Good writing, prioritizing and gospel communication

words-servants

Some of the best advice I ever read about writing came from Seth Godin.

Now, I know Godin’s a pretty divisive figure for some—he’s either beloved as a marketing genius, or he’s derided for speaking almost exclusively in buzzwords and sound effects. But when I was a brand-new writer, there was one thing he wrote on his blog that made writing make sense to me. He wrote,

Most people work hard to find artful ways to say very little. Instead of polishing that turd, why not work harder to think of something remarkable or important to say in the first place?

In the years since reading this, the advice has stuck with me. And the more writing I’m exposed to—whether from paid professionals, authors, bloggers, or folks writing emails in the office—the more I realize just how hard a time we have communicating well.

I’ve read entire books where the author’s said virtually nothing. I’ve read three page letters that could have been a paragraph. (I’ve probably even written a few of them.) We would all do well to remember that brevity is essential to good communication. Although I’m a fan of playful writing and treating writing as art (points I discuss in greater detail in the Write More Better eBook), it’s easy to forget that communicating simply is an art, too.

In their book Made to Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath, put it this way:

Simplicity isn’t about dumbing down, it’s about prioritizing.… What’s the core of your message? Can you communicate it with an analogy or high-concept pitch?

A commitment to simple communication doesn’t reject beautiful writing. It reminds us that our words are servants of the message. And this is where I see much to be encouraged by in the Scriptures.

In the Bible—and especially in the gospel message—there is a marriage of simplicity and beauty in thought and form. The message of the cross is profoundly simple in many ways: the entire gospel message can be summarized as simply as “Jesus died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures… he was buried… he was raised on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). It’s a simple statement, but it’s foolish to treat it as simplistic. It tells us the major beats, yes; but invites us to delve deeper. It hooks us. It makes us want to discover more (or at least it should).

That’s the kind of thing that I’m talking about—that’s what simple and simply good communication does.There are other examples, of course: many of Jesus’ parables, John’s epistles and even much of Paul’s writing can be easily understood, and invite us to plumb their depths. And that’s the point: in the same way the Bible embraces this “profoundly simple yet simply profound” form of communication, so should we as Christians. We need to recognize that the gospel isn’t a complicated message (even if its implications leave our heads spinning). We need to be thankful for that fact. And when we write, we should always make it our aim to let our words serve the message, rather than our message become muddled by our words.


This post is adapted from an article originally posted in June 2010.

Photo credit: Aftermath of the Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new ones for you today:

Be sure to also check out this sale at Westminster Books on Rico Tice’s Honest Evangelism, which you can get for as little as $7.

The Divisive Person Is The One Who Departs From The Truth

Jared Wilson:

The person who objects is often told they are “singling out” this particular sin as over-important, as more important than unity! But it is not those who protest who are singling out particular sins. It is those bringing the revision, the ones asking, “Did God really say…?”, the ones who suggest it should now be normal what we previously agreed was objectionable who are singling it out, elevating it above the agreement. They are the ones making it the sticking point.

Writing With Authority

Mike Leake:

It’d been an ongoing discussion. One of those that isn’t heated but its just a difference of opinion on how to “do church”. The guy I’d been going back and forth with stopped into my office and gave me an article from LifeWay on the very topic that we’d been discussing. The article agreed with him and not me. The article landed on my desk with the thud of authority. “See, I’ve go the dudes at LifeWay on my side in this one. The people who are experts and ‘in the know’ agree with me on this”.

When You Get The Raw End Of The Deal

Mark Altrogge:

I’ve never experienced the horrible injustice some do on a daily basis, like Christians in North Korean prison camps or victims of ISIS. But like everyone else, I’ve been wronged at times. For trying to be kind, I’ve gotten scorn. A few times, after spending hours and hours trying to help someone, I’ve been blamed for their troubles. I’m not complaining and don’t feel like I’m a victim. I know many who have tried to help and bless others far more than I have, only to be despised and blasted on Facebook or worse.

5 Ways to Spot the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

While we want to assume the best of everyone sitting across from us in the pews, Jesus told us to be wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing seeking to infiltrate the body (Matthew 7:15).

But He didn’t want us always looking over our shoulder, fearful every person we shake hands with or strike up a conversation with in small group will stab us in the back.

We are Dust and He is Rest

Lore Ferguson Wilbert:

Heschel says, “If you work with your mind, sabbath with your hands, and if you work with your hands, sabbath with your mind.” I adopt this phrase and wear it as a mantra. I chop the basil and the spinach, press my thumb and index finger testing a ripe tomato, check on the chicken twice. I rest with these rhythms, these constants.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

Why Don’t You Like the Christians You Know?

This is a compelling three minutes from John Piper.

We’re All Sadists Now

Carl Trueman:

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

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

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

A big land mine for leaders

Brad Lomenick:

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

What It’s Like When You Publish a Book

Nick McDonald:

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

And, what?

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

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

July’s top 10 articles at Blogging Theologically

top-10

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

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

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

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

Traditional vs self-publishing: advice for aspiring authors

publishing

Years ago, I had aspirations of writing a book but didn’t know what to pursue: should I attempt to figure out how to write a book proposal and pitch to “real” publishers, or should I go the self-publishing route with a service like Westbow or Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing?

Since I first expressed a desire to write one, I’ve released books through both traditional and self-publishing options. Two books were published by Cruciform Press, Awaiting a Savior and Contend, and am continuing to pursue opportunities with traditional publishers. I’ve published one book using Kindle Direct Publishing (so far), Everyday Theology, and will almost certainly do so again.

But when I started, I didn’t know what to pursue—or even how to do it. So today, I thought I’d share some advice for aspiring authors based entirely upon my experience with both. This should not be seen as definitive or authoritative, as I’ve no doubt I’ll probably change my mind about some of this in the next five years.

Cool? Cool.

My experiences with both forms of publishing

When it comes to self-publishing, the stigma, if it has not completely gone away, has certainly lessened. I’ve seen a number of people—including a number of friends—embrace it as their preferred publishing option. They love the freedom this approach offers, the ability to create what you want when you want. Because these friends understand that for too long self-published material has been pre-judged as poorly written, they’re determined to write, really, really well (and usually make sure their work is properly edited, too).

My experience with self-publishing has been quite good, overall, but to be fair, I’ve only done it once to date. Creating a book was easy with the tools out there. The content was already in existence, though in need of a few light edits. All I had to do was make it available. The one thing I’ll do differently with the next self-published book I release is make sure I invest a little more money into the project and pay for some additional outside editing (it’s worth it).

Then there’s traditional publishing, which I absolutely love. For me, what I love best about it is the collaborative side between me as the writer and my editor. Awaiting a Savior would have been a very different book had it not been for two people: my friend and co-worker, Amber Van Schooneveld, and my editor, Kevin Meath. Both challenged me to think through what I was writing in different ways, offered critique on the ideas I was presenting, and caught more than a few grammatical errors. Likewise, Kevin’s efforts on Contend were part of made that book worth reading (in my opinion, at the least), helping me keep the book focused when it was getting scattered in early iterations.

So, what, really, is the difference between the two—and is one really better than the other?  

As I see it, the difference between the two is control. With a traditional publisher, provided you can even get in the door (which is no easy feat these days), there is a degree to which you lose control over your ideas. Someone is working with you and helping you shape what you want to write into something that’s a. coherent, and b. marketable. There are some traditional books that are a scattered mess, but those tend to be the ones where the author is resistant to feedback or just shouldn’t be writing a book (despite having a massive platform). In self-publishing (CreateSpace, KDP) and partner publishing (Westbow, Lucid), you determine how much input someone else has on your material. Sometimes it’s none, other times, it’s almost to the degree that you’d have with a traditional publisher.

But is one better than the other? Not really. In a lot of ways, I prefer the experience working with a traditional publisher, simply because I appreciate and need feedback if I’m going to communicate well. But self-publishing is a lot of fun, too—and it can also be more lucrative for you as an author (at least in the short term).

Which option should you choose?

That’s up to you to some degree. Which do you want to do?

Choosing to pursue traditional publishing (in which there is no guarantee of having a book picked up, keep in mind) or self-publishing really comes down to what’s best for you and for the project. A book like Everyday Theology, which is a reworking of existing content from this blog, is best suited to self-publishing. Another small book I’m working on in my (barely existent) spare time is best suited for this option as well. But I have a number of ideas I’m in the process of pitching to traditional publishers, and these are books that I’d simply feel better about pursuing in partnership with another entity.

That’s what I mean when I say it’s up to you to some degree. There are other factors, of course. But in general, if an idea has grabbed us and won’t let go, we’re going to find a way to get it out into the public. Whether that’s through a traditional route or self-publishing doesn’t really matter so long as it sees the light of day.

So, aspiring author, that’s what I’ve got for you (at least for now). What options have you explored and which do you have an affinity for?

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just a few new deals to share today:

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

This is a really good piece by Matt Anderson.

Is Your Joy Real or an Imposter?

Sam Storms:

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

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

What Readers and Writers Owe Each Other

Barnabas Piper:

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

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

Four Simple Ways Pastors Can Create Margin in Their Lives

Mark Dance:

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

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

Joyful Exiles

Scott Redd:

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

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

Aaron Earls:

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

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

When I don’t know where I’m going with something…

stop-working

“I have no idea where I’m going with this,” I said.

I’d been working on an article—one of the many sitting in my “to-write” pile—and it wasn’t coming together. I had my thesis down (I think), but the rest of it wasn’t coming together. Emily, with her usual wisdom, simply responded, “Well, maybe you should stop working on it then.”

So I did.

I currently have somewhere around 25 different writing projects in various stages of development. Most of these are articles (though a couple are book proposals that I’m particularly excited about). Some will even turn into something. But a lot are just not coming together.

As you can imagine, this is incredibly frustrating. But it’s also part of the work of writing. And make no mistake, writing is work. There’s this notion out there of the inspired writer—the one who sits down to write and every word is breathtaking, a joy to read. And then when you actually start writing, you realize, this kind of stinks sometimes. Why? Because sometimes what you’re writing just doesn’t work.

I learned about this the hard way. When I was early in my writing career (not that I’m terribly far into it now, mind you), I would crank something out and be done with it. This was partly out of necessity, and partly because I didn’t really have people to bounce my work off of. And so when I look back on blog posts I wrote five or six years ago, ones I remember fondly, I cringe a little. Some actually do hold up, surprisingly, but most are pretty awful. Silly, sloppy, blech. They feel like novice writing because it is novice writing. There were posts that were really more or less about nothing at all, or had the start of a good idea that got lost along the way.

Bloggers fall into this trap pretty easily, of course. When we set our schedule, we expect ourselves to meet it (even if no one is reading). We do the daily blogging thing because it’s what someone we read does, but then run out of things to say, and so our blog dies. And while I’m a fan of daily blogging (otherwise I wouldn’t do it), it’s not for everyone. The schedule makes a terrible master and not everyone thrives under pressure.

And even if you do find pressure helpful, you’ve still got to deal with the fact that sometimes what you’re writing just isn’t going to come together the way you’d hoped. It’s not going to work. You’re going to have enough material to fill ten books, and none of it’s going to be useable.

If you’re an aspiring writer, you need to learn to be okay with this. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on a screenplay, a kid’s book, a novel, a blog post, or a theology book, you’re going to hit a point where you don’t know where to go with it. And sometimes the best thing to do is stop. Maybe not forever, but just go on to something else.

Put down the pen.

Step away from the keyboard.

Write something else.

Clear your head.

And then get back to it. The draft will still be waiting for you. Cool?

Three thoughts on satire and social media

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We all know great satire when we see it. When it shows up in our Twitter feed, or we read it on the Onion, watch an honest trailer, or pay money to see a Michael Bay movie.

But what is it that makes great satire great?

1. Good satire—and good parody—loves its subject

I asked a few friends—one of whom is the man behind one of my favorite parody accounts on Twitter (and maybe yours, too)—this question over dinner a while back. The answer was actually pretty simple: as with great parody in general, great satire1 requires you to love what you’re spoofing.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Let’s not forget that satire has a purpose: it showcases the shortcomings, vices, and follies of individuals, governments, organizations or society as a whole with the goal of improving it through ridicule. This is what you see in The Onion, with its open mockery of what passes for news, as opposed to a classic movie like Airplane, which sends up crisis films so wonderfully. The latter does a great job poking fun. The former implicitly asks, “can’t we do better than this“?

The same is true in social media. The best parody and satire accounts are the ones where the person operating happily imitates and pokes fun at his or her subject, but does so from a place of affection. This is why parody accounts like Fake John Piper and Fake JD Greear  are worth following. They respect the individual being parodied, but don’t idolize him. Case in point:

(And everyone who’s read Don’t Waste Your Life or have heard the seashell illustration snickered.)

This is also why the satire account Church Curmudgeon is worth your time. The author doesn’t come across as a “hater”, but he or she certainly isn’t afraid to tease about some of the goofiness of North American evangelical churches.

2. Good satire isn’t a mask for malice

There are other accounts though—such as the plethora of Fake Driscolls, Fake Ann Voskamps, and fake Rob Bells—that are simply not worth your time. While they are technically satire, their goal is uncertain. Their words are frequently venomous. There is no evidence of love, or even a desire to see change in the people being “spoofed”. It seems an opportunity to mock not because the individual wants a particular person or people’s view of him or her to change, but because they feel malice toward their subject.

Which is basically bullying, but whatever…

There is no place for such writing or thinking in the Christian life. We are called not to mock others, but to show love to all. Mean-spirited words, even against subjects worthy of extreme ridicule, is unbecoming of the Christian. If you’ve got an axe to grind with a particular person or organization, don’t write it. Don’t read it. Don’t encourage others to read it, either.

3. Good satire is written by people who are actually good at it

I think the reason a lot of the satire online is so terrible is because people don’t realize how hard it is to write. Satire is difficult to write well. Parody is a little easier, but not by much. There’s a reason I don’t write much of it. I’m not good at it—I know my limitations. So my attempts rarely (if ever) see the light of day. I wonder how many of us would do well to follow suit?

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

William Zinsser (1922–2015), the Writing Mentor

Ivan Messa:

Zinsser passed away last week at 92. Even though Zinsser was no evangelical, he acknowledged his Christian heritage. A self-described “WASP” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant)—he stated, “In my own work I operate within a framework of Christian values, and the words that are important to me are religious words: witness, pilgrimage, intention.”

While many will praise his publications (more than 19 books) and point out his gems of writing wisdom, one aspect of his life is often overlooked. Zinsser was more than an instructor, he was a mentor for writers. From Zinsser we can learn three ways to improve our own role as writing mentors…

Teens react to Saved by the Bell

Language warning in effect (it’s mostly bleeped out):

We Are Not Things

Wade Bearden on Mad Max: Fury Road:

What might have easily turned into a bleak tale ending with the loss of personal and collective identity is instead a meditation on the struggle for meaning in a world that doesn’t seem to hold any. A group of women escaping Joe’s rule remind themselves (and their overlord) that “We are not things.” Max struggles with feelings of guilt after losing his wife and child. Joe’s warriors valiantly vie for their ruler’s attention, embarking on suicide missions in order to have their place among the “heroes.” In a society where the wall between individual and beast is blurred, each person, as Furiosa says, is “looking for hope.” They want to know they matter.

More Pressing than Women Preachers

Jen Wilkin:

Once again the internet has been abuzz with discussions of whether women should preach in the local church gathering. Whenever the issue is raised, those who oppose it are quick to explain that the role is not withheld from women because they are less valuable than men. And that “equal value” assertion always shifts my eyes from the pulpit to a more pressing concern. As some continue to debate the presence of women in the pulpit, we must not miss this immediate problem: the marked absence of women in areas of church leadership that are open to them.

What Is the Significance of the 7 Churches in Revelation?

Brandon Smith shares a few insights from Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation.

What is marriage to evangelical millennials?

Abigail Rine:

A few weeks ago, I assigned the article “What is Marriage?” to the students in my gender theory class, which I teach at an evangelical university. This article presents an in-depth defense of the conjugal view of marriage, and I included it on the reading list as part of my efforts to expose students to a range of viewpoints—religious and secular, progressive and conservative. The goal is to create robust civil dialogue, and, ideally, to pave the way for thoughtful Christian contributions to cultural understandings of sex and gender. The one promise I make to my students at the beginning of the course is that they are guaranteed to read something they will find disagreeable, probably even offensive.

Letters to a New Believer (For the Church)

letters-leadership

This year is my tenth as a Christian—in fact, if I remember correctly, the actual date is coming up in about three weeks, which is pretty neat to think about. Over the last 10 years, I’ve learned a LOT—mostly by making a lot of bone-headed mistakes. There’s so much I wish I’d known then, and so many things I wish someone would have told me…

So, that’s what I’m doing in a new series for For the Church, “Letters to a New Believer.” The first part is now up, which focuses on the dangers of rushing into leadership roles:

About a year or so into being a Christian, I did something absolutely, spectacularly dumb: I joined the men’s ministry leadership team at our church. Seriously, on a scale of dumb to really dumb, this was just the worst. It was such a bad idea.

Why did I think this was a good idea? And who on earth approved me for any of this?

Well, here’s the thing… It wasn’t just men’s ministry. As a brand-new baby Christian, I was not only trying to figure out the mess of my own life, I was facilitating in our children’s ministry. And within about a year of coming to faith, I was leading a small group. And…  Here’s the point: when I most needed to be sitting under someone’s leadership—to be learning, growing, and building the foundation of my faith—I was in a place where I was trying to do that for others. And it was bad—so bad. The Lord graciously prevented me from doing any serious damage to the faith of other believers (at least as far as I know), but wow, did I ever do a lot of damage to myself. I developed an extremely prideful attitude. I had a swagger that didn’t befit a Christian. I had delusions of grandeur that were just… wow.

Keep reading at For the Church.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just a couple of new deals that I’m aware of:

Ugliness repels, beauty persuades

Ray Ortlund shares an excerpt from Jerram Barrs’ Francis Schaeffer: The Man and his Message (which is well worth reading in its entirety).

Unseen letters from pen of John Knox reveal new side to preacher

This is very interesting:

Professor Jane Dawson of Edinburgh University, who uncovered the letters exchanged with Knox’s best friend Christopher Goodman, has now written a landmark new book called John Knox, launched at St Giles in the Scottish capital on Wednesday.

It is claimed the book will shatter the perception that Knox had no impact outside of Scotland where he remains a significant character.

It will describe how he was a proud member of the European community of Reformed Churches and deeply involved in religious reformation in England, Ireland, France, Switzerland, and the Holy Roman Empire.

How I overcame my fear of writing (and you can, too)

Jesse Wisnewski:

Writing was—and still is—something I labor over. It’s not easy work. From research, thinking, writing, editing, and then rinse and repeat, writing can be a long and arduous process. A process I wasn’t interested in until my mid-twenties. But the strangest thing happened to me one day after I turned a graduate paper into a pamphlet: Somebody liked it.

How faith works in the prosperity gospel

Yep.

12 Ways Millennials Can Serve the Local Church

Chris Martin:

Young people: church is not about you and your feelings. Church isn’t about personal fulfillment as much as it is about selfless service.

Stop treating church like a Broadway show or a therapy session and start serving people. Here are 12 ways to do it.

5 Reasons I’m Glad My Parents Were Strict

Joy Pullmann:

Buzzfeed is calling for all the kids who had strict, conservative, fundamendalist parentsto grouse about how horrible it was to grow up guided by two strong pairs of hands. I guess they wouldn’t know it from, you know, observing other people, but perhaps the only thing worse than having strict parents is having lax parents.

What do you do when books attack? (a #bibliophileprobs poem)

books-attack

What do you do when books attack?

When the shelves are double stacked?

Books are piled by the thousands;

and slowly becoming mountains.

O’er the coffee table tumbled,

wife’s aggression lowly mumbled.

Perhaps you should consider moving houses?

Or build a fort, where the kids can play,

or deny there’s a problem and pray it away?

All these have merit,

(well, a little if any).

But there’s one thing to do

that’s better than any:

Start packing up boxes, and give some away.

don’t wait ’til tomorrow, do it today.

There are people who need them,

and some might even read them!

Please take my advice,

O, would-be book hoarder:

start packing some boxes,

and unburden your shoulders.

Say farewell to some books, at least one or two

for your home will expand the moment you do.1

Why I’m excited about For the Church

ftc_logo

Today’s an exciting day for my friends at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: their new venture, For the Church, launches today! What’s even more exciting for me (from a purely selfish perspective) is that I get to be a part of it as a contributor.

Here’s why I’m particularly keen on this new site:

1. The vision. For the Church is all about  engaging, encouraging, and equipping the Church with gospel-centered resources that are pastoral, practical, and devotional:

This tone—being practical, pastoral and devotional–is really important, especially in a world where we have far too much bad news thrown at us, including from our fellow believers. I don’t know about you, but I get a little tired and depressed after reading 18 posts on the latest violation of Americans’ fundamental freedoms, or the continuing crisis in the Middle East. By no means should we stick our heads in the sand; but we do need to remember that if all we’re getting is this message—difficulty, trial, persecution, suffering—then we are going to be living our saddest life now.

We need fuel to face the bad news that constantly assails us. We need to encouraged in the gospel, and to be strengthened for what lies ahead. We need to inform our heads, yes, but we also need to strengthen our hearts. That’s For the Church is offering, and it’s something I am eager to read.

2. The contributors. MBTS has put together a phenomenal crew of writers for this site, including Brandon Smith, Michael Kelley, Joe Thorn, Erik Raymond… these are guys I enjoy learning from and folks whose writing makes me want to be a better one. That is pretty exciting to me—and I hope it will be to you, as well, especially if you’re an aspiring writer. Just as with preaching, you need to read a lot (and read a lot of different styles) to really find your own voice. Reading work from as diverse a group as For the Church’s contributors will go a long way.

3. Jared Wilson. I’m not gonna lie: Jared Wilson is one of the guys I most respect, both as a pastor and a writer. His writing has been consistently helpful to me (and he’s been kind enough to put up with periodic emails from a knucklehead like me for years). So, him asking me to contribute is not something I take lightly, and I’m grateful to be a part of the team.

So what will I be writing on? 

One of my first posts should be up on today called “The Challenge of Contending.” This is a post that gives a snapshot of how to contend for the faith without being contentious. Following that, I’ve got a new series that will be starting sometime in the near future based upon the things I wish I’d known as a new believer.

There’s lots more that I could say about this new endeavor, but for now, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the exciting  the most important is to encourage you to check it out for yourself. Enjoy the first batch of articles, and be sure to add For the Church to your favorite feed reader today!

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Crossway deals focus on biblical authority:

Be sure to also check out Cross edited by John Piper & David Mathis ($4.99) and Ordinary by Tony Merida ($4.99).

When Your Twenties Are Darker Than You Expected

Paul Maxwell:

The human body starts dying at age 25. Our twenties slap us with the expiration date of sin’s curse (Genesis 6:3): slowly, in our ligaments; tightly, in our muscle fibers; subtly, checking for bumps; decimally, with a rising BMI. We feel death in our twenties; emotionally and relationally, in ugly and odious ways. Death latches its chain to our frame, slowly pulling us deep into an answer to the question “Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Our twenties bring so many answers to that question — transition, failure, desperation, dependence, accusation, responsibility, moral failure, stagnation, unfulfillment. “Sting” isn’t sufficient. Our twenties can be a dark time.

How should writers and editors work together?

Aspiring writers, you’d do well to take this advice from Gavin Ortlund seriously.

Does Open Theism solve the problem of evil and suffering?

Randy Alcorn:

I don’t enjoy opposing a doctrine that seems to comfort some suffering brothers and sisters. However, I believe open theism redefines God Himself, altering one of His most basic attributes, omniscience, in a misguided and unsuccessful attempt to make it more compatible with His love.

4 Things the ‘Hate Psalms’ Teach Us

Wendy Stringer:

My husband and I spent the first 15 years of our life together with a church that sang the psalms in corporate worship. They were set to old hymns and anthems, with language similar to a sonnet and sung a cappella. Opening burgundy psalters, waiting for four notes blown on the pitch pipe, we would break into harmony and sing our hearts to God.

It was a beautiful experience, but every once in a while we would come to an imprecatory psalm, and I couldn’t choke out the words. Singing Psalm 137, for example, felt offensive and unnecessary; Jesus is not explicitly present, so why sing as though he has not come and saved us?

Why these imprecatory psalms? Why Psalm 137? What do these psalms tell us?

Faithfully Delivering the Gospel

Erik Raymond:

If we really believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation we probably would not mess with it. It is not wise to edit perfection; we have not been given proofreading writes by God to add or delete elements from his masterpiece of Christ exalting truth.