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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s deals of the week focus on the family:

Also on sale:

And several by C.S. Lewis:

Why the “third day”?

Mitchell Chase points us to “an overall pattern of incredible third-day events” in the Old Testament to better understand Jesus promise to rise on the third day.

The Most Neglected Part of Christ’s Saving Work

Nick Batzig:

In recent years, it has become more commonplace to hear certain theologians emphasize that the ascension and present reign of Christ are the most neglected aspects of His work of redemption; and, while there is great merit in highlighting the consequences of such a neglect of these precious truths, I have come to believe that the most neglected part of Christ’s saving work is actual what happened to Him in between His death and resurrection. The Apostle Paul put Jesus’ burial on par with His death and resurrection. When he spoke of the “Gospel” he did so by singling out the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. So what part does the burial of Jesus play in the work of redemption. Here are three significant features about His burial.

Say Goodbye to Lifeboat Theology

Tom Nelson:

In this theological perspective, God’s lifeboat plan of redemption is concerned only with the survival of his people. However noble and well-meaning our efforts to salvage God’s creation may be, at the end of the day, our work on this doomed earth only amounts to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

But God is deeply concerned with the crown of his fallen creation and has initiated a glorious plan of redemption through his Son Jesus. He has not abandoned this world.

Cancer Is a Parable About Sin

The Hymn of the Legalist

This is good (and smarts a bit).

The Story Behind The Song “I Stand In Awe”

Mark Altrogge:

Over the years, people have asked me how I wrote the song “I Stand in Awe.” I wish I had some jaw-dropping tale of how I was caught up to the third heaven and handed a scroll with the lyrics written in gold ink. Or at least that I was driving in my car and the song came into my mind in a flash of divine inspiration. No, my songwriting process is usually pretty pedestrian and mundane (slow and unimpressive).

Seven words you should never say to creatives

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There are certain words you should just never say.

My three-year-old son, for example, has yet to figure out that he should never say, “You get in the kitchen and get me some milk,” to his mother. Though he will. (I hope.)

Yes, my son is currently a misogynist. But like I said, we’re working on it. And the truth is, we grown-ups are just as bad. Sure, we usually aren’t declaring that a woman get back in the kitchen and make us some pie (if we’re sane); but we do say things we absolutely shouldn’t all the time. Things that, whether we realize it or not, are either insulting or just plain dumb. (And a pro-tip for gentlemen: If a woman is upset, for the love of all that is good and right and true, do not make any sort of comment about her reproductive cycle. It will not go well for you. And you look like a tool.)

For years, I worked as a graphic designer. And even though I stopped working as one almost eight years ago, I still work with graphic designers. And I work with writers and videographers. And the one thing I learned very early on was there are some things you should just never, ever say to any sort of creative individual.

If you say, for example, “This is what you’re giving me? I could’ve done that,” you’re likely not going to have a good day. And the person working for you will no longer be there within three months. But there are worse, although most are too crass to publish on a Christian blog. However, among the worst things you can say to any sort of creative individual are the following seven words:

“It will be great for your portfolio.”

As a designer, particularly in my early days, I heard this a lot. And what it means is not, “this will be a great boost for your career,” but “I’m cheap and don’t want to pay you.” An equivalent is that oft-heard promise to illustrators, “I’ve got a great idea for a children’s book; I can’t pay you now, but I’d be happy to split the royalties!” (This makes my wife’s eye twitch.)

And these are doubly damnable when they come from the lips of a professing Christian.

Christians tend to have a poor reputation among creatives—and usually it’s because we come across as cheap (and I know because I’ve experienced many a cheap client who happened to be a Christian). And this should never be. Christians should always strive to be generous in every way—not just in our giving to our churches and to charities, but in paying professionals what they’re worth. (And yes, that includes tipping your servers well, too.)

I’m thankful that, over the last several years with my current employer, I’ve seen them work hard to combat this stereotype. When we work with freelance creatives, we always do our best to pay fairly. It’s been rare when someone has said they can’t work with the budget we have, which is nice.

When I work on personal projects with independent creatives, and I know I don’t have what might be their standard rate available, I ask ahead of time what they can do with the money I do have. I’ve had some say they can’t do a project, and I’ve never been bothered by it (in fact, I greatly appreciate their honesty). I’ve had one or two surprise me by gifting me the project, even!

As a freelancing creative myself, I rarely have anyone mention this idea at this point. I just finished writing a magazine article for an organization that has a predetermined per word rate for writers—and it was a reasonable one, too! I’ve written for another organization that’s paid quite generously. And one of my favorite emails was one that said right up front, “We currently can’t pay for contributions, but here’s what we can offer…”

This, to my mind, is exactly what we should be doing. We should be up front and honest. We should be clear about what we’re asking for. And we should, at all costs, avoid any talk of “portfolio building”.

In the end, it really comes down to two things: honesty and integrity. Weasel-y talk of work being great for a portfolio lacks both. So please, unless your goal is to lose friends and alienate people, you should probably never, ever say this again.

 

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Yesterday, the Internet was going insane about llamas and a dress that changes color. My wife captures them both:

internet-hysteria

You’re welcome, Planet Earth. Now, on to $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond (Hardcover)
  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • The Spirit of Revival: Discovering the Wisdom of Jonathan Edwards (ePub)

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

More, But Not Less, Than a Carpenter

Tom Nelson:

I don’t know why I didn’t see it for so long, but one day as I was reading through the Gospel of Mark, I stumbled across a verse that stopped me dead in my tracks. In Mark 6, we are told that Jesus, who was spending his time as an itinerant rabbi, came back to Nazareth. The hometown crowd listened to Jesus teach in the synagogue, and they were stunned by their native son who was displaying such extraordinary wisdom and power. In their eyes Jesus was first and foremost a carpenter from Nazareth. Mark records the crowd exclaiming with a tone of incredulity, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3).

What Do You Really Want Your Church To Be Known For?

Stephen Altrogge:

I heard a story of a group of people who visited London in the time of Charles Spurgeon.  First they went to hear a famous preacher in another church. After they heard him they said, “What a preacher!” Then they went to Spurgeon’s church and heard him preach. After listening to Spurgeon they exclaimed “What a Savior!”

Recovering Joy In Seminary

David Murray:

A young man goes to Seminary bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Having sensed God’s call to the ministry, he’s not only excited about preparing for future service but also about growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. He expects that the next 3-4 years are going to be some of the best in his life.

Fast forward a semester or two, or three, and the eyes are dull and the tail is sagging and dragging. The excitement has evaporated, as he forces himself into classes each day. He’s not only lost his enthusiasm for ministry, at times he’s lost hope for his own soul. Instead of growing in grace and knowledge he feels his soul shrinking and even backsliding. Sadly, it’s an all-too-common scenario for many (most?) seminary students.

Icebergs of filth

In a stunning example of common grace at work, Russell Brand gets it right on the dangers of pornography:

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Am I supporting heresy?

Shaun Groves asks a very important question. Read this! (And if you’re wondering who “Ted” is, just Google one of the quotes.)

New book from Desiring God: Killjoys

Desiring God’s just released a new book on the seven deadly sins, Killjoys. Get the digital edition free or purchase a hardcopy at Amazon.

Top fonts of 2014

The recovering graphic designer in me found this fascinating.

How Should We Respond to Reports that a Fragment of Mark Dates to the First Century?

Justin Taylor:

How should we respond to something like this? I think it’s appropriate to be hopeful. As an evangelical, I believe the best historical evidence points to the New Testament gospels composed in the first century: Mark (mid- to late 50s), Matthew (50s or 60s), Luke (c.  58-60), John (mid- or late 80s or early 90s). If this discovery doesn’t pan out, it doesn’t effect my dating because the dating is not dependent upon the dating of manuscripts. If it does pan out—especially if it can be dated with confidence to the 80s—it would be a major discovery, because the oldest of anything is always noteworthy.

Why I Quit My Job

Chad Hall:

A huge myth is that people quit one job in order to earn more money elsewhere. While some people do that, they are in the minority. Most people choose to leave a job not because of profit, but because of purpose and people. Let’s define those terms.

An explanation of the covenants

This is an enjoyable video by the Bible Project (note: you probably won’t agree with some of the language used, but it’s nicely done nonetheless):

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Right now, Amazon’s got a whole pile of C.S. Lewis titles on sale:

Also on sale:

And during today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org, you’ll find a whole bunch of great options like:

  • Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation by Anthony Carter (hardcover)
  • The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God by Jonathan Edwards (ePub)
  • Luther and the Reformation teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (hardcover)
  • A Shattered Image teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

How to Use the Back of a Napkin to Prove to a Jehovah’s Witness That Jesus Is God

Justin Taylor shares this simple method from Greg Koukl. Solid gold.

Open borders, closed church?

Great story on the implications of renewed diplomatic and trade relations between the US and Cuba:

How will the spiritual climate change now? Possibly a lot. Although only Congress can fully lift the Cuban embargo, Obama’s actions will lift bans on most investment and travel between the nations—unleashing unprecedented economic opportunities for impoverished Cubans.

Marriage in Light of Forever

This interview with the Chans is well worth reading (as is their book on marriage that isn’t a book on marriage!).

The Sacred-Secular Divide Is Pure Fiction

Bethany Jenkins, quoting Martin Luther:

It is pure invention [fiction] that pope, bishops, priests, and monks are called the “spiritual estate” while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the “temporal estate.” This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimated by it, and for this reason: all Christians are truly of the “spiritual estate,” and there is no difference among them except that of office. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 that we are all one body, yet every member has its own work by which it serves the others. This is because we all have one baptism, one gospel, one faith, and are all Christians alike; for baptism, gospel, and faith alone make us spiritual and a Christian people.

Is Worry Always A Sin?

Josh Blount:

Is that all the Bible teaches on worry: just stop it? That’s a simple answer, but it doesn’t map well onto the complexities of life. If your spouse is seriously ill and you’re not concerned, or if your child’s salvation means no more to you than tomorrow’s weather forecast, something is wrong. Worry goes right along with compassion and genuine love. The same Paul who wrote “Do not be anxious” also said of he faced “the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). He loved his churches, and that love carried with it the pressure of anxiety for their welfare. And in Philippians, before he commands us not to be anxious, Paul commends Timothy because he is “genuinely concerned” for the welfare of the Philippians (Phil. 2:20), using the same word for concern/anxiety that he uses in 4:6. So which is it: a sin, or something commendable?

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a whole whack of new Kindle deals for you:

Now is also a good time to preorder a couple of new books: It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News by Tullian Tchividjian (with Nick Lannon) for $8.75 and The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption by Matt Chandler (with Jared C. Wilson) for $7.99.

How to Capture People’s Stupidity and Profit from It Online

Cray Allred:

We all know that you can start a wildfire on social media, and that posting something online is more or less a permanent action. We may be thankful that some of our dumber moments are as yet uncovered, forgotten or deleted without causing any uproar among our friends. We don’t like to acknowledge that those posts just might be getting spread by total strangers, right now, to thousands and thousands of people, without our knowledge.

Harboring hatred, lust, or envy for someone internally is defined as sin that parallels the outward forms of murder, adultery, and theft. This denies any pretense that being cruel to someone where they can’t see it is somehow excusable.There is a growing trend of what I want to call online “hidden bullying.” Off-line, it’s common and typically harmless to witness something strange (or worse) from a stranger in public, and to then relay the weird details to a friend. If a guy with a bowl haircut throws a tantrum at a restaurant, my wife is going to know about it when I get home. We have an abundance of these moments that have been passed around (and likely exaggerated) and stored in our memories, a humorous collection of the guy that did x or the woman that said y–characters we know, but wouldn’t recognize on the street. When the same thing happens online, however, the effect is amplified, and the face and name stay with the story.

5 Ugly Qualities of the Anti-Elder

Tim Challies:

It is tragic but undeniable: There are many, many people in positions of church leadership who should not be in positions of church leadership. There are many pastors who should not be pastors, many elders who have no business being elders.

This is not a new problem. In the pages of the New Testament both Paul and Peter labor to describe the man who is qualified to the office of elder. It is noteworthy that almost all of these qualifications are related to character. Where we are drawn to outward skill, God cares far more for inward character. There are millions of men who are great teachers and great leaders and great C.E.O.’s, but still completely unsuited to leadership in the church. God’s standards are very, very different.

‘My Work Is More Important than Yours,’ So We All Say

Bethany Jenkins:

Public school districts in the United States do not prioritize dance over, say, math. This is not, however, a mere accident of history. The current education system arose out of the industrial revolution as a means to supply factories with a skilled and literate workforce. Since this economy did not value all talents equally, though, subjects useful to industrial work were prioritized over “less important” work. Today, this hierarchy remains. “At the top are mathematics and languages,” Robinson says, “then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts.”

This is a false hierarchy because the arts and math—though obviously different in their economic contributions—are equally valuable in God’s oikonomia. They engage different parts of who we are—math engages our scientific, analytical, and logical reason, while the arts help us to socially, emotionally, and morally connect with others, including God. See the psalms and David’s use of poetry and music, for example, to awaken his heart to God.

If George Lucas made Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Someone decided to have some fun with the trailer for the new Star Wars movie:

HT: Aaron

Rising Above a Toxic Workplace

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I have a hard time imagining what it’s like to work in a “healthy” workplace. I mean, I know they exist. I even have friends who work in places they absolutely love. But I’ve worked in more unhealthy ones than not. And some have been downright toxic. Like, hearing the owner of a company I worked for curse a blue streak at my supervisor repeatedly. (Did I mention they lived together, too? Yeah, I worked in a soap opera.)

If Rising Above a Toxic Workplace is any indication, it seems as though my experience isn’t as out of the ordinary as I thought. In fact, according to Gallup, “seven of ten US workers are either ‘going through the motions’ or flat-out hate their jobs” (11). Thousands of people dread going to work every morning, wondering if they can survive another day, or if today will be the day they say “when” and resign. It’s to these people that authors Gary Chapman, Paul White and Harold Myra primarily write this book, providing insight, encouragement and practical strategies for survival. What they’ll find are numerous stories of men and women just like them who have faced the choice of how to cope—and when to quit.

Toxic bosses aren’t necessarily evil—they’re just over their heads

What these stories (which comprise the vast majority of the book) help us see are the choices before us. Consider Melanie’s story of a coworker who was a victim of the Peter Principle—a cheeky description of one who “keeps getting promoted till they reach the level of their incompetence. Often they are promoted into positions of power without the skills to exercise [it]” (29).

Melanie’s colleague, Brenda, was one of these. When she was promoted, Brenda became ornery and “even nasty… She was losing our respect,” Melanie said (29). She would pick a staff member and harass her, and this continued until Melanie finally had enough and told her “I love my job here, and I like you as a person, but I can’t respect you as a boss. I’m no longer going to sacrifice my life here” (30). And so she quit.

But what’s especially helpful in Melanie’s story is the question that arises from it: although Melanie’s husband suggested that Brenda had an evil streak, it might have been just as likely that she simply had no clue how to do her job. When people are overwhelmed, they perform out of their weaknesses, rather than their strengths. Thus, when a person with limited or no leadership skills is elevated to a management position, he or she is doomed to fail. This doesn’t excuse the behavior, by any means, but it should help us consider our responses to these people.

I once knew a man who was Peter Principled; he was a nice guy, fairly decent at the job he had, but he wasn’t someone I would ever have considered a leader. He just wasn’t wired that way. Yet, he wound up in a position he was completely ill-suited for. I knew the moment I heard about it he wouldn’t last. And he didn’t—the job crushed him.

Why do I share that, and why do I find Melanie’s story so helpful? Because it’s a reminder that we should have sympathy even for bad bosses. Very often they’re not bad people; they’ve just over their heads.

We also need to remember that churches and non-profits are just as susceptible as any other organization to becoming toxic. “Appeals to ‘the cause’ create pressures to conform to unhealthy codes. Poisons in ministry culture range from subtle fumes that slowly sicken to flames that scorch. Some workers suffer quietly for years while other get fired” (54). (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

Learning from toxic bosses and cultures

As depressing as reading so many stories of toxic environments can be, we can also learn much from their example.

First, as the authors point out in a survival strategy: toxic work environments naturally make people frustrated and angry. And if we’re not careful, we can become bitter. And bitterness will only make us toxic, too. We need to “find ways to nurture [our] inner reserves and gain perspective. Develop toughness, but resist embittered resentments” (35). We can’t “let bad leadership start to sour [ours].”

Second is to consider what’s right. When the opportunity for a promotion comes our way (if it happens), we need to consider:

  • Am I actually the right person for the job?
  • Has God wired me for this sort of work?
  • Do I have the necessary character and gifts?

Just because an opportunity comes our way, it doesn’t mean we need to say yes. For the good of our colleagues, organizations, families and selves, sometimes the best thing we can do is say “no.”

Finally, we need to remember that our workplace—whether we work in a church, charity, or multinational conglomerate—are all susceptible to having toxic cultures, and we are all responsible for how we contribute. Through our actions, we will either spread the toxicity, or we can can be a voice for health.

Being part of healthy change is probably the hardest. In fact, it’s much easier to continue on in patterns that tear down, rather than build up. And in some organizations, the healthiest thing we can do is leave. I know many people who have done this. But sometimes the hardest thing—staying and fighting for change, either until it happens or they get sick of you and you get fired—is the right thing to do. It’s risky, but sometimes the risk is right.

Helpful tools for gaining insight and developing a plan for change

Rising Above a Toxic Workplace is one of the business culture books you see all-too-rarely: one that actually talks about the problems in a workplace as though they’re problems by speaking to the people most affected by them. Whether your organization is healthy or toxic, and whether you are a leader or a staff member, this book will offer you many useful tools to help you see where you and your culture are at and develop a plan for change.


Title: Rising Above a Toxic Workplace: Taking Care of Yourself in an Unhealthy Environment
Authors: Gary Chapman, Paul White, and Harold Myra
Publisher: Northfield Publishing/Moody Publishers (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Although not strictly a Kindle deal, here’s a great deal from Christian Audio and Cruciform Press. For a limited time, you can get the audio edition of Jerry Bridges’ excellent little book, Who Am I? free (and read by Alistair Begg to boot!). You can also get the eBook editions of this book and four others for $12.98 (or $3.99 each).

On sale at Amazon, however…

Four Ways Getting The Gospel Right Ain’t Enough

Matthew Sims:

Christianity centers on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is doctrinal precision all we need to get gospel right? Can getting the technical aspects alone save you? Or is there more?

You can get the content of the gospel right, but still miss the gospel. Here are four ways getting the gospel right ain’t enough.

The Progressive Evangelical Package

Derek Rishmawy:

It’s no secret that Reformed Christians have built their own wing of the internet where they spend their time chatting among themselves … The progressive Evangelicals now have their own wing, though, ostensibly with an emphasis on diversity and a marked aversion to foreclosing conversations or policing boundaries. The idea that there is a strict standard, a party line you have to toe in order to be a part of the club, is supposed to be foreign to the Progressive internet’s ethos. That’s for the heresy-hunting, conservative builders of Evangelical empire, after all, rather than the “radically inclusive” prophets of a more Christ-like faith. Unlike their conservative counterparts, Progressives follow a Jesus who came to tear down the walls that divide, not put new doctrinal ones back up.

Those are the stereotypes, at least. But it’s increasingly difficult to maintain this picture if we take a look at the actual situation on the ground.

5 Benefits Of Having A Challenging Teen

Mark Altrogge:

…doing all the right things doesn’t change the heart. The Lord is the only one who saves and changes people, not all our practices and effort, as good as they may be. Having a difficult teen causes us to grow in dependence on God – to cry out to the Lord in prayer, to seek him for mercy and grace and wisdom. It drives us to his Word, to seek out his promises. It causes us to grow in faith and trust in the Lord to work in our child.

5 Reasons Why There Are No Millennials in Your Church

Chris Martin offers his take on why Millennials aren’t attending church.

The Lethal Drug in Your Dream Job

Marshall Segal:

Success at work will play god and make promises to you that it cannot and will not keep. Success promises to fill holes in our hearts. If you only ascend this high or accumulate this much, your fears and insecurities will be resolved once for all. Success promises the love of those around us. They will finally give you the respect and affection you crave. Success says it can cover everything wrong about us. It offers esteem, control, and security — everything we surrendered in our sin. It wears the savior’s costume and presents itself the strong, charming, and trustworthy hero.

But success is a horrible hero, and an even worse god.

The courage to take a risk

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I spent the bulk of last week in Chicago for Story, a conference for those who are engaged in the creative world—storytellers, musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers, among others. I went to this event a couple years ago and found it… weird, but interesting, and a bit scattered in its message. This time around, it had its elements of pretension—the standard “You are creative and the world needs you!” type stuff—but it wasn’t all rah-rah this time. Instead, I noticed a pretty consistent theme come through all the speakers’ addresses: this idea of courageous creativity.

What do I mean by that? Being willing to take risks—real risks. Being willing to try something and fail.

This is something few of us are good at. In fact, it’s not something I’m entirely sure I know how to do. Working in the non-profit world, where we deal with money entrusted to us by donors, it sometimes feels as though we can’t afford to try something and have it fail. We can’t really take risks, which means we can’t really innovate.

Or so we think.

I wonder, though, how much would change for us if someone just said these five words: “You are free to fail”?

Would we be more willing to take risks? To experiment?

To maybe even have a little fun with our work?

And moving beyond creative work, consider how these words affect our relationship with God. Just as many of us who work in the non-profit world believe failure isn’t an option, many of us believe the same thing about following Jesus? That if we’re not “all-rise” in our approach to the Christian faith—always more baptisms, more bums in seats, more services—we’re blowing it?

Why do we keep forgetting that, although we will always progress on our march to holiness, it’s going to be of a stumbling, faltering sort? That there is a sense in which we are told in the gospel, we are free to fail? Not in a way that minimizes or blesses sin, but in the sense that it’s our failures more than our successes that we see our need for Christ—and God uses to shape us into the image of Christ?

This, too, requires courage. A kind of courage we too easily set aside for the sake of appearances. We want to be seen as godly, without actually wanting to take the risks associated with becoming godly. Confessing sin is a risk. Repenting of sin requires courage. But the reward—while it may never be fully seen in this world—makes the risk worth it, doesn’t it?

Let’s do some catalytic visioneering… and stuff!

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I have to be honest: I really, really miss the days when leaders were cool with just being called managers or leaders. You know, when people weren’t adding qualifiers to boost their self-importance self-esteem?

Today, instead of being managers, we’re leaders. But not just leaders, catalytic leaders. Visionary leaders with fireworks shooting out our rear-ends with every decision we make. (And not just because of the Taco Bell we ate at lunch.)

We get it, okay? You’re a big deal. You’ve got people skills, dag-nabbit!

But could you maybe shut up about it?

There’s a problem in leadership circles when you have to declare yourself a catalytic, visionary such-and-such with mad woo skills (which is just as creepy as it sounds). The problem is simple: you’re clearly not one.

Your vision is seen in what you’ve accomplished, not by what you say you’re doing.

Your ability to move people to action is less important than what action you’re calling them to.

Your charisma is less important than your character.

Who are we trying to kid, honestly? The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s ourselves.

We want to be seen as important. We want to be seen as big deals. We have a brand to uphold and promote, after all. We want to matter… because, well, we are deeply insecure. We are unsure of our ability to lead faithfully, so we mask it in bravado. We are insecure in our relationship with Christ, so we look to our performance for comfort.

But it’s a little bit like a foodie blog operated by someone who only knows how to make Kraft Dinner. The disconnect is often obvious to everyone but us.

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth,” says Proverbs 27:2, “a stranger, and not your own lips.” There’s a reason the Lord inspired these wise words. When we praise ourselves, we reveal our insecurity.

But, brothers (and sisters, too!), we do not need to be insecure. The fruits of our labors will be apparent to all in time, if they are not already. And in time, if the fruit is good, the lips of another will praise our efforts. So we don’t need to!

Leader, let another praise you. Worry less about calling yourself a catalyst or a visionary. Vision and charisma is fleeting, and your security is not in those things anyway.


Photo credit: Pulpolux !!! via photopin cc

Three warning signs I’m too busy

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These days I’ve been feeling pretty distracted. Pulled in a lot of directions. Focus hasn’t been coming easily to me. I’ve spent the last two months working more than I should, although with good reason, which help that whole “work/life balance” thing. I periodically go through seasons like this, where—either because of external factors or my own tendency to take on too much—I find myself with waaaaaaaaaay too much on my plate.

So how do I know when I’ve gotten there? Here are three signs that usually clue me in:

1. Reduced sleeping time. While I’ve always been a six or seven hours a night guy (which is barely considered healthy), when I am too busy, it’s really not good. It usually starts with bedtime getting pushed back just a bit later. And then a bit later. And then a bit later again.… And then the morning starts coming earlier. And a little earlier than that. And then a little earlier than that. And then consistent sleep becomes elusive, to the point that I’m waking up periodically throughout the night, getting maybe 2 hours of sleep in a row… and only four to five hours of sleep total.

2. Forgetfulness. Because I’m trying to do too much, I start forgetting things. At first it starts small, like forgetting a piece of a conversation, but it escalates from there. This one is probably the most frustrating for my wife, even more than my occasional irritability, because it is so disruptive to our daily lives.

3. Unfocused reading. Honestly, this is the sign that almost always clues me in. When I’m way too busy, I can’t focus easily. And because I can’t focus, reading just one book becomes challenging. So I start a book… and then I start another. And then another. And then another… and before you know it, I’ve got up to 12 on the go. Which is dumb.

It’s also where, I realized this week, I’m at. I’ve been way too busy lately. But I have a hard time realizing it. This is, in part, because one of the ways I unwind is by… working. When I’m not working at my day job, I’m writing a blog post, or working on a documentary script, or a book proposal or doing some marketing consulting work.

(My wife likes to joke that my hobbies are jobs.)

For me creative outlets—which usually come in the form of work—help me unwind.

But when I’m not careful, when my employer’s needs increase during a particularly busy season for example, even the things that help me unwind can actually add to my feeling of being way too busy.

At this point in an article like this, it’s typical to include the “and here’s what I’m doing to change all that.” Well, I’ve got some bad news: I don’t have anything profound to say on that. I can only give the first step: recognizing the problem. But that’s probably the most important one because if you don’t see the problem—if you don’t know how to recognize the warning signs—you won’t be able to work toward finding a solution.


Photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc

Accidental double agents in the pulpit

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You have heard it said, “Pray like a Calvinist and work like an Arminian”—or, “pray as though everything depended on God, but work as though everything depended on you.”

But I tell you, this silly nonsense should never be heard coming from the lips of a consistent Evangelical Protestant.

Ever.

The reason is simple: aside from being stupid, it’s heresy.1

This realization hit me as I continued my trek through Bruce Shelley’s wonderful Church History in Plain Language. There, as he writes about the founding of the Jesuit order, the Catholic Counterreformation, and the Council of Trent, he explains:

Luther, Calvin, and Grebel stressed salvation by grace alone; the council emphasized grace and human cooperation with God to avoid, in [Ignatius of] Loyola’s terms, “the poison that destroys freedom.” “Pray as though everything depended on God alone;” Ignatius advised, “but act as though it depended on you alone whether you will be saved.” (Kindle location 5346)

One should quickly and easily see the problem with this kind of thinking.2 Whether we’re using this concept in thinking about our own growth in godliness, encouragement to fellow believers, or in ministry to the lost, it is a failure to recognize that everything does depend on God, both in prayer and in practice.

Praying as though everything depends on God is right and true—but we also must work as though everything depends upon Him. Because everything does.

This is the truth of Philippians 2:12-13—that, as we work, God works through us. This is the reality of John 15:5—if we abide in Christ, we will bear much fruit. But apart from Him, we can do nothing. This is the fact of John 14:12—that we who believe will do the works Jesus does!3

There is no dependence upon us to get things done. God is not passive. Nor is He is impotent.

We work, knowing that it is God who works through us. We are instruments in the hands the master craftsmen, and joyfully so!

A cute soundbyte makes for a memorable quote, but if we don’t think about our words, we may also be acting as accidental double agents in the pulpit.


Photo credit: Normand Desjardins Café•Moka Personnel/Personal via photopin cc

Links I like

“One anothers” I can’t find in the New Testament

Ray Ortlund:

The kind of God we really believe in is revealed in how we treat one another.  The lovely gospel of Jesus positions us to treat one another like royalty, and every non-gospel positions us to treat one another like dirt.  But we will follow through horizontally on whatever we believe vertically.

Genesis 1-11: an overview

This video from The Bible Project is really well done:

Five Benefits of Corporate Worship

David Mathis:

Worshiping Jesus together may be the single most important thing we do. It plays an indispensable role inrekindling our spiritual fire, and keeping it burning. Corporate worship brings together God’s word, prayer, and fellowship, and so makes for the greatest means of God’s ongoing grace in the Christian life.

But thinking of worship as a means can be dangerous. True worship is fundamentally an experience of the heart, and not a means to anything else. So it’s important to distinguish between what benefits might motivate us to be regular in corporate worship, and what focus our minds and hearts should pursue in the moment.

Six Principles For Youth Ministry

Jonathan Leeman:

“What does your church do for middle and high school students?” A pastor friend recently asked this question.

I have no special expertise with youth, and I tend to think there is some measure of programmatic flexibility. Do you host a weekly event? Who is it for? What do you do? Special projects or trips? I will leave that for you to sort out.

But here are a few biblical principles that we should heed no matter what, and my sense is the many youth groups don’t heed them.

Is Your Busy Season Becoming a Lifetime?

Melissa Martin:

“You just may not be in a season of life where you can serve right now.”

This well-meaning, godly woman’s advice to a room full of wives and mothers caused a little pang in my heart.

There is obviously a wealth of truth in that well-worn statement. I’ve been there. I know. I remember so clearly one evening soon after my daughter was born, my mother-in-law lovingly pushed my husband and me out the door for some time alone while she held our newborn. We slid into a booth at a ’50s diner on the beach, eyes glazed over from sleep deprivation, both sporting matching spit-up stains on our shoulders.

This season of life was not conducive to anything beyond barely keeping my head about water.

Links I like

The End of Books

Jon Bloom shares an English translation of a new interview (from the Dutch newspaper, Reformatorisch Dagblad) with Tony Reinke, author of Lit!:

What do you think, in contrast, would the impact of a practice of slow reading be for our understanding of God?

The purpose of reading is to learn new things, experience new truth, and change for the better. The content that has most challenged and changed my own life are the resources I have invested the most time. The faster I scan, the less enduring impact is made. By default, this puts ephemeral blog posts and short articles at a disadvantage. Short online material appeals to scan-readers, but the low time commitment and focus it asks of the reader actually makes the piece unlikely to permanently alter the reader. Short blog posts or social media updates meant to be read quickly can affirm (or offend) our thinking, or they can bring clarifying affirmation to our thinking, but they do not require the time investment necessary to change a reader’s thinking. Changing minds will continue to be the work of long-form journalism and patiently read books.

The Hardest Place on Earth to Be a Christian

Jesse Johnson:

While there are many terrible places on earth to be a Christian (Sudan, North Korea, Afghanistan, Bhutan, etc.), Pakistan is arguably the worst. Other nations persecute believers, but in Pakistan the entire country has spent generations forming a world view that values the torturing of those that claim the name of Christ.

Get The Prince’s Poison Cup in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the hardcover edition of The Prince’s Poison Cup by R.C. Sproul (an Armstrong family favorite) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Holiness of God (Extended Version) teaching series (CD)
  • What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips (ePub)
  • Luther and the Reformation teaching series (DVD)

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

When Silence is Golden

Griffin Gulledge:

There’s something to be said for not saying anything.

In a church culture where cliches, cool quips, and candor are the currency, silence is most often seen as only deficiency. Add in a passion for theology, a thirst to see people grow in Christ, and a sprinkle of immaturity and the problem multiplies. Silence isn’t golden.

Except sometimes it is.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The other day, I shared a fairly sizeable list of Kindle deals. Here are a few more:

And finally, four by R.C. Sproul:

A Prayer for Answering Our Subpoena to Hope

Scotty Smith shares a prayer I needed to read (and pray myself!).

My Dirty Little Secret For Happy Knowledge Work

David Murray:

Sometimes I get envious of painters, plumbers, landscapers, carpenters and others who get to work with their hands and have something to show for it at the end of every day, or at least every week.

What do I and other “knowledge workers” have to show for it every seven days?

Virtually nothing.