Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also, Tony Reinke’s new book, Newton on the Christian Life, is now available. Westminster Bookstore has it on sale for $13, or $10 each when you buy three or more.

Does the Internet turn cowards into bullies?

A couple weeks back, I was on Greg Dutcher’s new podcast, These Things Go to 11 talking about contending for the faith, doctrines worth fighting for and how the Internet lends courage to people whom might otherwise have lack it:

5 Things Every Christian Leader Should Pray for Themselves Everyday

Kevin Halloran:

I desperately wanted to honor Christ and influence others toward Him, but learned the hard way how to damage relationships by trying to force-feed them what I thought was best—I tried to do the work of the Holy Spirit. Reading Jesus’ words “you can do nothing” at the close of the year seemed to be a fitting description of the recent fruit of my labors for the Lord. I quickly learned that I couldn’t bear fruit apart from abiding in Christ.

An Open Letter to Christian Parents of Unbelieving Adult Children

Jason Helopoulos:

“What about our son?” “What about our daughter?” As a pastor there are conversations that I routinely have with parishioners. One of the regular exchanges I have had over the years begins with a Christian parent or both parents approaching with downcast gazes. The discouragement, and at times even despair, are apparent in their eyes. The opening words are either, “Pastor, would you pray for our child?,” or “Pastor, what advice would you give to us for child?” They then proceed to explain that their adult child has wandered from the faith. With anguish in their words, they detail how they brought him or her up in the faith: their child had attended Sunday School each week, participated in corporate worship, and attended Youth Group. A few times, I have even been told that they were a paragon of virtue and seemed to love the Lord in their teenage years. Their parents were not shy about sharing the faith with their child at home and they tried to surround him or her with good and godly friends. But now, sadly, their child has rejected Christ. They are living a life of unbelief and their parents are filled with grief.

Christian Ethics, Evangelicals, and Functional Marcionism

Jake Meador:

All we need, apparently, is the red letters. The Old Testament God is angry and vengeful and not very Christian, but New Testament God is great. Old Testament God is just God in his teen years when he was ready to fight if you looked at him the wrong way. But New Testament God has grown up. He doesn’t lose his temper over little things any more. He’s chill now. He listens to NPR and loves Portlandia and is kinda embarrassed by all that wrath and judgment stuff in the Old Testament. So don’t worry about that 2/3 of the Bible. Just read about Jesus and you have everything you need to understand Christian ethics.

Of course, to any student of church history this thinking should sound familiar. All of these arguments trade in a form of Marcionism, the ancient Christian heresy attributed to Marcion, a second century Christian who rejected the Old Testament.

Letter to a Teen Unboxing Their First Smartphone

Tim Challies:

You just got your first smartphone! This is a major milestone in your life. That phone you are about to take out of the box is one of the most amazing devices ever created, and it is going to be your constant companion for the next couple of years. It is an incredible piece of technology that can be used in many different ways.

It can be used to do so many good things, but if you are not wary, it can also be used to do an awful lot of bad things. So before you power it on for the first time, I think it would be wise to invest just a few minutes in thinking and planning.

How to get millennials back in church

Which Kind of Writer Are You: Microwave, Crockpot, or Stir-Fry?

I’m probably the first kind.

Links I like

Links

TGC 2015 Livestream

The 2015 TGC National Conference kicks off this afternoon in Orlando, Florida. If you aren’t able to attend, be sure to take advantage of the livestream throughout the event. And if you are here, come say hello if you see me around.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put eight books on sale this week, all focusing on the subject of suffering:

Be sure to also grab Becoming Worldly Saints by Michael Wittmer today for $2.99.

The Secret Sessions At The Gospel Coalition Conference

This is worth reading simply because Stephen Altrogge enjoys being silly.

Introducing the new ESV Bible app

Hero 1

Today, Crossway’s completely redesigned ESV Bible app releases for iOS devices. Here’s a look at some of the new features:

  • Innovative layout options, including new Reader’s and Verse-by-Verse Modes
  • Integrated reading plans
  • Free access to the ESV Global Study Bible notes and resources
  • Personal notes, highlights, and bookmarks
  • An in-app store
  • Streaming audio
  • Beautiful book illustrations

Find out more at ESV.org/mobile.

Can You Love Jesus and Hate Jesus’ Followers?

Dan Darling:

My neighbor is not a theologian. I’m not even sure he is a follower of Christ. But those simple lines gave me some good insight into a phenomenon that unfortunately plagues the evangelical church.

We think it’s acceptable to love Jesus and hate His followers.

The Church Is Not Your Frat House

Ryan Shelton:

In college, I joined a club that sought to foster a sense of community through secrecy. We sought to build fraternity through exclusivity, private ritual experiences, and of course, password-handshakes. The idea was that relationships grow deeper by cutting others out and surrounding ourselves in mystery and darkness.

Sometimes we can treat Christian worship like an insider’s club. And who doesn’t want to be included in a family-like brotherhood and sisterhood? But the New Testament blueprint for worship gatherings has little room for secrecy. Rather, hospitality rises to the top of the values we want to characterize our Sunday morning services.

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:

  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson (hardcover)
  • Abortion by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Attributes of God Teaching Series by Steven Lawson (DVD)
  • Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul (ePub)

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

You can’t afford a stay-at-home mom

This is really great. Also, my wife is severely underpaid.

Why Homosexuality is an Issue of First Importance

Sam Allberry:

In Romans 14:1, he instructs his readers not to pass judgment on “disputable matters.” On such issues, Christians need to know their own mind and receive in fellowship those who differ. We might consider as examples of present day “disputable matters” issues like infant baptism or our understanding of the millennium. On such matters, Christians are free to differ. But on matters of first importance, we must remain in agreement if we are to be faithful to the gospel.

Here are five reasons why we must regard the issue of homosexuality as being of first importance.

ERLC Summit

The videos from the recent ERLC summit on the gospel and racial reconciliation are now available online.

The Most Important Thing My Parents Did

Tim Challies:

Why? I ask the question from time-to-time. Why are all five of my parents’ kids following the Lord, while so many of our friends and their families are not? Obviously I have no ability to peer into God’s sovereignty and come to any firm conclusions. But as I think back, I can think of one great difference between my home and my friends’ homes—at least the homes of my friends who have since walked away from the Lord and his church. Though it is not universally true, it is generally true. Here’s the difference: I saw my parents living out their faith even when I wasn’t supposed to be watching.

Google Is Always Listening. Should I Be Concerned?

Mark Altrogge:

I’ve been told Google records every word I type and knows my every preference. Google is always listening. Hey Google, make me some coffee….you know…that kind I really like. (Let’s see what happens). Recently a speech recognition program developer Tal Ater, discovered “an exploit in (Google) Chrome’s speech recognition that enabled unscrupulous websites with speech recognition software to listen in when users aren’t expecting.” Well, maybe some of those unscrupulous website folks will hear me share the gospel and get saved.

Are our missionaries teaching that Muhammad was a prophet?

Mike Tisdell helps us understand the “Insider movement” and gives good guidance on exploring what the missionaries we consider supporting may or may not be teaching.

Why I keep waffling about starting a podcast

waffle-podcast

So, every so often, I entertain the thought of starting a podcast. Why? Mostly because I like trying new things.

Podcasting, while not being something new, seem to have exploded in cultural awareness… and maybe that’s why I waffle on the idea, too. Am I entertaining the idea because it’s cool to do right now, or because I actually want to do one and have something to contribute?

Can you see my dilemma?

On the one hand, I really do like to do things that are fun and interesting. Those things also usually take a fair bit of work (which doesn’t scare me in the least). On the other hand, is what I’d do in one actually interesting enough to people who aren’t me that they’d benefit from it?

I guess it depends on the idea, doesn’t it?

Currently, I’m toying with the idea of interview style discussion of practical ministry combined with discussion (and possible debate) over the most important meal of the day. Personally, I could have a lot of fun with this, in no small part because of the idea of combining my love of preaching and pancakes. Plus, I’m Canadian, which means you Americans might hear me rant about that weird white sauce sausage gravy.

So what do y’all think? Should I hit the go button on this or keep waffling?


Photo credit: Waffle via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

Links I like

Links

Living in a virtual reality

Audio is starting to come online from this year’s TruthXchange Think Tank. Be sure to check out Chris Poblete’s session, “Living in a Virtual Reality.” It’s fantastic stuff.

Why Doesn’t God Just Remove that Sin?

JD Greear:

This isn’t the question of a skeptic trying to prove that God doesn’t exist—the famous apologetic “problem of evil.” No, this is the personalquestion of a believer trying to discern what in the world God is doing with the continued struggles in his life. It is the question of someone who reads, “For those who love God, all things work together for good,” and trying to reconcile that theological truth with her present circumstances.

Listening closer

Jeffrey Overstreet:

What is it that makes a piece of music meaningful to you? For me, it could be anything: subject matter, wordplay, a guitar tone, a rhythm track, something unexpected, or the circumstances in which I first heard it. This is why, as a critic, I make a distinction between the albums I would rate as “excellent” and the albums I would rate as “favorites.” Any honest music lover knows that we love or hate songs for more than just their measures of artistic excellence. Most music critics enjoy confessing “guilty pleasures.”

Of Serial Killers, Hiding Sins, and the Glorious Hope of Forgiveness in Christ

Kevin Halloran:

Even though sin should be so evident to people, many people don’t believe in the sinfulness of humanity exactly because humans are good at covering up their tracks. It’s not natural in our culture to walk in the grocery store and point at the guy stocking shelves and say, “He’s a sinner going to hell!” But if he doesn’t know Christ, that is true.

Top 10 Punctuation Mistakes

Quotation marks used for emphasis makes babies cry.

The Millennial “Adulthood” Delusion

Chris Martin:

Being an adult doesn’t mean locking in a 9-to-5 job and procreating. Being an adult doesn’t mean having everything figured out. Being an adult isn’t some threshold you pass through at a fully mature and developed stage of life. There really isn’t one, anyway.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also the last day to take advantage of Crossway’s weekly deals:

Google’s Denominational Stereotypes

This is interesting.

Don’t Let Spontaneity Kill Your Creativity

Chris Vacher:

We have a brain that God has wired to be creative. We have a God who is the Creator. We have his spirit living inside of us and we have the invitation to be creative in the way that He also is creative. We have all the time that we need to do the work God has called us to do. We have every resource available to us to lead people in worship the way God has invited us.

So how has the power of spontaneity been allowed to have its way among so many churches, pushing away the strength of planning, critique and editing?

The Gospel in the Dominican Republic

Ivan Mesa interviews Miguel Núñez, senior pastor of the International Baptist Church in Santo Domingo and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition, about what God is doing in the Dominican Republic.

A briefer history of time

HT: Tim

A Crash Course on Influencers of Unbelief

Justin Taylor is starting a new (occasional) series on influencers who’ve shaped the thinking of our culture. First up is Sigmund Freud.

7 Helps for When One You’ve Been Discipling Turns Away

Mike Leake:

The Lord spoke of those who would fall on bad soil. When you experience that first hand it is painful. It’s painful to see the one who shoots up quickly, giving hope to many people, and then just as quickly drifts away. When you’ve baptized this person, started discipling them, and even started dreaming about how the Lord might use them—it is such a blow when they drift away from Christ and the gospel.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And here are a number of R.C. Sproul titles on sale:

CROSS 2015

Be sure to check out the CROSS simulcast, featuring John Piper, David Platt, Mack Stiles, Thabiti Anyabwile, Kevin DeYoung and Matt Boswell on February 27.

Will Heaven Have Oceans?

Dennis Johnson:

A friend discovered the joys of body surfing in midlife, when she and her husband moved to Southern California, within 40 miles of the beaches and breakers of the Pacific Ocean. So she was understandably troubled by Revelation 21:1 and the prospect that ocean’s azure waters and surging waves will be absent from the coming new heavens and new earth. A few verses later we read that God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

To such miseries, sin’s toxic byproducts, we say, “Good riddance!” But, we wonder, once the curse-stained first heaven and earth have given way to a new heaven and a new earth, why must the new cosmic order be sans sea, while we’ll still stand on terra firma?

The Demise of the iPad is Greatly Overblown

Jonathan Howe provides a great counterpoint to Wired’s recent article.

Six Days

Paul Taylor offers a response to Justin Taylor’s article on the six days of Genesis 1-2.

Deflate-gate and over-inflated outrage

David Prince:

This is merely one small example of the unhealthy, but pervasive, perpetual outrage culture in America. We seem to be losing the ability to discuss anything with a sense of proper proportion. Too often in sports, politics, culture, and in everything else, we simply pick a side and defend it without question, and we vilify the other side without question. Professional wrestling used to have the market cornered on an over-exaggerated portrayal of heroes and villains with manufactured emotion and outrage, but it seems like every topic in America now sounds something akin to an episode of WrestleMania. Subtlety, nuance, and proportion are always labeled compromise in this outrage climate.

Daredevil climbs a frozen Niagara Falls

This is incredible (and terrifying)!

Links I like

Book deals for Christian readers

Here are a few Kindle deals to get you started:

Faithlife will also be starting the big Logos Christmas sale starting December 4th. Be sure to keep an eye out.

Christmas giveaway from Logos

This is a pretty fantastic giveaway: win a Macbook Pro and the Logos 6 Collector’s Edition!

A constant struggle in a growing church

Eric Geiger:

A church should not change or evolve doctrinally, as a church should stand on the “faith delivered once for all to the saints.” Nor must a church change her ministry philosophy and mission in her local community. I am simply suggesting that as a church grows, if a church grows, how she functions in at least these three areas will need to change.

Christian Celebrity Mascots: The Dangers of Conversion Without Transformation

Valerie Dunham:

It was the trendiest of all trendy testimonies, a name that would be incredibly valuable to the Christian community — only his quote could have just as easily, and perhaps even more likely, been the account of a method actor detailing the experience he collected while portraying a Christian man at war.

But this does not tie in neatly with a Christian culture that too frequently assumes that an encounter with God equates to conversion to His ways, that acknowledgment of truth means acceptance of the same, and that to get to know God is to know God.

Parents Undermined in Ontario Curriculum Plans

You should read this (and pray for parents in Ontario).

On Stewarding Technology Well

Erik Raymond:

I am a pastor. I also have an iPhone. As a result, I have had to think through a number of things and make some adjustments in terms of productivity and technology. It has been a process over the last several years. I think I am actually thinking about this and applying it in a healthy way now.

Below are some considerations and conclusions based on my own personal examination. This is slanted towards pastoral ministry but not limited to it.

The worst fundraising landing page ever

This is interesting stuff.

A look at Logos 6

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I am a big fan of Logos Bible Software. I was first introduced to this study tool at a conference in 2010, where a representative took it on a test drive and wowed his audience of pastors, students, and Bible study geeks. But I didn’t purchase it right away. I saw the tool on display at most every major conference I attended since and, in that time, built an impressive collection of business cards from sales reps, all waiting for me to pull the trigger and make the purchase.

Three years after my first experience with Logos, after scrimping and saving—not because it’s crazy expensive, but because I was crazy broke—I purchased my first package, Logos 5 (the Bronze edition, I believe), which rocked my socks. And now, Logos 6 is here.

I had the opportunity to play around with it for a little while before it was released to the public. I took it on a pretty serious test drive, using it while working on a few blog posts and a worldview course I’m writing for the teens and tweens. So what did I think?

Here are three quick(ish) thoughts:

The interface. Most users won’t notice a major difference between Logos 5 and 6 in terms of the look and feel, beyond the homepage. The new design, which reverts back to a more traditional up-down scroll from 5’s right-left, is clean, pretty and very easy to read, as you can see here:

Logos-6-home

My Logos 6 homepage (running in Mac OS X Yosemite.)

This is the most significant cosmetic change you’ll find in Logos 6 (or at least the most significant one I’ve noticed so far). The user interface and, therefore, experience are more or less the same. All the commands are in the same place, so you don’t have to relearn anything, and your search panels all appear as you’d expect them to. Which is to say, it’s designed to function best on a large second monitor… like say, my living room television:

logos-6-romans-1

A search using Logos 6 Silver. (Yeah, it’s a lot.)

In fact, if there’s any part of Logos 6 that’s a disappointment it’s actually the consistency of the look and feel of the interface. It’s functional, certainly, but it could use a little more love. I’d really love to see a really solid UI designer take a crack at it because it could be absolutely amazing. (Logos 7, maybe?)

The new features. Where Logos 6 really shines is in its new features. The team has done a fantastic job of doing some really cool new things to enhance your study experience. A couple of favorites of mine include the Ancient Literature tab and the Factbook. These functions give so much additional context to assist you in your study.

I’m working on a course for teens and tweens, one to help them understand the foundations of worldview. Romans 1:18-32 is a key passage for this study with Paul’s declaration that in our sin, God has given us up to depraved minds as we worship and serve created things rather than our Creator. From this flows all sorts of actions and attitudes that are declared unholy, from homosexuality to disobedience to parents. Without a doubt, this is one of the most provocative passages in the entire Bible. And this is why you want to be very thoughtful in studying it.

The Ancient Literature tab (which is only available with Logos 6 Silver and higher packages) lets you see where quotations, allusions, echoes and similar topics appear in the works of the church fathers, the works of Josephus, Philo, and other ancient writings. Being able to reference these writings gives you a better sense of how the passage was understood throughout history, as well as how it compares to other works in its cultural context.

Likewise, the Factbook makes puts a large amount of material at your fingertips. On the issue of homosexuality alone, it quickly showed me all of the key passages, plus several additional relevant ones, eleven different references found in Bible dictionaries, plus dozens of references throughout my library, including in the works of Josephus. Manually searching for all of this would take hours. But these features give you the information you need in a matter of moments, leaving you more time to sit with the text and do the hard work of interpretation.

Which brings me to my final thought…

The real power of Logos. The thing about a program like Logos in general, and Logos 6 in particular, is it’s only as useful as your library is extensive. The more you have, the better your experience will be. While I realize that not everyone can afford the premium packages, it’s worth investing your time and, yes, money into building your library as you can. If you can’t afford a premium package, start how I did with my first Logos package: get the Bronze edition and build on it. Add books that interest you. Add ancient texts. Take advantage of the free and cheap-like-free books that come up every month. The new features in Logos 6 are great, but if you don’t have the library to really support them, you won’t experience the full capability of your software.

Links I like

Preventing technology from becoming an unnecessary barrier

Aaron Earls:

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

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

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

Does God view your labors as ‘filthy rags’?

Michael J. Kruger:

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

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

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

If the Beastie Boys were Muppets…

Muppets rapping “So What’cha Want”

HT: Aaron Earls (via Jonathan Howe)

Preach the Gospel to Yourself?

Nick Batzig:

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

We Reproduce what We Know

JD Payne offers wise counsel.

Why We Love to Read

Tim Challies:

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

Links I like

The Evangelical Persecution Complex

Alan Noble offers a thought-provoking piece:

The Christian church itself has a long history of telling stories of martyrdom and persecution. The stories of saints’ lives often center on their sufferings for Christ. For example, Fox’s Book of Martyrs is a popular and classic text recounting notable martyrdoms throughout church history. The purpose of these stories is to inspire and strengthen Christians, particularly those who will later face persecution. But they were not designed to function as aspirational fantasy. And that is the real problem with many persecution narratives in Christian culture: They fetishize suffering.

I will be a unifying Christian

This is a lovely piece from Thom Rainer.

The Unbelonging

Lore Ferguson:

I’ve always been a fan of the fringe. If you can stand on the sidelines and affect change from within, you’ve followed the model Christ set forth well. I watched a movie a few months ago in which the principal characters return to high-school incognito. They’re so far removed from high-school that what was cool then is not cool now. The jocks are jerks and the nerds are neat. What happened?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Finally, the Christian Encounters series is on sale for 99¢ each:

Look! A Distraction!

Tim Challies:

Distraction is one of the costs of life in a digital world. Paul Graham says it well: “Distraction is not a static obstacle that you avoid like you might avoid a rock in the road. Distraction seeks you out.” We surround ourselves with devices that bring us so many good gifts, but even these good gifts exact a cost—the cost of distraction. The iPad that allows me to read the Bible anytime and anywhere also barges into my devotional life with notifications and alerts. The phone that allows me to stay in touch with my family while they are far away also wakes me at night with its buzzes and flashes. It giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.

We are learning. We are learning the costs so that we might also learn the solutions. Here are three of the costs of all of this distraction.

Stealth Calvinist Ninjas

Derek Rishmawy offers some constructive criticism to Roger Olson’s subtly titled “Beware of Stealth Calvinism!”:

What I want to point out in the middle of this is the bald-faced cynicism of the post. Here we don’t simply have a theological correction, dispute, or caution about inadvertent theological drift. No, here we have a warning about Calvinist tactics in general, about their alleged strategic maneuvering to crowd out and stamp out divergent thought by “stealthily” taking advantage of people’s ignorance.

I know I’m a lot younger, but if we’re dealing in anecdotes, I suppose part of the reason I find the whole thing silly is that three out of the four Christian colleges nearby me, including my own seminary, are explicitly non-Reformed, and the fourth is definitely blended. Fuller has, maybe a few Reformed theologians, certainly not of the militant sort. They’re not cranking out Calvinists ready to take over churches there. But maybe that’s just a Southern California thing.

The Folly and Hubris of Richard Dawkins

Eleanor Robertson at The Guardian:

Dawkins’ narrowmindedness, his unshakeable belief that the entire history of human intellectual achievement was just a prelude to the codification of scientific inquiry, leads him to dismiss the insights offered not only by theology, but philosophy, history and art as well.

To him, the humanities are expendable window-dressing, and the consciousness and emotions of his fellow human beings are byproducts of natural selection that frequently hobble his pursuit and dissemination of cold, hard facts. His orientation toward the world is the product of a classic category mistake, but because he’s nestled inside it so snugly he perceives complex concepts outside of his understanding as meaningless dribble. If he can’t see it, then it doesn’t exist, and anyone trying to describe it to him is delusional and possibly dangerous.

Links I like (weekend edition)

What is this thing?!?

Watch what happens when kids are introduced to a brand-new piece of technology… the Walkman!

HT: Mike Leake

Kindle deal recap

Here’s a look back at this week’s Kindle deals—most of these end Monday, so act before it’s too late:

And finally, four by Francis Chan:

One Year Later: The Boston Marathon and Our Own Marathons

Jewel Evans:

For many, last year’s Boston Marathon will be an event that carries within it triumph and tragedy in a single memory. The triumph of training for and finishing a marathon and the tragedy of Boston’s bombings have enabled many runners to forge a new path, with no clear route ahead. Running a marathon is an appointment with pain; returning to Boston—for the competitor and spectator alike—is to face a new kind of pain in and of itself. The past year has provided individuals with a variety of ways to process the event: taking time away from the sport, meeting with counselors, and talking with those closest to them. And maybe for some the best way to heal was to take some time away from the sport; for others, the tragedy has given a new meaning to their time running—a renewed commitment to the sport amid adversity, demonstrating strength and resilience, which are key for runners, especially marathoners. It has provided a new sense of motivation for those runners, who are empowering themselves and others to dig deeper and push through the physical and emotional pain involved in running a marathon.

The Preacher’s Cheat-Sheet

Tim Challies:

Preparing a sermon is one of the most gratifying and the most difficult tasks you’ll ever face. There is joy in finding meaning in the text, in finding structure, in developing just the right outline, in discovering the perfect illustration. But there is also labor and, at times, intense spiritual warfare. I am a relative newcomer to preaching and as I’ve prepared sermons I’ve relied on others to teach me how to pray and how to prepare. Here are two lists that have been very helpful to me. I combine them into what I affectionately call my Preacher’s Cheat-Sheet.

Sola Experiencia is for real

Erik Raymond:

Earlier this week I was talking to a number of unbelievers about Jesus. In the midst of the conversation one told me that he can see the future. He said that he has, on a few occasions, been able to see what was going to happen. He pointed to his buddy for confirmation and, as you’d expect, got the requisite head nod. I know that in this conversation I cannot slash the tires of his experience. If I even pull out the knife of reason or testing he will shut me down. Personal experience and our interpretation of it is the authority. We might call it Sola Experiencia.

The danger of overextending your reach

mic-podium

A friend of mine recently lamented the blessing and curse of podcasts. The blessing is obvious, and the danger is equally so: podcasts can “ruin” us for ordinary pastors. There’s a dangerous temptation to treat podcasts as our pastors, and to forsake biblical community for a hyper-individualized spirituality.

But there’s another danger we don’t talk about quite as much: the danger to the pastors who are extending their reach beyond their local church.

You might be reading this and thinking, what on earth could be dangerous? After all, many pastors write books every year, podcast their sermons, and write blogs. Some even find themselves speaking at conferences, of whom the majority of attendees are undoubtedly not members of their congregations.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, certainly. So why do I have a concern? Because there’s a question we always should be asking: is trying to extend our reach taking away from our primary ministry? 

Now, I absolutely believe pastors should write books (at least, those who can write). I’d go as far to say as pastors are obligated to share the wisdom and insights they’ve gained with the larger body of Christ, and more specifically, with younger pastors and leaders.

But many pastors who are asked to write books aren’t asked because they’ve demonstrated they can write, or they have the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime of ministry. They just have a lot of people showing up on Sunday.

Whether or not a pastor has the chops to write a book, start a blog or start a podcast, the temptation to pursue these things is enormous. But in the pursuit of these things, it’s easy to start cutting corners, even unintentionally. Research gets reduced or outsourced. Sermon prep is virtually non-existent. Counselling and community are sidelined. The result? Once-excellent communicators become unconsciously incompetent (which inevitably leads to becoming dangerously stupid). Congregation members begin to feel neglected. Frustration builds, and eventually something’s going to give.

In the attempt to extend their reach, I fear many church and ministry leaders are in danger of destroying their ministries, and may not even realize it.

When I was working on my books, one of the challenges I faced was securing endorsements. I tried to get Kevin DeYoung to endorse Awaiting a Savior. I didn’t succeed, obviously (although I suspect it would have sold more if I had). But you know what? I am so thankful I didn’t. Why? Because his church has set up accountability structures to prevent outside activities from negatively affecting his ministry to his congregation. 

This is the kind of self-aware church leader we need more of—the kind who understands the danger of overextending his reach. Leaders who know they can’t really trust themselves to know how much is too much, and who surround themselves with men who will tell them what they don’t always want to hear.

Links I like (weekend edition)

In the ten minutes Gmail was down…

Aaron Earls recounts the harrowing ordeal—with GIFs!

Helping someone through a salvation experience

David Platt:

As we walk in the presence of Christ, we’ll have opportunities to make new disciples of Jesus. We’ll have the privilege of inviting people to turn from their sin and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. This won’t happen because of our cleverness or evangelistic prowess; it will happen because of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

But how should we handle these moments on a practical level? What should we say and what should we do when God grants us the privilege of harvesting a new follower of Christ?

Why I am Pro-Choice

Lore Ferguson:

No one is arguing for the abortion of three and four year olds, but three and four year olds have similar decision making abilities as infants. Of course there is a small gap of maturity, but a child who cannot zip her coat or tie her shoes, whose father has to lift her to put his money in a meter to park a car she can’t drive—how limited is her ability to choose?

We cannot know how any child’s life will turn out, but shouldn’t we give them the basic right to choose? Or, less even, the ability to learn to make choices?

Oh, Oh, Ooh, Ooh, La, La, Whoa

Bob Kauflin:

…recently an increasing number of modern worship songs feature syllables like “oh, ooh, and whoa.” Generic syllables can be enjoyable to sing and can provide a musical segue that involves the congregation. They also can carry meaning as they give expression to a burst of emotion that either respond or lead into lyrics that actually say something. My good friend Matt Boswell reminded me that Paul begins his doxology in Romans 11:33-36 with “Oh,” the depth of the riches… There are times when an emotional “oh!” is the most appropriate lead in to a life-transforming truth.

But something more has been happening. Crowds are singing lengthy portions of songs using vowel sounds rather than actually singing words. Is this a good thing? Does it matter?

Looking forward to seeing how worship leaders respond to this piece.

Burning away misconceptions about “holy fire”

Lyndon Unger:

If you entered the faith via a Charismatic church (like me), one of the most quickly re-defined terms was “fire”.  “Fire” used to be what you called the results of tossing a match on something flammable, or maybe something you did with a gun.  Now it meant something way different. In Charismatic circles, there is often talk about “fire” of some sort: Holy Fire, Divine Fire, Heavenly Fire, the Fire of God, etc.  The idea of “fire” is basically paralleled with one or more of the following ideas: spiritual passion, having an emotionally intense worship/church service, really “getting serious” with God (or some form of personal revival), or some sort of outpouring of divine power on a person/church meeting/event resulting in a renewed passion of some sort (i.e. evangelism) or various “manifestations” of the Holy Spirit (i.e. euphoria, tongues, healings, prophecies, “miracles”, holy laughter, holy glue, holy vomiting, barking, crying, being slain/laid out in the spirit, visions, trances, screaming, physical pain, teleportation, etc.). I had generally gone along with the Charismatic usage of the term “fire” with regards to passion or zeal, and not really questioned it since the term is often used in non-Charismatic circles in nearly identical ways. But, as I’ve grown in my knowledge of the Lord and his word I’ve found myself continually questioning my own assumptions and understandings and going “back to the drawing board”.  When we speak of “fire” in the previously mentioned ways, are we using the term in a proper Biblical sense?