Does it matter what Americans really believe about God?

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You might recall last fall a big hubbub about a research project LifeWay conducted, which was commissioned by Ligonier Ministries. If you read the study, I’m sure you were as surprised—and in some ways unsurprised—as I was.

But I will say, I was delighted when I learned The Gospel Project and Ligonier Ministries were releasing it as a new, free eBook, The State of American Theology: Knowing the Truth, Loving the Church, Reaching Our Neighbors. This book collects the research and thoughtful essays from the likes of R. C. Sproul, Ed Stetzer, John Piper, Alistair Begg, Thabiti Anyabwile, Trevin Wax, and many more.

And it couldn’t be more timely.

Confused beliefs about God and the faith

Let’s face it: Americans are confused about what Christianity actually teaches. All you have to do is get into a discussion on… well pretty much anything really, and you’ll see what I mean. This confusion is everywhere: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, books, podcasts, and sadly even the pulpit.

  • Does it surprise you that more than six in ten Americans believe the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force?
  • What about a slight majority (58 percent) believing that the creeds—the ancient formulations of the Christian faith such as the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds—have little value for us in our day?
  • Or a large minority (37 per cent)—and yes, I’m aware of the contradiction of a large minority—being unsure if it’s possible or actually believing that God is capable of making mistakes?

Download the ebook for more.

Why it matters

In some ways, none of this should surprise us at all. In fact, it should encourage us. Knowing what Americans (and I’d argue by extension, westerners in general) believe about God, the Bible and key doctrines of the faith is good for us. In fact, it helps us in a couple of important ways:

1. It helps us to know where we are weak in our discipleship of believers. Remember, these statistics include Christians of various traditions—evangelicals, mainline protestants and Roman Catholics—as well as those unaffiliated with Christianity or any particular religious belief. So for us to know that there is a great deal of confusion even in our own churches is a good thing.

We need to know this stuff because we need to know how to help Christians grow in their faith—how to be the sorts of Christians who think and believe as Christians. Teaching seven steps to a better whatever isn’t going to do that. But teaching them to read, study and apply their Bibles, with the Holy Spirit’s help and through his power, just might.

2. It also helps us to remember who theology is for. One of the things that always makes me uncomfortable is hearing a Christian say we should leave theology to the theologians. Now, this is true—if we understand that everyone is a theologian. As Jared Wilson puts it in his essay, “Laypeople have no biblical warrant to leave the duty of doctrine up to pastors and professors alone.” If we take the greatest commandment seriously—to love the Lord our God with our heart, mind, soul, and strength—then we must diligently learn things about him.

3. It helps us answer the real questions of unbelievers. We often assume the questions unbelievers ask, or what we think they need to know. This is why so many gospel presentations default to “not religion, but a relationship,” or the four spiritual laws, or filling a Jesus-shaped hole in our hearts. This reminds us that we actually need to answer questions like, “Who is God?” because there is no culturally agreed upon understanding that can serve as our starting point. Once we know where to begin, we can start having really meaningful conversations.

There are more reasons, but I think these three sum it up pretty well. Do you care about discipling people? Do you care about theology have a right place in the life of believers? Do you care about reaching people for Christ? If you answered yes, you should care about this study. Be sure to head over to gospelproject.com and grab a copy. 

 

 

 

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

  • The Christian Lover by Michael Haykin (hardcover)
  • Parenting by God’s Promises by Joel Beeke (ePub)
  • The Promise Keeper: God of the Covenants Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • What Did Jesus Do?: Understanding the Work of Christ Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • Katherine Parr: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Reformation by Brandon Withrow (paperback)

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

Financial decisions to make in your 20s and 30s

There’s a lot of good advice here.

Clinging to the golden calf

Michelle Lesley:

There are a ton of Jeroboams out there today. Some of you reading this might be following one of them and worshiping the idol their false theology tells you is the God of the Bible. And in the same way that a man of God came along and rebuked Jeroboam for his blasphemy, a man or woman of God might come along and call out the Christian celebrity you’re following, or take you aside -out of love and concern- and let you know that person is a false teacher.

I hope you won’t respond like Jeroboam did. He was so angry, he tried to kill the prophet. But sadly, I have seen this type of response (at least verbally) many times, especially from women, when faced with the fact that their favorite Bible teacher or author is preaching a false gospel.

