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March 14, 2015

Before I Go is a powerful bit of writing from Paul Kalanithi in which he opens up about his battle with advanced lung cancer and how he is facing his own mortality. (Note: Kalanithi succumbed to cancer just days ago.)

C. Michael Patton outlines 4 Characteristics of Legalism.

Yes, you can Be Happy When Someone Leaves Your Church, even if it’s difficult. How? There’s really only one church – and that’s Jesus’ church.

Deepak Reju has A Marriage Preparation Inventory that looks like an excellent tool for pre-marriage counselling.

Gavin Peacock says that the modern day litmus test for inerrancy is marriage. “Marriage is so intrinsically linked to the image of God, the authority of God and the gospel that to deny it is to deny the truth about God.”

Does Your Schedule Know You’re a Christian Dad? Steve Watters offers some good counsel in this article from CBMW.

Thanks to MereChurch for sponsoring the blog this week with their article Three Roads to Joy in Bi-vocational Ministry.

Here are 5 Things People Blame the Church For, but shouldn’t.

A message of grace will attract people, but a culture of grace will keep them. —Jared Wilson


March 13, 2015

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Baker Publishing, and they’ve got some great new books to send your way. There will be 5 winners this week, and each of those winners will receive the following 3 books:

  • Matt PapaLook and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ by Matt Papa. This was one of my favorite books of 2014. “Are you tired? Stuck? Still fighting the same sin you’ve been fighting for years? The call in these pages is not to work or to strive, but to lift your eyes. You don’t need more willpower. You need a vision of greatness that sweeps you off your feet. You need to see glory. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • MohlerThe Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler. “Cultures and organizations do not change without strong leadership. While many leadership books focus on management or administration, the central focus of The Conviction to Lead is on changing minds. Using his own experiences and examples from history, Dr. Mohler demonstrates that real leadership is a transferring of conviction to others, affecting their actions, motivations, intuition, and commitment. This practical guide walks the reader through what a leader needs to know, do, and be in order to affect change.”
  • PiperThe Supremacy of God in Preaching, Revised and Expanded Edition by John Piper. “This newly revised and expanded edition of this classic preaching resource is the essential guide for preachers who want to stir the embers of revival. John Piper has added valuable new material reflecting on his thirty-three years of preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church, offering a glimpse of what a lifetime of putting God first has done for the faith of the hundreds of thousands who have heard him preach over the years.”

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.

March 13, 2015

Amazon has begun another of their The Big Deal sales, where they mark down hundreds of Kindle books across all genres. Christian deals include: Lit! by Tony Reinke ($1.99); The Love of Wisdom by James Spiegel ($1.99); Surprised by Grace by Tullian Tchividjian ($1.99); The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts ($2.99). You’ll also find a selection of volumes in the HCSB commentary series at $1.99 each: Genesis, Deuteronomy, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra - Esther, Nahum - Malachi, Mark, Luke, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians - Colossians, 1 Thessalonians - Philemon, 1 Peter - Jude.

Cage-Stage Calvinism - R.C. Sproul: “Cage-stage Calvinists are identifiable by their insistence on turning every discussion into an argument for limited atonement or for making it their personal mission to ensure everyone they know hears—often quite loudly—the truths of divine election.”

Why Some Pregnant Moms Don’t Wait to Announce - “Greater openness around miscarriage has us rethinking first trimester etiquette.”

All About a Number - I admit that this short film is a bit melodramatic, but you’ll probably see at least a glimpse of yourself in it.

Revival at Yale - Vance Christie does what he does so well in this short article.

Gospel Transformation Bible - If you’ve been after a Gospel Transformation Bible, Westminster Book has them deeply discounted for a few days.

Chameleon’s Colour Magic - And it just evolved that way, right?

Ten Punctuation Mistakes - You’ve been warned.

The whole business of Christianity contradicts sense. We give up the visible for invisible rewards. —Thomas Manton


March 12, 2015

Family Technology
Even at the best of times there is nothing simple about raising children. But throw in a million new technologies—new devices and social networks and apps—and things get far more complicated still. This is every parent’s challenge today. Yesterday I offered a few tips on living well in a digital world and today I want to offer some tips on parenting well. I will use the same format: 3 things you need to put off or reject, and 3 things you need to put on or embrace.

Reject Ignorance, Embrace Education

You need to put off ignorance and in its place put on knowledge. Whenever a new technology invades society, we see a consistent pattern: the older people tend to reject it while the younger people embrace it. The older people are perfectly content with the technologies they have always known, while the younger people are excited to try something new. The younger generation surges forward and the older is left behind.

This is true of parents. Parents often feel intimidated by new technologies, so do not bother to investigate them. Instead, they hand their children devices without really understanding their power and capabilities, and that leaves the children as the ones who bear all the risk. This is what we saw at the dawn of the Internet, where parents handed their children a computer and an Internet connection, never even considering that their children might just look for and find pornography. As a consequence, we found an entire generation of young people addicted to porn. Why? Because the parents did not do what they should have done. It is easy to blame the boys, but we also need to look to those parents who did not fulfill their responsibility.

So parent, you need to reject ignorance and choose education. As new technologies come along and as existing technologies evolve, you need to remain educated about them. Before handing your children those new, shiny gadgets, or before allowing them to join those new, exciting social networks, or before letting them download the new apps everyone else is using, you need to educate yourself. Reject the temptation to be passive and ignorant, and instead force yourself to get educated.

Reject Folly, Embrace Responsibility

You need to put off foolishness and embrace responsibility. Today we are handing our children power tools and then acting shocked when they cut off their hands. This is absurd, and we should expect that our children will make serious mistakes if we do not guide them. So parent, you don’t need only to educate yourself, but also your children. You need to have a plan for introducing new technologies to your children and for monitoring them as they use them. This is your responsibility—the responsibility of having a plan.

Whatever plan you implement needs to account for both training and monitoring your children. Think about training your teenager to drive the family car. When that child turns 16 and gets his learner’s permit you would never just hand him the keys and say, “Have a good time and be back by midnight!” You would get in the car, take him to a mall parking lot and allow him to drive around in circles for a few minutes. Maybe if he did exceptionally well you would even allow him to drive home. You would instruct him, watch him, and give him greater privilege as he showed greater ability and responsibility. When it comes to a car, trust and privilege are hard-earned and quickly-forfeited. And in the same way, you have no business handing your children a mobile phone or signing them up for Facebook without providing instruction and guidance.

The Bible assures us that folly is bound up in the heart of a child. The consistent message of Proverbs is that young people are lacking in wisdom and desperately need parents to teach them how to live with virtue. This puts all the responsibility on you. When you give your child a computer, a mobile phone, or a social media account, you are giving something that has immense power. Your child can use these things to do so much good, but he can also use them to do so much evil. If folly truly is bound up in the heart of a child, you need to assume that without guidance, your child will use them for evil. You need a plan: a plan that will help teach children to use those technologies responsibly. Where should you begin? You could begin with The Porn-Free Family Plan or with my book The Next Story (the second edition, that is, which has “The Porn-Free Family Plan” as a new chapter). Don’t be a fool; instead, embrace the responsibility that God has given you.

Reject Fear, Embrace Familiarity

By this point you may be thinking that these new technologies are just too risky. You may want to take the Amish approach and find ways to keep all of these technologies far away. You may feel it, but you cannot succumb to it. After all, this is the world your children are in, and it is far better to train them now while they are under your care then to send them off ignorant. So this is your solemn responsibility before God, to train them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord even as they use a mobile phone or even as they use Facebook.

People often ask me if can predict what will become of all of these technologies exploding onto the scene around us today. I never know what to say except this: God is going to use them in unexpected and amazing ways. He will glorify himself through them; I am utterly convinced of it. How do I know? Because God has always done that through every scary technological innovation. Think about it:

  • When people first began to record things in writing instead of relying on their memories, many people were terrified, thinking that writing would breed ignorance. But God used writing in the best way—to record his Words, so even today we can find manuscripts going back thousands of years that contain what we now know as the Bible.
  • One of the greatest technologies in the Roman world was the Roman road system. It was created to quickly move soldiers from place to place so they could dominate other peoples and crush rebellion. But the same roads that carried the feet of soldiers carried the feet of missionaries who took gospel to the distant corners of world.
  • The printing press came along in the 1500s and people feared its power. But what happened? Soon the printing presses were churning out Bibles, and the Bible sparked Reformation. Not only that, but the Bible became the bestselling book of all time.
  • Radio came along and before long the gospel was being broadcast all over the world.
  • The television was invented and soon people were watching services and crusades and the gospel was flying to distant lands.
  • Digital devices allowed people to create apps, and very quickly Christians were churning out Bible apps. Already those apps extremely popular, and more and more people today are experiencing God’s Word in app form. And that’s okay. That’s beautiful. God is using digital technologies too.

