IN THE NEWS:
- Christians are the Most Persecuted Group in the World for Second Year. Perry Chiaramonte writes “The upcoming report from Italian-based Center for Studies on New Religions, determined that 90,000 Christians were killed for their beliefs worldwide last year and nearly a third were at the hands of Islamic extremists like ISIS. Others were killed by state and non-state persecution, including in places like North Korea.
- Faith on the Hill. Aleksandra Sandstrom writes “The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center.”
- Here’s Who Will Pray at Trump Inauguration. Kate Shellnutt writes “Donald Trump has enlisted a larger, more diverse lineup of clergy than usual to pray him into office at his upcoming inauguration ceremony.”
- Supporters Rally to Russell Moore after Trump Criticism. J.C. Derrick writes “A reported backlash against Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore has turned into an outpouring of support for one of President-elect Donald Trump’s leading evangelical critics.”
- Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ Asks What It Really Costs to Follow Jesus. Brett McCracken writes about Martin Scorsese’s new film Silence, starring Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield from Hacksaw Ridge, stating “In stark contrast to the response of the Catholic church to Last Temptation, Scorsese was recently invited to the Vatican to screen Silence and meet Pope Francis.” Check out this related article Meeting Marty Scorsese from Mako Fujimura.
- Good TV Viewing. After hearing about The Crown from several people, we decided to check it out, enjoying some binge-watching over the New Year’s weekend along with the long-awaited new season of Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
- Luther on Trial. Max McLean joins The Eric Metaxas Show to talk about his new off- Broadway play Luther on Trial.
- Golfstat Founder Mark Laesch Stays Positive as Time Runs Out. Mark Laesch was two years ahead of me in high school. I remember watching the lefty point guard direct the varsity basketball team. I was recently saddened to read that he has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Despite that, he maintains a strong faith.
- Members of the Philadelphia Eagles Find Common Ground Through Spiritual Devotion. Tim McManus writes “Five players – linebackers Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, and Kamu Grugier-Hill, and wide receivers Paul Turner and David Watford — were baptized by the team pastor and tight end Trey Burton as approximately 15 Eagles players prayed around them.”
- New ESV.org. I used the ESV (Extra Special Version) version of the Bible. Seriously, Crossway recently launched the new English Standard Version, ESV.org, a completely redesigned version of ESVBible.org, their online platform for reading, studying, and engaging with God’s Word.
- When the Gender Revolution Claims the Children. Denny Burk writes “Many of you have likely seen the special issue of National Geographic dealing with transgenderism. The entire issue—and indeed the feature article—is a case study in one-sided propaganda.”
- The Evangelical Scion Who Stopped Believing. Mark Oppenheimer writes about the apostasy of Bart Campolo, son of pastor and author Tony Campolo.
- Slain in the Shadow of the Almighty. Writing on the 61st anniversary of the death of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Flemming, and Roger Youderian, John Piper writes “Is there anything more freeing, more thrilling, or more strengthening than the truth that God Almighty is your refuge — all day, every day, in all the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of life? Nothing but what he ordains for your good befalls you.”
- Done Before Do. In this two-minute video Bryan Chapell reminds us that God never says, “You obey me and then I’ll love you.” He is always saying, “Because I love you, because I have claimed you and you are mine, now walk in my ways.”
- John MacArthur’s Ten Crucial Lessons We Must Teach our Children. Jordan Standridge writes “MacArthur takes these lessons out of Proverbs 1-10 and though he directs it from fathers to sons, it is obvious that mothers and daughters can benefit from this list as well. He also adds a warning at the end of this section showing how our failure to teach each of these areas gives the devil the opportunity to teach the exact opposite.”
- Critique Gently, Encourage Fiercely. Scott Sauls writes “We can befriend others because this Jesus is our Friend.”
- The Art of Self-Discipline. If you’ve struggled to break a bad habit, create a new healthy one, and do what you need to instead of what you want to, you know how much work it takes to be self-disciplined. But the rewards are worth the fight. In this series, John MacArthur helps you improve every facet of your life—from the spiritual, to the mundane and practical—by showing you how to master The Art of Self-Discipline.
- When a Loved One Goes Home to Jesus. Mark Jones writes “Grief will inevitably strike us, but by God’s grace, sorrow does not have to overcome us. This truth gets to the heart of the Christian faith and offers us insight into the person of Christ, the God-man.”
- No One in Christ Ever Misses Out. Tim Chester writes “I don’t have to experience everything in this life because I have a next life, eternal life. If I commit myself to serving God in my locality now, making sacrifices along the way, I won’t miss out. No one who has served Christ faithfully in this life will arrive in the new creation with regrets.”
- Calvin on the Sacraments. Sinclair Ferguson writes “For some, John Calvin seems to be at his most feisty when he writes on the sacraments. Against those who complain that infant baptism is a travesty of the Gospel, in the Institutes he stoutly insists, “these darts are aimed more at God than at us!” But a little reflection reveals he is also at his most thoughtful, and his analysis of sacramental signs can strengthen credobaptists as well as paedobaptists.”
- On Being Matt Chandler’s Roommate. Steve Bezner writes “This is a story about two young men who were friends, roommates, and pastors. In other words, this is a story about jealousy.”
- God Hates Sexual Immorality. Tim Challies writes “God hates sexual sin, he hates any defilement of the gift of sexuality, and he hates any dishonoring of marriage, the only right context for sexuality.”
- When Your Husband is Addicted to Porn. Stacy Reaoch writes “When you’re tempted to feel all hope is lost, here are a few things to remember, as well as some practical steps in moving forward.”
- Going Back to the School of Contentment. Scotty Smith prays “So I come to you, Father, once again, acknowledging a need you alone can meet. Grant me the grace, peace, and beauty of contentment.
- God Will Give You Something to Say. John Piper writes “The promise is that the Holy Spirit will help us in the most frightening settings, and so how much more may we depend on him in less threatening situations.”
- When Your Depressed Friend Twists God’s Work. Mike Leake writes “Sometimes there really isn’t an answer or a set of magic words that make everything all better. Occasionally we have to wait for full redemption. In the mean time we hang on, love people, and keep proclaiming truth even if it ends up getting twisted. Because sometimes the Spirit uses those words and out of the whirlwind God Himself speaks to the heart and provides substantial healing even on this side of Eden.”
- Spiritual Depression is Coming for You. Jared Musgrove writes “Whether the source of spiritual depression is external (state of the world, opposition to truth, suffering) or internal (covetousness, vicarious living, your Myers-Briggs-ness), there are large numbers of Christian people living in it, appearing unhappy to our fallen world.”
- Bring Your Desires to Jesus. Listen to this message from Zack Eswine on Mark 10: 35-52. Zack is the Lead Pastor of Riverside Church in Webster Groves, Missouri and the Director of Homiletics at Covenant Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books, including a favorite of mine Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer from Depression.
AT THE START OF A NEW YEAR:
- 10 Ideas and 10 Tips for Family Devotions in 2017. Tim Challies writes “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.”
- 2017: A Year of Digital Detox. David Murray writes that in 2017 he is “going to devote many blog posts to digital detoxification. The ultimate aim will be the revival and renewal of our bodies, our minds, and our hearts; our marriages, families, and friendships; our mental and physical health; our productivity, finances, and education; our communication skills and service of others; and above all, ABOVE ALL, our relationship with God.”
- An End-of-Year Marriage Check-Up. Kevin DeYoung offers 15 questions to help you and your spouse take the relational temperature of your marriage.
- My Prayer for 2017. Marshall Segal writes “Without prayer for God’s help, our most meaningful resolutions will either fade and fail altogether, or even worse, seem to succeed, but fail to say anything significant about God. Before you make any new resolutions, resolve to pray. If you don’t resolve to do anything else this year, resolve to pursue change and growth through prayer, and not through your own resolve.”
- Your New Fitbit Won’t Change Your Life. Trevin Wax writes “This year, whether you’re wearing a new Fitbit or starting a new Bible reading plan, make sure you’re tending to the relationship with Jesus that will motivate your heart, not just to the tools that will measure your activity.”
NOW THAT’S A GOOD QUESTION!
- Is It Sinful to Seek Fame Online? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper addresses the question “What are some red flags in this digital age for Christians who might desire to be well known for their books, or blogs, or podcasts, or sermons, or images, or anything they produce?” Listen to or read his response.
- Am I Holy Enough to Take Communion? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper addresses the question “How do I know if I’m holy enough for Holy Communion? Under what circumstances would a professing Christian not participate in the Lord’s Table?” Listen to or read his response.
- What is Effectual Calling? In this brief video excerpt from a “Question and Answer” session from the 2010 Ligonier National Conference, Albert Mohler dispels two common caricatures of the doctrine of effectual calling.
- Why are Women More Willing Missionaries? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper answers a question from a listener about the trend of more women becoming missionaries than men. Listen to or read his response.
- Am I a Christian, Pastor Timothy Keller? Nicholas Kristof asks Tim Keller “What does it mean to be a Christian in the 21st century? Can one be a Christian and yet doubt the virgin birth or the Resurrection?”
THE BEST OF 2016:
- Best of 2016: Ligonier Blog. Here are some of the most popular 2106 blog posts from Ligonier Ministries.
- The Best of 2016. Here are Desiring God’s most viewed and shared resources from 2016 across our six different resource types: articles, books, messages, Ask Pastor John, Look at the Book, and video.
- Editor’s Choice: The Best of 2016. Collin Hansen of The Gospel Coalition, writes “This list reflects my choices as editorial director for our best resources from 2016. It’s not exhaustive, but it reflects our exhausting efforts in this drama-filled year to serve church leaders in shaping their life, doctrine, and teaching.”
- My Top 10 Blogs of 2016. Tim Challies is my favorite blogger. Here he lists his favorite blogs of 2016.
- Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016. Kevin DeYoung shares the most viewed posts from his blog in 2016.
- Top 10 You Tube Videos of 2016. Here is Denny Burk’s annual listing of his Top 10 YouTube Videos of the Year.
TO MAKE YOU SMILE from The Babylon Bee ~ Your Trusted Source For Christian News Satire:
- 7 Awesome Church Name Ideas. The Babylon Bee reports “Any one of these names is guaranteed to lead to explosive church growth and many glorious accolades for your unique, authentic, raw creativity.”
- Dejected John Piper Unable To Find Hyphen Scrabble Tile. The Babylon Bee reports ““I could play off Noel’s ‘centered’ word there in the middle and get a double word bonus with ‘Christ-centered,’ ‘gospel-centered,’ or ‘cross-centered,’ but—geez, no hyphens again,” Piper reportedly muttered as he took a tenth turn in a row to exchange letters with the bag, hunting for that elusive hyphen tile.”
- To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing. Martin Luther
- Our life is not about us being made comfortable, but about Christ being made known. Steven Lawson
- He who will not go to bed till he pleases everybody will have to sit up a great many nights. Charles Spurgeon
- Just my opinion, but one problem for the church today is we’ve spent more time complaining about the culture than we have making disciples. Ron Edmondson
- Our church is split between antinomians and legalists. Today’s closing song was “Trust or Obey.” Church Curmudgeon
- Be killing sin or sin will be killing you. John Owen
- People think a Christian is one who follows Christ’s teaching and example, but Jesus is not primarily a teacher. He’s a rescuer. Tim Keller
- We have nothing to prove today except the wonders of Jesus’ love. The pressure is off; the praise is on. Scotty Smith
- Those who experience the grace of God in justification want to experience his grace in sanctification too. Sinclair Ferguson