Clothes That Increase Our Holiness

According to researchers, you can make yourself more brainy by wearing the right kind of clothes. We’re all familiar with the concept of power dressing, where wearing a smart suit and tie or a uniform can suddenly make you feel more confident and decisive. But brainy dressing?

Well, a recent study discovered that when people were given a white coat to wear, they made 50% less mistakes in tests than people in ordinary clothes. When both groups were dressed in white coats but one group were told they were wearing a painter’s overall whereas the others were told they were wearing a doctor’s coat, the “doctors” again excelled the “painters” in mental challenges.

Spiritual Dressing
If physical clothes can produce such an improvement in confidence and performance, how much more should spiritual clothes? The Bible tells us that Christians are permanently clothed with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ (Isa. 61:10; Gal .3:27).

That means that when God looks at us, He doesn’t see our ragged lives, but rather he sees us clothed with Christ’s perfect life. The more we believe that, and keep believing that, the greater will be our spiritual confidence and our spiritual “performance.”

May God give us preachers who strip off our rags of self-righteousness and who help us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 14:14).

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Cell Transplants May Be a Novel Treatment for Schizophrenia
Unlike traditional approaches to treating schizophrenia, such as medications and deep-brain stimulation, transplantation of interneurons potentially can produce a permanent solution. “You can essentially fix the problem,” Dr. Lodge said. “Ultimately, if this is translated to humans, we want to reprogram a patient’s own cells and use them.”

Can Evangelical Chaplains Serve God and Country
Al Mohler: “Can chaplains committed to historic biblical Christianity serve in the United States military? That question, though inconceivable to our nation’s founders, is now front and center. And the answer to that question will answer another, even more important question: Can religious liberty survive under America’s new moral order”

Ligonier National Conference 2014
Theme: Overcoming the World: Being a Christian in a Post-Christian Culture.

House Fire, Burn Ward, Blessing
Rebecca tells the moving story of how her younger brother was seriously injured rescuing his grandfather from a house fire.

God of the OT v God of the NT?
Don Carson with a surprising answer.

Is it time to move to Logos?
Tim Challies with a good analysis of Logos Bible Software’s strengths and weaknesses.

Cast Your Bread Upon The Waters (Eccl. 11:1)

Who is Your Challenger in Chief?

Did you know that you get a dopamine rush when someone echoes what you already believe? It’s similar to the buzz we get when we eat chocolate or fall in love. Sounds like we should surround ourselves with people who agree with us, doesn’t it. Sadly that’s what often happens to leaders, including church and ministry leaders. They are drawn to those who affirm them and tend to avoid, silence, or ignore those who might challenge them.

But as Noreena Hertz explains at the Harvard Business Review, “a vast body of research now points to the import of contemplating diverse, dissenting views. Not just in terms of making us more rounded individuals but in terms of making us smarter decision-makers. Dissent, it turns out, has a significant value.”

When group members are actively encouraged to openly express divergent opinions they not only share more information, they consider it more systematically and in a more balanced and less biased way. When people engage with those with different opinions and views from their own they become much more capable of properly interrogating critical assumptions and identifying creative alternatives. Studies comparing the problem-solving abilities of groups in which dissenting views are voiced with groups in which they are not find that dissent tends to be a better precondition for reaching the right solution than consensus.

Honest Feedback
It’s extremely hard for a leader to get honest feedback due to the fact that most people’s tendency is to say what the leader wants to hear. Yet how many leaders actively seek out and encourage views alien and at odds to their own? Not many. And, as Hertz demonstrates, this has damaging consequences.

President Lyndon Johnson notoriously discouraged dissent, with many historians now believing that this played a significant role in the decision to escalate U.S. military operations in Vietnam. Excessive group-think is now recognized to have underpinned President Kennedy’s disastrous authorization of a CIA-backed landing at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs. Former employees of the now defunct Lehman Brothers have talked about how voicing dissent there was considered a career-breaker. Yale economics professor Robert Shiller explained that when it came to warning about the bubbles he believed were developing in the stock and housing markets just before the financial crisis he did so only “quietly” because: “Deviating too far from consensus leaves one feeling potentially ostracized from the group with the risk that one may be terminated.”

Hertz urges leaders to actively signal that they want to hear views different and diverse and in opposition to their own and cites a number of encouraging examples.

Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google, has talked about how he actively seeks out in meetings people with a dissenting opinion. Abraham Lincoln’s renowned “team of rivals” was comprised of people whose intellect he respected and were confident enough to take issue with him when they disagreed with his point of view. Stuart Roden, Co Fund Manager of Lansdowne Partners’ flagship fund, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, tells me he sees one of his primary roles as being the person who challenges his staff to consider how they could be wrong, and then assess how this might impact on their decision-making.

Of course, for Christian ministry, we’re not talking about encouraging people to challenge core biblical doctrines and practices. We’re speaking more of vision, direction, strategy, administration, problem-solving, management, etc.

Who is your Challenger in Chief? Who questions your choices? Who contradicts your positions?

And are you listening to them, or shutting them down?

You can read Noreena Hertz’s article here, although you probably need a free subscription to get access.

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Admonitions for Students Entering Seminary
And here’s part two and part three.

Mental Illness and the Church
This is so depressing. “48% of evangelical Christians believe that with Bible study and prayer ALONE, people with serious mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, can overcome mental illness.” What have you done to lead, mislead, or confuse people in this area?

Memoirs of the Way Home
My colleague and friend Dr. Jerry Bilkes has just published his second book, a Bible study which introduces readers to the little-known Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah and demonstrates that they are an expanded version of the story of the prodigal son, preaching the same message of conversion. If you enjoyed Jerry’s profound yet simple book on the parables, you’ll love this book too.

Developing Sermon Outlines
I always enjoy and learn from how others do this.

Evangelicalism and its Pathologies
The dawn, dominance, division, and development of evangelicalism.

The creator of this video writes: “I attempted to create a person in order to emulate the aging process. The idea was that something is happening but you can’t see it but you can feel it, like aging itself.”

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). [HT: Tony Reinke]

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3 Classroom Recommendations for Graduate Students
Superb advice on how to make the most of your time in College or Seminary.

A Drug To Treat Autism
When was the last time you heard public prayer for God’s blessing on drug research? Maybe we would see more hopeful stories like this if we did.

Get More Done by Checking Your Email Only Twice a Day
I’ve tried this, and it works. The trick is to make it a habit.

Magnificent Waterspouts on Lake Michigan
Videos and photos of what the Psalmist saw in Psalm 42:7.

Godless in Academia
Rod Dreher asks: “What becomes of a culture when it’s entire intellectual class is atheist?”

Watch the Hangout
Last Thursday I took part in a Q&A Google Hangout with Jeremy Gardiner at Gospel eBooks and Kim Boyer at Thomas Nelson.

Dancing in the Sky

This video went viral in the last few weeks and really took off on the anniversary of 9/11. I’m not much of a music guy, but this song and especially this singer, Lizzy Nelson, really grabbed my heartstrings. It was written when Lizzy lost a friend and the terrible pain of this bereavement is palpably tangible in her song. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one can sense a strangely comforting resonance in her voice.

But it’s the words that struck me even deeper. There’s a hopefulness in them, and yet there’s an even greater hopelessness.

What does it look like in heaven?
Is it peaceful, is it free like they say?
Does the sun shine bright forever?
Have your fears and your pain gone away?

Here on earth it feels like everything good is missing since you left,
And here on earth everything’s different, there’s an emptiness.
Oh oh I, I hope your dancing in the sky,
And I hope your singing in the angels choir,
And I hope the angels know what they have,
I’ll bet it’s so nice up in heaven since you arrived.

So tell me what do you do up in heaven?
Are your days filled with love and light?
Is there music, is there art and invention?
Tell me are you happy? Are you more alive?

Hopefulness and Hopelessness
The hopefulness is there, isn’t it? The hope that there’s something more, something better after this world. Three times in the chorus, Lizzy exclaims “I hope.” And her eight questions are all enquiring as to her hope that it’s much better up there than down here.

But the hopelessness is in the fact that these are simply questions. There’s no certainty that heaven exists. If it does exist, there’s no confidence about what it is like. And there’s no comforting assurance that her friend is there. There’s just “I hope” and lots and lots of questions.

Christian hope
Contrast that with the Bible-based hope of the Christian who can not only have certain confidence in the existence of heaven, and the nature of heaven, but also be certain about how to get there through Christ, and have assurance that they are going there.

Our “hope” is more than a “hope so.” It’s a know-so. It’s a biblically grounded certainty, and it’s based upon the person and work of Christ alone rather than who we are and what we’ve done.

We can therefore answer a resounding “YES” to Lizzy’s questions when they are asked of a Christian believer who has died. Yes, it’s peaceful. Yes, it’s free. Yes, it’s inexpressibly bright forever. Yes, all fear and pain have gone away. Dancing, hmm, okay not so sure about that one, but celebrating definitely. Yes, singing in angels’ choirs. Yes, heaven is beautified with each new arrival. Yes, the days are filled with love and light. Yes, there is music, art, and invention. Yes, inexpressibly happy. And yes, more alive than ever before.

That doesn’t mean that the bereaved family and friends of Christians do not mourn over the deep pain of their loss. At times for us too it feels like everything good is missing, that everything on earth is different, and that there’s an aching emptiness. However, when we have Christian hope, the pain is lessened and balanced by our confidence in all that God’s Word says about heaven, those who go there, and what it’s like there.

I sincerely hope and pray that Lizzy will come to know this hope for herself. And may each one of us so live that when we come to die, our loved ones can sing Psalm 23 instead of Dancing in the Sky.

Further reading: Psalm 16, 23; John 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 6:11, 17; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 John 2:3; 5:13. Revelation 21-22.