Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series on sale for $5.99 each:

Also on sale:

Myers-Briggs is bunk, but I don’t care

The obvious criticism of this test is that it’s based on dichotomies. Are you perceiving or judging? Introverted or extroverted? You must choose. This reeks of pseudo-science. Of course, most of us don’t fall clearly on one side or the other. When the specific introvert vs. extrovert duality was a hot topic a few years ago, many writers persuasively argued against reducing socialization patterns to a simplistic either/or. Indeed, reams of psychological literature debunks MBTI as wildly inconsistent—many people will test differently within weeks—and over reliant on polarities. For instance, someone can certainly be both deeply thinking and feeling, and we all know folks who appear to be neither. “In social science, we use four standards: are the categories reliable, valid, independent, and comprehensive? For the MBTI, the evidence says not very, no, no, and not really,” organizational psychologist Adam Grant wrote in Psychology Today after reviewing all the science on MBTI. It’s pretty damning.

How Much of My Sinful Past Should I Tell My Children?

John Piper offers a solid answer to this question.

Five dangers of skipping church

Nathan Rose:

I read recently that my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has a total of 16 million members, but on a typical Sunday only 6 million of those members attend their local church’s corporate worship gathering. Considering the importance and necessity of corporate worship for the Christian, this is a very discouraging statistic. Not only is it disheartening, it is also spiritually dangerous for those who profess Christ, but regularly miss worship with their church family. Below, I want to list some reasons and explain why skipping church is a really bad idea.

How Whitefield walked through controversy

Ray Ortlund shares some insights from Arnold Dallimore’s biography of Whitefield.

Five Ways to Go Wrong with Church Discipline

C. Michael Patton:

There is hardly a practice in the local church that is misused more than “church discipline.” Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have many answers and its misuse is understandable. I think there are three primary ways that we can find it misuse: 1) It is never used at all, 2) it is misused in an unbiblical way, and 3) people are brought in for discipline for “sins” that don’t require its use.

The Search for Twitter Significance

Joey Cochran:

I want you to know that at some point during my last half-decade enjoying Twitter I have been each of these people or all of these people. I’m poking fun at me as much as the next guy or gal. And if you follow me on Twitter, you know just how true that is. You could stick my face right next to each one of these observations. But I want you to ask yourself, where could I stick my face? Does your Twitter Icon belong under any of these habits?

Joyful news leads to joyful people

joyful news

A couple of years ago, I went through a pretty bad spot emotionally. I was miserable pretty much all the time (there were many reasons for this). This wasn’t so much a depression thing as much as a frustration one, though. Lots of stress and concern about things both in and out of my control were taking their toll. The day it clicked for me was when we were sitting at the table, and my daughter, Abigail, commented that I don’t smile.

Now, strictly speaking, this wasn’t true. But she couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen me smile. Her default understanding was “daddy = grumpy.”

(Isn’t it interesting how God so often uses our children to point out what we’ve been ignoring?)

I was like the monks Spurgeon spoke of in Lectures to My Students, “who salute each other in sepulchral tones, and convey the pleasant information, ‘Brother we must die'; to which lively salutation each lively brother of the order replies, ‘Yes, brother we must die'” (197).

This, again, wasn’t an unfamiliar sort of disposition for me. I spent most of my teen years being proto-emo minus the swoopy hair (except for that unfortunate year…). My favorite bands were all rather pretentious, dark and angsty. I was not a cheerful person.

I was reminded of this once again when listening to the audio edition of Lectures to My Students. There, Spurgeon commends ministers to be cheerful people. Not, an an empty sort of “levity and frothiness, but a genial, happy spirit. There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar, and there will be more souls led to heaven by a man who wears heaven on his face than by one who bears Tartarus in his looks” (198).

Spurgeon is right in commending us to cultivate a happy disposition. Not some false air, but a genuinely joyful spirit.1 No one wants to be around the person who is constantly looking for the grey cloud in the silver lining (or is pointing out to you why gluten is terrible and going to give you cancer while also causing climate change).2 No one really likes being around the person who constantly turns your smiles into frowns.

