Wednesday, August 31, 2011

John MacArthur's Final Post to YRR's: Keep Reforming

John MacArthur:
I’m grateful for the widespread response this series of blogposts has generated, including all the feedback we have received from people who disagree about certain points. Yes, a few vocal critics have replied with mocking or misrepresentation, as if to illustrate the validity of some of my central concerns. But most of the response we have received (including a lot of the dissent) encourages me—because it comes from young people who seem genuinely thoughtful about the dangers I have tried to highlight, and I trust they are genuinely committed to cultivating a thoroughly biblical worldview.

That being said, I’d like to give a final word of encouragement to my Young, Restless, Reformed friends: Keep reforming.

Semper reformanda (“always reforming”) is one of the enduring slogans often associated with the Protestant Reformation. The origins of the phrase are murky and probably date from the late 1600s. But the kernel of the idea is true enough: Until we are glorified—until we are fully, finally, perfectly conformed to the exact likeness of Christ—we as saints individually, and the whole church collectively, must always be reforming.
Read the whole post.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The 6 Ways You'll See Your Dad as You Grow Up

One abuse of the Lord's name, but other than that, this is dead on and pretty funny.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sanctus Real - Lead Me

I posted this video of the song "Lead Me" by Sanctus Real a while back.

Here's a behind the scenes look at what the song is about.


Kevin DeYoung: The "Gospel of Jesus" vs. The "Gospel of Paul"

A helpful note from Kevin DeYoung for those who want to try and point out inconsistencies between the way Jesus and Paul seemed to understand the gospel:
Jesus: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:12-15).

Paul: “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Some Funny Reaction to the Steve Jobs Announcement

I was saddened to hear yesterday about Steve Jobs resigning at CEO at Apple. That clearly means his health isn't good. I hope stepping back will help prolong things for him and pray he is able to continue doing many of the things he loves.

The overall reaction to the announcement has been interesting, though. Many are forecasting Apple will fall to nothing now that Jobs won't be at the helm, which is pretty funny since that company is clearly filled with talented people and Jobs will still be the chairman of the board. Anyway, some people also decided to have some fun with the announcement as well. Here were a couple of my favorites.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Randy Alcorn - Are Spiritual Disciplines Legalism?

One of the classes I'm taking this semester is "Personal Spiritual Disciplines." We've been looking at the different ways we can "train ourselves for godliness" (1 Timothy 4:7), including prayer, Bible reading, fasting, journaling, etc.

I came across this video from Randy Alcorn today and thought it was helpful in this area.

Our lives need to be centered in Christ. We need to set the bar of standards high, but then depend on the empowering Spirit of God within us to jump that bar. We don’t depend on our own works or on legalism. And we don’t jump the bar because we want to conform to the group, and the group said, “You must live at this level, and you must look this way.” That’s not what the Christian life is about.

But it is about God having standards. Those standards are higher in the New Covenant than they were in the Old Covenant. Jesus said, “You have read ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you, if you look at a woman with lust in your heart, you’ve committed adultery in your heart” (Matt. 5:28). So what did He do? He raised the bar. He didn’t lower it.

I think one of the concepts today is that grace means God has lowered His standards. That’s simply not true. God has raised His standards for the Christian life—but He has empowered us to live that Christian life. And His grace teaches us, as Titus says, to say “no” to ungodliness (Titus 2:12).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Russell Moore on Baptist Closed Communion

Haven't completely processed what I think about this article from Russell Moore about why he believes in the closed nature of communion in the Baptist tradition. I have an immediate emotional response, but I really appreciate the points about how big of a deal communion is and how it's a communal act and not an individual one. What do you think?
A man walked out of my church in protest. I didn’t notice it as it was happening, but he told me about it, in a note, a few weeks later. He was angered that he had been excluded. At first, I feared that maybe he hadn’t been spoken to. In a church this size, that’s certainly a possibility. Or maybe, I wondered, had one of our elderly church members looked askance at his wearing jeans or shorts? Turns out, he wanted the Lord’s Supper, and I’d turned him away.

On the Sunday in question, our visitor had observed my congregation take communion. I had explained the elements, and the act as a sign of the kingdom of Christ. I called the church to repentance from sin, forgiveness of one another, and renewed faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus. Then I’d done what my grandfather’s generation of Baptist preachers called “fencing the table.”

As the bread and the cup were distributed, I announced that, while all were welcome to attend our church, only baptized Christians in good fellowship with a local congregation were invited to commune. Then I defined baptism the way our church does, along with Baptists all over the world, as the immersion of a believer in water as public profession of faith in Christ....

...First of all, open communion usually rests on the all-too-typical Evangelical presumption that the Lord’s Supper really isn’t that important. Communion is, as Flannery O’Connor’s infamous socialite conversation-partner once put it, “a wonderful symbol” but that’s about it. The issue isn’t the event itself, but the insult of the exclusion, in the same way that 1950s and 1960s civil disobedience wasn’t about how great the food was at the Woolworth’s lunch-counter.

Too often in our contemporary Evangelical church culture, the act of barring a member from the table seems quaint or even meaningless. After all, who really cares if he is deprived of a wafer and a splash of grape juice?

Sometimes Christians in other traditions assume that all low-church Protestants take this kind of view, but that’s simply not the case. While disagreeing with the sacerdotal theologies of many of the older traditions, Baptists (before we were to this extent washed up in the riptide of parachurch Evangelicalism) shared with other Christians a common conviction that the Lord’s Table is a place of profound gravity—much more than the kind of “communion” we might have with the Lord and with one another while talking about the Holy Spirit over coffee and doughnuts.

This is why many low-church Protestants have shared historically with their high-church brothers and sisters the conviction that the Supper must be tied to discipline (1 Cor. 5:11). The table is not just an individual reminder of the gospel; it is the very locus of church fellowship, the place where we experience Christ present in proclamation and in one another. It is here that we experience a foretaste of the wedding supper to come, and where we announce those we hold accountable to struggle with us until then. The church is “recognizing the body” of Christ (1 Cor. 11:29) by defining the boundaries of communion at the table in terms of those who are in union with Christ and who are able, should they deny him, to be disciplined.

This is precisely where the closing of the communion table collides with the individualistic grain of much of contemporary American spirituality. If communion is simply an individual act of worship, albeit taken in a crowd, then why wouldn’t any church allow individuals to determine the terms by which they come?
Read the whole article in the latest issue of Touchstone.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Russell Moore on Johnny Cash's "Man in Black" and "Hurt"

Johnny Cash's cover on Nine-Inch Nails' "Hurt" is one of the more powerful and emotional songs I've ever heard. Still gives me chills every time I hear it. On this week's "The Cross and the Jukebox," Russell Moore explores the themes behind Cash's "Man in Black" as well as "Hurt."

You can listen to the podcast at Moore's blog. Here's what Moore says about the episode:
Even those who know next to nothing about Johnny Cash may still know him as “The Man in Black.” Cash sings: “I’d love to wear a rainbow every day / And tell the world that everything’s OK / But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back / ‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.”

In some of his other songs, as well, Cash sings about this dark side of life, of the vacuity of human existence. Perhaps this honesty is what has made him stand out to a youth culture that is nervously aware of death, a growing cadre of kids out there who are frankly bored by Lady Gaga’s latest attempt to shock American sensibilities. What they are shocked by instead is this gravelly-voiced man, telling them, from beyond the grave, what they already suspect—the shallow kingdoms of this age are headed for a stunning collapse.

Particularly relevant to these youth is Cash’s rendition of the song “Hurt,” which was written and originally performed by the band Nine Inch Nails. Cash’s haunting music video for the song features faded film shots of his youthful glory days—complete with the images of friends and colleagues, once at the height of their fame, who are now dead. As the camera pans Cash’s wizened, wrinkled face, he sings about the awful reality of death and the vanity of fame: “What have I become? My sweetest friend / Everyone I know goes away in the end / You could have it all / My empire of dirt / I will let you down, I will make you hurt.”

