Links I like

Infographic: Batman and the history of the bat-suit

Really enjoyed this.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a few new deals from Crossway for the more academically inclined:

You can also save on print or ePub editions when purchasing directly from Crossway.

Also, How People Change by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp is free until Friday. Get it!

The Real Truth About Boring Men

Ann Voskamp:

Romance isn’t measured by how viral your proposal goes. The internet age may try to sell you something different, but don’t ever forget that viral is closely associated with sickness – so don’t ever make being viral your goal. Your goal is always to make your Christ-focus contagious – to just one person.

Losing Weight You Weren’t Meant to Carry

Nick Horton:

Ladies, I want to help you lose a burden you weren’t meant to carry. But first, you need to take a minute and read Proverbs 31:10-31. Done? Okay, let’s talk.

Do you feel the weight? Few women read this passage without guilt. Many are under the impression that they must live out this example to be a worthwhile wife. “Wife” guilt morphs into “mommy” guilt and each verse adds a little weight. Stone, upon stone, upon stone, added to the back of over-burdened and exhausted women that are already on an arduous performance treadmill set to maximum incline.

I want to help you take some of that weight off. Ladies, Proverbs 31 isn’t a checklist or a performance guideline for you.

5 Things to Do Before Leaving Your Church

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Everyone will leave their church at some point. Whether God calls us home to glory, move to another city, or decide to try a different local church, we are going to leave.

Leaving a local congregation should be one of the most difficult decision we face. It should be filled with the recollection of our love for the saints, their love for us, our service together in the name of our Lord, and our sorrows and joys in the faith. A church is family and we ought never feel it easy to leave family–even an unhealthy family.

But we do sometimes find ourselves at that crossroads. When we’ve decided to leave, there are at least five things we want to do before we go.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Are You Part of a Phonebook Ministry?

Aaron Earls:

Not long ago, my youngest son came up to me with a puzzled look on his face. “Daddy, what’s a phonebook?” he asked.

I had to laugh. The idea of a phonebook, that was so common to me, is so completely foreign to him.

Reflecting on that caused me to think about our ever evolving culture and the way we do ministry – are we doing phonebook ministry?

How to peel a head of garlic in less than 10 seconds

This is fascinating (but those who are particularly sensitive, be forewarned—there is a mild swear in the video):

We Are Far Too Easily Displeased

Jon Bloom:

I am a grumbler by (fallen) nature.

Just this morning a malfunctioning software program required my attention. Experience told me the likely course: at least two times on the phone with customer support and at least two glitches in the fixing process. Forty-five minutes minimum. Probably more. (All proved true, by the way.) Immediately I resented this time-stealing inconvenience. And when my wife called in the middle of dealing with it, out of my mouth came my displeasure.

Life problems don’t get much smaller. What is the matter with me?

Elder Questions: Living Together

Tim Kimberley answers the question:

You are counseling a couple, who claim to be Christian, that are sleeping together and believe they are “married in their hearts”. They would like to become members of your church. Describe how would you handle this couple, including how you would address the issue of being “married in their hearts?”

The Assembly of the Good People

Aimee Byrd:

It’s sad isn’t it? This group of confessing unbelievers is being called out by a leader to assemble together on a Sunday of all days. It’s like there is some kind of longing within them to respond, some kind of knowledge of something more. But they suppress the truth in unrighteousness, and make themselves the object of worship.

This Sunday Assembly sounds exactly like J. Gresham Machen’s description of the liberal Christian church gatherings in his book Christianity and Liberalism.

A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll

call-to-resurgence

Christendom is dead. Now let’s set aside our differences and get to work telling people about Jesus.

If you wanted to sum up Mark Driscoll’s new book, A Call to Resurgence, in a sentence, that’d be the way to do it. And make no mistake, pronouncing Christendom, the age of cultural Christianity, dead is no overstatement, even if declaring the American church dead is. A quick survey of the cultural landscape in America (and the West in general) shows how much has changed, and it’s definitely not in favor of Christianity. So what are Christians to do? Are we to retreat and wait for Jesus to return? Are we to give up our distinguishing characteristics and blend into the culture?

We do not need more retreat, Driscoll says. We need resurgence:

This is not a time for compromise but rather courage. The fields are ripe. And as Jesus says, “the laborers are few”—in part because the prophets of doom are many.… This is no time to trade in boots for flip-flops. The days are darker, which means our resolve must be stronger and our convictions clearer.

