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November 30, 2015

Good Book Co
This sponsored post was prepared by The Good Book Company.

To mildly mangle Charles Dickens, December is the best of times, and the worst of times.

The best, because in the depths of winter we remember the heights from which the Word came. We marvel at his journey from the heavenly throne room to the Bethlehem manger. We wonder at the truth that the fingers that molded the planets curled round a mother’s finger.

And as we share time, food and gifts with loved ones, we appreciate all that we have been given in this life by the One who pitched his tent among us all those centuries ago.

It is, truly, the best of times.


Yet… Christmas is also the worst of times. 

For every delight that Christmas brings, there is also disappointment. Too many families will have an empty chair at the table this Christmas. Too many people will be alone at their table this Christmas. While most cannot wait to get to Christmas, many simply cannot wait to get through Christmas. 

But the worst thing about Christmas is how the One at the center of the first Christmas gets pushed to the sidelines. The worst thing about the season is that, so often and so easily, Christ gets missed at Christmas. 

The world misses him out, of course—the miracle of the incarnation dismissed as a myth from an age long past. With typical prescience, C.S. Lewis foretold the transformation of the Christian festival of Christmas to the secular one of ‘Xmas’.

But it’s not just those ‘out there’ who leave Christ out. For one, how easy it is for children in Christian homes to leave him out, too. You don’t need to teach kids to focus on what they’ll get this year, rather than on what they have already been given, 2,000 years ago. They focus on themselves by their nature, and they are reinforced in that by our culture.

And then there’s each of us, too. I know I tend to reach January and think: But I never really focused on Christ this Christmas. December is just so busy, and before we know it Christmas is over and once more the message of the angels has been drowned out by the noise of Xmas.

Christmas can be the best of times, and it should be the best of times… but we need intentionality if we’re to make sure it is the best of times.

Intentional Proclamation

How to do that? It sounds so simple, but it is by proclaiming Christ: to ourselves, to our children, to our community.

The right question to ask in November, in order to make December the best it can be, is:

How will I intentionally proclaim Christ this Christmas?

If you have young children, one answer to that question is: The Christmas Promise, which fuses biblical faithfulness with fantastic illustrations. I read it to my two-year-old son last year—and he still remembers that Jesus is ‘the new king, the forever king, the rescuing king’. 

And if you have friends and family and colleagues and neighbor who don’t know Jesus—which is all of us—here’s another answer to that question: a short, warm, humorous and gospel-centered book that presents the gospel in a way that’s perfect for those who think they’ve heard it all before as well as with those who know they haven’t. That’s A Very Different Christmas, written by internationally renowned evangelist Rico Tice along with Nate Morgan Locke, which proclaims Christ by inviting readers into the Trinity’s heavenly ‘living room’ to exchange presents with him. 

The best way to appreciate the Christmas gospel this year is to share it—to give it to others as well as to receive it yourself. Whatever else you do this December, don’t let Christmas pass without intentionally proclaiming Christ—to yourself, to your children, to your community.

Carl Laferton is Senior Editor at The Good Book Company. He is co-author, with Rico Tice, of Honest Evangelism, and is married to Lizzie with two children, Benjamin and Abigail. He loves pretty much everything about Christmas apart from the pressure of finding a good present for his wife.

November 23, 2015

This sponsored post was prepared by Books at a Glance.

Books At a Glance is a Christian book summary service. We take the newest and most significant books that Christian publishers, such as Crossway, Zondervan, IVP, B&H, Baker, etc. publish, and then every week we take one or two of those books and condense them into a 7-10-page, chapter-by-chapter summary, so that you can learn the entire essence of the book in just the time it either takes you to read 7-10 pages…OR…listen to the AUDIO version of the summary. It’s really a HUGE time-saver!

Guess Who Else LOVES Books At a Glance?

Click HERE to Get a FREE Book Summary!

The consistent feedback that we get from our hundreds of members is that this service does two things for you: 1) it helps you learn MORE in LESS time, and 2) it really keeps you up-to-date with all the new books that keep coming out. As you know, it’s quite the undertaking to keep up with all the new books that keep coming out! (Fill out this form to join, save time, and keep current with the newest in Christian publications!)

Here’s What You’ll Experience:

As you’ll see, there are over a hundred book summaries in the archive, and what we’ll do is send you a new summary or two every week, so that you can continue your learning and continue to keep current with all the newest and best books coming out…in just a handful of minutes per week!

Do You Like Audio Books?

