My favorite articles to write in 2014

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Good writers will admit that it takes a lot of effort to write—not to simply to write well, but to write at all. It’s actually a lot easier to not. And very often, we writer types tend to be our own worst critics… but even so, there’s always something we’ve written we genuinely like.

Today, I want to share some of my favorites written in the last year. These are articles representing some of the work I’m most happy with from the past year, although not necessarily the most read (though some of them are).

I hope you’ll give them a read if you haven’t already:

The day ISIS got a little closer to home

We often fail to realize how closely connected we all are. We look at the world we live in—specifically our North American context—and assume the way we live is “normal.” The persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria is a powerful wake-up call for us, if for no other reason than it reminds us that persecution is actually normal for Christians. It’s not something we read about in our Bible and think, “Gosh, I’m glad things are so much better now.” For many believers in over 100 nations, that’s life: beatings, wrongful imprisonment, verbal abuse, and martyrdom.

Ministry Idolatry

This is actually an article that’s existed for several years, but a few months ago, I rewrote it from scratch. I like the new version a lot more:

If a friend falls, will we encourage people to pray for him and his family (which is right to do), as well as to pray for those he’s wronged (which is equally right and necessary, as Matt Redmond has reminded us)? This is hard in some ways, because it requires us to challenge the idol of our preconceived notions and also the idol of “credibility” (and the danger, again, as Redmond has pointed out, is when we fail to speak out about glaring abuses we actually lose that which we sought to keep).

7 signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher

Not too long ago, my wife was feeling a bit down, and a super-nice lady whose kids go to the same school as our daughter gave her some books to encourage her. Funnily enough, they all happened to be prosperity theology books (which has led to some entertaining and positive discussion around the house).

Every so often we all stumble into prosperity theology, usually unwittingly. While occasionally you’ll get a nugget of helpful truth (in the same way that you’ll find some helpful things in your average self-help book), there’s a lot of goofiness which can make for a fun night of “Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie.” So, how do you know if you’re reading a book written by a prosperity preacher? Here are seven signs.

If the gospel isn’t in it, should we be singing it?

So there’s a completely accurate report rumor going around that I’m pretty persnickety about music. Like, to the point that I have trouble singing most Sundays. This isn’t because there’s anything terrible with the music at our church—far from it, our church has a pretty robust music ministry (but thankfully no lasers or smoke machines)—it’s just I find myself thinking about the words we’re singing more often than not.

The reasons for this vary: sometimes it’s considering how those words line up with my own life at that moment. Other times, it’s contemplating whether or not the words are actually undeniably Christian, or if they’re just kind of feel-good gobbledygook.

Thankfully I am not alone in this.

How to talk when we talk about God

What kind of pronouns should we use when we talk about God?

We typically default to the masculine “He,” but should we?

Is there anything wrong with referring to God as “she”?

While the answer might seem obvious, it is worth considering. After all, as Christians, we want to speak of God in a way that is pleasing to Him. So, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering how to to talk when we talk about God.

160 of the most terrifying words I’ve ever read

The fact that we can so easily deceive ourselves about the state of our souls. That we can say the “right” words, have a good marriage, go to church regularly—that we can be the model “good” Christian—and only be kidding ourselves. That what we think of as fruit may not be fruit at all.

“But where is the Holy Ghost to be seen in their lives?” 

3 passages I want to preach (but have been afraid to)

By the way, this summer I got over my fear and preached two of these passages:

I’m going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret: preaching is really hard. It’s a task that can (or should) make even the most confident man a little weak in the knees. One of the things that’s always freaked me out has been trying to choose the right passage to preach… What if it’s the “wrong” message for the church, or what if I do injustice to the text? And let’s face it, some texts are significantly harder to teach than others.

Here’s a look at three books I want to preach, but have been afraid to.

Would Paul have used video? Here’s a better question…

The question of whether or not Paul would use video is an important one, but I wonder if it might also be the wrong one.

Would Paul use video to share the gospel? Probably, sure. But, more importantly, what would he use it for?

The preposterous inconsistency of secular sexual ethics

…who draws the line when it comes to sexual ethics in the postmodern secular worldview? Is it purely individual? Is it a constantly moving target? Is the line drawn, as in some views, based on how “good” the fruit appears to be? In the end, it comes down to all sexual preferences being all equally fine, unless they’re too icky or inconvenient for us.

