A La Carte (May 16)
Blessings to you today, my friends.
Today’s Kindle deals include a couple of interesting titles.
(Yesterday on the blog: The God Who Knows)
Thoughts from an Are Not
“Really effective preaching takes place by a man who is part of the church in which he preaches, and he is preaching to people he knows. He is preaching to people he has visited, prayed with, prayed for. He knows that when he goes into the pulpit there are sitting in front of him people who are overcome with all kinds of problems.”
Why I Loved Caring for My Aging Parents
Deborah Smith explains why caring for her aging parents was a blessing.
The testimony we want our children to have
“It was the testimony of John the Baptist (Luke 1:41, 44). It was very likely the testimony of Timothy (2 Tim 1:5; 3:15). Of course, it was the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ par excellence (Luke 2:40, 52). What was it?” It’s a great one!
Pastor Rob Ventura Discusses William Burkeitt’s New Testament Commentary
Some years ago, I discovered Burkitt’s New Testament commentary online and have used it with much joy ever since. There are so many things I like about this work that I could not keep it to myself. To my great delight, Mike Gaydosh at Solid Ground Christian Books agreed to publish this valuable volume, having used it himself for many years with much profit. (Sponsored Link)
At what point is it appropriate to leave your church? (Video)
Here’s a pair of good answers to an oh-so-common question.
To Those Who Fear They Aren’t Radical Enough
“Growing up as a teenager in the church, there were a lot of calls to step up and do something radical. Don’t be content with being ordinary. Be bold and take risks for God. Do something extreme and revolutionary. That’s how you grow your faith and glorify God in the best way possible. That message hasn’t changed much as I’ve grown older.”
Fantasy Football and the Death of the Book
Joe has some counsel meant to help you become a more effective reader.
Flashback: Fathers (and Mothers), Do Not Provoke Your Children!
There may be times when your children’s anger toward you is more righteous than your actions or attitude toward them.
A mother’s relationship with her child is one that will encompass a lifetime. How blessed is a child who has that anchor of strength and support. —Sally Clarkson
You Might also like
The Toxic War on MasculinityBy Tim Challies — 1 month ago
If there is any word used to describe masculinity in our day, any adjective commonly used to modify it, it is almost invariably “toxic.” We hear almost nothing of positive masculinity or healthy masculinity. But we hear endlessly of its toxicity. It would not be wrong to conclude that society really has no vision for a masculinity that is noble and good (unless it is essentially indistinguishable from femininity). It would not be wrong to conclude that society considers masculinity one of the great problems that human progress must overcome.
Nancy Pearcey has many thoughts on this subject and her response is the cleverly titled The Toxic War on Masculinity. For her great concern is not the toxicity of masculinity itself, but the toxicity of the war against it.
It’s not like Pearcey is writing from some Utopia in which she has only ever seen positive examples of masculinity in action. To the contrary, she grew up in a home with a father who was cruel to his family. She was subjected to an extremely harmful form of masculinity that was abusive toward her and her siblings. It was largely because of the contrast between her dad in public (moral, upright, religious) and her dad in private (cruel, unjust, violent) that she abandoned her religious upbringing when she was a teen, turning instead of the writings of the feminist movement. It was only when she stumbled upon L’Abri and the ministry of Francis Schaeffer that she recommitted to the Christian faith and began the long process of healing.
Through Christian eyes, she was able to see the issues with the feminism that had once been attractive to her. And with those same Christian eyes she was able to see that abuse exists within the church and is sometimes even tolerated by it. But now she could look to Scripture to see that the problem is not with masculinity itself, but with its distorted forms. What God has created is good and must be celebrated. But it must also be fostered and protected, not allowed to be twisted and perverted.
Her book is an attempt to understand the God-given pattern for men and to define a truly healthy masculinity. But it goes beyond that to consider how Western culture lost its vision for a healthy masculinity and to propose how it can be recovered. Taking a “show, don’t tell” approach, she blends history and sociology with personal stories and outside examples. It makes for a powerful and compelling package.
