"Criticism Comes Easier Than Craftsmanship" -Zeuxis (c. 400 BC)

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Why I blog

I need to write. If I dont write, I dont think that I think--at least not thoroughly. Thus this blog is simply an outlet for me to think. My goal is to be thinking about those things and only those things that are in line with Philippians 4:8.

I'm Currently Reading

Reading a book does not imply that I agree with the books, condone it, like it, or recommend it. Keep visiting the site, as I hope to publish reviews of my readings along with select quotes from each book as I finish it and digest its contents.

Gospel and Mission in th Writings of Paul

Spiritual Reformation

A Practical Grammar For Classical Hebrew

Whiter Than Snow

Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept

Toward an Exegetical Theology

Spiritual Depression: It's Causes and Cure

A Theology of the New Testament

New Testament Introduction

Stuff

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Review: Is Christianity Good For the World by Hitchens & Wilson

Christopher Hitchens, an outspoken atheist and anti-theist, entered into a written debate with the witty pastor and theologian, Douglas Wilson. The debate was sponsored by Christianity Today. The assigned topic of debate was “Is Christianity good for the world?

Hitchens argues the negative, proposing that Christianity (or any other religion) is not necessary for morality and that a great deal of evil is regularly perpetrated in the name of God. Furthermore, a God like the God of the Bible is nothing more, Hitchens says, than a praise-hungry tyrant who uses and abuses people to accomplish whatever he wants. Douglas Wilson argues that Christianity is good because it is objectively true, changes peoples’ hearts for the better, and gives people at enmity with God a means to be reconciled to God. In each of the exchanges, he reveals the irrationality of Hitchens’ beliefs, in that Hitchens makes many moral judgments but has no objective moral standard to appeal to. He is arguing as if there is a God, while denying His existence. Hitchens was unable to give a response to this challenge. 

The full text of the debate is available on Christianity Today’s website and  has been compiled into the book Is Christianty Good for the World? by Canon Press. Each author is very articulate and a joy to read. At 72 well-written pages, it is easily a book that you could read in one sitting, and I recommend doing so, followed by a slower more thoughtful perusing. The content was superb.

In my opinion, this exchange is MUST reading for the Christian and atheist alike. This really exchange represented the clash of two absolutely opposing world systems and the foundations of each were revealed. Read the book slowly trying to understand each side’s position. Both men were respectful, but jabbingly witty, in the exchange. Wilson was careful to rearticulate each of Hitchens’ points and respond. Wilson was consistently on topic and attacked the heart of atheism, seeking to reveal both the irrationality of Hitchens’ beliefs as well as reveal his hatred toward God. Hitchens’, Wilson argues, is acting and arguing as if there is a God (who he hates), while denying His existence. Hitchens was consistent in his attacks against Christianity and religion. Wilson replied well to each of Hitchens’ points, while Hitchens, it seems, avoided answering Wilson’s main point.

I think this book should be mandatory reading for all Christian apologists as Wilson models how to argue in a way that honors God. He modeled 2 Tim 2:23-25 and 1 Peter 3:15 in his argumentation. Wilson argued in such a way that would not grant the atheist his presuppositions, consistently attempting to bring God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible to bear on the nonbeliever. He revealed that what the Bible says about the nonbeliever is true (knows God but refuses to honor Him as God – Rom 1:21). And Wilson offered Hitchens and the readers the solution, God’s mercy made available through Jesus’ death on the cross. Wilson went toe-to-toe with one of the best atheistic minds in the world today, and God’s Word was demonstrated to be sufficient.

Review: Norton Antivirus 2009

I have been protecting my PCs and those of my family members with Norton Antivirus for about 10 years now. None of those computers have ever gotten a virus. Not one. That speaks volumes to me of the quality of the product.

For the last few years I was getting a little bit annoyed by the resource usage of Norton Antivirus. That seems to be resolved in 2009. Thank you Norton for listening and fixing the problems. The CPU usage is consistently 0-3%; I noticed significant speed up of the computer when I upgraded from 2008-2009.

So call me stupid or "uncool" or whatever the IT people think of Norton Antivirus users. But the track record of the antivirus software speaks for itself in my case; despite a much greater-than-average internet use, no viruses in over 10 years of PC use. So even if I have a pay a little bit of money instead of opting for one of the free or super-cheap alternatives, I will stick with Norton.

Keywords: norton

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God: How Does God Relate To You Apart From Christ

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is the text of a sermon that Jonathan Edwards preached to his congregation. I know of no author/preacher who is more consistently captivated by God's glory in his grace and love towards sinners, especially as manifested in the eternal joy in Him of heaven. But Edwards was also poignantly aware of the reality of hell. Hell is what we all deserve; God's eternal and infinite wrath is what we would be experiencing now and should experience for eternity if it were not in God's good pleasure to restrain Himself. God's glory in salvation and grace is made all the more glorious when his perfect and righteous wrath are manifested toward the vessels prepared for destruction. Edwards calls all hearers to recognize their powerlessness in the face of this God who is justly wrath-filled against them. Either rest secure in your position in Christ, where Christ has already absorbed this wrath and given us his righteousness securing eternity in heaven. Or be very afraid, be convicted by sin when you see just how horrible it is that a perfect God would punish it so, repent/turn, and trust in God to cleanse you from that sin, both its guilt and its power. This is an excellent sermon that I had not read in quite some time and am resolved to return to regularly. No matter who you are, you must know of the true God, both his justice and mercy.
Max McLean has an excellent recording of the sermon as well.

Free CD: Lampmode Grassroots

 

This morning, I was reminded of God's consuming holiness before which I could never hope to stand...apart from the cross. In an excellent devotional, I had the holiness of God expounded to me, making my heart feel the "horror of his splendor" and holiness. When I look at myself in the light of his holiness, I saw only sin, and then the devotional went on to teach me how I would be immediately destroyed like Nadab and Abihu or Uzzah if I came into contact with that holiness. "My eyes have seen the king and I'm an evil thing; woe is me for I am undone!" I cried out with the authors of this lesson. As they went on to describe God's holy attributes I wanted nothing but to be near that God, but because I'm not perfect I could never hope to stand in his presence. But then they taught, "Sin is odious; he deals severely with the lost. But friend his holiness [was] most clearly revealed at the cross. When He displayed Christ as a propitiation, to vindicate his name and show that He hates sin. His love is holy, no justice dismissed. Because His Son was crushed and suffered for this. So God can forgive sin because He finally punished it...Such an amazing display of love and grace, so we trust and praise Him who was raised for our justification."

For almost 6 minutes, Shai Linne and Timothy Brindle proclaim the holiness of God in just one of 7 amazing tracks on Lamp Mode recording's free cd: Grassroots EP. You need to head over to Lampmode and download the free tracks (or alternatively you can pay for higher quality tracks at Amazon, which I sorta recommend since these are only 96kbps mp3s). These guys continually serve me in ways that I formally knew only great books could, but in many ways it is done better, more memorably, and more engagingly than the books I have grown to love ever could. God has used these guys and many others within Lamp Mode and holy hip hop in general to stir my affections and passion for God.

Keywords: free_lampmode_shailinee_rap_hiphop

Review: Warchild by Emmanuel Jal; And How You Can Help

Born in Tonj, South Sudan in approximately 1980, all that Jal Jok (later renamed Emmanuel Jal) knew was civil war. By the time that most children around the world are learning to swing on monkey bars and play sports, he had seen family members raped and murdered, lost his father to an army position, survived a waterless & foodless trek across the desert, lived through life in a refugee camp, and entered war as gun-toting jenajesh. Short on manpower and wanting to equip and train the next generation, the SPLA army in Sudan trained children to fight in a brutal war that has ravaged Sudan for decades and claimed an entire generation. Warchild is the autobiography of one of those jenajesh, one of the lost boys of Sudan. It is the story of a boy trained to hate and kill, who found his way out of hatred to the God of his mother, Jesus, and learned to love. This transformation began Jal down a path of music culminating in international renown, as a hiphop artist pleading with his people and the world to help bring peace to his homeland in Sudan.

