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September 30, 2015

Christians know to expect suffering and persecution. The formula is simple: If the perfect and sinless Son of God suffered persecution, so too will his imperfect and sinful followers. We are to be people who live in the world, but not of the world. We are to live among unbelieving people, but to live in a very different way. When we do this we are never far from some kind of persecution.

Still, there are a couple of ways we can insure ourselves against suffering.

The first way to avoid persecution is to live outside the world, to seclude ourselves away from it. If we do that, we will not suffer. We will not suffer because we will never come into contact with people who would persecute us. Our isolation will keep us far from their thoughts. But there is a high cost: It will also keep our faith and our Savior far from their thoughts.

There is a second way: to live in the world but to remain like the world. If we live just like the people around us, we will not suffer because there is nothing in us that stands out, nothing worth persecuting. And all the while our worldliness will contradict whatever we claim to be true about our faith and our Savior.

I appreciate how John Stott frames this. He says, “The first group escapes persecution by withdrawing from the world, the second group by becoming assimilated to the world.” It is just that simple. But God does not call us to either of those two extremes. Instead, he calls us to be salt and light, to plant ourselves in the midst of a watching world and, right there, to live very different lives. Some will see, and hear, and be persuaded. Many more will see, be convicted, and persecute. But as Christians we simply need to expect it: Persecution comes to those who are faithful.

September 30, 2015

Today’s Kindle deals include a new title from GLH Publishing: John Owen’s Communion with God ($0.99). You might also consider: 131 Christians Everyone Should Know by Mark Galli ($2.99); Christian Worship by Segler & Bradley ($2.99); Perspectives on Christian Worship by various ($2.99); and The Remarkable Wisdom of Solomon by Henry Morris ($2.99). Also, The Paradox of Choice isn’t a Christian book, but is interesting nonetheless ($2.99).

Sooner Count the Stars

Today marks the release of Sooner Count the Stars, a new album from Sovereign Grace Music. I’ve listened to most of it and have really enjoyed it.

James Is, You Know, in the Bible

Rick Phillips says it well: “I can think of few messages more urgently needed by our worldly churches today than the necessity of pursuing practical holiness through obedience and good works.”


Randy Alcorn has a new book out titled Happiness. He is also hosting a webcast and Twitter chat this afternoon and invites you to participate.

Popular Popes and Priestly Pretenders

Nate Busenitz’s article “addresses one of the many reasons why evangelicals should neither endorse nor applaud the office of the papacy.”

Mars and the Majesty of Christ

“The vastness and beauty of the Milky Way should elicit a response from us. That response should be neither one of pagan nature worship nor greedy utility, but of wonder and awe at Christ Jesus in his infinite vastness and immeasurable beauty.”

This Day in 1953. Bruce Ware was born. Happy 62nd birthday, Bruce!

Clean Up Your Gmail Inbox

When and if you run up against GMail’s limits, this article will help you get cleaned up.

The Difficulty of Prayer (and a Solution)

Mark Jones admits the difficulty and works toward a solution.


Our marriages preach. They preach a message that either attracts or repels our children. —William Farley

September 29, 2015

I read it because it was on the New York Times list of bestsellers. That is not only a significant accomplishment for an author but an indication that her work resonates with a wide audience. So I read the book. And, oh my.

Nadia Bolz-Weber is founding pastor of a Lutheran congregation in Denver called House for All Sinners and Saints. Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People is the follow-up to her memoir, Pastrix, also a bestseller. A tremendously gifted writer, Bolz-Weber is known for her storytelling, transparency, irreverence, and excessive profanity. In this new book she describes some of her encounters with grace and she does so largely by sharing anecdotes related to her pastoral and speaking ministries.

For the purposes of this review, let’s leave aside the issue of whether the Bible permits a woman to serve as a pastor—something that has long been a matter of debate among Christians. We can leave it aside for now because whether or not the Bible reserves the office of pastor for men, it undoubtedly reserves it for those who meet certain qualifications—qualifications that are laid out in the New Testament. Here is an example: “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer [synonymous with “elder” or “pastor”], he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be…” (1 Timothy 3:1-2). What follows is a list of character traits (above reproach, respectable, hospitable, and so on). We find these lists in 1 Timothy, in Titus, and in 1 Peter, and when we put them together we have a description of the kind of person God calls to the pastorate. He makes it clear: The office of pastor is reserved for those who are qualified by their character.

Let me say it candidly: Bolz-Weber has no business being a pastor and, therefore, no business writing as a pastor. She proves this on nearly every page of her book. Time and again she shows that she is woefully lacking in godly character. Her stories, her word choice, her interactions with her parishioners, her temper, her endlessly foul mouth, her novel interpretations of Scripture—they lead to the alarming and disturbing picture of a person who does not take the office seriously enough to ask if she is qualified to it.

Nadia Bolz-WeberAllow me the indulgence of a metaphor. In the book, and in the Q&A that follows it, Bolz-Weber refers to her obsession with CrossFit. Now let’s suppose that she pursues professional training in preparation for her next competition. And let’s say that she is introduced to a trainer who is a couple hundred pounds overweight and emerges wheezing from his office with hands coated in Cheetos residue. She would have every reason to doubt his suitability to the task and to request a different trainer. Why would she trust him to teach what he does not live?

And yet she boldly tells others how to live as Christians even while she is so obviously and braggingly deficient in godly character. See, somehow she equates transparency with suitability, as if her abundance of flaws, foibles, and outright sin serve as a résumé, as if they are evidence of godliness. But, biblically, nothing could be farther from the truth. This kind of transparency may masquerade as humility but is actually the very height of pride. She revels in the things God forbids and makes little of an office God holds sacred.

Of course, her disregard for the office of pastor should probably not be a great surprise since the religion she describes bears little resemblance to Christianity, at least as the Bible describes it. And this, I suppose, is her point: She wants to recreate the Christian faith and make it palatable to the twenty-first-century culture. To do this she uses the Bible when and how it suits her, but without any consistency. She casts doubt on the miraculous and supernatural. She affirms homosexuality and transgenderism. She teaches a form of universalism. She outright denies all kinds of central Christian doctrines including, of course, Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice (which she mocks like this: “God gathers up all our sin, all our broken-ass junk, into God’s own self and transforms all that death into life. Jesus takes our crap and exchanges it for his blessedness.”). What remains in the end has only the barest, weakest, blandest hint of Christianity left.

As I finished the book I realized that I have read it before—or others just like it, at least. This is yet another in a long line of books meant to appeal to those who want to bear the name of Christ but without becoming like Christ. It’s not that Bolz-Weber doesn’t have any interesting or even helpful insights into life, into sin, and into human nature. It’s just that her brand of Christianity confuses worldliness and godliness. No wonder, then, that the eager masses are lapping it up. Her God calls us to himself but then leaves us to be whoever and whatever we want to be.

In my assessment, Bolz-Weber is outrageous for the sake of being outrageous and that makes for the worst kind of book. Consider this anecdote: “I dug out a scarf from my bag and made a remark about the ****ing air conditioning as we listened to the prelude for the service to follow, and by ‘listened to,’ I mean made fun of. ‘Bruce, is this prelude helping us or hurting us, you think?’ There is something about dropping F-bombs and making fun of worship music with a bishop that makes me feel warm and fuzzy.” Her schtick is not cool. It’s not funny. It’s not shocking or edgy. It’s stupid, it’s bland, it’s old, it’s boring, it has already been tried and found wanting.

September 29, 2015

There are lots of Kindle deals today. Defending Inerrancy by Norm Geisler ($2.99); Handbook to Scripture by Kenneth Boa ($0.99). The New American Commentary series is also on sale with each volume just $2.99. I have marked with an askterisk the volumes that are considered top-5 on that book of the Bible. New Testament: Matthew*, Mark, Luke*, John 1-11, John 12:21, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians*, Galatians*, Philippians/Colossians/Philemon, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy/Titus, James, 1&2 Peter/Jude*, 1&2&3 John, Revelation. Old Testament: Genesis 1-11, Exodus, Leviticus*, Numbers*, Deuteronomy, Joshua*, Judges/Ruth*, 1&2 Kings*, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah/Esther*, Job, Proverbs/Ecclesiastes/Song of Songs, Isaiah 1-39, Jeremiah/Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea/Joel, Amos/Obadiah/Jonah, Micah-Zephaniah, Zechariah, Haggai/Malachi.

What Pastors Wish Their Worship Leaders Knew

Bob Kauflin offers quite a good list of things pastors wish their worship leaders knew.

Advice for a Young Man Dating a Young Woman

I think this is a tremendously helpful collection of wisdom for the young man pursuing the young lady. My favorite line: “Whether she’s your future wife, or someone else’s, her body is not for your touch and your touch is not ready for her body.”

McDonald’s All-Day Breakfast

McDonald’s all-day breakfast is pretty much the best thing ever. Except for the part about it not being available in Canada! Anyway, this article explains how it came to be.

Step Into the Page

I enjoyed this video of Glen Keane (who animated many of Disney’s best-loved characters) doing what he lives to do, but in virtual reality.

This Day in 1770. George Whitefield preaches his last sermon—the day before he died. He said, “Lord Jesus, I am weary in thy work, but not of it.” *

ESV Thinline

Westminster Books has cut the prices on the Thinline edition of the ESV. It’s cheap enough that you can buy it in quantities and give it away! 

The Puritan Influence on the Press

Marvin Olasky: “Publications in the 17th century usually put out only news that would make the king or his officials look good, but New England Puritans encouraged the reporting of bad news because they saw everything, good and bad, as a message from God.”


When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head. —C.H. Spurgeon

How An Affair Really Begins
September 28, 2015

At some point, we have all witnessed the devastation of an affair. On the one hand, it is shocking just how much can be destroyed by the act of one person sharing sexual intimacy with another. But on the other hand, it is not shocking at all when we consider how much meaning God has packed into marriage and into the sexual relationship within marriage.

One of the great misconceptions about affairs is that they begin with sex. Affairs do not begin with sex. Falling into bed with a man who is not your husband or a woman who is not your wife is never a sudden, unplanned event. Instead, it is a culminating decision in a long list of terrible, self-centered decisions.

Some time ago Denny Burk and I spoke at a conference, and Denny told us about the 6 “e’s” that Tommy Nelson uses to describe the “ease” with which people fall into extra-marital affairs. I have shared them before but thought it might be helpful to share them again. I believe any married man or woman can benefit by occasionally considering them. Consider it one more means to fulfill 1 Timothy 4:16: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.” (I will write from a male perspective, but it works equally well if you reverse the pronouns.)

1) Eliminate

Affairs do not begin when you experience sexual intimacy with someone who is not your spouse. An affair begins much farther back, when you begin to eliminate intimacy in your marriage. This is not only the intimacy of sex, but the intimacy that comes by dating, by long face-to-face conversations, and by physical affection. Instead of pursuing your wife, you grow hard and complacent. The joy fades, the discontentment rises.

2) Encounter

As you eliminate the intimacy in your own marriage you will inevitably encounter someone else who is attractive to you. She may be physically attractive, she may be attractive in character, she may be attractive in seeming to provide what your wife is lacking. Regardless of the specifics, there will be something about her that will draw you and promise to offer the very things you are missing in your own marriage.

3) Enjoy

After that encounter, you will find that you soon begin to enjoy your relationship with that other woman. Your enjoyment of this woman allows her to move into the emotional space formerly reserved for your wife. It is here that the wise man will immediately identify the danger and back away. Yet the enjoyment is pleasurable, of course, and too many men neglect to take the wise and godly course of action.

4) Expedite

If you do not take action against the enjoyment, you will soon begin to expedite opportunities to be with her. You will linger where you know she is likely to be. You will hurry to get to the place where your paths may cross. You will time your lunch break to coincide with hers. You will generate opportunities to talk through the phone or through Facebook or through text messaging or face-to-face.

5) Express

Inevitably, this growing relationship will lead to a kind of intimacy so strong and so exhilarating that you will have to find out if she feels the same way. You will express your feelings. You won’t come right out with the full expression of your feelings—you are too clever and too subtle for that. Instead, you will test the waters a little bit. “I really enjoy spending time with you.” And she will reply, “I enjoy spending time with you as well.” “I wish I could talk to my wife the way I talk to you.” And she will say, “I wish I could talk to my husband the way I talk to you.” And then you will advance to, “I wish my wife was more like you” and she will reply, “I wish my husband was more like you.” And at this point you’re caught. You’re in. Tommy Nelson says, “You’ve built a bridge to Fantasy Island,” and it’s now all but certain that you will walk across it. The emotional bond is already there and it is now only natural to give that emotional bond a physical expression. That leads to the final “e.”

6) Experience

All that remains is to experience the physical consummation of that enjoyment, that expression, and that emotional bond. And then you are in bed together as adulterers, entwined in a full-fledged affair.

Through it all, John Owen’s insight remains so crucial: Sin always aims at the uttermost; the smallest sin is but one step to the biggest and most treacherous sin. That decision to neglect the pursuit of your wife, that surrendering of marital intimacy, these were only the first small, sinful steps to the destruction of your marriage.

I will give the last word to John Owen who reflects on Hebrews 3:12-13: “Take heed, says he, use all means, consider your temptations, watch diligently; there is a treachery, a deceit in sin, that tends to the hardening of your hearts from the fear of God. The hardening here mentioned is to the utmost—utter obduration; sin tends to it, and every distemper and lust will make at least some progress toward it.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

September 28, 2015

Today’s Kindle deals include God’s Design for Man and Woman by Andreas & Margaret Kostenberger ($2.99); The Joy of Calvinism by Greg Forster ($2.99); Becoming Your Spouse’s Better Half by Rick Johnson ($1.99); Taking the Bible at its Word by Paul Wells ($3.99).

Ashokan Farewell

“When the documentary The Civil War debuted 25 years ago, it gave a new life—and old history—to a gorgeous melody.” It really is both distinctive and beautiful.

No Hay Otro

The conference I was at last weekend had its own theme song called “No Hay Otro.” You’ll need a bit of Spanish to get it, but I think you’ll find it’s a good one. Here’s hoping for an English translation.

Why We Need the New Battle for the Bible

This article from Christianity Today has received some well-deserved attention.

What Christmas Carols Get Right (and Wrong)

“Most of us love our Christmas traditions, especially singing the old, familiar carols. From time to time, however, we might well wonder about the correctness of some of the things we’re singing so gustily.”

Medieval Monsters

It is perhaps a little overdone, but this short film on medieval monsters (backyard insects, actually) is entertaining. Plus, God does commend staring at ants at least now and again.

This Day in 1895. “At a convention in Atlanta, three Baptist groups merged to form the National Baptist Convention. It is today the largest African-American denomination in America and the world.” *

Churches in Ruin

Here’s a photo essay of church buildings in Europe that have been left in ruin. It’s a good reminder that the church is the people, not the buildings they inhabit.

How to Read the Bible and Do Theology Well

D.A. Carson: “It’s been said that the Bible is like a body of water in which a child may wade and an elephant may swim. The youngest Christian can read the Bible with profit, for the Bible’s basic message is simple. But we can never exhaust its depth.”


God answers the prayer we ought to have made rather than the prayer we did make. —J.I. Packer

September 27, 2015

Be kind to Your little children, Lord.
Be a gentle teacher,
patient with our weakness and stupidity.
And give us the strength and discernment to do what You tell us,
and so grow in Your likeness.
May we all live in the peace that comes from You.

May we journey towards Your city,
sailing through the waters of sin untouched by the waves,
borne serenely along by the Holy Spirit.

Night and day may we give you praise and thanks,
because You have shown us that all things belong to You,
and all blessings are gifts from You.

To You,
the essence of wisdom,
the foundation of truth,
be glory for evermore.

(A prayer of Clement of Alexandria)