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What Do You Mean by Unconditional Love?

Erik Raymond:

It is common today to hear people say, “God loves us unconditionally.” It is also common to watch people bristle when people say, “God elects us unconditionally.”

When people say that God loves us unconditionally they usually mean something like, “After conversion God loves you no matter what. Isn’t that great?”

In one sense this is true, God’s love for his people is not based upon what they do or do not do. But this does not mean that God loves us unconditionally. If God loves anyone he loves them conditionally.

Get The Creedal Imperative in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the paperback edition of The Creedal Imperative by Carl Trueman for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Blood Work by Anthony Carter (hardcover)
  • Upsetting the World conference messages (DVD)
  • The Majesty of Christ teaching series by R.C. Sproul (CD)

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

Missional Love

Matthew Sims:

Love we see is absolutely integral to who God is, but did you notice how the the two references work backwards? Look at like this: Love is essential to who God is and it’s out of this love that he sent his Son to die. God’s love (and all true love) is not insular. It’s not looking in and loving oneself. That’s why the two greatest commandments according to Jesus are love God and love neighbor. That’s also why God as trinity is essential orthodoxy. God has been and will always be a God who overflows in his love for others. This originates with his love within the trinity and overflows onto us.

Save big on books by R.C. Sproul

50 Good Reasons to Sleep Longer

David Murray:

We are sleeping between one and two hours less per night than people did 60 or so years ago and it’s having a devastating impact upon every part of our lives. Over the last few months I’ve been collecting research about the dangers of too little sleep, which I’ve summarized below.

Are We Christians Good Neighbors?

Thabiti Anyabwile:

I played with Bea and Fred’s five children. We did everything from ride our bikes together to play basketball or stickball in the neighborhood park to chase one another in frenetic games of tag or hide-n-seek. We children were neighbors, too.

I thought about Bea and Fred last week as I prepared to preach Luke 10:25-37, the parable of the so-called “good Samaritan.” I prefer to call it the parable of the godly neighbor since Jesus tells the story to a religious man who asked in a self-justifying moment, “who is my neighbor?”

One more reason why Sunday evening services are disappearing

Winter-Church

Recently, Thom Rainer shared a few reasons for the possible demise of the Sunday evening service. Yesterday, Tim Challies chimed in from his perspective, suggesting that it could be linked to a diminished view of preaching, our amusement culture and the growth of amateur and professional sports, among others. But there’s one other reason I’d like to suggest:

A diminished view of discipleship and leadership development.

This has been a growing problem not only in the church but in the culture at large, despite it being one of the most oft-cited practices of good leaders (and all who’ve read a book on leadership said, “Amen”). Younger potential leaders need guidance from seasoned leaders—to learn from their experience (both positive and negative). And seasoned leaders do their most important work when they’re investing in those coming up behind them and ensuring that there are strong leaders to take the reins after they’ve retired or moved on to another opportunity.

Yet, despite the common knowledge that developing leaders is a good thing, this is missing in the cultures of many organizations—including churches.

This should never be. After all, we see a pretty strong emphasis on this kind of development in the New Testament. Although, you’re not going to find a verse saying, “older leaders, thou shalt raise up younger ones,” what you will find is Paul exhorting older men and women to invest in younger ones (Titus 2:1-6), Paul shepherding younger men like Timothy, whom he calls his “true child in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), appointing elders (Acts 14:23) and tasking his protégés to do likewise (Titus 1:5).

Going a little more broadly, this kind of investing in others is part and parcel with the great commission itself—we are to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. This necessarily requires the older (or more mature) to train and teach the younger.

Factoring all that in, rather than think of it as leadership development, maybe it’s more helpful to see it as discipleship.

Back to Sunday evening services for a moment: what both Rainer and Challies mentioned is that many pastors simply don’t have time to prepare two different sermons for each Sunday. This is very true. The responsibilities pastors carry are great, and one of the most important is their proclaiming and teaching of the Bible. But no one says senior pastors have to be the ones preaching on Sunday evening.

