You and Me Forever

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If you’ve read more than one or two Christian marriage books, you may have noticed they tend to follow a pretty standard template. For a marriage to be successful, husbands and wives need to:

  • Understand how God has intended them to be (with some sort of discussion of Genesis 2);
  • Have frequent sex;
  • See how their relationship represents the gospel (as per Ephesians 5); and
  • Have frequent sex. Frequently.

And then Francis Chan went and wrote a marriage book. Or did he?

Chan and his wife, Lisa, give readers a decidedly different take, one suggests that as good as it is it try to make your marriage better, our main focus—whether in marriage or singleness—needs to be something bigger: God. This is the big idea behind You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. The Chans want readers to picture marriage as a vehicle for mission, an opportunity for Christians to carry out our mission to make disciples of all the nations.

Sounds pretty lofty, huh? So how’d they do?

Marriage problems are God problems

“As a pastor for over 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that most marriage problems are not really marriage problems. They are God problems,” Chan writes (20). “They can be traced back to one or both people having a poor relationship with God or a faulty understanding of Him.”

This, among all the many wonderfully helpful things you’ll read in this book, is probably the most important—and also the most contentious. While sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, certainly, many of us are too quick to call everything a cigar.

Or (to mix metaphors) we treat symptoms, but not illnesses. The problem with this is what happens when you leave an illness untreated? It only gets worse (and in some cases, eventually kills you).

So think about it in a marriage: if a husband is domineering, it’s because something is deeply dysfunctional in his relationship with God, if one exists at all. If a wife commits adultery because another man understands her and makes her feel special, it’s because something is deeply dysfunctional in her relationship with God, looking to other people for affirmation instead of the Lord.

The same can be said of virtually any problem we face. They all start with our relationship with God. And that’s what makes it so contentious. Chan’s tendency is to get to the heart of an issue right away, rather than easing his audience into that knowledge. And because of his, shall we say, abrupt style of springing such things upon us, it’s easy to be turned off. But the more you sit with what he says, the more you realize it’s true (most of the time, anyway).

Marriage is for mission

This theme continues throughout the book, as both Francis and Lisa continually remind readers that marriage is a tool for the spread of the gospel:

Beautiful people make beautiful marriages. Jesus is the most beautiful person to ever walk the earth. Your best shot at having a beautiful marriage is if both of you make it your goal to become like Jesus. (91)

Our mission does not call us to neglect our marriages. But a marriage cannot be healthy unless we are seeking His kingdom and righteousness first (Matt. 6:33). (97)

Whether as individuals or as couples, our mission is to make as many disciples as we can during our time on earth… We should be constantly asking ourselves the question: How can we free up more time and resources for making disciples? (98-99)

There is an urgency to the period of time in which we live—after Jesus’ resurrection and before His second coming. We have callings from God, and those callings are bigger than our marriages. Seeking His kingdom must be our first priority, and if we’re not careful, marriage can get in the way. (114)

This, again, is a necessary reorientation for many of us (even if there are some cautions I want to address). We should be examining our lives from the perspective of our clearly stated purpose: to make disciples. If we are in Christ, each and every one of us is called to this in some way, shape or form. There is no denying it.

And if we have children, mission starts at home. We want our kids to know the gospel, to see the beauty of Christ, to see Christianity as something more than just going to church for a couple hours on Sunday. We want them to see that it involves sacrifice, sometimes including sacrificing time with them for the sake of the gospel…

How much should mission disrupt marriage?

But we also want them to see something else: sometimes the sacrifice we make is saying “no” to a good opportunity in order to be with them. Chan writes:

I work a lot. And I definitely travel more than most. Hardly a week goes by where I’m not jumping on a plane, wishing I could just stay home with my family. Some would call this bad parenting. I would argue that. I don’t neglect my children by any stretch of the imagination, but there are many times when I know God has called me to serve Him in ways that disrupt the family routine. I genuinely believe that it’s good for my kids to observe this. (165)

I sympathize with this a great deal. There are times in our lives when our family routine is disrupted. Because of work commitments or speaking engagements, I’m away from home probably five to six weeks of the year. While that might seem light in comparison to the schedules of many authors, speakers and pastors, we take it very seriously. When I have the opportunity to speak somewhere, we consider not only the opportunity, but the cost for our kids who are all very young. And there have been many times when I’ve had to say no to really good opportunities because where I’m most needed is at home playing cars on the floor with Hudson.

(There was also the time I went to Nashville and back in 36 hours when Emily was days away from giving birth to the boy, but…)

The point here is simply this: sometimes where we will be most effective for the sake of the mission will be away from home. But this is not license to “take care of the ministry and let God take care of your family,” as so many of a previous generation advocated (with their lives if not their words). I fear for the one who neglects his family in the name of Christ, because I can’t see it going well for them. Instead, what we need to do is find the right balance (in as much as something as unbalanced as ministry is). While we might have good opportunities to be used effectively away, sometimes it’s still best to be right here.

