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December 31, 2007

We spent our new year’s eve on the road. We got up at three o’clock this morning and scraped the frost off the windshield (frost in Chattanooga?) before hitting the road very shortly after four. Nobody should ever be awake at that hour. It’s just a bad idea. The children were simply hauled out of bed and shoved into their booster seats. Thankfully they went back to sleep (even if they did awake a few hours later complaining of neck aches). We got almost to Cincinnati before stopping for breakfast, but experienced a slower journey after that. Still, we were just over fourteen hours door-to-door which is a pretty good deal, we think. We’re finally home safe and sound. The house is still standing and my fish are still alive. A neighbor had kindly agreed to gather the stacks of books and paraphernalia that inevitably showed up while we were away. And so we’re home. It was a good trip and a good time away. But home is always best.

We knew that we were coming home to empty fridge and empty pantry so wanted to stop by the grocery store. We pulled into the parking lot precisely one minute after they locked the doors (they are a 24 hour shop but closed early today since it’s new year’s eve). We drove fourteen hours and missed by one minute. D’oh! We did an inventory of the food we’ve got left and it’s basically nothing. We’ll be scrounging until the stores open again on Monday. Noodles with nothing on them, anyone? Happy New Year! Maybe we’ll make it a new family tradition. (Just kidding, of course. We are pleased to have traveled home safely and will be grateful for what we’ve got).

I had lots and lots of time to think while driving today, and here are a few of the things that were rattling around in my mind.

Paul Washer

The Reality Check Conference gave me the opportunity to experience the teaching ministry of Paul Washer. I really enjoyed it, on the whole, and learned a lot from him. He’s given me lots of things to think about in the days to come. He’s passionate (by which I mean he yells a lot) and very motivated to help Christians, and young Christians in particular, to avoid the trappings of empty evangelicalism. I hope and pray my children are able to sit under teaching like that when they are teens. My only reservation is that he often seems to overstate things. For example, he said that if anyone were to speak to his six year old boy about having a crush on girls, he would grab that person by the neck and throw him up against the wall. A bit extreme perhaps? Another time he essentially mocked boys who play video games, seemingly suggesting that such games are never a worthy activity. This kind of blanket statement and extreme statement seemed to take away rather than add to his points. I love his passion and would not want him to temper that aspect of his ministry. But I’d also love to see him perhaps stop just a bit short of some of the more extreme statements. Young and impressionable people are listening! Beyond that small concern, I very much appreciated his ministry and look forward to hearing him again in the future. If I were a pastor or youth leader I would not hesitate to ask him to speak to my congregation nor would I hesitate to recommend him to others.


I still dislike Ohio. If I were to give the state a new motto it would be “The Out to Get You State.” For Kentucky I’d suggest “We Burn Stuff” (since there are always fires burning in Kentucky, it seems) and for Tennessee “Closed At Five.”


All up and down the I-75 are stores that seemingly sell nothing but fireworks (and DVDs of firework displays. Whee!). I’ve never seen any cars at these stores and, despite having spent at least a month out of the past year in the United States, have never once seen or heard any evidence of a person using fireworks. And so I wonder, what are these stores a front for? If they aren’t selling fireworks, and the evidence seems to point to no fireworks being sold, how do these people make money and what do they do all day? What are they really selling and who shops there? Inquiring minds would like to know…


When we arrived home Aileen called her mother to let her know we had made it through. We found out that we arrived just hours ahead of a snowstorm that is set to drop ten to fifteen centimeters of snow over the area we were driving. I’m glad we made it ahead of that. Thank the Lord for small providences.

Enjoy your New Year’s Eve and be sure to watch out for that “other guy” on the road tonight…

December 05, 2007

A few notes of varying interest and importance:

Prime Time America

During the week of December 31 - January 4 I’m scheduled to guest on Moody Radio’s Prime Time America with Greg Wheatley. We’ll be discussing The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and all things related to spiritual discernment. We’ll be carrying on the discussion for a few minutes each of those days. So if you listen to Prime Time America, well, hopefully you’ll enjoy that.

Win A Gift Certificate Again

This is the final pre-order bonus offer! The last one went well and people seemed to enjoy it, so I thought I’d give it one more shot. If you pre-order my book between now and December 10 you’ll automatically qualify to win a $100 gift certificate from Westminster Books. You will receive one ballot for each copy you purchase. If interested, you can pre-order the book by clicking here.

Christmas Book Bargains

My wife has pretty well finished her Christmas shopping. Though I am well advanced in my shopping, I still have a ways to go. You may well be like me—still looking for that final perfect gift or two. I’ve been keeping an eye out for some deals and thought I’d pass along a few of them.

Westminster Books seems to be the first to have Sinclair Ferguson’s new book in stock: In Christ Alone. I have not had time to read much of it yet, but have progressed far enough to think it looks excellent and well worth the read (would we expect anything else?).

Westminster also seems to be the first to have the new Indelible Grace CD available: Wake Thy Slumbering Children. This is a favorite series of mine and I can’t wait to get ahold of that album.

Monergism Books has some good deals, such as 1 Timothy in the Reformed Expository Commentary set for $18.99 and the Calvin Commentary set for $169. Rummage through their Sale category for some bargains.

Christian Book Distributors, as they often do, has great deals on sets of books. They have sets of Spurgeon’s sermons and Luther’s sermons, church history, commentaries, and so on. I find it’s the best place to begin when looking to buy a complete set of books.

I also keep tabs on what’s happening at Amazon but don’t often find anything worth mentioning there. If you know how to dig up the great deals at Amazon, post a comment as I’m always eager to learn how to beat their system! It seems to me that they have great prices on most items (but prices that are routinely bettered by Westminster and Monergism Books), but don’t often offer sales on the books or items that interest me.

Happy shopping! Make sure you check shipping schedules this time of year to ensure that your items make it to you before stores and couriers close down for the holidays.

If you know of other good deals online that we should be aware of, feel free to post a comment below…

November 30, 2007

There are a couple of things I wanted to post before we head into the weekend…

Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!

FoxNews is reporting that “Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear ‘Muhammad.’” In response to the riots and the obvious danger, authorities was moved from a prison for women to a secret location where they expect she will be safer. “The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons, as pickup trucks with loudspeakers blared messages against Gibbons, who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation. She avoided the more serious punishment of 40 lashes.” Whether or not she can avoid the still-more-serious punishment of being slaughtered by angry and senseless radicals remains to be seen.

As I read the story, I couldn’t help but think of Acts 19 where Paul preached the gospel in Ephesus. Fearing that the success of the gospel would destroy the business of the men who crafted images of Artemis, a man named Demetrius rallied the crowds and began a riot. For two hours they yelled “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Stop and imagine that for a minute. For two hours they filled the city with the senseless, stupid cries of “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

For two hours. Luke did not miss the humor in it. “Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.”

Sound familiar?

Al Mohler and Tom Brokaw

Dr. Mohler just posted this at his blog:

I am scheduled to appear on tonight’s edition of NBC’s Nightly News to discuss younger evangelicals and the Emerging Church movement. I discussed these issues with NBC’s Tom Brokaw earlier this week, and I was very encouraged by the quality of the discussion and by Mr. Brokaw’s interest in the story and knowledge of the background. It will be interesting to see how the segment comes together. The segment is scheduled for tonight’s edition of Nightly News. Check television schedules for your area.

I always enjoy watching Dr. Mohler’s media appearances and will definitely be trying to tune into this one (sometimes easier said than done since Canadian channels don’t often carry American news).

October 26, 2007

It looks like Westminster Books is the first to receive copies of what is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated books this fall: Pierced For Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution. The book was previously available only in Europe, but Crossway secured the North American rights and has just published it. You can read my review of it here: Pierced for Our Transgressions.

For just one week the book is available at 40% off…so get it now while it’s cheap!

Reformation Day Symposium

I’d like to remind my fellow bloggers about this year’s Reformation Day Symposium. You can get the details simply by visiting that link. I hope you’ll participate!

Reformation Day Deal

I received an interesting note from Ligonier Ministries announcing a great deal on the Reformation Study Bible—the best Study Bible I’ve ever used.

A few of us spoke with RC recently and talked about a way to commemorate Reformation Day. We have decided to offer something special. Next Wednesday, Ligonier Ministries will offer the Reformation Study Bible for $15.17. This is the ESV, hardback edition. It’s a 1 day only sale and I thought you should know.

To quote Stephen Nichols, it’s been 490 years since “a monk with a mallet” nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. God used Luther to start the greatest revival the world has seen. Though there were many benefits to the Protestant Reformation, the publishing of God’s Word in common languages was united to a hunger for the right understanding of that Word. The year 1517 saw a display of God’s grace in human history and every year since we have the opportunity to remember. Let us redouble our efforts to be faithful to the historic Christian faith.

To this end they are offering the Reformation Study Bible on October 31 (Reformation Day) for only $15.17. You can order as many copies as you like at that price, provided you do not resell it. You can get details here: reformationstudybible.com.

October 19, 2007

This is a compilation of various things that caught my eye this week. They were things that needed more explanation than I could offer in A La Carte, but not enough that they merited an article of their own.

The Great October Giveaway Winners

The Great October Giveaway comes to a close today. I have already drawn the names of the winners and will be sending emails out shortly. So check your inbox in the new few minutes to see if you’re among the winners.

Amazon Reviews - They Matter

I post almost all of my book reviews at Amazon and, because I write so many reviews, have become one of the top reviewers there (ranked 335 out of approximately 1,000,000). It is always interesting to me to track the reactions to them. I post the majority of my most notable reviews here as well, but of course Amazon represents a much larger, much more diverse readership. What I say at my blog tends to go over well with the readers here, but often doesn’t go over so well at Amazon, especially when I write about Christian bestsellers.

Take my review of Joel Osteen’s Become a Better You. It got a fair number of mentions in the blogosphere (27 blog reactions, according to Technorati), the majority of which were positive. But at Amazon it has been voted on 91 times with only 54 of those people believing it is helpful (You can see it here). This tells me that there is a great deal of interest in this book (which there must be for a book with an initial print run of three million!) and that people are greatly divided on the book.

Then there is the review of Jerry Bridge’s Respectable Sins. It has been voted on 21 times, with all 21 people agreeing that the review was helpful (You can see it here). I take this to mean that the type of people who research and read Jerry Bridges’ books are from a fairly narrow slice of the Christian world.

And then there is the infamous review of Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change. It is registering 248 votes with 189 of them saying the review was positive. (You can see it here). Of course this book, as with all of McLaren’s, elicits strong reactions, both positive and negative.

What does all of this voting mean? It actually does prove important. The reviews that are deemed most helpful, purely by volume of helpful votes, are included on the main product page for the book. They are the first reviews people see. And since Amazon sells countless millions of books, a good or a bad review there can make a lot of difference as it will be seen by a lot of people. While customers vote on whether or not a review was helpful, in reality the votes are really about whether or not customers agree with the review (which is ironic, since most of these people haven’t actually read the book).

The long and the short is this. If you are an Amazon shopper, you should get in the habit of voting for reviews you find helpful. It really does matter.

The Forgotten 500

Some time ago, Al Mohler recommended a book called The Forgotten 500, a book that tells the story of an amazing but largely forgotten rescue. When he waxes eloquent about a book on the Second World War, I take it as a given that I am going to need to give the book a read. I immediately secured a copy for myself.

During the ongoing bombing campaigns against the massive oil refineries in Romania, a country conquered by Nazi Germany, hundreds of American bomber crews were shot down, far from lands occupied by Allied Forces. Though they had been warned of the risks they took in falling into the hands of the local populace, they were shocked to find the Serbian villagers embracing them and regarding them as conquering heroes. Serbian forces controlled by General Draza Mihailovich helped these American soldiers evade the Germans and eventually helped them organize an incredible rescue operation. Under the very noses of the German army they built an airstrip and landed plane after plane there, taking the Americans back to freedom. The Serbians did this despite knowing that it could cost them their lives. Had the Germans discovered what was happening, they would have tortured and killed entire villages.

This story is set against the backdrop of the Serbian-Croatian conflict with Mihailovich’s Serbian forces battling the opposing Communist Croatian forces, even while they both battled the Germans. The author, Gregory Freeman, shows how the Allied forces came to favor the communists, even after the Serbians saved so many American lives. The communist forces eventually destroyed the Serbian resistance and communism reigned in Yugoslavia for many decades. For this reason the entire operation was buried for years and was largely forgotten. The Forgotten 500, though, brings it all to light, shining some richly-deserved attention on the heroic Serbian forces who gave so much and received nothing in return.

The Forgotten 500 describes a fascinating piece of history and one that was, until now, almost entirely forgotten. And this, just when we thought that there was little new we could say about the Second World War. World War 2 enthusiasts will want to add this book to their collection! You can buy it from Amazon.

July 08, 2007

Just a couple of things I’ve wanted to mention but haven’t fit anywhere else…

Music: - A couple of weeks ago I received Asleep in a Storm, the latest album from Sovereign Grace Ministries. “Produced by Jeremy White, a member of Grace Church (San Diego, CA), the CD features a fresh take on nine previously released songs, plus one new instrumental track from Jeremy. You’ll hear original vocals from Shannon Harris, Vikki Cook, and others, presented in a whole new way.” I’m not so sure of my music terminology anymore, but I suppose this would just be considered dance or techno music. I’ll be honest and say that it’s really not my thing; I’ve never been a fan of dance music. But the CD still brings good, God-glorifying songs in a way that is sure to appeal to a whole new audience.

While we’re on the subject of music, being the Petra geek fan that I am, I recently bought Vertical Expressions, the new album by John Schlitt and Bob Hartman (i.e. “II Guys from Petra”). I was pleasantly surprised. It basically just brings a list of popular worship songs performed by John and Bob. If you’re a Petra fan, I guess you can’t argue with that.

Facebook - A little while ago my wife signed me up for a Facebook account. She had recently discovered the joys of the site and thought I’d enjoy it as well. I haven’t found it all that useful but I suppose that may owe to the fact that I’ve got a blog and assume that most of my friends who want to keep up with my life can do it that way. Still, it’s been fun to link up with some old friends and to meet some new ones.

I got to thinking about Facebook the other day and realized it may well represent the Internet’s greatest bonanza of user information. Sooner or later a big company is going to buy it and will take advantage of millions of people, all of whom share their interests, passions, educations, vocations and so on. Facebook does not currently feature and significant targeted advertising, but it is really just a matter of time, I’m sure, before they do. And with all that information we’re pouring into it, you can be certain that they’ll do so successfully. The site must already be worth billions to Google, Microsoft, and other companies that enjoy the profit that comes with Net-based advertising.

June 29, 2007

School is out! Yesterday my son finished up his last day of grade one and my daughter had her last day of junior kindergarten on Wednesday, so today marks the official beginning of summer vacation. School ends about a month later in Canada than in the U.S. but also begins a month later (the Tuesday after Labour Day).

This is a long weekend in Canada as July 1 happens to be Canada Day. Since that day falls on a Sunday this year, Monday will serve as the day that all the businesses are closed. We don’t have any big plans this year, but will probably just spend the day as a family. And that sounds good to me.


iPowerWebiPowerWeb, a hosting company I often recommend to my clients, is offering a special deal from now until July 4. A hosting plan that is usually $7.95/month is now discounted to $4.95, based on a 12 or 24-month plan. So if you are in the market for hosting, this is a good opportunity to get setup and to get setup at a very reasonable cost. Click the banner for more information.

Speaking of hosting, I’ve been noticing that things are beginning to slow down a little it around here. When you post a comment now it often takes 30 or 60 seconds for the page to rebuild. I expect this is an indication that I am stretching my server a little bit. Movabletype, the software I’m using, tends to be a little resource-intensive at times. So it may be that I’ll need to move to a new server (again) before long. The problem is that I’m kind of on the edge of the budget hosting and if I move I fear it’s going to dramatically increase hosting costs. But I’ll worry about that when it becomes absolutely necessary.


Sorry to keep shilling Discerning Reader, but I recently added a preview of a feature that may be of interest to some people here: Mini-Reviews. These will be very short book reviews that will be suitable for including in church bulletins or for archiving in a church library. They will give an at-a-glance look at a particular book, giving people a very brief overview of the book’s content and an idea of what audience is most likely to enjoy it. We expect churches will want to use them either to showcase books that are currently available to borrow in the church library or to showcase books the members of the congregation may wish to purchase. If you make your way over, you can download some samples. Do let me know if you find them useful and if this is something you’d be willing to use in your church.


Now that Sicko, Michael Moore’s latest film has been released, Americans are bound to hear a lot about the wonders of the Canadian health care system. As I understand it, Moore’s ultimate proposed solution to the American health care conundrum is to adopt a socialized system similar to what we enjoy in Canada. The truth is, though, that the Canadian system simply isn’t all that and a bag of chips. The system works, but it comes with a cost that most Americans would be unwilling to pay: a heavy tax burden.

This article, which a friend sent to me, does a good job of explaining a few of the system’s shortcomings. Despite what Moore says in his film, we do have long waits in the emergency rooms of our hospitals. It is not unusual to wait five or six hours (or more) for basic emergency care. Waiting times for some procedures such as MRIs or mammograms can be so long that people end up driving across the border into the U.S. where it can be done the same day and for a reasonable cost. Some American clinics even advertise to Canadians, letting them know about this alternative. Elderly people also find that they tend to be deprioritized in the system as there are more patients than doctors, more surgeries needed than slots to do them. Many of our best and brightest doctors head to the States where they can begin a private practice and make more money than they could dream of making here. While it is unconstitutional for the rich to receive better care than the poor, the rich can afford to go to the U.S. and have their needs met there. And this is exactly what they do.

I seem to recall Michael Moore visiting Canada during the filming of Bowling for Columbine and declaring that most Canadians don’t lock their doors. This is, of course, a preposterous lie. We lock our doors good and tight, just the same as our American neighbors. Moore is lying again in Sicko. Our health care system is good, but it has some serious problems. It is certainly not the ultimate solution, and especially so if you dislike 45% tax brackets. And I don’t know too many who do.

June 09, 2007

For the first time in recent memory, I am at home alone. A couple of the neighborhood children have a birthday party today and my two older children were invited. It is apparently a Taekwondo birthday party. I didn’t know such things existed, to tell the truth. I’m not so crazy about the martial arts, but I guess there can’t be too much harm in letting the kids hang around, kick each other, and eat some pizza for a couple of hours. My wife decided to wait at the party since she is friends with just about all of the parents who will be there. And that left me home alone. And, literally, this is the first time in months.

So what did I do with my newfound freedom? I did my taxes. As a self-employed Canadian I have the privilege of being able to procrastinate until June 15. And, for the first time ever, I’m quite sure, I have turned them in sooner than the day before or the day of. It is great to have that thankless, tedious task off my back. Of course the drawback to being self-employed is that there is generally no such thing as a tax rebate. Instead I have to write a painfully large cheque to the government. I guess someone has to pay for all the “free” health care we enjoy up here. Yet I’m glad to be Canadian and am grateful to live here, even on the day I see my marginal tax rate nicely graphed out for me.

In other news, I still haven’t completed (or started, for that) the Study Guide for my book. I have a better idea of the book’s schedule now and it seems I’ve got until later this summer to finish it off. So that is going to be my summer project. Should be a fun one! And, on the subject of the book, I received the first endorsement for it just last week. It is from what is probably the highest-profile person who agreed to read the manuscript and the endorsement was very encouraging. There are at least six other people who agreed to read it and I’m hoping they’ll pull through as well.

And that’s all you’re going to get out of me today. It’s a beautiful, sunny day; I’m home alone; I’ve got a good book and a can of Coke awaiting my attention. I’m out of here.