I could not put the book down, reading the entire thing in just three days, despite being a slow reader. The horrific reality of the day-to-day life and mostly death of Sudanese civil war and its effects on both the armies and civilians is clearly portrayed, not inappropriately or even for shock value, just clearly stated through the memory of a young child who lived it. It is probably too much for children to handle so be discerning; it is too much for adults to even get their arms around and you will find your emotions regularly overwhelmed. Genocide, war, statistics are all horribly abstract terms that don't affect my mind and don't affect my prayers and efforts as they should. Stories affect us. This story is one that should be told and it should affect us. This story is especially important to be told because it is one that represents millions whose stories we won't read. 

I highly recommend Warchild. You will not go away unaffected. I pray that Sudan would not be unaffected.
 
If you would like to help Sudan, I recommend directing your support to Sabet & Suzy Kuj and their clinic that they are running in same city where Jal was born. They work tirelessly to help the helpless along with Sabet's passion to train pastors to lead churches. You can find out more at their website, In Deed And Truth.

Keywords: review,sudan

Review: Michael Logozar - Coming Into View (Get it FREE through Noisetrade)

I have had Michael Logozar's album Coming Into View for only a few days and have played it a half dozen times. It is an all-instrumental piano album. For 48 minutes and 10 tracks, Logozar manages to play in a soothing and diminished manner that doesn't have the annoying triteness of the relaxation, new age piano albums. Logozar is content to be silent and let a note simply ring and capable of complex interludes.

I have a very difficult time reading or studying without music in the background, and the constant struggle is to find something that will not become distracting in itself, isn't boring, and can simply fade into the background. Coming Into View is certainly one of the best that I have found for this purpose.

Best of all, you can get the album for free by letting a few friends know about it through NoiseTrade. Use the widget below to get the free album.

Keywords: free,music

Carbonite Online Backup Saved the Day Once Again

 

Thank God for Carbonite! I have had Carbonite online backup software installed on my computer for two years now. In that time I have had two catastrophic computer failures (practically all data lost from the hard drive) and yet I have not lost any of that data.

A couple days ago I was working away and poof computer turned off and won't turn back on. I had been working on a Microsoft Word file in minutes before my computer's death, had downloaded an album from iTunes that morning, and had scanned and then shredded some important financial files hours earlier. I just loaded Carbonite onto the laptop that I'm using while I wait for the old one to be repaired. Carbonite had been backing up everything in the background and to my delight all of those files (and everything else from the old computer, all 254 GB of it) was backed up. I just downloaded the Word file I had been working on and am able to continue working right where I left off and am able to restore any or all of the files that I want thanks to Carbonite.

Carbonite is basically a piece of software that works in the background uploading everything (using encryption) that the user specifies to be backed up to Carbonite's servers. So whether my computer crashes or my house burns down, my data is secure. For $50 a year, Carbonite offers unlimited backup of any in-computer hard drives (they won't back up external hard drives). If you look at the reviews on Amazon, there are a large number of people who have complaints about Carbonite. As I view them based on my experience with the software and the company, these are all based on the users misunderstanding of how to use the software. So if you use Carbonite, beware that it will not automatically back up all files or file types. For example, movies and .exe files are not automatically backed up, but will be if you tell the program to (this is because most .exe files with the exception of installers won't function apart from the entire program installation so it is not helpful to back this filetype up). However, if you right click on a movie and tell carbonite to back up this file type from now on, they will be backed up. You can likewise tell Carbonite to back up everything within a directory by right clicking on the directory.

Once Carboniteis installed a colored dot appears on each file telling you whether or not it will be backed up and whether it has been backed up yet or not. After you install, I simply recommend that you check your various document types to make sure that Carbonite knows that you want to back it up (by right-clicking on the file). I understand people's frustration, but this is all pretty clear as you read the documentation. 

In summary, I am a very very very very happy user of Carbonite who is currently enjoying the benefits of his $50/year subscription. I have all my files even from minutes prior to the computer crash. That is the test of a good backup utility. Carbonite passes with flying colors. I haven't found a single file that I needed that wasn't backup up.

Timothy Brindle: Killing Sin

I have been loving Timothy Brindle's second album Killing Sin, for many months now. You know a cd's gonna be good when it's
  • based on mortification of sin making frequent use of John Owen
  • Tracklist looks like a collection of Puritan sermons and books including: "Pressing Into the Kingdom" (Edwards), Power of the Holy Spirit (Ryle), Sinfulness of Sin (Venning), Preciousness of time (Edwards)
  • Sample John Piper Sermons
  • Encourages us to greater holiness by pointing us to Christ

Brindle has given us a great gift in Killing Sin. For 16 tracks, he describes sin as wickedly detestable and Christ as utterly desirable. From Sinfulness of sin: "Sin is any thought that's not morally pure, sin is loving anything else more than the Lord, sin is breaking his laws, breaking his commands, sin is hatred for God, it's blatantly satanic." Sin is revealed for the disgusting thing that it is, often likened to excrement. But Brindle recognizes that revealing sin for what it is is not sufficient. Romans 6 is often referenced, proclaiming that we are to kill sin and not sin because Christ has already freed us from the dominion of sin and made us His slaves to righteousness. So each song is filled with gospel promises. The joy of obedience to Christ is proclaimed as superior pleasure to endulging in sin. Sin is to be fought and we are to press into the kingdom, not by being perfect, but by "rocking [Christ's] righteousness as our banner." The album reveals Brindle's deep knowledge of the Bible's teaching regarding sin, salvation, and sanctification. He effectively takes the heart-changing biblical theology of the Puritans and makes it memorable as he sets it to rhyme and rhythm.

If you are unfamiliar with gospel/holy hip-hop, I recommend you first go get Shai Linne's Atonement and let him preach the gospel to you. And then get Brindle's Killing Sin. I praise God for Timothy Brindle and the effect that this cd has had on me in my battle to kill sin in me:

Pressing Into the Kingdom: "Rocking righteousness as my banner"

The Humility of Christ

The Excellency of Christ: "This is the ultimate remedy against sin and temptation-namely knowing, enjoying, and worshiping Jesus Christ and his many excellencies"

Let's Kill Sin:

The Sinfulness of Sin:

Apologetics for the Glory of God by John Frame (Review)

I have read almost a dozen apologetics texts over the last year, and in my estimation, Apologetics for the Glory of God by John Frame should be the first book you read on the subject. Let John Frame guide you as you learn the particulars of apologetic argument from other apologists. John Frame describes what principles should be guiding the use of any evidence or line of reasoning as the apologist seeks to reason with the nonbelieving skeptic. Frame's apologetics would rightly be characterized as presuppositional in nature; he is not shy to be aligned with Cornelius Van Til. However, for those who think that a presuppositional apologetic eschews evidence, you will be pleasantly surprised. I recommend that any reader of Apologetics for the Glory of God get a copy of Frame's masterpiece Doctrine of the Knowledge of God as frequent reference is made to it and you will find ideas hinted at fully expounded in that larger volume. All of Frame's thinking is influenced by his tri-perspectival way of looking at things (which DKG goes into much detail), where he realizes the helpfulness of considering truth from different angles. His apologetics is no different; the perspectives into which he breaks the apologetic task (and the chapters of the book) are:

  1. Apologetics as Proof
  2. Apologetics as Defense
  3. Apologetics as Offense

Classical apologists seek to find commonground between the believer and the nonbeliever and work from there to convince the skeptic of the plausibility of existence of the God of the Bible; therefore, the classical apologist argues, the Bible is not the appropriate place to start in apologetic encounters. The presuppositionalist argues on the other hand, that the unbeliever is acting in rebellion to God as manifested by his desire to think autonomously and place himself as the ultimate criterion of truth. The apologist should not encourage this thinking; neither should the apologist adopt it. The skeptics basic heart commitment is that Jesus is not Lord; the apologists basic heart commitment is that Jesus is Lord. "Our argument must be an exhibit of that knowledge, that wisdom, which is based on the 'fear of the Lord,' not an exhibition of unbelieving foolishness. Therefore apologetic argument is no more neutral than any other human activity. In apologetic argument, as in everything else we do, we must presuppose the truth of God's Word....Even if neutrality were possible, that route would be forbidden to us" (p. 9).

