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October 15, 2014

Here are today’s Kindle deals: You Lift Me Up by Albert Martin ($2.99); How Prayer Impacts Lives by Catherine MacKenzie ($2.99); The Ascension by Tim Chester & Jonny Woodrow ($2.99); The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur ($3.79); Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham ($0.99); Four Views on the Book of Revelation and Four Views on Hell by Various ($2.99); How to Help People Change by Jay Adams ($2.99); Preaching to a Shifting Culture by Various ($2.99). Every week Zondervan lets me choose one book to put on sale and this week I went with Christian Apologetics by Meister & Sweis ($4.99). Finally, if you’re into bargain hunting, check out today’s Gold Box deal from Amazon which has a great pair of headphones 76% off.

From the River to the Ends of the Earth - This is a free album from Matt Searles, and it is based on the Psalms. You need to input your email address to get it, but you won’t be put on the mailing list until you opt-in.

Compassion Without Compromise - Westminster Books has some good deals this week, including one that looks very promising and comes highly commended by Kevin DeYoung.

Only Themselves to Blame - This article looks at the recent battle over encrypting information and says, “Feds only have themselves to blame for Apple and Google’s smartphone encryption efforts.”

Rethinking Jephthah’s Foolish Vow - Here, from Gospel Coalition’s series on perplexing passages, is a look at Jephthah’s foolish vow.

Successful Ministry - This is an encouraging article for anyone who is sharing the gospel with others.

Houston, We Have a Constitution - Russell Moore responds to some alarming news from Houston.

Death is only a grim porter to let us into a stately palace. —Richard Sibbes

Sibbes

October 14, 2014

For the past couple of weeks I have been working on a series titled How To Get Things Done, and am continuing that series today [Part 1: How to Get Things Done, Part 2: Define Your Areas of Responsibility, Part 3: Time, Energy & Mission]. I have spent the first few installments of the series trying to lay a solid foundation. While it is always tempting to skip ahead to get straight to the fun stuff, true and lasting productivity will depend on taking those initial steps.

But today, at last, we get to one of the fun parts: choosing tools. Like any other work, the work of productivity requires tools.

When you are dependent on your tools, you need to make sure you are using the best tools. A doctor can probably do surgery with a utility knife if he needs to, but we’d all prefer that he cuts us open with a scalpel—and a very high-quality scalpel at that. You can go out in your backyard and cut down a tree with a crowbar, but you’ll get the job done better and faster if you use an axe. The point is, many people try to do their work with tools that are poorly suited to the task. To large degree, your productivity depends on identifying and using the best tools for the job, and then growing in your skill in deploying them.

As we look at productivity, there is a collection of tools that can help you a great deal.

  • Information tools. Information tools allow you to collect, archive and access important information.
  • Scheduling tools. Scheduling tools allow you to organize your time, and they alert you ahead of important events.
  • Communication tools. Communication tools allow you to communicate, and they allow to archive and access your previous communications.
  • Task management tools. Task management tools allow you to capture and organize your to-do items.

Almost all of these tools have both physical and electronic variants. For example, you can communicate via postal mail (the physical variant) or email (the electronic variant). My focus will be on the electronic side of things.

Information Tools

Information tools allow you to collect, archive and access important information. Not too long ago these were filing cabinets full of folders and pieces of paper. Today, however, the best information tools allow you to archive all (or most) of your information electronically. Using these tools, you may be able to join the paperless movement and eliminate your filing cabinets and all those annoying bits of paper altogether.

I rely on Evernote (evernote.com) as my information tool. Evernote is a powerful piece of software that allows you to capture almost every kind of information. Once information is captured, it is archived and indexed and ready for future use. Evernote installs on nearly every bit of computer equipment you own (Mac, PC, mobile phones, tablets, etc) and can be with you everywhere you go and whatever you do.

BulbTip: The organizing principle here, as in all of life is this: A home for everything, and like goes with like. I will say more about this soon.

Scheduling Tools

Scheduling tools allow you to organize your time, and they alert you ahead of important events. These tools (minus the alerts) used to be the calendars hanging on your wall, but today there are electronic calendars that are incredibly powerful.

I rely on Google Calendar (calendar.google.com) as my scheduling tool, though I actually access it through Sunrise (sunrise.am), a slick Mac-based program that imports and displays Google’s calendar. I do this for two reasons: First, it improves on Google’s web-based view and, second, I try to avoid using my browser as often as I can, since any time I open a browser I am tempting myself to waste time. I use this calendar to display all of the events in my life, and, through the alerts function, I use it to alert me of any pending meetings or appointments.

BulbTip: Begin every day by reviewing all appointments for that day and the next day, ensuring that appropriate alerts have been set.

Communication Tools

Communication tools allow you to communicate, and they allow to archive and access your previous communications. These can include a host of different tools such as email, text messaging, and good old-fashioned faxes or postal mail. My focus, though, is on the electronic which, unfortunately, means email. Email is a very poor tool in many ways, but one we are stuck with for the time being.

I use GMail (gmail.com) as my primary communication tool, though I access it through Apple Mail. Again, it improves on Google’s web-based view and keeps me from using my browser for anything but browsing, thus reducing a time-wasting temptation.

BulbTip: Unless you absolutely need to, close email except when you are actually writing emails or replying to them.

October 14, 2014

Here are some Kindle deals that may interest you: Unleashing the Word by Max McLean ($2.99); Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan ($2.99); Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore ($1.99); The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias ($2.99); When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography by Vicki Tiede (free).

Who Am I? - Cruciform Press has partnered with Christian Audio to give you a pretty good deal—a free download of Jerry Bridges’ Who Am I (read by Alistair Begg). And, if you so choose, 5 more books bundled together for $9.98.

Did Jesus Hang on a Pole? - Bill Mounce talks about another difficult translation.

Through a Western Lens - Elisha reflects on just one way that we tend to read the Bible through a distinctly Western lens.

Idiot’s Guide to the Bible - You’ve probably seen the Idiot’s Guide series before. Jim Hamilton writes about the new volume which is about the Bible. 

Support PrayerMate - I’ve written before about how PrayerMate has been a huge blessing to me. Andy Geers, who created the app, is now crowdfunding the next version of it.

5 Ways to Lead Your Wife - David Murray offers 5 ways God calls men to lead their wives.

As the wicked are hurt by the best things, so the godly are bettered by the worst. —William Jenkyn

Jenkyn

October 13, 2014

Not too long ago I had the opportunity to speak to a gathering of young adults from several churches across our city. I chose to speak about how any Christian (not only young adults) can make a church better and stronger. Here are some of the things I came up with: 7 things your church needs from you.

Your church needs you to…

…Be Humble

There is no character quality more important than humility. While humility does not come naturally to any of us, it can be learned, because here’s the thing: Humility isn’t a feeling or an attitude—it’s action. If you want to learn humility, you need to act humble. Here are 3 quick tips on becoming humble:

  • Find mature Christians who exemplify humility and spend time around them. Learn from them and learn to be like them.
  • Volunteer for the lowliest of tasks. Don’t ask to be in the public eye when you serve, but be content to stay in the back. Find joy in doing the lowliest jobs and do them when and where only Jesus will see.
  • Get to know Jesus. It was Jesus who said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12). And it was Jesus who humbled himself the deepest and was exalted the highest.

…Prioritize Church

Every church has people who make the public gatherings of the church a low priority. These are the people who only come to church when it is convenient and who use any excuse to miss a day or miss a service. Every church desperately needs people who will make the public gatherings a top priority. Today is the day to begin elevating the importance of church in your life.

Let me give you two reasons:

  • First, you need your church. God made you part of your church for your good. You cannot do life on your own. You aren’t strong enough, you aren’t wise enough, you aren’t mature enough, you aren’t godly enough. Without the beautifully ordinary means of grace you encounter in the church, you won’t make it. Without the support of your brothers and sisters, you won’t make it.
  • Second, your church needs you. God made you part of your church for the good of others. 1 Peter 4 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” God has gifted you to be part of your church, and those gifts are to be used for the good of other people. So prioritize church as an expression of generosity toward others.

…Consider Giving God a Day

Why don’t you considering setting aside an entire day of the week and dedicating it to the Lord in a special way? We believe that the Old Testament law has been fulfilled in Christ, though there is some disagreement among Christians about the implications. But even if you believe that the Sabbath command is no longer binding on us, there is still value in learning from it.

It completely changes Sunday when you give the entire day to the Lord and his people. Now you’re not having to decide whether to take that class or join that club that meets Sunday afternoon. You’re not skipping church during exam time because you’ve got studying to do. You’re not leaving early to get home before the football game starts. Instead, you’re leaving behind all the cares of life, and even many of the joys of life, and dedicating an entire day to worship, to fellowship, and to serving others.

…Live Like a Christian All Week Long

It is easy enough to be a Christian at church, but then you get home. But then you go to work. But then you go to school. And then you’re surrounded by people acting ungodly, and even worse, you’re left along with your own thoughts and your own desires. Yet your church needs you to live like a Christian all week long.

Each of us faces different challenges and different temptations. But one key to living like a Christian all week long is spending time in Word and prayer every day. Make this a priority no matter how busy you are and no matter how crazy life seems. Make this something you do no matter how badly you’ve sinned and how little you feel like doing it. Pray day-by-day not only for yourself, but for your church. Take that membership directly and pray through it from A to Z, and then start over. Make your devotional life something you do not just for the good of yourself, but for the good of others.

October 13, 2014

Here are today’s Kindle deals, all of which are from Crossway: One with Christ by Marcus Peter Johnson ($0.99); Found in Him by Elyse Fitzpatrick ($0.99); He Who Gives Life by Graham Cole ($1.99); Engaging with the Holy Spirit by Graham Cole ($1.99).

Should Giving Always Be Kept Secret? - Randy Alcorn answers the question of whether giving should always be kept secret.

Cheating Video Poker - There is no real redeeming value in this article; it’s just plain interesting what people will do for greed. Also, it’s hard to feel sorry for casinos when people find ways to rip them off.

Relishing Baseball’s Postseason - Here’s Barnabas Piper on the joys of postseason baseball.

Reading As Spiritual Warfare - Redeemed Reader is a blog dedicated to reviewing books for kids, and they are featuring an interesting article about reading as spiritual warfare.

Activism in the Social Media Age - Clever.

Strange Fire Redux - John MacArthur is beginning a brief series looking back at Strange Fire one year later.

There is no idol like self. —Thomas Watson

Watson

October 12, 2014

For just a few minutes today, I’d like you to think about the things that matter most to you (which, I trust, are your relationships). And then let Michael Horton guide you via his new book Ordinary.

Think of the things that matter most to you. How do you measure your relationships? How do you “measure” your marriage, for example? When my wife and I talk about our relationship, we often have different takes on how things are going. Looking back over the course of our married years, we have seen many ways in which the Lord has bonded us together since our first year together. We can see steady growth and identify ways in which we’ve deepened in our relationship. But when we shift our focus to the short-term, the week-to-week, it becomes harder for us to get an accurate gauge on how we are doing. The extraordinary weekend retreat was memorable, but it’s those ordinary moments filled with seemingly insignificant decisions, conversations, and touches that matter most. This is where most of life is lived. The richest things in life are made up of more than Kodak moments.

Is it any different when you are raising children? The mantra among many parents today, especially dads, is “Quality Time.” But is that true? Think about all that happens in those mundane moments that are unplanned, unprogrammed, unscheduled, and unplugged. Nearly everything! Nicknames are invented, identities and relationships are formed. On the drive home from church, your child asks a question about the sermon that puts one more piece of the puzzle into place for an enduring faith. Everyone in the car benefits from the exchange.

I’ve used the “quality time” line before too, but it’s just an excuse. Can we really compensate for extended absence (even if we are physically present), missing the ordinary details of life, with a dream getaway or by laying out a thousand dollars to take the kids to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Any long-term relationship that wants to grow and be healthy needs those ordinary minutes, hours, days, months, and years. This is more than just enduring those moments passively. It requires engaging in intentional thought and effort as well as enjoyment.

Horton goes on to draw a comparison to the local church and the very ordinary Christian life, but I will have more to say about that in the near future.

October 11, 2014

I get my wife back today! Aileen has spent the last few days in Indianapolis to take in the 2014 True Woman conference. It sounds like she is having a great time, but I’ll be glad to have her back just in time for Thanksgiving (which, in Canada, we celebrate this weekend).

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Spiritual Warfare by Brian Borgman & Rob Ventura ($5.99); When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada ($5.99); Hitler in the Crosshairs by Maurice Possley & John Woodbridge ($3.79); The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens ($3.99); Gifted Hands by Ben Carson ($3.99); Everyday Prayers by Scotty Smith ($1.99).

Here’s an interesting and quantified take on America’s Most Well-Spoken President - “We crunched the data on more than 600 presidential speeches and addresses to see how they changed over time, and had Bill Clinton’s speechwriter check the results. Our findings may surprise you.”

A Lens to the Front is a photo gallery from Iraq.

Thanks to Books at a Glance for sponsoring the blog this week. Sponsors help keep this site afloat by covering the costs associated with hosting and maintenance.

I always love to read Sinclair Ferguson on the Bible - “If Scripture is our final authority, exactly how reliable is it as the authority on which we should base the whole of our lives?”

The title of this one just about says it all: Let Your Dim, Sin-Stained Light Shine Before The World.

This article outlines one of the ways same-sex marriage will affect friendships. Esolen asks us to imagine a world in which the incest taboo is erased. In such a place, “You see a father hugging his teenage daughter as she leaves the car to go to school. The possibility flashes before your mind. The language has changed, and the individual can do nothing about it.”

Holiness is not the way to Christ. Christ is the way to holiness. —Adrian Rogers

Rogers