Links I like

Are Millennials Joining High Church Traditions?

Jake Meador:

There have always been magisterial Protestants in the United States as well, but there is a perpetual tendency for these traditions to slide toward radicalism as they adopt more characteristically American tendencies toward individualism and separating oneself from the past. As a result, traditions that ought to embrace the more liturgical, sacramental spirituality of the high church tradition will struggle to do so consistently. This is how, to take the most extreme example, an ostensibly Reformed pastor like Robert Schuller ends up creating the Crystal Cathedral and the Hour of Power. For magisterial Protestants there is a constant tug of war between certain hallmark attributes of the American political identity and the guiding principles of the magisterial tradition.

The Dark-Tinted, Truth-Filled Reading List We Owe Our Kids

N.D. Wilson:

In the Christian world, stories laced with dark content—especially for children—will always spook whole flocks of eyebrows into concerned flight. The “content” of a book or film is parsed out, every bit of shadow flagged and sniffed at by mothers like they’ve discovered a malicious growth hormone in a suspicious chicken nugget.

Get When Worlds Collide in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get When World’s Collide by R.C. Sproul (ePub) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)
  • A Blueprint for Thinking teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson (hardcover)

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

Mortifying the Fear of Academic Books

Jared Oliphint:

But the trudge is an illusion, a feeling, an attitude, and a state of mind. You created it, and you can exercise a surprising amount of control over it in the long run. The skills that built and stacked internal walls meant to protect your own ego against the barrage of heavy, theological terms are the same skills that can sack those walls and command those technical terms for your spiritual benefit.

Abortion Meets a New Generation

Dan Darling and Andrew Walker:

And that leads us to the pro-life movement, dating back to the 1970s. Being pro-life was missional, incarnational, and radical way before those terms became evangelical buzzwords. And yet, caring for and advocating on behalf of the unborn remains controversial.

Thankfully, its controversial status may be a thing of the past if trend lines continue. Younger generations are markedly more pro-life than their parents. We’re observing a rising generation of pro-life Americans, many of whom (though not all) identify as Christian.

But sadly, among progressive evangelicals, there’s a reflexive hesitancy to tout or raise the banner of human life as a preeminent justice issue. You’ll hear individuals in this camp dance around the sanctity of life—writing it off as “political” or “complicated.”

Links I like

The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries

Andrea Palpant Dilley:

For many of our contemporaries, no one sums up missionaries of an earlier era like Nathan Price. The patriarch in Barbara Kingsolver’s 1998 novel, The Poisonwood Bible, Price tries to baptize new Congolese Christians in a river filled with crocodiles. He proclaims Tata Jesus is bangala!, thinking he is saying, “Jesus is beloved.” In fact, the phrase means, “Jesus is poisonwood.” Despite being corrected many times, Price repeats the phrase until his death—Kingsolver’s none-too-subtle metaphor for the culturally insensitive folly of modern missions.

For some reason, no one has written a best-selling book about the real-life 19th-century missionary John Mackenzie. When white settlers in South Africa threatened to take over the natives’ land, Mackenzie helped his friend and political ally Khama III travel to Britain. There, Mackenzie and his colleagues held petition drives, translated for Khama and two other chiefs at political rallies, and even arranged a meeting with Queen Victoria. Ultimately their efforts convinced Britain to enact a land protection agreement. Without it, the nation of Botswana would likely not exist today.

When Your Heart Isn’t In It

Joe Thorn:

Anger, sorrow, apathy and hundred other feelings leave us in state of mind where the idea of gathering with the church for worship or community group simply isn’t appealing. Sometimes we wake up on Sunday morning and secretly (hopefully) wonder, “Is my kid sick today? If so I guess we’ll have to stay home.” It’s shameful, but common among all of us. Sometimes we don’t went to do what we are created for. And in that moment we make a common mistake. We think since our heart isn’t in it we shouldn’t do it. I’ve felt this way before. I have heard it a lot as well. “I didn’t come to worship this Sunday because my heart wasn’t in it, and if I came and sang those songs I would feel like a hypocrite.” This is a deadly conclusion.

Untamable God

My pal Stephen Altrogge has just released a brand new book, Untamable God: Encountering the One Who Is Bigger, Better, and More Dangerous Than You Could Possibly Imagine. I read this a few weeks back and had this to say:

“He is not safe, but he is good.” C.S. Lewis’ words permeate every page of Stephen Altrogge’s new book, Untameable God, as he confronts and corrects our constant attempts to reimagine the God of the Bible into some damnably “safe” cheap substitute. Jesus isn’t safe—but he is good, and that is such good news for weary sinners. Read this book and rejoice!

Check out the book and be sure to grab a copy for your Kindle while it’s 99¢!

My wife also made a nifty t-shirt for the book, which you can get here.

Get Living for God’s Glory in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Living for God’s Glory by Joel Beeke (ePub) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Fear and Tremblin teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • Standing Firm: 2012 West Coast Conference (DVD)
  • The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond (hardcover)

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

So Dad, How Much Do You Earn?

David Murray:

In ways subtle and not so subtle they’ve tried to find out my salary through the years, and I’ve always gone to great lengths to conceal it from them. Shona and I never do our budgeting within earshot of the kids, and I’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to hide and shred wage slips, bank statements, mortgage statements, etc. That’s right, I wouldn’t even tell them how much my mortgage was.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I stopped and asked myself, “Why are you doing this? What’s the point in being so secretive?” I suppose I didn’t want them blabbing about it to their friends, but they’re “big boys” now.

The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest To Be a Christian

Katherine Burgess:

The top 10 nations “where Christians faced the most pressure and violence,” according to the WWL, were North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran. and Yemen. While North Korea has topped the list for 12 straight years, this is the first time that a sub-Saharan African country took the No. 2 slot.

Links I like

Create a Disciple-Making Plan for 2014

Tim Brister:

…I believe you and I need to have a disciple-making plan for our lives. Yes we need to pray. Yes we need to study and learn. But we also need a personal plan and process that we embrace in order to orient our lives around making, maturing, mobilizing, and multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ. It simply cannot be tangential or accidental or on the periphery of your life. It cannot be relegated to a small compartment of your life or canned program. To make disciples, you need to be “all in.”

I Want to Turn Your Dreams Back On

Check out John Piper’s plenary session at Cross:

The transcript is also available at the link if you don’t feel like watching the entire hour.

Reject the Entre-Pastor

Jeff Medders:

I don’t know how much longer I can stomach the fake church.… The “church” that looks more like a cheap Vegas act than a gathering of sinners drinking from the fountain of grace that flows from Emmanuel’s veins. There is a style of Churchianty that is all about the tinsel and lights, it’s not about Him. A Church-centered Church is no biblical church. The Church doesn’t exist for herself, no more than a Bride exists to be a Bride for the sake of being a Bride. The Church is a Bride for the Groom—for Christ. Remember the movies where a woman tries on a wedding dress and does it for her own enjoyment? That’s exactly how many churches operate. They put on their shows, their decanted ghost-written sermons, and gawk at themselves in the reflections of their satellite campus cameras. “Lights, camera, actions…oh yeah, and Jesus too”. There will be a big judgment for these men. Jesus will handle these charlatans at the Eschaton.

But this should give us an awkward pause of reflection.

Pray For Your Daughter

Mike Leake is getting ready to launch a new 31-day prayer challenge on January 1—this time for our daughters. As a father of two little girls, I’m really looking forward to taking part in this one.

Which Christians actually evangelize?

Kate Tracy:

Despite worries that millennials have given up on Christianity, or that they’re too focused on social justice campaigns, young adults are sharing their faith the most frequently. By contrast, evangelism is fading fastest among the middle class.

Links I like

Piper on Pastors’ Pay

Great interview with Collin Hansen. For example:

Why shouldn’t a pastor of a growing and thriving church earn more money as a reward for his hard work and incentive to stay around? After all, the church would probably suffer financially and numerically if he left.

I never felt that I was the church’s privilege, but that she is mine. To be at Bethlehem was gift, all gift. The mindset that I am so valuable I deserve any benefits that come from my ministry is alien to the spirit of Christ. He came to serve and give his life a ransom for many. Jesus was absolutely indispensable in the ministry he came to achieve, and the whole orientation of it was give, give, give—not get, get, get.

My question is: Why would a pastor want to get rich?

Get In Christ Alone in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • 1-2 Peter by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • a gift certificate for the Ligonier store
  • Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation (paperback)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern. And don’t forget—Ligonier is also offering The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson is free until the end of the month.

Free Online Class with R.C. Sproul Jr. on God’s Sovereignty in Suffering

You’re invited to join a free online class from Ligonier Connect studying God’s sovereignty over our suffering, personally moderated by Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. Whether you’ve recently experienced hardship in your life or would like to be better prepared for when it comes, this course will help you better understand God’s purpose in our pain and suffering.

What do Reformed guys mean by “Reformed”?

Interesting piece from Kevin DeYoung, using John Piper as an example:

For many people, John Piper is the most well known and most vigorous proponent of Reformed theology in the evangelical world today. He’s the guy who calls himself a seven point Calvinist. He exults in the sovereignty of God at every turn. He is, according to Mark Dever, “the single most potent factor in the recent rise of Reformed theology.” Of course, John Piper is Reformed.

But for others, it’s just as obvious that John Piper is not really Reformed. Reformed theology is defined by the Reformed confessions and finds its expression in Reformed and Presbyterian ecclesiastical structures, so clearly John Piper—as a credobapstist from the Baptist General Conference—is not Reformed. Why should “Reformed Baptist” sound any less strange than “Lutheran Baptist”?

God Better Save My Kids Because I Sure As Heck Can’t

Stephen Altrogge:

So often parenting doesn’t feel like parenting. It feels more like riot control, and I’m using the word “control” veeeeeerrrrry loosely.

Family devotions often feel the same way. I’ve got all the right resources. I’ve got the Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible and Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers. I’ve read Shepherding A Child’s Heart and am regularly trying to address heart matters with my kids. But despite all these great resources my family devotion times often feel more circus than sacred.

Children Are a Glorious Inconvenience

Good word from Mark Driscoll:

 

Children are a glorious inconvenience. Are children an inconvenience? Absolutely. It’s why many people don’t want to have children. “Oh, they’re such an inconvenience.” Having a child is a big deal, infertility can be a real pressing issue. You finally get pregnant, maybe you have a miscarriage, maybe you don’t, you don’t have the miscarriage, then you have all the water retention and the weight gain and the heartburn and the kicking of the bladder. I mean, I’ve seen it firsthand, it’s exciting. It’s an inconvenience. And then the baby’s born. Having a baby is an inconvenience. I’ve watched it, I know why we give women drugs. It’s necessary. And then the child is born and the children, they sleep during the day, they’re up all night, they cost tons of money, they scream and fluids come from every hole like a sprinkler, right? They’re an inconvenience. And then we get to junior high, oh. And then it’s an—and then they want to go to college, then they want to get married and it costs money and they take time and they’re an inconvenience.

And you know what? They’re a glorious inconvenience. They’re a glorious inconvenience.

And here’s the big idea: we tend to not see ourselves as children. We tend to see ourselves like the disciples, “Well, we’re very responsible adults with very important things to do.” And God says, “You know what I see? Ponytails, boogers, and Fudgesicles, that’s what I see.” You’re not totally able to take care of yourself. You need your dad. You were an inconvenience. I don’t know about you, Father, I apologize for being such an enormous inconvenience. But you know what? The fact that the Father loves me and he endures with me and he protects me and he provides for me and he instructs me and he corrects me, it reveals that he’s glorious. He’s amazing. And we, by the grace of God, get to be the children of God. We get to be that inconvenience through which he is revealed to be glorious. That’s what Christianity’s all about.

So if you’re here and you’re not a Christian, I would invite you through Jesus Christ to enjoy God as your Father and we as your family. Isn’t this good news?

And I want you just for a moment to consider with me, that if we had the heart of Jesus for children and we raise children who we love and instructed in the Lord and they grew up to love and serve Jesus. . . . We’re leaving a legacy of gospel faith that goes on maybe until Jesus comes back.

There’s a story at the end of Genesis where a little family of sixty-some people goes into Egypt, and they’re the children of God. They have children who have children who have children. Four hundred and forty years later, they emerge as the nation of Israel, a few million people. They went from a few dozen to a few million.

We may be in the midst of that. And it starts with the heart of Jesus. We need to approach our Father and his kingdom like kids and we need to raise our kids to love their heavenly Father.

HT: Z

Around the Interweb

On Being Better Bereans

Kevin DeYoung:

How can we be better Bereans? Most Christians are eager to receive the word, especially when we get new insights and background information, but how many go the extra step and examine the Scripture to see if the new nugget is actually true (Acts 17:11)? Here are a few things to keep in mind when we hear an exciting new teaching or connection…

Read the whole thing.

Also Worth Reading:

Books: Douglas Phillips reviews ‘Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins’

Life: Seeking Earnestly

Ministry: Advice For Aspiring Christ-Centered Preachers

Parenting: Diane Bucknell offers some thoughts on Spurgeon’s mother’s prayer for her children

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Richard Phillips: Give Your Amen to Jesus

Book Review: Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer

Do You Journal?

Michael Horton: Did Jesus and Paul Preach the Same Gospel?

J.C. Ryle: Who Are The Saducees?

John Flavel: Heart-Work is the Hardest Work

Around the Interweb

Fearful Might, Majestic Love

My first article for The Gospel Coalition Voices blog:

When a natural disaster strikes, whether last week’s tornadoes or last month’s earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Japan, we are confronted by a terrible truth: Despite our best efforts, this idea that we have mastered creation is just an illusion.

We cannot tame the weather any more than we can make the sun shine in Seattle or make it stop snowing in Canada. And when the illusion is shattered, we are left horrified.

Then there’s this awe that comes from witnessing the power of the whirlwind as I am forced to stop and consider the unfathomable power of God. And I fear that many of us, myself included, have taken for granted the Lord’s might.

Read the rest at TGC

Also Worth Reading

Ministry: Matt Chandler asks “Is Church Membership Biblical?”

Life: My friend Amber shares the woes of prenatal consumption

Technology: The Christian Email Signoffs Debate

Books: Have you heard about Crossway Impact yet? Check out the video:

In Case You Missed It

The Promise of Change and the False Hope of Politics

John Flavel: Self is the Poise of the Unrenewed Heart

My Memory Moleskine: Wash, Rinse, Repeat…

Tim Keller: The Death of the Mushy Middle (video)

Book Reviews:

  1. The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms
  2. Voices of the True Woman Movement

Matt Chandler: Following God May End Badly (video)

D.A. Carson: Genuine Love is Odd

Preschooler Theology: “Why Do Monsters Scare Me?”

So, a while back, my oldest daughter started talking about being afraid of monsters. I don’t remember exactly where she picked up on this, but it caught me off guard.

See, it’s a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, monsters like what you see in Monsters Inc. don’t exist. But, demons are very real (whether we like to think about it or not), and it’s possible that our kids who are saying they see monsters in their closet are possibly seeing some sort of demonic manifestation.

So how do you start explaining that to your kids?

Here’s how my dialogue with Abigail typically goes:

Abigail: Why do monsters scare me?

Me: Monsters try to scare you because they don’t want you to trust Jesus. Monsters don’t have to scare you because Jesus is the King of the whole universe and everything has to do what He says. Jesus is bigger and stronger than any monster, so when He tells them to do something, they have to do it.

Abigail: So can we tell them to go away?

Me: Yep.

Abigail: Can you do it?

Me: Sure.


That in a nutshell is my conversation with Abigail every couple of nights.

I really hope I’m not traumatizing her with this.

Now what about you? If you’re a parent, how are you handling this subject with your kids? If you were brought up by Christian parents, how did they explain this to you?

Around the Interweb

The Tucson Tragedy and God’s Gift of Moral Language

Kevin DeYoung:

On Saturday a young man opened fire outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, killing six people, a 9-year old girl among them, and wounding 14 others, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. This is a tragedy. Twenty persons made in the image of God with a right to life and liberty have been killed or wounded by the attack. May God grant healing to those whose lives can still be saved and comfort to all those mourning their dead.

Most of you know all this already. And most of you know all about the political jabs going back and forth whether this attack was made more likely because of a “climate of hate” (to use Paul Krugman’s phrase describing the rhetoric of the right) or whether those who posit such theories (like Krugman on the left) are themselves the indecent ones. Personally I think Ross Douthat’s op-ed piece in the New York Times gets it just about right: “Chances are that [Jared] Loughner’s motives will prove as irreducibly complex as those of most of his predecessors in assassination.” And later, “There is no faction in American politics that actually wants its opponents dead.” Thankfully this is true.

But I noticed in Douthat’s article what I notice in every other write-up on the shooting: a reflexive reluctance to speak of the killer’s inner workings–his motivations, his make-up, his soul if you will–with moral categories. Douthat does better than most in speaking of Loughner’s “darkness,” but even here there is the subtle use of passive imagery. “Politicians and media loudmouths,” Douthat writes, “shouldn’t be held responsible for the darkness that always waits to swallow up the unstable and the lost.” True enough, but who should be held responsible? My vote is for Loughner who, by all accounts, appears to be not only the accused killer but also the real killer. Certainly darkness is appropriate imagery, but I’d argue it’s more appropriate to say he committed a dark deed rather than to imply darkness swallowed up an unstable young man.

Read the whole article.

Also Worth Reading

Music: WorshipRises just released a new song, “Maker of My Heart”

Theology: What’s the Message of the Bible in One Sentence?

Parenting: It’s Never an Interruption

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Book Review: By Grace Alone by Sinclair B. Ferguson

A Movement of Personalities

Cliff Notes from the Xchange

My Memory Moleskine: Philippians 1:12-18

C.S. Lewis: “A Faith Destroyed by War Cannot Really Have Been Worth the Trouble of Destroying

Book Review: Fatherless Generation by John Sowers

Fatherless Generation by John Sowers (Cover)

“Dad.”

It’s a word that brings to mind either some of your happiest memories… or some of your deepest resentments. For too many kids (and young adults) in North America and around the world, “Dad” is a shadowy figure, a fading memory, a hurt feeling; but never someone they knew deeply.

Some boys look for approval in gangs; others channel their resentment toward an unhealthy work ethic, wild behavior or excessive competitiveness. Many young women seek out affection from boys (and “men”) who are only too happy to oblige.

This fatherless generation has never been more unsure of their place the world and the results have been devastating

That’s why John Sowers, the president of the Mentoring Project, wrote Fatherless Generation. In this short book, Sowers relates the tragic experiences of fatherless boys, girls, men and women (including himself), while showing readers that there is hope to change their stories; to be a part of transforming their lives and helping them discover the God who is the Father to the fatherless.

Throughout the first half of the book, Sowers shares his experience growing up without a dad, along with those of several others who originally shared their story on his MySpace page. And the damage that’s been inflicted, the pain that all have suffered, is palpable. Young women share how they were Daddy’s princess—until he left. Some write that they don’t hate their dads, but they can’t forgive them either. Hopelessness and despair are the undercurrents of every story.

What I appreciate about how Sowers presents these stories, including his own, is that it’s not sensationalized, manipulative or voyeuristic. He is careful to protect the dignity of every person whose story he shares, as raw and often heart-wrenching as they are. This is extremely difficult to accomplish as, too often, in seeking to protect the individual’s well-being, their story can be reduced to emotionless propositions.

As careful as he is with the stories he shares, his use of statistics is equally so. Rather than overwhelming readers with data, he uses it to support the stories shared—the lives affected by not having a father in the home. They’re effective and disturbing.

For example, Sowers writes on pages 36-37 (perhaps the only really stats heavy section of the book), that children from fatherless homes account for:

  • 63 percent of youth suicides
  • 71 percent of pregnant teenagers
  • 90 percent of all homeless and runaway teenagers
  • 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
  • 85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorder
  • 80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger
  • 71 percent of all high school dropouts
  • 75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers
  • 85 percent of all youths sitting in prison

For those who have ever doubted the impact of an attentive father in the lives of children, one needs only look at this and see that dads really do make a difference. The impact of being fatherless is so overwhelming, that it seems like there’s nothing that can be done, doesn’t it?

But there is a solution: caring men and women becoming mentors to a fatherless generation.

In part two of Fatherless Generation, Sowers shares how godly mentors spoke words of life and encouragement, taught him to be a man and ultimately transformed his life.

“Both of these men sacrificed their time in order to be mentors and father figures in my life, and because of their sacrifice, I came to see that being a man was not really as intimidating as i had made it out to be. I learned that i didn’t have to be afraid of other men. I learned that I didn’t have to be afraid of becoming a man myself,” writes Sowers (pp. 91-92).

The love that Sowers has for these men is obvious, as is his passion for seeing Christians take on the role of mentoring a younger generation. In doing so, by showing love to those who believe they are unloveable and modelling maturity to them, there is a powerful opportunity to be a witness to Christ and see lives transformed both in the temporal and eternal.

In this way, the book carries through it the implicit reality of the gospel (which, in terms of presentation, has its strengths and weaknesses). Sowers touches on aspects of the gospel to be sure (see pp. 82-84), and does speak of a desire to see the fatherless come to know the God who is Father to the fatherless, but it’s something that I would have preferred to see beefed up a bit more.

Reading Fatherless Generation hit close to home on a number of levels. The first is that I could relate all too well to the stories Sowers shares, because they were my story, too. I grew up without my dad being much of a physical presence in my life and that led me to try to be his opposite, or at least what I perceived his opposite to be. In doing so, I also sinfully treated him with thinly veiled contempt. In recent years, by God’s grace, our relationship has experienced much healing and I’m thankful for this. But not everyone has that opportunity.

Secondly, I have three boys living near me who don’t have a dad, and I don’t know how much interest their dads have in them. Perhaps they’re waiting for someone to speak words of affirmation into their lives?

Finally, as the father of two young girls, it reminded me of the powerful influence I am on Abigail and Hannah (for good or bad). I pray that my girls truly know how much their daddy loves them, and that my influence will be a godly one.

Fatherless Generation shines a light on the trials of all who are going to bed tonight without a dad. Their challenges are real. Their pain is deeply felt. But they don’t have to live their lives feeling shame, anger or resentment. This book offers its readers an opportunity to be a part of transforming the lives of a fatherless generation. Are we willing to take the first step?


Title: Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story
Author: John Sowers
Publisher: Zondervan (2010)

"Just So You Know, Hell Doesn't Have Heroes!" Be Discerning About Your Books

Mark Driscoll discusses Twilight and examines a few of the books that are being promoted for young girls today.

Driscoll’s critique should be well considered. Too often we assume that just because it’s a movie, a book or a song that it’s fine (as if these things don’t have an agenda to promote). It’s why the Bible commands us all to be discerning. A great resource in developing discernment? Tim Challies’ book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment (review here).

The transcript of the video follows:

…I do want you to be discerning when it comes to culture because I believe one of the ways that Satan works in our day, is he will take things out of the category of religion and spirituality, put them into the category of entertainment, and we completely fail to be discerning. We just think, “Oh, that’s not demonic. That’s a movie.” A movie is a sermon with pictures. “That’s not demonic, that’s a song.” Satan can write music. He can inspire story-telling and filmmaking, music. He sets ideology, and worldview, and he’s at work in the world.

I’ll back this up, give you an example. I have a thirteen-year-old daughter. My daughter, Ashley, recently turned thirteen. So now I am the proud daddy of a teenage girl. It’s awesome. I love her. Some people say, “Oh wait till she’s a teenager.” She’s there. It’s fantastic. It’s great. I adore her. She’s a voracious reader. She reads a lot, and she’s got a big library. She’s a discerning reader. She’s starting to write, and we’re getting ready to publish her blogs, which are recommended readings and critical book reviews for preteen and teenage girls so they don’t read garbage, which I think is awesome, and I really am excited about that. It was her idea. [Read more...]

Music Review: Meet the Rizers

It’s hard to find great kid’s music that’s both fun to listen to and has rich content. (Parents reading this, can you back me up on this?)

Then I heard about Meet the Rizers, a new release from RE:Sound.

When I learned about this record, I was intrigued. We’ve got very little children’s music that I’d consider great, especially that provides us with opportunities to talk about faith with our kids (which is a fun thing to do with a three-year-old; the baby doesn’t have much to say yet). With a family vacation on the horizon, I listened to a couple of samples (see below) and decided to give it a shot.

What was the verdict?

Meet the Rizers blew me away. Seriously.

Tyson Paoletti of Tooth & Nail Records and Greg Lutze (both members of Mars Hill Church in Seattle) had an idea for an album of Scripture-based, guitar-pop worship songs for kids. As parents, they were also looking for a way to teach Scripture memorization as a value in their homes.

This desire led them, ultimately, to create this record.

By taking nine passages from the Bible and setting them to music, Meet the Rizers allows children (and parents) to not only listen to some catchy, head bopping music, but to learn to memorize Scripture.

The idea is very clever and the execution is top-notch. And honestly, I can’t imagine how challenging it must have been to arrange the music for each verse. It’s evident that a great deal of care has been taken with each song to make sure the integrity of the Scripture is maintained while not sacrificing musical quality. While all the songs are catchy, a particular favorite of is Psalm 8:1. Because the psalms are mostly songs, it was fascinating for me to hear one set to music. And the arrangement works so well—it’s fun to listen to and easy to memorize.

So what was our oldest daughter’s reaction?

When I put the record on for the first time, Abigail saw the picture and immediately assumed that it was a cartoon. After I explained to her that it there was only audio, she still insisted on having the large image on the screen. (She continues to ask for the big picture when we’re at the iMac.)

On the drive to our vacation, she gleefully bopped along to the music in the backseat. This was after listening to it three times in the house before we left.

Now, every time I take her anywhere, her first question is, “Can we listen to Meet the Rizers?!”

This is a good problem to have, but it also means I need to find more children’s music of this caliber.

Meet the Rizers sets the bar high for future releases from the group and for kid-friendly music in general.

If you’re looking for something for your next road trip or to put on while you’re hanging around the house, don’t pass up this record.

Around the Interweb (07/25)

5 Dangers Facing Over-Churched Kids and 9 Strategies to Reach Them

Tony Kummer explains:

These are the children who attend every service, and can’t remember anytime when they didn’t come to church. In my ministry, most of these kids also attend a Christian school. They can recite the books of the Bible, they’ve memorized countess Scripture verses, and they know details about Bible stories that I can’t even remember.

By over-churched kids, I mean children with too much religion and not enough actual interaction with Jesus…

One of the dangers that stood out for me:

They Have Learned to Pretend Pray: A real struggle for grown-ups is connecting with God through prayer. Too often it becomes routine and dry. Most younger children learn prayer as an act of imitation. Many don’t even realize that something cosmic is happening when we address our words to God. They don’t feel the presence of God or even expect that they should.

Tony’s solutions are extremely encouraging. Here are a couple:

Pray for Every Child: Sometimes the deepest problems require a spiritual solution. Ask God to make a difference for those over-churched kids. It’s great when we pray for those outside the church, but don’t forget to lift up those familiar names to the Lord. Remember, effective ministry depends on prayer.

Teach the Bad News: According to the Bible, we are all sinners who have earned the displeasure of God. Without Jesus, we would have no hope of passing God’s judgment. Over-churched kids need to realize that they too need a Savior. They need to learn about sin. Keep teaching the 10 Commandments, but also teach what Jesus said about loving your neighbor. None of us can really meet those standards on our own.

Read both posts; they’re well worth your time.

A Brief Bit of Housekeeping

This past week I was on vacation in Grand Bend, Ontario, enjoying some time relaxing with my family (and preparing a sermon). In my absence a number of gentlemen agreed to lend a hand and keep content coming. Matt, Chris, Gabe and Ben did a tremendous job and I know I was ministered to as I read their posts. (If you haven’t yet, keep scrolling down and you’ll find them.)

Thanks guys, I’m looking forward to having you back if you’re up for it!

In Other News

Church Life: Jason Helopoulos offers a few good reasons for changing churches (and a few bad ones, too).

Social Justice & the Bible: Kevin DeYoung wraps his Seven Passages on Social Justice series by examining Luke 4:16-21. The rest of the series includes Micah 6:8; Amos 5; Matthew 25:31-46; Jeremiah 22; Isaiah 58; and Isaiah 1.

Prayer: Rick Warren’s eyes were severely injured when he got toxic sap from his African Fire Stick plant in his eyes. His sight is gradually improving every day. Please join in praying for his full recovery.

Books and Technology: This week Amazon announced that Kindle books been selling 180 units for every 100 hardbacks for the last three months. Here’s what they didn’t say when they made that announcement.

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Matthew Svoboda tackles Eschatology and why he believes Amillenialism is the most biblically accurate view of the end times.

Gabe Posey looks at the call to ministry.

Chris Canuel examines the purpose of suffering through the eyes of Job.

Ben Reed shares the importance of the beautiful mess that is a small group.

Book Review: Hello, I Love You by Ted Kluck

Ted Kluck, writer of things sports- and church-related, is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. In Why We’re Not Emergent and Why We Love the Church, he offers the “everyman” perspective on why the emergent church movement doesn’t work and why the visible church deeply matters to the life of believers. But in his latest book, Hello, I Love You, he tackles a topic that’s perhaps closer to his heart than any:

Adoption.

In the last couple of years, adoption has been the topic of conferences, sermons, blogs, books… you name it. It’s been top of mind for many Christians.

While the resources that have been produced are no doubt beneficial, this book is different.

That’s because in Hello, I Love You, Kluck takes readers on a deeply personal journey into what he experienced becoming an adoptive father.

And a lot of the time, it’s not pretty.

Love Letters

Written in two parts, the first is based on notes taken during the adoption of his first son, Tristan. Kluck shares (with often hilarious results) the events leading up to Tristan’s adoption.

One of my favorite moments, strangely, is the painfully accurate description of the Detroit airport. While the Northwest side looks more like a mall than an airport, Kluck writes,

[T]he non-renovated Delta terminal looks like the world’s largest Greyhound station—a dimly lit hole strewn with garbage and smelling faintly of a mixture of Cinnabons, grade-school, and industrial-grade cleaning agents. (p. 34-35)

(If you’ve ever been in this airport, you know how true this is.)

What struck me most profoundly though was how the first half frequently broke from the traditional narrative model and became letters written to Tristan, sharing the events of the day, thoughts on life, music, sports and faith.

In this half of the book what comes across most clearly is how much Kluck loves his son, who at the time wasn’t even his son yet. In one letter, he writes:

I can’t stop looking at your picture on the digital camera. I feel silly, but I keep saying “lemme see Tristan.” And then your mom and I pull out the camera (again) and flip through the pictures (again).

And we prayed for you tonight, Tristan. We prayed that our Lord would keep you safe from evil and prepare your little heart to be loved by us… (p. 53)

Reading this, it’s amazing to see the love that God creates in the hearts of parents for their children—even those who are not biologically their own. Truly, it is inspiring.

Griping, Grumbling & Genuine Authenticity

Part two chronicles the Klucks’ adoption of another boy, Dima. Written more as a journal during the events of the adoption, the feeling is quite different.

The tone changes. It’s still funny, but there’s something else there.

It’s a struggle with despair.

The Klucks’ second adoption didn’t come out of, necessarily, the same kind of desire that their first did—it came out of necessity. In the time between the two adoptions, they learned that they were unable to have biological children.

Kluck doesn’t portray himself as a great man of faith or even a particularly great husband. He’s often painfully honest about his shortcomings.

He struggles with feelings of resentment toward his church and its extremely fertile congregation (pp. 95-101).

With a sense of failure as a man and a provider (p. 161).

He becomes a grumbler, and his complaining alienates him from his wife and blinds him to God’s grace in his life.

Kluck isn’t playing humble here. He doesn’t look to anything outside of himself as the source of his problems—he acknowledges his own sins and strives to move forward in repentance.

As the story of Dima’s adoption unfolds, he displays genuine authenticity.

A Refreshing Reminder

Reading Hello, I Love You gave me, as a husband & father who hopes to one day adopt, a refreshing reminder. Kluck’s honesty about the struggles he and his family faced during the process, to say nothing of the astronomical financial cost hit hard; but with every word of this book, he tells us, “It was worth it.”

It’s a reminder to me that every sacrifice I make for my daughters is worth it. And it’s a reminder that for Jesus, who paid the ultimate price for sinners like me to be adopted into God’s family—from His perspective, it was worth it. Not because I deserve it, but because He is so gracious.


Title: Hello, I Love You: Adventures in Adoptive Fatherhood
Author: Ted Kluck
Publisher: Moody (2010)

A galley copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher