#Kindle Deals for the Christian Reader (March)

Check out these great books for the Kindle (shared from my Twitter account):

If you’ve got room in your budget, I’d highly encourage getting all of these!

A Baby Dramarama Update

As many readers are aware, we’re currently expecting our third child. A few weeks ago, Emily went into the hospital due to the threat of pre-term labor (I shared about this here). Well, now we’re officially passed the major milestones and into week 38 of the pregnancy and excited about the possibility of meeting this wee child. And Sunday (yesterday) seemed like it could be the day! While I was preaching at Community Bible Church, Emily started having contractions. Regularly. This, we thought, was surely good news, although, being cautious, we waited until after all our responsibilities were completed before making any decisions on how to proceed. In the end, we cancelled our lunch plans and managed to get to the hospital with surprising efficiency (a 37 minute drive took 19). I brought a nurse to help Emily upstairs, took the kids home (leaving them in the care of our friend Adam) and zipped back to the hospital.

And then we waited.

Two and a half hours later, there’d been some progress, but they weren’t sure that it was enough to say “Yep, this kid’s coming today.” So they sent us home so Emily could rest and hopefully see more progress at home. Several hours later, there was nothing. No more contractions. Only a frustrated wife who wants this baby to come out already (which I can completely understand—the last couple weeks in particular have been quite uncomfortable). But such is life, I suppose. While we don’t know what Monday will bring, as of the time I’m writing this, still no baby. So if you’re so inclined, would you please pray for our family for the following:

1. Patience for Emily and I as we wait for the real labor to begin.

2. Flexibility and understanding for our older children (there’s a lot of unpredictability right now, which is not fun for kids who thrive on routine).

3. That we would continue to glorify God and give thanks as best as we are able, even in the midst of frustration.

Around the Interweb

The State of the Church in Canada

John Mahaffey in conversation with Collin Hansen:

Churches serious about the gospel and mission have had to rethink how they do ministry. How do we communicate the gospel to a Hindu? How do we share the gospel with a Muslim? These are questions we have had to wrestle with. Our Jerusalems with which we were so familiar now look and feel like Samaria. Our neighbors used to be those who were physically close and culturally close. Now they are physically close and culturally distant. In major urban centers where the concentration of non-Christian religions is the highest, pastors and churches have had to think and function more like foreign missionaries if they want to reach people with the gospel. Many churches have not adjusted well to the demographic changes in their communities and have closed their doors. Others have looked upon the new multicultural reality as an opportunity to remake themselves into a diverse community that actually looks like the kingdom of God. . . . The church in Canada is no longer just a missionary-sending church. It is also a missionary-receiving church. We need experienced bicultural missionaries to come alongside the church and assist us in our mission…

In addition to the challenges the Canadian church faces in reaching people of other cultures and religions, the greatest challenge is to uphold the glory of Christ and the gospel in the midst of a multicultural world. The emerging generation of Christian young people who have grown up with Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Buddhists as neighbors and classmates can easily have doubts about the exclusivity of Christ. It’s easy to believe that people are lost when they are on the other side of the world. It’s another thing when they are your nice next-door neighbors.

Canadian readers, I’ll be at TGC’s Ontario Conference May 29-31—I hope to see you there!


Also Worth Reading

Heresy and a Call for Humility

We Dare Not Defend Our Rights

A Prayer for Worn Out and Struggling Friends in Vocational Ministry

10 Benefits of Ebooks that Will Surprise You


In Case You Missed It

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

My Next Book: Contend

Reading, Life and Priorities

State of the Blog 2012

Book Review: The Armageddon Factor by Marci McDonald

Help Bring a Free Ultrasound Clinic to Indiana, PA

Walter Marshall: The Way of Attaining to Godliness

C.H. Spurgeon: All Other Books Are As Gold Leaf

What’s On Your To-Read Pile?

The Backlist: The Top Ten Posts on Blogging Theologically

The Way of Attaining to Godliness

The way of attaining to godliness is so far from being known without learning out of the Holy Scriptures that, when it is here plainly revealed, we cannot learn it so easily as the duties of the law, which was known in part by the light of nature, and therefore the more easily assented to. It is the way by which the dead are brought to live to God; and therefore doubtless it is far above all the thoughts and conjectures of human wisdom. It is the way of salvation, in which God will ‘destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent,’ by discovering things by His Spirit, that ‘the natural man does not receive, for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1Cor. 1:19, 21; 2:14). ‘Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness’ (1 Tim. 3:16). The learning of it requires double work; because we must unlearn many of our former deeply- rooted notions and become fools, that we may be wise. We must pray earnestly to the Lord to teach us, as well as search the Scriptures, that we may get this knowledge. ‘O that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes!’ ‘Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes; and I will keep it to the end’ (Ps. 119: 5, 33). ‘Teach me to do Your will’ (Ps. 143:10). ‘The Lord direct your hearts to the love of God’ (2Thess. 3:5). Surely these saints did not so much want teaching and directions concerning the duties of the law to be done, as concerning the way and means by which they might do them.

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (Kindle Edition)

The Backlist: The Top Ten Posts on Blogging Theologically

 

Let’s take a look back in time and see the most-read posts from February. Go check them out:

  1. Everyday Theology: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. The Dos and Don’ts of Book Reviews (or at least how I do them) (January 2011)
  3. Everyday Theology: God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  4. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  5. Why I Quit Following (Most) Celebrity Pastors on Twitter and Maybe You Should, Too (February 2012)
  6. Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll (December 2011)
  7. Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell (March 2011)
  8. Kindle Deals for the Christian Reader (February 2012)
  9. Lessons from Nehemiah (Page)
  10. Everyday Theology: Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words (July 2009)
And just for fun, here’s the next 10:
  1. Book Reviews (page)
  2. The Joyless Pursuit of Being Right (February 2012)
  3. Who Writes This? (page)
  4. The Books I’m Not Proposing (April 2011)
  5. His Name was Smeagol (April 2010)
  6. Book Review: Forever by Paul David Tripp (January 2012)
  7. Book Review: Radical Together by David Platt (June 2011)
  8. Book Review: You Lost Me by David Kinnaman (December 2011)
  9. Everyday Theology (page)
  10. My Next Book! (February 2012)

As is common, the archives are dominating in terms of what you all are reading (as I’ve said in the past, this is not a bad thing). The “Celebrity” Pastors post is the most-read original piece of content from February (which was kind of surprising), and it’s interesting to see how many folks are checking out some of the series pages. If you’ve not had a chance to read these posts and pages, I hope you’ll take some time today to do so.

Help Me Choose My New Facebook Cover

You may have heard that Facebook is introducing the Timeline format to Pages. Aside from some snazzy new features (the admin panel is terrific), this redesign allows for “cover” photos—a big banner image at the top, rather than just an itty-bitty profile picture. So, in preparation for making the change to the Facebook page, I’d like you to help me choose what to cover image to use:

Option 1:

Option 2:

Tell me your favorite in the comments—the winner will be used when I make the switch later today!

What’s On Your To-Read Pile?

Here’s a look at a few things I’m reading right now:

Reading, Life and Priorities

Recently, I finally had a chance to read Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke (a full review is forthcoming). But one thing that stood out to me right away was the importance he placed on prioritizing your reading. After offering two big categories—there’s the Bible and everything else—Reinke gets breaks down his reading priorities with a little more clarity:

  1. Reading Scripture
  2. Reading to know and delight in Christ
  3. Reading to kindle spiritual reflection
  4. Reading to initiate personal change
  5. Reading to pursue vocational excellence
  6. Reading to enjoy a good story

These are really helpful categories, particularly when we realize the necessity of actually prioritizing what we read. Particularly those of us who wind up reading a LOT in a given year, this is a massive challenge. Just like in the rest of life, when we fail to actually express our priorities, the things that we say matter will quickly go by the wayside. In reading, it’s easy to get side-tracked, spending too much time either reading bad books that you hope will get better (and not feeling like you have “permission” to drop it), or legitimately good books that they overshadow your time in Scripture. Yet as valuable as all reading is (with the exception of bad books), we cannot forget that first priority—Scripture has to come first. But even then, that’s sometimes easier said than done.

I spend a fair amount of time in the Word on a daily basis, but lately I’ve seen a real tension in trying to make sure it’s not just time spent considering something I’m working on (whether it be a part of a book or a blog post). Those are legitimate things to be doing, but they can sometimes be utilitarian activities. One of the ways that I’m trying to compensate for this is simply reading the Bible at the table during breakfast and whenever possible talking about what I’m reading. Doing so provides a number of benefits:

  1. My children see me reading my Bible (accountability)
  2. I get to talk to them about it if there’s a particular thought that occurs
  3. It gets my day started in the right place

If you’re having trouble with your reading priorities, here are some questions to consider (and discuss in the comments):

  1. What kind of priorities do you have in place for your reading?
  2. How are you guarding your time in the Word?
  3. Where have you noticed a weakness—and what are you doing in response?

Help Bring a Free Ultrasound Clinic to Indiana, PA

A request from Stephen Altrogge. Will you please help?

Online fundraising for Bring An Ultrasound Clinic to Indiana PA

For many years I’ve felt a need to fight against abortion in America. But the problem has always been: what can I do? I can pray, but what else can I do?

Finally, there is something I can do.

Recently, Life Choices Inc., a pro-life organization, contacted me about helping them bring a free ultrasound clinic to my hometown of Indiana, PA. Bringing a free ultrasound to the area would be such a wonderful step toward saving the unborn. When a woman is confronted with a real image of the real baby in her, having an abortion is that much harder.

I want to bring this clinic to Indiana. They need $60,000 dollars to make it happen. My goal is to raise $5,000 in the effort. Of course I would love to raise much more, but let’s start at $5,000.

Would you please consider helping me in this project? I firmly believe in the power of large numbers of people making small contributions to achieve a massive objective. Thanks for your help.

[tentblogger-youtube XL_FRopLn00]

All Other Books Are As Gold Leaf

All other books might be heaped together in one pile and burned with less loss to the world than would be occasioned by the obliteration of a single page of the sacred volume [Scripture]. At their best, all other books are but as gold leaf, requiring acres to find one ounce of the precious metal. But the Bible is solid gold. It contains blocks of gold, mines, and whole caverns of priceless treasure. In the mental wealth of the wisest men there are no jewels like the truths of revelation. The thoughts of men are vanity, low, and groveling at their best. but he who has given us this book has said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Let it be to you and to me a settled matter that the word of the Lord shall be honored in our minds and enshrined in our hearts. Let others speak as they may. We could sooner part with all that is sublime and beautiful, or cheering and profitable, in human literature than lose a single syllable from the mouth of God.

C.H. Spurgeon, from the sermon “Holy Longings,” as quoted in Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books by Tony Reinke, pp. 27-28

Book Review: The Armageddon Factor by Marci McDonald

I find the idea of the Religious Right in America fascinating—this apparently strongly influential group of conservatives who, depending on who you talk to, are trying to “take back America for Jesus.” Growing up in secular Canada, this seemed both somewhat amusing and just downright strange. We don’t have anything like this here—or so we think. But award-winning journalist Marci McDonald argues that looks can be–and indeed are—deceiving. In The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, she strives to show that there is indeed a strong, home-grown Religious Right emerging, determined to set Canada on the path to fulfilling its “divine destiny.”

When I first heard about this book, I was pretty sure it had to be a joke. After all, Canada is far more post- and even anti-Christian than our friends to the south (that is, most of the people reading this right now). Our evangelical Christian population weighs in at an impressive 3.3 million people. To give you some perspective, we have more families with dogs than we do individuals who are evangelicals. Our political conservatives look more like the Democrats than the Republicans. So the idea just didn’t fit with my understanding of the Canadian landscape. While they may not look like an impressive bunch, McDonald argues, Christian Nationalists—whom she derogatorily calls theo-cons—are on the move and have connections to the highest levels of government. Ultimately, though, her arguments are unconvincing for a number of reasons:

1. She is misleading in who she casts as the “voice” of evangelicalism in Canada. In the vast majority of the book, McDonald comes back to characters such as Charles McVety of Canada Christian College and Faytene Kryskow who leads “The Cry” (she holds prayer events and demonstrations at Parliament). Both are part of the extreme charismatic movement—which basically means that a lot of us are concerned about them, too (just for different reasons than McDonald). Yet, McDonald treats them as though they are the leading voices for evangelicals across Canada. She quotes John Stackhouse’s lament that, “Charles McVety is the nightmare that the Liberals want us to worry about,” as proof that he is indeed as influential as he wants us to believe. Indeed, I suspect that Stackhouse was more exasperated that anyone gives McVety even a little bit of airtime (which they haven’t for many years, incidentally).

2. She is dismissive of those with views contrary to her own. This is perhaps best displayed in her portrayal of Harry Nibourg, the founder of Alberta’s Big Valley Creation Science Museum. The reader is left with little doubt that McDonald believes that Darwinian evolution is Truth as she treats Nibourg not as someone who simply holds a view in opposition to her own, but as kind of a hick. Discussing his opinions as to why the public schools have never brought kids to the museum, she quotes Nibourg as saying, “There’s still a stigma attached. . . . The teachers don’t want their students comin’ in here, askin’ the questions because then they’d have to deal with it.” Perhaps this is nothing more than an attempt to capture his drawl, but given that Nibourg is the only person portrayed in this fashion in the entire book, it seems suspect. [Read more…]

My Next Book!

Since Awaiting a Savior was released, people have been asking, “Are you going to write another one?”

The short answer, is yes—and today, I get to tell you a little bit about it!

On June 1, 2012, my second book, Contend: Defending the Faith in a World Without Reason, will be released from Cruciform Press.

Here’s a quick summary of the book:

Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints…” With these words, Jude issues an urgent command, one that we must heed in a day when virtually no aspect of the Christian faith goes unchallenged. But we don’t need more finger pointing or straw men. We need to recognize and respond to the real threats to the Church in a way that glorifies God and helps his people. We must contend. This book will show you how.

I’m really grateful to be working with Cruciform Press again on this title. The model is great (I’ve been subscribing since 2010 and it’s arguably the best $4 I spend in a month), I love working with the team—and, most importantly, the content is consistently excellent. It really is a privilege to be a part of the line-up of this young publishing company.

Look for more updates on Contend as we get closer to the release date, but for now, I hope you’ll pre-order a copy today!

State of the Blog 2012

February 24th, 2012 marked the third anniversary of Blogging Theologically (I wrote a little bit about its origins in a post last June). In internet years, that’s the equivalent of being 1,000, I think. Anyway, since the blog began and more readers have found there way here, I’ve noticed I’ve started getting a lot of emails with the same kind of question: What advice can you give to help build my blog?

First, it’s really nice to be asked a question like this. I want to be able to help others as much as I can. But this is also a really hard question for me to answer. Honestly—and hopefully this isn’t false humility talking—I don’t know that I’ve done anything particularly special that other bloggers aren’t already doing. The advice I see most frequently given usually amounts to post daily (or at least on a regular schedule). But even then, that’s not necessarily the case—Scott Stratten (author of UnMarketing) usually gives the following advice: Just post something awesome. Doesn’t matter if it’s daily, monthly, annually… if you’ve got something awesome to say or share, post. If you don’t, don’t.

I (obviously) post daily, and my biggest goal is to post worthwhile content, whether it’s an original piece, a quote I’ve appreciated from a really good book or sermon, or the occasional video. But aside from content—because, honestly, I think everyone gets that whatever you’re posting should be great—I want to give to offer a few pieces of advice (much of which comes from an interview I did with Darryl Dash earlier in February) and look at how I’ve been trying to apply these things over the last year:

First, and most importantly, be who you are. Don’t try to be Tim Challies, Trevin WaxJustin Taylor or whichever big name bloggers you read because you’ll only be frustrated and disappointed (and really, no one wants to read a copycat, it’s no fun).

This past year, I think/hope I managed to find my “voice” as a writer. I’m not super-skilled, I’ve never taken a course in journalism or anything like that, but probably the best thing I’ve done is made sure I’m reading more broadly. So even though I’m reading a large amount of contemporary material, I’m also trying to get into the riches of the past as much as possible, as well as reading a good deal of material that falls outside the Christian realm. It’s like D.A. Carson’s advice to young preachers—if you listen to a lot of different men, you’re more likely to actually start to sound like you, rather than a bad imitation of your favorite preacher.

Second, contend well. There is a great temptation to chase gossip and controversy like so many watch-bloggers do and it’s just wicked nonsense. God is not honored by that sort of behavior. Don’t shy away from addressing a difficult subject if you have something of merit to say, particularly on a pressing issue, but try your best to be known for what you’re about rather than what you’re against.

This past year—indeed, even this calendar year, I’ve worked very hard to practice this and in recent weeks have written a fair amount on it. It’s always tempting to go there because, let’s face it, controversy generates traffic (as Tony Jones rightly pointed out on his blog—and yes, that just happened). But if I even considered chasing every controversy, two things would happen: one, my wife would rightly rebuke me and so would my pastor. Which brings me to my next point…

Third, get some accountability. Probably the biggest danger for bloggers is not having any visible form of accountability. Anyone who doesn’t have this needs to get it. Now.

Not that I ever really ran without some form of accountability (Emily is always in the loop on what I post, and I have a number of friends who are always willing to ask questions), but up until last year, I didn’t have anything formal in place. So in 2011, I asked our pastor to keep an eye on things and speak into anything that he finds questionable and it’s been a weight off my shoulders. The idea of not being under any authority makes me extremely uncomfortable, so I’m grateful that he’s willing to do this.

Finally, be content with whatever influence God gives you. If you have one person reading your blog and finding it helpful, praise God. If 10,000 read it, praise God just the same. Don’t worry about things like traffic or trying to parlay your following into a book deal or any such thing. Just have fun and appreciate whatever impact God allows you to have.

Whenever I check the traffic stats on the blog, it simply amazes me. I still remember the first day I had 24 pageviews for the whole day, and I still kind of think of it a bit like that (even though I know it’s not). All that to say, I’m really grateful for you all making this site a part of your day. Thanks!

Around the Interweb

Why I Hope Real Books Never Die

Kevin DeYoung:

Perhaps I am a wishful thinking bibliophile, but I just don’t think the physical book is going the way of the dodo bird. No doubt, many scholars and students will house parts of their reference libraries on an electronic device. Some frequent flyers will stick books on their tablets instead of in their brief cases. And some techno-geeks will conclude that everything is better on an Apple product. I’m sure  ereaders will make inroads. They serve a useful purpose. But only to a point.

Old books are like old friends. They love to be revisited. They stick around to give advice. They remind you of days gone by. Books, like friends, hang around.

And they prefer not to be invisible.


Also Worth Reading

What kind of men does God use?

Nostalgia Is the Enemy of Faith: Learn from Your Heroes’ Warts

Friday Questions: An Interview with Ted Kluck

Saved By Jesus, Not Doctrine


In Case You Missed It

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

The Problem with Labels and the Need for Clarity (and Charity)

D.A. Carson: Do Not Adopt a Pollyannaish View of Things

Walter Marshall: The Strange Forgetfulness of Urging Others to Practice the Law

Making Assumptions

R.C. Sproul: Sheer Madness

Book Review: A Cross-Shaped Gospel by Bryan Loritts