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July 2010

July 31, 2010

A couple of years ago the British journalist John Naish released a book titled Enough (I don’t think it ever made it in substantial numbers to this side of the Atlantic). He subtitled the book, “Breaking free from the world of more.” He uses the book to encourage people to stop when they have enough—enough stuff, enough food, enough work, enough information. The book is a bit uneven with some parts being much better than others; one part I thought was particularly strong was his discussion about information and the near-ridiculous volume of information we are exposed to today. In  part of this chapter he writes about his approach to tackling information overload. I was writing on this very topic earlier in the week and I thought I’d share a short quote from Naish:

It involves fighting—and here’s my own new word—infobesity, by restricting one’s data diet. There are compelling reasons. The glut of information is not only causing stress and confusion; it also makes us do irrational things such as ignore crucial health information. The British Government’s latest survey on our food-buying patterns shows that while we are given more information than ever about healthy eating, our consumption of fresh food has fallen. This is partly because we are too busy getting and spending to enjoy the simple pleasures of cooking. But Catherine Collins, of the British Dietetic Association, says that info-overload is often to blame for this food-choice paradox: “We are so informed that we can’t be bothered.” That’s a fantastic slogan for the twenty-first century. We are so wired to gather information that often we no longer do anything useful with it. Instead of pausing to sift our intake for relevance and quality, the daily diet of prurient, profound, confusing and conflict information gets chucked on to a mental ash-heap of things vaguely comprehended. Then we rush to try to make sense of it all…by getting more.

As I read this, I thought of the Golden Labrador Retriever (i.e. Golden Lab), that ridiculous (but family-friendly) breed of dog that has a far bigger stomach than brain. The Lab, or at least the Labs I’ve known, cannot be trusted around food. They will eat until they are sick, throw up, and eat some more. Indefinitely. Some dogs have more common sense; they will eat for a while and save a portion of their food for another time. Not so the Lab. It will eat, and eat, and eat.

I do wonder if we are this way with information today—we eat and eat and eat, never pausing to digest, rarely showing any sensible moderation.

July 30, 2010

Free Stuff Fridays

It wouldn’t be Friday without a new edition of Free Stuff Friday, would it? This week’s sponsor is one you know well: Moody Publishers. They would like to introduce you to some of their new products and to do this they’ve put together a pretty good prize package for you. Five people will win a package of six different books.

Each winner will receive:

July 30, 2010

The Fate of Afghan Women - This article from TIME (this is a shortened version of the print magazine’s cover story) looks at what may be in store for women in Afghanistan after the US and other nations depart.

The Spill: Not As Bad As We Feared? - And while we’re on the subject of TIME, it also has a rather interesting article suggesting that perhaps the BP oil spill is not quite as bad as everyone feared. You know you’ll have to read an article from TIME when it contains the words “[Rush] Limbaugh has a point.”

Jeremy Lin - The Washington Post takes a look at Jeremy Lin, a Harvard grad, the first Asian-American in the league since 1947 and a committed Christian. You can read more about his faith here.

July 29, 2010

When reading about Charles Spurgeon you will be drawn to the unavoidable conclusion that he was a unique individual. He was uniquely gifted by God and then raised up to a unique ministry. There can never be another Charles Spurgeon.

I spent some time this morning pondering what is unique in Spurgeon’s background that would keep another Spurgeon from arising in our day. And I started to think about our media-saturated world. And i started to think about the character qualities exemplified by the Prince of Preachers. And I started to think about a lot of other things. And then I started writing and rambling.

From his earliest days Spurgeon was drawn to great writing by great authors. Even when he was just barely old enough to read, he was reading some of the greatest theological tomes ever written. Even in the youngest days of his ministry, when most pastors today are finishing up high school, he was able to quote widely and quote deeply from these great writers of days gone by, relying on a photographic memory (or a near-photographic memory) to recall what they had said. But he did not rely on mere recall; he had not just read these authors, but he had applied their words to his own life. From the day of his conversion he was exceptionally godly and almost unbelievably mature.

By the time Spurgeon was in his mid-teens he was already successfully pastoring a church. Already he was becoming known as the boy preacher and his fame was beginning to spread. Yet God had gifted him with an extraordinary humility and a profound sense of his utter dependence upon God. He would pray earnestly before he preached, throwing himself on God’s mercy and begging for God to be present with him and to give power to his words—power to change the hearts of his hearers. Though he was the Prince of Preachers, easily one of the greatest preachers the world has ever known, still he relied entirely upon God rather than upon his own skill. More rightly, his utter reliance was the root and the cause of the power in his words.

