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If All Religions Are True, Then God Is Cruel

Paul Rezkalla:

“All roads lead to the same destination.”

While I can understand the sentiment of inclusivity, this idea pictures an evil God. Religious pluralists often reject exclusivist positions for positing a cruel God who only made one way to reach him. But if all religions are true, then God is cruel. And not just cruel—God is an incompetent, cosmic child-abuser. If religious pluralism is true, then God is the father in the second scenario. He saw the train coming, yet he decided to pull the first lever and kill his son, rather than pull the second lever.

I Lost My Dad in a Plane Crash, Too

Grant Castleberry:

Perhaps one of the most difficult things the grievers face is the lack of a body. An airplane crash makes it even more dramatic, too, since the loved one is seen by friends and family one moment only to take off on a plane the next and never be seen again. A body provides closure. A vast ocean with fathomless depths fills the mind with ungraspable questions. Did my loved one suffer? Was it traumatic? Did they have time for any last thoughts? Did they survive the crash only to die in the open ocean? Is their body sitting in the plane at the bottom of the ocean? Or is it floating on the surface? Then there are the deeper questions. Why did this happen to them? What if they’d taken an earlier or later flight? If only. The “what if” scenarios can play out in your mind forever.

Books at a Glance

This looks like a pretty neat new service, spearheaded by Fred Zaspel.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Yesterday I shared a bunch of great Kindle deals. Here are a few more:

I Want To Be The Biblical Version of Joel Osteen

Stephen Altrogge:

Because life is so hard and exhausting, every day is a battle. Every day I must fight to believe in the goodness and kindess of God. Everyday I must fight to believe that God is working all things for my good and his glory. Every day I must fight to believe that I serve a God who turns mourning into dancing. What I, and everyone else, desperately need every day, is encouragement. I need fresh hope, fresh faith, fresh strength.

There are enough critics, watch bloggers, angry prophets, protesters, and trolls in the church and in the world. We need more encouragers. We need more people like Barnabas.

Westminster book sale

Westminster Bookstore has a number of terrific books on sale to help Christians

A Common Grace Defense of Disgust

Joe Carter:

Unfortunately, Christians have helped contribute to this callous disregard by undermining the role of disgust in helping to recognize and restrain sinful behavior. While we should never be disgusted by people there a broad range of human behaviors that we should find inherently disgusting. Yet while disgust was once considered a guide (albeit a fallible one) to God’s natural law, we now chastise Christians for even implying that any sinful behavior can be disgusting.

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On the Number of Zygote Deaths and the Meaning of Pro-Life

Matthew Lee Anderson;

What does it mean to be “pro-life”? Judging by the recent conversation about contraception, it would be easy to think that the point and purpose of the pro-life position is to reduce abortions in the world.

But as important as that is to pro-lifers, it by no means encapsulates the entirety of the pro-life position.

John Piper: the infographic

Tim Challies shares the latest in his series of Visual Theology infographics. Look for one on R.C. Sproul next week.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new Kindle deals for you:

How Would You Respond to This Hypocrite?

Mike Leake:

Imagine with me that you are a well-respected pastor. You’ve been serving at your church now for about eight years. Things are going well and you are beginning to gain respect in the larger world of evangelicalism.

A new pastor moves into a neighboring town. This new pastor is truly a hypocrite. He denies the Trinity and by his own confession he became a minister for the money, the ease, and the hopes of getting himself advanced in the literary world.

Plant the Church that Is, not the Church to Come

JD Payne:

Hasty expectations hinder the birth and multiplication of churches.

Plant your churches, just make sure they have all of this stuff, and these structures, and these activities, and these twenty-five marks, and these forty-one purposes, and this affiliation, and give that amount of money.

Such is okay when we start instant churches with long-term, Kingdom citizens.

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In the ten minutes Gmail was down…

Aaron Earls recounts the harrowing ordeal—with GIFs!

Helping someone through a salvation experience

David Platt:

As we walk in the presence of Christ, we’ll have opportunities to make new disciples of Jesus. We’ll have the privilege of inviting people to turn from their sin and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. This won’t happen because of our cleverness or evangelistic prowess; it will happen because of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

But how should we handle these moments on a practical level? What should we say and what should we do when God grants us the privilege of harvesting a new follower of Christ?

Why I am Pro-Choice

Lore Ferguson:

No one is arguing for the abortion of three and four year olds, but three and four year olds have similar decision making abilities as infants. Of course there is a small gap of maturity, but a child who cannot zip her coat or tie her shoes, whose father has to lift her to put his money in a meter to park a car she can’t drive—how limited is her ability to choose?

We cannot know how any child’s life will turn out, but shouldn’t we give them the basic right to choose? Or, less even, the ability to learn to make choices?

Oh, Oh, Ooh, Ooh, La, La, Whoa

Bob Kauflin:

…recently an increasing number of modern worship songs feature syllables like “oh, ooh, and whoa.” Generic syllables can be enjoyable to sing and can provide a musical segue that involves the congregation. They also can carry meaning as they give expression to a burst of emotion that either respond or lead into lyrics that actually say something. My good friend Matt Boswell reminded me that Paul begins his doxology in Romans 11:33-36 with “Oh,” the depth of the riches… There are times when an emotional “oh!” is the most appropriate lead in to a life-transforming truth.

But something more has been happening. Crowds are singing lengthy portions of songs using vowel sounds rather than actually singing words. Is this a good thing? Does it matter?

Looking forward to seeing how worship leaders respond to this piece.

Burning away misconceptions about “holy fire”

Lyndon Unger:

If you entered the faith via a Charismatic church (like me), one of the most quickly re-defined terms was “fire”.  “Fire” used to be what you called the results of tossing a match on something flammable, or maybe something you did with a gun.  Now it meant something way different. In Charismatic circles, there is often talk about “fire” of some sort: Holy Fire, Divine Fire, Heavenly Fire, the Fire of God, etc.  The idea of “fire” is basically paralleled with one or more of the following ideas: spiritual passion, having an emotionally intense worship/church service, really “getting serious” with God (or some form of personal revival), or some sort of outpouring of divine power on a person/church meeting/event resulting in a renewed passion of some sort (i.e. evangelism) or various “manifestations” of the Holy Spirit (i.e. euphoria, tongues, healings, prophecies, “miracles”, holy laughter, holy glue, holy vomiting, barking, crying, being slain/laid out in the spirit, visions, trances, screaming, physical pain, teleportation, etc.). I had generally gone along with the Charismatic usage of the term “fire” with regards to passion or zeal, and not really questioned it since the term is often used in non-Charismatic circles in nearly identical ways. But, as I’ve grown in my knowledge of the Lord and his word I’ve found myself continually questioning my own assumptions and understandings and going “back to the drawing board”.  When we speak of “fire” in the previously mentioned ways, are we using the term in a proper Biblical sense?

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Let the full weight land on you

Also, here’s nice set of photos covering the March for Life event yesterday. Praise God for those who could brave the weather to speak up on behalf of those who cannot.

Photo via @kathrynlopez

HT Denny Burk

The Death of Witnessing

Leon Brown:

There are many impediments to witnessing (i.e., sharing your faith). Many of us are absolutely terrified. Beads of sweat begin to moisten our backs merely at the thought of evangelistic outreach. Sometimes we think it is better left to the professionals. They will say the right things; they will have all the answers; they will navigate the witnessing conversation appropriately. The list of impediments, some of which may be better categorized as excuses, is extensive. However, when you finally muster the courage to talk to others about Jesus, there is another force that prohibits you. In fact, it is not something you can control. It is technology.

Just A Tiny Bit Of Arsenic

Mark Altrogge:

Beware the thought that says, “A little bit won’t hurt.” That’s a lie from hell.

Would you drink a glass of water if I said to you “There’s just a tiny bit of arsenic in this, but it won’t hurt you”? What airline would let someone board who said, “I only have a small bomb with me”?

The ‘Big Lie’ in putting off pregnancy

Wendy Sachs on the new book, The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock:

Perhaps one of the greatest myths today is the ability of science to step in and make babies for women at virtually any age. Selvaratnam says that we see the success stories, but rarely hear about the huge numbers of failed attempts. A 2009 report on Assisted Reproductive Technologies, or ARTs, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the single most important factor affecting the chances of a successful pregnancy through ARTs is a woman’s age. Selvaratnam reports that at age 40, the chance is 18.7%; at 42, it’s 10%; at 44, it’s only 2.9%.

“We are the guinea pig generation for testing the limits of our fertility, or our chances of having a child. The shock and the lack of preparation when you’re not prepared and the pressure women feel in general about our reproductive selves adds to the shame women feel when they can’t get pregnant,” Selvaratnam said.

Save on Paul Miller’s A Loving Life at WTS Books

Over at Westminster Books, Paul Miller’s new book, A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships, is on sale for 50% off, or 62% off if you buy three or more copies. This sale ends today.

How Jesus’ teaching reinforces the sanctity of life

BabyGirl

The law not only prohibits certain negative behaviors and attitudes, but by implication it requires certain positive behaviors and attitudes. That is, if adultery is prohibited, chastity and purity are required.

When we apply these patterns set forth by Jesus to the prohibition against murder, we understand clearly that, on the one hand, we are to refrain from all things contained in the broad definition of murder, but on the other hand, we are positively commanded to work to save, improve, and care for life. We are to avoid murder in all of its ramifications and, at the same time, do all that we can to promote life.

Just as Jesus considered lust a part of adultery, so He viewed unjustifiable anger and slander as parts of murder. As lust is adultery of the heart, so anger and slander are murder of the heart.

By expanding the scope of the Ten Commandments to include such matters as lust and slander, Jesus did not mean that it is just as evil to lust after a person as it is to have unlawful physical intercourse. Likewise, Jesus did not say that slander is just as evil as murder. What He did say is that the law against murder includes a law against anything that involves injuring a fellow human unjustly.

How does all of this apply to the abortion issue? In Jesus’ teaching we see another strong reinforcement of the sanctity of life. Murder of the heart, such as slander, may be described as “potential” murder. It is potential murder because, as an example, anger and slander have the potential to lead to the full act of physical murder. Of course, they do not always lead to that outcome. Anger and slander are prohibited, not so much because of what else they may lead to, but because of the actual harm they do to the quality of life.

R.C. Sproul, Abortion: A Rational Look at An Emotional Issue

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Are Millennials Joining High Church Traditions?

Jake Meador:

There have always been magisterial Protestants in the United States as well, but there is a perpetual tendency for these traditions to slide toward radicalism as they adopt more characteristically American tendencies toward individualism and separating oneself from the past. As a result, traditions that ought to embrace the more liturgical, sacramental spirituality of the high church tradition will struggle to do so consistently. This is how, to take the most extreme example, an ostensibly Reformed pastor like Robert Schuller ends up creating the Crystal Cathedral and the Hour of Power. For magisterial Protestants there is a constant tug of war between certain hallmark attributes of the American political identity and the guiding principles of the magisterial tradition.

The Dark-Tinted, Truth-Filled Reading List We Owe Our Kids

N.D. Wilson:

In the Christian world, stories laced with dark content—especially for children—will always spook whole flocks of eyebrows into concerned flight. The “content” of a book or film is parsed out, every bit of shadow flagged and sniffed at by mothers like they’ve discovered a malicious growth hormone in a suspicious chicken nugget.

Get When Worlds Collide in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get When World’s Collide by R.C. Sproul (ePub) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)
  • A Blueprint for Thinking teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson (hardcover)

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

Mortifying the Fear of Academic Books

Jared Oliphint:

But the trudge is an illusion, a feeling, an attitude, and a state of mind. You created it, and you can exercise a surprising amount of control over it in the long run. The skills that built and stacked internal walls meant to protect your own ego against the barrage of heavy, theological terms are the same skills that can sack those walls and command those technical terms for your spiritual benefit.

Abortion Meets a New Generation

Dan Darling and Andrew Walker:

And that leads us to the pro-life movement, dating back to the 1970s. Being pro-life was missional, incarnational, and radical way before those terms became evangelical buzzwords. And yet, caring for and advocating on behalf of the unborn remains controversial.

Thankfully, its controversial status may be a thing of the past if trend lines continue. Younger generations are markedly more pro-life than their parents. We’re observing a rising generation of pro-life Americans, many of whom (though not all) identify as Christian.

But sadly, among progressive evangelicals, there’s a reflexive hesitancy to tout or raise the banner of human life as a preeminent justice issue. You’ll hear individuals in this camp dance around the sanctity of life—writing it off as “political” or “complicated.”

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Beware of self-appointed pastors

Denny Burk, commenting on a recent NY Times article:

The pastoral office is reserved for those who are gifted for the ministry and who meet a defined set of character qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). The men who meet these qualifications are not self-appointed. The church is to recognize and set these men apart for the ministry (1 Tim. 4:14). The issue is not whether one recognizes his own giftedness and qualification. The issue is whether the people of God recognize it as well.

Former Pastor Experiments With Atheism for a Year

Heather Clark:

Ryan Bell, 42, led Hollywood Adventist Church until March of last year, when has was asked to resign over his increasingly liberal views and his disagreements with Adventist theology. Bell says that he expressed support for female ordination and the inclusion of homosexuals, and took issue with the literal six-day creation outlined in Genesis.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Actively engaged in the abortion battle

Matt Chandler:

When I begin to have conversations with some of my aunts and uncles and how they wish they would have marched with King but they were just indifferent, they just thought it would work itself out. How they wish they could get back into time and fight the noble fight. Instead, they were quiet. … I think [abortion] is going to be one of those issues for us.

Antinomianism, Legalism And The Relationship Between Law And Gospel

Tullian Tchividjian:

One of the problems in the current conversation regarding the relationship between law and gospel is that the term “law” is not always used to mean the same thing. This is understandable since in the Bible “law” does not always mean the same thing.…

So, it’s not as simple as you might think. For short hand, I think it’s helpful to say that law is anything in the Bible that says “do”, while gospel is anything in the Bible that says “done”; law equals imperative and gospel equals indicative. However, when you begin to parse things out more precisely, you discover some important nuances that should significantly help the conversation forward so that people who are basically saying the same thing aren’t speaking different languages and talking right past one another.

Book Review: Unplanned by Abby Johnson

Before October, 2009, no one had ever heard of Abby Johnson. She was a happily married mom who happened to work as the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic. In September of that year, when she was asked to help in the exam room, life as she knew it came to an end. That day, she assisted in an ultrasound-guided abortion and was horrified by what she saw on the screen. Expecting to see non-reactive fetal tissue, as the cannulae came toward it, she instead saw the baby begin to kick “as if trying to move away from the probing invader.” (p. 5)

Witnessing this—and being a part of it—was too much for Johnson and was the end of her career at Planned Parenthood.

When the news broke a few weeks later, it wasn’t because she had left the organization—it was because she had crossed the line and joined the Coalition for Life, the pro-life group that prayed daily behind the fence at Johnson’s clinic.

Since then, Johnson has been at the center of a major court case, having been sued by her former employers, and become a sought-after speaker on the realities of abortion throughout America. In Unplanned, she shares her story of how she moved from advocate to opponent of Planned Parenthood, and in the process was confronted by the reality of God.

Recently my wife and I sat down to chat about her impressions of the book. Here’s our chat in all its YouTube-y glory:

(Feed readers, sorry, you’ll have to click-through to watch—and please forgive the awful screen cap!)

One of the things you might not expect in reading a book like this is just how even-handed Johnson is when describing the realities of life at Planned Parenthood. She tries hard to avoid sensationalism and is very careful not to demonize any of the people working there, as if they wake up in the morning, stretch and say, “Gosh, I can’t wait to abort some babies!” Because the truth is, they don’t. Many, like Johnson herself, became involved because they believed what they were told about the organization’s desire to protect and care for women’s reproductive health. But it’s interesting how even the most noble desires—including Johnson’s, which was to reduce the number of abortions being performed—can be lost or twisted into something else. [Read more...]

Randy Alcorn: Are Young Pro-Life Evangelicals Inconsistent?

Randy Alcorn addresses the question of consistency among younger pro-life evangelicals when it comes to their stance on the sanctity of life. Very thought provoking stuff here.

Check it the video and share your thoughts in the comments:

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HT: The Resurgence

What Man Intends for Evil, God Intends for Good: Pastor AJ Hamilton

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This isn’t the post I’d planned to write today, but after watching this video, I couldn’t not share this story—Pastor AJ Hamilton’s powerful testimony.

Watch the video above or read the transcript that follows:

I’m AJ Hamilton, I’ve been a pastor here for about three years. And whenever I’m asked what my testimony is, I find I have to tell it in the context of my parents’ testimony. And so I’ll tell you about my mom. I didn’t make it through the first one very well, so I doubt I’ll do it on this one too. [Read more...]