Links I like

eBook sale: Zondervan’s Counterpoints series

Zondervan has 18 volumes from their Counterpoints series on sale for $4.99 or less each:

These are terrific books to help you get a sense of the spectrum of belief on a variety of issues found within evangelical circles and are well worth checking out.

Also, if you’re looking for a few great devotionals to use starting in the upcoming Advent season, Westminster Bookstore has a terrific bundle on sale for $45 featuring the following titles:

Will Ferguson Be Our Transformative Moment?

Thabiti Anyabwile:

To be sure, there will be “winners” and “losers” in whatever decision gets handed down. And no matter who “wins,” there will still be dissatisfaction on both sides. An indictment won’t bring Brown back and it won’t repair the breach of trust between those sworn to protect and those sworn to get justice. An acquittal won’t clear Wilson’s name and it won’t restore the integrity of a police department mired in ineptitude and scandal.

The transformative moment won’t be achieved with the jury’s decision.

Super Flemish

Imagine if Superman were born in the 16th century, or the Hulk was a Duke. Now you know how amazing this project from Sacha Goldberger is.

Why Fundamentalism is Not the Real Problem

Ted Paul:

When I hear people today repeat the line that “the real problem is fundamentalism,” I hear them saying that the real problem is people’s habit of having firm beliefs in things, and that if only people would not hold firm beliefs but instead be mostly agnostic with just a few loosely held beliefs, this would be progress. Wrong diagnosis and thus wrong prescription. What they should say instead is that “the real problem is with false and destructive beliefs.” When someone adopts firm allegiance and strict adherence to certain wrong and dangerous beliefs, the natural consequences will probably be negative – not because of their act of believing but because of the content of the belief(s).

5 Things I’d Do Differently If Raising My Family Again

Ron Edmonson:

The only advice I have is from personal experience. My boys are grown. On their own. Self-sustaining. Independent young men. But, everyone who knows them is impressed with my two adult sons. They are incredible.

But, I’ve been honest with all of them. Cheryl is too when she’s asked. It’s all been grace.

I do have the opportunity, however, of looking back on that experience. Parenting looks different to me now than it did then. Isn’t that how all of life works? We can only see what we can see, and when we are in the middle of something, it’s harder to see the whole picture.

And, if I had it to do over, I’d do some things differently.

Atheist kids’ songs

HT: Tim

The weird and the witty: The world’s greatest ukulele players

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A few weeks ago I was in Orillia, Ontario, to preach. While I was travelling, my wife and children spent the weekend with my in-laws and Emily decided to take up… the ukulele. So, our home of late has been filled with the chipper sounds of the underdog of guitar-like instruments.

But did you know you can do some pretty amazing stuff with one of these? It’s true. Check out three pretty fantastic takes on pop songs, as performed by some of the world’s greatest ukulele players.


The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (yes, that’s a thing) offers what may be the most unique rendition of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” I’ve heard (aside from Paul Anka’s version):


James Hill performs “Billie Jean”:


And finally, Jake Shimabukuro performs Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on the ukulele. Seriously, this is really impressive:

(You should also check out his cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Wow!)


Photo credit: Luis Hernandez – D2k6.es via photopin cc

The weird and the witty: Dumb Ways to Die, Dropbox and Bots

One of the things I really love are clever PSAs and promotional videos. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. In my day job, I’m doing a lot of work with video, learning what makes a great short piece that engages and compels viewers to action
  2. I genuinely enjoy the process of learning how these work (and writing them is a lot of fun, too!)
  3. The best ones always—always—make me laugh.

These are some of the best I’ve seen lately.

This is the best “Don’t be dumb around trains” PSA I’ve ever seen. And it’s dang catchy, too:

Meet Sincerely Truman:

This is a great piece from Solve Media:

Finally, this will absolutely make you want to work for Dropbox:

What are some of your favorite clever videos?

