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March 14, 2011

FacebookJust about everyone has joined Facebook. And just about everyone has since considered giving it up. There are all kinds of studies today telling us how much time Facebook is sucking—700 billion minutes between the lot of us every month. That’s a lot of time. But when you divide it 500 million ways it doesn’t seem quite so bad. That’s not why most of us have considered giving it up. There are studies telling us how Facebook is invading our privacy and selling our personal details to advertisers. That’s annoying, but not reason enough to quit.

The reason so many of us have considered giving up on Facebook is that it makes us miserable. A recent paper in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin looks at a series of studies involving how people evaluate moods—their own and those of others. The study itself is not as interesting as the implications. What the study found is that people tend to underestimate how dejected other people feel and that this in turn increases a person’s own sense of unhappiness. Put otherwise, we all believe that others have better lives than we do and this makes us feel bad about ourselves. That’s strangely significant.

Where do we find this phenomenon in clearest form? On Facebook, of course. We log on to Facebook, look through the photographs and status messages our friends post, and believe that everyone is happier and more successful than we are. And when I have spoken to friends and family members who have considered giving up Facebook, this is exactly the reasoning they have given. They look at other people and feel miserable in comparison.

What an interesting phenomenon. It seems clear that Facebook is exposing something, some ugly little corner of the human heart. Facebook is all about making life seem joyful—we “like” one another’s happy status updates, not the sad ones; we post photos of our parties, not our funerals; we use it to celebrate births and marriages and new relationships, not to mourn deaths or remember break-ups. Facebook is meant to be a happy place for happy people. But it doesn’t seem to work out so well. We all think everyone else is happy, but we don’t feel the joy.

March 14, 2011

When I was in the US I made my first ever visit to a 5 Guys burger joint. I assume they call it “5 Guys” because they give you enough food to feed 5. Either way, they are beginning to expand into Canada and have just opened 3 restaurants in this area. If I was a betting man I’d say they’ll be gone within a year. Decent food, but not the kind Canadians are going to line up for. You heard it here first.

Not Many of You Should be Bloggers - John Dyer: “I’m not attempting to defend mean-spirited, polemical debate. I’m just saying that it’s old news. The debates are still important, but what is even more important is how social media has changed the way those debates take place among everyday Christians.”

God Is Still Holy - Kevin DeYoung has posted a long (20-page) review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins. Denny Burk has posted a long but not quite as long (11-page) review. Both are available to read online or to download in PDF format. Mark Driscoll has posted an article excerpting one of his books where he discusses the doctrine of hell. Carl Trueman looks at the situation and is an accidental optimist.

Metaxas on Bonhoeffer - In this interview, Eric Metaxas responds to criticism about his portrayal of Deitrich Bonheoffer. As you remember, several Bonhoeffer scholars have said that he has created an evangelical-friendly version of his subject. Metaxas disagrees.

25 Ways to Pursue Joy in Christ - Mark Altrogge offers them up.

The Big Picture - Boston.com has put together a gallery of photos from Japan. The devastation there is simply unimaginable.

Power - This video shows some of the power of the tsunami that hit the coast of Japan.

Too many church members are starched and ironed but not washed. —Vance Havner

March 13, 2011

Here’s a prayer from Scotty Smith, one that really helped me this morning. In it Scotty looks at Psalm 42, where a deer pants for water, and asks God to help us long for him the way David did. As he says, “Thirst will not be denied. We’ll do almost anything to satisfy our thirst.”

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:1-2

Loving Jesus, there’s no craving more demanding than thirst. It’s neither patient nor polite. When we get thirsty, we’re usually quick to slake its unrelenting demand, one way or another. Thirst will not be denied. We’ll do almost anything to satisfy our thirst.

Because this is true, we join the Psalmist in crying out, “Jesus, intensify our thirst for you. Keep us panting like the deer which pants after streams of water—the unpolluted, undistilled, never-ending brooks of your bounty.

Quickly drain the broken-cisterns of our own making. Don’t let us be even momentarily satisfied with any other beverage than the draft you draw, the potion you pour, the life-giving libation you alone can give.  

If we take up King David’s lament, “When can I go and meet with God?”,  you answer back, without delay, “Right now, my beloved, do not wait. If you’re thirsty, come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:38)

If we should say, “But Jesus, where can we find you?” You answer back even quicker, “Not in the Law; not in your strivings; not in your labors; not in your earnestness; not in your self-loathing’s; not in your vain promises, but only in the gospel. Come and fall into the rivers of my love. Stand under the cascading waterfalls of my grace. Open your heart wide to my supply and I will over-fill you with everything you need and more than you want.”

Even so and evermore, Jesus, school us well in pant-theology. Fill us afresh than we might be a people to the praise of your glory and grace. So very Amen, we pray, in your all glorious and all generous name.

March 12, 2011

I spent the first half of yesterday traveling and the second half at a conference. Along the way I heard one person say something about an earthquake in Japan. It wasn’t until I got to my hotel that I learned there had been an utterly devastating earthquake in Japan and that it was followed by a tsunami. I spent a long time reading about it before turning in for the night. This morning the news is even worse and there is more and more footage showing the extent of the damage. It has really shaken me (and I don’t think I’m easily shaken).

Honestly, I don’t even know what to say. So I’ll turn it over to others (Piper, mostly).

Denny Burk has rounded up some audio from John Piper. Piper spoke to an NPR reporter after the 2004 tsunami that devastated Indonesia and other nearby countries. Denny also points to Piper’s essay “Tsunami, Sovereignty and Mercy.”

Here is some video; it is shocking to see the power of water and the absolute carnage it can bring with it.

Here is Piper’s prayer for Japan:

Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.

O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.

And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.

Have you not encouraged us in this? Have we not heard a hundred times in your Word the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not a thousand times withhold your judgments, leading your rebellious world toward repentance? Yes, Lord. For your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion. For surely you will abundantly pardon. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, your beloved Son, will be saved.

May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with your creatures’ pain. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all.

In Jesus you tasted loss. In Jesus you shared the overwhelming flood of our sorrows and suffering. In Jesus you are a sympathetic Priest in the midst of our pain.

Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

And may the floods they so much dread make blessings break upon their head.

O let them not judge you with feeble sense, but trust you for your grace. And so behind this providence, soon find a smiling face.

In Jesus’ merciful name, Amen.

March 11, 2011

Free Stuff Fridays

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays sponsor is a regular around here. Actually, it’s probably the company that sponsors most often—CBD Reformed. And as they tend to do, they are offering five prizes, each of which contains three great books.

Five people will each win these three books:

  • Counterfeit GodsCounterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller – Retail price $19.95
  • Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper – Retail Price $13.99
  • The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson – retail $16.99

In addition, CBD Reformed is offering a 4-day sale (March 11 - 14) on the following three products. Anyone is free to take advantage of these deals:

Again, there are five prizes to win, so go ahead and enter below.

Giveaway Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. 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.

Note: If you are reading via RSS or email, you may need to click through to see the form.

March 11, 2011

I’m on the way to South Carolina to speak at one of the Psalm 119 conferences on discernment. I’m looking forward to spend time with guys like Todd Friel and Trevin Wax. And of course, sharing a couple of messages on why to be discerning and how to be discerning well.

The Prince of Wales and John 14 - “Prince Charles has read from John chapter 14 as part of an online version of the King James Bible. The idea is the brainchild of the King James Bible Trust and is the latest event to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the translation.”

How to Have a Good Argument - Yes, it’s another article about Rob Bell. But skip to the second half of the article and this blogger has some good things to say about a good argument.

100 Shares - It was 25 years ago that Microsoft went public. Here’s an article about what you’d be sitting on if you had been one of the buyers.

Shedding the Spines - Sometimes evolution pretty much parodies itself. “Genetic comparison with chimps suggests that losing chunks of DNA – including one associated with penis spines and facial whiskers – played a crucial role in making us human.” Seriously?

Kids and the Bible - Erik writes about how he helps his children read and understand the Bible.

iPad 2 - Daring Fireball, the source for Apple news and reviews, gives his take on the iPad 2.

Planned Parenthood - This is a horrible video, but that’s kind of the point. (HT:Z)

The truly wise man is he who always believes the Bible against the opinion of any man.R.A. Torrey

March 10, 2011

Dont Call it a ComebackA couple of months ago Crossway released Don’t Call it a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day. I contributed a chapter to that book titled “Jesus Christ: The Only Way and Our Only Hope.” This chapter deals with religious pluralism, inclusivism and exlusivism, all words and terms that have become hot topics because of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins (my review). Crossway has excerpted that chapter and made it available to you as a free PDF.

You can download it here: Jesus Christ: The Only Way and Our Only Hope.

Alternatively, if you would like to read it in your browser using Issuu, click here.

Here is how the chapter begins…

We live within a pluralistic culture of many faiths. Most often, the faiths coexist peacefully. This is good. Living in multicultural Toronto, a city in which over 50 percent of the population was born in another country, I have seen this religious diversity firsthand. As people immigrate to Toronto, they bring with them their religion. My son’s best friend at school is Muslim, the neighbor across the road from us is Buddhist, and just down the way is a Hindu from South Africa. Atheists, Roman Catholics, universalists, Mormons—all of them are within a stone’s throw of my front door. Look closely and you can even find the occasional evangelical. Within just our small neighborhood is a virtual pantheon.

While we regret the necessity of this pluralism, wishing that all men would be saved and come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ, we are grateful for laws that allow us freedom to worship our Savior. We may not agree with the tenets of other faiths, but if every religion has freedom, we will too. This religious pluralism allows us to worship Jesus Christ in freedom and peace, without fear of interference or persecution. It is a profound blessing.

March 10, 2011

In this week’s episode of The Connected Kingdom, David Murray and I answer some questions asked by you, the people who listen in. We answer (or attempt to answer):

  • Is there any value in critiquing a book like Rob Bell’s Love Wins or are we just giving him press?
  • Should Bible translations be copyrighted?
  • What is the importance of church membership?
  • Should members of churches have privileges that non-members do not?
  • How can I help my teens become self-directing in their use of technology?
  • Why do you believe what you believe about baptism?

I’m sure there were some other questions as well. We had intended to make this podcast available yesterday, but with the site getting a lot of extra traffic based on the review of Love Wins I thought it would be better to wait a day. So here it is—a day late, but not a dollar short.

If you want to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.