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The Most Boring Important Thinker You Should Read

John Starke:

Van Til transformed the discussions around epistemology and apologetics unlike anyone else in modern Christian history—being the main influence behind theologians, pastors, and apologists like John Frame, Tim Keller, David Powlison, Greg Bahnsen and the entire systematic and apologetics departments of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and California, headed by names like Michael Horton, Scott Oliphint, William Edgar, and David VanDrunen. Yet it’s not likely that most Christians—even thoughtful ones—could recognize his name, much less name a book he’s written.

Free Audiobook

Christian Audio’s free audiobook of the month is Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande.

The Dangers of Fundamentalism in Leadership

Jeremy Pace:

I have a confession: I am a fundamentalist at heart. I am a lover of truth, and I am a rule follower. Yet, when I read Christ’s rebuke of the church of Ephesus, my own heart and actions are exposed, as I see Jesus calling his people to be lovers of the one who is truth and of his people. The same rebuke given to the Ephesian church could many times be given to me.

6 Steps to Turning Sermon Transcripts into Books

Jared Wilson:

Today Justin Taylor highlighted a two year-old post from Phil Johnson, in which Johnson responds to a question about the process of turning a preacher’s sermons into a polished book manuscript. Justin called Phil’s post a “reality check,” and it is. There is good, hard advice there to anyone interested in what it might take to do this sort of editorial work. But as one of the commenters in that old post pointed out, Phil didn’t exactly answer the question: How does it work? So I’ll be your huckleberry.

Why Am I Not Enough For Him?

Sherry Allchin

“Why am I not enough for him?” This is a question that I’ve heard from every wife I’ve counseled whose husband is involved with pornography. Some of these wives knew about the porn before marriage, but naively believed that they could change their husbands. It’s common for a struggling couple to believe that their love for one another will help the porn addict overcome his temptations as he is ravished in his wife’s love. But then it happens… she discovers the website he’s been viewing and she is devastated!

Book Review: The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller

self-forgetfulness-keller

“What are the marks of a heart that has been radically changed by the grace of God?” asks Tim Keller in the opening of The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. “If we trust in Christ, what should our hearts be like?” These are incredibly important questions, and ones that we would do well to answer.

It is not simply a matter of morally virtuous behaviour. It is quite possible to do all sorts of morally virtuous things when our hearts are filled with fear, with pride or with a desire for power. We are talking about hearts that have been changed, at the root, by the grace of God – and what that looks like in real life.

By examining 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness offers readers an explanation of what a changed heart should look like, one that is not characterized by pride and boasting in one’s own accomplishments, but in (as Keller titled the sermon from which this book is derived), “blessed self-forgetfulness.” In its three short, chapters, Keller looks at the condition of the human ego apart from Christ, its counterpart in the transformed sense of self, and how we can get that transformed sense of self.

Right off the bat, I have to say that I’m of two minds regarding this book. I really appreciate the content. It’s solid, biblical and helpful. Particularly poignant is his explanation of Paul’s view of his own self—the remedy to the problem of self-esteem:

Paul is saying something astounding. ‘I don’t care what you think and I don’t care what I think.’ He is bringing us into new territory that we know nothing about. His ego is not puffed up, it is filled up. He is talking about humility – although I hate using the word ‘humility’ because this is nothing like our idea of humility. Paul is saying that he has reached a place where his ego draws no more attention to itself than any other part of his body. He has reached the place where he is not thinking about himself anymore. When he does something wrong or something good, he does not connect it to himself any more. (p. 31)

This is a beautiful way of answering the problem of how we view ourselves, scripturally. We too often look at our view of self and think that if we’ve got low self-esteem, we need to boost it (ala Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). But Paul’s answer is simple—we don’t need to change our view of self, we need to take our eyes off of ourselves entirely. This is such a crucial distinction because it reminds us again, that our eyes are to be on Christ as the author and perfecter of our faith, not upon ourselves, for even the good that we do is of Him.

Where I struggle with the book, oddly, is that it exists as a book. Is the right way to present Keller’s message as a print book, given that it is the transcript of a 40 minute message (which means it’s 4500-5000 words on the high end)? While I’m not against sermon transcripts being compiled into books (all of Lloyd-Jones’ books are sermons and lectures, for example), I’m not certain that the best presentation of this one is as a stand-alone piece. Maybe it’s most appropriate as a low-cost eBook (think Kindle single), but being presented as a book on its own may actually do the content a disservice simply because readers may want more than is presented.

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness really serves as a sketch for a larger discussion—it’s an introduction. A good one, to be sure, but an introduction nonetheless. If you as a reader are looking for a super-fast read (think 30-ish minutes), it’s definitely worth the read, but be sure to manage your expectations.


Title: The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness
Author: Tim Keller
Publisher: 10Publishing (2012)

A complementary copy was provided for review purposes by the publisher.

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Is the Megachurch the New Liberalism?

Albert Mohler:

The megachurches are once again on the leading edge of these questions, but they are not alone. The urgency to reach people with the Gospel can, if the church is not faithful and watchful, tempt us to subvert the Gospel by redefining its terms. We are not honest if we do not admit that the current cultural context raises the cost of declaring the Gospel on its own terms.

Cheap eBooks

Annotations of Gospel Centrality: Colossians 2:6-7

Tim Brister:

These camps of rationalism and mysticism are both right and wrong at the same time. They are right in that it is necessary that we know God, both intellectually and experientially. They are wrong in that they equate spiritual growth by experience and knowledge. The Bible critiques both views with the gospel. We grow in the Christian faith the same way we entered into the Christian faith–by repentance and faith.

Sin, Circumstance, and Corrective Discipline

Church discipline has been a hot topic of late among certain circles. Some folks on one side of the aisle seem to view corrective discipline taken to its full extent (disfellowship) as unloving, and others (or so it could be argued) are almost too quick on the draw. As I’ve been reading Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus by Jonathan Leeman, I’ve been extremely grateful (and impressed) at how well he handles the situational realities of corrective discipline.

In the book, he explains that while the general principle that guides how we deliberate a sin or a pattern of sin is fairly simple—”Does the person repeatedly refuse to repent, such that the person’s profession eventually becomes unbelievable and not affirmable? That is, does this person clench his or her fist around this sin so tightly that it outweighs all other protestations of faith?”—a whole host of situational elements need to be factored into a church’s deliberations. He offers the following examples:

  • How long has he been a Christian?
  • What teaching has he received?
  • Does the sinner admit his action was wrong?
  • Does he seem genuinely grieved over his sin, or is there a tone of annoyance in his confession?
  • Did he quickly confess, or did we have to drag out the information?
  • Was he immediately forthcoming with all of his sins, or did we have to dig them out one by one?
  • Is it likely that he’s still hiding information?
  • Is this a pattern? Is this characteristic?
  • Is he inviting correction?
  • Is he welcoming counsel for how to fight against the sin, or does he reject counsel, convinced that he knows best how to deal with it?
  • As we discuss his sin, does it feel like he’s standing on our side against the sin, or is he defensive? In other words, is he saying, “Yeah, you’re absolutely right. It’s awful. What should I do?” Or is he saying, “Yeah, fine. Okay. We’ll see.”
  • Are there factors in his personal or family history that make the sin not less wrong but more likely?
  • Was he led into sin by others whom he reasonably trusted?

No two cases of corrective discipline are exactly alike—simply because no two people are exactly alike. While we should by no means take a relativistic approach to sin, we should be very careful to understand the context surrounding the sin being addressed. A brand-new 22-year-old Christian who’s sleeping with his girlfriend should probably be handled differently than the long-standing church member who’s doing the same thing. One may be sinning out of ignorance (the new Christian may not have gotten to the “no sex outside of marriage” parts of the Bible yet), where the other may be committing a presumptuous sin (they know it’s wrong, but they’re going to do it anyway). It’s the same approach a parent must take in disciplining his or her children. I don’t discipline my daughters when they do something childish in the same way I do when they do something foolish. Childishness—ignorance—requires careful, loving instruction. Foolishness—presumptuousness—requires careful, loving consequences.

While none of us are going to hit the bullseye every time when it comes to dealing with discipline issues, taking the situational elements into account will, by God’s grace, allow us to discipline in a way that honors God and gives grace to the one receiving correction.

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Regretful But Not Devastated

Paul Tripp:

The longer you’re in pastoral ministry, the more you move from being an astronaut to an archaeologist. When you’re young, you’re excitedly launching to worlds unknown. You have all of the major decisions of life and ministry before you, and you can spend your time assessing your potential and considering opportunities. It’s a time of exploration and discovery. It’s a time to go where you’ve never been before and do what you’ve never done. It’s a time to begin to use your training and gain experience.

Jesus Wants Hospitable Disciples, Not Standoffish Disciples

Aaron Sellars:

Jesus’ point is we should not only receive a child as Jesus, but we should receive all that are on Jesus’ team. Anyone doing something for, or on behalf of, Jesus were to be recognized as allies. I could just mention a church or two in OC and you could think of reasons why they are not good. You probably already did. A denomination, a pastor could lead you to the same conclusions. We are more concerned about ourselves and how we do things and what we believe than what Jesus thinks about these churches, denominations, and pastors.

Two-Hundred Proof Grace

Tullian Tchividjian:

Are you busy mixing or do you drink grace straight? Are you always in a spiritual hurry or is your soul free to rest and raise a glass? Is it possible that free grace in Christ causes people to love like Christ?

The Lost Sin of Envy

Tim Challies:

Nine years ago I slapped together a little web site so I could share a couple of articles with my parents. The Lord took that site and has done something amazing so that today tens of thousands of people read it every day. Not only that, but I have been able to write books and I have been able to travel all around to teach and preach and so much more. You might think that I would be just thrilled with all that has happened and certainly I should be. And yet I came to see that this really was not the case. Instead I was growing resentful, I was envious of what I didn’t have and of what God hadn’t given me. I came to see that I had made friends with Envy.

Commenting and Christian Conduct

One of the big takeaways I had from April’s Band of Bloggers event was this common thread throughout the discussion that Christians need to be consistent in their online conduct. One example given was Tim Challies sharing how a reader emailed him in a rather indignant fashion, telling him to stop writing about some topic or he’d quit reading, but his tone immediately changed once Tim responded. He’d forgotten that (as Nathan Bingham put is so well) there are people behind the pixels.

This is one of the great temptations that the internet presents to us. Because we’re looking at (usually) text on a screen, it’s easy to forget that there’s a person behind it. And when what we read becomes mere information, it becomes easy to fire off critical statements that you’d never imagine saying to a person sitting across the table. Since coming home from T4G, I’ve been feeling increasingly challenged about how I can be more mindful of this, as well as encourage you to do likewise.

Do Not Offer Immediate Response (cf. Prov 12:18, James 1:19)

When I read an article that I strenuously disagree with, the worst thing I can do is be rash with my words and respond quickly. James tells us to be slow to speak for a reason. I may either say something that is unwise myself or potentially add fuel to a fire of foolishness (this is particularly important when dealing with commenters on blogs).

Usually the Best Response is No Response (cf. Prov 26:4-5)

Potentially a subpoint of the previous, Solomon tells us, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” While apparently contradictory, his general principle is clear:

If someone is speaking utter nonsense, just ignore it. 99.9% of inflammatory blog posts and comments aren’t worth our time. Don’t respond. I’ve made this mistake dozens of times (you’d think I’d learn), but responding to an unhelpful negative comment is bad news. Don’t respond.

There are times when it’s necessary to call out foolish talk for what it is, but we’ve got to be careful to avoid getting sucked into an endless back-and-forth. If we must respond, do so carefully, clearly and biblically.

On this point, a practice I’m beginning to implement here is best described as follows: Respond carefully and if necessary, use the delete button. If a comment is full of foolish talk, it’s best for everyone if it’s deleted.

Focus on What is Praiseworthy (cf. Phil. 4:8)

The most helpful thing we can do is focus on what is excellent, true, praiseworthy, pure and commendable. If a comment is flat-out ignorant, ignore it (or if we’re the moderator, delete it)—and if a blog consistently provokes us to anger or frustration, perhaps we shouldn’t be reading it?

Remember the Point (cf. 1 Thess 5:11)

“Encourage one another and build one another up,” Paul wrote. All our communication between fellow believers should have this goal in mind. This doesn’t mean play the part of a sycophant; that sort of behavior demeans everyone (including the person on the receiving end of such behavior). Rather, it means even our negative statements should be offered in a spirit of familial love for a brother or sister in Christ. Our goal is never to be the rightest person in the room, but to build one another up and encourage.

In the past, I’ve been reticent to implement a formal comment policy beyond, “don’t act like a jerk.” So, while there are certainly elements of a comment policy here, these points are really meant to be guiding principles to help me maintain the consistency between my blog comments and Christian conduct. If they’re helpful, I’d encourage you all to use them as well.

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Three Types of Christian Scholarship

C. Michael Patton:

While most of us will see ourselves more in one than the others (I find myself in 2), we need to be careful. Of course we need to recognize the dangers and listen to the critique of the others, but more than that, we need to be continually committed to finding balance. Our gifts and calling are going to clearly drive us to one more than the others so I am not saying neglect one to brush up on the others. But I am saying that if you neglect the others, it will make you less proficient in the one. I have seen sloppy theologians. I have been a sloppy theologian. I have seen exegetes who seem to continually miss the obvious. I have seen pastoral-types compromise. All I am saying is that you need to be aware of where you stand and committed to excellence by being appreciative of all three.

3 Ways to Crush Your Inner Control Freak

Nathan W. Bingham:

I’ve been thinking about what I observe to be man’s almost insatiable desire to control. How should Christians stand apart in this area from the world? As I reflected, I thought of 3 ways in which Christians can crush their “inner control freak.”

Cheap eBooks

The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith by Peter Hitchens (2.99 US/3.43 CAD)

For the City: Proclaiming and Living Out the Gospel by Darrin Patrick & Matt Carter (2.99 US/3.43 CAD)

Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture by Brandon Hatmaker (2.99 US/3.43 CAD)

Education or Imitation? Bible Interpretation for Dummies Like You and Me by Curtis “Voice” Allen (99 cents!) – Also available in Kindle, ePub and PDF formats at CruciformPress.com

Hell: No Biblical Concept is More Grim or Terror-Inducing

R.C. Sproul:

Hell is trivialized when it is used as a common curse word. To use the word lightly may be a halfhearted human attempt to take the concept lightly or to treat it in an amusing way. We tend to joke about things most frightening to us in a futile effort to declaw and defang them, reducing their threatening power.

It’s a Strange Thing Being a Pastor

Julian Freeman:

Being a pastor is a strange thing.

We proclaim a message with the power of God to change people, but we can’t even change ourselves. We call others to perfection, as Jesus did, but our lives are full of imperfection. We must shepherd like the Shepherd though we’re just one of the sheep.

A Minister’s Prayer

O My Lord,

Let not my ministry be approved only by men,
or merely win the esteem and affections
of people;

But do the work of grace in their hearts,
call in thy elect,
seal and edify the regenerate ones,
and command eternal blessing on their souls.

Adapted from “A Minister’s Prayer,” Puritan Prayers & Devotions (Kindle Edition)

The Best Attraction is the Gospel in its Purity

To try to win a soul for Christ by keeping that soul in ignorance of any truth, is contrary to the mind of the Spirit; and to endeavour to save men by mere claptrap, or excitement, or oratorical display, is as foolish as to hope to hold an angel with bird-lime, or lure a star with music. The best attraction is the gospel in its purity. The weapon with which the Lord conquers men is the truth as it is in Jesus. The gospel will be found equal to every emergency; an arrow which can pierce the hardest heart, a balm which will heal the deadliest wound. Preach it, and preach nothing else. Rely implicitly upon the old, old gospel. You need no other nets when you fish for men; those your Master has given you are strong enough for the great fishes, and have meshes fine enough to hold the little ones. Spread these nets and no others, and you need not fear the fulfilment of His Word, “I will make you fishers of men.”

Adapted from Charles Spurgeon, The Soul-Winner

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Seven Ways To Pray for Your Prayer Life

Tim Challies:

Here are seven ways that you can pray about your prayer life. These are seven items you can add to your prayer list as you consider your own prayer life or another person’s.

When Church Planters Want to Drink Sweet Tea from a Garbage Can

JD Payne:

Missionaries do strange things.

These Kingdom servants do not know the phrase, “we’ve never done it that way before.” To them, everything is new. They are entering into the fields. They are starting with nothing and moving toward something. They do not begin with structures and organizations; they begin by entering into the kingdom of darkness to bring out the captives into the Kingdom of light.

Are We Connecting?

John Johnson:

One of the indicators, to my kids for sure, that I have come perilously close to obsolescence is the fact I do not text, do not tweet, and rarely visit Facebook. My response to them, feeble as it may seem, is that everyone draws some boundaries around their accessibility. Landline, cell phone, mail, email, a personal visit—they all work for me. Occasional communication comes via Facebook and blog sites, but that is about it. In their eyes, I am disconnected. And maybe so, but there is something to the adage—if you are always available, you are not worth much when you are available. Being unavailable is often much more necessary than being available. But it is more…

The Value of Textbooks

HT: Trevin Wax

Book Review: Dallas and the Spitfire by Ted Kluck and Dallas Jahncke

Dallas&theSpitfire_Cover+Treatments.indd

These days, there’s a lot of emphasis being put on the need for one-to-one discipleship (and rightly so). Christians need to be encouraging one another in the faith and those with a more seasoned faith ought to be coming alongside newer or less mature believers to guide them into maturity. But how do we do it?

That’s the dilemma that Ted Kluck faces when he’s assigned by his church to disciple Dallas Jahncke, a recovering drug addict, ex-convict, and brand-new Christian who Kluck would take under his wing—a pairing that, at first glance, might seem more appropriate for the plot of a summertime buddy comedy than a title you’ll find in a Christian bookstore. But Dallas and the Spitfire: An Old Car, an Ex-Con, and an Unlikely Friendship, the book chronicling their burgeoning relationship, offers an often painfully honest but encouraging look at the fruit of Christian discipleship.

While the popular thing seem to be to set up shop at a coffee shop and do a book study over coffee, it’s not for everyone—including Kluck and Jahncke. He explains:

The book-and-coffee model of discipleship seems semi-absurd to me, partly because we don’t see Jesus doing this. Jesus taught, He led by example, He came alongside, and He healed. Of course, He also had the distinct advantage of being sinless, all-knowing, and the Son of God. I am none of these. It’s clear to me that I’ll have to learn to disciple Dallas by mimicking the person who discipled me: my dad. He was far from perfect—and in fact, I would argue that this honesty about his imperfections made him an even better discipler—but the way he talked with me, listend to me, and spent time with me will provide a road map for my time with Dallas. (p. 32)

So how would this whole discipling thing work? They’d rebuild a 1974 Triumph Spitfire. And that, for Kluck, was the thing that made discipleship click. As they built a relationship doing something that Dallas was extraordinarily gifted in (auto mechanics), the formality of “discipling” gave way to becoming friends. Kluck took on the role of friend and father figure to a young man who desperately needed both, complete with all the joys and heartaches that come with both roles. But through it, Kluck learned a key lesson about discipling, one that we all would do well to consider: [Read more…]

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That Idol That You Love, It Doesn’t Love You Back

Justin Buzzard:

Here’s what you need to know about your idol: That idol that you love, it doesn’t love you back. False gods don’t love you. Idols don’t keep their promises. Anything you worship and build your life on other than God will suck the life out of you and destroy you.

