Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to get these titles in John Piper’s The Swans Are Not Silent series on sale for $3.99:

Also on sale:

B&H has a number of volumes from the Perspectives series on sale:

What’s the one thing a church needs from its pastor?

Loved my friend Matt’s answer to this question:

Looking for abortion truth in big media

Sam Jones:

But sometimes we are confronted with such naked, aggressively obvious journalistic mischief that to not call it out would be to bury our heads and consciences in the sand. And then other times, the way something is misreported or misrepresented can be far more than a political scrimmage or a culture war skirmish; sometimes bad journalism is a matter of life and death.

In the case of big media, abortion, and the Planned Parenthood expose videos, we have a case of both.

Why Are Anti-Judgmental People So Judgmental?

Randy Alcorn:

There’s a growing trend I’ve noticed and have become concerned about: namely, that people who are anti-judgmental are SO judgmental of anyone else they perceive to be passing judgment. One, they’re often wrong; two, they’re just as harsh as those they condemn and continuously assume the worst.

There Are No Unanswered Prayers

Courtney Reissig:

In the painful years of waiting for God to answer our prayers for a child this side of heaven, we never dreamed he would have given us two at once. When we stare at the faces of our twin boys, in all their boundless energy of toddlerhood, and now as we stare too at the face of our newborn son, we are regularly brought to worship the God who not only answered our prayer, but answered more abundantly than we could have imagined.

The Importance of What We Do in Secret

Derek Thomas:

Inauthentic ministry was a charge leveled against Paul. The Corinthians said that there was discrepancy between the way he wrote his letters and the way he was in person: “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2 Cor. 10:10). It is a serious charge, and in his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul spends almost the entire time defending himself. The critique came from jealousy and therefore bore no legitimacy. But the fact is, the charge can be true—not of Paul, but of us. Leadership calls for genuineness, authenticity and transparency.

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What do if my pastor is on the Ashley Madison list?

A good word here from Ed Stetzer, who estimates that at least 400 church leaders will be resigning this Sunday (or in the weeks to come):

I know this is hard, but quiet resignations and hushed conversations are not the answer. Pastoral repentance is different—the Bible says it is.

I know of pastors right now who are negotiating a quiet resignation after an Ashley Madison related affair—but you don’t get to do that if you have taken on the office of pastor.

Aaron Earls also offers a good encouragement here.

The Mark of Christianity That is Disappearing from Our Worship

Trevin Wax:

As a part of corporate worship, confession has historically been near the beginning of a service. Once we have been summoned to worship God, and once we have seen and begun to experience His presence, we are like Isaiah – falling on our knees before a majestic and holy God, amazed when seeing the brightness of His glory, ashamed when seeing our sin for what it is. Before we can move forward in worship, or move outward in mission, we fall down in repentance.

4 Kinds of Pastors

Nick Batzig:

About five years into the pastorate–trying to discern my own weaknesses and deficiencies–I started to realize that there are essentially four kinds of men (the lazy pastor aside) who labor in pastoral ministry–“the Idealist,” “the Visionary,” “the Worker Bee” and “the Connector.” While these categories are somewhat over-generalized and a bit artificial (since we are all very complex people), I have found them helpful to my own ministry. Those men who fall only into one of the four categories either have to labor hard to surround themselves with the other three, or they do an enormous disservice to the congregation they pastor because of the greatness of the imbalance they create. Finding men with all four of these characteristics is beyond rare, because they are borderline geniuses. While this rare breed is often used mightily by God for the growth and development of the church, such a man must work diligently to fight against trying to micromanage everyone and everything in the church; otherwise, he too will do a great disservice to the congregation that he has been called to pastor.

5 Questions on Creating an Organizational Culture

Eric Geiger:

I recently sat down with Todd Adkins and Barnabas Piper to discuss leadership and reading for the “Five Questions Leadership Podcast.” You should check out the podcast, which has skyrocketed on iTunes, for some great content. Here are the five questions we discussed about organizational culture, with a few notes I jotted down after each question.

Cultivating a gracious climate in your church

Jared Wilson:

A message of grace may attract people, but a culture of grace will keep them. What our churches need, not in exchange for a gospel message but as a witness to it, is a gospeled climate. But how do you get that? How do you develop in your church community a safe space to confess, be broken, be “not okay”? What are some ways to cultivate a climate of grace in your church?

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Longevity and Millennials in the Workplace

Eric Geiger:

I learned a lot from my father about work ethic and offering your best, but I have not spent the last two decades in the same role or place. Few from my generation [Generation X] would quantify longevity as “the same role for your entire life,” and few from my generation will stay in the same role/place. In other words, longevity means different things to a Boomer and an Xer. And different things still to a Millennial.

You Really Don’t Need To Work So Much

This was really good:

Some people think that Americans just prefer work to leisure; a strong work ethic, according to this theory, has become a badge of honor for anyone with a college degree. If you’re busy, you seem important. There is also the pride that people can have in their work; they also find love and free food at workplaces, and go to conferences as a form of vacation. Others think the rise in work must somehow be related to inequality: as people at the top of the income ladder earn more money, each hour they work becomes more valuable. And there’s the theory that our needs and desires grow as we consume more, producing an even greater need to work.

Too Big Not To Fail

Jared Wilson:

If we look at Babel as the prototype for the pursuit of fame and power, we see a few interesting things by way of diagnosis. First, the pursuit of renown is really a pursuit of significance. Why do I want you to notice me, to tell me how great I am? Not because I fundamentally trust or value your opinion, but because I fundamentally distrust any notion that I’m anything in anywise special. The proof in that is that one ounce of praise from a few isn’t enough; I want more from many. Secondly, the pursuit of renown is the result of fear. “Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” We seek security in attention.

Like the Babelists, we build our towers, not knowing the great dangerous irony — that the stronger we get, the more vulnerable we become. The fall is prefaced by pride. The split second before the great collapse is the proudest we’ve ever been.

Is the Apocrypha Scripture?

Mike Leake:

The books in question were all written by Jews in what is known as the “inter-testamental” period (430 BC-AD 40). Some of these books can be helpful for understanding the history during this time. Other books are entertaining stories. Some sound like typical biblical Wisdom texts like the Psalms or Proverbs.

So why don’t we accept them as Scripture? There are 5 main reasons, but first I think its important to understand a fundamental difference in the way Roman Catholics view the formation of the canon and the way we Protestants view the formation of the canon.

Six Lessons Learned in the Waiting

Chris Hefner:

Nearly five years ago, I walked into Dr. Greg Mathis’ office and shared with him that I believed God was leading me to become a Senior Pastor. That seems like a long time ago. In some ways, those years seemed an eternity. In another sense, they passed rapidly. When I first shared with Pastor Greg, part of me thought I would enter into a Senior Pastor position quickly. Well, that didn’t happen. Let me offer some of the lessons I’ve learned in the waiting process.

Tell the story that’s *yours* (For the Church)

enticing-enough

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:

We tend to follow a pretty standard three-point summary:

  • what your life was like before becoming a Christian
  • what happened to draw you to Christ
  • what your life is like now.

I’m pretty sure that there’s no Christian who couldn’t divide up their story in this fashion.

But that doesn’t mean our stories are meant to fit neatly into a template.

The first time I realized this was when I tried to share my testimony in Honduras. It was 2006, I’d been a Christian for just over a year, it was my first missions trip, and it was super-awkward. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what happened (though I did), nor was it that I was particularly uncomfortable in front of a crowd (though I was). What made it awkward was the way I was telling the story wasn’t right.

Remember the standard three-point summary? Well, usually when you hear it, it goes something like this:

“Before I was a Christian, my life was a mess. I was living for myself, joyful on the outside but empty on the inside, numbing my insecurities with drugs, alcohol and/or sex with random strangers. One night, things reached a breaking point—I hit rock bottom—and I gave my life to Jesus. After that, I realized I’d found what I’d been looking for and now I’m living my life for him, serving in my church and found an extra five dollars in my coat this morning.”

Okay, that probably came across a little cheeky, but I don’t mean it to be glib. When I hear how God has brought someone to this obvious breaking point, and taken them through the proverbial fire, and when I see how their lives have been changed through their relationship with Jesus Christ, I am so thankful. But not everyone has an obvious rock bottom moment. And for some of us, the story doesn’t get better at the end.

Keep reading at For the Church.

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Anything is Possible if You Work Hard . . . Until it Isn’t

Dan Darling:

“Anything is possible if you work hard . . . ” this is a message that we hear, over and over again, a credo embedded in the ethos of many Americans. I say “many” because the realities of those of us who have grown up in safe, relatively affluent suburbs is vastly different from my brothers and sisters who’ve grown up in more hope-starved, crime-ridden, opportunity-free precincts of American life.

Do All Infants Go to Heaven?

Sam Storms:

This is more than a theoretical issue designed for speculation. It touches one of the most emotionally and spiritually unsettling experiences in all of life: the loss of a young child.

The view I embrace is that all those who die in infancy, as well as those so mentally incapacitated they’re incapable of making an informed choice, are among the elect of God, chosen for salvation before the world began. The evidence for this view is scant, but significant.

Planned Parenthood: Invitation, Explanation, Indignation

John Piper:

Indignation is cheap. Anyone can get bent out of shape. There is no great moral capital in human anger. It comes easy. But the absence of anger (and sorrow) in some cases is a sign of a disordered heart.

When an evil is as massive as the killing of human beings is in our nation, large and hard words lose their force over time. What is needed is real stories, real experience, real glimpses — not just of the babies, but the hearts of those who kill them. We are getting those, in this peculiar cultural moment.

Kindness Is Not Weakness

Russell Moore:

Listen to Christian media or attend a “faith and values” rally, and you’ll hear plenty of warfare speech. Unlike past “crusades,” however, such language is directed primarily at people perceived to be cultural and political enemies. If we are too afraid of seeming inordinately Pentecostal to talk about the Devil, we will find ourselves declaring war against mere concepts, like “evil” or “sin.” When we don’t oppose demons, we demonize opponents. And without a clear vision of the concrete forces we as the church are supposed to be aligned against, we find it very difficult to differentiate between enemy combatants and their hostages.

A Plea to Churches to Use Their Bibles

Jim Elliff:

Without turning back to a visible and rigorous commitment to the Bible, churches will continue to lead the way in moral decline, giving credence to all kinds of errant and ungodly ideas. Why are some churches, for instance, on the vanguard for homosexuality when the Bible clearly places homosexuals outside of His people? Homosexuals are to be loved, also a biblical truth, but repentance is necessary for homosexuals to be accepted into the visible body of Christ. Only people without the word of God as its guide can miss this easily discernible message.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

One Year Later: Ferguson, Justice, and the Gospel

Russell Moore:

Most white evangelicals get this idea when we are talking about issues of abortion. I once heard a progressive pastor I knew to be pro-choice on abortion preach on the issue with the conclusion, “We wouldn’t have to worry about this abortion debate if we just taught our young people sexual morality.” In many ways, that’s true enough. But it avoids the larger question of a predatory political and economic system in which unborn children are not even recognized as persons with rights to life and liberty.

Questions of racial justice are not simply about whether white individuals use the “N” word or wish harm to black people. The issues include questions such as how community policing can better reflect the communities they serve.

Russell Moore also answers the question, “Have the Planned Parenthood videos changed anything?”

What is a biblical theology approach?

A copy of the new NIV Study Bible arrived in the mail the other day, and it’s been a lot of fun to check out the study notes. Here’s a great video on the approach they took to developing them:

Four Warning Signs You Are Not Listening to Your Team

Eric Geiger:

It is foolish to not listen to those on your team. Not only do you lose the benefit of their collective wisdom and experience, but also you simultaneously devalue individuals and harm the culture of your team. Here are four warning signs that you are not listening to people on your team.

Unanswered Prayer

Tim Lane:

Have you ever wondered why it feels like so many of your prayers go unanswered? How often have you prayed for something and nothing seems to change or happen based upon your clearly articulated requests? If we take a moment to look at the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, you may have a better idea for why some of your prayers are not answered in just the way you wanted. Let’s start with some basics.

Non-religious pro-life groups? Here are two

Marty Duren reminds us that the pro-life position doesn’t have to be based on religious conviction—some are based on common sense and science.

Do you suffer from “Cause Overload”?

Barnabas Piper:

One way this exhibits itself is “cause overload.” For Christians who long to be serving others and fighting for justice the buffet of options to choose from is paralyzing. Whereas once we could serve in one or two places in our local community now we see requests from kickstarter and GoFundMe to help an adoptive family in Cleveland or a single mom in Sacramento. We receive the newsletters from community development groups in Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston. We want to defund Planned Parenthood and stop systemic injustice in law enforcement and the judicial system. We want to care for the families of slain police officers and soldiers. We want to tell unreached peoples about Jesus. And we need to choose for whom to vote next year.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots of new deals today, including the following from New Growth Press:

And David C. Cook has put a pile of books by Warren Wiersbe on sale:

Hope for the Unhappily Single

Marshall Segal:

Maybe it is an increasing consumerism in dating and marriage, where people are pickier because there are more choices (especially through new media, like online dating). Maybe it is the lengthening of adolescence, in which twenty-somethings less and less feel the need to grow up and take on responsibilities of starting a family, owning a home, and more. Maybe it’s the success of women in the workplace, creating more vocational opportunities for females that could delay the pursuit of a partner and family. Whatever the roots, it’s a reality. If you have single people in your church, you very likely have unhappily single people in your church — and that crowd is not getting any smaller.

The scary question for some in the waiting is, “Will I be single forever?” Would God really withhold the good gifts of love and marriage and intimacy, and children, from me?

3 Reflections on Cultivating Theological Poise

Gavin Ortlund:

If we see doctrinal fidelity as the goal of our ministries, rather than an essential and noble means for the larger goal of the knowledge and kingdom of Christ, we are probably insufficiently sensitive to the dangers of under-contextualization. We are not well poised.

Political Correctness and Plain Rudeness

David Murray:

But there’s a difference between fighting for free speech and using filthy speech. There’s a difference between telling the truth and simply insulting opponents. There’s a difference between ridiculing policies and ridiculing people. There’s a difference between breaking liberal control of politics and losing all self-control in the process. There’s a difference between highlighting bias and resenting any challenge to explain ourselves. There’s a difference between bravery and bluster. There’s a difference between being fearless and being foolish.

Why would any Christian support Donald Trump?

Trevin Wax asks a good question:

How is it possible for salt-of-the-earth, family-loving conservative Christians to be taken with a serial adulterer who won’t take back misogynistic comments and who publicly trumpets the fact that he doesn’t make mistakes that require God’s forgiveness?

Self-Care and Self-Denial

Amie Patrick:

The topic of self-care, particularly as it relates to physical and emotional health, has long confused and challenged me as a Christian. While I’ve deeply resonated with much of the common sense in the philosophy of self-care, other aspects have troubled me and seem completely incompatible with Christianity. I couldn’t agree with Scripture and at the same time agree with arguments encouraging me to pursue a self-focused, indulgent, comfort-based lifestyle. On the other hand, I heartily agreed in principle with discussions of self-care as stewardship. Still, I usually came away with more of a sense of heavy obligation than of freedom and gratitude. I often saw God as an auto mechanic pacing around, irritated and inconvenienced by my failure to get my car in for regular maintenance.

Five lies I believed about faith and work

5-lies-work

Ever since I turned fifteen and could get a worker’s permit for a summer job at a pool concession stand, I have loved to work. My work history includes time delivering mail, as a garbage collector on my college campus, in marketing sound systems, and now as a missionary with an organization training pastors in expository preaching.

Even though I had wonderful Christian parents who taught me the value of working hard, I didn’t always see work as a major element of Christian discipleship. In my head, I knew some truths about how my Christian faith informs my work, but those truths didn’t make the journey down to my heart.

Several times I had to learn the hard way of how God wants us approach work as a Christian. God, in His grace, revealed to me several lies that seeped into my work life. I pray that the lessons I learned will give you a greater view of God and His purpose for your work while strengthening you to work for His glory.

Lie #1: Work is not a part of God’s perfect plan.

For a long time I believed that the necessity of work was a result of sin and not part of God’s original plan and good design. This probably entered into my brain as a kid watching TV characters complain about work or hearing the constant whining of peers complain about their homework. “In a perfect world,” I would think, “Nobody would have to work and I could just sit around all day doing what I wanted”—which in those times was playing video games, eating junk food, and watching sports. (Funny, I didn’t think about the thousands of people whose work made enjoying food, video games, TV, or even sitting on a couch possible for me!)

The Scriptures show a different reality, one that says work is a fundamental part of God’s good plan for the world. God gave Adam what theologians call the “Creation Mandate”—the command to subdue the earth and have dominion over every living thing (Genesis 1:28). This command for purposeful work to cultivate the earth came before humanity’s fall into sin. Sin tarnished God’s good design, making our work toilsome (Genesis 3:17-19). While sin changed many elements of work for us today, it did not change the fact that we are image bearers created to reflect the image of a working God.

Lie #2: Work is all about me.

I believed this lie for a long time. In my mind and heart, I was the one I worked for. I wanted the money, opportunity, and status that came from my work. When something at work made getting what I wanted difficult, frustration would overwhelm me, causing my attitude and motivation to suffer.

Scripture says that our work should be done, “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 6:7). This means that He is our ultimate boss, the One we will ultimately report to for our work. Our work also touches many other people because in God created work to be a means of blessing others. This goes for the barista, the car salesman, the truck driver, the teacher, and the banker. This new focus away from ourselves helps us obey the two great commandments of Scripture: to love God and love others.

Lie #3: Full-time ministry is the only work serving God.

I struggled finding my calling in work for a while because I believed the false dichotomy that said I couldn’t serve God while working a “normal job.” Sure, a ministry job like pastor or a missionary uses your skills to more directly advance the Kingdom (which is an honorable thing!). That doesn’t mean a job other than pastor or missionary doesn’t serve God as well. If you do your job for the Lord, it is serving Him.

Think of Joseph, who by faith honored God as a shepherd, prisoner, overseer of Potiphar’s house, and eventually the second in command of all of Egypt. By faith, Daniel similarly served in the Babylonian government and stood for his God against strong cultural pressures and even death warrants. By faith, Obadiah, as an official of the king, protected and fed God’s prophets in a cave while they ran from the queen who sought to kill them (1 Kings 18:3-4). Time would fail me to tell of all of the other brothers and sisters throughout history who were faithful gospel witnesses in their workplace, stood compassionately for biblical truth, fought for justice, showed mercy, cared for the poor, and stewarded the resources God gave them in service to His Kingdom. Bottom line: we are servants of God no matter if we serve in “official” ministry positions or not.

Lie #4: Rest is optional.

One summer during my seminary days, my boss gave me a great offer: “Kevin, this summer you can work as many hours you want—even if you go into overtime.” Overtime and overtime pay? The ears of this cash-strapped seminary student perked up and I soon made it my goal to cash in on this offer. After a few weeks filled with 55+ hours of work while trying to balance responsibilities at church, I realized that I slowly began to dread work, serving at church, and spending time with friends. I was drained both physically and spiritually—I needed a break!

I was missing a vital part of God’s plan for work. In God’s design, man is to work and to rest from his work. This imitates God’s rest in creation (Exodus 20:8-11) and in the words of Tim Keller is “a celebration of our design.” True rest refocuses our hearts on the Creator and rejuvenates us for more work.

Rest has many dimensions and doesn’t only refer to physical rest. Spiritual rest is found in Christ and obtained when we put our faith in Him. In Christ we rest from trying to earn God’s approval through works (Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:3). This means we need the rejuvenating effects of spiritual rest in communion with God through prayer and the Scriptures, solitude, and fellowship with other believers.

Lie #5: My work gives me an identity.

This lie is actually more of a half-truth—work does shape part of our earthly identity. But if I bank my life and entire identity on my work, my self-worth and emotions will be dependent on my performance. If work is going well, it quickly becomes an idol. That idol will eventually disappoint me, leaving me disappointed until I have reason to hope in myself again. And when things get difficult, I question my identity and if I’m doing what God called me to do.

Jesus wants us off of the emotional rollercoaster that comes with finding our identities solely in our work. First and foremost, we are forgiven sinners, bought by the blood of Christ and are children of God. The very reason Jesus died was “to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Titus 2:14). If you believe in Christ, your core identity is no longer in your work but is in your new identity as belonging to Christ. This fundamental aspect of your identity should be weaved into the very fabric of your being both today and 100,000 years into the future.

Working in the Gospel’s Power

Christ’s death and resurrection gives believers a new identity and a new power in the Holy Spirit for our work. Instead of separating work from worship, we can fuse them together for the glory of our King. Instead of focusing on the frustrations of work in a fallen world, we can rejoice that Christ’s work on the cross makes it so it won’t always be this way. And instead of striving to achieve worth, you can rest knowing that you are of infinite worth in your Father’s eyes.

When you are tempted to believe lies about work or who you are in Christ, may these truths serve as a steady anchor for your mind and heart.


Kevin Halloran is a servant of God, husband, and blogger at Word + Life. Serves with Leadership Resources International training pastors worldwide to preach God’s Word with God’s heart. You can follow Kevin on Twitter.

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

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin on sale for $3.49 this week. Be sure to grab a copy of it. Also on sale are How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot ($1.99) and Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day by Garry Morgan (99¢).

A Vintage Kindness

Bryan Loritts:

Several years ago I sat down to breakfast with my son at a local diner. When the server first came to our table I knew something was wrong.  She had anything but soft edges.  This woman had “don’t mess with me,” written all over her face.  Words like, rude, short andabrasive came to mind.  As if this wasn’t enough, she messed up our order, and offered a meager, disingenuous apology.  I was heated. Didn’t she know she existed to make my day better?  So I left the gratuity section of the bill blank, yanked my son out of the diner and headed off.  Then the Holy Spirit began speaking to me, showing me how my utilitarian outlook on her had set the stage for me responding to her meanness with an extra helping.  I made a pit stop at the bank, pulled out some cash, then headed back to the diner. When I finally got to speak to her, in vintage cabernet tones I told her that while I felt she could have done better, my response was unkind.  I asked her for forgiveness then gave her the money.  Then she surprised me.  A tear trickled down her once hardened face.  For the next several moments she unloaded, telling me about the divorce she’s going through, the tough financial times and the difficulty she’s having with one of her kids.  Sure, while kindness had broken her, I found her response to my kindness elevating my vision of her.  She was no longer a nameless server who existed for my convenience, but a real person with a story.  I guess kindness got to both of us.

More Than Sovereign

Adam McClendon:

I was trained in a discipline that focused on the sovereignty of God, and I’m grateful for that.  It has centered my life on someone beyond myself; nevertheless, the primary and almost exclusive characteristic of the nature of God promoted was his sovereignty.  As a result, I found a theological formula that was inadequate in this moment of distress.  Something important was missing.  After all, if God is like Hitler, his sovereignty brings no comfort.  I did not doubt God’s sovereignty in this moment.  What I was struggling with was his goodness.

Sovereignty alone was no longer sufficient.

 

Google Translate vs “La Bamba”

Surprised by Scripture: Love and Spirit-Inspired Insults

Joe Rigney:

Because it connects being filled with the Spirit to these pointed words, this passage is a challenge to us. First, it demands we recognize this type of speech can be motivated and animated by God’s Spirit. It forces us to enlarge our vision of the Spirit-filled life. Not that the Spirit-filled life doesn’t include sincere love and patience and kindness and gentleness. But apparently the Spirit-filled life is compatible with this kind of direct, pointed speech too. Faithfulness to Scripture demands we have a category for a Spirit-inspired insult.

The Acute Pain of Trust

Michael Kelley:

All three of our children, for the first time, will go to school this year. This will be the last first day of school. And though I’ve prided myself on not being “that parent,” I’m for sure “that parent.” I’ve done my share of fretting and wondering whether or not we have rightly prepared this kindergartner, like his brother and sister, for this first real entrance into the big, wide world. When I think about those things, and I think about my big boy walking away with his newly minted lunch box in his hand into a classroom for the first time, my heart hurts.

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

This sale on the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway is wrapping up really soon. Get the following titles for $5.99 each:

Also on sale are:

Video Killed the Pulpit Star

This was very interesting.

9 Marks of a Healthy Worship Leader

Alex Duke:

I suppose I’m equal parts grateful and terrified. After all, the title “worship leader” is nowhere in the New Testament. This fact tempts even the most levelheaded toward the subjective and superficial, where already drawn lines and white-knuckled commitments merely evidence what we’ve previously seen, known, or been comfortable with.

So I wanted to pass along a few thoughts I’ve developed as I’ve prayed through what my church is undertaking in the coming weeks, and what your church may be going through right now. I’ve unoriginally titled them “Nine Marks of a Healthy Worship Leader.”

Don’t Know What a Fetus Is? Here Are Your Options

Clarifying words from Peter Kreeft, via Justin Taylor.

Performance in Music City USA

Ray Ortlund:

But there is a dark side to our culture of performance.  The dark side is bondage to appearances — smiling, beautiful, impressive, attractive appearances.  Nashville is a city of truly amazing people.  But under the surface are also stories of unspoken disappointment, insecurity, heartache, failure, loneliness, fear, regret, injury, loss, even as the show must go on.  We may well wonder, “Does anyone care about my broken heart?”

Focus on the Family

D.L. Mayfield:

I was told for so many years to focus on my family, to make it good and strong and holy. But now all I ever want to tell my daughter is that it is sometimes those who speak the loudest about morality and spirituality who are all bluster and bluff.I remember Bill Cosby as being one of my dad’s heroes. He was respectable, safe, clean, funny. He was a regular guy. He was a dad, exasperated and busy and lovably frustrated by the self-absorbed monsters he himself had created. As a family, we would watch the Cosby show. I always thought it was a bit boring, especially those long extended musician solos. When I was young, it seemed to me that I had no taste. I didn’t like jazz. I didn’t like the comedy records that my dad played. And I never really liked Bill Cosby. When I was twelve, the youth pastor at our church was a man in his forties. He was married, and his wife terrified me with her frizzy red perm and long, claw-like nails. This youth pastor looked a lot like Sully from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (one of the other few television shows we were allowed to watch). He had long, curly brown hair and very broad shoulders. He did not seem to mind at all when people mentioned that he looked a little bit like Jesus.

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How to Repent Without Really Repenting

Jim Elliff:

The religious man often deceives himself in his repentance. The believer may sin the worst of sins, it is true; but to remain in the love of sin, or to be comfortable in the atmosphere of sin, is a deadly sign, for only repenters inhabit heaven. The deceived repenter would be a worse sinner if he could, but society holds him back. He can tolerate and even enjoy other worldly professing Christians and pastors well enough, but does not desire holy fellowship or the fervent warmth of holy worship. If he is intolerant of a worship service fifteen minutes “too long,” how will he feel after fifteen million years into the eternal worship service of heaven? He aspires to a heaven of lighthearted ease and recreation—an extended vacation; but a heaven of holiness would be hell to such a man. Yet God is holy, and God is in heaven. He cannot be blamed for sending the unholy man to hell despite his most articulate profession (Heb. 12:14).

A Pastor’s Greatest Regret After a Lifetime of Ministry

Joe McKeever:

A wise minister learns to say, “No.” And if he finds that impossible, he can take a smaller step and practice saying, “Can I pray about that, and get back to you?” Stalling for time—even an hour—allows him to look at his schedule more objectively.

Five Lessons From The Gym

David Murray:

After my second episode of pulmonary embolism last summer, I decided to finally get serious about physical exercise. I’m on the thin side (understatement of the year), I’ve never really needed to watch my weight, and I’ve kept quite active, but I’d definitely become a bit soft and flabby. I needed to get my heart pumping and my muscles hardened to pump that blood around my system as part of my new medical regime to avoid more clotting. Apart from the obvious physical benefits, I’ve also learned some valuable spiritual lessons along the way.

Your brain prefers paper over digital

This is really interesting:

Every year, consumers spend more time using digital devices. Every year, more media is consumed digitally. Naturally, advertising dollars are increasingly flowing to digital as well. But, don’t pull the plug on that direct mail campaign just yet. New research has again shown that content on paper affects our brains in different and more powerful ways.

HT: Jeff Brooks

Who is the most dangerous guy at your church?

Erik Raymond:

Sure, we all can spot the unbeliever who doesn’t fluently speak the language of Zion, we can identify the person from doctrinally anemic backgrounds because they keep cutting themselves with the sharp knives in the theology drawer, and of course any Calvinist can sniff out an Arminian within 20 seconds.

But I submit that these types of people are not the most dangerous people that attend your church. At least, they are not in my experience.

Instead, the most dangerous person at your church is the apparently smart guy who is unteachable.

Confessions of a Bibliophile

Keith Mathison:

Sometimes I have read books for the wrong reasons. During my first semester of college, I ran across a three-volume work titled The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a harrowing, often firsthand account of the Soviet Union’s concentration camp system. When I took it to the counter to check it out, the librarian said to me in a rather obnoxious way that no one who started that book ever finished all three volumes, and then he informed me that I would never finish it either. I took that as a challenge and proceeded to plow through two thousand pages of dense narrative on a very unpleasant subject. Although I finished it simply to prove someone wrong, it turned out to be a great book.

Links I like

Links

Every year I’ve taken a month off of blogging to rest up, recharge and catch up on a number of other projects. During that time, I’ve asked a number of friends from around the Interwebs to team up and provide great content for encouragement and enjoyment of everyone who takes the time to read this blog.

This week I’ll begin my break in earnest, popping in only for the occasional post should events warrant it, as well as handling the regular “Links I like” feature. During my time off, I’ll be catching up on a few major projects (including proposals for two books), working on a small group study for teens (more on that in a while), and maybe trying to get to bed before 1 am.

See y’all soon!

Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H has a huge sale going on right now, with volumes from the Holman Commentary series on for $2.99:

Old Testament:

New Testament:

Also on sale are:

3 Pieces of Advice for Rural Church Ministry

John Powell:

Ministry in the modern church is growing ever more urban.  But there are still a significant number of pastors who will fight in the trenches of kingdom warfare from a rural church.  Here are 3 pieces of advice for those who would consider going to the hard places and farming communities of rural America.

Away With Utilitarian Arguments Against Abortion

Jared Wilson explains why we should stop using arguments like this one: “You should be pro-life because what if you aborted the person who would go on to cure AIDS or cancer, or end poverty?”

John Piper Reflects on Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Implosion

This was an interesting Q&A with John Piper regarding Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. Some undoubtedly will take issue with Piper’s comments regarding abandoning the institutional church (but they shouldn’t).

Pray for the Third Wave

John Ensor:

Almost eight years ago, I wrote to encourage the church to pray for the Third Wave. I argued that the end of abortion as a business would be in sight when the prolife movement was not only joined, but led, by Black and Latino Christians.

I was wrong, at least partially. And I am so thankful.

Fractured Christians

Tim Challies:

…what if Jonah was a book with three chapters instead of four? A three-chapter Jonah is a powerful story of a man running from God, being transformed by God, obeying God, and witnessing a great and unexpected revival. But Jonah has four chapters, and it is in that final chapter that everything changes.

The most important word in your vocabulary (but hardest to say)

no

One of the things I learned very early on as a believer is that people expect you to say “yes” to things. A lot of things.

Possibly all the things.

And the more you say yes, the more they expect you to keep it up. Now, I wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with this—I was, after all, the lord mayor of the friend zone in high school (let the overlooked brothers understand). But there’s a different kind of pressure to say yes to things at church:

  • To say yes to taking an extra Sunday in children’s ministry
  • To say yes to joining the set up team
  • To say yes to joining the local missions team
  • To say yes to filling in on the greeting team (and never leaving)

Am I the only one who has been there?

The thing about saying yes to good things is we actually want to. We want to say yes to doing more to help people know Jesus. We want to do more to serve in our churches and show our love for our fellow believers. If we love our jobs, we want to do more there because we enjoy it.

But then the turn happens, and those things we loved so much… well, we maybe start to hate them, at least a little. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten quite to that stage, though I do know there have been times when I’ve been more resentful than I needed to be. And what helped me was being reminded of a little word—one I forget all too frequently—that might well be one of the most important in my vocabulary:

No.

I’ve had to learn and relearn this lesson: sometimes I have to say no to things. I have to do it at work in order to actually get the work I need to do accomplished. I need to do it at home with my outside work (let me tell you, it’s a bad idea to be doing a ton of freelance while writing a documentary and also doing sermon prep and maintaining a regular blogging schedule). I need to do it sometimes even with church (though that’s pretty rare). I’ve had to do it when I’m asked to preach during a particularly difficult season (like when I was trying to write a term paper).

And I’ll probably have to do it again.

So why is it I hate saying no so much? Because I, like so many others, tend to value myself by what I do—both in quantity and quality. I want to do an ever increasing number of things at an ever increasing level of ability. But that’s just not possible. So I’ve had to learn to say no.

Or rather, I’m trying to learn it. Again.

The thing I need to remember is that ultimately, my value isn’t determined by the amount of stuff I do, the blog posts I write, the number of sandwiches I make, or any of that. It’s determined by God, and more specifically, who he has declared me to be in Christ. If I am redeemed, renewed, forgiven, restored, and adopted as his son, what more do I really need? Is burning the midnight oil  all the time really going to make me more redeemed-ed or be adopted harder?

So here’s a little exercise for all of my fellow overachievers reading this: Write a post-it note, record a voice memo, send a recurring reminder to yourself… whatever you have to do, do something to remind yourself that the most important word you can say, sometimes, is no.

 

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

How the Gospel Creates Ethics

Owen Strachan:

You love the gospel. Great! But a question beckons, one that must be answered: what, exactly, does the gospel now do in your life?

The message of Christ crucified for us is no minimalistic phenomenon. You cannot box it up. You cannot rein it in. If you believe it, it will conquer and consume you. Plant it in fertile soil, and you will reap a harvest of spiritual transformation and ethical conviction. You are saved for intimate fellowship with Christ; you are saved to boldly—publicly—testify to his glory.

But how does this work? How can ordinary Christians be public witnesses for Jesus?

I want to offer an answer by tracing how one Christian leader, a born-again ex-con named Chuck Colson, arrived at his own response to this vexing question.

4 Things It’s Okay to Say When You’re Hurt

Paul Maxwell:

Reconciliation is difficult because people dole out advice like lollipops at the bank—our pride is on the line, our safety is on the line. It’s also difficult because the gospel which teaches us we’re forgiven and reconciled to God sometimes feels empowering, and at other times like a looming and difficult example. But it’s important to remember as you reconcile, that while the gospel does empower you to perform some amazing relational feats, you are not God. These are all very human things to say—not sinful; just finite.

No Platform High Enough

Tim Challies:

When it is platform you crave, when it is the size or the popularity of your following that you use as the measure of your success, you will inevitably and eventually find that there is no platform high enough. No success will ever perfectly fulfill your ambitions.

A Right to Privacy Requires a Right to Life

Aaron Earls:

This begs the question, how does this “tissue” have a right to privacy, but not a right to life? Wouldn’t a right to privacy require a right to life?

If you consider life in the womb to be merely expendable tissue, what does it matter if someone shows it? Is your privacy violated if someone took a photograph of your blood in a vial (or “pie plate” as in the video)?

The Time I Said I Don’t Always Like Women’s Ministry Events

Christine Hoover:

She says no. She says it with absolute, total conviction, a “no” that feels like it’s answering all future invitations, a “no” that indicates it’s not busyness keeping her away, a “no” begging for explanation. So I gently probe. She describes past experiences of women’s events characterized by shallow conversation, girly crafts, and topics never veering far from marriage and motherhood. I tell her what we’re studying (not marriage or motherhood) and guarantee there will be no girly crafts and lots of opportunities to make connections with other women. She thanks me for the invitation, reaffirms her “no”, and moves off into the crowd.

As she goes, I am sad, not for me, but for her and for the “us” that is our church’s women, because we’re not going to know her until she lets us know her, and we’re probably missing something wonderful.