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October 2012

October 31, 2012

Connected Kingdom PodcastThere are some stories that just need to be told—some testimonies of the Lord’s grace that are so unusual and so encouraging that they will bless everyone who hears them. This is exactly the case with Rosaria Butterfield who recently authored The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. David Murray and I recently interviewed Butterfield for an episode of the Connected Kingdom Podcast. At the very least, make sure you listen to the first ten minutes or so where she shares the way the Lord saved her. After hearing how she came to know the Lord, we also talk about issues related to the church and homosexuality.

If you would like to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

October 31, 2012

There’s little doubt that pornography is a modern-day plague. Though pornography has always existed in one form or another, the Internet has created a medium through which it can be disseminated both widely and discreetly. Almost an entire generation of boys has succumbed at one time or another, with a new generation quickly falling into all of the same traps. And it has not just been boys; many men have found the temptation irresistible (and, of course, not a few women). While there are some who try to downplay pornography’s impact on life and marriage, evidence is mounting that it is a terribly destructive force.

Two new books from New Growth Press address the issue head-on. One targets men who are struggling with pornography or any other manner of sexual sin and the other brings help and healing to women who have found that their husbands have an addiction.

Sexual Sanity for MenDavid White’s Sexual Sanity for Men seeks to help men “understand that sexual sin starts in their minds and hearts and shows them how knowing Christ breaks their chains, builds spiritual brotherhood, and helps them take practical steps to re-create their minds in a God-focused direction.” This is a study or a course as much as a book. It is broken into fourteen chapters, each of which has five parts. The idea is that you will read one chapter per week, and one part per weekday, and hopefully meet with other men along the way. There is a downloadable leader’s guide that allows it to be structured as a group study.

The heart of the book is helping men re-create their minds through the power of the Holy Spirit so that they are able to make choices that are sexually sane. Paul Tripp says it well in his endorsement:

I know of no resource for men who are struggling with sexual sin that is more soundly biblical, drenched with the gospel, and practical at the street level. I am thankful that this resource now exists and will recommend it again and again. Here is a welcome for men to come out of hiding, to embrace that there is nothing that could be revealed about them that hasn’t already been covered by the blood of Jesus, and to believe that God has given them every grace they need to fight the battle with sexual sin.

When Your Husband Is Addicted to PornographyMeanwhile Vicki Tiede has written When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography. (Long-time readers of the blog may remember that I interviewed Tiede early in 2011 and at that time she mentioned that she was working on the book.) This book is meant for the women—the thousands or millions of women—who have been left shattered and betrayed when they have found out that their husband has an addiction to pornography. In many ways Tiede has the more difficult task; the men have sinned and have now to put sin to death; the wives have been sinned against and have to deal with the betrayal and heartbreak and bitterness.

October 31, 2012

Halloween and Evangelical Identity - Russell Moore takes a light-hearted look at Evangelicals and Halloween. “I tried my hand at explaining the spectrum, with tongue in cheek, using Halloween as a Rorschach test. I posted it over at the First Things group blog. Here goes.”

Luther and the Reformation Free - Ligonier Ministries is giving away R.C. Sproul’s video teaching series Luther and the Reformation. It’s free in the downloadable format today only, so get it while the getting’s good!

Images of Sandy - Here is a photo gallery of images taken in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In a similar vein, here are some statistics on the storm.

Macabre and the Christian Psyche - Patrick Schreiner has a very interesting look at the macabre and the Christian psyche, focusing on horror and zombies.

Can I Love My Child Too Much? - Kim Shay reflects on her realization that our children may become our idols if we do not guard ourselves against it.

Adultery is an obvious violation of the rights of another. You are stealing what doesn’t belong to you. —Sam Storms

October 30, 2012

One week from tomorrow I will be heading east. Way east. Along with Murray Robinson, one of my fellow elders at Grace Fellowship Church, I will be heading to Dubai and then to India. I am going there to meet fellow believers, to teach them and to learn from them. It promises to be rather an interesting trip and one I hope to be able to share with you through the blog.

We will be leaving late in the day on November 7, hopping aboard a flight to Dubai, and arriving late on Thursday. That’s 14 hours of flying plus a whole lot of time zones. For those who care about such things, this will be a direct flight on the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger jet. Of course I’m guessing the economy class on the world’s largest passenger jet isn’t a whole lot different than economy class on any other plane, so I doubt it will be too exciting. We will spend a couple of days with Dave and Gloria Furman and attend Redeemer Church of Dubai with them on Friday. (Because United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country, the Christians worship on Friday instead of on Sunday.)

On Saturday Murray and I will fly over the Arabian Sea to New Delhi, India where on the Sunday I look forward to speaking several times at an English-speaking congregation there. Monday and Tuesday I will be meeting with, speaking to, and learning from youth groups, couples, interns and pastors. A bit later in the week we will head to the province of Uttar Pradesh and visit Christians in what is a predominantly Hindu area. We will head home by the end of the week, leaving us with a trip of about ten days that will something like 16,000 miles. All-told, I anticipate speaking between ten and twelve times, teaching about Christian maturity and discernment and doctrine and yes, even technology.

I am not yet sure how the trip will effect my blogging. I do plan to maintain my daily blog post, many of which will be of the travel journey variety, I’m sure. I would also like to be able to maintain A La Carte, though the posts may come out in the morning Delhi time rather than North American time. I also hope to make a rare foray into photography, by taking photos as I go. Because some of the areas I am traveling to have deep religious divides and very little Christian witness, I may not be able to give a lot of details. I know that few of us have ever travelled to India, not to mention spent time with Christians there, so as much as possible I’d like to introduce you to brothers and sisters there, along with the work they are involved in.

I would be very grateful if you would pray for Murray and me as we travel, that we would remain safe and healthy, and that I would be able to be a blessing to the people I am able to speak to. Pray also that we can learn from the Christians there and enjoy true fellowship in the Lord. And please pray for our families while we are away from them for a little while.

October 30, 2012

Yesterday I linked to a whole collection of Kindle deals from Zondervan. However, the deals took a couple of hours to go into effect. If you gave up waiting, you may want to take another look since those deals are all short-lived.

If I Was Falsely Accused - I appreciated David’s thoughts on what he would do—or want to do—if he was facing false accusations of immorality. The question is, would we immediately assume the worst of him, or would we choose to believe the best until the worst had been proven?

A Year of Biblical Womahood - Kathy Keller has written a very honest and helpful review of Rachel Held Evans’ new book A Year of Biblical Womanhood. NOTE: The link will be live soon.

9.5 Theses - Here’s a great article from Carl Trueman. “So, in honour of the good Doctor [Martin Luther] and in the cause of saving him from the domesticated historiography of the Beautiful Young Things, here are a series of theses about  the Wittenberger, the cumulative force of which is to prove that in today’s evangelical world he would have made a most excellent taxi driver.” I guess you’ll need to read it to make sense of that.

The State of the Bookstore - Here are 12 stats on the state of the bookstore. “There’s a lot of room for improvement, but not everything is doom and gloom for America’s bookstores, as you’ll learn from these stats.”

The Only Thing I Know - “They say God gave Pearl her bright red hair and wide blue eyes, as well as the genetic disorder that created a cleft in her upper lip and caused her brain’s development to stall in the first weeks in the womb. ‘Things didn’t go wrong,’ Eric Brown said. ‘God has designed Pearl the way he wanted, for his glory and our good.’”

Why We Trick or Treat - I’m with Jesse on this one and reason my way through Halloween in much the same way.

No one has made progress in the school of Christ who does not joyfully await the day of death and final resurrection. —John Calvin

October 29, 2012

This is the tenth installment in an occasional series on theological terms. See previous posts on the terms theology, Trinity, creation, man, Fall, common grace, sin, righteousness, faith, and pride.

Election is the term the Bible uses to refer to God’s act of choosing people to salvation. Paul unpacks this meaning most clearly in Romans 9:10-13, where he sees God announcing and then carrying out his plans in the lives of Jacob and Esau. He writes,

When Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Election is a demonstration of the sovereign love of God in knowing, choosing, saving, and safeguarding particular people to be members of his family forever, apart from any merit or credentials on the part of those chosen (see Romans 8:29-30, where “predestination” is used as a synonym for election). People who are loved and chosen by God in this way, like Jacob was, are fittingly called “the elect” (cf. Matthew 24:22; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1).

There is a great deal to be said about what election means and what it does not mean, and church history has certainly seen more than its fair share of writing and interpretation on this matter. The main purpose and effect of the doctrine is not to confuse or to divide, but to generate worship. Wayne Grudem captures this well in his Systematic Theology:

The doctrine of election tells us that I am a Christian simply because God in eternity past decided to set his love on me. But why did he decide to set his love on me? Not for anything good in me, but simply because he decided to love me. There is no more ultimate reason than that.

It humbles us before God to think in this way. It makes us realize that we have no claim on God’s grace whatsoever. Our salvation is totally due to grace alone. Our only appropriate response is to give God eternal praise. (687)

October 29, 2012

I’ve said it often: I have a fascination with good writing that explores common issues or current events from a secular perspective. Time and again I find myself reading articles of this nature and enjoying the author’s perspective, but wanting him to go just a little bit farther, a little bit deeper, and to introduce the spiritual dimension. So many authors get so close to explaining the way life really works, and yet they don’t ever get to the heart. I love to take writing like that and to look at it in light of the Bible. The Bible introduces that missing component and ties everything together.

Tom Chatfield recently wrote an article for the BBC in which he looked at a subtle change he’s seen in the field of technology—a change that impacts each one of us, whether we consider ourselves technophobes or technophiles or somewhere in between. In the past couple of weeks, the news in the tech sector has been dominated by new products by fight-to-the-death competitors Apple and Microsoft. Apple took the wraps off a whole list of new products, including the long-predicted iPad Mini. Microsoft introduced their new tablet which is meant to out-iPad the iPad.

Chatfield looks at all of this and says that it is one more piece of evidence that there is a great shift going on right now in the way we perceive our technology and, therefore, in the way our technology is marketed to us. Where technology was once largely utilitarian with the emphasis on what it did for us, it is quickly becoming dominated by look, feel and lifestyle. “A shift pioneered by Apple but increasingly championed by all tech firms, it takes its cues from fashion, positioning tablets, computers and software as cultural beacons: stamps that immediately say who you are or, rather, who you aspire to be. If anything proves just how far technology is ingrained in our lives, it is this.”

Chatfield believes that what these phones and tablets and computers can do for us is becoming less important than how they make us feel and how they make others perceive us. “What’s on offer,” he says, “is a kind of technological sublime, promising not only the ultimate lifestyle accessory, but a place where the experience of living itself can be perfected.”

He believes that Apple is now a lifestyle brand as much as a technical brand. He may not give quite enough credit to the technical side of their devices (which, though beautiful, are also very functional) but his point stands. Apple sells us a lifestyle, they sell us an image, a self-identity. The competitors are just catching up, but are beginning to play the same game.

We can pause here and introduce biblical language. We see idolatry here—man’s desperate attempt to find meaning in someone or something outside of God. We bear his image, but long for something more. We are all on a desperate search for meaning and purpose and, ultimately, joy. All of these things are marketed to us in the form of a little glowing rectangle through which we can live such happy, such meaningful, such joy-filled lives. This is not to say that tablets or cell phones are inherently sinful, but that marketers can sell us more of them if they appeal to our sin natures, taking advantage of those deeply-held desires for significance. And this is exactly what they do.

October 29, 2012

Behold Your God - Behold Your God is a new video series that looks quite interesting. It features Paul Washer, Conrad Mbewe and a few other people. “Behold Your God is a 12-week study for churches, small groups, families or individuals containing 12 DVD sessions that are reinforced by a 12-week daily workbook. Each week’s lesson is preceded by a brief historical profile of a notable man or woman of God such as George Muller, A. W. Tozer, Samuel Rutherford, Charles Spurgeon…”

Canon Press Sale - Canon Press is having a 5-day sale on a variety of items, some of which are marked down up to 92%. I am not too familiar with their catalog, so can’t make a lot recommendations. Wordsmithy and Evangellyfish are both worth a look, though.

When a Daughter Dies - Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame recently saw his sister succumb to cancer. “My father (who is a doctor) was realistic from the start about what modern medicine might be able to do to save his precious daughter from cancer.  Even with those low expectations, he was shocked at how impotent — and actually counterproductive — her interactions with the medical system turned out to be.” It is a poignant and humbling article in that way.

Smartphones and Bad News - “Texting and instant messaging make it easier to navigate our social lives, but they are also turning us into ill-mannered flakes. Not long ago, the only way to break a social engagement, outside of blowing off someone completely, was to do it in person or on the phone. An effusive apology was expected, or at least the appearance of contrition.” But not anymore…

The Most Amazing Translator - Bill Mounce has met a lot Bible translators in his life. He writes about the most amazing of them all.

How do we bring glory to God? The Bible’s short answer is: by growing more and more like Jesus Christ. —Sinclair Ferguson