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Does your church inadvertently hurt people with mental illness?
Amy Simpson with some challenging questions for churches. Here are another couple of important contributions to this discussion: Mind, Body, and Medications and The role of language in the stigma of mental illness.

We are family: What African Americans bring to reformed theology
Jemar Tisby: “While it’s true that the African American community can benefit from Reformed theology as it stands, Blacks have much to offer from their own theological and cultural heritage as well.”

How older members brighten the future of the church
Thabiti: “I wonder if others observe a phenomenon I think I see in many churches: people clustering with others in their generation? The 20-somethings spend their time with other 20-somethings talking about 20-something concerns….”

Dear Mr President
A heartbroken mother tells the president how she tried to explain abortion to her disbelieving young children.

Why was Christ veiled in the Law?
Nick Batzig gathers some wonderful quotes from John Owen and Geerhardus Vos.

Everybody is thinking about retirement wrong
The first part of this Forbes article is rather technical, but there are some thought-provoking points towards the end where he argues that “retirement as a cultural concept needs to go away.”

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 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.

How Technology Made me a Better Christian

There’s way too much Christian negativity surrounding technology. All we seem to think and read about are the dangers and difficulties of the digital revolution.

But how about some balance? How about recognizing and appreciating the amazing technological gifts that God has blessed our generation with?

I recently linked to How Technology Made me a Better Mom, and I thought, “Why don’t Christians write pieces like this?” Then, “Why don’t I write a piece like this?” So here goes with “How technology made me a better Christian.”

Affordable resources
I would not have half the books I have without the advent of Logos, Ages Software, eBooks, Kindle Daily Deals, etc. How impoverished my life and ministry would be without these resources! Then add all the blogs, websites, online sermons and videos, podcasts, and it’s almost too much of a good thing. Where do you start? Enter reliable online curators like Tim Challies and Justin Taylor to help us find the best treasure.

Searchable books
When I began my ministry in the mid-nineties, I started an elaborate and time-intensive index card reference system for everything I read in books, magazines, journals, etc. Yet even that often failed me as I stood in front of my tiny library and wondered, “Where did I read that quote? Which book deals with this verse or doctrine?” Now I can search Logos, my Kindle, Evernote, Dropbox, etc. and find them with a few clicks. This has not only saved me oodles of time, but has enriched my life and ministry immeasurably.

Economy and clarity of words
I got through Glasgow University and my first year of Seminary without a computer. I wasn’t a Luddite. It’s just that personal computers were still quite rare (and expensive). My first computer was a Packard Bell and it had a 200mb hard-drive! Yet even that made a huge different to the sermons I was beginning to preach. I still have the ten or so handwritten sermon notes of my first efforts. I remember there were times when I wanted to cut, edit, or re-arrange a section and yet just didn’t have the time to write everything else out again. My PC’s cut-and-paste made me a better preacher by helping me compress, clarify, and simplify my language. I so much wish John Owen had lived in our day.

Current comment
Until the advent of the Internet, if there was some moral crisis or worrying spiritual development in the church or nation, it would take a month or two for Christian periodicals to cover it and publish on it with comment and guidance. By then, the issue was often long gone and the debate had passed. Now we have the best minds and writers in Christendom able to comment and guide us through extremely treacherous moral and spiritual times and trends, and to do so virtually in real time!

Christian fellowship
Yes, I believe Christian fellowship has increased rather than decreased with the advent of the Internet. Through blogs and websites, “ordinary” Christians are sharing their faith and their spiritual experiences in ways that bless and encourage hundreds and sometimes thousands of other Christians – and non-Christians too. So much that would have been kept private and untold is now public and shared. Isolated Christians, Christian seniors, Christians with special needs, Christian homemakers, etc., have access to other Christians in unprecedented ways. And it’s not all digital. Most of my online friendships have developed into face-to-face friendships. Christians find it easier to open up and share in their local churches too because they’ve been “practicing” online.

Christian diversity
One of the richest aspects of online life is learning about other Christians from other backgrounds and cultures. Pre-Internet I might have seen them from a distance, and judged adversely on the basis of outward appearance. But as I read their blogs, listen to their sermons, and interact with them on Twitter and Facebook, etc., I hear and see their hearts for Christ and I’m better able to see past outward differences, love them, and be immeasurably enriched by them and their witness.

Outreach and Mission
It’s incredible how easy and inexpensive it now is to produce ministry resources and send them around the world at the click of a mouse. Churches and seminaries in third world countries are better equipped and educated than they’ve ever been. Classes and lectures are beamed into deserts, slums, and jungles. Missionaries connect with their families and churches at home via Skype. The Christian message is reaching countries and places no Christian can.

Usability of biblical languages
Logos, Bibleworks, NET Bible, etc., have helped me to continue, maintain, and improve my biblical languages. Like most pastors, when I came out of Seminary, my Greek and Hebrew began to slip and fade. However, when I discovered Logos in the late nineties, with easy-to-use parsing guides, word study tools, lexicons, etc., my biblical languages began to resume an important place in my sermon preparation. Without the time-saving digital tools, I know I wouldn’t have had the time to incorporate them into my weekly study.

Digital sanctification
This list is getting way too long already, and it could go on even longer, but let me wrap up by emphasizing that all these things and many more have made you and me better Christians. The digital revolution has increased our theological knowledge, our cultural engagement, our ministry reach and effectiveness, our evangelism and apologetics, our love for one another, and our holiness.

And who cannot worship God more when they sit down every day with an Apple!

In what ways has technology made you a better Christian?

What is sermon application?

(RSS and Email readers click here to view video.)

My definition: Application is the process by which the unchanging principles of God’s word are brought into life-changing contact with people who live in an ever-changing world. 

For other videos in the How Sermons Work series click here.

Check out

How to visit someone in the hospital
It really is this simple and should not create the angst-ridden procrastination that is so common.

Mental Illness and the church: Interview with Amy Simpson
Worth reading, especially for Amy’s answer to the question:  ”What is the most important thing you want everyone to understand about mental illness?”

Why professors at San Jose won’t use a Harvard Professor’s MOOC
Important words: “”In spite of our admiration for your ability to lecture in such an engaging way to such a large audience, we believe that having a scholar teach and engage with his or her own students is far superior to having those students watch a video of another scholar engaging his or her students.”

What I wish my pastor knew about the life of a scientist
Fascinating perspective from Andy Crouch about his scientist wife.

Three Cheers for the Twidiocracy
I join with Thomas Kidd as he gives three cheers for Twitter.

5 Ways to Teach your Kids about Sexual Development

I’d rather be a godly administrator than an ungodly minister

You spend your week filing papers, printing reports, chasing up bad debts, putting stamps on envelopes. Then you go to church on Sunday and you see a man leading hundreds in worship and prayer, and preaching inspiring sermons. It’s pretty obvious who’s pleasing God most isn’t it?

Is it?

Not so fast.

God looks on the heart and not the outward appearance.

What does He see there?

The Administrator’s Heart
Well, he sees that you start your day with prayer as you go to the office. You ask Him to protect you in your travels. You praise Him for safely navigating you through the rush hour.

You sit at your desk and begin the mindless filing, but as you do so, you are praying for family and friends.

You are interrupted by a boring colleague, but you cheerfully bear with him, listen to His moaning, try to cheer him up, and send him away with a bit of a spring in his step.

You sit down for coffee break, and bow your head for a few seconds of thanksgiving.

You pray for the Lord’s help to make that difficult phone call to a bad debtor. He yells and screams at you again, but you sense the Lord’s help as He gives you patience, self-control, gentleness, and peace. Slowly, your soft answer turns away wrath, and a few days later, the long-promised check appears.

Later in the day, you are putting the stamps on the mail, and praying for the Lord’s blessing on the day’s work, that the company would prosper, and that God would give harmony among the workers.

You leave work thanking God for His help throughout the day, thanking Him for a steady income, and asking God to bless your witness.

Then God looks at the pastor in his office.

The Minister’s Heart
There’s certainly a lot of hustle and bustle there. He’s reading furiously and typing even more furiously. He lost a couple of hours aimlessly surfing the Internet this morning, and a few more hours in a heated online debate about the millennium. Now he’s up against the clock as he tries to get a sermon together. But he’s done it many times before. He knows the websites to look at, he’s a skilled cutter-and-paster, and by the end of the day he’s got a fairly polished sermon constructed. He picks the songs he knows that everyone likes, and assures himself that after all these years in the ministry, he can easily lead the worship. Now back to the TV.

And sure enough, Sunday comes, he struts his stuff, everybody praises him, and he goes home, not to fall on his knees, but to start reading that latest book from Amazon.

Not one prayer. Not one contact with heaven. Not one act of dependence. Not one thanksgiving. Not one call to God.

Who’s pleasing God?
Now, you tell me, who’s pleasing God?

You do all that you do each day and no one praises you or encourages you or thinks you are particularly godly. The pastor comes and does his thing and everyone swoons. You go back to work on Monday without all that encouragement and affirmation, yet you patiently persevere in your calling.

Now, you tell me, who’s pleasing God?

If you do your work in dependence upon God, looking to Him alone for guidance, protection, strength, and blessing, you are doing your job with more faith than some men in pulpits!

If we preach about faith without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). But if we file papers in faith, drive trucks in faith, paint walls in faith, and dust the house in faith, God not only delights in us but rewards us too (Heb. 11:6).