Check out

Can we be positive about Psychiatric Medications
Hugely significant article by Ed Welch. Also see Why do we seem so negative about Psychiatric Medications?

Praying past our preferred outcomes
Nancy Guthrie with Prayer Theology worked out in the trenches.

Four reasons why you should write in your books
I’m doing a lot more “writing in my books” since I started reading most of them on the Kindle. Does that count?

What brain food actually does for your brain
Fascinating discoveries that have probably come too late for some of us.


How can I stop using my phone all the time?

Adam Dachis asks: “How can I stop using my phone all the time and actually connect with people in the real world?”

I think many of us can identify with this question. If it’s not a problem for us, it probably is for our kids. If it is a problem for us, our bad example will soon make it a problem for our kids.

Apparently the most common accident for an iPhone is for men to drop it down the toilet! Which says a lot!!

This can be a real addiction. Scientists have detected that every time an email arrives, or we get an RT, or a Facebook like, our bodies inject a tiny squirt of pleasure chemical (it’s like a mini crack-cocaine hit). So every buzz or beep notification creates a craving in our bodies for the squirt-hit.

How to break the addiction? Adam’s strategies include:

  • No phone usage at social events unless you really need to call someone or you’re looking up information as a group activity ,
  • No answering calls or text messages on a date unless you’re expecting an emergency call or the calls will not stop coming.
  • You can only use the phone at stoplights, and only to check directions or change music.
  • No smartphone usage during short-term interactions (e.g. checking out at the grocery store).
  • Turn off alerts for most apps
  • Lock your phone with a long password

Lots of families use a phone basket where everyone’s phones have to be placed during mealtimes with no access exceptions, no matter if the pile is beeping and buzzing like a Nasa rocket.

Also, how about switching on airplane mode one hour before bed and not switching it back until after you’ve prayed and read the Bible each morning.

Another approach is to set a rule that for every time you check email, etc., the next time you feel the urge, try to pray for someone. That will cut phone use by 50% and significantly increase the number of people you pray for every day.

What other strategies have you found helpful?

Read the rest of Adam’s post here.


Check out

Pixels are people
Can you have friendships with people you’ve only met over the Internet? And what difference does it make when you meet them in person? Nathan Bingham reflects on his recent move from Australia to work for Ligonier in Orlando.

Reflections after being on the road
Kevin DeYoung and Nick Setterington are just back from a “mission/teaching” tour of the Middle East and Turkey. I enjoyed reading Kevin’s reflections on his trip.

Can Minerva build an online Ivy?
“The first elite American University to be launched in more than a century.” And it’s all online!

Forget Newsweek. Follow Jesus
“Like the perennial dandelions that pop up on lawns each spring, when Easter week rolls around you can expect Newsweek to put some form of Jesus being blasphemed on their cover.” Barry York responds to Newsweek’s advice to “Forget the Church, follow Jesus.”

Renewing your mind minute
New one minute podcasts from Ligonier.

8 New Counseling Discipleship booklets
I haven’t read these but the ones I have read in this series so far have been excellent. Great Church door resources.


The secret to grace under pressure

So how do we avoid the kind of public speaking brain freezes I highlighted yesterday?

Time Magazine suggests two strategies:

Play it down
The last thing you should do is tell yourself: “This is really important.”

Instead of  spurring you to new heights, it’s likely to increase anxiety and undermine your confidence. Research shows that reminding yourself how unimportant the event is in the big scheme of things is a better tactic, and psychologists have come up with a variety of ingenious ways to help us do so.

Well, this is hardly an acceptable strategy for preachers of the Gospel. Because this really is important. Nothing more important.

Next strategy please…

Remember your ancestors
Yes, apparently students who “thought and wrote about their ancestors did better on subsequent intelligence tests than members of the control group (who were asked to think instead about their most recent trip to the supermarket).”

Why should remembering our great-great-grandparents help us perform better?

Normally, our ancestors managed to overcome a multitude of personal and societal problems, such as severe illnesses, wars, loss of loved ones or severe economic declines. So, when we think about them, we are reminded that humans who are genetically similar to us can successfully overcome a multitude of problems and adversities.

Now there’s something that preachers could learn from.  Next time we start sweating, choking, freezing, or sinking, let’s think back through Church History and through Biblical History to remind ourselves of the great army of preachers who have blazed the trail before us, usually in much more difficult circumstances.

Certainly a bit more inspirational than the last trip to the supermarket.


Check out

It’s been a year
After living a life that blessed multitudes, a dear friend to so many is coming to the end of his journey.

How eternity shapes the mundane
Parental amnesia is where we forget about two things: tomorrow and eternity.

A Guide to staying Christian in Seminary
Here’s an index to some of the multiple recent posts on this subject that have been appearing all over the web. Although there’s some excellent material in here, I do think this subject has been a bit overdone. I can think of a multitude of other environments that are significantly more dangerous, but have not been given such treatments.

Affective Preaching
Fascinating post, but particularly appreciated this line: “Those preachers whose sermon outlines made it difficult for their hearers to remember it for later were not viewed as popularly as those whose outlines made remembering it easier.”

Do eBooks make it harder to remember what you just read
Think the answer is probably “yes” but the highlights/notes features in the Kindle help preserve the fruits of reading much more efficiently.

One third of US High School students own an iPhone
And this is supposed to be the worst recession since the Great Depression?

What’s a steal and what’s junk at the dollar store
Hope my wife reads this one


Lessons from Donald Verelli’s Supreme Court choke

It’s the most important Supreme Court case in 30 years. The President’s legacy and electoral future depends on its outcome. And he’s chosen you to represent him before the justices. [Image from Time]

 You’ve had 18 months to prepare your opening speech with no limit to the resources or experts at your disposal. The Chief Justice calls you forward. This is the moment that Yale, decades of legal practice, and numerous previous Supreme Court appearances have prepared you for.

You open your mouth and…cough…and splutter…and stumble… and start again…and harrumph…and repeat yourself….and drink a glass of water…and so on. There goes your opening statement!

Solicitor General Donald Verelli’s performance last week has been widely panned, even by Obamacare supporters, with one commentator calling his brain freeze, “one of the most spectacular flameouts ever in the history of the Court.”

You can listen to the audio of his opening statement here, or you can listen to a rather unfair compilation of all Verelli’s fumbles here (please don’t let anyone ever do this to me with one of my sermons).

Anyone who speaks regularly in public can sympathize with Verelli to some extent – because it’s happened to most of us to one degree or another.

Toe-curling
Recently I was watching an online video of a sermon being preached by a popular preacher in a large well-known American church, when this usually polished speaker started falling to pieces. He was stumbling over his words, failing to complete sentences, shuffling his notes all over the pulpit, and speaking at 100 mph.

With hands shaking and face reddening, he then tried a couple of unfunny jokes and quips. With toes curling all over the congregation, including my own, he eventually stopped, took a deep breath, apologized, and said he needed to slow down. He recovered quite well and went on to complete his sermon.

Something similar has happened to me, twice in fact. One time I was due to preach a 35-40 minute sermon, and managed only about 15 mins before I had to stop and sit down. I just couldn’t gather my thoughts enough to go any further. I don’t think I even managed the benediction.

The other time I was publicly reading a chapter from the Bible, when I started to stumble – once, then twice, then three times. The words started going out of focus, sweat started forming on my forehead, and I wondered if I would be able to complete the reading. Thankfully, on that occasion, I found a way to defrost my brain – by pausing, praying, taking a few deep breaths and slowing down.

Reasons for freezing?
I don’t know why Verelli or the popular preacher froze, but I know why I did – the first time I was mentally exhausted through various long-term stresses in my life, and the second time I was physically exhausted through sleep deprivation.

But there are other possible reasons too, and we should use these (thankfully rare) humiliating occasions to search our consciences and lives:

  • Lack of preparation: Perhaps I simply didn’t prepare enough, resulting in poorly thought-out material or a confusing presentation.
  • Fear of man: Was I so worried about what certain people would think or how they might react, that my mind was paralyzed with fear?
  • Bad conscience: Was there sin in my private life that rose up to accuse me in public ministry?
  • Out of depth: Did I try to deal with a passage or subject that was beyond my abilities? Or am I speaking to an audience that is above my capacity?
  • God’s sovereignty: Although the first time I froze was partly caused by worry and stress, it was also a season in my life when God was humbling me, and this experience was part of (probably the climax of) the humbling. God can, in His wise and sovereign providence, leave us to sink, as he did Peter, in order to expose the weakness and folly of our self-confidence and to remind us that we need His all-sufficiency.

Let’s just be so thankful that God never deals with us as we deserve. Otherwise, we would probably be left to sink, or freeze, or choke, or all three every time we stood in a pulpit.