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    Connections - Entries from October 2013

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    ThuThursdayOctOctober31st2013 10 Blogs to Follow
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Twenty years ago, nobody knew what a blog was. In fact, to utter the very word "blog" in the mid-90s would have sounded more like making a strange animal noise than articulating a meaningful concept. Today, however, there are hundreds of millions of blogs on the internet, and there are new ones being created on a daily basis. News outlets have blogs, corporations have blogs, families have blogs, food critics have blogs, sports teams have blogs, schools have blogs, eight year old kids using their parents' computers have blogs—everyone has a blog! And while the blogosphere can seem like a wasteland of useless information, narcissism, and trivialities, there nevertheless are plenty of gems to be discovered, if only one knows where to look.

    To help you make the most of the blogosphere, I have put together a list of ten blogs that might be worth your time to read—or at least worth your time to keep an eye on. While we certainly don't want to become blog junkies who increasingly grow bloated with theological information, we also should avoid being isolationists who remain disconnected from the important public discourse going on around us. So take a few minutes to browse these resources and see if you find something that might spur you toward greater love for God and others. (Note: Linking to these blogs does not necessarily entail wholesale endorsement or support of all that is written on these sites, either by me personally or by the Kossuth leadership team as a whole.)

    1. Kossuth Elder Blog: Although it doesn't pull in thousands of readers each day like some of the other blogs on this list, the Kossuth Elder Blog should be a weekly staple in your diet of theological intake. The reason is simple: these are your pastors. The Elder Blog is a way to stay connected to church leaders, learn what they're learning, and keep up-to-speed on some of the practical ways that they're seeking to shepherd this church.

    2. Challies: Tim Challies is like the Michael Jordan of Reformed bloggers. He writes articles, reviews books, and links each day to happenings around the internet via his always interesting "A La Carte" feature. If you want to keep abreast of what's happening in the larger world of Reformed evangelicalism, Challies is the place to turn.

    3. The Gospel Coalition: Featuring a whole host of writers and contributors, the TGC blog is a constant stream of insight, encouragement, and conviction. The topics are diverse, but the writing seeks to bring the gospel to bear in a practical way upon the everyday situations in which we regularly find ourselves.

    4. First Thoughts: As a part of the First Things website, the First Thoughts blog is a steady stream of cultural commentary, theological exploration, political discussion, and just about everything in between. Some will find certain posts less interesting than others, but on the whole this is a great source of information.

    5. Desiring God: If you're familiar with John Piper, then you'll know what to expect from the DG blog. God-centered posts and articles appear on a regular basis from the Desiring God team, and they're about as spiritually-enriching and soul-nourishing of resources as you'll find anywhere on the internet.

    6. Between Two Worlds: If Tim Challies is the Michael Jordon of the Reformed evangelical blogosphere, Justin Taylor might be like John Stockton—he's a master of the assist (or, in internet terms, the link). At Between Two Worlds, Justin Taylor posts interviews, videos, articles, and a whole host of other resources which he has culled from other sources around the web. It's diverse, interesting, and worth at least an occasional perusal.

    7. Reformation 21: The tagline of the "ref21" blog is, "Encouraging biblical thinking, living, worship, ministry, and constructive cultural engagement." That sums it up pretty well. This is another blog which draws from a wide variety of regular contributors, the most notable of whom is the feisty and humorous Carl Trueman.

    8. The Briefing: As the blog of Matthias Media, you know that The Briefing will be chock-full of discipleship resources. If you want to grow as a follower of Jesus and help others to do the same, you'll want to keep a keen eye on this blog.

    9. Jonathan Merritt: Hosted on the Religion News Service website, Jonathan Merrit's blog is quickly becoming an influential voice in the evangelical world (and beyond). You'll likely not agree with all he has to say, but you certainly can't afford to ignore this young Christian voice.

    10. The Resurgence: The Resurgence is an outgrowth of Mars Hill Church (Seattle) and the Acts 29 network. Most people read this blog because of its most visible figure, Mark Driscoll. But plenty of other writers contribute helpful articles to the site about a wide array of subjects.

    To attempt to read every post on each of these blogs would be time-consuming, exhausting, and frankly unwise. But knowing that they're out there, checking in on them occasionally, and pointing others to them when the need arises can all be great avenues of becoming a more informed, thoughtful, and globally-oriented Christian.
    MonMondayOctOctober21st2013 Book Recommendation: Death by Living
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    When I pick up a book to read, there are two primary qualities I hope to encounter within its pages: truth and beauty. The first of these is usually easy enough to find; even in books I largely disagree with, there can always be found propositions, questions, ideas, descriptions, and stories that allow me to gain a more accurate picture of reality. But the second of these qualities—that elusive thing called beauty—is a much less common discovery. Ours is an information-obsessed world, and most of our books—particularly those within our Christian subculture—reflect that. We prefer bullet points to prose. But I remain convinced that there’s still a need to encounter compelling, vivid, emotive literary styles that are able to stir the soul unexpectedly. An aesthetic experience is still worth having.

    And that’s precisely why I think N.D. Wilson’s new book Death by Living is worth a read. Just like his previous book Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, Wilson’s latest work is a wandering, existential, meditative, and profound adventure. Brett McCracken’s description of the book is appropriate: “fragmentary, nonlinear, and vignette-driven”—and that’s no criticism, by the way. It explores the glorious possibilities of a life well lived (and, for that matter, a death well died), and it does so in a manner that is as refreshing as it is unique.

    The primary value of this book is the way that it forces us to consider the impact of our lives from a new perspective. Wilson challenges us to find true significance by recognizing our grand insignificance in the story of God, to find true life by embracing death for others:

    Lay your life down. Your heartbeats cannot be hoarded. Your reservoir of breaths is draining away. You have hands, blister them while you can. You have bones, make them strain—they can carry nothing in the grave. You have lungs, let them spill with laughter. With an average life expectancy of 78.2 years in the US (subtracting eight hours a day for sleep), I have around 250,000 conscious hours remaining to me in which I could be smiling or scowling, rejoicing in my life, in this race, in this story, or moaning and complaining about my troubles. I can be giving my fingers, my back, my mind, my words, my breaths, to my wife and my children and my neighbors, or I can grasp after the vapor and the vanity for myself, dragging my feet, afraid to die and therefore afraid to live. And, like Adam, I will still die in the end.

    Living is the same thing as dying. Living well is the same thing as dying for others.

    It’s the kind of book that makes your mind brim with insight, your heart abound with gratitude, your eyes well with tears. For example, reading Wilson’s poetic, two-paragraph description of putting his children to bed—while two of my own children slept in the room next door and a third slept in his mother’s womb beside me—was about as worshipful a moment as I’ve had with any book not bearing the words “Holy Bible” on the front.

    This certainly isn’t your typical book. But if you’re willing to explore some new literary horizons and have the patience to read stories about dust floating in the air (seriously!), you’ll be in for a treat with this one.

    Previous Book Recommendations:
    SunSundayOctOctober13th2013 Pastor Appreciation Month Video
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Elders are a gift to the church, and at Kossuth, we believe that we have some particularly good ones. So in honor of Pastor Appreciation Month, the staff guys got together and made a video tribute to the four men we're honored to call our pastors. Watch this, share a laugh with us, give thanks to God for these men and their wives, and then consider how you might affirm these faithful elders in your own unique way. (If you make your own video, send it to us and maybe we'll post it!)
    Thank you, Paul, Don, Tom, and Bill!

    Pastor Appreciation Month 2013 from Kossuth Street Baptist Church on Vimeo.

    WedWednesdayOctOctober9th2013 I Can't See the Cups
    byMikel Berger Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Something happened while I was serving communion a few weeks ago that caused me to stop and think.

    I was helping to pass the plates in the center aisle, and when I got to the very last row with the juice, I encountered an elderly woman that I didn't recognize. She reached out, and I put the plate in her hand. With the other hand she started to reach for one of the small cups of juice. But because she was in the very last row there weren't very many left on the plate. Her hand made several stabs trying to find one of the cups until she whispered, "I can't see the cups." I leaned over, picked up a cup, and put it in her hand.

    If I am able to meet this woman again, I want to thank her for giving me a picture of the gospel. In the same way that she was unable to see the cup that represents Christ's atoning sacrifice for us, I was blind to both my need for that sacrifice and also how to access it. I wasn't able to help the woman see, but I was able to put the cup in her reach. God, however, has done both for me. He has removed my blindness (2 Cor. 4:4-6), and he has caused me to be able to partake in the sacrifice of Jesus. The Son died for my sins and both the Father and the Holy Spirit have put the cup in my hand so that I could drink it.

    Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see!

    WedWednesdayOctOctober2nd2013 Book Recommendation: Crazy Busy
    byDrew Humphrey Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    If you ever catch an impulse to write a best-selling Christian book, let me give you a simple two-step process that will get you well on your way:

    1. Find a subject that everyone struggles with.
    2. Write a book about it.
    Whether or not Kevin DeYoung’s newest book Crazy Busy will be a best-seller remains to be seen. (It’s only been out for two weeks, after all.) But it certainly has the potential, if for no other reason than that busyness—even crazy busyness—is a problem to which nearly every one of us can relate.

    Let’s be honest: the vast majority of us live under the delusional belief that even though we’re busy, we just need to get that one thing taken care of, or get through such-and-such a project, or make it to next month, and then we’ll be fine. Things will slow down. We’ll get caught up. Life will be more peaceful. Yet the tragic irony is that most of us don’t pause to reflect on the fact that we’ve been repeating these same lines for the last 15 years. Either that "one thing" has taken a lot longer than we expected, or else we have a more serious problem than we thought.

    That’s exactly why DeYoung’s book is helpful. It allows us to come to terms with our busyness by exposing and addressing the root issues that drive us to be the over-extended, absent-minded, sleep-deprived bundles of stress that we are. “When we are crazy busy,” he writes, “we put our souls at risk. The challenge is not merely to make a few bad habits go away. The challenge is to not let our spiritual lives slip away.”

    From this starting point, DeYoung goes on to propose seven diagnoses for our busyness. And he does so in a winsomely brief, refreshingly insightful, oftentimes rollickingly hilarious way. (Seriously, just ask my wife, who sat next to me on the couch, giving me strange looks as I laughed out loud on numerous occasions.) DeYoung doesn’t dig up some forgotten Bible verse that solves all our problems; he simply applies biblically saturated wisdom to our disjointed lives, showing us that the kind of productive living to which God calls us is much simpler than we make it. He addresses everything from technology to parenting to sleep, allowing us to see these issues with a level of clarity that has the potential to free us from our self-imposed prisons.

    Now I fully appreciate that there’s something magnificently comical about recommending a book on busyness to a bunch of people whose first objection will be, “I’m too busy to read that!” But if you can carve out a couple of hours to soak in this book, I’m quite certain you’ll find it to be worth the investment.

    Oh, and if you need a good laugh, you might enjoy watching this cleverly amusing interview that Kevin DeYoung did with Justin Taylor about the book:  

    Previous Book Recommendations:
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