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September 04, 2015

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is packed full of books from Christian Focus Publications, a publisher you know well, I am sure. There will be 5 winners this week, and each of those winners will receive the following package of books.

HeldHeld in Honor: Wisdom for Your Marriage from Voices of the Past by Robert L. Plummer, Matthew D. Haste "Are you ever disappointed in your spouse? Do you fight? Do you disagree about money, sex, or in-laws? What if the very struggles you are facing were addressed by thoughtful Christians hundreds of years ago? In Held in Honor, you will find 50 devotional reflections on marriage carefully selected from 2,000 years of church history. Alongside each inspiring historical quote is a brief introduction to the person quoted and an accompanying biblical reflection."

Helopoulos A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home by Jason Helopoulos. "Pastor Jason Helopoulos calls parents and church leaders to reclaim the practice of family worship. This indispensable means of grace directs our children to seek Christ daily, preparing them to go out into the world as fully functioning Christian adults, who love Christ and see all of life in relation to Him." Kevin DeYoung says, "I know first-hand that he writes as one who takes seriously all the challenges and all the opportunities fleshed out in this excellent book. The 'neglected grace' of family worship is not neglected in his home."

Motyer Isaiah by the Day: A New Devotional Translation by Alec Motyer. "These daily devotionals are birthed from a lifetime of study on the prophecy of Isaiah. Day by day you will be provided with passages from Isaiah and an opportunity to explore the passage further. Take time to acquaint yourself with these passages from God's Word and treasure them in your heart. Also coming soon from Alec Motyer is Psalms by the Day (January 2016)

18 words18 Words: The Most Important Words you will Ever Know by J. I. Packer. "If the modern world can be characterised by one thing it is probably the enormous increase in the number of words around - but that increase has also been accompanied by a seemingly corresponding decrease in understanding. J. I. Packer is a master wordsmith. He is also gifted with the ability of showing where truth lies in complicated reasoning. These skills combine to make 18 Words a fascinating read - and a life-changing one."

one thingOne Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God by Sam Storms. We were made to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Nothing is more important than understanding this truth. This inspiring work helps us see that beauty has the power to convince the inquiring mind of truth. The soul's contact with God's beauty elicits love and forges in us a new affection that no earthly power can overcome. Enjoying God in the revelation of his beauty is the solution to our struggle with sin, the catalyst for substantive and lasting change and is the soul's satisfaction, with which no rival pleasure can hope to compete."

Enter Here

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

September 04, 2015

I woke up this morning to find that the service I use to collect and organize links had decided to take the day off. So I have reconstructed it to the best of my ability, right down to the bizarre bird calls.

Q&A on Sexual Abuse

Cecelia Bernhardt will be a speaker at this year’s CCEF conference, and in this Q&A she gives some comfort and encouragement when it comes to counselling those who have been victims of such abuse.

Why Do So Many Walk Away?

Mez’s response and challenge is as simple as it gets, but it is also just what I needed to hear. “I remember vividly my early days in the church. Everything was new and fresh. There was a large young people’s group and there was a real buzz, about the place. It was exciting being a Christian around people like that. It made church seem like the place to be.”

11 Easy Steps to Repenting on the Internet

Whether Barnabas Piper means this seriously or tongue-in-cheek, he accurately shows how people deal with scandal in this digital world.

This Day in 1847. Henry Francis Lyte preached his final sermon. Lyte was weak from Tuberculosis and gave his farewell address to his congregation, knowing he had little time left. That evening he handed a relative a final hymn he written, titled “Abide with Me.” The hymn would far outlive the name of its author. I am partial to the version adapted by Indelible Grace. *

How to Care for Women Who Have Miscarried

“There is no magic bullet that can make the pain of having a miscarriage disappear. However, in my quest to love women who have experienced this loss (Romans 12:15), and as a woman who has been touched by it herself, there are a few things that have been comforting reminders of how the Lord uses his people to care for one another.”

“In this World You Will Have Trouble” — Welcome to Rowan County

Al Mohler: “The Commonwealth of Kentucky is now the setting for a dramatic display of judicial arrogance, even as the larger story points to the sweeping moral change that is transforming the nation’s landscape.” Indeed.

The Most Timeless Songs

Digging into Spotify data allows us see which songs from each era are considered timeless.

Dumb-Sounding Birds of North America

You’re welcome.

HB Charles

We face a changing culture by faith in a changeless Christ. —H.B. Charles Jr.

