"The intellectual life is not the only road to God, nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us. Of course it will be so only so long as we keep the impulse pure and disinterested; we may come to love knowledge - our knowing - more than the thing known: to delight not in our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in a scholar's life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking out the right eye has arrived. "

- C. S. Lewis
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From Jared C. Wilson
Matthew Barrett, H.B. Charles, and Steven Smith Join Midwestern Faculty

Written by: Jared C. Wilson


We were excited today to announce the addition of three new faculty roles:

Matthew Barrett, who has served since 2015 as lecturer and tutor of systematic theology and church history at Oak Hill Theological College in London, will serve MBTS as Associate Professor in Christian Theology. Barrett is the author of a number of books, including Reformation Theology; God's Word Alone; John Owen on the Christian Life; and Four Views on the Historical; as well as the founder of Credo Magazine.

H.B. Charles, Jr. — pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida, and author of the books On Pastoring and On Preaching — and Steven Smith — pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas and author of the books Dying to Preach: Embracing the Cross in the Pulpit and Recapturing the Voice of God: Shaping Sermons Like Scripture join Midwestern’s Spurgeon Library as Senior Preaching Fellows.

From the press release:

"Rarely does a seminary get to add to its faculty an individual with the gifting and accomplishment of Matthew Barrett, H.B. Charles or Steven Smith," said Midwestern President Jason K. Allen. "Rarer still, does an institution get to simultaneously add three such individuals. Pastor Charles and Dr. Smith are two of this generation's most well-known and gifted preachers and teachers of preaching. They represent so much of what is right about great preaching and are eager to share their ministries with Midwestern Seminary and as an extension of the Spurgeon Library.

"Drs. Smith and Barrett, and Pastor Charles also fit into a broader narrative of God's blessing on Midwestern Seminary, wherein in recent years he has been pleased to send us a new generation of accomplished scholars, dedicated churchmen, and devoted Southern Baptists who are committed to Midwestern Seminary's vision of existing 'For the Church,'" Allen added.

From Tim Challies
Guard Your Health

As a young man, I often heard older people talking about their declining bodies and failing health. I grew weary of hearing them tell how their strength had diminished and how their aches and pains had increased. They insisted that they used to be able to eat anything they wanted without ill effect, but now practically every food gave them indigestion. Whereas they once had the ability to sleep soundly under any conditions, now any unusual circumstance would keep them lying awake long into the night.

I was convinced all of this was just idle grumbling. But then I hit my mid-30s and began to notice I wasn’t recovering from activity as quickly as I did before, that I was spending more and more nights staring at the ceiling wishing I was fast asleep. I hit 40 and found that some of my favorite foods didn’t sit well anymore. It was then that I realized I was not going to be the exception. I, too, was going to experience a long decline in my health and a long diminishment in my abilities. I, too, was going to have to increase my efforts in maintaining my health.

Any athlete fine-tunes his body and maintains his fitness through a rigorous training regimen. If he doesn’t, his abilities will decline and the competition will soon leave him far behind. Though you may not be an athlete, you are running the race of life. And as you run, you are dependent upon your body and responsible to care for it. If you are going to run to win, you need to guard your health.


In our last article, we encountered the concept of stewardship as it relates to money. Your money is owned by God and distributed to you as his representative. He calls you to faithfully steward it. As the owner, God has the right to your money,  and as the steward, you hold the responsibility for your money. What is true of your finances is true of your body. Your body is also owned by God. In fact, if you are a Christian, your body is twice-owned by God.

God owns your body as its creator. He hand-crafted every bit of your DNA. David celebrates God’s good design in Psalm 139, where he says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (13-14). David’s body was actually God’s possession, carefully designed and deliberately assigned. The same is true for you—God owns your body because he created your body.

God also owns your body as its Savior. You had rebelled against God and sinfully claimed your body as your own. You decided to negate God’s claim over your body and to assert ownership of it yourself. But God drew you back from this treasonous rebellion, and as you accepted his offer of forgiveness and reconciliation, you ceded all your rights and restored proper ownership. In return, God actually took up residence within. So Paul asks, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This is why he can appeal to you and every other Christian “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). To present your body as a living sacrifice is to present everything you have and everything you are to his service, to place it all under his authority.

Your body is not your own. Your body is God’s, to be cared for as he demands, to be committed to his service.

What God Expects

What does God, the owner of your body, expect from you as its steward? He expects that you will present it, steward it, nurture it, and employ it.

You need to present your body. You are a whole person, your body and soul knit carefully together. As we saw in Romans 12, you are to surrender to God all that you are, holding nothing back. Your body belongs to God and is to be used for his purposes. Thus, God calls you to surrender your body to him, to dedicate it to his service, to commit it to his purposes.

You need to steward your body. As you surrender your body, you acknowledge that it does not belong to you but to God. Just as you are responsible to faithfully steward your time and money, you are responsible before God to faithfully steward the body he has assigned to you. You are to use your body wisely, to put your body to use in ways that bring glory to God. After all, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

You need to nurture your body. There is an inseparable unity between body, mind, and soul. When you neglect your body, you will often find your soul heavy and your mind dark. But when you care for it, you tend to find your soul cheerful and your mind enlightened. You can see some of this in John’s prayer for his friend Gaius: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul” (3 John 2). For Gaius to be as active and effective as possible in God’s work, he must have a healthy body and a healthy soul. If you wish to tend to your soul and mind, you must nurture your body. To honor God in all that you are, you must eat well, exercise frequently, and rest regularly.

You need to employ your body. Inner godliness is to be displayed in outward acts of kindness. James shows the unity of faith and works in this illustration: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:15-17). The love of God in your heart is to be displayed by the works of your hands. Young men are at their physical peak and bear a double responsibility to use that strength for the good of others. “The glory of young men is their strength,” says Solomon, “but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29).

Many people today hold to a form of the ancient teaching of gnosticism. They believe the soul has great significance while the body is merely a useless vessel to be used or abused. But as Christians we see that there is much greater unity than this. To care for the body is to care for the soul.

Do It Now!

With that in mind, let’s consider how you can begin right now to guard your health.

  • Plan to be fit. Paul warns that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). This is a warning about neglecting spiritual fitness in favor of physical fitness. But it does not diminish the importance of being fit, for Paul still acknowledges it “is of some value.” While we know that physical strength is fleeting, that it peaks early and goes into long decline, we also know that our bodies, minds, and spirits operate better in a fit body than an unfit one. Plan to get fit and stay fit through wise, moderate eating and regular, vigorous exercise.
  • Guard against idleness. In another article we have discussed the plague and captivity of idleness. Even a quick study of the biblical teaching of the subject will show that much of our unhealthy living is a result of idleness, of the refusal to prioritize our bodies. Guard against the idleness that keeps you on the couch when you should be active.
  • Guard against gluttony. Very little is said about the sin of gluttony in our day. Many Christians rightly strive to guard themselves against pride, lust, and greed, while failing to address their lack of self-control toward food. If you find yourself constantly drawn to the pantry and fridge, if you find yourself always needing to load up at the dessert table, it may say more about you than you think. As Jerry Bridges writes, “The person who overindulges his body at this point will find it more and more difficult to mortify other sinful deeds of the body. The habit of always giving in to the desire for food or drink will extend to other areas.” Food is a great gift, but it makes a terrible god. Learn to practice self-control toward food and renounce any sign of gluttony.
  • Prepare for the decline. Strength peaks early and declines for many, many years. As your body and perhaps even your mind grows weak, there will be many new temptations to sin. Read Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 as a glimpse of your own biography and ask, “What will sustain me in that day?” The answer is simple: godly character. Nothing but godly character will sustain you as your body decays and your mind weakens. Even while you give attention to your physical health, do not neglect your spiritual wellbeing.

Run to Win!

There is a close connection between physical fitness and spiritual fitness. In fact, there is a close connection between physical health and every other kind of health—mental, emotional, relational, and so on. When your body is unhealthy, and especially unhealthy through neglect, the rest of you is unlikely to be fit and sharp. Make it a priority to care for the body God has given you. Know that if you are going to run to win, you must guard your health.

From Jared C. Wilson
The 5 C’s of Preaching

Written by: Jared C. Wilson

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetWhat are the basic elements of biblical preaching?

How do you know you’re preaching a Christian sermon and not simply giving a religious or spiritual lecture?

While I think gospel-centered expository proclamation is the best approach to fulfilling the biblical call to preach, this exercise could probably use some more filling out. And since preachers like alliteration and lists, I thought I might suggest a checklist reflecting what I propose to be the irreducible complexity of true Christian preaching. Next time you’re preparing a sermon, maybe keep these questions in mind. Or, after the next time you preach, share this list with your fellow elders or another team of trusted advisers and ask them to apply the questions to your delivered message.

1. Is your sermon CONTEXTUAL?

The word contextual is important. It’s more specific than simply asking if the message is textual, because a lot of preachers use Bible verses in their sermons, and by this they determine that their sermon is based on a biblical text. But putting some Bible verses in your sermon is not the same thing as preaching the Bible. Moreover, simply explicating one or two verses--which is totally fine to do, in my opinion--may also not capture the import of even those one or two verses if they’re taken out of context.

Make sure the biblical text drives what you want to say, and not the other way around. And even if you aren’t preaching a whole passage of Scripture, make sure whatever portion you’re preaching is kept in the context of the passage where it’s found. Every biblical text should be interpreted according to its immediate context, and every immediate context should be interpreted according to the greater context of the gospel storyline of Scripture (see Question 5). As the old preacher’s dictum goes: “A text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext.”

2. Is your sermon CONVICTIONAL?

In other words, does it express declarations of truth? The import of a Christian sermon is not simply to raise questions and coddle felt needs but to proclaim “Thus saith the Lord.” So our preaching comes with conviction. It comes with conviction about who God is, what God has done, and what this means for you and me.

Convictional preaching means we don’t preach as if every sentence ends with a question mark. Convictional preaching means we don’t hem and haw about sin and the law. Convictional preaching means we don’t flinch at the realities of hell and wrath. Convictional preaching means we don’t cater to the world’s values or consumeristic impulses. Convictional preaching means we do not avoid or soften the essential and orthodox doctrines of historic Christianity. And perhaps most fundamentally, convictional preaching means we preach the written Word of God as if it is inspired and infallible, sufficient and supernatural, living and life-giving.

3. Is your sermon CLEAR?

Remember that a good theological sermon is not one that people find difficult to understand! In maybe one of the best narrative examples of expository preaching in the Scriptures, we read that the scribes and priests reading from God’s Word to the gathered people did so “clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Neh. 8:8).

So there are two important aspects of clarity here: clear speaking and clear understanding. Good preaching isn’t dumbed down, of course, and often stretches hearers’ intellects. But it is best to stretch hearers’ intellects with big thoughts of God, not big words of preachers. The specific contexts of your community and congregation can certainly factor into what kind of illustrations you use, what kind of vocabulary you employ, and so on. But just remember that even if you’re preaching at Harvard, making it difficult to understand the Bible--much less respond to it!--does not validate your homiletical prowess.

Sometimes I think this is why some preachers stick to the King James Version: the archaic language is difficult for modern ears to make sense of, and because of this, the preacher can pretend to be some specially anointed exegetical priest and repository of the divine gnosis. And if you didn’t understand that last sentence, that’s exactly what I’m talking about!

Know your audience. And then help your audience know God’s Word. Make it clear.

4. Is your sermon COMPASSIONATE?

I’ve heard Alistair Begg say that preaching is a passionate pleading. This question for your sermon evaluation is really simply asking this: Are you preaching out of love?

What is your motivation in your message?

This doesn’t mean that every sermon must have the same emotional tone. Different texts carry the tones of their contexts. Some biblical texts call for rebuke, and some call for rejoicing. Some call for both. One of the great advantages of expository preaching is that it helps us preach according to the grain of the text. But it’s possible to bring emotion to a sermon that is either completely unwarranted by the text itself or totally unhelpful to the aim of helping people see Jesus. Some preachers seem to think that yelling = preaching. But you should know that if all your sentences end with exclamation points, effectively none of them does.

So to preach with compassion is not simply to preach happy or sad or with deep emotions. That’s all well and good. Preaching, as a human act, can employ the range of human emotion and ought to engage both the preacher’s and the congregation’s heart. But emotions can be mis-aimed. To preach with compassion, then, is to preach with:

1. a pervasive concern for the expansion of the glory of Christ;

2. a deep affection for the church, that she might be edified and stirred in her affections for Christ; and

3. a sincere and thorough desire for lost souls to be rescued from their sin and from the wrath it deserves.

5. Is your sermon CROSS-CENTERED?

I almost wrote Is your sermon crucicentric?, but I didn’t want to violate Question 3.

This last question is perhaps the most important in all your preaching. You can preach an expository sermon with clarity and conviction and even compassion, but if you’ve missed the gospel of Jesus Christ, you’ve not even preached a Christian sermon. Only the gospel of Christ’s cross and resurrection can both save a lost soul and sanctify a found one. It is God’s grace in the good news of Christ’s life, death, and glorified raising that provides the power sinners need to grow and go, and it is only God’s grace that does that. This is why Paul resolved in his ministry “to know only Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

Here is an apt illustration on the utter importance of cross-centered preaching from the Prince of Preachers himself, Charles Spurgeon:

A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had done he went to the old minister, and said, “What do you think of my sermon?”

“A very poor sermon indeed,” said he.

“A poor sermon?” said the young man, “it took me a long time to study it.”

“Ay, no doubt of it.”

“Why, did you not think my explanation of the text a very good one?”

“Oh, yes,” said the old preacher, “very good indeed.”

“Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon? Didn’t you think the metaphors were appropriate and the arguments conclusive?”

“Yes, they were very good as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon.”

“Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?”

“Because,” said he, “there was no Christ in it.”

“Well,” said the young man, “Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text.”

So the old man said, “Don’t you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?”

“Yes,” said the young man.

“Ah!” said the old divine “and so from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business in when you get to a text, is to say, ‘Now what is the road to Christ?’ and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis--Christ. And,” said he, “I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it.”

A savour of Christ! That's what all of us are dying for. Whatever you do, preacher, do not deny your people the cross of Jesus Christ. Do not treat the gospel like an add-on or afterthought. Preach it from every text to every heart on every occasion.

So there they are--the 5 C’s of preaching: Contextual, Convictional, Clear, Compassionate, Cross-centered. I pray they will serve you well.

From internetmonk.com
Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science.  A review of the book by Mike “Science Mike” McHargue.  Part 3.

Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science

Part 3

• • •

For 2 years Mike maintained a façade that he was still a Christian.  Why did he do that?  Both Christian and atheist might be tempted to view Mike contemptuously for his cowardly duplicity.  But is such a harsh judgement really just or humane?  I think not.  And here’s why.  In Mike’s sub-culture and society there is no provision for honest questioning.  His whole life was bound up in family, extended family, friends, co-workers, and church.  The benefits of an evangelical faith is that the church becomes community, and in a very real sense, extended family.  That, in and of itself, is a good thing.  The problem is that evangelical-ism (and maybe Protestantism as a whole) is an ideology.  Please note I’m stressing the –ism part of this equation.  So the down-side of this is that rather than being just a community of people gathered around a person—(Jesus said he would build his ecclesia, his group of people.  What is different about this group of people from other groups of people?  They are his group of people; they belong to HIM and he belongs to them.) –they become a community of ideas.

This propensity for having the most important aspect of one’s “spiritual” life be the thoughts in one’s mind is an outgrowth of modernity.  Its roots go back to movement away from classical thought to the rise of nominalism .  As Father Stephen Freeman says :

In our modern notion of the world what matters is ideas, thoughts and feelings. Ideas, thoughts and feelings are the stuff that makes up what we call relationships. Thus, to have a relationship with God is to have ideas, thoughts and feelings about God. You cannot have a relationship with an object, other than having some special affection for it. The sentiment is the thing.

This nominalism was an inevitable consequence of the Protestant Reformation as well.  Since Luther and the other reformers were now separated from the visible church, they had to re-conceive what it meant to be part of the “body of Christ”.  Which lead to the concept of the “invisible universal church” which only exists as an idea.

What now assumed most importance was ortho-doxy, right belief, rather than ortho-praxy, right practice.  If you’ve hung around in Southern Baptist circles any length of time, you heard stories of how someone who lived a “good” life, didn’t practice wrong-doing, tried to live right… maybe was even a religious church-going praying person (i.e. Roman Catholic)… died and went to hell because they didn’t believe the right beliefs.   Because you can do all the good works in the world, but if you don’t have the right ideas about God, you are condemned. Doesn’t the Bible say:

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

So as Mike began to have questions about his beliefs there was no way he could discuss them with anyone in his church because to do so was to break fellowship.  If you have fellowship around a set of ideas then to dissent from those ideas is, quite literally, to dis-fellowship or excommunicate one’s self.  Especially in American evangelicalism, the tendency is to both over-intellectualize and over-individualize the faith; i.e. “I’ve accepted Jesus into my heart as my personal lord and savior.”  Again from Father Freeman :

Thinking is among the most misleading things in the modern world, or, to be more precise, thinking about thinking is misleading. For a culture that puts such a great emphasis on materiality, our thinking about thought is decidedly spooky. The philosophy underlying our strangely-constructed modernity is called nominalism (of which there are many formal varieties). Its imaginary construct of the world consists of decidedly separate objects, united only by our thinking about them. There are things, and then are thoughts about things. But the thoughts have nothing to do with the things, except in our heads.

The result is the strange contradiction of living in a world we conceive of as sheer material, while only truly valuing thoughts, ideas and feelings that we conceive of as existing in our heads. I have described this in numerous articles and a book as the “two-storey universe.” We are certain of the material world, and though we only value the world of ideas and feelings, we’re not so sure that they really exist. We are indeed a troubled mind.

Mike’s other problem is endemic to Western Protestant Christianity since the modern project; and that is conceiving of God as a hypothesis of nature.  Every atheist I have interacted with makes this assumption.  That is why Richard Dawkins said, “Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”.  That is why Lawrence Kraus wrote a book called “A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing”, why Stephen Hawking can exult that a fluctuation in a quantum vacuum explains the creation of the universe, and why Laplace said in a reply to Napoleon, who had asked why he hadn’t mentioned God in his book on astronomy, “I had no need of that hypothesis.”  This conception gave rise to “A Watchmaker God” and the whole Intelligent Design movement.  The problem is that such a God is not really God but a demiurge; and there is no empirical evidence for a demiurge.  Such a God does not exist.

But to those brined in the liquor of fundamentalism and Biblicism, proving that hypothesis becomes the motive behind all scientific apologetics.  God of the Gaps IS the answer.  It is the reason behind the rise of the distinctly modernist Young Earth Creationism movement.  Father Freeman, once more :

In many ways, the answer to this question is an explanation of classical Protestant thought and the religious belief of contemporary Christians. For as Christianity began the journey away from its classical roots and into the world as imagined by modernity, what was required was a version of Christian theology that itself was disenchanted and devoid of mystery. The allegory of creation was replaced by a literalist view of the world, and all solutions were pressed into a psychological mode. Metaphysics became metapsychology – nothing more than our thoughts about the world and God’s thoughts about the world. Ideas and sentiment became the new faerie.

To help himself deal with the dual life he was now leading, Mike took to hanging out on atheist internet chat boards.  There he could get the intellectual validation he was seeking.  One atheist wrote him:

But let’s look at things with new eyes.  Was the sunrise any less beautiful today just because it won’t be around forever?  Is the time with your family worthless because you’ll die one day?   Is life any less of a gift just because it’s a result of physics?  So God gave you meaning.  Do you still care about the needy?  Do you still want to be a good father?  Then do those things, make them your life’s purpose.  You don’t need some God to tell you to be good—you can be good on your own.  And isn’t that more meaningful?  To love and to make the world a better place because you choose to?  You don’t need God to make a purpose for your life.  You can make a purpose for your own life—any purpose you choose.  There’s no angry man in the sky to smite you for making the wrong choice, and no savior to bail you out if you screw it up.  You get one life, one shot to find every beautiful sight, to help others, and to enjoy the odd series of events that allow a bag of organic molecules to know they exist.  Don’t waste it.

Although Mike’s adoption of secular humanism helped salvage the bits and pieces of his former faith, he still wondered if he really needed to stay camouflaged forever.  Was there a way to admit to what he believed while holding on to his family and friends?  So he posted on an open reddit forum, softening his language to say he was a Christian on the verge of atheism, in case someone figured out who was posting.  As he read the replies he noticed a distinct trend.  Atheists tended to be empathetic.  Many told him to keep his faith, if that made him happy.  The Christians were not as gracious as a group.  A few were kind and helpful, but most were vicious.  They told him he would burn in hell; that he was going to destroy his family, he was shocked and surprised by the intensity of their anger.  But that was all the data he needed to know that he had to keep hiding.  He could be himself online, but in person he had to maintain the façade, or everyone would turn on him.

Of course, the one person who knew Mike the best was eventually going to catch on; his wife.  At first she was angry, then she tried to evangelize him, then she considered leaving him because, to her, his atheism was putting their children in danger of eternal damnation.  Finally, she agreed that Mike needed to keep this secret; an agreement she kept for all of week before she told Mike’s mother.  Mom confronted him one night and the conversation went about as you would expect it to.  Evangelistic pleading and apologetic arguments and finally the realization that she wasn’t going to change his mind.  And so her parting shot: “Michael, I am going to pray that God will move so powerfully in your life that you can’t deny it’s Him.  So you’d better just hold on.”  Mike said:

Some skeptics are offended when people offer to pray for them.  I never was.  Sure, sometimes, “I’ll pray for you” is a passive-aggressive quip.  But more often, when someone says she’ll pray for you, she’s truly saying, “I care for you deeply, and I think about you a lot.  I’m going to ask the most powerful force in the universe to help you.”

Even if there’s no God at all, if a believer prays for you, it means she cares.  So I thanked Mom for caring, even though I felt bad for her.  Miracles did not really occur.  I knew her prayer would not be answered.

What can I say?  I’m a sucker for misplaced confidence.

Now usually, in stories like this, Mike’s unbelief would gradually leak out to his church and friends; like his wife and mother some would, at first, be sympathetic and try to evangelize and apologize.  But eventually the coldness and distance would set in; and even if the church didn’t directly ask him to leave, the shunning would realize its effect, and drive him off.

However, this is not the usual story.  It was not Mike’s descent into unbelief and atheism, but the manner of his re-ascent to faith that drove the wedge between him and his former church friends.  His re-ascent did not fit the “script”.  But that is a story for next time.

From Brandywine Books
Home improvement

I haven’t done a Lileks-esque “day in the life” post in a long time.

But your string of good luck is over. I haven’t finished reading a book today, and I’m fresh out of links.

How’s the writing going? It’s going. Erling 5 (I’m pretty sure I’ll come up with a better title given time) is stalled at about an estimated 40 or 50% of its final length. This is the standard half-way (or 2/3 way) slump I generally experience with books. I know where the story is going, and have a general idea of how it will come out. But I have to build a bridge to the rest of the book, and I’m a little vague on schematics and materials.

So I’m studying what I’ve done so far, and I’ve solicited comments from a trusted friend. Usually the answers to these problems can be found in stuff you’ve already written but not thought out sufficiently.

Today in the library I interviewed a prospective volunteer. I think she’ll be a great addition, and she has a library degree, which never hurts.

I called a guy about my garage door. I’ve had it in mind to get a new one for some time. My present one is extremely old, made of wood, and heavy. It runs loose and sits crooked. From time to time it jumps the track, and I’ve called a guy to fix it. I’ve grown to trust him, so when I called him today about the thing breaking down again, I asked him to sell me a new steel door with an opener. It’s unlike me, but I’m tired of living in the first half of the 20th Century, door-wise. We agreed to meet at my place at 6:00 p.m. When I rolled in about 5:30, he was actually just ahead of me. We did a deal. I could probably save some money if I invested time in research and taking bids, but this guy’s cut me slack in the past, and I’d feel bad giving the job to anyone else. It’ll be a couple weeks to get it, because the width is non-standard.

And I got a phone message, before I left work, from the people I’d asked to fix some shingles on my porch roof. They were supposed to come Friday, but they said they had time now. Were the spare shingles I’d promised to put out for them ready? No, they were not. I had planned to put them out on Friday. I called back, but nobody answered, so I left a message of my own. But when I checked, after I’d done the garage door thing, they’d fixed the spot anyway. It’s good to have popular colored shingles, I guess.

Am I unhappy about all these expenses? Not very. I’m grateful I can handle them. Any improvements I can make, I figure, are a kind of gift to my neighbors. Who’ve been pretty patient with me, all in all.

From Jared C. Wilson
Where I’ll Be, Fall 2017

Written by: Jared C. Wilson


Every now and then, for those who are interested, I share selections from my upcoming speaking dates. If you’re in any of these areas and able to attend, would be great to meet you.

August 7-8The Normal Pastor Conference. Orlando, FL. I’m really excited about this! It’s coming soon, so make sure to register asap and join me, Zack Eswine, Joe Thorn, Erik Raymond, John Onwuchekwa, and Won Kwak in Orlando for what we promise will be a time of encouragement and refreshing for faithful shepherds of churches big, small, and anywhere in between.

August 31-September 1 - Trinity Baptist College. Jacksonville, FL. Speaking in chapel.

September 8-10SongTime Annual Conference. Cape Cod, MA.

September 25-26For The Church. Kansas City, MO. 4th annual conference at Midwestern Seminary, also featuring Matt Chandler, Matt Carter, Ray Ortlund, H.B. Charles, Owen Strachan, and Jason K. Allen.

October 19-21Here We Still Stand: Reformers & The Texts Conference. San Diego, CA.

View complete listing of speaking engagements here. And if you’re interested in having me speak or preach at your church or event, inquiries may be sent via this page.


From Tim Challies
Doers and Delegators

We tend to associate the highest godliness with the humblest service. Jesus proved his holiness when he stooped to wash the filthy feet of his disciples. He proved his submission to God when he willingly faced the unjust suffering of the cross. In both cases, it is what Jesus did that displayed his godly character. This is the heart of what Christians refer to as servant-leadership, of displaying the highest kind of leadership through the lowest acts of service.

Successful Christian churches, ministries, businesses, and organizations are dependent upon people who are willing to serve. They thrive when people humble themselves to carry out whatever tasks need to be done. The high-powered lawyer and the struggling small business owner unite when they step into the church and serve shoulder-to-shoulder to brew the coffee and mop the floors. Their actions prove them to be leaders in godly character.

We need this kind of leadership, this leading by doing. No church or other organization can last long without it. We are right to honor those who exemplify it.

But there is another kind of leadership that is equally important, though far less common. For a church or other organization to be successful, it needs doers, but it also needs delegators. It needs people whose first instinct is to do and people whose first instinct is to delegate. These are very different skills or traits of character and a thriving organization depends upon a healthy balance of both.

Many ministries within the local church fail to thrive or even collapse altogether because the leader of that ministry is an eager doer but reluctant delegator. When there is a difficult situation or when a key person fails to show up, her first instinct is to just do the task herself. This may be a godly instinct born from a desire to serve, but it may actually prove unhelpful in the short-term and harmful in the long. The far better approach may be to delegate the task to someone else. The leader of a Christian organization may see a problem and respond by addressing it himself. It’s a mark of humility to joyfully scrub a toilet or empty the trash. But it may also be the mark of a person who is reluctant to lead or afraid to exercise authority. Doing rather than delegating may not be quite as noble as it at first appears.

Our churches need loads of doers, people who are willing to do what needs to be done, regardless of whether that task is high or low, visible or unseen. In fact, every Christian should approach every area of life with a deep desire and willingness to do. No task is too low for one who has been saved by the one “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Yet our churches also need their share of delegators, people who are willing to do, but who have learned to delegate. The way they serve their church best is not to do what needs to be done, but to delegate those tasks to others. The way they serve their church is to ensure the task is being carried out by the appropriate person. Their godliness is expressed in accepting and exercising the authority of leadership with its delegating power. These are the people whose ministries tend to grow and to thrive.

If you are called to lead, you need to display godly character in your acts of service. Go low! Serve God by serving others! But understand that you can only lead skillfully and successfully if you are willing to delegate. Sometimes the way to do is to delegate.

From Brandywine Books
Homeschool Shakespeare I Give Thee

Homeschool HamletLast week my children joined dozens of others in daily rehearsals to pull together one of three Shakespearean plays, which were performed Friday and Saturday. Main characters were chosen months before and given benchmarks for memorizing their lines. They met for practice several times over the months, and costumes were worked out during that time, but last week everyone gathered to do everything that needed to be done.

My kids performed The Tempest. My eldest stretched herself marvelously to rend her heart on stage. “You cram these words into mine ears against the stomach of my sense.” She played the Queen of Naples, which is a switch from the original king, because with several girls ready to perform, some of the roles work more smoothly by changing their gender. Two other roles in the Naples royal party were switched, and I didn’t notice until just now when I looked it up.

The other plays were Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet, and you should see these actors. Some of them have great comic timing, others marvelous artistic flare. I’m told Hamlet and Laertes met several times to practice the wrestling and fencing they performed; it was aggressive, real, and stunning.

The woman who has led these productions for years is researching how practicing Shakespeare has influenced these students. I’d think some studies have been done, but this kind of thing merits frequent review with new groups and practices. All the parents appreciate it. Far better to see your children pull together a strong Shakespearean play (with some of them as young as nine) than to see them in a cheesy skit or modern morality play on self-esteem. With Shakespeare, they are stretched to understand the story, the words, and the actions of the characters. That’s akin to reading old books in order to stretch your modern mindset. Anyone could benefit from that.

I’m glad we’ve been able to participate for the past five years.

From Brandywine Books
Sustaining Hope at the World’s End

Nick Ripatrazone writes about a few dystopian novels published in the past few years. In Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, a group of actors struggle to survive and elevate the spirits of other survivors they find. Enter the villain, a religious huckster.

This leader of a doomsday cult reveals an interesting trope in the dystopian universe: it’s not enough for the world to end. That plot element is too grand, too distant. The characters need an immediate, human foil. Catastrophe turns them inward.

It’s the inner story that often most compelling.

From Brandywine Books
‘Florence,’ by P.F. Ford


I’m carrying on with P.F. Ford’s Dave Slater mystery series. Dave is a police detective in a small English town, partnered with DS Norman, who preaches positive thinking.

In Florence, an old man is found dead in his home, and Dave writes it off as an accident, with good reasons. But then there are break-ins in the man’s house, and the pathologist confirms that bruising on the body suggests possible homicide. And there’s the mystery of the man’s will. He left everything to his sister, whom he insisted shortly before his death was still alive. But there’s no record of the woman.

Dave and his team slowly uncover the secret history of a defunct local orphanage, a history that certain powerful people will go to any length to keep secret.

Florence seemed to me a little more serious than the previous books in the series. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because author Ford can sometimes overdo the jokes. He’s learning how to write a good mystery, though. He did an excellent job of distracting me from the pea under the shell.

Recommended for light reading – though very serious themes are addressed. Minor cautions for language and adult themes.

From Tim Challies
An Army Without Supplies

I am an avid reader of books related to the Second World War. In my estimation, no conflict in history has been more interesting than this one. It has generated a wealth of fascinating stories and riveting accounts of unbelievable heroism. And even though countless thousands of books have already been written, new ones pour off the presses every day. Not nearly all the good stories have yet been told.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of these stories have recounted the exploits of people who served on the front lines. From them we’ve learned what it was like to be in the skies and on the seas, to command infantry in Europe and serve aboard ships in Asia. Yet behind every soldier carrying a gun, driving a tank, or flying a fighter was an entire network of support personnel. It’s difficult to tally exact percentages, but some estimate that for every man who served on the front lines, there were six or even 12 men and women who served far behind.

The army did not sanction much redundancy, so these “other” roles were neither minor nor unimportant. The soldiers who did the fighting were dependent upon an extensive network of people involved in logistics, transportation, communication, and a host of other crucial functions. Some of those who served in this way remained in their own countries to recruit and train new soldiers. Some repaired roads or ferried aircraft from factories. Some drove trucks filled with fuel or piled high with ammunition while others piloted transport planes or crewed supply ships. In the end, victory was not won by the nations with the fiercest soldiers or the best tactics, but the nations best able to provide and maintain the tools of war.

We Christians love our missionaries, and for good reason. This is especially true of the missionaries who have the most obvious teaching and preaching ministries. They are the equivalent of our front-line troops, the ones who respond most obviously and urgently to the marching orders of Matthew 28: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” For 2,000 years we’ve watched with admiration and sometimes a little bit of awe as they go, as they forsake comfort and security for the sake of the call. We love to hear the stories of how they’ve confronted the enemy by preaching the gospel and how the enemy has given way before the weapon of God’s Word.

Yet these front-line missionaries, like front-line soldiers, are dependent upon a substantial network of support. They can only go where others prepare them to go and they can only stay where others equip them to stay. Behind those missionaries are support-raisers, graphic designers, videographers, accountants, and a host of others. Though these people have far less contact with the “enemy,” they are still crucial. Though they may remain in their home country, the missionaries on the front line could not thrive or even survive without them.

Here is something to consider: If soldiers and other military personnel were responsible for raising their own funds, who would you be most likely to support? Would you give to the guy driving the tank or the guy driving the forklift? The guy carrying the rifle or the guy carrying the clipboard? In most cases, you would probably want to give to the people closest to the action. Yet we know that those other positions are equally crucial—even those positions that provide few stories and generate few books. It is much the same with missionaries. We need to consider not just the people landing in far nations and speaking to unreached people, but also the many who stand behind them and enable their work.

So let’s make this a call to honor the people who serve far from the front lines. When we thank soldiers for their service, we do not withhold honor from the ones who haven’t ever fired a rifle in combat. Rather, we extend honor to all of them, knowing that every soldier plays a crucial role in the functioning of the army. They serve together. When we thank missionaries for their service, we should not withhold gratitude from those who serve in support roles. Each of them is every bit as called as the ones who go to plant new churches and win new converts.

And let’s make this a call to consider supporting some of these people in addition to, or perhaps even in place of, the front-line missionaries. An army without supplies and transportation is an army that will soon be surrounded, defeated, and destroyed. A missionary without a network of support is a missionary who cannot long survive. They serve together.

From Brandywine Books
‘The Age of the Vikings,’ by Anders Winroth

The Age of the Vikings

Charlemagne himself rode toward the plundering Northmen, bringing with him his beloved pet elephant, Abul-Abbas, a gift from the Caliph Harun ar-Rashid in Baghdad. The elephant suddenly died after crossing the Rhine River, a bad omen.

Hear me: From this day forth, and until I change my mind, when someone asks me for a good introduction to the Viking Age, I will recommend to them Anders Winroth’s The Age of the Vikings.

The book opens with a vivid description of a feast in a Swedish chieftain’s hall. The warriors enjoy a dessert treat of exotic walnuts. A skald recites a poem, which all praise but few understand, in honor of his host.

This, in my opinion, is the way to open a book on the Viking Age. Author Winroth, who teaches medieval history at Yale, knows his material, but he also knows how to grab a reader. There’s no excuse for a book on the Vikings to be dull, though some writers accomplish that feat. Winroth, on the other hand, milks the drama for all it’s worth, and it makes his book a joy to read. He’s an excellent stylist too.

He covers such subjects as the relative violence of the Vikings (compared to their contemporaries), Viking Age emigration, Viking ships, Viking trade, Viking political development, everyday life, and religion. No subject is covered exhaustively, but his material is authoritative and his scholarship up to date.

He writes some things that surprised me and contradicted information I thought I knew. Chances are he’s right and I’m wrong. He exercises the normal caution of contemporary scholars in using the Icelandic sagas; I’m associated with the revisionist party on that point. I hope that scholarly opinion will alter in the future. Till then, Winroth’s cautious approach is prudent.

Highly recommended. Suitable for ordinary readers teenaged and up, but students of the age (like me) will also learn things.

From Tim Challies
Master Your Finances

I have a love-hate relationship with money. I love the good things money can accomplish. I love how it can be used to provide for my needs and the needs of my wife and children. I love how it can be used to support God’s work in the world. I love being the contributor and the recipient of financial generosity—there is much joy in cheerful giving and grateful receiving. Yet I hate the way money can hold me captive, the way it subtly promises what only God can deliver. I hate how quickly it leaves my hands in an endless torrent of bills, payments, and expenses. Money is a joy and money is a burden.

In this series for Christian men, we are examining life through the biblical metaphor of a race. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul asks, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?” He then provides an obvious application, a charge: “So run that you may obtain it.” We have been learning that victoriously running the race of life involves a wide array of skills and character traits. To our growing list we now add this: If you are going to run to win, you need to master your finances.

What You Own

The bank account may be in your name, but it’s not actually your money. The deed to your home may have your first and last name printed at the top, but your house doesn’t truly belong to you. You came into this world naked and empty-handed, and you’ll leave this world naked and empty-handed. All that you enjoy between birth and death is a gift. It belongs to God but is assigned to your care.

This is known as stewardship. God is the creator of all that is and, therefore, God is the owner of all that is. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). He owns your home, your car, your money, and everything else. You relate to these things as a steward, as one who has been given the responsibility to use them on behalf of the owner. A steward is a manager, a person responsible for skillful management of resources.

Jesus illustrated the stewardship principle in one of his best-known parables, the one we know today as “The Parable of the Talents.” He tells the story of a master who is going on a journey, and before he departs, he distributes his wealth to his servants for safekeeping. To one he gives five talents, to another two, and to another one. Then he goes away, and the servants set to work. Two of the servants use the money wisely and double it; one of them buries it in the ground. When the master returns he demands an accounting. The two who have shown wisdom are rewarded, while the one who had been frugal and unwise is rebuked. Jesus provides this application: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29).

Rights and Responsibilities

God owns all things and distributes things to you so you can use them well and wisely. All money is God’s money, and while he has rights over it, you have responsibilities. He answers to no one, but you answer to him. You bear the responsibility not to squander your money, not to use it in ways that fail to carry out his purposes or even contradict his purposes. Conversely, you are responsible before God to use your money in ways that are pleasing to him, in ways that carry out his will on earth. God gives every dollar in trust and has the right to demand an accounting for it.

This is a weighty and sacred responsibility. You might think, then, that the only noble purposes for money are giving it to churches and charities and Christian ministries. But it is not so simple. God is a loving Father who “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). He does not equate stewardship with austerity. Rather, he instructs you to find an appropriate balance between what you keep and what you give, between what you use for purposes of comfort and what you use for purposes of kingdom advancement.

God addresses your heart’s relationship with money both negatively and positively. Negatively, he warns you that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10) and insists that money offers more than it can deliver: “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). You must be very careful with money, knowing that it has the power to hold you captive.

Positively, God promises joy to those who hold their money loosely and give with generosity. Solomon observes, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered” (Proverbs 11:24-25). There is also joy to be had beyond this life, for even though you cannot take your wealth with you, you can, in a sense, send it on ahead (as Randy Alcorn is so fond of saying). “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:33). Those with wealth are “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:18-19).

God has given you money so you can put it to work in his world and for his purposes. This will involve the day-to-day financial management of paying bills, buying groceries, and making payments into a retirement account. It will also involve giving generously to the church and to believers who have needs. It will involve a constant awareness that money is a wonderful servant but a terrible master, that it all belongs to God, and that it is to be used to bring glory to him.

Do It Now!

If you are going to master your finances, you need to take action. Here are some places to begin.

  • Read a good book on money. For some reason, few of us are taught financial management in school, in church, or even in our parents’ homes. Thankfully, we are well-served with excellent books that explain God’s view on money. Perhaps begin with Managing God’s Money by Randy Alcorn, a personal favorite and an excellent primer on the subject.
  • Budget your money. Few things make a bigger difference to your diligent stewardship of money than maintaining a budget. There are hundreds of different ways to maintain a budget, but the important principle is this: Account for every penny. A good budget will force you to understand how you spend your money and call you to account for where you are spending poorly. When it comes to budgeting, that you do it is far more important than how you do it.
  • Enjoy your money. While God calls you to be a faithful steward of your money, God is pleased when you enjoy it. As Solomon says, “Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19). You can buy items that make you comfortable and travel to places that are restful. Sometimes the wisest way to spend money is to spend it on something that brings you joy and blessing.
  • Ask questions. Consider the four questions John Wesley asked of any expenditure: In spending this money, am I acting as if I own it, or am I acting as the Lord’s trustee? What Scripture passage requires me to spend this money in this way? Can I offer up this purchase as a sacrifice to the Lord? Will God reward me for this expenditure at the resurrection of the just?
  • Plan your giving. Many people form a plan to increase their retirement savings or to increase the amount they are saving for a new car. Few people plan to increase their giving to God’s work. Consider how you will give more next year than you did this year. Why not plan to add a small percentage each year? If you give $200 a month this year, plan how you can make it $220 a month next year. If you give $1500 a month this year, make every effort to up it to $1600 next year. Don’t allow your income and expenses to grow without also growing your giving.

Run to Win!

You, like me, may have a love-hate relationship with money. You may love all the good it does and dread all the evil it causes. It helps to know that the hand of God is behind our money: “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth…” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18). Your money is actually God’s money, and through the Holy Spirit he equips you to use it well, to steward it faithfully, to someday hear the words of the grateful master: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). In the meantime, if you are going to run to win, you must master your finances.

From Tim Challies
A La Carte (July 17)

This is going to be the sole A La Carte this week. I am on vacation for the next seven days and, as part of that, will not be doing all the daily reading and linking that’s part of A La Carte. They will resume, as normal, a week from today. However, I’ve got brand new articles queued up all through the week and hope you’ll enjoy those. I’ll be back online in a week!

Today’s Kindle deals include a few books from Crossway on the always-important subject of prayer.

12 Ways to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

Deepak Reju: “If you pay any attention to the news, you are well aware that sexual offenders show up in churches, predators hunting defenseless prey, who do unspeakably horrible things to our children. Much of what is done could be prevented, but many churches are ignorant about how to protect their children and about how to respond when child sexual abuse happens at church.”

Iron Sharpens Iron

Last week I was a guest on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio program and it kind of turned into an open lines episode. Here it is if you’re interested.

Michael Bird’s “Say What” Quiz

This is a tough quiz!

Romans Quiz

This quiz is much, much easier. It’s just a handful of questions on the book of Romans.

When a Christian Leader Fails You

Because at some point one will.

A Satisfying Timelapse

This is kind of purposeless, I suppose, but still neat to see this time lapse of braces doing their work. Maybe I just find it encouraging since I’m currently paying for three sets of braces!

What Did It Mean to “Hit the Sawdust Trail”?

What an amazing thing to consider: “By 1901, the pro-baseball-player-turned-revivalist Billy Sunday was popular enough that construction of large wood tabernacles would begin to be constructed months in advance of his revival. They were large enough to hold up to 10 percent of a population in a smaller city, and up to 20,000 people in major cities.”

Flashback: When You Are A Hammer

When it comes to social media, we need to learn to use the hammer rather than be the hammer.

Better to have a small role in God’s history than to cast yourself as the lead in your own fiction. —Lecrae

From Semicolon
We Were There at the Opening of the Atomic Era by James Munves

I don’t know Mr. Munves, but the historical consultant for this book in the historical fiction series We Were There is also a character in the book, Dr. John R. Dunning. Dr. Dunning really was there. In fact, in his introduction to the story, Dr. Dunning explains:

“When Mr. Munves asked me to serve as his historical consultant in the writing of this book, I agreed at once because to me there is nothing more important than recapturing for our you men and women the wonderful creative excitement those days in which the atomic age began. When I went over Mr. Munves’ manuscript with him and discovered that I was a character in his story, I asked him if he would let me write a preface so as to make it clear to you that this Dr. Dunning is a real person. Most of the characters in the story, except for the young hero and his father, are real people.”

This book was published by Grossett and Dunlap in 1960, and it begins in 1942 with fifteen year old school boy, Tony Brenner, whose father works with Enrico Fermi, Professor John Dunning, and other scientists at Pupin Laboratories in New York City. When Tony makes a presentation to his high school science club about the possibilities of nuclear fission, his father is both proud and alarmed. “If a Nazi spy heard about your speech, he might think I was doing research in atomic energy,” says Papa Brenner, who is German immigrant and a physicist. Of course, that’s exactly what Dunning, Fermi, the fictional Brenner are doing, but the project is Top Secret. SO Tony gets taken into the top secret Manhattan Project so that he will learn what he needs to keep secret and why.

Tony’s family moves first to Chicago and then to New Mexico, all in pursuit of an atomic weapon that will defeat the Germans (and the Japanese) and win the war. The story presents most of the common arguments both for and against the bomb, and it gives a lot of scientific and technical information about the bomb and how it was developed. The ending sentences will give you a feel for the moral consensus of the book’s authors and consultants:

“It is not a nice thing to think about—that you helped make something that killed or hurt at least 230,000 people. But it doesn’t really matter whether this was done by bullet, sword, fire or atomic energy.
What does matter is that people wish to kill or hurt other people. . . .
The atom promises unlimited power. It also threatens the destruction of civilization. It is up to all of us to decide how it will be used.
The atom is neither good nor evil. Only people are.”

If you are interested in the events and people surrounding the Manhattan Project and the making, testing, and use of the atomic bomb, I would suggest you find a copy of this novel for a 1960-ish perspective on the project, its genesis and aftermath. For other children’s and young adult books on the subject, take a look at:

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages.
The Secret Project Notebook by Carolyn Reeder.
The Bomb by Theodore Taylor. Nuclear testing on Bikini Atoll.
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr.

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin.
Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb.

On July 16, 1945 at 5:29:45 a.m., the scientists of the Manhattan Project successfully tested the first atomic bomb in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Less than a month later, in August, the bomb was used to force the Japanese to surrender to Allied forces and end World War II.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

From Tim Challies
Writing Great Books for Kids (and Reading Great Books To Kids)

Parents love to buy their children good books. Christian parents love to buy their children good Christian books. Thankfully, we are well-served with excellent titles geared to children. Many of them come from the pen of Marty Machowski. I recently asked him about writing great books for kids (and reading great books to kids).

I hear often from people who dream of writing a book for kids. Yet I know from speaking to publishers that it’s one of the toughest contracts to land. Why is that?

The reason children’s book contracts are difficult to land is the high cost of producing a children’s book. Illustrations for a Bible story book can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Beyond the illustrations, a children’s book requires a graphic artist to do the typesetting. Considering a publisher can produce four trade books (your standard adult non-fiction) for the cost of a children’s book, you can see why a publisher would want to be very selective in choosing which children’s books to publish.

You’ve found success in a difficult field—publishing books for children. To what do you attribute your success (beyond, obviously, the kind sovereignty of God).

By the grace of God, he’s blessed me with a lot of creativity and creative ideas. Half the battle in breaking into a market is coming up with an idea for something that hasn’t been done before or new for a particular age group or audience. I woke up one morning with the idea to create a children’s systematic theology along with the name The Ology as a play on the word theology. I quick scribbled out a storyboard for the first few chapters. At the end of a meeting with New Growth Press for another project, I showed them the story board. The idea was so unique, they offered me a contract for the book on the spot.

Now in case you are tempted to think they were so eager because I had already written books for them, let me tell you, they’ve turned me down flatly on a number of books. Mostly because they lacked the unique quality that The Ology exemplifies. When you do a search for children’s systematic theology books, you don’t come up with much.

So what advice might you offer to the person who still dreams of writing for kids?

Here are a couple of pointers I’ve learned writing books for children.

  1. Good books are usually community projects and require humility to ask for and apply the feedback you get from folks. There is a part of me (sometimes far too big a part of me) that wants to hear praise when I share something I’ve written. But if you think about it, how can praise help your writing improve? A willingness to humbly embracing critique is an important key to a successful project. That doesn’t mean you change anything anyone doesn’t like, but if you have two or three folks sharing that they don’t think your opening chapter works, you should listen to them. Justin Taylor offered some helpful critique on The Ology. Thankfully I made the changes he suggested and my book benefitted from a greater theological precision thanks to his kind suggestions.
  2. Don’t give up. I can remember becoming discouraged a number of times with the mistakes I made or criticism I received. My latest book Dragon Seed was rejected twice by New Growth Press and had to be completely rewritten four times before they excitedly offered me a contract. I was tempted to give up several times on that and other books that have ended up published because I persevered. And they are much better for the effort, far better.
  3. Write for people not for fame.  I am tempted by a desire to do great things to exalt myself – that attitude usually produces bad writing.  When I think about how to help people through what I write, my writing is much more effective.

I never set out to be a writer.  I created the Gospel Story for Kids curriculum and the companion devotionals Long Story Short and Old Story New for the families of my church, Covenant Fellowship. It took over 2000 hours and ten years to write that material.  What made it so effective was that I was trying to help parents reach their children with the gospel not become a published author.

It’s my conviction that a great book for kids deserves a great reading by mom or dad. We can add so much or negate so much simply by the way we read. Can you offer parents a few tips on reading aloud in such a way that they enhance the book?

My kids love to have a book read out loud to them, especially if I change my voice around for the different characters in the book.  If you can dramatize your reading and fill it with expression, your kids will beg you for more.

You don’t need to be an accomplished actor, just do your best. Even an average attempt at voices will add to the story. Then pay attention to the punctuation and the mood of the moment. If you are reading a suspenseful section of a story, lower your voice to a whisper.  If it is a loud celebration, bump up the volume.

Give it a try on a shorter children’s book if you’ve never read like this before as it can be a bit more tiring to add the extra drama – but it is worth it.

Do you have any plans to write a book for adults? Or are you sticking with kids?

I try to write all my children’s books with sufficient substance that adults can learn too. I’ve had a number of moms and dads come up to me and whisper, “I bought this for my kids but I’m learning a ton myself!”

I am just finishing a devotional book for parents walking through parenting trials.  I want to pass along the experience I gained from having a prodigal son of my own. I started my parenting trusting in a lot of good things like home schooling, guarding their internet access, screening their friends, and doing family devotions.  God wanted me to be trusting in him and brought a parenting trial that dropped me to my knees.  That is where I discovered God didn’t want me parenting standing up, but kneeling down.  I just finished the rough manuscript; the book should be available in 2018.

I assume that writing for children gives you many opportunities to interact with parents. What do you believe are the main parenting challenges parents face today?

Hands down, the access to technology is the greatest challenge parents face today. When I began parenting there was no internet, no smart phones, no snap chat, no sexting. Pornography was far less prolific and you wouldn’t typically come across it by accident. One of my girls in her grade school years went looking for information for a popular young girls toy doll.  She got the words mixed up and ended up getting exposed to images she never would have seen twenty years ago.

If you could give just one message to today’s Christian parents—one thing to encourage or challenge or even rebuke them—what would you want to tell them?

The best advice I can give any parent is to press into Christ for themselves. The best gift you give your children is your example of faith. That doesn’t mean you must be perfect, or even really good. That is the beauty of Christianity. We can demonstrate an active faith in Christ by our confession of sin and repentance just as easily and perhaps more effectively than when we make godly choices.  Live for Christ and God will use it to draw your children into the kingdom.

Thanks to Marty for participating in this interview. You can browse his books at Amazon; his most recent book is Dragon Seed.

Machowski Books

From Alexandra K. Bush


1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death,
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins
with His precious blood,
and has set me free
from all the power of the devil.

He also preserves me in such a way
that without the will of my heavenly Father
not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, all things must work together
for my salvation.

Therefore, by His Holy Spirit
He also assures me of eternal life
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for Him.


Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1



I am finding great comfort in the promises of God, especially as they are expressed in the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism.

Our boys’ best friends’ mom died yesterday.  I know she would  have said will full confidence,

I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death,
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

I don’t doubt that she was ready to see Jesus, even if not ready to leave her family.

But, I’m not ready.  Not ready to help my sons mourn.  Not ready to watch them walk alongside their grieving friends.  Not ready to consider my own mortality and leaving my kids behind.


From Tim Challies
Ask Me Anything (Sleepovers, Miracles, Making Money, etc)

Once again, I’m going to attempt answers to a selection of the questions I have received through my Ask Me Anything feature. This week’s questions involve sleepovers, miracles, reading the Bible in church, and the clarity of the Bible. But I am going to begin with an answer to what is probably the most common question I receive.

How do blogs make money? How do you make money? Is it actually possible for a blogger to earn a living?

I receive this question quite often. Sometimes it feels a little bit awkward and sometimes it feels very natural. I guess it depends on the context and the way in which it is asked. Sometimes people are asking how I make money and sometimes people are considering their own blog and wondering how they might make money. Here’s the answer: Yes, it is possible for a blogger to earn a living, but it’s not easy. It’s no great challenge to monetize a blog enough to make a little bit, but it’s very difficult to monetize a blog enough to earn a living.

So how do bloggers make money? They tend to make money in a few different ways.

Advertising. Most blogs run advertisements in the sidebar of their site, and each of those generates a little bit of income based on the number of times the ad is displayed during a period of time. For the average blog, that might total $100 a month or even less. Many others run Google AdWords which pay only if a reader clicks on them. I have chosen to go with sponsored posts, which means companies or ministries pay to write a blog post on my site. I run one of these posts each week and it is the single most significant source of revenue.

Affiliate programs. Most blogs also rely on affiliate programs, the most common of which is Amazon. Essentially, if you click on a link to Amazon (or many other stores) on a blog, it is likely that the blogger will receive a small percentage of whatever you buy during that shopping session. Small blogs may earn a few dollars a month this way, or even a few hundred. There are some, mostly dealing with gadgets, electronics, and websites that can even earn tens of thousands of dollars a month this way. I am part of the affiliate programs for a few different stores. This is a reasonable source of income for me, but insufficient on its own.

Royalties. Bloggers who have written books or other material may receive royalties from them. Christian authors soon learn that while books do provide some income, it is, for the vast majority, both minimal and sporadic. Simply put, the Christian market is quite small and unless a book really takes off, it is unlikely to provide nearly enough to live off. None of mine are in that category.

Patronage. A relatively new model (which is based on a much older model) is patronage. Sites like Patreon allow people who read blogs to support it as individuals—to be patrons of the arts. I use Patreon and very much appreciate the people who have signed on to support me in that way.

The most important principle is to diversify revenue streams enough that it will not spell doom for a blog when one stream diminishes or disappears. Amazon’s recent and sudden decision to severely trim their affiliate fees ran more than a few sites out of business.


Thank you for sharing how your church worships. I noted that most of the time the Scripture is read by an elder and I love that. What is your opinion of a child—anywhere from eight years old to 17—reading the Sunday morning Scripture in the worship service? Our pastor plans to implement this in a few weeks.

We typically have two formal Scripture readings in our services. The first is what we tend to refer to as the “opposite testament reading,” which means if our sermon is based on the New Testament, this reading will be from a complementary passage in the Old Testament (and vice versa). This reading is done by a member of our Scripture-reading team, a small group of church members who have received training in how to read well. Our training text for them is Max McLean’s Unleashing the Word.

The second reading is the one that provides the text for the sermon, and this one is read by an elder or by someone who is being trained or prepared to be an elder. In other words, only people who are called and permitted to preach will do this reading. This is because we consider this reading what Paul calls Timothy to in 1 Timothy 4:13: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” This text has a level of instruction and formality to it that makes it suitable for pastors. In other words, we consider the first reading to be member-to-member ministry and the second reading to be formal teaching ministry.

So, would our church allow a child to read the Scripture in the service? We would not for that second reading since a child cannot be an elder. We may for that second reading if that child was a baptized member of the church who had been trained to read Scripture well. If the child was old enough to profess faith, be baptized, and be a member of the church, he would be old enough to serve the church by reading the Bible. That said, we tend to baptize a little bit older than some churches, so it is unlikely we would have an eight-year-old in that position. We might, though, have a teenager.


Since we believe God wrote the Bible we would expect it to be the best and clearest book ever written. Yet we talk about endless apparent contradictions. Good writing doesn’t have apparent contradictions. How simple would it have been for Jesus to say “here is how you are to baptize.” Didn’t he foresee that the lack of clarity would cause problems later on?

I think the Bible is clearer than we make it out to be. The problem is not the clarity of the Bible, but the muddiness of the human mind. Our problem is that we approach the Bible with pre-existing agendas and cultural biases, reading it through hazy lenses and unfair expectations. The contradictions are not within the Bible, but between the Bible and what we expect it to say. I am quite convinced that one of the great shocks we will receive in eternity is how we squabbled over matters that God actually makes crystal clear. The fact is, no matter the form God chose Scripture to take, we would have found a way to mess it up.


Along the same lines of your article “Why My Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers” article, did you and your wife allow your kiddos to stay over at family member’s homes when they were young? My husband and I have three little ones under the age of six, and are constantly feeling pressured by both sets of out-of-town grandparents to send the kiddos away for a week of “grandparent time.” We love and try to visit both sides of the family, and they also visit us quite often, but the insistence of a week or more of time away with our children seems excessive and unneeded at such young ages. How did (or do) you and your wife handle sleepovers with family, or family members insisting on extended time away with your kids? We want to honor our parents and are so thankful they want to love on our kiddos, and also realize that this is a matter of family preference, but what should be the biblical extent of the role (or responsibility) of Christian grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren?

Several years ago I wrote about Why My Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers, and it quickly became my most popular article (more than eight million views so far!). I told how Aileen and I agreed long ago that we would not allow our children to sleep in the homes of other people. And we have stuck to our guns. Yet all the while we have allowed and encouraged our children to stay with their grandparents and to have their grandparents stay here when Aileen and I are away.

Much of the reason we did not want our children to stay in the homes of other people is that we do not and cannot know what goes on in those homes. We may know the family quite well, but not well enough to know all that occurs when night falls and the lights are off. We may have great confidence in the parents, but less confidence in their teenaged boys. Not only that, but we wanted to avoid the difficulty of having to tell one family, “Yes, our child can stay there,” and the other, “No, our child cannot stay there.” We considered it easier and less problematic to simply ban sleepovers.

But when it comes to our parents, we know what goes on in their homes because we lived with them for 21 years. I have total confidence in my parents because they raised me well; I have total confidence in Aileen’s parents because they raised her well. We know we have nothing to fear. Had my parents or her parents ever been abusive toward us, we would never allow them access to our children.

Parents need to remember that their children are their children. They, not grandparents, bear the primary responsibility. They, not grandparents, have the final say. Thus parents should not feel pressured into decisions that violate conscience or good sense. While we do not want fear to control the decisions we make for our children, neither do we want fear of man to control. Fear may make us imagine the worst of even the best people; fear of man may make us hope for the best out of even the worst people.


I have recently been considering a means to listen to books on audio in order to make the most of my commute time to work. Do you recommend Audible or any specific company? How do you think Christians should approach audio books and selecting a service for listening? Specifically, I am looking to listen to books related to Christian theology, history, biographies/autobiographies, and classic literature, but would like to do so in a manner that reflects good stewardship.

There are many times you have to choose between a Christian and non-Christian option when you purchase an item or service. You can shop at Amazon for your books, or you can visit the local Christian bookstore; you can use the real estate agent just down the street or look for a Christian one. I don’t think we find a lot of biblical principles of right and wrong when deciding between the two kinds of business. We are under no biblical obligation to shop at the Christian variation simply because it’s Christian (or professedly Christian). That said, I think there is joy and benefit in supporting Christian businesses whenever possible.

When it comes to audiobooks, the choice you’ll face is probably between Audible and a service like Christian Audio. Christian Audio is owned by believers and stocks almost entirely Christian books; Audible is owned by Amazon and stocks pretty much everything Christian Audio does, but much more besides.

If you are going to largely be reading Christian material, Christian Audio may be the way to go. You’ll get the books you want and you’ll be supporting a Christian-run business. If you’re wanting to mix up your listening, you’ll probably need to go with Audible instead of or in addition to Christian Audio.


I’ve read several of your articles and articles you’ve linked to regarding cessationism, including the most recent Ask Me Anything edition. It’s these articles that have caused me to reconsider cessationism. For the past several years, I’ve been in the “cautious, but open” camp, I suppose. However, in this most recent Ask Me Anything edition, you mentioned specifically that “we do not see…the dead being raised.” But there are reports of “the dead being raised.” For example, [an author has written a book] in which he recounts his own experiences raising the dead. I read this book with a lot of skepticism, and I watched a video interview with him about his first time “raising the dead,” and I honestly don’t know what to think. After that lengthy preface, my question is: How does a convinced cessationist assess these accounts?

First, let’s distinguish between miracles and people specially gifted to perform miracles. Cessationists do not deny that miracles can and do happen; what they deny is that there is a particular spiritual gift of healing still in operation. The issue is not one of healing, but healers. When someone is ill and near to death, cessationists and continuationists may pray very similarly, asking God to miraculously intervene and to bring about healing. But the cessationists will not seek out a person with the supposed spiritual gift of healing to ask their help. (They may, and perhaps should, though, look to and obey James 5:14.)

Now, how do we account for people who describe an experience with the kind of miracles we read about in the New Testament? In general, I think we can be skeptical. This is especially true when we aren’t familiar with those people and when we don’t have any connections to them. I say this because history shows there are vast numbers of hucksters and false prophets who claim to have performed miracles, only to later be proven liars. This is true on the mission field, the revival tent, and the bookstore shelf. The simple fact is, the charismatic movement itself has a very poor track record when it comes to verified miracles.

I should say that I’m grateful for men like Sam Storms who are attempting to right many wrongs within the charismatic movement and even to integrate it with Reformed theology. But I still don’t think they’ve satisfactorily proven that miraculous gifts are still in operation.

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: July 15, 2017

“Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author’s words reverberating in your head.” ~Paul Auster


Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

From Brandywine Books
‘Just a Coincidence,’ by P. F. Ford

Just a Coincidence

This is number two in the Dave Slater mystery series by P. F. Ford. I enjoyed the first one, and reviewed it just below. This one was fun too.

At the start of Just a Coincidence, Dave, a detective sergeant in the small English town of Tinton, is called to a crime scene, after a dog walker has discovered a woman’s body, battered to an extent that seems hardly possible. The dog that first found the body then runs up with a human femur in his mouth – an old one. A search of the area uncovers a shallow grave containing the bodies of a woman and a young girl.

And then it gets really weird. Turns out all three bodies are related.

Dave Slater once again teams up with the inveterate optimist DS Norman. The trail leads to a millionaire who practices serial monogamy and a smuggling operation run by shadowy Eastern European gangsters. The investigation is hampered by an unstable team member who creates dissension in the police ranks. And all through, DS Norman does his best to keep Dave thinking positive.

I enjoyed Just a Coincidence just as much as I enjoyed Death of a Temptress. The writing isn’t always the best, but the entertainment never flags. Author Ford has an interesting way of taking characters in unexpected directions, so the reader should never take anything – or anyone – for granted.

Recommended for grownups. Cautions for language and stuff.

From Brandywine Books
‘Death of a Temptress,’ by P. F. Ford

Death of a Temptress

An hour or so later, they were pretty sure they were both on the same page. In fact, they were in complete agreement. They completely agreed they had no idea what it was they were investigating.

Sometimes a book benefits from contrast with what you last read. After my brief, grim sojourn among Norwegian mystery writers, this story came like a break in the clouds. In spite of some flaws.

The hero of Death of a Temptress (first in a series of police procedurals by P.F. Ford) is Dave Slater, a detective sergeant in Tinton, a small, fictional Hampshire (England) town. Dave has been demoted, having been made the scapegoat for another officer’s mistakes. When his superior assigns him to a missing person case, he’s bitter at first. He considers it a waste of his time. He isn’t any happier when he’s teamed with DS Norman Norman (his actual name), a fat detective with a reputation for laziness. Dave is soon disabused of this prejudice. DS Norman turns out to be a smart and wise cop, who preaches positive thinking to him to with some success.

When Ruth Thornhill disappeared in London six months before, the Metropolitan police quickly (like Dave) dismissed her as a runaway. But her sister, who has some political connections, has managed to get the investigation moved to the Tinton force, who are not so busy. She describes Ruth as a mousy, shy girl. However, as Dave and Norman investigate, they learn that she was an entirely different person in London. She was sexy and glamorous, and lived in an exclusive apartment she shouldn’t have been able to afford. It becomes apparent that there’s been a cover-up here – Ruth (who called herself Ruby in London) was playing dangerous games with very powerful people. These people play hardball, and do not take kindly to small town cops poking into their business.

What I liked most about Death of a Temptress, after reading Scandinavian noir, was the relative sunniness of the whole thing. Although some awful things happen, the overall ambience is cheerful. Author Ford seems to be a kind of apostle of Positive Thinking, and he happily shares his philosophy through DS Norman.

There were aspects I didn’t care for. Author Ford is still learning his trade, and he sometimes overwrites. He tends to bear down too heavily on his jokes. There’s an evangelical Christian in the book, and he talks pretty much the way someone who’s never met an evangelical Christian would imagine we talk.

But all in all, Death of a Temptress was a lot of fun, puzzling and fast-moving. I immediately downloaded the sequel. I expect you’ll have a good time with it too. Recommended, with cautions for language, violence, and mature themes.

From Brandywine Books
The Catholic Sci-fi Author

R. A. Lafferty (1914-2002) stands out as a faithful Catholic who wrote science-fiction. Neil Gaiman called him “undoubtedly the finest writer of whatever it was that he did that ever there was.”

In her review of The Man with the Speckled Eyes, the fourth and newest volume of a collection of short stories, Helen Andrews describes the man and some of his ideas. (via Prufrock News)

Running throughout the book is Lafferty’s cyclical theory of world history. Mankind builds civilization generation by generation and, periodically, destroys what he has built, so cataclysmically that the next generation has to start from the beginning. Fourth Mansions, his novel based on Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, follows the same theory. Just as the individual soul ascends from mansion to mansion, mankind ascends through levels of civilization; the higher it gets, the more demons try to assail it. Teresa wrote of vipers and toads. In Lafferty’s cosmology, these are “tentacled liberalism (the python-hydra)” and “Communism, from underground (the toad with the tantalizing jewel in its head).”

From Jared C. Wilson
How Many More Petersons Are Out There?

Written by: Jared C. Wilson

petersonIt was the "yes" heard 'round the evangelical Twittersphere, at least for the day. In an interview with Religious New Service's Jonathan Merritt published yesterday, evangelical stalwart Eugene Peterson professed what appeared to be a reversal of his views of homosexual relationships, saying, among other things, "I don't think it's something that you can parade, but it's not a right or wrong thing as far as I'm concerned."

When asked by Merritt whether he'd personally officiate the wedding of a same-sex couple, Peterson answered simply, without equivocation: "Yes."

Depending on your perspective — a fondness for or a skepticism about Peterson and his work — reactions in social media streams ran the gamut. Some admirers of his ministry expressed shock. Critics complained that "only people who weren't paying attention" to his "trajectory" could be shocked. Close followers of Peterson's work, including a few who have attended some of the rare public events at which he's appeared over the last few years, mentioned that this isn't a new position for him, that he has been making these same affirmations in smaller group settings for a while.

There are many others, however, who were not shocked, but nevertheless saddened. Count me one of them.

I am old enough to remember when it was unfashionable to like Eugene Peterson's work simply because his work had become so fashionable. Cutting my ministry teeth during the rise of the seeker church movement of the 80's and 90's, I had grown weary of the misuse and over-use of Peterson's Bible translation The Message. But as my generation aged, we found so much more depth in Peterson's writing than we were previously led to believe. Where The Message had been used to make the Scriptures more palatable for modern worship, to make it more up-to-date, it was Peterson's work on pastoral ministry (mostly) that became increasingly relevant to many of us precisely because he was eschewing modernity as an ecclesiological virtue.

I have never pastored a very large church, and I've always resonated with thinkers and writers who championed the smallness and ordinariness of faithfully shepherding a local congregation. For many like me, Peterson became a kind of patron saint--a defender of the institutional church while also a critic of the professionalization of the pastorate, a dismantler of the spiritual racketeering so many in our day pass off as Christian ministry.

Yes, he tilted leftward. We saw that. Many just dismissed this as an affectation, an impression left of his being artsy or contemplative. But he had never clearly embraced that which the Bible calls us to reject. He hadn't gone the way of the Rob Bells or the Brian McLarens or of numerous other thought leaders who'd followed their hearts right into religious liberalism. At least, we didn't think he had.

Whether Peterson had been sharing these convictions for a while or not, yesterday's RNS piece has clearly been his most public admission. What is most curious about the interview, assuming it was published verbatim (or close to it), is how much is missing. Peterson offers no defense for his position, no biblical rationale, no theological reflection. There may be a variety of reasons for this. Peterson is notoriously "out of the loop"--it's possible he didn't know or quite understand the reach and impact his statements would have on social media. It's possible he knew that his interlocutor was a sympathetic ear to this position. (Jonathan Merritt routinely publishes articles and editorials offering support for ministers, writers, and other leaders who have rejected the traditional teaching on biblical sexuality.) It's equally possible, I suppose, that he simply doesn't care, that he doesn't think he owes anyone an explanation.

Knowing the careful and introspective thought that has gone into his writing on Christianity and the Christian ministry, I'd be surprised if Peterson could make no attempt at exegetical reasons for his views. But the reality is that he offered none. He only offered that he has over the last several years met gay folks who "seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do," and this has changed his mind.

Certainly knowing gay people--spiritually-minded or otherwise--will change the demeanor and tenor of many people's speaking and thinking on same-sex attraction and their ministry toward the LGBTQ community, but as a justification for rejecting traditional views on sexuality it hardly seems to suffice. And it actually seems to undercut what Peterson has been carefully teaching so many of his devotees all along--that God's word holds the wisdom that runs counter to the seasonally shifting whims of the world, that faithful ministry means, among many other things, enduring steadfast while the trends and fads of the culture swirl around us, that what really and ultimately counts is "a long obedience in the same direction."

Lately, each day in evangelicalism seems to bring with it a new watershed. A few months ago, popular author and conference speaker Jen Hatmaker made waves with her public affirmation of same-sex marriage. Even after the backlash, which has cost her not just readers and fans but also speaking engagements, Hatmaker has not disavowed her views. Peterson may be in a different position, as he is not a frequent conference speaker, nor is his publishing reliant largely on the typical evangelical customer base. He has been somewhat of an outlier all along, drawing devotees from multiple Christian traditions and tribes. But the fallout of his announcement pushes us to face a cultural crisis in evangelicalism many have not yet faced. For instance, how many more Jen Hatmakers and Eugene Petersons are out there?

Last month, Stan Mitchell, pastor of Gracepointe Church announced his congregation's plans to move from Franklin, Tennessee to Nashville. Self-describing as a "progressive pastor," Mitchell shared with USA Today Network's Holly Meyer that he felt Nashville's marketplace might be more accepting of Gracepointe's recent adoption of sanctioning same-sex marriages. One line in the interview stood out the most to me, the part where Mitchell says, "There are pastors all across this country who call me weekly that are thinking the same thoughts, trying to find the courage to do the same thing in evangelical churches."

I have no doubt this is true, and I have long suspected this is the case.

One hallmark of the attractional ministry so dominant in American evangelicalism is the reluctance to speak out on many cultural hot topics. The attractional paradigm is a populist strategy, so its ministers rarely if ever speak up about, for instance, government corruption or civil rights abuses. Perhaps they consider those matters too political. And yet the Bible speaks to them. Fewer and fewer will venture anything about abortion. Perhaps for the same fear of seeming political. And you would be hard pressed to see them offering much of anything on the Bible's teaching about homosexuality. Tackling that or any culturally controversial matter would violate one of the attractional church's cardinal rules: Keeping the customer satisfied.

A few years ago one of our nation’s leading evangelical voices, Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, caught flak for mentioning in a sermon that a same-sex couple had been serving in leadership at one of the North Point campuses. In his illustration, he did not mention any approval or disapproval of same-sex marriage per se, but only that one of the partners was not fully divorced from their (opposite sex) spouse. Given opportunities to clarify his views on homosexuality, Stanley has not exactly done so (that I could find).

Stanley and other leaders of similar and even lesser platforms realize this is a hugely controversial subject and likely to cost them something. If they come out for same-sex marriage, they risk alienating their traditionalist evangelical customer base. If they come out against it, they risk alienating many progressives and “spiritual but not religious” devotees who have been drawn to their ministries precisely because they seem “non-judgmental.”

I suspect if any of these folks were to voice their opinion, for or against the traditional teaching on homosexuality, they'd be surprising a significant portion of their audience. Think of the criticism Joel Osteen received from those who felt betrayed by even his apparently embarrassed support for the biblical teaching. He later softened his views in response.

The question isn't going away. Gay rights advocates care. Evangelical traditionalists care. The option not to show your cards will eventually not be an option at all.

The distant popularity of The Message notwithstanding, Peterson has never shared much in common with the leadership-industrial complex of attractional Christianity. And his public admission comes at a time when he’s consciously winding down in life and ministry. He's never sought popularity or a big platform; those things were, in a way, thrust upon him. But one thing I hope his statements and those from leaders like Jen Hatmaker and Rob Bell will have in common is in emboldening others to admit their stances and let the chips fall where they may. Not because I think that's a good thing, but because I suspect there are plenty of influential pastors operating in cowardice and hiding behind the naivete of their congregations. For the good of the church, and for the sake of their own consciences, I hope, as Mitchell says, they will find the "courage" to make the admission.

Will they lose their platforms? If the response to the interviews with Peterson (who at this time has already lost his publishing outlet with LifeWay) or Hatmaker are any indication, they are likely to lose some favor. Many congregants may leave. Mitchell's church has shrunk sizably since his shift. This is the trend of liberalizing Christianity. But many attractional leaders are likely to maintain their popularity and their profitability. Many have built their ministries on sentimental religion and pop-spirituality; echoing the cultural zeitgeist on homosexuality isn't likely to feel so jarring to their most ardent supporters.

History has shown that cultural appropriation is always crouching at the church door. Many times it holds sway in the pews and in the pulpits. We grieve rightly when our ministerial heroes show themselves susceptible to the spirit of the age.

But when all gets shaken out, orthodoxy always remains, perhaps rattled but not undone. James Merritt, a pastor and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (and also, incidentally, Jonathan Merritt's father), tweeted shortly after the news broke: "I’ll change my mind when God changes his. His is the only opinion that matters and on this issue God neither stammers or stutters." Or, as Eugene Peterson has said, "No truth is ever out of date." It is good that our hope is not in pastors or pundits, but in the glorious Redeemer in whom there is no shadow of turning.

UPDATE: In the 24 hours since the original RNS interview published, Peterson has (thankfully) retracted his statements.

From Brandywine Books
Who’s the most literate? Depends on how you look at it.

Via Dave Lull, from Digital Book World, a large, fascinating graphic on world-wide reading and literacy patterns.

Finland rates as the most literate country in the world judging by newspapers, computers, and libraries, but India wins out if you tally up reading hours per week. Scandinavia does very well generally on the first metric, but the US isn’t far behind.

Enjoy the whole thing here.

From Brandywine Books
‘The Iron Chariot,’ by Stein Riverton

The Iron Chariot

One-word review: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I hate to be one of those philistines who can’t appreciate the literature of a past age, but I have to say – the art of the crime novel has improved immensely since 1909, when The Iron Chariot was published.

Author Stein Riverton (real name Svein Elvetun) apparently gets credit for being the inventor of the Scandinavian crime genre. And The Iron Chariot is his classic work.

But even for a Norway booster like me, it’s a slog, my brothers. A genuine slog.

The story opens on a summer day at a resort on a Norwegian island. Some locals come running, announcing they’ve discovered a body. A few guests who’ve been lounging on the lawn run to look, among them the narrator (who is never named). A local gamekeeper has been clubbed to death.

Shortly a private detective is summoned from Kristiania (now Oslo). This detective sets about questioning a few people, relaxing in his room, and wandering the area, apparently without purpose. He carries on a series of languid conversations with the narrator. And about a hundred years later, he names the killer.

“Stein Riverton” is reported to have been a fan of Nobel Prize-winning author Knut Hamsun. This is not good news for the casual reader. The book is indeed Hamsun-esque, and that means slow progress and dense prose. I also didn’t like the detective, Asbjørn Krag, who is one of those inexorable, infallible thinking machines who infest so many early mystery stories.

Worst of all, I figured out the culprit’s identity very early on. After that, it was a matter of mumbling, “Get on with it! Get on with it!” for a hundred pages or more.

Valuable for its historical significance, The Iron Chariot is a yawner of a book. I recommend it only for devotees of old mysteries.

From Semicolon
If you like Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary . . .

For the month of July, I’m planning a series of posts about readalikes: what to read (or what to suggest to your favorite child reader) when you’ve read all of your favorite author’s books or all of the books of a certain genre that you know of, and you don’t know what to read next.

Ramona Quimby wannabes are easy to find, but some are better than others. These are some that I have in my library, and I can recommend:

The Bantry Bay series by Hilda van Stockum. These are about an Irish family, but they have the same kind of family adventures and endearing mishaps as an American family like the Quimbys. Pegeen is especially fun, telling about an orphan girl who comes to live with the O’Sullivan family. Pegeen is a spirited young lady who manages to get herself into all sorts of trouble just by being herself… kind of like Ramona.
The Cottage at Bantry Bay.
Francie on the Run.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. I really like Clementine. Like Ramona, she’s lovable, but prone to misunderstandings and trouble. Books, so far, in this series are:
The Talented Clementine.
Clementine’s Letter.
Clementine, Friend of the Week.
Clementine and the Family Meeting.
Clementine and the Spring Trip.
Completely Clementine.

Clarice Bean books by Lauren Child. Clarice Bean is a bad speller, a good friend, and a fan of the fictional detective, Ruby Redfort. Clarice’s adventures at school and at home make for funny and entertaining reading. The three Clarice Bean books that I am familiar with are:
Utterly me, Clarice Bean.
Clarice Bean Spells Trouble.
Clarice Bean, Don’t Look Now.

There seem to be more books in the series, and Lauren Child has written a spin-off series of Ruby Redfort detective novels.

Betsy books by Carolyn Haywood. Ms. Haywood wrote forty-seven books for children; twelve of them are the “Betsy books”, about a little girl growing up in a 1950’s neighborhood in a typical U.S. city. Ms. Haywood herself grew up and lived as an adult in Philadelphia, and she said that the children in her books were modeled on the children in her own Philadelphia neighborhood. Like the Ramona books, Betsy books feature children in school and at home engaging in everyday family activities with a lot of humor and affection. The titles are:
B Is for Betsy
Betsy and Billy
Back to School With Betsy
Betsy and the Boys
Betsy’s Busy Summer
Betsy’s Little Star
Betsy and the Circus
Betsy and Mr. Kilpatrick
Betsy’s Play School
Betsy’s Winterhouse
Merry Christmas from Betsy
Snowbound with Betsy

Some standalone books that might appeal to Ramona fans are:
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.
Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth.
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm.
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban.

From Semicolon
If you like Narnia . . .

For the month of July, I’m planning a series of posts about readalikes: what to read (or what to suggest to your favorite child reader) when you’ve read all of your favorite author’s books or all of the books of a certain genre that you know of, and you don’t know what to read next.

Readalikes for Narnia? Well, there’s nothing exactly like Narnia, but the following books might just scratch your Narnian itch:

The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie both by George Macdonald. George Macdonald was C.S. Lewis’s inspiration in many ways, including in the Chronicles of Narnia.

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. The story of Henry who finds 99 cupboards behind the plaster in his attic bedroom in his Uncle Frank’s and Aunt Dottie’s house in Kansas. Each cupboard has its own secrets to reveal, but the most exciting, magical cupboard is behind the locked door of of an ancient bedroom belonging to Henry’s grandfather. Sequels are Dandelion Fire and The Chestnut King, and now there’s a prequel called The Door Before.

Andrew Peterson’s fantasy series begins with On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and continues with:
North! Or Be Eaten
The Monster in the Hollows
The Warden and the Wolf-King
If you like the first book in this series, you should definitely continue reading the rest of the books because I think they get better as the series progresses.

The Chronicles of Prydain are right up there with Lewis’s works, must-read fantasy for the Narnia lover. These are taken from Welsh mythology, but the freshness and humor are all due to Mr. ALexander’s whimsical yet philosophically grounded writing. The Prydain books are:
The Book of Three.
The Black Cauldron.
The Castle of Llyr.
Taran Wanderer.
The High King.

Read them all, in that order, to learn of an assistant pig-keeper, an oracular pig, fair folk, cauldron-born warriors, a princess enchantress, bards and minstrels, sorcerers and witches, and kings and queens.

The Wilderking Trilogy by Jonathan Rogers. This three-volume story of Aidan of Corenwald has Biblical parallels, but the setting is in a swampy land that reminded me of Florida or Georgia. These stories of Aidan and his relationship with King Darrow, Prince Steren, and the feechifolk are
The Bark of the Bog Owl.
The Secret of the Wilderking
The Way of the Swamp King.

Dealing With Dragons by Patrica Wrede, Book One of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Other books in this delightfully humorous series featuring an independent princess and some grumpy dragons are:
Searching for Dragons
Calling on Dragons
Talking to Dragons

Other possibilities:
E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It.
Half Magic by Edward Eager. Four children are able to make wishes, but only have them half-fulfilled.
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce. Tom hears the grandfather clock strike 13 and finds himself able to go back in time into a Victorian-era garden.
The Gammage Cup by Carolyn Kendall. The story of five non-conformist Minnipins who become unlikely heroes. The Periods, stodgy old conservatives with names such as Etc. and Geo., are wonderful parodies of those who are all caught up in the forms and have forgotten the meanings. And Muggles, Mingy, Gummy, Walter the Earl, and Curley Green, the Minnipins who don’t quite fit in and who paint their doors colors other than green, are wonderful examples of those pesky artistic/scientific types who live just outside the rules of polite society.

From Alexandra K. Bush
Knowledge of God and Self

​Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.

  • John Calvin

From Semicolon
Saturday Review of Books: July 8, 2017

“We all ask each other a lot of questions. But we should all ask one question a lot more often: ‘What are you reading?'” ~Will Schwalbe


Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

From Semicolon
If you like the Boxcar children books by Gertrude Chandler Warner . . .

For the month of July, I’m planning a series of posts about readalikes: what to read (or what to suggest to your favorite child reader) when you’ve read all of your favorite author’s books or all of the books of a certain genre that you know of, and you don’t know what to read next.

Readalikes for the Boxcar Children books are plentiful, but the older titles are better. In fact, I only recommend the Boxcar children books in the original series up through number nineteen, Benny Uncovers a Mystery. The first nineteen Boxcar Children books were actually written by Gertrude Chandler Warner and are delightfully old-fashioned and wholesome in attitude. The 100+ subsequent titles in the series were written after Ms. Warner’s death in 1979, and I have been told that the books in the new series are not nearly as good as the originals.

Some follow-up suggestions for Boxcar Children:

Helen Fuller Orton’s mysteries. I have recommended Ms. Orton’s books before. Similar in style and reading level to The Boxcar Children series, the mysteries by Helen Fuller Orton are more intriguing and more varied in characters and plot than The Boxcar Children mysteries. Mystery in the Pirate Oak tells the story of Chad and Ellie Turner and their search for a missing silver box hidden long ago in the old oak tree in the nearby meadow. Grandmother Hale is hopeful that if the box could be found it might have something in it that would provide enough cash to fix her leaking roof and have the old house painted. Can Chad and Ellie find the sixty year old silver box before someone else does and before summer vacation is over?
Other books by Helen Fuller Orton, worth searching for if you have readers who enjoy the Boxcar Children:
Mystery of the Hidden Book.
Secret of the Rosewood Box.
Mystery of the Secret Drawer.
Mystery of the Lost Letter.
Mystery in the Apple Orchard.
Mystery Up the Winding Stair.
Mystery at the Little Red School-House.
Mystery in the Old Red Barn.
Mystery over the Brick Wall.

The Morgan Bay mysteries by John and Nancy Rambeau. If you have any of the books in this series hanging about in your attic and you want to get rid of them, send them my way. I own three of the eight books in this reading textbook series, and I’d love to have there rest. I enjoyed them when I was about seven or eight years old, and I’ve enjoyed recommending them to the younger readers in my library. The series starts out on about a second grade reading level and moves gently and progressively up to about third or fourth grade level within the series. For that reason and for reasons of plot development, the books are best read in order.
The Mystery of Morgan Castle.
The Mystery of the Missing Marlin.
The Mystery of the Marble Angel.
The Mystery of the Midnight Visitor.
The Mystery of the Marauder’s Gold.
The Mystery of the Musical Ghost.
The Mystery of Monks’ Island.
The Mystery of the Myrmidon’s Journey.

If the appeal of the Boxcar Children books lies not in their mystery or their simplified vocabulary and plot, but rather in the “romance” of four children living in a boxcar on their own, doing their own homemaking and supporting themselves by their own ingenuity, then the following books might appeal:

Mandy by Julie Edwards. Many, an orphan who longs to have her own home, discovers an abandoned cottage in the woods and fixes it up as her very own secret playhouse.
The Family Under The Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson. Armand, an elderly street dweller in Paris, shares his home under the bridge with a poverty-stricken young mother and her three children.
Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink. Sisters Mary and Jean are shipwrecked with four babies on a deserted island, and the two older children make a home for themselves and the littles ones.
The Children Who Lived in a Barn by Eleanor Graham. I haven’t read this one, but it sounds intriguing.

From Semicolon
If you like Lauren Tarshis’s I Survived books . .

For the month of July, I’m planning a series of posts about readalikes: what to read (or what to suggest to your favorite child reader) when you’ve read all of your favorite author’s books or all of the books of a certain genre that you know of, and you don’t know what to read next.

Scholastic has published a series of books by Lauren Tarshis about boys who survived great disasters. Some of the books feature true stories of young survivors, and others are historical fiction. I haven’t read any of the books in this series, but they seem to be quite popular. So, if you’re a fan of the I Survived series, here are a few other books that you might like:

Real Kids, Real Adventures is a series of several volumes by Deborah Morris, published by Broadman and Holman. Each book gives short, true adventure stories about kids facing shark attacks, plane crashes, tornadoes, fires, blizzards, and more. I haven’t read any of these books, but they should be a good fit for fans of the I Survived series.

We Were There . . . series. The series consists of 36 titles, first released between 1955 and 1963 by Grosset & Dunlap. Each book tells the story of an historical event in American or world history told through the eyes of a child. Maybe not quite as exciting as the I Survived stories, these books are nevertheless well-written, for the most part, by well-known and skilled children’s writers of the time, and the stories are compelling and informative. Here’s a list of the 36 books in the series in approximate chronological order:

We Were There with Caesar’s Legions by Robert N. Webb
We Were There with Richard the Lionhearted in the Crusades, by Robert N. Webb
We Were There with Cortes and Montezuma, by Benjamin Appel
We Were There with the Mayflower Pilgrims, by Robert N. Webb
We Were There at the Boston Tea Party, by Robert N. Webb
We Were There at the Battle of Lexington and Concord, by Felix Sutton
We Were There with Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, by Robert N. Webb
We Were There when Washington Won at Yorktown, by Earl Schenck Miers
We Were There on the Nautilus, by Robert N. Webb
We Were There with Lewis and Clark, by James Munves
We Were There with Jean Lafitte at New Orleans, by Iris Vinton
We Were There at the Opening of the Erie Canal, by Enid Lamonte Meadowcroft
We Were There with the California Rancheros, by Stephen Holt
We Were There with Charles Darwin on H.M.S. Beagle, by Philip Eisenberg
We Were There at the Battle of the Alamo, by Margaret Cousins
We Were There on the Oregon Trail, by William O. Steele
We Were There with the California Forty-Niners, by Stephen Holt
We Were There with Lincoln in the White House, by Earl Schenck Miers
We Were There at the Battle of Gettysburg, by Alida Sims Malkus
We Were There when Grant Met Lee at Appomattox, by Earl Schenck Miers
We Were There with the Pony Express, by William O. Steele
We Were There on the Chisholm Trail, by Ross McLaury Taylor
We Were There on the Santa Fe Trail, by Ross McLaury Taylor
We Were There at the Driving of the Golden Spike, by David Shepherd
We Were There with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, by Robert N. Webb
We Were There in the Klondike Gold Rush, by Benjamin Appel
We Were There at the Oklahoma Land Run, by Jim Kjelgaard
We Were There at the First Airplane Flight, by Felix Sutton
We Were There with the Lafayette Escadrille, by Clayton Knight and Katherine Sturges Knight
We Were There with Byrd at the South Pole, by Charles S. Strong
We Were There at the Battle of Britain, by Clayton Knight and Katherine Sturges Knight
We Were There at Pearl Harbor, by Felix Sutton
We Were There at the Battle for Bataan, by Benjamin Appel
We Were There at the Normandy Invasion, by Clayton Knight
We Were There at the Battle of the Bulge, by David Shepherd
We Were There at the Opening of the Atomic Era, by James Munves

A few other individual fiction titles about children who survive natural and man-made disasters:
The Terrible Wave by Marden Dahlstadt. The Johnstown flood of 1889.
Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman.
Galveston’s Summer of the Storm by Julie Lake.
Earthquake at Dawn by Kristana Gregory.
The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 by Laurence Yep.
SOS Titanic by Eve Bunting.
Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Survival after a plane crash.
Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry.
Night of the Howling Dogs by Graham Salisbury. Tsunami.
Ash Road by Ivan Southall. Wildfire in the Australian outback.
Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

Then, there’s also nonfiction about great disasters and escapes:
The Great Fire by Jim Murphy.
Blizzard! by Jim Murphy.
Disaster at Johnstown: The Great Flood by Hildegard Dolson. (Landmark history)
The Battle for Iwo Jima by Robert Leckie. (Landmark history)

From Semicolon
If you like A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket . . .

For the month of July, I’m planning a series of posts about readalikes: what to read (or what to suggest to your favorite child reader) when you’ve read all of your favorite author’s books or all of the books of a certain genre that you know of, and you don’t know what to read next. What if you’ve read all thirteen of Lemony Snicket’s woeful, hilariously funny series of unfortunate events? What’s next? What can top the Baudelaire orphans and their misadventures?

They’re not all series of unfortunate orphan cliffhangers, but if you like the wordplay and wit or the dark humor and adventure in the Lemony Snicket books, you might try these:
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Milo is bored, but not for long. When a tollbooth and a car appear in his bedroom, Milo decides he might well play along. He’s got nothing else to do. Little does he know that the land he is entering will be both exciting and adventurous, far from boring.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. Orphans, check. Mystery, check. Eccentricity, check. This book is much longer than one of the Unfortunate Events books, but since there are only three in this series and thirteen in Lemony Snicket’s saga, the page count comes out to about the same in the end. Four gifted children are sent undercover as spies at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. I didn’t know until recently that Ms. Aiken wrote twelve books in the Wolves Chronicles, including a prequel. I have three of them in my library, but I’d like to collect and read them all. These do have orphans and wolves and danger and an alternate British setting.
The Whispering Mountain, a prequel to the series
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Black Hearts in Battersea
Nightbirds on Nantucket
The Stolen Lake
Limbo Lodge
The Cuckoo Tree
Dido and Pa
Is Underground
Cold Shoulder Road
Midwinter Nightingale
The Witch of Clatteringshaws

Maryrose Wood’s Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series is about three children who were raised by wolves. The story, which features governess Penelope Lumley, a fifteen year old graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, continues with much cliff-hanging action and excitement through five volumes:
The Mysterious Howling, Book 1.
The Hidden Gallery, Book 2.
The Unseen Guest, Book 3.
The Interrupted Tale, Book 4.
The Unmapped Sea, Book 5.

Lemony Snicket himself, aka Daniel Handler, has written a new series that’s akin to the Unfortunate Event series, but more confusing and weird. It actually features author Lemony Snicket when he was thirteen and just learning to write and detect. If you liked Unfortunate Events, you might like the series All the Wrong Questions:
“Who Could That Be at This Hour?”
“When Did You See Her Last?”
“Shouldn’t You Be in School?”
“Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?”

From Alexandra K. Bush
Calm Before the Storm

From Alexandra K. Bush
Ask For Help – #MomHack

Monday #MomHack… Ask for help.

Ask for help from your spouse, your kids, your extended family, your friends, and your church.

We don’t have to go it alone.  We are designed to live within families, within communities.

Asking for help sometimes means hiring a housekeeper, asking another parent to drive your kids places, asking older kids to pitch in more. (Asking them to pitch in more, even when they already do a lot?)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)  While the context points to this primarily as bearing one another’s burdens of sin and temptation, I don’t think it is a stretch to apply it to bearing one another’s burdens of living in a mixed up, fallen world.  Life is hard.  It is harder when we are alone. 

Sometimes shame keeps us from asking for help.  We feel like we need to have it all together so that we can help others.  Or, sometimes we feel like we have to prove that we don’t “need” the help before we ask for help.  That was how I felt, especially when my older kids were little.  That I had to prove that I could keep up with kids, homeschooling, housekeeping, errands — all of it — before I had “earned” the right to ask for help.   What kind of twisted thinking is that?

It was hard for me to ask for help.  It was hard for me to hire a housekeeper, when I could finally afford one.  I felt like I didn’t deserve the help.  I still struggle — as if I have to prove I wasn’t dumb for having all these kids and choosing motherhood as my primary career path when it really is challenging for me.

When I ask for and graciously receive help from others, I’ve found others are more willing to ask me to help them.  I’m willing to give of my time and energy to other moms — eager, even.  Yet, because I’ve been humbled enough to ask for help, it feels like others are willing to ask me to help them.

This builds community.  This builds our relationships.  This is good.

Ask for help.

That’s my #MomHack this Monday. What about you?

From The Living Room
right now (june 2017 edition)

(format stolen from Mighty Girl, who in turn stole it from someone else, I don’t remember who)

Making: In the middle of a scarf and a blanket.

Cooking: Just made a giant thing of rice for community group (used this recipe). I have some pork chops in the fridge for dinners and lunches this week and will probably also work up a batch of these meatballs

Drinking: SO MUCH COFFEE. I’m also curious about the new mango-pineapple frappuccino, but they were out of the syrup at the Starbucks I went to today, so I’ll have to wait. (Have I confessed my frappuccino weakness here? I love them so much even though I know they’re terrible for you.)

Reading: Let’s see–still in the middle of Lectures on Revivals (it’s good, but that nineteenth-century prose is not fast reading). I just picked up The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue, who wrote a book you may have heard of called Room. I’m also reading An Extraordinary Union, a Civil War-era romance novel, which I wouldn’t have picked up except my Twitter friend @emilyjanehubb read it and recommended it and it’s really good. I’m reading Finding God In My Loneliness for an online book club and Still Life as part of wading my way further into mystery novels. I’m waiting for Lord Peter Views the Body to come in at work, too, and I have The Underground Railroad waiting for me to pick up as soon as I get done with one of these other ones.

Trawling: For a couch. I inherited my old roommate’s sleeper loveseat and it’s doing its job, but I would like something in a grey. Also still looking for a desk.

Wanting: This t-shirt.

Looking: At all the pictures of my friends’ new baby that they keep posting on Instagram. *all the heart-eye emojis*

Deciding: On where to go on a road trip, and whether or not I should go to the Canvas Conference in August.

Listening: Not so much listening as perpetually stuck in my head, but “Waving Through a Window” from Dear Evan Hansen. Also, the new Jason Isbell album, but especially the song “Anxiety”.

Buying: Not so much buying as window shopping, but I’m definitely looking at blouses and shirts for work.

Watching: The Bible Project’s series about how to read the Bible–the latest video is on the different literary genres and it’s just lovely. (Watch here.)

Marveling: Two things: The Tony performance from Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. (There are so many people! Oh yeah, and Josh Groban.) Ben Folds writes a song in ten minutes with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Cringing: My nail polish is so chipped, you guys.

Needing: Probably to go to sleep soon so I don’t hate everything in the morning, but here I am writing this blog post anyway.

Questioning: Lots of things, most of them too weird to write about here.

Smelling: I have this basil mint candle that I got from Target that is pretty strong and so I can smell it all the way over here even though it’s not lit. It’s really nice, though–really summery and herbal.

Wearing: Shorts and a plaid shirt. As hot as it is already, and as hot as it’s probably going to get, I’m of a mind to just wear skirts and shorts for the rest of the summer, but then I also work in a building with very strong AC (books don’t like heat or humidity), so I dunno about that. 🙂

Noticing: I’ve been using this app called Headspace to help me fall asleep at night, and y’all, it works.

From Alexandra K. Bush
When Morning Gilds the Sky

One of the things I love about St. Andrew’s Kirk in Nassau is that the bulletin and liturgy are posted online early in the week.  I like to create a playlist to introduce the weekly hymns to the little ones. This is one way we prepare for worship. When the music is familiar, the little ones pay more attention — even if they can’t sing all the words.

Today my heart rejoiced as we sang one of my favorite hymns. “When Morning Gilds the Sky” was originally written in German in the 1800s by an unknown author, and was translated into English by Edward Caswell.



When morning gilds the skies,
My heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer
To Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

To Thee, my God above,
I cry with glowing love,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The fairest graces spring
In hearts that ever sing,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

When sleep her balm denies,
My silent spirit sighs,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
When evil thoughts molest,
With this I shield my breast,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

The night becomes as day,
When from the heart we say,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The powers of darkness fear,
When this sweet chant they hear,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Be this, while life is mine,
My canticle divine,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this th’ eternal song
Through all the ages long,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

From Alexandra K. Bush
Ooh, Baby, It’s a Wild World

From The Living Room
[i can’t think of a title for this one]

(based on Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Romans 10:8-9)

Let all God’s people hear
The Lord, He is our God
Let all God’s people hear
The Lord our God is one

And may we love the Lord our God
With all our heart and all our soul
So may we love the Lord our God
With all our mind and all our strength

So bind Your Word upon our hearts
That we might walk in all Your ways
So form Your truth around our lives
That we might love You
That we might love You

Let all God’s people say
The Word is near to us
Let all God’s people say
He made His home with us

So we confess with our mouths
That Jesus Christ is Lord
And we believe in our hearts
That God raised Him from the dead

From Alexandra K. Bush
Mo and the New Graduate

From The Living Room
for you and for your children

I don’t remember the day of my baptism.

I don’t remember much of my childhood–
not in the usual way, that you just forget
as the years and days get scattered behind
you like breadcrumbs leading to the present.
No, I remember my childhood as a form full of blanks
that were never filled in–one day passed over
to lead to another.

So I don’t remember being dipped underneath the
water, white-robed, little girl, nose held,
immersed for half a second in the chaos of death
before being pulled back into light and life.

Somebody once told me that the correct answer
to the question “when did you get saved?”
is “2000 years ago in Jerusalem”
or “before the creation of the world happened.”

I don’t remember.

But I don’t really need to.

From Alexandra K. Bush
What is Your Family Theme Song?

Music is as integral to me as my own DNA. My life has become a continual soundtrack, with music underscoring the most powerful and even the most banal moments of my life.


The soundtrack of our lives, the music in our DNA. . .  I believe music woven through our lives rings true to the human experience.


The truth of this has meant we identified family “theme songs” which characterized different eras of our family’s life.


As a young couple with little kids scratching out a living in the middle of nowhere West Texas, we really felt we were “you and me against the world.”  Simple life, lots of work, so much love. The best Valentine’s Day ever was indulging in ordering pizza with the kids. Then the radio played  I’ll Stop the World and Melt with You and we danced in each other’s arms on the back porch.


When we were in Ukraine with a church-planting team, we had a houseful of preschool/kindergarten boys who militantly sang Lead On O King Eternal. My daily life seemed like I was “rallying the troops” for homeschooling, meals, outings, clean up. The hymn fit our life.


The boys got older, we moved to the US, and they had their first year in a traditional school. It wasn’t a bad year, but it wasn’t for us. The next year, Hubby was in grad school, homeschooling the kids, and talking to them about Foucault while making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I was working.  We felt like we were bucking the system again, and weren’t going to be Another Brick in the Wall.


And truthfully, hasn’t that been the anthem of every homeschool family at some time?


Now as we are entering our last year in Nassau, and the crazy process of bidding on our next post is looming, our Foreign Service family theme song has been playing in my head a lot.  We dance around the kitchen, dream about the next place we’ll live, and prepare our hearts for the good-byes here.


“Roam,” the B52s


Fly the great big sky see the great big sea
Kick through continents bustin’ boundaries
Take it hip to hip rock it through the wilderness
Around the world the trip begins with a kiss

Roam if you want to, roam around the world
Roam if you want to, without wings without wheels
Roam if you want to, roam around the world
Roam if you want to, without anything but the love we feel



I’d love to know what your family theme songs have been through the years!  Or, talk to the kids — is there a song they thing “fits” the family best right now?


From The Living Room
stuff I want to do this summer

  • Get to the beach (it’s not the best beach, but it’s our beach, dang it)
  • Get to the MFAH and the Menil and the Contemporary Arts Museum and the Printing Museum
  • Road trip somewhere (maybe Austin or Waco?)
  • Survive the summer reading program season
  • Submit a piece of writing somewhere
  • Try to read 20 books between Memorial Day and Labor Day
  • Go hiking
  • Go on a picnic with friends
  • Go to a show at Miller Outdoor Theatre
  • Get to a farmer’s market at least once a month
  • Start a monthly movie night
  • Do a worship night with my church
  • Buy a popsicle mold
  • Get somewhere dark to go watch the Perseid meteor shower in August

From The Living Room
ascension day: matthew

I keep thinking of the prophet, the words
I heard in synagogue when I was young, before I
Turned traitor and started working for the Romans:
“You ascended on high,
leading a host of captives in your train…”

You have gone where we can’t follow you, not yet anyway,
Just like you said forty-three days ago at supper.
And all of us that you have taken captive
With your truth and with your great affection
Are left here to wait for You to send some sort of help
Our way, to see what happens next.

You gave us one last word before you left, though: We’re
Supposed to leave here eventually, go tell the world
About You, the King of Israel, now ascended to Your rightful throne,
And bring more people into this kingdom You promised.
But I can barely leave this hill, because I keep thinking
That You’ll change Your mind and come back to be with us,
And the weight in my chest tells me, yes, You will,
But not yet.

From The Living Room
right now.

(format stolen from Mighty Girl, who in turn stole it from someone else, I don’t remember who)

Making : A lot of graphics for my work’s Twitter account, because it’s about to be Summer Reading Program time and we are doing a crapload of programs, you guys.

Cooking : Lots of roasted veggies and chicken, because my friend Steph and I are doing a Whole 30 until next Wednesday (I am allergic to all of the things and she gets migraines a lot, and so we’re trying to figure out what food-related things make us feel like crap). I want a bowl of pho and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when this is done. :p

Drinking : Right now, coffee (French roast from HEB, pour over, with coconut milk out of a fantastic Beatles mug I got as a bridesmaid gift a couple of years ago). I also recently discovered Topo Chico Twist of Grapefruit, and you guys. It’s so good. Target also has a brand of LaCroix-ish sparkling water (Simply Balanced, in the blue cans) and the black cherry flavor is magic.

Reading: My Bible reading plan has me in the book of Job, which is coming after a stretch in the minor prophets, so I’ve been immersed in judgment and calls for repentance and now questions of theodicy and God’s righteousness in human suffering. Nice light reading material (ha). I’m also a chapter or so in to both Lectures on Revival by William Sprague (a large influence on Tim Keller’s work on revival and renewal, which is why I picked it up) and The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp.

Trawling: The internet, for a desk (I don’t currently own one; this missive is coming to you from my couch) and for deals on mattresses because mine’s not really working for me. Also, in the near future, resale shops and other places for a new coffee table and dining table.

Wanting: Tickets to Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which are practically impossible to procure these days, but a girl can dream.

Looking: At my feet–I got a foot mask, which is this magical liquid that you let your feet soak in for an hour or so, and after a couple of days all the dead skin will start falling off of your feet. It’s slightly horrifying, because it comes off in giant flakes, so the soles of my feet look a little gnarly right now, but once it’s done my feet are going to look and feel awesome. That being said, I plan to wear shoes with socks in public for the next few days so as not to horrify anyone else.

Deciding: On what fiction I’m going to read next, on where I’m going to go for Labor Day weekend, on whether or not I’m going to Mbird Tyler next winter

Listening: Right now, Give Up by The Postal Service. Been loving a new podcast called The Red Couch, hosted by the rapper Propaganda and his wife Dr. Alma Zaragoza-Petty, and the sermon series another church in town is doing on revival (all of the local Sojourn churches, for you Houstonians).

Buying: I pre-ordered this decal for my laptop recently.

Watching: I’m trying to work my way through the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and catch up on Doctor Who. Also, I’ve somehow never seen The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi and so that’s on the docket for this weekend. (I know, I know.)

Marvelling: It’s late May in Houston and it’s only 70-odd degrees outside, thanks to the rain that came through earlier this week.

Cringing: My dead skin is so gross, you guys.

Needing: To make an appointment with a dentist, my eye doctor, my regular doctor, and my counselor, not necessarily in that order. Also, I should probably get up and make my dinner for tonight at work here in a minute.

Questioning: When my friends’ baby is going to make an appearance–he’s due today and so every text I get I keep expecting it to be his mom or dad saying “WE’RE GOING TO THE HOSPITAL!” He’ll show up when he’s good and ready, I guess, but you know. Also, I’m wondering why in the world I decided to buy so many bananas last night.

Smelling: Method lime + sea salt all-purpose cleaner (I just wiped down my kitchen counters).

Wearing: Jeans + flip-flops + this shirt, although I should probably go change my clothes to something more work-appropriate here in a second

Noticing: That my mouth tastes terrible after that coffee

From The Living Room
*opens can of worms*

Let’s talk about white privilege!

I think part of the problem of discussing white privilege is that it can be easy to misunderstand what folks mean when they use that term; people can be pretty defensive about it based on a misreading of it. The following is what I’ve come up with as a definition, thanks to discussions had with people and listening to other people talk about it.

(By the way, let’s be real here: culturally, I am a white evangelical, even if I am not actually racially so. I am trying to be more aware of my own inherited white privilege, which I realize makes this conversation really weird for me to have. But I’m going to try anyway.)

White privilege does not mean:

  • Every white person has had an easy life.
  • Every white person is rich/comfortable/has not had to work for what they have.
  • People of color want white people to hate themselves and feel guilty for things they didn’t do, or they want them to be eliminated entirely.
  • All white people have intentional personal malice against people of color or don’t have friends or family who are people of color.

White privilege does mean, as far as I understand it:

  • White people in America have, in general, had more systematic advantages and fewer systematic disadvantages than people of color. For example: American white people are more likely to be highly educated and have land and other assets; white people are less likely to be prosecuted for certain crimes than people of color who’ve committed the same crime; media tends to normalize “whiteness” over and above other ethnicities; people of color face prejudice, hostility, violence, and other problems simply because of their race exponentially more frequently than white people do.
  • People of color don’t want to be superior to white people; they want to be equal to white people. And there are still so many ways that they are not seen or treated as such in America.
  • White people need not hate themselves for their privilege, nor even necessarily apologize for it (although of course one ought to repent where repentance is due). God has given them the life He has given them for a reason. What they do need to do is be aware of it and use it to work for justice and the full rights of their fellow citizens. This is especially true of Christians.
  • It is imperative that white Christians, as the party with the most cultural and social power, take it upon themselves to assume a posture of humility and teachability when people of color talk about how they’ve been treated or how they see injustice in our society, instead of ignoring, dismissing, or condescending to them. This is especially the case when what people of color say is uncomfortable or convicting, or even if it does not apply to you personally. Why? This is a way to love your neighbor as yourself–to treat them the way you would want to be treated in their position, to mourn with those that mourn, to be a peacemaker. You may not always agree with them, but you can love and honor them in your disagreement.
  • And it’s also imperative that you take responsibility for educating yourself–watch movies, read books and articles, listen to podcasts. Meet people and get to know them. The folks over at Reformed African American Network are a good jumping-off point.

I know that in these days this kind of thing can seem very political and polarizing, which is a shame; if we’re called to love our neighbors regardless of who they are or what they’ve done, I think that transcends politics. Or maybe it is an alternative politics–over and against the systems of the world, which encourages us to be tribal and alienated from one another, we follow a King whose kingdom embraces people of every color.

So what do y’all think? Would y’all add or correct anything?

From The Living Room
a survey for grownups.

Five jobs you’ve had:
1. Bookseller
2. Circulation desk at a tiny academic library
3. Barista for a Starbucks inside a Target
4. One of the folks who set up shelf layouts and displays for Target
5. Public librarian

Five things that you know you’re good at:
1. Cooking (I mean, I’m not awesome at it, but I make pretty good edible food, so I’ll take that)
2. Writing
3. Learning a piece of music
4. Collecting/remembering information
5. Reading, which seems like a silly thing to put, but advanced literacy is more than just knowing what words are; it’s about understanding, analyzing, and/or applying what you read. I’m pretty good at it (thanks, liberal arts education)

Five things you’re bad at that you probably won’t ever be good at:
1. Math more advanced than very basic algebra
2. Sports that involve good hand-eye coordination
3. Wall sits
4. Not buying books
5. Keeping up with TV shows

Five things you are bad at that you’d like to improve in:
1. Running
2. Being physically strong
3. Managing money
4. Studying the Bible
5. Praying

Five things you do for self-care:
1. Trying to get more than 7 hours of sleep
2. I’ve been trying out mindfulness meditation; it’s not spoopy and it’s helped with my anxiety and short attention span
3. Counseling appointments
4. Aerobic exercise, when I actually get around to it
5. Making time to hang out with other people

Five qualities you’d like in a spouse, or things you like about your spouse:
1. Intelligence without arrogance
2. A good sense of humor
3. Knowledge of his need of Jesus and Jesus’ people
4. Humble courage
5. Good leadership

Five goals for this month:
1. Survive this Whole30 I’m doing with my friend Steph
2. Get back to the gym and run once my body gets adjusted to the Whole30
3. Write at least five blog posts
4. Read four books
5. Get rid of some of my stuff

Five places you want to go:
1. Nashville
2. London
3. Seoul
4. Dublin
5. San Francisco

Five things you’d like to buy soonish:
1. My trash can lid broke, so I need a new one of those
2. New mattress (I bought my current one before I obtained my bed frame, and it’s too shallow for the frame, so I literally have to crawl out of bed in the morning)
3. Some more art for my walls
4. A house (does five years count as soonish?)
5. A new guitar

Five non-social media websites you read a lot:
1. Mashable
2. The Financial Diet
3. Design Sponge
4. The Kid Should See This
5. Book Riot

From The Living Room

1. Book recommendation: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson–it’s about the Great Migration, the movement of millions of African Americans from the South to the North during the 1900s-1970s, as told through the stories of three people and their families. Thorough research, excellent workmanlike prose, and a deep respect and honor for the history and stories of the book’s subjects. It’s a long read, over 500 pages, but it’s worth your time.

2. I can’t stop thinking about something I heard on a podcast a couple of days ago: Calling is where your talents and burdens collide, or: Your calling is where the world’s hunger and your deep gladness meet. It’s gotten me thinking about what those things are for me, and also what my weaknesses are. I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to figure out what my calling is, and it’s still kind of a mystery to me.

3. Funny thing about that, too: I’ve been told by a lot of people that I’d be a good teacher, which is hilarious to me because I feel like a terrible teacher. I’ve taught stuff before, and it’s always a struggle for me, and I feel like I’m rambly and impatient with my students and I’m always casting about for things to say. Maybe I would be good at it if I got more practice and did more preparation. I dunno.

4. Speaking of teaching, I’ve been thinking about what it would take to have a catechism class at my church for both kids and grownups. We’re a Baptist church, so we don’t really do confirmation or anything like that for kids, but I think it’d be helpful in spiritual formation for everybody. I’d probably have to get a guy to co-teach it with me for the sake of propriety (we’re also complementarian) (then again, if I got a married guy to do it, would we be breaking the Billy Graham rule?), but I’d be down for something like that.

5. Not much else going on for me personally. I am thinking of and praying for the family of Jordan Edwards tonight as they’re grieving for a son who lost his life unnecessarily. His siblings saw him die. His parents have lost a child. This is wrong, and I hope the officer who did it comes to repent for it.

Ekemini Uwan raised the good point that everyone’s citing his good grades and good-kid status in order to counter the narrative that these things only happen to thugs or criminals, but even the people with bad records didn’t deserve to die. Why? Because they were made in the image of God and deserved justice and grace. Any narrative that says otherwise is counter to the gospel itself.

6. Much love to all y’all. Later.

From Alexandra K. Bush
Human Effort and Motherhood

“Motherhood is hard work. In our own human effort to build ourselves up and find meaning in our lives, we turn our choices into accomplishments, our children into gold stars that show our worth.”

Kristen Knox Stewart

From Alexandra K. Bush
Mud Pies

From The Living Room
holy saturday: peter’s wife.

I’m worried about him.

John told me what happened the other night–
the curses, the denial, the rooster.
It’s enough to break anyone’s heart.

O LORD, God of my salvation,
I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!

He’s grieving–we are all grieving–
but his grief carries the extra weight of
his shame and guilt, one that no lamb or goat
could wipe out. God knows that he tried that;
he came back yesterday covered in blood
and the smell of incense.

Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.

And my grief is compounded by his, because
I am his wife and I love him, and I don’t know
anything I can do except be here and wait and
be worried. And we are all afraid, not
only because they might come for us next,
but also because we have no idea where God is
right now. Our teacher, our master, our friend
is dead, but more than that: Our would-be
liberator is dead.

You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
my eye grows dim through sorrow.

Some of the women are talking about
going to anoint his body tomorrow morning.
I think I’ll go with them; it’ll be something to do
to distract myself from all this sadness.
And then we all have to figure out what to do
from there. We might go back to Galilee,
go back to being a fisherman and a fisherman’s wife,
see if we can get back our boat from Zebedee,
live a quiet life, shake the authorities off of our backs.

God of our fathers and mothers,
where are you now?

Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you?
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave?