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Outrage Porn
March 19, 2014

Outrage sells. It’s plain as day. If eyeballs on articles are the currency of new media, there are few things that attract those eyeballs more effectively than outrage. In the wider cultural context of new media there is always lots to work with: Alec Baldwin’s homophobia, Steve Martin’s racism, Patton Oswalt’s insensitivity. It goes on and on. There is always someone saying something dumb or unwise, and new media’s response is immediate, fiery indignation.

We as Christians are also easily outraged. Sometimes we seem to forget that we are sinful people living in a sin-stained world and that sinners—even saved ones—will behave like sinners. Sometimes we appear to hold the people we admire (or admired) to the impossible standard of perfection. We don’t mind if our historical heroes are deeply flawed, but we can barely tolerate the slightest imperfection in our contemporary heroes. When they fail, or even when they falter, we respond with, you guessed it: outrage. For a few days we light the torches and lift the pitchforks in our empty protests. And then we move on.

[Aside: I wrote this article last week, so don’t think that any event that happened this week was the catalyst.]

A new term is entering the lexicon to describe this phenomenon. They call it outrage porn. Like pornography, this kind of outrage is ultimately self-centered and self-gratifying. One person calls it “self-gratification through feigned indignation.” Even when it isn’t feigned, there is still that element of selfishness, of self-pleasure, in it. The outrage isn’t for them, it’s for us. We feel better for having done it, for having participated in it. It is expiating in a sick sense. With the outrage behind me, I am satisfied that I have done my bit, and now I can move on to the next thing. Expressing outrage is almost a kind of brand loyalty—we are outraged together in this common cause.

I know it because I’ve done it. I know it because, as a blogger, I am especially prone to it. If we really are in an attention economy in which eyeballs on articles are our primary currency, then I, as the proprietor of a web site, will find myself tempted to do whatever it takes to attract those eyeballs. I’ve done it and it has worked. It works because I, as the writer, want it, and it works because you, as the reader, want it. We’re in this together.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are times for controlled outrage and indignation. Absolutely there are. Jesus walked into the temple and was full of the most righteous indignation as he turned over tables and scattered coins. His outrage was pure and holy and good and purposeful. When Jesus saw the disciples turning away children, denying them a blessing, he was “indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God’ ” (Mark 10:14). Here it would have been a sin for him to not be outraged.

There are times for outrage. There are times to turn away from leaders who have proven themselves unworthy or unfaithful. There are times to expose the charlatan or the unfaithful and to make a fuss and to raise an outcry for the sake of distancing ourselves and protecting others. But it’s not every time. It’s not all the time.

March 19, 2014

Here are some new Kindle deals: The Answer Book for Kids Volume 3 by Ken Ham ($2.51); The Defender’s Guide for Life’s Toughest Questions by Ken Ham ($3.99); Raised With Christ by Adrian Warnock ($1.99); God on Sex by Daniel Akin ($2.99). Also today, if you’re in the market for a Kindle device, the certified refurbished 8.9” Kindle Fire is on sale for $70 off.

Predestination: Should We Even Talk About It? - Daniel Hyde is beginning a promising series of articles on predestination. “Yes, we should talk about predestination. We should talk about it in a way that leads sinners to Jesus Christ, which brings God eternal glory, and which brings God’s people eternal comfort.”

Books for Women - Westminster Books is having a sale on a handful of books written for women, including a new one from Carolyn Mahaney & Nicole Whitacre.

The Accidental Complementarian - Jen Pollock Michel calls herself an accidental complementarian and tells how she came to accept the label.

Some Wise Words About Facebook - Here are some wise words about Facebook. While directed specifically at women, men will benefit as well.

Captain Context - Here’s another good strip from Adam4d.com.

Who Knows You? - Paul Tripp asks, Who knows you? As in, Who actually, really knows you?

Does God Harden Hearts? - Tony Reinke takes on this question: Does God harden a believer’s heart?

We are never nearer Christ than when we find ourselves lost in a holy amazement at His unspeakable love. —John Owen


31 Days of Purity
March 19, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day nineteen:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:27-30)

In the context of sexual purity, Jesus lays down the challenge of radical action. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” We understand that Jesus may not be speaking literally, but this does not indicate that he is suggesting something ridiculous. When we accuse him of exaggeration, we minimize the force of his words, and perhaps give ourselves an out. But Jesus is asking a serious question in this text: Do you love your sexual sin enough to go to hell for it? 

