Check Out

Blogs

3 Ways to Stay Calm When Conversations Get Intense | Amy Jen Su, Harvard Business Review
“How do you keep a heated conversation constructive?” Here’s the Harvard Business Review’s take.

5 Things I’ve Learned From 10 Years Of Depression | Todd Peperkorn, The Federalist
“Ten years ago, on Good Friday in 2006, my life took a profound turn for the worse and for the better.”

The Declaration of Independence: ‘Systemically Racist’? | Thomas S. Kidd, TGC
“Jefferson’s standing as a slave owner immediately raises a question: If people are equal before God, then how can you justify slavery? Some African Americans like American soldier and evangelical pastor Lemuel Haynes asked this question within weeks of the promulgation of the Declaration. We’re not being revisionists by wondering about this issue, too.”

Girl in the Picture | Emily Thomes, TGC
If someone you knew came out as a lesbian aged 15, you’d probably despair. Don’t give up hope so fast. Where sin abounds, there can grace much more abound.

My Mercedes Went to Missions | Cameron Doolittle, Desiring God
“Moments of empty desire can become moments of delight. My wardrobe is smaller, but I rejoice that, instead, there’s a new church ministering on the outskirts of Lima.”

Why women are way more likely than men to suffer anxiety | Jacqueline Howard, CNN

Kindle Books

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.


Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves by Trillia J. Newbell ($0.99)


13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success by Amy Morin ($1.99). Here’s my review.


The Insanity of Unbelief: A Journalist’s Journey from Belief to Skepticism to Deep Faith by Max Davis ($0.99)


The Big Idea of Biblical Preaching: Connecting the Bible to People edited by Keith Willhite and Scott M. Gibson


Summer Reading Suggestions

I was asked for some summer reading suggestions by someone who reads a lot of Christian books. He was looking for something different. Due to time constraints, I read virtually no fiction, but I do read quite a lot of non-fiction. So here’s a selection of my non-fiction summer reading over the past few years.


Running for My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games by Lopez Lomong. Wonderful story about how one of the lost boys of Sudan were adopted into a Christian home and eventually ran in the Olympic games. You’ll laugh….and cry.



The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch. Needs a bit of a language warning but gives an unprecedented insight into what it means to have Asperger’s syndrome.



Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory by Ben Macintyre. Brilliantly written story about the extraordinary story behind the Allies deception of the Nazi’s during the Second World War.



Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer. Recently made into the film, Everest, it tells the story of how two professionally guided trips in 1996 resulted in the death of five climbers. Incredible heroism and some remarkable escapes.



No Greatness without Goodness: How a Father’s Love Changed a Company and Sparked a Movement by Randy Lewis. The Senior VP of Walgreens experience of raising an autistic son gave him a huge heart for others with disabilities. Over many years this passion developed into a massive and remarkable vision to provide meaningful, well-paid, and full-time employment for men and women with disabilities. You can read my review here.



The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding.  It’s sympathetic to Snowden (which I’m not) but it does a fairly good job of cutting through the media hype and political spin to give a factual account of what Snowden did and the consequences that followed.



This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral–Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!–in America’s Gilded Capital by Mark Leibovich. If you are not already sick of politics, this will do the job.



Into the Abyss: An Extraordinary True Story by Carol Shaben. A true story of how four people (including a prisoner) worked together to survive a plane crash in a remote icy part of Alberta (six other people died).



My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor. What does a 37 year-old Harvard neuroscientist do when she suffers a near-fatal stroke that left her unable to walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life? Simple — she re-trains her brain.



The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Clayborne Carson. This was the book recommended to me as the best modern biography of MLK. I learned a ton from it.



A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin. Just what it says on the cover! Based on interviews with the first astronauts, it tells the inspiring story of how America’s space program started and eventually put a man on the moon.



Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. 2,800 Amazon reviews! And now wonder. Makes you long for such days and such men again.