But good news does not beget grumpiness, and good news people should not be known for their grumpiness. While they might have seasons where they experience it, they should not be characterized by it. People who have been saved by Jesus and commissioned by him to tell that good news should pursue cheerfulness—or if you prefer, joy. Because joyful news leads to joyful people. And joyful people in a bad news world are hard to come by.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to get severn of the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series for $2.99 each:

Also on sale is Know Your Bible From A to Z by Jim George ($2.39).

Google And Levi’s Are Teaming Up To Make Computerized Pants

And the “just why?” award goes to…

But today, we got some true futurism: computerized pants.

This morning, Google announced that it is teaming up with Levi’s to make jeans with conductive fabric — which could eventually allow wearers to use their legs as touchscreens — swiping their thigh, say, to accept a phone call.

My Father Killed My Mother

Joel Lindsey:

When I was 6 years old, my father murdered my mother.… He was convicted of murder in 1981 and sentenced to die in Georgia’s electric chair. His appeal reduced his sentence to life in prison.

In the aftermath, my sisters and I were adopted by my maternal grandparents, and in the face of that great tragedy, we did what any family would do—we circled the wagons, we bonded over our grief. A significant portion of that bonding came through our shared hatred of not just the evil things my dad did, but of my dad himself. So I grew up hating him, and 23 years without contact only increased the distance, fear, and disdain that defined our “relationship.”

Your Paper Brain and Your Kindle Brain

T.J. Raphael:

Linear reading and digital distractions have caught the attention of academics like Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University.

“I don’t worry that we’ll become dumb because of the Internet,” Wolf says, “but I worry we will not use our most preciously acquired deep reading processes because we’re just given too much stimulation. That’s, I think, the nub of the problem.”

Not A Single One Will Fail

Stephen Altrogge:

You may not see all his words fulfilled in your lifetime. You may not see God fulfill his promises to your children in your lifetime. I pray for God to save and bless all my children, grandchildren and every descendant of mine long after I’m gone, until the day Jesus returns.

When Your Heart Isn’t In It

Joe Thorn:

Do you really think that avoiding worship will be the means by which your heart will changed, prepared to engage in worship? Can disconnecting from the means of grace somehow bring about a revival of the heart? No! The means of grace are for those who need them; for those who are not feeling as they ought, to change the heart, realign the will, and draw men and women to Jesus Christ.

What does too many books look like?

I have a problem.

It’s a serious one.

Seriously serious, even.

There are too many books in my house. So many, in fact, that I’ve written terrible poetry about them.

How many is too many? Well, recently, I cleaned out my coffee table, decluttered my bookshelves, and Emily dumped all the books that were on, in or under my nightstand into a box. This is one of the sets of piles:

IMG_3850

Anyone care to guess how many are there?

(Closest answer without going over will receive a little something nice from me. Seriously.)

I’d safely estimate having no less than 1000 books in my house. Some of them are terrible, but many are excellent. I have no more bookshelves. In my decluttering, I’ve found many that will be leaving the house, and this will be a good thing.

Because Emily’s eye is twitching.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Mark by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)
  • Developing Christian Character Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke (ePub)

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

Three generations on ethnic relations

Should Christians confront Mormons?

L.L. (Don) Veinot Jr., Lynn K. Wilder, and Cory B. Willson share their views.

The Complexity of Pastoral Care

Nick Batzig:

Pastoral care is exceedingly complex. In seminary, our professors taught us to labor to become discriminating preachers–that is, men who preach to different categories of hearers in the congregation. In any assembly it is fairly certain that there will be present hard-hearted hearers, spiritually mature believers, believers with wounded consciences, etc. Additionally, there are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, singles, etc. This means that the applications of Scripture must be pinpointed to specific people living in specific situations. The same is true in pastoral ministry. Pastors need to become discriminating pastors. We must abandon any idea of “mechanistic pastoral ministry.” Far too many adopt a “slot machine’ approach to ministry–just put the coin in and pull the handle. Rather, pastoral ministry takes a keen knowledge of the personalities, life-situations and struggles of congregants. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he charged the whole congregation to  “warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thess. 5:14). Here are five categories to keep in mind when laboring to become a discriminating pastor.