In addition to written book summaries, you’ll also get full access to the professionally-recorded audio book summaries as well! These are a word-for-word reading of exactly what you’d read on the website. Most people love this, because you’ll be able to listen to the book summaries while you’re working out, jogging, commuting, or otherwise just on-the-go. What a great time-saver!

Get Started Learning and Growing TODAY!

Go to http://booksataglance.com/register and register to receive your FREE book summary! If you’re frustrated that you can’t spend enough time reading and learning, then Books At a Glance will help you create the time you’ve been missing. If you’re struggling to keep up with all great new books being published, then Books At a Glance will help you stay on top of things much better. Lastly, if you’re serious about your spiritual growth through reading quality Christian books, then Books At a Glance just might be the tool or resource that you’ve been looking for!

Go to www.BooksAtaGlance.com to Get Started Today!

November 16, 2015

This sponsored post is provided by Dan Doriani and P&R Publishing.

Why are there so many books, especially books for men, that reduce the Christian life to a string of techniques and how-to lists?

The New Man Every man has seen a book that lists four steps for building lasting friendships, five techniques for raising obedient children, six essentials for effective workers, and seven ways to love your wife. I call this “Nike Christianity.” The mentality is, “Here are the rules; just do it.”

Our faith has rules, but the Christian life is more than rules and guidelines for good and godly living. What is more, because of our sinful nature we can’t “just do it.” That is why the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus are essential, if anyone is to have eternal life. When the Spirit unites us to Christ by faith, God remakes his people in the image of Christ. It’s our destiny to become more like Christ. That is the foundation of godly manhood.

Why do Christian writers reduce Christian living to lists and techniques? People like lists. They’re easy to create and they give the sense that progress is at hand. But in Scripture, renewed character drives progress in godliness.

How then do we approach godly manhood? Because character drives godliness, my book The New Man grounds manhood in God’s nature and his work of renewing us in his image.

  • Godly husbands follow Jesus’ pattern of sacrificial love.
  • Jesus’ love for his bride, the church, shows husbands how to love their wives.
  • Good fathers are like God, our Father. His love, justice, faithfulness, and loving discipline set the pattern for godly fathers.
  • The Bible doesn’t say much about God as friend, but what it says is consistent: God’s friendship with Abraham and Moses, and Jesus’ friendship with his disciples show that self-disclosure and helpful presence are central (John 15:13-15).
  • The incarnation and resurrection of Jesus teach us to value our bodies. As a carpenter and mason, Jesus had to be physically strong, and many heroes of the faith had physical strength and endurance. They teach us to do much better with physical self-discipline in food, sleep, and exercise.
  • At work, we like to be creative because God is Creator and therefore creative. When we work hard to finish an engrossing task, we also resemble Jesus, who said “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work” (John 4:34). Likewise God’s pattern of work and rest is the most basic structure for our use of time, one that liberates us to rest and play.

This approach liberates us from the soft legalism that says the disciple’s daily walk is primarily governed by rule keeping. God’s law is a gift, but not his only gift. By recognizing the centrality of God’s work of redeeming us and renewing us, heart, soul, mind, and strength, we put character and law where they belong. Who we are in Christ drives what we do. We also fix our eyes on Jesus, as Scripture says, knowing him as redeemer first, and also hero, friend, and exemplar.

I know that women read men’s books, often alongside a husband or friend, so let me say that this approach applies to women almost as much as men. God created humanity in his image and restored believers to that image, so everyone, male or female, should look to reflect God’s character at work, in marriage, as parents, as friends, and as stewards of our bodies.

My hope is that redeemed men and women will grow in grace and godliness, striving to live out the new identity we have in Christ. We can and should seek to heed God’s commands and especially to be conformed to the life of Christ. I also hope that men will take up the roles that are especially theirs as disciples, leaders, husbands, fathers, workers, and friends.

The New Man is available at Amazon and Westminster Books.

Dan Doriani is vice president of strategic academic projects and professor of theology at Covenant Theological Seminary. Previously he was senior pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton, Missouri.

Come hear Dan speak at The Faithful Shepherd Pastors’ Conference on May 9–11, 2016. For more details visit www.alliancenet.org/the-faithful-shepherd.

November 09, 2015

This sponsored post was prepared by Missional Wear.

Welcome to the 2015 Reformed Holiday Gift Guide. Are you looking for that perfect gift for the theologian in your life? We’ve got you covered with everything you’ll need to get them grinning ear to ear!

For over five years, Missional Wear has been producing reformed theology t-shirts and apparel. We also make fun stuff like John Calvin coffee mugs, Martin Luther pint glasses, Charles Spurgeon stickers, John Owen posters, and so much more.

As you are planning your list, here are a few ideas to get you started:

For Him

  • Apparel: It’s probably safe to get just about any tee from our huge collection - well over 100 designs. Skip the cheesy parody t-shirts and get him something he will proudly wear. A fail-proof choice is a custom tee with his favorite theologian on the front paired with a favorite quote on the back.
  • Pint glasses: No matter the beverage, a Five Solas pint will instantly become his favorite drinking vessel!

For Her

All of our apparel items are available for women too, but we also have other feminine favorites!

  • Wall decals: Easily decorate your home, office, or church with our wide selection of theology inspired wall decals, including our popular Soli Deo Gloria design. Paint and calligraphy classes not required!
  • Prints: Small and large prints fit in standard frames, making them a great quick gift.
  • Stationary: In spite of the convenience of technology, a hand-written note always trumps a text message! Send a note of encouragement or jot down devotional thoughts. Each page of these pads is sure to leave an impression.

Your Pastor

Don’€™t forget to show appreciation to your pastors and ministry leaders.

Reformed Greeting Cards

In a sea of cliché holiday cards, it can be challenging to find one that you really love. We made it our mission to change that and are excited to introduce the Soli Deo Gloria and Five Solas folded card sets. With a beautiful matte finish, printed on 130lb card stock, these cards are not only beautiful, but have a solid message. For a limited time you can get the 100 cards for the price of 50, so grab them while they are available.

Being Missional with Apparel

It is a lot of fun to wear our tees; however, we also view our product line as a tool for Christians to express their faith and engage in meaningful gospel conversations. A t-shirt may seem like an unlikely evangelistic tool, but customers send us a steady stream of encouraging testimonies on how their shirt created powerful opportunities to share the gospel. Wear one of our Greek tees and you will surely get people asking, “What does that on your shirt mean?” This one is based on Romans 1:16, and is a quick segue to sharing the gospel.

Go ahead, place an order this week, and remember at checkout to mark that you found us via Challies. When you do we will include a little extra surprise with your order!

November 02, 2015

This sponsored post was prepared by GradLime.

If you’re a pastor or nonprofit leader, you already know that you need to find a way to reach more people online. “Reaching people” can take many forms:

  • Increasing church attendance
  • Growing monthly giving
  • Serving the community
  • Expanding your donor base

… whatever the need is, you know that there’s got to be a way to meet it, and that it’s going to involve some degree of digital strategy. (Which is how I make a living.)

But we run into a problem. Too often, our online ministry efforts end up looking like this:

  1. We decide what we want people to do (give money, volunteer in the nursery, etc.)
  2. We use our online channels (like our website, email, and social media) to push people to do that.
  3. And … crickets.


Maybe we have online ministry backwards. By making our online communication all about what we want people to do instead of about how we can serve them, we’re gating our service. We train people to believe that in order to be served, they need to do what we ask.

But what if we first took our service to them?

Pastors: What if college students in your city found your student ministry blog so helpful that they made a point to visit every Sunday before exams?

NGO leaders: What if your “marketing” emails were so helpful that any time you sent a message to your list, your followers would reply to thank you? (This happens all the time for one of my clients.)

It’s possible, and here’s how …

It’s time for “content ministry.”

I’d like to share an approach that has been helping organizations do this for a while. It’s called “content ministry.” 

Content ministry = churches and nonprofits making online content that meets the same needs their “offline” ministries meet.

Content ministry serves first, and asks later. That can take a variety of forms:

Does it work?

After doing this for a while, my clients are actually finding that if you initiate relationships with generosity, the people you want to reach become more and more receptive to hearing from you. 

Case in point: when Disciplr (a tech arm for a nonprofit) sends a mass email, someone somewhere replies with a note thanking them for all the ebooks and blog posts they’ve shared.  

What if churches and Christian NGOs everywhere embraced content ministry?

How to start doing content ministry today:   

  1. Pick a ministry that you’d like to see grow. 
  2. Ask, “Whom can this help most, and how?”
  3. Now ask, “What problems or challenges is this person facing?” See if you can write down 10 ideas. 
  4. Pick just one of those problems, and write a solution for it. You can ask for help from your communications or marketing team, if writing’s not your forte. 
  5. At the end of that piece you’re writing, recommend your ministry (or product) as a way for people to get even more help. You can finish with something as simple as, “If you found this post helpful, you might enjoy [MINISTRY NAME].” 
  6. Publish it on your website. Then share a link to it via email and social media.
  7. Done. You’ve just started doing content ministry. Now keep it up!

And here’s the sales pitch …

… there is none.

Sure, the GradLime team would love to help you with a content ministry strategy (you can reach us here). But we’re pretty pricey. I’d rather share something that any leader reading this can put into action this week!

Jeffrey Kranz is CEO and co-founder of GradLime, a content strategy agency for Christian organizations. He and his wife Laura live in the Pacific Northwest, where they push the human limits of coffee intake and sunlight deprivation. 


October 26, 2015

This sponsored post was prepared by Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

For a number of years, the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) considered the advisability of adding to the growing number of professional theological journals.  Earlier this year, the faculty concluded that it was time to contribute in this arena.  With two editions already published and a third soon to be released, the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal reflects the unique nature of the ministry of the Seminary. 

JournalReaders will find this exclusively online journal to be both scholarly and pastoral in its content and approach, reflecting the tagline of RPTS, Study Under Pastors.  “We pray that this semiannual journal will be helpful to the church as we seek to raise up shepherds who feed the flock and minister to the souls of all who are under their care,” notes RPTS President, Dr. Jerry O’Neill.

Volume One, Issue One took up the topic of the “Law of God”, the subject of the Seminary’s Westminster Conference from the fall of 2014.  Topics include:

  • Dr. Jack Kinneer – “Is The Christian Under Law or Not Under Law?”
  • Professor Barry York – “The Law Leads Us to Christ: The Law and Its First Use.”
  • Dr. Rick Gamble – “The Second Use of the Law as Understood in the Westminster Assembly’s Scottish Context.”
  • Professor John Tweeddale – “The Gust of Gratitude and the Third Use of the Law.”
  • Dr. C. J. Williams – “The Heart of the Matter: Avoiding Legalism.”

Volume One, Issue Two reflects upon the unique calling of the New Testament church to make a radical difference in the world.  As President O’Neill notes, instead of turning the world upside down, the church turned the world right side up, a valid mission for Christians today.

  • Dr. Rick Gamble – “Critical Realism and the New Perspective.”
  • Professor Michael LeFebvre – “Theology and Economics in the Biblical Year of Jubilee.”
  • Professor Thomas Reid – “The Preface to the Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:1-2.”
  • Dr. C. J. Williams – “Good and Necessary Consequence in the Westminster Confession.”
  • Professor Barry York – “Trinitarianism in the Pastoral Theology of Gregory Nazianzen.”

Volume Two, Issue One will concentrate on the topic of Union with Christ, the focus of the Fall 2015 Westminster Conference at RPTS.

  • Dr. Rick Gamble – “Comprehending the Eternal Union of God.”
  • Dr. Jeffrey Stivason – “Living in an Abiding Relationship with Christ.”
  • Rev. Ken G. Smith – “Testimony”
  • Dr. C. J. Williams – “Communing with Christ in His Supper.”
  • Professor Mark Robinson – “Enjoying the Communion of the Saints.”
  • Professor Barry York – “Preparing for Our Heavenly Union with God.”

Access to the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal is at http://rpts.edu/alumni.html.  Look under “Resources”.

October 19, 2015

This sponsored post was prepared by John M. Frame.

HWPT Cover The history of philosophy (and of theology, which closely parallels it) is pretty exciting when you look at it through the lens of God’s Word. It challenges Christians today to resist the fashionable trends of secular thought, to resist temptations to compromise the truth for the sake of academic respectability. Living by faith in Jesus is important, not only in worship and moral living, but also in our intellectual decisions. That is my reason for writing my History of Western Philosophy and Theology, which I hope will encourage Christians to a bolder witness to thinking people of our day. 

Many writers today extol the value of storytelling, so my new book will tell a story about philosophy, of all things. This story takes seven radical turns that I call convulsions. Convulsions happen because philosophy is central to our lives. Philosophies express our heart commitments and apply those commitments to all areas of life. When our philosophy is disturbed, everything else is affected. That makes for a dramatic story.

Here are the convulsions: 

  1. Creation. When God brought out of nothing the world in all its splendor, the event was overwhelming and dazzling. And it was philosophical. When God made Adam, he gave him a philosophy that said that God was Lord and that mankind was made to think God’s thoughts after him. 
  2. The fall. But then a new convulsion turned this dazzling reality upside down. After the fall, Adam and Eve forsook God’s thoughts to think their own way—“autonomously.” They no longer accepted God’s thoughts as their law, and the whole creation fell under a curse, unwilling to accept easily the dominion of mankind. But God reached out to Adam and Eve in love and promised redemption. Sometimes they and their children lived by the promise, sometimes not, sometimes by a mixture of truth and lies. Their offspring gathered some of the best thoughts of mankind under the label wisdom. We have some of this wisdom in the Bible—in Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. 
  3. Greek philosophy. In Greece people who claimed to love wisdom, and therefore called themselves philosophers, set aside the wisdom of the wise men and the religious traditions and sought to understand the world by their own autonomous reason. Plato, Aristotle, and others wrote ingenious arguments, trying to locate ultimate truth in the abstract forms of human experience. But they failed to impose an autonomous rational scheme on a universe that they insisted was irrational chaos. 
  4. Jesus and the gospel. The preaching and teaching of early Christians had the potential to wrench the intellectual initiative from the Greek philosophers. But instead early Christian philosophers sought to gain intellectual respectability through compromises with Greek philosophers. This continued even into the medieval period when Christian philosophy dominated the West. 
  5. The Protestant Reformation. Luther, Calvin, and many others challenged Christian philosophers to turn away decisively from autonomous reasoning. But before the Reformers could make progress in philosophy, there was still another convulsion. 
  6. “Modern” philosophy. This thinking was marked by an autonomous secularism more radical than that of the Greek philosophers. In Europe, under the leadership of Descartes and others, it focused on human reason. In the English-speaking world, Locke and others proclaimed the authority of sense experience. This secularism continues to dominate academic philosophy down to our own day. 
  7. The final judgment. Imagine what will happen to earthly philosophy when Jesus comes again. In our own time, we see trends that anticipate much more consistently Christian ways of understanding the world, inviting us again to think God’s thoughts after him. This trend has the makings of a seventh historical convulsion, and of a new birth in philosophic insight.  

The story of philosophy should challenge both Christians and non-Christians to hear God’s Word as they develop their worldviews, for God’s Word teaches us how to think his thoughts. It also shows the importance of asking God for courage in what I call the “spiritual warfare in the life of the mind.” That warfare is not easy, as more and more cultural forces line up to marginalize the biblical view of the world. But God has promised us victory. In time, everyone will bow the knee as God brings every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 

Preorder A History of Western Philosophy and Theology at Amazon.com or go to Westminster Books to be notified when it is available.

John M. Frame (AB, Princeton University; BD, Westminster Theological Seminary; MA and MPhil, Yale University; DD, Belhaven College) is the J. D. Trimble Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and the author of many books, including the four-volume Theology of Lordship series.

October 12, 2015

President Obama was correct when he said the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision landed like a thunderbolt. The decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage nationwide, is indeed a watershed in our national life. Although a majority of Americans now support gay marriage, many of us regard this decision as a moral and judicial tragedy.

From a legal standpoint, it represents five unelected justices’ imposing on the nation a new definition of marriage. The judgment is not rooted in sound legal principle but in the opinions of five lawyers arrogating to themselves the right to enact social policy. The Supreme Court has no right to redefine marriage for all fifty states, but that is exactly what it did.

From a moral standpoint, the decision is a complete subversion of the good, the right, and the true with respect to marriage. Marriage is the covenant union of one man and one woman for life. Its connection to procreation and children has been revealed to us in nature, reason, and common sense. The Bible further reveals that marriage is an icon of the gospel—a symbol of Christ’s covenant love for His church (Eph. 5:31–32).Tabletalk

Special 6-month Tabletalk subscription for only $12.
Subscribe now and you’ll receive The Christian Sexual Ethic plus a bonus 7th issue. Upcoming issues include studies on apologetics and Christian contentment.

The court’s decision attempts to turn all of that upside down. As a result, it stands against reason and common sense. More importantly, it stands against the purposes of the One who created marriage to begin with (Gen. 2:24–25).

Although I am disappointed with this decision, I remain confident that Christians will continue to bear witness to the truth about marriage—even if the law of our land is now arrayed against us. Still, many Christians are left wondering how to move forward into this new reality.

I am a pastor, and this question is exactly what I have heard from the people in my church. Our members by and large don’t have questions about the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality and marriage. They get that. Nor do they have questions about their obligation to love their neighbors, to seek their good, and to be at peace with everyone (Mark 12:29–31; Luke 6:33; Rom. 12:18). They get all of that as well. Their question is how to live out what Jesus has called them to be when people treat them with hostility.

This excerpt is from Denny Burk’s contribution to the November issue of Tabletalk magazine. Click here to read it in full. Each month, Tabletalk features articles from trusted Christian authors and teachers, daily devotionals, and a companion digital edition. Subscribe now for our special 6-month offer and receive the complete November issue that explores The Christian Sexual Ethic as our gift to you plus 6 future issues (that’s 7 issues in total). Upcoming Tabletalk issues include studies on apologetics and Christian contentment. Subscribe now for $12.