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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

the-gospel-at-work

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...]

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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!

 

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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:

Authority in Christianity belongs to God

holding-bible-lr

The Christian principle of biblical authority means, on the one hand, that God purposes to direct the belief and behavior of his people through the revealed truth set forth in Holy Scripture; on the other hand it means that all our ideas about God should be measured, tested, and where necessary corrected and enlarged, by reference to biblical teaching. Authority as such is the right, claim, fitness, and by extension power, to control. Authority in Christianity belongs to God the Creator, who made us to know, love, and serve him, and his way of exercising his authority over us is by means of the truth and wisdom of his written Word. As from the human standpoint each biblical book was written to induce more consistent and wholehearted service of God, so from the divine standpoint the entire Bible has this purpose. And since the Father has now given the Son executive authority to rule the cosmos on his behalf (Matt. 28:18), Scripture now functions precisely as the instrument of Christ’s lordship over his followers. All Scripture is like Christ’s letters to the seven churches (Rev. 2–3) in this regard.

J.I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs

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Pastor, Stop Lying

Ronnie Martin:

My heart had become full. Of criticism. To my shame, it was criticism of a fellow pastor. He was a friend, a godly man who loved his family, preached the gospel, prayed regularly, never gossiped, and always believed the best about people. But I began to struggle with something about him. It wasn’t some secret sin. It wasn’t a double life. It was nothing “scandalous” at all, really.

It was that he lied.

Take Me to Church

Aimee Byrd:

“Take Me to Church” points to something that draws us all: the self-destructive worship of a person. We like the idea that we are the authority of what is good and loving. And so we use words like love and unity, and we decide what that means.

But in God’s Word, we have Jesus praying for the unity of all believers.  In his prayer for his disciples, Jesus says, “Sanctify them by your truth, your word is truth.” This is a very theological prayer. We see that God’s people are set apart by his Word. While we easily talk about our unity in Christ, love for him and for one another, it is more difficult for the church to be theologians of the cross that he carried. Love can’t be separated from truth, and God’s people are set apart by that truth.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to the giant list shared on Tuesday, here are a few new and recent Kindle deals:

Crossway’s Christian Guides to the Classics series by Leland Ryken is on sale for $2.99-$3.99:

Unbroken

There’s a new movie coming out based on Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, the story of rabble rouser turned Olympian turned WWII prisoner of war, Louie Zamperini. Here’s the trailer:

It’ll be interesting to see what the filmmakers do with Zamperini’s conversion to Christ (an integral part of the book).

Coconut Cream Pie & Unity in Diversity

Andrew Hall:

Too often, the church hammers away at unity, but often at the expense of diversity, forgetting the essential nature of love.  The one God is united in essence and purpose, yet diverse as the triune God in complementary roles and responsibilities, connected in love.  We are one with Christ, seated with him in the heavenlies, and yet distinct from Christ, who loved us and gave himself up for us.  All believers comprise the one universal church, and yet each church is distinct in her make-up, uniquely bringing the gospel to bear on the life of her community.

A brief look at the 9Marks series

There are very few organizations I get excited about, but one I absolutely love is 9Marks. I’ve been amazed at the quality of thinking on essential matters of the faith such as church discipline and discipleship, expositional preaching, and, of course, the gospel itself. The example set by many of the leaders involved with this ministry is tremendous. Frankly, even if you don’t agree with all their emphases, you can’t deny they genuinely love the local church and want to see churches become healthier.

This is especially clear when you look at the books published under the 9Marks banner, and this is no less true of the books found in Logos Bible Software’s 9Marks Series collection. Containing eleven volumes published by Crossway, this series covers a wide variety of subjects, from the relationship between God’s love and church discipline to the importance of biblical theology in the life of the local church.

9marks-series

Included in the series are:

For the sake of brevity, here are a couple of key takeaways to keep in mind:

First, each book published is intended to address one aspect of the nine marks of a healthy church.1 These marks are foundational to the organization’s vision of healthy churches but because they’re so rich, they require some serious investigation. You can’t just say “we believe a healthy church is one with biblical church leadership” without explaining what that means and what it looks like, practically.

Second, although many of these volumes are directed toward church leaders, all are accessible to the average church member. I found this to be especially true of two volumes. The first is Mike McKinley’s Church Planting Is for Wimps (which I reviewed here), a volume describing his experience replanting Guildford Baptist Church (now Sterling Park Baptist Church) and the challenges planters face:

…planting and revitalizing take different kinds of courage, and God appoints a particular task for every man. Go where God guides you. As Karen and I thought about our future, we wanted to take the path of revitalizing an existing church…I believe revitalizing may be more difficult at the outset, but I also believe that it offers all the rewards of planting—a new gospel witness—and more: it removes a bad witness in the neighborhood, it encourages the saints in the dead church, and it puts their material resources to work for the kingdom. (Church Planting Is for Wimps, 36-37)

The second is Mark Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, particularly as Dever breaks down the problem we have sharing our faith and makes it a little less scary by admitting his own failures in that area:

Sometimes I’m a reluctant evangelist. In fact, not only am I sometimes a reluctant evangelist, sometimes I’m no evangelist at all. There have been times of wrestling: “Should I talk to him?” Normally a very forward person, even by American standards, I can get quiet, respectful of the other people’s space. Maybe I’m sitting next to someone on an airplane (in which case I’ve already left that person little space!); maybe it’s someone talking to me about some other matter. It may be a family member I’ve known for years, or a person I’ve never met before; but, whoever it is, the person becomes for me, at that moment, a witness-stopping, excuse-inspiring spiritual challenge.

If there is a time in the future when God reviews all of our missed evangelistic opportunities, I fear that I could cause more than a minor delay in eternity.  (The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, 15)

The eleven volumes in the 9Marks Series are ones every church leader—and every church member—should have in their libraries. They’re the kind of books that don’t leave you crushed under the weight of trying to “do more,” but constantly point you back to Christ, the One from whom all our purpose and power in ministry flows. I know I’m glad to have them in mine. I trust the same will be true for you as well.

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A very important lesson in grammar

Who Can Baptize?

Kevin DeYoung:

Christians are used to debating the question “Who can be baptized?” But much less ink (digital or otherwise) has been spilled debating the question “Who can baptize?” Should baptism–and the Lord’s Supper for that matter–be administered only by ordained pastors (and possibly elders), or can any church member in good standing preside over the sacraments?

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 (hardcover) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Ultimate Issues teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther by Steven Lawson (ePub + MOBI)
  • Welcome to a Reformed Church by Daniel Hyde (paperback)

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

How to preach with biblical fullness

Ray Ortlund:

My brother pastor, to preach with biblical fullness, rising above ourselves and our biases, let’s just preach through the Bible, passage by passage, letting each passage make its unique contribution, confident that over time the fullness of it all will serve people well with a massive vision of the Triune God.  But let us never force a passage to say what we think it ought to say and, in effect, correct God.

Kill Your Jesus Talisman

Jared C. Wilson:

I can win any slam dunk contest through him who gives me strength. If I will ask God for the ability to do so “in Jesus’ name,” of course.

When I was a kid I had a poster of Philippians 4:13 — “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” — with a photo of a guy dunking a basketball. You can bet I thought long and hard about how Jesus was gonna help me dunk on some fools.

Seven Characteristics of the Antichrist

David Murray:

Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m only following the Scriptural precedent of describing the characteristics to look out for rather than the Antichrist’s name and address.

But stay with me because you need to know what to look out for and, who knows, maybe someone will read the seven characteristics and think, “Hey I know that guy!” And remember, although THE Antichrist may not yet have arisen, John warns us that there are many antichrists already in the world. So what are we looking for?

Read The Pilgrim’s Progress with me

One of my favorite parts of the day is reading books with my kids, especially with Abigail (our eldest). While I love reading with the younger two, Abigail’s old enough that I get to start reading cool stuff with her.

Last year, we read through The Chronicles of Narnia in its entirety (it took about three or four months). I’ve just introduced her to Calvin and Hobbes (and soon the complete collection will become part of our family library). More recently, we’ve been working our way through John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.

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And I’ve been having such a good time reading it with her, I wanted to invite you to read it with me, as well.

Why this book?

One of the major reasons is this is one of the few books outside the Bible all Christians should read. In fact, historically, it’s been the most widely-read book outside the Bible, although this is not the case today. It’s a book that was instrumental in the faith of Charles Spurgeon and countless other believers. And it’s one of which’s influence is in danger of being lost. J.I. Packer wrote:

For two centuries Pilgrim’s Progress was the best-read book, after the Bible, in all Christendom, but sadly it is not so today.

When I ask my classes of young and youngish evangelicals, as I often do, who has read Pilgrim’s Progress, not a quarter of the hands go up.

Yet our rapport with fantasy writing, plus our lack of grip on the searching, humbling, edifying truths about spiritual life that the Puritans understood so well, surely mean that the time is ripe for us to dust off Pilgrim’s Progress and start reading it again.

Certainly, it would be great gain for modern Christians if Bunyan’s masterpiece came back into its own in our day.

Have you yourself, I wonder, read it yet? 1

The way this reading project will work is pretty simple:

  • We’ll read one chapter a week, starting the first week of March.
  • I’ll be sharing some reflections on the chapter in a new post, along with some additional questions for discussion.

Like I said, pretty straightforward, but I promise it’ll be worth it.

So how about it? Will you read The Pilgrim’s Progress with me?  

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Faithful pastor, you’re not crazy

Ray Ortlund:

A text message came in from a pastor friend.  I’ve known him for decades.  He is the kind of man for whom the adjective “saintly” was invented.  He pastored a thriving church for many years.  Then someone on staff stabbed him in the back and rallied others to get him thrown out.  The objections to his ministry had no substance.  “The issues” were not the real issues.  As Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, said to me once, “Some try to pull down a prominent man, not because they themselves wish to take his place, but because doing so gives them a feeling of power.”

My friend had met with someone from his former church, wishing to reconcile.  But the person blew him off.  All that the meeting accomplished was to re-open an old wound.

So here is what I want to say to my friend:

You’re not crazy.  This has been happening to God’s men since Cain and Abel.  It is one way you identify with Jesus himself.

Are Tongues Real Languages?

Nathan Busenitz begins a new series asking an important question:

Has the church, historically, been right to conclude that the gift of tongues in the New Testament consists of the supernatural ability to speak in foreign languages previously unknown to the speaker? Or is the modern charismatic movement right to conclude that the gift of tongues encompasses something other than cognitive foreign languages?

Ridiculously good deals from Westminster Books

Westminster Books has a whole bunch of great titles on sale for up to 70% off, including:

The Cold that Bothers Us

Greg Forster:

The most obvious lesson of Frozen—the one made explicit in the movie—teaches viewers that love is not about how you feel. It’s about putting other people’s needs ahead of your own. This theme by itself profoundly inverts the old Disney culture; it’s a big win for the Pixar invaders. But Frozen not only makes this point, it also traces some wide-ranging consequences. It shows us why people are investing too much importance in romantic love relative to other kinds of love, like sisterhood. The responsible grown-ups who tell you not to burn down everything else in your life for the sake of “true love” are not your enemies; they’re your friends. They’re the people who really love you.

The Danger of Forgetting How to Read the Bible

Dan Doriani:

In the past month, I learned that two more Christian leaders whom I know have either tarnished or destroyed their ministries. Neither was a friend, in the full sense, yet I’ve been friendly with both men and respected their talents and the fruit of their labors.

Once again, I wonder: How could a man who studied and knew Scripture and taught it faithfully to others, brazenly violate its most basic principle of love and self-control? Even as I ask the question, I know I’m liable to self-destructive sin too. Everyone needs Paul’s admonition: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). Self-aware leaders know that we can violate principles we thought we knew.

What does the Bible say about religion?

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It’s really popular today to distinguish between religion and Jesus—as though the gospel and religion are diametrically opposed. We love Jesus, but hate religion. Religion says “do,” Jesus says, “done.” And although many of the critiques have their own strengths and weaknesses, there’s a small problem: the way we understand “religion” entirely depends on what we mean by the word. This is a subject I’ve explored in a new paper I’ve written for ExploreGod.com:

Millions of people around the globe consider the Bible an authoritative guidebook on how to live a godly, righteous life. So how does the Bible understand “religion”? What does it say?

The answer isn’t as cut-and-dried as we might like to think. The Bible itself is neither wholly positive nor entirely negative about religion. After all, at the most basic level, a religion is a set of deeply held personal or institutional beliefs or principles. There’s nothing wrong with that, in and of itself. In fact, by that definition, every human being on earth is deeply religious.

But the issue is not whether we have deeply held beliefs and practices—the issue is to whom those beliefs are devoted. To better understand this, let’s turn to the book of Romans in the Bible.

Keep reading at ExploreGod.com.

(photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc)