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October 11, 2010

In the past couple of weeks we’ve seen two new festschrifts (books honoring a respected individual) presented to well-known Reformed leaders—one of them a new Calvinist (perhaps even the new Calvinist) and the other part of the old guard.

For the Fame of God’s Name

For the Fame of Gods NameFor the Fame of God’s Name is a collection of essays in honor of John Piper. The contributions come from a wide number of respected friends and theologians. Here is the table of contents:

A Note to John Piper by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor

Part 1: John Piper

1. A Personal Tribute to the Praise of God’s Infinite Glory and Abounding Grace by David Michael

2. Three Doors Down from a Power Plant by David Livingston

3. Who Is John Piper? by David Mathis

Part 2: Christian Hedonism

4. Christian Hedonism: Piper and Edwards on the Pursuit of Joy in God by Sam Storms

5. When All Hope Has Died: Meditations on Profound Christian Suffering by Mark R. Talbot

Part 3: The Sovereignty of God

6. The Sovereignty of God in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards by Donald J. Westblade

7. Prayer and the Sovereignty of God by Bruce A. Ware

October 11, 2010

It is Thanksgiving in Canada today. And while I’m stuffing myself with turkey and other stuff, I’m turning the blog over to a guest blogger. Nancy Leigh DeMoss prepared this article, a look at the way spiritual change takes place in the life of the Christian. As it happens, I’ll be spending this coming weekend in Fort Worth with Nancy and her ministry for the True Woman conference.

*****

Recently I ran into a woman I had not seen for several weeks. I hardly recognized her. Her hair, normally blonde, had turned completely white. The transformation was dramatic. All it took was forty minutes and some bleach.

If only spiritual transformation were that easy. Just read a book, see a counselor, attend a conference, make a fresh commitment, shed a few tears at an altar, memorize a few verses … and, presto, out comes a mature, godly Christian.

To the contrary, the experience of many believers looks like this.

Commit. Fail. Confess.
Re-commit. Fail again. Confess again.
Re-re-commit. Fail again. Give up.

After all the struggle and effort, we tend to want a “quick fix”—a once-for-all victory—so we won’t have to keep wrestling with the same old issues.

In my own walk with God, I have discovered some helpful principles about how spiritual change takes place.

1. Deep, lasting spiritual change rarely happens overnight. It is a process that involves training, testing, and time. There are no shortcuts.

We hear of people being dramatically delivered from drug or alcohol addiction, and we may wonder, “Why doesn’t God do that for me? Why do I have to struggle with this food addiction, with lust, worry, and anger?”

Before the children of Israel could possess the Promised Land, they had to drive out the pagan nations that occupied Canaan. Ultimate victory was assured if they would “trust and obey,” but it would take time. “I will not drive them out in a single year,” God said. “Little by little, I will drive them out before you” (Exodus 23:29-30).

God is committed to winning the hearts and developing the character of His people. That requires a process.

October 11, 2010

It is Thanksgiving today. We enjoyed a day with the in-laws on Saturday, we enjoyed church services yesterday, and today we’ll enjoy just hanging out as a family (and eventually getting around to devouring some turkey). In the meantime, here’s some A La Carte for the rest of the world, since you don’t get the day off today.

Canadianisms - Here’s a roundup of some Canadianisms you probably need to know if you want to communicate well with Canadians.

Another Bad Bedtime Story - A while back I linked to this blog for a really bad bedtime story he had transcribed. Here’s another bad one.

The New Best Way to Find Airline Deals - Mint.com has a short video telling you some of the ways you can find the best deals on flights.

Detox @ Monergism - Sexual Detox is now available at Monergism Books. So no excuses not to be buying a copy!

The Holiness of God - Interested in listening along with the upcoming Reading Classics Together? If so, ChristianAudio The Holiness of God on sale for just $2.98 (until the end of October). Use coupon code CHALLIES10 to take advantage of the offer.

Bippity Boppity Bacon - How bacon is made. Because you know you’ve been curious.

Nearly half the parables Jesus told have the use of money as their main subject. It is sometimes said that we should give until it hurts. But Jesus teaches that it should hurt when we cease to give! —Ian Barclay

October 10, 2010

I am not a sabbitarian, but sometimes wish I was. At the moment I can’t overcome a few theological issues that prevent me from embracing the view. Thankfully this does not prevent me from honoring Sunday and seeking to set it aside as a special day, one dedicated to the Lord in a unique way. I recently found this quote in Walter Chantry’s Call the Sabbath a Delight. Again, though I am not a sabbitarian, I can agree with him on the blessings that can be ours if we keep this day set apart to the worship of the Lord, to instruction and to fellowship (which is to say if we seek to make it a day set apart from our usual tasks of studying, working, earning a living).

There is blessing to be had in connection with keeping the Sabbath Day. Surely the reference is to blessing which falls on his creatures who enter into God’s rest with him. There is great benefit and happiness heaped upon those who keep the day holy. Our heavenly Father has pledged blessing within Sabbath observance.

Where a weekly day is not spent in the worship and service of God, ignorance of God and his Word increases rapidly both in and outside the church. Families disintegrate, finding inadequate time to instruct children in morality, no time to pray together as families. Individuals are “stressed out” because their souls are neglected and they can find no fountains of spiritual refreshment. Churches are weak and neglected. Few worshippers are present and even fewer are found who will devote time to the Lord’s service within her body.

What blessings are to be found in devoting an entire day to the worship and service of the Lord? His own nearness to his people. A knowledge of the day of salvation. Fellowship with the saints. Homes in which parents worship with children, read the Bible to children, talk with children about moral issues of our day—52 days per year, one entire year out of every seven. Churches full of people seeking to praise God and to find avenues of service to the Lord. Nations whose thought and moral fibre are lifted toward heavenly standards. The Word of God abundantly studied. Prayer multiplied. Spiritual refreshment, joy, progress in the kingdom. Psychological strength.

How trite to proclaim that a Sabbath Day is impractical and impossible. How unspiritual to call it a burden which is hard to bear. It is impossible to conceive of any measure more perfectly designed than is the Sabbath to bring everlasting blessings to individuals, families, churches and communities. Spiritual men bemoan the lack of time to pray, read, worship, witness, teach children. God in his wisdom and grace has provided just such time for these very wishes of the godly by commanding that a day in each seven be set aside, devoted to the Lord.

October 09, 2010

Over the past few weeks (since I submitted the first draft of my book and got that elephant off my back!) I have been trying to spend a little bit more time with the blog. One of the ways this has manifested itself is with articles that draw attention to outside resources—book series, resources dealing with a particular topic, and news related to this site. In other words, posts like these ones:

I guess these are largely items that fall somewhere between normal blog posts and A La Carte. I have committed to not replacing more significant blog fare in favor of these things (still trying to write at least one significant post per day) so have largely been posting these in the afternoons.

And having written quite a few of them now, I am eager for your feedback. Are these things you enjoy? On the one hand I do not want to clutter your lives (or this blog) with unnecessary information and resources that are of no interest. On the other hand, there are some amazing resources out there and I am eager to find ways of letting you know about them. Many of these things deserve to be more widely known!

So what say you? Provided that the blog does not become nothing but such posts, are you happy enough to see them in the afternoons?

October 08, 2010

Free Stuff Fridays

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays sponsor is Christian Focus. “Christian Focus Publications (CFP) has been producing Christian books since the early 1970’s, originally starting as a publisher of classic Scottish authors. The addition of children’s colour Bible story books in the early 1980’s prefaced an expansion of the company with books by authors from all five continents sold all around the world. Our books have been translated into 40 different languages.”

They are offering five prize packages, each of which will contain two books—their two bestselling books at the moment.

The Way of the RighteousThe Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis. Davis is the author of all kinds of great Old Testament commentaries and in this book he turns his attention to the Psalms. “As the first 12 Psalms continue, we see basic principles unfold with great clarity. Much like our troubles today, the Psalmist endured wickedness all around, a world hostile to the true God-and on a very personal level-deceit and persecution from his enemies. Readers are pointed toward the glorious rule of the Messiah, to whom the whole world belongs. In light of this realization, we are prepared to face all kinds of troubles that cause despair. The righteous rely on God, and the Psalms teach us how. This book is ideal for use by small groups, as a teaching guide or for reference.” (Learn More)

Iron Sharpens IronIron Sharpens Iron: Leading Bible-Oriented Small Groups that Thrive by Orlando Saer. “Small Bible-study groups are great places for Christians both to interact with God’s Word and to share their lives with others. They provide relaxed and informal settings which facilitate growth in grace and understanding. Orlando Saer provides a realistic and practical guide for anyone leading or wanting to lead such a group. This book will give you the tools you need as a leader to see your group thrive.” The 9Marks blog had this to say about the book: “It’s the best material I’ve read on small group bible study leading and would be useful both for someone leading their first bible study and for someone who’s been leading bible studies for decades.” (Learn More)

Again, there will be five winners, each of whom will receive both of these books.

Giveaway Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. 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.

October 08, 2010

It is Thanksgiving weekend up here in the great white north. As you can see, we get Thanksgiving out of the way more than a month before our neighbors to the south. Though we celebrate in pretty much the same ways, we tend to do so with a little less enthusiasm. The official day we all get off is Monday and on that day I will have a guest blogger posting something I think you’ll enjoy. But first, the weekend.

Twitter, Facebook and Social Activism - Malcolm Gladwell has an interesting column here dealing with the false notion that online activism bears a real resemblance to real-world activism. It’s quite long, but worth the read.

Sexualizing Tragedy - And while we’re on the subject of social media, this column explains why a lot of women had odd Facebook status updates a few days ago and why it is a bad idea. “Many unsuspecting Facebook users have logged in this month to the harrowing news that their sister ‘likes it on the floor,’ their coworker ‘likes it on the kitchen table,’ and their mother, perhaps most disturbingly, ‘likes it anywhere, as long as its out of my hands.’ No, it’s not Facebook-hosted sexual liberation revival, but a campaign to promote breast cancer awareness.”

Sound of Doctrine - I stumbled across this blog yesterday and thought some of you would find it interesting. Austin C. Brown is “A Man With An MP3 Player And A Love For Theology.” He listens to tons of audio messages and then reviews them a little bit to help you find the best ones.

Yahoo, Yoga and Yours’ Truly - Al Mohler: “Well, you never know what a day holds. This morning, Yahoo put the Associated Press story about my article on yoga on its front page. The rest, as they say, is history. My mail servers are exhausted. Messages have been coming in at a rate of about a hundred an hour. The first lesson — count the cost when you talk about yoga. These people get bent out of shape fast.”

Thinking about Multi-site - This is an excellent article which points out one big gap in the multi-site approach to church. “Preaching is not just information delivery, nor even contextually-shaped information delivery based on the preacher’s knowledge of his people. It is an ongoing relationship, in which the pastor demonstrates the truth of his message by his own changed life, and in which the people not only listen to the pastor’s words but follow his example.”

Speak for Those Who Have No Voice - Ligonier is looking to enlist your help in a new campaign. On the anniversary of some important abortion-related dates, “Ligonier will send R.C. Sproul’s Twentieth Anniversary special edition of Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue (Reformation Trust Publishing, November 2010) to every Congressional representative. Will you help?”

MacArthur on Larry King - Every now and again I love to watch MacArthur on Larry King. I love how he stands for truth compared to all the other wishy-washy people who end up on panels with him.

Who delivered up Jesus to die? Not Judas, for money; not Pilate, for fear; not the Jews, for envy; but the Father, for love! —Octavius Winslow

October 07, 2010

JournibleWhat happens when you smash a Bible together with a journal? You get a Journible (get it?). What’s a Journible? Well, essentially it’s a Bible study tool. It’s a book, rather like a journal, with a place to write a Scripture text on the right leaf and a place to write notes and observations on the left. It’s rather difficult to describe, so let me turn to the official description to see if they can do better.

The Journible™ series of books are hard-backed with gold foil and a bookmark ribbon. As you open the book, you will see chapter and verse numbers on the right-hand pages. These are conveniently spaced according to the length of each verse. However, these pre-formatted lines are left blank for you to hand-write your Journible™ book of yourself. The idea for this comes from Deuteronomy 17:18, where God commands the kings of Israel to hand-write their own copy of the Torah, or book of the law. The purpose of this was so that they would carry it with them always, read it, learn from it, and lead the people accordingly. It’s interesting to note that 3400 years later, educators have been discovering that most people learn kinesthetically, by doing or writing things out for themselves.

From these two ideas together then, comes the conception of this series of books: The 17:18 Series. As you look at the left-hand pages, the lines are left blank for personal notes and comments on the text. There are also some questions scattered in light print throughout these pages. These questions are meant to guide you in thought as you study the book of Proverbs and to help you understand the types of questions you should be asking of the text.

Does that make sense? If you want to get a bit more of a taste, here are two page samples you can download: Galatians sample page | Proverbs sample page.

You see how it works? Every day you right a Scripture text on the right side of the page and then you write notes and observations on the left. Occasionally there will be a question there to guide your notes and focus your study. And that’s it. It’s meant to be a tool that will help you get into the Word as you write it out yourself and as you seek to understand and apply it. How cool is that?

Why would you buy one? For your personal devotions; as a gift for someone else; as a tool for group Bible study or youth group Bible study; as a means to help you memorize long portions of Scripture.

One of the unfortunate things about Journibles is that they suffer from quite an ugly and uninformative web site. The site really does not offer a good view of what will actually show up at your home should you order one. I had seen the site and been unimpressed; it was only when I bumped into a Journible at a conference that I was impressed. So you may just have to take my word for this one.

You can buy Journibles (exclusively for the time being) at Reformation Heritage Books. The current volumes are:

  • 1 Timothy - Hebrews
  • Galatians, Ephesians, Philipians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians
  • James - Jude
  • John
  • Proverbs
  • Romans