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Flags in Church?

Chad Hall:

…does nationalism belong in church?  I think not.  When we strike patriotic tones in worship, we dishonor God, disobey scripture, and misunderstand the relationship between God and country.

Five Resolutions for a Christian Communicator

Dan Darling:

To communicate the truth of the good news of the gospel, in any form, is a high privilege and a sober calling. I’m always mindful of James 3, which outlines the seriousness of the calling and the negative and positive effect of the words we craft.

So I came up with five resolutions that we might consider.

The Father Wound

Dave Jenkins:

Since I’ve been in ministry for some time, I know I’m not the only one who has experienced the pain of a father who has abandoned his family. I also know I’m not the only Christian who has reconciled with his father only to have his father turn his back on his family. While I’m still processing and healing from what happened on Father’s Day, I thought it would be helpful to share and discuss why the “father wound” is so prevalent in our day.

“The Idea of Evangelism Makes Me Uncomfortable”

Trevin Wax:

I often meet Christians who are uncomfortable with the idea of evangelism. Whenever I dig down to the root of the discomfort, I encounter issues related to the nature of truth, what it means to follow Jesus, and the role of worship. Here’s a fictional example of how this kind of conversation usually goes…

Book Review: Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard

At some point you have to wonder—do we really need more marriage books? With all the books that are out there, is there more that can be added to the discussion?

If Justin Buzzard’s new book, Date Your Wife, is any indication, yes.   In this short book, Buzzard confronts husbands’ complacency, challenges them to woo their wives to the glory of God while sharing his own experiences as a husband seeking to date his wife.

As Buzzard looks at dating your wife through the lens of the Bible’s big story of creation, fall, redemption and reconciliation, he paints a big vision for the work of marriage. “Your marriage didn’t start on your wedding day,” he writes. “Husband, your marriage started on your first date. During that first date with your bride, you began laying the foundation for the day you would say, ‘I do.’ You began laying the foundation your marriage stands upon today” (Kindle location 218).

This is an important reminder that so many of us need—our dating relationship sets the tone for our marriages, for better or worse. Our pursuit of our wives is a calling entrusted to us by God, a call first entrusted to our first parent, Adam:

Central to Adam’s calling as a husband was the call to cultivate and guard his wife so that she would flourish, so that their sacred union would thrive. God called Adam to date his wife. God didn’t present Adam to Eve. He presented Eve to Adam. God put the woman in the man’s hands, having already told the man to handle with care the gift he would be given. (Kindle location 504)

Read that again. It’s a pretty weighty statement, isn’t it? Think about the responsibility that comes with it. Think about it too long and it’s easy to get to a place where you realize that, perhaps, the worst thing that could have happened to your marriage is you. For many of us, the issues we find in our marriages have far less to do with anything our spouses have done and far more with our own issues. [Read more…]

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Trusting God is not easy

Ray Ortlund:

Trusting God is not comfortable.  It doesn’t belong in a Hallmark card picture — a colorful valley, a quaint village, a church steeple, with a sentimental slogan.  Trusting God can be extremely uncomfortable, even painful.

Helpless Sacks of Sand

Tim Challies:

This morning I found myself wondering why we sleep. What’s the point of it? Obviously there are physical reasons, but there must be an underlying spiritual reason that God has made us beings who need sleep. We spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping, or, at least, we should spend that much of our lives sleeping. That is remarkable. God must have a purpose behind any activity that consumes so much of our time. I am sure that God could have created us as sleepless beings who could be productive all day and all night, but he chose not to. He created us and he created sleep and he created a relationship between the two.

The Curse Of Motivational Speaking

Conrad Mbewe:

Last Sunday, a young man came to see me after our church service. He is the kind of guy who shows up at church once in a while and then disappears for a season. My guess is that he goes around churches sampling sermons and looking for answers. On this visit, he asked that I help him to overcome a failure in his life, and it was a failure to progress. He said that his greatest problem is that he does not believe in himself. Could I help him believe in himself so that he could become successful?

Belief In Hell Lowers Crime Rate

Huffington Post:

Religions are thought to serve as bulwarks against unethical behaviors. However, when it comes to predicting criminal behavior, the specific religious beliefs one holds is the determining factor, says a University of Oregon psychologist.

