Links I like

Is Church Membership Really Required?

Ricky Jones:

Leaving the church is not simply leaving a club. When you walk away, you dismember yourself from the body. Jesus and the rest of the body sorely miss you, and bleed after your departure. You cut yourself off from your only source of life and nourishment. Like an amputated hand, you will slowly bleed out, wither, and die.

The Keeper of the Peace

Lore Ferguson:

There are all sorts of opportunities to doubt God’s faithfulness and His sustaining goodness to us. Financial difficulties, marriage or roommate difficulties, church difficulties—everywhere we look in life we can see reasons the world would give us for not trusting God in the midst of difficult circumstances or fearful endeavors.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Preachers

Thom Rainer:

I sometimes listen to preachers with amazement, if not awe. So many of them are incredibly effective in communicating God’s Word, so much more effective than I ever was or will be. I certainly understand that assessing effectiveness is a very subjective assignment. But, simply put, a number of preachers I have observed are incredible in explaining and applying the Word. As a consequence, God changes lives and saves people.

The best I can do is to be a student of these preachers, and to share with you seven key habits I have observed in most of them. I regularly ask these preachers about the way they go about preparing, preaching, and evaluating their messages. My list is fallible, but I do hope it’s helpful.

How Well Should Pastors Be Paid?

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Before we can answer how well pastors should be paid we first have to establish that they should be paid. The Bible is clear enough on this—see I Timothy 5:17-18 and I Corinthians 9:9-14. Having established that they ought to be paid we have already moved away from the pseudo-gnostic notion that there is something inherently sketchy about it. That is, if we are inclined to think they ought to be paid nothing, we will likely find any payment gross and obscene. Such is envy badly disguised as piety.

God Is “I Am.” You Are Not.

Barnabas Piper:

“That’s just who I am.” We’ve all heard people say it and very likely said it ourselves. It’s that ubiquitous explanation (read: excuse) for an action or attitude that strikes someone else oddly or even offends them. Sometimes it’s innocent, like when we’re explaining our accent, clothing choices, or cultural peculiarities (hugging, being loud, talking fast, hurrying, running late, etc.). More often, though, we say it to justify ourselves when we are offensive or hurtful. We brush away our missteps by blaming them on our own identity. “I can’t help it if you’re hurt by that; it’s just the way I am.”

“That’s just the way I am.” “That’s not me.” Well, that’s just arrogant.

Links I like

5 Strategies for Ministering in a Cretan Context

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Recently I read through Titus in my morning meetings with the Lord. As we met together, the Lord gave me fresh appreciation for the letter. Perhaps it’s owing to our upcoming move to DC to plant a church in what some think is a tough community. But as I read the letter, I saw more clearly the Cretan context into which the Lord sent Titus. It’s a context in which many Christians around the world labor, and a context many other Christians needlessly avoid.

The True North Luncheon @ T4G

This is something my fellow Canucks will want to attend in Louisville.

Found: God’s Will—Free for the Kindle

John MacArthur’s book is still one of the best on the subject. This deal ends today, so get it now.

And in case you missed them earlier in the week, be sure to check out these Kindle deals:

The Danger of ‘What This Really Means’

Derek Rishmawy:

When we are constantly straining to “see through” the arguments of our neighbors, we run the risk of never actually seeing them. If we’re constantly tuning our ears to the background hum of power-plays and manipulation, we’ll soon find we’re deaf to anything else. If we’re only ever listening to unmask, we’re never actually listening to understand.

How, then, can we have anything like meaningful dialogue?

Division Begins with Departure

Jared Wilson:

Christians who affirm the normative, traditional, historical, orthodox view of the Bible’s teaching on various sins are always accused of being divisive when in sticking to their affirmations they must disassociate with those who don’t.

It’s a disingenuous claim, however, since unity could have been preserved so long as the agreement did. But when one changes a mind on such matters the division has begun with them (1 Corinthians 1:10), not the one who says, “Ah, you’ve changed the rules; you’ve changed the agreement.” It would be like the adulterer calling after his wife as she’s walking out the door in anger and shame that she’s being divisive.

