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Four Useful Ministries by Deacons |
“…the Bible is not abundantly clear on how deacon roles should be carried out practically day-by-day. I have enjoyed interacting with hundreds of pastors who have shared with me how their church’s deacon ministry plays out. Here are four of the more common themes.”

How Oxford and Peter Singer drove me from atheism to Jesus | Sarah Irving-Stonebraker, The Veritas Forum
“I grew up in Australia, in a loving, secular home, and arrived at Sydney University as a critic of ‘religion.’ I didn’t need faith to ground my identity or my values. I knew from the age of eight that I wanted to study history at Cambridge and become a historian. My identity lay in academic achievement, and my secular humanism was based on self-evident truths…”

Has the Gospel-Centered Pendulum Swung Too Far? | Mark Ward, LogosTalk
“In the most recent issue of Themelios—a theological journal you can get for free in Logos—Dane Ortlund helps us arrest one particularly powerful pendulum swing. His article, ‘Reflections on Handling the Old Testament as Jesus Would Have Us: Psalm 15 as a Case Study,’ addresses the ‘remarkable resurgence of Christocentric interpretation,’ an ‘impulse to resist moralistic and graceless readings’ of Scripture. The relatively recent popularity of biblical theology and of ‘gospel-centeredness’ are also part of this particular pendulum swing.”

The Ninth Commandment and the Pain of Social Media | Nathan W. Bingham
“But as Christians, we serve the God of truth. We follow the One who said, ‘You shall not bear false witness…’ (Exodus 20:16). On the world’s largest stage we need to be vigilant. It takes an intentional commitment to truth, and a daily reliance upon the Holy Spirit, to combat the current of our culture.”

John Owen on Revival | Danny Hyde, Meet the Puritans
Danny encourages us to seek true revival.

A Mom, Son, Basic Training, and the Gospel | David Prince
“Who knew my son enlisting in the US military would draw me closer to God and make me a better soldier of the Son by teaching me more about what it means to, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:2-3)?”

Kindle Deals

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Reformed Means Missional: Following Jesus into the World by Samuel T. Logan ($1.99)

Get Real: Sharing Your Everyday Faith Every Day by John Leonard ($1.99)

Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible by George Guthrie ($2.99)

Why bother with church?: And other questions about why you need it and why it needs you by Sam Allberry ($2.99)

New Book

Seven Leaders: Pastors and Teachers by Iain H. Murray


Pro-Grace: The Third Option in the Abortion Debate
I don’ know much about this group but the video is challenging.

Nabeel Qureshi’s Wife Shares ‘Toughest Part’ about Husband’s Ordeal

Personal Sustainability

In recent years, a number of Christian leaders have rightly called lethargic and half-hearted Christians to quicken their pace, to dedicate more of their time, talents, money and efforts to serving the Lord in the local church and in evangelistic outreach at home and abroad.

I welcome this “radical,” “don’t waste your life” message to up the pace, and I rejoice in its positive impact on thousands of Christians. Some of us, though, need to hear a different message:

“Slow your pace or you’ll never finish the race.”

As Brady Boyd warns in Addicted to Busy, “Ultimately, every problem I see in every person I know is a problem of moving too fast for too long in too many aspects of life.”

I’m not proposing that we put our feet up and opt out of life and Christian service. No, I’m talking about being sensitive to changes in ourselves and our circumstances and re-calibrating our pace to ensure personal sustainability.

Serious Shortage

Such pacing skills are in short supply among Christians, with the result that too many—especially those most committed to serving Christ—are crashing or fading fast before their race is over. It’s not just a “Christian” problem though; it’s also a culture problem. There are 225 million workdays lost every year in the United States due to stress; that’s nearly one million people not working every working day.

“But I’m young, energetic and healthy. Why should I care about burnout and sustainability?” Every victim of burnout will tell you that unhealthy patterns of living and working that they learned in their youth caused their downfall later in life.

And if any group is in danger today, it’s the Millennial generation, whose stress levels are higher than the national average, according to a report by the American Psychological Association. Thirty-nine percent of Millennials say their stress has increased in the past year, and 52 percent say stress about work, money and relationships has kept them awake at night in the past month, with one in five clinically depressed or stressed out and needing medication.

In Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture, I explore a number of ways in which we can build personal sustainability. Three of the most relevant for the younger generation are: improved sleep, a regular Sabbath and recovering our God-given identity.

Click through to Relevant for he rest of this article and more about these three personal sustainability habits.

