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A La Carte

February 12, 2015

Crossway has discounted a few Kindle books for Valentine’s Day: A Loving Life by Paul Miller ($3.99); What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp ($3.99); Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Philip Ryken ($3.99); Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard ($3.99). Also consider Divine Design by John MacArthur (free); Better Love Now by Tommy Nelson ($2.99); and God on Sex by Daniel Akin ($0.99).

Using A Theological Dictionary for Word Studies - You may enjoy this article from Patrick Schreiner as he looks at how to use a theological dictionary.

Why Is the Number of the Beast 666? - TGC asks the question of Greg Beale. And speaking of Beale, Westminster Books has his new, abbreviated commentary on Revelation discounted today. (Note: Beale’s full commentary on Revelation is regarded as one of the best, so this abbreviation should be excellent.)

God Likes You - It’s such a sweet truth: God doesn’t only love you; he also likes you.

The Hidden Network - BBC writes about the hidden network that runs the world.

The Receiving End of Grace - So true: Brian Williams has fallen from grace, and now he needs grace.

The Rightful Heir? - “How do you respond to people who locate the gay rights movement within the civil rights tradition?” Jonathan Leeman answers.

The Shadow Eclipsed by the Substance - You will enjoy reading Erik’s meditation on the cross of Christ.

Preach one Christ by Christ to the praise of Christ. —William Perkins


February 11, 2015

Giving Toasters Sentience - This author lays out a few important concerns about the increasing connectivity in all our devices (Note: the article has a few unfortunate words choices in it.)

You and Me Forever - Christian Audio is having a flash offer that may interest you. For the next 2 days You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan is free.

An Unintended Consequence - Zac Hicks describes an unintended consequence of the missional movement. “Is it possible for the Church to be so sent that it is never gathered?”

Your Dog Is Not Human - “Your dog is not a human being. Stop treating her like one.” Exactly. 

Love Is… - Paul Tripp lists 23 things love is.

Reading as Parenting - This reminds me that it has been too long since my family has begun reading a new book together. “When we think about parenting, the word ‘books’ probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But reading to our children is a fundamental but aspect of parenting little people, though we rarely talk about it in the context of raising children.”

The commands of God are given, not to rob me of joy, but lead me into the fullness of joy. —Matt Chandler


February 10, 2015

I’ve found just a handful of new Kindle deals: Scripture Alone by James White ($2.99); Preaching with a Plan by Scott Gibson ($1.99); Helps for Counselors by Jay Adams ($1.99); Evangelism by John Mark Terry ($0.99). (Here is the complete list of Kindle deals for Christians.)

The President at the Prayer Breakfast - Al Mohler: “Presidents of the United States are usually awful as theologians. In far too many cases, the closer they get to anything theological, the bigger the mess they make.”

The One Ring Explained - If you’ve ever tried to figure out why the rings matter so much in The Lord of the Rings, you’ll want to watch this short video.

Three Truths for the Tired Mother - Aileen and I are just a little past the baby years, but we remember them well. Here’s hope for the tired mom.

Jim Hamilton wrote two good articles yesterday, both related to Justin Taylor’s recent article on creation: The Days of Creation and Exodus 20:11 and The Days of Creation and Death Before the Fall.

You Cannot Serve Both God and Theology - “What’s more dangerous to the human soul — money or theology?”

Toolbox for Skillful Shepherding - Here’s a helpful little chart for pastors.

The Danger of Celebrity Pastoring - Mike Leake: “I’ve read many books on how to get through the snares of gospel ministry. I’ve only read a couple which speak of the dangers which attend popularity.”

God’s Word, when rightly expounded, is medicinal for a whole host of spiritual diseases. —Joel Beeke


February 09, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper ($0.99); Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman ($3.99); Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick ($2.99); New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp ($4.99); God So Loved, He Gave by Kelly Kapic ($1.99); Grounded in the Faith by Ken Erisman ($2.99); A God-Sized Vision by Collin Hanson & John Woodbridge ($1.99).

Is Your Marriage a Picture of the Gospel? - I really enjoyed this one from Hershael York; he writes about the evangelistic opportunity of a good marriage.

Getting Medieval - “Medieval historians like myself can’t help wincing when the period that we study finds its way into modern political discourse.” Which is what President Obama did last week…

Life Inside a Bitcoin Mine - This is an interesting little video about life inside a secret Chinese Bitcoin mine.

Phlegons Among Us - Be content to be a Phlegon.

Why Google Glass Broke - If you are interested in technology, you may well enjoy this analysis of Google Glass.

Getting the Gospel Right - Steve Lawson interviews R.C. Sproul on the subject of the gospel.

Apollo Speeches - This is good for a Monday morning laugh.

No man can give at once the impressions that he himself is clever and that Jesus Christ is mighty to save. —James Denney


February 07, 2015

I’ve got a few new Kindle deals to start your weekend: Finally Free by Heath Lambert ($1.99); Marriage Matters by Winston Smith ($3.99), Morning by Morning by Charles Spurgeon ($2.99). New from GLH Publishing is The Love of Christ by Richard Sibbes ($0.99).

It requires a bit of a time commitment, but you may enjoy this video on Why Bible Typography Matters. And, believe it or not, it actually does.

I appreciate this pastor’s view that what is happening in the church today might be able to be compared to a baseball team Rebuilding in the Off-Season. “The church in North America has simultaneously become both fat and malnourished, a feat that would be impressive if it weren’t so tragic.”

This is from The Banner of Truth: Shall We Read Jonathan Edwards? The answer is a resounding yes.

Speaking of Jonathan Edwards, Logos just recently released the Yale edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, an incredible body of work. Be sure to watch the video to see how you can put the resources to work for you.

Russell Moore did a great job on this artice: What Will Matter to Evangelicals in 2016.

Thanks to Tabletalk for sponsoring the blog this week with their article Tabletalk Avoids Shallow Doctrine.

Fifty Shades of Genesis 3:16: “The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t surprise me, because God predicted it in Genesis 3. The woman’s desire or strong craving (addiction if you will) will be for the man, and he will rule over her. THAT is why Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight Series, and countless other lesser known masochistic ‘romance’ novels have flourished over the years.”

Truth needs to be baptized into love if it is to possess the charm of loveliness. —Archibald Brown


February 06, 2015

Here are a few interesting Kindle deals: The Most Misused Verses in the Bible by Eric Bargerhuff ($1.99); James (ZECNT) by Craig Blomberg ($2.99); Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon ($2.99); Women of the Old Testament by Abraham Kuyper ($2.99); Understanding the Book of Mormon by Ross Anderson ($2.99); The Daring Mission of William Tyndale by Steve Lawson ($3.99). (Complete List)

Many Heroes, So Little Heroism - “As America lurches toward a fully same-sex-affirming public square, it is increasingly urged along by that most curious of cheerleaders: the ‘affirming pastor’.”

Riding Light - You may not watch the entire video, but at least give it a look. “This animation illustrates, in realtime, the journey of a photon of light emitted from the surface of the sun and traveling across a portion of the solar system, from a human perspective.”

Worth the 400-Year Wait - I don’t want to link to too many book sales, but I thought some of you would be interested in this sale on the (newly published) works of William Perkins. It’s a fantastic deal.

When Reading the Bible Through Just Wouldn’t Do - I enjoyed this article on the day everything changed.

Anti-Vaxxers - Vaccinations have been in the news this week. I really appreciate what Jesse Johnson says here, and especially his comments about Christian distrust toward science.

24 Free eBooks - Here are 24 free ebooks from our friends at Desiring God. If that’s not enough, get these two classics (one, two) from Monergism.

There will be no peace in any soul until it is willing to obey the voice of God. —D.L. Moody


February 05, 2015

I spotted just two noteworthy new Kindle deal todays: Grounded in the Faith: An Essential Guide to Knowing What You Believe and Why by Ken Erisman is a great value at $3.99. (My review). Also consider Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul ($3.99).

The Girl in the Tuxedo - Wow. Be sure to read this one. “Teens struggling with their sexual identity may seem to have more options than they did in the 1980s—but one important option is increasingly denied to them.”

The “Plus One” Approach to Church - Kevin DeYoung offers some wise counsel when it comes to involvement in a local church: Take the plus one approach.

Praying for Adult Children - Here is an important topic that receives scant attention: praying for adult children.

BeLoved - You may enjoy this new video on the best kind of love.

Should I Date a Godly Girl I Don’t Find Attractive? - I appreciate Matt Chandler’s response to the question.

Why Singing Is Essential - Michael Kelley offers 3 reasons singing is essential to the Christian.

There is no life so deeply and tragically sinful that it’s beyond the reach of God’s amazing rescuing grace. —Paul Tripp


February 04, 2015

I’ve got just a handful of new Kindle deals for you: 52 Words Every Christian Should Know by Kendell Easy ($2.99); The 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching by Wayne McDill ($2.99); The Little Style Guide to Great Christian Writing by Leonard Goss ($1.99); Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer ($2.99); Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian ($2.99). As always, you can get a complete list here: Kindle Book Deals for Christians.

Time to Get My Nails Done - I love simple and normal stories like this one, of Christians simply doing the work of ministry, reaching out into their communities.

The Sin of Comparison - Courtney applies this specifically to women, but it’s no less a sin among men!

More Highly Than You Ought to Think - And as if comparison isn’t bad enough, we also think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.

Listen Up - Westminster Books has some great deals this week. They include Listen Up (an ideal booklet to help people be better sermon listeners) and several volumes of the Reformed Expository Commentary series (ideal for pastors or general readers).

The Rules - I enjoyed this dad’s take on giving rules to his daughter as she uses Facebook for the first time. Speaking of which, my daughter will be turning 13 soon…

Twenty Twitter Tips - Just like the headline says.

CCEF Now - A new issue of CCEF Now is available for download. 

He Was “Made Sin” - In what way was Jesus “made sin” on the cross? Nathan Busenitz answers.

The most important daily habit we can possess is to remind ourselves of the gospel. —C.H. Spurgeon


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


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.

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