Get Abortion in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the hardcover edition of Abortion by R.C. Sproul for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Acts by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • A Survey of Church History (vol 2) teaching series by W. Robert Godfrey (audio & video download)
  • Believing God by R.C. Sproul Jr. (ePub)

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

Links I like

How it’s all going to end

Sam Storms (it’s an oldie, but a goodie):

This work of the Spirit in restraining human sin is called “grace” because no one deserves it. That God inhibits their sin is an expression of mercy to those who deserve judgment. It is called “common” because it is universal. Both saved and unsaved, regenerate and unregenerate, are the recipients of this divine favor. It is not restricted to any one group of people and it does not necessarily lead to salvation.

When the Bible Is Hard to Understand

John Knight:

Like most of you, I’m just a guy in the pews. I have no formal theological education. I can’t read Greek or Hebrew. I have a full life with my family, my job, my church, and several other activities scattered within. But I wasn’t content to end with whatever I “thought” the passage meant. I wanted to understand what God meant by these hard texts and therefore, I pulled out study Bibles and commentaries and looked over sermons preached by my pastor and other trusted expositors.

Why you should never self-diagnose using the Internet

HT: 22 words (via Z)

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah

Greg Thornbury:

Only with the juxtaposition against radical depravity can mercy actually make sense. Failing this understanding, you cannot sustain Christian theism. Otherwise, mercy becomes weak, expected, and even demanded. Seeing Russell Crowe-as-Noah grit his teeth and war against real flesh-and-blood evil makes sin, a notion seemingly incredible to Hollywood, to be real. As a viewer, locked into the gaze of the film, you’re thinking, I’m with God, and this Noah guy. It makes the redemption and mercy theme of the film compelling, even if Aronofsky takes a slightly perverse (and admittedly extra-biblical) route to make the point. We grew up in a world that makes Noah nice. Noah is not nice.

4 Reasons I Still Prefer Books Over eBooks and A Note to Blogger Review Programs

Mike Leake:

Using my Kindle on my iPad is growing on me, I must confess. I’m reading more and more books that way. But I’m finding that these are mostly books that I read for sheer entertainment value. If I really want to chew on a book then reading it in electronic format is pretty much useless.

Today I am sharing four reasons why I still prefer actual hold-in-my-hand-and- smell-the-pages books over their computerized version. I also will add a note to publishers and blogger review programs.

Links I like

If All Religions Are True, Then God Is Cruel

Paul Rezkalla:

“All roads lead to the same destination.”

While I can understand the sentiment of inclusivity, this idea pictures an evil God. Religious pluralists often reject exclusivist positions for positing a cruel God who only made one way to reach him. But if all religions are true, then God is cruel. And not just cruel—God is an incompetent, cosmic child-abuser. If religious pluralism is true, then God is the father in the second scenario. He saw the train coming, yet he decided to pull the first lever and kill his son, rather than pull the second lever.

I Lost My Dad in a Plane Crash, Too

Grant Castleberry:

Perhaps one of the most difficult things the grievers face is the lack of a body. An airplane crash makes it even more dramatic, too, since the loved one is seen by friends and family one moment only to take off on a plane the next and never be seen again. A body provides closure. A vast ocean with fathomless depths fills the mind with ungraspable questions. Did my loved one suffer? Was it traumatic? Did they have time for any last thoughts? Did they survive the crash only to die in the open ocean? Is their body sitting in the plane at the bottom of the ocean? Or is it floating on the surface? Then there are the deeper questions. Why did this happen to them? What if they’d taken an earlier or later flight? If only. The “what if” scenarios can play out in your mind forever.

Books at a Glance

This looks like a pretty neat new service, spearheaded by Fred Zaspel.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Yesterday I shared a bunch of great Kindle deals. Here are a few more:

I Want To Be The Biblical Version of Joel Osteen

Stephen Altrogge:

Because life is so hard and exhausting, every day is a battle. Every day I must fight to believe in the goodness and kindess of God. Everyday I must fight to believe that God is working all things for my good and his glory. Every day I must fight to believe that I serve a God who turns mourning into dancing. What I, and everyone else, desperately need every day, is encouragement. I need fresh hope, fresh faith, fresh strength.

