The Daily Discovery (January 5, 2017)

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Does Sermon Prep Get Easier? – “The right kind of experience is always a good thing. We have all known what it is to try something for the first time and to feel like we’re all thumbs. Then, with a little practice, whatever it was that seemed so difficult becomes second nature. Is it like that with sermon preparation? Can I expect that the longer I preach, and the more times that I prepare sermons, the easier it will become to be ready by Sunday? I would answer, yes and no.”

Anger is Learned – “Early this morning I finished reading the most recent book from David Powlison on the subject of anger. I’ve been tackling a small section with each of my devotions and ab-so-lute-ly loved the journey. Dr. Powlison is the executive director of the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF). He had worked for four years in psychiatric hospitals, during which time he came to faith in Christ; he is a former pastor with over thirty years of counseling experience.”

Book Review: Reviving New England. (Why Women Ministry Leaders Should Read This Book) – “Early in 2016 I was introduced to Nate Pickowicz via a viral Facebook post that included a ‘heresy’ stamp. Someone had made a book stamp for him that read ‘Heretical: For Research Purposes Only.’ I loved it! But I had no idea who Nate Pickowicz was.”

Gospel Artists, Please, Pick a Side! – “Have you heard the one about the Civil War soldier who couldn’t decide whether he wanted to fight with the Union or the Confederates? So he wore Confederate gray pants and a Union blue jacket to war. And he was shot by both sides! I imagine this is how Gospel Music artists often feel. Many Gospel artists feel their gifts and work are unappreciated by the church and disrespected by the world. They really don’t know which side to fight for. But, with all due respect, this local pastor and passionate fan begs you to pick a side!”

One Small Step for DNA, One Giant Leap for Man’s Brain – “Scientists, led by Max Planck Institute’s Wieland Huttner, have identified a gene that triggers a human embryo to grow the vast supply of brain cells that largely forms the foundation for our braininess. The same gene is found in modern humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans. Called ARHGAP11B, Huttner says this is ‘the first human-specific gene where we could show that it contributes to the pool of basal brain stem cells and can trigger a folding of the neocortex. In that way, we managed to take the next step in tracing evolution.'”

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The Daily Discovery (January 4, 2017)

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Evangelicals should be deeply troubled by Donald Trump’s attempt to mainstream heresy – “Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration will include Paula White and possibly other members of his inner circle, Darrell Scott, ‘Apostle’ Wayne T. Jackson and Mark Burns. They’re all televangelists who hail from the ‘prosperity gospel’ camp. They advocate a brand of Pentecostal Christianity known as Word of Faith. Inaugurations are always curious rituals of American civil religion. It would not be surprising to see a non-Christian religious leader participating. But what’s problematic for me as an evangelical is how Trump’s ceremony is helping to mainstream this heretical movement.”

Christian Celebrity Culture and Shot Glass Communities – “2016 has revealed a lot of problems with the Christian celebrity culture. There have been big names that have fallen, treasured orthodox doctrines downplayed and distorted, and many people and churches terribly hurt. Those who warn about this culture, about the ignored or overlooked issues, and even the suppression of abuses within it, are often dismissed because of their tone or accused of overreacting. One popular response to the lament of celebrity culture in evangelical and Reformed communities is an acknowledgement of its prevalence, but with a ‘What can you do?’ shrug. We’re always going to have a celebrity culture. We are.”

2017: A Year of Digital Detox – “Digital technology has punctured every part of our being and is slowly psssssssing the life out of us. That’s why I’m asking you to join me in making 2017 a year of detoxification, a process  often used to systematically and safely withdraw people from addicting substances. I’m utterly convinced that vast numbers of Christians are dangerously addicted to digital technology. It has way too big a place in our lives and it’s not just damaging us; it’s destroying us.”

Taking Back Christianese #7: “America is a Christian Nation” – “In any election year (especially one as tumultuous and exhausting as 2016), there will be claims and counter-claims about what values and principles should guide the United States of America. And such debates inevitably lead to appeals to the history and heritage of our country.  What principles guided the founding fathers?  Were the founding fathers Christians?  Were the founding documents Christian in nature? Thus we come to the next phrase in our ‘Taking Back Christianese’ series: ‘America is a Christian nation.’ Our purpose in this post (as in all the posts in this series) is simply to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this phrase.  We will do this by asking three questions:  (1) Why do people use this phrase?  (2) What is correct or helpful about this phrase?  and (3) What is problematic about this phrase?”

