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Tim Challies

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April 08, 2014

There are lots of Kindle deals today! Exalting Jesus in Matthew (a commentary) by David Platt ($2.99); Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler ($2.99); Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper ($2.99); HCSB Study Bible ($2.99); The Measure of Success by Carolyn McCulley ($2.99); Manhood Restored by Eric Mason ($2.99); Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax ($2.99); Truth Matters by Andreas Kostenberger ($4.99); Stop Asking Jesus into your Heart by J.D. Greear ($2.99); The Lion and the Lamb by Andreas Kostenberger ($0.99); Christless Christianity by Michael Horton ($3.99); 

Together for the Gospel - The Together for the Gospel conference begins today, which is why I’m on my way to Louisville right now. You can watch it live beginning this afternoon.

English is Crazy - Yes it is. This poem explains.

31 Days of Purity Ebook - If you want to have the 31 Days of Purity in ebook format, visit the link and have at it.

Inerrant Word - InerrantWord is a new web site from John MacArthur dedicated to the always-important subject of inerrancy. It is part of the lead-up to next year’s Shepherds’ Conference Summit on Inerrancy.

Whisperings - Here is some counsel for pastors and church leaders who find themselves the subject of gossip.

Fall in Love Again - This is a good one from Paul Tripp.

Stop Forgiving Those Who Don’t Want Forgiveness - David writes about those who say they forgive others, even when they don’t want forgiveness. “I understand the motive, and also the desire to present an attractive witness about Christian forgiveness to the world. But it’s not a faithful witness to God. It does not reflect how God forgives, which is to be our pattern and model. Here’s why: God does not forgive those who do not want forgiveness.”

Scanning and Skimming - You’ll want to give this one a quick skim. “Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say.” I put it at the end of today’s links just to make you feel guilty…

The truth of our Lord Jesus Christ is what is worth living for, and what is worth dying for. —W. Robert Godfrey

Godfrey

April 07, 2014

Series Introduction: I live in a small house. I work in a small office in a small church. For those reasons and others I will never have a huge library. When I add a book I almost always remove a book, a practice that allows me to focus on quality over quantity. Over the past couple of years I have focused on building a collection of commentaries that will include only the best volumes on each book of the Bible. I know when I’m in way over my head, so before I began I collected every good resource I could find that rated and reviewed commentaries. I studied them and then began my collection on the basis of what the experts told me. Since I did all of that work, and since I continue to keep up with the project, I thought it might be helpful to share the recommendations.

My focus is on newer commentaries (at least in part because most of the classics are now freely or cheaply available) and I am offering approximately 5 recommendations for each book of the Bible, alternating between the Old Testament and the New. Today I have turned to the experts to find what they say about Ezekiel.

Ezekiel

EzekielDaniel Block - The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24; The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25-48 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament). Block’s commentary is thorough but not dense. He deals with the text so closely that nothing is overlooked, but he doesn’t dwell there, often zooming right out to look at the book’s big picture as well. While there are other excellent commentaries on Ezekiel, the commentators on the commentaries are unanimous in their praise and most rate this one as the most important work on the book, and a must-have for anyone who wishes to preach through it. (Amazon: Volume 1, Volume 2; Westminster Books: Volume 1, Volume 2)

Iain Duguid - Ezekiel (NIV Application Commentary). The NIV Application Commentary has some volumes that are much stronger than others and Duguid’s volume on Ezekiel is considered one of the best. Keith Mathison says, “Duguid’s commentary runs a very close second to Block in my estimation. For those who do not need the detail of Block, Duguid is the place to go. His is a very careful reading of the book from a Reformed perspective. Very helpful and highly recommended.” Other experts commend him for his pastoral tone. (Amazon, Westminster Books)

EzekielDerek Thomas - God Strengthens: Ezekiel Simply Explained (Welwyn Commentary Series). This is considered an introductory commentary and one that will be helpful for the pastor or for the general reader. Derek Thomas has written a number of highly-regarded commentaries and this one reflects his strengths—Reformed theology, sound scholarship, and a pastoral emphasis. (Amazon, Westminster Books)

Douglas Stuart - Ezekiel (The Preacher’s Commentary). This volume comes highly recommended by Derek Thomas (himself the author of a commentary on Ezekiel) and by Keith Mathison. Thomas says simply, “exceptionally good” while Mathison goes into more detail: “Stuart always has helpful insight into whatever text he is discussing, and when dealing with a book as difficult as Ezekiel, such insight is invaluable.” It seems like this would make a good third or fourth choice. (Amazon)

EzekielLeslie Allen - Ezekiel 1-19; Ezekiel 20-48 (Word Biblical Commentary). Apparently W.H. Brownlee began this two-volume set on Ezekiel but died before he could complete them. The work was taken over by Allen who has written a good, though technical, commentary. Tremper Longman assigns it 4 stars and says, “Allen is concerned with both the final form of the book as well as its composition.” Others show some caution but still regard it as a valuable reference work when taken in light of the volumes recommended above. (Amazon: Volume 1, Volume 2; Westminster Books: Volume 1, Volume 2)

And how about you? Have you ever preached Ezekiel? What commentaries do you prefer?

