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November 2012

November 30, 2012

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Friday is a little bit different. Today’s prize comes courtesy of Zondervan and is a complete set of the brand new Theologian Trading Cards. Yes, you heard that right—Theologian Trading Cards. You know there’s got to be someone on your Christmas list who is going to love these. I’ve got 5 sets to give away. Here’s a description:

Theologian Trading CardsPatterned after the all-American baseball card, Theologian Trading Cards provide essential information about the major teachers, leaders, and trouble-makers throughout the history of the Church. At a glance you will have access to information regarding 288 important figures in church history, including when and where they lived, their contribution to the church, and enduring significance.

Each figure has been placed on the roster of one of 15 “theological” or “historical” teams; this aids readers in discovering the practical, chronological, and theological connections between figures. Examples include the Orthodoxy Dodgers (heretics); St. James Padres (Church Fathers of the Patristic Era); and the Wittenberg Whistle-blowers (Early Reformers and later Lutheran Church).

Theologian Trading Cards are perfect for students taking a church history course who want a memorable study aid to help them retain important information about select individuals in the church, as well as non-students who just want to learn or want to begin a hobby of card collecting.

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.

November 30, 2012

Book Sale - Cruciform Press has just added a book sale of 11 print book titles at $5.99 (list prices are $9.99). It runs through December 10. Their current sale of 11 different titles at $4.99 ends on Saturday.

Meanwhile, here are a few Kindle deals you may want to grab before the month ends: Shepherding a Child’s Heart and Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp are both just $1.99; God’s Love by R.C. Sproul is $2.51; Adopted for Life by Russell Moore, Lit! by Tony Reinke, and Histories and Fallacies by Carl Trueman are all just $3.03.

Christians Are Not Totally Depraved - Where the blogosphere is often at its best is in kind interaction about controversial ideas. Here Rick Phillips responds to Tullian Tchividjian who says that total depravity describes Christians as much as unbelievers. Phillips disagrees and thanks God that it is not true.

A Day in the Life - I thoroughly enjoyed reading Joel Beeke’s “A Day in the Life” blog post.

National Geographic Photo Contest - There are some stunning photos in this collection.

Kosher Jesus - The Atlantic has a long article about Messianic Jews in Israel. Sarah Posner goes “inside the small community of Christ-following Jews who’ve allied with American evangelicals to redeem Israel … from its Jewishness.”

Cheetahs on the Edge - This video may go on a little bit long, but it’s just amazing. It uses high-definition, 1200-frame per second cameras to show Cheetah’s running. Be sure to keep an eye on the clock in the upper-left of the screen during the first couple of minutes to see how little time is actually elapsing.

We spend our years with sighing; it is a valley of tears; but death is the funeral of all our sorrows. —Thomas Adams

November 29, 2012

I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books and I like to provide regular roundups of some of the best and brightest of the bunch. Here are some of the notable books that I’ve received in the past few weeks.

Creature of the WordCreature of the Word by Chandler, Patterson and Geiger. “The Reformers viewed the gospel as not merely one thing among many in the life of a church but rather the means by which the church exists. When the gospel is rightly declared and applied to God’s people, the church becomes ‘a creature of the Word.’ She understands, embraces, and lives out the reality of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection in more than her doctrinal statement. The gospel impacts all the church is and does. Creature of the Word lays out this concept in full, first examining the rich, scripture-based beauty of a Jesus-centered church, then clearly providing practical steps toward forming a Jesus-centered church.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

The Roots of the Reformation (Second Edition) by G.R. Evans. You may remember that The Roots of the Reformation was released earlier this year, but that it was very quickly pulled from store shelves when Carl Trueman’s review showed that it was replete with historical errors and inaccuracies. Intervarsity Press quickly set out to make things right, combing through the book to make corrections. This second edition includes the following note: “All dates for people and places have been conformed to the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, or else the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, unless there was a good reason to depart from these. I expect that this edition maintains the strengths of the first while correcting its embarrassing weaknesses. (Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books)

On the Shoulders of HobbitsOn the Shoulders of Hobbits by Louis Markos. With the film adaption of The Hobbit nearly upon us, this is presumably just one of several Hobbit-themed books coming our way. It looks excellent. “The world of J. R. R. Tolkien is filled with strange creatures, elaborately crafted lore, ancient tongues, and magic that exists only in fantasy; yet the lessons taught by hobbits and wizards speak powerfully and practically to our real lives. Courage, valor, trust, pride, greed, and jealousy—these are not fictional virtues. This is the stuff of real life, the Christian life. Professor and author Louis Markos takes us on the road with Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, with looks at selected classic works of literature as well, to show how great stories bring us so much more than entertainment. They inspire and convict, imparting truth in unforgettable ways.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

November 29, 2012

While most of what finds its way into my mailbox is books, I also receive a surprising amount of music. This works out well since I happen to love listening to music while going about my daily work. Here are a few new and noteworthy albums you may want to take a look at.

