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April 07, 2015

The Christ-Centered Exposition commentaries are on sale in Kindle format: ExodusEzra-Nehemiah; Song of SongsMatthewMarkGalatians; Ephesians; 1&2 ThessaloniansJames; 1, 2, 3 John ($2.99 each). The Underestimated Gospel by Together for the Gospel ($2.99); The Measure of Success by Carolyn McCulley ($2.99); Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax ($1.99); Heroes and Monsters by Josh Riebock ($2.99).

Love and Hate in a Foreign Country - There are some good lines in Carl Trueman’s latest article as he focuses on the RFRA protests of last week.

Married Men - Here’s an interesting one from The Washington Post: “Marriage has a transformative effect on adult behavior, emotional health, and financial well-being—particularly for men.”

Hassles and Joys - “Great risks, long journeys, government sabotage, official informants, chaotic crowds, packed halls, and fervent prayers: Welcome to a Christian training conference in Hong Kong.”

The Dead End of Sexual Sin - Rosaria Butterfield: “Unbelievers don’t ‘struggle’ with same-sex attraction. I didn’t. My love for women came with nary a struggle at all.”

Young Mothers, You Need Friends - Yes, you do, and especially in those years when friendships are hard to maintain.

How Does God Define Success? - Probably not the way you do.

I am certain that the safest way to defend your character is never to say a word about it. —C.H. Spurgeon


April 06, 2015

We are at an interesting point in history. I guess there’s never really a boring point in history, but there are definitely times when things advance or unravel in a hurry. And today we are seeing the full-out charge of a new kind of morality. We see it playing out in the media just about every day, and Nancy Pearcey’s book Total Truth is still one of the most helpful guides to understanding what is happening around us.

Our society insists that there needs to be a radical split between two different spheres: the private and the public. In the public sphere we have society’s great institutions: the state, academia, multinational corporations, the mainstream media, and the like. In the private sphere we have the family, the church, and personal relationships. We are told that these public institutions are based only on what is scientific and objective. Meanwhile, the private sphere is composed of all those things that are subjective or based on personal values; we are allowed to have them, but they are less important than the public sphere and must never be allowed to influence it.

Here is how this dichotomy looks when diagrammed:

Personal Preference
Scientific Knowledge

In the private sphere are matters of personal preference, while in the public sphere are matters of objective truth. What is true for all people is on the bottom level, but what is true for you or me is on the top level. Both exist, but they must be kept apart. Pearcey says, “Religion is not considered an objective truth to which we must submit, but only a matter of personal taste which we choose.” For this reason the split is also sometimes call the fact/value split.

Individual Choice
Binding on Everyone

In the upper level is values—individual preferences—, while on the bottom level are facts which are binding on everyone. Facts represent knowledge drawn from and proven by science, which means they are objective and rational and binding on each of us. On the other hand, the top level values are considered subjective. Because they are a product of tradition and are essentially irrational, they have little to say about reality and cannot be binding on anyone’s conscience except my own.

According to this line of thinking, my Christian morality falls into the values sphere, and is allowed to have no bearing on the facts. While I may bind myself by what my religion teaches, I have no right to demand that anyone else hold to those same values, and no right to allow my values to influence the facts. I am required to hold these two spheres completely apart from one another.

Ultimately, these two spheres represent two tiers or two stories of truth that display a divide between what is rational and verifiable (and, therefore, superior) and what is nonrational and nonverifiable (and, therefore, inferior).

Nonrational, Noncognitive
Rational, Verifiable

On the upper story is what is true for me, while on the lower story is what is true for all of us.

Now why does all of this matter? Because it is “the simple most potent weapon for delegitimizing the biblical perspective in the public square today. Here’s how it works: Most secularists are too politically savvy to attack religion directly or to debunk it as false. So what do they do? They consign religion to the value sphere—which takes it out of the realm of true and false altogether. Secularists can then assure us that of course they “respect” religion, while at the same time denying that it has any relevance to the public realm.”

And this is exactly what is happening today in so many different areas. Christians are allowed to hold to their beliefs, but not when those beliefs begin to creep from the realm of private to the realm of public. A Canadian politician came under extreme pressure when he stated his skepticism about Darwinian evolution. Because his Christian faith is considered a value, he has no right to state it and no right to allow it to influence his public life. An American florist determined that she could not support a homosexual wedding by providing flowers. Because her view of homosexuality stems from the private sphere, she has no right to allow it to influence her business decisions. A media uproar immediately followed. We could look to today’s headlines and instantly find another ten or twenty similar stories.

Listen to what Pearcey says: “This same division also explains why Christians have such difficulty communicating in the public arena. It’s crucial for us to realize that nonbelievers are constantly filtering what we say through a mental fact/value grid. For example, when we state a position on an issue like abortion or bioethics or homosexuality, we intend to assert an objective moral truth important to the health of society—but they think we’re merely expressing our subjective bias.” When we see design in the universe, we are making a testable and verifiable claim, but they hear only religious irrationality. When we say that homosexual marriage is against God’s design, they see irrational personal preference creeping into the public discussion. As Pearcey says, “The fact/value grid instantly dissolves away the objective content of anything we say…”

What do we do about it? Well, whatever else we do, we first need to ensure we do not allow such a divide in our own lives. “We have to reject the division of life into a sacred realm limited to things like worship and personal morality, over against a secular realm that includes science, politics, economics, and the rest of the public arena.” We have to understand that the Bible describes a way of looking at the world that is perfectly unified, where both facts and values flow from the same Source and achieve the same great end. Today more than ever, we must be people who know and love and live the Word of God. And then we must be prepared to stand on, and suffer for, what we know is true.

April 06, 2015

There are lots of new Kindle deals today. Here’s a start, and I’ll have lots more tomorrow: The Shepherd Leader at Home by Timothy Witmer ($2.99); Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham ($3.99); Exploring Grace Together by Jessica Thompson ($3.99); Marriage and Family by Andreas Kostenberger ($3.99); Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick ($3.99); Out of the Depths by Edgar Harrell ($1.99); The Gagging of God by D.A. Carson ($3.99); Finally Free by Heath Lambert ($3.99).

The Fallout of Failed Marriages - John MacArthur: “The best way to defend and uphold God’s design for marriage and family is not through political or legal action—it’s through the living testimony of a faithful, righteous adherence to God’s design.”

What Happens If All The Bees Die? - Answer? Lots of bad stuff. And isn’t it amazing how intricately God has made this world…

The Established Religion - Frank Turek argues that same-sex marriage has become the established religion. “The new established religion chooses the sword of government compulsion over the freedom of religion and conscience.”

Do You Think It Happened Or Not? - This is important: “when Christians assert that Jesus rose from the dead, they are making a historical claim, not a religious one.”

To Be Laughed At - What is it like to be the butt of the Internet’s latest joke? This writer tells you. (Language warning)

The Most Neglected Part - “I have come to believe that the most neglected part of Christ’s saving work is actual what happened to Him in between His death and resurrection.”

Remember: you are not fighting for victory, but from victory, for Jesus Christ has already defeated Satan! —Warren Wiersbe


April 05, 2015

Sometimes you stop reading just a little bit too soon. That may be your temptation as you read this quote from Charles Spurgeon. But you’ll be missing out if you don’t read right to the end…

Heaven will be full of the ceaseless praises of Jesus. Eternity! thine unnumbered years shall speed their everlasting course, but forever and for ever, “to him be glory.” Is he not a “Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek”? “To him be glory.” Is he not king for ever?—King of kings and Lord of lords, the everlasting Father? “To him be glory for ever.” Never shall his praises cease. That which was bought with blood deserves to last while immortality endures. The glory of the cross must never be eclipsed; the lustre of the grave and of the resurrection must never be dimmed. O Jesus! thou shalt be praised for ever. Long as immortal spirits live—long as the Father’s throne endures—for ever, for ever, unto thee shall be glory. Believer, you are anticipating the time when you shall join the saints above in ascribing all glory to Jesus; but are you glorifying him now? The apostle’s words are, “To him be glory both now and for ever.” Will you not this day make it your prayer? “Lord, help me to glorify thee; I am poor, help me to glorify thee by contentment; I am sick, help me to give thee honour by patience; I have talents, help me to extol thee by spending them for thee; I have time, Lord, help me to redeem it, that I may serve thee; I have a heart to feel, Lord, let that heart feel no love but thine, and glow with no flame but affection for thee; I have a head to think, Lord, help me to think of thee and for thee; thou hast put me in this world for something, Lord, show me what that is, and help me to work out my life-purpose: I cannot do much, but as the widow put in her two mites, which were all her living, so, Lord, I cast my time and eternity too into thy treasury; I am all thine; take me, and enable me to glorify thee now, in all that I say, in all that I do, and with all that I have.”

Pray it, and allow yourself to imagine what your life would look like if you lived it…

April 04, 2015

Here are a few new Kindle deals: Rid of My Disgrace by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb ($3.99); Redemption by Mike Wilkerson ($3.99); Adoniram Judson by Jason Duesing ($0.99); Reasons for Unbelief by Norman Geisler ($1.99); Embracing Obscurity by Anonymous ($2.99).

Did Jesus suffer God’s wrath for all, or only the elect? R.C. Jr: “Just for the elect. This truth is hard for some people for a what seems like a good reason—It shows God treating people unequally.”

On a similar note, I appreciate the way Douglas Wilson approaches Roger Olson’s diatribe against Calvinism. 

What is the The Post-Indiana Future for Christians? “Our culture has lost the ability to reason together, because too many of us want and believe radically incompatible things.”

Marvin Olasky has a good article titled Cultural Hardball. “In an increasingly hostile culture, pastors and Christian ballplayers both face brushback pitches. Will they stand up to the pressure?”

And while we’re on the subject of baseball, this is worth reading if you’re a baseball fan: No Runs, No Hits, New Era. It talks about the dominance of pitching in today’s game.

Shell Shock is a fascinating (and tragic) look at a couple of tragic figures from the First World War. “They were twin sisters and scions of New York society. They were writers. They were Red Cross volunteers in the War To End All Wars. And on the way home from France, they leaped into the icy water.”

I’m grateful to P&R for sponsoring the blog this week with their article Does the Devil Have Your Ear?

Finally, today is a good day to ponder The Silence of God.

The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord. —George Müller


April 03, 2015

It’s time for another Free Stuff Fridays, and we’ve got a great one for you this week. This week’s sponsor is Christian Focus and they are giving away some of their new and noteworthy books. There will be 5 winners this week, and each of those winners will receive all of the following books:

HeavenHeaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross by Colin Smith. What if you woke up one morning knowing that it was your last day on earth? That’s what happened to the thief on the cross, who died a few feet from Jesus. Heaven, How I Got Here is his story, told in his own words, as he looks back from Heaven on the day that changed his eternity, and the faith that can change yours. “I’ve never read anything like this! This compelling first-person account from a heavenly perspective helped me understand and appreciate what Jesus endured on the cross and why he did it.” (Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition)

SpurgeonSpurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression by Zack Eswine. Christians should have the answers, shouldn’t they? Depression affects many people both personally and through the ones we love. Here Zack Eswine draws from C.H Spurgeon, ‘the Prince of Preachers’ experience to encourage us. What Spurgeon found in his darkness can serve as a light in our own darkness. Zack Eskwine brings you here, not a self-help guide, rather ‘a handwritten note of one who wishes you well. “The river of life often flows through sloughs of despond. Charles Spurgeon knew that well… Ditto Zack Eswine in this unusual, refreshing, sensible book… Read it, and take it to heart.” (David Powlison, CCEF Executive Director)

Tough TopicsTough Topics 2: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions by Sam Storms. Countless people are worried, angry, fearful and just plain confused when it comes to some of the more perplexing issues that life poses and the Bible provokes. Tough Topics 2 provides solid and scriptural answers to 25 such questions. Sam Storms seeks to tackle frustration by looking deeply, not superficially, at what Scripture says, deriving clear and persuasive explanations for these thorny matters. “Sam Storms tackles difficult questions in Tough Topics 2 like only a seasoned pastor can… This is a great book to use as a resource or to read straight through.” (Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor, The Village Church)

KnoxJohn Knox: Fearless Faith by Steven J. Lawson. John Knox is one of the most colourful figures in church history and his impact is still felt around the world. The real story of Knox surpasses the best fiction novels. Five hundred years after his death, Steven Lawson seeks in this book to ignite our faith for Jesus through Knox’s story. If you think of Knox as the dull Presbyterian, prepare to think again. Let this seminal figure in the history of the Scottish Reformation inspire you to stand firm in your faith and let God impact your spiritual life. “Steven Lawson, himself a bold preacher, has given us a biography of Knox that inspires similar courage. In this day of jellyfish, may God use this book to raise up more Christians like Knox!” (Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary)

A Little BirdA Little Bird Told Me: Everyday Expressions from Scripture by Timothy Cross. “The writing is on the wall”, “a drop in the ocean” and “from strength to strength”. Just some of our everyday expressions which find their roots in the Bible! People quote biblical expressions without even knowing that they are doing so. Historically, the influence of the Bible has been so great that it has permeated the very fibre of the English language. Timothy Cross in this enlightening and Scripture rooted book reveals the origins of these sayings and considers their meaning.

In DefenseIn Defense of the Fatherless: Redeeming International Adoption and Orphan Care by Amanda Bennett & Sara Brinton. Designed as a practical resource for Christian families and churches, the book empowers and inspires Christians to reform international adoption and orphan care. In Defense of the Fatherless casts a powerful vision for the end of the orphan crisis, inviting Christians to protect and provide for orphans and widows in response to God’s mercy. “…will challenge, convict and fuel a conversation that is much needed today for the church to move forward in international adoption and orphan care passionately, wisely, and ethically.” (Jason Kovacs, Cofounder of Together for Adoption)

Mea CulpaMea Culpa: Learning from Mistakes in the Ministry by Kyle McClellan. Kyle McClellan has gone into a church “with guns blazing” and he was quickly fired. He has experienced the disappointment of unmet expectations and left because of this. He has pastored a destructive church that chewed him up and spat him out. He has felt the pull of the bigger and better church trying to woo him away. He has faced the burnout and fatigue that many pastors experience that causes them to bail. Read this book. Learn from him. Receive the essential lessons from a wise, broken man who has lived it, possesses the scars from it, owns the T-shirt and yet by the grace of God still stands. “Learn from Kyle’s missteps, but even more, embrace the God of grace to whom he gives testimony.” (Sean Michael Lucas, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church)

Enter the Draw

All you need to do to enter the draw is to drop your name and email address in the form below. (If you receive this by email, you will need to visit challies.com to enter.)

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.

April 03, 2015

Here are just a couple of new Kindle deals: The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB) or NKJV ($4.99); and The Jesus Answer Book by John MacArthur ($1.99).

Revival on the Pennsylvania Frontier - “While George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards have come to be considered the primary human instruments used by God in America’s First Great Awakening, numerous other ministers were privileged to have a significant role in that widespread revival as well.”

Curse Motif - Here’s R.C. Sproul speaking on the curse motif of the atonement. (Click here if you’d rather read it.)

The Internet Ruined April Fool’s Day - Like Halloween, it’s fun when it’s a day for kids, but goes off the rails when the adults take over.

Jerusalem Journal - Tim Keesee shares a dispatch from Jerusalem.

Died: Robert Schuller - You certainly won’t agree with everything in this article, but it does provide an interesting look back at Robert Schuller’s life and legacy.

What Happened in Kenya? - Joe Carter has an FAQ on the attacks on Christians in Kenya.

Look to the cross, and hate your sin, for sin nailed your Well Beloved to the tree. —C.H. Spurgeon


April 02, 2015

The world only works when life is held as precious. Each of us wants to live more than we want to die. We are overwhelmed by the longing to not die, and consumed with the desire to go on living. 

A thousand times a day we make subconscious choices that preserve our lives. We brake when we come to a stop sign. We replace the battery in the smoke detector. We hold on to the handrail. We fasten the safety belt. We double-check the dosage. We do it all so we can continue to live. We do it all to diminish the likelihood of our own demise.

And it is not just our own life that we regard as precious, but all life. Just as we make decisions to protect our own lives, we make decisions to protect others’. We tighten our children’s seatbelts. We put the knives up high. We pay the salaries of police officers. We stop and help when we spot even a stranger in distress.

Life is the most precious thing. The world only works when we maintain this tacit agreement that life is precious, that I will do all I can to preserve both mine and yours, that you will do all you can to protect both yours and mine. Both civilization and civility stand or fall on this simple agreement.

The alternative is unthinkable. The alternative is cars swerving to meet oncoming traffic, bicycles drifting out of the bike lane, toddlers roaming at will, hospitals empty and unstaffed. The alternative might even be a pilot setting his aircraft so that it gradually coasts straight into the ground.

The world reacted with horror—justified horror—when they learned that Andreas Lubitz had deliberately crashed Germanwings flight 9525, taking his own life and the lives of the other 149 passengers and crew members. The reason for our shock is that he violated the agreement. He chose to take life instead of perserve life.

There are a hundred explanations for this desire to protect and preserve life. But the only one that really makes sense, and the only one that is compelling enough to believe, is that God is the creator of life, and that he has given life intrinsic value. He has made us this way, and deeply ingrained it within each one of us. To recklessly endanger life is to reject both the giver and his gift.

This, then, is why we react with such utter horror to what Lubitz did. He chose to diminish the value of his life, and the lives of each of those 149 people. We know intuitively that this is an outrage, the deepest kind of transgression. And it scares us. It terrifies us. It is unfair, unjust, unconscionable, unthinkable. And yet there it is, emblazoned in the headlines: He did it, and he could have done it to us. He rejected the most basic information, and broke our most foundational agreement.