Being disciplined about disciplines

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At the beginning of the year, I decided to try out a couple of different ideas on how to read my Bible this year. All of these have revolved around short, attainable goals (something my friend Steve McCoy has been strongly advocating of late).

The whole purpose of this isn’t to make life easier when it comes to disciplining oneself, but to create momentum. So many of us set goals planning to read the Bible in a year and wind up throwing in the towel within three to six months for one reason: the long-term goal doesn’t create check-points along the way. So if you miss a day, it’s harder to adjust. If you miss a week, it’s a lost cause. It’s hard to keep up any sort of momentum without having somewhere to stop, catch your breath and say, “Yep, I accomplished this thing.”

This has been really helpful for me since it’s allowed me to be a little more focused and intentional with my reading of Scripture. So, I fired up Logos and started making a couple of different plans:

In January, I did an overview of the Bible’s big story, hitting key points from Genesis through Revelation. Although the plan’s choices of passages weren’t always my favorite (I think it missed a few key ones, like most of Isaiah), it was still super-helpful, not because I don’t know the big story, but because it’s so necessary to keep it fresh in my thinking. All of us can become so consumed with minutiae or on a particular cause that we forget that the Bible really is a story about God’s redemption of His people.

Take the issue of poverty, for example. When we’re focused on the cause—caring for the poor—we tend to read passages in isolation. But if we don’t read Isaiah 58 in light of Israel’s idolatry problem and the economic aspects of the Mosaic Law, or Isaiah 61 as being explicitly Messianic, or the Beatitudes without the backdrop of Genesis 3, what do we have? Moralism. We wind up putting ourselves at the center of the story, and determine that it’s our job to fix the world . In other words, we have a thoroughly gospel-less—and therefore thoroughly anti-Christian—approach to the subject.

But putting the issue of poverty into the context of the redemptive story changes how we approach it—we see ourselves as being poor, and Christ being extravagantly generous, pouring Himself out on our behalf. We begin to have less concern for trying to save the world (for the world is not ours to save), and greater concern for how caring for the poor is a matter of worship, something we do in response to how great and wonderful Christ is.

(And for more on that, I’ll direct you to this book over here.)

In February, I started a pretty aggressive reading goal: to read the entire New Testament in 31 days. (I’m a couple of days behind, but hey, 33 days is pretty darn good, I think…) This has been a really great exercise, not because I’m trying to retain anything in major—when you’re reading between up to 16 chapters in a day, you’re not really shooting for comprehension—but because it allows you to see the consistency of the New Testament.

By reading Paul’s epistles in big chunks, you get to see patterns and particular emphases you might miss when reading in isolation. You get a better sense of the challenges he faced as a minister of the gospel, and the delicate balance he strikes on so many issues that we find offensive in our day. Just as importantly, you get to see how consistent Paul is with Jesus in the gospels. If you want to put silly notions of pitting Jesus against Paul, all you have to do is read the New Testament. It’s seamless in what it presents. And this is a very good thing indeed.

I haven’t settled on what I’m going to do after I finish my read through of the New Testament (I’m guessing I’ll wrap it up by Friday)—I’m currently leaning toward reading through Isaiah or Jeremiah in four weeks. But wherever I wind up, it’s going to be fun. Setting short, attainable goals has been incredibly helpful and rewarding for me, even at this early point in the year. Being disciplined about spiritual disciplines really matters, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where things go as the year continues.

Links I like

Red Letter Nonsense

Kevin DeYoung in an excerpt from his upcoming book, Taking God at His Word:

The unity of Scripture also means we should be rid, once and for all, of this “red letter” nonsense, as if the words of Jesus are the really important verses in Scripture and carry more authority and are somehow more directly divine than other verses. An evangelical understanding of inspiration does not allow us to prize instructions in the gospel more than instructions elsewhere in Scripture. If we read about homosexuality from the pen of Paul in Romans, it has no less weight or relevance than if we read it from the lips of Jesus in Matthew. All Scripture is breathed out by God, not just the parts spoken by Jesus.