...Whereas, the Nine Inch Nails delivered “Hurt” as straight nihilism, Cash gives it a twist—ending the video with the scenes of crucifixion, which, for Cash, was (and still is) the only answer to the inevitability of suffering and pain.

The video of “Hurt” communicated exactly what the dying Cash seemed to understand, echoing Solomon of old: wealth, celebrity, fame, all of it is vanity in the maw of the grave. By contrasting images of the young celebrated Cash with images of the old, gasping, arthritic Cash, his “House of Cash” closed down and boarded over, the video turned then to what Cash saw as the only real alternative to his empire of dirt: the cross of Christ Jesus.
Here's the incredibly powerful video for "Hurt."

J.I. Packer: Living on the "Edge of Eternity"

...[T]he Puritans have taught me to see and feel the transitoriness of this life, to think of it, with all its richness, as essentially the gymnasium and dressing-room where we are prepared for heaven, and to regard readiness to die as the first step in learning to live. Here again is an historic Christian emphasis - Patristic, Medieval, Reformational, Puritan, Evangelical - with which the Protestantism that I know has largely lost touch. The Puritans experienced systematic persecution for their faith; what we today think of as the comforts of home were unknown to them; their medicine and surgery were rudimentary; they had no aspirins, tranquillisers, sleeping tablets or anti-depressant pills, just as they had no social security or insurance; in a world in which more than half the adult population died young and more than half the children born died in infancy, disease, distress, discomfort, pain and death were their constant companions. They would have been lost had they not kept their eyes on heaven and known themselves as pilgrims travelling home to the Celestial City. Dr. Johnson is credited with the remark that when a man knows he is going to be hanged in a fortnight it concentrates his mind wonderfully, and in the same way the Puritans' awareness that in the midst of life we are in death, just one step from eternity, gave them a deep seriousness, calm yet passionate, with regard to the business of living that Christians in today's opulent, mollycoddled, earthbound Western world rarely manage to match. Few of us, I think, live daily on the edge of eternity in the conscious way that the Puritans did, and we lose out as a result.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

D.A. Carson: Generational Conflict in Ministry (Themelios)

D.A. Carson is timely and brilliant with his article, Generational Conflict in Ministry, in the latest issue of Themelios. He delves into why younger and older ministers of the gospel have such a hard time communicating sometimes and offers some strategies to help. This was a breath of fresh air given some recent traffic in the blogosphere, and the vision Carson lays out for what the dynamic between generations should look like is beautiful.

I've quoted a pretty big portion below, but take the time to read the whole post. He sets up the context very clearly and fleshes out his strategies as well. Fantastic stuff here.
More recently I spoke at a denominational meeting of ministers in a Western country. Again there was a generational breakdown, cast somewhat differently. The older men had, during the decades of their ministry, combated the old-fashioned liberalism that had threatened their denomination in their youth. Many of them had been converted out of rough backgrounds and subsequently built strong fences around their churches to keep out alcohol and sleaze of every sort. Most of their congregations were aging along with their ministers; only a handful of them were growing. They loved older hymns and patterns of worship. The younger men dressed in jeans, loved corporate worship where the music was at least 95 decibels, were interested in evangelism, and loved to talk to the ecclesiastically disaffected—homosexuals, self-proclaimed atheists, mystically orientated “spiritual” artists. Some were starting Bible studies, fledgling churches, in pubs. This group thought the older men were out of date, too defensive, unable to communicate with people under twenty-five without sounding stuffy and even condescending, much too linear and boring in their thinking, and largely unable to communicate in the digital world (except by emails, already largely dismissed as belonging to the age of dinosaurs), mere traditionalists. The older group thought the younger men were brash, disrespectful, far too enamored with what’s “in” and far too ignorant of a well-integrated theology, frenetic but not deep, energetic but not wise, and more than a little cocky.And in very large measure, both sides were right.

Doubtless there have always been generational conflicts of one sort or another. Arguably, however, in some ways they are becoming worse. There are at least two reasons for this. First, the rate of cultural change has sped up, making it far more difficult for older people to empathize with a world so very different from the one in which they grew up three or four decades earlier, while making it far more difficult for younger people to empathize with a world in which people used typewriters and wired telephones and had never heard of Facebook or Twitter. Second, and far more important, the social dynamics of most Western cultures have been changing dramatically for decades. The Sixties tore huge breaches into the fabric that had united young and old, assigning more and more authority to the young. The cult of youth and health that characterized the Eighties and Nineties, complete with hair transplants and liposuction, along with gated communities for the middle-class elderly and social welfare that meant families did not really have to care for, or even interact much with, the older generation, built a world in which integration across generational lines could be happily avoided. Even the new digital tools that facilitate interaction tend to enable people to link up with very similar people—very much unlike the way the church is supposed to be, bringing together very different redeemed people who have but one thing in common, Jesus Christ and his gospel. 1 Ideally, how should both sides act so as to honor Christ and advance the gospel?

1. Listen to criticism in a non-defensive way. This needs to be done on both sides of the divide. It is easy to label criticism as hostile or non-empathetic and write it off. Nevertheless the path of wisdom is to try to discern what validity the criticism may have and learn from it...

2. Be prepared to ask the question, “What are we doing in our church, especially in our public meetings, that is not mandated by Scripture and that may, however unwittingly, be functioning as a barrier to getting the gospel out?” That question is of course merely another way of probing the extent to which tradition has trumped Scripture...

3. Always focus most attention on the most important things, what Paul calls the matters of first importance—and that means the gospel, with all its rich intertwinings, its focus on Christ and his death and resurrection, its setting people right with God and its power to transform. So when we take a dislike of another’s ministry primarily because he belongs to that other generation, must we not first of all ask whether the man in question heralds the gospel? If so, the most precious kinship already exists and should be nurtured...

4. Work hard at developing and fostering good relations with those from the other generation. This means meeting with them, even if, initially at least, you don’t like them. It means listening patiently, explaining a different point of view with gentleness. It means that the new generation of ministers should be publicly thanking God for the older ministers, praying for them with respect and gratitude; it means that the older generations of ministers should be publicly thanking God for the new generation, seeking to encourage them while publicly praying for them. It means that ideally, disputes should be negotiated in person, winsomely, not by blogposts that are ill-tempered and capable of doing nothing more than ensuring deeper divisions by cheering on one’s supporters. It means shared meals, shared prayer meetings, shared discussions. It means younger men will seek out older men for their wisdom in a plethora of pastorally challenging situations; it means older men will be trying to find out what these younger men are doing effectively and well, and how they see the world and understand their culture in the light of Scripture. It means that younger men will listen carefully in order better to understand the past; it means that older men will listen carefully in order better to understand the present. It means humility of mind and heart, and a passion for the glory of God and the good of others.
Read the entire article at Themelios.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A YRR's Response to MacArthur

Erik Raymond (who was linked in John MacArthur's latest post on the Young, Restless, and Reformed crowd) responds to the way MacArthur has been attacking straw-men in a lot of the posts.
Sometimes unwritten rules are good, other times they are bad.

I recall an important meeting with my pastor several years ago. I was younger, more restless, and, of course Calvinistic. As a former Roman Catholic who had been converted they (along with Arminians) seemed to always be in my cross-hairs. My pastor lovingly took me to task. He talked to me about the danger of creating straw-men and then blowing them over with persuasive arguments. He was pointing out that my treatment of Catholics was a straw-man attack. He introduced me to James White’s books and ministry. As I read and listened to Dr White debate people outside of the tent of orthodox Christianity, I was impressed and instructed by his approach.

