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How Much Television Do You Watch
June 29, 2016

How much television do you think you watch? No, honestly, how much? And how much time do you give to other screens—your mobile phone, your tablet, and whatever it is you use to watch Netflix? A brand new study from Nielsen suggests that it is a lot. A heap. A ton. Way more than you would guess, I’m sure. Let me walk through some of the most interesting findings.

First, this:

Nielsen Report

Even while we hear so much about Netflix and podcasting and other new forms of media consumption, radio and television remain dominant. That said, smartphones and PCs are racing up behind them and, presumably, will someday displace them.

Nielsen 2

Next we see how adults spend their time today. Tally it up and you see that the average American adult (and I’ll presume Canadians are not too different) currently spends 10 hours and 39 minutes each day consuming media. This represents an amazing 1-hour jump from just a year ago. Television consumes the biggest portion of the day at 4 hours and 31 minutes. Radio is just behind it at nearly 2 hours and coming in third is the smartphone with a showing of 1 hour and 39 minutes.

June 29, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include just one of note: Coming to Grips with Genesis by Terry Mortenson ($2.99). Be sure to check in with Westminster Books for a sale on The Vine Project, the long-awaited follow-up to The Trellis and the Vine.

Fear Not, the Universe Is Wildly Out Of Your Control

Here’s comfort: “Things are wildly out of my control but they are not out of control. These things are set in place. Designed. Ordered. Governed.”

When a Christian Feels Dry

And we all do from time to time, don’t we?

Canada Day

To celebrate Canada (July 1), access to all national parks and national historic sites managed by Parks Canada will be free.

50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die

This is a neat account of how John Piper’s book 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die has impacted the world.

The False Heaven of a Successful Ministry

“Don’t settle for the false heaven of a ‘successful ministry.’ Because real success is faithfulness. Big church or small church, growing church or declining church, well-known church or obscure church—all churches are epic successes full of the eternal, invincible quality of the kingdom of God when they treasure Jesus’ gospel and follow him.”

Generosity – More Than Money Can Buy

“There’s nothing wrong with donating to churches and charitable organizations, but to define generosity so narrowly—as giving money alone—is a mistake. Every person has something of value to give, and we always have the opportunity to be generous to others, regardless of financial resources.”

This Day in 1900. 116 years ago today, Meng Ch’ang-ch’un, a prominent Chinese pastor during the Boxer Rebellion, was martyred for his faithfulness to the gospel and his devotion to the missionaries serving in Pao-ting Fu: “Our missionaries have remained with us; we will stand by them, and live or die together.” *

Heresy and Humility

Al Mohler offers some thoughts on the current Trinity controversy. He mentions his own position but focuses on concerns related to the tone of the conversation. (And Carl Trueman replies.)

A Theological Add-On

Here’s a theological add-on to my 2016 reading challenge if you’re interested in forcing your reading to be a bit more theological. 

Flashback: When God Flips That Switch

I love what this text displays: When we take action, we find only destruction. When God begins to move, we are given grace.

Furman

The gospel keeps me relating to God on the basis of Jesus’s perfections, not on the illusions of my religious achievements. -Gloria Furman

Visual Theology Powerpoint
June 28, 2016

I am excited to announce that you can now teach through Visual Theology the book with the official Visual Theology Presentation Slides! We took every single graphic in the book and customized it for display in a teaching or preaching presentation. We didn’t just simply resize the graphics either. Every single graphic was re-worked and custom built to display the information best on a presentation slide!

  • 194 total slides.
  • Each slide is in 16:9 HD format.
  • Each slide measures 1920 x 1080.
  • Slides are formatted as a .png so they will work with PowerPoint, Keynote, ProPresenter or other any presentation software.
  • Multiple blank background slides for you to create your own slides are included.

Most graphics have multiple slides so you can transition through the different parts of the graphic as you teach. For example: If you are teaching through the identity in Christ section you may want to display only part of the graphic as you teach that part. That particular graphic now has seven slides that build from the parts to the whole.

Visual Theology Presentation Slides begin at just $19.99 for the entire set. They are available exclusively through the Visual Theology Store.

Visual Theology PowerPoint

Mark Zuckerberg Covers His Laptop Camera
June 28, 2016

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, recently shared a picture of himself celebrating a milestone: Instagram now has five hundred million active users each month. There was Zuckerberg in his office holding an Instagram-like frame in front of himself. The picture would have been unremarkable and quickly forgotten but for this: Astute observers noticed that his laptop was on the desk behind him and that he had placed tape over the camera and the microphone. Those are small but significant details.

There was a time, and it was not so long ago, when we laughed at people who said things like, “The government can control your computer” or “the government can tap into your webcam.” Then Edward Snowden proved that this is actually being done. The unnerving reality is that governmental bodies and skillful hackers actually do have the ability to turn on your webcam without your knowledge and without triggering the indicator light. They actually do have the ability to turn on the microphone and listen in without your knowledge. Conspiracy theory has given way to reality. Mark Zuckerberg would make an especially high-profile target for hackers and for that reason has taken basic but effective measures to protect himself.

Zuckerberg While I try to avoid operating by fear and fringe, I’m not convinced that he is over-reacting. I’m not convinced that his response is irrational or alarmist even for those of us with much less to lose. There are some things every one of us can and ought to do to protect ourselves in this digital world. But my foremost concern is for Christian leaders—from pastors with a voice to their community to denominational figures with a voice to their nation. There are some measures such people should at least consider as a means of protecting themselves, their ministries, and the gospel. Here are a few of them.

Use Good Passwords & Two-Factor Authentication

The most simple and obvious measures of protection are using good passwords and two-factor authentication. Rather than repeat myself, I’ll direct you to an article I’ve written about this very thing: 5 Things You Must Do to Protect Yourself Online. That article explains how to create a great password and why it is so important (and so simple!) to activate two-factor authentication. Seriously, do these things. Lock down your services and lock down your devices.

Address Your Character

Before we talk about technological solutions, let’s talk about character. We tend to believe that problems created by technology can best be addressed by more technology. As we discuss things we can do to protect ourselves from electronic snooping and data gathering, our tendency will be to look for software and devices that can help us. That’s a good idea, but it comes second in order of priority. First we need to understand that the first and most important measure of protection is to avoid whatever is sinful. Having nothing to hide is the absolute best protection for yourself and your ministry. Think honestly about what you do, access, and search for online. If there are unwise patterns or inappropriate habits, take action against those things today. Don’t leave sin unaddressed.

Choose Your Medium Carefully

There are conversations we have via email, text, or other electronic media that may be better had face-to-face. Conversations that are had with formality and gravity in the real-world are often marked by informality and thoughtlessness when conducted electronically. Not only that, but these conversations are recorded and preserved in their every detail. They are just the kind of conversations that can be dug up and used against us later on. Email conversations on confidential topics that are torn out of context, posted publicly, and interpreted by the person who shares them—we have already seen the damage these can do. It is far better to have such conversations face-to-face and, if necessary, to record formal minutes. Choose the medium that is most appropriate for a conversation. Do not assume that electronic conversations will remain forever confidential.

Check Data Policies

Our devices and services leave behind a constant trail of data. Your email, your web browser, your mobile phone, your social networks, your accountability software—they generate lists of sites you have visited, locations you have been, searches you have made, and so much more. This data could prove devastating if it falls into the wrong hands. This is true even if you live by very high moral standards. Just think of the searches you have made to address medical concerns or the pictures that have popped up even when you haven’t wanted to see them. All of this exists in your data trail. Many Christian leaders would have their ministries seriously compromised if such data were to become public.

(Note: Google CEO Eric Schmidt is among others who has made the argument that the best protection is having nothing to hide. I agree as it pertains to the individual. But as it pertains to those who offer services, they need to take every possible measure to protect our data, knowing that even completely moral things can bring great embarrassment or be terribly misinterpreted.)

You owe it to yourself to research the policies of any company that has access to this trail. I have asked companies questions like these: How and where do you store my data? How long do you store my data and what do you do with it after that? Do you have a system that reports when employees are looking at my data for no good reason? I have immediately stopped using certain services because their answers have been so unsatisfactory There are many companies that make every effort to collect information about you but almost no effort to protect it. You have to assume that unless a company has a very strict data-destruction policy, they will keep your data forever. You have to assume that unless a company has a very strict data-protection policy, they may at some point allow it to be compromised.

Consider the Zuckerberg Approach

Finally, some people may need to consider the Zuckerberg approach. For most people in most situations there is probably no good reason to cover your webcam and microphone. If the computer sits in your office facing a wall and if your conversations are non-confidential, there is not much to gain or lose. But consider the computer that sits in your bedroom with a camera facing the bed. Knowing what you know, might it be a good idea to cover it up? Perhaps so. Even while it’s very unlikely that anyone will ever access it, there is still some measure of risk. If you keep your phone on a bedside table, at least angle the camera away from your bed. For leaders who have a particularly high profile, I would think even more carefully about such precautions in your home and workplace. Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). Do a bit of research online and see what the experts are saying.

The thing is, we really don’t know who is collecting information about us and what they are doing with it. But we do know that bodies like the NSA are collecting massive amounts of it and storing it all away. If they are, so too are others who may have even more dangerous designs. Though your data may not be used against you today and though it may not come to light tomorrow, it is still there. In an age of ubiquitous data collection, there is wisdom in taking some basic measures of self-protection and self-preservation. I saw many articles from tech-savvy writers remarking on Zuckerberg’s laptop; I didn’t see one that was mocking him or accusing him of over-reacting.

June 28, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include: The Forgotten Trinity by James White ($1.99); The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson ($1.99); Radically Normal by Josh Kelley ($1.99). New from GLH Publications is Counsel for Mourners by John Flavel ($0.99).

Supreme Court Rules on Texas Abortion Case

Joe Carter has a FAQ about yesterday’s troubling ruling from the Supreme Court.

Abortion Forever

On the same subject, Rod Dreher says this: “The bottom line, it seems to me, is that the Supreme Court will never let any state restriction stand meaningfully in the way of the Sexual Revolution. Ever. No federalism, no democracy, not when it comes to defending the Sexual Revolution.”

7 Lies We Tell Our Children

“We all lie to our kids. Sometimes it’s on purpose and for what we deem a good purpose. Sometimes it’s because we so want them to believe something, to feel better, to overcome a challenge, or to work through pain that we will say anything to try to help. Sometimes it’s because we’re idiots and just don’t realize what we’re doing. Here are seven of the most common lies parents tell kids.”

The Trinitarian Debate: Some Reflections and Cautions

This is a great word from Iain Hamilton. “In no sense am I denigrating passionate debate or seeking to downgrade the importance of doctrinal accuracy. I am, however, pleading for theological debate between brothers that is courteous without being anodyne, passionate without being derogatory, Catholic spirited without being partisan.”

Past the End of My Rope

Charlene Nelson shares a blog and poem that come from past the end of her rope.

Calvinist Batman

I recently recorded a podcast with Calvinist Batman. Yes, Calvinist Batman. You can listen in here.

This Day in 1851. 165 years ago today, Eliza E Hewitt, American Presbyterian church worker and devotional author was born. Four of her hymns still endure. Had she never been bed-ridden, she might not have written them. Among the best known are: “Give Me Thy Heart, Says the Father Above,” “Sunshine in My Soul,” and “Will there be any Stars in My Crown?” *

Mary Willson on Domestic Violence

Here’s a brief clip from TGC.

Exhortation to Students of Theology

Danny Hyde: “Since theological seminaries have recently held graduations and a new class of students will soon enter, I thought it would be a fun exercise to write a post on ‘the learned Doctor’ William Ames’ advice to theological students.”

Flashback: Death Is No Escape

Seven years ago today I was reflecting on attrocities and assuring myself and others that death is no escape from justice.

Spurgeon

If we never have headaches through rebuking our children, we shall have plenty of heartaches when they grow up. -C.H. Spurgeon

Look Into the Mirror
June 27, 2016

There is something comforting about peering into a mirror every now and then. It’s not so much a matter of gazing into your own reflection as it is looking for those things that are out of place, those things that don’t belong, those things you don’t want to see reflected back—the parsley between your teeth, the chocolate smeared on your chin, the hairs pointing in all the wrong directions. You don’t have to be image-obsessed to grasp the importance of the occasional glance in the mirror as a means of protecting yourself from awkwardness and embarrassment.

The mirror is probably one of my favorite biblical metaphors—the Bible as a mirror. I’ve reflected and written many times about the value and purpose of that mirror as we see it described by James.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

James portrays the Bible as a kind of mirror that reflects back the heart. As the mirror hanging on the wall reflects the outer man, the mirror of God’s Word reflects the inner man. For this reason every Christian needs to gaze into the mirror of the Word to assess the state of his heart. This is not a one-time glance but a regular stare. We need to study the image reflected back to understand who and what we really are. God’s Word has the unique ability to give clarity to what God demands and expects of us. It unmasks our sin, our rebellion, our foolishness, our immaturity, our idolatry. It displays the sin that remains, the sin that needs to be rooted out so we can be more and more conformed to the image of Christ. We are fools if we do not make it a daily habit to gaze into this mirror.

What has been dawning on me over the past months is not just the value of gazing into this mirror, but the value and the challenge of believing what I see there. It is so easy to look and doubt, to look and deny. But if God’s Word is good and pure and holy and perfect, if God’s Word really is God’s, then it is absolutely trustworthy. This means that it’s not simply a matter of looking, but a matter of looking and believing. I need to trust what I see there. I need to trust this mirror more than I trust my own eyes, my own assessment. I may not like what I see there, I may not agree with what I see there, but I need to believe it. I need to believe that as the mirror hanging on the wall is an accurate portrayal of the outside, the mirror of the Word is an accurate portrayal of the inside. I need to believe that the Bible more accurately reflects the state of my heart than the mirror in my bathroom reflects the state of my body.

It is a privilege to have God’s Word, to have God’s mirror. It is a joyful responsibility to gaze into it, to study the reflection, to believe what I see, and to take action. It is a joyful responsibility to thank God for what I see there of the image of Christ and an equal responsibility to seek his forgiveness and to pursue repentance in all those areas where I do not see the image of Christ. The mirror is an opportunity to gaze and thank, gaze and repent, gaze and change.

Image credit: Shutterstock

June 27, 2016

Crossway has several books on sale that relate to counseling: Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns ($2.99); Side by Side by Ed Welch ($3.99); Pursuing Peace by Robert Jones ($3.99); The Pastor and Counseling by Jeremy Pierre & Deepak Reju ($3.99); You Can Change by Tim Chester ($2.99). Also consider Love Your Enemies by John Piper ($2.99).

Crossway will give you a free electronic copy of John Owen’s Communion with the Triune God in exchange for filling out a quick survey.

Our Impatience Is Worth Billions

The New Yorker uses games like Clash of Clans to display how people are willing to pay billions of dollars to relieve their impatience. Personally, I have a deep loathing for any games built around that financial model!

Read Scripture: Esther

The Read Scripture series of videos advances to Esther, definitely one of the most unexpected books of the Bible.

Identity Theft

Jim Elliff considers the important matter of the Christian’s identity: “Certainly what we are is entirely based upon God’s presence in us and His power bequeathed to us. We are nothing on our own. But in Christ, we are something beyond imagination.”

The Calvinist’s Ultimate Concern

Joel Beeke attempts to reduce Calvinism to one core concept.

California’s Religious Liberty Moment

Ed Stetzer writes about how California’s religion liberty moment could soon be coming to a state near you.

This Day in 1736. 280 years ago today, George Whitefield preached his first sermon. In his lifetime, Whitefield preached at least 18,000 times. He addressed perhaps 10,000,000 hearers. *
How to Handle Difficult People

Mike Ayers shares some wisdom.

Independence Day

You’ve got to have some history with 90’s-era Christian music to enjoy this one, but here’s John Schlitt of Petra singing the Whiteheart hit “Independence Day” (with Billy Smiley of Whiteheart on guitar).

Flashback: Why My Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers

It was two years ago that I posted this article which quickly became the most popular in the site’s history (with over 7 million reads now).

Horton

If we are interested in God, we should be interested in theology. —Michael Horton