Kindle Deals for the Christian Reader

Here are a few great deals I’ve found for Christian books for your Kindle—If you see any that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments!

New Additions and Updates:

They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations by Dan Kimball—$1.99/2.19 (Canada)

The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies—$1.99/2.19 (Canada)

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill—$1.99/2.19 (Canada)

Understanding the Koran: A Quick Christian Guide to the Muslim Holy Book by Mateen Elass—$4.40

Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science by John C. Lennox—$4.40

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee & Stuart—$5.49

Forever: Why You Can’t Live Without It by Paul Tripp—$5.49

For Calvinism by Michael S. Horton—$5.49

Against Calvinism by Roger E. Olson—$5.49

Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture by Wayne Grudem—$11.00

The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable? by F.F. Bruce—$3.99

Red Like Blood: Confrontations With Grace by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington—$1.99

A Proverbs Driven Life by Anthony Selvaggio—$1.99

Christ Formed in You by Brian G. Hedges—$1.99

Money, Possessions & Eternity by Randy Alcorn—Free

Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman—$4.47

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp—$1.79

Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd & Margy Tripp—$1.79

“Don’t Make Me Count to Three!” by Ginger Plowman—$1.79

When Sinners Say “I Do” by Dave Harvey—$1.99

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper—$1.99

Love Your Neighbor: Thinking Wisely About Right and Wrong by Norman Geisler and Ryan Snuffer—$2.51

Liberating Black Theology by Anthony B. Bradley—$3.03

G.O.S.P.E.L. by D.A. Horton—$2.99

The Millennials by Thom and Jess Rainer—$2.69

The Disciplined Life by Calvin Miller—$2.51

Still Available: [Read more...]

Book Review: Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by ND Wilson

Have you ever tried to use your sense of smell to describe how a fresh bowl of fruit looks? What about sight to describe the sound of a two-year-old happily playing in her room? If so, you understand a little more about the challenge N.D. Wilson faced in writing Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World. In this delightfully peculiar book, Wilson attempts to recapture a sense of wonder at the world that God has spoken into being and does so with intriguing and thought-provoking results.

Wilson often writes in a borderline stream-of-consciousness style—you may not always know where he’s going right away, but it’s definitely going to be an entertaining journey. There is no doubt that he is foremost an artist as you read his often quirky and sarcastic illustrations. He writes of guitars being better than blue highlighters for remembering the beauty of sunsets and thunderstorms, how we ought not to take dating advice from the Discovery Channel and the foolishness of denying God’s power:

In For the Time Being, Annie Dillard attempts to keep God around and keep Him nice (if weepy). And so she (like many others) scraps omnipotence. “The very least likely things for which God might be responsible are what insurers call ‘acts of God.’”

Go that route. Katrina wasn’t Him. Nothing involving fault lines is Him. Stop looking at Him like that—He’s never so much as touched a tornado. He exists, and He’s friendly, but if you’re in some kind of trouble, you might just want to make a deal with the devil. Go to the man in charge, I always say. You can renege later, and you might get really good at the guitar in the meantime. (p. 64)

Wilson particularly shines while deconstructing the absurdity of the idea that our world, in all its beauty and bizarreness happened on a fluke. A random act of chance. Yet it’s in this seeming randomness that we see the complexity and intricacy of how this world was created. And he finds philosophers arguments to the contrary ridiculous, an excuse to sell more books. And that includes, Nietzsche, who Wilson describes as “the only philosopher to ever make me laugh out loud” (p. 199).

High praise indeed.

“Marx called religion an opiate, and all too often it is. But philosophy is an anesthetic, a shot to keep the wonder away,” writes Wilson (p. 15). “Philosophia—the brotherly love of wisdom—is a perfectly clean pastime for boys and girls alike. But philosophy proper has become a place to hide, a place to pursue immortality (through never going out of print) by being foggy enough that room is always left for discussion—for future dissertations.”

