Beat God to the Punch

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I’ve got to hand it to Eric Mason: Beat God to the Punch may be the most provocative title I’ve seen in ages. In fact, that’s is what made me take notice when I first learned of it, and when it eventually arrived in my mailbox. When I cracked the tiny book open, I immediately saw how well suited it was.

According to its author, this is a book about God’s wrath and coming judgment; or more accurately, the grace God offers to rescue us from it. Thus, playing off Paul’s joyful declaration that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11), Mason writes Beat God to the Punch with a revivalist zeal, inviting men and women “to bow now, by choice” (1)—to submit themselves to the Lord and experience His grace.

The struggle of discipleship and contagiousness of grace

Chapters one to three, and chapter five, present a picture of what following Jesus means while striving to wow readers with grace. Using imagery from both first century Jewish practices, as well as drawing an analogy from hip-hop culture, Mason reminds readers that the struggle of discipleship is this: “Over and over again, in our lives, our humanity will collide with His divinity. At the end of the day, a disciple must be transformed into wanting what the Lord wants for them” (24-25).

Our desires are always going to come into conflict with what the Lord has clearly laid out in His Word. We are all called to sacrifice all for His sake and follow Him. Essentially this means questions about our rights or what we think we want or deserve go out the window the moment we become Christians. We are to follow His example, be imitators of Him in order that we might grow to become like Him.

And here’s where grace comes in: we are graciously called to this life despite not being able to follow Jesus like this on our own. Mason reminds us that Jesus actually broke the pattern of the rabbi-student relationship, where students would ask to follow the teacher. Instead, Jesus, our great Teacher, comes to us and says, “Follow me.” Not because God believes in us in particular, or because Jesus sees a glimmer of something in us—which is where Mason’s argument surprisingly falls apart on page 17, when he describes Jesus’ disciples as  knowing that “their rabbi believed in them. And… they realized that God believed in them too.”

(Suddenly, I feel like I’m watching a video of a kid shovelling a driveway.)

Despite this flub, Mason comes back around to God’s choosing us a little later in the book, giving us a much more rousing (and accurate) assessment, writing, “God picks, by grace—according to His nature, His lovingkindness, withholding His wrath—to blow the minds of men, to create potential where there is none, in order for all of the glory to go to Him” (44).

This should excite us, shouldn’t it? If a professing Christian isn’t moved by the thought that God—through no efforts, actions or intentions of your own—chose to save you and call you His own and promises to keep you as His own, so that He might be glorified, there’s something dreadfully wrong. This is not something we should look at lightly.

We should be on our knees with a sense of wonder over this amazing grace. But what does it say about us if it doesn’t?

The historical interlude that doesn’t quite fit

While the first three chapters flow naturally into the fifth, chapter four serves as a historical interlude. Here, Mason briefly surveys church history to gain a sense of perspective on how the Church has viewed grace through the ages. There’s some interesting stuff here, particularly as he gives readers a sense of the loss and rediscovery of grace and the battles to protect its centrality to the faith in the lives and ministries of the likes of Augustine and the Reformers.

Now, I’ve increasingly become a bit of a church history nerd, so I really dig stuff like this. I love seeing how different Christians have communicated grace through the years. It helps to give a more robust understanding of it both doctrinally and practically. But even so, the chapter doesn’t move the “story” of the book forward.While there are elements I enjoy about this chapter, it might have been better served as the book’s appendix.

And then there’s the inclusion of Charles Finney as “sufficiently orthodox” in his belief in God’s grace in salvation, and that “many differ on the semantics of his claim” (75). Hardly a glowing endorsement, but I’ll be honest, it threw me for a loop. To call Finney’s view of grace an orthodox example, despite his view of the atonement being anything but… I can’t quite wrap my mind around that.1 While I realize it’s a one-page reference, and therefore not a large portion of the book, were it me writing or editing Beat God to the Punch, I would have removed it in a heartbeat. It’s inclusion only hurts the author’s credibility.

