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December 2011

December 23, 2011

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Shepherd Press. Before we get to the prizes, you should know that until the end of December all of Shepherd Press’ books are on sale in ebook formats. You can get details right here. It’s a great time to fill out your catalog a little bit!

Today Shepherd Press is giving away 5 prize packages, each of which contains 3 books on parenting older children. These are printed books, not ebooks, in case you are wondering. Here is what each of the winners will receive:

  • Time for the TalkTime for the Talk by Steve Zollos. “Time for The Talk will help fathers walk their sons through one of the most important conversations of their lives. ‘The Talk’ is much broader than just a talk about sexuality; it’s a conversation about manhood, about right decisions, about Christ.”
  • Get Outta My Face by Rick Horne. “Horne lays out a very practical game plan for the parent, pastor, youth worker, school teacher or counselor. It would be well worth the investment to get and read this book.”
  • Everyday Talk by John Younts. “God first gave specific instructions for being a parent in Deuteronomy 6. He instructs parents to talk to their children everyday about God and His ways. Everyday Talk offers practical, creative ways to do that. Learn how to use ordinary conversations to show your kids the goodness and wisdom of God. With clear biblical teaching, John Younts illustrates how to lead your children into a greater awareness of the presence and glory of God.”

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, you’ll need to click through to see the form.

December 23, 2011

House sitters are in place. The dog has been taken to a kennel. The van is all gassed up. And we are on our way to Chattanooga, Tennessee to spend Christmas with my family. We made half the drive last night, getting as far as Dayton, Ohio. We’ve got 412 miles to go.

Here is an all-video A La Carte for you (just to be different):

Advancing the Gospel - I really appreciate the work done by Frontline Missions. Be sure to watch their new video introduction.

Australia - A friend sent me this—a little song telling you why you may want to visit Australia.

The Incarnation - Here is Odd Thomas with an excellent little spoken word piece all about the Incarnation.

Hallelujah Chorus - Here’s a fun version of the Hallelujah Chorus, done by Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat 5th Grade class in Quinhagak, Alaska. I bet you can’t pronounce most of that…

Christmas in a Nutshell - This is a good video.

Let us never forget that the message of the Bible is addressed primarily to the mind, to the understanding. —D. Martyn Lloyd Jones

December 22, 2011

I was at a wedding recently and was introduced to this hymn (which also works well as a poem) written by John Berridge. Berridge was a preacher, a revivalist and a hymnwriter who wrote several hundred songs. Indelible Grace has a helpful biography of the man. I quite enjoyed his hymn “Since Jesus Freely Did Appear” and thought I’d share it with you.

Since Jesus freely did appear
To grace a marriage feast,
O Lord, we ask thy presence here
To make a wedding guest.

Upon the bridal pair look down,
Who now have plighted hands,
Their union with thy favor crown,
And bless the nuptial bands.

With gifts of grace their hearts endow,
Of all rich dowries best!
Their substance bless, and peace bestow,
To sweeten all the rest.

In purest love their souls unite,
That they with christian care,
May make domestic burdens light,
But taking each their share.

True helpers may they prove indeed,
In pray’r, and faith, and hope;
And see with joy a Godly seed
To build their household up.

An Isaac and Rebecca, give
A pattern chaste and kind;
So may this married couple live
And die in friendship joined.

On every soul assembled here,
O make thy face to shine,
Thy goodness more our hearts can cheer,
Than richest food or wine.

December 22, 2011

Acts 12 contains one of my favorite stories of the early church. It is a great little bit of writing—a short story in three acts. I was reflecting on that story recently and just had to tell you about it.

The chapter begins with a description of Herod’s persecution against the church. In order to please his Jewish subjects Herod has James arrested and killed. This makes his subjects so happy that he then goes after Peter, throwing him in prison as well. Knowing the popularity of these upstart Christians, Herod puts Peter under the care of four whole squads of soldiers. The first act ends with these words: “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” This earnest prayer is no incidental detail; it is a little fact, some narrative tension, that the author offers to foreshadow what will come.

The second act tells how Peter is delivered by God through one his angels. Peter, half asleep, sees his chains fall off and quickly passes all the guards before waking up and realizing what is happening. He hurries quickly to the church, to the gathering of people who just happen to be praying for him at that very moment. There is a delightful bit of comedy injected into the text when Rhoda, the servant girl, so excited to hear Peter at the door, runs to tell everyone that he has arrived. But she forgets to let him in; he is left standing on the street, pounding at the door. With the prayer meeting coming to a prompt end, the people belittle Rhoda, refusing to believe that Peter has actually arrived. And yet, because of Peter’s persistent knocking, they soon come to realize that he really has been rescued. Peter quickly tells his story and then disappears, presumably opting to lay low for a little while.

In the third act we return to Herod. Herod has ordered the execution of the soldiers who allowed Peter to escape. And then we find him accepting worship as a god. His Creator is most displeased and strikes him down so “he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” Herod bookends this story, appearing as a cruel tyrant at the beginning and as a pathetic worm-eaten corpse at the end. He has gone from holding the power of life and death in his hand to being struck down by the Lord himself. It’s a pathetic end to a pathetic ruler.

December 22, 2011

I’ve got a couple more Kindle deals to mention. I apologize to those who do not have a Kindle; I know I keep mentioning deals like this. But I know people who have Kindles are finding these posts helpful. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill is a very good book dealing with homosexuality ($1.99) and The Jesus Storybook Bible is a wonderful Bible storybook for children ($3.99). Finally, Michael Horton’s For Calvinism, a brand new book, is down to $4.99.

Song of Solomon - Carl Trueman writes about pastors who preach explicitly about sex from the pulpit. Where this article shines most, I think, is where it discusses the poetic nature of Song of Solomon. “The Bible’s refusal to reduce sex to physical acts is surely one of the reasons why it uses poetry to describe it.   Poetry communicates meaning and significance which cannot be reduced simply to the reference; and the turning of the Song of Songs primarily into a sex manual is arguably a greater act of reductionism than jumping straight from the text to Christ and the church.”

The Sacrament of Feminism - Frederica Mathewes-Green explains why abortion remains the sacrament of feminism. As a former feminist herself, her perspective really rings true. She argues that feminists sought to be equal to men with respect to having a career and having a promiscuous sex-life.

We Proclaim - Here is an album you can listen to for free online (or purchase). “The common theme among all the lyrics is the preeminence of Christ and His salvation. There’s a purposeful flow to the album that’s intended to take the listener on a ‘Christological journey’ of sorts, as one gazes at the profound and moving realities of all that their Redeemer is and has done.”

The Year in Pictures - Here is part 2 of The Big Picture’s roundup of the year in pictures.

The Local Bookstore - My friend Ian gives a different perspective on the local Christian bookstore.

Surprise Adoption - This is really sweet. You’ll probably cry when you see it. Back story is here.

Eternity will be too short to exhaust our learning of God or to end our enjoyment of him. —Peter Green

December 21, 2011

Reports of the blogosphere’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Another year has come and (just about) gone and the blogosphere continues to be an integral means of communication, and this despite many predictions that blogs will soon go the way of the dinosaur (or the newspaper, as the case may be). 2011 was a great year for blogs, at least here in the Christian blogosphere. Before the year comes to an end, I want to point to a few of my 2011 blogging heroes.

Here are seven of them, in no particular order.

Practical Shepherding - When I speak to people who are considering blogging, I always talk about the importance of identifying a niche and then filling it. It is far easier to gain authority in a niche than it is to gain authority broadly. The example I always use is Brian Croft and his Practical Shepherding blog. Brian identified his own passion and gifting and then found that there was a void in the Christian blogosphere that he could fill. He has done a great job of doing just that. Writing primarily to pastors, he humbly offers advice or teaching that is both practical and biblical. It’s a must-read for any pastor.

The King’s English - 2011 marked the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible and Glen Scrivener decided to mark the occasion by looking at hundreds of phrases coined by the King James translators that have since passed into modern parlance—phrases we now take for granted: “labour of love”, “beast of burden”, “wits’ end” and “scapegoat”; and also phrases that perhaps should be a bit more popular, like “filthy lucre” and “gird up thy loins”. He did a phenomenal job of it. I am looking forward to seeing what he does in 2012 and beyond.

The Cripplegate - The Cripplegate is a new blog produced by a team of writers connected by their association with [John MacArthur’s] Grace Community Church. It offers a place for “like-minded Christians and pastors to share their thoughts about ministry, theology, and issues that affect the church today, in a way that will bring encouragement and clarity to those that read it.” The writers have done a good job of addressing current events while also writing about issues relevant to ministry or just being part of a church. I appreciate their willingness to be blunt when bluntness will help a conversation progress.

December 21, 2011

My book “The Next Story” has been reduced in price to $1.99 (Kindle edition). If you haven’t yet got a copy, this is your chance. Let me mention that quite a few people have written me to say, “I thought it was going to be kind of dry…but I actually found it helpful.” So don’t give up on it if you’ve assumed it’s only for technical people. I think there’s useful material there for all of us.

Praying For and With Your Wife - Brian Croft is on target with this article. “It might not surprise you if I told you that many Christian man struggle to pray for their wives with their wives. What might shock you is if I told you many Christian pastors struggle to pray for and with their wives. I’m not talking about praying with her and the family at meal time. I am talking about a pastor sitting down with his wife, with no kids or other distractions, looking her in the eyes, and asking how she is doing and how you can specifically pray for her.”

Stent Man - Mark Altrogge has put together a funny look at a recent medical procedure.

Missing $4,155? - That missing $4,155 went into your gas tank last year…

Terrifying Awesomeness - This Slate article looks at the newest Nerf guns which truly are amazing toys.

Farther Along - Christianity Today has given their album of the year award to Josh Garrels’ Love & War & The Sea Inbetween. You can download the whole album for free (legally!) from JoshGarrels.com.

The Hobbit - Here is the first trailer for The Hobbit, coming our way a year from now.

What a man is on his knees before God, that he is—and nothing more. —Robert Murray M’Cheyne

December 20, 2011

Farhad Manjoo recently wrote a provocative article for Slate in which he argued that we shouldn’t support our local independent bookstores. According to Manjoo, “buying books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you.” Those are fighting words!

You may have heard of Amazon’s recent promotion. If you walked into a retail outlet and used Amazon’s app to buy that product through Amazon, they would give you a 5 percent discount. That was good for Amazon, but bad for everyone else—especially the salesperson who used some of his time to tell you all about that product. Not surprisingly, this promotion generated a lot of anger.

This caught Manjoo’s attention and got him thinking about local bookstores. He looks at a New York Times op-ed penned by Richard Russo and says this:

Rather than focus on the ways that Amazon’s promotion would harm businesses whose demise might actually be a cause for alarm (like a big-box electronics store that hires hundreds of local residents), Russo hangs his tirade on some of the least efficient, least user-friendly, and most mistakenly mythologized local establishments you can find: independent bookstores. Russo and his novelist friends take for granted that sustaining these cultish, moldering institutions is the only way to foster a “real-life literary culture,” as writer Tom Perrotta puts it. Russo claims that Amazon, unlike the bookstore down the street, “doesn’t care about the larger bookselling universe” and has no interest in fostering “literary culture.”

Manjoo goes on to show how much Amazon has done for readers, writers and publishers: “As much as I despise some of its recent tactics, no company in recent years has done more than Amazon to ignite a national passion for buying, reading, and even writing new books. … Compared with online retailers, bookstores present a frustrating consumer experience. A physical store—whether it’s your favorite indie or the humongous Barnes & Noble at the mall—offers a relatively paltry selection, no customer reviews, no reliable way to find what you’re looking for, and a dubious recommendations engine. Amazon suggests books based on others you’ve read; your local store recommends what the employees like. If you don’t choose your movies based on what the guy at the box office recommends, why would you choose your books that way?”