Choosing Checkouts

As I’ve often been asked how I choose the half dozen or so daily links I include in my Check out posts, I thought I’d give a quick summary of how I go about it. There are three basic steps: Search, Store, and Select.

Search

First of all, I read a lot of blogs, probably somewhere in the region of 120. No, I don’t visit 120 blogs every day; I use Google Reader and the Reeder app to bring these blogs to me. It usually takes me about 45-60 mins each evening to scan the daily postings and pick out what interests me and also what I think will interest you. Although this sounds laborious, I actually find it relaxing and edifying. It’s certainly a better way to spend an hour than reading the daily newspaper.

Another source of articles is my Twitter feed, where I’ve carefully chosen the people to follow that connect me with the best material on the web. I rarely look for anything from Facebook as there’s just too much junk to wade through. People also email me material that they think might be good for Check out.

Store

As I’m reading these blogs, I’m not only looking for Check out links; I’m also looking for resources that will be helpful for my ministry, my students, and my family.

So how do I organize these resources for future reference? I use Diigo, a free bookmarking service that plugs into most browsers. Basically, when I see an article I like, I click the Diigo icon on my browser, which brings up the Diigo bookmark box. There I quickly add tags that will help me find these resources should I need them in the future.

BTW, if you join Diigo, you can follow me there and get access to all the links and tags I’ve saved up through the years! Just search for my name.

Select

Now comes the difficult part. Of the hundreds of daily links, how do I choose six or so for the daily Check out post. Thankfully, there’s usually no lack of material. I often have to leave out or delay some great links just because there’s so much good stuff around. So what are my criteria? Well, when I started this I didn’t think through or set out any formal criteria, but thinking about it now, there do seem to be some general guidelines (though not hard-and-fast rules) I follow:

1. Christian and non-Christian
While the balance of my links are from Christian authors, I usually include links to articles written by non-Christians too. These may be on subjects that I have a personal interest in or that reflect some current trends. I love seeing God’s common grace in the talents and skills of all His creatures. Most readers have the savvy to understand that I’m not endorsing everything I link to.

2. Positive more than negative
There’s a place for critiques of what’s going on in the church and in our culture, and I sometimes link to such pieces. But on the whole, I try to put Philippians 4:8 into practice and lean towards the true, the good, the pure, the lovely, the praiseworthy, etc. There are many other blogs that lean the other way if that’s your preference.

3. Small more than big
There are some great blogs that will keep you in touch with the well-known preachers, writers, bloggers, etc., and I’ll link to such pieces now and again. As there’s no point in duplicating what is being well done by others, I prefer linking to the less well-known (but sometimes more talented!) speakers, authors, etc. I also assume that everyone reads the mega-bloggers already.

4. Male and female
As the Christian blogosphere, especially the Reformed planet, is dominated by male voices, I like to link to some of the great female writers I’ve come across over the years.

5. Special interests
Obviously a lot of my picks reflect my own special interests, which include:

  • Christ in the Old Testament
  • Preaching
  • Counseling (especially in the area of depression/anxiety)
  • Technology
  • Education (especially the exciting changes in how College level education is being delivered)
  • Reading/Writing/Publishing
  • Productivity
  • Disability
  • Leadership (especially pastoral leadership)
  • Race (especially encouraging young African American Christians and more racially-integrated churches)
  • Family (raising children, marriage, etc)
  • I leave out the salmon fishing links as I think that’s probably a touch too specialized!

Some might look at this list of interests and think, “What a weirdo!” Maybe. Probably. But no point in pretending to be what I’m not. WYSIWYG.

At least, having written this post, I’m relieved to see that there does appear to be some method to my madness.

And finally, a huge HUGE “Hat-tip” to Tim Challies who’s not only the first I saw doing this kind of thing, but who’s also my model and mentor in all things digital.


Check out

Christ in the Old Testament
From Calvin’s preface to the New Testament. And here’s another quotation on the same subject.

It’s time to speak
On male/female roles and relationships: “Here’s the deal: Father, Son and Spirit have different roles and they are still equal.  Their worth is not defined by their tasks.  It’s our worldview – not God’s – that assigns value based on role.  As long as we find our worth in our to-do list, we will confuse equality and sameness.”

Performing Experiments on Ourselves
Kim talks about attention spans and concludes with an experiment I was considering myself the last couple of days.

Mental Illness: What is the church’s role?
“In general, the church tends to handle mental illness in one of three ways: ignore it, treat it exclusively as a spiritual problem, or refer people to professionals and wash our hands of their trouble.”

Give your pastor a break
One for elders and deacons.

“6-year-old with spina bifida does a stunt”
A rightly proud father sent me this amazing video of his adopted son, Nathan, who has spina bifida and has no feeling or movement in his legs. Suddenly, today doesn’t seem so bad, does it!?


7 Steps to Using Technology for God’s Glory

No parent wants to give his or her child unfettered access to the Internet. But neither is it realistic or wise to forbid any access whatsoever. How then do we plot a course that avoids these two extremes and yet maximizes their moral and spiritual safety? In my recent article for Christianity.com, I outlined 7 Steps to Using Technology for God’s Glory.

  1. Educate
  2. Fence
  3. Mentor
  4. Supervise
  5. Review
  6. Trust
  7. Model

Click here for the full article.


Check out

Lay Elders – A User’s Guide
So much good advice here.

Being Black and Reformed
Tabletalk interview with pastor and author Anthony Carter.

Who goes there?
What should we be looking for when we read the Old Testament? Peter Mead has three answers.

Dave Ramsey’s Free Guide to Budgeting
I wish I’d met Dave Ramsey 30 years ago.

How to choose a college
And on the same subject How tech is changing college [Infographic].

17 Billion Earth-Size Planets in our Galaxy
This should help you understand Psalm 8 even more.


The Apostle Paul’s Media Pyramid

A food pyramid is a graphic way of displaying the recommended daily intake of different kinds of healthy food. The Apostle Paul drew a media food pyramid for us in Philippians 4:8, breaking down our media intake into six healthy categories:

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever thingsare pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

1. True not false: “Whatever things are true”
Media lies are found on both the left and the right. Christians will often rightly protest at the bias of the mainstream media, and yet be completely blind to the bias that comes from the more conservative media outlets. But lies are lies regardless of whether they come from the left or the right.

We also have to be careful that we don’t over-expose ourselves to journalists who spend most of their time exposing the lies of “the other team.” Again this over-emphasis on falsehood only breeds cynicism, suspicion, and mistrust.

2. Noble not base: “Whatever things are noble”
The media tend to publicize the vile and sordid side of life. Some of the most popular books over the past years have been childhood memoirs that describe the most horrific abuse and cruelty. 50 Shades of Grey, a trilogy of books that celebrate sadistic sex, has occupied the bestsellers list for months and months, drawing massive media attention and debasing old and young minds alike.

“Don’t do this to yourself!” appealed Paul. Bin the base and nourish the noble in your life. “Noble” means “majestic, awe-inspiring, worthy, and elevating.” It’s the word used to describe deacons in 1 Tim 3:8 and old men in Titus 2:2. It can be translated “gravity” and is the opposite of what is cheap, tawdry, and frivolous.

3. Right not wrong: “Whatever things are just”
“Just” means what conforms to God’s law and standards, and describes right conduct in the whole of life. Does that sound like most sit-coms, soap-operas, and news features? Do the media celebrate right acts? Quite the reverse; they usually focus on sinful acts. Moral people don’t make the news and if they do ever appear in TV or on film, they are caricatured as out-of-touch or irrelevant.

4. Purity not filth: “Whatever things are pure”
When was the last time you saw a film that celebrated chastity and modesty, or showed the beauty of Christian marriage, or that portrayed a normal functioning family. Immorality, abuse, fighting, murder, and weirdness rules the day. Filth floats to the surface while purity sinks without trace.

5. Beautiful not ugly: “Whatever things are lovely”
“Lovely” things call and compel admiration and affection. It’s literally “towards love” and means whatever produces love, whatever moves towards love. Perhaps the best modern word would be “beautiful” or “winsome.” That’s hardly a word that comes to mind when surveying most TV listings or movie premieres. The ugly side of life seems to win the day as so many are fatally drawn to the darkness (John 3:19). Notice how many millions of views that “Fail” videos have on Youtube! See if you can find many viral videos that showcase the beautiful and the lovely.

6. Praise not complaint: “Whatever things are of good report”
Focus on what is constructive rather than destructive, on whatever makes people exclaim, “Well done!” rather than what makes you and others say, “That’s terrible.”

As you sit at your dinner table, do you suggest topics that will show people up in a good light or in a bad light? Do you tell stories that will make your family praise God and others or in a way that will make them doubt God and criticize others.

Whatever x 6
There is much good in everyday life that should be acknowledged and appreciated, regardless of whether it is done or said by a Christian or not. Whether it’s a good product, a helpful service, a wise insight, a superb article, or a beautiful photograph, praise and celebrate it. Don’t look first for what you can critique, look for what you can admire. As Paul summed up: “If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

And his emphasis is not on the “not.” He’s not saying so much, “Don’t watch that, don’t listen to this, don’t think about that, don’t, don’t, don’t…” Rather it’s positive, “Do think, do focus, do fill your minds with the true, the good, the lovely, etc.” And let’s help our children to do the same. That’s a daily duty and a daily battle for which we need daily grace.

What old and new media sources and resources have you found that help you eat healthy?

See also: A New Diet for a New Year.