The ScribblePreach Awards 10.21.16

Kindle Deal of the Week: The NIV Application Commentary Series – This quality commentary series is on sale for $4.99 a piece, typically each is about $25 digital! Included on sale: Galatians, 1 & 2 Timothy (and Titus), 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Colossians and Philemon, Philippians, Ephesians1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Doug Moo on Romans!

Apologetics: On the Key to Reaching Unbelievers – Devin Maddox wisely takes us beyond the argument over ‘degrees of contextualization’ to the very heart of the matter: whether or not we have compassion.

Preaching: Writing Sermons in Community – I love the main point of this article, but I would add a pretty radical qualifier, which is that if we make our sermon evaluation group a church staff, our sermons are going to become increasingly “insider speak”. At least half the feedback needs to be from non-Christians.

Theology: The Missing Elements of Modern Worship – Tim Challies nails it, here. I think this says a lot about what church services are really typically about…us.

Spiritual Life: John Owen on Delighting in Worship – Speaking of worship, here’s a positive injunction from the man himself: John Owen.

Fun: Jimi Hendrix Plays “Sgt Pepper” Just Three Days After Release – This is a really interesting story, with some video footage and speculation to boot.

A Glimpse of Truth: The Town that Isn’t – This episode of radiolab hones in on the divisions separating our country, by looking at a small town that decided to…not exist. A fascinating and harrowing look at conflict without the gospel.

Writing: Why the Best Writing is ‘Steeped in Knowledge’ – This interview with Terry McDonell—editor, journalist and media entrepreneur for Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone and Outside – is steeped in knowledge indeed.

Christians and Culture: Quotes from the Centered and Sent Conference – Some wonderful and timely quips from Tim Keller and others. 

Leadership and Productivity: John D. Rockefeller’s Keys to Success – Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with making power plays. Just the opposite.

Mercy and Justice: Lecrae is Done Explaining Himself – Brothers and sisters, we can do better than this. Please don’t wrap up the true, sad story Lecrae is telling into your own.

New! Marriage and Family: Happy Daddy, Happy Home – I love the honesty and wisdom in the campus minister interviewed, here. Great stuff.

Scribblepreach Awards 10.15.16

Kindle Deal of the Week: Bob Dylan: All The Songs – The Story Behind Every Track. This is a $50 book for $3.99! I’m purchasing it for a few reasons: a. The magnificent discount. b. My creative writing tutor in Oxford thought Dylan was the best contemporary American writer we’ve produced c. Dylan’s songs make for perennially better reading than listening.

Apologetics: From My Journal:  It’s interesting that so many folks (according to recent Lifeway research) want to affirm that God accepts all forms of worship. It’s especially interesting because the three major religions of the world – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – reject that notion on the basis of the Exodus narrative, where Yahweh presents himself as a superior God, and the worship of the Egyptians as abhorrent. So saying “all religions are equal” is really just a sly way of saying, “I reject the major claim of the three major world religions”. It would be better, or at least more truthful, to say, “I reject all religion.” Or, “I’m a Hindu.”

Preaching: A Checklist for More Persuasive Presentations – This doesn’t all apply to preaching, but preachers can still take some gold from this article.

Theology: N.T. Wright on Jesus’ Revolution – I liked Michael Horton’s review of N.T. Wright’s book, but I liked this lengthy interview with N.T. Wright about it even better.

Spiritual Life: Martyn Lloyd Jones on Ministry Idolatry – I’ve heard these late in life lines from MLJ, but, they’re always striking.

Fun: Luke Cage Gets a Family Matters Makeover – I grew up on Family Matters…This redone intro to the new B.A. Luke Cage series on Netflix cracked me up.

A Glimpse of Truth: The Binge Breaker – This story in the Atlantic is about tech pioneer Tristan Harris, who is convinced technology companies are taking advantage of our psychology to promote their products. This is nothing new, but I believe in 50 years we’ll look at social media the way we look at tobacco companies today. Lots of truth in this one.

Writing: 7 Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School – As it turns out, writing for teachers is not the same as writing for readers.

Christians and Culture: Restoring Civility in the Public Square – Tim Keller is about to speak at a big convention on this, and his word to Christians is well-timed.

Leadership and Productivity: Leaders Shape Culture Through Behavior – Forget the tactics. People watch what you do.

Mercy and Justice: 5 Dangers of the Patriarchy Movement – Sometimes called the “complementarian” movement, but it’s really a perversion of it. I resonated with this article for so many reasons.

New! Marriage and Family: Parents, Let your ‘No’ be ‘No’. I always find good stuff in this category, and never have a place for it. Well, here it is.

Scribblepreach Awards 10.08.16

A Personal Update: Today I’m in West Virginia, taking an interview with a committee of the New River Presbytery of the PCA. We’re talking about starting a new campus ministry at West Virginia University, a school of 30,000-some students, and the #3 party school in the nation (with lots of drug/meth-specifically addictions to boot). We’ve sensed God’s call to campus ministry for some time, and would covet your prayers for discernment on our part and the presbytery’s committee.

Kindle Deal of the Week: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy – This wildly popular treatment by Eric Metaxas is a steal for $2.99.

Apologetics: Why God’s Sexual Ethic is Good for the World – You can’t get three better people talking on this issue.

Preaching: What Makes a Great Teacher? I think Dr. Murray’s point about teachers applies to preachers as well, and I’ve been chewing on it all week.

Theology: Evangelicals, Heresy, and Scripture Alone – This article is so welcome. “Sola scriptura” does not mean “Solo scriptura”…but most evangelicals seem to think it does, according to the latest polls.

Spiritual Life: The Instagram Bible: “Beware the Instagram Bible, my daughters – those filtered frames festooned with feathered verses, adorned in all manner of loops and tails, bedecked with blossoms, saturated with sunsets, culled and curated just for you.”

Fun: Bad Lip Reading of the Debate – So “Bad Lip Reading” put up a version of the presidential debate that is better than the original. Not hard to do, but still.

A Glimpse of Truth: A Rabbi’s Enduring Sermon on Your Last Five Minutes – This is a powerful story. It doesn’t ultimately capture what I think a Christian’s thoughts should be in their last five minutes, but it was still very stirring and convicting to me (thus, a “glimpse” of truth…)

Writing: Stop Trying to Sound Smart When You’re Writing – Yes. Yes, please do.

Christians and Culture: 4 Cultural Trends Leading to the Decline of Religious Liberty – It’s striking that we actually founded most of these trends!

Leadership and Productivity: 10 Tips from 10 Years – Stephen McAlpine with 10 reflections from his 10 years in ministry.

New! Mercy and Justice: Diversity and Music This article by Leon Brown is a helpful hand for churches wanting to seek diversity…don’t assume all black cultures love gospel music!

The ScribblePreach Awards 10.01.16

Kindle Deal of the Week: Surprised By HopeN.T. Wright’s fantastic recovery of the idea of the resurrection from the impoverished ideas we have of heaven. A must read, for $1.99.

Apologetics: For the Bible Tells Me So – A critique of Andy Stanley’s recent claim that Christians shouldn’t believe the gospel because “the bible tells me so.” Here is an important rejoinder. I think what all of the responses have been missing is the fact that Andy, here, is simply conceding the enlightenment idea that our own intellects are the best source of knowledge about the universe. That’s incredibly naive and egotistical, and I don’t think it will ultimately lead many people to Christianity (as per the last few hundred years, for example).

Preaching: Marks of Gospel Preaching – Dave Harvey suggests some ways to measure the fruitfulness of preaching without metrics.

Theology: The Three Persons of the Trinity in Tradition – Kevin DeYoung wisely weighs in on this hot topic.

Spiritual Life: The Singing Man – What an incredibly touching video, and story to boot.

Fun: Artificial Intelligence Tries to Write a Beatle’s Song: I love the Beatles, and I love the science of art, so naturally this is the most entertained I’ve been all week.

