Should every Christian be in a small group? Yep!

community-nbc-joel-mchale-cast

Every fall at my local church, we talk about the importance of being in a small group and we invite people to participate in them. This type of thing is happening all across the country, maybe even the world: the call for Christians to participate in small groups. But why is it important for every Christian should be in a small group? Here are three reasons:

Firstly, we should be in a small group is because we need to grow in our faith. Small groups are the place where we take what we learn on Sundays and put our Christianity to practice. In my small group, we share openly and ask questions of the text we’re studying along with the prepared questions. We discuss—often intensely—what the passage means or what issues it raises that we deal with in everyday life. This leads us to discuss the intersection of the Bible and daily life. Our discussions are often passionate and opinions are made known on a wide variety of issues. We bring the mess of our lives in and deal with it together (even with people who we might not know all that well at first). We do all of this because we love one another and want to spur one another onto love and good deeds.

Second, we need to be in a small group because we need accountability and prayer. Once during small group, I got a text from my mom regarding my dad who has dementia. I was close to tears and we stopped our study so I could explain what was going on. I read, word for word, what my mom said and my response to her text message. While this hasn’t happened frequently, I have to say it meant a lot to me that the group stopped and prayed for me. This is what small groups are about, a place where we take seriously what the Bible teaches and apply it in practical ways by caring for one another.

Finally, we need to be in a small group because we need one another’s insights and perspectives. Everyone benefits in a small group when all the members participate. The amount of education we have is not important, we can all learn from one another (I’m a seminary-educated Christian, and I’ve been a believer since I was a little kid, and I greatly benefit from the insights and perspectives of the other people in my small group). We might think we’ve made up our minds on a particular issue, but healthy small group discussion can help us realize we haven’t understood it from all sides (I’ve had that happen many times). We can open up and share what we really think about issues from the Bible, and then discover what the Word of God teaches. We can take what we learn and share it with others. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

This is what small group is about: they help us grow together, the give us accountability, and they open us up to new perspectives. We desperately need this—we desperately need one another. So when your church invites you to participate, don’t wait—join a small group as soon as you can!


Today’s post is by Dave Jenkins. Dave is the Director of Servants of Grace Ministries. You can follow him on twitter@DaveJJenkins or read more of his work at servantsofgrace.org.


Photo credit: NBC

Links I like

There Is No ‘Third Way’ — Southern Baptists Face a Moment of Decision (and so will you)

Albert Mohler:

Just days before the convention, news broke that a congregation in suburban Los Angeles has decided to affirm same-sex sexuality and relationships. In an hour-long video posted on the Internet, Pastor Danny Cortez explains his personal change of mind and position on the issue of homosexuality and same-sex relationships. He also addressed the same issues in a letter posted at Patheos.com.

In the letter, Cortez describes a sunny day at the beach in August of 2013 when “I realized I no longer believed in the traditional teachings regarding homosexuality.”

1 Triangle, 3 Corners, 4 T’s

Tim Challies:

As Christians we have the great privilege of knowing that God speaks to us through his Word, the Bible. There is no other book like it—no other book that rewards us with God’s own words. But to know what God says to us, and how God means for us to live, we need to do a little bit of work. Every Christian, and every preacher in particular, has to go from the text to today. We all wonder, “But what does this mean to me?” or “What does this mean to my congregation?”

Every word of the Bible was written at a certain time and in a certain context. Even the most recent of those times and the nearest of those contexts is at a great distance from us in time and space. Thus, when we read the Bible, we have to determine how those words apply to us today in our very different times and very different contexts. It is not always a simple task.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This month, Ligonier Ministries is Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow by R.C. Sproul as their free book of the month. You can also grab the ePub edition at Ligonier.org.

Crossway has put four volumes from the Knowing the Bible series on sale for 99¢:

Also on sale:

Legalism devalues Christ and torments us

Ray Ortlund shares a brilliant quote from Martin Luther.

Hackschooling and happiness

This is a very impressive Ted Talk from a 13-year-old boy:

Links I like

5 Ways People Hurt Their Credibility Without Even Realizing It

Your unconscious mind sends a series of messages that you may not be aware of, which others can easily pick up.

“People read each other’s intent as soon as they see each other,” says Nick Morgan, speech coach and author of new book Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact. “We’re hardwired to look for signals of friend or foe, to sense hostility, and to determine who’s the leader.”

