Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H has put a number of volumes from the Perspectives series is on sale for 99¢ each:

Also on sale are:

Westminster Bookstore and Crossway are also offering an amazing discount when you buy one or more cases of Russell Moore’s book Adoption (as low as $1.75, though if you want just buy one, it’ll cost you $3) or Scott Klusendorf’s The Case for Life (about $5). Pastors, if you’ve got a bit of money in your budget, grab a few cases of these and give them to everyone attending your church.

What to do after you preach

Dave Harvey:

The conclusion of a sermon is a dangerous moment for the preacher. He has just spent 30-45 minutes in an expository deluge, dumping his study and zeal upon his congregation. The 10-20 hours of sermon preparation are now ancient history and he’s climbed in his car for the drive home. Most likely, he is exhausted – emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

If you’re called to preach, you leave it all in the pulpit.

I’ve been there.  And over the last 30 years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about what I should do and what I shouldn’t do following a sermon. Here are three key lessons.

3 Reasons Not to Homeschool

Christina Fox:

This time of year, as we begin to transition out of vacation mindset back into school mode, you may be considering homeschooling for the first time. And there are many good reasons to consider it. You get to choose the curriculum for your children. You’re able to teach every subject through a biblical worldview. You can take time to study things your children enjoy learning about, at their own pace and on their own level. Homeschool allows for greater flexibility in your schedule. Since it doesn’t take as long as a typical school day to complete lessons, there’s plenty of time for extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, additional classes, and hobbies. Homeschooling also provides more time for families to spend together. I could go on.

But there are also reasons not to homeschool. If the idea of homeschooling has been on your mind, here are three reasons you should not homeschool your children.

Matt Chandler on abortion

Watch the full message here.

The Joy of Meaty Christian Biographies

Don Sweeting on why biographies are great.

Beware the Pride of Easy Education

Michael Kelley:

We live in this age of easy education. Never before has more information been more available to us. You can count on the fact that virtually anything you’ve been curious about, someone else has already been curious about, and has recorded the answer somewhere in cyberspace. It’s a pretty amazing thing when you think about it. And yet the breadth and depth of these facts and figures of all shapes and kinds brings with it a question:

To what end?

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This sale on the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway is wrapping up really soon. Get the following titles for $5.99 each:

Also on sale are:

Video Killed the Pulpit Star

This was very interesting.

9 Marks of a Healthy Worship Leader

Alex Duke:

I suppose I’m equal parts grateful and terrified. After all, the title “worship leader” is nowhere in the New Testament. This fact tempts even the most levelheaded toward the subjective and superficial, where already drawn lines and white-knuckled commitments merely evidence what we’ve previously seen, known, or been comfortable with.

So I wanted to pass along a few thoughts I’ve developed as I’ve prayed through what my church is undertaking in the coming weeks, and what your church may be going through right now. I’ve unoriginally titled them “Nine Marks of a Healthy Worship Leader.”

Don’t Know What a Fetus Is? Here Are Your Options

Clarifying words from Peter Kreeft, via Justin Taylor.

Performance in Music City USA

Ray Ortlund:

But there is a dark side to our culture of performance.  The dark side is bondage to appearances — smiling, beautiful, impressive, attractive appearances.  Nashville is a city of truly amazing people.  But under the surface are also stories of unspoken disappointment, insecurity, heartache, failure, loneliness, fear, regret, injury, loss, even as the show must go on.  We may well wonder, “Does anyone care about my broken heart?”

Focus on the Family

D.L. Mayfield:

I was told for so many years to focus on my family, to make it good and strong and holy. But now all I ever want to tell my daughter is that it is sometimes those who speak the loudest about morality and spirituality who are all bluster and bluff.I remember Bill Cosby as being one of my dad’s heroes. He was respectable, safe, clean, funny. He was a regular guy. He was a dad, exasperated and busy and lovably frustrated by the self-absorbed monsters he himself had created. As a family, we would watch the Cosby show. I always thought it was a bit boring, especially those long extended musician solos. When I was young, it seemed to me that I had no taste. I didn’t like jazz. I didn’t like the comedy records that my dad played. And I never really liked Bill Cosby. When I was twelve, the youth pastor at our church was a man in his forties. He was married, and his wife terrified me with her frizzy red perm and long, claw-like nails. This youth pastor looked a lot like Sully from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (one of the other few television shows we were allowed to watch). He had long, curly brown hair and very broad shoulders. He did not seem to mind at all when people mentioned that he looked a little bit like Jesus.

Links I like

Links

Every year I’ve taken a month off of blogging to rest up, recharge and catch up on a number of other projects. During that time, I’ve asked a number of friends from around the Interwebs to team up and provide great content for encouragement and enjoyment of everyone who takes the time to read this blog.

This week I’ll begin my break in earnest, popping in only for the occasional post should events warrant it, as well as handling the regular “Links I like” feature. During my time off, I’ll be catching up on a few major projects (including proposals for two books), working on a small group study for teens (more on that in a while), and maybe trying to get to bed before 1 am.

See y’all soon!

Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H has a huge sale going on right now, with volumes from the Holman Commentary series on for $2.99:

Old Testament:

New Testament:

Also on sale are:

3 Pieces of Advice for Rural Church Ministry

John Powell:

Ministry in the modern church is growing ever more urban.  But there are still a significant number of pastors who will fight in the trenches of kingdom warfare from a rural church.  Here are 3 pieces of advice for those who would consider going to the hard places and farming communities of rural America.

Away With Utilitarian Arguments Against Abortion

Jared Wilson explains why we should stop using arguments like this one: “You should be pro-life because what if you aborted the person who would go on to cure AIDS or cancer, or end poverty?”

John Piper Reflects on Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Implosion

This was an interesting Q&A with John Piper regarding Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. Some undoubtedly will take issue with Piper’s comments regarding abandoning the institutional church (but they shouldn’t).

Pray for the Third Wave

John Ensor:

Almost eight years ago, I wrote to encourage the church to pray for the Third Wave. I argued that the end of abortion as a business would be in sight when the prolife movement was not only joined, but led, by Black and Latino Christians.

I was wrong, at least partially. And I am so thankful.

Fractured Christians

Tim Challies:

…what if Jonah was a book with three chapters instead of four? A three-chapter Jonah is a powerful story of a man running from God, being transformed by God, obeying God, and witnessing a great and unexpected revival. But Jonah has four chapters, and it is in that final chapter that everything changes.

Lord, renew our taste for true “spiritual food”

only truth

One of the things that absolutely terrifies me as I look across the popular landscape of Christian music, publishing and preaching is the… fluffiness of it all. We act as though there is a profound resurgence of robust Christian belief and practice—and truth be told, I genuinely believe we may be on the cusp of such a thing—but every week, hundreds of thousands of professing Christians only hear a legalistic and anemic message about how they can have their best life right now—better finances, a better marriage, a better body—but never actually hear about the one from whom all blessings flow.

Fed on a steady diet of such gobbledygook, we’ve lost our appetite appetite for true spiritual food. We are like small children who prefer processed chicken-like meat over the real thing. This simply will not do. We need our taste for spiritual food to be renewed—and we must plead with the Lord that he would bring such renewal. But as Charles Spurgeon said when preaching on Psalm 28:9,1 the need goes beyond simply recognizing our need for sound doctrine:

Ask the Lord to illuminate His people’s minds as to the doctrines of Covenant Grace, that they may see into the ancient things—that they may get to the depth that lies under and that rolls beneath, and may reach to the precious things of the everlasting hills. Why, half of the Lord’s people do not feed because they do not believe that that is bread which God puts on the table! They are afraid of some of His Truths because they have been told, “Oh, they are so high—it is such high doctrine.” “Savory meat,” I say, “such as my soul loves!” O that these people had but an appetite to feed upon these things from which they are kept back—not because the things are not good—but because they have been warned against them! Whatever is in this Book is fit for our souls to live upon! If God has revealed the Truth, O Believer, be not ashamed to accept it and to make it the nutriment of your soul!

Still, even if we had the prayer answered as to good pastors and sound doctrines, that is not all we need—the soul’s food is to really feed upon Christ Himself. Jesus Christ is received by the heart through communion with Him, and it is only by fellowship with Jesus that, after all, we get the marrow and the fatness of the Gospel. “The truth as it is in Jesus” is the only truth which really nourishes the spiritual man.

Lord, renew our taste for true “spiritual food” of the only true sort—and for One who truly nourishes our souls, Christ himself.


Photo credit: Recreation of Easter at Canterbury Cathedral via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

The only truly good sermon you will ever hear

good-sermon

“Did he tell us where we can see Jesus in the text?”

It’s a question I’ve asked on more than one occasion after hearing a message. It’s hard to hear someone speak—even when they explain the text more or less correctly—and wonder, “Did he say anything about Jesus here?” It’s common to wonder this if you’re used to messages that involve five points beginning with the letter “p,” but I’d argue that a commitment to preaching verse by verse does not guarantee we’ll keep Jesus front and center. In fact, I sometimes think it’s easier for us to lose sight of Jesus as we examine the veins on the leaves of a particular tree in one section of the forest.

Truly, there is no worse sermon than one that misses Jesus. By that, I don’t mean ham-fisted attempts to force him into the message, or a tacked-on memorized gospel presentation at the end of the message. What I mean is to always show the connection to Christ. Charles Spurgeon reminds us of this in the following story, previously told by a Welsh minister:

A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had done he went to the old minister, and said, “What do you think of my sermon?”

“A very poor sermon indeed,” said he.

“A poor sermon?” said the young man, “it took me a long time to study it.”

“Ay, no doubt of it.”

“Why, did you not think my explanation of the text a very good one?”

“Oh, yes,” said the old preacher, “very good indeed.”

“Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon? Didn’t you think the metaphors were appropriate and the arguments conclusive?”

“Yes, they were very good as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon.”

“Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?”

“Because,” said he, “there was no Christ in it.”

“Well,” said the young man, “Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text.”

So the old man said, “Don’t you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?”

“Yes,” said the young man.

“Ah!” said the old divine “and so from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business in when you get to a text, is to say, ‘Now what is the road to Christ?’ and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis—Christ. And I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it.”1

There is no worse sermon than one where you cannot find Christ in it, no matter how good the explanation of the details of the text. There is no worse devotional thought than one devoid of the presence of our Lord and Savior, no matter how encouraging or motivational it may be. The only truly good message is one where we’ve shown Christ in the text. Every text, every road, as the old divine said, leads to him. Whether we go over hedge and ditch, it is worth it, for good of all who hear—and ourselves—to point the way.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

I Am a Church Member by Thom Rainer is 99¢ through the end of the day. His latest, I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian, is available now for $6.99. Also on sale:

Fighting Fear When Violence Strikes Close to Home

Angela Price:

I was going to a play date for the first time at my Muslim friend’s house. I’ve never felt afraid before, but today was different. What if I was wrong about her intentions?

It had been nearly one week after the horrible shooting in Chattanooga. Many here are asking the typical questions. Why did this happen? How could this happen? But those aren’t exactly the right questions when we remember our world is deeply fallen, captive to sin and death. This is a temporary place. Sin abounds and it’s only the grace of God that holds it back in each of us.

Who is capable of being a murderer? Any of us. We are all born with a sin nature. We all need a Savior to rescue us from that. We all need hope. We all need the gospel.

Crushed

Nancy Guthrie writes to women in light of the ongoingPlanned Parenthood scandal.

The Coming of the Age of Gibberish

Carl Trueman:

Every now and then I read something which seems to capture the spirit of the age. A friend recently forwarded me one such item, calling for the government to provide free menstrual pads and tampons to women. So far, so Old Left. I disagree with the conclusion but I do understand the argument. It is set forth with a logic that is clear and comprehensible. The author and I may differ in our politics but we speak the same language.

It was not, however, the main article which caught my eye. Rather it was the editor’s note at the start.

What If I Preach a Bad Sermon?

Brian Croft:

Every preacher has preached a bad sermon. If you think you haven’t, then you probably have preached a bunch of bad sermons. It will happen to all of us. Sometimes it won’t just be bad, but a disaster! When a sermon doesn’t go well, most of us get very discouraged and if the despair is great enough, it might cause us to question whether we should continue to preach at all. I bet no one can top the disaster of John Newton’s first sermon as he described it to a friend in a letter he wrote the next day.

The Onion looks back at “The Goonies”

This was terrifically ridiculous (Note: there’s a bit of inappropriate language at around the 3 minute mark):

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H has put a number of digital Bibles on sale for the next few days:

Also on sale:

Who is the Most Influential Person in Your Life?

Who’s the person who most influences you? You are.

8 Verses For Christians Who Think Homosexuality And Same-Sex Marriage Are No Big Deal

Jeff Medders:

A low view of scripture doubles down on a low view of God, which results in a low view of sin, which ebbs into accepting and normalizing sin, which dominoes into celebrating sin. For Christians, the Bible isn’t something we can edit, ignore, or tailor to wear another culture’s clothes. It is what it is. Rather, the Bible edits us, showing us our own sin, reminding us how to follow Jesus as new people living from Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Titled, Not Entitled

Meghan Rayno:

Everyone is gifted in one way or another. Whether we are called to serve on the mission field, in the ministry, in the workplace or in the home, God has individually gifted us with the skills and knowledge needed to do His work. When we use our gifts wherever He places us, we glorify His name and reflect His character.

However, we all have a sinful tendency to pride ourselves in our title, position and abilities. For those of us who have earned a title by a diligent use of our gifts, this can be an especially difficult spiritual battle. Here are 7 humbling truths that we would do well to remember as we seek to combat pride and continue to honor the Lord with our gift.

Are we preaching Christ or preaching about Christ?

Ray Ortlund shares a doozy.

Cheering Costly Obedience

Lindsey Carlson:

Those of us with easier pasts may not feel as compelled to push back the darkness in such costly ways. We’re happy to serve by putting money into offering plates, bringing a few canned goods to the food drive, or mentioning Jesus if he comes up in conversation. But I wonder if it’s too much of this “safe” service that causes it to be infrequent, passionless, done more out of a sense of obligation than of gospel gratitude. While God certainly uses “safe” endeavors for his eternal purposes, we should desire to carry the cup of living water to those who need it at any cost—and with consistency, passion, and joy.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Happy Independence Day, American friends! Hope you enjoy a great day of celebrating, fireworks, delicious food—and get to avoid any weird patriotic services at church this weekend. Speaking of which…

I struggle with patriotic worship services

Marty Duren:

My discomfort with patriotic worship services culminated when visiting a church during vacation. The front of the auditorium was covered by an enormous American flag. Beneath the flag was the opening for the baptistry where the pastor baptized a new believer.

Under the American flag. With no cross in sight, I suppose it was covered by stripes. It was not surreal for me; it was troubling. The imagery was all wrong.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just few for you today, starting with A Comedian’s Guide to Theology by Thor Ramsey ($1.99). Thor’s book from Cruciform Press, The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever, is well worth considering, too. Also on sale:

And today’s the last day to get these deals from Crossway:

How to Distinguish the Holy Spirit from the Serpent

Sinclair Ferguson:

How do we distinguish the promptings of the Spirit of grace in His guiding and governing of our lives from the delusions of the spirit of the world and of our own sinful heart? This is a hugely important question if we are to be calm and confident that the spirit with whom we are communing really is the Holy Spirit.

Pastor, You Should Share The Pulpit

Steve Rahn:

We are not a large church. We don’t have a staff—just me. It’s not a necessity that they fill in. I’m not out of town or anything. It probably even seems a little strange to some folks that I’m at the service but not preaching.

I love to prepare and preach sermons. Love it. It’s easily my favorite part of pastoral ministry.

And these men are not getting paid to preach (whereas I am) and they have fulltime jobs outside of the church (I don’t). So why have them preach?

The Final Break Between God and Country

Thomas S. Kidd:

So here we are, a week after the gay marriage mandate, and the Fourth of July is upon us. What should we do? One appropriate option—one we have always had—would be to politely ignore the Fourth of July in our families, and our Sunday services. Again, what does 1776 have to do with our worship? Around the world, our Christian brothers and sisters from Nigeria to Nepal will not say anything about the Fourth of July. Why should we?

Evangelism in a Culture of Religions Nones

Jonathan Dodson:

Rehearsing a memorized fact, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins”, isn’t walking in wisdom. Many people don’t know what we mean when we say “Jesus” “sin” or “cross.” While much of America still has cultural memory of these things, they are often misunderstood and confused with “moral teacher” “be good” and “irrelevant suffering.” We have to slow down long enough to explore what they mean, and why they have trouble with these words and concepts. Often they are tied to some kind of pain.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

On Preaching and Public Invitations

Jason Allen:

I once sat through a sermon that began, literally, with the invitation. The entirety of the sermon was given to explaining the forthcoming invitation and to encouraging the listeners to come forward during it. There was no preached word; no gospel presentation to which one should respond. I kept thinking, “Come forward in light of what? Come forward for what?” I didn’t have a seminary degree then, but I had a hunch that merely changing one’s geographic location in a room wouldn’t save.

Christians Need to Stop Cussing

Erik Raymond:

But, I’ve noticed that many Christians are still plagued by a foul mouth. They say things that are offensive to God and to others. I suspect that many don’t even realize it either. Like a new convert who remains fluent in the sailor’s tongue the Christian may not realize what they are saying or its theological impact.

So let me give you a couple of 4 letter words that Christians should mortify with quickness: “luck” and “fate”.

4 Ways to Reach a Child’s Heart

Richard Phillips:

I am constantly amazed at the number of people who assure me that their fathers hardly ever praised them, but constantly criticized and berated. I meet people all the time who tell me that their fathers beat into their heads that they were losers who would never succeed. I can scarcely imagine what that is like. There is only so much a pastor can do to remedy such an upbringing, and the best he can do will include pointing such a person to the effective healing love of our heavenly Father, who can do far more than any man. But as fathers we can ensure that our own children are raised with the rich fertilizer of fatherly affection and esteem.

Just Be Hospitable

Mike Leake:

Hospitality is not a means to grow your church. It is fundamental to a churches identity. It is who you are. If we’ve botched hospitality it is because in some way we have botched the gospel.

Is It Possible To Enjoy What God Has Created Without Feeling Guilty?

Stephen Altrogge:

God could have made us tireless, so that we never needed to rest and could always be doing more for God. But instead he created us to work and rest, and to find pleasure in both. To enjoy watching a football game or movie for the glory of God as our body recuperates.

Sometimes I think we can have this weird, dualistic mentality, where spiritual things are good and physical things are second rate at best. In reality, all of life is an opportunity to enjoy God and find out satisfaction in him, not just our devotional times.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also the last day to take advantage of these deals from Crossway:

Finally, you may also want to check out Amazon’s big deal sale, which features deals on a number of general market titles, as well as few Christian ones.

Where the battle rages

Ray Ortlund shares an encouraging quote from Martin Luther.

When God Interferes With Our Plans

Tim Challies:

God’s providence is the single greatest hindrance to the floods of sin that would otherwise gush out of our sinful hearts. If it were not for God’s care and preservation, even we Christians would be far more sinful than we dare imagine. If it were not for God’s gracious interference, our best efforts in holiness would not be enough to keep us from drowning in sin and heaping contempt on the name of Christ. God takes far better care of us than we do of ourselves. For this reason, every Christian owes unending thanks to God for preserving us from what we would otherwise do and who we would otherwise become. This is roughly what John Flavel teaches in chapter 6 of his work The Mystery of Providence. Here are a few of the ways in which God interferes with our desire and attempts to sin against him.

The Child Preachers of Brazil

This was interesting:

Adauto prepared the crowd to receive his daughter, who is now 11 and has been preaching since she was 3. On Monday nights, Alani lays on hands; on Wednesdays, she has a revelations service, in which she and other preachers make predictions about the future; on Saturdays, she hosts a radio show about the Bible. She also does Skype prayer sessions with followers who live far from her or are too sick to meet her, and preaches at other Pentecostal churches and gatherings.

The pastor offered practical reminders. There would be no need to touch Alani excessively; Jesus’ followers were able to receive miracles after only brief contact with his garments. And everyone needed to turn off cellphones, lest they ring and “interrupt a miracle.”

Argument and Conversion

Mike Leake:

Thomas Scott was an unbelieving minister who labored to see his congregation reform their morals. He was discouraged as the folks seemed to never be able to live rightly no matter how he preached. This is no surprise—moralistic preaching never works.

No matter how wonderfully Scott argued, his people would never be able to truly reform their ways. Contrast this with how John Newton interacted with Thomas Scott. Knowing he was not converted—but that God was working on his soul—Newton lovingly engaged Scott with the gospel.

How Younger Preachers Can Help Their Hearers

Eric Davis:

Young men are often raised up by God to take the baton in various ways to faithfully follow previous generations. One of those ways in the privileged and sacred task of feeding Christ’s flock through biblical preaching.

However, as you read Scripture and spend time ministering to God’s people, one thing becomes clear: it is not always easy for people to readily receive the ministry of a young man. A young preacher’s hearers sometimes need help.

What to expect when we preach the gospel

friends-gospel

In modern times, we tend to look at the world around us and say, if only we were X—whether X is hip, trendy, socially active, or whatever—then we’d win the culture to Christ. We act as though there’s some magic formula to this. That somehow we can make everything go exactly our way if we could just unlock the secret.

Now, imagine having these sorts of aspirations—of winning your people with your powerful and prophetic preaching—and rather than turning to God in repentance, they turn on you with murder in their eyes. That those plotting your demise are not strangers, but your childhood friends.

And not your friends only, but your family: your parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles…

They all want you dead.

What would you do?

Jeremiah, often described as the weeping prophet, didn’t need to imagine this, for it was his experience. He wrote in chapter 11 of his book of their scheming. For he heard them say,”Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more,” not knowing that “it was against me they devised schemes” (Jeremiah 11:19).

How would you respond to opposition of this degree? Would you flee? Would you be tempted to retract your message? Or would you turn to the Lord to defend your cause as he did, pleading, “But, O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause”? (Jeremiah 11:20)

While many around the world don’t have to wonder, for it is their daily reality, I hope none of us here in North America will ever have to experience exactly what Jeremiah did. None of us should ever desire persecution of this nature, or actively pursue it. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember as we consider the experiences of Jeremiah, the Apostles, the Reformers, and so many others right up to our own day is that the gospel is offensive. If we preach the truth—if we preach that Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, died for our sins on the cross and rose again on the third day—we are preaching “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8).

The gospel shows us as we truly are—lost, depraved, unable to save ourselves no matter how good and moral we attempt to be. Thus, it confronts us with uncomfortable realities. We know we can never be good enough (even by our own standards, to say nothing of God’s). We know the deeds and thoughts done in private. The gospel shatters our self-image, and so we are left with two options: repent or retaliate.

And that’s the hard thing for so many to get, I fear: generally speaking, we’re not going to win any popularity contests when we’re preaching the gospel in a culture that runs contrary to it. The hard-hearted Israelites to whom Jeremiah preached would not hear him, and in their rebellion sought his death. Today, we’re called bigots for upholding biblical truths and not being able to bless actions that run contrary to them. We’re called intolerant for our exclusive claims. Even when people think we, individually, are very nice, collectively, Christians are personae non gratae.

This is what we should expect when we represent Christ, no matter how well we represent him. Some will be drawn closer, but others—many others, perhaps—will be repelled. That’s what we should expect, because it is what we’re told will happen. So do not lose heart if social action doesn’t win the affections of the lost, or being culturally relevant still results in us being left out in the cold. Give thanks to God and carry on.

Six books I want to read this summer

summer reading

Summer vacation is already here for some of us, and nearly upon us for others. Although my reading has left me feeling a little unfulfilled of late, I’m still looking forward to what some time off with a good book or two will bring. Here’s a look at what I’m planning to read this year:

The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo by Jared C. Wilson

This is one I’ve been meaning to get to for a while now. I’ve read a few pages, though, and it’s delightful.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien

I’ve been reading the Lord of the Rings series for the last little while, so it’s going to be fun to finish it up.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore (trilogy box set)


Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke

I am a big fan of the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway, and based on what I’ve seen so far, this volume looks pretty spectacular.

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Bookstore


Onward by Russell Moore

Though this one has the least practical relevance to my life (since I live in Canada), it should be a thought-provoking read nonetheless.

Buy it at: Amazon (pre-order)


Preaching by Timothy Keller

The people we have the most to learn from about preaching (aside from those to whom we preach) are those who have done it for a long time. Given Keller’s decades of pastoral ministry experience, I’m really looking forward to learning from this one.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Batman Adventures, vol 2 by Puckett, Parobeck, and Burchett

For an entire generation, Kevin Conroy’s Batman from Batman: the Animated Series is the definitive Dark Knight. I finally introduced Abigail to this staple of the 90s, and she thinks it’s pretty rad. It’s also one of the few superhero comics I’ve been able to find that isn’t kind of porny or otherwise wildly inappropriate to share with my kids (but that is a story for another time…).

Buy it at: Amazon


That’s a quick look at what I’m trying to read. Some of it I’ll be done sooner than others, naturally, but I think it’s a reasonable goal. What’s on your reading list?

Long preaching isn’t always good preaching

least-to-say (1)

Early on in my faith, I was enamored with preachers who would give these 45, 50, 60-plus minute sermons. I would compare what I’d hear in their podcasts to what I was hearing on Sunday mornings, and I always wondered, “Why doesn’t my pastor do what these guys are doing?”

Which, of course, is stupid. But then again, I was kind of an idiot.

(Moving on…)

Over time, I grew less enamored with some of those preachers (or at least their preaching). As I listened, I increasingly realized that the guys that seemed to be able to get up and had little more than a post-it for notes weren’t actually saying much of anything. They were using a great many words to say very little.

When training pastors on the importance of keeping people’s attention, Charles Spurgeon encouraged his hearers to keep their sermons shorter. “Spend more time in the study that you may need less in the pulpit,” he said.

We are generally longest when we have least to say. A man with a great deal of well-prepared matter will probably not exceed forty minutes; when he has less to say he will go on for fifty minutes; and when he has absolutely nothing he will need an hour to say it in. (Lectures to my Students, 156)

This is valuable advice (and also helps us understand why TED Talks are so powerful). Sometimes preaching1 “long” isn’t necessary—it’s just long. It’s a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”(1 Corinthians 13:1), revealing a great love of our own pontificating, but little for our hearers. And I really have no interest in that, either as a preacher or the hearer. I’d rather speak five simple words that communicate clearly than 1000 that may be eloquent or funny, but lack substance. What about you?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Luther and the Reformation teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio & video download)
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Modern espionage

Because Community:

‘Groundbreaking’ gay marriage study retracted over faked data

Rachel Lynn Aldrich:

The senior author of an allegedly groundbreaking study on gay marriage has retracted it following evidence that some of the data likely was fabricated.

The study claimed people opposed to gay marriage would change their minds after having a 20-minute conversation with someone canvassing their neighborhood who identified as a homosexual. The study also claimed other members of the same household were more likely to change their views as well. But the data supporting the study was too good to be true, according to the Daily Caller.

Protestant reformer Martin Luther’s 16th Century notes found

This is really cool.

A Good Word from a Veteran Preacher

Erik Raymond shares a confession from Bryan Chapell. It’s really great.

Running from a Bad Church Situation May Hinder Your Spiritual Growth

Trevin Wax:

It’s true that there are plenty of Christians whose lives don’t resemble Christ’s. There are pastors who abuse their authority or lead poorly. There are churches that implement changes quickly, without the consent of key leaders, which then breeds disunity and quarrels. Leadership fumbles, personality conflicts, relationship breeches — they all exist in the church. That’s why, for many churchgoers, the temptation is strong to seek refuge and peace in another church across town.

But what if the choice to leave a difficult church situation will actually short-circuit your formation as a Christian? What if your desire for a better congregation will stunt your spiritual growth? Does God use uncomfortable church situations as part of His process of sanctifying us?

Be sure to also read When You Should Flee Your Church.