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What is Christian happiness?

David Murray:

…what would a Christian definition of happiness look like? Is there such a thing as Christian happiness? If so, what would it include?

I believe there is such a thing as Christian happiness, quite distinct from any other kind of happiness, but the problem is that it is so multi-layered and multi-dimensional that it’s probably impossible to define it in one sentence. Believe me, I’ve tried. Consider even just the following sample sources of Christian happiness.

A commentary on Christian t-shirts

Watch to the end (seriously):

Get Twelve Challenges Churches Face in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Twelve Challenges Churches Face by Mark Dever for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Who is the Holy Spirit teaching series by Sinclair Ferguson (audio & video download)
  • Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson (hardcover)

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

Get the HCSB Study Bible for $2.99

One of my favorite translations (it’s increasingly fighting with the ESV as my translation of choice) has a great study Bible—and you can get it for $2.99 for the Kindle. Also on sale is the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible for $9.99. Both of these are pretty great resources that I wouldn’t pass up at these prices.

The Most Notorious Heretic

Nathan Busenitz:

In case his name doesn’t sound familiar, Arius was a famous fourth-century false teacher who taught that the Son of God was a created being. Consequently, Arius denied Christ’s equality with God the Father, and along with it, the doctrine of the Trinity. Essentially, he was the original Jehovah’s Witness. His views were very popular during his lifetime and for many years afterward, even though they were denounced at the Council of Nicaea in 325 (and again at the Council of Constantinople in 381).

5 Reasons Pastors Have Guest Blindness

Thom Rainer:

I was very surprised at one facet of some recent research we conducted as we interviewed pastors across America.* One of our questions asked if the pastor’s church does a good job of meeting the needs of first time guests. Surprisingly, 90 percent of the pastors said “yes.”

Did you get that? Less than 20 percent of the guests said their visit was good, but 90 percent of the pastors perceive the opposite, that most guests have a good visit.

Why is there such a discrepancy between the pastors’ perceptions and the real experiences of the guests? May I suggest five reasons many pastors have blindness regarding the first-time guests?

Sham unity is not worth working for

old-church

A couple years back, while at a big leadership conference for church leaders, I was listening to a statistician discussing the state of the church in Canada. He explained that he believes Roman Catholics and Protestants need to come together if we’re going to find any success in turning Canadians back toward Christ. After all, he said, the more discussions he had with Catholics, mainline Protestants and Evangelicals, the more he found we had in common (which, basically amounted to “all of them pray and take their faith seriously”).

Sitting in this session, I was kind of annoyed, and more than a little depressed. I mean, seriously? This is the best advice that could be offered to church leaders wanting to impact their communities? Hook up your carts to the United Church and Mainline Presbyterianism (both of which are haemorrhaging members) and bury the hatchet with the Roman church?

Sadly, this is the same advice that’s been given to Evangelicals for decades—dating back to the 1940s and earlier. J.I. Packer addresses how we should respond to this sort of thinking well in his 1958 release, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God. He writes:

Christian bodies of all sorts are constantly urged to come together, sink their differences and present a united front to the forces of secularism and Communism. It is taken for granted that the differences in question are small and trifling—unsightly little cracks on the surface of an otherwise solid wall. But this assumption is false. Not all the cracks are mere superficial disfigurements; some of them are the outward signs of lack of structural integration. The wall is cracked because it is not all built on the same foundation. The more one probes the differences between Roman and Protestant, Liberal and Evangelical, the deeper they prove to be; beneath the cracks on the surface lie fissures which run down to the very foundations, broadening as they go. Nothing is gained just by trying to cement up the cracks; that only encourages the collapse of the entire wall. Sham unity is not worth working for, and real unity, that fellowship of love in the truth which Christ prayed that His disciples might enjoy, will come only as those sections of the wall which rest on unsound foundations are dismantled and rebuilt. Till this happens, the question of [biblical] authority must remain central in discussion between the dissident groups; and the best service one can do to the divided Church of Christ is to keep it there. (45)

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13 years old, never kissed a girl, but already a registered sex offender—thanks to online pornography

John Woods (the Daily Mail):

For the next three years, while his parents assumed he was using his computer for his homework, Jamie visited porn websites for up to two hours a night.

