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Writing and Reporting Advice from 4 of the Washington Post’s Best
A gold mine of bullet points gathered by Roy Peter Clark from a conference featuring David Finkel, Bob Woodward, DeNeen Brown, and Ezra Klein. And here’s four further suggestions on writing well from Justin Taylor.

Hell Awakened Me
Joe Thorn explains how God used the doctrine of Hell in his life before he was converted. Solemn joy in his conclusion: “Do not forsake the doctrine of hell and God’s justice, my friends. There is no good news apart from bad news. And until a man or a woman tastes the bitterness of their sin and feels the weight of the just judgment of God they will never find the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be sweet and liberating. Give ‘em hell, and give ‘em the gospel”

An Unhealthy Focus in much Christian Literature
Brief post. Big Point. Mike Leake sums up his concerns: “Let’s celebrate redemption at the same time we cry out for further rescue.”

Why cities matter: A review
I don’t usually link to book reviews, but this is an important one, not so much for the book that’s reviewed but in the sloppy thinking and writing that the review highlights. No one likes to write such reviews, but they do push writers and editors to higher standards.

A biblical and scientific Adam
Dr. Vern Poythress issues a challenge to evangelicals who have backed away from an historic Adam, using a theologically informed look at ape ancestry genetic claims.

Parents: Do you think before you post?
“Do we miss the truth that our families need our discretion far more than our blog followers need our authenticity?” And on the subject of social media, here’s an infographic on how teens communicate.

Sanctification by Time Travel

Many books and films have explored the fascinating appeal of time travel. Usually a mad scientist constructs some kind of machine or potion that enables him or someone else to travel backwards or forwards in time. And of course, when they come back to the present, what they found out about the past or the future has a huge impact on how they view the present and what they do in the present.

Spiritual Time Travel

Although this remains a fantasy, something for science-fiction rather than non-fiction, the Bible encourages us to spiritual time travel. The believer uses faith to transport herself into the future, a spiritual experience that has significant sanctifying impact on the present (2 Peter 3:11). And in Romans 6, the believer uses faith to transport himself back in time, again with significant present impact.

This spiritual time travel is not an optional extra, something for high-flying Christians, but this is something for every Christian to try. In fact, you will never make much lasting progress in holiness if you do not travel back in time to Calvary’s cross and the empty tomb.

Let me put this as bluntly and as starkly as possible: The Christian’s holiness depends primarily on his/her ability to time travel by faith.

Yes there are other helpful strategies for pursuing holiness including diligent use of the means of grace, spiritual disciplines, remembering the warnings about disobedience, and the promises of spiritual reward for obedience. However, the greatest help to holiness, without which none of these others can have any lasting effects is learning to travel back in time by faith to the Cross of Calvary and the Empty Tomb.

So, let’s get in the faith machine and travel back about 1970 years. When we come out, what do we see?

Dead to sin

On a cross on Calvary’s hill we see a central figure limp and lifeless. We see Christ dead. More, we see Christ dead to sin (Rom. 6:10).

“Dead to sin?” What does that mean? It doesn’t mean that Jesus stopped sinning – that He was alive to sin, living in sin, and now he’s dead to sin, no longer living in it.

What does it mean then?

Well, when someone dies, their connection with everything in this world ends. For example, they are severed from their family and friends. In that sense they are now dead to their family. They have no relationship or connection with them.

Similarly, “Christ died to sin” means He has no further relationship or connection with sin’s guilt and penalty – that’s severed and ended. As Paul said earlier: “He that is dead is freed from sin.” “The death he died, He died to sin once for all” (7, 10)

Prior to His death, the holy Jesus was in a constant agonizing relationship with sin’s guilt and penalty. But by His death, this connection, this relationship was decisively, emphatically, effectively, and forever severed. Sin’s guilt and death penalty no longer have any relationship to Him or rights over Him (v. 9).

What an amazing sight! Christ not only dead, but dead to sin!

Look closer

But look a bit closer, Christian believer, exercise the eyes of faith even more, and you’ll see something else, or rather someone else there.

Who is it? It’s you!

“Our old man was crucified with him…We died with Christ” (v. 6, 8). The believer’s union with Christ in His death is a fact. But if we are to get the benefit of the fact, we need to do some “reckoning” (v. 11). That involves believing that Christ’s death to sin is identical to ours.

Just as Christ died to sin, in exactly the same way as Christ died to sin, so we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin. By virtue of our union with Christ, we have been decisively, emphatically, effectively, and forever severed from sin’s guilt and death as a penalty. They no longer have any relationship to us or rights over us (v. 9).

How much connection or relationship does sin’s guilt and death penalty have on Christ? So much connection does it have to the believer. None! Zero! Nada! Zilch!

Alive to God

But quickly travel three days forward with me and stand at the empty tomb. There you see a Christ who has risen from the dead and who is now “living unto God” (v. 10). Again this is not saying that prior to his resurrection He was not living unto God. No, He was perfect in every respect. However it indicates that his life with God, His communion with God, His connection with God was hampered, hindered, and reduced due to His relation to sin’s guilt and penalty. But once he was severed from those impediments, He resumed the life he enjoyed in perfect and uninterrupted loving fellowship with His Father that He had enjoyed from all eternity until He came to this world as the sin-bearer.

It’s a beautiful sight isn’t it? Christ living. More than that, living unto and with His Father as He had not done before in His human nature. “The life that He lives, He lives to God” (v. 10). No guilt or penalty to impede or obstruct or distance.

Look closer

But look closer again, and you will again see yourself there again.  “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” That’s why Paul not only says  “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin” but also “reckon yourselves to be alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 11).

Notice carefully, it’s not “Be dead to sin and alive to God!” The believer is already dead to sin and alive to God. It’s “Be convinced and persuaded of this.” Make this fact part of your faith.

And insofar as you are able to reckon this, insofar as you are convinced of this, so far you will have hope of obeying the imperatives in verses 12-13. Successful time travel to the past will result in successful sanctification in the present.

Free the Slaves

Sadly many Christians are like the older slaves after the declaration of emancipation. Even decades after the law was passed and they were legally severed from any responsibility and relationship to their masters, they found themselves still feeling obligated to them, bound to them in their minds and hearts, and fearing them, all of this damaging their present enjoyment of life. Perhaps if they could have traveled back in time and witnessed the signing of the declaration they could have lived more freely and happily.

Similarly some Christians continue to live with a paralyzing sense of guilt and a terror of God as judge and death as a penalty. But there is a solution. By faith we can travel back in time and see that we died to sin and now are alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. What a wonderful difference that should make to our present lives!

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The Six Mile Water Revival
Last year Pastor Robert Campbell made a documentary-style DVD about the Sixmilewater Revival in the 1620s-1630s. He’s now made it available to watch online for free. Hope it stirs up prayer for more revivals.

True Scandal
This is SCARY!

How to spice up bland sermons
Erik Raymond suggest five ingredients.

What is flourishing?
“The idea of flourishing should be important to Christians today. But what is flourishing? Is it biblical? And how do we get it?”

Top Seven Reasons to Post Sermons Online
And is a great place to do this.

Why sing Psalms?
If you’ve never done it, here are a number of good reasons for starting.

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The Psalms of David – Sung a cappella
A vast range of different Psalters and tune selections for your listening (and singing) pleasure.

Christians who tithe have healthier finances than those who don’t
Latest findings from the State of the Plate survey.

Facebook fatigue stirs investor concern
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Pondering a digital future
I was fascinated by Ed Stetzer’s comment about the Gospel Project’s success:  ”While adoption of the print products far exceeded LifeWay’s expectations, the company ‘vastly overestimated usage’ of the correlated digital tools (even though, by Stetzer’s estimate, they are “amazing”).” Looks like the digital future has a large print component.

Defining Corporate Worship
I like this definition, but I would have preferred some mention of joy. What do you think?

Baker Book House Signing
I’ll be giving an address on Christians get depressed too, doing a Q&A, and signing books at Baker Book House on Thursday 23rd May at 7.30pm.

Children’s Bible Reading Plan

Apologies for missing last week – a little baby decided to appear last Saturday morning.

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 year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Jason Henry, a missionary in Mongolia, has very kindly collated and produced the second year of morning and evening readings 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.

The Reading Habits of Today’s Pastors

The Barna Group has published some fascinating research into the book buying habits of pastors. Highlights include:

  • There are about 300,000 Protestant pastors in the USA.
  • These pastors buy an average of 3.8 books per month per person.
  • 92% of them buy at least one book per month (compared with 29% of general population).
  • They buy between 8-13 million books a year.
  • Younger pastors buy more books than older pastors.
  • Most books are bought with a particular ministry topic in mind.
  • The other main factors in a purchase decision are author or recommendation.
  • Spirituality, theology, and leadership are the most popular topics.
  • 50% of pastors are reading biographies and 33% are consuming business books.
  • Christian retail stores and online are the two primary channels of purchase.
  • Although 50% of pastors use an e-reader, most pastors still prefer a hard copy.
  • More than 90% of pastors make book recommendations to their congregations.

You can read the whole report here.

HT: Joel Miller