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June 18, 2016

Christian Audio

Christian Audio is holding their twice-yearly sale. This is a great time to try out their service. During this sale even brand new books are heavily discounted.

Why Sex Isn’t the Best Thing Ever

Lore Ferguson: “One of the best blessings to me in my singleness were friends who did not make marriage an ultimate thing in my eyes by only telling me the beautiful parts of their marriage, but who told me the difficulties of it as well. They also prayed for me actively to someday have the gift of marriage. I hope I am doing the same for my still single friends who desire the gift.”

A Swimming Pool in the ICU?

Here’s an interesting little story that appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The Two Words Fathers Should Say to Their Children

As theologian D.A. Carson says, “Do you ever say to a young Christian, ‘Do you want to know what Christianity is like? Watch me!’ If you never do, you are unbiblical.”

God Permits Evil, But Does Not Cause It

Sometimes the fine distinctions make a world of difference.

Tomorrow in 1939. 77 years ago tomorrow, pastor John MacArthur was born. Happy birthday, Dr. MacArthur!

It’s Going to be an Issue

“Biola University, located in Southern California and one of the country’s most well-known and prestigious evangelical colleges, now finds itself arguing for its right to be evangelical.”

The Death of Dawson Trotman

60 years ago today the founder of Navigators died while saving a girl’s life. Here’s what happened.

Flashback: Leading in Love

Wayne Grudem allows a little glimpse inside his marriage to see how complementarianism plays out in real life.

Give Me Your Heart

I’m thankful to Ligonier Ministries for sponsoring the blog with the article “Give Me Your Heart.”

Spurgeon

The more empty I am, the more room is there for my Master. The more I lack, the more He will give me. —C.H. Spurgeon

Free Stuff Fridays Updated
June 17, 2016

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is provided by Ligonier Ministries who also sponsored the blog this week. They are offering 5 prize packages that each include 3 of their great books:

  • Knights MapThe Knight’s Map by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover). "In this allegorical tale, theologian, pastor, and author Dr. R.C. Sproul continues his life’s work of making deep biblical truths clear and understandable to students of all ages. The Knight’s Map is the story of a knight who undertakes a perilous journey full of bad advice and wrong turns. In the end, he must decide whether or not he will trust the map provided by the King. Beautiful, full color illustrations by Richard Lawnes reveal this rich, textured world and discussion questions with Scripture references help parents guide their children into the deeper meaning of the story."
  • The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Steven Lawson (Hardcover). "From the pulpit at Westminster Chapel in London, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones set a new standard for faithful and passionate preaching, a standard that continues to be relevant today. Lloyd-Jones was a physician by training and had begun a promising career in medicine before sensing an irresistible call to preach. Surrounded by theological liberalism, he began a pulpit ministry that would exert profound influence on both sides of the Atlantic."
  • The Reformation Study Bible (ESV, Hardcover, White), "The Bible is not like any other book because its ultimate Author is God. As the psalmist prayed in Psalm 119:18, 'Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law,' the new Reformation Study Bible emphasizes the need for the grace of God to lead out of darkness and into the light of Scripture. The Reformation Study Bible is carefully crafted to offer an unparalleled reading, study, and discipleship experience for every age and stage of the Christian life."

Enter Here

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. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

The Bestsellers
June 17, 2016

In this ongoing series of articles I am taking a look at books that have won the Platinum or Diamond Sales Awards from the Evangelical Christian Booksellers Association. The Platinum Award recognizes books that have achieved one million sales while the Diamond Award recognizes the few that have surpassed the ten million mark. Today we turn our attention to the 2010 debut from David Platt.

Radical by David Platt

David Platt (born July 11, 1979) is one of America’s best-known young, evangelical leaders. Known today for his books and his preaching, he was first an academic, earning two undergraduate and three advanced degrees, including a Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, and Doctor of Philosophy from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. That same seminary employed him as a dean and assistant professor until, at just 28 years of age, he was called to serve as senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. Already a megachurch, it grew steadily under his preaching and leadership until it swelled to nearly 5,000 attendees. In 2014, after 8 years in that position, he announced that he would step down to take up a new position as President of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He continues in that role today. He is also a regular speaker at conferences, including the bi-annual Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

Platt’s first book, released May 4, 2010, was Radical, a book about escaping the allure and the doldrums of the American dream. The American dream, one that is shared by all of the western world, calls us to a life of complacency, comfort, and ease. We live in big houses, drive nice cars, and worship in multi-million dollar buildings custom-built around all of our favorite programs. We give away bits of our wealth but rarely enough to impede our comfort. Occasionally we are stirred by images of starving children or by tales of God’s work in foreign lands, but we quickly forget and go on with our lives, growing our portfolios and filling our homes with stuff. “We have in many areas blindly and unknowingly embraced values and ideas that are common in our culture but are antithetical to the gospel [Jesus] taught.”

It is in this context that Platt proposes something better, something more consistent with Scripture, something downright radical. “Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.” Radical is, then, a call to radical Christian living. It is a call to put aside our complacency to instead embrace and pursue God’s mission in the world. According to the publisher, “David Platt invites you to encounter what Jesus actually said about being his disciple, and then obey what you have heard. He challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated a God-centered gospel to fit our human-centered preferences. With passionate storytelling and convicting biblical analysis, Platt calls into question a host of comfortable notions that are common among Christ’s followers today. Then he proposes a radical response: live the gospel in ways that are true, filled with promise, and ultimately world changing.”

Sales & Lasting Impact

Radical was an immediate success, quickly surging to the New York Times list of bestsellers where it remained for more than a year. By 2011 it had crossed the 500,000 mark and surpassed one million in 2013. All the while rumors circulated that Platt was practicing what he preached by giving away the substantial royalties that come from a bestseller and, indeed, his web site includes this notation: “All of the royalties from David’s published works go toward promoting the glory of Christ in all nations.” Radical indeed.

But, inevitably, Radical received a number of critiques. In most cases these were offered with genuine affirmations of the book’s gospel focus and spiritual value. Kevin DeYoung’s review at The Gospel Coalition is representative. He affirms his friendship with Platt and his enjoyment of the book, then offers 5 critiques “with the book and with some elements of the larger ‘get radical, get crazy Christianity’ that is increasingly popular with younger evangelicals.” The foremost critique is that Platt did not sufficiently ground his call in the gospel. “In a book-length treatment of such an important topic I would have liked to have seen ‘all we need to do in obedience to God’ growing more manifestly out of ‘all God’s done for us.’” In other words, he is concerned that Platt’s call to sanctification does not adequately flow out of the Christian’s existing justification.

The second critique revolves around the concern that radical Christianity cannot be sustained over the entirety of the Christian life. “If the message of Jesus translates into ‘Give more away’ or ‘Sacrifice for the gospel’ or ‘Get more radical’ we will end up with burned out evangelicals. Even when Jesus said his hard sayings (and he said a lot of them) it was not his basic stump speech. His message was repent and believe in the gospel. … We need to find a way to attack the American dream while still allowing for differing vocations and that sort of ordinary Christian life that can plod along for fifty years.” He also expresses concern with the utilitarian ethic that pervades radical living, with an under-developed understanding of poverty and wealth, and with conclusions that are at times overstated. DeYoung’s critiques were gentle but substantial. They were echoed and expanded upon by a number of others, including Michael Horton. On a popular level Radical was a triumph. It currently has 1,436 reviews at Amazon and averages 4.5 stars.

Since the Award

Platt has since written a number of other books including Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God which addressed the thread of individualism in Radical that clashed with the Bible’s emphasis on church communities. Interestingly, and in a testament to the influence of Radical, we saw the publication of a significant number of works that provide an alternate perspective on the Christian life. They have titles such as Ordinary, Normal, Boring, and Mundane and are meant to highlight the reality that most people’s lives look very un-radical. They demonstrate that the New Testament is full of calls for Christians to simply dedicate their lives to working hard at very normal jobs, to serve in their very ordinary churches, and to be content to live in ways that may seem quite bland.

A Personal Perspective

I read Radical a year after it was published and rather enjoyed it. I was encouraged by Platt’s deep and biblical understanding of the gospel. I said “Before I began reading Radical I assumed it was just another of a long list of books that would build upon a shaky theological foundation. I was delighted to find that one of Radical’s great strengths is that it is firmly grounded in the gospel. Platt spends a good bit of time discussing the gospel, the real gospel, and calling the reader to embrace it and live as if it is true. And then, on the basis of that gospel, he calls the reader to do what is radical, to let go of the American dream, a dream that is as alive within the church as it is outside of it. It’s a powerful message that falls on eager ears.”

I saw this book as part of a whole crop of similar works featuring superlative titles calling us toward a life of bigger, higher, greater, and more radical Christian living. I expressed my concern that we first pursue radically Christian character and, from there, that we learn to be content with very obedient but mundane lives. Later I wrote a series of articles on being ordinary—articles that seemed to resonate with many readers.

As Platt has released further works, I have been pleased to see that he clearly heeded many of the critiques of his work. I was equally pleased to see that he has remained every bit as zealous. Such mature zeal is sadly lacking in the church today, but remains a powerful tool in God’s hand.

June 17, 2016

 

Did Jesus Have a Wife?

This is a fascinating bit of investigative journalism from The Atlantic. Please note that it is a little PG-13 at times as the reporter chases down his story. “A hotly contested, supposedly ancient manuscript suggests Christ was married. But believing its origin story requires a big leap of faith.” (Also, New Testament scholar Michael Kruger comments and Karen King responds.)

Airplane Black Boxes

Ever wondered about those black boxes they talk about after a plane crash? This video tells all about them.

Making Sense of the Trinity Debate

Here’s another reader-friendly overview of the current Trinity debate.

4 Ways to Reach a Child’s Heart

Richard Phillips explains how a godly father plants good things in the hearts of his children.

Sermons on Marriage

Here are the collected (and free!) sermons of Alistair Begg on marriage.

Orlando Shooting Launches a War on Christianity

Yes, this is exactly the case. “The result is bigotry running two ways — an unreasoning, irrational hatred of American Christians and a comprehensive denial of Muslim moral agency. American Christians are responsible for things they don’t believe. Sharia-observant Muslims, by contrast, aren’t responsible for the things they do believe.”

Available Now! Keith and Kristyn Getty’s new album, Facing a Task Unfinished, is now available. I’ve listened to it a hundred times already and love it!

What the Hook-up Culture Has Done to Women

This is difficult to read, but very important. As the author says, “It is no coincidence that the top two prescribed drugs at our state university’s health center are anti-depressants and the birth-control pill.”

G3 Conference

Next January’s G3 Conference is getting bigger and better all the time. If you’re looking for a 2017 conference, you may be interested in a trip to Atlanta.

Flashback: Setting Up My Kids for Salvation

“When it comes to my kids, I seem to want to believe that God’s action is dependent upon my action. I believe that for God to save my kids, I first need to do the right things. If I want God to save them, I need to cross the spiritual t’s and dot the spiritual i’s…”

Horton

Ironically, it is only when we know how to die properly that we finally have some inkling about how to truly live here and now. —Michael Horton

Why I Am Not Paedobaptist
June 16, 2016

For the past few weeks I have been taking a day a week to tell how I have arrived at my various theological convictions. I’ve done this by telling you why I am not what I am not: I am not atheist, Roman Catholic, liberal, or Arminian. Today I want to tell you why I am not paedobaptist. But first, of course, definitions are in order.

While all Protestants affirm the necessity of baptism, there are two broad understandings of who should be the recipient of this act, and both are within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. Some hold to believer’s baptism (credobaptism) and state that only those who make a credible profession of faith ought to be baptized. Others hold to infant baptism (paedobaptism) and believe that the children of believers ought to be baptized. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defends this position: “…the infants of such as are members of the visible church, are to be baptized.” The same catechism says, “Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.”

By rights I ought to be a convinced paedobaptist. I was baptized in an Anglican church by parents who soon developed Presbyterian convictions. I spent most of my childhood in a Dutch Reformed church that affirmed the Heidelberg Catechism which asks, “Should infants, too, be baptized?” It answers, “Yes. Infants as well as adults belong to God’s covenant and congregation. Through Christ’s blood the redemption from sin and the Holy Spirit, who works faith, are promised to them no less than to adults. Therefore, by baptism, as sign of the covenant, they must be incorporated into the Christian church and distinguished from the children of unbelievers. This was done in the old covenant by circumcision, in place of which baptism was instituted in the new covenant.” This was my understanding of baptism as I grew up, as I transitioned into adulthood, as I married, and as I became a father.

When our first child was born, Aileen and I prepared ourselves to baptize him. But just before the day arrived, a series of events unfolded that stopped us in our tracks. It would be fourteen years before he was baptized and, even then, only after he professed faith in Christ. By that time I would be a pastor at a Reformed Baptist church. Here’s what happened.

Nick was born early in 2000 and we soon began planning a date for his baptism. However, by that time my parents had moved to the States and we wanted to wait for their next visit so they could celebrate with us. It can’t have been more than a few weeks after his birth when one of our elders, a sweet and godly man, approached us to ask about our plans. We told him that we wanted to wait until my parents could be with us. He reported back to the other elders and their reaction surprised and confused us. They communicated to us their expectation that we would baptize him right away. We loved and trusted those men, so were perplexed. Why the rush? If baptism is simply a sign and seal that communicates no saving grace, why the urgency? What difference would a few weeks make? Right here, for the first time, a hint of doubt entered my mind.

I asked the elders if they would grant us a bit of time. A week’s reflection had shown me that while I could explain infant baptism perfectly well, I couldn’t satisfactorily defend it from the Bible. I was beginning to wonder if paedobaptism was even in the Bible. The elders felt that this hesitation was a rejection of both our profession of faith and our church membership vows. It looked like Aileen and I were going to be placed under the discipline of the church.

Thankfully, we found a compromise. Right around this time I received a job offer in a distant town and, since we would soon be leaving the church anyway, I asked the elders if they would be willing to terminate our membership on that basis. They were willing, and we parted as friends. (I should add that Aileen and I were young and foolish enough that we undoubtedly handled this situation poorly at times and do not count ourselves blameless. We have nothing but love and respect for that church and its elders.)

When we moved to our new home we began attending Baptist churches. We eventually settled into one and, in order to become a member, I had to be baptized as a believer. By then my convictions had grown and deepened enough that I believed it was the right thing to do. Since that day my convictions have grown all the more.

So why am I not paedobaptist? I am not paedobaptist because, quite simply, I cannot see infant baptism clearly prescribed or described in the New Testament. I see believer’s baptism and so, too, does every paedobaptist. We agree together that we are to preach “believe and be baptized” and extend that baptism to those who have made a profession of faith. That is perfectly clear. And, indeed, Aileen was rightly baptized as an adult believer in a paedobaptist church.

The pressing question is whether the Bible calls for a second kind of baptism—the baptism of the children of believers. It is this baptism that I do not see despite my efforts to do so. The New Testament contains no explicit command to baptize the children of believers and likewise contains no explicit examples of it. (To be fair, neither does it expressly prohibit infant baptism or show a second-generation Christian being baptized as a believer.) Instead, the doctrine has to be drawn from what I understand as an unfair continuity between the old and new covenants and from assuming that children were part of the various household baptisms (Acts 16:15; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16). I suppose I am credobaptist rather than paedobaptist for the very reason most paedobaptists are not credobaptists: I am following my best understanding of God’s Word. My position seems every bit as obvious to me as the other position seems to those who hold it. What an odd reality that God allows there to be disagreement on even so crucial a doctrine as baptism. What a joy, though, that we can affirm that both views are well within the bounds of orthodoxy and that we can gladly labor together for the sake of the gospel.

If you have never considered your position or the opposite one, consider reading or listening to this exchange between R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur. While affirming mutual love and respect, they each defend their position very well. It is a model of friendly disagreement on an issue that is important, but not critical.

June 16, 2016

 

How Fast Does a Christian Grow?

How fast does a Christian grow? Not fast enough for our satisfaction! “If you come to Christ as a teenager or adult, some practices might be obvious (if painful) to change. But Christian maturity is more about the heart than it is about behavior. Our trust, hopes, and desires need to change, and good behavior follows.”

What Book Shall I Preach on Next?

Here is some sensible advice on choosing what books to preach. The same questions could be helpful for choosing a book to read for personal or family devotions.

Lecrae and The Washington Post

The Washington Post has quite a long article on Christian rapper Lecrae. “This generation doesn’t have a Billy Graham,” said LaDawn Johnson, a sociologist at Biola University, an evangelical school outside Los Angeles where Lecrae performed in April. “We’ve lost any kind of significant evangelical leader people could point to, and Lecrae is in a position where he could definitely for many young people be that voice and be that model.”

The Debate so Far

If you’re interested in getting oriented in the ongoing discussion/controversy of the eternal subordination of the Son, here’s a good place to start.

The Gift of Being Limited

“God = limitless goodness and faithfulness. Me = limited in every way. God-designed limits for me = God’s goodness and faithfulness to me.”

This Day in 1855. 161 years ago today, William and Catherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army, married, having fallen in love the first night they met. *

Involuntary Sins

Can you really be held responsible for those sins that flow out of instinct or ignorance?

The Secret Anti-Counterfeit Symbol

“You can’t copy money. Like really, it’s not just illegal, you just can’t do it on a photocopier.” This video explains why.

Flashback: Making the Case Against Abortion

How can we make a case against abortion? How can Christians convince others that abortion is wrong? Here’s one tactic.

Bonhoeffer

I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Things You Think You Can Handle On Your Own
June 15, 2016

It’s one of those little quotes that is well worth pondering, well worth chewing on for a while: “The things you pray about are the things you trust God to handle. The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own.” Those words come from H.B. Charles Jr. and they’ve caused me to pause and to consider—exactly what a good quote ought to do.

If this quote reflects reality, and I think it does, it challenges me to ask a question: What kinds of things do I not pray about? The things I neglect to pray about are the things I believe I can handle on my own, the things for which I don’t think I need God’s wisdom, perspective, or intervention. I may never say or even think such terrible thoughts, but my lack of prayer proves my independence, my lack of God-dependence. So what are those things I don’t pray about? I (prayerfully) considered this and came up with a few.

Worship. Too often I find myself participating in a church service and have the ugly realization that I have not prayed for God’s grace. In fact, Charles’ quote flashed into my mind last Sunday as we were about an hour into our Sunday morning service. Right then I had that ugly realization that I had not prayed for myself and for the other members of my church. I should have done that on Saturday evening and early Sunday morning. But I didn’t. Instead, I showed up to worship as if that worship would do me any good or have any benefit without God’s presence, without God’s power. I need to pray that God will allow me to worship him in the way he deserves to be worshiped. I need to pray that he will bless, equip, and strengthen me through this worship. Who am I to worship without prayer?

Writing. I spend a good portion of every day dreaming up words and writing them down. Every morning I share some of those words with the public. There have been periods of time when I’ve done this with lots of prayer, when I’ve been careful to pray when writing and careful to pray just before hitting that “publish” button. But there have also been stretches where prayer has faded, where I’ve been content to write and publish without asking God for his grace, his favor, his help, his wisdom. And in this way I’ve shown that I think I can handle this on my own, that I have enough wisdom within that I don’t need to seek his.

Provision. God has been so faithful to Aileen and me over the years. Though I’ve had jobs and lost them, though there have been times where money has been tight, God has always provided for our every need. Somehow God’s provision has led to my complacency or my sense of entitlement. I don’t pray like I used to. I certainly don’t ask God to provide like I did in those times when it was more difficult to see how we would pay that next bill. In those days I prayed fervently and rejoiced with every answer to prayer. I want to return there. I want to pray earnestly and praise God for his every gift. But to do that, I first need to recover the awareness that he is the source of every good gift.

Travel. Like most people, I spend a fair bit of time on the road, and undoubtedly take it as normal that we hurtle along at highway speeds, surrounded by other vehicles going every bit as fast. Even though I often pass by accidents and see how quickly normal travel can lead to tragedy, I seldom pray for safety. I take it for granted that I’ll get where I’m going without trouble, without consequence.

Preaching. I have never prepared a sermon without prayer and I have never preached without praying for God’s blessing on me as I deliver that sermon. But I don’t think I’ve ever prayed the way I want to and the way I know I ought to. Even while studying God’s Word and preparing a sermon I can pray prayers that are merely light and trite and dutiful. I want to pray like one who knows my utter insufficiency and my utter dependency upon God if I am to say even a single word that has any lasting significance. I want to pray with a deep awareness that I am to be nothing more (and nothing less) than God’s mouthpiece, speaking forth his Word.

In all of these ways, and undoubtedly many more, I’ve allowed prayer to be supplemental rather than instrumental. I’ve lived with an alarming lack of prayer and in that way proclaimed that I’m okay, that I can handle these things just fine on my own.

What are the things you trust you can handle on your own?

Image credit: Shutterstock

June 15, 2016

His Wife, Not His Mother

Melissa: “I know that many of you who are reading this are thinking that you wouldn’t treat your husband like a child if he didn’t act like one. I get that. I really do. But, as long as we are slipping into the role of being his mother instead of his wife, we are only perpetuating the cycle.”

Unpretty

It was a joy to see my friend Dorcas writing a great article for RAAN

Know Your Flock

Jared Wilson explains why a pastor’s preaching depends upon actually knowing his flock.

Men for God

If you’re in or near Vancouver, I’d love to see you at the Men for God Conference next weekend.

Should I Finish School Before I Marry?

I appreciate John Piper’s handling of this question.

Southern Baptists and the Confederate Flag

Russell Moore writes about the Southern Baptist Convention voting yesterday to repudiate the display of the Confederate flag.

This Day in 1520. 496 years ago today, Leo X condemned Martin Luther on 41 of counts of heresy, branding him an enemy of the Roman Catholic Church. *

Orlando: The Reichstag Fire

This seems a little alarmist, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Rod Dreher says “Orlando is a ‘Reichstag fire’ event, I predict, because it is a genuine and appalling atrocity that will lead to the demonization, in law and in custom, of orthodox Christians and any who disagree with whatever LGBTs and their allies want.”

The Engineering of a Disposable Diaper

I’m so glad that the Engineering Guy is back after a hiatus. In this video he tells why that simple disposable diaper we take for granted is actually an engineering marvel.

Flashback: So You Got Your First Smartphone…

Here’s a letter to a teen who just got her very first smartphone.

Horton

Legalism is simply separating the law of God from the person of God. —Sinclair Ferguson