Even when his school performance began to suffer, they had no idea of the murky world their shy, quiet son was inhabiting while upstairs in his bedroom.

While it’s not his real name, Jamie is typical of the young men I meet. He explained: ‘The websites led me to other websites and soon I was looking at even weirder stuff I could never have imagined — animals, children, stabbing and strangling.

‘I stopped leaving my room and seeing my friends because when I was away from the pornography, I was dying to get back to see what else I could find.’

And it was only when the police came knocking one morning that Jamie’s secret life was exposed.

Leadership Breakups: A Better Way?

Ron Marrs:

I keep hoping that all the parties in the separation would get in the same room to discuss what will be said to protect the reputation of the church and the individual who is departing.  Wouldn’t it be possible to hammer out an agreement that will honor God and edify the church?  I know that most of the time the whole story cannot be told for a variety of legal and ethical reasons.  But can’t people come to an agreement about what will be said publicly, so that the church flock would not have to speculate about the reasons for the separation?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Save on Tim Keller’s new book at Westminster Books

Tim Keller’s newest book, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering is now available, and Westminster Books is offering big savings—buy one copy for $16 (41 percent off), three or more for $13 each (52 percent off).

Pastor As Nursing Mother: Cultivating Gentleness in Ministry

Jared Wilson:

A breastfeeding mom. This is not the dominant vision for pastoral ministry today. But I am grateful for what appears to be a resurgence in biblically faithful ministry, a growing reformation within the pastoral fraternity that seeks a renewal of ministerial peace and patience, of pastoral gentleness. I need more of this. We need more of this.

The Church is not dying

Ed Stetzer:

Christianity may be losing its top-down political and cultural influence, but Jesus spoke of His followers making an impact in a very different manner. He taught that God’s kingdom was subversive and underground. He used examples like yeast, which changes things from the inside, and mustard seeds, which are small and must be planted in order to grow up and out.

As the distinctions between Christians and an ever-growing post-Christian culture emerge, we will have to set aside any nominal belief systems and become active agents of God’s Kingdom. The answer is not found in waging cultural wars incessantly, or in making a theological shift to the left to pacify a culture offended by the gospel. The answer is in all of God’s people, changed by the power of the gospel and propelled by love, moving into the mission field as agents of gospel transformation.

You’re always being fed—it’s sometimes just cotton candy

Cotton-Candy

I’ve always been impressed by people who can spend a lot of time saying very little. Not too long ago I was listening to a pastor speak for about thirty minutes and aside from an amusing story, there really wasn’t much that was actually said. Just a key point emphasized numerous times that didn’t really connect to the rest of what he was saying or a clear biblical concept.

What impresses me about this kind of speaking is it’s usually always followed by lots of head nodding and mm-hmms and various other kinds of acknowledging actions that make me wonder if I’m crazy pills or too faux-mature in my faith to appreciate simple truths.

But these kinds of speakers also tend to be those who complain whenever people say, “I’m not being fed.” It really frustrates them to hear that, and I get why. They work hard on the messages they put together, trying to motivate and inspire. And the people are being fed—it’s just sometimes they’re being fed cotton candy.

And cotton candy is a nice treat every so often, but what happens when you eat too much of it? You get fat, lazy and your teeth rot.

Cotton candy preaching works against itself. Whatever methodology a pastor works from, his goal is the same: to see people grow in their faith. The problem is, this kind of preaching doesn’t do that. It tickles the ears, maybe gives a warm fuzzy, but it doesn’t lead to heart change. And so the good religious advice that might be dispensed goes ignore and unapplied. This kind of preaching just won’t do. Jared Wilson makes this point well in The Pastor’s Justification: “The Scriptures preached with conviction… do what good religious advice cannot, ensuring ‘that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim. 3:17)”.