No knock-out punch thrown

Which brings me to the end of my thoughts on this book: I wanted to like Beat God to the Punch more than I actually did. It’s not a bad book by any means. It’s got some really great elements, but it’s also kind of sloppy, and thus fails to throw the knock-out punch Mason hopes to. Would I say to anyone, “Don’t read this book?” Nope. But it wouldn’t be the first book I’d recommend.


Title: Beat God to the Punch: Because Jesus Demands Your Life
Author: Eric Mason
Publisher: B&H Publishing

Buy it at: Amazon

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also, be sure to get a copy of Sexual Brokenness and the Hope of the Gospel, a new eBook edited by Russell Moore collecting messages from the recent ERLC conference in Nashville. It’s currently $2.99 at the ERLC website.

An Unimaginative Tool for Church Growth

Erik Raymond:

If the evangelical church were a boat then it would have some leaks. And everyone seems to have an opinion as to the problem. If I could put the two most common critiques in buckets they would be 1) the preaching, 2) the appetite of church members. In my years of ministry I have often found it quite ironic that many evangelicals complain about preaching not being “biblical” while pastors often complain about “evangelicals today who don’t want biblical preaching”.

Somebody cue the Alanis Morissette.

Why Writing Style Matters

Justin Taylor shares a great quote from Stephen J. Pyne’s Voice and Vision: A Guide to Writing History and Other Serious Nonfiction.

How Should We Then Mock?

Jeremy Larson:

But what are Christians to think about the practice of “making fun”? The word fun is right there in the phrase, so how bad can it be? Christians don’t want to unnecessarily begrudge people their happiness or fun, but there does seem to be an inherent aversion among Christians to using mockery (openly) to have fun.

So, as a Christian, it is with some trepidation that I broach the subject of viewing mockery as a valid and effective tool for Christians to use. This viewpoint is not particularly PC, and I fully expect some readers, after hearing my proposal, to head straight for the nearest chicken coop to gather stray feathers, and then to begin warming up the tar.

Why “the Right Side of History” is so Often Wrong

Aaron Earls:

When we argue that a certain position on the topic du jour – be it same sex marriage, abortion, pornography, etc. – will be on “the right side of history,” we assume the future will agree with moral changes we have made.

But who knows exactly what the philosophical framework of the future will be? They may (and likely will) regard our morality with the same derision we often regard the moral perspective of the past, which is itself another problem with this type of reasoning. Ironically enough, arguments about the right side of history often fails to grant a voice to history itself.

Why don’t they report it?

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As more and more stories of women’s encounters with Canadian radio host/musician/producer Jian Ghomeshi have come to light (and sparked an investigation by police thanks to at least three women coming forward to file complaints), Emily and I have spent a great deal of time talking about this situation in specific, but assault in general. The other night, I asked:

Why aren’t more women reporting these types of crimes?

After thinking about it for quite a while, Emily gave her answer on the ride to church Sunday morning. She suggested that for some women, it’s a case of not thinking it counts. At least, not for them.

What Emily hit on right away is the lie sexual assault (and sexual predators) tells victims, A lie that says “this isn’t a big deal.” A lie that says:

  • It doesn’t “count” if it was (at least initially) consensual.
  • It doesn’t “count” if you were just being groomed.
  • It doesn’t “count” if you had one too many drinks.
  • It doesn’t “count” if you didn’t fight back.

And so, as the lie take root, victims pretend like nothing happened. Or that it wasn’t a big deal. Or that maybe they “deserved” whatever happened.

Predators continue to roam free, while their victims become trapped by their shame-induced silence.

I wonder how many women (and men, for that matter), would speak up if someone told them, “It counts”?

  • No matter how things started, it counts.
  • No matter how far things progressed, it counts.
  • No matter how much (or little) you drank, it counts.
  • No matter how much of a fight you put up, it counts.

