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September 08, 2014

I am sure you have heard by now that a group of hackers invaded the private accounts of a list of celebrities, found their photographs, and released them to the public. The celebrities were young women, the photographs were nude or semi-nude, and the shots were meant to remain private. The end result is that millions of people have now seen and enjoyed revealing photographs that were intended only for these women and their most intimate acquaintances.

We could talk about the folly of taking nude photographs, and the inappropriateness of such moments shared between two people who are not married (which, I assume, is the context of most or all of the photographs). But I think such a focus would be to miss out on more important matters.

When I read this story I felt a deep sadness for these young women. These women are victims, and they are victims several times over.

They are victims of the crime that hacked their accounts and stole their photographs and displayed them for the world to see. We acknowledge this, but I want us to acknowledge a deeper kind of victimization.

They are victims of the millions of virtual voyeurs who are looking at photographs that were meant to be kept private. And they are victims of all the people who are using those pictures for the purpose of sexual titillation or just plain entertainment.

But there is still another aspect of their victimization I want us to see: The very fact that these women took these photographs in the first place is proof that they are victims of the world, the flesh, and the devil. I assume they were all willing participants in these photo shoots, but they were victims even in their willingness—victims of those forces that makes them believe they are nothing more than their beauty, their sexiness, or their sexual desirability. They are victims of the lust that drove them to inappropriate sexual relationships outside of marriage. When we understand sin, we understand that a person can be a willing participant and victim at the same time and in the same act.

When I speak to people about pornography, I always try to highlight this point: As Christians, we ought to have the highest compassion for people who are victims of sin. The young man who looks at pornography is enjoying someone else’s victimization. Whether the woman on the screen was raped into porn or whether she is a fully-willing participant, she is a victim of evil, controlling forces. And the young man who looks at her on the screen is joyfully participating in her victimization. He takes advantage of a victim for his own sexual satisfaction. That is a shameful, abhorrent evil. And those who looked at the stolen celebrity photos are every bit as guilty.

As Christians we are called by Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves—we are to have compassion on them for their sin and folly. Whatever else we see in this sad story, let’s see this: As Christians, we must refuse to participate in further victimizing those who are victims of sin.

(In case it needs to be said, I did not look for or look at any of those photos in preparing this article.)

Hacker image credit: Shutterstock.

September 08, 2014

There is lots of Kindle goodness for you today: Finally Free by Heath Lambert (a great book on overcoming pornography) ($3.99); Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill ($3.99); Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman ($1.99); The Power of Words and the Wonder of God by John Piper ($1.99); Words for Reader and Writers by Larry Woiwode ($1.99); Meaning at the Movies by Grant Horner ($1.99); Art and the Christian Mind by Laurel Gasque ($1.99); Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles by Kathy Keller ($1.99).

BBC Earth Titles - Today only Amazon has a lot of BBC’s Earth titles up to 79% off. They include Planet Earth, Life, Frozen Planet, etc.

Africa Needs a Whole Lot Less of Joel and a Whole Lot More of Rick - Here’s a response to Victoria Osteen that comes from the mission frontier.

The Simple Technology That Accidentally Ruined Baseball - Baseball fans will enjoy this one.

The Abomination of Desolation - The Gospel Coalition turns to Daniel Doriani to ask, “What is the abomination of desolation referred to in Matthew 24?”

What Kind of Procrastinator Are You? - Here’s a simple flowchart to figure out how and why you procrastinate.

InterVarsiety De-Recognized - This seems to be increasingly common: Universities refusing to recognize Christian campus organizations (or, in theory, other organizations that involve some kind of exclusivity).

May I Marry for Looks? - Clint Archer pens a letter geared toward young men.

“Busy” isn’t about the accumulated number of hours we work, its about the nervousness of our hearts. —Justin Risedorf

Risedorf

September 07, 2014

Today I’d like to do a little “faith hacking”—to find and share one of those practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life. As I read, as I listen to sermons, as I speak to people, I am always looking for insights on how other Christians live out their faith in practical ways, and today I want to tell you about one great suggestion for improving the way you meditate on Scripture.

If you are like me, you find meditation a difficult practice. You like the idea of it, but find the reality difficult to carry out. In my mind, “meditation” seems like an ethereal term, one that contains a good idea but without any clear structure. I struggle with it.

In his book Simplify Your Spiritual Life, Donald Whitney says, “When meditating on a verse of Scripture, it’s usually much easier to answer specific questions about it than to think about the text without any guidance or direction at all.” Which, I think, pretty much explains my frustration. He describes meditating on Philippians 4:8 and realizing that the verse offers helpful directions for the kinds of things he could meditate on for any passage in the whole Bible.

Philippians 4:8, which you’ve probably memorized at one time or another, says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Whitney studied the verse for a time, and came up with a list of questions that can be helpful for meditating on nearly anything in your life, but especially Scripture. Here they are:

  • What is true about this, or what truth does it exemplify?
  • What is honorable about this?
  • What is right about this?
  • What is pure about this, or how does it exemplify purity?
  • What is lovely about this?
  • What is admirable, commendable, or reputation-strengthening about this?
  • What is excellent about this (in other words, excepts others of this kind)?
  • What is praiseworthy about this?

And there you have it—8 questions that can help guide your meditation.

Do you have other questions to guide your meditation? How do you make sure you are not only reading Scripture, but also pondering and applying it?

September 06, 2014

The weekend is here, and with it a new edition of Weekend A La Carte. And I’ll begin by expressing my gratitude to this week’s sponsor, Clarifying the Bible. My site is dependent upon sponsors to keep going, so be sure to check them out week-by-week.

Rick Reed went looking to Bonhoeffer to pick up some interesting tips on teaching and preaching. I like this one: “The best sign of a good pastor is that the congregation reads the Bible.”

Jared Wilson says He Must Increase; Our Churches Must Decrease. And I quite agree.

Daniel Doriana offers up some tips for dealing with a bad boss, because we have all had to at one time or another.

Here are 7 Signs You’re Spending Too Much Time Looking at Your Phone. Am I the only one who has permanent iPhone-shaped indents in all of my pants, right at the left-front pocket?

This is a fascinating video of pianist Glenn Gould in a state of almost possession, or is it absence?, as he plays piano.

I don’t know if it’s true, but I like the headline: Canada is now more American than America. It looks to the Burger King / Tim Horton’s deal as proof.

And let me leave you with a quote…

I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man. —Dwight L. Moody

Moody

September 05, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by our friends at Reformation Heritage Books. They have put together a great prize package this week; there will be 5 winners, and each of them will receive the following 6 books:

  • SwinnockThe Blessed and Boundless God by George Swinnock. “This book, by Puritan George Swinnock, is precisely what is needed in order to introduce God’s people to the blessed and boundless God. I cannot wait to share this work with my own flock.” (Mark Jones, minister of Faith Presbyterian Church, Vancouver, British Columbia, and coauthor of A Puritan Theology)
  • Building a Godly Home by William Gouge (3 Volumes). For years, William Gouge’s Domestical Duties has stood as the foremost Puritan treatment of Christian family life. Yet due to its size and antiquated expression, it has become almost unknown among current generations of believers. To help revive the usefulness of this classic book, Scott Brown and Joel R. Beeke divided Gouge’s work into three manageable volumes, updated the language to modern standards, and have given it the title Building a Godly Home.
    • A Holy Vision for Family Life
    • A Holy Vision for Happy Marriage
    • NEW: A Holy Vision for Raising Children
  • Beauty and GloryThe Beauty and Glory of Christian Living, edited by Dr. Joel Beeke. “The Beauty and Glory of Christian Living is a storehouse of spiritual riches for all who desire to experience the fullness of Jesus Christ. The topics covered in these pages are well chosen, carefully addressed, and comprise a treasury of truth for every Christian. Get alone with God and read the book. You will be greatly helped in your growth in godliness.” (Steven J. Lawson, president, OnePassion Ministries, Dallas, Texas)
  • A Vine Ripened Life by Stanley Gale. “This was too important to read just once. The possibilities for growth were too good to pass up, so I read it again. So consider reading it this way: go through it slowly, try to do it with someone else, read it aloud, and pray together as you go. Blessing and growth will follow.” (Edward T. Welch, counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) and author of When People Are Big and God Is Small.)

Enter to Win

Again, there are 5 prize packages to win. And 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.

September 05, 2014

I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve received and awful lot of them and, in sorting through the pile, here are some that have risen to the top.

ESVESV Women’s Devotional Bible. This is a new edition of the ESV with short devotionals and reflections for women. “The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible is a valuable resource for strengthening women in their walk with God. Applicable for women in any stage of life, the Women’s Devotional Bible is theologically rich in content while remaining accessible and practical. Readers will be encouraged in daily, prayerful Bible study, and equipped to understand and apply the Bible to every aspect of life. The Women’s Devotional Bible features materials designed especially for women. The book introductions, character sketches of key figures, all-new daily devotionals, and all-new articles have been written by both women and men contributors. These contributors include professors, musicians, authors, counselors, homemakers, and conference speakers.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Eight Twenty EightEight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up by Ian & Larissa Murphy. You’ve probably heard of Ian & Larissa Murphy before. If not, this would be a great introduction. “What if that thing you really feared happened? Would the joy you hold pop? Or would you experience love and joy deeper than you can imagine? They met in college and fell in love. They talked about getting married, and he started looking for a ring. They dreamed about life together, a life of beauty and joy, raising babies and laughing with friends and growing old. They did not imagine a car accident. They did not imagine his brain injury. They did not dream about the need for constant care and a wheelchair and fear that food might choke him. And they could not have imagined how persistent love would be. Theirs and God’s.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Gods DesignGod’s Design for Man and Women: A Biblical-Theological Survey by Andreas & Margaret Kostenberger. Here is a fresh treatment of a subject that continues to be disputed and relevant. “This thorough study of the Bible’s teaching on men and women aims to help a new generation of Christians live for Christ in today’s world. Moving beyond other treatments that primarily focus on select passages, this winsome volume traces Scripture’s overarching pattern related to male-female relationships in both the Old and New Testaments. Those interested in careful discussion rather than caustic debate will discover that God’s design is not confining or discriminatory but beautiful, wise, liberating, and good.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

JohnJohn: Reformed Expository Commentary by Richard Phillips. I’m always excited to a) see a new commentary in the Reformed Expository Commentary series and b) a new commentary written by Richard Phillips. I’m sure this will prove an excellent volume on the book of John. Here is what Joel Beeke says about it: “Richard Phillips’ exposition of John explains the text clearly, but it also sings, marvels, and gets its hands dirty in real life illustrations. What a great combination of biblical exegesis, doctrine rooted in the Reformation, and practical application! This is a great sermon commentary for pastors, and an extremely helpful book of all Christians desiring to grow in their love for Him who said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

September 05, 2014

It’s been a bit of a slow week for Kindle deals, but I tracked down a few new ones, at least: Into Africa by Martin Dugard ($2.99); The King James Version Debate by D.A. Carson ($2.99); A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur ($5.99); New from GLH Publishing is The Dangers of Prosperity by William Bates ($0.99). Also, today only Amazon has the 8.9” certified refurbished Kindle Fire on sale for $70 off.

The Battle for the Bible Continues - Jonathan Akin points to two recent examples of how the Battle for the Bible continues. You may also enjoy Denny Burk’s commentary on the article.

Christian Unity - David Murray is writing about Christian unity. There is far more to it than you may think!

Ancient Truths - I enjoyed this sweet post on motherhood.

He Will Hold Me Fast - Here’s some information about a song we’ve just begun singing at Grace Fellowship Church. It’s a good one.

Evangelism and Discipleship - 9Marks has an interesting article for you to read. “We asked several pastors to tell us a few practical ways they encourage evangelism and discipleship in the life of their particular local church. Answers are below.”

Am I Called? - Dave Harvey did an interview with me for his podcast; it’s just been uploaded if you’re interested in listening in.

We’re Doing It Again - Mike Wittmer: “Yesterday Matt Lauer interviewed Nancy Writebol in front of a banner that read SIM. It was so third century.” It’s true.

Life is not primarily about what we avoid, but what we pursue. —Brad Hambrick

Hambrick