Links I like

links i like

We Become How We Worship

David Murray:

Much worship today aims primarily at stimulating and exciting our physical senses. If we can provide a colorful spectacle for the eyes, spectacular musical sounds for the ears, a pounding beat to impact the body and get the adrenaline running, then the emotions are stirred, and there’s a sense of elation and excitement. But if we become how we worship, such sensual, emotion-driven, thrill-seeking worship will produce sensual, feeling-focused, thrill-seeking Christians.

It’s Time to Interrupt Someone

Josh Blount:

Eventually I came to agree that interrupting conversations is poor manners. But what about a different kind of interruption: interrupting lives? Have you ever thought about how many times God does just that? Consider Paul’s life. Paul, at the time Saul, was perfectly happy with his zealous persecution of the church – and then God interrupted him on a dusty Palestinian road, turned his life upside down, saved him, and gave him a completely new mission in life. The gospels tell the same story about the disciples. Here you have a bunch of fishermen in the midst of their daily routine, and suddenly a man shows up, interrupts the monotony of the mundane, and calls them to leave everything and follow him – and nothing was ever the same. The woman at the well, Lydia on a Philippian river bank, a Roman jailer and his household, even the thief on the cross – all people interrupted by the God who saves.

What’s Your Learning Style?

Aimee Byrd:

Todd wrote a great piece challenging Donald Miller’s recent post, excusing why he doesn’t go to church. It just so happens that science wouldn’t agree with Miller’s argument either.

In his post, Miller bluntly expresses, “So to be brutally honest, I don’t learn much about God hearing a sermon,” claiming, “I’ve studied psychology and education reform long enough to know a traditional lecture isn’t for everybody.” And then Miller educates us, “Research suggest there are three learning styles, auditory (hearing) visual (seeing) and kinesthetic (doing) and I’m a kinesthetic learner.”

Does it? Not according to Popular Science.

Donald Miller and the Myth of Isolated Worship

Derek Rishmawy:

So, Donald Miller wrote an article about why he doesn’t go to church much. You can read it here. I was surprised by how much I didn’t agree with it, given the way his earlier works blessed me when I was in college (especially some of the moving things he has written about needing community).

In essence, for this article Miller took some of the worst cliches and cultural trends of American life that contribute to our consumeristic view of church and handily bundled them all together in one article. I guess he’s performed us a service, though, because they’re kind of all there, ready to be dissected in one sitting.

Four Things a Pastor Should Consider Before Engaging in Social Media

Trevin Wax:

Some pastors may hear my encouragement to engage in social media and then jump in without much thought. Don’t. Better to have no social media presence than to be sloppy in your handling of this tool of communication.

Social media takes time and attention. Be strategic. Don’t take it lightly.

Links I like

links i like

On the Number of Zygote Deaths and the Meaning of Pro-Life

Matthew Lee Anderson;

What does it mean to be “pro-life”? Judging by the recent conversation about contraception, it would be easy to think that the point and purpose of the pro-life position is to reduce abortions in the world.

But as important as that is to pro-lifers, it by no means encapsulates the entirety of the pro-life position.

John Piper: the infographic

Tim Challies shares the latest in his series of Visual Theology infographics. Look for one on R.C. Sproul next week.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new Kindle deals for you:

How Would You Respond to This Hypocrite?

Mike Leake:

Imagine with me that you are a well-respected pastor. You’ve been serving at your church now for about eight years. Things are going well and you are beginning to gain respect in the larger world of evangelicalism.

A new pastor moves into a neighboring town. This new pastor is truly a hypocrite. He denies the Trinity and by his own confession he became a minister for the money, the ease, and the hopes of getting himself advanced in the literary world.

Plant the Church that Is, not the Church to Come

JD Payne:

Hasty expectations hinder the birth and multiplication of churches.

Plant your churches, just make sure they have all of this stuff, and these structures, and these activities, and these twenty-five marks, and these forty-one purposes, and this affiliation, and give that amount of money.

Such is okay when we start instant churches with long-term, Kingdom citizens.

Links I like

links i like

The Evangelical War on Contraception

Matthew Lee Anderson:

If you haven’t heard, evangelicals are currently campaigning against contraception.

Oh, you haven’t? Well, I can’t blame you. After all, it was only two years ago when a evangelical theologian seriously proposed that churches should give out contraception to single Christians because that supposedly reduces abortions and evangelical attendees responded with a collective, “Um, sure, why not?!”

Desiring God Conference for Pastors

The Desiring God 2014 Conference for Pastors starts today. If, like me, you’re at home instead of in Minneapolis, you can watch live online at desiringgod.org/live.

Legalistic Relativists

R.C. Sproul Jr:

The appeal of ethical relativism is rather plain to see. If there is no right and wrong then I can’t be convicted of any wrong. Ethical relativism allows me to write my own law, to edit on the fly, to finish “I may do this . . .” with an unassailable “. . . because I want to.” Desire becomes its own justification. My will becomes my law.

This appeal, however, soon enough begins to dissipate if we have any interest at all in being coherent, consistent in our thinking. We quickly turn, “I may do this, because I want to” into “You may not do that, because I want to do this.” Consider, just as an example, sexual perversion. The problem, morally speaking, with sexual perversion is that it is an abomination to God. Ethical relativism, of course, bars God from the conversation. Therefore there is no reason by which we might condemn the practice. There is, to these folks, no transcendent moral standard by which we are all bound. We can do what we want, no matter how perverse. Which means, doesn’t it, that I can call sexual perversion an abomination to God? What, after all, is to stop me?

Free stuff for book lovers

Christian Audio’s free audiobook of the month is When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. This is well worth the free. Ligonier has also made The Prayer of the Lord by R.C. Sproul free until Feb. 28. Finally, the Logos edition of Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church by Michael Lawrence is free until the end of February. Enjoy!

This looks fun!

In April, the next big superhero movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, will be released. Here’s a look:

Beware of Backdoor Legalism

Dan Darling:

Last week, during an apparent display of debauchery at the Grammy’s (I don’t usually watch award shows. It’s just not my thing. Other folks feel that way about NFL football, which I love). This caused award-winning singer, Natalie Grant to walk out. She was, from all accounts, not self-righteous or judgmental about it, but just posted a simple explanation about it on her Facebook page.

Of course, this action provoked conversation online, on Twitter and in blogs. Perhaps the most prominent reaction is Laura Turner, who clearly disagreed, writing in her blog for Religion News: “But reading about her decision to leave early and then publicize that decision sounded to me just like the self-righteousness of those people who couldn’t hear a swear word without their faith being threatened.” Now I respect Turner’s instincts here and I have those same ones myself. Christians have, at times, developed an isolationist bent, a sort of fundamentalism that rejects any thoughtful engagement with the world. This inward inpulse has often put us on the same side as the Pharisees who couldn’t entertain a Savior who hung out with the very people he came to save: the sinners, the needy, the sick.

10 Hot Tips For The Christian Life

Jeff Medders:

There is no secret to Christian growth. Paul actually despises any idea of some hidden, underhanded way of Christianity.… The gospel is an open statement of the truth: We need Jesus and Jesus gives us all that he is by faith in his person and work. No more hot tips, only more of Jesus. “Tips must decrease, he must increase.” The Christian life isn’t that complicated.

January’s top ten articles at Blogging Theologically

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

  1. 15 signs your church is growing in the right way (January 2014)
  2. 7 signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher (January 2014)
  3. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  4. Three things I’d like to see in the Christian blogosphere in 2014 (January 2014)
  5. Is church growth all about the pastor? (January 2014)
  6. A look at The Gospel Transformation Bible (January 2014)
  7. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  8. The shocking secret to finding God’s will (January 2014)
  9. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011)
  10. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)

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

  1. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  2. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  3. Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament? (June 2011)
  4. 6 quotes Christians need to let lie fallow (January 2014)
  5. It’s not a cold—it’s cancer! (Janury 2014)
  6. 14 books I want to read in 2014 (and think you should too) (December 2013)
  7. You are not a Christian just because you like Jesus (January 2014)
  8. Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke (January 2014)
  9. Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax (January 2014)
  10. That awkward moment in kids ministry when… (January 2014)

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.

Links I like (weekend edition)

links i like

Water under the bridge?

Ray Ortlund:

Glib slogans like “That’s water under the bridge,” “I’ve moved on,” or misquoting the Bible with “Forgetting what lies behind . . .” – these are not evidences of salvation.  They are strategies of denial and self-justification.  We might as well scream out, “The cross means nothing to me.  I must establish my own rightness.  So I cannot face myself.”

But real repentance, filled with a wonderful sense of Jesus, has the courage to go back and make wrongs right again in honest, humble, creative ways.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here’s a round-up of this week’s Kindle deals, along with a few new ones:

What does it look like to open your own Bible for the first time?

HT: Justin Taylor

Srsly

More goodness from Adam Ford:

8 Ways to Reverse the Decline of the American Book Lover

David Murray:

I struggle to find time to read. Yes, I read plenty during working hours for lectures, sermons, etc, but in terms of reading books of choice in my leisure time, I confess I often go to bed disappointed in my use of the evening hours. It’s so much easier just to tap around on the iPad or read blogs. So here are a few strategies I’ve recently been trying to follow to increase my reading.

Links I like

The Stealth Prosperity Gospel

Jared Wilson:

The real devil in the details of the prosperity-type teaching permeating so much of evangelicalism is not really that it skips over the stuff about sin. Sure, it does that too, but the pernicious paradox of this stuff is that it champions “victorious Christian living” yet does not equip believers for sustainable discipleship. It emphasizes feelings and “outlook,” not the power of the Spirit, which is hard for some folks to notice since the latter is often conflated with the former (so that being optimistic or a go-getter is ipso facto being Spirit-empowered). The problem over time is that, going from victory to victory, expecting victory after victory, cultivates a contagious form of spiritual greed. (Is it any wonder that this sort of teaching often goes hand and hand with talk of financial riches and prosperity?) The real stuff of discipleship — what Eugene Peterson calls “a long obedience in the same direction” — involves hard stuff like discipline and the fruit of the Spirit. In pop discipleship discipline is replaced by steps, tips, and amazing supercolossal breakthroughs.

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

Today you can get God in our Midst by Daniel Hyde (ePub and MOBI) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Bound for Glory teaching series by R.C. Sproul Jr. (audio and video download)
  • Feed My Sheep by various authors (hardcover)
  • Who is the Holy Spirit teaching series by Sinclair Ferguson (CD)

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

Why Calvinism not Lutheranism?

Wherever you land on Calvinism, you’ll hopefully find this piece by Derek Rishmawy interesting:

When I was doing my theological searching early on, I found myself initially more attracted to Lutheranism given their apparent lack of emphasis on predestination as well as Luther’s fiery wit. (Also, I was in my anti-Piper phase.) In fact, many of us raised in more a-historical, non-denominational Evangelical backgrounds are likely to hear of Martin Luther as the Reformer, instead of Calvin, just because of the 95 theses and the issue of justification by faith. So why is it that so many of us end up learning the Westminster or Heidelberg catechism, instead of Luther’s?

How to Recognize a Spirit-Filled Church

Eric Davis

Church advertisements can be interesting. I’ve seen things like, “Always an open door,” one that advertised a concealed weapons class, and “You have a friend request from Jesus: Accept? Ignore?” But one that confused me the first time I saw it was “Spirit-filled.” What does that mean? And are only some churches Spirit-filled? Or all of them? Or partially filled? What’s the difference between a Spirit-filled and non-Spirit-filled church?

Generally, the advertisement means that the Holy Spirit’s power and presence are observable in that local church. Praise God if that’s true. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with such advertising. But, assuming accurate advertising, what ought we expect from such a church? What will that look like?

Why We Cannot Coexist

Jeff Medders:

All religions cannot be true. As much as people preach from their bumpers on how we should all coexist, if we are intellectual honest with the tenets of each religion, we simply can’t hold hands and ride off into the ecumenical sunset.

How I Beat Back the Darkness after Rape

Halee Gray Scott:

I was 21-years old, barely five months after returning to the Christian faith. My rapist lived in the parsonage. He was young, serving as a youth pastor while attending a nearby seminary. I’d come roaring back to the faith after a brief dalliance with atheism and agnosticism. My enthusiasm quickly secured me a position on the leadership team for the youth group, within close working conditions of the youth pastor.

Before long, I began to notice strange, questionable behaviors. Phone calls, flirtations, casual references to meeting with married women in the middle of the night. At first, I thought my perception unreliable—after all, he was the youth pastor, the seminarian. And I? A heathen whose discernment could hardly be trusted. But as the weeks wore on, I grew more confident in my assessment.

Links I like

Homeschooler theologian?

Kim Shay:

When the rest of the public school children went back after Christmas holidays, ours stayed home. It was a decision we’d been planning. They were, at the time in 5th grade, 2nd grade, and kindergarten. Eventually, they all graduated from public high school to ease the process of matriculation into university.

Those were good years. They learned a lot, and I introduced them to things they would never have been given in public school. Most adults aren’t taught Church History; my kids were. It was good for me, too. In a post at Out of the Ordinary, I shared about how books were my tutors as I went through a time of examining what I believed and why. Homeschooling helped in two ways.

Why I Love an Evening Service

Tim Challies:

Of all the casualties the church has suffered in recent decades, I wonder if many will have longer-lasting consequences than the loss of the evening service. There was a time, not so long ago, when many or even most churches gathered in the morning and the evening. But today the evening service is increasingly relegated to the past.

At Grace Fellowship Church we hold on to the evening service and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It is a commitment, to be sure—a commitment for the pastors to plan a second service and to prepare a second sermon, and a commitment for the members to give the church not only the morning but also the evening. But these are small costs compared to the great benefits. Here are a few things I love about an evening service.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to the list from the other day, here are a few new Kindle deals:

Christians and Movies: Are We Contextualizing or Compromising?

Trevin Wax:

At this point, I feel like we are heading down a rocky terrain without any brake system working on our vehicle. Without any brake system in place, there is, in principle, no film we could not or would not see.

I’ve seen Hollywood elitists raving about the lesbian love story, Blue is the Warmest Color, which contains lengthy, explicit sex scenes with graphic nudity. Should we watch this film in order to speak knowledgeably about it if it comes up in a discussion with our neighbor?

When Divorce Is Good and Holy… Christians Are Confused

Julian Freeman:

Someone recently forwarded me an article called ‘When Divorce is Good and Holy‘ and asked for my thoughts. I don’t typically respond to other people’s posts publicly but when I read this one, I felt a strong sense of urgency within my own heart to reply.… The premise of the article is simple: If Jesus upholds divorce as a legitimate option then we ought to view it as good and holy, when carried out according to his teaching. Therefore, we ought to stop criticizing those who want a divorce (for legitimate reasons like pornography use, etc.), and we must stop compelling them to stay in the marriage as if it is the only thing that would please God. In fact, the author goes one step further: He even asserts that when divorce is upheld as the good and holy option that it is, divorce rates and pornography use will decline.

I take several issues with that line of thinking. A few of them are outlined below.

Six Steps to Better Thoughts, Feelings, And Actions

David Murray:

What we think has a huge impact on what we feel and what we do.

For example, if I think about all the things I failed to do today, I will get discouraged and possibly even angry. I will then drive home in a bad mood, and those thoughts and feelings will have a knock-on effect on how I interact with my wife and children.

If, on the other hand, I focus on what I actually managed to accomplish, if I look at the boxes I ticked today, and fade out everything else, then I go home cheerful, energized, and ready to play with my kids and chat to my wife.

New review of Contend

This is a very kind review of Contend by Nate Claiborne (who I’m really looking forward to hanging out with again someday):

All that to say, I would commend you Aaron’s work here. It is a thoroughly researched, easy to read, motivational exposition of Jude’s appeal for our modern context. He focuses on the basic, foundations of our faith that need to be defended and then gives sage advice on how to do so. The book strikes a fine balance between doctrinal exposition and practical application, making it very epistolatory. Yes, I just said epistolatory.

Links I like

How To Avoid a Cult of Personality

Zach Nielsen:

Just because you’re a strong and effective leader doesn’t mean you’ve built a cult of personality. That should be all of us. But the Oxford Dictionary helps us know what we are trying to avoid. It defines a cult of personality as a “misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.”
There is nothing wrong with your people admiring you as their pastor. The problem starts when the healthy admiration morphs into unreflective obedience, fearful retreat, or a messianic complex. Only our admiration of Jesus could never be misplaced or excessive. So perhaps the best way to avoid a cult of personality in your ministry is to actively pursue creating a cult of personality for someone else, namely Jesus.

John MacArthur: The Infographic

Tim Challies and Josh Byers have put together a pretty fantastic infographic on John MacArthur (who, if you hadn’t heard, will be speaking at T4G 2014).

The Historical Reality of Adam

Guy Waters:

“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” So begins the New England Primer, which taught generations of early Americans to read. In introducing our forefathers to the letter A, the primer was also administering a generous dose of biblical theology. As Paul puts it crisply in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Through Adam, sin and death entered into the world. By Christ, sin and death were conquered. Adam forfeited life by his disobedience. Christ achieved life by His obedience. These simple, basic truths, Paul tells the Corinthians, are the very structure and content of the gospel.

What Macklemore Got Wrong . . . and Right

Denny Burk:

The lyrics to Macklemore’s song took aim at Christians and their views on marriage. To be more precise, it takes aim at the God that Christians worship and offers another god in His place—a god that bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible. Nevertheless, these performers were obviously grasping for divine approval. All of the trappings of Christianity were invoked to bless “same love”—a stage decorated to look like a church, a “minister” presiding, and a gospel choir singing the words of 1 Corinthians 13. You might say that it had the form of godliness while denying its power (2 Tim. 3:5).

Young Pastor, Here’s What I Wish I’d Known

David Helm, Andy Davis and JD Greear share what they wish they’d known when they first entered the ministry:

Links I like

And The Most Godless City in America Is…

America, you may have a new Sodom and Gomorrah.

The two least “Bible-minded” cities in the United States are the adjacent metros of Providence, R.I., and New Bedford, Mass., according to a study out Wednesday from the American Bible Society.

The study defines “Bible-mindedness” as a combination of how often respondents read the Bible and how accurate they think the Bible is. “Respondents who report reading the bible within the past seven days and who agree strongly in the accuracy of the Bible are classified as ‘Bible Minded,’” says the study’s methodology.

A Golden Age in Christian Publishing

Tim Challies:

I sometimes find myself grumbling a little bit about the state of publishing today, and especially the state of Christian publishing. Many of the big publishers have been gobbled up by corporations whose primary concern is not the glory of God but the health of the bottom line. Some of the medium-sized publishers seem to collect any and every rambling word of the popular pastors and personalities so they can slap those words on paper. Many of the smallest publishers are churning out books that simply do not deserve to be printed. New tools for self-publishing allow anyone with an idea to commit it to paper and distribute it as widely as they can. And that’s not all that is concerning or annoying. There are the thousands of truly awful, unbiblical books being published each year, and the fact that the bestseller lists are inevitably dominated by titles that are not only bad, but often downright dangerous.

And yet, when I stop and consider the state of Christian publishing, I can’t help but think that we are in a golden age. A strange age, to be sure, but a golden one nonetheless. Christians today are extraordinarily blessed by a vast number of excellent, Christ-centered, God-glorifying books.

I see evidence for this golden age in so many different ways.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Keeping it Real

Aimee Byrd:

We now live in a culture that cares about natural sources and baptismal candidates that aren’t going to break the pastor’s back. In a time where our technology can easy distance us from meaningful relationships, we are also concerned about Christian community. But we don’t want the plastic community that tucks their shirts in and pretends like they are more sanctified-than-thou. We want authentic community that is honest about their struggles in the journey.

Has ‘Authenticity’ Trumped Holiness?

Brett McCracken:

In recent years, evangelical Christianity has made its imperfection a point of emphasis. Books were published with titles like Messy Spirituality: God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect PeopleDeath by Church and Jesus Wants to Save Christians, and churches popped up with names like Scum of the Earth and Salvage Yard. Evangelicals made films like Lord, Save Us from Your Followers, wrote blog posts with titles like “Dirty, Rotten, Messy Christians,” and maintained websites like anchoredmess.commodernreject.com,churchmarketingsucks.comrecoveringevangelical.com, and wrecked.org—a site that includes categories like “A Hot Mess,” “Muddling Through,” “My Broken Heart,” and “My Wreckage.”

Links I like

What is a sermon? A response to ‘Deadly, dull, and boring’

David Shead:

Language is a funny thing. We’re all expert users of it, but quite what language is and how it works remains a mystery to most of us.

That’s why an article like Phil Campbell’s ‘Deadly, dull, and boring’ is such a godsend.1 God’s word is a preacher’s core business, and therefore language is the preacher’s most basic tool. Anything that can help us understand a little more about how language functions and how we can use it better—particularly something that highlights the differences between spoken and written language so that we can preach better—is a great thing!

One second of priceless

HT: Steve McCoy

Stop Comparing Your Trials

Josh Blount:

How many times have you looked at someone else’s suffering and thought, “How on earth do they keep going? I wouldn’t survive a day in that job, or with those disabilities, or with that many kids!” Then, after marveling at their endurance, you look at your own life and feel like the most miserable, sniveling excuse for a Christian ever to disgrace the faith.

Stand for life 2014

A great (but lengthy) conversation between John Ensor, John Piper and Francis Chan:

Losing Privileges

R.C. Sproul, Jr:

Is this a Christian country? There are likely as many ways to answer the question as there are stripes on our flag. Yes, the country was populated at its beginning with Christians looking for a place to worship freely. But that was before we became a country. Yes, many of our founding fathers were sincere professing Christians. But many of them were not. Yes, we are Christian in the same sense as all of Europe is Christian—it is the faith tradition of the majority in our country. But no, we have rejected the faith of our fathers. Yes, our country’s laws, traditions, symbols, culture, were shaped by predominately Protestant notions. But no, we are living in times of great change. And therein lies the rub.

Those Dragons Underneath Our Beds

Matthew Westerholm:

How we approach a situation reveals what we expect to find.

Imagine it is 2 A.M. and I’m asleep. My wife taps my shoulder and says, “I heard something. I think there’s an intruder downstairs.” My mind immediately kicks into high-gear. I reach underneath my bed and grab a 7-iron — to protect the family — and slowly make my way to the kitchen where my wife heard the sound. Even though I live in a hundred-year-old house, I know exactly how to sneak down my staircase without making a creak. My heart pounds in the still night. My eyes search in the dark: the doors, the hallway mirror, the main-level windows that I know a person can squeeze through.

Meanwhile, my wife is upstairs with her phone. She has dialed “9” and “1,” and she has her finger waiting on that second “1.” She’s waiting for me to scream, or for someone else to scream after I yell, “Fore!”

See, my whole approach to this situation reveals what I expected to find.

Links I like (weekend edition)

In the ten minutes Gmail was down…

Aaron Earls recounts the harrowing ordeal—with GIFs!

Helping someone through a salvation experience

David Platt:

As we walk in the presence of Christ, we’ll have opportunities to make new disciples of Jesus. We’ll have the privilege of inviting people to turn from their sin and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. This won’t happen because of our cleverness or evangelistic prowess; it will happen because of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

But how should we handle these moments on a practical level? What should we say and what should we do when God grants us the privilege of harvesting a new follower of Christ?

Why I am Pro-Choice

Lore Ferguson:

No one is arguing for the abortion of three and four year olds, but three and four year olds have similar decision making abilities as infants. Of course there is a small gap of maturity, but a child who cannot zip her coat or tie her shoes, whose father has to lift her to put his money in a meter to park a car she can’t drive—how limited is her ability to choose?

We cannot know how any child’s life will turn out, but shouldn’t we give them the basic right to choose? Or, less even, the ability to learn to make choices?

Oh, Oh, Ooh, Ooh, La, La, Whoa

Bob Kauflin:

…recently an increasing number of modern worship songs feature syllables like “oh, ooh, and whoa.” Generic syllables can be enjoyable to sing and can provide a musical segue that involves the congregation. They also can carry meaning as they give expression to a burst of emotion that either respond or lead into lyrics that actually say something. My good friend Matt Boswell reminded me that Paul begins his doxology in Romans 11:33-36 with “Oh,” the depth of the riches… There are times when an emotional “oh!” is the most appropriate lead in to a life-transforming truth.

