A La Carte (March 29)
May the Lord be with you and bless you today.
Presbyterian School Mourns 6 Dead in Nashville Shooting
Like so many others, I’m shocked and grieved by the recent tragedy at Covenant School in Nashville (which CT reports on here). I am praying for all those whose loved ones have been taken and whose hearts have been broken.
More Than Watchmen for the Morning
Meredith Beatty: “The watchman trusted that the sun would come up every single morning, but don’t we have a greater hope? Shouldn’t we be spilling over with faith-filled confidence?”
The Kingdom of God Bible Storybook” Now Available from Lithos Kids
A faithful retelling of the story of God’s kingdom from Genesis to Revelation. Fully illustrated Old and New Testament volumes for ages 2 to 11. (Sponsored Link)
How to Respond to Deconstructionist Social Media
“Last week, a young adult I pastor came into my office to ask about something he’d seen. It was a video of a deconstructionist influencer on TikTok ‘proving’ that the Gospels are unreliable. He wanted to know what I thought. The video had shaken his faith. Videos on social media like these have millions to hundreds of millions of views. If you pastor younger generations, you’re likely already aware of this new reality. If you’re not, welcome.”
Is there a difference between regeneration and being born again? (Video)
Is there a difference between regeneration and being born again? Sinclair Ferguson clarifies the terms.
Wrath Is Not an Attribute of God
“The love of God and the wrath of God are commonly pitted against one another, particularly in the doctrine of atonement. If the cross is the demonstration of the love of God (Rom. 5:8), then how could it also be an expression of his wrath?” It’s important to know that wrath is not one of God’s attributes alongside love.
Fear After Grief
Brianna Lambert: “Perhaps you’ve been walking through seasons of grief, as you mourn especially deep pain. The dark clouds have begun to shift, but you’re not sure if you can bear to greet the sun, lest you have to return to the dark.”
Flashback: 31 Days of Purity: A Renewed Mind
Throughout his life, the Christian is to be renewing his mind by the Word of God, to take it into captivity and bring it into conformity. As he does this, his words and his deeds, and even his thoughts, will necessarily follow.
Loneliness is one of humanity’s most tender emotions. It reminds us that we are not made for ourselves. We were made for our Creator. The barbs of loneliness are God’s way of saying, “Here I am!” —Steve DeWitt
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10 New and Notable Christian Books for April 2023By Tim Challies — 1 month ago
It is surprisingly difficult to find a list of Christian books that have been released in any given month—especially if you want that list to be filtered by books released through particular publishers. That’s one of the reasons why I close each month by coming up with my list of New and Notable books. I comb through what I’ve received in the past month (and scour all the publishers’ websites) to come up with a list of titles that are interesting to me—and may just be interesting to you. Here are my picks for April. In each case I’ve included the publisher’s description.
The Wolf in Their Pockets: 13 Ways the Social Internet Threatens the People You Lead by Chris Martin. “We can hardly remember a time when we didn’t feel the influence of that back pocket device. The average social media user spends about two-and-a-half hours a day using social media. That’s more than enough time to shape our values and desires. Pastors, teachers, and parents feel their influence slipping away. We’re seeing increased loneliness, disunity, and self-absorption. But where do we go from here? In The Wolf in Their Pockets, Internet expert Chris Martin examines the many ways we are being changed by social media. With a biblically informed voice, Martin both exposes the ways the Internet is distorting our life in Christ and shows us how to faithfully respond. Martin teaches us how to care for people who are obsessed with followers, views, and likes—and how to love those whose online influences have filled them with cynicism and contempt. Martin looks at how the social Internet is changing how we understand sex and beauty—what to do about the epidemic levels of anxiety—and how to redirect our hearts to worship Jesus Christ. Shepherding and leading people has never been easy, but the social Internet has brought new challenges. We need the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit and a powerful prayer life. Martin provides the biblical wisdom, direction, and hope necessary to combat The Wolf in Their Pockets.” (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)
The Classic Warfield Collection (2-Volume Set) by Benjamin B Warfield, edited by John J Hughes. “In The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, Warfield says that the Bible is ‘an oracular book . . . the Word of God in such a sense that whatever it says God says’ that all its affirmations are ‘to be esteemed as the utterance of God, of infallible truth and authority.’ Warfield’s incisive scholarship shines in this new and enhanced edition, which has been edited, formatted, and retypeset for modern readers. Its carefully prepared aids include fulsome abstracts at the beginning of each chapter, intelligent headings, smart paragraph breaks, explanatory notes, definitions of obscure terms, discussion questions, recommended reading, complete footnotes and bibliographies, and more. In The Person and Work of Christ, Warfield demonstrates that ‘it is no more possible to have a Christianity without an atoning Christ than it is to have a Christianity without a divine Christ.’ Warfield’s incisive scholarship shines in this new and enhanced edition, which has been edited, formatted, and re-typeset for modern readers. Its carefully prepared aids include fulsome abstracts at the beginning of each chapter, intelligent headings, smart paragraph breaks, explanatory notes, definitions of obscure terms, discussion questions, recommended reading, complete footnotes and bibliographies, and more.” (Buy it at Westminster Books)
Priscilla, Where Are You? A Call to Joyful Theology by Natalie Brand. “‘What we believe about God is the single most important thing about us.’ This is a call to all Christians-but especially to Christian women-to engage more deeply in the joys of theology. Priscilla was a woman of sound doctrine who wasn’t afraid to share what she knew with others. And this is the privilege of every believing woman: we can explore truth and revel in God’s mysteries; we can live as God intended, with real spiritual strength and heartfelt praise. And we too will want to share our discoveries with others. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)
On Theology: Explorations and Controversies by John Frame. “John Frame is remarkable for his ability to pair profound thought with lucid prose. On Theology: Explorations and Controversies gathers concise reflections on wide-ranging matters of theology, philosophy, and ethics, divided into eight parts: Theological Method; The Thomist Controversy; Systematic Theology; Essays from Lexham Survey of Theology; Essays from The Gospel Coalition’s Concise Theology; Philosophy and Apologetics; Ethics and Politics; Personal Reflections. Whether considering age-old questions or current debates, Frame evokes deep thinking about Christian theology in a style that is accessible and engaging.” (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)
Say the Right Thing: How Your Words Can Glorify God and Encourage Others by Carolyn Lacey. “Words are powerful. They sink deep into our minds and our spirits. They can build others up or put others down. Many of us want to “say the right thing” and make a difference to others with our words, but we don’t know how to. Others of us struggle to control our speech and want help to be more godly in this area of our lives. This positive, constructive book delves into the Bible to show us how to overcome specific temptations, such as gossip or angry words. But it also goes much further. It shows us how we can use our speech to bring beauty, hope, truth, and comfort into the lives of those around us—and to give glory to God. Full of gracious words and practical help, this book will help readers to find out how to let the gospel shape their speech and enjoy the blessings that flow from this. (Buy it at Amazon)
Sharing the Gospel with a Mormon by Tony Brown. “How do you share the gospel with those who believe it’s their mandate to evangelise to you? Mormons are eager to talk about their faith with anyone who will listen, so encounters with them are a great opportunity to discuss what the Bible really says. But if we’re not familiar with their beliefs, it can feel safer to avoid these conversations, and we can miss out on the chance to share the true gospel with them. Tony Brown spends his time conversing with and evangelising to those caught in New Religious Movements. In this thorough guide to sharing the gospel with a Mormon, he lays out the foundations of the Mormon faith and explains how their doctrines are not reconcilable with the Bible, despite their claims. He does so with a great love for Mormons, concluding that they are a lost people who need to hear the true gospel. If you’ve ever wondered how to share the gospel with a Mormon, then this book will give you the practical knowledge you need to start those conversations and point Mormons to the Jesus of the Bible.” (Buy it at Amazon)
When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man (Second Edition) by Edward Welch. “Five college students pitch a tent by their car one dark night, not realizing they’ve set up camp by a military runway. They awake from a deep sleep to the shaking of the earth and a roar like mountains falling―the sound of a military transport plane taking off right over their heads. Can you imagine the visceral terror of that moment? For author and biblical counselor Edward Welch, it was a glimpse of what the Israelites experienced in God’s presence at Mount Sinai. Our God is a consuming fire. His holiness and relentless love put our sin, our weakness, and our fears in perspective. If we can learn the fear of the Lord―a fear that in Christ is filled with gratitude, love, and devotion―we can break free of the fear of other people that so easily entangles us. We can experience joy in our Christian lives as we need other people less and love them more. This groundbreaking work has helped countless numbers of people to confront their fear of man and live in freedom. The new edition features clarifying additions, new material, and revisions throughout.” (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)
Stronger Together: Seven Partnership Virtues and the Vices that Subvert Them by Dave Harvey. “Networked churches are the primary church planting force in evangelicalism today—but what makes them so effective, why do they remain so under-appreciated, and what are the common pitfalls that can ensnare them? In Stronger Together, veteran church planter and pastor Dave Harvey draws from his experiences and study of networks to walk Christian institutions, church leaders, and planters through tested strategies for starting and sustaining healthy and biblical church partnerships. By focusing on key virtues and shedding light on the pitfalls that oppose them, Harvey unpacks seven dichotomies that offer a practical roadmap to healthy patterns. When churches are vitally connected to other churches, they thrive, multiply, and last longer. Scripture exemplifies this, and research proves it. Stronger Together—part of the Exponential series on ministry growth and discipleship—will teach you exactly how to pursue biblical collaboration that will allow your church to flourish and your ministry to grow.” (Buy it at Amazon)
True to His Word: 100 Meditations on the Faithfulness of God by Jon Bloom. “The Bible teaches that God is always faithful, that He’s always TRUE to HIS WORD. Saints throughout history have affirmed it, and hymns and worship songs celebrate it. But what if it doesn’t look that way to you? You’re not alone. The Bible is full of examples of God’s children struggling to trust him in seasons of disappointment, discouragement, danger, disaster, depression, and deep grief—only to see God’s faithfulness to them manifest in surprising ways. These meditations are designed to help you grow in your ability to recognize God’s faithfulness in places you may not typically look, at times you don’t expect, and in providences— especially the most disturbing and devastating ones—that often don’t look like God’s faithfulness. Because the more you see it, the more wonderful God’s faithfulness becomes to you. And the more you’ll realize that ‘all the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Psalm 25:10). (Buy it at Amazon)
Unconventional by Sharon Dickens. “Discipling women is vital in every church. But it’s all very well knowing the theory — how do you actually get on and do it in practice? Unconventional is an honest look at beginning and sustaining a vibrant women’s ministry that works. Author Sharon Dickens shares how she started a women’s ministry from scratch — with all the frustrations and joys along the way — enabling you to learn from her mistakes and benefit from her extensive experience.” (Buy it at Amazon)
Seven Steps To a Good BreakupBy Tim Challies — 11 months ago
Not every relationship works out. Not every couple who begins dating ends up getting married. Neither should they. In fact, for a dating relationship to be healthy, there must be a way out. As Sam Andreades says, “If you are not able to end a dating relationship, you should never start one.” And so, “Before the day you say I do, you always have to be able to say, I don’t. In your heart, you must be able to not date, even if you really want to.”
In his book Dating with Discernment he offers seven steps to breaking up well.
Break up with bravery. To break up bravely is to determine that you will not remain in an unhealthy or unworkable relationship out of fear or cowardice. If the relationship is simply not working, not enjoyable, or not progressing, the brave thing is to call it off.
Talk in person. Though this may seem obvious in the abstract, in the moment it can seem easier to end things in a way in which you do not need to face the other person. Yet we are always called to treat people with love and this will most often mean refusing the temptation to break up by text message or phone call; it will most often mean breaking up face to face.
Honor the other person with gratitude. As you break up, it honors the other person to affirm them and express gratitude for them. And there will almost always be a number of ways to encourage them and express thankfulness. Though a breakup will probably require expressing some of the other person’s weaknesses and faults, there is no reason it shouldn’t also express some of their strengths and graces.
Be direct. You ought to be humble, of course, but humility does not require hiding or obfuscating the real reasons you don’t wish to continue the relationship. Don’t ghost the other person and don’t fail to tell the truth about why the relationship is not working out.
Deliver a vision of hope. It can be wise and good to include a vision of a brighter future for the other person. Though you will need to guard against sounding trite, “It is not insincere to express hope for his life, or to describe your faith in God about her, if you really do believe that there is a better plan for both your lives.”
End it with definiteness. A breakup ought to be a breakup. For sake of clarity and out of love for the other person, it is usually best to end the relationship with a kind of definiteness that means you will not keep texting as you did before or keep seeing each other as “just friends.” It could be best to agree not to be in contact for an agreed-upon number of months to help ensure the break is clean and that there is no confusion.
Take time to heal. A breakup could be very easy on you or very hard. You could breathe a sigh of relief or you could be emotionally devastated. At the very least it is bound to be a disappointment. Proverbs says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” and breaking up means you are deferring the hope of marriage. It is important, then, to give yourself some time to grieve and your heart some time to heal.
Though these steps don’t cover every person or every circumstance, they are wise guidelines that can help you end relationships in a way that honors God and expresses love for that person you cared about, but simply couldn’t marry.
Purposeful and Persistent ParentingBy Tim Challies — 1 year ago
I’ve come to the conclusion that Aileen and I parent weirdly. But I’ve also come to the conclusion that so does everyone else. When each of us looks at other parents, there are almost invariably some components of their parenting we would love to imitate, but others that strike us as, well, a little bit weird. This is why it is rare, or perhaps even impossible, to find a parenting book that we would follow completely rather than only partially. And that’s well and good—every family is different, every set of parents unique, every context distinct from every other. While the Bible gives us the broad outline of parenting, it leaves us to fill in the details in ways we believe are most faithful.
John and Cindy Raquet parent as weirdly as any of us, but their weirdnesses generally overlap with my own, and it’s for that reason that I so enjoyed reading their book Purposeful and Persistent Parenting. Thirty-one brief chapters form a good-sized book that offers a helpful combination of theory and practice.
The Raquets begin in just the right place—with a look at grace-filled parenting, by which they mean a kind of parenting in which the parents acknowledge that they themselves are the recipients of God’s grace and are then eager to display a similar grace to their children. “As grace-filled parents our relationship with our children is not based on their performance. We love them whether they obey us or not. We act in their best interest whether they obey us or not. They are just as much our sons or daughters whether they obey us or not. Our relationship with them and attitude toward them is not contingent on how they respond to us.”
Another pair of crucial opening chapters counter contemporary attitudes by reminding readers that God counts children as a blessing more than a burden and that God’s calling on parents is not first to impress or befriend their children, but to simply parent them. “If God has given you children, then you can be confident that it is God’s will for you to parent them. It is imperative for us as parents to understand that our primary role is to be our child’s parent. When we feel like we need to be more than that, we lose confidence and can start second-guessing ourselves, to the point that we start looking to the child to be making decisions that we should be making.”
The chapters that follow deal with consistency in parenting, with helping children understand they are not the center of the family (or of the universe, for that matter), with spiritual training, with developing an orientation that counts others ahead of self, and with physical discipline. In other brief chapters they deal with mealtimes, sitting still, whining, reading together, doing chores, setting family schedules, and so on. They conclude with a strong call for parents to align themselves toward faithfulness more than results. “To be sure, God has set things up such that there is a strong connection between what we as parents do and how our children respond, but it is a wrong or even arrogant attitude to think that we completely determine how our children think and behave by our parenting.”
It bears mentioning that, by their own admission, the Raquets live with an unusually high level of intentionality and this shows in some of their practical guidance—such as a family schedule that breaks an entire week into 15-minute increments and something called “toy-time tapes” which must be the most Type-A practice I’ve ever encountered in any parenting book. That said, one of the book’s strengths is that the Raquets are clear that though we all must follow the Bible’s clear commands, the rest of what they offer is just their own advice that readers are free to follow or to shrug off. “We … don’t want you to feel overly burdened by anything we wrote if you are blessed with a more relaxed personality. There are times we would have been blessed to have a few more relaxed, easygoing personalities in our home! We are thankful that God has made His local family, the church, with many different body parts, all with unique functions and gifts, according to His good plans for a balanced, functioning body!” Thus, if you don’t appreciate something like their “blue-tape boundaries,” you can mine the principles behind the practice, then find your own way to implement them.
If there is a weakness to the book, it may be the relatively cursory focus on the local church. Though the Raquets do write about children and the church, it is largely in the context of teaching them to sit still or to behave themselves. Even in the chapter about determining whether children are saved or unsaved—a chapter that is otherwise excellent—they neglect to mention the importance of involving pastors in making that determination. Yet children need pastors as much as their parents do and some focus on teaching children how to relate to pastors and when to turn to them for prayer, counsel, and help, would have gone a long way.
And then there is the matter of inculturation. Every book is written within a particular cultural context and is wrapped in certain presuppositions. In this case, the book seems to presuppose that families will be intact with both parents present, and that families will have access to a certain level of means and the privileges that tend to come with it. So, for example, the Raquets strongly express their view that it is very important for parents to protect their children from non-Christian worldviews in their early years, yet there are many people for whom this is very nearly impossible. Think, for example, of a single mom who needs to work to support her family, leaving public schools as her only educational choice, or of families who live in settings where homeschooling is forbidden and Christian schooling unavailable. Similarly, in the chapters dealing with physical discipline, there is no provision for settings where, though spanking may be permitted, the use of an instrument is not (which means parents need to make a careful, thoughtful decision about how they will carry out physical discipline), or settings where spanking is altogether outlawed (which means parents need to make a careful, thoughtful decision about if they will carry out physical discipline). These may be areas where the authors could have made even more of a distinction between principle and practice. All that said, these are relatively minor matters and certainly do not substantially detract from the book’s great strengths.
I have often thought that one of the keys to improving your parenting is to find someone who shares some of your parenting philosophies, preferences, and even eccentricities and to deliberately learn from them. And that’s exactly what Purposeful and Persistent Parenting offers. And though my days of parenting little ones are now long past, I still enjoyed this book very much and learned from it. It is rare among parenting books in this way: I would gladly hand to young parents and tell them, “If you generally follow this book and generally hold to these principles, practices, and preferences, you will do just fine.” But I might also tell them to just skip that bit about toy-time tapes…
Buy from Amazon