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US Theologian: Africans understand Old Testament better than Westerners
This report is a bit mixed up but there are some thought-provokers in there.

How to use Google Reader to keep up with your favorite blogs
How would you like to have a researcher that gathers all your favorite blog posts in one place every day?

Who were the wise men?
If you want your Christmas card world turned upside down by some fascinating research, read this 3-part series (Intro, Part 1, and Part 2).

You need to rest
Sabbath quotes from Wilberforce, Lincoln, and others.

Thomas Guthrie and the Kilsyth Revival
Stirring history to inspire hope in our future.

Why do we wait so long to train our leaders
The average age that people begin to get leadership training is age 42, about 10 years after they start supervising people. And here’s 26 leadership principles from John Macarthur.

Newtown: Time to operate on a “need to know” basis

If Friday had happened a hundred years ago, most of America would probably still not have heard of Newtown. A limited narrative of facts would eventually have trickled out across the country, and maybe even reach a few other parts of the world. Perhaps there might have been a brief paragraph in The London Times and a few other significant international newspapers.

Horrific specifics
What a difference a hundred years makes. Within seconds we know not only what happened in general but all the horrific specifics. Within minutes we have eyewitness accounts. Within hours we have photos and video. By the end of the day we have hundreds, maybe thousands of reporters swarming over the town. Press conferences are carried live; interviews with bereaved families and spared families fill the non-stop news cycle; the perpetrator’s evil mind and twisted past are dredged; amateur psychologists opine on the ravings and ranting of evil. Old and new media are drowning us in a deluge of frightful information and fearful images.

For most of us, it’s time to pull the plug and avert our gaze.

It is neither necessary nor wise for most of us to know all this horrifying information. What good purpose does it serve to hear or read exactly how the murderer went about his vile business, what was heard or seen in the classrooms and offices, how victims tried to defend themselves and others, etc? It is deeply damaging to our short and long-term mental, emotional, and spiritual health to expose ourselves to such bloodcurdling details.

Self-inflicted trauma
I’m not saying we ignore what happened, nor that we shouldn’t sympathise deeply with the families and the community. I’m saying most of us need only know enough to pray intelligently for the needs of the survivors, their families, and the community. But most of us know way, way more than that by now, darkening our waking hours and disturbing our sleeping hours. I don’t think most of us realize the deep and damaging trauma we are inflicting upon ourselves.

Some Christians probably should know more, especially those whom God has specially called to interpret and explain these monstrous actions to the public and the church. But most of us  don’t need to glue ourselves to TV and Internet news. Instead, we should actively shield ourselves and our families from much of it. If we wouldn’t read books or watch films that gave such details, why do it with real-life events?

Not necessary or wise
I’m at the stage where I’m reading some headlines, and maybe the first paragraph of some reports. But that’s where I’m now drawing the line. For most of us it is not necessary or wise to watch the multiple funerals and memorial services, to read the latest insights into this evil mind, to watch crime scene reconstructions, or to listen to harrowing interviews with teachers and parents. It’s time to operate on a “need to know” basis.

And we shouldn’t feel guilty about it. 

But we must pray. Indeed, we must pray for Newtown and the nation as we’ve never prayed before.

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Mandated reporting of violence risk
Another angle to consider following the Newtown massacre.

Is the virgin birth really predicted in the Old Testament?
Joel Miller does a great job here of marshaling some great research into a compact blog post.

Ten ways your brain is smacking you around
“Sometimes our brains act in ways not in our best interests, and that’s when we have to remember that not every message coming from the control center is accurate or beneficial. Here are 10 examples with suggestions on what to do about them.”

The brain on lust
And here’s a Christian reflection on how the brain’s chape and chemistry is changed by what we think about.

Is there an ideal church size?
My friend Timmy Brister takes me to the woodshed. I admit, I definitely overstated a bit, and under-qualified a little, in what was a brief thought-provoker on an interesting statistic. But I also think Timmy over-read a bit. You decide.

How to get a college degree for free
Worth a click, but don’t get too excited.

Children’s Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first 12 months of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s an explanation of the plan.

The Beauty of Manual Labor

We have a tendency to put asunder what God has joined together. Afterward, we often devalue one part of what we’ve divided. For example, though God has joined human beings in a union of body and soul, we sometimes divide the soul and body, then attribute huge value to the soul and little to the body.

Similarly, we do this with labor when we divide headwork from handwork, and then attribute huge value to headwork and little or nothing to handwork. Sometimes we use economic criteria (which job earns the most?), and sometimes we use spiritual criteria (ministry is spiritual, everything else is secular).

Using biblical criteria I want to show why this divide-and devalue assessment of work is wrong, and I also want to demonstrate the beauty and dignity of manual labor.

The Source of Manual Labor
God was the first manual laborer. He created all the materials in the world and worked them into shape. He made Adam from dust, and Eve from a male rib. He made things out of things.

Also, the first job God created was gardening, into which He called His first “employees.” Later, He called Bezalel and gifted him with all the necessary manual skills to build the tabernacle. Indeed, Bezalel is the first person Scripture records as being filled with the Spirit, and this filling was to help him build the Tabernacle (Ex. 31:3). God called and equipped Bezalel, no less than He called Moses.

The Son of God was probably a carpenter for most of His early life, a job to which He was divinely called and for which He was divinely gifted. Matthew Henry said: “Skill in common arts and employments is the gift of God; from him are derived both the faculty and the improvement of the faculty.”

The Range of Manual Labor
We find a variety of God-given gifts at the tabernacle building site: woodworking, stone-cutting, jewel-setting, needle-working, etc.

Do we not see God’s amazing creativity in the vast range of creative gifts He has distributed throughout the world? When we watch a farmer plough his fields, a builder erect a wall, a homemaker arrange and adorn her house, we see the vast range of God’s creative abilities scattered throughout His creation. John Calvin said, “All the arts come from God and are to be respected as divine inventions.”

The Necessity of Manual Labor
Moses was a knowledge worker, but not a manual worker. God gave him the ability to teach and write, but he needed help with practical matters of construction. For God’s purposes to be accomplished, for His character to be revealed through the tabernacle, He also needed those who could work with their hands (which, as Exodus 35:31 makes clear, also involved a lot of headwork).

If God has gifted you, it’s because He has ordained needs for you to meet with your gifts. If He’s given you Bezalel-type gifts, don’t try to be a Moses. And if you have Moses-type gifts, encourage and value the Bezalels. The Church and the world both need all of God’s gifts.

The Beauty of Manual Labor
In the Tabernacle, we see God’s regard and concern for beauty. We see it in the design, the fascinating furniture and ornaments, and the value and variety of the materials. Although a large part of the Tabernacle’s design was about daily practicalities, some of the design choices were simply about beauty.

Let’s image our God by cultivating an appreciation for beauty and by displaying it in our daily lives and callings. Ask: “How can I make this home or yard more beautiful, this factory more beautiful, this product more beautiful? How can I reveal and display the beauty of God in my daily life and calling?” Our beautiful God loves beauty.

The Aim of Manual Labor
The aim of handwork and headwork, is the glory of God. Moses’ preaching and Bezalel’s cutting, nailing, and lifting resulted in God being better known.

But, you may ask, “How do I glorify God in a factory, in a building site, in the kitchen?” We do so by mirroring God through diligence, integrity, honesty, and, above all, by aiming at excellence in all that we do.

That’s why, like Bezalel, we all need the filling of the Holy Spirit in whatever we do. Work is difficult, excellent work is even more difficult, and doing God-glorifying excellent work is most difficult of all. But if we do our God-given work, with God’s help, and for God’s glory, we are worshipping Him in, through, and with our work.

And that’s beautiful!

First published in the November 2012 edition of Tabletalk. Subscribe here for $23 per year. 

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3 simple behaviors that combat anxiety, reduce panic attacks
“The following excerpt from my book, “Strivings Within,” relates how God began to answer my cries for help during a time when I was in considerable distress from the symptoms of my Anxiety Disorder.”

“You” or “We” in preaching”
I like where John lands here.

Critical Thinker or Critical Spirit?
Helpful…and challenging.

Ministry and Suffering
10 lessons learned in affliction. And here are Joel Beeke’s 8 helps in affliction, which he’s needed recently.

Safeguarding against abuse in the church
Jared Wilson with 10 guidelines.

Chinese woman writes with both hands in different languages simultaneously
Imagine what we’ll be able to do in heaven.