Links I like (weekend edition)

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Happy Independence Day, American friends! Hope you enjoy a great day of celebrating, fireworks, delicious food—and get to avoid any weird patriotic services at church this weekend. Speaking of which…

I struggle with patriotic worship services

Marty Duren:

My discomfort with patriotic worship services culminated when visiting a church during vacation. The front of the auditorium was covered by an enormous American flag. Beneath the flag was the opening for the baptistry where the pastor baptized a new believer.

Under the American flag. With no cross in sight, I suppose it was covered by stripes. It was not surreal for me; it was troubling. The imagery was all wrong.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just few for you today, starting with A Comedian’s Guide to Theology by Thor Ramsey ($1.99). Thor’s book from Cruciform Press, The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever, is well worth considering, too. Also on sale:

And today’s the last day to get these deals from Crossway:

How to Distinguish the Holy Spirit from the Serpent

Sinclair Ferguson:

How do we distinguish the promptings of the Spirit of grace in His guiding and governing of our lives from the delusions of the spirit of the world and of our own sinful heart? This is a hugely important question if we are to be calm and confident that the spirit with whom we are communing really is the Holy Spirit.

Pastor, You Should Share The Pulpit

Steve Rahn:

We are not a large church. We don’t have a staff—just me. It’s not a necessity that they fill in. I’m not out of town or anything. It probably even seems a little strange to some folks that I’m at the service but not preaching.

I love to prepare and preach sermons. Love it. It’s easily my favorite part of pastoral ministry.

And these men are not getting paid to preach (whereas I am) and they have fulltime jobs outside of the church (I don’t). So why have them preach?

The Final Break Between God and Country

Thomas S. Kidd:

So here we are, a week after the gay marriage mandate, and the Fourth of July is upon us. What should we do? One appropriate option—one we have always had—would be to politely ignore the Fourth of July in our families, and our Sunday services. Again, what does 1776 have to do with our worship? Around the world, our Christian brothers and sisters from Nigeria to Nepal will not say anything about the Fourth of July. Why should we?

Evangelism in a Culture of Religions Nones

Jonathan Dodson:

Rehearsing a memorized fact, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins”, isn’t walking in wisdom. Many people don’t know what we mean when we say “Jesus” “sin” or “cross.” While much of America still has cultural memory of these things, they are often misunderstood and confused with “moral teacher” “be good” and “irrelevant suffering.” We have to slow down long enough to explore what they mean, and why they have trouble with these words and concepts. Often they are tied to some kind of pain.

Links I like

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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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Kindle deals for Christian readers

The One Phrase That Will Help You Embrace The Cost of Relationships

Michael Kelley with one of the best things you’re going to read all day:

Every relationship you’re in is going to cost you something.

If you’re a parent, you know it’s true – your relationship with your children is going to cost you some patience, some frustration, or some preference. That’s why we eat at Taco Bell – it’s not because the fare is delectable; it’s because that’s where our kids want to eat. So we “eat” the cost and we take them.

Five Reasons To Take Strong Courage Today

Mark Altrogge:

There are times in life when we need someone to say to us, “Take Courage!” or “Take Heart!”  Like the time I was about to rappel backwards over a cliff.  I looked down and it was a long, long way and I’d never done this before.  My friend who had secured my rope to a tree assured me, “Just push off backwards.  You’ll be ok.  You’re tied to a tree.”

When we are discouraged we need to hear someone say, “Take Courage.”  Maybe you are facing an overwhelming situation.  Maybe you were recently been laid off or face an uncertain future.  Perhaps you are facing a serious health challenge.  Maybe you’re not facing a life and death situation but you’re facing several crazy kids who have the gift of frazzling. But at one time or another we all need to hear God say, “Take courage.”  Here are a few reasons we can.

Seven Warning Signs of Affairs for Pastors

Thom Rainer shares seven warning signs he’s gleaned from years of having far too many conversations with ministry leaders who’ve committed adultery.

5 Questions I Wished My Accountability Partner Would Ask Me

Brad Hambrick:

Without further ado, let’s begin to look at questions you wish your accountability partner would ask and why. These five questions are merely meant to be representative and to spark creativity (stale, repetitive questions result in withering accountability). Use them as a launching pad for the kinds of conversations you should be having as you establish lasting and enjoyable accountability in your life.

A public service announcement

HT: Mike

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s deals from Crossway are focused on reading and understanding the Bible:

Also on sale is Has the Church Replaced Israel? by Michael Vlash ($2.99).

Stop The Racist Jokes

Jeff Medders:

Racism is satanic. And so are racist jokes. We can often feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin with the race conversation. Let’s start here: No more racist jokes. No more. Zero. I’ve heard too many jokes about Mexicans (my race) swimming across and doing manual labor. I’ve heard too many jokes about Asian people’s eyes and driving. I’ve heard too many jokes about Black people’s hair—it’s all wrong. And as Christians, we must adopt a zero tolerance culture toward racism.

Take heed

Nick Batzig:

Consider the following: If an innocent man could choose a piece of fruit over the infinitely valuable God (Gen. 3:6); if the most righteous man of his day could get so drunk that he passed out naked before his sons in his tent (9:21); if the most faithful man of his day could father a child with his wife’s handmaiden (16:1–4) and twice hand his wife over to other men (12:11–15; 20:1–2); if the mother of promise could laugh at the words of the God of promise and then lie to Him about doing so (18:9–15); if “righteous Lot” could greedily pick the most materialistic and sexually depraved place for himself and his family to live (13:8–13), and could hand his daughters over to the sexually perverse men of the city (19:4–8); if the son of promise could show partiality to his oldest son because he liked his hunting skills (25:28), and he, too, could hand his wife over to another man (26:6–11); and if the namesake of Israel could swindle his brother for a birthright (25:29–34), then so could I.

Evolution not Dissolution of the Parachurch

JD Payne:

Though much of my twenty years in vocational ministry has been connected to the local church, I have also been significantly involved in parachurch (i.e., alongside of, not in competition with the local church) ministries. Even extending back to my college days, campus ministry was a major part of my leadership development process. Seminaries, mission agencies, and other parachurch organizations have always been near to my heart. Much Kingdom good may be found with such ministries.

However, my concern with such ministries, both when I was immersed in them vocationally as well as now, is that we were never evolving.

His Eye is on the Sasquatch

Jared Wilson:

I like to think about those creepy fanged fishies deep in the Mariana Trench, swimming around in the murky darkness of the oceanic fathoms, their dangling bioluminescence their only lantern into the future. Most of them we will never see — at least, not on this side of the new earth, where we don’t have the lung capacity or the mechanical capacity to withstand the pressure of such depths. There are species down there we have zero clue about. I think of exotic fish in clear pools of water in the darkness of undiscovered caves deep in the jungles that human feet will never enter. In the thickest centers of the wildest forests, there are species of insects and birds that are yet undetected.

What’s the harm if pastors aren’t theologians?

Good stuff from Kevin Vanhooser:

HT: Derek

God’s plans are good (even when we don’t like them)

god-plan-good

There’s a verse that’s in every Christian household or office space (and not just because it’s in our Bibles). Maybe it’s on a coffee mug or a t-shirt. Perhaps a poster or a greeting card. Or perhaps it’s featured on a decorative throw or a tattoo. It’s the life verse of virtually every women’s ministry leader and children’s ministry director.

Of course, you know I’m referring to Jeremiah 29:11, and it’s assurance that God knows the plans he has for us, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

It’s a wonderful encouragement, isn’t it? We look at it and say, “Wow—God has a plan for me!” That plan, of course, is one we assume to be free from any sort of difficultly, strife or conflict. But to paraphrase the oft-quoted line—this verse you keep using; I do not think it means what you think it means.

When we read this verse, we typically do so through the lens of the western desire for prosperity, safety and security. That God’s plan obviously includes a full bank account, a big house and kids who remember to wash their hands after using the toilet. But as much fun as those things might be—especially the last one for the germaphobes out there—this isn’t really what’s promised by God to the Israelites. And make no mistake: this verse offers a promise to them, first and foremost.

Although we all (should) know this, we can’t forget that Jeremiah 29:11 comes as part of a larger conversation between God and the newly exiled Jewish people. After years of rejecting God, of consistently rebelling against him and his commands, Jerusalem and the nation of Judah was finally overtaken by  Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians, and Jeremiah was there to witness the whole thing. As they sat in Babylon, many so-called prophets came to them with messages promising a swift return to Jerusalem and a restoration of their fortunes.

Surely, God wouldn’t leave the people in exile, away from the promised land, for more than a few months. Maybe a couple of years, tops. But any longer than that, come on…

And yet, of these prophets God said, “Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord” (8-9). They were liars, deceivers who preyed on the people’s hopes and dreams. But their promises and prophecies were empty babbling. They were fanciful ideas from their own minds, and nothing more.

Instead of a swift return, God had something else in mind for his wayward people:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jer. 29:5-7)

So, rather than telling them not to unpack their belongings, God says get comfortable: Settle in Babylon. Get jobs. Get married. Have children. Be a blessing to this city, because you’re going to be here for a while. For the rest of your lives, in fact.

And it’s in this context that God says to his people, “For I know the plans I have for you.”

Despite this being primarily a promise to the Israelites, there is a principle that is true for us as well. Though, to be honest, I doubt us Christians feel anymore joyful about it than the Israelites of the day. Sometimes we’re in communities and context where we’d rather not be. It’s difficult to imagine trying to be a faithful Christian in an incredibly harsh context—one where you can be killed simply for your beliefs. And yet, for many, that’s the reality they live with. But God is still good, isn’t he?

Even here in North America, there are certainly times when we might prefer to hunker in the bunker or move somewhere far away from all the people who need Jesus because they really don’t like this Jesus we represent. And yet, it’s to them God has sent us. And he has a plan for us here: it is to serve those in need. To proclaim truth of the gospel. To do all we can to encourage all around us to thrive, and to be “a light to those who are in darkness” (Rom. 2:19b). To seek the wellbeing and welfare of our communities because those who are perishing need to see that Christians really do care for them.

In other words, God’s plan for us right now is to be his ambassadors in a foreign land. And God’s plans are always good (even when we don’t like them). We aren’t to sit on our duffs and just wait until Jesus returns. We are to go about the work he has commanded us. Because that is the plan he has for us—and it is the best future any of us could hope for.


Adapted from an earlier post written in October 2009.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

Finally, you may also want to check out Amazon’s big deal sale, which features deals on a number of general market titles, as well as few Christian ones.

Where the battle rages

Ray Ortlund shares an encouraging quote from Martin Luther.

When God Interferes With Our Plans

Tim Challies:

God’s providence is the single greatest hindrance to the floods of sin that would otherwise gush out of our sinful hearts. If it were not for God’s care and preservation, even we Christians would be far more sinful than we dare imagine. If it were not for God’s gracious interference, our best efforts in holiness would not be enough to keep us from drowning in sin and heaping contempt on the name of Christ. God takes far better care of us than we do of ourselves. For this reason, every Christian owes unending thanks to God for preserving us from what we would otherwise do and who we would otherwise become. This is roughly what John Flavel teaches in chapter 6 of his work The Mystery of Providence. Here are a few of the ways in which God interferes with our desire and attempts to sin against him.

The Child Preachers of Brazil

This was interesting:

Adauto prepared the crowd to receive his daughter, who is now 11 and has been preaching since she was 3. On Monday nights, Alani lays on hands; on Wednesdays, she has a revelations service, in which she and other preachers make predictions about the future; on Saturdays, she hosts a radio show about the Bible. She also does Skype prayer sessions with followers who live far from her or are too sick to meet her, and preaches at other Pentecostal churches and gatherings.

The pastor offered practical reminders. There would be no need to touch Alani excessively; Jesus’ followers were able to receive miracles after only brief contact with his garments. And everyone needed to turn off cellphones, lest they ring and “interrupt a miracle.”

Argument and Conversion

Mike Leake:

Thomas Scott was an unbelieving minister who labored to see his congregation reform their morals. He was discouraged as the folks seemed to never be able to live rightly no matter how he preached. This is no surprise—moralistic preaching never works.

No matter how wonderfully Scott argued, his people would never be able to truly reform their ways. Contrast this with how John Newton interacted with Thomas Scott. Knowing he was not converted—but that God was working on his soul—Newton lovingly engaged Scott with the gospel.

How Younger Preachers Can Help Their Hearers

Eric Davis:

Young men are often raised up by God to take the baton in various ways to faithfully follow previous generations. One of those ways in the privileged and sacred task of feeding Christ’s flock through biblical preaching.

However, as you read Scripture and spend time ministering to God’s people, one thing becomes clear: it is not always easy for people to readily receive the ministry of a young man. A young preacher’s hearers sometimes need help.

What to expect when we preach the gospel

friends-gospel

In modern times, we tend to look at the world around us and say, if only we were X—whether X is hip, trendy, socially active, or whatever—then we’d win the culture to Christ. We act as though there’s some magic formula to this. That somehow we can make everything go exactly our way if we could just unlock the secret.

Now, imagine having these sorts of aspirations—of winning your people with your powerful and prophetic preaching—and rather than turning to God in repentance, they turn on you with murder in their eyes. That those plotting your demise are not strangers, but your childhood friends.

And not your friends only, but your family: your parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles…

They all want you dead.

What would you do?

Jeremiah, often described as the weeping prophet, didn’t need to imagine this, for it was his experience. He wrote in chapter 11 of his book of their scheming. For he heard them say,”Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more,” not knowing that “it was against me they devised schemes” (Jeremiah 11:19).

How would you respond to opposition of this degree? Would you flee? Would you be tempted to retract your message? Or would you turn to the Lord to defend your cause as he did, pleading, “But, O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause”? (Jeremiah 11:20)

While many around the world don’t have to wonder, for it is their daily reality, I hope none of us here in North America will ever have to experience exactly what Jeremiah did. None of us should ever desire persecution of this nature, or actively pursue it. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember as we consider the experiences of Jeremiah, the Apostles, the Reformers, and so many others right up to our own day is that the gospel is offensive. If we preach the truth—if we preach that Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, died for our sins on the cross and rose again on the third day—we are preaching “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8).

The gospel shows us as we truly are—lost, depraved, unable to save ourselves no matter how good and moral we attempt to be. Thus, it confronts us with uncomfortable realities. We know we can never be good enough (even by our own standards, to say nothing of God’s). We know the deeds and thoughts done in private. The gospel shatters our self-image, and so we are left with two options: repent or retaliate.

And that’s the hard thing for so many to get, I fear: generally speaking, we’re not going to win any popularity contests when we’re preaching the gospel in a culture that runs contrary to it. The hard-hearted Israelites to whom Jeremiah preached would not hear him, and in their rebellion sought his death. Today, we’re called bigots for upholding biblical truths and not being able to bless actions that run contrary to them. We’re called intolerant for our exclusive claims. Even when people think we, individually, are very nice, collectively, Christians are personae non gratae.

This is what we should expect when we represent Christ, no matter how well we represent him. Some will be drawn closer, but others—many others, perhaps—will be repelled. That’s what we should expect, because it is what we’re told will happen. So do not lose heart if social action doesn’t win the affections of the lost, or being culturally relevant still results in us being left out in the cold. Give thanks to God and carry on.

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Sex Trafficking: What it is, why it matters, and what you can do about it

Barnabas Piper interviews Stephanie Clark, executive director of Amirah.

Why We Need a Christian Counter-Culture

Ivan Mesa shares a few excerpts from the following video:

Saint Samson

David Murray:

Following my attempt to resurrect Jephthah’s reputation, I now turn my attention to Samson. In some ways, Samson is even harder to rehabilitate due to his popularity (or should I say “infamy”) in children’s Bible story books. We’re all familiar with the narrative and the moral: “Don’t be like Samson who committed adultery, murder, and suicide.” …Is resuscitating Samson a lost cause? I don’t think so, for the following reasons.

Four Keys for Avoiding the Anger Trap

Mark Dance:

The more vocal our critics become, the more vocal we should become in prayer. I realize that this concept is both counterintuitive and countercultural, but it really works! Have you tried adding your enemies to your prayer list?

5 Ways to Keep Church Discipline from Seeming Weird

Jared Wilson:

Recently, the subject of church discipline has hit the radar in many circles due to some high profile controversies and scandals.  The way some churches appear to poorly exercise church discipline is as distressing as the way many Christians reacted to the concept. There has been a collective incredulity about church discipline as some kind of “strange fire” in the evangelical world.

I can’t help but think that this aversion is partly because, as God has built his church, his church leaders have not always kept up with what makes a church a church. So even to mention the idea of a church disciplining its members strikes tenderhearted and undereducated Christians as weird, mean, and legalistic. How do we work at keeping church discipline from seeming weird?

