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March 19, 2015

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books, and at this time of the year my desk is almost overflowing with all of them. Here are a few of the highlights that have shown up in the past few weeks.

PhilippiansPhilippians: A Mentor Commentary by Matthew Harmon. The Mentor commentaries from Christian Focus has long been an excellent and trustworthy series. Harmon’s volume now extends the series to Philippians. I have only skimmed through the book, but have already found some excellent insights. It comes with endorsements from Thomas Schreiner, Douglas Moo, Robert W. Yarbrough, Justin Taylor, and James Hamilton. Here is the publisher’s brief description: “Christians throughout the centuries have loved Paul’s letter to the Philippians for its call to rejoice in the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of life’s circumstances. But our familiarity with the letter can cause us to neglect or overlook Paul’s message to the Philippians. Dr Matthew Harmon in this uplifting and inspiring work brings context and application to this wonderful book.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

ActsActs by Guy Prentiss Waters. Mentor commentaries is not the only series that has grown this month. Evangelical Press Study Commentaries is another fantastic series and it has now added a volume on Acts written by Guy Prentiss Waters who is Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. Derek Thomas commends the volume with these words: “Dr. Waters is the ideal commentator on Acts. Scholarly, pastoral, theological all these and more combine in making this my first resource for Luke s second volume. An outstanding contribution to the series and deserving of the appellation, Essential!” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

MacArthurThe Shepherd as Preacher: Delivering God’s Word with Passion and Power, edited by John MacArthur. This is the first of a short series of books called “The Shepherd’s Library,” and the material is a kind of “best-of” from the many years of The Shepherd’s Conference. Here is the publisher’s description: “When you consider all that God desires to accomplish through preaching, it becomes apparent why it’s such a big deal. It’s God’s main means of feeding, comforting, correcting, and protecting His people—as well as pointing unbelievers to Christ. Such an enormous responsibility deserves a pastor’s best. In The Shepherd as Preacher, you’ll find the best encouragement and guidance available on how you can preach God’s Word God’s way. With John MacArthur and other outstanding Bible teachers, you’ll survey the essentials every minister needs to know, including the focus and purpose of biblical preaching, the character of a faithful preacher, the keys to effective preaching, how to preach in the Spirit’s power.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

BillingsRejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ by J. Todd Billings. I have heard a lot about this book, and every word of it has been glowingly positive. The publisher says, simply, “A Christian theologian shares his journey, struggle, and reflections on providence, lament, and life in Christ in light of his diagnosis of incurable cancer” but you may gain more insight by Michael Horton’s endorsement: “Every chapter brims with pools of insight, pointing us beyond platitudes to the God who has met us—and keeps on meeting us—in the Suffering and Risen Servant. This is a book not just for reading but for meditation and prayer.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

ThiseltonThe Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology by Anthony Thiselton. This is a big reference volume that looks very helpful. “Covering everything from “Abba” to “Zwingli,” The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology offers a comprehensive account of a wide sweep of topics and thinkers in Christian theology. Written entirely by eminent scholar Anthony Thiselton, the book features a coherence lacking in most multiauthored volumes. Drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge, gained from fifty-plus years of study and teaching, Thiselton provides some six hundred articles on various aspects of theology throughout the centuries. The entries comprise both short descriptive surveys and longer essays of original assessment on central theological topics…” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

30 Events30 Events That Shaped the Church: Learning from Scandal, Intrigue, War, and Revival by Alton Gansky. I like books like this one, that approach history not only chronologically but also thematically. “The church of today did not appear on the earth fully formed; rather, it developed over the centuries. Following Jesus’ command to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, the apostles and their spiritual descendants have grown the church through times of peace and times of war, through persecution and pilgrimage. The church that began as a ragtag group of Middle Eastern fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots became the multiethnic, multifaceted church we know today through historical events that, while they may seem distant, have a direct effect on our everyday lives. Now thirty of these course-altering events are brought vividly to life by consummate storyteller Alton Gansky. Spanning twenty centuries of history, this lively book will entertain, educate, and enlighten you even as it enriches your appreciation for those who have come before us in the faith.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

February 27, 2015

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books, and with a new year comes a whole new batch of books that qualify as notable. Here are a few of the highlights that have shown up in my mailbox recently.

Tough Topics 2Tough Topics 2: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions by Sam Storms. Between this book and the volume that preceded it (which, curiously, was published by a different publisher), Sam Storms has built quite a nice little collection of good answers to tough questions. Here is the publisher’s description: “Countless people are worried, angry, fearful and just plain confused when it comes to some of the more perplexing issues that life poses and the Bible provokes. Tough Topics 2 provides solid and scriptural answers to 25 such questions. Sam Storms seeks to tackle frustration by looking deeply, not superficially, at what Scripture says, deriving clear and persuasive explanations for these thorny matters.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

HosannaHosanna, Loud Hosannas by Barbara & David Leeman. Here is a unique resource. “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna is a hymnal, it is a textbook, and it is a devotional book. 115 essential hymns that every child should sing. … This book was written for use in worship chapels at Christian Schools, children’s ministries of churches, and family worship.” Keith and Kristin Getty endorse it, saying: “We are so excited about the publication of this hymnbook for children. Our prayer is that our children will be singing theologically-rich hymns such as the ones found here long after we are gone and will continue to pass them on from generation to generation.” For more information visit studenthymnal.com. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

HappyThe Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World by David Murray. “Hopelessness has invaded much of our culture, even reaching deep into the church. But while the world is awash in negativity, Christians have resources to live differently. In The Happy Christian, professor and pastor David Murray blends the best of modern science and psychology with the timeless truths of Scripture to create a solid, credible guide to positivity. The author of the acclaimed Christians Get Depressed Too, Murray exposes modern negativity’s insidious roots and presents ten perspective-changing ways to remain optimistic in a world that keeps trying to drag us down. The Happy Christian invites readers to shed negativity and become countercultural missionaries by demonstrating the positive power of the gospel in their lives.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

Porn-Free Family
February 13, 2015

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and, thanks to one surprising bestseller and its new film adaptation, the whole world is buzzing about pornography and deviant sexuality. 50 Shades has done everything it can to beat and brutalize an otherwise sweet occasion. The day of hearts and flowers has been turned into a day of whips and chains. It’s abhorrent.

Sadly, pornography is one of those subjects I have written about many times over the years. I did not set out to write so many articles, and even a short book, on the subject. Yet as someone who has invested a lot of effort in discipling young adults, and who has at the same time been attempting to make sense of the digital explosion, it has been sadly inevitable.

Here are ten articles I’ve written on the subject of pornography and deviant sexuality:

7 Good Reasons to Stop Looking at Porn Right Now. In this article I sketch out 7 reasons you need to break your porn habit, and do it by suggesting 7 different costs: The cost to your soul, to your neighbor, to your church, to your Savior, and so on. Pornography is not a private sin done in darkness, but a sin against the entire community.

50 Shades of Porn - This one was written almost exactly 2 years ago and contained this warning: “Women, you need to be aware because the pornographers are coming after you. Yes, you.”

Pornolesence - Pornolesence is a word I coined to describe something I have seen a hundred times over: Pornolescence is that period when a person is old enough and mature enough to know that pornography is wrong and that it exacts a heavy price, but too immature or too apathetic to do anything about it. Pornolescence is that period where he feels the guilt of his sin, but still enjoys it too much to give it up. It is a very dangerous place to be.

The Porn-Free Family Plan - The Porn Free Family Plan is a step-by-step plan to help your family be, and remain, porn-free. It will teach you the tools, and the character qualities, you will need to protect your family. (Note: It has been revised and expanded in the second edition of my book The Next Story which releases in a couple of weeks.)

Hope in a Pornified World - Despite all the bad news, I believe that we can have great hope for the future. In this article I share two of those reasons for hope: God’s common grace, and a whole new generation of parents.

Sexual Detox - Pornifying the Marriage Bed - This was the first of a series of articles that eventually became a book. While the book was expanded, improved and edited, the blog series maintains some of that urgency.

Mobility, Privacy, Pornography - The takeaway from this one is very simple but also very important: The majority of pornography is now being consummed on mobile devices. Yet the majority of our efforts in protecting our families has gone into our fixed computers.

Please Don’t Give Them Porn for Christmas - Every Christmas (and birthday and graduation and …) a lot of children will receive porn from their parents. It not what they wanted, and not what their parents intended for them to have. But they will get it anyway. That’s because parents are not properly training their children to use their devices.

Help! My Kids Are Looking at Porn! - It’s a tough reality that so many parents have had to deal with. This article suggests ways to approach your children when you learn of their struggles.

7 Lessons from 50 Shades of Gray - I collaborated with Helen Thorne on this article that attempts to address the 50 Shades phenomenon.

Book Recommendations

Here are books I recommend on the subject of pornography.

Top Recommendation

Finally Free by Heath Lambert. 

Having read many books on this topic, I quickly identified three unique and noteworthy strengths in Finally Free. The first is its commitment to the gospel of grace. Lambert avoids using “gospel” or “grace” like buzzwords that have no real meaning. He speaks of grace as a power that we can discover, that we can use, that is available to us as we fight against sin. The second is the books sheer practicality. No other book I have read so helpfully lays out strategies—strategies you can actually do and that will actually work—in the fight against porn. The third is its encouraging tone. He encourages by focusing on Christ’s power over sin and he encourages by his authority on the subject, earned in those thousands and thousands of counselling sessions.

Other Recommendations

  • Undefiled by Harry Schaumburg. Schaumburg’s particular strength and ministry is in recovery from sexual sin. This book is ideal for hurting spouses who are attempting to recover together.
  • Wired For Intimacy by William Struthers. Struthers explores the important link between pornography and biology.
  • Purity Is Possible by Helen Thorne. Written for women, this book addresses the issues of pornography, fantasy and erotica from a female perspective.
  • Sexual Sanity For Men by David White is geared toward helping men build or recover a healthy sexual identity. Also consider Sexual Sanity for Women by Ellen Dykas (Amazon). 
  • My own Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn is a short, punchy book on pornography geared particularly to young men.
  • Samson and the Pirate Monks by Nate Larkin is a gut-honest book about porn and one that provides a hopeful way forward.

February 05, 2015
I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books, and with a new year comes a whole new batch of books that qualify as notable. Here are a few of the highlights that have shown up in my mailbox recently.

Who Is JesusWho Is Jesus? by Greg Gilbert. This is the latest volume in an ongoing series of books from 9Marks. Like many of the others, it looks like one to buy in bulk and give away. Here’s the description: “A famed historian once noted that, regardless of what you think of him personally, Jesus Christ stands as the central figure in the history of Western civilization. A man violently rejected by some and passionately worshipped by others, Jesus remains as polarizing as ever. But most people still know very little about who he really was, why he was really here, or what he really claimed. Intended as a succinct introduction to Jesus’s life, words, and enduring significance, Who Is Jesus? offers non-Christians and new Christians alike a compelling portrait of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, this book encourages readers to carefully consider the history-shaping life and extraordinary teachings of the greatest man who ever lived.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Discovering RomansDiscovering Romans: Spiritual Revival for the Soul by S. Lewis Johnson (Adapted by Mike Abendroth). It is tough to overlook the strength of the endorsements for this book, as they range from Sinclair Ferguson to Steve Lawson to Danny Akin to Sam Storms. All of them agree that Johnson was a great expositor and that this volume is a worthy read. “Discovering Romans: Spiritual Revival for the Soul is a popular level guide by outstanding Bible teacher S. Lewis Johnson that opens up the motivating truths found in the apostle Paul’s powerful letter to the Romans. Anyone hungry to grow in practical understanding of Scripture will profit from Johnson’s rich teaching that stimulates both mind and emotions. This beloved pastor and professor works through the text engagingly, providing both clarifying insights and life applications along the way. Each chapter ends with reflection questions, making this volume useful not only for individual reading (or preparation for teaching) but also in small group Bible studies. John MacArthur once said, ‘Through the years I have listened to the preaching of S. Lewis Johnson far more than any other preacher.’ Reading through this volume will be a soul-reviving experience.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

BeholdBehold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ by Russ Ramsey. This one looks like a slightly different view of that same old story we so love. “Enter into the greatest story ever told. In this carefully researched retelling of the story of Jesus, Russ Ramsey invites us to rediscover our wonder at his sinless life, brutal death, and glorious resurrection. Featuring forty short chapters recounting key episodes from Jesus’s time on earth, this book expands on the biblical narrative in a fresh and creative way—giving us a taste of what it would have been like to walk next to Jesus and experience his earthly ministry first hand.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Mary SlessorMary Slessor: A Life on the Altar for God by Bruce McLennan. I can’t say that I had even heard of Mary Slessor until I received this book. But now I want to know more! “Mary Slessor was no ordinary woman, indeed she was no ordinary missionary. Brought up in Dundee, one of eleven children, Mary was called to mission and set sail for West Africa in 1876. Bruce McLennan examines this remarkable story of a woman who shared the gospel, stood up against inequality and impacted all areas of life in Calabar with boldness and conviction.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

ResurrectionThe Resurrection in Your Life: How the Living Christ Changes Your World by Mike McKinley. I enjoy McKinley’s writing. “Christians often spend time arguing that Jesus rose, but we forget to appreciate why it actually matters. In the follow-up to his brilliant book on the cross, Passion, US pastor and well-known author Mike McKinley considers the revolutionary consequences for each of us of Christ’s resurrection, ascension and the sending of his Spirit. Walk through Luke 24 and Acts 1-2 and discover how the reality that Jesus lives can and should change every aspect of our world. Whether you’re a new or a mature Christian, let the joy, peace, confidence and purpose of the resurrection flood into your everyday life.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

The Trailblazers series from Christian Focus has a whole collection of short biographies of noteworthy Christians targetted at younger readers. It is an excellent series, and I am glad to see they have just added three new volumes: Hannah More: The Woman Who Wouldn’t Stop Writing by Sarah Allen, Lottie Moon: Changing China for Christ by Nancy Drummond, and Frances Ridley Havergal: The Girl Who Loved Mountains by Lucille Travis. You can buy them all at Amazon: Hannah More, Lottie MoonFrances Ridley Havergal.

January 09, 2015

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books, and with a new year comes a whole new batch of books that qualify as notable. Here are a few of the highlights that have shown up in my mailbox recently.

Doriani1 Peter by Daniel Doriani. I’ve often said that the Reformed Expository Commentaries are just about my favorite commentary set. They are always well-written, theologically-deep, and doctrinally-pure—a killer combination. Because they are based on sermons, they are useful for Bible study, sermon preparation or personal devotions. 1 Peter has been written by Daniel Doriani, a regular contributor to the series, and D.A. Carson says this about it: “Among the many expositions of 1 Peter, this REC volume stands out. It is exemplary in its careful handling of the text, theological robustness, and fresh writing. Unsurprisingly from the author of Putting the Truth to Work, which is the best treatment available on application, this exposition of 1 Peter is loaded with the best kind of application: faithful to the text, reflective, never forced, often telling.” (Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon)

EcclesiastesEcclesiastes by Douglas Sean O’Donnell. 1 Peter is not the only new entry in the Reformed Expository Series. Douglas Sean O’Donnell has prepared the volume on Ecclesiastes and it is shipping now as well. Derek Thomas provides this endorsement: “Ecclesiastes is a book for our time: its relentless examination of the source of meaning and relevance finds echoes in every facet of contemporary life and its restless pursuit of happiness. Douglas Sean O’Donnell’s treatment of Ecclesiastes is both fresh and thorough. … A wonderful achivement.” I can hardly wait to read it! (Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon)

MinglingThe Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption by Matt Chandler. Matt Chandler has teamed up with Jared Wilson on several books and their partnership continues in this one, which is based on Chandler’s sermons on Song of Solomon. Here is what the publisher says about it: “The Song of Solomon offers strikingly candid—and timeless—insights on romance, dating, marriage, and sex. We need it. Because emotions rise and fall with a single glance, touch, kiss, or word. And we are inundated with songs, movies, and advice that contradicts God’s design for love and intimacy. Matt Chandler helps navigate these issues for both singles and marrieds by revealing the process Solomon himself followed: Attraction, Courtship, Marriage … even Arguing. The Mingling of Souls will forever change how you view and approach love.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

Hand in HandHand in Hand: The Beauty of God’s Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice by Randy Alcorn. Few authors have left a more indelible imprint on my life than Randy Alcorn, so I am looking forward to diving into this new book which examines the tension between God’s sovereignty and human choice. “In Hand in Hand, Randy Alcorn says that the traditional approach to this debate has often diminished our trust in God and his purposes. Instead of making a one-sided argument from select verses, Alcorn examines the question in light of all Scripture. By exploring what the whole Bible says about divine sovereignty and human choice, hand in Hand helps us carefully and honestly examine the different views on this issue; gain a deeper understanding of God; appreciate God’s design in providing us the freedom of meaningful choice; learn how to communicate about the issue in clear and compassionate ways,” and more. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

PsalmsThe Book of Psalms by Nancy deClaisse-Walford, Rolf Jacobson & Beth LeNeel Tanner. A new volume in the venerable New International Commentary on the Old Testament series always qualifies as noteworthy, and especially when it takes on a book as significant as Psalms. In this 1,000-page volume the three co-authors provide commentary on all 150 psalms. I am certainly not qualified to evaluate the quality of their work, so while we wait for the reviews we will simply consider it new and noteworthy. (Learn more or buy it at Westminster Books or Amazon)

December 28, 2014

Tis the season to think about next season. As 2014 draws to a close, our thoughts begin to turn to the new year. Whenever I consider a new year, I think of how I will approach another 365 daily devotions. At this point I am still undecided. There are so many good ways to read the Bible and each one seems better than the last. While I think and pray about it, I thought I’d share what I have found so far.

Here is a round-up of some of the ways you can read the Bible in 2015.

Ligonier Reading Plans. Ligonier offers what is probably the best and most thorough round-up of reading plans. They have plans that will take you through the Bible in a year, plans that will take you through the Bible in a few years, and plans that you can do at your own pace. Some of the plans involve only reading the Bible while others offer daily devotionals. There is something for everyone here.

ESV Bible Plans - The ESV site offers 12 different plans that are available in a variety of formats. You can also subscribe to their podcast which will allow you to listen to the Bible; if you do that you will go once through the Old Testament each year, and twice through the New Testament and Psalms.

Logos. The Logos software has Bible-reading plans built right into it, but you will need to use the Logos software to access them.

Bible.com - Bible.com, which offers the amazing Bible app, has a long list of plans to choose from. You will need to use the site or app to access them.

Interesting Plans

Here are a few plans that look particularly interesting or different.

Professor Horner’s System - Professor Horner’s System is intense—10 chapters per day. You’ll read 10 chapters from 10 different books each day, which means you’ll always be reading different combinations. It’s a great system but takes a lot of commitment.

A Bible Plan for Readers - Peter Krol’s plan begins with reading through the entire Bible as quickly as you can, then slowing the pace a little bit.

The Change Your Mind Plan - This plan is very simple: “1. Choose a book of the Bible. 2. Read it in its entirety. 3. Repeat step #2 twenty times. 4. Repeat this process for all books of the Bible.”

God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. This plan structures Scripture readings around Jim Hamilton’s book God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. Through the year you will read both the Book and the book about the Book.

Denny Burk’s Plan. Denny Burk’s plan goes through the Bible in a year in canonical order, one book at a time. There are a handfull of “catchup” days thrown in in case you get behind. (Denny also offers a Greek New Testament plan.)

What is your plan for 2015?

Image credit: Shutterstock

December 16, 2014

2014 was a great year for Christian readers, and today I want to share some of my top picks from the year that is swiftly drawing to a close. Let me offer a few caveats: First, these are almost certainly not the best books of 2014 in any objective sense; rather, they are my favorites, the ones that have remained in my mind and impacted my life since I read them. Second, they are in no particular order. And finally, at the request of several readers I am posting this list before the end of the year because some people would like to refer to it as they do their Christmas shopping. Enjoy!

Look and LiveLook and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ by Matt Papa. This was one of the last books I read this year, but undoubtedly one of the best. Papa, a musician and worship leader, dives deep into Christian history, into the best of contemporary writers, and, of course, into the Bible to draw the reader’s attention to the beauty and power of the gospel. His goal for the book is “to help you overcome idolatry and certain sadness by pointing you to the all-satisfying, sin-destroying glory of Jesus.” He succeeds admirably. (Buy it at Amazon | Read my review)

Infinite JourneyAn Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness by Andrew Davis. This book was released at the very end of 2013, but because it was not in wide distribution until early this year, I have chosen to include it as a 2014 title. And it is a very good one! It is a book about growing toward spiritual maturity, but it is more than that; it is also a map for the journey. This makes it something like a systematic theology of spiritual growth and maturity, and one that will benefit any Christian. (Buy it at Amazon | Read my review)

Whats Best NextWhat’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. This is a book about getting things done, and one that looks at the subject from a distinctly Christian perspective. Perman takes the work of men like Peter Drucker, David Allen, Stephen Covey, Tim Ferris and many others, and examines them through the lens of Scripture. What is good he accepts, what is bad he rejects, and what is somewhere in-between he adapts. This makes it a book for anyone who needs to get better at getting things done, but especially for those involved in knowledge work and the realm of ideas. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books | Read my review)

Prayer KellerPrayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller. Tim Keller has now written a long succession of powerful and bestselling books, but I believe this will go down as one of his best. He has no interest in startling new insights on prayer or novel new ways to pray. Instead he looks to the past, to the deep wells of Christian history, and draws heavily from Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Owen, and Edwards (and, in more recent history, Edmund Clowney). He grapples with the tension between prayer as a kind of communion with God and prayer as a means of seeking the coming of God’s kingdom, and he comes to satisfying conclusions. It is a book that will teach you why you ought to pray, while also teaching you how to pray. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books | Read my review)

The GospelThe Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Ray Ortlund. What Ortlund sets out to show in this book is how the gospel is meant to shape both the life and the culture of the local church so that the local church serves as a display of Christ, as he is, according to the gospel. There are hundreds of books today that claim to be gospel-centered, but this one deserves to be near the top of your list. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books | Read my review)

Taking God at His WordTaking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung. Kevin DeYoung is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, largely because of his ability to take difficult theological concepts and to make them reader-friendly. In Taking God at His Word he provides a basic introduction the Bible’s sufficiency, clarity, authority, and necessity—four key qualities of Scripture that are under attack today. It is a great introduction to the doctrine of the Bible for those who have never read one, and a great reminder to those for whom this is already familiar territory. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books | Read my review)

EssentialismEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. This is not a Christian book, but it is one that impacted me as deeply as anything else I read this year. McKeown’s burden is to help people stop trying to do everything in life so they can focus instead on the few areas where they can make the deepest impact. He wants people to discipline themselves to do their best in a few areas rather than spreading themselves too thin. You’ll need to apply some Christian thinking to the book, but I also believe you’ll benefit tremendously from it. (Buy it at Amazon | Read my review)

DispatchesDispatches From the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places by Tim Keesee. For many years now Tim Keesee, founder of Frontline Missions International, has been going to places few of us will venture in order to see how the Lord is working there and in order to promote and support such work. He is dedicated to supporting gospel advance in the world’s most difficult places. In this book he shares glimpses of the church in those difficult places where, despite all the odds, God’s work continues. Read it to be both inspired and encouraged. (Buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books | Read my review)

December 05, 2014

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. It has been a little while 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.

SeifridThe Second Letter to the Corinthians by Mark Selfrid is a new volume in the excellent Pillar New Testament Commentary series which is edited by D.A. Carson. Carson commends this volume. He says that over the past few decades modern scholarship has suggested all kinds of novel interpretations of 2 Corinthians. “Through all of these Dr. Seifrid proves to be a patient and sure-footed guide. The result is a commentary that makes 2 Corinthians come alive against as a letter that provides its own unique contribution to the Pauline corpus, to the New Testament, and to the entire Bible — and thus to the church of God in the twenty-first century.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

FeeThe First Epistle to the Corinthians by Gordon Fee is a revised edition of his commentary from the New International Commentary on the New Testament, which was first published in 1987. Fee’s commentary was already considered one of the top-two or -three commentaries on 1 Corinthians, and I trust that this new edition will only cement its place. In his commentary on the commentaries D.A. Carson says Carson says that this (or Garland’s) is the best commentary on 1 Corinthians, and most experts appear to agree and have some difficulty with selecting one over the other. Both Carson and Derek Thomas regard this as a helpful volume while pointing out some weaknesses, and especially Fee’s treatment of 1 Corinthians 14:33b-35. His argument for the continuation of all gifts is said to be helpful and well-formed, whether or not that is your position. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

ScriptureScripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World, edited by Bob Kellemen. Here is what the publisher says about this one: “Part of the Biblical Counseling Coalition series, Scripture and Counseling brings you the wisdom of twenty ministry leaders who write so you can have confidence that God’s Word is sufficient, necessary, and relevant to equip God’s people to address the complex issues of life in a broken world. It blends theological wisdom with practical expertise and is accessible to pastors, church leaders, counseling practitioners, and students, equipping them to minister the truth and power of God’s word in the context of biblical counseling, soul care, spiritual direction, pastoral care, and small group facilitation.” The foreword is written by Albert Mohler who says it “is representative of the type of theologically sophisticated and pastorally sensitive counseling literature needed in evangelical churches.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

AllisonRoman Catholic Theology & Practice: An Evangelical Assessment by Gregg Allison. I read enough of this one to see that it is quite an interesting book that attempts to provide a very fair treatment of Roman Catholic theology in comparison to Evangelical theology. Here is the editorial description: “In this balanced volume, Gregg Allison—an evangelical theologian and church historian—helps readers understand the nuances of Roman Catholic teaching. Walking through the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, Allison summarizes and assesses Catholic doctrine from the perspective of both Scripture and evangelical theology. Noting prominent similarities without glossing over key differences, this book will equip Christians on both sides of the ecclesiastical divide to fruitfully engage in honest dialogue with one another.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Matt PapaLook and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ by Matt Papa. I haven’t gotten far into this one yet, but have enjoyed what I’ve read. “Matt Papa was a “professional Christian” in full-time ministry, ready and determined to change the world. All the while he was depressed, addicted to the approval of others, and enslaved to sin. But then everything changed. He encountered the glory of God. All of us live in the tension between where we are and where we ought to be. We try our best to bully our desires into submission. And we all know, this is exhausting. Are you tired? Stuck? Still fighting the same sin you’ve been fighting for years? The call in these pages is not to work or to strive, but to lift your eyes. You don’t need more willpower. You need a vision of greatness that sweeps you off your feet. You need to see glory.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

Truth in a Culture of DoubtTruth in a Culture of Doubt: Engaging Skeptical Challenges to the Bible by Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw. “Truth in a Culture of Doubt takes a closer look at the key arguments skeptical scholars such as [Bart] Ehrman keep repeating in radio interviews, debates, and in his their popular writings. If you are looking for insightful responses to critical arguments from a biblical perspective, easily accessible and thoughtfully presented, this book is for you. This is the first book to provide a comprehensive response to Ehrman’s popular works. It is presented in such a way that readers can either read straight through the book or use it as a reference when particular questions arise. Responding to skeptical scholars such as Ehrman, Truth in a Culture of Doubt takes readers on a journey to explain topics such as the Bible’s origins, the copying of the Bible, alleged contradictions in Scripture, and the relationship between God and evil. Written for all serious students of Scripture, this book will enable you to know how to respond to a wide variety of critical arguments raised against the reliability of Scripture and the truthfulness of Christianity.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

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.

Accordance

Accordance Bible Software is offering a $10 credit for every $100 you spend.

Amazon

Amazon has lots of Kindle books on sale, including: An Infinite Journey by Andrew Davis ($0.99); Love Into Light by Peter Hubbard ($0.99); Reckless Abandon by David Sitton ($0.99); Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper ($0.99); PROOF by Daniel Montgomery & Timothy Paul Jones ($2.99); Game Day for the Glory of God by Stephen Altrogge ($0.99); God With Us by K. Scott Oliphant ($2.99); Luke by J.C. Ryle ($2.99); On Guard by William Lane Craig ($4.99); Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace ($4.99); One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian ($4.99); Live Like a Narnian by Joe Rigney ($0.99); The 3 Wise Women by Christin Ditchfield ($0.99); Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room by Nancy Guthrie (Free). Amazon has 2,000 other titles on sale today and you can browse the list here, and they have a couple of their devices marked down as well.

Of all of that, here’s what I recommend: Buy An Infinite Journey by Andrew Davis and Love Into Light by Peter Hubbard, and then download Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room by Nancy Guthrie. You’ve spent $1.98 and gotten 3 excellent books.

Banner of Truth

Banner of Truth is having a big Cyber Monday sale with books and ebooks on sale. All of their ebooks are just $2.

Christian Audio

Christian Audio has 3 books bundled for $9.98 and 1 free one.

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. Use code 445265 and you’ll get free shipping on orders over $35. Grudem’s Systematic Theology at $16.99 is an especially good deal.

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).

Indelible Grace

Indelible Grace and Matthew Smith have their albums on sale. Use code MONDAYMP3 to get 25% off MP3 albums. The code MONDAY2014 will get you 10% off CDs.

Ligonier Ministries

Ligonier Ministries is offering Tabletalk magazine for just $12 (one-year subscription).

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.

New Growth Press

New Growth Press is offering 52% off all their books and minibooks. Use code CYBER.

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.

Sovereign Grace Music

Sovereign Grace Music is offering all their albums at just $5 each.

Westminster Books

Westminster Books is offering Makoto Fujimura’s Four Holy Gospels at a major discount. They also have a deep discount on a great new edition of Calvin’s Institutes. ESV Bibles are at 50% off and they’ve got a Bargains section that is worth browsing. You can also get gift certificates at a 10% discount (e.g. get a $100 gift certificate for $90).

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

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