In the book’s first part, she dispels some false assumptions to show that while most people believe that conservative Christian men are patriarchal and domineering, studies continue to disprove this. To the contrary, Christian men who are truly committed to their faith (in contrast to those who attend church merely out of tradition or for the sake of appearances) have very low rates of divorce and domestic violence. She takes this as proof that the Christian message has power to help men thrive as husbands and fathers.
In the second part, which constitutes the bulk of the book’s content, she examines notions of masculinity and how they have changed over time. She travels through major periods of history to show how society changed the ways men function in the world, workplace, church, and home. She explains how a biblical understanding of masculinity was slowly but surely replaced by a secular one.
In part three, she shows that many people who claim to be Christians, but who are only nominally so, exhibit some of the worst and most toxic behaviors of all. These nominal people skew the statistics to make people think Christianity itself produces a toxic form of masculinity when, in reality, that tends to be men who embrace terms like headship and submission, but who understand them through a secular lens of power and control. Then, at the end of it all, she suggests some ways forward—some solutions to the crisis of masculinity within the church.
It makes for a compelling book and one that serves its purpose. Well-researched and exhaustively documented, well-written and endorsed by a diverse collection of authors, I expect that it will be widely-read and that it will help spark many good conversations within the Christian world. Best of all, I hope it will help provide a positive, hopeful, biblical vision for masculinity.
Publishers are sometimes known to change the release dates for their books. I read The Toxic War on Masculinity with the understanding that it was to be released at the end of April. It wasn’t until I had read it and begun to write a review that I saw its release date had been changed to June. That means that the manuscript is still prone to change, and hence I have not quoted from it or interacted with it too deeply. So for the time being, I will leave you with this overview and hope that it interests you. And that perhaps it will convince you to pre-order the book so you can read it for yourself.
Buy from Amazon
A Christian Case for Bitcoin and BlockchainBy Tim Challies — 2 years ago
A recent article intrigued me with its assertion that it is better to understand Bitcoin as gambling than investment: “An asset that never pays a dividend but has a price that keeps rising is a bubble. An investor can believe Bitcoin is a bubble and rationally invest so long as she expects to sell out before the bubble pops. But that isn’t investing; that’s gambling, and it’s a zero-sum game.” Being largely unfamiliar with Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, I wanted to think this matter through. I know a number of believers who are enthusiastic about Bitcoin and blockchain, not just as it pertains to personal finances but also as it may serve ministry purposes. What follows is an article these men wrote that makes a basic Christian case for Bitcoin and the blockchain technology behind it. It provides an alternate perspective for those of us just beginning to think this through. I hope you find it helpful.
As Christians, we are responsible before God to approach every area of our lives as an opportunity to glorify His name, advance His Kingdom, and steward His creation. It shouldn’t surprise us that many believers approach the financial and investment world with a healthy dose of skepticism. After all, Wall Street does very little to improve on its reputation as a place where all moral standards are eclipsed by pure greed.
So when we venture one step further, into the uncharted territories of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, the landscape appears even more extreme. Many believers see a culture of wild betting and extreme risk that seems at odds with scriptural calls to contentment, wisdom, and financial prudence. But shouldn’t we of all people ought to know not to judge by outward appearances? And if volatile prices and risk of loss are going to deter us, well we might as well just keep our money in a hole instead of investing at all (Matthew 25:14-30). But in Jesus’ parable it wasn’t the servant who played it safe in his stewardship who received a commendation.
Faith is a necessary part of everything the Christian undertakes. We shouldn’t expect it to be any different when it comes to our finances. Instead, the wise steward evaluates risk and reward with clear eyes. The wise steward seeks for opportunities to make better returns on his Master’s resources. So what does the world of Bitcoin, blockchain, cryptocurrency and what’s being called “web3 technology” have to offer the church? And how should Christians be engaging with this technological revolution?
