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Mental Illness: One Simple Way to Help
Amy Simpson: “When we humbly accept our true calling—not to be cool but to be like Jesus—we step much closer to the kind of community we all need.”

Press Corps Cackle at Reporter’s Abortion Question to Pelosi
“What is the moral difference between what Dr. Gosnell did to a baby born alive at 23 weeks and aborting her moments before birth?”

Bill Shishko’s Office training and Pastoral Theology Resources
Wow! What a treasure trove of fantastic resources.

The Power of Names
If you trade in words, this one’s for you.

5 People we should pray for even though we don’t want to
Challenged!

Robert’s Rules of Order
Here’s why: “Many denominations, institutions, and boards have veered off course simply because the good guys never bothered to figure out how things get done.”


Dan Phillips Appreciation Day

Dan Phillips is a Pyromaniac. He’s also a pastor of Copperfield Bible Church in Texas and the author of two books, The World Tilting Gospel and God’s Wisdom in Proverbs. Although I’ve never met him, I’ve got to know and appreciate him through his lively online presence and these two books.

The World Tilting Gospel is one of the best “popular” presentations of the Bible’s message and theology I’ve come across. By “popular” I mean accessible and enjoyable. Dan has not written just to pass on facts, but to stir our feelings, and prod us into vigorous response. The language is fresh, pacey, gripping, sometimes combative, and often startling.

The book is divided into four sections: (1) Who are we? (2) What has God done for us? (3) How do we get in? (4) How do we get going? Kind of like a “Biblical Theology for the rest of us.” Although it’s quite lengthy (300 pages), that’s like a tabloid compared to most Biblical Theologies.  And the style of writing is also much more New York Post than Seminarese.

It’s not a book I would give to someone with no church background as it assumes some biblical literacy, but it’s certainly a book I would give to young believers who need a quick tour de force of biblical doctrine or ballast to prevent them being tossed to and fro by modern falsehoods. And if you know a lethargic Christian who needs electrocuted electrified, plug this into his life and watch the sparks fly.

My only quibble is I wouldn’t contrast the Old and New Covenant so starkly as Dan does in some places, especially  when thinking about the Spirit’s work in Old Testament believers. Maybe a case of good biblical theology needing a shot of good systematic theology.

You’ll find lots more of Dan’s zippy and memorable prose in God’s Wisdom in Proverbs. This isn’t a commentary on Proverbs, going verse by verse from start to finish. It’s more “A Practical Theology of Proverbs,” and at 430 pages it’s one of the most thorough treatments of Proverbs I’ve come across.

Pastors and scholars will be benefit from the significant chunks devoted to issues such as authorship, Hebrew poetry, and the various proverbial forms. However, the more general reader will find a ton of helpful material in the major sections on worship, relationships, marriage, and parenting – the best treatments of these Proverbial themes I’ve encountered. I’ll be re-reading them many times and encouraging my wife to do so too. Dan’s explanation and application of “the fear of the Lord” was the highlight of the book for me. Absolutely outstanding.

I’d go further than Dan in his Christology. He seems to see Proverbs as revealing Christ retrospectively rather than prospectively. He would say that we can see Christ looking back, but there’s little indication that Solomon and his fellow-Israelites had much of a Messianic clue looking forward. More canonical contextualization (Dan would never write that phrase) would have helped. By that, I mean seeing the book as part of the unfolding Messianic momentum of the whole Old Testament. Also, Proverbs 8, and its pivotal Christological role in the book, was left screaming out for attention.

As in The World Tilting Gospel, the writing is clear, snappy, punchy, Solomonic even! As I finished these books I couldn’t but thank and praise God for blessing His church in our day with such gifted, godly, and gracious authors. Gritty too. It takes huge effort, discipline, and perseverance to write books such as these. Thank you, Dan, for the thousands of hours you sacrificed to bless us with these books. Deeply, deeply appreciated.


Check out

Reading Comprehension Just as Good on Kindle as with Paper
“From an educational and classroom perspective, these results are comforting,” the researchers concluded. “While new technologies have sometimes been seen as disruptive, these results indicate that students’ comprehension does not necessarily suffer, regardless of the format from which they read their text.”

10 Books that Shaped my Theology of Suffering
Mike Leake recently wrote an excellent short book on suffering, Torn to Heal. Here he lists the books that shaped his thinking.

World’s Most Expensive Motorhome Goes on Sale
You’ve just got to click through to see the pictures and video of this. If you start coveting, you’ve got a taste problem.

Are mental disorders real illnesses
Adrian Warnock comments on the controversy surrounding the DSM V.

7 Suggestions to Improve Accessibility
Peter Mead: “How can we improve at offering explanation that will help people at the lower range of understanding?  Perhaps your preaching goes over peoples’ heads, but you want to explain the Bible in a way that is accessible to younger Christians or less biblically literate folk?  Some suggestions:”

Commentaries as a Ministry
I am so thankful for those God has called to write Bible commentaries. Men like Douglas Moo are such a gift to the church.


Haters Gonna Hate: How to deal with three kinds of hate mail

If you want to avoid hate mail, simply avoid any public leadership role. Yes, pastors receive their “fair share” of hate mail, but so also do politicians, business owners, teachers, and many others.

That said, there are seasons when pastors receive more hate mail than normal, and now is probably one of them, when churches and pastors are taking courageous yet unpopular stands on numerous moral issues. So what should we do when the haters start hating?

Let’s first recognize the difference between hate mail and appropriate criticism. Hate mail is motivated by hate, a desire to harm and hurt. It is usually insensitive in tone and content, and intends to discourage, damage, dishearten, and demoralize.Appropriate criticism is motivated by love, by a desire to help and grow a person. It is expressed with kindness, wisdom, and balance. Unless we have a particularly thin skin, or have developed a martyr complex, it’s usually quite easy to distinguish hate mail from constructive criticism.

Anonymous Hate Mail

Second, let’s distinguish anonymous from signed hate mail. My practice used to be that if there was no identifying name on the envelope or letter, that I would trash it once I had read enough to recognize it as hate mail (usually the first couple of sentences was enough to identify the characteristic abusive and threatening language).

I still recommend reading no further than necessary to discern the hostile nature of the communication; there’s no point in letting the author achieve his or her aim of upsetting or frightening you at no cost to themselves. However, instead of trashing them, I now suggest giving any such letters to an experienced Christian in your congregation, probably to an elder, and ask him to read them and keep them secure.

The advantage of this approach is that someone who is not the target of the hate can read the letters more objectively to see if there is any personal safety issue involved, and also to find out if one person is doing this repeatedly. If there are threats to personal safety, or if the letters are repeatedly coming from the same unidentified author, it may eventually be necessary to put them in the hands of the police.

Signed Hate Mail

But let’s leave anonymous communications and look now at how to deal with hate mail where the authors identify themselves but you do not know them personally. If you can find out a bit more about them, that should help you decide if it’s worth replying in a constructive way. Sometimes I have attempted to start a constructive dialogue—usually without success.

Most of the time, I decide that I just have too much important work to do than to give any time to modern-day Sanballats (Neh. 6:3). Usually I follow Hezekiah’s model of prayerfully placing the letter or e-mail before the Lord and ask for guidance as to whether or how to reply (2 Kings 19:14-16). I also ask the Lord to help me not to be intimidated or distracted and that the language and threats would not linger with me to disturb my peace.

‘Friendly Fire’

The most difficult of all is signed hate mail from someone you know in your congregation. That’s not something you can ignore or dismiss. You will probably want to ask an elder or trusted Christian friend to read the letter with you in a more dispassionate and objective way and to give counsel about how to reply in a way that will maximize the hope of peacemaking.

Unless the letters are coming regularly from one source, I’m not for reporting them to the church leadership, as people can often fire off a letter in a bad temper and come to regret it later. There’s no point in damaging a person’s reputation or relationships with everyone else due to one foolish mistake.

When deciding how to respond, ask the following questions:

  • Is it true? Is it even slightly true? Try to find a grain of truth in it if you can and acknowledge that in any reply.
  • Is it proportionate? Is the writer blowing a small matter into a huge issue? Is this making a mountain out of a molehill?
  • Is it specific? Is it addressing one issue or is it shooting buckshot at everything?
  • Is it a godly Christian? If it is a mature and faithful Christian, then you will pay much more attention to it than to someone who is not a Christian, or who is an immature or unstable Christian.
  • Is there something else behind the criticism? Could there be stress or trouble at home or at work that’s making someone lash out?

There’s often debate over the next step—how to communicate your response. Should you write a letter, e-mail, phone, or visit the person? I usually write briefly back noting receipt of the letter, and expressing a desire to meet soon to discuss its contents. I then let that sit for a couple of days before making contact by phone to arrange a meeting. I don’t recommend turning up on the person’s doorstep unannounced, nor do I recommend a phone call or e-mail as a first response. If the person’s emotions are still on the boil, then beware the potential for catastrophic confrontation. A letter, ideally handwritten, communicates that you are taking the criticism seriously but also allows feelings time to moderate.

Love Your Enemies

Pray for your haters, ask God to help you love them, and take every opportunity to do them good. Don’t avoid them and don’t take sneaky swipes at them from the pulpit. One of the wonders of the gospel is that God can make the worst of enemies the best of friends. View this as a massive opportunity to display the power of the gospel.

And even if the person remains hostile, we still have opportunity to enter into the sufferings of Christ (John 15:18-25) and to demonstrate the love of Christ (1 Peter 2:20-23). Let your haters drive you to the Lover.

This article first appeared at The Gospel Coalition.


Check out

How to be a weird Christian without being a WEIRD Christian
Stephen Altrogge: “Because following Jesus is “weird” and the message of the gospel is “folly”, we must take care that we do not add any additional stumbling blocks to the message of the gospel.”

A Neglected Grace
Jason Helopoulos’s excellent new book on family worship. I was glad to be able to endorse this book as follows:

Just what I needed! An encouraging refresher on family worship that reminded me of the “Why?” and gave me lots of new ideas about “How?” Also a powerful motivation and perfect guide for parents just starting this much-blessed practice, with lots of practical and realistic tips.

The best way I’ve found to study the Old Testament
It is as if God is saying, “Go, child, go get lost. The hundreds of paths and valleys and mountains and shorelines – you’ll never map them all. Go get lost in that book. Get to know the foreign country; get to know the characters, at their most vile and most faithful; get to know the atmosphere. And as I whisper to you about that greater Israelite and priest and prophet and king, you’ll find you’ve lost something you didn’t need, and found a new home you didn’t know existed.”

Why I don’t bother trying to get my Inbox to zero
I admire Miller’s courage and decisiveness.

Car design driven by 2,500 Post-it Notes
Fascinating insight into how a car is designed. Cody is journalist Collin Hansen’s brother.

The Sufficiency of Scripture
Superb article from Carl Truman. Most thought provoking quote: “There is a sense in which we might say that Protestants believe in the insufficiency of Scripture: we acknowledge that Scripture is insufficient for many of the details of everyday life, such as motorcycle maintenance and cooking curries. It is even insufficient for the day-to-day running and good health of the church: we need elders, deacons and forms of sound words. What it is sufficient for, however, is for regulating the doctrinal content of the Christian faith and the life of the church at a principial level.”


A Forever Home for a Dead Dog

When King David showed grace to Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9:8, Mephibosheth bowed down in humble amazement and said: “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”

Those of us who have experienced the Son of David’s even greater grace, often feel the same way don’t we? We bow in awe and wonder, “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?” Think about that and then watch a beautiful video illustration of your salvation (RSS/email click here).

O, yes, I remember my miserable lostness, my ugly sores of sin, my suspicions of my Savior, and my first crumbs of grace. I remember His gentle winning love, His undergirding arms, His warm welcome, His tender washing, His patient healing, His delight in me.

And, wonder of all wonders, He’ll never make a video to find a “forever home” for me.

Because I’m already forever home.