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August 28, 2015

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books, and every few weeks I like to provide a round-up of what is new and particularly notable. It has been a little while since my last update and, even though this is a slower time of the year for new releases, I’ve got a few interesting ones to share with you.

DurandMarie Durand by Simonetta Carr. Carr’s Christian Biographies for Young Readers has turned into a great series of excellent little biographies accompanied by high-quality art. This volume on Marie Durand continues the series. “In 1730, nineteen-year-old Marie Durand was arrested and taken from her home in a village in Southern France for the crime of having a brother who was a Protestant preacher. Imprisoned in the Tower of Constance, Marie would spend the next thirty-eight years there. Simonetta Carr introduces us to the inspiring life of a woman who could have recanted her Protestant faith and gained release, but held fast to the truth and encouraged others to do so as well. Beautiful illustrations, a simply told story, and interesting facts acquaint young readers with the challenges facing Protestants in eighteenth-century France and show them that even a life spent in prison can be lived in service to Christ and others.” (Read more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

GamechangersGamechangers: Key Figures of the Christian Church by Robert Letham. There are many books like this out there, but not too many that come from a very discerning perspective. I believe that is what will make Gamechangers uniquely valuable. “Weaving together biography and theology, Robert Letham delves into the life and influence of twelve key figures who have helped shape the church. Gamechangers is a must read for any Christian with an interest in learning the way the church has understood the gospel down through the centuries. Features: Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine, Charles the Great, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Heinrich Bullinger, John Calvin, John Wesley, J.W. Nevin and Karl Barth.” (Read more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

UnhinderedOpenness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ by Rosaria Butterfield. Butterfield’s first book, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, was one of those books that came at just the right time and stepped right into one of the biggest cultural conversations. Now she follows it up. “This book answers many of the questions people pose when she speaks at universities and churches, questions not only about her unlikely conversion to Christ but about personal struggles that the ques­tioners only dare to ask someone else who has traveled a long and painful journey.” (Read more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

The Biggest StoryThe Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung. Here’s a book for kids to read for to your kids. “The burning bush. David and Goliath. Joseph and the coat of many colors. The Bible is full of classic stories that fill children with awe and wonder. But kids need to know how all those beloved stories connect to Scripture’s overarching message about God’s love for the world. In The Biggest Story, best-selling author and father of six, Kevin DeYoung, leads readers on an exciting journey through the Bible, connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to the return of Christ. Short and extremely readable, this imaginative retelling of the biblical narrative can be read in one sitting and features action-packed illustrations that will bring the message of the Bible to life for the whole family.” (Read more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Andrew Murray Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa by Vance Christie. Vance Christie has proven himself one of today’s most important Christian biographers. His most recent volume looks to a character whose name is known to you, I’m sure: Andrew Murray. “In an era that saw many gifted and diligent ministers, missionaries and evangelists being used by God to powerfully advance Christ’s Kingdom work in South Africa, Andrew Murray (1828-1917) emerged as that country’s premier preacher, devotional writer and Church leader. Andrew Murray’s writings and influence are still felt today and Vance Christie skilfully and faithfully brings his story to life for a new generation.” (Read more or buy it at Amazon)

Gaining By LosingGaining By Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send by J.D. Greear. I sure like the premise of this one, though I have not yet been able to actually read it. “When Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission, he revealed that the key for reaching the world with the gospel is found in sending, not gathering. Though many churches focus time and energy on attracting people and counting numbers, the real mission of the church isn’t how many people you can gather. It’s about training up disciples and then sending them out. The true measure of success for a church should be its sending capacity, not its seating capacity. In Gaining By Losing, J.D. Greear unpacks ten plumb lines that you can use to reorient your church’s priorities around God’s mission to reach a lost world. The good news is that you don’t need to choose between gathering or sending. Effective churches can, and must, do both.” (Read more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

August 28, 2015

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Crossway. Crossway is giving away some great prizes this week, with each prize comprised of several of their new books. There will be 5 winners and each winner will receive the following 3 titles:

