Links I like

The Lord’s Supper: Open or Closed?

In baptist circles there are three positions regarding who are the proper communicants to receiver the Lord’s Supper: closed, close, and open communion. These positions are not addressing the spiritual readiness of the individual (see yesterday’s post), but are focusing on the stewardship of church authority and “fencing the table.” Fencing the table is the means by which we protect people from partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner” (1 Cor. 11:27, 28).

Should Christian Writers Try to Be Popular?

This is a really good (and necessary!) conversation:

Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H’s Perspectives series is on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale:

What can I do for Christians in Iraq?

Philip Nation:

Like many believers around the world, I am horrified at the persecution of Christians in Iraq. It is a sobering moment to realize that the type of persecution I’ve read about so many times in the Book of Acts is happening in our day. Even our Lord Jesus spoke of the reality and the blessing that He will give to those who suffer for the faith.… As I’ve pondered it all, here are five things that we can do about the persecution of the church in Iraq.

3 reasons many leaders receive too much credit—and blame

Eric Geiger:

Most leaders receive too much credit for the good things that take place during their tenure and too much blame for the bad. If the results are good, typically a leader, even if he or she attempts to deflect the accolades, receives credit for his or her stellar leadership. And if the results are bad, a typical leader receives the blame and carries the burden and pain of “not delivering.” There are at least three reasons many leaders receive too much credit and shoulder too much blame.

Is doubt really okay?

Owen Strachan:

…we need to distinguish between two states: temporary confusion and existential doubt. The Bible clearly has a category for the role of temporary confusion in the life of the believer. Think of David’s mournful lament in Psalm 13:1– “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” David is going through the fire, and he feels it; in fact, he feels in the moment like he has been abandoned.

Links I like

Stop Playing God and Calling It “Social Justice”

Chris Martin interacts with Andy Crouch’s book, Playing God.

Character Is King

Tim Challies:

When the Bible lays out qualifications to ministry, it is character that rules every time. The Bible says little about skill and less still about results. It heralds character. And from the early days, Mark Driscoll showed outstanding natural abilities which led to amazing results. He knew and proclaimed sound theology. But he also showed an absence of so many of the marks of godly character. A hundred testimonies from a hundred hurt friends and former church members shows that what we saw from the outside was only a dim reflection of what was happening on the inside. The signposts were there, but we ignored them.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

An Open Letter to My Friends Struggling with Eating Disorders

Emily Wieringa:

And when I was thirteen and standing there in that green hospital gown, Mum telling me in her soft British accent that nurses said I was a miracle because I was still alive — I should have died — it felt like God reaching down and cupping my cheeks and saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

It was my heavenly Father reassuring me there was more to life than rules and liturgies. There was joy — and it tasted good.

Ebola, Zombies, and Medical Missions

Clint Archer:

Last week an American doctor, Kent Brantly, and a nurse who contracted the Ebola virus on a medical outreach trip to Africa were flown home to be treated. Ann Coulter, a (loud) mouthpiece for political conservatives opined that the misguided Christian do-gooders ought rather to have stayed Stateside and focused their philanthropy on, say, Hollywood tycoons, so the world could be reached by the inevitable trickle down effect of Christianized American culture.

Nineveh Will Rise Up

Joel Badal:

Persecution is no stranger to the Assyrians. The Assyrians have felt two previous waves of persecution in the 1900s. The first wave took place in the 1918 (during World War I) as the Ottoman Turks invaded Iran. They forced Assyrians to drink poison (known as the Assyrian genocide). Then, from the 1960s to 1980s, the rise of Islam forced Assyrians to make drastic changes again. Convert or die, serve in the military, or face injustice were their options. Young Assyrian males were drafted to wage war in the front lines from the 1960s to late 1970s.

Links I like

The Evangelical Persecution Complex

Alan Noble offers a thought-provoking piece:

The Christian church itself has a long history of telling stories of martyrdom and persecution. The stories of saints’ lives often center on their sufferings for Christ. For example, Fox’s Book of Martyrs is a popular and classic text recounting notable martyrdoms throughout church history. The purpose of these stories is to inspire and strengthen Christians, particularly those who will later face persecution. But they were not designed to function as aspirational fantasy. And that is the real problem with many persecution narratives in Christian culture: They fetishize suffering.

I will be a unifying Christian

This is a lovely piece from Thom Rainer.

The Unbelonging

Lore Ferguson:

I’ve always been a fan of the fringe. If you can stand on the sidelines and affect change from within, you’ve followed the model Christ set forth well. I watched a movie a few months ago in which the principal characters return to high-school incognito. They’re so far removed from high-school that what was cool then is not cool now. The jocks are jerks and the nerds are neat. What happened?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Finally, the Christian Encounters series is on sale for 99¢ each:

Look! A Distraction!

Tim Challies:

Distraction is one of the costs of life in a digital world. Paul Graham says it well: “Distraction is not a static obstacle that you avoid like you might avoid a rock in the road. Distraction seeks you out.” We surround ourselves with devices that bring us so many good gifts, but even these good gifts exact a cost—the cost of distraction. The iPad that allows me to read the Bible anytime and anywhere also barges into my devotional life with notifications and alerts. The phone that allows me to stay in touch with my family while they are far away also wakes me at night with its buzzes and flashes. It giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.

We are learning. We are learning the costs so that we might also learn the solutions. Here are three of the costs of all of this distraction.

Stealth Calvinist Ninjas

Derek Rishmawy offers some constructive criticism to Roger Olson’s subtly titled “Beware of Stealth Calvinism!”:

What I want to point out in the middle of this is the bald-faced cynicism of the post. Here we don’t simply have a theological correction, dispute, or caution about inadvertent theological drift. No, here we have a warning about Calvinist tactics in general, about their alleged strategic maneuvering to crowd out and stamp out divergent thought by “stealthily” taking advantage of people’s ignorance.

I know I’m a lot younger, but if we’re dealing in anecdotes, I suppose part of the reason I find the whole thing silly is that three out of the four Christian colleges nearby me, including my own seminary, are explicitly non-Reformed, and the fourth is definitely blended. Fuller has, maybe a few Reformed theologians, certainly not of the militant sort. They’re not cranking out Calvinists ready to take over churches there. But maybe that’s just a Southern California thing.

The Folly and Hubris of Richard Dawkins

Eleanor Robertson at The Guardian:

Dawkins’ narrowmindedness, his unshakeable belief that the entire history of human intellectual achievement was just a prelude to the codification of scientific inquiry, leads him to dismiss the insights offered not only by theology, but philosophy, history and art as well.

To him, the humanities are expendable window-dressing, and the consciousness and emotions of his fellow human beings are byproducts of natural selection that frequently hobble his pursuit and dissemination of cold, hard facts. His orientation toward the world is the product of a classic category mistake, but because he’s nestled inside it so snugly he perceives complex concepts outside of his understanding as meaningless dribble. If he can’t see it, then it doesn’t exist, and anyone trying to describe it to him is delusional and possibly dangerous.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

On the audiobook front, ChristianAudio’s free book of the month is Anna and the King of Siam. And finally, Westminster Books is giving you a $5 coupon, good for anything in the store, if you watch a 5-minute video.

How Not to Argue: The Problem of ‘Folk Fallacies’

Joe Carter, kicking off a new series:

Argumentation is the act or process of forming reasons and of drawing conclusions and applying them to a case in discussion. Christians are required to argue (1 Peter 3:15), so we should learn to do it well. When it comes to learning how to argue, you can find no better model than Jesus. (Which is why I co-wrote a book titled, How to Argue Like Jesus).

But you can also learn to argue well by learning how not to argue. On that subject, I’m somewhat of an expert. Over several decades I’ve argued a lot and, on the whole, made quite a mess of it. But while I have a woefully rudimentary knowledge about how to argue (a shameful admission considering I wrote a book on the subject), I’ve learned more than my share about how not to argue.

The great translation debate

Adam Ford summarizes it pretty well.

The Failure of Intellectual Imagination

Derek Rishmawy:

We seem to live in an age that lacks intellectual imagination; at least when it comes to the thought processes of others. One of the most glaring (and personally annoying) examples of this is on display in many modern “intellectual conversion” narratives. It could be about any issue really, whether politics, or religion, or broader ethical issues, it’s very common to find a thread along the lines of:

“I used to believe position X for stupid, hateful Reason Y.  Reason Y must be only reason to believe position X.”

They Know Not What They Do

Greg Forster:

The open persecution of explicitly anti-Christian tyrants, while harder to endure, is easier to understand than the more complex attacks on the church in America today. From Nero to Kim Jong-un, tyrants have always been more or less the same. Lying behind all their actions, you will find some combination of traditional cultural superstitions, cynical political manipulations, and that special breed of insanity that absolute power always seems to nurture in those who possess it. Small consolation this may be to those who suffer under tyranny, but there are few puzzles about how and why tyrants do what they do.

Links I like

Encourage your church to pray

The ERLC has just put together an insert about the continued persecution of Christians around the world. I hope you’ll print this out for your congregation and include with this week’s bulletin.

Two Questions that May Greatly Improve Your Church’s Ministry

Kevin DeYoung:

I’m no management consultant, leadership expert, or church growth guru. But if you love your church and want to see it as effective as possible–for the sake of evangelism, education, exaltation, and whatever other E’s you may have in your mission statement–try asking these two questions. One is from the pastor for his leaders, and the other is from the leaders for his pastor.

Coffee Shops and Productivity

This is a very helpful article discussing just how productive we really are at coffee shops.

The Use and Abuse of Video Church

Richard Phillips:

For all the blessings of this kind of technology, there are some important limitations to video worship of which Christians should be aware and which call for us to make a wise use of this resource. In short, our live webcast is designed for those who are not able to come to church, not as a substitute for those who would otherwise come to church. With this in mind, let me point out some reasons why we should greatly prefer attending church in person, along with some suggestions for our practice.

 Should My Middle Schooler Date?

The short answer is no. But for a more nuanced answer, read this.

Justice Needs a Face

Bethany Jenkins:

I studied law under some of the top legal minds in the world. I learned about foreign affairs and the Constitution from an adviser to the State Department, corporations law from a former SEC commissioner, and criminal investigations from a United States circuit judge.

Throughout my three years in law school, though, there was one word that my professors never uttered and my classmates and I never mentioned. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw it referenced in any of the hundreds of Supreme Court cases that I read. Yet this one word—hospitality—is integral to the biblical idea of justice, order, and flourishing.

“When enduring all this persecution…” Pilgrim’s Progress conversations (4)

While enduring all this persecution, Christian and Faithful remembered what their faithful friend Evangelist had told them about the suffering that would happen to them. This strengthened their resolve to bear all the abuse and await patiently the outcome of their situation. They also reminded one another for their mutual comfort that whichever one of them suffered death would have the best outcome. Therefore each secretly hoped that he might be the one chosen for that fate. Nevertheless, each committed himself to the wise plans of Him who rules all things, and so they were content to remain in their current condition until it should please God to use them otherwise.

Then at the appointed time they were led to their trial, which was planned with only one purpose in mind—the condemnation of them both. First they were brought before their enemies and formally charged. The judge’s name was Lord Hate-Good. Their indictments were the same in substance, though somewhat varying in form. The contents were as follows: “That they were enemies to, and disturbers of, trade; that they had made commotions and divisions in the town and had won a faction over to their own most dangerous opinions, in contempt of the law of the prince.”1

Personal reflection

pilgrims-progress

One of the tragic fruits of cultural Christianity, at least as it’s stood in the West for the last 50-odd years, has been our being lulled into a false sense of security. We expect the culture to be “for” us, when it’s only natural that it would be against us. After all, the gospel is an offense to those who do not believe. When it takes root, things inevitably start changing, from business practices to sexual ethics.

So is it any wonder, then, that (as we’ve just seen in New York) churches can be barred from renting public spaces and lease agreements can be cancelled? Is it any surprise that someone holding to a traditional view of marriage would be forced to resign from his position in the name of keeping corporate America “inclusive, safe, and welcoming to all”?

Is it any wonder, then, that we seen so many Christians fail under the weight of the temptation to compromise, to give in and go along with the cultural scene?

Christian and Faithful endured their trial, one met his end. This is not (yet) the world we face in North America. But it could be, eventually. If we can barely whether the storm of cultural distaste, how can we stand against true opposition? Lord, grant us mercy.

Reading with Ryken

The episode of Vanity Fair became so famous in the cultural history of England and America that it has held the status of a proverb and familiar metaphor for the cheap and trivial. On the story level, Bunyan does two things to make the episode come alive in our imagination. First he draws upon his great descriptive ability to paint a verbal picture of a crowded local fair or concentration of street booths for selling trinkets and entertainment. He secondly creates a plot conflict of the utmost intensity as the evil crowd victimizes a pair of helpless travelers. This expands into a false trial with a stacked jury. Everything in the episode makes our blood boil in protest against what is happening.2

Next week (in a couple of weeks, actually)

The next discussion of The Pilgrim’s Progress will be centered around chapters eight and nine.

Discussing together

This reading project only works if we’re reading together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Here, again, is a bit of insight from Ryken to help guide our discussion:

There is no more modern or contemporary chapter in Pilgrim’s Progress than this one. Our day specializes in the cheap and tawdry, and Vanity Fair in effect gives us an outline into which we can fit manifestations from our own culture. What links are suggested to you? Equally, the unwillingness of an unbelieving society to allow Christians to live their religious lives in peace is something that every Christian faces; what have been the examples of persecution and discrimination in your own life and observations? The temptations to a life of wealth and earthly success are also always at hand in the modern world; what forms have they taken for you? On a broader cultural scope, what are the current manifestations of the “prosperity gospel” that By-ends and his friends represent?3

Post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.

Links I like

If They Were Killing [Liberals]

Matt Svoboda:

“45 liberals- including women and children- were killed, several tortured to death.” Can you imagine the outcry? It would be the only thing passed around on Facebook as every media outlet would be all over it. Of course you haven’t heard this story because it didn’t happen… to liberals. It did happen to Christians. In late October one of the worst massacres of Christians in a long time happened in Syria. 45 Christians- including women and children- were killed, several tortured to death. We don’t need to ask the question why are Muslim extremists killing Christians. We know that answer. We need to ask the question, why isn’t it being reported?

Am I Faking It or Trying?

Barnabas Piper:

Faking and trying often look quite similar. Both require going through the motions of something we either don’t know how to do, or have no intention of doing, well. When I’ve gotten dragged into soccer games on various youth group or missions trips I look like I’m playing because I’m running around and kicking the ball when I have to, but I’m faking it because I really don’t like soccer. When I’m stuck in a meeting I don’t want to be in I look like I’m making the effort and engaging because I’m writing stuff down (usually emails or iMessages) and occasionally nodding at a point someone makes, but I’m pretending.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Christian Focus has a number of titles by John Owen on sale by $3.99:

Dads, Write in Your Bible

Jonathan Parnell:

It’s no secret that the word of God and prayer are a personal means of grace that spill over for the good of those around us. And how much more for a patriarch? We read the Bible not just for ourselves, but for our families, for our friends, for our community. We know that God doesn’t transform his people into dead-ends, but into rivers of living water, and therefore, deciding on a route and digging in on that resolve has more in view than our own souls. And this year, as you settle your plans, here’s another aspect to consider. Dads, write in your Bible.

5 ways you can bomb a sermon

Adam Ramsey:

Preaching is a high calling and hard work. I started preaching weekly to a group of high-school students when I was just 20 years old. Like me, a huge percentage of preachers learn the ropes and discover their voice while teaching young people in some form of student ministry. And unless you’re some sort of prodigy (you’re probably not), the brutal truth is you will likely look back on your first couple hundred sermons as something comparable to the earnest delusion of most American Idol auditions.

Why we need to pray for the persecuted Church

Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshipers of God through the name of Jesus. For just as if one should cut away the fruit-bearing parts of a vine, it grows up again, and yields other branches flourishing and fruitful; even so the same thing happens with us.1

For many of us in the West persecution is a foreign concept; but for millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s daily reality. “In this past century alone, more Christians were murdered for their faith than any other century in human history, an estimated 200 million.”2

They face persecution from both society and governments—sometimes as severe as detention and imprisonment, or as “minor” as culturally accepted harassment. They experience property damage, displacement from homes, physical assault, and death. All because they’ve put their faith in Jesus Christ.

So what can we do? We can pray. Tim Keesee writes:

When we pray for persecuted brothers, we don’t only seek their deliverance, though that’s legitimate. We pray for their boldness (Acts 4:29; Ephesians 6:19-20). We pray for the further glory of Christ, something accomplished both by life and by death, from the pulpit and from the prison cell (Philippians 1:12-21).  God’s purposes are sometimes accomplished through suffering. A courageous Christian journalist in Turkey once told me that if human rights organizations had existed when Joseph was unjustly imprisoned in Egypt, they would have sought his immediate release. But God had a higher purpose than just delivering Joseph.  God’s design was not only to deliver Joseph but also deliver nations (Genesis 50:20).3

Both Justin Martyr and Keesee give us an important reminder: We pray for that our brothers and sisters in Christ would be strengthened to endure their trials—and we pray that the Lord would continue to grow His church.

Two resources to help you pray:

1. Sign up for Persecution.org’s prayer list for regular updates on prayer needs.

2. Use the 31 day prayer calendar put together by Frontline Missions to guide your prayers:

Prayer-Calendar1-980x757

You can download it here.

Of Whom the World is Not Worthy: Persecution in India

Francis Chan and Cornerstone Church recently shared this difficult but important message about the persecution of Christians in Orissa, India. An edited transcript follows:

For the last year, I’ve been hearing about the persecution of the pastors and missionaries and just the Christians in India, in the Orissa area, and my heart’s been stirred towards it.

Just recently, I saw a video fo the persecution, and I just wasn’t ready for it.

I thought I understood what was going on over there, and then I saw the video and… I wanted to throw up when I was done watching. It caused me to question everything in my life—I mean everything. Everything about me, everything about church.

When I saw these men of god being beaten… I’ve never seen someone being beaten to death, I’ve never seen people getting mobbed. I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen death in a violent manner. And when it’s the real thing, it just makes you sick. You knew it was going on, but… I can’t explain it.

It made me really sick to think of people that may lift me up because I have a gift of communication or some other Christian who has an ability to sing or play an instrument and how we lift these people up as our heroes, or great writers when these are the ones that… their lives look like Christ.

When I talk to the people in India that are going through it… they’re not asking for money, they’re just asking that we would remember them, that we would pray for them. They’re saying many people are converting out of Christianity out of fear. People are saying, “Look, if you get out of Christianity, we won’t do this to you.” People are scared, and they’re saying “Would you pray for us, for courage.”

And I don’t know what emotions go through your mind when you see some of these images, but what they’re asking for is, “Would you channel that toward prayer for us?”

I mean, you’ve listened to me speak for the last three or four minutes…

Could you spend the next three or four minutes praying for our brothers and sisters in India?

[Read more...]

Sunday Shorts (11/22)

“”You will be hated by all for my name’s sake”

Video footage of house church raid in Vietnam:

Voice of the Martyrs provided this report from church members:

On Sunday, August 23, 2009, we were still gathering together for service meeting since this is necessary spiritual need. At 3 p.m., many district security officers came into my house. At that time, we were having service meeting, they came and stopped and dismissed us. We stopped and explained to them we had made the application of permission already, but they still blustered. Several of them towed Brother — out to the house and had him sit on their motorbike. They did the same way to —. They oppressed him ruthlessly and towed him; they did not allow for him to speak a word. And other women were towed away also. They did take away one guitar but they did not make a report to taking away guitar. After arriving at the district police station, they made the report with the accusation:  “They are gathering together illegally.” They used the abuse words and threatened Brother —: “If you came back this place again; you will be beaten.” … and at 6:30 p.m. they released us.


Ray Ortland’s Blog Joins The Gospel Coalition

Pastor Ray Ortland has joined the Gospel Coalition as their newest blogger. Fellow TGC blogger Justin Taylor describes Ortland’s blog as “edificiation on steroids.”

If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.


Matt Chandler on Celebrity, Burnout and Diversity

Dustin Neeley, an Acts 29 pastor, interviewed Matt Chandler during a recent A29 event in Louisville. Here’s one of two videos from that interview:

HT: The Resurgence


In Case You Missed It…

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

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Consequences, continuing the Saturday series featuring George Whitefield’s classic sermon

It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It, reviewing Craig Groeschel’s very interesting book on church growth

What do you appreciate about your pastor, looking for ways to encourage our pastors

The Ultimate Christian Novel, Tim Challies’ satirical take on Christian fiction—Cassidy: Amish Vampiress of the Tribulation