The trouble with the “being fed/not being fed” thing is it lacks clarity. What’s going on behind the question? For some people, it might be that they, like I can be at times, are a bit too “faux-mature.” Guys like me need to chill out sometimes and appreciate truth communicated simply, but precisely (which, FYI, is way harder than it seems). But more often than not, the question is coming from people whose Dentist is warning them about cavities that are forming in their teeth. They’re spending a bit too much time at the desert table when what they really need is a balanced meal.

Good, biblical preaching builds up God’s people. Let’s have more of that and a little less cotton candy.

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The Cultural Revolution on the College Campus—Why it Matters to You

Albert Mohler:

Several  years ago, sociologist Peter Berger argued that secularization has been most pervasive in two social locations—Western Europe and the American college and university campus. The campuses of elite educational institutions are among the most thoroughly secularized places on our planet. This should concern anyone with an interest in higher education, of course. But it really matters to every American—or at least it should.

Up to 50 percent off on The End of Our Exploring

Moody’s put together a great deal on bulk orders of Matt Anderson’s excellent new book, The End of Our Exploring. Order three or more direct from Moody and save 40 percent. Buy ten or more and get free shipping and 50 percent off. Matt’s also put together a study guide for the book, which would be great for

Happiness: The 40% Solution

David Murray:

One statistic that’s pretty constant across countries, cultures, classes, and centuries is that 99% of people want to be happy (yes, there are some people who prefer to be miserable).

But the vast majority of that 99% are looking for happiness in the wrong places.

Answering a Fool

C. Michael Patton:

Biblically speaking, being called a “fool” is just about the worst thing that anyone can call you. It is the opposite of being “wise.” The wise person not only has good information but knows what to do with it. The wise person consistently acts in accordance with truth. The wise person knows how to “handle” people.

The truth is that we all act foolish from time to time and we need to be corrected.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a whole pile of Kindle deals for you:

Am I Still Crazy Busy?

Kevin DeYoung:

I really did write the book to learn and grow, and at the end of the writing process–which was when the manuscript was due–there were still plenty of things I was learning and lessons I was trying to incorporate into my life. There wasn’t an opportunity to look back and evaluate the big picture of my busyness.

Perhaps now is a good time. It is certainly legitimate to wonder if the author of Crazy Busy is a little more sanely busy almost a year after writing the book. So here’s a picture of the work in progress.

One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian

OneWayLove

Tullian Tchividjian’s a troublemaker—but that’s not a bad thing.

He’s taken a lot of heat for the radical picture of grace he paints Jesus + Nothing = Everything and Glorious Ruin. He’s been accused of blurring the lines of justification (our position before God) and sanctification (the process of growing in holiness). It’s even been suggested that the kind of grace he preaches is the kind that leads to license…

Wherever you land on Tchividjian’s teaching, you can’t deny one thing: he is totally captivated by the grace of God, and he wants you to be, too. If that’s what you take away from his new book, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World, then you’ll be in good shape because, clearly, we’ve got a problem getting a grip on grace.

Grace: the cure to performancism

Too many Christians are running themselves ragged trying to please God—as if our faith is primarily concerned with our behavior modification rather than the good news of what’s already been done for us. And so we work ourselves silly, seemingly in an attempt to pay God back for saving us (even if we don’t realize it). “We conclude that it was God’s blood, sweat, and tears that got us in, but it’s our blood, sweat, and tears that keep us in” (24). We burn ourselves out and then wonder why Christianity isn’t “working” for us.

This is what Tchividjian combats in One Way Love, the idol of performancism; he wants to kill that cruel mistress dead as he reminds readers again and again that, “grace is a gift, pure and simple. We might insist on try on to pay, but the balance has been settled (and our money’s no good!).” (29) [Read more...]

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Come On, Be Reasonable And Do It My Way!

