Links I like

7 Toxic Ideas Polluting Your Mind

David Murray:

The worst kind of poison is the kind that poisons you without you realizing it. There’s no bitter taste, no pain, no sudden weakness, nothing to alarm; yet, the poison is slowly and steadily doing its deadly work.

In such a dangerous condition, our only hope is some kind of test that shows what is undetectable to normal human senses, maybe a scan of sorts that shows up the extent of the poison in our systems? Only then can the antidote be found, prescribed, and taken.

Discipleship in Canada: Sharing Faith and Making Relationships at Church

Ed Stetzer shares some findings from Lifeway’s recent research on the state of discipleship in Canada.

Faking Cultural Literacy

Karl Greenfeld:

There was a time when we knew where we were getting our ideas. In my eighth grade English class, we were assigned “A Tale of Two Cities,” and lest we enjoy the novel, we were instructed to read Charles Dickens’s classic with an eye toward tracking the symbolism in the text. One afternoon while I was in the library, struggling to find symbols, I ran into a few of my classmates, who removed from their pockets folded yellow and black pamphlets that read “Cliffs Notes” and beneath that the title of Dickens’s novel in block letters. That “study guide” was a revelation.

Here were the plot, the characters, even the symbols, all laid out in paragraphs and bullet points. I read the Cliffs Notes in one night, and wrote my B paper without finishing the novel. The lesson was not to immerse and get lost in the actual cultural document itself but to mine it for any valuable ore and minerals — data, factoids, what you need to know — and then trade them on the open market.

With the advent of each new technology — movable type, radio, television, the Internet — there have been laments that the end is nigh for illuminated manuscripts, for books, magazines and newspapers. What is different now is the ubiquity of the technology that is replacing every old medium.

HT: Zach

How To Handle Controversy

Jeff Medders shares some terrific advice from John Newton:

John Newton, writer of Amazing Grace, is also well known for being a prolific letter writer. Volumes of letters.

Newton once wrote to another minister who was about to publish a very critical piece on another pastor. It was destined to spark controversy. And given what has gone on in the internet and the evangelical world—and what will come in the future—Newton’s counsel is wisdom crying aloud in the street for us all.

Too Scared to Cry: Social Media Outrage and the Gospel

Russell Moore:

If mere outrage were a sign of godliness, then the devil would be the godliest soul in the cosmos. He, after all, rages and roars, “because he knows his time is short” (Revelation 12:12). Contrast that with the Lord Jesus who does not “quarrel or cry aloud” (Matthew 12:19).

Why is this so? It’s because the devil has no mission, apart from killing and destroying and accusing and slandering. And it’s because the devil is on the losing side of history.

Links I like

The End of Books

Jon Bloom shares an English translation of a new interview (from the Dutch newspaper, Reformatorisch Dagblad) with Tony Reinke, author of Lit!:

What do you think, in contrast, would the impact of a practice of slow reading be for our understanding of God?

The purpose of reading is to learn new things, experience new truth, and change for the better. The content that has most challenged and changed my own life are the resources I have invested the most time. The faster I scan, the less enduring impact is made. By default, this puts ephemeral blog posts and short articles at a disadvantage. Short online material appeals to scan-readers, but the low time commitment and focus it asks of the reader actually makes the piece unlikely to permanently alter the reader. Short blog posts or social media updates meant to be read quickly can affirm (or offend) our thinking, or they can bring clarifying affirmation to our thinking, but they do not require the time investment necessary to change a reader’s thinking. Changing minds will continue to be the work of long-form journalism and patiently read books.

The Hardest Place on Earth to Be a Christian

Jesse Johnson:

While there are many terrible places on earth to be a Christian (Sudan, North Korea, Afghanistan, Bhutan, etc.), Pakistan is arguably the worst. Other nations persecute believers, but in Pakistan the entire country has spent generations forming a world view that values the torturing of those that claim the name of Christ.