What messages are you sending? Here are a few of the most common ways you can hurt your reputation at work without even realizing it.

Six Lies Grads Will Be Told

Mike Leake:

It’s graduation season. And as such, scores of graduating students and their doting family and friends will be exposed to the senseless drivel known as a graduation speech. This speech is supposed to prepare the students to face the real world—or perhaps the “real world” of going to college. One last shot at making something out of these thugs.

Most graduation speeches follow the same format. And they are filled with inspirational quotes and silly sayings that somebody’s mom will post on Facebook three years later with pretty little flowers and a demand to share. Or maybe the saying will be really good and you’ll see it on one of those overpriced placards that people buy to put in their storage sheds.

Usually the graduates are just lied to. Here are six lies they’ll likely be told.

Get The Masculine Mandate in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the hardcover edition of The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Knowing Scripture teaching series (CD)
  • Tough Questions Christians Face conference messages (DVD)
  • Mark by R.C. Sproul (ePub)

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

How Pastors Accidentally Ruin Their Church

Andy Flowers:

Most pastors really love their church. They understand their calling as under-shepherds tasked with guarding the bride of Christ. Caring for the thing that Jesus died for is a heavy responsibility. Pastors will endure stress and criticism, they will work long hours, and they will sacrifice to protect the church.

Yet, I’ve seen these same men inadvertently bring their church to the brink of ruin. They are good preachers, caring counselors, and men of prayer, yet their church suffered. These pastors followed the play book, but their church nearly closed the doors. It wasn’t on purpose. They never meant any harm to come. But they sat and watched as the church they loved crumbled.

The weakness was not in how they served the church, but how they left the church.

The Pain of Art

Tyler Braun:

20 months ago I shared my deepest, darkest secret to anyone who was willing to read my first published book. I didn’t even hide it on the last page, I placed it front and center in chapter one.

From the outset of writing the book I had no intention of sharing anything about my secret. In fact, before publishing the book less than 10 people knew about it. What began as sin, became a wound, and as I opened up to those 10 people I began to heal, but even still, a scar remained.

The day the book released I spoke in front of a small crowd of friends and family about the book. I read quotes that exposed my scars. Like any artist I couldn’t fight off the thought of, “I wonder what they think of me now…” And then I wondered if it was worth it. I became more human, but at what cost?

Links I like

“One anothers” I can’t find in the New Testament

Ray Ortlund:

The kind of God we really believe in is revealed in how we treat one another.  The lovely gospel of Jesus positions us to treat one another like royalty, and every non-gospel positions us to treat one another like dirt.  But we will follow through horizontally on whatever we believe vertically.

Genesis 1-11: an overview

This video from The Bible Project is really well done:

Five Benefits of Corporate Worship

David Mathis:

Worshiping Jesus together may be the single most important thing we do. It plays an indispensable role inrekindling our spiritual fire, and keeping it burning. Corporate worship brings together God’s word, prayer, and fellowship, and so makes for the greatest means of God’s ongoing grace in the Christian life.

But thinking of worship as a means can be dangerous. True worship is fundamentally an experience of the heart, and not a means to anything else. So it’s important to distinguish between what benefits might motivate us to be regular in corporate worship, and what focus our minds and hearts should pursue in the moment.

Six Principles For Youth Ministry

Jonathan Leeman:

“What does your church do for middle and high school students?” A pastor friend recently asked this question.

I have no special expertise with youth, and I tend to think there is some measure of programmatic flexibility. Do you host a weekly event? Who is it for? What do you do? Special projects or trips? I will leave that for you to sort out.

But here are a few biblical principles that we should heed no matter what, and my sense is the many youth groups don’t heed them.

Is Your Busy Season Becoming a Lifetime?

Melissa Martin:

“You just may not be in a season of life where you can serve right now.”

This well-meaning, godly woman’s advice to a room full of wives and mothers caused a little pang in my heart.

There is obviously a wealth of truth in that well-worn statement. I’ve been there. I know. I remember so clearly one evening soon after my daughter was born, my mother-in-law lovingly pushed my husband and me out the door for some time alone while she held our newborn. We slid into a booth at a ’50s diner on the beach, eyes glazed over from sleep deprivation, both sporting matching spit-up stains on our shoulders.

This season of life was not conducive to anything beyond barely keeping my head about water.

Does your slogan say what you think it does?

medium_329621329

Whether it’s on our signs, our websites or on the lips of our congregations, every church has a mission statement or slogan that people rally around—something that articulates the vision of what we’re all here to do.

At least, we think it does. But maybe it doesn’t.

One of the challenges of church marketing (yes, I used the “m” word) is seeing our mission statements and slogans from an outside perspective, carefully considering what they communicate, intentionally or otherwise, to people who aren’t us. We’re all blind to our own blind spots, and without good council and perspective, the message we’re sending may be the opposite of what we’re attempting to.

This is what we see in so many of our church slogans. Here’s one example:

“A church for people who aren’t into church.”

What does this actually communicate? Let’s think about it from a couple of perspectives.

This slogan is birthed out of the seeker sensitive mindset of the 1980s and 1990s; the idea most churches using a slogan like this is trying to get across is that it’s a place where non-Christians will feel safe to explore the Christian faith at their own pace.  They’re trying to say they’re welcoming and inviting.

But what does a Christian attending a slightly more theologically conservative church take away from it? In my town, it’s a safe bet a church using this type of slogan:

  • Has topical “talks” instead of expositional preaching
  • Has a low-level of commitment from congregation members
  • Has a low-level of biblical literacy
  • Has high attendance turnover

(I say this from experience, not to be a snarky, divisive jerkwad.)

At best, to this sort of believer, it comes across as trying to be “relevant” to the culture in the negative sense, and perhaps a few steps away from abandoning the gospel at worst. (This, again, is something I’ve seen from churches using this exact slogan.)

Just as importantly, what does this slogan say to its intended target—the non-Christian?

Not much.

The difficulty here is the idea of being a church for people who aren’t into church is those people aren’t into church. There is nothing you can do to be a church for them except to not be a church! It’s like saying a banana is a banana for people who aren’t into bananas—if someone doesn’t like bananas, there’s nothing you can do to make them want to eat one, even if you claim it’s not like any other banana they’ve tried.

The fact is, there are only a few things that lead a non-Christian into a church service:

  • The work of the Holy Spirit
  • alleviating familial pressure (Easter and Christmas visits)
  • baby dedications (sometimes)

Being a church for people who aren’t into church isn’t likely to do that.

Whether we like it or not, marketing is a part of ministry. We need to think carefully—from a theological and practical perspective—on what we’re saying, considering whether or not the message we’re conveying is true and clear and God-glorifying. If we don’t, our attempts at marketing might be doing us more harm than good.


photo credit: deadwords via photopin cc

Links I like

10 Things We Need to Hear from Young Church Leaders

Chuck Lawless:

I have the privilege of spending much of my life with young church leaders. As a seminary dean and missionary trainer, I hang out with people younger than I am. I’m the teacher, but I learn from the young generation as much as—if not more than—I teach them. Sometimes they teach me something new, as with technology and social media. In other cases, they simply remind me of something I’ve forgotten or have taken for granted.

Of course, all young church leaders have room to grow, and nothing I say here can be applied to every young leader. With that understanding in mind, here are some of those general reminders that I, and perhaps other older leaders, need to hear from young church leaders.

The trauma of abuse and the blessing of repentance

Wendy Alsup:

Last week, a former youth group leader at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was convicted of multiple accounts of sexual abuse of minors. Testimony at the trial confirmed that an elder at the church knew of the abuse and did not report it to authorities. When I read a news report while researching this article, I was struck by this section:

Tears of joy could be heard from victims and their family members as the verdict was read.

“I started crying. It was just, it was overwhelming to know that the struggle, the fight, the 25 years of trying to bring this forward, was worth it,” victim Jeremy Cook, now a married father of three, said.

I could only imagine their reaction. My heart aches for children who for years keep their abuse secret out of fear and misunderstanding of what happened to them. But what about the child who does tell someone but that person either doesn’t believe them or minimizes what they’ve experienced? I can’t imagine the double harm such a response does to youth already experiencing the trauma of abuse. If a child was shot in the arm, we’d recognize more clearly the double trauma of protecting the one who pulled the trigger, minimizing the damage done by his actions, and not reporting it to the police.

Blue Collar Man:  On Financial Struggle and Working for a Living

Ted Kluck:

In general, youngish-Reformed evangelicals tend to be a pretty affluent, heavily degreed, upwardly mobile lot with a surplus of time to read websites and grow their considerable book collections. With “providing” often being a top priority for Reformed men, this group generally has a clear vocational plan and usually gets plenty of opportunities to implement said plan. And because we tend to be small-government capitalists, we tend to feel pretty good about ourselves when we’re making lots of bank–and don’t feel conflicted about enjoying it. And in general (again), readers of TGC tend to be pastors, professors, seminary students, theology nerds, or wives of the aforementioned.

But what about those who don’t fit this social/cultural Reformed paradigm, including in their vocations?

New for Logos: D.A. Carson sermon library

The folks at Logos Bible Software have a brand new product available for pre-order: the D.A. Carson sermon library. Containing over 500 messages from over 30 years of ministry, “Carson’s sermons focus on specific biblical passages such as Ezekiel, John, and Revelation; on theological topics, including the New Perspective on Paul, openness theology, and providence; and on practical issues such as suffering, discipleship, and cross-cultural ministry. Preached in churches, colleges, and at conferences around the world, these sermons provide instruction and edification from a preeminent evangelical voice deeply committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” At $90, now’s the time to order this collection before the price goes up.

Can a Videogame Teach Grace?

Nathaniel Valle:

Many games implement a worldview of obtaining rewards for our actions. An economy of risk and reward is fundamental to the gaming experience, and, excepting games like The Sims, it’s a comfortable harmony we’ve come to expect.

Yet there is no such discernible reward within That Dragon, Cancer, a title designed around the life of a young child stricken with cancer. It’s a surreal, poetic experience, and the game’s designer intends for the uncomfortable and unfamiliar scenario to convey truths somewhat neglected within most gaming experiences. In a video from Games for Change 2014, Josh Larson asks a question central to the soul of his game: “How does one calculate a parent’s love for a dying son who can’t easily express any love in return? How then should we design this?”

Witnessing To Homoexuals

Leon Brown:

Years ago, my wife and I used to visit an area in San Diego, CA that was heavily populated by homosexuals. We made a routine visit to this area at least once per month to share the gospel. Personally, it was a rich time. I had some amazing conversations with those who embrace the homosexual lifestyle.

During that time, and since then, I have realized you have to be prepared to do two things while witnessing to some homosexuals.

Links I like

No Man Left Behind

Tim Challies:

On my flight to Australia they were showing Lone Survivor . I didn’t watch it all, but I have read the book and got the point of the film: one man had been left behind and U.S. military might was deployed to rescue him. (Spoiler warning!) The movie culminates in an American soldier busting into this man’s hiding place and assuring him that he is now safe, that he will not be left behind. The soldier, and the audience, then breathes a sigh of relief, knowing that he, too, is accounted for.

And as the credits rolled I found myself thinking about the church, another place where I hope no man is left behind (or no woman, or no child, for that). We should expect no less from ourselves.

If Frozen were a horror film

HT: Z

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Four titles from Crossway’s Preaching the Word commentary series:

Four by R.C. Sproul:

And finally:

Is It God’s Will for All Christians to Be Wealthy?

Ajith Fernando:

More and more Christians, all over the world, believe that material prosperity is the right of all Christians. They believe that God expects them to ask for it and to anticipate it as a sure fulfilment of his promise. There is no doubt that both the Old and New Testaments teach that the faithful will be blessed by God.

But does that blessing necessarily always include material prosperity? Can all Christians expect to become wealthy? Turning to the Bible dispels such an expectation.

Chasing Echoes

Nick Horton:

We walk through life constantly observing beauty. Many times we only observe and do not appreciate. We take in the grandeur around us and file it away as business as usual as though creation is mundane and to be expected. We drive in cars crammed in traffic jams seething with impatience, annoyance, and anger, all the while ignoring the beauty that exists around us.

Links I like

Satan’s lies about prayer

Sam Freney:

It’s a fair bet that most Christians would see prayer as a vital component of our relationship with God. We can bring our worries and troubles to our Father, we can ask for anything in Jesus’ name, we can be confident in our approach to God because of the blood of our saviour—these are all things we affirm and love.

This is good. Because each aspect of prayer to the Father is the gospel of grace in miniature. I have done nothing to earn the ear of the creator of the universe; quite the opposite, in fact. The relationship I now enjoy in prayer with my Lord is entirely his gracious gift.

So how is it that we can be so often and so easily deceived about and diverted from prayer? Well, for a start, we’re sinful creatures. And often lazy. Distractible. Not yet transformed into glory. Very often more interested in shiny things (or glowing screens) than the invisible, immortal God.

 One Reason People May Be Skipping Church

Trevin shares a brilliant and timely parable from Charles Spurgeon.

Jesus and non-violence

Daryl Charles and Timothy J. Demy:

Does Jesus’s teaching in the sermon on the Mount to “turn the other cheek” and not resist evil require pacifism on the part of Christians?

Since most religious pacifists ground their convictions in a purported nonviolent “love ethic” of Jesus that is understood to be the teaching of Matthew 5:38–42, it is imperative that the meaning of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount be assessed.

What Did Jesus Teach About Homosexuality?

Denny Burk:

Those who stage hermeneutical cage matches between Paul and Jesus are staging a contest that neither Jesus nor Paul would ever have tolerated. The approach tends to undermine the New Testament’s claim to be a normative basis for ethics by making the black letters subservient to the red letters.

How to run a theology pub

Darryl Dash:

For the past six years or so, I’ve convened a Theology Pub in Toronto. It all began with a post that expressed a desire to get together with others to eat and discuss theology. I hoped that this group would be open but orthodox, and that our discussions would drive us to mission.

Theology Pub is relatively easy. I don’t work at it a lot; I convene and organize it a little, and it just seems to happen. It’s also enjoyable. It combines two things I really love: theology and getting a network of people together who want to learn.

Links I like

What Do You Mean by Unconditional Love?

Erik Raymond:

It is common today to hear people say, “God loves us unconditionally.” It is also common to watch people bristle when people say, “God elects us unconditionally.”

When people say that God loves us unconditionally they usually mean something like, “After conversion God loves you no matter what. Isn’t that great?”

In one sense this is true, God’s love for his people is not based upon what they do or do not do. But this does not mean that God loves us unconditionally. If God loves anyone he loves them conditionally.

Get The Creedal Imperative in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the paperback edition of The Creedal Imperative by Carl Trueman for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Blood Work by Anthony Carter (hardcover)
  • Upsetting the World conference messages (DVD)
  • The Majesty of Christ teaching series by R.C. Sproul (CD)

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

Missional Love

Matthew Sims:

Love we see is absolutely integral to who God is, but did you notice how the the two references work backwards? Look at like this: Love is essential to who God is and it’s out of this love that he sent his Son to die. God’s love (and all true love) is not insular. It’s not looking in and loving oneself. That’s why the two greatest commandments according to Jesus are love God and love neighbor. That’s also why God as trinity is essential orthodoxy. God has been and will always be a God who overflows in his love for others. This originates with his love within the trinity and overflows onto us.

Save big on books by R.C. Sproul

50 Good Reasons to Sleep Longer

David Murray:

We are sleeping between one and two hours less per night than people did 60 or so years ago and it’s having a devastating impact upon every part of our lives. Over the last few months I’ve been collecting research about the dangers of too little sleep, which I’ve summarized below.

Are We Christians Good Neighbors?

Thabiti Anyabwile:

I played with Bea and Fred’s five children. We did everything from ride our bikes together to play basketball or stickball in the neighborhood park to chase one another in frenetic games of tag or hide-n-seek. We children were neighbors, too.

I thought about Bea and Fred last week as I prepared to preach Luke 10:25-37, the parable of the so-called “good Samaritan.” I prefer to call it the parable of the godly neighbor since Jesus tells the story to a religious man who asked in a self-justifying moment, “who is my neighbor?”

One more reason why Sunday evening services are disappearing

Winter-Church

Recently, Thom Rainer shared a few reasons for the possible demise of the Sunday evening service. Yesterday, Tim Challies chimed in from his perspective, suggesting that it could be linked to a diminished view of preaching, our amusement culture and the growth of amateur and professional sports, among others. But there’s one other reason I’d like to suggest:

A diminished view of discipleship and leadership development.

This has been a growing problem not only in the church but in the culture at large, despite it being one of the most oft-cited practices of good leaders (and all who’ve read a book on leadership said, “Amen”). Younger potential leaders need guidance from seasoned leaders—to learn from their experience (both positive and negative). And seasoned leaders do their most important work when they’re investing in those coming up behind them and ensuring that there are strong leaders to take the reins after they’ve retired or moved on to another opportunity.

Yet, despite the common knowledge that developing leaders is a good thing, this is missing in the cultures of many organizations—including churches.

This should never be. After all, we see a pretty strong emphasis on this kind of development in the New Testament. Although, you’re not going to find a verse saying, “older leaders, thou shalt raise up younger ones,” what you will find is Paul exhorting older men and women to invest in younger ones (Titus 2:1-6), Paul shepherding younger men like Timothy, whom he calls his “true child in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), appointing elders (Acts 14:23) and tasking his protégés to do likewise (Titus 1:5).

Going a little more broadly, this kind of investing in others is part and parcel with the great commission itself—we are to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. This necessarily requires the older (or more mature) to train and teach the younger.

Factoring all that in, rather than think of it as leadership development, maybe it’s more helpful to see it as discipleship.

Back to Sunday evening services for a moment: what both Rainer and Challies mentioned is that many pastors simply don’t have time to prepare two different sermons for each Sunday. This is very true. The responsibilities pastors carry are great, and one of the most important is their proclaiming and teaching of the Bible. But no one says senior pastors have to be the ones preaching on Sunday evening.

Sunday night services are a prime opportunity for the training of younger preachers—men who have shown some aptitude, but need experience to both identify their strengths and confirm whether or not a calling to pastoral ministry exists. It’s also a positive way to disciple the congregation as a whole. By having someone else preach, even someone who isn’t super-experienced (and may preach a lemon or ten), the congregation is protected from developing a cult of personality (you don’t need to have a big church for this to happen). They’re learning to be discerning, as well as being reminded that they’re trust is to be in the Word, not in the words of a messenger.

These are just some of the practical values a Sunday evening service brings. While I don’t attend a church that has one (we meet in a public high school and it’s not included in our lease agreement), I have been invited to preach at other churches for their evening services. And every time, it’s been a really positive learning experience and (thankfully) the congregation leaves encouraged. The more I do it, the more I am grateful for the churches that continue to hold these services.

Now, obviously, the solution to the leadership development and discipleship issue isn’t just “bring back Sunday night services;” that would be far too simplistic a thing to suggest. But what it should make all of us consider is how are we intentionally investing in and discipling younger potential leaders—and, honestly, whether or not we’re doing it at all.

Links I like

It multiplied

Ray Ortlund:

I remember hearing Michael Green at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in 1974. He asked us, Why don’t we see anywhere in the book of Acts a man-made strategic plan for evangelizing the world? His answer: They didn’t have one.

What then did they have? Two things, for starters: the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Thinking About Q Nashville

Hunter Baker:

When I look at Q, its hosts, and the young people participating in it, I suspect I am seeing the cultural stance of those who have grown up in pervasively Christian subcultures. For them, rebelling means rebelling against Massive Baptist Church or Church Related University or Clearly Wealthy Famous Preacherman. Those are the holders of power in their world. It is little wonder to them that the dominant culture dislikes us. We are hypocrites. We don’t measure up to our own standards. And we are judgmental while the secular world is more understanding. Or so it seems to them.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway has a number of wonderful books by J.I. Packer on sale this week:

Also on sale:

Finally, a few books by Stephen Altrogge are on for 99¢ each:

Celebrities Are Not Commodities

Richard Clark:

Between movies, television shows, pop music, websites, and podcasts, our lives are full of background noise created by and in service to celebrities. Even if you’re not obsessed with Hollywood and tabloid culture, you’ve no doubt been a little too excited about being in the same room with your favorite pastor, writer, or theologian.

The reality of celebrity throws a wrench into our well-oiled mastery of relationships. We may have learned to restrain our judgment of those closest to us, to give those around us the benefit of the doubt, and to show grace to those who sin against us. We might have learned not to keep a record of wrongs. We might have learned to forgive our friends 777 times. We allow ourselves to continue in friendships that inconvenience and disturb us, because that’s what Jesus would have done. But all of this is exhausting. We need a break.

10 Ingredients Of A Happy Home

David Murray:

One of the greatest blessings we can give our children is the cultivation of a happy home. I say “cultivation” because it doesn’t happen automatically; it requires conscious, determined, deliberate effort. From my own experience and from observing others, here are ten ways to cultivate a happy home.

