Check out

Aikman Opportunity Award for Young Christian Writers
Want to win $20,000 and get a book contract?

The 10 Commandments did not end at Mt. Calvary
Tom Ascol argue the case for the continued relevance of the moral law.

Culture Creep: How an Orientation is Born
You’ll need a strong stomach for this one.

Worshipping with our little children
And here’s Fred Zaspel’s enthusiastic review of Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Young Hearts.

Three Themes to Preach from Leviticus

43 Breathtaking photos you’ll never forget

Prepare for Gay Marriage

I hate writing about this subject, but with both French and British parliaments passing gay marriage laws in the past week, we’re reaching a no-turning-back point in our world. God is sovereign and specializes in last minute rescues, but barring a Mordecai-type intervention we might as well face up to the reality that gay marriage is coming down the pike at an unstoppable speed, and it’s going to impact many Christians in damaging and even destructive ways. While continuing to pray, preach, and campaign against this (read these nine words again), we must also ask how we can prepare for the collision in such a way that minimizes the carnage.

1. Prepare our children
Most of us try to protect our children from sexual information until they are mature enough to handle it, without delaying so much that they end up hearing it first from someone else. We also want to lay a solid foundation of teaching them about God’s beautiful design for sexual relationships before eventually explaining the various perversions of God’s order.

That privilege – of waiting until our children are old enough and of presenting the beautiful before the ugly – will be increasingly denied us by the normalization and display of homosexuality in the media, in schools, and in the malls. This is going to be tough, but we will have to teach our children much earlier and about much more than we would ordinarily choose.

2. Prepare to love
Though Christians are often accused of hating homosexuals, homosexuals harbor far more hate for Christians than vice versa. They really do hate us in a way I’ve never seen in any other group – way more than radical Muslims or even the secular humanist and communist groups of the 1970′s to 1990′s, and that’s saying something. They are our self-declared enemies and want to see our beliefs, words, and actions criminalized. They want to shut down our businesses, render Christians unemployable, and incarcerate our preachers.

In response, we must love them.

That’s going to be one of the hardest things we will ever do, as most of us will never have encountered such personal enmity from anyone. But we must beg for the spirit of Christ, who prayed, “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.” We must graciously and gently good-news them and good-deed them, while being unflinching in our moral convictions.

We don’t need to prove our spiritual manhood by condemning homosexuality in every sermon and prayer. Keep the focus on the saving love of Christ, no matter how tempting it is to get into constant condemnation mode. Remember, there are probably homosexuals in most of our congregations. Try to win them, not beat them.

3. Prepare for jail
I doubt most politicians really want lots of otherwise law-abiding citizens jailed for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding, or for preaching that homosexuality is wrong. Many do, however, want to create a climate of intimidation that will deter Christians from doing such things. If the UK pattern is a model – and it looks as if US campaigners are using the same playbook – they will pass “hate-crime” legislation, press charges against us, shame us in the media, stigmatize our businesses and churches, threaten us with the loss of our children, and impose substantial fines, all in the hope to scare us into silence. But when none of these things move us, the legal penalties will intensify until eventually some of us, maybe many of us, will end up going to prison for it. We’d better get ready for that inevitable reality.

4. Prepare for betrayal
This is going to be a sifting time. Some Christians will cave. Prominent preachers will compromise. Famous Christians will distance themselves from believers who have fallen foul of homosexual campaigners. “What’s the point in going to jail? We can still preach the Gospel without ever mentioning homosexuality. We must be wise….etc.” There will be major Judas-type disappointments. The mighty will fall. But many humble unknown Christians will suffer honorably and beautifully and know the blessedness of being persecuted for righteousness sake.

5. Prepare a refuge?
This great nation was founded when a group of persecuted believers fled religious persecution to find and enjoy freedom of religion. It’s beyond ironic that the very same pilgrims would be among the first targets of this new “religious” persecution if they were alive today. If the current trajectory continues, we will look at one another and ask, “Where can we flee to?” Perhaps a State will come forward that will stand up to this tyranny and offer refuge to thousands of moral and spiritual refugees, aliens in their own land. Maybe another Mayflower will be required, perhaps many of them, this time to sail away from these shores in hope of finding freedom to worship and serve God according to His Word. But where to? Where is left? Russia? Which brings us to…

6. Prepare for eternity
The Bible makes clear, and history backs it up, that when a people goes down this route, it’s close to it’s end. It has run out of moral ground, it’s already over the cliff, and falling into the holy wrath of God. As country after country passes gay marriage laws, the end is coming closer and closer. If the USA falls, how far behind will God’s judgment be? The time is short and shortening. We need mercy, we need prayer, we need to plead with our family and friends to flee the coming wrath by fleeing to Christ the only savior of sinners – yes even homosexual sinners – that will come to Him for salvation.

