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November 2011

November 30, 2011

The Bible is the very Word of the living God, breathed out by God and given to us to train us in all that is necessary for life and godliness. As God’s people we are deeply reliant on Scripture, trusting that the Bible is the only infallible and inerrant means through which God speaks to us. For this reason Scripture must be central to our worship services. We ought to read it, sing it and preach it every Sunday! Reading Scripture is not something we do out of duty or obligation, but something we do in delight, trusting that it is a means by which the Lord blesses pursues, convicts and draws. To stand at the front of a church and read the Bible is to stand in the place of God and proclaim his Word.

Because of the importance of the Word of God, at Grace Fellowship Church we ask certain members of the church to be involved in a Scripture Reading Ministry—a ministry of those who are specially trained and equipped to read the Word of God and to read it well. We consider this a teaching ministry, which means that it is a ministry reserved for men.

Here are some of the things we seek to teach the men who participate in this minstry. I’m hoping this may serve you as you consider reading Scripture in a public setting. It assumes that the person reading Scripture has some time to prepare himself!


In order to read a passage well, you first need to understand it. You need to understand the genre, the tone, the purpose for which it was written, and at least have a general comprehension of what the passage means. Is this a triumphant passage proclaiming the glories of God? Is this a poetic, meditative passage reflecting on pain and persecution? Is this God speaking to man or man speaking to God? Is this a story or a letter? What is God seeking to communicate to us in it?

November 30, 2011

Songs for the Supper - Free music. Need me to say more than that? Cardiphonia: “Songs for the Supper is the 3rd in a collaboration of songs dedicated to serving under-emphasized themes in our worship music. … Some of these songs are quiet meditations, others look to the great rejoicing of the Lamb’s Feast. All of them reflect the incredible diversity of postures and approaches to our Lord’s table. “

Joel Osteen and Reality TV - Oh boy. “More than 10 million people watch Joel Osteen’s television broadcast each week, and soon viewers will be able to see how the pastor of America’s largest church lives outside of Lakewood. A new reality show will follow the Osteens’ ministry as they serve and inspire people across the U.S., Lakewood confirmed.”

Utopia Is Creepy - Nicholas Carr: “I’ve noticed the arrival recently of a new genre of futuristic YouTube videos. They’re created by tech companies for marketing or brand-burnishing purposes. With the flawless production values that only a cash-engorged balance sheet can buy you, they portray a not-too-distant future populated by exceedingly well-groomed people who spend their hyperproductive days going from one screen to the next. (As seems always to be the case with utopias, the atmosphere is very post-sexual.)”

In Your Arms - This is pretty cool. “22 months, 1,357 hours, 30 people, 2 ladders, 1 still camera, 288,000 jelly beans.” All that for one music video.

The Great Tech War of 2012 - So true: “There was a time, not long ago, when you could sum up each company quite neatly: Apple made consumer electronics, Google ran a search engine, Amazon was a web store, and Facebook was a social network. How quaint that assessment seems today.”

The essence of sin is arrogance; the essence of salvation is submission. —Alan Redpath

November 29, 2011

It’s a question several of you have asked me: What happened to the book reviews? For many years I was the one reviewing all the books. Well, not all of them, but I was reviewing a lot of them. For several years I maintained a pace of at least 1 book review each week, and often times it was more than that. I made a concerted effort to keep up with the latest and greatest and to try to keep the blog readers aware of what was new and exciting (or what was truly awful and an utter waste of both paper and ink).

A number of months ago—6 or so, perhaps—something changed. The books still show up at my house, but I find it near-impossible to find the time and the brainspace to read and evaluate as many of them. I still read, but not at near the pace I used to. Thinking about this, I think there are at least 3 causes.

The first is a matter of gluttony. When I began to read and review books, and when the blog began to gain traction, becoming a place to go for reviews of Christian books, books began to show up at my door (and later at a post office box I opened for the purpose). First they came 1 or 2 a week, then 1 or 2 a day, and often more even than that. It was easy enough to separate the good from the really bad, but this still left a lot of books—far more than I could ever hope to get through. But at first I still felt some responsibility, like if the people were sending me the books, it in some way imposed an obligation on me to read them. So I read them. A lot of them. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy myself. I had read so few Christian books before then that there was so much that was new and interesting and exciting. But I guess I overdid it a little bit. Eventually I needed to take some time to do something else. Largely I’ve been reading other books—some of which I’ll tell you about another time. I guess my literary gluttony eventually caught up with me.

November 29, 2011

Critical Appreciation - When I grow up, I want to be able to write like Carl Trueman. “The death of John Stott has led to a veritable flood of accolades and uncritical adulation over the last few months. A recent example was the memorial service for him at Wheaton College which raised a number of questions in my mind. One was the issue of what Stott himself would have thought of it.”

Child or Fetus? - This was very interesting to read. A father speaks about the language used to describe his unborn child when he was healthy and then when he was thought to be ill.

Alcohol vs Narcotics - David does a nice job of answering one of the comments that arose yesterday after I wrote about alcohol: What’s the difference between alcohol and narcotics?

Living in the Next Story - It has been a while since I linked to a review of The Next Story. This one was really encouraging!

McDonald’s - A while back I posted a link to that map of every McDonald’s restaurant in the US of A. This site has a video showing a person trying to find the spot (the exact spot!) that is farthest from any McDonald’s in the whole country.

Out of Darkness - Z linked to a powerful article from the New York Times. “Two years ago, when Giulia and I were 27 and in our third year of marriage, she suffered a psychotic break. She had no history of mental illness preceding the abrupt arrival of delusions and paranoia. It was a bewildering decline that snowballed from typical work stress to mild depression to sleeplessness to voices speaking to her in the night…”

Nearer My God to Thee - Another video, similar to the one I posted yesterday.

It is not your hold of Christ that saves, but his hold of you!C.H. Spurgeon

November 28, 2011

The relationship of Christians to alcohol is one of those perennial issues. It has often been the source of heated disagreement and even separation. It is a particularly important topic in the United States, but, since much of the rest of the world is culturally downstream from the U.S., it effects every Christian to some degree. Today I want to discuss the issue of alcohol, or at least one component of it. (Parenthetically, many Americans may not know this, but alcohol is a non-issue for Christians in many other parts of the world.)

A Personal Perspective

For reasons that I will explain in a moment, I believe it would be useful to begin with a personal perspective. I was raised in a Christian home and I was raised around alcohol. While my parents (Christians, both) never drank to the point of drunkenness, or even close to it, there was often wine or beer in our home. My parents never hid this from us and they were never ashamed of enjoying a drink. When we were children and asked if we could have a sip of beer or wine, my parents would allow us (and enjoy our disgusted reaction to it). By the time I was a teen, alcohol had been thoroughly demystified.

There is another pertinent detail. A relative I love was an alcoholic and I saw, up close and personal, the danger excess could bring. The demystication of alcohol along with witnessing the effect of drunkenness left me with no desire to get drunk. I have never been drunk and have never even gotten close.

Even today I don’t really drink. It happens that I really dislike the taste of alcohol, so tend to abstain for reasons of preference. At a wedding I may have a sip or two of champagne with the toasts and perhaps once in the summer on a really hot day I will have a beer or half a beer. But that’s all. Aileen drinks a little bit, but barely more than I do. If you come to our home you’ll probably find a couple of bottles of beer in the fridge. They may well be there still the next time you visit.

Why am I telling you this? I say all this to show that I’ve really got no personal reason to defend the consumption of alcohol. I very happily live an alcohol-free life. Not that I intend to defend the consumption of alcohol, because that is not my purpose here.

November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday is a new tradition—the day that online retailers offer deals to match or surpass the deals offered by retailers on Black Friday. I have been keeping tabs on various online stores and ministries looking for deals that will be of particular interest to Christians.

Here are some excellent Cyber Monday deals:


Amazon always has great Black Friday deals. You pretty much need to visit the site to see them all. Start here, then go here. (Also, Mark Driscoll book’s Doctrine is on sale in Kindle format for $3.99)

Banner of Truth

Banner of Truth has some fantastic deals on sets and some individual titles. For example, you can get John Owen’s collected works (16 volumes) for $198, the two-volume biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (written by Iain Murray) for $39 or Dallimore’s two-volume life of George Whitefield for $40. The complete Puritan paperback series (45 volumes) can be had for $235. And so on. There is lots more. If you’re having trouble spotting the deals, click on the “Book Catalogue” button at the top of the page and then look to the sidebar.


Centricity Music is offering all of their albums at $4 for downloads or $5 for CDs for the whole weekend. Artists include Andrew Peterson, Downhere, Matt Papa, Me in Motion, and others.

Christian Audio

Christian Audio is offering hourly deals on audio books. Your best bet is to track them on Twitter throughout the day.


Crossway has a long list of deals today only. They include Bibles, reference works and books.

Cruciform Press

Cruciform Press is offering bundle deals. You can buy bundles of ebooks at $25 for 7 books (there are 2 bundles, each with 7 different books). If you prefer printed books, you can get subscriber pricing rather than regular pricing if you buy 5 or more titles.


Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service will be offering an across-the-board 10% discount. This will take many of their prices below what you’ll find anywhere else.

Desiring God

Desiring God has several of John Piper’s books marked down to $5: Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ; Spectacular Sins; Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God; Contending for Our All; The Power of Words and the Wonder of God; What Jesus Demands from the World. The offer ends at 3 PM CST.

Eternal Perspectives Ministries

Eternal Perspectives Ministries has some of Randy Alcorn’s bestselling books on sale. Included are Courageous at $6.99, Heaven at $9.99, The Treasure Principle at $3.99 and The Resolution for Men at $6.99. You’ll need to use the code blackfriday and will need to ship to the continental US.

Family Christian Stores

Family Christian Stores has a long list of items on sale both in-store and online. You can browse their brochure to find particulars (check pages 4-11).

The Good Book Company

The Good Book Company is selling their popular Good Book Guides at 50% off. Also, many of their bestselling paperback books, along with their books for teens, are 50% off.

Grace and Truth Books

Grace and Truth Books will have several substantial bargains. They include this 2-book edition of Pilgrim’s Progress and The Holy War; Reformation Study Bible; The Valley of Vision.

Indelible Grace

Indelible Grace has a bunch of deals on their music: Matthew Smith CDs for $7.99, a 3-pack of Even When My Heart Is Breaking for $9.99, or all 6 Indelible Grace studio CDs for $64.99, plus other great deals.


Lifeway has quite a long list of items for sale in-store and online.


Logos is selling 3 new resource bundles as well as 12 great commentaries and standalone references at good discounts. Base packages are discounted 15%. They are also giving away $250 dollars of Logos credit to 5 winners.

Monergism Books

Monergism Books has a series of coupon codes that will drive down prices on all of their products. Use coupon code EXTRA5 to take 5% off your order. If you spend more than $75, use coupon code EXTRA10 to take an extra 10% off your purchase and to get free shipping. If you spend $350 or more, use coupon code EXTRA15 to get an extra 15% off your order. These offers will be valid from Friday until Monday. Also, they have a few notable ebook deals: What Is the Mission of the Church? by Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung is $5.99; Joy by Lydia Brownback is $1.99; The Godly Home by Richard Baxter is $1.99; Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey is $2.99.

New Growth Press

New Growth Press is offering the brand new The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski for just $9.99 (regular price is $29.99). The same deal can be had at Westminster Books.

Reformation Heritage Books

Reformation Heritage Books has a significant list of books on sale. A few highlights: A New Testament Biblical Theology by G.K. Beale is $30.00; 365 Great Bible Stories by Carine Mackenzie is $12.00; Reformation Heroes by Joel R. Beeke and Diana Kleyn is $15.00; The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard is $5.00.

Sovereign Grace

Sovereign Grace Ministries has a bunch of their books and music on sale.


Vyrso (Logos’ ebook company) has limited time free downloads of several Christian authors as well as deep discounts of up to 80% on a large number of titles. There will be a couple of free books available for download on Friday and Monday so check back both days to get a copy of these limited freebees. The Vyrso app is free to download and works on iPhone, android, iPad, and android tablets.

Westminster Books

Westminster Books has all of their ESV Bibles on sale at a 45% discount. On Monday they will also have the brand new The Gospel Story Bible at just $9.99 (regular price is $29.99—link will go live on Monday).

November 28, 2011

Now that Thanksgiving and Black Friday are behind us, we’ve got Cyber Monday. I’ll have a post in a few minutes rounding up some of the deals. The places to begin, though, are Amazon, Crossway, and Westminster Books. Details to follow. In the meantime, here are things I came across this weekend.

Loving People at School - Jean Williams offers up a great list of ways to love the people at your local public school.

Stoning, Imprisonment, Marry Your Rapist - Absolutely horrifying: “Lawyers in Afghanistan recently came to the conclusion that the best way to strike a plea bargain for a rape victim is to grant her the option to marry the man who raped her.  This option, they assure, will reduce her criminal incarceration from 12 years to three years at the Badambagh Prison located outside of Kabul.”

The Devil’s Playbook - Ray Ortlund says that the Bible reveals to us Satan’s playbook, and he gives the 4 plays.

Ramabai - Paul Levy: “In the endless pursuit of sermon illustrations for tomorrow I came across the inspiring story of Pandita Ramabai, Rowland Ward writes about her here.”

A Lesson in Lyrics - You’ll have to be wary of bad language (it is, after all, an article about rap music), but this article is rather interesting. It tracks disillusionment in President Obama through the lyrics of rap music.

Michael Meets Mozart - This is pretty neat.

Doubt thee, my Lord? I could doubt all except thee; and doubt myself most of all. —C.H. Spurgeon

November 27, 2011

Earlier on I found myself running through some of my old notes from the first time I read Jonathan Edwards’ The Religious Affections. I came across a portion of his work that I wish I had discovered before writing The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. In that book I wrote about counterfeiting and missed the point that Edwards makes so clear: “It may be observed that the more excellent anything is, the more will be the counterfeits of it.” And of course this is true. Nobody counterfeits copper or aluminum! Instead, people counterfeit what is precious and what is desirable. Edwards continues to say that because love is the chief of the graces and the source from which all true affections must flow, it is love that is most often counterfeited. “So there are perhaps no graces that have more counterfeits than love and humility, these being virtues wherein the beauty of a true Christian does especially appear.” I suppose the application is clear. We must be on guard against counterfeit love and counterfeit humility; we must watch for their presence in our own lives and be aware that they may be present in the lives of those who appear to be the most humble, most loving Christians. Such godly traits are always prone to counterfeits.