Monday, December 26, 2011

Top 10 Reads Published in 2011

Top 10 Reads for 2011
Here is my list of favorite books published in 2011:
1.    The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment, by James M. Hamilton, Jr.,  Crossway Books, hard copy and Kindle edition.
2.    A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New by G.K.Beale, Baker Academic, hard copy.
3.    For Calvinism, by Michael S. Horton. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
4.    Tempted and Tried: The Temptation and Triumph of Christ, by Russell Moore, Crossway, hard copy.
5.    The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight, by Dan Phillips, Kregel Publishing, hard copy and Kindle edition.
6.    Tie:
How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home, by Derek W.H. Thomas, Reformation Trust Publishing, hard copy.
Red Like Blood: Confrontations with Grace, by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington, Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.
7.    Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence by Stephen Altrogge, hard copy and Kindle Edition.
        8.    Getting Back into the Race, by Joel Beeke, Cruciform Press, Kindle edition.
9.    Get Outta My Face! How to Reach Angry, Unmotivated Teens with Biblical Counsel, by Rick Horne, Shepherd Press. Kindle Edition.
10. Finally, tied at 10th place, two books on a similar topic:
a.     The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies, Zondervan, Kindle Edition.
b.    From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology, by John Dyer, Kregel Publications, Kindle Edition.

Honorable mentions:

- Smooth Stones: Bringing Down the Giant Questions of Apologetics, by Joe Coffey, Cruciform Press, Kindle Edition.
- Innocent Blood: Challenging the Powers of Death with the Gospel of Life, by John Ensor, Cruciform Press, Kindle Edition.
- Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, The New Creation and the End of Poverty, by Aaron Armstrong, Cruciform Press, Kindle Edition.
- But God: The Two Words at the Heart of the Gospel, by Casey Lute, Cruciform Press, Kindle Edition.
The four above "honorable mentions" come from Cruciform Press. Each is well written and concise -- slightly over 100 pages. Cruciform Press makes these books available through subscription at a very low cost.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why Biblical Manhood & Womanhood Matters

Why Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Matters
John Piper and Darrin Patrick discuss their journeys.

Why Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Matters from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Christian Carnival: 'Twas the week before Christmas...

Welcome to the December 21st edition of Christian Carnival II.
This week we have several articles featuring Christmas themes, along with our regular categories: devotional, narrative, and theology.
A big 'thank you!' shout out to this week's participants for all of the excellent submissions. Merry Christmas, everyone!
loswl presents The Birth posted at W2W Soul: Windows to The Woman's Soul, saying, "This birth was no other. It was a birth in which the angels in heaven celebrated. A birth that was foretold from the beginning of time and was announced that a virgin would conceive."

Deb presents  The Christmas Gift Exchange posted at All Things New, saying, "What my first White Elephant gift exchange taught me about the love of Christ."

Joe Plemon presents Celebrate Christmas All Year Long: Give Like God Does posted at Personal Finance By The Book, saying, "Is it possible to celebrate Christmas all year long? Maybe, if we can learn to give like God gives."

 Jason presents Franciscan…what?!?! posted at eckSermonator, saying, "My journey... Assemblies of God Pastor -> Non-Denominational Leader -> Franciscan Friar"


Josh presents Trust The Lord: Bible Verses and Life Application posted at What Christians Want To Know, saying, "Christians know we should trust the Lord but how do we continue to do it when circumstances in our lives seem helpless?"

Shannon Christman (blog editor) on behalf of author Ridge Burns presents Live a Life of Love posted at Ridge's Blog

Charles Chua C K presents 7 Delightful Ways to Transform an Ordinary Day to an Extraordinary Day posted at All About Living with Life.

David R Wells presents Brightened Eyes posted at Revelation 3:10 - Blog: Through Davids Eyes, saying, "When spiritual sight becomes weary, Christians have arrived at a very dangerous place. It is treacherous because Christians will always be looking for that next dose of honey, or that next quick fix, to get them through until the next time their faith weakens."
Christian Amit presents Trust in the Lord with all your hearts - Devotional posted at Bible Study Exposition Online, saying, "What does it mean to trust the Lord with all your hearts? This bible devotional describes bible verses for trusting the Lord with many practical areas of our life such as finances, family, children, work, career, decisions, weaknesses and salvation."

Scott presents Pray with Me posted at Mission Blog.

Maryann Spikes presents Goodbye, Hitch posted at Ichthus77.
Chris Price presents American Christianity and Communism during the Second Red Scare posted at American Church History, saying, "Many people joined churches during the early Cold War era. Was this a case of people being more pro-Jesus or pro-America?"
Russ White presents Setting Truth Up for a Fall posted at Thinking in Christ.
zachsewell presents Biblical Time Machine posted at The Bible is Not Boring, saying, "If you could be there for any episode in the Bible, which would you choose?"

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of christian carnival ii using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Christmas Gift Exchange

My first Christmas as a Christian in 1996 is memorable for many reasons, not the least of which was being in the fine fellowship of other believers with whom I attended Bible study. One couple hosted an amazing Christmas party in their home, which was fortified with a hearty dinner and yummy treats for more than 60 attendees. About half of those present were believers and the other half were not. All who were invited to the party came prepared to participate in the “White Elephant” gift exchange.
For me, this was actually my very first exposure to the phenomenon of the “White Elephant” gift exchange. Since our spending limit was to be $10., I felt particularly challenged to be able to obtain a meaningful gift that would make an impact on the recipient and one that they would cherish for a long time to come. Of course, I would later learn that this is not actually the intended goal of White Elephant frivolity. Without this knowledge, I spent a couple of days shopping for just the right gift and in the process had found some wonderful Christmas music at the local Christian Bookstore that I started listening to.
I was totally blown away by one particular CD called Emmanuel: A Musical Celebration of the Life of Christ .
Since music appreciation is one of my most treasured hobbies, I felt like I had found a gold mine in this particular recording. After having listened to it five or six times, I decided to go back to the store and buy a second copy for the White Elephant! I was so excited with my selection for this tremendous gift giving opportunity that when I returned home, I spent an hour putting special care into the wrapping, adding a spectacular bow, and even curling the ribbon so that the carefully chosen gift would scream out – “pick me, pick me!”
Much to my surprise, when we began the White Elephant exchange, I learned that anything shaped like a CD is most certainly NOT a highly desirable choice of participants. Okay, okay, I thought. I can live with the idea that a lot of people would look at a CD and be concerned that the music therein may not reflect their particular tastes. Sure, okay, it made sense. But when one gift after another was selected and mine was sloughed to the side, I started to feel sad. Then, someone even chose another package, also shaped just like the one I had brought,  but instead of containing a well-picked recording, instead it ended up being a used copy of Milly Vanilly! Oh my gosh! That tainted the rest of the evening, and from that point forward, my gorgeously wrapped, carefully selected with love, and personally cherished gift was completely ignored by each and everyone present.
Add to this growing sadness my consternation over the whole “stealing” phenomenon that accompanies the traditional White Elephant exchange. This was a perplexing experience to me, a new Christian, to see other believers (with whom I’ve had otherwise kind fellowship), who after seeing their friends open up a very nice gift, were compelled to take it from them in the very next turn! I was quite startled by the whole affair, but felt blessed that I could opt-out of the stealing aspect, since I had the last number. I was relieved that having the last number meant that I could put an end to the whole "stealing" phenomenon for that night. And at least I wouldn’t experience that feeling of loss of having someone steal from me. even after watching everyone reject my gift time after time!
As the gift exchange wound down, I could tell that one of my friends, also a new Christian, was feeling emotions similar to those I was feeling. She had brought a very nice gift – furry slippers – and everyone was fighting over them, wanting to be the one who ended up keeping them. Well, after reaching into the pile to select a random package, she opened it only to find a toilet brush, for cleaning poop! She was visibly grieved. I felt angry as well that someone would be so careless and crass to bring such a vulgar item to gift exchange. I suppose they were trying to be funny. And then I thought about how the item is sort of practical as well, and how I could actually use one for my upstairs bathroom! So I chuckled and went over and sat next to my friend.
Well, the end was near, and the numbers were getting higher and higher, closer and closer to my "number 49" or whatever it was. (if you noticed the difference in the number of people who attended and this number, it is because couples paired up for the gift exchange). I looked at the pile and there was the gift that I brought. When it was my turn to pick, the only gift left was MINE! I couldn’t believe it!
I told everyone, “This is the gift that I brought to give! I already know what it is. And I already have  one of my own! I brought it because I liked it so much that I wanted someone else to have it too. But no one wants it.”
Voices from the room chanted, “Steal! Steal! Steal! You can pick from any of these great presents that are still open for the taking.” At first I refused. I thought, there is no way I am stealing from someone here. Then my friend "B" suggested, “Just take one of those gag gifts from someone who doesn't want it, then the other person will get the gift that you brought!”   
Ah. The light bulb went off. I thought to myself: I know! I need a crappy toilet bowl brush. And my friend who has it now will love this CD! She is a Music Teacher! I know she’ll love it. Yes, a perfect plan. So, I “stole” the toilet brush and she ended up with gift that I brought.  I ended up happy and so did she!
Sometimes when I reflect on this story, I think about how it sort of reminds me of God’s gift to us in Christ. He came to us in an unassuming package, one which we esteemed not at all. He gave His cherished Son for us and we rejected Him. We have envied and stolen from our neighbor to avoid Him. Even worse when we crucified Him, we literally sent the gift back to the giver. Essentially, we said, "No thanks, God, you can have Him back; we got our furry slippers right here, yo. We're good." Then Lord goes further. He says, in effect, here, let me take your filthy rags. You give me your worst, and I will give you my most blessed and cherished gift. By the power regeneration through His Holy Spirit, He reaches down and takes away our junk and sin, then graciously, gently, and lovingly gives us His most beloved possession, His only begotten son, Jesus Christ. If we have received this most precious gift, let us remember that apart from His grace and mercy, we neither deserved nor desired Him. Such is our salvation, pure unmerited mercy and grace from the almighty Himself. Thank you, Jesus!
What a glorious Christmas Gift Exchange we celebrate this Advent in the birth of Christ!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Prince of Peace (by On Pens and Needles)

