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November 25, 2014

Every year I put together a round-up of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that are of interest to Christians. So be sure to check in on Friday and over the weekend—already I’m getting wind of some pretty good deals.

For today, though, here are some Kindle deals: Dining with the Devil by Os Guinness ($1.99); New Testament Theology by Leon Morris ($4.99); The Mission of Today’s Church by Various ($0.99); Embracing Obscurity by Anonymous ($0.99); Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart and Gospel by J.D. Greear ($0.99 each); Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey ($3.99); Called Together by Jonathan Dodson & Brad Watson ($0.99); Make, Mature, and Multiply by Brandon Smith ($0.99).

Pagans in the Youth Group - Help! There are pagans in my youth group!

Terms of Service - This short graphic novel illustrates some concerns with today’s newest technologies. It comes from just one, biased perspective, of course, but offers lots of good food for thought.

Shepherd Press eBooks - For just a couple of days Westminster Books is offering all Shepherd Press ebooks at $1.99.

6 Joys and Perils of Full Time Ministry - There is some good stuff in this article by Josh Moody.

The Briefing - You may benefit from listening to this morning’s episode of Al Mohler’s “The Briefing” in which he discusses yesterday’s grand jury announcement. I look to him as a trustworthy guide and interpreter.

How to Buy Groceries - If you’re the shopper in your home, you may appreciate this guide to smart shopping at the supermarket.

Dear Mr. Anxious - Here’s a letter to the anxious Christian.

Let us learn a lesson of humility from our Saviour; let us never court great titles nor proud degrees. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

November 24, 2014

I overheard an interesting discussion the other day. I was out-and-about and caught just a fragment of a discussion about money and the sheer joy of having it. I couldn’t eavesdrop for more than a few words, but that was enough to get my mind working. I thought about the way I use my money, and the way we, as Christians, use our money. And I want to ask you the question: When was the last time you just enjoyed your money?

It’s okay, you know. You are allowed to enjoy your money. Let’s think it through.

I firmly believe that every thing we have is actually God’s. We are not the owners of our money, but the stewards of God’s money. Most of us believe this and we try to live it. And there are many, many ways to faithfully steward God’s money.

We serve as faithful stewards when we live within our means. We serve as faithful stewards when we save for the days to come. We serve as faithful stewards when we focus on paying down debt. We serve as faithful stewards when we pay our bills and when we expend effort in attempting to reduce our bills. We serve as faithful stewards when we avoid all those deep-debt, high-interest, I-need-more-stuff ways to live. We serve as faithful stewards when we give generously to the Lord’s work, or help a friend in need. Ultimately, we serve as faithful stewards when we live with an awareness that money is a terrible god but a beautiful means of serving God.

Along the way we can develop a very formal and professional relationship with money, where money becomes little more than a tool. Every dollar has a job—paying the bills and paying down the mortgage, and saving for retirement, and supporting the missionaries. Every dollar has a job, but not many of those jobs are fun. We use our money dutifully, but rarely have fun with it.

There are so many good things we can do with our money. But I think one of the good things we may be prone to miss along the way is just plain enjoying it.

When was the last time you gave each of your kids $20 and set them free in the toy store or book store? When was the last time you enjoyed a truly relaxing vacation? When was the last time you went to the specialty store and bought some amazing crackers and cheese? When was the last time you sat and savored a slightly-too-expensive but almost-too-delicious cup of coffee? When was the last time you bought a new book just because? When was the last time you bought an extravagent bouquet of flowers for your wife? When was the last time you allowed yourself to really enjoy your money?

It is good to exercise self-control with your money, and good to put it to good work. But it is good to enjoy it too. Because money is more than a tool; it is also a means of pleasure.

And here’s the neat thing: The better you manage your money as God’s money, the greater your enjoyment of these little pleasures. When all you want to do with your money is seek indulgence, it will deliver ever-diminishing pleasures. But when you faithfully steward it, those small pleasures are far richer and far sweeter.

So use your money, and use it wisely, and use it for God’s glory. But don’t forget to enjoy it as well.

Image credit: Shutterstock

November 24, 2014

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung ($1.99); A Loving Life by Paul Miller ($1.99); Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman ($0.99); Contentment by Lydia Brownback ($0.99); The Christian Counselor’s Manual by Jay Adams ($1.99); God’s Battalions by Rodney Stark ($2.99); An Introduction to the Old Testament by Tremper Longman ($4.99); Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken ($4.99); Speaking Truth in Love by David Powlison (free).

A Timelapse of the Sun - This is “the surface of the sun from October 14th to 30th, 2014, showing sunspot AR 2192, the largest sunspot of the last two solar cycles (22 years).”

Theological Trespassing - “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” You need to be wary of theological trespassing.

How Board Games Conquered Cafes - Here’s a trend I like; I wish I had a cafe like this in my neighborhood.

Holiday Hospitality - Here are 4 reminders for holiday hospitality.

I Will Choose to Trust God Today - Randy Alcorn (and Nancy Leigh DeMoss) share a pledge worth reading.

Satan wants to destroy our faith in God. God wants to destroy our faith in ourselves. —John Kimbell

Kimbell

November 23, 2014

I have been enjoying Tim Keller’s new book on prayer (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God). There are many of prayer’s mysteries he handles with exellence and perhaps none more so than what Paul means when, in Romans 8, he writes these words: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” What are these groanings or sighs? Here is Keller’s answer.

There has been some debate over the meaning of “the Spirit’s groans.” Some believe that this is the spirit helping us when we are desperate and groaning, but it is unlikely that this is describing only times of depression. Rather, the “weakness” referred to in verse 26 is the weakness described in the preceding verses, which refer not just to times of despondancy but to our entire human situation of frustrated longings as we await the future glory (vv. 18-25, especially v.23). We know that God is working out all things for our good according to his will (v.28), but seldom can we discern what that good actually is. In other words, most of the time, we don’t know exactly what outcome we should pray for. The Spirit, however, makes our groaning his groaning, putting his prayers to the Father inside our prayers. He does so by placing within us a deep, inexpressible longing to do God’s will and see his glory. This aspiration—this “groaning” desire to please him—comes through in our petitions to God. In every specific request, then, the Father hears us praying for what is both truly best for us and pleasing to him, “and the intercession of the Spirit is answered as God works all things for our good.” The Spirit enables us to long for the future glory of God and his will, even though we don’t know the specific things we should pray for here and now.

Prayer is the way to experience the powerful confidence that God is handling our lives well, that our bad things will turn out for good, our good things cannot be taken from us, and the best things are yet to come.

November 22, 2014

It is a beautiful, cold and snowy start to the weekend here, though I hear rain is on the way. Early winter is a strange time in Canada. Kindle readers will want to know that I went looking for deals and found nothing. However, do check A La Carte Archives from the past 10 days and I’m sure you’ll find something to carry you through the weekend.

When the Spirit Says Put a Sock In It - Douglas Wilson: “Some might want to represent this as a view of mine, in which I am seeking to quench the Spirit. It is actually the view of the Spirit, working through Paul, in order to quench us.”

Here is something I’ve always wondered: Why do so many Asians wear masks in public? This article explains.

Angry? Jen Thorn struggles with it too and lets you into her fight with 5 Ways to Kill Anger.

I’m grateful to Reformation Heritage Books for sponsoring the blog this week with their article From Tyndale to Today. I appreciate sponsors because they cover the costs associated with hosting and supporting the site.

Lore Ferguson can flat out write, like she displays in this article: Looking for Love in All the Right Places.

J.D. Greear offers up Three Ways the Gospel Changes Our Generosity.

If your kids are into The Hunger Games, you may appreciate these 5 Ideas for Discussing Mockingjay with Teens.

One great power of sin is that it blinds men so that they do not recognize its true character. —Andrew Murray

Murray

November 21, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff is sponsored by this week’s blog sponsor—Reformation Heritage Books. They have just released a great new product in the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, and they are eager to get a few of them into your hands. So there will be 5 winners this week, and each of the winners will receive a genuine leather KJV Study Bible.

Here are some of the Bible’s best features:

KJVspreadsheet1vfs A Study Bible to Feed Your Soul …

  • Thoughts for personal and family devotions for every chapter
  • Three dozen articles on how to live the Christian life
  • Guidance on how to experience the truths of the Bible

KJVspreadsheet2vfs

A Study Bible to Instruct Your Mind …

  • Thousands of study notes with integrated cross-references
  • Introductions to each section and every book of the Bible
  • Classic Bible text with explanations of difficult words
  • More than fifty articles on key Christian teachings
  • Concordance, color maps, daily reading plan, and more!

A Study Bible to Discover Your Roots …

  • Overview of twenty centuries of church history
  • Ancient creeds, confessions, and catechisms with introductions

Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible Specifications

  • Trim size: 6 ½ x 9 ¼
  • Page font: Bible text font is Minion sized at 9.8, Study Notes font is Myriad SemiCondensed sized at 8.
  • All Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bibles are Smyth Sewn for lasting durability.