So, what’s a godly way to respond when someone tells you you’re following a false teacher?

The Difficulty of Receiving

Mason King:

Receiving is difficult. Being given something affects us differently than being the giver. Receiving something is harder than earning it, especially for driven people. It’s an insult to our pride and to our ingrained desire to be self-reliant. It picks at our identity of being self-sovereign and self-sustaining, so we try to reconcile the tension by repaying the debt or promising to give an equal (or better) gift, rather than trusting the goodness of the gift and the giver. Receiving is difficult for us because it requires trust, humility and imagination.

8 Reasons People are Leaving Denominational Churches for Non-Denominational Churches

Thom Rainer shares a few interesting findings from some data published by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research.

God Owes Me Nothing

Darryl Dash:

If we’re not careful, we will think that God is stingy and ungrateful. That’s not true at all. God is anything but stingy, and he repeatedly promises rewards for those who serve him.

“I Couldn’t Worship a God Like That”

Jared Wilson:

It is one of God’s eternal blessings that he is a good God, a loving God, a merciful God, a beautiful God. And we ought to worship him for these attributes and more. But we also ought to worship him because he is God, and we are not.

This imperative is no time more crucial than when God reveals himself in ways inscrutable and uncomfortable, when God is being seeker-insensitive.

 

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is the last day to take advantage of these deals from Crossway:

Also on sale is Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff ($3.99) and the following books from Brian Croft’s Practical Shepherding series ($2.99 each):

What if Man of Steel was in (full) color?

This is pretty fantastic:

What Should the Church Say to Bruce Jenner?

Russell Moore:

Bruce Jenner, of course, is a symbol, a celebrity spokesperson for an entire mentality that sees gender as separate from biological identity. So is there a word from God to the transgender community? How should the church address the Bruce Jenner in your neighborhood, who doesn’t have the star power or the Malibu mansions but who has the same alienation of self?

The Holiness of God: the app

Ligonier has introduced a new free app version of R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God teaching series for the iPhone and iPad. Enjoy! (P.S.: an Android version is coming soon.)

Martin Luther’s Definition of Faith

This is a really great excerpt from Luther’s An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

How to Practice a Gospel-Centered Spirituality

Donald S. Whitney:

However, the common perception of spirituality is not the biblical one. I’m writing from the perspective that spirituality includes—but transcends—the human spirit, and involves the pursuit of God and the things of God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with God’s self-revelation (that is, the Bible).

You Have Just Enough Time

Jon Bloom:

But to call busyness (meaning a frenetic, distracted lifestyle) “moral laziness” suddenly makes us uncomfortable. It means that busyness is not something that merely happens to us. It is something we choose. As objections begin to rise in our minds, it is helpful to remember what Jesus said to busy Martha: “Mary has chosen the good portion” (Luke 10:42). Martha, you have chosen something else.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

 

 

 

 

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

  • Thomas Manton by Derek Cooper (paperback)
  • Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism by R.C. Sproul (hardcover)
  • The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Recovering the Beauty of the Arts Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • Pillars of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub)

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

Don’t Be Too Quick To Look For Fruit In New Believers

Mark Altrogge:

When we believe in Jesus we have eternal life. We can’t lose this life. But this grace of God in believers often seems to be little more than a spark. Sometimes it takes a long time for Jesus to fan it to a full flame. And as Richard Sibbes says, that small “measure of grace” is often mixed with “much corruption” and like smoke, can be offensive. Yet Christ will not quench that faintly burning wick.

This means we shouldn’t be too quick to look for fruit in new believers. Yes, some people come out of the gate like gangbusters, turn wholeheartedly from sin, and begin to share the gospel like zealots. But others, like myself as a young believer, though they have the spark of grace, put forth a lot of smoke and change very slowly.

Hand Lettering Co. 

If you’re looking for nice art, this is a great site to check out.

From the people of the cross to ISIS

Hanging Out With Your Friends is Not the Church

Aaron Earls:

Increasingly, I see younger evangelicals (like the one in this Relevant blog post) wondering if they can call their spiritual hang outs with friends a congregation. They are exploring the question: What is church?

Why You Should (Literally) Look at the World Upside Down

Trevin Wax:

It’s a figure of speech to look at things “upside down” in order to get some perspective. But what if there’s more here than just a clever turn of phrase? What if we can’t actually see our world in proper perspective unless we’ve seen it upside down?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few Kindle deals today:

Faithlife has made Brevard Childs’ commentary on Isaiah April’s free book of the month for Logos Bible Software. Christian Audio’s free book of the month is Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. And for a limited time, Reformation Trust and Ligonier Ministries have made the audio edition of The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul free.

From a Symbol of Fear to a Symbol of Faith

Keith Mathison:

I sometimes wonder how many Christians stop to think about how incredibly odd it is that crucifixes are used as works of art. Crucifixes adorn church architecture, classic paintings, sculpture, and even jewelry. But consider for a moment what a crucifix was originally. It was a means of execution. In fact, it was and is one of the most ghastly means of execution ever devised by man. So horrible was it that it was reserved for the lowest of the low: slaves, pirates, and rebels. Roman citizens were exempt. Cultured Romans considered it unworthy of discussion in polite company. Yet today we wear this symbol of degrading and humiliating death around our necks. The jarring nature of this is not immediately apparent to us because over time, the symbol of the cross has lost many of its original connotations. To get some idea of the oddity, imagine seeing people wearing necklaces with images of a guillotine or an electric chair.

What happened, then, to account for the change?

Not My Will Be Done

Jon Bloom:

No one understands better than God how difficult it can be for a human to embrace the will of God. And no human has suffered more in embracing the will of God the Father than God the Son. When Jesus calls us to follow him, whatever the cost, he is not calling us to do something he is either unwilling to do or has never done himself.

10 Reasons Big Easter Giveaways Are Unwise

Jared Wilson:

I’m not against “Easter egg hunts” and kids having fun and all that, but I think the sort of large-scale, giveaway promotion that takes over this time of year in the church calendar is profoundly unwise and in many cases very, very silly. I want to offer ten general reasons why, but first some caveats: I’m not talking about a church giving out gifts to visitors. Gift cards, books, etc. to guests can be a sweet form of church hospitality. What I’m criticizing is the advertised promise of “cash and prizes” to attract people to the church service. Secondly, I know the folks doing these sorts of things are, for the most part, sincere believers who want people to know Jesus. But I don’t think good intentions authorize bad methods. So:

Ten reasons luring people in with cash and prizes is not a good idea.

Respect Your Audience

Barnabas Piper:

Much of how to do this is nebulous, psychological, and relational rather than technique driven. It looks different from person to person and even from audience to audience. You will inevitably communicate differently to school children than to professors than to moms than to incarcerated felons – but not as differently as you might think. The suggestions below apply to all cases and have more to do with mindset than style or steps to take, and it is up to you, the communicator to determine how to apply them in every situation uniquely, but I hope they are helpful for those preach, teach, write, or otherwise publicly communicate.

Jonah and the fail

This is fun.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also, today is$5 Friday at Ligonier Ministries, where you’ll find a number of great resources on sale, including the following by R.C. Sproul:

  • The Work of Christ (Hardcover)
  • Building a Christian Conscience teaching series (audio & video download)
  • Moses and the Burning Bush teaching series (DVD)
  • 1-2 Peter (ePub)
  • The Prayer of the Lord (ePub & MOBI)

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

Federal Court Defends—and Broadens—Ministerial Exception

Joe Carter:

Earlier today a federal appeals court handed down an important ruling that protects the liberties of religious organizations.

In the case of Alyce Conlon v. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rejected a plaintiff’s attempt to enforce state and federal gender discrimination laws on one of the nation’s largest Christian campus ministries.

The “Plus One” Approach to Church

Kevin DeYoung:

Are you just starting out at a new church and don’t know how to get plugged in? Have you been at your church for years and still haven’t found your place? Are you feeling disconnected, unhappy, or bored with your local congregation? Let me suggest you enter the “Plus One” program of church involvement.

I don’t mean to sound like a bad infomercial. Here’s what I mean: In addition to the Sunday morning worship service, pick one thing in the life of your congregation and be very committed to it.

 Advice to Young Pastors from R. C. Sproul, Tom Schreiner, and Carlos Contreras

This is helpful.

