Links I like (weekend edition)

Is it My Fault? 

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s excellent book, Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence is on sale for the Kindle for $3.99. Do not let this deal pass you by.

Age of Ultron, Heaven and Previews that Oversell or Undersell

Joey Cochran:

I’m not gonna Jesus Juke a punchline at the end of this article. I’m going to show you my cards right here. The reality is movie previews are similar and dissimilar to Sunday Worship. Movie trailers preview movies and they often oversell; Sunday worship previews heaven and it cannot oversell.

And speaking of Age of Ultron

I’m pretty sure this doesn’t oversell the movie:

Four Kinds of Church Leaders Who Won’t Lead Revitalization

Thom Rainer:

So why aren’t more church leaders being intentional in leading church revitalization? As I have conversed with church leaders, I have found four types of church leaders who are resistant to leading church revitalization.

A Day in the Life of Stock Photos

Aaron Earls:

Stock photos serve a purpose, but very rarely is that purpose to show what real life actually is. While your life is full of ups and downs, stock photos pretty much just establish an impossible to meet standard of every day life.

So what would it be like to live a day in stock photo life? Nothing like your life or mine.

It’s a Genesis-to-Revelation Issue

This is a really good interview with Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger about their new book, God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey

Links I like

Book deals for Christian readers

Here are a whole pile of Kindle deals to get you started (note, most of these are academic references, but books you’d likely want in your library):

Also on sale are a number of volumes from the ZECNT series:

And a few volumes in the Expositors Bible Commentary series:

At Westminster, you can get a great deal on Resisting Gossip by Matthew C. Mitchell. Get a 10-volume pack for your small groups for $50 (includes five copies of the book and five participants guides), individual copies for $8 and digital editions for $4.

Finally, today’s $5 Friday deals at Ligonier include:

  • The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (hardcover)
  • The Christian Mind: 2012 national conference messages (DVD)
  • Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible (ePub)

The Presidency of the Holy Spirit

Ray Ortlund:

Our forefathers used to call this “the presidency of the Holy Spirit,” when the Lord himself would preside over the gathering of his people in such a way as gently, wonderfully to take charge.

I have seen this.  Doubtless, many of you have as well.

The Most Honest Atheist In The World

David Murray engaging with Crispin Sartwell’s article at the Atlantic, Irrational Atheism: Not Believing in God Isn’t Always Based on Reasoned Arguments And That’s OK.

McDonalds vs organic food

This is amazing (be sure to turn on the subtitles):

The Softer Face of Calvinism

This is a really good interview between Kevin Emmert and Oliver Crisp, author of Deviant Calvinism.

The American Jeremiad

Matt McCullough:

Rhetoric of decline is almost always rhetoric of persuasion. It aims to diagnose a problem and prescribe a solution. We must be careful to assure the prescriptions and their expected results don’t go beyond what God has actually promised.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The theme of this week’s Crossway deals is pretty transparent (but very welcome):

Also on sale:

What We Can Learn From Gamergate

Richard Clark:

It all started with a scandal. One woman slept with other men, and one man took umbrage, posting personal chat-logs with her as “proof” of videogame nepotism and corruption. The result was “Gamergate,” a videogame-related witch-hunt the likes of which none of us have ever seen before.

Gamergate is an online controversy centered around both the treatment of women in videogames and ethics in videogame journalism. The active campaign operates primarily out of the concern that there is a general “groupthink” in videogame journalism centered around feminist and generally progressive concerns.

Of Michael Landon and Brittany Maynard

This is so good.

Bible Ignorance

Mark Jones:

People who have an excellent understanding of the Scriptures really impress me. If there’s one thing I detest, besides Manchester United, it’s Bible studies or theological discussions where the Scriptures function like the crumbs in a bag of chips: you get to them only if you’re desperate.

As someone who has had the pleasure and displeasure of examining candidates for the ministry, I can tell you that many candidates suffer from a lack of basic bible knowledge. They (kind of) know their five points of Calvinism – I wish they knew the other twenty – but they have no idea what the five Levitical offerings are. They know two Latin words (duplex gratia), which they say ad infinitum, ad nauseam, but they don’t even know whether the cupbearer, the baker or the candlestick-maker forgot Joseph in prison.

The Church and Women at Risk

Lindsey Holcomb:

Violence against women is a global epidemic that affects women and girls of all socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, religions, cultures, and ethnicities. Some women and girls, however, are particularly vulnerable to abuse. The phrase “women at risk” or “at-risk women” is used to describe women most susceptible to exploitation and violence, such as women and girls living in poverty and girls younger than 18.

Because life can be tragic for women, it is crucial to have a biblical understanding of how the church can protect and care for women at risk.

Abraham, Cultural Distance, and Offering Up Our Moral Conscience

Derek Rishmawy:

All too often in these discussions of troubling texts, we collapse the cultural distance between us and the biblical characters. Human nature is, in many ways, constant. Conscience is one of those basic human features. Across cultures, everybody has a clear sense of right and wrong, norms against which we must not cross, and an internal compass about these sorts of things. That said, any student of culture knows there are some significant variations across cultures as well. “Self-evident truths” held by post-Enlightenment Americans are not all that apparent to equally intelligent Middle Easterners or citizens of the Majority world. The conscience of a 1st Century citizen might be very sensitive about an issue you and I wouldn’t blink twice about, and vice versa. Our cultural presuppositions and plausibility structures do a significant amount of work here.

Where does this come in with Abraham? Well, I think it becomes a factor in two ways: cultural distance and revelational distance. These two are bound up with each other.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Brittany Maynard, Rachel Held Evans, and Not Giving Up

Samuel James:

What Evans is too tired to do is the hard work of theology. Putting together the doctrine of God’s love and mercy with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and righteous condemnation of sinners is too difficult. The paradox has created an irreparable dissonance within her spirituality. Rather than submitting to the view of Scripture that Jesus endorsed, and trusting in the goodness of the Spirit that illuminates the meaning of the Word, Evans believes she has to make a choice: Scripture or conscience, Bible or values, Joshua or Jesus.

A non-answer is an answer

Andrew Walker:

Let’s be very clear on that. It’s also a very vapid answer. What we’re seeing in many corners of evangelicalism is a pliability that makes Christianity an obsequious servant to whatever the reigning zeitgeist is. With non-answers like this, it isn’t Jesus who is sitting at the right hand of the Father. Culture is. Perhaps Hillsong would rather abide by a “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” policy on matters of orthodoxy. That’s their prerogative. But let’s be clear that this is not the route of faithfulness.

Sexuality and Silence

Andrew Wilson:

I’ve heard rumours of a silent trend beginning to take hold in some city churches in the UK and the US. I don’t just mean a trend that takes hold silently; presumably most trends do that. I mean a trend toward silence: a decision not to speak out on issues that are considered too sticky, controversial, divisive, culturally loaded, entangled, ethically complex, personally upsetting, emotive, likely to be reported on by the Guardian or the New York Times, uncharted, inflammatory, difficult, or containing traces of gluten. Since I do not attend a city church, but am a proud member of the backward bungalow bumpkin brigade, this is coming to me secondhand, and it may turn out to be a storm in the proverbial teacup, or even (for all I know) entirely fictional.

But let’s imagine that there were such things as well-written booklets which had been discontinued simply because they were about sexuality, and leaders who were avoiding making any public comments at all on controversial ethical issues, or churches whose lectionaries or sermon series were systematically avoiding passages which addressed pressing contemporary questions, presumably in the name of being winsome or wise or likeable or culturally sensitive, because of the number of Influencers and Powerful People in the area. Without knowing any of the behind-the-scenes discussions that had taken place—all well-intentioned, I’m sure—what would I say then?

