Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Several volumes from Crossway’s Theologians on the Christian Life series are on sale for $3.99 each:

Want to get a sense of the series? Get Theologians on the Christian Life: On the Church for free. Also on sale:

And finally, four volumes in the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series are $2.99 each:

What kids around the world eat for breakfast

This is pretty interesting.

Making The Church A Safe Place For Mental Illness

Stephen Altrogge:

In some churches, there’s this weird taboo surrounding mental illness. Nobody ever talks about it or acknowledges that it’s real. If a guy is sunk into depression, we say he’s, “Going through a rough patch,” or, “Having a tough time,” or we don’t say anything at all. If someone has cancer, we pray that God will heal her. If someone has back surgery, we make meals for him. But when it comes to mental illness, we don’t know what to say or do. Everyone knows something is wrong but nobody actually talks about it.

Don’t fall prey to the Facebook hoax

Remember friends, the only one who looks silly is you. And all the people who copy and paste what you post.

5 Reasons to Pray for Other Churches

Eric Bancroft:

Most evangelical churches that are faithful to preach the gospel are eager to do God’s work. While they represent this in a variety of ways, it usually includes baseline expectations of evangelism and discipleship. They organize their meetings, hire their staff, train their volunteers, structure their programs, and build their buildings with these intentions in mind. If they have been at it for any length of time and God has blessed their labor, they have seen fruit. Lives have been impacted. Homes have been changed. Relationships have been deepened.

parsons-old kind of heretic

“Saying you’re a new kind of Christian with a new kind of Christianity is basically saying you’re an old kind of heretic.”
—Burk Parsons—

What did you think would happen?

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A year ago, a Seventh Day Adventist pastor, Ryan Bell, announced he would spend 2014 living as an atheist to explore “the limits of theism and the atheism landscape in the United States.” His experiment ended on December 31st, 2014. So what happened?

Well, after a year of living as an atheist, Bell no longer believes that God exists.

“I think the best way I can explain the conclusion I’ve come to — and conclusion is too strong a word for the provisional place I now stand and work from — is that the intellectual and emotional energy it takes to figure out how God fits into everything is far greater than dealing with reality as it presents itself to us,” he told the Huffington Post.

Bell is not the angry disillusioned stereotype you usually see presented in stories of this sort. He comes across as a very sincere, likeable man. He simply believes “the existence of God seems like an extra layer of complexity that isn’t necessary.”

Which, of course, is not surprising in the least.

No doubt many saw the result of this experiment coming the moment it was announced. When I first read of it, this was certainly my reaction (though, not snidely, I hope).

The problem, is, of course, us. And more specifically, it’s our sin nature. Of course living as though God does not exist is going to be easier for us. When we acknowledge God as God, it means acknowledging his authority—which, yes, does make life more complex in some ways.

But so, too, does denying his existence.

An example of the greater complexity of denying God

For example, although, as Bell points out, atheists in general are not amoral people, we should recognize that there is a fluidity to their morality simply by virtue of there being no recognized objective, outside standard from which those morals emerge. We can more easily justify our wrongdoing as mistakes or errors, or point to the end result for our justification (see: “little white lies”). You do what’s right, you do your best to go to bed with a clear conscience, and you do it again the next day.

But here’s the rub: this is actually a far more complicated way to live. Not because going to bed with a clear conscience isn’t a good thing. Not because we shouldn’t be morally praiseworthy people. But, as Paul says, it’s our right deeds that present a problem for us. For when those “who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves” (Romans 2:14, emphasis mine). This is the same law, the same objective standard, he later says condemns us—not because the law is bad, but because it does not save us. Just because it’s easier to not recognize the source of morality doesn’t mean he’s not there, and it doesn’t mean we will escape the consequences of our falling short of it.

The greater concern with denying God

But there’s a greater concern that I have with this whole situation—and it, again, is one that comes as no surprise. As a Christian, as someone has been saved by Jesus, had my sins forgiven through his death on the cross, I cannot fathom the idea of living as though God did not exist. And I understand backsliding, straying, letting your love for the Lord grow cold, all that. It happens to all of us. But this is different. here’s something terrifying about the idea of being to so easily say, “Yep, I’m going to live this way now,” for it means something else entirely. That the Lord you professed to know, you did not know at all.

That, to me, is tragic. Not because I’m naïve enough to think this doesn’t happen all the time—I know far too many people who have either fallen astray for significant periods of time, continue to walk in rebellion, or have outright denied Christ who once claimed to be believers for my liking—but because the conceit of the project seemed to be self-deceptive. One doesn’t simply decide one day to be an atheist; it’s the result of moving along a trajectory toward unbelief. And one doesn’t engage in such a project if he or she is intending to come out the other side a more committed believer. Instead, the results show the experiment for what it was: one man getting comfortable with being able to say, “I don’t believe God exists.”

And it’s tragic because someday he’s going to meet the God he’s just denied.

So what should we do? We should not make callous comments. We should instead pray for God to reveal himself to Bell and people like him. That genuine believers would come into their lives. That they would meet the real Jesus—the one they never knew—so that, when they stand before him someday, it will not be in judgement, but as being welcomed home.


photo credit: Pliketi Plok via photopin cc

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

14 Pop Culture Events from 2014 You Already Forgot

Aaron Earls shares 14 events “that took over social media for a few days only to be forgotten the next week.”

Erwin Lutzer announces to transition to Pastor Emeritus

Big changes coming to The Moody Church in Chicago:

On Sunday January 4, 2014, Pastor Lutzer announced an upcoming change in the leadership of The Moody Church. Speaking with his wife Rebecca by his side, he informed the congregation that a search would begin for a new Senior Pastor.

The Lutzers have given this transition much thought and prayer, and have concluded that God is leading them to take this step at this time. They, along with the Elders, have agreed that Dr. Lutzer will remain in the role of Senior Pastor until a new Pastor is found. When that transition occurs, Pastor Lutzer will step into a new role of ministry, that of Pastor Emeritus of The Moody Church.

Essential Texting Acronyms Parents Must Know

If you’ve got kids with a cellphone, you’re going to want to know these.

What would Jesus say to someone like Leelah Alcorn?

Garret Kell:

It is heart-wrenching to know that a young person was so overwhelmed with pain that their only response was to stop living. That should mean something. Whether you’re LBGT, Christian, liberal, conservative, religious or otherwise—we are humans and a tragedy like this should lead us to stop, weep, pray, and take notice.

7 Truths We Have Forgotten

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Every generation has not just its blind spots, but its amnesiac moments—truths once held, even honored, that the rising generation let go of. One might call these things “Slipping Off the Shoulders of Giants.” Here are seven truths our fathers in the faith grasped that we have forgotten.

Location in Worship

Check out this new poem by John Piper.

Three tools to help you memorize Scripture

Pen, Diary and Glasses

Something all Christians should make their aim is memorizing Scripture. Whether it’s important verses, extended passages, or even entire books, there is something powerful about being able to recall glorious truths from God’s Word and preach them to yourself, and share them with others.

So… how do you get started? Here are a few tools I’d recommend:

1. Scripture Typer. This is a great way to ease yourself into memorizing Scripture. The idea behind it is that it uses visual and kinesthetic memory to help you memorize verses. So, you type out a verse as it appears, then you can work on memorizing it by filling in the blanks as you type, and progressively work toward being able to type the verse in its entirety.

For example, one I tried out recently was John 3:16 (HCSB): “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

I typed this out in total, with it present on the screen. Then tried it again with every other word missing. Then did it again with the opposite words missing. Then tried it from memory (which is what the above was typed from).

Neat, huh?

This is a free tool online and is also available as an iOS app. A similar tool is Memverse.

2. Fighter Verses. Fighter Verses is a five-year memorization plan, focusing on “the character and worth of our great God, battling against our fleshly desires, and the hope of the Gospel.” It features a number of different sets that can be used free online, or with the iOS and Android devices (which cost $3 a piece).

3. The memory moleskine. This is the most advanced option, but it’s a terrific for memorizing an entire book of the Bible, something I attempted back in 2011 with Philippians. And best of all, I actually did it. The problem, of course, is that I didn’t keep up on my practice, so I lost about 90 percent of it. However, if you can commit to “tending the garden,” these little notebooks and the process of reading, speaking, writing, and repeating, are amazing. Want to give it a shot? Try Colossians.

Happy memorizing!


Photo credit: Generationbass.com via photopin cc

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for A.W. Tozer readers

Over at Amazon, you can get a whole pile of A.W. Tozer’s works for very reasonable prices:

Also available now for pre-order is the 30-volume C.S. Lewis Collection for Logos Bible Software. If you’ve ever wanted to see his works in your Logos library, and you’ve got about $300 you can spare for study resources, this is the time to order.

What kind of a thing is the Bible?

Gavin Ortlund unpacks six “should be obvious but still need to be stated” theses about the Bible. They’re well worth your time.

Science increasingly makes the case for God

Eric Metaxas:

As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.…

As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

Set up your singles

Lore Ferguson makes the case against signing up for online dating:

Local churches are intended to be the incubator for future marriages, not online dating sites and hookup apps. Can God use the common grace of online matchmaking? Absolutely. Is it best? I would argue no. No matter how perfectly crafted our online dating profiles, how strategic our selfies, or how appealing we can make ourselves sound, these sites cannot replace the efforts of those who know and love us in helping us find a spouse. Pew research tells us, “Even today, the vast majority of Americans who are in a marriage, partnership, or other serious relationship say that they met their partner through offline—rather than online—means.”

The elephant speaks

Good strip from Adam Ford.

The many sins of Newsweek’s expose on the Bible

Justin Taylor weighs in on Newsweek’s hit piece on the Bible:

Despite this cool reception, Eichenwald might be surprised to learn that academically informed evangelicals agree with him on a number of issues. Yes, the Bible needs to be read more and to be read better, even among the faithful, and yes, the Bible can be abused and misused. Yes, people in the pew should learn the basics of historical background, interpretive principles, manuscript transmission, the formation of the canon and translation theory. They would also give a hearty “amen” to Eichenwald’s statement that “the history, complexities and actual words of the Bible can’t be ignored just to line it up with what people want to believe, based simply on what friends and family and ministers tell them.”

The problem, they would humbly suggest, is that Eichenwald has not truly taken his own advice to heart. His piece reads like someone trying to describe the landscape of North America after a first-time visit to just one city. The world of biblical scholarship and the people of evangelicalism are far more interesting than the narrow splice of popular liberal scholarship that Eichenwald has reviewed or the Republican politicians he has seen praying on TV.

The top 10 posts of 2014

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This has been a very crazy year. On top of all the good that we experienced in 2014, there’s been a huge amount of turmoil at home and abroad, all of which has given us blogger types no shortage of material to write about. While not everything we write is as well-received as maybe we’d like, it’s always encouraging to see that what we write is actually helpful to you, our readers.

This is especially true for me as I consider the most-read posts from 2014. Here’s a look:

#1: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009). This post has consistently been among the most-read posts on the blog since I wrote it nearly six years ago. A lot of people wonder about the truth of this cliché (which isn’t true at all).

#2: The day ISIS got a little closer to home (September 2014). This was by far the most-read post written in 2014, and with good reason: we’ve not seen anything quite like the events surrounding ISIS’s rise in the Middle East in ages. It’s an issue that gets closer and closer to home, as we’ve had no less than three ISIS related acts of terrorism here in Canada in 2014. I pray the Lord brings a swift end to this conflict.

#3: Being “all about Jesus”: thoughts on Mark Driscoll, anger, forgiveness and grace (August 2014). I tried really (really!) hard to not get too caught up in the implosion of Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll. Did I write on it more often than was necessary? I’m not sure. I hope not. But this is a post on the subject I most definitely stand by.

