This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Why the Devil Didn't Think He Won When Jesus was on the Cross: I hadn't thought this through as clearly until I read this JA Medders post. His final reason is the strongest: " Fifth, as Jesus was hanging on the cross, he is tempted to get himself down from the cross. Why? This would cease his substituting death for us—Satan wouldn’t be disarmed and defeated. But Jesus did the Father’s will, he died and rose again for us. Defeating Satan every step of the way."

2.      How to Mend a Relationship That has Been Broken for Years: Vital Signs delivers consistently difficult, but healthy advice on matters related to conflict: Joseph Grenny offers, " I have come to believe that my capacity for joy in life is a function of my capacity to love imperfect people. And the most aggressive calisthenics of that capacity is practicing vulnerability at times of the most acute emotional risk."

3.      Seeing the Individual's Face: Jennie Cesario with one of the most beautiful reflections I've read in a while: "[T]o grow in the love of God is to expand my heart and vision in this way. To, little by little, allow more faces to become particular to me, more faces to become dear — whether they’re next to me in a church pew or against me in the voting booth; whether they’re my kindred or my worst enemies."

4.      What Teens Value Most: Helen Gibson reports on Pew Research Center's latest poll on teens. In it, having a career they enjoy ranks first, then helping others who are in need, and third is having a lot of money. Getting married is fourth and having children is fifth with less than 40% of teens saying they desire to have children one day.

5.      Is God Anti-Gay? Sam Alberry reflects on this big question during a Gospel Coalition panel (this is a podcast).

Chasing the Rabbit

Chasing the Rabbit

Bob Buford tells a story about dog races in his book Finishing Well that rattled my heart when I first read it and continues to shake me:

“One of my favorite stories is about the dog races in Florida. They train these dogs to chase an electric rabbit, and one night the rabbit broke down and the dogs caught it. But they didn’t know what to do with it. They were just leaping around, yelping and biting one another, totally confused about what was happening. I think that’s a picture of what happens to all sorts of people who catch the rabbit in their life. Whether its wealth or fame or beauty or a bigger house or whatever, the prize isn’t what they thought it would be. And when they finally get it, they don’t know what to do with their lives.”

What rabbits have you caught in your life? I’ve caught a lot of rabbits in my life. And, like the dogs, they usually hang lifeless in my jaws once caught. It’s not long until I drop them and find another on the horizon, and then I’m off once again.

A romantic interest. A degree. A job. A car. A dream vacation. A spouse. A family. A home. Respect. Power. Fame. You can catch them all. And they’re all good (or at least can be used for good). But none are ultimate. Each will flop lifeless in your jaws once it’s caught and another will appear on the horizon.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Secrets of the World's Greatest Art Thief: This is an interesting true story where almost every detail looks nothing like the movie version would, and maybe that is why he pulled it off for so long.

2.      3 Things That May Be True If People Are Constantly Complaining to You: Eric Geiger with an important post that we all should consider. " If people are always complaining to you, you should evaluate why. It may not be because you are trusted, but it may be because you are divisive."

3.      Why is it So Hard to Pray: Burk Parsons considers this important question at Tabletalk: " It’s hard to pray because humbling ourselves, getting over ourselves, and coming to the end of our stubborn and sinful selves is hard."

4.      Pastoral Ministry is an Ensemble, Not a Solo: Jay Sanders is so right: " Pastoral ministry is not the stage upon which we showcase our talents for a watching audience. When done right, pastoral ministry is an ensemble. Yes, we’ve been called upon to take the lead but we were never meant to perform by ourselves."

5.      Nothing Has Snuck Past God: In this brief clip, Trip Lee offers a powerful analogy for God and his sovereignty.

Could God ____?

Could God ____?

“I don’t even know why we’re here. Nothing is going to change.” I’ve heard those words many times in counseling sessions. And I’ve felt those words from the posture, from the hollow eyes, and from the sighs of those I have counseled.

Who is it that you don’t believe can change? Your boss? Your employee? Your friend? Your son or daughter? Your spouse? Yourself?

Who have you given up on?

Be honest. You’ve probably given up on someone somewhere. You know what the theological term is for not having hope for someone? For giving up on them? Damning. That’s right. When you lose hope in someone or something, you’re damning it.

The latter half of Romans 1 speaks of the hopeless situation of those who have turned against God. In chilling language, Paul explains that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…”[i] He explains that those in rebellion “are without excuse,”[ii] and then he goes on three times in the next five verses to explain how God damns them: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts…”[iii] and that “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions,”[iv] and finally “God gave them up to a debased mind…”[v]

On those four words—“God gave them up”–hang the icy chill of damnation.

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

Who is God? Michael Reeves asserts that the essence of the fullest answer to that question is “a Trinity.” Reeves believes that while the Trinity is something many Christians shove to the back corners of their minds when it comes to relating to God, or perhaps explore with a sort of mechanical interest, with clumsy charts and worse analogies, reflecting on the Trinity is something that should stir delight in us.

Reeves quotes Karl Barth, who once said, “The triunity of God is the secret of His beauty.” Reeves contrasts the Triune God with a singular conception of God (like the Islamic understanding of God), who has a very different relationship with creation. Reeves says that “Absolutely singular supreme beings do not like creation.”

In contract, “Everything changes when it comes to the Father, Son and Spirit. Here is a God who is not essentially lonely, but who has been loving for all eternity as the Father has loved the Son in the Spirit. Loving others is not a strange or novel thing for this God at all; it is at the root of who he is.” That is to say, the relationships within the Triune God are that which defines God himself. God is relational and loving in his very essence.

A Picture of Strength in Weakness

A Picture of Strength in Weakness

The most important influence to my pastoral counseling is from David Powlison. Powlison was a professor at the seminary my wife Angel graduated from and has had an indelible impact on her counseling. I had the chance to meet Powlison face-to-face a handful of times and was deeply impacted by his ministry both through Angel and through his writing. Seeing with New Eyes is the most important book I’ve ever read on Biblical counseling.

A month ago David Powlison died of cancer at age 69. He lived his last months as he lived his life: full of grace. In the midst of diminishing strength, Powlison used his trial with cancer as a trumpet for the gospel. In my Angel’s words, “He longed for God’s glory and God gave him that gift early.”

Weeks before Powlison died he wrote the closing comments at Westminster Theological Seminary’s graduation where they were delivered by his friend and colleague, Mike Emlet. Powlison’s call to step into God’s grace in the midst of our weaknesses is doubly powerful because it is a truth spoken in the midst of an extreme trial. It is a very picture of what he is speaking of: strength in weakness.

May we too be unafraid to be weak for the sake of the revelation of the strength of God.

Here is what Powlison said:[i]

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       How to Ruin Your Sex Life in 10 Easy Steps: Lisa Lakey with great advice: Here is just one of the ten: "Don't engage in conversation with your spouse:  It’s been a long day, and it takes too much energy to engage in lengthy discussion. Please, can we just relax and turn the TV on already? Better yet, escape into social media. Knowing what’s going on in everyone else’s lives helps distract you from your own."

2.      You Shall Know Them By Their Clothes: Andrew Wilson with an interesting insight into the story of Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, and David--clothes points to character and plot in the story: "When we first meet Goliath, he is covered from head to foot in scaly armor, which makes him look like a serpent or even a dragon. So when we find the snake-like accuser lying dead, his head crushed by the anointed king, we are not especially surprised. We first meet Samuel as “a boy wearing a linen ephod” (1 Sam. 2:18). Straightaway, we know he will function a bit like a priest."

3.      To Spank or Not to Spank: My friend Benjamin Vrbicek with a healthy and nuanced perspective on the topic: " Yet this post isn’t part of my crusade to get you to spank your children. I’ve never written about this before and don’t plan to do it again. I certainly don’t want to be another polemical voice in the already overly opinionated milieu of Christian child-rearing. Instead, I’d like to talk about how parents can spank their children rightly." All 13 of his nuggets are worth considering.

4.      Pleasures Never Lie: Jon Bloom explains why what we find pleasure in reveals so much about who we are, "Pleasure is our heart’s way of telling us where our treasure really lies (Matthew 6:21). When something evil gives us pleasure, we don’t have a pleasure problem; we have a treasure problem. The pleasure gauge is working as designed. What’s wrong is what our heart loves. And pleasure is blowing the whistle. We can lie with our lips about what we love. But pleasures never lie."

5.      Arctic Geese Jump off Cliff to Survive: This is brutal. Nature is brutal.

How Healthy are You?

How Healthy are You?

“How easy is it for you to handle the stressors of life today? How hard are simple decisions?”

A few months back, Josh Reich, pastor at Revolution Church and author of Breathing Room, shared with a pastors’ group I recently started attending. He asked a series of questions that have served as a great mirror for me in the past few months to assess my health.

It’s a strange thing that it’s a difficult thing for us to assess our own emotional and spiritual health. We’re usually pretty aware when our physical health is off, whether it’s an upset stomach or a headache or a sore back. And yet, I suspect that you have those days where you really don’t know how well you are doing emotionally and spiritually.

In Matthew 11, Jesus casts a vision of what following him looks like. You’re probably familiar with the verses. Read Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase and ask yourself how much this resembles your life:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Isn’t that a beautiful vision of the Christian life? Are you living into Jesus’ “unforced rhythms of grace”? Can your life be characterized by its lightness?

Father's Day Recommendations

Father's Day Recommendations

1.      5 Dangers of Being Deprived of an Involved Father: Eric Geiger condenses 55 findings of researchers. He begins with two physical impacts: "Children who suffer the loss of a father have, by the age of nine, a 14% reduction in telomere length – the most reliable predictors of life expectancy. The more frequently a father visits the hospital of an infant who is born prematurely, the more quickly the infant is released from the hospital."

2.      To Spank or Not to Spank: My friend Benjamin Vrbicek with a healthy and nuanced perspective on the topic: " Yet this post isn’t part of my crusade to get you to spank your children. I’ve never written about this before and don’t plan to do it again. I certainly don’t want to be another polemical voice in the already overly opinionated milieu of Christian child-rearing. Instead, I’d like to talk about how parents can spank their children rightly." All 13 of his nuggets are worth considering.

3.      Why to Take Your Vacation: Ben Healy reports on the positive benefits of taking vacation and the negative impact of viewing other people's vacations. I don't think that not sharing vacation photos is the solution to the envy issue, but it's worth considering. Two of the positive benefits are: "From 1974 to 2004, those men who took at least three weeks of vacation were 37 percent less likely to die than those who took fewer weeks off... Vacation can yield other benefits, too: People who took all or most of their paid vacation time to travel were more likely than others to report a recent raise or bonus." 

4.      Teaching Our Daughters Positive Self-Talk: Tracy Lane considers how we ought to protect our daughters from the natural tendency of negative self-talk. She says, " I don’t want criticizing our looks or our bodies to be a natural inclination. Instead, I want the truth of who God made us to be, to become the natural overflow that we believe about ourselves."

5.      Foster Care and the Fear of "Getting Too Attached": Jason Johnson considers perhaps the biggest barrier to foster care, that it will be too hard because you will get too attached and concludes, "Yet despite all of that, over and over I've found the remarkable stories of those who also have this pain branded into their souls all consistently on some level sound the same - the goodbye was devastating and the grief is hard. Extremely hard. But so, so worth it. No question. These kids are worth it."