A picture’s worth a thousand words #readwomen

We need more women in biblical studies

Carmen Imes posted a telling photo on her personal blog recently. An Old Testament professor and author of a newly-contracted book with IVP Academic, she posted a photo of her personal library.

With a twist. 

All of the books authored by women she left spine out. All the books authored by men she turned edge out.

A picture is really worth a thousand words. 

More than 90% of the books in this woman’s library were written by men.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Of course, there’s nothing wrong with books written by men. It’s not the presence of these books that’s the problem, it’s the absence of other voices. [/inlinetweet]

That’s why I believe in advocating for and advancing the voices of women in the realm of academic publishing.

You can read Carmen’s blog post here.

Press this button to take the #ReadWomen challenge


Five ways to waste your weekend

Webp.net-resizeimage (2)Weekends are precious so make sure you don’t waste yours

It’s been about a year since our family made the change to both Anna and I working full-time and out-of-the-house. The way we think about weekends has changed immensely! It’s challenging to find a sustainable pace.

Before that, either one or both of us had worked from home. There are some definite down-sides to working from home, but that kind of flexibility does make it way easier to get a full work day in and stay up on chores–especially if you’re able to avoid an hour in the car.

Over the last year I’ve made a number of mis-steps in managing the week which have led to wasted weekends. Here are five easy ways to waste your weekend and go back to work on Monday feeling robbed.

Do nothing but chores

The weekend won’t last forever.

Use every last ounce of energy to knock out every possible chore you could need to do during the week.

Fall into bed on Sunday night exhausted and then when the alarm goes off in the morning: hate your life.

Better alternative: try spacing out chores every night. Make a schedule and try to avoid all-or-nothing thinking.

Eat comfort food

 finally made it to the weekend.

You’re tired. You don’t want to cook.

Just grab a frozen pizza, fling it into a pre-heated oven and eat. 

Better alternative: Plan out some salads, fish, or other healthy meals so that you don’t have to make a decision in the moment.

Hibernate in the house

You get up early every morning and leave the house. You spend ours in the car each week fighting traffic. You deserve to stay on the couch all weekend watching sports.

Don’t you?

Better alternative: make time for rest and for exertion. If all you do is veg you’ll find yourself becoming lethargic. If all you do is exert, you’ll find yourself exhausted.

Say Yes to Everything

You only have one weekend. Try to pack a week’s worth of fun into it. 

There’s a lot going on.

Do. It. All.

Better alternative: designate part of your weekend solely for things that give you energy and that lift your spirit.

Burn the midnight oil

Sleep is for old people.

Young people.

The weak.

Make sure you wring every moment from the weekend by staying up late and getting up early. You’ll make up for it during the work week.

So. How do you waste your weekend?

Questions about the Creeds [Part 1] Did Jesus descend into hell?


One of the most puzzling articles in the Apostles’ Creed is the sentence “he descended into hell, the third day rose again from the dead.” As our congregation has started to study the creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the reformed tradition I’ve started to receive questions about what some of our confessions mean. What does this line of the Creed mean?

For most people the problematic word is “hell.” In popular theology hell is a literal place designed to punish people. It seems problematic the God’s Son should “descend” into a place designed for punishment. And it raises the question, why is Jesus going there? Is he being punished? Is he being purified? Just what exactly is he doing?


Reformed Christians are deferential to the creeds and confessions. I like to say that we assume the veracity of our confessional standards unless and until a clear, compelling, and widely-received counter argument is produced. And since the Reformed tradition teaches that confessions are subordinate standards–that is they rank below God himself and God’s revelation of himself in Scripture–we should seek to understand the Creed in light of the Bible.

The gospel accounts of Jesus’ words to the thief who believed him seem to call the Creed into question. Christians who affirm Jesus’ descent into hell often argue that it took place after his death and before his resurrection (i.e., on Holy Saturday). What do the Gospels recount. One contains a promise that Jesus and a criminal crucified would be in paradise “today.” The others barely mention the event or ignore it completely.

Luke is unique in recounting that one of the two criminals crucified with Jesus petitioned Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (23:42). Jesus’ replies, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (43).

The Gospel of Mark doesn’t record Jesus’ encounter his two fellow convicts and Matthew simply states that the robbers insulted Jesus (Matt. 27:38, 44).

John records that two men were crucified with Jesus, but not that they were robbers or that they interacted with Jesus at all (19:32).

If we are to interpret passages of Scripture that appear to be unclear or ambiguous in light of those that are clear then we have to find some other biblical evidence that supports the Creeds’ assertion and clarifies what Jesus is recorded to have said from the cross.

A passage that seems to meet that description may be found in the first letter of Peter. In 1 Peter 3:18-19ff.:

For Christ dies for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison….”

Of course, Peter isn’t entirely clear as to who these “spirits in prison” are and he doesn’t make clear precisely what Jesus preached, why he preached it, or what the outcome was. Nevertheless, it is clear that Jesus didn’t descend to hell to suffer. He had already declared that his work of atonement was finished.

In all likelihood his purpose was as R. C. Sproul puts it, “He goes to hell to liberate those spirits who, from antiquity, have been held in prison. His task in hell then is one of triumph, liberating Old Testament saints.” the Old Testament saints being those, who like Abraham, believed in God before Christ’s advent and their belief was credited to them as righteousness (see Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:22).

So, yes Jesus descends into hell. However, the English word “hell” isn’t a particularly accurate or helpful translation of the original Greek and Latin versions of the Creed. The hell referred to in the Apostles’ Creed isn’t a place of suffering, but more about that in our next post.

What is real influence?

It’s been a slow week here at jeffgissing.com. My family is in San Diego enjoying some vacation time and celebrating the wedding of my brother-in-law. It has been a fun week–Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, the Science Museum!

This week I’ve been reading Mel Lawrenz’s Spiritual Influence: The Hidden Power behind Leadership. It’s a great book and is helping me get to the heart of what ministry leadership is–something that I explored last week in a couple of posts. Ministry leadership is, in its essence, a function of discipleship. If a leader is not a disciple, her leadership rests on sand rather than bedrock.


Here’s how Lawrenz puts it:

“[Great Christian leaders] know that they’re not the real influencers, but that they are being used by God, who brings enduring, transforming influence in peoples’ lives.”

He later writes:

“Leadership that is entirely self-directed [as opposed to God-directed] will always be pathological….spiritual leadership is an extension of discipleship.”

Most of us are prone to excess in this area.

We either think that ‘leadership’ is a bad thing and we avoid it or we valorize it. The problem with this approach is, of course, that Scripture bears testimony to the importance of using one’s spiritual gifts for the purpose of edifying and building up the body in ways that specifically employ our gifts.

On the other hand, many of us go further than Scripture to become obsessed with leadership. As Lawrenz points out in his book, there is no generic term in Scripture for leadership. Leadership is ever and always linked to participation in the mission of God in a specific and concrete way. Leadership is not abstract and ephemeral, it is concrete and involved getting your hands dirty in mission.

26 Time management lessons…for pastors

This series of slides contains a wealth of knowledge about how pastors can work more effectively. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to start thinking of pastors as “non-profit executives” (this is a part, not the essence, of our calling).

The critical work of pastoring–prayer, study, counseling–requires time. And in order to make time for this crucial pastoral work, pastors must be willing to be ruthless about not allowing their managerial work to push their critical pastoral duties to the margins. In effect, managing oneself in ministry is part of discipleship.


The danger of blogging

When you think about it, the advent of blogs has been a huge development in the life of our society. I’m no historian of technology, but it seems to me that blogs are the tracts or pamphlets of the 21st century–they provide a wonderful way to unite passion, and ideas with a cheap (free) means of communication.


Blogs have some draw backs too. Because they occupy “virtual space,” there is no (or very little) limit to who or what you interact with on a blog. I can respond to something written by someone I do not know and who is writing in a context quite different from my own. In this sense, blogs create an artificial flatness to interactions and deprive them of the rich texture that can really only come about by knowing something of the writer and her context.

There is also something of a tribalism around bloggers. They run in packs–sometimes more closely resembling a pack of rabid dogs than a herd of placid deer.

Tim Challies provides some insightful reflection on some of the dangers I have outlined above in this post, which is worth a read.

Why bow ties are better than traditional neckties

by Jeff Gissing | @jeffgissing

I first encountered a real living person wearing a bow tie in 1994 as a freshman at Samford University. Since that time, I’ve periodically worn bow ties (I currently own six or seven) and have flirted with making bow ties my exclusive neckwear choice. Every guy should consider owning and regularly wearing a bow tie. Here are five reasons.

  1. Bow ties are easy to tie. There is a common misperception that tying a bow tie is difficult. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you tie your shoes on a regular basis then you can tie a bow tie. If you don’t wear shoes that requiring tying then you probably shouldn’t be wearing a tie to begin with.
  2. Bow ties exude confidence. Fewer than five percent of men wear bow ties. Nothing says, “I am confident of my manhood,” like rejecting the herd, the 95% of men, who stick to a regular tie.
  3. Keep company with great minds and great men. Think about men known for wearing bow ties: Winston Churchill, George Will, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Dennis Sansom (for a more complete list go here). Consider: no recent president has worn a bow tie on a regular basis. Could this be the cause of our national malaise?
  4. Bow ties are eminently safe (yet risky). No man wearing a bow tie was ever sucked into a shredder or mutilated in any other office accident on the basis of his neckwear. The bow tie is safe yet fashionable, but with an edge (think Indiana Jones).
  5. Bow ties offer a classy critique of “business casual.” Growing up did you ever seriously aspire to wearing a golf shirt and dockers to work? The bow tie is technically less formal than the traditional tie but offers a classier and more formal look than a polo shirt–embrace it.

Do you wear a bow tie regularly? Why? Why not?

My new sidewalk

For the last couple of weeks the City of Winston-Salem has been laying a sidewalk on our street. It’s something I’ve hoped for over the last four years. In fact, I cannot tell you how happy I am to have access to that small strip of concrete!

In some ways it seems ridiculous–why do you need a dedicated piece of concrete for walking? Technically you don’t, but given the distracted nature of modern driving its sort of nice. Ours is a busy street and walking (especially with a stroller) was difficult as you had to walk on the outside of parked cars since many yards are impassible to a stroller.

A sidewalk sends the message: “we expect you to walk.” Not only does it communicate the expectation, it also makes provision for the safety and relative comfort of the walker. Building a sidewalk is an act of hospitality rather than of strict necessity, but in creating a community its important for people to safely and comfortably be able to walk outside of their homes so they can meet their neighbors and share life. A sidewalk can help make this  happen.

My house was built in 1941 and it’s almost like World War II started and all the sidewalk money was diverted to the war effort. Now, some seventy years later, we’re getting a sidewalk of our own!


Driven to distraction

It’s Christmastide, which means one thing–travel. During our annual ten-plus hour drive to the Gulf Coast of Alabama we stopped in a remarkable gas station north of Atlanta. As I moved around the car to take the gas pump in hand, I was confronted with a smallish flat panel television mounted immediately above the price display. It was showing NFL highlights complete with sound. High above me muzak wafted out from speakers in the awning and together with the tunes clearly audible from a neighboring car (despite closed windows) it formed a perfect trifecta of noise-pollution.

Random moments of quiet are quickly shrinking from our lives. Every nook and cranny of our waking hours is filled with some form of stimulation designed to propel us toward the consumption of some goods or services. Go to a restaurant, even a relatively expensive one, and you’ll find at least one television. Find yourself in your doctors office waiting for an appointment and there will be some form of visual and auditory stimulation offering you information about some disease or condition sponsored by a purveyor of one drug or another. Noise is ubiquitous. 

It’s amazing how comfortable we have become with noise and other forms of stimulation. The instant the power goes off during a winter storm or an electronic device fails many of us start getting really anxious–stir crazy. We need something to do. That’s because distraction is addictive. I forget where I read it but scientists have found that the “ping” of a new email releases a small amount of dopamine into our brain–we keep going back to email, Facebook, Twitter, because we get a biochemical reward for it.

The key to focus is learning to steward technology and distraction so as to control it rather than be controlled by it. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever be able to get away with not having email–we have become too accustomed to this technology to be able to move past it yet.

Some ideas for keeping your focus:

  1. Turn off new mail notifications.
  2. Schedule time to process email. Try 30 minutes twice or three times a day (10am, 1pm, 5pm).
  3. Get noise-cancelling headphones.
  4. Automate and schedule your social media interactions. Try an app like Buffer <www.bufferapp.com>

How do you maintain optimal focus at home and work?