KJV Study Bible

Enter to Win

All you need to do to enter the draw is to drop your name and email address in the form below. (If you receive this by email, you will need to visit challies.com to enter.)

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.

November 21, 2014

You are not “running late.” You are rude. You are inconsiderate. You need to change. Greg Savage’s frustration with other people’s tardiness boiled over into an amusing rant that he posted online, and that was subsequently read by hundreds of thousands.

10 people kept waiting in a meeting for 20 minutes, while some selfish pratt who idles his way via the coffee shop, is actually 20 minutes times 10, which is 200 minutes wasted – while you keep us waiting because you did not catch the earlier bus. That is over 3 hours wasted. By you! How much has that cost the business? Shall I send you an invoice?

And an arrangement to meet someone for a business meeting at a coffee shop at 3 pm, more often than not means at 3.10 you get a text saying ‘I am five minutes away’ which inevitably means 10 minutes, and so you wait for 15 or 20 minutes, kicking your heels in frustration.

Like most epic and enjoyable rants, we can all identify with the heart of the issue. Most of us feel some of his angst, because most of us have been kept waiting by someone who pulls in late too often and who apologizes too seldom. Somehow lateness has become culturally acceptable, excused away by busyness or traffic or the other trappings of our frantic lives. Savage says, “I consider serial lateness a character flaw which I take into account when working out who to promote, who to hire and who to count amongst my real friends.” In his view it is that important.

In many ways I am inclined to agree with Savage. I can very easily see a link between promptness and character, where people of mature character tend to be the ones who show up on time, or even a few minutes early. Here in North America we could probably lobby to make it the missing fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, promptness, kindness, gentleness… But there is always one nagging little thought in the back of my mind: Jesus was late. Or was he just on time? He certainly looked late. In John 11 he is summoned to rush to the side of his friend Lazarus. But he dawdled and arrived not 20 minutes late, but 2 whole days late. By that time Lazarus was not only in the grave, but getting pretty ripe in there. His friends were disappointed in him, assuming that he didn’t properly understand the situation, or that he didn’t properly prioritize it. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

But Jesus had been waylaid for the best of reasons—he was deeply in touch with God’s will and knew that God had something he meant to do and something he meant to prove in this situation. Where a human perspective made Jesus look like a failure, from a divine perspective he was the greatest success. We can see the same in the Psalms where David seems to assume that God is late or too busy with other things, too busy or too distracted to reply to David in his agony. We can see it in the cries of God’s people under oppression, as God seems so slow to turn his face toward them. Sometimes even the Divine looks late when we look at Him from our so-human and so-limited perspective.

And this is just my fear when we demand promptness and assume that tardiness indicates a character flaw. There is so much we don’t see. There are many people who love to do good to others, and they allow that doing good to others to take precendence over their schedules. My temptation is just the opposite, to refuse to do good because I don’t want to be late. In fact, just last night I dreamed about witnessing an accident but driving away so I wouldn’t be late for an elders’ meeting.

This issue has been an important one in my church. Toronto is the most culturally diverse city in the world, which makes the churches multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-everything else. I would say that nearly half of our church is from a West African or South American background, and both continents regard time differently from the way we do. I might be tempted to regard this only as weakness, but there are strengths as well. While I arrive on time but alone, my African friends might arrive thirty minutes late, but in a socially-engaged crowd. While I might be tempted to rush right back out of church to get home, to get lunch, to get a nap, to get geared up for the evening service, my African friends might dawdle at the church and socialize for hours until the next service begins. The issue that may frustrate us also masks genuine strengths. Will those strengths diminish as promptness increases? Is it worth the cost? Some of the most thoughtful people I know, are also the most consistently late people I know. They show their thoughtfulness in other ways—ways that sometimes make them late.

I do not mean to defend lateness. I still believe promptness is an application of Jesus’ simple command that we are to let our yes be yes and our no be no. If you say you will arrive at 10, arrive at 10, not 11. Like Savage, I believe the deeper issue is with people who plan to be late, who think so highly of themselves that they don’t even attempt to get there on time anymore, and who don’t care a bit for how this inconveniences others.

So by all means, let’s plan to be on time, and let’s live orderly lives. But let’s be slow to stand in judgment of those who show up at a time we deem inappropriate. If nothing else, let’s know people for their many strengths and not only that one weakeness that most frustrates us.

Image credit: Shutterstock