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December 2010

December 21, 2010

Tonight I’m off to a performance of Handel’s Messiah with Toronto Symphony Orchestra. I can hardly wait. A lot of people I know have already been and are saying great things about this year’s adaptation. Just twelve hours to go…

Last Minute Gifts - My good friend Becky is offering up a lifesaver for guys who are way behind on their shopping. Use the coupon code challies and you can get 10% off any of her last minute gift items. They are gifts that don’t require shipping, so they’re ready to go right away.

Amisadai & Louisa - Here’s a blog you may enjoy bookmarking for your kids. “We are Amisadai and Louisa Monger (age 6 and 4). We have moved to Tanzania in Africa - look at the map below to see if you can find it! We hope you will enjoy reading about our adventures and looking at our photos! Please don’t forget to send us a message too!”

Slave - David Steele offers up a review of John MacArthur’s new book Slave. “MacArthur hits the Christological target with this book.  With the skill of a theologian marksman, he exalts and magnifies Christ.  In the final analysis, Slave is a primer on Reformed theology and is written with humility and great erudition.  It should receive a wide reading for years to come and make a significant difference in the body of Christ.”

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks - I enjoyed this little story that shows how technology changes the world in even subtle ways.

Blocking Porn - This is an interesting story coming out of England—how British internet service providers are going to have to block all porn sites unless a customer specifically requests them. I can’t imagine it will work too well (yet) but here’s hoping.

Ask R.C. - In case you missed the first-ever Ask R.C. Live Online, you can catch the recording. It’s probably not a bad idea to let Ligonier know that you want more of these!

A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be what he never intends to be. —Tom Ascol

December 20, 2010

2010 was a good year for books. For me it was a strange year—a year in which I read less widely than I am accustomed to, but perhaps read more overall. Work on my new book had me reading a whole lot in a single direction and so much of that reading never appeared as reviews on this blog. Nevertheless, I still read many great books and thought it would be beneficial to keep with tradition and put together a list of some of my favorites.

I will offer my usual caveat in saying that these are almost certainly not the 10 best books of 2010 in any objective sense—but they are my favorites. Here they are, in no particular order:

The ShallowsThe Shallows by Nicholas Carr - Carr picks up threads from a lot of other books and tells us what the Internet is doing to our brains. This is far more than an expansion on his infamous article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” He doesn’t write as a Luddite or as someone lost in ignorance—he writes as a computer enthusiast who has begun to wonder just what all this technology is doing to him and to us. Very few people are thinking about these things, so his book hit hard.

Son of HamasSon of Hamas by Mosab Hasson Yousef - This is one of two biographies to hit the bestseller lists this year that culminated in the hero of the book becoming a Christian. In this book Mosab Hasson Yousef, a son of one of the founders of Hamas, writes about life on the inside of a terrorist organization. And he writes of becoming a traitor to that cause and eventually a convert to the Christian faith. [my review]

HeroHero by Michael Korda - Hero is a much-anticipated biography of T.E. Lawrence, known more popularly as Lawrence of Arabia. While I found that the man himself did not interest me all that much, I couldn’t help but be drawn into his life through this superior biography. The first 100 pages were difficult going, but the book then opened wide and I found myself intrigued by this eccentric British hero.

Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - This may be the most unusual book to appear on the list of my favorite books. In 1951 Henrietta Lacks, a thirty year-old African American woman, died of cervical cancer, her body ravaged by the disease. Shortly before her death, and apparently unknown to her, researcher George Gey took a biopsy of her tumor and, for the first time in history, managed to culture an immortal line of cells. This line soon became known as HeLa and since the 50′s has been sold commercially and used in a remarkable variety of experiments. Rebecca Skloot compellingly tells the tale of this woman: her life, her death and her ongoing legacy.

BonhoefferBonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas - This big biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer has become one of the year’s top sellers within the Christian market and for good reason. Metaxas offers “a comprehensive review of one of history’s darkest eras, along with a fascinating exploration of the familial, cultural and religious influences that formed one of the world’s greatest contemporary theologians.” It’s well-written and looks at a fascinating individual who lived in a fascinating time. That’s a recipe for success. [my review]

UnbrokenUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - Of all the books I read in 2010, this is probably the one I enjoyed reading the most. I sat down with it in the morning and pretty much read straight through until bed time. It tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a man who is way larger than life. This is the second of the books on this list that rocketed onto the bestseller list and that tells the tale of a remarkable conversion to Christianity. It’s pretty much a must-read. [my review]

Other books I enjoyed:

December 20, 2010

Yesterday evening our church was able to enjoy a baptism service and see 3 people make that public profession of faith. What an awesome thing God has done in giving us baptism, a visible rite that speaks so clearly about the inner change he has wrought.

The Half-Life of Celebrity - “Is it possible to study something as ill-defined as culture in a quantitative manner? Researchers from Harvard have collaborated with Google and some traditional publishers to answer that question with a qualified ‘yes.’ By leveraging a portion of Google’s massive library of digitized books, the team has created what they call a ‘culturome,’ with which they can track the use of language and terms across hundreds of years.”

I Looked For Love in Your Eyes - In case you missed it on Saturday, you should check out this poem a reader of the site shared with me. Almost 20,000 people read it this weekend.

TV and Teen Girls - This is pretty obvious but still worth thinking about that next time you sit down to watch some television. “According to a new study conducted by the Parents Television Council (PTC), Hollywood is shockingly obsessed with sexualizing teen girls, to the point where underage female characters are shown participating in an even higher percentage of sexual situations than their adult counterparts: 47 percent to 29 percent respectively.”

Sistine Chapel - An amazing virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel.

The Woman Without Fear - I found this a rather interesting article. “SM is a woman without fear. She doesn’t feel it. She has been held at knifepoint without a tinge of panic. She’ll happily handle live snakes and spiders, even though she claims not to like them. She can sit through reels of upsetting footage without a single start. And all because a pair of almond-shaped structures in her brain – amygdalae – have been destroyed.”

3 Lessons in Parenting Teens - David Murray offers up some sound wisdom (and searching questions) related to parenting teenagers.

Rudolph - A Christmasy laugh:

Rudolph

Silent Monks - This is pretty clever:

There are no deadlines against which God must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.A.W. Tozer

December 19, 2010

This is an interesting prayer I came across this week—a prayer obviously timed for the Christmas season. It was prayed in a service at All Souls Church, Langham Place (which is in London, England).

We come together humbly to the Lord of Glory and the Prince of Peace.
Lord Jesus Christ, Creator, Author, and Redeemer, we pray that our few concentrated minutes consciously in your presence would please you and humble us.

We acknowledge you as Creator, who precedes and sustains everything
- as Visitor in Bethlehem who is truly adorable
- as Author not of fairy tales but of reality
- as Redeemer who dies to make us whole

So, convince us that this Christmas news is the best news ever
- that though you are high yet you are lowly
- that though you are defined by eternity yet you are couched in humanity
- that though you are cramped in obscurity yet your glory is for all who have eyes to see

Convince us
- that our freedom is born in a stable and secured at the Cross
- that all other supposed solutions are false avenues in the light of your beauty and grace
- that our very life depends on you

Refresh our hearts in wonder and loose our tongues in songs of joy
We worship you afresh
Lord of Glory and Prince of Peace

Our living God is not remote, uncaring or idle
but who is engaging, outgoing and active
We, His people are called to be like Him
Let’s pray that we may reflect Him more accurately

Lead us your people to shine in the mess of the world
Lead us in humble service
Lead us in courageous abandonment of life and reputation

Strengthen our mission partners all over the world
We pray for all in danger or hardship that they may be renewed in courage, faith and hope.

And we pray for the multifaceted nature of our church here in London,
that we might be filled with His energy, His love and His humility.
So make the stable our context and the real world our activity centre.
Lord of Glory, Prince of Peace
Hear our prayers

December 18, 2010

A few days ago I received an email from a reader of this site, a woman who was responding to some of the articles I’ve written on the subject of pornography. She shared a poem, a bit of free verse she had written in the midst of her husband’s addiction. I wish I could say it was the only email I’ve received from such a woman. Sadly it’s not; not by a long shot. That same day I received another email from another woman looking for resources for dealing with the wife’s response to a husband’s sin (rather a gap in the available literature right now, I think).

Anyway, I thought I would share this poem. It’s a little bit graphic, but only so far as it needs to be. I think it’s particularly heartbreaking in drawing out the clear connection between pornography and violence. And it’s just a realistic look at how so many men are damaging and destroying their wives and families. It’s reality.

So here it is, “I Looked For Love in Your Eyes.”

I saved my best for you.
Other girls may have given themselves away,
But I believed in the dream.
A husband, a wife, united as one forever.

Nervous, first time, needing assurance of your love,
I looked for it in your eyes
Mere inches from mine.
But what I saw made my soul run and hide.

Gone was the tenderness I’d come to know
I saw a stranger, cold and hard
Distant, evil, revolting.
I looked for love in your eyes
And my soul wept.

Who am I that you cannot make love to me?
Why do I feel as if I’m not even here?
I don’t matter.
I’m a prop in a filthy play.
Not an object of tender devotion.

Where are you?

Years pass
But the hardness in your eyes does not.
You think I’m cold
But how can I warm to eyes that are making hate to someone else
Instead of making love to me?

I know where you are.
I’ve seen the pictures.
I know now what it takes to turn you on.
Women…people like me
Tortured, humiliated, hated, used
Discarded.
Images burned into your brain.
How could you think they would not show in your eyes?

Did you ever imagine,
The first time you picked up a dirty picture
That you were dooming all intimacy between us
Shipwrecking your marriage
Breaking the heart of a wife you wouldn’t meet for many years?

If it stopped here, I could bear it.
But you brought the evil into our home
And our little boys found it.
Six and eight years old.
I heard them laughing, I found them ogling.

Hands bound, mouth gagged.
Fisheye photo, contorting reality
Distorting the woman into exaggerated breasts.
The haunted eyes, windows of a tormented soul
Warped by the lens into the background,
Because souls don’t matter, only bodies do
To men who consume them.

Little boys
My little boys
Laughing and ogling the sexual torture
Of a woman, a woman like me.
Someone like me.

An image burned into their brains.

Will their wives’ souls have to run and hide like mine does?
When does it end?

I can tell you this. It has not ended in your soul.
It has eaten you up. It is cancer.
Do you think you can feed on a diet of hatred
And come out of your locked room to love?

You say the words, but love has no meaning in your mouth
When hatred rules in your heart.
Your cruelty has eaten up every vestige of the man
I thought I was marrying.
Did you ever dream it would so consume you
That your wife and children would live in fear of your rage?

That is what you have become
Feeding your soul on poison.

I’ve never used porn.
But it has devastated my marriage, my family, my world.

Was it worth it?

December 17, 2010

Free Stuff Fridays

One of the most common questions I get is this one: How many people participate in Free Stuff Fridays. That’s closely guarded information, as it happens, but put it this way: if you play consistently over the long haul you are bound to win sooner or later. With at least 5 winners a week and 52 draws per year, that means at least 260 people a year win something. Sooner or later the random draw will go your way! Maybe in the new year I’ll see if I can convince the sponsors to come up with a greater number of prizes…

The God Who Is ThereThis week’s edition of Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by CBD Reformed. They are givine away 5 prizes, each of which will contain the following 3 great books:

  • Ministries of Mercy by Timothy Keller – Retail price $12.99
  • The Cross-Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney – Retail price $9.99
  • The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson – Retail price - $16.99

That’s 3 great books by 3 really good authors.

Additionally, CBD Reformed is offering a 4-day sale (December 17 – 20) on the following three products. Anyone is free to take advantage of these deals:

There are 5 prizes to win, so get your name in ASAP.

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.

December 17, 2010

I’ve got nothing to say today, so we’ll just get straight to those links…

$5 Friday - Ligonier is having their weekly $5 Friday event today, and R.C. Sproul’s commentary on John is one of the items that you can buy, today only, for just $5.

The Christmas Tree Industry - Just in case you’ve ever wondered what the industry is all about.

Put the Seat Down - Over at Discerning Reader, Mark Tubbs offers a recommendation for a good book: “Almost everything you wish you had known about serving your wife as a biblical man before you got married, in less than 125 pages.”

Facebook Photos - A couple of days ago Steve Cornell offered up social media suggestions for pastors. Today he follows up with an interesting post dealing with Facebook photos.

Rallying to restore God - It was interesting to see Nancy Pearcey’s name appear in the Economist as “America’s pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual.”

Bob Feller - I enjoyed reading this article on the life of baseball great Bob Feller.

2010 in Photos - Boston.com wraps up their look at 2010 through photos.

People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated. —D.A. Carson

December 16, 2010

So we’ve got just one week left in our reading of R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God. Next week we’ll wrap up—rather good timing, I think, since the holidays are just about upon us.

Summary

This week’s chapter was titled “Looking Beyond Shadows.” In the first part of the chapter, Dr. Sproul writes about the ways in which man refuses to acknowledge God as God. God has revealed himself clearly to each and every individual in the world, but left to ourselves we despise that revelation and suppress it.

The real person of God is really known through the real revelation that takes place in the real realm of nature. But the problem is that in the case of God, we distort our knowledge of Him with an image that we create ourselves. This is the essence of idolatry; replacing the reality with a counterfeit. We distort the truth of God and reshape our understanding of Him according to our own preferences, leaving us with a God who is anything but holy.

Paul does not bring a universal indictment against humanity for the failure to know God. That is not our problem. It is not that we fail to know that God is and who God is; it is that we refuse to believe what we know to be true. Here we face a problem that is not an intellectual problem. It is a moral problem. It is the problem of dishonesty. All idolatry is rooted in this fundamental dishonesty.

God’s holiness is not an arcane secret that may be discovered only by some spiritually elite group of people. Rather God’s holiness is on display daily for everyone to see. Again it is not merely that it is available to be seen for those who earnestly search for it. Rather Paul’s point is that God’s holiness is seen, and it is seen clearly.

…The knowledge of God that is given through creation is not a knowledge we warmly receive and embrace. Instead it is our nature to abhor this knowledge of God’s holiness. It is characteristic of the reprobate mind not to want to retain God in our knowledge. We prefer to change the holy into something less than holy. It is this rejection of God’s majesty that leaves us with minds that are darkened. It results in a massive foolishness that has disastrous consequences for our lives. Once we refuse to honor God as God, our whole view of life and the world becomes distorted.