We tend to think that no one has ever endured what we are enduring today. The truth is, this is a recurring pattern. Time and time again the world has witnessed technological explosions that have changed everything. Today we are at a new frontier, and we—you and I—have to do the difficult work of learning to use these things well. Instead of choosing fear, we need to choose familiarity. Instead of fearing new technologies, let’s investigate them and look for ways we can use them to advance God’s cause. Let’s investigate the benefits and the risks, and learn how to use these things to carry out God’s calling. And then let’s put them to work in doing good for others and bringing glory to God.

(If you prefer to watch than read, you may be interested in watching this talk I did at the recent Ligonier Ministries National Conference.)

Image credit: Shutterstock

March 12, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Intellectuals Don’t Need God and Other Modern Myths by Alister McGrath ($0.99); Women of the Old Testament by Abraham Kuyper ($0.99); How To Be a Christian in a Brave New World by Joni Eareckson Tada ($0.99); There Is a Plan by Ravi Zacharias ($0.99); The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones ($0.99); Biblical Words and their Meaning by Moises Silva ($1.99).

Google’s CFO Retires - There is some wisdom in this memo from Patrick Pichette in which he explains why he has chosen to retire.

Shells for Jesus - “A couple of times my family went to the beach, where we hunted for shells and shark’s teeth. I thought of the Christians who struggle with such frivolity. How can a Christian collect shells when people are going to hell?”

Biblical Eldership - Biblical Eldership is a web site that offers an impressive collection of resources on an important topic.

A Taste of Austria - Here is a stunning timelapse video of Austria.

From Lesbianism to Complementarianism - Jackie Hill Perry tells her story.

Shepherds’ Conference 2015 - All of the video from the recent Shepherds’ Conference Inerrancy Summit is now available.

A Brief Defense of Infant Baptism - While I continue to hold to believer’s baptism, I do appreciate Kevin DeYoung’s defense of infant baptism.

We must not be concerned only with that which troubles us, but with all that troubles God. —John Owen


March 11, 2015

Put Off Put On
The world has changed, hasn’t it? The world we live in today is not the world as it was a few years ago. In just the past few decades we have entered into a digital world, and you and I are the ones who are learning how to live in it, and how to live in it with virtue. We are the trailblazers here, learning how to use these incredible, world-changing technologies to carry out the commission God has given us. These new technologies can be used to do so much good, but they can also be used to do such evil.

When the Bible tells us how to live as Christians, it so often tells us that we need to put on and put off. It tells us that there are habits, patterns, and behaviors we need to stop, and new habits, patterns, and behaviors we need to begin. Today I want to look at 3 things we need to put off and put on as individuals, and tomorrow I will look at 3 things that we need to put off and put on as families.

(Note: Just yesterday Zondervan released a second edition of my book The Next Story and it comes complete with a few updates, an added chapter, and a new subtitle: Faith, Friends, Family, and the Digital World. It covers some of this material, plus a whole lot more.)

Reject Distraction, Embrace Focus

Put off the distraction that pollutes this digital world and instead embrace deep focus. It is no great secret that this digital world brings all kinds of new ways to be distracted. Our technologies seem to evolve toward distraction, so that every new generation of device finds new ways to call us away from one thing and toward another. Our devices beep, buzz, flash, and chirp—whatever they need to do to gain our attention. Over time we have trained ourselves to obey them, which makes me wonder: If we need to respond to our phones every time they beep or buzz, do we own them, or do they own us? As our devices evolve toward distraction, my concern is that we are becoming people who love and long for distraction. We enjoy those distractions and almost come to depend upon them.

There is a cost to this. As Christians we are responsible to grow in wisdom, but wisdom comes only with effort. Information is easy—we are surrounded by it all the time—, but wisdom comes through concentration and meditation, and through carefully applying the truths of Scripture to our lives. How can we meditate and concentrate if we are always distracted? I used a printed Bible for many years and it never once beeped or buzzed or otherwise distracted me. But when I read the Bible on my phone, I am only ever a flash or chirp away from being completely side-tracked. I am only ever a click or swipe away from indulging in Netflix or YouTube or any other number of distractions.

The consistent call of the Bible is to be people who ponder God’s Word, who ponder the world around us, and who constantly grow in wisdom. We can only do this when we break away from our distractions and choose to focus. So Christian, put off distraction and put on concentration and meditation. Control your devices so they serve you as you grow in wisdom and grow in godliness.

Reject Isolation, Embrace Visibility

Put off the isolation of anonymity and put on the accountability that comes with visibility. I have often pondered what the Admiral Lord Nelson once said, that beyond Gibraltar every man is a bachelor. What he meant is that once British sailors sailed beyond the borders of their own land and empire, they very suddenly became different people. Once they moved beyond the accountability that came with visibility, they changed. As they sailed away from civilization, and wives, and parents, and families, they also sailed away from civilized behavior. Where they were alone and unknown they were free to behave however they wanted. And they behaved very badly.

March 11, 2015

I dug up a few new Kindle deals today: Introducing the New Testament by D.A. Carson ($0.99); The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 2 ($1.99); Unleashing the Word by Max McLean ($0.99); Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon ($0.99); The Measure of Success by Carolyn McCulley ($4.99); The Gospel Commission by Michael Horton ($3.99); The Promises of Grace by Bryan Chapell ($1.99); Raised? by Jonathan Dodson ($0.99).

Preparing for Easter - This week’s deals from Westminster Books will help you get ready for Easter.

A Good [Wo]man is Easy to Find - Yes! “Whenever I have languished around wishing and hoping and dreaming for mentors, I have found myself lacking them. Yet when I have engaged in the ministry of mentorship myself, I find myself in an abundance of counselors.”

Why Salvation Is Far from Some People - “One characteristic of those the Bible describes as ‘wicked’ is that they do not seek God’s statutes, God’s Word. For that reason, ‘Salvation is far from’ them since the way of salvation—the way to God—is found only in the Word of God.”

The Cost of Relativism - “We now have multiple generations of people caught in recurring feedback loops of economic stress and family breakdown, often leading to something approaching an anarchy of the intimate life.”

The Dreadful Loneliness of Life Without Scripture - Here’s a good article with a great title.

An African Ordination - You’ll enjoy reading this little glimpse into an African ordination service.

It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell. —Richard Sibbes


March 10, 2015

History is chock-full of fascinating individuals, and over time I am attempting to meet more and more of them through the pages of great biographies. Amy Carmichael is one of those people I had heard so much about, but I had never gotten around to actually reading an account of her life. But when I saw that Iain Murray’s latest work is a brief, accessible biography of Carmichael, I knew I had to give it a go. I’m glad I did.

Carmichael is one of those people who had an unusually powerful sense of God’s calling on her life, and an unusual level of dedication to the Lord and to his work. As a young woman she determined that she would dedicate her life to foreign missions, and this despite many trusted people in her life attempting to dissuade her. She left her native Ireland and soon settled in India where she became involved in rescuing women and girls from temple prostitution, saving them from lives of utter misery. In 1901 she founded Dohnavur Fellowship which soon grew into a bustling home for hundreds of abandoned or rescued young men and women. She penned many books and, through her life of service, convinced many other people—and women especially—to consider becoming missionaries. 

Based on Murray’s biography, there are several things about Carmichael that stand out. The first is her unshakeable confidence in the Lord and in his purposes. Though she suffered deeply, and though she witnessed so much of the misery of others, she maintained utter confidence in God. Closely related is her confidence in her calling. Once she arrived in India, she never left—she remained there for her entire life and, as far as I can tell, never seriously entertained the idea of returning home to a more comfortable life and setting. She also determined that she would emulate George Muller in refusing to ask others to support her work; instead, she committed to prayer and relied upon God to provide all that her mission needed. Not surprisingly, God was faithful. In these ways and others she makes an interesting and important subject for a biography.

Of course she was human, so struggled with sin, and Murray deals well with her flaws. While he does not dwell on them or allow them to become the story of her life, he acknowledges that she was not without her temptations and theological foibles. The most unfortunate of these foibles was her tendency to allow subjective impressions to take the place of God’s Word in her life, directing her actions in ways that later proved misguided. She is hardly the first to succumb to this temptation, and a few occasions in her life show just how important it is that we keep impressions in their proper place—as impressions, and not necessarily as the voice of God.

Murray’s biography is short—almost too short—but it is powerful and tells the story of a fascinating life. There are many things we can, and undoubtedly should, learn from Carmichael’s life. This short work is a great place to begin.

(At the present time it looks like Amy Carmichael: Beauty for Ashes is available only at Banner of Truth.)