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.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few Kindle deals today:

Faithlife has made Brevard Childs’ commentary on Isaiah April’s free book of the month for Logos Bible Software. Christian Audio’s free book of the month is Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. And for a limited time, Reformation Trust and Ligonier Ministries have made the audio edition of The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul free.

From a Symbol of Fear to a Symbol of Faith

Keith Mathison:

I sometimes wonder how many Christians stop to think about how incredibly odd it is that crucifixes are used as works of art. Crucifixes adorn church architecture, classic paintings, sculpture, and even jewelry. But consider for a moment what a crucifix was originally. It was a means of execution. In fact, it was and is one of the most ghastly means of execution ever devised by man. So horrible was it that it was reserved for the lowest of the low: slaves, pirates, and rebels. Roman citizens were exempt. Cultured Romans considered it unworthy of discussion in polite company. Yet today we wear this symbol of degrading and humiliating death around our necks. The jarring nature of this is not immediately apparent to us because over time, the symbol of the cross has lost many of its original connotations. To get some idea of the oddity, imagine seeing people wearing necklaces with images of a guillotine or an electric chair.

What happened, then, to account for the change?

Not My Will Be Done

Jon Bloom:

No one understands better than God how difficult it can be for a human to embrace the will of God. And no human has suffered more in embracing the will of God the Father than God the Son. When Jesus calls us to follow him, whatever the cost, he is not calling us to do something he is either unwilling to do or has never done himself.

10 Reasons Big Easter Giveaways Are Unwise

Jared Wilson:

I’m not against “Easter egg hunts” and kids having fun and all that, but I think the sort of large-scale, giveaway promotion that takes over this time of year in the church calendar is profoundly unwise and in many cases very, very silly. I want to offer ten general reasons why, but first some caveats: I’m not talking about a church giving out gifts to visitors. Gift cards, books, etc. to guests can be a sweet form of church hospitality. What I’m criticizing is the advertised promise of “cash and prizes” to attract people to the church service. Secondly, I know the folks doing these sorts of things are, for the most part, sincere believers who want people to know Jesus. But I don’t think good intentions authorize bad methods. So:

Ten reasons luring people in with cash and prizes is not a good idea.

Respect Your Audience

Barnabas Piper:

Much of how to do this is nebulous, psychological, and relational rather than technique driven. It looks different from person to person and even from audience to audience. You will inevitably communicate differently to school children than to professors than to moms than to incarcerated felons – but not as differently as you might think. The suggestions below apply to all cases and have more to do with mindset than style or steps to take, and it is up to you, the communicator to determine how to apply them in every situation uniquely, but I hope they are helpful for those preach, teach, write, or otherwise publicly communicate.

Jonah and the fail

This is fun.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots of great stuff on sale today:

One of the Most Powerful Parenting Ally

Michael Kelley:

My kids are growing up before my eyes. Some days it feels like they take leaps and bounds toward young adulthood. And in those moments, I curse time. I like things the way they are, but time wags his finger in my face and tells me that they can’t stay like this. They are going to change, ready or not. At times like these, time feels like my opponent, something to be fought against. So I battle and battle to try and preserve the day, the now, knowing that it’s a losing battle.

There is, however, another perspective. For parents like me, time doesn’t have to be an opponent; it can actually be one of the most powerful allies we have.

They protest too much

Conrad Black addresses militant atheists.

What Opposition to Religious Freedom Really Means

Russell Moore:

When secularized or nominally religious people don’t understand religious motivation, then they are going to assume that, behind a concern for religious exercise, is some sinister agenda: usually one involving power or money. That sort of ignorance is not just naive. It leads to a breakdown of pluralism and liberal democracy. I shouldn’t have the power to mandate that a Jain caterer provide wild game for some Baptist church’s Duck Dynasty-themed “Beast Feast,” just because I don’t understand their non-violent tenets toward all living creatures. I shouldn’t be allowed to require Catholic churches to use grape juice instead of wine just because I don’t understand transubstantiation.

6 Questions Every Writer Should Ask About Every Sentence

Aaron Earls shares six good questions taken from George Orwell writers need to ask themselves.

Pastor, Should You Write that Book?

Barnabas Piper:

This seems like a reasonable assertion. 80% of the congregation loved the messages, therefore a large percentage of like-minded Christians will also like the message. Unfortunately there is almost no correlation between what a pastor’s congregation thinks of his sermons and the audience size when that is turned into a book.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of these savings on three excellent Easter-related titles from Crossway:

Who the unchurched really are

Gene Veith:

Most evangelism programs, church growth tactics, and other attempts to reach the “unchurched” concentrate on Millennials, young urbanites, college types, and the suburban middle class.  But, as Robert Putnam reminds us, the demographic that is the most unchurched is the working class, the lower income non-college-educated folks.  A big segment of these blue-collar workers has just stopped going to church.  They are also, with the personal and family problems that Putnam documents, arguably, most in need of ministry.  This is ironic, since the working class used to be the biggest supporters of conservative Christianity.  And yet, I’m unaware of any concerted effort to reach them, other than individual pastors in these communities doing what they can.I’m as middle class as they come, but I have a lot of affinity with these folks, having grown up in rural Oklahoma and working on jobs that for me were temporary ways of paying for school but for them were their permanent livelihoods.  They are typically good-natured, hard-working, and admirable in many ways.  But I can see in my old friends–more accurately, the adult children of those friends–the break-down that Putnam documents.

Spectre

This has the potential to be a great deal of fun:

Just a good, human teacher

This is really good.

Parenting in a Hyper-Sexualized Culture

Heath Lambert:

Blind spots

Russ Ramsey:

am not the artist I think I am. Neither are you. Not completely anyway. All of us live with blind spots—realities in our lives and art and thinking we cannot see. We have them even in the endeavors we are most passionate about.

Such is the nature of a blind spot—I can’t see it. There are so many bits of information, maturity, perspective, and wisdom I have yet to obtain. They simply aren’t yet mine.

We Cannot Love God if We Do Not Love His Word

R.C. Sproul:

Recently I read some letters to the editor of a Christian magazine. One of them disparaged Christian scholars with advanced degrees. The letter writer charged that such men would enjoy digging into word studies of Christ’s teachings in the ancient languages in order to demonstrate that He did not really say what He seems to say in our English Bibles. Obviously there was a negative attitude toward any serious study of the Word of God. Of course, there are scholars who are like this, who study a word in six different languages and still end up missing its meaning, but that does not mean we must not engage in any serious study of the Word of God lest we end up like these ungodly scholars. Another letter writer expressed the view that people who engage in the study of doctrine are not concerned about the pain people experience in this world. In my experience, however, it is virtually impossible to experience pain and not ask questions about truth. We all want to know the truth about suffering, and specifically, where is God in our pain. That is a theological concern. The answer comes to us from the Scriptures, which reveal the mind of God Himself through the agency of the Holy Spirit, who is called the Spirit of truth. We cannot love God at all if we do not love His truth.

Links I like

Links

Living in a virtual reality

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

Why Doesn’t God Just Remove that Sin?

JD Greear:

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

Listening closer

Jeffrey Overstreet:

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

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

Kevin Halloran:

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

Top 10 Punctuation Mistakes

Quotation marks used for emphasis makes babies cry.

The Millennial “Adulthood” Delusion

Chris Martin:

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

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Isn’t the Christian View of Sexuality Dangerous and Harmful?

Sam Allberry:

You won’t find Jesus teaching that your life isn’t worth living if you can’t be fulfilled sexually—that a life without sex is no life at all. You won’t see biblical Christianity insist that our sexual proclivities are so foundational to who we are—and that to fail to affirm such proclivities is to attack people at their core. All this comes not from biblical Christianity but from Western culture’s highly distorted view of what it means to be a human. When an idol fails you, the real culprit turns out to be the person who urged you worship it, not the person who tried to take it away.

On a related note, you should also read Christopher Robins’ response to City Church San Francisco’s announcement regarding their stance on homosexuality and same-sex relationships.

God, Make Me a Looker

Lore Ferguson:

This past week my pastor taught on active faith expressed in works. I don’t know that I would have had ears to hear his words quite so well had I not been soaking in the richness of George Muller’s biography for the past few weeks. Multiple times while reading a physical sob rose in my throat and tears filled my eyes. It was not wonder at the faith of Muller (though that was there), but wonder at the God in whom he trusted and the gift of faith on which he acted.

Who was St. Patrick?

A great excerpt from Christian History Made Easy:

On Sentimentality and Christian Writing

Ted Kluck:

That said, many people rip Christian writing because of how overtly sentimental it often is. But, I don’t think it’s sentimentality that kills Christian writing as much as it is a propensity for making the message trump the characters in the story. In making the “takeaways” obvious, we kill any shot we had at telling a decent story. Writing is hard enough without having to include an obvious subheading every four lines and having to shoehorn in a Bible verse that was specially harvested (often out of context) to prove my point.

Switching to a 5 day work week

Justin Buzzard shares some really good stuff here about why he’s made this switch. Pastors and ministry folks, consider it carefully (especially if your “season” of busyness too closely resembles winter in Narnia).

The evolution of the Batman films

This is a really great piece of art:

Batman evolution poster for print

If you’re a fan of such things, be sure to order a print from the artist.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A new level of archery

This is amazing:

Josh Harris resigns from Covenant Life Church

Really impressed with the way Harris handled this announcement (and his reason for resigning, too).

7 Thoughts on Sacred Time

Nick Batzig:

Among the diverse and manifold truths revealed in the Genesis account of Creation, we discover that God set apart two spheres of worship–sacred time and sacred space. Since all that God created was created in time and space, it should stand out to us as a matter of supreme importance that He then set apart a certain portion of that time and space in which man might worship Him. While the idea of sacred space surfaces in the account of God’s planting of the Garden of Eden–the prototypical Temple from which all the other sacred spaces from Creation to New Creation in Scripture take form–sacred time is first discovered when God set aside one day in seven for His image bearers to come together to worship Him. As Iain D. Campbell has so helpfully pointed out, “As God gave man sacred space in Paradise, and sacred time in his weekly cycle, he gave him a constant reminder of what he had made him for.” The idea of sacred time is one of the most significant–and yet, one of the least understood and embraced–needs of our lives as creatures. The teaching of Scripture as to the usefulness and purpose of the Sabbath Day helps us better joyfully embrace our need for sacred time in our relationship with the Lord. Here are 7 things to remember when approaching this subject.

The Techniques of a Sexual Predator

Tim Challies shares an important quote from On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Children Abuse at Church by Deepak Reju.

The strangely competitive world of sci-fi writing workshops

But a workshop isn’t all fun and games. Receiving critiques can be painful, especially for writers who are insecure. People may lash out, attempting to tear down their toughest critics or perceived rivals, and the experience of writing on a deadline is too much for many students, some of whom burn out and never write again, though this too can provide a valuable lesson.

All Paths Lead to God

Kevin DeYoung:

All paths lead to God, but only one path will present you before God without fault and with great joy.

Pick a path, any path–it will take you to God. Trust me: you will stand before Him one day. You will meet your Maker. You will see the face of Christ.

There are many ways up the mountain, but only one will result in life instead of destruction.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The top selling “Christian” titles of 2014

It’s deeply concerning when the majority of bestselling Christian titles aren’t Christian, isn’t it?

4 Reasons to Stop Obsessing About Heaven

Mike Wittmer:

It’s no accident that in our heaven-obsessed culture, nearly half of “born again” Christians don’t believe their bodies will rise again. How can such persons be saved? As Paul told the overly spiritual Corinthians, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Cor. 15:13–14). You can be more spiritual than God, who raised his Son from death. You can be so spiritual you’re no longer Christian.

Abortion bill dropped amid concerns of female GOP lawmakers

Oh dear.

How To Self-Promote Without Being Gross

Barnabas Piper:

My friend, Russ, and I were talking about it recently and his observation was spot on. It does feel gross to promote one’s own work. In today’s publishing and arts world, though, it is necessary. If you want to be read you have to promote your work (or have a great team of people to do it for you).

Self-promotion is such a big deal that it has become a cottage industry all its own. People have built entire consulting businesses and product lines around building “platform.” Platform is the magic word, the silver bullet, the Holy Grail for any writer (or artist of any kind). It is what gets you noticed, get’s you published, and sells your wares. If thought about rightly platform is a tool and a resource, but it has become the primary end for many instead of the means it ought to be. When this happens self-promotion truly “feels gross.”

Here are two rules to remember when promoting your own work to avoid the platform trap and that nasty feeling.

 5 Scientific Problems with Current Theories of Biological and Chemical Evolution

Justin Taylor shares five areas of science (as identified by the Discovery Institute) that pose serious problems for neo-Darwinianism.

Women’s Discipleship and the Mommy Blogosphere

Hannah Anderson:

What I’m beginning to realize is that church leaders may not be equally aware of its power. Two weeks ago, conservative uber-blogger Tim Challies asked readers why a piece he had written, “Why My Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers” went viral. He seemed surprised that it was his most shared post and was still garnering attention even months later.

All I could think was, “Welcome to the mommy blogosphere, Tim.”

Links I like

$5 Friday at Ligonier

Today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier has a whole bunch of great resources on sale, including:

  • The Mystery of the Trinity teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio & video download)
  • Willing to Believe teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio & video download)
  • Reformation Profiles teaching series by Stephen Nichols (DVD)
  • The Psychology of Atheism teaching series by R.C. Sproul (CD)
  • Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul (ePub)

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

The “Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” recants

Alex Malarkey, the book’s co-author, says “I didn’t die,” and “the Bible is sufficient.” Good on him for doing it, too.

Expositional imposters

Mike Gilbart-Smith:

Mark Dever rightly describes Expositional Preaching as “preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.” However, I have heard many sermons that intend to be expositional, yet fall somewhat short. Below are seven pitfalls that one might try to avoid. Each of these pitfalls either doesn’t correctly make the message of the passage the message of the sermon, or doesn’t make it a message to that congregation at all.

Why and How to Be Self-Critical When You Write

Justin Taylor shares a great excerpt from John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.

5 Simple Ways to Teach Your Kids Theology

Aaron Earls:

How can you weave theological teaching into their daily lives, without necessarily setting them down for an in-depth family sermon (though there is nothing inherently wrong with that)? How can you impart good theology into the lives of your children, without possessing a theological degree (though hopefully there is nothing inherently wrong with that)?

You don’t need to feel like you’re trying out the latest parenting fad or complicated system. If you are like me, you’ll try it for a month or two and then give up because it didn’t feel natural.

Instead, here are five simple ways to teach your kids theology virtually every day.

 

The Way Home podcast

Check out this new podcast by my friend Dan Darling. The first episode is good stuff, and features interviews with Karen Swallow Prior and Matt Chandler.

The Indispensable Value Of Practical Theology

David Murray:

Reformed Christians are famous (some would say “infamous”) for our emphasis upon theology; especially biblical theology, systematic theology, historical theology, and exegetical theology.

Just look at our creaking bookshelves and impressive libraries!

Critics, though, often ask, “Where’s your practical theology?”

And they sometimes have a point. At times we do struggle to translate the knowledge our heads are bursting with into our vocations, our families, our evangelism, our ethics, and other areas of the Christian life.

Three things I’d like to see in the Christian blogosphere in 2015

origin_4353718520

Over the last few years, I’ve developed a bit of a tradition: thinking about a few things I’d like to see in this strange corner of the Internet known as the Christian blogosphere each year (here’s a look at the 20122013 and 2014 editions). For me, this is somewhat therapeutic—and not in the “venting about all the things that grind my gears” sense. For me, it’s a chance to look back and consider where bloggers–particularly me—can grow and change as we represent Jesus on the Interwebs.

Here are three things I’d like to see (and am hoping to do) this year:

1. Fewer blind eyes turned to serious issues. This is a strange one for me to include, since I’m not a fan of chasing controversy. But one of the reasons controversies happen in the first place—at least to some degree—is because people are silent. As the curious ethical decisions and/or compromises of many Christian-famous types continue to come to light (see, for example, Christianity Today’s recent piece on buying your way onto bestsellers’ lists), my encouragement would be that we not shut down discussion, ignore or turn a blind eye. Instead, we should actually wrestle with the issues being raised—and talk about them.

 

2. More admonishing with tears. However, even as we do speak up about problems, we must avoid seeming prideful and arrogant in how we address them. Ad hominems should not be known among us. Instead, we should model ourselves after Paul, who wept for those he warned. Where I feel compelled to offer correction or speak up on an issue, I want to do so in a way that makes it clear that I’m doing so out of great concern for those involved.

3. Write like you like writing. If you’re a blogger, I’d hope it’s because you do it for a really good reason… like because you enjoy writing. It’s easy to get overly concerned with figuring out how to drive traffic to your website; but the problem with getting overly concerned about numbers is it’s easy to start caring more about traffic than writing content you care about. (I’m especially talking to myself here.) Don’t worry about finding the perfect formula, or the right combination of times when to tweet a link or update Facebook, or whether or not you’re SEO-ing hard enough. Write something you like. Something that matters to you. Play. Have fun. Write like you like writing, and let the Lord sort out the rest.

That’s what I’m hoping to see in the months ahead—and what I’m going to be trying to do. What about you?

Links I like

Spurgeon’s Sorrows

spurgeons-sorrows

Be sure to pick up a copy of Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine for $5.50 (or $4.50 when buying four or more) at Westminster Bookstore.

Quoting “Heretics” Approvingly

Mark Jones (note: the quotation marks are important):

Who are Reformed Christians, theologians, and pastors allowed to read? Or, more specifically, who are we allowed to cite positively in our writings and conversations? Are we allowed to speak positively of anything N.T. Wright has written, for example, without getting accused of all sorts of things?

Consider Thomas Goodwin, an important member of the Westminster Assembly who helped craft the Westminster documents. Those he read and cited approvingly provide a fascinating test case into how a Reformed theologian from the seventeenth century regarded the writings of those from within and those from outside his own theological tradition.

Our seared conscience on abortion

Matt Chandler:

One of the things I have found so interesting around this topic in particular is when I sit across from unbelievers, they will often bring up … scientific data to prove their point. “How could I believe that? Look at this!” The reason I’m becoming more and more inclined that what we’re dealing with here is no longer sane but rather insane is the science of the matter falls on deaf ears when you speak to those who are secular around this matter.

Stress destroys your brain

Jane Porter:

But before you get stressed about your ever-shrinking noggin, know that we are talking about prolonged chronic stress here. There are plenty of healthy kinds of stress we experience in small doses—the kind you feel before an important meeting or presentation, for example, that can give you a boost of energy and adrenalin.

A Word for Writers and Publishing Houses

Joey Cochran shares a thought-provoking quote from William Bridge.

How to Write More Gooder

Kevin DeYoung:

I wish I knew better how to articulate the keys to good writing. When I write it is a very intuitive process. After the fact I can look back and tell you why I did what I did, and looking at an intern’s paper I can point out what needs to be improved, but coming up with the ten most important principles of effective writing has so far eluded me. What I can point to are a few simple practices which may help a great deal.

You might also enjoy my similarly titled eBook on this subject.

My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal For This Year – It’s Not What You Think

Mark Altrogge:

Maybe BHAGs work for companies and even for some churches. But I would submit that the Bible encourages a different kind of BHAG. Here’s the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal that I am going to shoot for this year: to be faithful. Better yet, I want to be faithful in a few small things.

The Bible doesn’t encourage us to pursue greatness, but to be faithful servants. To be faithful in small things.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s Foundations of Evangelical Theology series is on sale for $4.99 each:

Also on sale:

Also, Logos Bible Software users should be sure to get a copy of Mark from R.C. Sproul’s St. Andrew’s Exegetical Commentary series, free while this deal lasts.

Trying to market your book? Here’s the number one thing you need to know…

Jesse Wisnewski nails it.

Batkid Begins

This made my wife cry. I suspect the whole documentary will do the same:

Should We Leave Our Children Inheritances?

Randy Alcorn:

If parents decide to give most or all of their estate to God’s Kingdom, they should explain their plans to their children. This will prevent false expectations and free their children from later resentment. It will also alleviate present guilt feelings stemming from what children might imagine they have to gain by their parents’ death. Even though they know they shouldn’t, grown children commonly find themselves thinking about and looking forward to all the money and possessions that will be theirs when their parents die. Some go into debt now because they expect to, so to speak, win the lottery through their parents’ deaths. The sooner these attitudes are defused, the better.

What Is Practical Atheism?

R.C. Sproul:

What is deadly to the church is when the external forms of religion are maintained while their substance is discarded. This we call practical atheism. Practical atheism appears when we live as if there were no God. The externals continue, but man becomes the central thrust of devotion as the attention of religious concern shifts away from man’s devotion to God to man’s devotion to man, bypassing God. The “ethic” of Christ continues in a superficial way, having been ripped from its supernatural, transcendent, and divine foundation.

The Calloused Hands of Faith

Erik Raymond:

There are too many smooth hands in the church. We have it easy and give up too quick when the fight is upon us. There is resistance without, via the unbelieving world; and there is resistance within, via our sinful hearts. Instead of caving in we must press on. This life of faith is a persevering, believing life. It endures amid adversity to show the object of our hope, that is, God himself. God has not revealed the mountain of his character for us to go forgetting our hope amid the subjectivity of our experiences or the transitory nature of the world. Hope in God!

My favorite articles to write in 2014

origin_461123879

Good writers will admit that it takes a lot of effort to write—not to simply to write well, but to write at all. It’s actually a lot easier to not. And very often, we writer types tend to be our own worst critics… but even so, there’s always something we’ve written we genuinely like.

Today, I want to share some of my favorites written in the last year. These are articles representing some of the work I’m most happy with from the past year, although not necessarily the most read (though some of them are).

I hope you’ll give them a read if you haven’t already:

The day ISIS got a little closer to home

We often fail to realize how closely connected we all are. We look at the world we live in—specifically our North American context—and assume the way we live is “normal.” The persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria is a powerful wake-up call for us, if for no other reason than it reminds us that persecution is actually normal for Christians. It’s not something we read about in our Bible and think, “Gosh, I’m glad things are so much better now.” For many believers in over 100 nations, that’s life: beatings, wrongful imprisonment, verbal abuse, and martyrdom.

Ministry Idolatry

This is actually an article that’s existed for several years, but a few months ago, I rewrote it from scratch. I like the new version a lot more:

If a friend falls, will we encourage people to pray for him and his family (which is right to do), as well as to pray for those he’s wronged (which is equally right and necessary, as Matt Redmond has reminded us)? This is hard in some ways, because it requires us to challenge the idol of our preconceived notions and also the idol of “credibility” (and the danger, again, as Redmond has pointed out, is when we fail to speak out about glaring abuses we actually lose that which we sought to keep).

7 signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher

Not too long ago, my wife was feeling a bit down, and a super-nice lady whose kids go to the same school as our daughter gave her some books to encourage her. Funnily enough, they all happened to be prosperity theology books (which has led to some entertaining and positive discussion around the house).

Every so often we all stumble into prosperity theology, usually unwittingly. While occasionally you’ll get a nugget of helpful truth (in the same way that you’ll find some helpful things in your average self-help book), there’s a lot of goofiness which can make for a fun night of “Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie.” So, how do you know if you’re reading a book written by a prosperity preacher? Here are seven signs.

If the gospel isn’t in it, should we be singing it?

So there’s a completely accurate report rumor going around that I’m pretty persnickety about music. Like, to the point that I have trouble singing most Sundays. This isn’t because there’s anything terrible with the music at our church—far from it, our church has a pretty robust music ministry (but thankfully no lasers or smoke machines)—it’s just I find myself thinking about the words we’re singing more often than not.

The reasons for this vary: sometimes it’s considering how those words line up with my own life at that moment. Other times, it’s contemplating whether or not the words are actually undeniably Christian, or if they’re just kind of feel-good gobbledygook.

Thankfully I am not alone in this.

How to talk when we talk about God

What kind of pronouns should we use when we talk about God?

We typically default to the masculine “He,” but should we?

Is there anything wrong with referring to God as “she”?

While the answer might seem obvious, it is worth considering. After all, as Christians, we want to speak of God in a way that is pleasing to Him. So, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering how to to talk when we talk about God.

160 of the most terrifying words I’ve ever read

The fact that we can so easily deceive ourselves about the state of our souls. That we can say the “right” words, have a good marriage, go to church regularly—that we can be the model “good” Christian—and only be kidding ourselves. That what we think of as fruit may not be fruit at all.

“But where is the Holy Ghost to be seen in their lives?” 

3 passages I want to preach (but have been afraid to)

By the way, this summer I got over my fear and preached two of these passages:

I’m going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret: preaching is really hard. It’s a task that can (or should) make even the most confident man a little weak in the knees. One of the things that’s always freaked me out has been trying to choose the right passage to preach… What if it’s the “wrong” message for the church, or what if I do injustice to the text? And let’s face it, some texts are significantly harder to teach than others.

Here’s a look at three books I want to preach, but have been afraid to.

Would Paul have used video? Here’s a better question…

The question of whether or not Paul would use video is an important one, but I wonder if it might also be the wrong one.

Would Paul use video to share the gospel? Probably, sure. But, more importantly, what would he use it for?

The preposterous inconsistency of secular sexual ethics

…who draws the line when it comes to sexual ethics in the postmodern secular worldview? Is it purely individual? Is it a constantly moving target? Is the line drawn, as in some views, based on how “good” the fruit appears to be? In the end, it comes down to all sexual preferences being all equally fine, unless they’re too icky or inconvenient for us.

Christian, don’t begrudgingly affirm God’s Word

Public personalities like these aren’t alone in doing the dance. At some point or another we all do it. And as I’ve watched it happen (and occasionally been caught in it myself) time and again, one of the inevitable pieces of fallout is we wind up just having to come out and say what we were trying to not say.

This almost begrudging acceptance of the truth—we really do have to say what the Bible says.

See what made the cut in years past:

My favorite articles to write in 2013