Links I like

Jesus, Eunuchs, and the (Almost) 30-Year-Old Virgin

Chelsea Kingston:

In a world where hedonism and gross individualism hold sway, the prominence of what a friend and pastor calls “the sexual fulfillment myth” is no big surprise, really. And so, in a way that our culture finds almost impossible to comprehend, celibacy in singleness demonstrates a most visible sign of authentic Christian witness. Perhaps this is why Jesus spoke so strongly on the subject.

7 Signs We May Be Worshipping Our Family

Jason Helopoulos:

I am thankful for the growing emphasis upon the Christian family in evangelical circles. Our two children are home schooled, so I am in no way opposed to homeschooling. We attempt to practice family worship each night of the week, so I am not opposed to family worship. For goodness sakes, I wrote on a book on the subject. I am passionate about it. We have attempted to have our children in corporate worship with us since they were babies. I am working on a book on that subject as well, so I am not opposed to children in worship. However, there does seem to be a tendency with the home school/family worship/children in worship emphasis that can turn this good thing upon its head. If we aren’t careful, instead of encouraging worshipping families, we become family worshippers. The following are possible signs that we have begun worshipping the family rather than encouraging our family to be worshippers.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today only, you can get Thom Rainer’s excellent book, I am a Church Member for 99¢.

Get The New Birth in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Steven Lawson’s The New Birth teaching series (DVD) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Sola Scriptura by various authors (ePub & Mobi)
  • The Faith Shaped Life by Ian Hamilton (paperback)
  • Twelve Challenges Churches Face by Mark Dever (hardcover)

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

Coming (Back) to America: Coming Back to Commercials

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Here’s the first thing I notice about living in the States again: commercials. Well, truthfully, I didn’t notice them. My seven year old son Titus noticed them. All of them!

Here’s the thing: In Cayman we never had cable or watched network television. We relied on DVDs, Netflix, or something on Apple TV. This meant commercials never interrupted our programming–not even during the annual commercial feast called the Super Bowl. Since Titus was born in Cayman, his entire seven years of life have been lived in our commercial-free Siberia.

But coming back to America means he has a Saturday full of commercials! He’s exposed constantly to product pitches and appeals.

Should We Stop Using the Language of “Personal Relationship” in Evangelism?

Leon Brown:

As far back as I can recall, Christians have utilized the phrase, “personal relationship” in evangelism. It is oft-times used as a synonym for “salvation.” Perhaps pressing the phrase to its unlikely meaning, we might suggest that the phrase, “personal relationship” includes one’s union with Christ, justification, sanctification, reconciliation, and eventual glorification. At a minimum, if the former is meant by the phrase, it seems like an acceptable set of words to utilize in evangelistic outreach.
The problem I have with the phrase, however, is not which theological categories it includes but which categories it obviously does not. I can only base my observations on personal experience, but I have yet to hear testimony, whether while witnessing or some other published work/blog/Facebook post/Tweet, that the “personal relationship” language epidemic includes both the wrath of God and the Church.

Links I like

Defending Tony Dungy’s Right to Have an Opinion

Ted Kluck:

I had an opportunity to interview Dungy a few years ago and found him to be humble, gracious, and soft-spoken—exactly the kind of coach I would want my kid playing for. He’s not perfect—just a sinner like you and me and Dan Wetzel and Michael Sam. But Dungy is the kind of coach I would want to play for in that he seemed to treat every human in his orbit with a lot of respect and grace. I don’t have to tell you how rare this is in football. Dignity can sometimes be in short supply. That’s why I’m defending him (in a small way), but in a larger way defending his right to have an opinion.

Here are several of my own opinions.

Spurgeon’s lost sermons to be released

This is very exciting news for Spurgeon fans. Looking forward to owning a copy of this set someday.

Mosul’s Last Christians Flee Iraq’s Hoped-For Christian Stronghold

Kate Tracy:

Mosul, home to the Old Testament prophet Jonah’s tomb and the ruins of Nineveh, was intended by Iraq’s government to anchor a future province where Christians could govern themselves. This past weekend, ISIS gave Christians until noon Saturday to choose between the three options. “After this date,” read the ISIS declaration, “the only thing between us and them is the sword.” The New York Times reports that, while a few Christians may remain in hiding after this weekend, Mosul’s once diverse Christian community has likely come to a “real end.”

The Liberating Impossibility Of Repayment

Tullian Tchividjian:

Many of us Christians spend our lives trying to “reciprocate” for Jesus’ gift–to adequately say “thank you.” But if we turn a big enough gift into an obligation, we are crushed by it.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And for Batman fans, yesterday Amazon had several graphic novels on sale for $2.99 a piece. They may or may not be still on sale today.

What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Birth Control’

Karen Swallow Prior nails it:

I suspect one of the greatest obstacles to constructive dialogue on the questions about birth control raised by the Hobby Lobby case is the imprecision of the terms being discussed. Perhaps, then, the first step toward finding agreement—or at least correctly identifying at the points on which we can agree to disagree—is to employ common definitions.

Being Gospel-Centered Is a Bloody Mess

Mike Leake:

Being gospel-centered doesn’t just mean that we dance in the fields of favor with the Lord. It means that…a thousand times yes…it means that. But being gospel-centered also means that we are at times necessarily afflicted by the gospel. It is not as if the deeper our understanding of the gospel goes then the easier the bloodshed will be. No, it’s likely that the deeper the gospel goes then the deeper will be the things that the gospel is transforming.

Do Christians Have Poor Cultural Taste?

Jordan Monson:

Good art has never been “have it your way.”These culprits surface again and again in Christian culture. You hear them in the car on the way home from the movies. You read them in passive-aggressive Facebook exchanges filled with proof-texts and posturing. They seem to tag-team flawlessly in any Christian conversation on art. And, if we employ these attitudes, we become what C.S. Lewis calls bad readers. In An Experiment in Criticism, C. S. Lewis’s scarcely read work on literary criticism, the distinguished author and Cambridge chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature says that the major difference between good reading and bad reading—or for our purposes, good and bad taste—is that good taste is a product of receiving art rather than using art.

“Just believe” & other nonsense you hear in the movies

amber-heart

I’m a sucker for cult TV shows—y’know, the ones constantly living on the bubble, that no matter how great they are can’t seem to find an audience, either because of network interference or… well, network interference is probably the majority of the reason.

Chuck was one of those shows that took Emily and me by surprise when we discovered it on DVD. But years before that, we found a show called Firefly. The brainchild of Joss Whedon, this show was set in the far-off future mashing up Star Wars, westerns and a touch of Star Trek, with one of the central conceits being, “What if the Federation were the bad guys?”

Not surprisingly, the show didn’t last long on TV, but eventually developed such a rabid fanbase that a movie was released in 2005, Serenity. Last night, Emily and I were watching the movie on Netflix, and I was surprised at how well it holds up in terms of its aesthetic and overall storytelling… but there’s this one scene that absolutely ruins the movie for me.

At a pivotal moment in the film, the lead character, Mal (played by the perpetually-smarmy Nathan Fillion) is with Shepherd Book, a Christian (ish) preacher, who is moments away from death due to the machinations of the film’s villain, The Operative—a devout believer in “a better world, a world without sin.” And so, Book, with his final breath, tells Mal, “I don’t care what you believe—just believe.”1

This is the key to defeating The Operative.

It’s intense. It’s dramatic. And it’s complete nonsense.

But, of course, you likely already know that.

The problem, obviously, is not with the idea of belief, but it’s what are we being asked to believe in. This is the common problem we see in so many movies and TV shows, including those where an apparently “Christian” preacher appears. Either he’s a proxy for a belief in morality as the key to happiness, or the spread of ‘murican values, or he’s some sort of pathetic Oprah-in-disguise-wannabe-hippie.2

We’re told to look to ourselves, to listen to our hearts, to follow our instincts. We are constantly encouraged to look inward, but fail to realize that it’s looking inward that’s the cause of so many of our problems. As Rob Gordon famously said, “I’ve been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I’ve come to the conclusion that my guts have [expletive] for brains.”

This is why “just believe” or believing in belief or listening to our hearts and all the other nonsense we hear is just that—nonsense. And secretly, I think we all know it. We’ve seen it not work time and again, but we keep running back to it, hoping that this time it might be different.

This vain hope isn’t what the Bible calls us to. This false belief isn’t what Christianity is rooted in. We don’t belief in believe, as though that were somehow possible. We don’t believe in being good, despite what some preachers might tell you. We don’t believe in listening to our hearts, because we know how prone to wander they are. Instead, we believe in something sure and trustworthy.

We believe that God created all that is. We believe God is so far above us and yet so intimately near us. We believe in the promises of God and we believe He keeps His Word. We believe Christ truly rescues us from our sin through His death and resurrection. We believe that a day is coming when God will transform this world into a new and better one, one free from sin and death forevermore. And we believe this really does change everything in a person’s life.

That’s what Christians believe in. That’s what everyone needs to believe in.

But we don’t believe in belief, and neither should you. That’s just a road to nowhere.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Reflections On My “Break-Up” With The Gospel Coalition

Tullian Tchividjian:

It’s been a much quieter week for me. Last week was loud and exhausting. And (other than Miami Heat games, Dallas Cowboy games, Ultra Music Festival, and the music in my car) I’m not a fan of either loud or exhausting. Not many are. So, I’m grateful that God has granted me a quieter week.

Still, the very public “break-up” between The Gospel Coalition and me weighs heavy on my heart. And I want to say just a few things about it now that I’ve had some time to reflect.

‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ and the Subversion of Human Nature

E. Stephen Burnett:

Marvel, when given a chance to take its unprecedented shared-universe superhero films to the small screen, chose to write stories that subvert naïve optimism about basically-decent government agencies and even human beings themselves.

What does this say about humans?

Clearly we do not believe our own press.

Concerns about the “Efficacy” of Works

Richard Phillips, interacting with a recent article by Mark Jones:

I am less eager to support the teaching of good works as efficacious in salvation, however, regardless of the Puritan gravitas attached to the idea. Now, if what we mean by the efficacy of works in attaining eternal life is James’ teaching that faith without works is dead, so that the evidence of work is needed to justify our faith, then I will of course agree. Moreover, if we mean that works are efficacious, as Owen says, “as the way wherein we ought to walk, for the coming to and obtaining of the inheritance so fully purchased and freely given,” then I will earnestly bow once again to Owen’s lucid biblical accuracy. But when we suggest that works enter into the instrumentality of salvation, so that in the consummation of our salvation eternal life is granted on the basis of good works, then I find myself expressing both objections and concerns.

Jesus Is Not a Cagefighter

Joe Carter:

Although well-intended, these ministries that focus on “ultimate fighters” are giving young men a deformed view of Biblical masculinity. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus praised the meek, a word that in the Greek is used in reference to a “tame” wild animal. The lion is able to lay down with the lamb precisely because he is not given over to his hyper-aggressive nature.

 

Links I like (weekend edition)

7 Traits of Leaders Who Hire Well

Eric Geiger:

The only time the Bible records Jesus praying all night long was before He chose His disciples (Luke 6:12-13). He had no plan B. He chose to ensure the gospel would spread through the disciples, and He prayerfully selected those who He would hand the mission to.

In my role, I interact daily with leaders and managers who hire people, who invite others to join the teams they lead. I have observed these seven common traits in leaders who hire well, leaders who seem to excel at attracting the right players to their teams.

What Tom Nettles Taught Me

Russell Moore:

Tom Nettles retired last week as professor of historical theology at Southern Seminary, capping off a long and distinguished career. As I thought about his retirement, I reflected on what I’ve learned from this iconic Baptist historian, and it was hard to find a place to start.

Will Ferrell and Chad Smith drum off

HT: Barnabas

Four Words I’d Like to Strike From Christian Conversation

Joey Cochran:

There are four words that I’d like to strike from our Christian conversations. There’s probably more, but these four keep coming to my mind. They’re kind of buzz words these days. They are the following businessy terms: connect, tribe, sexy and brand. Here’s how they get used.

Was Christ’s Death Divine Child Abuse?

Jason Helopoulos:

He in our place. “He has borne our griefs” (Is. 53:4). “He was wounded for our transgressions” (Is. 53: 5). “He was crushed for our iniquities” (Is. 53:4). “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:5). He was our substitute. It has been argued that this is unjust; it isn’t right. Some enemies of the gospel have gone so far as to say that Christ being our substitute was some sort of divine child-abuse. However, that is far from the case. As Jesus said in Luke 22, quoting Isaiah 53:12, “He had to be numbered with the transgressors.” He had to be. It was the only way to save sinful men. “For our sake, He made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). He became sin for us. And because He took what was ours we are absolved from the necessity of enduring that same punishment. Justice has been upheld. He received wrath and death that we might receive grace and life. Our debt has been paid by another—in full. And this is anything but divine child abuse. Let me give you four reasons why.

Links I like

No Man Left Behind

Tim Challies:

On my flight to Australia they were showing Lone Survivor . I didn’t watch it all, but I have read the book and got the point of the film: one man had been left behind and U.S. military might was deployed to rescue him. (Spoiler warning!) The movie culminates in an American soldier busting into this man’s hiding place and assuring him that he is now safe, that he will not be left behind. The soldier, and the audience, then breathes a sigh of relief, knowing that he, too, is accounted for.

And as the credits rolled I found myself thinking about the church, another place where I hope no man is left behind (or no woman, or no child, for that). We should expect no less from ourselves.

If Frozen were a horror film

HT: Z

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Four titles from Crossway’s Preaching the Word commentary series:

Four by R.C. Sproul:

And finally:

Is It God’s Will for All Christians to Be Wealthy?

Ajith Fernando:

More and more Christians, all over the world, believe that material prosperity is the right of all Christians. They believe that God expects them to ask for it and to anticipate it as a sure fulfilment of his promise. There is no doubt that both the Old and New Testaments teach that the faithful will be blessed by God.

But does that blessing necessarily always include material prosperity? Can all Christians expect to become wealthy? Turning to the Bible dispels such an expectation.

Chasing Echoes

Nick Horton:

We walk through life constantly observing beauty. Many times we only observe and do not appreciate. We take in the grandeur around us and file it away as business as usual as though creation is mundane and to be expected. We drive in cars crammed in traffic jams seething with impatience, annoyance, and anger, all the while ignoring the beauty that exists around us.

Around the Interweb (04/25)

Salvation from a life of “goodness”

From the Mars Hill blog:

I asked Jesus into my heart before I can even remember. In the years since, however, I have lived a life motivated by nothing more than an aching desire to be perfect, beautiful, and righteous. I armed myself with knowledge and convictions and lived a very moral, introspective, and ultimately fear driven life. I read the Bible daily, but did not hear that Jesus’ goodness replaced the need for mine; what I read and heard was conviction, the need for it, and the power of it to safeguard and cultivate a life that pleased God. I paid lip service to things like Love and Faith, but actually lacked any relationship to real trust and heart.

Read the rest here.

In other news

TGCReviews Editor John Starke interviews Mark Driscoll about his latest book, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe

Dr. Moore is asked, “Should I tell my child he was conceived in rape?”

The new issue of Themelios is now available

Jared Wilson: “The Message of the Gospel is NOT “Behave!”

James at Hills Bible Church asks a great question: What should a Christian’s response be to pop culture?

In Case You Missed It

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

“I know what the Bible says, but it’s just cultural…”

You can ignore a great ethicist, but you can’t ignore God

A review of Thabiti Anyabwile’s latest, The Gospel for Muslims

Trajectories Toward an Adjusted Gospel - Al Mohler at Together for the Gospel 2010

Oh My God

Oh My God is a documentary that asks the question, “Who is God?”

The filmmaker, Peter Rodger, travelled to 23 different countries around the world just asking this question. In his travels, he didn’t just ask “experts” to explain their concept or understanding of God. He asked normal folks.

And Hugh Jackman.

Check out the trailer:

Jackman’s quote is pretty interesting:

If you put Buddha, Jesus Christ, Socrates, Shakespeare, Arjuna, Krishna together at a dinner table, I couldn’t see them having any argument.

It’s a really nice sentiment, the belief that all religions are fundamentally the same (although I’m not exactly sure how Shakespeare fits into the “religious figure” camp), and therefore, they do not stand in conflict.

It’s a nice idea that we hear a lot. Heck, it’s an argument I threw out a lot back in the day. But as nice as it is, it’s not true. Jesus doesn’t allow for it. What we see in the New Testament is that Jesus debates a lot. He challenges the assumptions of the religious leaders of the day, and even those of His own followers, asking them, “Who do you say I am?”

But that’s what makes the movie intriguing to me; it’s asking, perhaps, the most important question we can ever ask:

Who is God?

It’s a question I’m glad Rodger is asking.

I’m curious if he discovered an answer.

HT: Z

Apparently John Piper is Emo, too!

Discussing fashion in Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide to Emo Culture, the authors describe the emo college professor look:

“Often sported by indie-emo types who have actually read John Fante novels, this particular emo fashion aesthetic [involves] wearing corduroy blazers with suede elbow patches and clunky glasses…”

john

If you’ve ever wondered how it is that Piper is able to connect so deeply with so many young people, perhaps it’s because he understands them far better than anyone could imagine.

Or, y’know, it could be his infectious passion for Jesus Christ.

I leave it to you to decide.

Oh no—We were Emo!

We made a stunning revelation Wednesday night: In college, Emily and I were so emo—and we didn’t even know it!

Now, I may not have worn eyeliner… or painted my nails… or worn girl pants… but when it came to home decor, we were so emo.

We learned this with the help of Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide to Emo Culture. In this book, authors Leslie Simon and Trevor Kelley include an important chapter about growing up—the most dreaded concept to everyone from teens to 40-somethings. In this chapter, they write:

Generally, interior design is a concept that most emo types fail to embrace until they reach their mid-twenties, which is why their first home away from home (often obtained around the age of nineteen) will include the following:

“Band posters… DIY bookshelves [made of milk crates, naturally!]…The ‘Dude, what’s up with your futon?’ Futon.

Honestly, this is not too far off from our first apartments (and college dorms). Comic book art and band posters, the hand-me-down puffy pleather sofa (which, in terms of decor, may be on par with the futon), a DIY entertainment unit. It was pretty rough.

But here’s what caught our attention:

Your average adult emo home will be heavily outfitted by Ikea, West Elm, or Pottery Barn and will probably look identical to all your friends’ homes. Generally, these homes will include the following:

A real couch… A slightly better bookshelf [with real books in it that cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $150, but still has the stability of a stack of milk crates]… Photographs and art, but not too much [usually consisting of either cartoon-looking concert posters or nauseating photos of the married couple].

Our house is an Ikea catalog. We can’t help it, they make affordable and awesome furniture. Our shaky bookshelves are bowing under the weight of a couple hundred real books. And yes, we have pictures of ourselves around the house, and a painting of toast in our kitchen.

Now while Emily tells me that our home decor is called something like “modern country,” I think there’s a lesson to be learned: There’s a little emo in all of us.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch a Cameron Crowe movie and then listen to Weezer.

Irrelevant (or, What happens when Christians try too hard to be cool)

Yesterday, for the first time since my subscription ran out in 2007(?) I took a look at an issue of Relevant Magazine, the magazine about God, Life and Progressive Culture. I remembered enjoying it a great deal back in the day, particularly as a brand-new Christian. A few really enjoyable (and often very helpful) articles in every issue, interesting layout, and the odd bits of silliness.

So I look at the latest issue (via the digital copy on their website), and man, oh man, that’s a lousy magazine. Seriously, for a magazine in which God is to figure so prominently, outside of an article about how the guy who produces Aqua Teen Hunger Force being a Christian, I don’t recall seeing Jesus anywhere in it. Zooey Deschanel got more coverage (and I suspect it’s mostly because she’s the indie-film darling that the kids adore).

I don’t want to come off as being overly critical or unnecessarily judgemental, but sometimes I have some serious concerns about the quest of many Christians to be “progressive.”

When I look around and see Christians trying so hard to be cool—magazines that are indistinguishable from any other one on the shelf, guys with floppy hair and skinny jeans, Sunday services with smoke machines and laser beams… you get the idea—I find myself troubled. When we get so caught up in trying to be cool, when we get consumed by the pursuit of cool, we become nothing more than an echo of culture. We begin to look like everything else.

And that makes us completely irrelevant. [Read more...]