Links I like

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Book deals for Christian readers

First, here’s a look at a whole bunch of Kindle deals:

Christian Audio’s free audiobook for January is Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, Morning and Evening. January’s free book for Logos Bible Software is The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: Genesis by Herbert Edward Ryle. You can also get A.T. Chapman’s Introduction to the Pentateuch for 99¢.

Finally, in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier, you’ll find a bunch of great resources, including:

  • Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Themes from Hebrews teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Acts by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Pillars of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke (ePub)

Predictions for 2015

Jonathan Howe has a few interesting ones here. I’m skeptical of the last one, though.

4 Reasons To Use Goodreads

Barnabas Piper:

It’s a new year, and that means lots of you have made resolutions, set goals, or planned ahead about what you’ll read this year. Of course the hardest part of any resolution or plan is following through. That’s why you should consider Goodreads. It’s not just another social media site; it’s a wonderful tool for any reader to discover new books and mark progress. Here are four features of Goodreads to help you meet your 2015 reading goals.

Lambs in the midst of wolves

Ray Ortlund:

There is a reason why the Lord said what he said in Luke 10:3.  Some people are wolf-ish.  They will never accept a minister of the gospel, because they do not love the Lord of the gospel.  They join our churches.  They even become leaders.  But their nature within is wolf-ish – hungry, cunning, attacking.

Some pastors reading this post are encircled by wolves.  My brother, here are three things to remember right now.

When We Grow Passionate in Prayer

Jonathan Parnell:

Every Christian wants a deeper life of prayer in this new year. Who, after the close of one year, looks back over the time in his closet and thinks, “Yeah, I’d better cut back on all the praying this next twelve months”? We all want to grow, to enjoy richer fellowship with God — the question, though, comes down to how we think it will happen. Might it mean that we pray more consistently? Absolutely. Might it mean that we intercede more for others? Most likely. Might it mean that our petitions are more passionate? Maybe, depending on what we mean by passionate praying.

Reflections On A Year With Richard Sibbes

Mike Leake:

When I started to read Richard Sibbes for this undertaking, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. The way he used English was quite foreign! I had actually not read him before when I began, which made this pretty interesting. I had no preconceived ideas or biases for or against him. After reading his work for a full year, I came away with a few reflections.

Looking back at 2014, looking ahead to 2015

2015

And that was 2014.

It was a pretty good year, overall, but not at all what I expected. Here are some of the things I’m particularly thankful for:

Our family remains healthy. The kids are super-fun and growing like weeds, and Emily’s about nine months without a full-blown seizure (only experiencing occasional periods of deja vu). This last thing in particular is a huge answer to prayer. Lord willing, the deja vu will reduce further and she’ll someday be able to think about pursuing driver’s education again.

Homeschooling has been a good move. The transition was interesting, but it’s worked. Our kids are working at levels appropriate for each of them, and we can already see where their strengths are and where they need a little extra help. The girls also play a lot better together these days, since Abigail’s getting enough sleep and isn’t entirely peopled out after a long day in public school.

Developing new skills. This year, I was able to branch out into a different sort of writing, including working on a new poverty curriculum for youth groups with my day job and writing a documentary, the recently released Through the Eyes of Spurgeon documentary (you can read about my reflections on that here). These were a lot of hard work, they turned out very well.

But the new year also promises to be very exciting, in a lot of ways. Here are three things I’m looking forward to:

Starting seminary. I’m just a few weeks away from starting my first course at Covenant Seminary, and I have no idea what to expect—both in terms of how much work it will actually be and what impact it will have on my schedule. But regardless, it’s going to be good to get started.

Continuing to pursue publishing. I’ve got a project I’ve been in discussions with a publisher for a while now. Whether the Lord provides the opportunity to move forward or not, we’ll see.

Being a first-time conference speaker. In February, I’ll be heading to Escondido, California, for TruthXchange’s 2015 Think Tank, Generational Lies, Timeless Truths, where I’ll be speaking on social justice and the notion of “deeds, not creeds.” I’m very excited and honored to be a part of this event, and hope you’ll register to attend (I’ll be sharing more on this again soon).

