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#HowOldWereYou: Origins of a Heartbreaking Hashtag

Karen Swallow Prior:

A central plot-line in the disturbing but stunning 1999 film American Beauty involves sexual fantasies about a teen girl by the main character, a middle-aged suburban husband and father desperately living out a quiet nightmare version of the American Dream. In a discussion of the film with my then-boss, an older man, a strong Christian leader and educator, he told me, “Any man who says he hasn’t had such fantasies is a liar.” His candor was as rare as it was refreshing. But what he said wasn’t shocking.

Ed Stetzer offers some additional commentary on the post that inspire #TakeDownThatPost and #HowOldWereYou hashtags of last week.

Right Questions Matter

JD Payne:

There are many questions to be asked about church health and mission. Many are being asked with the right heart. But right motives are no guarantee that the right questions are being asked.

We often ask questions with familiarity in mind. This is a good place to begin, but we can’t remain here. Unfortunately, we often stay put. We have not learned the stewardship of questioning.

The right questions matter.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway has a few books by Kent and Barbara Hughes on sale this week:

Risky Gospel by Owen Strachan is also on sale for 99¢.

Because we’re Christians, kids

Trevin Wax:

There’s a phrase I’ve heard in our home lately. It pops up whenever the kids ask why we do things differently than other people.

I noticed it first when our son asked why he and his sister aren’t allowed to say certain words his friends say.

“Why can’t we talk that way?” he asked.

“Because we’re Christians. Jesus saved us, and we want to honor Him with our lips.”

Perfectionism Will Ruin Your Writing

Marc Cortez shares a helpful quote from Anne Lamott.

Some Observations on Tone of Voice.

Lore Ferguson:

In our day to day life, we’re face to face, tone of voice is heard, body language is seen. On the web, though, and social media, we are left without those necessary cues. If a person uses coarse or aggressive language in a post/comment, and defends their words with, “I just want to have a conversation,” they should understand words that sound conversational to them may sound abusive to someone else. And likewise, someone like me who feels any slight pushback is a personal affront to my character, my spirituality, my soul, and my personhood needs to take a step back and assume a charitable posture.

Look at the Book

A preview of the ongoing video series from John Piper on studying the Bible:

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What do those with disabilities owe those without?

Cody Dolinsek:

One of the questions I have asked and have tried to answer in general terms is: “What do those with disabilities owe to those without disabilities and vice versa?  Asking this question might seem wrongheaded in a society, not unlike others, that tends to focus attention on the question: “how shall we best help those with disabilities?  While this question is not out of place in all circumstances, it is tilted to one group’s responsibility without taking into account the other group’s need also to do its ethical duty.

Pastors, You Make Your Own Sandwich

Nick Nye:

Maybe we aren’t trying to complain, pastors, but I imagine the church members who read these articles perceive a subtle (or not-so-subtle) air of grievances: “My job is miserable. No one understands me!” Or even worse they hear, “You all really suck the life out of me with your problems and sin.”

I would be the first to amen the confession blogs, as I am overworked, often discouraged, and take everything in the church personally. But the reality is, I make my own sandwich. My church isn’t to blame, I am. My schedule isn’t to blame, I am. It’s a sandwich I made, and instead of complaining and chomping through it, I want to find joy in it.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In physical book deals, Westminster Bookstore has a terrific deal going on right now—buy a copy of Crossway’s anniversary edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress for $15, and get a copy of Leland Ryken’s readers guide free. This deal ends June 11th.

Pastoral Care, Confidentiality, and Sexual Abuse

Matt Capps:

As the spiritual shepherds of congregations, pastors are viewed as trustworthy authorities and granted the privilege of caregiving in various life situations. Yet many pastors are unprepared to properly counsel or care for people going through the most difficult of life circumstances.

What should a pastor do when a congregant confides that he or she has been or is being abused sexually?

Get Are We Together? in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the hardcover edition of Are We Together? by R.C. Sproul for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Reformation Profiles teaching series (audio and video download)
  • Silencing the Devil teaching series (audio and video download)
  • Romans by R.C. Sproul (ePub)

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

Should adults be embarrassed to read young adult fiction?

Ruth Graham writes a pretty thought-provoking piece at Slate:

Let’s set aside the transparently trashy stuff like Divergent and Twilight, which no one defends as serious literature. I’m talking about the genre the publishing industry calls “realistic fiction.” These are the books, like The Fault in Our Stars,that are about real teens doing real things, and that rise and fall not only on the strength of their stories but, theoretically, on the quality of their writing. These are the books that could plausibly be said to be replacing literary fiction in the lives of their adult readers. And that’s a shame.

Is it My Fault?

is-it-my-fault-holcombAs we sat in the school auditorium where our church meets, I could feel my wife seething beside me. Our pastor had come to a crucial text in one of the gospels—Jesus’ teaching on divorce. As we listened to our pastor strongly (and faithfully) teach on what the Bible says about marriage and divorce, Emily became increasingly agitated. Not because of anything that was said, but what hadn’t been: what about women who are being abused?

To many, the Bible’s teaching on divorce seems too simplistic to deal with these issues. Bad counsel based on incomplete teaching leaves many women (and men) feeling trapped, with nowhere to turn when their spouses begin to spiritually, psychologically, physically or sexually abuse them. When the abuse somehow becomes their fault in the counselling session, or they’re too ashamed to even say anything at all—or don’t even know if it “counts.”

Whose fault is it?

Emily’s anger was birthed from experiences of these feelings in both her childhood and adolescent years, and her empathy for several friends who have experienced abuse in their marriages.1 If we’re to offer any sort of hope and encouragement to those suffering from domestic violence, we need to know what the Bible has to say to them.

This is why books like Is It My Fault? are so necessary. From its opening pages, Justin and Lindsey Holcomb offer a compassionate and biblical look at the problem of domestic violence, beginning with five words victims need to hear: It is never your fault.

No matter what kind of abuse you have experienced, there is nothing you can do, nothing you can say, nothing you think that makes you deserving of it. There is no mistake you could have made and no sin you could have committed to make you deserving of violence.

You did not deserve this. And it is never your fault.

You did not ask for this. You should not be silenced. You are not worthless. You do not have to pretend like nothing happened. You are not damaged goods, forgotten or ignored by God, or “getting what you deserve.” (21)

These truths should be obvious, but for someone in an abusive relationship, they’re anything but. And truthfully, I’m not sure how obvious they are to some of us who aren’t, either. For example, we tend to look at marital problems and try to figure out how divide responsibility for those problems equally between spouses. And while this is certainly true in the average problems that come with marriage and relationships, we need to be careful to not apply this too broadly. Sometimes, it really is the problem just one person—and in the case of domestic violence, in whatever form it takes, it is always the abuser’s fault.

Although a bit of a loose example, consider the recent shootings in Santa Barbara, California, when 22-year-old Elliott Rodger stabbed three people to death, shot three more, and left 13 more injured, before killing himself. Why did he do it? Because “girls have never been attracted to me.” What surprised me with this wasn’t Rodger’s placing the blame for his yet-to-be-committed crimes on women, but because some online commenters seemed to agree, saying that if he wasn’t a virgin, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.

Yeah. Someone actually said that.

What is domestic violence?

Keeping this in mind is especially important when you consider how tricky it can be to develop a concrete definition of domestic violence. You need a broad enough definition that captures the full spectrum of abuse, yet doesn’t leave every reader paranoid that they’re either being abused or an abuser themselves. How is it defined in Is It My Fault?

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling, or abusive behavior that is used by one individual to gain or maintain power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate relationship. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, exploit, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound an intimate partner. (57)

Despite being a little clinical, and maybe a bit lawyer-y, this definition is very strong. I believe the key word here is “pattern.” An abuser isn’t necessarily someone who says something stupid and hurtful once (again, if that were the case, we would all be abusers). An abuser is someone who makes an intentional behavior of it. This doesn’t mean that sinful and hurtful words don’t need to be dealt with (they do!); it just means we ought not label the one-time offender—depending on the nature of their offense—as being guilty of domestic violence. (There’s no such thing as being just a little stabby.)

What will God do about it?

The first several chapters of the book offer extremely necessary definitions and categories that readers may lack—beyond a definition of domestic violence, they may not know what the cycle of abuse looks like, or what types of personas exist among abusers, all of which the Holcombs provide. But the strength of the book really comes through when the authors turn to the Scriptures to show readers what God says about this issue. The picture shown here is of a God who “hates abuse, viewing it as sinful and unacceptable” (107), and “delights in rescuing the oppressed (2 Sam. 22:49)” (108).

This isn’t always easy for us to believe, though. After all, in our day-to-day circumstances—especially those in abusive situations—struggle to see God at work. They cry out asking for the Lord to deliver them, just as David did many times in the psalms. But it’s the tension we all face. Suffering and pain are real, but deliverance is real, too, even if it doesn’t come when or how we might wish it did. Despite how it may seem at times, “God is not standing idly by to watch evil run its course he will not allow evil to have the final word. His response to evil and violence is redemption, renewal, and recreation” (113).

What I appreciate throughout the authors’ reflections on several psalms is how they hold this tension. They don’t offer a pat “God’s in control,” although that would be easy to do. They dig into the reality of the pain, the difficulty of the circumstances. But they don’t leave us there. Instead, they redirect despair to hope, showing how we can be confident that God’s deliverance will come.

This, arguably, may be the most important practical takeaway for readers (aside from the very helpful action plan in the appendices). When the darkness won’t seem to lift2, we need the hope that God is not ignoring our circumstances. That God is at work, even when we can’t see it. That His promises are still true—and because His promises are true, hope cannot be extinguished.

What will we do about it?

Is It My Fault? will provoke some strong feelings in its readers—anger that abuse happens at all, perhaps temptations toward seeking vengeance, and a longing for Jesus’ return and the coming of the new creation. What I hope it does is remind us all that none of us can stand by when abuse occurs in our homes or in our churches. In those situations, our goal should always be to bring hope into the darkness of abuse of all kinds. To humbly, earnestly and uncompromisingly call perpetrators to repentance, and allow them to experience the consequences of their actions. To offer compassion to victims and allow them to begin to experience some form of healing, while holding out the promise of the final restoration Jesus will bring when He comes to wipe every tear from every eye. This is what victims of abuse need, and by God’s grace, it’s what we can offer, if we’re willing.


Title: Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence
Authors: Justin and Lindsey Holcomb
Publisher: Moody (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

The Internet needs a cookie

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There’s blood in the water and the sharks are circling.

At least, that’s what it looks like based on the craziness in the Christian side of the Twitter- and blogospheres:

  • People are continuing to wrestle, with varying degrees of helpfulness (very little, for the most part) with the Nathan Morales trial and the question of who knew what when. People continue to (again with varying degrees of helpfulness) press for statements from TGC’s leadership.
  • Tullian Tchividjian officially left TGC, something he’d planned to do (but evidently several months earlier than he’d originally intended), leading some to get their rage on even more.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Rachel Held Evans, in a ham-fisted effort to illustrate God being beyond gender (since He’s neither male nor female) wrote a post referring to God as “She,” and was declared a heretic for her trouble. She’s since been asking everyone on the Internet if they think she is one.

There’s a lot right and wrong with everything that’s happening at the moment. Those who are legitimately angry about a horrific crime not being reported to police are right to be angry. The crime itself should never happen, ever, nor should any concerned parent feel like silence is acceptable.

But is it right to start spiralling and getting all conspiracy theory-y? Honestly, I’m not sure.

Because I’m friendly with a lot of TGC folks, I’m inclined to think the best of them. That’s what we all do with people we like, though (which is sometimes what gets some of these things happening). But, of course, thinking the best of someone doesn’t mean they’re exempt from criticism, as we all also know…

Tchividjian, likewise, is a guy who has taken a lot of heat—and been called a lot of nasty names—because of his views on sanctification. Again, he’s a guy I’m on good terms with, and I tend to agree with a lot of where he’s coming from (even if I’d nuance some of it differently). But does that mean he’s the right horse to bet on in the sanctification debate? Probably no more than Mark Jones is (I’m one of the few who didn’t find his book Antinomianism terribly compelling or helpful).

And then there’s Evans. Is it fair to call her a heretic for her attempt to say God is beyond gender? I don’t know; at a minimum, I’d think it’s more accurate to say she’s a sloppy lay theologian who lets her desire to win the Internets get the better of her and cries foul whenever her bluff is called. (Full disclosure: this opinion is based on her public persona as I have no personal relationship or connection with her.)

When a perfect storm of crazy comes together like it did this week, it’s easy for people to get their rage on. But we should also remember something really important: We don’t do anger well. Paul (and the Psalmist) encourage us to “be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26; Psalm 4:4). James warns that our tongues are “a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). 

We should take this seriously. If even our righteous anger yields unrighteous results, particularly because of our hasty, harsh, mean-spirited words, it means we’ve got a problem. We should all be very cautious about how we use our words—especially when we’re angry! We say things we’ll regret. We say things we mean in the wrong way. And worst, we don’t take our words and redirect them to the Lord.

We don’t pray. We don’t ask for God’s wisdom. We don’t ask for God to reveal to us the state of our hearts.

That’s the danger we’re all in in this latest hullabaloo—and it’s the thing we, individually, need to protect ourselves against the most.

And sometimes the best way to do that is to just chill out, have a cookie and ask God for wisdom. You might feel better if you do.


photo credit: Bob.Fornal via photopin cc

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10 Things We Need to Hear from Young Church Leaders

Chuck Lawless:

I have the privilege of spending much of my life with young church leaders. As a seminary dean and missionary trainer, I hang out with people younger than I am. I’m the teacher, but I learn from the young generation as much as—if not more than—I teach them. Sometimes they teach me something new, as with technology and social media. In other cases, they simply remind me of something I’ve forgotten or have taken for granted.

Of course, all young church leaders have room to grow, and nothing I say here can be applied to every young leader. With that understanding in mind, here are some of those general reminders that I, and perhaps other older leaders, need to hear from young church leaders.

The trauma of abuse and the blessing of repentance

Wendy Alsup:

Last week, a former youth group leader at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was convicted of multiple accounts of sexual abuse of minors. Testimony at the trial confirmed that an elder at the church knew of the abuse and did not report it to authorities. When I read a news report while researching this article, I was struck by this section:

Tears of joy could be heard from victims and their family members as the verdict was read.

“I started crying. It was just, it was overwhelming to know that the struggle, the fight, the 25 years of trying to bring this forward, was worth it,” victim Jeremy Cook, now a married father of three, said.

I could only imagine their reaction. My heart aches for children who for years keep their abuse secret out of fear and misunderstanding of what happened to them. But what about the child who does tell someone but that person either doesn’t believe them or minimizes what they’ve experienced? I can’t imagine the double harm such a response does to youth already experiencing the trauma of abuse. If a child was shot in the arm, we’d recognize more clearly the double trauma of protecting the one who pulled the trigger, minimizing the damage done by his actions, and not reporting it to the police.

Blue Collar Man:  On Financial Struggle and Working for a Living

Ted Kluck:

In general, youngish-Reformed evangelicals tend to be a pretty affluent, heavily degreed, upwardly mobile lot with a surplus of time to read websites and grow their considerable book collections. With “providing” often being a top priority for Reformed men, this group generally has a clear vocational plan and usually gets plenty of opportunities to implement said plan. And because we tend to be small-government capitalists, we tend to feel pretty good about ourselves when we’re making lots of bank–and don’t feel conflicted about enjoying it. And in general (again), readers of TGC tend to be pastors, professors, seminary students, theology nerds, or wives of the aforementioned.

But what about those who don’t fit this social/cultural Reformed paradigm, including in their vocations?

New for Logos: D.A. Carson sermon library

The folks at Logos Bible Software have a brand new product available for pre-order: the D.A. Carson sermon library. Containing over 500 messages from over 30 years of ministry, “Carson’s sermons focus on specific biblical passages such as Ezekiel, John, and Revelation; on theological topics, including the New Perspective on Paul, openness theology, and providence; and on practical issues such as suffering, discipleship, and cross-cultural ministry. Preached in churches, colleges, and at conferences around the world, these sermons provide instruction and edification from a preeminent evangelical voice deeply committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” At $90, now’s the time to order this collection before the price goes up.

Can a Videogame Teach Grace?

Nathaniel Valle:

Many games implement a worldview of obtaining rewards for our actions. An economy of risk and reward is fundamental to the gaming experience, and, excepting games like The Sims, it’s a comfortable harmony we’ve come to expect.

Yet there is no such discernible reward within That Dragon, Cancer, a title designed around the life of a young child stricken with cancer. It’s a surreal, poetic experience, and the game’s designer intends for the uncomfortable and unfamiliar scenario to convey truths somewhat neglected within most gaming experiences. In a video from Games for Change 2014, Josh Larson asks a question central to the soul of his game: “How does one calculate a parent’s love for a dying son who can’t easily express any love in return? How then should we design this?”

Witnessing To Homoexuals

Leon Brown:

Years ago, my wife and I used to visit an area in San Diego, CA that was heavily populated by homosexuals. We made a routine visit to this area at least once per month to share the gospel. Personally, it was a rich time. I had some amazing conversations with those who embrace the homosexual lifestyle.

During that time, and since then, I have realized you have to be prepared to do two things while witnessing to some homosexuals.