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Crossway’s put two excellent books on biblical theology on sale:

What Katrina Taught Me

Russell Moore:

The apocalypses we experience now—whether in Katrina-struck America or earthquake-devastated Haiti or tsunami-ravaged Asia—remind us that this present order isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. The CNN meteorologists can explain the hurricane only in terms of barometric pressure and water temperatures. We know, however, that at its root this natural disaster isn’t natural at all. It is creation crying out, “Adam, where are you?”

What Our Enemies Teach Us

Erin Straza gives us a preview of the latest issue of Christ and Pop Culture.

Life Is Short. Love Your Spouse.

Ben Reaoch:

But why are so many falling for it? Why is it that Ashley Madison can boast of over 37 million users — with professing Christians among them? It’s because sin is just that enticing. And just that deceptive. To have sex with someone who is not your spouse can seem so exhilarating, especially if one’s marriage has become dull and boring. Sin clouds our vision, distorts our perception of reality, and if we haven’t fed our souls on specific truths to chase away the lies, one day we may find ourselves buying into the very lie we once thought was unthinkable.

Words of Unnatural Comfort in the Midst of Unrelenting Conflict

Miles Morrison:

Wars without worry, famines without fretting, disaster without distress. Jesus’ words of unnatural comfort in the midst of unrelenting conflict are a stark contrast to our own desires for self-protection and self-preservation. But with the promise of problems comes another guarantee: the end is not yet. Jesus doesn’t want us to feel overwhelmed by the troubles of this world, because they haven’t overwhelmed him. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) No matter what happens in this life, no matter what pain you experience or what problems you face, Jesus wants you to know that he is greater still. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.

10 Ways To Overcome Spiritual Weariness

Mark Altrogge:

Being a disciple of Jesus is hard. He said we must daily take up our cross and die to ourselves. He calls us to serve, love, and look to the interest of others. Following Jesus yields immeasurable joy, but we can also grow weary from day to day. Weary in parenting, weary in serving, weary in trials and affliction. When we’re weary we can find fresh strength, joy and motivation in Christ. Here are 10 ways to do that.

Concessions, confessions and untangling tangly bits (For the Church)

lord-over-bedroom

My series at For the Church, “Letters to a New Believer,” continues. The first post addressed the dangers of rushing into leadership roles. The second takes a step back to look at getting grounded in the Bible. The third, is my encouragement to tell the story that’s yours. The fourth is probably the most personally revealing thing I’ve ever written, especially since it deals with s-e-x:

Emily and I had lived together, more or less, since 2000. I say “more or less” because during our second year of college we both had separate dorm rooms, but she spent the majority of her time in mine. In 2001, we got our first apartment together. In late 2004, we bought a house together. And then in 2005 Jesus saved us and made a mess of everything.

When it came to realizing what the Bible says about sexual immorality applied to us, we were a little slow on the uptake. Granted, there were certain things no one had to tell us weren’t okay. While neither of us was addicted to pornography, we had some in the house. So we tossed it. (And as a side note, you never realize how much is actually there until you go to get rid of it all.) But when it came to certain parts of our living arrangement, we more or less continued the way we had been to some degree.

And then we got a call at work from Emily’s mother, one that I still probably need to go to therapy over. She called to let us know that Emily’s sister—who was supposed to come and live with us in the fall to attend university—had become sexually active with her boyfriend.

And so after we were kind of grossed out for a bit—because no one likes to think of their siblings doing things that are only okay for them to do—we realized something: if we’re not okay with her doing that, why was it okay for us?

And that’s when the elephant juggling a ton of bricks while standing on a piano delicately grazing our respective craniums.

Keep reading at For the Church.


Photo credit: bedroom via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

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Why Gay Marriage Can’t Be Christian Marriage

Ben Witherington:

At the end of the day either we realize that gender matters, and gender difference is essential to a real Christian marriage, or we totally change the definition of what counts as marriage, what counts as husband and wife, what counts as mother and father Biblically speaking. It is in no way surprising that in the most individualistic and narcissistic culture on the planet, that Americans would like to be able to even choose their gender, their own biology. But in fact you can’t do that, and since gender matters Biblically speaking when it comes to Christian marriage, you also do not have Biblical permission to redefine marriage, husband, wife, mother or father.

I Don’t Know, And That’s OK

Nick Horton:

Why are so many of us uncomfortable saying the words, “I don’t know?” It’s incredibly freeing, I recommend you try it  some time. We give voice to the truth that we are not God when we do so. The expectation of full and total knowledge is nothing more than unmasked pride, quivering in its rush to be like God. Yet we will never know everything, now or in Heaven. Omniscience is a divine attribute and as such does not convey to us.

The Distracted Worshipper

Check out the first part of a new series at the Leadership Resources blog.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bible Rebinding

Matthew Everhard:

There is no book called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bible Rebinding, but if such a volume is ever to be written, I have a feeling that I may inadvertently be its protagonist.

Incidentally, The Bible Design Blog may well be my new favorite blog.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say to Your Wife then…

Erik Raymond:

We have all heard the expression, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” This may be good advice for elementary school children but it is not preferred for husbands.

Am I saying, “Feel free to insult your wife.” Hardly. Instead I am saying that we need to try harder, look deeper, pay more attention.

Ministry is not the enemy of marriage

ministry-marriage

There are many great men who are unworthy of imitation as husbands. I am thankful that Charles Spurgeon is not among them.

One of the things I loved about working on the Spurgeon documentary last year was learning about Charles Spurgeon’s marriage. I’ll be honest, though, I was kind of terrified about what I’d find out. After reading of how awful so many marriages were—such as those of John Wesley and A.W. Tozer—I kind of expected that with Charles and Susannah Spurgeon. I was expecting the story of a wife quietly resentful of her absentee husband, whose mistress was his ministry.

But that wasn’t what I found. What I found instead was a marriage deeply united and centered around the gospel. Charles was a man deeply devoted to his wife. His heart was for the Lord first, yes, but of earthly ties there was nothing greater for him, and for Susannah also. She was his steadfast companion through trial and illness, joy and hardship, success and controversy.

And years after his death, as she compiled Charles’ autobiography, she testified that her love continued to abide:

Ah! my husband, the blessed earthly ties which we welcomed so rapturously are dissolved now, and death has hidden thee from my mortal eyes; but not even death can divide thee from me, or sever the love which united our hearts so closely. I feel it living and growing still, and I believe it will find its full and spiritual development only when we shall meet in the glory-land, and worship “together before the throne.”

This is the sort of love all married believers should aspire to—a love rooted not merely in our enjoyment of our spouses, but in our union with Christ. This is the kind of marriage I want to have, and by God’s grace, am trying to cultivate. One that centers on the gospel and reveals the beautiful mystery of gospel as it was always intended to do. May ministry never be a hindrance to that.

Lord, never let ministry be an enemy to marriage, but rather ministry be a blessing to marriage.

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A number of books by R. C. Sprout are on sale at the moment:

Also on sale:

Planned Parenthood’s abortion of women’s rights

Marty Duren hits the nail on the head here: “Abortion is no more about women’s rights than Charles Manson’s infatuation with The Beatles was about music appreciation.”

Hemmed

Lore Wilbert (née Ferguson):

We’re not even a month in and last night I cried hot wet tears, my head in my pillow and my husband bent over me. It wasn’t a disagreement or fight or argument or any of the things I continue to brace myself for in this thing called marriage, it was the death of me and he, and the newness of we.

Forward from conversion

Ed Stetzer:

We have become masters at getting “decisions.” Conversion is a powerful event in the life of the believer. It is a great moment. But it isn’t the end of the game. Converting those decisions into disciples must be part of the church’s purpose.

Sometimes we put such an emphasis on that moment, we make people think that is all we are after. The not-so-funny joke is that some people are willing to receive Christ just so the pastor will leave them alone. Our goal is often for conversions. But God’s goal is for transformation, which really just begins at conversion.

God Often Does His Best Work In The Darkness

Stephen Altrogge:

God does not throw trials at us haphazardly, like an angry fan throwing a beer bottle at a baseball player. He does not accidentally let trials slip into our lives, like an absent-minded babysitter. No, God deliberately leads us into the furnace of trials for very specific reasons. He does not waste suffering. He is not a sadist who derives sick pleasure from inflicting pain on his helpless creatures. Every trial we experience has been hand crafted by God for our good. Trials are God’s kiln. We are the clay, he is the master potter.

Planned Parenthood at the Cross

Russell Moore:

And at the Cross, Jesus stood with and for humanity in suffering. We are often told that abortion is ethical because the “products of conception” aren’t “viable,” that is, they cannot live outside the womb. This suggests that the value of a human life consists in its autonomous power. But Jesus was conceived in the most vulnerable situation possible in the ancient world—as a fatherless orphan. He lived as a migrant refugee outrunning with his family the Planned Parenthood of his day, the King Herod, into a land hostile to his own. He died helplessly convulsing on a cross, dependent on others even for hydration. Even in death, Jesus counted himself with thieves and was buried in a borrowed grave. In his humanity, Jesus wasn’t “viable” either.

On a related note, Joe Carter shares 10 numbers you should know about Planned Parenthood.

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This month’s free book for Logos Bible Software is 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law by Tom Schreiner. You can also get Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews by Herbert W. Bateman IV for 99¢. Christian Audio’s free book of the month is Eight Twenty Eight by Ian & Larissa Murphy. Finally, Westminster Bookstore’s got a great deal on the updated edition of Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief by John Frame.

Help My Unbelief

My friend Barnabas’ new book, Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith, just released yesterday. Be sure to check it out.

You Don’t Really Know Who Your Friends Are Until…

Tim Challies:

You don’t really know who your friends are until their relationship with you becomes a liability instead of a benefit. Many celebrities, and even Christian celebrities, have learned this lesson the hard way. In the blink of an eye, or the release of a news story, they went from fêted to ignored, from celebrated to invisible. They learned quickly that many of their so-called friends had actually not been friends at all, but people thriving on a kind of symbiotic relationship where each benefited the other. When the relationship become a liability, their friends were suddenly nowhere to be found.

Our Unhealthy Preoccupation with Acceptance

Erik Raymond:

In thinking about this quite a bit over the last several months it occurs to me how gripped Americans, particularly religious Americans are by honor and acceptance. I live in Omaha, Nebraska. The slogan for the state is “Nebraska Nice”. Did you catch that? We are nice here. I grew up in Massachusetts. I am not going to say that people in New England are mean, but they are, in the words of Megamind “less nice”. We didn’t exactly take pride in our niceness. If someone complained about people being rude we would generally think you were a bit too sensitive. But here, if you say that Nebraskans are not nice it is like you said something about their mom. It is one of the worst things you can say to a native Nebraskan. It seems to me that one of the worst things you can say to American Christian, whether in academia, church leadership, the pew, or on the street, is to say that they either not relevant or not respectable. We seem to clamor for it with alarming intensity.

 

Four appeals to Christians embracing gay marriage

Gavin Ortlund:

I recognize that publicly affirming a traditional definition of marriage makes you vulnerable to stigmatization, so I’ve been a bit hesitant to write this. But I also think complete silence is a mistake. And at any rate I’ve never been able to suppress my convictions out of fear of how people will respond. It’s just not who I am. So I offer these thoughts hoping they might be helpful to some, even though they are somewhatad hoc and do not constitute a comprehensive statement on this whole issue.

How Social Networks Create The Illusion Of Popularity

One of the curious things about social networks is the way that some messages, pictures, or ideas can spread like wildfire while others that seem just as catchy or interesting barely register at all. The content itself cannot be the source of this difference. Instead, there must be some property of the network that changes to allow some ideas to spread but not others.

Real leaders say “I’m sorry”

Eric Geiger:

If you never apologize, if you never say, “I was wrong,” you show people you actually believe you are always right. You reveal your foolishness, not your wisdom, if you never admit to being wrong. People are hesitant, as they should be, to follow someone who thinks he/she is always right. There is only One who is faultless, and it is not you.

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Celebrating distinction

Also, be sure to check out this article by Peter Jones.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Gay Marriage

Aaron Earls:

For many of us, we dread having to talk to our kids about our values about sex and traditional marriage, much less same-sex marriage. So how can you have a different “talk” with your children?

Here are five important aspects as you think about talking with your kids about the recent Supreme Court decision and the culture they are facing.

Gay Marriage, Abortion, and the Bigger Picture

Karen Swallow Prior:

While public policy and legal experts debate the recent decision and the ramifications for people of faith, our most meaningful response as Christians will come from our daily lives. We witness through how we love: our God, our church, our spouses, and all of our neighbors.

So just as ultrasound images of the babe in the womb often serve as the best argument against abortion, the portrayal of our own robust marriages—signifying the mystical union between Christ and his church—will make the case for natural marriage. Just we have shown compassion toward those who have gone to the abortion clinic and to the divorce court, so must we do the same for those who go to the altar of gay marriage. We can stand for principle and love people, too.

On Twenty Years of Marriage

Russ Ramsey:

We are like two tectonic plates who, by God’s grace, grind away at each other’s rough edges until we fuse together into a brand new nation. My nearsightedness and pride collide with her courage and wisdom. Her woundedness and fear run aground on the shores of my boyish optimism and confidence. And these collisions shape us both.

But when we stood hand in hand at the altar, promising to stay in this covenant for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until one of us died, we knew little of each other’s worlds.

Now, twenty years in however, we know much more. With God as my witness we do.

Knowing When To Quit

Mike Leake:

There is a point in most every argument when one side or the other just gets silly. Logic and well reasoned biblical arguments no longer matter. Instead emotions and misrepresentation rule the day. The lengthy correspondence between Thomas Scott and John Newton eventually hit this point, as Scott began charging Newton with gross misrepresentation. Newton called him on it:

“It is easy to charge harsh consequences, which I neither allow, nor, indeed, do they follow from my sentiments”.

The Long-Term Consequences of Pragmatism in the Church

Jonathan Leeman:

The question I want to think about can be posed like this: is there something endemic not just to megachurches, but to post-1950s-evangelicalism as a whole that, over time, tends to undermine the very doctrinal convictions which makes us evangelicals? More specifically, does our doctrine of the church inevitably tend in a pragmatic direction, such that we will eventually leave the gospel and other core theological convictions unguarded?

 

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Revisiting the burger myth

And this, friends, is why we all need to be reminded once more that we ought not believe everything we read on the Internet.

From Henry to Hip Hop

C. Daniel Motley:

In 410 A.D., a group of Visigoth barbarians sacked the golden city of Rome. Assuming that the gods sent this horde as a punishment, the Roman people lashed out at the only religious group that refused to swear allegiance to the pantheon: the Christians. A bishop in the African city of Hippo, Augustine, felt forced to defend Christianity from this outcry and the threat of destruction from the pagan populace. Although he probably did not set out to do so, Augustine provided the world with the first Christian theology of culture. Since Augustine, Christians have wrestled with how to relate to the world and to culture: What kind of music can Christians sing? Do we unite the races or is it better to segregate? Is it ever right to have an abortion?

 

Are All Christians Hypocrites? Yes, Maybe and No.

Aaron Earls:

The revelations about Josh Duggar have brought to the forefront a much broader discussion about Christians and hypocrisy. (If you need a recap, here is The Washington Post‘s excellent timeline of the entire situation.)

Does his criticizing the sexual behavior of others, while engaging in not just sexual sins, but criminal molestation, mark him a hypocrite? Are Christians, in general, hypocrites for so often critiquing the behavior of others, while failing to live up to their own standards?

As a Christian, my answer would be yes, maybe, and no. Let me explain.

What I’ve Learned in Twenty Years of Marriage

Russell Moore (who happens to have the same anniversary as Emily and me) shares some thoughts on twenty years of marriage.

Is there a “leadership code”?

Eric Geiger:

Perhaps you have heard someone say, “Leadership is leadership.” The authors would agree. After interviewing leadership experts, reviewing works about leadership from multiple generations, and processing their own observations, they concluded that 60-70% of all leadership is transferable. In other words, up to 70% of what makes a leader effective in one environment is transferable to another environment. Some know this intuitively and hire proven leaders for the “transferable 70%” of the job and train for the 30% of the job that is industry or discipline specific.

A Holy Aloofness

Michael Kelley:

A life free from worry? Free from anxiety? Not only does it seem unattainable in practice; it also seems just a wee bit irresponsible, doesn’t it? At first glance, these words from Jesus seem to be advocating a life of apathy – worry about nothing, because you care about nothing. But the kind of life Jesus wants for His brothers and sisters is far from apathetic.

Nine things we’re glad we’ve learned in our marriage (so far)

bench

Today is Emily’s and my ninth wedding anniversary. Our road to the altar was a long and complicated one, involving college romance, abandoning a religion/cult, living together, getting “engaged”, buying a house, spiritual attack, and being rescued by Jesus (in that order).

I (Aaron) still remember the day we both became Christians, and our first question to one another was, “Now what?” We knew that being Christians meant our lives were going to be thrown into chaos. We just didn’t expect everything that was thrown at us in the time leading up to our wedding (and beyond). So today, we thought we’d share a few things we are glad we know now that are also glad we found out along the way:

1. What it’s like to be a part of an exclusive club (that no one wants to join). When we lost our second child (a miscarriage between Abigail and Hannah), we were initiated into a club no one really wants to be a part of: couples who’ve experienced a miscarriage. We had no idea how common it is, and how many people grieve in silence. Though we (obviously) love all our children greatly, and we wouldn’t trade the family we do have for anything, there’s a part of us that wonders what it would have been like to meet our little “almost”, instead of only seeing him or her in a blurry ultrasound. Lord willing, we’ll get to do that in the new creation.

2. What it means to be married and Christian. Yeah, I know this is one of those controversial subjects. But learning how to relate to one another as Christians, as an engaged couple, as a married couple, and then again as parents of young children… we were kind of flying by the seat of our pants on all that. We’d not seen examples of a Christian marriage (Emily’s parents aren’t Christians and mine are divorced, so I’d never even really seen a stable family unit until I met them). And there were a lot of things that we had to learn the hard way. This usually involved me saying something stupid, realizing I was wrong, and asking Emily to forgive me.

3. Being on the bleeding edge of parenthood can be kind of lonely. We intentionally left the barn door open when we got married, having the conviction that we wanted to have children right away. And we did. Unfortunately, we also had people doing the math in their heads (or on their fingers) when we told them we were expecting Abigail. “Oh, so you got married in…”

I (Emily) also had two people ask if it was planned. I also had to let some dreams die during our early years as parents. Because so many of our friends got married around the same time, I had this assumption that all of us would be having children on the same timeline, like I saw the people 5-10 years older than us in our church had done. I was looking forward to “doing life together” and having those friendships remain really close. But my friends did not do those things, and are only now having their first or second children (with their oldest being a bit younger than Hudson).

So, I had to go and make my own friends (which I did).

We love being able to spend more time with some of these friends now, and it’s a privilege to share from where we are in our journey as parents, but sometimes it’s easy to get a bit jealous when everyone else is having the shared experience.

4. Nothing good happens after 2 am. This is advice I (Emily) was given by my cousin, and it’s true. After a certain point in the evening, you’ve got nothing positive to say to one another. So just go to sleep.

5. Sex is a good gift, but a lousy god. We heard a lot of sermons (via podcast) and read a lot of books all telling us that Christian marriages should be filled with free, fun and frequent sexual intimacy. More and more, I (Aaron) wonder how many of the pastors writing such things perhaps were revealing a bit too much about what was (or wasn’t) going on in their own lives. There’ve been plenty of seasons over the last nine years where “frequent” would not be the appropriate modifier to use in our relationship, whether due to illness, babies, or exhaustion. I’m glad we don’t define the health of our relationship by this one measure because, honestly, there are much more important things to be concerned about.

6. Set the ground rules before you start. Going into marriage knowing that divorce is off the table is liberating for us. Neither of us have one foot out the door, and so it’s not a threat or a concern. We’ve seen far too much heartache in other people’s lives—particularly with those who have been divorced—and that makes us want to work harder on the things that matter most.

7. Shared convictions matter, but can’t be forced. No question: shared convictions on theological issues really, really matter. A lot. But having shared convictions is not something anyone can mandate. I can’t say to Emily, “You will be in agreement with me on XYZ.” And not just because if I did, I’d be declared the one jerk who rules them all. Instead, what we’ve found is our convictions have aligned, but usually it takes some time.

8. Don’t press. I (Aaron) am still learning this one. And I’m usually pretty awful at it. But I’m trying to learn that if Emily says she’s not ready to talk about something, she’s really not ready to talk about something. So saying, “Well, what’s the issue?” and trying to cajole it out of her is usually a terrible idea.

9. That marriage really is different. Anyone who tells you that living together is no different from being married is either a. Never been married; b. an idiot; or c. a liar. Living together is a distortion of marriage; a cheap imitation that falls apart too easily. Marriage is different. It is harder, but it is better. If I could do it again, I (Aaron) would have gladly waited until we were married for us to live together.

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William Zinsser (1922–2015), the Writing Mentor

Ivan Messa:

Zinsser passed away last week at 92. Even though Zinsser was no evangelical, he acknowledged his Christian heritage. A self-described “WASP” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant)—he stated, “In my own work I operate within a framework of Christian values, and the words that are important to me are religious words: witness, pilgrimage, intention.”

While many will praise his publications (more than 19 books) and point out his gems of writing wisdom, one aspect of his life is often overlooked. Zinsser was more than an instructor, he was a mentor for writers. From Zinsser we can learn three ways to improve our own role as writing mentors…

Teens react to Saved by the Bell

Language warning in effect (it’s mostly bleeped out):

We Are Not Things

Wade Bearden on Mad Max: Fury Road:

What might have easily turned into a bleak tale ending with the loss of personal and collective identity is instead a meditation on the struggle for meaning in a world that doesn’t seem to hold any. A group of women escaping Joe’s rule remind themselves (and their overlord) that “We are not things.” Max struggles with feelings of guilt after losing his wife and child. Joe’s warriors valiantly vie for their ruler’s attention, embarking on suicide missions in order to have their place among the “heroes.” In a society where the wall between individual and beast is blurred, each person, as Furiosa says, is “looking for hope.” They want to know they matter.

More Pressing than Women Preachers

Jen Wilkin:

Once again the internet has been abuzz with discussions of whether women should preach in the local church gathering. Whenever the issue is raised, those who oppose it are quick to explain that the role is not withheld from women because they are less valuable than men. And that “equal value” assertion always shifts my eyes from the pulpit to a more pressing concern. As some continue to debate the presence of women in the pulpit, we must not miss this immediate problem: the marked absence of women in areas of church leadership that are open to them.

What Is the Significance of the 7 Churches in Revelation?

Brandon Smith shares a few insights from Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation.

What is marriage to evangelical millennials?

Abigail Rine:

A few weeks ago, I assigned the article “What is Marriage?” to the students in my gender theory class, which I teach at an evangelical university. This article presents an in-depth defense of the conjugal view of marriage, and I included it on the reading list as part of my efforts to expose students to a range of viewpoints—religious and secular, progressive and conservative. The goal is to create robust civil dialogue, and, ideally, to pave the way for thoughtful Christian contributions to cultural understandings of sex and gender. The one promise I make to my students at the beginning of the course is that they are guaranteed to read something they will find disagreeable, probably even offensive.

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A Goodbye to Youth Ministry

Mike Leake:

Though I’ve made mistakes I’ve also watched God do phenomenal things in the life of teenagers. I’ve always said that the success of a student ministry isn’t determined by what it looks like when the kid graduates—it’s better viewed by how he/she lives out his/her life as a disciple. I’m proud that I have quite a few former students who are now serving in local churches. I’m proud that students who I was allowed to lead to Jesus are still walking happily in the faith. I think, by the grace of God, I have done some things well.

As I’m passing the baton off to a group of guys here at Jasper I laid out for them a simple philosophy of youth ministry. Perhaps it will be beneficial to you as well.

The Importance of Friendship

Michael Haykin:

Here is but one example: On Jan. 27, 1552, Calvin wrote to Farel and chided him for reports he had heard—true reports, one must add—about the undue length of Farel’s sermons. “You have often confessed,” Calvin reminds his friend, “that you know this is a fault and that you would like to correct it.” Calvin went on to encourage Farel to shorten his sermons lest Satan use Farel’s failing in this regard to destroy the many good things being produced by his ministry.

Biblical Marriage Has Always Been Counter-Cultural

Aaron Earls:

In one sense, a Christian view of marriage does have less cultural sway today than in previous generations. However, there has never been a time when all of cultural rightly understood marriage from a biblical perspective.

Scripture has been challenging the way culture views marriage since the beginning.

Clickbait Headlines Are Killing My Soul

Stephen Altrogge nails it.

What small churches can do (part 3)

Joe Thorn:

Smaller churches are no less hindered from doing what God has called his people to do than are larger churches. Having more people does not maker it easier. Get that. More people does not make it easier. Just have a conversation with pastors of larger churches and you will find that leading God’s people into mission isn’t easy for anyone. In fact, larger numbers often makes things more complicated. However, clarifying what the church is all about and what it will give itself to does make things simpler, if not easier.

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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:

  • When Worlds Collide by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond (Hardcover)
  • John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology by Burk Parsons (ePub)
  • A Survey of Church History, Part 1 A.D. 100-600 Teaching Series by W. Robert Godfrey (DVD)

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

The Long Way Home

Lore Ferguson:

I have numbered the dreams that have slipped from my palms over the years and a home was the one that died the slowest death, particularly the dream of a husband in a home. To paint the walls, to settle in, to build something as permanent as anything on earth can be: this is the work of a home.

You May Not Like ‘em, but You Have to Love ‘em.

Erik Raymond shares from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Life in Christ.

What the stories we consume say about us

This conversation between Dan Darling and Mike Cosper is worth watching:

Our Words Will Be Thunder When Our Life Is Like Lightning

Matt Capps:

When one examines the character qualifications for pastors in the New Testament, especially in the Pastoral Epistles, it becomes clear that there is a standard for spiritual and moral maturity (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9). In short, pastoral character is vital for faithful ministry. Don Carson has said on many occasions that what is most remarkable about the qualifications for a pastor is that they are so unremarkable. In other words, the quality of character called for in pastors can be found mandated for all Christians in other parts of God’s word.

The Organization That Will Surpass Google, Apple, and Wal-Mart

Mark Altrogge:

Many believers have written off the church. I recently talked with a man who told me he reads his Bible and prays every morning but wants nothing to do with a church. “They’re a bunch of hypocrites,” he seethed when I asked him why he so loathes the church. Maybe he’d had some bad experiences, but not every church is full of hypocrites. We’re weak and messy and fail often, but Jesus hasn’t given up on his people. He’s building his church, and he will be successful.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s big list comes from B&H, who have put a whole pile of great books on sale in anticipation of TGC’s National Conference (which starts on Monday):

And finally, from the Christ-Centered Exposition commentary series ($2.99 each):

If Avengers: Age of Ultron came out in 1995

This is fantastic:

One Day He Appeared

Really enjoyed this piece by Betsy Childs.

The Formula for Endurance

Michael Kelley:

Endurance is more spiritually important than we sometimes think. In the book of Hebrews, for example, the writer exhorts the suffering and persecuted church over and over again to endure. Remain. Persevere. Stay in the fight until the end. But how do you do that? What’s the formula for endurance? It’s surprisingly simple.

Fatigue from the Culture War That Never Was

Jake Meador:

There is good reason, then, to be a bit more skeptical of these culture war fatigue narratives than we often are. They’re still popping up on a regular basis (see this Molly Worthen piece that alludes to fatigue published in 2012 and this more recent Ruth Graham piece) and yet for all the noise the classic culture war issues keep popping up–Chick-fil-a in 2012, Hobby Lobby in 2014, the Indiana religious freedom law this year.

That said, on an anecdotal level anyone who has spent much time amongst younger evangelicals probably understands where these continued reports of fatigue from the culture wars are coming from.

True Marriage with Ray and Jani Ortlund

A few week’s back, a number of Acts 29 churches in the Houston area hosted a marriage seminar with Ray and Jani Ortlund (who are lovely people). The videos of the sessions are now available, courtesy of Jeff Medders.

The Mingling of Souls

#Minglingofsouls

There are a dizzying number of marriage books available on the market—well over 150,000, in fact. And a few of them are even good.

Clearly, we have a lot to talk about. With so many titles available, one has to wonder: what else is there to say? Can an author write a book on marriage that genuinely adds something of value? Thankfully, the answer is yes. And Matt Chandler’s latest, The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption, is a great example. In its eight chapters, Chandler (assisted by Jared C. Wilson) offer readers biblical and helpful principles for love, marriage, and life together from the Song of Solomon.

Though it is not as thorough in developing a theology of marriage as Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage, and is more typical in its approach than Chan’s You and Me Forever, I was surprised by The Mingling of Souls for four reasons:

1. Chandler always—always—speaks well of his wife. You can tell a great deal about a man’s character by the way he speaks of his spouse. I’ve read so many books and articles on marriage where the (male) author paints himself as the victim, the faithful husband dealing with an unpleasant wife undeserving of his love. When he confesses sin in the marriage, it’s usually her sin he confesses.

Friends, that’s probably not the person we want to go to for marriage advice.

This is emphatically not Chandler’s approach. As I read the book, I was consistently impressed at how Chandler avoids putting himself in the position of the victim. He lays the problems in his marriage at his own feet, rather than at his wife’s. And even where he does bring up an example of something she did that was wrong, he doesn’t focus on her action, but on his own ungodly response.

“The first seven years of our marriage were very difficult,” he writes. “I remember one occasion in particular because it marked a real turn in our marriage. I had said some very cruel things to Lauren that day. I was frustrated; I was angry. I thought she was selfish and self-absorbed, and I told her so. I admit with shame that I wanted to wound her” (202)

I’ll never forget this: Lauren came around the corner… and grabbed me. Then she pulled me really close to her, and she began sobbing. She cried and cried as she held me. She said, “I don’t know what happened to you, but I’m not going anywhere.” … It broke me. It wounded me in the good way, in the right way. It startled me and helped me in a way I could never foresee or imagine.… and that’s when I said, “I’m going to get help.” (203)

It’s easy for so many of us to point outside ourselves and treat our spouses as the problem in our marriages. It’s easy to play the victim. But to show the ugly side of yourself, to say, I was wrong or the problem is me, takes a great deal of courage and a tremendous amount of humility.

2. Chandler spends more time on teaching us to fight fairly than on sex. The chapter on sex clocks in at 24 pages, where the next one on fighting fair is 33. So why spend so much time on the subject? Because we’re going to spend a lot more of our waking time disagreeing with one another in our marriages than we are going to in our bedrooms. Sorry for shattering the glass, there, newlyweds. And let’s be honest, most of us don’t know how to fight fairly. Most of us have never even seen a married couple fight well.

And this is why we need to pay careful attention to the principles of fighting fairly presented.1 We need to be sure we’re fighting fair—we’re not speaking rashly or shaming our spouses, bringing up baggage or using children as leverage. And most importantly, we should strive for reconciliation—genuine, heartfelt reconciliation—as quickly as possible. “I’m not naive about the nature of some conflict… But as much as you are able as soon as you are able, make an effort to take at least part of the responsibility for the conflict, no matter how small that part may be” (167-168).

3. Chandler writes as if the marriage bed is to be kept holy. Because, y’know, it is. Rather than following the now all-too-common approach to the Song of Solomon and treating it as a ham-fisted sex manual (there are no edicts issued about what you “should” do, you’ll be pleased to know, ladies), Chandler emphasizes the fact that sex is holy and should be treated as such. This, again, is extremely helpful because it redirects our attention.

Rather than asking what we can or cannot do, Chandler encourages us to consider what does or does not bring God the most glory. And when God’s glory is our focus, a lot of our “can we” questions, are left behind.

[Sex] is meant to remind us of the God who gave it to us, who takes joy in unison with his people. We don’t need to overspiritualize sex to see it this way; we just need to approach it the way the Bible ordained and be grateful for it. Seeing sex as holy will also help us love our spouses more greatly. (133-134)

4. Chandler doesn’t write as one who’s got it all figured out. This is probably the most important thing about the book: Chandler’s tone is not like that of many books written by his contemporaries. He’s not the expert saying, “my marriage is great,” or even “my marriage used to be terrible, but now it’s awesome so go and do likewise.” Instead, he writes as one just like the rest of us—a man whose marriage has ups and downs, who is guilty of sinning against his wife, who frequently needs to ask her forgiveness, and who leans on the grace of God to be a good husband. And this, perhaps even more than its good teaching, is what makes the book worth reading.

It’s tempting to take the easy path when writing about marriage, to only confess the “safe” sins. But to reveal serious sin, to continually point to yourself as the problem in conflict… This is fairly uncommon, even among Christian authors. Yet, it’s only when we do this that we really get to give thanks to God as we see how the gospel has been at work in the author’s life. For him to be able to say, “All the time, I find so much new sin in me of which I need to repent.… But I know that Go dis faithful and that he will get the glory” (197), and know that the author actually believes this to be true. That is what we need more of in our marriage books—and more importantly, in our marriages. And if there’s anything that makes The Mingling of Souls a valuable read, it’s this.


Title: The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption
Author: Matt Chandler (with Jared C. Wilson)
Publisher: David C. Cook (2015)

Buy it at: Amazon