nature

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Ten Year Old With No Hands Wins Handwriting ContestWow. What's my excuse?

2.        It is Well... the Backstory of a Troubled Man and His Hymn: Janie B. Chaney shares the story of the classic hymn of Horatio Spafford. You probably have heard the first half of the story, but it's the second half that really tests our thinking about the hymn.

3.       Understanding the Sin of Ham: Tom Terry offers a compelling interpretation of what exactly Noah's son's sin was. He suggests, " Moses was using this idiom to say that Ham had a sexual encounter with his mother (or Noah’s wife, assuming that the woman in question was not Ham’s natural mother). Either way, this was an incestuous relationship."

4.       Some Good News About the Bad News About Marriage: Ron Deal begins, " We were led to believe by statisticians that in America about half of all marriages end in divorce, which led me to believe that about two-thirds of stepfamily couples divorce. But it turns out that the pessimism that currently exists about the institution of marriage is misguided."

5.       Dandelion Time Lapse: Two poignant minutes: it feels like you're watching the visual representation of the book of Ecclesiastes.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.        Best Hike in Every State: Looks like my bucket list just grew. Tell me if you've gone on any of these hikes. They look great.

2.       When Grumbling Meets Gossip: Tim Challies helpfully clarifies the difference between grumbling, gossip, and disputing. He concludes, " There will be times when we disagree with others. There will be times when we need to confront other people for their sinful actions or attitudes or to dispute with others to contend for the truth and guard the gospel. But both must be handled with love and grace. Both must be seen as opportunities to further unity rather than further disrupt it. Both must be seen as threats to our calling to shine as lights in this dark and needy world."

3.       When Churches Can't Do Everything: I love when people enthusiastically bring their ideas and their willingness to serve to the church. But a church can't do everything. Kevin DeYoung gives excellent advice to congregants bringing their ideas to church leaders, explaining why they might receive a no, and how to receive that no.

4.       How Your Church Can Grow Young: Three of the foremost experts on Millennials and Gen Z in the church, Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin offer helpful advice, " What really stood out was the way the churches made young people feel like family. In fact, the phrase like family surfaced as the most common term young people used to describe their church in our interviews and field visits."

5.       The Most Populous Cities in the World From 1500-2018: You'll want to watch this through a couple of times to track some intriguing information. For instance, watch trends in Europe, Asia, and the Americas over the centuries.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      How America Grew Bored with Love: This is a damning indictment by David Masciotra: " It has become the stuff of cliché to read “cutting edge” cultural critics deconstruct popular love stories like Pretty Woman and Say Anything, reimagining them as predatory tales of women surrendering to sexual harassment. Never mind that the largest audiences for these films were always and will likely remain women."

2.      Are you Middle Class? Helpful little chart.

3.      Confessions of a Glory Hoarder: Cassi Crowley talks about the painful sanctification of motherhood: " Not surprisingly, motherhood threw a wrench into my self-glorification. I haven’t received nearly as much glory as I’ve been accustomed to in previous seasons. In the academic world, you get grades and diplomas. In the professional world, you get performance reviews and promotions. In the social world, you get friends and influence. In motherhood, you get dirty diapers and sleep deprivation."

4.      A Hundred Year-Old Reflection on Self-Forgetfulness: BB Warfield concludes, "Only, when, like Christ, and in loving obedience to His call and example, we take no account of ourselves, but freely give ourselves to others, we shall find, each in his measure, the saying true of himself also: “Wherefore also God hath highly exalted him.” The path of self-sacrifice is the path to glory."

5.      The Earth Below: Beautiful time lapse. Makes you want to pick up Genesis 1, doesn't it?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Are you Raising a Narcissist? Steve Cornell offers a helpful inventory. Among the many gems is this one: "Don’t be the parents who overindulged a child’s sense of personal beauty or talent. This will lead to self-deception, narcissism and social dysfunction. It’s also a sure path to marital misery!"