July 29, 2010

New Kindles - Amazon continues to innovate with the Kindle and, best of all, drive down the prices. The new “standard” Kindle will have both 3G and WiFi capabilities and cost $189 (see it here) while a new model will offer only WiFi access and cost a mere $139 (see it here). It does not take long to make back that $139 when you figure that each book you buy will be significantly less expensive than if you were to purchase the printed edition. You’ll want to order now even though they won’t be available for a few weeks—I suspect they are going to go very quickly.

Scraps of Thoughts on Daily Prayer - Tim Keller shares some very valuable “scraps of thoughts” on daily prayer in this short article. He simply describes how he prays over the course of the day.

A Picture of Robert E. Lee - Russell Moore answers an interesting question here: Is it wrong to display a picture of Robert E. Lee? It ties in a little bit with the discussion begun by my review of the biography of Stonewall Jackson.

How the Digital Revolution Changed Our World - This is an interesting infographic showing just a few of the ways that this digital revolution (or digital explosion) has changed the way we consume media.

Saving Leonardo - It’s been a long time since we saw a new book from Nancy Pearcey. But the wait is almost over. Her next book, Saving Leonardo, will be released on September 1. It is now available for pre-order at Amazon. “Is secularism a positive force in the modern world? Or does it lead to fragmentation and disintegration? In Saving Leonardo, best-selling award-winning author Nancy Pearcey (Total Truth, coauthor How Now Shall We Live?) makes a compelling case that secularism is destructive and dehumanizing.

Deep Sea Slugs - Yes, you read that correctly. Check out this gallery of the amazing creativity God put into the humble deep sea slug.

Temporary Marriage - Shi’ite Islam’s doctrine of “temporary marriage” is one of the most bizarre and in-your-face examples of legalism you’ll ever encounter. It is like something straight out of the books of the Pharisees of old. “Now a mosque in Iran is, in effect, setting up a prostitution ring, including in its offerings children as young as twelve.” Gene Edward Veith writes more.

July 28, 2010

Here we are with episode number 13 of the Connected Kingdom Podcast. This week we have a guest on the show, none other than Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds fame. We talk to Justin about his life and family, about blogging, about publishing and about other things I’m sure I’ve already forgotten. Justin always has lots of interesting things to say, at least in my experience. Give the show a listen and I think you’ll agree.

If you want to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or another program. As always, feedback and suggestions for future topics are much appreciated.

July 28, 2010

God’s Technology - David Murray has just released a video and study guide titled God’s Technology. ” God’s Technology  is ideal for families, schools, and churches that want to help their children to use God’s good gift of technology in a God-glorifying way. And although it gives parents and teachers many helpful tools, it emphasizes that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ultimate firewall for our children.”

Watch the Rising Day - Matthew Smith is now accepting pre-orders for Watch the Rising Day, his latest album of old hymns set to new music. At the site you can stream the whole album to give it a listen. And if you decide to buy it, you’ll receive an immediate download of the MP3 version. You can get 25% off the CD with the code “challiesblog” or 10% off the vinyl with the code “challiesvinyl.”

Love Where You Live - Collin Hansen writes for Christianity Today about how “Urban, suburban, and rural churches respond to new challenges in a less mobile era.”

The Elisha Foundation - I am excited by the work done by The Elisha Foundation as they minister to families with special needs children. This video shares some of what they do.

The Elisha Foundation from The Elisha Foundation on Vimeo.

July 27, 2010

Stonewall JacksonI love biography. That’s probably the tenth time I’ve begun a review with those words, yet it’s no less true now than the first time I penned them. The more I read of biography, the more I am enamored with it and the more I see just how valuable it is to my life and faith.

I was in Virginia recently, spending a week on vacation. I decided the occasion merited a biography of a Virginian. That led me to choose between Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. In the end Jackson won in a shootout. I turned to the epic work by James Robertson. Written in 1997, this biography remains the definitive word on Jackson. I can’t imagine how it will ever be equaled.

Over the years Jackson has been variously portrayed as a great general and a great Christian. It seems that few biographers have managed to do equal justice to the two most notable emphases of this extraordinary man. On the one hand he was a brilliant military strategist who time and again relied on speed and surprise to catch his enemy off-guard. On the other hand, he was a man who deeply loved the Lord and who cherished his relationship with the Savior. He was a man who suffered much from his earliest days to his final days. Fatherless at two, orphaned at seven, he also witnessed the death of two of his siblings, two of his children and his first wife. Some of his closest friends died and he was estranged from others by the war that devastated his nation. Yet through it all Jackson remained absolutely fixed upon the firm foundation of God’s sovereignty. Always he placed his trust in God and always he sought to submit himself to God’s will and to delight in God’s providence.

The facts of Jackson’s life are well-known so I will forego those to comment instead on the lessons I’ve learned from Jackson and to comment on what makes this biography so sublime.