Why Does it Matter that the Holy Spirit is a Person?

Derek Rishmawy:

Many of us are confused about the Holy Spirit. The Father we have a decent conception of, the Son too (Godman, Lord, Redeemer, etc), but the Spirit? We honestly don’t know what to do with “it.” And that’s one of the main problems. Some of us think of the Spirit primarily as an “it”; a thing, a force, and not a person. But according to the Scriptures the Holy Spirit is a person, coeternal, and coexistent with the Father and the Son. What’s more, it matters that we know that he’s a person.

The Village Church apologizes for lack of compassion

Church discipline is not easy, and leaders often get it wrong. However, it’s not often you see those same leaders repent specifically.

Why haven’t I been reviewing a lot of books lately?

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One of the early features of this blog was book reviews. I started writing these almost by accident. I was broke, liked reading, discovered blogger review programs, and away I went. That’s literally about as much thought as went into starting.

But recently, I’ve been writing far fewer reviews. Where at this time last year, I’d probably written 20 or more, I’ve written maybe 10 (which, in all honesty, is still probably quite a bit considering the average 18-to-29 year old finishes nine books per year). I still love writing them because they’re among the most challenging things to write.

So why haven’t I been writing them as often? A few reasons:

1. They’re exhausting. Up until about six months ago, I was probably writing at least one book review every week. Think about that for a second: to write one of these every single week meant having to have read at least one book every single week (usually more), and to have enough time to think through what I’ve read. I think I hit a wall because, even though they’re fun to write, they’re such a difficult thing to write well.

2. Changing demands on my time. I’m always trying to make sure I’m leading a healthy lifestyle, one that includes getting a decent night’s sleep (which is very hard for me). The one class I was taking for seminary last term took up a great deal of my time with writing reflection papers on the books I was reading, as well as my term paper, which took nearly as much time to write in terms of effort as half of my second book. I’m also getting ready to make good on some promises I made back in April to write some book proposals, which means on the off chance one gets picked up, I’ll probably be spending a lot more time working on whatever one of those turns into. Then there’s this other idea I’m just starting to plan out… (But I’ll talk about that another time.)

3. I’ve been a bit bored with what I have been reading of late. Something I’d mentioned in my recap of last year’s re-read project is many of the books I’ve been reading have been well-written, but they’ve felt fairly safe. I haven’t really felt strongly about the books I’m reading, even the good ones. So if they’re not inciting a passionate response in me, I’m probably not going to be inclined to share too much about them.

So does this mean I’m done with reviewing books? Not even a little. It just means I don’t know what my routine looks like yet for writing reviews. Maybe I’ll get back to doing one a week. Maybe I’ll do one every other week or every month. It really all depends on whether or not a book I’m reading actually warrants me writing about it.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Revisiting the burger myth

And this, friends, is why we all need to be reminded once more that we ought not believe everything we read on the Internet.

From Henry to Hip Hop

C. Daniel Motley:

In 410 A.D., a group of Visigoth barbarians sacked the golden city of Rome. Assuming that the gods sent this horde as a punishment, the Roman people lashed out at the only religious group that refused to swear allegiance to the pantheon: the Christians. A bishop in the African city of Hippo, Augustine, felt forced to defend Christianity from this outcry and the threat of destruction from the pagan populace. Although he probably did not set out to do so, Augustine provided the world with the first Christian theology of culture. Since Augustine, Christians have wrestled with how to relate to the world and to culture: What kind of music can Christians sing? Do we unite the races or is it better to segregate? Is it ever right to have an abortion?

 

Are All Christians Hypocrites? Yes, Maybe and No.

Aaron Earls:

The revelations about Josh Duggar have brought to the forefront a much broader discussion about Christians and hypocrisy. (If you need a recap, here is The Washington Post‘s excellent timeline of the entire situation.)

Does his criticizing the sexual behavior of others, while engaging in not just sexual sins, but criminal molestation, mark him a hypocrite? Are Christians, in general, hypocrites for so often critiquing the behavior of others, while failing to live up to their own standards?

As a Christian, my answer would be yes, maybe, and no. Let me explain.

What I’ve Learned in Twenty Years of Marriage

Russell Moore (who happens to have the same anniversary as Emily and me) shares some thoughts on twenty years of marriage.

Is there a “leadership code”?

Eric Geiger:

Perhaps you have heard someone say, “Leadership is leadership.” The authors would agree. After interviewing leadership experts, reviewing works about leadership from multiple generations, and processing their own observations, they concluded that 60-70% of all leadership is transferable. In other words, up to 70% of what makes a leader effective in one environment is transferable to another environment. Some know this intuitively and hire proven leaders for the “transferable 70%” of the job and train for the 30% of the job that is industry or discipline specific.

A Holy Aloofness

Michael Kelley:

A life free from worry? Free from anxiety? Not only does it seem unattainable in practice; it also seems just a wee bit irresponsible, doesn’t it? At first glance, these words from Jesus seem to be advocating a life of apathy – worry about nothing, because you care about nothing. But the kind of life Jesus wants for His brothers and sisters is far from apathetic.

Nine things we’re glad we’ve learned in our marriage (so far)

bench

Today is Emily’s and my ninth wedding anniversary. Our road to the altar was a long and complicated one, involving college romance, abandoning a religion/cult, living together, getting “engaged”, buying a house, spiritual attack, and being rescued by Jesus (in that order).

I (Aaron) still remember the day we both became Christians, and our first question to one another was, “Now what?” We knew that being Christians meant our lives were going to be thrown into chaos. We just didn’t expect everything that was thrown at us in the time leading up to our wedding (and beyond). So today, we thought we’d share a few things we are glad we know now that are also glad we found out along the way:

1. What it’s like to be a part of an exclusive club (that no one wants to join). When we lost our second child (a miscarriage between Abigail and Hannah), we were initiated into a club no one really wants to be a part of: couples who’ve experienced a miscarriage. We had no idea how common it is, and how many people grieve in silence. Though we (obviously) love all our children greatly, and we wouldn’t trade the family we do have for anything, there’s a part of us that wonders what it would have been like to meet our little “almost”, instead of only seeing him or her in a blurry ultrasound. Lord willing, we’ll get to do that in the new creation.

2. What it means to be married and Christian. Yeah, I know this is one of those controversial subjects. But learning how to relate to one another as Christians, as an engaged couple, as a married couple, and then again as parents of young children… we were kind of flying by the seat of our pants on all that. We’d not seen examples of a Christian marriage (Emily’s parents aren’t Christians and mine are divorced, so I’d never even really seen a stable family unit until I met them). And there were a lot of things that we had to learn the hard way. This usually involved me saying something stupid, realizing I was wrong, and asking Emily to forgive me.

3. Being on the bleeding edge of parenthood can be kind of lonely. We intentionally left the barn door open when we got married, having the conviction that we wanted to have children right away. And we did. Unfortunately, we also had people doing the math in their heads (or on their fingers) when we told them we were expecting Abigail. “Oh, so you got married in…”

I (Emily) also had two people ask if it was planned. I also had to let some dreams die during our early years as parents. Because so many of our friends got married around the same time, I had this assumption that all of us would be having children on the same timeline, like I saw the people 5-10 years older than us in our church had done. I was looking forward to “doing life together” and having those friendships remain really close. But my friends did not do those things, and are only now having their first or second children (with their oldest being a bit younger than Hudson).

So, I had to go and make my own friends (which I did).

We love being able to spend more time with some of these friends now, and it’s a privilege to share from where we are in our journey as parents, but sometimes it’s easy to get a bit jealous when everyone else is having the shared experience.

4. Nothing good happens after 2 am. This is advice I (Emily) was given by my cousin, and it’s true. After a certain point in the evening, you’ve got nothing positive to say to one another. So just go to sleep.

5. Sex is a good gift, but a lousy god. We heard a lot of sermons (via podcast) and read a lot of books all telling us that Christian marriages should be filled with free, fun and frequent sexual intimacy. More and more, I (Aaron) wonder how many of the pastors writing such things perhaps were revealing a bit too much about what was (or wasn’t) going on in their own lives. There’ve been plenty of seasons over the last nine years where “frequent” would not be the appropriate modifier to use in our relationship, whether due to illness, babies, or exhaustion. I’m glad we don’t define the health of our relationship by this one measure because, honestly, there are much more important things to be concerned about.

6. Set the ground rules before you start. Going into marriage knowing that divorce is off the table is liberating for us. Neither of us have one foot out the door, and so it’s not a threat or a concern. We’ve seen far too much heartache in other people’s lives—particularly with those who have been divorced—and that makes us want to work harder on the things that matter most.

7. Shared convictions matter, but can’t be forced. No question: shared convictions on theological issues really, really matter. A lot. But having shared convictions is not something anyone can mandate. I can’t say to Emily, “You will be in agreement with me on XYZ.” And not just because if I did, I’d be declared the one jerk who rules them all. Instead, what we’ve found is our convictions have aligned, but usually it takes some time.

8. Don’t press. I (Aaron) am still learning this one. And I’m usually pretty awful at it. But I’m trying to learn that if Emily says she’s not ready to talk about something, she’s really not ready to talk about something. So saying, “Well, what’s the issue?” and trying to cajole it out of her is usually a terrible idea.

9. That marriage really is different. Anyone who tells you that living together is no different from being married is either a. Never been married; b. an idiot; or c. a liar. Living together is a distortion of marriage; a cheap imitation that falls apart too easily. Marriage is different. It is harder, but it is better. If I could do it again, I (Aaron) would have gladly waited until we were married for us to live together.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also, Tony Reinke’s new book, Newton on the Christian Life, is now available. Westminster Bookstore has it on sale for $13, or $10 each when you buy three or more.

Does the Internet turn cowards into bullies?

A couple weeks back, I was on Greg Dutcher’s new podcast, These Things Go to 11 talking about contending for the faith, doctrines worth fighting for and how the Internet lends courage to people whom might otherwise have lack it:

5 Things Every Christian Leader Should Pray for Themselves Everyday

Kevin Halloran:

I desperately wanted to honor Christ and influence others toward Him, but learned the hard way how to damage relationships by trying to force-feed them what I thought was best—I tried to do the work of the Holy Spirit. Reading Jesus’ words “you can do nothing” at the close of the year seemed to be a fitting description of the recent fruit of my labors for the Lord. I quickly learned that I couldn’t bear fruit apart from abiding in Christ.

An Open Letter to Christian Parents of Unbelieving Adult Children

Jason Helopoulos:

“What about our son?” “What about our daughter?” As a pastor there are conversations that I routinely have with parishioners. One of the regular exchanges I have had over the years begins with a Christian parent or both parents approaching with downcast gazes. The discouragement, and at times even despair, are apparent in their eyes. The opening words are either, “Pastor, would you pray for our child?,” or “Pastor, what advice would you give to us for child?” They then proceed to explain that their adult child has wandered from the faith. With anguish in their words, they detail how they brought him or her up in the faith: their child had attended Sunday School each week, participated in corporate worship, and attended Youth Group. A few times, I have even been told that they were a paragon of virtue and seemed to love the Lord in their teenage years. Their parents were not shy about sharing the faith with their child at home and they tried to surround him or her with good and godly friends. But now, sadly, their child has rejected Christ. They are living a life of unbelief and their parents are filled with grief.

Christian Ethics, Evangelicals, and Functional Marcionism

Jake Meador:

All we need, apparently, is the red letters. The Old Testament God is angry and vengeful and not very Christian, but New Testament God is great. Old Testament God is just God in his teen years when he was ready to fight if you looked at him the wrong way. But New Testament God has grown up. He doesn’t lose his temper over little things any more. He’s chill now. He listens to NPR and loves Portlandia and is kinda embarrassed by all that wrath and judgment stuff in the Old Testament. So don’t worry about that 2/3 of the Bible. Just read about Jesus and you have everything you need to understand Christian ethics.

Of course, to any student of church history this thinking should sound familiar. All of these arguments trade in a form of Marcionism, the ancient Christian heresy attributed to Marcion, a second century Christian who rejected the Old Testament.

Letter to a Teen Unboxing Their First Smartphone

Tim Challies:

You just got your first smartphone! This is a major milestone in your life. That phone you are about to take out of the box is one of the most amazing devices ever created, and it is going to be your constant companion for the next couple of years. It is an incredible piece of technology that can be used in many different ways.

It can be used to do so many good things, but if you are not wary, it can also be used to do an awful lot of bad things. So before you power it on for the first time, I think it would be wise to invest just a few minutes in thinking and planning.

How to get millennials back in church

Which Kind of Writer Are You: Microwave, Crockpot, or Stir-Fry?

I’m probably the first kind.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

In Defense of Purity Rings

Mike Leake takes on Stephen Altrogge:

But I think purity rings—in their best form—are much more than just a reminder to not have sex. For full disclosure my wedding ring, and my wife’s wedding ring, is a combination of her purity ring, and two “pray hard” rings that we bought when we started dating. That “pray hard” was a purity ring of sorts for me—one that reminded me constantly that my relationship with my wife was in the Lord’s hand and that it was my job to reflect Jesus in my love for her.

How a Week with Apple Watch Reduced My Screen Time

Nathan Bingham:

It has now been close to a week since I first put on Apple Watch. It’s too early to be thoroughly conclusive as to how it will fit into the rhythm of my daily life, but within minutes of wearing it, I knew this was more than an “impotent iPhone.” And within 24-hours, it had changed the way I related to the screens around me (my iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, and TV). Here’s how.

How to tell if a guy or girl likes you

Mr. Forthright knows:

HT: Barnabas

Repentance as a lifestyle

David Prince:

Every person experiences feelings of guilt over sinful actions and choices, and every person responds to those feelings in some way. The Bible explains that a Christian response to guilt over sinful actions ought to be rooted in faith and repentance. Faith is trust in the promise of grace in Jesus the Christ as an all-sufficient Savior. Repentance is the other side of the coin of faith and is the change of mind turning from sin and toward Christ. In other words, I have been completely wrong, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is completely right and my only hope. There is an initial act of faith and repentance at the moment of conversion, but, after that, the process of faith and repentance constitutes a daily discipline—the Christian’s lifestyle—and a path to joy thereafter according to Psalm 32.

A Life of Blessing and Rest

Nick Batzig:

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles ” (Gal. 3:13-14). I distinctly remember hearing an unbelieving co-worker—at a restaurant in which I worked many years ago—say to customers as they left: “Have a blessed day.” Every time I heard it I wanted to say, “But how is that blessing possible?” The language of blessing is used today with little to no understanding of its nature or cost. Galatians 3:13-14 expresses the inner workings of a theology of blessing. How can we receive the spiritual and eternal blessings of God when we are under the curse of His law by nature? In order for us to be justified before God, Christ had to “become a curse for us.” Blessings and curses are found throughout the Bible and ultimately meet together in an unparalleled moment at the cross.

Five phrases Christians should never use again

phrases

We all have certain sayings that we regularly use. In my house, we often remind the kids, “You’ll get what you get and you won’t get upset,” particularly when it’s time for a snack. Another favorite: “We’re gonna have fun whether we like it or not.”

These are well and good, at least to a point—that is, only in as much as we ascribe no more value to them than their due. Christians are no different; we have short hand phrases that are sometimes helpful, but often not. In fact, many we treat as downright biblical, when they’re more likely to be found in 2 Hesitations. Here are five that I’d love to see never ever used again:

God won’t give you more than you can handle. I’m pretty sure Paul, Peter, the rest of the apostles, all the prophets, and Jesus would disagree on this. Although Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is kind, the Christian life is most definitely not. Paul described himself and his co-laborers as “so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Cor. 1:8). “Beyond our strength,” incidentally, means it was more than he could handle. But the purpose was to cause them to “rely not on ourselves but on God” (2 Cor. 1:9). Jesus described Paul as one who would suffer greatly for the sake of the gospel. Jesus in taking our sin upon himself most definitely carried a burden so great his sweat looked as though it were drops of blood and he pleaded for the burden to be lifted by the Father, were it his will to do so. Instead the Father sent an angel to strengthen him (Luke 22:43). (This is a subject I dealt with in greater detail in this article which appears in my eBook, Everyday Theology).

“Let’s pray for a hedge of protection.” I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure what this means. I get the reference—but the first place you see this language used in the Bible is in Job. However, there, it’s Satan accusing God of not playing fair with Job, that the only reason Job doesn’t blaspheme him is because God has placed a “hedge around him” (Job 1:10). We do find a few other examples as well, but only a couple have a protective connotation (notably Isaiah 5:5 and Hosea 2:6). A later example in Job (3:23) suggests one having his path obscured. Now, I’m not saying it’s wrong to pray for such a thing, but the biblical evidence is slim.

God helps those who help themselves. To be clear: God does not reward slothfulness, apathy, or laziness in any way, shape or form. We also can see that faithful people are full of ingenuity and a sort of godly ambition that God blesses. But, the Bible has nothing close to this sort of admonishment, which finds its origins in Aesop’s fables (and was later popularized by Benjamin Franklin). Instead of encouraging us to pull ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps (which I addressed it in this article some years ago), we are to remember that even as we work, God is working in us (Philippians 2:13).

“Let go and let God.” As you can guess, this one is related to the one I just mentioned. The Keswickian notion that if you just surrender and have faith and if you’re struggling just surrender harder is, well, kind of silly (to say nothing of how it leads to classism among Christians). No matter how hard you look, you’re not going to find anything in the Bible that confirms it. Instead, you’re going to be told constantly to strive, do, go forth, fight, and so on. God commands an active faith, not passivity. So stop saying this! (And for those interested, Andrew Naselli’s got a tome analyzing Keswick theology in great detail. If you’re a Logos user, it’s worth checking out.)

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.” This is a weird one that I’ve never quite understood. The whole “open door” theology thing has always seemed strange to me, though. I can’t find anything that would give any sort of credence to this notion in the Bible. At all. (The only thing we have that’s close is the admonition that God never leaves us without escape from temptation in 1 Corinthians 10:13.) Further, it seems that not every door that is open to us is one we should actually go through. Sometimes opportunities are presented as choices for us to say no to. But maybe I just don’t have enough faith…

There are, no doubt, more that could be added to this list. But for now, maybe it’s enough for us to commit to thinking carefully and biblically about the things we say and how much weight we give those sayings. But just a warning: If we do this, we might find we probably shouldn’t say some of them at all. And may God be glorified because of it.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week, Crossway’s put seven eBooks from the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale is Desiring God’s edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress ($2.99).

The Hardest Sins to Talk About

Tim Challies:

One of the most difficult things to do is to lovingly confront another person about sin, or—even harder—about what may have been sin. In his excellent book Side by Side, Ed Welch offers some practical counsel on doing this well.

Was The Holy Spirit Not On Earth Before Pentecost?

Jared Wilson shares an illustration from John Piper.

Why your children’s ministry should take a break

Miles Morrison:

What exactly is meant by the words “children’s ministry” can be very different depending on the church. But while these ministries can come in all different shapes and sizes, they’re all based on the same basic principle that children require specialized teaching and care separate from their parents. I’m not saying that’s wrong or that children’s ministry is bad – I love and serve in the children’s ministry in my church – I’m merely making the observation that while this ministry can and should serve the church, it will never replace it. Regardless of what curriculum or structure or teaching style your children’s ministry uses, here are some reasons why it’s healthy from time to time to take a break and encourage your parents to worship with their children.