Indelible Grace 6Joy Beyond the Sorrow by Indelible Grace - Indelible Grace may well be the name most closely associated with today’s trend of setting old hymns to new music. I still remember listening to their music for the first time while driving my sister’s car around Atlanta—listening to it and loving it. Indelible Grace has just released their sixth studio album and I think it may be their best yet. Joy Beyond the Sorrow includes 14 traditional hymns set to new music. Many of the melodies are ideal for corporate worship, something that has always been a strength of their albums. Standout tracks include “From the Depths of Woe (Psalm 130),” “Did Christ Over Sinners Weep?,” and “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed.” You can buy the CD at their website or listen to the complete album (and buy MP3s) at Bandcamp.

T4G Live IITogether for the Gospel Live II by Sovereign Grace Music. In April of 2010 and 2012, thousands of people gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, to participate in the Together for the Gospel conferences. This album contains 16 of the songs they sang, led by Bob Kauflin on piano. The tracks include traditional hymns, contemporary hymns, and songs by Sovereign Grace. While all of these songs can be found on other recordings, the joy of this album is being able to sing along with thousands of voices (mostly male) raised in the praise to the Lord. It is available at Amazon for $8.99 as is the first volume, recorded at the 2008 conference.

Come Ye SinnersCome Ye Sinners by Sojourn. According to Sojourn, “Come Ye Sinners was recorded live on Good Friday, 2012 at Memorial Auditorium in Louisville. It’s not just a record for that day or for the Easter season. It’s a reminder—every day—that we’re invited to meet God at the cross, where mercy abounds, sin is paid for, and death itself is conquered by the blood of Jesus.” I see Sojourn as the older, hipster cousin of Indelible Grace and Sovereign Grace Music. If Sovereign Grace is wearing corduroys and Indelible Grace is wearing khakis, Sojourn is wearing skinny jeans and sporting the perfect soul patch. Their music is less congregational then the others and fits more closely with contemporary musical trends. I can’t deny that I prefer their older albums to their more recent ones, and almost feel like they are trying a little bit too hard these days (I consider Before the Throne and Advent Songs their best). I may well be the exception here and certainly would not knock their musical talents. You can listen to samples and buy the new album at Amazon.

November 29, 2012

The Unlucky Winners - We all know that money can’t buy happiness…and yet the lottery promises that very thing. TIME looks at a long list of unlucky winners, showing how the lottery changed their lives. Divorce, drugs, suicide…it’s all here in the aftermath of winning millions.

Forgive Us Our Debts - Shane Rosenthal looks at America’s perilous financial situation (which is far, far worse than most politicians are willing to admit) and says that it provides an apt illustration for humanity’s spiritual condition.

Excellence in Preaching - The book Excellence in Preaching: Studying the Craft of Leading Preachers is on sale in the Kindle edition. It looks like it could be a useful read for pastors.

How To Read the Bible (And How Not To) - Ray Ortlund reflects on law and gospel within the Bible.

Challenge the Tolerant - I may have linked to something like this before, but I think it’s worth sharing again. Greg Koukl gives a helpful suggestion about engaging with people who promote tolerance in all things.

There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write ‘damnation’ with your fingers. —Charles Spurgeon

November 28, 2012

Last summer I traveled to Prince Edward Island on Canada’s east coast to speak at a Gospel Coalition event. I was there with Mike Bullmore and Kevin DeYoung for the “Magnificent Holiness” conference. Mike spoke three times on the gospel and sanctification and used Romans 6 as his text. Of all he said, there is one line, one sentence, that I immediately wrote down and have been pondering ever since. It is this: “Trusting God for what he has done positions our hearts to trust God for what he has promised to do.”

I have written often of those authors and pastors who encourage Christians to preach the gospel to themselves every day. I see some of the value of doing this, though my practice of it is too sporadic. What such teachers want us to see is that the gospel is not merely the gateway to the Christian life, but the fuel of the Christian life. What they want us to understand is that the gospel is not simply defensive, the thing we turn to when we have sinned and are eager for some assurance of pardon. Rather, the gospel puts us on the offensive against sin and toward holiness. We ought to continually bring the gospel into our hearts and minds as a means of spurring ourselves to greater love for God which in turn generates a greater desire for obedience to him.

I do not remember all of the context surrounding Mike’s statement and I am sure it can be accepted and applied in many different ways. But as I ponder it and think about its application to my own life, I take it as a yet another challenge to be continually meditating on the gospel, to make the gospel my joy and delight. As I turn to the Bible to read the predictions and prophecies of the coming Messiah, as I consider the narratives of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection, as I ponder the epistles where all of these things are explained and illuminated, as I consider the day of Christ’s return, my love for God and my trust in him must necessarily increase and thrive. As my love swells, so will my desire to do those things that honor him and bring him glory.

When I am fully trusting God for what he has done, trusting that Christ really did take my sin upon himself, that he really did pay the penalty for it, that I really have been forgiven, that I really am fully and finally reconciled to God—when I trust God in all of this, my heart is now positioned to trust God for what he has promised he will do today and in the future. And what has he promised to do? He has promised to make me holy. He has promised to sanctify me, to help me put sin to death and to replace it with joyful obedience. He has promised that the Holy Spirit is operating within my life to bring me into closer conformity with Jesus Christ. He has promised that the very same power that has saved me is now sanctifying me. Now I have hope and confidence that this really is happening and that this really can happen. I really can put sin to death, I really can grow in holiness, I really can grow in Christ-like character and look more and more like the One who saved me.

I simply cannot trust that all of this is happening and that all of this will continue to happen if I have no ability to trust in what has already been accomplished. However, when I trust God for what he has done, now my heart is properly positioned to trust God for all that he has promised to do. And, therefore, the gospel must be my joy and meditation every day.

November 28, 2012

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God - Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God is my favorite of J.I. Packer’s books and, all these years later, still one of the best on the subject. It’s on sale for just $2.99 in the Kindle edition.

All I Have Is Christ - Desiring God is hosting a free download of the song “All I Have Is Christ.” The recording comes from the most recent Together for the Gospel conference.

Edwarda O’Bara - This is an amazing story: “A woman who lived in a coma for 42 years, meticulously cared for by her family, died Wednesday in her home in Miami Gardens, Fla., the Miami Herald reported.” It is a real testimony to love and loyalty.

Re-Evangelizing New England - Slate looks at how church-planting and music festivals are bringing about a quiet revival in New England.

A Visible, Exemplary Life - “As I mentor and coach leaders in North American churches, I find a common theme among many pastors: They live and lead in such a way so as to disqualify themselves as an elder in their own church.” Ouch.

The Rage of the Flesh - Ray Ortlund says it well: “Sir, if you abuse your wife or daughter or girlfriend, physically or verbally, you are more than a bully.  You are the enemy of God.”

Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. —A.W. Tozer

November 27, 2012

Doug Nichols is a friend of mine through the Internet. He is the Founder and Director of Action International Ministries and in that role he travels all over the world promoting missions and evangelism. He emails me often and from all parts of the world with words of encouragement. He closes almost every email by saying, “Let me encourage you with this” and then shares a Scripture passage. I love it.

It was a long time ago, in the summer of 1966, that Doug was working for Operation Mobilization and was stationed in London during their big annual conference. He was assigned to the clean-up crew. One night at around 12:30 AM he was sweeping the steps at the conference center when an older gentleman approached him and asked if this was where the conference was being held. Doug said that it was, but that just about everyone had already gone to bed. This man was dressed very simply and had just a small bag with him. He said that he was attending the conference. Doug replied he would try to find him a place to sleep and led him to a room where about 50 people were bunked down on the floor. The older gentleman had nothing to sleep on, so Doug laid down some padding and a blanket and offered a towel for a pillow. The man said that would be just fine and that he appreciated it very much.

Doug asked the man if he had been able to eat dinner. It turns out that he hadn’t eaten since he had been travelling all day. Doug took him to the dining room but it was locked. He soon jimmied the lock and found some cornflakes and milk and bread and jam. As the man ate, the two began to talk. The man said that he and his wife had been working in Switzerland for several years, where he had a small ministry that served hippies and travellers. He spoke about his work and spoke about some of the people he had seen turn to Christ. When he finished eating, both men turned in for the night.

Doug woke up the next morning only to find out that he was in big trouble. The conference leaders came to him and said, “Don’t you know who it was that you put on the floor last night? That’s Francis Schaeffer! He’s the speaker for this conference! We had a whole room set aside for him!”

Doug had no idea that he was sleeping on the floor next to a celebrity, that he had told a man to sleep on the floor who had a profoundly important ministry. He had no idea that this man had helped shape the Christian church of that day, and really, the church of our day. And Schaeffer never let on. In humility he had accepted his lot and been grateful for it.