The opportunity to influence through entertainment

Bere Gratis live performance

If the Internet had been as popular in 1994 as it is today, Roseanne would have broke it.

For those old enough to remember, Roseanne was a sitcom about fairly dysfunctional working class family that often tackled some pretty heavy topics including substance abuse, domestic violence and single parenthood. But one episode in particular stood out because it featured something completely shocking on television at the time: two women kissing as Roseanne (in an effort to prove she was still with it and/or hip, went to the local gay bar). It was one of the infamous “lesbian kiss episodes”, a  phenomenon found among a number of different television shows across genres over the last 25 years (the first was, apparently, an episode of L.A. Law in 1991).

The purpose of such episodes was simple:  normalize the behaviour. The more we are exposed to certain things, whether homosexual behaviour, promiscuity or shocking levels of violence, the more we become accustomed to them.

Pop culture has the power to normalize behaviours we might otherwise find unacceptable and leave us expecting them. This is why, in many television shows, we’ve moved from homosexuality being “shocking” to being normal, for example. Entertainment—books, movies, music—shape people’s views of the world (and anyone who denies it is deluded).

Often, the entertainment industry sells us a worldview based on the great Lie—one that fails to honor and give thanks to its Creator, or what Peter Jones describes as Oneism. And it truly is everywhere. To name but three:

  • Star Wars with its ideology based on multiple Eastern religious concepts, including Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
  • Star Trek with its utopian atheistic naturalism.
  • Avatar with its worship of the Tree of Souls and strong environmentalist message.

But there’s so much more. Sitcoms like The New Normal and Modern Family normalize the same-sex family. Friends normalized modern promiscuity (and friends who actually kind of hate each other). The new My Little Pony show (one of my girls’ favorite cartoons) consistently reinforces the “all you need is to believe in yourself (and your friends)” message…

I think you get the point.

While there’s a lot that makes it tempting to throw out the TV, we should also be encouraged: the good news is just as entertainment can be used to influence people with the Lie, it can be used influence with the Truth.

This is what was attempted to do with Veggie Tales back in the day (although by the creator’s own admission, they wound up teaching kids to be good rather than know the One who is good). It’s what many of the men and women who make explicitly Christian-themed movies and music are also attempting to do (again, to varying results).

But it’s also why I’m grateful for musicians like Dustin Kensrue (best known as the lead singer of Thrice). Although post-Thrice, he’s begun recording music that’s more explicitly Christian in its themes and lyrics, such as his album The Water and the Blood, Kensrue also understand the opportunity he has to influence non-Christians among his audience by making great music. This is why you can see the fingerprints of his faith all his former band’s songs, sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly as in the case of this song:

This is something I’m grateful many Christians have, in recent years, really started to get. And it’s the kind of mindset I want to see more Christians embrace: whether we’re being explicit or subtle, producing entertainment that gets people thinking. That engages their hearts and minds with biblical concepts and truths. It may not be controversial enough to break the Internet, but it might begin to break a hardened heart.


photo credit: Sergiu Bacioiu via photopin cc

Links I like

Why I Repented from Twitter Following Everyone

Joey Cochran:

One sunny day in March I woke up and decided to follow everyone on Twitter. I’d like to think that I had no real reason to do it, but if I’m honest the stunt was stimulated from the base desire of wanting more followers. It was shallow. I wasn’t going to buy them because that’s just crazy. But I thought, maybe if I followed a bunch of people, they’d just follow me back. I justified it by calling the following act a wave. I told myself: “You know what, I’m gonna wave to everyone in Twitterdom, and see who waves back.”

The Case for Face to Face Meetings

Erik Raymond:

Technological advancements have made communication much easier. We can email, text, instant message, call, or Skype. While this makes meeting easier it does not necessarily make it better. As Christians we should endeavor to be loving in everything we do. This requires thoughtful intentionality when considering the medium for communicating information. Ease must never trump love.

In my experience, particularly in pastoral ministry, the preferred format for meetings is face to face. If there is ever a potential to be misunderstood or if the subject matter is wired with emotion then a face to face meeting is nearly essential.

Is Open Theism Still an Issue?

Jeff Robinson:

Much has changed since members of ETS wrestled with open theism more than a decade ago. You will not find papers in defense of open theism being read in seminars at ETS today. Books are less likely to emerge from evangelical publishing houses to debate the merits or demerits of this theology over against the classical Christian view of God. Instead, open theism mainly finds its voice through more popular means. A quick internet search reveals numerous blogs written by pastors and laypersons espousing open theism. Open theism today makes its case not so much through books and refereed scholarly journals, but through the mostly unfiltered voice of the blogosphere.

“You are cured of MS!”

David Murray shares the testimony of Gary Timmer, whose son Trent was diagnosed with MS in 2012.

It’s a dance-off!

Imagine if this had been the ending to Guardians of the Galaxy:

HT: Aaron

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Kindle editions of the NIV Application Commentary set are on sale for just $4.99 or less each:

Being Content with Saying No to Truly Good Opportunities

Randy Alcorn:

I once felt guilty about declining most requests, so I was reading a dozen books a year for endorsements, saying yes to friends who wanted me to speak, meeting people who were coming through Portland, etc. But then I was always behind writing my own books, and writing is my primary calling. Now I decline nearly all speaking requests (I travel and speak maybe five times per year, and often there’s a second angle to what I say yes to—staying extra days to see my kids and grandkids, getting vacation time with Nanci, etc.).

My advice is to care about people but use discernment, and don’t live to please them. We are to live out our lives before the Audience of One. In the end, His approval is the one that matters. If our goal is to hear others say, “Well done,” we won’t have time, energy and perspective to do what we need to do to hear Him say it. Paul said, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

The real voice of Darth Vader

Oh my…

My journey away from contemporary worship music

Dan Cogan:

Over the years when I would occasionally hear a hymn, the language was always strikingly foreign, with Ebenezers and bulwarks, diadems and fetters. Which only served to confirm my bias that hymns were simply out-of-date. They had served their purpose. They had run their course.

The problem with my youthful logic only began to dawn on me about seven years ago. I had come to recognize that these ancient hymns accomplished something that the new songs weren’t. While contemporary worship seemed to take the listener on an exciting and emotional rollercoaster, the old hymns engaged the mind with deep and glorious truths that when sincerely pondered caused a regenerated heart to humbly bow before its King.

A Plea To Pastors and Pastor Search Committees

Mike Leake:

About five years ago when we were moving from Missouri to Louisville a particular church was in contact with us about coming on board. They requested an audio sermon. We weren’t set up very well for recording sermons but we figured out a way to get a couple sermons recorded.

I sent the audio to the church and heard NOTHING. Of course they may not have received the sermon. But I wouldn’t know that either because they never responded to my email where I enquired as to whether or not they had received the sermon.

So my only assumption was that they must have hated the sermon, thought I was terrible and that I was a heretic. I’m exaggerating a bit, but it was incredibly discouraging.

On the wrong side of history

Carson, Keller and Piper tackle this common objection.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Discipleship in the “Age of Authenticity”

Trevin Wax:

Another good word for “authenticity” is non-conformity. The point of non-conformity is being true to yourself as opposed to whatever self others may want you to be true to. That’s why much of the drama in our culture of authenticity comes from the casting off of societal constraints. Note the four areas Taylor mentioned in his definition.

31 movies with one letter dropped from the title

This is awesome.

New Advent resource: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy

Desiring God has released a brand-new Advent devotional from John Piper. Get yours free at DesiringGod.org.

Being a Non-Conventional Intern

Joey Cochran:

Not for me. I’m a non-conventional intern. I graduated with my Th.M. from Dallas Seminary in 2009, then entered my first pastorate in Tulsa as a High School Pastor. After four years, I departed as an associate pastor and have been a church planting intern with Joe Thorn at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois for the past year.

I remember one of the first times I shared this story with another pastor. They asked: “Aren’t you taking a step back?” Well, yes, and at the same time, no.

The Missing Ingredient in Many Sermons

Erik Raymond:

Like cooking, preaching can become bland. It can fail to have that freshness worthy of the gospel table. There are many reasons why. One could identify a lack of preparation, lack of understanding, poor delivery, and shallowness. We would not disagree that under-cooking the homiletical meal is a problem. But there is something else that can make preaching bland: the deadly reality of not being personally wowed by the subject.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This is the last week to save on a few of these deals from Crossway:

The most epic safety video ever made

This is pretty cool:

Is an actor’s pretend sin still sin?

Clint Archer:

Imagine you are assigned the role of Lady Macbeth or Darth Vader or Judas. Someone has to play the villain. And no director would allow you to massage Shakespeare’s script; “Out, out darn spot” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. And, except for the role Jim Caviezel snagged in The Passion, even good guys sin—The Good the Bad and the Ugly demonstrates this as adequately as the Die Hard franchise.

Here are two very basic guidelines my actor friends employ when selecting scripts.

Forgotten providence

Rebekah Earnshaw:

Twenty-first century sensibilities dismiss the idea of an overruling God in preference to self-direction. Healthy, wealthy, intelligent, capable humans take responsibility and control of their own future through education, insurance, prudent financial investment, savvy work choices and the occasional international holiday. Christianity seems to have outgrown providence.

But life isn’t always quite so neat, is it? Our self-built image of control is all-too-easily shattered by chronic or mental illness, sudden tragic death, redundancy, relationship breakdown, and injustice. Very occasionally we realize what a tiny fragment of the vast order of the universe we actually occupy or understand.

7 Wrong Reasons to Join a Church

Nick Batzig:

Committing yourself and your family to a local church is one of the most important decisions you will ever make this side of eternity; and yet, for all the weightiness of it, it is a decision to which the larger part of church attenders have given little to no thought. Over the past three decades, I have witnessed multitudes of individuals and families choose to join churches for the wrong reason(s). While there is a plethora of helpful resources out there to help people understand the right reasons to join a church, the right reasons to leave a church and the right way to leave a church, there is very little that speaks directly to wrong reasons to join a church. While more could be added to them, here are 7 common wrong reasons for which people join churches.

Biblical inerrancy and the greener pastures fallacy

Scott Redd:

The evangelical community of the biblical interpreters has its faults, some of them quite embarrassing, as does any community subjected to the finitude and fallenness of the human race, but scholarly communities that reject the inerrancy of Scripture have a slew of new problems with which they must deal, problems which by no means leave their scholarship on more certain grounds. What is so often presented as the settled consensus of the scholarly community when attacking an evangelical interpretation becomes, at best, a hypothetical guess when discussed within an unguarded scholarly community. When the goal is not the belittling of a fundamentalist interpretation, one discovers welcome intellectual humility.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Is it My Fault? 

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s excellent book, Is It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence is on sale for the Kindle for $3.99. Do not let this deal pass you by.

Age of Ultron, Heaven and Previews that Oversell or Undersell

Joey Cochran:

I’m not gonna Jesus Juke a punchline at the end of this article. I’m going to show you my cards right here. The reality is movie previews are similar and dissimilar to Sunday Worship. Movie trailers preview movies and they often oversell; Sunday worship previews heaven and it cannot oversell.

And speaking of Age of Ultron

I’m pretty sure this doesn’t oversell the movie:

Four Kinds of Church Leaders Who Won’t Lead Revitalization

Thom Rainer:

So why aren’t more church leaders being intentional in leading church revitalization? As I have conversed with church leaders, I have found four types of church leaders who are resistant to leading church revitalization.

A Day in the Life of Stock Photos

Aaron Earls:

Stock photos serve a purpose, but very rarely is that purpose to show what real life actually is. While your life is full of ups and downs, stock photos pretty much just establish an impossible to meet standard of every day life.

So what would it be like to live a day in stock photo life? Nothing like your life or mine.

It’s a Genesis-to-Revelation Issue

This is a really good interview with Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger about their new book, God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Why I’m thankful for Christian music

Dan Darling offers a thoughtful corrective to those of us who tend to look at Christian music as junk.

What We Won’t Regret

Kevin DeYoung shares a whole lot of things we won’t regret doing when we get to the end of our days.

Jennifer Lawrence and the Uniformity of Nudity

Chris Martin handles this subject very well: “The guy ogling Jennifer Lawrence in Vanity Fair isn’t ogling her because she chose to reveal herself, saying, ‘I love how tastefully and beautifully she expresses herself here.'”

Christians can be terrible

Derek Rishmawy:

…every time some news report comes out about a pastoral failure, or a fiasco in Evangelical culture, or abuse in the Church, it’s common to see Christians of various stripes updating and bewailing said fiasco. While that’s fine, and probably necessary to some degree, the one attitude I find myself chafing at rather regularly is the “I don’t know if I can call myself a Christian” anymore impulse.

It’s as if this person were introduced to Christianity by having them read bits of Acts, without reading Paul, the Gospels, or heck, even the rest of Acts. As if they were promised a Christianity with nice, cleaned up people, with perfectly cleaned up story arcs where all the sin is “back there” in the past, never to rear its ugly head, so that you don’t have the bear the ignominy of being associated with such foul stupidity and wickedness. Then when they meet real Christians–you know, the sinning kind–they suffer a sort of whiplash on contact.

The Fatal Tensions of the Fight Churches

Matthew Lee Anderson:

I’m an MMA skeptic, then, and this film doesn’t help persuade me not to be from a theological standpoint.  But then, I came into it having written a book on a closely related subject, and so am in danger of confirmation bias.  Take that as you will.  But the kinds of justifications offered by pastors were most frequently just the sort of pragmatic, anti-theological ‘reasons’ that come up in related discussions like tattoos, which leave no room for any kind of limits on our “Christian witness” besides those which are unquestionably explicit in Scripture itself.  Yes, tough guys need Jesus: but surely starting a fight club in the church basement is not the only way (or even the best) to reach them, is it?  Perhaps we should think about that for a while sometime.  After all, in my experience the pragmatic justification for these kinds of programs is always the least creative and least innovative. Such justifications somehow manage to presuppose the worst of the very people they’re trying to reach—namely, that they are interested in and would only be fully satisfied by a church which can slake their thirst for just this kind of practice. And they infantilize the churches that undertake them, for they cheapen the very mysteries and sanctity of holiness which they have been entrusted to bear witness to.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Get Mark in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of Mark, from the St. Andrew’s commentary series by R.C. Sproul, for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Recovering the Beauty of the Arts teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • Contending for the Truth conference series (DVD)
  • By Grace Alone by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)

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

Why Micromanaging is Ungodly

Barnabas Piper:

Nobody likes a micromanager, except maybe the one doing the managing. Even people who need close oversight hate it. Why? It’s annoying. It’s overbearing. We generally chalk it up to a “poor leadership style” or “ineffective management.” It’s more than that, though. Micromanagement among Christian leaders reflects poorly on our faith and the gospel. It doesn’t work, and that’s mainly because it’s not the way God designed things to work.

Here are five reasons why.

Sexual Sin and the Single

Lore Ferguson:

What if it is true that any sexual act outside of marriage is in some sense the physical embodiment of those other sins? I want what is not mine—envy; I want it now—impatience; I want pleasure—selfishness. I am committing what St. Augustine—the father of sexual ethics and self-professed great wrestler of them—called “disordered love,” placing any desire above God, which is sin.

The Best Things About the Boring Parts of the Bible

Nancy Guthrie:

Let’s admit it, there are certain parts of the Bible we skim because . . . well . . . because we think they’re boring. They’re repetitive, overly detailed, full of names and places we can’t pronounce. So why bother with them? There are many reasons — not the least of which is that even the parts of the Bible we deem to be boring are significant because they are God’s word to us. Here’s my top ten list of the best things about the boring parts of the Bible.

A Time To Dance: A Christian Defense of Pop Music

Steve McCoy:

I cannot get over my love for pop music.

This is a problem. Well, it’s a problem for me. You see, I pride myself on being an indie music snob. I like quirky, creative music from people you probably don’t know. Or, if you do know them, you’re probably an indie music snob too.

As you might guess, I closely identify with this label. My wife, for example, bought me a t-shirt I proudly wear, one whose enigmatic epigram draws many questions: “I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet.”

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

There are a whole bunch of new 99¢ deals from Crossway:

I Turned My Phone Off, and No One Died

Craig Thompson:

While on vacation, she suggested (strongly suggested perhaps) that I take a vacation from my phone. She even circulated rumors among leadership in the church that the best way to reach me while on vacation would be to contact her and she would relay the message. She felt that this plan would at least cause people to think twice before they texted, called, or emailed me. She was right.

An interesting thing happened when I turned my phone off; no one died and the world did not stop turning.

When Sinners Preach to Sinners

Jeff Robinson:

How are God’s undershepherds to come to grips with this daunting reality? How do we reconcile the all-too obvious truth that we are sinners preaching to sinners? How do we get our congregations over the notion that we are not popes, we are not monastics who descend from the cloister each week where we’ve been holed up, busy dodging the world, the flesh, and the Devil? Sin even dwells in monasteries, because sinners live there. But many of the people to whom we are called to minister don’t really believe this about us, and when we sin, and we will, some of them write us off as phonies or Pharisees. In the early months of pastoral ministry, a man told me I wasn’t qualified to be a pastor because I sinned. He seemed a bit stunned when I admitted that, though I believed his case for ministerial perfectionism unbiblical, I acutely felt the tension of a my standing as a saved-by-grace-sinner calling other sinners to walk God’s inspired line.

Twenty-Two Problems with Multi-site Churches

Jonathan Leeman:

I love my gospel-loving friends in multi-site churches—both leaders and members! But as Christians we work continually to reform our churches in light of Scripture. So I trust a little push back on the multi-site structure serves everyone, assuming my concerns turn out to be valid. Below are 22 misgivings I have about the multi-site model. All of these apply to churches that use a video preacher. Over half apply to churches who employ a preacher on every campus. Some of these are grounded in biblical or theological principles; some are matters of prudence.

The Cross & the Sword: A Christian Response to Fictional Violence

Aaron Earls:

Why do American evangelicals embrace fictional of violence in our entertainment, while shunning depictions of other sins?

I believe there are some legitimate reasons, but we would do well to think through the issues and remember our own tendency to approve what we enjoy.

Two Searching Questions About Happiness

David Murray:

“Worldly people pretend to the joy they have not; but godly people conceal the joy they have.” Matthew Henry

Why do some unbelievers seem to be incredibly happy, while some believers seem to be incredibly sad? Matthew Henry’s explanation is that the unbelievers publicize pretend joy, whereas believers privatize real joy.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A couple of deals to start your day:

Look for this week’s eBook deals from Crossway shortly.

Three Things to Remember When You Read the Bible

Jonathan Parnell:

You can never just read the Bible.

There is something deep happening. It’s something more glorious than the universe. Whether you open these pages before dawn, over midmorning coffee, or at the dinner table with family, whenever you read the Biblesomething miraculous is happening. After all, you are not just any ordinary person, and the Bible isn’t just any old book.

How Captain America should have ended

Ten characteristics of an aspiring pastor

Brian Croft:

Scripture must first be our guide when evaluating a young man’s desire for pastoral ministry (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).  This blueprint needs to then be evaluated by the young man’s desire for the work (internal calling), and then by the pastors and congregation of his local church (external calling). Although those Scripture qualities are helpful, they are not exhaustive.

So, here are 10 other characteristics I look for that I feel are not necessarily deal breakers, but nonetheless very important for pastoral ministry and fall within the frame work of the fruit of the spirit in a Christian’s life.

The 6 Ingredients of Jesus’ Bitter Cup

Nick Batzig:

When we think of the cup that was placed before Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, we tend to think of it merely in terms of the wrath of God–since that is what the cup most clearly symbolizes in the writings of the OT prophets. While we would never dare reduce it to something less than this, there is certainly more intended by the sight of the cross. When Jesus looked into the cup He saw–from every dimension of His sufferings–all that He would suffer, both at the hands of men, Satan and God Himself. Isaac Ambrose captured so well the meaning of the cup when he set out what he believed to be the 6 ingredients that made it so burdensome a sight to the soul of the sinless Son of God.

A Coming Familypocalypse

Joey Cochran:

My family is important to me; I love my wife and three children dearly. I believe we are better together than apart. This should be the attitude of every father, right? Absolutely! Dads should cherish and enjoy their families. They should long to be with them and feel pain when apart. They also should fight to keep families together through thick and thin.

This conviction should be a shared conviction with all humanity. As humans, we should cherish the idea of family. Otherwise, how would we perpetuate and propagate our race?

Yet, occasionally, I get this unsettled feeling in my soul, as I observe the culture around me, that these are not shared feelings.

Links I like

eBook deals for Christian readers

Here are a couple of freebies for you today:

  • CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet by Michael R. Emlet (Amazon | iTunes)
  • Losers Like Us: Redefining Discipleship after Epic Failure by Daniel Hochhalter (Amazon | iTunes)

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

Today you can get Knowing Christ: The I AM Sayings of Jesus teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Spirit of Revival by R.C. Sproul and Archie Parrish (ePub)
  • The Christian Lover by Michael Haykin (hardcover)
  • In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)

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

Wearing Christianity on Your Sleeve

Leon Brown:

I wear Christianity on my sleeve. That is what helps me evangelize. Whether it is with my neighbors or those whom I newly meet in the marketplace, I look for ways to insert my religion and declare the gospel (Col. 4:4-5). Depending on the circumstances, the way I approach the conversation may look different. Regardless of my approach, however, I do not want to seem forceful. In other words, I do not desire to fit an unbeliever’s image of what it looks like to “force my religion down his throat.” That is a difficult balance, and in some cases it is unavoidable, as the mere mention of Jesus may seem like you are being forceful. In those instances, there is really nothing you can do.

I walked out of Guardians of the Galaxy

Samuel Jones:

It’s difficult to describe the feeling of frustration that came over me. Walking out of a movie is not a rewarding experience. As someone who loves the cinema (even when it is totally empty and in a decrepit remodeling state, as was the case last night), I enjoy the mere experience of entering a narrative, regardless of how poorly executed a narrative it might be. Leaving Guardians of the Galaxy was an admission of defeat on my end, not the movie’s. I left because of me. I just didn’t have whatever it took to enjoy the film.

Only Two Religions: A Google Hangout with Peter Jones

Be sure to attend this Google Hangout with Peter Jones on September 30th at 4 pm (EDT), where he will be discussing his new teaching series, Only Two Religions.

Domestic Violence and a Pastor’s Response

Donna Gibbs:

I am presently working a case in which the church is providing firm intervention, loving support, godly instruction, as well as a way out if necessary. I have great confidence in the outcome of this situation. I have another unfortunate case in which the pastor and leadership are abandoning a wife whose life will clearly be jeopardized if she doesn’t leave. They are abandoning her based on their belief that the husband is to have all authority and that she is not fulfilling the role of a scriptural, submissive wife in her efforts to take a stand against the abuse. These cases represent the wide dilemma of the church at large, and the dilemma of you in particular, as a pastor.

With that said, what should your role as a pastor be regarding cases of domestic violence in your church?

Called to Speak ‘Freakish’ Truth

Ben Stevens:

What do you do when your beliefs start sounding “freakish” to people around you? That’s the dilemma of 21st-century Christian rhetoric. Like Russell Moore, I don’t think the situation is going to get easier anytime soon, so we should be thinking hard about the fundamental posture we take when presenting our convictions to the outside world.

As far as I can see, those speaking up for Christianity in the public square today usually rely on one of three approaches. The three differ from each other dramatically, and everything we say is colored by the approach we choose. Let me introduce them briefly and tell you which one seems most appropriate given the nature of the moment and our message.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week, there have been a TON of really good Kindle deals:

Four books by Francis Chan:

The New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology series is on sale for $3.99 each:

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

Several volumes in B&H’s Exalting Jesus commentary series are on sale for $5.99 each:

Finally, Zondervan’s got a bunch of titles focused on :

Why leaders fail

Dan Darling nails it:

Recently I had a discussion with some friends about some public leadership fails in the news. I could name them, but you likely already know who they are. Our conversation turned to a general topic of leadership and things we’ve observed. What struck us was how these things evolve from little, seemingly insignificant decisions that form the culture out of which unhealthy leadership grows. In other words, nobody wakes up one day and says to himself, “I’m going to strive to be an authoritarian leader who wreaks havoc on the people I serve.” It just doesn’t happen that way. Leaders start with good intentions. They start as “normal” people. So how do leaders fail? I think there are five basic mistakes leaders make.

Biblica Hipsteria

This is so good:

Why Curious People Don’t Get Bored

Tim Challies:

There were two weeks left in summer vacation. Two of my kids were sprawled on the couch in dejected boredom, wishing they could just watch a little more Netflix or play a little more Flappy Bird. One of my kids was wide-eyed, staring into the pages of a book. And it occurred to me: Curious people don’t get bored. People with a deep sense of wonder don’t get bored. People with a deep desire to appreciate the world around them and to learn its secrets—these people have developed a resistance to boredom.

Sam Harris wants everyone to get spirituality

Kimberly Winston on an altogether unsurprising development:

“Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn,” he writes in the book, but adds: “There is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit.”

The prescription, Harris holds, is Buddhist-based mindfulness meditation. A Stanford-trained neuroscientist, Harris is a long-time practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He said everyone can, through meditation, achieve a “shift in perspective” by moving beyond a sense of self to reach an enlightening sense of connectedness — a spirituality.

Don’t Be a Fundamentalist (Calvinist or Otherwise)

JD Greear:

When you elevate your doctrinal system too highly, you become a fundamentalist in a second sense: you start to believe that all of God’s graces, or at least the best of them, are found only within your narrow little camp. Again, I am no doctrinal relativist, but it seems that God has chosen to give greater insight into certain areas of Christian life and teaching to people I disagree with on secondary issues than he has to me and the people in my camp. Fundamentalism doesn’t recognize that–in many ways, can’trecognize that. Fundamentalism believes that if you’re not in our camp, and you’re not on the approved list, there is very little you have to say. The best of God’s grace is only with me and mine.

Scenes you’ve seen: blockbusters recreated with stock footage

This is pretty well done:

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eBook deals for Christian readers

The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper is $3.99 for the Kindle. Meanwhile, over at Westminster Bookstore, you can get any of P&R’s eBook titles for $1.99 each until September 6th. Here are a few you might want to consider:

Ruined by the Bell

Richard Clark:

Zack served not only as the central protagonist in the series, but also as the primary communicator with the audience. He had a habit of breaking the fourth wall, explaining the insane inner workings of the high school to the audience. And, while all of the other characters maintain a cartoonish and unthinking stereotype, Zack exhibits his ability to indulge in shallow self-awareness. Essentially, Zack seems keenly aware of the startling fact of his existence: he lives in his own television show.

8 Questions To Help Guard Your Heart

Mark Altrogge:

…we must pay attention to what is going into and coming out of our hearts. We must watch what we’re thinking. This doesn’t mean we should become self-absorbed or become overly introspective or constantly be thinking about ourselves. But we should be aware of our thoughts because our mindset affects our life. Here are seven questions we can ask ourselves to see how we are keeping our hearts.

Controversy: What Is It?

Joey Cochran:

But rarely do people ever step back and think about the very nature of controversies themselves. What are they? What makes them what they are? How are they resolved? Why do we never seem to get away from them? Is controversy all bad? What are the advantages to controversy? These are some of the question that I hope to answer over the course of time.

This Was Not My Plan

Courtney Reissig:

We had been in Little Rock for more than a year, having moved to plant a church with another couple from seminary. Because of the nature of a church plant, my husband took a corporate job. He was bivocational with the intent of going on church staff once we settled our school debt and the church could pay him.

In that first year and a half of working, though, he started noticing something about himself and his job. Others noticed it, too. He liked sales, and sales seemed to like him. His “day job”—which started as a means to a ministerial end—had suddenly become the end in itself.

Hearing that the trajectory of our lives might change, though, was unsettling for me. When he asked, “What if I am meant to do this forever?” all I heard was, “You will forever be alone with twins while I travel with my job.” I panicked. This was not how I envisioned my life.

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Preventing technology from becoming an unnecessary barrier

Aaron Earls:

here have been numerous studies and research done on the effect the internet and smartphones are having on our brains. In many ways, they are clearly rewiring them and having an impact on our physical health.

I know this temptation full well. It would be extremely difficult for me to go through a complete digital detox, not only because it is part of my job, but because it is part of the way I live my life now.

But that does not mean, I should not take steps to foster a more healthy use of technology. While it may be a part of everyday life, it does not have to be part of your life every day (not to mention every minute).

Does God view your labors as ‘filthy rags’?

Michael J. Kruger:

When it comes to our justification—our legal standing before God—our own good works are in no way the grounds of God’s declaration that we are “righteous.” Indeed, the gospel is good news because we are saved not by what we have done, but by what Christ has done. We are accepted by God not because of our works, but in spite of them.

So what does God think of our good works after we are saved? Here, unfortunately, Christians often receive mixed messages. Somewhere along the way we have begun to believe that our pride is best held in check, and God’s grace is most magnified, when we denigrate all our efforts and all our labors as merely “filthy rags” in the sight of God (Is. 64:6).

But does God really view the Spirit-wrought works of his own children in such a fashion? Is God pleased only with Christ’s work, and always displeased with our own?

If the Beastie Boys were Muppets…

Muppets rapping “So What’cha Want”

HT: Aaron Earls (via Jonathan Howe)

Preach the Gospel to Yourself?

Nick Batzig:

10 or so years ago, it was exceedingly common to hear people in the broader Reformed and Evangelical circles saying things like, “You’ve got to learn to preach the Gospel to yourself!” Usually it came in the context of one friend counseling another during a period of struggle with sin, or during a period of painful trial. Occasionally you would hear the phrase surface in pulpits as well. But then there was pushback from certain theologically conservative corners. I remember hearing a well known biblical counsellor emphatically say that the idea of “preaching the Gospel to yourself” is nowhere to be found in Scripture. Others rightly suggested that it all depends on what you mean by “the Gospel.” If, by the Gospel, you mean merely justification so that it’s ok that you continue in sinful practices because you’ve been justified, then this is terribly wrongheaded. So, are we to “preach the Gospel to ourselves,” or is that idea foreign to the biblical teaching on sanctification and the Christian life? I’ve heard the phrase less and less over the years, but I’ve also appropriated it more and more into my life since then. In order to give due consideration to this subject, we first have to answer the question, “What is the Gospel?” Then we can scan the pages of Scripture to see if we have any descriptive or prescriptive grounds for preaching such a Gospel to ourselves.

We Reproduce what We Know

JD Payne offers wise counsel.

Why We Love to Read

Tim Challies:

Sometimes you need to do a lot of reading to come away with one really good idea. Some books yield nothing but nonsense; some yield nothing but ideas you have come across a thousands times before. But then, at last, you find that one that delivers. There is such joy in it. Such reward.