Introverts in the Dearest Place on Earth

Jared Musgrove:

In the last century, especially here in the United States, we’ve morphed into a “culture of personality” that can’t stop talking. Those with a preference for extroversion—energized by and focused on people, activity and accomplishment—tend to be better understood by the world, progressing faster in organizations and relationships.

Both extroverts and introverts must do the work to see that those with the gift of introversion are a grace to God’s Church. In this sense, I have some considerations for my fellow introverted church members and the extroverts who love them.

How to revive a Sharpie

One-third of American 8th graders think Canada is a dictatorship

According to the U.S. government’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 33 per cent of American eighth graders currently believe that Canada is a dictatorship.

This finding was one of many revealed by the NCES in its 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress report when it was released late last month.

Long preaching isn’t always good preaching

least-to-say (1)

Early on in my faith, I was enamored with preachers who would give these 45, 50, 60-plus minute sermons. I would compare what I’d hear in their podcasts to what I was hearing on Sunday mornings, and I always wondered, “Why doesn’t my pastor do what these guys are doing?”

Which, of course, is stupid. But then again, I was kind of an idiot.

(Moving on…)

Over time, I grew less enamored with some of those preachers (or at least their preaching). As I listened, I increasingly realized that the guys that seemed to be able to get up and had little more than a post-it for notes weren’t actually saying much of anything. They were using a great many words to say very little.

When training pastors on the importance of keeping people’s attention, Charles Spurgeon encouraged his hearers to keep their sermons shorter. “Spend more time in the study that you may need less in the pulpit,” he said.

We are generally longest when we have least to say. A man with a great deal of well-prepared matter will probably not exceed forty minutes; when he has less to say he will go on for fifty minutes; and when he has absolutely nothing he will need an hour to say it in. (Lectures to my Students, 156)

This is valuable advice (and also helps us understand why TED Talks are so powerful). Sometimes preaching1 “long” isn’t necessary—it’s just long. It’s a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”(1 Corinthians 13:1), revealing a great love of our own pontificating, but little for our hearers. And I really have no interest in that, either as a preacher or the hearer. I’d rather speak five simple words that communicate clearly than 1000 that may be eloquent or funny, but lack substance. What about you?

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to get the 9Marks “Building Healthy Churches” series $4.99 each:

Also on sale:

What should the Duggar scandal teach the church?

Russell Moore:

…sexual abuse in the context of the church must be handled in terms of both authorities responsible—both the church and the state. The state has been given the sword of justice to wield against those who commit crimes (Rom. 13:1-7). The church has no such sword (Matt. 26:51-53). This means that the immediate response to allegations of sexual abuse is to call the civil authorities, to render unto Caesar the responsibility that belongs to Caesar to investigate the crime. The church may or may not know the truth of the allegations, but it is the God-ordained prerogative of the civil authorities to discover such matters and to prosecute accordingly. When faced with a question of potential sexual abuse, call the authorities without delay.

A word to the journal writers and bloggers

Kim Shay:

For those who write in journals (and for those who blog with a lot of transparency), beware. Every thought does not need to be recorded. Instead of recording negative thoughts, write things that are good. Write about how proud you are of your kids, how much you love your family, the daily provision of God, the joy He gives. I can toss my journals aside in the garbage if I feel like they contain nothing edifying. Sure, pour out your thoughts to God, like the Psalmist did, but write with kindness and grace. Don’t be harsh.

More real

Great stuff from Ray Ortlund.

When You Fear the Future

Trillia Newbell:

I’m not sure if there is a greater fear for women than the fear of what’s to come (or what won’t come). You and I rightly pray for our husband, children, schools, and whether to pursue a career, but we don’t often come to God in peace. Instead we come anxiously awaiting our fate. Goodness will follow all the days of her life, or her life, or maybe her life, we might think, but surely not my life. It’s hard not to have control, and one thing that we can’t ever determine is what lies ahead. Thankfully, God’s Word is packed with sweet promises that smash all our fearful thinking.

Charles Spurgeon’s 9 Tips for Christian Readers

Grateful Kevin Halloran compiled these quotes.