A marriage book that’s not about marriage

You may have gotten to this point and thought, “Great, it sounds like Crazy Love: Marriage Edition.” As tempting as it might be to say, it’s not entirely true. Yes, it has all the emphases of “radical” Christianity that you see in Crazy LoveRadical and so many others. No, it’s not without it’s problems (personally, I do feel Chan’s explanation of disrupting the family routine could be better fleshed out). But in the end, You and Me Forever succeeds in giving us a different kind of marriage book—one that’s less about marriage and more about the gospel. And that, for me at least, is a welcome change of pace.


Title: You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity
Authors: Francis and Lisa Chan
Publisher: Claire Love Publishing (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

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Why I’m thankful for Christian music

Dan Darling offers a thoughtful corrective to those of us who tend to look at Christian music as junk.

What We Won’t Regret

Kevin DeYoung shares a whole lot of things we won’t regret doing when we get to the end of our days.

Jennifer Lawrence and the Uniformity of Nudity

Chris Martin handles this subject very well: “The guy ogling Jennifer Lawrence in Vanity Fair isn’t ogling her because she chose to reveal herself, saying, ‘I love how tastefully and beautifully she expresses herself here.'”

Christians can be terrible

Derek Rishmawy:

…every time some news report comes out about a pastoral failure, or a fiasco in Evangelical culture, or abuse in the Church, it’s common to see Christians of various stripes updating and bewailing said fiasco. While that’s fine, and probably necessary to some degree, the one attitude I find myself chafing at rather regularly is the “I don’t know if I can call myself a Christian” anymore impulse.

It’s as if this person were introduced to Christianity by having them read bits of Acts, without reading Paul, the Gospels, or heck, even the rest of Acts. As if they were promised a Christianity with nice, cleaned up people, with perfectly cleaned up story arcs where all the sin is “back there” in the past, never to rear its ugly head, so that you don’t have the bear the ignominy of being associated with such foul stupidity and wickedness. Then when they meet real Christians–you know, the sinning kind–they suffer a sort of whiplash on contact.

The Fatal Tensions of the Fight Churches

Matthew Lee Anderson:

I’m an MMA skeptic, then, and this film doesn’t help persuade me not to be from a theological standpoint.  But then, I came into it having written a book on a closely related subject, and so am in danger of confirmation bias.  Take that as you will.  But the kinds of justifications offered by pastors were most frequently just the sort of pragmatic, anti-theological ‘reasons’ that come up in related discussions like tattoos, which leave no room for any kind of limits on our “Christian witness” besides those which are unquestionably explicit in Scripture itself.  Yes, tough guys need Jesus: but surely starting a fight club in the church basement is not the only way (or even the best) to reach them, is it?  Perhaps we should think about that for a while sometime.  After all, in my experience the pragmatic justification for these kinds of programs is always the least creative and least innovative. Such justifications somehow manage to presuppose the worst of the very people they’re trying to reach—namely, that they are interested in and would only be fully satisfied by a church which can slake their thirst for just this kind of practice. And they infantilize the churches that undertake them, for they cheapen the very mysteries and sanctity of holiness which they have been entrusted to bear witness to.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A couple of deals to start your day:

Look for this week’s eBook deals from Crossway shortly.

Three Things to Remember When You Read the Bible

Jonathan Parnell:

You can never just read the Bible.

There is something deep happening. It’s something more glorious than the universe. Whether you open these pages before dawn, over midmorning coffee, or at the dinner table with family, whenever you read the Biblesomething miraculous is happening. After all, you are not just any ordinary person, and the Bible isn’t just any old book.

How Captain America should have ended

Ten characteristics of an aspiring pastor

Brian Croft:

Scripture must first be our guide when evaluating a young man’s desire for pastoral ministry (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).  This blueprint needs to then be evaluated by the young man’s desire for the work (internal calling), and then by the pastors and congregation of his local church (external calling). Although those Scripture qualities are helpful, they are not exhaustive.

So, here are 10 other characteristics I look for that I feel are not necessarily deal breakers, but nonetheless very important for pastoral ministry and fall within the frame work of the fruit of the spirit in a Christian’s life.

The 6 Ingredients of Jesus’ Bitter Cup

Nick Batzig:

When we think of the cup that was placed before Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, we tend to think of it merely in terms of the wrath of God–since that is what the cup most clearly symbolizes in the writings of the OT prophets. While we would never dare reduce it to something less than this, there is certainly more intended by the sight of the cross. When Jesus looked into the cup He saw–from every dimension of His sufferings–all that He would suffer, both at the hands of men, Satan and God Himself. Isaac Ambrose captured so well the meaning of the cup when he set out what he believed to be the 6 ingredients that made it so burdensome a sight to the soul of the sinless Son of God.