Source: Fabric Ventures
In just over a decade, crypto has grown from a tiny fad for fringe computer nerds to a major force in today’s financial world. That’s because blockchain, the underlying technology that is used by cryptocurrencies, has the potential to prove one of the most profound innovations since the printing press.
Already we are seeing blockchains enable a huge variety of different communities to spring up, cooperate, and build something new without the gatekeepers or infrastructure that would have been essential in the past. Blockchain technology addresses some of the most urgent concerns with modern monetary policy and in that way promises to help protect the poor and most vulnerable by securing property rights, thwarting theft, minimizing inflation, and giving access to a monetary system that traditional banks or financial institutions would not. It is true, however, that many of these projects will turn out to be ill-fated moneymaking schemes, silly memes, or worse. But that is true in the business world and the world of the internet as well. The existence of bad actors does not mean that wise investments and godly creativity cannot occur in the same space, using the same technologies.
Though sin may find expression through tools, its source is the human heart. Human history proves again and again that the technologies that may be used to do evil can also be used for godly ends. As Christians, therefore, our approach to technology must not be fearful but hopeful, because we have been given the mandate to subdue and rule over the world for God’s glory (Genesis 1:26–28). New technologies, then, simply provide the industrious Christian with opportunities to see if new tools can be used for that sacred task.
We’ve Seen This Before
One of the best historical examples we have for this hopeful attitude is the technological explosion that God used to propel the theology of the Reformers throughout their world. The innovations of the printing press, distribution networks created by a financialized economy, and the creation of a public forum for the debate of ideas all allowed Martin Luther’s theological contentions to become more than the disgruntled opinions of a fringe academic.
Luther himself realized the opportunity and maximized his access to these new technologies. Although many predicted the problems that could arise from opening the flood gates of information to the general population, Luther knew that the same freedom afforded by these technologies could also be the means of amplifying the message of the Gospel. While chaos and trouble did indeed ensue, so did a movement that God used to purify and advance His Church.
Web3 & The Future of the Church
The Church stands at the beginning of what may prove to be a similar technological revolution as the web3 world continues to mature. Not only do cryptocurrencies provide sound, permissionless monetary systems able to be used by believers in repressive countries, they also provide an accessible and proven engine for financial creation that stands to benefit the Church and the individual believer.
Some critics call crypto a “casino” for “price speculation,” but such detractors may fail to recognize that their criticism can apply equally to the Christian holding mutual funds in their company 401(k) or that with the rise of inflation and the weakening of a dollar’s purchasing power, we are in a significantly different place than we were in times past. We are in the early days of crypto, and with the newness comes a greater level of volatility and speculation, yet also a greater level of opportunity. We are, of course, wise to exercise wisdom and caution. But if we are morally comfortable with the concept of putting funds at risk to grow their value over time, then we must be careful not to dismiss opportunities simply because they involve new risks.
The web3 space offers increasing ways to wisely and carefully invest, with decentralized finance staking rewards and interest-bearing custodial accounts incentivizing and rewarding patience. For every dog-themed meme coin there are now tens or hundreds of carefully created projects with actual real-world value.
To participate in the present web3 economy, Christians need not become discontented or greedy. They can walk in this new world the way we have always walked, by applying the same biblical wisdom and Spirit-filled guidance that lead us in every other area of their life, financial or otherwise.
Embracing the Inevitable
But perhaps the most compelling reason for Christians to be involved in this space is that the last ten years have proven that crypto is not likely to go away. And current events are showing it will play an increasing role in our future. Just as the Body of Christ has historically embraced the advent of new technologies and chosen to use them for good while wisely avoiding their dangers, so we are faced with that choice today.