Stop Your Cheatin’ Ways

Kevin DeYoung:

I have a theory that I’ve made into an aphorism: you can borrow time, but you can’t steal it.

The saying is mainly about sleep. If you have to finish a paper by 8am you can stay up all night to finish it. This may seem like a brilliant move because, after all, what were you going to do with the hours between midnight and 7am anyway? You were just going to waste it in bed. So now your paper is done and all you missed was a night’s sleep.

$5 Friday at Ligonier

This week’s selections include Wrestling with an Angel by Greg Lucas (paperback), Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson (eBook), and Dr. Sproul’s Chosen by God teaching series (audio & video download).

Bourne Vivaldi

Great twist on the theme from the Bourne movies:

[tentblogger-youtube 09RUuTAM2H0]

HT: Stephen Altrogge

You Don’t Need to Blog About Everything. Seriously. Stop.

John Saddington:

One of the tell-tale signs of a non-focused, newbie blogger is that they decide to blog abouteverything, instead of blogging about the few things that make that blogger standout and unique and make them a leader with a point instead of a busy blogger with no point.

The Gospel and the Organized Heart

About a year ago, I received a copy of Staci Eastin’s book, The Organized Heart: A Woman’s Guide to Conquering Chaos, which I joyfully gave to my wife as a gift (which she appreciated because, a. she loves organization and b. she loves books almost as much as I do). She found the book so helpful she kindly reviewed it here in her first parachute vlog.

While at Together for the Gospel in April, 2012, Staci and I sat down to discuss the book. In our interview, we talk about her reasons for writing The Organized Heart, how the gospel applies to organization and what she hopes readers will learn through the book. Take a look:

The Organized Heart is now available at CruciformPress.com, Amazon, WTS Books and a number of other online book stores.

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Make That Digital Elephant Disappear!

Nathan W. Bingham:

There is an illusion—an act far more enchanting than having an elephant disappear before your eyes—that has spread far and wide across the world wide web. It’s an illusion that is captivating millions. The line of thinking goes something like this: if it’s online then it’s easy. If it’s digital then it’s inexpensive. If it’s composed of bits and bytes then it’s quick.

5 Words for Millennial Christians

Dan Darling:

lot has been written and said about the millennial generation in the church. . . . We are a generation characterized by action, by activism, by new resurgent interests in orthodoxy and theology. In many ways, it’s a great time for the church. But with every movement comes pitfalls and cautions. And so as a young leader, I just wanted to offer five words leaders in my generation may want to consider.

Why “Asking Jesus Into Your Heart” is Superstitious and Unbiblical

David Platt:

[tentblogger-youtube JPhEEzjU8xQ]

3 Simple Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

R.C. Sproul, Jr:

Pastors are human too. That means, of course, that they sin, but it also means that they have ordinary human needs. While no one joins the ministry in order to receive riches or accolades, honor or power, while shepherds are called to serve others rather than themselves, such doesn’t mean that they are not given to discouragement.

The Price of Earthen Vessels and the Value of Writing

Matthew Anderson:

As an author, I sometimes feel a tension between something like charity for my audience and a burning to simply say something that needs to be said, in the precise way I want to say it.  Such a burning isn’t necessarily rooted in a lack of concern for the audience.  Rather, there is a sense of disaffectedness, a detachment from the need to listen to the market’s opinions that selling a book necessarily introduces.