Links I like

Links

Logic On Fire

Logic On Fire, the new documentary on the life and ministry of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, premiered in April at TGC 2015. Westminster Bookstore’s offering the film for $31 until July 30, and free USPS shipping when you purchase two or more.

What to Do With ‘Some People Are Saying…’

Jared Wilson:

A pastor will sometimes find himself the recipient of hearsay. What I mean is, he will occasionally receive reports of concerns about his character from anonymous parties delivered by parties willing to deliver them. There are few circumstances in which this might be acceptable. But in general, a pastor facing anonymous criticism will be asked to answer to ghosts. Very few things discourage a pastor more than anonymous criticism. More often than not, a wise pastor will need to say, “If someone is concerned about that, they need to bring it to me personally. As it is, I won’t entertain it.” The wise pastor will then personally consider whether the concerns are valid, anonymously generated or not, and “cling to what is good.” But he is under no obligation to entertain the charges of nobody in particular.

What does it mean to have a New York Times Bestseller?

This was actually quite interesting.

Why Bloggers Are Calling It Quits

Tim Challies:

I predict that the blogosphere will continue to grow and thrive. At least, the idea of the blogosphere will grow and thrive. The idea that gave rise to the blogosphere is that it offered people with ideas a voice that circumvented the traditional gatekeepers. Newspaper editors no longer stood between opinions and audiences. Book publishers could no longer determine the authors who would introduce and evaluate the big ideas. Magazines and news shows were no longer the only curators of interesting news and information. That anyone today can have a voice seems normal in 2015, but we forget that fifteen years ago it was a novel idea.

5 Reasons to Keep the Kids In

Nick Batzig:

Being with the congregation in the worship service from childhood is one of the greatest privileges that God has given to children growing up in a Christian home. That begs the question, however, “If our young children can’t understand what is being said from the pulpit, why would we keep them in?” Here are five reasons–with a few caveats–about why you should consider keeping your children in the service:

Challenging the Culture of Quarrelsome ‘Discernment’ Blogging

E. Stephen Burnett:

As a Christian I want to practice biblical discernment, privately and publicly. (I even ran my own discernment-style blog for a while.) Few days pass that I’m not writing a challenge to some recent evangelical irritant, right up to and including this very article. However, I want to do so in a way that shows love for people and points above all to Jesus and the gospel.

That’s why I put “discernment” in quotes. I do not challenge biblical discernment. But I do want to challenge quarrelsome discernment: a counterfeit “discernment” that revels in the fight, refuses to listen to others, is careless with the truth, and twists one biblical instruction — to rebuke false teaching — into a chief end of a Christian’s ministry.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A number of books by R. C. Sprout are on sale at the moment:

Also on sale:

Planned Parenthood’s abortion of women’s rights

Marty Duren hits the nail on the head here: “Abortion is no more about women’s rights than Charles Manson’s infatuation with The Beatles was about music appreciation.”

Hemmed

Lore Wilbert (née Ferguson):

We’re not even a month in and last night I cried hot wet tears, my head in my pillow and my husband bent over me. It wasn’t a disagreement or fight or argument or any of the things I continue to brace myself for in this thing called marriage, it was the death of me and he, and the newness of we.

Forward from conversion

Ed Stetzer:

We have become masters at getting “decisions.” Conversion is a powerful event in the life of the believer. It is a great moment. But it isn’t the end of the game. Converting those decisions into disciples must be part of the church’s purpose.

Sometimes we put such an emphasis on that moment, we make people think that is all we are after. The not-so-funny joke is that some people are willing to receive Christ just so the pastor will leave them alone. Our goal is often for conversions. But God’s goal is for transformation, which really just begins at conversion.

God Often Does His Best Work In The Darkness

Stephen Altrogge:

God does not throw trials at us haphazardly, like an angry fan throwing a beer bottle at a baseball player. He does not accidentally let trials slip into our lives, like an absent-minded babysitter. No, God deliberately leads us into the furnace of trials for very specific reasons. He does not waste suffering. He is not a sadist who derives sick pleasure from inflicting pain on his helpless creatures. Every trial we experience has been hand crafted by God for our good. Trials are God’s kiln. We are the clay, he is the master potter.

Planned Parenthood at the Cross

Russell Moore:

And at the Cross, Jesus stood with and for humanity in suffering. We are often told that abortion is ethical because the “products of conception” aren’t “viable,” that is, they cannot live outside the womb. This suggests that the value of a human life consists in its autonomous power. But Jesus was conceived in the most vulnerable situation possible in the ancient world—as a fatherless orphan. He lived as a migrant refugee outrunning with his family the Planned Parenthood of his day, the King Herod, into a land hostile to his own. He died helplessly convulsing on a cross, dependent on others even for hydration. Even in death, Jesus counted himself with thieves and was buried in a borrowed grave. In his humanity, Jesus wasn’t “viable” either.

