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May 29, 2015

This week’s Free Stuff Friday is sponsored by our friends at The Good Book Company, who have been working with The Gospel Coalition on a great new resource. There will be 6 winners this week, and each of them will receive a great package of prizes.

Gospel Shaped Church is a five part curriculum that aims to help the whole congregation learn and experience what it means to have their life and ministry shaped root and branch by the Gospel. As Tim Keller and Don Carson say in the introduction: “We want churches that are called into existence by the Gospel to be shaped by the Gospel in their everyday lives.”

The first two parts of this rich and flexible DVD-driven resource are available now:

  • Gospel Shaped Worship is written and presented by Jared Wilson and looks at how the gathered worship of the church relates to the everyday worship that individual Christians are called to offer to the Lord.
  • Gospel Shaped Outreach is written and presented by Omaha-based pastor Erik Raymond and looks at how a church can remain focussed on our principle task of reaching out with the Gospel of grace to others.

Gospel Shaped Outreach

The resources are not simplistic “how to” programs—they are deeply biblical and theological explorations of what God calls us to be through the Gospel message—but expressed in a very accessible way, so that your church can join in a journey of exploration and growth together.

We have three copies of the Gospel Shaped Worship Leader’s Kit and three copies of the Gospel Shaped Outreach Leader’s Kit to give away to six winners. Each Leader’s kit contains a DVD, a Leader’s Guide, a copy of the participant handbook, a quickstart guide and access to downloadable material.

In addition, for the disappointed but still eager, The Good Book Company are offering the Leader kits to regular Challies.com readers at a 40% discount off the list price. Simply follow the link, and use the code ChalliesGSC at the checkout (offer expires on the last day of June 2015).

Enter Here

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.

May 29, 2015

Leaving and Cleaving - “Leaving and cleaving does not negate honouring father and mother: it produces a mature honouring that uses parental training and teaching to contribute to church and society.”

Behind the Bow Tie - You might enjoy this short profile on Dr. Robert Plummer of Southern Seminary. (HT:JT)

$5 Friday - Don’t forget that every Friday Ligonier puts a selection of items on sale at $5 each. There are some good books and teaching series there today.

My Father Killed My Mother - Joel Lindsey tells his story of both tragedy and beauty.

Praying Most For What You Love the Most - “Your prayer-life is a measure of your spiritual maturity. … Your prayer lives exposes you to the reality that what is nearest and dearest to your hearts are those things for which you pray the most. It is an inescapable rule.”

Gospel-Centered Husbandship - “The opposite of a gospel-centered husband, I think, is a comfortable husband.” I might just agree.

Lost in New Zealand - New Zealand is just about at the top of places I want to visit, and this video shows why. You know what to do: HD and full screen.

May 28, 2015

I have so much and give thanks so little. God has blessed me tremendously in all areas of life, and I return thanks to him so sparsely and so half-heartedly. This is my conclusion as I continue reading through John Flavel’s classic work The Mystery of Providence. In chapter 4 Flavel instructs the reader to acknowledge the hand of God in and behind our daily work. Along the way he offers every Christian 4 cautions related to vocation:

Do Not Be Lazy. Do not be slothful or idle in your vocation, whatever it is. This is true of those who work in an office environment, those who are workers in the home, and even those who are students. People who are negligent in their main vocational responsibility are almost invariably guilty of sin elsewhere. Looking to 2 Thessalonians 3:11, Flavel says, “He that lives idly cannot live honestly.” (We could also quote Spurgeon who says, “Idle people tempt the devil to tempt them.”)

Do Not Be Idolatrous. While laziness lies at one end of a spectrum, idolatry lies at the other. Flavel distinguishes between a particular calling, which is your day-to-day vocation at this time, and your general calling, which is the one we all share as humans and as Christians—the pursuit and enjoyment of God. His warning is this: Do not be so intent upon your particular calling that it begins to interfere with your general calling. “Beware you lose not your God in the crowd and hurry of earthly business.” He quotes Seneca who offers this wisdom: “I do not give, but lend myself to business.” Do not allow your vocation to displace or replace your God.

Do Not Be Proud. As sinful people, pride is our near-constant companion in this world, and it is never so near to us as when we experience success. Flavel wants you to remember that any success you experience in your calling and your earthly employment comes primarily by the blessing of God rather than through your diligence. Yes, diligence is important, but it is God who then blesses and rewards your hard work. Humbly commit all of your work to the Lord and thank him for every bit of the prosperity you enjoy.

Do Not Be Discontent. Finally, be satisfied with the circumstances and status you have now, and be content with the employment God has given you. You may be tempted to waste your days wishing that your life was better, but you need to acknowledge the sovereignty of God and his calling upon you to succeed and excel right where you are. “Providence is wiser than you, and you may be confident hath suited all things better to your eternal good than you could do, had you been left to your own option.” I don’t see this as a call to apathy or a call away from ambition, but a call to Christian contentment. When we acknowledge God, we acknowledge the good in our circumstances, even if they are not the ones we would have chosen.

Next Week

We will continue our reading next week with chapter 5: “God’s Providence in Our Family.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.

Your Turn

The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.

If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…

May 28, 2015

Here are a few Kindle deals that may be of interest: A Bundle of Joy: Six Books on Christian Happiness by David Murray ($2.99); In My Father’s House by Mary Kassian ($0.99); By God’s Design by Judith Hartzell ($2.99); Gospel by J.D. Greear ($2.99).

Push Function Quit - Douglas Wilson does a really good job of addressing the question of boys (and girls) and their video games.

17 Questions with J. Mark Bertrand - Whether or not you care for the subject matter of fine Bibles, this interview with J. Mark Bertrand is some good reading.

What You See When You Read - Trevin Wax shows how where you live changes what you see when you read the Bible. (Did you see that? I used how, where, what, and when in a single sentence!)

What Missionaries Aren’t Telling You - I appreciate Amy’s honesty and candor in this article (and the one that came before it).

Treasuring the Presence of God by Faith - “Learning to trust is a key part of becoming a Christian – without it we won’t be able to worship. Worship is an expression of faith in God. … The faith that is expressed and nurtured as we worship takes at least three forms, which the songs we sing should reflect…”

Are All Christians Hypocrites? - “The revelations about Josh Duggar have brought to the forefront a much broader discussion about Christians and hypocrisy.”

May 27, 2015

I sometimes wonder what it was like for Sarah as she watched Abraham and Hagar walk into that tent together—what she thought, what she felt (Genesis 16). What was it like for the wife to watch her husband seek privacy with that other woman, knowing exactly what they were about to do? Where did her mind go in those moments when they were out of sight? How far had Sarah fallen to not only permit this, but to suggest and even demand it? What has to happen in a wife for her to give her husband to another woman’s embrace?

Idolatry has to happen, that’s what. Sarah had become an idolater. She had not begun to worship idols of wood or stone, but she was an idolater nonetheless. There was one thing she was convinced she had to have in order to experience joy and in order to live a fulfilled life, and that was the one thing God had held back. She had a husband, she had honor, she had beauty, she had fantastic wealth, but she had no child, no son. And it very nearly destroyed her. It caused her to act in the most outrageous way, and to draw others into her sin.

Sarah believed in the existence of God. Sarah even believed in the power and authority of God, I am certain. This God had called her and Abraham to leave their home and to move to a distant promised land. This God had established his covenant with Abraham. This God had protected and preserved them, enriched them, and given them great honor. But despite it all, Sarah had lost faith in the promises of this God. She had stopped believing in the goodness of this God.

God had made one promise that he seemed slow to fulfill. God had promised Abraham and Sarah that their descendants would number more than the stars in the sky. He had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. He had promised, but had not yet delivered. Never mind those many nations—he had not yet given them a single child! And in all the waiting, Sarah had stopped believing. Through all the many years of childlessness, she had lost her faith. And when her faith fizzled, she began to take action on her own. If God would not fulfill the promise, then Sarah would. “Abraham, take my servant Hagar and give me children by her.”

Sarah gained that child, but, as always, sin over-promised and under-delivered. The first thrill of joy soon turned to jealousy, then rage, then conflict, then open warfare.

Finally, just as he had said, God did fulfill his promise. He gave Abraham and Sarah the child he had promised all along. His answer to them had never been “no,” but simply “wait.” All he had asked of them was to wait and trust. There are echoes here of God’s great promise of salvation: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9). God is slow only from our too-limited human perspective.

Where is God asking you to simply wait and trust? Where have you lost faith, or where is your faith wavering? Where is God slow to fulfill his promises to you, slow to answer prayer, slow to grant you the gift of understanding? Look right there and you may see displaced and then misplaced faith. Look right there and you may see how you have begun to come up with your own devious plans, even plans that directly contradict the clear, revealed will of God. Look right there and you may just see an idol taking root. Look right there and plead with God to restore your faith in him and his promises.



May 27, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: How to Talk to a Skeptic by Donald Johnson ($1.99); Encountering Christ in the Covenants by Daniel McManigal ($0.99); Love Worth Finding by Joyce Rogers ($0.99); The Ever-Loving Truth by Voddie Baucham ($0.99); Biblical Authority by James Draper ($2.99); If God Made the Universe, Who Made God? ($2.99).

Thigh, Breast or Door? - “Hey, can you go close the thigh? Oh, I mean the…breast? Nope…the door…that’s it…the door!” Missionary blogs are among my favorites, and here’s an interesting one. Be sure to listen to the audio recording.

The Christian Life - Westminster Books has the “Theologians on the Christian” life series on sale this week (including the volume I interviewed Tony Reinke about yesterday). Be sure to scroll down for a few more Newton-related deals.

A Pastoral Perspective on Illegal Immigration - Nathan Busenitz shares Grace Community Church’s position on illegal immigration.

Romance and Tragedy - You may well have read of this couple before, but it is worth reading again. “It was not until three years after her mother died in 1990 that DeRonda Elliott opened the suitcase containing the letters her parents exchanged during World War II.”

