New Easter devotional: The Last Days of Jesus

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The events of Easter are among the most important in the Christian faith—the death and resurrection of Jesus, which brought about the end of our separation from God and gave those who believe the promise of new life!

To help Christians prepare to celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death, I’ve written a new devotional in partnership with Compassion Canada,1 The last days of Jesus: eight readings through the death and resurrection of Jesus.


Download the devotional


There are a couple of ways you can read these devotionals:

  1. Download the PDF and read at home (print it out or view it on your eReader).
  2. Visit here or at compassion.ca from April 13–April 20, 2014, to read the latest entry.

I pray these devotional readings will be a blessing to all who read them as you prepare your hearts to celebrate the good news of Easter. Enjoy!

Leland Ryken wants to help you study The Pilgrim’s Progress

Last week I invited you all to read The Pilgrim’s Progress with me starting in March. Today, in partnership with my friends at Crossway, I’m giving away two copies of Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress from their Christian Guides to the Classics series by Leland Ryken (which, incidentally, officially releases today!).

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In each book in this series, literary expert Ryken takes readers through some of history’s greatest literature while answering anticipated questions along the way. Each book:1

  • Includes an introduction to the author and work
  • Explains the cultural context
  • Incorporates published criticism
  • Defines key literary terms
  • Contains discussion questions at the end of each unit of the text
  • Lists resources for further study
  • Evaluates the classic text from a Christian worldview

In this volume, Ryken leads readers through John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, offering insights into the nature of faith, the reality of temptation, and the glory of salvation.

Ryken’s volume is sure to be an excellent resource to all of us during our community reading project. To enter, sign up using the handy-dandy PunchTab app. The contest closes tonight at midnight. Enjoy!

I’m giving you a whole pile of books for Christmas!

One of the things I’m most grateful for about this blog is the opportunity to share great books with you—and this Christmas, I have the privilege of giving some of you a ridiculous pile of great books! In partnership with the fine folks at Crossway Books, David C. Cook, Thomas Nelson, B&H Books, and Cruciform Press, I’m giving away a whole pile of books (keep reading for the complete list). But there’s more than books this time around—Logos Bible Software has generously included three copies of the Logos 5 starter base package, featuring nearly 200 books! You’ll need to sign up for a free Logos account in order to win (which you can do here); you can also download free apps to read your books on any device here. Here’s a look at all the books in this year’s prize pack:1

… and don’t be surprised if you see some more items added to the list before the giveaway is through! Best of all, three of you will be receiving this fantastic collection of books! You read that right—there are three sets to win. To enter, all you need to do is use the PunchTab widget below and answer the following question in the comments: What’s the big thing God’s been teaching you in 2013?

This contest ends on Friday, December 20th at midnight. Thanks to all who enter!

One final note: Logos Bible Software would like to send a special thank you to all participants who enter using the email entry option in the Punch Tab app (nothing spammy, I promise!). As a thank you from Logos, you’ll receive a discount on the purchase of several titles, including To Live is Christ To Die is Gain for $14.95 (regular $16.95), and 15 percent off both The Pursuit of God and Spiritual Waypoints.

What’s your small group story?

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Today’s post is by Ben Reed. Ben is the small groups pastor at Long Hollow, a multi-site church in the Nashville, TN area. In addition to pastoring, preaching, and writing, Ben has a great passion for coffee. Good coffee, that is. And CrossFit. But not at the same time. You can journey along with Ben at BenReed.net and learn more about his new book, Starting Small, at smallgroupblueprint.com.


Nobody ever stated it outright, but the way our local church was structured growing up made me feel like the Sunday morning experience was the most important aspect of my walk with Jesus. Maybe it was self-imposed, but I felt like if I missed a Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon, Tuesday evening, Wednesday evening, or the random youth trip, I’d be smote. Or smoten? Or smitten? No… that’s something else entirely.

It’s easy for churches to slide into this mindset, because whether you like it or not, Sunday morning is coming. It doesn’t matter what kind of dreaming, strategic planning, or structural work you do throughout the week. If you don’t prepare for Sunday you’ll fall flat on your face.

So you dump more time. More resources. More energy. More staff. More planning. Into ensuring Sunday morning is air-tight.

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Don’t get me wrong, corporate worship is vital to our faith. It’s an environment that corrects, teaches, energizes, and worships Jesus.

But without relational connection, The Church isn’t the Church. At best, it’s a show. At worst, it’s a complete waste of our time, energy, and resources.

You and I are the Church. Not the buildings we build. Not the walls we construct. Not the pews we sit in.

The Church exists outside the four walls of our church buildings. You know that, right?