Barnabas Piper:

If you were to choose labels for what you see in Christianity today “reasonableness” would be nowhere near the top of the list. Outrage, bombast, extremism, polarity, partisan, sectarian, reactive, over-reactive, accusatory, judgmental, defensive, insulting, ignorant, fearful, hypocritical and others would likely come to mind first. If you wanted to find a more positive description you might go with well-intentioned, determined, or industrious. Of course no one of those terms, negative or positive, accurately sums up the church, but they would be higher on the list than “reasonable.”

iOS 7 Apps for Creative Leaders

Chris Vacher:

Lots of buzz right now about iOS 7, flat design, mobile apps, sapphire fingerprint scanners and plastic phones. Today I want to do a quick post on iOS 7 apps for creative leaders! There is no doubt iPhone, iPad and Android devices have become a key tool in the creative leader arsenal. At the heart of this are apps which allow us to design, share and interact with the world. I’m an Apple/iOS user so I want to share some iOS 7 apps for creative leaders that I am using almost every day.

When I say creative leaders I’m thinking about anyone looking to produce content – might be music, photos, graphics, whatever. Part of that is the actual content creation and part of that is managing the process. So these iOS 7 apps for creative leaders are some which will help you in the creation part and also in the leading part.

Get Glorious Ruin free (ends today!)

Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian is free today for the Kindle.

The Feminine Mystique at 50

Jessica Hong:

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. Friedan, a freelance writer for women’s magazines and a suburban housewife, wrote for a generation of post-World War II women she claimed had bought into the image of the “feminine mystique” and, as a result, suffered from the “problem that has no name.” This mystique, reinforced by magazines, advertisements, and popular culture, was “the suburban housewife—the dream image of the young American woman . . . healthy, beautiful, educated, concerned only about her husband, her children, her home.” Friedan argued that this image promised true feminine fulfillment.

Learning from a Lesbian Visitor to Your Church

Trevin Wax:

My friend said the conversation is usually over once the caller realizes the church holds to traditional teaching regarding sexuality. He told me he always shakes his head and thinks, Who do we think we are, that we can come to God and tell Him what we will and will not change? 

You and I are like the lesbian caller.

“Is he humble?”

holding-bible-lr

I was speaking with one of our pastors Sunday morning and a church in the Toronto area came up in our discussion. The first question my pastor asked hit me like a ton of bricks:

“Is the senior pastor humble?”

Not “is he a good preacher,” or “how many people attend the church,” or any other metric oriented question you could imagine.

Just, “Is he humble?”

It’s tempting to be a bit taken aback by the idea, but it makes total sense, doesn’t it?

What is the New Testament most concerned with when it comes to leaders in the church? Paul describes elders as being men who need to be able to teach and handle the Word rightly, without a doubt. But that’s not all he’s concerned with. More than anything else, he’s concerned about character:

…an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Tim 3:2-7)

Paul starts and ends with character. An overseer, an elder, a pastor, must be one thing: a man of integrity—which means necessarily that he’s going to be a man with some level of humility. So if this is what Paul starts and ends with, why do so many of us immediately jump to other measures first?

Why do we seem more concerned about how many people show up or how good the sermons are or how big the facility is… but not terribly concerned about character?

A few years ago, a friend gave me an unexpected, but much needed corrective. He told me that, despite my many good qualities, I tended to have the appearance of arrogance about me. It hurt to hear that, but in a good way. It made me realize how much my character makes a difference in how people perceive what I do and say. I’m certainly not perfect (as my wife and my coworkers would attest), but Lord willing, I think I’ve made some progress as a man pursuing humility.

So back to this question—”Is he humble?” We need to have this on our radars at all times, whether we’re in seminary, lay ministry or vocational pastoral ministry. Our character is on display for all to see, and no amount of skill in preaching or leadership can make up for a character defect like pride. So what would people say about you, especially those of you who are in a leadership role:

If someone asked, “Is he humble” about you, what would they say?

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Don’t Use Scripture Like This!

