Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of these savings on three excellent Easter-related titles from Crossway:

Who the unchurched really are

Gene Veith:

Most evangelism programs, church growth tactics, and other attempts to reach the “unchurched” concentrate on Millennials, young urbanites, college types, and the suburban middle class.  But, as Robert Putnam reminds us, the demographic that is the most unchurched is the working class, the lower income non-college-educated folks.  A big segment of these blue-collar workers has just stopped going to church.  They are also, with the personal and family problems that Putnam documents, arguably, most in need of ministry.  This is ironic, since the working class used to be the biggest supporters of conservative Christianity.  And yet, I’m unaware of any concerted effort to reach them, other than individual pastors in these communities doing what they can.I’m as middle class as they come, but I have a lot of affinity with these folks, having grown up in rural Oklahoma and working on jobs that for me were temporary ways of paying for school but for them were their permanent livelihoods.  They are typically good-natured, hard-working, and admirable in many ways.  But I can see in my old friends–more accurately, the adult children of those friends–the break-down that Putnam documents.

Spectre

This has the potential to be a great deal of fun:

Just a good, human teacher

This is really good.

Parenting in a Hyper-Sexualized Culture

Heath Lambert:

Blind spots

Russ Ramsey:

am not the artist I think I am. Neither are you. Not completely anyway. All of us live with blind spots—realities in our lives and art and thinking we cannot see. We have them even in the endeavors we are most passionate about.

Such is the nature of a blind spot—I can’t see it. There are so many bits of information, maturity, perspective, and wisdom I have yet to obtain. They simply aren’t yet mine.

We Cannot Love God if We Do Not Love His Word

R.C. Sproul:

Recently I read some letters to the editor of a Christian magazine. One of them disparaged Christian scholars with advanced degrees. The letter writer charged that such men would enjoy digging into word studies of Christ’s teachings in the ancient languages in order to demonstrate that He did not really say what He seems to say in our English Bibles. Obviously there was a negative attitude toward any serious study of the Word of God. Of course, there are scholars who are like this, who study a word in six different languages and still end up missing its meaning, but that does not mean we must not engage in any serious study of the Word of God lest we end up like these ungodly scholars. Another letter writer expressed the view that people who engage in the study of doctrine are not concerned about the pain people experience in this world. In my experience, however, it is virtually impossible to experience pain and not ask questions about truth. We all want to know the truth about suffering, and specifically, where is God in our pain. That is a theological concern. The answer comes to us from the Scriptures, which reveal the mind of God Himself through the agency of the Holy Spirit, who is called the Spirit of truth. We cannot love God at all if we do not love His truth.

Four guidelines for literary evangelists

compassion-rhetoric

For my apologetics and outreach course, I’ve been reading Michael Green’s Evangelism in the Early Church, which is a wonderful study of the evangelistic practices of Christians during our first three centuries of existence (even if it’s got a couple of points I’d question). But in it, there is something deeply troubling. It’s not one of the author’s views; rather, it’s the author’s assessment of the work of the Apologists of the second century.

In the earlier generation, such what we find in the work of Luke, there is a deep desire to persuade people of the truth, and to do so in a way that is “loving, tactful,” and “subtle.” (352). However, Green notes a marked turn in the character of the Apologists. Where once Christian literary evangelism was in the spirit of Luke, something ugly had crept in. And though they desired their readers to come to know Christ, “the tone in which the writing had been couched would have effectively stood in the way of such an outcome” (351-352).

You understand why this is troubling, I hope.

Reading this hurt a little bit, not because I disagree, but because I can see it’s still a problem today. I’ve seen how easy it is to fall into this trap. In less than thoughtful moments, I’ve certainly been guilty of doing so. And I’m tired of that. I’m tired of Christians arrogantly running around as “jerks for Jesus”—being apparently so concerned for the faith, all the while failing to use words that reflect it. I’m tired of it, again, because I recognize how easily I can fall into this pattern of thinking and writing. But when we act in this fashion, it doesn’t win people to Christ—it pushes them away from the truth.

This has been weighing heavily as I consider how to respond to a very serious issue in my home province, one that’s got a lot of people riled up to the point that there’s nothing but angry rhetoric coming from either side. (And for that reason alone I’ve shied away from any public commentary at this point.) However, in watching it both sides have at it, it makes me consider how to best address any controversial issue. Here are a few guidelines that may help:

First, understand the issue firsthand, as best as you are able. Don’t rely on commentary from others.

Second, determine what issues are truly matters of first importance. We should always discuss secondary matters civilly, and likewise we should always affirm whatever is good and true in any circumstance (for if it is true, it belongs to God).

Third, pray for wisdom and clarity. More often than not, we put our feet in our mouths because we are rash with our words, or we overlook an important point in our opposition’s argument. However, God will not leave us in the lurch if we are faithful to ask for his help in communicating well.

Finally, seek to be truly evangelistic in my approach. I’m not interested in winning an argument (as much fun as that may be); I want to win the person reading. Fiery rhetoric and angry polemics won’t do this. Genuine love and compassion for the people involved in any given issue, however, just might.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Kindle deals from Crossway are focused on apologetics:

Get all of them, if you can.

Why Jerram Barrs read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows six times in six months

This is really interesting:

HT: Justin Taylor

A Good Prayer before Preaching

Erik Raymond:

Moses knew himself, a dying man preaching to dying men (to use Baxter’s phrase). As a result, he did not long for such temporal and base things like what the crowd would think of him, how they would remember him, or how he would feel saying what needed to be said. Instead, he pleaded the living word of the living God! And in his prayer he struck the flint for God to light up his people with an awareness of God’s awesomeness and sin’s repulsiveness. Oh, that more preachers would preach a deep awareness of their own mortality as well as God’s eternality!

On the word “porn”

Douglas Groothuis encourages us to only use this word for what it actually communicates.

Let’s Bring Conversation Back

Jonathan Parnell:

Conversation has fallen on hard times.

Let’s face it, most of us find talking to strangers to be a rarity. This is our new societal reality. The in-between moments of life — running errands and picking up carry-out — are now filled with checking our mobile devices. We’d rather scroll through our Twitter feed than venture out with the risky words of a bygone era, “Hi, what’s your name?” But more than that, when we actually make plans for conversation apart from business, it can sound more like a threat than an invitation.

5 books Christians should read on Islam

books-islam

What do Christians really know about Islam and Muslim people? It’s tempting to view them solely in light of what we see in the news, and hear in the rhetoric of many commentators. While it might be easier to treat all Muslims as though they are sleeper agents for ISIS, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to help us actually reach them with the thing they need most: the gospel.

And if we’re going to do that, we need to have a better idea of what they actually believe, the questions they are really asking, and the objections they hold about Christianity. So, here are five books you should read that will help:

The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile

This was the first book I read on this subject years ago, and it’s still one of the best I’ve found. It offers a great deal of thoughtful explanation and critique as well as pastoral encouragement. This combined with Thabiti’s personal story of converting to Islam and then Christianity, make it a must-read. (For more, read my review).

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an by James R. White

White, one of the finest apologists and debaters of our day, has spent a great deal of time investigating the claims of Islam and the particulars of the Qur’an, and it shows. As one review puts it, “Dr. James White has exemplified how Christians should speak to Muslims in accordance with their respective worldviews.”

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Breaking the Islam Code by JD Greear

Born out of his personal experience living within a predominantly Muslim community for two years, Greear writes this book to help us “see what questions Muslims are asking, and how the gospel provides a unique and satisfying answer to them.” (15) Trevin’s written an excellent review of it, which you can read here.

Buy it at: Amazon

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

This, like Thabiti’s, is worth reading because of the author’s personal experience with Islam. A formerly devout Muslim, Qureshi “describes his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity, complete with friendships, investigations, and supernatural dreams along the way.”

Providing an intimate window into a loving Muslim home, Qureshi shares how he developed a passion for Islam before discovering, almost against his will, evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and claimed to be God. Unable to deny the arguments but not wanting to deny his family, Qureshi’s inner turmoil will challenge Christians and Muslims alike.

Buy it at: Amazon

Jesus, Jihad and Peace by Michael Youssef

My wife found this book particularly helpful. She says, “If you want to get a first-person take on what it’s like to live in a Muslim world and understand the worldview underpinning the militant Islamic world, and the passages used to support, this book will help.”

Buy it at: Amazon

Those are a few of the books I’d suggest checking out. What would you add?

Links I like

Links

Free resources for March

This month’s free book for Logos Bible Software is 1 Corinthians by Roy Harrisville. Over at Christian Audio, you can get The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel free (along with a number of other titles reduced to $4.98).

Free Gospel Project live event

Register here for Gospel. Life. Ministry, a live-streamed event hosted by The Gospel Project on May 11.

Concerning Those Crusty Calvinists

Mike Leake:

What I see is a growing movement of gracious Calvinism…at least in regards to how we relate to non-Calvinists and others who differ. I praise God for a growth of humble Calvinism. But I believe there is still room to grow as humble Christians. What I mean is that we’ve figured out how to be humble—or maybe appear humble—to those who aren’t Calvinists. But I wonder are we being gracious and seeking to help crusty Calvinists?

3 Muslim Misconceptions about Christians

JD Greear:

Many obstacles stand in the way of Muslims coming to faith in Jesus—theological confusion and the cost of conversion being two of the most daunting. And of course the most common reason why Muslims are not coming to Christ is that most have simply never heard the gospel.

How Honey Helps Us Taste God

Joe Rigney:

Why did God make honey so tasty and sweet? So that we would have some idea what wisdom is like (at least, that’s one reason). The sweetness of honey points beyond itself to the wisdom of God. Honey is “good,” and we are exhorted in Psalm 34 to “taste and see that the LORD is good!” Our souls have taste buds, just like our tongues, and we can train the soul-buds by exercising the tongue-buds. When we savor the sweetness of honey or sweet tea or pumpkin crunch cake, we engage in a fancy bit of “reading.” We transpose the physical enjoyment of taste onto our souls and offer thanks to God, not only for the simple pleasures of food but also for the spiritual pleasures to which the food is but a fitting echo.

You’ll want these stock images

How could you not enjoy using Vince Vaughn in a business-y editorial blog post?

George Verwer’s Conversion

Justin Taylor:

To say that George Verwer Jr. (b. 1938) has a larger-than-life personality is probably an understatement. It would have been obvious if you could have seen him running around at Ramsey High School in Ramsey, New Jersey. Of the thousand or so students at the school, George stood out.

Articulating unbelief

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A letter.

You wouldn’t think it’d be that hard to write a letter, but this one has a very specific purpose, because it’s also my term paper for my apologetics and outreach course. I am to write a letter to a friend, a family member—someone I am close to—bridge the gap between their beliefs and my own, and encourage them to pursue Christ.

And until last night, I’ve been stuck.

Every time I’d start, I’d hit a wall. I didn’t know where to begin. So I started thinking about a different person, our relationship and what they believe. And then I’d hit another wall. And then another. And another…

My problem is probably not entirely unfamiliar to some reading this: I’ve struggled to get a good sense on what exactly some of the people in my life actually believe. Although with many I have ideas and observations, when it comes down to brass tacks, I can’t definitively say what this person or that believes.

And that’s the challenge I’ve been facing.

But I might have been looking at it the wrong way. Sometimes the fact that we can’t articulate what we believe is itself telling. Maybe it’s that we don’t give it any serious thought. Maybe it’s that we have thought and don’t like the conclusions we’ve come to, so we choose to say nothing. Maybe those whose beliefs I struggle to articulate are having the same problem?

(Unless, of course, this winds up being an attempt to justify myself for not digging deep enough. Which I hope it’s not.)

And then I was able to start.

It wasn’t until I had a good chat with my wife about these challenges that I was able to turn the corner and really put anything meaningful into my document. Where it will go, I’m not entirely sure, but I’m thankful that so far, I’ve not felt the urge to delete everything and start fresh. (Though, there’s still time.)

Articulating unbelief—especially doing it in a way that is honoring to the individual to and about whom you’re writing—is no easy task. But the results, I trust, will be worth it.

Have you tried an exercise like this before? If so, what was the fruit of it?


photo credit: Few Words..Forever and a day! via photopin (license)

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put a number of titles for women on sale:

Also on sale:

What is Your “Go-To” Pitch?

Erik Raymond (now blogging at TGC, incidentally):

As Christians we have something of a spiritual go-to pitch. When we are in a jam or need answers we shake off other pitches in favor of what we think will get the job done. Whether at work or in the home, physical or emotional, in the church or in your neighborhood—we get into jams. What do we do?

10 tips for making a great cup of tea

This is for all the tea lovers out there.

The Two Guys to Blame for the Myth of Constant Warfare between Religion and Science

Justin Taylor:

No one deserves more blame for this stubborn myth than these two men:

  • Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the founding president of Cornell University, and
  • John William Draper (1811-1882), professor of chemistry at the University of New York.

“What Season Was Adam Created in?” And Other Questions That Make Us Giggle

Derek Rishmawy:

How many of you would think to ask the question and argue at length over the question of “What season was the world created?” I mean, really, was it spring, fall, winter, or summer when Adam popped up in the Garden of Eden? Were the leaves just turning red, gold, and brown, or were they newly in flower? Was it harvest time, or were the flowers just blooming? Would Adam have to knit a sweater soon, or were things nice and balmy? Or maybe Eden was just perpetually living in summer–kind of like Orange County?

A Pattern Among Fallen Pastors

Garrett Kell:

Prof’s study was of 246 men in full-time ministry who experienced moral failure within a two-year period of time. As far as he could discern, these full-time clergy were men who were born again followers of Jesus. Though they shared a common salvation, these men also shared a common feat of devastation; they had all, within 24 months of each other, been involved in an extra marital affair.

Links I like

Links

Save on books on prayer

Just one new Kindle deal that I’ve noticed today, which is Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol 1 by Josh McDowell ($3.99). Over at the Westminster Bookstore, however, you’ll find some great deals on a number of books on prayer:

Why You Should Think Twice Before Badmouthing Obama

Mark Altrogge:

It doesn’t surprise me that people would make these kinds of comments about our president. People have probably said similar things about every president. But what grieves me is when I hear Christians making these kinds of comments about our president, or posting comments like these on Facebook.

Three Reasons Why People Leave Your Church

Erik Reed:

As a staff, we were tired of the revolving door. We were working too hard to reach people only to lose them. So we worked to pinpoint the reasons we were were losing people. We discovered three dominant reasons. These three things are now on our radar. We constantly think about systems, communication, structure, and strategy for fixing these three issues.

A Young Earth

Whether you agree or not, this is an interesting read.

You’re doing Twitter wrong

7 Confidence Boosters in Evangelism

J.A. Medders:

Evangelism is a trust-fall into the power of God. Many say the don’t evangelize because they don’t know enough. Well, no one knows enough to bring on resurrection. Others say they don’t evangelize because they aren’t sure what to say at certain points. And others don’t evangelize because they are nervous.

When a group member may not actually be a Christian…

Unbelievers-small group

You’re sitting in your living room after small group, reflecting on the conversation of the evening. While you’re reviewing the night, you remember something a group member said, and it catches you off guard:

“I don’t know why we put so much emphasis on the Bible…it’s just a book.”

As you pray over this, you recall other similar comments—That’s just Paul’s opinion, God and I have an understanding, and so on—and become increasingly concerned that this person may not actually be a Christian.

And, guess what? They may not be.

The grim picture presented by statistics

According to numerous studies in both the United States and Canada, we’ve got good reasons to be concerned. For example, in a recent study commissioned by Ligonier Ministries, 41 percent of Americans somewhat or strongly agree with that the Bible is not literally true, and 46 percent do not believe it is entirely accurate in all it teaches. 71 percent believe they must contribute personal effort to their own salvation, and 44 percent believe there are many paths to heaven. Likewise, only 18 percent of Canadians believe the Bible is the Word of God, and the majority of Canadians (69 percent) and half of Christians believe it contains irreconcilable contradictions.

Clearly, we have some issues here. Given this information, it’s only logical to assume (though cautiously) that there are many men and women within our churches—and even some in our small groups—who believe they are Christians, but aren’t.

I realize this is highly contentious—perhaps bordering on arrogant—statement to make, so it’s important to clarify: In saying this, and in citing statistics like these, I’m not suggesting we have license to self-righteously determine who is and is not a Christian. Only the Lord ultimately knows if someone’s profession of faith is genuine. Similarly, we must also be careful not to confuse someone who is immature in his or her faith with someone who is actually unregenerate.

So how do you know the difference? Here are a few indicators.

The marks of an immature believer

An immature believer is one who is simply confused about what the Bible teaches and what it says. He may be a brand-new Christian in need of guidance or a long-time Christian who simply has not sat under authoritative biblical teaching. He may even be one of those people who constantly fights over secondary issues.

While an immature believer may not understand Scripture well or may have some serious errors in his understanding of God, he is ultimately marked by a teachable spirit. He is open to correction from people who love him. He takes heed to godly counsel. He has a desire to learn and grow into the likeness of Christ.

The Corinthian church is a perfect example of immature believers. They lacked discernment concerning doctrinal issues. They excused gross unrepentant sin. They abused spiritual gifts in worship. Despite all this, they received correction from Paul. Ultimately, they were teachable.

The signs of an unregenerate churchgoer

Here’s where things get complicated. The unregenerate churchgoer is very good at hiding in a crowd. Many of these churchgoers have been going to church for a long time; many more serve in the church as greeters, in children’s ministry, or even leading a small group (I’ve even heard stories of pastors discovering their fellow elders aren’t actually believers).

Like an immature believer, these churchgoers are marked by a lack of biblical knowledge or an errant understanding of God. Others are characterized by a dogmatic legalism that elevates morality to the highest form of authority. Some believe that grace frees us to sin unashamedly (Romans 6:15). Some believe that all things are lawful, despite not being beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12-13). All will turn away from sound doctrine and find teachers who will tell them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

They do not heed godly counsel. They do not submit to authority. They don’t have a desire to grow into the likeness of Christ (even if they say otherwise). They are not teachable. These are the clear marks of an unregenerate churchgoer.

What do I do if I think someone in my small group isn’t saved?

You might be thinking, “Does it even matter if I think someone’s a Christian or not? What do I do with the person who is already in my group?” The answer, again, is both simple and complicated.

Does it matter if we think someone may or may not be a Christian and how do we respond? Yes! Our friends’ salvation and ongoing relationship with Jesus should be of great concern to us. If we love our friends, we need to do what we can to assist them, whether they are mature believers, immature, or secretly unregenerate. Here are a few things you can do that may be helpful:

  1. Pray a lot. Only God can change the heart, and if you suspect someone in your group may not actually be a believer, then you need to be praying for him to draw this person to himself.
  2. Keep Christ the focus of our studies. Our studies must always be pointing to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Teach the gospel when it’s popular and when it’s not (which is all the time). Only the gospel has the power to transform the hearts of the mature, immature, and unregenerate alike.
  3. Be patient. Paul exhorted Timothy to teach with complete patience. Not everyone learns at the same rate. Everyone stumbles; everyone gives in to temptation and should be treated with gentleness.
  4. Exhort privately. If there’s a person in your group whom you’re concerned may not actually be a believer but thinks he or she is, talk to them privately about some of your concerns. Don’t point fingers or declare them to be non-Christians (since, again, none of us know for certain), but do challenge.
  5. Pursue accountability. We must cultivate an atmosphere where it’s safe to confess our sins, to be open about our struggles, and give and receive appropriate correction. It’s harder to hide when your culture encourages openness.
  6. Humbly hold your ground. Not everyone will endure sound teaching, but hold fast to it, especially when it’s hard. But the key here is to do it humbly, remembering that we all have blind spots in our theology (after all, if perfect theology were the benchmark for salvation, then we’d all be doomed).
  7. Be willing to say goodbye. Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is to ask someone to leave your group if they are disruptive, unrepentant and unteachable.

Are there unregenerate sheep in the fold? Probably. However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. So what do we do? We pray, we keep Christ the focus of all our studies, we show patience and mercy, we pursue accountability and confront sin in love, we hold our ground on key doctrinal issues while also admitting that we have blind spots, and we must be willing to say goodbye to those who will not do the same. Is it easy? Nope. Is it the right thing? Yep. Will it make a difference? Only time will tell.


An earlier edition of this article first appeared at Right Now Media and was republished at ChurchLeaders.com. This edition has been modified from these earlier versions.

 

Links I like

Links

The brother of two ISIS martyrs responds

HT: JA Medders

Women, stop submitting to men?

This is a great and encouraging word from Russell Moore. Please read the whole thing:

Too often in our culture, women and girls are pressured to submit to men, as a category. This is the reason so many women, even feminist women, are consumed with what men, in general, think of them. This is the reason a woman’s value in our society, too often, is defined in terms of sexual attractiveness and availability. Is it any wonder that so many of our girls and women are destroyed by a predatory patriarchy that demeans the dignity and glory of what it means to be a woman?

Gavin Peacock joins CBMW as Director of International Outreach

Gavin Peacock, a Canadian pastor and former soccer star, is teaming up with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood as Director of International Outreach. The move is part of CBMW’s vision to reach a broader audience with the Bible’s teaching on marriage, manhood, and womanhood.

Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety

Carl Trueman:

The rise of Lent in non-Roman, Orthodox or Anglican circles is a fascinating phenomenon. I remember being on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary a few years ago on Ash Wednesday and being greeted by a young man emerging from Miller Chapel with a black smudged cross on his forehead. That the bastion of nineteenth century Old School Presbyterianism had been reduced to this – an eclectic grab-bag of liturgical practices – struck me as sad. Old School Presbyterianism is a rich enough tradition not to need to plunder the Egyptians or even the Anglicans.

Connecting with Ligonier’s 2015 National Conference

Ligonier’s 2015 National Conference begins tomorrow and Nathan Bingham offers a few ways to connect via social media.

Confessions of a Reluctant Witness

Mark Dance:

Although I have trained hundreds of Christians to share their faith over the years, I was not looking for a God-moment in this conversation initially. This guy all but asked me to share my faith, and he had no idea that I was a minister when he did so. The poor kid never saw it coming. God set him up, just like He did you and me when we first heard the gospel.

Sometimes it’s enough to stick a rock in someone’s shoe

evangelism-slow-process

“Sometimes you just need to stick a rock in their shoe.”

I’ve been chewing on this idea1 since Thaddeus Williams shared it during his session at the TruthXchange Think Tank last week. Williams was speaking to the idea that sometimes the best thing we can do for those pursuing relationships outside the parameters set by God is to change the categories.

As his argument goes (and it’s a good one), the problem in our relationships is that we put these God-sized expectations upon those we pursue. And when they fail us—and they will, because the weight of our expectations are too great—it’s not simply that our relationship is over, it’s that our “god” has let us down. But we keep repeating the cycle, over and over again, hoping that the next time will be different (though it never is).

This is how you stick a rock in someone’s shoe.

What’s helpful about this approach is that it understands evangelism to be a slow process, something Jerram Barrs addresses in Learning Evangelism from Jesus. Commenting on the interaction between Jesus and the lawyer (or Bible teacher) in Luke 10:25-37, Barrs explains that Jesus was content “to send this man away without the message of the gospel. Instead of the good news of salvation, Jesus leaves this teacher with some issues to ponder in his heart” (61)

In other words, Jesus was content to stick a rock in his shoe.

This, again is helpful for us to keep in mind in personal evangelism: sometimes the least helpful thing we can do for a person is come out full tilt with a full-frontal gospel assault. For those whose hearts have not been sufficiently prepared by the Lord, this may only serve to drive them further away. Instead, there are times when we would be wise to take a different approach—one that gets people thinking (and perhaps even annoys them) as they wrestle with an idea or a question.

Evangelism is often a slow process; sometimes it’s enough to stick a rock in someone’s shoe, and see what God does through it.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also, today is$5 Friday at Ligonier Ministries, where you’ll find a number of great resources on sale, including the following by R.C. Sproul:

  • The Work of Christ (Hardcover)
  • Building a Christian Conscience teaching series (audio & video download)
  • Moses and the Burning Bush teaching series (DVD)
  • 1-2 Peter (ePub)
  • The Prayer of the Lord (ePub & MOBI)

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

Federal Court Defends—and Broadens—Ministerial Exception

Joe Carter:

Earlier today a federal appeals court handed down an important ruling that protects the liberties of religious organizations.

In the case of Alyce Conlon v. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected a plaintiff’s attempt to enforce state and federal gender discrimination laws on one of the nation’s largest Christian campus ministries.

The “Plus One” Approach to Church

Kevin DeYoung:

Are you just starting out at a new church and don’t know how to get plugged in? Have you been at your church for years and still haven’t found your place? Are you feeling disconnected, unhappy, or bored with your local congregation? Let me suggest you enter the “Plus One” program of church involvement.

I don’t mean to sound like a bad infomercial. Here’s what I mean: In addition to the Sunday morning worship service, pick one thing in the life of your congregation and be very committed to it.

 Advice to Young Pastors from R. C. Sproul, Tom Schreiner, and Carlos Contreras

This is helpful.

The Girl in the Tuxedo

Jean Lloyd:

The photo is from many years ago. I know because I am the girl in the picture. As I think back to that night, I can’t help but wonder how that girl’s life—my life—would have been different if the dance had taken place in 2015 instead of 1985.

I can’t help imagining the scenario that teenagers struggling with their sexuality face today . . .

HT: Tim

The Problem of Your Choices

Barry Cooper:

Every time I call FedEx, I end up conducting the entire conversation in an accent that can only be described as the unholy offspring of John Wayne and Judi Dench. The talking robot, who is trying extremely hard not to laugh, keeps asking me to repeat myself. For a Brit, it is absolutely humiliating. It’s as if someone has implemented the whole system as payback for nearly two centuries of colonial rule.

The last time it happened, it occurred to me that this nightmarish limbo is a familiar place for many of us. Making choices and moving on with our lives seems increasingly difficult. We find ourselves paralyzed: unable to make choices about relationships, dating, marriage, money, family, and career. I want to suggest that if we feel unable to make these choices, it’s not because we have the wrong accent. It may be because we’re worshiping the wrong god.

The incomprehensible evangelist

We can't assume pre-existing knowledge

My oldest daughter is very clever and creative. When she was six, she would often have conversations with her stuffed cat, Hershey. Eventually, she developed what she called “kitty language,” even writing down a series of symbols in one of her notebooks. It was cute… but it was also entirely incomprehensible.

Sometimes, we Christians seem like that to outsiders. We have our own special language, much of it derived from what we find in the Bible (though some of it comes from… well, I have no idea where). But there’s a problem: most people today don’t have any clue what’s in the Bible. Reading The Heart of Evangelism reminded me of this. Jerram Barrs writes:

The words that we hear every Sunday in most of our churches and that we use in our prayers are no longer part of the everyday language of our society. People simply do not talk about justification or sanctification, nor about redemption, salvation, or sin. Language that is precious to the Christian is an unfamiliar dialect to most people around us. This means that church as usual and sermons that don’t acknowledge this problem are difficult for our contemporaries to relate to, just as computer language is incomprehensible to many of us! (139)

When considering how to share Christ with others, this is incredibly important: We can’t assume pre-existing knowledge if we want to communicate the gospel clearly. There are some words that we can probably avoid using, to be sure, but what I never want to do is avoid a word like “sin,” for example. Instead, I want to explain it in a way that makes sense. That sin isn’t simply the “bad things” we do, but a problem within our being—a compulsion to pursue anything other than God as most desirable, and to reject him though he has made his existence plain to us through many means.