As Wilson moves through the book, he handles questions of absolute truth, creation, the “problem” of evil, and Hell with wit, depth and more than a little bit of a sharp tongue. His answer to the problem of evil particularly poignant and sure to be controversial: The answer is pride.

The problem of evil is a genuine problem, an enemy with sharp pointy teeth. But it is not a logical problem. It is an emotional one, an argument from Hamlet’s heartache and from ours. It appeals to our pride and to our nerve endings. We do not want to hear an answer that puts us so low. But the answer is this: we are very small… Nothing in the existence of evil implies that God must not be in control. Nothing implies that He does not exist (exactly the opposite—without Him, the category evil does not exist; all is neutral flux and entropy). The struggle comes when we look at ourselves in the mirror, a carnival mirror, a mirror that stretches our worth in the skies. Given my immense personal value, how could a good God ever allow me to feel pain?

Our emotions balk at omni-benevolence. (pp. 109-110)

Read that again. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The only problem in the problem of evil is that we’re too prideful to admit that pain is good for us. So we’re left with a choice. We can either dig our heels in and complain against God—”how could a good God ever allow me to feel pain?” as Wilson puts it—or we can say, with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl reminds us that we live in a world filled with wonder and beauty—and none of it is by accident. It is the work of the Master Artist, the Poet, the Storyteller, by whose Word even now we live and breathe and (ironically) rail against Him. I think this is something we need to be reminded of more often, and I’m grateful for N.D. Wilson doing so. I hope you will be, too.

Title: Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World
Author: N.D. Wilson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2009)

Note: I first reviewed this book in August of 2009. The above review contains much of the original content, but has been substantially revised. Hopefully for the better.

No Advocate of Undogmatic Religion

Paul was no advocate of an undogmatic religion; he was interested above everything else in the objective and universal truth of his message. . . . Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of Jesus; he was not interested merely in general principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its center. If Christianity is to be made independent of doctrine, then Paulinism must be removed from Christianity root and branch. . . .

Many attempts have indeed been made to separate the religion of Paul sharply from that of the primitive Jerusalem Church; many attempts have been made to show that Paul introduced an entirely new principle into the Christian movement or even was the founder of a new religion.But all such attempts have resulted in failure. The Pauline Epistles themselves attest a fundamental unity of principle between Paul and the original companions of Jesus, and the whole early history of the Church becomes unintelligible except on the basis of such unity. Certainly with regard to the fundamentally doctrinal character of Christianity Paul was no innovator. The fact appears in the whole character of Paul’s relationship to the Jerusalem Church as it is attested by the Epistles, and it also appears with startling clearness in the precious passage in 1 Cor. 15:3-7, where Paul summarizes the tradition which he had received from the primitive Church. What is it that forms the content of that primitive teaching? Is it a general principle of the fatherliness of God or the brotherliness of man? Is it a vague admiration for the character of Jesus such as that which prevails in the modern Church? Nothing could be further from the fact. “Christ died for our sins,” said the primitive disciples, “according to the Scriptures; he was buried; he has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” From the beginning, the Christian gospel, as indeed the name “gospel” or “good news” implies, consisted in an account of something that had happened. And from the beginning, the meaning of the happening was set forth; and when the meaning of the happening was set forth then there was Christian doctrine. “Christ died”—that is history; “Christ died for our sins”—that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity.

Adapted from J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Kindle Edition)

My Favorite Books of 2011

That season has come around once again, where top ten (or in this case, eleven) lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, and as of this writing, I’ve read 105 books.1 Going through that many books in a year led to some interesting challenges as I considered which were my top picks. 2011’s reading saw a couple of abysmal reads, at least one that was rank heresy, a few “meh” titles, and a surprisingly large amount that ranged from good to great in terms of quality and content. Not all of these have been reviewed here (I’ve included, but all are ones I think merit your attention.

So, without (much) further ado, here are my top books for 2011, which, with the exception of one book, none of these are in any particular order:

Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson (Crossway, 2011). Wilson’s exuberant passion for the gospel is on full display and will leave you further amazed at the grace of God in Christ. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

Jesus + Nothing=Everything by Tullian Tchividjian (Crossway, 2011). After reading this book, it’s incredibly encouraging to know that I’m not on crazy pills (how’s that for a teaser for my review?).

Redemption by Mike Wilkerson (Crossway, 2011). This book, offering a biblical foundation for recovery ministry, careful examines the Exodus and shows us how, through it, Jesus frees us from the shame of sin and the futility of idolatry. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb (Crossway, 2011). This book vividly portrays the evil of sexual assault and the tragedy of its effects on its victims, but is equally vivid in detailing the hope that the gospel offers those who suffer. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (Crown, 2011). A captivating glimpse into the complexities of life and international politics in the early days of the Third Reich through the lens of Ambassador William Dodd and his family’s experiences in Germany in the years leading up to World War II.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House, 2010). Hillenbrand’s account of former Olympic long-distance runner Louis Zamperini’s experiences during World War II, adjustment to civilian life and conversion to Christianity, is compelling, engaging and beautifully written.

If You Bite and Devour One Another by Alexander Strauch (Lewis & Roth, 2011). Alexander Strauch offers much-needed guidance in handling conflict with grace and wisdom. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

Note to Self by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011). A gospel-saturated, super-practical and super-helpful book—one that requires a lot of careful reading. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki (Portfolio, 2011). This is a book about influence—how to gain it and how to leverage it. There’s a lot of mixed opinions on this book if you look at Amazon, but what I took away from it was extraordinarily helpful. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax (Moody, 2011). Trevin shows us how ugly the “counterfeit gospels”—pale imitations that fail to help, encourage and save—truly are as he reminds readers of the beauty of the one authentic gospel. For more of my thoughts on this book, read my review here.

And my top pick for the year:

Innocent Blood by John Ensor (Cruciform Press, 2011)

Why did this book—a book on abortion—make the cut as the top book of the year? Because, as I wrote in my review, Innocent Blood is and continues to be the most personally convicting and challenging book I’ve read this year. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

If abortion is a gospel issue, we must repent of our desire to keep silent. We must put away our notions that it’s a mere political topic. While it most certainly has political implications, it’s goes much deeper than politics. It’s a question of worldview.

Ensor’s greatest strength in this book is that he doesn’t shy away from this reality. In fact, he is so prophetically forcefully (and I use that term carefully, but deliberately), that we cannot help but be stopped in our tracks. If we are truly followers of Jesus, then we are not permitted to sit on the sidelines of this issue, nor can we with biblical support find defense for any other position than being pro-life.

It was a book that I avoided reading initially and much like Redemption and Rid of My Disgrace (another one that was a serious contender for this spot), is not a book that is entirely enjoyable to read but one that is one that you would do well to read.

Just for fun, here are a few of the runners-up:

So, that’s my top ten–er, eleven books for the year. What’s on your top-picks list?

Book Review: Welcome to the Story by Stephen J. Nichols

Reading the Bible can be a tricky thing if you don’t always know what you’re looking for. In Welcome to the Story, Stephen J. Nichols surveys the grand storyline of the Bible and offers insights for getting the most out of our reading of Scripture.

Nichols breaks down the the big story of Scripture into four acts—Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration—and carefully teases out a few helpful implications of each of the important truths. Most helpful when discussing creation is Nichols’ reminder that “embracing the doctrine of creation is the antidote to boredom.” He explains:

When we realize that God made us, that God made everything, life is set in a whole new light. How can we yawn at what God made? When we acknowledge God as Creator of all things, we regain our sense of wonder, we regain our sense of appreciation, and we regain our sense of gratitude. We say thank you. We stop yawning through life. (p. 39)

Think about for a moment—do we look around at all that is and ever really stop to consider the complexity and the beauty that simply is? I confess that I rarely do, except when something forces me to slow down long enough to actually pay attention (like my oldest daughter wanting me to take her for a walk through the forest that’s down the street from our townhouse complex. Which reminds me, I need to do that with her…).

Perhaps the most helpful chapter of Welcome to the Story is the tenth, Digging Deeper. Naturally, after reading 130 plus pages of reading about the plot line of the Bible and why it matters so much to the Christian life, readers want to know, “now what?” Here, he again emphasizes the need for Christians to be diligent in their reading, study and application of the Word while providing some critical tips and cheats for doing so. He reminds us to find a plan that works for the individual reader. Some people really love chronological plans, others like to read cover-to-cover, other still like plans that have you reading a bit of the Old and New Testaments every day. Nichols doesn’t suggest one plan is better than any other. His primary concern is that we read the Word—and that we be sure to read the whole Bible. [Read more...]

Jesus, The Bible and You

Throughout history, the church has rarely seen an attack on the inerrancy, inspiration and authority of the Bible of the magnitude of modern debates—debates which really only gained academic credibility in the last two centuries and popular consensus within the last generation. And make no mistake, the attack against inerrancy is inextricably linked to inspiration—certainly in the way we have traditionally responded to our critical scholars. By proving the words of the Bible are accurate, we are, at the very least implicitly, answering the attack on the inerrancy of Scripture. Therefore, the answers to inerrancy and inspiration will be given together.

Inspiration, like its sister doctrine, inerrancy, is not something invented by theologians and forced on the church—the arguments for them arise from the Bible and are based upon the internal consistency of the Bible. And make no mistake, the Scriptures are equated with God’s revelation in words (Matt. 19:4-5; Heb. 3:7; Acts 4:24-25; see also 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21).

This truth is something that we have seen throughout this series, most recently in Aaron’s post offering a definition of verbal plenary inspiration. My goal in this post is to build upon these truths we’ve already discussed by addressing the question of how Jesus understood (and understands) the Bible before looking at four important conclusions on the matter of why this doctrine really does matter.

How Jesus Understood (and Understands) the Bible

As we look to Scripture, it’s crystal clear that Jesus recognized the authority and inerrancy of Scripture—indeed, the way he uses it explicitly affirms their inspiration. He made constant appeal to it when tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:1-11) and used it often in his ministry to defend his actions (Matt. 11:15-17, 26:54-56). This demonstrates the authority Jesus placed in the Scriptures, but we are not left to make assumptions on the basis of Jesus’ actions alone. He, on at least four occasions taught the Scriptures in such a way as to make clear His position on inerrancy.

In a confrontation with the Sadducees over the doctrine of the resurrection, which that group denied, Jesus silenced His opposition, arguing the entire resurrection belief on the tense of a simple verb, “to be” (Matt. 22:32). Jehovah had told Moses at the burning bush, “I am the God of Abraham,” but as Jesus implied, Abraham had been dead 480 years when the statement was made. Arguing that God was the God of the living, not the dead, Jesus claimed life after death must be true. Jesus used the tense of a verb to prove Abraham was not simply physically dead, but was living in the presence of God. The fact that Jesus used a word and it’s tense to demonstrate His deep confidence in inspiration and inerrancy. [Read more...]

Around the Interweb

What’s Next for New York Churches

John Starke, who pastors a church affected by the New York City’s recent decision to no longer allow churches to meet in public schools, shares about the situation:

Surely New York’s ban reflects the intolerance of a tolerant society, as D. A. Carson has said somewhere. “It’s ironic,” one Brooklyn city official commented at Thursday’s press conference, “that the Klu Klux Klan can meet freely in public schools, but churches, who were the backbone of the civil rights movement, are not allowed.”

“Some people are afraid of what our children will be pressured into thinking if they see churches meeting in our schools,” another city official said. “My fear is what they will think when they see that anyone can meet in public schools except churches!”

The city’s decision provides further evidence that our pluralistic society seeks to banish religion and truth from the public square to the private sphere. As Leslie Newbigin once observed, this ideal they seek would eliminate all ideals. Any society attempting to explain the world as something without ultimate truths commits itself to a reality without purpose…

Read the rest and please pray for the more than 60 churches that are affected by this decision.

Also Worth Reading

Reviving Christian Journalism: Read Telling the Truth by Martin Olasky free at (HT: Justin Taylor)

Giveaway: Vyrso is giving away a 24-volume digital collection of John Piper’s books!

Christmas eBook Sale: From Dec. 8 through Dec. 20, Cruciform Press has put the following titles on sale:

Christian Living: How to Apply Scripture When It Does Not Speak Directly and Personally to You

Church: Revolutionary Ageism and the Church

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A Readers Guide to the Inspiration of Scripture

I’m Giving You a Library for Christmas!

Branch Out! Three Reasons to Diversify Your Reading in 2012

Octavius Winslow: The Wonder of the Universe

A Biblical Battle Plan for Faithful Street Ministry by Cory McKenna

Joel Beeke: “Holiness Calls for Continual Commitment

3 Reasons to Get Lovers on the Edges of the Twilight by Michael Krahn

The Wonder of the Universe

“His name shall be called Wonderful…” Isa 9:6

God has implanted in the human heart a love of the wonderful. And not only has He inspired the sentiment, but in countless forms He has met it. He has clothed the universe with the wonderful. Turn the eye where we may, it lights upon some object of wonder, which, but for the blinding and stupifying power of sin, would awaken the exclamation from every lip, “How great is His beauty! how great is His power!” In sending His beloved Son into the world, in bestowing upon man His unspeakable gift, God has met the sentiment of wonder in man in a way- we say it with reverence- He Himself could not surpass. The Incarnation of God is the wonder of the universe. All other demonstrations of God’s power and wisdom, goodness and glory, pale before the splendor of this marvellous event. In view of this profound stoop of Deity, this unique and costly exhibition of God’s love to man, could our Savior wear a title more expressive or more appropriate than this- “His name shall be called wonderful”? We are about to attempt an unfolding in some faint measure of this wonder of wonders. To see it spiritually, to experience it savingly, is of more worth to us than to gaze upon and understand the greatest wonders in the material universe. What if the arcade of all natural and scientific marvel were opened to us, and we could understand all mysteries and all knowledge and all tongues, and yet saw nothing to awaken our astonishment in God’s greatest wonder, nothing to inspire our admiration in God’s greatest beauty, nothing to incite our love in God’s most precious gift- even Him whose name is Wonderful– oh! it had been better for us to have lived and died with the idiot’s stare and the madman’s frenzy! But, so long as we remain rational and responsible, to see no beauty or loveliness or love in the Lord Jesus, and to die without one life-look at the Crucified One, is of all appalling events the most appalling. May the Holy Spirit of truth unveil to our minds the hidden wonders of the Son of God, while we attempt to study the deep significance of this His name.

Octavius Winslow, Emmanuel, or The TItles of Christ, as published in The Works of Octavius Winslow (Monergism Books, Kindle Edition)

A Biblical Battle Plan for Faithful Street Ministry

Artur Pawlowski. Street Church. Are these names ringing a bell? Depending on your theological convictions, they may be actually sounding an alarm. Many Canadian Christians already know about brother Artur’s “evangelistic escapades” in Calgary, Alberta, over the past six years—actions which have lead to his repeated injunctions, fines, and arrests. A recent National Post article gave him national (and international) attention as he voiced his frustration over the treatment he’s received from police versus that of the Occupy movement protestors.

Though this article is not in an endorsement of Artur’s ministry, it seems that he and I do share something in common: persecution for our faith right here at home.

As a minister of the Gospel, I too have been forced from street corners and threatened with arrest by local law enforcement. I have also been sucker punched while preaching open air. Doing spiritual battle always carries a cost…even when the mission field is right here in Canada.