September 03, 2015

If you pause to think about it, you may just come to agree with me: Nobody really has a problem with Jesus’ atoning death. Not at heart. Nobody really has a problem with Jesus’ resurrection. Not at the foundation. They don’t have a problem with his miracles or coming return. They actually have a problem with Jesus’ incarnation. The problem is not Good Friday or Easter, but Christmas. As J.I.Packer says, “Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.” We could well say that nothing in theology is so fantastic either. This, God made man, is “the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us.” It’s a simple truth, this, but a very important one, for it confronts us with the heart of the unbeliever’s unbelief.

“The really staggering Christian claim,” he says in Knowing God, “is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man — that the second person of the Godhead became the ‘second man’ (1 Cor. 15:47), determining human destiny, the second representative head of the race, and that he took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as he was human.” (Aside: Can anyone work the long, complex sentence as well as J.I. Packer?)

Here we have two great mysteries, two unfathomable truths: the existence of one God in three persons and the perfect union of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ.

This is the real stumbling-block in Christianity. It is here that Jews, Moslems, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many of those who feel the difficulties above-mentioned (about the virgin birth, the miracles, the atonement, and the resurrection), have come to grief. It is from misbelief, or at least inadequate belief, about the incarnation that difficulties at other points in the gospel usually spring. But once the incarnation is grasped as a reality, these other difficulties dissolve.

Once we allow that Jesus was God, it becomes unreasonable to find much difficulty in the other controversial details of his life and his death — that his birth should be prophesied, that his conception should be from the Spirit, that his life should be accompanied by great miracles, that his death should be representative, that his resurrection should be proven, that his return should be imminent. “The incarnation is itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains.”

Here, then, is our first challenge: Not to convince people of the miracle of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but first the miracles of his incarnation.

Next Week

If you are reading Knowing God with me as part of Reading Classics Together, please read chapters 7 and 8 for next Thursday. If you are not yet doing so, why don’t you join us? We have only just begun, so you will not have a difficult time catching up.

Your Turn

The purpose of Reading Classics Together is to read these books together. This time around the bulk of the discussion is happening in a dedicated Facebook group. You can find it right here. Several hundred people are already interacting there and would be glad to have you join in or just read along.

September 03, 2015

There are just a couple of Kindle deals to share today: Rise: Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story, the newest book by Trip Lee, is just $2.99; Hope Reborn by Tope Koleoso & Adrian Warnock is $3.82. Also, a few different Kindle devices are on sale at the moment.

Sister Wives Star Cites Gay Marriage Ruling

Well, this is hardly a surprise, is it? “The polygamous family starring in the hit TLC reality show Sister Wives believes the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage gives them grounds to live their lifestyle unpunished, according to an appeal filed last week.”

Odyssey

This is a beautiful look at Iceland under the midnight sun. There is no greater artist than God!

How Do I Talk to My Kids about Abortion?

Randy Alcorn and his team have some suggestions for speaking to children about abortion. “As the video exposes about Planned Parenthood continue, those with children may be wondering how they can talk to them in age-appropriate ways about the value of life and the reality of abortion.”

This Day in 1752. It’s a trick! There was no “this day” in 1752, nor were there the next 10 days (in Great Britain, that is). This was to adjust from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.*

True Worshipers

Bob Kauflin’s new book True Worshipers highlights this week’s deals from Westminster Books. There are deals on other worship-related books as well.

When I Don’t Feel Forgiven

Ian Hamilton: “One of the most disturbing experiences a believer can face is losing the felt sense of God’s forgiveness. This desolating experience has touched the lives of many Christians throughout the ages.”

How Telephone Etiquette Has Changed

Every new technology ushers in a period of cultural negotiation during which we decide together how to use those devices. We are in that period now with our mobile phones.

Washer

People tell me “Judge not lest ye be judged.” I always tell them, “Twist not scripture lest ye be like Satan.” —Paul Washer

Got the Wrong Guy
September 02, 2015

So much of what life brings is beyond my skills, beyond my experience, beyond my comfort zone. In many ways I could tell the story of my life through the times I have been forced into action, forced to confront my fears, forced to do things that make my natural disposition scream out in fear. Left on my own and living by my own preferences, my life would look very different than it does today. This is true in my character, my home, my church, and pretty well everywhere else.

One of my great comforts and challenges has been a funny, often-overlooked little passage from the book of Exodus. God has told Moses that he will lead the people out of Egypt. God has told Moses that he, Moses, is to serve as God’s voice to both Israel and Egypt. And Moses is none too pleased. Moses takes it upon himself to remind God why he obviously isn’t the man for the job. “But Moses said to the LORD, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue’.” You’ve got the wrong guy, can’t you see that?

But God has not made a mistake. God hasn’t chosen Moses because of his abilities, but for reasons that are all his own. Far more likely, God has chosen Moses precisely because he has no natural abilities. God looks for people who are so weak that they will have to depend fully upon him. “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak’ ” (Exodus 4:10-12).

God’s answer is simple: That mouth you’re worried about—just think for one moment about who made it. It’s not your mouth, it’s my mouth. It may be on your face, but I made it and it belongs to me. If I made it, I can use it. Just trust me with it, and you’ll be amazed at what I can do. Moses had it all wrong. Moses wanted to serve God out of his strength, but God wanted Moses to serve out of his weakness.

At so many times and in so many ways—from the dinner table to the elders’ meeting to the conference podium—I have wanted to run away from opportunities and responsibilities. Many times I have, in one way or another. I have wanted to remind God that he’s got the wrong guy—I’m not able to lead this family, I’m not able to make decisions on behalf of this church, I’m not able to speak truth into this situation, I’m not able to stand up there and speak. I am quite certain that you have found yourself battling similar fears.

But think of Moses, and think of God’s patient response, and believe that the God who calls is the God who equips. Right there you will find your comfort and your confidence.

Image credit: Shutterstock

September 02, 2015

Here are some Kindle deals that may be worth a look: The Apologetics Study Bible ($2.99); God’s Not Dead by Rice Broocks ($2.99); On Guard by William Lane Craig ($0.99); A Handbook for Minister’s Wives by Dorothy Patterson ($0.99); Visions of Vocation by Steven Garber ($2.99).

Youth-Driven Culture

Stephen Nichols has an important article about the way we perceive age and youth. “There is something about being young that makes the young think they are immune to the mistakes or missteps of those who have gone before. We all think too highly of ourselves and our capacities. Simply put, we need the wisdom of the past and of the elderly.”

My Goal in Every Conversation with Mormons

Here is some helpful counsel for the next time you interact with Mormon missionaries. The point: Don’t expect that one brief conversation will immediately convert them, and don’t let that fact cause you to give up.

A Dangerous Posting

I am quite inclined to agree with Mark Jones here. He finds himself concerned by Paul Tripp’s public statement about Tullian Tchvidijian and the necessity of making such information public.

Word Biblical Commentary Sale

Logos users will want to check out this outstanding sale on the Word Biblical Commentary series which are down to just $9.99 each. Genesis, Psalms, Colossians, the Pastorals, Hebrews—they all come highly recommended by the commentators on the commentaries.

God Made All of MePre-Order Worthy: God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb is available for pre-order and ships next week. It is written for young children to help them recognize and respond to sexual abuse. (Amazon, Westminster Books)

Once In a Blue Moon

Enjoy this incredible footage of a moon rise over Australia. 

Should We Go Down the Ashley Madison Rabbit Hole?

Erin Straza wrestles with an important question: When information is made public, as in the Ashley Madison dump, does that give us the right or responsibility to search through it? What are the consequences if we do?

Bullmore

The true measure of spiritual growth is not how much knowledge you’ve gained in the past year, but how much you’ve grown in holiness. —Mike Bullmore

Writing Tips
September 01, 2015

I love to write, I write often, and I share my writing publicly. For those reasons I am often asked to share tips. How can I write more? How can I write better? More than once I have compiled tips on writing, and several times I have recommended books and resources on the craft. But today I want to offer a handful of new tips that are a little bit different from the kind I have offered before.

In the past, I have focused on the craft and practice of writing. Those are important elements. But today I want to consider a different aspect of writing: the context and the tools.

Select Good Tools

Most people do their writing in Microsoft Word because, well, that’s what you do, right? Word does a thousand things, and it does some of them well. But, honestly, it isn’t a great tool for writing books or articles. It has too many options, too many buttons, too many abilities. Apple’s Pages isn’t a whole lot better.

The best tools are the ones designed specifically for writing, for getting words out of your mind and onto a screen. In recent years we’ve been given a whole collection of such minimalist tools, apps that do one thing and do it very well. My current favorite is Ulysses, though there are many alternatives. (See Byword, iA Writer, or even Scrivener.) Most of these tools eschew all the fancy formatting options for the ultra-simple Markdown, an easy and seamless way of adding bold, italics, and other elements. They reduce as much friction as possible so you can simply sit and type. And really, isn’t that what this is all about?

Make It Beautiful

There’s more to words than mere words. Words on a screen take form. They take shape. They take the shape of whatever font you work in. And some fonts are superior to others. This may seem a petty point, but I actually consider it quite significant.

Every computer and every program uses a default font. In most cases, that default font is not particularly good. (This is especially true if you use Word. Die, Calibri!) More often than not, it is an old and tired font that predates the high-quality screens we have access to today.

There is a simple solution: Try some different fonts. You can experiment with the ones that come with your computer or you can visit font sites to download a selection of free options. (See Google Fonts or Font Squirrel.) You can even go all-out and buy some fonts if you like, though you will probably find them pretty expensive. Look around and find a font that you deem beautiful. Combine that font with a minimalistic writing tool, and you may well find that it transforms the whole experience of writing.

Ulysses

Find a Good Environment

By now you have found a great writing tool and begun to write in a great font. There’s just one tip left to go: Find a great writing environment. Where and when you write has a significant impact on how you write.

When and where do you like to write? When and where do the words just flow? Find those places and establish habits in them. You can do the coffee-shop-hop, working for a couple of hours in one coffee joint, then moving down the road to another one. (Make sure you buy something every couple of hours; that’s just common courtesy.) You can work in the quiet room at the public library. You can work with people all around you, or find a place where you can be absolutely alone. You can write on the back deck or while sprawled out on the couch. Find your place, find your time, and just enjoy yourself.

Speaking Personally

The fact is, the context and the tools of our writing deeply impact the ease and the quality of our writing. Find the contexts and the tools that work best for you.

On a personal note, I love Ulysses for my day-to-day writing, though I eventually port book-length projects to Scrivener. I typically write on my iMac using Adobe Caslon Pro as my font, though on some days I need an Avenir fix. I set Ulysses to full-screen, dark mode, turn off notifications, set the font to a large size, and make sure nothing else is on my screen. If I am on the road, I use iCloud to sync my documents to my iPad where, again, I use Ulysses, but with Lato as my font. My favorite and most creative places to write are my little basement office, the quiet room at Oakville Public Library, and, strangely enough, aboard airplanes.

September 01, 2015

There are lots of new Kindle deals today: Jesus, Continued by J.D. Greear ($1.99); Teach Us to Want by Jen Pollock Michel ($2.99); Wired for Intimacy by William Struthers ($2.99); Preaching to a Shifting Culture by Various ($1.99); The Gospel of John by William Barclay ($2.99). You may also like to sort through Amazon’s new batch of monthly deals. Free for Logos users this month is a solid commentary on Amos. (You can get a second commentary for $1.99, but the deal doesn’t seem to work yet.)

Ligonier Suspends R. C. Sproul Jr. over Ashley Madison Visit

I was sickened and so sorrowful to hear this news. Christianity Today reports “Ligonier Ministries has suspended R. C. Sproul Jr. until July 2016 due to his admission that he visited the adultery matchmaking website Ashley Madison.”

The Weakness of Ruth Is Greater than the Strength of Samson

I really enjoyed reading this one. “If the book of Judges were all we had to capture this time in Israel’s history, it would be a dismal piece of history indeed. But there’s another story, a hidden sub-plot, to what’s going on in Judges. It’s the tiny companion volume known as Ruth.”

The Word Study Fallacy

William Barrick writes about a common fallacy. “Word studies are also subject to radical extrapolations and erroneous applications. It is not always possible to strike exegetical gold by extracting a word from the text for close examination. Word studies alone will not suffice.”

This Day in 1957: Billy Graham’s New York Crusade came to an end. For sixteen weeks he had preached six nights a week, drawing capacity crowds to Madison Square Gardens. By the time it was over, some two million people had attended.

Growing in Christ, Serving in Ministry

This month’s Tabletalk interview features Sinclair Ferguson, who invariably has insightful things to say.

The Most Popular Bible of the Year

It sounds strange to hear about “the most popular Bible of the year,” doesn’t it? Nevertheless, the Washington Post writes about the enduring popularity of God’s Word and a brand new study Bible.

Protect Your Children, Protect Mine

Melissa makes a very important point: “When you protect your child from the porn industry, you also protect mine.”

I’m Going Free (Jailbreak)

Lately I’ve really been enjoying the song “I’m Going Free” by Vertical Worship. (Occasionally I just need to listen to some loud modern worship music!) I especially appreciate that tiny little line, “The judge is my defense.” What a great salvation.

Parsons

Praying without ceasing isn’t meant to burden us but to liberate us from all our burdens. —Burk Parsons