Reveling in Wrath – “It was one of the darkest chapters in Jewish history. Zedekiah had chosen to rebel against his Babylonian overlords, and King Nebuchadnezzar’s retribution was swift and sure. He besieged Jerusalem and captured it. He burned the temple, he burned the king’s palace, he burned all the mighty houses. He broke down the walls and left the city bereft and defenseless. He didn’t stop there. He also drove off 10,000 of the city’s most prominent citizens, leaving behind only the lowest, the poorest. We can well imagine the pain and sorrow as these men, women, and children trudged from their native land, their Promised Land, to foreign captivity. The deepest pain of all must have been knowing this captivity was God’s judgment on them for their rebellion. No wonder they soon sang songs like this…”

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The Daily Discovery (January 3, 2017)

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John MacArthur’s Ten Crucial Lessons We Must Teach our Children – “Recently as I was reading John Macarthur’s book Brave Dad, I found a section in which He gives ‘Ten Crucial Lessons Every Father Should Teach’. Obviously, MacArthur is known for his expository, verse by verse teaching. But sitting under his preaching for almost ten years I always loved his ‘lists’ many he came up with while sitting at a restaurant writing on napkins. Obviously, it wasn’t the bread and butter of his ministry, neither should it have been, but when you’ve preached through the whole New Testament and know the entire Bible so well, you are bound to see patterns in Scripture and are able to come up with lists like these.”

Ten Reminders for Preachers – “Here are ten reminders for those who preach and teach the Word of God, as articulated by some of history’s greatest preachers.”

Reading the Bible Prayerfully – “Happy New Year, dear reader! It’s that time of year where we all make commitments that we know we’ll never keep. I’m only kidding of course (sort of!). Although there is nothing inherently different about the beginning of a new year from any time throughout the rest of the year, the turn of a new year is a good opportunity to re-evaluate the direction of our lives, reset our priorities, and even make some reasonable commitments to pursue growth in the coming year.”

Rethinking the Order of Worship in 2017 – “Recently in our elders’ meeting, we discussed the need to rethink and restructure our order of worship early in 2017. What’s the reason for such a move by the pastors within our church? The goal is to craft the most healthy worship service that makes the best use of the time given to us each week. As we rethink the restructuring of our order of worship, certainly this must be approached with care and doctrinal precision. Some things are certainly optional elements, but other things must never be tampered with. Front and center is the idea that our worship must be God-centered, Christ-exalting, and built upon the firm foundation of God’s sufficient Word. When was the last time you honestly looked at what’s included in your worship service? Why are specific elements included, or in some cases why are some elements excluded?”

The Vine Project – “The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne was a surprise bestseller. Coming from a small Australian publisher, it made its way into Mark Dever’s hands and he declared it ‘the best book I’ve read on the nature of church ministry.’ The rest, as they say, is history. Pastors and church leaders were introduced to its helpful illustration of the vine and the trellis: the vine representing gospel ministry that reaches and nourishes people, and the trellis representing the framework or structure necessary to support and sustain such ministry. ‘The problem which T&V tried to name, and which struck a chord with many of its readers, is that it is very possible for a church to be busy and active, and to have all the usual programs and apparatus of church life in place, but for the basic common task of disciple-making through the prayerful speaking of the word of God to have drifted to the margins. It is very possible to have a well-built, well-maintained trellis on which a bedraggled vine is struggling to grow.'”

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The Daily Discovery (December 29, 2016)

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Top Ten Blog Posts of 2016 – “A couple of years ago, I reorganized my blogging schedule to be more intentional about how, when, and why I publish articles on my blog. As a pastor, I want to use this blog to benefit to the church I serve, and I want to use the blog to address issues within the evangelical church as a whole. As the year comes to a close, I enjoy looking back at the last 12-months to see what articles were the most read and perhaps why they were the most read articles of the year. In some cases, it’s obvious. In other cases, it reveals problems or praises or patterns that may be present within the church culture today.”

