The weird and the witty: A choose your own autobiography

I walked into my local Chapters, making my usual bee-line for the Starbucks, when it caught my eye.

No, not Joel Osteen’s beautiful (and likely very expensive) smile…

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(Although…)

No, something much more amazing. This:

NPH-autobiography

Autobiographies are weird animals. Most of us don’t have a life stories interesting enough to fill a book (or at least, one people would want to read). The same goes for celebrities, who also don’t really have lives that could fill a book you’d want to read, either.

And yet, here we are.

And here this is.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography may well be the most clever addition to the ever expanding line of celebrity life stories, simply because of the schtick of putting the reader in the driver’s seat of Harris’ life. For example:

You, Neil Patrick Harris, are born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on June 15, 1973, at what you’re pretty sure is St. Joseph’s Hospital, although it’s hard to be certain as the whole experience leaves you a little blurry.

The first person you encounter is, not surprisingly, your mother, Sheila Scott Harris. As the years go by you will come to learn she is a truly remarkable woman filled with love, kindness, fragility, selflessness, intelligence, wisdom, and humor. The kind of mom who will talk to you like a person and treat you with respect from the age of two. The kind of mom who will hold you in her lap for an entire four-hour car ride, lightly scratching your back. The kind of mom who teaches you the rules of Twenty Questions and then lets you guess the “right” answer even though it wasn’t what she was thinking, but does it subtly enough to keep you from realizing that’s what she’s doing. The kind of mom traditional enough to sing in the Episcopal church choir every week but hip enough to improvise a horrific death for a character in the bedtime story she’s reading you just to make sure you’re paying attention. The kind of mom who sews your Halloween costumes and plays the flute and loves to laugh and encourages you to pursue your passions and at one point trains to become a Jazzercise instructor and at another decides to go back to law school in her thirties and commute four hours each way every weekend for three solid years to make sure she spends enough time with you.

This is a pretty clever approach to an autobiography, one that shows a certain willingness to poke fun at oneself too rarely found in celebrities. But then again, Harris did start something of a career comeback mocking himself in the early 2000s, so…

New and noteworthy books

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One of my favorite times of the day, after coming home and greeting my family is seeing what mail has arrived. This is not because I super-love receiving bills in the mail, but because I’m in the position where a number of Christian publishers regularly send me copies of many of the latest Christian books. Here’s a quick look at a few of the most interesting in the latest batch:


After They Are Yours: The Grace and Grit of Adoption by Brian Borgman

The latest from Cruciform Press looks like a powerful read:

After They Are Yours talks transparently and redemptively about the often unspoken problems adoptive parents face. Combining personal experience, biblical wisdom and a heart for people, Borgman recalls the humbling and difficult lessons God has taught him and his wife. This is not a success story, rather it’s a story of struggles and failures set in the broader context of a God who is gracious and continually teaches us the meaning of adoption.

Buy it at: Amazon | Cruciform Press


Hope Reborn: How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus by Tope Koleoso and Adrian Warnock

Everyone is looking for hope and meaning in life. Are you sure that you really are a Christian and will live forever with Jesus? If you have drifted away, this book encourages you to come back and find certain hope.

Buy it at: Amazon


Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel and Damaging the Faith by Chelsen Vicari

The provocative title certainly caught my attention. It’ll be interesting to see how balanced its content is. Could be really great or made of crazy. I suspect there is no middle ground:

Peek behind the curtain of some “hip” or “progressive” evangelical churches, past the savvy trends and contemporary music, and what you find may surprise you. Liberal evangelicals—despite how apolitical they claim to be—are gaining ground, promoting a repackaged version of Christianity that distorts the authority of Scripture and is causing a mass exodus of young people from the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Buy it at: Amazon


Heaven by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson (editors)

The latest in Crossway’s Theology in Community series offers much-needed perspective for Christians confused about the doctrine of heaven:

Our culture has a lot to say about heaven. But too much of it is based more on imaginative speculation or “supernatural” experiences than on the Bible itself.

In the latest addition to the Theology in Community series, Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson have assembled an interdisciplinary team of evangelical scholars to explore the doctrine of heaven from a variety of angles. Among other contributors, Ray Ortlund examines the concept of heaven in the Old Testament, Gerald Bray explores the history of theological reflection about heaven, and Ajith Fernando looks at persecuted saints’ special relationship to heaven in the New Testament. This team of first-rate scholars offers modern readers a comprehensive overview of this often misunderstood topic—shedding biblical light on the eternal hope of all Christians.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


The Legacy Journey: A Radical View of Biblical Wealth and Generosity by Dave Ramsey

It’ll be interesting to see where Ramsey ultimately lands on this topic. Much like Vicari’s book, it could either be really great or utterly not great. The only way I’ll know for sure? By reading it.

There’s a lot of bad information in our culture today about wealth—and the wealthy. Worse, there’s a growing backlash in America against our most successful neighbors, but why? To many, wealth is seen as the natural result of hard work and wise money management. To others, wealth is viewed as the ultimate, inexcusable sin. This has left a lot of godly men and women honestly confused about what to do with the resources God’s put in their hands. God’s ways of handling money caused them to build wealth, but then they’re left feeling guilty about it. Is this what God had in mind?

Buy it at: Amazon


Beat God to the Punch by Eric Mason

I actually finished reading this about a week ago. A review is forthcoming:

Author Eric Mason succinctly articulates God’s call of discipleship on every person. In a winsome, persuasive tone, Mason calls people into a posture of submission to the gospel.

Eric Mason masterfully roots out the areas of life where we try to tell God, “Do not enter.” In light of Jesus’ free offer of the good news, Pastor Mason challenges readers to turn our affections away from those things that hold hostage our hearts and consider what it means to be an authentic follower of the Messiah.

Buy it at: Amazon


The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C. S. Lewis by John Piper and David Mathis (editors)

C. S. Lewis stands as one of the most influential Christians of the twentieth century. His commitment to the life of the mind and the life of the heart is evident in classics like the Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity—books that illustrate the unbreakable connection between rigorous thought and deep affection.

With contributions from Randy Alcorn, John Piper, Philip Ryken, Kevin Vanhoozer, David Mathis, and Douglas Wilson, this volume explores the man, his work, and his legacy—reveling in the truth at the heart of Lewis’s spiritual genius: God alone is the answer to our deepest longings and the source of our unending joy.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Rising Above a Toxic Workplace by Gary D Chapman, Paul E. White and Harold Myra

This is another one that I finished pretty recently. Look for a review soon:

Many employees experience the reality of bulling bosses, poisonous people, and soul-crushing cultures on a daily basis. Rising Above a Toxic Workplace tells authentic stories from today’s workers who share how they cope, change-or quit. Candidly they open up about what they learned, what they wish they had done, and how to gain resilience. Insightfully illustrating from these accounts, authors Gary Chapman, Paul White, and Harold Myra blend their combined experiences in ministry and business to deliver hope and practical guidance to those who find themselves in an unhealthy work environment. Includes a Survival Guide and Toolkit full of strategies and realistic insights.

Buy it at: Amazon

Five fiction books you should read

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One of the things I’ve really come to love as I’ve re-embraced fiction has been its power: good fiction is disarming. It allows you to enter into a world either very similar to our own or completely unlike it, and experience the mundane and the marvellous in ways you may not have imagined previously. It allows us to explore the nature of humanity in ways that you can’t as effectively through non-fiction. Often, by the time you’re done reading a really good fiction book, you’re surprised by how much you have to consider.

And yet it seems like so few Christians (at least in the circles I run in) read really good fiction.[Worse, it seems like even fewer Christian authors write really good fiction (as evidenced by the plethora of Amish romance novels available at your local Christian bookstore). But that's an issue for another time.] I’d like to see that change (as would Justin Taylor, clearly). So, here’s a look at five fiction books Christians should consider reading. I do not promise profound picks—in fact, there’s a high degree of moral ambiguity represented in each—but I trust you’ll find them intriguing.


High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. But what got me in this book in particular (aside from it being so ridiculously quotable), is how much I identified with its characters, especially as an angsty 20-something music snob. I knew the guys at Rob’s record store. Actually, I was one of them—socially awkward and pretentious in my musical taste. (How is it that I ever got married?) Hornby’s greatest skill—giving us characters who read as real people, as opposed to ideas presented as people, if you follow—is on full display in this book, and why he is among my favorite modern authors.


The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Having read a few of his books, this remains my favorites (Wonder Boys is a close second). I grew up adoring comic books. I actually desperately wanted to work in the comic industry in my teens (and even in my 20s; don’t judge). Kavalier and Clay follows Jewish cousins Joe Kavalier and Sammy Klayman who find fame with their creation The Escapist in the golden age of comics (the late 1930s to early 1950s). This book deals with some pretty powerful themes—among them , the cost of fame, racism, sexual identity, and family—but refuses to sacrifice good storytelling for the sake of making a statement.


The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. Is this a “safe” pick? Absolutely. Anything by C.S. Lewis tends to be in Christian circles since he’s one of us. But this one is different than the other books in the Narnia series (all of which I enjoyed). While it is not unceasingly grim, and, indeed, ends on the highest of notes, there is a weight to it that is lacking in some of the earlier volumes. One of my favorite elements? The ape who insists he’s a man (see why at the link).


Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I picked up this book randomly during my last year of high school. I can’t remember why exactly, though it may have been for an independent study project. After reading it (and then reading it again. And again. And…), I think I finally wore out my copy. It’s the richness of the characters that makes Great Expectations so compelling. As Dickens tells the tale of a lower-class boy who desires to become a gentleman, he gives us far more complicated and conflicted men and women than you find in any of his other works.


Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams. Few authors can blend the mundane with the absurd as masterfully as Adams. Here’s one of my favorite passages:

The bathroom was not large.

The walls were panelled in old oak linenfold which, given the age and nature of the building, was quite probably priceless, but otherwise the fittings were stark and institutional.

There was old, scuffed, black-and-white checked linoleum on the floor, a small basic bath, well cleaned but with very elderly stains and chips in the enamel, and also a small basic basin with a toothbrush and toothpaste next to the taps. Screwed into the probably priceless panelling above the basin was a tin mirror-fronted bathroom cabinet. It looked as if it had been repainted many times, and the mirror was stained round the edges with condensation. The lavatory had an old-fashioned cast-iron chain-pull cistern. There was an old cream-painted wooden cupboard standing in the corner, with an old brown bentwood chair next to it, on which lay some neatly folded but threadbare small towels. There was also a large horse in the room, taking up most of it. (69)

You could really choose any of his books and you’d do well; but I’ve long had a fondness for Dirk Gently (which I also happen to be re-reading at the time of this writing).


Those are a few fiction books I’d recommend checking out. What are some of your favorites?


Photo credit: EJP Photo via photopin cc

The weird and the witty: The annotating Spurgeon

People who know me and my reading habits know that I love to mark up, mess up and beat up my books. I write a LOT of notes, and have little conversations with authors in the margins of my hardcopy books. Sometimes these are pretty funny (at least for me), but other times, they’re expressing my deep frustration with what I’m reading—at least when it’s wrong.

And all who’ve seen my now-lost ARC of Love Wins said, “Amen.”

One of my favorite books to mark up was the first edition of Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch’s The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church (which remains one of my least favorite books, but that’s another story).

At the time, I happened to be reading with a red pen in hand and as I did, I found myself fully crossing out entire pages, and writing a simple and direct response:

No. Read your Bible.

I should also mention that I’d been a Christian for all of a year at the time.

But thankfully, I’m not alone in this. In fact, it turns out I’m in good company, as Adrian Warnock reminded those who follow him on Twitter yesterday when he shared a masterful bit of annotating by Charles “Oh, snap!” Spurgeon:

spurgeon-annotation

Spurgeon, never one to let his opinion remain hidden, certainly gave us a clear picture of what he thought of Albert Taylor Bledsoe’s work, didn’t he?

Do you mark up your books? What’s the funniest margin conversation you’ve had with an author?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Only a couple of new ones that I’m aware of today, both by Mark Sayers: Facing Leviathan and The Road Trip that Changed the World ($4.99 each).

Blogs Gone Cold

Hannah Anderson, Courtney Reissig, and Megan Hill speak on the tendency for Christian blogs written by women to go cold.

Is Divorce Equivalent to Homosexuality?

Russell Moore:

This week my denomination, through its executive committee, voted to “disfellowship” a congregation in California that has acted to affirm same-sex sexual relationships. This sad but necessary move is hardly surprising, since this network of churches shares a Christian sexual ethic with all orthodox Christians of every denomination for 2,000 years. One of the arguments made by some, though, is that this is hypocritical since so many ministers in our tradition marry people who have been previously divorced.

A novel Jared Wilson thinks every Christian should read

The final part of Justin Taylor’s excellent series. And speaking of Justin…

Justin Taylor (sorta) interviews Dane Ortlund

If I ever get to write a book for Crossway, I’m going to insist an interview like this is part of the deal:

A Long Line of Leaving Our Comfort Zone

Ben Connelly:

My three-year-old Charlotte woke up at 4am last night. When the babysitters had put her to bed, they hadn’t flipped on her “night-night light.” A train horn in the blackness startled her to tears. When I plugged in the tiny bulb, soft yellow light engulfed the room. The darkness was gone and she cuddled back to sleep. One of the most impacting facts I’ve ever learned is that physical light always goes into darkness; scientifically, darkness never comes to light. Darkness cannot overcome a candle; it must wait for the flame to flicker out. But when you flip a light switch, beams instantly fill the blackness. If we may spiritualize the image a bit, light goes into—and pushes back—darkness.

The spin of Patriarchy

This week’s episode of the Mortification of Spin is well worth listening to.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And although it’s not on sale, you’d do well to pre-order David Murray’s upcoming book, The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World.

It’s Personal. Don’t You Ever Forget it.

Erik Raymond:

When you consider this love, think also of the fact that no one truly knows what was required like Christ. Therefore, he loves most and best of all. How so? Well, no one knows the depths of God’s holiness and righteousness like Christ. He knows what is required. He knows this by virtue of his divine omniscience but also his human experience. He, after all, is the one to say, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (Jn. 17.4) In other words, “I have magnified your name Father; I have considered your holiness and not wavered a moment. Everything I have done is perfectly adorning of your holiness.”

Get Blood Work in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation by Anthony Carter (hardcover) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Believing God teaching series by R.C. Sproul Jr (DVD)
  • The Faith Shaped Life by Ian Hamilton (paperback)
  • Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God (ePub)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Why You Shouldn’t Give Up On The Church

Barnabas Piper:

Many people like me, who grew up immersed in church, have given up on it. Church is archaic, domineering, impersonal, hypocritical, irrelevant, contentious, petty, boring, and stale. It’s institutional instead of authentic and religious but not relational they say. I have seen all this in church and can agree that each accusation is true in instances. A PK sees all this up close and far too personally and feels each fault even more intensely. It really is enough to make one want to bail on church.

And I had my chance. Despite growing up steeped in sound Bible teaching and a loving context, I grew up empty in my soul. I believed but didn’t fully believe. I obeyed but kept parts of my life for myself, bits of dishonesty and secrecy. I knew Jesus and knew He was the only way to be saved from my sin, but I didn’t give my life to Him. In the end it blew up in my face and I was faced with the decision: stay in church and work through my mess or leave and be free. I stayed.

A bad reason to review a book

Nate is bang on.

When You’re Truly Broken Over Sin

Vermon Pierre:

Repentance is hard because pridefulness is easy. We don’t want to admit when we have sinned, and thus we have trouble truly confessing and then repenting of sin. How often have the words Yes, but . . . entered your thoughts when you have been confronted over sin?

Sin, however, cannot be dealt with in any other way but head on, without any self-justifying excuses. We need to address it directly, with full honesty and little reservation, if we are to truly kill it.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots of Kindle deals for you today:

Three books on leadership from Crossway:

Also on sale:

Finally, four books by Hank Hanegraaff:

A Failure of Worship

Tim Challies:

I find addiction, and the bondage of addiction, to be very difficult to understand. It seems like overcoming addiction should be so simple, and especially for the Christian: Instead of doing that thing, how about next time you just don’t do that thing? Instead of opening that bottle, keep it closed. Instead of buying those pills, buy some groceries. Instead of typing in that web site, type in a different web site. Instead of walking through the doors of the casino, choose not to even go near the casino. If only it was so simple.

A Little Greek Can Be a Big Distraction

Peter Krol:

You don’t have to reference Greek or Hebrew to study the Bible. You can observe, interpret, and apply using a decent English translation (such as the ESV or NET). In fact, knowing a bit of Greek can actually distract you from careful study of a passage.

The Blessings and Curses of Being an Introverted Pastor

Eric McKiddie:

The stakes are high when it comes to being an introverted pastor because our job ispeople. The very nature of our role requires us to engage with our congregation relationally, but the nature of our personality inclines us toward alone time. To the extent that we avoid people, or outsource shepherding to staff pastors or interns, we short-circuit our leadership potential.

But there are strengths to being an introverted pastor, too. It seems to me that people think there are only curses to being an introverted pastor. Maybe it’s just me being a sensitive introvert, but I’ve never heard someone being referred to as an introvert as a compliment, nor have I heard someone identified as an extrovert negatively. The word extrovert, it seems, is synonymous with entrepreneurial, charismatic, and being a people person. Even the negative sides of being an extrovert are given a positive spin, like the gift of gab.

 The Books Boomers Will Never Read

John Piper:

Not all boomers are readers. They will feel their losses coming at their dented, shaky, leaky space ship in different ways. But millions are.

We love to read. We wish we could read so much more. I had lunch recently with a 93-year old man, full of alertness and mental energy. He told me that in his wife’s last years he read 22 novels out loud to her.

For the boomers who read, the thought of so many books never being read brings a sense of great loss. The loss is felt in proportion to our love of reading.

Why do we love to read?

The Problem with Others

Chad Thornhill:

If we require the other to be like us before we open our arms to them, we undercut the entire thrust of the Gospel, which is that God loved humanity in its complete and utter otherness from him, and yet embraced them through his son anyway. We are called to offer the same response to both outsiders (those outside of the faith) and others (those who are different from us). That is the call with which those who claim the name of Christ have been entrusted. Yes, governments exist to enforce laws and prosecute criminals. But the Church does not. This does not mean the Church should withdraw from public engagement. But our engagement must be driven by biblical and theological convictions and attitudes, and not political ideologies and legal inquiries.

New and noteworthy books

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One of my favorite times of the day, after coming home and greeting my family is seeing what mail has arrived. This is not because I super-love receiving bills in the mail, but because I’m in the position where a number of Christian publishers regularly send me copies of many of the latest Christian books. Here’s a quick look at a few of the most interesting in the latest batch:


You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis and Lisa Chan

In his latest book, Francis Chan joins together with his wife Lisa to address the question many couples wonder at the altar: How do I have a great marriage? Setting aside typical topics on marriage, Francis and Lisa dive into Scripture to understand what it means to have a relationship that satisfies the deepest parts of our souls.

100% of the net profits from You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity will go towards providing food, shelter and rehabilitation for thousands of orphaned children and exploited women in partnership with global charities.

And if you needed an additional reason to pick this one up…

You’re welcome.

Buy it at: Amazon


ESV Women’s Devotional Bible

The latest edition to the ESV Bible family:

Applicable for women in any stage of life, the Women’s Devotional Bible is theologically rich in content while remaining accessible and practical. Readers will be encouraged in daily, prayerful Bible study, and equipped to understand and apply the Bible to every aspect of life.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth by Mike Cosper

From horror flicks to rom-coms, the tales we tell and the myths we weave inevitably echo the narrative underlying all of history: the story of humanity’s tragic sin and God’s triumphant salvation. This entertaining book connects the dots between the stories we tell and the one great Story—helping us better understand the longings of the human heart and thoughtfully engage with the movies and TV shows that capture our imaginations.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Edwards on the Christian Life by Dane Ortlund

Dane Ortlund invites us to explore the great eighteenth-century pastor’s central passion: God’s resplendent beauty. Whether the topic was the nature of love, the preeminence of Scripture, or the glory of the natural world, the concept of beauty stood at the heart of Edwards’s theology and permeated his portrait of the Christian life. Clear and engaging, this accessible volume will inspire you to embrace Edwards’s magnificent vision of what it means to be a Christian: enjoying and reflecting of the beauty of God in all things.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Truth in a Culture of Doubt by Andreas Köstenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw

Truth in a Culture of Doubt takes a closer look at the key arguments skeptical scholars such as Ehrman keep repeating in radio interviews, debates, and in his their popular writings. If you are looking for insightful responses to critical arguments from a biblical perspective, easily accessible and thoughtfully presented, this book is for you. This is the first book to provide a comprehensive response to Ehrman’s popular works. It is presented in such a way that readers can either read straight through the book or use it as a reference when particular questions arise. Responding to skeptical scholars such as Ehrman, Truth in a Culture of Doubt takes readers on a journey to explain topics such as the Bible’s origins, the copying of the Bible, alleged contradictions in Scripture, and the relationship between God and evil. Written for all serious students of Scripture, this book will enable you to know how to respond to a wide variety of critical arguments raised against the reliability of Scripture and the truthfulness of Christianity.

Buy it at: Amazon


God’s Design for Man and Woman by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger

This thorough study of the Bible’s teaching on men and women aims to help a new generation of Christians live for Christ in today’s world. Moving beyond other treatments that primarily focus on select passages, this winsome volume traces Scripture’s overarching pattern related to male-female relationships in both the Old and New Testaments. Those interested in careful discussion rather than caustic debate will discover that God’s design is not confining or discriminatory but beautiful, wise, liberating, and good.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Tom Jones by Fielding

This one’s a bit of a cheat since it’s about 200 years old and I bought it. But I bought it on the recommendation of Karen Swallow Prior.

Tom, a foundling, is discovered one evening by the benevolent Squire Allworthy and his sister Bridget and brought up as a son in their household; when his sexual escapades and general misbehavior lead them to banish him, he sets out in search of both his fortune and his true identity. Amorous, high-spirited, and filled with what Fielding called “the glorious lust of doing good,” but with a tendency toward dissolution, Tom Jones is one of the first characters in English fiction whose human virtues and vices are realistically depicted. This edition is set from the text of the Wesleyan Edition of the Works of Henry Fielding.

Buy it at: Amazon

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a whole bunch of new deals for you:

Finally, the New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology series is on sale for $3.99 each:

Oprah, edited

Drew Dyck had some fun with the Oprah quotes on the sleeves at Starbucks.

Gungor, Questions, and the Doubters Among Us

Trevin Wax:

For better or for worse, evangelicalism’s lack of authority structure and ecclesial identity open the door for campus ministries, parachurch organizations, and singers, writers, and moviemakers to fulfill the role of quasi-theologians. This is why, when celebrities cross the boundaries of their conservative audience, they get an earful from their constituency, who, rightly or wrongly, feel betrayed by the star’s defection.

The left’s response to Gungor and Jars of Clay was to celebrate an artist’s willingness to boldly “ask questions,” to be “authentic,” and to reformulate Christianity in ways that take into consideration our contemporary setting. The conservative response was to decry these artists as defectors from the faith and to write them and their questions off.

My Facebook feed was filled with both responses – those who praised the courage and creativity of Gungor, and those who condemned their unorthodox views. Both attitudes left me unsatisfied. Here’s why.

On Nude Celebrities, Virtual Voyeurs, and Willing Victims

Tim Challies:

But there is still another aspect of their victimization I want us to see: The very fact that these women took these photographs in the first place is proof that they are victims of the world, the flesh, and the devil. I assume they were all willing participants in these photo shoots, but they were victims even in their willingness—victims of those forces that makes them believe they are nothing more than their beauty, their sexiness, or their sexual desirability. They are victims of the lust that drove them to inappropriate sexual relationships outside of marriage. When we understand sin, we understand that a person can be a willing participant and victim at the same time and in the same act.

Karen Swallow Prior’s recommendation for a novel every Christian should consider reading

Probably the most unique selection in this series so far. (Also, by far one of my favorite blog series from Justin Taylor.)

When Pastors Experience Depression

Thom Rainer:

Depression was once a topic reserved for “other people.” It certainly was not something those in vocational ministry experienced. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that ministers rarely admitted that they were depressed. After all, weren’t these servants of God supposed to have their acts together? How could pastors and other ministers who have the call of God on their lives experience the dark valley of depression?

Ministers often feel shame and failure when they go through bouts of depression. And their reticence to tell anyone about their plights has exacerbated the problem.

But today more and more ministers are willing to talk about this issue. Articles in Christian Post, the New York Times, and Paul Tripp’s Gospel Coalition blog address the problem candidly and proactively.

The Cloak of Righteousness

Lore Ferguson:

This morning I woke thinking of all the ways I have failed, all those I have failed, and all the failures yet to come. How could a holy God condescend to me? How could he fit his goodness as a cloak on me? Surely I have toed the line of arrogance and fear and anxiety and lust and envy and all kinds of sin, enough that I have gone out the bounds of his demands.

But if Salvation is to “make wide” or to “make sufficient,” then the salvific act was one that spread wide around the boundaries of every one of my days and sins and weakness and proclivities and covers them all.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And here’s one for Logos/Vyrso users: Francis and Lisa Chan’s new book, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, is free right now (no idea how long it lasts, so act quickly). Finally, Christianaudio.com’s free book of the month is How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer.

Experience the power of a bookbook™

Can Everyone Be A Leader?

No, no they cannot.

The Princess Bride Syndrome

Ryan Shinkel explains how his position changed on same-sex marriage.

A tale of two Mars Hills

Eric Geiger:

A drift in doctrine, a drift from the truth, has a devastating impact. There is a massive difference in holding tightly to the “faith delivered once and for all to the saints” and continually questioning, as Satan did in the garden, “Did God really say…?” Putting on trial what the Lord has clearly declared is the antithesis of watching your doctrine.

One Mars Hill, and numerous observers, has been adversely impacted by a failure to closely watch life, and one by a failure to watch doctrine.

The absurdity of dividing God’s word from God’s work

Denny Burk:

Theological liberals have for many years sought to drive a wedge between God’s word and His person and work—as if we can be devoted to the one without the other. But this is an absurdity, unless of course one does not regard scripture as the very word of God. If scripture is not God’s word, then a wedge makes sense. If it is God’s word, a wedge makes no sense at all. And it serves no one to say that “the FOUNDATION of our faith is an EVENT not a BOOK.”

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Seven books I’m reading this fall

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Well, it’s finally here: Labor Day, and with it, the end of summer holidays in Canada. Tomorrow, kids all over Canada will return to school, and traffic will be slightly busier due to school busses. Life around the Armstrong home will be a little different, too, since it’s our first official day being a homeschooling family.

As new seasons approach, I like to consider what I’m going to read over the next several weeks. A few weeks ago, I shared a look at what I planned to read during the summer (and actually read most of them!) Today, I wanted to share a few books I’m planning to read (or have already started) this fall:

Killing Lions: A Guide Through the Trials Young Men Face by John and Sam Eldridge. This is one of those “I’m doing a book review” reads, because I don’t willingly read books by John Eldridge. That should also give you a hint about how much I’m enjoying it.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams. “The horse, it must be said, was quite surprised.” I last read this in my early 20s, and I’m looking forward to re-reading. Douglas Adams was a brilliant writer, a master of smart humor and clever titles. (See also The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.)

The Wonder-Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles by Jared C. Wilson. This has been on my radar since late 2013 and on my bookshelf since July. This is probably one of the books I’m most guaranteed to enjoy because, well, Jared’s about a thousand times better a writer than most Christian writers aspire to be. (In other words, he is the anti-Eldridge.)

The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship by Jonathan Holmes. The latest book from Cruciform Press looks very intriguing.

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More——Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior. I love a good biographies and good writing. This will, Lord willing, be a match made in heaven.

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. To call any of Wilson’s books “children’s fiction” is foolish.  He writes smart, compelling stories suitable for all-ages (certainly that’s what I picked up reading The Ashtown Burials series). It’ll be fun to see how this one turns out and if it’s something I can share with my kids eventually.

Everyone’s A Theologian by R.C. Sproul. I’ve been planning to read this one for ages now, so it’ll be nice to finally dig in.

So that’s a few of the books I’m hoping to read this fall. What’s on your list?


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Five books every Christian should read on prayer

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Prayer is a discipline many of us need help with. Okay, maybe you’re doing great in your prayer life. I need a lot of help in mine. Thankfully, there are a lot of really great books out there on the subject. Here are five I’ve found particularly helpful and you might, too:


The Mighty Weakness of John Knox

True, I recommended this one when talking about biographies you and I should read, but Douglas Bond’s book on John Knox offers us an example to look to when we want to know what a life submitted to the Lord in prayer looks like. “Because of his candid acknowledgment of his great need, he sought the aid of the God of the universe, and one way he sought it was through the prayers of fellow believers.”

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor

Don Carson’s book on his father, Tom, is another powerful “pray by example” book (even if not technically a book on prayer). As I wrote elsewhere, Carson shows his father as a man who prayed as though the Lord really is sovereign—that He must intervene for the lives of his hearers to be transformed.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


A Simple Way to Pray: The Wisdom of Martin Luther on Prayer

Archie Parrish offers an examination of Luther’s prayer life, as well as the advice he wrote in his little booklet, The Way to Pray. As far as “instruction” books on prayer, there are few better than this because of it. (More thoughts related to this book can be found here. And for a related book, read R.C. Sproul’s The Barber Who Wanted to Pray, a child-appropriate retelling of Luther’s The Way to Pray.)

Buy it at: Amazon


A Call to Prayer

This little book is one of the most challenging, if for no other reason than J.C. Ryle’s willingness to call out the complacency of Christians in his day (a complacency that looks familiar in ours, as well). He writes:

Can we really believe that people are praying against sin — when we see them plunging into it? Can we suppose they pray against the world — when they are entirely absorbed and taken up with its pursuits? Can we think they really ask God for grace to serve him — when they do not show the slightest interest to serve him at all?

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Valley of Vision

As mentioned above, often the best way to learn to pray is by example rather than by instruction. Sometimes the best way to pray in a given moment is to pray with someone else’s prayer. That’s where the Valley of Vision, with its powerful, gospel-rich prayers, is so helpful.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Reader’s choice: A Praying Life by Paul Miller. I’ve not read this (yet), but I keep hearing I should and that you should, too! (You can get it at Westminster Books or Amazon.)

What books have you found helpful for cultivating your prayer life?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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Every month, there are tons of great Kindle deals—and August has had some pretty incredible ones. Here’s a look at some of the best I’ve seen:

99¢ or less

$1.99

$2.99

$3.99 and up

Many of these are ending soon (between August 24th and August 31st) so act fast!

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Seven books to read on Christianity and homosexuality

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Last week, recording artist Vicky Beeching, whose songs are sung in thousands of churches in America (possibly even yours this weekend), announced, “I’m gay. God loves me just the way I am.” And she is just the latest among many who are either coming out as gay or in favor of same-sex marriage.

Far too many of us struggle to know how to respond. Is there a biblical case for same-sex relationships? Does the Bible really condemn it? Can we just “live and let live”?

If we’re going to be people who truly love our neighbors, we need to be people who tell the truth. And in order to do that, we need to know what the truth is—what God’s Word has to say about homosexuality. Here are a few books that I’ve found helpful and you might, too:


God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines

This one might be the surprise recommendation to some of you. But it’s one I believe we all should be paying attention to as it purports to offer a biblical foundation for the compatibility of homosexuality and Christianity. For that reason alone, it will almost certainly be the book progressive Christians will be appealing to on this matter (in fact, one of them—Rachel Held Evans—wrote a glowing endorsement for it).

Buy it at: Amazon


Is God anti-gay? by Sam Allberry (reviewed here)

Sam Allberry’s book is one of the finest you will read on the subject. He writes not simply as a pastor helping Christians wrestle with the implications of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, but also as a man who deals with same-sex attraction. So for him, the temptation to compromise on what the Bible says would undoubtedly be strong. It would certainly make it convenient for him. Instead, he reminds us of the simple truth: “God’s message for gay people is the same as his message for everyone. Repent and believe.”

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Bookstore


Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill

Like Allberry, Wesley Hill writes from the perspective of a man living with same-sex attraction. And like Allberry, he writes from the perspective of one who truly believes the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality and marriage. His approach is a little different than Allberry’s in that the message of his book finds its heart in the hope of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: that although some of the Corinthians practiced homosexuality, and adultery, and were thieves, drunkards, and swindlers, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The God of Sex by Peter Jones

Peter Jones broadens the discussion away from merely talking about homosexuality as if it were “the” problem, to the larger issue, which is one of worldview. For Jones, fundamentally, what we’re seeing is a clash of worldviews at work, the continued battle between the truth and the lie (Romans 1:25). Examining the relationship between sexuality and spirituality through this lens allows us to see how both worldviews see sex as sacred, but with purposes in mind.

Buy it at: Amazon


Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Rosaria Butterfield is another writing from first-hand experience, having been in a relationship with a woman for several years before her conversion to Christ. While the book is principally the story of her conversion, her thoughts on the conflict between the two opposing ideologies—especially given that she was a chief advocate for gay rights at an academic level—is fascinating.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage by Erwin Lutzer

It’s been about five years since I read this one, so a lot of the details are fuzzy. However, I do remember it being you’d expect from its author: biblical, careful, pastoral and extremely helpful. While he does strongly express the serious implications of homosexuality and same-sex marriage on society, his point is not to condemn this sin as though it existed in a vacuum. Essentially, even as he equips us to think biblically about the issue before us, he also gives readers a gentle warning (and rebuke) to not ignore the other serious sins among us, whether greed, adultery or gossip.

Buy it at: Amazon


Bonus book: Love into Light: The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Church by Peter Hubbard

This is not one I’ve read (yet); however, it is one that a number of friends and fellow bloggers have recommended. Here’s a look at what Tim Challies had to say in his review:

Hubbard writes as a pastor, as a counselor and as a man deeply marked by the gospel of divine grace extended toward human sin. He insists that the gospel makes all the difference, for before the cross we are all the same, we are all sinners, we are all in desperate need of grace.… The gospel makes all the difference and the gospel is exactly what Fred Phelps and so many others have thrown away in their misguided, hate-filled attempts to address homosexuality. “If our attitude toward a gay or lesbian person is disgust, we have forgotten the gospel. We need to remember the goodness and lovingkindness that God poured out on us. God should have looked at us and been disgusted. Instead, without condoning our sin, He loved us and saved us. And I want everyone to know that kind of love!”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

That’s a few of the books I’d recommend checking out. What about you: what books on this issue have you found helpful? 


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