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On losing a baby
Beautiful testimony from Jared Olivetti. He and his wife will be in our prayers. While on the topic, here’s a list of resources I crowd-sourced a couple of years ago.

Are you paying attention to Kirk Cameron?
Denny Burk continues to highlight some extremely worrying cultural trends. Kirk Cameron’s statement at the end of this blog is superb.

What makes business Christian?
“Work that is Christian will have 5 qualities: (1) Creation-Fulfilling; (2) Excellence-Pursuing; (3)Holiness-Reflecting; (4) Redemption-Displaying; and (5) Mission-Advancing.”

8 reasons why waiting in line drives you crazy
Sometimes it helps to understand the psychology behind our fury. Not sure if it makes us any happier though – or patient.

A day in the life of the Internet [Infographic]
What did we do before?

The Christian life is not safe

Connected KingdomThis week’s episode of the Connected Kingdom Podcast (another of our new, shorter episodes) has Tim Challies discussing the Christian life being safe—too safe. You’ve got two options: You can read the transcript below or you can listen in by clicking on the audio player. And if you listen to the end you’ll hear of an opportunity to contribute to the podcast as a guest speaker.

Download here.

A couple of months ago I worked with a graphic designer to put together an infographic that would display the attributes of God. Putting it together was far more worship than work as I looked to the Bible to see what God tells us about himself, about who he is and what he’s like. Each one of those attributes is worthy of a study because each one is part of an answer to questions like this: Who is this God who has forgiven me for my sin? What is this God like?

He is free, he is holy, he is wise, he is true, he is immutable. All that and so much more. Conspicuously absent from that list of attributes is safe. The Bible says nothing about our God being a safe God. But that is okay, because he is good.

I suppose I’m not allowed to pick favorites, but one of the attributes I find most comforting is God’s goodness. God is good, which means that he is the source of all good, he is the standard of all good, and he is only and ever and always good. That’s an awesome thing to know and believe, even if it can be hard at times to apply it.

This week I’ve been asked to speak on “safe,” or “the Christian life is not safe.” So why do I go straight to goodness? Because the Christian life truly isn’t safe, but that’s okay because our God is good and he would never ask us or command us to do anything that is in any way bad for us. I don’t just mean sinful—of course God will never lead us to sin. But he also won’t lead us to do anything that is less than what is best for us.

I think C.S. Lewis got it right with this little bit of dialog from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Mr. Beaver is trying to describe the attributes of Aslan, the book’s Christ-like character. Concerned that Aslan is a Lion, Susan jumps in and asks “Is he—quite safe?” “Safe?” Mr. Beaver says. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Our God isn’t safe, but he is good. Why then do so many of us live such safe lives? God’s attributes describe who he is, but in many cases they also describe what we are to be. Most theologians suggest that God’s attributes come in two forms: communicable and incommunicable. The attributes that are incommunicable are God’s alone—he cannot and will not communicate them to any other being. You and I will never be eternal, we will never be omnipresent. But most of God’s attributes are communicable—he gives them to us and we are right to pursue them. God is loving, so we are to be loving. God is merciful, so we are to extend mercy. And God is good so we, too, are to be good.

But God is not safe, so why is it that we value our safety so highly? We tend to value it above just about everything else. This isn’t just physical safety—the kind of thing that keeps us inventing and wearing seatbelts and the kind of thing that keeps us locking our doors at night. This is safety that keeps us from going outside our comfort zones, from refusing to do the difficult things that take us beyond what we are comfortable with.

So we give to the Lord a safe amount of money instead of an amount that is extravagant. Our giving to the Lord is just another budget item. We share the gospel carefully or passively, but without bringing it to the people who scare us or intimidate us. We praise the people who throw safety aside and who plunge into war-torn countries or who move to the difficult parts of the city. But it doesn’t do a whole lot to change our lives.

Reading the gospels can be intimidating, especially in those places that Jesus is speaking to unbelievers and telling them what it will cost them to follow him. We have to count our lives as nothing; we have to be willing to love him so much that the way we love family and friends looks like hate by contrast; we have to be willing to sell everything we have, offering ourselves up completely. That’s not safe and to most people it doesn’t sound good.

We who know the Lord have accepted all of this. We have agreed that our lives are dedicated to him. We have agreed that our health and safety is less important than his glory. We know this in our heads, but we have trouble translating it to our lives.

I am convinced that this failure to live comes from a failure to believe, from a conflict between our desire for safety and what God says about his own goodness. The fact is that everything that happens in your life, no matter how incomprehensible it may seem, it all happens for a reason, a good reason. All of it has been designed, lovingly crafted, to bring good to you and glory to God. This includes the difficult things as much as the good things, the things we don’t like as much as the things we love.

The antidote to a safe life is a firm and growing trust in God’s goodness. The Bible is full of promises to those who follow Christ, promises like this one: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God asks for an all-encompassing kind of commitment. He asks for everything, but he promises even more. He isn’t safe, but he is good.

Tim Challies

If you’d like to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

7 strategies to stop procrastinating

Summary of Time article.

1. Do the worst thing first
As you have a limited supply of will-power, start on the baddest not the biggest job.

2. Start your day over at 2pm
At 2 p.m. every day, assess how much you’ve accomplished, remind yourself of what’s critical, and start another morning at 2pm on your most important task (with a second obligatory morning coffee too).

3. Make the job smaller
If you’re seeing the forest and forgetting that it’s made of trees, start by cutting down one tree. And if you can’t cut a whole tree, cut three branches. Instead of being disheartened by how much you can’t do, look at how much you can.

4. Create an audience
Make yourself accountable to a friend and suddenly potential embarrassment becomes a powerful motivator.

5. Race the clock
Set a timer for 10 minutes, work in a focused, perhaps even frantic manner for that short stretch, and watch what happens. Once a sense of satisfaction replaces the dread you felt before, there’s a decent chance you’ll continue.

6. Don’t interrupt yourself
Usually it’s not other people aren’t interrupting you; you are interrupting yourself. By using software blocking applications you can employ technology to break free from it

7. Plan an unprocrastination day
Gather your most neglected tasks and head off on an odyssey of productivity, vowing not to return home until your long ignored to-do’s are done

Read the full article here.

Check out

How to listen to a sermon
“With a soul that is prepared, a mind that is alert, a Bible that is open, a heart that is receptive, and a life that is ready to spring into action.”

The Bible and Birth Control
Tim Challies once more “into the breach.”

Six tips on Facebook parenting
Fact #1: Parenting experts agree that a child who feels emotionally and intellectually connected to her parents is likely to make better decisions during puberty and adulthood.
Fact #2: 90% of teens with a social networking account have one on Facebook, and 7.5 million kids under 13are using Facebook to connect and share experiences with friends and family.
Conclusion: Embrace the platform (or you can take a gun to the laptop).

Six new gadgets to help people with disabilities

Metronomes going in and out of sync
This is weirdly entrancing.

Can you preach the Gospel from the law?

I’ve been slowly blogging my way through Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching (here and here) and now reach Christopher Wright’s chapter on “Preaching from the law.” Given the author, I was expecting this chapter to be excellent, but it’s actually outstanding – probably the best chapter in the book. Here’s a summary of the ten most important points, largely in Wright’s own words:

1. On the basis of 2 Timothy 3:15-16, write above every OT chapter, including legal chapters, “This Scripture is inspired by God and is useful…” [47].

2. “Before we preach law to people, we need to make sure they know the God who stands behind it and the story that goes before it. It is the God of grace and the story of grace” [48].
This is perhaps the most important sentence in the chapter (if not in the book), and if fully grasped would transform most people’s view of the law in particular and of the Old Testament in general.

3. “The law was given to people whom God had already redeemed” [48].
“Grace comes before the law. There are eighteen chapters of salvation before we get to Sinai and the Ten Commandments…I stress this because the idea that the difference between the Old and New Testaments is that in the OT salvation was by obeying the law, whereas in the NT it is by grace, is a terrible distortion of Scripture” [48].

4. “Obedience is the only right response to having been saved, and the way to enjoy the fruits of redemption, not to earn them” [49].
Always preach OT law on the foundation of God’s saving grace. Anything else will lead people to legalism, or to despair, or to pride [49].

5. By shaping Israel in the image of God, the law had a missional purpose [51].
“The law had the function of shaping Israel to be that representative people, making the character and requirements of God known to the nations. That is a missional function…The purpose of the law was to make Israel visibly different, in such a way that would draw interest and comment, and essentially bear witness to the God they worshipped” (Ex. 19:6; Dt. 4:6-8)” [51].

“We should preach OT law in such a way as to remind Christians not only of the grace of God to which they must respond, but also of their mission responsibility: to live distinctively as God’s people among the nations” [52].

“Imitation of God is a strong theme in OT law, but it does not stop there. It is the same basic principle that undergirds the teaching of Jesus about our behavior. We are to model what we do on what we know God is and does (Matt. 5:45-48; Lk. 6:27-36)” [54].

6. The law hangs like a hammock between the two poles of God’s past and present grace [52].
“The law is suspended like a hammock between two poles: the past grace of God’s historical redemption, and the future grace of God’s missional promise. Between these two poles Israel, and ourselves, are called to live in the present as those who know where we have come from and where we are going. The law in other words, makes sense within the whole story of redemption, past and future” [52].

7. Preach the law in a God-centered not man-centered way.
“Our preaching of OT law should not merely be moralistic – focusing on the minutiae of behavior and burdening people, as the Pharisees did. Rather we preach the law in such a way as to point to the God who stands behind it, asking what it reveals of his character, values and priorities. That seems to have been the thrust of Christ’s preaching too” [54].

8. The law was given for human benefit (Mk. 2:27; Dt. 4:40), as the Psalmists certainly appreciated (Ps. 19:7, 10; 119:45, 47) [55].
“The least one can say about people who express such enthusiastic sentiments for the law is that they were certainly not groveling along under a heavy burden of legalism. They were not anxiously striving to earn their way into salvation and a relationship with God through punctilious law-keeping. They were not puffed up with the claims of self-righteousness or exhausted with the efforts of works-righteousness. They did not, in short, fit into any of the caricatures which have been inflicted upon OT law by those who, misunderstanding Paul’s arguments with opponents who had distorted the law, attribute to the law itself the very distortions from which Paul was seeking to exonerate it” [55].

“Jesus became angry when the law was turned into a burden, instead of a benefit to the needy” [57]

“There is plenty material in the law that shows the heart of God for the needs of human beings, especially the vulnerable, those who are socially, economically, ethnically or sexually disadvantaged in our fallen world” [57].

9. “Old Testament law anticipates failure, judgment, and future grace” [57] “We should not imagine that the failure of OT Israel to keep God’s law somehow surprised God so much that he was forced to come up with plan B…Deuteronomy 29-32 make clear that the fault is not in the law itself, but in us” [58].

10. The Old Testament preaches the Gospel [58] In this next paragraph, I believe Wright is using “law” in the wider sense of the whole Pentateuch, or at least the Pentateuch’s exposition and application of the law.

As Deuteronomy 30 contains a powerful evangelistic appeal to return to God…”we can preach OT law, not to drive people only to despair at their failure but to lead them from the realization of failure back to the love and promises of God – as contained in the law itself. Failure is a fact. Failure is foreseen. But failure can be forgiven through the grace of God. The law itself expresses all three great Gospel truths and can be preached accordingly” [58].

Before giving an example sermon, Wright closes with a couple of priceless pages on how to move from OT law to a message for today, and concludes:

As I work towards a preachable sermon from the legal text with such questions in mind, I keep in mind also the above core principles: God’s grace as the starting point; the need for God’s people to live for the sake of God’s mission; the paradigmatic function of Israel’s law for future generations; what the text teaches about the character of God and the demands of human well-being; the realities of sin and failure and the need to preach all God’s Word with the profound sense of preacher and audience alike being sinners in need of forgiving grace [60].

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Book Recommendation: The Broken Hearted Evangelist
Brian Croft says of this book: “Every pastor and Christian for that matter, needs to put down their ’10 easy steps on how to do evangelism’ book, pick up Jeremy’s book, and simply pray for a broken heart.”

Here’s my own endorsement of the book: “I’ll be adding Jeremy’s book to my ‘once-a-year’ pile, as I need to regularly hear his warm-hearted and heart-warming plea for broken-hearted evangelism – and act upon it.”

Balanced ministry preparation
“You take care of the depth of your ministry and God will take care of the breadth of your ministry.”

Church-planting for dummies
Seems very wise to me.

Is Social Media actually making us less connected?
In a recent TED talk, MIT professor Sherry Turkle argued that “technology is taking us places we don’t want to go.”

Who will you thank in heaven?
“Someone from India or North Korea may come up to us and thank us that they are in heaven because we prayed God would save people in their country. Someone from the Philippines may thank us for praying for the advance of the gospel there, because God answered and sent a preacher to them.”

Your desk job makes you fat, sick and dead
If this infographic doesn’t make you want a stand up desk, then I guess nothing will.

“Courageous” wins San Antonio Christian Film Festival
As Doug Phillips says, this is a rare God-glorifying acceptance speech for a film awards ceremony