The road to joy

Jeremy Walker:

Your entry into and experience of joy depends, then, largely on your honesty before God and with yourself and others. That begins with honesty about our misery, our sin, our rebellion, our nature and our weakness. It is only when we face these facts that we will begin to find corresponding peace with and delight in God known in Christ Jesus. As sinners – even as saved sinners – there is nothing to be gained by denying or downgrading the depth of our past and present deeds and needs. Rather, our guilt and weakness is the very backdrop against which the grace of God shines most brightly. The bitterness of our sin and frailty makes the sweetness of divine mercy all the more distinct.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A whole bunch of new deals to start your week:

Also free from Logos this month is Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians.

How Not to Debate a Christian Apologist

Rob Bowman:

In an article on Huffington Post (naturally) entitled How to Debate a Christian Apologist, atheist Victor Stenger explains why non-Christians usually do so badly in debates with Christians and then offers a cheat sheet of brief answers to Christian apologetic arguments. The reason why the Christians do so well, according to Stenger, is that they have had years to polish their arguments in their religion classes and churches. The atheists, apparently, don’t have comparable opportunities. This will come as a surprise to Christian students throughout the Western world who have sat under atheists and other skeptical professors routinely spouting off against Christianity even if it entails ignoring the subject matter of the course.

The False Teachers: Muhammad

Tim Challies continues his new series on a few of the most famous false teachers through history:

Muhammad was born around 570 in Mecca in what is now the nation of Saudi Arabia. This was an area where there were significant populations of both Christians and Jews, so there was access to the Scriptures and the teachings of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Muslims claim that Muhammad was a direct descendent of Ishmael, and thus of Abraham, though the only evidence to support this comes through oral tradition. Muhammad’s father died before he was born and his mother sent him as an infant to live in the desert with Bedouins in order to become acquainted with Arab traditions. While in the desert he is said to have encountered two angels who opened his chest and cleansed his heart with snow, symbolic of Islam’s teaching that he was purified and protected from all sin.

A responsibility that cannot be ignored

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…bringing the people of God to consistent Christian living in the light of the gospel of the crucified Messiah is so important to Paul that he will not turn from this goal. If he moves people in this direction by encouragement and admonition, all to the good; if severer discipline is called for, he will not flinch. So Paul offers the Corinthians a choice: “What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?” (4:21). He does not mean, of course, that if he comes with a whip (literally, a “rod” of correction, continuing the father/son metaphor) he will not love them. The contrast refers to the manner or form of his coming, not his motives. But spankings still hurt, even from a father who insists that he is spanking his son because he loves him. It is much better for the son to change his behavior, so that the manner of the father’s coming will be not with discipline but with a gentle spirit.

In short, Christian leaders dare not overlook their responsibility to lead the people of God in living that is in conformity with the gospel. That is why Paul urges people to live a life worthy of the calling they have received (Eph. 4:1). It is why Paul prays that believers may live a life worthy of the Lord, the crucified Messiah, and may please him in every way (Col. 1:10). And if the people of God dig in their heels in disobedience, there may come a time for Christian leaders to admonish, to rebuke, and ultimately to discipline firmly those who take the name of Christ but do not care to follow him. The sterner steps must never be taken hastily or lightly. But sometimes they must be taken. That is part of the responsibility of Christian leadership.

D.A. Carson, Cross and Christian Ministry, The: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians

Jehovah Tsidkenu

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I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree.
Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure, to soothe or engage,
Isaiah’s wild measure and John’s simple page;
But e’en when they pictured the blood-sprinkled tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu seem’d nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over his soul
Yet thought not that my sins had nail’d to the tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu—’twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see—
Jehovah Tsidkenu my Saviour must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free—
Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

Jehovah Tsidkenu! my treasure and boast,
Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne’er can be lost;
In Thee I shall conquer by flood and by field—
My cable, my anchor, my breastplate and shield!

