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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Westminster Bookstore has a terrific deal on books by Tim Keller and Dennis Johnson: get Preaching, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness and Him We Proclaim together for only $30. Each book is also on sale individually. These deals end in a few days, so act quickly.

Not Your Average Paedobaptism

This is an interesting piece by Jared Oliphint:

It took awhile to sort out the complexities involved with baptism, specifically the infant variety. The “click,” the light bulb, and the “Aha!” moment occurred when someone helped me ask the right questions like, “Whom does Scripture include within the new covenant people?” As I tinkered with the idea of a covenant people, the meaning of the covenant sign started to take shape.

 

A better kind of selfie-stick

Also, don’t call your friends selfie-sticks:

“The Thief’s Prayer”

Brandon Smith shares the previously unseen notes of a sermon by a very young Charles Spurgeon.

When Marriage Is Miles Away

Marshall Segal:

My wife and I dated long-distance for two years — 1,906 miles and two time zones apart.

Any dating couple — whether they’re next-door neighbors or international heartthrobs — should pursue clarity and postpone intimacy. The great prize in marriage is Christ-centered intimacy; the great prize in dating is Christ-centered clarity. We all do well to make decisions in dating with that reality in mind. However, since long-distance relationships bring special challenges, they require special wisdom.

2 Billion Christians Believe in Traditional Marriage

Mark Galli:

But it’s not at all certain that the rapid cultural shift in America on gay marriage will be mirrored in the Christian church. North American and European Christians who believe in gay marriage are a small minority in these regions, and churches that ascribe to a more liberal sexual ethic continue to wither. Meanwhile, poll Christians in Africa, Asia, and practically anywhere in the world, and you’ll hear a resounding “no” to gay marriage. Scan the history of the church for 2,000 years and you’ll have a hard time turning up any Christian who would support same-sex marriage. The church has been and remains overwhelmingly united. It’s undergoing stress, certainly. But the evidence doesn’t support a narrative of division and collapse on this point.

Does history matter to Christianity?

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Seeds Project is now available

My friend Mike’s been working long and hard on the first volume of The Seeds Project, Jesus Is All You Need, a devotional for children on Colossians. Be sure to grab a copy of this!

Leadership is always temporary

Eric Geiger:

Leadership is always a temporary assignment—always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries, or organizations that they lead. They simply steward what the Lord has entrusted to their care for a season. Wise leaders embrace the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. Because the assignment is fleeting, developing others for leadership is an essential responsibility of a leader.

The Six Definitive Rules Of Internet Behavior

Stephen Altrogge offers a good example of satire.

Dustin Kensrue covers “Wrecking Ball”

Seriously:

How Should Christians View World History?

R.C. Sproul:

It is also important for us to understand that in terms of biblical eschatology, the end of the world does not indicate an annihilation of the world but a renovation and redemption of it. The New Testament makes it evident that the final renovation of creation is cosmic in scope, that the whole universe groans together in travail waiting for the redemption of the sons of men (Rom 8:18–23). Questions of our future, personal and cosmic, are all subject to the inquiries associated with eschatology. The question of life after death—the issues of heaven, hell, and resurrection—are all integral to our study of eschatology. An understanding of the last judgment also falls under the scope of this consideration.

The Rise of the Selfie Generation

Nathan Bingham:

We all know the Greek myth of Narcissus—the attractive man who was lured by Nemesis to a pool. Narcissus, fatally falling in love with his own reflection, drowned. But what would a 21st-century Narcissus myth involve? I suspect it would include a smartphone, selfies, and crossing the street without looking.

The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon

Brandon Smith interviews Christian George on the previously-unpublished sermons of Charles Spurgeon.

Joyful news leads to joyful people

joyful news

A couple of years ago, I went through a pretty bad spot emotionally. I was miserable pretty much all the time (there were many reasons for this). This wasn’t so much a depression thing as much as a frustration one, though. Lots of stress and concern about things both in and out of my control were taking their toll. The day it clicked for me was when we were sitting at the table, and my daughter, Abigail, commented that I don’t smile.

Now, strictly speaking, this wasn’t true. But she couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen me smile. Her default understanding was “daddy = grumpy.”

(Isn’t it interesting how God so often uses our children to point out what we’ve been ignoring?)

I was like the monks Spurgeon spoke of in Lectures to My Students, “who salute each other in sepulchral tones, and convey the pleasant information, ‘Brother we must die'; to which lively salutation each lively brother of the order replies, ‘Yes, brother we must die'” (197).

