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Blogs

Sorrow, Depression, & the Holidays | The Cripplegate
“Christmas time or not, many of us experience the normal, heavy weight of discouragement and depression as a regular thing; dejection, confusion, frustration, sadness, hopelessness, anxiousness, anger, darkness, despair. But God has answers and real hope from his word for the battle. Here are 11 truths for strength in sorrow:”

6 Little-Known Signs of Depression in Older Adults
Depression affects over two millions people 65-plus; learn how to identify the signs and how to get help.

The Greatest Need in Special Needs | Desiring God
“”Happy.” That’s the word everyone uses to describe our three-year-old son with special needs. And it’s largely true, though not singularly true. Fist-bumping as he goes, he’s made the hallways and commons of our church his home. He’s a happy boy who is happily welcomed. And part of his happiness is owing to his special needs.”

How to Help Your Children Become Better Sermon Listeners
“I was recently asked, “How would you explain to children in grade school what a sermon is and what they should be doing during the sermon?” I thought it might be a good question to answer in an article since I have frequently had similar questions over the years.”

The Best Free Online Courses to Help With Your Finances
“Here are some of the best personal finance courses available. Even better, they’re all free. ”

Kindle Books

How to Preach Without Notes by Charles Koller $1.99.

The One True God – Biblical study of the Doctrine of God by Paul Washer $2.99.

Videos

Michigan Whitetail Pursuits: Free Online Episodes
If you’re into hunting, check out these videos produced by Calvin Beeke, serial entrepreneur and son of Dr, Joel Beeke. Sample below.


Forgiveness and Fancy Eating Tables

Today’s post is from author, Stanley D. Gale. For more from Stanley, check out his new book, Finding Forgiveness: Discovering the Healing Power of the Gospel.


AURORA, IN—While she understands the entirety of her forgiveness in God’s eyes granted by the shed blood of Jesus Christ which absolves her of any and all guilt now and forevermore while simultaneously imputing her with the very righteousness of God the Son, local believer Kim Calhoun, due to her incredibly developed sense of morality which eclipses even God’s, revealed to sources Friday that she cannot forgive herself for her past transgressions.

“I know God forgives me. I know. But I just can’t forgive myself.”

So mocks the satirical website The Babylon Bee in a June 10, 2016 post.

The teaching of forgiving oneself seems to garner scorn and outright rejection by some, leaving those wrestling with guilt and self-blame to deal with it all alone, or to be elevated to such a priority that forgiveness extended by God and neighbor cannot be received until forgiveness of self is accomplished. Books abound with instruction about how to go about forgiving yourself and how to deal with a stubborn self that refuses to forgive.

Forgiveness is a grace basic to the gospel. But what exactly is it and how is it practiced? How well do Christians understand it, especially when self-help teachings have their versions with the same label?

In corporate worship, we might hear the pastor give an assurance of pardon: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). That’s encouraging news but upon closer examination, it raises questions. Why is God’s justice mentioned instead of His mercy? Who are the “we” who are extended this offer? From “all” unrighteousness! – just how far reaching is this confession? Come to think of it, what does it mean to confess? Plus, aren’t Christians already forgiven?

Clearly, there is much about forgiveness we need to understand. And God lays it out for us in His Word. Jesus commands it, explains it and illustrates it.

Our understanding is not for idle curiosity. Forgiveness of sin comes to us as the beating heart of the gospel, and it radically affects our peace of mind and our interactions with others. God instructs us to forgive as we have been forgiven. Understanding how we have been forgiven by God is the prerequisite to the course on how we are to forgive others. Without those bearings our forgiveness of those who wrong us will be a pink pastel of the vibrant red God wants of us, and maybe a wrong color altogether.

The Beverly Hillbillies was an old time television show that featured a backwoods family being transplanted to Beverly Hills. Their fancy eating table for vittles was a pool table, complete with cup holders. Food was passed using the handy long sticks. When it comes to forgiveness, we Christians might not be that clueless but there is a lot we need to learn having been transplanted into the kingdom of God.


Thank you to Reformation Heritage Books and Stanley D. Gale for providing this post. Don’t forget about Stanley’s new book, Finding Forgiveness: Discovering the Healing Power of the Gospel.

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Blog Posts

A New Poverty | Rod Liddle, First Things
Another review of J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. But this is much more than a book review. It’s a searing analysis of what has brought us to such social and cultural breakdown.

Time to Quit Social Media? | Thomas S. Kidd, TGC
“Cal Newport had a provocative recent column at The New York Times titled ‘Quit Social Media: Your Career May Depend Upon It.’ In spite of being a bestselling author and blogger, as well as a tenured computer science professor at Georgetown, Newport is not on social media…”

Andrew Solomon: Depression, the secret we share | TED Talk
“…writer Andrew Solomon takes you to the darkest corners of his mind during the years he battled depression. That led him to an eye-opening journey across the world to interview others with depression — only to discover that, to his surprise, the more he talked, the more people wanted to tell their own stories.”

Can Christians Benefit from Books by Nonbelievers? | John Piper, Desiring God
“God has ordained reading as one way for us to grow in knowledge that we haven’t experienced.”

3 Financial Tips for Pastors | Randy Stair, TGC
“King Jesus gives gifts of various sorts to his church. He’s not only using pastors to advance his kingdom; he’s using finance professionals to build up Christ’s body, too.”

How to Sleep | James Hamblin, The Atlantic
A physician’s guide to sleep in a stressful age.

Kindle Deals


Out of the Depths: An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis by Edgar Harrell ($1.99)


Quick-Reference Guide to Marriage & Family Counseling by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. John Trent ($3.99)


Liberating King: Breaking Free from the Tyranny of Sin by Stephen Miller ($1.99)

Video

Why This Woman is Not Sad After A Mistrial for Her Son Being Shot in the Back | TGC
Thoughts from Walter Scott’s mother. Her statement begins at 1.45.


I’m an Adorable Deplorable

Living in Grand Rapids, where there’s a lot of Republican money, we’re privileged to be regularly visited by many of the presidential candidates every four years. I’ve managed to get to quite a few of these in person, and my latest was a Donald Trump rally just over a month ago. I like to hear the candidates speak, but I also enjoy the unique atmosphere at American political events, and the opportunity to listen to what people around me are thinking.

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What struck me most at the Trump rally was the number of T-shirts and hats that were being sold and worn that read, “I’m an Adorable Deplorable!” What Hillary intended as an insult to shame, was instead being owned as a badge of honor!

This growing division between the political, economic, and cultural elites, and the rest of us, was described and prophesied by Charles Murray in his 2011 book Coming Apartwhere he contrasted two American towns — upper-class Belmont (MA) with working-class Fishtown (PA) — which also told the story of two Americas.

Of course, it’s not just today that “elites” scorn and mock those “beneath” them. In the prophet Micah’s day, about 700 BC, a similar spirit resulted in the rich and powerful oppressing the weak and the defenseless. Jerusalem was the Belmont of his day, and Bethlehem was Fishtown. That’s why he spent many chapters excoriating Jerusalem’s rulers and demanding that they do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

But this “blue-collar prophet” also offered massive encouragement to the deplorables of Bethlehem just six miles away. Though it was despised and belittled by many, God had chosen it to be the place he would enter the world:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting (Micah 5:2).

Of all the cities God could have chosen for his entrance — religious Jerusalem, powerful Rome, philosophical Athens, literary Alexandria — he chose Bethlehem. He chose to be associated with the forgotten men and women of his day. He chose the deplorables. And this wasn’t just a one-off. This was a revelation of the heart of God that he also exhibited in the kinds of people he came to save (Luke 15:1-2). As the Apostle Paul said:

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Cor. 1:26-29).

That’s why we don’t pray for God’s saving love based upon any kind of superiority over others. Rather, we plead that we are deplorable and deserve to be deplored. But that’s also the first step to becoming, in God’s eyes, an adorable deplorable. And that’s a title we wear with honor.


Nine Christians in the Trump Cabinet?

For many years, we have prayed that God would raise up men and women of God to positions of leadership and influence in our country. However, since the end of the George W. Bush administration, there have been previous few answers to that prayer.

Who would have thought that Donald Trump might be the answer to that prayer? No, not that he is a Christian — there are no signs of that, sadly. But he certainly seems poised to appoint a number of them to his first cabinet and other White House positions — Senate confirmation permitting. Consider the following names who profess to be Christians:

Mike Pence (Vice-president elect): “My Christian faith is at the heart of who I am” and “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”

Reince Preibus (Chief of Staff): “At Grace Church, Reince Priebus known as principled, devout Christian.”

Jeff Sessions (Attorney General): According to his Senate bio, he “has served as a lay leader and as a Sunday school teacher at his family’s church, Ashland Place United Methodist Church, in Mobile. He served as the Chairman of his church’s Administrative Board and has been selected as a delegate to the annual Alabama Methodist Conference.”

Dr. Ben Carson (Housing and Urban Development): Interview with Christianity Today. “I would describe myself first of all as a Christian—Evangelical in the sense that I believe we have a responsibility to proclaim the gospel and show other people why we live the way that we do and hopefully that will affect their lives. I think that’s a very important component of what we do.”

Betsy DeVos (Education): Has “deep ties to the Christian Reformed community” and “heavily influenced by Abraham Kuyper.” She sees education as “one of the ways that God advances his kingdom.”

Rex Tillerson (latest favorite for Secretary of State): According to Wikipedia, he and his wife donated $5,000-$10,000 to the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches in 2012. It was also reported on the radio last week that he is a devout Christian who attends Church weekly and teaches Bible Study.

Scott Pruitt (EPA): According to the Oklahoma Office of Attorney General, the Pruitts are members of the First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, where Pruitt serves as deacon.

Mike Pompeo (CIA): Family attends Eastminster Presbyterian Church, where he serves as a deacon and teaches Sunday School to fifth-graders.

Nikki Haley (Ambassador to UN): Christianity Today report her words: “My faith in Christ has a profound impact on my daily life and I look to him for guidance with every decision I make. In an interview, she said: “God has blessed my family in so many ways and my faith in the Lord gives me great strength on a daily basis. Being a Christian is not about words, but about living for Christ every day.”

I don’t know the personal lives of these people and I can’t vouch for their orthodoxy or orthopraxy. In some cases, there do seem to be inconsistencies between their professed faith and their practice. However, when you think about what we’ve had for the past eight years, and the further hounding and persecuting of Christians we’d be facing if Hillary had won, we surely must be thankful that President-elect Trump will have some Christian counsel around him and that prayer will ascend from the Oval Office again.

I can understand why some Christians fear a Trump presidency, but these appointments may offer some hope and reassurance in uncertain and unpredictable times.

No reason to stop praying though. Indeed, plenty reason to pray all the more.


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Blogs

New Research Debunks The Claim That Your Beliefs Can Kill Gay People
Talk about fake news!

“It has become a well-worn and largely unchallenged truism in gay politics: If gay and lesbian people as a whole have poorer rates of mental and physical health and attempt suicide at dramatically higher rates than the general population, it’s because of anti-gay attitudes. Many of us working in this field are accused of this regularly.” Here’s the National Review’s take on the same subject: Social Science: Gay Study on Longevity Doesn’t Add Up.

What Do They Know? Learning From “Secular” Leaders | Crossway
I’ve never understood why this should be so controversial.

“When we hear something that rings true about the Father’s world in the voice of an economist or community leader, our ears should perk up. That truth was revealed by God’s common grace.”

Crash-Proof Ministry
Don’t forget to re-fuel:

“On Monday a passenger jet took off from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, headed to Medellin, Colombia. It never made it. It crashed eight miles short of the airport killing 71 people aboard, including members of a soccer team from Brazil headed to Medellin for participation in the finals of a soccer tournament. The reason for the crash? The pilot decided to skip a refueling stop in Bogota, thinking he could make it to his destination. That decision was fatal. The jet ran out of fuel, faltered, and fell. That incident serves as a tragic parable for something far too many pastors experience. Amidst the busyness of their schedules, they go and go and go without refueling, ignoring God’s call to find rest and replenishment in Christ.”

Pastor, Pastor Your Family | LifeWay Pastors
“If a pastor isn’t careful, the success of his ministry could mean the failure of his family. Satan would love to see both fail but he’ll settle for your family. He doesn’t have to have either one. It is possible to have both a healthy family and a thriving ministry. But there are a few traps pastors should watch out for. Here are two.”

Seekest Thou Great Things for Thyself? | Themelios from The Gospel Coalition
Don Carson counsels young pastors and theological students about the dangers of ambition.

“Probably it’s a sign of my advancing years, but not infrequently a young pastor or a theological student asks me the question, “What choices did you make to get to where you are today?” I fear I always have to disabuse the questioner. No one is more surprised than I am at the turns my life has taken.”

Wondering if You’re the Next Pastor to Fall | For The Church
The fact that there are so many posts on this topic recetnly reveals something, doesn;t it?

“A week rarely passes without feeling the tremor from another leader’s tumble. Reading the reasons (which include abandonment of community, refusal of accountability, and misplaced identity) reminds me of how often this list appears when high profile pastors are laid low. These conditions then invite a mob of sins to loot the home and set the soul on fire.

240 Marriage Communication Topics | Brad Hambrick
Here are some conversation-starters for stagnant and silent marriages.

Recent Research on End-of-Life Issues Reveal Holes in Our Theology | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer
“67% of Americans agree with the statement, “When a person is facing a painful terminal disease, it is morally acceptable to ask for a physician’s aid in taking his or her own life.” This is a shockingly high number. More disturbingly, however, are these numbers: among faith groups, more than half of all Christians (59%) agree with the statement, as do 38% of those who profess to be Evangelical.”

Annie Glenn and Other Famous Stutterers | First Things
If you are particularly close to a stutterer who struggles to get past roadblocks in his or her speech, this book would be a kind and generous gift. It’s an inspiring bunch of stories, and a gift of hard-earned wisdom from its author.

Can Christian Men and Women Be Friends? | Desiring God
I’m probably more cautious than optimistic on this subject but this is a careful case for cautious optimism.

“Once the risks of a male-female friendship have been considered and weighed, we can ask the question, “Can these risks be mitigated?” Can humility and honesty, community and accountability, protect us from the looming consequences, and allow us to enjoy the good that can come from these friendships?”

Kindle Books

When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God by John Piper $4.99. Love this book.

Engaging Exposition by Daniel Aiken and others $2.99.

Why Everything Matters by Phil Ryken $2.99. One of my favorite expositors of Scripture.

Faker: How to live for real when you’re tempted to fake it by Nicholas Macdonald. Suitable for all but perfect for teens by a unique writing talent.

Video

British Prime Minister Theresa May Defends Right of Christians to Speak About their Faith