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Dying Well
This is really what it’s all about, getting ready to die.

Pastors are called to equip the saints to walk in those good works that God has prepared beforehand for them to walk in. Every saint (except those alive when Jesus returns) will have to walk through the good work of dying well. May the Lord enable us to prepare Jesus’ sheep to live by faith and to die by faith.

A Letter to My Former Pastor, on the Occasion of His Retirement

Bro. Ken, When I opened the email that said you planned to step down as senior pastor this year, I cried. The tears flowed both from sadness at the passing of time and from gratitude for you and your ministry. For more than a decade of my life, you were the primary chef who served up and seasoned the meat of God’s Word for my spiritual sustenance. During my most formative years, you nourished me through your preaching more than one thousand times.

The Real Story of Christianity and Abortion
Never give up. Never give in.

To the utter consternation of the abortion rights movement, the issue of abortion simply will not go away. Decades after abortion rights activists thought they had put the matter to rest with the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, America’s conscience is more troubled than ever, and near-panic appears to break out regularly among abortion activists. Such a panic is now under way, and the defenders of abortion are trotting out some of their most dishonest arguments. One of the worst is the claim that Christians have only recently become concerned about the sanctity of human life and the evil of abortion.

Seven Characteristics of Liberal Theology
Watch for even the smallest beginnings of these.

Setting the Tone in Your Home
Dadas too.

Mamas, you have been granted a special gift in the life of your family: you are the tone setter. It doesn’t matter if you have fancy decor or an immaculately clean house. It doesn’t matter if you work long hours or stay home all day long. When you are with your family, you guide the atmosphere.”

Parenting and Emotional Intelligence
“As you look back on your childhood, how did your family of origin approach feelings? How has that shaped you and the way you interact with others? If you are a parent, how does that play itself out in the way you interact with your children?”

Kindle Books

“Free Grace” Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel by Wayne Grudem $3.99. This is an important book on a vital subject.

Ready for Reformation? by Tom Nettles $0.99. If you’re not already over-Reformationed.

How to Be a Christian in a Brave New World by Joni Eareckson Tada $1.99.

How to Help Your Kids Get Excited about Reading the Bible

get-your-kids-excitedParents face huge obstacles in trying to get their kids excited about reading the Bible. For starters, very few kids are reading anything at all. There are so many distracting (and seemingly more exciting) alternatives to sitting quietly with a book. The pressure of school activities, sports, and the social whirl are not conducive to finding a quiet time to read.

On top of that, the Bible is not an easy read. Sure, there are some well-known sections that many kids are familiar with through Sunday school and VBS, but the vast majority of it is unchartered territory. It’s not a multimedia fest; it’s black words on white pages. It’s not a world that most kids are familiar with; the culture, history, and geography of the Bible seem a million miles and years away from modern children.

Two Enemies

And worst of all, we have two enemies fighting with all their might against children reading the Bible. There’s the devil, who opens the gates of hell whenever a child opens a Bible. And there are our children’s hearts, which are turned away from the truth from birth (Psalm 51:5; 58:3). No one naturally and normally delights in the Word of God without being given a new heart by regeneration.

Despite these discouraging impediments, I still believe we should and can encourage our children to see Bible reading as a delight rather than a drudge. And the most powerful way of doing that is by conveying our own delight in God’s Word. We have to demonstrate that the Bible lights up our life. If we’re not excited about this book, we can’t expect our children to be.

Read the rest of this article at Crossway’s blog.

The biggest difference between good speakers and great speakers

Good speakers are focused on their speaking. Great speakers are focused on their audience’s hearing.

What makes the difference between a good speech and a great speech? They share many common qualities: important subject, accurate research, clear writing, organized material, relevant illustrations, passionate communication, and so on.

But they differ in one important area.

Good speakers are focused on their speaking. Great speakers are focused on their audience’s hearing.

If you were able to measure where a speaker’s primary concern lay, good speakers would have a big arrow pointing to their mouth. Great speakers would have a big arrow pointing at their hearers’ ears.

The good speaker’s primary question is “How can I get this out?” The great speaker’s main question is “How do I get this in?”

The good speaker is concerned with “How can I teach this?” The great speaker gravitates towards, “How can they learn this?”

The good speaker asks, “Is this the best structure and outline to help me deliver this message?” The great speaker asks, “Is this the best structure and outline to help my hearers embrace this message?”

The good speaker concentrates on delivering his manuscript. The great speaker concentrates on his hearers receiving his words

The difference is sometimes subtle and difficult to detect in the moment of speaking, but always vast in the long-term impact of the words.

In TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public SpeakingChris Anderson explains that the most successful TED talks not only have a compelling idea at their core, but the speakers have spent time thinking about the best way to get that idea out of their head and into the heads of others.

Most good speakers think it’s enough to have a good idea and to express it clearly. The best speakers go the extra mile; they put in the extra time and tears to figure out the best way to transfer the idea from their mind into others’ minds.  As Anderson puts it:

Language works its magic only to the extent that it is shared by speaker and listener. And there’s the key clue to how to achieve the miracle of re-creating your idea in someone else’s brain. You can only use the tools that your audience has access to. If you start only with your language, your concepts, your assumptions, your values, you will fail. So instead, start with theirs. It’s only from that common ground that they can begin to build your idea inside their minds.

I love that metaphor of re-creating our idea in our listeners’ minds. The good speaker uses the materials of his own mind to do this. The great speaker reaches into the minds of his hearers and uses the materials he finds there. Without this, idea-transference will never happen. With it, the possibilities are endless.

Is God not the best example of this? He didn’t communicate with his own concepts and words. That would have not only baffled our minds but exploded them. Instead he used the concepts and materials he found in our own minds. Indeed, in his ultimate communication, he used the materials of our own human flesh, our own human souls, and our own human minds. “The Word became flesh.” And all because he was focused on our hearing not his speaking.

Good speakers are focused on their speaking. Great speakers are focused on their audience’s hearing.

More articles in the Preaching Lessons from TED Talks series.

Burnout Begins with Bad Theology

Innumerable books and articles have been published over the last several years on the subject of burnout. But for all the millions of words that have been spent, the statistics continue to rise at an alarming pace. And behind the cold statistics is a conflagration of relationships, families, careers, lives, and souls.

The reason the vast majority of cures and solutions for burnout don’t work is that they merely focus on various techniques to manage stress or reduce anxiety. Some of these practical remedies can be helpful, but they don’t address the heart of the issue. They may put out the fire around the edges, but, because they don’t extinguish the central blaze, the fire within keeps erupting and charred remains keep piling up.

So, what leads us to burnout? Ultimately, it’s false theology. Behind every exhausted person are bogus beliefs that must be identified and doused by replacing them with true theology. Let’s start by pointing our fire extinguisher at our (false) theology of sleep.

Read the rest of his article at desiringGod.

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Why Gospel Diversity Means More—Though Not Less!—Than Ethnic Diversity
“They go on to define “diversity” as “any multiplicity of backgrounds where unity is possible only through the gospel.” I found their reminders helpful—not as a way of downplaying or distracting from an emphasis on ethnic diversity, but as a way to build upon it. In other words, we should pray for more diversity, not less.”

Shatter Your Kid-Centered Kingdom
“When we forego what our culture deems best and instead chase God’s best, it is in fact our kids’ best. When we serve God and not our children, our children actually benefit.”

“Should I Force My Teen to Go to Church?”
R C Sproul answers: “I would encourage you to make it a special point of concern to do everything in your power to get your kids to church and to make it an attractive time for them rather than a bad experience.”

5 Pastoral Emergencies That Aren’t Emergencies
What’s a pastor to do with the seemingly endless emergencies? “One step you can take is to decide whether something is actually an emergency. Just because it’s an emergency to them doesn’t mean it has to be an emergency for you.”

10 Indicators You’ve Stopped Growing as a Leader
“Leaders who stop growing lose their edge as a leader. They become stale, even if others may not readily recognize it. See if your life reflects any of these indications that you’ve stopped growing as a leader:”

The End of the World As We Know It: An Infographic – Tim Challies
Clear and simple presentation of the main millennial views.

The Cheap Way to Bless Your Pastor | TGC
“So as budget time rolls around, consider the cheapest way to bless your pastor and your congregation: make sure the minister has enough time to rest, read, and recharge.”

Remembering the Attributes of God in Counseling
“How do the attributes of God shape your counseling? Are there certain attributes that have been particularly helpful? How can we show our counselees more of the character of God as we meet together? How can spending time meditating on the attributes of God benefit our own souls as we seek to care for others?”

Why You Get Distracted at Work
“There are things we can do to buck the trend. We can put our phones away, use apps to shut off social media during work hours, and turn our phones off at dinner time. But a mechanical fix is just a Band-Aid. Most of us have a real problem with concentration. Until we are willing to take a hard look at how and why we are driving ourselves to distraction, it’s going to be hard to find the focus that we so badly need.”

Six Benefits of Ordinary Daily Devotions | Desiring God
“Your devotions may have seemed ordinary today, but God is making something extraordinary through it. Press on. Don’t short-change the process.

Kindle Books

Too Good to Be True by Michael Horton $3.99.

Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae $3.99.

Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry by Barbara Bancroft $1.59.

The New Superpower of Presentation Literacy

Presentation literacy is a superpower and can be learned.

One of the most inspiring sections in TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speakingis where Chris Anderson expands upon the power of the spoken word over the written word:

Done right, a talk can electrify a room and transform an audience’s worldview. Done right, a talk is more powerful than anything in written form. Writing gives us the words. Speaking brings with it a whole new toolbox. When we peer into a speaker’s eyes; listen to the tone of her voice; sense her vulnerability, her intelligence, her passion, we are tapping into unconscious skills that have been fine-tuned over hundreds of thousands of years. Skills that can galvanize, empower, inspire.

Like me, you’re probably saying, “Yes, that’s true for a few speakers who have exceptional gifts, but that will never be me.” But Chris Anderson insists that public speaking skills are teachable, “that there’s a new superpower that anyone, young or old, can benefit from. It’s called presentation literacy.”

Novel name, but not a novel idea, as the teaching of rhetoric was one of the basics of first century education, leading Anderson to advocate for a “Fourth R” to supplement reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic in our schools. And the curriculum would be this book’s analysis of thousands of TED talks that have succeeded in achieving 1.5 billion annual views. Anderson argues:

Presentation literacy isn’t an optional extra for the few. It’s a core skill for the twenty-first century. It’s the most impactful way to share who you are and what you care about. If you can learn to do it, your self-confidence will flourish, and you may be amazed at the beneficial impact it can have on your success in life, however you might choose to define that.

Anderson tells his own story of how he went from being a terrified geeky bag of nerves about public speaking to getting a standing ovation from Jeff Bezos and other dignitaries. He encourages us:

No matter how little confidence you might have today in your ability to speak in public, there are things you can do to turn that around. Facility with public speaking is not a gift granted at birth to a lucky few. It’s a broad-ranging set of skills. There are hundreds of ways to give a talk, and everyone can find an approach that’s right for them and learn the skills necessary to do it well.

Presentation literacy is a superpower and can be learned.

More articles in the Preaching Lessons from TED Talks series.