Check out

Blogs

Without Luther, There Would Be No Bach
Martin Luther never met Johann Sebastian Bach. The two Germans were born more than 200 years apart. But without Luther, there would have been no Bach.

Help Me Teach the Bible: Vern Poythress on Interpreting Scripture
Very Poythress explains steps for sound interpretation as well as mistakes Bible teachers often make. He offers keys to using a commentary wisely and to identifying analogies and types of Christ in the Old Testament.

We Need More “Parlour Preachers”
I am so envious of parlour preachers. Far harder than being a pulpit preacher.

Why You Shouldn’t Wait Until You Can Afford An Instagrammable Wedding
The overwhelmingly materialistic norms surrounding contemporary weddings are not simply irrelevant to marital happiness. Many are positively harmful.

The Gospel in Asia
Jeffrey Jue shares encouraging Gospel news from Asia

The advance of the gospel in Asia over the last century has been extraordinary. Christian churches are growing and thriving in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and of course South Korea, which boasts some of the largest churches in the entire world. Yet the gospel is also taking root in countries where we might not expect it to. For example, a movement of Reformed churches is growing in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. Moreover, the exponential growth of the house church movement in China is remarkable considering that the Communist government places strict restrictions on the activities of Christian churches. Clearly, the work of the gospel in Asia is something we rejoice over, continue to pray for, and look for opportunities to support.

And here’s more good news in The Gospel Tsuanmi Surging Through Latin America.

Are You Experiencing FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)?
Our phones and social media serve as a real-time refresh of our comparisons with the lives of others, constantly feeding our “fear of missing out” (FOMO). FOMO and social media go hand in hand. Even the new entry in the Oxford English Dictionary confirms the link: “FOMO—fear of missing out, anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

Kindle Books

The God I Love: A Lifetime of Walking with Jesus by Joni Eareckson Tada $0.99.

Home: How Heaven & the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings by Elyse Fitzpatrick $1.99.

Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward by Nabeel Qureshi $2.99.

New Book

Learning to Love the Psalms by Robert Godfrey. See video discussion below.

Video

Learning to Love the Psalms
Nathan Bingham interviews Dr. Bob Godfrey about his new book Learning to Love the Psalms.

Conference

I’ll be in Arizona for the weekend delivering the Lloyd Jackson Memorial Lectures.

Conference Poster

 


Grace-Paced Life Links

More Americans than ever before are stressed, depressed and anxiety-ridden, and many are unable to get the help they need, a new study suggests. According to this report:

An estimated 8.3 million American adults — about 3.4 percent of the U.S. population — suffer from serious psychological distress, an evaluation of federal health data concluded. Previous estimates put the number of Americans suffering from serious psychological distress at 3 percent or less, the researchers said.

What’s the cause? According to Judith Weissman, research manager in the department of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, it’s “likely a lasting after-effect of the Great Recession that began in late 2007 — a stress-filled time that caused long-term emotional damage to many Americans.”

Many people psychologically affected by the Great Recession haven’t been able to get the help they need, either because they can’t afford it or because their condition hampers their ability to seek out treatment, she said.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of Americans live with serious psychological distress, an umbrella term that runs from general hopelessness and nervousness all the way up to diagnosable conditions such as depression and anxiety, Weissman explained.

And if you thought Americans had it bad, workaholic Japan has just introduced a law limiting workers to no more than 100 hours of overtime a month!

Royal Concern
Two British Royals, Princes William and Harry have also been talking about mental health issues in public. Prince William had a Facetime with Lady Gaga about the letter she wrote concerning her PTSD, and Prince Harry talked about his own long-term mental and emotional struggles following the death of his mother. Both emphasized the importance of removing shame and stigma by talking openly about these often invisible sufferings.

Prevention Better than Cure
In this short podcast Jared Wilson discusses how to Prevent Pastoral Burnout. He offers a three-words formula: Rest, Boundaries, and Margin. Tune in to hear his exposition and then read another take at Christianity Today. Their solution? Equip the Saints (Eph. 4:12), which Karl Vaters calls “the pastor’s prime mandate.”

In that passage, the Apostle Paul clearly tells us we have been called “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

The longer I pastor, the more convinced I am that one of the prime reasons for pastoral burnout is that too many pastors – especially small church pastors, like me – are ignoring that simple command.

5 Ways Exercise Helps the Leader’s Mind
Although it sounds counter-intuitive, one of the best ways to get more work done and increase free time is to add exercise to our daily routine. How does that work? Eric Geiger explains the 5 Ways Exercise Helps the Leader’s Mind.

  • Exercise increases learning ability.
  • Exercise lowers the impact of stress.
  • Exercise lowers sensitivity to anxiety.
  • Exercise helps fight depression.
  • Exercise increases memory capacity.

Sleep is the New Status Symbol
“Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body,” Dr. Walker of U.C. Berkeley said. If that doesn;t get you to read this article, try some other quotes like:

For years, studies upon studies have shown how bad sleep weakens the immune system, impairs learning and memory, contributes to depression and other mood and mental disorders, as well as obesitydiabetescancer and an early death. (Sedated sleep — hello Ambien — has been shown to be as deleterious as poor sleep.)

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls sleeplessness a public health concern. Good sleep helps brain plasticity, studies in mice have shown; poor sleep will make you fat and sad, and then will kill you. It is also expensive: Last year, the RAND Corporation published a study that calculated the business loss of poor sleep in the United States at $411 billion — a gross domestic product loss of 2.28 percent.

Companies now fight “presenteeism,” a neologism that describes the lackluster performance of foggy-brained, sleep-deprived employees.

The Army has proclaimed sleep a pillar of peak soldier performance.

Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, who used to take a sleeping bag to work when he was a lowly computer programmer, has said that his eight hours of sleep each night were good for his stockholders.

Aetna, the health care company, is paying its workers up to $500 a year if they can prove they have slept for seven hours or more for 20 days in a row.

For more, read Sleep is the New Status Symbol.

Get more Grace-Paced Life resources here.


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Blogs

What Your Biology Teacher Didn’t Tell You About Charles Darwin
“You don’t need to be a Bible-thumping evangelical to question whether Darwin’s thinking deserves to be given a bit more thought. Whatever your views on origins and evolution, we can hopefully all agree that, at present, we give far too much honor to the British thinker who justified genocide.”

Survey Reveals Many Evangelicals Are Confused About Adultery
A survey asked “How often, if ever, would you say the following activities would be cheating on a spouse or partner?” Here are the results for evangelicals. It’s not pretty.

A World of Misery at My Very Door: A Story
Looking for some good news? Here’s an encouraging story from Tim Challies.

Church Administration: A Simple Formula
Jared shares his formula for a well-run church: Information + Inclusion = Importance & Involvement.

How to Fight for Faith in the Dark: Three Lessons for Depression
“If you’re depressed, how can you fight for faith? How can you believe while also stumbling through the dark? Here are some things that have helped me.”

The Achilles Heel of the New Perspective on Paul
New perspective on the new perspective.

5 Questions Leaders Should Be Asking All the Time
“Leaders should ask these questions both on a daily basis and during critical moments. Of course, these aren’t the only questions to ask; context certainly matters. But I have found these five to be a very practical and useful way to ensure understanding, generate new ideas, inspire progress, encourage responsibility, and remain focused on what is genuinely important.”

New Book

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke. Here’s my endorsement of this much-needed book:

“Experience practical theology at its finest as Tony applies a thorough understanding of the Scriptures to a thorough understanding of our culture, resulting in a beautifully written and balanced guide to the dangers and opportunities in the palms of our hands. Yes, our phones have changed us for the worse, but this book will change us and our phone use for the better.”

Kindle Books

God’s Will: Finding Guidance for Everyday Decisions by J I Packer $1.99.

A Godward Heart: Treasuring the God Who Loves You by John Piper $4.99.

Video

Wayne Grudem Testimony
What a beautiful story.


I’m a Master of Divinity and I don’t know my Bible

I receive many email questions, most of which I don’t have time to answer. Sometimes, however, there are valuable questions that I think would provide helpful answers for others who read the blog. I therefore ask the questioner if I can remove identifying features and answer it on my blog. Such is the case with this question.

I have an M.Div and have read hundreds of books and still feel that I don’t know my Bible.  My knowledge has been all second hand as I have consumed commentaries during my devotional times.  And yet my faith feels hollow and lifeless.  I don’t know how to read the Bible and study it for myself.  I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown…I try and start and I get so frustrated that I turn back to commentaries and the lifelessness continues…I can’t do this anymore

Please help me…I know you don’t know me…but please help me…..


Dear Christian Brother,

It sounds as if there are two problems going on here. First there is the presenting problem of not knowing your Bible, even after years of theological study. Second, there appears to be an underlying mental health problem which is preventing a solution to the first problem.

Let’s deal with the second problem, the mental health problem, first. You say: “My faith feels hollow and lifeless…I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown….I try and start and I get so frustrated…I can’t do this anymore…Please help me, etc.”

All these expressions suggest that you have exhausted your mind and that it needs a break to heal and recover. This may sound odd, but I’d recommend that you cut back on all reading at the moment, including Bible reading. You are trying to make your brain do what it simply cannot do in this state of stressed exhaustion. I suggest that you read just 1-2 verses from your Bible every day for two weeks – preferably in one of the Gospels. Read them briefly, pray briefly for God’s blessing, close your Bible and then walk away. After two weeks, increase your reading up to three verses a day. A week later, try four verses a day, and so on.

Also, try to spend large parts of the day doing work that will not take a huge toll on your brain. Give your tired mind a breather as much as you can. Do practical jobs instead of cognitively demanding work. Walk, exercise, get good sleep, eat healthy food, meet up with friends from time to time for an hour or so. Generally, you need to  cultivate quiet and peace in your life. That especially means cutting out digital technology as much as possible. Stimulate your brain as little as you can for a few weeks.

I would suggest that you also consult your doctor and share with him your mental and emotional state so that he can guide you regarding any other treatment that might be appropriate.

Once you have got some mental capacity and ability back in your life, then you can begin to address what got you into this situation. You should talk to your pastor or a trusted spiritual adviser about this. I don’t know any more than you’ve told me, but I’ve seen other MDiv students end up in similar holes.

In some cases, it’s giving too much attention to their studies and not enough to their souls. In some cases, it’s sinful ambition that has prioritized theological knowledge above a personal relationship with God. Or maybe there has been way too much reliance on self and next to no dependance on God. You need help to explore these possible motivations in order to repent of any sin that is at the root of them and also to prevent this tendency from returning in the future.

I have a good hope that if you take a mental break, start with short Bible readings, prioritize calm and quiet,  consult a doctor and a pastor, and do the spiritual work that’s required, that your love for the Scriptures will grow and spiritual life will return to your soul.

What’s really important is that you do not rely on yourself or on your commentaries but that you rely on God to give you light. Ask God for his Holy Spirit to enlighten your eyes and to shine light on His Word. He has promised to give wisdom and his Holy Spirit to those who ask for it (James 1:5-8; Luke 11:13). And remember, that knowing the Bible is not the end either. The ultimate end is knowing Christ personally, and the Bible is a means to that end. So is going to church; so make sure you are doing that also.

If you do these things and there is still no life in your soul or love for the Scriptures, then you will have to consider the possibility that you still need to be converted. If that is the case, there is still hope for you to repent and put your faith in Christ. There are many M.Div. students who have been converted after graduation and even in the ministry!

What other advice would you give to this struggling Christian?


Check out

Blogs

5 Questions Leaders Should Be Asking All the Time
“Leaders should ask these questions both on a daily basis and during critical moments. Of course, these aren’t the only questions to ask; context certainly matters. But I have found these five to be a very practical and useful way to ensure understanding, generate new ideas, inspire progress, encourage responsibility, and remain focused on what is genuinely important.”

On Family Worship and Failure
You’re bound to pick up some tips here. Most important point: “It’s better to do 4 minutes of something than no minutes of nothing.”

You Are Not Your Pain
“Perhaps our wounds have become so entangled with the identity we now claim that surrendering them would require also surrendering who we mistakenly believe ourselves to be.”

2 Ways Boredom Destroys Ministry Leaders
“Don’t let boredom ruin you. Look to Him and you won’t get bored. Seek new ways to fulfill the mission the Lord has given, but don’t seek a new mission. Seek ways to communicate the message in new ways, but don’t seek a new message.”

The Wisdom of Sex
“Marriage involves the encouraging of purity in each other by making ourselves delightful to our spouse and giving ourselves to each other regularly. That is, I believe, one of the best ways to preserve ourselves from the troubles of impure hearts and impure people.”

Disability Makes a Church Strong | Desiring God
This from a pastor and fatehr of a child with special needs: “Without intending to add one ounce to an already heavy Sunday morning load, as both parent and pastor of the disabled, I offer to families with disabilities seven pleas from my heart.”

Kindle Books

The Great Exchange: My Sins For His Righteousness by Jerry Bridges $2.99.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity $2.99.

Drawn by the Father by James White $2.99.

Video

Introducing the New City Catechism
Beautifully produced catechism, simpler and shorter than the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and way shorter than the Heidelberg. Might be a great starter if you are feeling intimidated. See also 10 Things You Should Know about Catechesis.


How Can Justification Make me Joyful?

This is a guest post by Danny Hyde, author of Can Justification Make me Joyful?

Joyful JustificationI wrote How Can Justification Make Me Joyful because I want my fellow brothers and sisters to have the same assurance and confidence that the Holy Spirit has given me with this biblical teaching.

You see, after I was converted there was the inevitable spiritual joy of a newly born child of God. But only a year or so later, I was in despair. When I looked at so much of the sin and hypocrisy that was going on among other believers my age, I wondered if my conversion was real. Then I was promised assurance if I would just be open to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I prayed for that and had others pray for that for me…it never came.

So there I was, 19 years old, at college, feeling isolated and disillusioned until a required course on philosophy and theology. I heard the word “justification” for the first time. I heard that Jesus Christ’s perfect birth, life, death, and resurrection were mine through faith alone apart from any of my own efforts. I remember seeing my professor write on the whiteboard the words of Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A 70, and me hurrying to copy it down before he erased it. Then I ran back to my dorm’s computer lab (yeah, we didn’t have personal laptops back then!) to type it out, print it, and post it above my desk to read every day. The Lord had given me the assurance I sought by teaching my heart and mind what Jesus had done for me and what the Holy Spirit had brought to me.

The Lord can give you this same measure of assurance and joy. How Can Justification Make Me Joyful? It doesn’t come from speaking in tongues. It doesn’t come by sitting around and waiting for a spiritual experience. It doesn’t come by your effort. It comes from the Holy Spirit who applies the Word of God to needy hearts like yours and mine.

Can Justification Make me Joyful? by Daniel Hyde.