Kindle Deal of the Week: A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis – For $1.99
Apologetics: That Hideous Strength: “There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there is never more than one.” – C.S. Lewis. I thought this a brilliant response to relativism.
Preaching: From My Journal: As a follow up to my note about preaching more than one point. I do believe preaching one statement has value, only not one point. I’m critiquing the Andy Stanley method, not the Robinson method. Robinson allows for “Big Ideas” which can serve as platforms for multiple points: “Anxiety is unfruitful, unfulfilling, unbecoming and unobservant” is a big idea I used a couple of months ago. It’s perfectly fine in the Robinson method. The point for him is that all major sermon points cohere in a single statement. Robinson’s goal is not to keep things at one point, but to keep points from being unrelated.
Theology: 18 Theses on the Trinity – Some of you are aware of the hulabaloo over the trinity, some don’t care, either way, Dr. Sanders provides extremely helpful guidance (even if I can’t understand it all).
Fun: That Hideous Strength – This may be my new favorite C.S. Lewis quote of all time from one of his characters, Mrs. Dimble. I laughed about it once a day after I read it: “Husbands were made to be talked to. It helps them to concentrate their minds on what they’re reading—like the sound of a weir.”
A Glimpse of Truth: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life – This is a really well-written piece on how this happy atheist became a believer.
Writing: Bertrand Russell’s 20 Favorite Words – This post includes some fun rabbit trails of other authors who listed their favorite words, such as “terraqueous” and “inspissated”. Look them up and have fun.
Books and Lit: The End of Reflection: “Mr. Carr observed that, for decades, Rodin’s 1902 sculpture “The Thinker” epitomized the highest form of contemplation: a figure with an imposing physique staring abstractly downward, hunched over to block out distraction, frozen because it’s a statue, of course, but also because deep thinkers need time and don’t fidget. It’s hard to imagine a postmodern update called “The Tweeter” being quite so inspirational.”
Christians and Culture: Interview with Ross Douthat – This interview by TGC of Ross Douthat is really insightful. I only watched the clips and summary, but you can watch the whole thing here as well.
Leadership and Productivity: 8 Ground Rules for Great Meetings – The Harvard Business Review with lots of gold, here (lots more than 8 nuggets, anyway).
Kindle Deal of the Week: Name of the Rose, $2.99 – I haven’t read this, but I’ve read some Umberto Eco as a scholar of Aristotelian aesthetics. He’s a fascinating thinker.
Apologetics: Hitchens Not an Atheist? This article in the Atlantic gives an important perspective on the recent allegations that Hitchens was not really an ardent atheist. Maybe it’s one sided, but it should be engaged. Something to learn here about the way we do apologetics, I think.
Preaching: “Um” and “Like” and Being Heard – Some great wisdom on communication from Seth Godin.
Spiritual Life: How and Why to Hold a Weekly Marriage Meeting – I thought this was hugely helpful.
Theology: Christianese Phrase #1: The Christian Life is All About Being Vulnerable”. Loved the balanced look at the Christian trend of elevating vulnerability to the highest among virtues – it’s strengths and weaknesses. Pairs well with this article at the NY Times: Why Being Yourself is Terrible Advice.
Fun: How to Be a Thought Leader. Hilarious.
A Glimpse of Truth: I’m an Atheist. So Why Can’t I Shake God? Elizabeth King writes of her journey through “shaking God” intellectually…but still feeling His presence.
Writing: Period. Full Stop. Whatever It’s Called, It’s Going Out of Style – An interesting article about why the period is excessive
Books and Lit: From my journal: I doubted myself this week. I shouldn’t have. I thought I’d spent too much time reading. I looked around at everyone and thought, “Clearly, I’m wasting too much time here. I need to do important things.” So I set the books aside.
But then, I started prepping for this week’s sermon, and – a flood of articles, quotes, book excerpts and metaphors poured into my mind that I had read over the past several months. All of that reading was paying off. Not only was it enjoyable, but it actually saved me hours and hours of searching for sermon illustrations. They were all ready at hand.
Time to get reading again.
Christians and Culture: Can We Talk? – I think it’s unfair that disproportionate attention ISN’T going to our black brothers in the reformed fold over this year’s election. You may not agree, but as Thabiti notes: why can’t you just listen?
Leadership and Productivity: Summer Reads for Leaders. Some suggestions from Forbes.
Kindle Deal of the Week: Ethics – Bonhoeffer’s Ethics for $3.99
Apologetics: Israel Mocking the Nations – This sermon by Dick Lucas has an interesting take on the idea that all religions are equal. According to the prophets of old, they’re actually mockable. A good example of addressing non-Christians while staying faithful to the text. Dick Lucas is the man.
Preaching: From my journal: The problem with the “one point” preaching method is that this forces you to choose one perspective on a text. From one vantage point, David and Goliath is about God’s faithfulness to Israel. So is this the one point? Or is the one point David’s example of faithfulness? Or is the main point that David is a type of Christ, who accomplishes our victories for us and fights on our behalf? Well frankly, the answer is yes – all three are the main point. And three points are just fine, since God exists in three persons. In fact, for that reason alone we should expect all texts to have three points, not one. First, we think on God’s nature, which impels us toward ethics, or the work of the Spirit, who leads us to the work of Christ. Three points, three persons. A sermon’s not complete without all three.
Spiritual Life: Perelandra: “Don’t imagine I’ve been selected to go to Perelandra because I’m anyone in particular. One never can see, or not till long afterwards, why any one was selected for any job. And when one does, it is usually some reason that leaves no room for vanity. Certainly, it is never for what the man himself would have regarded as his chief qualifications.” – C.S. Lewis.
Theology: Westminster larger Catechism: A Commentary – “We should always be careful to avoid the error that the gospel involves a lowering of the terms on which mankind can obtain eternal life. The gospel does not involve a lowering of the terms; it involves a substitution of the person who complies with the terms: God graciously accepts Christ’s fulfillment of the moral law as if it were our own attainment, and imputes or reckons it to our credit.” – Johannes Geerhardus Vos
Fun: Why I Bring Theater to the Military – This has some language, but Adam Driver (Kylo Ren in the New Star Wars Film) talks about why the military inspired his acting career, followed by a short performance.
A Glimpse of Truth: The Liberal Blind Spot – NY Times self-declared liberal Nikolas Kristoff critiques his own.
Writing: Becoming a Writer – “Read Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. Then do what it says, including the tasks you think are impossible. You will particularly hate the advice to write first thing in the morning, but if you can manage it, it might well be the best thing you ever do for yourself. This book is about becoming a writer from the inside out. Many later advice manuals derive from it. You don’t really need any others, though if you want to boost your confidence, “how to” books seldom do any harm. You can kick-start a whole book with some little writing exercise.”
Books and Lit: J.R.R. Tolkien and Travelolatry – There’s plenty to chew on here regarding life, writing, reading and idolatry.
Christians and Culture: Trueman on the Benedict Option – Here’s a good introduction to the whole Benedict Option debate, coming from Carl Trueman. He’s clarifying a few things, as well as giving a couple of really helpful resources to see where he and Drehrer are coming from.
Leadership and Productivity: Longhand Luddites – This is a helpful article on why you should put the computer down, and pick up your pen.
Kindle Deal of the Week: Shame Interrupted – Was very excited to see this book by Ed Welch on sale yesterday for $2.99.
Apologetics: Ten Problems with Presuppositionalism Answered – John Frame gives concise and compelling answers to ten objections from an Evidentialist (a kind of approach to apologetics).
Preaching: 7 Preaching Pitfalls – Excellent, excellent advice by RTS Prof. Michael J. Kruger.
Spiritual Life: Irish Impressions: “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” – G.K. Chesterton. Note: I’ve been chewing on this all week. I’m increasingly convinced, after studying Romans 1 this final semester alongside ethics, that all virtue stems from gratitude, and all vice stems from ingratitude. That sounds outlandish, but I can’t think of a case where it’s not true at least in part.
Theology: From My Journal: Christians are “People of the Book”, and have been since the Beginning. Good. But we ought to be people of two books, because God has spoken through two books, not one. Creation is the first volume, and scripture the second. Psalm 19 praises them both, and doesn’t pit one against the other as we are so prone to doing. It’s a sad day for God’s glory when we take sola scriptura to mean contra creatura. Studying scripture alone is doomed to make us strange in the worst way possible, like a neurotic man who polishes his glasses incessantly while never looking up from his shoes.
Fun: Watch the Three Original Wizard of Oz Films – All silent films by Frank L. Baum himself. Pretty wild.
A Glimpse of Truth: Out of the Silent Planet:
“Strange!” said Oyarsa. “You do not love any one of your race— you would have let me kill Ransom. You do not love the mind of your race, nor the body. Any kind of creature will please you if only it is begotten by your kind as they now are. It seems to me, Thick One, that what you really love is no completed creature but the very seed itself: for that is all that is left.”
“Tell him,” said Weston when he had been made to understand this, “that I don’t pretend to be a metaphysician. I have not come here to chop logic. If he cannot understand— as apparently you can’t either— anything so fundamental as a man’s loyalty to humanity, I can’t make him understand it.”
But Ransom was unable to translate this and the voice of Oyarsa continued:
“I see now how the lord of the silent world has bent you.
There are laws that all [creatures] know, of pity and straight dealing and shame and the like, and one of these is the love of kindred. He has taught you to break all of them except this one, which is not one of the greatest laws; this one he has bent till it becomes folly and has set it up, thus bent, to be a little blind [god] in your brain.
And now you can do nothing but obey it, though if we ask you why it is a law you can give no other reason for it than for all the other and greater laws which it drives you to disobey.” – C.S. Lewis
Writing: From My Journal: Context is so key to writing. I simply can’t write anything worth reading on Word or Pages, and definitely not on WordPress – I’ve written too much junk on them. It’s like trying to read a quality essay while filtering through the blogosphere. The medium is the message. If I want to write something really well, I use Scrivener or a pad of paper. I’ve not yet polluted those with garbage. They’re still sanctified. Writing, like prayer, needs a sacred space.
Books and Lit: Letters of Lewis, Volume II: “I have a theory why the ‘good’ characters in literature are so often dull. To make an interesting character you have to see him from the inside, all agree.
Now to imagine from within a person morally inferior to yourself you don’t need to do anything, you only need to stop doing something – to take the brake off and give all your usually suppressed vanity, greed, or cruelty, or envy a delightful holiday.
But how to make one better than yourself? Well, you can make him a little better by making him actually do what you only try to do, or do often what you only do seldom. That is, you can give him the sort of virtue in full which you have in some degree yourself.
But for anything beyond that you simply haven’t got the material. Not only do you not actually behave as a hero would, you don’t even know what he feels like. Hence in most literature ideally good characters have to be made ‘from outside and accordingly look like puppets.” -C.S. Lewis
Christians and Culture: How to Talk About Abortion Without Mentioning God – Learning to have these kinds of conversations in the public sphere, without whipping out the Bible, is becoming increasingly important. The Book of Proverbs is perhaps worth review on this point.
Leadership and Productivity: Why is Clinton Disliked? So that time when NY Times quote Martyn Lloyd Jones and gave some pretty good advice.
Kindle Deal of the Week: Grounded in the Gospel – A great work from two great communicators – J.I. Packer and Gary Parett, for $2.59.
Apologetics: From My Journal: As I spoke this week with a student about those who’ve never heard the gospel, I made a connection I’ve not heard before. If we assert that Jesus is the Creator of the world (John 1:3), and also that all people have rejected their Creator (Rom. 1:18-20), then it follows that people have already rejected Jesus before they’ve ever heard the gospel. In one sense, then, all people have already rejected Christianity because they’ve rejected the person at the heart of it.
