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100 names of Jesus
If you’re not worshipping by the time you get to the 20th, there’s something wrong. If you’re flat on your face by the time you get to 100, there’s something right.

Like the Video? I wrote the book
Maybe you need to be a writer to find this funny.

Why silent meetings can be the most productive
Here’s a novel way of curing your meeting-itis. Meet via Skype chat for more productive, transparent, and participatory meetings.

How to leave your old Church
And here’s Kevin also on how t0 start at your new church.

9 tips for eating Christianly
You didn’t know that there’s a Christian way to eat?

Children’s Bible Reading Plan (80)

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, 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.

And here’s an explanation of the plan.

Should we praise unbelievers?

Should we praise unbelievers? Should we affirm them when they make any progress or improvements in their lives? And should we encourage them to see any achievements as God-given?

In Practicing Affirmation, Sam Crabtree answers with a triple “Yes!” And offers persuasive arguments. For example:

In the same way that Yellowstone Park is a reflection of common grace, unregenerate persons reflect graces not intrinsic to themselves. To affirm the beauty of their character is to draw attention to the undeserved grace that God has bestowed upon them in the form of faint echoes of Jesus, even in the presence of as-of-yet unperfected flaws in those same individuals. In the providence of God, some unbelievers are actually better behaved than some believers. This behavior is God’s gift to them, not their intrinsically meritorious character (32).

Contrary voices
But, I can hear others voices saying, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). Is not even the ploughing of the wicked sin (Prov. 21:4)? Does not the wrath of God rest on the unbeliever (John 3:36)?  And what about “There’s none that does good, no not one” (Rom. 3:12)?

If all that is true, what’s the point in praising and affirming unbelievers. Is that not like admiring a car’s shiny paintwork as it heads over the cliff? “Jump, run, escape for your life,” seems more appropriate.

Biblical knife-edge
So how do we balance on this biblical knife-edge. We don’t want to fall off on the side of encouraging unbelievers in pharisaical self-righteousness. But neither do we want to treat all unbelievers as if they are Hannibal Lecter. Here’s a guide to waking the knife:

  • We should recognize God’s work/image wherever it appears, even in the life of an unbeliever.
  • We should trace all good to God, and encourage unbelievers to see any good, any progress, any improvement as the gift of God
  • We should regularly remind unbelievers that although it’s good to be/do good (at least it’s better than being/doing evil), that’s not good enough – they need to be born again, they need to repent and believe the Gospel.
  • The best good works, even the best believer’s best works, are full of imperfection and weakness, and need to be repented of.
  • We should sometimes remind unbelievers that our commendations and affirmations are only from a human perspective. God’s view may be very different and at the end of the day is the only one that matters.

And this is the one area I’d have liked to see Sam develop a bit further in his book: What is a good work from God’s perspective? And as a starting point, where better than the Westminster Confession’s chapter 16, “Of Good Works.”

Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.

In answer to the question, then, Should we praise unbelievers?” Yes, but make sure it’s regularly set in a wider Law/Gospel context that stirs the unbeliever to seek the only one who is good, that is God (Matthew 19:17).

Practicing Affirmation Review (1): Scots don’t do praise
Practicing Affirmation Review (2): 10 ways to praise people
Practicing Affirmation Review (3): Is the “sandwich method” a lot of baloney?
Practicing Affirmation Review (4): Should we praise unbelievers?

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The demise of guys: How video games and porn are ruining a generation
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Health, fitness, and the believer
Couple of young Canadian guys have put this site together. They seem to focus on Reformed Worldview, Reformed Ethics, and Reformed Practice.

Is the “sandwich method” a load of baloney?

“The sandwich method” is the correction strategy that puts every criticism between two slices of praise. According to Sam Crabtree, an expert on how to praise people, it’s not a tasty snack.

In Practicing Affirmation, Sam describes the manager who used the sandwich method so much, that employees began to dread hearing any praise because they knew what he was about to fill the sandwich with. Although he boasted about his method, his employees eventually called it “the baloney sandwich!”

Sam says, “Let affirmation stand alone, separated from correction….correction packaged with affirmation will contaminate and weaken the affirmation, perhaps making it altogether fruitless…Corrections tend to cancel affirmations, and the closer the proximity to correction, the more crippled the affirmation” (63, 64, 65).

It’s that close proximity of correction to affirmation that Sam argues against. In its place he proposes a much longer-term context of loving affirmation as the necessary backdrop to any loving correction.

It’s love that earns “a platform from which to challenge wrongful lifestyles and to be heard in doing so.” He says this many different ways, but in some ways it cannot be said enough. Our corrections will have no effect if there is no deep, wide, and long context of encouragement and affirmation: ”People are influenced by those who praise them. Giving praise does wonders for the other person’s sense of hearing” (54).

Also, as corrections tend to “weigh” more than affirmations, he suggests an affirmation to correction ration of at least 3:1, and preferably closer to 5:1. He illustrates:

Affirmation and correction are like a bank account. Affirmations are deposits. Corrections are checks you write against the balance in your account. If you write too many checks in relation to the deposits, your checks bounce – they’re no good. It will take additional credits to restore your your credit. And if the pattern of writing bad checks continues…your account may be frozen until you get serious about putting things in the black (52).

Sam doesn’t really want us going around with ledgers though: “Relationships are healthy when so much affirmation is being spread around that no one is keeping track of either affirmation or correction” (54).

For a book on how to praise people, Sam’s book is also remarkably helpful on how to correct and criticize in a constructive way. I’ve just highlighted a couple of the bigger principles, but he goes into a lot more detail in the book.

Practicing Affirmation Review (1): Scots don’t do praise
Practicing Affirmation Review (2): 10 ways to praise people
Practicing Affirmation Review (3): Is the “sandwich method” a lot of baloney?
Practicing Affirmation Review (4)Should we praise unbelievers?