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November 28, 2014

For the past few years I’ve made it a point to collect Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that may be of particular interest to Christians. While there are many places you can go online to find deals on electronics and other big-ticket items, I wanted to provide a place for Christian retailers to make their deals known to Christians who are trying to kick-start their Christmas shopping.

Amazon

Amazon has put a lot of their Kindle devices on for Black Friday, and they are all at least $20 off. Kindle ($49); Kindle Fire HD 6 ($79); Kindle Paperwhite ($99); Kindle Fire HD 7 ($109). FRIDAY ONLY. Amazon also has a good list of Kindle books on sale.

Banner of Truth

Banner of Truth will be having a big Cyber Monday sale. MONDAY ONLY.

Christian Audio

Christian Audio is offering 30% off on all orders, plus they have a list of special deals.

Christian Book Distributors (CBD)

CBD has a couple thousand items on sale; there is a lot of junk, but a few good ones in there as well.

Christianity Today

Christianity Today is offering their magazines at $10 for a one-year subscription.

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front is offering their excellent DVDs at a discount. You can also get a discount on their products through Amazon.

Getty Music

Keith & Kristyn Getty have some of their items on sale, especially if you buy multiple copies.

The Good Book Company

The Good Book Company has some great deals in books and DVDs, including Christianity Explored and the For You series (Galatians For You, Titus For You, etc). MONDAY ONLY.

Ligonier Ministries

Ligonier Ministries has a good-sized list of books, ebooks, and teaching series at $5 each. Consider R.C. Sproul’s Everyone’s a Theologian, a great value for $5 (in hardcover!). FRIDAY ONLY. Stay tuned for their Cyber Monday deal.

Logos

Logos has weekend-long deals as well as daily deals on a selection of books. There are some very good theological resources that have been discounted.

Kristen Gilles

Kristen Gilles is offering her album Parker’s Mercy Brigade for $5 with all proceeds going to a good cause.

Moody Publishers

Moody is offering 50% off all of their printed books if you purchase through their store. MONDAY ONLY.

P&R Publishers

P&R Publishers is offering 20% off all their products, plus free shipping. Use code NOV14 at checkout.

Revive Our Hearts

Revive Our Hearts is having a clearance sale that includes some great items.

Shepherd Press

Shepherd Press is offering 50% off on a selection of printed books and DVDs.

Westminster Books

Westminster Books is offering a deep discount on a great new edition of Calvin’s Institutes. They’ve also got ESV Bibles at 50% off and a Bargains section that is worth browsing.

November 18, 2014

As a pastor, I regularly meet with people who are intent on overcoming a serious sin in their lives. Yet, as you well know, those serious sins rarely yield easily. Far more often than not they demand a long and intense battle.

To help in this battle I have put together what I call Battle Plan. Battle Plan is a worksheet that is primarily meant to be used with the assistance of a mentor or pastor (though it can be used individually as well). It is heavily dependent upon John Owen and his instructions on overcoming sin. It begins by identifying and understanding a sin and its consequences, and then progresses to a plan to overcome that sin. There is also a weekly sheet that is used to track progress.

I suggest spending a significant amount of time on Part 1: Assessment. Here you will do what John Owen refers to as “loading your conscience with the guilt of the sin.” You will understand the sin, the ways it behaves, and the effects it has had in your life and faith. Then progress to Part 2: Action, which will guide you as you put off old patterns, attitudes, behaviors, and habits and put on new patterns, attitudes, behaviors, and habits. You will also consider what actions are appropriate as you battle against the sin. Finally, use the tracking sheet with a mentor or accountability partner to track the sin’s ebb and flow in your life and to measure your progress.

You can download Battle Plan right here. You are free to print it, copy it, or reproduce it as you see fit. (Note: Due to the grey background, you probably don’t want to print it on an inkjet printer.)

Battle Plan

Battle Plan

Battle Plan is a work in progress and I am very happy to receive your feedback. Also, a handful of the questions were drawn from a list I found in various locations but was unable to track to its source; if you recognize those questions, please let me know and I will give credit where credit is due.

Image credit: Shutterstock

October 22, 2014

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. It has been too long since I’ve sorted through the piles and to tell you which of them have risen to the top. Here are some of the new and notable books I’ve received in the past month or so.

OrdinaryOrdinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical World by Michael Horton. This was the book I wanted to write; Horton beat me to the punch. “Radical. Crazy. Transformative and restless. Every word we read these days seems to suggest there’s a ‘next-best-thing,’ if only we would change our comfortable, compromising lives. In fact, the greatest fear most Christians have is boredom—the sense that they are missing out on the radical life Jesus promised. One thing is certain. No one wants to be ‘ordinary.’ Yet pastor and author Michael Horton believes that our attempts to measure our spiritual growth by our experiences, constantly seeking after the next big breakthrough, have left many Christians disillusioned and disappointed. There’s nothing wrong with an energetic faith; the danger is that we can burn ourselves out on restless anxieties and unrealistic expectations. What’s needed is not another program or a fresh approach to spiritual growth; it’s a renewed appreciation for the commonplace.” (Amazon, Westminster Books)

New Morning MerciesNew Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp. I can’t think of too many things by Paul Tripp that haven’t benefitted me, and my guess is that this new devotional wouldn’t prove the exception. “Mornings can be tough. Sometimes, a hearty breakfast and strong cup of coffee just aren’t enough. Offering more than a rush of caffeine, best-selling author Paul David Tripp wants to energize you with the most potent encouragement imaginable: the gospel. Forget ‘behavior modification’ or feel-good aphorisms. Tripp knows that what we really need is an encounter with the living God. Then we’ll be prepared to trust in God’s goodness, rely on his grace, and live for his glory each and every day.” (Amazon)

Visitors Guide to HellA Visitor’s Guide to Hell: A Manual for Temporary Entrants and Those Who Would Prefer to Avoid Eternal Damnation by Clint Archer. This book makes me wonder: Would you want someone to dedicate a book to you when the book’s topic is hell? (As it happens, the book is dedicated to John MacArthur and the faculty of The Master’s Seminary). Here’s the description: “Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about Hell … but were too afraid to ask! In the realm of eternal damnation, what tortures will we find? How hot is it, really? And most important of all, how can we make sure that it’s not our final destination? Drawing on the Bible, as well as a host of other literary and religious sources, an expert on Scripture provides an illuminating look at Hell—from its occupants to its don’t-miss sites. Dr. Clint Archer offers a thought-provoking, learned, at-times-hilarious guide to a place that might be interesting to visit … but you wouldn’t want to live there!” Unfortunately there isn’t (yet?) a Kindle version of this one. (Amazon)

Compassion Without CompromiseCompassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth by Adam Barr & Ron Citlau. Could there be a more urgent book with all that is going on in the society around us? “In the next year at least one of these things will happen in your life: A family member will come out of the closet and expect you to be okay with it; Your elementary–age child’s curriculum will discuss LGBT families; Your company will talk about building a tolerant workplace for LGBT co–workers; Your college–age child will tell you your view on homosexuality is bigoted. Are you ready? In their role as pastors, Adam Barr and Ron Citlau have seen how this issue can tear apart families, friendships, and even churches. In this book they combine biblical answers with practical, real–world advice on how to think about and discuss this issue with those you care about.” (Amazon, Westminster Books)

Faith Hacking
September 19, 2014

PrayerMateI say it without hyperbole: PrayerMate revitalized my prayer life. It has been at least a couple of years since I made the move from organizing my prayers in a book to organizing my prayers in an app, and, at least for now, I don’t ever see myself going back. I know that praying from an app is not for everyone, but for me it has made all the difference. Let me tell you how I use it.

PrayerMate borrows from the physical world and mimics an organized collection of index cards. Imagine a card file: Each of the dividers marks a new category, each of the categories contains several cards, and each card contains a prayer. Now just take that paradigm and translate it to an app. You create your categories and cards, and each day the app presents you with a collection of items to pray for. It’s that simple!

Card FileI created categories to match the way I pray: Praying in concentric circles. I have included a list of my categories below. Beside each you will see numbers in brackets, like this: (5, 1). The first number tells how many items (prayers) I have in that category and the second is how many of those items I pray for each day:

  • Gospel (5, 1). These are Scripture passages that speak of the gospel (Isaiah 43:25, Romans 8:1, etc). I begin prayer by reflecting on the gospel, and this shapes my prayer by reminding me of who I am, who God is, and what he has done for me. (Again, the brackets indicate that I have 5 items in this category, and I see one of them each time I pray.)
  • Confession (5, 1). These are Scripture passages that help me confess my sin. I pray the passage, then confess my sin and receive God’s forgiveness for it.
  • Personal Godliness (9, 1). Here I have a selection of items I pray for myself. These reflect my roles (father, husband, pastor) or areas of Christian character where I wish to see growth (humility, godliness, evangelistic boldness). I change them regularly.
  • Aileen (7, 1). These are things I pray on Aileen’s behalf. I pray for her various roles and for her growth in character.
  • Son (5, 1). I pray every day for my son and pray through a number of items that reflect his roles and character.
  • Daughter (5, 1). I pray every day for my older daughter and pray through items that reflect her roles and character.
  • Daughter (5, 1). I pray every day for my younger daughter and pray through items that reflect her roles and character.
  • Family (7, 1). Here I have one card for each member of my extended family—parents, siblings, and so on. I pray for one of them each day.
  • Elders (9, 1). There are currently 9 things I pray on behalf of my co-elders at Grace Fellowship Church; I pray for one of those things for them each day.
  • My Church (112, 7). This is a list of all the people or families who consider Grace Fellowship Church their home church. I currently pray for 7 each day. Each card contains the name of an individual (for singles) or a family (for couples and families). For each person or family I have certain items I am praying on their behalf. I may ask people how I can pray for them, I may hear them make a request at our prayer meeting, or I may simply know how I ought to pray. I coordinated this list with my Address Book which then inserts a picture of each person on their card.
  • Unbelievers (10, 1). There are certain unbelievers I am burdened for, and I pray for them here. These may be people in our family, neighborhood, or church.
  • Special (7, 1). These are other people I wish to pray for—friends from outside our church, church planters, and so on.
  • Ministry & Mission (6, 1). These are missionaries and ministries I pray for.

Of course there is so much more I could pray for. I could pray for the nations, though I do that week-by-week at our church’s prayer meetings; I could pray for rulers and politicians but, again, I do that at our prayer meetings. For now these are my categories. Each day I grab my phone, open up PrayerMate, and do business with the Lord. It is often the best part of my day.

Let me share one tip: Maintain your prayer list. Block off a bit of time every week or two to keep it updated. My joy and confidence in prayer are directly related to the freshness and relevance of the things I pray. The more I maintain and update my prayer list, the more I love my times in prayer.

PrayerMate is available for Apple and Android devices. You can get more details right here or watch this brief, introductory video.

September 05, 2014

I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve received and awful lot of them and, in sorting through the pile, here are some that have risen to the top.

ESVESV Women’s Devotional Bible. This is a new edition of the ESV with short devotionals and reflections for women. “The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible is a valuable resource for strengthening women in their walk with God. Applicable for women in any stage of life, the Women’s Devotional Bible is theologically rich in content while remaining accessible and practical. Readers will be encouraged in daily, prayerful Bible study, and equipped to understand and apply the Bible to every aspect of life. The Women’s Devotional Bible features materials designed especially for women. The book introductions, character sketches of key figures, all-new daily devotionals, and all-new articles have been written by both women and men contributors. These contributors include professors, musicians, authors, counselors, homemakers, and conference speakers.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Eight Twenty EightEight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up by Ian & Larissa Murphy. You’ve probably heard of Ian & Larissa Murphy before. If not, this would be a great introduction. “What if that thing you really feared happened? Would the joy you hold pop? Or would you experience love and joy deeper than you can imagine? They met in college and fell in love. They talked about getting married, and he started looking for a ring. They dreamed about life together, a life of beauty and joy, raising babies and laughing with friends and growing old. They did not imagine a car accident. They did not imagine his brain injury. They did not dream about the need for constant care and a wheelchair and fear that food might choke him. And they could not have imagined how persistent love would be. Theirs and God’s.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Gods DesignGod’s Design for Man and Women: A Biblical-Theological Survey by Andreas & Margaret Kostenberger. Here is a fresh treatment of a subject that continues to be disputed and relevant. “This thorough study of the Bible’s teaching on men and women aims to help a new generation of Christians live for Christ in today’s world. Moving beyond other treatments that primarily focus on select passages, this winsome volume traces Scripture’s overarching pattern related to male-female relationships in both the Old and New Testaments. Those interested in careful discussion rather than caustic debate will discover that God’s design is not confining or discriminatory but beautiful, wise, liberating, and good.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

JohnJohn: Reformed Expository Commentary by Richard Phillips. I’m always excited to a) see a new commentary in the Reformed Expository Commentary series and b) a new commentary written by Richard Phillips. I’m sure this will prove an excellent volume on the book of John. Here is what Joel Beeke says about it: “Richard Phillips’ exposition of John explains the text clearly, but it also sings, marvels, and gets its hands dirty in real life illustrations. What a great combination of biblical exegesis, doctrine rooted in the Reformation, and practical application! This is a great sermon commentary for pastors, and an extremely helpful book of all Christians desiring to grow in their love for Him who said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

August 27, 2014

As time goes on, I find myself doing more and more of my reading on my Kindle, and taking advantage of its super-simple ability to make notes and highlights. At the same time, I find myself relying on Evernote to help me retain and organize information. Books hold the information I want to know while Evernote holds the information I want to retain. When I put the two of them together, I get a powerful system to record and remember what I have read. Let me share a simple technique to quickly and easily get every one of your Kindle notes and highlights into Evernote.

Install Evernote Web Clipper

Before you do anything else, visit Evernote and install their Web Clipper browser extension, available for all major browsers. 

Visit kindle.amazon.com

Once you have installed the Web Clipper, you are ready to track down your notes and highlights. Visit http://kindle.amazon.com and sign in using your Amazon username and password:

Kindle

Locate Your Book

After logging in, click on “Your Books” to see a list of the books you own in Kindle format:

Your Books

Click the title you would like to export to Evernote:

Kindle

Note: If you have a huge library, see my note below titled “For Big Libraries.”

Find Your Highlights

Click on “You have X highlighted passages:”

Highlights

Use Evernote’s Web Clipper

You will now see a page with a simple listing of all of your notes and highlights, just like this:

August 21, 2014

A little while ago I shared an article titled Abortion: Making the Case. This was a simple way to structure a discussion on abortion while anticipating common responses and objections. Since then I have had the opportunity to teach on abortion and I prepared a slideshow to go with my presentation. I am sharing that slideshow today in case you can benefit from it. It works just fine as a standalone—you can simply click through the slides and read them in order. I have also included the file in Keynote, Powerpoint, and PDF formats if you would like to download it and use it in any other setting.

August 20, 2014

It is a question I have received a number of times lately: Can you suggest some blogs written specifically for women? As it happens, I follow quite a few blogs written by (and often for) women. I am going to share a list of them today, knowing that I have undoubtedly forgotten some very good ones and owe a few apologies! So please accept this as an incomplete list.

Aimee Byrd. Aimee goes by Housewife Theologian and writes both here and at Reformation21. I enjoy her writing for its depth and its emphasis on spiritual discernment.

Charlene Nelson. Charlene writes articles and poetry and often focuses on theological topics.

The Christian Pundit - This blog includes contributions from William and Rebecca VanDoodewaard. Rebecca posts occasionally, but always with insight.

Elisha Galotti. Unlike most of the other bloggers on my list, Elisha was a friend in the real world before she was a friend online—we’ve known each other since we were kids! I appreciate Elisha’s honesty and her ability to draw lessons out of real life.

Everyone Needs a Little Grace in Their Lives. Amy writes from the mission field, and writes mostly about the realities of life in East Africa.

Gloria Furman. Gloria, who currently lives in Dubai, is well-known as an author and as a contributor to quite a few different sites. Through it all she continues to blog once or twice a week at gloriafurman.com.

Jen Thorn. Jen, husband of Joe (who also has a great blog), is a very good writer.

Jen Wilkin. Jen is author of Women of the Word and blogs occasionally at her own blog (and regularly at other sites). Her favorite subject is knowing and studying the Bible.

Maryanne Challies Helms. She’s my little sister (and she’s on a blog break).

Practical Theology for Women. Wendy’s blog is primarily a lecture to herself (aren’t most blogs?) but you’re welcome to read along. She covers a lot of difficult subjects.

Rebecca Writes. I have been following Rebecca’s blog for the better part of a decade; I love her emphasis on theology and sound doctrine.

Sayable. Lore Ferguson provides gut-honest and theologically-rich insights on all kinds of important issues.

Worship Rejoices. Lindsey has scaled back quite a lot in the past few months, but there is lots to read in the archives, and I hope she will return with more in the future.

Your Mom Has a Blog. I am a relative newcomer to “Your Mom Has a Blog” which is written by Melissa Edgington. She writes well, and always from the perspective of real life.

Group Blogs

Here are a few blogs where you will find content by a variety of people.

Boundless. Boundless (associated with Focus on the Family) focuses on issues related to young adults and has a mix of male and female writers.

CBMW. The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has various “channels,” one of which is dedicated to women. They involve quite a number of writers, many of whom blog elsewhere as well.

Desiring God. The Desiring God blog often welcomes female guest writers.

The Gospel Coalition. The Gospel Coalition offers several new articles each day, and they include many female writers.

Out of the Ordinary. This group blog includes contributions from half a dozen authors who are ”bound by a common love for sound theology and a desire to live out that sound theology in our ordinary lives as we serve our extraordinary God.”

True Woman. The True Woman blog shares new content every day, sourced from a variety of writers (including the occasional article by Susanna Rose, another of my little sisters!).

Let me close with an observation. I was struck, as I went through all the blogs I follow, how many have gone cold. It may be that there has always been this much attrition in the blogosphere, or it may be that blogging is in decline, having given way to other forms of social media. It is hard to know. But I found a lot of blogs—former favorites—that had not been updated in months. Many of them ended with notes from the author saying that she would return at an undefined point in the future. I wonder how many will.

August 08, 2014

I like to keep an eye out for good deals on Kindle books. As an avid reader, and one who is slowly transitioning to electronic books, I find it hard to resist a great deal. These deals tend to come up day-by-day and last anywhere from a few days to a week. I usually track them in my daily A La Carte posts, but there have been so many deals in the past week, I thought I’d group them all together for you. So here, for the Christian reader, is a long list of some excellent deals. Happy reading!

July 25, 2014

I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve received boxes of them and, in sorting through the pile, some have risen to the top.

Spiritual Disciplines WhitneySpiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Second Edition) by Donald Whitney. Whitney’s book was the first I read on the spiritual disciplines and one that was very helpful in my life. I’m very glad to see it (finally!) in a second edition. The publisher says, “Drawn from a rich heritage, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life will guide you through a carefully selected array of disciplines. By illustrating why the disciplines are important, showing how each one will help you grow in godliness, and offering practical suggestions for cultivating them, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life will provide you with a refreshing opportunity to become more like Christ and grow in character and maturity. Now updated and revised to equip a new generation of readers, this anniversary edition features in-depth discussions on each of the key disciplines.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

Why God Created the WorldWhy God Created the World: A Jonathan Edwards Adaptation by Ben Stevens. I really like the look of this one. Stevens has taken one of Edwards’ least-known and hardest-to-read books and adapted it to modern readers. Stevens writes, “For most of my life, I never thought to ask myself why God created the world. I had asked myself the question, ‘why did God create me specifically,’ which seemed like a more practical thing to wonder. But the answers I found to that question always struck me as shallow. I think that’s because it’s impossible to understand what part we play in a story if we have never grasped what the story is about in the first place. As far as I know, there has only ever been one book written on this subject by a Christian. It was a monumental treatise by the former president of Princeton University, the 18th century theologian Jonathan Edwards, called A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which the World Was Created (1765). Edwards gives a great answer to the question, but his tone and grammatical acrobatics make the original text nearly impossible to read.” So he modernizes it. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

Holding the RopeHolding the Rope: Short Term Missions, Long Term Impact by Clint Archer. This looks like a very helpful book as well: “Holding the Rope gives an insightful look into the preparation, philosophy, and application of short term cross-cultural ministry. Archer addresses the issues with candor, humor, and most importantly, grace. He provides viable solutions to common problems, and encourages churches, pastors, and volunteers to adopt a biblical and practical approach for engaging in short term missions. ‘Holding the rope’ is more than a catchphrase. It articulates an entire philosophy of ministry. Christian missions is too daunting an enterprise to attempt alone, but the synergy of combined efforts can accomplish untold advancement for the kingdom of God. This book is a tool for those serving the servants, a guide and celebration of those who hold the ropes.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

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