Get The Prince’s Poison Cup in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the hardcover edition of The Prince’s Poison Cup by R.C. Sproul (an Armstrong family favorite) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Holiness of God (Extended Version) teaching series (CD)
  • What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips (ePub)
  • Luther and the Reformation teaching series (DVD)

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

When Silence is Golden

Griffin Gulledge:

There’s something to be said for not saying anything.

In a church culture where cliches, cool quips, and candor are the currency, silence is most often seen as only deficiency. Add in a passion for theology, a thirst to see people grow in Christ, and a sprinkle of immaturity and the problem multiplies. Silence isn’t golden.

Except sometimes it is.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The other day, I shared a fairly sizeable list of Kindle deals. Here are a few more:

And finally, four by R.C. Sproul:

A Prayer for Answering Our Subpoena to Hope

Scotty Smith shares a prayer I needed to read (and pray myself!).

My Dirty Little Secret For Happy Knowledge Work

David Murray:

Sometimes I get envious of painters, plumbers, landscapers, carpenters and others who get to work with their hands and have something to show for it at the end of every day, or at least every week.

What do I and other “knowledge workers” have to show for it every seven days?

Virtually nothing.

The Internet needs a cookie

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There’s blood in the water and the sharks are circling.

At least, that’s what it looks like based on the craziness in the Christian side of the Twitter- and blogospheres:

  • People are continuing to wrestle, with varying degrees of helpfulness (very little, for the most part) with the Nathan Morales trial and the question of who knew what when. People continue to (again with varying degrees of helpfulness) press for statements from TGC’s leadership.
  • Tullian Tchividjian officially left TGC, something he’d planned to do (but evidently several months earlier than he’d originally intended), leading some to get their rage on even more.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Rachel Held Evans, in a ham-fisted effort to illustrate God being beyond gender (since He’s neither male nor female) wrote a post referring to God as “She,” and was declared a heretic for her trouble. She’s since been asking everyone on the Internet if they think she is one.

There’s a lot right and wrong with everything that’s happening at the moment. Those who are legitimately angry about a horrific crime not being reported to police are right to be angry. The crime itself should never happen, ever, nor should any concerned parent feel like silence is acceptable.

But is it right to start spiralling and getting all conspiracy theory-y? Honestly, I’m not sure.

Because I’m friendly with a lot of TGC folks, I’m inclined to think the best of them. That’s what we all do with people we like, though (which is sometimes what gets some of these things happening). But, of course, thinking the best of someone doesn’t mean they’re exempt from criticism, as we all also know…

Tchividjian, likewise, is a guy who has taken a lot of heat—and been called a lot of nasty names—because of his views on sanctification. Again, he’s a guy I’m on good terms with, and I tend to agree with a lot of where he’s coming from (even if I’d nuance some of it differently). But does that mean he’s the right horse to bet on in the sanctification debate? Probably no more than Mark Jones is (I’m one of the few who didn’t find his book Antinomianism terribly compelling or helpful).

And then there’s Evans. Is it fair to call her a heretic for her attempt to say God is beyond gender? I don’t know; at a minimum, I’d think it’s more accurate to say she’s a sloppy lay theologian who lets her desire to win the Internets get the better of her and cries foul whenever her bluff is called. (Full disclosure: this opinion is based on her public persona as I have no personal relationship or connection with her.)

When a perfect storm of crazy comes together like it did this week, it’s easy for people to get their rage on. But we should also remember something really important: We don’t do anger well. Paul (and the Psalmist) encourage us to “be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26; Psalm 4:4). James warns that our tongues are “a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). 

We should take this seriously. If even our righteous anger yields unrighteous results, particularly because of our hasty, harsh, mean-spirited words, it means we’ve got a problem. We should all be very cautious about how we use our words—especially when we’re angry! We say things we’ll regret. We say things we mean in the wrong way. And worst, we don’t take our words and redirect them to the Lord.

We don’t pray. We don’t ask for God’s wisdom. We don’t ask for God to reveal to us the state of our hearts.