3 Things I Learned Reading The Hunger Games Trilogy

A few weeks back I shared a few items on my summer reading list. Well, I decided to get a head start (and already made it a good chunk of the way through the list!). A couple weeks ago, I read The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Going in I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was surprised to see that I enjoyed the experience of a “just for fun” read. But I was also happy to see that I learned a fair bit while reading the books.

Here are three of the lessons I learned (I’ll do my best to keep the spoilers to a minimum):

1. Thoroughly Unlikeable Characters Remind Us of… Us (even when we don’t want to admit it)

Katniss, the lead character in the series, is a self-centered, grumpy, brat. She’s disrespectful and dismissive of authority. She can’t see past her own issues. She’s completely oblivious to the feelings of those around her (including the two young men vying for her affection—Gale and Peeta). In other words, she’s a pretty normal teenager (if normal teenagers were also skilled hunters in a post-apocalyptic world). Granted a few caveats need to be put in place: She was raised in extreme poverty, forced to become the provider for her family at a very young age, and manipulated by all who saw her rising popularity via the Games as an opportunity to build or defend their cause.

The other characters in the books are pretty vile as well, whether the malevolent and manipulative President Snow, scheming rebel leader Plutarch Heavensbee, or the obviously Communist President of District 13, Coin. In fact, there are really only two reasonably likeable characters in the entire book—Katniss’ sister, Primrose (Prim), and Peeta, the baker’s son who loves her (though she doesn’t know it). They’re the only two characters who’ve not succumbed to the darker impulses of humanity in the series.  [Read more…]

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The Message of the Bible in 221 Words

D.A. Carson:

God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath…

(HT: Challies)

Inerrancy & Worldview: Free

If you’ve not already got a copy, you can get Vern Polythress’ new book, Inerrancy & Worldview, as a free PDF download at the author’s website. (Be sure to read the terms of use so you don’t get yourself into trouble.)

Introducing eBook Licenses from Cruciform Press

Church and ministry leaders looking to encourage reading within their teams will love this new product from Cruciform Press:

Our Ebook Distribution Licenses allow you to give away Cruciform Press ebooks inexpensively—not to mention legally and with a good consience. This service is intended primarily for church and ministry leaders, but anyone is welcome to participate. You purchase a license for one specific book title. We then send you an email with three download links, one link for each of the three dominant ebook formats. Ebooks may be downloaded from these links one at a time. Each download only takes a few seconds.

Simple Stories are Simply Good

Barnabas Piper:

I enjoy these kinds of stories [complicated fiction] quite a lot, but recently I have been rediscovering the joys of what I’ll call “simple fiction” as I’ve read a couple of Trenton lee Stewarts Mysterious Benedict Society novels and poked back through the Harry Potter books. Much of what I call “simple” is children’s literature, but any good story for a child is a good story for someone who used to be a child. I have found these simple stories to be refreshing for a handful of reasons.

The Bible’s Story in 3 Minutes

The Gospel Project:

[tentblogger-youtube A4WL0w3it0s]

(HT: Trevin)

Glorify Thyself in Us!

Lord, convert our friends that still remain unsaved. Oh, mighty power of God, let none come into this house, even accidentally and casually, without receiving some devout impression. May the Spirit of God work mightily by our ministry, and the ministration of all His servants now present, whether in the Sabbath school, or in the streets, or in the lodging-houses, or from door to door, or when they privately speak to individuals.

Oh, glorify Thyself in us! Dear Saviour, we pray Thee come and mark us all distinctly with the blood mark, as being wholly Thine, and henceforth may we say with Paul, “Let no man trouble me; for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” As we have been buried with Thee by baptism into death, so would we be dead to all the world and only live for Christ. God grant it may be so, and we will glorify Thee in life, and death, and forever.

Charles Spurgeon, Adapted from The Pastor in Prayer

Prayer Will Consume Sin or Sin Will Choke Prayer

The desire of a person’s heart is to get far away from God, and have nothing to do with him. Their feelings towards him is nothing but fear. Why then should a person pray when they have no real sense of sin, no real feeling of spiritual needs, no thorough belief in unseen things, no desire after holiness and Heaven? Of all these things, the vast majority of people know and feel nothing. . . . There are hundreds who would rather storm a breach, or lead a forlorn hope — than confess publicly that they make a habit of prayer. There are thousands who, if obliged to sleep in the same room with a stranger, would lie down in bed without a prayer. To dress well, to go to theaters, to be thought clever and agreeable, all this is fashionable — but not to pray. I cannot forget this. I cannot think a habit is common which so many seem ashamed to admit. . . .

Can we really believe that people are praying against sin — when we see them plunging into it? Can we suppose they pray against the world — when they are entirely absorbed and taken up with its pursuits? Can we think they really ask God for grace to serve him — when they do not show the slightest interest to serve him at all? Oh, no, it is as plain as daylight, that the great majority of people either ask nothing of God — or do not mean what they say when they do ask — which is just the same thing. Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin — or sin will choke prayer. I cannot forget this. I look at people’s lives. I believe that few pray.

Adapted from J.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer

3 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Marriage: My Spouse is the Problem

Over the last couple days, I’ve been about the lies we tell ourselves about marriage—lies that, if left uncountered by biblical truth, will ruin our marriages. In the first post, I considered the lie that tells us marriage is about my happiness. In the second, we looked at the notion that marriage is supposed to be easy and saw that this lie quickly evaporates when we begin to look at marriage from God’s perspective.

In this final post, I want to look at one more lie that ruins our marriages:

Lie #3: My spouse is the problem

I remember some of the first fights that Emily and I had as a married couple. Most were over pretty silly things… but not always. One evening, I came home after another frustrating and unfulfilling men’s ministry play date (there was no real “ministry” happening; it was just a bunch of dudes whose wives signed them up to get together). Emily could see that I was annoyed (I don’t like using my time in unproductive ways) and she wisely told me the truth:

“You need to quit.”

I didn’t take this terribly well. I was sure that I could turn it around and start some real ministry that would see lives changed.

I was wrong.

She drew a helpful diagram that illustrated why the ministry wouldn’t work (one of the significant problems in it being, of course, my role—I’m far more gifted in teaching than building systems and structures). Nevertheless, I launched into a completely ill-advised and frankly idiotic diatribe about how she wasn’t supporting me, and blah blah blah.

Did I also mention that she was pregnant with our first child at the time?

Idiot.

Walking away from the conversation, I thought, “Man, if she would just support me, then everything would be fine. Then I could do the things that I think God’s called me to do.” Little did I realize that I’d bought into one of the most damning lies about marriage of all—that the problem was Emily’s fault. [Read more…]

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Fathers, Stop Stealing From Your Children

Nathan Bingham:

You’re guilty when you skip breakfast with the family to prepare for that early morning meeting, when you’re distant at the dinner table because you’re resolving an issue at work in a long email conversation on your smartphone, and when you forfeit a healthy family night-time ritual because you’ve got something important to do—like write a blog post.

I’ve succumb. Have you?

SBTS New York Extension Center

Considering seminary? Maybe picking up a few credits? SBTS has launched a New York Extension Center. Check it out:

[tentblogger-vimeo 26482407]

The fall course schedule is also available to review. Looks like a terrific group of teachers.

$5 Friday at Ligonier

This week’s selections includes Dr. Sproul’s What Is Reformed Theology? and Face to Face with Jesus teaching series (download), among many other items. Sale ends at midnight (Eastern Time).

Thoughts on an Impending Conversion (Which Should Have Been Foretold)

Carl Trueman:

The news of the seeming impending conversion of Jason Stellman to Roman Catholicism will no doubt come as a shock to many who, in the small world of confessional Presbyterianism, probably know of him best either as the man who led the prosecution of Peter Leithart in the PCA’s Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest or as a vigorous advocate of Two-Kingdoms theology. Neither of these things would seem to indicate that he was leaning Romeward. If anything, his opposition to Dr. Leithart would have indicated the opposite. I suspect many of those who supported him on that issue will now wonder if their trust was betrayed and if the Rev Stellman already secretly held many of the views he accused Dr. Leithart of espousing.

For some of us, however, his conversion is not so surprising.

Is the Eternal Generation of the Son a Biblical Idea?