If you are committed to battling sin, you need to be committed to getting rid of those things that lead you to sin. Don’t toy with sin when you should be running fast and far from it. If your iPhone causes you to sin, cut it off; if your computer causes you to sin, gouge it out. As an integral part of your commitment to sexual purity, as a means of gaining victory, take radical action against your sin. What is God telling you to cut off or gouge out?

Father, I pray that I would have the courage and integrity to take radical action. Don’t let me toy with sin. Don’t let me continue to taste of sin and act surprised when I soon feast on it. Keep me from ever thinking lightly of the very sins that required the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Show me where my patterns of sin are so deeply ingrained that I will need to cut something off or gouge something out for my good and your glory.

What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

March 18, 2014
Double Play Zobrist

I met Ben Zobrist at the first conference I ever spoke at. I was in Nashville, at Community Bible Church, to speak on discernment, and someone introduced the two of us, telling me that Ben was a major league baseball player with the Tampa Bay Rays. I think he was manning the book table at the time. We talked for a few minutes and he told me that the next time the Rays came through Toronto, I should look him up. I did that, and it has become something of a tradition, so that once or twice a year I spend a few hours rooting against him, and then, after the game, we get together to spend some time catching up. It has been fun to watch his rise from a utility player and pinch hitter bouncing between the majors and minors, to a two-time All Star who is undoubtedly one of the most under-rated players in Major League Baseball.

What I appreciate about Ben is that he seems unchanged by the fame and the fortune that have come his way through being a professional athlete. He is as down-to-earth today as the day I met him, still a small-town pastor’s son unimpressed with his own success. He is a humble guy who sees his career as a unique opportunity to speak about Christ. As he has established himself as a great player, he has seen those opportunities grow.

Ben and his wife Julianna have teamed up with Mike Yorkey to write Double Play. This is really four different stories woven into one: Ben’s long climb to the major leagues, Julianna’s growth as a professional singer, their spiritual journey as individuals and then as a couple, and the tale of two people falling in love. Each of the stories is enjoyable and well-told. They open up their lives with honesty, yet without exhibitionism. You won’t have to be a hopeless or sheepish romantic to enjoy reading about how they met and fell in love and (finally!) married. You won’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy reading about Ben’s struggles and successes at the plate.

A few aspects of the book merit special mention.

Ben tells about his early career as a major leaguer where he struggled and found himself demoted. He went through an excruciating depression where he blamed God for his failure and just wanted to give up. Yet through this time, and with the help of his pastor Byron Yawn, he came to see that he had made baseball into his idol, the one thing in all the world he felt he needed to succeed at in order to experience joy and fulfillment. It was only when he was able to identify this as idolatry that he was able to recover his joy in the Lord.

March 18, 2014

Here are a few new Kindle deals: When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper ($1.99); Come to the Waters by James Montgomery Boice ($2.99); Christian Doctrine by W.T. Conner ($0.99); The Big Story by Justin Buzzard ($2.99).

Gospel-Centered Reduction - There is a lot to think about in this article by Nate Claiborne. I think he is expressing what others have tried to say before him about the rise of the phrase “gospel-centered.”

Mark Driscoll Retracts Bestseller Book Status, Resets Life - Christianity Today: “In response to recent controversies, Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll has written a candid letter to his congregation that attempts to clarify the significant staff turnover at Mars Hill Church and the controversial marketing campaign that gave Real Marriage bestseller status.”

Dear Future Mom - Go ahead and try not to get a bit emotional when you watch this video about Down syndrome.

Gary & Peggy - You’ll enjoy this short film. “In 2001, Gary and Peggy Ifft lived in Bloomington, IL. They had normal jobs, a normal home, a normal life. Then God called them out of the normal and into His mission.”

The Francis Effect - This article from the New York Times looks at “The Francis Effect” in the Catholic Church and says that Pope Francis has changed the attitudes, but not the behavior, of Catholics.