Similarly, I think it was Tim Keller who said once, “If your opponent wouldn’t agree with the accuracy of your statement about their beliefs then you should not say it.” This is difficult because, well, it’s hard work. Sometimes you have to tone down the rhetoric in order to be accurate. After all, as a Chrsitian the goal of our instruction is love that issues from a pure heart, and a sincere faith. (1 Tim. 1.5) We want to see people impacted by the Scriptures. We want to see people drawn and conformed to Christ
The whole thing just makes me sad. MacArthur has some legitimate points, but they are being lost amidst the caricatures and demeaning rhetoric of the posts. That's unfortunate. It makes it difficult to pull out what we can learn when it feels like he's not even really talking about us. The areas of actual disagreement seem to be very small.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Al Mohler: Evangelicals and the Gay Moral Revolution

I appreciated this article from Al Mohler:
Since we believe that the Bible is God’s revealed word, we cannot accommodate ourselves to this new morality. We cannot pretend as if we do not know that the Bible clearly teaches that all homosexual acts are sinful, as is all human sexual behavior outside the covenant of marriage. We believe that God has revealed a pattern for human sexuality that not only points the way to holiness, but to true happiness.

Thus we cannot accept the seductive arguments that the liberal churches so readily adopt. The fact that same-sex marriage is a now a legal reality in several states means that we must further stipulate that we are bound by scripture to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman—and nothing else.

We do so knowing that most Americans once shared the same moral assumptions, but that a new world is coming fast. We do not have to read the polls and surveys; all we need to do is to talk to our neighbors or listen to the cultural chatter.

In this most awkward cultural predicament, evangelicals must be excruciatingly clear that we do not speak about the sinfulness of homosexuality as if we have no sin. As a matter of fact, it is precisely because we have come to know ourselves as sinners and of our need for a savior that we have come to faith in Jesus Christ. Our greatest fear is not that homosexuality will be normalized and accepted, but that homosexuals will not come to know of their own need for Christ and the forgiveness of their sins [emphasis added].

This is not a concern that is easily expressed in sound bites. But it is what we truly believe.
Read the whole article.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Owen Strachen: Shame on Us if We Ever Neglect the Unborn

Owen Strachen:

The NYT has just released a heart-rending story about “pregnancy reduction,” a euphemism for selective abortion. Read the whole story here. This is a snatch from the article, which made me sick to my stomach:

As Jenny lay on the obstetrician’s examination table, she was grateful that the ultrasound tech had turned off the overhead screen. She didn’t want to see the two shadows floating inside her. Since making her decision, she had tried hard not to think about them, though she could often think of little else. She was 45 and pregnant after six years of fertility bills, ovulation injections, donor eggs and disappointment — and yet here she was, 14 weeks into her pregnancy, choosing to extinguish one of two healthy fetuses, almost as if having half an abortion. As the doctor inserted the needle into Jenny’s abdomen, aiming at one of the fetuses, Jenny tried not to flinch, caught between intense relief and intense guilt.

Here is the whole piece, entitled “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy,” written by Ruth Padawer (HT: Denny Burk).

Much has been made of the so-called “culture wars” in our day, the fight over social matters that divide America roughly in half. The media decries battles over abortion, gay rights, euthanasia, and other issues, and some evangelicals have joined the chorus, opting to focus primarily on causes that share universal approbation, like fighting sex trafficking. I am all for working to end that heinous practice, but I find the championing of popular cultural causes (and ignoring unpopular ones) a devil’s bargain. Shame on us if we ever turn away from the cause of the unborn. Shame on us if we ever lose the will to stop fighting for the weak and marginalized.

Right now, there are needles “aiming at” helpless, innocent, life-exhibiting fetuses. Shame on us if we turn away from the “shadows floating inside” expectant mothers. In hope borne of trust in a great God, may we work with all our strength in peaceable ways to overturn this great evil. In the process, we seek to extol the glory of Christ, who saves a fallen humanity even as it turns the knife on itself, killing offspring bearing God’s image in order to save money and steward time. Our aims are twofold: to save human lives (the fetus) and to save human souls–the fathers and mothers, lost just like we once were, who opt to kill their children rather than love them.

As powerful as evil seems to be, after all, God’s grace is stronger still.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Something in My Hands I Bring

Paul David Tripp, in Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:17

God doesn't want you to come to Him empty-handed.
No, you can't come to Him full of yourself,
And you can't come to Him based on your track record
And you can't use your performance as a recommendation.
No you can't come to Him based on your family,
Your personality,
Your education,
Your position in life,
The successes you've had,
The possessions you've accumulated,
Or the human acceptance you've gained.
But God requires you to come with your hands full.
He requires you to bring to Him the sweetest of sacrifices,
The sacrifice of words,
He calls you to bring Hosea's offering.
"Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you
And return to the LORD.
Say to Him
'Forgive all our sins
And receive us graciously,
That we may offer our lips as the sacrifice of bulls.'"
God doesn't want you to come to him empty-handed.
He asks of you a sacrifice.
Not a grain offering,
Not a lamb or a bull.
No, that requirement has been satisfied
By the blood of the Lamb.
Yet God asks of you a sacrifice
It is the offering of words,
Words of humility,
Words of honesty,
Words of moral courage,
Words of moral candor,
Words that could only be spoken,
By one who rests in grace.
Words of confession are what you must bring.
Place words,
Free of negotiation or excuse,
On His altar of grace,
And receive forgiveness and cleansing.
Uncover your heart,
Exposed by words, and say:
"We will never again say, 'Our gods'
To what our own hands have made,
For in You the fatherless find compassion."
What David willingly did He requires of you,
Come with words,
It is the way of grace,
It is the way of freedom,
It is the way to God.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

"Daddy, are you happy with me?"

I was in full-on discipline mode. My 2 and ½ year-old son had fixated on what he wanted, and he was willing to whine/cry/yell as much as would be needed to obtain said item. Ever the diligent father, I was faithfully fulfilling my fatherly responsibility to discipline my son and correct his thinking and actions.

Admittedly, my methods weren’t perfect. My volume was raised. My tone was something less-than-loving. More than a little anger propelled my words in addition to my genuine concern for his heart. Nonetheless, I was determined to say what needed to be said and help my son see his error.

I sat him on the edge of the bed to explain what he had done and why I would need to discipline him. It was then that he looked up at me with his big eyes, and with more sincerity than I’d ever seen from him, Seth asked me a simple question:

“Daddy, are you happy with me?”

Sometimes God speaks so clearly through my son’s 2-year-old mouth.

Seth has given me multiple object lessons about my relationship with God over the past few years, but I don’t think there have been any as clear as that. He’s hardly able to even comprehend a lot of what he takes in from the world, but he already knows that he desperately desires his father’s approval, and he’s already scared (at least to some extent) that he doesn’t have it.

I will freely confess to some of this doubt being attributable to my sins as his father. I’m prone to anger and don’t always handle his immaturity with the patience and grace I wish I did. But there’s a profound truth behind his statement as well. After all, don’t we often pray the same thing, albeit in different words, to our Father in heaven?

Don’t we have times where we sin, or when we rightly feel Him disciplining us in love and say in effect, “Father, are you happy with me? Are you really pleased with me?” He is a perfect Father, so this doubt is entirely attributable to us, our insecurities, and our failures. We look at our lives, our constant inability to live up to God’s standards, and our circumstances, and think, He’s mad at me. He can’t possibly love me.

And if that love was based on our performance as believers, we’d be right.


Because of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, God doesn’t see us the way we sometimes do. We have been justified. Though our specific actions don't always please Him and may incur loving discipline aimed at repentance, by faith we have been clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ. His perfect life is credited to us. There is no longer any condemnation. We truly are perfect in him. That imputed righteousness allows God to look at us and always say, “I’m pleased with you, my son.”

