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Resources

July 03, 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.

LifelinesLifelines for Tough Times by Mike Fabarez. Here is how the publisher describes this one: “When tough times hit, we often find ourselves vulnerable—to doubt, fear, worry, even depression. We ask, ‘Does God care? Has He forgotten me?’ So why does God allow suffering? Author Mike Fabarez—who is well acquainted with deep pain himself as the father of a special-needs child and as a pastor who has counseled many through life’s hurts—looks to the truths of Scripture for answers. Along the way, he shares how complete trust in God alone can restore your confidence and hope; the power of focusing on God’s eternal goals for you in life’s temporary setbacks; God’s promises to love and protect you no matter what happens. This book will not only help you understand why God allows suffering—it will provide you with the resources to stand strong, rest in God’s care, and endure!” It comes with endorsements from John MacArthur, Joni Eareckson Tada, Jay Adams, and others. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

60 People60 People Who Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky. “The Church exists today in its current form because of the people who have come before us. From a consummate storyteller comes this collection of inspiring biographical sketches of people who played pivotal roles in advancing the Kingdom of God on earth. In rich prose and spanning twenty centuries of church history, these engaging narratives range from the well-known to the obscure, highlighting personalities such as Josephus, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Galileo, John Calvin, Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William Wilberforce, G. K. Chesterton, and many others. Readers will feel the past come alive and mingle in their minds with the present state of the Church, encouraging and galvanizing them to live their own faith courageously in our time—and shape the Church of the future.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

ExaltingExalting Jesus in Ezra-Nehemiah by James Hamilton. This is the publisher’s description of the series: “Edited by David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida, this new commentary series, projected to be 48 volumes, takes a Christ-centered approach to expositing each book of the Bible. Rather than a verse-by-verse approach, the authors have crafted chapters that explain and apply key passages in their assigned Bible books. Readers will learn to see Christ in all aspects of Scripture, and they will be encouraged by the devotional nature of each exposition. Exalting Jesus in Ezra-Nehemiah is written by Jim Hamilton.” This series is sound, readable, and affordable. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

June 30, 2014

CPM
July is nearly upon us, and to get the new month started right, here are some wallpapers calendars that will dress up your computer, tablet or cell phone. This month's wallpaper is provided in partnership with Church Plant Media and was designed by Kate Allen, a designer from designer from Birmingham, Alabama who also designs my daily quote graphics that you see in A La Carte.

A few notes: Your desktop or laptop may take any of the sizes, depending on your monitor size and a host of other considerations. You can click here to see what your resolution is. Generally you set one of these are your wallpaper by clicking on the link to the image, then right-clicking on the image (once it’s open) and selecting “Set as Background,” “Set as Desktop Background,” or something similar. If you aren’t sure, post a comment and we’ll try to help you figure it out.

Note: We're giving away a $50 Amazon gift card (no strings attached); just scroll down for a chance to win...

July 2014

Without Calendar: Facebook Cover, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPad, 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1366x768, 1440x900, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, 2560x1440

With Calendar: 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1366x768, 1440x900, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, 2560x1440

Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card

Just to sweeten the deal a little bit, we're giving away a $50 Amazon gift card, no strings attached. Just sign up here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And here is another great wallpaper from last year:

June 20, 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.

Growing Up Gods WayGrowing Up God’s Way for Girls and Growing Up God’s Way for Boys by Cris Richards and Liz Jones. “Growing up God’s way is a colourful, fully illustrated book available as separate versions for boys and girls. It is intended for children approaching or experiencing puberty, typically represented by the 10-14 years old age range. The artwork haas been specially produced for the book and includes accurate biological drawings as well as cartoon illustrations to keep the young reader interested. Most importantly of all, the Bible is the constant reference point, so that what the Bible has to say about the matters dealt with is always front and center. The result is that this book conveys essential biblical ethical teaching as well as the facts about puberty.” (Amazon: For Boys, For Girls)

Christopher Ash JobJob by Christopher Ash. “Life can be hard, and sometimes it seems like God doesn’t even care. When faced with difficult trials, many people have resonated with the book of Job—the story of a man who lost nearly everything, seemingly abandoned by God. In this thorough and accessible commentary, Christopher Ash helps us glean encouragement from God’s Word by directing our attention to the final explanation and ultimate resolution of Job’s story: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Intended to equip pastors to preach Job’s important message, this commentary highlights God’s grace and wisdom in the midst of redemptive suffering. Taking a staggeringly honest look at our broken world and the trials that we often face, Ash helps us see God’s sovereign purposes for adversity and the wonderful hope that Christians have in Christ.” (Amazon, Westminster Books)

My FaultIs It My Fault?: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb. “Is It My Fault? is a message of hope and healing to victims who know too well the depths of destruction and the overwhelming reality of domestic violence. At least one in every three women have been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused in their lifetime. The effects of domestic violence are physical, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual, and can have long-lasting distressing consequences. It is common for victims of domestic violence to suffer from ongoing depression and recurring nightmares, self-harm, panic attacks, substance abuse, and more. Is It My Fault? addresses the abysmal issue of domestic violence with the powerful and transforming biblical message of grace and redemption. It deals with this devastating problem and sin honestly and directly without hiding its prevalence today.” (Amazon)

June 04, 2014

It’s a question I receive often: Do you know of any good resources for having The Talk with my kids? I don’t think too many parents look forward to having the birds and the bees talk with their kids, yet it is unavoidable. And what’s more, in a pornified world where the average first exposure to Internet pornography is age twelve and falling, it’s a discussion that just can’t be delayed indefinitely. Actually, it’s a talk you almost need to have before they’re ready—to teach them what’s true and good before they can be exposed to what’s base and inappropriate.

Thankfully there are a few helpful resources that have found their way into my mailbox over the past few years.

Growing up God’s Way by Dr. Chris Richards & Dr. Liz Jones

Growing Up Gods WayThere are two editions of this brand new book, one aimed at boys and one at girls (suitably titled Growing Up God’s Way for Boys and Growing Up God’s Way for Girls). The books are very nicely done in both text and design. They are colorful and illustrated, and intended for children who are approaching puberty or just beginning to experience it (so somewhere between ages 10 and 14). The publisher says, “The artwork has been specially produced for the book and includes accurate biological drawings as well as cartoon illustrations to keep the young reader interested. Most importantly of all, the Bible is the constant reference point, so that what the Bible has to say about the matters dealt with is always front and center. The result is that this book conveys essential biblical ethical teaching as well as the facts about puberty.” If you are looking for a book to read with your child, or to have your child read on his or her own, you probably won’t do better than these ones. (Buy it at Amazon: For Girls; For Boys)

Time for The Talk by Steve Zollos

Time for the TalkThis book is geared specifically toward fathers who wish to speak to their sons and broadens the subject from sex and sexuality to wider topics related to manhood. The publisher says, “Time for The Talk will help fathers walk their sons through one of the most important conversations of their lives. ‘The Talk’ is much broader than just a talk about sexuality; it’s a conversation about manhood, about right decisions, about Christ. Time for The Talk will assist you in giving your son what he needs to steer through the moral and spiritual confusion of this world and make wise, godly, character-forming decisions.” In an interview, Zollos explains that his book is “not a script that you can read to your son. After all, this is about your relationship with your son. The Talk ultimately needs to come from you. Instead of a script I have provided perspective, and a framework of important information that needs to be shared with your son, your way, in a way that he can relate to.” You may also want to consider reading Everyday Talk (Amazon, Westminster Books) by Jay Younts, from the same publisher. Note that both books are only $1.99 for the Kindle editions. (Buy Time for The Talk at Amazon, Westminster Books)

Passport2Purity

Passport2PurityThis product from FamilyLife is more of a program than a single resource. It is designed to help parents speak to their teens or preteens about love, sex, and relationships, and is meant to form the foundation for a father-son or mother-daughter weekend getaway. The publisher’s description says, “FamilyLife has developed Passport2Purity (P2P) to assist you in building heart-to-heart communication with your preteen while laying a foundation of purity that will prepare them for the turbulent years ahead. Through the shared listening experience, object lessons and guided conversations of a P2P weekend getaway, you can set your son or daughter on a journey of moral integrity-and strengthen the bond between you.” First released in 2006 (I believe) it has now been updated to a third edition that accounts for modern realities like Internet pornography and sexting. You can download a sample here. (Buy it at Amazon)

(Note: James Dobson’s Preparing for Adolescence is a popular option and one my parents handed me many years ago; I have only glanced through it since then and did so while I wrote my book Sexual Detox to confirm what I remember—that Dobson takes a “everyone does it so don’t worry too much about it” approach to masturbation that I can’t sanction. It looks like it was last revised in 2006, so it may have changed since then.)

May 30, 2014

CPM
June is nearly upon us, and to get the new month started right, here are some wallpapers calendars that will dress up your computer, tablet or cell phone. This month's wallpaper is provided in partnership with Church Plant Media and was designed by Kate Allen, a designer from designer from Birmingham, Alabama who also designs my daily quote graphics that you see in A La Carte.

A few notes: Your desktop or laptop may take any of the sizes, depending on your monitor size and a host of other considerations. You can click here to see what your resolution is. Generally you set one of these are your wallpaper by clicking on the link to the image, then right-clicking on the image (once it’s open) and selecting “Set as Background,” “Set as Desktop Background,” or something similar. If you aren’t sure, post a comment and we’ll try to help you figure it out.

Note: We're giving away a $50 Amazon gift card (no strings attached); just scroll down for a chance to win...

June 2014

Without Calendar: Facebook Cover, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPad, 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1366x768, 1440x900, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, 2560x1440

With Calendar: 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1366x768, 1440x900, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, 2560x1440

Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card

Just to sweeten the deal a little bit, we're giving away a $50 Amazon gift card, no strings attached. Just sign up here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And here are a few great wallpapers from years past:

May 01, 2014

CPM
May is upon us, and to get the new month started right, here are some wallpapers calendars that will dress up your computer, tablet or cell phone. This month's wallpaper is provided in partnership with Church Plant Media and was designed by Lamplights. (If you like Lamplights, you can use coupon code CHALLIES14 at the Lamplights Store to get 30% off any order between now and May 14.)

A few notes: Your desktop or laptop may take any of the sizes, depending on your monitor size and a host of other considerations. You can click here to see what your resolution is. Generally you set one of these are your wallpaper by clicking on the link to the image, then right-clicking on the image (once it’s open) and selecting “Set as Background,” “Set as Desktop Background,” or something similar. If you aren’t sure, post a comment and we’ll try to help you figure it out.

Note: We're giving away a $50 Amazon gift card (no strings attached); just scroll down for a chance to win...

May 2014

Without Calendar: Facebook Cover, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPad, 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1366x768, 1440x900, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, 2560x1440

With Calendar: 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1366x768, 1440x900, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, 2560x1440

Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card

Just to sweeten the deal a little bit, we're giving away a $50 Amazon gift card, no strings attached. Just sign up here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
April 26, 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. This time they are all either the beginning of new series or the continuation of existing series. Enjoy!

CroftConduct Gospel-Centered Funerals: Applying the Gospel to the Unique Challenges of Death, Visit the Sick: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Illness, and Prepare Them to Shepherd: Test, Train, Affirm, and Send the Next Generation of Pastors by Brian Croft. Brian Croft is founder of Practical Shepherding, a ministry committed to equipping pastors in the practical matters of pastoral ministry. He has partnered with Zondervan to create a series of Practical Shepherding books that will eventually number seven volumes. These first three volumes were formerly published by Day One Publications but have been revised, updated, and given a great new cover treatment. I suppose the titles are self-explanatory, so I will not provide a detailed description of each. (Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals: Amazon; Visit the Sick: Amazon; Prepare Them to Shepherd: Amazon).

StilesEvangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by Mack Stiles, Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today by David Helm, The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Ray Ortlund, and Church Elders: How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus by Jeramie Rinne. 9Marks has partnered with Crossway to create a series titled 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches and edited by Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman. These four volumes join three existing one to bring the running total up to seven. It was fourteen years ago that we saw the first edition of Mark Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (it is now in its third edition) and in many ways all the books he has written since then, and all the books 9Marks have created since then, have been an extension of his earlier work. These new volumes push into familiar territory but with some new voices. (Church Elders: Amazon, Westminster Books; The Gospel: Amazon, Westminster Books; Expositional Preaching: Amazon, Westminster Books; Evangelism: Amazon, Westminster Books).

AugustineRobert Moffat: Africa’s Brave Heart by Irene Howat, John Newton: A Slave Set Free by Irene Howat, and Augustine: The Truth Seeker by K.C. Murdarasi. Trailblazers is a series of short biographies written for older children and teens. Published by Christian Focus and coming from the pens of many authors, the series now spans thirty-seven volumes. The three newest additions to the series look to the lives of Augustine, John Newton, and Robert Moffat—an early Christian thinker and theologian, a great pastor and hymn-writer, and a missionary who spread the gospel in Africa. If the prior volumes in the series are any indication, these will be excellent reading for kids and adults alike. (Augustine: Amazon; John Newton: Amazon; Robert Moffat: Amazon)

KnoxJohn Knox by Simonetta Carr. Christian Biographies for Young Reader is a partnership between author Simonetta Carr, illustrator Matt Abraxas, and publisher Reformation Heritage Books. To this point the partnership has brought us excellent biographies on some of the towering figures of church history: John Calvin, Augustine, John Owen, Athanasius, Lady Jane Grey, and Anselm (with forthcoming volumes turning to Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, and others). The most recent volume focuses on the great Scottish Reformer John Knox. It tells of his amazing life which saw him elevated from a bodyguard to a preacher, and from a galley slave to one of the world’s foremost and most fiery preachers. (Amazon, Westminster Books)

And how about you? Am I missing any that look particularly interesting to you? Is there something I ought to be adding to my reading list?

April 18, 2014

Preparing a sermon is one of the most gratifying and the most difficult tasks you’ll ever face. There is joy in finding meaning in the text, in finding structure, in developing just the right outline, in discovering the perfect illustration. But there is also labor and, at times, intense spiritual warfare. I am a relative newcomer to preaching and as I’ve prepared sermons I’ve relied on others to teach me how to pray and how to prepare. Here are two lists that have been very helpful to me. I combine them into what I affectionately call my Preacher’s Cheat-Sheet.

Praying for a Sermon

A couple of years ago Mike McKinley shared 8 Ways to Pray During Sermon Preparation. I found those 8 ways to pray tremendously helpful and have been following them ever since. I pray in these ways at the beginning, middle and end of my time of preparation.

  1. Lord, please help me to understand the meaning of this text and how it points to Christ.
  2. Lord, please increase my love for the people who will hear this sermon.
  3. Lord, please give me wisdom to apply this text to the lives of the people in our congregation.
  4. Lord, please use this passage to help me grasp and love the gospel more so that I might help my hearers do the same.
  5. Lord, please help me to see how this passage confronts the unbelief of my hearers.
  6. Lord, please help me to be obedient to the demands of this passage. Help me to enter the pulpit having already submitted my life to this truth before I preach it.
  7. Lord, by your Spirit please help me to preach this sermon with the necessary power and with appropriate affections.
  8. Lord, please use this sermon to bring glory to your name, joy to your people, and salvation to the lost.

Preparing for a Sermon

Along with praying during sermon preparation, I also wanted to develop a checklist of sorts—not a guide to help me exegete the text or make sure I have properly found and preached Christ from it. Rather, I wanted something to use as I near the end of my preparation and want to ensure that what I have prepared is well-structured and that it will avoid missteps that may prove hindrances to my listeners. I spoke to seasoned pastors to find what they do and developed this checklist which I like to run through when the sermon is nearly complete, and return to shortly before I preach the sermon.

  1. Have you prayed for yourself and your listeners?
  2. In one sentence, what is the point of the sermon?
  3. Does the sermon have a clear, easy-to-follow outline?
  4. Can you express your outline in a way that makes sense and explains the big point?
  5. Has every theological concept or term been defined or explained?
  6. Is there a clear gospel call that expresses the gospel in a fresh way?
  7. Have you spoken to the children?
  8. Are there places you have planned to pause, or to decrease or increase volume?
  9. Is there anything that can be removed for the sake of clarity and concision?
  10. Does every point have at least one helpful illustration?
  11. Have you included some good turns-of-phrase?
  12. Have you considered how the sermon will speak to people who are: discontent, divorced, abused, addicted, mourning, in a difficult marriage, or other difficult circumstances?
  13. Is there something to jolt the regular, committed sermon-listener?

If you’d like to have these lists in printed form, you can download them in PDF format. I print this document double-sided, crop it down to size, and keep one copy on my desk and one in my car.

April 14, 2014

Series Introduction: I live in a small house. I work in a small office in a small church. For those reasons and others I will never have a huge library. When I add a book I almost always remove a book, a practice that allows me to focus on quality over quantity. Over the past couple of years I have focused on building a collection of commentaries that will include only the best volumes on each book of the Bible. I know when I’m in way over my head, so before I began I collected every good resource I could find that rated and reviewed commentaries. I studied them and then began my collection on the basis of what the experts told me. Since I did all of that work, and since I continue to keep up with the project, I thought it might be helpful to share the recommendations.

My focus is on newer commentaries (at least in part because most of the classics are now freely or cheaply available) and I am offering approximately 5 recommendations for each book of the Bible, alternating between the Old Testament and the New. Today I have turned to the experts to find what they say about Daniel.

Daniel

DuguidIain M. Duguid - Daniel (Reformed Expository Commentary). Iain Duguid has written several excellent commentaries and has provided the volume on Daniel for the Reformed Expository Commentary series. It comes highly recommended by most of the experts. Kent Hughes, himself the author of many commentaries, writes “It is rare indeed to find a technical scholar who is also a master homiletician and preacher. But these things Dr. Iain Duguid clearly is. Here, rigorous expository methodology, nuanced biblical theology, and pastoral passion combine to expound the gospel of Jesus Christ in the ravishing narrative and exotic apocalyptic of the book of Daniel.” High praise like that puts this one at the top of the list. (Amazon, Westminster Books)

Sinclair Ferguson - Daniel (The Preacher’s Commentary). Sinclair Ferguson’s volume is considering top-notch by many of the experts. Keith Mathison praises it by saying, “Students of Scripture should read anything that Sinclair Ferguson publishes, and his commentary on Daniel is no exception. Although aimed specifically at pastors, this commentary is accessible to a general readership as well. Very helpful.” (Amazon, Westminster Books)

DanielJohn Goldingay - Daniel (Word Biblical Commentary). This commentary is more scholarly than the two that have come before. It is said to deal well with the text and to reflect an immense amount of in-depth research into both the text and the context. Longman writes, “He gives insight into historical, literary, and theological issues concerning the book. He also demonstrates an amazing grasp of the secondary literature.” The experts do warn that he takes an unusual view of the visions in the early part of the book, suggesting they are pseudonymous quasi-prophecy. (Amazon, Westminster Books)

April 08, 2014

Together for the Gospel is fast approaching, and I want to let you know about an event we are calling The True North Luncheon @ T4G. This is a time to get together to talk specifically about gospel advance in Canada. The event is intended for Canadians, or for people who are interested in joining the work in Canada, or for people who are simply interested in learning more about the church in Canada. If Canada is on your mind, or if Canada has been on your mind, you ought to come.

The event will take place on Wednesday April 9th from 12:30pm - 3:00pm (which falls during the conference’s lunch break). It will be held at Immanuel Baptist Church, which is at 1121 S. Clay St., just a 10-minute drive from the conference venue. We’d ask for a $5 donation to cover the cost of a Chick-Fil-A lunch which will be provided for you.

We’ll follow a simple format: We will have a fellowship lunch, and then a panel discussion that will be followed by an open Q&A. Panelists will include: Clint Humfrey, Paul Martin and myself (with others to be announced). Ryan Fullerton, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, will be hosting and leading the panel.

If you have a question, please leave it in the comments section below, and we’ll try to answer it for you.

RSVP

If you would like to come, please RSVP to Keith Hanson at khanson@ibclouisville.org. He can also help you if you’ll need transportation to and from the conference venue.

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