The Girl in the Tuxedo

Jean Lloyd:

The photo is from many years ago. I know because I am the girl in the picture. As I think back to that night, I can’t help but wonder how that girl’s life—my life—would have been different if the dance had taken place in 2015 instead of 1985.

I can’t help imagining the scenario that teenagers struggling with their sexuality face today . . .

HT: Tim

The Problem of Your Choices

Barry Cooper:

Every time I call FedEx, I end up conducting the entire conversation in an accent that can only be described as the unholy offspring of John Wayne and Judi Dench. The talking robot, who is trying extremely hard not to laugh, keeps asking me to repeat myself. For a Brit, it is absolutely humiliating. It’s as if someone has implemented the whole system as payback for nearly two centuries of colonial rule.

The last time it happened, it occurred to me that this nightmarish limbo is a familiar place for many of us. Making choices and moving on with our lives seems increasingly difficult. We find ourselves paralyzed: unable to make choices about relationships, dating, marriage, money, family, and career. I want to suggest that if we feel unable to make these choices, it’s not because we have the wrong accent. It may be because we’re worshiping the wrong god.

Links I like

$5 Friday at Ligonier

Today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier has a whole bunch of great resources on sale, including:

  • The Mystery of the Trinity teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio & video download)
  • Willing to Believe teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio & video download)
  • Reformation Profiles teaching series by Stephen Nichols (DVD)
  • The Psychology of Atheism teaching series by R.C. Sproul (CD)
  • Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul (ePub)

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

The “Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” recants

Alex Malarkey, the book’s co-author, says “I didn’t die,” and “the Bible is sufficient.” Good on him for doing it, too.

Expositional imposters

Mike Gilbart-Smith:

Mark Dever rightly describes Expositional Preaching as “preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.” However, I have heard many sermons that intend to be expositional, yet fall somewhat short. Below are seven pitfalls that one might try to avoid. Each of these pitfalls either doesn’t correctly make the message of the passage the message of the sermon, or doesn’t make it a message to that congregation at all.

Why and How to Be Self-Critical When You Write

Justin Taylor shares a great excerpt from John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.

5 Simple Ways to Teach Your Kids Theology

Aaron Earls:

How can you weave theological teaching into their daily lives, without necessarily setting them down for an in-depth family sermon (though there is nothing inherently wrong with that)? How can you impart good theology into the lives of your children, without possessing a theological degree (though hopefully there is nothing inherently wrong with that)?

You don’t need to feel like you’re trying out the latest parenting fad or complicated system. If you are like me, you’ll try it for a month or two and then give up because it didn’t feel natural.

Instead, here are five simple ways to teach your kids theology virtually every day.

 

The Way Home podcast

Check out this new podcast by my friend Dan Darling. The first episode is good stuff, and features interviews with Karen Swallow Prior and Matt Chandler.

The Indispensable Value Of Practical Theology

David Murray:

Reformed Christians are famous (some would say “infamous”) for our emphasis upon theology; especially biblical theology, systematic theology, historical theology, and exegetical theology.

Just look at our creaking bookshelves and impressive libraries!

Critics, though, often ask, “Where’s your practical theology?”

And they sometimes have a point. At times we do struggle to translate the knowledge our heads are bursting with into our vocations, our families, our evangelism, our ethics, and other areas of the Christian life.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Westminster Bookstore also has a big sale going on right now on their bestselling titles from 2014. Be sure to check them out before they’re all gone. Finally, in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier, you’ll find a bunch of great resources, including:

  • The Christian Lover by Michael Haykin (hardcover)
  • Repentance teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Knowing Scripture teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • The Dark Side of Islam (ePub)

Theological Extremism in a Secular Age

Albert Mohler:

One of the fundamental problems among Western elites is that they cannot understand a theological worldview—particularly the theological worldview of Islam. Being basically rational and secular in their own worldview, Western elites find it almost impossible to understand the radical actions taken by Islamic terrorists.

How I almost lost the Bible

Greg Thornbury:

In a subsequent course on the synoptic Gospels, we read works from Robert W. Funk, the founder of the Jesus Seminar. We learned how to do form and redaction analysis, a method of study that assumes the author of a biblical text is motivated by a theological agenda rather than by reporting what he had seen. We simply “knew” that the book we were holding in our hands did not have a direct connection to the apostles whose names were associated with the Gospels and Epistles.

For me, this dose of higher criticism was nearly lethal. Any sense that the Bible was divinely inspired and trustworthy, or that the creeds had metaphysical gravitas, started to seem implausible. The best I could muster was that, somehow mystically, perhaps Jesus was the Christ, existentially speaking. I was approaching something close to New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman’s own story of losing faith.

“I don’t feel connected”

Leon Brown:

I am fairly certain most would agree with the aforementioned; however, notice what I wrote in the previous paragraph. “It is a shame when someone legitimately feels disconnected.” Most often, in my experience, when people feel disconnected at a church it is illegitimate. They have visited for several weeks, maybe a couple of months, and the quota that they envisioned was not met. In other words, they expected a certain amount of people to greet them and invite them into their home. That has not occurred. The result–I don’t feel connected.

Why the Church Needs Intergenerational Friendships

Joseph Rhea:

A deepening pool of ink has been spilled over the “generational gap” problem. As Western culture ghettoizes within generational borders, how can churches best minister to these increasingly divided tribes? Blend worship? Accommodate with traditional and contemporary services? Target one generation and let the others get used to it or worship somewhere else?

It sounds like a church organization problem. But the real problem, and the real solution, isn’t organizational—it’s personal. The real problem is that, increasingly, we’re no longer making friends across generational lines.

Links I like

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Book deals for Christian readers

First, here’s a look at a whole bunch of Kindle deals:

Christian Audio’s free audiobook for January is Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, Morning and Evening. January’s free book for Logos Bible Software is The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: Genesis by Herbert Edward Ryle. You can also get A.T. Chapman’s Introduction to the Pentateuch for 99¢.

Finally, in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier, you’ll find a bunch of great resources, including:

  • Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Themes from Hebrews teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Acts by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Pillars of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke (ePub)

Predictions for 2015

Jonathan Howe has a few interesting ones here. I’m skeptical of the last one, though.

4 Reasons To Use Goodreads

Barnabas Piper:

It’s a new year, and that means lots of you have made resolutions, set goals, or planned ahead about what you’ll read this year. Of course the hardest part of any resolution or plan is following through. That’s why you should consider Goodreads. It’s not just another social media site; it’s a wonderful tool for any reader to discover new books and mark progress. Here are four features of Goodreads to help you meet your 2015 reading goals.

Lambs in the midst of wolves

Ray Ortlund:

There is a reason why the Lord said what he said in Luke 10:3.  Some people are wolf-ish.  They will never accept a minister of the gospel, because they do not love the Lord of the gospel.  They join our churches.  They even become leaders.  But their nature within is wolf-ish – hungry, cunning, attacking.

Some pastors reading this post are encircled by wolves.  My brother, here are three things to remember right now.

When We Grow Passionate in Prayer

Jonathan Parnell:

Every Christian wants a deeper life of prayer in this new year. Who, after the close of one year, looks back over the time in his closet and thinks, “Yeah, I’d better cut back on all the praying this next twelve months”? We all want to grow, to enjoy richer fellowship with God — the question, though, comes down to how we think it will happen. Might it mean that we pray more consistently? Absolutely. Might it mean that we intercede more for others? Most likely. Might it mean that our petitions are more passionate? Maybe, depending on what we mean by passionate praying.

Reflections On A Year With Richard Sibbes

Mike Leake:

When I started to read Richard Sibbes for this undertaking, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. The way he used English was quite foreign! I had actually not read him before when I began, which made this pretty interesting. I had no preconceived ideas or biases for or against him. After reading his work for a full year, I came away with a few reflections.

Links I like

$5 Friday at Ligonier

Today’s $5 Friday deals at Ligonier include:

  • Suffering and the Sovereignty of God teaching series by R.C. Sproul Jr (DVD)
  • In Christ Alone and By Faith Alone, both by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)
  • Think Like a Christian teaching series by R.C. Sproul (CD)

$5 Friday ends tonight at midnight.

Also, if you’re in need of a new Bible, be sure to take advantage of Westminster Bookstore’s big sale—50 percent off ESV Bibles until January 5th.

