Scribblepreach Awards 05.21.16

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

 

Scribblepreach Awards 05.14.16

Hey Ya’ll,

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 JestFrom 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?’

‘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?’ ‘…

Then later:

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?’

‘Okeydokey.’

‘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.’

(pp. 388-389).

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 OutI 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.

ScribblePreach Awards 04.09.16

Hey All,

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 ConversationThis 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 AwardSafe 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. 

Weekend Java Awards 04.02.16

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 AwardHow 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.

3 Simple, Effective Ways to Share the Gospel

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Weekend Java Awards 03.26.16

(New!) Kindle Deal of the Week: The Jesus Storybook Bible – For $1.99. This book is not only great for kids – it’s a wonderful help to adults who’ve never understood how the storyline of scripture points to Jesus.

Apologetics Award: 3 Reasons You Need Expository Apologetics – Voddie Baucham shows why modern preaching needs to be both expository and apologetic.

Preaching Award: The 2 Most Important Elements of Preaching – I bet you can’t guess them. But they’re in the Bible (well…one of them is, the other is inferred).

Spiritual Life Award: What Christians Just Don’t Get About LGBT Folks – I liked this. A lot. And it stings a little.

Theology Award: Did the 2nd Person of the Trinity Die? – After R.C. Sproul critiqued this statement, Mark Jones comes back with a historical defense (not to say an ahistorical defense).

Fun Award: No One Could See the Color Blue Until Modern Times – This is phenomenally interesting, and almost too much to believe. The power of language.

A Glimpse of Truth AwardReading the Aeneid as a Christian – The Imaginative Conservative offers 7 points of relation and departure.

Writing Award: What It Means to Put Yourself Out There – Aye. There’s the rub.

Books and Lit Award: Viriginia Woolf Offers Advice on Reading a Book – Though, not on how to live to tell the tale. Okay that was a pretty dark stab. Sorry.

Christians and Culture Award: In Love with Donald Trump – I haven’t posted on Trump for a few weeks because I’m frankly tired of the conversation. But I think this post (contra Russell Moore and others) articulates the sad truth of the situation: Christians know Trump doesn’t fit their beliefs. They don’t care. He fits their true affections.

Church Leadership AwardGospel DNA – Tim Chester has a wonderful series on the 4 marks of churches with a “Gospel DNA” (the whole series is published, so just keep clicking on).

Weekend Java Awards 03.19.16

(New!) Kindle Deal of the WeekA Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving’s classic available for $1.99. You can also grab the Cider House Rules for the same price.

Apologetics Award: So You Think You Know About Puritans – Weirdly, this week’s apologetics article comes from the most secular resource I read: The Paris Review. They’ve linked to a lengthy indictment of the way Puritans are portrayed in the recent horror film, “The Witch”. What’s going on?

Preaching Award: Finding Great Illustrations – I loved this short, helpful video from Hershael York on the resources he uses to dig up great illustrations.

Spiritual Life Award: Sex, Money and Power: Be Careful Who Owns You. Wisdom courtesy of Mark Jones and Nacho Libre.

Theology Award: A Theology of Creation in 12 Points – D.A. Carson wrote it, so you don’t need a compelling summary.

Fun Award: Finally, a Workout Moms Can Stick To! – This is a pretty fun, pretty dead-on article by Ms. Gallagher.

A Glimpse of Truth Award: A Conservative’s Plea: Let’s Work Together – This TEDx talk contains much wisdom that’s much needed by all of us, Christian or no.

Writing Award4 Lessons for Authors on the Current State of Publishing – Jane Friedmen with a really great roundup of tips and trends.

Books and Lit Award: 10 Essential Women Writers for Christians – A good roundup here, with deals to boot, but I can’t vie for all of them (because I haven’t read them all).

Christians and Culture Award: The Shame Culture – I’d consider this article by David Brooks a must-read for understanding the unique cultural changes taking place right now in the realm of ethics.

Church Leadership Award: 6 Distinguishing Marks of a Call to Gospel Ministry – A great summary of MLJ’s counsel to young would-be pastors. I think our advice should be as rigorous. When was the last time you said “I don’t think so” to a young person expressing a desire for ministry?

Weekend Java Awards 03.12.16

(New!) Kindle Deal of the WeekHow to Read the Bible for All Its Worth – This is a classic by Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart, available for $3.99

Apologetics Award: The Importance of Story – Talking story is all the rage, now, but I think EL Bates does it particularly well, here.

Preaching Award: Qualifications of the Preacher – This little article on how the Puritans saw a man as fit for teaching is a good supplement to my article yesterday.

Spiritual Life Award10 Marks of an Immature Believer – This article hit me right where I’ve been at.

Theology Award: Did the Reformers Get Paul Wrong? – Yes! I’ve been studying the New Perspective in class during my (final!) semester, and I’ve constantly thought: “Wow, these guys know Jewish history, but they’re clueless about reformation history.”

Fun Award: 11 Mind-Bending Christian Book Covers You Can’t Unsee – Nor can you make these things up, people.

A Glimpse of Truth AwardNY Times Article on Redeemer – This was an encouraging look at how New Yorkers see Tim Keller’s ministry in the city.

Writing Award: Perfect Imperfection – This article really resonated with me. There’s no reason we need to make our preaching, writing, or anything perfect – that’s part of the charm.

Books and Lit Award: Al Mohler’s Top 10 Books for PreachersMohler does this list each year. I want to read all of these…6. Week. Count. Down. (To. Graduation.)

Christians and Culture Award: Brooks and Volf on Character – Two brilliant minds discuss what it means to be “good” in a world that overlooks the question.

Church Leadership Award: On Saying No – Seth Godin on how and why to just say “No.”

Weekend Java Awards 03.05.16

(New!) Kindle Deal of the Week: Story – $1.99 – My goodness. Robert McKee’s $30 book on structuring stories is available for $1.99 on kindle. If you are a preacher or writer, this is an absolute must-buy (it’s written for screenwriters, but the insight/application is much broader).

Apologetics Award: Un-Evolved Thinking on Darwin Day – This is a brilliantly written and articulate response to a recent Huffington Post article on Darwinian morality.

Preaching Award: Puritans on Preaching – Here’s a great, concise little series on how the Puritans preached. I’m very excited to continue reading. Here is part 2 and here is part 3.  

Spiritual Life Award: 9 Morning Habits – I really resonated with this article, because I’ve found my morning routines (and idols!) aligning with the author’s own. His points about how to set our minds before Christ each day are wonderful (though I do caution the article has quite a lot of dangerous spiritual vs. physical dualism in it…it’s okay to enjoy soccer, and “human nature” is NOT our problem – it’s “sinful nature”!!)

Theology Award: 5 Reasons It Doesn’t Matter if Trump Becomes President – The title is tongue-in-cheek, I think, because Wesley acknowledges it’s good to speak out, but gives us 5 biblical reasons to continue trusting God through this election season. I wish more conversations were happening along these lines right now…and that includes within my own brain.

Fun Award: The Dowager Countess’ Finest Burns – I’ve been cruising through Downton Abbey as of late – here are the Dowager Countess’ best zingers (PS – I’m only in season 2, but has anyone else noticed the Countess is a literary geek? She’s usually got at least one allusion an episode. Maybe this is fleshed out more later)

A Glimpse of Truth Award: What’s the Point of Moral Outrage? – Though I’ve just posted a critique of Darwinian morality, here’s an article that shows what truth we can glean out of it: in the end, human actions without God are self-centered…including moral outrage.

Writing Award: Walter Benjamin’s 13 Oracular Writing Tips – Slow down, look up a few vocab words, and savor this concise set of tips.

Books and Lit Award: 190 Blogs I Read – Tim Challies puts together his feedly list into a format you can integrate as your own. So honored to be on the list!

Christians and Culture Award: Keller, Piper and Carson on Staying the Course in a Changing Culture – Yup. Yup. And Yup.

Church Leadership Award: The Magic of 30-Minute Meetings – In a church…can you imagine?

Weekend Java Awards 02.27.16

(New!) Kindle Deal of the Week: Grab Russell Moore’s book “Onward” for $2.99, Christianity Today’s Book of the Year.

Apologetics Award: 50 Latin Phrases You Should Know – No, not to make you sound smart (though there’s that too), but because these phrases represent age-old wisdom, and hold with them logical force. Though, admittedly, some are just hifalutin and pretentious 😉

Preaching Award: Preaching Prep is Whole Person Prep – This article by David Prince is one of the most unique and helpful posts on preaching I’ve read on the web.

Spiritual Life Award: 5 Ideas for Enjoying Church Prayer Meetings – These are so very helpful. Do read.

Theology Award: Was Jesus Neither a Republican Nor a Democrat? Michael Kruger explains why this truism needs to be shaken out and examined. Though, he did overlook one option that comes to mind for me: maybe it means that we ought to vote in Christians of good standing in orthodox churches, no matter which party? I’m finding in this current election season more than ever a gravitation (in myself) toward voting for character over my preferred economic policy. I think of Calvin’s words that a king who does not submit himself to scripture is nothing but a thieving despot. Different time and place, but more applicable, perhaps, than we sometimes allow.

Fun Award: 8 Secrets Behind Disney’s Locked Doors – These are quite creepy. And some will only leave you insatiably curious. But read on nevertheless.

A Glimpse of Truth Award: Don’t Turn Away from the Art of Life – This article in the NY Times is about folding the humanities back into curriculum. However, it’s ultimately a critique of the materialistic worldview underpinning these decisions, and the tragedy of a world without purpose (aka, religion): “A new technology like GPS provides us with the most efficient and direct route to a destination, but it presupposes we know where we are going. Finding an address is one thing; finding one’s way in life is another. Even our smartest computers or most brilliant statisticians are at a loss when it comes to mapping our psychic landscapes.”

Writing Award: Know Where You’re Going, Then Put the Water On – This post speaks to the sheer drudgery of the task. Still, it will encourage your mental fortitude.

Books and Lit Award: Umberto Eco Explains the Enduring Power of Peanuts – Who knew there was so much depth to the Peanuts comics (I doubt Schulz did, though I think we need to give him credit for knowing what he was doing – more than we typically give – on the whole).

Christians and Culture Award: The Rise and Fall of Secularization Theory – Peter Berger explains in under 5 minutes why he stopped calling the world “Secularized”. I fear that what the video left out is also crucial, however – our world IS secularized, not in the sense that it’s irreligious, but in the sense that our high-tech, globalized systems are not philosophically rooted in religion, and therefore religion can’t pervade every area of life as it once used to do. That means not everything we do necessarily flows from our worldview – we just do it because it’s there, and it’s the way it is, without stopping to consider how our worldview (which, also due to technology, increasingly looks like a pile of mismatched jigsaw puzzle pieces rather than a rationally thought-out web of ideas) interacts with our behavior.

Church Leadership Award: Rosaria Butterfield’s Pastor on Evangelism/Discipleship – If you don’t know Rosaria Butterfield’s story of conversion from lesbian literary scholar to homeschooling Christian mother…well, you should. This is an article from her pastor about a principle which he believes is core to this kind of outreach – the “with him” principle. So, so good – a must read for every church elder/pastor.