Christian, don’t begrudgingly affirm God’s Word

Public personalities like these aren’t alone in doing the dance. At some point or another we all do it. And as I’ve watched it happen (and occasionally been caught in it myself) time and again, one of the inevitable pieces of fallout is we wind up just having to come out and say what we were trying to not say.

This almost begrudging acceptance of the truth—we really do have to say what the Bible says.

See what made the cut in years past:

My favorite articles to write in 2013

My favorite books of 2014

That season has come around once again, where top ten lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, regularly reading around 100 books a year. With that much reading, it’s no surprise that there’s a range of quality. Most are in that “good, but not earth-shattering” category, a few were so bad I wished I had a back… but a few were legitimately great. Here are the ones that made the cut this year.

Prayer by Timothy Keller. From my review:

Keller’s message challenges us, but reminds us of the grace of God. … It is rich in its theology, winsome in its approach and wise in its application. There may be few good modern books on prayer, but Prayer is one of them—and among the finest I’ve read of any era.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung. From my review:

Taking God At His Word is one of the few books I want to hand out to everyone I know. It really is that helpful. Its punchy and powerful message is exactly what so many new and mature believers need, and I trust it will be a great benefit to all who read it.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


United by Trillia Newbell.

This is a wonderfully encouraging and challenging book on a really big problem: racism and the need for ethnic diversity. In it, Trillia presents a compelling argument for the necessity of reclaiming a sense of diversity within the church from a perspective one doesn’t see often enough: that of someone who has experienced racism firsthand. Learn more about this book from my conversation with Trillia.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon


Evangelism by Mack Stiles. From my review:

We should want this for our churches. We should want to be the kind of people who take risks in order to share the gospel with others, who understand that entertainment doesn’t equal ministry, that God truly rejoices when one lost sheep is found. This is the vision Mack Stiles presents in Evangelism.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert. From my review:

The Gospel at Work may not be a theology of work proper, but make no mistake: it is as intensely theological as it is practical. Idleness and idolatry in work are theological problems and they’ve got serious practical implications. One makes work a burden, the other makes you work’s slave. But the gospel frees us from both idleness and idolatry.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novack.

Funny story: My daughter, Abigail, and I were in Chapters a while back enjoying a post-dance class hot chocolate, and we picked up this book to read together. As I told her, “I am a monkey who taught myself to read,” her eyes lit up. As I read the entire book, a big smile never left her face. When I put it down, I asked her, “So, did you like it?”

She looked me right in the eye, and said, “Not really.”

Liar.

Buy it at: Amazon


Is it My Fault? by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. From my review:

What I hope [this book] 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.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon


The Gospel by Ray Ortlund. From my review:

Though particularly aimed at pastors and church leaders, The Gospel is valuable for any reader. It is not a how-to for ministry; it is a rallying cry for revival. It leaves you with a desire to see the kind of culture Ortlund talks about (and has nurtured at Immanuel) birthed in your own life and church. … Where even as some are hardened to the gospel, others are softened and welcomed into God’s family. When that happens, when our gospel doctrine leads to a gospel culture, it’s a wonderful thing indeed.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior.

I love good biographies, and Karen Swallow Prior has produced an excellent one in this volume on Hannah More, the most important social reformer you’ve probably never heard of.

Buy it at: Amazon


PROOF by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones. From my review:

There’s nothing stealth about the Calvinism in PROOF. There’s nothing hostile or conspiratorial. This is not a grim tome filled with condemnation. What Montgomery and Jones offer is a picture of grace—grace that is to be meditated upon, sung about, worshiped through. Pure, undiluted grace; the kind that truly changes lives, the kind that is meant to be engaged in all of life.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever by Thor Ramsey.

Two things that never (usually) go together: Hell and humor. But Thor Ramsey makes it work, and rarely goes over the top. Instead, he presents a clear case for what we lose when we lose Hell and why it matters. If you’re looking for a good entry level book on the subject, this is the one for you.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


The best of what wasn’t released in 2014

Not everything I read (thankfully) was released this year, nor were all my favorites. So, as a bonus, here are my top three vintage (ish) books read in 2014:

How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer.

This should be required reading for every Christian.

Every.

Single.

One.

You can tell I feel strongly about this, huh?

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. From my review:

I can imagine some reading this book as though it were an authoritative treatise—that this is the way that demons act in our world and act against us, in the same way some treat Left Behind as gospel truth on the end times. But this would only do injustice to what Lewis is doing here.

Lewis doesn’t want his readers to be looking for the devil behind every corner after reading this book. Nor does he wish for them to be shouting, “the devil made me do it!” whenever they go astray.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Few authors can blend the mundane with the absurd as masterfully as Adams. This is probably my favorite work by Adams (I know, heresy!). I’ve read it multiple times over the year, and I never tire of it.

Buy it at: Amazon

So that’s my list—what were a few of your top reads this year?

See what made the cut in years past:

The best and worst Christmas songs, part 2: electric boogaloo

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Ah, Christmas… the time when we eat delicious food, spend time avoiding uncomfortable conversations, celebrate the birth of Jesus… and, listen to a whole lotta Christmas songs.

Last year, I shared five of the best and worst Christmas songs. Some are ones that I joyfully listen to (much to my wife’s chagrin). Others, well, not so much.

But I realized there were more out there. And so, here we are: the best and worst Christmas songs, part two:


Best: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

This one was on last year’s list, too, but with a different arrangement. Dustin Kensrue, under the Modern Post moniker, released a new version on his Child of Glory EP, and it is delightful.

In fact, do yourself a favor: buy that EP and just put it on repeat. It’s one of the few Christmas compilations I really enjoy.


Worst: Christmas Shoes

This one was by popular demand—and in fact, I am fairly certain my distaste for the song caused me to block it from my memory.


Best: The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)

Paul McCartney made last year’s “worst” list. This time, he’s got a really nice take on a classic song to make up for it:


Worst: All I Want for Christmas is You / Last Christmas (tie)

This is a terrific pair of yuck: one in which Mariah Carey sings about Christmas, but not about Christmas. The other is Wham.


Best: O Come O Come, Emmanuel

Sufjan’s a bit passé these days, but this take on this classic song is wonderful.


Worst: Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Because, as we were reminded in 1984, it’s important to feel as guilty as possible at Christmas time, just like Jesus wanted.


Best: Please Come Home For Christmas

I love Blues. Therefore this song by Charles Brown wins.


Worst: Christmas Don’t Be Late

Because the Chipmunks may, in fact, be made of pure concentrated evil (as evidenced by the movies).


Best: O Little Town of Bethlehem

Okay, I know I shouldn’t include music performed by the same artist twice on a list, but I’m doing it anyway. I really enjoy this take on O Little Town of Bethlehem by Dustin Kensrue.


Worst: Funky, Funky Christmas

I had completely forgotten until recently that the New Kids on the Block made a Christmas record. Oh, how I wish I this information was still lost to me.


Photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

The worst books I read in 2014

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Yeah, I’m going there.

Usually at the end of the year, us blogger types only talk about the books and articles and moments and cookies we really loved. The ones that really mattered to us (at least for a few minutes).

I’ve got lots of that coming up, have no fear. But what I want to do today is I want to kick off the “best of” season with a bit of a twist, and share a few of the really bad books I read in 2014. Some (most?) were released this year. Some were crazy popular. But none of them were particularly good. Ready? Let’s go!

That time R.C. Sproul wrote a bad children’s book

The King Without a Shadow by R.C. Sproul. Okay, this might be a shocker to some. But if I’ve got my timeline right, this is Sproul’s first children’s book, and it shows. My wife and I read it to our kids and it was

so

very

loooooooong.

It’s so long that Emily lost focus while reading it. I may or may not have feel asleep while reading it, too. We love Sproul’s other children’s books (although none of them are really all that short), yeah, this is one we’re not planning on going back to any time soon.

The one that put a cramp in my soul

Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick. You may have seen my review over at TGC a while back. (And if you haven’t read it, will you please? I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.) That review, incidentally, took ages to write as I had to try really hard to not go all ad hominem on Furtick. Its false premise, defensiveness and hopeless help isn’t worth your time.

The other one that put a cramp in my soul

Killing Lions by John and Sam Eldridge. There’s a review coming. The first line: “I don’t even know where to start with this book.” True story.

The one that didn’t really say anything

The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. I know this book is a business classic and all, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I can figure out why. So many pages, so little content. If you want to save yourself some trouble, just read the opening and final pages of each chapter; you’ll get everything you need from those. Then go read something by Patrick Lencioni, because he’s way more fun.

The one that is sincere, but sincerely wrong

God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines. This is another one I’ve been struggling to review, not because I don’t have a lot to say, but because I want to be as thoughtful as possible in doing so. My central point of contention is that while Vines relies on the standard—and largely disproven—arguments for homosexuality’s compatibility with Christianity, he bases his arguments in experientialism and emotionalism disguised as “fruit.”

Bonus: The one that was too obviously ridiculous to even bother reading

The Zimzum of Love by Rob and Kristen Bell. C’mon, like you didn’t know this book wasn’t going to be a complete waste of time from the title alone. When a supposed Christian ex-pastor starts spouting pagan1 nonsense about increasing the energy flow between you and your spouse, and the displacement of God’s omnipresence (something that, by definition, is not even possible), you know you’re going to crazy town.


Photo credit: cesarastudillo via photopin cc

November’s top ten articles at Blogging Theologically

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Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in November:

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Write More Better: a new eBook on writing well (November 2014)
  3. Seven books Christian women should read (November 2014)
  4. Five books to read near Christmas
  5. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  6. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011/rewritten in September 2014)
  7. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)
  8. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  9. 7 signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher (January 2014)
  10. My five favorite podcasts (November 2014)

And just for fun, here’s a look at the next ten:

  1. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  2. Choosing a New Preaching Bible (November 2011)
  3. Black Friday + Cyber Monday deals for the Christian guy and gal (November 2014)
  4. A look at Logos 6 (October 2014)
  5. 160 of the most terrifying words I’ve ever read (May 2014)
  6. My blogging toolkit (November 2014)
  7. Why I Believe Amillennialism by Matthew Svoboda (July 2010)
  8. Why don’t they report it? (November 2014)
  9. 5 books on a subject you’re probably scared to look at (April 2013)
  10. Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament? (June 2011)

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

October’s top ten articles at Blogging Theologically

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Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in October:

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. The preposterous inconsistency of secular sexual ethics (October 2014)
  3. Five fiction books you should read (October 2014)
  4. Five opportunities to glorify God in Mark Driscoll’s resignation (October 2014)
  5. Fame does not care for the humble (October 2014)
  6. What do the attacks in Ottawa mean for us? (October 2014)
  7. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  8. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011/rewritten in September 2014)
  9. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  10. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)

And just for fun, here’s a look at the next ten:

  1. 6 quotes Christians need to let lie fallow (January 2014)
  2. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  3. Why is it so tempting to toss the Bible? (October 2014)
  4. You and Me Forever (October 2014)
  5. Christian, don’t begrudgingly affirm God’s Word (October 2014)
  6. A look at Logos 6 (October 2014)
  7. Choosing a New Preaching Bible (November 2011)
  8. New and noteworthy books (October 2014)
  9. What does the Bible say about worship? (March 2013)
  10. Write more better: read! (October 2014)

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

January’s top ten articles at Blogging Theologically

Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in January:

  1. 15 signs your church is growing in the right way (January 2014)
  2. 7 signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher (January 2014)
  3. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  4. Three things I’d like to see in the Christian blogosphere in 2014 (January 2014)
  5. Is church growth all about the pastor? (January 2014)
  6. A look at The Gospel Transformation Bible (January 2014)
  7. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  8. The shocking secret to finding God’s will (January 2014)
  9. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011)
  10. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)

And just for fun, here’s a look at the next ten:

  1. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  2. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  3. Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament? (June 2011)
  4. 6 quotes Christians need to let lie fallow (January 2014)
  5. It’s not a cold—it’s cancer! (Janury 2014)
  6. 14 books I want to read in 2014 (and think you should too) (December 2013)
  7. You are not a Christian just because you like Jesus (January 2014)
  8. Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke (January 2014)
  9. Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax (January 2014)
  10. That awkward moment in kids ministry when… (January 2014)

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

The backlist: the top ten posts on Blogging Theologically

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Let’s take a trip back in time to see the top ten posts in December:

  1. I’m giving you a whole pile of books for Christmas! (December 2013)
  2. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  3. Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament? (June 2011)
  4. How to write a great book review (December 2013)
  5. My favorite books of 2013 (December 2013)
  6. 14 books I want to read in 2014 (and think you should too) (December 2013)
  7. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  8. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  9. Five blogs you should be reading in 2014 (December 2013)
  10. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)

And here’s a look at the top 10 most read posts in 2013:

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament? (June 2011)
  3. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  4. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  5. God’s Love Compels Us: a free #TGC13 eBook (April 2013)
  6. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)
  7. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  8. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011)
  9. Memorizing God’s Word: Colossians (July 2013)
  10. On bombs and Boston (April 2013)

Be sure to take a few minutes to check out these articles if you haven’t already. Enjoy!

Five blogs you should be reading in 2014

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There are a lot of really great well-known sites out there that are consistently worth reading—Tim Challies, Trevin Wax, and Jared Wilson, to name but a few. What makes them great? Aside from theological astuteness, they’re enjoyable to read. This is something we need more of in the Christian blogosphere.

Fortunately, there are a number of well-written blogs out there that are worth your attention. Here are five bloggers I think you should keep your eyes on in 2014:

Matthew Svoboda

Matt and I connected back in my early blogging days (nearly five years ago now) when he was running a blog called Evangelical Village. Since then, he’s quit blogging, tried to come back to it a couple of times, joined the staff of a thriving church in Spring Hill… and now he’s started blogging again (but this time he really means it!). He’s a sharp thinker, great to chat with over coffee, far too young for the beard he has, and definitely someone you should keep your eye on.

Julian Freeman

Julian’s a friend from Toronto, and the pastor at Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. What I love about Julian is you won’t find him blogging every day or even every week necessarily. He tends to only write when he’s got something to say. Whether intentionally or accidentally, he’s embraced Scott Stratten’s rule of blogging: post when you’ve got something awesome to say.

Matthew Sims

I’ve been connected to Matthew on Twitter for at least a year now, and have always enjoyed both what he shares and interacting with him. At his blog, you’ll find a good mix of thoughtful book reviews and original content (he just wrapped up an Advent devotional series that’s quite good).

Mike Leake

You’ve probably heard of Mike by now, but if you haven’t, well, here you go. He’s really good at writing thought-provoking material that doesn’t chase controversy. And because he’s a pastor vocationally, that side of him really shines through, especially when encouraging us to pray for our wives, sons and (in January) daughters.

Kim Shay

Kim’s a fellow Canadian, who is always worth reading. Because she’s at a different life-stage than many bloggers—she’s been a Christian for more than five minutes and her kids are all grown up—there’s a bit more of a graceful savviness that comes through in her writing, especially when she occasionally touches on a controversial issue (or person).

My favorite articles to write in 2013

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Yes gang, one more list! This week I’ve shared my top reads of 2013, as well as my favorite books to review. This list is a little different, and is likely the last one I’ll be sharing about the year that is nearly done.

Any good writer will tell you that it takes a lot of effort to write—not to simply to write well, but to write at all. It’s actually a lot easier to not. And very often, we writer types tend to be our own worst critics (y’know, when we’re not inflating our own egos by watching how many Facebook likes we’ve received.). But no matter how much we tell ourselves we should quit, there’s always something we’ve written we genuinely like.

Which brings us to the topic of today’s post—my favorite articles of 2013.

These are articles representing some of the work I’m most happy with from the past year, although not necessarily the most read (though some of them are). I hope you’ll give them a read if you haven’t already:

Hope for timid evangelists

You wouldn’t think this is a terribly hard thing to do, but it seems to be. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt a sense of hesitation set in before doing something even as simple as sending an email asking a pretty open-ended question. When I see that people are ready and willing to answer these questions (some as pointed as “where do you believe you’ll spend eternity and why?”), I feel a little silly.

But here’s the good news—God’s Word offers much hope for timid evangelists like me, especially in the gospel of Luke. Here are five truths we can embrace.

Why I won’t read your book on visiting Heaven

Not too long ago, I received a copy of one of the many books on someone’s alleged trip to heaven and back. I couldn’t bring myself to read more than a few pages before putting it down.… I chose to not read the book about visiting heaven I received—and will continue to do the same for one reason: They’re almost certainly not true.

Does the Bible permit polygamy?

One doesn’t have to look hard to see that many of the “heroes” of the faith were polygamists—Abraham had multiple wives and concubines; Jacob had multiple wives and concubines as well. Even the greatest kings of Israel, David and Solomon, had multiple wives.

So… does that mean it gets a green light—or at the very least, a proceed with caution? Nope.

What does the Bible say about worship?

This is the important thing to understand, then, about worship. It’s not merely about singing, it’s about reverence—it’s about having a biblical fear of the Lord. At its most basic level, then, you could define worship as the humbling of yourself before the One who is your better. This, naturally, has serious implications.

3 reasons why some churches don’t grow (that you don’t usually hear)

There seems to be a lot of pressure for pastors to have “successful” ministries—and by successful, what’s really meant is to have big numbers. While numbers are not wrong (they can be very good, in fact), we’ve got to be careful about how we think about church growth, and what it means to be successful as a church.

Consider preschool before the pulpit

Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes—and often one of the hardest things for a novice preacher to do is find opportunities to practice their skills. One place they may want to consider: Children’s ministry.

God’s gag reflex

God—the One who made the world and everything in it, the One who holds all things together with but a word—has declared what is right and what is wrong. Our opinions on the issue don’t matter one bit. Jesus hates sin. He hates it so much that He became it so those who would believe should not have to suffer its consequences.

“Is he humble?”

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

The real secret of keeping millennials in the church

But the real reason millennials are abandoning the church isn’t because they’re dissatisfied with the answers to any of these questions. And it’s not because they can’t find Jesus in the typical evangelical church. The reason many leave is they don’t know Jesus. 

Sin makes smart people stupid

Honestly, it’s easy to mock something like this, and sorely tempting. But for Christians, who have, by God’s grace, been given the Holy Spirit, who have the written Word of God at our fingertips, this is a reminder—and maybe a warning for us.

 

My favorite books of 2013

That season has come around once again, where top ten lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, regularly reading well over 100 books a year. With that much reading, it’s no surprise that there’s a range of quality. Most are in that “good, but not earth-shattering” category, a few were so bad I’m not sure how they were even published… but a few were legitimately great. Here are the ones that made the cut this year:

Jesus on Every Page by David P. Murray

Jesus on Every Page by David Murray

From my review:

One thing is clear as you read Jesus on Every Page: Murray’s excitement for the subject matter is palpable, particularly when he shares 10 ways we can find Jesus in the Old Testament. Jesus can be found in creation, in the characters we meet, in the Law itself, in the history of God’s people, in the OT prophets, in the work of Israel’s poets… Christ is everywhere—even showing up in person on occasion.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Death by Living by N.D. Wilson

death-by-living

From my review:

N.D. Wilson’s writing is an acquired taste. His writing isn’t entirely linear. He follows the rabbit trails of his mind wherever they lead. He leads you to conclusions in a way that’s sometimes so subtle it’s easy to miss. But, if you follow him where he leads as he celebrates lives lived well, you’ll see this important truth: our lives are meant to be spent. As much as we lament time passing us by, as much as we loathe the idea of death, we can see even death as a gift.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Boring by Michael Kelley

boring-michael-kelley

From my review:

For years, a number of authors keep saying they want to write about why it’s okay to be “ordinary.” I’m glad one finally did. Boring is a much-needed book, one that is sure to be a relief for many weary Christians who are exhausted by the unrealistic expectations of the radical, even as it calls us to a greater demonstration of faith: being obedient right where we are.

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.


The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson

The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson

From my review:

Too many of us struggle to understand how to ask questions well or even understand the purpose of a question. But Anderson gives us a framework for asking the right questions in the right way that I’m sure will be valuable for years to come. This book is a wonderful gift to readers of all stripes; I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.


The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

fantastic-flying-lessmore

This book, written for kids five and older, is a wonderful love letter to reading, and a fantastic reminder that regardless of how you read, it’s story that really matters.

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.


Sound Doctrine by Bobby Jamieson

sound-doctrine-jamieson

From my review:

Jamieson’s book is thoughtful, helpful, and packed full of wisdom. It succeeds in reminding us that sound doctrine truly is for all of life—and it’s a book you can’t easily walk away from without feeling at least a touch of conviction. Indeed, we all too easily take the implications of our doctrine for granted.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Five Points by John Piper

9781781912522_p0_v2_s260x420

From my review:

Piper desperately wants to see the love of God in the five points of Calvinism; to see the doctrines of grace manifest their fruit: faithful joy in the lives of God’s people.Five Points is the kind of book I want to give to the person who struggles with the idea of Calvinism. It’s readable, challenging, thoughtful, and, most importantly, faithful to God’s Word.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry

is-god-antigay-allberry

From my review:

…the blood of Christ is sufficient to cover even the worst of sins. Homosexuals aren’t a special class of sinner outside the reach of the grace of God. In Is God Anti-Gay?, Allberry does a tremendous job of equipping Christians to think biblically about homosexuality and, Lord willing, to use what they know to reach the homosexual community with the love of God and see them, like all sinners, “repent and believe.”

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

fortunately__the_milk

The second non-traditional entry on this list (scary, isn’t it?). If you were proto-emo in the 90s, you were a fan of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy comic, The Sandman. This book is not The Sandman. Instead, this is a fun, quirky story for kids 8–11 where the only angst comes from wondering when Dad’s going to get home with the milk. I really enjoyed it (even if my daughter didn’t).

Learn more or buy it at Amazon.


Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine

sensing-jesus

From my review:

Sensing Jesus, by the author’s own admission, is meant to be a slow burn. If you blast through this book, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. “Apprenticeship needs meditation and time,” as he puts it (27). Readers would do well to take Eswine at his word. Read slowly and thoughtfully. Make lots of notes. Be willing to recognize where you see yourself in its pages, and consider how God might challenge you through it to recover the humanity of your ministry.

Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon.


And just for fun, here are a couple of honorable mentions:

  • Humble Orthodoxy by Joshua Harris (my review)
  • The Pastor’s Justification by Jared C. Wilson (my review)
  • Crucifying Morality by R W Glenn (my review)

See what made the cut in years past:

So that’s my list—what were a few of your top reads this year?

The backlist: the top ten posts on Blogging Theologically

top-ten

Let’s take a trip back in time to see the top ten posts in November:

  1. A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll (November 2013)
  2. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  3. She’s done the impossible (November 2013)
  4. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  5. Five signs you need to quit blogging (November 2013)
  6. Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament? (June 2011)
  7. Get serious about your studies: how should you read the Bible? (November 2013)
  8. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  9. Get serious about your studies: why a systematic theology? (November 2013)
  10. Get serious about your studies: you and your Bible (November 2013)

And just for fun, here are the next ten:

  1. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)
  2. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  3. Get serious about your studies: you and your technology (November 2013)
  4. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011)
  5. Why we need to pray for the persecuted Church (November 2013)
  6. Black Friday deals for the Christian guy and gal (November 2013)
  7. The terrifying sound of silence (November 2013)
  8. Evangelism is the enterprise of love (November 2013)
  9. Five Points by John Piper (November 2013)
  10. How do we fix the problem of celebrity-ism? (November 2013)

If you haven’t had a chance to read any of these posts, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check them out.

The backlist: the top ten posts on Blogging Theologically

top-ten

Let’s take a trip back in time to see the top ten posts in October:

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  3. All of Grace by C.H. Spurgeon (December 2009)
  4. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  5. Where Is Jesus In The Old Testament? (June 2011)
  6. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)
  7. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  8. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011)
  9. “Is he humble?” (September 2013)
  10. TV screens make lousy pastors (October 2013)

And just for fun, here are the next ten:

  1. What does the Bible say about worship? (March 2013)
  2. Be convinced and be careful: a final thought on Strange Fire (October 2013)
  3. You’re always being fed—it’s sometimes just cotton candy (October 2013)
  4. That one time I “heard” God speak (October 2013)
  5. Can a true believer blaspheme the Holy Spirit? (October 2013)
  6. If a Christian’s attitude is right: Carson on judgmentalism (October 2013)
  7. Book Review: You Lost Me by David Kinnaman (December 2011)
  8. Charles Haddon Spurgeon: What is Humility? (February 2010)
  9. Why reading books on suffering is good for your soul (October 2013)
  10. The sneakiest way to discredit the truth (October 2013)

If you haven’t had a chance to read any of these posts, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check them out.