Links I like (weekend edition)

Four Dangers for Complementarians

Gavin Ortlund:

Of course, many people will disagree with complementarianism—often quite vehemently—no matter what we say or do. But the truth is offensive enough without our help. We don’t need to add to its offense with our own faults and foibles. I therefore list four dangers to which we should be particularly sensitive, even while we stand firm in the face of pressure from our more aggressive critics.

Does John Piper Regret Partnering With Mark Driscoll?

Hear his answer at the link.

10 1980s PSAs You Might Have Forgotten

Aaron Earls unearths a collection of the best/worst PSAs from the 1980s. For example:

The One and the Many

Kevin DeYoung:

There are many ways God uses to get us to where he wants us to go. But there is only one message he gives to save us from sin.

The problems in our day is that we get the one and the many reversed.

Are house churches biblical?

Interesting piece from Preston Sprinkle:

But we have to distinguish between what is described and what is prescribed. Unless I’m missing something, the New Testament never prescribes (i.e. commands) that believers meet in homes as opposed to meeting in a building. It simply describes that this is what they did in the first-century.

How NOT to Read the News

Daniel Darling:

We live in a time where we are exposed to more news headlines than at any time in human history. In the ancient days of news, anchors checked the AP newswire for stories and reported on them and people in their homes watched or people in their cars listened to radio. Today, everyone, is essentially checking the wire, all day, through social media. We also live in a time when it’s has never been easier to publicly express an opinion. Before the Internet, if something happened, you might have picked up the phone to call someone or perhaps you might discuss it at work, around the water cooler. But today we are all pundits, all with commentary on what is happening right now.

Quite often this new reality is leveraged for good. If a disaster strikes, more people can be informed than in previous generations. Social networks can be good conduits for raising money for important charity, for networking and communicating with wider groups of people. In many ways, the new paradigm has flattened leadership, forcing organizations to be more transparent and less hierarchical. All this is good.

Still, followers of Christ need to think through how they process the news, particularly how we react to the headlines that come across our screens every day. Here are three tips I think that might help.

My five favorite podcasts

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I used to listen to dozens of podcasts; these days, I only listen to a few. Some I dropped because I grew bored with them. Others, because the material was no longer helpful or beneficial for me to listen to. But there are a few I consistently enjoy (even if I don’t listen to every episode):

1. 5 Minutes in Church HistoryStephen Nichols offers listeners digestible glimpses back at the people, places and events that have shaped the story of Christianity. (And for the 90s alt-rock nerd, yes, that is The Cranberries being used as the intro music.)

2. The Briefing. Albert Mohler’s daily analysis of the news from a Christian worldview is a must-listen in the Armstrong home (full disclosure: my wife has a crush on Mohler’s brain). It’s obviously very “America” in focus, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the first we go to each day.

3. Mere Fidelity. Matthew Lee Anderson, Derek Rishmawy, Andrew Wilson, and Alastair Roberts’ Reformed-ish podcast is consistently enjoyable and always worth your time. Be sure to check out the “Ask Us Anything” edition and the response to Peter Enns.

4. The Village Church (sermon audio). In all honesty, I don’t often listen to sermon audio from other churches these days. But when I do, it’s typically this one. Chandler’s long been a preacher I appreciate. The current sermon series, A Beautiful Design, is tremendous.

5. Renewing Your Mind. R.C. Sproul is one of the most brilliant theologians of our day. His ability to distill complex ideas into something intelligible for the average person is nothing short of astounding, and this audio feed is one of the best resources to help you understand the life-giving truths of historic Christianity.

So those are a few of my favorites. What are some of yours?


Photo credit: Colleen AF Venable via photopin cc

Links I like

Book deals for Christian readers

A few Kindle deals to start you off:

Today’s $5 Friday deals at Ligonier include:

  • The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond (hardcover)
  • Believing God teaching series by R.C. Sproul Jr (DVD)
  • Thus Says the Lord teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)

Finally, you can get Banner of Truth’s lovely three-volume set of The Complete Works of John Bunyan for $59 at the Westminster Bookstore. This might make a really snazzy Christmas gift for the theology nerd in your life.

Not That Kind of Homosexuality?

Kevin DeYoung offers a whole pile of block quotes to remind us of an important truth: “Scholars all of different stripes have said the same thing: the cultural distance argument [about homosexual practice] will not work.”

Prepare Today for Tomorrow’s Conflicts

David Noble:

Regrettably, many church leaders overlook the reality of spiritual warfare. We mistakenly believe that being attentive to Satan and his schemes is unnecessary when our congregations are flourishing. Sometimes we assume that merely thinking about spiritual warfare invites trouble.

The most important thing about any church

Ray Ortlund:

The most important thing about any church is not their structure, their governance, their systems, their musical style, not even the nuances of their theology within a gospel framework, whether Baptistic or Presbyterian or Anglican.  Those things matter.  But the most important thing about any church is its spirit.

Little Things Matter

Kim Shay:

Young women who stay at home with your children, hear me: the scope of your service is not what makes it valuable; bigger is not always better. You don’t have to do elaborate things to serve and to encourage. The smallest of gestures can encourage someone more than you can possibly know. You may not be writing books, going away for weekends to speak at conferences, or traveling across the world to minister to someone, but you can be an encouragement right where God has put you.

Gotham Begins

Such a great parody trailer (language warning: there is a bleeped out bit of cussing at the very end):

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Kindle editions of the NIV Application Commentary set are on sale for just $4.99 or less each:

Being Content with Saying No to Truly Good Opportunities

Randy Alcorn:

I once felt guilty about declining most requests, so I was reading a dozen books a year for endorsements, saying yes to friends who wanted me to speak, meeting people who were coming through Portland, etc. But then I was always behind writing my own books, and writing is my primary calling. Now I decline nearly all speaking requests (I travel and speak maybe five times per year, and often there’s a second angle to what I say yes to—staying extra days to see my kids and grandkids, getting vacation time with Nanci, etc.).

My advice is to care about people but use discernment, and don’t live to please them. We are to live out our lives before the Audience of One. In the end, His approval is the one that matters. If our goal is to hear others say, “Well done,” we won’t have time, energy and perspective to do what we need to do to hear Him say it. Paul said, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

The real voice of Darth Vader

Oh my…

My journey away from contemporary worship music

Dan Cogan:

Over the years when I would occasionally hear a hymn, the language was always strikingly foreign, with Ebenezers and bulwarks, diadems and fetters. Which only served to confirm my bias that hymns were simply out-of-date. They had served their purpose. They had run their course.

The problem with my youthful logic only began to dawn on me about seven years ago. I had come to recognize that these ancient hymns accomplished something that the new songs weren’t. While contemporary worship seemed to take the listener on an exciting and emotional rollercoaster, the old hymns engaged the mind with deep and glorious truths that when sincerely pondered caused a regenerated heart to humbly bow before its King.

A Plea To Pastors and Pastor Search Committees

Mike Leake:

About five years ago when we were moving from Missouri to Louisville a particular church was in contact with us about coming on board. They requested an audio sermon. We weren’t set up very well for recording sermons but we figured out a way to get a couple sermons recorded.

I sent the audio to the church and heard NOTHING. Of course they may not have received the sermon. But I wouldn’t know that either because they never responded to my email where I enquired as to whether or not they had received the sermon.

So my only assumption was that they must have hated the sermon, thought I was terrible and that I was a heretic. I’m exaggerating a bit, but it was incredibly discouraging.

On the wrong side of history

Carson, Keller and Piper tackle this common objection.

Generational Lies; Timeless Truths

I never gave God much thought before becoming a Christian, unless it was to make fun of Christians. But what I did know didn’t really make sense when confronted by God’s character as revealed by God.

