May 23rd 2011

Why I Still Like Paper Books

stack of books, Ballard, Seattle, Washingtonphoto © 2007 Wonderlane | more info (via: Wylio)

Not long ago I wrote a post on the importance of reading books, even in the 21st Century. I want to follow up on that by sharing why I still prefer paper books to e-books, even in the midst of the e-book revolution. Recently Amazon revealed that e-books for their Kindle reading device now outsell paperback and hardback sales of books. I also have quite  a few friends who speak of enjoying their reading experience on their Kindles and iPads. And yet, I’m one person that has resisted the revolution. That’s not to say I’ll never buy a Kindle or some other device. I may. But as of right now, I prefer paper books. Here are a few reasons why:

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May 20th 2011

Friday Five: Jared C. Wilson


If you’re a fan of Twitter (as I am), you’ll know that Jared C. Wilson is one of the great “follows.” He’s alternatively funny, serious, and poignant. Jared is a prolific writer, church planter, and conference speaker. He blogs regularly at his blog, The Gospel-Driven Life and at his group blog for writers, Thinklings. He’s currently the pastor of Middletown Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont as well as the author of Your Jesus is Too Safe and Gospel Wakefulness. Jared was kind enough to stop by for today’s Friday Five:

You’re a guy from Texas pastoring a church in Vermont. You talk often about the challenges of doing ministry in what most would describe as a less-evangelized area of the country. What’s the toughest part of about ministry in New England?

The toughest part is relearning how to bring the gospel to a field that is biblically and ecclesiologically illiterate. The Bible Belt is rapidly approaching this point, and biblical illiteracy is actually a problem throughout evangelicalism in every part of the nation, but in New England there is already a generation or two that has *no* church background or exposure to the Scriptures. We have to start from scratch very often.

Just as an example of the difference: In the Bible Belt, very often Easter and Christmas are huge attendance days. People who don’t go to church the rest of the year feel compelled to attend on these holidays. They often have some church background, went as a kid, or are even members somewhere from way back. This doesn’t really exist in many parts of New England. A few people may be more inclined to accept an invitation to church near these holidays — Christmas more than Easter — but there is no huge attendance bump. There is no nostalgia factor. So we are dealing with a real mission field, where the message is a foreign concept.

On top of that we have the added difficulty that while most people have no knowledge of the gospel or the Scriptures, they have an image of evangelicals as bigoted, intolerant, unintelligent fuddy-duddies. There is no commonly accepted cultural Christianity like in the South, for instance. So the illiteracy matched with the ideological hostility is a hurdle. But the gospel shared from a loving heart is a great jumper.

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May 18th 2011

10 Things I’m Not Looking for in a President

Primary season (that silly time when potential aspirants for President schlepp around Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina in an attempt to win their party’s nomination) is upon us. As a fairly conservative Christian, I’m anticipating the primaries. I do respect our current President and feel he’s done an admirable job on some tough issues. I also admire his dedication to his family. But I’m likely to choose a more conservative alternative, mainly because of the issues like abortion, traditional marriage, and government spending. I’m not under the illusion that a change in party will fix all the problems and I’m not pinning all my hopes and dreams on a particular movement. I also don’t think any of the candidates are “God’s candidates.” Nevertheless, I must eventually vote, so I need to start thinking about some of these things.

Around primary season, voters typically look for the candidate most in line with their values. They typically have a list of things the candidate must be in terms of issues, etc. I thought it would be interesting to post a list of things I’m not looking for. Here’s my ten:

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May 16th 2011

How to Act Like An MVP

A few years ago, one of my childhood heroes, Michael Jordan stood on a stage in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was giving a speech after being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. I was expecting the usual words of acceptance, thanking parents and teachers and coaches. But instead, Michael shared a bitter rant against anyone who ever doubted his basketball ability. He was cruel and petty.

Jordan’s speech was so cringe-inducing I turned it off. But most commentators excused it because the greatest basketball player in the history of the world can, in their words, “say what he wants.” In other words, if you’re talented, it’s okay to be a jerk.

Contrast that with a press conference last week with the newest superstar on the Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose. At 22 years old, he’s the youngest ever to win the MVP award. He’s got the entire world praising him for how humble, gifted, and poised he is as a team leader.

And yet when I watched him speak, he was still remarkably humble, even choking up to thank his mother who shaped him while growing up in the crime-ridden West side of Chicago. I pray Derrick Rose always stays so humble, so appreciative of his gifts.

Most of us will never reach the level of fame of Michael Jordan or Derrick Rose. But we each have a talent and if we’re not careful, we’ll adopt the worldly philosophy that says we’re entitled to treat people bad simply because we’re gifted. I like what bestelling author and popular blogger, Jon Acuff recently said about this on his blog: “Wild talent and a bad attitude eventually always loses to mild talent and a good attitude.”

Just because you’re gifted or have experienced some success, doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk. Especially if you’re a Christian. God call us to live humbly, confidently, and sacrificially. This is the heart of the Gospel, that Christ’s transformation within frees us from living for our selves.


May 13th 2011

Friday Five: Michael Kelley

If you’re involved with a small group, attend Sunday-School, or attend a Bible study in your area, it’s likely you are dependent on Bible study curriculum, produced by Lifeway, Group, or other evangelical organizations. Well, who write this stuff? Today, we peel back the curtain as my friend, Michael Kelley, editor of Lifeway’s adult curriculum line, stops by for today’s Friday Five:

What distinguishes Lifeway’s resources from the plethora of small-group/Bible study stuff out there?

Hopefully a few things. Lifeway has a reputation of being first and foremost biblically sound. That’s something we take very seriously and will, by God’s grace continue into the future. Threads are resources geared toward young adults and are built on a few foundational principles:

- Depth: We want depth to characterize the whole experience from the level of intimacy and sharing to the knowledge base.
Community: These Bible studies assume a discussion built around them rather than a lecture form of teaching. They are built to force personal engagement and introspection that is then shared in a group setting.
Responsibility: Young adults are, in many ways, leading the charge in the church to change the world. Issues of both evangelism and social justice are forefront in their minds and these studies assume a desire to bring the gospel to bear in the world.
Connection: We also want to encourage cross-generational ministry; connecting with people outside your specific demographic rather than each age group being a church unto themselves.

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May 11th 2011

Christians and Conspiracy Theories

Most of Americans rejoiced at the swift justice we unexpectedly witnessed on Sunday with the capture of terrorist mastermind, Osama Bin Laden.  Many gave important cautions against too much celebrating about the eternal damnation of a soul once created in God’s image.

In the days since, as with any news story, there are conflicting accounts of what happened in the raid by our brave Navy SEALS, including how involved the President was, why they buried Osama at sea, etc. And as such, there are a raft of conspiracy theories emerging. I won’t get into these here, but I think it’s a good jumping off point to discuss something I’ve been wanting to write about for some time.

It’s the subject of Christians and conspiracy theories. Alternate theories of history have abounded since the beginning of time, because we live in a fallen world, infected by sin, sinful leaders, and anterior motives. But it seems that the proliferation of new media, the vast reach of the Internet, and general distrust of authority has given rise to even more conspiracy theories.

Almost every day I receive an email forwarded from someone who forwards information about a political figure, religious figure, or institutions with which they disagree.

The question for us is this. How should we approach these ideas? Here are a few guidelines I’ve found helpful to me as I process stuff like this:

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May 6th 2011

Friday Five – John Dyer

John DyerWhat is the effect of technology on our souls? And how do people of faith discern what is good and what is harmful? Today I’ve invited my friend John Dyer for a thoughtful discussion on the intersection of faith and technology.

John Dyer (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary) has been a web developer for more than ten years, building tools for Apple, Microsoft, Harley Davidson, and the Department of Defense. He currently serves as the Director of Web Development for Dallas Theological Seminary and lives near Dallas, Texas with his wife Amber and two children, Benjamin and Rebecca. He has written on technology and faith for Christianity Today and Collide MagazineFrom the Garden to the City is his first book.

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May 2nd 2011

A God in My Head but a Hole in My Heart

Twice the Psalms tells us, in identical language, “ a fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God’” (Psalm 53:1;Psalm 14:1). I have loved these passages most of my. They are a wonderful rebuke to atheists such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

But the last time I read them, I realized they may not simply be written to expose the foolishness of those who rule out the presence of God. Perhaps they’re written for those who do believe in God.

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