 

April 07, 2014

I suppose it has always been difficult to teach boys about sex. The trouble is that you need to begin those talks while they are still quite young—probably too young to handle the information with the maturity it deserves. This may be especially true today when pornography and other blatant sexuality is so prevalent that we have to address these things at younger and younger ages. Still, every parent does it and blunders through it one way or another.

I sometimes read a magazine called The Walrus. It is a Canadian magazine that exists on the left—just about as far left as you can go, I think. Still, it features some skilled writers and presents a perspective that I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to, so I rather enjoy reading it. In the current issue there is a column called “The Talk” that discusses teaching boys about sex. I realized as I read it that the way I have been teaching my children about sex and gender and sexuality is very, very different from the way society around us would teach them if given the opportunity. We use similar terms, but mean very different things by them. As a Christian, and as a Christian parent, I found it very helpful to have this alternative view so clearly laid out.

The article begins in a ninth-grade classroom on the far side of the country where an organization called WiseGuyz is leading an opt-in sexual education class. The article explains that these teachers face the “radical act of teaching them to question all they have been told about what it means to be a man.” Men from the organization are teaching boys about sex and sexuality and, not surprisingly, the boys are responding with confusion and wisecracks. One of the instructors has just spoken about intersexuality, being born with a combination of male and female physical characteristics.

A few boys nod, but the rest look baffled. Stafford Perry, another facilitator, speaks up. “It helps if you understand that for many people, gender is not just two possibilities but many,” he says. “Being a man or a woman exists on a scale, so it’s not either/or. You don’t have to be one or the other.”

This is key. Much of what used to be considered binary now exists on a scale. When I was a child I was taught that sex and gender are binary—you are male or female, and your gender identity and gender expression will accord with it. There may have been some small scales—with tomboy to princess representing different scales of femininity and rough-and-tumble to sensitive representing different scales of masculinity—but the categories were clear: You were a boy or a girl and if you were a boy you were expected to behave like a boy and if you were a girl you were expected to behave like a girl. Today, though, children are taught that every aspect of sexuality exists on a scale with no either/or. They are taught that this is the normal and natural state of humanity.

The instructor then takes a whiteboard and draws a figure shaped like a gingerbread man. This gingerbread man has a smiley face, a heart, and a starburst at the crotch. And he uses this figure to teach some important lessons—some important terminology.

April 07, 2014

Here are some new Kindle deals: Gray Matters by Brett McCracken ($1.99); The Faithful Preacher by Thabiti Anyabwile ($3.99); A Passion for Faithfulness by J.I. Packer ($3.99); Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology by Together for the Gospel speakers ($3.99); Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood edited by Wayne Grudem ($1.99); The Message of the New Testament by Mark Dever ($0.99); Stand by John Piper & Justin Taylor ($3.99). Zondervan has a big list of reference works and other resources on sale: The New Matthew Henry Commentary ($4.99); Dictionary of Biblical Imagery by John Beck ($5.99); Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary ($5.99); Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5 ($6.99 each); Dictionary of Bible and Theology Words ($3.99); How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens by Michael Williams ($3.99); How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Fee & Stuart ($3.99); How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Fee & Stuart ($3.99).

How to Identify False Teachers - Denny Burk has a great little article on identifying false teachers.

Without God, Without Hope - I appreciated Charlene’s article in which she remembers her youth and says, “When I hear myself say things like what is wrong with people these days?,’ shake my head in disgust and marvel that human beings could be so rebellious, so foolish, so crass, so arrogant, it is a good sign that I am not remembering where I came from.”

The Greatest Infographic - I enjoy the YouTube channel Numberphile. In this video they discuss what may be one of the greatest infographics ever. “in 1862 Charles Joseph Minard created a much-praised infographic depicting Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812.” It’s pretty amazing.

Is Online Church Really a Church? - No. Ed Stetzer explains.

Portraits of Reconciliation - This is a moving photo essay. “Last month, the photographer Pieter Hugo went to southern Rwanda, two decades after nearly a million people were killed during the country’s genocide, and captured a series of unlikely, almost unthinkable tableaus.”

Teaching Your Children Politeness - Here are some pointers on teaching your children to be polite. 

The Lord Jesus has as great an interest in the weakest saints as the strongest. —Thomas Brooks

Brooks

The Bestsellers
April 06, 2014

Last week I began a new Sunday series called “The Bestsellers.” The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association tracks sales of Christian books, and awards the Platinum Book Award for books whose sales exceed one million, and the Diamond Book Award for sales exceeding ten million. In this series I will look at the history and impact of some of the Christian books that have sold more than a million copies—no small feat when the average Christian books sells only a few thousand. We will encounter books by a cast of characters ranging from Joshua Harris, Randy Alcorn and David Platt all the way to Joel Osteen, Bruce Wilkinson and William Young. Today we look at one of the bestselling Christian books of all-time: Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life.

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

Purpose Driven LifeRick Warren was born in 1954 in San Jose, California, the son of Jimmy and Dot Warren. Jimmy was a Baptist minister and from a young age Rick determined to follow in his father’s footsteps. He received an undergraduate degree from California Baptist University before going to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to receive his pastoral training.

In 1980, Warren founded Saddleback Church in Laguna Hills, California. The church’s inaugural service was held on Easter Sunday in Laguna Hills High School with nearly 200 people in attendance. Under Warren’s leadership and winsome personality, the church grew rapidly, outgrowing facility after facility until they finally purchased land in Lake Forest and began construction there in the early 1990’s. By the time the church settled in the Lake Forest campus, they already had 10,000 people attending their services each week.

In 1995, Zondervan published the semi-autobiographical The Purpose Driven Church, a book that soon proved popular and influential in teaching the principles of church growth. While the book was targeted squarely at pastors and church leaders, it introduced Warren to the leaders who would be key to the success of his next work.

In 2002 Zondervan released The Purpose Driven Life, a forty-day devotional meant to lead the reader on a spiritual journey. Warren considered it an anti-self-help book, a manifesto for Christian living in the twenty-first century. It famously begins with the words, “It’s not about you.” Instead, Warren shows that we exist for the glory of God and that our innate desire for fulfillment can be found only in Him. The forty devotional readings are divided into five themes:

  • You Were Planned for God’s Pleasure (Worship)
  • You Were Formed for God’s Family (Fellowship)
  • You Were Created to Become Like Christ (Discipleship)
  • You Were Shaped for Serving God (Ministry)
  • You Were Made for a Mission (Mission)

Each chapter contains a short devotional several pages in length followed by a section titled “Thinking About My Purpose” which offers a Point to Ponder, a Verse to Remember, and a Question to Consider.

The book was released hand-in-hand with a substantial viral marketing campaign meant to take advantage of the Internet and to encourage word-of-mouth and bulk sales. The 40 Days of Purpose campaign invited pastors to lead their entire churches through the book, reading it day-by-day and even preaching sermons provided by Warren. This campaign was launched with 1,5000 participating churches and that led to the book’s first print run of 500,000 copies selling out very quickly. Some 20,000 churches eventually took advantage of the program.

The book received a substantial and unexpected boost in March 2005 when Brian Nichols, a man wanted for a series of shootings in Atlanta, took Ashley Smith hostage in her apartment. During the seven hours he held her captive, she read chapter 32 aloud and later suggested that this helped in his decision to release her.

April 05, 2014

Do We Want Christ? Or To Be Wonderful Christians? - I appreciate what Elisha asks in this article: “Do I want to be a wonderful Christian, or do I want Christ? Does my soul long to be a better Christian or does my soul long for the living God? Do I simply want to grow in Christlike character or do I want deeper intimacy with the Person of Christ.”

Board Games - Once a year or so Amazon puts a lot of board games on sale. Today’s the day! Ticket to Ride, 7 Wonders, Dominion, Axis and Allies, Forbidden Island, etc, are all heavily discounted.

The New Calvinism - PBS did a feature on the New Calvinism, focusing on the SBC. It’s not like they discovered anything we didn’t already know, but it’s still interesting enough, I guess.

Young, Restless, Reformed - While we’re on the subject of the New Calvinism, Collin Hansen’s book Young, Restless, Reformed is on sale for Kindle ($3.99).

The British Isles in Accents - This is pretty neat: A tour of the British Isles through its accents.

Distracted from Shepherding a Child’s Heart - There is food for thought in this article, though I’m not convinced the problem is quite as bad as he makes it out to be.

The NSA Spying Machine - Here’s an interactive graphic meant to show what we know that NSA is able to do.

Reporting Abuse - Here’s an important article on pastoral wisdom and the mandate to report abuse.

Do you know who you need to be saved from? You need to be saved from God. —Voddie Baucham

Baucham

April 04, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by ChristianAudio. They are giving away 5 great prize packages today, and each of those prizes contains 4 excellent audio books. I’ve read them all and highly recommend them all. The 5 winners will all receive:

  • Taking God at His WordTaking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung. “Can we trust the Bible completely? Is it sufficient for our complicated lives? Can we really know what it teaches? With his characteristic wit and clarity, award-winning author Kevin DeYoung has written an accessible introduction to the Bible that answers important questions raised by Christians and non-Christians. This book will help you understand what the Bible says about itself and the key characteristics that contribute to its lasting significance. Avoiding technical jargon, this winsome volume will encourage you to read and believe the Bible—confident that it truly is God’s word.”
  • The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield. “Rosaria, by the standards of many, was living a very good life. She had a tenured position at a large university in a field for which she cared deeply. She owned two homes with her partner, in which they provided hospitality to students and activists that were looking to make a difference in the world. In the community, Rosaria was involved in volunteer work. At the university, she was a respected advisor of students and her department’s curriculum. Then, in her late 30’s, Rosaria encountered something that turned her world upside down—the idea that Christianity, a religion she had regarded as problematic and sometimes downright damaging, might be right about who God was…”
  • Double Play by Ben & Julianna Zobrist. “All-Star player Ben Zobrist (Tampa Bay Rays), considered one of the best all-around players in baseball, writes about the importance of his faith, life, and athletic career in Double Play. Written with his wife, Christian singer Julianna Zobrist, and Mike Yorkey, the book gives fans a first look into the heart of an athlete whose talent and devotion to God, family, and baseball make him one of the most loveable figures in the Major League today.”
  • Wherever I Wind UpWherever I Wind Up by R.A. Dickey. “An English Lit major at the University of Tennessee, Dickey is as articulate and thoughtful as any professional athlete in any sport-and proves it page after page, as he provides fresh and honest insight into baseball and a career unlike any other. Sustained by his profound Christian faith, the love of his wife and children, and a relentless quest for self-awareness and authenticity, the immensely likable Dickey details his transformation from a reckless, risk-taking loner to a grounded, life-affirming big leaguer. He emerged as one of the premier pitchers in the National League in 2010-and the knuckleballing embodiment of the wonders that perseverance and human wisdom can produce.”

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.

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.

April 04, 2014

Like so many others, I will be heading to Louisville, Kentucky next week, to take in the Together for the Gospel conference. What catnip is to your cat, T4G is for a New Calvinist, and, like so many others, I am looking forward not only to the conference, but to meeting people, spending time with friends, and taking in the wider conference atmosphere. I’ll be honest: My favorite part of the conference is spending time with people. For me, this ranks at least as high as taking in the sessions and the singing.

What I am about to say should not be taken as a rebuke of Together for the Gospel or any other conference. Rather, it is something I have been considering lately as I’ve thought about the conference culture that pervades the church today. (Or, at least, the conference culture that pervades the New Calvinism today.) I think it is clear that this conference culture is directly related to the celebrity culture we have fostered.

The conference culture revolves around celebrity speakers so that the biggest conferences are the ones with the greatest number of the most popular celebrity preachers. In many cases conference planners choose a theme and then bring in as many of our favorite preachers as they can to speak on that theme. The more of these speakers they can get, the greater the attendance. The math is simple.

This is important to consider: These men are not necessarily the authorities on that theme. Rather, they are solid preachers and godly men who can take any text and make something good come from it. John Piper is such a gifted preacher and powerful communicator that his worst sermon on a given text is better than my best sermon on my best day on that same text. But he is not necessarily an authority on that book or on the theme of that conference.

These conferences are good and helpful. Listening to these big-name preachers will almost certainly never be a waste of time. I’ve never heard Piper speak at a conference and grumbled, “That was a waste of time!” In many cases, though, the draw of the conference is not growing in knowledge of a theme or a book of the Bible, but hearing celebrity preachers speak on that theme or that book of the Bible. When it comes right down to it, the celebrity, not the theme, is the draw. Quick, without looking: What is the theme of this year’s Together for the Gospel conference? You probably don’t know. And really, it probably doesn’t matter to you a whole lot, because the bigness of the event and the bigness of the speakers are the draw.

Could we consider it a sign of health and growth in the New Calvinism if we had the same level of excitement to learn a book of the Bible from a no-name authority on that book, or to learn about a topic of great theological importance from a no-name authority on that topic? Wouldn’t it be interesting if the situation was reversed? “I don’t know who is speaking, but I am excited to learn about this book or this theme!” This would show that our foremost desire is not to see and hear celebrity preachers, but to have the best opportunity to see and hear God speak to us through his Word.

I am going to enjoy Together for the Gospel completely guilt-free. I will enjoy the bigness of the event and am still looking forward to being blessed by those godly men who will be preaching God’s Word there. But let’s continue to think about this one…