Seven things.

How To REALLY Help Someone Change

Stephen Altrogge:

We tend to get this wonky, thoroughly unbiblical idea in our minds, that we can actually change people. That by the force of our will, we can move a person from ungodliness to godliness. We think that if we get sufficiently angry, they will see our point and change. They will feel the force of our anger, come under the cutting conviction of the Holy Spirit, and repent. Of course, this is complete nonsense. We know this both from Scripture and from experience.

The Healthy Elder Board Is a P.C. Elder Board

Thabiti Anyabwile:

The abbreviation “P.C.” has an almost universally negative connotation. We hear “P.C.” and we think “politically correct.” Being “P.C.” is synonymous with cultural capitulation, a kind of cowardice that refuses to call things what they are.

If that’s all the letters “P.C.” could stand for then we’d be right to suspect a “P.C. elder board” of unfaithfulness and ineffectiveness. But, thank God, there are other words for which “P.C.” can stand. And some of them actually help us define what a well-functioning eldership looks like. In general, I think we need “P.C.” elder teams. Here’s what I mean.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

  • The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men by Richard Phillips (hardcover)
  • God’s Technology teaching series by David Murray (DVD)
  • Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub)

Why repentance must be central to your ministry

Really good stuff from Platt and Chan.

15 Proverbs for social media users

Barnabas Piper:

Social media is a wonderful resource, an outlet for wit and wisdom… It is also where common sense and decency go to die. The same means that help me connect with new friends in South Africa and read real time updates of happenings in Ferguson, MO enable thoughtless people to spew hatred, lunacy, and general stupidity just as far just as fast.

How can we be sure we are using it in a wise and helpful way? Starting with some wisdom from God’s word is a good start, and no book has more practical wisdom than Proverbs. Here are 15 proverbs with direct application for how we should use social media.

Don’t Expect Unbelievers To Act Like Believers

Tim Challies reflects on an important point found in John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation.

What happened to the YRR in the SBC?

Tim Brister:

Fifteen years later, I think about where the young, restless, and Reformed have gone in the SBC. Are they sitting in the halls of academia, waiting to write the next book defending Calvinism? Perhaps. Are they trying to work their way up into denominational life to influence the SBC toward Calvinism? I seriously doubt it. For the men God brought into my life over a decade ago, here’s the breakdown of where they are now.

The true nature of elder authority in the church

Matt Perman:

So we need to understand what type of authority elders really have in the church, and what it truly means to not be domineering.

There are many sources we could go to to summarize the biblical view on this (which has always been the historic Protestant view). One of the best is John Stott, who covers this issue very well in a few simple but profound paragraphs from his book Christ in ConflictSo in this article, what I’m going to do is quote a few sentences from Stott, make some comments, quote the next few sentences from Stott, make some comments on those, and so forth. By the end we will have a clear outline of the real nature (and limitations) of the authority of elders in the church, to the end that we will know what the Scriptures mean when they say that elders are not to “domineer” over those they are leading.

C. S. Lewis on Why You Should Read Fiction: Get In and Get Out

Justin Taylor shares a great quote from Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Although not strictly a Kindle deal, here’s a great deal from Christian Audio and Cruciform Press. For a limited time, you can get the audio edition of Jerry Bridges’ excellent little book, Who Am I? free (and read by Alistair Begg to boot!). You can also get the eBook editions of this book and four others for $12.98 (or $3.99 each).

On sale at Amazon, however…

Four Ways Getting The Gospel Right Ain’t Enough

Matthew Sims:

Christianity centers on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is doctrinal precision all we need to get gospel right? Can getting the technical aspects alone save you? Or is there more?

You can get the content of the gospel right, but still miss the gospel. Here are four ways getting the gospel right ain’t enough.

The Progressive Evangelical Package

Derek Rishmawy:

It’s no secret that Reformed Christians have built their own wing of the internet where they spend their time chatting among themselves … The progressive Evangelicals now have their own wing, though, ostensibly with an emphasis on diversity and a marked aversion to foreclosing conversations or policing boundaries. The idea that there is a strict standard, a party line you have to toe in order to be a part of the club, is supposed to be foreign to the Progressive internet’s ethos. That’s for the heresy-hunting, conservative builders of Evangelical empire, after all, rather than the “radically inclusive” prophets of a more Christ-like faith. Unlike their conservative counterparts, Progressives follow a Jesus who came to tear down the walls that divide, not put new doctrinal ones back up.

Those are the stereotypes, at least. But it’s increasingly difficult to maintain this picture if we take a look at the actual situation on the ground.

5 Benefits Of Having A Challenging Teen

Mark Altrogge:

…doing all the right things doesn’t change the heart. The Lord is the only one who saves and changes people, not all our practices and effort, as good as they may be. Having a difficult teen causes us to grow in dependence on God – to cry out to the Lord in prayer, to seek him for mercy and grace and wisdom. It drives us to his Word, to seek out his promises. It causes us to grow in faith and trust in the Lord to work in our child.

5 Reasons Why There Are No Millennials in Your Church

Chris Martin offers his take on why Millennials aren’t attending church.

The Lethal Drug in Your Dream Job

Marshall Segal:

Success at work will play god and make promises to you that it cannot and will not keep. Success promises to fill holes in our hearts. If you only ascend this high or accumulate this much, your fears and insecurities will be resolved once for all. Success promises the love of those around us. They will finally give you the respect and affection you crave. Success says it can cover everything wrong about us. It offers esteem, control, and security — everything we surrendered in our sin. It wears the savior’s costume and presents itself the strong, charming, and trustworthy hero.

But success is a horrible hero, and an even worse god.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Conversations with Small Creatures

Mary Eady:

So often when I think about how to talk to my children about theology, I imagine these high-minded, lengthy and mature conversations that are free of the every day distractions of real life.  In my fantasy theology lessons my children mysteriously know what “eschatology” and “hermeneutic” mean, I never mispronounce words like “antithesis” or Iraneus’ name, and my son never, ever responds to one of my profound statements with, “Uh .  Mom, can I play video games today?” (I’ll have to tell you about the imaginary perfectly balanced and nutritious lunches I pack them in another article…But trust me.  They’re delicious!)

I hope you know, however, that reality is FAR different from fantasy in my house.  I have to grab the chances I’m given, as brief as they may be, and make the best of them.  And, though I often envy my coworkers their amazing vocabularies, I find that the simpler I am with my kids, the more they understand and the longer they’re willing to listen.

Give a gift and do good

We just launched our Christmas campaign at work; this video was a ton of fun to write and film:

Houston, We Have a Constitution

Russell Moore:

Reports coming out of Houston today indicate that city attorneys have issued subpoenas to pastors who have been vocal in opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a measure which deals with gender identity and sexuality in public accommodations. The subpoenas, issued to several pastors, seek “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

I am simply stunned by the sheer audacity of this.

When A Pastor Gets Depressed

Jeff Medders:

Last Monday, an untraceable sadness came over me. It wasn’t because we had a “bad Sunday.” We didn’t (whatever that means.) A young man, someone who I had been praying would come to Christ, pulled me aside before the second service and wanted to become a Christian. Hallelujah! I live for these moments.

I preached on Proverb 4:23 and watching our hearts, having joy in God, and keeping our lives in alignment with the King of kings. After church, we went on to have a great lunch with friends; I even got in my nap.

And then Monday morning, right before lunch, I began to cry for no reason. I sat in my living room, while my ten-month old son was napping, and tears slid down my cheeks.

How Much of a Servant Are You?

Aaron Earls:

But most of us aren’t dying to take a quiz to discover “Just How Much of a Servant Are You?” But, as Christians, is that not more important than which Frozen, Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games or Harry Potter character we are?

Is Glorification Conditional?

Kevin DeYoung:

As often happens in theological discussion, we have to start by saying that in one sense glorification is not conditional, if by condition we mean we must earn our place in heaven or that the final salvation of those regenerated and justified hangs in the balance. The golden chain of Romans 8:30 cannot be broken: those whom God predestined will be called and those called will be justified and those justified will be glorified.

But the word “conditional” does not have to carry the sense of merit or uncertainty. A condition is simply a requirement that must be met or a state of affairs that must come to pass if a certain event or outcome is to be realized. To say something is “conditional” is to say nothing about how the condition is met or whether there is any doubt the condition will be fulfilled. I can see how the word “conditional” throws people off, but we must affirm from Scripture that without certain evidences made manifest in our lives, we will not be glorified.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few deals on titles by R.C. Sproul:

Also on sale:

5 good words of pastoral advice that stuck

Jared Wilson:

I took my first vocational ministry position the summer I graduated high school (1994), becoming the youth minister for Zion Chinese Baptist Church. (You read that right.) In the twenty years since, I’ve heard a lot of good words on ministry and ministry life, and while a lot has been good, a few choice bits of wisdom have stuck with me since I heard them and have proven truer and truer over the years. Here are just five.

Get 1-2 Peter in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of 1-2 Peter, from the St. Andrew’s commentary series by R.C. Sproul, for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Loved by God teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • God in Our Midst by Daniel Hyde (hardcover)

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

Are Faith and Science Compatible?

Amy Julia Becker on her recent experience at a conference hosted by the Biologos Foundation:

At the conference, we didn’t talk much about human uniqueness, or the doctrine of the imago dei (image of God), as it turns out. We did hear some compelling presentations regarding evolution, the very very old age of the earth and the surrounding cosmos, and the puzzling (from a Scriptural perspective) scientific conclusion that we are descended from thousands of humans rather than a solitary Adam and Eve. (This final point does not preclude the possibility of an Adam and an Eve existing and being singled out by God for a purpose, but it does lead to lots of speculation without any conclusive proof.)

For me, the experience resulted not so much in affirming my views on science, but rather in reminding me of the ways in which, as the Psalmist writes, “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1).

The Problem with Evangelistic Programs

Mack Stiles:

God can use programs. I know people who have come to faith at evangelistic events. For the record, I often promote and speak at evangelistic programs. But I don’t think programs are the most effective, or even the primary, way we should do evangelism.

Marry or Burn?

Hannah Anderson:

Since writing “Getting Married Is Not Enough to Fight Sexual Temptation,” I’ve realized that I made certain assumptions that I did not articulate well, assumptions that are essential to explaining why I both embrace Paul’s advice to marry to avoid sexual temptation as well as why I’m uncomfortable with evangelicals offering the very same advice. Truthfully, it has little to do with the timing of marriage so much as the presuppositions we have about marriage, singleness, and sexuality.

Christians not Welcome

Brian Hutchinson offers a look at what is likely to be an all-too-common occurrence in the near future in Canada.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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.

Links I like

eBook deals for Christian readers

Until October 12, Crossway is giving away a digital edition of Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D.A. Carson. To get it, all you’ve got to do is fill out a quick survey. Charis by Preston Sprinkle is free until the end of the day today from all the major resellers. Here’s where to find it on Amazon and iTunes. Also on sale:

And in case you missed these yesterday:

Same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court: what now for the Church?

Russell Moore:

The Supreme Court has declined to take up appeals from states in which the courts have found same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right. This paves the way for same-sex marriage in many, perhaps most, places in the United States. Many Christians may be unaware of how momentous this is, since the denial of cases doesn’t come with quite the shock and awe of a ruling handed down. The effect though is wide-ranging. So what should our response be as the church of Jesus Christ?

I love the church and that’s why I resigned

Big news from Jared Wilson:

I am not one to run. Especially since things have been going so well on the growth front. We have more than tripled in attendance the last five years, but even more importantly, we have seen an increase in souls saved by Christ and baptized, in young families and mature leaders moving to our area to join us on mission, and in forward-thinking vision, culminating largely in our efforts toplant a church in downtown Rutland, Vermont. So there’s nothing to run from, really. Nobody’s mad at me. There’s no conflict pushing me out or great sin disqualifying me. There’s just me. There’s just me realizing, “I don’t think I’m the right guy for what comes next.” It’s as if God has led me to the brink of the promised land and said, “You can’t go in.”

The Lost Virtue of Modesty

Kevin DeYoung:

It is one of the marks of the confusion of our age that so many teenagers and young adults are more ashamed to dress with modest reserve than to very nearly undress entirely. Even after we give full throat to the necessary caveats–being pretty (or handsome) is not a sin, working to improve your appearance does not have to be vanity, the line between modest and immodest is not always black and white–we are still left with the undeniable biblical fact that God considers modesty a virtue and its opposite a vice.

Here are five biblical reasons Christians should embrace modesty as a God-designed, God-desired good thing.

Husbands, Hold Your Wife’s Hand

R.C. Sproul Jr:

That is likely my deepest regret, that I did not hold her hand more.

It’s not, of course, that I never held her hand. It is likely, however, that I didn’t as often as she would have liked. Holding her hand communicates to her in a simple yet profound way that we are connected. Taking her hand tells her, “I am grateful that we are one flesh.” Taking her hand tells me, “This is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” It is a liturgy, an ordinary habit of remembrance to see more clearly the extraordinary reality of two being made one. It would have, even in the midst of a disagreement, or moments of struggle, communicated, “We’re going to go through this together. I will not let go.”

Is your church worship more pagan than Christian?

Todd Pruitt:

There is a great misunderstanding in churches of the purpose of music in Christian worship. Churches routinely advertise their “life-changing” or “dynamic” worship that will “bring you closer to God” or “change your life.” Certain worship CD’s promise that the music will “enable you to enter the presence of God.” Even a flyer for a recent conference for worship leaders boasted:

“Join us for dynamic teaching to set you on the right path, and inspiring worship where you can meet God and receive the energy and love you need to be a mover and shaker in today’s world…Alongside our teaching program are worship events which put you in touch with the power and love of God.”

The problem with the flyer and with many church ads is that these kinds of promises reveal a significant theological error. Music is viewed as a means to facilitate an encounter with God; it will move us closer to God. In this schema, music becomes a means of mediation between God and man. But this idea is closer to ecstatic pagan practices than to Christian worship.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also on sale:

The First Court of Controversy

Joey Cochran:

You never win in court unless you’re really not-guilty. And who in court is? Really, we’re all guilty of something. It just may not be what we’re actually on trial for. You’ll get what I’m getting at soon enough.

Mansfield’s a lot like Eden; it has all the makings of controversy: disagreement, differing perspectives, and someone wins. The black gown always wins. Though this was my first ticket, it wasn’t my first trial. Despite what you might think.

Cut

Lore Ferguson:

It has been a strange dichotomy for me. Before 2010 I lived most of my life perpetually mistrustful of God, with a brooding anger at him. Since 2010, though, his goodness and prevailing trustworthiness has been steadfast and immovable. I have never known anything like it and still am in awe of what a constant God he is when not encumbered by the caricatures and Sunday School stories we make him out to be like. 2014, though, has been a year where I have seen my glaring disappointments and failures front and center. If there were places of pride in my life and heart, places I thought on the brink of full sanctification, this year has wrecked every one of them.

 

Saeed Abedini’s Letter to His Daughter on Her 8th Birthday

Trevin Wax shares a very moving letter.

Be Yourself in Prayer

Stephen Miller:

Sometimes it seems as if many believers feel the need to alter who they are when they come to God in prayer, particularly when others are around. As if God will not hear them if they are themselves, they play characters, hoping to be more acceptable to God and others.

