Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a couple of new deals for you:

The Other Worldview

Peter Jones’ latest book, The Other Worldview, is now available. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy.

From Depraved to Disciple

Jemar Tisby:

Total depravity describes an extensive reality, rather than an intensive one. It means that sin extends to every aspect of our humanity. Each person’s mind, will, and emotions have been corrupted by sin. No part of any human being has a defense against depravity. But this does not mean that people do as much evil as they possibly could. Total depravity does not speak of the intensity of sin in a person, only that every part of a person has been touched by it.

3 Errors of Musical Style that Stifle Community

Tim Challies shares three errors that can stifle local church community from Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop’s book The Compelling Community.

Christ’s Seven Prayers For His People

David Murray:

Wouldn’t you love to hear Christ prayers for you?

You can.

In John 17 we can eavesdrop on Christ’s prayers for His people. Lean in and you’ll hear five prayers He’s praying for every Christian every day, and then two that He prays on our last day on earth.

Poverty tourism vs pilgrimage

Sidney Muiyso offers a helpful perspective.

On Becoming a Humble Theologian

Brandon Smith:

Working at a Bible college for three years and spending seven years (so far) as a student in biblical and theological training, it’s always said (but not repeated enough) that doing theology is a humble person’s task. Pride puffs up, leaving the theologian with nothing but Spirit-less fodder for intramural debates. Humility, on the other hand, allows for God-exaltation to happen in the life and work of the theologian.

God doesn’t need an invitation

 

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There’s a peculiar thing I’ve noticed in some of the songs in popular Christian praise and/or worship music—typically the ones you hear at the beginning of the “set”1 intended to warm everybody up and get everyone excited. It’s this idea that we are somehow summoning God into our presence. Songs about inviting him into our midst, calling him down, telling him to show up in power, and show us his glory, and all this kind of stuff…

Now, depending your congregation’s proclivities, you’re probably going to sing a song like this today. And I’ve gotta say, to me at least, it’s really weird. It’s not that I’m against being aware of God’s presence, nor am I against praying—or singing for that matter—for true, Spirit-wrought revival. But I’m not sure this is what these songs are talking about. Instead, they seem to be putting us in the drivers’ seat, making us the ones in control during the our time of corporate worship.

In a chapter of The Prodigal Church at least 75 percent of worship leaders will skip, Jared Wilson calls our attention to the heart of this peculiar problem:

The danger we face when we worship is coming into the experience assuming we are summoning God. Assuming worship is our initiative. Assuming we are somehow the ones in control, that we are bringing the best of ourselves and our holy desire to worship. But the reality is, worship does not begin with the worshipper. It begins with God. It is a response to God’s calling upon us. (97)

This is the danger of experientialism. It moves us by inches away from the center, from the reality of who God is, of what the purpose of worship is—of who the object of worship is. And if we’re not careful, and the slide continues, our worship songs may wind up more closely resembling the frantic cries of the Baal-worshippers on the mountain than those of Christ’s disciples.

You’re not calling God down this morning. He doesn’t need an invitation. But I have some better news for you: He is already here. The Holy Spirit dwells within all of his people, every moment of every day. He is the one who empowers our worship, who gives us the desire to sing God’s praises. His power has already shown up—and it resides in us. Should we not rejoice and be glad of this?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Seeds Project is now available

My friend Mike’s been working long and hard on the first volume of The Seeds Project, Jesus Is All You Need, a devotional for children on Colossians. Be sure to grab a copy of this!

Leadership is always temporary

Eric Geiger:

Leadership is always a temporary assignment—always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries, or organizations that they lead. They simply steward what the Lord has entrusted to their care for a season. Wise leaders embrace the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. Because the assignment is fleeting, developing others for leadership is an essential responsibility of a leader.

The Six Definitive Rules Of Internet Behavior

Stephen Altrogge offers a good example of satire.

Dustin Kensrue covers “Wrecking Ball”

Seriously:

How Should Christians View World History?

R.C. Sproul:

It is also important for us to understand that in terms of biblical eschatology, the end of the world does not indicate an annihilation of the world but a renovation and redemption of it. The New Testament makes it evident that the final renovation of creation is cosmic in scope, that the whole universe groans together in travail waiting for the redemption of the sons of men (Rom 8:18–23). Questions of our future, personal and cosmic, are all subject to the inquiries associated with eschatology. The question of life after death—the issues of heaven, hell, and resurrection—are all integral to our study of eschatology. An understanding of the last judgment also falls under the scope of this consideration.

The Rise of the Selfie Generation

Nathan Bingham:

We all know the Greek myth of Narcissus—the attractive man who was lured by Nemesis to a pool. Narcissus, fatally falling in love with his own reflection, drowned. But what would a 21st-century Narcissus myth involve? I suspect it would include a smartphone, selfies, and crossing the street without looking.

The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon

Brandon Smith interviews Christian George on the previously-unpublished sermons of Charles Spurgeon.

Liberating King

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I tried to like Christian music.

I really did.

When I was a new believer, I got a whole bunch of Christian CDs from the “if you’re a fan of [insert band name here]” section of the Christian bookstore. I listened to a whole bunch of stuff… but, outside of a few songs here and there, and the odd album, nothing really clicked.

Perhaps it’s helpful to understand my general opinion of the music geared toward Christians (please assume the appropriate caveats are in place):

  1. Much music intended for personal enjoyment tends to try too hard to sound “Christian,” and thus feels dishonest.
  2. The music we sing in many of our churches is even worse. Far too much church music tends to be simplistic, emotionally manipulative, and triumphalist—at best including a few disconnected statements about God, without actually encouraging us to truly know him better.

This is probably the strangest way to start a review of an album by a Christian worship leader, isn’t it?

Now, before you write me off as a “good church music stopped in the 1800s” guy who thinks every song should be a systematic theology lesson, that’s not what I’m advocating here (tho’ I do love me some hymns). As has often been said, the answer to bad church music is not to go back to older songs, but to write better ones. That’s what I love about The Modern Post and Citizens and Saints, The Sing Team and the Gettys. It’s also what I really dig about what Stephen Miller’s doing on his latest album, Liberating King.

Praise music that’s praiseworthy

From track one, it’s pretty clear this is not going to be what you’d hear from, say, Hillsong or even the Vertical Church Band.1 The songs featured on Liberating King teach us about God, even as they direct our praise to him.

This is harder than it sounds. It’s really easy to swing too far, in trying to correct from where much of modern praise music has gone. But Miller doesn’t overcorrect; instead, he maintains a strong balance between the head and the heart. Consider “You Complete All You Begin”, which is probably the standout song of all the original material on the album. Here, Miller takes listeners (and, ideally, congregations) through the story of redemption, from the first glimpse of the gospel to the end:

Completely just and holy God
Who from age to age forbeared
All the blatant acts of evil hearts
Unrelenting in despair
While promising a Son would come
The Messiah from of old
And his bruised heel would crush the head
Of the serpent, cursed and cold

This is powerful stuff. When was the last time you can recall singing about the fact that God promised to send Jesus and that he would triumph over evil? When was the last time you sung something like “When the blood of bulls could not suffice / Christ absorbed it all in him”? This is the kind of gospel rich, hope-inciting words we need to sing more often. These are songs that are directing our starting points and our responses away from us. Our emotions obviously play a role in what we’re singing, but Miller helps us to recognize that while we “could sing of [God’s] love forever”,2 it’s more helpful to do so when we understand what God has done in his love for us.

“It is well”

My favorite song on the album, though, is Miller’s arrangement of Horatio Spafford’s “It Is Well.” This is probably one of the greatest songs ever written for the benefit of the Church—not because it is terribly complicated, but because it communicates profound truth. Spafford wrote the song out of adversity, following the great Chicago fire of 1871, financial ruin, and finally, the death of all four of his daughters in a shipwreck. In other words, this isn’t an ivory tower hymn, written from a place of privilege; it is written from the same place David wrote so many of his psalms—one of grief and trial. And this is what makes it so honest, and enduring. Miller honors the original: the new arrangement “fits”, and he sings with noticeable conviction. Were I to hear this arrangement in our church’s worship gathering, I would be elated.

Songs worth singing

Liberating King did something that hasn’t happened in quite a while with any praise songs—it actually made me want to sing. And with good reason: this is an album that is worth singing because it’s an album that is clearly about Jesus, our Lord and King. And if he’s not worth singing about, what is? Definitely check out the album; I have no doubt you will be blessed in your hearing of it.


Title: Liberating King
Artist: Stephen Miller

Buy it at: Bandcamp | Amazon | iTunes


Today, I’m giving away three copies of Liberating King. To enter, all you’ve got to do is tell me about your favorite church music. What’s the song you really love to sing at church (or wish you did), and why? I’ll choose the winners at random on Wednesday, and they’ll be notified by email (followed by an announcement in the comments on this post).

Links I like

Links

Living in a virtual reality

Audio is starting to come online from this year’s TruthXchange Think Tank. Be sure to check out Chris Poblete’s session, “Living in a Virtual Reality.” It’s fantastic stuff.

Why Doesn’t God Just Remove that Sin?

JD Greear:

This isn’t the question of a skeptic trying to prove that God doesn’t exist—the famous apologetic “problem of evil.” No, this is the personalquestion of a believer trying to discern what in the world God is doing with the continued struggles in his life. It is the question of someone who reads, “For those who love God, all things work together for good,” and trying to reconcile that theological truth with her present circumstances.

Listening closer

Jeffrey Overstreet:

What is it that makes a piece of music meaningful to you? For me, it could be anything: subject matter, wordplay, a guitar tone, a rhythm track, something unexpected, or the circumstances in which I first heard it. This is why, as a critic, I make a distinction between the albums I would rate as “excellent” and the albums I would rate as “favorites.” Any honest music lover knows that we love or hate songs for more than just their measures of artistic excellence. Most music critics enjoy confessing “guilty pleasures.”

Of Serial Killers, Hiding Sins, and the Glorious Hope of Forgiveness in Christ

Kevin Halloran:

Even though sin should be so evident to people, many people don’t believe in the sinfulness of humanity exactly because humans are good at covering up their tracks. It’s not natural in our culture to walk in the grocery store and point at the guy stocking shelves and say, “He’s a sinner going to hell!” But if he doesn’t know Christ, that is true.

Top 10 Punctuation Mistakes

Quotation marks used for emphasis makes babies cry.

The Millennial “Adulthood” Delusion

Chris Martin:

Being an adult doesn’t mean locking in a 9-to-5 job and procreating. Being an adult doesn’t mean having everything figured out. Being an adult isn’t some threshold you pass through at a fully mature and developed stage of life. There really isn’t one, anyway.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A Tip for Seminary Students

Mike Leake:

I came to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall of 2009. I was excited to be able to learn from some of the world’s greatest professors. I figured I would learn so much and that I would grow in my relationship with the Lord in ways I didn’t imagine. My first semesters didn’t disappoint.

After awhile, though, my soul started to ache a bit.

Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting

Heather Barwick:

Do you remember that book, “Heather Has Two Mommies”? That was my life. My mom, her partner, and I lived in a cozy little house in the ‘burbs of a very liberal and open-minded area. Her partner treated me as if I was her own daughter. Along with my mom’s partner, I also inherited her tight-knit community of gay and lesbian friends. Or maybe they inherited me?

Either way, I still feel like gay people are my people. I’ve learned so much from you. You taught me how to be brave, especially when it is hard. You taught me empathy. You taught me how to listen. And how to dance. You taught me not be afraid of things that are different. And you taught me how to stand up for myself, even if that means I stand alone.

I’m writing to you because I’m letting myself out of the closet: I don’t support gay marriage. But it might not be for the reasons that you think.

Of Crows and Crowns

Check out this video for a new song from Dustin Kensrue’s upcoming album, Carry the Fire (which you should really pre-order):

Are All Christian Denominations in Decline?

Joe Carter tackles the common notion that all denominations are in decline. But is it true? His answer: Not even a little bit.

Christians and college debt

Samuel Jones:

Student loan debt is no longer a minor macroeconomic footnote. Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies instead dubs it a “time bomb,” a gravely serious economic stranglehold on millions of Americans. Collins notes that student loan debt is already higher than the US’s total credit card debt and will, according to some economists, balloon even more at the turn of the decade. One report released last year estimated that 70% of graduating seniors carry debt out of college and that the average student debt was just south of $30,000.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Wading Into The Wild World Of Cosmo

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

New Dustin Kensrue music: “Back to Back”

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

An Open Letter to George Perdikis

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

Dear Angry Preacher Dude

Mike Leake:

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

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

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

Why do you hate me so much?

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

The President at the Prayer Breakfast

Albert Mohler:

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

What Mr “Know it All” Doesn’t Know

Erik Raymond:

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

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

I Believe in Magazines: Proverbs for Publishing

James K. A. Smith:

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

 

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a whole bunch of great resources on sale, including:

  • Heroes of the Christian Faith teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • A Survey of Church History, Part 3: A.D. 1500-1620 teaching series by W. Robert Godfrey (DVD)
  • Mark by R.C. Sproul (ePub and MOBI)
  • Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching by various authors (ePub and MOBI)
  • The Promises of God by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)

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

And finally, be sure to check out this great deal on a new curriculum for middle schoolers at the Westminster Bookstore.

Jesus and Scripture

Andrew Wilson:

Post-evangelicals often present the options as (1) an infallible Bible and an infallible Church, or (2) a correctable Bible and a correctable Church. But if we were to present these options to Jesus or Paul or Moses – or Gregory, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Wesley, Spurgeon and the rest – I suspect they would splutter in astonishment and tell us about option (3): an infallible Bible, and a correctable Church. That, surely, is the way to preserve divine authority and human humility; a word from God that never fails, and people that frequently do.

Today I stopped being afraid of the social media mob

Really appreciated this piece by Matthew Paul Turner.

The Worst Ever (Mis)Quotation Of The Bible?

David Murray, continuing his series reading through Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now:

The more we read and study the Bible, the more painful it becomes when we hear a verse quoted out of context and even used to advocate for the exact opposite of the verse in its context.

In reading through Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now, this pain is fairly constant. But the worst context-ripping and heart-rending example is Osteen’s use of Colossians 3:2 in Part 1: Enlarge Your Vision.

7 ways handwriting can save your brain

This is really interesting (HT: Aaron Earls)

All I really want

Red Rubber Studios did a great job on this new music video for Deni Gauthier:

What to Do When We’re Prayerless

Jon Bloom:

If prayer is the native language of faith and we’re struggling with prayerlessness, then the first thing we need to do is look for a faith problem. There’s a faith breakdown somewhere and until we get that fixed, our problem will remain.

How do we fix this?

 

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Am I supporting heresy?

Shaun Groves asks a very important question. Read this! (And if you’re wondering who “Ted” is, just Google one of the quotes.)

New book from Desiring God: Killjoys

Desiring God’s just released a new book on the seven deadly sins, Killjoys. Get the digital edition free or purchase a hardcopy at Amazon.

Top fonts of 2014

The recovering graphic designer in me found this fascinating.

How Should We Respond to Reports that a Fragment of Mark Dates to the First Century?

Justin Taylor:

How should we respond to something like this? I think it’s appropriate to be hopeful. As an evangelical, I believe the best historical evidence points to the New Testament gospels composed in the first century: Mark (mid- to late 50s), Matthew (50s or 60s), Luke (c.  58-60), John (mid- or late 80s or early 90s). If this discovery doesn’t pan out, it doesn’t effect my dating because the dating is not dependent upon the dating of manuscripts. If it does pan out—especially if it can be dated with confidence to the 80s—it would be a major discovery, because the oldest of anything is always noteworthy.

Why I Quit My Job

Chad Hall:

A huge myth is that people quit one job in order to earn more money elsewhere. While some people do that, they are in the minority. Most people choose to leave a job not because of profit, but because of purpose and people. Let’s define those terms.

An explanation of the covenants

This is an enjoyable video by the Bible Project (note: you probably won’t agree with some of the language used, but it’s nicely done nonetheless):

The best and worst Christmas songs, part 2: electric boogaloo

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Ah, Christmas… the time when we eat delicious food, spend time avoiding uncomfortable conversations, celebrate the birth of Jesus… and, listen to a whole lotta Christmas songs.

Last year, I shared five of the best and worst Christmas songs. Some are ones that I joyfully listen to (much to my wife’s chagrin). Others, well, not so much.

But I realized there were more out there. And so, here we are: the best and worst Christmas songs, part two:


Best: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

This one was on last year’s list, too, but with a different arrangement. Dustin Kensrue, under the Modern Post moniker, released a new version on his Child of Glory EP, and it is delightful.

In fact, do yourself a favor: buy that EP and just put it on repeat. It’s one of the few Christmas compilations I really enjoy.


Worst: Christmas Shoes

This one was by popular demand—and in fact, I am fairly certain my distaste for the song caused me to block it from my memory.


Best: The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)

Paul McCartney made last year’s “worst” list. This time, he’s got a really nice take on a classic song to make up for it:


Worst: All I Want for Christmas is You / Last Christmas (tie)

This is a terrific pair of yuck: one in which Mariah Carey sings about Christmas, but not about Christmas. The other is Wham.


Best: O Come O Come, Emmanuel

Sufjan’s a bit passé these days, but this take on this classic song is wonderful.


Worst: Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Because, as we were reminded in 1984, it’s important to feel as guilty as possible at Christmas time, just like Jesus wanted.


Best: Please Come Home For Christmas

I love Blues. Therefore this song by Charles Brown wins.


Worst: Christmas Don’t Be Late

Because the Chipmunks may, in fact, be made of pure concentrated evil (as evidenced by the movies).


Best: O Little Town of Bethlehem

Okay, I know I shouldn’t include music performed by the same artist twice on a list, but I’m doing it anyway. I really enjoy this take on O Little Town of Bethlehem by Dustin Kensrue.


Worst: Funky, Funky Christmas

I had completely forgotten until recently that the New Kids on the Block made a Christmas record. Oh, how I wish I this information was still lost to me.


Photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

And although it’s not an eBook, the ESV Reader’s Bible is a steal at $14.99.

Imagine if this happened while you were waiting for your plane…

This is amazing:

8 Suggestions for Applying the Gospel in Light of Brown, Grant, Gurley, Rice and Others

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Yesterday following the morning service a dear and faithful brother approached me at the door. In his customarily intense way, he looked me in the eyes and thanked me for the sermon. He expressed his appreciation for how the gospel was present throughout the exposition. Then he moved from appreciation to loving critique. Not about the sermon, but about my posts on Ferguson-related themes. He asked if I thought the gospel should run throughout Christian comments and responses to Ferguson.… When I told my wife about the conversation she looked at me with that “I’ve been telling you that” look. So, here goes. An attempt to apply the gospel in actionable ways to these Ferguson—Staten Island—Cleveland—New York kinda times we’re in.

 Love among the Pixels: Fidelity and Romance in the Digital Age

Hannah Anderson:

For all the obvious pitfalls, it seems that love and fidelity in the digital age may have a new snag: backburner relationships. Unfortunately, our friend is not alone. Facebook is increasingly cited in divorce proceedings while texts and e-mails document cyber trails of indiscretion. The reality is so prevalent that there are even apps that allow you to monitor your partner’s online behavior. But for all the obvious pitfalls, it seems that love and fidelity in the digital age may have a new snag: backburner relationships.

How Not to Preach Matthew’s Birth Narratives at Christmas

Eric McKiddie:

It may seem to be impossible to misinterpret the birth narratives in our advent sermons. What could be easier to preach at Christmas than the birth of Jesus? What could be harder to misread than these plain, simple stories of Jesus coming into the world?

But when we turn off our interpretational radar, we are likely to crash and burn.

Unfortunately, pastors often substitute secondary applications for the primary interpretation in their Christmas sermons. We sideline the main purpose for these stories – to teach about Jesus – and focus on the incidental actions of the characters instead.

How does that happen? Let’s look at Matthew’s birth narratives and see.

How to make a hit Christmas song

It hurts (but it’s also true):

HT: Mike

Links I like

eBook sale: Zondervan’s Counterpoints series

Zondervan has 18 volumes from their Counterpoints series on sale for $4.99 or less each:

These are terrific books to help you get a sense of the spectrum of belief on a variety of issues found within evangelical circles and are well worth checking out.

Also, if you’re looking for a few great devotionals to use starting in the upcoming Advent season, Westminster Bookstore has a terrific bundle on sale for $45 featuring the following titles:

Will Ferguson Be Our Transformative Moment?

Thabiti Anyabwile:

To be sure, there will be “winners” and “losers” in whatever decision gets handed down. And no matter who “wins,” there will still be dissatisfaction on both sides. An indictment won’t bring Brown back and it won’t repair the breach of trust between those sworn to protect and those sworn to get justice. An acquittal won’t clear Wilson’s name and it won’t restore the integrity of a police department mired in ineptitude and scandal.

The transformative moment won’t be achieved with the jury’s decision.

Super Flemish

Imagine if Superman were born in the 16th century, or the Hulk was a Duke. Now you know how amazing this project from Sacha Goldberger is.

Why Fundamentalism is Not the Real Problem

Ted Paul:

When I hear people today repeat the line that “the real problem is fundamentalism,” I hear them saying that the real problem is people’s habit of having firm beliefs in things, and that if only people would not hold firm beliefs but instead be mostly agnostic with just a few loosely held beliefs, this would be progress. Wrong diagnosis and thus wrong prescription. What they should say instead is that “the real problem is with false and destructive beliefs.” When someone adopts firm allegiance and strict adherence to certain wrong and dangerous beliefs, the natural consequences will probably be negative – not because of their act of believing but because of the content of the belief(s).

5 Things I’d Do Differently If Raising My Family Again

Ron Edmonson:

The only advice I have is from personal experience. My boys are grown. On their own. Self-sustaining. Independent young men. But, everyone who knows them is impressed with my two adult sons. They are incredible.

But, I’ve been honest with all of them. Cheryl is too when she’s asked. It’s all been grace.

I do have the opportunity, however, of looking back on that experience. Parenting looks different to me now than it did then. Isn’t that how all of life works? We can only see what we can see, and when we are in the middle of something, it’s harder to see the whole picture.

And, if I had it to do over, I’d do some things differently.

Atheist kids’ songs

HT: Tim

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.

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How I Learned to Embrace the Stand and Greet Time

Tim Challies:

I may not know you, but I think one thing is safe to say: You do not have as much natural revulsion as I do toward a stand and greet time during a church service. You don’t feel a greater measure of inward terror when you hear a service leader command, “Stand up and greet a few of the people around you.” I am naturally shy, introverted, and easily intimidated, and can always feel the fear rising when I hear those words. And yet I am involved in planning our church’s services and often advocate for a stand and greet time. Let me tell you why I believe in this time of greeting one another, even though it is completely contrary to my natural desires.

Why are you part of a church community? Why are you a member of a church? Why do you go to the public gatherings of the church on Sunday morning? Broadly speaking there can be two reasons: You go for the good of yourself, or you go for the good of others. There is a world of difference between the two.

The Most Important Session of All

R.C. Sproul:

The most important session of all is the session of Jesus Christ in heaven. When Yahweh said to David’s Lord, “Sit at My right hand,” He was saying, “Be seated in the highest place of authority in the universe.” Psalm 110 is a prophetic psalm, and David was saying by the Holy Spirit that when the Messiah had finished His labor in this world, He would be exalted to heaven and enthroned at the right hand of God. We declare that these things took place when we recite the Apostles’ Creed, which affirms that Jesus “ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God.” This was the early church’s confession of belief in the importance of the session of Christ.

5 Common Small Group Myths (And the Truth to Help Transform Your Group)

Steven Lee:

What you believe about why you are in a small group will dictate how you behave in that group. It’s important for a church to be clear why small groups exist. Do they exist to connect, shepherd, and reach unbelievers or to support one another? Are they some combination of those different things? What you believe about your small group will dictate how you approach potential problems when they arise. For example, if you buy a house knowing it will be a fixer-upper, then you approach that faux wood paneling in the family room as an opportunity to upgrade and improve. Whereas if you buy your dream house and find out the basement floods, you’re pretty disappointed and discouraged. Similarly, be clear from the beginning about the vision and values of your church small groups.

I would suggest that a healthy small group is committed to studying and applying God’s Word within the context of Christian community in order to grow as witnesses of Jesus in our respective spheres of influence. At our church, we summarize this goal as “transformation in community for witness.” But whether your small groups are mainly to help believers grow or mainly missional, here are five small group myths that I’ve encountered over the years that need correcting.

The Art of Joy

If you’re a fan of Christian hip-hop, Jackie Perry’s album, The Art of Joy, is available as a free download.

12 Ways To Make (and Keep) Friends

David Murray shares 12 principles gleaned from Jonathan Holmes’ new book, The Company We Keep (reviewed here).

macho christianity

“I’m not into macho Christianity. It doesn’t work—it beats people up. The longer I live, the more I value gentleness.”
— Ray Ortlund —