Check out

Going outside the camp
Superb article here on the Ligonier website about one man’s struggle with his son’s mental illness and what he wants the church to learn from it.

Rainfall and things that abide forever
Augustine of Hippo once wrote: “In the study of created things we must not exercise a mere idle and passing curiosity, but must make them a stepping-stone to things that are immortal and that abide forever.”

MOOC Divinity School
With the advent of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), Scott McKnight envisages the future of the Seminary. Deliberately overstated (I think), but in some parts not from from what will become a reality.

My valuable cheap College degree
President of the American Enterprise Institute makes the moral case for the $10K BA.

Why do you encourage Christians to live more separate lives?
R. C. Sproul Jr. answers.

The Art of Restoration Amidst Detroit’s Ruined Walls
Watch how this talented artist turns ugliness into beauty. 

Children’s Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first 12 months of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

And here are the daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books. Further explanation of that here.

Old Testament

New Testament

May God bless you and your children as you study the Word of life.

5 Ways to Profit from Christians’ Sins

Yesterday we looked at five strategies to stop us getting pulled down by the faults and failings of other Christians. If that didn’t work, here are five more:

1. Springboard from Christians to Christ
When you are tempted to start mulling over someone’s imperfection, think instead about the opposite perfection in Jesus. If you are pained by someone’s harsh or lying tongue, consider how Jesus’ words were full of grace and truth. If a friend is condemning the pastor’s self-promotion, turn attention to the One who made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant. If you are discussing the rampant materialism of some Christians, remember also to ponder the Christ who, though He was rich, yet made Himself poor, that we through His poverty might become rich. There is no sin found in a Christian that cannot act as a springboard to Christ and his contrasting beauty.

2. See your own faults in them
It’s amazing how we can be especially hard on people who have the same peculiar failings as we do. It’s a kind of perverse technique for salving our own consciences: if I can find someone who’s even worse than me, it somehow makes me feel a whole lot better. The hyper-critical are often the most hypocritical.

When you detect that you are being especially critical of another Christian, seriously ask yourself if it’s because this is your own besetting sin as well.  Are you appalled at Lesley’s pride? Maybe it’s too much like your own. Are you horrified at Jim’s gossip? Maybe your tongue’s also out of control.  Are you aghast at the Brown’s spending habits? Maybe it’s because you’ve been in debt for years too. God may have sent these people into your life to act as a mirror to your own sins. Don’t attack the mirror; use it to see what’s wrong in your own life.

3. Measure Christ’s forgiveness
As the person who has been forgiven most also loves most, ask the Lord to show you how much you have been forgiven. The more you appreciate the depth, length, breadth and height of God’s forgiveness, the more you will love Him.

But we can do this by proxy as well. When we see how much other Christians still sin, we can get the spiritual ruler out to measure the immeasurable pardoning love of God towards them as well. And when we realize we can never find enough rulers or tapes to get record accurate dimensions of this forgiving grace, we can love God for that as well. He who has been forgiven much loves much. He who sees how much others have been forgiven, loves God for that too.

Nothing silences criticism so much as pondering how Christ has loved people like us. That He loved me and gave Himself for me is amazing. That he loved them and gave Himself for them, is sometimes even more amazing.

4. Identify the accuser
The hyper-critical tend to think of themselves as hyper-holy. However, unknown to them, they may well be at that very moment an unholy instrument in the hand of the evil One. The Devil has made a career out of maligning and denouncing Christians, so much so that He is called “The Accuser.” He lays his charges directly and via intermediaries, some of whom are unsuspecting Christians who actually think they are doing the Lord’s work. He comes with lies about Christians and he comes with truths about Christians, but whether his allegations are true or false his aim is the same, pull down Christians so as to pull down our thoughts, our emotions, and our actions. Why not ask yourself, if perhaps you are a unwitting pawn in the devil’s clever hands, doing his dirty work while he cackles in the background.

5. Keep Jesus front and center
Our minds are a vast universe demanding to be filled. Each of our senses is continually vacuuming information into our internal galaxies, sending various facts and feelings into mental orbit, darkening or lightening our lives as they go.

We can’t stop our sensory vacuums, but we can decide what gets sucked inside. We can direct our nozzles to the dark hypocrisy of other believers, or we can hoover up truths about Christ. The former creates black holes; the latter produces a non-stop sunrise (Lk. 11:34-36). Suck in the bright light of Christ; let Him and His word dwell in you richly.

Above all, consider that Jesus will yet perfect His most imperfect people and present them to His Father with exceeding joy and great glory. What a transformation! What a metamorphosis! What glory to God and good will toward men. What a Savior!

Previous posts in this series
If that’s Christianity you can keep it!
When Christians let us down and get us down
Seeing Christ in the worst Christians

Check out

Jesus doesn’t want your risk, he wants your life
Stephen Altrogge argues that being radical for Jesus ordinarily looks very ordinary.

15 ways to become like Doug the Encourager
The Altrogges are on a roll at the moment.