A Coming Familypocalypse

Joey Cochran:

My family is important to me; I love my wife and three children dearly. I believe we are better together than apart. This should be the attitude of every father, right? Absolutely! Dads should cherish and enjoy their families. They should long to be with them and feel pain when apart. They also should fight to keep families together through thick and thin.

This conviction should be a shared conviction with all humanity. As humans, we should cherish the idea of family. Otherwise, how would we perpetuate and propagate our race?

Yet, occasionally, I get this unsettled feeling in my soul, as I observe the culture around me, that these are not shared feelings.

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How to speak Christianese

HT: Jeff Medders

Are We Passionate for People?

Jonathan Parnell:

It is an amazing thing that God comforts the downcast, and that he tells us this so clearly. The idea of God’s comfort isn’t religious folklore, nor is it some spiritual platitude to pull out when we can’t think of something more specific to say. This is a truth read explicitly in the words of Scripture, and pervasively narrated throughout.

But how exactly does he comfort us? This is an important question. Comfort, in order for it to be real comfort, must be as palpable as our pain. Theoretical comfort won’t do. The idea of comfort won’t satisfy. Therefore, in what ways might the “God who comforts” actually comfort his people?

7 Ways We Pray Without Praying

Aaron Earls shares how we might be praying without praying at all.

Who’s Self-Controlled Now?

Lore Ferguson:

People are prone to affirmation when it comes to commentary on one’s goodness or their kindness, but rarely do I hear someone say, “Wow, your self-control is really stellar. You’ve got it going on in that department.”

Why?

Because you can’t see my self-control unless I give you opportunity and opportunities like that are few. Before you can see me exercise my will power you have to know that there’s a struggle of my wills.

And I don’t let people see those things.

Don’t You Worry Child

Tullian Tchividjian:

One night about 18 months ago when I was putting Genna to bed, I asked her, “Honey, how do you think God feels about you?” Her immediate response was, “Disappointed.” After some probing, I realized that she wasn’t feeling convicted about any particular sin, she simply sees God as someone whose feelings toward her are basically unhappy ones. She knows that God is perfect and that she is imperfect—she understands that God is holy and that she is sinful—and so it only makes sense to her that God is perpetually displeased with her.

Lloyd-Jones on Scandalous Grace that Isn’t Cheap

Kevin DeYoung shares wisdom from Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Three warning signs I’m too busy

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These days I’ve been feeling pretty distracted. Pulled in a lot of directions. Focus hasn’t been coming easily to me. I’ve spent the last two months working more than I should, although with good reason, which help that whole “work/life balance” thing. I periodically go through seasons like this, where—either because of external factors or my own tendency to take on too much—I find myself with waaaaaaaaaay too much on my plate.

So how do I know when I’ve gotten there? Here are three signs that usually clue me in:

1. Reduced sleeping time. While I’ve always been a six or seven hours a night guy (which is barely considered healthy), when I am too busy, it’s really not good. It usually starts with bedtime getting pushed back just a bit later. And then a bit later. And then a bit later again.… And then the morning starts coming earlier. And a little earlier than that. And then a little earlier than that. And then consistent sleep becomes elusive, to the point that I’m waking up periodically throughout the night, getting maybe 2 hours of sleep in a row… and only four to five hours of sleep total.

2. Forgetfulness. Because I’m trying to do too much, I start forgetting things. At first it starts small, like forgetting a piece of a conversation, but it escalates from there. This one is probably the most frustrating for my wife, even more than my occasional irritability, because it is so disruptive to our daily lives.

3. Unfocused reading. Honestly, this is the sign that almost always clues me in. When I’m way too busy, I can’t focus easily. And because I can’t focus, reading just one book becomes challenging. So I start a book… and then I start another. And then another. And then another… and before you know it, I’ve got up to 12 on the go. Which is dumb.

It’s also where, I realized this week, I’m at. I’ve been way too busy lately. But I have a hard time realizing it. This is, in part, because one of the ways I unwind is by… working. When I’m not working at my day job, I’m writing a blog post, or working on a documentary script, or a book proposal or doing some marketing consulting work.

(My wife likes to joke that my hobbies are jobs.)

For me creative outlets—which usually come in the form of work—help me unwind.

But when I’m not careful, when my employer’s needs increase during a particularly busy season for example, even the things that help me unwind can actually add to my feeling of being way too busy.

At this point in an article like this, it’s typical to include the “and here’s what I’m doing to change all that.” Well, I’ve got some bad news: I don’t have anything profound to say on that. I can only give the first step: recognizing the problem. But that’s probably the most important one because if you don’t see the problem—if you don’t know how to recognize the warning signs—you won’t be able to work toward finding a solution.


Photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc

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Jesus, Eunuchs, and the (Almost) 30-Year-Old Virgin

Chelsea Kingston:

In a world where hedonism and gross individualism hold sway, the prominence of what a friend and pastor calls “the sexual fulfillment myth” is no big surprise, really. And so, in a way that our culture finds almost impossible to comprehend, celibacy in singleness demonstrates a most visible sign of authentic Christian witness. Perhaps this is why Jesus spoke so strongly on the subject.

7 Signs We May Be Worshipping Our Family

Jason Helopoulos:

I am thankful for the growing emphasis upon the Christian family in evangelical circles. Our two children are home schooled, so I am in no way opposed to homeschooling. We attempt to practice family worship each night of the week, so I am not opposed to family worship. For goodness sakes, I wrote on a book on the subject. I am passionate about it. We have attempted to have our children in corporate worship with us since they were babies. I am working on a book on that subject as well, so I am not opposed to children in worship. However, there does seem to be a tendency with the home school/family worship/children in worship emphasis that can turn this good thing upon its head. If we aren’t careful, instead of encouraging worshipping families, we become family worshippers. The following are possible signs that we have begun worshipping the family rather than encouraging our family to be worshippers.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today only, you can get Thom Rainer’s excellent book, I am a Church Member for 99¢.

Get The New Birth in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Steven Lawson’s The New Birth teaching series (DVD) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Sola Scriptura by various authors (ePub & Mobi)
  • The Faith Shaped Life by Ian Hamilton (paperback)
  • Twelve Challenges Churches Face by Mark Dever (hardcover)

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

Coming (Back) to America: Coming Back to Commercials

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Here’s the first thing I notice about living in the States again: commercials. Well, truthfully, I didn’t notice them. My seven year old son Titus noticed them. All of them!

Here’s the thing: In Cayman we never had cable or watched network television. We relied on DVDs, Netflix, or something on Apple TV. This meant commercials never interrupted our programming–not even during the annual commercial feast called the Super Bowl. Since Titus was born in Cayman, his entire seven years of life have been lived in our commercial-free Siberia.

But coming back to America means he has a Saturday full of commercials! He’s exposed constantly to product pitches and appeals.

Should We Stop Using the Language of “Personal Relationship” in Evangelism?

Leon Brown:

As far back as I can recall, Christians have utilized the phrase, “personal relationship” in evangelism. It is oft-times used as a synonym for “salvation.” Perhaps pressing the phrase to its unlikely meaning, we might suggest that the phrase, “personal relationship” includes one’s union with Christ, justification, sanctification, reconciliation, and eventual glorification. At a minimum, if the former is meant by the phrase, it seems like an acceptable set of words to utilize in evangelistic outreach.
The problem I have with the phrase, however, is not which theological categories it includes but which categories it obviously does not. I can only base my observations on personal experience, but I have yet to hear testimony, whether while witnessing or some other published work/blog/Facebook post/Tweet, that the “personal relationship” language epidemic includes both the wrath of God and the Church.

Finding their own faith: Barnabas Piper on being a PK

Meet Barnabas Piper, a writer, team member of Ministry Grid, and a contributor to multiple blogs and publications (including WorldMag.com, Leadership Journal, Tabletalk Magazine, Relevant.com, The Gospel Coalition blog, and DesiringGod.org). Barnabas is also a PK—a pastor’s kid, and  the son of a Christian-famous one, at that. In anticipation of the release of his new book, The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity (look for a review soon), Barnabas took a few minutes to chat (via email) about the book, the life of a PK and how parents can keep their kids from hating ministry.


I promised I wouldn’t ask you the standard “why’d you write this book” question, and I’m sticking to that. (After all, it’s pretty obvious why you did.) So, here’s the real first question: what impressed me when reading the book is how you managed to keep the tone as positive as you did. How challenging was it maintain this without sugarcoating the real difficulties that come with being a PK?

So much of what passes for “authentic” or “honest” writing these days is simply the lancing of emotional boils all over one’s readers. So my challenge was to be genuinely honest but also tasteful. As I wrote I kept the words “honor your father and mother” at the forefront of my mind to help me be thoughtful and conscientious. At the same time I needed to expose and explain certain realities and do so with clarity. I hope that as I tried to negotiate between honoring my parents and being bluntly forthright I was forceful without being a drag.

One of the things you mentioned in the book is that your theology differs in some respects from your dad’s. What were some of the ways he helped give you space to work out what you believe and how might other pastors do likewise for their kids?