On a related note, Joe Carter shares 10 numbers you should know about Planned Parenthood.

Changing opinions on abortion when legislation isn’t an option

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I hate abortion. But I didn’t always.

Prior to my mid-20s, I was fairly certain that abortion was good for our society. My arguments were the typical “woman’s right to choose/health” related variety, but I doubt I would have been able to articulate any position terribly well. Why? Because the truth is, my conviction really had less to do with the good of another, and more for my distaste for “those people”—the ones who would be on the sidewalk outside the hospital with signs with Bible verses, ultrasound pictures and the occasional picture from an abortion (which I’m not entirely sure help, by the way…).

I didn’t know them, but I didn’t like them. And because I didn’t like them, whatever they were talking about was obviously wrong (because that’s how logic works, right?). I was the type that would make obscene gestures driving past, who would probably make a comment about being on “the wrong side of history”.

Then I meet Jesus.

After becoming a Christian, no one really had to tell me that abortion was wrong. No one had to convince me that life began at conception, and that the life growing inside a mother’s womb was a person. But I also didn’t realize my own complacency about the issue. I didn’t see my support by virtue of my distaste for people of conviction on this issue as participating in the sin of abortion, but also a sin against those people.

What woke me up, really, was a book I read a number of years ago, Innocent Blood by John Ensor, which I still feel is one of the finest books on the subject published to date. This was one of the passages that made me realize that I could no longer be privately pro-life, but publicly silent:

Being personally pro-life but otherwise passive is a cowardly and shameful position. Christ is trying to show this in the way he describes the behavior of the priest and the Levite in his parable (Luke 10:25-37). Seeing a man beaten and about to die, they let it stand unchallenged. They might well comfort themselves, “That is just horrible. I do not believe in that.” However, merely believing that murder is wrong does not qualify as obedience to the commandments of God… When you can live with death, work around it, or let it go unchallenged, you are not pro-life. (53)

Reading that hit me like a ton of bricks all those years ago, and it still does even now, particularly that last line.

I live in Canada, and one of the difficult things about being pro-life in this nation is how it’s more-or-less a non-issue here. Keep in mind, we are the only nation in the western world without any laws regarding abortion. Globally, we’re on par with North Korea on this issue. (And can we just agree that we shouldn’t be in the same category as North Korea on any issue at all, ever?) All but one of the major political parties in this country are staunchly pro-abortion, and the other party has no official position (which is, of course, a position).

In the hospitals where our children took their first breaths, innumerable were (and are) never given the chance to take theirs. Christians and all Canadians who are opposed to abortion have no ability to challenge our government to reconsider. We are forced to live with death. We might not be happy about it. We might accompany a small group of people and hold up a sign, but we also recognize that doing so won’t change the fact that there’s (currently) nothing we can do to change the legal situation.

So where does that leave us?

Interestingly, with an opportunity. We can’t legislate change here, but we can influence opinions. We can help people recognize the value of children (not merely the evil of abortion) through our love for children—which starts with having children in our lives! Our church, for example, is very pro-baby, with a nursery that’s bursting at the seems. More than a few guys have had certain procedures reversed (and paid for it out of pocket) because they’ve been convicted they ought to have more children. There’s even one family that, every time I see them, I smile because they are a living, breathing preview of the new creation.

But is also happens through showing true compassion to those considering abortion, or those who have had one. The last thing a woman who’s dealing with the emotional fallout of an abortion needs is to be told how what she’s done is wrong and evil. She already knows this. Instead she needs to know there’s hope for her and to have genuine love extended. Our city’s crisis pregnancy center—founded and run by evangelical Christians—provides alternatives for women considering abortion and counselling for those who have had one, as well as tons of education for prospective parents (including dads), and real sex education (the kind that talks about four new cases of Chlamydia being diagnosed daily, almost exclusively among high school and post-secondary students). Ministries like this one are not only helping people deal with the chaos of a surprise pregnancy, but helping them come to know Christ.

And no doubt there’s more going on that I’m unaware of and much more that could be said. There are lots of families who are doing pro-life things, and honoring Christ, but just don’t make a big deal of it. It’s just what they do, and what we should do as well. When we demonstrate that children really matter, and when we help people who are facing the decision to know they are loved by us and by God, that they and their babies have value and dignity, that’s our best opportunity to really make a difference. We can stand against the culture of death by actively engaging with those lives that matter.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H has a pile of books related to homeschooling on sale:

Also on sale:

9Marks sale at WTSBooks

Westminster Bookstore’s got a terrific sale on the entire 9Marks collection of books. You can get the complete 17 volume set for $125, or individual titles for 40 percent off their regular price. Go check it out!