But how does a good soldier of Christ Jesus both tactically and tactfully please the One who enlisted him, effectively reach out to the lost, sincerely respect authorities, and do so all without compromising the core Truth of the mission?

After years of experience, I have come to believe that biblically and culturally balanced street ministry in North America may be best modeled after what have been called the “three worlds” of Paul the Apostle.

Paul’s “Three Worlds”

The Cross Current (TCC) equips local missionaries to preach the Gospel specifically in the context of our increasingly complex North American culture.

TCC’s training is based on the ministry demonstrated by Paul the Apostle. As an evangelist to the Gentiles, Paul has been appropriately called the “man of three worlds” – an expert in the Scriptures, false beliefs, and rights of Roman citizenship.

This “tripod” of training expertise enabled Paul to be a fruitful and faithful witness predominantly in the context of a Greek (Acts 17) culture, much like ours today.

First, street ministers need to accurately apply the Scriptures. As a Jew, Hebrew of Hebrews, and former Pharisee (Phil. 3:5), Paul was masterful in his handling of Scripture in both evangelism and discipleship. As faith and regeneration come only by God’s sovereign grace through hearing His Word (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 10:17; 1 Pt. 1:23), street ministers must resist the pull towards pragmatism and “culturally relevant” preaching by constantly placing their trust in the power of the foolish preaching of the cross.

Second, street ministers need to biblically defend against false belief systems. As a Greek thinker, Paul demonstrated exceptional dexterity in boldly confronting the false belief systems of his day with the truth of Christ, yet always doing so with sensitivity and diplomacy (Acts 17). As ones called to bear witness to exclusive Truth amidst an academically charged culture steeped in philosophical/religious pluralism, street ministers must develop an appropriate balance of both presuppositional and evidential apologetics.

Preaching Christ in Canada, eh?

Granted, while the first two aforementioned Pauline “worlds” are hopefully very obvious to today’s street ministers, it’s been my experience that the third is rarely (if ever) explored. And that is that street ministers must know how to legally leverage their rights as citizens. In several instances, Scripture testifies to how Paul’s timely appeal of his Roman citizenship not only spared him further persecution, but also furthered His God-given mission of evangelizing the Gentiles (Acts 16:37; 22:25). Undoubtedly, this vital component of Paul’s public preaching ministry is the most often overlooked. [Read more...]

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!

Holiness Calls for Continual Commitment

Holiness and work are closely related because of the need to persevere in personal discipline, and discipline takes time and effort. As Paul advises Timothy, “Exercise thyself rather unto godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). Holiness is not achieved sloppily or instantaneously; it calls for continual commitment, diligence, practice, and repentance. . . . How critical it is that we live each day in total commitment to God, forming habits of holiness, rooting out every inconsistency, and refusing to fall prey to the one-more-time syndrome. Remember, postponed obedience is disobedience. Tomorrow’s holiness is impurity now. Tomorrow’s faith is unbelief now. Aim not to sin at all (1 John 2:1) and ask for divine strength to bring every thought into captivity to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), for Scripture indicates that our thought lives ultimately determine our character: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).

Adapted from Joel R. Beeke, Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism (Kindle Edition)

3 Reasons to Get Lovers on the Edges of the Twilight by Michael Krahn

Recently, my good friend Michael Krahn released a new 5-song EP, Lovers on the Edges of the Twilight. I’ve been listening to it pretty steadily for the last little while and it’s great stuff. My first thought: “This is very Blue Rodeo.” (Canadians know that this is a very good thing, depending on your taste.) Here are a few reasons why I hope you’ll buy this record:

1. It has nothing to do with Twilight. Tim Challies may have beat me to that smart-alecky comment, but it’s still true. It also has no connection to mid-90s Canadian rock band The Tea Party (their second album was called The Edges of Twilight)… aside from both being from Canada.

2. It’s heartfelt. You know how you can listen to a song and you really get a sense that the artist was processing some pretty heavy stuff while writing and performing? That’s what you’ll find on this album, and it works really, really well.

3. The title track is exceptional. Seriously, take the next four minutes and listen:

The record’s available now on iTunes and—I hope you’ll get a copy today.

A Readers Guide to the Inspiration of Scripture

There’s been quite a few posts here lately about the nature and authority of the Bible—and for good reason. As Christians, we are to be people of the book. Men, women and children who observe and obey God’s Word, who love it and long to know the God who reveals Himself through it.

There’s an important question that comes up when we start trying to understand the nature of Scripture, and that is: What do we mean when we say that the Bible is inspired? Do we mean the same thing as when we say that a great song, book or movie was inspired? Or is there something else going on that we need to wrap our minds around?

My goal in this post is relatively simple: I want to provide you with a ground-level understanding of the doctrine of inspiration that will help you as we continue on in this series looking at the nature of Scripture and its implications.

“Verbal Plena—what now?”

The doctrine of inspiration has to do with the origins of Scripture—where it came from and how it came to be. Theologians like to refer to it with a fancy term: “verbal plenary inspiration.” (I dare you to say that three times fast.) Despite being a painfully vague term (not to mention being a bit of a tongue twister), the concept behind it is pretty simple. In a nutshell, the term means is that every word of Scripture is inspired by God and written down by human authors. Inspiration in this view is not limited merely to ideas but to exact words—indeed, every “iota” and “dot” as Jesus says in Matt. 5:18. Every word is there because God intended it to be so.

But let’s break this term down in a little more detail:

Verbal. This term addresses subject. And the subject being defined is the words of Scripture. Simple enough, right? Let’s move to the next point.

Plenary addresses scope or extent. In other words, all the words of Scripture are equally inspired, from the most incredible description of a battle or miracle to the most detailed instruction about how the Israelites were to dress. There aren’t some parts that are more or less inspired than others.

Inspiration addresses method of transmission. God guided the human authors of Scripture—“carried them along by the Holy Spirit,” as Peter wrote—using their unique perspectives, writing styles and experiences to record the exact message He desired to be expressed to humanity.

Clear as mud? Alright, let’s look quickly at the Scriptural support for such a notion.

Where does the Bible Talk about Inspiration?

Biblically, the two passages that deal most directly with this idea are found in the epistles of Paul and Peter:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…” (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added).

“…no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (1 Pet. 20-21, emphasis added). [Read more...]

Three reasons to diversify your reading

I probably spend too much time considering my reading habits, but what’s a guy to do?

Every year, I give myself a challenge to read 100 books in the year (one I usually meet well before the year ends). A lot are books on theology and Christian living for reviews—but as much as possible, I try to include some material to break it up with a few biographies, a bit of history, some fiction, some marketing books, and the odd bit of sociology. Because I live increasingly in a Christian bubble—I work with Christians, I minister to Christians in a variety of ways, I primarily review books written for Christians—this is not only helpful, but necessary for me in order to have some sense of what’s going on “out there” as it were.

If you’re like me, you should probably think about doing the same. Here are three reasons why:

1. Escaping the “Bubble.” As I pointed out above, it’s really easy for Christians to get caught in the so-called Christian bubble (in fact, studies indicate that the longer we’re Christians the less likely we are to have non-Christian friends). Reading a little more broadly

2. Opportunities to Engage Others in Meaningful Discussion. Reading more broadly allows you to have another connection point with non-Christians that helps you to have meaningful discussions (whether at work, the gym, traditional or online book clubs or Starbucks) that can also lead to opportunities to share the gospel.

3. Enjoying God’s Common Grace. God has not reserved all the “good” ideas for Christian authors. Indeed, in His common grace, He has allowed many non-Christians to have amazing insights into the human condition, given them tremendous literary gifts and fantastic storytelling abilities. If you’re not reading a little more broadly, you might be missing out on something really interesting.

These are a few of the reasons I enjoy reading more broadly. Now it’s your turn: what are your reading habits like—how do you keep yourself from getting stuck in reading only one kind of book?

Updated June 2014