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Sexual Abuse Among Us

Christopher Pierre:

The media have responded with continued attempts to dig up and display the shameful details of Joshua Duggar’s past and repented sin. This has been accompanied by an analysis of how appropriately his parents, his church, and law enforcement did or did not respond. As both a prosecuting attorney and a pastor, I am particularly intrigued and concerned by these unfolding events.

But how should the church respond? How should we deal with similar situations of abuse and wickedness in our midst?

The Fields Are White

Don Whitney encourages us from John 4:35:

It’s important to realize that He said this in Samaria—a place where Jews (like Jesus and His disciples) weren’t welcome and where Jesus had seen only one convert, and that one just a few minutes earlier

In other words, the twelve apostles did not consider Samaria a place where there had been, or likely ever would be, many conversions.

The Courage To Tell My Story

Mike Leake:

Mr. President, you tweeted yesterday that it takes courage to share your story. This has inspired me to tell my story…or at least a portion of it.

The Most Courageous People In The LGBT Movement

Stephen Altrogge:

But I am increasingly convinced that the most courageous people in the LGBT movement are those men and women who have come to the conclusion that they are gay, have publicly told their friends and families that they are gay, and yet for the sake of Christ, have chosen to remain celibate for the rest of their lives. To make such a choice requires incredible, God-given, Holy Spirit-inspired courage.

Raising voices

Mike Cosper:

Eugene Peterson once said the primary goal of pastoring was to teach people to pray. I agree, but I might amend his words slightly: to learn to pray, we must learn to sing.

This shouldn’t take any serious student of the Bible by surprise. Music shows up early in the Book of Genesis, and the people of God are seen singing throughout both Testaments, in ordinary places and odd ones: on their way to battle, while chained up in prison, and at the end of the world. I confess, I cringe a little when I hear the Psalms described as the great “prayer book” of the Bible. It’s not that this statement is untrue – the Psalms are certainly prayers – but it is incomplete; the Psalms are first and foremost songs.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

  • Mark by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)
  • Developing Christian Character Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke (ePub)

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

Three generations on ethnic relations

Should Christians confront Mormons?

L.L. (Don) Veinot Jr., Lynn K. Wilder, and Cory B. Willson share their views.

The Complexity of Pastoral Care

Nick Batzig:

Pastoral care is exceedingly complex. In seminary, our professors taught us to labor to become discriminating preachers–that is, men who preach to different categories of hearers in the congregation. In any assembly it is fairly certain that there will be present hard-hearted hearers, spiritually mature believers, believers with wounded consciences, etc. Additionally, there are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, singles, etc. This means that the applications of Scripture must be pinpointed to specific people living in specific situations. The same is true in pastoral ministry. Pastors need to become discriminating pastors. We must abandon any idea of “mechanistic pastoral ministry.” Far too many adopt a “slot machine’ approach to ministry–just put the coin in and pull the handle. Rather, pastoral ministry takes a keen knowledge of the personalities, life-situations and struggles of congregants. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he charged the whole congregation to  “warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thess. 5:14). Here are five categories to keep in mind when laboring to become a discriminating pastor.

Why Does it Matter that the Holy Spirit is a Person?

Derek Rishmawy:

Many of us are confused about the Holy Spirit. The Father we have a decent conception of, the Son too (Godman, Lord, Redeemer, etc), but the Spirit? We honestly don’t know what to do with “it.” And that’s one of the main problems. Some of us think of the Spirit primarily as an “it”; a thing, a force, and not a person. But according to the Scriptures the Holy Spirit is a person, coeternal, and coexistent with the Father and the Son. What’s more, it matters that we know that he’s a person.

The Village Church apologizes for lack of compassion

Church discipline is not easy, and leaders often get it wrong. However, it’s not often you see those same leaders repent specifically.

