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A La Carte

February 03, 2015

Here are a few new Kindle deals: The Pastor’s Family by Brian Croft ($1.99); Doxology and Theology by Matt Boswell ($0.99); HCSB Harmony of the Gospels ($2.99); The Dark Side of Charles Darwin ($3.49) & The Darwin Effect ($3.99) by Jerry Bergman; Christless Christianity by Michael Horton ($3.99); Faithful to the End by Wilder, Charles & Easley. (Complete List)

Slander in the Camp - “How many of you have witnessed the evils of slander? Sadly, it happens all the time in circles of people who name Jesus as their King and Redeemer. The more I speak with leaders and fellow Christians, the more I realize how prevalent this is.”

Free from Logos - Logos’ free book of the month is Justification Reconsidered from Stephen Westerholm. (Read John Piper’s review)

Live Close to the Embers - “Job lived without a sense of entitlement but rather a state of grace. God gives. Job is needy. This is how it works.”

Self Esteem - “It’s essential that we teach our kids this important life lesson:  Let other people brag on you when it’s merited, but, don’t ever be the one who is bringing up your own good qualities or accomplishments.”

Religion and Politics - This month’s Tabletalk interview is with Russell Moore who does what he does best—discusses religion and politics.

Worst Money Habits - Here are the worst money habits of today’s twenty-somethings.

Tip Creep - Yes, this is definition happening.

The peace of God is first and foremost peace with God. —J.I. Packer

Packer

February 02, 2015

The trailer is smoldering temptingly on computers around the globe. Fans of the book are checking their diaries and booking tickets online. Reviewers are readying their pens and preparing their remarks. In just a few short days 50 Shades of Grey will hit the big screen, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

On one level, this is just another in a long line of films with a storyline that portrays sex and relationships in ways far removed from God’s design. But it is so much more than that. I believe that 50 Shades of Grey can serve as a kind of cultural barometer that alerts us to the colossal changes that have been occurring in recent years, and to the consequences they bring.

So what can the 50 Shades phenomenon teach us today? I teamed up with Helen Thorne, who has written Purity Is Possible: How To Live Free of the Fantasy Trap, and together we prepared 7 lessons from 50 Shades of Grey.

Erotica Is In

Erotica used to be considered “artsy,” a niche interest with maybe just a hint of the clandestine thrown in. Erotica has been a popular genre for some time now, but has generally been one that remained muted in the marketplace, and especially when it was targeted squarely at women. But erotica has evolved. It has moved from shop-floor to shop-front, from might-read to must-read, from late-night theater to prime-time theater. This is a phenomenon we can lay largely at the door of 50 Shades. In 2012, a genre whose best-selling titles might sell 70,000 or 90,000 copies suddenly had a product that was flying off the shelves in its millions. It flew off the shelves and onto the bedside tables of women across the globe. Did you know that it was the #1 bestselling book of 2012, and the #2 bestselling book in 2013? No longer a style of book to be read behind closed doors, 50 Shades and its two sequels established erotica as a genre to be read on buses, restaurants, in the office over lunch, and one to be discussed freely, openly, and without shame. Three years on, we see women (and men) now willing to buy explicit material not just for themselves or their partners but for their mother, aunt, and daughters as well. And the pundits would have us believe that 50 Shades is going to be a box office smash when it launches later this month.

Sex Isn’t Just For Men

Maybe it is too obvious to say, but women are sexual beings. In recent years a great deal of attention has been focused on pornography—internet pornography especially. Unfortunately, almost all the attention has been given to men, primarily young men, and the shocking quantities of porn they consume. But the 50 Shades phenomenon highlights the fact that women are sexual beings as well, and that women have sexual struggles of their own. These struggles may take a different form than they do for many men, but they are really the same at their core—deep-rooted heart idolatries that seek comfort, control, pleasure and fulfillment through what God forbids. 50 Shades and other erotica is far from innocuous, far from just fun—it’s a real battleground for the hearts and minds of women.

Erotica Is Dangerous

Erotica has its appeal (which is why it sells in such quantities, of course). The steamy and sensual scenes it portrays resonate deeply with readers of many ages and backgrounds. For some, the stories echo experiences they have found pleasurable in their past. For others, the narrative fuels plans for the future. For others still, the storyline offers to fill (even if just fleetingly) the relational void left by loneliness, marital strife, or the pain of abuse. For a few short hours the words of a book or the images on screen transport consumers to a more comfortable, more pleasurable place. But such experiences are not without their cost. Individuals enter in to the narrative and join with the characters in their quest for pleasure—or pain (both figure prominently in 50 Shades of Grey)—and in doing so reinforce the wayward tendencies of their heart. For some, the impact of such contact with erotica is not instantly obvious but, for the more vulnerable, the effects can be devastating. The lonely devote hours to fiction, which reinforces their reliance on fantasy relationships rather than real relationships. The broken become more convinced that abuse is the norm, a horror to be endured without question. The controlling see legitimacy in their quest to treat others as objects for their pleasure or convenience. And the struggling become ever more dependent on the fake images in their mind to achieve arousal when in the company of the one they aim to love. 

Erotica Is In Among Christians

It might be convenient to think that such trends exist primarily outside the church. It might be more comfortable to assume that Christians are immune. After all, the clarion call to purity is proclaimed from the pulpit Sunday after Sunday and many do take that call to heart. But recent research suggests that up to 20% of Christian women are indulging in regular or occasional online pornography. If this is accurate, how many more are embracing the lure of best-selling erotic material once the Sunday service has ended? Like it or not, erotica is being consumed by people in our congregations. Women in our churches have read it, and we expect women in your church have too. And, for many, the decision to buy the book wasn’t a particularly difficult one. Many of us are so bound up in the culture in which we live that we aren’t even beginning to be shocked by material that a generation ago would have left a significant proportion of the congregation gasping for air. It’s not just a problem out there in the world, but a problem within the church as well.

Erotica Wounds Our Walk

That’s bad news for the spiritual health of believers everywhere. How many single Christians have leafed through the pages of 50 Shades and found that it merely increased their discontentment? How many buy into the lie—fleetingly or permanently—that pre-marital sex is better than God’s good gift of celibacy? How many tell themselves that bondage sex, violent sex, is a better expression of true love than the faithful, mutual self-giving that the Bible expounds? How many married Christians have been swept along by Mr. Grey and his winsome ways and in the process become even more disenchanted with the faithful husband who lacks the jet, the suits, the spontaneity, and the mystery. But even more than that, engagement with erotica belies our identity in Christ. Jesus is the one whose love is true. He is the one who has died for us, clothed us in righteousness and called us into the Kingdom of light. He is the source of comfort, hope and life in all its fullness (John 10:10). He is the one who, by his Spirit, enables us to become increasingly pure, increasingly holy, increasingly different to the world around us. Yet erotica opposes that growth. Each time we indulge, we take our garments of righteousness and toss them back into the mud and mire of lust. The Ephesian call for “not a hint of sexual immortality” (5:3) is side-lined, ignored, trampled into the ground. 

Erotica Harms Us All

The church is called to be pure, a light to the nations, a temple of the Holy Spirit, an adopted family changing to be ever more like its head. That’s an exciting call and an extraordinary mission. But when books like 50 Shades get consumed more avidly than the word of God, that mission is stunted. How can we, as a body, model what it means to flee sexual temptation (1 Corinthians 6:18) when we don’t think twice about spending money on tales of lust? How can we be a body who faithfully fights temptation if we leave the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) languishing in the cupboard while we clothe ourselves in impurity instead? How can we hope to maintain integrity in the eyes of our brothers and sisters if we say we will help them battle sex trafficking in one moment but pay to enjoy scenes of violent sex in the next? How can we bring true hope to the abused, the lonely, those struggling with their married or single states if we act as if it’s just a bit of fun to dwell on casual sex with someone we barely know? How can we expect an unbelieving world to flock to the light of the gospel, as displayed in our lives, if we act in ways that are no different to the world around us? We are united in Christ, and when we sin, we sin not only against ourselves, but against the entire body.

Erotica Shows We Need Jesus

It’s not too late though. We’re not without hope. We serve a Savior who is willing to pour grace upon grace into his children’s lives. The death and resurrection of Jesus is powerful enough to deal with the mess many of us are in. At the foot of the cross we find family for the lonely, hope for the hopeless, comfort for the wounded, restoration for the broken, joy for the downcast, strength for the weak and forgiveness for the sinful. All he asks is that we return to him in repentance and faith. His divine power is equipping us with all we need for life and godliness (1 Peter 1:3) and that power isn’t going away, because we are sealed with the Spirit who lives within. 

50 Shades may be a wake-up call for the individual and corporate drifting that has been at play in our lives. It may be a spotlight shining on the pain of the vulnerable in our society. It might be an alarm bell sounding a message of danger ahead if we do not change. But it is also an opportunity to show what true love really is. Our world desperately needs a good dose of real love? So, as 50 Shades of Grey hits the screens, let’s love God well by honoring him wholeheartedly with our eyes, ears, hearts and minds. Let’s love our brothers and sisters well by encouraging them with truth rather than lies. Let’s love our unbelieving neighbors by showing them how beautiful and alluring purity looks. And let’s love ourselves by committing ourselves wholeheartedly to living in light of the immense love that has been lavished on us. “See what a great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Helen Thorne is the blog editor at The Good Book Company. She has a passion for biblical counselling, edited The Good Book College’s course in a Women’s Ministry and is a trustee of Capital Youthworks (the charity behind Sorted and Sorted Nano) and has written Purity Is Possible.

Image credit: Shutterstock

February 02, 2015

There are lots of new Kindle deals today. Today only Zondervan has the Wayne Grudem collection on sale: Systematic Theology ($7.99); Bible Doctrine ($3.99); Christian Beliefs ($1.99); Politics ($3.99). Crossway has: Dispatches from the Front by Tim Keesee ($2.99); Evangelism by Mack Stiles ($3.99); Churches Partnering Together by Chris Bruno & Matt Dirks ($2.99); To the Ends of the Earth by Michael Haykin ($2.99); Learning Evangelism From Jesus by Jerram Barrs ($0.99). Also consider Old Testament Survey by Paul House & Eric Mitchell ($2.99). (Complete List of Kindle Deals)

Everyone’s a Theologian - This month’s free audiobook from Christian Audio is R.C. Sproul’s systematic theology Everyone’s a Theologian. It would be crazy not to grab it!

How to Fall Out of Love - “Someone asked me how to fall out of love. ‘You don’t,’ I said. ‘The problem is not that you love him too much, it’s that you love everything else too little’.”

Rules for Biblical Dating - I especially appreciate rule #3.

The Gospel in Three Directions - J.D. Greear explains how the gospel focuses our attention in three directions.

Those Considering Divorce - Randy Alcorn has some thoughts for those who are considering divorce. He says, “This is NOT an attack piece on the divorced. It is written for the many believers who may be considering a divorce too soon because it is a cultural norm.”

Church on Fire - “Last month in the nation of Niger, more than 55 church buildings, some homes, a couple of schools, and an orphanage were burned in one day by religious extremists.” Here’s an account from the front lines.

The resurrection of Jesus is God’s answer to a hopeless world. —Ed Welch

Welch

January 31, 2015

I’ve got just a couple of new Kindle deals for you. Stay tuned for lots of new ones next week. Pleasing God by R.C. Sproul ($1.99); When God Goes to Starbucks by Paul Copan ($1.99).

Is anything more exasperating than a toddler who won’t eat what you give him? ERLC gets to the heart of the matter.

Ever wondered How Bitcoin Works? This video explains, though not enough to take away all my confusion.

I recently watched a pre-release of the film The Drop Box. Here’s a trailer for what is a moving film.

Many people have a workday that is filled with meetings—and often not very good meetings. Here’s why.

Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus have The Only Solution for World Poverty.

Unfortunately Ordinary Kids Read As Infrequently As Ordinary Adults, according to this article.

Thanks to HCSB for sponsoring the blog this week with their article What Does It Mean to Say a Bible Translation Is Faithful?

Why Does God Love Us? As R.C. Sproul Jr. says, “It might be a sound argument as to why He ought not to love us that we find this question surprising.”

When it is the Lord’s work in which we rejoice, we need not be afraid of being too glad. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

January 30, 2015

CROSS 2015 - You and/or your church may be interested in the CROSS simulcast, which will go out live on February 27. It features John Piper, David Platt, Kevin DeYoung, and others.

The Meaning of Mundane Work - “Many Christians I speak with about work think that work is part of the fall. That work itself is a curse, but work is a reflection of God. Our Father works, so we work. That supercharges our work with all sorts of importance and meaning.”

Mobile Phone Contract - Here’s a mobile phone contract a dad had his daughter agree to before she got her first mobile phone. Not a bad idea.

Reflections on Adoption - I enjoyed these reflections from a proud father.

The Foremost - I haven’t had time to watch it yet, but wanted to make you aware of this new film.

Will Heaven Have Oceans? - Here’s an explanation of a tricky text.

The Adams - “After several miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, Bryan and Robyn got pregnant with twins. Twenty-three weeks into their pregnancy, Robyn underwent an emergency c-section and gave birth to two little boys…”

The frightening thing is that, to enter hell, all one has to do is nothing. —Jared Wilson

Wilson

January 29, 2015

Here are some new Kindle deals: Hard Fighting Soldier by David Sitton ($0.99); Lords of the Earth by Don Richardson ($1.99); Life in the Balance by Joni Eareckson Tada ($1.99); new from GLH Publishing is Thoughts on Religious Experience by Archibald Alexander ($0.99).

From Massive to ‘Meh’ - Here’s how the iPad went from massive to “meh” in just a few short years.

The Rise of Trip Lee - A Q&A with Trip Lee on pastoring, porn, and John Piper.

A Word to Famous Pastors - Todd Pruitt has some good words to say to famous pastors.

The Moral Argument - This video provides an answer to this question: Can we be good without God?

Lessons from the School of Prayer - D.A. Carson provides 8 lessons from the school of prayer.

Why Love Is More Absurd Than Cruelty - Here is a sweet reflection on ultimate love. “ It’s fairly easy to complain about the absurdity of suffering, but it’s another thing to have the wits to complain about the absurdity of God’s love for us.”

15 Worship Decisions We’ll Regret - Short and to the point.

Our failures are never big enough to interrupt God’s plans for us. —Dave Harvey

Harvey

January 28, 2015

The “Let Us” In Genesis 1:26 - Here is an interesting answer to the question of whether the “Let us” of Genesis 1:26 is referring to the Trinity.

Who Is Jesus? - Westminster Books tends to have the best sales on Christian books. This week they’ve cut prices on books that are great to stock up on so you can give them away.

The Benefits of Membership - I have enjoyed all the entries in this series called A Pastor’s Reflections. This entry discusses the benefits of church membership.

William Tyndale’s Portrait - Steve Lawson has just finished a new biography on William Tyndale, and reflects on the portrait of Tyndale that hangs in his office. (FYI, the book is just $5.76 on Kindle).

My Baby’s Heart Stopped Beating - “Then I had an ugly moment. How come she gets to keep her baby but I don’t? She seems to hate kids. I love them. This isn’t fair.”

The Reason You Keep Forgetting Stuff - I’m not sure it’s the reason, but I’m sure it’s a reason.

When to Overlook a Fault - Here’s a little guide to know when to confront sin and when to overlook it.

The greater our progress in theology, the simpler and more child-like will be our faith. —J. Gresham Machen

Machen

January 27, 2015

Here are some new Kindle deals: What’s Best Next by Matt Perman (one of my top books of 2014) ($3.99); Don’t Stop Believing by Mike Wittmer ($1.99); The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien ($2.79); God Is Red by Liao Yiwu ($1.99). As always, the complete list is here: Kindle Book Deals for Christians.

If the Lord Marks Iniquity - R.C. Sproul: “The Psalmist asked the question: ‘If the Lord marks iniquity, who should stand?’ This query is obviously rhetorical. The only answer, indeed the obvious answer is no one.”

But God - “Revel in these two priceless words…”

Will Christians Be Allowed To Serve as Judges? - Denny Burk writes about an alarming bit of news from California.

Often Unnoticed Marks of Godliness - I enjoyed this one—a challenge for each one of us.

A Solid Worldview Won’t Save My Kids - Stephen Altrogge is exactly right: “Worldview is important, but it’s only one part of the equation. A biblical worldview helps a person think correctly. But we are not purely intellectual beings.”

2 Years to No Lies - You may not know how much you lie until you vow that you won’t do it anymore. There’s a good sermon illustration here.

Sin will usher in the greatest and the saddest losses that can be upon our souls. —Thomas Brooks

Brooks

January 26, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals—some excellent theological works from Crossway: God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment by James Hamilton ($5.99); God Is Love by Gerald Bray ($5.99); The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders ($2.99); Salvation Accomplished by the Son by Robert Peterson ($4.99).

Missed Motherhood - Denny Burk: “Susan Shapiro’s article at The New York Times is as sad as anything I’ve read in a long time. She is the quintessential modern woman, having pursued a career and life in the city through her childbearing years…”

All Paths Lead to God - Kevin DeYoung shows how all paths do lead to God, one way or another.

NHL and GoPro - GoPro and the NHL teamed up to make an amazing video.

Joshua Harris Resigns - Josh Harris has announced his resignation from Covenant Life Church. His explanation is well worth reading.

How to Combat the Demonic - J.D. Greear offers counsel on how to combat the demonic. “If you want to fight the demonic, don’t focus on the demons at all; just let Jesus be large in your life.”

Aging Gracefully - “The focus on outer beauty is a battle Christian women have been waging for years, and it’s doubtful we’ll win anytime soon.”

God is as much, if not more, interested in doing a great work in us as he is in doing a great work through us. —Mike Ayers

Ayers

January 24, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle Deals: Jesus, the Only Way to God by John Piper ($0.99); You, Your Family and the Internet by David Clark ($0.99); George Muller of Bristol by Arthur Pierson ($3.96); Igniting the Fire by Jake Hanson ($3.82).

You may enjoy this article on The Jennifer Epidemic. It traces the rising and waning of the most popular baby names over the past decades. And apparently there has never been a name like Jennifer.

Al Mohler looks at Downtown Abbey and asks What Are Americans Really Watching?

Here is an Ode to Skymall as it announces its bankruptcy. “SkyMall, that stupid wonderful completely American wonder that, with its insistence that you take your own free copy, announced it was your right as a human in the ‘90s to never not be shopping.”

Gavin Ortlund offers 7 Principles of Sabbath Rest. “Here are 7 principles about Sabbath rest that I am learning. I share them in hopes they might help others fighting the battle of busyness, fatigue, and endurance.”

Amazing Grace is a brief and quirky update from Scotland and the ministry 20 Schemes (which I both love and support!).

Jamie Brown has an interesting one: Pointing at the Same Thing from Different Angles.

As pastors, you will find that guarding the gospel will cause you intense personal pain. —Sinclair Ferguson

Ferguson

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