“You did not ask for this. You should not be silenced. You are not worthless. You do not have to pretend like nothing happened. You are not damaged goods, forgotten or ignored by God, or ‘getting what you deserve.'” (Is It My Fault?, 21)

If we want victims to speak up, we need to help them see the truth. We need to help them see that when assault happens, it counts. Period.


photo credit: royalconstantinesociety via photopin cc

Links I like

Free audio and Logos deals

Christian Audio’s free audiobook of the month is The Attributes of God by A.W. Tozer. From Prussia with Love by Carol Purves is the free book of the month for Logos Bible Software. For 99¢, you can also get Clive Anderson’s Gunpowder, Treason and Plot. And finally on the Logos side of things, you can enter to win the 23-volume Day One Christian Biography collection, which includes titles such as 365 Days with Calvin, 365 Days with Wilberforce, A Reluctant Missionary, and 365 Days with Spurgeon (five volumes).

Where Hazy Repentance Goes to Die

Jonathan Parnell:

Mental agreement that Jesus is glorious is like affirming the statement that honey is sweet. As much as you might agree on paper, it still doesn’t stop you from eating other things. We can crunch on salty cashews without changing our minds about the honey. And we don’t necessarily feel like the cashews are something we need to forgo in order to eat more honey. To suggest we should would seem strange. If faith is all in our heads, repentance is still opaque.

Good intentions: Beware!

Important stuff from Ray Ortlund.

Mars Hill dissolving

Mars Hill has announced that the church will be dissolving effective January 1, 2015.

The Great Throbbing Verbs

Tim Challies:

So drama describes the actions, the verbs, or what God is doing. Doctrine describes the facts, the nouns, of who God is and what it means that he made us in his image. If you put the two together, you have the content of the Christian faith. I was thinking recently about the great “throbbing verbs of this unfolding drama,” and about this universe as the stage in which God is displaying himself and his glory. I was convicted that I think of the world this way too seldom, and was convicted that there is a lot of value in making this shift in thinking. After all, if this world is a stage, there are many implications.

Christian, stop using “OMG!”

Adam Ford raises an interesting point.

Pockets of Treasures

Lore Ferguson:

Tonight I sat on the far left side of the sanctuary, where I always sit when I’m home, and I hardly recognized anyone sitting around me. We are a big church, but a small service, and I still felt the ache of everyone moving forward but me.

I told someone tonight I feel like I’m a kid with a pile of treasures, none of them making sense, all of them seeming valuable, but no idea where they belong or when.

I thought I would grow out of this.

Does everyone feel like this?

The promise no one likes to talk about

Of all God’s promises, the one Christians like to talk about least is persecution. No less than 90 times1 in all but two books of the New Testament, Christians are promised one thing: Persecution will come. Just as we are assured of God’s love for us in Christ, just as we can be confident that our sins are fully paid for in the death of Christ, we can be sure that we will experience persecution for the sake of Christ.

Yet despite this promise, Christians in North America continue to find this idea foreign, although as time goes on and western culture sheds the last remaining vestiges of Christian influence, it’s becoming less so. In Canada and the United States, our trials tend to come on the legal front: Do Christians who own businesses have the right to refuse to provide services in situations that violate their consciences? Are graduates from a Christian university’s law school permitted to practice law?

These are the questions we are confronted with on a regular basis, and they are serious issues. However, what we might see as persecution is not what a believer in Syria or Iraq might experience. Here, our livelihoods are threatened. There, the threat is to their lives.

This is why the Church needs our prayers, not just on a day like the international day of prayer for the persecuted church, but every day. Christians—both here in North America, and around the world—need to pray for one another as we endure these trials in whatever shape they take. That we would truly believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain. And we would be willing to stand firm on the foundation of the gospel, as people certain that our lives are no longer ours, but Christ’s, and therefore He can do what He wants with them in order to bring Him glory.

