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2016 Reading Challenge
May 01, 2016

Late last year I announced the 2016 Reading Challenge, a fun way to increase and diversify your reading through another year. I took the challenge and set this year’s goal at 104 books. However, because so much of my reading has to go toward reviewing books that are recently published and of interest to Christians (both for reviews published here and in WORLD magazine), I decided to pick from all over the list rather than working through it in order. What follows are the books I completed in March and April and, in parentheses, the reading challenge category they fulfill. They are listed in the order in which I completed them. Below that is the complete list of categories I need to cover.

  1. One Child by Mei Fong (A book about a country or city). Mei Fong writes about the short-term and long-term consequences of China’s horrific one-child policy.
  2. Habits of Grace by David Mathis (A self-improvement book). This is a powerful guide to the spiritual disciplines. It offers basic instructions to new believers while bringing fresh encouragement to those who have walked with the Lord for many years. It is a joy to commend it to you.
  3. Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife by Ruth Tucker (A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with). Tucker’s book makes a case for egalitarianism but deals too little with the biblical text for it to be a strong case. It makes a case against something as well, but not against complementarianism, not as I hear it described, not as I see it lived out in my home and so many others’.
  4. A Great Blessing to Me by Grant Gordon (A book about church history). Gordon’s latest work looks at the little-known but important relationship between John Newton and George Whitefield.
  5. Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker (A memoir). Vanhoenacker is a commercial airline pilot who is also skilled author. He writes about his love of flying and the simple joys of slipping the surly bonds of earth.
  6. A Peculiar Glory by John Piper (A book about the Bible). A Piper’s first major work in a number of years explains why and how he has such deep-rooted confidence in the Bible. He sets out to answer this question: How are we to know that the Christian Scriptures are the word of God?
  7. Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith. Patrick Smith is another commercial airline pilot who enjoys writing. His book deals less with a passion for flying and more with some of the questions people ask and the fables they believe. Your enjoyment of this book will probably vary directly with the amount of time you spend in those little aluminum tubes hurtling through the sky.
  8. Zeal Without Burnout by Christopher Ash (A book about leadership). Can you have genuine zeal for God without having it lead to burnout? Is there such a thing as a sustainable, non-complacent zeal? Ash believes there is and he speaks with a voice of experience having twice allowed his zeal to drive him to the very brink of a breakdown. He writes for all zealous followers of Jesus.
  9. Disrupted by Dan Lyons (A book about business). Lyons writes about his almost-too-bizarre-to-believe it time at an Internet startup company. He survived with his sanity intact, but only barely. This one needs a language warning.
  10. Your Days Are Numbered by John Perritt (A book about productivity). Of all the gifts God gives to us, few are more precious and few are more fleeting than the gift of time. Your days are numbered and you are responsible to faithfully steward each one of them for the good of others and the glory of God. This book will teach and encourage you to make the most of the time God gives you.
  11. Unashamed by Lecrae Moore (A book about music). For a number of years Lecrae has been the leading Christian rapper. This book explains his humble and difficult origins and how he rose to become a star. Readers may be well served to know that at times the descriptions of his pre-conversion sin can be quite frank. Lecrae fans will be especially interested in reading his rationale for his recent decision to break a little from the Christian music genre.
  12. Black & Reformed by Anthony Carter (A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you). Black & Reformed is an excellent primer on one of the most pressing issues in American Evangelicalism today. It is equally at home in the hands of an African-American Christian investigating the claims of Reformed theology and in the hands of a white Christian seeking to better understand his African-American brothers and sisters.
  13. The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington (A book about science). Sleep and I do not get along very well, so I’m always eager to learn how we can be reconciled. Huffington’s book is an interesting mix of science, sociology, and New Age silliness. There are some good tips and lots of good information about the sheer importance of sleep, but there must also be better resources out there.
  14. Imagine Heaven by John Burke (A book about psychology). I really, really disliked this book, though perhaps somewhat unfairly. Burke purports to provide an honest examination of Near Death Experiences from a Christian perspective. Yet as he does this he draws little distinction between NDEs that describe elements that could be almost biblical and ones that are firmly planted in very different faiths. While NDEs may be worth considering, I found this a weak effort that does more to justify the heaven tourism genre than say anything substantial about the experiences.
  15. Jump by Michel Sauret (A Christian novel). I enjoyed this novel which aptly describes a Christian’s journey to faith, but do fear that the author was too free and descriptive in describing the character’s pre-Christian depravity. Though it is not unrealistic, it is not a novel I’d want my wife or teenaged son to read simply because of some of the descriptions of sin.
  16. Conscience by Andy Naselli & J.D. Crowley (A book written by an author with initials in their name). This is a wonderful introduction to the exceedingly important area of conscience. The authors give great care and attention to expositing the appropriate Scripture passages while drawing application suitable to all Christians.
  17. Brave Companions by David McCullough (A book by David McCullough). McCullough is such a skilled writer that even though this is one of his lesser works, it is still a tremendous joy to read.

You can see my previous updates for January and February.

The Light Reader (13 Books)

  • ☒ A book about Christian living (Delighting in the Trinity)
  • ☐ A biography
  • ☐ A classic novel
  • ☐ A book someone tells you “changed my life”
  • ☐ A commentary on a book of the Bible
  • ☒ A book about theology (The Deep Things of God)
  • ☐ A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle
  • ☐ A book your pastor recommends
  • ☐ A book more than 100 years old
  • ☐ A book for children
  • ☐ A mystery or detective novel
  • ☐ A book published in 2016
  • ☒ A book about a current issue (Black Flags)

The Avid Reader (26 Books)

  • ☐ A book written by a Puritan
  • ☐ A book recommended by a family member
  • ☒ A book by or about a missionary (William Carey)
  • ☒ A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize (All the Light We Cannot See)
  • ☐ A book written by an Anglican
  • ☐ A book with at least 400 pages
  • ☒ A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien (The Return of the King)
  • ☐ A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title
  • ☐ A book with a great cover
  • ☐ A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers
  • ☒ A book about church history (A Great Blessing to Me)
  • ☒ A graphic novel (Essex County)
  • ☐ A book of poetry

The Committed Reader (52 Books)

  • ☒ A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with (Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife)
  • ☒ A book written by an author with initials in their name (Conscience)
  • ☐ A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award
  • ☐ A book about worldview
  • ☐ A play by William Shakespeare
  • ☐ A humorous book
  • ☐ A book based on a true story
  • ☐ A book written by Jane Austen
  • ☐ A book by or about Martin Luther
  • ☒ A book with 100 pages or less (God and Politics)
  • ☒ A book with a one-word title (Dreamland)
  • ☐ A book about money or finance
  • ☐ A novel set in a country that is not your own
  • ☒ A book about music (Unashamed)
  • ☒ A memoir (Skyfaring)
  • ☐ A book about joy or happiness
  • ☐ A book by a female author
  • ☒ A book whose title comes from a Bible verse (The Forgotten Fear)
  • ☐ A book you have started but never finished
  • ☒ A self-improvement book (Habits of Grace)
  • ☒ A book by David McCullough
  • ☐ A book you own but have never read
  • ☐ A book about abortion
  • ☐ A book targeted at the other gender
  • ☒ A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended (The Whole Christ)
  • ☒ A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you (Black and Reformed)

The Obsessed Reader (104 Books)

  • ☐ A book published by The Banner of Truth
  • ☐ A book about the Reformation
  • ☒ A book written by a first-time author (Under Our Skin)
  • ☒ A biography of a world leader (Victoria: A Life)
  • ☐ A book used as a seminary textbook
  • ☐ A book about food
  • ☒ A book about productivity (Your Days Are Numbered)
  • ☒ A book about or relationships or friendship (The Lovers)
  • ☐ A book about parenting
  • ☐ A book about philosophy
  • ☐ A book about art
  • ☐ A book with magic
  • ☒ A book about prayer (Moving Mountains)
  • ☒ A book about marriage (Tying the Knot)
  • ☒ A book about a hobby (Floodpath)
  • ☐ A book of comics
  • ☐ A book about the Second World War
  • ☐ A book about sports
  • ☐ A book by or about a pastor’s wife
  • ☒ A book about suffering (When Breath Becomes Air)
  • ☒ A book by your favorite author (What Is the Trinity?)
  • ☐ A book you have read before
  • ☒ A book about homosexuality (Messy Grace)
  • ☒ A Christian novel (Jump)
  • ☒ A book about psychology (Imagine Heaven)
  • ☐ A book about the natural world
  • ☐ A book by or about Charles Dickens
  • ☐ A novel longer than 400 pages
  • ☒ A historical book (The ISIS Apocalypse)
  • ☒ A book about the Bible (A Peculiar Glory)
  • ☒ A book about a country or city (One Child)
  • ☐ A book about astronomy
  • ☐ A book with an ugly cover
  • ☐ A book by or about a martyr
  • ☐ A book by a woman conference speaker
  • ☐ A book by or about the church fathers
  • ☐ A book about language
  • ☐ A book by or about a Russian
  • ☒ A book about leadership (Zeal Without Burnout)
  • ☐ A book about public speaking
  • ☐ A book by Francis Schaeffer
  • ☐ A book by a Presbyterian
  • ☒ A book about science (The Sleep Revolution)
  • ☐ A book about revival
  • ☐ A book about writing
  • ☐ A book about evangelism
  • ☐ A book about ancient history
  • ☐ A book about preaching
  • ☐ A book about the church
  • ☐ A book about adoption
  • ☐ A photo essay book
  • ☐ A book written in the twentieth century

Bonus (109 Books)

  • ☐ A book from a library
  • ☒ A book about business (Disrupted)
  • ☐ A book by an author less than 30
  • ☐ A book published by a UK-based publisher
  • ☐ A book you borrow

Books Without a Category

  • Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith

April 30, 2016

This weekend’s Kindle deals include Think It Not Strange by John Piper ($2.99) and Read the Bible for Life by George Guthrie ($0.99). You will also find a couple of the Kindle devices on sale today, discounted around $20 each. Finally, this is the final day to get a bunch of deals from Crossway that includes one of my books.

When Did Each of the Biblical Patriarchs Live and Die?

Justin Taylor did the work and has mapped it all out for us.

What Is the Most Expensive Object on Earth?

Now there’s a difficult question to answer. But that didn’t keep the BBC from trying.

9 Things You Should Know About Jehovah’s Witnesses

Joe Carter: “When he died last week at the age of 57, pop singer Prince was arguably the most famous Jehovah’s Witness in the world. Here are nine things you should know about the obscure religious group that emerged from the Bible Student movement in the late 1870s…”

Sydney Opera House 360°

Google gives you an amazing 360° experience capturing one of the world’s busiest performing arts centres between the acts — waking up, in rehearsal and at rest.

On Target

Mike Wittmer: “As our culture steams toward what may be its tipping point, let’s remember that sin doesn’t work. Sin never has worked. Sin cannot work. Those determined to deny God’s natural law and go their own way will inevitably fall into fifty shades of trouble.”

5 Awkward Conversations for Teens to Have With Parents

“As a teenage Christ-follower, I want to share with you five awkward and sanctifying conversations I believe every teenager and parent should have.”

Self-Promoting Wolves or Selfless Shepherds?

David Murray continues to think about spiritual abuse within the Reformed church and identifies four marks of faithful leaders.

Tomorrow in 1873. 143 years ago tomorrow (May 1), missionary and explorer David Livingstone died. *

9 Marks of a Christian Family

“What makes a Christian family distinct from a non-Christian one? Is it the number of times those in it attend church each week, or are there many more fundamental differences?” Paul Tautges answers.

4 Ways to Help your Teenagers Discover Their Identity In a Confused World

I’m grateful to Family Life for sponsoring the blog this week with “4 Ways to Help your Teenagers Discover Their Identity In a Confused World.”

Anyabwile

The best preachers are plagiarists. All they do is tell people what God has said. —Thabiti Anyabwile

Free Stuff Fridays Updated
April 29, 2016

This week's giveaway is sponsored by FamilyLife who also sponsored the blog this week. There will be 5 winners and each will receive their choice of Passport2Identity for Young MenPassport2Identity for Young Women, or Passport2Purity. They will also receive a $10 gift card to help with the cost of their getaway.

Passport2Identity for Young Men – A weekend getaway kit for you and your teenage son. Guide your son to independence through dependence on Christ with the help of Passport2Identity for Young Men. Seasoned contributors like Dennis Rainey, Bob Lepine, Crawford Loritts, and many others guide your discussions and help your son learn to become a man. 

Manhood

Passport2Identity for Young Women – A weekend getaway kit for you and your teenage daughter. Guide your daughter to independence through dependence on Christ with the help of Passport2Identity for Young Women. Seasoned contributors like Barbara Rainey, Jen Wilken, Courtney Reissig, and many others guide your discussions and help your daughter learn to become an authentic woman.

Womanhood

Passport2Purity - A life-changing getaway with your preteen. Your child begins the journey into adolescence in a world of sexting, bullying, online stalking, and moral defiance. Innocence is under attack, and you cannot win the battle with a single awkward talk or a strict set of rules. The primary defense for your child is a strong relationship with you and with God.

Purity

FamilyLife has developed Passport2Purity® (P2P) to assist you in building heart-to-heart communication with your preteen while laying a foundation of purity that will prepare them for the turbulent years ahead. Through the shared listening experience, object lessons, and guided conversations of a P2P weekend getaway, you can set your son or daughter on a journey of moral integrity—and strengthen the bond between you.

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.

Who Does My Body Belong To
April 29, 2016

I spent last weekend at a pair of conferences, each of which dealt in some way with matters of human sexuality. Such conferences are common today as Christians attempt to understand, interpret, and respond to the moral revolution raging around us. It struck me that just three or four years ago these events were discussing issues of marriage in the face of the likelihood that the institution of marriage would soon be opened to homosexual couples. For most people today that concern seems almost quaint, like debating whether women should be allowed to vote. The conversation has shifted so dramatically that the question today is whether there is any real meaning or significance in something as foundational to humanity as biological sex—a conversation we carry on as people begin to choose bathrooms and change rooms not on the basis of sex but of identity, of feelings rather than fact.

Of all the questions asked over the course of the weekend, there is one that stands out to me: Who does my body belong to? In some ways this question stands at the very heart of our cultural conversation. A speaker asked the question in one seminar but, because of time constraints, could offer only a partial answer. I’ve found myself pondering it in the days since.

So, who does my body belong to? The Christian answer is obvious: My body belongs to God. In fact, my body is owned twice by God, once because he created it and again because he redeemed it. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); “For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). God has the right of ownership and the right of redemption. I am to relate to my body as a grateful steward rather than an autonomous owner. This is my solemn responsibility, to gladly surrender my body to God, to use it in the ways he commands. I surrender it by denying myself forbidden desires or pleasures (1 Thessalonians 4:4), by pursuing the highest desires and pleasures (Proverbs 5:19, 1 Corinthians 7:1-5), and by my willingness to even see it destroyed in his service (2 Corinthians 11:25-29). God-followers have always placed great importance on using the body to procreate as a means of carrying out God’s creation mandate that we “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). Understanding God’s ownership of the body not only limits behavior that God says is unworthy of his creatures, but promotes behavior that God says is good for his creatures.

Just pause for one moment to consider this kind of a world—a world in which each person glorifies God in his or her body all the time. This is the world of Genesis 1 and 2. The rest of the Bible and the rest of human history show with undisputed clarity that one of the consequences of sin is the selfish reclamation of our bodies. (A subsequent answer that I will not deal with at this time is that after God, my wife owns my body—see 1 Corinthians 7:1-5).)

Who owns my body? God does. There is another answer, though, and while it can easily be traced to a biblical understanding of the world, it is found even in cultures that have long since lost or denied God’s Word: My body belongs to my people, to my ancestors and descendants. People have traditionally had a strong sense of the unity of past, present, and future. And this was true—and still is true—for many cultures. I would be expected to honor my ancestors by carrying on the family line and I would be expected to honor my descendants by ensuring that there actually would be descendants. No horror could be greater than the horror of a family line coming to an end (see, for example, 1 Samuel 2:27-36). Thus my body belongs to the past and the future—it belongs to my people. This brings with it the responsibility to use my body to procreate, to create future generations. Even without reference to the God of the Bible, this sense of responsibility puts a kind of governor on human behavior that might cause me to turn away from certain desires in order to fulfill my familial and societal obligations.

Again, pause to consider this kind of a world. This may not be a Christian world, but it is still a world that understands the goodness of family and the stability the family unit brings to individuals and to all of society.

And now we advance to modern Western society and we see that all limits and governors have been taken off—they’ve been taken off, thrown down, and stamped into the dust. Who does my body belong to? In a society obsessed with autonomy, personal rights, and total sexual freedom, my body belongs to me—to me and only me. I bear no responsibility to God because there is no God. Or even if I do acknowledge deity, the responsibility I bear to him is to be true to myself and to my own desires, for of course that is what he wants for me. I bear no responsibility to those who have come before me; their desires and sacrifices lay no obligation on me to ensure that there will be a generation who follows. The past is the past and the future is of no concern to me if it interferes with my joy in the present. My body is mine, thank you very much, and I owe it to myself to use it however I will.

Do you see how far we’ve come? The Bible says that my body belongs to God. Even Godless traditional societies will at least say that my body belongs to my people. But here and now my body belongs to me and it is outright bigotry for you to impose upon me any obligation to the contrary.

What do we do about this? The answer is simple: We obey God. As Christians, we celebrate the beautiful fact that we were each handcrafted by God, we have been bought with a price, and we now have the joyful responsibility and privilege of glorifying God in our bodies. We live in this way before a dark, selfish world and simply let God’s light shine.

Image credit: Shutterstock

April 29, 2016

Sorting through all of the possibilities, I came to just a few noteworthy Kindle deals: Seeing Christ In All of Scripture by Westminster Seminary ($2.99); Baptist Foundations by Mark Dever & Jonathan Leeman ($2.99); A History of Christianity by Joseph Early ($2.99). 

Logos users may want to poke through these 7 pages of deals since they will be ending tomorrow. And you’ve got just one day left to download Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung for free from Christian Audio.

Parchments

You’ve probably never thought about this before: How much did it cost Paul to write an epistle? The answer may surprise you.

Governed by Bad News or Good News?

There is lots of bad news all around us. “But we must resist the temptation to be governed by the bad news around us. We must not act as though this is a terrible time to be alive as a Christian in America because the opposite is true.”

Big Mac Economics

Here’s why economists keep track of the prices of Big Macs.

Satan’s Strategies

“In a world of shysters and cons, you are wise to be alert to their strategies. When at the train station in Rome, pickpockets are everywhere so keep money and important documents secure. When you receive internet requests for money, ignore them. When you are promised a 10% return on your investment, don’t give up a penny. And when you have an enemy who is always out to get you, stay current with his schemes.”

Success Is Dangerous

Jared Wilson: “It is perfectly normal for humans to prefer success to failure. You’d be a weirdo if you didn’t. And yet it is perfectly normal for humans to taint all their successes with the swelling of their big fat heads. You’d be a weirdo if you didn’t.”

7 Questions About Transgender People, Answered

From The Federalist: “What social science research we have on transgender people and gender dysphoria is limited, but it does not support the agenda of trans activists.”

Angel Falls

This is some incredible drone footage of the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall.

This Day in 1607. 409 years ago today, the first Anglican (Episcopal) church in the American colonies was established at Cape Henry, Virginia. *

Family Worship for Stability

While this article is written specifically for minorities, its principles apply to any and every family. “As a black Christian man with a multi-ethnic heritage and a multi-racial and multi-cultural family, it is my conviction that a means by which God can keep black, brown, and other Christian minority families close to Jesus, close to each other, and structurally intact is by the Christian men in these families committing themselves to lead their families in regular family worship in accordance with the scriptures.”

Nature Hacks

I don’t know how helpful these hacks are, but they’re definitely interesting.

Carson

Jesus did not come to impress the crowds, but to die for sinners. —D.A. Carson

Take a Logos Course With Me
April 28, 2016

Many of the great joys I’ve had in the years I’ve been running this site are the ones experienced doing projects together. We’ve read a long selection of classic Christian books together, we’ve memorized Scripture, and a whole lot more. Today I’m wondering if you would like to take a course with me. A little while ago I approached Logos to ask if they would be willing to open up a course in their Mobile Ed platform. They said they’d be glad to do so, and after weighing the various options, I selected one that I thought would be interesting, helpful, and appropriately challenging to any Christian. It usually costs $229.99, but they are giving us access for free!

The course is titled Introducing the Gospels and Acts: Their Background, Nature, and Purpose and is taught by Dr. Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Dr. Bock is the author of a number of important works, including highly-regarded commentaries on Luke and Acts. Here is the course’s description:

Study the key events of the Gospels and the book of Acts with prolific New Testament scholar Dr. Darrell L. Bock. Dr. Bock walks you through the pivotal events of history that shaped the social, religious, and political environment of Jesus and the early church. Find out why the religious leaders wanted Jesus crucified and how the resurrection demonstrated God’s approval of Jesus as Messiah. Discover how the early church remembered, shared, and recorded the events of Jesus’ life, and how those events became the catalyst for ministry in the book of Acts. Learn about the literary features of the gospel genre and why some “gospels” were not included in the New Testament. Dr. Bock—an internationally recognized authority on theology and culture—developed this course for the Mobile Education platform so that you can read the Gospels and Acts with fresh eyes.

Upon successful completion you should be able to:

  • Understand the effect of Hellenism on Second Temple Judaism
  • Discuss the significance of the temple in Second Temple Judaism
  • Summarize the ways in which Jesus created conflict with the religious leaders
  • Compare and contrast the canonical Gospels with the “missing gospels”
  • Explain the issues of authorship and date associated with each Gospel
  • Describe the concept of resurrection in Judaism and the Graeco-Roman world
  • Discuss the significance of the resurrection in each Gospel account and to the gospel message
  • Summarize the key events in the life of the early church

In other words, you will gain a lot of information about the background to the Gospels and the book of Acts that should, in turn, help you better understand, interpret, and apply them. Not only that, but if you decide to take more courses, this will earn you the first of five credits you need for the New Testament: Foundational Certificate Program.

What’s Involved

I will be taking the course over a period of 8 weeks. Logos has already divided it into 8 roughly equal parts, setting a good pace for us. We will complete each week’s lesson by watching the videos and, optionally, completing the reading; I will post something about it on the blog each Thursday. We can also discuss what we are learning via the Faithlife group. The course is driven by videos but includes two kinds of option reading: “Suggested Reading” (which you have full access to) and “See Also” readings for which you may need to purchase supplementary materials. However, the course works just fine without those “See Also” readings. You will also see transcripts for all of the videos in case you prefer to read than watch or, even better, do both at once.

All you need to do is sign up, either by using your existing account or by creating a new one. If you own the Logos software, it will appear there. If not, you can take it entirely through the web. If you’ve been meaning to try Logos and haven’t ever gotten around to it, this may be a good time to download what they call the Core Engine. When you sign in, the course will appear there for you.

We will begin officially on May 2. That gives you a few days to sign up and get settled. Then, on May 2, check the curriculum and begin watching the videos for Unit 1. You will probably want to bookmark this page since that’s where most things will be happening.

Sign Up

If you would like to join the group, simply click the link “Follow” in the box below and you will be taken to a Faithlife group (Faithlife is the parent company of Logos). (Alternative: Click here.)


That’s all you need to do. Sign up and then, on Monday, begin to make your way through Unit 1.

April 28, 2016

Today’s Kindle deals include just a few: War of the World Views by Ken Ham ($2.99), A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada ($1.99), and Picture Perfect by Amy Baker ($1.99). Also, today is the last day to get Visual Theology from Westminster Books at $10. It will ship in a week or two—as soon as they receive more.

Thoughts On The Rise And Fall Of Pastors

This is a really good and really urgent article by Scott Sauls.

When Prayer Feels Like a Chore

It is sad but undeniable that sometimes the great privilege of prayer can feel like a chore or burden.

Canonicity: Why These 66 Books?

This is helpful: “We believe in the 39 books of the Old Testament, because the Lord Jesus Christ affirmed the Old Testament. And we believe in the 27 books of the New Testament, because the Lord Jesus Christ authorized His apostles to write the New Testament.” Affirmed and authorized—hold on to those two words!

Is it Biblical for Churches to Require a Tithe?

The answer is pretty obvious but the explanation and pastoral applications are well worth reading.

See No Evil

“If there’s any good reason to distrust the self-awareness of contemporary progressives, it’s the cultural epidemic of pornography.” Quite right! 

This Day in 1948. 68 years ago today, pastor Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs, was captured on his way to church and held hostage as Prisoner Number 1. Over time, he was a prisoner for over 14 years. He tells his story in Tortured for Christ. *

The Problem With Baby Dedications

Andrew Wilson isn’t against baby dedications, but against the terminology. Hear him out! 

Young Men — Is This You?

This lays down the challenge for young men: “ ‘Need’ is a strong word. But I use it intentionally and I use it passionately. Yes, I use it urgently. Our culture desperately needs men. Not boys! We have plenty of boys. The church needs men, real men, godly men, holy men, biblical men. As a minister of the gospel, as a student of Scripture, as a biblical counselor, and as a man after God’s own heart, I will list 8 traits that should characterize men. So — young men: is this you?”

Holiday in Poland

What a beautiful video of Poland!

DeYoung

If you are not concerned about holiness, you are not concerned about the Great Commission. —Kevin DeYoung

3 Ways College Students Can Do More Better
April 27, 2016

When I look back on life, one of my real regrets is not making more of my college experience. Those years offered unique opportunities to grow in knowledge and wisdom but also to grow in character and godliness. Unfortunately, I was unfocused and immature. I wasted many golden opportunities and excelled only at euchre and finding ways to get by with as little work as possible.

Recently I spoke with my friend Peter Krol, president of the campus ministry DiscipleMakers, and spoke to him about productivity principles for college students. What principles could help students avoid the mistakes I made? Could the kinds of principles I lay out in my book Do More Better provide structure so students could not only make the most of their studies but also make the most of the other opportunities afforded by these unique years? A few weeks later we enjoyed a long lunch meeting and he told me that yes, he thought they could. He offered feedback so helpful I asked if he would write it out for me and for you. I’m grateful that he was willing to do so. Here, then, courtesy of Peter, are “3 Ways College Students Can Do More Better Through Finals Week and Into the Summer.”


According to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, almost 75% of American college freshmen consider it “essential” or “very important” to help others in difficulty. Almost 40% want to become community leaders. And both of these figures are at 50-year highs.

Seventeen years of student ministry have shown me that, for many Christian students, the spirit may be willing, but the flesh, as they say, is weak. Or busy. Or swamped, crushed, overwhelmed, and exhausted. And with less than a month remaining in the semester, bare survival has long since snuffed the smoldering wick of idealism. It may be “essential” to help others in difficulty, and it may be “very important” to become a community leader. But right now, we’ve just gotta get by.

Now what if I told you it didn’t have to be that way? What if Ecclesiastes got it right? “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth. … Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity” (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10). Yes, your youth is vanity. That means this next month will be but a breath, long forgotten by the time you’ve clocked any serious life experience. But the way you handle this breath, this season, could set you up for greater success in the next. And the next. And the next.

With a little effort, we can remove some of your heart’s vexation and some of your body’s pain so you actually can rejoice in your youth. You’ll give God greater glory, and you’ll do more good for others. Here are a few tips.

1. Make a List and Stick to It

As a place to begin, I propose a discipline so simple, you may be tempted to disregard its usefulness. But hear these words of wisdom from my 7-year-old daughter, who included the following in her first self-published masterpiece, the Book of Lists:

What I Do When I Wake Up

  1. Wake up.
  2. Jump out of bed.
  3. Get dressed.
  4. Go downstairs.
  5. Do your schoolwork.
  6. Eat lunch.
  7. Ask to be askoozd [Editor’s note: excused].
  8. Hop out of your seat.
  9. (On Tuesday and Saturday take bath.)
  10. Play with small toys.
  11. Eat dinner.
  12. Get ready for bed. (Get your peejays on and brush your teeth and yous the potty.)

I confess she’s rather extreme. She gets it from her mother, whose first reaction upon reading Confessions of an Organized Housewife was, “I can do better than that.” But don’t miss my point here: A list will streamline your life, and it can do some of your thinking for you. Take 30 minutes to create a master list of every assignment yet to be completed. To do this, gather your syllabus from each course and enter your final exams, papers, and projects into Todoist (or another task management program—learn to use this kind of software!). Assign each task with the proper due date, and order the list chronologically.

Now try an experiment with me. Give yourself no more than 60 hours per week for your work time. Enter those hours on your calendar. During those 60 hours each week, do the following:

  1. Work hard. No social media, streaming video, or other distractions; only classes and true work time.
  2. Do the next thing on your list, even if it’s not due for a few more days.

Outside of those 60 hours, don’t do any schoolwork. Spend time with friends, work out, invest in extracurriculars, catch up on social media, and do whatever you find restful and enjoyable in the sight of God. Don’t forget to spend time helping others in difficulty and developing as a community leader. “Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes” (Ecclesiastes 11:9). And of course, your options for personal time are not without bounds. “But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).

Make your end-of-semester list and stick to it. If you pursue this discipline, I am willing to bet you will not only have a reasonably painless end to your semester, but you’ll be able to get more sleep, beat deadlines, and do greater good for your community. I dare you to try it and prove me wrong.

2. Set Goals for the Summer

Don’t waste your break. Though it may not feel like it, you probably have more discretionary time and money right now than you will have in the next 4 decades. But without thoughtful intentions, your summer will sprout wings and fly to the moon. Come August, you’ll wonder how it went by so fast.

The easiest way to plan for the summer is to set a few goals. Consider:

  • What parts of the Bible do you want to read for the first time or study more deeply?
  • What books would you like to read?
  • What people would you like to meet with for outreach, encouragement, or discipleship?
  • What would you like to learn, and from whom? How can you get yourself around people who live the kind of life you would like to live before Christ, so they can rub off on you?
  • Where can you volunteer your time?
  • How can you get more involved in your church?
  • What other projects would encourage you?

I majored in music and minored in classical Greek, so my sort of fun was along those lines. After my sophomore year, I spent the summer transcribing a brass quintet piece from a recording, all for a friend’s wedding the following September. Because the sheet music wasn’t published or available for purchase, I had to spend dozens of hours generating it myself. This project shaped me into both a better friend and a better musician. The following summer, I wrote my own translation of Matthew 1-7. It wasn’t very good, but it strengthened my passion for the ancient language and for God’s word. [A note from Tim: I began a business, hired several fellow college students, and learned how to be an entrepreneur.]

Whatever your lawful passions, find a way to put them to use this summer. Picture yourself four months from now and looking back on your break. What would you like to say you accomplished for the glory of God and the good of others?

3. Create a Productivity System for Next School Year

Your list of books to read this summer should include Do More Better[Full disclosure: Tim may have threatened to plagiarize my daughter’s Book of Lists (see above) and claim it as his own if I didn’t say this. Or, I may simply believe it to be true. You decide.] The summer provides an opportunity to both reflect on the past school year and prepare for the coming one, and Do More Better describes a vision for productivity and a system of tools that will help you to thrive through the challenges. But you’ll want to get the system in place before the new semester hits. Once the busyness sets back in, you’ll be tempted to slide back into the old ways of doing things. And you’ll be right back where we started this post (willing spirit, weak flesh). [From Tim: If you read the book and have questions or concerns, please get in touch; tell me Peter sent you, and I’ll make sure I provide a personal reply.]

I’m praying for the next generation of students to profess Christ and do more good for the world better. With a dose of courage and discipline, you’ll become effective community leaders, well equipped to help others in difficulty.


Peter Krol is president of DiscipleMakers campus ministry. He blogs at Knowable Word, where he helps ordinary people learn to study the Bible.

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