The best or worst of times?

weeds-wheat

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

That’s how Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Tale of Two Cities opens. That sentence seems to describe our world today pretty well.

We live in unprecedented times for the worldwide church. People in the global south and previously difficult countries like China are coming to Christ quicker than we can report. We have the Bible in more languages today than ever before. Technology makes the spread of Bibles and Christian literature easier and more cost effective than ever. Christ is completing His promise to build His church and is using hoards of workers, resources, and training programs to make it happen. Reaching every people group on nation with the gospel seems closely in reach.

On the flip side, the secularization of western civilization is accelerating rapidly with growing persecution likely just around the corner. Europe, the birthplace of the Reformation and locus of Christendom for so many centuries, has all but totally rejected their Christian heritage. Terror groups like ISIS and Boko Haram move like juggernauts in the Middle East and spread their evil ideologies like gangrene to the rest of the world through social media—maybe even to your own neighborhood. At times, the church doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot better with abuses of power, wars over worship styles, or pastors falling into sin.

Is our world getting better or worse?

Matthew 13:24-30 has the answer for us in Jesus’s Parable of the Weeds:

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

This parable teaches that God sowing good seed in the world that will grow into a harvest. It also teaches that the enemy works sowing weeds in the midst of the wheat God has planted. Since the weeds can’t be pulled out from amongst the wheat, they must grow together until the harvest.

This answers my earlier question: our world is both getting better AND worse simultaneously.

This parable is a call to balanced and sober thinking about the world we live in. That means we should rejoice as we see the banner of the gospel advance forward against the darkness in this world. It also means that we can’t think that the good things happening today are ushering in Christ’s kingdom here on earth.

When weeds pop up in our community, workplace, or church, we can’t give into despair. Jesus said this would happen. We need to suit up the armor of God and stand firm in this spiritual war and do what we can to advance the cause of Christ even in the darkest situations.

That’s what one man captured and executed by ISIS recently did.1

In his last moments, he gave his executioner his Bible. The killer who once enjoyed killing Christians, took the Bible and began to read. Soon he dreamt of a man in white who told him, “You are killing my people.” This man in the dream soon revealed Himself as Jesus, asking the ISIS member to follow Him. And that’s exactly what this former-ISIS member now is doing by God’s grace.

God can transform the weeds into wheat.

That’s what He showed us clearly on the cross—the event that simultaneously demonstrates the judgment incurred for wickedness, yet so clearly reveals to us the glorious mercy of God for sinners like us. Even though it may seem like the worst of times, in Christ we know the best of times await us.

Let us be realistic about our situation, people of prayer, and ready for action. Even when it seems all is lost, a simple act of faith like handing your executioner a Bible could be the spark God uses to transform weeds into wheat.


Kevin Halloran is a servant of God, husband, and blogger at Word + Life. Serves with Leadership Resources International training pastors worldwide to preach God’s Word with God’s heart. You can follow Kevin on Twitter.

Photo credit:The Writings of Charles Dickens v20 p220 (engraving)” by Hablot K. Browne (Phiz), published by Houghton, Mifflin and Company – Own work, see User:Mdd4696/Dickens. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons. Designed with Canva.

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The Rest of the Story

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Too often we seek out spiritual highs with all the fervor of an addict. We seek out those mountaintop experiences, often times priming the pump with a special book, going to a favorite conference, playing over and over a peculiarly moving bit of music. I’m not in the least opposed to spiritual heights, books, conferences or music. Resting in His grace, rejoicing in His favor, drawing near to His presence are precious gifts, and sometimes, valuable memories.

When America Put Pastors in Prison

Thomas S. Kidd:

In 1774, James Madison wrote to a friend in Pennsylvania about troubling developments in Virginia. There were reasons to worry about oppressive British taxes, of course, but that was not Madison’s primary concern in this letter. The “worst” news he had to deliver was that the “diabolical Hell conceived principle of persecution” was raging in the colony. “There are at this [time] . . . not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in [jail] for publishing their religious sentiments. . . . Pray for liberty of conscience to revive among us.” While today we tend to think of early America as a bastion of religious liberty, many in the colonial era lamented its absence.

Why Some Evangelicals Support Trump Even Though They Know Better

Dan Darling:

Donald Trump may have views that look nothing like the conservatism of Buckley, Kirk or Reagan, but that doesn’t matter. To Trump supporters, he’s wearing the team jersey. He is their guy. His craziness, his intemperate statements, his past history of not championing anything remotely like conservatism–this is irrelevant. For some who are angry at Democrats and even angrier at establishment Republicans, Trump sounds like he’s on their team. Even if he really isn’t.

Forgiveness Is a Marathon

Vermon Pierre:

Forgiveness doesn’t come cheaply or easily. It always comes at great expense to the one wronged. In some cases, it comes with permanent cost. The wronged parties must “take it on the chin,” allowing themselves to be physically, emotionally, or spiritually wounded by the offending party instead of seeking an equal measure of revenge. Christians do this in imitation of Jesus, who faced sinful rebels and yet still suffered and died so that we might be forgiven and reconciled to God.

8 Things You Won’t Find in Heaven

David Murray:

Heaven is so heavenly that it’s often hard for earthly creatures to understand what it will really be like. That’s why the Bible often describes heaven in terms of what will not be there. For example, the last two chapters of the Bible tell us eight things that will not be there.

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The Thin Line Between Faith and Foolishness

Michael Kelley:

At some point, when you are in a rhythm and cycle and you’re not satisfied with the results, you have to go back and look at the way you are doing something, or the assumptions you had in doing that thing to see what needs to be corrected.

40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags

Good questions from Kevin DeYoung.

Remember The Pit

David Murray:

“Remember the hole of the pit from which you were dug” said Isaiah the prophet. It’s a spiritual exercise that the Psalmist models for us in Psalm 40:1-3. Although the exact nature of the pit is not specified – it could be the pit of affliction, of persecution, of mental distress, or of family trouble – it’s most likely it was the pit of sin and guilt.

Smoke on the Martyrs

David Parks:

We are in the midst of a global upsurge in attacks on Christians. Over the last year we’ve seen major atrocities in Kenya, Nigeria, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, and many other places. Make no mistake: Radical Islam is responsible for much of this. And even though the majority of Muslims are not violent, astonishingly high percentages are sympathetic to extremist violence.

In the midst of this, we see almost no concern from the leadership of the United States. While Christians are beheaded in dramatically produced videos designed to recruit more extremists and to incite fear, the White House has responded to the targeting of Christians in underwhelming fashion. Their condemnation has been disappointing.

And at a time when we need clear, consistent, and accurate voices, Christians in the West blow a cloud of smoke onto the issue by hanging their hats on a discredited and debunked statistic: There are simply not 100,000 Christian martyrs every year.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses: The Role of Tradition in Interpretation

Bill Kynes:

It’s true, human tradition can be a hindrance to divine truth. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for breaking God’s commands for the sake of their own traditions (Matt. 15:3). And the 16th-century Reformers rejected the magisterial authority of tradition espoused by the Roman Catholic Church. Shouldn’t we seek to emulate Restorationist leader Alexander Campbell, who counseled his followers to “open the New Testament as if mortal man had never seen it before,” no longer bound by the prejudices of the past? Why should tradition be important in seeking to understand the teaching of the Bible? Let me offer two lines of argument—one philosophical, the other theological.

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I’m Glad Jesus Doesn’t Take Joel Osteen’s Advice

Me too.

I Have Cursed You

Tim Challies:

Never mind all that stuff about “words will never hurt me.” Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…words hurt worse. Somehow a full-out beating hurts less than a tongue-lashing. After the bruises have faded, the words remain dug in like daggers. I know people who are still deeply wounded by brutal words launched at them years or even decades before.

How Pride Poisons the Soul

Sam Storms:

Of all that God hates, of all that is an abomination to him, what is first on the list? Haughty eyes, which is to say, prideful, arrogant eyes. Haughty eyes does not refer to how a person’s eyes look to others but how a person views himself and others. He views them as less than himself, as essentially worthless. He is arrogant and puffed up with his own sense of value.

To the Sons and Daughters of Divorce

Paul Maxwell:

Few things are more traumatic than a car accident — 2,000 pounds of steel and glass bending and scraping, with no respect for the limits or boundaries of the human body inside. There’s a path of healing that every victim of a serious accident must take.

Children with divorced parents have experienced a different kind of violent, traumatic collision. And every child of divorce must likewise walk a path of healing. It will, of course look different for different sons and daughters, but no one can deny that the emotional and relational bleeding needs attention, likely long after the papers are filed.

The Antidote to the Coming Persecution

Mike Leake:

Instead the type of persecution that I see playing out will be something similar to what the “scattered exiles” were facing in 1 Peter. The type of persecution that they faced wasn’t so much the beat you with rods, execute you, and throw  you into prison. There was persecution like that in the Roman empire but most of that type was local. Their persecution was more about social ostracization.

The golden age hasn’t come (yet)

golden-age

Close your eyes and imagine what you would consider the golden age of Christianity:

  • Was it in the earliest days of the church, when the Apostles and all the followers of Jesus had all things in common?
  • The middle ages, during the high point of Christendom?
  • The heady days of the Protestant Reformation, when men such as Martin Luther and John Calvin recovered the gospel from its near total abandonment?

Or maybe it was the days of the Great Awakening in North America in the 18th century, the second Great Awakening in the 19th, or the renewed revivalism of the 1950s and 1960s? Or the early days of the seeker movement, or even the emergent/emerging movement(s) of the later 20th century and early 21st?

We all have these times in our minds, these eras we’d love to get back to if we could—as though they were moments where we had it all figured out. But the important thing to remember, and this is something I was greatly encouraged by in my recent reading, is there is no golden age of Christianity.

At least, not yet.

Remember, the early church everyone seemed to want to get back to for a long while? Don’t forget that while they had all things in common, they were also horribly persecuted, and had all kinds of doctrinal disunity, sexual immorality and other misconduct known among them (particularly in Corinth). So yeah, we didn’t have it nailed then. Christendom had many wonderful qualities and great gifts it gave to the world (including universities), but it was also in this age that the Roman Church traded heavenly gain for earthly prestige and power. The Reformation, for all its positive benefits, also saw continued splintering and internal fighting between its most powerful voices (to say nothing of the violent fighting between Roman Catholics and Protestants). And in later years… Well, you get the idea, right?

There has been no golden age of Christianity. But there is one coming—but is not one we can run back to, or we can progress toward. It is one that will come through God’s power, in God’s timing. So even as some of us fear what is to come, as we see the West shed its last vestiges of its Christian heritage, and the increased persecution of Christians in the Middle East, we can still have hope—and are right to have it. The golden age hasn’t come yet. But because of the hope we have in Christ and his resurrection, we know it will come.


Photo credit: St.-Anna-Kirche via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

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The Real Faces Behind the Gay Issue

Jasmine Holmes shares a moving story.

How to Think about Persecution When You’re Not Very Persecuted

Erik Raymond:

The first step in this is define what we mean by persecution. At its core we are talking about active opposition to the people of God because of their commitment to Christ. This obviously has varying levels. There is the boldest and most extreme, which involves the torture and murder of someone for their faith. The watching world was horrified to see this take place this weekend with the beheading of 21 Christians in Egypt by Islamic terrorists. There is also the far less intense persecution that comes simply from claiming Christ as Lord. This may include shunning from family, lose of promotion, mocking, ridicule, or other forms of opposition.

Brandon Smith’s new blog

My friend Brandon Smith’s now blogging over at Patheos. Go check it out.

Secondary Sources and Sermon Preparation

Joey Cochran:

From time to time Redeemer Fellowship receives honest questions from pastors curious about how we do things. Sometimes I have the pleasure of responding to those questions, especially when the topic falls within the wheelhouse of my skill set. Recently, a young pastor e-mailed Redeemer and asked about how Joe and the other pastors at the church use commentaries for sermon preparation. After fielding this question for this pastor, I thought that the response might also be beneficial for others to think through how they might use secondary sources and what priority they should have in sermon preparation.

Why the British are better at satire

This is interesting.

When Eternal Life Doesn’t Woo

Lore Ferguson:

The Christian life, I am finding, does not grow easier with time. I somehow thought it would. I envisioned the sage men and women we would become and find only that my flesh is just as prone to wandering today as it was four years ago or four months ago or four minutes ago.

How do we stand firm?

21

What do you say about something like this—how do you begin to process the fact that ISIS has claimed to kill 21 Coptic Christians and released a video to prove it?

It’s really tempting to rebuke ourselves, isn’t it? I mean, when we see the reality Christians face in the Middle East, it makes much of our issues seem petty. Our frustrations about the sort of books being bought and sold. Our issues with celebrity pastors. Our ongoing debates over religious liberty and same-sex marriage. Our incredulity at the notion that we should give or serve in our churches and communities…

They all seem so insignificant in comparison, don’t they?

The natural reaction is to tell the Church to wake up—to make disciples who are truly willing to submit themselves to dishonor and even death for their faith.

But… It’s one thing to say that. It’s another thing to live it. And that starts with small steps. Remember, these men were likely not some sort of super-Christians. It is doubtful they were completely fearless in the face of death. They were probably normal men who read their Bibles and prayed to their Lord, just like any of us.

The difference is, they were put in a situation that tested their resolve. And their resolve, it seems, held to the end.

And this is good news, not the least for us. They held fast to the truth, and thus, we will get to meet these fallen brothers in the new creation, those whom John already saw in his vision of the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 20:4). They are those of whom it can be said the world is not worthy. And so, when the day comes, we will be able to rejoice before the throne of Christ with them.

But it also means that, if they were ordinary Christians like us, if we were to face the same circumstances, we may well hold fast to our testimony, too.

Why? Because of the work of the Holy Spirit in us. And it starts with prayer. We pray for our brothers and sisters in the midst of persecution. We pray that the Lord will strengthen them to hold firm to the end. We pray they will not lose hope, for the Lord is in their midst.

But we also must pray for ourselves, too. That we will start to take the small steps necessary for us to stand as well. That we will be willing to speak out against our culture of death, and hold to our convictions on marriage. To oppose teaching that is contrary to sound doctrine. To—gasp!—think more highly of others and do something crazy like serve in the children’s ministry at our local church.

These are the building blocks of discipleship. And it starts with prayer.

To be clear: I am not equating western problems with those in the Middle East. However, if we want to be and make disciples who will hold fast till the end, even in the face of persecution and death, this is where we must start. So will we?

Comfort for the persecuted

spurgeon

…the persecutor is in God’s hands. He cannot do more than God lets him, and if God permits him to annoy, you may cheerfully bear it. Next, remember, if you keep your conscience clear it is a great joy. Conscience is a little bird that sings more sweetly than any lark or nightingale. Rough answers outside need not trouble you while within there is the answer of a good conscience towards God. Injure your conscience and you lose that consolation; preserve it from evil and you must be happy. Remember that by patiently enduring and persevering you will have fellowship with the grandest spirits that ever lived. You cannot be a martyr and wear the blood-red crown in these days, but you can at least suffer as far as you are called to do: grace enabling you, you may have a share in the martyr’s honors. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Remember, too, that if you have extraordinary troubles Jesus will be doubly near to you. This is the greatest comfort of all, for in all your afflictions he is afflicted. You will find his presence in the ordinances to be very delightful. Those stolen waters which he gives you in secret fellowship are very choice, those morsels which you get by stealth, how sweet they are! The old covenantors said they never worshipped God with so much joy as in the glens and among the hills when Claverhouse’s dragoons were after them. The living is very refreshing to the Lord’s hunted harts. His bosom is very soft and warm for those who are rejected of all men for his sake. He has a marvellous way of unveiling his face to those whose faces are covered with shame because of their love to him. Oh, be content, dear friends, to watch with your Lord.

Charles Spurgeon, A Word For the Persecuted

The promise no one likes to talk about

Of all God’s promises, the one Christians like to talk about least is persecution. No less than 90 times1 in all but two books of the New Testament, Christians are promised one thing: Persecution will come. Just as we are assured of God’s love for us in Christ, just as we can be confident that our sins are fully paid for in the death of Christ, we can be sure that we will experience persecution for the sake of Christ.

Yet despite this promise, Christians in North America continue to find this idea foreign, although as time goes on and western culture sheds the last remaining vestiges of Christian influence, it’s becoming less so. In Canada and the United States, our trials tend to come on the legal front: Do Christians who own businesses have the right to refuse to provide services in situations that violate their consciences? Are graduates from a Christian university’s law school permitted to practice law?

These are the questions we are confronted with on a regular basis, and they are serious issues. However, what we might see as persecution is not what a believer in Syria or Iraq might experience. Here, our livelihoods are threatened. There, the threat is to their lives.

This is why the Church needs our prayers, not just on a day like the international day of prayer for the persecuted church, but every day. Christians—both here in North America, and around the world—need to pray for one another as we endure these trials in whatever shape they take. That we would truly believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain. And we would be willing to stand firm on the foundation of the gospel, as people certain that our lives are no longer ours, but Christ’s, and therefore He can do what He wants with them in order to bring Him glory.

The day ISIS got a little closer to home

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Yesterday, we received an email from a member of our home school co-op asking for prayer for family members who are Christian workers in Northern Iraq. Their community has been lost to ISIS, and the UN’s peace-keeping forces have pulled out. These workers and the local believers are on their own, forced to choose between renouncing Christ or holding fast as children are murdered in front of them.

For weeks now, I’ve been reading of the ongoing struggles of our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq, and more or less quietly praying for ISIS to be stopped and for the resiliency of fellow believers there. But even then, it’s been at a distance.

This email brought this suffering a little closer to home.

We often fail to realize how closely connected we all are. We look at the world we live in—specifically our North American context—and assume the way we live is “normal.” The persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria is a powerful wake-up call for us, if for no other reason than it reminds us that persecution is actually normal for Christians. It’s not something we read about in our Bible and think, “Gosh, I’m glad things are so much better now.” For many believers in over 100 nations, that’s life: beatings, wrongful imprisonment, verbal abuse, and martyrdom.

But because of the uniqueness of the West, we’re sheltered from these realities. Most of us don’t know anyone who has directly been persecuted. But we are probably only one or two degrees of separation from someone who has. And that should change the way we pay attention to such things. It’s closer to us than we realize. So we should care that the US has launched airstrikes against ISIS. We should want to pray for persecuted believers. And I know this is a novel concept, but we should actually pray, believing that God will be glorified in this.

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“Any actor who says he wasn’t influenced by Bugs Bunny is a liar… or a hack.”

This is so good:

HT: Barnabas

Christ and Pop Culture’s Precarious Reality

Richard Clark provides an update on how you can help CaPC achieve an important goal: sustainability!

The Feminist Conundrum

Chris Martin:

I ask the same question I asked before to feminists, and really just everyone generally: we cool with this? Is this the sort of empowerment we’re cool with?

Are we cool with empowerment even at the cost of self-objectification?

I’m not comfortable with the female body being flaunted as a means of power, but if the female is OK with it, am I supposed to be?

Is it sexist of me to think women are demeaning themselves when they objectify themselves?

Is Marriage “Just a Piece of Paper”?

R.C. Sproul:

In the past few decades, the option of living together, rather than moving into a formal marriage contract, has proliferated in our culture. Christians must be careful not to establish their precepts of marriage (or any other ethical dimension of life) on the basis of contemporary community standards. The Christian’s conscience is to be governed not merely by what is socially acceptable or even by what is legal according to the law of the land, but rather by what God sanctions.

Unfortunately, some Christians have rejected the legal and formal aspects of marriage, arguing that marriage is a matter of private and individual commitment between two people and has no legal or formal requirements. These view marriage as a matter of individual private decision apart from external ceremony. The question most frequently asked of clergymen on this matter reflects the so-called freedom in Christ: “Why do we have to sign a piece of paper to make it legal?”

Does Titus 1:15 Mean Christians Can Watch South Park?

Mike Leake:

It’s Wednesday evening and fifteen Bible college students are huddled together in a single dorm room. In a couple of years these students will be sent out into the wild world of church ministry. Some will be pastors. Some will be youth pastors. Others music ministers. And some will end up selling insurance. But on this night they are shoulder-to-shoulder in this tiny room, fixated on the television screen.

South Park is on, and these guys are following their weekly tradition of catching a new episode and laughing along.

How can guys training for the ministry watch South Park together for entertainment?

Does ISIS Represent True Islam?

This is an important conversation.

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The Profiles of Reformed Spirituality series is on sale for $1.99 each:

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Why Peter’s Idiocy Is So Helpful

Jeff Medders:

But here’s what I love about Peter, he always came back around. He never let shame rest on him. He always turned, repented, rethought his thoughts, and came back to following Jesus. What patience Jesus has for his sheep!

How to pray for and support persecuted Christians

Good thoughts here from Dave Jenkins.

I Want A “Do-Over”

Tullian Tchividjian:

In many ways, all of our striving under this performance idol is a grown-up re-creation of the adolescent playground cry: “I want a do-over!” Have you ever heard that? Watch children playing a game at a park like football or basketball. Maybe somebody messed up the opening kick. Maybe they weren’t sure the ball stayed in bounds or not. So somebody proclaims, “Do-over!” And they start over. They have to get it right. They want the bad play erased and replaced by the good play.

We’re still doing this into our adult years, trying to manage our lives in some bizarre system of spiritual checks and balances, trying to outweigh our bad plays with our “do-overs.”

“All the Law and the Prophets…” in a piece of fruit

Jared Totten:

We’re all familiar with the story. In fact, if you grew up in the church, you’re probably so familiar with the story that there’s no surprise, no suspense left in it. But Genesis 3 is an epic drama. The fate of the entire human race hanging in the balance as good and evil are paraded across this cosmic stage. It was Shakespearean before Shakespearean was cool.

And at the center of it all: fruit. Yep, skin and pulp and juice. A plum, a pear, maybe a pomegranate. We don’t know. There are some (quite serious) people out there who are certain it was a grape because wine comes from grapes and wine is the devil’s drink. I’ll leave that discussion for another time (perhaps after we share in the Communion table?).

But almost every person who has read that fateful chapter has at one time or another expressed the same frustration and confusion at the account of the fall:

“What’s the big deal with the fruit?!!”

Loyal To My Faults

Aaron Earls:

Often times, I will stick with something or someone long after they have proven they should not longer have my loyalty. The pain of giving up and changing is harder for me than dealing with the disappointment that comes from being loyal when you shouldn’t.

Maybe I fit the phrase “loyal to a fault,” but I know that I, along with many others, absolutely fit the phrase “loyal to my faults.”

Three Questions to Help Diagnose Possible Football Idolatry

I don’t know hardly anything about football, but this article from Kevin DeYoung is still helpful.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.