Worldview

Three Myths About the World’s Poor
Bill and Melinda Gates call foreign aid a phenomenal investment that’s transforming the world and tackle three myths that perpetuate the false idea that everything is getting worse.

MYTH ONE: Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.
They’re really not. Incomes and other measures of human welfare are rising almost everywhere—including Africa.

MYTH TWO: Foreign aid is a big waste.
Actually, it is a phenomenal investment. Foreign aid doesn’t just save lives; it also lays the groundwork for lasting, long-term economic progress.

MYTH THREE: Saving lives leads to overpopulation.
Anxiety about the size of the world population has a dangerous tendency to override concern for the human beings who make up that population. When more children survive, parents decide to have smaller families. This pattern of falling death rates followed by falling birthrates applies for the vast majority of the world.

85 Richest People Own As Much as Bottom Half of the Population
Meanwhile at the opposite end of the scale, a new report says that “the 85 richest people on earth have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the population.”

We’re going to hear a lot about income inequality over the next two years – looks like the Democrats are going to run on this – so we might as well know the facts:

  • The richest 1% of the population owns about 46% of global wealth.
  • The richest 1% had $110 trillion in wealth — 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the population
  • That bottom half of the population owned about $1.7 trillion, or about 0.7% of the world’s wealth (the same amount as owned by the 85 richest people).
  • The percentage of income held by the richest 1% in the U.S. has grown by nearly 150% since 1980.
  • The top 1% in the USA has received 95% of wealth created since 2009, while the bottom 90% of Americans have become poorer.

Does all this really matter? Well, according to the World Economic Forum, “widening income inequality was the risk most likely to cause serious damage in the next decade,” and “President Obama recently called the expanding gap between rich and poor a bigger threat to the U.S. economy than the budget deficit.”

Personally, I believe the greater danger comes from the envy and anger that politicians will stir up by using these figures not to help the poor but simply to win votes.

MTV Reduces Teen Pregnancy
Not a headline you’d expect to read is it? TV has been rightly blamed over the years for increasing promiscuity and teen pregnancy. But if it’s so influential, why not turn it to good? That’s what seems to have happened (unintentionally) in areas where MTV’s 16 And Pregnant has been broadcast.

The authors found that the show “led to more searches and tweets regarding birth control and abortion, and ultimately led to a 5.7 percent reduction in teen births in the 18 months following its introduction. This accounts for around one-third of the overall decline in teen births in the United States during that period.”

5.7% may not sound like a lot but it means thousands of fewer teen births per year. The teen birth rate in the U.S. decreased 25 percent between 2007 and 2011, and the preliminary data for 2012 shows that teen births are at a record low.

The Second Machine Age
Despite widespread talk of worldwide economic stagnation due to demographics, globalization, and a slowdown in technological innovation, two professors from MIT have come forward to claim that “the global economy is on the cusp of a dramatic growth spurt driven by smart machines that finally take full advantage of advances in computer processing, artificial intelligence, networked communication and the digitization of just about everything.”

Their optimism springs from the idea of exponential growth — in the computing power of machines, in the amount of digital information that is being created and in the number of relatively cheap devices that are continually talking to each other.

To illustrate the point, Brynjolfsson and McAfee cite the example of Instagram and Kodak. Instagram is a simple app that has allowed more than 130 million people to share some 16 billion photos. Within 15 months of its founding, Instagram was sold to Facebook — a company with 1 billion users — for $1 billion. It was only a few months later that Kodak, the Instagram of its day, declared bankruptcy. The authors use this little vignette to illustrate two points. The first is to point out that the market value of Facebook/Instagram is now several times the value of Eastman Kodak at its peak, creating, by their calculation, seven billionaires, each of whom has a net worth 10 times greater than George Eastman ever had. Such is the “bounty” of the second machine age.


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Welcome to Seminary: Now What?
Al Mohler has five challenges for seminary students.

The Beauty of the Impassible God
Demanding but important article.

The Transracial Implications of the Gospel
“When a black man sits next to a white woman who is next to a rich man sitting beside a poor man; when an educated white woman fellowships with a poor, uneducated immigrant; when a clean-shaven, well-dressed man sits beside a facial-pierced, tattooed girl in grunge clothes; when the fellowship of the saints cannot be attributed in any way to natural inclinations—only then will the world see that we truly love each other—and that ours is a supernatural love.”

Avoiding Burnout
Burnout is “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

Confessions of a Reluctant Servant
Christian Fox: “Servanthood is uncomfortable. It requires putting your own needs aside for someone else. It’s humbling, thankless, and hard. Not only is it hard, but the act of serving can also inconvenience and interrupt our own purposes and plans.”

Alone Yet Not Alone
I never knew Joni Tada Eareckson was a singer, SUCH a singer, and now Oscar nominated for Best Original Song.


10 Benefits of Being a Seminary Professor

Yesterday, I listed 21 reasons why you don’t want to become a seminary professor. My aim was not to tell you how bad a job I have (I love my job), but to show the excellence of pastoral ministry and how much young men lose when they try to get behind a lectern when they’ve hardly been behind a pulpit.

Tom commented that in the interests of balance, I should also give the pros of being a seminary professor. I couldn’t find 21, but what I lack in quantity, I hope I make up for in quality!

1. You will get to study and teach theology as your job! Your daily work is to prayerfully study the Scriptures and the best Christian books. Lots of people would pay to do that. And you can go deeper in your subject than most pastors who have to move on to a new batch of sermons every week. It’s especially enjoyable to teach what you are passionate about – for me, that’s Christ in the Old Testament, holistic biblical counseling, and servant-leadership.

2. You will be mentally and spiritually developed. You can sometimes wing it in a sermon. You can never wing it in a lecture – not with a class full of sharp and eager students who can smell an under-prepared lecture a mile away. Iron sharpens iron, forcing you to study hard, think hard, and write hard.

3. You will be enriched and sanctified by students from multiple nations and cultures. It’s such a blessing to have students and even pastors from all over the world in the same classroom. You realize how little you know, how little you have experienced, how little a view of God you have had. It’s so exciting to see the men God is equipping and calling to go out into all the world with the Gospel.

4. You will work with gifted and godly colleagues. The ministry is often a lonely life. There’s much more collegiality at a seminary with helpful fellow-professors just a few steps of your office. It’s so humbling to see how others’ intellectual and spiritual gifts so infinitely transcend your own.

5. You will see hopeless preachers turned into powerful preachers. In my first few years at Puritan Seminary, I frequently heard students preach their first “practice sermon” and immediately concluded, “Well this guy’s never going to fly. In fact, he won’t even get out of the hangar.” Three years later God has transformed him into a clearly called and equipped preacher of the Gospel. Being proven wrong like this is one of the greatest joys of seminary life.

6. You will be sent lots and lots of books. A publisher recently sent me five separate copies of one book. No wonder they were soon boasting of a re-print! But seriously, hardly a day goes by without someone sending you a book to review, to endorse, or to add to your library. And speaking of libraries, you will have access to thousands (in my case 70,000) of the best Christian books just a few steps away from your office.

7. You will be asked to write books. It’s usually very difficult for a pastor to get a book published. It becomes much easier when you are a professor, partly because the perceived expertise makes it more likely that people will buy your books. In fact, you will eventually have to turn down many good writing opportunities in order to focus on where you believe God has especially called you to write.

8. You will multiply your spiritual influence. A pastor can do a lot of good in his congregation. But if you train pastors, you can do a lot of good in a lot of congregations. From time to time you do hear of your teaching being passed on to bless different congregations.

9. You will  meet lots of neat people. Puritan Seminary is regularly blessed with the teaching and fellowship of the best reformed teachers in the world. It’s  such a privilege to get to meet these men, watch them close up, and simply listen to their wisdom at the lectern and round the dinner table. I also love meeting our donors, men and women from all walks of life, yet all sharing a passionate commitment to investing in the next generation of Gospel ministers.

10. You will gain a bigger view of God’s kingdom. When you’re a pastor you really have to focus almost all your attention on your own congregation. As a professor you get to go to lots of different churches and countries, over time this gives you a much bigger sense of God’s work in diverse peoples and places around the world.

Fair and balanced?
Many, many blessings, but I don’t want to take away from the main thrust of yesterday’s post, which is that younger men should count the cost of the great losses involved in side-stepping pastoral ministry or viewing it merely as a brief stepping-stone to so-called “higher things.”

Pastoral ministry is the “highest thing.” The professor’s position is subservient, it is a calling to serve God’s messengers, to lay down one’s life (and ego) in the great cause of preparing pastors for the awesome work of Gospel ministry.


Worldview

Younger Christians Less Supportive of Death Penalty
“When asked if they agreed that “the government should have the option to execute the worst criminals,” 42 percent of self-identified Christian boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, said “yes.” Only 32 percent of self-identified Christian millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, said the same thing.”

For the Love of Money
Aged 30, Sam Polk was so addicted to money that even when he was earning $3 million a year, he found it wasn’t enough.

I was nagged by envy. When the guy next to you makes $10 million, $1 million or $2 million doesn’t look so sweet….I was a fireball of greed….I wanted a billion dollars.

He goes on to speak of how he slowly came to realize he was a wealth addict, an addiction that was not just tearing himself apart, but he says is rending the whole nation in two.

There are multiple sermon illustrations and quotes in here as Polk describes breaking his addiction, and all the withdrawal symptoms that followed!  He’s now a campaigner against wealth addiction:

From a distance I can see what I couldn’t see then – that Wall Street is a toxic culture that encourages the grandiosity of people who are desperately trying to feel powerful.

He is calling Wall Street traders to donate 25% of their bonuses to a fund that will be used to help people who actually need the money that they’ve all been chasing.

Good luck with that, Sam!

Kids Are Different: There Are Lots of Different Ways to Educate Them
Lots of fascinating and thought-provoking ideas about education in this interview with Glen Reynolds, author of The New SchoolHarland says that most schools are tied to failing 19th century teaching models imported from Germany. He paints a future of increased home-schooling, online courses, charter schools, and a wide range of school choices. On the changing college education scene, he says:

If you’re 18 years old and you can go to college online, and also work in a job and also live at home, your net cost of going to college is vastly lower than if you leave home, go somewhere where you really can’t work much, have to pay to live in a dorm, have to buy a meal plan, and have to pay full tuition.


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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?