But something more has been happening. Crowds are singing lengthy portions of songs using vowel sounds rather than actually singing words. Is this a good thing? Does it matter?

Looking forward to seeing how worship leaders respond to this piece.

Burning away misconceptions about “holy fire”

Lyndon Unger:

If you entered the faith via a Charismatic church (like me), one of the most quickly re-defined terms was “fire”.  “Fire” used to be what you called the results of tossing a match on something flammable, or maybe something you did with a gun.  Now it meant something way different. In Charismatic circles, there is often talk about “fire” of some sort: Holy Fire, Divine Fire, Heavenly Fire, the Fire of God, etc.  The idea of “fire” is basically paralleled with one or more of the following ideas: spiritual passion, having an emotionally intense worship/church service, really “getting serious” with God (or some form of personal revival), or some sort of outpouring of divine power on a person/church meeting/event resulting in a renewed passion of some sort (i.e. evangelism) or various “manifestations” of the Holy Spirit (i.e. euphoria, tongues, healings, prophecies, “miracles”, holy laughter, holy glue, holy vomiting, barking, crying, being slain/laid out in the spirit, visions, trances, screaming, physical pain, teleportation, etc.). I had generally gone along with the Charismatic usage of the term “fire” with regards to passion or zeal, and not really questioned it since the term is often used in non-Charismatic circles in nearly identical ways. But, as I’ve grown in my knowledge of the Lord and his word I’ve found myself continually questioning my own assumptions and understandings and going “back to the drawing board”.  When we speak of “fire” in the previously mentioned ways, are we using the term in a proper Biblical sense?

Links I like

3 Checkpoints for Spiritual Drift

Michael Kelley:

Drifting is something that happens over time. It’s slow and steady, almost imperceptible. It can happen so gradually in fact that it goes without notice. That’s the real problem with drifting spiritually – you don’t know it’s happening until it’s already happened.

But what if you could? Are there certain checkpoints that, if they appear in your life, you know that the drifting has started? That the rope tied to the anchor of faith has started to let out? That you are slowly moving in a direction that you didn’t intend to go? I think there are, and here’s three to think about.

Hurry!

Staci Eastin:

Busyness is talked about a lot. We take on too much. We don’t say no to anything, because being busy makes us feel important. Look how much I’m doing!

But for me? I rush because I’m lazy. I want to get done with the dull stuff so I can get to the important stuff. Like, I don’t know, reading. Or Candy Crush.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few Kindle deals for you:

Get The Hard Sayings of Jesus in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Hard Sayings of Jesus teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Welcome to a Reformed Church by Daniel Hyde (ePub)
  • Are We Together? by R.C. Sproul (hardcover)
  • Anne Bradstreet: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Poet by Heidi Nichols (paperback)

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

Why I Am a Cessationist

Thomas Schreiner:

Why would anyone think that some of the gifts have been withdrawn? I will argue that such a reading fits best with Scripture and experience. Scripture takes priority over experience, for it is the final authority, but Scripture must also correlate with life, and our experiences should provoke us to re-examine afresh whether we’ve read the Bible rightly. None of us reads the Bible in a vacuum, and hence we must return to the Scriptures repeatedly to ensure we’ve read them faithfully.

See also…

Why I Am a Continuationist

Sam Storms:

Let me begin with the consistent, indeed pervasive, and altogether positive presence throughout the New Testament (NT) of all spiritual gifts. The problems that emerged in the church at Corinth were not due to spiritual gifts, but to immature people. It wasn’t the gifts of God but the childish, ambitious, and prideful distortion of gifts on the part of some that accounts for Paul’s corrective comments.

Putting Off Cynicism

Paul Maxwell:

Cynicism is the attitude that encapsulates the ethos of twentysomethings par excellence. It is, I think, the most covert negative emotion. We harbor it in Christian garb: cynicism toward immature men (“man-boys”), hipsters, a denomination or movement, clichés, and a thousand other things.

Cynicism is so undetectable because it is so justifiable. It wears a mask of insight and godliness, but it conceals festering wounds of harbored bitterness against God and neighbor. We need to understand cynicism, because the masks we wear tell us about the wounds we hide, and point us to the Savior who yearns to mend them.

Links I like

Let the full weight land on you

Also, here’s nice set of photos covering the March for Life event yesterday. Praise God for those who could brave the weather to speak up on behalf of those who cannot.

Photo via @kathrynlopez

HT Denny Burk

The Death of Witnessing

Leon Brown:

There are many impediments to witnessing (i.e., sharing your faith). Many of us are absolutely terrified. Beads of sweat begin to moisten our backs merely at the thought of evangelistic outreach. Sometimes we think it is better left to the professionals. They will say the right things; they will have all the answers; they will navigate the witnessing conversation appropriately. The list of impediments, some of which may be better categorized as excuses, is extensive. However, when you finally muster the courage to talk to others about Jesus, there is another force that prohibits you. In fact, it is not something you can control. It is technology.

Just A Tiny Bit Of Arsenic

Mark Altrogge:

Beware the thought that says, “A little bit won’t hurt.” That’s a lie from hell.

Would you drink a glass of water if I said to you “There’s just a tiny bit of arsenic in this, but it won’t hurt you”? What airline would let someone board who said, “I only have a small bomb with me”?

The ‘Big Lie’ in putting off pregnancy

Wendy Sachs on the new book, The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock:

Perhaps one of the greatest myths today is the ability of science to step in and make babies for women at virtually any age. Selvaratnam says that we see the success stories, but rarely hear about the huge numbers of failed attempts. A 2009 report on Assisted Reproductive Technologies, or ARTs, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the single most important factor affecting the chances of a successful pregnancy through ARTs is a woman’s age. Selvaratnam reports that at age 40, the chance is 18.7%; at 42, it’s 10%; at 44, it’s only 2.9%.

“We are the guinea pig generation for testing the limits of our fertility, or our chances of having a child. The shock and the lack of preparation when you’re not prepared and the pressure women feel in general about our reproductive selves adds to the shame women feel when they can’t get pregnant,” Selvaratnam said.

Save on Paul Miller’s A Loving Life at WTS Books

Over at Westminster Books, Paul Miller’s new book, A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships, is on sale for 50% off, or 62% off if you buy three or more copies. This sale ends today.

Links I like

The Gospel for a Gay Friend

Garrett Kell:

For many of my Christian friends who love Jesus and struggle with same-sex attraction, the beauty of the gospel is that it addresses every area of their life, not just one expression of the fall. All believers know this truth. Whether we were once atheists, liars, Muslims, or self-righteous church attenders, there’s no magical gospel just for “our sin.” At the foot of the cross we are all equally in need of God’s amazing grace.

At the same time, Josh has real questions that need to be answered. In the same way an atheist, Muslim, or self-righteous person would need the gospel to address them personally, we should learn to love Josh in his particular consideration of Jesus’ claims. We should seek to help him find sound answers.

Justification and Sanctification: What’s the Problem?

Kevin DeYoung, Richard Phillips and Bryan Chapell discuss the sometimes tricky connection between justification and sanctification:

God of the Womb

Kristen Gilles:

The Lord has closed my womb. He opened it. He filled it. He emptied it. And then he closed it. The Lord has kept me from having children. He enabled me to conceive a son two years ago. Then he took my son to be with him 10 months later. And since then, he has kept me from having children. This reality, rather than disturbing me, actually comforts me.

Avoiding Burnout

Archie Parrish:

The term burnout was coined by rocket scientists to describe shutting down a jet or rocket engine by exhausting or shutting off its fuel. Dr. Herbert J. Freudenberg, in his 1974 book Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement, was the first psychologist to use this term. He defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

Christians committed to Christ’s work can experience physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion similar to what non-Christians experience. Christians also have to deal with the added challenge of spiritual burnout. If burnout detectors were placed at every church entrance, we would be shocked to see how many who began by the Spirit are now trying to be perfected by the flesh (see Gal. 3:3).

I need this shirt

If you give online, you’ve probably felt like doing something like this:

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