Links I like

A Profile of Christian Courage

Tim Challies:

It began harmlessly enough—just a little bit of numbness in three toes. At first it was no more than an annoyance, but then the numbness spread to her foot and began to creep upward. Soon it was accompanied by fatigue, nausea, headaches. She visited a doctor and then a neurologist who promptly arranged a battery of tests. And then the diagnosis: “I am so sorry, but it is a brain tumor.” Though the tumor was benign, it was in a bad spot, right at the junction of the brain and the spinal cord. In that moment she knew her life had changed forever.

This is the story of Elaine Grant, a dear friend of my family’s, a sister in Christ, and a woman of exemplary Christian courage.

He said he was leaving. She ignored him.

Laura Munson:

I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “the End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.

My husband hadn’t yet come to this understanding with himself. He had enjoyed many years of hard work, and its rewards had supported our family of four all along. But his new endeavor hadn’t been going so well, and his ability to be the breadwinner was in rapid decline. He’d been miserable about this, felt useless, was losing himself emotionally and letting himself go physically. And now he wanted out of our marriage; to be done with our family.

But I wasn’t buying it.

Weekly specials from Crossway

Crossway’s latest weekly special includes:

Does Your Facebook Rant “Honor Everyone?”

Trevin Wax:

Sometimes, evangelical Christians do more harm than good on Facebook.

Under the veil of “taking a stand” for our values, I fear we are letting loose all kinds of dishonoring, uncharitable speech. We need to stop.

What should I review?

I just got back from a trip to Colorado Springs (day job related). After a fantastic welcome by my kids that included Hudson nearly walking outside barefoot shouting “Car-car!” and Abigail attaching herself to me like a spider monkey, I found a wonderful present waiting for me from my friends at Crossway:

presents-from-crossway

Image via Pressgram

If you’re struggling to see all the titles, here’s the complete list:

I’m very excited to dig into these over the next few weeks, and perhaps even sharing a few thoughts.

Now, here’s where I need your help: If were going to review one, which should it be?

Book Review: Note to Self by Joe Thorn

These days a lot of folks are talking about the need to preach the gospel to yourself. This is a good and important thing indeed. We do need to be preaching the gospel to ourselves on a regular basis. But something that I’ve noticed is there aren’t a lot of folks talking about what that actually looks like. Joe Thorn’s noticed this, too. So he decided to do something about it by writing Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself. Over the course of 48 chapters (don’t worry, they’re all 2-3 pages long), Thorn offers readers practical insights that challenge them to grow in grace, confront sin and serve others.

Why do we need to preach to ourselves—why is it beneficial? Because, Thorn writes:

Preaching to yourself demands asking a lot of questions, both of God’s Word and especially of yourself. You will have to ask and be honest about your motives, struggles, and needs. You will need to clarify to yourself what God’s law means in principle, but also what it requires specifically of you. You will need to ask how the gospel meets your needs and heals your brokenness. To preach to yourself is to challenge yourself, push yourself, and point yourself to the truth. It is not so much uncovering new truth as much as it is reminding yourself of the truth you tend to forget. (p. 32)

There is a great deal of wisdom here. Too often it’s easy to see the wonders of the gospel and of what God has done in history and it become kind of… ordinary. We can begin to take things for granted that we might otherwise not. But I found that as I read through each chapter, I was being called out on a few of the things I’ve been overlooking of late.

A notable example is found in chapter 13, “Wait for Jesus.” Thorn opens with the question, “What is your greatest hope? Your deepest longing? Is it for Christ to return? Be honest” (p. 60).

I didn’t like the answer to this question. While there are many days where I can confidently answer, “Yes!” there are others where I don’t really give it much thought.
[Read more...]

Book Review: The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge

Whether you know it or not, you’re a part of a conspiracy—one that isn’t driven by government agendas or secret clubs with special handshakes, passwords and rituals that aren’t that far off from hazing new recruits to the fraternity.

This conspiracy is much more insidious because it’s driven by our discontentment.

Discontentment is sneaky, taking often perfectly good desires and making them our gods. We can’t live without them, we sacrifice for them. The greener grass on the other side of the fence never satisfies.

That’s why Stephen Altrogge has written The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. In this book, Altrogge offers readers a helpful and biblical look at how gaining contentment frees us from our idols to appreciate the blessings that God has already given us.

My wife, Emily, and I took a few minutes to discuss our thoughts on the book and share a few of our own struggles with the greener grass conspiracy:

[tentblogger-youtube b2fMBcrJLDY]

 

Continuing with the theme of contentment, if it’s true that as Altrogge writes, “Contentment is a disposition of the heart that freely and joyfully submits to God’s will, whatever that will may be” (p. 28), I suspect we’re all in a lot of trouble because, if there is nothing that happens to us that falls outside of God’s will, then we have no grounds for complaining. And, Altrogge explains, “God takes complaining very seriously.” [Read more...]

Book Review: Redemption by Mike Wilkerson

Christians sometimes have an odd relationship with the Old Testament. Some simply avoid it, due to its particularly nasty depiction of humanity (well deserved at that). Others moralize it, treating everything as an object lesson. “David overcame his giant, what’s yours,” and that sort of thing. And still others seek to discover where the Old Testament bears witness to Christ. as He Himself said it did (cf. John 5:39; Luke 24:13-35). From the first word of Genesis to the last word of Malachi, it’s all about Jesus.

That includes the exodus. This momentous event in the history of the Jewish people became the archetype of God’s saving work as the writers of Scripture in both Testaments referenced it again and again. Indeed, Pastor Mike Wilkerson writes, “When it comes to understanding redemption, the key back story in the Bible is the exodus” (p. 33). But what does the Exodus tell us about Jesus—and how does reading it help me, practically?  In Redemption, Wilkerson offers thoughtful answers as he examines the exodus account and shows us how through it Jesus frees us from the shame of sin and the futility of idolatry.

The challenge with many books of this nature is that it’s very easy for solid, biblical answers to some of life’s toughest questions to ring hollow.

“If God is really good, why did this happen to me?”

“Why does God feel so far away?”

“I thought this addiction was behind me—why does it keep coming back?”

“Do I really have to forgive him?”

“Am I destined to be alone for the rest of my life?”

Our anger at others, our anger at God, our frustration over besetting sin… these are not subjects handled lightly. It’s easy to say, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” but what do you do when you have a stepfather who treated you as something less than human (see Sarah’s story, pp. 41-53)? In a situation like that, it’s difficult to see God’s love, despite the reality that “whether our misery is big or small, we all find ourselves under the fountain of God’s mercy” (p. 43). [Read more...]

Around the Interweb

Would You Die For Doctrine?

Matthew Barrett offers some helpful insights from the testimonies of Tyndale, Rogers, Latimer, and Ridley:

If these men were willing to die for such truths how much more should I be willing to stand for them today? Many examples come to mind. If you are a pastor, ministering in a difficult church, do not waver in your commitment to the truth even when those in your congregation criticize the doctrines you are proclaiming. Or perhaps you are a teacher at a school where you are surrounded by more liberal colleagues. Be resolved and steadfast in affirming sound doctrine, even if it be at the expense of your own career. Maybe you are a student being criticized because you believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Remain determined and immutable in your affirmation of God’s Word. You might be a Christian who is tempted to reject the biblical doctrine of eternal punishment or the exclusivity of the gospel. Be on guard, less you also fall prey to false doctrine and fail to heed Paul’s admonishment and warning to only agree with sound words (1 Tim 6:3-4; cf. 1 Tim 4:6; 2 Tim 4:2-3; Titus 1:9; 2:1).

Read the whole thing.

Also Worth Reading

TGC: Emily and I are at The Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference this week. We’ll be part of the vast Canadian contingent. How will you recognize us? Just listen for the folks who say“Aboat.” Seriously, though, if you’re around and want to connect, shoot me a message via Twitter (@AaronStrongarm). Look for regular updates throughout each day.

Books: Check out the list for the 2011 BoB Book Giveaways. I’m going to this and am pretty excited! (I also have a few of these books, so expect a giveaway or two in the coming weeks!)

Women: Confessions of a Conflicted Complementarian

Funny: Are you a child of the 90s? If so, you’ll find this funny.

The Number One Reason To Buy The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence

 

In Case You Missed It

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

My Memory Moleskine: Panting and Provision

He Delights in the Asking

Book reviews:

Cruciform by Jimmy Davis

Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James

The Organized Heart by Staci Eastin

Hurting People Need Something from the Outside

Disgrace is the opposite of grace. Grace is love that seeks you out even if you have nothing to give in return. Grace is being loved when you are or feel unlovable. Grace has the power to turn despair into hope. Grace listens, lifts up, cures, transforms, and heals.

Disgrace destroys, causes pain, deforms, and wounds. It alienates and isolates. Disgrace makes you feel worthless, rejected, unwanted, and repulsive, like a persona non grata (a “person without grace”). Disgrace silences and shuns. Your suffering of disgrace is only increased when others force your silence. The refusals of others to speak about sexual assault and listen to victims tell the truth is a refusal to offer grace and healing.

To your sense of disgrace, God restores, heals, and re-creates through grace. A good short definition of grace is “one-way love.” This is the opposite of your experience of assault, which was “one-way violence.” To your experience of one-way violence, God brings one-way love. The contrast between the two is staggering.

One-way love does not avoid you, but comes near, not because of personal merit but because of your need. It is the lasting transformation that takes place in human experience. One-way love is the change agent you need for the pain you are experiencing.

Unfortunately, the message you hear most often is self-heal, self- love, and self-help. Sexual assault victims are frequently told some version of the following: “One can will one’s well-being” or “If you are willing to work hard and find good support, you can not only heal but thrive.” This sentiment is reflected in the famous quote, “No one can disgrace us but ourselves.”

This is all horrible news. The reason this is bad news is that abuse victims are rightfully, and understandably, broken over how they’ve been violated. But those in pain simply may not have the wherewithal to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” On a superficial level, self-esteem techniques and a tough “refusal to allow others to hurt me” tactic may work for the short term. But what happens for the abused person on a bad day, a bad month, or a bad year? Sin and the effects of sin are similar to the laws of inertia: a person (or object) in motion will continue on that trajectory until acted upon by an outside force. If one is devastated by sin, a personal failure to rise above the effects of sin will simply create a snowball effect of shame. Hurting people need something from the outside to stop the downward spiral. Fortunately, grace floods in from the outside at the point when hope to change oneself is lost.6 Grace declares and promises that you will be healed…

From Rid of My Disgrace by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb (pp 15-16). Read the forward by Mark Driscoll, the introduction and first chapter here.)

Below, Justin Taylor interviews authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb about the book. Give it a look:

(HT: JT)

Looking Ahead: Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2011

Looking at the books I enjoyed over 2010 made me think about the ones I’m really looking forward to in 2011. Here are a few:

Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father edited by Dan Cruver, with contributions from John Piper, Richard D. Phillips, Scotty Smith, Jason Kovacs, and Dan Cruver (Cruciform Press, January 2011)

One of the ambitious dreams that Reclaiming Adoption and its authors share with the Apostle Paul is that when Christians hear the word adoption, they will think first about their adoption by God. As it now stands, Christians usually think first about the adoption of children. Reclaiming Adoption sets out to change this situation by providing breathtaking views of God’s love for and delight in His children — views that will free you to live boldly in this world from God’s acceptance, not in order to gain it…

Dan Cruver and his co-authors are convinced that if Christians learn to first think about their adoption by God, and only then about the adoption of children, they will enjoy deeper communion with the God who is love, and experience greater missional engagement with the pain and suffering of this world. That’s what this book is about. What the orphan, the stranger, and the marginalized in our world need most is churches that are filled with Christians who live daily in the reality of God’s delight in them. Reclaiming Adoption can transform the way you view and live in this world for the glory of God and the good of our world’s most needy.

Order this book | Read a sample

Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault by Justin & Lindsey Holcomb (Crossway, January 2011)

The statistics are jarring. One in four women and one in six men have been sexually assaulted. But as sobering as these statistics are, they can’t begin to speak to the darkness and grief experienced by the victims. The church needs compassionate and wise resources to care for those living in the wake of this evil. Other books attempt to address the journey from shame to healing for victims of sexual abuse, but few are from a Christian perspective and written for both child and adult victims. In Rid of My Disgrace, a couple experienced in counseling and care for victims of sexual assault present the gospel in its power to heal the broken and restore the disgraced.

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb present a clear definition of sexual assault and outline a biblical approach for moving from destruction to redemption. Rid of My Disgrace applies a theology of redemption to the grief, shame, and sense of defilement victims experience. This book is primarily written for them, but can also equip pastors, ministry staff, and others to respond compassionately to those who have been assaulted.

Pre-order this book | Read a sample

Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson (Crossway, October 2011)

We may know the gospel. We may believe it—even proclaim it. But we also may assume the gospel and become lethargic. In this book Jared Wilson seeks to answer the central question, how do we experience and present the gospel in a fresh, non-routine way in order to prevent ourselves and others from becoming numb? His answer may be surprising: “by routinely presenting the unchanging gospel in a way that does justice to its earth-shaking announcement.” We don’t excite and awaken people to the glorious truths of the gospel by spicing up our worship services or through cutting-edge, dramatic rhetoric, but by passionately and faithfully proclaiming the same truths we have already been given in Scripture.

Wilson’s book will stir churches to live out the power of the gospel with a fervent, genuine zeal. After an explanation of the term “gospel wakefulness,” Wilson unpacks implications for worship, hyper-spirituality, godly habits, and sanctification, as well as other aspects of church life. Pastors, church leaders, and all in ministry, especially those who are tired or discouraged, will be uplifted, emboldened, and empowered by this book.

(Not yet available for pre-order) [Read more...]

Looking Back: My Favorite Books of 2010

My love of reading good books has only increased in this last year. Over the course of the year, I decided to track how many books I read (and how many audiobooks were listened to).

Turns out that, as of this writing, I’ve read and listened to a combined 96 books in 2010. (People always ask me how I can read so much; now I’m beginning to wonder, too…)

Of these, some good, some great and at least a couple that were made of poop sandwiches, I want to share with you some of the best of the bunch—the ten or so books I read this year that were helpful, meaningful and enjoyable. There were a few others that probably should have made the list, but I had to restrain myself.

With that in mind, I give you the list:

Business & Leadership

Free by Chris Anderson

Why I liked it: I’ve listened to this one two or three times since I downloaded it from Audible.com (free, naturally). All about the history and power of “free,” Anderson demonstrates how the concept of giving something away is a powerful tool to help make money. But more than that, “free” is changing our expectations (for example, the expectation on the web is that nearly everything is—or should be—free). While the author is a little too broad in some of his assertions, I found it to be a really insightful and very challenging look at marketing best practices, and just how much the concept of free is transforming how we think and how we do business. Well worth reading or listening to.

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Why I liked it: The big idea of the book is discovering what it means to be indispensable. And the one of the keys is to see yourself as an artist in what you do. Do everything with excellence (even the dreary stuff) and be someone who “ships” (i.e. you get things done).

Godin’s thinking in this book is very much in line with a number of other works from the last couple of years like Fake Work, Why Work Sucks, Grown Up Digital and Drive. It’s less about showing up to do work that may not be in line with the vision and goals of your company and more about doing work that matters. And speaking of Drive

Drive by Daniel Pink

Why I liked it: In the industrial economy, carrots & sticks always seemed to work best to motivate people—if they do well, give them a reward (a raise, an extra day off) and if they don’t, well, perhaps it’s time for the pink slip. But what happens when that doesn’t work anymore? How do you motivate people in the information age?

Daniel Pink narrows it down to three factors: Autonomy, mastery and purpose. When people are given some level of control over what they do, the opportunity to become “masters” in it and the work is connected to a larger purpose (beyond making some person rich), Pink’s research has shown that employee satisfaction increases dramatically and the work they do gets better. We’ve been using these general ideas in our departmental reviews for about a year and it’s been extraordinarily helpful.

And as a bonus, the book also helped potty train our daughter.

Biography & Memoirs

Decision Points by George W. Bush

Why I liked It: I downloaded the unabridged audio from Audbile.com a few weeks back as a lark. Bush comes across as a far more thoughtful, capable and likable man than he was ever portrayed in the media. While no doubt the truth lies somewhere in the middle of how Bush (and—I assume—his ghostwriter) describes events and what the media gave us, it’s a fascinating look at the life and presidency of America’s 43rd President.

Fun fact about the book: Bush includes a surprisingly thorough and accurate gospel presentation in the book. I was not expecting that.

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

Why I liked it: What I learned from Bonhoeffer, aside from gaining a wider understanding historically of the conditions in Germany that led to Hitler’s rise to power, and aside from discovering a deeper knowledge of the life of a twentieth century martyr, I gained a glimpse of what a life lived fully in-tune with one’s theological convictions can look like. Bonhoeffer’s focus on costly discipleship reminds us that the Christian life is one that is active, not merely reactive. And this is something we would do well to remember always.

Read my full review here. [Read more...]

Around the Interweb (12/19)

Bad News: Santa Claus is Coming to Town

John Piper:

In Other News

Culture: CNN on C.S. Lewis’ enduring popularity

Books: Check out a preview of Mike Wilkerson’s upcoming book, Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry (then preorder a copy):

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The Road to Fame and Fortune:

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. (HT: Michael Krahn)

In Case You Missed It

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

On Friday, I released a new e-book: Lessons from Nehemiah

Seeing the world through a biblical lens

Darrin Patrick on discerning the call to ministry

A review of J.I. Packer and Gary Parrett’s Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way

Book Review: The Church History ABCs

The study of Church history is an incredibly rewarding—and daunting—experience. In the 2000 years since Christ founded His Church, we’ve seen slave-traders dramatically converted into hymn writers, men give up their lives so that people can read the Bible in their own language, church fathers martyred for defending the faith, a reformation that transformed the world and countless other events. If there’s one thing Church history is not, it’s dull.

So how on earth do you begin to introduce kids to the riches of Church history? How about alphabetically?

In The Church History ABCs, author Stephen J. Nichols and illustrator Ned Bustard, introduce children to 26 heroes of the faith from Augustine to Zwingli. Nichols keeps his text lively and concise, avoiding getting bogged down in too many details about the people to whom he is introducing readers. I particularly enjoyed his write-up of Ulrich Zwingli:

I always come last because my name starts with “Z.” Zurich starts with a “Z” too. Go used me to teach the people of the city of Zurich about Jesus. From Zurich, the Reformation spread to other cities in Switzerland (there’s a “Z” in that word, too). I preached many sermons. One of them had a funny title, “On the Choice and Freedom of Foods.” . . . The Reformation came to Zurich. I wanted everyone to know that we should follow God’s Word and do what it says. The Bible tells us everything we need to know from A to Z.

Bustard’s clean illustration style is a lot of fun and very expressive. I’m impressed at his ability to communicate so much personality in such “simple” drawings (my wife is an illustrator, so I know how difficult a task this can be). It’s a style that serves the content and the audience well.

From a parent’s perspective, The Church History ABCs is a lot of fun—the basic premise is intriguing enough to  make you want to pick it up and take a look, the content is strong enough to give a firm foundation in the bigger picture of Church history, and it’s a neat handy tool for teaching your kids the alphabet. Get a copy for your kids today.


Title: The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith
Authors: Stephen J. Nichols, Ned Bustard
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

It’s Time to Say Goodbye…

…to the old blog that is!

Welcome to the new www.BloggingTheologically.com!

I’m thrilled to unveil the new site—and my friends at Crossway are helping to launch it with a MASSIVE giveaway!

Crossway has generously provided a prize pack showcasing some of their best releases from this year:

Doctrine by Driscoll Surprised by Grace Think by John Piper

  1. Doctrine by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears (reviewed here);
  2. Surprised by Grace by Tullian Tchividjian (reviewed here); and
  3. Think by John Piper (reviewed here)

And as an added bonus, they’re throwing in a Trutone or Leather ESV Study Bible of your choice (excluding calfskin)!

Here’s how you can enter:

  1. Subscribe to the blog via RSS or Email
  2. Follow on Twitter
  3. Join the Facebook Page
  4. Write a comment letting me which of these you’ve done

Each item counts as one entry, so if you do all four, you’re entered four times!

Bonus entry for WordPress.com subscribers!

Transfer your subscription and get a bonus entry to win this prize pack—subscribe here

The contest closes on Friday, December 3rd and the winner will be announced on Sunday, December 5th.

Thanks for all the support over the last (nearly) two years—I’m really excited about what’s coming next!