What does too many books look like?

I have a problem.

It’s a serious one.

Seriously serious, even.

There are too many books in my house. So many, in fact, that I’ve written terrible poetry about them.

How many is too many? Well, recently, I cleaned out my coffee table, decluttered my bookshelves, and Emily dumped all the books that were on, in or under my nightstand into a box. This is one of the sets of piles:

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Anyone care to guess how many are there?

(Closest answer without going over will receive a little something nice from me. Seriously.)

I’d safely estimate having no less than 1000 books in my house. Some of them are terrible, but many are excellent. I have no more bookshelves. In my decluttering, I’ve found many that will be leaving the house, and this will be a good thing.

Because Emily’s eye is twitching.

Liberating King

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I tried to like Christian music.

I really did.

When I was a new believer, I got a whole bunch of Christian CDs from the “if you’re a fan of [insert band name here]” section of the Christian bookstore. I listened to a whole bunch of stuff… but, outside of a few songs here and there, and the odd album, nothing really clicked.

Perhaps it’s helpful to understand my general opinion of the music geared toward Christians (please assume the appropriate caveats are in place):

  1. Much music intended for personal enjoyment tends to try too hard to sound “Christian,” and thus feels dishonest.
  2. The music we sing in many of our churches is even worse. Far too much church music tends to be simplistic, emotionally manipulative, and triumphalist—at best including a few disconnected statements about God, without actually encouraging us to truly know him better.

This is probably the strangest way to start a review of an album by a Christian worship leader, isn’t it?

Now, before you write me off as a “good church music stopped in the 1800s” guy who thinks every song should be a systematic theology lesson, that’s not what I’m advocating here (tho’ I do love me some hymns). As has often been said, the answer to bad church music is not to go back to older songs, but to write better ones. That’s what I love about The Modern Post and Citizens and Saints, The Sing Team and the Gettys. It’s also what I really dig about what Stephen Miller’s doing on his latest album, Liberating King.

Praise music that’s praiseworthy

From track one, it’s pretty clear this is not going to be what you’d hear from, say, Hillsong or even the Vertical Church Band.1 The songs featured on Liberating King teach us about God, even as they direct our praise to him.

This is harder than it sounds. It’s really easy to swing too far, in trying to correct from where much of modern praise music has gone. But Miller doesn’t overcorrect; instead, he maintains a strong balance between the head and the heart. Consider “You Complete All You Begin”, which is probably the standout song of all the original material on the album. Here, Miller takes listeners (and, ideally, congregations) through the story of redemption, from the first glimpse of the gospel to the end:

Completely just and holy God
Who from age to age forbeared
All the blatant acts of evil hearts
Unrelenting in despair
While promising a Son would come
The Messiah from of old
And his bruised heel would crush the head
Of the serpent, cursed and cold

This is powerful stuff. When was the last time you can recall singing about the fact that God promised to send Jesus and that he would triumph over evil? When was the last time you sung something like “When the blood of bulls could not suffice / Christ absorbed it all in him”? This is the kind of gospel rich, hope-inciting words we need to sing more often. These are songs that are directing our starting points and our responses away from us. Our emotions obviously play a role in what we’re singing, but Miller helps us to recognize that while we “could sing of [God’s] love forever”,2 it’s more helpful to do so when we understand what God has done in his love for us.

“It is well”

My favorite song on the album, though, is Miller’s arrangement of Horatio Spafford’s “It Is Well.” This is probably one of the greatest songs ever written for the benefit of the Church—not because it is terribly complicated, but because it communicates profound truth. Spafford wrote the song out of adversity, following the great Chicago fire of 1871, financial ruin, and finally, the death of all four of his daughters in a shipwreck. In other words, this isn’t an ivory tower hymn, written from a place of privilege; it is written from the same place David wrote so many of his psalms—one of grief and trial. And this is what makes it so honest, and enduring. Miller honors the original: the new arrangement “fits”, and he sings with noticeable conviction. Were I to hear this arrangement in our church’s worship gathering, I would be elated.

Songs worth singing

Liberating King did something that hasn’t happened in quite a while with any praise songs—it actually made me want to sing. And with good reason: this is an album that is worth singing because it’s an album that is clearly about Jesus, our Lord and King. And if he’s not worth singing about, what is? Definitely check out the album; I have no doubt you will be blessed in your hearing of it.


Title: Liberating King
Artist: Stephen Miller

Buy it at: Bandcamp | Amazon | iTunes


Today, I’m giving away three copies of Liberating King. To enter, all you’ve got to do is tell me about your favorite church music. What’s the song you really love to sing at church (or wish you did), and why? I’ll choose the winners at random on Wednesday, and they’ll be notified by email (followed by an announcement in the comments on this post).

