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August 25, 2014

As English-speaking Christians, we have a vast array of hymns available to us, and we each have our list of favorites. In my assessment, the best hymns are those that are universal and timeless, speaking to all Christians in all times, places, and situations. They are firmly grounded in Scripture and drawn out of, or toward, the gospel of Jesus Christ. And they are inevitably coupled to a great melody.

Here are my picks for the ten greatest hymns of all-time. Apart from the first, they are in no particular order.

And Can It Be? by Charles Wesley. I begin with what I consider the greatest hymn by the greatest hymn-writer. Wesley’s “And Can It Be?” simply delights in the goodness of God while marveling at his saving grace. It captures every Christian’s experience of wandering, of beholding Christ, of rejoicing in his salvation, and of the great hope of entering his presence at last. “No condemnation now I dread; / Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; / Alive in Him, my living Head, / And clothed in righteousness divine, / Bold I approach th’eternal throne, / And claim the crown, through Christ my own.”

A Mighty Fortress by Martin Luther. It is bold, it is triumphant, it expresses great faith in God and great defiance toward sin and Satan. I think Satan hates it when we sing this: “The prince of darkness grim — We tremble not for him; / His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure, / One little word shall fell him.”

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name by Edward Perronet. There are few hymns more triumphant than this one, and especially so when sung to the “Diadem” melody. It calls upon each of us, and everything else in all of creation, to pay homage to our great God. It anticipates the day when that will happen. “All hail the power of Jesu’s name! / Let Angels prostrate fall; / Bring forth the royal diadem, / To crown Him Lord of All.”

Oh, For a Thousand Tongues by Charles Wesley. In this hymn Wesley proclaims that one tongue simply is not enough to express his praise and his adoration before God. If he had a thousand tongues, he would use them all to proclaim who God is and what he has done. “He breaks the power of canceled sin, / He sets the prisoner free; / His blood can make the foulest clean, / His blood availed for me.”

August 25, 2014

Zondervan and Thomas Nelson’s great list of $0.99 deals seem to still be in effect: Death by Living by N.D. Wilson; Strange Fire by John MacArthur; Jesus on Every Page by David Murray; The Dude’s Guide to Manhood by Darrin Patrick; Couples of the Bible by Robert & Bobbie Wolgemuth; Risky Gospel by Owen Strachan; Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke; Yawning at Tigers by Drew Dyck. Here are a few deals from Crossway: His Loving Law, Our Lasting Legacy by Jani Ortlund ($0.99); Marriage and Family by Andreas Kostenberger ($0.99); A Family Guide to Narnia by Christin Ditchfield ($1.99); Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham ($1.99); finally, consider Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur ($3.99).

Brave and Afraid and Heading Down the Longest Road - This longform article at The Boston Globe gives a glimpse of life and family affected by mental illness.

Gospel in Life - Gospel in Life is a new site that brings together resources from Tim Keller.

God’s Great Dance Floor - This is an interesting look at modern worship music and the influence of electronic dance music. 

Dealing with Digital Cruelty - There’s a bit of psychobabble in this one, but the heart of the article is interesting. The author tries to figure out why people are so mean when they go online and what we can do when people are cruel to us.

Cultivating Your Marriage - Randy Alcorn: “Lust thrives on secrecy. There is nothing that defuses lust as effectively as exposure. Honest communication between husband and wife makes them allies, not adversaries.”

On Platforms, Self-Promotion, and Pleasure Complete - This is a good one from Timmy Brister.

Holiness in what we call small matters, is the surest test of real holiness. —Andrew Bonar

Bonar

August 24, 2014

I love to discover what I call “faith hacks”—practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life. As I read, as I listen to sermons, as I speak to people, I am always looking for insights on how other Christians live out their faith in practical ways. I recently shared an ultra-practical way to display servant leadership and then a way to organize prayer. Today I am shifting to parenting.

I think every parent struggles with adequately shepherding his or her children, and especially shepherding them individually. It is easy enough to implement family worship, but what about each child’s specific concerns or needs? By the time we have taken care of every other responsibility in life, the hearts of our children can too easily become an afterthought.

Brian Croft offers his simple plan for individually shepherding his children, and it is as simple as blocking off a bit of time at the end of each day. Here is how it works: Each of his children gets one night to stay up beyond his or her usual bedtime. When the other kids go to bed, that one child goes and meets with dad. They read the passage he is going to preach that week, discuss it, and then read a chapter from a book the child has chosen to read. Then Brian asks how he can pray for them. He prays with them, then takes them to bed.

And that’s it. It takes just a few minutes, but offers several important benefits: It has been an encouragement to his wife as she sees her husband discipling the children; it has given him the ability to challenge other men in their efforts to disciple their children; and, of course, it has given him regular and dedicated opportunities to care for the souls of his children. It is a simple method and one that requires just a little bit of time and a little bit of scheduling.

See: How Can I Make Sure I Am Individually Shepherding My Children? at Practical Shepherding.

August 23, 2014

Zondervan and Thomas Nelson are having a great $0.99 sale: Death by Living by N.D. Wilson; Strange Fire by John MacArthur; Jesus on Every Page by David Murray; The Dude’s Guide to Manhood by Darrin Patrick; Couples of the Bible by Robert & Bobbie Wolgemuth; Risky Gospel by Owen Strachan; Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke; Yawning at Tigers by Drew Dyck.

This blogger has a powerful letter he wrote to a judge as the judge prepared to sentence his son’s kidnapper.

An awful lot has been written about the situation in Ferguson; Justin Taylor’s article is one of the most helpful, at least in my assessment.

The Bridegroom’s Incredible Vow is a good piece on marriage from Jared Wilson.

Last year I went to Scotland and, in one of my dispatches, mentioned a young lady who is laboring in the schemes. It was a joy to read that there is now a church plant being started in that very community.

Vance Christie has put together a challenge for you: Who’s Who in Church History?

If you’ve thought about attending the Doxology and Theology conference, you can use the coupon code CHALLIES to take the cost down to $149.

Disciplined faith is a faith that is likely to survive and lead to faith in others. —Alister McGrath

McGrath

August 22, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by our friends at CBD Reformed. As they always do, they are offering some great prizes. There will be 5 winners this week, and each of those winners will receive the following 3 books:

  • Galatians For YouGalatians For You: For Reading, for Feeding, for Leading by Tim Keller – Retail Price $22.99
  • Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper - Retail price $15.99
  • ESV Compact Bible - Retail Price $24.99

In addition, CBD Reformed is offering a 4-day sale (August 22 - 25) on the following three products:

Enter to Win

Again, there are 5 prize packages to win. And 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.

August 22, 2014

I love to discover what I call “faith hacks”—practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life. As I read, as I listen to sermons, as I speak to people, I am always looking for insights on how other Christians live out their faith in practical ways. I recently shared an ultra-practical way to display servant leadership. Today I am shifting to prayer.

The Bible tells us not only that we can pray, but that we should and must pray. Prayer is one of the great responsibilities and the great privileges of being a Christian. Yet prayer is also difficult. It is difficult to pray effectively and it is difficult to pray systematically.

Christians have created many patterns and systems to help them as they pray. One of my favorites is John Piper’s model of praying in concentric circles. In a January, 2000 sermon on Paul’s call to prayer in Colossians 4:2 he gave a description of how he organizes his prayers.

Consider praying in concentric circles from your own soul outward to the whole world. This is my regular practice. I pray for my own soul first. Not because I am more deserving than others, but because if God doesn’t awaken and strengthen and humble and fill my own soul, then I can’t pray for anybody else’s. So I plead with the Lord every morning for my own soul’s perseverance and purification and power.

Then I go to the next concentric circle, my family, and I pray for each of them by name: Noel, Karsten/Shelly/Millie, Benjamin, Abraham, Barnabas, Talitha and some of my extended family.

Then I go to the next concentric circle, the staff and elders of Bethlehem. I name them all by name.

Then I pray for you, Bethlehem Baptist Church. And then I go out from there to different concerns and groups at different times: our missionaries, our denomination and its schools, the Baptist General Conference, Evangelicalism in general and the church around the world, especially the suffering church. The wider circles include the city and the state and the nation and the cultural and social issues of the world.

You can’t pray for everything every time. So there need to be differences. And your heart will dictate much of your burden. Some days one family member or one staff member or one crisis in the church or the world will consume most of your time. But if you have a pattern—like the concentric circles—you won’t spin your wheels wondering where to start.

It is that simple and that practical: Begin close and pray in widening circles.

See: Devote Yourselves to Prayer at Desiring God.

Circle image credit: Shutterstock

August 22, 2014

Here are some new Kindle deals. To start, Cruciform Press has 5 books marked down to $0.99: Servanthood as Worship by Nate Palmer; Broken Vows by John Greco; But God… by Casey Lute; Contend by Aaron Armstrong; Innocent Blood by John Ensor. Also consider The God Who Justifies by James White ($3.03); Jesus, the Only Way to God by John Piper ($0.99).

Lead with Empathy, Love Your Neighbor, Let the Truth Come Out - Here’s Al Mohler writing on the situation in Ferguson.

Kent Brantly’s Remarks - Here is Dr. Kent Brantly speaking following his release from hospital (where he was successfully treated for Ebola).

In Defense of Dawkins - Well, kind of. (And another one teeing off Dawkins.)

Female Adult Gamers - Adult women are now among the major users of video games. “Women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (36%) than boys age 18 or younger (17%).”

Which Gospel Tracts Do You Use? - Here are some recommended resources for evangelism.

How Do Tornadoes Form? - Watch this brief video and you’ll find out.

Access to God under all circumstances is guaranteed by Christ’s one sacrifice that covers all transgressions.J.I. Packer

Packer