That’s the danger we’re all in in this latest hullabaloo—and it’s the thing we, individually, need to protect ourselves against the most.

And sometimes the best way to do that is to just chill out, have a cookie and ask God for wisdom. You might feel better if you do.


photo credit: Bob.Fornal via photopin cc

Links I like

It’s Back — The “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” and the State of Modern Scholarship

Albert Mohler:

The so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” is back in the news and back in public conversation. The story first broke in a flurry of sensationalism back in September of 2012 when Smithsonian magazine declared that a papyrus fragment had been found which would “send jolts through the world of biblical scholarship.” Well, it didn’t jolt much of anything.

If you did what Disney characters do, they’ve be creepy

HT: Barnabas

New Kindle deals!

There are some pretty great new Kindle deals on right now, including one of my favorite books on evangelism by Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, for 99¢. Also on sale:

An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture by Andrew Davis—99¢

Atheism Remix by Al Mohler—$1.99 (seriously, just get this!)

Preaching the Cross by the Together for the Gospel speakers—$3.99

Truth Endures by John MacArthur—$3.99

And finally, Francis Chan’s books are on sale:

5 Common Small Group Myths

Steven Lee:

What you believe about your small group will dictate how you approach potential problems when they arise. If you buy a house knowing it will be a fixer-upper, then you approach that faux wood paneling in the family room as an opportunity to upgrade and improve. Whereas if you buy your dream house and find out the basement floods, you’re pretty disappointed and discouraged.

In the same way, people are often disappointed in their small group because they come to it with the wrong expectations. Here are five common myths about small groups, and the corresponding truth that corrects our wrong thinking.

A Generation of Ham’s

Mike Leake:

I am convinced that we are a generation of Ham’s and not Shem and Japheth. We glory in exposing sin and shame instead of covering it. Certainly we should “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” I think we’ve got that part down for the most part. What we lack, however, is a love which covers sin instead of exposing it.

The God of Joyful Tears and Sorrow

Trevin Wax:

The delivery room is a place of great pain, but also joy as a woman awaits the arrival of new life from her womb. The graveside harbors a family’s great grief, but also, an insuppressible hope and joy as we feel the birth pangs of a world that is passing away and look forward to the world that is to come, a world in which a little girl whose first sight was the eyes of Jesus will receive her little body back and bow before her Maker, a world in which God Himself will wipe away our tears, a new world born out of the pain and suffering of the old.

 

Links I like

Watch T4G live without being in Louisville

Head over to live.t4g.org today and register for the livestream to this year’s T4G conference. The broadcast begins Tuesday at 1 pm (EDT).

Why Do We Major in the Minors?

R.C. Sproul:

Why do we have a perpetual tendency to major in minors? As Christians, we want to be recognized for our growth in sanctification and for our righteousness. Which is easier to achieve, maturity in showing mercy or in the paying of tithes? To pay my tithes certainly involves a financial sacrifice of sorts, but there is a real sense in which it is cheaper for me to drop my money into the plate than it is for me to invest my life in the pursuit of justice and mercy. We tend to give God the cheapest gifts. Which is easier, to develop the fruit of the Spirit, conquering pride, covetousness, greed, and impatience, or to avoid going to movie theaters or dancing? We also yearn for clearly observable measuring rods of growth. How do we measure our growth in patience or in compassion? It is much more difficult to measure the disposition of our hearts than it is to measure the number of movies we attend.

We’re All Over-Protected Now

Owen Strachan:

I think many of us evangelicals have our own “safety complex.” We’ve been trained to live life fearfully, to damp down any sense of risk at all costs, and to believe that failure is the worst possible fate on this earth. I think we’ve got it wrong.

It’s hard to pinpoint how many of us have been indoctrinated into safety-hunger and inoculated against adventure. We surely have, though. Here are some factors.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

10 Reasons Big Easter Giveaways are Unwise

Jared Wilson:

Every year some churches seek to outdo themselves — and their local competition — by luring unbelievers (and I suppose interested believers) to their Easter service(s) with the promise of big shows and in some cases big giveaways.… I think this is profoundly unwise and in many cases very, very silly. I want to offer ten general reasons why, but first some caveats: I’m not talking about a church giving out gifts to visitors. Gift cards, books, etc. to guests can be a sweet form of church hospitality. What I’m criticizing is the advertised promise of “cash and prizes” to attract people to the church service. Secondly, I know the folks doing these sorts of things are, for the most part, sincere believers who want people to know Jesus. But I don’t think good intentions authorizes bad methods.

Honest Toddler reviews Frozen

How did I miss this?!?

One thing about infant siblings is that they are constantly after you. You can push them down over and over but they’ll just keep getting up slowly like a diaper zombie and try to follow you everywhere. Anna doesn’t know how to take a hint and chases Elsa up the mountain with the help of a bounty hunter.

Anna:”Come back home! I miss people telling me how cute I am and saying nothing to you even though you’re standing right there!”

Elsa: “I’m at a place in my life where I just want to be alone and focus on my witchcraft.”

Anna keeps bothering her and won’t stop. Elsa has had enough and decides to ruin one of Anna’s vital organs a little.

Anna is really messed up but at least she understands and goes home.

 

Three things I’d like to see in the Christian blogosphere in 2014

keyboard

For the last couple of years, I’ve shared a few things I’d like to see change in the Christian blogosphere each year (here’s a look at the 2012 and 2013 editions). Looking back over these past dreams has been fascinating for me. What we’ve seen in the last year, and in particular the last several months, has been a greater confirmation that we don’t handle controversy well, and our public personalities struggle to understand what it means to take personal responsibility. So one thing we can be sure of is I am no prophet.

This—the controversy and shameful public behavior, not the not being a prophet—has been an ongoing frustration for me. Why? Because the whole thing casts a dark shadow on our witness. And that’s got to stop. We need to be less about whatever bonehead move Celebrity Pastor X made this week and more about the gospel. Here are three ways I’d suggest we do that:

1. Bloggers practicing Titus 3:10. “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,” wrote Paul to Titus. A while back I wrote on this in a more in-depth fashion (specifically on what makes a person divisive), but we should remember the seriousness of Paul’s words: If a person is being divisive—whether it’s a church member stirring the pot through gossip and slander, or Christian celebrities who crash conferences and seem to lack any sort of real accountability1—then you should have nothing to do with them.

Don’t read their books. Unsubscribe from their blogs. Stop following them on Twitter. Stop paying attention and those problems will, in time, go away on their own.

2. Bloggers actively serving in their local churches. Something peculiar I’ve noticed is that a number of people seem to treat their blogs as their ministries. But they don’t appear to be involved in any meaningful way at their local church beyond showing up on Sunday and singing off-key for a few songs. Blogging is an effective aspect of ministry, but it should always be an add-on to their ministry in the real-world. So serve people, whether it’s by leading a small group, joining an evangelism team (if your church does street witnessing), volunteer in the nursery or toddler room… do something that stretches you and benefits others.

3. Bloggers who don’t think too highly of themselves. No blogger—especially not a Christian one—should walk around thinking they’re a big deal. Whether you’ve got 10 followers or 10,000,000, it really doesn’t matter that much. It doesn’t matter if you don’t weigh in on every significant issue. (Or any of them, for that matter.) Focus on creating content that’s edifying—for yourself and others. What is the Lord teaching you through your regular study of his Word? How is he working in your life? Think on these things—and share the ones that should be shared.

That’s what I’m hoping to see in 2014. More importantly, I’ll be doing what I can to adhere to them. How about you?

Around the Interweb

“Do We Really Believe What We’re Saying?”

David Platt offers a powerful challenge to fight not only intellectual universalism, but also functional universalism:

HT: JT

Also Worth Reading

Satire: A Recently Discovered Letter of Critique Written to the Apostle Paul

Encouragement: No longer a slave

Quote: “Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once, and He volunteered.” R.C. Sproul (via Twitter)

Thought-Provoking: The New Evangelical Virtues

In Case You Missed It

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

Perspicuity and Presuppositions

The Excellency That Not Everyone Saw

Book Review: Unplanned by Abby Johnson

So, What is Universalism, Anyway? (from John Piper’s Jesus: The Only Way to God)

My Memory Moleskine: Do Not Be Anxious

Thomas Watson: A Sickbed Often Teaches More Than A Sermon

God and the Weather: Interpreting Providence

providence

Because I’d not had the opportunity prior to embarking on 15 hours of travelling (I’m now basking in a cozy hotel room in Weybridge, Surrey, UK), I thought I’d offer some of my own thoughts on the issues surrounding the recent controversial statements made by Pastor John Piper about the Tornado that struck the Minneapolis Convention Center.

There are a few things that we can say unequivocally:

  1. God is sovereign over all things—Nations, governments, circumstances, people and even the weather. Absolutely nothing happens on this earth without either His direct intervention or His permission, be it good or bad. This is the (admittedly oversimplified) doctrine of Providence. The books of Ruth and Esther are specifically about God’s providential (unseen) hand. Psalm 147:8, 16-18, Job 37:3, 6, 10-13, Jeremiah 10:13, and Amos 4:7 all speak to His sovereign rule over nature.
  2.  

  3. Because God is indeed sovereign over all things, there is no such thing as a “random event,”according to Scripture. “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and a create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things,” says the Lord in Isaiah 45:7 (see also Lamentations 3:38 and Ecclesiastes 7:14). There are only events we understand and events we do not. However, while we may not understand the purpose of an event, God most certainly does (see Deut. 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…”) But we have to remember that God permits all things for the good of all who love Him (see Rom. 8:28).
  4.  

  5. All sin is unacceptable in the eyes of a holy God. Murder, lying, blasphemy, pride and sexual sin (including, but not limited to, fornication, adultery and homosexual practice) are all equally wrong in the eyes of God. And all who fail to repent will stand to give an account before God for their sins. This is what Jesus was warning of in Luke 13:1-5—Disastrous events in this world foreshadow the judgement that is to come, and unless we repent, we too will fall in that judgement. That’s a big deal, gang!

That’s what we can say.

Here is what we cannot:

We cannot offer a definitive interpretation of a providential act of God, like the recent tornado. To do so goes further than we are permitted by Scripture. We can offer what we think may have been the reason, and I believe that was Piper’s intention.

Further, there are some who would call it a random act. And with all due respect, there is no Scriptural support for such an idea whatsoever. To do so is nothing short of a denial of God’s sovereignty, which, if taken away, removes our reason for trusting Him. Because we know that He is in control of all things, for the good of His people, we can trust Him.

God knows why He, in His providence, sent the tornado to Minneapolis. And He knows why He also sent one to Vaughan, Ontario the next night.

But we do not know the specific reason with certainty, but we do know that this tornado was sent for “the good of those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

John Piper: The Tornado, the Lutherans and Homsexuality

UPDATE (08/25): For my thoughts on interpreting providence, read God & The Weather.


Central Lutheran's broken steeple

Wednesday, a tornado touched down in Minneapolis, Minnesota, much to the surprise of everyone (including weather forecasters). The tornado directly hit the convention center and the Central Lutheran Church at the exact time that delegates of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America were debating the acceptance of openly practicing homosexuals into the pastoral ministry of the church.

The next day, John Piper offered some possible insights into this occurrence in a post titled The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality. This post has caused a lot of controversy over the last few days, but there are a couple of very relevant pieces we need to look at. In his original post, Piper writes:

I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said to Kevin Dau, “That looks serious.”

It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,

On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.

The tornado happens on a Wednesday…during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.

According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: “Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.” The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.

The eyewitness of the damage continues:

This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.

The time: 2PM.

The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.

In his post, Piper offers his thoughts on the specific purpose of this providential act of God, with some strong biblical support. [Read more...]