Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s deals from Crossway focus on apologetics:

Also on sale is Puritan Portraits by J.I. Packer for $3.99.

The Symbolism of the Rainbow

Nick Batzig:

Yesterday one of my sons asked me why there were so many rainbows on the television and internet. Most of us have have seen them on children’s books and clothing from our earliest days–and in recent years placarded on the television and internet–yet many have never stopped to ask the question, “What symbolism did God invest the rainbow with from the the day in which He first set it in the sky?” There is a rich biblical-theological answer to that question, and it would serve us well to consider what we are taught from the Genesis narrative–as well as from the rest of redemptive history.

In an Instant-Messaging Age, Sometimes It’s Best to Sleep on It

Nathan Bingham:

For bloggers like me, a literal seven-hour delay can be a beneficial habit. We are a unique breed with unique temptations. We might say that we write for the simple love of it. But that doesn’t mean we would love writing as much if no one were to read our posts. Pride is often crouching at the door as we hit the publish button. And it’s this desire to grow our readership that can push us to write on every scandal or trending topic, even if when we seriously consider it, we have nothing meaningful to contribute or any legitimate reason for providing our commentary. Simply sleeping on it, or sending the draft to a trusted friend for their counsel, can be enough to prevent publishing something that you will later regret. Making this your practice will provide you with the time to examine your motives, repent of any sin, and thereby grow in your walk with the Lord and ultimately the quality of your blogging. Having a social media editor isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of maturity.

We’re Addicted to Doubt

Barnabas Piper:

When I say “we” I mean younger people in the church. We are addicted to doubt — a reaction to a religious background that stifled it during our formative years. When we were growing up questions about God, any sign we lacked surety, was frowned upon either explicitly or tacitly by the greater church. Sometimes we were reprimanded, but more often we simply received canned answers to hard questions and were told to believe them. Our doubts were not resolved; they were suppressed. Many of us grew up in fundamentalist contexts where things were black and white, right or wrong, yes or no. There was no room for anything else. Anything else was sinful.

Computer Brains, Mind Trips, and the Ugliness of Myopia

Luke Harrington:

There’s a fascinating post up at Google UK’s research blog right now about image recognition and “neural networks.” These are networks of computers designed to mimic the human brain in the way they operate—they think, and they can learn, and yes, they’re probably plotting world domination as we speak. Here we had an act of terrorism carried out by a man who was enough of a racist cartoon to make Yosemite Sam look like Laurence Olivier doing Hamlet. . . . And yet, so many of us still wanted to make it about anything other than racism.In the meantime, though, they show a lot of promise for automatic image classification. For instance, if your phone has thousands of photos on it, and you haven’t done anything to sort them (imagine that, right?), a neural network could search through them for you. If you search for “dog,” and the network has been taught what a dog looks like, it’ll return all of your photos of dogs to you; if you search for “vastly overrated television program,” you’ll presumably get some stills from Breaking Bad.

Three Reasons White Pastors Need to Start Preaching on Race

Dan Darling:

For most white evangelical pastors, racial reconciliation hasn’t been a primary emphasis of their teaching. This may be for a variety of reasons. First, as the majority culture, white Christians don’t feel the sting of prejudice. It’s not that all white evangelicals are insensitive; it’s that many are not in proximity to racism or injustice. Because most of our friends are white, we aren’t forced to empathize with our minority brothers and sisters in Christ. Second, there is likely some fear of addressing race. Racial issues are delicate. Pastoral leadership is already a tightrope act; why stir up more trouble? Third, it could be that pastors might view racial reconciliation as a worthy goal, but not a gospel issue.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

10 Reasons Racism is Offensive to God

Kevin DeYoung:

I’ve grown up my whole life hearing that racism was wrong, that “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” (to use one of the first definitions that popped up on my phone) is sinful. I’ve heard it from my parents, from my public school, from my church, from my college, and from my seminary. The vast majority of Americans know that racism is wrong. It’s one of the few things almost everyone agrees on. And yet, I wonder if we (I?) have spent much time considering why it’s wrong. We can easily make our “I hate racism” opinions known (and loudly), but perhaps we are just looking for moral high ground, or for pats on the back, or to win friends and influence people, or to prove we’re not like thosepeople, or maybe we are just saying what we’ve always heard everyone say. As Christians we must think and feel deeply not just the what of the Bible but the why. If racism is so bad, why is it so bad?

What I Learned from Elisabeth Elliot in Her Last Years

Jennifer Lyell:

There is much I could share about those days I spent with Elisabeth, but one experience is particularly on my mind as I write while flying home from her funeral service. The moment came in a simple circumstance with Elisabeth, arguably the most influential Christian woman of the 20th century. We were far off the beaten path in a place where there was no fanfare for this spiritual giant who had given so much to Christ and his kingdom. I sat holding her hand, but the microphone was gone. The lines waiting for an autograph were gone. The pen would be pointless. She sat struggling to stay awake even as we journeyed on. And I was full of a righteous anger I’d not previously experienced.

Bros before Marios

This is a bit older, but it’s pretty funny nonetheless:

God Will Use Even You

Steven Lee:

I have not written a New York Times Bestseller, and no one has publicly endorsed, recommended, or vouched for me. I don’t have any letters after my name. I can’t charge an exorbitant hourly fee for my time. I don’t speak on any circuits, have given no TED talks, and have been the keynote speaker less than once. No buildings, streets, or hospitals have been named in honor of me. I have an unimpressive family background and do not come from a long line of important people.

And that is okay. Really, it’s just fine.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s deals from Crossway are focused on reading and understanding the Bible:

Also on sale is Has the Church Replaced Israel? by Michael Vlash ($2.99).

Stop The Racist Jokes

Jeff Medders:

Racism is satanic. And so are racist jokes. We can often feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin with the race conversation. Let’s start here: No more racist jokes. No more. Zero. I’ve heard too many jokes about Mexicans (my race) swimming across and doing manual labor. I’ve heard too many jokes about Asian people’s eyes and driving. I’ve heard too many jokes about Black people’s hair—it’s all wrong. And as Christians, we must adopt a zero tolerance culture toward racism.

Take heed

Nick Batzig:

Consider the following: If an innocent man could choose a piece of fruit over the infinitely valuable God (Gen. 3:6); if the most righteous man of his day could get so drunk that he passed out naked before his sons in his tent (9:21); if the most faithful man of his day could father a child with his wife’s handmaiden (16:1–4) and twice hand his wife over to other men (12:11–15; 20:1–2); if the mother of promise could laugh at the words of the God of promise and then lie to Him about doing so (18:9–15); if “righteous Lot” could greedily pick the most materialistic and sexually depraved place for himself and his family to live (13:8–13), and could hand his daughters over to the sexually perverse men of the city (19:4–8); if the son of promise could show partiality to his oldest son because he liked his hunting skills (25:28), and he, too, could hand his wife over to another man (26:6–11); and if the namesake of Israel could swindle his brother for a birthright (25:29–34), then so could I.

Evolution not Dissolution of the Parachurch

JD Payne:

Though much of my twenty years in vocational ministry has been connected to the local church, I have also been significantly involved in parachurch (i.e., alongside of, not in competition with the local church) ministries. Even extending back to my college days, campus ministry was a major part of my leadership development process. Seminaries, mission agencies, and other parachurch organizations have always been near to my heart. Much Kingdom good may be found with such ministries.

However, my concern with such ministries, both when I was immersed in them vocationally as well as now, is that we were never evolving.

His Eye is on the Sasquatch

Jared Wilson:

I like to think about those creepy fanged fishies deep in the Mariana Trench, swimming around in the murky darkness of the oceanic fathoms, their dangling bioluminescence their only lantern into the future. Most of them we will never see — at least, not on this side of the new earth, where we don’t have the lung capacity or the mechanical capacity to withstand the pressure of such depths. There are species down there we have zero clue about. I think of exotic fish in clear pools of water in the darkness of undiscovered caves deep in the jungles that human feet will never enter. In the thickest centers of the wildest forests, there are species of insects and birds that are yet undetected.

What’s the harm if pastors aren’t theologians?

Good stuff from Kevin Vanhooser:

HT: Derek

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Kindle deals from Crossway focus on some great books about Jesus and the gospels:

Also on sale is Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom S. Rainer ($2.99).

Ayn Rand really, really hated C.S. Lewis

This was fascinating.

How the Prosperity Gospel Hurts Racial Reconciliation

Russell Moore:

When a prophet calls down fire from heaven, it’s wise to stand to the side.

That’s how I felt a few weeks ago when John Perkins, the revered preacher and civil rights activist, brought up prosperity gospel pastor Creflo Dollar during a live interview I was conducting with Perkins at a summit on racial reconciliation. Perkins lamented that there are so few accredited African-American evangelical schools in the United States while at the same time Dollar is asking for money for a $65 million dollar private jet. “That’s almost witchcraft,” he said.

The more I’ve thought of that over the past few weeks, the more I’m convinced that Perkins is right. The prosperity gospel is a barrier to racial reconciliation.

Did the Early Church Fathers Believe in Sola Scriptura?

C. Michael Patton offers a fairly decisive answer, citing the works of the early church fathers themselves.

How Blue the Sky Was

Douglas Wilson provides some interesting commentary following his recent involuntary blogging break:

Liberals really hate freedom of speech. They loathe it. They are currently involved in far more than just trying to shut down speech that is inconvenient to this particular project of theirs or that one. They are engaged in rejecting the whole idea of free speech in toto. They have gotten to the point where they object to freedom of speech in principle. William F. Buckley once said that liberals give great lip service to the idea of hearing other points of view, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other points of view. That tendency, which Buckley observed, has now officially metastasized.

So in pursuit of gratifying this strange animus, they will employ any number of tricks to silence dissent. But I will content myself here with simply listing two or three of them.

Gospel Irony

Stephen J. Nichols:

There are many who are telling us the time is coming in our American context that might very well resemble the times of the first century for the first-century church. The opposition is mounting. The foe is formidable. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe already find themselves in situations not unlike Paul and the first-century Christians. Their “Praetorian Guard” is a force to be reckoned with. Despite that, they preach the gospel.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

  • God’s Love by R.C. Sproul (paperback)
  • Jonathan Edwards Teaching Series by Stephen Nichols (audio and video download)
  • Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God (ePub)
  • Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson (ePub)

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

5 reasons your church should be smaller

Tim Suttle:

For years it has bothered me that, although the majority of churches in America have fewer than 300 people, most church leadership advice comes from pastors of huge churches. The assumption that bigger is better pervades the church leadership culture. What if that’s the wrong tack? Here are five reasons your church might be better off focusing on faithfulness instead of success… even if it that means it will Shrink.

Dating non-virgins

Richard Phillips:

Here is the dark side, I think, of the chastity industry: it creates the sense that anyone who has failed sexually is broken and unclean.  But this is a repudiation of the gospel.  Would it be better if he or she had waited until marriage for sex?  Of course it would, and we should not downplay the value of sexual purity for singles and youths.  But we do believe in forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. Don’t we? It is one thing if the person is still practicing sexual sin and folly.  But if the person is genuinely repentant and committed to honor the Lord with his or her body, then we rejoice in the redeeming grace of our Savior.

LifeWay pulls “heavenly tourism” books

And about time, too. Now if Christian publishers would stop producing them.

7 Things I’ve Learned In 30+ Years Of Pastoral Ministry

Mark Altrogge:

I’ve been in pastoral ministry since 1980, when I came on staff as a pastor-in-training in our church. I was ordained in ‘81, and became Senior Pastor in ‘82. In the last 30+ years I’ve learned a lot, made plenty of mistakes, and feel like I still have a long way to go. I don’t consider myself an expert on pastoral ministry, but thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned over the years (not in any particular order) to encourage you. So here we go…

Why White People Don’t Like to Talk About Race

Barnabas Piper:

I grew up in inner-city Minneapolis and had the chance to interact with people from many different cultures. When I was twelve my family adopted a black baby girl, my sister Talitha, which opened my eyes even more to the ways minorities are treated differently. My high school football team started multiple Southeast Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, and Native Americans. Interactions about racial and cultural differences were normal for us. They weren’t always pleasant and it wasn’t the perfect melting pot, but it was a context in which openly discussing race was ok as long as it was done with respect. I appreciated the chance to learn, observe, listen, and ask questions. I graduated and moved to lily-white Wheaton, Illinois for college. My first week on campus I was roundly chastised by a fellow student, a J. Crew type and Northface type, for referring to a friend as “black.” I was told it was “racially insensitive”  I realized I had entered a different world, one where well-intentioned whites were both clueless and and stuck when it came to race issues.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Every story casts his shadow

Love this new promo for the Gospel Project:

How Deep the Root of Racism?

Thabiti Anyabwile:

In the last couple of weeks we’ve gotten a good glimpse into the root system of racism. We thought we could stick the racists into the country’s past, next to a post marked “obsolete,” and gladly forget about it. But the roots of racism run deep. That’s why an entire police department and many others appear shot through with indications of that insidious root system. That’s why we’re now inundated with reports of municipal governments and court systems complying with police to raise revenue on the backs of African Americans. And that’s why we’re watching youtube videos of students on college campuses—both secular and Christian—engaging in acts that are at least stupid and insensitive and in some cases plainly racist.

A Good [Wo]man is Easy to Find

Lore Ferguson:

In my Christian life I have rarely been without a multitude of counselors to mentor and lend me wisdom. I know that is not the portion of every person and many men and women long for godly, older people to invest in and guide them. I do not take these gifts lightly. Here are few thoughts about mentoring that I’ve picked up along the way.

9 Marks of an Unhealthy Church

Kevin DeYoung:

In one sense the nine marks of an unhealthy church could simply be the opposite of all that makes for a healthy church, so that unhealthy churches ignore membership and discipline and expository preaching and all the rest. But the signs of church sickness are not always so obvious. It’s possible for your church to teach and understand all the right things and still be a terribly unhealthy place. No doubt, there are dozens of indicators that a church has become dysfunctional and diseased. But let’s limit ourselves to nine.

Making it Clearer

Jeremy Walker:

Let us not swallow the illusion of a scholarly objectivity when it comes to the truth of God. It is not gracious to call compromise “ecumenism.” It is cruel. It is misguided. It is not gracious to give error a free platform. It is dangerous. It is mistaken. Error needs to be exposed and denied. Truth needs to be explained and applied.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week there’ve been quite a few really good deals on Kindle books. Here’s a recap along with a few newer ones:

One Sentence That Pastors and Church Staff Hate to Hear

Yep.

Tomorrow’s promise, today’s indulgence

Jeremy Walker:

We can do the same thing spiritually. We promise ourselves that tomorrow is the big day, the day when we will really begin to pray against a particular sin, wrestle against a particular temptation, address a particular habit. And what happens? First of all, our own sinful hearts will incline to one last fling, one last binge – after all, we will be taking ourselves in hand tomorrow. But more than that, Satan will begin to whisper. He will assure us that we might as well give in to temptation – after all, we can repent later and start over the day after. And how often does this happen?

Reading in the age of Amazon

Hundreds of millions of tablets and e-readers have been sold, but today we’re still inclined to think of a book as words on a page. Amazon’s success with Kindle has hinged on recognizing how much more they can be. So where does the company go from here? In a series of rare, on-the-record interviews for Kindle’s 7th anniversary, Amazon executives sketched out their evolving vision for the future of reading. It’s wild — and it’s coming into focus faster than you might have guessed.

A Time to Speak Webcast

If you missed this webcast earlier this week, you can watch this important conversation on race now.

That’s What Gospel Do

Mike Leake:

A couple of years ago Jarrod Dyson, the speedy centerfielder for the KC Royals, scored the game winning run by tagging up on a pop up to the shortstop. If you don’t understand baseball just know that in order to do something like this you have to be crazy fast. Dyson is crazy fast.

When being interviewed after the game, Dyson quipped, “That what speed do”. And it stuck. Now every time Dyson uses his legs to wreak havoc in a game—the announcers will inevitably say “that what speed do”.

Jarrod Dyson has the speed to change a game. In the same way, times infinity, the gospel changes things. Don’t believe me look at this.

Links I like

Our Moral Compass Is Turned Toward Self-Righteousness

Trevin Wax:

Say “self-righteous” and people are likely to think of super-spiritual religious person who looks down on everyone else for their failure to attain the same standard of holiness. There’s the persnickety church lady, or the condescending attitude of a conservative elitist, or the aggressive Facebook commenter who specializes in snide remarks.

But what if we’re so used to seeing self-righteousness on the right that we’re blinded to the self-righteousness of the left?

And what if we are so good at smelling self-righteousness in others that we miss the stench coming from ourselves?

Eric Garner and the Call for Justice

Listen to this special edition of Questions and Ethics with Russell Moore or read the transcript.

An Easy, Low-key, Non-threatening Way To Share The Gospel That Anyone Can Do

Mark Altrogge:

I’m not an evangelist.

I’m not bold. I regularly pray for boldness, but I usually chicken out when I have an opportunity to say something. I especially don’t like “cold call” evangelism – going up to strangers and trying to engage them to share the gospel with them.  What’s a chicken-hearted weakling like me to do?

I was recently stirred when a brother shared at fellowship group how he got saved. He said that when he was in college a friend of his met with him weekly over coffee and they read through one of the Gospels together.  They met week after week, reading at a leisurely pace, stopping to discuss any questions my friend had. It was low-key, no pressure, and my friend believed in Jesus along the way.

The divorce surge is over, the myth lives on

Claire Cain Miller:

It is no longer true that the divorce rate is rising, or that half of all marriages end in divorce. It has not been for some time. Even though social scientists have tried to debunk those myths, somehow the conventional wisdom has held.

Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.

The Underbelly of Revival

D.A. Carson:

In at least some cases, it may be that the growth in numbers of serious Christians brings with it a corresponding growth in the number of moral failures, without the proportion of failures being any higher. We do well not to talk ourselves into an assumption that revival must have an ugly underbelly that would not exist if the revival were not there.

When You Are in Between Jobs

Luke Murry:

“Job transition.” “In between jobs.” “Unemployed.” Whatever you want to call it, these seasons are almost always characterized by doubt about yourself and anxiety about the future. My trial of unemployment was no different. Ten months before I finished grad school, I received a job offer from my dream employer in Washington, D.C. I was elated—I had been praying for this job for six years, doing all I could to present myself as the best possible candidate. And finally, there it was. A job offer that I could hold in my hands. I felt set for decades to come.… But I never imagined what would happen next (as I narrate below). Although the following season was a trying time, looking back I am grateful for it. It taught me a number of lessons. Here are 10.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And in print book deals, Westminster Bookstore has Alex Chediak’s terrific Preparing Your Teens for College on sale for $2. They’re also offering a Questions Christians Ask four-pack for $18. This set includes Can I Really Trust the Bible? by Barry Cooper, How Will the World End? by Jeramie Rinne, How Can I Be Sure? by John Stevens, and Is Forgiveness Really Free? by Michael Jensen.

Does the Bible Ever Get it Wrong? Facing Scripture’s Difficult Passages

Michael Kruger on his new blog series, for which he has invited “evangelical scholars to respond to some of the critical issues raised in Pete Enns’ “Aha moments” series. Scholars who have agreed to participate include Craig Blomberg, Greg Beale, Darrell Bock, Andreas Köstenberger, and Don Carson.” This will be a good series to read.

Christ Did Not Die for You to Do Keg Stands

Kevin DeYoung:

With most major college getting whipped into a full frenzy, I thought it would be worthwhile to dust off a few thoughts about binge drinking on our nation’s campuses. Most students won’t have to look hard for opportunities to drink over the next days and weeks (and months and semesters). They may have to go somewhere off campus to party, but the party scene comes recruiting right to them. Some students arrive at college looking to make their Party U dreams come true. Others just find themselves all alone and eager to fit in and make friends. The sad reality is that choices made in the first weeks (or even days) of college can set a trajectory that’s hard to break.

Which means churches and Christian groups must bend over backward to meet, greet, invite, and include. It also means churches must be ready to winsomely and courageously confront the university lifestyle when it is inconsistent with Christian commitment. Many professing Christians will live duplicitous lives–getting smashed on the weekends while still trying to be the good Christian boy or girl their parents and ministry friends imagine them to be. The problem is huge and anyone wishing to minister to college students needs to think about a biblical approach.

Here are a few suggestions on how to begin formulating a Christian response to drinking on our college campuses.

The One Thing My Mother Would Not Let Me Become

Thabiti Anyabwile:

I must have been about the age of my son, around seven, when my parents started what felt like a campaign of encouragement. They’d repeatedly tell me, “You can be anything you want to be in life, even President of the United States.” Then they’d follow with a question, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I was trying on answers during that period of time. Professional football player. And a professional basketball players. Lawyer. Doctor. Perhaps something exotic like a marine biologist. They encouraged every ambition. Except one.

One evening my mom asked me the question and with beaming eye I answered, “A police officer.” I don’t know where the idea came from. Maybe we’d had an elementary civics lesson on “Officer Friendly” or perhaps a visit to our class from an officer. Perhaps it was watching “Kojak” or “Starsky and Hutch” (I know; I’m dating myself!). But whatever was the source of inspiration, it all got dashed in a moment. My mother’s face grew solid, the soft flesh of her cheeks stone. She snapped back, “You cannot be a police officer.” I asked why. She said, “I will not have you arresting our people all the time.” I think she also said something about worrying and sleepless nights, but her main point had to do with this adversarial relationship between the police and African Americans. I mentally crossed the police off my list of aspirations and got on about the business of being a little boy.

Never Resist the Urge to Pray.

Erik Raymond:

As people we know that it is often wise to resist various urges that we have. We can keep ourselves out of trouble by resisting the urge to say something when we are offended. We can prevent various health issues by resisting urges to overeat or (routinely) eat unhealthy foods. We can steer clear from financial debt by resisting the urge to buy something on impulse. We can almost develop a reflex of resistance in this fallen world. This can be good for us (and others).

However, there is one urge that you should never resist. This area is prayer. I believe it was Martyn Lloyd-Jones whom I first read who said, “Never resist any urge to pray.” That is great advice without much need for explanation. But let me point out a couple of reasons why.

Chosen is Better Than Worthy

Aaron Earls asks, “What if we have problems with feeling worthy because we weren’t made to be worthy, necessarily? What if we were made for something more?”

 

Links I like

Slacktivism vs. Judgmentalism

Amber Van Schooneveld:

We’ve all seen the videos, from your neighbor to Gwen Stefani dousing themselves in a bucket of ice water to raise money for ALS. And with the success of this grassroots campaign, some are crying foul or, rather, “Slacktivists!”

The idea behind “slacktivism” is that people make a minimal effort for a good cause and feel like they are doing something grand, while all they are really doing is lazily posting a link or promoting their own abs in a wet T-shirt contest parading as charity.

As a writer for a non-profit, I think a lot about the best ways we can motivate people to generosity. I genuinely dislike the term and concept of “slacktivism” for many reasons.

Redeemed to Perpetuate the Name

Jared Wilson:

Boaz is that rare man who does things because God is real (Ruth 3:13). So behind and within all of his provision and care for Ruth is the desire to glorify God. We see this even in his expressed motivation upon winning Naomi’s land and Ruth’s hand from the redeemer with first dibs. He says he has purchased them to perpetuate the names of dead relatives. Clearly Boaz is a “worthy man” (Ruth 2:1) and not just in the sense of financial means.

Ferguson and my white-looking son

Trillia Newbell:

My son may never experience what many young black boys and what most black men inevitably do. He will be treated as a white male. He has a privilege that many biracial children do not have (not being judged by the way he looks) because he looks like a white boy. I find myself constantly in an interesting position. I have a son who is essentially white. He has both a black and white parent, but he looks white. And so I think through a different lens about my children than many of my black brothers and sisters. I wonder what the world will be like for him as a child who could pass as white grappling with the injustice and continual racism against those who look like his mother. But as I’ve watched the outcry of many for the tragic loss of a young man, Michael Brown, I also wonder if my son will feel fearful, isolated, and alone.…

I find myself mourning the loss of a young man I’ve never known, grieving over the police and the looting and the racist undertones of comments found throughout social media, and thanking God that in time he will make all things new. And I’m processing this issue for young black boys and my young white-looking boy.

And here are my fears.

The Danger of ‘Measurable Outcomes’

Os Guinness:

If the danger of the tyranny of numbers was evident in the 19th century, how much more so is it today? We are in the age of gargantuan numbers, truly instant information, ceaselessly hyperactive social media, when the worldwide web has become a flood-driven Niagara of raw, uninterpreted information and emotion that pounds down on us by the minute with its ceaseless roar and its drenching deluge. Who can hear themselves think, let alone make sense of it all with genuine reflection and seasoned judgments?

No wonder it is tempting to give up and go with the flow, rushing along with the crowds and swept past the best as we chase after the most. It is all too easy to get caught up in the sensational and forget the significant. Those who make this mistake miss the important for the urgent and become attuned to popular approval rather than divine authority. They count opinions rather than weigh them. The imprimatur they covet is to be called “in,” “cool,” “relevant,” or better still, one of “the hundred most influential” or part of a new “emerging majority.” For heaven’s sake, read anything and everything that is “in” at the present moment. But we must pray always and unceasingly that we are never, God forbid, “out of fashion” or fear being caught on “the wrong side of history.”

I forgive you, but please don’t call it ‘giving grace’

Megan Hill:

What should I do when my husband forgets to buy milk on the way home from work? When my kids leave their new bikes out in the rain? When fellow church members are curt or critical on Sunday mornings?
Increasingly, I hear the godly action in these scenarios described as “giving grace.” And, while I wholeheartedly applaud heart-motivations of love, and God-glorifying acts of mercy, words still matter. When I hear Reformed people urging me to give “grace” to others, I question whether this is the right use of that precious word.

Holding Fast to Jesus like a Teething Baby

Jeff Medders:

Watching Oliver clutch my shirt, whimpering from all of his teeth coming in, I saw myself in that moment, clinging to Jesus. Ollie needs comfort. He craves security. Are we beyond that? No way.

Oliver can only hold on to me because I’m holding on to him.

We can hold fast to Jesus because Jesus is holding us.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to yesterday’s giant list, Thomas Nelson and Zondervan have put 200 titles on sale for 99¢ each until August 24th. Here are a few standouts:

Ebook on Singles in Leadership

This Lore Ferguson’s been running some fantastic interviews with singles in Christian leadership at her blog. Now she’s compiled them into an attractively laid-out eBook. Go get it!

A blind spot

Ray Ortlund:

My hunch is that some of us white people feel anxiety and confusion about scenes of racially-related violence and strife not because we ourselves feel threatened but because we just don’t know what to do.  No white person I know wants to be a racist.  But my hunch is that some of us honestly don’t know what racism is — beyond the blatantly obvious.  We then respond defensively to the forthrightness of our African-American friends, to whom the problems are obvious.  Maybe we are discovering in ourselves a blind spot.

Are Christians More Susceptible To Depression Than Non-Christians?

Why Pastors Should Pause

Dan Darling interviews Chris Maxwell, about the needs for pastors to pause and rest in God.

Lead with Empathy, Love Your Neighbor, Let the Truth Come Out

Albert Mohler:

The one thing that Christians committed to a biblical worldview have to understand is that the facts never cease to be important. We simply cannot move to judgment until we know exactly what took place and why. Thus we have to resist the very real temptation to say too much. And that is what has worried me in terms of my own responsibility on “The Briefing.” Actually, my point here was very well made by President Obama himself—because in statements made earlier this week responding to the situation in Ferguson, the President said, “I have to be very careful about not prejudging these events before investigations are completed.” The President continued, “I’ve got to make sure I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other.” That’s a very good and important statement from the President of the United States. And quite frankly, it’s a statement all of us should take to heart.

We do know this much. It is an unmitigated tragedy. It’s a tragedy that an 18-year old young man is dead. We also know that the tragedy is complicated by the fact that this was an unarmed African American teenager. We know that there are any number of other complications as well to be revealed in the investigation, which we are assured will be undertaken not only by local authorities but also by federal authorities. And after all, Eric Holder is the first African American attorney general of the United States and one who has spent his life as an activist and advocate in the civil rights movement. In this case, he is uniquely equipped and qualified to deal directly with the questions on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri. The rest of us need to hold back and allow the justice system to do its work.

Links I like

Today is my 35th birthday. To celebrate, I’m doing sermon prep. I’ll be preaching Psalm 8 on Sunday morning at Orillia Baptist Church (10 am—join us!), and I still have no idea what to preach for my evening message. Please pray the Lord would bring something to mind.

And now for some links:

‘Aha’ Moments: Theirs and Mine

Andrew Wilson:

Pete Enns has been hosting a fascinating series over at his blog in which biblical scholars give their “aha” moments. Exactly what an “aha” moment is varies by contributor, but it’d probably be fair to say that, generally speaking, it’s a “that time I realized inerrancy wasn’t true” moment. With a strong lineup of scholars, some clever writing, and a well-loved narrative shape—who doesn’t like the “I used to reason like a child, but then I put childish ways behind me” format?—it has gained significant attention and apparently hammered nail after nail into inerrancy’s coffin. So, as a prospective biblical scholar, a paid-up member of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), and an author of a new book about Scripture, I thought it might be worth interacting with the series a bit, as well as revealing one of my own “aha” moments when it comes to the Bible.

It’s Wrong for Christians to Mistreat Creation

Justin Holcomb:

It is true that a false view of dominion has played a role in the mistreatment of creation, but a correct understanding of the concept can lead to service, responsibility, and stewardship.

How sin is most deceitful

Ray Ortlund shares a particularly powerful quote from Martin Luther.

Should We Stop Singing Vicky Beeching Songs?

Russell Moore:

In recent days, singer/songwriter Vicky Beeching announced that she is a lesbian, and that she disagrees with the historic Christian sexual ethic. Prior to this, Beeching wrote many songs used as praise choruses in evangelical churches. Some are asking if they should continue to sing her songs in corporate worship.

At first glance, the question is a good one. After all, this is not the equivalent of an intramural disagreement about the ordinances or church government or the authorship of the Book of Hebrews. At question here is whether or not the church will tell unrepentant persons that they will “not surely die” if they proceed in this way. This is a gospel issue.

The issue becomes more complicated, though, when we ask what it means to sing songs written by someone in some area of doctrinal or moral error.

The Unforgivable Sin?

Mark Jones:

At an OPC youth camp over a year ago I had the privilege of addressing young men and women on the topic of masturbation, among other topics (e.g., Machen, Machen, and more Machen). As some of you may know, the OPC are notorious for letting the PCA do their theological dirty-work. But I digress…
So, what do you say to young men and women who, if they have hit puberty, are likely to have already masturbated or find themselves enslaved to the said practice? Do you quote Genesis 38:9 and move on quickly?

The Other Side of Ferguson: Local Churches Fighting Injustice

Kara Bettis:

If the media alone is to be believed, Ferguson, Missouri, is currently a battleground, wafting with tear gas, mangled storefronts, and face-offs in which power-hungry law enforcement uses German Shepherds and armored trucks to stave off furious rioters.

Thousands of Americans in over 90 cities have marched in outrage over the seemingly unjust killing of rising college freshman Michael Brown. Many demand justice for a young man who was apparently killed, defenseless, in broad daylight, his body left for hours uncovered on the street. But demonstrators most desire a more far-reaching change.

Meanwhile, similar to most wars—both global and civil—the church has quietly worked from dawn until dusk without much notice from the press. Many of Ferguson’s citizens recognize a narrative missed by the press.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Coming (Back) to America: My One Fear

Thabiti Anyabwile:

When asked the question, I’d usually pause. Not because I didn’t have an answer, but because some fears feel too real when you give them words. So I’d pause. Then I’d say two things: “Truthfully, the Lord has kept us from any fears that we can discern about planting the church or living in Southeast. If I have a fear it would be one thing: bringing my son Titus to the United States. He’s so tender and innocent and the States can be very hard on Black boys.”

That’s my one fear. This country destroying my boy. Ferguson is my fear. I could be the black dad approaching a white sheet stained with his son’s blood. I could be the husband holding his wife, rocking in anguish, terrorized by the ‘what happeneds’ and the ‘how could theys,’ unable to console his wife, his wife who works so hard to make her son a “momma’s boy” with too many hugs, bedtime stories, presents for nothing, and an overflowing delight in everything he does. How do you comfort a woman who feels like a part of her soul was ripped out her chest?

“You can’t always be nice”

Ray Ortlund:

Mature Christian leaders know the difference between petty issues that deserve zero passion, and burning issues worth dying for, and the various gradations in between.  But mature Christians leaders are willing to say hard things out loud in public, willing to face the past rather than sweep it under the rug, willing to create an awkward moment because something more important than saving face and remaining comfortable is on the line.  God is so real to men and women like this, that they will do whatever his Word clearly requires, no matter what.

On Ferguson and white privilege

Matt Chandler:

The challenge with white privilege is that most white people cannot see it. We assume that the experiences and opportunities afforded to us are the same afforded to others. Sadly, this simply isn’t true. Privileged people can fall into the trap of universalizing experiences and laying them across other people’s experiences as an interpretive lens. For instance, a privileged person may not understand why anyone would mistrust a public servant simply because they have never had a viable reason to mistrust a public servant. The list goes on.

The Taste of Strawberries: Tolkien’s Imagination of the Good

Jeremy Bilbro:

What I find fascinating is the means Tolkien uses to address this problem of imagining goodness. Rather than portraying an exceptionally good character, he instead portrays rather ordinary characters who are drawn by exceptionally beautiful visions of goodness or shalom. We long for the rich life experienced by the hobbits in the Shire, the elves in Rivendell, the dwarves in Moria and their kingdom under the Lonely Mountain, and the men in Rohan and Gondor. These places are not perfect, but their vibrant communities offer rich visions of shalom, of beautiful, harmonious ways of life.

Wisdom Is A “Who” More Than A “What”

Jeff Medders:

The Proverbs fill in the blanks for us on Jesus’s life that the Gospels didn’t set out to give us. We don’t have to wonder, “What would Jesus do?” The Proverbs tell us. They show us what he did. They show us what he didn’t do. The Proverbs give us insight into how Jesus faced the everyday matters of life, therefore discipling us into our everyday lives.

The wise life is to have the proverbial righteousness of Christ play out to every edge of life.

Links I like

Can Ads Change the World?

Amy Peterson:

The cynical ads of the ’80s didn’t ask viewers to feel anything — instead, they recognized our awareness of corporations’ attempts to sell to us, and they pitched parody, inviting us in on the joke. Viewers could all pretend that they were so cool they’d been jaded about stuff since they were, like, four.

But advertising geared towards Millennials, who value passion, sincerity, and social justice,  is a whole new ball game.

Jesus loved the enthusiast

Ray Ortlund shares a great quote from Hugh Martin’s The Seven Letters: Christ’s Message to His Church.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

First, a couple of freebies that end today:

Everyday Theology, my short eBook geared toward new believers, is also free through Saturday. Finally, The Promises of God by R.C. Sproul is $1.99 and God’s Love and Pleasing God (also by Sproul) are $2.99 each.

Jack discovers a hilarious book

Laughing babies are what YouTube was made for:

HT: Mike Leake

9 Terrible Habits You Need to Stop Immediately

Best-selling author Tim Ferriss has some ideas. In a recent short podcast he offered nine suggestions of bad work habits that many entrepreneurs and others desperately need to eliminate (chances are you are doing at least a couple of these–I’m personally massively guilty of two and five), so there is almost certainly something here that can boost your output.

Don’t overwhelm yourself, Ferriss says. Just tackle one or two at a time, eliminating counterproductive habits step by step, and eventually you’ll reclaim impressive amounts of time and energy.

HT: Denny Burk

Our unrealistic view of death

This an older article, but one worth reading (and written by a doctor, too):

To hear that the average U.S. life expectancy was 47 years in 1900 and 78 years as of 2007, you might conclude that there weren’t a lot of old people in the old days — and that modern medicine invented old age. But average life expectancy is heavily skewed by childhood deaths, and infant mortality rates were high back then. In 1900, the U.S. infant mortality rate was approximately 100 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2000, the rate was 6.89 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

The bulk of that decline came in the first half of the century, from simple public health measures such as improved sanitation and nutrition, not open heart surgery, MRIs or sophisticated medicines. Similarly, better obstetrical education and safer deliveries in that same period also led to steep declines in maternal mortality, so that by 1950, average life expectancy had catapulted to 68 years.

Is There a Case for Racial Reparations?

Alan Noble:

They don’t seriously think we’re going to pay them back for the slavery that took place a hundred and fifty years ago, do they? This was my thought when I first heard of the reparations movement as a teen, watching a speech from black leaders making their case on CSPAN. I understood that slavery was a terrible period in our country’s history, but these guys were about a hundred and fifty years late with these demands for reparations. I knew I was watching the ravings of a fringe minority, one that did not really have a chance of being heard by mainstream America. As bad as slavery was, there was neither the ability nor the will to “fix” our errors, I thought. And to a large extent, my initial conclusions about the reparations movement were accurate. So fringe and unreasonable was their mission that I don’t think I heard the idea seriously brought up again until a few weeks ago in Ta-Nehisi Coates’s much-discussed feature for The Atlantic called “The Case for Reparations.” But after reading Coates’s powerful and enlightening piece, it’s hard for me to imagine not demanding reparations of some kind or another for the hundreds of years of government-sanctioned abuse suffered by blacks in our country.