A Glimpse of Truth: Infinite Jest: On the hypocrisy of addicts: “They’ll p*** and moan your ear off if somebody else f*** with the rules, but they don’t deep down see themselves subject to them, the same rules. And they’re constitutionally unable to learn from anybody else’s experience: if some jaywalking B.U. student does get splattered on Comm. or some House resident does get his car towed at 0005, your other student’s or addict’s response to this will be to ponder just what imponderable difference makes it possible for that other guy to get splattered or towed and not him, the ponderer. They never doubt the difference— they just ponder it. It’s like a kind of idolatry of uniqueness. It’s unvarying and kind of spirit-killing for a Staffer to watch, that the only way your addict ever learns anything is the hard way. It has to happen to them to like upset the idolatry.” – David Foster Wallace

Writing: How to Be a Writer – 10 beautiful and penetrating points.

Books and Lit: Who Gets to Write What? Kaitlynn Greenidge has a powerful NY Times piece against the pc claim that people can’t write about cultures other than their own.

Christians and Culture: Life in a Secular Age – The Art of Manliness podcast features James K.A. Smith this week, and it covers everything from the haunting of secularism to the X-files. 

Leadership and Productivity: How to Send E-mails – Some good and courteous advice.

New! Mercy and Justice: From My Journal: I’ve been thinking about the mercy of evangelism lately. I think it’s conspicuous that the only people told to evangelize in the New Testament are pastors. In my opinion, that’s likely not a mistake. Evangelism goes hand in hand with the gift of teaching. That’s not to say lay-people shouldn’t evangelize, but only that it seems the locus of attention for most people will be about pre-evangelism: asking good questions, sharing their personal testimony, inviting friends to church events, having non-Christian neighbors over to dinner, giving away good books, etc. I wonder if more people would engage in the mission if pastors encouraged pre-evangelism, rather than burdening people to have gifts they simply don’t possess (or by over-simplifying the gospel into an easy-to-present-format that, though doable for everyone, actually waters the thing down).

Scribblepreach Awards 09.24.16

Kindle Deal of the Week: The Pilgrim’s Regress – Lewis’s earliest post-Christian nonfiction work, for $1.99

Apologetics: 20 Quotes from Tim Keller’s Prequel to The Reason for God – You really can’t go wrong, here.

Preaching: Three Tips for Teaching OT Narratives – Three concise, excellent and wise tips on preaching narrative that I’ve been chewing on all week.

Theology: The Crucified King – In the most compelling section of Treat’s work, he argues against the idea that Jesus is enthroned *after* his crucifixion, as we typically think (resurrection, then ascension, which is Jesus’ inauguration). Instead, he claims the crucifixion was Jesus’ enthronement, which has crazy cool implications for Christian ethics:

“In his article ‘Crucifixion as Parodic Exaltation,’ Marcus explores Roman perceptions of crucifixion, arguing that the ‘lifting up’ on the cross was a parody of the victim’s own self-exaltation. In other words, crucifixion was a mock enthronement. Marcus claims that by employing such irony, Mark is mocking the mockery and thereby revealing that the one crucified as a pretender king truly is king. Marcus’s summary is compelling: ‘Ensconced on the royal seat of the cross, the crucified person was a king of fools; but the supreme irony for Mark is that in the present instance this laughingstock of a ‘king’ is indeed being installed as the monarch of the universe. Having been clothed, crowned, and hailed as a king in the previous section, Jesus is now royally enthroned— on a cross’.” – Jeremy R. Treat

Spiritual Life: The Bible Project Reading Plan – I want to commend to you something I’ve been using with our youth group this year: the Bible Project Reading Plan. I love it, because it takes you through one book at a time, and also holds your hand by providing short, well-crafted videos before you start reading. Excellent resource. Highly recommended.

Fun: Between Two Ferns – Okay, so this interview from Zach Galifianakus, frustratingly, is a homage to Hillary Clinton in the guise of a mockery of her. Not that I want her to be mocked…but I get increasingly irritated by folks who think they’re doing something bold and courageous by following the mainline stance. Anyway – all that aside. This is absolutely hilarious.

A Glimpse of Truth: The ‘Inevitable’ Evolution of Science – The Atlantic with a killer critique of the idea that science is a good arbiter of truth. Actually, modern scientific views are market-driven, not truth-driven…surprise!

Writing: Don’t Make Stuff for Money – “Every single day, I get emails from aspiring writers asking my advice about how to become a writer, and here is the only advice I can give: Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.” – Josh Green

Books and Lit: Not Entertained Enough – Karen Swallow Prior gently takes some prominent theologians and writers to task on their low view of entertainment. So good. 

Christians and Culture: Openings in Our Fractured Republic – This article takes WORK, son. But the little I comprehended was very helpful. Very. James K.A. Smith rocks it.

Leadership and Productivity: The Difference Between Good Leaders and Great Ones – This is interesting, though I do wonder what the word ‘forceful’ actually means.

New! Mercy and Justice: Are You Going to Hurt Me? – This is a category that always seems to want to make its way into my weekly awards. So here it is, kicking off with a beautiful piece of writing from Tim Challies.

So, Sometimes I Mess Up…Big Time.

Hey Everyone,

I recently received a response from one my readers asking me to reconsider my little “microaggression” on the article about microaggression. After re-reading the article, I think he’s absolutely right. The reason is that MOST (but not all) of the examples in the article are examples of truly racist remarks, and I don’t at all want to minimize how evil and damaging these things are, not only on campuses, but anywhere in society.

What I don’t appreciate about the article is the way it lumps gender issues into racism, which I think is offensive to minorities. Being surprised that someone is a lesbian “because you’re so feminine” is a result of culture’s own mass confusion about the nature of gender. And saying “you guys”is a microaggression is a result of our culture’s impoverished view of language and oversensitivity by those who currently hold the cultural cards.

However, I do not find ANY of the racist remarks in the article endorsable or acceptable in any way whatsoever.

So, if I’ve promoted racism, or offended my readers who are minorities and have experienced the oppression of racist remarks, please forgive me. No excuses.


Scribblepreach Awards 09.10.16

Kindle Deal of the Week: The True Secret of Writing – From the author of “Writing Down the Bones,” for $3.99

Apologetics: From my Journal: It’s really not coherent to claim tolerance if you’ve ever been indignant about…anything. Because at root, ethics are theological implications. We see this in Moses’ encounter with Pharaoh, but we also see it in a relatively contemporary crisis: American slavery. Many under the yolk of slavery categorized their oppression as ‘bad theology’, such as Solomon Northup (12 Years a Slave): ““I could not comprehend the justice of that law, or that religion, which upholds or recognizes the principle of slavery;”.

To say that all religions are equal is to look Northup in the eye and say, “You’re a bigot.” Maybe tolerance is a privilege for those of us who’ve never experienced oppression. Maybe it’s less of an opinion, and more of a luxury. Because tolerance can’t do anything for oppression but smile and pat it on the head. Is that really what you want for this world?

Preaching: What’s Preaching For? Peter Leithart with some interesting application of Medieval theology to the task of preaching. 

Theology: The Crucified King: “If one defines the kingdom as a utopian world without mentioning God, they miss the whole point of the kingdom, which redefines the world in terms of God’s kingship. R.T. France put it well: ‘The kingdom of God’ is not making a statement about a ‘thing’ called ‘the kingdom’, but about God, that he is king.” – Jeremy R. Treat

Spiritual Life – Spiritual Disciplines and the Sinkhole Syndrome – This one hit me hard.

Fun: Makeup Artists Becomes Ron Swanson – I’m a Parks and Rec fan….not sure whether to be impressed by this or creeped out.

A Glimpse of Truth: Pondering Miracles, Medical and Religious – An atheistic doctor talks about what he learned in his encounters with the vatican, and ultimately concluding that his science is its own sort of religion. 

Writing: 20 Words Smart People Misuse – So…I have a writer’s confession: I am a king of malopropism. These types of articles are for me.

Books and Lit: No, The Internet Has Not Killed the Book – For those of us in the ‘normal’ bracket:“They want books to be available wherever they are,” Mr. Rainie said. “They’ll read an ebook on a crowded bus, curl up with a printed book when they feel like that, and go to bed with a tablet.”

Christians and Culture: Understanding Generation Snowflake – When Carl Trueman speaks of Generation Snowflake, he’s talking about this: Campuses Train Students to Be Insulted (oops, changed the title a bit).

Leadership and Productivity: Pastoral Visitation – I’m going to post two articles, and let you duke it out: 15 Reasons Your Pastors Should Not Visit Much, and the response:  Pastoral Visitation a “Sign of Sickness”? I wonder if this debate actually has more to do with church size. I can see Dr. Murray’s point in a congregation under 150, but I can see Dr. Rainer’s views being necessary as the congregation grows beyond that point.

Scribblepreach Awards 09.03.16

Kindle Deal of the Week: Finishing Our Course With Joy – J.I. Packer’s insights on finishing the Christian life well, for $3.99

Apologetics: The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God: “If God is ‘wholly other’, then how can we know or say that He is ‘wholly other’? What right do we have to do theology at all if that is the case? And if God is indistinguishable from the world, why should the theologian even bother to speak of God? Why not simply speak of the world? Is it faith that validates such talk? Faith based on what? Can such faith be more than an irrational leap in the dark?”

Preaching: From My Journal: (this one is unfiltered, so be warned…) I’ve stopped preaching like Tim Keller. Not because I don’t like him. Not because he isn’t good, but because now I’m in the south. Tim Keller’s preaching – *gasp* – isn’t relevant here (I think he would agree, actually). I’ve had way too many pats on the back when I address atheism…which tells me I’m preaching to the wrong crowd. No one is getting offended. I’m realizing why, now: atheists, here, are like Big Foot. We’ve only seen pictures of them in the newspaper. So when I argue with atheists, I get a lot of “Yeah go GET those damned atheists!” which is not at all what I’m trying to do, here.

Before, I needed to address Christian skeptics. Now my apologetic is aimed at “Christians”, who don’t understand the nature of the gospel. The idols here are not couched in atheistic secularism. They are consumer Christianity, Christian relativism, Christian individualism, and Christian gnosticism. More on this soon.

Theology: The Life of J. Alec Motyer – I found myself inspired and warmed by this all week, especially as I enjoy the fruit of his work on Exodus.

Spiritual Life – 8 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism. Wow. This is one of the best articles I’ve read on WRITING (even though it’s not about that, really). This kind of thing hits me square between the eyes, in a motivating/encouraging way.

Fun: 3 Stories by Gene Wilder – Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka, Dr. Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein), who passed away this week, tells a couple of funny and charming stories about his acting career.

A Glimpse of Truth: What Makes You So Sure? – The New Yorker has a nice, accessible roundup on the history of philosophy (albeit unbeknownst to the author, it seems, it is all framed by the enlightenment). But I appreciated it for its honest conclusion: philosophy has really only left the biggest questions about life wide open.

Writing: 128 Ways to Avoid the Word “Very”Very awesome infographic on this.

Books and Lit: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Angry Acceptance Speech – Please let me be like her when I grow up.

Christians and Culture: Mike Birbiglia’s 6 Tips for Making it (Small) in Hollywood – This is the best piece I’ve read on Christians engaging culture, and it’s not written by a Christian. Again, more on this soon.

Leadership and Productivity: 20 Quick Tips to Improve Your Productivity. YES. Love when Tim Challies writes on this topic. He’s the best out there.

Scribblepreach Awards 08.27.16

Kindle Deal of the Week: Michael F. Bird’s “Romans” – A brilliant commentary by a brilliant theologian on a brilliant book. Don’t miss it, for $7.99

Apologetics: 3 Ways the Blind Man and the Elephant Story Backfires – Love the way Trevin quotes from a wide variety of sources to make his points.