There is no common ground apart from mutual knowledge of God of which Romans 1:19ff way. The thing that the apologist is most sure is true is that which God has told him in the Bible. Therefore, the apologists argument will be based on Scripture. Frame writes, "The preacher-apologist is to present the word...to expound it, to apply it to his hearers, to display its beauty, its truth, its rationality. [He] seeks to combat the unbeliever's false impressions and present to him the word as it really is. It is to this testimony that the Spirit also bears witness" (p. 17). This does not mean, however, that natural evidences or rational argumentation are out of line, just that they must be submitted to Scripture, "The obedient Christian apologist will show the unbeliever the various ways in which nature reveals God, without claiming neutrality and without allowing the use of non-Christian criteria of truth" (p. 25). The main attack against this line of reasoning is that it is circular; the teachings of the Bible are true because the Bible is true. We must recognize the truth of this statement but recognize that every system of thought is circular when it seeks to defend its ultimate presupposition: the Bible, reason/logic, sense-experience, relativism, or otherwise.

Frame spends the rest of the book working his presuppositional line of reasoning out as it relates to proving Christianity to be true, defending Christianity's truth, and attacking the irrationality of all other belief systems. Frame includes very little actual argumentation, with the exception of the problem of evil in the world. He admits this. His goal in this book is to provide the framework into which all other arguments or lines of reasoning will fit, and he does so masterfully. It is for this reason that I recommend that you read Frame before any other apologists, because fit into this framework the apologist can use any true line of reasoning or evidences (whether it comes from a presuppositionalist or not) and use it in a way that recognizes Jesus and not man as Lord.

Finally, the book ends with an exceptional transcript from a faux dialogue between Frame and a man on an airplane where Frame demonstrates how each item he has discussed throughout the book might work itself out in actual apologetic discussion with a real life person.

I do not recommend that Apologetics to the Glory of God is the only apologetics book you read, but I do recommend that it is the first. When you are finished, I recommend you move on to Busenitz's Reasons We Believe and/or Pratt's Every Thought Captive.

Keywords: apologetics,frame

Review: Financial Shock by Mark Zandi

Financial Shock is a timely read in in light of today's economic crisis. It has served me well in educating me as to the behind-the-scenes causes of the financial shock that we are all feeling. Dr. Mark Zandi, chief economist and cofounder of Moody's economy.com, gives simple and helpful advice on how to avoid/mitigate the damages of the next bursting bubbles. He ably identified time and time again that "Americans aren't as smart about money as we should be. Financial illiteracy was a fundamental cause of the subprime financial shock" (p. 236). This book, which is imminently readable, will go far to help educate any member of the public who spends the time to read it.

He begins the book with a very simply yet insightful summary of the recent history that led to the perfect storm. The remaining chapters go into detail on each one of the players. The book is full of helpful charts that convey simply pertinent information without confusion. Zandi is a master at making the complex understandable, at defining terms, and writing for the layperson (but I have no doubt that this would be helpful for the well-versed as well). Finally, although he misjudged the state of the market writing, "the worst of the crisis appears to be over," (published in July '08), he does give 10 "policy steps" based on all that he's written to help us fix this problem and to avoid or mitigate the damamges of bubble bursts in the future. This list will help you get a flavor for what he writes about in the previous chapters (don't worry if you don't understand the terminology - I didn't either - but if you read the book you will):

  1. Adopt a voluntary mortgage write-down policy
  2. Establish clear mortgage lending rules
  3. 3. License mortgage brokers
  4. 4. Expand data collection
  5. 5. Reform the fractured foreclosure process
  6. 6. Invest in financial literacy
  7. 7. Modify mark-to-market accounting
  8. 8. Raise financial transparency and accountability
  9. 9. Overhaul financial regulation
  10. 10. Pay attention to asset bubbles.

If I could summarize Financial Shock, it would be: Simply Helpful. Simple, but not Simplistic. And although it is writing about a scandal, it is not scandalous. History is used more to help us learn lessons than to point fingers. I have learned much from this book. It has given me the basis to digest most of what I'm reading in the paper and hearing on the news.

On a similar note, I found this roller coaster animation plotting housing prices exceptionally enlightening in regards to the financial state we find ourselves in (HT JT):

Review: Amazon Kindle for Christians

After one month and a dozen books of using my new Amazon.com Kindle, I can recommend it most enthusiastically. The Kindle is basically an electronic book reader with wireless connectivity. Using Amazon's Whispernet (powered by Sprint EVDO), the Kindle can download full text of books, subscribe to receive digital editions of periodicals or blogs, receive emailed digital texts, and browse the web. Everybody who has seen my Kindle is immediately impressed by the amazingly easy-to-read screen, called electronic paper, which displays a very high quality grayscale viewable in both lowlight and direct sunlight situations. The search function allows basic searching for terms within all of your loaded books or online. The onboard dictionary allows lookup of full definitions with etymology of most common words.

Pros

  • Super easy to read screen in all lighted conditions
  • Always connected to internet wherever Sprint has service; (makes up for high cost of device)
  • Perfect for reading text-based webpages
  • Long battery life (days when wireless is disabled)
  • Easy to turn on/off; easy to enable/disable wireless (switch at back)
  • Amazon or Mobipocket converter will convert HTML & Microsoft Word documents to be readable.
  • PDF texts are able to be converterted but often lose formatting
  • Mp3 player and Audible Audiobook player (either through speaker on back or through headphones)
  • Easy to navigate with huge Next page, Previous Page, Back buttons. Very simple navigation; grandparents in their 70's have used it without problem and minimal introduction.
  • QWERTY keyboard easily allows typing/notetaking easily exported to computer
  • Comes with nice leather carrying case
  • Easy to "clip" sections of text for export to computer

Cons

  • No native pdf document support (conversion often destroys formatting)
  • Easy to accidentally push the navigation buttons
  • No backlight (can purchase clip on light which works well)
  • Battery life only about 12 hours with internet enabled
  • Web browser very limited in formatting capabilities/unable to work with complex pages

Kindle for Christians

The above comments are not unlike most of the other thousands of reviews of the Kindle. My primary concern is for Christians, especially for Christian leaders. Is it easy to read the Bible on the Kindle? Are new Christian releases available on Kindle? What about the books published in the last decades? What about older works, public domain? The following is a brief summary, I will be blogging much more extensively on this topic in the upcoming weeks and months and going into more detail.

Bibles

I have downloaded and used a few translations of the Bible. They are all plagued by the same problem. The Kindle doesn't show you what chapter of a book you are on, so it is easy to get lost and difficult to check what book or chapter you are in. They all have common navigation scheme: Navigate to the books via the table of contents. Then the superiorly formatted ones (ESV, NASB, & NIV) let you click on links to navigate to the appropriate chapters (I can usually find a verse in these versions in under 15 seconds). (NET & KJV) make you click next page until you get where you are trying to go (this can take a very long on the order of minutes if the verse is later in a book) In summary, the Kindle is not very effective as a look-up-stuff Bible, but excellent in any translation to read straight through a book of the Bible or to read a long section.

Modern Christian Books

Crossway and some other publishers are releasing their books in Kindle format, downloadable in under a minute by navigating on the Kindle to the Kindle Store or by ordering online at the Kindle Store. It seems like most new books are being released digitally. However, books published in years past are only slowly making their way onto the Kindle, and most (but not all) of these are the doctrinally deprived best-seller types. I will be releasing recommended Kindle reading in the coming weeks and months. Additionally many authors release their books digitally for free and these are easily converted to Kindle format and read. Some of these authors that do this are John Piper, Frame & Poythress, and some from Sovereign Grace. Similarly Crossway often will email you a pdf of the physical books that you buy direct from their site.

The best part of reading digitally is that many of the best books available are public domain. Christian CLassics Ethereal Library, Gracegems, Spurgeon.org, Google books, and others are great to get digital texts which you can then paste into a Word document or pdf and send it to your Kindle, or you can browse some of the texts directly on the web-browser on the Kindle.

I have a very extensive digital text collection in Libronix and as I am studying, if I find something that I want to read later when I'm not at the computer screen, I have found myself pasting it into a Word Doc and emailing it to my Kindle to read later. It has made my Libronix Digital Library much more useful to me.

Commentaries

I have not found many commentaries for sale for use in Kindle, however, I have found myself during my study times on Libronix pasting the commentary sections that I want to read in more detail into Word and sending it to my Kindle. There are many public domain commentaries that are available online that the Kindle user can take advantage of. Overall, however, the Kindle is not a good standalone reference tool as it is very slow to navigate section to section (as discussed in the Bible section above). My opinion is that the Kindle is best used to read large sections and not flip around within a resource as is done in a reference book.

Blogs

Most blogs have pretty complicated formats; Kindle does not do well with this. As far as I know, Kindle has no way to read RSS feeds; so I have not found any easy way to read blogs effectively on the Kindle. Amazon does have an option to serve blogs to your Kindle at a cost if the blog chooses to participate. This may be the future of blog reading on Kindle, but I hope that soon there will be an easy way to read simple RSS feeds on the Kindle.

Overall, I highly recommend the Kindle for all who love to read. I have loved mine and find myself using it for hours and hours almost each day.

Keywords: kindle

Review: The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul

In The Truth of the Cross, R.C. Sproul effectively communicates the truth of the cross, its significance, its necessity, and its accomplishments. The Truth of the Cross is a short little book packed with doctrine related to the cross (with a focus on substitutionary atonement), a topic that no Christian can spend too much time thinking about rightly. R.C. Sproul's aim throughout the 10 chapters of the book is to ensure that the reader correctly understands what transpired at the cross, why it was necessary, and what God accomplished there. He makes extensive use of church history, historic Christian philosophers and theologians, (Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Luther, & Calvin), philosophy, and logic. Sproul, as usual, is excellent at taking complex statements and whittling them down so that they seem simple. I do wish, however, that the book was more Scripture-packed and that Sproul's appeals were based more explicitly on Scripture than on logic. It seems that Sproul's modus operandi is to demonstrate where his reformed theology logically directs his thinking on an issue. Then he may point to Scripture to show how his position is not at odds with Scripture. This seems backwards to me and is my concern with Sproul and underlies all of the areas of disagreement/caution that I have with this book (On pp 159-161, Sproul's need to teach that Jesus the man and not Jesus God was crucified at the cross seems to be more theologically driven than textually driven and is a good example of this observation as not one verse is cited or interacted with to defend his position, Acts 20:28 & 1 Cor 2:8 would have been nice). Nevertheless, this book is an excellent devotional treatise on cross of Christ that does make frequent use of Scripture. It served me well as I slowly read it, wondering anew at the amazing love of this Holy God who would crush His Son in my place and give me His righteousness to free me from Hell and to reconcile me to Him.

The first few chapters were written to demonstrate to the reader that the atonement was absolutely necessary if man were to have any hope to come to God. Sproul writes, "If we are defective in understanding the character of God or understanding the nature of sin, it is inevitable that we will come to the conclusion that an atonement was not necessary" (p. 15). It is not merely enough to know the facts of the cross, we must know the meaning of the facts, he says, otherwise we will miss the significance of the cross (p. 102). Sproul does a masterful job at simply and understandably laying out this significance. In summarizing what he has taught, at the end of the book, Sproul writes, "[The cross] is not an afterthought or an attempt to correct a mistake. Rather, from all eternity, God determined that He would redeem for himself a people, and that which He determined to do was, in fact, accomplished in the work of Jesus Christ, His atonement on the cross."

In the face of many modern heresies, such as New Perspective on Paul, postmodernism, and Open Theism, that attack the very significance of the cross and are being embraced by many in evangelical circles, Sproul's book is well-timed and well written. We would do well to read it, recognize the truth of the cross, and guard ourselves from believing these gospel-attacking wolf-doctrines dressed in academic sheep's clothing. We would do well to sit at the foot of the cross everyday and recognize the importance of the doctrines that first brought us life and are meant to sustain us through our Christian life. For these ends, you will be served well by Sproul's The Truth of the Cross.

Purchase at Westminster Books
Purchase at Amazon.com

Business for the Glory of God by Wayne Grudem

I had never really thought about it, but I guess--even though it is contrary to my longing and belief that God can be and is glorified through all of the Christian's life--that I had always just assumed that business wasn't good in and of itself. In fact like Grudem asserts of those who are like I was, we believe, "that from a moral perspective [profit, competition, money, and business are] 'neutral' at best." I guess that when I was pursuing a degree in engineering, I thought that I could glorify God through it by sharing the gospel at the work place, earning enough money to free my wife up to be a stay-at-home mom, and being able to give moreo the church. But Grudem's view is so much balanced and biblical than money t these views, exposing my blindness that would have kept me from obeying 1 Corinthians 10:31, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do (including business), do all for the glory of God." (On a side not to 1 Cor 10:31, read "How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God," chapter 5 of John Piper's book, Pierced by the Word.)

The topics in which Grudem covers in this book, with a chapter devoted to each one are:
How God is glorified by...
1. Ownership
2. Productivity
3. Employment
4. Commercial Transactions
5. Profit
6. Money
7. Inequality of Possessions
8. Competition
9. Borrowing and Lending

and he then includes two chapters on
10. Attitudes of Heart
11. Effects on World Poverty.

Grudem is not blind to the abuses of business, the ways in which we idolize money and success and become gracious losing sight of the fact that we are operating with God's stuff not ours. He regularly comments throughout the book on concerns to balance the view, but the real wealth of attitude-changing information comes from not-often-talked-about fact that business can in-and-of-itself be glorifying to God. We don't have to feel "vaguely guilty" about business but can use it to both glorify God while we're doing it and advance the Kingdom through it.

My only complaint is the size of the book, and for that I wish I could give it four-and-a-half stars. The book is really small (83 pages of text) and oftentimes when it seems like he is just beginning to develop a thought or when a proposition could use a little more defense, he needs to move on to the next topic of discussion. However, he can be excused because he has let the reader know that he is working on a larger edition saying in the preface, "The Bible says much about these topics, and a thorough treatment deserves a much larger book than this, one that I am still in the process of writing."

In summary, if you are in business or are a student studying or considering studying business, read this book. It should have a profound and God-glorifying effect (if read as it is written and not taken as a license to idolize business or success and withhold God's grace from people) on your life, studies, and career.

Other Purchasing Options:
Libronix Downloadable
Kindle Reader Downloadable
Paper-&-Ink from WTS
Paper-&-Ink from Amazon

Spanish version from Amazon
 

Grudem also gave a series of sermons/lectures on this topic at Covenant Life Church. They are downloadable for free.

Review: Worldliness by C.J. Mahaney et al

Mahaney and others from Sovereign Grace Ministries attack love-for-the-world head on in this book. Based on the premise that many Christians have "cut" 1 John 2:15 - "Do not love the world or anything in the world" - out of "their Bibles" in the way that they act, C.J. Mahaney and the other authors call for Christians to renew their efforts to avoid worldliness. All too often when Christians have sought to avoid worldliness, they have done so with law. By this I mean that God's grace is viewed only as what originally ushered the believer into the kingdom, but God's grace is not viewed as instrumental in the fight against sin. Rather, individual efforts are given the bulk of the weight. This book is categorically different; there are no signs of legalism here, but the call to avoid wordliness is radical, unflinching, and must grab your attention. C.J. Mahaney writes in the first chapter, "While resisting wordliness is this books theme, exalting Christ is its aim." They hit the bull's-eye they were aiming for.

Word of caution: We rarely view ourselves as worldly; rather, wordliness is defined by those who do not meet up to our artificial criteria of what a Christian life in the world should look like. Usually something like ourselves serves as our epitome of that standard. Therefore, my temptation in coming to a book entitled Worldliness is to read it "for someone else." Without shepherding my thoughts, I would tend to think as I read, "This book is perfect for so-and-so," or "I can't wait for my friend to read this." This must not be your first thought. This book will reveal sin you were oblivious to, and it will give you the gospel-saturated tools you need to overwhelm the appeal of the world with love for Christ. Then properly and continuously applied to yourself, this book surely will serve entire churches well. The one who loves what this book calls us to - The grace and glory of God revealed at the cross - will attack worldliness most God-glorifyingly and most effectively. They will recognize, as Mahaney writes, that, "Eradication [of worldliness] is not an end in itself. Resisting wordliness is absolutely vital but it is ultimately not most significant. Jesus Christ is most important. We must fight worldliness because it dulls our affections for Christ and distracts our attention from Christ. Wordliness is so serious because Christ is so glorious." So let God use this book first and most in your own life, and then I guarantee that you will be giving it to many others, and then you can fight the sin of worldliness together, not through legalism, but motivated and empowered by God's grace.

Here's a rundown of the contents of the book:
  1. Chapter 1- "Is This Verse In Your Bible": C.J. Mahaney introduces the topic of worldliness, explains why this book is important, and sets the gospel-tone that saturates every chapter.
  1. Chapter 2 - "God, My Heart, & Media": Cabaniss, noting the unavoidable and ubiquitous presence of media in Americans life, warns us, "As followers of Christ, we cannot afford to take lightly the media's pervasive presence in our lives." The message of almost all of this media is the message of love for the world of which John warned us in 1 John 2:16, "The desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions." It is not a legalistic calling of media sin, but instead a pastoral urging to sharpen our biblical discernment and evaluation of our media intake for the glory of God. The danger for legalism regarding media is real and it is really dangerous. We must therefore be selective, and the "why" of our selectively it crucial. Guarding us from legalism, Cabaniss roots the what and the why or selectivity in media in the guarding of our hearts and the glory of God.
  1. Chapter 3 - "God, My Heart, & Music": Bob Kauflin, a great lover and maker of music, warns of the many danger of the love of music and commends proper use of music to us. Music is not inherently good or bad, but because music immediately engages our emotions, its effect on us can be far more profound than we realize. "Listening to music is never neutral, because our sinful hearts are involved." Kauflin comments, "A wise Christian understands that listening to music without discernment and godly intent reveals a heart willing to flirt with the world." Yet "it's not uncommon for Christians on Sunday...to worship Jesus for his substitionary death on the cross, then sing songs during the week that exalt the sins he died for" (see James 3:10). So we must ask, does the music we listen to "dull our conscience" or direct us to "glory in the cross." He is clear that this does not mean that "non-Christian" music is off-limits, nor does it mean that all that passes for "Christian" should be listened to without discernment. The chapter was very helpful to me to encourage me to be thoughtful with my listening or not-listening. Refusing to give a list of examples of acceptable and unacceptable music or bands, he instead encourages us to ask the following two questions and then gives us tools to guide us in finding and listening to music that won't encourage worldliness:
    1. First, does the music you listen to lead you to love the
      Savior more or cause your affections for Christ to diminish?
    2. Second, does your music lead you to value an eternal
      perspective or influence you to adopt the mindset of this
      “present evil age”?
  2. Chapter 4 - "God, My Heart, & Stuff": Dave Harvey warns us against trusting in possessions and hoping in things by reminding us of eternity and the joy of laying up treasures in heaven. This puts stuff in its proper perspective and lets us enjoy it more fully and more rightly recognizing its insufficiency to bring happiness and recognizing things as gifts from God. He warns that "stuff stokes our desire but doesn't satisfy." Getting stuff is never enough for a heart in love with the world. We must guard ourselves against finding our identity in possessions, taking pride in possessions, placing our security in stuff, and measuring worth with money. He teaches us to fight covetousness with hope of inheriting the kingdom of God, a treasure of immeasurable worth that will never pass away. This is more difficult to implement than to talk about, so Harvey ends the chapter with some examples of how to guard your heart from love of stuff in light of grace. This chapter ending may well be the most helpful portion of the entire book, as it applies to most of the other chapters, and shows the reader how to fight worldliness with the gospel. Excellent chapter.
  3. Chapter 5 - "God, My Heart, & Clothes": C.J. Mahaney has graciously provided this chapter as a publicly available excerpt from the book. C.J. with the gracious heart of a pastor, shepherds the reader's heart to see that God really does care about what we wear, particularly about the heart behind what we wear. He begins with modesty (the appendix contains two documents regarding modesty: Modesty Heart Check & Considering Modesty on Your Wedding Day). Going straight to the heart and addressing love-of-the-world motivations, he comments, "Your wardrobe is a public statement of your personal and private motivation...Modesty is humility expressed in dress." In order to serve men whose war with lust is more profound than many recognize, C.J. gently and effectively lays out the issue, making regular reference to Scripture (particularly 1 Tim 2:9-10), and even charging parents to get involved in the process with their children from a young age. Replete with personal anecdotes from a family of women who have learned this lesson well, this chapter will serve many churches well in their fight for increased holiness expressed in clothing choices. Dealing with a difficult topic to address, C.J. does a masterful job of avoiding (and helping the readers to avoid) the pitfalls of legalism while encouraging grace-empowered heart obedience that has the gospel as its aim (1 Tim 2:5-6).
  4. Chapter 6 - "How To Love the World": To end the book, Jeff Purswell ends the book recognizing that the reader may feel like everything around him is off limits. He reminds the reader of the intent of the book: "To impart biblical discernment in areas that increasingly escape the scrutiny of the evangelical world so intent on 'relating to the culture.'" The prohibition to not love the world nor the things in the world must not be the only word we heed on what to love. In order to help us think rightly about the world and worldliness, he tells the story of the world: Creation, fall, redemption, consummation. This section is a an excellent summary of redemptive history that I will likely return to often. Drawing from the story of redemptive history, Purswell gives the reader 3 tasks to fulfill as we live in this world: 1. Enjoy the world (as we enjoy God, not the fallenness of the world, 2.Engage the world (through work, home, education, leisure, and sleep), and 3. Evangelize the world. In a book telling us how not to live in the world, this is a very compact and appropriate reminder of how we are to live. I would like to see this chapter expanded into a book someday...I was constantly left begging for more.

This book has served me well and it will serve the church well. I thank these pastors for helping pastors everywhere shepherd the hearts of the flock through the treacherous waters of worldliness. Each author pays attention to address the calls from many in evangelicalism to "redeem the culture" or "contextualize the message" acknowledging the truth but helping to protect the reader from the unseen dangers the lurk down that path. I have already noted sanctifying fruits in my own life from reading Worldliness, and I am excited for this book to get into the hands of all of those in my church and watch God use it as an instrument of transformation.

Keywords: book,gospel,legalism,mahaney,review,sgm,worldliness

Review: You Can Do It! By Tony Dungy

Super-Bowl-winning coach and bestselling author, Tony Dungy, tries his hands at a children's book with You Can Do It!. Written and illustrated for children in probably 1-3 grade, Dungy tells a true story from his childhood. Linden, Tony Dungy's younger brother, didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew up. He only knew he liked to make people smile. The Dungy's dad would regularly tell them, "Whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it. Trust God and dream big!" Tony knew he wanted to be a football player. His sister's knew what they wanted to do, be nurses or doctors. But Linden didn't know. His dad told him to pray that God would help Linden find his dream. The next day, while getting a filling at the dentist's office, his love of making people smile found its dream: Dentistry. The Dungy's dad told them to dream big and they did: Professional football and dentistry. And years later, both dreams came true.

Dungy writes in the afterword, "I'm glad I had parents that helped us to dream. I'm glad they taught us to pray about things that were on our mind. And I'm really glad that God answers our prayers...Our parents taught us to dream, but they also taught us something more important. Whatever we dreamed about, we should tell God because He is the one that can make those plans succeed."

It is good and right to teach children of a Christian household to pray to God, to tell Him what's on their mind, to ask him for things. God says in Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." My concern for this book lies in what is left unsaid and with how, without further guidance, God is made to look like His primary concern for us is to give us our dreams. God cares so much for His children that He died to save us from ours sins and reconcile us to himself (see 1 Peter 3:18). God is the greatest gift we could ever desire, and if you delight yourself in Him, He gives you Himself. But nowhere in the Bible does God promise to give us what we dream or everything we ask for (see James 4:3). The God of Dungy's You Can Do It! may give children the impression that God lives to make them dentists, professional football players, and nurses. It is true that the one who seeks to glorify God in everything (Colossians 3:23-24) will likely succeed, and the children should be taught to work hard and honor God in everything, even ask him for wisdom and guidance and blessing. However, the answer to these prayers is not always, "You can do it!" Sometimes, often it will be to say "no" to worldly success and the things that seem to matter here, and instead give trials. The message to a child who is being taught to honor God should be, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" (Luke 12:31) and then even in the face of losing everything, Jesus says to those who have trusted in Him, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).

I am thankful that Dungy wants to encourage kids to dream big and try hard. I recognize that this book had a different aim than that I described in the paragraph above, and I suspect Dungy might even agree with my paragraph. He was emphasizing something different. Something I think that without qualification or explanation is dangerous or even wrong to emphasize. My fear is that much of Christianity today takes the statement "have faith" to mean little more than "have faith that God will bless you [in this world], and He will." Dungy makes many statements similar to this (For example, Dungy's dad when Linden was wondering if he would ever have a dream says, "Just keep having faith."). It is right to ask of God and have faith that He will do what's best. But if getting what we want is the focus of where we put our faith, we are missing everything of Christianity. Have faith in God to save you from your sins and give you Himself. Because of misplaced priorities and a high likelihood of communicating unbiblical and ungodly priorities, proceed with much caution; if it is to be read to a child, do so with much discernment and emphasis on what is missing from this picture of God.

Keywords: dungy,review

Review: LiquidAUX iPod/iPhone Remote Control for Your Car

I have fallen in love with the Kensington LiquidAUX. It is ingeniously designed and is an inexpensive option for safely using your iPod while in the car. If you want the aesthetically most pleasing solution to integrate your iPod and iPhone controls into your car stereo, this is not it. This device is specifically designed for the individual, like myself, who had their iPod sitting on the seat next to them or on the dashboard, connected to their stereo via an auxiliary input or cassette adapter. So contrary to some reviews, an aux-in on your car stereo is not mandatory for use, making this device usable in older cars with a tape deck and newer cars with the aux-in port.

In my mind, the primary benefits of using the LiquidAUX instead of simply manually controlling your iPod while in the car are two-fold: 1) Safety, 2) Ease of use.

Safety: I consider myself a pretty competent multi-tasking driver, but even still anything that keeps my hands on the steering wheel and my eyes on the road has to keep me safer. My wife has pointed out that I swerve a little less and keep a more consistent speed - signs of not being distracted - since using this device.

Ease of use: The LiquidAUX wireless remote that is mounted on the steering wheel has four buttons: Play, back, forward, and shuffle. The first three are obvious and any remote would be lacking without it; but the fourth, shuffle, is my favorite. In the car, I love to use shuffle to listen to random songs from either my entire collection or one of my playlists. Often I find myself reminded of an album that I love or haven't heard in a while. I wish I could take shuffle off and finish the album. To do that on the iPod, I would have to go into the settings menu, then take shuffle off (at least five seconds with my eyes on the iPod and not on the road). That's what the shuffle button does with one click. If you get to an album you want to keep listening to, hit that button, and you will continue on that album or artist. Then when you're sick of it and want the shuffling to continue, hit the button again, and off you continue on random again. All of this without even touching your iPod. So the LiquidAUX provides safety and convenience. Of course, you are still able to control your iPod the "old-fashioned way" while connected to the LiquidAUX...just make sure you do it at a red light ;-).

The box comes with a charger device that connects from the cigarette lighter (DC Power) to your compatible iPod (basically everything but a shuffle) or iPhone. There is a small wireless remote control (battery included) that mounts to your steering wheel for easy ability to control your iPod without being distracted from driving. Finally, the charger device has a 3.5mm output to connect to your cars auxiliary in (an extension is included in case your aux-in is further than a few inches from your cigarette lighter.

My car does not have an aux-in so I was concerned that I would not be able to use this device. But the headphone jack on the iPod still outputs audio even while under the control of the LiquidAUX, so I am able to connect to my stereo using a cassette tape adapter. This does make for quite a few wires, however: 1) From charger to iPod, 2) charger to aux-in port, 3) iPod to cassette-adapter (only if you don't have aux-in on stereo). This would be my number one foreseeable complaint. But these are also features that make the LiquidAUX not confined to a single car. Take it with you in a rental car on vacation, use it in a friend's car on a road trip, or swap it between your vehicles. I could not be happier with the LiquidAUX; it is engineered excellently to do that for which it was designed.

Keywords: ipod

Gnostic Empire Strikes Back by Peter Jones - A Review

Peter Jones claims in The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age that the seemingly divergent modern phenomena/movements are really related. They are related to each other and all have common themes found in one of the first heresies to attack the church from within: gnosticism. The seemingly divergent modern phenomena include: 1. skewing of gender roles (militant feminism, homosexuality, etc), 2. increase of new age religion (eastern religions, mysticism, yoga, goddess worship, all in one, you are god, spirituality), 3. environmentalism (nature worship, deification of mother nature and natural selection, militant environmentalism), and 4. political correctness (tolerance of all religions/viewpoints except orthodox Christianity). Written in 1992, I am amazed at many of the insights that have proven themselves to be even more true over the last 16 years.

The book reads like a call to arms. Jones uses urgent, apocalyptic, the sky-is-falling language that can, I found, at times make the book difficult to get through. However, that language is consistent with his thesis: "[T]he New Age has a coherent agenda, orchestrated from a diabolical center, moving and reproducing ineluctably, like algae in a lake." (p. 97). He cites example after example of how these seemingly disconnected New Age/gnostic positions have begun quietly and subversively to enter the church. He writes to Christians who claim to believe that the Bible is God's true word, to Christians who view Jesus as Creator God who came physically to earth to die for the sins of His people and who rose from the dead. He writes to alert them that this orthodox position is being attacked from within, from multiple disparate groups that when analyzed with an eye to history (understanding long-'dead' gnosticism), we realize are remarkably related.

This 112-page book is well-documented with about 200 reference footnotes in six chapters. This book will serve well those who believe in the basic tenets that unite conservative "Christendom," both evangelical and catholic. It will alert those who may have been unaware of just how large and influence the New-Age-culture has had even on their own thinking to the danger.

Jones uses the example of frogs who don't jump out of a pot if it is heated slowly to a boil. For those who were unaware of the heating water, this may be the impetus needed to make them jump out and be alert, guarding their heart and doctrine from this threat. This has certainly been the book's effect on me; I have an increased awareness of just how pervasive this new gnosticism has become. However, The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age is certainly not an exhaustive treatment of the subject, nor is it designed to persuade those who have already bought into the lies of the New-Age movement to see the error of their ways. It may very well do this, but the tone of the book will probably turn adherents off to Jones, making them unable to hear his words. Nevertheless, for Christians living in the United States, I echo the recommendations from the back cover: "I recommend this work" - RC Sproul. "These findings throw a flood of light on a dark subject" -Jay Adams. "Jones demonstrates in a thorough and engaging way that the New Age is not new at all...the church desperately needs to hear Professor Jones's call for a clearer comprehension of truth."

It's eerie to watch what Peter Jones was talking about prove just how mainstream it has become as evidenced in this excerpt from Oprah. So much of what Jones talks about is demonstrated right here. It is for this reason I recommend that Christians read this short book:

Keywords: gnosticism,new_age,review

Gnostic Empire Strikes Back by Peter Jones - A Review

Peter Jones claims in The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age that the seemingly divergent modern phenomena/movements are really related. They are related to each other and all have common themes found in one of the first heresies to attack the church from within: gnosticism. The seemingly divergent modern phenomena include: 1. skewing of gender roles (militant feminism, homosexuality, etc), 2. increase of new age religion (eastern religions, mysticism, yoga, goddess worship, all in one, you are god, spirituality), 3. environmentalism (nature worship, deification of mother nature and natural selection, militant environmentalism), and 4. political correctness (tolerance of all religions/viewpoints except orthodox Christianity). Written in 1992, I am amazed at many of the insights that have proven themselves to be even more true over the last 16 years.

The book reads like a call to arms. Jones uses urgent, apocalyptic, the sky-is-falling language that can, I found, at times make the book difficult to get through. However, that language is consistent with his thesis: "[T]he New Age has a coherent agenda, orchestrated from a diabolical center, moving and reproducing ineluctably, like algae in a lake." (p. 97). He cites example after example of how these seemingly disconnected New Age/gnostic positions have begun quietly and subversively to enter the church. He writes to Christians who claim to believe that the Bible is God's true word, to Christians who view Jesus as Creator God who came physically to earth to die for the sins of His people and who rose from the dead. He writes to alert them that this orthodox position is being attacked from within, from multiple disparate groups that when analyzed with an eye to history (understanding long-'dead' gnosticism), we realize are remarkably related.

This 112-page book is well-documented with about 200 reference footnotes in six chapters. This book will serve well those who believe in the basic tenets that unite conservative "Christendom," both evangelical and catholic. It will alert those who may have been unaware of just how large and influence the New-Age-culture has had even on their own thinking to the danger.

Jones uses the example of frogs who don't jump out of a pot if it is heated slowly to a boil. For those who were unaware of the heating water, this may be the impetus needed to make them jump out and be alert, guarding their heart and doctrine from this threat. This has certainly been the book's effect on me; I have an increased awareness of just how pervasive this new gnosticism has become. However, The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age is certainly not an exhaustive treatment of the subject, nor is it designed to persuade those who have already bought into the lies of the New-Age movement to see the error of their ways. It may very well do this, but the tone of the book will probably turn adherents off to Jones, making them unable to hear his words. Nevertheless, for Christians living in the United States, I echo the recommendations from the back cover: "I recommend this work" - RC Sproul. "These findings throw a flood of light on a dark subject" -Jay Adams. "Jones demonstrates in a thorough and engaging way that the New Age is not new at all...the church desperately needs to hear Professor Jones's call for a clearer comprehension of truth."

It's eerie to watch what Peter Jones was talking about prove just how mainstream it has become as evidenced in this excerpt from Oprah. So much of what Jones talks about is demonstrated right here. It is for this reason I recommend that Christians read this short book:

Keywords: gnosticism,new_age,review

Review: Keeping the Heart by John Flavel

Puritan John Flavel (1630-1691) in Keeping the Heart (originally titled: A Saint Indeed or The Great Work of a Christian Opened and Pressed) has proven to be a steady and timely friend to me over the last year. This book has been a near constant companion during that time and I have made my way through it a number of times. I suppose that I am familiar enough with the book now to write a review so that others may be encouraged to spend time with this heart-shepherding work as well; however, I in no way do I feel that I have mastered its contents or the practice of them. I am convinced though that this book will prove to me to be a lifelong companion whose true worth I could only underestimate.

Using Proverbs 4:23 (“Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.”), Flavel creates a treatise designed for all professing Christians. The aim is that the contents of the heart be laid bare, so that sin which is present is seen as sin and dealt with as a believer should and that the heart be guided to be pure in its devotion and affection for God. He does this, not with law, but by constantly pointing the believer to God's grace as the grounds and means for his sanctification. Flavel is not content to merely convey information, rather, with each point he carefully takes aim at your very soul and deftly fires shot after gospel-saturated, God-glorifying shot. Make sure you read this book slowly and prayerfully, allowing each purifying blow to have its full affect on your heart.

The treatise is basically broken down into four sections:

  1. What keeping the heart presupposes” (Six statements describing what is basic in keeping the heart).

  2. Why keeping the heart is a great business” (Six statements and their exposition explaining why the life of a Christian should be described as a life of “keeping their heart”)

  3. Special seasons for keeping the heart” (104 specific pieces of advice particularly tailored for 12 seasons of life in which special diligence is necessary to guard the heart)

  4. Uses” of means in keeping the heart (Examples and guidelines on using information, exhortation, direction, and consolation in the keeping of the heart).

Keeping the Heart is a work that is difficult to navigate without seeing the “big picture” of what Flavel is setting out to do. I therefore recommend you acquire a copy that includes the “Outline” by Maureen Bradley (The Soli Deo Gloria edition includes this). Each of the statements, seasons, or uses alluded to in describing the structure of the work has many subpoints underneath it. I would recommend in your reading that you decide to either read one statement/season/use at a time (roughly 10 pages a piece, although they vary dramatically), or to use it devotionally in much smaller chunks by reading one subpoint at a time. After your first time through the work, you will then be able to quickly navigate to the heart-shepherding help that is particular to your struggle or circumstance.

You will be well-served to read Keeping the Heart, working through the 17th century language (Flavel is not nearly as difficult as many other Puritans and the Soli Deo Gloria edition has helpfully modernized spelling, formatting, and grammar) and work diligently to guard your heart with the help of this proven guide.

Keywords: flavel,review

Review: The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy (5/5 Stars)

With only 83 pages and 13 chapters Leahy's The Cross He Bore is pregnant with thought-provoking and soul-humbling truth that caused me often to just cry out as a beggar to God in awe, in love, in gratefulness, and in humble pleading for faith and grace.

Basically what Leahy does in this book is walk the reader through Christ's last hours on earth, His Passion. Dealing in 13 chapters with different aspects and scenes from those hours, the divinity of Christ and His humanness are both kept sharply in focus. The sin of mankind both for which Christ was dying and the sins of those who directly took part in His murder are not deminished, but neither is the fact that "It was the will of the Lord to crush him" that it was the Lord who "has put him to grief" (Isaiah 53:10).

I recommend that you read this book in a quiet place with little destraction with your Bible by your side. Read it one chapter at a time and then sit and re-read, and pray. Let the Spirit take you back to the foot of the cross where you gaze up at your only hope, the King of the universe hanging in misery, damnation, and ultimately victory. Look at the cross he bore and realize that with such a high price to secure our salvation, anything that we hope to add or to repay will only be an insult to His gift, diminishing its value and His glory. Let the Spirit take you to the foot of the cross where you realize who we are, we are all beggars.

Keep reading

Keywords: cross,leahy

Review: Hebrew Tutor Software (3/5 Stars)

Hebrew Tutor is a program that will basically give you the equivalence of a first semester seminary-level course in Hebrew. Beginning with the alphabet and ending by translating the book of Ruth, Hebrew Tutor seeks to give you basically one-on-one tutoring with audio and text lessons, drills, and quizzes. It can be purchased from Amazon or Westminster Bookstore.

The problems arise relating to the technology. Hebrew Tutor was created in 1997 and has not been updated since 1997...and it shows. The fonts that come with the program are not compatible with modern operating systems (XP/Vista, so in order to run the program you will need to contact the publisher, or as in my case the seminary using the program in order to even get the fonts to appear semi-correctly). Even with updated fonts many screens simply do not show all of the letters appropriately (Many only show half the letter). This is not enough to render the program useless by any means.

A second problem that arises is that the program is written for a 16-bit operating system. Most modern computers (running XP or Vista) are 32-bit and can run a 16-bit program without a problem. The computer from which I am writing this review and an increasing number of machines are 64-bit systems. At this time, 64-bit Windows simply cannot run a 16-bit program, so I need to go to a separate computer in order to run Hebrew Tutor.

Finally, the since the program is old, it looks old and runs like an old program. When it was written, gigabyte-sized hard drives were just coming into use, so it was unfeasible to have the 500 MB of files on the cd copied onto the hard drive for quicker access. The problem with this slower access to the program's data files is that the program runs very slowly (By modern standards), needing to fire up the cd-rom, find the audio file, and read the file prior to being able to pronounce any words you click on.  

Nevertheless, Hebrew Tutor has effectively served me to teach me Hebrew, with more than a little bit of frustration. I would hope that after more than a decade with a successful piece of software, Parson's would publish a more technologically up-to-date version.

Keywords: hebrew,software

Review: Worship Matters (5/5 stars)

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God is a book written primarily for those who lead music within a church setting. The goal of the book is to give guiding prinicples and practical advice to help the music leader see the essence of what their ministry is about and do that within whatever church context they find themselves. It is available from Westminter Bookstore and Amazon.

For the worship leader: This book is a must read. I can think of no circumstance a worship leader may find himself in which he should not read this book. It is the best on the topic of which I am aware, combining into one well written, heart-shepherding book all of the good things that before you would have had to read a dozen separate books to find. The book is both practical and theological, realistic and idealistic. It is God-centered, God-exalting and man-minimizing, while realizing that man must play a role. I have only rarely seen a book that so skillfully and thoughtfully combines rich doctrine and practical advice.

For the band member: Must read. The book is not only about how to lead those who perform, but about what the goal of the music portion of the worship service must be. The book will help you evaluate and redirect your heart in what you may have grown comfortable with. Maybe you

For the pastor/elder: Must read. Know how to encourage, direct, and come alongside your worship leader. I would recommend that the worship leader, band, and pastor(s) read this book together. The book so accurately describes the Biblical vision for worship that all who are involved in how a Sunday service, smallgroup gathering, or other meeting unfold should do so in light of the thoughtful, biblically informed direction Bob Kauflin lays out. There is even a chapter specifically for non-music-oriented pastors.

For the church member: Should read. I do not lead worship; I can't even sing on pitch, but what I was gained from the book made an immediate and palpable difference in the entirety of my worship (singing, participating in the Lord's Supper, listening to the sermon, and interacting with others) on Sunday. There are certainly other books that can benefit you in this regard, but this book is certainly one that can benefit all members of the body of Christ. Wayne Grudem recommends the book with the following words, "Worship Matters is an outstanding book borth for those who lead worship and also for every Christian who wants to worship God more fully. The book is biblical, practical, interesting, wise and thorough in its treatment of the topic."

The 260 pages of Worship Matters is laid out in a very convenient manner: Each of the 32 chapters are generally 4-7 pages in length, focus on a single topic, and can easily be read in a single sitting, even for slow readers. It reads much like a devotional and could easily be read in one month using only 10-15 minutes per day.

The book is broken into four parts:

Part 1: The Leader - Focusing on what kind of man the worship leader must be, touching on the heart, mind (doctrine), hands (practice & skill), and life.

Part 2: The Task. Each chapter takes a phrase from Kauflin's definition of a worship leader to define his task:

A faithful worship leader
magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ
through the power of the Holy Spirit
by skillfully combining God's Word with music,
thereby motivating the gathered church
to proclaim the gospel,

to cherish God's presence
and to live for God's glory.

Part 3: Healthy Tensions - Bob identifies that many of the debates that surround music in churches tend to polarize people and points out that as a response to incorrect emphasis placed on one aspect of worship, that aspect may be neglected and too much weight given to the other extreme. We should rather see the wisdom in each of the two poles and using Scripture as a guide find ourselves in a healthy tension between them not as a response. The poles discussed, each in a chapter are:

  • God's transendence and immanence
  • Head and Head
  • Internal and External
  • Vertical and Horizontal
  • Planned and Spontaneous
  • Rooted and Relevant
  • Skilled and Authentic
  • For the Church and For Unbelievers
  • Event and Everyday

Part 4: Right Relationships - Lays out some biblical guidelines and practical advice for how the various groups of people and the worship leader can interact in the most edifying, God-glorifying way possible. Groups addressed are people in general, the church, the worship team, and the pastor. The book finishes with a chapter written specifically for the pastor(s) of the church.

I cannot sum up my thoughts any better than D.A. Carson did in his endorsement: "Here is a rare book: a practical treatment of corporate worship that nevertheless reflects deep theological commitments. One may disagree here and there with some of the judgments, but it is demonstrably unfair to imagine that Bob Kauflin has not through about these matters deeply." Bob's life and ministry at sovereign grace have demonstrated that he is a worship leader and pastor from whom we want to learn. C.J. Mahaney writes, "I know of no man more qualified to write this book than Bob. And I know of no more important, useful work for those who would lead God's people than Worship Matters." I agree.

Bob Kauflin blogs regularly at worshipmatters.com. Worship God Live and other Sovereign Grace Music cds are great examples of the music he writes and leads at Covenant Life Church. The author will be hosting a conference called WorshipGod08 July 30-August 2, 2008.

Keywords: kauflin,music,worship

Review: When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey

Dave Harvey begins When Sinners Say I Do by making sure that you understand the doctrine of sin...the root of which is that you recognize that you are a sinner. Recognizing that both members of any marriage are sinners, have always been sinners, and forever will be sinners is a key place to start. Far too often we recognize that proposition (both spouses are sinners) to be a true theoretically true statement, but practically we act as if the other is the greater sinner. Harvey flips this on its head: I must go into marriage (indeed, into all relationships, recognizing that I am the worst sinner that I know).

Then, after recognizing sin, we can see the solution to sin: The gospel of the free grace of God, a gospel that saves from sin, but also a gospel that provides the power for ongoing forgiveness of sin and power over sin.

The bulk of the bulk is really just a primer on how to apply the gospel to various aspects of marriage. The book is far less a book on sin in marriage than it is on the grace of the gospel applied to marriage.

For this reason, ever since I first recommended this book, it is the first recommendation that I give to anybody looking for "marriage help". It is the first book I give to couples before they are married who are looking for a book to read together to prepare them for marriage. It would be the first book I give to a couple in a super healthy marriage. And it would be a book I would recommend to a single without even a potential mate who is trying to think rightly about dating and marriage.

Until we see the ravaging effects of sin on marriage - until I see the ravaging affects of MY sin on MY marriage - I won't recognize God's grace as the solution; I will be tempted to settle for the cheap fixes peddled in most other marriage books out there. My greatest problem isn't compatibility, lack of intimacy, or dulled romance; it is sin. And the solution is therefore first and foremost the gospel. Read this book to see how that fleshes itself out.

When you've finished this book, then I recommend you move onto the other best books on marriage I've read:
1. Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace
2. Feminine Appeal For women; Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know For men.

Keywords: marriage

John Piper Sermon Manuscript Library for Libronix / Logos Bible Software

Even though every sermon manuscript in the John Piper Sermon Manuscript Library is available for free from DesiringGod.org , the Manuscript Library is worth the cost:

1. Available where there is no internet connection.

2. Searchable: The powerful search features of Logos will help you find appropriate sermons and excerpts from sermons quickly. I have discovered numerous gems that God has used to affect me relating to a certain passage or topic since I have owned this software that I would never have been aware were even available before.

3. Key-linked: Piper makes extensive reference to Bible verses throughout his sermon manuscripts, and often I have been guilty of not looking up the verses simply because it was too much work. Now, I can just hover my mouse over the references and the verse pops up.

4. Seamless integration with the way I study: My study of the Bible occurs almost exclusively now with Libronix (Logos Bible Software). I have searchable and quick access to all my study notes, multiple versions including original languages, commentaries, and thousands of books. I have found that if I have a resource and it isn't in Libronix it just isn't accessed because of the added work of checking that resource.

Scholar's Library - Logos Bible Software 3For these reasons, I highly recommend The John Piper Sermon Manuscript Library. If you don't own Libronix already, the best way to start is with one of the collections

Keywords: libronix,logos,piper

My Recommended Christmas Gifts: Books

It is no question that I like books, and if you can probably expect that if you are getting a Christmas present from me, it will be a book. I'm sure that many of you write this off as, "Jacob, just because you love books doesn't mean that everybody should love books." I recognize that my bibliophilia is a little more extreme than average, but I think that my desire to give books as gifts does have a little more to it than just, "I love books; you should too."

Behind each book that I give, there is quite a bit of thought. If you are giving books, think about what books you are giving and to whom you are giving them. As I consider your life, your strengths, your weakness, your season of life, I may wish that I could sit down with you for hours upon hours of uninterupted time. But alas, we don't have that many hours together and I am not able to say clearly all that I wish to say. Rather, my mind runs to books, to authors with whom I have sat for hours upon hours. I consider what these authors have taught me, how they have affected me and I long for that for you too. So I give you a book. So each book gift has much thought behind it. I pray right now that if you get a book(s) from me for Christmas, God would draw you to himself or deepen the depth of love and faith in the relationship He already has with you.

Likewise, if you want to get me a gift for Christmas, I ask for a book (here's my Amazon wishlist) and I pray that the same effect would be had for me as a result of your gift.

Nevertheless, many have asked me, "What book should I get for my husband?" or "What book should I get for my wife?". So while I might give you specific advise, here's the best books that I have read for general heart-loving, gift-giving purposes:

  1. ESV Journaling Bible (black; terra-cotta sage; plum; Natural Brown Leather - My #1 pick for Christmas)
  2. Keeping the Heart by John Flavel
  3. Humility by C.J. Mahaney
  4. When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey
  5. Love that Last by Gary and Betsy Ricucci
  6. The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy
  7. God Is the Gospel by John Piper
  8. The Pleasures of God by John Piper
  9. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper
  10. When I Don't Desire God by John Piper
  11. Living the Cross-Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney
  12. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever
  13. Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney (For the women)
  14. Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney, et al.
  15. The Cross of Christ by John Stott
  16. Worship God Live by Sovereign Grace Music
Not convinced? Go read Unashamed Workman's 20 Reasons to Read and then come back and buy some of these for yourself or that special someone in your life.

Keywords: books,christmas,reading

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