Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots (LOTS!) of Kindle deals today from Zondervan:

Be sure to also grab What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? by Edward T. Welch, which is free today.

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?

Kevin DeYoung’s latest, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, officially releases today and Westminster Bookstore has a great sale on it for the next few days: $10 for a single copy; $8 each when buying five or more; $6 each when purchasing a case (60). Look for a review really soon!

Leading strong-willed people

As a strong-willed person (and the parent of a couple of strong-willed little people), this was really helpful.

Rolling Stone and the Culture of Lying

Russell Moore:

Rolling Stone magazine printed serious criminal accusations against a campus group, accusations the periodical now admits are completely false. Despite all of this, both the article’s author and the magazine editor will keep their jobs according to the publisher. This matters, and matters to far more people than just those on the campus of the University of Virginia or even to the target demographic of Rolling Stone. Behind this scandal is a larger point. In our society, it’s become acceptable to lie about people and ideas, as long as the crisis created is in line with a perceived social good.

Should We Give the Death Penalty to Adulterers?

Mike Leake:

We don’t burn witches anymore. And I imagine all of us celebrate this fact. But what is your justification for saying that the Old Testament no longer applies on these issues? This is an important question because how we answer this determines whether we’ll give muddy responses to contemporary issues related to morality.

10 Pointers for “Untrained” Preachers

As a mostly untrained preacher, I really appreciated reading these ten tips from Peter Mead.

Quiet the Fear, Do the Work

Jon Bloom:

Being strong and courageous was not some kind of self-confident swagger for Joshua. It was trusting God’s promises more than his own strength and acting on that trust. Courage meant faith-filled action in the face of fear.

Why aren’t unknown pastors headlining Christian conferences?

unknown-pastors

Christian conference season is in full swing once again, which means there’s inevitably going to be a flood of blog posts and tweets from various corners of the Interwebs about this or that event. Some folks will be live-blogging. Others will be live-tweeting. And some will be lamenting the fact that there aren’t any “ordinary” pastors headlining anything.

I’ve wondered about this for a while. We’re all equal in Christ, after all. Those who are more obscure in their ministry have as much to say (sometimes even more) than those who are extremely well known. So why do our conferences seem to focus primarily on the latter group? What’s the deal?

Why aren’t unknown pastors speaking at big events? The answer is actually pretty simple: it’s because you wouldn’t go if they did.

Now, before anyone thinks I’m accusing any groups of propping up the so-called “Christian celebrity industrial complex,” or that I’m telling people who complain about such things to knock it off, let me tell you a story:

A few years ago, I went to a three-day conference here in Ontario, which featured several speakers (and only one of whom was fairly well-known among theology nerds like me). The location was quite accessible, located just off the 401 highway (and had free parking, even!). The word spread, sponsors and volunteers signed up… However, maybe two hundred people showed up.

A year later, a big two-day men’s event was announced, again here in Ontario. Three of the four speakers were, without question, Christian celebrities (even if one of those three is anything but in his demeanor). The location was in a city’s downtown core (and therefore had some challenges with parking especially). Again, the word spread, sponsors and volunteers signed up… This time, about eight thousand men showed up.

Which was the more edifying event? Having attended both, the former, by far. But significantly more people went to the latter. Why? Because they wanted to hear the big name speakers.

And that’s a huge reason people go to big conferences—it’s not that the conference organizers are trying to perpetuate Christian celebrity-ism. It’s that people will only go if they make it worth their while. There has to be a draw.

For some people, it’s the topic. For example, TGC’s focus on the new creation in 2015 is really exciting to me. It’s a big part of why I’m going (social and personal ministry reasons aside). But some people are going, really, just because they want to hear John Piper or Tim Keller speak. And that’s cool, too, as long as they’re learning. If they’re going only to get selfies with them, though…

But think about it: A lot of the folks who bemoan certain groups for perpetuating celebrity-ism are just as guilty of it—they just have different celebrities. If you’ve asked John MacArthur to sign your Bible, guess what? You’re doing it because he’s Christian-famous. He is, for lack of a better term, a celebrity.

But just because MacArthur is well known doesn’t make the Shepherd’s Conference evil, any more than Tim Keller being well known makes TGC’s National Conference evil. Or Kevin DeYoung increasingly becoming well known makes T4G evil. Or… well, you get the point.

A few bad eggs1 aside, many of the Christian-famous Christians we know—whether MacArthur, Keller, Piper, or whomever—are not so because they’re trying to make a name for themselves. God has simply chosen to give them a larger platform. This doesn’t mean those of us with smaller platforms don’t have anything worth contributing—it’s just that God has chosen to do something different in our lives compared to these other people. And that’s okay.

Also, don’t ask people to sign your Bible. It’s just weird.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s deals of the week focus on the family:

Also on sale:

And several by C.S. Lewis:

Why the “third day”?

Mitchell Chase points us to “an overall pattern of incredible third-day events” in the Old Testament to better understand Jesus promise to rise on the third day.

The Most Neglected Part of Christ’s Saving Work

Nick Batzig:

In recent years, it has become more commonplace to hear certain theologians emphasize that the ascension and present reign of Christ are the most neglected aspects of His work of redemption; and, while there is great merit in highlighting the consequences of such a neglect of these precious truths, I have come to believe that the most neglected part of Christ’s saving work is actual what happened to Him in between His death and resurrection. The Apostle Paul put Jesus’ burial on par with His death and resurrection. When he spoke of the “Gospel” he did so by singling out the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. So what part does the burial of Jesus play in the work of redemption. Here are three significant features about His burial.

Say Goodbye to Lifeboat Theology

Tom Nelson:

In this theological perspective, God’s lifeboat plan of redemption is concerned only with the survival of his people. However noble and well-meaning our efforts to salvage God’s creation may be, at the end of the day, our work on this doomed earth only amounts to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

But God is deeply concerned with the crown of his fallen creation and has initiated a glorious plan of redemption through his Son Jesus. He has not abandoned this world.

Cancer Is a Parable About Sin

The Hymn of the Legalist

This is good (and smarts a bit).

The Story Behind The Song “I Stand In Awe”

Mark Altrogge:

Over the years, people have asked me how I wrote the song “I Stand in Awe.” I wish I had some jaw-dropping tale of how I was caught up to the third heaven and handed a scroll with the lyrics written in gold ink. Or at least that I was driving in my car and the song came into my mind in a flash of divine inspiration. No, my songwriting process is usually pretty pedestrian and mundane (slow and unimpressive).

The only reasonable thing to do

easter-2015

Jesus’ death and resurrection cause no end of consternation among those who either question or seek to disprove the Christian faith. Should Christians be all hung up on whether or not Jesus really rose from the dead? Does the evidence really prove itself out?

Here are the facts about the resurrection, as we have them:

  • The tomb was empty.
  • No one could produce a body.
  • For several weeks after his death, Jesus’ disciples kept meeting him—and rarely as individuals only, but almost exclusively in groups, some as large as 500 people!

His disciples’ insistence caused them no end of ridicule and scorn, yet they persisted in proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection. They event went so far as to say that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, their faith is in vain and their sins were still on them, and therefore they were utterly without hope (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

To prove them wrong, all one had to do was produce Jesus’ body. And yet, no one ever could. Why? Because there was no body to be found.

So what is the most reasonable thing to do? We can continue to make up alternative explanations all day long. We can attempt to say Jesus never really existed, or that if he did, he didn’t resemble the man who claimed to be God as described in the gospels.

Or, we can admit, as J.I. Packer encourages, that there is only one reasonable thing to do: believe. He writes:

A Christian in public debate accused his skeptical opponent of having more faith than he—“for,” he said, “in face of the evidence, I can’t believe that Jesus did not rise, and you can!” It really is harder to disbelieve the resurrection than to accept it, much harder. Have you yet seen it that way? To believe in Jesus Christ as Son of God and living Savior, and to echo the words of ex-doubter Thomas, “My Lord and my God,” is certainly more than an exercise of reason, but in the face of the evidence it is the only reasonable thing a person can do.1

Don’t invite them to church this weekend

church-weekend

For a lot of churches in the West, Easter weekend is treated not unlike SuperBowl Sunday. It’s the big show, a grand production. Kind of like a regular Sunday with a bit of extra “oomph”—which most often comes in the form of horrifically graphic video clips from a movie for which we may or may not have appropriate licensing, though occasionally it also involves laser light shows, motorcycle stunts, and an extravagant giveaway or two.

This is the weekend where we’re encouraged to invite our friends, our families, our neighbors, and bring them to church. It’s the weekend where they’re for sure going to hear the gospel preached and perhaps even the Lord might save them!

But you know something? I’m not sure it’s always a good idea. In fact, in some cases, maybe the best thing to do is to not invite them at all.

  • Don’t invite them to church this weekend if they would be surprised to learn you’re a Christian.
  • Don’t invite them if the gospel wasn’t preached last weekend.
  • Don’t invite them if you wouldn’t invite them next weekend.

That’s not what they need. They don’t need to go to a church where they’re not going to hear about Jesus, and they don’t need to be invited to church on one weekend if you wouldn’t invite them any other time.

Some of us should, definitely, invite our friends to church this weekend, next weekend, and every weekend, as long as Jesus is consistently proclaimed. But for many of us, maybe we need to take a few steps back. Maybe we should invite them into our lives first, and share the gospel with them as we begin to share ourselves. Let them get to know a Christian and win them with the good news, rather than potentially confuse them with a big show.

 

Links I like

Links

Toronto Gospel Alliance

If you’re in the Toronto area today and have the opportunity, be sure to go and join with with fellow believers to celebrate Good Friday from 7-9 PM at the University of Toronto.

I Am Barabbas

This is really great stuff from Michael Kelley.

$5 Friday at Ligonier

Today is $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation by Anthony Carter (Hardcover)
  • The Atonement of Jesus Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (Audio download)
  • The New Birth Teaching Series by Steven Lawson (Audio and video download)
  • By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)
  • Shadow Of The Cross by Walter Chantry (Paperback)

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

One Key Reason Most Churches Do Not Exceed 350 in Average Attendance

I’d be interested to hear some responses to this piece.

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Donald Macleod:

The sufferings of his soul, as the old divines used to say, were the soul of his suffering, and into that soul we can see but dimly. Public though the cry was, it expressed the intensely private anguish of a tension between the sin-bearing Son and his heavenly Father: the whirlwind of sin at its most dreadful, God forsaken by God.

Peddlers vs. Pastors

Pat Aldridge gives guidance on how to identify a peddler vs a pastor of God’s Word.

A Snapshot of Christ Singing that Makes Me Sing

Erik Raymond:

Can you imagine this scene?  This is a precious time of singing with the Lord Jesus as he proceeds out to walk the lonely path to Golgotha to purchase redemption for sinners like me and you.

As we now stand on the other side of the cross we look forward to the reunion with all of the saints, together in the presence of the Lamb.

Think about this for a moment.

Links I like

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The best thing to happen in advertising since bacon

Advertising is a necessary evil for many bloggers who want to keep their sites up and running. Today, Beacon Ads is making advertising easier—and more delicious—than ever as they become Bacon Ads!

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots of great deals today:

Also, Westminster Bookstore has just started carrying eBooks from the fine folks at Reformation Heritage Books with more than 100 titles priced at $1.99 until April 13th. You can also get A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones for $4.99 as part of this sale.

America’s muddled morality about the unborn

Trevin nails this.

Helping Children Benefit from the Sermon

Erik Raymond:

As a pastor I often get the question, “Do you have any advice for helping my kids to benefit from the sermon?”

This is a question that I really appreciate because it recognizes the importance of the preaching of the Word of God and our reception of it. It recognizes that even the children are to hear, and to best of their ability, understand what is being preached.