God doesn’t give us do-overs

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Several years ago, I met a Muslim man at our paediatrician’s office. We spoke briefly and when he learned I work for a Christian ministry, he was very excited. He mentioned he’d been looking for Bibles in Arabic and asked if I knew where he might find some. He also suggested my family and I come over to his home sometime. However, being the sort of Canadians who tend to be skeptical of such invitations, we didn’t wind up following through. In fact, I didn’t even contact him until a few weeks later when my conviction about the issue had gotten to the point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore. So, I wrote an apologetic email, sent along a few links to where he might be able to find an Arabic Bible, and gave an open invite to get together if he was ever interested.

I’ve not received a response.

This is still one of those moments I’m kicking myself over. I had an opportunity there to potentially start a new relationship that could have lead to this man coming to know Christ. The opportunity was right in front of me, and I didn’t take it.

Many of us, I suspect, have moments like this, those moments that if we had a do-over, we would absolutely take it. And yet, they never seem to come. At least, not in the way we would expect. We want a do-over, but God doesn’t give us one. Instead, he takes these moments we regret—in fact, he gives us these moments—so we might learn from them. That we might take them as opportunities to grow and change and take action when a new opportunity arises.

If I ever met this man again, I’d probably not recognize him. And likely he wouldn’t recognize me. But if we were to meet again, I hope that I would be more willing to take him up on his offer of hospitality—or, even better, extend such an offer myself. To perhaps begin a friendship, and maybe even be a small part of what God might be doing in his life.

When Christians say “I’m better than you”

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There are some things we can say about those who don’t believe in Jesus that are wholly true and appropriate. There are others, though, that are either just plain silly or impossibly evil. Recently, I found myself considering one of the latter, which goes something like this:

I cannot respect unbelievers—they reek to heaven! It is impossible for me to honor them in any way.

How would you respond to this (and be honest)? If you were teaching a Sunday School class or participating in a small group and someone said this, what would you do?

Most of us, I suspect, would like to say they would patiently ask, “Why not?” That they would investigate the statement and find out what’s behind it. Honestly, though, as much as I’d like to do that, I’d probably be more tempted to say words I’d need to repent of later. Why? Because this is one of the most ungodly things a Christian could say about an unbeliever—because it presumes that we are somehow better than unbelievers. 

And yet, this is not so. For we know that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, as Genesis 1 tells us. Though sin horribly mars it, though our relationship with God is severed and transformed from one of loving friendship to bitter enemies because of it, sin does not eradicate the image of God in us. Our morality, our capacity for love and goodness, our intelligence, our ability to comprehend spiritual realities (though terribly confused and misdirected)… these still exist and still testify of our being “like” God in some limited sense. And despite the strongest words possible being used to describe our sinful state and our rebellion against God, God has not reneged on the original “goodness” of humanity, at least in this sense. So we would be wise to remember that only a fool calls evil what God calls good. And what is saying something like this but foolishness?

But that’s not the only reason. This notion of being unable to respect unbelievers—of putting them solely in the category of sinners whose stench reaches the heavens and stokes the wrath of God—is a rejection of the grace of God in the gospel. Consider how Paul reminds the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 6:9-11:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul is very clear here: Sin is horribly offensive to God. It separates us. It prevents us from entering the kingdom. It damns us to hell. But Paul didn’t stop at writing about how swindlers won’t inherit the kingdom. He turned this judgment back around on his readers:

“And such were some of you.”

All these things that keep people out of the kingdom of God—they were those things! We were those things! We all know this is true, deep down inside. For we know that if anyone could really see into our hearts, they’d be terrified. Heck, if we actually seriously considered the stray thoughts and the darkness that lives inside of us, we’d probably be even more terrified. But Paul, even in rebuking the Corinthians (and us along with them), offers an encouragement.

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (Emphasis mine)

So despite our unholiness; despite our sin and misdeeds; despite our constant rebellion… God in his mercy has washed us of these sins. He has rescued us though we were ungodly and deserving of death. The gospel was more than enough to rescue us from sin—should this not lead to great compassion for those who remain trapped in their sin?

When we say silly nonsense like we can’t respect unbelievers, we are forgetting (again), that we are no different. In fact, as Christians, we should always be developing a more mature understanding of God’s grace to us in the gospel. We see this in Paul’s writings as he progressively changes his definition of himself as he matures. He first goes from being the least of all the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15:9, to the least of all the saints in Ephesians 3:8, to finally the foremost of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15!

Notice that this isn’t an upward progression—he doesn’t gradually feel better about himself as time goes on. Instead, God’s grace is forcing him to recognize his sin in greater detail. And it does the same to us. The longer we are believers, the longer we are in relationship with Jesus, the more we see how far we fall short. The more we should recognize that we are totally unworthy of God’s love, and yet God has poured out his love on us so lavishly. 

How dare we, then, condemn those who we should be seeking to reach? When we think of unbelievers as being unworthy of respect, we only have one recourse: repent and believe the gospel. For just as they are, so too were we.


Photo credit: Skley via photopin cc

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

In honor of Mother’s Day next weekend, Crossway’s Kindle deals are focused on books for women:

Also on sale:

Cyprian’s prayer for perseverance through persecution

This is really great.

Would the Apostle Paul Listen to Lecrae?

Brandon Smith:

What we tend forget is that the hymns or chants we love were once themselves “modern” and sometimes controversial based on their tune, tempo, or similarity to “pagan” music forms. Our desire for older music is misguided because we forget that our music will one day be the “ancient” music some pine for. Age of the song should be disregarded.

Are We Hiding Behind Pulpits?

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Before we answer we have to confess that the ideology is not a direct assault on any of our most ancient creeds. Our Lord never spoke specifically against the peculiar sin that animated this small group. There may be a few obscure texts in the Bible that, indirectly it would seem, touch on the sin. But truth be told, one could preach through the whole Bible without ever having to actually name the twisted doctrine of this group.

Nothing Left to Hide

Jon Bloom:

We all know insincerity when we see it. Most of really don’t like it when we see it in others. And we roundly condemn misleading marketing by mendacious merchants.

But most of us also find it hard to fully live “without wax” ourselves. I know this by observation and experience. I know it mainly because I know me. I am a clay jar (2 Corinthians 4:7) — and one that is quite flawed. And my sin-nature is a mendacious marketing merchant. It does not want you or anyone else to see my defects. It wants to hide the defects behind a deceptive wax and sell you a better version of me than is real.

Nehemiah’s List

Michael Kelley:

I live by lists. In fact, I take so much joy in crossing things off a list that if I do something that’s not on my list, I’ll write it on there just for the sheer pleasure of crossing it off. It’s encouraging to me, then, when I look to Scripture and see other list-makers (maybe there’s a place for us in the kingdom of God, too).

The answer to our worship problem

worship-problem

One of the inescapable realities of human existence is we are all worshippers. We are always putting someone or something in the place of “ultimate” in our lives. And there’s no where where this is more easily seen in western culture than with celebrities.

We look at certain individuals, and we are in awe. We admire their talent; we enjoy the movies or TV shows or music in which they perform. We kind of wish we had their gifts (or at least their looks—remember “the Rachel”?). They promise to rescue us from the hell of our boredom with the ordinariness and obscurity of our own lives. We want to be known and important—and because that’s not going to happen for most of us, we are (somewhat) content to live vicariously through them. We read blogs or news sites that talk about new projects they’re involved with. But as time goes on, the boredom creeps back in. So the stories change from their work to their lives. And, voyeurism aside, we are enthralled, and our boredom is sent back into exile. But then it happens again: we start getting bored with the happy narrative. Soon, the tone of the reporting begins to change. We no longer have a happy picture of their lives:

  • We’re confronted with their revolving door relationships.
  • Then the ugly divorce.
  • Then the debilitating drug habit.

Before long, this person we so admired becomes a punch line. We mock and jeer as our would-be savior from our boredom is crucified. And once the spear has entered their side, we go off in search of our next savior.

This, in a nutshell, is what the Bible calls idolatry. It’s to take someone or something that isn’t God and worship him, her or it, despite these idols always over promising and under delivering. They simply cannot do what we ask of them. In idolizing celebrities, in treating them as being “more” than human, we are making them less. We dehumanize them, turning them into puppets and pawns to make us happy (or at least, help us forget about what’s going on in our own lives). And while they have power over our affections, they don’t control over our destiny. That’s the greatest lure of idolatry. We want to be the masters of our domain, and there is no fate but what we make. Ultimately, in worshipping people and things, we are kind of worshipping ourselves. Idolatry is all about us being in control of our own destinies. About being our own gods. All of us—every single person on the face of the earth, every person who has ever lived—are prone to doing this. And there isn’t a single person who is excluded from it.

This is where the message that the Bible contains is so important. It tells us of the problem of humanity—we worship the wrong things and we fail to worship the only one worth worshipping. And it shows us the lengths to which this God who created everything has gone to fix the problem. It tells us of how we were lured away from true worship by the promise of being like God in a way that we were never meant to (and could never actually be). It tells of how this world became the mess that it is even to this very day, as humanity pursued its own desires. As it chased after its sad substitutes for the fulfillment that only comes through our relationship with our Creator. And it tells us of how God, from the very beginning, perfectly planned the events of history to bring humanity back into relationship with him. And this plan all centered on a man named Jesus—a man who was also, somehow, God.

Jesus came into the world, born as we are (well, sort of) and lived as we do. Except not. See, the Bible makes some extraordinary claims about Jesus. It tells us that from before time began, he existed. It calls him the Word who was with God and was God. It tells us that this same Jesus’ mother became pregnant through a miracle (hence the “sort of” with being born as we are). He became hungry and tired. He probably got sick from time to time. But one thing we have no record of is Jesus ever doing or thinking anything wrong. Ever. Not even once. He never lied, stole, or dishonored his parents. He never mocked people behind their backs. He never once behaved hypocritically. When he looked at people, he always gave them the appreciation and respect they were due—never thinking too highly or too lowly of anyone. He taught thousands of men, women and children, and showed extraordinary compassion to them. He frustrated the religious leaders of his day, because he kept calling them hypocrites and liars. Despite being a celebrity, with an entourage numbering in the tens of thousands, he wasn’t interested in status and making a name for himself. He was a servant of all. The writers of the Bible tell us he performed incredible miracles—including healing the sick and raising the dead! He said things like believing in him was the only way anyone could have a relationship with God. More than that, he even claimed to be God. And for this, he was arrested, beaten and brutally murdered. But even the grave wasn’t enough to stop him, for it’s said that he rose from death just a few short days later and appeared to hundreds of people, as many as 500 at once!

In all he did and all he taught, Jesus showed us was what a life of true worship looks like, one that is devoted to the God who created us. A life that consistently denies our selfish desires to put us at the center of the universe, and instead forces much needed perspective back into our lives. And that perspective really comes when we figure out what to do with Jesus, because he is the answer to our worship problem. And because he is the answer to our worship problem, we have to do something with him.

This is why so many people want to dismiss or discredit him. This is why some people pretend he never existed at all, and claim the story of Jesus was cobbled together from competing mythologies. This is why some try to say that the earliest writings of Christians didn’t include all of this Jesus is God talk; that this was something that was added later (what we might call the purple-monkey-dishwasher effect). This is why others still try to add him to a pantheon of little gods and goddesses, of spiritual teachers from whom they can pick and choose what they like and ignore the jagged bits. But I’ve got to be honest, having tried all of those, I can safely say they’re unsatisfying answers.

They don’t work.

There’s really only one honest answer to the question of what to do about Jesus, and that is to worship him as God. This is what Christians do, however much we falter: we worship Jesus because Jesus is the way God fixed our worship problem.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Crossway deals focus on biblical authority:

Be sure to also check out Cross edited by John Piper & David Mathis ($4.99) and Ordinary by Tony Merida ($4.99).