Even treading the valley, the shadow of death,
This “watchword” shall rally my faltering breath,
For while from life’s fever my God sets me free,
Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be.

Memoir and Remains of the Reverend Robert Murray McCheyne, pp. 574-575

Leland Ryken wants to help you study The Pilgrim’s Progress

Last week I invited you all to read The Pilgrim’s Progress with me starting in March. Today, in partnership with my friends at Crossway, I’m giving away two copies of Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress from their Christian Guides to the Classics series by Leland Ryken (which, incidentally, officially releases today!).

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In each book in this series, literary expert Ryken takes readers through some of history’s greatest literature while answering anticipated questions along the way. Each book:1

  • Includes an introduction to the author and work
  • Explains the cultural context
  • Incorporates published criticism
  • Defines key literary terms
  • Contains discussion questions at the end of each unit of the text
  • Lists resources for further study
  • Evaluates the classic text from a Christian worldview

In this volume, Ryken leads readers through John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, offering insights into the nature of faith, the reality of temptation, and the glory of salvation.

Ryken’s volume is sure to be an excellent resource to all of us during our community reading project. To enter, sign up using the handy-dandy PunchTab app. The contest closes tonight at midnight. Enjoy!

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When Tolerance Turns to Coerced Celebration

Jennifer A. Marshall:

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer last night vetoed what should have been a straightforward religious freedom bill. Minor clarifications to existing law got lost in an avalanche of gross mischaracterization as national pundits predicted the bill would usher in a “homosexual Jim Crow” regime with rampant denial of services by business owners to gays and lesbians.

The development is a stunning sign of increasing intolerance of basic protections for religious liberty. Actually, the Arizona bill would have given legal recourse to religious entities that decline to participate in celebrating same-sex relationships.

Book deals for busy people

Over at Westminster Books, they’re offering great deals on two new books on work and the Christian life when you buy five or more copies of each:

And still on sale over at Amazon are the following books from Crossway:

Reading Reimagined

This is fascinating.

Amputation is Not An Option

Kim Shay:

For a while, we floundered. With three small children, it was easy to find excuses not to go. It was hard to find a church where we felt it was safe. Considering how easily the pastor had kept his charismatic tendencies quiet, only revealing them slowly, we were gun shy. Once you start getting out of the habit, it becomes easier and easier to stay home. That was a very spiritually dry time for me. Even when we settled down in a church and attended fairly often, my heart wasn’t in it. We went mostly for the kids. When you have small children and start skipping church regularly, it sends a message.

Get The Consequences of Ideas in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Consequences of Ideas teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio & video download) for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Feed My Sheep by various authors (hardcover)
  • Blood Work by Anthony Carter (ePub + MOBI)
  • Sammy and His Shepherd by Susan Hunt (hardcover)

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

What Would Jesus Bake?

Kevin DeYoung:

As Christians continue to debate to what extent they can be involved with gay weddings, advocates for participation as no-big-deal have been hurrying to the Gospels to look for a Jesus who is pretty chill with most things. It’s certainly great to go the Gospels. Can’t go wrong there. Just as long as we don’t ignore his denunciations of porneia (Mark 7:21), and as long as we don’t make Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John our canon within the Canon. For Jesus himself predicted that the Holy Spirit would come and unpack all the truth about the Father and the Son (John 16:12-15). The revelation of the Son of God was not limited to the incarnation, but included the pouring out of the Spirit of Jesus and the subsequent testimony written down by the Messiah’s Spirit-inspired followers.

 

Spontaneous baptisms and a nasty case of the heebie jeebies

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Over the last week, there’s been a lot of discussion about the practice of spontaneous baptism, spurred on by controversy surrounding Elevation Church’s how-to guide for “doing your part in God’s miracle.” Russell Moore’s weighed in, The Gospel Coalition released a roundtable discussion between Matt Chandler, Mark Dever and Darrin Patrick about 18 months ago, and undoubtedly many more voices are bound to say something.