Sunday night services are a prime opportunity for the training of younger preachers—men who have shown some aptitude, but need experience to both identify their strengths and confirm whether or not a calling to pastoral ministry exists. It’s also a positive way to disciple the congregation as a whole. By having someone else preach, even someone who isn’t super-experienced (and may preach a lemon or ten), the congregation is protected from developing a cult of personality (you don’t need to have a big church for this to happen). They’re learning to be discerning, as well as being reminded that they’re trust is to be in the Word, not in the words of a messenger.

These are just some of the practical values a Sunday evening service brings. While I don’t attend a church that has one (we meet in a public high school and it’s not included in our lease agreement), I have been invited to preach at other churches for their evening services. And every time, it’s been a really positive learning experience and (thankfully) the congregation leaves encouraged. The more I do it, the more I am grateful for the churches that continue to hold these services.

Now, obviously, the solution to the leadership development and discipleship issue isn’t just “bring back Sunday night services;” that would be far too simplistic a thing to suggest. But what it should make all of us consider is how are we intentionally investing in and discipling younger potential leaders—and, honestly, whether or not we’re doing it at all.

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6 ways to build a culture of feedback

Eric Geiger:

Under the guise of “being nice,” many leaders fail to offer feedback to those they lead. Instead, they often ignore or work around the deficiency. Because feedback is an essential ingredient in development, teams and individuals suffer when leaders fail to provide it. So how do you, as a leader, develop a culture of feedback in the team that you lead? Here are six ways to increase the value of feedback among those you are leading.

How many students are really leaving the church?

Ed Stetzer:

Dropout is a key word in today’s evangelical churches concerning teenagers and young adults. The quote often sounds like this: “86% of evangelical youth drop out of church after graduation, never to return.” The problem with that statement (and others around that number) is that it’s not true. But that doesn’t mean there is no reason for concern.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a few more new deals for y’all:

Self-freezing Coca-Cola

This is pretty cool:

Whatever Happened to Evening Services?

Tim Challies:

The evening service may well be going the way of the dinosaur. What was once a staple of Christian worship, at least in some traditions, is increasingly being relegated to the past. Or so it would seem. I, for one, consider it a significant loss.

Tolerance Has No Clothes

Michael Patton:

I have started to wonder if there is another type of parade going on in America today. A parade where it seems stupid people are blind to the beauty of the new clothing. I have started to wonder if the emperor in the new parade is actually naked. The emperor dancing through the streets of America and dancing through the media outlets bears the name “Tolerance.”

5 books every new Christian should read

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While the most important book any Christian should be reading is the Bible, it’s beneficial for us to read books in addition to it. We grow in our faith not only through the Holy Spirit’s work in revealing the Scriptures to us, but God also uses the encouragement and gifts of other believers to do so.

Most of us get this, but when it comes to actually getting down to brass tacks and picking books, we’re not so sure where to start. At least, this was my experience as a brand-new Christian. When I came to faith, I wound up reading a whole pile of garbage very early on. I really needed was some guidance from another believer, a little help being pointed in the right direction.

And although I can’t go back in time and give this guidance to myself, I can pass it along to new believers today. So, here are five books I think every new Christian should read:

Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C. Sproul. There are a lot of really great books on the key teachings of the faith, but this is my top-choice for an entry level introduction to Christian theology. It’s greatest strength? Each doctrine is explained in bit-sized chunks using plain language.

Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke. One of the big challenges new believers have is relearning to read. Specifically, how do you read Christianly. And contrary to popular opinion, this doesn’t mean turning our brains off—it means reading even more intently than you may have in the past. (For more on this book, check out my review.)

Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. In what I hope will be the last recent(ish) release on this list, Kevin DeYoung’s book answers a big, important question: how do I know God’s will for my life? This is a question that came to the forefront very early on for me, and the answers provided were (and are) astoundingly helpful. (And if you’re interested, here [and here] are a few more thoughts on this book.)

A Call to Prayer by J.C. Ryle. Prayer is a strange and awkward thing for new believers (actually, it’s strange and awkward for a lot of us who aren’t so new in the faith, too), but it’s one of the most essential things we can do as Christians. This little book offers great encouragement in pursuing prayer with vigor.

Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon. Not every book needs to be about teaching you how to do something in the Christian life—sometimes you just need some great encouragement. These daily readings from Charles Spurgeon have encouraged Christians for more than 100 years, and I’ve no doubt they’ll continue to for many years to come.

There are more books that Christians should read, but these are the ones I would strongly encourage giving to new believers who are just starting out. What books would you encourage new believers to read?

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What We All Agree On, and What We (Probably) Don’t, In this Sanctification Debate

Kevin DeYoung:

It’s no surprise that I share the concerns raised by Jen, Michael, Mark, Jared, and others in this discussion. I’ve already written a book on the subject and dozens of blog posts, so I won’t repeat everything I’ve already said. What may be helpful, however, is to try to push this discussion to the next level. I think Mark Jones has the right idea. Whether it’s a public debate or not, we as fellow evangelicals, often fellow Reformed pastors, and sometimes fellow friends, should be willing to provide further clarity and answer some probing questions from both sides of this scuffle over sanctification. And we should do at least some of this publicly, because this has been a public discussion entered into willingly by “public figures” on all sides.

We all agree the differences are not mere semantics. We all agree the issues are of crucial importance for the church’s preaching, counseling, and overall health and vitality. So let’s move past boilerplate and try to get to the bottom of these critical disagreements.

Don’t Waste Your Loneliness

Sarah Van Beveren:

One of the wonderful things about the Church is the community we share. In Christ, God has knit us together, and instead of admonishing us to become a community, he tells us that he has already made us into one. In John, we read that our unique love for one another is what will set us apart and show that we are disciples of Christ.

I recently attended a women’s breakfast and listened to a talk on friendship, specifically the masks that we have a tendency to hide behind. It seems that despite our bond, many in the Church are feeling lonely and disconnected. Over the last year I’ve spent much time evaluating and praying through my own experience with loneliness, and have sought to dialogue with both men and women, hearing their thoughts and desires for our brothers and sisters. From this, two principles have come to define how I seek out and approach friendships.

Save up to 64% on books for graduates

Westminster Books has some terrific deals on books ideal for high school and college grads, including Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper and Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung.

And while we’re talking about deals, here’s a look at a few recent Kindle deals:

How Many Children Should I Have?

David Murray:

I know, I know, I’m going where many have perished.

But.

I want to highlight two simple biblical principles that I think could help Christians have more confidence that they are pleasing God in this vital area of life. And of course, this is all under the sovereignty of God who alone can give life.

Common Problems In Modern Preaching

Andrew Webb:

Modern preaching has its own problems, and while there are some commonalities, there are differences between the problems you are likely to see in reformed and non-reformed preaching. Here then are my observations on the common problems in both camps, I should stress this is just my opinion and is not intended to be exhaustive, and yes I’ve been guilty of some of these myself. I offer these lists in the hopes that they might be noted and avoided by preachers in the future!

Seven really great book covers

Long before I became a writer, I was a graphic designer (an average-to-good one). Although I don’t do very much design work these days, I still try to pay attention to what’s going on in the industry. And lately, I’ve been really impressed with the quality of cover design and book packaging from a lot of Christian publishers.

Gone are the days of Papyrus with a drop shadow (the default settings in PhotoShop firmly in place) overtop a low-resolution image that was found on this new-fangled contraption called “Internet.” At least in traditional publishing. (There’s still 50 shades of that kind of awful going on in self-publishing.)

But I digress…

Because I’ve been so impressed of late with the quality of work I’m seeing out there, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites:

So what’s so rad about these book covers? 

They all use text and iconic imagery very well, which is harder than it looks. Simple is very hard to do well. It’s actually very challenging to put together a cover that only uses type and create something that you want to look at. The designer for Taking God at His Word did a nice job with this, and the icon used for The Gospel at Work is brilliant in concept and execution (again, simple is very hard to do well). Ditto for Made for More. The flat, clean look might be über-chic at the moment, but it’s for a good reason: when executed properly, it’s beautiful stuff.

What I love about Proof‘s look is it captures the old-school hand-drawn typography look really well. When I was in college, one of the teachers made his non-teaching living actually painting store windows and signs in this style. It’s pretty incredible stuff to see and the cover’s a welcome throwback to me.

They’re designs with a little more longevity in mind. They’re not designs that are going to look super-dated in about three weeks (a danger with photo-dependent covers). Yes, they’re all fairly trendy for right now, but clean doesn’t ever really go out of style.

They communicate the big ideas well. You get the idea from Crazy Busy that we’re running ourselves ragged and need some help. Made for More‘s tells us we’re meant to embrace our identity of God’s image-bearers (and not caged by false ideas of who we are). Everyone’s a Theologian shows us as people saturated with the Word of God (or at least, people who should be).

That’s a little of what I enjoy about these book covers. What are a few that you’ve seen lately that have really wowed you?

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It multiplied

Ray Ortlund:

I remember hearing Michael Green at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974. He asked us, Why don’t we see anywhere in the book of Acts a man-made strategic plan for evangelizing the world? His answer: They didn’t have one.

What then did they have? Two things, for starters: the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Thinking About Q Nashville

Hunter Baker:

When I look at Q, its hosts, and the young people participating in it, I suspect I am seeing the cultural stance of those who have grown up in pervasively Christian subcultures. For them, rebelling means rebelling against Massive Baptist Church or Church Related University or Clearly Wealthy Famous Preacherman. Those are the holders of power in their world. It is little wonder to them that the dominant culture dislikes us. We are hypocrites. We don’t measure up to our own standards. And we are judgmental while the secular world is more understanding. Or so it seems to them.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway has a number of wonderful books by J.I. Packer on sale this week:

Also on sale:

Finally, a few books by Stephen Altrogge are on for 99¢ each:

Celebrities Are Not Commodities

Richard Clark:

Between movies, television shows, pop music, websites, and podcasts, our lives are full of background noise created by and in service to celebrities. Even if you’re not obsessed with Hollywood and tabloid culture, you’ve no doubt been a little too excited about being in the same room with your favorite pastor, writer, or theologian.

The reality of celebrity throws a wrench into our well-oiled mastery of relationships. We may have learned to restrain our judgment of those closest to us, to give those around us the benefit of the doubt, and to show grace to those who sin against us. We might have learned not to keep a record of wrongs. We might have learned to forgive our friends 777 times. We allow ourselves to continue in friendships that inconvenience and disturb us, because that’s what Jesus would have done. But all of this is exhausting. We need a break.

10 Ingredients Of A Happy Home

David Murray:

One of the greatest blessings we can give our children is the cultivation of a happy home. I say “cultivation” because it doesn’t happen automatically; it requires conscious, determined, deliberate effort. From my own experience and from observing others, here are ten ways to cultivate a happy home.

The Church Needs More Tattoos

Russell Moore:

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) often tells audiences, “Republican Party events need more people with tattoos.” It struck me, as I heard him say this, that this is kind of what evangelical Christians ought to be saying about our churches. It struck me further when I read this tribute my former student Spencer Harmon wrote about his new wife and her past that this is precisely the issue facing the next generation of the Bride of Christ, the church.

What Paul (the senator, not the Apostle) means, it seems, is that his party, if it is to have a future, shouldn’t count on just doing the same thing it’s always done, and it can’t rely on people who look like what people think Republicans ought to look like. The party must expand out to people whose pictures don’t currently show up in a Google image search for “Republican.” There are people, Paul says, who agree with the Republican message, in theory, but who pay no attention to it because they assume they aren’t the kind of people the party wants to talk to.

The tools for courageous conversations with your teens: A conversation with Alex Chediak

The transition to college from high school can be as intimidating as it is exciting—for both teens and parents. Looking back on my college years, I needed a lot more help than I realized. There was a TON I was just completely unprepared for, things I absolutely want my kids to be ready for if and when they take that step.

Not too long ago, I shared a few thoughts on Alex Chediak’s latest book on this subject, Preparing Your Teens for College, a book I described as one you didn’t know you needed to read until you read it. And just recently, Alex kindly took some time to answer a few questions about the book, the challenges teens face as they head to post-secondary education, and the conversation he wishes he’d had when he was 15:

AA: What motivated you to write this book?

AC: Three factors: College has never been more expensive, more students than ever are going, and a disturbingly large percentage of those students are stumbling along the way. In the U.S., we have the highest college drop-out rate in the industrialized world. The stakes are high–having a degree or credential of some kind is increasingly important in the job market–and too many students aren’t making it. Preparation is crucial.

I had already written a book for students (Thriving at College). It seemed strategic to write a companion book for parents of 12-18 year olds—those getting their teens ready not just for college but for the totality of their lives.

Why do you think so many teens are unprepared for the realities of college and adult life?

Simply put, they haven’t had enough modeling and training in what it means to take on adult responsibilities. Many parents have bought into the prevailing view that teens are inherently impetuous, reckless, and irresponsible. Why train someone when they aren’t ready to learn? But when we have low expectations for our teens, we get little in return. Adolescence gets extended.

I think the opposite error is more common among Christians: Helicopter parenting. A lot of the students I’ve seen struggle in college came from very loving families where they were treated like children all the way through high school. These teens were controlled instead of coached. In the interest of protecting them from failure or hardship, Mom and Dad stunted their development.

Here’s a quote from my book about this: “Don’t minimize your teens’ trials, but don’t solve their problems for them either. The former will make them feel weak. The latter will ensure they stay weak.”

In the book, you write about the importance of quality friendships—why does this matter so much? How have you seen this at work in the lives of your students?

Our closest friends shape our trajectory in life, particularly in the teen years as we’re entering adulthood. Proverbs 13:20 reads, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” It’s also true that “birds of a feather flock together.” In my experience, students that are serious about learning tend to find each other. Ditto for those more interested in partying.

That’s why it’s important for our teens to assess what character qualities, what virtues, they value, and to pursue friendships with others who share those values. In high school, it’s sometimes easier because of supportive circumstances (loving parents, a strong church, a vibrant youth group). But at college, it’s tougher, particularly at secular colleges, because now you have to go out of your way to find “iron sharpening iron” (Proverbs 27:17) relationships. The easiest friendships to form aren’t necessarily the best ones. Since we ought to prepare for a test before (not during) a test, the ideal time to learn intentionality in friendships is before college.

Preparing Your Teens for College

Preparing Your Teens for College is available now. Buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.

Think back to yourself at 15. Which of these conversations did you most need to have with your parents? Why?

In the book I describe how I failed to see any connection between my budding Christian faith and my academic work. That made it hard for me to be motivated at school. As I came to see God as the Author of all truth, to appreciate my responsibility for developing whatever God-given abilities with which I was entrusted (Matthew 25:14-30), as I came to understand that loving my neighbor required having something useful to offer, and that usefulness presupposes competence, I came to love learning.

Your kids still fairly young, so college is a fair ways off (although looming!). How are you already applying what you’ve thought through and taught in this book with your family?

The faith component is crucial. I hope, pray, and labor that my kids will experience the twin miracles of regeneration and faith, which is the best foundation for developing the character and maturity necessary for success not just in college but in life. A good tree bears good fruit. True faith necessarily leads to good works.

I’m also striving to teach them to love learning—to really enjoy the exercise of their mental faculties, as they gain mastery over subjects they didn’t previously understand. Similarly, I want them to see that while learning can be difficult, it can be done. Kids are prone to give up on a task they can’t figure out in 20 seconds. What I want them to learn in those moments is to push themselves through that initial difficulty—to assess and categorize the task, to develop strategies, to call upon fundamentals previously learned, and to (if necessary) ask for a hint instead of an answer. I try to regularly encourage them with how much they’ve already learned. I pray that all my children experience the thrill of learning.

If you can offer one encouragement to the parents who will read your book, what would it be?

The evidence is clear that a mom and dad’s involvement in a teen’s life influences them in meaningful ways. Parents, you have the potential to make an overwhelmingly positive difference in the lives of your teens. Even when they don’t seem to care, they are watching what you do and listening to what you say. And even in your stumbling you have the opportunity to model repentance, humility, and the fact that we relate to our Father on the basis of grace, not our imperfect works (which will help your teens do likewise).

I wrote Preparing Your Teens for College to give you the courage and the tools to have crucial conversations with your teens about the issues that will shape the trajectory of their lives. Even if your teens are halfway out the door, it’s not too late to make an impact. And it’s never too early to start.


Alex Chediak (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) is a speaker and professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University. He is the bestselling author of Thriving at College, the recently released prequel, Preparing Your Teens for College (both with Tyndale House Publishers), and numerous articles for Christian College Guide, Boundless, and other publications. He has appeared on programs such as Focus on the Family and Family Life Today. Alex and his wife, Marni, and their three children reside in Riverside, CA. Learn more at www.alexchediak.com or follow him on Twitter (@chediak).

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My congregation barely sings

Jonathan Leeman and David Leeman:

Church leaders underestimate how deliberately they must push against these cultural trends to get their church singing; to teach them that the untrained but united voices of the congregation make a far better sound than the Tonight Show Band; to teach them that singing loudly in the presence of other people is not awkward; to teach them that all our emotions don’t have to be individually spontaneous to be worthy, but that there is place to guide and conform our individual emotions to the group’s activity.

If church leaders want congregations that will really “speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19), they will have to work at it. They will have to try things that might seem strange or unnatural for people who are accustomed to sitting quietly and watching the performance on stage. Here are a few tips, many of which, no doubt, fall into the realm of prudence.

Four ways to find grace in our failure

Joe Thorn:

If you haven’t figured it out yet let me encourage you to see something that will greatly help you. Not all of your ideas are good. Some of them are bad. And God will often let you flail and fail out there for very good purposes. And when you fail do not lose the opportunity to find grace in the midst of it.

I believe this is especially important for pastors to understand. It’s one of the most important lessons I have learned in 16 years of pastoral ministry: failure is to be expected and learned from. I have misspoke, misstepped, and missed the mark in more ways than I can explain here. And failing hurts. Most of us of are afraid of it. Leaders in particular are afraid of failure since it’s always a bit more of a public spectacle.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a few deals on some terrific books by R.C. Sproul:

Look for news on new deals from Crossway and other publishers later today or tomorrow.

Confessions of a Grown-Up Momma’s Boy

Marshall Segal:

Mothers are mind-blowing people if you stop to look at them.

In their body, they can carry, feed, protect, and eventually deliver a child — a human being, like you or me. They often set aside personal gifts and aspirations for the sake of the family. They very often are the ones to confront and conquer the warzone of the home — a world of overwhelming, ever-changing, and ever-undone demands. When life allows, they’re often the more present and available parent as boys and girls very quickly become young men and young women. And through adoption, many of them welcome sons and daughters into their home and heart whom they didn’t get to welcome into the world through birth.

We simply do not — and cannot — celebrate these women enough.

The “Jesus’ Wife” Fragment Is a Hoax

Michael Horton:

When it comes to Jesus, the gullibility of the religious academy and its media know no bounds.

This past Easter, the U.S. media buzzed with excitement over the announcement of an ancient Coptic (Egyptian) papyrus fragment with the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife….’” One more footnote for the story of how a powerful ecclesiastical elite suppressed the diversity of Christian voices and made its own variation “orthodoxy.”

When I die, will I be missed?

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The godly aim of our lives should be that when we die we may be missed. My soul longs for grace so to live, so to walk, so to act, that when my course is finished, I may be missed,—I may be greatly missed. It becomes every one in the body of Christ,—every member in the body of Christ, to aim after this; that when their course is finished they may be missed,—they may be missed.… Suppose this were my last night on earth, suppose I should not have to stay another day here, would my brethren and sisters in Christ miss me? How deeply important it is that we should so walk, so act, and so pass through this world, that when we are gone we may be missed. If when gone, we are not missed by the saints, it is a plain proof that we have not been strengthening their hands in God, it is a plain proof that we have not been ministering to their spiritual profit, that we have not been helping them forward in the things of God. If we take our place,—though we may not be preachers, though we may not be pastors, though we may not be holding any public position among the saints,—yet if we take our place as members in the body of Christ, and act according to the place the Lord has given us, and walk graciously according to that place, when we are gone we shall be missed,—we must be missed. After this we all have to aim. Let each one take away with us to-night this godly purpose,—that by the grace of God, from this evening and henceforth, it shall be my earnest prayer, my constant aim, so to live, so to walk, so to carry myself, that when I am gone I shall be missed.


George Müller, Jehovah Magnified, pp. 8-9 | photo credit: iStock

What is an evangelical?

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The term “evangelical” is colored with different shadings in various parts of the world. In North America until very recently, it was used to refer to Christians who are loyal to both a formal principle and a material principle. The formal principle is the truth, authority, and finality of the Bible. The material principle is the gospel as understood in historic evangelical Protestantism. While not wanting to minimize the theological and ecclesiastical differences in that heritage, we might summarize that heritage in terms such as these: We insist that salvation is gained exclusively through personal faith in the finished cross-work of Jesus Christ, who is both God and man. His atoning death, planned and brought about by his heavenly Father, expiates our sin, vanquishes Satan, propitiates the Father, and inaugurates the promised kingdom. In the ministry, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus, God himself is supremely revealed, such that rejection of Jesus, or denials of what the Scriptures tell us about Jesus, constitute nothing less than rejection of God himself. In consequence of his triumphant cross-work, Christ has bequeathed the Holy Spirit, himself God, as the downpayment of the final inheritance that will come to Christ’s people when he himself returns. The saving and transforming power of the Spirit displayed in the lives of Christ’s people is the product of divine grace, grace alone—grace that is apprehended by faith alone. The knowledge of God that we enjoy becomes for us an impetus to missionary outreach characterized by urgency and compassion.


D.A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism, 445 | Photo: Lightstock

Is there really a BAD gift for Mother’s Day?

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Yes. The answer is yes. 

Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and some of us may be in scramble mode. We didn’t already pick up something or we’ve been so busy that we totally forgot. But some of us, we’ve got it covered. We got the card. We got the gift. We’re set.

Maybe.

Unless we aren’t.

Now we’re starting to second-guess ourselves and wonder, “Did I just get [my wife or mom] a terrible gift?” The cold-sweats have kicked in. You’re considering ordering some flowers RIGHT NOW just to cover yourself.

But do you really need to freak out like this?

Maybe. But, really, probably not. You just think you do.

To help you feel better, I wanted to share the secret of what makes a bad Mother’s Day gift. Are you ready for it? Here goes:

A bad gift is something inconsiderate.

Simple as that. Here are a few examples:

If she life isn’t a reader, don’t buy her books. And especially, don’t buy her books that you want to read. This is also known as “pulling a Homer.”

If she hasn’t been eyeing certain brands of vacuums for years, don’t buy her one. However, if she’s spent a great deal of time lamenting her college-broke budget vacuum that doesn’t even pick up red pepper seeds, you’re in the clear to buy a good quality one.

If she’s not a fan of women’s retreats, don’t buy her tickets to the TGC women’s conference. While I’m sure the event will be great, it’s probably not the best thing for a woman who really hates pretty much any sort of women’s event.

I could go on, but I trust you get the point.

So what makes a good gift? Here’s what I’ve found is helpful:

Keep it simple. Focus on what she likes. Flowers and/or chocolates, while they might seem cliché, are still effective (at least in my house).

Keep it fun. And by “fun,” I mean fun for her. Emily is pretty easy-going in this regard. She likes action movies (though she doesn’t like going to the movies very often), walking around museums (even kind of lame ones like Museum London) and Starbucks dates where we can have grown-up conversations.

Just ask her. This is the most effective way to get a good gift. You don’t have to read her mind, or attempt to discern what she wants by understanding the meaning of every smirk and raised eyebrow. Emily really appreciates it when I just ask—and those are the best gifts I can give.

So can you get a bad Mother’s Day gift? Yep. But is it easy to get a really great one? You bet.


photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

Links I like

Why Faith-Based Films Are Often Bad at Evangelism

Wade Bearden:

“The Debate Begins September 26” is the tagline for A Matter of Faith, the newest faith-based film from Christian producer Rich Christiano (Time ChangerThe Secrets of Jonathan Sperry). Debate is an appropriate word to describe A Matter of Faith. Not only does the idea of debate encompass the main premise of the film—a college freshman torn between six-day creationism and evolution—but also the controversy Faith is already generating.

Placing aside the issue of whether evolution and Christianity can coexist (an entire subject in itself), the film’s trailer presents a number of problems, one of which is the exaltation of triumphalism at the expense of evangelism.

How to Lead a Good Prayer Meeting

Kevin DeYoung:

Several years ago–I can’t remember if it was three or four–we experimenting with turning one Sunday evening service a month into a prayer meeting. I’m happy to say the experience stuck and these monthly prayer services have become a highlight of our life together as a church.

Over the past couple years, and especially over the weekend after I tweeted something about our prayer service, I’ve had people ask me what we do at these prayer meetings and what they look like?

“The Bible says” or “Paul says?”

Darryl Dash:

Andy Stanley gave a talk last week at Exponential, a church planting conference in Florida, under the theme of “rethinking preaching.” Stanley is a powerful communicator, and his message stimulated a lot of thinking.

I want to summarize Stanley’s message as accurately as possible, and then evaluate the strengths of his approach, as well as some of my concerns.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here’s a look at a few new and continuing Kindle deals:

A bunch of books by Thom Rainer are on sale for between $2.99-$4.99, including:

Also on sale:

Get The Lightlings in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of one of our favorite children’s books, The Lightlings by RC Sproul, for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home by Derek Thomas (hardcover)
  • A Survey of Church History, part 3 teaching series by W. Robert Godfrey (audio & video download)
  • The Last Days According to Jesus teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)

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

Help the Gosnell Movie reach its goal

Last week I wrote about a new documentary on Kermit Gosnell and the media cover-up surrounding his trial and crimes. The crowdfunding campaign—one of the biggest ever attempted—is nearly at its 2.1 million dollar goal. Can you spare $5 and bring it over the top?

Eleven Theses on Being a Creedal Christian

Here’s the first of Alastair Roberts’ eleven:

1. Confession of the creed is not just about faith, but is an exercise of faith. The creed, while being an expression of true doctrine, involves us adopting a committed posture of trust in the God whose identity we declare. It brings together faith as a subjective disposition and commitment relative to an identified God with faith as the objective deposit and integral act of the Church throughout its history.

Christian, you can’t win the Internets!

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Blogging—oh, let’s be honest, the Internet—has a tendency to encourage a certain, shall we say, zeal for one’s viewpoint. Simply, many of us just want you to know you’re wrong and make sure you know it (and we won’t let Wheaton’s Law stand in our way).

Emily reminded me of this last night when discussing an article she was reading. Ever since we started thinking about homeschooling, Emily’s been reading the blogs of homeschoolers to get a sense of what to expect. What’s she’s found has been… “interesting.”

Yesterday afternoon she was reading a 2009 article by Reb Bradley on her mistakes as a homeschooling mom, where she confessed that her approach was far too “me-centered” and consumed with outward appearances than the actual well-being of her children. (It’s long, but really good.)

Then she found a response article that, in a nutshell, said, “Nope, you’re wrong; you were right the first time, and you’re wrong to feel the way you do. Here are some Bible verses.”

You can see why this might be unhelpful, right?

Although the Internet encourages a certain kind of zeal for one’s own views, we should always strive for something better. The Internet is not something you can win, therefore we shouldn’t try.

Instead, we should try to do these things:

1. Take a deep breath. Don’t get your fauxtrage on, friends. Or at least, don’t post/tweet/update/pin/plus/twerp when you’ve got it on. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk. Have a cookie. Get away from your device for a while to see if your rage is legit or you’re just a rampaging rageoholic. Who knows? You might just be gassy.

2. Try to actually understand the point. This might be a tall order, but I’m confident it can be done. A great way to do this is to ask good questions, which also means avoid leading or entrapment style ones whenever possible.

3. Keep our mouths shut. Sometimes the best thing we can do when we disagree with something on the Internet is to just say nothing. This is especially important when we’re dealing with other people who really, really want to goad you into a fight with click-baity blog posts and tweets. Remember, those people are trying to win the Internets, too. And if you take the click-bait, they win.


photo credit: Jan Tik via photopin cc