Josh Blount:

Viewmasters and eyeglasses. Both let you see things, but with very different results. One let you see, with varying degrees of clarity, a miniature world that had nothing to do with your life. Mickey Mouse might look close enough to touch, but when you put down the Viewmaster you weren’t going to find him standing in your living room. But glasses are different. Put on a pair of glasses and suddenly everything in your world took on new crispness. You could see things you had never seen before.

Too often we read the Bible as though it’s a Viewmaster, not a pair of eyeglasses.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Some of these deals may be over even before you read this, so act quickly:

Dear Discouraged Moms

Kimm Crandall:

Dear moms,

I have heard you are struggling to fight the funk that has found its way to your doorstep, into your home, and has met you lying in your bed paralyzed by the thought of facing the day. I am so sorry that you are feeling this way. All too often, I can relate.

What is R2k theology?

R.C. Sproul Jr:

An aspiring theology wonk can often find himself swimming in a bewildering ocean of acronyms. Since we no longer debate our theology over the course of hours, but often do so using only our thumbs, shorthand is valuable, but challenging. Just when you realized the role of iaoc to npp and fv (that is, the imputation of the active obedience of Christ to the New Perspective on Paul and Federal Vision), now comes R2k.

Would President Obama Bomb the Canaanites?

Tim Kimberley:

I’ll get right to the point. I think President Obama would have bombed the Canaanites way before God annihilated them. Why am I even bringing up this hypothetical situation? Are statements like this even helpful for us today in our walk with God? For those questions I need to back up a little bit.

How well do the competing philosophies stand up?

cross-trees

In the light of the cross, how well do the raucous appeals of competing public philosophies stand up? What place does the cross have in communism? What place does the cross have in capitalism? Does systematic hedonism lead anyone to the cross? How about dogmatic pluralism? Will secular humanism lead anyone to the most astonishing act of divine self-disclosure that has ever occurred—the cross of Christ?

Does the elevation of the virtues of democracy lead men and women to the cross? In America, the founding fathers conceived of democracy as a way of establishing accountability by restricting power. If the populace as a whole did not like the executive, legislative, or judicial branches of government, the ballot box provided a means of turfing them out. Strangely, modern politicians speak of “the wisdom of the American people,” as if special insight resides in the masses. That was not the perception of the founding fathers; it is certainly not a Christian evaluation. Doubtless, democracy is the best form of government where the populace is reasonably literate and shares many common values, but even under these conditions the majority vote does not always display great wisdom. It is the best way to limit power and make government more or less responsive; it is not the best way of determining right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and bad. Does democracy itself lead anyone to the cross? Is it not always wrong to equate “the American way,” or, more broadly, any democratic system, with the gospel?

Paul’s point is that no public philosophy, no commonly accepted “wisdom,” can have enduring significance if its center is not the cross. Whatever the merits or the demerits of these various systems, they exhaust their resources on merely superficial levels. They do not reconcile men and women to the living God, and nothing is more important than that. They cannot uncover God’s wisdom in the cross, and if that is hidden all other “wisdom” is foolish.

D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry

The only way to grow

You really cannot grow in your knowledge of God if you are full of bitterness or other self-centered sins. There is a moral element in knowing God. Of course, a person might memorize Scripture or teach Sunday School somewhere or earn a degree in theology from the local seminary or divinity faculty, but that is not necessarily the same thing as growing in the knowledge of God and gaining insight into his ways. Such growth requires repentance; it demands a lessening of our characteristic self-focus. To put it positively, it demands an increase in our love, our love for God and our love for others.

Just as knowledge of God and his Word serves as an incentive to Christian love, so love is necessary for a deepening knowledge of God, because it is exceedingly difficult to advance in the Christian way on only one front. Christians cannot say, “I will improve my prayer life but not my morality,” “I will increase in my knowledge of God but not in my obedience,” or “I will grow in love for others but not in purity or in my knowledge of God.” They cannot do it. The Christian life embraces every facet of our existence. All of our living and doing and thinking and speaking is to be discharged in joyful submission to God and to his Son, our Savior.

D.A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Kindle edition)

5 books on my shelf right now

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m always reading something (and hopefully something interesting). Here’s a quick look at a few books that are on my currently reading and to-read piles right now:

otherworld-wilson

Otherworld: A Novel by Jared C. Wilson

Something strange is happening in Houston and its rural suburb, Trumbull. It starts with the bizarre mutilation of a farmer’s cow, sparking rumors of UFO sightings and alien visitations. It’s all an annoyance for the police, who would prefer to focus on the recent murders in the area. Mike Walsh is a journalist with a nagging editor and a troubled marriage who finds himself inexorably drawn into the deeper story creeping up on all who dare get close enough: a grizzled small town police captain, a depressed journalist, a disillusioned pastor, and a little old man. They are unlikely allies against the otherworld.

I’m about 35 per cent through this one; it’s a fun supernatural thriller with more than a few quotable moments.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon


The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Brian and Cara Croft

Featuring insights from the perspective of both a pastor and his wife–The Pastor’s Family identifies the complicated burdens and expectations ministry brings to the life of a family. Brian and Cara Croft identify the unique challenges that pastors face as husbands and fathers. They also discuss the difficulties and joys of being a pastor’s wife and offer practical advice on raising children in a ministry family. In addition to addressing the challenges of marriage and raising children, they also highlight the joys of serving together as a family and the unique opportunities pastors have to train their children and lead their families.

With discussion questions for use by couples and pastoral reading groups, this book is ideal for pastors and their spouses, pastoral ministry students and their wives, as well as elders, deacons, and others who wish to remain faithful to the care of their families while diligently fulfilling their calling in ministry. The Pastor’s Family equips pastors with time-tested wisdom to address the tension of family and congregational dynamics while persevering in their calling.

Learn more or buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Called-to-Stay-Breakey

Called to Stay: An Uncompromising Mission to Save Your Church by Caleb Breakey

Will You Stay?

Caleb Breakey prays to God you do.

In Called to Stay Breakey takes a refreshingly honest look at the church, the problem of Millennials leaving, and the stark reality of why the church desperately needs them. He holds nothing back as he unleashes an ambitious rallying cry to heal the church and inject his generation’s desire for truth, passion, and conviction into other believers.

Caleb knows that answering the challenge of his own generation leads to a transformed church.

And a changed church can change the world.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon


Gray Matters by Brett McCracken

Culture. As Christians we’re encouraged to engage it, create it, redeem it. And today many of us are actively cultivating an appreciation for aspects of culture previously stigmatized within the church. Things like alcohol, R-rated movies, and secular music have moved from being forbidden to being celebrated. But are we opening our arms too wide in uncritical embrace of culture? Can there be a healthy, balanced approach–or is that simply wishful thinking?

With the same insight found in his popular Hipster Christianity, Brett McCracken examines some of the hot-button gray areas of Christian cultural consumption, helping to lead us to adopt a more thoughtful approach to consuming culture in the complicated middle ground between legalism and liberty.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon


VOWS color 364 96

Broken Vows: Divorce and the Goodness of God by John Greco

Marriage is supposed to be for life, but divorce still happens. How can a Christian reconcile the reality of divorce with the biblical view of marriage? How can the wronged spouse forgive? And how can God still be good when bad things happen?

In Broken Vows: Divorce and the Goodness of God, Greco doesn’t offer pat answers. It combines Greco’s personal story with a biblical view of suffering. He provides pastoral help for those who have experienced divorce and gives all Christians a way to think biblically about this difficult subject.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon | Cruciform Press


That’s a quick look at what I’m reading (and going to be reading) over the next few weeks. What’s on your pile?

