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A La Carte

September 25, 2014

When Someone Reaches Out - Christine Hoover touches on something important here: “The people who tend to struggle to connect are those who take a long while to reach out for the hands that are extended to them.” She offers good advice for joining into the life of a church.

Derek Jeter Isn’t the Greatest Player Ever - Here’s a video for the baseball fans (Note: there’s some minor language in it.)

Coming Home from War - I really enjoyed Greg Lucas’ article on family and life with a severely disabled child.

How Busy People Read - Here’s an article from Fast Company on how busy people find time to read.

7 Real-Life Reasons Women’s Blogs Go Cold - This is a follow-up to the article I shared yesterday on why blogs have gone cold.

Encourage One Another - Read this article about being an encourager and creating a culture of encouragement.

Scripture Memory Songs - You can use coupon code challies to get 25% off these two new Scripture memory albums for kids. (Listen to God Created and it will be in your head all day!)

To fear God is to have such a holy awe of God upon our hearts, that we dare not sin. —Thomas Watson


September 24, 2014

Here are today’s Kindle deals: HCSB Study Bible ($2.99); Perspectives on the Doctrine of God ($2.99); Perspectives on Christian Worship ($2.99); Israel by Daniel Block ($2.99); The Millennials by Thom Rainer ($2.99); Calvinism by Brad Waggoner ($0.99).

Just a Piece of Paper? - Is marriage just a piece of paper? R.C. Sproul answers.

A Pastor’s Reflection on Shyness - I appreciate this reflection on shyness.

Are You Intellectually Humble? - “Here are 13 tough questions from Elizabeth Krumrei-Mancuso to help you get honest about your intellectual character. We hope it offers you some pause and inspires you to reserve the right to change your mind, like Elizabeth does.”

Busy Is Blasphemy - Here are reflections on the tricky topic of busyness.

Benefit from Reading Genealogies - I like this one! Here are 6 ways to benefit from reading genealogies.

Phantom Vibrations - What’s up with those phantom cell phone vibrations? (Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about!) This article explains.

Why Leaves Change Color - Here’s a brief explanation as to why leaves change color in autumn.

The Christian life is not always best lived by people making big waves. —Michael Gembola


September 23, 2014

I’ve tracked down just a couple of noteworthy Kindle deals today: The new book Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer is $4.99, and How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot is $1.99.

Serving Those with Mental Illness - David Murray introduces a new, free ebook.

Wilderness Forever - Here are 18 of the best photos from Smithsonian’s “Wilderness Forever” photo competition. 

Two Fruits of True Forgiveness - “Psalm 32 gives us a litmus test for true forgiveness, which shows us how distinct it is from all competing ideas. According to the psalmist, those who find forgiveness are changed by it. Once we are truly forgiven, we find that our love for God and our compassion for others begin to grow.”

To the Pure - Mike Leake looks at Titus 1:15 and asks whether it means we can watch South Park.

Sobering Up - Sobering up (not that kind of sobering up!) is the prerequisite to a good prayer life. 

Advice to Young Pastors - From The Gospel Coalition: “This is the second installment in a new series in which we publish brief answers from experienced church leaders to this question…” 

The Bible is a letter God has sent to us; prayer is a letter we send to him. —Matthew Henry


September 22, 2014

Here are a few Kindle deals to start the week: Warfare Witness by Stanley Gale ($3.99); The Pilgrim’s Progress (slightly modernized) ($1.99); the three volumes of Bryan Litfin’s Chiveis Trilogy are marked at $1.99 each: The Sword, The Gift, The KingdomIt’s All In How You Tell It by Haddon & Torrey Robinson ($2.99). New from GLH Publishing is All Loves Excelling by John Bunyan ($0.99). (If you’re in the market for a Kindle device, the certified refurbished 7” Kindle HDX is $50 off today.)

Are You Leeching the Local Church? - “I continue to grow in my love for the local church. One of the ways God has grown my love for the church is by teaching me that worship is more than showing up.”

Wise Decisions about Psychotropic Medications - Here are 6 steps to making wise decisions about psychtropic medications.

Using “Brokenness” Biblically - We often hear Christians today talking about “brokenness.” But what’s the correct way to use the word?

Debunking Conspiracies - “Explore the truth behind the iconic Buzz Aldrin moon landing photo. See how modern graphics innovations can shed new light on a 35-year-old conspiracy theory.”

Undercover at Oprah’s Tour - Paula Hendricks went undercover at Oprah’s tour and shares a few reflections.

Drinking From a Fire Hose - Clint Archer has a good article on why we [hopefully] hear so many sermons and so much teaching in our churches today.

Common people respect more a preacher’s life than his learning. —Richard Bernard


September 20, 2014

Amazon’s Big Deal is back, which means there are lots of Kindle deals across all categories. The only really intriguing deal I see for a Christian book is Pleasing God by R.C. Sproul ($0.99). You can check the list for others.

Thanks to Zondervan and Jonathan Dodson for sponsoring the blog this week. Check out Jonathan’s new book The Unbelievable Gospel.

Kevin DeYoung has a list of things Jesus Didn’t Say.

Halee Gray Scott is concerned when Christians slam one another in the Spirit.

Eric McKiddie comments on The Blessings and Curses of Being an Introverted Pastor. “The stakes are high when it comes to being an introverted pastor because our job is people. The very nature of our role requires us to engage with our congregation relationally, but the nature of our personality inclines us toward alone time.”

Here’s one explanation as to why President Obama said ISIL is not Islamic. I guess it makes sense when presented like this.

The Minecraft Parent looks at the phenomenon that is Minecraft.

Some folk, if they knew themselves better, would not brag as loudly as they now do. —C.H. Spurgeon


September 19, 2014

I tracked down just a couple of new Kindle deals today, but they’re both good ones: The Most Misused Verses in the Bible by Eric Bargerhuff ($1.99) and From the Resurrection to His Return by D.A. Carson ($3.49).

The Church Needs Men and Women To Be Friends - Just because there are horror stories, it doesn’t mean we can’t have successful and meaningful friendships between men and women.

Mentoring - There are lots of good takeaways in this article on mentoring.

How ISIS Works - Here’s an overview of ISIS.

6 Reasons Women Should Study Theology - Jen Thorn has a list.

More Evidence that Scripture is of Divine Origin - Ed Welch: “I am always eager to find Scripture that encourages my confidence in its divine authorship. Every once in a while, I feel like I need to be wowed.”

Books Still Matter - Even ask Lecrae… (This new, free, biographical song of his is quite good.)

I have often repented of speech but hardly ever of silence. —C.S. Lewis


September 18, 2014

Here are some Kindle deals: A Quest for More by Paul Tripp (free); Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Philip Ryken ($0.99); That’s Just Your Interpretation by Paul Copan ($2.99). Also, Amazon just rolled out a whole lot of new Kindle devices. You can get details and/or pre-order right here. The new Voyage looks especially nicely crafted for just plain reading.

The Ordinary Church - John MacArthur writes about ordinary life and ordinary church. “God works through ordinary means, ordinary people in ordinary churches, doing very ordinary things.”

Friendless Millennials in a Digital Age - This is a worthwhile reflection on Millennials.

You Can’t Catch Sin Like A Cold - Barnabas Piper writes about those who “live in cultural quarantine, shutting themselves off from what they see as sinful influences.”

Thoughts on a Call to Worship - I appreciate Bob Kauflins thoughts on calls to worship.

Do You Hate to Wait? - This article deals with prayers that are not answered immediately by a clear yes or no.

Dads: Plan for Family Time - There is wisdom in this article on planning and preparing for family time.

Don’t excuse yourself by accusing Satan. —Thomas Brooks 


September 17, 2014

Here are some new Kindle deals: Love or Die (a great little book!) by Alexander Strauch ($3.99); Preparing Expository Sermons by Ramesh Richard ($1.99); The Cell’s Design by Fazale Rana ($2.99); Faith and Learning by David Dockery ($2.99); and three books by C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity ($4.27); The Great Divorce ($4.27); A Grief Observed ($2.99).

Gospel Affection - Joe Thorn offers 10 practical ways to show love to one another in the church. “Consider what follows a simple encouragement to press into a life of love in practical ways. A life God has called us to, saved us for, and modeled for us.”

The Death of Thomas Cramner - Do yourself a favor and read this brief account of the death of Thomas Cramner.

The Art of Being Ungrateful - You are probably already plenty good at being ungrateful, but if you want more help, Melissa’s offering it.

The New Abortion Absolutists - Trevin Wax asks, “Are abortion rights supporters fully embracing an absolutist agenda, one that legitimizes and praises a woman’s choice to abort, no matter the circumstances?” (Erik Raymond also writes about abortion and moral ambiguity.)

Rush Hour - This is for entertainment purposes only, I suppose. But it’s fun to see how this video was stitched together to create the illusion of traffic.

125 Free eBooks - Monergism lists 125 free classics in ebook formats.

Avalanches of evil begin with a single pebble of sin. —John Piper


September 16, 2014

I have found that for short stretches of time I can convince myself that I am being faithful to God if I define faithfulness in terms of only one behavior.” That is an insight from Nate Larkin, author of Samson and the Pirate Monks, and I think he is on to something. We all have a desire to be seen as good and faithful and righteous, yet we cannot deny that we are bad and unfaithful and unrighteous. We are neither who nor what we want to be.

Our lack of faithfulness leaves us in a predicament. Either we deal with it by crying out to One who can forgive and redeem us, or we define-down faithfulness to a standard that is manageable. We choose a behavior we are good at, or perhaps a behavior that addresses a major source of guilt in life, and we define faithfulness to God in that narrow way. As long as we do that thing, or as long as we succumb to its opposite, we are convinced that we remain in God’s graces, that he is pleased with us.

What is your one behavior? What is that one behavior, that if you maintain it, you are convinced of God’s love for you? And what is that one behavior that if you do not maintain it, you feel as if you’ve slipped out of God’s reach? You may know that self-righteous behavior because your entire life can be a mess, but you still feel good about yourself because that one pillar is still in place. Even while your life spirals out of control, you look at others who are missing that one pillar and somehow feel good about yourself.

And for a time this self-righteousness makes us feel better about ourselves. But as Larkin points out, “Self-righteousness, however, is a double-edged sword. If I have reduced holiness to a single behavior, then I am standing on one leg. One slip and I am nothing again, absolutely useless.” If righteousness is built on a single behavior, it is also destroyed on a single behavior. Self-righteousness is woefully perilous.

Here is the understanding Larkin came to:

God, in his grace, has used [sexual sin and addiction] to shatter my moralistic understanding of the Christian faith and force me to accept the gospel. I am not a faithful man. That’s why I need a Savior. I cannot live victoriously on my own. That’s why I need a Helper and brothers. I cannot keep my promises to God—the very act of making them is delusional—but God will keep his promises to me.

God does not measure by a single behavior, but by complete and utter conformity to his perfect law. This truth will either drive you to despair or drive you to Christ, the One who lived a completely righteous life and offers his righteousness to those who have none of their own.

September 16, 2014

What’s All this Gospel-Centered Talk About? - Dane Ortlund: “As far as I can tell the phrase is used in two basic ways. One way is to view all of life in light of the gospel. We’ll call this a gospel-centered worldview. The other is to view Christian progress as dependent on the gospel. We’ll call this gospel-centered growth.”

Social Media and the Panda Predicament - You will probably be able to identify with this panda predicament.

The Coffee Nap - I’m really bad at napping (and sleep in general), but this still sounds worth trying.

Little Boys With Their Porno - This article tees off from an Arcade Fire and looks at the disturbing trend of “little boys and their porno.”

Thanking Your Way Through Thorns - There is wisdom in this.

Apple Watch - Mike Wittmer shares a few important parts of a TIME article on the new Apple Watch.

While all men seek after happiness, scarcely one in a hundred looks for it from God. —John Calvin