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:

  • God’s Love by R.C. Sproul (paperback)
  • Jonathan Edwards Teaching Series by Stephen Nichols (audio and video download)
  • Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God (ePub)
  • Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson (ePub)

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

5 reasons your church should be smaller

Tim Suttle:

For years it has bothered me that, although the majority of churches in America have fewer than 300 people, most church leadership advice comes from pastors of huge churches. The assumption that bigger is better pervades the church leadership culture. What if that’s the wrong tack? Here are five reasons your church might be better off focusing on faithfulness instead of success… even if it that means it will Shrink.

Dating non-virgins

Richard Phillips:

Here is the dark side, I think, of the chastity industry: it creates the sense that anyone who has failed sexually is broken and unclean.  But this is a repudiation of the gospel.  Would it be better if he or she had waited until marriage for sex?  Of course it would, and we should not downplay the value of sexual purity for singles and youths.  But we do believe in forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. Don’t we? It is one thing if the person is still practicing sexual sin and folly.  But if the person is genuinely repentant and committed to honor the Lord with his or her body, then we rejoice in the redeeming grace of our Savior.

LifeWay pulls “heavenly tourism” books

And about time, too. Now if Christian publishers would stop producing them.

7 Things I’ve Learned In 30+ Years Of Pastoral Ministry

Mark Altrogge:

I’ve been in pastoral ministry since 1980, when I came on staff as a pastor-in-training in our church. I was ordained in ‘81, and became Senior Pastor in ‘82. In the last 30+ years I’ve learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, and feel like I still have a long way to go. I don’t consider myself an expert on pastoral ministry, but thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned over the years (not in any particular order) to encourage you. So here we go…

Why White People Don’t Like to Talk About Race

Barnabas Piper:

I grew up in inner-city Minneapolis and had the chance to interact with people from many different cultures. When I was twelve my family adopted a black baby girl, my sister Talitha, which opened my eyes even more to the ways minorities are treated differently. My high school football team started multiple Southeast Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, and Native Americans. Interactions about racial and cultural differences were normal for us. They weren’t always pleasant and it wasn’t the perfect melting pot, but it was a context in which openly discussing race was ok as long as it was done with respect. I appreciated the chance to learn, observe, listen, and ask questions. I graduated and moved to lily-white Wheaton, Illinois for college. My first week on campus I was roundly chastised by a fellow student, a J. Crew type and Northface type, for referring to a friend as “black.” I was told it was “racially insensitive”  I realized I had entered a different world, one where well-intentioned whites were both clueless and and stuck when it came to race issues.

Links I like

Links

Theology resources on sale

Over at Westminster Bookstore, you can get three excellent books for $20 while supplies last:

Why not rather be cheated?

Jared Wilson:

When we become eager to enact God’s wrath through personal vengeance, it’s often because we distrust God’s ability to deal with injustice Himself. Or we distrust Him to do it in a way that satisfies us. When we lash out, fight back, take up zealous causes, angrily pontificate, feud on Facebook, tsk-tsk on Twitter, and berate on blogs, aren’t we, in essence, saying God needs us to set people straight? All too often what we’re really protecting isn’t God’s honor, but our reputation or influence.

The Novel as Protestant Art

Joseph Bottum:

So, here’s a proposition: The novel was an art form—the art form—of the modern Protestant West, and as the main strength of established Protestant Christendom began to fail in Europe and the United States in recent decades, so did the cultural importance of the novel.

The proposition begins to unravel as soon as we offer it, of course.

The Hobbit: how it should have ended

Yep:

Don’t mortgage the mission

This is a must-listen.

The 2 Deadly Interpretive Sins

Brandon Smith shares from Kevin Vanhoozer’s Is There a Meaning in This Text?

Mr. Rogers and the Importance of Christian Kindness

Chris Martin:

Obviously, I never knew the guy personally, so I can’t speak to his kindness in real life or his Christian faith (though he did go to seminary with R.C. Sproul and was a Presbyterian minister for a time). But, I get the sense Fred Rogers was a genuinely kind, good-natured person.

What would it look like if Christians treated their real neighbors with as much kindness as Mr. Rogers treated his fake ones?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Emotional blackmail in the church

Jared Wilson quotes John Piper, and it’s a doozy.

Reading for Information vs. Reading for Delight

Erik Raymond:

I certainly don’t know the precise reason, however, I have a hunch that it is somewhere between what Jacobs observes and what I concluded about my lack of devotion to the Omaha newspaper: we don’t delight in the Bible. We just scan it for information we don’t drink it in and digest it.

What do we do about this?

The open letters Christian keep writing on social media

Will Adair gets it.

Wishing Away God’s Design

Owen Strachan:

Over the last 50 years, American Christians have watched as our society has fashioned a brave new order for itself. Feminism and the sexual revolution have transformed the American home. Many men have lost any sense of responsibility for their family. They’re tuned out, passive, and self-focused. Many women feel great tension between their career and home. They are told by secular lifestyle magazines to pursue perfect “work-life” balance, but it’s hard to find. Increasingly, the sexes are in competition. These troubling developments represent phase one of the transformation of men and women.

5 Free Classes on Ethics

Andy Naselli shares some great options for free classes on biblical ethics.

The Redemption of Boredom

Michelle Lesley:

But whether you love chemistry or not, we’ve all been there. For you, maybe it was Shakespeare, or sitting on hold waiting for the cable company to answer your call, or one of those pointless, endless meetings at work that a two paragraph e-mail could have covered. Have you ever noticed how many boring moments there are in life?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Isn’t the Christian View of Sexuality Dangerous and Harmful?

Sam Allberry:

You won’t find Jesus teaching that your life isn’t worth living if you can’t be fulfilled sexually—that a life without sex is no life at all. You won’t see biblical Christianity insist that our sexual proclivities are so foundational to who we are—and that to fail to affirm such proclivities is to attack people at their core. All this comes not from biblical Christianity but from Western culture’s highly distorted view of what it means to be a human. When an idol fails you, the real culprit turns out to be the person who urged you worship it, not the person who tried to take it away.

On a related note, you should also read Christopher Robins’ response to City Church San Francisco’s announcement regarding their stance on homosexuality and same-sex relationships.

God, Make Me a Looker

Lore Ferguson:

This past week my pastor taught on active faith expressed in works. I don’t know that I would have had ears to hear his words quite so well had I not been soaking in the richness of George Muller’s biography for the past few weeks. Multiple times while reading a physical sob rose in my throat and tears filled my eyes. It was not wonder at the faith of Muller (though that was there), but wonder at the God in whom he trusted and the gift of faith on which he acted.

Who was St. Patrick?

A great excerpt from Christian History Made Easy:

On Sentimentality and Christian Writing

Ted Kluck:

That said, many people rip Christian writing because of how overtly sentimental it often is. But, I don’t think it’s sentimentality that kills Christian writing as much as it is a propensity for making the message trump the characters in the story. In making the “takeaways” obvious, we kill any shot we had at telling a decent story. Writing is hard enough without having to include an obvious subheading every four lines and having to shoehorn in a Bible verse that was specially harvested (often out of context) to prove my point.

Switching to a 5 day work week

Justin Buzzard shares some really good stuff here about why he’s made this switch. Pastors and ministry folks, consider it carefully (especially if your “season” of busyness too closely resembles winter in Narnia).

The evolution of the Batman films

This is a really great piece of art:

Batman evolution poster for print

If you’re a fan of such things, be sure to order a print from the artist.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Crossway deals highlight Kevin DeYoung:

Also worth checking out:

  • The Millennials by Thom and Jess Rainer—99¢
  • Lit! by Tony Reinke—$1.99
  • Surprised by Grace by Tullian Tchividjian—$1.99
  • Churchless edited by Barna and Kinnaman—$1.99 (should be interesting to see what the research they’re dealing with says)

Poor white people need Jesus and justice, too

Anthony Bradley:

While urban, justice-loving evangelicals easily shame white, suburban, conservative evangelicals for their racially homogenized lives, both communities seem to share a disdain for lower-class white people. “Rednecks,” “crackers,” “hoosiers,” and “white trash” are all derogatory terms used to describe a population of lower-class whites who have suffered centuries of injustice and social marginalization in America, especially from educated Christians.

What scares the new atheists

John Gray:

It’s impossible to read much contemporary polemic against religion without the impression that for the “new atheists” the world would be a better place if Jewish and Christian monotheism had never existed. If only the world wasn’t plagued by these troublesome God-botherers, they are always lamenting, liberal values would be so much more secure. Awkwardly for these atheists, Nietzsche understood that modern liberalism was a secular incarnation of these religious traditions. As a classical scholar, he recognised that a mystical Greek faith in reason had shaped the cultural matrix from which modern liberalism emerged. Some ancient Stoics defended the ideal of a cosmopolitan society; but this was based in the belief that humans share in the Logos, an immortal principle of rationality that was later absorbed into the conception of God with which we are familiar. Nietzsche was clear that the chief sources of liberalism were in Jewish and Christian theism: that is why he was so bitterly hostile to these religions. He was an atheist in large part because he rejected liberal values.

Delivering a bionic arm to a 7-year-old boy

This is a terrific ad:

Four Characteristics of Legalism

C. Michael Patton:

These characteristics of legalism that I am going to list here are not to mean that anyone who ever does any of these things is a legalist. Think of legalism as a sliding scale. Some of us practice legalistic tendencies here and there (I know I sure do). Some can find themselves practicing more of these on a regular basis and are more legalistic. Some can be full-blow legalists in all of these areas.

David Bazan, a Musical Counterfeit Detective

Kurt Armstrong:

What to do with Bazan? That’s more or less how it’s been with him all along, and probably how it ought to be. When he still called himself a Christian, Bazan only sang a handful of Jesus-y songs, but since his religious defection, he seems to find it hard to sing about anything else. “What to do with Bazan” has always been genuinely troubling, not so much because he’s a doubter, but because he’s such good artist. The older he gets, the more human folly he observes; the more folly, the more shiny idols there are to swing at. His work is usually pretty brutal, so poignant and unflinching that there are times it literally keeps me up at night, but it’s still worth my time, attention, and money because it remains so piercingly true.

Your Preaching is Not in Vain

Erik Raymond:

From my seat there is no other vocation that trumps pastoral ministry with the feeling of not making a difference. In addition to our knowledge of our own weakness there is the front-row view of many other people’s problems. The pastor sees people at their worst. Whether it is the horrific impact of sin on their lives or the activity of sin within the church. Furthermore, there is the overall burden to see every member presented complete or mature in Christ (Col. 1.28-29). Oh, and by the way, you, Mr Pastor, will give an account for the souls of your sheep (Heb. 13.17).

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is the last day to take advantage of this week’s deals from Crossway:

4 Marks of a Good Mentor

Mike Leake:

The younger we are in our faith the more likely we are to view God like Monty Hall. I’ve especially noticed this in working with teenagers. They stress out (and in someway rightly so) about big decisions like where to go to college, who to marry, how to get rid of zits, and what career to strive for.

SaskatcheWHAT?

This is clever:

Let Boys be Non-Medicated Boys

Greg Gibson:

My story is a common story for many boys. I talk with parents often about their intentions in medicating with Ritalin. I get it. They want their boys to succeed, have good grades, and not get in trouble, but there is a considerable complication with this manner of thinking. Sometimes, though, it might be needed. For instance, there are times when this sort of medication is medically necessary. I’m not a doctor, and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know all the ins and outs, but I do think that because we live in a fallen world, there are cases where it might be needed. Even the goodness of boyhood energy is broken by the fall. But in most cases, I think we are getting the diagnosis wrong.

But if I Preach Christ in Every Text

David Prince:

Hands immediately began to go in the air with questions that presuppose preaching Christ in every sermon can only be done at the expense of credible exegesis and hermeneutics. Students begin to ask questions like: If we preach Christ in every text how can we avoid allegory? What if the text isn’t about Christ? What if the sermon is on a particular doctrine? What if the sermon is simply advocating a biblical moral principle? Will all of my sermons begin to sound the same if I preach Jesus every week?

Christian bakery that refused to make cakes for same-sex marriage closes

Fearing future legal battles, the owners of a successful Christian bakery in Indianapolis who declined to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples have decided to shut down their business.

Links I like

Links

What Difference Does an Inerrant Bible Make?

R.C. Sproul:

Does it matter whether the Bible is errant or inerrant, fallible or infallible, inspired or uninspired? What’s all the fuss about the doctrine of inerrancy? Why do Christians debate this issue? What difference does an inerrant Bible make?

What if Wes Anderson directed X-Men?

Stunning:

New Spurgeon bio by John Piper

20 years ago, John Piper shared a message drawing from the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon. Now, Desiring God has turned it into a small book, Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity, which you can get for free.

How Do We Engage Someone Who is Neglecting the Gathering?

Good advice from Lore Ferguson.

We Are Called to be Irritating

Erik Raymond:

Christians are commanded to consider (pay attention to, be concerned for, look after, etc) someone and something. We are to be concerned for one another. This is a church directive for body life. And, we are to be concerned with stirring each other up.

What does this mean? It is an interesting word that means to irritate, provoke, or even exasperate. It’s actually used most frequently in a negative sense as in provoking someone to anger or irritation.

You Don’t Need a Bucket List

Randy Alcorn:

The term “bucket list” was popularized by the 2007 movie of that name. It’s an inventory of things people want to do before they “kick the bucket.” The idea is, since our time on earth is limited, if something is important for us to do, we have to do it now, because this is our only chance to do it.

This makes sense from a naturalistic worldview, one which doesn’t recognize any afterlife. It also makes sense from various religious worldviews that maintain there may be existence after death, but without resurrection and physical properties, and with no continuity between this life and the next. The one worldview in which the bucket list makes no sense is biblical Christianity.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H’s Perspectives series is on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale:

Misconceptions from the Internet

3 Reasons Why Your Church Should Hire a Millennial

Chris Martin raises an interesting point here.

Why children don’t think there are moral facts

A few weeks ago, I learned that students are exposed to this sort of thinking well before crossing the threshold of higher education. When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

Your Facebook Gender Can Now Be Anything You Want.

And the march toward Oneism continues…

Do You Love Books More Than People?

Kevin Halloran:

Books may seem preferable because we can control them. They don’t bother us with problems or need special attention. Books are good, but they are a means to which we perform our duty of loving others by feeding our flock God’s Word. How do we know when our love for people is not where it should be?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put a number of titles for women on sale:

Also on sale:

What is Your “Go-To” Pitch?

Erik Raymond (now blogging at TGC, incidentally):

As Christians we have something of a spiritual go-to pitch. When we are in a jam or need answers we shake off other pitches in favor of what we think will get the job done. Whether at work or in the home, physical or emotional, in the church or in your neighborhood—we get into jams. What do we do?

10 tips for making a great cup of tea

This is for all the tea lovers out there.

The Two Guys to Blame for the Myth of Constant Warfare between Religion and Science

Justin Taylor:

No one deserves more blame for this stubborn myth than these two men:

  • Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the founding president of Cornell University, and
  • John William Draper (1811-1882), professor of chemistry at the University of New York.

“What Season Was Adam Created in?” And Other Questions That Make Us Giggle

Derek Rishmawy:

How many of you would think to ask the question and argue at length over the question of “What season was the world created?” I mean, really, was it spring, fall, winter, or summer when Adam popped up in the Garden of Eden? Were the leaves just turning red, gold, and brown, or were they newly in flower? Was it harvest time, or were the flowers just blooming? Would Adam have to knit a sweater soon, or were things nice and balmy? Or maybe Eden was just perpetually living in summer–kind of like Orange County?

A Pattern Among Fallen Pastors

Garrett Kell:

Prof’s study was of 246 men in full-time ministry who experienced moral failure within a two-year period of time. As far as he could discern, these full-time clergy were men who were born again followers of Jesus. Though they shared a common salvation, these men also shared a common feat of devastation; they had all, within 24 months of each other, been involved in an extra marital affair.

Links I like

Yesterday, the Internet was going insane about llamas and a dress that changes color. My wife captures them both:

internet-hysteria

You’re welcome, Planet Earth. Now, on to $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond (Hardcover)
  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • The Spirit of Revival: Discovering the Wisdom of Jonathan Edwards (ePub)

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

More, But Not Less, Than a Carpenter

Tom Nelson:

I don’t know why I didn’t see it for so long, but one day as I was reading through the Gospel of Mark, I stumbled across a verse that stopped me dead in my tracks. In Mark 6, we are told that Jesus, who was spending his time as an itinerant rabbi, came back to Nazareth. The hometown crowd listened to Jesus teach in the synagogue, and they were stunned by their native son who was displaying such extraordinary wisdom and power. In their eyes Jesus was first and foremost a carpenter from Nazareth. Mark records the crowd exclaiming with a tone of incredulity, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3).

What Do You Really Want Your Church To Be Known For?

Stephen Altrogge:

I heard a story of a group of people who visited London in the time of Charles Spurgeon.  First they went to hear a famous preacher in another church. After they heard him they said, “What a preacher!” Then they went to Spurgeon’s church and heard him preach. After listening to Spurgeon they exclaimed “What a Savior!”

Recovering Joy In Seminary

David Murray:

A young man goes to Seminary bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Having sensed God’s call to the ministry, he’s not only excited about preparing for future service but also about growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. He expects that the next 3-4 years are going to be some of the best in his life.

Fast forward a semester or two, or three, and the eyes are dull and the tail is sagging and dragging. The excitement has evaporated, as he forces himself into classes each day. He’s not only lost his enthusiasm for ministry, at times he’s lost hope for his own soul. Instead of growing in grace and knowledge he feels his soul shrinking and even backsliding. Sadly, it’s an all-too-common scenario for many (most?) seminary students.

Icebergs of filth

In a stunning example of common grace at work, Russell Brand gets it right on the dangers of pornography:

When a group member may not actually be a Christian…

Unbelievers-small group

You’re sitting in your living room after small group, reflecting on the conversation of the evening. While you’re reviewing the night, you remember something a group member said, and it catches you off guard:

“I don’t know why we put so much emphasis on the Bible…it’s just a book.”

As you pray over this, you recall other similar comments—That’s just Paul’s opinion, God and I have an understanding, and so on—and become increasingly concerned that this person may not actually be a Christian.

And, guess what? They may not be.

The grim picture presented by statistics

According to numerous studies in both the United States and Canada, we’ve got good reasons to be concerned. For example, in a recent study commissioned by Ligonier Ministries, 41 percent of Americans somewhat or strongly agree with that the Bible is not literally true, and 46 percent do not believe it is entirely accurate in all it teaches. 71 percent believe they must contribute personal effort to their own salvation, and 44 percent believe there are many paths to heaven. Likewise, only 18 percent of Canadians believe the Bible is the Word of God, and the majority of Canadians (69 percent) and half of Christians believe it contains irreconcilable contradictions.

Clearly, we have some issues here. Given this information, it’s only logical to assume (though cautiously) that there are many men and women within our churches—and even some in our small groups—who believe they are Christians, but aren’t.

I realize this is highly contentious—perhaps bordering on arrogant—statement to make, so it’s important to clarify: In saying this, and in citing statistics like these, I’m not suggesting we have license to self-righteously determine who is and is not a Christian. Only the Lord ultimately knows if someone’s profession of faith is genuine. Similarly, we must also be careful not to confuse someone who is immature in his or her faith with someone who is actually unregenerate.

So how do you know the difference? Here are a few indicators.

The marks of an immature believer

An immature believer is one who is simply confused about what the Bible teaches and what it says. He may be a brand-new Christian in need of guidance or a long-time Christian who simply has not sat under authoritative biblical teaching. He may even be one of those people who constantly fights over secondary issues.

While an immature believer may not understand Scripture well or may have some serious errors in his understanding of God, he is ultimately marked by a teachable spirit. He is open to correction from people who love him. He takes heed to godly counsel. He has a desire to learn and grow into the likeness of Christ.

The Corinthian church is a perfect example of immature believers. They lacked discernment concerning doctrinal issues. They excused gross unrepentant sin. They abused spiritual gifts in worship. Despite all this, they received correction from Paul. Ultimately, they were teachable.

The signs of an unregenerate churchgoer

Here’s where things get complicated. The unregenerate churchgoer is very good at hiding in a crowd. Many of these churchgoers have been going to church for a long time; many more serve in the church as greeters, in children’s ministry, or even leading a small group (I’ve even heard stories of pastors discovering their fellow elders aren’t actually believers).

Like an immature believer, these churchgoers are marked by a lack of biblical knowledge or an errant understanding of God. Others are characterized by a dogmatic legalism that elevates morality to the highest form of authority. Some believe that grace frees us to sin unashamedly (Romans 6:15). Some believe that all things are lawful, despite not being beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12-13). All will turn away from sound doctrine and find teachers who will tell them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

They do not heed godly counsel. They do not submit to authority. They don’t have a desire to grow into the likeness of Christ (even if they say otherwise). They are not teachable. These are the clear marks of an unregenerate churchgoer.

What do I do if I think someone in my small group isn’t saved?

You might be thinking, “Does it even matter if I think someone’s a Christian or not? What do I do with the person who is already in my group?” The answer, again, is both simple and complicated.

Does it matter if we think someone may or may not be a Christian and how do we respond? Yes! Our friends’ salvation and ongoing relationship with Jesus should be of great concern to us. If we love our friends, we need to do what we can to assist them, whether they are mature believers, immature, or secretly unregenerate. Here are a few things you can do that may be helpful:

  1. Pray a lot. Only God can change the heart, and if you suspect someone in your group may not actually be a believer, then you need to be praying for him to draw this person to himself.
  2. Keep Christ the focus of our studies. Our studies must always be pointing to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Teach the gospel when it’s popular and when it’s not (which is all the time). Only the gospel has the power to transform the hearts of the mature, immature, and unregenerate alike.
  3. Be patient. Paul exhorted Timothy to teach with complete patience. Not everyone learns at the same rate. Everyone stumbles; everyone gives in to temptation and should be treated with gentleness.
  4. Exhort privately. If there’s a person in your group whom you’re concerned may not actually be a believer but thinks he or she is, talk to them privately about some of your concerns. Don’t point fingers or declare them to be non-Christians (since, again, none of us know for certain), but do challenge.
  5. Pursue accountability. We must cultivate an atmosphere where it’s safe to confess our sins, to be open about our struggles, and give and receive appropriate correction. It’s harder to hide when your culture encourages openness.
  6. Humbly hold your ground. Not everyone will endure sound teaching, but hold fast to it, especially when it’s hard. But the key here is to do it humbly, remembering that we all have blind spots in our theology (after all, if perfect theology were the benchmark for salvation, then we’d all be doomed).
  7. Be willing to say goodbye. Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is to ask someone to leave your group if they are disruptive, unrepentant and unteachable.

Are there unregenerate sheep in the fold? Probably. However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. So what do we do? We pray, we keep Christ the focus of all our studies, we show patience and mercy, we pursue accountability and confront sin in love, we hold our ground on key doctrinal issues while also admitting that we have blind spots, and we must be willing to say goodbye to those who will not do the same. Is it easy? Nope. Is it the right thing? Yep. Will it make a difference? Only time will tell.


An earlier edition of this article first appeared at Right Now Media and was republished at ChurchLeaders.com. This edition has been modified from these earlier versions.

 

Links I Like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Real Faces Behind the Gay Issue

Jasmine Holmes shares a moving story.

How to Think about Persecution When You’re Not Very Persecuted

Erik Raymond:

The first step in this is define what we mean by persecution. At its core we are talking about active opposition to the people of God because of their commitment to Christ. This obviously has varying levels. There is the boldest and most extreme, which involves the torture and murder of someone for their faith. The watching world was horrified to see this take place this weekend with the beheading of 21 Christians in Egypt by Islamic terrorists. There is also the far less intense persecution that comes simply from claiming Christ as Lord. This may include shunning from family, lose of promotion, mocking, ridicule, or other forms of opposition.

Brandon Smith’s new blog

My friend Brandon Smith’s now blogging over at Patheos. Go check it out.

Secondary Sources and Sermon Preparation

Joey Cochran:

From time to time Redeemer Fellowship receives honest questions from pastors curious about how we do things. Sometimes I have the pleasure of responding to those questions, especially when the topic falls within the wheelhouse of my skill set. Recently, a young pastor e-mailed Redeemer and asked about how Joe and the other pastors at the church use commentaries for sermon preparation. After fielding this question for this pastor, I thought that the response might also be beneficial for others to think through how they might use secondary sources and what priority they should have in sermon preparation.

Why the British are better at satire

This is interesting.

When Eternal Life Doesn’t Woo

Lore Ferguson:

The Christian life, I am finding, does not grow easier with time. I somehow thought it would. I envisioned the sage men and women we would become and find only that my flesh is just as prone to wandering today as it was four years ago or four months ago or four minutes ago.

Links I like

Links

A quick head’s up: I’m currently on a work-related trip to Nicaragua, which means that my writing time is going to be a bit spottier than usual. I’ll still be posting at least one thing per day, but it may alternate between original material and curated content. Having said that, here are a few links worth your time today:

R C Sproul’s Favorite Word

David Murray:

Apparently my favorite words in 2014 were “maximize” and “minimize.” How do I know? A member in my congregation playfully told me. Until then I had no idea that I was using these words so much.

As I’ve been reading through a number of R C Sproul books recently, there’s one word that reappears again and again. For example, it appears 58 times in in The Holiness of God, and 78 times in Dr. Sproul’s commentary on 1 & 2 Peter. See why I call it his favorite word? And what is it?

10 things to miss about the 90s Christian bookstore

Maybe.

A Great Teacher Can Simplify without Distortion

R.C. Sproul:

Often times our educational process is a failure with respect to learning. The syndrome goes something like this: A student attends college classes, takes copious notes, memorizes the notes, and makes an A in the course. Then he graduates from college and follows the same procedure in graduate school. Now he becomes a teacher and he has a great store of information about which he has been tested yet has little understanding. Information has been transferred but never processed or digested by the inquiring mind. This teacher now goes in the classroom where he gives lectures from his notes and text books. He allows little time for questions (he fears questions he may not be able to answer). He continues the vicious syndrome of his own education with his students and the game goes on.

The Hopelessness and Hope of the Greatest Commandments

Jon Bloom:

I have never once kept even the first clause of the foremost commandment: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” At the very best moments of my life, when my affections for God have been the highest and my devotion the strongest, my heart has been polluted with the indwelling sin of selfishness. And I am rarely at my highest and strongest.

An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians

Tim Challies:

We attach great significance to great deeds, don’t we? And we attach little significance to little deeds. And yet so few of us ever have the chance to do those exceptional things. But what if we are measuring it all wrong? John Stott says it so well as he comments on Galatians 6:2: “To love one another as Christ loved us may lead us not to some heroic, spectacular deed of self-sacrifice, but to the much more mundane and unspectacular ministry of burden-bearing.”

When Generosity Hurts

JD Payne makes a good point here.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Wading Into The Wild World Of Cosmo

This might be the most entertaining thing you’ll read all day.

New Dustin Kensrue music: “Back to Back”

I’m a big fan of Dustin Kensrue and Thrice. Kensrue’s upcoming solo album, Carry the Fire, will be released in April, and the first single is now streaming at Billboard. (You can also purchase the single at Amazon.)

An Open Letter to George Perdikis

Daniel Emery Price writes to the co-founder of the Newsboys who recently wrote about being an atheist.

Dear Angry Preacher Dude

Mike Leake:

At one point in his frothing at the mouth he said to his congregation, “You’re not going to like this. But you haven’t liked the sermon up until now, so why would I try to please you now. You are going to be mad no matter what I do….”

Few pastors would be this forthright. But I wonder how many of us aren’t dragging around his same assumption; namely, that our congregants hate hearing truth.

But they don’t hate God’s Word…if they love Jesus.

Why do you hate me so much?

David Murray addresses an important question as we continue to see the culture around us become increasingly hostile to Christianity and Christians.

The President at the Prayer Breakfast

Albert Mohler:

Intellectual honesty also demands that we recognize that going back centuries to the era of the Crusades is not really helpful when looking at the fact that the current threat is a resurgent Islam, which understands full well that the modern secular West lacks a worldview that can lead to an adequate response. Secularism and Islam are not evenly matched.

What Mr “Know it All” Doesn’t Know

Erik Raymond:

In the church we have a lot of impediments to growth in godliness. We live in a sinful world, have imperfect preachers, have trials and tribulations, and a relentless enemy who endeavors to be the stick in our spokes at every turn. But there is one great impediment to growth, this is the impediment of thinking that we already know everything. Let’s call this person “Mr Know-it-All”.

Mr Know-it-All does not really think that they have to learn anything. They are already there. They are, in effect, unteachable.

I Believe in Magazines: Proverbs for Publishing

James K. A. Smith:

Magazines of this sort are tangible expressions of Hunter’s thesis about cultural change: such magazines have a disproportionate influence on culture because instead of working bottom-up in a populist fashion, they work top-down by targeting and reaching those who wield cultural power and influence in society.  Some are inherently uncomfortable with this because they imagine that in a perfect world there are no hierarchies, or because they basically resent their own cultural privilege, and thus want to reach “the masses,” some generic audience that never really exists.