That’s why I wrote Starting Small. To promote small group health. To lay out a strategy for starting small groups, no matter the size of your church. No matter the location. No matter the demographics.

And to help small groups become more effective disciple-makers.

I’ve told my story through group life, failures and all, to help build healthy, authentic, biblical, God-honoring small groups around the world.

What’s your small group story?


Ben has kindly offered two copies of his new book, Starting Small, to give away to readers here. How do you win? Simple: share your small group story—what have you loved; what’s been most challenging? Ben will pick his two favorite answers at the end of the day Wednesday. Winners will be notified by email. 

I’m giving away a personal library!

Summer’s nearly done, the school year is gearing up again, and I want to help you kick off the fall right. That’s why I’m giving away over 20 books in partnership with my friends at Zondervan, Crossway, Moody Publishers, Cruciform Press, the Good Book Company, B&H Publishing, Thomas Nelson and more.

Here’s the full list:

  1. New addition: Grounded in the Faith by Kenneth Erisman (added 8/21)
  2. New addition: Gray Matters by Brett McCracken (added 8/21)
  3. Jesus on Every Page by David Murray (added 8/19)
  4. Finally Free by Heath Lambert
  5. The Pastor’s Family by Brian and Cara Croft
  6. Insourcing by Randy Pope
  7. Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars by Stephen Miller
  8. The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson
  9. The Surprising Grace of Disappointment by John Koessler
  10. Good News to the Poor by Tim Chester
  11. The Pastor’s Justification by Jared C. Wilson
  12. Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
  13. Housewife Theologian by Aimee Byrd
  14. Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life by Michael Kelley
  15. Death by Living by N.D. Wilson
  16. Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax
  17. Judges for You by Tim Keller
  18. Judges: the Flawed and the Flawless (companion study guide) by Tim Keller
  19. Galatians for You by Tim Keller
  20. Galatians: Gospel Matters (companion study guide) by Tim Keller
  21. Christ in the Chaos by Kimm Crandall
  22. Modest by R W Glenn and Tim Challies
  23. Broken Vows by John Greco
  24. The Organized Heart by Staci Eastin
  25. Kingdom Come by Sam Storms (continental US only)
  26. A Neglected Grace by Jason Helopoulos (continental US only)

And don’t be surprised if you see a few extra titles added before this giveaway is done.

Enter using the handy-dandy Punchtab tool below (RSS readers, you’ll need to click through to enter).

The contest closes on August 23rd at midnight. Enjoy!

Torn to Heal: 5 questions (+ a giveaway) with Mike Leake

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Another book on suffering?

It’s so easy to write off books on this subject, especially when so many are already in print (both good and bad). But Torn to Heal: God’s Good Purpose in Suffering isn’t one to ignore.

While our culture does its best to insulate us from pain and suffering, God wants us to embrace it for his glory. Mike Leake gets that and in this book, he encourages us to face suffering not with stoic disinterest or dualistic defeatism, but with the redemptive purposes of Christ in view.

Over the last couple years I’ve gotten to know Mike thanks to the wonders of technology. He’s the associate pastor at the First Baptist Church of Jasper, Indiana, has two young kids, is pursuing his M.Div from Southern Seminary and writes a great blog at MikeLeake.net.

Mike recently took a few minutes to answer some questions about the Torn to Heal, why he wrote it and how he hopes it will be a help to readers.

And keep reading to see how you can win a copy of this terrific new book.


1. What made you want to write a book on suffering?

In one sense I’ve been writing this book for years. As I’ve battled my own periods of darkness, developing a theology of suffering has been a necessity. I’ve also witnessed the truth of 2 Corinthians 1:4 first hand. As the Lord has brought comfort and healing to me I have been able to point others to the same fountain that has given life to me. On the other hand, I’ve also witnessed believers get slaughtered by unhealthy views of suffering. I believe John Piper is correct “wimpy Christians will not survive the days to come”. A robust theology of suffering is necessary.

2. Do we really need another book on suffering? What makes this one unique?

As I mentioned above I believe a sound theology of suffering is needed for everyday believers. The best book that I have read on suffering is How Long O Lord? by D.A. Carson. It’s a superb treatment of the topic of suffering. Yet if I’m being honest most people in my congregation would feel overwhelmed reading it. My hope is that Torn to Heal will give the same robust theology of suffering but in a more accessible manner.

3. In the book, you suggest that most of us view suffering from the perspective of dualism or stoicism. How does the way we view suffering affect how we approach trial?

If you view suffering from the perspective of a dualist you will avoid suffering at all cost. Yet if it’s true that this is one of the primary means that the Lord uses to bring us into conformity with Christ, we will be fighting against God’s good purpose for our lives. Viewing suffering as a stoic requires closing off sections of our hearts. A refusal to be real with suffering is often a refusal to really “let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.” It’s a foolish denial.

The same gospel that brings healing and comfort also, by necessity, brings tearing and eventual death to our fallen inclinations. To either run from this (dualism) or deny this (stoicism) will hinder our growth in Jesus.

4. A mutual friend has said he can only write something he’s lived. As you were writing this book, how did you find God applying the truths you were laying out?

Though there might be seasons where it is less intense, suffering is the lot of those living outside of a fully redeemed Eden. As such there is never a time when these truths cannot be applied. For me specifically there are wounds from my past that the Lord is calling me to radically trust Him in. Wounds which require opening up (which means not being a stoic) and wounds which must be viewed from the perspective of eternity.

5. How do you hope your book is going to benefit readers?

My goal for the book is that it would help believers develop a healthy view of suffering and then not be surprised when we have to use it. Someone asked me awhile back if this would be a book that you could hand to someone that was in the furnace of suffering. That kind of depends. If it’s a season of very intense (Job-like) suffering then the last thing people need is a book. They need presence; your presence and chiefly the presence of the Almighty.

Yet at the same time I believe this book can be immensely helpful to those suffering. I believe it was Dr. Schreiner who has said the greatest weapon in suffering is good theology… or something like that. I pray that this book equips people to trust His hand as we endure various trials. I pray that the Lord uses it to give hope to those that feel hopeless. And more than anything I pray that the Lord is honored and glorified.


In partnership with Cruciform Press, this week I’m giving away five copies of Torn to Heal. To enter to win a copy, use the handy-dandy PunchTab app and answer the following question in the comments:

How have you seen God at work in your life through trial and suffering?

This giveaway ends Friday at midnight.

Giveaway: The Gospel Project Experience

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As many readers here know, I’m a huge fan of The Gospel Project from Lifeway. Led by general editor Ed Stetzer and my friend Trevin Wax (the project’s Managing Editor), The Gospel Project is designed to unify your church under a single Christ-centered curriculum, at every age and stage.

If you’re not sure what it is, take a look at my notes from the initial launch event back in March 2012; you should also check out their site (which includes a number of free lessons to sample!).

On May 17-18, LifeWay is hosting The Gospel Project Experience – a conference that will focus on the main events of the gospel through times of vibrant worship and engaging messages.

The purpose of The Gospel Project Experience is to walk participants through the entire gospel story (incarnation, life of Christ, death, resurrection, and second coming). J.D. Greear, David Nasser, Ed Stetzer, Trevin Wax and Ken Whitten will each speak on one of those five gospel themes. Matt Boswell will lead worship for the event.

For those who are currently using or considering LifeWay’s Gospel Project Bible study, there will be break-out sessions that help train and inform participants on how to get the most out of the Bible study. But even if you are not using The Gospel Project, you are invited to attend. The Experience will inspire you and your congregation to live out the implications of the gospel in your community.

So, the kind people at LifeWay are letting me give away two individual and two small group simulcast registrations—that’s four winners in total!

Enter to win using the handy dandy Punch Tab app on this post (RSS readers, you’re going to need to click through to see it) and answer the question:

How does your church create an environment of intentional discipleship?

The contest ends February 23 at 11:59:59 EST. Winners will be selected at random and notified via email.

Book giveaway: Brothers We Are Not Professionals

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“This book changed my ministry.”

That’s what one pastor friend of mine told me about Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper. I had with me at the time, intending to read it on the trip home, I never got around to it.

If I’d been wiser, I would have started that night. What I love about this book is the unashamed, unyielding commitment to a God-centered vision of ministry, one that seeks to make less of us so that we might make much of Jesus.

I really appreciate how Piper puts it here:

Let us declare boldly and powerfully what God loves most—the glory of God. Let us guard ourselves from the ocean of man-centeredness around us. “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (Isa. 2:22). The foundation, the means, and the goal of God’s agape for sinners is His prior, deeper, and ultimate love for His own glory. Therefore, brothers, tell your people the great ground of the gospel: God loves His glory! (p. 9)

Today I’m giving away a copy of the updated and expanded edition of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals to one reader, courtesy of B&H Publishing and The A Group.

To enter, leave a comment with a quote from a book that’s shaped your thinking on Christian life and ministry.

The contest closes at 11:59:59 (ET). The winner will be contacted via email.

Faithful leaders, personality and free books for you

What’s one of the greatest challenges a leader—especially a Christian one—faces?

Himself.

Because God has uniquely wired each of us with particular skills, abilities and personality types and traits, every leader tends to look a little different. Some are the super-confident, assertive alpha types. Others are incredibly engaging, leading powerfully through charisma and influence. Others still are a little more reserved, and their leadership shines through in how they relate to others moreso than what they say.

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These are not bad things by any means. However, a leader always needs to be aware of how his personality is influencing the culture of his organization—whether a church, non-profit or corporation. Albert Mohler explains this exceptionally well in one of my favorite new books on leadership, The Conviction to Lead (a book I reviewed not too long ago):

…faithful leaders understand that while they will influence the organization with their personality, they must never allow personality to be the defining mark of leadership.

There are two dangers here. The first is the well-known “cult of personality,” in which the persona of the leader becomes the hallmark of the organization. Personality cults take over the culture of the organization, with the leader sometimes becoming more prominent than the organization itself. The other danger is that the leader will rely on personality as a substitute for conviction or competence. Personality is important, but it will fall flat when conviction wanes or competence is lacking. (108)

These dangers are so important for us to understand.

We can all point to examples of organizations where the personality of the founder or leader has overtaken the organization’s culture. And we can all just as easily enough think of examples of either fairly charismatic leaders or ones who lead through fear and intimidation because they’re simply not very good at their jobs.

The point of saying this (and of course Mohler’s writing it) is not to take an opportunity to point at someone else and say, “I’m glad I’m not like that guy!”

We have to remember that personality needs to be both cultivated and stewarded carefully. A leader’s personality can and should influence an organization’s culture. But leaders must be mindful of the negatives they bring to the table as well—because those will spread through the culture as well (and possibly faster than your positives).


Courtesy of Bethany House, today I’m giving away five copies The Conviction to Lead to readers of this blog. To enter, just use the handy-dandy Punchtab app below and answer the following question in the comments:

Who is the best leader you’ve met? Why?

The giveaway closes tonight at 11:59:59 pm (ET) and winners will be contacted via email shortly thereafter.

I’m giving you a whole pile of books for Christmas!

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Updated with new titles from Cruciform Press and Crossway Books!

One of the things I’m most grateful for about this blog is the opportunity to share great books with you—and this Christmas, I have the privilege of giving some of you a ridiculous pile of great books! In partnership with the fine folks at David C. Cook, Baker Books, Thomas Nelson, New Growth Press, Cruciform Press and more, I’m giving away the following:

  1. Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation and the End of Poverty by me
  2. Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World by me
  3. Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church by Chandler, Patterson and Geiger
  4. For the City: Proclaiming and Living Out the Gospel by Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter
  5. Twelve Unlikely Heroes: How God Commissioned Unexpected People in the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You by John MacArthur
  6. Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ by Mark Driscoll
  7. God’s Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children by R.C. Sproul
  8. Pleasing God: Discovering the Meaning and Importance of Sanctification by R.C. Sproul
  9. Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free by Tullian Tchividjian
  10. Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan
  11. Through the Eyes of C.H. Spurgeon edited by Stephen McCaskell
  12. The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters by Albert Mohler
  13. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon
  14. The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments by Marty Machowski
  15. Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson – new addition!
  16. Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp – new addition!
  17. The Shepherd Leader at Home by Timothy Z. Witmer – new addition!
  18. Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Philip G. Ryken – new addition!
  19. “But God…”: The Two Words at the Heart of the Gospel by Casey Lute – new addition!
  20. Friends and Lovers: Cultivating Companionship and Intimacy in Marriage by Joel Beeke – new addition!
  21. Innocent Blood: Challenging the Powers of Death with the Gospel of Life by John Ensor – new addition!

… and don’t be surprised if you see some more books added to the list before the giveaway is through!

Best of all, three of you will be receiving this fantastic collection of books! You read that right—there are three sets to win. To enter, all you need to do is use the PunchTab widget below and answer the following question in the comments:

What’s God been teaching you in 2012?

This contest ends on Friday, December 21st at midnight. Thanks to all who enter!

Faith, work, and Every Good Endeavor

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There seems to be a great deal of confusion about the relationship between our work and our faith. Some place too high a value on vocational ministry, as if it were somehow above working as a plumber, teacher, or accountant. Others seem to act as though our faith shouldn’t impact our vocation. Many struggle to wonder whether their work matters at all.

But there has to be a way for us to take seriously the call of Scripture. When Paul wrote exhorting bondservants (or slaves) to “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” I think he meant it (Colossians 3:23). In whatever we do, we work for the Lord. We serve God just as greatly as baristas and bathroom attendants as we do clergy and counsellors.

It’s no surprise, then, that I’m pretty excited to be digging into Tim Keller’s new book, Every Good Endeavor. Here’s one of my favorite passages from the early pages:

Everyone imagines accomplishing things, and everyone finds him- or herself largely incapable of producing them. Everyone wants to be successful rather than forgotten, and everyone wants to make a difference in life. But that is beyond the control of any of us. If this life is all there is, then everyhting will eventually burn up in the death of the sun and no one will even be around to remember anything that has ever happened. Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavors, even the bet, will come to naught.

Unless there is a God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor  even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever. (p. 28)

WTS Books is offering an amazing 70 percent discount on your first copy of Every Good Endeavor right now (subsequent copies are 48 percent off). You can also get the it over at Amazon, among other retailers.

Courtesy of the fine folks at Dutton, I’ve got two copies of Every Good Endeavor to give away today. If you’d like to win, here’s what I’d like you to do:

  1. Tell me how your faith impacts your work
  2. Share this post with your followers on Facebook or Twitter (if you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate you letting me know in your comment as well)

I’ll be picking the winners today after 5 pm EST. Winners will be selected using Random.org and notified by email. Whether you win or lose the giveaway, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of this book. What I’ve read so far has been terrific.

Creatures of the Word and The Centerpiece of Ministry

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I’ve just started to crack into Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger’s new book, Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (B&H Publishing) and it looks to be nothing if not challenging.

The Church cannot have anything but the gospel at its center—if it does, it’s not the Church:

Our churches must be fully centered on Jesus and His work, or else death and emptiness is certain, regardless of the worship style or sermon series. Without the gospel, everything in a church is meaningless. And dead.

Creature of the Word looks at the gospel as the centerpiece of the Church—what every aspect of our ministry must be consumed by—and outlines practically how church leaders can maintain the centrality of the gospel. Check out the trailer:

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I’m pretty excited to see how this book impacts its readers—and I want to give you a chance to read it.

Courtesy of my friends at LIfeway, I’ve got three copies of the book to give away, and each copy comes with a bonus:

Winners will receive one copy of Creature of the Word and an individual registration for the Creature of the Word simulcast on October 23rd at 8-11 am CT (9-12 ET).

Chandler, Patterson and Geiger will each teach on a different topic from the book and will answer viewer questions at the end of the simulcast.

So here’s what we’re going to do:

I want to know how you and/or your church is striving to make everything it does about Jesus. What’s something that’s happened in your context that’s been really encouraging in this area?

To enter, use the handy-dandy PunchTab widget on the page:

Contest ends on Saturday, October 13 at 5 pm (ET). Hope you enjoy the book!

I’m Giving Away a Personal Library (and some other keen stuff, too!)

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Summer’s nearly done, the school year is gearing up again, and I want to help you kick off the fall right. That’s why I’m giving away a whole heap of books (and another cool item, too) courtesy of my friends at Zondervan, New Growth Press, Crossway and more.

This week, I’m giving away two prize packs featuring the following titles:

PLUS—Cruciform Press and 8Bit are offering two special prizes! The prize pack winners can choose one of the following:

Enter using the handy-dandy Punchtab tool below (RSS readers, you’ll need to click through to enter). The contest closes on August 31 at midnight. Enjoy!

I’m Giving You a Library for Christmas!

Updated with new prizes from David C. Cook and Zondervan!

One of the things I’m most grateful for about this blog is the opportunity to share great books with you—and this Christmas, I have the privilege of giving some of you a ridiculous pile of great books! In partnership with the fine folks at Crossway, Bethany House, Baker Books, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson and Super Big Robot, I’m giving away the following:

  1. Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson (reviewed here)
  2. Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian
  3. What is the Mission of the Church by DeYoung & Gilbert
  4. Earthen Vessels by Matthew Anderson (reviewed here)
  5. God Wins by Mark Galli
  6. Real Marriage by Mark & Grace Driscoll
  7. The God Who is There by D.A. Carson
  8. Everyday Prayers by Scotty Smith
  9. Chaos & Grace by Mark Galli
  10. The Rizers: Rise Up! (CD)
  11. BASIC: Fear God featuring Francis Chan (DVD)—New addition!
  12. Forgotten God by Francis Chan—New addition!
  13. Letters to a Young Pastor by Calvin Miller—New addition!
  14. For Calvinism by Michael Horton—New addition!
  15. Historical Theology by Gregg Allison—New addition!

Best of all, three of you will be receiving this fantastic collection of books and music! You read that right—there are three sets to win. To enter, all you need to do is use the PunchTab widget below (which accepts email addresses now, by the way!) and answer the following question in the comments:

What’s your favorite Christmas memory?

This contest ends on Friday, December 16th at midnight. Thanks to all who enter!