Cathy Congers over at the blog On Pens and Needles  has written a wonderful blog on the subject of heavenly peace - because she needed to hear it and -- I most certainly did too.

She describes two kinds of stress that she came across in a recent Time Magazine article:
1) Challenge stress, which occurs when you feel like you can cope with a situation and despite its high demands, you have the resources to handle it. This is what we might call good stress.

2) Threat stress, which occurs when you feel unable to handle a situation and may even move into a fear or panic response, i.e. bad stress.

“If we can’t make the distinction between a room full of wild tigers and a conference room full of mere people,” says Time’s Alice Park, "mortal terror can consume us... If worrying gets going too long, it actually overrides the ability to problem-solve, which is what the stress response was intended for."

Wow! Can I relate to that, or what? She is describing my own recent experience to the tee.
And she offers several carefully selected scripture references from both the Old and New Testaments. This one in particular struck me this morning:
Psalm 139:23 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

And she ends the post with the prayer from Numbers 6:24-26:
The Lord bless you And keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you
and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Thank you Mrs. Congers! I needed this today.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Calvinism Today: A SWOT Analysis

Andy Naselli takes a look at Horton's latest release, For Calvinism. In his recent post (Warning to Calvinists), Naselli highlights the last chapter, entitled “Calvinism Today: A SWOT Analysis”. Interesting stuff; he writes:
"We know from daily experience that our greatest strengths can also become our greatest weaknesses.
  1. Persistence can become stubbornness;
  2. sympathy can devolve into sentimentality; and
  3. genuine concern for others sometimes turns into an obsequious craving for approval.
  4. Remarkable gifts of leadership and creativity can be used for good or ill, depending on the motivation and the goals.
  5. The same is true of movements, since they are largely the collective activity of people like us.
It has become popular for businesses and organizations to conduct a periodical “SWOT” analysis, exploring
  1. Strengths,
  2. Weaknesses,
  3. Opportunities, and
  4. Threats.
Since acrostics appeal to “TULIP”-loving Calvinists, this kind of analysis may be a useful in-house evaluation, although I do not presume to speak for anyone other than myself. (p. 170, formatting added)

The chapter divides into two sections:
(1) Strengths and Weaknesses
  1. Intellectual Boldness/Cold Intellectualism
  2. Love for Truth/Factionalism
  3. Respect for Tradition/Traditionalism
(2) Opportunities and Threats
  1. Revived Interest in the Doctrines of Grace/Replacing the Church with a Movement
  2. A New Interest in Sound Doctrine/A New Fundamentalism
The section “Love for Truth/Factionalism” is especially insightful. Here are some highlights:
It is possible to be selfish and human-centered even in the way we defend what we believe to be a God-centered interpretation of Scripture. We do not cherish propositions and principles, but we place our trust in Christ and embrace each other in that love that he has won for us.
I have to check my motives. Why am I so eager to convince this brother of a Reformed position?"