#4: Ministry Idolatry (January 2011). I actually re-wrote this one in September 2014, as I continued to reflect on the Driscoll fiasco, who himself spoke on this very issue several years ago. A good warning unheeded by its messenger.

#5: Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009). Are church buildings helpful? As a member of a church that doesn’t have a permanent facility, I can safely say, you betcha. Dan Kimball—who used to be kind of anti-building—thinks so, too.

#6: Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011). Thinking about that time Steven Furtick wrote something helpful on preaching.

#7: God helps those who help themselves (July 2009). This is another long-time post from back in the early days of the blog.

#8: John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009). A number of years ago, John Piper was asked about John MacArthur’s putting Driscoll outside the camp (figuratively speaking). This is what he said. Given the year’s events, I’m not certain he’d stand behind this statement in its entirety anymore.

#9: 7 signs you’re reading a book by a prosperity preacher (January 2014). I don’t often dabble in humor, but this was a lot of fun to write. I’m grateful so many of you seemed to enjoy it, too.

#10: 5 books every new Christian should read (2014). When I was a new Christian, I didn’t have a clue what I should be reading. This post was written for all the young guys like me 10 years ago.

Thanks for a great year, here at the blog and happy reading!

Links I like

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Book deals for Christian readers

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

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

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

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

Predictions for 2015

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

4 Reasons To Use Goodreads

Barnabas Piper:

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

Lambs in the midst of wolves

Ray Ortlund:

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

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

When We Grow Passionate in Prayer

Jonathan Parnell:

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

Reflections On A Year With Richard Sibbes

Mike Leake:

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

Looking back at 2014, looking ahead to 2015

2015

And that was 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of things you might be wondering:

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Links I like

Google got it wrong

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

You (Yes, You!) Should Consider Global Missions

Jason Carter:

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

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

Kara’s End

Kara Tippetts:

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

Shallow and narrow

Jeremy Walker:

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

3 ways not to use Greek in Bible study

Justin Dillehay:

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

Evangelicals’ favorite heresies

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

C.S. Lewis is coming to Logos

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

Why Do We Blame the World for Being the World?

Jim Hislop:

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

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

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

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

I realized my reading habits had become a bit boring.

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

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

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

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

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

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

Gospel + safety + time

I loved reading this post from Ray Ortlund.

Burn Your Bible College Degree

D.L. Mayfield:

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

But how?

The secret life of Albert Einstein

Allan Levine:

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

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

Is the Reformation still relevant today?

Thaddeus Williams:

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

 R C Sproul’s Second Conversion

Interesting article from David Murray.

11 books I want to read 2015

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Fear and Faith by Trillia Newbell (Moody Publishers)

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

The Song of Solomon offers strikingly candid—and timeless—insights on romance, dating, marriage, and sex. We need it. Because emotions rise and fall with a single glance, touch, kiss, or word. And we are inundated with songs, movies, and advice that contradicts God’s design for love and intimacy.

Matt Chandler helps navigate these issues for both singles and marrieds by revealing the process Solomon himself followed: Attraction, Courtship, Marriage … even Arguing. The Mingling of Souls will forever change how you view and approach love.


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

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

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


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

This could be really great:

Hopelessness has invaded much of our culture, even reaching deep into the church. But while the world is awash in negativity, Christians have resources to live differently.

In The Happy Christian, professor and pastor David Murray blends the best of modern science and psychology with the timeless truths of Scripture to create a solid, credible guide to positivity. The author of the acclaimed Christians Get Depressed Too, Murray exposes modern negativity’s insidious roots and presents ten perspective-changing ways to remain optimistic in a world that keeps trying to drag us down.


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

What Is Your Bible-Reading Plan for 2015?

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

Social Media Fruit of the Spirit

Aaron Earls:

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

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

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

5 trends that will shape 2015

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

Don’t Get Too Familiar with the Bible

Peter Krol:

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

Why You Should Read Bavinck

Derek Rishmawy:

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

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