Borrowed Conviction – “It has happened a few times before. It happened again recently. Someone without a good church gets in touch, referred by a mutual friend. Or someone drops an email asking for advice. Or there is a conversation at a conference with someone who has come looking for help, counsel, refuge. Somewhere along the way, I ask about their convictions. I ask about their home church, if they have one. It helps me. It helps them. If I am to walk carefully, act wisely, tread on no toes, be of any assistance, it is useful to know what they actually believe and where they belong. And so I ask.”

Pro-lifers look forward to 2017 – “Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, didn’t think things could get worse in 2016. First came the landmark 5-3 decision in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, where the U.S. Supreme Court struck down safety measures adopted by Texas state lawmakers to regulate abortion centers. The decision in late June represented a major blow to pro-lifers who hoped a different outcome would have ramped up safety standards nationwide and reduced the number of abortions.”

A Pediatrician Just Laid Out How to Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse—And She’s Begging You to Listen – “Recently, a good friend of mine shared a Facebook post by one of her friends, who happens to be a pediatrician. The post was on something that should be of interest to ALL parents: child sexual abuse; specifically, when it happens, where it happens, and WHO victimizes our kids and how to talk to your kids about it and PREVENT it.”

It’s Not about Reading to Read – “Reading through your Bible has become a year-end advertisement, resolution, and chore list. I would like to encourage you not to not do it. This may seem like an odd request, but I want to drive past the activity and look at the heart. I don’t want you to grab a plan, make plans, and follow through with those plans so you can say you read through your Bible.”

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The Daily Discovery (December 28, 2016)

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Three Reasons Why You Should Read the Whole Bible in 2017 – “Throughout 2017, we will remember the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It was during the dark days of the sixteenth century that the light of God’s Word came bursting forth from the dungeons of the Roman Catholic Church. Each year at the end of December, many people choose a reading plan for the upcoming year only to find themselves failing to keep pace as the weeks pass. It may surprise you to know how many people in your church have not read the entire Bible. This year would be a wonderful time to read the whole Bible. Consider these three important reasons why you should read the whole Bible in 2017.”

Sex on the Silver Screen – Outsourcing Depravity – “once read a memoir by a man who, as a teen, had been a Shabbos goy. A Shabbos goy is a non-Jew who performs some of the Sabbath-day functions that that are forbidden to the devout. Traditionally, a Shabbos goy would extinguish candles and lights, or he would stoke up a fire on a cold Sabbath morning, all actions considered work by strict interpretations of Jewish law. But since those regulations pertain only to Jews, some would hire Gentiles as a means of circumventing the law. The primary task of this young man was to sit in an elevator and push the buttons. Pushing buttons involves closing an electrical circuit and this was considered a violation of the Sabbath within that community. They outsourced the work to him.”

“And Them that Mourn” — Celebrating Christmas in the Face of Sorrow – “Families across the Christian world are gathering for Christmas even now, with caravans of cars and planeloads of passengers headed to hearth and home. Christmas comes once again, filled with the joy, expectation, and sentiment of the season. It is a time for children, who fill homes with energy, excitement, and sheer joy. And it is a time for the aged, who cherish Christmas memories drawn from decades of Christmas celebrations. Even in an age of mobility, families do their best to gather as extended clans, drawn by the call of Christmas.”

Do More Better in 2017 – “With a new year approaching, many of us are considering how we can make the most of the opportunities it will bring. Many of us are considering how we can actually generate opportunities that will help us make the most of 2017. I have invested a lot of effort into defining and pursuing productivity through a Christian lens and want to offer a couple of options that may help you. I believe you will find them helpful whether you are a student or a professional, a work-from-home dad or a stay-at-home mom. I am confident they will help you learn to structure your life to do the most good unto the glory of God.”

Shepherds and Self-Awareness – “When ministers and elders gather together, it is usual for them share their ministry burdens with each other. The calling of a minister of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is high and hard; the weightiness of the calling and the sufferings experienced in it give us the need to discreetly share some criticisms we endure, oppositions we face, and brokenness we encounter. We are usually acutely aware of how these contribute to our own suffering.”

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The Daily Discovery (December 27, 2016)

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7 Questions for Andy Stanley on the Virgin Birth – “In a shocking and unsurprising turn, Andy Stanley says the virgin birth of Jesus isn’t a big deal. Two direct quotes from Stanley…”

Book Review: The Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson – “Frankly, the book is so honest, so direct, so revealing, that I couldn’t put it down. I found myself hunched over, highlighter in hand, repeating phrases like, “Yes!” and “Thank you” and “Spot on!” In the end, I can only conclude that this may be one of the most important Christian books in print today. Here’s why…”

5 Best Books I Read in 2016 – “Here’s a list of the five best books I read in 2016. By best, I do not mean I agree with everything in the books. Rather, I mean, I found the books thought provoking and helpful in stimulating my own thinking. Not all of the books were published in 2016 but I read each volume for the first time in 2016. The books will be listed alphabetically.”

My Top 10 Bloggers of 2016 – “I love blogs. I followed hundreds of them this year, scanned tens of thousands of their headlines, and read thousands of their articles. They were a great blessing to me and today I want to pause to honor a few. I want to share my top 10 blogs and bloggers of 2016 and also tell you about my favorite 2016 debut.”

How Will You Run Your Race This Coming Year? – “It was May 6th, 1954, and a miler named Roger Bannister became the first human to ever have run a mile recorded in under four minutes. That world record lasted only six weeks, when an Australian, named John Landy, beat his record by more than a second. The rivalry was not over though, as the Empire Games were scheduled for August of the same year, and Landy and Bannister were set to square off in one of the most anticipated races in history.”

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The Daily Discovery (December 23, 2016)

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What Really Happened in North Carolina with LGBT Activists and the Bathroom Bill – “Did the North Carolina legislature do the right thing by refusing to repeal HB2 after the Charlotte City Council voted 9-0 to repeal the controversial bill that started the whole firestorm? Or did the Republican-led NC Senate miss a great opportunity to remove the stigma surrounding the state and do a major reset? When all things are considered, these legislators did the only thing they could do if they were to be faithful to their convictions and their conscience. Before I explain why, allow me to give a brief recap.”

10 Ideas and 10 Tips for Family Devotions in 2017 – “With a new year dawning, many Christian families will resolve to approach family devotions with greater faithfulness in the year ahead, or perhaps even to begin family devotions for the first time. These are great resolutions! Here are 10 ideas and 10 tips that may help.”

The Most Graphic Messianic Prophecy – “The 22nd Psalm is often left out of Messianic prophecies, yet it is stark and graphic in its fulfillment. This is Jesus on the cross completing the mission for which He was sent to earth, for it describes how He redeemed Mankind. This is an amazing Psalm, one of agony, desperation… and victory. It is entirely fulfilled in the crucifixion of Jesus, and it contains details of what the crucified person endures before they die, that are amazing. These details are amazing even if the Psalmist had known about crucifixion when he wrote this. When you consider the fact that the Psalm was written about 700 years before crucifixion was even known, the details are not only amazing; they are prophetic.”

What’s in Your Crèche This Christmas? – “A crèche is a manger scene, a nativity, which many people display at Christmas. What’s in your crèche’s manger this Christmas? Does your nativity scene remind you and those who visit your home that God sent a Savior to redeem us from our sins? Jesus did enter this world as a baby—just like the infant depicted in most manger scenes. However, the crèche does not display our Savior’s astounding résumé. Before the Spirit of God conceived His humanity within Mary’s womb, Jesus qualified uniquely to be our Lord and our Redeemer.”

The remarkable woman behind “In the Bleak Midwinter” – “Last year, Karen Swallow Prior had a fascinating piece at TGC about the author of ‘In the Bleak Mid-Winter.’ Her name is Christina Rossetti (1830–1894), and Prior writes that she was a woman of ‘deep Christian conviction.’ Prior concludes…”

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Book Review: The Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson

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Jared C. Wilson has written the book I’ve wanted to write for 10 years, but didn’t know where to begin. The problem is so large, so complicated, so involved, with too many emotions woven into it. For me, I’ve struggled with frustration, bitterness, sorrow, even despair over what I experienced, as well as with what I know countless other Christians have experienced—being chewed through the gears of the seeker/attractional church movement. Wilson faces this giant head-on in The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo.

Frankly, the book is so honest, so direct, so revealing, that I couldn’t put it down. I found myself hunched over, highlighter in hand, repeating phrases like, “Yes!” and “Thank you” and “Spot on!” In the end, I can only conclude that this may be one of the most important Christian books in print today.

Here’s why—

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The Daily Discovery (December 22, 2016)

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The Forever-Exalted Christ – “We shouldn’t be deceived by the size and seeming vulnerability of the baby in the manger. Jesus Christ is the creator and ruler of the entire universe—and His incarnation didn’t alter that. Even in His infancy, He was supreme to everything else, in every possible way. That’s the central thesis of the book of Hebrews. In the opening verses of that epistle, the writer outlines seven facets of Christ’s preeminence in his opening statement…”

Why I’m Not Dreaming of a White Christmas – “Now’s about the time when Christmas-lovers and snow-enthusiasts around the country start checking the 5-day weather forecast, united in their hope that Christmas Day will be marked by a freshly fallen snow. I should know — I married a snow-lover. I can still remember the sparks of excitement and the impromptu dances at windows and screen doors every few years as Cindi and our like-minded kids have made that happiest of realizations — that snow has fallen silently over the night before Christmas.”

Why the Jewish Messiah is the Most Important Individual in History – “What Christmas commemorates is big for many reasons. With the incarnation comes the Savior. For those who repent, there is justification, adoption, redemption, reconciliation, regeneration, sanctification, and, one day, glorification. But if we back up a bit, with the incarnation, there is the arrival of the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. It’s difficult for a 21st century audience to appreciate the century-long yearning which the Hebrews had for the Messiah’s arrival. But why? What is the significance of the Jewish Messiah?”

The Observation of the Birth of Christ, the Duty of all Christians – “In the 1700’s, the celebration of Christmas by evangelicals was still controversial. It was banned by law in parts of the United States (the day was associated with revelry by some, and by others it was inextricably connected to the Catholic Mass). Puritans tended to eschew it simply because of the mas part of Christmas, and history seemed to be moving away from the notion of a Christian Christmas.”

Was John Calvin a Hyper-Calvinist? – “Many people claim that John Calvin was against missions and that those who call themselves Calvinists or prescribe to the 5-points of Calvinism are anti-missional in their thinking. Is that true? Does the belief in a robust God who saves spiritually dead sinners create cold hearts and who resist any work of gospel missions among the neighborhoods and the nations?”

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The Daily Discovery (December 21, 2016)

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A Christmas Quiz: How Well Do You Know the Nativity Story? – “How well do you know the nativity story? This short quiz is designed to help you find out! It poses 25 quick questions based on the Bible’s accounts of Jesus’ birth. Take the quiz, share the quiz, enjoy the quiz! Best of all, let the quiz take you to the Bible to read more about this miraculous story.”

The Incarnate Image of God – “At Christmas most of the world sees Jesus as a baby in a manger—nothing more. But considering its innate love for sin and hatred for God, we should not be surprised by that shallow perspective. What ought to concern us is that many believers fall into the same myopic trap around this time of year. Caught up in the trappings and traditions of the season, they quickly lose sight of why we’re celebrating Christ’s birth in the first place. In simple terms, their emphasis on Christ’s infancy blinds them to His supremacy.”

What’s the Very First Time We See a NT Book Used as Scripture? My Article in the Festchrift for Stanley Porter – “Few issues in the study of the NT canon have generated more discussion (and disagreement) than that of the canon’s date. When were Christian writings first regarded as ‘Scripture’? When was the first time we can see that happening?”

Four Things That Will Be Missing from Your Family Christmas Party – “Celebrating Christmas is always a joy for our family. Our children have followed in their parent’s footsteps by enjoying all of the festivities of Christmas. This week will be a full week of parties, family gatherings, gift exchanges, and worship services. As we make our plans for this weekend and next Sunday, all plans revolve around the gathering of our church family. Yes, I know, I’m a pastor, so that’s to be expected—right? Maybe, but I would hope it would be the same if I worked as a mechanic, a car salesman, a doctor, or a lawyer too. Many churches are canceling services on Christmas in order to celebrate Christ’s birth at home. Does it really matter? Does the church do anything that my family can’t do at home?”

Charles Spurgeon’s Love-Hate Relationship With Christmas – “Charles Spurgeon had a love-hate relationship with Christmas. Because of the Roman Catholic influence over Christmas festivities (especially in England at that time) he wasn’t a huge fan of it and went back and forth over encouraging his congregation to celebrate Christmas.”
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