There are enough critics, watch bloggers, angry prophets, protesters, and trolls in the church and in the world. We need more encouragers. We need more people like Barnabas.

Westminster book sale

Westminster Bookstore has a number of terrific books on sale to help Christians

A Common Grace Defense of Disgust

Joe Carter:

Unfortunately, Christians have helped contribute to this callous disregard by undermining the role of disgust in helping to recognize and restrain sinful behavior. While we should never be disgusted by people there a broad range of human behaviors that we should find inherently disgusting. Yet while disgust was once considered a guide (albeit a fallible one) to God’s natural law, we now chastise Christians for even implying that any sinful behavior can be disgusting.

Links I like

What Do You Want People To Say At Your Funeral?

Mark Altrogge:

What will your children say? What will your wife say? Will people say things like, she was a great Mom. He was a wonderful husband – he really took good care of his wife in her last years. She was the most humble woman I know. He was the best brother in the world. He always put others first. My mom always had time to listen to us. Dad did so much with us when we were kids. She was my best friend. He was always serving someone. She never thought of herself.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

How to Beat that Bad Mood

Tim Challies:

Some people say that when you’re grumpy you ought to meditate. They’re exactly right, except that instead of that Eastern mind-emptying meditation, you need that Christian mind-filling meditation, where you deliberately fill your mind with the truth of the gospel.

Grieving For the Children

Trevin Wax:

World Vision has announced that its American branch will adjust its employee code of conduct to allow same-sex couples who are legally “married.”

Hoping to keep the evangelical organization out of debates over same-sex marriage, president Richard Stearns adjusted the employee code of conduct to sexuality within the confines of “marriage” whether between man and man or woman and woman. In other words, while declaring to not take a position on redefining marriage, his organization has redefined it.

Some observers are elated.

Evangelicals are shocked.

Many are outraged.

Marty Duren also shares a wise word on this subject here.

John Wesley’s Failed Marriage

Nathan Busenitz:

John Wesley’s failed marriage stands as a sober warning to any would-be pastor or elder. For those tempted to confuse their God-given priorities, Wesley’s negative example in this area ought to be a powerful wake-up call. God’s Word sets the standard high for those who would lead in the church; and those qualifications include an elder’s home-life.

Links I like

Fred Phelps and the Anti-Gospel of Hate

Albert Mohler:

Fred Phelps became infamous due to one central fact — he was a world-class hater. He brought great discredit to the Gospel of Christ because his message was undiluted hatred packaged as the beliefs of a church. Even Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center referred to Westboro Baptist Church as “this so-called church.” The damage was due to the fact that his platform for hatred was called a church. That provided the watching and listening world with a ready target and case study for the accusation that Christian conviction on questions of sexual morality is nothing more than disguised hatred for homosexuals. And, like radioactivity, Fred Phelps’ hatred will survive in lasting half-lives of animus.

Flee youthful passions

Ray Ortlund:

In this world of blatant, horrible wrongs, it is not hard to get angry.  It is hard not to get angry.  But “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  It just doesn’t.  Because it can’t.  No matter how right the cause is, the anger of man only makes things worse.  Sometimes the youthful don’t see how clever evil is, how easy it is for us to add to evil while intending good, how hard it is for us to be angry and not sin and complicate things further.  Exposing and confronting wrongs — real wrongs with real victims — is good, but not simple.  Not for us.  What is simple is creating more victims by rushing to judgment with guns ablazing and a golden heart pursuing a noble cause.

The Problem With Victory Focus

Mike Leake:

There is a difference between obedience and victory.

In my mind I picture a team of solider bunkered down behind enemy lines. They are mostly surrounded by enemies and at the point of frustration and despair; death seems certain. Then a most wonderful word is transmitted to them—a decisive victory has been won and rescue is coming. They are given instructions on how to do battle while they await ultimate rescue.

Was Jesus Still God in the Tomb?

David Murray:

Yes, it was right to worship Jesus as God in the womb, in the manger, on the breast, at play, in school, in the workshop, in the court, and on the cross; but in the tomb? Surely not. Jesus was in heaven for these few days, His human soul still united to His divine nature, rightly being worshipped there for His saving work of suffering and dying for sinners. Yes, that worship is theologically sound and totally appropriate. But was Jesus not also on a cold slab of rock in a Middle Eastern cave? Yes, He was. While His human soul was separated from His body, His divine nature was separated from neither and never will be. His divine nature was as united to His lifeless body on earth as it was to His glorified soul in heaven. That means I can worship Him equally in the grave as in glory!

Justin Taylor offers a very interesting counterpoint here.

How Should We Understand this Promise of Jesus?

R.C. Sproul Jr. on Jesus’ promise in John 14:14, “if you ask anything in my name I will do it”:

But what about when we are asking for things we know God would approve of? In my home I and the children pray nightly that God would be pleased to help us to grow in grace and wisdom. What we are seeking is that we would be made fully into the image of Christ, that our sanctification would be complete. That sounds like a good thing to ask in Jesus name. Second, every night we pray that God would be pleased to magnify His name by rising up and protecting all the unborn in Orlando, Florida, these United States, and around the world. How could that not be a prayer in His name? And yet, thus far our prayers have not been answered.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Kindle3_1

Every week there are tons of great eBook deals. Here are some of the latest:

Under $2

How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home Derek Thomas—FREE

The Bible’s Promises for Life—99¢

The Bible’s Promises for Women—99¢

The Essential Works of E.M. Bounds—99¢

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved by JD Greear—$1.79

Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message by Ravi Zacharias—$1.79

What Every Christian Ought to Know: Solid Grounding for a Growing Faith by Adrian Rogers—$1.79

The King James Version Debate by D.A. Carson—$1.99

When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight For Joy by John Piper—$1.99

Contentment by Lydia Brownback—$1.99

Otherworld: A Novel by Jared C. Wilson—$1.99

Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything by Adrian Warnock—$1.99

Under $4

Selected works of A.W. Tozer:

The Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense out of Life by Justin Buzzard—$2.99

Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace—$2.89

Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton—$2.99

The Life of A.W. Tozer by James Snyder—$2.99

3 Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare by Clinton E. Arnold—$2.69

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City by Tim Keller—$2.99

Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ by Robert Peterson—$2.99

Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching by Walter Kaiser—$3.44

True Friendship by Vaughn Roberts—$3.59

The Kingdom of the Occult by Walter Martin—$3.59

Original Jesus: What he really did and why it really matters by Carl Laferton—$2.69

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Thoughts On Following Jesus, Amish Romance, the Daniel Plan, the Tebow Effect, and the Odds of Finding Your Soul Mate by Stephen Altrogge—$2.99

Supernatural Living for Natural People by Ray Ortlund—$3.99 (general rule of thumb: when there’s a deal on a Ray Ortlund book, take advantage of it)

The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre—$3.99

He Gave Us a Valley by Hellen Roseveare—$3.99

Under $6

Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging by J.I. Packer—$4.84

Surprised by Grace by Tullian Tchividjian—$5.99

Links I like

3 Ways to Support an Author You Like

Barnabas Piper:

This post is self-serving. Many of you know I have a book releasing in July called The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, so yes, I am giving you pointers on how to support me. But I’m also asking you to support Stephen Altrogge, who has written several books and is nice enough to let me blog on his site. And these tips apply to any author, whether they are a NYT best seller or a self-published specialist in something. You might also find it to state some rather obvious ideas. Ok, but are you doing them? These three simple actions can have a remarkable collective effect on the success of authors and their books.

More on Millennials

Joe Thorn:

Earlier this week I was playing cards with some locals at the cigar shop in town. I spend a lot of time in this place both studying and hanging out with people in the neighborhood. At the table with us was a young lady—college student studying music at the local university. We had a good conversation about the Millennial generation, and their lack of interest in the local church and even the Christian faith. We talked about what is that keeps Millennials distant from the church. She agreed with the current research that shows that they find the church to be irrelevant and insular, over-interested in politics, and under-interested in social justice. What can we do to bring them to the faith, or back to the local church?

Introducing Logos Reformed base packages

Logos Bible Software has recently unveiled a new series of base packages exclusively featuring resources from a Reformed theological perspective. If you’ve been hesitant to try it out prior to this, now might be a good time to jump in! (I’ll also be sharing some thoughts on one of the base packages in the coming weeks.)

Five Things We Teach Our Kids When We Don’t Know They’re Watching

Melissa Edgington:

Kids have minds like gloriously uncluttered steel traps.  If she remembers some completely inconsequential thing that her daddy told her four years ago, before she even started kindergarten, how much more does she remember about the important stuff she’s seen and heard?

As adults we often tend to believe that kids aren’t paying attention.  But, we teach them so many things when we don’t even realize that they’re tuned in.  And, for the record, kids are always tuned in, even when they seem mesmerized by the TV.  Here are five things we teach our kids when we don’t know they’re watching.

Get God in Our Midst in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the hardcover edition of God in Our Midst by Daniel Hyde for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • A Survey of Church History (vol 1) teaching series by W. Robert Godfrey (audio & video download)
  • The Beatitudes teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)

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

Whither the Prosperity Gospel?

Russell Moore:

The prosperity gospel isn’t just another brand of evangelicalism. It isn’t “evangelical” at all because it’s rooted in a different gospel from the one preached and embodied by Jesus Christ. The prosperity gospel is far more akin to the ancient Canaanite fertility religions than it is to anything announced by Jesus, the prophets before him, or the apostles after him.

Links I like

Mohler on Spurgeon

This is long, but worth your time:

HT: Justin Taylor

The Osteenification of American Christianity

Hank Hanegraaff:

Osteenian Scriptorture is not unique. His words and phrases are now mimicked in pulpits throughout the land. As a result, Christianity has been plunged into an ever-deepening crisis. If occult sources such as those referenced in The Secret pose the greatest threat to the body of Christ from without, the deadly doctrines disseminated through the Osteenification of Christianity pose the greatest threat to Christianity from within. To avert the carnage, a paradigm shift of major proportions is desperately needed—a shift from perceiving God as a means to an end, to the recognition that He is the end.

3 Ways to Recognize Bad Stats

Ed Stetzer:

Often times, a statistic is like a piece of candy thrown at a parade—you really don’t know if you should bite into it or not. We’ve all heard Mark Twain’s famous quote about lies and statistics. There is a reason so many people have had skepticism toward stats. Too frequently, people repeat inaccurate, bad, or explicitly made-up numbers.

I’ve written about the issue before—on many occasions. Here at the blog, you can read about a lot about stats, including specifics about bad marriage stats and why we like bad stats in general.

Still, I keep hearing statistics quoted at conferences and through blogs and social media that make me scratch my head in amazement. I’m not sure where some of these stats originate, and I’m the president of LifeWay Research.

So how can you really discern good stats from bad?

How Did Jesus Read the Old Testament?

Nick Batzig:

Another reason why this question has not been asked more frequently is that the Reformed are rightly zealous for application and experientialism. The Bible shoud make a difference on my life. The precious truths contained in it should lead me on to godly living. This is taught everywhere in the pages of Scriptures (e.g. Titus 1:1 and 1 Timothy 4:16). Some have mistakenly thought that if we say that the Scriptures are first and foremost written to and about Jesus that this will somehow lead on to a denial of my need for transformation. In fact, it is only as we see that the Bible is written to and about Jesus that we will experience Gospel transformation in our lives.

With these things in mind, here are 10 ways to help us understand how Jesus would have understood the Old Testament to have been written to and about Himself.

Outrage Porn and the Christian Reader

Tim Challies:

We as Christians are also easily outraged. Sometimes we seem to forget that we are sinful people living in a sin-stained world and that sinners—even saved ones—will behave like sinners. Sometimes we appear to hold the people we admire (or admired) to the impossible standard of perfection. We don’t mind if our historical heroes are deeply flawed, but we can barely tolerate the slightest imperfection in our contemporary heroes. When they fail, or even when they falter, we respond with, you guessed it: outrage. For a few days we light the torches and lift the pitchforks in our empty protests. And then we move on.

Captain Context

So good:

Links I like

Real forgiveness

Ray Ortlund:

“And if he repents, forgive him.” I wish we were all so tender before the Lord that obvious sin, lovingly rebuked, always evoked repentance. Sadly, that is not so. Hence, the word “if,” rather than “when,” in this verse. But if the relationship is to be restored, the offender must confess his sin as sin and repent of it. How can a sin be forgiven, if it’s never been confessed as sin? So hopefully the offending brother will say, after carefully considering your rebuke, “You’re right. I didn’t see it that way at the moment. I was too riled up. But now I see what I did, and I see what the Bible says about it, and I am making no excuses. I was wrong. I’m sorry. And, God helping me, it won’t happen again. Is there anything I can do that might make a positive difference?”

Why I Don’t Typically Pray For “A Hedge of Protection”

Mike Leake:

I’ve had something similar prayed over me before. And I really appreciate it. But I have a confession to make. The phrase “hedge of protection” makes me laugh. You see, I’m a child of the 80’s and 90’s. When I hear the word hedge I don’t think of a row of thorn bushes–I think of Sonic the Hedgehog. So what I hear when someone prays for a hedge of protection is a group of angry hedgehogs watching out for me like my own personal line of attack dogs.

That is one reason, to my knowledge, I’ve never once prayed a hedge of protection around someone. There is another reason.

Where does this hedge come from?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A couple of new Kindle deals:

New deals from Westminster Books

Westminster Books are highlighting a number of books geared to women with some fantastic specials. Here are a few of the titles:

Being a Missions-Centered Local Church

Perhaps the most missions-centered local church I’ve ever visited is Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia. Pastor Bryant Wright, the elders and staff at Johnson Ferry have by God’s grace led the church to an inspiring level of mission activity. They have adopted ten unreached and unengaged people groups. Last year nearly 50 percent of their active membership took part in short-term mission trips (just under 2,000 people). This year, Lord willing, they plan to take over 80 short-term trips and support over 90 full-time missionaries on the field.

I had the honor of joining Bryant and the saints at Johnson Ferry for their missions conference called Move (audio here). That’s just what they’re doing–moving! I learned a great deal during my time there and thought I would summarize five things in this short post.

Announcing Stephen Nichols as RBC President and Chief Academic Officer for Ligonier

This is great news for Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Bible College:

God has shown Himself gracious to Reformation Bible College in providing rapid growth to the young institution and in confirming ongoing plans to have the right people in place at every stage of the college’s expansion. As such, Dr. R.C. Sproul and the Board of Directors of Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Stephen J. Nichols as the second president of Reformation Bible College. This appointment is concurrent with Dr. Nichols accepting the position of chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries.

Links I like

Christians, We Are Repenters

Trevin Wax:

When I was living in Romania and learning the language, one of the first words I encountered was pocăit. Roughly translated, it means “repenter.” It was a derogatory label given to evangelical believers last century. There were cultural “Christians,” and then there were pocăiții - “repenters” who believed an ongoing life of repentance was essential to the Christian life.

As a Baptist, I was one of the repenters. What separated our church from cultural Christianity we came into contact with was our insistence on repentance in response to God’s unmerited favor. In light of God’s grace, we called people to repent of their sins, their self-justification, and devote themselves wholly to Christ.

Idolatry in corporate worship

Bob Kauflin:

What’s your greatest hindrance to worshiping God as you gather with the church for corporate worship?

I can think of a number of possible answers: Our song leader isn’t very experienced. The liturgy is too stifling. The band sounds bad. The preacher is uninspiring. Our church is too small. Or, Our church is too big.

While I don’t want to minimize the importance of faithful planning, musical skill, and wise leadership, our greatest problem when it comes to worshiping God doesn’t lie outside us, but within our own hearts. It’s the problem of idolatry.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Yesterday I shared a great big list of books. Here are a few new deals:

The Fate of Richard Dawkins

Brendan O’Neill:

Dawkins is forever landing himself in hot water over his tweets. He’s tweeted about how few Nobel Prizes Muslims have won, followed by a barb disguised as a compliment: “They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” He’s tweeted his bamboozlement as to why the New Statesman employed a practising Muslim as its political editor. His tweets are generously peppered with exclamation marks and CAPITAL LETTERS and hectoring phraseology, making it pretty clear that we are getting a glimpse into his unedited thoughts, into the inner recesses of his mind, into that part of the human brain that has always existed – the bovine, often prejudiced bit – but which until recent times was not given public expression. We are seeing how Dawkins’s mind works prior to his exercise of thought and self-editing, and it isn’t pretty.

Is God a Pluralist?

Derek Rishmawy:

It was in my freshman composition class at the University of California, Irvine, that I first heard a professor say, “Well, you know, most of the differences in religion don’t matter. The main point is that God just wants all is just to love each other, right?” It’s a claim that’s become increasingly familiar to me ever since.

But is it true? Is God indifferent to religion? Does he care how he’s worshiped? In other words, is God a pluralist?

Links I like

Stop Citing “All Things Are Lawful” in Cultural Arguments

Justin Taylor, quoting from Denny Burk’s excellent What Is the Meaning of Sex?:

. . . [T]he Corinthians had twisted Paul’s law-free gospel into a justification for bad behavior. Thus the phrase “all things are lawful” is not an expression of Christian freedom from the apostle Paul but rather an expression of antinomianism from fornicators! Paul’s aim in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 is to correct the Corinthians’ misunderstanding. One of the reasons for the Corinthian error was the fact that they viewed the physical body as inconsequential in God’s moral economy (see 1 Cor. 6:13b). Yet Paul refutes the Corinthians on this point and gives them an ultimate ethical norm with respect to their bodies: “You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20). . . . Paul’s question is not “Is it lawful?” but “Does it glorify God with my body?”

The False Teachers: Ellen G. White

Tim Challies on the founder of Seventh-Day Adventism:

In many respects Ellen G. White appeared to hold to the historic Christian faith. She believed in Christ’s imminent bodily return, she held to the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and she taught that we are saved by Christ’s righteousness rather than our own. But amid that truth were some dangerous false teachings. I will focus on only two.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

You’ll also find a whole lot of Tozer’s works on sale:

Why we argue like jerks

Bradford Davis:

Diving headfirst into an endless vortex of insults and insinuations is incredibly tempting in the heat of the moment. I have felt the tug and I have regrettably given in many times to coarse tweets and ad hominems. Maybe considering the why behind our inability to argue well will help us move forward.

Off to the pub to pray

Mitch Smart:

Emerging communities are provocatively calling us to be part of a radical change in the Christian faith. Almost everything they write sounds like a revolutionary movement in the manner of the Reformation that we should join before we get left behind. There are books like Neil Cole’s Church 3.0 and Brian McLaren’s Church on the Other Side. If we were to have them over for a barbeque, it wouldn’t be out of place for them to speak of themselves as agents of a brand new type of church in a new type of world. It’s all very urgent.

Links I like (weekend edition)

 I Reject Christianity Because….

Matt Smethurst with a great interview with James Anderson about his book, What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions (reviewed here). Here’s a snippet:

It’s narrow-minded and intolerant to claim Jesus is the only way to God. No religion has the whole truth—including yours.

If it’s narrow-minded and intolerant to claim that Jesus is the only way to God, then Jesus himself must have been narrow-minded and intolerant, because that’s exactly what he claimed about himself (see, for example, Matthew 11:27 and John 14:6). Jesus also claimed to be the Son of God from heaven and that only those who believe in him will have eternal life. Yet when we read the four Gospels, we don’t encounter a narrow-minded, intolerant, arrogant man. Rather, we see a wide-hearted, selfless, and humble man, full of grace and compassion toward others.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here’s a roundup of a number of Kindle deals that have come up this week. Be sure to take advantage while you can:

Celebrity Pastors: A Retrospective

Carl Trueman:

If there are people out there who still believe that there is such a thing as reformed evangelicalism as a trans-denominational movement, if they believe that this movement will play a key role in the future of the church, and if they believe that they are important leaders in this movement, then they need to speak directly, clearly, and firmly to precisely these issues.  You cannot be a leader without leading publicly on the major issues and major personalities of the day who impact your movement and your chosen constituency.

Who Was St. Patrick?

Kevin DeYoung:

Determining fact from fiction for Patrick is difficult, in part because his writings were not always passed along reliably. More important, Patrick wrote in particularly poor Latin.… But here’s what most scholars agree on: Patrick–whose adult life falls in the fifth century–was actually British, not Irish. He was born into a Christian family with priests and deacons for relatives, but by his own admission, he was not a good Christian growing up. As a teenager he was carried by Irish raiders into slavery in Ireland. His faith deepened during this six year ordeal. Upon escaping Ireland he went back home to Britain. While with his family he received a dream in which God called him to go back to Ireland to convert the Irish pagans to Christianity.

The Problem of Christian Unity

Michael Patton:

When it comes to objections to Christianity, there are striking similarities. We stress the problem of evil (if God exists, how do we explain all the evil?), yet fail to realize the “problem” of good (if God doesn’t exist, how do we explain all the good?). Atheists say theists must give an answer to the creation by God, while at the same time dismissing their own obligation to explain the existence of everything else! Skeptics talk endlessly about the discrepancies in the Gospel stories, but are silent about the myriads of agreements which far outweigh what appear to be disagreements, both in number and significance. The unfortunate consequence is that many people (including Christians) become discouraged and full of doubt due to the many disagreements that Christians experience among themselves. Catholic vs. Protestant. Baptist vs. Presbyterian. Calvinist vs. Arminian. Premillennialists vs. Amillennialists. Young Earth vs. Old Earth. The truth of the matter is that for centuries Christians have disagreed among themselves concerning many issues from the interpretation of certain Scriptures to the role of tradition as an authoritative norm in our faith. However, I would encourage people to gain some perspective here. It is time to call on Christians, as well as non-Christians to focus not only on our respective disagreements, but also observe and gain strength from the many areas in which we agree.

Links I like

‘Non-Shepherding’ Pastors: Option or Oxymoron?

This is a very important discussion:

A Theology of Acquiescence

Tim Kimberley:

If you’ve been a Christian for a while you should have several relationships where you have acquiesced. You should have several spiritual workout partners who like to swim. In these relationships you have decided to minister together above a secondary point of doctrine. Here’s an example. Imagine if I told you, “I only associate, go to church with, and minister alongside Christians who hold to the northern theory of Galatians.” Wouldn’t you think that I’m a moron? Now, you might already think I’m a moron without the Galatians stuff but wouldn’t it seem silly for me to divide over the northern/southern Galatians theory debate?

Get Gospel Wakefulness in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • Eternal Security teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Handout Apologetics teaching series by John Gerstner (audio & video download)

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

Once Confused, Now Complementarian

Brittany Lind:

I sat wide-eyed across the table from my new friend Courtney in our college cafeteria. I had just told her I was interested in a guy who sat near me in my freshman biology class. My plan was to go to him and inform him about my interest in dating. Courtney was convincing me to think otherwise — I was confused and didn’t understand why it mattered.

How Churches Can Care for Their Pastor’s Children

Chap Bettis:

Too many children of pastors are casualties in the spiritual battle. After seeing the inner workings of the church, many do not want anything to do with the Lord or his people. As a teenager, I almost walked away from my faith because of the hypocrisy and disunity I saw in my church.

But in my conversation with this pastor, I was momentarily speechless as I realized how little I had thought about this important question. Why? Because the church that I had shepherded for 25 years had done an excellent job caring for my own children. Today they are 22, 20, 18, and 16, and have fond memories of our relationships there.

What had my own church done that so few churches do well? What can churches learn?