Preaching: Preachers, Don’t Trust Yourself – Thabiti Anyabwile with some words of wisdom, here.

Spiritual Life: Why You Need a Church (Not Just a Campus Ministry) – I think my life will soon be dedicated to this article.

Theology: The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God – “Theology is not needed to remedy formal or material defects in Scripture but to remedy defects in ourselves, the hearers and readers of scripture.”

What Frame is saying here is that theology does not, as Charles Hodge has suggested, put the Bible in its “proper order” (systematics), as though the Bible’s own order were in some way improper. Nor is theology a way to dismiss the “material” facts and claims of scripture with mere expression of religious feelings. Moving on:

“Theology in this sense (as opposed to theology in other senses) has a clear scriptural warrant: Scripture commands us to “teach” in this way (Matt. 28:19 and many other passages). Despite its focus on human need, this definition does full justice to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) does not require that human needs be ignored in theology, only that Scripture have the final say about the answers to those needs.”

In other words: theology is simply communicating the truth of the Bible in a way that meets human needs and answers human questions (provided the questions are justified by scripture!)

Fun: 14 Justifiably Forgotten Milton Bradley Games – Such classics as “Let’s be Safe”, “Bigfoot”, and “Do the Urkel!”

A Glimpse of Truth: Ark Encounter and Biblical Literalism – There’s something to affirm and deny in this article on Ken Ham’s newest project, from a secular perspective.

Writing: That vs. Which is – I’ve never understood this, which is really sad. That is, it’s sad which I never understood it.

Books and Lit: Neil Gaiman Reads for Ray Bradbury – I didn’t realize Neil Gaiman had such a great voice. This is a short, funny, clever, 13-minute story Gaiman wrote for Ray Bradbury, about the power of words and stories.

Christians and Culture: What Became of Christian Intellectuals? Alan Jacobs with a rather long, but I think rather important article. Very eye-opening (now that I write that, I realize Satan first crafted that metaphor…maybe I should put it away!)

Leadership and Productivity: How to Speak to Our Culture About Sex – DeYoung, Moore and Keller with lots of honed (but I think admittedly differing) wisdom on this.

Scribblepreach Awards 08.20.16

Kindle Deal of the Week: Louisa May Alcott Collection for $0.49 – All of her works, including Little Women and Little Men.

Apologetics: Jesus an egomaniac? Here’s a transcript of John Piper’s talk to Google, answering the question: “Is God an egomaniac?”

Preaching: On Being Persuasive – Some persuasive points, here.

Spiritual Life: Am I a Controlling Person? Follow Dr. Murray’s new series, here. You’ll never be disappointed by his cultural savvy and deep biblical and pastoral wisdom.

Theology: 100 of the Best J.I. Packer Quotes – Don’t miss this, and don’t stop here!

Fun: Will Ferrell Is Little Debbie – My wife and I love Will Ferrell, and both of his clips from the Tonight Show had us in stitches.

A Glimpse of Truth: The Puzzle of Personality – This glimpse of truth is a whopper. Basically, one of the world’s leading psychiatrists has come to the same conclusion as St. Augustine 2,000 years ago: you’re not just a “type”. You are what you love. Hilarious and insightful talk.

Writing: Ted Hughes on How to Be a Writer – Hughes shares advice with his daughter which he first received from T.S. Eliot. It’s one of the few unique bits you’ll find on the web.

Books and Lit: The Book That Gets Inside Hitchcock’s Mind – If you like seeing ‘behind the tapestry’, this is filled with interesting little tidbits.

Christians and Culture: Francis Schaeffer and Christian Intellectualism – A well-researched little piece on how the powerhouse Christian intellectuals lost their stay in the 1950’s…and the situation we’re in now.

Leadership and Productivity: Good Leaders and Vulnerability – Alain de Botton with some insightful advice on what makes a communicator compelling. I can really see this in my favorite personalities.