Keith Johnson:

Although the eternal generation of the Son is affirmed in early confessions such as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed (AD 381) and post-Reformation statements like the Westminster Confession, several prominent evangelical theologians object to this doctrine on the grounds that it lacks biblical support. Evangelicals who reject this doctrine frequently point out that the Greek word monogenes (John 1:18; 3:16) does not mean “only begotten” but rather “unique.” Since the mistranslation of monogenes (allegedly) represents one of key lines of biblical evidence, one should dispense with eternal generation as a theological relic of a bygone era.

In light of this, how should we think about eternal generation?

3 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Marriage: Marriage is Supposed to be Easy

Yesterday, I started talking about three lies we tell ourselves about marriage—lies that, if left uncountered by biblical truth, will ruin our marriages. Yesterday, I considered the lie that tells us marriage is about my happiness. While we should all strive to be happy in our marriages, it’s helpful remember that happiness is a byproduct of a good relationship, not the point of the relationship.

Once believed, this lie has us constantly looking for the exits—if my wife isn’t making me happy, maybe someone else will. As bad as this one is, though, it’s not the only lie that devastates our marriages. Here’s the next:

Lie #2: Marriage is supposed to be easy

My oldest daughter loves, loves, loves Disney princesses. Aurora from Sleeping Beauty is one of her all-time favorites. Cinderella, too. And Rapunzel and…

You get the idea.

Most of the movies are pretty cute and fairly entertaining, but there’s one thing that bugs me about them: whole “fairy tale ending” thing. They all live happily ever after. Sure, there’s conflict in getting to the “ever after,” but once there—once the prince finds his bride—it’s smooth sailing.

While I understand that it’s entertainment, I have to wonder if this isn’t the starting point for this lie. That once the girl and the guy fall head over heels, there are no more problems. We don’t get to see Aurora and Phillip fight about him leaving his socks balled up on the floor. We don’t see Cinderella and Prince Charming get cheesed off with one another over the fridge being left open, or the cap being left off the toothpaste. And don’t get me started on Eugene and Rapunzel…

This pattern doesn’t end when girls outgrow Disney princesses. It continues up through romantic comedies, romance novels, sitcoms… There’s this idea that once you the battle has been won, “love”—however you define it—should be easy. You can kick back and relax. [Read more…]

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Creating a Reading Culture in Your Church

Mark Dever:

[tentblogger-youtube 6LyUBX6oQPo]

Honoring God in an Unequally Yoked Marriage

Sarah Flashing:

In the church, she appears to be single. She’s the believer whose husband never joins her because, while he may or may not believe in God, he has no interest in Christianity. While she is devout, he can be found somewhere on the continuum between tranquil unbelief and agitated intolerance. Such unequally yoked unions are not ideal and definitely not recommended, but it’s reality for many evangelical women—myself included

The Great Gift Certificate Giveaway

Tim Challies is giving away some fantastic gift certificates for you and your pastor this week. Click here to enter.

What I’m Learning About Liberty Village

Darryl Dash:

I remember the day years ago that I discovered the Runnymede community of Toronto. I instantly fell in love with that community, and I’ve never looked back. I love places like Runnymede and Roncesvalles, but I really love Liberty Village. That’s a good thing when you’re planting a church.

Depression – When We Want to Die

C. Michael Patton:

For many of us, “Monday morning blues” simply refers to that sadness that one gets once the weekend break is over. The prospect of a long week of the daily grind brings the color blue. However, for many ministers, it means something different. Monday is often actually the beginning of the weekend. When I was at Stonebriar Community Church, Mondays were my day off. And they were dangerous days. Why? Well, the general principle goes like this: after great victories, there are great vulnerabilities. Having just completed my Sunday lessons which were bathed in prayer, hope, anticipation, and mental sweat (not to mention the acute pressure of the delivery), it was time to (ahem) let my hair down. Monday was my “free” day to relax and reflect. But, as with all relaxing, there is some risky business involved.

3 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Marriage: Marriage is About My Happiness

When I first got married, I had a lot of preconceived notions about what marriage was supposed to be like (despite all that we learned in our premarital counseling). Some of the ideas I had were actually true, but not fully fleshed out (like what it means for me to be the “head of the household”). Others were complete and utter nonsense (like “my wife should want to be intimate whenever I feel like”).

Now we all bring into our marriages a ton of baggage, but where our baggage gets dangerous is when it’s founded on the lies that our culture and sinful natures tell us. Over the next couple days, I want to look at three big ones I’ve noticed a tendency to fall prey to. Here’s the first:

Lie #1: Marriage is about my happiness

We live in a “me” centered culture—everything’s about what I want, what I need. My priorities always come first, everyone else’s are always secondary. So when problems come into our marriages, what do we do? We look for a way out. Why?

Because we’re not happy. Now, happiness is not a bad thing—in fact, it’s a very good thing. We should want to be in our marriages. But happiness is a byproduct of a good, Christ-centered marriage. It’s not the point.

The point of marriage is to bear witness to the gospel (whether we realize it or not). Ephesians 5 explains that the “mystery” of marriage—why we do it, why it makes sense, how it works—is that it’s a picture of the gospel. Just as Christ humbled himself and submitted himself to death on a cross for his bride, the Church, husbands are to humble themselves and set aside their rights in order to serve their wives—to see them flourish and grow into the image of Christ. [Read more…]

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You Cannot Be Spiritual Without Being Religious

Kevin DeYoung:

When you hear the word “spiritual” certain images come to mind. You think of someone very quiet and contemplative. Or maybe you picture someone with hands raised in a demonstrative expression of worship. You may think of your spontaneous, free-wheeling, “Spirit-led” friend. The spiritual person in your mind may be the young woman deeply interested in miracles and mystery, or maybe the old man earnestly pursuing a relationship with a higher power. To be “spiritual” in our day is to be vaguely interested in the supernatural and loosely committed to practices like prayer and meditation.

What Is the Difference between the “Active” and the “Passive” Obedience of Christ?

Justin Taylor:

Historically, the Reformed understanding is that Christ’s “passive obedience” and his “active obedience” both refer to the whole of Christ’s work. The distinction highlights different aspects, not periods, of Christ’s work in paying the penalty for sin (“passive obedience”) and fulfilling the precepts of the law (“active obedience”).

What The Bible Says About the Heaven Books

Tim Challies:

After writing about this new genre of I went to heaven books, I received many comments and emails asking me about biblical examples of those who glimpsed heaven—John in the book of Revelation, Paul in 2 Corinthians, Isaiah in his prophecy. I will address this briefly today.

Life is but a Tweet

Nathan W. Bingham:

I recently had the burdensome responsibility of writing the words that would memorialize the life of a loved one—the words on their tombstone. It was a heavy responsibility because, at least from a human and earthly perspective, I was being asked to sum up a person’s life in what amounts to no more than a tweet. In this sense, cemeteries across the world serve as guardians protecting what is for many all that remains of their earthly life—those few words etched in stone.

Book Review: Church Discipline by Jonathan Leeman

Discipline isn’t a popular idea among many of America’s evangelical churches. Although some understand the need, others have set the practice aside, fearing that it’ll damage their efforts to reach the lost and the hurting. “Church leaders want to reach outsiders, but this good desire produces a bad temptation—to slim down the gospel to something skinnier,” writes Jonathan Leeman in Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus.

It’s comparatively easy to talk about God’s grace, unconditional love, and faith. It’s harder to talk about God’s holiness, Christ’s lordship, a Spirit-given repentance, and the new covenant reality of the church. All of these things make demands on a person. They produce the need for accountability. And when you build a church on a gospel that makes few demands and offers little accountability, church discipline just doesn’t make sense. (Location 149)

In this short book, Leeman connects discipline with discipleship, offering a gospel-centered framework, practical case studies of how to approach particular situations and solid advice for church leaders seeking to bring about a proper emphasis on this difficult aspect of discipleship and growing in godliness.

It should be noted upfront: this is not a book for those looking to be convinced of the need to practice church discipline; it’s for the church leader who is already convinced. This approach has its strengths and weaknesses, but overall, readers will be left more or less satisfied.

A key strength is readers don’t need to go through an exhaustive apologetic for the practice, although Leeman offers a broad definition of discipline. He writes, “In broad terms, church discipline is one part of the discipleship process, the part where we correct sin and point the disciple toward the better path. . . . a Christian is disciplined through instruction and correction, as in a math class where the teacher teaches the lesson and then corrects the students’ errors” (Location 287). [Read more…]