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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

December 08, 2014

We live in a world that is full of temptation. There is no rest from sin and no rest from temptation to sin. There is not a single moment when we can relax our vigilance. As John Owen says, we can leave sin alone when sin leaves us alone, and that will not be until we are on the far side of the grave.

Temptations can be like the waves of the sea as they break along the beach—they rise and fall, they ebb and flow. Yet temptations are not entirely unpredictable, and there are certain times in life in which they are more likely to press hard than in others. Here are 4 times or seasons in which you need to be especially vigilant against temptation.

A Season of Prosperity

Prosperity and temptation so often go hand-in-hand. It is not that prosperity is a curse or that you ought to dread it. Rather, you need to have an awareness that prosperity carries with it the food and fuel for so much temptation. Agur knew this, writing in Proverbs, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’” Guard yourself in those times of abundance, and prepare yourself for an onslaught of temptation—temptation to deny that this prosperity is a gift of God’s good grace (ingratitude!), temptation to hoard those good gifts (greed!), temptation to believe that God prefers you over those who have less (pride!). Your prosperity may be the smokescreen that masks a great temptation.

A Season of Spiritual Formality

There are inevitably times in life when your delight in God grows lukewarm. There are times when your heart longs for satisfaction in something—anything—other than God and his riches. In these times your worship is marked by formality, your time in prayer and God’s Word become cold duty, you look with dread at the times of fellowship with other Christians. You may neglect the pursuit of communion with God, and instead treat your relationship with him as just another of life’s joyless duties. In these times you may be sure that Satan is close at hand to tempt you, to draw you even farther from God and even deeper into lesser pleasures. Your heart is already marked by coldness, and he longs to make it colder still. Fight! Fight to restore the joy of your salvation.

A Season of Spiritual Bliss

Just as temptation may be close behind your spiritual doldrums, it may also be lurking close behind your spiritual heights. You can observe this very thing in the life of Paul, who received the great gift of being caught up to the third heaven and seeing Christ there, but who was immediately visited by Satan (2 Cor. 12:7). God loves to bless us with those times of freedom and pleasure, but temptation may be close at hand. In those times of great spiritual enjoyment you may be tempted to neglect the means of grace. So satisfied are you in the current state that you stop fighting sin and accept this grace as your due. You may even brag about the heights you have reached, and all but beg God to chasten and humble you. Enjoy soaring to those spiritual heights, but do not cease from guarding your heart, mind, and soul.

A Season of Self-Confidence

You will inevitably enter into sore temptation in those times when you are full of self-confidence. This was exactly the case with Peter who, on the final night of Jesus’ life, bragged that he would never desert his Savior. Yet within hours he had not only abandoned him but denied him not once, not twice, but three times. His self-confidence allowed him to compare himself with others and boast, “Though they may forsake you, I will not.” And still he fell gravely at the very first opportunity. This world is full of temptations that range from sins of lust to sins of anger and sins of false belief. The greater your confidence in your ability to overcome these sins in your own strength, the greater your confidence that these sins cannot sway you, the greater the likelihood you will be tempted with them, and the greater the likelihood you will fall into them. Beware self-confidence and flee from its first awakenings.

Temptation will come. Temptation may well come in those times of prosperity, those times of formality, those times of bliss, and those times of self-confidence. But even when temptation is inevitable, succumbing to the temptation is not. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). You must, and you can, endure.

To learn more about these seasons of temptation, read John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation (pages 197-202). 

Image credit: Shutterstock

December 08, 2014

I dug up some great Kindle deals to start the week: We’re Just Friends by Chuck Milian (free); Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke ($1.99); Note to Self by Joe Thorn ($0.99); Faithmapping by Mike Cosper & Daniel Montgomery ($0.99); Not By Sight by Jon Bloom ($0.99); Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessice Thompson ($0.99); Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware ($1.99). And a few by John MacArthur: The MacArthur Bible Handbook ($4.99); The MacArthur Daily Bible ($4.99); MacArthur Study Bible NASB ($4.99); MacArthur Study Bible NKJV ($4.74); One Perfect Life ($4.99). If you’re in the market for a Kindle device, today only they have a selection of their newest models at 50% off.

Marriage Is On the Rocks - Here’s an important follow-up to one of last week’s interesting articles. Divorce rates are falling but marriage is still on the rocks. How can that be? Read on…

Why Christians Care About Sex - In a different (but related) matter, here is one take on why Christians care about sex and those who seek to tamper with it.

Covenant Eyes - Ever thought of trying out Covenant Eyes? You can get your first 2 months free, today only.

Christian Christmas Haters - Clint Archer has a gift for the Christian Christmas haters.

Can We Identify Those Who Prey On Our Children? - Please read this one, and prepare your church.

4 Ways Generosity Benefits Us - “By God’s grace, it’s not only others who benefit when we give. Here are just four of the many benefits we receive when we choose generosity…”

Praise God For Mentors - I really enjoyed reading this sweet and simple example of the power of mentorship.

There is a God we want and a God who is, and the two are not the same. —Ligon Duncan

Duncan