigned to church members; the other one seems to attach itself to church leaders. In theory, they appear to be different.  In reality, both are the same.

This member says, “We’ve never done it that way before.”

That leader states, “We’ll do it that way if you can prove that it works.”

Both are tragic statements. They reflect a deeper state of unwillingness to move in new directions–sometimes even if the Spirit is leading.

The 10 Commandments of Christmas Eve Church Services

Chris Martin nails it.

The Benefits of Sitting Under Expository Preaching

Eric Davis:

Now and then, it’s good to stop and bask in the kindness of God with respect to what we have been given in the Bible. It is the word of God. God has spoken. God has spoken. And it’s all here in Holy Scripture. Not one word missing. Not one word misspoken. Not one word mistaken. Incredible.… The only thing that makes sense, then, is to preach Scripture in a way that seeks to stay surrendered to the biblical text so that the message is discernibly directed by the authorial intent of the particular passage. That is expository preaching. And because God’s word is so valuable, expository preaching imparts blessing in many ways.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Adam Ford does a nice job with this one.

Will We Have Peace This Christmas?

Chris Hefner:

We are not the first generation to experience despair due to war and racial tension. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of America’s premier poets, lived through our nation’s Civil War. Henry’s son, Charley, fought in the Union Army. The war raged for four long years over the issues of slavery, state’s rights, and national unity. In November 1863, Charley was badly wounded in battle. Passionate feelings about the war welled up as Henry nursed his son back to health. On December 25, 1863, Henry expressed his thoughts as he penned the words to the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

Links I like

Confessions Of A Hardcore Homeschooler

Stephen Altrogge:

I used to think homeschooling was the way to do school. You know, the divinely designed method of schooling. And although I wouldn’t quite come out and say it, I kinda looked down on parents who didn’t homeschool. Why? Because I was a self-righteous idiot who drank a lot of his own awesome sauce.

Then I made a few discoveries that changed my mind regarding the issue of schooling.

Who Was St. Nicholas?

Kevin DeYoung:

Why was Nicholas so famous?  Well, it’s impossible to tell fact from fiction, but this is some of the legend of St. Nicholas:

He was reputed to be a wonder-worker who brought children back to life, destroyed pagan temples, saved sailors from death at sea, and as an infant nursed only two days a week and fasted the other five days.

Moving from probable legend to possible history, Nicholas was honored for enduring persecution. It is said that he was imprisoned during the Empire wide persecution under Diocletian and Maximian. Upon his release and return, the people flocked around him “Nicholas! Confessor! Saint Nicholas has come home!”

10 Historical Myths About World Christianity

Brian Stanley:

As followers of Christ and adherents of the Bible, Christians are called to be a people of the truth. Thus, it is crucial that we seek to understand our tradition as accurately as possible. So consider these top ten historical myths about world Christianity.

The high cost of jargon in fundraising

As someone who works in fundraising, this is helpful.

Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos

Yep.

Why the Church Should Overthrow Nostalgia’s Reign

Aaron Earls:

Whatever it is you enjoyed as a child, be it book or board game, television show or toy, someone is looking to tap into those memories and entice you to enjoy it again.

While Revelation records Jesus as saying He makes all things new, Hollywood is saying it makes old things new. In the world of entertainment, nostalgia is king. That’s especially true this time of the year.

Church As the True Local

Jonathan Parnell:

The mission of God is a mission through his people, the church, who communicate his wonders by advancing his gospel. This community of “little Christs” who advance his gospel, as we’ve seen, do so as the on-the-ground expression of Jesus’s supremacy. And the scope of this advance, with all its historical freight, happens in both distance and depth.

 

 

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

And although it’s not an eBook, the ESV Reader’s Bible is a steal at $14.99.

Imagine if this happened while you were waiting for your plane…

This is amazing:

8 Suggestions for Applying the Gospel in Light of Brown, Grant, Gurley, Rice and Others

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Yesterday following the morning service a dear and faithful brother approached me at the door. In his customarily intense way, he looked me in the eyes and thanked me for the sermon. He expressed his appreciation for how the gospel was present throughout the exposition. Then he moved from appreciation to loving critique. Not about the sermon, but about my posts on Ferguson-related themes. He asked if I thought the gospel should run throughout Christian comments and responses to Ferguson.… When I told my wife about the conversation she looked at me with that “I’ve been telling you that” look. So, here goes. An attempt to apply the gospel in actionable ways to these Ferguson—Staten Island—Cleveland—New York kinda times we’re in.

 Love among the Pixels: Fidelity and Romance in the Digital Age

Hannah Anderson:

For all the obvious pitfalls, it seems that love and fidelity in the digital age may have a new snag: backburner relationships. Unfortunately, our friend is not alone. Facebook is increasingly cited in divorce proceedings while texts and e-mails document cyber trails of indiscretion. The reality is so prevalent that there are even apps that allow you to monitor your partner’s online behavior. But for all the obvious pitfalls, it seems that love and fidelity in the digital age may have a new snag: backburner relationships.

How Not to Preach Matthew’s Birth Narratives at Christmas

Eric McKiddie:

It may seem to be impossible to misinterpret the birth narratives in our advent sermons. What could be easier to preach at Christmas than the birth of Jesus? What could be harder to misread than these plain, simple stories of Jesus coming into the world?

But when we turn off our interpretational radar, we are likely to crash and burn.

Unfortunately, pastors often substitute secondary applications for the primary interpretation in their Christmas sermons. We sideline the main purpose for these stories – to teach about Jesus – and focus on the incidental actions of the characters instead.

How does that happen? Let’s look at Matthew’s birth narratives and see.

How to make a hit Christmas song

It hurts (but it’s also true):

HT: Mike

Links I like

We Don’t Need a Mrs. Jesus

Maureen Farrell Garcia:

This reoccurring divine family motif of a less-than-God Jesus and a more-than-human Mary can frustrate Christians who know that it’s false. Still, when these kinds of theories come up—often around Christmas and Easter—they get people who don’t normally engage in conversations about Jesus talking about him, what the Scriptures say, and what history reveals. In the wake of sensationalized books, Christians have an opportunity to take advantage of the interest in Jesus.

There is no language instinct

This is a very interesting article.

How Should We Respond To Internet Trolls?

Good thoughts in this interview with Barnabas Piper.

Should We Take up an Offering during the Worship Service?

R.C. Sproul, Jr:

I have these suspicions in part because of how I hear some churches explain their reasoning for removing the giving of tithes and offerings from their liturgy. We’re told they don’t want the unbelievers in the meeting to feel uncomfortable or pressured, and they don’t want them believing we care too much about money. But, they reason, the necessary chore of meeting the financial needs of the church can be met by a collection box near the narthex, or even direct deposit from members’ checking accounts.

I honestly have no strong quarrel with differing views of how tithes and offerings are collected. Nor am I particularly concerned with the practical side, wanting to make sure the church has the money it needs. Instead, I fear what we lose when we remove this aspect of worship from our liturgies.

The Quickest Way to Get Home

Lore Ferguson:

The past five months, since the signing of the lease, I have been begging God for a reason to leave. The list is long and the opportunities many, but the longer the list grew, the more my love for here grew. I told a friend yesterday that I thought it was sweet of God to give me that love as a going-away present. “You’re terrible at putting things where they belong,” she said while laughing at me. What if that love is God’s call to stay?

November’s top ten articles at Blogging Theologically

top-ten

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

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Write More Better: a new eBook on writing well (November 2014)
  3. Seven books Christian women should read (November 2014)
  4. Five books to read near Christmas
  5. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  6. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011/rewritten in September 2014)
  7. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)
  8. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  9. 7 signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher (January 2014)
  10. My five favorite podcasts (November 2014)

And just for fun, here’s a look at the next ten:

  1. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  2. Choosing a New Preaching Bible (November 2011)
  3. Black Friday + Cyber Monday deals for the Christian guy and gal (November 2014)
  4. A look at Logos 6 (October 2014)
  5. 160 of the most terrifying words I’ve ever read (May 2014)
  6. My blogging toolkit (November 2014)
  7. Why I Believe Amillennialism by Matthew Svoboda (July 2010)
  8. Why don’t they report it? (November 2014)
  9. 5 books on a subject you’re probably scared to look at (April 2013)
  10. Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament? (June 2011)

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.