A lot to take in? Sure. But we have to help people see that there’s a lot packed into a tiny word like “sin,” if we want them to understand the problem they face. But when we fail to consider our context—when we fail to really acknowledge the biblical illiteracy of our culture (and, sadly, our churches)—we risk our words being seen as incomprehensible as my daughter’s made-up play language. And that just will not do.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And don’t forget these from earlier this week:

Today is also $5 Friday sale at Ligonier. They have a whole bunch of great resources on sale, including:

  • Why We Trust the Bible teaching series by Stephen Nichols (DVD)
  • The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (ePub and MOBI)
  • Think Like a Christian teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • When Worlds Collide by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield by Steven Lawson (hardcover)

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

How Jesus Would Act in a Homosexual Bar?

C. Michael Patton:

I have a family member who lives in an apartment that backs up to a homosexual bar. I can imagine that in the church, there are people who think this is wrong. It’s not that these would assume she might be a homosexual, but that why would she, being a Christian, even dare live in such proximity to such evil. I am sorry to say this, but its very sad—no, tragic—to say that the church is filled with such a mentality. Oh, they have their verses to justify it, but these are always based in unbiblical emotional passions that cannot ever be justified.

Hold on, it gets worse so hang with me.

Lessons from the School of Prayer

An excerpt from D.A. Carson’s Praying with Paul:

Throughout my spiritual pilgrimage, two sources have largely shaped, and continue to shape, my own prayer life: the Scriptures and more mature Christians.

The less authoritative of these two has been the advice, wisdom, and example of senior saints. I confess I am not a very good student in the school of prayer. Still, devoting [space] to their advice and values may be worthwhile before I turn to the more important and more authoritative of the two sources that have taught me to pray.

Among the lessons more mature Christians have taught me, then, are these.

“Does God Care if Your Favorite Football Team Wins?”

Derek Rishmawy:

How we answer the question, “Does God care a whole lot about the outcome of football games?” reveals much about how we understand God’s love, sovereignty, and care for the world.Some might hear the question and interpret it, “Well, is God rooting for a particular team?” Unless you’re a total fanatic, convinced that God himself favors your home-team, your gut instinct is “probably not.” It seems inconsistent with his universal love for all. Still, in Scripture, God did pick Israel to be his chosen people, and within Israel, he is seen to bestow special grace on various figures, either for particular purposes in redemption or his own good pleasure. God loves all, but he also seems to focus on particulars.

Christ and Pop Culture LIVE: With Real People, In a Real Space, With a Real Audience (We Hope)

If you’re going to TGC, this could be a lot of fun. Am I going to TGC? That remains to be seen. But if I am, I sure hope to be at this.

On the Christian’s anger problem

Aaron Earls:

Too often we seek to baptize our rage and treat our temper as sanctified, when in reality we are merely trying to find a biblical sounding excuse for being a jerk.

So how do you differentiate between man’s anger in James 1 and the ability to be angry without sin in Ephesians 4? I see three questions that we need to ask about each situation in which we feel anger rising in us.

I think we should treat each one as a gate that has to be passed through to before asking the next one. If the answer to only one is negative, then we should question whether or not our anger is biblical.

Looking for Love in all the Right Places

Lore Ferguson:

Here is what I know about looking:

When I was young, rebellious and caustic, rolling my eyes at my parents at age 10 and sneering at them by age 15, they would say, “Look at me when I’m talking to you,” and I felt seen, exposed.

I knew I was already seen and exposed, but I felt it. I felt it when I saw their disappointment or disapproval or anger at me. When I saw it in their eyes. I felt that. I felt every weight and every sin and every bit of my flesh rolled up and held in their parental gaze. And I looked away. I could not hold that look for long, my sin was too great, their anger too heavy.