Should you separate the message from its messenger?

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Maybe I’m too cynical for my own good.

I’ve been wrestling with an article written by one of America’s more abrasive mega-church leaders on how the best pastors, like the best athletes, are the ones who aren’t afraid to take a hit. Taken on its own, it’s certainly a fair enough encouragement. But at the same time, whenever I see the name of this person show up on a blog or on Twitter or…  well, anywhere for that matter, it’s rarely in connection with anything godly or virtuous (though perhaps that simply means I’m following the wrong people).

And this brings me to my struggle: should we separate a half-decent encouragement from its author’s ministry? More pointedly, is this even possible—can our content stand alone, or do we need to pay more careful attention to the context from which the message stems?

When I think about pastors embroiled in controversy, I can think of no better example than the apostle Paul. Wherever he went, he was dogged by groups of false teachers determined to subvert his teaching and turn people away from his message. In Corinth, so-called super apostles questioned his ministry and turned the people away from Paul. And being maligned, Paul—though he called himself a fool for doing so—defended himself (2 Corinthians 10-11).

But what was strong about his defence was what he ultimately pointed to. He didn’t simply encourage the Corinthians to look at the fruit of his ministry, though he could have. He didn’t tell them to consider his teaching. He told them to look at how he conducted himself in ministry—his humble disposition and his refraining from taking financial support from them so that it would not be a stumbling block.

You could look at Paul himself—not the results of his work, but the man—and discern whether or not the criticism he faced was valid.

I’ll be honest: I don’t see that with a lot of modern church leaders. There doesn’t seem to be a willingness to open their lives, and to ask people to verify for themselves. To test the messenger, as well as the message. Instead, when controversy comes, it seems most often to be met with claims of unjust criticism.

And this is where the struggle comes in for me. Even when the message is fine taken on its own, how much should the author’s own baggage factor into how we interpret it? I tend to struggle to be able to easily separate the two. When I read warnings of unjust criticism from those whose names only ever come up in the context of controversy, to me, it seems a bit disingenuous.

But should it? Is it fair to wonder what prompted an author’s words, or to potentially second-guess them—or is it a sign that I, as a reader, am simply too cynical?

When a harsh pastor is really a false teacher

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My latest article at Christianity.com:

It’s easy to think of all false teachers as being cut from the same cloth. Rob Bell and Oprah, Joel Osteen and TD Jakes… They’re all the same, right? They all preach a “gospel” of personal fulfillment. Of creating or receiving our best life now. It’s the gospel of us: we are the solution to the problems the world, and it’s up to us to make this world what we want it to be.

While these are all false teachers, certainly, it’s wrong to think that all false teachers are created equal. Not all false teachers are wrong in their doctrine. Some can check all the right boxes, and get all the right answers on the quiz, but they’re just as hopelessly unhelpful as any prosperity teacher:

  • They are harsh with God’s people
  • They put themselves first.
  • They preach a gospel they do not practice.

And they may be the most dangerous of all.

When I look at Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4, I am floored by the contrast I see between this sort of teacher (and myself a few years ago), and the standard we are called to. We are to preach the Word in all times and all places, no question, but consider what Paul says about how to do this inverse two: “…Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

This means we are to communicate all that Scripture does: we are to instruct in doctrine, to correct error and to encourage God’s people. We need to constantly be bringing people back to the truth of God’s Word, to confront sin and encouraging Christians to follow the Lord faithfully.

Read the whole piece at Christianity.com – When a harsh pastor is really a false teacher

Links I like

Kindle deals

In addition to yesterday’s big list, here are a few other deals very much worth your consideration, including one of the best leadership books I’ve read (which is quite the compliment since I hate leadership books), The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler for $2.99.

Zondervan’s Counterpoints series is on sale for $2.99 each, including:

Be sure to also check out The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens for $2.99. It’s a great read.

Honest Christian Book Titles

This was fun.

8 Responses to Friendly Fire

Jim Stitzinger:

When Christians default to sinful assaults on other believers, the glory of Christ is diminished, the gospel message is muted and fellowship is destroyed. Hugh Hewitt recently challenged a room full of leaders to “expect to get hit from behind.” Anticipate that your most scathing, personal assaults will often come from those you partner with in ministry. Those you learn from, recruit, hire, mentor, lead, and serve. It’s not the attacks from unbelievers in the community or even from believers on the periphery of the ministry. It is assaults from those who have direct access to your heart, who for whatever reason, use their access and knowledge to launch accusations, spread gossip and advance slander. Similar to the volley of war, it is anything but friendly.

Hubble returns to visit “old friends”

Still stunning:

Watching Naked People

Lore Ferguson:

In recent months I’ve been convicted about the little foxes that ruin the vineyard of my heart. I have a bit of a tender constitution to some things I see on media, or hear about from others, but I realized my propensity to mindlessly watch popular shows containing nudity was growing in the past year. I wasn’t watching them for the nudity, but I was still complicit in their popularity. I like smart writing and good character development and there are a few movies I enjoyed this year that contained brief scenes that would be better left out of both the film and and my heart.

Three reasons (some) pastors don’t equip

Eric Geiger:

Some pastors are like the occasional church sound-guy that doesn’t want anyone else fiddling with the soundboard. If you have encountered this sound-guy, you likely first concluded that he probably knows best. After all, he is able to find that buzz, has saved the day multiple times, and uses words you don’t understand. You reason that you are an idiot and “that you should not concern yourself with things too marvelous for you” (Psalm 131:1). But as time passes, you wonder if the system has been intentionally designed so no one else can possibly run it. The sound-guy has built the sound-system around himself, for himself. In the same way, some pastors build ministry around themselves, for themselves, for at least three reasons.

Links I like

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Book deals for Christian readers

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

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

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

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

Predictions for 2015

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

4 Reasons To Use Goodreads

Barnabas Piper:

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

Lambs in the midst of wolves

Ray Ortlund:

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

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

When We Grow Passionate in Prayer

Jonathan Parnell:

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

Reflections On A Year With Richard Sibbes

Mike Leake:

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

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And over at Westminster Bookstore, Joe Rigney’s new book, The Things of Earth, is on sale for $12 each or $8 when buying three or more copies.

How to Ruin a Moses Movie

Joe Carter:

In the future, this movie should be taught in film schools to show all the ways a movie based on a Bible story can go wrong. Here are a few of the lessons Scott’s film can teach future generations of filmmakers about how to ruin a movie about Moses.

Cultural References I Can’t Use In Sermons Anymore

Mike Leake:

I’ve been preaching to teenagers for about twelve years now. When I first started I was barely older than they were. In those good old days I could make a reference to something from my childhood and the kids would track with me. Now I just get blank stares when I try to use some of these.

Should Christians listen to the Serial podcast?

Russell Moore and Dan Darling discuss.

Jane Austen, Tim Keller, and the Happiness of Holiness

Derek Rishmawy:

After many long, inexcusable years, I finally sat down to read a Jane Austen novel; Pride and Prejudice, to be exact. I suppose I had avoided them in my youth because they were the type of thing my sister–a girl, mind you–read. Also, I’d been subjected to the film Sense and Sensibility as a young boy and I’m still not sure what effect that’s had on my disposition ever since. In any case, inspired by my English acquaintances and a sense of nostalgia for literature, I picked up the copy off the shelf last week and got to work.

Faithful Gardening

Travis Allen:

Though today there’s widespread disillusionment with the fields of weeds, many continue to engage in pragmatism. It’s distorting the gospel as it’s contextualized to other cultures and subcultures. And it’s turning the Sunday worship service into a staged event, with all the requisite accoutrements—rock band, “attractional” preaching, and support groups.

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

In case you missed them, here’s a look at this week’s Kindle deals:

Don’t Hide Behind “The Gospel”

Barnabas Piper:

The gospel is only a solution when it drives us to do, only when what we believe about the free grace of God in Jesus makes us move. Only when we can make the connection between the gospel and the centuries of racial inequality in the United States, the lasting impact on our government and social structures, and the insidious and subtle effects on our own minds and hearts is it a solution. (If you do not acknowledge racial inequality historically, societally, and governmentally please keep reading. The gospel applies to my view and yours; we both need it.)

Sinners Are Also Sufferers

Kevin DeYoung:

It is always true: we have sinned against God more than anyone has sinned against us. Which means our suffering does not excuse our sinning.

And yet, it is also true that every sinner is in some way, often in profound ways, a great sufferer.

7 Things I Wish My Pastor Knew About My Homosexuality

Jean Lloyd:

As a Christian, the conflict between my sexuality and my faith would become the deepest and most intense of my life. Now in my forties, I’ve gone from being closeted to openly lesbian to celibate to heterosexually married. The fact that I need to qualify my marital union as a heterosexual one reveals how much the cultural landscape has changed in that time—just as much as my own personal landscape has, though in very different ways.

Is Russell Moore a “Social Liberal”?

In which Samuel Jones nails it.

The mandate for Christian ministry

Great stuff from Albert Mohler:

Sermon prep, itinerant ministry and time management

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On Sunday, I preached two sermons in a small Baptist church in Orillia, Ontario. In all honesty, they were probably B- (or worst case, C+) sermons: faithful, reasonably coherent, but not brilliant. The evening message especially so. There were some places where the message in the evening service could definitely have benefitted from some additional clarity and precision. (I was preaching from Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1, and I don’t think enough of my thought process made it into my message as would have been beneficial.)

Because of my various responsibilities—full time employment, family, writing and so on—even with good time management, I often am working up to what’s closer to the last minute than I’m comfortable doing. To some degree, this is my own fault. But it’s also one of the difficulties of itinerant ministry. Sermon prep has to fit around the rest of life, in a different way than I suspect it would even for the bi-vocational pastor (bi-vocational friends, feel free to correct me on this point). This doesn’t mean cutting corners, but it does mean the 25-40 hours of prep some folks put in isn’t an option.

At best, it’s more like 15. And when I have two messages to prepare, that same amount of time has to be used for both.

Which is a bit nutty, I know. Not impossible, but definitely challenging.

This is not me griping, and I hope it doesn’t sound that way. I am very thankful for the ministry opportunities available to me, and for the patience of congregations like this one who seem to enjoy having me there (I’m back there this weekend, which will be my third in a row and sixth time overall). But one of the things I’m increasingly finding myself challenged by is how to manage my time more effectively,1 especially with school coming up. What I know this means for me is there are going to have to be more opportunities I say no to, and probably even more of my current responsibilities I’m going to have to reevaluate.

But am I alone in feeling crunched like this?

Bivocational preachers, how do you manage your time? Fellow itinerant preachers, how do you navigate these time management issues?


Photo credit: the tartanpodcast via photopin cc

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a whole whack of new Kindle deals for you:

Now is also a good time to preorder a couple of new books: It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News by Tullian Tchividjian (with Nick Lannon) for $8.75 and The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption by Matt Chandler (with Jared C. Wilson) for $7.99.

How to Capture People’s Stupidity and Profit from It Online

Cray Allred:

We all know that you can start a wildfire on social media, and that posting something online is more or less a permanent action. We may be thankful that some of our dumber moments are as yet uncovered, forgotten or deleted without causing any uproar among our friends. We don’t like to acknowledge that those posts just might be getting spread by total strangers, right now, to thousands and thousands of people, without our knowledge.

Harboring hatred, lust, or envy for someone internally is defined as sin that parallels the outward forms of murder, adultery, and theft. This denies any pretense that being cruel to someone where they can’t see it is somehow excusable.There is a growing trend of what I want to call online “hidden bullying.” Off-line, it’s common and typically harmless to witness something strange (or worse) from a stranger in public, and to then relay the weird details to a friend. If a guy with a bowl haircut throws a tantrum at a restaurant, my wife is going to know about it when I get home. We have an abundance of these moments that have been passed around (and likely exaggerated) and stored in our memories, a humorous collection of the guy that did x or the woman that said y–characters we know, but wouldn’t recognize on the street. When the same thing happens online, however, the effect is amplified, and the face and name stay with the story.

5 Ugly Qualities of the Anti-Elder

Tim Challies:

It is tragic but undeniable: There are many, many people in positions of church leadership who should not be in positions of church leadership. There are many pastors who should not be pastors, many elders who have no business being elders.

This is not a new problem. In the pages of the New Testament both Paul and Peter labor to describe the man who is qualified to the office of elder. It is noteworthy that almost all of these qualifications are related to character. Where we are drawn to outward skill, God cares far more for inward character. There are millions of men who are great teachers and great leaders and great C.E.O.’s, but still completely unsuited to leadership in the church. God’s standards are very, very different.

‘My Work Is More Important than Yours,’ So We All Say

Bethany Jenkins:

Public school districts in the United States do not prioritize dance over, say, math. This is not, however, a mere accident of history. The current education system arose out of the industrial revolution as a means to supply factories with a skilled and literate workforce. Since this economy did not value all talents equally, though, subjects useful to industrial work were prioritized over “less important” work. Today, this hierarchy remains. “At the top are mathematics and languages,” Robinson says, “then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts.”

This is a false hierarchy because the arts and math—though obviously different in their economic contributions—are equally valuable in God’s oikonomia. They engage different parts of who we are—math engages our scientific, analytical, and logical reason, while the arts help us to socially, emotionally, and morally connect with others, including God. See the psalms and David’s use of poetry and music, for example, to awaken his heart to God.

If George Lucas made Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Someone decided to have some fun with the trailer for the new Star Wars movie:

HT: Aaron

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Sheep Aren’t Stupid

Joe Thorn:

Pastors sometimes say stupid things. Sometimes those stupid things are catchy and wind up being repeated by many other pastors. One of the more preposterous pithy statements I have heard many preachers say is, “Sheep are dumb.” They say this as shepherds and are referring to the sheep of the church—the congregation. The idea is that sheep are dumb, and must be led well. We shouldn’t be surprised when they do stupid things.

My problem with this statement is that it disrespects people made in God’s image and redeemed by God’s Son. It is a mocking of the church and an exaltation of self. The church isn’t stupid. Sinful, yes. Stupid, no. Speaking of the church in this way will get a chuckle from some leaders (who aren’t already bored by the worn-out expression), but will create distance between leadership and those pastors are called to lead.

The Ferguson Grand Jury Has Given Us Our Marching Orders

Thabiti Anyabwile:

We saw an American prosecutor fail the principle of “blind justice” by handling court procedure in a way most legal experts found a dereliction of duty. Over and over again we heard that the grand jury bar for an indictment is so low all it takes is a ham sandwich. Prosecutors who want to prosecute don’t “present all the evidence;” apparently, they present only that evidence that gets them the indictment and commences the trial. If that’s true, and I have to trust the majority opinion of legal experts since I’m not one, then Ferguson’s prosecutor failed to even live up to the low-bar ideals of his profession, much less America.

“You just went and made a new dinosaur…? Probably not a good idea.”

Is it possible that the Jurassic Park reboot could actually be… good?

I’m Bored With Blogs

Mike Leake:

It feels like the same people saying the same things in the same way. And those of us that are also curators (having features like Today in Blogworld) are guilty of perpetuating this. I confess that I’ve shared articles from known commodities without really reading through the article and considering all the implications. I like the title. I trust the author. So I link to it. That isn’t helpful. And I’m sorry.

Prayer in the Facebook Age

Mark Bauerlein:

We are in danger of losing these replenishing, corrective moments of solitary faith. Silence and seclusion are harder to find, and fewer people seek them out. You find a lone bench in the park on a fall afternoon, gaze up at the sky through the branches, and begin the Rosary only to have a power walker march by barking into an invisible mic. It’s not just the noise, it’s his connection to absent persons, as if to say that being in one place alone with the Lord is insufficient.

Contingency

Mike Wittmer:

Whether you are a Calvinist or an Arminian, you must concede that whatever happens goes all the way back to God’s will. God may have directly decreed it, or decreed to allow it, but ultimately the buck stops with him. Because it is God’s will, it is contingent. It didn’t have to be this way. This is true for the really bad stuff, and it’s also true for God’s decision to bless us with all good things.

Links I like

Why I Repented from Twitter Following Everyone

Joey Cochran:

One sunny day in March I woke up and decided to follow everyone on Twitter. I’d like to think that I had no real reason to do it, but if I’m honest the stunt was stimulated from the base desire of wanting more followers. It was shallow. I wasn’t going to buy them because that’s just crazy. But I thought, maybe if I followed a bunch of people, they’d just follow me back. I justified it by calling the following act a wave. I told myself: “You know what, I’m gonna wave to everyone in Twitterdom, and see who waves back.”

The Case for Face to Face Meetings

Erik Raymond:

Technological advancements have made communication much easier. We can email, text, instant message, call, or Skype. While this makes meeting easier it does not necessarily make it better. As Christians we should endeavor to be loving in everything we do. This requires thoughtful intentionality when considering the medium for communicating information. Ease must never trump love.

In my experience, particularly in pastoral ministry, the preferred format for meetings is face to face. If there is ever a potential to be misunderstood or if the subject matter is wired with emotion then a face to face meeting is nearly essential.

Is Open Theism Still an Issue?

Jeff Robinson:

Much has changed since members of ETS wrestled with open theism more than a decade ago. You will not find papers in defense of open theism being read in seminars at ETS today. Books are less likely to emerge from evangelical publishing houses to debate the merits or demerits of this theology over against the classical Christian view of God. Instead, open theism mainly finds its voice through more popular means. A quick internet search reveals numerous blogs written by pastors and laypersons espousing open theism. Open theism today makes its case not so much through books and refereed scholarly journals, but through the mostly unfiltered voice of the blogosphere.

“You are cured of MS!”

David Murray shares the testimony of Gary Timmer, whose son Trent was diagnosed with MS in 2012.

It’s a dance-off!

Imagine if this had been the ending to Guardians of the Galaxy:

HT: Aaron

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Do You Hear the People Sing?

Marshall Segal:

What does Sunday morning sound like at your church?

More specifically, what do you hear when your church worships God in song? What is the defining sound? For some, it will be the old, massive, beautiful organ — a full, enduring, and familiar tone. Others would say it’s the energy of an electric guitar and the deep pounding of a bass drum. Maybe you have one or two vocalists you love. They could sing the encyclopedia on Sunday morning and bring you to God.

I enjoy and appreciate all of the above — I really do — but I believe the defining sound on Sunday morning should be the singing voices of God’s people. It’s been taught and lived out at our church, and I love it. And I don’t think that my love is a matter of personal preference. I wouldn’t have chosen this style of worship for myself six years ago, and the music I listen to Monday–Saturday rarely sounds like Sunday morning at Bethlehem.

No, I believe there are principles for corporate worship that transcend cultural and personal preferences and fill music with unusual meaning.

 A Romantic View of Ministry

Nick Batzig:

…there is a danger for men who are pursuing ministry to fall into what some have called “a romantic view of ministry.” Recognizing the high call of the pastorate, and knowing that God is doing His greatest work in the world through His ministers in the church (Eph. 3:10), many have come to embrace faulty views of the ministry. During the early days in seminary, I had foolishly developed something of “a romantic view of ministry.” I had a burning desire to preach and longed to have a Spurgeon-esque type ministry to multitudes who needed the unadulterated preaching of the word and Gospel. During the first year of my studies, one of my professors said to the students in our class, “Get every wrong view of ministry out of your head. Get rid of every romantic view of ministry.” What I didn’t want to hear then, I now tell every man at New Covenant who express interest in pursuing a call to ministry. While the ministry is a most glorious calling, it is anything but romantic. Here are five things that foster “a romantic view of ministry.”

Holy relics: the acoustic guitar

I love this article by Martyn Wendell Jones a lot:

Novices and masters alike find that God will establish the work of their hands when they are holding a guitar. Three or four chords can get an apprentice praise leader through a basic repertoire, and God will be glorified in her getting through. The same praise leader might learn in following years the key to a meandering style of finger plucking, and she will thereby become able to produce the soft cascade of sounds that carry the words of a pastor’s closing altar call. So might she move from glory to glory.

15 Right Responses to Our Christian Celebrities

Tony Reinke asks Thomas Kidd and Karen Swallow Prior how we should respond to Christian celebrities.

The Unbelievable, Incomprehensible, Mind-Blowing Power Available To Us

Mark Altrogge:

My first year as a Christian I didn’t know the truth in Romans 6 that believers are no longer under the dominion of sin. I didn’t realize that I had the power of the Holy Spirit to put my evil desires to death. My ignorance of the power available to me resulted in much needless misery. Paul wants his readers to know about this awesome power they can access so he prays that God would enlighten their hearts to know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward them.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Four Dangers for Complementarians

Gavin Ortlund:

Of course, many people will disagree with complementarianism—often quite vehemently—no matter what we say or do. But the truth is offensive enough without our help. We don’t need to add to its offense with our own faults and foibles. I therefore list four dangers to which we should be particularly sensitive, even while we stand firm in the face of pressure from our more aggressive critics.

Does John Piper Regret Partnering With Mark Driscoll?

Hear his answer at the link.

10 1980s PSAs You Might Have Forgotten

Aaron Earls unearths a collection of the best/worst PSAs from the 1980s. For example:

The One and the Many

Kevin DeYoung:

There are many ways God uses to get us to where he wants us to go. But there is only one message he gives to save us from sin.

The problems in our day is that we get the one and the many reversed.

Are house churches biblical?

Interesting piece from Preston Sprinkle:

But we have to distinguish between what is described and what is prescribed. Unless I’m missing something, the New Testament never prescribes (i.e. commands) that believers meet in homes as opposed to meeting in a building. It simply describes that this is what they did in the first-century.

How NOT to Read the News

Daniel Darling:

We live in a time where we are exposed to more news headlines than at any time in human history. In the ancient days of news, anchors checked the AP newswire for stories and reported on them and people in their homes watched or people in their cars listened to radio. Today, everyone, is essentially checking the wire, all day, through social media. We also live in a time when it’s has never been easier to publicly express an opinion. Before the Internet, if something happened, you might have picked up the phone to call someone or perhaps you might discuss it at work, around the water cooler. But today we are all pundits, all with commentary on what is happening right now.

Quite often this new reality is leveraged for good. If a disaster strikes, more people can be informed than in previous generations. Social networks can be good conduits for raising money for important charity, for networking and communicating with wider groups of people. In many ways, the new paradigm has flattened leadership, forcing organizations to be more transparent and less hierarchical. All this is good.

Still, followers of Christ need to think through how they process the news, particularly how we react to the headlines that come across our screens every day. Here are three tips I think that might help.

Links I like

Book deals for Christian readers

A few Kindle deals to start you off:

Today’s $5 Friday deals at Ligonier include:

  • The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond (hardcover)
  • Believing God teaching series by R.C. Sproul Jr (DVD)
  • Thus Says the Lord teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)

Finally, you can get Banner of Truth’s lovely three-volume set of The Complete Works of John Bunyan for $59 at the Westminster Bookstore. This might make a really snazzy Christmas gift for the theology nerd in your life.

Not That Kind of Homosexuality?

Kevin DeYoung offers a whole pile of block quotes to remind us of an important truth: “Scholars all of different stripes have said the same thing: the cultural distance argument [about homosexual practice] will not work.”

Prepare Today for Tomorrow’s Conflicts

David Noble:

Regrettably, many church leaders overlook the reality of spiritual warfare. We mistakenly believe that being attentive to Satan and his schemes is unnecessary when our congregations are flourishing. Sometimes we assume that merely thinking about spiritual warfare invites trouble.

The most important thing about any church

Ray Ortlund:

The most important thing about any church is not their structure, their governance, their systems, their musical style, not even the nuances of their theology within a gospel framework, whether Baptistic or Presbyterian or Anglican.  Those things matter.  But the most important thing about any church is its spirit.

Little Things Matter

Kim Shay:

Young women who stay at home with your children, hear me: the scope of your service is not what makes it valuable; bigger is not always better. You don’t have to do elaborate things to serve and to encourage. The smallest of gestures can encourage someone more than you can possibly know. You may not be writing books, going away for weekends to speak at conferences, or traveling across the world to minister to someone, but you can be an encouragement right where God has put you.

Gotham Begins

Such a great parody trailer (language warning: there is a bleeped out bit of cussing at the very end):

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Kindle editions of the NIV Application Commentary set are on sale for just $4.99 or less each:

Being Content with Saying No to Truly Good Opportunities

Randy Alcorn:

I once felt guilty about declining most requests, so I was reading a dozen books a year for endorsements, saying yes to friends who wanted me to speak, meeting people who were coming through Portland, etc. But then I was always behind writing my own books, and writing is my primary calling. Now I decline nearly all speaking requests (I travel and speak maybe five times per year, and often there’s a second angle to what I say yes to—staying extra days to see my kids and grandkids, getting vacation time with Nanci, etc.).

My advice is to care about people but use discernment, and don’t live to please them. We are to live out our lives before the Audience of One. In the end, His approval is the one that matters. If our goal is to hear others say, “Well done,” we won’t have time, energy and perspective to do what we need to do to hear Him say it. Paul said, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

The real voice of Darth Vader

Oh my…

My journey away from contemporary worship music

Dan Cogan:

Over the years when I would occasionally hear a hymn, the language was always strikingly foreign, with Ebenezers and bulwarks, diadems and fetters. Which only served to confirm my bias that hymns were simply out-of-date. They had served their purpose. They had run their course.

The problem with my youthful logic only began to dawn on me about seven years ago. I had come to recognize that these ancient hymns accomplished something that the new songs weren’t. While contemporary worship seemed to take the listener on an exciting and emotional rollercoaster, the old hymns engaged the mind with deep and glorious truths that when sincerely pondered caused a regenerated heart to humbly bow before its King.

A Plea To Pastors and Pastor Search Committees

Mike Leake:

About five years ago when we were moving from Missouri to Louisville a particular church was in contact with us about coming on board. They requested an audio sermon. We weren’t set up very well for recording sermons but we figured out a way to get a couple sermons recorded.

I sent the audio to the church and heard NOTHING. Of course they may not have received the sermon. But I wouldn’t know that either because they never responded to my email where I enquired as to whether or not they had received the sermon.

So my only assumption was that they must have hated the sermon, thought I was terrible and that I was a heretic. I’m exaggerating a bit, but it was incredibly discouraging.

On the wrong side of history

Carson, Keller and Piper tackle this common objection.