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Race Matters
Ed Stetzer reflects on the following statistics:

  • 85% of senior pastors of Protestant churches say that every church should strive for racial diversity.
  • 13% of senior pastors of Protestant churches say they have more than one predominant ethnic group in their congregation.
  • 78% of Americans say every church should strive for racial diversity.
  • 51% of Americans say they would be most comfortable visiting a church where multiple ethnicities are well represented

A Call for Gospel Audacity
On the same theme David Prince calls us to crucify the color line in the church, one pulpit at a time.

A Good Lesson from a 95-Year-Old Warrior
Inspiring story about the faith Mark Altrogge’s 95-year-old father, a World War II veteran.

Brothers, we are not amateurs
Jason Allen: “Few men have shaped the 21st century church more than John Piper, and few of his books have proven more helpful than his Brothers, We are not Professionals. Piper was right. Ministers are not to be professionals, and his call for radical, sacrificial, selfless ministry is spot on. Yet, when it comes to ministerial service, we are not called to be amateurs either.”

God of the Womb
This is a powerful prayer-provoking reflection from Kristen Gilles: “The Lord has closed my womb. He opened it. He filled it. He emptied it. And then he closed it. The Lord has kept me from having children. He enabled me to conceive a son two years ago. Then he took my son to be with him 10 months later. And since then, he has kept me from having children. This reality, rather than disturbing me, actually comforts me.”

7 Do’s and Don’ts Of Welcoming People to Your Congregation
“I have moved twice in the past two years, both times to a new community where I had few connections. As a result, I have visited a number of congregations in search of a new church home. Based on my experiences, I offer this practical list of do’s and don’ts for welcoming guests to your church.”


21 Reasons why you don’t want to be a Seminary Professor

Why do so many young Christian men want to become seminary professors, often with little or no pastoral experience?

As someone who was a pastor for twelve years, before becoming a professor for six, and now deeply grateful to be doing both, I think I can speak with a measure of knowledge and experience.

On one level, I can understand the desire. Pastoral ministry is not the most glamorous of tasks, whereas, being a seminary professor, especially in America, carries a degree of respect. It’s also very satisfying to have the enormous privilege of training future pastors and missionaries.

But a lot of young men imagine that professorial life is a breeze: time to read lots of books, long vacations, people seeking your counsel, publishing books, speaking at conferences, etc. What’s not to like?

Gulag or Ivory Towers
Well, there may be some professor somewhere with that job description, but it’s not mine and it’s not that of all the other seminary professors I’ve spoken to. You have to fight to get time to read (I read more books I wanted to read when I was a pastor), you spend oodles of hours doing tedious administration, marking hundreds of papers makes it easy to believe in purgatory, reading academic books and journals smokes your brain, and email brings a daily deluge of questions from people all over the world who think you’re just waiting to do their research for them! Okay, it’s not exactly a Gulag, but believe me, the curse on work did not bypass the ivory towers.

Like everything else, you need a divine calling to do it, persevere in it, and get joy in it. But you don’t see a lot of immediate fruit in lecturing. You do it in faith, believing that some years down the line a student will remember and use what you taught them and use it for someone’s spiritual good. But you rarely hear about it.

21 Losses
Yes, there are deeply satisfying days; when the lectures go well, you’re in the zone with your writing, the email server goes down, and you get 10 minutes to read a book of your own choosing. But if you’re one of those guys who want to be a seminary professor without, or with little, pastoral ministry experience, let me level with you and tell you what you will miss out on. Admittedly some of these losses can be mitigated to some extent by continuing to preach here and there, but the mitigation is minimal and the losses are still massive.

  1. You will lose the joy of seeing souls saved through your preaching.
  2. You will lose the joy of helping people in the toughest life situations.
  3. You will lose the joy of feeding and edifying God’s people.
  4. You will lose the joy of shepherding children through teenage years and into adulthood.
  5. You will lose the joy of preaching evangelistic sermons.
  6. You will lose the joy of building long-term spiritual relationships.
  7. You will lose the joy of taking responsibility for your own flock.
  8. You will lose the joy of developing and working with a team of leaders.
  9. You will lose the joy of helping people make massive life decisions.
  10. You will lose the joy of seeking a fresh word from the Lord for His people.
  11. You will lose the joy of preaching to a people you know intimately.
  12. You will lose the joy of seeing long-term spiritual maturity.
  13. You will lose the joy of seeking and recovering lost sheep.
  14. You will lose the joy of seeing God miraculously provide for the church’s financial needs.
  15. You will lose the joy of being loved by young, middle-aged, and old Christians.
  16. You will lose the joy of learning from the least educated and gifted of saints.
  17. You will lose the joy of identifying and growing people’s gifts.
  18. You will lose the joy and privilege of bearing the scars of pastoral ministry.
  19. You will lose the joy of winning over enemies in your congregation.
  20. You will lose the joy of helping Christians die.
  21. You will lose the blessing of God – if you are pursuing a calling God did not give you. Don’t waste your life!

Still want the job?


Worldview

The Danger of Telling Poor Kids That College is the Key to Social Mobility
Andrew Simmons says “College should be ‘sold’ to all students as an opportunity to experience an intellectual awakening,” rather than a way to a higher income.

When school environments casually yet consistently deemphasize the intellectual benefits of higher education, students become less imaginative about their futures.  According to ACT’s College Choice Report from November 2013, 32 percent of students pick a college major that doesn’t really interest them. The same study suggests that students are less likely to graduate when they do this.

He cites fascinating research that should how schools have a “hidden curriculum” that conditions kids for their positions in society:

  • Schools teaching the children of affluent families prepared those kids to take on leadership roles and nurtured their capacity for confident self-expression and argument.
  • Schools teaching children from low-income families focused on keeping students busy and managing behavior.
  • A middle-class school deemphasized individual expression and in-depth analysis and rewarded the dutiful completion of specified rote tasks.

The last category explains the misery of my own school years, and that of many boys I know. I totally agree with Simmons final challenge:

Schools can either perpetuate inequity through social reproduction or have a transformative effect and help students transcend it.

Religious Hostilities Reach a 6-Year High
Pew Research Center Reports that ,ore than 5.3 billion people (76% of the world’s population) live in countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion, up from 74% in 2011 and 68% as of mid-2007.

Among the world’s 25 most populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar) had the most restrictions on religion in 2012, when both government restrictions and social hostilities are taken into account. As in the previous year, Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion, and Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religion

The Inequality Problem
According to David Brooks, the present divisive campaign against income inequality “lumps together different issues that are not especially related.”

At the top end, there is the growing wealth of the top 5 percent of workers….At the bottom end, there is a growing class of people stuck on the margins, generation after generation. This is caused by high dropout rates, the disappearance of low-skill jobs, breakdown in family structures and so on.

As both extremes have different causes, you cannot expect to raise lower incomes by reducing higher incomes.

Research on the effects of raising the minimum wage finds “no evidence that such raises had any effect on the poverty rates.” That’s because only “11% of the workers affected by such an increase come from poor households. Nearly two-thirds of such workers are the second or third earners living in households at twice the poverty line or above.”

The primary problem for the poor is not that they are getting paid too little for the hours they work. It is that they are not working full time or at all. Raising the minimum wage is popular politics; it is not effective policy.

Brooks says that the causes are a complex mix of social, cultural, and behavioral factors.

  • There is a very strong correlation between single motherhood and low social mobility.
  • There is a very strong correlation between high school dropout rates and low mobility.
  • here is a strong correlation between the fraying of social fabric and low economic mobility.
  • There is a strong correlation between de-industrialization and low social mobility.
  • Many men, especially young men, are engaging in behaviors that damage their long-term earning prospects; much more than comparable women.

Low income is the outcome of these interrelated problems, but it is not the problem. To say it is the problem is to confuse cause and effect. To say it is the problem is to give yourself a pass from exploring the complex and morally fraught social and cultural roots of the problem. It is to give yourself permission to ignore the parts that are uncomfortable to talk about but that are really the inescapable core of the thing.


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How to Make MOOCs Work
Looks like another educational revolution is biting the dust: MOOC provider Coursera…found that an average of just 4 percent of MOOC users actually completed the courses. The completion rate ranged from 2 percent to 14 percent…Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have relatively few active users, that user engagement falls off dramatically–especially after the first 1-2 weeks of a course–and that few users persist to the course end,” the study said.

Seven Standards of Good Writing
Want to writer better? Or read better? Barnabas Piper has some advice : “These seven standards combine into a whole. None can be removed and a piece of writing remain good. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but maybe it will be helpful to you in your own reading and in conversation”

20 Most Important Counseling Books of 2013
Bob Kellemen is our reliable guide. (Here’s part two).

How God turns a French Atheist into a Christian Theologian (HT: Zach Neilsen)
This is a wonderful conversion story.

A Calvinist and a Fundamentalist Walk Into a Bar
I presume it was a New Calvinist, but anyway, Tim helps us find our particular area of spiritual weakness.

Defining our Vocation
This would be a good video for a youth group.

Kate Harris, executive director of The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture, wants to change how we think about vocation. Since “vocation” is derived from the Latin word vox, which means “voice” or “vocal,” she says, we should think about it as “one’s entire life lived in response to God’s voice or call.” It’s more about who we are (identity) and whose we are (belonging) than about what we do.


Children’s Bible Reading Plan

Here’s 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 year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

The second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

The first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

The daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books.

Old Testament

New Testament


The Two Johns On Old Testament Faith

John Newton and John Owen were two very different Christians but they were united in their view of how Old Testament believers were saved and what their faith was in.

John Newton taught that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was revealed immediately after Adam and Eve’s first sin and became the object of faith from that moment on.

The Lord Jesus was promised under the character of the seed of the woman, as the great deliverer who should repair the breach of sin, and retrieve the ruin of human nature. From that hour, he became the object of faith, and the author of salvation, to every soul that aspired to communion with God, and earnestly sought deliverance from guilt and wrath (Works, Vol. 3, p. 3).

Newton went on to say that although this revelation of Christ was initially veiled under types and shadows, “it was always sufficient to sustain the hopes, and to purify the hearts, of the true worshippers of God.” Newton even goes so far as to say that they were Christians.

That the patriarchs and prophets of old were in this sense Christians, that is to say, that their joy and trust centered in the promised Messiah, and that the faith, whereby they overcame the world, was the same faith in the same Lord with ours, is unanswerably proved by St. Paul in several passages; particularly in Heb. xi. where he at large insists on the characters of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, to illustrate this very point.

What about when the law came at Sinai? Did that change or annul the Gospel promises? No, says Newton.

His grace always preserved a spiritual people amongst them, whose faith in the Messiah taught them the true meaning of the Levitical law, and inspired them with zeal and sincerity in the service of God.

John Owen puts it even stronger.

That the faith of all believers, from the foundation of the world, had a respect unto [Christ], I shall afterwards demonstrate; and to deny it, is to renounce both the Old Testament and the New. (John Owen, Works, Vol. 1, p. 100).

Owen, however goes on to argue that their faith was different to ours in this respect, that “this faith of theirs did principally respect his person” but they little understood “his office, or the way whereby he would redeem the church.”

He gives Peter as an example of this distinction in Matthew 16:16 where he confesses faith in Christ’s person but then almost immediately rejects the idea that he would save by suffering and dying (v. 22).

Owen accepts that the Old Testament, especially the sacrificing work of the priests, revealed Christ’s office and work also, but much of that was in shadow form, especially when contrasted with the “glorious revelations they had of his person” so that “their faith in him was the life of all their obedience.”

In answer to those who wonder what’s the point of reading the Old Testament, Owen argues that with the benefit of New Testament light, “The meanest believer may now find out more of the work of Christ in the types of the Old Testament, than any prophets or wise men could have done of old.”

Despite this disadvantage that Old Testament believers labored under, Owen vehemently refutes the idea that there was ever any way of salvation for anyone apart from faith in Christ.

From the giving of that promise the faith of the whole church was fixed on him whom God would send in our nature, to redeem and save them. Other way of acceptance with him there was none provided, none declared, but only by faith in this promise.

After a survey of Old Testament believers to prove his point, Owen returns to clarify his basic person/work distinction.

It is true that both these and other prophets had revelations concerning his sufferings also. For “the Spirit of Christ that was in them testified beforehand of his sufferings, and the glory that should follow,” (1 Pet. 1:11)….Nevertheless their conceptions concerning them were dark and obscure. It was his person that their faith principally regarded. Thence were they filled with desires and expectations of his coming, or his exhibition and appearance in the flesh. With the renewed promises hereof did God continually refresh the church in its strait and difficulties. And hereby did God call off the body of the people from trust in themselves, or boasting in their present privileges, which they were exceedingly prone unto.