Why, then, preach at all? Because the gospel is not just cognitive information about a person, but “the power of God for salvation…” (Rom. 1:16). People already know enough about Jesus to decide for or against him, and they have sided against. If it were merely a matter of cognitive transfer, circumstances would be unfair. But the gospel is the power of God to form rebels against Jesus into lovers of him. In that sense, then, it is the preaching of the gospel which is ‘unfair’, not its lack. The gospel is not a deserved first chance, but an undeserved second chance.
Preaching: From my Journal: Something I’ve noted this week is that the Puritans hardly had innovative things to say about the texts they preached. Rather, their focus was to add color to the plain meaning of the text. So promises become like “bags of gold, poured before us”, and sinners become “spiders, held above a burning fire”, and creation becomes “Volume I of God’s books written of Himself”. Far too often I focus on innovation, or evoking some hidden and deeper meaning from the text, than simply painting the plain meaning in contemporary colors.
Spiritual Life: 7 Ways Parents Provoke Their Children – This one sat with me all week.
Theology: Who Gave Paul His Thorn? Simple and profound, drawing from key biblical sources.
Fun: Ignatius, the Ultimate Youth Pastor – I forgot how much I loved this video.
A Glimpse of Truth: From Treasury of David: “Should a man live underground, and there converse with the works of art and mechanism, and should afterwards be brought up into the open day, and see the several glories of the heaven and earth, he would immediately pronounce them the work of such a Being as we define God to be.—Aristotle.
Writing: Orthodoxy – “Most of the machinery of modern language is labour-saving machinery; and it saves mental labour very much more than it ought. Scientific phrases are used like scientific wheels and piston-rods to make swifter and smoother yet the path of the comfortable.
Long words go rattling by us like long railway trains. We know they are carrying thousands who are too tired or too indolent to walk and think for themselves.
It is a good exercise to try for once in a way to express any opinion one holds in words of one syllable. If you say “The social utility of the indeterminate sentence is recognized by all criminologists as a part of our sociological evolution towards a more humane and scientific view of punishment,” you can go on talking like that for hours with hardly a movement of the gray matter inside your skull.
But if you begin “I wish Jones to go to gaol and Brown to say when Jones shall come out,” you will discover, with a thrill of horror, that you are obliged to think. The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard. There is much more metaphysical subtlety in the word “damn” than in the word “degeneration.” – GK. Chesterton.
Books and Lit: Lewis and Tolkien – This final class I’m taking at Gordon Conwell, from one of my favorite professors, is FREE on youtube. So, check this out.
Christians and Culture: Flushing Thousands of Years Down the Toilet – Dr. Murray’s thoughts are penetrating, sobering, and painfully true.
Leadership and Productivity Award: Think and Grow Rich: This book is basically a handbook on idolatry, but there are a couple of nuggets of good sense, like this one: “You either control your mind or it controls you. There is no half-way compromise. The most practical of all methods for controlling the mind is the habit of keeping it busy with a definite purpose, backed by a definite plan. Study the record of any man who achieves noteworthy success, and you will observe that he has control over his own mind, moreover, that he exercises that control and directs it toward the attainment of definite objectives. Without this control, success is not possible.” – Napoleon Hill
Thank you for your patience this month. I’ve been completing my M.Div at Gordon Conwell, and I’ve needed to take a sabbatical from the blogosphere. My time away gave me some fresh vision, and rather than explain, I’ll show you what that looks like below. More to come.
Kindle Deal of the Week: And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie for $1.99
Apologetics: Philosophy for Understanding Theology: This is from Diogenes Allen’s wonderful book, summarizing the history of western ideas as they pertain to Christian thought:
“Scientific criticism of religion inevitably begins by positing some question that religion supposedly must be asking, such as ‘Where did we and everything come from?’ Christianity’s response of God as the cause of everything is then dismissed as being a metaphysical answer, for it takes the notion of ’cause’ outside the realm of empirical meaning. But to lay a scientific grid of causal explanation on religious claims is imperious on the part of science, to say the least. For while Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have doctrines of creation, historical study has shown that they did not begin with this question….”
“This does not mean that Christianity does not have a response to the question of where we and everything thing came from, but when it does its answer needs to be seen within the grammar mar of the religion as a whole…”
“…More broadly, then, religion has to recognize that it is not physics or biology, and science has to refrain from overextending its explanations and becoming an ersatz religion, a ‘scientific mythology.'”
Preaching: Ten Top Teaching Tips? It’s up to you to decide whether there are 10, or 9.
Spiritual Life: Bonhoeffer Preaching to the Fearful – If you read Mohler’s post below, you’ll need to read this afterward.
Theology: George MacDonald on God’s Fatherhood: “The hardest, gladdest thing in the world is to cry Father! from a full heart . . . the refusal to look up to God as our father is the one central wrong in the whole human affair; the inability, the one central misery.”
Fun: Lionel Messi Highlight Reel – I’m not a soccer fan, but watching this scrappy pedo-genius move around almost convinces me.
A Glimpse of Truth: Infinite Jest – From David Foster Wallace’s postmodern tome, comes this strikingly honest, almost prophetic exchange:
‘You burn to have your photograph in a magazine.’
‘I’m afraid so.’
‘Why again exactly, now?’
‘I guess to be felt about as I feel about those players with their pictures in magazines.’
‘Why? I guess to give my life some sort of kind of meaning, Lyle.’
‘And how would this do this again?’ ‘Lyle, I don’t know. I do not know. It just does. Would. Why else would I burn like this, clip secret pictures, not take risks, not sleep or pee?’ ‘…
The first photograph, the first magazine, the gratified surge, the seeing themselves as others see them, the hagiography of image, perhaps. Perhaps the first time: enjoyment. After that, do you trust me, trust me: they do not feel what you burn for. After the first surge, they care only that their photographs seem awkward or unflattering, or untrue, or that their privacy, this thing you burn to escape, what they call their privacy is being violated. Something changes. After the first photograph has been in a magazine, the famous men do not enjoy their photographs in magazines so much as they fear that their photographs will cease to appear in magazines. They are trapped, just as you are.’
‘Is this supposed to be good news? This is awful news.’
‘LaMont, are you willing to listen to a Remark about what is true?’
‘The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.’
‘Maybe I ought to be getting back.’
‘LaMont, the world is very old. You have been snared by something untrue. You are deluded. But this is good news. You have been snared by the delusion that envy has a reciprocal….You burn with hunger for food that does not exist.’
‘This is good news?’
‘It is the truth. To be envied, admired, is not a feeling. Nor is fame a feeling. There are feelings associated with fame, but few of them are any more enjoyable than the feelings associated with envy of fame.’
‘The burning doesn’t go away?’
‘What fire dies when you feed it? It is not fame itself they wish to deny you here. Trust them. There is much fear in fame. Terrible and heavy fear to be pulled and held, carried. Perhaps they want only to keep it off you until you weigh enough to pull it toward yourself.’
Writing: From my Journal: This week I’ve sat down, for the first time in months, and finally put hands to the keyboard, to write. Something I’ve noticed: the first day is always the hardest. It’s like waking up in the morning, or like driving a stick shift for the first time, or biking uphill before the downward descent. This, I realized, is one of the reasons I need to write everyday – because the first day is always the hardest. The goal is never to have a first day, to let the process burn indelibly in your psyche, to man-handle your muse until it is finally meeked and comes willingly to your side each morning. Now that you’ve wrestled down that first day, don’t let there be a first day again. Keep your fingers lubricated by a keyboard, or they will grow rusty.
Books and Lit: What Makes Pixar Stories Great – I wish more Christian film critics would take this to heart. Moralism actually makes a story great, it doesn’t subtract from it. But the moral comes after you’ve spun the story.
Christians and Culture: Liberalism Cashes Out – I want to dismiss Mohler’s comments as fear mongering, but the quotes from Mark Tushnet, professor of law at Harvard, still haunt me.
Leadership and Productivity Award: Endurance Needed – Matt Chandler says “This is one of the best sermons on pastoral ministry I’ve ever heard.” Indeed. Be encouraged.
I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on what my particular call is in the blog world, and this has led me to pair down this week’s Awards. There are plenty of people doing theology, spiritual life, fun stuff – my call is to equip Christian communicators to be as effective as possible. So, I’ve trimmed the categories, and added one, toward that end. Hope you enjoy:
Kindle Deal of the Week: Aristotle’s Poetics – I mentioned Poetics in this week’s video. Grab it here for 99 cents.
Apologetics Award: Right, Wrong, and the Meaning of the Universe – When I first watched this a few weeks ago, I thought the voice was actually C.S. Lewis’s, and came away extremely disappointed…now that I know it’s not him, I enjoy it more.
Preaching Award: Cotton Mather on Preaching – Here’s a nice little sum of excerpts from Cotton Mather’s most fruitful preaching ministry.
Illustration Award: How Covenants Make Us – (This segment is not “new”, because it was originally titled, “A Glimpse of Truth”…but it was just a fancy (and more confusing) way of saying – illustrations for the secular world) David Brooks brings a load of intellectual weight to bear on the fact that we are covenant creatures.
Writing Award: Flannery O’Connor’s 10 Writing Tips – I’ve never read these before, I don’t believe. Awesome.
Books and Lit Award: The Classical Education You Never Had – Here’s a great AOM podcast making the case for classical education (for YOU).
New! Rhetoric and Persuasion Award: Have a Conversation – This whole article is full of stunningly biased language, so if you’re prickly, don’t read. But it’s a fascinating look at how the LGBT community seeks to persuade.
Christians and Culture Award – Safe Schools and Gender Non-Conformity – Kevin DeYoung sets a wonderful example of how to engage a secularized culture from a biblical perspective. Notice how he makes appeals to common ground.
In this week’s 6-minute video, you’ll learn:
- Why most “brilliant” communicators won’t attract an audience.
- How to avoid two extremes of ineffective communication.
- How great communicators keep things both clear and interesting.
- Aristotle’s simple tool that ensures you have a perfect communication style.
(If you’re an e-mail subscriber, click here to view the video).
If you enjoy, share it with a friend!
Kindle Deal of the Week: Billy Bryson’s Shakespeare – Grab this biography by possibly the best history writer of our time. $1.99 – can’t beat it.
Apologetics Award: Intelligent Design in the Mind of an Atheist – Austin has a great, brief reflection on how a presuppositionalist might think of intelligent design arguments.
Preaching Award: How a Simple Tweak Can Dramatically Change Communication – So, warning: this is a post on boosting traffic for bloggers. But stick with it, because the principle is actually very powerful when applied to ministry: “People come to have their external problems solved…but they stay when you meet their internal needs.”
Spiritual Life Award: How to Become a Theologian – This is an incredible round up of 21 theologians including Kevin VanHoozer, Jonathan Leeman, Don Whitney, and others on how lay-people can be wise theologians. Mine this one, hard.
Theology Award: Did Jesus Descend Into Hell? Absolutely he did. There’s no atonement without it.
Fun Award: Holographic Images – Check out this freaky, futuristic look at what holographs can do today.
A Glimpse of Truth Award: Why Is Friends Still the Most Popular Show on the Internet? – Yes, the next generation loves the favorite show of my generation. Why? Find out, and learn a lot about the spiritual/human longings of the current atmosphere.
Writing Award: 15 Pieces of Writing Advice from C.S. Lewis – There were a couple of fresh Lewis quotes for me in here. An overall nice roundup.
Books and Lit Award: Theodore Roosevelt’s Advice on Reading – The man was a voracious reader, sometimes gorging 3 books a day. But how?
Christians and Culture Award: I’m a Christian and I Hate Christian Movies – I always come into these articles with a bit of an attitude about the attitude. But this writer actually knows what she’s talking about.
Leadership and Productivity Award: The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers – Another TEDx talk, but a good one. You just might find it comforting.
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