Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put several volumes in the Preaching the Word commentary series on sale for $5.99 each:

Also, be sure to pick up Jesus on Every Page by David Murray ($1.99), I Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said That by Steve Timmis ($1.99), and The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias ($2.99) while they’re still on sale.

Hate mail

Deepak Reju:

If you’re a pastor, you most certainly have detractors, people who for one reason or another don’t like you. Maybe it’s a person who criticizes you to your face or writes you a nasty-gram—a sour text, email, or, worse, Facebook post.… How should you, as a pastor, think about receiving criticism?

Every X-Man ever

This is impressive:

Lecrae Confesses Abortion, Invites Others into the Light

This was powerful.

Peter Pan’s Shadow And the Promises of God

Derek Rishmawy:

In some recent discussions regarding issues like atonement or the doctrine of God, I have seen some more progressive theological types refer to the metaphor of types and shadows in order to justify a particular kind of overturning or undermining of the Old Testament revelation. Alongside what we’ve called the Jesus-Tea-strainer hermeneutic, some have argued that now that Christ has come he has revealed the true, hidden nature of these types and shadows. Instead of coming as their more straightforward fulfillment, though, he comes as their abolishment. Or, he comes to reveal how screwed up our understanding has truly been up until this point.

23 insane ways to cook with cauliflower

I love to cook, and am always looking for new and interesting things to try. There are at least three on this list that look like a lot of fun.

Imagining the Image of God

Nick Batzig:

Of course, Shakespeare knew his Bible well. The Genesis account of creation is so full of theological riches that it seem impossible to mine them all. The Holy Spirit teaches us that man, as God’s image bearer, was both distinguished, dignified and dependent–differentiated and dust–in his original state. At creation, man was both a finite creature and the “lord of the lower world.” God created man out of the same place and from the same materials from which he made the animals and He invested man with faculties that other creatures do not enjoy; He gave man responsibilities to which other creatures will never attain. Here are some observations about the nature of man drawn out of Genesis 1 and 2.

Links I like

Is it Okay for Me to Church Hop?

Tom Fuerst:

But at the heart of all this, I have the firm theological belief that there is no such thing as a lone Christian. Rather, Christians only exist in families (not all families are biological). And, to turn a cliché, it really does take a village to raise a Christian. Church hopping is like family hopping. It’s just a stupid idea.

The Disciple’s Napkin

Tim Brister:

Over the past couple months, I sought to evaluate disciple-making in my own life and church community. In particular, I wanted to focus on the biblically prescribed means of grace as the foundational disciplines for laying a framework of discipleship that cuts across every sphere of our lives. I don’t want it to be said by anyone, “I cannot make disciples because it is too complicated, too difficult, too demanding, etc.” No matter where you are in the journey as a follower of Jesus, I want it to be said by anyone, “I can do that. I can be a disciple who makes disciples of Jesus.”

An open letter to a porn-using dad

If I could tell you one thing, it would be this: Porn didn’t just affect your life; it affected everyone around you in ways I don’t think you can ever realize. It still affects me to this day as I realize the hold that it has on our society. I dread the day when I have to talk with my sweet little boy about pornography and its far-reaching greedy hands. When I tell him about how pornography, like most sins, affects far more than just us.

Is it ridiculous to believe in a literal Adam and Eve?

This is really good.

10 Marks Of True Conversion

David Murray:

Shona and I have tried various strategies over the years to make sure that we are regularly discussing the Bible together, fellowshipping in the living Word. One thing we hadn’t tried, until recently, was for both of us to be reading the same book in our private devotional reading so that we can discuss the same passage when we get together. It also keeps us accountable knowing that she is going to be asking me what I thought about such and such a verse, and vice versa.

“I am profoundly grateful to God that He

“I am profoundly grateful to God that He did not grant me certain things for which I asked, and that He shut certain doors in my face.”

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount


Photo credit: gothick_matt via photopin cc. Designed with Canva.

Links I like

The Role of Singing in the Life of the Church

Rob Smith:

Christianity is a singing faith. It’s one of the chief things followers of Jesus are renowned for, both down through the ages and now all around the world. While the proportion of singing has varied from time to time and from place to place, most churches today devote about a third of their gathering time to congregational singing and invest a considerable amount of time, money, effort, and energy into the musical side of church life.

But why do we sing? What does our singing accomplish? What purposes does it fulfill? According to Scripture, God has both created and called us to sing for three principle reasons: to help us praise, to help us pray, and to help us proclaim. Let’s look at each of these reasons in turn.

90 facts about the 90s

An (Anti) Guide to Writing

Amber Van Schooneveld:

We act as if “writer” is an exclusive club and only a select few may proudly wear that badge. But talent can be found in the most aggravating places. I often encounter people who, upon hearing I am a writer, tell me that they want to write a book someday. That’s great. Writing books has always been one of my life goals too. But further into the conversation, I find that the last time they wrote was 10th grade.

It can be annoying when people bandy about your dreams so easily, like if I went up to an engineer and said I hoped to build a bridge someday, though I have no intention of devoting any time to the study of bridges. But the aggravating thing is that people who never write can, and in fact sometimes do, sit down and write something brilliant. Writing is not an exclusive talent and some (the best, in my opinion), do it naturally with no study. Writing is not an exclusive club, as much as some of us would like to make it.

The End of the World As We Know It

R.C. Sproul Jr:

I have long argued that Genesis 3 sets the stage for our lives, the Bible, and all of history. We live in a context of battle, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. I have argued in turn that that over-arching battle will be determined based on two other battles. First there is the battle inside the seed of the woman, between our new man and our old man. The more sanctified we become, the better things will go in the great battle. The other battle is within the seed of the serpent. There the battle is between the remnants of the image of God and their own fallen nature.

While it is Still Called Today

Lore Ferguson:

In the morning, when the sky is still blushed pink and the babes have just scattered to their lives, I sit in the corner chair and read, drink my coffee slowly and breathe. All of this month it has been the book of Isaiah and I can’t stop the tears when they come. The promise is overwhelming and I wonder what it was like to be the people who dwelt in darkness, deep darkness, waiting for their light to come.

The Church on the Fringes

Jonathan Parnell:

This vision for gospel witness goes deeper than a few “decisions” made or baptisms recorded. Paul’s ambition for the gospel’s advance is mature disciples of Jesus — disciples warned and taught and made wise in the knowledge of God. Any church’s mission that doesn’t include this is, bluntly, sub-Christian. Put more bluntly, any church’s mission that doesn’t dream of making mature disciples of Jesus actually defies the gospel itself. Jesus died to make new creaturesto make a new world. Any discipleship vision that has standards lower than this is short-circuiting the gospel’s power, and therefore, the power of God (Romans 1:16).

Links I like

We Don’t Need a Mrs. Jesus

Maureen Farrell Garcia:

This reoccurring divine family motif of a less-than-God Jesus and a more-than-human Mary can frustrate Christians who know that it’s false. Still, when these kinds of theories come up—often around Christmas and Easter—they get people who don’t normally engage in conversations about Jesus talking about him, what the Scriptures say, and what history reveals. In the wake of sensationalized books, Christians have an opportunity to take advantage of the interest in Jesus.

There is no language instinct

This is a very interesting article.

How Should We Respond To Internet Trolls?

Good thoughts in this interview with Barnabas Piper.

Should We Take up an Offering during the Worship Service?

R.C. Sproul, Jr:

I have these suspicions in part because of how I hear some churches explain their reasoning for removing the giving of tithes and offerings from their liturgy. We’re told they don’t want the unbelievers in the meeting to feel uncomfortable or pressured, and they don’t want them believing we care too much about money. But, they reason, the necessary chore of meeting the financial needs of the church can be met by a collection box near the narthex, or even direct deposit from members’ checking accounts.

I honestly have no strong quarrel with differing views of how tithes and offerings are collected. Nor am I particularly concerned with the practical side, wanting to make sure the church has the money it needs. Instead, I fear what we lose when we remove this aspect of worship from our liturgies.

The Quickest Way to Get Home

Lore Ferguson:

The past five months, since the signing of the lease, I have been begging God for a reason to leave. The list is long and the opportunities many, but the longer the list grew, the more my love for here grew. I told a friend yesterday that I thought it was sweet of God to give me that love as a going-away present. “You’re terrible at putting things where they belong,” she said while laughing at me. What if that love is God’s call to stay?

Links I like

Kindle and Cyber Monday deals

Be sure to check out this post for details on today’s Cyber Monday sales. Meanwhile, here are a couple of Kindle deals I’ve found:

You can also get my friend Jeff’s book Gospel Formed for about $9 at Amazon using the coupon code HOLIDAY30.

Sin’s Part in the System (and Vice Versa)

Alan Noble responds to Voddie Baucham:

But I was disappointed to read an article by pastor Voddie Baucham responding to Ferguson published atThe Gospel Coalition, not because the article offends my taste or doesn’t fit with my views, but because it perpetuates what I believe are some harmful perspectives on race in America. Given the massive popularity of the article (it went viral and helped crash TGC on Wednesday) and the relevance of the topic, I felt it was important to carefully parse why I believe Baucham’s article was misguided. Thabiti Anyabwile has published an article which addresses some of Baucham’s claims and is well worth reading, but here I aim to more directly respond to Baucham words and their implications.

The difference between Thabiti Anyabwile’s reaction to the Ferguson grand jury’s decision and Voddie Baucham’s reveals a divide in American society in general and in particular the American church over the nature of the black experience in contemporary America and who or what is responsible for that experience. In examining Baucham’s piece, I hope to also address in some small way this larger divide.

The cold, hard truths about winter driving myths

This was worth reading.

Do Calvinists Have Too Low a View of Themselves?

R.C. Sproul, Jr:

Perhaps. It is virtually impossible to have too low a view of ourselves by ourselves. We, all of us who are human, do indeed bear the image of God. Even that, however, is ultimately extrinsic to us. The imago, we need to understand isn’t essential to us in a sense, but is added to us. By ourselves, apart from His grace, we are but dust and rebellion. In His grace, however, He has imposed upon us, stamped upon us, His image. We humans thus have worth, dignity and value, though these are ultimately from without rather than within.

Put on Your Priestly Robe

Ryan Shelton:

I have a strange habit when I’m driving. Any time I suddenly come up on the familiar outline of a white and black sedan parked just off the shoulder, my right foot instinctively withdraws and I triple-check my speedometer. Moments before, I possessed all the same knowledge of traffic regulations, but the physical presence of a representative of the law makes that knowledge tangible. The authority represented by a police car vivifies familiar truth. Or to put it more generally, sometimes an embodied presence captures our attention in a way that abstract memories do not.

 When the Sadness Doesn’t Leave

Michael Patton:

Personally, I attempt to deny my sadness as just being an itinerate foe that will leave soon. However, it never does. My wife and kids can see it in me. I try to hid it, but this unwanted friend has already made his presence known in a thousand different ways. There has been so much advice, so many interventions, but no one really knows what to do with me. They are often worried. I’m tired and find very little joy in my life. The most productive thing I do around the house is worry. I can’t find the peace that I preach.

Don’t get me wrong. Though my belief has suffered some terrible trials; and, this wrestling match with God has left me beaten and bruised. I know Whom I have believed. Yes, from time to time I have a bout with doubt, but it normally does not last. I am just sad. And everyone knows it.

Let me back up.

Why Not Same-Sex Marriage

Good review by Andrew Spencer.

Links I like

Why I Repented from Twitter Following Everyone

Joey Cochran:

One sunny day in March I woke up and decided to follow everyone on Twitter. I’d like to think that I had no real reason to do it, but if I’m honest the stunt was stimulated from the base desire of wanting more followers. It was shallow. I wasn’t going to buy them because that’s just crazy. But I thought, maybe if I followed a bunch of people, they’d just follow me back. I justified it by calling the following act a wave. I told myself: “You know what, I’m gonna wave to everyone in Twitterdom, and see who waves back.”

The Case for Face to Face Meetings

Erik Raymond:

Technological advancements have made communication much easier. We can email, text, instant message, call, or Skype. While this makes meeting easier it does not necessarily make it better. As Christians we should endeavor to be loving in everything we do. This requires thoughtful intentionality when considering the medium for communicating information. Ease must never trump love.

In my experience, particularly in pastoral ministry, the preferred format for meetings is face to face. If there is ever a potential to be misunderstood or if the subject matter is wired with emotion then a face to face meeting is nearly essential.

Is Open Theism Still an Issue?

Jeff Robinson:

Much has changed since members of ETS wrestled with open theism more than a decade ago. You will not find papers in defense of open theism being read in seminars at ETS today. Books are less likely to emerge from evangelical publishing houses to debate the merits or demerits of this theology over against the classical Christian view of God. Instead, open theism mainly finds its voice through more popular means. A quick internet search reveals numerous blogs written by pastors and laypersons espousing open theism. Open theism today makes its case not so much through books and refereed scholarly journals, but through the mostly unfiltered voice of the blogosphere.

“You are cured of MS!”

David Murray shares the testimony of Gary Timmer, whose son Trent was diagnosed with MS in 2012.

It’s a dance-off!

Imagine if this had been the ending to Guardians of the Galaxy:

HT: Aaron

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This is the last week to save on a few of these deals from Crossway:

The most epic safety video ever made

This is pretty cool:

Is an actor’s pretend sin still sin?

Clint Archer:

Imagine you are assigned the role of Lady Macbeth or Darth Vader or Judas. Someone has to play the villain. And no director would allow you to massage Shakespeare’s script; “Out, out darn spot” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. And, except for the role Jim Caviezel snagged in The Passion, even good guys sin—The Good the Bad and the Ugly demonstrates this as adequately as the Die Hard franchise.

Here are two very basic guidelines my actor friends employ when selecting scripts.

Forgotten providence

Rebekah Earnshaw:

Twenty-first century sensibilities dismiss the idea of an overruling God in preference to self-direction. Healthy, wealthy, intelligent, capable humans take responsibility and control of their own future through education, insurance, prudent financial investment, savvy work choices and the occasional international holiday. Christianity seems to have outgrown providence.

But life isn’t always quite so neat, is it? Our self-built image of control is all-too-easily shattered by chronic or mental illness, sudden tragic death, redundancy, relationship breakdown, and injustice. Very occasionally we realize what a tiny fragment of the vast order of the universe we actually occupy or understand.

7 Wrong Reasons to Join a Church

Nick Batzig:

Committing yourself and your family to a local church is one of the most important decisions you will ever make this side of eternity; and yet, for all the weightiness of it, it is a decision to which the larger part of church attenders have given little to no thought. Over the past three decades, I have witnessed multitudes of individuals and families choose to join churches for the wrong reason(s). While there is a plethora of helpful resources out there to help people understand the right reasons to join a church, the right reasons to leave a church and the right way to leave a church, there is very little that speaks directly to wrong reasons to join a church. While more could be added to them, here are 7 common wrong reasons for which people join churches.

Biblical inerrancy and the greener pastures fallacy

Scott Redd:

The evangelical community of the biblical interpreters has its faults, some of them quite embarrassing, as does any community subjected to the finitude and fallenness of the human race, but scholarly communities that reject the inerrancy of Scripture have a slew of new problems with which they must deal, problems which by no means leave their scholarship on more certain grounds. What is so often presented as the settled consensus of the scholarly community when attacking an evangelical interpretation becomes, at best, a hypothetical guess when discussed within an unguarded scholarly community. When the goal is not the belittling of a fundamentalist interpretation, one discovers welcome intellectual humility.

Links I like

Who or What Were the Nephilim?

This is an interesting discussion.

The Magic of Music

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Music, I believe, has many of the same qualities. I suppose it can trend toward the thinking side. You see this in those songs designed to help us memorize information, the sing-song collections of data bits favored during the grammar stage of a classical education. And certainly there is music that leans more toward emotion with little thinking. Speed metal would be a fine example. I suspect if the “singer” in the speed metal band were to screech through the phone book it would make precious little difference to the experience of the average listener. The music itself says, “Be mad” even when the lyrics might be an ode to a daisy.

Let Your Dim, Sin-Stained Light Shine Before The World

Josh Blount:

If exhortations to “be an example” have ever fallen on your shoulders with the weight of the world, take heart. There’s a way out from under the burden. Here’s the solution: our message is not about achieving perfection, but about receiving redemption. Do you realize what that means? You don’t have to be perfect!

Bible museum sponsored by evangelical to have evangelical perspective

In other news, water is wet. (HT: Dan Darling)

Three Lessons on Loving One Another

Jonathan Parnell:

The scene could not have been more inauspicious: a low-lit room, full stomachs, and the dirty feet of a dozen grown men. This is not where you’d expect to find one of the world’s greatest lessons in loving one another.

But it was here, nonetheless, in the upper room of a common house in first-century Palestine, the night before Jesus died, that we learn how to live together as the church in this world. The apostle John tells us the story, showing us three unforgettable parts.

What Compels Compliance?

Tullian Tchividjian, from his upcoming devotional, It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News:

Preachers who think that simply telling bad people to be good—applying the boot to the tires of our spiritual lives—will actually produce compliance misunderstand the law’s purpose. The law tells us that compliance is required but the law is incapable of producing a compliant heart. We would all agree that compliance is a laudable goal. We want people parking legally and we want people loving their neighbors as themselves. But how might compliance actually happen?

What I have learned, and am learning, from my experience at Mars Hill Church

Dave Kraft:

The observations and lessons learned came mostly from my experience at Mars Hill; but as I read about what’s going on in Christian leadership as well as what I’m learning in my coaching high- level leaders at other churches, I’ve come to understand that my experiences at Mars Hill are not unique.

What I saw first-hand while on staff at Mars Hill is happening in other churches and Christian ministries around the country/world. I deeply regret that I didn’t speak up more often sooner than I did.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week, there have been a TON of really good Kindle deals:

Four books by Francis Chan:

The New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology series is on sale for $3.99 each:

The Profiles of Reformed Spirituality series is on sale for $1.99 each:

Several volumes in B&H’s Exalting Jesus commentary series are on sale for $5.99 each:

Finally, Zondervan’s got a bunch of titles focused on :

Why leaders fail

Dan Darling nails it:

Recently I had a discussion with some friends about some public leadership fails in the news. I could name them, but you likely already know who they are. Our conversation turned to a general topic of leadership and things we’ve observed. What struck us was how these things evolve from little, seemingly insignificant decisions that form the culture out of which unhealthy leadership grows. In other words, nobody wakes up one day and says to himself, “I’m going to strive to be an authoritarian leader who wreaks havoc on the people I serve.” It just doesn’t happen that way. Leaders start with good intentions. They start as “normal” people. So how do leaders fail? I think there are five basic mistakes leaders make.

Biblica Hipsteria

This is so good:

Why Curious People Don’t Get Bored

Tim Challies:

There were two weeks left in summer vacation. Two of my kids were sprawled on the couch in dejected boredom, wishing they could just watch a little more Netflix or play a little more Flappy Bird. One of my kids was wide-eyed, staring into the pages of a book. And it occurred to me: Curious people don’t get bored. People with a deep sense of wonder don’t get bored. People with a deep desire to appreciate the world around them and to learn its secrets—these people have developed a resistance to boredom.

Sam Harris wants everyone to get spirituality

Kimberly Winston on an altogether unsurprising development:

“Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn,” he writes in the book, but adds: “There is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit.”

The prescription, Harris holds, is Buddhist-based mindfulness meditation. A Stanford-trained neuroscientist, Harris is a long-time practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He said everyone can, through meditation, achieve a “shift in perspective” by moving beyond a sense of self to reach an enlightening sense of connectedness — a spirituality.

Don’t Be a Fundamentalist (Calvinist or Otherwise)

JD Greear:

When you elevate your doctrinal system too highly, you become a fundamentalist in a second sense: you start to believe that all of God’s graces, or at least the best of them, are found only within your narrow little camp. Again, I am no doctrinal relativist, but it seems that God has chosen to give greater insight into certain areas of Christian life and teaching to people I disagree with on secondary issues than he has to me and the people in my camp. Fundamentalism doesn’t recognize that–in many ways, can’trecognize that. Fundamentalism believes that if you’re not in our camp, and you’re not on the approved list, there is very little you have to say. The best of God’s grace is only with me and mine.

Scenes you’ve seen: blockbusters recreated with stock footage

This is pretty well done:

Links I like

Leaders Must Have Conviction and Courage

Erik Raymond:

Leaders must lead with conviction and courage, speaking clearly about what they are going to do. This is true at any level, whether leading two people or two million, because there will always be opposition and a need to make a decision. At the end of the day the leader must lead.

Get The Expository Genius of John Calvin in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven Lawson (ePub), for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Crucial Questions bundle by R.C. Sproul (paperback)
  • Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation (paperback)
  • Developing Christian Character teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)

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

The Drama of Preaching

Murray Campbell:

We need to understand what is driving some peoples’ preference for dialogue. Dialogue is code for a theological concept: divine conversation. Divine conversation says God has not spoken authoritatively, sufficiently, and finally in his Word. Rather, God invites us to converse with him and each other. Thus, God speaks in the Bible, but he speaks in many other ways and places, and the meaning of any given text is not fixed but dependent upon the community of believers who interpret it.

This Too Is The Day the Lord Has Made

Derek Rishmawy:

Thirteen years ago 19 men hijacked a few airplanes a blew a hole in the psyche of the Western world. We may not think of it this way, but in a sense, they claimed the day. For 13 years we have marked this day as the day we were attacked. It is a day when loved ones were taken from us. It is a day when a dark design was executed to great destruction and a historic, culture-shaping aftermath. It is a day, much like December 7th, that will live in infamy.

It’s also a day that still inspires fear. Many of us around the nation grow anxious at its approach. We wonder whether other men will choose to mark the occasion with similar violence, or an even worse attack that will eclipse the original. We avoid public places, possibly keeping our children at home, or simply go about our daily business with dark thoughts and breathe sighs of relief when the tense day closes.

How to Prepare Leaders of Integrity for Public Influence

Michael Lindsay and Mark Mellinger discuss:

Timing Isn’t Everything

Brian Tabb:

We focus a great deal of attention on the clock and the calendar, from the time our alarm clocks go off —When is the report due? When are we meeting the Smiths for dinner?

We are easily frustrated by delays, when our appointment is late, when the kids are slow to get ready. We see this focus on timing and frustration with delays in our spiritual lives as well, as we wait for God to answer prayers and wait for Jesus to return.

Jesus Did More to Save Us than Die

Gavin Ortlund:

How do we maintain the centrality of the cross without displacing the empty tomb, the manger story, the final trumpet call? To what extend is our gospel Good Friday, and to what extent is it also Easter and Christmas? On the one hand, we don’t want to focus on Christ’s crucifixion so much that we simply have nothing to say about his temptation or his transfiguration, his representation or his return. On the other hand, we don’t want to so flatten out the narrative so much that Christ’s crucifixion loses its central, dramatic significance.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also, be sure to check out Amazon’s monthly collection of books at $3.99 or less.

You will not say this on your deathbed

True.

7 Characteristics of Spiritually Beneficial Friendships

Nick Batzig:

When I was a boy, my father always prayed that God would make us “wise beyond our years.” One of the ways that the Lord does this is by surrounding us with friends who are wise beyond their years. If you want to be the best doctor, lawyer, teacher, mechanic, chef, etc. one of the best ways to reach your goal is to study the lives and techniques of those more skillful than you in that field. In the business world, those who excel most are those who surround themselves with those who give wise counsel about what they did to excel and how to best go forward. As the Proverbs explain, “In the multitude of counselors there safety” (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). This is, of course, first and foremost speaking of the multitude of counsel in Scripture and from the Lord in prayer–but it also has applicability to the counsel of biblically mature and spiritually-minded men and women that God places in our lives.

Here are seven characteristics of friends with whom we should seek to surround ourselves.

Victoria Osteen, the glory of God and reformed worship

Ligon Duncan gives a thorough response to the Victoria Osteen video that’s been floating around for the last week or so.

Ten Ways to Double Your Church Volunteer Recruitment and Retention

Thom Rainer:

Without volunteer labor and ministry, our churches would not exist. The recruitment and retention of volunteers should be one of the highest priorities of church leaders.

While we typically honor our paid labor force on Labor Day, I want to take the opportunity to focus on volunteer labor in our congregations. Specifically, I want to share with you ten ways the most effective churches are recruiting and retaining volunteers. In many cases, they have more than doubled the success of those churches where these approaches are not taken.

A Novel Every Christian Should Consider Reading

Louis Markos shares a novel every Christian should read in Justin Taylor’s new blog series, and it’s a good one: Hard Times by Charles Dickens.

Making a case for books

This is some impressive stop-motion work:

Links I like

Defending Tony Dungy’s Right to Have an Opinion

Ted Kluck:

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

Here are several of my own opinions.

Spurgeon’s lost sermons to be released

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

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

Kate Tracy:

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

The Liberating Impossibility Of Repayment

Tullian Tchividjian:

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

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

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

Karen Swallow Prior nails it:

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

Being Gospel-Centered Is a Bloody Mess

Mike Leake:

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

Do Christians Have Poor Cultural Taste?

Jordan Monson:

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

God, the original fashion designer (a theology of fashion, part 1)

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In my vanity, I’ve always liked to think of myself as a serious-minded woman. In high school, I didn’t go to parties; I stayed home and did my German homework. And although I like to consider myself an intellectual, I can’t help one thing:

I love clothes.

My favorite recurring dream is one in which I find my closet stuffed full of dresses I didn’t know I owned. I watch Downton Abbey episodes twice: the first time for the plot and the second time to stare at the costumes.

But I’ve always dismissed my love of fashion as flighty and shallow. The weak underbelly to my otherwise oh-so-wise self.

As I’ve grown older, my delight for clothing has only grown stronger, although my main accessories these days are spit-up and a diaper bag. What I’ve only begun to accept recently is that my love for fashion might not simply be a vain pursuit of youth—as I so snobbishly supposed—but a genuine, God- given love for creativity and beauty.

“See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28)

I often think of this verse as I hike in the mountains near my home in Colorado. The tiniest wildflower of the tundra will have the most extravagant and intricate design. Looking at nature and the animal world, it’s clear that God has a flair for design. A God who creates the peacock is not a purely utilitarian God.

Recognizing the God-given creative spirit, Christendom has often embraced the arts, from music to sculpture to painting.

But many of us still eschew the realm of fashion.

So often fashion is fraught with vice. Whether vanity, excess, immodesty or the backbiting world we envision in The Devil Wears Prada, clothing hardly seems like an arena for worship.

But zoom back from our own culture and picture the dress of past times and other places. The intricate beaded collars of the Maasai tribe in Tanzania and Kenya. The stately headdresses of Native Americans. The scarlet pomegranate tassels on the Israelite High Priest’s garments.

God is the original fashion designer. He specifically enumerated how Aaron’s garments should be made, from the turban to the tassels. He also gifted certain individuals in clothes making:

“Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest.” (Exodus 28:3)

Just as God gifted some to be wood cutters for His glory, He created others to be clothing makers. If we look at almost any culture, we see the inevitable desire to adorn the beautiful form God created with beautiful attire. Even the noble woman of Proverbs 31 is clothed in fine linen and purple.

But often, in an attempt to dodge the many moral trapdoors, we Christians have turned to asceticism when it comes to fashion. The Bible certainly does give guidelines and warnings when it comes to dress (more on that in the next post). But this doesn’t mean the wholesale abandonment of this expression of creativity.

My point is not that we should all run to the Banana Republic for some dangly earrings. But I think we should reclaim creativity—in all of its forms—for God. He is the one who put the seed of fashion within us.

If you aren’t the fashionable type—as I suspect some who read theology blogs might not be—that’s fine. But encourage the people around you whom God has gifted in creativity to embrace it for God’s glory. This might look different for different people.

In my own life, I’ve found an outlet in making paper dresses with my preschooler (whose current passion in life is twirling in circles wearing dresses). She loves it as a way to spend time with mommy and play with scissors. I love it as a way to infuse some creativity into my daily life with two kids.

God created us in His image and that implicitly means we are creative beings. When we allow ourselves to express that creativity in its various forms, we are paying homage and honoring His original design.


Amber Van Schooneveld is a writer, editor, wife, mom, nature lover, world traveler and follower of Jesus Christ. She is the author of Hope Lives: A Journey of Restoration and can be found online at ambervanschooneveld.com.

Photo credit: Alba Soler Photography via photopin cc

Logos giveaway: The Zondervan Theology Collection

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Logos Bible Softward has teamed up with a number of bloggers, including me, Lore Ferguson and a few others, to give away some of great resources. This month they’ve asked us to help give away Zondervan’s seven volume theology collection featuring:

  • The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way
  • Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know
  • The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism
  • For Calvinism
  • Against Calvinism
  • Hell under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment
  • A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters: The Word, the Christ, the Son of God

The winner will be chosen at random on August 1st and the collection will be sent to the winner’s Logos account. Don’t have an account? No problem! You can sign up for free here and download free apps to read your books on any device here.

How to Enter

Login below with your email address or Facebook account and follow the steps in the widget. That’s it! Each prompted action you follow will earn you additional entries. You can always come back and share a link to the giveaway with your friends for additional entries.

Note: By entering this giveaway you consent to being signed up to Logos’ “Product Reviews” email list. You’ll receive emails featuring content written by me and a few other Christian bloggers!