2.      5 Things Every Newly Wed Needs to Hear: Daryl Crouch with wisdom for couples. In reflecting on what the role of those witnessing the wedding is, he shares, "The purpose of this kind of public declaration of loyal love is more than grandstanding. When you mailed your wedding invitations, you were also asking these loved ones to stay involved in your life and your marriage. A wedding includes people who know you, love you, and care about your future success. They’re not only witnesses who observe the moment you exchange rings, they’re people who will pray for you, counsel you, and invest in you. They’re the people who will help you keep the vows they’ve heard you make."

3.      What do Evangelicals Believe? This survey of evangelicals by the Ligonier Ministries is disconcerting to say the least. Perhaps the most concerning response came to this statement: " God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam." 51% of evangelicals agreed with that statement."God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam." A majority of evangelicals agree that God can be worshiped by those who haven't put their trust n Jesus Christ. 

4.      5 Myths About Calvinism: This helpful article by Greg Forster debunks including "God saves us against our will," and "God does not love the lost." On the former, Forster explains, "The role of the Spirit is to remove the power of sin and instill new powers of belief and trust, which do inevitably result in saving faith–but this is done without violating the will’s freedom. In fact, the work of the Spirit enlarges our freedom."

5.      Greenland-Land of Ice: What a gift to be able to see remote places of the world in all their beauty.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Technology is Not a DrugHelpful and level-headed article rebuffing the claims of the addiction of technology. Christopher Ferguson reports, "Anything fun results in an increased dopamine release in the “pleasure circuits” of the brain – whether it’s going for a swim, reading a good book, having a good conversation, eating or having sex. Technology use causes dopamine release similar to other normal, fun activities: about 50 to 100 percent above normal levels. Cocaine, by contrast, increases dopamine 350 percent, and methamphetamine a whopping 1,200 percent. In addition, recent evidence has found significant differences in how dopamine receptors work among people whose computer use has caused problems in their daily lives, compared to substance abusers. But I believe people who claim brain responses to video games and drugs are similar are trying to liken the drip of a faucet to a waterfall."

2.      Jumping the Shark and the Trajectory of Sin: With a surprising analogy, my friend Benjamin Vrbicek argues that sin always makes us a caricature of who we were meant to be, "This is the trajectory of sin. At some point, it jumps the shark. Sin makes people less human and more beast-like." 

3.      Why the Search for a Church to Meet Your Needs is Wasted TimeCarey Nieuwhof asks us to look deeper when we search for a new church, "The problem is deeper, though, than changing churches (as big a decision as that is). It’s about the purpose of the quest. Should the criteria of a church meeting your needs be the reason you change churches? Well, what if the church was never intended to meet your needs? What if the furthest thing from God’s mind when he created the church was to meet your needs?"

4.      Three Types of People Who Hinder the Church: Josh Buice is spot on with his three types. His third is the church hopper: "One of the greatest hindrances to the local church in our day is the church hopper. This individual often engages in meaningful membership from the beginning, but after a period of time (could be months or years), they decide to “change churches.” Like a shooting star, they appear in the life of the church and then vanish away."

5.      How Trees Talk to Each Other: This short video explores the incredible way that trees communicate and help each other out.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      When Pot is Legal, What Do We Say?  Ben Tertin navigates this tricky issue that is on our doorstep. "When a pastor's advice on a moral issue fails, the usual culprit is oversimplification. I feel this keenly on the pot question, having fought on both sides."

2.      I Want My Child to be an Alien: The pressure is strong to raise children who are popular. Jen Wilkin pushes against that impulse, " Sweet child, study the way you are feeling today. Because I love you, I ask this of you: Lean into your “otherness”—learn the contours of its face, feel out the steady grip of its hand. Because I intend it to be your lifelong companion. It is a truer friend than those who surround you now. More than I want your comfort, I want you to be an alien and a stranger."

3.      Was Gnosticism Tolerant and Inclusive? Contrary to public perception, Michael Kruger responds with a resounding "No." "After all, it is argued, traditional Christianity was narrow, dogmatic, intolerant, elitist, and mean-spirited, whereas Gnosticism was open-minded, all-welcoming, tolerant and loving.  Given this choice, which would you choose?"

4.       The Consequences of GendercideFor years China and India have been aborting millions of baby girls. Gene Veith reports on the devastating consequences, "Today, China has 34 million more men than women, which is equivalent to the population of California.  India has 37 million more men than women... Both countries are experiencing an upsurge in sexual assaults, including rape, and human trafficking."  

5.      The Deepest Dive in the Antarctica Reveals a Sea Floor Teaming with Life: Wow. What a Creator.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      What I Learned About Marriage by Losing My Husband: Good luck not tearing up reading Gaye Clark's poignant letter to her deceased husband.

2.      Be a Gospel Neighbor: Aaron Menikoff on a topic I think is so important for the church, "The requirement for hospitality gets to the heart of neighboring. It’s even a qualification of elder leadership... Paul has a similar message in Romans 12:13–14: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” Paul demands a spirit of generosity to all: the brother or sister, the stranger, and even the enemy! Faithful pastors and Christians alike will strive to be good neighbors. They’ll open up their homes to people around them. Such hospitality is not without cost (it takes time and money)."

3.      Which of the Ten Commandments Still Apply? YouGov and Deseret News reports that 60% of Americans agree that seven of the Ten Commandments still apply. The three below 60%? "You shall have no other gods before me," "You shall not use the name of the Lord your God in vain," and "Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy" (the only commandment below 50%). 

4.      What Dostoyevsky's Prostitute Can Teach Us About Love: If you've ever read Crime and Punishment (which I recently had the joy of re-reading), this is powerful connection between the cross and the book. Mark Galli connects Sonia's reaction to the Christ, "Raskolnikov later meets a young woman, Sonia, who has been compelled by poverty to become a prostitute to support her family. He is immediately drawn to her, and after he learns that Sonia had been friends with Lizaveta, he feels compelled to confess his murders to her... When it dawns on her what he has just confessed, “...What have you done—what have you done to yourself?” she said in despair, and, jumping up, she flung herself on his neck, threw her arms round him, and held him tightly." Raskolnikov is not the only one who is shocked by Sonia’s gesture. The reader is as well... There we see the meaning of the Cross and the revelation of the deepest nature of God. Jesus did not consider the glory of divinity as something to exalt in, but decided to bear the yoke of human nature. He showed himself not only to be a man of sorrows, but also a God who has borne our griefs; not merely a man wounded for our transgression, but also a God bruised for our iniquities (Isa. 53). He saw the grievous sin of humankind, and the Cross is the sign of his “violent, hysterical weeping” for us."

5.      Death Valley Sunup to SundownThink Death Valley is ugly? Think again. This is stunning.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       White Evangelicals Also Want Stricter Gun Laws: Surprising findings from Pew. Rob Schenck says, “The perception that all evangelicals have a kind of bloodlust for firearms, that’s not true, particularly when it comes to under-40 evangelicals and their pastors.”

2.       Stop Delegating! Shawn Lovejoy argues that delegation isn't true leadership. " Empowerment, on the other hand, has everything to do with the benefit of the other person and the entire organization." 

3.       Why It Was Not Good to Be Alone: Mike Leake argues that the primary reason it wasn't good for Adam to be alone wasn't physical or emotional, it was theological, " So the fundamental reason why it was not good for Adam to be alone was not because of a need to fulfilled within Adam, but rather because of a deficiency in his ability to accurately image God. He couldn’t make the invisible kingdom visible while he was alone because the invisible kingdom is a community. Adam needed Eve to accurately reflect God."

4.       Why Do I Believe in Credobaptism? Stephen Kneale makes a succinct argument for why we should baptize believers, not infants. One of his arguments is, " The Great Commission is that portion of scripture in which Jesus tells his followers to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ This same command, the order of which seems significant, is picked up by the disciples who insist that their hearers ‘repent and be baptised’."

5.       Folegandros Island, Greece: A drone flies over the beautiful island. 

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Are you Addicted to Your Phone? Research finds that 40% of cellphone usage is compulsive. I'm guilty as charged: "Finding that the average user unlocked their phone more than 10,000 times a year — or about 28 times a day — the researchers identified about 4,000 phone interactions a year as being “compulsive” (i.e., the owner had no particular act in mind when engaging). Equally eye-opening was the finding that the highest decile of smartphone enthusiasts — or the top ten percent of users — opened their device 60-plus times every 24 hours."

2.       The Dangers of Success: Paul Alexander captures some of the most significant dangers of success succinctly. One of those are our motives: " It’s easy to hide our motivation and heart in the apparent external success of the churches we’re building. I’m not saying every church leader has poor motives, far from it! But it’s easy to ignore motive when you’re experiencing success."

3.       Leadership Comes Back to the Home: Rich Holdeman on the significance that the office of elder is reserved for those who manage their household well, "Good managers know the people that they manage.  They know their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, fears and aspirations.  Simply put, good managers put the people under them in positions where those people can grow and succeed.  Really good managers do this in such a way that when things go well, the people under them get all the credit.  Conversely, when things do not go well, good managers take the heat.  Because good managers have the well-being of those they manage in mind, people love to work for them."

4.       In Defense (Somewhat) of Self-Help: Samuel James with a fair critique for those of us who consider ourselves above the self-help genre, "For all my Christian culture’s scorn of self-help, couldn’t we at least have talked about actually living life in a non-theoretical, non-gospelly cliche way? One of the things I am having to slowly unlearn is the idea that having good theology is the most important thing in life. I cringe even as I write that sentence, because for years to even think a sentence like that indicated, I believed, a willingness to embrace bad theology."

5.       Pano Photography Awards: Spend some time with this jaw-dropping collection of photographs. What a world God has created!

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Are Christian Men More Abusive: An eye-opening recent study concludes that committed evangelical men are the least abusive while uncommitted evangelical men are the most abusive, 'Sociologist Christopher Ellison and his colleagues found that women who were married or cohabiting were significantly less likely to report abuse if they regularly attended religious services. According to their study, 'compared with a woman who never attends religious services, a woman who shares similar demographic characteristics but attends several times a week is roughly 40% less likely to be a victim of domestic violence.' Not surprisingly, they also found that 'men who attend religious services several times a week are 72% less likely to abuse their female partners than men from comparable backgrounds who do not attend services.'"

2.       How do we Motivate others Toward God? Kerilee Van Schooten shares a variety of ways we can spur others on toward God. Four of her eight motivations are: rapport; curiosity; relevance; and challenge.

3.       The Sanctification Gap: Ed Stetzer on the disturbing reality that a number of Christians don't take growing in holiness seriously: "'A Christian must learn to deny himself/herself in order to serve Christ.' 64% of churchgoers agree with the statement 19% disagree with the statement... The 19% is what should concern us as pastors and leaders (and the rest who did not know or answer). The essential, biblical mandate to follow Jesus and deny ourselves to serve Christ is not affirmed by almost 1 out of every 3 participants. We say we want the life of Christ and believe in Him for salvation, but we can’t seem to get past the denial hurdle."

4.       Hard Truths About Retirement: Christian Financial planner Chris Cagle says of the first of seven truths, "You can lose meaning and purpose without work.  This is a real and present danger in retirement. God created us all with an intrinsic need for work – to provide for our families and also to productively contribute to the world around us."

5.       No Progress for African Americans: The Economic Policy Institute just released a devastating report that after 50 years, ‘there has been no progress in how African Americans fare in comparison to whites when it comes to homeownership, unemployment and incarceration…”

6.       Symphony of Light: Take in this incredible Kauai timelapse