Imperfect father though I am, I’m attempting to reassure my son that although I might not be happy with his actions and will discipline him for his good, I will always be happy with him. More importantly, though, I want him to know that through Jesus, he (and I) can experience the ultimate approval of our heavenly Father. He truly is pleased with us.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Review: Randy Alcorn - Courageous

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Tyndale
Publication Date: August 1 2011

Alex and Stephen Kendrick (Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof) are back with their next sermon/story in Courageous, which follows a group of policemen in Albany, GA as they learn what it really means to be fathers. Based on the screenplay by the Kendrick brothers, Randy Alcorn’s novelization delves into more characters, subplots, and backstory than the movie (although since the movie isn’t out yet, I’m not sure what’s new).

I’ve been a fan of Alcorn’s fiction (and his non-fiction) for a while. Books like Safely Home, Deadline, and Lord Foulgrin’s Letters are some of my favorite novels. He has a knack for describing situations, actions, and the thoughts of his characters in such a way that really reveals how their worldviews are affecting what they say and do. He understands how non-believers think and paints realistic portrayals of their motivations. He’s also very good at tugging on your heartstrings when needed.

These strengths are on display in this book. Delving into issues of fatherlessness, neglect, and apathy, the story’s numerous subplots examine many different situations and how fathers can and should handle them. There’s a subplot with a young man and a gang situation that shows why many urban youth turn to that as a source of pride and stability. Alcorn’s interjects his narrative of the thoughts of the characters over the screenplay’s occasionally stilted dialogue to bring out what’s really going on with them. I wonder how much of that will come through in the movie version.

As with Fireproof’s “Love Dare,” there’s a plot device built in that’s sure to lead to a follow-up marketing effort with Christian bookstores. The men in the story commit to a “Resolution,” a series of promises to God and their families to fulfill their roles as husbands and fathers. The text itself is very biblical, and essentially a paraphrase of the passages in scripture aimed at those roles. While the ceremony to sign the Resolution comes off a bit corny in the book, it would be fantastic to see more Christian men take their roles seriously and truly commit to these words as they serve their families.

I’ve enjoyed the movies for Facing the Giants and Fireproof, not because they are great art, but because it’s enjoyable to see a movie made from the worldview you hold, despite its drawbacks. There’s been a noticeable increase in the quality with each movie, and I’m hoping that continues with Courageous. If they are able to capture the overall feel of Alcorn’s adaptation in this novel, it will be an enjoyable (and emotional) yet experience for many people. I felt very challenged as a father reading this book, yet thankful for that role as well.

There’s a fatherless generation growing up around us, both those who have been physically abandoned and those who’ve been left emotionally. While there are probably works that deal with these issues with a little more nuance than this story, there are few likely to have the widespread impact this can have. I’m thankful for what the Kendrick brothers and the people at Sherwood Church are doing, and I’m thankful they partnered with a talented author like Randy Alcorn for the book version.

This book was provided for review by Tyndale in exchange for a review. No expectation of a positive review existed.

Making God's Word Your "Thing"

Piper, Carson, and Keller wrap up their conversation on preaching and come back to keeping the main thing the main thing. So much wisdom here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New from Matt Papa: This Changes Everything

You can download the new album at iTunes now and at Amazon starting August 16th. Here's a video of Matt talking about the heart behind the new album:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New Mat Kearney Album Out Today: Young Love

I've been a fan of Mat Kearney for a while now. I really enjoyed Nothing Left to Lose and unlike some I liked the different direction he took with City of Black and White (although I missed some of the elements from the first album). Now, Mat is back with Young Love, and I'm loving it. It takes elements from both albums and mixes them really well. There are some great beats on this album, but the songwriting and lyrics really shine through (especially songs like "Down" and the very poignant "Rochester").

I highly recommend the album, which is only $5.99 at Amazon. You won't be disappointed.

Here's my favorite song off the album, "Down."

Monday, August 1, 2011

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