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October 2011

October 27, 2011

Here is another roundup of 30 Minute Reviews. These are noteworthy books that I did not have time or opportunity to read from beginning to end. Instead, I tried to spend at least 30 minutes with each—enough to get a sense of what the book is all about.

At the Throne of GraceAt the Throne of Grace - At the Throne of Grace is a book of the pastoral prayers of John MacArthur. Here is what the publisher says: “For more than 40 years, John MacArthur has steadfastly committed himself to the careful and faithful teaching of God’s Word. A key outgrowth of his study of Scripture is the profoundly God-centered prayers that precede his sermons. John’s prayers are the offerings of a heart that is fully committed to honoring God, proclaiming and obeying His Word, and calling others to do the same. In this book, prayers and Scripture readings from across his years of ministry have been brought together to stir Christians toward more meaningful and edifying communion with God.” These are powerful prayers, chosen by his children, arranged topically, and printed for all of us to enjoy. We’ve all known MacArthur as a preacher; this gives us an opportunity to see him in his role as a pastor who prays.

A Life of Gospel PeaceA Life of Gospel Peace - We have waited a long time for a fresh biography of Jeremiah Burroughs and at last it has come courtesy of Phillip Simpson and Reformation Heritage Books. Here is a short endorsement I penned for it: “A man whose books are known and treasured almost four centuries after his death is a man worth getting to know. Phillip Simpson has done the church a great service in penning this long-overdue account of the life and impact of Jeremiah Burroughs. I am glad to commend it to you.” 

October 27, 2011

Reading Classics Together
Today we draw one week closer to completing John Stott’s The Cross of Christ.  After this week’s reading, we’ve got just two remaining before we’ve finished the book and wrapped up another reading project. Thank you for bearing with me last week when I just wasn’t able to get things done on time. 

Self-Understanding and Self-Giving

You remember that last week’s chapter was about the community of the cross being a community of celebration. This week Stott shows that the community of the cross is also a community of self-understanding. “This may sound like a reversion to individualism. But it should not be so, since self-understanding is with a view to self-giving. How can one give what one does not know one has? That is why the quest for one’s own identity is essential.” That makes good sense to me!

October 27, 2011

The Rules of Publishing - “Amazon.com has taught readers that they do not need bookstores. Now it is encouraging writers to cast aside their publishers. Amazon will publish 122 books this fall in an array of genres, in both physical and e-book form. It is a striking acceleration of the retailer’s fledging publishing program that will place Amazon squarely in competition with the New York houses that are also its most prominent suppliers.”

Wolf Hunt - This is pretty amazing.

I Can Do All Things - Nathan Busenitz: “In today’s post, I would like to briefly consider one of the most well-known and often-quoted verses in the New Testament. In fact, it is one of the most popular verses in American evangelical culture today.”

The Apotheosis of Steve Jobs - Gene Veith: “CNN’s religion blog asked several experts if they thought that the recently departed Steve Jobs has been turned into a secular saint.  I liked what Gary Laderman of Emory University had to say…”

Selah - Jim Hamilton doesn’t like the word “selah” being removed from the biblical text. I’d tend to agree (not that I speak with any authority!).

Faith brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of God. —John Calvin

October 26, 2011

At long last, WTSBooks is beta testing shipping to Canada! They wanted to launch the service sooner rather than later, and I’ve been told that by early 2012 improvements like a shipping calculator and one-screen checkout will be in place.

To give a picture of how WTSBooks stacks up to the competition, I went back and took a look at the US pricing survey I did back in May (click here to see that survey). I used the same books, updated the pricing, and expanded the comparison to include Amazon.ca and Chapters.indigo.ca. You can see the full details of my comparison here.

Here are some quick observations:

  • If you live in almost any Canadian province and are shipping five or more books (orders over $50) WTSBooks is your least expensive option.
  • If you live in NT, NU, or YT and are shipping five or more books (orders over $50), Amazon.ca, Chapters.indigo.ca, or CBD are your least expensive options.
  • If you’re shipping one or two books (orders under $25), CBD is your least expensive option.

As an example,

  • If I bought the 10 comparison titles from WTSBooks and had them shipped to me in Ontario, I would save $17.34 over the next closest competitor.
  • If I bought 50 copies of The Next Story from WTSBooks and had them shipped to me in Ontario, I would save $104.55 over the next closest competitor.

As an invitation to try them out, WTSBooks is offering an opportunity for Canadian customers to save up to 20% on their first order. To participate, please leave a comment on this post.

For the next 48 hours, every 50 comments will result in an additional 5% off your total purchase (maximum 200 comments, or 20% off). For instance, for 50-99 comments, WTSBooks will issue a coupon code for 5% off your next order to Canada. For 100-149 comments, we will get a coupon for 10% off. If we reach 200 or more comments we will earn the maximum 20% off.

The coupon code (good for one order per customer) will be issued on Friday, October 28th and will expire on Tuesday, November 1st.

With only 48 hours to accumulate comments, be sure to spread the word to your friends, relatives, and churches! (one comment per person, Canadians only please)

October 26, 2011

I had an unusual and unexpected experience on Sunday—one that struck me as rather significant. I have been doing quite a bit of preaching at Grace Fellowship Church and elsewhere and knew that Sunday marked the last time I would have to prepare a fresh sermon until the end of the calendar year. Somehow this made me feel like I would be crossing a finish line when the service came to a close. It was a milestone I was looking forward to as it will allow me to focus on some other things for a while (good things, ministry things, but not preaching things).

I finished the sermon—quite an emotional and difficult one for me—and, after the service, was greeting people and then doing whatever else needs to be done at the close of a service. Very suddenly, and very unexpectedly, I was faced with a temptation to sin—to commit a sin to which I am particularly prone. I will not tell you what that sin is because I fear it would detract from what I am writing here. It could be envy or lust or fear of man or idolatry or any of the sins we find ourselves particularly drawn to. It is a sin for which I have experienced the Lord’s grace so that I am usually able to redirect my heart, at least in the moments that I am eager to honor God. And that is what I did. I saw the temptation to sin and immediately directed my heart to something better. 

But then something happened. I don’t even know how this can happen, but in just a brief second, less than a second, a thought flashed through my mind. It was something like this: “Come on now. You’ve finished preaching, so go ahead and indulge. God won’t punish you now.” It stopped me dead in my tracks for a moment. It was an ugly thought and one that somehow seemed extrinisic to me. I truly don’t know where it came from. At least, I don’t think I’ve ever thought that before.

October 26, 2011

Pastors Who Write Books - Here is some good advice from Barnabas Piper for pastors who want to write books of the sermon series. “When I receive proposals for books or book ideas from pastors I often get something like this as an accompanying comment: “I am the pastor of a X,000-person church, and based on their response to this message I think there is a large demand for this material.” This seems like a reasonable assertion. 80% of the congregation loved the messages, therefore a large percentage of like-minded Christians will also like the message.  Unfortunately there is almost no correlation between what a pastor’s congregation thinks of his sermons and the audience size when that is turned into a book. “

Evangelistic Prayer Meeting - My friend Paul does evangelism on the streets of Toronto and writes about some of his experiences. Yesterday’s post models a way to engage in spiritual conversation.

The All-Digital Library - “Two years ago, Cushing Academy of Ashburnham, MA made a bold move when it got rid of Fisher-Watkins Library’s 40,000 books and replaced them with electronic sources. During the overhaul all resources were converted to digital formats, and the library’s Web site was redesigned to provide students and faculty with online resources and tools on a 24/7 basis.”

Hermeneutical Hall Passes - “Have you ever read the New Testament and wondered if the apostles would have passed a contemporary hermeneutics course? Sure, the apostles quoted and alluded to the Old Testament. But carefully considering the original context wasn’t very high on the apostolic priority list. Or was it?”

There Is No Sin That I Have Done - Here’s a new hymn that speaks of some great truths.

How Sermons Work - This commerical for David Murray’s new book is really, really clever.

The primary test of life is not service but love, both for man and God. —William Still

October 25, 2011

Growing Up AmishEvangelicalism has a strange obsession with the Amish. The Amish are the theme of countless novels and they also appear in cookbooks, books of moralisms, books on the virtues of the simple life, and on and on. They are held up as models of cultural and theological simplicity, people who can point us to better days. The problem, of course, at least as it pertains to theology, is that this is simply not a true representation.

Ira Wagler grew up Amish, spending his childhood in both Canadian and American communities. He recently released a memoir that has made its way onto the bestseller lists. Growing Up Amish (a title that pretty much says it all) records his memories from childhood all the way to his mid-twenties when he eventually broke free of his family and community. 

Wagler is truly a gifted writer which makes this memoir beautifully crafted and wonderfully poignant. He draws the reader into his world as he grapples with his identity, as he leaves the community and returns, leaves and returns again, and as he tries to understand who or what he can be if he forsakes his Amish identity. His experience of truly being converted is the turning point of his life—perhaps an unexpected climax for a man raised in such a moral and religious atmosphere.

Here is a particularly poignant scene where Ira’s youngest brother walks away from his family and his Amish tradition once and for all:

Finally Nathan emerged from his bedroom and walked up to Dad, who was sitting in the living room. “I’m leaving,” he said shortly, abruptly. Dad looked up at him, uncomprehending. Then it slowly dawned on him what Nathan had just told him. “What? No, you should not do that,” he said, his face darkening into a serious frown. Nathan just grunted and walked out, duffel bag in hand, and shut the door behind him. Dad rose from his chair and followed him to the door. He stood there, looking out, unsure of what to say or what to do. And then Nathan approached Mom, working outside the washhouse. From a distance, I watched. I could not hear the words he spoke to her. Her face, at first turned up to him in a smile, suddenly collapsed in sorrow and fear. No, no. She mouthed the words. Spoke them. I drifted nearer. Then Nathan turned and walked away from her. Down the gravel drive, the long half mile to the road. He had gone only a hundred feet or so when she began to call his name, beside herself with horror. Fear. And love.

Even now, many years later, Wagler seems occasionally trapped between revulsion and admiration as he reflects on all the years he lived among the Amish. 

October 25, 2011

The Things He Wanted to Do - John Piper writes about Steve Jobs. “The wisdom Steve Jobs learned, he said, was this: Do a couple things, and do them well. You don’t have time for much. And most of things are not lasting. So do two or three things, and do them amazingly. Not a bad lesson. In fact, really good—as far as it goes.”

Judgment Houses - Russell Moore offers 7 reasons that judgment houses or hell houses completely miss the mark. I still find it hard to believe that such things exist (I’ve certainly never heard of one up here in Canada!).

Declining Church Health - Thom Rainer has 5 signs of declining church health.

The Original iPod - It is now 10 years since Apple completely revolutionized the music industry with the introduction of the iPod. Ars Technica re-reviews it, a full decade later.

The Future of Punctuation - The rules of punctuation, like most of the rules of language, seem to come and go. Currently, many of the rules are going. “How might punctuation now evolve? The dystopian view is that it will vanish. I find this conceivable, though not likely. But we can see harbingers of such change: editorial austerity with commas, the newsroom preference for the period over all other marks, and the taste for visual crispness.”

Sin always leads us much farther than we intended to go. —James Philip