None of us, of course, should be surprised that Furtick and Elevation would meticulously plan out such things—after all, anyone who has read Furtick’s books or heard him speak anywhere would be painfully aware of his Revivalist, um, “exuberance.” The first time I heard him speak was at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit a few years back where he demoed the power of Spirit Keys to set the mood during a worship gathering (and I hated Spirit Keys ever since).

Obviously there’s a lot more to be concerned about with Furtick than the spontaneous baptism issue (I’ll spare you my laundry list)—but the spontaneous baptism issue is an important one. While we see a few instances of spontaneous baptism in Scripture, which should lead us to be cautious of completely ruling it out as a practice in all circumstances, it’s still something we need to be careful of.

A bit of backstory: I was baptized in a more-or-less spontaneous situation. I’d been a Christian for about three months at that point and knew it was something I should do, but didn’t know when. One weekend in August 2005, the church we attended was performing baptisms (the majority of which were planned in advance). Emily and I watched each person and as we did, I felt compelled to get baptized. So Emily and I both talked to the youth pastor, asked if we could, the pastor got back into his wet pants, we shared what God had been doing in our lives—how He brought us to faith, how the gospel changed us—and then we were baptized.

The church I was baptized in was careful—their wasn’t a pressure for us to get baptized right away. There wasn’t an overly emotional appeal at the end, although they did invite people to come forward if they felt the Holy Spirit compel them to do so (which is fairly typical for most evangelical churches these days from what I can tell).

As you can imagine, the whole conversation is very personal to me. But here’s where I land, for what it’s worth: we should be very, very cautious to baptize anyone too quickly. I’d rather wait and (as best as any of us are able) be sure that someone is truly saved, is bearing fruit (even if it’s a tiny amount) and understands the significance of the sacrament.

What Furtick’s approach (and the revivalist mindset in general) reveals is a deficient understanding of this essential sacrament. But Furtick isn’t alone in this. We laughingly call baptism getting a bath, or getting dunked… When we’re being serious, we tend to stick to the now standard “outward declaration of an inward transformation” definition.

And while this elevator speech version is certainly true, we need to more fully express what that “inward transformation” entails. J. I. Packer’s definition of baptism is exceptionally helpful in this regard:

Christian baptism, which has the form of a ceremonial washing (like John’s pre-Christian baptism), is a sign from God that signifies inward cleansing and remission of sins (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:25–27), Spirit-wrought regeneration and new life (Titus 3:5), and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit as God’s seal testifying and guaranteeing that one will be kept safe in Christ forever (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13–14). Baptism carries these meanings because first and fundamentally it signifies union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3–7; Col. 2:11–12); and this union with Christ is the source of every element in our salvation (1 John 5:11–12). Receiving the sign in faith assures the persons baptized that God’s gift of new life in Christ is freely given to them. At the same time, it commits them to live henceforth in a new way as committed disciples of Jesus. Baptism signifies a watershed point in a human life because it signifies a new-creational ingrafting into Christ’s risen life. 1

While a convert doesn’t necessarily have to understand all the implications of this reality, if they understand none of it—if they’re compelled only by an emotional experience, if there is no credible evidence of Spirit-borne fruit, if there’s no evidence they understand the gospel at all—then we are absolutely right to have a nasty case of the heebie jeebies. Baptism signifies our union with Christ, the forgiveness of our sins and is a commitment to living as one of His disciples. When people just take a bath, they’re missing the point. And when we encourage them to do so, so are we.

photo credit: Mars Hill Church via photopin cc

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The Case for Big Change at Calvary Chapel

Timothy C. Morgan, interviewing Brian Broderson:

In the last half century, Calvary Chapel has grown from a single Bible study to a worldwide fellowship of more than 1,500 churches and ministries, yet not without its problems. In a 2007 CT interview, one pastor said of Calvary Chapel, “The Titanic has hit the iceberg. But the music is still playing.” Calvary Chapel is, however, still afloat, and has survived not just growing pains, but also allegations of pastoral misconduct, lawsuits, and scandals.

In a historic transition in 2012, Calvary Chapel officially established an association with a 21-member leadership council, which now guides the worldwide organization Chuck Smith fostered. In December, CT’s senior editor, global journalism, Timothy C. Morgan interviewed pastor Brodersen.

More Christians need to be like this kid

HT: Barnabas

Would God Ask You to Take a Mustard Bath?

Mike Leake:

The frail old man sets aside his walker and gradually places himself in the tub. But this is no ordinary bath. You see, he just returned from the store where he purchased seven gallons of yellow mustard. The old man has scooped, squirted, and squeezed this smelly condiment into his bathtub.

Why in the world has this man done such a thing?

“Is he senile?” you ask.

Nope. He’s just got arthritis and he watches Christian television.

The Bible in the Original Geek

Ted Olsen:

Stephen Smith doesn’t look like a mad scientist, because he’s not one. Not really. He’s not even a code guy by training. But he has packed the room at BibleTech, an occasional gathering of coders, hackers, publishers, scholars, and Bible technology enthusiasts. And the standing-room-only crowd is starting to turn on him. No pitchforks and torches. But for once in this collegial, tight-knit retreat, you can feel the tension growing.

My Evangelical Story Isn’t So Bad

Derek Rishmawy:

Over the last few years we’ve seen one narrative in particular rise in ascendancy, the story of broken religious faith–either to be recovered, transformed, or possibly forfeited forever. While they can be found in most traditions, given my own context, I’m thinking of the ”I had a terrible Evangelical experience” story in particular. An expanding number of blogs, long-form articles, and memoirs dedicated to telling these stories have emerged, and done quite well. Indeed, it seems to be a wave with no end currently in sight.

Of course, even those specific to Evangelicalism come in different forms. For some, there’s a story of flight from churchly abuse and control. Others share their experiences in “purity culture” with its repressive and distorted teaching on sexuality and personhood. Still others give us insight into communities of scared, intellectual obscurantists set to repress all questions and intellectual honesty. A lot of it is really sad, heartbreaking stuff, for a number of reasons.

Four pieces of leadership “wisdom” you should totally ignore

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Every leader, no matter if they’re leading one person or one thousand, wants to get better at what they do. Fortunately the leadership industrial complex has produced a number of really great books offering really sound advice.

Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of dreck out there, the kind of stuff that makes me want to start reading Jesus’ seven woes out loud as emphatically as possible. Here are a few pieces of worldly wisdom that Christian leaders should probably ignore:

1. Criticized? Take heart—it means you’re a great leader. The other day I saw the following quote by Edwin Friedman in my Twitter feed: “Criticism is, if anything, often a sign that the leader is functioning better.” While certainly criticism can be a sign you’re doing well, it can also be a sign you’re failing miserably. The type of criticism you receive and how you respond to it are far better indicators. Proud “leaders” quickly write off criticism as being the divisive words of “haters” (and nitwits make videos about it). While not every piece of criticism merits the same level of attention, humble leaders listen, process, and respond to what they receive accordingly.

2. Throw your peers under the bus. This nugget came from John Maxwell’s 360-Degree Leader, where he shares the story of “Fred,” a man with a moody boss. The moral of the story? If your boss is unstable, watch and see which way the wind is blowing as your peers bring up issues. If the boss is in a good mood, bring up your list. If not, slide it back into your pocket and let your coworkers get burned (see pages 76-77).

Never mind taking a risk and calmly saying, “I had some concerns I wanted to address, but I can see this probably isn’t the best time.” It’s dangerous to do this, but it’s better than silently letting everyone else get blasted. And besides, it’s not like your volatile boss can fire you for it (unless he wanted to face a wrongful dismissal suit, of course).

3. People complaining? Be even harder on them! This one’s a bit of a cheat, because it’s identified as being terrible advice. When Rehoboam was faced with rebellion and had to choose between easing the burdens of his people and increasing them, he ignored the counsel of the elders and went along with his stupid friends. The result? The nation was torn in two.

4. “It is much safer to be feared than loved…” This come from Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince. Here it is with more context:

…it is much safer to be feared than loved because …love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Much of Machiavelli’s writing deals with self-preservation as the highest virtue. Love is risky, he’s right. But good leadership is all about risk. Compliance via fear is “safer” only because it’s easier to intimidate than to actually show those you lead that you care. Threats work in the short term, but don’t think you’ll have anyone sticking their necks out for you when you really need it.

Those are just a few of the gems out there that you should almost certainly ignore. What are a few pieces of terrible leadership advice you’ve heard?

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Preparing Your Teen for College

Westminster Books has a great deal on Alex Chediak’s new book, Preparing Your Teen for College—pay $8 each when buying 3 or more copies. Here’s a look at the book:

Jesus and tithing

Ray Ortlund:

The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees lay in over-emphasizing easier forms of obedience while under-emphasizing harder forms of obedience.  They hid their unbelief within a self-invented form of theological disproportion, making small things look big and big things look small.  They seized upon opportunities to tithe, and they dismissed the crying needs for justice and mercy and faithfulness.

Can I Reject an Eternal Hell and Still Be Saved?

Michael Patton:

I don’t really like this question. No, let me be stronger: I hate this question. Please forgive me. I understand the question and empathize with it on just about every level, no matter what it’s source may be (philosophical, biblical, or emotional). However, when you ask me this question you put me in a difficult position. I want to be as honest as possible, yet remain aware of the pastoral nature that addressing this subject requires. In other words, it is not an impossible question, and should never be seen as such.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to yesterday’s list, here are some new Kindle deals for you:

The Strange Saga of ‘Jesus Calling,’ The Evangelical Bestseller You’ve Never Heard Of

Ruth Graham:

Thomas Nelson specifically requested I not use the word “channeling” to describe Young’s first-person writing in the voice of Jesus—the word has New Age connotations—but it’s hard to avoid it in describing the book’s rhetorical approach. And on the edges of evangelicalism, where alertness to “New Age” influence runs high, concern has bloomed into outrage. Writer Warren B. Smith, who calls himself an “ex-New Ager,” wrote a 2013 book called ‘Another Jesus’ Calling, devoted entirely to dismantling Young’s claims to orthodoxy. In it, he calls the book “an obvious attempt by our spiritual Adversary to get an even further foothold inside the Christian church.”

Thomas Nelson has clearly heard the complaints that Jesus Calling is heretical; the introduction to recent editions of the book includes subtle but significant changes.

Son of God Will Show Crucifixion, Not the Cross

Tim Challies:

A film cannot adequately capture the reality of what transpired between the Father and the Son while the Son hung upon the cross. If this is true, a film that displays the crucifixion but misses the cross might actually prove a hindrance rather than a help to the Christian faith. Even the best movie will still be hampered by a grave weakness.

Words and pictures are very different media, and in the history of redemption, God has used both. For example, in the Old Testament God used words to record prophecies about the coming Messiah while in the tabernacle he provided pictures of the coming Messiah and what he would accomplish—an altar for sacrifice, a lamb to be slaughtered, incense rising to God. Words can tell truth while pictures can display truth.

The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert

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You know what I’m really thankful for? That there are people starting to write on the relationship between the gospel and work. This is a subject in which western Christians desperately need to grow in our understanding. Many of us, me included, really struggle to do our work in a Christ exalting fashion. Many of us grumble and complain, and generally struggle to be satisfied in what we’re doing or even see the value in our jobs.

Unless it’s just me who’s guilty of some of these?

Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert tackle this head-on in their new book, The Gospel at Work. Their goal in the book is simple: to help us see how working for Jesus gives meaning and purpose to all of our work, to recognize that “when glorifying Jesus is our primary motivation, our work — regardless of what that work is in its particulars — becomes an act of worship.”1

Idols and idleness

Traeger and Gilbert approach the subject from a different angle than, say, Tim Keller does in his excellent Every Good Endeavor (reviewed here). While one could argue that this is a matter of semantics, the authors are less concerned about delivering a fleshed-out theology of work, as opposed to digging into the practical issues related to how we look at work. In doing so, they spend the bulk of their time examining the twin errors of idolatry and idleness in work.

Signs work is your idol

“Our jobs become idols when we overidentify with them,” they write. “Our work becomes the primary consumer of our time, our attention, and our passions, as well as the primary means for measuring our happiness and our dissatisfaction in life.”2 The key word here is “primary.”

When we give our all to the company at the expense of our families, when our minds are consumed by thoughts of work consistently, when we’re always looking at how we can position ourselves, or even when we see our work as being all about making a difference in the world… This is dangerous stuff, friends.

When work is “primary,” everything else is secondary, and we’ll always be dissatisfied. There’s always a next step, always another rung on the ladder, always a new challenge to overcome… but it will never be enough. [Read more...]

Links I like

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Is Sexual Orientation Analogous to Race?

Joe Carter:

The main difference between anti-discrimination laws based on race and on sexual orientation is that the former were intended to recognize a morally neutral characteristic, while the latter is an effort to reclassify a non-neutral characteristic as morally good.

Jesus, The Antidote to Blame Transference Syndrome

Jared Wilson:

Understanding BTS helps us see how sin works and how infectious and complex it can be: We believe lies to enter sin, and then we try to cover up our shame, dismiss it, hide from consequences, protect, and self-justify once inside it. Then, when we are called to account, we try to get out of it by offering some excuse about why it’s not really our fault.

All of this begs the question: How do we get out of this mess?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a few great deals (including some fantastic brand-new books from Crossway):

Investing the Warren Buffett (Biblical) Way

Clint Archer:

Warren Buffett, nicknamed the Oracle of Omaha, is known as the world’s greatest investor. In 1950, at age 20, he had saved $9,400 (about $100k in today’s money). He set out to invest it, applying his long-term, value-based, focussed portfolio philosophy, which his author Robert Hagstrom termed “The Warren Buffett Way.”  Buffett increased his net worth to $62 billion, making him the richest person in the world. Nipping at his heels for that enviable title was the young Microsoft mogul, Bill Gates.

The Ministry IS A Gospel Issue

Michael Horton:

When pastors preach and teach and elders govern, there is no autocratic leadership. It is hardly “clericalism” when the governors of the church are elders rather than pastors. The New Testament teaches a mutual accountability with checks and balances. Ironically, movements and churches that downplay or even denounce biblical teaching and advertise themselves as freewheeling and egalitarian, with an every-member-a-minister philosophy, usually end up being far more totalitarian.

If Daniel 3 Were Written Today…

Trevin Wax:

The United States of America crafted a gold statue called Aphrodite. They stamped it in their books, discussed it in their universities, and showed it on their screens.

The U.S. sent word to assemble the politicians, pastors, culture-makers, critics, businesspeople, judges, and law enforcers, and all the influencers of the different spheres of culture to attend the dedication of the statue that society had set up.

So the politicians, pastors, culture-makers, critics, businesspeople, judges, law enforcers, and all the influencers of the different spheres of culture assembled for the dedication of the statue.

Five things I’ve learned from five years of blogging

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So it’s been a couple years since I last wrote a state of the blog type piece and I figured I’m overdue, especially since five years ago today, in a moment of sheer madness and desperation, I hit the publish button on a WordPress blog. Five years later, I’m still hitting publish (and some days, it still feels like a bit of madness and desperation involved).

So in honor of the blog’s fifth anniversary, I thought I’d share five things I’ve learned along the way:

Controversy is boring. I’ve said it many, many times, but it’s worth repeating: controversy might get a lot of traffic, but it’s boring to write about. Honestly, I don’t know how the watchblogger types do it. Honestly, I think I’d go nuts if I only wrote about what stupid thing some yahoo who thinks too highly of himself did this week. Sometimes controversy is unavoidable, but only when it’s coming at you like a multi-car pileup on the highway. If you’ve got time to hit the brakes, do.

Breaks really, really matter. Fairly early on, I set August as the month where I’d take a break from blogging (it started as a week and expanded from there). Taking a break helps clear the head and give you fresh perspective—which, when you write daily, you really, really need.

Interacting with others is fun. Not every post has to be a 100 percent original thought. My favorite times are when I’m engaging with something I’ve read and working through the implications in my own life. This is one of my favorite (recent) examples. Whether it’s another blogger’s post, a news story or a passage from a book, this has been some of the most rewarding writing for me.

Encouraging spouses are the best. My wife is a big help around here. She regularly listens to me ramble on about an idea I’ve got, gives feedback when I’m working on a post, suggests topics to write on. Occasionally, she even writes something herself, too! If Emily weren’t supportive of what I’m doing, I’d probably have to quit.

Followers and stats don’t equal influence. Whether you’ve got 20 or 20,000 readers, five followers or 5000 on Twitter, or two friends or 2000 fans on Facebook, influence isn’t about numbers. Influence has far more to do with what’s happened as a result of what you’ve written, rather than how many times someone potentially saw it. Most of the time you never hear what’s come from it, but every so often you get a comment or an email. And when you get those little glimpses, it’s a great time to give thanks to God.

So those are a few things I’ve learned (and relearned) over the last five years of blogging. Thanks for making it fun, friends!

 

Links I like

On Weddings and Conscience: Are Christians Hypocrites?

Russell Moore:

Today Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt wrote an article for the Daily Beast accusing conservative Christians of hypocrisy and unchristian behavior for suggesting that some persons’ consciences won’t allow them to use their creative gifts to help celebrate same-sex weddings. Since I was a key example of this hypocrisy, I’ll respond to that charge.

At issue is a response I made, reposted this week over at The Gospel Coalition, helping a Christian wedding photographer think through whether he ought to work for a same-sex wedding. In the photographer’s question, he grapples with the question of how his conscience ought to play in this decision not only as it relates to weddings of people who, for all he knows, might be involved in all sorts of unbiblical behavior. Powers and Merritt suggest if he refuses to photograph one “unbiblical wedding,” he ought to “refuse to photograph them all.”

The Difference Between “Near” and “Far” Application in Preaching

Trevin Wax, sharing from Zack Eswine’s Preaching to a Post-Everything World:

Once near application has been addressed, the preacher then holds the rope between near and far. Picture a line of kindergarten children walking down the street for a field trip to the Sesame Street studio. A long rope connects those nearer and farther from the teachers at the head and back of the line. Each child holds on to the rope in order to stay connected with the line and not get lost from the group. Whenever preachers move from near to far application, they must help their listeners hold this rope in order to stay connected to the biblical context and not get lost from the intended meaning of the biblical passage.

John 3:16

Dougal Michie:

If the Bible’s all-time favourite passages were ranked, I suspect this verse would make the top three. From t-shirts to sandwich boards to The Simpsons, “John 3:16” has appeared almost everywhere. That John 3:16 is famous seems beyond doubt. Whether the awesome implications of this passage are appreciated, however, is perhaps harder to gauge.

Is the Preaching Any Good?

Jonathan Parnell:

One of the most fundamental truths to understand about the church’s corporate gathering is that Jesus is a giver.

Jesus, our Savior and salvation — the one to whom we are united by faith — gave himself to us by becoming like us. He then gave himself to us by dying in our place. And still today, every week when the church meets, he gives himself to us through the preaching of his word and the sharing of his Supper.

This matters because, as surely as we have received him as the God-man and trusted in his finished work, we should anticipate that there is yet more of him to experience in weekend worship.

Keeping it real

Neat infographic on the top reasons to stick to analogue books: