Thursday, May 25, 2017

10 Ways to Irritate Your Child

One common criticism of John MacArthur's preaching is his lack of direct application. He is largely aware of this and admits as much. His understanding of preaching is to error on explaining the text and allow the Spirit to apply it to the hearer's life. I understand the logic but strongly disagree with it. Not only do many of his sermons sound like running commentaries but it does not mirror the pattern we see in the New Testament. Nevertheless, there are numerous examples of MacArthur applying the biblical text to his congregation. One of the best examples comes from his sermon on Colossians 3:20-4:1. In verse 21, Paul warns parents not to irritate, provoke, or exacerbate their children. In his sermon on this text, John MacArthur offers the following 10 ways to provoke a child.
1. Overprotection. I hear the "Amen" corner over here really going at it. A couple of overprotected people over here. Overprotection. No trust. All rules. All deprivation. You never ever allow them any liberty. You draw the lines so narrow and the boxes are so closed that they soon feel that you do not believe in them. You do not trust in them. No matter what they do to earn that trust, they never experience that trust. Consequently, they give up and say, "What's the difference anyway?" Then you've got that seething rebellion. You can really irritate your children by overprotecting them. Give them a sense of trust. You don't have to cover every single detail of every single thing they've ever done. well, what did you do? What did you do after that? Well, then where did you go? Well, when you got back from there, where did you go? Why did you go over there? let them live. You know, when they're born, they're born with an umbilical cord and they're connected. And from then on, their whole life, you're just letting it out. And it ought to sometime be cut and the kid ought to be so far out that he doesn't even know he's not connected anymore, it's just so natural.

2. Favoritism. The second way you can really irritate your children is by favoritism. Make sure you always compare them with the other kids in the family who do better than they do. Why can't you be Like Albert? He always does his homework. It's very irritating for a child to be less than an individual. It's very irritating for the child to be a lemon on the assembly line. Favoritism. Favoritism means you constantly compare the child with the other child.

3. Depreciating his worth. A third way you can irritate your child is by depreciating his worth. One good way to really depreciate his worth is whenever you have company, have him eat in the kitchen. That'll really let him know that he just really isn't worth having around anything important. or else, when he comes in and has something to say, you say, "Hush up and go back an the den. Go to your roan." And then you get the autistic kind of child who finally tries to communicate and gives up and so then he can't communicate at all and he won't. And then you get that ultimate kind of autistic person who doesn't say anything anytime, because he never did get listened to when he tried to. We were talking about this with Howard Hendricks when we were back at the conference last weekend, you know. And he was saying, "Look -- if you come to my house for dinner, you've got to get ready. They're all going to be there, staring you right in the eye. The whole bunch. When we have Company, the kids are all there, looking right dawn your throat." Because they're part of our family. They have every right to be a part. Don't depreciate their worth. Don't tell them to shut up and go to bed. There are boundaries -- yes.

4. Discouragement. A fourth way you can irritate your child is by discouragement. Don It ever -reward him for anything. Make sure that he never feels like he's succeeded. I know a girl that killed herself for that reason, because no matter what she did, it was never enough. No matter what her grades were, it was never enough. No matter how well she did, it was never enough, let's face it. A parent who feels that way about a child is trying to get a child to he something the parent never was. That's not fair. And this girl couldn't handle it, so she killed herself. That's sad. Discouragement -- no rewards, no honors.

5. No affection demonstrated. Another good way to irritate your child is never demonstrate any affection for him. Don't ever go out of your way to love him or hug him or kiss him or pick him up...squeeze her or be gentle or thoughtful in a physically affectionate way. Very, very discouraging. So if you want to discourage your child, don't reward your child, don't honor your child, and never demonstrate any love or affection. So the child just begins to feel totally alienated, totally unacceptable, can't do anything right, isn't worthy of your love, isn't worthy of your affection -- he gets very, very discouraged.'

6. Not providing his needs. Another thing - this is kind of practical. You can irritate your child by not providing his needs. You know what a child's needs are? Believe it or not, in our society, do you know what a child needs? A room. Yes, he does. He needs a room, a little privacy. That would be good. Now, you can overcome that, maybe your economics don't make it possible for every single child to have his own domain, but provide some place for him. Your child needs a place to play and if it can't be at your place, then take him to the park, because he or she needs a place to play. Another thing is clean clothes. That's a good thing to provide your children. And when they get a little older, somewhere to study - you know, I think that one of the reasons that some children never do well in school is because they don't know where to land when they some home. They sit down at a table and you say, "What are you doing in here with that homework?" "Get out of here and go to your room." And they go to their roan and they get backaches from sitting five minutes on their bed, because there's no where to sit. Provide some place for them to study. Another thing is to give them something that belongs to them -- whatever itis. Another thing is to feed them good meals. Let them know that you've prepared something special just for them. These little practical things, where a child begins to know that you are concerned about him and about her as a person.

7. Lack of standards. On the other hand, you can irritate a child by a lack of standards. You know, there are children and young people, and when I use the word child, I mean anybody who is still in the home, but you can really irritate your young people by not giving them any rules. Because then they are totally left on their own and they can't handle that kind of liberty and they are constantly getting into problems that they really can't cope with. Cross some lines; make some fences.

8. Criticism. Another way to irritate your children is by criticism. A well-known doctor, Dr. (Haim Geno) says this: "The child who lives with criticism does not learn responsibility. He learns only to condemn himself and find fault with others. He learns to doubt his own judgment, disparage his own ability, distrust everybody. Above all, he learns to live with continual expectation of impending doom." End quote. Now that is no way to live. Criticism. Don't irritate your child with criticism. Create a positive environment, an uplifting, up building one.

9. Neglect. And then I think another way to irritate a child is by neglect. You know what a classic illustration of that is? Absalom. Absalom was a tragic young man, who tried to kill his own father, David. And Absalom is a classic illustration of a son who was neglected by a father. You can really irritate your child by indifference, neglect. Play with your children.

10. Over-discipline. And then, of course, and this is the last one I'll mention, you can really irritate your child by over-discipline. This is where your discipline is hurtful, you know, when you haul off and really hurt them. Or it can be when you just scream at them all the time, or holler at them or yell at them, or shut them in their rooms. Or you're actually some people even discipline their children in a show of their superior strength, if you can believe it. You talk about battered children, or whatever. But the idea is that of over-disciplining children. You can do it by yelling and screaming at them for every single thing they do. You know, they can knock -- this happens all the tine -- bang! Over goes the milk at the table. You stupid... Or you can say, "Well, here we go again. Laugh about it. You can over-discipline them. I man, he didn't do it on purpose. You can over-discipline them by actually using your brute strength to show your superior power over your child. I've often thought that we say things to our children we'd never say to anybody else, don't we? Don't ever discipline them in anger.

All Around the Web - May 25, 2017

Joe Carter - Survey: On Most Moral Issues Americans Are More Permissive Than Ever

Mere Orthodoxy - The Parable of Anthony Weiner’s iPhone

James K. Smith - Mortality and My Library

Christianity Today - Shame, Guilt, and Fear: What 1,000 Americans Avoid Most

Sean McDowell - Should Christian Divide Over the Age of the Earth? Review of the New Book.

WORLD - FAQ: Who is saved?

Denny Burk - Treating young women as sisters in absolute purity

Thinking in Public - Vanishing Adulthood and the American Moment: A Conversation with Senator Ben Sasse

Public Discourse - The Closing of the American Mind Thirty Years Later: A Symposium

Baptist Press - TX governor signs bill to 'shield' pastors' sermons

Babylon Bee - I Am More Offended Than You | Satire

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

From Bonhoeffer's Pen: Complaining Pastors

Let the pastor listen carefully to what Bonhoeffer has to say in his classic Life Together:
“This applies in a special way to the complaints often heard from pastors and zealous members about their congregations. A pastor should not complain about his congregations, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament. But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray to God for understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God.” (29-30)

All Around the Web - May 24, 2017

Kevin DeYoung - Beware the Graduation Speech

Denny Burk - Pastors, don’t be a jerk. Be a shepherd.

Crossway - 5 Sources of True Change

Evangelical History - Ben Franklin and George Whitefield Debate the Purpose of Education

Chuck Lawless - Why Pastors Don’t Evangelize Much, and Why We Must Do More

Erik Raymond - Smelling the Gospel Flowers in Proverbs

The Gospel Coalition - 3 Ways to Exhort the Aging

The Gospel Coalition - Why Do Churches Wound Their Pastors?

Go There For - Do Catholics and Protestants believe in the same Trinity?

Buzzfeed - The Second Coming Of Televangelist Jim Bakker

Babylon Bee - Man Sitting Literally Three Feet Away From Bible Asks God To Speak To Him | Satire

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Greatest Cultural Gift of the Reformation: The Perspicuity of Scripture

This year we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of start of the Great Reformation. The official date is traditionally October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the Wittenburg Castle Church door. This anniversary has me considering what the greatest cultural gift of the Reformation is. In my opinion, that gift would be the recovery of the perspicuity (or clarity) of Scripture.

Prior to the Reformation, it was illegal (and unthinkable) to read the Bible in any language other than Latin even though none of the commoners read Latin. Only the highly educated and priests could read and understand Latin. As a result, no one had access to the revelation of God. The Reformation changed all of that with a fundamental belief that God's word was clear and ought to be read and understood by everyone from plowman to pastor.

This Protestant thinking is best reflected by William Tyndale who is most famous for translating the New Testament and parts of the Old Testament into English. He was later executed for that "crime." The Tyndale translation was the greatest influence on the King James Bible. The story goes that a priest suggested to Tyndale that "It would be better to be w/o God’s law than the pope’s” to which Tyndale responded “If God spares my life, I will cause the plow-boy to know more about Scripture than you do!”

And he did.

Here are a few reasons why I believe the doctrine of Scripture's Perspicuity is the greatest cultural gift of the Reformation. 

1. The Perspicuity of Scripture and the Freedom of Conscience

The Perspicuity of Scripture means I must interpret Scripture. It does not ignore other authorities, but does affirm that Scripture must be read by an individual and interpreted by an individual. This was blasphemous in pre-Reformation Europe. Once the clarity of Scripture was adopted and understood by Protestants, than the liberty of conscience becomes a natural right. The American cause is only possible due to this. One's interpretation must be defended, it cannot and ought not be enforced. Such a world did not exist prior to the recovery of the perspicuity of Scripture.

The best example of this comes from Martin Luther while at the Diet of Worms in 1521:
Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe. God help me. Here I stand, I can do no other.
The King and Pope may be powerful, but they are not lord over the conscience.

2. The Perspicuity of Scripture and the Universality of Education

In order for Protestants to promote the universal reading of Scripture, the Reformation needed a literate population. It is no accident, then, that throughout the protestant world, Christians promoted education among both the rich and the poor, men and women.

Though the history of universal education is bigger than the Reformation, I do not believe we would have it today without the Great Reformation. Roman Catholicism largely limited education to those who could afford it. Remember that Martin Luther trained to be a lawyer only because his father had worked hard to save to send him to school and was extremely angry when he dropped out of school to join a monastery. Luther spent the rest of his life questioning if he dishonored God by dishonoring his parents.

Nevertheless, the fundamental belief that Scripture is clear and must be read by every believer means that every believer ought to be literate and a literate populace will goes beyond the Bible and explore the world.

An example of this comes from the First Book of Discipline from John Knox under the headline "The Necessity of Schools":
Seeing that God hath determined that his Kirk here in earth shall be taught not by Angels, but by men; and seeing that men are borne ignorant of God, and of all godliness, and seeing also he ceases to illuminate men miraculously, suddenly charging them as he did the Apostles, and others in the primitive kirk: Of necessity it is that your Honors be most careful for the virtuous education, and godly up-bringing of the youth of this realm: if either ye now thirst unfeignedly the advancement of Christ’s glory, or yet desire the continuance of his benefits to the generation following. For as the youth must succeed to us, so we ought to be careful that they have knowledge and erudition to profit and comfort that which ought to be most dear to us, to wit, the kirk and spouse of our Lord Jesus. Of necessity therefore we judge it, that every several kirk have one Schoolmaster appointed, such a one at least as is able to teach Grammar, and the Latin tongue, if the town be of any reputation. If it be upland [rural] where the people convene to the doctrine but once in the week, then must either the reader or the minister there appointed, take care over the children and youth of the parish, to instruct them in the first rudiments, and especially in the Catechism as we have it now translated in the book of the common order called the order of Geneva. And further we think it expedient, that in every notable town, and specially in the town of the Superintendent, there be erected a College, in which the arts at least Logic and Rhetoric, together with the tongues, be read by sufficient masters, for whom honest stipends must be appointed. As also provision for those that be poor, and not able by themselves, nor by their friends to be sustained at letters, and in special these that come from Landward. The fruit and commodity hereof shall suddenly appear. For first, the youth-head and tender children shall be nourished, and brought up in virtue in presence of their friends, by whose good attendance many inconveniences may be avoided, in which the youth commonly fall, either by overmuch liberty, which they have in strange and unknown places, while they cannot rule themselves: or else for lack of good attendance, and such necessity as their tender age requires. Secondly, the exercise of children in every kirk, shall be great instruction to the aged. Last, the great Schools, called the universities, shall be replenished with these that shall be apt to learning. For this must be carefully provided, that no father of what estate or condition that ever he be, use his children at his own fantasy, especially in their youth, but all must be compelled to bring up their children in learning and virtue.

The rich and potent may not be permitted to suffer their children to spend their youth in vain idleness as heretofore they have done: But they must be exhorted, and by the censure of the Kirk compelled to dedicate their sons by good exercises to the profit of the Kirk, and Common-wealth; and that they must doe of their own expenses because they are able. The children of the poor must be supported and sustained of the charge of the Kirk, trial being taken whether the spirit of docility be in them found, or not: If they be found apt to learning and letters, then may they not (we mean, neither the sons of the rich, nor yet of the poor) be permitted to reject learning, but must be charged to continue their study, so that the Common-wealth may have some comfort by them. And for this purpose must discreet, grave, & learned men be appointed to visit Schools for the trial of their exercise, profit and continuance: To wit, the Minister and Elders, & the rest of learned men in every town shall in every quarter make examination how the youth have profited.

And certain times must be appointed to reading and learning of the Catechism, and certain to the Grammar and to the Latin tongues, and a certain to the Arts of Philosophy, and the tongues; and certain to that study in the which they intend chiefly to travail for the profit of the Common-wealth. Which time being expired, we mean in every course, the children should either proceed to farther knowledge, or else they must be set to some handy craft, or to some other profitable exercise; providing always that first they have further knowledge of Christian Religion: To wit, the knowledge of God’s Law and Commandments, the use and office of the same: the chief Articles of the belief, the right form to pray unto God; the number, use, and effect of the Sacraments: the true knowledge of Christ Jesus, of his Office and Natures, and such others, without the knowledge whereof neither any man deserves to be called a Christian, neither ought any to be admitted to the participation of the Lord’s Table: and therefore these principles ought and must be learned in the youth-head.

3. The Perspicuity of Scripture and Tearing Down the Sacred/Secular Divide

In a previous post I provided a number of quotes from Martin Luther regarding the Sacred/Secular Divide. Catholicism promotes this divide, but Protestantism tore it down by showing that all of life is sacred. This is only possible with a firm belief in the Perspicuity of Scripture. Luther's theological argument is rooted in the revelation of Scripture which was, itself, rooted in a fundamental belief that Scripture is clear.

4. The Perspicuity of Scripture, Liberty, and Democracy

The polity of Catholicism was mirrored in the monarchies around Europe. That is no accident. Is it any accident that the change in church polity out of the Reformation resulted in a change of European governments? Protestantism produced the democratic religions of Congregationalism and the Baptists, the Presbytery of Presbyterianism, and other forms of church government (like Methodism, Anabaptism, etc.).

The Acton Institutes shows that Luther's priesthood of believers played an important role.
Luther’s doctrine of “the priesthood of all believers” also heavily influenced the emergence of representative democracy. In addition, the Presbyterian style of church government further set the stage for individual rights and liberties. Responsibility for the governance of the church is not just for the clergy , but laity as well. This model of church government, where elders serve as leaders can be contrasted with the episcopal style of church government, which better reflects a monarchy. King James I of Great Britain rightly predicted, “If bishops go, so will the king.” At its very heart, it expresses a belief that humans in their depravity cannot set themselves above the law of God, no matter their office.

When Martin Luther declared his “conscience was captive to the word of God” it had political repercussions. Luther’s protest showcased a primary debate about ultimate authority, and where this authority stems from. The legacy and impact of the Reformation directly affect our society today, especially in relation to government, human rights, and religious and political freedoms.
At the root of all of this, however, was the Perspicuity of Scripture. If Scripture is not clear, then Luther could not be believed and the Catholic Church could not be questioned. Furthermore, the clarity of Scripture placed God's Word as a higher authority than the Pope and one's interpretation and opinion as an authority.

5. The Perspicuity of Scripture and the Power of Preaching 

Consider the following regarding know from Richard Kyle:
“[Knox’s] approach to Scripture impacted his preaching in still other ways. Not only did he regard the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, but he upheld the [clarity] of Scripture – that it is clear and intelligible to the average person. Phrases such as ‘the plain Word of God,’ the ‘strict Word of God,’ ‘the plain Scripture,’ and the ‘express Word of God’ frequently bombard even the casual reader of Knox’s works. . . .. [I]n one of his encounters with Queen Mary of Scotland, Knox insisted that he Bible was intelligible to all people, and thus the native meaning of the Bible with the aid of the Holy Spirit sufficed. The Holy Ghost had inspired every verse and, as God, he can never be self-contradictory. Therefore, the meaning of vague texts must be in agreement with the interpretation of distinct passages: ‘The Word of God is plain int eh self; and if there appear any obscurity in one place, the Holy Ghost which is never contrarious to himself, explains the same more clearly in other places: so that there can remain no doubt, but unto such as obstinately remain ignorant.” (Richard Kyle, God’s Watchman, 162-163)
The legacy and power of preaching is, no doubt, rooted in a firm belief in the Perspicuity of Scripture.


These are a few of the reasons why I believe that the greatest cultural gift the Reformation has given the west is the perspicuity of Scripture. Without it, we would not recommend the world we now enjoy.

All Around the Web - May 23, 2017

The Gospel Coalition - The Life and Times of Redeemer Presbyterian Church

Trevin Wax - The Pastor Must Fall On His Sword Before He Wields It

Sam Storms - 10 Things You Should Know about the Life and Theology of Huldrich Zwingli

RC Sprouls - What If I Don’t Feel Forgiven?

Thom Rainer - Five Reasons Church Members Attend Church Less Frequently

Chuck Lawless - 10 Things that Still Surprise Me about Churches

The Gospel Coalition - The Anxiety Beneath All Your Anxieties

Pastors Today - Three Relational Connections That Will Benefit Any Pastor

Baptist Press - Duggars sue over exposure of childhood molestation

The Resurgent - Here’s Proof That Liberal ‘Academic’ Gender Studies is a Fraud

Babylon Bee - Rob Bell Clarifies New Book Title ‘What Is The Bible?’ Was Actual Question

Monday, May 22, 2017

"The Fellowship of the Ring" by J. R. R. Tolkien: A Review

I am reading The Hobbit to my son. It is my fourth time reading the story and his first. As such I thought I would repost my reviews of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” 

I have a new personal rule. When watching a movie based on a book, I do not read the book before. I have learned that maybe outside of action scenes and emotions, the book is always better especially when it comes to character development, plot, and resolution. Furthermore, Hollywood writers, producers, and directors can rarely honor the book and the author's story because movies are expensive and the Box Office means everything.

So since the release of The Hobbit and since it will not be completely done until 2014, I will not be re-reading Tolkien's classic. However, that doesn't mean that I can't read his triology, The Lord of the Rings. I read the series in college (along with the Hobbit) before the third movie was released in theaters and loved them immensely. However, unlike most books-turn-movies, I struggle reading Tolkien's vision without seeing Jackson's art. And with the performance of Gollum and Gandalf in the movies, how can you not?

But there are a couple of thoughts I will say in review regarding the first book of the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring. First, Tolkien spends a lot of time in the Shire. The story moves slowly here. We are told of Bilbo and Frodo preparing for a party and Bilbo is a very old man. We are told that he is going to sneak away during the party and leave for good. He slips on the ring. Gandalf suspects. There's a long conversation. Bilbo leaves. Frodo returns too late to say goodbye. There's another long conversation about what Gandalf suspects about the ring. Gandalf leaves. He returns (17 years later!) and another long conversation pursues about the ring. They then leave the Shire.

Tolkien clearly loves the Shire and wants the reader to appreciate the world there. Throughout the books and the trilogy, the reader is reminded of this oasis-like place where simple folk live peaceful simple lives. There are family rivalries, but no wars and no fights. That is contrasted to the world of men where they are always at war, even with each other. That could be what we love most about this trilogy. It is four Hobbits from the Shire who must face down the enemy and carry the burden of the ring. The most innocent of creatures must carry the burden that is too great for fallen men. Tolkien wants us to regret having to leave the Shire and the Hobbits are hesitant to leave (Sam is even given a box of seed from Lothlorien for his garden when he returns to the Shire).

Secondly, the theme of racism this time of around was more prevalent. Gollum is hobbit-like, but we never quit figure out what he was or what he is. Dwarves and Elves hate each other. Gimli was almost not welcomed to Lothlorien and wouldn't have been if it wasn't for Elrond. Sauron is unaware, it seems, of what a Hobbit is or where the Shire is located. It is the Fellowship that is able to breakdown those barriers. It is made up of an old wizard, a ranger, a wanna-be prince (Boromir), an elf, a dwarf, and four hobbits. The mission to destroy evil once and for all breaks down those unnecessary barriers.

Thirdly, where are the women in middle-earth? Have you ever noticed that? The main women thus far are Galadriel, Aragorn's elvish girlfriend, and just a few others. I have a theory why. Most of the women in the trilogy represent peace. Galadriel, for example, is beautiful, and yet strong, heavenly and does not give into temptation (unlike Boromir, the man). Even Gimli is smitten with her (he asks for a string of her hair) and regrets continuing the mission as he wishes to remain near her and what she represents. It isn't until the third book where we meet a woman, to my knowledge, that anticipates, participates, and desires war. The characters of the story seek to return to the world that the women in the story represents.

Overall, this is a great story and a great book. You already knew that. These books have been analyzed by smarter people than me. The Fellowship of the Ring has always been the slowest of the trilogy, but it sets up the rest. In it Tolkien is in no hurry wanting the reader to experience Middle-Earth. The story picks up the pace from here.

Regarding the movie. Jackson and company made some big changes of course. Some of it might have been necessary (I can kind of sympathize with his reasoning for axing Tom Bombadil, one of my favorite characters who is quit mysterious) for a movie audience, some of it unfortunate (I like that Jackson explained the backstory of the ring at the beginning and not wait until the Great Council). In the end, enjoy the book and enjoy the movie. Its easy to do.

For more:
An Encouraging Thought: Gandalf on Providence

All Around the Web - May 22, 2017

Russell Moore - Signposts: How to Deal with a Family Member’s Racist Comments

ERLC - Public discourse in the age of social media

Tim Challies - You, Yes You, Are a Minister!

ERLC/Tim Challies - How Should Parents Respond to their Children’s Sexual Sin?

Doug Wilson - Josiah and Zoe

New York Times - U Can’t Talk to Ur Professor Like This

The Atlantic - The Dangers of Reading in Bed

Babylon Bee - Local Man Absolutely Sure There Is No Such Thing As Absolute Truth

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Recommended Books on Spiritual Warfare

Sunday evening we finished our brief series on spiritual warfare. You can access both sermons at the bottom of this post. In light of that, I want to pass along a number of helpful resources on the subject that will allow you to explore the subject in more detail.

Did the Devil Make Me Do It? by Mike McKinley 

This short volume is part of the the "Questions Christians ask" book series published by The Good Book Company. Like the other books in this series, the author offers a simple and precise introduction to the subject at hand. This book is brief and helpfully summarizes the question of spiritual warfare. This volume is not long enough to answer every question you may have, but if you are new to the subject, I recommend you start here.

3 Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare by Clinton Arnold

The best book I have read on the subject of spiritual warfare is Clinton Arnold's work. It is part of the Three Crucial Questions series. Although its structure is centered around three questions: What is Spiritual Warfare?, Can a Christian Be Demon-Possessed?, Are We Called to Engage Territorial Spirits?, the book explores much more than this. Arnold offers a much more thorough exploration of spiritual warfare.

Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis 

Lewis is one of my favorite writers of the 20th century. In this work, the late apologists imagines a series of letters from senior demon Uncle Screwtape to his apprentice nephew Wormwood on how to tempt his Christian subject. In my opinion, Screwtape Letters is one of those books that every Christian should read and reread throughout their lives.

Discipled Warriors: Growing Healthy Churches That Are Equipped for Spiritual Warfare by Chuck Lawless 

I will admit up front that I have not sat down and read this book cover to cover. Not yet at least. But have interacted with Dr. Lawless personally (he taught at SBTS) and have followed much of his teachings on spiritual warfare. I suspect that he is one of the most influential voices on spiritual warfare among Baptists today. This is his primary work and was followed by the book Putting on the Armor: Equipped and Deployed for Spiritual Warfare.

For more:
February 5, 2017 | On Spiritual Warfare, Part 1
February 19, 2017 | On Spiritual Warfare, Part 2 

All Around the Web - May 18, 2017

Albert Mohler - Performing Abortion is “God’s Work?” The Real Story of Christianity and Abortion

Trevin Wax - Southern Baptists and Conventional and Cosmopolitan Cultures

The Gospel Coalition - What Rob Bell Gets Right and Wrong About the Bible

Collin Hansen - The Kids Are Not Okay—and Neither Is America

Chuck Lawless - 10 Leadership Thoughts to Remember

GetReligion -  Ticking clock in Charlotte: Billy Graham has already answered the 'who comes next' question

Erik Raymond - Doctrine is Precious in the Storm

Thom Rainer - Eight Signs Your Church May Be Closing Soon

The Gospel Coalition - Pioneer for Racial Justice in America’s Largest Denomination

Tim Challies - Fast from Food, Not Facebook

Babylon Bee - Reformed Man Slams Book Of Psalms For Being Too Emotional, Repetitive

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"Be Careful How You Hear": A Sermon Preached by Alistair Begg

Here is an excellent model of solid exegesis from Alistair Begg. Narrative, exegetical preaching isn't always easy, but Begg nails it here. It is evangelistic with solid explanation, application, and illustrations. It is based on Mark 6:14-32 regarding the execution of John the Baptist.

All Around the Web - March 16, 2017

Andrew Wilson - The Case for Idolatry: Why Christians Can Worship Idols

Trevin Wax - The Revenge of Analog Discipleship

John Stonestreet - Delaying Marriage and Parenthood

Sam Storms - 10 Things You Should Know about the Theology of Martin Luther

Chuck Lawless - 10 Things I Wished I’d Done as a Young Pastor

Sam Storms - What was the “First Love” that the Ephesians had abandoned?

Thom Rainer - The Five Major Formats of Podcasts

Matt Fuller - Three great soundbites that make terrible theology

Tony Reinke - How I Research Books

Pew - Who doesn’t read books in America?

Metro - Pastor trying to prove how Jesus walked on water gets eaten by crocodile

Babylon Bee - Man Anxiously Awaiting Late-Night Shows So He Can Learn What To Think About Day’s Political News

Monday, May 15, 2017

"On Preaching" by HB Charles: A Review

There are three kinds of preachers: the ones you can listen to, the ones you cannot listen to, and the ones you must listen to. I desire to be the kind of preacher that you must listen to. But that requires more than desire. It requires hard work. And the hard work never ends, if you take your preaching assignment seriously. (10)
The primary work of the local pastor is preaching. This is not to suggest that his other responsibilities are unimportant or less essential to his calling. It is to say that the pastor must take his roll as a preacher seriously and this requires each of us to continue to grow as preachers. As such I continue to learn from some of the great preachers of our day. Recently I tole lege H. B. Charles helpful volume On Preaching: Personal & Pastoral Insights for the Preparation & Practice of Preaching.

I first heard of Charles in an article regarding his leadership in merging two churches: a predominately African-American congregation and a predominately white church. I celebrate his leadership in bringing racial reconciliation and I pray more of this takes place.

Yet it is his book on preaching that is our attention right now. The origin of the book is from a series of blogs that grew organically. Typically, these sort of books are my least favorites because they lack a single thesis, yet this volume walks the reader through the process of preparing and delivering of preaching typical of other books in the same category.

The advantage of Charles's work is simplicity and clarity. The author does not go into much detail into the nuts and bolts of exposition, how to break down difficult texts, how to approach different genres within the Bible, etc. Rather, Charles writes from a bird's eye view providing a general overview of the art and calling of preaching.

The work is also practical. He discusses theological training, how to use illustrations, what not to do when illustrating the text, planning one's preaching, etc. Charles does not lecture the reading about preaching, but guides the reader practically on preaching.

Overall, this is a helpful volume for preachers and I would recommend preachers consider reading it. We should never be content with our preaching. Instead we ought ever be growing in our preaching. Works like this help us in that endeavor.

All Around the Web - May 15, 2017

Russell Moore - Signposts: A conversation with Andy Crouch about family and technology

Evangelical History - Christian History: How David Barton Is Doing It Wrong

GetReligion -  'Open marriage?' The New York Times Magazine hopes, hopes, hopes that it's a trend

First Things - Pro-Lifers: Get Out of Medicine!

Chuck Lawless - How to Talk to Your Pastor–or Not–on the Way to the Service

Christianity Today - You Can Debate Franklin Graham on Martyrs, But Not the World’s Persecution Problem

Resurgent - Christian Printer Who Was Punished by Gov’t For Refusing to Make Gay Pride T-Shirts Wins Big in Court

Kentucky Today - Don't call me Caitlyn: Baby name plunges in popularity

The Atlantic - Should Parents Who Refuse to Edit Their Babies' Genes Be Punished?

Babylon Bee -  UC Berkeley Begins Conversion Of Campus Into Sprawling Echo Chamber

Bible Gateway - The Gospel According to Paul: An Interview with John MacArthur

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Christianity and Stories: Recommended English Novels

Christianity is a religion rooted in a story. That means we must be more than didactic readers, but consumers of good stories. Over the years I have sought to read a number of important English works, some modern some with age, that have played an important role in shaping Western, English-speaking culture. Below is a list of five English books I recommend and believe should be read.

1. Beowulf by Anonymous

My favorite story in the world is Beowulf. I agree with Doug Wilson who argues it is a "shrewd apologetic" for the Christian faith. The monsters outside the mead hall (like Grendel and his mother) represent the sins of men found inside the mead hall (greed, violence, envy, lust, and vengeance). It is a wonderful tale that remains one of the oldest English tales.

2. Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

John Bunyan, a Baptist, wrote this allegory of the Christian life while in prison. In previous generations, it was practically required reading for all serious Christians. We would do well to return to that expectation.

3. "The Chronicles of Narnia" by CS Lewis.

The beauty of Lewis's Narnia chronicles is how it reaches both children and adults on a unique level. Lewis is able to explore essential, and at times complicated, Christian theological and philosophical themes, and tell them in a way that children can understand them and that does not insult the intelligence of adults.

4. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is the classic four-part work of Tolkien that tells the story of Middle Earth. The former was written with children in mind while the latter is more for adults. Tolkien's approach to story tell is not to create a world for his characters but to create characters for his world.

5. Other Notable Works

There are countless other classic works worth exploring. These include, but are not limited to Brave New World by Aldoux Huxley, a prophetic dystopia novel that looks disturbingly like today, To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch models meekness, The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, which unfolds the true nature of man, and 1984 by George Orwell, another dystopian novel that warns of an oppressive Big Brother government.

All Around the Web - March 11, 2017

Trevin Wax - The Future of Christianity May Be Different Than You Think

Denny Burk - David Gushee: Our “differences are unbridgeable”

Pastors Today - Seven Things Church Members Should Say to Guests

Tim Challies - 10 Strengths (and 10 Dangers) of Systematic Theology

Chuck Lawless - 10 Reasons Pastors Don’t Lead

Thom Rainer - Eight Major Changes in Churches the Past Ten Years

The Gospel Coalition - Pastors, Learn From Non-Pastors

Practical Shepherding - What are 5 lessons I learned preaching for years in a dying church?

National Review - The Feminization of Everything Fails Our Boys

OrganLive - Oregon may allow drivers to choose nonbinary, rather than male or female, for licenses

Bloomberg - The Long, Hard, Unprecedented Fall of Sears

HT: Kevin DeYoung

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

From Lewis's Pen: Magic and Applied Science (i.e. Technology)

From The Abolition of Man:
There is something which unites magic and applied science [=technology] while separating both from the “wisdom” of earlier ages.  For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue.  For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men; the solution is a technique.

HT: Justin Taylor

All Around the Web - May 10, 2017

Russell Moore - Signposts: Why I’m Not a Pacifist (But I Don’t Hate Those Who Are)

Thom Rainer - Eight Reasons Churches Became Too Busy

Pastors Today - Three Things Rural, Southern Churches Desperately Need From Their Pastors

Chuck Lawless - Reasons Churches Get Stuck in Growth

The Cripplegate - Why 144,000 means 144,000

Tim Challies - The Quiet Power of the Ordinary (Christian Men and Their Godly Moms)

Erik Raymond - The Gospel Sneaks Up on Me

WORLD - How does the church move the world?

The Gospel Coalition - 4 Ways Christians Can Stand Out at Work

The Hill - The 43 people who might run against Trump in 2020

Babylon Bee - Infant Delivers Moving Testimony Before Baptism | Satire

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Recommended Reading on Personal Evangelism

The following is taken from pastor's blog.

Our vision for 2017 is to incorporate both Corporate and Personal Evangelism in our outreach. This means that both the church and its members are committed to reaching into our community with the gospel. It is my experience that most Christians are much more comfortable engaging in corporate outreach as opposed to personal evangelism. The latter can be frightening. Therefore, I want to highlight a number of helpful resources on personal evangelism that may guide us this year.

How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul E. Little

This is one of the most accessible and easy to use guide. Little walks the reader through the ins and outs of personal evangelism. If you invest in only one resource, this is perhaps the best. It is both biblical and practical and was required reading for all seminary students at SBTS.

The Art of Personal Evangelism: Sharing Jesus in a Changing Culture by Will McRaney

This work is growing in popularity and may even be rivaling Little's volume highlighted above. It is more detailed and not as accessible but is just as helpful especially when it comes to understanding our cultural context.

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever

This is a helpful introductory work on evangelism. Dever walks the reader through what the gospel is, why we should share the gospel, and how to practically do it.

The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman

This is another classic read by all seminary students at SBTS. Coleman's approach is to study how Jesus trained the disciples and then sent them out into the world to do the same. It is a short but powerful book.

Life On Mission: Joining the Everyday Mission of God by Dustin Willis and Aaron Coe

The "Life on Mission" track introduced us to the 3 Circles which is a simple way to explain the gospel. The idea is that it can be written on a restaurant napkin. It is the method I have used at EFBC to explain and explore the gospel with those ready to receive it. In this volume, the authors walk the reader primarily through the importance of living evangelistic lives, i.e., lives on mission.

All Around the Web - May 9, 2017

Kevin DeYoung - What I’ve Learned about Pastoral Ministry

Stephen McAlpine - Tolerating Acceptance Or Accepting Tolerance?

WORLD - Too young to cross a street but old enough for a sex change

New Yorker - Rod Dreher’s Monastic Vision

Yuval Levin - Conservatism in an Age of Alienation

Andrew Wilson - Responding to Open Theism in Fourteen Words

Gentle Reformation -  Hurtful Sheep and Bullied Shepherds

Chuck Lawless - Young Pastors, Why You Need to Talk to Some of Us Older Pastors

Tim Challies - 2 Ways To Look at the People in Your Church

Harvard Business Review - Why You Really Need to Stop Using Public Wi-Fi

Babylon Bee - 8 Sermon Prep Hacks That Will Change The Way You Preach Forever

Gospel Coalition - What I Wish I Knew When I Became a Pastor

Monday, May 8, 2017

"10 Things Every Minister Needs to Know" by Ronnie Floyd: A Review

The office of the pastor is the ministry office that serves the church. You will not find in the Bible the various staff minister titles we have today. This does not make them wrong, but it makes us ask, which are in the Bible? We know the pastor-teacher is a gift that operates the ministry of the local church. We know it has unique and distinct value. The Scripture esteems the office; therefore, we should esteem the office. Any staff member serves at the will of the pastor and is an extension of his calling as pastor-teacher of the church.

Let me make something very clear to you. I am not speaking of a particular or specific pastor; I am speaking of the office of the pastor. This is something much holier than a man. (113)

I have both said it and been told by more seasoned veterans, though seminary training is a crucial part of ministry preparation and I would not training my seminary years for anything, there are many things one simply does not learn in academia. As such, it is commonplace for pastors to invest in books like Ronnie Floyd's helpful book 10 Things Every Minister Needs to Know. It proved to be a very helpful and insightful book for myself and I suspect it will be just as helpful for pastors of all stripes and experience levels.

The ten things are as follows:
  1. The Power of One Hour
  2. Who You Are is More Important That what You Do
  3. Practice Determines Play
  4. Building Family is More Important Than Building Ministry
  5. You're Not Thinking Big Enough
  6. Not Every Hill is Worth Dying On
  7. Relationships Move Your Ministry
  8. Decision Making is Not about You
  9. Balance Draws Masses
  10. How to Believe God For Your Future
I have been in vocational ministry for over a decade and found Floyd's take helpful and worth returning to. I would emphasize, especially for those new to ministry, the importance of focusing more on your family than on your ministry. Lose your family and you will no longer have a ministry - pure and simple. Furthermore, Floyd's exhortation that "relationships move your ministry" is crucial and is a central part of what it means to be an under-shepherd.

The most insightful portion regards the quote above which is only a partial quote. In it, Floyd speaks of protecting the office of the pastor in similar ways presidents speak of protecting the office of the president. This is worth meditating on more. Pastoral ministry is much bigger than the pastor and no minister should ever forget that. To compromise that is to do a disservice to the God we serve, the church we've been called to serve, and any pastor who may, one day, shepherd the people of that church.

Overall, this is an accessible book and I would recommend other fellow ministers invest in. Seminary does not train us for everything. Thankfully we have resources like this in our continued ministry education.

All Around the Web - May 8, 2017

Joe Carter - The FAQs: What You Should Know About Trump’s Executive Order on Religious Liberty

Denny Burk - It is not “character assassination” for the church to be the church.

Chuck Lawless - 10 Practical Ways to Read the Bible More

John Stonestreet - Exploding Heads, Fragile Worldviews

Brian Croft - Five Essential Reasons for Christians to Gather in Public Worship

The Gospel Coalition - ‘Is Genesis History?’: Revisiting an Age-Old Debate

The Gospel Coalition - Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father

Tim Challies - 6 Very Good Reasons to Consider Your Short Little Life

Pastors Today - Thinking Through Missions Partnerships: Four Criteria

Fox News - US murders concentrated in 5 percent of counties

The Babylon Bee - Pastor Struck By Lightning Immediately After Suggesting ‘Cash Jesus Ousside’ Sermon Series | Satire

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

"A Habit Most Natural, Scriptural, Manly, and Beneficial": Spurgeon on Growing a Beard

Apparently men growing beards (or at least some facial hair) is coming back in style. A lot of this might be laid at the feet of feminism. Among my Reformed brethren this has particularly become popular. I have been to a number of events and conferences where beard-growing was actually promoted in some way usually with a quote from Charles Spurgeon. The quote reads: A [beard is] most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial. And being that it came from the pen of Spurgeon, it must be right. Right?!

I have always wondered where that quote came from. And after some research I discovered that it is found in Spurgeon's book Lecture to My Students. The context, honestly, sort of ruins the quote for beard growing promoters. There, Spurgeon is encouraging his students to guard their throats. Therefore, he suggests they never wrap their throats tightly. Even in the winter months when it is so cold, Spurgeon warns against men wearing scarfs. One reason is it prevents the body from adapting to the cold. But if one does want something to help with the winter weather, grow a beard - A habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial. Here is the full quote:
When you have done preaching take care of your throat by never wrapping it up tightly. From personal experience I venture with some diffidence to give this piece of advice. If any of you possess delightfully warm woollen comforters, with which there may be associated the most tender remembrances of mother or sister, treasure them — treasure them in the bottom of your trunk, but do not expose them to any vulgar use by wrapping them round your necks. If any brother wants to die of influenza let him wear a warm scarf round his neck, and then one of these nights he will forget it, and catch such a cold as will last him the rest of his natural life.

You seldom see a sailor wrap his neck up. No, he always keeps it bare and exposed, and has a turn-down collar, and if he has a tie at all, it is but a small one loosely tied, so that the wind can blow all round his neck. In this philosophy I am a firm believer, having never deviated from it for these fourteen years, and having before that time been frequently troubled with colds, but very seldom since.

If you feel that you want something else, why, then grow your beards! A habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial. One of our brethren, now present, has for years found this of great service. He was compelled to leave England on account of the loss of his voice, but he has become as strong as Samson now that his locks are unshorn.

If your throats become affected consult a good physician, or if you cannot do this, give what attention you please to the following hint. Never purchase “Marsh-mallow Rock,” “Cough-no-more Lozenges,” “Pulmonic Wafers,” Horehound, Ipecacuanha, or any of the ten thousand emollient compounds. They may serve your turn for a time by removing present uneasiness, but they ruin the throat by their laxative qualities. If you wish to improve your throat take a good share of pepper — good Cayenne pepper, and other astringent substances, as much as your stomach can bear. (Lecture to My Students, lecture 8 "On the Voice")

Originally published on April 27, 2013.

All Around the Web - May 2, 2017

Russell Moore - Does “13 Reasons Why” Glamorize Teen Suicide?

Joe Carter - Survey: Evangelicals with College Degrees are the Most Religiously Observant

The Gospel Coalition - The god of William Paul Young

WORLD - Preaching to millennials

Denny Burk - It is never right to be angry at God. Ever.

National Review - Bill Nye, the Scientism Guy

The Federalists - Bill Nye’s View Of Humanity Is Repulsive

Chuck Lawless - 8 Explanations/Confessions of Pastors Who Fell

GetReligion - Can conversion therapy get a fair hearing in mainstream press? Short answer: No

Tim Challies - The Power of a Mother’s Devotion (Christian Men and Their Godly Moms)

Washington Post - How America feels about abortion

The Babylon Bee - Calvinist Explains To Wife: ‘I Didn’t Choose My Beard; The Beard Chose Me’

Monday, May 1, 2017

Targeting bin Laden Documentary

Today is the 6th anniversary of the assassination of Osama bin Laden, a crucial event in the War on Terror. Here is a documentary on how he was found.

"First Freedom" Edited by White, Duesing, and Yarnell: A Review

There is perhaps no more important subject for us to discuss as Christians in America i the first decade of the twenty-first century than religious liberty. (95)

In a post-Obergefell world, religious liberty has become a topic of highest importance among people of faith. Therefore, I recently picked up the helpful volume First Freedom: The Baptist Perspective on Religious Liberty edited by Thomas Whtie, Jason Duesing, and Malcolm Yarnell. The book assembles a number of key Baptist scholars on the subject of religious freedom and explores the Baptist doctrine and heritage of our first freedom and prophetically looks forward to what to expect next.

One of the immediate challenge of the book regards its publication date. Though written in 2007, the world has changed rapidly, especially on this issue, that one might assume that it is outdated. Briefly return to the world of 2007 with me. At the time, the legalization of eros was conceivable but presumably not in the near future. Then consider what has happened to people of faith leading up to Obergefell and especially what has happened since.

Nevertheless, the book is not in need of an update. Many of the challenges people of faith are facing today in light of the new intolerant sexual puritans was foreseeable. We knew who they were and we knew in 2007 what they were going to do. The legalization of same sex marriage was about much more than same sex marriage. When it comes to government, it always is.

With that said, the book explores religious liberty from a Baptist perspective. It explores Baptist history, theology, and political/legal theory. Some of the contributors include Paige Patterson, Russell Moore, Emir Caner, and Paul Pressler. The most helpful chapters, at least to me, included the opening one laying out the theological and biblical case for religious liberty. Here the author walks the reader through various theological loci and shows how it contributes to our understanding of religious liberty. Richard Land also provided key insights as it relates to the founding of America and the role religious freedom will play moving forward.

The most intriguing chapter is Caner's on religious liberty in the Islamic world. In all the books I've read on our first freedom, I have yet seen this issue raised. Caner is hopeful but cautious and one wonders what he would write today nine years later. Regardless, it is an interesting discussion that shows the contrast between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

Overall, this is a helpful volume. For those new to the arguments of religious liberty, this can be an enlightening book. No doubt we need to arm ourselves with arguments in favor of religious freedom again. We can no longer take it for granted.