Around the Interweb (12/27)

Breaking Spiritual Strongholds

A new story from The Difference is Jesus.com:

Ajinta and her family worshipped Maran Buru and other spirits and performed witchcraft to bring prosperity to their home. But instead of prosperity, she found only strife. Sickness prevailed in her home and fights raged, despite their fervent prayers and the sacrifices they offered.

In times of illness, they went to witch doctors to perform the rituals of calling upon spirits for recovery. Their lives revolved around sickness and fear. Instead of being delivered from their plight, Ajinta and Bablu, her husband, only found more tension.


In other news 

Andy Naselli on hermeneutics

The Wonder of Apple’s Tablet (via Josh Harris)

What Do David and Saul Have to Do With Christmas?

Tim Challies and Luke Muehlhauser are exchanging letters on faith. It’s pretty interesting so far.


In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Republishing Charles Spurgeon’s “The First Christmas Carol:” Part one | Part two | Part three

A short film on whether or not the Christmas story really happened

Win a copy of John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life

Around the Interweb (12/13)

Tim Challies: The Next Story (His Next Book)

Tim Challies, the world’s most famous Christian blogger and author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment announced his next book this week.

The working title: The Next Story. The publisher: Zondervan.

True story. Here’s what Tim had to say:

Since I wrote The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment I’ve often been asked the obvious question: what next? That’s a good question, of course. I have deliberately been biding my time. I’ve been in no real hurry to jump into my next project. A few ideas have come and gone, but none have been intriguing or original enough that I’ve wanted to dedicate a year of my life to them. The commitment to a certain topic is really a commitment to spend at least six months reading and writing about it and then a further six months (at minimum) doing interviews about it, speaking about it, preaching about it, and so on. The last thing I wanted to do was find a topic that would bore me and leave me dreading it.

[...] The book’s working title is The Next Story. I’m really pleased with the title, but it does have a downside in that it is remarkably difficult to pronounce (try saying it out loud). It is a book about technology in general and digital technology in particular. Even the least technical among us are being pressed from all sides by technology. Like it or not, we rely upon it in unprecedented ways. Many people feel that they are analog creatures in a digital world. Christians are beginning to awaken to this reality and are trying to think critically and biblically about many new realities brought about by technological developments. Yet, there are few helpful and sympathetic voices for those who wish to do so but have no idea how. I’m hoping to fill this gap, creating a book that will help Christians think well about technology. I do not intend to discuss Facebook and Twitter and whatever will be big and popular next month. I want to discuss technology in the bigger picture so that the book will be applicable today, tomorrow and ten years from now.

If all goes well, the book will be published in hardcover in the spring of 2011. And it will be published by Zondervan. I’m guessing that this will be a surprise to a few people. Frankly, it is a bit of a surprise to me. But in the end it was clear that Zondervan had the best all-around offer, from the financial, to the marketing, to the audience. Zondervan will take the book to a whole new audience, I’m convinced, and will work hard to help me find interesting speaking opportunities. They put together a fantastic proposal and I had no hesitations in signing on with them.

This is very exciting news and I’m thrilled for both Tim and Zondervan (and a very wise move on Zondervan’s part).  I’ve no doubt that he’ll bring the same thoughtfulness to this book as he did his first.

Look for The Next Story in 2011.


In Other News

Molly Piper cordially invites you to break your heart

Kevin DeYoung on The Christian Century and the New Calvinism

Michael Hyatt believes the SI Tablet might be the end of book publishing as we know it (and he’s excited!)

Trevin Wax reminds us that contextualization goes both ways


In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Andy Deane’s very helpful book, Learn to Study the Bible

Building Christmas traditions with my family

Ed Stetzer points us to a study on the effects of pornography

Friday Funnies: The Ultimate Christian Novel

Yesterday, Tim Challies’ writing career took a dramatic turn as he shared his idea for the ultimate Christian novel:

Cassidy: Amish Vampiress of the Tribulation

No, your eyes do not deceive you. It’s an Amish Vampire Romance novel set in the end-times.

“It’s an Amish novel; it’s a vampire novel; it’s an end-times novel. It’s the best of all worlds,” wrote Challies.

Here’s Tim’s back cover text:

He is handsome. He is romantic. He is Amish.

Twenty-three year old Cassidy lives a simple life in the Amish countryside of Lancaster County. Simple, that is, until Slade Byler moves into the old Lapp farm. Cassidy finds herself irresistibly drawn to the handsome Slade; but she fears to share the secret that she alone knows. For Cassidy is an immortal, a princess in the long line of ancient Amish vampires. Will Slade’s love grow cold when he learns this great secret? Can she give to him a heart that does not beat?

Meanwhile, the strength of the Antichrist grows as he consolidates his power and seeks to destroy the peace-loving people of Pennsylvania. A blossoming romance unfolds between Cassidy and Slade as the world around them changes forever. They must fight to stay alive, they must fight to keep their forbidden love a secret, but, as Amish, they must not fight at all.

In this irresistible tale of intrigue and adventure, set against global upheaval, the bonnet meets the cape in a story sure to span the ages.

The “excerpt” from the novel is spectacular as well (you can click through to read it).

But you know what makes this even more awesome?

The reaction:

I have received [genuine] publication offers for “Cassidy: Amish Vampiress of the Tribulation.” It’s not exactly how I saw my career going.
(via Twitter)

Congratulations, Tim–Take one of those offers up and put your kids through college!

Sunday Shorts (11/08)

Free Audiobook at ChristianAudio.com: Desiring God

This month, Christian Audio is offering John Piper’s classic work, Desiring God, as it’s free-audio book of the month. Use the coupon code NOV2009 when purchasing.

From the publisher’s description:

Scripture reveals that the great business of life is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. In this paradigm-shattering classic, newly revised and expanded, John Piper reveals that the debate between duty and delight doesn’t truly exist: Delight is our duty. Join him as he unveils stunning, life impacting truths you saw in the Bible but never dared to believe.

Prayerlessness is Unbelief

A post well worth reading from Kevin DeYoung:

Prayer is essential for the Christian, as much for what it says about us as for what it can do through God. The simple act of getting on our knees (or faces or feet or whatever) for 5 or 50 minutes every day is the surest sign of our humility and dependence on our Father in heaven. There may be many reasons for our prayerlessness—time management, busyness, lack of concentration—but most fundamentally, we ask not because we think we need not. or we think God can give not. Deep down we feel secure when we have money in the bank, a healthy report from the doctor, and powerful people on our side.  We do not trust in God alone. Prayerlessness is an expression of our meager confidence in God’s ability to provide and of our strong confidence in our ability to take care of ourselves without God’s help.

Introducing 10 Million Words

Christian blogger extraordinaire Tim Challies has started another blog over at The Gospel Coalition. But here’s the twist—Tim will be reading and reviewing every non-fiction hardcover on the New York Times bestseller’s list in 2010. Here’s what Tim had to say:

My wife thinks I’m a little bit crazy, I’m sure of it. During eleven years of marriage I’ve done a lot of things that have led her to roll her eyes and sigh. I guess she is getting used to it, though, because even she is interested in what I am planning to do in 2010. I plan to read all of the New York Times bestselling books over the course of the whole year. Do the math and you’ll see that this will come in at somewhere around 10 million words.

And Introducing…

This week, my wife and I learned some exciting news: We’ll be welcoming another little girl to our family in March/April (depending on when Emily goes into labor). We’ve been keeping the pregnancy somewhat under wraps until now, but I want to introduce you to my soon-to-be-born daughter:

BabyGirl

See you soon, Rutabaga Applesauce. (Please pray that we would find the right name for this child.)

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Book Review: “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, reviewing J.I. Packer’s classic defense of the Evangelical view of Scripture

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Temptation, kicking off a new Saturday series representing George Whitefield’s sermon on Genesis 3:15 (the first gospel)

By Grace Alone, telling my story of how I became a Christian

The Gospel-less “Gospel,” looking at Christianity Today’s short documentary on the prosperity “gospel” and it’s impact in Ghana.

Sunday Shorts (11/01)

Don’t Waste Your Life: New Desktop Backgrounds

Desiring God has just released a slew of new desktop backgrounds over at Don’tWasteYourLife.com. Here’s a couple:

dwyl2-jesus-saves
Treasuring Christ Above All Things


Tim Challies: Sexual Detox

Last week, Tim Challies ran a thought-provoking and challenging series directed toward young men about sex and, in particular sexual detoxification. I’d highly recommend this series to any man (and woman for that matter) who struggles with, or has struggled with, issues of lust and pornography. It’s well worth your time.

Part 1: Pornifying the Marriage-Bed
Part 2: Breaking Free
Part 3: A Theology of Sex
Part 4: Detoxification
Part 5: Freedom
Recommended Resources


Tullian Tchividjian: How to Identify a Reliable Preacher

Tullian Tchvidjian shows us how we can identify a reliable preacher with five questions based on the five solas of the Reformation:

Question 5 (Sola Deo Gloria): Does the preacher exalt God above all? A reliable explainer will always lead you to marvel at God. A true carrier of God’s truth will always lead you to encounter the glory of God. A God-centered teacher is just that: God-centered. He will preach and teach in such a way that you find yourself hungering and thirsting for God. You will listen to sermon after sermon and walk away with grand impressions of Divine personality, not grand impressions of human personality.

HT: Trevin Wax

Ligonier Ministries’ Relaunching Ligonier.org

Ligonier Ministries has been hard at work revamping their online presence and the new site looks pretty snazzy. Very reminiscent of The Gospel Coalition and a few others.

Check it out for yourself.


In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Where the Wild Things Are, working through my unsettled feelings toward the new movie

Called to Worship, reviewing Vernon Whaley’s book on developing a biblical foundation for worship

A Decisive Act: The 95 Theses, presenting the work that ultimately led to the Protestant Reformation

A Fallacious View of Providence, J.I. Packer on the root issue of two common objections to the Evangelical view of the inspiration of Scripture

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

spiritual-discernment-challies

Tim Challies is a well-known name among the Christian blogosphere. Challies provides readers with insightful and sometimes provocative articles daily at Challies.com, as well as snippits of interesting stories around the internet. But he is perhaps best known for his controversial review of the equally controversial book, The Shack (his review can be read here), a review that shows us why he is more than qualified to write on the topic of discernment, which he does quite ably in The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.

So why write a book on discernment? Do we really need a book on this subject?

Challies answers that question right away: Yes!

We live in a culture where “anything goes” is the epitomé of all wisdom, even in the church. This book is written for those who look at all that is said and done and ask the hard question, “how can this be right?”; for all who (rightly) “believe it is the duty of every Christian to think bibically about all areas of life so that they might act biblically in all areas of life” (p. 16).

Why does discernment matter? Because God values it and honors those who seek it. It is:

  1. A sign of spiritual life: “Those who fear the Lord, those who know God, must be discerning, for God himself is the very source of discernment… Those who know the Lord and have been brought into his kingdom of light will do their utmost to seek God’s will in discerning what is pleasing to him” (p. 28)
  2. A sign of spiritual growth: “Jesus continually emphasized discernment during his ministry, sometimes scolding those who did not have it and sometimes commending those who did” (p. 28).
  3. A sign of spiritual maturity: “Christians who are mature are those who have exercised discernment and have learned how to distinguish good from evil” (p. 29).

What does a lack of discernment tell us about ourselves?
One of three things:

  1. We  spiritually immature (Heb. 5:11-14): Because we lack discernment, we confuse a childlike faith with a childish one. “We live in an age…where nay consider spiritual immaturity a mark of authenticity, and when people associate doubt with humility and assurance with pride… [I]f you are not a person who exhibits and exercises discernment, you are not a mature Christian” (p. 23).
  2. We are backslidden (Heb. 5:12-13): Our lack of discernment may also be a sign of a faith that is diminishing rather than increasing. “[A] person who regresses from solid food to milk is a person who is desperately unhealthy, and who will soon wither away and perish” (p. 25).
  3. We are spiritually dead (Rom. 1:28-32): To be undiscerning is found among the many sins listed in Romans 1:28-32, and provides a shocking indictment to our spiritual well-being. “An absolute lack of discernment or lack of concern for the discipline of discernment is a sure proof of spiritual death” (p. 27).

Chapter 2 describes the challenges of discernment, particularly in a time when a low view of Scripture and a low view of theology (which in many circles is treated as though it were a cuss-word) and a low view of God Himself are so pervasive. But we must stand firm because “while discernment is a difficult calling, it is one with ultimate benefits” (p. 51).

Chapter 3 defines discernment, with Challies providing and expounding upon the following (very helpful) definition: “Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong” (p. 61). It’s a mouthful, but it’s exceedingly practical. Discernment is not merely a mental assent to, but an applied understanding of God’s Word in every aspect of our lives.

Chapter 4 deals with the heart of discernment, appropriate judgment. There are things we cannot judge, which are things that are hidden such as motives, personal piety (the things only God can see) and matters of conscience. We must test and prove every aspect of our lives against the clear teachings of Scripture.

Chapter 5 brings to light the relationship between truth and discernment. “We can best know what is wrong by first knowing what is right” (p. 101). If we do not think rightly about God, we cannot live in a way that is consistent with His will. We must seek to know the Scriptures and His character as presented therein.

Chapter 6 explores determining God’s will for our lives. Challies tells us that “we do not need to wait for a prophetic voice or inner promptings or a vision to guide us…We obey the will of God as it is revealed to us in the Bible and thus have confidence that we are doing the will of God” (pp. 115-116). We are not to make decisions based on God’s hidden will, but His revealed will. “Discerning God’s will…is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating right from wrong” (p. 117).

Regarding the spiritual gift of discernment, Challies reminds us that “[e]ven though not everyone has been given the spiritual gift of discernment, we are all to pursue this discipline” (p. 137). Those who have the gift of discernment are to use it to serve the Body of Christ, separating truth from error and discerning whether something originates from God or Satan.

Next, we find the dangers of discernment. “Spiritual discernment is a matter of the heart, and must be done with a pure heart and for pure motives” (p. 152). For many, discernment can be a trap that causes us to witch-hunt, speak the truth without love, and be consumed with learning all we can about evils of which we should seek to remain innocent.

Chapter 9 describes how we must develop discernment—through a spiritual posture of teachability and training, alongside other believers. “Those who wish to be discerning…must commit to reading and studying the Bible, to participating in the local church, and to pursuing the character traits of a Christian. The lives of these people will display the proof of discernment in their obedience to the Bible and in their maturity as Christians” (p. 162).

Finally, Challies provides 17 steps in the practice of discernment. We learn to discern by seeking to verify, clarify, and assess the issues of a particular teaching or statement. We pray, assess our instinct, and our consciences. We search the Scriptures & observe the Scriptures. We compare and contrast, research and summarize. We expand on our research, write a conclusion, and make a list on a subject’s points of agreement with truth. We then judge whether to abstain or hold fast, then apply it to our lives, either integrating new biblical teaching or substituting false doctrine with biblical truth. “When a doctrine is false, we flee from it and substitute instead what is good. When a doctrine is true and pure, we cling to it and rejoice in it” (p. 182).

So that gives you an idea of the content of the book. The next question is: How did I find this book profitable, and how am I applying it?

As one should expect from a book on this subject, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment is packed with Scripture. Challies not only uses a lot of Scripture to support his arguments, he uses it well and with humility. In doing so, he shows himself to be someone worth listening to, as he practices what he preaches.

I found the book to be incredibly convicting and challenging, in part because I don’t know that I’ve always really understood the full implications of a lack of discernment. It’s safe to say that we all know people in our churches and (likely) families who are not terribly discerning, nor do they necessarily care to be. This fueled an increased desire to help protect those who are less discerning, but to do so with grace. It’s not easy to do, and too often, because I tend to be particularly blunt, I am seen as less than gracious at times.

I particularly found the dangers of discernment to be eye-opening because they are things that I have been guilty of, particularly extending guilt by association (if Pastor so-and-so reads this book and quotes from this teacher, then he must be a heretic). This is a tricky thing because on the one hand, we should not judge too harshly or too quickly, but we also need to be sure that we’re turning to teachers that are of good character and biblically sound. This, again, is an area on which I was convicted as, at least in my experience, it’s fueled by nothing more than pride. I have been slowly learning that I need to be very cautious about coming to a conclusion about any particular author or teacher. That doesn’t mean that I excuse wrong teaching, it just means that I need to not be quick to go shooting someone without doing my homework (ie examining what they say against Scripture).

What I appreciatd most about this book is the admonishment that all true, pure and excellent doctrine will point to Jesus.

This is really the key to discerning false teaching from true: Who is ultimately glorified? Is it Jesus or man? If it’s man, then we must reject it. If it’s Jesus who is glorified, then we must joyfully embrace it.

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment is a much-needed call for Christians to be discerning in every area of their lives. It is my hope that as you read this book, you will find it edifying and profitable.

Sunday Shorts (07/12)

John Piper: What is God’s Glory?

How to Be Relevant 500 Years from Now

Kevin DeYoung wrote a wonderful post on the celebration of John Calvin’s birthday and why nearly 500 years after his death, his legacy remains:

Calvin’s confidence was not in man’s potential or the triumph of the human spirit… Calvin’s confidence was in the Word of God, and that’s why his theology and vision of the world continues to capture the minds and hearts of people in the 21st century. That’s why five hundred years later we remember his birth. That’s why Calvin the preacher and expositor has millions more spiritual children than Erasmus the scholar and hermeneutical skeptic. Strive for relevance in your day, and you’ll may make a difference for a few years. Anchor yourself in what is eternal and you may influence the world for another five centuries.

Go, spend about 5-10 minutes reading this article. It’s well worth your time.

The God Who Gives Strength as Needed: An Interview with Terry Stauffer

Tim Challies interviews Pastor Terry Stauffer about how God and strong Gospel Theology has strengthened his family since his daughter’s murder in September, 2008. Normally I don’t include large excerpts, here’s Tim’s introduction:

On September 28, 2008, I was shocked to read these words on the blog of Terry Stauffer, a man I had met at a couple of conferences and who has long been a reader and commenter at my blog: “Last night at about 4:45 our precious 14 year-old daughter Emily was attacked and killed as she was out for a walk. We don’t know a lot of details, but we know that two young men came upon the scene right away, but it was too late for Emily. I will write more as more details come available. Please pray for us, for our church family who are meeting without us right now, and for family that is travelling. We are realizing from the inside the value of good, Gospel theology right now. ”

Terry is pastor of Edson Baptist Church in the small town of Edson, Alberta. Emily’s murder shocked this small town of less than 10,000 people—the kind of town where this crime is unheard of. I continued to follow Terry’s blog as he dealt with the aftermath—Emily’s funeral, national media attention, the arrest of a suspect and life following the loss of a child. Through it all, Terry’s faith strengthened me from afar. I recently asked Terry if he would be kind enough to participate in an interview and I am grateful that he was willing and able to do so. I offer this interview in the hope that it encourages you in the Lord who promises (and delivers) strength as strength is needed.

Read the entire interview at Challies.com

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Everyday Theology: “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves” Exploring if there’s any validity to the statement “God helps those who help themselves.”

The Cool Thing About a Genealogy… An important lesson from the genealogy of Jesus in Matt. 1:2-16.

Three Simple Letters Briefly examining one of the most important words in Scripture: BUT

Sunday Shorts (06/28)

Marvin Olasky: With Calvin in the Theater of God

Desiring God’s 2009 National Conference, With Calvin in the Theater of God, is coming up this September with an interesting line of speakers, including Marvin Olasky, editor of World Magazine.

Olasky has a very intriguing testimony, as you can see from this video:

You can learn more about the conference at DesiringGod.org.

Michael Jackson: A Tortured Existence

Tim Challies offers some thoughts on the recent death of Michael Jackson:

So the king is dead. What a sad end to a sad life; a pathetic end to a pathetic life (by which I mean to use pathetic in its true sense as “arousing pity and sympathy). I don’t know that I have ever seen, in one man, such a combination of self-love and self-loathing, shocking narcissism combined with equally shocking self-hatred. Truly Michael Jackson was unparalleled.

Read the rest at Challies.com.

Piper vs. Wright on Justification: A Layman’s Guide

Trevin Wax put together a handy layman’s guide to understanding the debate on justification between John Piper and NT Wright. A primer was recently featured in Christianity Today (you can also download it as a chart).

Trevin and Ted Olsen also co-wrote the article, “Not an Academic Question,” which let pastors sound off on how this theological debate influences their ministry.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Don’t Waste Your Life Jim thought he had everything, until…

Book Review: Pastor Dad Reviewing Mark Driscoll’s recent Father’s Day gift to all the men online

With Grace Comes Boldness The power of the gospel and sovereignty of Christ should inspire boldness

Sunday Shorts (06/14)

Josh Harris: My Run-in with Borat

A great story on the need for discernment:

Thoughts on Evangelical Superstardom

Kevin DeYoung offers a very insightful follow-up to John Piper’s recent article on Hero Worship v. Holy Emulation. Here’s an extremely important excerpt:

[D]on’t like someone just because others do, and don’t dislike someone just because others like him. Both are dangers in a celebrity culture. Some people wait on the corner just looking for bandwagons they can hop on. Others–the too cool for school crowd–have a dire fear of being a part of something popular. These folks decide to dislike an author or pastor or speaker or band or movie just because all their friends rave about them. I understand the reaction, but you don’t have to be a groupie to be edified. Don’t like Calvinism or Piper or Driscoll or whatever because it’s cool. And don’t be the cynical I-hate-labels, why-are-Christians-such-lemmings person either. Give thanks for godliness where you see it, the gospel where you hear it, and good examples when you can find them.

Read the whole article at Kevin’s blog.

The Perfect Technology

Tim Challies wrote this enjoyable article on why he feels books are the perfect technology:

…there is more to a book than its words. A book is an experience, and the experience includes the media through which we consume those words. Reading a book printed on paper, reading a book on a reading device and listening to a recording of a book are, at least in some way, different experiences.

Read the rest at Challies.com.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

The Persevering Prophet: I Know the Plans I Have for You Exploring the meaning of that famous coffee-cup verse, Jeremiah 29:11.

Book Review: Agape Leadership Reviewing spiritual leadership lessons from the life of RC Chapman.

Made in the Image of God: Choice How humanity images God through the ability to make choices

I Have No Words Zack Morris(!) appears on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I am shocked that Mark-Paul Gosselaar didn’t break character once.

Sunday Shorts (04/12)

Easter Sunday live from Mars Hill

Mars Hill Church in Seattle is live-streaming their Easter Sunday services. If you’re on the road and unable to celebrate with your church, or you’re just curious about what a Mars Hill service looks like, you can watch online at marshillchurch.org/live.

The Origins of the Easter Bunny

If you’ve ever wondered where the Easter bunny came from, The Resurgence has provided an interesting article.

Just Do Something!

Tim Challies provides a helpful review of Kevin DeYoung’s latest book, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will:

Kevin DeYoung takes on this challenge and succeeds admirably, crafting a short but powerful book that really packs a punch. His unique angle is reflected in the title: Just Do Something! “My goal,” he says, “is not as much to tell you how to hear God’s voice in making decisions as it is to hear God telling you to get off the long road to nowhere and finally make a decision, get a job, and perhaps, get married.” He fears that many Christians, because of their unbliblical understanding of knowing and doing the will of God, are wasting their lives doing nothing when they should just be doing, well, something! “I’d like us to consider that maybe we have difficulty discovering Gods wonderful plan for our lives because, if the truth be told, He doesn’t really intend to tell us what it is. And maybe we’re wrong to expect Him to.”

Piper on God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility