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Free Stuff Fridays Updated
July 15, 2016

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Reformation Heritage Books which, of course, also sponsored the blog this week. They are offering a prize package that contains several of their new and noteworthy books. There will be 5 winners and each of those winners will receive:

  • Pulpit Aflame edited by Joel Beeke and Dustin Benge. “In this volume, fourteen experienced preachers reaffirm the centrality of preaching in the life of the church as they explore what the Scriptures have to say about the mandate, meaning, motivation, and method of preaching. With wisdom and conviction, the authors remind the church that God works through the faithful preaching of His Word, no less in the twenty-first century than in the first.”
  • Church History 101 by Sinclair Ferguson, Joel Beeke, and Michael Haykin. “Church history is important because it shows us how God’s faithful dealings with His people in the Bible continue in the ongoing life and work of Christ in our world. If you have ever wished for a short book highlighting church history’s most important events that will enlighten your mind and peak your interest, this is the one you’ve been waiting for. Three prolific church historians collaborate their efforts in Church History 101 to present you with a quick read of church history’s high points.”
  • Living in a Godly Marriage by Joel Beeke & James La Belle. “The Puritans believed that godly marriages were foundational for the future life of families, churches, and nations. Therefore, they wrote prolifically on the subject of marriage, seeking to bring biblical reformation to this subject in a comprehensive way. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other previous Reformers had begun this task, but the Puritans took it much further, writing a number of detailed treatises on how to live as godly spouses. Out of the wealth of material available to us from the seventeenth century, Joel R. Beeke and James A. La Belle have gathered together insights from the past and summarized them in a contemporary form in order to encourage modern-day couples to glorify God in marriage.”
  • Pentecostal Outpourings by Robert Davis Smart, Michael Haykin, and Ian Clary. “When Jesus ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God the Father, He poured out His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This significant historical and redemptive event was not the last time Christ poured out His Spirit in redemptive history. Mindful of these subsequent acts, Pentecostal Outpourings presents historical research on revivals in the Reformed tradition during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”
  • One Man and One Woman by Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley. “What does the Bible teach about sexual relationships between people of the same sex? Does true love require that we accept all forms of sexual expression? No, real love does not rejoice in sin, but rejoices in the truth. In the Bible, God reveals that He created gender, sex, and marriage, and we may not alter them at our will. Through His laws and works in history, God has made it clear that homosexual practices violate His holy purposes for mankind.”

Enter Here

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

The Perfect Game
July 15, 2016

Baseball returns this evening from its annual mid-season classic. As the teams prepare to take the field I find myself thinking about the game I love, the game that has gripped and fascinated me for as long as I can remember. It is, to my mind, the best sport, the perfect game.

As a child I dreamed of mastering baseball and spent hundreds of sunny summer afternoons chasing the perfect fastball, the perfect swing, the perfect one-hopper from left field to the plate. When night came I fell asleep listening to Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth as they called the highs and lows of the Toronto Blue Jays and when sleep took me I dreamed of taking my rightful place on my team—George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Dave Stieb, and me. Eventually childish fantasy gave way to adult reality but even broken dreams did nothing to temper my passion for the game. A son was born and soon I began to introduce him to my game and to my team. The cycle began anew.

What is it about this game? Why is it that every April I feel a new optimism, a new hope, a new excitement for a new season? Why is it that every October I find myself longing for just a few more games, a few more series? Why do I have such love for this game?

I Love the Challenge

Baseball is a game whose official rules extend to 172 pages and in these pages you will find provision for every eventuality from the routine and everyday to the obscure and nearly unthinkable. But for all the complexity, the heart of the game is so very simple—a man with a ball stands 60 feet, 6 inches from a man with a stick. The man with the ball pauses, he stares, he comes set, and for a moment remains perfectly still. Then he moves again in a careful choreography. His hands rise to his chest or his head, his knee comes up to his waist, his foot kicks outward, and as he plunges toward home plate his hand darts forward. Freeze the frame and you will see him clutching the ball, sometimes with his fingers split across two seams, sometimes with his fingers split across four, sometimes with the ball deep in his palm, sometimes with it nearly floating beneath his fingertips. Unfreeze. With a flick of the wrist it is gone and a mere four tenths of a second later it has slammed into the catcher’s mitt with the familiar smack.

Unless, of course, the man with the stick has had his way. Facing the pitcher is a batter and as the pitcher has been preparing to throw the ball, this man has been moving and shifting his own body, preparing to protect the plate. Before the ball is thrown he stands ready, his fingers loose on his bat, his wrists slowly rotating, his eyes fixed intently on the place where the pitcher’s hand will soon be. He shifts his weight back, lifts his front foot, and rotates his hips to the front as his arms begin to swing. If he times and judges it just right, he will hear the sound of summer, the sharp crack of ball on bat.

This, I’m convinced, pitcher against batter, is the greatest one-on-one challenge in professional sports. This little game within the game, played out hundreds of times every night, never gets old, never loses its thrill.

I Love .200, .300, .400

Baseball is a game of numbers, the sport of a thousand statistics. The most basic of them all is the batting average, the age-old measure of a batter’s raw ability to put bat to ball. It is best understood as the number of times the player will deliver a base hit if given 1,000 opportunities. The difference between a .200 batting average and a .300 batting average is merely 1 hit in every 10 at bats—just 100 hits in 1000 attempts. Yet that slim margin represents the difference between a bona fide superstar and a man looking for a new line of work. In almost every case a .200 hitter will be sent back to the minors or, at best, relegated to a part-time role. In almost every case a .300 hitter will be a star and receive a fat contract. As for that .400 hitter, there has not been one of them in over seventy years. How difficult is it for the man with the stick to beat the man with the ball? If he succeeds 2 times in 10 attempts he is a has-been, 3 times he is a star, 4 times he is a legend.

I Love the Fastball

The fastball is the one pitch every pitcher needs to master and to have as part of his repertoire. For all the talk of sliders and curves and sinkers, there is nothing more elemental than a pitcher overpowering a batter with that high heat. He might throw the venerable four-seamer which flies straight and true or opt for the two-seamer which tails off as it reaches the plate. Better yet, he will throw a mix of the two to keep the batter guessing. He will paint the corners, he will lure him and get him to chase, he will move up and down in the zone, he will assert his dominance. Baseball is at its purest when a fireballing pitcher stares down a red-hot slugger.

I Love the Change-Up

The purity and simplicity of the fastball is off-set by the dirtiness and deception of the change-up. The change-up is a pretender, a mimic, a cheat. It wears the guise of a fastball—the same look, the same action, the same motion—but it travels at a very different pace. This makes it a risk. The slow-moving change may as well be batting practice if the batter knows it’s coming. So the wise pitcher first displays his fastball. He throws it once, twice, three times. Now the batter has the measure of it, he is ready for the next one. But right here the pitcher judges the change-up worth the risk and springs his little surprise. Where the fastball zipped, this ball saunters, where the fastball stayed straight and true, this one falters and sinks. The batter is fooled, swinging long before the ball reaches the plate or perhaps finding himself stock still, tied in knots, helplessly watching as it chugs on by. Nothing makes an experienced pro look more like a rank amateur than a change-up perfectly set-up and perfectly executed.

I Love 60 Feet, 6 Inches

The integrity of baseball depends upon 2 crucial measurements, each of which brings parity to an aspect of the game. The first measurement is 60 feet, 6 inches, the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. That perfect distance brings perfect parity between the man with the ball and the man with the stick. Any closer and a fastball would be unhittable—the batter would have too little time to read the pitch, to judge it, to take his swing. Any farther and the pitcher would have too far to throw—the advantage would swing to the batter. But 60 feet, 6 inches is just right, ensuring that only the best pitchers and hitters are able to survive, and only the best of the best are able to thrive.

I Love 90 Feet

If the first great measurement is 60 feet, 6 inches, the second is 90 feet, the distance between the bases. It, too, is perfect because it, too, sets the perfect parity—parity between offence and defence, between runners and fielders. Even the greatest base-stealer must choose his moments carefully lest he be unceremoniously cut down. But even the greatest defense must be vigilant lest they be caught flat-footed and give up an easy base. At 85 feet defences would suffer and at 95 runners would have too far to go. Watch a runner steal second base and see how close he comes to being tagged. Watch a batter leg out an infield single and see that with another 5 feet, or 2 feet for that, he would be an easy out. It is the perfect distance to maintain the challenge just as it ought to be.

I Love 325 Feet

Baseball depends upon precise measurements—60 feet, 6 inches from the pitcher to the plate, 90 feet from base to base—but it finds its character in imprecise ones. Beyond those few, precise measurements there are any number of ways the game is quirky and customized. A field for professional soccer or football is identical to every other, but when it comes to baseball, every field is different, every one has its unique personality. There is the 325-foot short porch in AT&T field’s right corner, the imposing Green Monster rising up in Boston’s left field, the infamous double and home run catwalks jutting over the field in Tampa Bay, the ivy-covered walls in Wrigley Field. Some parks have fast-playing grass and others have slow-playing turf. Every field is different, every field an individual.

I Love the Shift

Actually, I don’t love the shift, but I do love what it represents. It represents strategy, the measures teams take to gain even a small advantage over their rivals. Yet with any benefit there is risk. A team may put on the shift to gain double coverage in one part of the field but to do this they must abandon another section altogether. They pull in the infield to try to make an out at the plate but this increases the risk of a hot hit scorching through. They guard the runner to keep him from the easy steal but this widens the gap between first and second. Or maybe they choose not to guard him at all but this offers him a tempting head-start if he decides to steal. Through the ebb and flow of a game each player will position himself a hundred different ways to account for a hundred different scenarios. Behind every moment of action is a deliberate strategy.

I Love the Game

Perhaps the greatest beauty in baseball is the vast chasm between its apparent simplicity and its actual difficulty. It is and remains the greatest one-on-one showdown in sports. There is nothing quite like it. Free throws, penalty kicks, penalty shots, 55-yard field goals each have their own challenge, their own thrill. But there is nothing as pure and nothing as thrilling as a man with a ball trying to blow it past that man with a stick.

Image credit: Shutterstock

July 15, 2016

Westminster Books is having an open box sale on ESV Bibles with many of them up to 70% off. You’ll need to act fast because they will be gone quickly. And now, some links for your reading pleasure:

Ten Key Questions for Sermon Preparation

Darryl Dash offers some great questions for preachers to consider.

The Gospel of the Kingdom Is Like an Old Hymn

Jared Wilson: “The gospel is an old hymn. The gospel is sheet music printed in antiquarian typeface on a yellowed page in a dusty book. It’s the ‘old, old story’ and the ‘old rugged cross.’ It is four verses—and please don’t skip the third verse to expedite the invitation!”

4 Reasons Why Every Bible Reader Should Do Word Studies

George Guthrie says “In this post I want to make a case for learning the basics of doing word studies, whether we are pulling out the shovel of deeper Bible study or the trowel of basic Bible reading. Here are 4 motivations…”

Searching for a Soul Mate

You’ve heard the concept of soul mate, but do you know where it came from? Its origin highlights why it’s mostly an unhelpful and unrealistic concept.

Harambe, Human Value, and Palatable Civil Religion

Canon and Culture looks at recent incidents of human violence and compares them to incidents of animal violence. “These incidents provide a window into our society and, despite the unthinkable and horrific nature of their tragedy, provide opportunities for reflection.”

This Day in 1852. 164 years ago today, following the Great Awakening, Hawaii sent out its first missionaries to the Caroline Islands. *

The Sound So Loud That It Circled the Earth Four Times

Here’s the tale of a sound so loud it circled the earth four times. It is the loudest sound ever heard on earth.

Jesus’ Delay and Jairus’ Daughter

Why would Jesus have delayed in healing that girl?

Flashback: Looking Forward to the Reward

“Is it wrong to be motivated by rewards? Somehow in my mind it seems like the reward must negate the joy or the purity of obedience, and especially when it comes to the way I handle money. Shouldn’t I want to give out of the joy of obedience? Shouldn’t I want to give simply because I love the God who commands me to give generously?”

Dyer

To bless God for mercies is the way to increase them; to bless Him for miseries is the way to remove them. —William Dyer

How To Be Rich
July 14, 2016

My family lives in the poorest section of one of Canada’s wealthiest towns. Work brought us here sixteen years ago, and we bought the only house we could afford—a forty-year-old thousand-square-foot townhouse surrounded by much newer homes that are five, six, and seven times more expensive than ours. With a brief, five-minute drive we cruise past gated neighborhoods where every home costs in the tens of millions. In a town like this we have many opportunities to see great wealth and all the ostentation that can come with it. In a town like this we often hear people brag of their riches, of all that they have, all that they spend.

In our town we are poor. As my daughter said after visiting a friend: “We rode bikes in their basement. Their basement is bigger than our whole house!” But measured wider, we are rich. By somebody’s measure we are all rich. In comparison to someone else, even you and I have extravagant wealth. After all, poverty and wealth are relative terms and by the very fact that you are reading these words on an electronic device you have more wealth than someone else. And for that reason you and I need to learn to live the lifestyle of the rich and godly.

Listen to what Philip Ryken says as he examines some verses in the book of 1 Timothy:

In the providence of God, some Christians live in comfortable circumstances. They own their own homes. They wear nice clothes. They have more than enough food to eat. And Christians who are blessed with such material prosperity do not need to feel guilty about it; nor do they need to divest themselves of their wealth. They are even allowed to enjoy themselves. For everything we own comes from God himself, “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). God is no miser. He provides for the rich and the poor alike, and whatever he provides is for our enjoyment. … The Bible celebrates the good things of life.

Yes, the Bible celebrates the good things of life, but it also warns us they can be deceptive, that they can keep us from celebrating life’s better things. We are far too easily pleased. As wealthy Christians, you and I need to learn to live well with our wealth. 1 Timothy 6 outlines a number of ways to do that and I was recently struck by a few of them.

First, the rich and godly acknowledge the temptation that we will set our hope on our wealth. Riches engage our sinful hearts with the promise of provision, the promise that our daily bread comes not from God’s hand, but from a pension, a bank account, a retirement plan. We need to constantly remind ourselves that these riches are uncertain, that a lifetime’s wealth can disappear in the blink of an eye, the screech of car tires on wet pavement, the collapse of a market. Wealth is good but unreliable. We need a better place in which to set our hope.

Second, the rich and godly are known not for their abundance of finances but their abundance of good works. Paul says “[We] are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…” The consistent testimony of the Bible is that we are all to do good to one another, constantly seeking opportunities to glorify God by caring for others. This is equally true for the rich and the poor. No matter who we are or what we have, we are to commit ourselves day by day to good works—works done for the good of others and the glory of God. Rich people may consider themselves too good, too blessed to get their hands dirty in caring for others. But no, rich and poor alike are to seek out opportunities to be hands-on ministers of mercy to others.

Third, the rich and godly put their wealth to work in this great task of doing good to others. Those who have been blessed with financial means have the added privilege and responsibility of doing good to others through their wealth. Ryken says “Some deeds of mercy also require money. Thus another way that wealthy Christians can glorify God is through the wise use of their money. God calls all his children ‘to be generous and ready to share’ (1 Tim. 6:18), to embrace a lifestyle of giving. Instead of considering godliness as a means to gain, he wants them to use their gain as a means of godliness. The stewardship of personal wealth is an important aspect of a rich Christian’s calling.” We are not to be known for our extravagant wealth but our extravagant deeds—deeds done for the good of others and the glory of God.

The simple fact is that by some measure you and I are rich. We need to admit it, embrace it, and seek God’s guidance in living like it.

Image credit: Shutterstock

July 14, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include: The Defender’s Guide for Life’s Toughest Questions by Ray Comfort; Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler; and iGods by Craig Detweiler.

Be a Church With Small Groups, Not a Church of Small Groups

Here’s an important distinction. “Small groups should not become a replacement for the main church meeting. If your small group becomes your church, you are missing out.”

Matt Chandler’s Challenge to Men

Randy Alcorn: “One of my deepest concerns is to see men, young men in particular, who have become increasingly content with doing little in life, sometimes resulting in their wives becoming their caregiver and provider and, effectively, the sole parent of their children.”

The Heart of Hospitality

There are many people who feel this way. “The truth is, for a long time hospitality was hard for me. I often thought that hospitality was something you only did when you were prepared and had all your ducks in a row. I thought that my home needed to be a certain size and my cooking skills up to a certain level.”

Young Pastors & Fighting From Falling

There are lots of good points in this article, but I think number 2 stands out: We all need to be perfectly content to remain unknown if God’s will is for us to be unknown. “Obscurity is not a danger to faithfulness. On the contrary, obscurity may be essential to a faithful ministry. We ought to beware of wanting to matter.”

Russia Enacts Laws to Restrict Religious Freedom

Joe Carter explains the situation in Russia where the government has just passed laws that will greatly reduce religious freedom.

Expectant Prayer for the Nations

This seems like an appropriate follow-up to the previous article. As we pray for other nations, we can and should pray with faith and confidence.

This Day in 1575. 441 years ago today, reformer and Bible translator Richard Taverner, died in England. *

Obergefell One Year Later

Writing as and for Millennials, these authors say, “For our generation, addressing Obergefell in a compelling manner requires understanding its emotionally subjective nature.”

Flashback: The Narrowest Religion in the World

“The Christian religion is at once the broadest and the narrowest in the world. It is a faith that admits every possible kind of person. But it admits them in only one way.”

Sunday

The fellow that has no money is poor. The fellow that has nothing but money is poorer still. —Billy Sunday

12 Marks of Excellent Pastoral Ministry
July 13, 2016

John MacArthur has had a long, faithful, fruitful ministry unblemished by great scandal. For decades he has maintained a tight focus on teaching the Bible verse by verse and book by book. In 2006 he taught through 1 Timothy 4 and there he saw Paul providing his young protégé with “a rich summary of all of the apostle’s inspired instruction for those who serve the church as ministers, as pastors. And it all begins with the statement, a noble minister, an excellent minister, a good servant of Christ Jesus.” What are the marks of such a man? MacArthur reveals twelve of them.

An excellent minister warns people of error. Paul urges Timothy to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines… rather than furthering the administration and stewardship of God” (verse 3). The same instructions are given two chapters later and in 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and 1 Thessalonians 5. An excellent minister “understands the devastating potential of lies” and instructs his people against teaching and believing them. “When you point out error, you are a noble servant of Christ.”

An excellent minister is a faithful student of Scripture. This is a continual process he gives his life to. “You will spend your whole life mastering one book - one book, the only book that God has inspired which he has placed all of his truth. The Bible becomes the sole content of your ministry, the sole theme of your preaching and it must saturate your mind and your soul. You make a radical commitment to the Bible and to Bible study and to Jesus. That is being lost rapidly in ministry.” That loss is evident in a culture in which the Bible is no longer authoritative. Publishers, pressured to bring Bible sales back up, feel they must “appeal to felt need rather than the revelation of God.” The Bible is not fiction, it is not a book of suggestions, it is the inspired Word of God. “We are to saturate ourselves with the teaching of Scripture, the content, the words of the faith, and the dedoscalia, that which Scripture affirms propositionally.”

An excellent minister avoids the influence of unholy teaching. “Have nothing to do with worldly fables” (verse 10). The word used here is Peritaomi which means to radically separate from what is holy. There are some things so evil that a pastor must not even listen to them. “Many young men who started out in ministry have been ruined, not by learning error as error, but by sitting under someone teaching error as truth. Being seduced with error from someone who believed that the error was true.” An excellent minister separates himself from the “corrupting influence of unholy teachers.”

An excellent minister is disciplined in personal godliness. “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (verse 4b). This implies “strenuous training, self-abnegating, self-dying discipline in the direction of godliness - pulling up the loose ends, girding up the loins of your mind, as Peter would say it, beating your body into submission, lest in preaching to others, you become a documas, disqualified.” All the while the excellent minister needs to keep his conscience clear. Paul was speaking to a culture that like ours, was obsessed with vanity and physical exercise, but “an excellent minister, while responsible for his physical health, is far more consumed with his godliness and the disciplines that produce godliness.”

An excellent minister is committed to hard work. “If a man is willing to pay the price for fatigue and weariness, his ministry will not be mediocre.” Excellent ministry should be exhausting. Paul calls Timothy “to labor and strive “ (verse 10). The word for this is agonidzimi, to agonize in struggle. The gospel is worthy of a minister’s agony for his labor has eternal significance. “For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things that are not seen” (2 Corinthians 4:17). MacArthur continues, “There is no more important, no more glorious, no more wondrous work than as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4… adding souls to the heavenly hallelujah chorus so that their voices can redound to the glory of God.”

An excellent minister teaches with authority. Verse 11 says “command and teach these things.” The Bible does not give prescriptions or suggestions, it gives commands. “Authority comes from God through the Scriptures to you when you handle the Scripture accurately, clearly and boldly.”

An excellent minister is a model of spiritual virtue. “Example is the most powerful rhetoric.” Paul commands Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather… show yourself an example of those who believe” (verse 12). MacArthur, reflecting on his first week at his church remembers being introduced in this way: “We don’t know what this young kid is gonna be able to tell us.” How did he overturn this? By living a godly life: “The single greatest support of truth in your preaching is the power of an exemplary life. This is your most reliable weapon. This is what makes everything believable.”

An excellent minister maintains a thoroughly Biblical ministry. Verse 13 is a summation of what a minister is called to do: “Until I come, give attention to the reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” Read, explain, apply, and be consumed with Scripture. “The greats of the past understood their whole life was given comprehensively to the word of God.” MacArthur, when asked by his students the secret to great preaching answers, “keep your rear end in the chair until you finish your work. Come out when you have something to say.”

An excellent minister uses his spiritual gift and employs it. “That is to say he is faithful to the usefulness of that gift, that calling, that ordaining, that setting apart over the long, long haul.” Verse 14 says, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you.” The excellent minister knows that the gift he has, given by the Holy Spirit and confirmed in his life, is a gift he has for life: “You’re headed for a long life. And I hope it’s long - very long.”

An excellent minister is passionate regarding his work. The phrase used in verse 15 literally translated means, “in these things be you.” This applies to all life - there is no work/life separation here. “In this you live, move and have your being.” In these things be you.

An excellent minister is manifestly growing spiritually. Already, MacArthur established that the excellent minister’s life must be one of spiritual advancement, but a key word here is “manifestly.” This ought to show! “Let your progress be seen by everybody. People can live with that. They can love someone like that. They need to see your weakness. They’ll embrace you for it. They’ll love you for it. And they’ll know you understand their weakness.”

Finally, an excellent minister perseveres in ministry. All eleven elements thrive on this. Here, MacArthur reflects on 37 years of ministry: “I’ve seen 37 years of the work of the word in his church and what a joy, what an unspeakable benediction to my life. And when you do all these things, you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”

This is what an excellent pastor does. and the solemn commitments he must make. In closing, MacArthur asks, “You want results? Those are the best results you’re gonna get. Heaven—that is the greatest result.”

MacArthur

You can listen to, read, or download MacArthur’s sermon free of charge from GTY.org.

July 13, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include Gamechangers: Key Figures of the Christian Church by Robert Letham; Crown of Thorns by Tim Chester; Martyn Lloyd Jones by Christopher Catherwood; The Gospel According to Daniel by Bryan Chapell. New from GLH Publishing is Walking Humbly With God by John Owen.

Logos users will want to take note that John MacArthur’s commentaries are finally available again.

Self-Disclosure in Dating

Winston Smith offers brief, wise counsel on self-disclosure while dating.

Josh Harris Rethinks His Approach To Courtship

NPR did a brief feature on Josh Harris and discussed his updated views on dating and courtship.

When a Pastor Is Also a Police Officer

I enjoyed this interview: “I’m a pastor at a mid-sized suburban church as well as a deputy sheriff in the same area. By day, I have the joy of leading people to follow Jesus. By night, I’m a public servant, performing the standard duties of a patrol officer—from answering 911 calls to patrolling to providing presence in the community to assisting people.”

Two Kinds of Voting, Two Kinds of Disruption, and Two Kinds of Unrighteousness

I am linking to this article because I saw a number of people I respect say very positive things about it.

Five Questions to Ask Before You Consume Cannabis

Recent developments “that Christians will need to think more carefully about marijuana than most of us have until now. Not everyone will be tempted to consume pot, but most everyone will be in a position to advise someone who is considering it.”

This Day in 1813. 203 years ago today, Adoniram and Anne Judson first laid eyes on Rangoon, Burma. It would be five years before the Judsons baptized their first convert. *

How Jeff Bezos Is Hurtling Toward World Domination

Here’s an interesting one on the rise and dominance of Amazon. “Today, the question is not whether Amazon can survive but whether we can survive without Amazon.”

Pastors, Let Your Deacons Serve

Matt Capps wisely addresses a very common issue.

Flashback: How We Do Family Devotions

I wrote this to give an idea of how to do family devotions and to show how simple it can be.

Spurgeon

Everything that God does to His people is all love. Sometimes the love is a little disguised, but the love is always there.C.H. Spurgeon

July 12, 2016

As a family we are committed to reading the Bible together. For years we have made it a near-daily habit to spend at least a few minutes together in family devotions. Our normal pattern is simple as simple can be: First thing in the morning we read a passage, we talk about it briefly, and we pray. It is a sweet time together and one I’m convinced is of outsized importance to our spiritual and relational health.

Sometimes, though, we like to interrupt the pattern or add another element—usually by reading a devotional book. Surprisingly, we have had a lot of difficulty finding books that are written in such a way that they are easy for families to read aloud together and that are theologically-sound. It was a bit of a thrill, then, to receive a copy of the new book Big Beliefs!: Small Devotionals Introducing Your Family to Big Truths, edited by David Helm. This book looked like just the thing and an examination of its content and a few trial runs quickly proved it. We have begun reading it together.

In his introduction, Helm describes the book’s background: “One of the exalted privileges of the church is the opportunity to help young and eager minds to get an early grasp on Christian doctrine. At Holy Trinity Church in Chicago, we have a commitment to provide fresh gospel resources for our many young families who are attempting to instruct their children in the Christian faith.” They have done this through Helm’s book The Big Picture Story Bible which we read and re-read to our children and through the accompanying The Big Picture Devotional. And now they are extending it through Big Beliefs!. It represents “a more recent attempt to teach theology systematically to young people. Written for children ages seven through twelve, the devotional guide traces the Westminster Confession of Faith, giving a brief overview of each of the Confession’s thirty-three doctrinal headings one lesson at a time.” The entire Westminster Confession of Faith is printed at the end for those who wish to dive a little deeper.

The format is simple and effective. There is a scripture passage to read, a devotional that is a single paragraph long, and a couple of questions for discussion. The writing is perfect for the recommended age range though it can easily enough be extended upward or downward as necessary. There are only five devotionals per week which means you can miss some days and not fall hopelessly behind. However, since the devotional follows the Confession rather than the calendar, it does not need to begin in January or end in December.

I am Baptist rather than Presbyterian like Helm, Holy Trinity Church, and the Westminster Confession of Faith, so I was interested in his handling of the distinctly Presbyterian beliefs. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the lessons were generally written on common ground. So, for example, the chapter on baptism does not press infant baptism but reads in such a way that both Baptists and Presbyterians can affirm it. If I have a complaint about the book it would simply be that it assumes its readers are American. So, for example, sentence one of devotional one says, “Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest presidents our nation has ever known.” But, of course, that is just a small matter that is easily circumvented by the reader.

Let me provide a sample devotional. This is from day four and requires a reading of Psalm 145.

What do we mean when we say that there is one God? First, we are saying that God definitely exists. There are some people who do not believe in God at all. Second, we are saying that there is only one God, not two or three or one hundred. In ancient times, most people believed in many gods, and even today some religions believe in many gods, thinking that each of the gods is in charge of a particular area of life. The Bible teaches that there is only one God, and he takes care of everything we need. Third, when we say that there is one God, we are saying that the God we read about in the Old Testament, the Creator of everything and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the same God we read about in the New Testament, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He never changes—he is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

It is followed by these two questions for interaction and reflection: “The writers of the Confession have taught us about the Bible, and now they are teaching us about God.” And, “Why do you think they are doing it in this order? What does Psalm 145 teach us about God?”

All-in-all, I expect that many families will eagerly buy and use Big Beliefs!. In fact, I recommend it! It fills a surprising gap in the current literature and does so very well. It’s an excellent little book and I look forward to reading it to and with my family in the months to come.