I was not alone in this. When you talk to people around us—both outside the church and within it—you quickly see that many have some strange ideas about God:

  • We treat Him like a divine butler whose existence is centered around making us happy.
  • We act as though God doesn’t matter or exist at all, until a loved one dies unexpectedly; then we ask how God could have let this happen.
  • We imagine God as being solely about love, and forgiving us is His job.

As we all become increasingly confused about who God is, and what He demands of us, it’s more necessary than ever for us to be able to understand what lies beneath the lies we believe and be ready to respond lovingly and clearly.

Generational Lies; Timeless Truths

That’s why I’m excited to be a part of TruthXchange’s 2015 Think Tank, “Generational Lies; Timeless Truths.” During this event, the speakers and participants will be discussing the lies we’ve passed on for generations, and respond with the unchanging and life-giving truth of Scripture. Speaking at the Think Tank are Peter Jones, Calvin Beisner, Joe Boot, Ted Hamilton, Rebecca Jones, Jeffrey Ventrella, Thaddeus Williams… and me.

generational-lies

(And yes, Canadian friends, the idea of being on the same roster as Joe Boot is just as terrifying as you’d imagine.)

What will I be speaking on?

I’m speaking on a subject close to my heart: social justice. I love that there are so many young people—both Christian and non—who are fired up about helping those in need and making a difference in society. But that zeal needs to be built upon a solid foundation. So, in my session, I’ll be digging into the roots of the “deeds, not creeds” mindset and offering a look at how the gospel informs and transforms our desire to act on behalf of those in need.

When is it happening?

The Think Tank will be held February 3-5, 2015 in Escondido, CA at New Life Presbyterian Church. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll make it out for what is sure to be a challenging and edifying few days. Look for registration information soon at TruthXchange.com.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Although not a sale book, but Internet-friend/conference pal Jeff Medders’ first book, Gospel Formed, is coming out in a few days. Be sure to preorder a copy!

Sign up for Paul Tripp’s Thanksgiving devotional

Sign up for 12 email devotionals adapted from Tripp’s New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional starting November 17 and running through American Thanksgiving. These short devotions take about five minutes to read, but will spur you to reflect on God’s Word all day long. In addition, everyone who signs up will be entered to win one of 50 fabulous mustache mugs:

Tripp-Thanks-social-media-ad-02

Who wouldn’t want a Tripp’s ‘stache mug, I ask you?

How Can You Tell if Someone Has Truly Repented of Grievous Sin?

R.C. Sproul Jr:

There is one tell-tale fruit, but it may take a long time for it to happen. And even then you likely won’t see it. But here’s the fruit nonetheless—if the sinner ends up in heaven, you will know they had truly repented. If not, they likely had not. I understand the desire to know the sincerity of another’s repentance. I’ve been in countless pastoral situations wherein it seemed like the answer to that one question—is this person truly repentant—determined the answer to every other question about what should be done. Trouble is, God has not been pleased to give us the means to peer into the souls of others.

So what do we do?

Where do Christians Witness Most? Online or Offline?

David Murray discusses some interesting data from a recent Pew Research survey.

Spurgeon Center expands Midwestern’s ‘For the Church’ vision

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s launch of the new Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching expands the seminary’s “For the Church” vision by what its president, Jason K. Allen, said will be “an international hub” for Spurgeon studies, biblical preaching, the study of historical theology, pastoral ministry locally and globally “for the church at large.”

Calling the events leading up to the center’s announcement and impending construction a “kairos moment” during the seminary’s annual trustee meeting in Kansas City on Oct. 20-21, Allen expressed his appreciation for Bill and Connie Jenkins of Paoli, Ind., whose generosity enabled Midwestern to move forward with the $2.5 million construction project to house the Spurgeon Library.

My Strange Bedfellow

Lore Ferguson:

For as long as I can remember I have wakened to guilt. It is a pulsating thought with root in no particular sin or crime, just a carried burden that I have done the world, and the Lord, an irreparable wrong. It is not a quiet guilt, but a raging one. It consumes me on some days and on the days when it doesn’t, it reminds me it is coming soon for me again. I remember Augustine’s, “For what am I to myself without You, but a guide to my own downfall?”

Guilt is my roadmap to repentance—even when I’m not sure what it is I’m repenting for.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

How I Learned to Embrace the Stand and Greet Time

Tim Challies:

I may not know you, but I think one thing is safe to say: You do not have as much natural revulsion as I do toward a stand and greet time during a church service. You don’t feel a greater measure of inward terror when you hear a service leader command, “Stand up and greet a few of the people around you.” I am naturally shy, introverted, and easily intimidated, and can always feel the fear rising when I hear those words. And yet I am involved in planning our church’s services and often advocate for a stand and greet time. Let me tell you why I believe in this time of greeting one another, even though it is completely contrary to my natural desires.

Why are you part of a church community? Why are you a member of a church? Why do you go to the public gatherings of the church on Sunday morning? Broadly speaking there can be two reasons: You go for the good of yourself, or you go for the good of others. There is a world of difference between the two.

The Most Important Session of All

R.C. Sproul:

The most important session of all is the session of Jesus Christ in heaven. When Yahweh said to David’s Lord, “Sit at My right hand,” He was saying, “Be seated in the highest place of authority in the universe.” Psalm 110 is a prophetic psalm, and David was saying by the Holy Spirit that when the Messiah had finished His labor in this world, He would be exalted to heaven and enthroned at the right hand of God. We declare that these things took place when we recite the Apostles’ Creed, which affirms that Jesus “ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God.” This was the early church’s confession of belief in the importance of the session of Christ.

5 Common Small Group Myths (And the Truth to Help Transform Your Group)

Steven Lee:

What you believe about why you are in a small group will dictate how you behave in that group. It’s important for a church to be clear why small groups exist. Do they exist to connect, shepherd, and reach unbelievers or to support one another? Are they some combination of those different things? What you believe about your small group will dictate how you approach potential problems when they arise. For example, if you buy a house knowing it will be a fixer-upper, then you approach that faux wood paneling in the family room as an opportunity to upgrade and improve. Whereas if you buy your dream house and find out the basement floods, you’re pretty disappointed and discouraged. Similarly, be clear from the beginning about the vision and values of your church small groups.

I would suggest that a healthy small group is committed to studying and applying God’s Word within the context of Christian community in order to grow as witnesses of Jesus in our respective spheres of influence. At our church, we summarize this goal as “transformation in community for witness.” But whether your small groups are mainly to help believers grow or mainly missional, here are five small group myths that I’ve encountered over the years that need correcting.

The Art of Joy

If you’re a fan of Christian hip-hop, Jackie Perry’s album, The Art of Joy, is available as a free download.

12 Ways To Make (and Keep) Friends

David Murray shares 12 principles gleaned from Jonathan Holmes’ new book, The Company We Keep (reviewed here).

macho christianity

“I’m not into macho Christianity. It doesn’t work—it beats people up. The longer I live, the more I value gentleness.”
— Ray Ortlund —

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And finally, (at least on the Kindle front), be sure to check out these titles from Joel Beeke ($2.99 each): The Beauty and Glory of the FatherThe Beauty and Glory of Christ, and The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit, and The Beauty and Glory of Christian Living.

This is grace

So good:

Church Membership ‘Back Home’ Is Not Enough

Dave Russell:

Should college students join a local church by campus if they have a church membership “back home”?

I’m often asked this question in reference to Christian students who are coming to college and have a church membership “back home.” Here are five things to consider that may help to answer.

Three Crucial Things Single People Need To Know

Stephen Altrogge:

Our culture tells us that the single years are supposed to be an adventure. A time of fun and craziness and exploration before we settle down for the boring life of marriage, kids, and all that jazz. To sow our wild oats (if you happen to be Amish). To quote the prophet Ricky Martin, the single years are for, “Livin’ la viva [vida?] loca.”

Right?

Well…sort of…not really. After working with a lot of single men and women over the years, there are certain principles and practices (hopefully derived from Scripture!) that I would encourage single folks to develop which will serve them for many years into the future. These practices aren’t particularly exciting or thrilling, but I believe they’re extremely valuable.

So what would I tell single guys and gals? Three things.

Pharisees Need Jesus, Too

Aaron Earls:

For a Christian, there may be no bigger insult than to be called a Pharisee. I mean, those guys caught the brunt of Jesus’ rebukes and were the primary reason for His being falsely accused and put to death.

At the same time, there may be no greater personal satisfaction than ripping someone’s Pharisee-like attitudes and actions. They bring so much harm to the cause of Christ. They give us all a bad name. And yet they need Jesus, too.

We trust God when we trust His Word

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I’m doing something kind of dumb (again): reading too many books at one time. At the moment, I’m only seriously reading two, but still, I should know better. That being said, one of them happens to be Tim Keller’s latest, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God(Which I think makes it cool, right?)

Regardless of the wisdom of my reading habits, there is a great deal of wisdom in this book. One of the things I absolutely love so far is Keller’s understanding of where we encounter God (which has massive implications for our prayer lives, but that’s another post) and how we know we can trust Him.

We often like to think of esoteric, mystical “whispers,” when we think of God speaking to us, or even speaking to us without words—impressions and that sort of thing. Yet, Keller reminds us that God’s words  (and thus God’s Word) also represent His active presence in the world. God acts through speaking:

“We humans may say, ‘Let there be light in this room,’ but then we have to flick a switch or light a candle. Our words need deeds to back them up and can fail to achieve their purposes. God’s words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing,” Keller explains. “To say that God’s word goes out to do something is the same as to say God has gone out to do something.… If God’s words are His personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God” (53, 54).

This is why many Christians get so jittery when we see people playing a bit loosey-goosey with the Bible, whether with the meaning of a passage or how we should understand it. It’s not because we’re worshipping our Bibles, but because of whose Word it is and whose words are recorded there.1 We keep pushing back to the Bible because we know there is no other way to actually know who our God is in a truly personal, meaningful, relational way. We learn who God is from His Word. And we learn to trust Him by learning to trust His Word.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Baring It All for Us

S.D. Kelly:

This is the new frontier of the culture wars: the progressive-conservative clash resounding in personal experiences of twenty-somethings, each blow landing with a dull thud. These experiences may seem like the front lines, but this is only true to the person actually living the specific life. Being a young adult is inherently banal and harrowing all at once as the foundation is laid for the decades to follow: leaving home, finding (or not finding) love, finding (or not finding) a job. And in the specific lives of Lena Dunham and Jill Duggar, we — their audience — watch their every move, expecting them to not only share it all with us, but to tell us what it means, to give us the key to the good life. Lena and Jill are the heirs to Aristotle. Not that Kind of Girl andGrowing Up Duggar the sequels to Nichomachean Ethics.

The Strange Case of the Imploding Ministers

Mike Glenn:

Ministers don’t explode. You never hear of a pastor grabbing an Uzi and shooting up a congregation. Ministers implode. That is, the pressure on the outside becomes greater than the pressure on the inside and we’re crushed like an empty soda can. Ministry, however you express it, is giving yourself away. Unless we are intentional to refill our souls, we’ll soon get to the place where we have nothing to give.

So, what do we do? Perhaps the ministry of Jesus would offer some helpful lessons. What kind of patterns do we see in the life of Jesus? Several come to mind.

Throw Open The Doors

Nick Horton:

How many of us have gone through something similar? The exhilaration of pregnancy leads to nervous unease as the days pass. Husband and wife pray, and wait, hoping this pregnancy will make it. Hoping this one is viable. If the heartbreak of miscarriage comes and the news wasn’t shared, then it will be less people to share such pain with. There is no shame to share with everyone. No one has to know you failed…. wait.. what?

God Writes a Great Story

Christina Fox:

I recently picked up a book my son was reading and flipped through it, noticing that a number of pages were folded down. Curious, I asked him why he did it.

“Because those are all my favorite parts,” he responded.

He’s a boy after my own heart because I do the same thing. I dog-ear and mark up my books so I can go back and reread my favorite parts. In some books though, there are no pages folded down. In those books, I found myself editing as I read, thinking of ways I would have written it differently, parts I would have added and scenes I would have deleted altogether.

How does a McRib really get made?

While I’m not a fan of McDonald’s food (or business practices, or…), I definitely respect their desire to dispel rumors about what actually goes into their products:

Doesn’t make me want to eat a McRib, but it’s nice to know, regardless.

Why we become deaf to the warning cries

snow-wolf

Whenever a controversy erupts, you’ll always find a group of people who, when everyone else finally realizes there was a problem, are saying, “We’ve been saying it for years!”

And it’s true. They have been saying it for years. There’s no question about it. There have been many—many—people who were warning about Mark Driscoll, for example. Notably among them were John MacArthur and many of his followers such as the Team Pyro folks.

So why didn’t we listen?

I wonder if the reason is two-fold:

The first reason is many of us choose to not hear. Honestly, when a church leader appears to be being used by God in a pretty powerful way, it’s tempting to just shut down any negative criticism with a slightly patronizing, “But look how God is using him”. Which is completely stupid, of course, but it’s true. Many folks did this with Mark Driscoll (something I admitted to). Many did it with Rob Bell, too. Many still do it with Steven Furtick, and Perry Noble, and Joel Osteen, and TD Jakes, and…

We need to not just look to (dubious) fruit as a reason to excuse  un- or anti-Christian conduct, character or creeds. When there are warning signs, we need to pay attention and we need to take them seriously.

The second is that many of those voices raising alarm only raise alarm. I remember attending an event in 2011 during which the alarm was raised a great deal over the seep of paganism into the church. During the final Q&A session of the event, one of the attendees said something to the effect of, “We’ve heard a lot about the dark, and this has been a real wake-up call… but what about the light?”

The truth is, we need both light and heat1. The alarm needs to be raised over false teaching, abuses of power and actions and attitudes that bring reproach to the name of Christ—we need to offer reproof in those instances.

But we are also called to encourage, to build up and edify the body of Christ. There needs to be a balance, of the sort you see in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. There, when addressing each church, Jesus offers specific commendation to five of the seven churches (Sardis and Laodicea being the two exceptions), before offering any rebuke. Jesus shone light on their sin, but also on their good works. If all we say is a constant stream of warning, we risk becoming clanging symbols that deafen those we wish to persuade.

Beat God to the Punch

beat-god-to-the-punch

I’ve got to hand it to Eric Mason: Beat God to the Punch may be the most provocative title I’ve seen in ages. In fact, that’s is what made me take notice when I first learned of it, and when it eventually arrived in my mailbox. When I cracked the tiny book open, I immediately saw how well suited it was.

According to its author, this is a book about God’s wrath and coming judgment; or more accurately, the grace God offers to rescue us from it. Thus, playing off Paul’s joyful declaration that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11), Mason writes Beat God to the Punch with a revivalist zeal, inviting men and women “to bow now, by choice” (1)—to submit themselves to the Lord and experience His grace.

The struggle of discipleship and contagiousness of grace

Chapters one to three, and chapter five, present a picture of what following Jesus means while striving to wow readers with grace. Using imagery from both first century Jewish practices, as well as drawing an analogy from hip-hop culture, Mason reminds readers that the struggle of discipleship is this: “Over and over again, in our lives, our humanity will collide with His divinity. At the end of the day, a disciple must be transformed into wanting what the Lord wants for them” (24-25).

Our desires are always going to come into conflict with what the Lord has clearly laid out in His Word. We are all called to sacrifice all for His sake and follow Him. Essentially this means questions about our rights or what we think we want or deserve go out the window the moment we become Christians. We are to follow His example, be imitators of Him in order that we might grow to become like Him.

And here’s where grace comes in: we are graciously called to this life despite not being able to follow Jesus like this on our own. Mason reminds us that Jesus actually broke the pattern of the rabbi-student relationship, where students would ask to follow the teacher. Instead, Jesus, our great Teacher, comes to us and says, “Follow me.” Not because God believes in us in particular, or because Jesus sees a glimmer of something in us—which is where Mason’s argument surprisingly falls apart on page 17, when he describes Jesus’ disciples as  knowing that “their rabbi believed in them. And… they realized that God believed in them too.”

(Suddenly, I feel like I’m watching a video of a kid shovelling a driveway.)

Despite this flub, Mason comes back around to God’s choosing us a little later in the book, giving us a much more rousing (and accurate) assessment, writing, “God picks, by grace—according to His nature, His lovingkindness, withholding His wrath—to blow the minds of men, to create potential where there is none, in order for all of the glory to go to Him” (44).

This should excite us, shouldn’t it? If a professing Christian isn’t moved by the thought that God—through no efforts, actions or intentions of your own—chose to save you and call you His own and promises to keep you as His own, so that He might be glorified, there’s something dreadfully wrong. This is not something we should look at lightly.

We should be on our knees with a sense of wonder over this amazing grace. But what does it say about us if it doesn’t?

The historical interlude that doesn’t quite fit

While the first three chapters flow naturally into the fifth, chapter four serves as a historical interlude. Here, Mason briefly surveys church history to gain a sense of perspective on how the Church has viewed grace through the ages. There’s some interesting stuff here, particularly as he gives readers a sense of the loss and rediscovery of grace and the battles to protect its centrality to the faith in the lives and ministries of the likes of Augustine and the Reformers.

Now, I’ve increasingly become a bit of a church history nerd, so I really dig stuff like this. I love seeing how different Christians have communicated grace through the years. It helps to give a more robust understanding of it both doctrinally and practically. But even so, the chapter doesn’t move the “story” of the book forward.While there are elements I enjoy about this chapter, it might have been better served as the book’s appendix.

And then there’s the inclusion of Charles Finney as “sufficiently orthodox” in his belief in God’s grace in salvation, and that “many differ on the semantics of his claim” (75). Hardly a glowing endorsement, but I’ll be honest, it threw me for a loop. To call Finney’s view of grace an orthodox example, despite his view of the atonement being anything but… I can’t quite wrap my mind around that.1 While I realize it’s a one-page reference, and therefore not a large portion of the book, were it me writing or editing Beat God to the Punch, I would have removed it in a heartbeat. It’s inclusion only hurts the author’s credibility.

No knock-out punch thrown

Which brings me to the end of my thoughts on this book: I wanted to like Beat God to the Punch more than I actually did. It’s not a bad book by any means. It’s got some really great elements, but it’s also kind of sloppy, and thus fails to throw the knock-out punch Mason hopes to. Would I say to anyone, “Don’t read this book?” Nope. But it wouldn’t be the first book I’d recommend.


Title: Beat God to the Punch: Because Jesus Demands Your Life
Author: Eric Mason
Publisher: B&H Publishing

Buy it at: Amazon

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also, be sure to get a copy of Sexual Brokenness and the Hope of the Gospel, a new eBook edited by Russell Moore collecting messages from the recent ERLC conference in Nashville. It’s currently $2.99 at the ERLC website.

An Unimaginative Tool for Church Growth

Erik Raymond:

If the evangelical church were a boat then it would have some leaks. And everyone seems to have an opinion as to the problem. If I could put the two most common critiques in buckets they would be 1) the preaching, 2) the appetite of church members. In my years of ministry I have often found it quite ironic that many evangelicals complain about preaching not being “biblical” while pastors often complain about “evangelicals today who don’t want biblical preaching”.

Somebody cue the Alanis Morissette.

Why Writing Style Matters

Justin Taylor shares a great quote from Stephen J. Pyne’s Voice and Vision: A Guide to Writing History and Other Serious Nonfiction.

How Should We Then Mock?

Jeremy Larson:

But what are Christians to think about the practice of “making fun”? The word fun is right there in the phrase, so how bad can it be? Christians don’t want to unnecessarily begrudge people their happiness or fun, but there does seem to be an inherent aversion among Christians to using mockery (openly) to have fun.

So, as a Christian, it is with some trepidation that I broach the subject of viewing mockery as a valid and effective tool for Christians to use. This viewpoint is not particularly PC, and I fully expect some readers, after hearing my proposal, to head straight for the nearest chicken coop to gather stray feathers, and then to begin warming up the tar.

Why “the Right Side of History” is so Often Wrong

Aaron Earls:

When we argue that a certain position on the topic du jour – be it same sex marriage, abortion, pornography, etc. – will be on “the right side of history,” we assume the future will agree with moral changes we have made.

But who knows exactly what the philosophical framework of the future will be? They may (and likely will) regard our morality with the same derision we often regard the moral perspective of the past, which is itself another problem with this type of reasoning. Ironically enough, arguments about the right side of history often fails to grant a voice to history itself.

Links I like

Free audio and Logos deals

Christian Audio’s free audiobook of the month is The Attributes of God by A.W. Tozer. From Prussia with Love by Carol Purves is the free book of the month for Logos Bible Software. For 99¢, you can also get Clive Anderson’s Gunpowder, Treason and Plot. And finally on the Logos side of things, you can enter to win the 23-volume Day One Christian Biography collection, which includes titles such as 365 Days with Calvin, 365 Days with Wilberforce, A Reluctant Missionary, and 365 Days with Spurgeon (five volumes).

Where Hazy Repentance Goes to Die

Jonathan Parnell:

Mental agreement that Jesus is glorious is like affirming the statement that honey is sweet. As much as you might agree on paper, it still doesn’t stop you from eating other things. We can crunch on salty cashews without changing our minds about the honey. And we don’t necessarily feel like the cashews are something we need to forgo in order to eat more honey. To suggest we should would seem strange. If faith is all in our heads, repentance is still opaque.

Good intentions: Beware!

Important stuff from Ray Ortlund.

Mars Hill dissolving

Mars Hill has announced that the church will be dissolving effective January 1, 2015.

The Great Throbbing Verbs

Tim Challies:

So drama describes the actions, the verbs, or what God is doing. Doctrine describes the facts, the nouns, of who God is and what it means that he made us in his image. If you put the two together, you have the content of the Christian faith. I was thinking recently about the great “throbbing verbs of this unfolding drama,” and about this universe as the stage in which God is displaying himself and his glory. I was convicted that I think of the world this way too seldom, and was convicted that there is a lot of value in making this shift in thinking. After all, if this world is a stage, there are many implications.

Christian, stop using “OMG!”

Adam Ford raises an interesting point.

Pockets of Treasures

Lore Ferguson:

Tonight I sat on the far left side of the sanctuary, where I always sit when I’m home, and I hardly recognized anyone sitting around me. We are a big church, but a small service, and I still felt the ache of everyone moving forward but me.

I told someone tonight I feel like I’m a kid with a pile of treasures, none of them making sense, all of them seeming valuable, but no idea where they belong or when.

I thought I would grow out of this.

Does everyone feel like this?