Much of my differing came after I moved away from home. We’ve had some pointed conversations about our differences and have come to an understanding that some topics are best not argued about. To be clear, my dad did not make me believe anything growing up, but for anyone who’s ever listened to him preach or read his writings he leaves little room to disagree. So, for me, it was space that led to my opportunity to think in a different direction. And since then, I have worked to be respectful of his views, not pick needless arguments, and center on those things we do agree on—the essentials of the Christian faith.

The Pastor's Kid by Barnabas Piper

The Pastor’s Kid is available now.

While much of your experience is similar to that of the average PK, you’ve also got the added crazy of having a Christian-famous dad. How have you managed to handle the extra-wide bubble and not lose your mind?

Who’s to say I haven’t lost my mind?

Just kidding. Much of it had to do with the fact that the fame for him came gradually as I grew up and didn’t become more pronounced until I was in late high school and then in college. That meant I was a little bit more ready to roll with it and figure it out at a (somewhat) mature level. I haven’t always handled it well. At times I have resented people for how they treated me or gushed over my dad. It’s hard to meet people and for them to have expectations of what I’ll be like because of my last name.

But at some point I realized I could either be annoyed all the time or just roll with it. People aren’t trying to be invasive or to put expectations on me. Many genuinely love my dad, and although that can be weird, it’s generally a kind of nice weird. The bottom line is that I have been shown a lot of grace, and I would be an ingrate not to show some to others, especially when they have good intentions.

My kids aren’t PKs, but they are caught in the bubble due to my day job and extra curricular activities. What advice do you have to help parents like me protect our kids from hating everything about ministry in all its forms?

Help them see that you love them more than ministry and help them see what you love about the ministry. If your kids know you’d drop ministry in a second for them they won’t feel like it’s an imposition. If they see that, while you love ministry, you find greater happiness with them they won’t feel like it’s a rival. If they see that you enjoy it and that it is meaningful to you it will be seen as a positive thing over all, something to be part of rather than fled from.


The Pastor’s Kid is now available from your favorite resellers (and Amazon, too). Connect with Barnabas on Twitter (@BarnabasPiper), Facebook and at his blog.

A summertime reading challenge for my daughter

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After a long, cold, long winter here in Canada, I’m definitely looking forward to this summer. Vacations are starting to be planned, reading lists are being compiled (look for that soon)… and this year, as we enter into homeschool land, we’re starting to incorporate some reading activities for the whole family.

When I was nine and ten, my favorite part of the summer was the reading challenge at my local library in St. Albert, Alberta. If I remember correctly, it was to read something like at least one book a week for the whole summer, check in every week, and at the end, you’d get a prize. Or maybe bragging rights.

(Again, this was 25 years ago, so I can’t remember it all…)

So this year, I wanted to try a reading challenge with Abigail, our oldest daughter. She loves, loves, LOVES to read. (Can you tell this makes me happy as a parent?) So something like this seems like a natural fit, and she’s pretty into the idea. So what I’m encouraging her to do is:

  • Shoot for reading at least one (age appropriate) book per week. The books she chooses are, for the most part, entirely up to her.
  • She needs to write a one-two sentence summary of what happened when she’s finished each book. I want her to not just focus on reading a bunch of stuff, but comprehending it (which is also why I’m encouraging her to read age-appropriate chapter books).

At the end of the summer, we’ll tally up the results and if she reads at least ten books, she’ll receive a prize. Right now, I’m thinking a Chapters1 gift card so she can go on a daddy-assisted shopping spree.

We’ll see how it plays out. She might surprise me and read a lot more than 10 books. She might only get to about 5, depending on how into it she is when summer really starts. But my goal is to nurture her love of reading, and get her into a lifestyle of learning mindset. Lord willing, it’ll help.

What kind of summer reading activities did you participate in as a kid? What have you found helpful with your own?

When the h-word slipped

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My wife let the h-word slip in conversation with Abigail a few days ago.

No, not “hell”—homeschooling. Which in our family, is far more scary.

Not too long ago, I asked if you’d mind praying for our family as we make some decisions about our children’s education going forward. We had always intended on having our kids in the public education system, but over the last couple years, our feelings on that have changed. Not because of any particular conviction that we must do this lest we disobey the Lord—we just want our kids to get the best education possible, and our schools aren’t doing that.

With teachers that hold Abigail back (“We don’t want her to get too far ahead in her reading,” her senior kindergarten teacher told me) or hypnotize them with TV during lunch (yeah, that’s been happening at a LOT), the impression that we’ve gotten has been they’re more concerned with doing what’s easy than what’s best. (And yes, I know not all teachers are this way, there are problems with the system, etc.…)

We’d always said we’d evaluate every year and every semester to determine the next step. Up until recently, we’d had concerns, but not anything that would have made us say “when.” Until we did. So over the last few weeks, we’ve been talking to friends, doing research, even having practice homeschool days when Abigail’s been home sick.

