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The Moral of Moral Failings of Christian Leaders
Ed Stetzer addresses the rash of fallen pastors and urges change. Along similar lines here are 3 Spiritual Vitality Warning Signs for Pastors, which includes five practical questions to help keep your personal spiritual vitality alive and well. How to Lose a Pastor in 10 Years was written by the daughter of a fallen pastor.

How the Proverbs Turn Poverty into Prosperity
“The route to alleviating material poverty is first alleviating social poverty. As the Proverbs show—and now economics too—living and institutionalizing behaviors that lead to right relationships is the surest route to end poverty, in this generation and the next.”

The Church and Mental Health: What Do the Numbers Tell Us?
“LifeWay Research conducted a survey in partnership with Focus on the Family and an anonymous donor to gauge the perceptions of pastors, churches and those suffering from mental illness on a wide range of related topics. The following is a brief synopsis of what we uncovered:”

7 Ways to More Thinking Time
“Oftentimes, I do not have time to sit and think simply because I overcommit. So, when you are busy—and we’re all busy—we need principles we hold to in order to simply think, dream, and strategize. Here are seven strategies that I use to implement more brain time into my life.”

15 Things Seminary Teaches Me that My Busy Pastor(ate) Can’t | Greg Lanier
“An unfortunate side-effect of the ‘what seminary can’t teach me’ motif is that it can unintentionally validate the broader trend that undermines the utility and role of seminary training altogether.”

If We’re More Connected Than Ever, Why Are We So Lonely?
“We’ve never experienced this level of connectivity in human history, and yet we are increasingly lonely.”

9 Things You Should Know About the Creation of Modern Israel
“On Wednesday and Thursday, the modern state of Israeli celebrated the 70th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence. Here are nine things you should know about the creation of the modern Israeli state.”

Kindle Books

Expedition 16: The Devil Attacks

Here’s the video to show your kids at the end of Expedition 16 of Exploring the BibleIf you want to bookmark a page where all the videos will eventually appear, you can find them on my blog, on YouTube, or the Facebook page for Exploring the Bible.

If you haven’t started your kids on the book yet, you can begin anytime and use it with any Bible version. Here are some sample pages.

You can get it at RHBWestminster BooksCrossway, or Amazon. If you’re in Canada use Reformed Book Services. Some of these retailers have good discounts for bulk purchases by churches and schools.

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A “Ten Commandments” Prayer
One for the closet.

Living the Christian Life with C. S. Lewis
Raving review of a new book.

Charles Spurgeon’s Call to Preach Christ in a Christly Manner
“As we share the gospel with friends and neighbors, Spurgeon reminds us that it is Christ—in all the multifaceted glories of his person and work—who must be the focal point of our message and the treasure we offer. And as we do that, we will properly adorn our message as we share Christ’s own zeal, Christ’s own courageous meekness and simplicity, and Christ’s own love for both God and neighbor.”

10 Things Teachers DID NOT Have to Deal With 10 Years Ago
“Something is wrong—very, very wrong. Teachers across the country at all grade levels, in all subjects, teaching a wide variety of student populations, can sense it. There is a pulse of dysfunction, a steady palpitation of doom that the path we are on is not properly oriented.”

Why you should Read the Westminster Confession of Faith
New online course. And you may also want to check out the regular podcast working it’s way through the Westminster Confession. The latest episode is on Christ’s Humiliation and Exaltation

PURITAN – All of Life to the Glory of God
New documentary/teaching film

Dear Church: Hear the Word of the Lord
Good word to the church about how to handle abuse.

Kindle Books

God’s Mighty Acts in Salvation by Starr Meade $2.99.

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More? Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior $0.99.

Beating the College Debt Trap: Getting a Degree Without Going Broke by Alex Chediak $1.99.

Technology and Our Relationship with God

How do we thrive in Digital Babylon? That’s a question I’ve been asking for a long time and which I’ve begun to answer over a number of posts:

In that last post I proposed that the ultimate answer to digital technology is digital theology. I argued that:

If we want a deep, lasting, and spiritual solution, we need to learn and teach deep, lasting, and spiritual truths. Digital theology is the answer to digital technology; the oldest truths are the best rebuttal to the newest challenges. More Trinity is more effective than more technology.

However, we need more than more theology. We can have all the theology in the world without a relationship with God. The end is not deeper theology but a deeper relationship with God. The deeper and healthier our relationship with God, the more that satisfying friendship and communion will replace technology in our lives and also regulate it so that our use of it is more balanced and beneficial.

I’ve written elsewhere about 18 Obstacles to Personal Devotions in a Digital Age and also given 20 Tips for Personal Devotions in a Digital Age. But if you want just five tips that will give you the greatest return on investment it would be these:

1. Meet with God first and alone. Turn off your phone and avoid the computer before personal devotions. It’s absolutely vital that you meet with God before anyone else in the day. Keep your mind free of digital distractions.

2. Use a physical Bible. See Should I use a Phone for Personal Devotions for my argument against using digital devices for personal devotions. I would apply the same logic to using a paper Bible in Church too.

3. Use free moments to pray. Instead of reaching for your phone when at a traffic stop, in the bathroom, or in line, why not use these brief moments to pray.

4. Take a weekly digital Sabbath. Sunday is the ideal day to come apart from all the din and drama of the Internet and social media and set your mind and heart on things above. It will surprise you how little you miss, how little you are missed, and how much you will gain.

5. Memorize Scripture. Think how much Scripture you could memorize in a year if you even just halved the number of times you checked your email and social media.

Whatever ways help to deepen your relationship with God will also help to wean you off technology and help you use it in ways that glorify him.

Here’s a solemn message that gets to the heart of this.

Seven Marks of a Workaholic

Workaholism is probably the most respectable sin in the Christian community, and maybe especially among pastors. In this Harvard Business Review podcast (and transcript) Nancy Rothbard, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, “draws a distinction between workaholism and working long hours. She explains the health consequences of being addicted to your work. She also gives practical advice for managing work addiction, whether it’s you who’s suffering, your direct report, boss, peer, or partner.”

Rothbard provides seven statements and says we should be worried if we often or always do at least four of them.

1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.

2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.

3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and depression.

4. You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.

5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.

6. You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.

7. You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

She makes a helpful distinction between working long hours and being a workaholic. Here’s how she puts it.

Bascially, long hours are 50 hours a week or more. So, there are some people who work a lot but they can turn off. They might even work once they get home, but if something is demanding their attention at home or if they, you know, need to go to the gym or they want to hang out with friends, they’re able to do that without ruminating on their work.

[Workaholism is more about] our attitude towards our work: how we think about our work, whether we dwell on it, whether we feel guilty when we’re not working. When you’re a workaholic, the work really looms large in your mind, and it can be really difficult to turn it off, even when you’re not actually working….There’s a strong correlation between working long hours and being a workaholic. So, I mean, you can be a workaholic without working long hours, but typically if you’re a workaholic, you are also working long hours.

See also Rothbard’s article  “How Being a Workaholic Differs from Working Long Hours — and Why That Matters for Your Health.” It has a fascinating section on the how the chronic stress levels associated with workaholism create a whole lot of  health dangers.

Here’s a quick explanation of why: To cope with stress, the body activates several systems (e.g., cardiovascular, neuroendocrine). So say you’re facing an important deadline. As you approach it, your stress hormones (e.g., cortisol), pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines (e.g., interleukin-6), and blood pressure would likely go up. But after the deadline, these would return to their original levels, known as the “set points.” When you’re working an excessive workload and continually pushing your system beyond its range, you may re-set your set points. Elevated blood pressure may become chronic, and cortisol levels stay elevated. When your biological systems keep working around elevated set points, you have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and even death.

In short, the body gets stuck in “fight-or-flight” mode which is ultimately exhausting and unsustainable and often leads to depression.

“But I love my job!”

Well, the researchers found that while loving your job does protect from some of the health risks, you are still at significantly increased risk of ill-health:

We wanted to see if enjoying the work mitigates the negative health effects of workaholism. Looking at the data from our study, we differentiated between workaholics who reported being highly engaged with their work — meaning they enjoyed their work, felt vigorous at work, and got easily absorbed in their work — and workaholics who reported low work engagement. We found that both types of workaholics reported more psychosomatic health complaints (e.g., headache, stomach problems) and mental health complaints (e.g., sleep problems, depressive feelings) than non-workaholics. However, non-engaged workaholics had higher RMS [Risk for Metabolic syndrome] — a 4.2% higher risk — than engaged workaholics.

Rothbard’s solutions?

1. Acknowledge when a relationship to work is unhealthy — when it feels out of control and is undermining outside relationships.

2. Regain control over your work behavior by setting clear rules for how many hours you will work each day.

3. Stop working two or three hours before bed.

4. Take up enjoyable non-work activities, such as seeing friends, watching a movie, reading a book, or learning a new skill, can also help you psychologically detach from work.

5. Reflect on the reasons why you work excessively and compulsively.

On this last point, the two most common reasons I’ve come across (also in my own heart), are idolatry and identity. By identity, I mean finding one’s significance in one’s work rather than in one’s spiritual status as justified and adopted by God through Christ.

To test yourself on this, what’s the first answer that comes to mind when you ask yourself “Who am I?” If your first and loudest answer is anything other than “I am a Christian” then someone has stolen your true identity and substituted a false one.

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This Week, Speak the Name of Andrew Brunson, A Persecuted Brother in Turkey
The most important post of the week. “Please join us in standing with Brunson’s family and home church in lifting the name of Andrew Brunson to the God he serves.”

Social Media and Sin
“Theology recognizes that human hearts are curved inward, inclined to boast, and always looking for opportunities to prove their own self-righteousness. Human-computer interaction, UX, and user-centered design recognize that social media platforms should be designed to meet the wants and needs of real human users. Putting these two concepts in conversation with one another reveals why Facebook can be so dangerous. Facebook’s technology is designed to accommodate, encourage, and exploit human depravity. The “Like” button on Facebook is not there by chance; the “Like” button was created to satisfy our deep longing to be liked by others, lauded for our accomplishments, and acknowledged for our righteousness.”

I Used This Simple Chart To Prioritize My Crazy Busy Work Life
“This former media executive hated saying “no,” so she created a system that forced her to set boundaries.”

What Happens to Your Body on No Sleep
“In short, nothing good—and just one bad night can trigger a cascade of scary side effects.”

Mariah Carey Beat Stigma. You Can Too
Not recommending Mariah Carey as a model in anything other than her openness about mental illness.

“This week, singing star Mariah Carey made an announcement that was a long time in the making: back in 2001, she was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. She has recently made the decision to treat it and to share her story. Carey is not the first celebrity to acknowledge a struggle with mental illness, but she is one of the most high-profile people to do so. And she has struck a major blow in the fight against the crippling stigma that keeps so many people trapped behind fences of shame, fear, and isolating silence.”

Starting from zero
“Iraq’s Nineveh churches are retaking their towns from years of ISIS control, without guarantees of money, safety, or a future.

Steve Lawson on Preaching Without Notes

Kindle Books

Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies $2.99.

Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family by Jessica Thompson $2.99.