I have personally struggled over the years with what to say and how to say it when I pray. I’m in good company. Even the apostles asked Jesus to teach them to pray. And with kind, compassionate patience in his voice, he taught them to pray simply, humbly, confidently, according to God’s word, and for God’s glory.

You could sum up Jesus’s teaching into a few guiding principles.

How To Listen To Sermons

Jeff Medders:

Many Christians on Sunday mornings are hearing sermons, but they aren’t listening to them.

Hearing and listening aren’t the same thing.

I can hear music playing in the background and not be listening to its message.

I learned the difference working at Starbucks while going to Bible college. I could hear blenders, customers, music, cars, and coffee being ground—but it was vital that I listened to the orders coming through my headset. I could hear all kinds of things, but I was listening for one thing.

Listen to sermons. Do more than hear them.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Get Mark in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of Mark, from the St. Andrew’s commentary series by R.C. Sproul, for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Recovering the Beauty of the Arts teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • Contending for the Truth conference series (DVD)
  • By Grace Alone by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)

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

Why Micromanaging is Ungodly

Barnabas Piper:

Nobody likes a micromanager, except maybe the one doing the managing. Even people who need close oversight hate it. Why? It’s annoying. It’s overbearing. We generally chalk it up to a “poor leadership style” or “ineffective management.” It’s more than that, though. Micromanagement among Christian leaders reflects poorly on our faith and the gospel. It doesn’t work, and that’s mainly because it’s not the way God designed things to work.

Here are five reasons why.

Sexual Sin and the Single

Lore Ferguson:

What if it is true that any sexual act outside of marriage is in some sense the physical embodiment of those other sins? I want what is not mine—envy; I want it now—impatience; I want pleasure—selfishness. I am committing what St. Augustine—the father of sexual ethics and self-professed great wrestler of them—called “disordered love,” placing any desire above God, which is sin.

The Best Things About the Boring Parts of the Bible

Nancy Guthrie:

Let’s admit it, there are certain parts of the Bible we skim because . . . well . . . because we think they’re boring. They’re repetitive, overly detailed, full of names and places we can’t pronounce. So why bother with them? There are many reasons — not the least of which is that even the parts of the Bible we deem to be boring are significant because they are God’s word to us. Here’s my top ten list of the best things about the boring parts of the Bible.

A Time To Dance: A Christian Defense of Pop Music

Steve McCoy:

I cannot get over my love for pop music.

This is a problem. Well, it’s a problem for me. You see, I pride myself on being an indie music snob. I like quirky, creative music from people you probably don’t know. Or, if you do know them, you’re probably an indie music snob too.

As you might guess, I closely identify with this label. My wife, for example, bought me a t-shirt I proudly wear, one whose enigmatic epigram draws many questions: “I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet.”

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

There are a whole bunch of new 99¢ deals from Crossway:

I Turned My Phone Off, and No One Died

Craig Thompson:

While on vacation, she suggested (strongly suggested perhaps) that I take a vacation from my phone. She even circulated rumors among leadership in the church that the best way to reach me while on vacation would be to contact her and she would relay the message. She felt that this plan would at least cause people to think twice before they texted, called, or emailed me. She was right.

An interesting thing happened when I turned my phone off; no one died and the world did not stop turning.

When Sinners Preach to Sinners

Jeff Robinson:

How are God’s undershepherds to come to grips with this daunting reality? How do we reconcile the all-too obvious truth that we are sinners preaching to sinners? How do we get our congregations over the notion that we are not popes, we are not monastics who descend from the cloister each week where we’ve been holed up, busy dodging the world, the flesh, and the Devil? Sin even dwells in monasteries, because sinners live there. But many of the people to whom we are called to minister don’t really believe this about us, and when we sin, and we will, some of them write us off as phonies or Pharisees. In the early months of pastoral ministry, a man told me I wasn’t qualified to be a pastor because I sinned. He seemed a bit stunned when I admitted that, though I believed his case for ministerial perfectionism unbiblical, I acutely felt the tension of a my standing as a saved-by-grace-sinner calling other sinners to walk God’s inspired line.