Through it all, Emily’s been approaching it from the “if we do this” perspective, something I appreciate. She’s been trying to be careful to not make a rash decision, or do something as a knee-jerk reaction to issues that have come up.

And then she let the h-word slip. And once that Genie’s out of the bottle, it’s really hard to put it back in.

Thankfully, our kids have been gradually getting comfortable with the idea. Abigail’s the only one with traditional school experience, but she’s been increasingly looking forward to the change. And honestly, so are we—if we 100 per cent decide to go forward, that is. But there’s a lot of work to do, yet. We have to find the right curriculum for the kids, find out if we’ve been accepted into the homeschool co-op… and then, figure out how to tell our parents.

That’s probably going to be the hardest part. My family tends to poke fun at the notion of homeschooling (which is funny since we didn’t know anyone who was homeschooled growing up). My in-laws place a very high value on education, but we’re not sure how they’ll react. Lord willing, everyone is going to be accepting of the direction we’re going (or at least polite enough to keep their disapproval to themselves). But if you’d mind continuing to pray with us about this, I’d sure appreciate it.


photo credit: Mohammed Alnaser via photopin cc

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What We All Agree On, and What We (Probably) Don’t, In this Sanctification Debate

Kevin DeYoung:

It’s no surprise that I share the concerns raised by Jen, Michael, Mark, Jared, and others in this discussion. I’ve already written a book on the subject and dozens of blog posts, so I won’t repeat everything I’ve already said. What may be helpful, however, is to try to push this discussion to the next level. I think Mark Jones has the right idea. Whether it’s a public debate or not, we as fellow evangelicals, often fellow Reformed pastors, and sometimes fellow friends, should be willing to provide further clarity and answer some probing questions from both sides of this scuffle over sanctification. And we should do at least some of this publicly, because this has been a public discussion entered into willingly by “public figures” on all sides.

We all agree the differences are not mere semantics. We all agree the issues are of crucial importance for the church’s preaching, counseling, and overall health and vitality. So let’s move past boilerplate and try to get to the bottom of these critical disagreements.

Don’t Waste Your Loneliness

Sarah Van Beveren:

One of the wonderful things about the Church is the community we share. In Christ, God has knit us together, and instead of admonishing us to become a community, he tells us that he has already made us into one. In John, we read that our unique love for one another is what will set us apart and show that we are disciples of Christ.

I recently attended a women’s breakfast and listened to a talk on friendship, specifically the masks that we have a tendency to hide behind. It seems that despite our bond, many in the Church are feeling lonely and disconnected. Over the last year I’ve spent much time evaluating and praying through my own experience with loneliness, and have sought to dialogue with both men and women, hearing their thoughts and desires for our brothers and sisters. From this, two principles have come to define how I seek out and approach friendships.

Save up to 64% on books for graduates

Westminster Books has some terrific deals on books ideal for high school and college grads, including Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper and Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung.

And while we’re talking about deals, here’s a look at a few recent Kindle deals:

How Many Children Should I Have?

David Murray:

I know, I know, I’m going where many have perished.

But.

I want to highlight two simple biblical principles that I think could help Christians have more confidence that they are pleasing God in this vital area of life. And of course, this is all under the sovereignty of God who alone can give life.

Common Problems In Modern Preaching

Andrew Webb:

Modern preaching has its own problems, and while there are some commonalities, there are differences between the problems you are likely to see in reformed and non-reformed preaching. Here then are my observations on the common problems in both camps, I should stress this is just my opinion and is not intended to be exhaustive, and yes I’ve been guilty of some of these myself. I offer these lists in the hopes that they might be noted and avoided by preachers in the future!

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It multiplied

Ray Ortlund:

I remember hearing Michael Green at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974. He asked us, Why don’t we see anywhere in the book of Acts a man-made strategic plan for evangelizing the world? His answer: They didn’t have one.

What then did they have? Two things, for starters: the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Thinking About Q Nashville

Hunter Baker:

When I look at Q, its hosts, and the young people participating in it, I suspect I am seeing the cultural stance of those who have grown up in pervasively Christian subcultures. For them, rebelling means rebelling against Massive Baptist Church or Church Related University or Clearly Wealthy Famous Preacherman. Those are the holders of power in their world. It is little wonder to them that the dominant culture dislikes us. We are hypocrites. We don’t measure up to our own standards. And we are judgmental while the secular world is more understanding. Or so it seems to them.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway has a number of wonderful books by J.I. Packer on sale this week:

Also on sale:

Finally, a few books by Stephen Altrogge are on for 99¢ each:

Celebrities Are Not Commodities

Richard Clark:

Between movies, television shows, pop music, websites, and podcasts, our lives are full of background noise created by and in service to celebrities. Even if you’re not obsessed with Hollywood and tabloid culture, you’ve no doubt been a little too excited about being in the same room with your favorite pastor, writer, or theologian.

The reality of celebrity throws a wrench into our well-oiled mastery of relationships. We may have learned to restrain our judgment of those closest to us, to give those around us the benefit of the doubt, and to show grace to those who sin against us. We might have learned not to keep a record of wrongs. We might have learned to forgive our friends 777 times. We allow ourselves to continue in friendships that inconvenience and disturb us, because that’s what Jesus would have done. But all of this is exhausting. We need a break.

10 Ingredients Of A Happy Home

David Murray:

One of the greatest blessings we can give our children is the cultivation of a happy home. I say “cultivation” because it doesn’t happen automatically; it requires conscious, determined, deliberate effort. From my own experience and from observing others, here are ten ways to cultivate a happy home.

The Church Needs More Tattoos

Russell Moore:

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) often tells audiences, “Republican Party events need more people with tattoos.” It struck me, as I heard him say this, that this is kind of what evangelical Christians ought to be saying about our churches. It struck me further when I read this tribute my former student Spencer Harmon wrote about his new wife and her past that this is precisely the issue facing the next generation of the Bride of Christ, the church.

What Paul (the senator, not the Apostle) means, it seems, is that his party, if it is to have a future, shouldn’t count on just doing the same thing it’s always done, and it can’t rely on people who look like what people think Republicans ought to look like. The party must expand out to people whose pictures don’t currently show up in a Google image search for “Republican.” There are people, Paul says, who agree with the Republican message, in theory, but who pay no attention to it because they assume they aren’t the kind of people the party wants to talk to.

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This comes from the Lord

Ray Ortlund:

Connecting “this comes from the Lord” with “having this ministry” forces a disturbing question.  How many of our churches today can say, “Our ministry comes from the Lord.  Our life-giving impact is of him.  What we are experiencing is coming down from above”?  How many of our churches have a clear awareness that what’s happening in their midst is not due to their cleverness or relevance or traditions or anything of Self?  How many of us can honestly say, “What’s happening among us here is from the Lord.  There is no other way to account for it.  We’re not that smart, not that attractive, not even that virtuous.  We want to do our best for him, of course.  But our church is under the touch of God.  Our ministry is by his mercy”?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The World’s Best Grandfather

Christopher Catherwood:

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, commonly referred to as the “Doctor,” was the prince of preachers of the twentieth century—perhaps the greatest since Spurgeon in the 19th century and Whitefield and Edwards in the 18th.

He was also the world’s best grandfather!

He died on my 26th birthday, March 1st, 1981, and he and I had a close grandfather/grandson relationship. I took very much after his side of the family, with a personality and intellectual interests very similar to his father, my great-grandfather, Henry Lloyd-Jones.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Finally, while it may not seem like a deal, you should really pick up omnibus edition of C.S. Lewis’ The Space Trilogy for $19.99.

On Church Membership and Theological Disagreement

Jake Meador:

“Port William repaid watching. I was always on the lookout for what would be revealed. Sometimes nothing would be, but sometimes I beheld astonishing sights.”

The lesson from that quote (from Wendell Berry) is that fidelity to a place, a people, or a tradition is often its own reward. This is because learning to actually see something takes a great deal of time. It is only through the virtues of patience and affection that we can come to truly know a place and find our home in it. Seeing these things properly is something that takes a great deal of time to do, and the longer you take at it the more apt you are to realize how much more there is to see. This was the thought I continued to have as I watched the Future of Protestantism event earlier this week.

Checking the Pulse of Spiritual Sibling Rivalry

Joey Cochran:

If we’re honest, there are times where we meet a brother or sister in Christ and don’t feel like being a brother or sister in Christ to them. Sometimes the feeling is subtle and subversive–so subtle that we almost deny the feeling; yet we’ve allowed ourselves to be rubbed the wrong way by that person. It might be that they are more successful, attractive, intelligent, or just flat out better than you at everything they do. It could be that they accomplished all of this while displaying sinful characteristics in the process. We see sin in them more than we see the same in our self (Matthew 7:3) . Maybe they took something that we believed should’ve been ours. Perhaps it was a promotion or award at work. You know that they follow Christ, but boy, you wish they didn’t so that you wouldn’t feel so bad about giving them an earful.

All who believe are family

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

If we are the children of God, if we are the heirs of God, and joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ, then all who believe in the Lord Jesus constitute one family. They may be scattered all over the world, may in ten thousand things differ as to the present life, and in ten thousand things have differed as to their manner of life before they were brought to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus,—may differ after their conversion as to their position in life, and in numberless ways also as to attainments in knowledge and grace; but nevertheless, as assuredly as they believe in the Lord Jesus for the salvation of their souls do they constitute one heavenly family—they are brethren. We glorify God by living as such here. In heaven we shall be together. Throughout eternity we shall be unspeakably happy, and love one another perfectly and habitually. But we are to glorify God by manifesting this love now, while on the earth, while in weakness and exposed to conflict, while the struggle is going on; now we are to be united together, and to manifest that we are one family, the heavenly family. This is the way to bring glory to God.

George Müller, Jehovah Magnified

Preparing Your Teens for College by Alex Chediak

preparing-teens-college-chediak

My niece is heading off to college this fall. This is weird for me… partly because it reminds me how far away I am from my own teens and college years. But when I think of my niece, I don’t think of an almost 18-year-old getting ready to take a first step into adulthood. I sometimes still think of her as a six-year-old wanting to play dress-up and paint on the carpet with nail polish.

But it also makes me realize that I really don’t have that long before one of my kids is ready to go to college. My oldest daughter is 7, and she’ll be 17 before we know it. So how do we start preparing ourselves—and eventually her—for that big milestone?

That’s much of the heart behind Alex Chediak’s new book, Preparing Your Teens for College. Written as a series of 11 conversations to have with your teen over the course of several months (or years), this book addresses everything from encouraging your child to own their faith to how to save for tuition.

A few thoughts on reading this book:

1. You don’t actually have to read this book in order. Although it can be beneficial to read through it from start to finish, it’s not necessary. You might want to start off simply reading the most pressing topic for you at the moment.

The section I most deeply resonated with during my read through (which was one I also turned to almost immediately upon opening the book) was the conversation on financial responsibility. I went to college almost entirely on student loans. I didn’t learn how to manage money during high school, so I had virtually no savings. I came out of school with a fairly sizeable debt load, but no skills on how to manage money. So that debt grew. And grew. And grew… It took a long time for me to learn how to manage money responsibly, and this is something I want to pass on to my kids, particularly the most foundational element—who our money actually belongs to:

Your teens don’t have much money yet. Now is the time for them to start thinking about money in a way that recognizes it all belongs to God, not us, and that we’re to use it to advance his purposes. Only from this firm foundation can they learn to properly manage it. (202)

This mindset is absolutely what I want for my kids. I want them to understand that how we use money is ultimately about furthering God’s purposes in the world, not satisfying our every passing fancy. Simply, because God desires for us to be generous and wise with the money He’s provided, we need to pray earnestly and think carefully about how we give, spend and save. This is

2. You don’t need to have a teen to read this book. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t have teens yet. But I have one child who is fast becoming one. And in some ways, I feel like I’m the exact target audience for this book because what Chediak repeatedly encourages us to remember is that none of these conversations are one-and-done. They should happen over a long period of time, laying a foundation and building based on your child’s age and maturity.

For example, I’m not going to have a conversation with my oldest daughter about sex right now. She isn’t really ready for an in-depth discussion on the topic. But I will (and have) talk to her about the purpose of boyfriends and girlfriends, and how the purpose is to get to know the person you’re going to marry, which is why we need to think carefully about who we spend time with.

This principle of building on a foundation is important for every topic discussed, from encouraging godly friendships and maintaining sexual purity, to developing godly character and teens internalizing their faith.

3. You’re going to be challenged to look at your parenting. This is especially true as you consider how to help your child discover his or her gifts and abilities or whether or not your child should go to college or university at all. Many of us have bought into the notion that wanting more for our kids means making sure they’re better educated or in a more distinguished field… But sometimes this is simply our own idolatry at work. We want to live out our unfulfilled dreams through our kids, instead of nurturing the unique person God has made them to be—and let them own that:

Perhaps you’ve always thought they’d make great doctors, or you have your sights set on them taking over the family business or going into ministry. Look for fruit in their lives and hearts to see if any of that makes sense. Whatever happens, remember that they are the ones who have to live wit the consequences. So give them space to own these decisions. (286)

4. It’s very “American.” This is not going to be an issue for the majority of the readers of the book, since they’re going to be Americans. But as a Canadian, there are a few things that don’t translate. These are mostly related to some of the practical tips on saving, terms related to degrees, and the like. This is a very minor quibble since, again, the author is an American writing to a primarily American audience. But it’s a good reminder for us non-Americans to focus more on the principles provided than the particulars.

Preparing Your Teens for College is one of those books that you don’t know you need to read until you read it. It’s packed with practical wisdom, sound theology, necessary challenges and much-needed encouragement for parents. Whether college is weeks or years away, you will benefit from reading this book and starting the conversations that will help your child thrive in college and beyond.


Title: Preparing Your Teens for College: Faith, Friends, Finances, and Much More
Author: Alex Chediak
Publisher: Tyndale House (2014)

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon