Complacency, conviction and the Christian response to ISIS in the West

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“I was one of you. I was a typical Canadian. I grew up on the hockey rink and spent my teenage years on stage playing guitar. I had no criminal record. I was a bright student and maintained a strong GPA in university. So how could one of your people end up in my place? And why is it that your own people are the ones turning against you at home? The answer is that we have accepted the true call of the prophets and messengers of God.”

That’s what John Maguire, a 24-year-old convert to Islam from Ottawa, Ontario, told the world in a video that appeared online in recent days, which you can watch below:

I’ve been sitting with this video, the related National Post article, and Maguire’s call to Muslims in the West since I learned of it on Sunday. “You either pack your bags, or prepare your explosive devices. You either purchase your airline ticket, or you sharpen your knife,” Maguire says in the video.

The rhetoric is powerful—and, of course, dangerous. Dangerous because there are, inevitably, people who will heed this call because of the conviction with which it is made. Make no mistake: regardless of how polished this piece of propaganda is, and how Maguire’s message is almost certainly scripted, there is conviction in what he says.

When he tells Muslims in Canada to sharpen their knives, he means it. When he tells us that people will be targeted indiscriminately, he means it.

Conviction is a dangerous thing for Canadians, because we have so few. We are people placated by socialism, with consciences dulled by secularism’s hollow values of personal happiness and the accumulation of wealth. Maguire rebelled against this, seeing these values for what they are: empty and hollow.

The problem is, he replaced them with something overtly evil.

But it’s also dangerous because of the people who will continue to try to dismiss such things as a mental illness on the part of Maguire or other young men like him who’ve converted to Islam and either fled Canada to join ISIS or taken up arms against the nation on native soil, as in the case of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau.

But the problem is not mental illness, unless one is willing to honestly suggest that the thousands of men and women living in the Middle East who have joined ISIS and other terrorist organizations have exactly same identical mental illness. For that many people to manifest precisely the same symptoms in exactly the same fashion stretches credulity. No, it’s not a problem of mental illness. It is, as Albert Mohler pointed out in his analysis of this story, a worldview issue. The common denominator for all is Islam.

Now, don’t read me as saying all Muslims are terrorists or anything like that. I’m not. But what is attractive for many—and especially young people like Maguire—is its conviction:

  • There is a clear right and wrong.
  • There is no moral ambiguity.
  • There is a larger purpose to life.

But what Maguire and many like him have latched onto, whether you believe it to be an accurate reflection of Islamic teaching or not, is a lie. In the same way that many Canadians continue to latch onto their illusion of safety—after all, we’re so nice, and we have delicious maple syrup. Why would anyone want to hurt us?

Mohler turns Maguire’s call for Western Muslims to wake up back on Western Christians, and he is right to do so. We do need to wake up to the realities around us. So what does that look like?

I’d suggest three things:

Embrace our convictions. We believe that God gives us eternal life, not through the uncertain means of trying to merit it through our works and war, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son who came to live on our behalf, and to take God’s wrath upon himself for us. And because of that, we can embrace our great purpose, which the Westminster Catechism states so well, “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Fundamentally, if you do not believe this you are not a Christian, as I’m sure most (if not all) reading this would agree. At least not in any meaningful sense of the word.

Live by our convictions. But practically, too few of us actually live as if this is true. We have embraced what Luther called a theology of glory and abandoned a theology of the cross, spending ourselves on trivial things and seeking to make a name for ourselves, even as we claim to be doing so for the sake of the Lord. We run ourselves ragged and do not enjoy God’s rest. We are not people who are at peace. For this, we need to repent, and to learn to take seriously Christ’s words in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Share our convictions. But we are not called to simply live by these convictions, but also to share them. The gospel message is humanity’s only hope for peace with God, and eternal joy. And all of humanity will stand before Jesus, either to enter into his kingdom or to be sentenced to hell. But we are not called to command people everywhere to submit or perish, using force and fear as our weapon, and rejoicing in the death of the wicked as, it seems, Maguire and ISIS do. Instead we plead with the lost, calling out, “Why will you die?!” We do so as those desperate to see the dying saved and adopted into God’s family.

 

In other words, we speak out of love. Love for God, and love for our neighbors.

And yet if we do not do this—if we prefer our comfortable life, if we think going to church on Sundays and giving to the poor is what God has in mind for us—we’ve missed the point. We must embrace our convictions. We must live by them. And we must share them—because if we don’t, we may be perpetrating a greater evil than any that ISIS can.

Links I like

We Don’t Need a Mrs. Jesus

Maureen Farrell Garcia:

This reoccurring divine family motif of a less-than-God Jesus and a more-than-human Mary can frustrate Christians who know that it’s false. Still, when these kinds of theories come up—often around Christmas and Easter—they get people who don’t normally engage in conversations about Jesus talking about him, what the Scriptures say, and what history reveals. In the wake of sensationalized books, Christians have an opportunity to take advantage of the interest in Jesus.

There is no language instinct

This is a very interesting article.

How Should We Respond To Internet Trolls?

Good thoughts in this interview with Barnabas Piper.

Should We Take up an Offering during the Worship Service?

R.C. Sproul, Jr:

I have these suspicions in part because of how I hear some churches explain their reasoning for removing the giving of tithes and offerings from their liturgy. We’re told they don’t want the unbelievers in the meeting to feel uncomfortable or pressured, and they don’t want them believing we care too much about money. But, they reason, the necessary chore of meeting the financial needs of the church can be met by a collection box near the narthex, or even direct deposit from members’ checking accounts.

I honestly have no strong quarrel with differing views of how tithes and offerings are collected. Nor am I particularly concerned with the practical side, wanting to make sure the church has the money it needs. Instead, I fear what we lose when we remove this aspect of worship from our liturgies.

The Quickest Way to Get Home

Lore Ferguson:

The past five months, since the signing of the lease, I have been begging God for a reason to leave. The list is long and the opportunities many, but the longer the list grew, the more my love for here grew. I told a friend yesterday that I thought it was sweet of God to give me that love as a going-away present. “You’re terrible at putting things where they belong,” she said while laughing at me. What if that love is God’s call to stay?

The first glimpse of the promise—and the hope of promises still to be fulfilled

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So where the promise begin? Where do we see the first glimpse into God’s plan for restoration?

The very moment sin entered the world.

When God created the world, He called it “very good”—it was a world without sin, without suffering or sorrow. Everyone and everything lived in perfect harmony. But, the crafty serpent—the one John identifies as Satan himself in Revelation 12:9—came and tempted the first woman with a promise:

To be like God.

He questioned God’s command, placing doubt into the mid of Eve—and Adam who was right there with her.

So the two ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and “their eyes were opened.” And when God saw what they had done, and confronted them, God cursed them all. He curses the woman to pain in childbirth and enmity between her and her husband. He curses the man to fruitless toil, instead of fruitful labor.

But notice, even as He curses the serpent, God makes a promise:

The LORD God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15)

And here we have it: the first glimpse into the promise.

One day the offspring of the woman would come. He would be injured—his heel would be bruised by the serpent—but he would crush the serpent.

That’s the promise: this mess that was made would be undone by the death of the serpent—and his death would come at the hands of this Promised One.

And the good news is this hazy first glimpse into the promise is just the beginning. Over time, the Lord would make the identity of the Offspring clear… beginning with a promise to a pagan man, Abram (later Abraham), from whom He promised to make a great nation, and to whose offspring he would give the land of Abram’s sojourning (Genesis 12:1-7; 13:15; 17:18).

And as we continue to read through the Old Testament, the promise becomes more and more clear. The promise was repeated to Isaac, and then again to Isaac’s son Jacob, and then once again to Jacob’s son Judah. And from Judah’s family, we meet another man, a man named Boaz, who would redeem a Moabite woman named Ruth and her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi. And Boaz and Ruth would have a son, named Obed, who would have a son named Jesse… and he would have a son named David.

And to David, God made another promise, saying He would “will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. …the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (see 2 Samuel 7:8-16).

David, the man after God’s own heart, God’s “prince over [his] people Israel,” was a man. He would die, and his son would take the throne after him. He would build a house for the Lord, and his kingdom would be established forever. But this promise, though it referred to Solomon in part, wasn’t about Solomon. Instead, it was Someone who would come after. And as Israel abandoned the Lord, God continually prevented their outright destruction for the sake of his eternal covenant with David. And as he would send prophet after prophet, he continued to speak this promise:

The offspring of David, the “stump” and “branch” of Jesse, would come. And we would know Him because of a sign: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

And of this child, it was said that, “the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousnes from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

So who is this one whom God promised to send?

One upon whose shoulders the government would stand. One whose government and increase would never end. Whose throne and kingdom would be established forever.

God Himself.

And in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the child who would be born of a virgin, God did come. And his government has been established. There will be no end of His rule. He will reign with justice and righteousness forevermore.

This is the good news we celebrate at Christmas, the greatest Christmas gift of all: the coming of the Lord.

God fulfilled His promise. And if God fulfilled this one—one that literally changed the entire world—will He not do the same with those yet to be fulfilled?

For the Christian, Christmas isn’t just about celebrating the birth of Jesus, nor is it only celebrating the fulfillment of a promise made long ago. It’s a reminder that God will fulfill every promise He has made to His people—that the good work He has begun in us will be brought to completion, that He will indeed make all things new, and that all who believe will stand before Him forever, without fear of judgment.


Photo credit: ChaoticMind75 via photopin cc

Links I like

Our Moral Compass Is Turned Toward Self-Righteousness

Trevin Wax:

Say “self-righteous” and people are likely to think of super-spiritual religious person who looks down on everyone else for their failure to attain the same standard of holiness. There’s the persnickety church lady, or the condescending attitude of a conservative elitist, or the aggressive Facebook commenter who specializes in snide remarks.

But what if we’re so used to seeing self-righteousness on the right that we’re blinded to the self-righteousness of the left?

And what if we are so good at smelling self-righteousness in others that we miss the stench coming from ourselves?

Eric Garner and the Call for Justice

Listen to this special edition of Questions and Ethics with Russell Moore or read the transcript.

An Easy, Low-key, Non-threatening Way To Share The Gospel That Anyone Can Do

Mark Altrogge:

I’m not an evangelist.

I’m not bold. I regularly pray for boldness, but I usually chicken out when I have an opportunity to say something. I especially don’t like “cold call” evangelism – going up to strangers and trying to engage them to share the gospel with them.  What’s a chicken-hearted weakling like me to do?

I was recently stirred when a brother shared at fellowship group how he got saved. He said that when he was in college a friend of his met with him weekly over coffee and they read through one of the Gospels together.  They met week after week, reading at a leisurely pace, stopping to discuss any questions my friend had. It was low-key, no pressure, and my friend believed in Jesus along the way.

The divorce surge is over, the myth lives on

Claire Cain Miller:

It is no longer true that the divorce rate is rising, or that half of all marriages end in divorce. It has not been for some time. Even though social scientists have tried to debunk those myths, somehow the conventional wisdom has held.

Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.

The Underbelly of Revival

D.A. Carson:

In at least some cases, it may be that the growth in numbers of serious Christians brings with it a corresponding growth in the number of moral failures, without the proportion of failures being any higher. We do well not to talk ourselves into an assumption that revival must have an ugly underbelly that would not exist if the revival were not there.

When You Are in Between Jobs

Luke Murry:

“Job transition.” “In between jobs.” “Unemployed.” Whatever you want to call it, these seasons are almost always characterized by doubt about yourself and anxiety about the future. My trial of unemployment was no different. Ten months before I finished grad school, I received a job offer from my dream employer in Washington, D.C. I was elated—I had been praying for this job for six years, doing all I could to present myself as the best possible candidate. And finally, there it was. A job offer that I could hold in my hands. I felt set for decades to come.… But I never imagined what would happen next (as I narrate below). Although the following season was a trying time, looking back I am grateful for it. It taught me a number of lessons. Here are 10.

Links I like

Book deals for Christian readers

Here are a few Kindle deals to get you started:

Faithlife will also be starting the big Logos Christmas sale starting December 4th. Be sure to keep an eye out.

Christmas giveaway from Logos

This is a pretty fantastic giveaway: win a Macbook Pro and the Logos 6 Collector’s Edition!

A constant struggle in a growing church

Eric Geiger:

A church should not change or evolve doctrinally, as a church should stand on the “faith delivered once for all to the saints.” Nor must a church change her ministry philosophy and mission in her local community. I am simply suggesting that as a church grows, if a church grows, how she functions in at least these three areas will need to change.

Christian Celebrity Mascots: The Dangers of Conversion Without Transformation

Valerie Dunham:

It was the trendiest of all trendy testimonies, a name that would be incredibly valuable to the Christian community — only his quote could have just as easily, and perhaps even more likely, been the account of a method actor detailing the experience he collected while portraying a Christian man at war.

But this does not tie in neatly with a Christian culture that too frequently assumes that an encounter with God equates to conversion to His ways, that acknowledgment of truth means acceptance of the same, and that to get to know God is to know God.

Parents Undermined in Ontario Curriculum Plans

You should read this (and pray for parents in Ontario).

On Stewarding Technology Well

Erik Raymond:

I am a pastor. I also have an iPhone. As a result, I have had to think through a number of things and make some adjustments in terms of productivity and technology. It has been a process over the last several years. I think I am actually thinking about this and applying it in a healthy way now.

Below are some considerations and conclusions based on my own personal examination. This is slanted towards pastoral ministry but not limited to it.

The worst fundraising landing page ever

This is interesting stuff.

What is evangelism?

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My latest article at ExploreGod.com:

I have a confession: I am quite possibly the world’s most timid evangelist. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking, Maybe I’ll get to share the gospel today! I know a few people like that—which is great—but that’s just not me. Not even a little.

When I really sit down and think about my hesitancy, though, I realize I’m being silly. Why should I be afraid to tell someone about the gospel? This is the “good news”—the greatest news anyone could ever hear, actually! Why wouldn’t I want to share all that I believe is offered—forgiveness, a relationship with God, eternal life—through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave? After all, as a Christian, I believe this is of “first importance.”

Some of my nervousness about sharing my faith comes from bad experiences I’ve had. I’ve tried telling non-Christian family members about Jesus. But rather than engage in the conversation, they simply nod and then ignore me. I’ve had people dismiss everything I say. I’ve been told that if I don’t lead at least five people to Christ every year, I’m not doing my duty as a Christian. I’ve even tested out the idea that we can share the gospel just by the way we live our lives—to no avail. In the end, I had neighbors who thought I was really nice, but they didn’t learn about Jesus at all.

And yet, I don’t use my timidity as an excuse for not sharing my faith. I can’t ignore that the Bible clearly says that we all are called to evangelize. In fact, I’m more confident than ever that I not only can but must share the good news with those around me.

So what’s changed? Why am I, a spectacular “failure” as an evangelist (to date, I don’t know if I’ve ever actually led a single person to Christ), not discouraged?

Because I finally learned what evangelism truly is—and the good news about its results.

Read the whole piece at ExploreGod.com – What is Evangelism?


photo credit: sean_hickin via photopin cc

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a whole whack of new Kindle deals for you:

Now is also a good time to preorder a couple of new books: It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News by Tullian Tchividjian (with Nick Lannon) for $8.75 and The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption by Matt Chandler (with Jared C. Wilson) for $7.99.

How to Capture People’s Stupidity and Profit from It Online

Cray Allred:

We all know that you can start a wildfire on social media, and that posting something online is more or less a permanent action. We may be thankful that some of our dumber moments are as yet uncovered, forgotten or deleted without causing any uproar among our friends. We don’t like to acknowledge that those posts just might be getting spread by total strangers, right now, to thousands and thousands of people, without our knowledge.

Harboring hatred, lust, or envy for someone internally is defined as sin that parallels the outward forms of murder, adultery, and theft. This denies any pretense that being cruel to someone where they can’t see it is somehow excusable.There is a growing trend of what I want to call online “hidden bullying.” Off-line, it’s common and typically harmless to witness something strange (or worse) from a stranger in public, and to then relay the weird details to a friend. If a guy with a bowl haircut throws a tantrum at a restaurant, my wife is going to know about it when I get home. We have an abundance of these moments that have been passed around (and likely exaggerated) and stored in our memories, a humorous collection of the guy that did x or the woman that said y–characters we know, but wouldn’t recognize on the street. When the same thing happens online, however, the effect is amplified, and the face and name stay with the story.

5 Ugly Qualities of the Anti-Elder

Tim Challies:

It is tragic but undeniable: There are many, many people in positions of church leadership who should not be in positions of church leadership. There are many pastors who should not be pastors, many elders who have no business being elders.

This is not a new problem. In the pages of the New Testament both Paul and Peter labor to describe the man who is qualified to the office of elder. It is noteworthy that almost all of these qualifications are related to character. Where we are drawn to outward skill, God cares far more for inward character. There are millions of men who are great teachers and great leaders and great C.E.O.’s, but still completely unsuited to leadership in the church. God’s standards are very, very different.

‘My Work Is More Important than Yours,’ So We All Say

Bethany Jenkins:

Public school districts in the United States do not prioritize dance over, say, math. This is not, however, a mere accident of history. The current education system arose out of the industrial revolution as a means to supply factories with a skilled and literate workforce. Since this economy did not value all talents equally, though, subjects useful to industrial work were prioritized over “less important” work. Today, this hierarchy remains. “At the top are mathematics and languages,” Robinson says, “then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts.”

This is a false hierarchy because the arts and math—though obviously different in their economic contributions—are equally valuable in God’s oikonomia. They engage different parts of who we are—math engages our scientific, analytical, and logical reason, while the arts help us to socially, emotionally, and morally connect with others, including God. See the psalms and David’s use of poetry and music, for example, to awaken his heart to God.

If George Lucas made Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Someone decided to have some fun with the trailer for the new Star Wars movie:

HT: Aaron

Links I like

Kindle and Cyber Monday deals

Be sure to check out this post for details on today’s Cyber Monday sales. Meanwhile, here are a couple of Kindle deals I’ve found:

You can also get my friend Jeff’s book Gospel Formed for about $9 at Amazon using the coupon code HOLIDAY30.

Sin’s Part in the System (and Vice Versa)

Alan Noble responds to Voddie Baucham:

But I was disappointed to read an article by pastor Voddie Baucham responding to Ferguson published atThe Gospel Coalition, not because the article offends my taste or doesn’t fit with my views, but because it perpetuates what I believe are some harmful perspectives on race in America. Given the massive popularity of the article (it went viral and helped crash TGC on Wednesday) and the relevance of the topic, I felt it was important to carefully parse why I believe Baucham’s article was misguided. Thabiti Anyabwile has published an article which addresses some of Baucham’s claims and is well worth reading, but here I aim to more directly respond to Baucham words and their implications.

The difference between Thabiti Anyabwile’s reaction to the Ferguson grand jury’s decision and Voddie Baucham’s reveals a divide in American society in general and in particular the American church over the nature of the black experience in contemporary America and who or what is responsible for that experience. In examining Baucham’s piece, I hope to also address in some small way this larger divide.

The cold, hard truths about winter driving myths

This was worth reading.

Do Calvinists Have Too Low a View of Themselves?

R.C. Sproul, Jr:

Perhaps. It is virtually impossible to have too low a view of ourselves by ourselves. We, all of us who are human, do indeed bear the image of God. Even that, however, is ultimately extrinsic to us. The imago, we need to understand isn’t essential to us in a sense, but is added to us. By ourselves, apart from His grace, we are but dust and rebellion. In His grace, however, He has imposed upon us, stamped upon us, His image. We humans thus have worth, dignity and value, though these are ultimately from without rather than within.

Put on Your Priestly Robe

Ryan Shelton:

I have a strange habit when I’m driving. Any time I suddenly come up on the familiar outline of a white and black sedan parked just off the shoulder, my right foot instinctively withdraws and I triple-check my speedometer. Moments before, I possessed all the same knowledge of traffic regulations, but the physical presence of a representative of the law makes that knowledge tangible. The authority represented by a police car vivifies familiar truth. Or to put it more generally, sometimes an embodied presence captures our attention in a way that abstract memories do not.

 When the Sadness Doesn’t Leave

Michael Patton:

Personally, I attempt to deny my sadness as just being an itinerate foe that will leave soon. However, it never does. My wife and kids can see it in me. I try to hid it, but this unwanted friend has already made his presence known in a thousand different ways. There has been so much advice, so many interventions, but no one really knows what to do with me. They are often worried. I’m tired and find very little joy in my life. The most productive thing I do around the house is worry. I can’t find the peace that I preach.

Don’t get me wrong. Though my belief has suffered some terrible trials; and, this wrestling match with God has left me beaten and bruised. I know Whom I have believed. Yes, from time to time I have a bout with doubt, but it normally does not last. I am just sad. And everyone knows it.

Let me back up.

Why Not Same-Sex Marriage

Good review by Andrew Spencer.

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”

Links I like

The Pilgrim’s Progress—a new edition from Desiring God

DG has just released a brand new edition of John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s progress. You can get it free here.

Thank God for God

David Murray:

We all have so much to thank God for, but we often fail to thank God for Himself; that there is a God, that there is such a God, and that such a God is our God.

The Psalmists lead the way here in helping us celebrate God’s God-ness. For example, in Psalm 103 the Psalmist celebrates God as the Savior-King, and as the Creator-King in Psalm 104. He praises God as the Father of His children in Psalm 103 and as the Creator of His creatures in Psalm 104. Let’s join Him in Psalm 104 as he thanks God for God.

8 Leadership Principles from my first 90 days at Saddleback

A few months ago, my friend Ben joined the staff of Saddleback Church. I really appreciated reading about his first 90 days here.

Are Christian hashtags rallying the faithful for luring trolls?

Sarah Pulliam Bailey:

But everyone on Twitter is learning that a hashtag cuts both ways — it can be hijacked or lampooned by detractors, and it’s a key way that online activists are pushing back against opposing messages or what some might even call hate speech.

Truth Exchange

Great interview with Peter Jones at Ligonier:

TabletalkAre there any pagan assumptions that Christians today might unconsciously share with the culture? What are they?

Peter Jones: The power of culture is now used to intimidate rather than encourage biblical faith. We live in a post-Constantinian world with little protection from the state. Christians are accused of hate speech against homosexuals, of making war on women for opposing abortion, and of self-righteous intolerance for claiming the unique truth of the gospel. Under this barrage of unfair criticism, Christians can give up and “conform to the world,” as Paul says in Romans 12:2. Christians feel great pressure to modify the message, go easy on sin, opt for programs the culture approves of (such as social justice), and to see mysticism as the high point of faith, since it unifies all religions. In all of these areas, the church often fails to preach the gospel, which is not about human actions or reactions but about what God has done for sinners at a particular point in time in the person of Jesus the eternal Son.

Recovering Scripture

Michael Horton:

Lose the Scriptures and you lose the gospel. But in our day, it’s Protestants—even evangelicals—who downplay the sufficiency of Scripture for doctrine and life. As in the medieval church, many today think that Scripture is unclear about various doctrines, practices, and forms of worship. It’s just not interesting enough. We have to add our speculations, experiences, and cultural perspectives.

If I were celebrating Thanksgiving…

 

God's rescuing quote

Most of those who read my blog are probably getting ready to enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving meal, followed by a football game and, perhaps, a Star Wars trailer. Lord willing, you’re not preparing to camp out in front of a store because that’d be just wrong.

Today, I will not be eating turkey with all the trimmings, nor will I be enjoying some type of delicious pie. I will be eating normal food because I am Canadian. For us, it is not Thanksgiving (that happened back in October). It is merely Thursday.

There are times when I get envious of my friends in America. It’s not because I am not happy to be a Canadian (I’m just fine with that), or anything like that. But one of the things we don’t really do well here is celebrate. We don’t have a terribly strong national identity (at least among the current generation of Canadians), and we fail to take serious stock of our history. The thing we’re most confident of, it seems, is the fact that we have “free” healthcare (if by free you mean, paid for through your income taxes rather than an insurance policy).

So when I see how American friends seem to genuinely love their country, and celebrate their history (even if they sometimes creatively edit it), I get a twinge of jealousy. But that’s kind of silly, isn’t it?

But that’s the thing about envy. Paul Tripp writes,

Envy … assumes understanding that no one has. Envy not only assumes that you know more about that other person’s life than you could ever know, it assumes that you have a clearer understanding of what is best than God does. [It] causes you to forget God’s amazing rescuing, transforming, empowering, and delivering grace. You become so occupied with accounting for what you do not have that the enormous blessings of God’s grace—blessings that we could not have earned, achieved, or deserved—go unrecognized and uncelebrated. And because envy focuses more on what you want than it does on the life that God has called you to, it keeps you from paying attention to God’s commands and warnings, and therefore leaves you in moral danger. (New Morning Mercies, November 27)

This applies as much to our national identity as it does to our personal lives.

While some Canadians have developed a distinct identity of being not Americans, others look at America and say, “I want that.” They see a form of democracy that is unique in all the western world, and wonder what it would be like to live there (even if that democracy seems to exist more in theory than in practice these days). They look at our massive social safety net and laissez-faire attitude toward everything from politics to the value of a child’s life to the government’s ongoing attempts to warp children with pervy sex-ed curricula and wonder if it’s possible to get refugee status on account of crazy.

But when all we see is what’s wrong, or what we don’t have, and our focus is only on the greener grass on the other side, we’re looking at all the wrong things. While not turning a blind eye to the problems of our nation (and there are some seriously messed up things about it), running away or wishing we were somewhere else doesn’t change where God has placed us. We could go, but our problems would follow.

We’d find new things to be envious of.

So we need a different solution. “The only solution to envy is God’s rescuing grace—grace that turns self-centered sinners into joyful and contented worshipers of God.”

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The Sheep Aren’t Stupid

Joe Thorn:

Pastors sometimes say stupid things. Sometimes those stupid things are catchy and wind up being repeated by many other pastors. One of the more preposterous pithy statements I have heard many preachers say is, “Sheep are dumb.” They say this as shepherds and are referring to the sheep of the church—the congregation. The idea is that sheep are dumb, and must be led well. We shouldn’t be surprised when they do stupid things.

My problem with this statement is that it disrespects people made in God’s image and redeemed by God’s Son. It is a mocking of the church and an exaltation of self. The church isn’t stupid. Sinful, yes. Stupid, no. Speaking of the church in this way will get a chuckle from some leaders (who aren’t already bored by the worn-out expression), but will create distance between leadership and those pastors are called to lead.

The Ferguson Grand Jury Has Given Us Our Marching Orders

Thabiti Anyabwile:

We saw an American prosecutor fail the principle of “blind justice” by handling court procedure in a way most legal experts found a dereliction of duty. Over and over again we heard that the grand jury bar for an indictment is so low all it takes is a ham sandwich. Prosecutors who want to prosecute don’t “present all the evidence;” apparently, they present only that evidence that gets them the indictment and commences the trial. If that’s true, and I have to trust the majority opinion of legal experts since I’m not one, then Ferguson’s prosecutor failed to even live up to the low-bar ideals of his profession, much less America.

“You just went and made a new dinosaur…? Probably not a good idea.”

Is it possible that the Jurassic Park reboot could actually be… good?

I’m Bored With Blogs

Mike Leake:

It feels like the same people saying the same things in the same way. And those of us that are also curators (having features like Today in Blogworld) are guilty of perpetuating this. I confess that I’ve shared articles from known commodities without really reading through the article and considering all the implications. I like the title. I trust the author. So I link to it. That isn’t helpful. And I’m sorry.

Prayer in the Facebook Age

Mark Bauerlein:

We are in danger of losing these replenishing, corrective moments of solitary faith. Silence and seclusion are harder to find, and fewer people seek them out. You find a lone bench in the park on a fall afternoon, gaze up at the sky through the branches, and begin the Rosary only to have a power walker march by barking into an invisible mic. It’s not just the noise, it’s his connection to absent persons, as if to say that being in one place alone with the Lord is insufficient.

Contingency

Mike Wittmer:

Whether you are a Calvinist or an Arminian, you must concede that whatever happens goes all the way back to God’s will. God may have directly decreed it, or decreed to allow it, but ultimately the buck stops with him. Because it is God’s will, it is contingent. It didn’t have to be this way. This is true for the really bad stuff, and it’s also true for God’s decision to bless us with all good things.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

There are a ton of Kindle deals this week. Here’s a look at the latest:

99¢ or less

$2.99 or less

$3.99 and up

Ferguson response

Good thoughts here from Darrin Patrick.

How Guardians of the Galaxy should have ended

I loved the movie, but this is pretty fantastic:

Why Is Church So Boring? R C Sproul’s Answer

David Murray:

Two quotes from The Holiness of God by R C Sproul, the first identifying boredom as the main reason people stop going to church, and the second identifying awe as the antidote to boredom.

Summary: More awe in church services = less boredom in church = less people leave church.

If Sproul is right, and I believe he is, how do we create more awe in our church services. Is this something only God can give, so we have to just wait for it to happen? Or is it something for which we are also responsible?

How Board Games Conquered Cafes

This is pretty cool.

HT: Tim

Gratitude Is Hard to Do

Joseph Rhea:

We live in maybe the most prosperous country in certainly the most prosperous era yet of all time. And as people bought back into relationship with God by the merit of Jesus Christ, Christians should be even more thankful than anyone else. Besides, gratitude is fun! As G. K. Chesterton says, “Thanks are the highest form of thought, and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” We miss out on so much when we fail to live gratefully.

I think there are three big reasons why gratitude can seem so hard to find.

4 Ways a Christian Leader Should Know “What Time It Is”

Trevin Wax:

To think of leadership in terms of timeless principles is easy, but we do well to remember that the tasks of exercising leadership and exerting influence do not take place in a vacuum. They are by nature contextual; that is, they require the use of wisdom in applying principles to various and often-changing contexts.

In this sense, then, Christian leadership is never timeless. Instead, it is a timely application of God-given wisdom regarding specific decisions that must be made in particular moments in time.

Check out the latest Logos pre-pub titles

For those not familiar, Logos’ Pre-Publication program is how the newest titles get into Logos. This program gives users special low prices, as well as a say in what gets added to the Logos library (read more on that here). Here are a few standout titles (note, all prices are in USD):

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few to start off the week (note: this will be a big week for book deals given that Black Friday is nearly upon us):

The Tragedy of the American Dream

HT: Chris

5 Ways to Kill Anger

Jen Thorn:

The worst part about anger is that is does not bring about the righteousness of that we desire (James 1:19) Instead it hurts those who are at the receiving end of our anger, disfigures our character,  breeds hatred and distrusts,tears apart relationships, and worst of all dishonors God.

It ruins everything.

The language of grumbling

Kim Shay:

Why do we complain? We don’t like things the way they are. We feel that we deserve more. We are bitter. Bitterness is one of the worst contributors to complaining. Bitterness festers and grows so that we see everything in a haze of indignation, and we complain more. I know; I’ve been that person. I’m not proud of it, but seeing it in myself is very helpful. I don’t want to be one of those people whom others avoid because I complain so much.

Help to Increase Your Thanksgiving Appetite

Jon Bloom:

When it comes to cultivating gratitude, we need all the help we can get. As I wrote last week, thanksgiving does not come naturally to sinful people. Grumbling and disputing comes natural (Philippians 2:14). Gratitude is the heart’s response to seeing and experiencing grace. And we must intentionally look for grace. It’s all around us. But selfishness distorts the lenses of our heart-eyes. So we need Scriptural prescription lenses to see right.

But once we begin to see, oh how things change. It is then that the real meaning of Thanksgiving dawns on us. We discover that the real feast of Thanksgiving is feasting on thanksgiving. Thursday’s American food feast is not the focus but is a finger that points us to a feast for our souls: God’s abounding, all-sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Now, if we (Americans) rush into Thursday’s celebration having barely reflected on gratitude, we will fill our stomachs but leave our souls hungry. So here are some resources that will help increase your thanksgiving appetite.

In A Tight Place with Profanity

Mark Bauerlein:

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, and sometimes it isn’t. The other night I had a flight to Atlanta and was lucky to get upgraded to business class. It was late, I was tired, and lights were low. People were reading, checking their phones, watching their tablets. I leaned back and drifted into half-slumber until a voice exclaimed, “Oh man, that’s f _ _ _ in’ awesome.”