Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Three reasons your group should break up

Brandon Hiltibidal:

Small groups have at least one thing in common with middle school daters and pints of Graeter’s in my freezer: they can’t be expected to last forever. Of course, commitment to your group is critical. Group members can’t sharpen one another without time and the willingness to deal with discomfort. However, it is unlikely and perhaps even unhealthy to assume you will “do life” with the same eight people until Jesus comes back. Sometimes some relationships lack the right fit for solid discipleship. We are called to love everyone in the church, but we can’t dig deep with everyone we meet. Let’s be willing to reset our group when it doesn’t make sense for shared spiritual growth.

So, here are three reasons your group might want to consider a cordial break-up, in order to build new relationships with other group members. Remember, this doesn’t mean you can’t all go to heaven together—just that maybe you should “see other people” until then.

15 Years and What Do You Get?

Joan Hartley:

It has occurred to me that fifteen years did indeed go by in a flash. Fifteen is not a very big number, and yet in that amount of time, I have observed tremendous change all about me. Of course, the home that was new a few years ago has begun to show its age and need for attention. Our parents have all died. Our children have gone from being pre-teens and teens (which once afforded us the luxury of resident slave labor) to adults in their upper 20s and early 30s – some with children of their own. Amazingly, my husband and I now both qualify for AARP discounts at participating hotels.

Don’t Pray About the Book of Mormon

I appreciated a lot about this post, particularly the point that some things we don’t need to pray about because they’re kind of obvious.

Why Encouragement is Not Optional

Dan Darling:

People closest to us need to hear words of affirmation from us. They need to hear them regularly, consistently, and sincerely. Not empty words of flattery, like something we’d type on Facebook on someone’s birthday (“best husband in the whole world!”), but genuine and heartfelt praise for the unique gifts and contribution of those closest to us.

8 Reasons Why Loving Money is so Dangerous

David Murray:

Having dealt with the roles and relationships of men and women, elders and deacons, employers and employees, in 1 Timothy 6v9-10 the Apostle Paul addresses with the Christian’s relationship with money and issues eight warnings about why we should not turn it into an idol.

A key point we miss in defending the faith

be-weird

One of the classic texts for apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15, where we read that we should always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. Certainly this is true, but we’re missing something kind of important. I was reminded of this afresh as we studied this text together at church on Sunday, and our local missions pastor made an important point:

The primary action in this text is not to make a defense, but to honor Christ in our hearts. Remember, the verse in full reads, “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (emphasis added).

The heart, as many Christians have been told time and again, does not refer to the physical organ, but the seat of the will, or the central being of the person. It’s what makes you, you. When Peter commanded us to honor Christ in our hearts as holy, he was saying this is something we do with the entirety of our being. Our words, our lives, our all is to be committed to honoring Christ are the foundation of apologetics (and arguably our greatest apologetic).1

This is where I see so many “discernment ministries” go awry. They seek to defend the faith, but with their words tear it down. They often lack gentleness and respect,2 and so fail to honor Christ as holy. And in some cases, their “defense” puts them to shame as in their apparent zeal for the truth, they misrepresent those they are supposedly defending against.

But this is not a problem for “those guys.” It’s a problem for all of us. It is a struggle for every one of us to honor Christ as holy in the every day. When we’re at work, we want to be liked by our co-workers, and not seen as the weird Christian guy or gal. We don’t particularly want to ruffle feathers. We just want to live at peace with everyone in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

Sometimes, though, we’re called to step out and be weird. For example, when Abigail was still in public school, we had to have conversations about yoga with two of her three teachers. The first was her junior kindergarten one, to whom I simply explained that because of religious convictions as Christians, we didn’t believe it was appropriate for Abigail to participate. The teacher (who was great) was totally cool and respectful and agreed. Problem solved. A couple years later in grade one, we had the same conversation with a different teacher. This one was less agreeable, instead saying, “Well, I’ll just call it stretching then.” (Never mind the chanting at the beginning of class about being loved and at peace with everyone.) She wasn’t belligerent; she just didn’t get where we were coming from. And so we seemed a bit weird to her, which is par for the course when it comes to the Christian life.

But no one said the Christian life was easy. The Christian life is one where we’re going to constantly be seen as out of step, on the wrong side of history, backwards, archaic or simply weird. But this is what will happen when we choose to honor Christ above all, even as we choose to be gentle and respectful. Defending the faith starts with living holy lives, pleasing and acceptable to God. It means using our words, correctly. It means living in step with the commands of God. And sometimes it means seeming kind of weird. So onward Christian soldier—go forth and be weird to the glory of God.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s got a few books on marriage on sale this week:

Does the Bible say anything about sleep habits?

David Roach:

Americans aren’t getting enough shut-eye. That’s the conclusion of a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that nearly nine million Americans take prescription sleeping pills and such prescriptions have tripled for people between 18 and 24. Of course, occasional sleepless nights are normal for nearly everyone and sometimes insomnia is caused by uncontrollable factors like physical pain or nightmares. But can a lack of sleep indicate a spiritual problem? Does the Bible say anything to guide us in our sleep patterns? You might be surprised to learn that the answer is yes to both questions.

How Do You Define Joy?

John Piper starts a new six-part study series on Philippians:

3 Ways to Grow in Faith

Mike Leake:

Just as in any relationship our communion is often in direct proportion to our faith and love. If I sin against you our relationship is going to be harmed. Likewise, if I feel slighted by you then it will impact the way we relate to one another. How much worse does a human relationship get if one person loses trust in the other one? In the same way—our lively experience of the Lord is often in proportion to our faith.

So how do we grow in our faith?

Creating a New Wrong Way when the Right Way seems to be a Wrong Way

JD Payne offers an interesting perspective on Mark 1:44-45.

How We Became Too Busy For Friends

Pam Lau:

Too many of today’s friendships—both inside and outside of the church—suffer from fragmentation and superficiality. That is, we are too scattered to commit knowing and caring for a person deeply. Instead, we settle for friends who are merely familiar faces for extended small talk. Perhaps it’s because we are afraid of the intimacy or have been burned by bad relationships in the past. Or perhaps it’s because this is the kind of relationship we see modeled and expected in our neighborhoods, schools, and small groups. Dr. Daniel J Siegel, a neuropsychiatrist, advises that little bit of empathy goes a long way. He believes in what he calls mindsight—a new approach to relationships that teaches the skills of reflection, relationships, and resilience.

The only truly good sermon you will ever hear

good-sermon

“Did he tell us where we can see Jesus in the text?”

It’s a question I’ve asked on more than one occasion after hearing a message. It’s hard to hear someone speak—even when they explain the text more or less correctly—and wonder, “Did he say anything about Jesus here?” It’s common to wonder this if you’re used to messages that involve five points beginning with the letter “p,” but I’d argue that a commitment to preaching verse by verse does not guarantee we’ll keep Jesus front and center. In fact, I sometimes think it’s easier for us to lose sight of Jesus as we examine the veins on the leaves of a particular tree in one section of the forest.

Truly, there is no worse sermon than one that misses Jesus. By that, I don’t mean ham-fisted attempts to force him into the message, or a tacked-on memorized gospel presentation at the end of the message. What I mean is to always show the connection to Christ. Charles Spurgeon reminds us of this in the following story, previously told by a Welsh minister:

A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had done he went to the old minister, and said, “What do you think of my sermon?”

“A very poor sermon indeed,” said he.

“A poor sermon?” said the young man, “it took me a long time to study it.”

“Ay, no doubt of it.”

“Why, did you not think my explanation of the text a very good one?”

“Oh, yes,” said the old preacher, “very good indeed.”

“Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon? Didn’t you think the metaphors were appropriate and the arguments conclusive?”

“Yes, they were very good as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon.”

“Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?”

“Because,” said he, “there was no Christ in it.”

“Well,” said the young man, “Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text.”

So the old man said, “Don’t you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?”

“Yes,” said the young man.

“Ah!” said the old divine “and so from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business in when you get to a text, is to say, ‘Now what is the road to Christ?’ and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis—Christ. And I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it.”1

There is no worse sermon than one where you cannot find Christ in it, no matter how good the explanation of the details of the text. There is no worse devotional thought than one devoid of the presence of our Lord and Savior, no matter how encouraging or motivational it may be. The only truly good message is one where we’ve shown Christ in the text. Every text, every road, as the old divine said, leads to him. Whether we go over hedge and ditch, it is worth it, for good of all who hear—and ourselves—to point the way.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

I Am a Church Member by Thom Rainer is 99¢ through the end of the day. His latest, I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian, is available now for $6.99. Also on sale:

Fighting Fear When Violence Strikes Close to Home

Angela Price:

I was going to a play date for the first time at my Muslim friend’s house. I’ve never felt afraid before, but today was different. What if I was wrong about her intentions?

It had been nearly one week after the horrible shooting in Chattanooga. Many here are asking the typical questions. Why did this happen? How could this happen? But those aren’t exactly the right questions when we remember our world is deeply fallen, captive to sin and death. This is a temporary place. Sin abounds and it’s only the grace of God that holds it back in each of us.

Who is capable of being a murderer? Any of us. We are all born with a sin nature. We all need a Savior to rescue us from that. We all need hope. We all need the gospel.

Crushed

Nancy Guthrie writes to women in light of the ongoingPlanned Parenthood scandal.

The Coming of the Age of Gibberish

Carl Trueman:

Every now and then I read something which seems to capture the spirit of the age. A friend recently forwarded me one such item, calling for the government to provide free menstrual pads and tampons to women. So far, so Old Left. I disagree with the conclusion but I do understand the argument. It is set forth with a logic that is clear and comprehensible. The author and I may differ in our politics but we speak the same language.

It was not, however, the main article which caught my eye. Rather it was the editor’s note at the start.

What If I Preach a Bad Sermon?

Brian Croft:

Every preacher has preached a bad sermon. If you think you haven’t, then you probably have preached a bunch of bad sermons. It will happen to all of us. Sometimes it won’t just be bad, but a disaster! When a sermon doesn’t go well, most of us get very discouraged and if the despair is great enough, it might cause us to question whether we should continue to preach at all. I bet no one can top the disaster of John Newton’s first sermon as he described it to a friend in a letter he wrote the next day.

The Onion looks back at “The Goonies”

This was terrifically ridiculous (Note: there’s a bit of inappropriate language at around the 3 minute mark):

The easiest of God’s promises to forget

heart

God is here. God is actually present right now. With me as I type this. With you as you read it.

It’s so easy to forget this, isn’t it?

God’s promise of his presence is one of the greatest of all his promises. It is, as Joe Thorn puts it in Experiencing the Trinity, “one of the great gospel promises given throughout Scripture.”

God has always held this truth out as one of the great blessings of being reconciled to him: “The Lord your God is in your midst” (Zeph. 3:17); “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lev. 26:11-12). Jesus ended his earthly ministry with this promise: “Behold, I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20). With such promises, why are you so often going at life as if you are alone? (31-32)

When “teachers” spew heresy and babies’ organs are treated as commodities, he is there. When “discernment” bloggers misrepresent Christians and complacent Christians forget what really matters, he is there. When one friend gets a new job, and another learns she can’t have children, he is there.

In every situation, in every circumstance, whether we feel like he is or not, God is there with us. And he will never, ever abandon us. It’s easy to forget this. The circumstances we face easily crowd out the truth. But don’t forget. He is there, and because he is there, there is rest for our souls.

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

armstrong-kids

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

medium_11975144065

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?