Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to yesterday’s giant list, Thomas Nelson and Zondervan have put 200 titles on sale for 99¢ each until August 24th. Here are a few standouts:

Ebook on Singles in Leadership

This Lore Ferguson’s been running some fantastic interviews with singles in Christian leadership at her blog. Now she’s compiled them into an attractively laid-out eBook. Go get it!

A blind spot

Ray Ortlund:

My hunch is that some of us white people feel anxiety and confusion about scenes of racially-related violence and strife not because we ourselves feel threatened but because we just don’t know what to do.  No white person I know wants to be a racist.  But my hunch is that some of us honestly don’t know what racism is — beyond the blatantly obvious.  We then respond defensively to the forthrightness of our African-American friends, to whom the problems are obvious.  Maybe we are discovering in ourselves a blind spot.

Are Christians More Susceptible To Depression Than Non-Christians?

Why Pastors Should Pause

Dan Darling interviews Chris Maxwell, about the needs for pastors to pause and rest in God.

Lead with Empathy, Love Your Neighbor, Let the Truth Come Out

Albert Mohler:

The one thing that Christians committed to a biblical worldview have to understand is that the facts never cease to be important. We simply cannot move to judgment until we know exactly what took place and why. Thus we have to resist the very real temptation to say too much. And that is what has worried me in terms of my own responsibility on “The Briefing.” Actually, my point here was very well made by President Obama himself—because in statements made earlier this week responding to the situation in Ferguson, the President said, “I have to be very careful about not prejudging these events before investigations are completed.” The President continued, “I’ve got to make sure I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other.” That’s a very good and important statement from the President of the United States. And quite frankly, it’s a statement all of us should take to heart.

We do know this much. It is an unmitigated tragedy. It’s a tragedy that an 18-year old young man is dead. We also know that the tragedy is complicated by the fact that this was an unarmed African American teenager. We know that there are any number of other complications as well to be revealed in the investigation, which we are assured will be undertaken not only by local authorities but also by federal authorities. And after all, Eric Holder is the first African American attorney general of the United States and one who has spent his life as an activist and advocate in the civil rights movement. In this case, he is uniquely equipped and qualified to deal directly with the questions on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri. The rest of us need to hold back and allow the justice system to do its work.

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

Links I like

Why “I believe in logic and reason” is a Nonsense Statement

Clint Roberts:

You are likely to hear something today that people in generations gone by would have thought strange, which is the following: In the context of disagreement about religious beliefs (like what a person believes about God, the afterlife, etc.), someone who doesn’t believe in any such things will announce his or her belief in “logic” and “reason.” This declaration of allegiance to logic and reason is typically offered with boastful superiority, as if to say, “Well as for the rest of you, you can believe this or that, but as for me, I believe in logic and reason.” The implication that is given by this simplistic credal statement is that belief in logic/reason is unique to the person making the confession of belief in it, as though it is the exclusive alternative to the other people’s beliefs.They believe x-y-z, but I believe in reason.

When Christianity Becomes Uncomfortable

Dan Darling:

For American Christians, I think the coming years will force us to make difficult choices. We will have to choose between cultural acceptance and the way of Jesus. In other words, Christianity, truly bearing the name of Christ, will involve a cross. It will be rough and uncomfortable. Sometimes this discomfort is in the form of cultural rejection. Sometimes it’s the discomfort of forgiving someone we want desperately to despise. Sometimes it’s the self-sacrifice to give ourselves for those we are called to love and nurture: our spouses, our children, our neighbors. Sometimes it’s the discipline to speak the truth in type of love others don’t exhibit. Sometimes it involves making reasoned, winsome arguments in favor of truth that are unfairly dismissed as bigotry.

How To Have A Confrontational Conversation

Ryan Huguley:

Confronting someone is not easy and should not be taken lightly. It can easily go south if not taken seriously and prepared for properly. One redeeming factor in my discomfort with confrontation is that I’ve developed a process for confrontation that I’ve found helpful. If you have one of these uncomfortable but important conversations in your future, here’s how I have a confrontational conversation.

Jesus, Friend of Sinners: But How?

Kevin DeYoung:

As precious as this truth is—that Jesus is a friend of sinners—it, like every other precious truth in the Bible, needs to be safeguarded against doctrinal and ethical error. It is all too easy, and amazingly common, for Christians (or non-Christians) to take the general truth that Jesus was a friend of sinners and twist it all out of biblical recognition. So “Jesus ate with sinners” becomes “Jesus loved a good party,” which becomes “Jesus was more interested in showing love than taking sides,” which becomes “Jesus always sided with religious outsiders,” which becomes “Jesus would blow bubbles for violations of the Torah.”

Why “No Creed But the Bible” Actually Imperils Your Liberty More

Bart Barber:

With anti-confessional churches, the theological boundaries are unwritten. You only learn what they are when you violate them. What would John Leland have done with a Baptist church that, for example, decided to embrace episcopal church governance? I can promise you, a man who would author a book subtitled, “The High-Flying Churchman, Stripped of His Legal Robe, Appears a Yahoo,” would boot straight out of a Baptist association any church that adopted episcopacy. Why? Because the church would have violated Leland’s unwritten confessional boundary.

Choosing family over stuff

Today is Family Day, a civic holiday allowing us to enjoy an extra day of family togetherness, in many parts of Canada. One of the ironies of Family Day, though, is how little “regular” time families actually get together, especially as increasingly the average family requires two (or more) incomes to survive.

I really feel for families in this situation. I know a lot of people for whom this is reality. They’ve got mortgages, car payments, student loans… Some of them are cool with it, others feel stuck.

When Emily and I got married, a big question we wrestled with was whether or not Emily would stay home with the kids or if she’d go back to work. We chose for her to stay home, knowing  there would be a cost. So we went from a fairly decent two incomes to… less. Like a lot less.

About five years ago, I had a meeting with the pastor of the church we formerly attended. We wound up discussing some of our adjustments to the single income lifestyle, and toward the end of our conversation, he said, with more than a hint of resignation, “The days of the single-income household are gone.”

Around the same time, we watched Maxed Out, a brilliant and troubling documentary chronicling the practices of the credit card industry in the United States, and the stories of many Americans whose lives have been crippled by debt. They can’t escape it, no matter how hard they try, it seems.

We’ve made tremendous mistakes financially over the years, and everything came to a head when we finally decided to sell our house. For us, it came down to a choice about our convictions. Which was more important—owning a home or having Emily stay at home? 

We chose Emily staying at home.

We chose to remain at one income, to sacrifice some of the things the world, our friends and even our parents kept telling us we “should” want. Why? Because we’d considered the cost, and found it worth the price we had to pay.

It was better for us to say goodbye to a lifestyle we should have wanted, in order to embrace the one we have. We have everything we need, if not always everything we want.

And that’s okay. This, again, is not to say our decision is the right one for everyone. Some of our friends have decided to go the same route as we have. Others have not.

But when we feel trapped by the expectations of the world, we need to remember: we can always choose to go another way. We don’t need the house. We don’t need the new car. But kids need their mom and dad. Husbands need their wives. Wives need their husbands.

Sometimes we can have it all, and that’s not bad. But sometimes we have to choose between the two. And when we do, it’s always better to choose family over stuff.

Links I like

Why Do So Many People Hate Optimists?

David Murray:

Reuters blogger Zachary Karabell has never had so much hate mail in his life. His offense? Highlighting some good news here and there which may indicate the US and World economy is turning the corner.

His “pen-pals” don’t just disagree with him. They hate him. He says he wouldn’t mind people saying he’s wrong, or even ridiculing him, but it’s the rage he was unprepared for. He tries to explain this inexplicable hostility…

Your Systematic Theology is Showing

Barnabas Piper:

Systematic Theology is math, a skeleton. It is a system of organizing thoughts so that finite minds can begin to understand an infinite God (in a distinctly western way, mind you). Systematic theology is a support system for the reality of relationship with God. Too often, though, it is put forth as the face of faith instead of being the framework of it. All the “ologies” (soteriology, eschatology, pneumatology, Christology, etc.) you know are not your relationship with God. They are not the true story of God. They support those things for you. They need muscles and veins and organs and skin to make them alive, to adorn them in beauty.

Get The Holy Spirit teaching series in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Holy Spirit teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Why We Trust the Bible teaching series by Stephen Nichols (audio and video download)
  • The Spirit of Revival: Discovering the Wisdom of Jonathan Edwards by various authors (ePub)
  • Believing God by R.C. Sproul Jr. (ePub)

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

14 Resolutions for Writers

Nicholas McDonald:

Okay, it’s a new year, and aspiring writers world-wide are mentally gearing up for finally taking the plunge into Wonderland – being published. Here are some motivational ideas to jot down before you move ahead.

The Promise of Place

Lore Ferguson:

The truth is I feel misplaced these days. Misplaced by God, misplaced by men, misplaced, mostly, by myself. I have never felt comfortable in my own skin, but these past months I have felt a foreigner even to myself.

Get serious about your studies: why a systematic theology?

You’ve decided to get serious about your studies—wonderful! So where do you get started? We’ve already looked at a few basics surrounding study Bibles, but there are a few more tools that a student of the Word should have in his or her tool belt. One of the most helpful? A good systematic theology.

What is a systematic theology?

The term “systematic theology” is a scary one for a lot of people. It sounds cold and mechanical. But a good systematic theology can help inspire a greater love for the Bible and the God who inspired its writing.

Systematic theology, in broad strokes, seeks to compile everything that the Bible says about a particular doctrine (such as the Trinity, penal substitutionary atonement, the attributes of God, creation, etc.) into an orderly and rational form. More simply, “systematic theology is any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given subject.”1

While some are uncomfortable with the idea of systematic theology, thinking of it as being a divergence from biblical theology (a critique usually made by folks who are opposed to doctrinal certainty of any sort), a good systematic theology seeks to avoid importing man-made ideas and go no further than Scripture itself. While it doesn’t ignore the historical development of doctrine or philosophical ideas surrounding them, these fields lack the authority of Scripture.

In other words, consistent systematic theology is biblical theology.

Why do I need one?

The primary reason to have a systematic theology in your reference library is so that you can gain a better understanding of and appreciation for Christian theology. We are commanded to love the Lord with all of our minds, as well as our hearts, souls and strength, and therefore the study of theology should lead us not simply to gain knowledge, but lead us to praise God for who He is.

How do I use it?

As with all things, systematic theologies should be studied prayerfully and carefully. Keep your Bible handy, check references and make sure that what is there aligns with what Scripture clearly says. Further to that, a systematic theology is not a weapon—unless you need something to defend your home (some of these things are pretty hefty!).

Studying and referencing a systematic theology is not to be an exercise in showing off intellectual prowess. If the knowledge lies merely in your head, but doesn’t move to your heart, then it’s time wasted. [Read more...]

Book Review: Start Here by Alex and Brett Harris


Title: Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are
Authors: Alex & Brett Harris
Publisher: Multnohmah

In their first book, Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations, Alex & Brett Harris challenged and inspired young people around the world to stop wasting their teen years and make the most of them for the glory of God. But many were left asking the question, “How do I start?”

That’s why the Harris brothers wrote Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are to provide answers to tackle the questions that arise from a desire to do hard things.

Surpassing it’s Target Audience

The sign of a good book is its ability to surpass its target audience. Although directed at teens, adults of all ages will find as much to benefit from Start Here as will any teen “rebelutionary.” The advice found in its pages is practical, thoughtful, honest and thoroughly biblical. The testimonies of real young people who are doing hard things are encouraging and inspiring. And I think that’s why their message resonates with so many readers. A wasted life is a fruitless life and the Christian life is to be abundantly fruitful.

Don’t Be Busy, Be Fruitful

One point I particularly appreciated is that busyness doesn’t equal fruitfulness:  [Read more...]

Oh no—We were Emo!

We made a stunning revelation Wednesday night: In college, Emily and I were so emo—and we didn’t even know it!

Now, I may not have worn eyeliner… or painted my nails… or worn girl pants… but when it came to home decor, we were so emo.

We learned this with the help of Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide to Emo Culture. In this book, authors Leslie Simon and Trevor Kelley include an important chapter about growing up—the most dreaded concept to everyone from teens to 40-somethings. In this chapter, they write:

Generally, interior design is a concept that most emo types fail to embrace until they reach their mid-twenties, which is why their first home away from home (often obtained around the age of nineteen) will include the following:

“Band posters… DIY bookshelves [made of milk crates, naturally!]…The ‘Dude, what’s up with your futon?’ Futon.

Honestly, this is not too far off from our first apartments (and college dorms). Comic book art and band posters, the hand-me-down puffy pleather sofa (which, in terms of decor, may be on par with the futon), a DIY entertainment unit. It was pretty rough.

But here’s what caught our attention:

Your average adult emo home will be heavily outfitted by Ikea, West Elm, or Pottery Barn and will probably look identical to all your friends’ homes. Generally, these homes will include the following:

A real couch… A slightly better bookshelf [with real books in it that cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $150, but still has the stability of a stack of milk crates]… Photographs and art, but not too much [usually consisting of either cartoon-looking concert posters or nauseating photos of the married couple].

Our house is an Ikea catalog. We can’t help it, they make affordable and awesome furniture. Our shaky bookshelves are bowing under the weight of a couple hundred real books. And yes, we have pictures of ourselves around the house, and a painting of toast in our kitchen.

Now while Emily tells me that our home decor is called something like “modern country,” I think there’s a lesson to be learned: There’s a little emo in all of us.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch a Cameron Crowe movie and then listen to Weezer.

Dave Ramsey – Town Hall for Hope

On April 23rd, 2009, Dave Ramsey hosted the Town Hall for Hope. Over one million people in 6,000 locations were given the real answers about where the economy is going and how we can find hope in the midst of what many media outlets have dubbed “The Great Recession.”

You can watch the Town Hall for Hope in its entirety below:

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more about “Dave Ramsey – Town Hall for Hope“, posted with vodpod

Week Five: Am I an Adrenaline Junkie?

This week, at the request of my mentor, I’ve been reading a book called Adrenaline and Stress, by Dr. Archibald D. Hart. Because of the recent events in our lives at the Armstrong home, we’ve all been feeling a greater deal of stress, and the truth is, I’ve never learned to manage stress well.

I always thought that I was immune to stress. That I could handle it, because, well, “I’m a man.”

Stress “helped” me function. It made me more productive. For five years, I worked a job with extreme deadlines and unrealistic expectations. 60 hour weeks were the norm. And I could do it. When I left there, I didn’t know quite what to do with myself at Compassion, because I didn’t have the enormous workload. I was actually stressed about not having anything to do. Now, the opposite is the case. But here’s the thing:  I have a great deal of trouble relaxing. I don’t vacation well. I don’t know how to take time off. And I don’t sleep much or well.

[Read more...]

A Real Alternative Lifestyle: Petra

This week, A Real Alternative Lifestyle continues. This week, we hear from Petra, a 24-year-old woman in Ontario, Canada.

Aaron: How did you become a Christian?

Petra: At an Acquire the Fire Conference when I was fifteen.

Aaron: What does it mean to have a biblical worldview?

Petra: I try to live as Christ has taught me to live. I take the moral of the stories that he told his disciples, the character of God, the complete Word, leaving nothing out, and the commandments and apply them daily to the way I live. I don’t accept everything I am told by the world as truth but rather listen to what the Lord and the Bible tell me is true. There is absolute truth that exists in the world, and so as long as I allow the absolute truth to guide my worldview: God is good, He cares for me, turn the other cheek, bless those who curse you, etc. then everything else can be relative. It’s easy for me to be counter cultural, because I’ve never enjoyed doing what everyone else is doing. But what I’m realizing more and more is that the thought pattern of the majority of the world is upside down. I cannot cling to the changing nature of society. It’s too transient, too mutable, and unstable. So, I try to change my thought pattern and listen to the Word. [Read more...]