Links I like

Can Ads Change the World?

Amy Peterson:

The cynical ads of the ’80s didn’t ask viewers to feel anything — instead, they recognized our awareness of corporations’ attempts to sell to us, and they pitched parody, inviting us in on the joke. Viewers could all pretend that they were so cool they’d been jaded about stuff since they were, like, four.

But advertising geared towards Millennials, who value passion, sincerity, and social justice,  is a whole new ball game.

Jesus loved the enthusiast

Ray Ortlund shares a great quote from Hugh Martin’s The Seven Letters: Christ’s Message to His Church.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

First, a couple of freebies that end today:

Everyday Theology, my short eBook geared toward new believers, is also free through Saturday. Finally, The Promises of God by R.C. Sproul is $1.99 and God’s Love and Pleasing God (also by Sproul) are $2.99 each.

Jack discovers a hilarious book

Laughing babies are what YouTube was made for:

HT: Mike Leake

9 Terrible Habits You Need to Stop Immediately

Best-selling author Tim Ferriss has some ideas. In a recent short podcast he offered nine suggestions of bad work habits that many entrepreneurs and others desperately need to eliminate (chances are you are doing at least a couple of these–I’m personally massively guilty of two and five), so there is almost certainly something here that can boost your output.

Don’t overwhelm yourself, Ferriss says. Just tackle one or two at a time, eliminating counterproductive habits step by step, and eventually you’ll reclaim impressive amounts of time and energy.

HT: Denny Burk

Our unrealistic view of death

This an older article, but one worth reading (and written by a doctor, too):

To hear that the average U.S. life expectancy was 47 years in 1900 and 78 years as of 2007, you might conclude that there weren’t a lot of old people in the old days — and that modern medicine invented old age. But average life expectancy is heavily skewed by childhood deaths, and infant mortality rates were high back then. In 1900, the U.S. infant mortality rate was approximately 100 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2000, the rate was 6.89 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

The bulk of that decline came in the first half of the century, from simple public health measures such as improved sanitation and nutrition, not open heart surgery, MRIs or sophisticated medicines. Similarly, better obstetrical education and safer deliveries in that same period also led to steep declines in maternal mortality, so that by 1950, average life expectancy had catapulted to 68 years.

Is There a Case for Racial Reparations?

Alan Noble:

They don’t seriously think we’re going to pay them back for the slavery that took place a hundred and fifty years ago, do they? This was my thought when I first heard of the reparations movement as a teen, watching a speech from black leaders making their case on CSPAN. I understood that slavery was a terrible period in our country’s history, but these guys were about a hundred and fifty years late with these demands for reparations. I knew I was watching the ravings of a fringe minority, one that did not really have a chance of being heard by mainstream America. As bad as slavery was, there was neither the ability nor the will to “fix” our errors, I thought. And to a large extent, my initial conclusions about the reparations movement were accurate. So fringe and unreasonable was their mission that I don’t think I heard the idea seriously brought up again until a few weeks ago in Ta-Nehisi Coates’s much-discussed feature for The Atlantic called “The Case for Reparations.” But after reading Coates’s powerful and enlightening piece, it’s hard for me to imagine not demanding reparations of some kind or another for the hundreds of years of government-sanctioned abuse suffered by blacks in our country.

Links I like

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

Albert Mohler:

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

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

HT: Barnabas

New Kindle deals!

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

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

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

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

Truth Endures by John MacArthur—$3.99

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

5 Common Small Group Myths

Steven Lee:

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

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

A Generation of Ham’s

Mike Leake:

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

The God of Joyful Tears and Sorrow

Trevin Wax:

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

 

10 things you want to say at the border but really shouldn’t

canadian-flag

“Do you have anything to declare?”

I get asked this question every time I return to Canada, and every time I have to stifle a giggle. This is mostly because I’m terribly immature. But seriously, every time I cross the border, I have to fight from making a silly comment that’s sure to send me straight into the loving arms of Canadian or American security personnel.

On our way home from Nashville this past weekend, Emily and I were laughing about the things we could say when asked this question. Here are a few of the answers we thought were pretty funny:

  1. “We had a wonderful time, thanks for asking!”
  2. “I’m a little gassy, sorry.”
  3. “Bankruptcy!”
  4. “Do you know they’ve got beer in their grocery stores?”
  5. “A monkey and a jetpack.”
  6. “I forgot my passport, can I just show it to you next time?”
  7. “I love lamp.”
  8. “The only things we bought were a bunch of Guns… [uncomfortably long pause] and Roses t-shirts.”
  9. “These aren’t my kids.” (See also, “These aren’t my parents.”)
  10. “Not really, do you?”

What about you? What are some ways you’ve always wanted to answer the declaration question at the border?

Why I’m excited about 2014

tech-trends-2014

Last week I shared how 2013 felt like one long giant pregnant pause—that moment when you know something’s going to happen, but it just hasn’t yet. 2013 may have been a bit of a mixed bag for us in that regard, but I’m feeling unusually optimistic about 2014. Here’s why:

2013 is done. While it’s not exactly a full-on reset (the effects of what we did yesterday are still here today), there’s something refreshing about starting the calendar over, don’t you think? Say goodbye to resolution guilt (at least for another few hours until the new round sets in), and enjoy the moment.

Our family is healthy. While Emily’s epilepsy isn’t completely under control—she still has a few seizures here and there, but it’s very limited—her medication is helping. This is a very good thing, indeed. And our kids continue to grow, and surprise us with their cleverness, silliness and thoughtfulness. We’ve got a lovely family, and I’m very thankful for them.

It just “feels” like something big is going to happen. I hate saying stuff like this, but there it is. You know how you get that feeling sometimes—you can’t quite put your finger on it, you have a hard time describing it, but you just know something big is going to happen? That’s pretty much been the last few weeks. I don’t know what it looks like, and I don’t know when, but I can’t shake it. And that’s left me feeling really encouraged. (Although I hope it’s not a sign I’m becoming more naïve as I age…)

Jesus is alive and at work. Call it a cop-out if you must, but it’s true. This is the biggest thing any Christian can or should be excited about. Jesus continues to save his people and grow his kingdom. And we’ve started to see some interesting things in our own family, too. We’ve been praying for family members’ salvation for the better part of a decade now. We’ve been praying for Christians to begin influencing them—and we saw a little glimpse of that at Christmas this year when my dad showed me a gift he’d received: a Reformation Study Bible! We spent a portion of our car ride home praying he’d meet Jesus while reading it.

I don’t know what 2013 was like for you. Maybe it was a fantastic year. Maybe it was a total bummer. Maybe it was somewhere in between. But wherever you find yourself as 2014 begins, I really hope you can begin it with a sense of optimism. It could be a year of big change, or things could stay more-or-less the same. But as long as Jesus sits on the throne, we’ve got a great deal to be thankful for, don’t we?

A quick survey of the year that was

2013

Yeah, I know 2013 isn’t technically over yet, but with less than a week to go on the clock, it seems fitting to take a look back at the year that was (well, mostly).

If I had to sum up the last year, I’d call it the most pregnant of pauses. 

Some very cool things did happen, to be sure. I made a great deal of progress on my systematic theology certificate (I’ve got a couple more books to go then I’ll be done!). We took our first-ever family vacation to Nashville. Only a few days after we returned, I hopped a plane and spent the better part of two weeks flying all around Canada with a very talented young filmmaker, serving as a writer and producer for on a promotional film for my employer. Here’s the result:

On the writing front, I’ve had lots of great opportunities to write some really cool material, some of which hasn’t seen the light of day just yet, but will soon (I hope). Emily and I started working on a few ideas for a children’s book (for the challenge, mostly). This may see the light of day in the next year.

I also finally—finally!—completed a proposal for a new book and sent it off for review with a “big publisher.” We’ll see what comes of it—who knows? There could be some good news to share in the next few months. If not, well… let’s wait and see.

There’s a whole lot more that I could tell you about, but it all comes back to the same thing:

Waiting.

This seems to be the big thing that the Lord is wanting us to learn right now. To wait. To wait on His timing, and on His plans, trusting they’re better than anything we could devise for ourselves.

Who knows? 2014 could have a lot of big things come to fruition.

Or, the pause could continue. Only time will tell.

Are You Studying or Skimming?

I’ve been thinking about a number of things since reading The Next Story, but perhaps the biggest issue for me continues to be distraction. Distraction is everywhere. As I’m typing this message, my email is open, I’ve got a number of additional tab open in Safari and I’m sure my iPhone is somewhere reasonably close by.

But do these things help me actually get anything done? Should a relatively simple blog post sometimes take all night to do—merely because I get sidetracked watching a video on YouTube or reading another blog or checking out something my wife wants me to look at? (And as any good husband will tell you, the only one I should answer “yes” to is that last one, just in case you were wondering.)

