Welcome to “Links I Like,” a weekly roundup of news, stories, and links that have impacted me throughout the past week. Enjoy!
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A Youth Pastor’s Worst Mistake
The sometimes-maligned position of the youth pastor is, perhaps, one of the most integral parts of a church’s survival. I say that not because I am one and I’m ensuring job security. I say that because the youth pastor or youth leader is particularly primed and positioned to speak to the incumbent generation, right where they. Even if your local church doesn’t have a full-time youth pastor, the speaker who commonly speaks to the teenagers of your congregation has one of the most vital jobs in the church to impart sound gospel truths to those who would otherwise get their truth from a million or so different sources. One of the most common questions among young people goes back to assurance. “How do I know God’s will?” “How do I know who to marry?” “How do I know what college to pick?” “How do I know what to major in?” Or, even more fundamentally, “How do I know I’m saved?” Questions like these and the myriad other forms it takes make it essential for any speaker with an audience of teens to hearken back to the reformational doctrines of assurance. This means, as with any other ministry, the unadulterated gospel of grace must take preeminence. Great stuff from Obbie here. continue reading→
Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?
Perhaps the oldest question that has plagued Christians is “Why do believers suffer and unbelievers prosper?” It seems as though the world is tilted against Christianity and that pledging your life in the service of Lord equates to a life of suffering. (And that’s true.) But why? Why would God allow His people to suffer and His enemies to (seemingly) prosper? Why would sinners reap the benefits of the Father’s goodness when His saints are continually dealt the short stick? This doesn’t seem like the actions of a loving, benevolent God, does it? These sorts of questions trouble us and torture us to no end. The psalmist was, likewise, afflicted with such questioning of His Lord. But, as Chad Bird rightly says, this is the wrong line of questioning. “We ask the wrong questions. Instead of Why, let’s ask Where? As in: where is God for us? Where is God showing us he loves us? Where is God when we need him? Where is there proof that he will care for us even when bad things happen?” continue reading→
Things Can Change, Pt. 2
One of the hardest parts of the gospel is also its most fundamental aspect: its freeness. The freeness of the gospel of grace makes it what it is. If there were any sense of earning or deserving in there, it’d no longer be the gospel. But this freeness is also what makes it so hard to believe, not only for ourselves but for others. We find it so difficult to comprehend that this guy can be redeemed and that girl can be reclaimed by God, especially after what they did. The sad irony of those who trust in Christ’s gospel is that they can oftentimes disbelieve for others the very thing that they lay claim to themselves, which is, the absolute and infinite freeness of the gospel of God’s grace. The truth is, this good news is unstoppable. Nothing can thwart Jesus’s mission of restoration. “He came to show us that our evil is no match for His goodness, our darkness is no match for His light . . . our atrocity is no match for His grace.” Another fantastic piece from the folks of The Gospel Economist. continue reading→
#3 Faith And Then Faithfulness — Sola Christus (Christ Alone)
One of the most common and most devastating misconceptions in all of Christendom is the misconstruing of faith and faithfulness. The reality is that faith itself doesn’t save. To focus solely on “faith” is to bank on one’s own faithfulness. And that’s never the goal. It’s not faith itself but the object of faith that saves. The only reason why your faith saves is if it’s in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ for you. “The faith that saves is in Christ alone, Sola Christus.” This is a helpful article from Byron Yawn on this ever-important distinction. continue reading→
Plato? Aristotle? Galatians? Morons.
The apostle Paul was never one to mince words. He never beat around the bush when it came time for the truth. Rather, he was blunt and quick and, sometimes, quite abrasive with his language. The fiery missionary employed fervent language throughout his epistles, but, perhaps, nowhere more strongly than when he says, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Gal. 3:1). Basically, “You stupid morons! How can you be so gullible? How can you be so quick to disbelieve the very thing that I preached to you?” That message was the gospel of free grace, apart from man’s intervention. They had gone from trusting in a Person to trusting in their performances for their assurance. The had minimized the law and maximized their ability. And in the process, they lost the gospel. “The good news of the gospel is that God didn’t save you by His Spirit and then leave you to reform your own heart by your sweat.” Excellent read from Paul Dunk. continue reading→
Of all the characters in the Bible, perhaps my favorite is the apostle Peter. This is probably true for many Christians. He’s the most identifiable of the disciples. He talks the most and is the most relatable. There’s a lot of Peter in all of us. But for all that we love about Peter, he’s just a broken man like the rest of us, one who battled for his soul . . . and lost. On the night before Christ’s crucifixion, Peter denied his Lord three times, just as predicted. In his own power, he was impotent against the forces of sin. But, as Jesus shows, that’s the point. His cross was the death-knell for the powers of darkness. And on that cross, Jesus died both a universal and a personal death. He both paid for the sins of the world and for the sins of individuals. As Christ was nailed to the cross, so was your name. Great reflection from Steve Brown. continue reading→
Stop Speaking Gospelish
It’s so easy to talk about the gospel without it being real in your life. I know because I did it for many years. Growing up a pastor’s kid, in the church all the time, made it seem easy to appear gospel-fluent. But in actuality, I was gospel-dry — no, gospel-dead. I could use the lingo but it had no meaning for me. I could form sentences that sounded gospelish but they contained no true resurrection truth. I fear the same can be said of many so-called Christians nowadays. They can sound knowledgeable without any real knowledge of the gospel at all. It’s time to — really, honestly — get gospel-fluent. Such is the aim of Jeff Vanderstelt’s Gospel Fluency. And after reading J. A. Medders’ sublime review, I, too, can’t wait to read this latest addition to the bookshelf. “Gospel Fluency is the book we didn’t know we were missing from the gospel-centered canon.” continue reading→
Helm’s Deep: How To Film An Epic Battle
It’s hard to believe — and it’s the thing that makes me feel really old — but we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of Peter Jackson’s the Lord of the Rings. His remarkable adaptations of Tolkien’s treasured masterpiece is a masterpiece in its own right. As a whole, Jackson’s three films comprise one of the greatest, if not the greatest achievement in cinema history. The movies and the books will stand the test of time, and long after the comic-book craze has ended, the Lord of the Rings trilogy will remain an intrepid memorial to film as it should be. And, as Evan Puschak expounds, one needs only to revisit the climactic battle scene from The Two Towers to get all the evidence one needs to this end. Great essay here.
Song of the Week
“Sinking Deep” by Hillsong Young & Free.