  • ESV Readers Bible ESV Reader's Bible. "The ESV Reader’s Bible was created for those who want to read Scripture precisely as it was originally written–namely, as an unbroken narrative. Verse numbers, section headings, and translation footnotes are helpful navigational and interpretive tools, but they are also relatively recent conventions. In the ESV Reader’s Bible they have been removed from the Bible text. The result is a new kind of Bible-reading experience in a volume that presents Scripture as one extended story line."
  • The Biggest StoryThe Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung. "In The Biggest Story, Kevin DeYoung—a best-selling author and father of six—leads kids and parents alike on an exciting journey through the Bible, connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to Christ's death on the cross to the new heaven and new earth. With powerful illustrations by award-winning artist Don Clark, this imaginative retelling of the Bible’s core message—how the Snake Crusher brings us back to the garden—will draw children into the biblical story, teaching them that God's promises are even bigger and better than we think."
  • AdoptionAdoption: What Joseph of Nazareth Can Teach Us about This Countercultural Choice by Russell Moore. "Joseph of Nazareth was a good and honorable man. The adoptive father of Jesus, he stood by his wife and raised her son—even when it appeared that she had betrayed him. Such is the love of adoption. But this love stands in stark contrast to what we see in our world today: on-demand abortion, unreported abuse, and widespread neglect. Adapted from Russell Moore’s influential book Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches, this short volume calls Christians to seriously consider adoption for their own families and thus take a stand for children—born and unborn."

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. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

August 28, 2015

I have a handful of new Kindle deals for you today. Next week will bring more. Today’s include Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand’s great account of Louis Zamperini’s life ($1.99); Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told by Bradley Wright ($0.99); Managing God’s Money by Randy Alcorn ($4.61); When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper ($4.61).

A Note to Christian Men

The title could probably be stronger, but the article is rock-solid. Matthew Holst writes about “the look”—the way men look at women when they allow their eyes to roam.

Fasting for Beginners

“Chances are you are among the massive majority of Christians who rarely or never fast. It’s not because we haven’t read our Bibles or sat under faithful preaching or heard about the power of fasting, or even that we don’t genuinely want to do it. We just never actually get around to putting down the fork.”

The Gospels

Westminster Books is both selling and giving away a neat new edition of the ESV that includes only the gospels in an ultra-readable format.

This Day in 1960: Mark Dever was born. Today he serves as pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, president of 9Marks, and co-founder of Together for the Gospel. You can wish him a happy birthday at @MarkDever.

Five Ways to Deepen Your Preaching

Each one of Gavin Ortlund’s preaching tips is very good.

What We Do in Secret

Derek Thomas: “It is altogether possible to practice an outward display of piety—to ‘talk the talk’—without demonstrating any inner reality of godliness. This is true of every professing Christian, and it is especially true of those engaged in Christian ministry.”

10 Ways to Overcome Spiritual Weariness

 Mark Altrogge assures us than “When we’re weary we can find fresh strength, joy and motivation in Christ. Here are 10 ways to do that…”

Southern Baptists Will Cut 600 to 800 Missionaries and Staff

Here is a concerning bit of news from Christianity Today: “Two months after promoting plans to send out ‘limitless’ numbers of missionaries, the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) faces a financial crisis.”

Stetzer

A church without the broken is a broken church. —Ed Stetzer

August 27, 2015

Love is a risky business. In one way or another, at one time or another, we have all suffered because we have loved. We have all been shocked to learn something we didn’t know before, we have all been grieved as we have discovered another person’s hidden actions or behavior. Some of us have even asked: If I had known that before, would I have still loved her? Now that I know that, can I still love him?

We love people based on incomplete knowledge. We love them as far as we know them. But always we admit the risk of love. The risk of love is that new knowledge can jeopardize the strength, the trust, even the existence of that relationship. I didn’t know that she had lived that life before we were married; I didn’t know that he had a separate bank account and don’t know what it means; I didn’t know about his addiction to pornography. On and on it goes.

But God’s knowledge of us is completely different. It is completely complete. Where our knowledge of one another is limited, where it is built upon the little bit we know of the other person, God’s knowledge of us is unlimited by the past, present, and future. He already knows our deepest, darkest secrets, and he loves us still. And this is a profound comfort to us. J.I. Packer says, “There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love for me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.”

He goes on:

There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that he sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow humans do not see (and I am glad!), and that he sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, he wants me as his friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given his Son to die for me in order to realise this purpose.”

God takes no risk in his love, because he knows everything about me. He knows all I have done, all I am doing, all I ever will do. He will never receive new knowledge of me that may cause him to question his determination to call me his friend. And for that reason, no relationship I have will ever be more secure than my relationship with him.

“Knowing God,” Packer says, “is a relationship calculated to thrill a person’s heart.” Does it thrill your heart that you, even you, are a friend of God?

Next Week

If you are reading Knowing God with me as part of Reading Classics Together, please read chapters 5 and 6 for next Thursday. If you are not yet doing so, why don’t you join us? We have only just begun, so you will not have a difficult time catching up.

Your Turn

The purpose of Reading Classics Together is to read these books together. This time around the bulk of the discussion is happening in a dedicated Facebook group. You can find it right here. Several hundred people are already interacting there and would be glad to have you join in or just read along.

August 27, 2015

I found no new Kindle deals today but did want to answer a question I have often been asked. What I post day-by-day is a list of curated deals. They are almost all books I can vouch for one way or another—I have read them, they come from a solid publisher, or they have trusted endorsers. There are many more deals to be had, but I focus on deals for good books. And hopefully there will be more tomorrow.

Congregationalism Doesn’t Stop at 8 PM

This is a very strong article on congregationalism and the responsibilities of each church member to all the others. Don’t let the word “congregationalism” intimidate you—read the article!

Should We Watch Murders on Social Media?

I agree with Russell Moore—we’ve got no business watching people get murdered. Wasn’t it Postman who warned that if we watch news we can do nothing about, we are probably actually just entertaining ourselves to death?

Banning Child Labor

It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? We should ban child labor and refuse to support companies that use it. But this article at The Guardian says, “A categorical ban on child labour is a well-intended but poorly thought out measure, because it ignores the direct and indirect effects of such a ban. It is a policy with its head in the sand, one that will overshoot the intended goal of improving the lives of children workers.”

War RoomNew in Theaters: Tomorrow marks the release of War Room, a new film by the Kendrick brothers (Fireproof, Courageous.) Plugged In has an early review. “Even if there’s a degree of cinematic idealization regarding the instant outcome of prayer … the message that the Kendricks deliver here is no less valid or profitable: Prayer is where God reshapes and remolds our souls into the image of His son, Jesus Christ.”

Want Faster Wifi?

Here are some simple, user-friendly tips just about any of us can implement to help the strength of our wifi signal.

Ashley Madison’s Users

This is fascinating, pathetic, and somehow not at all surprising: Almost 100% of the female accounts registered at Ashley Madison were fake. “Ashley Madison is a site where tens of millions of men write mail, chat, and spend money for women who aren’t there.”

Invent a Ministry

As a pastor, I absolutely love to see this in action. “While most churches need workers in the existing ministries, the inability to fit well in one of them may be God’s prompting to start a new one. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a formally recognized ministry.”

Washer

There is no such thing as a great man of God, only weak, pitiful, faithless men of a great and merciful God. —Paul Washer

Not In Part But the Whole
August 26, 2015

Sometimes it is the unexpected things that get you. Sometimes it is the words you have heard or said or sung a hundred times over that suddenly leap off the page—words like “My sin, not in part but the whole.” The words come, of course, from the much-loved hymn “It Is Well With My Soul,” a song that joyfully celebrates the freedom that is found in salvation.

“Not in part but the whole.” Have you ever considered your life, your death, and your eternity if you had to face God with your sins only partially forgiven? Can you imagine singing “My sin, not the whole but in part”?

Thankfully, wonderfully, forgiveness is not a partial thing. Forgiveness does not come in half measures; it is all or nothing. It is either extended or held back, freely offered or completely withheld. To be partly forgiven is to be wholly damned. Partial forgiveness is complete condemnation. The Christian and the Christian alone knows the pure delight of God’s full and final forgiveness.

Christian, you can joyfully accept and proclaim “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.” The biggest of your sins is nailed to the very same cross as the smallest. God has forgiven the sins you don’t even remember in the same way and to the same degree as the sins you just can’t forget. He has extended grace for the sins known to the whole world and the ones known only to you and him. And all of this means that you, with the hymn writer, must conclude: “Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”

Image credit: Shutterstock

August 26, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Old-Earth Creationism On Trial by Chaffey & Lisle ($2.99); Mary—Another Redeemer? by James White ($1.99); Read the Bible for Life by George Guthrie ($2.99); Faith and Learning by David Dockery ($2.99).

Another 50 Livers a Week

The Center for Medical Progress has released their eighth video, which shows a meeting with StemExpress CEO Cate Dyer. WORLD has the video and the story along with some analysis.

Pro-Life? There’s An App For That

I think most people on the pro-life side have already understood this. But it is still interesting to consider the vast chasm between the way we speak of an unborn child if we want that child versus if we do not.

When Culture Feels Scary

In the midst of all kinds of bad and scary news in the world, Tim Lane has some genuine encouragement. It came to me like a breath of fresh air.

Which Major Has the Most Expensive Textbooks?

Maybe you want to keep this in mind as you nudge your kids toward college.

This Day in 1708: Ebenezer Erskine was converted. He would soon create, and live by, this covenant: “I offer myself up, soul and body, unto God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I flee for shelter to the blood of Jesus. I will live to Him; I will die to Him. I take heaven and earth to witness that all I am and all I have are His.” *

Should Women Wear Head Coverings?

Writing for The Gospel Coalition, Benjamin L. Merkle offers a helpful answer to the question of head coverings. He argues that there are both cultural and transcultural issues at play, and carefully separates them.

4 Simple Ways Fred Elliot Discipled His Children

Fred was the father of Jim, of course. And this article describes 4 simple but effective ways that Fred discipled his children. “Because the saying is true that disciples aren’t born they’re made, it is difficult to understate the influence Fred had on Jim’s spiritual formation.”

Spurgeon

God is so boundlessly pleased with Jesus that in him he is altogether well pleased with us. —C.H. Spurgeon

August 25, 2015

Sanger
Sometimes the truth can be a bit of an annoyance. Sometimes the truth can even get in the way of our best intentions, and in the way of our attempts to right the world’s wrongs.

Over the past couple of months, Planned Parenthood has been exposed as a ghastly business profiteering from the sale of aborted babies. Undercover videos have taken us into secret meetings where deals are struck and even into labs where aborted children are dismantled and prepared for shipping. Some of Planned Parenthood’s high-ranking employees have been exposed as profit-driven and uncaring, concerned more for the well-being of their personal finances than the health of the women who visit their clinics.

Along the way, those who fight for the pro-life cause have been passing along information about Planned Parenthood and its founder, Margaret Sanger. This morning Joe Carter, writing for The Gospel Coalition, offered 9 Things You Should Know About Margaret Sanger. And this seems like as good a time as any to remind ourselves of this: Truth matters, and truth is always better than half-truths or full-out lies. This is exactly why I so appreciate Carter’s article.

When it comes to Margaret Sanger, many people have been passing along isolated quotes that portray her as a relentlessly racist zealot who created her birth control clinics for the express reason of eradicating African-Americans through her Negro Project. Most people draw this from a quote where she says, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population…” But as Carter says in his article, “More likely, she feared that if the belief were to spread that the goal of the Negro Project was to ‘exterminate the Negro population’ it would hinder her true eugenic objective: the extermination of the subset of the black population that she considered ‘degenerate’.” So yes, she said those words, but they need to be read in context.

Now listen, there is little moral superiority in attempting to eradicate a subpopulation of African-American “degenerates” in place of an entire population of African Americans. Both are unconscionable and horrific. Really, the fact that her actions were in danger of being construed as exterminating an entire population just shows how abhorrent they were. By no means am I defending Sanger. Rather, I am simply pointing out that Sanger’s views as they have been memed through Facebook may not be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And as Christians, we need to concern ourselves foremost with what is true, even if it seems like the truth won’t serve our cause as much as a half-truth.

The truth, at least as described by Carter’s research, is that Sanger was, indeed, racist, but not to such a degree that she wished to eradicate all African-Americans. Carter does not deny “that Sanger’s views were implicitly—and sometimes explicitly racist—or that the effect of her ideas and organizations did not lead to the destruction of black communities. It is merely to say that it doesn’t appear racial superiority was her primary motivation for advocating sterilization and birth control.” If that is true, it is important, and it is all we should repeat. In Sanger’s case, the truth is plenty disturbing and damning.

Sometimes we want things to be true because it seems like that version of the truth would be more helpful to our cause. But truth always trumps falsehood. We do not serve our cause by making Margaret Sanger “more racist” than she actually was, or by assigning to her motives she did not actually have. When we do that, we open ourselves to reproach and ridicule. But even worse, we show that we are losing confidence in God, who is the source of all truth. We show that we are losing confidence in his ability to bring justice. God does not need our lies or our half-truths to further his cause and to right this world’s wrongs. He just needs the truth because, in the end, the truth will prevail.


Update: Based on discussion in Facebook, I would like to append the following paragraph: “Let me offer an example of the kind of thing I am talking about in this article. I have often seen Sanger quoted as saying, “Colored people are like human weeds and need to be exterminated.” I have seen that as memes floating around Facebook. I have seen that quoted in many articles. Yet as far as I can see, it is not an accurate quote. Therefore, as Christians who know and love the truth, we should not repeat it (at least, until we can prove that she actually said it). But even more importantly, we don’t need to. We can stick to the truth and nothing but the truth and trust that the truth will be more powerful and more effective than a half-truth or full lie. As I say in the article, “In Sanger’s case, the truth is plenty disturbing and damning.” There’s no need to fear the truth or to enhance the truth. Going beyond the truth doesn’t help our cause; it damages it.”