 

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s deals from Crossway focus on social issues:

You can also get Get Out: Student Ministry in the Real World by Alvin L Reid for $4.97, The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel for $2.99, and my tiny book, Everyday Theologyfor 99¢.

The Importance of the Pastoral “I Don’t Know”

Jared Wilson:

One of the most valuable sentences in a pastor’s arsenal is “I don’t know.” The pressure to know and be everything everybody expects us to know and be can be pride-puffing. I once worked at a bookstore where we were told never to say “I don’t know” to a customer. We must give them some answer, any answer, even if it was a guess or a likely wrong answer. Customers don’t want to hear “I don’t know” from service people, but even a wrong answer makes them feel helped. I confess the temptation to “satisfy the customer” has persisted through my ministry days, for a variety of reasons. I want people to feel helped. And I also don’t like looking like a rube.

Are You Insulting God in Worship?

Sam Storms:

Little words can mean a lot. They can make the difference between good and evil, between heaven and hell. In this case, a right understanding of a single word is the only thing that prevents an act of worship from degenerating into a colossal insult to God. It’s the word “for.”

What Dodgeball Taught Me About Growth in Christ

Kevin Halloran:

Looking back at where I have come since I left my physical “prime”, I notice that I have grown deeper in my knowledge and love for Christ, my love for others and the desire to see souls saved, my desire to bless His church with the gifts He has given me, and my ability to withstand temptation by the Spirit’s power.

The Bible and Same-Sex Relationships

Tim Keller:

There are a number of other books that take the opposite view, namely that the Bible either allows for or supports same-sex relationships. Over the last year or so I (and other pastors at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City) have been regularly asked for responses to their arguments. The two most-read volumes taking this position seem to be those by Matthew Vines and Ken Wilson. The review of these two books will be longer than usual because the topic is so contested today and, while I disagree with the authors’ theses, a too-brief review can’t avoid appearing cursory and dismissive. Hence the length.

I see five basic arguments that these books and others like them make.

How healthy is our growth?

healthy-cancer

Any time I hear a pastor speak about church growth—whether in a book, a podcast, or a conference message—I want to cringe. Not because I’m against having a large number of people as part of a congregation, but because congregation size is so often used as a defense: What we’re doing must be working since people are showing up, so God must approve, right?

And yet.

The thing I wonder about among many of these apparently healthy churches—and perhaps it’s just me being me—is how healthy are they, really? And how would you know if the growth experienced is actually beneficial? Based on what I’ve read so far in The Prodigal Church, Jared Wilson shares this concern. He writes:

It is a customary mantra of ministry that healthy things grow. And yet sometimes healthy things shrink. This is certainly true of our bodies, when we’re eating right and exercising. I mean, the formula doesn’t always work in every circumstance. “Healthy things grow” sounds right. But cancer grows too. (40)

Now think about that for a second: healthy things grow—but you really need to qualify what you mean by healthy growth. Are the people attending growing in godliness, or are more people simply showing up? Are more people being invested in so their gifts can flourish, or do they have to look elsewhere in order to exercise their gifts? Are leaders growing more deeply in their love for the people they serve—or are they beginning to hate them?

This is the danger of the unqualified (and unhelpful) mantra of “healthy things grow.”

If having a large number of people show up every week is our primary goal, we will inevitably do whatever it takes to make it happen. And as more people show up, while we might enjoy the high of it, we’ll eventually grow bitter toward some—perhaps many—of them because they don’t give, serve, or contribute to the life of the body in any discernible way.

The thing we want risks becoming the thing we hate.

The body will be ravaged by cancer, and we’ll be hard-pressed to do anything about it.

So what’s the solution? Having people show up on a Sunday isn’t bad, obviously, and if people are legitimately meeting Christ, we should praise God for his use of crooked sticks such as us. But maybe the best place to start, perhaps, we sit among the congregation on Sunday morning or we serve them as our vocation, is to begin asking ourselves not “are we growing”, but “are we growing in the right way”? Is our growth helping us—or is it hindering us?

There isn’t an easy answer to the question—even if that difficulty is merely accepting the truth—but it is worth asking.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to get these titles in the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series for $5.99 each:

Also on sale is Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan for $2.60.

How Age of Ultron should have ended (part one)

And just for fun…

5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel

David W. Jones:

No matter what name is used, the essence of this message is the same. Simply put, this “prosperity gospel” teaches that God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy, and personally happy. Listen to the words of Robert Tilton, one of its best-known spokesmen: “I believe that it is the will of God for all to prosper because I see it in the Word, not because it has worked mightily for someone else. I do not put my eyes on men, but on God who gives me the power to get wealth.” Teachers of the prosperity gospel encourage their followers to pray for and even demand material flourishing from God.

Cochrans4Chicago Update

Glad to see this update on my friend Joey’s family and ministry (and that he’ll be staying in the Chicago area for a while).

What kind of men does God use?

Ray Ortlund:

The Bible says, “If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).  This is a big part of the power of the gospel.

Horatius Bonar painted that picture with greater detail after observing the kind of “vessels” God clearly used with divine power.  Writing the preface to John Gillies’ Accounts of Revival, Bonar proposed that men useful to the Holy Spirit for revival stand out in nine ways.

No, I Won’t Bless the Food

Don Whitney:

Maybe it reflects the limits of my own experience, but it’s been my observation that nowadays fewer followers of Jesus pause like this at the beginning of a meal to give thanks for what they are about to eat.

This seems to be true for individuals and for families, at home and in public.

Why the decline? As with all Christian practices and disciplines, unless each successive generation is taught the reason for something, it soon devolves into mere a routine, then an empty tradition, and then disuse.

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:

  • Moses and the Burning Bush Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • John by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)
  • After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology—Essays in Honor of R.C. Sproul (Paperback)
  • The Spirit of Revival: Discovering the Wisdom of Jonathan Edwards (ePub)
  • In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)

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

You Don’t Need a Good Reputation

Aaron Earls:

Is that really how you want to live your life—overly concerned with how others view you? Chasing after a good reputation places us at the whims of those around us. That’s never a good place to be.

Even if our desire is to have a godly reputation, we are still missing the point. Ultimately, what does it matter if everyone around you thinks you are an obedient follower of Christ, if underneath that’s not the case?

A Pastor’s response to the death of a childhood abuser

Mez McConnell:

I thought I might dance a little jig or even feel a sense of release and elation at news I longed dreamed about and ached for as a kid. This is a woman who drove me to such despair that I attempted to set her on fire in her (drunken) sleep when I was no more than 10 years old. But there is no jig. There is just a heaviness of heart and the nagging itch of my suffering and her evil never admitted in this life. The problem is that I want to feel joy at her passing. I want to rejoice in the belief that she will face the judge of all the earth for her crimes against me. I want to revel in the thought that she is having her own spiritual Nuremburg moment right now. That father time has caught up with her and her sins are about to be found out and brought into that terrible, perfect light. That the angels in glory will see just what a monster she truly was.

I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me

This was interesting, and kind of terrifying (note: language warning—there is a bit of cussing in this article).

Four Reasons Why Pastors Should Quit

Mark Dance:

In light of the famously exaggerated statistics about pastoral attrition, you may be wondering why LifeWay’s pastor advocate would hope for even more to quit. We are all painfully aware that there are people in the ministry who never belonged there in the first place. While I prefer encouraging pastors to fulfill their call and finish strong, I am also a pastoral pragmatist who desires to speak the truth in love to those who are miserable in ministry, as are those around them.

I want to suggest four check-points to consider before quitting or continuing in ministry.

They Believe God Is The Only One Who Wants Them

Jared Wilson:

Hersh said that a Christian church service in the village might have been one of the most vibrant experiences of worship she’d witnessed. There was so much joy, so much emotion, so much confession, so much exaltation of and desire for God. They were excited, expectant, enthusiastic, enthralled. “Is it always like this?” she asked a local.

“Yes,” came the reply. “They believe that God is the only one that wants them. And so they want him.”

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

My friend Barnabas’ new book is available for pre-order now at Amazon. You can get Help My Unbelief for $7.99 now. This is one I’m looking forward to checking out. Also on sale:

The free book of the month from Logos is Esther by Anthony Tomasino from the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series. Christian Audio’s free audiobook is Being a Dad Who Leads by John MacArthur.

Who Are Leaders Accountable To?

Matt Perman:

The necessity of leaders being accountable to those that they lead follows from the fact that all people are in the image of God and equal. Because all people are equal, no person can lord it over another. Which is the same as saying, anyone in a position of leadership is accountable to those that they lead. Nothing else reflects that equality.

You Can Almost Always Trace Legalism Back To This

Stephen Altrogge:

Because life is complicated, there are times when I want someone to spell things out for me. Just tell me what to do. Tell me how God wants me to teach my children. Tell me how I’m supposed to eat. Tell me whether or not it’s okay to watch “Mad Men”. Tell me if I’m supposed to give exactly 10% to my church. Just make it black and white for me.

The problem with this approach is that it almost always creates legalism.

The State of Evangelicalism in Canada

If you were ever wondering how to pray for Christians in Canada, this might help.

Ordinary Christian Work

Tim Challies:

Yet that old tradition is never far off, and if we do not constantly return to God’s Word and allow it to correct us, we will soon drift back. It is encouraging that today we find many Christian pastors and authors exploring what it means to be ordinary Christians doing ordinary work as part of their ordinary lives. It is encouraging to see these leaders affirming the worth of all vocations. The questions every Christian faces at one time or another are these: Are Christian plumbers, cooks, doctors, and businessmen lesser Christians because they are not in “full-time” ministry? And what of Christian mothers and homemakers? Can they honor God even through very ordinary lives? Can we honor God through ordinary lives without tacitly promoting a dangerous kind of spiritual complacency? What does it mean to avoid being conformed to this world and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2) in this area of vocation?

Brothers, We Are Not Managers

Andrew Wilson:

I suspect we autocorrect eldership to leadership for two reasons. First, especially in larger churches, we think of ourselves in organizational terms, as a firm rather than a family, let alone a flock. So we look for vision-casters and managers instead of fathers and shepherds. Second, most of us don’t understand what elders are or what they are supposed to do. Are they like tribal chieftains? Advisers? Beard-stroking sages?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series on sale for $5.99 each:

Also on sale:

Myers-Briggs is bunk, but I don’t care

The obvious criticism of this test is that it’s based on dichotomies. Are you perceiving or judging? Introverted or extroverted? You must choose. This reeks of pseudo-science. Of course, most of us don’t fall clearly on one side or the other. When the specific introvert vs. extrovert duality was a hot topic a few years ago, many writers persuasively argued against reducing socialization patterns to a simplistic either/or. Indeed, reams of psychological literature debunks MBTI as wildly inconsistent—many people will test differently within weeks—and over reliant on polarities. For instance, someone can certainly be both deeply thinking and feeling, and we all know folks who appear to be neither. “In social science, we use four standards: are the categories reliable, valid, independent, and comprehensive? For the MBTI, the evidence says not very, no, no, and not really,” organizational psychologist Adam Grant wrote in Psychology Today after reviewing all the science on MBTI. It’s pretty damning.

How Much of My Sinful Past Should I Tell My Children?

John Piper offers a solid answer to this question.

Five dangers of skipping church

Nathan Rose:

I read recently that my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has a total of 16 million members, but on a typical Sunday only 6 million of those members attend their local church’s corporate worship gathering. Considering the importance and necessity of corporate worship for the Christian, this is a very discouraging statistic. Not only is it disheartening, it is also spiritually dangerous for those who profess Christ, but regularly miss worship with their church family. Below, I want to list some reasons and explain why skipping church is a really bad idea.

How Whitefield walked through controversy

Ray Ortlund shares some insights from Arnold Dallimore’s biography of Whitefield.

Five Ways to Go Wrong with Church Discipline

C. Michael Patton:

There is hardly a practice in the local church that is misused more than “church discipline.” Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have many answers and its misuse is understandable. I think there are three primary ways that we can find it misuse: 1) It is never used at all, 2) it is misused in an unbiblical way, and 3) people are brought in for discipline for “sins” that don’t require its use.

The Search for Twitter Significance

Joey Cochran:

I want you to know that at some point during my last half-decade enjoying Twitter I have been each of these people or all of these people. I’m poking fun at me as much as the next guy or gal. And if you follow me on Twitter, you know just how true that is. You could stick my face right next to each one of these observations. But I want you to ask yourself, where could I stick my face? Does your Twitter Icon belong under any of these habits?