It Doesn’t Take a Hero : The Autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf by Norman Schwarzkopf. For those of us who lived through the first Gulf War, this will bring back many memories but also give unique insight into the life and times of a true American hero.



10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris. The hilarious and painful story of TV anchor Dan Harris’s pursuit of happiness. See my review here.



Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington. Get’s a bit new-agey as it goes on, but the early chapters on the connection between sleep and human flourishing are enlightening and challenging. See my review here.


Check Out

Blogs

About those “20 Minutes of Action”: 20 Things We’d Better Tell Our Sons Right Now About Being Real Men | Ann Voskamp
“The culture of boys will be boys — means girls will be garbage and you were made for more than this, Son. ”

His students were struggling, so he ‘flipped’ his classroom. Then everything changed. | Robby Berman, Upworthy
“After 12 years as principal of Clintondale High School, Greg Green had a bad feeling: He knew his school was failing its students…”

The Weight of Glory: C. S. Lewis’s Remarkable (and Surprising) Sermon | Justin Taylor, TGC
Justin introduces the first post on the Evangelical history blog which is 75 Years Ago Tonight: C. S. Lewis Delivered a Sermon in Oxford on “The Weight of Glory”

10 Pointers for Preaching a Touchy Issue | Peter Mead, Biblical Preaching
“Sometimes we have to preach something that is potentially controversial or that may not go down too well.  Here are ten pointers to help when that is necessary.”

Russell Moore to Justice Conference: Don’t be Silent on Unborn, Sexuality, and Hell | Chelsen Vicari, Juicy Ecumenism
“During his twenty-eight minute discussion, Moore boldly laid out what it looks like to be a Gospel-centered social justice warrior. He tackled issues ranging from racial injustice, human trafficking, and refugees. But it was his mention of the sanctity of unborn life, sexual ethics, and the reality of Hell that had some in the room squirming uncomfortably in their seats.”

Christian Funerals Can Be Too Happy | Constantine Campbell, Desiring God
“Sometimes our Christian funerals are too happy. Yes, we believe our loved one is with Jesus. Yes, we believe that he or she will rise again. We do not grieve as those without hope. But we still grieve. If Jesus weeps for Lazarus, who he knows will not stay dead for long, it is appropriate that we weep for those who have died. They are with Jesus, but we will not see them again in this life. We will not speak with them or embrace them again here. It is right to grieve — with hope, yes — but still grieve.”

Why Go to Church? 50+ Things You Miss Out On By Not Attending Church | Kevin Halloran
“According to recent Pew Research data, only 35% of American Christians consider attending religious services as an essential part of their faith. Only 28% listed ‘helping out in your congregation’ as essential. The majority of self-proclaimed Christians do not know how to answer the question, ‘Why go to church?’”

Kindle Books

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.


Enola Gay: Mission to Hiroshima by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts ($1.99)


Getting Things Done with Evernote by Daniel LeFebvre ($2.51)


Effortless Reading: The Simple Way to Read and Guarantee Remarkable Results by Vu Tran ($2.99)


The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler ($2.99)


The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher ($4.99). Vital companion to Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ.

New Book

Pulpit

Pulpit Aflame: Essays in Honor of Steve Lawson edited by Joel R. Beeke and Dustin W. Benge. See video below

Video

Pulpit Aflame: Essays in Honor of Steve Lawson


What are the Qualifications of a Youth Group Leader?

I was recently asked about the kind of qualifications a church should be looking for in a youth group leader. In this case it  was a church looking for a man from within the congregation to fill a volunteer post. Here’s my short answer of non-negotiables.


Converted: He must be born again and love Christ.

Knowledgeable: Formal qualifications like MDiv or even a Bible College degree are not required. But he should have a good knowledge of the Bible and of doctrine. If it’s a confessional church, he should be able to commit to the confession.

Respected: He must have the respect of the kids rather than be an object of their pity or ridicule. Teens and college kids tend to be a bit critical of older people or anyone in authority over them and are often resistant to direction and instruction unless it is from someone they really respect.

Organized: Someone who plans ahead, prepares well, executes tasks, keeps good time, follows up questions, etc. His instruction is clear and structured.

Friendly: He must be relatable, quick to build friendships with the kids, caring, interested, etc. Without that, no amount of truth poured out of his mouth will enter their ears, far less their hearts.

Careful: He must have a guard around his mouth — careful not to speak rashly or angrily — and a guard around his heart — avoiding every appearance of evil when it comes to his dealings with girls and young women (and I suppose we must add today, also with boys and young men).

That’s my short answer. What would you add?

As for a book, why not try Gospel Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide (Published by Crossway) $11.65.

I also think Tim Challies’ Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth about God ($10.47) would be a great book for a Youth Group curriculum. A Study Guide is in the works.


The Ten Pleasures

The Ten Commandments are framed mainly in the negative: “Thou shalt not.” But each negative also implies a positive, and each prohibition of vice enjoins a pleasure in virtue. So, here’s my attempt to re-frame the 10 commandments as 10 pleasures to pursue.

1. Enjoy the pleasure of knowing, worshipping and serving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

2. Enjoy the pleasure of worshipping God in ways that He approves, loves, rewards, and responds to.

3. Enjoy the pleasure of speaking and singing about God’s beautiful persons, names, attributes, and acts.

4. Enjoy the pleasure of six days working in God’s calling for you and then enjoy the freedom of one full day off work to worship God and rest.

5. Enjoy the pleasure of loving and following the leaders God has placed in your life for your temporal and eternal good.

6. Enjoy the pleasure of healthy attitudes and activities that will improve the quality and length of your life.

7. Enjoy every physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual pleasure with the wife/husband God has given you.

8. Enjoy the pleasure of growing wealth in order to provide for your family and to bless others with loving generosity.

9. Enjoy the pleasure of praising others and of promoting all that is true, beautiful, and good.

10. Enjoy the pleasure of being thankful and content with all that God has given you.

When understood in this way, Psalm 1 and others like it begin to make huge sense.

“Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).


Check Out

Blogs

6 Theses on Online Writing and Civility | Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy
The challenging subject of online civility.

Songs of Exile | Alexi Sargeant, First Things
More comment on the research into the imbalance in modern Christian songs.

13 Reasons We Need Church History | Matthew J. Hall, TGC
“The church of Jesus Christ remains, as always, a people called to faithfulness in this age as they await Christ’s return and the consummation of his rule in the age to come. Church history is part of that labor of both remembering and anticipating—of living between the times. We tell the truth about the past, give thanks for God’s grace, and repent of sin and failure. But we do it all through the eyes of faith and gospel hope.”

Taking Back Christianese #1: “The Christian Life is All about Being Transparent and Vulnerable” | Michael J. Kruger, Canon Fodder
“Our purpose in this post is simply to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this phrase.  We will do this by as king three questions:  (1) Why do people use this phrase?  (2) What is correct or helpful about this phrase?  and (3) What is problematic about this phrase?”

Four Ways for Fathers to Engage at Home | Jeremy Adelman, Desiring God
“The impact that engaged fathers have on significantly reducing at-risk-behavior in their children has been well documented. Additionally, fathers who are physically and emotionally engaged lead to increased cognitive development, emotional health, and positive peer-relationships in their children’s lives. This pattern points to God’s design for families to function with men as active participants, not passive observers.”

The Real John Knox | Thomas Kidd, Reformation21

New Book


A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament by Christina Fox

Kindle Deals


The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins ($2.99)


The Last Christian on Earth: Uncover the Enemy’s Plot to Undermine the Church by Os Guinness ($1.99)


What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an by James R. White ($1.99)

For the YA readers in your house:


On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree. (The Wingfeather Saga Book 1) by Andrew Peterson