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Temptation Is Not the Same as Sin

Kevin DeYoung:

This truth is obvious from the Scriptures. In the Lord’s Prayer, we are taught to pray “forgive us our debts” and “lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:12-13). Debts and trespasses require forgiveness; temptation needs deliverance. They are not the same. Just because you are struggling with temptation does not mean you are mired in sin. The spiritual progression in the human heart goes from desire to temptation to sin to death (James 1:14-15). We are told to flee temptation, not because we’ve already sinned, but because in the midst of temptation we desperately feel like we want to. If being tempted was in itself a mark of wickedness, we could not confess that Jesus Christ “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). It is possible to experience profound temptations to sin while still being blameless from that sin.

Get The Work of Christ in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Work of Christ by R.C. Sproul for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Romans by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Pillars of Grace by Steven Lawson (hardcover)
  • Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub)

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

The Number of Hours Keller, Piper, Driscoll (and 5 Others) Spend on Sermon Prep

Eric McKiddie:

There are various opinions on how long it should take someone to prepare their sermon for Sunday. There are minimalists, maximalists, and everything in between.

No matter where you are on the spectrum, it should comfort you to know that well known preachers span the entire spectrum. So how long do well known preachers take to prepare a sermon? Here’s what I found.

What Makes a Full Atonement Full?

Mike Wittmer:

Last month when the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Songs for the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to exclude “In Christ Alone” from its new hymnal, the chairwoman of the committee said the popular hymn mistakenly expressed “the view that the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger.”

Her comment reveals both a discomfort that many contemporary Christians have with God’s wrath and also an overly simplistic dismissal of penal substitution. We who believe the Son bore the Father’s wrath don’t narrowly think that assuaging this wrath is what the cross is “primarily” about. What happened on the cross is a bit more complicated.

 

The destination deepens the journey

Road-Wallpaper-Nice-Background-Wallpaper

Ralph Waldo Emerson (among others) famously said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” There’s a lot one can easily resonate with here. After all, it’s easy to become so consumed with a particular goal—with an ideal you want to get to—that you forget to live life right now.

But, honestly, this quote has always bothered me for one simple reason:

There’s no such thing as a journey without a destination. 

Let’s apply this to writing, specifically:

Whenever someone sits down to write, their goal is typically to persuade the reader of something, or to elicit some sort of emotional response. In non-fiction, it’s usually spelled out something like this:

  • In my first chapter, I will introduce my point.
  • The following chapters will provide you with several supporting arguments, and maybe even address some counterpoints.
  • My conclusion will confirm that we have indeed arrived at the point I set out to show you.

Pretty simple formula, right? But effective.

Fiction, though, is a different animal. With fiction, you don’t get a neat outline. You usually don’t know where you’re going until you get there. This is the drama of storytelling. The journey is crucial to making the point—but that point, that destination, will still make or break your book. It either makes you throw the book away, saying “Seriously? That’s where we ended up?” or it compels you to go back and re-read, to go on the journey again to see all the hints that were dropped along the way.

In good storytelling, the destination deepens the journey. 

It’s the same in life, too.

For the Christian, we know the destination—we know where all of this is heading. We know that there’s a day coming when this world and all God’s people will be remade, perfect and spotless, forever free from the curse of sin. God has promised this and it will surely come about.

And yet, we so often live as if we don’t know this. We get consumed with things that are less important and distract us from the destination. This is why Paul told the Colossians in the face of distracting (and destructive) false teaching, “If then you have been raised with Christ…set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col. 3:1-2) And again he tells the Philippians:

…Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:12-14)

That, friends, is the goal. “The goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” To be with Christ. And this goal consumed Paul, to be sure—but it also informed all that he did. It’s this goal that allowed him to go to where Christ was not known, so that he might be the first to preach the good news. It was this goal that allowed him to suffer enormous hardship, multiple shipwrecks, numerous imprisonments, poverty and plenty and still say, “I am content.”

It’s the same goal that allowed Horatio Spafford to pen the words of his famous hymn, “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”

In the Christian life, just like in good storytelling, the destination doesn’t distract from the journey—it deepens it.