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December 12, 2014

I’ve got just a handful of new Kindle deals today: The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson ($1.99); The Ultimate Guide to the Names of God by Elmer Towns ($2.99); The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien ($2.99); A Cross-Shattered Church by Stanley Hauerwas ($2.51).

What Is Liberal Theology? - Justin Taylor provides a quick definition of liberal theology.

Should You Do a Cleanse or Detox? - Cleanses and detoxes are a popular dietary trend today. Do they actually do anything? You probably won’t be shocked at the answer.

ESV Bible Sale - Westminster Books has all of their ESV Bibles at 50% off.

You’re Not What You Think You Are - How much of you is you, and how much is micro-organisms? You’re about to find out.

The Five Most Disturbing Things About a Benny Hinn Miracle Service - I don’t know if these are the 5 most disturbing things, but they are some of them anyway.

Alzheimer’s, the Brain, and the Soul - Tony Reinke has a fascinating interview here.

The beginning of man’s rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart. —Francis Schaeffer

Schaeffer

December 11, 2014

God promises grace to battle sin and to overcome sin. We believe that God gives that kind of grace to his people. This is not something we deserve; it is not something he owes us, but he gives it anyway. It is undeserved, the overflow of his love for us.

And we long for that grace—the grace to put sin to death, the grace to bring righteousness to life, the grace to be who and what God calls us to be.

God gives that grace, but for some reason—his good reasons—it rarely comes in the form we would prefer. God gives it not in the form we want but in the form we need. We want God to zap away our sin, to instantly and permanently remove it. Those desires, those addictions, those idolatries—we want them to be lifted and to be gone that very moment. 

God could do this. He has the strength and the power. And occasionally he does do this, he removes the sin and the temptation to sin in an instant, and it never comes back with the same strength and the same force.

But more commonly God’s grace is not manifested in the instant obliteration of a sin. Instead, his grace is manifested in a newfound desire to destroy that sin. God does not zap away our sin, but gives us a new hatred for it and a new desire to do the hard work of battling it. He does not sovereignly remove it in a moment, but extends grace so we can battle it for a lifetime. He extends grace so we can see continuous, incremental success, knowing our weakness and crying out for his strength. He gives what we need, even if it isn’t quite what we want.

And this, too, is grace. This, too, is undeserved favor from a loving God. This, somehow, must be far better for us than the alternative. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

December 11, 2014

It has been a slow week for Kindle deals. The best of them came on Monday with a few more on Tuesday. I’ll keep looking for new ones. In the meantime, here are some interesting links:

The University’s Rape System - “The longer we ignore this, the more women will be brutalized by the rape system that now dominates Greek life at many large colleges.”

Give Handmade - Here are some tips on giving handmade gifts this Christmas.

The Gospel According to Peanuts - “What people don’t know is that the [Charlie Brown] Christmas special almost didn’t happen, because some not-so-smart television executives almost didn’t let it air.”

Loving an Imperfect Husband - Aileen has a fair bit of experience with this…

Faithful Gardening - Travis Allen, writing in Tabletalk, points out several concerns with pragmatism.

19 Secrets of UPS Drivers - Here are 19 secrets of UPS drivers. Note: a couple of them are on the PG side.

The Christian is the most contented man in the world, but he is the least contented with the world. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

December 10, 2014

Sexual asssault is all over the news today. Headlines in the United States tell of a long list of woman who have accused Bill Cosby of assault, and tell of college campuses where rape is shockingly common. Headlines in Canada tell of reporter Jiam Gomeshi and his ugly history of sexual violence. It is my sincere hope that these stories spark new and better discussions about the prevalence of sexual assault, how we can prevent it, and how we can respond to it.

Though the incidence of sexual assault is high, the rate of conviction is low. The majority of sexual assault goes unreported and the majority of those who commit sexual assault go unpunished. While the law needs to protect those who are unjustly accused, in cases of sexual assault it seems like the process of law can actually re-victimize the victims. And this helps explain why victims can be so hesitant to report the crime, and why accustations can take many years to come to light. The sin is awful and the aftermath can be excruciating.

Pastor Justin Holcomb has given a great deal of attention to this topic over the past few years, and I recently spoke to him about sexual assault in light of today’s headlines.

MeThe law states that a person is considered innocent until he is proven guilty. Yet in many cases it is very difficult to prove sexual assault simply because it is one person’s word against another’s in a context in which there are no witnesses. Is there a solution to this, where we take seriously a person’s charge of sexual assault, yet while still requiring the burden of proof?

HolcombThe burden of proof is to determine if a crime has been committed, but we do not need to same burden of proof to determine if we should serve and care for the person claiming that they have been sexually assault.

With regard to the reporting of sexual assault, there are two major issues to consider—false reporting and under reporting. While under reporting is a major concern, false reporting is not. Actually, false reports are quite rare. The figure often used by sexual violence experts for estimating falsified reports is 2 percent, which is a slightly lower rate than other crimes.

This tells us that if someone is claiming they have been sexually assault, our default response should be to believe them, listen to them, and assume they are telling the truth. 

MeIt is well established that many victims of sexual assault refuse to go to the police because they know that they will face a grueling and humiliating process of questioning to establish whether they truly were victimized. Is there a way we can take charges seriously, yet while protecting the dignity of those who may have been the victims of assault? Why do so many victims of sexual assault choose not to charge their attacker, or perhaps even to tell anyone else about their experience? Is there something we, as Christians and as churches can do to help people speak up?

HolcombAccording to the FBI, sexual assault is “one of the most under-reported crimes due primarily to fear and/or embarrassment on the part of the victim.” 

Given the horrific nature of sexual assault and the shame it brings to victims, it is not shocking that it is one of the most underreported crimes. The fear of intrusive and revictimizing court procedures pre- vents many sexual assault survivors from reporting their assaults. Most sexual assault victims choose not to report their assaults. Factors that keep a victim from reporting the crime include shame and embarrassment, self-blame, fear of media exposure, fear of further injury or retaliation, fear of one’s own family and community response, and fear of a legal system that often puts the victim’s behavior and history on trial.

Research on attitudes toward sexual assault has demonstrated that individuals in our society hold many prejudices about and negative views of sexual assault victims. So, victims often suffer not only from the trauma of the assault itself but also from the effects of these negative stereotypes. The result is that victims feel socially derogated and blamed following their sexual assault, which can prolong, continue, and intensify the substantial psychological and emotional distress the victim experiences. It is clear that negative reactions from family, friends, loved ones, and society have a harmful effect on victims. 

Because sexual assault is a form of victimization that is particularly stigmatized in American society, many victims suffer in silence, which only intensifies their distress and disgrace. There is a societal impulse to blame traumatized individuals for their suffering. Research findings suggest blaming victims for post-traumatic symptoms is not only wrong but also contributes to the vicious cycle of traumatization. Victims experiencing negative social reactions have poorer adjustment. Research has proven that the only social reactions related to better adjustment by victims are being believed and being listened to by others.

Christians can listen to them and tell them, “I believe you. I’m sorry that this sin and crime happened to you.” They can also offer to help: “If you want to report this, I’ll go with you so you are not alone.”

MeOne of the tricky issues related to sexual assault is the issue of consent—consent to participate in sexual activity in general or specific sexual activities. Is consent given one time at the outset of sexual activity, or must consent be given on an ongoing basis? How should we think Christianly about consent?

December 10, 2014

The Strange Oprahfication of Rob Bell - “Without intending malice or slander, I have to suggest that Bell is sounding less like a preacher of Christianity (even a liberal one) and more like the newest member of an affluent, West Coast cult.”

The Modern Hymnal - You’ll enjoy this interview with Keith Getty.

Confessions Of A Hardcore Homeschooler - Stephen Altrogge shares some confessions of a hardcore homeschooler. 

Twice-Yearly Sale - Christian Audio is having their twice-yearly sale where just about everything is on sale for $7.49.

Benefits of Expository Preaching - “Because God’s word is so valuable, expository preaching imparts blessing in many ways.”

Don’t Get an Emotional Divorce - You need to guard your heart (and not just your body) while dating.

Can Women Be Deacons? - Denny Burk takes a look at a difficult passage and addresses whether or not the Bible calls for female deacons. I tend to agree with his interpretation, while also absolutely understanding how and why people see the other side as well.

Forgetfulness of God’s grace is one of the greatest tools in the enemy’s war against our souls. —Mark Dever

Dever

December 09, 2014

I get a little nervous when I see an artist jump mediums. Not all artists make that transition from one medium to another—good authors have written awful songs and great songwriters have written really bad books. But Matt Papa has made it work. He has recorded some excellent songs (e.g. Come Behold The Wondrous Mystery) and has now also written a fantastic book. In Look and Live he wants you to behold the soul-thrilling, sin-destroying glory of Christ. Even better, he will help you do it.

The book begins with the assumption—the biblically safe assumption—that we are worshippers. The question is not if, but what we will worship. If it is really true that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become an expert on anything, well, we all become expert worshippers at fourteen months of age. We were created to worship and we will worship. “As human beings we are plagued with inordinate affections. We love green pieces of paper more than God. We love balls made out of pigskin more than God. We’ve shown we even love apples more than God. We, like Esau, have traded our birthright—the dignity of our shameless, joy-filled, glory-beholding, glory-reflecting existence—for a bowl of beans.”

What is the solution to this misplaced worship?

We don’t need more willpower. We don’t need to get ourselves together. We need a greater thrill … a more captivating beauty.

What we need is a vision of God.

We need to see glory.

And for that reason Papa’s goal here is “to help you overcome idolatry and certain sadness by pointing you to the all-satisfying, sin-destroying glory of Jesus.”

He does that by reflecting on the glory of God, and then seeing the glory of God as it is displayed in creation, mission, obedience, suffering, and, especially, the cross of Christ.

He draws deeply from the wells of church history and also from the best of today’s writers. Papa’s strength is not so much in saying new things, but in distilling the best of the Christian thinkers of yesterday and today. He writes meditatively and reflectively. His joy and delight is contagious. He may be at his best in chapter 4, “The Blazing Center,” where what he writes is deep and beautiful and brilliant. It covers familiar territory but in a fresh and free way. It may be one of the best chapters of any book I’ve read this year and it will bear repeated readings.

When I preach I always try to share the gospel differently—to use fresh words and fresh ways of saying those same old truths. It’s not that there is new content to the gospel message, but there are ways of saying it that restore and recover some of that excitement. And that is what Papa does here.

By way of critique, I do wish had had focused a little more attention to the resurrection. We love to behold the cross, and need to behold it, but we also need to behold the empty tomb. Without the empty tomb, the gospel is incomplete.

When an artist is successful in one medium, he may well be offered opportunities to participate in another, and that’s exactly where some too many bad books come from. But this, this was the book Papa was meant to write. It’s a good one and I can’t recommend it too highly.

December 09, 2014

I’ve got just a handful of new Kindle deals today: Ready for Reformation? by Tom Nettles ($0.99); Character Makes a Difference by Mike Huckabee ($1.99); The Big Idea of Biblical Preaching by Various ($1.99); Embracing Obscurity by Anonymous ($1.99); What Every Christian Ought to Know by Adrian Rogers ($1.99).

How Do You Sleep? - “As Christians I don’t think we give sleep much thought. I know I don’t.  We know that our bodies need it and we acknowledge that it is a gift of God. But it turns out that there is more to it.”

The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill - This will certainly not be the last word on Mars Hill, but it’s still a very interesting account of the church’s downfall, along with some important lessons.

The Ministry of Shaking Hands - I think H.B. Charles Jr. is quite right about the pastoral ministry of shaking hands.

The Centrality of the Word in Discipleship - I’ve been learning this same thing. Instead of saying, “Here, read this book” try saying, “Let’s read the Book together.”

The Death of Freedom - Here’s an important article on why the freedom to marry actually signals the death of freedom.

When Grammar Fails - “One of the great conundrums in the Synoptics is the issue of whether Jesus told his disciples to take a staff, not take a staff, or don’t take an extra staff.”

God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving. —Randy Alcorn

Alcorn