When Your Twenties Are Darker Than You Expected

Paul Maxwell:

The human body starts dying at age 25. Our twenties slap us with the expiration date of sin’s curse (Genesis 6:3): slowly, in our ligaments; tightly, in our muscle fibers; subtly, checking for bumps; decimally, with a rising BMI. We feel death in our twenties; emotionally and relationally, in ugly and odious ways. Death latches its chain to our frame, slowly pulling us deep into an answer to the question “Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Our twenties bring so many answers to that question — transition, failure, desperation, dependence, accusation, responsibility, moral failure, stagnation, unfulfillment. “Sting” isn’t sufficient. Our twenties can be a dark time.

How should writers and editors work together?

Aspiring writers, you’d do well to take this advice from Gavin Ortlund seriously.

Does Open Theism solve the problem of evil and suffering?

Randy Alcorn:

I don’t enjoy opposing a doctrine that seems to comfort some suffering brothers and sisters. However, I believe open theism redefines God Himself, altering one of His most basic attributes, omniscience, in a misguided and unsuccessful attempt to make it more compatible with His love.

4 Things the ‘Hate Psalms’ Teach Us

Wendy Stringer:

My husband and I spent the first 15 years of our life together with a church that sang the psalms in corporate worship. They were set to old hymns and anthems, with language similar to a sonnet and sung a cappella. Opening burgundy psalters, waiting for four notes blown on the pitch pipe, we would break into harmony and sing our hearts to God.

It was a beautiful experience, but every once in a while we would come to an imprecatory psalm, and I couldn’t choke out the words. Singing Psalm 137, for example, felt offensive and unnecessary; Jesus is not explicitly present, so why sing as though he has not come and saved us?

Why these imprecatory psalms? Why Psalm 137? What do these psalms tell us?

Faithfully Delivering the Gospel

Erik Raymond:

If we really believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation we probably would not mess with it. It is not wise to edit perfection; we have not been given proofreading writes by God to add or delete elements from his masterpiece of Christ exalting truth.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson (hardcover)
  • Abortion by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Attributes of God Teaching Series by Steven Lawson (DVD)
  • Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul (ePub)

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

You can’t afford a stay-at-home mom

This is really great. Also, my wife is severely underpaid.

Why Homosexuality is an Issue of First Importance

Sam Allberry:

In Romans 14:1, he instructs his readers not to pass judgment on “disputable matters.” On such issues, Christians need to know their own mind and receive in fellowship those who differ. We might consider as examples of present day “disputable matters” issues like infant baptism or our understanding of the millennium. On such matters, Christians are free to differ. But on matters of first importance, we must remain in agreement if we are to be faithful to the gospel.

Here are five reasons why we must regard the issue of homosexuality as being of first importance.

ERLC Summit

The videos from the recent ERLC summit on the gospel and racial reconciliation are now available online.

The Most Important Thing My Parents Did

Tim Challies:

Why? I ask the question from time-to-time. Why are all five of my parents’ kids following the Lord, while so many of our friends and their families are not? Obviously I have no ability to peer into God’s sovereignty and come to any firm conclusions. But as I think back, I can think of one great difference between my home and my friends’ homes—at least the homes of my friends who have since walked away from the Lord and his church. Though it is not universally true, it is generally true. Here’s the difference: I saw my parents living out their faith even when I wasn’t supposed to be watching.

Google Is Always Listening. Should I Be Concerned?

Mark Altrogge:

I’ve been told Google records every word I type and knows my every preference. Google is always listening. Hey Google, make me some coffee….you know…that kind I really like. (Let’s see what happens). Recently a speech recognition program developer Tal Ater, discovered “an exploit in (Google) Chrome’s speech recognition that enabled unscrupulous websites with speech recognition software to listen in when users aren’t expecting.” Well, maybe some of those unscrupulous website folks will hear me share the gospel and get saved.

Are our missionaries teaching that Muhammad was a prophet?

Mike Tisdell helps us understand the “Insider movement” and gives good guidance on exploring what the missionaries we consider supporting may or may not be teaching.

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 (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.