Beyond that, I’m really just excited to see what God does in our family’s lives, in our local church, and in our community in the coming year—no matter how ordinary or extraordinary it may be. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter how majestic or mundane the events of our lives appear to be; it doesn’t matter if we’re well-known or we live in obscurity. What matters is seeing how God grows us ever increasingly into the image of His Son, and in seeing the lost come to know Christ.

Beyond that, everything else is gravy, isn’t it?

A year of time-tested theology: the Bavinck reading plan

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The new year is nearly upon us, and this year I’m spending a great deal of time reading time-tested works of theology. The first work on the list? Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics.

Thanks to the tools in Logos 6, I’ve put together a reading plan for each volume. The goal is to complete read each volume over about five weeks, give or take. Here’s what the plan for volume one, Prolegomena, looks like:

  • January 1: Editor’s Introduction (optional)
  • January 2: Editor’s Introduction (optional) – Dogma, Dogmatics, and Theology
  • January 5: The Content of Theology – Apostles, Bishops, and the Return to Scripture
  • January 6: The Turn to the Subject – The Impact of Philosophy
  • January 7: The Foundation and Task of Prolegomena – Christian Theology and/ or Philosophy: Two Ways
  • January 8: Dogma and Theology in the East – Chapter 5: Lutheran Dogmatics
  • January 9: The Beginning of Lutheran Theology – The Beginnings of Reformed Theology
  • January 12: Reformed Scholasticism – Theological Prolegomena
  • January 13: Foundations of Thought – Objective and Subjective Religion
  • January 14: Piety and Worship – The Whole Person
  • January 15: The Origin of Religion – Nineteenth- Century “Recovery” of Revelation
  • January 16: Mediating Theology – Chapter 11: Special Revelation
  • January 19: Modes of Revelation – To Fallen Humanity
  • January 20: As Triune God – The Reformational View
  • January 21: Rationalistic Naturalism – The Witness of the New Testament
  • January 22: The Testimony of the Church – Differing Views of Inspiration
  • January 23: Organic Inspiration – Descriptive and Prescriptive Authority
  • January 26: Moral Authority Only? – The Conflict with Rome
  • January 27: Tradition and Papal Infallibility – Religion is Always Concrete
  • January 28: Theology’s Distinct Method – The Speculative Method
  • January 29: Triumph of Reason: Hegel – Albrecht Ritschl and Moral Religion
  • January 30: The Search for the Unity of Believing and Knowing – Two Kinds of Faith
  • February 2: Faith as Intellectual Assent – Scripture is Self-Authenticating
  • February 3: Divine and Human Logos – Faith’s Knowledge
  • February 4: Dogma and Greek Philosophy – end of volume one

A couple of things you might be wondering:

Why no weekends? I intentionally limited this to weekdays only for a couple of reasons. First, I want to make sure everyone who participates has time to adequately process what they’re reading each week. I don’t want anyone to just consume Reformed Dogmatics, I was to think about it. Second, I felt it important to build in some buffer. I don’t want anyone to get caught in is the “desperate catch up” trap if we get behind in our reading (which shouldn’t be an issue, but you never know).

Where are the page numbers? Each entry shows the section heads where we’ll be starting, rather than a page number as this is built using the editions available through Logos Bible Software. If you’re following along with a hard copy edition, it works out to reading roughly 30-ish pages a day.

How long will it take to read all four volumes? The way the plan is structured, we’ll have completed the four volumes by by May 19th. This is a fairly comfortable pace.

How can I get a copy of these plans? Copies of the plans for each volume are available in PDF format and for iCal. You can download the PDF versions here and the iCal version here.

Enjoy!

Links I like

Google got it wrong

Lindsey Kaufman laments the open-office workspace. Having worked in these spaces, I definitely share many of her frustrations.

You (Yes, You!) Should Consider Global Missions

Jason Carter:

Let’s not gloss or oversimplify the Great Commission into a metaphor for “going across the street” or “being bold for Jesus at the water cooler.” It’s so much more than that. It’s a global clarion call for disciples to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all nations.

In our good intentions to help people serve right where they are locally, let’s not stamp out the few remaining embers of fire in the local church for global missions.

Kara’s End

Kara Tippetts:

And now, now I’m learning what it is to die by degrees. Parts of my body failing, parts of my abilities vanishing, and what then? Yesterday, I kept thinking- I drove for the last time and didn’t realize it was the last time. I don’t remember the last time in the drivers seat or the music we played.  I just realized I will likely never again drive. It’s this weird event that marks the fading of a life, and I have no feeling other than wonder over the fact that it’s over. That chapter. All the driving my body can no longer do will now be captured by my community, my loves, my people. And there will be other strengths that will languish, and my people will press into love and provide us the needed strength and support to manage that new edge.

Shallow and narrow

Jeremy Walker:

I am not saying that we should indulge an appetite for pap or an itch for poison. Less mature readers usually need safer boundaries than more mature readers. But even the less mature could and should read beyond the hackneyed round of a few religious gurus. All should read those books which – without ever going outside the bounds of substantial orthodoxy – push us to think in ways we never otherwise would. Those starting out need to get into a groove, not drop into a pit. For most of us, it does us good to be stretched, challenged, engaged, taken out of our depth. If we are well-grounded in the faith, such a process can helpfully stir us, exercise us and ultimately strengthen us.

3 ways not to use Greek in Bible study

Justin Dillehay:

I’m not saying that Greek word studies are bad, or totally unnecessary (after all, we are not native Greek speakers). But unless you do them properly, they’ll simply give you the illusion of knowing something when you really don’t. Most of the time you’ll do better to simply compare a number of solid translations like the NASB, ESV, NIV, and NLT. After all, the people who translated these Bible versions understand Greek far better than you or I ever will. So don’t throw away their expertise. And as you read, pay attention to the context. An ounce of good contextual analysis is worth a pound of poorly done Greek word studies.

Evangelicals’ favorite heresies

You may have already seen this, but it’s pretty disturbing as “most American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church.”

C.S. Lewis is coming to Logos

Sign up here to learn about pre-pub offers as they become available.

Why Do We Blame the World for Being the World?

Jim Hislop:

The implication—what else should you expect? We expect someone who professes to be a follower of Jesus to act like a follower of Jesus, but too many followers of Jesus expect those who are not to also act like followers of Jesus. Jesus never did, why do we?

Breaking out of the reading rut (the re-read recap)

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At the end of 2013, I shared about a project I was undertaking to diversify my reading a little more in 2014—reading at least one book a month that I’d read and enjoyed in the past. This week, I’m finishing up the last book of this endeavor, Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.

In a lot of ways, this wasn’t a major challenge, at least when it comes to quantity of reading. The challenge came as I continued to read more recently released titles, and found myself less feeling kind of… meh.

I realized my reading habits had become a bit boring.

There wasn’t a lot of risk. Many of the books I enjoyed, I was fairly certain I’d enjoy before I finished the first chapter—and often, before I’d turned to the first page. The authors are trustworthy and reliable, and I therefore knew what to expect. But I found the same issue crop up with the books I didn’t particularly enjoy, too. Not that I was intentionally pre-judging, but that there wasn’t really anything that surprised me. The arguments were predictable in most cases, and often far too easy to refute.

But even going back a few years to Why We Love the Church, and Why We’re Not Emergent before it, I remembered reading these with a sense that there was some risk in writing and publishing these titles. Writing critique books that don’t come across as crabby or needlessly divisive is difficult, to say the least. Being willing to call a spade a spade, or in these books’ case, the trajectory of the emergent movements and churchless Christianity cuckoo for Coco Puffs… Well, that takes some guts, especially at a time when many of the major publishers were supporting and profiting from the message.

And moving back further in time, to a book like The Screwtape Letters, there’s risk involved in the book’s concept itself. For C.S. Lewis to write from the perspective of a senior demon to a junior one, as those plotting to cause a Christian to stumble… It’s a clever idea that, in the hands of a lesser writer, would have completely and utterly failed.

Many of the other books I read had much the same kind of feel to them—there was a freshness that comes from an author trying to do something interesting or different (though rarely coming across as trying to be s0). I didn’t get that same sense from many of the more recent books I read, which is a shame. And when that’s missing, after a while, it’s easy to get bored. Going back to older books is helping me shake off my reading rut—and more importantly, reminding me why I love about reading good books.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H’s sale on their New American Commentary series continues through January 5th. Add these to your library for $4.99 each:

Logos users will want to take advantage of a $20 credit on one order before December 31st. Use coupon code FAITHLIFE-GIFT at checkout.

Gospel + safety + time

I loved reading this post from Ray Ortlund.

Burn Your Bible College Degree

D.L. Mayfield:

I was lucky; I worked 30-plus hours a week doing retail sales while going to school full time, and I lived off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and moved back in with my parents. I graduated magna cum laude, with no financial debt. I was the minority, however. As of 2014, the average amount of debt a student leaves college with is $28,000. While this might be a workable financial constraint for many, it can prove crippling to the very students that Bible colleges cater to—those who want to minister, either as pastors or teachers or overseas missionaries. Without more marketable skills, the vast majority of my classmates (including myself), made lattes with our bachelor’s degrees, treading water until our real life of paid ministry could begin. We had read our Bibles; we were ready to go out and change the world.

But how?

The secret life of Albert Einstein

Allan Levine:

When he was not theorizing about gravity and the speed of light, what occupied a genius like Albert Einstein? Now we know.

In 1955, following Einstein’s death at the age of 76, his voluminous scientific and personal papers were donated to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which he helped found in 1918. That gift led to the establishment of the university’s Albert Einstein Archives. This month, a joint project between Hebrew University and Princeton University — where Einstein lectured after he fled Nazi Germany and came to the United States in 1933 — and the California Institute of Technology has published thousands of Einstein’s letters and papers online at http://einsteinpapers.press.princeton.edu/. The documents, which also have been translated from German into English, provide a fascinating insight into one of the most unique minds in modern history.

Is the Reformation still relevant today?

Thaddeus Williams:

I would argue that the biggest problem in the church today is that many of us have too small a view of who God is. We have shrunk an infinite being. We have diminished His glory and put Him into very small and manageable boxes. This ignores the objectively there God altogether to the point that He becomes (to us) just a projection of what we think He is like, what we feel He should be like.

 R C Sproul’s Second Conversion

Interesting article from David Murray.

11 books I want to read 2015

This year, I have a feeling my reading is going to look a lot different. I’ll be doing a bunch of reading for my courses at Covenant Seminary, and I’m spending a good chunk of the year reading time-tested works of theology. But even so, there are some new books coming out I’m genuinely excited about. Here are a few of the ones I’m most looking forward to reading in 2015:

Good News About Satan by Bob Bevington (Cruciform Press).

Most books on Satan are pretty… well, crazy. But, this one “walks the reader through the plain teachings of Scripture regarding Satan, demons, and spiritual warfare, at all times from an explicitly gospel-centered perspective that exalts the sovereignty of God and the finished work of Christ as paramount. Because of this focus, the book, while treating our enemy soberly and seriously, is devoid of the unfruitful speculations and illegitimate extrapolations so common to this topic.”

Can’t go wrong with a book that’s sticking strictly to Scripture, huh?


The ISIS Crisis by Charles Dyer and Mark Tobey (Moody Publishers)

I’m hopeful this book will be helpful for many seeking to make sense of what’s going on in the Middle East (and increasingly touching us here in the West):

ISIS—a name that inspires fear, a group that is gaining momentum. Horrors unheard of are plaguing the Middle East, and ISIS may be the responsible for the worst among them. And yet there is so much we don’t know about ISIS.… Drawing from history, current events, and biblical prophecy, they guide readers through the matrix of conflicts in the Middle East. Then they explore the role of ISIS in all of these matters. Finally, they encourage Christians to look to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.


Fear and Faith by Trillia Newbell (Moody Publishers)

Trillia’s tackling a subject that hits close to home with many people I know in this one:

In Fear and Faith, we will look our fears in the face, name their root cause, and learn together how to lean on the One who we can and should trust. Fear has a way of whispering lies to our souls about who God is. But the Lord is better and through exploring what the Word says about our sovereign, good, and loving God, we can learn to rest in His ever-open arms. Ultimately we fight fear by trusting in the Lord and fearing Him.


Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down by Tony Merida (B&H Publishing Group)

I’m glad there are more books coming out like this:

Ordinary is not a call to be more radical. If anything, it is a call to the contrary. The kingdom of God isn’t coming with light shows, and shock and awe, but with lowly acts of service. Tony Merida wants to push back against sensationalism and “rock star Christianity,” and help people understand that they can make a powerful impact by practicing ordinary Christianity.

Through things such as humble acts of service, neighbor love, and hospitality, Christians can shake the foundations of the culture. In order to see things happen that have never happened before, Christians must to do what Christians have always done­. Christians need to become more ordinary.


The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler with Jared C. Wilson (David C. Cook)

I’m looking forward to seeing how this differs from the hyper-sexualized approach of his contemporaries:

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.


Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send by J.D. Greear (Zondervan)

If this is as good as it sounds from the description, it might be the best book on ministry in ages:

Though many churches focus time and energy on attracting people and counting numbers, the real mission of the church isn’t how many people you can gather. It’s about training up disciples and then sending them out. The true measure of success for a church should be its sending capacity, not its seating capacity.… In Gaining By Losing, J.D. Greear unpacks ten plumb lines that you can use to reorient your church’s priorities around God’s mission to reach a lost world. The good news is that you don’t need to choose between gathering or sending. Effective churches can, and must, do both.


The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World by David Murray (Thomas Nelson)

This could be really great:

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 Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo by Jared C. Wilson (Crossway)

Whenever Wilson writes on church ministry, I pay attention. So should you:

Pastors want to reach the lost with the good news of Jesus. However, we’ve too often assumed this requires loud music, flashy lights, and skinny jeans. In this gentle manifesto, Jared Wilson—a pastor who knows what it’s like to serve in a large attractional church—challenges pastors to reconsider their priorities when it comes to how they “do church” and reach people in their communities. Writing with the grace and kindness of a trusted friend, Wilson encourages pastors to reexamine the Bible’s teaching, not simply return to a traditional model for tradition’s sake. He then sets forth an alternative to both the attractional and the traditional models: an explicitly biblical approach that is gospel focused, grace based, and fruit oriented.


What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung (Crossway)

There have been a lot of really great books out on this subject, but I’m looking forward to seeing what DeYoung adds:

In just a few short years, massive shifts in public opinion have radically reshaped society’s views on homosexuality. Feeling the pressure to forsake long-held beliefs about sex and marriage, some argue that Christians have historically misunderstood the Bible’s teaching on this issue. But does this approach do justice to what the Bible really teaches about homosexuality? … Examining key biblical passages in both the Old and New Testaments and the Bible’s overarching teaching regarding sexuality, DeYoung responds to popular objections raised by Christians and non-Christians alike—offering readers an indispensable resource for thinking through one of the most pressing issues of our day.


Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate,and Commissioned Church by Collin Hansen (Crossway)

Christians talk a lot about church unity. Unfortunately, however, God’s people are often better known for their divisions and disagreements than for a common commitment to the gospel. At the root of this disunity are the blind spots that prevent us from seeing other points of view and reevaluating our own perspectives. In this provocative book, Collin Hansen challenges Christians from various “camps” to view their differences as opportunities to more effectively engage a needy world with the love of Christ. Highlighting the diversity of thought, experience, and personality that God has given to his people, this book lays the foundation for a new generation of Christians eager to cultivate a courageous, compassionate, and commissioned church.


Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God by Joe Thorn (Crossway)

This might be the book I’m most looking forward to of all:

For Christians, there is only one simple yet profound answer: turn to the triune God. Born out of lessons learned during one of the most spiritually challenging periods of his life, Experiencing the Trinity by pastor Joe Thorn contains 50 down-to-earth meditations on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Overflowing with scriptural truth, pastoral wisdom, and personal honesty, this book reflects on common experiences of doubt, fear, and temptation—pointing readers to the grace that God provides and the strength that he promises.


Those are a few of the titles I’m looking forward to in 2015. What about you?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

What Is Your Bible-Reading Plan for 2015?

Tim Challies rounds up a number of really great Bible reading plans for the coming year.

Social Media Fruit of the Spirit

Aaron Earls:

One of the most unfortunate, but telling aspects of social media is the way many Christians use it with no concern for how it reflects on them or their Savior.

Many believe (wrongly) as long as they speak the truth, nothing else matters—even, especially, when talking to or about other Christians.

However, Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:15 that we keep unity within the body of believers by not just speaking truth, but by doing so in love.

5 trends that will shape 2015

Josh Linkner at Forbes has a few interesting ideas about trends we’ll see in the business world in the coming year. I’m skeptical on the last one, though.

Don’t Get Too Familiar with the Bible

Peter Krol:

Unexamined familiarity will prevent you from looking at the Book. Because such familiarity crowds out curiosity, it imperceptibly stiffens necks, hardens hearts, and deafens ears. Familiarity may lead us to assume things that are not in the text, and it may blind us to things that are.

Why You Should Read Bavinck

Derek Rishmawy:

This past January I embarked on a Saturday reading plan of the Dogmatics. Now roughly halfway through the fourth volume and on track to complete the set by the end of December, I can safely say this is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my theological life. Bavinck’s accomplishment in the Dogmatics is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The expansive, nuanced, and deeply trinitarian theological vision is both intellectually challenging and spiritually nourishing. I anticipate turning to these volumes regularly in the years to come.

I’d like to offer up six reasons you ought to consider picking up the Dogmatics and working through them yourself.

No kingdom builders or co-redeemers required

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My day job exposes me to a great deal of literature and communication from “activist” Christians—folks who are very (VERY) heavily concerned with social injustices, sex trafficking, poverty alleviation, and other causes (which, y’know, we should be concerned about). However, whenever I read books coming from this group, or written by people trying to appeal to them, I get a little squeamish about the language used, which usually sounds something like this:

We’re to be world-changers, partnering with God in redeeming this broken world and building his kingdom. 

But if that’s true… why doesn’t it ring true to what the Bible says?

Kevin DeYoung helpfully puts words to my awkward feelings about this in Why We Love the Church. There, he writes:

We need to be careful about our language. I think I know what people mean when they talk about redeeming the culture or partnering with God in His redemption of the world, but we should really pick another word. Redemption has already been accomplished on the cross. We are not co-redeemers of anything. We are called to serve, bear witness, proclaim, love, do good to everyone, and adorn the gospel with good deeds, but we are not partners in God’s work of redemption.

Similarly, there is no language in Scripture about Christians building the kingdom. The New Testament, in talking about the kingdom, uses words like enter, seek, announce, see, receive, look, come into, and inherit. Do a word search and see for yourself. We are given the kingdom and brought into the kingdom. We testify about it, pray for it to come, and by faith, it belongs to us. But in the New Testament, we are never the ones who bring the kingdom. We receive it, enter it, and are given it as a gift. It is our inheritance. It’s no coincidence that “entering” and “inheriting” are two of the common verbs associated with the Promised Land in the Old Testament (see Deut. 4:1; 6:18; 16:20). The kingdom grows to be sure, and no doubt God causes it to grow by employing means (like Christians), but we are never told to create, expand, or usher in the kingdom just as the Israelites were not commanded to establish Canaan. Pray for the kingdom, yes, but not build it. (49)

This, I think, is something we need to remember.

When I see people running around trying to be world-changers, all I see are people running themselves into the ground. Before too long, they’re completely frazzled; burnt out. It’s a burden that’s too much for them to bear.

Fortunately, God’s never asked us to be world-changers. Instead, he encourages us to enter into Jesus’ rest, and be thankful for what has been provided today. To trust him with the needs of tomorrow. And to do the work he calls us to—which, yes, does include social action—not in order to build our inheritance, but as those secure in the goodness of its Builder.


Photo credit: justinbaeder via photopin cc

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few for the history buffs among you (thanks to Tim Challies for the head’s up on these):

And finally, several editions in B&H’s New American Commentary Studies on sale for $4.99 each:

On Newsweek’s desperate swipe at the Bible

Michael Kruger responds to this fairly awful article at Newsweek.

Is your church functionally liberal?

Ray Ortlund:

The liberal churches I’ve known are not openly hostile to the Bible.  They like the Bible.  They want their preacher to use the Bible.  They have home Bible studies.  What makes them “liberal” is that the Bible alone is not what rules them.  They allow into their doctrine, their ethos, their decisions, other complicating factors.  The Bible is revered, in a way.  But it is not the decisive factor.  It is only one voice among others.

The Time Is Ripe for Radical Generosity

Dan Olson:

Today we pray for revival, but are we living lives of radical generosity in the same manner that our forbears did? Put another way, is true revival stifled by our comfort and affluence?

When I describe radical generosity, I’m talking about joyfully giving all of one’s time, talent, and treasures for the sake of God’s kingdom and a heavenly reward, without expecting any (earthly) return on investment.

You Ask Not Because You Have Received Not

Lore Ferguson:

When I was young I asked for something specific from my parents. They were always generous parents, as generous as they could be in a family of ten. But in this they said no, that one of my younger brothers would be the recipient first for various reasons. But then that same brother died in a sudden accident and our world shattered in every direction. No one was thinking of promises made to children, we were all just trying to survive the catastrophic blow that kept on beating us from every side. Not until a friend asked me this year did I realize I still carry with me a post-traumatic-stress from those few years. I encased myself in getting through it, being strong, protecting my youngest siblings, protecting myself, most days just surviving. My dead brother would never receive the gift, but I would also never receive the gift, because who thinks of gifts when the ground is coming apart around you?

My favorite books to review in 2014

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Recently, I shared some of my favorite books to read in 2014 (many of which I reviewed). Today, I want to share a few of my favorite books to review.

These are not all books I enjoyed, nor are they all books I’d recommend you read yourself. But all were books that challenged me in some way as I tried to figure out how to best review them, whether because of disagreements with the content or because the genre was something I’d never tackled before.

So, with that in mind, here are the reviews I most enjoyed writing in 2014:

Rising Above a Toxic Workplace by Gary Chapman, Paul White, and Harold Myra

Why’d it make the cut? Business books in general are pretty tough to review. And this one was especially tricky given the content of the book, and avoiding speaking ill of others.

You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan

Why’d it make the cut? This was fun to review simply because it wasn’t a typical marriage book—since it isn’t really a book about marriage.

Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick

Why’d it make the cut? Because writing anything that remotely resembles a balanced review of a book by someone as polarizing as Furtick is nigh-on impossible. (Read the review at TGC.)

Why We’re Not Emergent by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck.

Why’d it make the cut? Okay, this wasn’t a review in my traditional style. However, reading the book again after several years away from it, it was fun to see what would still be relevant in it today. Apparently, quite a bit.

Is it My Fault? by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

Why’d it make the cut? There was a lot that hit close to home reading and reviewing this one, which made both a lot more challenging than I anticipated.

The Adam Quest by Tim Stafford

Why’d it make the cut? While last year’s Mapping the Origins Debate was a good—if a bit stuffy—take on the origins debate, this book was all about the people behind the views. We often leave out the human factor in these debates, but it is absolutely necessary if we intend to have meaningful discussion with those holding differing views.

Invest by Sutton Turner

Why’d it make the cut? In some ways, this was even harder to review than Driscoll’s A Call to Resurgence, the book that spurred the events that ultimately brought an end to Mars Hill Church. Why? Because it was, ultimately, a book about turning your senior pastor into a celebrity, rather than making much about Jesus.

The Gospel Transformation Bible

Why’d it make the cut? Because it’s a BIBLE.

Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke

Why’d it make the cut? Bethke’s youth—both in age and experience in the faith—shines in the book, for better and worse. The entire time I read this book, and as I reviewed it, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was really the right time for him to have written this. It’s not bad, but his strongest ideas are heavily borrowed from others.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Amazon’s also got a whole pile of Kindle books on sale for $2.99 or less right now.  And be sure to also check out $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of books and resources on sale, including the ePub editions of Gospel Wakefulness and How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home.

Our Obligation to the Unreached

David Platt:

Well over one hundred years ago, a single missionary named Lottie Moon, serving in China, began writing letters challenging the church back here to send and support more workers to go there. After her death on the field, her challenge was heeded in the formalization of an offering in her name. Even if you’re not a Southern Baptist who has given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, her life is a reminder of why we must give to send and support missionaries serving among unreached peoples in unreached places.

But my aim is to show you not simply why we must give, but also why we must go . . . however, whenever, and wherever God leads.

Leery Chinese officials target county’s thriving Christian communities

Two days before Christmas, members of a rural Christian congregation in the eastern city of Wenzhou welded some pieces of metal into a cross and hoisted it onto the top of their worship hall to replace one that was forcibly removed in October.

Within an hour, township officials and uniformed men barged onto the church ground and tore down the cross.

The Best Is Yet to Come

David Baggett:

Recently I read an article about C. S. Lewis in which the writer suggested that part of Lewis’s enduring appeal is that he never lost his wide-eyed wonder and playful childlikeness in his work. It made his eyes twinkle and the Oxford don’s writing dance and sing. I suspect that’s right. G. K. Chesterton once wrote that God “has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” This makes me sad indeed, though, when childhood has to be left behind and downright tragic when childhood isn’t what it was meant to be in the first place.

A Year With Newton Reading Plan

Mike Leake shares his January’s reading plan for his upcoming year reading through the works of John Newton.

Canadian doctors preparing for ‘all eventualities’ in case top court strikes down ban on assisted suicide

This is a story to watch.

success and suffering

“Success and suffering will either darken your heart or make you wise, but they won’t leave you where you were.”—Timothy Keller

Our Lord and God, our brother and friend

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Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.—Isaiah 7:14

Let us to-day go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi, let us see him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in him, and can sing, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Jesus is Jehovah incarnate, our Lord and our God, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire. Let us notice at the very first glance his miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son. The first promise ran thus, “The seed of the woman,” not the offspring of the man. Since venturous woman led the way in the sin which brought forth Paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise. Our Saviour, although truly man, was as to his human nature the Holy One of God. Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to manhood its ancient glory; and let us pray that he may be formed in us, the hope of glory. Fail not to note his humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as “a virgin,” not a princess, or prophetess, nor a matron of large estate. True the blood of kings ran in her veins; nor was her mind a weak and untaught one, for she could sing most sweetly a song of praise; but yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she stood affianced, and how miserable the accommodation afforded to the new-born King!

Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendour.


Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening (Photo via Lightstock)

Christmas specials and me

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I have a confession: I’m not a big fan of Christmas specials, movies or very special episodes of our favorite sitcoms. It’s rare for me to enjoy a Christmas special in general. Every once in a while, I hear about a special or movie I should check out… but I never do. Here are a couple:

1. Elf

This came out when I was still trying to figure out if I actually enjoyed Will Ferrell or not. Sometimes I’m still trying to figure that out, actually. But when I saw the trailers for it years ago, it just didn’t look all that interesting. Am I wrong?

2. It’s a Wonderful Life

Yeah, I know. This is one of those “how could you not have seen it??” films. But here I am, having never seen it. Nor do I plan to.

And then there are the “classics” I’ve seen and really, really hate. Here are two of those:

1. Home Alone

Seriously. This movie is everything that is wrong with an entire generation.

2. Jingle All the Way

No… just, no.

However, lest you think I am a complete Scrooge, there are a few I genuinely enjoy. Here are two:

1. A Muppet Christmas Carol

This is one of my favorite takes on Dickens’ classic story. Michael Caine is wonderful in this.

2. Die Hard

Second-most violent Christmas movie ever made (behind Home Alone):

 

Honorable mention: Community—“Regional Holiday Music”

Glee parodies + Jehovah’s Witnesses + Christmas = the greatest espionage story ever rapped.


Photo credit: katiescrapbooklady via photopin cc