The Creators - I was Stephen Altrogge’s guest in the first episode of a new podcast he is doing called “The Creators.” We talked about creativity and all kinds of other stuff.

Servant Leadership - Matt Perman highlights the 7 characteristics of servant leadership.

May 26, 2015

You are familiar with the name John Newton, I am sure, and with the broad strokes of his life—how he went from captaining a slave trading ship to becoming a Christian and composing the great hymn “Amazing Grace.” What fewer people know about is his 40 years of pastoral ministry. Newton the pastor is the subject of Tony Reinke’s new book Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ. I recently asked Tony to tell us why he wrote this book and what we can expect to gain by reading it.

MeJudging by the title, this sounds like it could be a book that applies only to really smart people. Is it a book that ordinary Christians should read? Why?

TonyJohn Newton was a practical man, so I aimed to write a practical book. In the words of one biographer, Newton was a man of utility — he had zero patience with pie-in the-sky theory and speculation. He helped ordinary Christians navigate the challenges of their busy lives, and I hope this book does the same.

SeriesNewton is proof that the deeper we are willing to go into the mess and the hurt of this world to help people, the more we move away from detached, cerebral theology and toward hands-on, real-world pastoral care. And this was his world, as noted historian Bruce Hindmarsh put it so well in an interview, “Pre-modern life was pre-analgesic, pre-antiseptic, and pre-anesthetic. People hurt all the time.” It was into this relentless physical pain that God raised up Newton to serve as a spiritual cardiologist.

Newton was a student of the human heart’s response to the soreness and pressures of daily life: he studied his own heart’s responses, and then he studied Scripture to apply God’s promises to daily life. He was a realist to the max.

If the Ask Pastor John podcast is my attempt to ask the perplexing ethical questions to Pastor John Piper, this new book is something of an Ask Pastor John Newton — my attempt to ask Newton the most puzzling questions we face in the Christian life. I found his answers in his letters.

So don’t let the wig on Newton’s head undermine his value for our generation. Bible counselor Ed Welch recently said that in reading my book he felt pastored by John Newton, and this is exactly what I hope every reader experiences — a personal encounter with one of the church’s greatest ministers, who in turn helps us to commune with the living God.

MeSo it’s not quite a biography, right? If not, what is it?

TonyRight, my book is not a biography (I certainly could not improve on Jonathan Aitken’s work). Newton’s life was formed by a few monumental events, and those events shaped all of his instruction on the Christian life. So I recount key anecdotes and biographical highlights in order to show how those events illuminate his broader pastoral care.

I call my work “pastoral synthesis.” I want us to be pastored by Newton, and to this end I started by gathering together all of Newton’s many published letters — about 1,000 of them in various collections from over the centuries (and many of them preserved in old, rare, and fragile volumes in libraries around the world).

What I’ve found is that my generation (and younger) are unlikely to read old letters, even those by Newton. To serve the church, we need willing researchers to volunteer for the heavy work of collecting all the letters, identifying Newton’s key answers to the perennial questions of the Christian life, and then developing all that into a guided tour that allows the unique voice of Newton to frequently emerge. I was honored when Justin Taylor and Steve Nichols nominated me for the task and invited me to publish in their incredible series (Theologians on the Christian Life).

MeIf you had to distill all of Newton’s counsel to a central point, what would that be?

TonyTo live is Christ — this is my subtitle and I’m convinced this is the core of all Newton’s pastoral counsel. Newton’s heart and mind was engrossed by the person of Christ.

May 26, 2015

In case you missed it yesterday, Crossway has put the Kindle versions of their Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series on sale at $2.99 each: Christian Worldview; The Liberal Arts; Art and Music; Philosophy; The Great Tradition of Christian Thinking; Political Thought; Ethics and Moral Reasoning. Also consider Grounded in the Gospel by J.I. Packer ($2.99).

A Dad’s Life - This article makes you click “next page” twice and throws in some pop-under ads. Despite all that, it’s still well worth reading.

Letter to a Teen Unboxing Their First Smartphone - Here’s an article I wrote for Desiring God. It’s intended for the teen who is just getting a smartphone for the first time.

How Batteries Work - You’ve always wondered, haven’t you?

Seeing the Invisible God - “I have often thought that just one, brief, sensory-filled visitation from the Lord would be the most effective way for me to be changed. It could be accomplished in a minute or less and would, I think, inspire greater obedience, less wavering or dullness of faith, more vivid hope, and tireless evangelistic zeal. That doesn’t seem too much to ask.”

Risen - I suppose we will be hearing a lot more about this movie in the days to come. Rumor has it that it is an unofficial sequel to The Passion of the Christ.

A Week with the Watch - My friend Nathan reflects on his first week with an Apple Watch.

20 Lessons in 20 Years - Brian Croft has just completed 20 years of ministry and takes some time to reflect on lessons he has learned.

My graphic designer is on vacation; quote graphics will return in 2 weeks.