The Church Needs More Tattoos

Russell Moore:

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) often tells audiences, “Republican Party events need more people with tattoos.” It struck me, as I heard him say this, that this is kind of what evangelical Christians ought to be saying about our churches. It struck me further when I read this tribute my former student Spencer Harmon wrote about his new wife and her past that this is precisely the issue facing the next generation of the Bride of Christ, the church.

What Paul (the senator, not the Apostle) means, it seems, is that his party, if it is to have a future, shouldn’t count on just doing the same thing it’s always done, and it can’t rely on people who look like what people think Republicans ought to look like. The party must expand out to people whose pictures don’t currently show up in a Google image search for “Republican.” There are people, Paul says, who agree with the Republican message, in theory, but who pay no attention to it because they assume they aren’t the kind of people the party wants to talk to.

Links I like

You won’t waste your life

In this short video, Jared Wilson, who moved from the buzzing metropolis of Nashville to a small town in Vermont, contrary to those who think giftedness is wasted in smaller contexts, encourages young men and couples to consider ministry in less notable areas.

Caring for a parent with dementia

Dave Jenkins:

The last time I saw my father was six and a half years ago in that exact office. On Father’s Day, 2012, (one month before the phone call from my brother) the Lord placed it heavy on my heart to pray and intercede for my dad, which I did. As tears streamed from my eyes, little did I know the Lord would bring my dad back from Eastern Washington to Seattle one day in the near future. So on that day in July 18th, 2012, while I was shocked to get a phone call from my older brother, I was at peace as I spoke to my father on the phone for the first time in six and a half years. As I choked back tears, I said, “Do you know who this is?” and he said, “Yes, I do, it’s my son, David.”

A Thirst for Knowledge, A Thirst for Porn

Mike Leake:

Knowledge is a good thing. There is nothing innately wrong with someone settling an argument by Googling the 1984 World Series MVP. In fact it can be quite helpful.

The problem is when we believe knowledge is a right. And it becomes a big problem when that foolish belief collides with our sex-crazed culture.

Many young men are introduced to pornography out of curiosity. They simply want to know what those forbidden parts look like. And then that curiosity gets more pointed. They want to know what certain celebrities look like naked. It never satisfies.

Like, totally, whatever, y’know

This has been floating around for a while, but it’s pretty awesome:

Christianity is a Crutch for the Weak

Matt Chandler:

So when I hear someone say that Christianity is a crutch, I agree. I’m a guy whose legs are broken. I need that crutch. When I hear someone say Christianity is for the feeble-minded, I agree. I have a feeble mind. I need the gospel to give me a right mind. When I hear someone say Christianity is something that weak people need, I agree. Weak people need it. I’m weak, and so are you. You just don’t know you’re weak.

The Best Way To Live

Tim Brister:

Ironically, the very “don’ts” that unbelievers present as objects to their freedom and pleasure in the world hold out the true and greater freedom and pleasure found in knowing God and doing His will. God is not against your freedom. He is for it enough to purchase it at the cost of His own beloved Son. God is not against your pleasure. He is for it enough to place the curse of sin on the only person with whom He has ever been well-pleased so that we might know the pleasure of salvation and the riches of His loving acceptance.

Links I like

Can We Trade Sexual Morality for Church Growth?

Russell Moore:

Sexual morality didn’t become difficult with the onset of the sexual revolution. It always has been. Walking away from our own lordship, or from the tyranny of our desires, has always been a narrow way. The rich young ruler wanted a religion that would promise him his best life now, extended out into eternity. But Jesus knew that such an existence isn’t life at all, just the zombie corpse of the way of the flesh. He came to give us something else, to join us to his own life.

Get The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts free

Reformation Trust’s free book of the month is The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond. Get it for free for the Kindle at Amazon, the ePub edition at Ligonier.org or for iBooks at iTunes.

Constitutional Wisdom and Common Sense on Ceremonial Prayer

Albert Mohler:

The Court’s ruling yesterday is important at every level — even as the controversy over the ruling is very illuminating. Some people argue that the problem is prayer in any form, and would simply prohibit public prayers at any governmental occasion. Others, like the women who brought this case against Greece, New York, would argue that prayers may be allowed, but only if they are sufficiently nonsectarian prayers offered to a generic deity. Others, including Justice Kennedy and a majority of the Court, argue that the nation has clearly allowed explicitly “sectarian” prayers to be offered at government occasions, and that the nation’s commitment to pluralism then depends on the invitation to pray being extended to all, regardless of creed.

How the Lego Movie should have ended

HT: Zach

Church Is For Messy People

Stephen Altrogge:

I distinctly remember one Sunday when a man said to me something like, “When I look around, I see all these people who have their lives together. Meanwhile, my life is a mess.” Church should be a place where messy people feel comfortable. When I say “messy people”, I don’t mean people who are willfully engaging in unrepentant sin. I mean people who are seeking to follow Jesus, but who often find themselves struggling, and falling, and failing. I’m talking about the weak, weary, and worn out.

10 Money Lessons To Teach Your Kids

David Murray summarizes ten lessons he’s learned from Dave Ramsey’s new book, Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money.

Get The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes for $5

Westminster Books has a killer sale on Zack Eswine’s new book, The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes. This week only, you can get this book for $5 per copy. Here’s the description:

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes reminds us that life under the sun does not play out according to neat and tidy rules. He asks us to see the world around us in all its messiness and explores what that messiness reveals about us, our world, and God. The Preacher is plainspoken, because people live in the midst of this mess and we have to talk about it. Zack Eswine gives us a meditation that engages people where they are and invites them to draw near to God who enters their world to redeem it and them.

Links I like

I Miss the Absurdity

Tim Challies:

It was with a twinge of remorse that I realized I can’t relate to her as a little kid any more. For so long our love language has been the language of absurdities: “Mommy says you don’t want birthday presents this year, so mommy and I are going to use the money to go out on a date.” We used to have such fun with these, teasing one another back and forth with increasingly absurd statements. Now all I get is rolled eyes and the one-word exasperated exclamation, “Daddy!” I guess it’s time to stop, time to find something new, time to learn a new language.

Nine things you should know about prayer from the Bible

Joe Carter:
Do you know how many prayer are mentioned in the Bible (and how many were answered)? Here’s the answer to that question and other things you should know about the prayer in the Bible.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to yesterday’s list, here are a few deals for you:

St. Patrick’s bad analogies

This is pretty fantastic:

Why Playing it Safe as a Pastor Is the Riskiest Move You’ll Make

Eric McKiddie:

With all the opposition we face in ministry, it’s tempting to play it safe. Evasive maneuvers often seem like the best course of action. Mitigate the risk, and live to minister another day.

The irony is that while avoiding church conflict buys you time now, long-term—as I hope to show you—it guarantees failure. And anything that guarantees failure is the opposite of safe. It’s the ultimate risk, because you’re betting you will be the one-in-a-million pastor whose church problems go away all by themselves.

If playing it safe isn’t safe in church anymore, then what is? Risk is. In ministry, risky is the new safe.

The Ministry of Watching Sparrows Fall to the Ground

D.L. Mayfield:

It has been a hard few weeks. Death has been stalking this neighborhood. Suicides, both passive and otherwise, have haunted us. I have sat in the apartments of recent widows and had nothing to say but “I’m sorry”. I have listened to people as they told me about all of their possessions going up in a blaze, looked at the floor where they and their 8 children now sleep. I have had people clutch my arms, tell me their stories in snippets, beg for bus money. I have heard so much that I cannot share with anyone. Instead of debating the finer points of Pauline doctrine or sharing the stories of Jesus I find myself sitting in stuffy apartments, listening to sad stories being translated to me.Lately I have taken to chastising myself: what right do you have to be sad? You are just a newcomer, an outsider. Don’t co-opt the grief of others and pretend like it is your own. I have settled into a numb sort of dullness, objectively identifying situations with my lips: yes, yes, this is all very sad. But I am floating far above it all, afraid of being an emotional, slobbering wreck; tired of the increased distance I feel between myself and people who are not living this same life; hesitant to plumb the depths of my feelings towards the person who got me into this mess. Who is, of course, God. Some people feel called to do certain things. “Called by God,” they say, and I listen with envious ears. I imagine a gentle voice, a guiding light, when all I ever feel (as my good friend Jessica says) is a great big shove from the Almighty one. A grim sort of determination is the sheen around everything that I do. Of course, there is joy–I cannot get over the pleasures of living in diversity–but still I think that compulsion fits the bill for me better than calling.