Please stop banging out just one Gospel note
Mike Leake: “We are cheapening the beauty of the gospel if we only emphasize one particle of it. There is enough in Jesus for you and I to write a world full of books. No need to be fixated on one aspect.”

Invest grieving energies
Where grief abounded, there did grace much more abound.

Making visitors feel welcome
Good hints here for church greeters.

How to always be ready to care for your congregation
#1 is the hardest and yet the key to it all.

Seeing Christ in the worst Christians

How do we stop getting so depressed at the failings of Christian pastors and people? Here are five of the ten strategies I try to use. We’ll look at the remaining five tomorrow.

1. Try to see Christ in even the worst Christian
Although Christ is molding each of His people into His beautiful image, none of us show that image perfectly. Our immaturity and sin blight and deform His work. However, no matter how marred the image, there is still a trace of it somewhere in every Christian. Just as even a severely disabled person still shows some lovely aspects of God’s image in them, so the most fallen Christian has something somewhere in their lives where they excel us in portraying Christ’s image. It’s up to us to find that and admire that.

I’ve known some pretty ugly Christians through the years, but as I look back, I admit I overlooked or failed to linger on areas of their lives where Christ was undoubtedly leaving his fingerprints. And today, as we survey our fellow-believers, let’s make the choice to major on Christ’s positive work in them rather than on all the devil’s negatives.

2. Pray for seeming hypocrites
We’ve all done it. We end up in company where we start criticizing someone and very soon we’ve torn them in shreds and left them in pieces. Sometimes we don’t need the help of company to do our shredding; we can grind them to powder in the cruel confines of our own sharp-toothed minds. Although there can be some strange short-term satisfaction in these cruel pleasures, we are inflicting deep long-term trauma on ourselves.

When tempted to start drilling and sawing others, why not start to pray for them. If we really do fear that they are hypocrites, they need our prayers far more than our incisive analysis. And in the process, we’ll discover something: it’s very hard to hate someone we pray for. It’s almost impossible to pull someone down when we are prayerfully raising him or her up to heaven for God’s blessing. Prayer never changes God. It sometimes changes the person we pray for. It always changes us.

3. Spend time with the inconsistent
It’s easy to criticize from a keyboard or from a pew, when a person is at some distance away from us, we aren’t really involved in their lives, and we don’t really know them. It’s much more difficult to scorch people when we’ve had a coffee with them or walked a mile with them. Then we realize they are human after all, or that they’ve had an awful childhood, or that they are enduring a depressing marriage, or that there is some other stress in their lives that puts their words and actions in a different light. Or we might discover that we’ve completely misjudged them and that the fault is more in our perception and discernment than in their conduct.

4. Be patient
As a pastor I’ve been sometimes appalled at the way mature Christians expect young Christians to come out of the shell as fully grown men and women of God. And when they aren’t, down comes the sledgehammer upon them. Some older Christians have conveniently forgotten that they were young once, somehow imagining that they skipped spiritual infancy and adolescence.

I’ve sometimes been stunned at the way some poor specimens of Christianity have suddenly blossomed into beautiful flowers of grace, and even into majestic cedars of Lebanon. People I had given up all hope for are transformed into holy, zealous, steady and reliable Christians. Sometimes it’s marriage or children that does it. Sometimes it’s trial or suffering. But sometimes it’s simply the sovereign work of God. I think God loves to revive His work in those we have written off and given up on.

5. Speak positively about other Christians
One of the most lethal habits that Christians can fall into is to talk negatively about other Christians in front of their children or in front of unbelievers. I’ve seen children spiritually devastated due to regular Sunday meals that served up a diet of roast pastor, barbecued elders, and boiled Christians. In some cases, tragically, it turned the children off the church for life. In other cases, the negativity created perpetually discontented church members and adherents. They had gotten so habituated to criticism in their childhood that they could not break the cycle when they became adults.

One of the greatest favors we can do for our children is to speak positively about our pastors and about other Christians. Even when there may have been some flaws in the preaching, find the good things, highlight them, express appreciation for them, and discuss them with your kids. Draw attention to Christians who are serving the Lord well and use them as models for your children. And when, regrettably, you may have to discuss a certain Christian’s sins, then do your best to also mention evidences of God’s good work in their lives.

Previous posts in this series
If that’s Christianity you can keep it!
When Christians let us down and get us down

Check out

How do we preach Christ from the Wisdom books
Climax of a great series from Colin Adams. He also linked to this related interview on the Wisdom books.

3 Common Mistakes Preaching Genesis
Atomistic reading, moralistic reading, and impositional reading.

The grace of affliction
Joe Thorn in Puritan mode, “improving his affliction.”

5 Reasons leaders finish badly
Very sobering and, sadly, too often too true.

We can measure educational value in words
7 reasons why “the great benefit of education, the key to increasingly upward mobility, is expanding the vocabulary of students.”

Paul Washer reviews A Puritan Theology [Video]