One of the things that really caught my attention, though was in this passage (note especially the highlighted portion):

All of this distraction is reshaping us in two dangerous ways. First, we are tempted to forsake quality for quantity, believing the lie that virtue comes through speed, productivity, and efficiency. We think that more must be better, and so we drive ourselves to do more, accomplish more, be more. And second, as this happens, we lose our ability to engage in deeper ways of thinking—concentrated, focused thought that requires time and cannot be rushed. Instead of focusing our efforts in a few directions, we give scant attention to many things, skimming instead of studying. We live rushed lives and forget how to move slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully through life. (The Next Story, p. 119, emphasis added)

Because I do read a lot and there are a great number of books that are either sitting in my Kindle app, on my nightstand, dining table or coffee table (or mantle or…). Unfortunately, because there are so here, it sometimes can feel pretty daunting—and at times almost like I don’t have time to read as deeply as I want to with so much that I “have” to get to.

I know it’s just me being ridiculous, but am I the only one that feels this way?

How are you, in this digital age, with so much choice and so many distractions available to you protecting yourself from information overload? Are you taking the time you need to study or are you only skimming?

What Will It Take?

If I could explain all the mysteries of the Bible, then would you believe? No, you wouldn’t.

If I could show you many signs and wonders, then would you believe? No, you wouldn’t.

If I sacrificed all that I have and all I am in service to the poor and oppressed, then would you believe? No, you wouldn’t.

If I could live my life in such a way that there wouldn’t be even a hint of hypocrisy, then would you believe? No, you wouldn’t.

If I could prove my genuine love and concern for you over and over again, then would you believe?

No, you wouldn’t.

I cannot create a compelling enough argument to make you believe.

I cannot point to any sign that you could not explain away.

I cannot sacrifice enough or be authentic enough to convince you that the gospel is true.

No matter what I say or do, no matter how hard I try, there will always be another excuse to continue in unbelief.

While every day of my life will be spent seeking to live more and more in light of what Christ has done, I know I will stumble and fail. I will say and do things that will cause you to say, “See, this is why I don’t believe!”

I can’t not disappoint. I’m a sinner just like you.

So let’s be honest. I want you to believe the truth of the gospel. I want you to believe that Jesus Christ—God the Son in human form—lived a perfect life in obedience to God the Father, was crucified to pay for my sins and yours, and rose again in victory over sin, death and judgment.

You don’t want to believe this and there is nothing I can do on my own to convince you otherwise.

Fortunately, there is one thing I can do: I can pray for the One who can convince you to do exactly that.

I can pray for a miracle.

The only thing that will make you believe is if God, through the Holy Spirit, gives you a new heart—one that can see the truth and is willing to respond to it.

Then all the arguments will crumble.

Then all the barriers will break down.

Then all the excuses will come to an end.

And then you will believe.

What Are You Reading this Summer?

Summer’s getting frighteningly close (after all, winter ended a week or so back, right?) and that means it’s time to think about vacations! A little time off does everyone good and also gives us the opportunity to do some reading!

A few days ago, Joe Thorn offered some great recommendations for what you might want to read this summer; his focus was on fighting sin and temptation and I’d encourage you to read any number of those ones. As I’ve been looking at what I want to be reading this summer, my list is certainly not going to be quite as focused, but I’m hoping it’ll be interesting:

Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen

Machens classic defense of orthodox Christianity established the importance of scriptural doctrine and contrasts the teachings of liberalism and orthodoxy on God and man, the Bible, Christ, salvation, and the church. Though originally published nearly seventy years ago, the book maintains its relevance today. It was named one of the top 100 books of the millennium by World magazine and one of the top 100 books of the century by Christianity Today.

(Incidentally, this is the selection for the latest edition of “Reading the Classics Together” over at Challies.com. That might be a really helpful way for you to get into this book if you’re interested.)

Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ by Russell Moore

Although temptation is a common and well-acknowledged part of the human experience, few realize the truth behind temptation and fewer still know how to defeat it. Tempted and Tried will not reassure Christians by claiming that temptation is less powerful or less prevalent than it is; instead, it will prepare believers for battle by telling the truth about the cosmic war that is raging. Moore shows that the temptation of every Christian is part of a broader conspiracy against God, a conspiracy that confronts everyone who shares the flesh of Jesus through human birth and especially confronts those who share the Spirit of Christ through the new birth of redemption.

Moore walks readers through the Devil’s ancient strategies for temptation revealed in Jesus’ wilderness testing. Moore considers how those strategies might appear in a contemporary context and points readers to a way of escape. Tempted and Tried will remind Christians that temptation must be understood in terms of warfare, encouraging them with the truth that victory has already been secured through the triumph of Christ. [Read more…]

Heart-Work is the Hardest Work

Heart-work is hard work indeed. To shuffle over religious duties with a loose anal heedless spirit, will cost no great pains; but to set thyself before the Lord, and tie up thy loose and vain thoughts to a constant and serious attendance upon him; this will cost thee something. To attain a facility and dexterity of language in prayer, and put thy meaning into apt and decent expressions, is easy; but to get thy heart broken for sin, while thou art confessing it; melted with free grace while thou art blessing God for it; to be really ashamed and humbled though the apprehensions of Gods infinite holiness, and to keep thy heart in this frame, not only in, but after duty, will surely cost thee some groans and pains of soul. To repress the outward acts of sin, and compose the external part of thy life in a laudable manner, is no great matter; even carnal persons, by the force of common principles, can do this: but to kill the root of corruption within, to set and keep up an holy government over thy thought, to have all things lie straight and orderly in the heart, this is not easy.

[Heart-work] is a constant work. The keeping of the heart is a work that is never done till life is ended. There is no time or condition in the life of a Christian which will suffer an intermission of this work. It is in keeping watch over our hearts, as it was in keeping up Moses’ hands while Israel and Amalek were fighting. No sooner do the hands of Moses grow heavy and sink down, than Amalek prevails. Intermitting the watch over their own hearts for but a few minutes, cost David and Peter many a sad day and night.

[Heart-work] is the most important business of a Christian’s life. Without this we are but formalists in religion: all our professions, gifts and duties signify nothing. ” My son, give me thine heart,” is God’s request. God is pleased to call that a gift which is indeed a debt; he will put this honor upon the creature, to receive it from him in the way of a gift; but if this be not given him, he regards not whatever else you bring to him. There is only so much of worth in what we do, as there is of heart in it. Concerning the hears, God seems to say, as Joseph of Benjamin, “If you bring not Benjamin with you, you shall not see my face.” Among the Heathen, when the beast was cut up for sacrifice, the first thing the priest looked upon was the heart; and if that was unsound and worthless the sacrifice was rejected. God rejects all duties (how glorious soever in other respects) which are offered him without the heart. He that performs duty without the heart, that is, heedlessly, is no more accepted with God than he that performs it with a double heart, that is, hypocritically.

John Flavel, On Keeping the Heart (Kindle Edition, location 133)

Do You Journal?

I’m not talking about a manly version of keeping a diary (although if you keep a diary, that’s cool…), I’m talking about journaling what God is teaching you through your regular Scripture reading.

Do you journal?

For years, I’ve done it and it’s been very worthwhile, particularly from the standpoint of looking back and seeing what God’s been teaching you over the years. My friend Adam and I were talking about this last night over bison burgers and I’d mentioned that it’s very humbling to look back on things you wrote 3, 4 or 5 years ago that you thought were really insightful and intelligent and think, “Man, I was an idiot!”

Maybe that’s just me, though.

And even though I’ve always really enjoyed journaling, it’s fallen by the wayside in recent weeks. I always have things to ponder from my reading (some of which ends up becoming posts like these), but I’m not always writing it down.

This is probably a trend I should reverse.

So do you journal? If so, how do you keep yourself on track with doing it?

Gotta Share!

This made me laugh… and think a little. If nothing else, it’ll hopefully inspire you to go and order Tim Challies’ new book. :)

(RSS Readers: Can’t see the video? Please click through)

Thoughts?

Genuine Love is Odd

When I refer to “Enemies, Big and Small,” obviously I am not thinking of their physical dimensions—bantam-weight enemies perhaps as opposed to three-hundred-pound enemies—but of the scale of their enmity. Not all Christians face persecuting enemies, but all Christians face little enemies. We encounter people whose personality we intensely dislike. . . . They are offensive, sometimes repulsive, especially when they belong to the same church. It often seems safest to leave by different doors, to cross the street when you see them approaching, or to find eminently sound reasons not to invite them to any of your social gatherings. And if, heaven forbid, you accidentally bump into such an enemy, the best defense is a spectacularly English civility, coupled with a retreat as hasty as elementary decency permits. After all, isn’t “niceness” what is demanded?

If we find our “friends” only among those we like and who like us, we are indifferentiable from first-century tax collectors and pagans. Both our neighborhood and the church will inevitably include their shares of imperfect, difficult people like you and me. In fact, the church will often collect more than its proportionate share of difficult folk, especially emotionally or intellectually needy folk, precisely because despite all its faults it is still the most caring and patient large institution around. There is a sense in which we should see in our awkward brothers and sisters a badge of honor. The dangers, however, become much greater (as do the rewards) when the church is richly multicultural, because the potential for misunderstandings rises significantly…

Some offenses are of the sort that Christians should follow the procedures set out in Matthew 18; in some cases, there should be excommunication. . . . But in many instances, what is required is simply forbearance driven by love. . . . To bear with one another and to forgive grievances presupposes that relationships will not always be smooth. Most of the time, what is required is not the confrontation of Matthew 18, but forbearance, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, or patience [of Col. 3:12-14]. Christians are to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom. 12:15).

This action goes way beyond niceness. One thinks of Flannery O’Connor’s biting and hilarious stories with their “nice” Christian ladies who have a domesticated Jesus who approves all they do and all they hold dear. They are spectacularly “nice”; they are also whitewashed tombs (Matt. 23:27). . . . Forbearance and genuine tenderheartedness are much tougher than niceness, and sometimes (as we shall see in a later lecture) tough love is confrontational. Christian love, McEntyre writes, “may even demand that we be downright eccentric, at least if we are to believe O’Connor’s word on the subject: ‘You shall know the truth,’ she warned, ‘and the truth shall make you odd.’” That, of course, is implicitly recognized by Jesus himself. If genuine love among his followers is their characteristic mark (John 13:34-35), then Jesus himself is saying that such love is not normal. It is odd.

D.A. Carson, Love in Hard Places, pp. 52-54 (Also available in PDF format)

The Promise of Change and the False Hope of Politics

Today—May 2, 2011—is Election Day in Canada. For those who are keeping track (or interested), it’s our fourth federal election since 2004.

Over the last several years, since I grew up and started paying taxes, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with politics.

A big part of it has to do with Canada being strapped with minority governments for the last several years. Now, for those who don’t know, a minority government exists when the party that gains the most seats still has less than the combined total of the various opposition parties. So, as you can imagine, when you’ve got four “big” parties plus independents, it’s not easy to get a majority (though certainly not impossible). The upshot of this is the opposition can be an aid in keeping sketchiness to a minimum among the ruling party. The downside is that the opposition can also come together and prevent any good plans the ruling party might have.

(They can also form a coalition and take over the government. See, who says Canadian politics are boring?)

Nw, here’s where the love-hate thing comes into play…

What I Love About Politics

I love seeing people—especially young people—take an interest in politics. This needs to happen. When I was growing up, my mother gave me the following piece of advice: If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about what the government does. Stated positively, exercising your right to vote gives you a voice into shaping how you are represented on a municipal, provincial and federal level. It is extremely important to exercise this right that we have been afforded, particularly since millions of people around the world do not have the ability to do this thing that we take for granted.

What I Hate About Politics

I hate seeing people—especially young people—get caught up in the demonizing of political leaders that comes with campaigning. Sadly at this point, I just expect a whole whack of mud slinging from the party leaders. I don’t like it, but I expect it. But that doesn’t mean that we have to engage in it.

Through this campaign, I’ve seen people trying to encourage university students to vote this year by creating attack sites devoted to trashing the sitting Prime Minister. I’ve seen young idealists talking about the rights of the working class, but seeming to have no idea what those rights are. I’ve seen people across the board make assumptions about every party’s plans without even reading them. Heck, I saw one young guy (who is either ridiculously stupid or mentally unhinged) write that if you’re a “right-winger,” you need to be murdered in the streets.

I don’t care where you land on the political spectrum—whether you’re a hair over to the right of center, left, really left, or you’re upset that trees don’t have the right to vote—but the folks you don’t agree with are no more (and no less) evil than you are. And it is profoundly unwise to fall prey to demonizing those with whom you disagree.

Yet we all do it, don’t we?

I would suggest two reasons why: [Read more…]

What’s On Your To-Read Pile?

Here’s a look at some on mine:

A few of the books I'm reading right now