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July 30, 2016

Logos users may like to know that several major new works have just made the transition to the Logos format: Zechariah by Mark Boda (NICOT); Romans by Richard Longenecker (NIGTC); and The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures by D.A. Carson.

Your Work Never Goes Unseen

This is sweet and encouraging: “God sees. And all things done for his glory and in his name are never wasted. That includes the laundry we fold, the meals we prepare, and all the quiet, mundane acts of service we provide for our family.”

Online Bible Study Resources

Nathan Busenitz shares some of his favorite free online Bible study resources.

The Best Way to Organize Your Desk

“When you spend hours at your desk every day, even the smallest features of your workspace–such as the position of your monitor or the height of your chair–can greatly affect your productivity and even your health. Here’s what science says about the best way to set up your office for ergonomics and productivity.”

Machias Seal Island

I didn’t know that there are ongoing territorial disputes between Canada and the US. “Little known to most Americans and Canadians, the U.S. and Canada hold five border disputes to this day.”

The Power Is in the Word, Not in Methods

Here’s a short but important reminder from R.C. Sproul.

The Most Relentless Propagator of Racism

This is important considering how many people are drowning in a cesspool of porn: “ugly and brutal racial stereotypes are being crassly perpetuated by one of the largest capitalist enterprises in the United States of America: the porn industry.”

This Day in 1956. 60 years ago today, “In God We Trust” became the official motto of the United States by an act of Congress signed by President Eisenhower. *

The Decline of British English, Visualized

Even I, as a Canadian, have pretty well given up on British English.

How to See Productivity from a Biblical Perspective

“Productivity sometimes seems like a bad thing, or at least a purposeless one. We work and produce more, more more, but to what end? Is there a purpose to all our productivity? From a biblical perspective, there is.”

Flashback: Paul Washer’s 7 Concerns with the New Calvinism

A few years ago I interviewed Paul Washer and he laid out 7 concerns with the New Calvinism. Are they still valid today?

The Tyranny of Tolerance

My thanks goes to Impact360 for sponsoring the blog this week with “3 Practical Steps to Resist the Tyranny of Tolerance.”

Quote

Peace in the gospel is not just a ceasefire, but the ability to look at people who were formerly foes and call them family. —John Onwuchekwa

Free Stuff Fridays Updated
July 29, 2016

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Impact 360 Institute who also sponsored the blog this week. They are giving away their Explore Truth audiobook to anyone who would like to have it.

Explore Truth is a 7­-part course offered by the Impact 360 Institute and taught by Jonathan Morrow. The course focuses on the topic of absolute truth in the modern age and forming a biblical response to cultural relativism. The content features several interviews with prominent speakers and authors including Eric Stonestreet, Del Tackett, J.P. Moreland, and Sean McDowell. In the course you can expect to learn more about these common issues

  1. Whatever Happened to Truth?
  2. What Is Truth?
  3. How Moral Relativism Hurts Everyone
  4. Is Jesus Really the Only Way to God?
  5. The Tyranny of Tolerance
  6. How to Talk about Truth
  7. Why Truth Matters

This audiobook contains the full­-length study in mp3 format. It is free for the taking right here.

Giveaway

Our Caveat Emptor Vacation
July 29, 2016

Every couple of summers my whole family vacations together. When I say “my whole family,” I mean my parents, their 5 children, their 4 children-in-law, and a small hoard of grandchildren. That’s a crowd of 26 people all told. Needless to say, we have to search far and wide to find accommodations for that many people—accommodations that offer the right balance of luxury versus economy, community versus privacy, and so on. Typically our search leads us to an American state park where we can each rent a cabin of our own while still setting up in the same vicinity. This year, though, we decided to meet up here in Canada and found a collection of cottages clustered together on one property. It seemed a near-perfect solution. It turned out to be, well, far from perfect. While I will never actually post this review, merely writing it over the course of the week has proven its own form of therapy. Here goes…

***

This week we rented all 5 cottages to host a family-wide vacation. Our experience was disappointing and at times full-out exasperating. Let me begin with an item I brought to the owner’s attention on the very first day: the oven in cottage #4.

When we rented the cottage, we assumed that the claim of a full kitchen indicated that a kitchen was not only present, but also functional. Perhaps this was our naïveté and it was incumbent on us to verify details like “Does the oven get hot inside?”

(Likewise, I suppose we should have verified that the toilets in these cottages would be capable of flushing without the assistance of a bucket of water, but caveat emptor, right? Plus, wouldn’t it have felt condescending to ask, “Can you please verify that the toilets flush?” There are some things you feel you should be safe assuming. But back to the subject at hand.)

Now, had we been told the oven was non-functional or, indeed, that there was no oven at all, we would have planned our meals differently. As it stands, though, we planned to use the oven often and were rather inconvenienced by its inability to so much as turn on. I should mention that one evening we attempted to use the barbecue in place of the oven but, wouldn’t you know it, it immediately ran out of propane. Thankfully my sister and her family hadn’t yet shown up so we were able to surreptitiously purloin their tank which, I confess, didn’t help them to get off to a good start either.

But enough about the oven. Let’s talk about bugs. Obviously the owner bears no responsibility for the outdoor insects and we came well-prepared to combat them. This is, after all, eastern Ontario in mid-summer and mosquitos, black flies, and other predatory bugs abound. But indoor bugs are a different matter altogether. One night my niece wandered into her parents’ bedroom to complain that her bed was covered in black bugs. Assuming she had been dreaming—she does have an active imagination—, they sent her back to bed. But then she came in a second time to say the bugs were now biting her. This was early enough in the week that there was still some optimism in our minds, so I can excuse her parents for doubting her tale. Yet sure enough, in the morning her bed was swarming with hundreds of big black ants and she was covered in bites. Maybe this is the first time this has ever happened in that cabin, but judging by the well-established ant holes we discovered when we pulled back the bed, we rather doubt it.

I want to circle back to the plumbing. I understand that the property is on a well and has no access to the convenience of city water. I understand that it has been a dry summer and that the water tables are a little bit low. But the water situation here does strike me as both odd and inconsistent. We could never cajole more than a lukewarm trickle out of our kitchen sink but found an untamable torrent in the bathroom. Yet somehow the toilet in our cottage—and in 2 of 4 others—filled insufficiently to generate more than the barest hint of a flush. It was recommended that we try a bucket of water with each flush (on a buckets-not-provided basis). We recommended a plumber and, despite repair attempts, still do.

There is so much more we could discuss: The trash cans that are little more than raccoon feeders and were knocked over and ravaged every…single…night; the toaster that was capable of toasting only the lower half of one side of a slice of bread leading to toast that was, miraculously, simultaneously burnt and frozen; the contact number that went unanswered so that when the electricity went out, we had to diagnose the problem, drive to town, buy some fuses, and fix it ourselves; the toilet seat that was resting on the toilet but affixed to it in only a token way; the doorknob that, likewise, was inserted but not secured, trapping people in the bedroom. And this was just my experience—each of my siblings has their own unique tale of woe like finding the Kleenex box stuffed full of used tissues, of finding their bed littered with crumbs, of opening the box we had been told contained an emergency phone to find it actually contained only a take-out menu.

See, it’s not that we are opposed to making do without such conveniences as electricity and running water. After all, humanity thrived without these things for millennia. Even today people voluntarily give them up to enjoy camping and, indeed, camping can be lots of fun. The fact is, though, that we showed up prepared for cottaging, not camping. It’s all in how you present it, right? And it’s all in what you’ve paid for.

I understand that these cottages are a work in progress. I understand that it’s hard to make a go of it with seasonal rental properties. I’m not unsympathetic to the owner’s struggles. I only wish that his website had been clear that the descriptions more accurately described his vision for the place than the much more modest reality.

Still, in one area he didn’t let us down. The website promised that we would enjoy spectacular views. There was, indeed, one that was especially sweet and very nearly moved me to tears—the sight of the property finally disappearing in my rear-view mirror as we headed back to the city 2 days early.

Epilogue

Despite all of this—and I neither fabricated nor exaggerated any details—we had a good time with my family and the host of cousins and friends who dropped in along the way. While the cottages themselves were subpar, the property was just fine and we enjoyed sitting outside, swimming in the lake, and visiting nearby villages. Most of all we enjoyed one another (outdoors). We do not believe this was a case of evil intent as much as a case of a well-meaning landlord who acquired a problematic property and is just trying to keep up. Over the course of the week, and in response to our insistence, he began to correct, or attempt to correct, some of the most glaring issues. In the end, the oven, the plumbing, the ants, the whole situation—these are all things I’m sure we will laugh about next summer when we are staying somewhere—anywhere—else.

Reality

July 29, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include 3 books I highly recommend: The Gospel by Ray Ortlund; Core Christianity by Michael Horton; and Church History 101 by Sinclair Ferguson, Joel Beeke, and Michael Haykin. You can find the deals right here.

On the print book side, Westminster Books has a great sale on the venerable NICNT commentary series. You can build yourself a commentary collection in a hurry with these volumes. (For specific commentary recommendations, you can visit my Best Commentaries page.

Godly Compassion for Hurting People

John MacArthur describes “a wonderful, practical, real-life illustration of God’s compassion.”

The Word of God and the Academy

Tim Grant: “I have noticed that those from the academy give the impression that the Bible belongs to them—that they have a special claim on it and that they have a special claim to understand it, due to their great learning, general smartness, or a PhD they completed at some point in the past. They are, at this point, deeply mistaken.”

The Camera Adds 10 Pounds

You’ve heard it said before that the camera adds 10 pounds. This quite gif shows how that’s the case. It’s all about the lens!

Touched by Biblical Beauty

George Guthrie: “The world may be ‘death impregnated,’ as one of my mentors used to say, and most of us know the bite of suffering in one form or another, but it also is brim-full of beauty because it everywhere bears the mark of his thumbprint, his “It was very good” (Gen. 1:31). The common graces of tastes, sights, touch, sounds, enduring friendship, love, joy, community. And much, much beauty has been squeezed into the world through the funnel of God’s good Word, the Bible.”

This Day in 1775. 241 years ago today, the U.S. Army Chaplaincy was founded, making it the second oldest branch of that service after the Infantry. *

The Attractional Church’s Growing Irrelevance

Jared Wilson does what he does so well: “I find it incredibly interesting, sort of amusing, and more than a bit sad that the attractional church—what we used to call the “seeker church”—hasn’t seemed to grow up at all. Yes, it’s grown big. But growing big and growing up aren’t the same thing.”

The Rearview Mirror

“We see Providence in the rearview mirror. In my experience, it is usually far less clear looking over the dashboard. It’s when we look back that we can see how God was working all things together for his glory and our good.”

Trumped

Despite the title, this is not really an article about Trump. It is, in fact, about the church and a role the church ought to play.

Flashback: Why We Fail at Family Devotions

Here are some common reasons that we fail in our good desire to have family devotions.

Carson

If we harbor bitterness and resentment, praying is little more than wasted time and effort.D.A. Carson

Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit
July 28, 2016

One mark of a successful sermon is that it satisfactorily answers some questions while provoking still others. On Sunday I visited a little church in an eastern-Ontario village and heard just such a sermon. The pastor preached on Ephesians 4 as part of a series on the Christian’s identity in Christ, but as he continued through the text he was only barely able to speak to verse 30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” I later found myself asking, What does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit? My initial reaction to the word grieve in reference to the Holy Spirit was a negative one: Surely the Spirit of God does not actually grieve, does he? Perhaps this is a poor translation. Isn’t sorrow a too-human reaction to ascribe to the holy God? Doesn’t it diminish the Spirit to suggest that my sin can make him feel genuine sorrow?

Thankfully I take my entire theological library on the road with me thanks to the magic of Logos, so I was able to first meditate on the text and then to research it a little bit. What I found is that grieve is actually a very faithful rendering. It is, in fact, the preferred rendering of the word for every major translation, new or old, with the exception of the NLT which prefers the synonymous bring sorrow to. The Bible dictionaries agree: the Greek word λυπέω indicates grief, sorrow, and distress. So somehow our sin really can bring grief to God and, according to the immediate context, this is especially true for the sins of the mouth that cause disunity between believers.

Still, I was glad to see that Bryan Chapell sympathizes with my immediate, negative response to divine grief: “The words challenge our theology as much as they encourage our hearts. We are not accustomed to thinking of our thoughts and actions affecting God’s heart. There are even aspects of our theology that make us question whether it is proper to think this way. Yet the apostle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit speaks with wonderful intimacy about the nature of our God and his heart for us.” We need to remember that the Holy Spirit is not a distant, abstract deity and certainly not an impersonal force. No, the Holy Spirit is a person, for only a genuine and personable being is capable of this kind of thinking, feeling, and emotion. In fact, when we understand that the Spirit is a person it should surprise us only if he would not or could not feel grief in the face of our sin. “There is some poignancy in the consideration that the Holy Spirit, the One who is our Comforter (John 14–16), is himself grieved by our sin.”

We do well, then, to consider the magnitude of our offences against God that they could move him to such sorrow. Sins that bring disunity to the church also bring grief to the Holy Spirit. Again, Chapell says, “The same Spirit who convicts my heart of sin, generates in me love for God, gives me new birth, provides my apprehension of the beauty of grace in the world, and seals my redemption until the coming of my Lord—this same Spirit who loves me so intimately and perfectly, I can cause to grieve.”

It is also worth noting what Paul does not say, for there is comfort to be had here. Paul does not threaten abandonment. Clinton Arnold makes this point and concludes “Under the new covenant, the Spirit does not depart when sin is committed. Instead, the Spirit deeply grieves over it. Paul presents this as a truth that should motivate believers not to indulge their sinful desires—whether this might be filthy talk, stealing, uncontrolled anger, lying, or any other vice.” The true believer does not need to fear that God will respond to sin by giving up and moving out. We are sealed by the Spirit for all eternity.

We grieve the Spirit when we sin and we especially grieve the Spirit when we sin in ways that cause discord, perhaps because unity is a special work of the Spirit (see John 17). The obvious and important application is this: “Not wanting to hurt [the Spirit] is strong motivation for not intending the harm of his people or purpose” (Chapell).

July 28, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include: Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa by Vance Christie; Patrick of Ireland: The Boy Who Forgave by Karen Murdarasi;Foundations by Peter Mead; As It Is Written by Kenneth Gentry; An All-Round Ministry by Charles Spurgeon. Find them all (and others!) here.

A Little Gem in Job

James Faris says and shows that “One of the beautiful but subtle gems of Scripture is found in the book of Job.”

Missionaries are Supposed to Suffer

Amy Medina: “I’m going to let you in on one of missionaries’ biggest secrets: They are terrified to tell you about their vacations.” In other words, missionaries are supposed to suffer…so are they allowed to eat lobster?

5 Reasons to Host a Q&A After Your Worship Service

Tim Keller explains why he used to host a Q&A after his services and why you may wish to consider one as well. At Grace Fellowship Church we have a brief, moderated Q&A related to the morning service at the very beginning of our evening service. We find it very helpful.

The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’

This article from the New York Times has some good insights as it looks at the new gospel of minimalism. “It has become an ostentatious ritual of consumerist self-sacrifice; people who have it all now seem to prefer having nothing at all. And, as with watching birds or going Paleo, talking about the material purge is just as important as actually doing it.”

Prophetic from the Center by Don Carson

Here’s a new, free ebook from TGC. “Prophetic from the Center is a short e-book adapted from D.A. Carson’s plenary address at The Gospel Coalition’s inaugural public conference in 2007. It is an extended exposition of I Corinthians 15:1-19, and embodies TGC’s mission to make the gospel central to the Christian life. It is a powerful and bracing call to renew the contemporary church in the ancient gospel of Jesus Christ.”

This Day in 1540. 476 years ago today, Thomas Cromwell, who served King Henry VIII as chief advisor, was executed after refusing to support Henry’s divorce against Anne of Cleves. *

10 Ways To Create More Margin in Your Time

Here are a few useful tips to address a common problem.

14 Lions, 1 Elephant

Who would you pick as the winner? (I was able to see but not hear the video, so forgive me if anything is said that is inappropriate.)

Flashback: What Gives God Pleasure

What makes you happy? What pleasures do you pursue? That might be one of the most important things about you. And let’s ask a related question: What makes God happy? What pleasures does God pursue? That might be one of the most important things about God.

Welch

The cross is the quickest and best summary of what God says to unworthy people. —Ed Welch

July 27, 2016

Last week I spent a couple of days at Muskoka Bible Centre, a Christian camp north of Toronto where we love to spend time in the summer. While there I cracked open a new book by Michael Haykin and saw that, fittingly enough, he had dedicated it to the staff and guests of MBC. I took it as a sign that I ought to keep reading. I’m glad I did.

Eight Women of Faith is a collection of brief historical vignettes, each of which introduces a Christian woman from days gone by and reveals some of her unique contributions during her life and times. Haykin’s goal is “to remind contemporary Christians, especially evangelicals, of the vital role that women have played in the history of our faith.”

In some ways the book divides neatly into two parts. Haykin explains: “The first two chapters, those on Lady Jane Grey and Margaret Charlton Baxter, explore women’s lives in the church prior to the significant changes of the eighteenth century. Jane speaks to the way that women made the faith of the Reformation their own, and Margaret shows how women helped men in ministry, in this case, her husband, Richard Baxter.”

The next six chapters explore what it was like to be a Christian woman in the eighteenth century. Here he looks at Anne Dutton, a theological writer; Sarah Edwards, who “reveals the way some Christian women have had profound experiences of God for the blessing of the church;” Anne Steele, who wrote hymns which are still treasured today; Esther Edwards Burr, Sarah Edwards’ daughter, who has much to say about Christian friendship; Ann Judson, who was a pioneer missionary and “something of an icon for generations of women missionaries who followed her;” and finally Jane Austen, easily the most famous of the subjects, whom few know to be a serious Christian.

In this way the book is more than a collection of eight short biographies. Yes, Haykin provides biographical details, but his purpose is less to recount the character’s life than to point to her faith and to the way she grew and served during her lifetime. He means to show the vital importance of women for the life and health of the Christian church. He does not merely describe these women in relation to their husbands as so many biographers have done (at least for those who had a husband), but shows that they were godly in their own right, that even apart from their husbands they had deep faith and a desire to serve the Lord and his people. They were, indeed, women of faith.

As for me, my favorite chapter was the one on Jane Austen, perhaps because I’ve read so little about her faith (which seems to have been very strong and genuine) or perhaps because I’ve only just begun to read and enjoy Emma, which many regard as her finest work.

In Eight Women of Faith, Michael Haykin was provided a neat book, a helpful book, and a unique book. He has provided a book that will benefit any and all of us. I recommend it!

July 27, 2016

There are a couple of new Kindle deals today: Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton and the NIV Lifehacks Bible by Joe Carter. Or if you are into printed books…

9Marks’ Building Healthy Churches is a great series meant to, well, build healthy churches. Westminster Books has discounted the whole series and the discounts increase as you buy more of them. A lot of other 9Marks books are also on sale. Buy them for yourself, for your pastor, or for your church.

Marriage Manifesto for Men

Ed Welch’s article is pretty short as manifestos go, but a good read. He talks about responsibility in marriage and, despite the title, it applies to both husbands and wives.

The Bug With the Great Big Eyes

It has been a long time since I’ve linked to a collection of photos. Here are some quality ones from the BBC. “From the macro to the massive, deserts to underwater worlds, here is a selection of our favourite photographs from the Earth Capture community this week.”

14 Rules for Being a Godly Employee

Jordan Standridge: “Not too long ago I found a little article a professor shared with us that was written by an old pastor. He offered 14 rules that he tried to live by in order to be the best pastor possible. As I looked through his ‘rules’ it was obvious that this didn’t just apply to pastors, but rather it could be applied to any job anywhere.”

Accountability Software Roundup

Steven Kryger: “Accountability software is a powerful tool in the pursuit of purity online. Here’s a comparison of 5 of the best tools on the market today.”

Ask Pastor John

Andy Naselli just finished listening to all 900+ episodes of Ask Pastor John and shares what he considers a few of the strongest episodes. If you’re new to the podcast, you might like to begin with these ones.

This Day in 1945.71 years ago today, Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s parents learned of his execution through a broadcast emanating from London. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian, active in the resistance to Hitler and Nazism.*

Dutch Men and Latvian Women

This interested me primarily because I grew up among tall Dutch folk. “Dutch men and Latvian women are now the tallest in the world, height study reveals. Where do you stand on the global height chart?”

How My Special-Needs Sister Teaches Me to Trust God’s Heart

I enjoyed this article by Allyson Todd. “It seems like part of growing up is finally realizing how much your childhood affected your adulthood. You start to realize that you have habits and presuppositions because of your family, and you also have interests and values that are shaped by your experiences as a kid. One of the most formidable things that shaped who I am today is my sister, Amanda. She is now 21 years old, reads more books than I do, just graduated high-school, and has Down’s Syndrome.”

Flashback: No Platform High Enough

“No matter your goal, no matter your god, it will not and cannot bring lasting satisfaction. In this world, God’s world, these kinds of desires were never meant to bring ultimate satisfaction…”

Tripp

We will never be so holy as to meet God’s standard and we are never too wicked as to be beyond his rescue. —Paul Tripp