What follows are some things that I have done as a Dad and also as a pastor.

Theologians to know and read

This is good:

The many hairstyles of David Beckham

I saw this on Twitter last night; it is a delightful piece of artwork:

beckham-hair

You can also buy prints of it here.

A Clean House and a Wasted Life

Tim Challies:

I love productivity. At least, I love productivity when it is properly defined—as effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. By this definition, each one of us, no matter our vocation, ought to pursue productivity with all the vigor we can muster. And if you do that, it is inevitable that along the way you will accumulate some mess. You cannot focus your time, attention, gifts, energy, and enthusiasm toward noble goals while still keeping every corner of life perfectly tidy.

10 words that will completely shatter your self-image (and that’s a good thing!)

independent-creatures

Let’s just admit it right now: we think far too highly of ourselves.

And no, those aren’t the ten words I’m talking about (and not just because there are 13 words in that sentence).

We westerners have an obsession with autonomy. We are self-made people who are motivated to actualize our potential to live our best lives now so that every day can be a Friday after we’ve worked a four-hour work week (which gives us more time to work out at the gym and experiment with fad diets, y’know).

We are masters of our domain (except when our fad diets crash and burn on us).

We are charting our own course, knowing our destinies are but what we make them.

We are… kind of silly, actually.

Why? Because, as Bavinck writes: “Scripture knows no independent creatures; this would be an oxymoron.”

Let those ten words press on you for a bit. A statement more at odds with our culture, and more challenging to how each of us live each day, you’ll have a difficult time finding.

The notion that we are creatures is naturally offensive to us. To be a creature means to be created. And to be created means we are derived from a Creator. And if there is a Creator, then we are not the all-powerful autonomous beings we wish to be, because we are dependent. We are finite. We are not our own.

The more we insist upon it—the more some even try to twist the Bible into making it say something that it clearly doesn’t (let the reader understand)—the more we find ourselves at odds with reality.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots of great stuff on sale today:

One of the Most Powerful Parenting Ally

Michael Kelley:

My kids are growing up before my eyes. Some days it feels like they take leaps and bounds toward young adulthood. And in those moments, I curse time. I like things the way they are, but time wags his finger in my face and tells me that they can’t stay like this. They are going to change, ready or not. At times like these, time feels like my opponent, something to be fought against. So I battle and battle to try and preserve the day, the now, knowing that it’s a losing battle.

There is, however, another perspective. For parents like me, time doesn’t have to be an opponent; it can actually be one of the most powerful allies we have.

They protest too much

Conrad Black addresses militant atheists.

What Opposition to Religious Freedom Really Means

Russell Moore:

When secularized or nominally religious people don’t understand religious motivation, then they are going to assume that, behind a concern for religious exercise, is some sinister agenda: usually one involving power or money. That sort of ignorance is not just naive. It leads to a breakdown of pluralism and liberal democracy. I shouldn’t have the power to mandate that a Jain caterer provide wild game for some Baptist church’s Duck Dynasty-themed “Beast Feast,” just because I don’t understand their non-violent tenets toward all living creatures. I shouldn’t be allowed to require Catholic churches to use grape juice instead of wine just because I don’t understand transubstantiation.

6 Questions Every Writer Should Ask About Every Sentence

Aaron Earls shares six good questions taken from George Orwell writers need to ask themselves.

Pastor, Should You Write that Book?

Barnabas Piper:

This seems like a reasonable assertion. 80% of the congregation loved the messages, therefore a large percentage of like-minded Christians will also like the message. Unfortunately there is almost no correlation between what a pastor’s congregation thinks of his sermons and the audience size when that is turned into a book.

Are our creeds really the problem?

social-justice

In February 2015, I had the opportunity to be a part of the TruthXchange 2015 Think Tank, “Generational Lies; Timeless Truths”. In my session, I was tasked with tackling the question of deeds vs creeds—or, to put it another way, “Why can’t we just help people and leave religion out of it?”

This uniquely western question is at the heart of much of the debate surrounding our responsibility toward acts of social justice (though I am not a fan of the term, but that’s for another time). The audio is now up at TruthXchange.com, and I hope you’ll take the time to give it a listen. In my session, I address:

  • Whether or not the Church is really asleep at the wheel when it comes to social justice—do our creeds get in the way of doing good works?
  • The Oneist distortion of social justice—the lies that twist helping those in need into human-centric self-worship
  • The beauty of Two in social justice—how our creeds, and the Creator/creation distinction, inform and transform our work in the world.

Head over to TruthXchange to listen to the lecture or download it here.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s deals from Crossway focus on pastoral ministry:

Also on sale:

Thoughts on Note-Taking During Sermons

Jared Wilson:

I first began thinking about note-taking in relation to what preaching is when I heard Tim Keller, echoing Lloyd-Jones, say in a sermon, “I don’t mind if you take notes at the beginning of a message, but if you’re still taking notes at the end, I feel like I haven’t brought it home.” I thought to myself then, “Hmmm.” It resonated with me and how I both was experiencing the kind of preaching I found to exalt Christ and the kind of preaching I was trying to get better at.

How much business is your profanity costing you?

Michael Hyatt:

I’ve made huge gains in my personal and professional life from people who could make sailors blush. But here’s the thing: I don’t always feel comfortable directing my audience to do the same. It’s just not worth offending them.

That means great content providers are losing potential audience growth, and potential audiences are missing some great content. So is cussing really worth it?

Unfortunate beard facts

Take that, hipsters (or something).

If You Are Boycotting Indiana, Here’s Where Else You Need to Boycott

Enjoy some good old-fashioned common sense in this post. Sadly, most of the folks who need it won’t read it. Joe Carter also provides some insight into what Indiana’s RFRA actually means here, and Mollie Hemingway slams the botched and biased reporting on the act here.

The Spiritual Stages of a Believer’s Life

Nick Batzig:

1 John 2:12-14 gives us one of the most wonderful prose-like theological structures in Scripture. The Apostle, writing about the benefits that believers have in Christ casts it under the figure of little children, young men and fathers. His intention was to explain the benefits that believers have that come to us by means of the Scriptures. On the surface, it appears that John may simply have been seeking to address the children, young men and older men in the congregations to whom he is writing; but, a consideration of what he says, namely, that all the saving benefits belong to all believers who are united to Christ–leads to a very different conclusion.

Ingratitude is madness

madness-cross

Whenever some new scandal erupts—particularly if it’s of a political nature—I’m not terribly surprised. Grieved, yes. Frustrated, sometimes. Surprised, no. Why? Because, whether it’s a politician getting caught doing something he or she shouldn’t have been,1 attempts to remove the ability for doctors to act in accordance with their consciences,2 or companies attempting to make gender irrelevant through ever-increasing options,3 it’s just the old story of ingratitude playing out, once again. For it was in spite of all God had done and all the blessings he had given them that Adam and Eve turned their backs and sinned against him. And this, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones reminds us, is what every single person who has not truly turned to Christ continues to do every moment.

Consider all that God has done:

It is God who was given you life. It is God who saw to it that you should be born into a family with loved ones who would care of you and look after you. It is God who ordained marriage. It is God who ordained the family. It is God who ordained the state. It is God the Father who sends the rain. It is God who gives the sun. It is God who fructifies the crops in the field and gives us food… It is God in his beneficence who does all this. (The Gospel in Genesis, 39)

All of this—all of life—comes from God. They are good gifts from him. We take, we employ, and we enjoy his gifts—but we fail to give thanks to God for them. We even has the audacity to employ his gifts in our attempts to deny and discredit him! He even gave us the greatest gift of all—sending his only son, Jesus, to humble himself, go to the cross and die so that we might be forgiven and redeemed. Yet “men spat in his face. They still do” (40).

In spite of all that God had done for them, [Adam and Eve] believed the lie and men and women still believe the lie. They have looked at Calvary, they have looked at the cross, and they have said, “It’s not true. God is against us.” The God who did this is against us? There is only one thing to say about that. It is madness, my friends. (40)

Jones was—and is—absolutely correct. It is utter madness to say this God is against us. This God who gives us life and breath and all things; this God who did not spare his only son for us. And yet, there will be many who enter our churches believing this to be so. Men, women and children who are beguiled and blinded. Terrifyingly, some of them will enter the pulpit or walk onstage. They will continue to walk in ingratitude, denying and decrying the Lord. And it will go on this way until God puts an end to this madness. Until he opens their eyes and removes their blinders. Pray that today would be the day.

The golden age hasn’t come (yet)

golden-age

Close your eyes and imagine what you would consider the golden age of Christianity:

  • Was it in the earliest days of the church, when the Apostles and all the followers of Jesus had all things in common?
  • The middle ages, during the high point of Christendom?
  • The heady days of the Protestant Reformation, when men such as Martin Luther and John Calvin recovered the gospel from its near total abandonment?

Or maybe it was the days of the Great Awakening in North America in the 18th century, the second Great Awakening in the 19th, or the renewed revivalism of the 1950s and 1960s? Or the early days of the seeker movement, or even the emergent/emerging movement(s) of the later 20th century and early 21st?

We all have these times in our minds, these eras we’d love to get back to if we could—as though they were moments where we had it all figured out. But the important thing to remember, and this is something I was greatly encouraged by in my recent reading, is there is no golden age of Christianity.

At least, not yet.

Remember, the early church everyone seemed to want to get back to for a long while? Don’t forget that while they had all things in common, they were also horribly persecuted, and had all kinds of doctrinal disunity, sexual immorality and other misconduct known among them (particularly in Corinth). So yeah, we didn’t have it nailed then. Christendom had many wonderful qualities and great gifts it gave to the world (including universities), but it was also in this age that the Roman Church traded heavenly gain for earthly prestige and power. The Reformation, for all its positive benefits, also saw continued splintering and internal fighting between its most powerful voices (to say nothing of the violent fighting between Roman Catholics and Protestants). And in later years… Well, you get the idea, right?

There has been no golden age of Christianity. But there is one coming—but is not one we can run back to, or we can progress toward. It is one that will come through God’s power, in God’s timing. So even as some of us fear what is to come, as we see the West shed its last vestiges of its Christian heritage, and the increased persecution of Christians in the Middle East, we can still have hope—and are right to have it. The golden age hasn’t come yet. But because of the hope we have in Christ and his resurrection, we know it will come.


Photo credit: St.-Anna-Kirche via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Emotional blackmail in the church

Jared Wilson quotes John Piper, and it’s a doozy.

Reading for Information vs. Reading for Delight

Erik Raymond:

I certainly don’t know the precise reason, however, I have a hunch that it is somewhere between what Jacobs observes and what I concluded about my lack of devotion to the Omaha newspaper: we don’t delight in the Bible. We just scan it for information we don’t drink it in and digest it.

What do we do about this?

The open letters Christian keep writing on social media

Will Adair gets it.

Wishing Away God’s Design

Owen Strachan:

Over the last 50 years, American Christians have watched as our society has fashioned a brave new order for itself. Feminism and the sexual revolution have transformed the American home. Many men have lost any sense of responsibility for their family. They’re tuned out, passive, and self-focused. Many women feel great tension between their career and home. They are told by secular lifestyle magazines to pursue perfect “work-life” balance, but it’s hard to find. Increasingly, the sexes are in competition. These troubling developments represent phase one of the transformation of men and women.

5 Free Classes on Ethics

Andy Naselli shares some great options for free classes on biblical ethics.

The Redemption of Boredom

Michelle Lesley:

But whether you love chemistry or not, we’ve all been there. For you, maybe it was Shakespeare, or sitting on hold waiting for the cable company to answer your call, or one of those pointless, endless meetings at work that a two paragraph e-mail could have covered. Have you ever noticed how many boring moments there are in life?