Emotional Intelligence Resources

Recently I was asked for resources on emotional intelligence (sometimes called EQ). Here’s what I had on file with some summaries and extracts from the articles.

The Must-Have Pastoral Skill | Head Heart Hand
Here’s my take on Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, and how it applies to pastoral ministry. Leaders on all fronts can benefit from sharpening their interpersonal skills and, arguably, Emotional Intelligence is even more important for pastors and those in ministry than for those in business.

What’s the must-have pastoral skill?

“Public speaking?” No.

“Time-management?” No.

“Theological expertise?” No.

Give up?

It’s social intelligence. Some call it “interpersonal skills” or “EQ”(Emotional Intelligence).

How to Boost Your (and Others’) Emotional Intelligence | Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Michael Sanger, Harvard Business Review
EQ is considered by Goleman and others to be malleable and changeable. Click through for the details, but here are a few tips on how to boost your EQ:

  • Turn self-deception into self-awareness
  • Turn self-focus into other-focus
  • Be more rewarding to deal with
  • Control your temper-tantrums
  • Display humility, even if it’s fake

7 Habit of Highly Emotionally Intelligent People | Harvey Deutschendorf, Fast Company

  1. They focus on the positive
  2. They surround themselves with positive people
  3. They are able to set boundaries and be assertive when necessary
  4. They are forward thinking and willing to let go of the past
  5. They look for ways to make life more fun, happy, and interesting
  6. They choose how to expend their energy wisely
  7. They are continually learning and growing towards independence

Ignore Emotional Intelligence at Your Own Risk | Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, Harvard Business Review

Back in the late 1990s I did my first quantitative analysis on the subject, using information on 250 managers I had personally hired or recommended for promotion to our clients, mostly in Latin America in those days. I analyzed the correlation of three main candidate variables (experience, IQ, and emotional intelligence) with the person’s performance once on the job and was amazed with the results. When the appointees excelled in experience and IQ but had low emotional intelligence, their failure rate was as high as 25%. However, those people with high emotional intelligence combined with at least one of the other two factors (experience or IQ) only failed in 3%-4% of the cases. In other words, emotional intelligence coupled with high IQ or very relevant experience was a very strong predictor of success. However, highly intelligent or experienced candidates who lacked emotional intelligence were more likely to flame out.

My colleagues soon replicated this analysis for many different geographies and highly diverse cultures, including Japan and Germany, and the results were similar everywhere. People are hired for IQ and experience and fired for failing to manage themselves and others well. (emphasis added)

Research: Technology Is Only Making Social Skills More Important | Nicole Torres, Harvard Business Review

[The NBER Working Paper] explains three things about the growing importance of social skills: 1) social skills are valued in jobs across the entire wage distribution (as seen in the chart), 2) social skill and cognitive skill complement each other, and 3) jobs that require low levels of social skills are also likely to be routine jobs (filing clerks, factory jobs) at high risk of automation.

7 Interview Questions That Determine Emotional Intelligence | Carolyn Sun,

  1. Who inspires you and why?
  2. If you were starting a company tomorrow, what would be its top three values?
  3. If business priorities change, describe how you would help your team understand and carry out the shifted goals?
  4. Did you build lasting friendships while working at another job?
  5. What skill or expertise do you feel like you’re still missing?
  6. Can you teach me something as if I’ve never heard of it before? (It can be anything: a skill, a lesson, a puzzle.)
  7. What are the top three factors you would attribute to your success?

5 Reasons Emotional Intelligence Is so Important for Leaders | Art Rainer
In this article, Art also looks at Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence. Here are his 5 reasons:

  1. You make better decisions
  2. You treat others better
  3. You regret less
  4. You become more trustworthy
  5. You are more likely to experience success

7 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence is One Of The Fastest Growing Job Skills | Harvey Deutschendorf, Fast Company

  1. They can handle pressure healthily
  2. They understand and cooperate with others
  3. They’re good listeners
  4. They’re more open to feedback
  5. They’re empathetic
  6. They set an example for others to follow
  7. They make more thoughtful and thorough decisions

Emotional Intelligence Has 12 Elements. Which Do You Need to Work On? | Daniel Goleman and Richard E. Boyatzis, Harvard Business Review
Goleman and Boyatzis take a closer look at specific competencies of Emotional Intelligence to help readers get a more well-rounded view of what Emotional Intelligence actually is. Follow their fictional account of a well-liked manager with uneven EI skills to further understand how the domains and competencies apply.

18 Behaviors of Emotionally Intelligent People | Travis Bradberry, Motto
Here are a few favorites from Bradberry’s list:

1. You have a robust emotional vocabulary
2. You’re curious about people
4. You know your strengths and weaknesses
6. You are difficult to offend
7. You know how to say no (to yourself and others)
12. You don’t seek perfection
14. You disconnect
16. You get enough sleep

Is the Lecture Dead or Alive?

The annual debate about the deadness of the lecture has generated a bit more light than heat this year with various helpful articles exploring the pros and cons of various pedagogies. For example, there was Rhett Allain’s The Traditional Lecture is Dead. I Would Know—I’m a Professor. My summary of it:

1. The Internet has changed education forever. As Allain points out, the traditional lecture dates from a time when knowledge was largely stored in trained human minds. The only way to access it was to sit in front of that mind and have its contents emptied live into your own mind. Now all that information is available to everyone at the click of a hyperlink no matter when and no matter where you are in the world.

2. Most lecturers from the pre-internet age were boring (and some still are). As the lecturer was the only person who had the information and was the only one who could communicate it, there was no motivation to spice up the lecture. The “closed shop” or monopoly on knowledge resulted in lecturers just droning on for hours as they dictated the same notes they had read for years.

3. Lecturers now have to compete against the best teachers in the world. Students can walk out of a tedious lecture and find someone somewhere on the internet who is teaching the same subject with a lot more creativity and innovation. These videos can be paused and re-started at the viewer’s whim.

4. Students learn by doing more than by hearing or seeing. Research shows active learning is more effective than the traditional passive learning model, at least in science, math, and engineering. Hence more and more teachers are flipping their classes, having students read or view lectures outside of class and using class time for practice, experiments, discussion, Q&A, problem solving, and debate.

Chris Gehrz then wrote a rebuttal of Allain in an article entitled The Traditional Lecture Lives. I Would Know—I’m a Professor. If Allain’s description of the lecture as just disseminating information is true, then Gehrz agrees—just let it die. But he goes on to demonstrate that the lecture is about much more than this. It’s about transformation not information, transformation that takes place in the following ways.

1. Asking questions. In addition to communicating information, the lecture is about asking questions together, which at least partly involves teaching students how to ask the best questions.

2. Learning to concentrate. The traditional lecture is training students to concentrate their attention, a fast-disappearing skill. It’s a mental workout that rids the mind of junky social media habits. Only prolonged focused concentration on a particular subject can make students forget about themselves for long enough to think about other people, places, and times in a way that produces enduring intellectual and moral fruit. For this reason, Gehrz bans all digital devices from classes, a practice I’ve also been following for the past year.

3. The practice of vulnerability. The best lecturers allow themselves to be vulnerable. Gehrz makes the case that the lecture has the potential to transform because it starts with someone performing. I love how he puts it:

Far from feeling powerful, I never feel more vulnerable than when I’m lecturing — stripped of the privacy and solitude my introvert’s soul prefers, exposing the extensive limitations of my knowledge and abilities (wondering if it wouldn’t be safer to facilitate discussion, and redirect attention away from my own uncertainties: “What do you think?”), and (if I’m doing it right) putting some of my deepest loves and joys (and sorrows) on full display for an audience that seems as likely to respond with laughter, derision, or apathy as with enthusiasm.

But that risk is worth it if some uncertain number of students find something winsome about the sight of a grown man showing boyish enthusiasm for the study of the past. If something is sparked in their soul and a love is kindled.

And perhaps that’s the most important key to a successful lecture—boyish (or “girlish”) enthusiasm for one’s subject that is contagious. One of the best lecturers I ever had was my moral philosophy lecturer at Glasgow University. He was a total atheist, but he was so enthusiastic about teaching philosophy that I looked forward to my 9am lecture every day. One of his teaching assistants gave us three weeks of lectures on Immanuel Kant, lectures that were more like preaching than teaching. I remember thinking, “I wish preachers had as much zeal as you do!” Twenty-five years on, I can’t remember the details of these lectures, but I’ll never forget the fanatical fervor of these teachers.

So, yes, the lecture has to change. The Internet has rendered the mere reader of lectures redundant. Much information can be more efficiently communicated outside of class hours using various technologies, leaving more class time for more interactive learning. Such transformed lectures have transformative power, especially if the teacher is able to convey passion for his subject in particular, and learning in general. Such lectures (and lecturers) will never die. I hope.

Why Did Christ Mention His Atonement So Rarely?

How many times did Christ mention his atonement?

So few times that heretics have often used this to argue against Christ’s death being an atoning sacrifice for sin. Christ did not believe this himself, they say; rather it was a later addition or perversion by the apostles.

In Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement, George Smeaton takes on this dangerous error and begins by acknowledging that Christ refers to the atonement fewer times that we might wish. But he then offers an apologetic on this point.

Weigh rather than Count
First, although Christ did not refer to his atonement frequently, due to the amount and variety of information each one conveys about the atonement, his sayings should be weighed rather than counted. Fulness is more important that frequency. And so full are these references that Christ mentions every possible blessing connected with the atonement. What the Apostles do is not so much develop the doctrine of the atonement but apply it to the various problems and practices of the New Testament churches.

Obsolete Doctrine
Second, Smeaton argues that apart from a few such as John the Baptist, Simeon, and Zachariah, the idea of a suffering Messiah filling a priestly office had grown obselete among the Jews. Christ had therefore to take a backward step, as did John the Baptist, and teach the spirituality of the law:

They must learn their needs as sinners; acknowledge their defects; and have awakened in them a desire for pardon, before they could learn much of the nature of His vicarious death, or, indeed, be capable of receiving it.

Binding his Disciples
Third, he wanted to bind his hearers to him by establishing their faith in him as a divine person with a unique calling, before revealing the necessity and nature of his death. Christ still taught them about his atonement, though it was often incidental and indirect.

More than Revealed
Fourth, Smeaton allows the possibility that Christ may have spoken of his atonement more than is revealed and recorded in Scripture. For example, Christ said of  Mary’s anointing: “She did it for my burial” (Matt. 26:12). She seems to have been taught by him concerning his death and accepted his words.

Post Resurrection
Fifth, it was not until his atoning death was an accomplished fact, that Christ could teach them about his person and work with fulness and freedom, which is what he seems to have done frequently after his resurrection.

He spake copiously on that theme, to which they would not listen before; and He said much that is not recorded, when He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself, beginning at Moses and all the prophets (Luke 24:27)….His great design was to unfold the necessity, nature, and design of His vicarious death, and to open their understandings to understand the Scriptures; and we cannot but conclude, when we put all the hints together, that Jesus must then have said more to the disciples on the subject of His death for the remission of sins, than in all His previous communications addressed to them. The work was done, and it could now be fully understood

Having said all that, Smeaton still insists that Christ’s own testimony to the atonement provides “such a full and rounded outline of the atonement, as to leave almost no corner of the doctrine untouched.”

Previous Posts in this Series on the Atonement

Was Jesus ever ill?

The Most Sympathetic Man in the World

What did Christ believe about the atonement?

The Four Essentials of a Successful Atonement

Check out


The Real Root of Sexual Sin
A most perceptive article on sexual sin.

“The most powerful weapon against sexual impurity is humility. Patterns of sinful thought and behavior are fruits of a deeper root. If we want to stop bearing bad fruit, we must aim our primary attack against the root. And the root of sexual sin is not our sex drive; it’s pride.”

The Most Marginalized Minority
This pierces the heart:

This mind of Christ will not allow us to hide, but empower us to embrace the most marginalized and frightening minority in our world: the disabled. They are not an optional upgrade to our ministry endeavors. They are vital and precious members of Jesus’s body.

Don’t Pursue Feelings. Pursue Christ
Joe Thorn does a good job of balancing emotion and doctrine:

“One danger is emotionalism, in which we allow our feelings to interpret our circumstances and form our thoughts about God. This is putting feelings before faith. The other danger is a kind of stoicism, where faith is rooted in theology but void of affection. This tendency removes feelings from faith altogether. While it is true that our emotions should not lead our theology, it is vital to our faith that theology lead to a deep experience of our triune God.”

Single For a Reason: Eight Lies We Tell Unmarried Women
Good guide on what not to say.

Someone More Important Than Your BFF
Here’s an extract from Reset on prioritizing and progressing in our relationship with God:

Like all healthy and satisfying relationships, our relationship with God needs time and energy. But giving time and energy to our relationship with God actually increases free time and energy because it helps us get a better perspective on life and order our priorities better, it reduces the time we spend on image management, and it removes fear and anxiety.

Kindle Books

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever $2.99. Just in case someone out there hasn’t got this yet.

Expository Apologetics: Answering Objections with the Power of the Word by Voddie Baucham $4.99.

The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap $3.99.