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October 24, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by our friends at CBD Reformed. As they always do, they are offering some great prizes. There will be 5 winners this week, and each winner will receive the following 3 books:

  • Hope RebornHope Reborn: How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus by Tope Koleoso & Adrian Warnock - Retail price $7.99
  • Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, CD-ROM Edition - Retail Price $80.00
  • ESV Gift Bible – Retail Price $14.99

In addition, CBD Reformed is offering a 4-day sale (October 24 - 27) on the following three products:

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. (If you receive this by email, you will need to visit challies.com to enter.)

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.

October 24, 2014

He wanted to follow Jesus. He wanted to be close to Jesus. He wanted to live a life of radical obedience. But Jesus told him to stay, not to go. Do not follow me.

The man had been oppressed by demons, driven out of his mind and driven out of polite society. He had lived in the tombs, living with the dead, crying out, cutting himself, bleeding, naked, insane.

Then Jesus had come, and with a word released him. He was free.

“As [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him…” (Mark 5:18-19a).

The man’s desire was pure. Please, Lord, let me go with you. Let me learn from you. Let me stay near you.

But Jesus had a better plan. Stay. “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you (19b).” You may not come. You must stay.

Why? Because there could be no better missionary to his own town and to his own people. They knew what he had been and who he had been, and they, of all people could see the transformation. That undeniable transformation declared the power of God.

This man had encountered Jesus in a life-changing way. So Jesus told him to stay. Stay where you are, find your friends and neighbors, and tell them what the Lord has done for you.

Christian, God has appointed you to be his missionary right where you are. There is no one better suited to the task. “Go home to your friends, your family, your neighbors, your colleagues, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

October 24, 2014

Here are a few new Kindle deals: Is It My Fault? by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb ($3.99); Rediscovering Holiness by J.I. Packer ($1.99); Going Public by David & Kelli Pritchard ($1.99)—a must-read for families who have chosen to public school.

Standing Ovation - You heard the news from Canada’s Parliament, I’m sure. Take 5 minutes and watch the hero of the story as he proceeds into Parliament, just like every other day.

Resisting Gossip Together - Westminster Books has Resisting Gossip resources on sale. Just imagine if every church was free of gossip…

Theology Stifling Compassion - So true: “The training in systematic theology and hermeneutics we have is valuable, in terms of ministering the Scriptures to people who seek answers. Yet, there are times, if we are not careful, when our ‘sound doctrine’ may sound like a clanging cymbal, and push hurting believers away.”

Your Teen Is Looking at Porn - Here’s another disturbing article about the sheer volume of porn teens are exposed to today.

Do You Know Him? - Blaire Linne’s spoken word performances were some of the highlights of the True Woman conference.

Smiling Into the Shadows of Life - “I want to go home, she announced.  She turned to those seated near her and gestured with age-spotted hands to the crowds of people rushing past.  Do you know where all these people are going?

For Jesus, Scripture is powerful, decisive, and authoritative because it is nothing less than the voice of God. —Kevin DeYoung

DeYoung

October 23, 2014

It is an experience every Christian knows. You become aware of a sin and come to fear and hate it. You focus all kinds of attention on that sin and on putting it to death. You ask friends to pray for you, and you cry out to God for deliverence. Well and good, right? Well, not necessarily. John Owen has something to say to you: You will not be delivered from this sin until you pursue a much deeper and wider obedience.

Here is how Owen describes it in chapter eight of his great work Overcoming Sin and Temptation:

A man finds any lust to bring him into the condition formerly described; it is powerful, strong, tumultuating, leads captive, vexes, disquiets, takes away peace; he is not able to bear it; wherefore he sets himself against it, prays against it, groans under it, sighs to be delivered, but in the meantime, perhaps, in other duties—in constant communion with God—in reading, prayer, and meditation—in other ways that are not of the same kind with the lust wherewith he is troubled—he is loose and negligent. Let not that man think that ever he shall arrive to the mortification of the lust he is perplexed with. This is a condition that not seldom befalls men in their pilgrimage.

This is what Owen wants you to know: Even while you focus so much attention on that one sin that torments you, you may still be living a fast and loose life in other areas. You may battle hard against that one sin, even while allowing yourself to slip in other ways. You cry out to God to be delivered from lust or addiction, but all the while you neglect the simple disciplines of reading and praying, or you continue to have a fiery temper and to make excuses for it. If that is you, you should not expect that God will deliver you from that one sin. Your tendency will be to battle hardest against the sins you find most alarming. However, you ought to look to your entire life and to battle sins that God finds alarming. “These are no less sins and evils than those under which you groan. Jesus Christ bled for them also. Why do you not set yourself against them also?” 

As he loves to do, Owen draws a medical metaphor. “He that has a ‘running sore’ upon him, arising from an ill habit of body, contracted by intemperance and ill diet, let him apply himself with what diligence and skill he can to the cure of his sore, if he leave the general habit of his body under distempers, his labor and travail will be in vain.” In other words, if you live a life of drunken indulgence which causes your body to break out in some kind of sore, you can apply all the medical attention you want to the sore, but you haven’t cured the greater problem. And in the same way we like to go to battle against the most disturbing outward manifestations of our sin, rather than the far deeper root causes. It is far easier to put a bandaid over the sore than to stop the addictive behavior that causes it. It is far more likely that we will battle the sin that most disturbs us than the sin that most disturbs God.

Owen says it well: “Let not any man think to do his own work that will not do God’s. God’s work consists in universal obedience. … If we will do anything, we must do all things.” So battle that sin you hate by battling all the sins God hates.

Next Time

Next Thursday we will continue with the ninth chapter of the book. You can still get the book and read along if that is of interest to you.

Your Turn

I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. Let’s make sure we’re reading this book together.

October 23, 2014

Here are some Kindle deals: Understanding the Koran by Mateen Elass ($2.99); Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts ($3.99); The Inklings of Oxford by Harry Lee Poe ($5.98); Ephesians by Clinton Arnold ($5.99); Gum, Geckos, and God by James Spiegel ($5.99).

When Dad Doesn’t Disciple - Here’s an interesting one from Jen Wilkin: “Three kinds of “single moms” exist in the church: the literal single mom who is raising children on her own, the mom whose husband is an unbeliever, and the mom whose husband professes belief but does not partner in the spiritual nurture of the family.”

Cheerful Confidence after Christendom - Here is some encouragement for you as you adapt to a post-Christian world.

6 Costs of Real Friendships - “Do you know how your ‘friends’ are doing? How their hearts are? The spiritual condition of their soul? If we have no idea how our ‘friend’ is doing in their walk with God, what difficult times they are going through, or the sins they struggling with, we have a superficial acquaintance, not a friendship.”

The Multi-Site Model - J.D. Greear is answering some critiques of the multi-site model of church.

Sin Is Worse Than Hell - “For some, the doctrine of everlasting punishment in hell feels like a divine overreaction…”

My Worth - Check out this new song from the Getty’s.

We must measure afflictions by their outcome, not how much they hurt. —Thomas Brooks

Brooks

October 22, 2014

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. It has been too long since I’ve sorted through the piles and to tell you which of them have risen to the top. Here are some of the new and notable books I’ve received in the past month or so.

OrdinaryOrdinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical World by Michael Horton. This was the book I wanted to write; Horton beat me to the punch. “Radical. Crazy. Transformative and restless. Every word we read these days seems to suggest there’s a ‘next-best-thing,’ if only we would change our comfortable, compromising lives. In fact, the greatest fear most Christians have is boredom—the sense that they are missing out on the radical life Jesus promised. One thing is certain. No one wants to be ‘ordinary.’ Yet pastor and author Michael Horton believes that our attempts to measure our spiritual growth by our experiences, constantly seeking after the next big breakthrough, have left many Christians disillusioned and disappointed. There’s nothing wrong with an energetic faith; the danger is that we can burn ourselves out on restless anxieties and unrealistic expectations. What’s needed is not another program or a fresh approach to spiritual growth; it’s a renewed appreciation for the commonplace.” (Amazon, Westminster Books)

New Morning MerciesNew Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp. I can’t think of too many things by Paul Tripp that haven’t benefitted me, and my guess is that this new devotional wouldn’t prove the exception. “Mornings can be tough. Sometimes, a hearty breakfast and strong cup of coffee just aren’t enough. Offering more than a rush of caffeine, best-selling author Paul David Tripp wants to energize you with the most potent encouragement imaginable: the gospel. Forget ‘behavior modification’ or feel-good aphorisms. Tripp knows that what we really need is an encounter with the living God. Then we’ll be prepared to trust in God’s goodness, rely on his grace, and live for his glory each and every day.” (Amazon)

Visitors Guide to HellA Visitor’s Guide to Hell: A Manual for Temporary Entrants and Those Who Would Prefer to Avoid Eternal Damnation by Clint Archer. This book makes me wonder: Would you want someone to dedicate a book to you when the book’s topic is hell? (As it happens, the book is dedicated to John MacArthur and the faculty of The Master’s Seminary). Here’s the description: “Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about Hell … but were too afraid to ask! In the realm of eternal damnation, what tortures will we find? How hot is it, really? And most important of all, how can we make sure that it’s not our final destination? Drawing on the Bible, as well as a host of other literary and religious sources, an expert on Scripture provides an illuminating look at Hell—from its occupants to its don’t-miss sites. Dr. Clint Archer offers a thought-provoking, learned, at-times-hilarious guide to a place that might be interesting to visit … but you wouldn’t want to live there!” Unfortunately there isn’t (yet?) a Kindle version of this one. (Amazon)

Compassion Without CompromiseCompassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth by Adam Barr & Ron Citlau. Could there be a more urgent book with all that is going on in the society around us? “In the next year at least one of these things will happen in your life: A family member will come out of the closet and expect you to be okay with it; Your elementary–age child’s curriculum will discuss LGBT families; Your company will talk about building a tolerant workplace for LGBT co–workers; Your college–age child will tell you your view on homosexuality is bigoted. Are you ready? In their role as pastors, Adam Barr and Ron Citlau have seen how this issue can tear apart families, friendships, and even churches. In this book they combine biblical answers with practical, real–world advice on how to think about and discuss this issue with those you care about.” (Amazon, Westminster Books)

October 22, 2014

The great Kindle deals continue: Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat ($3.99); Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary ($5.99); An Introduction to the New Testament by D.A. Carson & Douglas Moo ($5.99); The Way of Wisdom by J.I. Packer ($5.99); Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer ($4.27); Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics by Walter Kaiser & Moises Silva ($5.99); The New Matthew Henry Commentary ($7.99); New Testament Theology by Leon Morris ($4.99); Zondervan All-in-One Bible Reference Guide ($4.99).

Jesus, What a Wonderful Name - You’ll enjoy watching Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ long and powerful Scripture recitation from the recent True Woman conference.

Proactive and Reactive Prayer - The distinction between proactive and reactive prayer can be a helpful one. If we don’t guard ourselves, our prayers will almost always drift toward the reactive.

Moses, Maximum, and a Bloody Valentine - I’m enjoying the series at The Gospel Coalition that deals with perplexing passages of the Bible.

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep - Here are some tips on getting a good night’s sleep.

70 Years Ago Today - 70 years ago today was the day that J.I. Packer became a Christian.

Early believers had to be commanded not to evangelize. Modern believers have to be urged to speak. —Thom Rainer

Rainer

October 21, 2014

As I continue this series on getting things done, I want to remind you of our definition of productivity: Productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. I would like to briefly address that “good to others and glory to God” because I know it can be a little bit abstract. 

Let me confess: Doing good to others and bringing glory to God is not something I think about every moment. When I sit down to do paperwork for the church I don’t think, “How can I glorify God in this?” When I take my son out for breakfast I don’t think, “How can I do him good and glorify God over the next hour?” Perhaps I should, and I probably have a lot of room for growth here. But what I ensure I do is reserve moments of deliberate thoughtfulness and in these times consider and plan how I can do good to others and in that way glorify God. I structure my life and live within a system so that day-by-day and week-by-week I am executing plans and projects that reflect the time I spent considering how to do those good things that bring glory to Him.

Task Management

Today I want to turn to the very practical subject of task management tools because they represent the heart of an effective productivity system. The task management tool is tool you use to store and organize your tasks or actions. While each of the four tools is important, none is more crucial to the functioning of the system than this one. There is a real sense in which all of the other tools are supplemental to it, because this is the one that will determine and propel your actions each day.

I use OmniFocus as my task management tool. I appreciate its rich feature set, its attractive design, its excellent desktop and iPhone apps, and the way it comfortably complements the way I like to get things done. However, most of the principles I am about to lay out will also work with ToDoist or similar packages.

Let’s talk about how to get your life into a task management system, and how to structure a basic workflow.

Projects

No two people use OmniFocus exactly the same way, and most people don’t use it exactly the same way for very long. That’s just fine. I will tell you how I use it in the hope that you can use that as a starting point and adapt it to fit your life and your responsibilities.

If you went through the previous article, I trust you have already installed your task management tool and begun the basic setup. I organize OmniFocus according to my 5 areas of responsibility: Personal, Family, Social, GFC [church], and Business. Each area of responsibility contains what OmniFocus calls projects and these projects represent my roles, duties and projects. Within each of these OmniFocus projects I have one or more tasks. Here are some examples of this hierarchy of area of responsibility → project → task.

Area of Responsibility: Family

  • Project: Finance
    • Open: New Savings Account
    • Update: Budget
    • Research: New Insurance Policy
  • Project: Home
  • Register: Keurig
  • Complete: Kitchen Paint
  • Buy: New Fire Extinguisher

Area of Responsibility: Business

  • Project: G3 Conference
    • Decide: Text to Preach
    • Prepare: Sermon
    • Book: Flights
  • Project: Free Stuff Fridays
  • Verify: This Week’s Sponsor
  • Launch: This Week’s Giveaway
  • Choose: This Week’s Winners
  • Send: Winners to Sponsor

Area of Responsibility: Church

  • Project: Young Adults’ Ministry
    • Set: Next Meeting Date
    • Decide: Next Meeting Topic
  • Project: Members’ Meeting
  • Create: Members’ Meeting Agenda
  • Discuss: Agenda with Elders
  • Send: Agenda to Members

Adding Tasks

Whenever I think of something I must do, or may want to do, I immediately add it into my OmniFocus inbox. The inbox is a place to hold unfiltered and unsorted tasks, so I add tasks to it indiscriminately. Because OmniFocus is on my laptop, desktop, and iPhone, I have it with me just about anywhere I go, and this allows me to enter items the moment I think of them.