My blogging toolkit

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Every once in a while I get a question about how to get started in blogging. While there’s lots to say about the writing side, something I don’t want to ignore is the blogger’s toolkit. The tools we choose—from our platform to where we source images—play a huge role in a reader’s experience. So what do I use?

Here’s a look at my current toolkit:

1. WordPress. While there are a lot of great blogging platforms out there, I’m a big, big fan of WordPress. I started out on WordPress.com and moved to a self-hosted platform in 2010. I love using WordPress because it has all the functionality I need and then some. Although I didn’t find it terribly appealing back in WP’s early days (back when they hadn’t made it for “normal” people to use) it has grown into a powerful content management system and (finally!) has a lovely and functional interface. (For those curious, if I were to ever leave WP, I’d probably consider Ghost. Here’s a good write-up on the differences between the two.)

2. StudioPress. I’ve tried a lot of different themes over the last few years, and only three have ever been seen publicly. For years, I used the now defunct Standard Theme. About eight months ago, I switched to StudioPress.com‘ Sixteen-Nine theme. It’s elegant, simple and keeps the focus on content—and the Genesis Framework keeps everything running beautifully. I’ll definitely be continuing to use StudioPress for the foreseeable future as I continue to improve the look and feel of this website.

3. Disqus. Although WordPress’ native commenting system has improved greatly in the last couple years, I absolutely love Disqus, which is a powerful and effective comment management platform.

4. Mailchimp. Initially, I didn’t really manage my mailing list. And then I smartened up and switched to Mailchimp. It’s easy to use, it’s interface is super-attractive, great analytics and a ton of great templates for emails.

5. Wufoo. There are a lot of great survey and form tools out there (including Survey Monkey), but these days I’m really enjoying Wufoo. Like Mailchimp. it’s interface is pretty easy to use, it has great reporting tools and you can do a fair bit with no or little money.

6. Photo Pin. Photo Pin offers up a wide variety of images (of varying levels of quality) from Flickr for bloggers to use for free, provided they include the proper attribution. I find a lot of what I need here, and I’m almost always happy with it. Except…

7. LightStock. This is a paid service which offers high-quality stock images ideal for faith-based organizations and content. When I’m looking for a really specific image, this is the place I go. (They also have a free photo of the week available to anyone with an account, which isn’t too shabby at all.)

8. Canva. Although I do use PhotoShop for a lot of work, these days I’m using a new addition to my toolkit for social media graphics and simple items on the blog: Canva. I absolutely love this tool because it allows anyone who’s willing to put in a bit of time to have beautifully designed images to share online.

October’s top ten articles at Blogging Theologically

top-ten

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

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. The preposterous inconsistency of secular sexual ethics (October 2014)
  3. Five fiction books you should read (October 2014)
  4. Five opportunities to glorify God in Mark Driscoll’s resignation (October 2014)
  5. Fame does not care for the humble (October 2014)
  6. What do the attacks in Ottawa mean for us? (October 2014)
  7. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  8. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011/rewritten in September 2014)
  9. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  10. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)

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

  1. 6 quotes Christians need to let lie fallow (January 2014)
  2. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  3. Why is it so tempting to toss the Bible? (October 2014)
  4. You and Me Forever (October 2014)
  5. Christian, don’t begrudgingly affirm God’s Word (October 2014)
  6. A look at Logos 6 (October 2014)
  7. Choosing a New Preaching Bible (November 2011)
  8. New and noteworthy books (October 2014)
  9. What does the Bible say about worship? (March 2013)
  10. Write more better: read! (October 2014)

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

Why I’m teaching teens about worldviews

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Today is a fitting day to begin a course about worldviews with the teens in our homeschool co-op. This is the 497th anniversary of Luther’s nailing his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany—the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation.

The Reformation is an example of one of the most important theological debates in the history of the Christian church: the debate over justification. How are we saved—by faith and our works, or by faith alone? But this wasn’t simply a renewal of vibrant Christian faith and a rediscovery of the gospel: it represented a massive worldview shift, completely changing how people understand how the world works. 

As Christians, we have to understand this. We want to have a strong grasp of our own worldview, certainly. But just as importantly, we need to understand how the others see the world if we are going to reach them with the good news of Jesus. Having a foundational understanding of worldview allows us to enter into their world, to see affirm what is good and true and point those things back to the source of truth, while probing those aspects that stand in stark contrast to the Christian worldview.

That, in the end, represents the why of this course. So here’s what we’ll be doing over the next few weeks:

  • We’ll be engaging in some good old-fashioned Bible study;
  • We’ll be interacting with news stories and pop culture to see what story they’re telling about how the world works;
  • We’ll be asking friends and neighbours about their worldviews;
  • And we’ll be making the most of opportunities to put what we know into practice.

I don’t want these teens to engage this in a merely intellectual fashion. I want them to gain confidence in their faith, and I want to help equip them to confidently and humbly examine the competing ideas that exist so they can share their faith with others.

What the fruit will be, only the Lord knows. But I’m excited to see what happens.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A couple of big ones for you today:

Spurgeon’s Calvinism, edited by Stephen McCaskell, is $2.99 through today, and How People Change by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp is free until the end of the day. Also on sale are Visit the SickPrepare Them to Shepherd, and Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals by Brian Croft (2.99 each); The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard ($2.99); Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones ($3.79); God’s Will by J.I. Packer ($2.99); Autopsy of a Dead Church by Thom Rainer for 99¢; and Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin Holcomb is $1.99. Be sure to also check out this post for more terrific Kindle deals.

Martin Luther’s definition of faith

This is super good stuff.

God Has Changed You and Is Changing You

Colin Smith:

Would you be more likely to say “God is changing me” or “God has changed me”?

Many Christians are comfortable saying the former, but some of us might hesitate to say the latter: “God has changed me.” We are much more likely to say, “I have a lot more changing to do. I’m a work in progress. I haven’t yet arrived.”

There is indeed a continuing process of sanctification happening within the believer, but the completed work of regeneration is of equal importance. Regeneration is the complete transformation that begins the continuing process of sanctification.

It seems that many Christians have a good grasp on the continuing process, but perhaps a more tenuous grasp of the completed work. So here are seven Scriptures that speak clearly of Christ’s completed work in you as a believer.

Russell Moore interviews Rosaria Butterfield

Very challenging and encouraging stuff here from the ERLC conference:

How an awakened conscience speaks

Ray Ortlund shares a moving letter from Steve Tompkins, one of the remaining pastors at Mars Hill Church.

On Being a Pessimist in a Progressive Age

Matthew Lee Anderson:

I was once asked by a reporter whether I thought the “young evangelicals” were going to give up the bigotry of their parents. After I finished laughing, I promptly rejected the question and provide a different one of my own. The poor reporter (probably) wasn’t malicious, but she didn’t have many theological categories either. We talked for an hour…and exactly three of my sentences appeared in print.

I tell that story only to highlight one fact about the press, which by now is well known: many of its members simply don’t “get religion.” Just two days ago, a major news organization published a story that would be laughable, except it isn’t: it’s sad, and media theological ignorance does genuine harm to the cause of Christ.

“Stop feeling that way” doesn’t work

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Last night, Emily and I had an interesting discussion about a little booklet we’d been reading, Help! My Teen Struggles with Same Sex Attractions. Although the booklet had some good points throughout, and presents a solid (albeit extremely brief) rebuttal of common redefinitions of the so-called “hammer” verses on homosexuality, there was something just not quite right about it. In fact, if I had to sum it up in a couple of words, it would be this: naïvely simplistic.