Losing Loved Ones and Having Regrets

Nick Batzig:

My mom had a sudden and massive heart attack last week. I never got to say goodbye. I never had the chance to tell her I loved her and to ask her to forgive me for all the times that I didn’t love her as I ought to have loved her. It was an extremely painful experience. Yet, in the face of extreme sorrow, the Lord graciously filled my mind with thoughts of eternity that I’ve never had before. One of those thoughts came on the ride to the cemetery. With anguish of heart, my Dad said, “I didn’t always love your Mom they way I should have. I know that I won’t be married to Mom in heaven, but I will love her perfectly for all eternity.” This, in turn, awakened thoughts in me that I’ve never had before. One of those thoughts was that Christ has purchased for believers, not only forgiveness of sins and a perfect righteousness but also the prospect of loving other believers perfectly in glory for all of eternity.

Gaiman reads Jabberwocky

I enjoyed this:

The Truest Kind Of Rest

Darryl Dash:

It turns out the rest is something much better than an extended nap in a hammock. George Guthrie speaks of this rest being we experience both now — today! — and later. It’s the end of entering striving based on our own works. The type of rest he’s talking about is resting in relationship with God because of what Christ has done for us. It isn’t inactivity; it’s all of life (including the things we do) from a foundation of security in what we have, and in what can’t be taken away.

This means we have freedom and permission to rest and worship no matter what is going on in our lives. It isn’t a legalistic obligation; it’s a gift that only has to be received.

 

When God Doesn’t Zap Away Our Sin

Tim Challies:

God gives that grace, but for some reason—his good reasons—it rarely comes in the form we would prefer. God gives it not in the form we want but in the form we need. We want God to zap away our sin, to instantly and permanently remove it. Those desires, those addictions, those idolatries—we want them to be lifted and to be gone that very moment.

The Greatest Need Of Young Mothers Is…

David Murray:

I am absolutely convinced that one of the greatest needs in the church these days is for older women to help young mothers get some time on their own without their kids.

I’m not talking about older women mentoring younger women. What most young mothers need is not more teaching and nagging to do better, but simply to be “delivered” from their homes and children for a couple of hours a couple of times a week.

How The Internet Brings Our Brokenness into Sharp Relief

Jason Morehead:

Technology can have a powerfully disruptive effect on authority structures. With its decentralized nature, the Internet, for example, makes it possible to disseminate damning information in ways that are impossible to find and stamp out, as numerous government officials both here and abroad discovered after the Edward Snowden leaks. This disruptive effect is not inherently evil. Indeed, it can be used for much good, such as highlighting government and corporate corruption. It can also make it possible to work more efficiently and effectively, revealing the shortcomings of whatever systems came before. But this disruptive effect can also give license to selfishness, greed, and egotism. Which brings us to Uber.

Links I like

Book deals for Christian readers

First up, some deals for the Kindle:

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

  • The Parables of Jesus teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips (ePub)
  • Captivated by Thabiti Anyabwile (paperback)

And, until December 6th, you can purchase the following books for only $8 each:

  • The Donkey Who Carried a King by R.C. Sproul
  • The Lightlings by R.C. Sproul
  • The Priest with Dirty Clothes by R.C. Sproul
  • The Prince’s Poison Cup by R.C. Sproul
  • Sammy and His Shepherd by Susan Hunt

We have all of these children’s titles in our family library and they’re excellent.

Finally, Logos’ Christmas sale is in full swing: be sure to check it out!

How to shut down healthy debate

What Does It Mean to Let the Peace of Christ Rule Our Hearts?

Mike Leake offers some good points here.

Reflections on Christian publishing

Dane Ortlund:

Christian publishing, to be healthy, requires two things: healthy publishers and healthy authors. What is a healthy publisher? A publisher who functions essentially not out of desire to get rich or make a name for himself, but out of love. Truly Christian publishing is an act of love: serving others with what they need most, as Christ has served us with what we need most. What is a healthy author? An author who functions essentially not out of a desire to get rich or make a name for himself, but out of love. Truly Christian writing is an act of love: serving others with what they need most, as Christ has served us with what we need most. When an author driven by love partners with a publisher driven by love, that project will have the kiss of God upon it. Christian publishing is an act of love.

HT: Tim

Support the Battle and Avalos families

Yesterday, Tripp Battle, Joy Battle and Amber Avalos were murdered, leaving their children orphaned. A GoFundMe page has been set up for their remaining family. Please give to support them in their time of need.

I Can’t Breathe. But I Must Write.

David Murray:

Well, I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared about writing a blog post. Last week I allowed my fear to silence me about Ferguson. But here I am, sleepless at 3.30am, deeply troubled about Eric Garner’s homicide and irresistibly burdened to write.

I start with hardly any idea about what to write, but I do know why I ‘m writing. I want to stand with my African American brothers and sisters. More than that, “I’m all in” with them.

And that’s why I’m scared. Because I know that for many people, that automatically puts me “outside.” It puts me on the other side. It makes me suspect. It makes me soft. It makes me left-wing. It makes me anti-police. It makes me pro-thug.

And I could defend myself as Paul did when he said, “I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews, concerning the law, a Pharisee.” Similarly I could say, “I am a conservative of the conservatives, concerning the law, a Fox-Newser.”

But this is not about me. Me must be sacrificed at times. And this is such a time.

Links I like

The Pilgrim’s Progress—a new edition from Desiring God

DG has just released a brand new edition of John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s progress. You can get it free here.

Thank God for God

David Murray:

We all have so much to thank God for, but we often fail to thank God for Himself; that there is a God, that there is such a God, and that such a God is our God.

The Psalmists lead the way here in helping us celebrate God’s God-ness. For example, in Psalm 103 the Psalmist celebrates God as the Savior-King, and as the Creator-King in Psalm 104. He praises God as the Father of His children in Psalm 103 and as the Creator of His creatures in Psalm 104. Let’s join Him in Psalm 104 as he thanks God for God.

8 Leadership Principles from my first 90 days at Saddleback

A few months ago, my friend Ben joined the staff of Saddleback Church. I really appreciated reading about his first 90 days here.

Are Christian hashtags rallying the faithful for luring trolls?

Sarah Pulliam Bailey:

But everyone on Twitter is learning that a hashtag cuts both ways — it can be hijacked or lampooned by detractors, and it’s a key way that online activists are pushing back against opposing messages or what some might even call hate speech.

Truth Exchange

Great interview with Peter Jones at Ligonier:

TabletalkAre there any pagan assumptions that Christians today might unconsciously share with the culture? What are they?

Peter Jones: The power of culture is now used to intimidate rather than encourage biblical faith. We live in a post-Constantinian world with little protection from the state. Christians are accused of hate speech against homosexuals, of making war on women for opposing abortion, and of self-righteous intolerance for claiming the unique truth of the gospel. Under this barrage of unfair criticism, Christians can give up and “conform to the world,” as Paul says in Romans 12:2. Christians feel great pressure to modify the message, go easy on sin, opt for programs the culture approves of (such as social justice), and to see mysticism as the high point of faith, since it unifies all religions. In all of these areas, the church often fails to preach the gospel, which is not about human actions or reactions but about what God has done for sinners at a particular point in time in the person of Jesus the eternal Son.

Recovering Scripture

Michael Horton:

Lose the Scriptures and you lose the gospel. But in our day, it’s Protestants—even evangelicals—who downplay the sufficiency of Scripture for doctrine and life. As in the medieval church, many today think that Scripture is unclear about various doctrines, practices, and forms of worship. It’s just not interesting enough. We have to add our speculations, experiences, and cultural perspectives.

Links I like

Book deals for Christian readers

This week there have been some pretty phenomenal deals on eBooks at Amazon. You can check out the big lists here and here. Today, I’ve got just a few more for you to check out:

Also in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org, you’ll find several terrific resources like:

  • Life in Christ: Becoming and Being a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ by Jeremy Walker (paperback)
  • John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology edited by Burk Parsons (ePub)
  • When Worlds Collide by R.C. Sproul (ePub)

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Kevin DeYoung:

The question is doubly crucial in our day because not every Jesus is the real Jesus. Almost no one is as popular in this country as Jesus. Hardly anyone would dare to say a bad word about him. Just look at what a super-fly friendly dude he is over there. But how many people know the real Jesus?

Quarantine in the Age of Ebola

Robert Cutillo:

The current Ebola crisis is the most recent iteration of contagious disease, following SARS in 2003 and swine flu in 2009. It is uncanny how the same themes return as we deal with the largest outbreak of Ebola since it first emerged in 1976. Facing the fear of fatal disease, it is not surprising that our base reactions remain the same. But each time our collective souls are bared by these moments of vulnerability, we have the opportunity to respond with truth and compassion. What are we doing with what we know—which is quite a bit, thanks to the understanding of current science—combined with a significant truth about life revealed to us by God?

When Fear Haunts Us

Erin Straza:

Our susceptibility to fear has many contributing factors: bent of personality, past trauma, current drama, and so on. Although everyone faces fear, we each face it in our own unique way, making it a rather isolating experience. The situations and trials that stir up my anxiety may do little to stir up yours, and vice versa. Because we share the susceptibility to fear, however, it should increase our ability to empathize and offer support when it knocks one of our own down for the count. At the very least, we should, by now, be well aware of the ways it attacks us personally.

 Looking for Love in all the Right Places

Lore Ferguson:

When I was young, rebellious and caustic, rolling my eyes at my parents at age 10 and sneering at them by age 15, they would say, “Look at me when I’m talking to you,” and I felt seen, exposed.

I knew I was already seen and exposed, but I felt it. I felt it when I saw their disappointment or disapproval or anger at me. When I saw it in their eyes. I felt that. I felt every weight and every sin and every bit of my flesh rolled up and held in their parental gaze. And I looked away. I could not hold that look for long, my sin was too great, their anger too heavy.

A Debate I Would Watch

Tim Challies:

This week I read a chapter that teaches the value of self-examination and self-abasement. I was immediately struck by the difference between the heart of Owen’s understanding of the Christian life and what passes for Christian living today. I don’t mean to pick on an easy target, but it makes a fascinating contrast to compare Owen’s books with, say, Joel Osteen’s. I am not exaggerating when I say that they really are polar opposites in just about every way. Though both pass as Christian books, they could hardly be more different.

Links I like

The Hidden Work and Power of God’s Word

Mark Altrogge:

When I’m preaching on Sundays I can’t see what’s happening in people’s hearts. I can’t see if any are born again, or encouraged or sustained or convicted. Some people may be smiling or nodding, but many have unreadable expressions.  If I were to judge by some peoples’ faces I’d guess nothing was happening in their hearts.  When we’d have family devotions when the kids were young, most days they were sleepy, distracted and squirmy.  I couldn’t tell if God’s word was having any effect on my kids.  Often when I share the gospel with someone I’m met with a blank stare or “Oh yeah I believe in Jesus. I go to church.”  They don’t cry out “Brother, what should I do?” like on the day of Pentecost.  And even when I read God’s word myself, I don’t experience fireworks or goosebumps. At times I’m convicted or challenged or encouraged by a Scripture, but many mornings my devotions feel rather routine and unremarkable.

But our lack of seeing immediate fruit in our children when we read the Bible to them or in fellow believers when we encourage them with Scripture or unbelievers when we share the good news of Jesus or even in ourselves when we read God’s word, doesn’t mean that something isn’t happening. God’s word is at work.

The State of Theology

This is fascinating stuff. On a related note…

Does my local church have the authority to say I’m not a Christian?

Nine out of ten evangelicals say no, but what do church leaders say?

Are Millennials Leaving the Church Because of Homosexuality?

Aaron Earls:

While many of the specific reasons for an individual church’s or denomination’s decline are complicated, there are two over-arching reasons for extended drops in membership and attendance – the lack of orthodoxy (right beliefs) or orthopraxy (right actions).

To ignore one or the other will undoubtably lead to decline, regardless of how well we think we have the other handled. That is of particular importance because of the way both sides have treated the issue of homosexuality.

Evangelism is Fueled by Knowing God is at Work

Erik Raymond:

Nearly 20 years ago I was an unbelieving, angry guy. I hadn’t previously been exposed to “Bible-thumping” guys but, now that I was, I utterly despised them. I hated their smiles, humility, hopefulness, charity, and confidence. Oh, how I hated their confidence. I would mock, insult, and try to get them to “sin” or blush. They just kept on like they understood me better than I understood myself.

I didn’t listen to them. I don’t even think I ever really heard them–but, they got to me. They were different. I knew it and so did they.

If sin has to be whispered…

“If there’s a sin that has to be whispered in our congregation then we are not truly Christian.”—Russell Moore at ERLC 2014 (HT: Todd Adkins)

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