Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis is $1.99 at the moment. There’s also lots more great stuff from B&H on sale:

Why Don’t You Like the Christians You Know?

This is a compelling three minutes from John Piper.

We’re All Sadists Now

Carl Trueman:

DeSade’s ideal world is that to which we appear to be heading.   Like him, we deny any intrinsic moral significance to sexual activity whatsoever and thus see it as something which is of no more ethical importance than buying a cup of coffee or eating a sandwich. In such a world, the celibate and the monogamous are increasingly counted as freaks, representatives of a defective, repressive cultural vision. Thus, the social pressure to be promiscuous becomes an integral part of the culture and the withholding of consent comes to be increasingly difficult, the act of social schismatics, freaks, and (to use the favored clichés of the day) the inauthentic, those who do not wish to flourish.

Why Gay Marriage Proponents Can’t Appeal to the Abolitionist Movement

Ben Reaoch explains why the arguments don’t hold water.

A big land mine for leaders

Brad Lomenick:

For many leaders, the greatest threat to our influence right now is our tendency to read our own press clippings, and continually put a “wall” up around us that protects us from any kind of honest feedback.

What It’s Like When You Publish a Book

Nick McDonald:

But here’s the thing. I published a book, and then I nudged it gently out into cyberspace. I closed my eyes, waiting for Christian Nirvana to hit me like a stack of reformed theology books from heaven, and…

And, what?

Well, what did you expect? Literally nothing happened. It was less exciting than brushing my teeth (of course, I have some molar caps that can make things PRE-TTY interesting).

It was disappointing to say the least. Yes people were very nice about it. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the lightning bolt from heaven, when suddenly, out of the blue…I’m perfect.

Planned Parenthood: There, But for the Grace of God…

16999990725_3e3d5ccd26_b

You walk into your doctor’s office for your annual check up—flu shot, cancer, cholesterol and blood sugar screening, blood pressure check—you know, routine maintenance on the ol’ bod. You’ve chosen this doctor because you don’t have health insurance and he’s kind enough to lower his prices and work with you on a payment plan. His office is clean and bright, beautifully decorated, and the staff is always friendly. You even get a lollipop at the end of each visit.

But this year, as you’re walking down the hall to exam room four, you happen to notice that in exam room three, there’s a playpen in the corner with an adorable baby girl in it, cooing away and playing with a toy.

“Odd,” you think, since this is not a paediatrician’s office. You continue to your own room, don that scratchy paper gown, and wait for the doctor. By the time he comes in and begins the exam, you can no longer contain your curiosity. Whose baby is it? Why is there even a baby in the office?

“Oh, yes,” the doctor says matter of factly, “that baby was abandoned by her parents. Nobody wants her, so when I get finished with your check up, I’m going to torture her to death and then sell her organs to medical researchers.”

Your jaw hits the floor. Your stomach turns. You can’t believe the monstrous words you’ve just heard.

“How could you do such a horrible thing?” you scream over your revulsion. The doctor looks surprised that you should ask.

“It’s really no big deal,” he says. “We only do a few of those a week. The vast majority of my practice is providing health care and counseling for patients like you.”

Let me ask you something—would you use that doctor and think that the care he provides you mitigates his atrocious behavior? I hope not. Yet I have heard people defend Planned Parenthood (an organization which has been torturing babies to death for decades, and, we recently learned, profits from the sale of their organs) because Planned Parenthood ostensibly performs a minimum number of abortions and mainly provides health services, such as the ones mentioned above, to women who need them. Somehow, in these people’s minds, the health care Planned Parenthood provides makes up for the heinous murders they commit day after day.

Does it really all balance out? Of course not.

In fact, let’s say, Planned Parenthood had only ever tortured fifty babies to death (instead of the millions they’ve actually killed). And let’s say they provided free health care to everyone on the planet, cured cancer, and brought about world peace. Those are some wonderful things, but does it erase the fact that they brutally ended fifty innocent lives? Do all those good deeds make up for even one murder?

No. They don’t. Good deeds can never make up for heinous crimes. Planned Parenthood’s hands are drenched in blood that all the free health care in the world can’t wash away.

They’re hopelessly guilty. Just like we are.

Apart from Christ, we are Planned Parenthood. We come before God with blood on our hands. Not the blood of millions of babies, but the blood of one child. God’s child. Jesus. We are responsible for His death. It was our sin that caused Him to be tortured to death. Our sin that brutally murdered Him.

“Oh, but it’s no big deal. I’m mainly a good person. The vast majority of my life is spent doing good things and helping people. That totally makes up for those few sins I’ve committed. My good deeds outweigh the bad.”

No. They don’t. Good deeds can never make up for heinous crimes.

But, grace… But, mercy… But the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior intervenes and wipes away the guilt. Washes our hands of Christ’s blood. Cleanses us from all unrighteousness, if we only turn to Him in the repentance and faith that He is gracious enough to give us.

Good deeds can never make up for heinous crimes, but the grace of God can.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)


Michelle Lesley is a ministry wife, home schooling mom, and women’s Bible study author. Her goal in writing, speaking, and teaching is to train church ladies to be “Mighty Amazon Women” of God. Michelle blogs at MichelleLesleyBooks.com. Follow her at @MichelleDLesley.

Photo credit: Me, myself and my cellphone. via photopin (license)

An unshakeable foundation for human dignity

dignity

One of the most dangerous things about fudging on the first few chapters of Genesis—or really, on any part of the Bible—is what you lose. See, I do believe that genuine Christians can continue on in their faith in error, sometimes even in serious error. And I’m the first to admit there are undoubtedly some things that I am in error on, perhaps even seriously.

But one of the things we can’t back away from, even when we consider all the weird and wonderful stuff we read in the Bible, is this important passage in Genesis:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

Upon these verses, Christianity’s concept of human dignity cling. They are central to what we believe about human beings (even the awful ones). And the fact that Jesus—God the Son, the second person of the Trinity—would come to earth and take on human form… well, my goodness, that just compounds humanity’s value, doesn’t it? God’s plan of redemption stems even from these verses—they give us the reason why he would send Jesus. He redeems because he loves us in a way that is unique from all the rest of creation. He loves us because of how he made us. And he redeems us in order that we might be as he intended us to be. Russell Moore captured this truth so well in Onward. This is how he puts it:

A Christianity that doesn’t prophetically speak for human dignity is a Christianity that has lost anything distinctive to say. The gospel is, after all, grounded in the uniqueness of humanity in creation, redemption and consummation. Behind the questions of whether we should abort babies or torture prisoners or harass immigrants or buy slaves is a larger question: “Who is the Christ, the Son of the Living God?” If Jesus shares humanity with us, and if the goal of the kingdom is humanity in Christ, then life must matter to the church. The church must proclaim in its teaching and embody in its practices love and justice for those the outside world would wish to silence or to kill. And the mission of the church must be to proclaim everlasting life, and to work to honor every life made in the image of God, whether inside or outside the people of God. A vision of human dignity can exist within the common grace structures of the world, but a distinctively Christian vision of why humanity should be protected must emerge from a larger framework of kingdom and culture and mission. (138-139 [ARC])

You don’t have to be a Christian to be opposed to abortion, for alleviating the suffering of those living in poverty, or wanting to see the end of sex trafficking. But what that conviction is grounded in matters. For the pro-life—and whole life—Christian, we truly do have an unshakeable foundation. Let’s not forget that.

July’s top 10 articles at Blogging Theologically

top-10

Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in July:

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Six books every Christian should read on prayer (August 2014)
  3. The Prodigal Church (July 2015)
  4. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  5. What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? (April 2015)
  6. 5 books every new Christian should read (May 2014)
  7. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  8. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011/rewritten in September 2014)
  9. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)
  10. 5 books Christians should read on Islam (March 2015)

And just for fun, here are five I really enjoyed writing this month:

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

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.

Wilberforce didn’t quit. Neither will we

wilberforce

Forty-six years.

That’s how long William Wilberforce labored to see the end of slavery in the British Empire. His work began in earnest in 1787 when he first came into contact with abolitionists such as Thomas Clarkson, Hannah More and Charles Middleton. These activists found a kindred spirit in Wilberforce, whose conversion to the Christian faith had given birth to an abiding concern for social reform—so much so, in fact, that he wrote in his diary, “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”

The long road to abolition

The dark and dehumanizing practice of slavery weighed heavy on him. He first introduced a bill proposing the abolition of slavery in 1791,1 which was soundly defeated. He brought it forward again in 1792, and it was again defeated. And again in 1793. And again in 1794. And again and again and again, each time finding new support and gradually making more and more progress until in 1807, the Slave Trade Act was finally passed by the British Parliament, which put slave trading to a formal end. But that victory was only the beginning—slave trading was not yet truly illegal. So Wilberforce’s campaigning continued through the end of his time in politics in 1826, until his death on July 29, 1833.

One month after his death, the Slavery Abolition Act was finally passed into law and the slave trade was truly finished in the British Empire.

How Wilberforce’s example can encourage us today

On August 3, 2015, the United States Senate voted on a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, the corporation responsible for the deaths of more than 300,000 babies every year. The bill was narrowly defeated, falling only seven votes short of the 60 needed to advance.

The events leading up to this bill even being voted on have been incredibly dramatic (and terrifying), as Westerners have increasingly been forced to realize they cannot turn a blind eye to the abominable practices of the abortion industry. And despite the unlikely event that this first bill would have advanced, today’s pro-life advocates, like their abolitionist forbearers, should not see this as a defeat.

Rather, it is a beginning.

The whole deal with a Wilberforce moment, as my friend Josh called it, is it’s not a one-and-done event. One can only imagine how many sleepless nights Wilberforce endured during those 46 years; how each defeat led to new renewed vigor because the cause was just. Wilberforce didn’t quit, and neither will we.

His moment, like this one, was a first step—the beginning of a long road which will see many defeats. In our day, another bill will come. It might be defeated. If it does, another will come forward. It might advance. If it advances, the President (whomever is in office) may veto. But another will come. And another. And another. Until eventually, we will finally see the end of one of the greatest atrocities committed of our age.

And make no mistake, it will end.

It’s just going to take a little while.

New and noteworthy books

new-noteworthy-july (1)

One of my favorite times of the day, after coming home and greeting my family is seeing what mail has arrived. This is not because I love finding out how many bills there are each month, but because there’s often a new book waiting for me from one of the many Christian publishers out there. Here’s a look at some of the latest that have arrived:

The Colson Way by Owen Strachan

Chuck Colson’s life reveals that there is no division between truth and love, between embracing biblical guidance and loving one’s neighbor. The Colson Way uses Colson’s legacy and wisdom to show Christians a way of living a public faith with conviction and generosity toward all.

Buy it at: Amazon

Parables: The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told by John MacArthur

Jesus was a master storyteller, and the parables He told were ingeniously simple word pictures with profound spiritual lessons. Understanding the parables is a crucial matter for followers of Jesus. Jesus told parables so His people might comprehend His message about the kingdom of God clearly.

Master expositor and Bible commentator John MacArthur has spent a lifetime explaining the Word of God in clear and comprehensible terms. In Parables he helps Christians understand the essential lessons contained in the most famous and influential short stories the world has ever known.

Buy it at: Amazon

Breathing Room: Stressing Less & Living More by Josh Reich

Finding breathing room in finances, schedules, and relationships leads to enjoying and savoring life instead of simply going through the motions. Breathing Room is a chance not only to catch your breath, but to find the road to the life you have come to believe is impossible.Feeling trapped or closed in by the intensity of life is a common ailment in today’s world. You may have come to the point of telling yourself ”This is just the way it is.” Don’t believe it. There is another way. Breathing Room will help you understand why you are tired, in debt, overweight, and relationally isolated—and how to move forward.

Buy it at: Amazon

Theological Fitness by Aimee Byrd

Your spiritual life should be a battle! The writer of Hebrews tells us to “hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering” (10:23 ESV). What (and whom) do we need to meet this challenge? How does simply “holding fast” turn into such a workout of faith? Author and blogger Aimee Byrd invites us to join her in some “theological fitness” training as she unpacks our call to perseverance and explores the great metaphor that physical fitness lends to theology. Learn about the “fighting grace” God has given us, and discover how we are equipped to live lives of obedience even amidst the suffering and irritations of ordinary life.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

Give Them Truth by Starr Meade

Whether you are a parent or a teacher, Starr Meade encourages you to impart a robust knowledge of God to your children from a young age, because a sound theology will prepare them for whatever life has in store. Our kids need to know God in order to grow in love for him and to live for him. When we teach the truths of Scripture to our children, we give them truth to love and live by.

Like math, grammar, piano, or soccer, God’s Word takes time to learn and understand. Where do parents and teachers begin? Starr Meade will guide you and your children into the core doctrines of the Christian faith. On your journey together, you will find that teaching kids about God deepens your own understanding. It’s never too late to learn, and there’s nothing better to give than truth.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

Onward by Russell Moore

I’ve finished reading this one and it’s spectacular:

As the culture changes all around us, it is no longer possible to pretend that we are a Moral Majority. That may be bad news for America, but it can be good news for the church. What’s needed now, in shifting times, is neither a doubling-down on the status quo nor a pullback into isolation. Instead, we need a church that speaks to social and political issues with a bigger vision in mind: that of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christianity seems increasingly strange, and even subversive, to our culture, we have the opportunity to reclaim the freakishness of the gospel, which is what gives it its power in the first place.

We seek the kingdom of God, before everything else. We connect that kingdom agenda to the culture around us, both by speaking it to the world and by showing it in our churches. As we do so, we remember our mission to oppose demons, not to demonize opponents. As we advocate for human dignity, for religious liberty, for family stability, let’s do so as those with a prophetic word that turns everything upside down.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

The Accidental Feminist by Courtney Reissig

Although many Christians wouldn’t identify themselves as feminists, the reality is that the feminist movement has influenced us all in profound ways. We unconsciously reflect our culture’s ideas related to womanhood rather than what’s found in the Bible.

In this book, Courtney Reissig—a wife, mom, and successful writer—recounts her journey out of “accidental feminism,” offering wise counsel for Christian women related to relationships, body image, and more—drawing from the Bible rather than culture. Whether you’re a committed feminist, a staunch traditionalist, or somewhere in between, this book will help you answer the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian woman?” You’ll discover the joy, purpose and importance that are found in God’s good design.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

Changing opinions on abortion when legislation isn’t an option

armstrong-kids

I hate abortion. But I didn’t always.

Prior to my mid-20s, I was fairly certain that abortion was good for our society. My arguments were the typical “woman’s right to choose/health” related variety, but I doubt I would have been able to articulate any position terribly well. Why? Because the truth is, my conviction really had less to do with the good of another, and more for my distaste for “those people”—the ones who would be on the sidewalk outside the hospital with signs with Bible verses, ultrasound pictures and the occasional picture from an abortion (which I’m not entirely sure help, by the way…).

I didn’t know them, but I didn’t like them. And because I didn’t like them, whatever they were talking about was obviously wrong (because that’s how logic works, right?). I was the type that would make obscene gestures driving past, who would probably make a comment about being on “the wrong side of history”.

Then I meet Jesus.

After becoming a Christian, no one really had to tell me that abortion was wrong. No one had to convince me that life began at conception, and that the life growing inside a mother’s womb was a person. But I also didn’t realize my own complacency about the issue. I didn’t see my support by virtue of my distaste for people of conviction on this issue as participating in the sin of abortion, but also a sin against those people.

What woke me up, really, was a book I read a number of years ago, Innocent Blood by John Ensor, which I still feel is one of the finest books on the subject published to date. This was one of the passages that made me realize that I could no longer be privately pro-life, but publicly silent:

Being personally pro-life but otherwise passive is a cowardly and shameful position. Christ is trying to show this in the way he describes the behavior of the priest and the Levite in his parable (Luke 10:25-37). Seeing a man beaten and about to die, they let it stand unchallenged. They might well comfort themselves, “That is just horrible. I do not believe in that.” However, merely believing that murder is wrong does not qualify as obedience to the commandments of God… When you can live with death, work around it, or let it go unchallenged, you are not pro-life. (53)

Reading that hit me like a ton of bricks all those years ago, and it still does even now, particularly that last line.

I live in Canada, and one of the difficult things about being pro-life in this nation is how it’s more-or-less a non-issue here. Keep in mind, we are the only nation in the western world without any laws regarding abortion. Globally, we’re on par with North Korea on this issue. (And can we just agree that we shouldn’t be in the same category as North Korea on any issue at all, ever?) All but one of the major political parties in this country are staunchly pro-abortion, and the other party has no official position (which is, of course, a position).

In the hospitals where our children took their first breaths, innumerable were (and are) never given the chance to take theirs. Christians and all Canadians who are opposed to abortion have no ability to challenge our government to reconsider. We are forced to live with death. We might not be happy about it. We might accompany a small group of people and hold up a sign, but we also recognize that doing so won’t change the fact that there’s (currently) nothing we can do to change the legal situation.

So where does that leave us?

Interestingly, with an opportunity. We can’t legislate change here, but we can influence opinions. We can help people recognize the value of children (not merely the evil of abortion) through our love for children—which starts with having children in our lives! Our church, for example, is very pro-baby, with a nursery that’s bursting at the seems. More than a few guys have had certain procedures reversed (and paid for it out of pocket) because they’ve been convicted they ought to have more children. There’s even one family that, every time I see them, I smile because they are a living, breathing preview of the new creation.

But is also happens through showing true compassion to those considering abortion, or those who have had one. The last thing a woman who’s dealing with the emotional fallout of an abortion needs is to be told how what she’s done is wrong and evil. She already knows this. Instead she needs to know there’s hope for her and to have genuine love extended. Our city’s crisis pregnancy center—founded and run by evangelical Christians—provides alternatives for women considering abortion and counselling for those who have had one, as well as tons of education for prospective parents (including dads), and real sex education (the kind that talks about four new cases of Chlamydia being diagnosed daily, almost exclusively among high school and post-secondary students). Ministries like this one are not only helping people deal with the chaos of a surprise pregnancy, but helping them come to know Christ.

And no doubt there’s more going on that I’m unaware of and much more that could be said. There are lots of families who are doing pro-life things, and honoring Christ, but just don’t make a big deal of it. It’s just what they do, and what we should do as well. When we demonstrate that children really matter, and when we help people who are facing the decision to know they are loved by us and by God, that they and their babies have value and dignity, that’s our best opportunity to really make a difference. We can stand against the culture of death by actively engaging with those lives that matter.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just a few new deals to share today:

The End of Sexual Ethics: Love and the Limits of Reason

This is a really good piece by Matt Anderson.

Is Your Joy Real or an Imposter?

Sam Storms:

Do you believe that “real enjoyment is essential to real godliness,” or does that sound more like a tagline for the power of positive thinking? Or maybe a self-serving cliché on the lips of some popular prosperity preacher of our day? I was caught a bit off-guard myself when I discovered that the author of that statement is none other than J. I. Packer.

The more I delved into the mind and ministry of J. I. Packer, the more relieved I was to discover that his “enjoyment” has nothing to do with what he calls “hot tub religion,” and everything to do with a robust delight in God in the midst of the most severe and troubling trials.

What Readers and Writers Owe Each Other

Barnabas Piper:

As readers, we often act as if we are owed something by a writer: an agreeable view point, a certain quality, thoughts on a specific subject. Read the comments on enough web articles or blogs and you’ll quickly realize the entitlement we have as readers. When our favorite sports columnist writes about movies we are peeved that he wasted OUR precious time with such drivel. When a preferred theologian gives thoughts on sports we respond with a “stick to theology, that’s why we’re here.”

As readers, do we have a right to act as if a writer owes us something? I think we do, but not in the way that we most often make the claim. As readers we are owed something we like or with which we agree. But writers do owe us something, a whole combination of somethings, in fact.

Four Simple Ways Pastors Can Create Margin in Their Lives

Mark Dance:

A Pennsylvania woman rushing to catch her flight ignored a flat tire and ultimately crashed her car near a moving-walkway that leads people into the Pittsburgh International Airport. The woman apparently was so determined to catch her flight that she continued driving toward the airport even after her car got a flat tire on Interstate 376. That is a bad day!

What does your day usually look like? Sane? Sensible? Sustainable? A Sabbath life is countercultural and counterintuitive to American culture.

Joyful Exiles

Scott Redd:

I wrote last fall about the idea of the American church entering into a time of cultural exile. Since that time the issue has been revisited by several public voices (and here and here), and debate has arisen over or exactly what sort of exile this current situation would entail. I do not think that there is a typological distinction to be made between the Babylonian exile of the Old Testament and the exile to which the Apostle Peter speaks in 1 Pet 1:1-2, though some have made that distinction.

Pro-Life Activists Doing the Media’s Job For Them

Aaron Earls:

As news organization after news organization, journalist after journalist (with a few notable exceptions) frame this story using the spin provided for them by Planned Parenthood, the question that continues to spring to my mind is, “Why is it that Center for Medical Progress and other pro-life groups are the only ones who investigate the abortion industry?”

News outlets seem so distraught this story was brought to national attention by such a group and such an individual, why aren’t they doing this type of investigative journalism on organizations like Planned Parenthood?

Evil ≠ stupid

evil-stupid

I was lied to by cartoons as a kid. On every cartoon—from GI Joe to Looney Tunes to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—the bad guys, despite their self-assured brilliance, were always complete nincompoops. Cobra Commander always blew it. Wile E. Coyote always blew himself up. Shredder always found a way to throw himself into another dimension just as he was about to defeat a bunch of overgrown amphibians (which are actually reptiles).

If only evil were like this in real life.

But it’s not. Evil is not stupid. The perpetrators of evil are not stupid, either. People like the young men and women from Europe and North America who are running off to join ISIS (as soldiers and brides) and purge the Middle East of any trace of its history, including Christianity. Like the lawmakers who’ve turned their backs on the Lawgiver to do what is right in their own eyes. Like the men and women who make their living perpetuating a culture of death in organizations like Planned Parenthood. And like the Christians who say nothing in the face of these atrocities—or worse, celebrate them.

These are not stupid people. Many of them are quite brilliant, in fact. They are university students, authors, lawyers, doctors, judges, pastors, entrepreneurs, politicians… They are many things: They are blinded by sin. They are deluded into thinking they’re actually doing the right thing. They are so certain, in fact, that they fail to see that what’s right in their eyes may well be, as one noted lesbian feminist described, the beginning of the fall of western civilization.

But stupid they are not.

Now, I am not as pessimistic as some, but make no mistake: a society that murders its own children in service to the god of self may be lost. And society that cares little for history (beyond being on what they perceive as the right side of it) is teetering on the brink of disaster.

And we have to wonder, who profits from this? Not the activists who’ve worked diligently for the last 40 years to completely change how westerners view same-sex relationships. Not the terrorists who may yet succeed in their goal of wiping out all evidence of Christianity from the cradle of civilization. Not even the executives who profit from the deaths of untold millions of babies each year.

There is only one who ultimately profits: the enemy of our souls, the devil, the usurping prince of this world. And he is most assuredly not stupid. Unoriginal, maybe, but not stupid.

We’ve seen it countless times throughout history—in the Bible, we see mankind’s seemingly endless cycle of faithfulness and apostasy. We worship our creator, we reject and deny him, we worship ourselves, we nearly destroy ourselves. We watch as our champions pummel each other for sport. We bow down before idols of gold, silver and wood. We throw our children into the fire.

Second verse, same as the first.

No, evil isn’t stupid. The devil isn’t stupid. But he is defeated. Christ has already won. What we face now in these “last days” until Christ’s return are the final gasps of a cornered, but beaten, enemy. One who will viciously attack at every opportunity, knowing that while he cannot win, he can at least hurt his opponent.

Soon that will all be done away with. Soon the cycle will end. Evil will be thrown into the lake of fire. The devil’s schemes will join him in the second death. The world will be made new. The blood of Abel will no longer cry out for justice, for justice will be done. Every tear will be wiped. Every knee will be bowed. The kingdom will have come, finally and fully!

But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier in the meantime. Yet still we wait. We groan. We weep. We pray and fast and plead and beg and suffer and die. But we do not lose hope because Jesus has overcome the world. He will surely do all he has promised.

Evil is not stupid, but it is defeated.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also, Onward by Russell Moore is available for preorder (hardcover) and available now for the Kindle. Get it for less than $10.

Creation’s Groans Are Not Meaningless

Tim Keller:

Many people—including, most likely, some we know—answer no. They profess faith as Christians and seek to live God’s way for awhile, but in time they find their present sufferings aren’t worth it and they fall away. But in Romans 8:18–25, Paul answers the question with an emphatic yes. In fact, he says, “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (v. 18). Paul is saying: If you know where you are heading in the future, you won’t even entertain the idea that your current problems and pain aren’t worth it.

So what is this glorious inheritance toward which the Christian walks, sometimes with painful steps, day by day?

Understanding Gender Dysphoria

Sam Ferguson reviews Mark Yarhouse’s new book, Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture.

Praying the Bible

Westminster Bookstore has a great deal on Don Whitney’s new book, Praying the Bible (which I’m looking forward to reading sometime in the near future).

On the Wrong Side of History?

Randy Alcorn:

When evil becomes popularly accepted in a culture, shouldn’t we WANT to come down on the wrong side of history, at least current history? And given the larger picture of God’s sovereign rule and the eventual New Heavens and New Earth, won’t history ultimately vindicate God’s Word and God’s Son? Won’t some argue that the Antichrist should be followed because we don’t want to fall on the wrong side of history? The opposite is true—following whatever current trends of history crop up can put us on the wrong side of God’s plan of redemptive history.

Christian Men Think Clearly Christianly

Jared Wilson:

I once read an article about a YouTube social experiment where an attractive woman walked up to men on the street and asked if they wanted to have sex with her. According to the report, she asked fourteen. The yeses and no’s were split down the middle, seven and seven. Some of the yeses might have been joking. Some of the no’s were apparently offended, some simply uncomfortable because they were with girlfriends or relatives when approached.

I wonder if any who said no had a cognitive dissonance between lustful thoughts and surface opportunity. Maybe this thing, this offer, this holy grail of craven sexual appetite—no-strings-attached instantaneous sexual availability—proved shocking, mentally discombobulating when put right out on the table.

Why It Is Beneficial to Learn Greek and Hebrew Even If You Lose It

Patrick Schreiner:

The pressures of the higher education bubble continue to expand as administrative costs swell, and a new generation is wondering how practical overly expensive tuition is. Because of these reasons, and many more, seminaries are rethinking their curriculum and taking a critical look at certain subjects.

The critical eye aimed towards curriculum is a good thing. Not everything that was taught 10 or 100 years ago should continue to be taught. And the changing culture makes it necessary to address new topics.

If your goal is to do enough, you’re going to be disappointed

medium_11975144065

Every week, I’ll see another email hit my inbox talking about the strides humanity is making in alleviating extreme poverty. And while I’m thankful for all the good work that’s being done, I can’t help but wonder about the message I pick up from many of the communications I receive.

See, most of them, though they are well meaning, have the wrong goal in mind. They’re trying to figure out what “doing enough” means. The only problem is, “doing enough” doesn’t work, as a goal or a reality. Why? Here’s how I put it in Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation and the End of Poverty:

“Doing enough” can be overly simplistic. One problem with “doing enough” is that it tends to focus us on the wrong goal. We pick a dollar amount, or an income percentage, or a number of hours per month. We construct a set of checkboxes to see if we’re meeting the output criteria we have set for ourselves. Some suggest, for example, that if we all give just one percent more financially, global poverty can be wiped out forever. All we have to do, they say, is track the progress, allocate the resources, and we’re set.

When “doing enough” becomes primarily a matter of numbers, we can be sure we are focusing on the wrong thing. Alleviating poverty is about more than a certain amount of giving, whether of time or money.

“Doing enough” is legalism. Worse, this “doing enough” mindset is textbook legalism—the effort to be pleasing to God through our external behavior. And encouraging people to be active in helping the poor can promote legalism like few other activities. Unless God cuts someone to the heart and instills a compassion for the poor, exhortations to “choose your fast” or “just give more money” either will be ignored or will feed one’s “inner legalist.”

If our focus is whether we are doing “enough,” it may be that our hearts are as dead as those to whom Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel preached. “We have all become like one who is unclean,” Isaiah said, “and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). (58-59)

Doing enough isn’t the point—not even with such a noble cause as caring for those in need. Glorifying God is. This must be our goal, all the time and in all places. It’s the only one that will keep us from being disappointed—and potentially doing more harm than good along the way.