In the meantime, let’s not give up and give in but continue to do all that we can to save our society and precious souls.

The Last Enemy: Preparing to Win the Fight of Your Life

Book Review: The Last Enemy by Michael Wittmer

If anyone can make a book on death a bestseller, it’s Mike Wittmer. A lively, original, concise writer who combines solid biblical orthodoxy with a rare ability to communicate truth in an interesting, and yes, even entertaining way.

Maybe “entertaining” is too strong a word, especially considering that the topic is death. I certainly don’t want you to think that Mike is approaching this serious topic in a superficial or trivializing way. Perhaps “enjoyable” is more accurate. If it’s possible to write an enjoyable book about death, then Mike’s done it.

It’s enjoyable for two reasons. The first is the wonderful truth that Mike is teaching in the latter part of the book. The first ten chapters, though, are about “Knowing your enemy,” each explaining one word that’s associated with the pain of death (e.g. shock, fear, anger, sorrow, guilt, regret, etc). You won’t laugh reading these pages. It’s real and raw.

But the joy comes as he transitions to thirteen chapters calling us to “Trust Christ’s victory.” These chapters provide beautiful meditations on thirteen biblical words showing how the Gospel of Christ utterly and totally transforms death (e.g. resurrection, triumph, rest, hope, heaven, etc).

For believers and unbelievers
The book is also enjoyable for the way Mike communicates the truth. It’s a fast-paced book with short chapters, and lots of anecdotes, illustrations, quotations, and down-to-earth application. Although written for Christians, it would be an excellent book to put into the hands of unbelievers as well, especially those facing death. It would also be good for the unconverted children of a Christian who has fallen asleep in Jesus.

I think I’ll add it to the books I should read every year as it would not only help me to obey the Augustinian admonition to “Think daily upon thine own death,” but also to “Think daily about thine own glorious future!”

The Last Enemy by Michael Wittmer. Mike blogs here and Twitters here.

Check out

The pastor and his reading
Reading guru Tony Reinke has a link in this article to the address he gave at the Desiring God National Conference. He lists 14 ways a pastor can build a reading church.

Simple ideas that are borderline genius
Use these photos to marvel at how much divine creativity reamins in His image-bearers.

8 ways to pray during sermon preparation
Good one to print out and tape to your screen.

20 Tips for Parenting Young Kids
Now really looking forward to Steve’s next post on parenting teens ;)

Any place for the God of Job?
Carl covers a lot in this post but one para I especially enjoyed was this: “Christians are no more exempt from depression than they are from cancer or strokes; and the idea that these things are necessarily linked to our lack of faith, to our personal sin, to our outlook on life, or, indeed, to anything intrinsic to us, is nonsense and unbiblical.” He concludes: “One of the problems with Osteen is that his theology has no place for the God of Job.   But before we go after Osteen on this score, we need to ask ourselves: Does our theology have a place for such a God?”

What you need to know for preaching through Ecclesiastes
Timothy Reymond recently concluded a 13 sermon series on Ecclesiastes – no mean feat – and passes on three reflections on the experience.

10 Ways to Give Constructive Criticism

If I only preached on what I’d mastered, I’d never preach again. Sometimes, I’ve even had to preach on topics that I’d barely begun to understand or do. That’s the territory I’m in today with this blog post. I’d say that offering constructive criticism is probably one of my weakest areas, even worse that my ability to receive it! So, take this very much as “Here’s where I’d like to go,” or “Here’s what I’ve learned about constructive criticism from a lifetime of giving destructive criticism.”

1. It’s preceded by praise
I don’t believe in “the sandwich principle” that says you must put a slice of praise before and after every criticism. That often devalues the praise and deceives the person. However, I do believe that for criticism to have any hope of accomplishing anything, it should be set in the wider context of praise. There should be praise in the bank, before we start drawing down with any criticisms.

2. It’s infrequent
On the basis of #1, some people think that a little bit of praise sprinkled here and there permits them to launch frequent nuclear missiles at their unfortunate targets. In Practicing Affirmation, Sam Crabtree suggests a praise/criticism ratio of at least 3:1 and preferably closer to 5:1. But he also says that “relationships are healthy when so much affirmation is being spread around that no one is keeping track of either affirmation or correction.”

3. It’s limited
Criticism should be more like a sniper’s bullet than buckshot. It aims at one specific target and refuses to take potshots at anything else. “And while we’re at it, let me tell you…” Please don’t.

4. It majors on majors
If you’re going to criticize every fault and failing of everyone around you, you’re going to be very busy…and lonely. We live in a sinful world. The best of us are flaw-full. We simply must learn to overlook minor faults in others – not talk about them to others and, if possible, not even think about them. Save your critical energy for major targets. That way you’ll help yourself and others.

5. It’s supported by evidence
First, make sure you are criticizing what God criticizes, that you’re not basing everything simply on your own preferences or prejudices. Second, can you prove it? Can you point to evidence to support your criticism? Is “I think…” and “I feel…” and “I suspect…” the best you’ve got? Then let it go.

6. It’s aim is building not demolition
All criticism involves some element of demolition: wrong conduct to be torn down,  wrong beliefs to be razed. But the ultimate aim is to build something better, even beautiful, in its place. If our motive is to leave a person’s life in smoldering ruins, then we are doing the devil’s work. But if our aim is a better person, a stronger person, a more mature person, then we are in the profitable business of constructive criticism.

7. It’s prayerfully considered
It’s so easy to spout out an ill-considered or nil-considered criticism in response to an immediate event or conversation. That rarely accomplishes anything beneficial, and usually results in a shouting (or crying) match. No matter how tempting, it is almost always advisable to take 24 hours at least and to pray over it. That should help purify the motive, identify the best target, and dampen the emotions. Which brings us to…

8. It’s dispassionate
This is probably my greatest weakness of many others in this area. I find it so hard to be calm and cool about certain things. My red face, tense voice, and shaky hands start people’s alarm bells ringing, and, unsurprisingly, their defenses go up, as does their temperature. Not a recipe for building anything good.

9. It comes from the right person
The Bible is very clear about the need to respect our elders. Usually that will mean we will rarely offer criticism to our superiors, or if we do, it will be with strict qualifications (1 Tim. 5:1-2, 19). I’ve sometimes been asked by a boss or an older Christian to say if I notice anything in their character or conduct that is wrong. I find that almost impossible to do. And I think that’s OK. Our superiors should normally look to their superiors for correction. And let’s focus on those whom the Lord has committed to our responsibility, not on those we have no relationship with and no authority over.

10. It’s humble
Have you ever changed as a result of an arrogant person pointing out your faults? No, neither have I. In fact, I’ve probably determined to do what was critiqued even more. But when a person humbly comes alongside me, confesses his own faults, admits his own struggles, maybe even in that particular area, then my ears are open and so is my heart.

The Brokenhearted Evangelist

Book Review: The Brokenhearted Evangelist by Jeremy Walker

Thesis: The most urgent and effective evangelists are those who have known and felt the agony of their own sin and the delight of Christ’s salvation.

Proof: Psalm 51.

Many of us grieve over how pathetic we are at evangelism – both at on-to-one evangelism and preaching evangelistically. Some of us have tried to learn strategies and techniques to improve, without much long-term success.

On the basis of David’s experience in Psalm 51, Jeremy Walker argues, persuasively, that what we need is not better methods but deeper knowledge and experience of our sin and of salvation through Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice. It’s that, says Jeremy, that “makes a Christian not only urgent, earnest, and eager to see men and women saved from their sins but also compelling and convicting.”

It’s after David has passed through the deep waters of tearful conviction and joyful (re)conversion that he says: “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners shall be converted to you” (Ps. 51:13).

The five chapters answer five questions:

  1. Am I Willing? Our Undeniable Obligation
  2. Am I Effective? Our Necessary Equipment
  3. Am I Committed? Our Appointed Means
  4. Am I Focused? Our Declared Aim
  5. Am I Fruitful? Our Great Expectation

Two section of the book stood out. First, in chapter 1, Jeremy provides eight answers to the question: What are some of the holy pressures that carry us from being brokenhearted over our sin to being brokenhearted evangelists?

  • The reality of our own experience of salvation (if we’ve received the greatest ever gift, how can we not share it?)
  • Our spiritual well-being and joy (God may chastise us for failing to evangelize)
  • The sincerity of our prayers (how can we pay “Your kingdom come” and do nothing to bring it?)
  • The health of Christ’s Church (we can’t rely on just internal church growth)
  • Our obedience to God (whatever our calling, we are called to speak a word for Jesus Christ)
  • The souls of the unsaved (what kind of friend does not share good news with his friends?)
  • The honor of Jesus Christ 
  • The glory of God

Second, in chapter 4, Jeremy pictures the unconverted person as an archery target and asks what circle are we aiming at:

  • The white ring of self-referential evangelism: Aiming to make ourselves look  good or feel good.
  • The black ring of social acceptability: Aiming to control or restrain a person’s sin.
  • The blue ring of good citizenship: Aiming to help someone be a better citizen, father, wife, employee, etc.
  • The red ring of good churchmanship: Aiming to get people to become members of our church.
  • The bullseye of conversion to Christ: Nothing else will do!

I believe this book will help many Gospel archers aim better, by helping us to aim the arrow first at ourselves.

The Brokenhearted Evangelist by Jeremy Walker. Apart from regularly contributing to Ref21, Jeremy also posts at his own blog, The Wanderer.