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July 2011

July 31, 2011

This morning Joshua, our lead worshipper, introduced a new song to the congregation. An adaptation of an old Wesley hymn, it has been modernized and has been recently recorded by Matthew Smith. It is titled “Calmer Of My Troubled Heart (Hallelujah).” You can find it on his Road Sessions Collection CD.

The lyrics are simple. You can hear the melody on YouTube (this is a rough cover of the song, but I wanted to link to that rather than the album version someone else dumped on YouTube, presumably without permission).

Calmer of my troubled heart
Bid my unbelief depart
Speak, and all my sorrows cease
Speak, and all my soul is peace.

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
 Hallelujah

Comfort me when e’er I mourn
with the hope of Thy return
And til I Thy glories see
Help me believe in Thee

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
 Hallelujah

July 30, 2011

It is a long weekend here in Canada and it seems like pretty much the whole population of Toronto has fled north to cottage country. We’ve got no cottage to go to, so instead we are meeting up with a cousin of mine and heading out onto Lake Ontario in his boat. Should be fun. Here’s hoping there’s some wind today.

A Two-Day Sale at Ligonier - Ligonier is having a big two-day sale during which everything at their store is 30% off. Use the code SHOP30 to get that discount. It’s only good today (and tomorow, I think; better use it today!).

Why Youth Stay in Church - I like this. “Youth pastors, pray with all your might for true conversion; that is God’s work. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry; that is your work. Parents, preach the gospel and live the gospel for your children; our work depends on you.”

War Posters - It is kind of fun to look at the war posters that were on constant display during the two world wars. 

Norway and Fundamentalism - Ed Stetzer: “When new information (the police officer’s solitary comment) reinforces how we already see the world (Christian fundamentalists are dangerous). 

I think there are three reasons that many in the media were so quick to assume and report this unsubstantiated label.
”

John Stott - The Telegraph ran an obituary of John Stott.

Life on This Planet - I’m no fan of Mark Steyn, but I did quite enjoy this article. He sounds mad. “It’s always good to have things explained in terms we simpletons can understand. After a while, all the stuff about debt-to-GDP ratio and CBO alternative baseline scenarios starts to give you a bit of a headache, so we should be grateful to the House Minority Leader for putting it in layman’s terms: What’s at stake is ‘life on this planet as we know it today.’ So, if right now you’re living anywhere in the general vicinity of this planet, it’s good to know Nancy’s in there pitching for you.”

Time to Immigrate - You probably caught this headline yesterday: Apple Now Has More Cash Than The U.S. Government.

Interview - I’m not sure if it’s humilty or pride (probably pride) but I can’t bear to watch myself on video. So I’m posting this interview sight unseen!

The spiritual battle, the loss of victory, is always in the thought-world. —Francis Schaeffer

July 29, 2011

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Fridays sponsor is Desiring God, a name you are all familiar with, I’m sure. Desiring God is the teaching ministry of John Piper, and DG would like to give you some of Piper’s best books. They are offering 5 prize packages, each of which contains a copy of the following 3 books:

Think PiperHere is a word about Think, the book you may be least familiar with:

This book will help Christians think about thinking. Focusing on the life of the mind helps us to know God better, love him more, and care for the world. Along with an emphasis on emotions and the experience of God, we also need to practice careful thinking about God. Piper contends that “thinking is indispensable on the path to passion for God.” So how are we to maintain a healthy balance of mind and heart, thinking and feeling?

Piper urges us to think for the glory of God. He demonstrates from Scripture that glorifying God with our minds and hearts is not either-or, but both-and. Thinking carefully about God fuels passion and affections for God. Likewise, Christ-exalting emotion leads to disciplined thinking.

Readers will be reminded that “the mind serves to know the truth that fuels the fires of the heart.”

Remember that there will be 5 winners!

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.

Note: If you are reading via RSS or email, you may need to click through to see the form.

July 29, 2011

The Friends with Benefits Epidemic - Here’s the best couple of lines from this article: “Your desire for sex is proof that God loves you. Your physical draw to another human being is proof that God created you to want to experience unparalleled intimacy in a way that reflects His desire for intimacy with us. God designed sex and the acts and attitudes preceding it to access aspects of your heart, soul, body and mind that could not be accessed any other way.”

Playhouses - This is every child’s dream. “Even in a troubled economy, it seems, some parents of means are willing to spend significant (if not eye-popping) sums on playhouses for their children that also function as a kind of backyard installation art.”

A Disciple’s Tomb? - Most of these things never pan out, of course. But still… “An Italian professor has announced the apparent discovery of the tomb of St. Philip, one of Jesus Christ’s apostles, at the ancient city of Hierapolis in the Aegean province of Denizli.”

Norway - I don’t agree with all of this, but it makes an interesting read. “It’s something of a stretch to compare Norway’s reaction to Friday’s appalling attacks to the Anglosphere’s reaction to 9/11. If Norway decided to freak out, it would look a lot different — most notably, there would be no other countries to invade, rightly or wrongly. Still, Oslo could do a lot of the same types of things Washington, Ottawa and London did, if it so chose.”

Happy, Holy, Beautiful Mess - “Ever hear the old adage: ‘Marriage isn’t primarily intended for your happiness, but for your holiness?’ Well, it’s true and it’s a glorious thing.The growing in holiness part doesn’t always seem blissful. But it means that God isn’t finished with you yet, either. The purpose and hope in marriage isn’t defined by you or your spouse, but by God.”

Brian Regan on Aging - This guy pretty much always makes me laugh.

As the profane take the liberty to force their irreligion upon you, so you take the liberty to force your religion upon them. —C.H. Spurgeon

July 28, 2011

You Need a Budget

I have always wanted to manage my money well. I have often been convicted that with my rudimentary knowledge of finances, it would be especially important for me to learn to budget well. For many years I tried to put together a budget and often found myself searching for software that would make it simple. I tried all kinds of programs and found that none of them quite did it. Then, finally, I found just the thing I was looking for. It is called You Need a Budget (YNAB). And it’s far and away the best budgeting program I’ve ever used.

The software, and the budgeting system that lies behind it, depends on 4 big concepts:

  1. Give every dollar a job. Each month you assign your available dollars to spending/savings categories. This process takes 20 minutes and revolutionizes the way you think about your money.
  2. Save for a rainy day. You’ll anticipate larger, less-frequent expenses and will be ready for them. Insurance premium due in six months for $600? Save $100 each month and watch the Car Insurance balance grow.
  3. Roll with the punches. The key is to keep moving even when you fail (you will). YNAB will make small adjustments when you overspend, ensuring that you fix those mistakes before you go to the next month.
  4. Stop living paycheck to paycheck. We want you to work toward living on last month’s income. Both the software and methodology will help you do just that.

The big mind-shift at the heart of it all is to stop looking at your bank accounts, adding up the money, and believing that this is what you’ve got to live on. YNAB helps you start to divide that money into categories like “tuition payments,” “future car purchase,” “emergency funds,” “electric bill,” “vacation fund” and so on. This is remarkably freeing and helps you understand your money in a whole new way. Though you may look at your bank account and see a balance of $10,000, YNAB will show you that only $200 of that is actually available for spending on a new television—the rest has all been reserved for other uses.

In my estimation, and based on the way my mind works, YNAB is far more effective at budgeting than Mint or Quicken or any of the other packages. It does just the one thing and does it very well—budget your money.

July 28, 2011

Christianity and Liberalism
UPDATE: If you’d like to read along, Christian Audio has put the audio book on sale for just $2.98 until October 31. Use coupon code CH0811CCClick here to order it.

Several years ago I began a program I called Reading Classics Together. The impetus for this project was the realization that, though many Christians have a genuine desire to read the classics of the faith, few of us have the motivation to actually do so. This has always been the case for me. This program allows us to read such classic works together, providing structure and accountability along with the added interest of comparing notes as we read in community.

Just last week we finished reading Gresham Machen’s Christianity & Liberalism. I was all set to announce the next classic today—the next classic Christian book to read together. I knew what I was going to propose, but I had a last-minute change of heart. As I received news of John Stott’s death yesterday, I thought that this might be the perfect time to read one of Stott’s best-known works, the one that most people consider his finest work.

The Cross of Christ StottI propose, then, that 3 weeks from today we begin reading The Cross of Christ. Here is a brief description of the book:

The work of a lifetime, from one of the world’s most influential thinkers, about the heart of the Christian faith.

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross… . In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”

With compelling honesty John Stott confronts this generation with the centrality of the cross in God’s redemption of the world- a world now haunted by the memories of Auschwitz, the pain of oppression and the specter of nuclear war. Can we see triumph in tragedy, victory in shame? Why should an object of Roman distaste and Jewish disgust be the emblem of our worship and the axiom of our faith? And what does it mean for us today?

Now from one of the foremost preachers and Christian leaders of our day comes theology at its readable best, a contemporary restatement of the meaning of the cross. At the cross Stott finds the majesty and love of God disclosed, the sin and bondage of the world exposed. More than a study of the atonement, this book brings Scripture into living dialogue with Christian theology and the twentieth century. What emerges is a pattern for Christian life and worship, hope and mission.

This is quite a large book, so we will need to read it over 13 weeks. But it is so theologically-rich and its subject so completely foundational to the Christian life that I believe it will prove a joy to read. 

The book comes very highly praised. J.I. Packer says, “This, more than any book he has written, is his masterpiece.” Michael Horton says, “As relevant today as when it first appeared, The Cross of Christ is more than a classic. It restates in our own time the heart of the Christian message” while D.A. Carson insists, “There are not many ‘must read’ books—books that belong on every minister’s shelf, and on the shelves of thoughtful laypersons who want a better grasp of what is central in Scripture—but this is one of them.”

So let’s read it together, beginning on August 18. If you would like to read it with us, simply find yourself a copy of the book and read chapter 1 (and the introduction, foreword, preface, etc.) prior to August 18. Then, on that date, drop by the site and there will be an article here that allows us to discuss that week’s reading. It’s that easy.

If you’d like to preview the book, you can do so at Google Books. Also, if you visit Westminster Book’s product page, you can download the table of contents, the foreword and the first chapter.

Here are some places you can get yourself a copy. This is probably a good book to buy in hardcover and keep for a lifetime. However, CBD does have it available in paperback if you want to save some money.

July 28, 2011

John Stott’s death has already generated a lot of memorials. Here are a few that I found particularly interesting: Sandy Grant, Mark Meynell, Andy Le Peau and Timmy Brister. Many more will follow in the days to come.

When Tumor Markers Rise - This is a powerful article from Mike Pohlman. “My wife Julia impresses me more every day. For over two years now she has valiantly and gracefully endured stage four breast cancer. When I look at Julia I am reminded of the words Abraham Lincoln said of Ulysses S. Grant in a rising tide of criticism against him: ‘I can’t spare this man; he fights.’”

You Just Don’t Get Me - I appreciated Julian’s comments on John MacArthur’s letters to the Young, Restless and Reformed crowd. 

Pornification - Ed Stetzer is posting what looks to be a promising series on the subject of pornography. On a similar note, Paul Tautges is asking father’s to consider listening to “Sex & the Single Man,” by Mark Dever from the 2004 Desiring God Conference.

The Norway Attacks - The Big Picture has a photo gallery dealing with the aftermath of the shootings in Norway. 

And here are a few deals you may wish to take advantage of. Westminster Books is offering the SOUL series (Christianity Explored for young people) at a deep discount. Reformation Heritage Books is having an inventory reduction sale and offering some good deals. Shepherd Press is selling off “scratch and dent” books at just $2.99 each.

It is better to get wisdom than gold. Gold is another’s, wisdom is our own; gold is for the body and time, wisdom for the soul and eternity. —Matthew Henry

July 27, 2011

Earlier today John Stott went to be with the Lord. He was 90 years old. Or as the Bible says of others, “He was old and full of years.”

It is interesting to me that Twitter is today’s version of the water cooler. If you would like to know what other people are thinking about John Stott’s life and legacy, you can find out (in bite-sized chunks) at Twitter. In fact, I recommend that you do just that. If you don’t see a Twitter widget below, refresh your browser. If you still don’t see it, click here.

Here are a few tributes that stood out to me:

@wesleyhill - “Thankful for the life and ministry of John Stott. Among other things, he showed me possibilities of beauty and joy in lifelong singleness.”

@ahc - “Requiescat in pacem ‘Uncle’ John R. W. Stott. Into Paradise may the angels lead you.”

@ScottyWardSmith - “John Stott, who shaped my love, respect & understanding of the Bible more than anyone, entered heaven this morning.”

@Quaerentia - “Well it’s out now. Praise god for 90 amazingly well lived influential and godly years. John R W Stott (1921-2011).”

@nathanfinn - “Saddened to learn that John Stott passed away today. Thankful to God for his decades of ministry and his influence on world Christianity.”

@barrygcooper - “John Stott went to be with the Lord this morning. What unimaginable joy he must be experiencing even now.”

@ChrisLarson - “John Stott (1921-2011) has joined the spirits of just men, made perfect. Remarkable legacy recorded in 52 books: (click for a link)

@BurkParsons - “Thank you Lord for calling and sustaining your servant John Stott. We look forward to eternity with him, by your grace. SDG.”

The next couple of days will undoubtedly bring many more substantial and thought-provoking tributes and remembrances. In the meantime, we do well to thank the Lord for the life of this man.

I will leave Stott with the final word:

Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, “I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.” Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is here, at the foot of the cross that we shrink to our true size.

Update: Christianity Today has a bit more information:

Editor’s Note: John Stott died today at 3:15 London time (about 9:15 a.m. CST), according to John Stott Ministries President Benjamin Homan. Homan said that Stott’s death came after complications related to old age and that he has been in discomfort for the last several weeks. Family and close friends gathered with Stott today as they listened to Handel’s Messiah. Homan said that John Stott Ministries has been preparing for his death for the past 15 years. “I think he set an impeccable example for leaders of ministries of handing things over to other leaders,” Homan said. “He imparted to many a love for the global church and imparted a passion for biblical fidelity and a love for the Savior.” This story will be updated as more information becomes available.