What is Supernatural is Not Necessarily Mystical

Michael Kelley:

Christians deal in the realm of the supernatural all the time, even if we don’t recognize it. We believe the natural, the default, posture of the human heart is sinful. When we commit acts of sin, it’s a very natural thing for us to do because that’s our bent. It’s an expression of who we are. But when we believe the gospel, something supernatural happens. Our default changes. We begin to act in accordance with our new nature. We do things and think things and believe things and say things that are out of place in the natural order of the world.

I Thought Planned Parenthood Protected Family Values

Rosaria Butterfield:

And today, as I reflect on the outrage of Planned Parenthood, I think of my life.

I could have been Dr. Deborah Nucatola. I was groomed to be her. I could have been videotaped pausing between bites of arugula salad and salmon to pontificate on the price of a dead baby’s intact heart and lungs.

The Book of Numbers

This is cool:

The Distortions of Progressive Christians: How Religious Liberty is in Danger

Matthew Lee Anderson:

Many conservative Christians have taken to describing the current environment as one in which they are being persecuted for their faith. Some Progressive Christians, like Rachel Held Evans, have argued strenuously against such claims, pointing out that conservative evangelicals still wield an enormous amount of influence. Donald Miller said something similar last year, albeit in a much more slapdash way. And while I think Miller and Evans distort our current moment in serious ways, they have a point that conservative Christians need to hear.

Top 10 Résumé Mistakes from My Recent Children’s Minister Search

Eric McKiddie:

When I was serving for a premier catering company in Chicago during my undergrad days, there was a phrase we used to throw around regarding the presentation of the plate: they take the first bite with their eyes. I’ve found this axiom to be true in so many contexts of life, not least of which the résumé.

The following ten mistakes were on résumés actually submitted, oftentimes on more than one. I’m sure no one who reads this blog would commit a faux pas such as is listed below when applying for a church position, so I post these for entertainment purposes only.

A better term than social justice

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Everyone has words that make them shrivel up inside when they hear or read them. I always want to lose my mind a little bit when I read “trigger warning” (thankfully, I’ve never met anyone who has said this phrase without a hint of irony). “The feels” makes me feel ways about stuff, but it’s not good. “YOLO”makes me think NOLO…

Then there’s one that probably shouldn’t bother me, but it kind of does. It’s also one that’s nearly inescapable: social justice.

Obviously, I don’t have a problem with what the term is intended to convey—the idea of pursuing the common good, as seen in caring for those in need, rescuing women (and men) from sex trafficking and other forms of slavery, providing safe water for communities and the like. And, of course, none could easily deny the obvious connection between being declared justified in the eyes of God and living a just life. The Bible itself makes this connection in many different ways, from the great commandments, to James’ argument of faith displaying itself in works, and of course, the oft-quoted Micah 6:8:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Many Christians and Christian organizations are quite vocal and passionate about this call, and rightly so. After all, if we say we love Christ but don’t love others, what are we? If we walk away from someone in need, wishing them God’s best but doing nothing to help them in their need, what does that say about us?

So what’s the big deal? Is this just an issue of semantics? Maybe (probably). But there is a reason I’m not a fan of it. And that reason really comes down to one thing: the term “social justice” is too impersonal to capture the biblical ethic. In “social justice”, people can easily become merely needs or problems or priorities. People are helped, certainly, but they risk becoming disembodied.

And for the Christian, this isn’t possible. When the Bible calls on us to meet the needs around us, it does so in deeply personal terms. We’re to bring a cup of cold water to a brother, to give a cloak to the one who has none, to assist the widow and the orphan. The biblical ethic goes beyond merely meeting a need to expressing love to a person. And a term like social justice just doesn’t do that well enough, at least not in my mind.

So what’s a better term? Personally, I prefer compassion (and not just because of where I work). Compassion has a weightiness to it, a grit. It is not mere pity, but a heart-moving call to action. When Jesus saw that crowds of people were like sheep without a shepherd, that they were harassed and helpless, he had compassion on them (Matt. 9:35-38). He cared for them. He healed their sicknesses. He taught them and made the gospel known to them. Jesus’ compassion didn’t move him to lobby the government (to be clear, this sort of action is a good thing), but to show love to those he met in their midst. This is the heart of Christian social action—it’s a person-to-person encounter. It is not love in the abstract. It is love encased in flesh.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Jesus in the Present Tense: The I AM Statements of Christ by Warren W. Wiersbe is free through the end of the day (I reviewed this one a few years back here). Also on sale:

Six Questions on Men and Women Serving Together

Eric Geiger:

I gather on a monthly basis with all the managers in the division that I lead for a time of training. A few months ago I asked Faith Whatley, our director of adult ministry, to train and offer insights on men and women serving alongside one another. Faith has been serving at LifeWay for 20+ years and is well respected as a godly woman and an extremely effective leader.

 

Police or Pastor?

Justin Holcomb:

Following an act of violent abuse, a Christian wife should first turn to the police. We definitely support calling her pastor, too, but only after calling the police.

Dear Franklin: It is not a good idea

I don’t normally like open letters (even when I occasionally write them), but this one by Marty Duren’s well worth your time.

Hair Gel, Burgers, and Smartphone Depression

David Murray:

The global hair care market is estimated to be worth $81 billion dollars in 2015, with a large part of that being spent on various gels that shape and control the hair. All that money to beautify ourselves and make us more attractive to others!

But there’s a free “hair gel” that can make us more attractive and beautiful, not just to others but to God.

Have We Made Too Much of Grace?

Joey Cochran:

My concern is that some in their thirst and need for grace fashion an idol out of grace. Though we should make much of grace, we should not make too much of grace. Fundamentally, as Watson says above, grace makes a poor Christ. It is no Christ at all. Grace is an instrument of God. It is an abstract idea that describes a relationship. It is an attribute of God, so a facet of him for sure. But you cannot worship the part in substitute for the whole. Then you make less of who God is. Grace, I would say, is more than a thing but certainly less than a person, and it’s only a person that saves, the person, Christ (1 Th. 5:9). I am fascinated by how Watson refers to grace as a creature.

Traditional vs self-publishing: advice for aspiring authors

publishing

Years ago, I had aspirations of writing a book but didn’t know what to pursue: should I attempt to figure out how to write a book proposal and pitch to “real” publishers, or should I go the self-publishing route with a service like Westbow or Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing?

Since I first expressed a desire to write one, I’ve released books through both traditional and self-publishing options. Two books were published by Cruciform Press, Awaiting a Savior and Contend, and am continuing to pursue opportunities with traditional publishers. I’ve published one book using Kindle Direct Publishing (so far), Everyday Theology, and will almost certainly do so again.

But when I started, I didn’t know what to pursue—or even how to do it. So today, I thought I’d share some advice for aspiring authors based entirely upon my experience with both. This should not be seen as definitive or authoritative, as I’ve no doubt I’ll probably change my mind about some of this in the next five years.

Cool? Cool.

My experiences with both forms of publishing

When it comes to self-publishing, the stigma, if it has not completely gone away, has certainly lessened. I’ve seen a number of people—including a number of friends—embrace it as their preferred publishing option. They love the freedom this approach offers, the ability to create what you want when you want. Because these friends understand that for too long self-published material has been pre-judged as poorly written, they’re determined to write, really, really well (and usually make sure their work is properly edited, too).

My experience with self-publishing has been quite good, overall, but to be fair, I’ve only done it once to date. Creating a book was easy with the tools out there. The content was already in existence, though in need of a few light edits. All I had to do was make it available. The one thing I’ll do differently with the next self-published book I release is make sure I invest a little more money into the project and pay for some additional outside editing (it’s worth it).

Then there’s traditional publishing, which I absolutely love. For me, what I love best about it is the collaborative side between me as the writer and my editor. Awaiting a Savior would have been a very different book had it not been for two people: my friend and co-worker, Amber Van Schooneveld, and my editor, Kevin Meath. Both challenged me to think through what I was writing in different ways, offered critique on the ideas I was presenting, and caught more than a few grammatical errors. Likewise, Kevin’s efforts on Contend were part of made that book worth reading (in my opinion, at the least), helping me keep the book focused when it was getting scattered in early iterations.

So, what, really, is the difference between the two—and is one really better than the other?  

As I see it, the difference between the two is control. With a traditional publisher, provided you can even get in the door (which is no easy feat these days), there is a degree to which you lose control over your ideas. Someone is working with you and helping you shape what you want to write into something that’s a. coherent, and b. marketable. There are some traditional books that are a scattered mess, but those tend to be the ones where the author is resistant to feedback or just shouldn’t be writing a book (despite having a massive platform). In self-publishing (CreateSpace, KDP) and partner publishing (Westbow, Lucid), you determine how much input someone else has on your material. Sometimes it’s none, other times, it’s almost to the degree that you’d have with a traditional publisher.

But is one better than the other? Not really. In a lot of ways, I prefer the experience working with a traditional publisher, simply because I appreciate and need feedback if I’m going to communicate well. But self-publishing is a lot of fun, too—and it can also be more lucrative for you as an author (at least in the short term).

Which option should you choose?

That’s up to you to some degree. Which do you want to do?

Choosing to pursue traditional publishing (in which there is no guarantee of having a book picked up, keep in mind) or self-publishing really comes down to what’s best for you and for the project. A book like Everyday Theology, which is a reworking of existing content from this blog, is best suited to self-publishing. Another small book I’m working on in my (barely existent) spare time is best suited for this option as well. But I have a number of ideas I’m in the process of pitching to traditional publishers, and these are books that I’d simply feel better about pursuing in partnership with another entity.

That’s what I mean when I say it’s up to you to some degree. There are other factors, of course. But in general, if an idea has grabbed us and won’t let go, we’re going to find a way to get it out into the public. Whether that’s through a traditional route or self-publishing doesn’t really matter so long as it sees the light of day.

So, aspiring author, that’s what I’ve got for you (at least for now). What options have you explored and which do you have an affinity for?

Links I like

praying-bible-blog2x

Praying the Bible with Don Whitney

Today, Crossway is launching a free 5-day email journey with Donald S. Whitney designed to help Christians jump-start their prayer life and turn duty into delight. (And I understand that, at the end, you’ll be able to download a free, 31-day prayer guide through the Psalms). To sign up, visit crossway.org/PraytheBible.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Another book that looks interesting for history buffs is Lincoln’s Bishop: A President, A Priest, and the Fate of 300 Dakota Sioux Warriors by Gustav Niebuhr for $1.99.

The Stampede of Secularism Will Not Stop Conversions

John Piper:

A few weeks ago, I was talking with some pastors in England. In spite of the fact that Britain has been outpacing the United States in the usual signs of secularization, one of the pastors said that developments in the last couple years, even in Britain, have had a new effect on people in the church. It seems now to many believers that true Christians hold views so different from the culture that they wonder if anyone can be converted.

I think this is a common feeling. Will deeply secular people, with little or no Christian background, see the moral implications of following Christ as so unimaginable that they treat Christianity as equivalent to the Greek myths of Zeus and Hermes?

Here are three biblical perspectives that make that kind of pessimism unwarranted in the church.

Things the pro gay-marriage media missed in the Sweet Cakes by Melissa case

Marty Duren looks at the problem of political bias in the media.

7 Statements Every Leader Should Use Often

Ron Edmonson:

You may not be able to use these phrases every day. You shouldn’t overuse them. They need to be genuine, heartfelt and honest. That may not even happen every week. But, as often as you can, slip a few of these into your memory bank and pull them out where appropriate. They will help you build a better team.

5 Reasons to Join a Local Church

Mike Leake:

I’ve got a personal relationship with Jesus. I spend daily, personal, and private time with the triune God in prayer, petition, study, worship, confession, etc. So why do I need to join a local church?

Where are the Mainline and Progressive Evangelical Voices Speaking Up after that Planned Parenthood Tragedy?

Ed Stetzer:

Where are those bloggers, and speakers, and social justice organizations who have spoken up on so many injustices? (I will happily post those who’ve spoken up for the unborn child in this situation.)

Where are the mainline denominational leaders speaking up, while millions of people in their churches have heard the news or watched the video and wonder where their church stands?

And, most of all, where’s the voice of some of those progressive evangelicals who once promised that, though they were broadening the pro-life agenda to include peace, the environment, and social justice, assured us they would not lose sight of the life of the unborn?

Christians cannot pray like Unitarians

pray-like-christians

A number of years ago, I was part of a Toastmasters group here in London, Ontario. I learned a lot of valuable skills—most importantly, how to speak in public (and realizing that, yes, anybody can do it if they’re willing to work at it). But one of the things that always made me uncomfortable was opening the meeting with a word of prayer.

This isn’t because I hate prayer or anything like that (clearly, I don’t). But Toastmasters is a non-religious group, welcoming members from every conceivable background. So they always want to be as inclusive and non-judgmental as possible with their meetings (which, to be fair, is something admirable). And if you were going to pray at the opening, it was to be open—kind of like recognizing the “god of your understanding” of Alcoholics Anonymous.

But I couldn’t do it.

Sometimes when I’d open a meeting, because I was a bit more of a rabble rouser than I am now (maybe), I’d open with an inspirational line that would surprise people. Like Proverbs 12:1, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but one who hates correction is stupid “(HCSB). And then I would take my seat.

Because I’m a jerk.

But if I were going to pray, it would be a real prayer. It had to be. Because I don’t pray to a generic, nondescript god. I can’t pray like a Unitarian. I pray to the triune God—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I pray to Jesus, not the Jesus of our own understanding, but the one through whom and for whom all things were made. And if I’m not praying to this God—the true God—then I’m just performing some sort of bizarre civic function.

But prayer is anything but. When Christians pray, we don’t pray generically as though God didn’t really exist. We pray because we know—or, rather, are known by—the maker of the heavens and the earth. We pray because we are part of his family. So when we pray “in Jesus’ name,” it’s helpful to remember that this isn’t some sort of silly tag-on. It is not, as Russell Moore points out in Onward, the same as including “the word ‘just’ before every request or to ‘lead, guide, and direct us’ or ‘bless the gift and the giver.'” It isn’t mere religious language because we “recognize that ‘there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim. 2:5). We can come before God only because we share the Spirit of Christ through whom we cry ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8:15)” (176 [ARC]).

Though many people—including people in my old Toastmasters group—offer inspirational words to an unknown God, this should not be said of us. We can speak to the God we do know, in recognition of the one who gives us access to God—and we can make what (or rather him who is) unknown known in the process.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

No Kindle deals for you today, but I do have a couple of notable books (and Bibles) worth considering:

Designed for Joy: How the Gospel Impacts Men and Women, Identity and Practice a new book edited by Owen Strachan and Jonathan Parnell will be released at the end of the month. It features chapters by Denny Burk, Brandon Smith, Joe Rigney, Trillia Newbell, Gloria Furman and a whole bunch of others. The paperback edition doesn’t release until the end of the month, but you can get the Kindle edition right now.

Also worth checking out is Westminster Bookstore’s sale on the Psalms in the ESV translation.

Will Millennials Be the Generation to Ban Abortion?

Chris Martin:

The turning-a-blind-eye approach to abortion that has persisted for decades, and there is real reason to think that will only continue among Millennials. The idea that individuals are not allowed to impose their religious, ethical, or otherwise convictional opinions upon others has never been stronger. Science may advance, minds may change, but Millennials continue to compel each other to keep their convictions to themselves.

 

Is Your Faith the Right Kind of Simple?

Mike Leake:

Sometimes I wonder if Skynrd’s mama hasn’t counseled many within the church. After all how many times have you heard something like this: “I don’t need none of that fancy book learnin’, just give me a simple faith.” What we mean by that is that we want a faith that we can understand—that we can wrap our minds around. We want just a plan and simple type of faith.

A Both-And Woman and Her Bible

Allison Burr:

I have sat alongside many puzzled Christians in Bible studies over the years, and I used to be the first among them. These struggles often center around the hard providences of God — how God wields his power and authority — either in the Scriptures or in the difficult corners of our lives. We begin by asking, “Well, if [insert painful, confusing, awful, inconvenient reality] is true, then how could God . . . ” The ellipses are replaced with “be good” or “allow this to happen” or “also declare this other seemingly contradictory reality to be true.”

This setting is where a both-and hermeneutic brings clarity and comfort — and not just to our minds, but into virtually every situation in life.

 

The evolution of Chuck Jones

How Should Christians Respond to Attacks and Insults?

R.C. Sproul:

Years ago, I received a letter from a friend who is a pastor at a church in California. In it, the pastor included a copy of an article that had appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Although the article included a photo of him standing in his church and holding his Bible, it was basically a vicious personal attack against him.

When I saw that picture and read that article, I felt a great deal of empathy for my friend because I had recently had a similar experience. A person I believed was my friend made some very unkind statements about me publicly, and word had gotten back to me. My feelings basically vacillated between despondency and anger, even though I knew I needed to respond with joy (Matt. 5:11–12).

Does it matter what Americans really believe about God?

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You might recall last fall a big hubbub about a research project LifeWay conducted, which was commissioned by Ligonier Ministries. If you read the study, I’m sure you were as surprised—and in some ways unsurprised—as I was.

But I will say, I was delighted when I learned The Gospel Project and Ligonier Ministries were releasing it as a new, free eBook, The State of American Theology: Knowing the Truth, Loving the Church, Reaching Our Neighbors. This book collects the research and thoughtful essays from the likes of R. C. Sproul, Ed Stetzer, John Piper, Alistair Begg, Thabiti Anyabwile, Trevin Wax, and many more.

And it couldn’t be more timely.

Confused beliefs about God and the faith

Let’s face it: Americans are confused about what Christianity actually teaches. All you have to do is get into a discussion on… well pretty much anything really, and you’ll see what I mean. This confusion is everywhere: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, books, podcasts, and sadly even the pulpit.

  • Does it surprise you that more than six in ten Americans believe the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force?
  • What about a slight majority (58 percent) believing that the creeds—the ancient formulations of the Christian faith such as the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds—have little value for us in our day?
  • Or a large minority (37 per cent)—and yes, I’m aware of the contradiction of a large minority—being unsure if it’s possible or actually believing that God is capable of making mistakes?

Download the ebook for more.

Why it matters

In some ways, none of this should surprise us at all. In fact, it should encourage us. Knowing what Americans (and I’d argue by extension, westerners in general) believe about God, the Bible and key doctrines of the faith is good for us. In fact, it helps us in a couple of important ways:

1. It helps us to know where we are weak in our discipleship of believers. Remember, these statistics include Christians of various traditions—evangelicals, mainline protestants and Roman Catholics—as well as those unaffiliated with Christianity or any particular religious belief. So for us to know that there is a great deal of confusion even in our own churches is a good thing.

We need to know this stuff because we need to know how to help Christians grow in their faith—how to be the sorts of Christians who think and believe as Christians. Teaching seven steps to a better whatever isn’t going to do that. But teaching them to read, study and apply their Bibles, with the Holy Spirit’s help and through his power, just might.

2. It also helps us to remember who theology is for. One of the things that always makes me uncomfortable is hearing a Christian say we should leave theology to the theologians. Now, this is true—if we understand that everyone is a theologian. As Jared Wilson puts it in his essay, “Laypeople have no biblical warrant to leave the duty of doctrine up to pastors and professors alone.” If we take the greatest commandment seriously—to love the Lord our God with our heart, mind, soul, and strength—then we must diligently learn things about him.

3. It helps us answer the real questions of unbelievers. We often assume the questions unbelievers ask, or what we think they need to know. This is why so many gospel presentations default to “not religion, but a relationship,” or the four spiritual laws, or filling a Jesus-shaped hole in our hearts. This reminds us that we actually need to answer questions like, “Who is God?” because there is no culturally agreed upon understanding that can serve as our starting point. Once we know where to begin, we can start having really meaningful conversations.

There are more reasons, but I think these three sum it up pretty well. Do you care about discipling people? Do you care about theology have a right place in the life of believers? Do you care about reaching people for Christ? If you answered yes, you should care about this study. Be sure to head over to gospelproject.com and grab a copy. 

 

 

 

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just a few new deals to share today:

The End of Sexual Ethics: Love and the Limits of Reason

This is a really good piece by Matt Anderson.

Is Your Joy Real or an Imposter?

Sam Storms:

Do you believe that “real enjoyment is essential to real godliness,” or does that sound more like a tagline for the power of positive thinking? Or maybe a self-serving cliché on the lips of some popular prosperity preacher of our day? I was caught a bit off-guard myself when I discovered that the author of that statement is none other than J. I. Packer.

The more I delved into the mind and ministry of J. I. Packer, the more relieved I was to discover that his “enjoyment” has nothing to do with what he calls “hot tub religion,” and everything to do with a robust delight in God in the midst of the most severe and troubling trials.

What Readers and Writers Owe Each Other

Barnabas Piper:

As readers, we often act as if we are owed something by a writer: an agreeable view point, a certain quality, thoughts on a specific subject. Read the comments on enough web articles or blogs and you’ll quickly realize the entitlement we have as readers. When our favorite sports columnist writes about movies we are peeved that he wasted OUR precious time with such drivel. When a preferred theologian gives thoughts on sports we respond with a “stick to theology, that’s why we’re here.”

As readers, do we have a right to act as if a writer owes us something? I think we do, but not in the way that we most often make the claim. As readers we are owed something we like or with which we agree. But writers do owe us something, a whole combination of somethings, in fact.

Four Simple Ways Pastors Can Create Margin in Their Lives

Mark Dance:

A Pennsylvania woman rushing to catch her flight ignored a flat tire and ultimately crashed her car near a moving-walkway that leads people into the Pittsburgh International Airport. The woman apparently was so determined to catch her flight that she continued driving toward the airport even after her car got a flat tire on Interstate 376. That is a bad day!

What does your day usually look like? Sane? Sensible? Sustainable? A Sabbath life is countercultural and counterintuitive to American culture.

Joyful Exiles

Scott Redd:

I wrote last fall about the idea of the American church entering into a time of cultural exile. Since that time the issue has been revisited by several public voices (and here and here), and debate has arisen over or exactly what sort of exile this current situation would entail. I do not think that there is a typological distinction to be made between the Babylonian exile of the Old Testament and the exile to which the Apostle Peter speaks in 1 Pet 1:1-2, though some have made that distinction.

Pro-Life Activists Doing the Media’s Job For Them

Aaron Earls:

As news organization after news organization, journalist after journalist (with a few notable exceptions) frame this story using the spin provided for them by Planned Parenthood, the question that continues to spring to my mind is, “Why is it that Center for Medical Progress and other pro-life groups are the only ones who investigate the abortion industry?”

News outlets seem so distraught this story was brought to national attention by such a group and such an individual, why aren’t they doing this type of investigative journalism on organizations like Planned Parenthood?

Evil ≠ stupid

evil-stupid

I was lied to by cartoons as a kid. On every cartoon—from GI Joe to Looney Tunes to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—the bad guys, despite their self-assured brilliance, were always complete nincompoops. Cobra Commander always blew it. Wile E. Coyote always blew himself up. Shredder always found a way to throw himself into another dimension just as he was about to defeat a bunch of overgrown amphibians (which are actually reptiles).

If only evil were like this in real life.

But it’s not. Evil is not stupid. The perpetrators of evil are not stupid, either. People like the young men and women from Europe and North America who are running off to join ISIS (as soldiers and brides) and purge the Middle East of any trace of its history, including Christianity. Like the lawmakers who’ve turned their backs on the Lawgiver to do what is right in their own eyes. Like the men and women who make their living perpetuating a culture of death in organizations like Planned Parenthood. And like the Christians who say nothing in the face of these atrocities—or worse, celebrate them.

These are not stupid people. Many of them are quite brilliant, in fact. They are university students, authors, lawyers, doctors, judges, pastors, entrepreneurs, politicians… They are many things: They are blinded by sin. They are deluded into thinking they’re actually doing the right thing. They are so certain, in fact, that they fail to see that what’s right in their eyes may well be, as one noted lesbian feminist described, the beginning of the fall of western civilization.

But stupid they are not.

Now, I am not as pessimistic as some, but make no mistake: a society that murders its own children in service to the god of self may be lost. And society that cares little for history (beyond being on what they perceive as the right side of it) is teetering on the brink of disaster.

And we have to wonder, who profits from this? Not the activists who’ve worked diligently for the last 40 years to completely change how westerners view same-sex relationships. Not the terrorists who may yet succeed in their goal of wiping out all evidence of Christianity from the cradle of civilization. Not even the executives who profit from the deaths of untold millions of babies each year.

There is only one who ultimately profits: the enemy of our souls, the devil, the usurping prince of this world. And he is most assuredly not stupid. Unoriginal, maybe, but not stupid.

We’ve seen it countless times throughout history—in the Bible, we see mankind’s seemingly endless cycle of faithfulness and apostasy. We worship our creator, we reject and deny him, we worship ourselves, we nearly destroy ourselves. We watch as our champions pummel each other for sport. We bow down before idols of gold, silver and wood. We throw our children into the fire.

Second verse, same as the first.

No, evil isn’t stupid. The devil isn’t stupid. But he is defeated. Christ has already won. What we face now in these “last days” until Christ’s return are the final gasps of a cornered, but beaten, enemy. One who will viciously attack at every opportunity, knowing that while he cannot win, he can at least hurt his opponent.

Soon that will all be done away with. Soon the cycle will end. Evil will be thrown into the lake of fire. The devil’s schemes will join him in the second death. The world will be made new. The blood of Abel will no longer cry out for justice, for justice will be done. Every tear will be wiped. Every knee will be bowed. The kingdom will have come, finally and fully!

But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier in the meantime. Yet still we wait. We groan. We weep. We pray and fast and plead and beg and suffer and die. But we do not lose hope because Jesus has overcome the world. He will surely do all he has promised.

Evil is not stupid, but it is defeated.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also, Onward by Russell Moore is available for preorder (hardcover) and available now for the Kindle. Get it for less than $10.

Creation’s Groans Are Not Meaningless

Tim Keller:

Many people—including, most likely, some we know—answer no. They profess faith as Christians and seek to live God’s way for awhile, but in time they find their present sufferings aren’t worth it and they fall away. But in Romans 8:18–25, Paul answers the question with an emphatic yes. In fact, he says, “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (v. 18). Paul is saying: If you know where you are heading in the future, you won’t even entertain the idea that your current problems and pain aren’t worth it.

So what is this glorious inheritance toward which the Christian walks, sometimes with painful steps, day by day?

Understanding Gender Dysphoria

Sam Ferguson reviews Mark Yarhouse’s new book, Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture.

Praying the Bible

Westminster Bookstore has a great deal on Don Whitney’s new book, Praying the Bible (which I’m looking forward to reading sometime in the near future).

On the Wrong Side of History?

Randy Alcorn:

When evil becomes popularly accepted in a culture, shouldn’t we WANT to come down on the wrong side of history, at least current history? And given the larger picture of God’s sovereign rule and the eventual New Heavens and New Earth, won’t history ultimately vindicate God’s Word and God’s Son? Won’t some argue that the Antichrist should be followed because we don’t want to fall on the wrong side of history? The opposite is true—following whatever current trends of history crop up can put us on the wrong side of God’s plan of redemptive history.

Christian Men Think Clearly Christianly

Jared Wilson:

I once read an article about a YouTube social experiment where an attractive woman walked up to men on the street and asked if they wanted to have sex with her. According to the report, she asked fourteen. The yeses and no’s were split down the middle, seven and seven. Some of the yeses might have been joking. Some of the no’s were apparently offended, some simply uncomfortable because they were with girlfriends or relatives when approached.

I wonder if any who said no had a cognitive dissonance between lustful thoughts and surface opportunity. Maybe this thing, this offer, this holy grail of craven sexual appetite—no-strings-attached instantaneous sexual availability—proved shocking, mentally discombobulating when put right out on the table.

Why It Is Beneficial to Learn Greek and Hebrew Even If You Lose It

Patrick Schreiner:

The pressures of the higher education bubble continue to expand as administrative costs swell, and a new generation is wondering how practical overly expensive tuition is. Because of these reasons, and many more, seminaries are rethinking their curriculum and taking a critical look at certain subjects.

The critical eye aimed towards curriculum is a good thing. Not everything that was taught 10 or 100 years ago should continue to be taught. And the changing culture makes it necessary to address new topics.