A strong cultural critique

There is much to appreciate about A Call to Resurgence, starting with its intent. Driscoll’s greatest strength has always been his appraisal of the cultural climate in North America, and this is no less true in the case of this book, which is why chapter two shines. Here Driscoll offers a succinct description of many of the contributing factors to the death of Christendom—pornography, the acceptance of homosexuality, bad dads, a lack of generosity, intolerant “tolerance,” and the resurgence of paganism in its many forms.

I believe it’s no overstatement to say this is the book’s standout chapter, especially his breakdown of the “new paganism,” which owes a massive debt to Peter Jones’ excellent book, One or Two. Driscoll explains well its roots as described in Romans 1:18-32, and its various expressions, from atheistic one-ism (the idea of a pure naturalism) to pale imitations of Christianity (notably moralistic therapeutic deism).

A confused message on the essentials

While Driscoll is often insightful in identifying cultural issues, his assessment of biblical ones is too often simplistic. This is especially clear when he describes the various “tribes” within evangelicalism. These, he says, are united by their common agreement on the following black-and-white issues: [Read more...]

Called to Stay by Caleb Breakey

called-to-stay-3d

Millennials are leaving the church in droves (or so some say)—they’re tired of the passionless, go-through-the-motions, infotainment form of Christianity that promises a good time but doesn’t change the world.

So how do you get them to stay?

Caleb Breakey offers Millennials a compelling reason in Called to Stay: if you’re fed up with playing church, if you want to be part of a church moving toward love, unity and a deep longing for Jesus, you need to be part of the solution to fixing it.

He calls this infiltration.

Infiltration and intentional discipleship

“Infiltration is about using your power and influence to the fullest inside the church,” he writes. “If we want to make a difference in this world, we must become Infiltrators of our churches” (25-27).

What Breakey calls infiltrating is simply a call to intentionality in your faith—essentially he’s saying if you say you’re a Christian, be in it to win it. Be engaged in your church, be involved in the lives of others. Actually live out that whole “spurring one another to love and good deed” thing.

Breakey repeatedly gets this exactly right—if we want to see people grow in their faith, if we see our local churches struggling, we need to invest ourselves there. Don’t go searching for the perfect church, because it’s not out there (and you’ll ruin it if you find it). This is definitely a message all believers—young or old—need to hear, again and again.

Perhaps the greatest strength of the book is Breakey’s understanding of the need for empathy. “If we are ever to sharpen each other as one sword sharpens another, we need to be willing to step into the minds of others, think as they do, and then use what we’ve learned to push both them and ourselves to deeper commitment to Jesus” (140). [Read more...]

What’s the Role of a Pastor’s Wife?

Is the Pastor’s wife to be the “co-pastor,” the church’s “First Lady,” or just another member?

What role should the wife of a Senior Pastor have in the church? Steven Furtick, Greg Laurie and James MacDonald offer their takes here:

(Can’t see the video? Please click through to the site)

 

James MacDonald’s closing remark in this clip is particularly insightful:

We’re to love our wives. . . . the way we treat our wives in public is a signal not only to our own wives but to our congregation of what that’s supposed to look like . . . and I just don’t think there should be any further expectation beyond that…

This brings up an important question, not just for pastors, but for all Christian men:

How are we treating our wives in public? Do we treat them better in publicly than privately? Do we treat them better privately than publicly? Are we striving to be consistent in how we show honor to our wives wherever we are?

HT: James MacDonald

Book Review: Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer

There are some books you really look forward to reviewing and others you approach with trepidation. Mere Churchianity is the latter. The reason has less to do with the content and more with the fact that the book’s author, Michael Spencer—better known around the interwebs as the Internet Monk—passed away in April, 2010. So now, there’s no opportunity to interact with him over it. And reading the book left me wanting to sit and hang out with him and just talk about it. Here’s why:

American Christianity, in Spencer’s mind, has succumbed to a false religion: churchianity. Instead of being people who are transformed by Jesus, shaped to be like Him, we’ve settled for playing church. We’ve replaced relationship with religion.

And this has forced him to ask, “When millions of people walk away from the church that has a sign out front saying Jesus is inside, what are they walking away from?” (p. 21). Are they walking away from God or from empty religion? Are they abandoning Jesus, or are they “walking away from a church that has become disconnected from Jesus and all he stands for?”

Perhaps the leavers and quitters are sending a message about Jesus that Christians need to take to heart. Perhaps churchianity has done more to alienate people from Christianity than all the best-selling books written by angry atheists. It is clear that the church has overadvertised something it has lost, and it’s time to answer some questions about the Jesus who doesn’t live behind the church signs. (p. 21)

The big idea behind Mere Churchianity is provocative—yet not. It’s provocative in the sense that it’s a very bold statement about the way things are in the church in North America. Yet, the claim itself has been made by so many (usually in a way that lacks charity and humility) that it’s become very easy to ignore. How did I respond? My reaction was… mixed. [Read more...]

Sermon Audio: When God Delivers His People

On Sunday, March 6, 2011, I had the privilege of preaching at Sovereign Grace Community Church in Sarnia, Ontario. The message, “When God Delivers His People,” was preached from Psalm 14:1-7:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

 

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD? There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge.

 

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

The complete audio is available here: :

You can also download to listen later.

My original sermon notes are available for download here.

I hope you find the message edifying. Please feel free to provide some feedback in the comments. Thanks!

Around the Interweb

Trafficking in the Shadow of the Superbowl

Via Carolyn McCulley:

A.H. was trafficked to Dallas/Ft. Worth and forced into prostitution when she was just a teen. Like many other girls, she was beaten, raped, and enslaved not far from Dallas Cowboys stadium, where the 2011 Super Bowl will be held. To fight back against sex trafficking in Dallas and during major events like the Super Bowl, A.H. has written an open letter to the 2011 Super Bowl Host Committee and the NFL, asking them to endorse the I’m Not Buying It campaign.

Here’s the opening of A.H.’s letter:

Dear Super Bowl Host Committee & National Football League,

My name is A.H. and I’m a survivor of sex trafficking. I’m not a big football fan, but I’ll never forget my first trip to Dallas/Fort Worth several years ago. It was 2006 when I was dragged there against my will by a pimp. I was forced to dance, strip and sell sex (along with five other young girls) for over a month while he pocketed the cash ($1,000-$3,000/night from each girl) and planned our next gig. I was trapped in a life I never wanted without any hope of escape…

Read the rest.

How the Gospel Helps Us Overcome Pornography

D.A. Carson, John Piper and Tim Keller discuss:

(via Justin Taylor)

Also Worth Reading

Church Ministry: A Phrase to Retire

An Actually Helpful Open Letter: An Open Letter to Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Free Stuff: ChristianAudio.com’s free audiobook for February is Adopted for Life by Dr. Russell Moore.

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

J.C. Ryle: An Assured Hope is to Be Exceedingly Desired

My Memory Moleskine: Reciting Philippians 1:1-30 (and a Few Words on False Humility)

Joel Beeke: Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor

John Piper: The Greatest Gifts Can Become Deadly Substitutes for God

Preschooler Theology: “Why Do Monsters Scare Me?”

(Audio)Book Review: Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur

Your Cause Can’t Be More Important than Christ

Really appreciated this clip from a recent sermon in Mark Driscoll’s ongoing series on the gospel of Luke:

Transcript follows:

Now let me say this: the way you become religious is when you’re about your small-k kingdom instead of God’s capital-K Kingdom. That’s why Jesus brings it back to a theology of the kingdom. He looks and says, “Here’s how you get in trouble and become religious. Your kingdom, not mine. Your name, not mine. Your fame, not mine. Your glory, not mine.” It’s not about us, it’s all about Jesus. And what happens for those who are into their own kingdom, they replace Christ with cause. Okay, for the religious people here, they were into their kingdom, not Jesus’ kingdom. They were into their cause, not Christ. That’s the problem.

What’s your cause? What’s your thing? Some of you are single-issue voters. You really only care deeply about one thing. Some of you have causes that are more “Christian” in orientation. Children, midwives, homeschooling, Christian schooling, public schooling, school choice, conservative politics, pro-life. Certain kind of student ministry, youth ministry, family ministry. Certain kind of musical style. Certain theological system. Certain author. What’s your cause…? [Read more...]

Dear Song Leader

Dear Song Leader,

You have a tough job. You’ve been tasked with leading the congregation in song, choosing music that flows with the sermon to be preached and is actually enjoyable.

And everybody has an opinion on what “enjoyable” means.

Including me.

There are some songs that are just offensive to my taste. There are some songs that are just impossible for me to sing because I’m a guy and the key is just too high (and I can’t pull off the skinny jeans that could make it possible to hit those high notes). I don’t like songs that go on for seven minutes when they have six words.

And I don’t like Hillsong United.

Truthfully, I could go the rest of my days without ever hearing another one of their songs and die a happy man. Because honestly, I doubt we’ll be singing any of their material in Heaven—not even “Mighty to Save.”

That’s my taste—and it’s something I am trying to get over every time I hear one of their songs. My taste is not what’s important. What’s important is that our songs are pleasing to Christ and communicating truth about Him and praise to Him.

Song leaders, I have a request:

Challenge us when we sing.

I’m not saying that you need to start rocking the classic hymns. (Although you could. They communicate the truths of the gospel in a way that many modern songs simply don’t even come close.)

I’m not saying put Romans 8 to music, or write a song that goes through the doctrines of grace or advocates for the free will of man in salvation (if such is your theological position).

I’m asking you to make us think deeply when we sing. Make us think deeply about what we’re singing. Confront us with our sin.

Help us rejoice in our salvation.

Sincerely,

Aaron

Book Review: Servanthood as Worship by Nate Palmer

Title: Servanthood as Worship
Author: Nate Palmer
Publisher: Cruciform Press (2010)

It’s Saturday night and you’ve just enjoyed a great night out. You get ready for bed, your head hits the pillow and you realize:

“Oh man, I’m on set up tomorrow. Ugh…”

I know that there have been times that I’ve felt that way. When I’ve volunteered to serve and can remember when I used to enjoy it… but now, I wish I could call in sick. Nate Palmer understands this—he’s been there. And in Servanthood as Worship, he seeks to help readers develop a theology of service that will bring joy to others (and ourselves) and glory to God.

Palmer view of servanthood is inspiring. He roots servanthood firmly in the gospel—that our service flows from Christ coming as a servant on our behalf. “As Christians, our standing with God—our very salvation—does not depend on whether we serve, but that Christ first served us. . . . All our service for God begins and ends with service from God,” he writes (p. 15). This is a shift that many of us—myself included—desperately need. Too often our view of service comes out of this place of trying to earn standing before God and men.

We put on a happy face and we work hard until we burn out.

The funny thing is, it seems like we’re being set up for this to happen, doesn’t it? I remember at one church hearing about how 20 percent of the people at a church were doing 80 percent of the work. As part of that so-called 20 percent, that puts a lot of pressure on you, because if you need a respite, there’s no one to fill the gap. The burden of duty leads to bitterness… and people don’t even realize it.

Instead, we need to embrace service as what it actually is—worship. To see it as an outward evidence of our inward transformation. [Read more...]

Book Review: The Church History ABCs

The study of Church history is an incredibly rewarding—and daunting—experience. In the 2000 years since Christ founded His Church, we’ve seen slave-traders dramatically converted into hymn writers, men give up their lives so that people can read the Bible in their own language, church fathers martyred for defending the faith, a reformation that transformed the world and countless other events. If there’s one thing Church history is not, it’s dull.

So how on earth do you begin to introduce kids to the riches of Church history? How about alphabetically?

In The Church History ABCs, author Stephen J. Nichols and illustrator Ned Bustard, introduce children to 26 heroes of the faith from Augustine to Zwingli. Nichols keeps his text lively and concise, avoiding getting bogged down in too many details about the people to whom he is introducing readers. I particularly enjoyed his write-up of Ulrich Zwingli:

I always come last because my name starts with “Z.” Zurich starts with a “Z” too. Go used me to teach the people of the city of Zurich about Jesus. From Zurich, the Reformation spread to other cities in Switzerland (there’s a “Z” in that word, too). I preached many sermons. One of them had a funny title, “On the Choice and Freedom of Foods.” . . . The Reformation came to Zurich. I wanted everyone to know that we should follow God’s Word and do what it says. The Bible tells us everything we need to know from A to Z.

Bustard’s clean illustration style is a lot of fun and very expressive. I’m impressed at his ability to communicate so much personality in such “simple” drawings (my wife is an illustrator, so I know how difficult a task this can be). It’s a style that serves the content and the audience well.

From a parent’s perspective, The Church History ABCs is a lot of fun—the basic premise is intriguing enough to  make you want to pick it up and take a look, the content is strong enough to give a firm foundation in the bigger picture of Church history, and it’s a neat handy tool for teaching your kids the alphabet. Get a copy for your kids today.


Title: The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith
Authors: Stephen J. Nichols, Ned Bustard
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

Sermon Audio: Submission in a Rebellious World

On November 21, I had the privilege of once again preaching at Brussels Community Bible Chapel in Brussels, Ontario. The message, Submission in a Rebellious World, was preached from 1 Peter 2:13-25.

My original notes follow: [Read more...]