Unless I’m completely misreading it (which I hope I’m not), the approach seems to be, more or less, “repent or you’ll keep being gay.” Keep contemplation and confession logs. Have Bible verses around the house to remind you of what God’s Word has to say on the issue. If your teen does these things, then they won’t succumb to temptation.1

Now, obviously, repentance is right when sin is committed either in the heart or in the body. If a Christian who deals with same-sex attraction entertains immoral thoughts, he or she should repent of that (just as a heterosexual Christian should). If he or she commits an act of sexual immorality with a member of the same sex, then repentance is required, just as it would be for Christian doing so with a member of the opposite sex. The response on the part of the one committing sexual sin, whether in the heart or in the body, is the same whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, absolutely. And likewise, those temptations can only be resisted with a new heart, one inclined toward Christ, and a new identity, that of being a child of God in Christ.

But the booklet does not seem to make a distinction between temptation and action itself. Based on some of its language, it seems to view the issue of inclination (which may or may not be welcomed by the one dealing with it) as an act of rebellion itself. But the reality may be more complicated than this.

We should not forget that sin wreaks havoc on every aspect of creation. This is why some of us are predisposed to be overweight, even when we have healthy eating habits, or why healthy people’s bodies suddenly turn on themselves as cancerous cells develop, or why hard working people live in poverty. It’s not that these people have necessarily done anything to cause these things: they simply are as a result of living in a fallen world.

Sin represents a disruption in God’s good creation that affects everything.

So, too, it is with our affections. We are naturally designed a certain way; and I believe God’s design is for men and women to be attracted to members of the opposite sex. But the fall disrupts even this aspect of God’s good design, in effect inverting our orientation for some of us. While this does not excuse acting upon these inclinations, it should serve as an important reminder: we should not treat a teenage or adult Christian as though they rebelling against God simply because of these inclinations. If we fail to recognize this, we may do far more damage to Christians—including our own children—than we realize.

This is not to say we should be soft on sin. Far from it. It is simply a recognition that we can’t expect “stop feeling that way” to work, no matter how many memory verses we post around the house.

Links I like

The Most Neglected Part of the Pastor’s Job Description

Thabiti Anyabwile:

But in all of this talk over the years, I’ve come to believe that the most neglected aspect of a pastor’s job description is the command for pastors to disciple older women in their congregations. It’s a massive omission since in nearly every church women make up at least half the membership and in many cases much more. And when you consider how many ministries and committees depend upon the genius, generosity and sweat of our sisters, it’s almost criminal that most any pastor you meet has no plan for discipling the women of his church apart from outsourcing to a women’s ministry staff person or committee.

What Is Reformation Day All About?

Robert Rothwell:

On Friday, much of the culture will be focused on candy and things that go bump in the night. Protestants, however, have something far more significant to celebrate on October 31. Friday is Reformation day, which commemorates what was perhaps the greatest move of God’s Spirit since the days of the Apostles. But what is the significance of Reformation Day, and how should we consider the events it commemorates?

This argument has reached retirement age

Good stuff here from Brian Mattson.

What “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” Does Not Mean

Barnabas Piper:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus gave us this as the second of the two greatest commandments. Paul described it as the summation or fulfillment of the whole law. No complicated explanations, lists of caveats, or endless parsing – just “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

And we westerners have taken it to heart. Sort of. It’s more accurate to say that we have taken it and fit it to our hearts.

It has morphed from “Love your neighbor as yourself” to “Love your neighbor because you love yourself” to “Love yourself so you can love your neighbor.” Instead of reflecting the one who gave the command it has been, to create a term, Gollum-ized into a twisted, nasty, self-focused, inverted mantra. We have made ourselves the focus of the love.

The Most Underwhelmingly Astounding Fact

Tim Challies:

Tyson says our significance comes when we understand that we are made of the same stuff as the stars—we are one with the universe and part of the big picture of the universe because our bodies are composed of the building-blocks of the universe. That may seem compelling and it may seem encouraging, but if this is the most astounding fact he can come up with, he is a fool. He is a brilliant fool, a man who uses his intellectual gifts to express folly.

The Bible has far better news.

Believing the Wrong Story

Eric Geiger:

Many in our churches believe the wrong story. They have an erroneous view of the Lord and of His world. When we believe the wrong story, there are devastating implications. We chase things that don’t matter. We fight battles that are meaningless. Many in our churches even believe the wrong story about the Bible. Even among people who read the Bible every week, who sit in a kid’s ministry, a student ministry, a Sunday school class, or a small group—some fail to see the real story of the Bible. Church leaders are constantly teaching a story, and there are two common, yet inaccurate stories heralded in churches.

Don’t seek what you’re not willing to lose

seek-lose

There’s a real danger to platform building, as anyone who has paid the slightest amount of attention to the scandals that routinely rock churches in North America will tell you. And it almost always winds up being a variation on the same theme: someone starts believing his or her own press.

Despite building a platform for the sake of the gospel, the platform inevitably becomes more and more about us.

And the moment that happens, we’ve already lost it. We see this when celebrity pastors hire PR firms, sure, but none of us are immune. When blog stats are lower than we’d like, or we lose follower on social media, or people simply aren’t as into us as they used to be… When it’s about us, these things destroy us. When it’s about Jesus, it doesn’t matter quite so much.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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There are a whole bunch of new Kindle deals this week. Here are a few definitely worth checking out:

$1.99 and under:

$2.99:

Christ-Centered Exposition Commentaries ($2.99 each):

$3.99 and over:

Links I like

The Hidden Work and Power of God’s Word

Mark Altrogge:

When I’m preaching on Sundays I can’t see what’s happening in people’s hearts. I can’t see if any are born again, or encouraged or sustained or convicted. Some people may be smiling or nodding, but many have unreadable expressions.  If I were to judge by some peoples’ faces I’d guess nothing was happening in their hearts.  When we’d have family devotions when the kids were young, most days they were sleepy, distracted and squirmy.  I couldn’t tell if God’s word was having any effect on my kids.  Often when I share the gospel with someone I’m met with a blank stare or “Oh yeah I believe in Jesus. I go to church.”  They don’t cry out “Brother, what should I do?” like on the day of Pentecost.  And even when I read God’s word myself, I don’t experience fireworks or goosebumps. At times I’m convicted or challenged or encouraged by a Scripture, but many mornings my devotions feel rather routine and unremarkable.

But our lack of seeing immediate fruit in our children when we read the Bible to them or in fellow believers when we encourage them with Scripture or unbelievers when we share the good news of Jesus or even in ourselves when we read God’s word, doesn’t mean that something isn’t happening. God’s word is at work.

The State of Theology

This is fascinating stuff. On a related note…

Does my local church have the authority to say I’m not a Christian?

Nine out of ten evangelicals say no, but what do church leaders say?

Are Millennials Leaving the Church Because of Homosexuality?

Aaron Earls:

While many of the specific reasons for an individual church’s or denomination’s decline are complicated, there are two over-arching reasons for extended drops in membership and attendance – the lack of orthodoxy (right beliefs) or orthopraxy (right actions).

To ignore one or the other will undoubtably lead to decline, regardless of how well we think we have the other handled. That is of particular importance because of the way both sides have treated the issue of homosexuality.

Evangelism is Fueled by Knowing God is at Work

Erik Raymond:

Nearly 20 years ago I was an unbelieving, angry guy. I hadn’t previously been exposed to “Bible-thumping” guys but, now that I was, I utterly despised them. I hated their smiles, humility, hopefulness, charity, and confidence. Oh, how I hated their confidence. I would mock, insult, and try to get them to “sin” or blush. They just kept on like they understood me better than I understood myself.

I didn’t listen to them. I don’t even think I ever really heard them–but, they got to me. They were different. I knew it and so did they.

If sin has to be whispered…

“If there’s a sin that has to be whispered in our congregation then we are not truly Christian.”—Russell Moore at ERLC 2014 (HT: Todd Adkins)

Moore-ERLC-quote