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week, there have been a TON of really good Kindle deals:

Four books by Francis Chan:

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

The Profiles of Reformed Spirituality series is on sale for $1.99 each:

Several volumes in B&H’s Exalting Jesus commentary series are on sale for $5.99 each:

Finally, Zondervan’s got a bunch of titles focused on :

Why leaders fail

Dan Darling nails it:

Recently I had a discussion with some friends about some public leadership fails in the news. I could name them, but you likely already know who they are. Our conversation turned to a general topic of leadership and things we’ve observed. What struck us was how these things evolve from little, seemingly insignificant decisions that form the culture out of which unhealthy leadership grows. In other words, nobody wakes up one day and says to himself, “I’m going to strive to be an authoritarian leader who wreaks havoc on the people I serve.” It just doesn’t happen that way. Leaders start with good intentions. They start as “normal” people. So how do leaders fail? I think there are five basic mistakes leaders make.

Biblica Hipsteria

This is so good:

Why Curious People Don’t Get Bored

Tim Challies:

There were two weeks left in summer vacation. Two of my kids were sprawled on the couch in dejected boredom, wishing they could just watch a little more Netflix or play a little more Flappy Bird. One of my kids was wide-eyed, staring into the pages of a book. And it occurred to me: Curious people don’t get bored. People with a deep sense of wonder don’t get bored. People with a deep desire to appreciate the world around them and to learn its secrets—these people have developed a resistance to boredom.

Sam Harris wants everyone to get spirituality

Kimberly Winston on an altogether unsurprising development:

“Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn,” he writes in the book, but adds: “There is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit.”

The prescription, Harris holds, is Buddhist-based mindfulness meditation. A Stanford-trained neuroscientist, Harris is a long-time practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He said everyone can, through meditation, achieve a “shift in perspective” by moving beyond a sense of self to reach an enlightening sense of connectedness — a spirituality.

Don’t Be a Fundamentalist (Calvinist or Otherwise)

JD Greear:

When you elevate your doctrinal system too highly, you become a fundamentalist in a second sense: you start to believe that all of God’s graces, or at least the best of them, are found only within your narrow little camp. Again, I am no doctrinal relativist, but it seems that God has chosen to give greater insight into certain areas of Christian life and teaching to people I disagree with on secondary issues than he has to me and the people in my camp. Fundamentalism doesn’t recognize that–in many ways, can’trecognize that. Fundamentalism believes that if you’re not in our camp, and you’re not on the approved list, there is very little you have to say. The best of God’s grace is only with me and mine.

Scenes you’ve seen: blockbusters recreated with stock footage

This is pretty well done:

Because sometimes you just need to laugh

Four videos that make me smile:

1. Tim Hawkins combines everything I hate about country in this video:

2. Word crimes hurt us all. But this song is great:

3. “How can we expect children to learn to read if they can’t even fit in the building?”

4. “Yeah, that’s not appropriate”

What’s a funny video you’ve seen lately?

Five books I’m (probably) not proposing

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One of the scariest part of the writer’s life is proposing books. When I first finally mustered up the courage to send out a proposal for Awaiting a Savior, I was more than a little overwhelmed by the whole experience. The book sat with multiple publishers, most of whom rejected it, before Cruciform Press kindle picked it up and made it the moderately profitable book it is today.

But there have been many (many!) other book ideas that have come up since then. At present I’m hoping to see at least one come to light, but only time (and the Lord’s sovereign hand) will tell. But there are others. Some have the potential to earn tens of dollars, some are purely entertaining for me, and others would probably be best left in a folder called “don’t ever, ever try to write these.”

Which is which? You tell me:

Idea #1: Contentment and the Art of Ministry-Mobile Maintenance

What my franken-car taught me about contentment and humility in the face of strange noises and all-too-frequent repair bills.

Idea #2: How to Win Friends and Pants People

Become an influencer in the wrong crowd with this surefire self-help bestseller.

Idea #3: Your Average Life… Now!

While every day might be a Friday for some people, the rest of us have a case of the Mondays. Own your okayness as you learn that you don’t have to have it all, that a “meh” day isn’t a sign of unfaithfulness and sometimes “success” just means getting your pants on right the first time.

Idea #4: Discipline (Is) For Dummies

Join my children and me on a journey of discovery as we seek to learn about “consequences”.

Idea #5: The Prophets’ Diet

More prophets than Daniel have something to say about your eating habits. With advice from the likes of Ezekiel, Elijah and John the Baptist, this is guaranteed to be the last Christian diet book you’ll ever (want to) read!


An earlier version of this post was first publishing in April 2011. Photo credit: geoftheref via photopin cc

Is there really a BAD gift for Mother’s Day?

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Yes. The answer is yes. 

Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and some of us may be in scramble mode. We didn’t already pick up something or we’ve been so busy that we totally forgot. But some of us, we’ve got it covered. We got the card. We got the gift. We’re set.

Maybe.

Unless we aren’t.

Now we’re starting to second-guess ourselves and wonder, “Did I just get [my wife or mom] a terrible gift?” The cold-sweats have kicked in. You’re considering ordering some flowers RIGHT NOW just to cover yourself.

But do you really need to freak out like this?

Maybe. But, really, probably not. You just think you do.

To help you feel better, I wanted to share the secret of what makes a bad Mother’s Day gift. Are you ready for it? Here goes:

A bad gift is something inconsiderate.

Simple as that. Here are a few examples:

If she life isn’t a reader, don’t buy her books. And especially, don’t buy her books that you want to read. This is also known as “pulling a Homer.”

If she hasn’t been eyeing certain brands of vacuums for years, don’t buy her one. However, if she’s spent a great deal of time lamenting her college-broke budget vacuum that doesn’t even pick up red pepper seeds, you’re in the clear to buy a good quality one.

If she’s not a fan of women’s retreats, don’t buy her tickets to the TGC women’s conference. While I’m sure the event will be great, it’s probably not the best thing for a woman who really hates pretty much any sort of women’s event.

I could go on, but I trust you get the point.

So what makes a good gift? Here’s what I’ve found is helpful:

Keep it simple. Focus on what she likes. Flowers and/or chocolates, while they might seem cliché, are still effective (at least in my house).

Keep it fun. And by “fun,” I mean fun for her. Emily is pretty easy-going in this regard. She likes action movies (though she doesn’t like going to the movies very often), walking around museums (even kind of lame ones like Museum London) and Starbucks dates where we can have grown-up conversations.

Just ask her. This is the most effective way to get a good gift. You don’t have to read her mind, or attempt to discern what she wants by understanding the meaning of every smirk and raised eyebrow. Emily really appreciates it when I just ask—and those are the best gifts I can give.

So can you get a bad Mother’s Day gift? Yep. But is it easy to get a really great one? You bet.


photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc

The original Christian hipster

The other day, my wife was picking our daughter up at her bus stop and, as she waited, she saw a lady pass by, dressed in a long green coat with a belt around the waist, wearing a hand-knitted toque, and a long multi-colored scarf, but she couldn’t get a look at her face. So, she was left with a troubling question:

Was she an old lady—or a hipster?

Hipsters, the über-hip group of 20-30 somethings who replaced the Emo phenomenon of the mid-2000s, can be identified easily: usually by their fashion sense, preferring vintage and thrift store inspired garb over the mass-produced consumer fashions from Walmart. (Also known as the opposite of me.)

They would resonate with Grandpa Gil from Trevin Wax’s Clear Winter Nights, who “sported a pair of glasses that looked remarkably en vogue—not because they were new but because he had worn them so long they’d come back into style.”

But, like any other fashion trend, they’re only riffing off of what’s come before.

The Christian hipsters are no different. They owe their fashion sense to several men from an earlier generation, but there’s one man in particular to whom they owe an enormous debt:

John-Piper-hands-up

And by the way, when Piper freestyles, he rarely loses confidence

You’re welcome.

My favorite #SuperBowl moments

Confession: I didn’t watch the Super Bowl last night. In fact, the last time I watched a Super Bowl was in 2005, I think. Clearly, I am not a sports fan. But even so, I did find a number of the tweets about the Super Bowl pretty hilarious. Here are a few of my favorites:

And a bonus Instagram from Jon Acuff:

Links I like (weekend edition)

Get to know your Bible translations

Adam Ford nailed this:

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a few Kindle deals from the last week to check out:

Don’t Pray in Circles!

Tim Challies:

…it is from Honi that Batterson found the inspiration to begin praying in circles. In his book he describes many occasions in which he has prayed in circles and seen the Lord grant what he asked. The promise of his book is that it “will show you how to claim God-given promises, pursue God-sized dreams, and seize God-ordained opportunities. You’ll learn how to draw prayer circles around your family, your job, your problems, and your goals.”

I want to give you three reasons not to pray in circles in the manner Batterson prescribes.

Love Is Not a Verb

Jon Bloom:

But it’s still a massive and potentially dangerous oversimplification. If we reduce love to a verb, we will miss love completely. Making love a verb will likely make us Pharisees. Because just like you can talk loving without really loving, you can act loving without really loving. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “if I give away all I have and deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). We can look like we’re fulfilling 1 John 3:18 and still not love.

Links I like

Get the ESV Hear the Word Bible free from ChristianAudio.com

Christian Audio’s free giveaway this month is the ESV Hear the Word Audio Bible (75 hours; retail: $29.99).

On To The Next One…

Tullian Tchividjian:

This is the year. It all starts now. We resolve to turn over a new leaf-and this time we’re serious. This time we’re really going to try, we’re not going to quit. We promise ourselves that we’re going to quit bad habits and start good ones. We’re going to get in shape, eat better, be more content, more disciplined, more intentional. We’re going to be better husbands, wives, fathers, mothers. We’re going to work harder, pray more, serve more, plan more, give more, read more, and memorize more Bible verses. We’re going to finally be all that we can be. No more messing around.

Well…I say try. Seriously, try. You might make some great strides this year. I’m hoping to. There are a lot of improvements I’m hoping to make over the next 12 months. But don’t be surprised a year from now when you realize that you’ve fallen short…again.

If animals were fat

This will give you a laugh:

Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H’s New American Commentary Studies ($4.99 each):

How to Change Your Mind

Joe Carter:

A few years ago I stumbled across a variation of the four steps in an article by theologian Fred Sanders and implemented his recommendation that day. I later had the pleasure of meeting Sanders in person and telling him how his post had transformed my life. My hope is that at least one other person will follow this advice and experience the same transformative effect.

Don’t Waste Your Weaknesses in 2014

John Piper:

Since 2007, millions of people have read books and taken inventories designed to find our strengths. These are useful for positioning people in places of maximum effectiveness.

But I am calling you to give attention and effort in finding your weaknesses and maximizing their God-given purpose. The Bible tells us what that purpose is in 2 Corinthians 12:8–10. Paul had been given a “thorn in the flesh” which was one instance of a “weakness.” Why?

Three of the weirdest Christmas specials ever made

Yesterday I shared a few of the best and worst Christmas songs ever made (although noticeably absent was “Christmas Shoes”). But Christmas doesn’t bring out the weirdest of music—it makes TV even more peculiar than normal. There are so many to choose from that it’s hard to keep the list short. Nevertheless, here are three of the weirdest Christmas specials ever made:

He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special

Yep, you read that right. He-Man and She-Ra had a Christmas special. “Special” doesn’t quite explain this one:

Pee-wee’s Christmas Special

Yeah, I know. It’s Pee-wee Herman, so of course it’s going to be weird. But still:

And, of course, I’ve saved the best (or weirdest) for last:

The Star Wars Holiday Special

“Life Day,” wookies, Princess Leia singing, and Bea Arthur.

Yep.

This was so bad that even George Lucas (who has not yet disowned the prequel trilogy) has done all he can to make sure it never again sees the light of day. Try as he might, it’s still out there:

Anything you think should be added to this list? 

The Books I’m Not Proposing

A couple weeks back I finally mustered up the courage to start sending out book proposals for a project I’m working on. It’s currently out with five publishers (and we’ll see how many more by the end of this week). I’m looking forward to talking a bit more about this project in the next few weeks and months, but for now, I thought you might enjoy a look at some of the books that didn’t make the cut:

Contentment and the Art of Ministry-Mobile Maintenance

What my franken-car is teaching me about contentment and humility in the face of strange noises.

How to Win Friends and Pants People

Become an influencer in the wrong crowd with this surefire self-help bestseller.

Your Average Life… Now!

Own the okay-ness of your life as you learn that sometimes “meh” is really an acceptable answer.

Discipline (Is) For Dummies

Join my daughter and me on a journey of discovery as we seek to learn whether or not she really needs a spanking.

What do you think—am I making the right choice by not putting these out there or is there a hidden gem sure to make me a Christian hundred-aire?