Twenty-Two Problems with Multi-site Churches

Jonathan Leeman:

I love my gospel-loving friends in multi-site churches—both leaders and members! But as Christians we work continually to reform our churches in light of Scripture. So I trust a little push back on the multi-site structure serves everyone, assuming my concerns turn out to be valid. Below are 22 misgivings I have about the multi-site model. All of these apply to churches that use a video preacher. Over half apply to churches who employ a preacher on every campus. Some of these are grounded in biblical or theological principles; some are matters of prudence.

The Cross & the Sword: A Christian Response to Fictional Violence

Aaron Earls:

Why do American evangelicals embrace fictional of violence in our entertainment, while shunning depictions of other sins?

I believe there are some legitimate reasons, but we would do well to think through the issues and remember our own tendency to approve what we enjoy.

Two Searching Questions About Happiness

David Murray:

“Worldly people pretend to the joy they have not; but godly people conceal the joy they have.” Matthew Henry

Why do some unbelievers seem to be incredibly happy, while some believers seem to be incredibly sad? Matthew Henry’s explanation is that the unbelievers publicize pretend joy, whereas believers privatize real joy.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots of new ones from B&H today. Here are a few of the highlights:

The 3 Things I Miss Most About Pastoral Ministry

Trevin Wax:

A pastor recently contacted me. He is considering a leadership position in a Christian organization, and he’d read something I wrote six months after starting at LifeWay, a post in which I offered some reflections on stepping out of pastoral ministry. In seeking to discern God’s will for his next phase of ministry, he wanted to know if my feelings had changed since then.

In short, I affirm everything in the original post, including my comments on vocational calling being expressed through various avenues and ministry tasks. But even though I am thrilled to be doing the work God has called me to during this season, I still miss local church ministry. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Jimmy Draper used to tell people who work at LifeWay, “The day you don’t miss local church ministry is the day you should probably resign.” What he meant was this: you’re better at serving churches when your heart beats for Christ’s Bride.

So, in response to the pastor who asked, here are three aspects of pastoral ministry I miss.

3 Types of Hypocrites

Mike Leake:

All of humanity, this side of full redemption, play the role of a hypocrite. We often hear the charge leveled against the church that we are filled with a bunch of hypocrites. This charge is true—at least in part. For the most part when someone says that to me I simply agree and tell such a person that we’ve always got room for one more.

While it is true that we are all hypocrites, there is another sense in which we are of a different stripe of hypocrisy. The Puritans saw three sorts of hypocrisy.

Google Hangout with Peter Jones

Today’s the day for Ligonier’s Google Hangout with Peter Jones. Be sure to join in at 4 pm to discuss his new curriculum, Only Two Religions.

Pastors Shouldn’t Have Trade Secrets

Erik Raymond:

I remain firmly convinced, based upon Scripture and my experience, that pastors should not be in competition with one another. They should support, root for, rejoice in, and serve to ensure the other’s growth. One major implication of being gospel-centered is that we actually want to see the gospel advance. In order to do this we have to be willing to put the good news about Jesus and his kingdom ahead of our own little, imaginary, personal kingdom.

The Dignity of Our Deterioration

John Piper:

…when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, God established a connection between moral depravity and physical deterioration. He intended to make clear that, even if we ignore the dreadfulness of a sinful heart, we will not be able to ignore its witness in the debility of the body.

This is a hard pill for beautiful and robust boomers to swallow. We have been strong. We have been pretty. Even sexy. And now we realize: We will never have it back. It is over. For good. Until death stops the process we will only get weaker, more wrinkled, more mottled.