This, again, wasn’t an unfamiliar sort of disposition for me. I spent most of my teen years being proto-emo minus the swoopy hair (except for that unfortunate year…). My favorite bands were all rather pretentious, dark and angsty. I was not a cheerful person.

I was reminded of this once again when listening to the audio edition of Lectures to My Students. There, Spurgeon commends ministers to be cheerful people. Not, an an empty sort of “levity and frothiness, but a genial, happy spirit. There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar, and there will be more souls led to heaven by a man who wears heaven on his face than by one who bears Tartarus in his looks” (198).

Spurgeon is right in commending us to cultivate a happy disposition. Not some false air, but a genuinely joyful spirit.1 No one wants to be around the person who is constantly looking for the grey cloud in the silver lining (or is pointing out to you why gluten is terrible and going to give you cancer while also causing climate change).2 No one really likes being around the person who constantly turns your smiles into frowns.

But good news does not beget grumpiness, and good news people should not be known for their grumpiness. While they might have seasons where they experience it, they should not be characterized by it. People who have been saved by Jesus and commissioned by him to tell that good news should pursue cheerfulness—or if you prefer, joy. Because joyful news leads to joyful people. And joyful people in a bad news world are hard to come by.

Long preaching isn’t always good preaching

least-to-say (1)

Early on in my faith, I was enamored with preachers who would give these 45, 50, 60-plus minute sermons. I would compare what I’d hear in their podcasts to what I was hearing on Sunday mornings, and I always wondered, “Why doesn’t my pastor do what these guys are doing?”

Which, of course, is stupid. But then again, I was kind of an idiot.

(Moving on…)

Over time, I grew less enamored with some of those preachers (or at least their preaching). As I listened, I increasingly realized that the guys that seemed to be able to get up and had little more than a post-it for notes weren’t actually saying much of anything. They were using a great many words to say very little.

When training pastors on the importance of keeping people’s attention, Charles Spurgeon encouraged his hearers to keep their sermons shorter. “Spend more time in the study that you may need less in the pulpit,” he said.

We are generally longest when we have least to say. A man with a great deal of well-prepared matter will probably not exceed forty minutes; when he has less to say he will go on for fifty minutes; and when he has absolutely nothing he will need an hour to say it in. (Lectures to my Students, 156)

This is valuable advice (and also helps us understand why TED Talks are so powerful). Sometimes preaching1 “long” isn’t necessary—it’s just long. It’s a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”(1 Corinthians 13:1), revealing a great love of our own pontificating, but little for our hearers. And I really have no interest in that, either as a preacher or the hearer. I’d rather speak five simple words that communicate clearly than 1000 that may be eloquent or funny, but lack substance. What about you?

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

And for those productivity/organization fans among us, check out Matt Perman’s How to Set Up Your Desk: A Guide to Fixing a (Surprisingly) Overlooked Productivity Problem ($4.99).

13 Mistakes People Make in Social Media Bios

Barnabas Piper shares a few of the common errors he sees in Twitter bios.

Charles Spurgeon, Susannah, and The Pilgrim’s Progress

Ray Rhodes Jr:

Why did Spurgeon give a copy of Bunyan’s book to Susannah instead of a copy of the Bible with passages highlighted to address her particular situation? Growing up in a Christian home, Susannah had long enjoyed access to the Bible. She had also heard the Scripture expounded numerous times at New Park Street. What Susannah most needed was not another Bible, but instead, biblical counsel. Understanding Spurgeon’s attitude towards John Bunyan generally and The Pilgrim’s Progress specifically provides hints as to why he chose this classic work for Susannah.

The Unfortunate Triumph of Clickbait Christianity

Aaron Earls:

Because the decline in “Christians” is overwhelmingly the result of these nominal believers dropping the name and embracing their practical lack of religion, what this really should lead to is a collapse of clickbait style religion reporting.

But nuance takes work and doesn’t fit well in a tweet. “Well, it’s kinda complicated” doesn’t naturally elicit Facebook shares or garner viral style page views. Yet that doesn’t make it any less true.

Don’t Confuse Spirituality with Righteousness

R.C. Sproul:

Over the years I’ve had many young Christians ask me how to he more spiritual or more pious. Rare has been the earnest student who said, “Teach me how to be righteous.” Why, I wondered, does anybody want to be spiritual? What is the purpose of spirituality? What use is there in piety?

The story of Luke’s lost friend Biggs

Star Wars fans will appreciate this:

If you desire shame, be proud

pride-exults

My father and I had lunch recently and we were talking about a particular situation and I mentioned that it’s sometimes hard for people to accept help (or ask) because of pride. He readily agreed, citing it’s inclusion in the seven deadly sins (which lead to a bit of a rabbit trail on a few things).

Everyone, generally, recognizes pride as a problem. Whether we’re Christians or not, we recognize pride’s ugliness. And we are right to do so. After all, it’s reputed to be the sin that got the devil kicked out of heaven! It’s what caused Adam and Eve to accept the devil’s interpretation of what would happen if they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And it’s something every single one of us deals with every day.

And yet, it never does us any good, does it? Who among us can say that being really proud dramatically improved their life? In fact, it’s more likely that if we really stopped to consider it, we would say, along with Charles Spurgeon, “If you, O man, desire shame, be proud.”

Pride exalts it head, and seeks to honor itself; but it is of all things most despised. It sought to plant crowns upon its brow, and so it hath done, but its head was hot, and it put an ice crown there, and it melted all away. Poor pride has decked itself out finely sometimes; it has put on its most gaudy apparel, and said to others, “how brilliant I appear!” but, ah! pride, like a harlequin, dressed in thy gay colours, thou art all the more fool for that; you are but a gazing stock for fools less foolish than yourself. You have no crown, as you think you have, nothing solid and real, all is empty and vain.… A monarch has waded through slaughter to a throne, and shut the gates of mercy on mankind to win a little glory; but when he has exalted himself, and has been proud, worms have devoured him, like Herod, or have devoured his empire, till it passed away, and with it his pride and glory. Pride wins no crown; men never honor it, not even the menial slaves of earth; for all men look down on the proud man, and think him less than themselves.1

Pride leaves us empty and vain. It has no crowns—no rewards to offer. It is not honored and only brings shame upon those who display it—not just from the reproach of our fellow men, but opposition from God. Fight it with all your might, for the good of all those around you, and for the good of your own soul.

What teaches us the preciousness of the Creator?

A little while ago, I started a new periodic series called “Going beyond inspirational gobbledygook.” Much of what’s offered to us as inspirational quotes (and much of what we see shared on social media) is little more than sub-biblical nonsense (or worse), so I wanted something for the rest of us—something that encourages us personally, but also truly inspires others in the gospel.

While occasionally, these will be original quotes, often they will come from saints older and wiser than me. Today’s  comes from Charles Spurgeon, from his sermon, “Order and Argument in Prayer”:

precious-creator

(Be sure to save and share this image with your friends!)

And just for fun, here’s some additional context for this quote:

My brethren, nothing teaches us so much the preciousness of the Creator as when we learn the emptiness of all besides. When you have been pierced through and through with the sentence, “Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm,” then will you suck unutterable sweetness from the divine assurance, “Blessed is he that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” Turning away with bitter scorn from earth’s hives, where you found no honey, but many sharp stings, you will rejoice in him whose faithful word is sweeter than honey or the honeycomb.

Got a quote you’d like to see in this series? Let me know in the comments!

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Three Cheers for Celibacy

Chad Hall:

Why should the church reverse polarity on the marriage-celibacy issue? In addition to the unchanging witness of Scripture, I see three good reasons we in the church need to treat celibacy as more normal than marriage.

Why?

R.C. Sproul:

When we raise the question of purpose, we are concerned with ends, aims, and goals. All these terms suggest intent. They assume meaning rather than meaninglessness. Despite the best attempts of nihilist philosophers to deny that anything has ultimate meaning and significance, the perennial question “Why?” shows that they haven’t been successful. In fact, even the cynic’s glib retort of “Why not?” is a thinly veiled commitment to purpose. To explain why we’re not doing something is to give a reason or purpose for not doing it. Purpose remains in the background. Human beings are creatures committed to purpose. We do things for a reason—with some kind of goal in mind.

Seven Reasons We Hate Free-Range Parenting

This was interesting.

Spurgeon Almost Quit

Christian George:

The evening of October 19, 1856 commenced a season of unusual suffering for Spurgeon. His popularity had forced the rental of the Surrey Garden Music Hall to hold the 12,000 people congregated inside. Ten thousand eager listeners stood outside the building, scrambling to hear his sermon. The event constituted one of the largest crowds gathered to hear a nonconformist preacher — a throwback to the days of George Whitefield.

A few minutes after 6 o’clock, someone in the audience shouted, “Fire! The galleries are giving way! The place is falling!” Pandemonium ensued as a balcony collapsed. Those trying to get into the building blocked the exit of those fighting to escape. Spurgeon attempted to quell the commotion, but to no avail. His text for the day was Proverbs 3:33, “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked” — a verse he would never preach again.

Against Bloodless Ghosts in Theology

Jared Wilson:

We too often toss around words like “spirit,” “grace,” “peace,” and “hope,” smooshing them all into some Christian-ese gobbledegook. This is not the Christian faith. The Bible will not let us have these ideas merely as ideas, as things. They are personal.

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What Difference Does an Inerrant Bible Make?

R.C. Sproul:

Does it matter whether the Bible is errant or inerrant, fallible or infallible, inspired or uninspired? What’s all the fuss about the doctrine of inerrancy? Why do Christians debate this issue? What difference does an inerrant Bible make?

What if Wes Anderson directed X-Men?

Stunning:

New Spurgeon bio by John Piper

20 years ago, John Piper shared a message drawing from the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon. Now, Desiring God has turned it into a small book, Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity, which you can get for free.

How Do We Engage Someone Who is Neglecting the Gathering?

Good advice from Lore Ferguson.

We Are Called to be Irritating

Erik Raymond:

Christians are commanded to consider (pay attention to, be concerned for, look after, etc) someone and something. We are to be concerned for one another. This is a church directive for body life. And, we are to be concerned with stirring each other up.

What does this mean? It is an interesting word that means to irritate, provoke, or even exasperate. It’s actually used most frequently in a negative sense as in provoking someone to anger or irritation.

You Don’t Need a Bucket List

Randy Alcorn:

The term “bucket list” was popularized by the 2007 movie of that name. It’s an inventory of things people want to do before they “kick the bucket.” The idea is, since our time on earth is limited, if something is important for us to do, we have to do it now, because this is our only chance to do it.

This makes sense from a naturalistic worldview, one which doesn’t recognize any afterlife. It also makes sense from various religious worldviews that maintain there may be existence after death, but without resurrection and physical properties, and with no continuity between this life and the next. The one worldview in which the bucket list makes no sense is biblical Christianity.

Our Lord and God, our brother and friend

lightstock_103614_small_aaron_armstrong

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.—Isaiah 7:14

Let us to-day go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi, let us see him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in him, and can sing, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Jesus is Jehovah incarnate, our Lord and our God, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire. Let us notice at the very first glance his miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son. The first promise ran thus, “The seed of the woman,” not the offspring of the man. Since venturous woman led the way in the sin which brought forth Paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise. Our Saviour, although truly man, was as to his human nature the Holy One of God. Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to manhood its ancient glory; and let us pray that he may be formed in us, the hope of glory. Fail not to note his humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as “a virgin,” not a princess, or prophetess, nor a matron of large estate. True the blood of kings ran in her veins; nor was her mind a weak and untaught one, for she could sing most sweetly a song of praise; but yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she stood affianced, and how miserable the accommodation afforded to the new-born King!

Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendour.


Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening (Photo via Lightstock)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new Kindle deals for you:

Through the Eyes of Spurgeon

here’s the trailer for the documentary I wrote along with director/producer Stephen McCaskell (also one of the hardest working people I know) this year:

The Dumbest Thing I Ever Said

Erik Raymond:

What is the dumbest thing you have ever said? You probably don’t want to repeat it. Since, I think it is edifying, I’ll reset my moment. I was a new Christian and was talking to my wife one Sunday afternoon when I dropped this gem on her: “Christianity is so easy. I don’t see what the big deal is.” But, I wasn’t finished– “I read my Bible, pray and talk to people about Jesus. Then, we go to church on Sunday and hear someone preach. What is so hard about it?”

A Time to Speak

The Gospel Coalition is committed to God’s multi-ethnic vision for the church. We are aiming to do a number of things during the next several months to bring this important conversation to the forefront. On Tuesday, we are grateful to sponsor this week’s “A Time to Speak” event live-streamed from the historic Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Several of our Council members and other contributors will be participating, including Darrin Patrick, John Piper, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Voddie Baucham. We hope you’ll tune in on Tuesday, December 16, from 4 to 6 p.m. CST at live.kainos.is.

Moroni From the Realms of Glory

Tim Challies:

You’ve got to be careful what you share online. Over the weekend Facebook and Twitter were suddenly inundated with links to a new recording of the Christmas hymn “Angels From the Realms of Glory” mashed up with “Angels We Have Heard on High.” It was recorded by The Piano Guys and features David Archuleta, a one-time runner up on American Idol. It is a creative recording that intersperses shots of the musicians with video taken to record the world’s largest nativity scene. The song is beautifully sung and the music is rich; it is no surprise that it quickly gained over one million views. Well and good, right? Well, except for one thing: It’s purpose is to separate you from Jesus Christ.

The Christmas Story Is All Wrong

Aaron Earls:

The nativity scenes in our homes and churches have the figures neatly arranged around a quiet child wrapped in a clean blanket placed in a quaint manager in a Pinterest-worthy stable.

But if we allow ourselves to look past the sterilized sheen of those ceramic or plastic nativity sets, we know that wasn’t really the case.

Think of all the things that are “wrong” with the biblical Christmas story.

When God Speaks, We Should Trust

Jacob Abshire:

Mary must have had her back to the angel when he spoke because it was his greeting that troubled her, not his appearance. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” This was not your typical “hello”!

Describing her as “favored one” was pretty significant. It didn’t imply that she had or did anything in particular to warrant God’s goodness. Rather, it implied that God, out of His goodness, wanted her to be favored. He intended to make her the mother of our Lord. Now that is significant!

Your goodness is no increase to God’s wealth

spurgeon

If it were possible to make men clearly understand that justification is not in the least degree by their own works, how easy would it be to comfort them! but herein lies the greatest of all difficulties. Man cannot be taught that his goodness is no increase to God’s wealth, and his sin no diminution of divine riches; he will for ever be imagining that some little presents must be offered, and that mercy never can be the gratuitous bounty of Heaven. Even the miserable creature who has learned his own bankruptcy and beggary, while assured that he cannot bring anything, yet trembles to come naked and as he is. He knows he cannot do anything, but he can scarcely credit the promise which seems too good to be true—“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.”

Yea, when he cannot deny the evidence of his own eyes, because the kind word stares him in the face, he will turn away from its glories under the sad supposition that they are intended for all men save himself. The air, the stream, the fruit, the joys and luxuries of life, he takes freely, nor ever asks whether these were not intended for a special people; but at the upper springs he stands fearing to dip his pitcher, lest the flowing flood should refuse to enter it because the vessel was too earthy to be fit to contain such pure and precious water: conscious that in Christ is all his help, it yet appears too great a presumption even to touch the hem of the Saviour’s garment. Nor is it easy to persuade the mourning penitent that sin is no barrier to grace, but that “where sin aboundeth, grace did much more abound;” and only the spirit of God can make the man who knows himself as nothing at all, receive Jesus as his all in all. When the Lord has set his heart on a man, it is not a great difficulty that will move him from his purpose of salvation, and therefore “he devises means that His banished be not expelled from him.”

Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Savior

Oh, to be so meek!

Oh to be so meek

If a man is truly meek, he yields himself up to all the influences of the Spirit of God. You know that, if you see a cork out in the river, if there be but a tiny ripple, it moves; if there is only a breath of wind, it goes up and down at once. But if some great ship is lying there, it does not stir, it keeps quite still. I daresay you think, “I want to be just as responsive to the divine will as that cork upon the surface of the stream is to every movement of the water. I wish to be as the feather that is wafted by the breath of God whichever way he pleases. Oh, that he did but will anything, and that I did it at once! Oh, that he did but speak, ay, oh, that before he spoke, I might catch the very glance of his eye, and do what he desires!” His promise is, “I will guide thee with mine eye;” and he says, “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” Oh, to be so meek as to feel at once the motion of the Spirit of God upon the soul, and to yield oneself to it, as the plastic clay that can be moulded into any shape by the potter’s fingers! The Lord make us such, for these are the people whom he will beautify with his salvation!

Charles Spurgeon, “Beautiful for Ever”

How cruel unbelief is

cruel unbelief

It is one of the strange things in the dealings of Jesus, that even when we arrive at this state of entire spiritual destitution, we do not always become at once the objects of his justifying grace. Long seasons frequently intervene between our knowledge of our ruin, our hearing of a deliverer, and the application of that deliverer’s hand. The Lord’s own called ones frequently turn their eyes to the hills, and find no help coming therefrom; yea, they wish to look unto him, but they are so blinded that they cannot discern him as their hope and consolation. This is not, as some would rashly conclude, because he is not the Saviour for such as they are. Far otherwise. Unbelief crieth out, “Ah! my vileness disqualifies me for Christ, and my exceeding sinfulness shuts out his love?” How foully doth unbelief lie when it thus slandereth the tender heart of Jesus! how inhumanly cruel it is when it thus takes the cup of salvation from the only lips which have a right to drink thereof! We have noticed in the preaching of the present day too much of a saint’s gospel, and too little of a sinner’s gospel. Honesty, morality, and goodness, are commended not so much as the marks of godliness, as the life of it; and men are told that as they sow, so they shall reap, without the absolutely necessary caveat that salvation is not of man, neither by man, and that grace cometh not to him that worketh, but to him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly. Not thus spake our ancient preachers when in all its fullness they declared—

“Not the righteous, not the righteous—
Sinners, Jesus came to save.”

Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Saviour