Are Visits to Heaven For Real? - John MacArthur writes about all those books (and now, that movie) about people who went to heaven and back.

Where one thousand are destroyed by the world’s frowns, ten thousand are destroyed by the world’s smiles. —Thomas Brooks

Thomas Brooks

31 Days of Purity
March 18, 2014

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day eighteen, which comes courtesy of a guest and friend: Dave Harvey.

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:2)

We hear it all the time, practice “protected sex”! But for the Christian man, protected sex means something much more significant and wonderful than birth control. Enjoying your wife sexually (and inviting her to enjoy you!) is a God-installed sentry for guarding your heart in the fight for purity. Think of it as one of your first lines of defense. God says, “because of the temptation to sexual immorality,” I’m giving you protection—it’s called your spouse. Rather than squandering your sexual desire in pornography and lust, fulfill it by having wonderful, God-honoring sex with your wife. Love her sacrificially and enjoy her often!

And to the unmarried man – “God’s divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), including the power to overcome “the temptation to sexual immorality.” You have not been left without ammunition in the fight! God’s divine power includes the grace to wait patiently for her arrival. Isn’t it just like God to create something we savor and then use it as a shield!

Lord, your ways are magnificent! You gave us marriage to display your character and your care. [For the married man: You gave me a bride so she could be well-loved. You gave me a wife because you care about my weakness. Help me, O God, to cherish this gift and enjoy it often, even today! Not simply because sex protects me, but because the purity of your people glorifies you.] [For the unmarried man: I may not understand why you have given me a sexual appetite without giving me a wife, but I do trust that your power has granted to me all I need for life and godliness. I trust that this includes the powerful to overcome the temptation to sexual immorality. So until the day I can enjoy sex with the wife you provide, I ask that I would be pure.] Amen!

What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

Todays devotional was prepared by Dave Harvey. Dave serves as Pastor of Preaching at Four Oaks Church in Tallahassee, Florida. He is the author of Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry, Rescuing Ambition, and When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage.

March 17, 2014

Last week John Piper spoke at Westminster Seminary, and delivered the seventh annual Gaffin Lecture on “The New Calvinism and the New Community: The Doctrines of Grace and the Meaning of Race” (audio and video). That may not sound like the most exciting lecture you’ve ever listened to, but I found some time to listen in today, and found what Piper began with fascinating (especially in light of last week’s Visual History of the New Calvinism). He began by defining what he means by New Calvinism, and to do that he offered twelve defining features of the movement. He was very careful to stress that these are not things that necessarily separate the New Calvinism from traditional Calvinism or make the new better than the old. Rather, these are simply the markers of the New. 

Here then, in brief, are John Piper’s 12 features of the New Calvinism.

1. The New Calvinism, in its allegiance to the inerrancy of the Bible, embraces the biblical truths behind the five points of Calvinism (TULIP), while having an aversion to using the acronym (or any other systematic packaging) along with a sometimes-qualified embrace of Limited Atonement. The focus is on Calvinistic soteriology but not to the exclusion or the appreciation of the broader scope of Calvin’s vision.

2. The New Calvinism embraces the sovereignty of God in salvation and all the affairs of life and history, including evil and suffering.

3. The New Calvinism has a strong complementarian flavor (as opposed to egalitarian) with an emphasis on the flourishing of men and women in relationships where men embrace a call to robust, humble, Christ-like servant-leadership.

4. The New Calvinism leans toward being culture-affirming, as opposed to culture-denying, while holding fast to some very culturally-alien positions on issues like same-sex practice and abortion.

5. The New Calvinism embraces the essential place of the local church: it is led mainly by pastors; it has a vibrant church-planting bent; it produces widely-sung worship music; and it exalts the preached Word as central to the work of God both locally and globally.

6. The New Calvinism is aggressively mission-driven, including missional impact on social evils, evangelistic impact on personal networks, and missionary impact on the unreached peoples of the world.

7. The New Calvinism is inter-denominational, with a strong (some would say oxymoronic) Baptistic element.

8. The New Calvinism includes both charismatics and non-charismatics.

9. The New Calvinism places a priority on pietism or piety in the Puritan vein, with an emphasis on the essential role of the affections in Christian living, while esteeming the life of the mind and being very productive in it, and embracing the value of serious scholarship.

10. The New Calvinism is vibrantly engaged in publishing books, and, even more remarkably, in the world of the Internet, with hundreds of energetic bloggers and social media activists, with Twitter as the increasingly-default way of signalling things new and old that should be noticed and read.

11. The New Calvinism is international in scope, multi-ethnic in expression, and culturally-diverse. There is no single geographic, racial, cultural, governing center. There are no officers, no organization, nor any loose affiliation that would encompass the whole. (As an aside, he adds: I would dare say there are outcroppings of this movement that no one in this room has ever heard of.)

12. The New Calvinism is robustly gospel-centered, cross-centered, with dozens of books rolling off the presses coming at the gospel from every conceivable angle and applying it to all areas of life, with a commitment to seeing the historic doctrine of justification finding its fruit in sanctification both personally and communally.

So what do you think? Would you have gone with the same features? Would you have added or skipped any of them?

Get More Done This Week
March 17, 2014

The law of entropy seems to apply to every area of life in this broken world. Without constant effort to the contrary, houses get dirty, gardens get overgrown, cars get rusty, habits get sloppy, children get unruly. If you leave it alone, whatever it is, it gets slower, not faster; sloppier, not neater; worse, not better.

Like everything else in the world, your ability to get things done is always spiralling toward chaos. If you allow yourself to coast for a few weeks, your life will get less orderly, not more orderly. Not only that, but you will soon find yourself neglecting the important tasks in order to focus on the urgent tasks. Before you know it, you’ll be off-focus and out of control.

Here are 8 ways to take control and get more done this week (and every week).

1. Plan Your Week

I know it’s a cliché but it really is true: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. If you don’t plan your week, you will only ever be reactive, responding to whatever concerns and opportunities arise. To take control of your week, you need to plan your week. Take a few minutes on Sunday evening to plan out your entire week, from Monday morning to Sunday evening. You don’t need to have something planned for every minute of every day, but at the least you should plan your work week. If you are married, it is best to do this with your spouse so you can be sure you are properly accounting for appointments, evening activities, and any other commitments you may otherwise forget. Make sure everything that happens at a specific time is on your calendar and that you have set alerts or reminders. Make sure that everything you need to do is in your task-management system (whatever that system is). Get as much as possible out of your brain and into your system.

2. Block Your Time

As you begin to determine what time you will use to accomplish your tasks, block time to specific tasks instead of general tasks. This may be something you can do at the beginning of the week, or it may need to be a day-to-day kind of task. You will need to be adaptable here, but simply blocking your week into work, family and sleep won’t do it. As you plan time, assign particular tasks to particular times. Plan that block from 10 AM to 12 PM on Tuesday as not only “Office Time” but “Write Bible Study.” Plan that block from 3 PM to 5 PM on Tuesday as not only “Meeting” but “Meeting With Marketing Team.” Take into account the times you are at peak productivity and reserve those for your most mentally-demanding tasks. I am at my peak in the early morning hours, so that is when I tend to do my writing or sermon preparation. By mid-afternoon I am flat out of energy and creativity, so this is when I tend to do my maintenance tasks and other chores that are necessary but routine.

3. Manage Your Tasks

An essential element of productivity is the implementation of, and reliance upon, a system that will get the list of things you need to accomplish out of your brain and onto paper or into software. You need to create a system and then rely on it. As you plan your week, and as your week unfolds, you need to use this system to capture, organize, and manage your tasks. When you reach the office on Monday morning and see that time in your calendar blocked off for “Weekly Maintenance,” your task management software should have a list of all those tasks waiting for you. As you receive phone calls and emails, and as you sit in meetings, you will constantly be adding new tasks that need to be done. Rather than relying upon your memory, you need to get all of these into your system so you will remember them and execute them at the best time. I am heavily dependent upon Things, a Mac-based application that syncs seamlessly between my computers and my mobile devices. Wherever I am, I have it with me. I always input my tasks with a verb followed by a colon like “Write: Email to Francis” or “Plan: Sunday Evening Sermon”. This keeps me from using my to-do list as a place to store random thoughts and forces me to make every task an action.