Freebie Friday: Reformation Study Bible giveaway

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One of my favorite study Bibles is The Reformation Study Bible produced by Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Trust (which is now available for pre-order). We’ve used it for several years at my house, and have always profited from doing so. So when I learned Ligonier was completely revising this resource—and had enlisted the aid of 75 faithful theologians—I was excited. And the new edition, which releases in just a couple of weeks looks pretty spectacular—not the least because it includes numerous historic creeds, confessions and catechisms within its pages!

Today, I’m giving away two copies of the new Reformation Study Bible. But before I tell you how you can win, check out the video below to learn more about this resource:

How to enter:

If you want to win this new study Bible, and you live in Canada or the United States, just use the handy dandy Gleam app, and you’re good to go:

Reformation Study Bible giveaway

I will select two winners when the giveaway is complete, and will announce them here on Sunday.

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

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One of the things I’m most grateful for about this blog is the opportunity to share great books with you. 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, P&R Publishing, B&H Books, Kregel, Bethany House, and Faithlife!

Here’s what’s up for grabs this year:

… 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 Rafflecopter widget below and answer the following question in the comments: What’s the big thing God’s been teaching you in 2014?

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This contest ends on Friday, December 19th at midnight. Thanks to all who enter!


Photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

I’m giving away a personal library!

One of the things I’m most grateful for about this blog is the opportunity to share great books with you—and this week, I have the privilege of giving away a ridiculous pile of books and resources in partnership with my friends at Crossway, B&H Publishing, P&R Publishing, Logos Bible Software and Moody Publishers!

Here’s what you can win so far:

  1. Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck (added 8/19)
  2. A Reasonable Response by William Lane Craig (added 8/19)
  3. Life on Mission by Dustin Willis and Aaron Coe (added 8/19)
  4. Facing Leviathan by Mark Sayers (added 8/19)
  5. Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung
  6. The Stories We Tell by Mike Cosper
  7. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
  8. Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up by Ian and Larissa Murphy
  9. The HCSB Study Bible
  10. Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler
  11. Beat God to the Punch by Eric Mason
  12. Grace Works! (And Ways We Think It Doesn’t) by Douglas Bond
  13. Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes by Zack Eswine
  14. Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols by Brad Bigney
  15. The 11-volume 9Marks series for Logos Bible Software, which includes:
    • Am I Really a Christian? by Mike McKinley
    • Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church by Michael Lawrence
    • The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love by Jonathan Leeman
    • Church Planting Is for Wimps by Mike McKinley
    • Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti M. Anyabwile
    • The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever
    • It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement by Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence
    • What Does God Want of Us Anyway?: A Quick Overview of the Whole Book by Mark Dever
    • What Is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti M. Anyabwile
    • What Is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever
    • What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

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 22nd at midnight. Enjoy!

Logos giveaway: The Zondervan Theology Collection

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Logos Bible Softward has teamed up with a number of bloggers, including me, Lore Ferguson and a few others, to give away some of great resources. This month they’ve asked us to help give away Zondervan’s seven volume theology collection featuring:

  • The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way
  • Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know
  • The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism
  • For Calvinism
  • Against Calvinism
  • Hell under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment
  • A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters: The Word, the Christ, the Son of God

The winner will be chosen at random on August 1st and the collection will be sent to the winner’s Logos account. Don’t have an account? No problem! You can sign up for free here and download free apps to read your books on any device here.

How to Enter

Login below with your email address or Facebook account and follow the steps in the widget. That’s it! Each prompted action you follow will earn you additional entries. You can always come back and share a link to the giveaway with your friends for additional entries.

Note: By entering this giveaway you consent to being signed up to Logos’ “Product Reviews” email list. You’ll receive emails featuring content written by me and a few other Christian bloggers!

Freebie Friday: Preparing Your Teens for College

One of the things I’m most grateful for about this blog is the opportunity to share great books with you—and today, I’ve got a copy of Alex Chediak’s excellent new book, Preparing Your Teens for College, to give to one reader.

Preparing Your Teens for College

As I said in my review, Preparing Your Teens for College is one of those books that you don’t know you need to read until you read it. It’s packed with practical wisdom, sound theology, necessary challenges and much-needed encouragement for parents and students alike.

Along with Alex’s terrific book, I’m also including a copy of my book, Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World.

To enter, sign up using the handy-dandy PunchTab app and answer the following question:

If you could tell your teenage self one important thing you wish you’d known in college, what would it be?

The contest closes tonight at midnight. Please note: due to shipping restrictions, this contest is open to residents of the United States only.

Enjoy!

The Last Days of Jesus: An Easter devotional

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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 devotional in partnership with Compassion Canada,1 The last days of Jesus: eight readings through the death and resurrection of Jesus.


Download the devotional


I hope 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.