Web3 as an investment vehicle or a mode of currency transfer is only the beginning. Already we are seeing decentralized organizations, backed by tokenized resources and supported by geographically scattered networks, show themselves as a real possibility. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will open new doors for Christian art and mutually supporting economies. Churches are recognizing that good stewardship will soon require them to integrate crypto assets into their financial plan.
Additionally, the blockchain minimizes costly transfer, banking, and credit card processing fees which currently take a bite out of almost all financial donations and transactions. It allows resources to move freely to aid Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) ministries, churches, and missionaries inside countries that suppress the church by restricting currency transfers. This allows for censorship-resistant and cost effective transfers of funding to Christians in situations where they need to be supported, but without attracting state attention. And we are certain there are far more possibilities that we have not yet considered and not yet imagined.
While crypto is in its early days, now is the time for Christians to carefully explore and experiment with the possibilities, for the advance of the gospel, for the good of others, and for the glory of God. We are convinced that Christians will all soon agree that crypto is not a curse to be feared, but a blessing to rejoice in, fully under the control of the One who has overcome the world.
Take heart, we’re going to make it.
Pr0ph3t writes about the intersection of Christianity and crypto on Twitter and Substack at Theofuturism.
Stephen McCaskell is a filmmaker and Web3 enthusiast. He purchased his first bitcoin in 2013, unfortunately he hadn’t yet learned the principle of hodl. He resides with his wife and four sons in Orlando, Florida.
Reagan Rose is the founder of Redeeming Productivity, a ministry which explores personal productivity and technology from a biblical worldview for the glory of God. He lives with his wife and two children in Detroit, Michigan.
Grownups Aren’t Afraid of ShadowsBy Tim Challies — 1 year ago
We had a child who was afraid of the darkness. When night fell, when the lights went out, when the house got quiet, she would lie in her bed terrified of every noise and petrified of every shadow. For a time she would even take certain objects out of her room before she went to bed—objects she had come to fear because of the scary shadows they would cast upon her floor and upon her walls. Often she would cry out in the night and we would have to stumble out of bed to quiet her, to investigate strange shapes, to try to convince her to go back to sleep.
She’s a lot older now and no longer so terribly fearful. After all, it’s children and not grownups who are afraid of shadows. As we grow up, as we mature, as we come to understand how the world works, we eventually realize that shadows have no substance, they have no reality, they have no ability to hurt or harm us. We set aside childish paranoias and no longer fear mere shadows.
But even with all of that being true, we do not live free from fears. Though we may stop fearing mere shadows, we realize there is plenty of substance and plenty of reality that is intimidating in its own right. This is a hostile world full of enemies who wish to do us harm. There is one enemy greater than any other who looms before us, not in the dark of night but at the end of our lives. Death looms in the distance as the great and final enemy, the one none of us can escape. Each of us knows we must eventually approach it, each of us must grapple with it, each of us must pass through it.
Yet the Bible assures us that we need not fear this enemy, for death itself is merely a shadow. At least, it is merely a shadow for those of us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ and received his salvation. We do not need to face the true substance of death because Christ faced it on our behalf. He took our sin upon himself, he faced the holy wrath of God, he served out the complete sentence it deserved. In this great sacrifice he took death’s claws, he took its fangs, he took its strength. And because of this, we need to face no more than the shadow.
Shadows can do no harm. The shadow of a dog cannot bite. The shadow of a cobra cannot strike. The shadow of a giant cannot tear limb from limb. And the shadow of death cannot destroy. Though it may claim our bodies for a time, it cannot touch our souls and cannot sever them from God. Though we must pass through it, we need not fear it. Though it stands before us, it has no true claim on us.
When we are called to approach death, then, as each of us will, it should comfort us to know that we face no more than a shadow. And it should comfort us as well to know that where there is a shadow there is always a light, for shadows cannot exist in total darkness. Beyond the grave a light shines brightly, a light of hope that guides us to Paradise and guides us to Christ, the one who has defeated death and who has assured us that where he is, we too shall be.
Inspired by the writing of F.B. Meyer.