~ UPDATED PAGES ON THE BLOG ~
I read most of this wonderful book (one of my favorites of the year), by one of my favorite authors sitting along the Saluda River in Cleveland, South Carolina over the Thanksgiving weekend. We were in the area for the marriage of our nephew Mark and his bride Tiffany. We had rented two cabins on the Saluda River, located a few miles Table Rock State Park. It was an incredible setting to read this book about the Trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
~ THIS AND THAT ~
- One of our favorite annual traditions is to see It’s a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed at the Normal Theater in town. This is a theatre that opened in 1937, and after being restored, has now been open for 20 years, showing classic, independent and foreign films (http://www.normaltheater.com/). It’s a great feeling to be in the jam packed theatre seeing friends from church and the community. Although Tammy tells me that she thinks she knows how it is going to end, I have to go each year to see if Clarence earns his wings.
PROBING QUESTIONS AND LESSONS ABOUT CHRISTMAS:
- Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? John MacArthur gives his response.
- Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday? R.C. Sproul writes “I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating his birthday every year.”
- What Does the X in Xmas Mean? R. C. Sproul writes “There’s a long and sacred history of the use of X to symbolize the name of Christ, and from its origin, it has meant no disrespect.”
- Christmas Past: Ignatius. Stephen Nichols writes “Ignatius led the church to a faithful understanding of the doctrine of the incarnation.”
- Christmas is the Greatest Mystery. David Mathis of Desiring God shares three important lessons that the incarnation reveals.
- Alistair Begg Preaches on Luke 2 and Christ’s Birth. Watch this recent sermon from Alistair Begg.
- The Incarnation: What We Celebrate at Christmas. In this excerpt from R.C. Sproul’s video series “What Did Jesus Do?” Sproul reminds us what we really celebrate at Christmas—the incarnation of God Himself.
- The Dark Side of Christmas. John Piper reads his poem “The Innkeeper”.
- God in a Manger. John MacArthur writes “The enemy must love the world’s Christmas celebration. He must revel in the blatant sin and blasphemy and rejection of Christ—all by people who suppose they are celebrating His birth! He must glory in the way people inoculate themselves against the truth of Christ by commemorating His birth with lip service while ignoring the point of it all—that Jesus is almighty God.”
CHRISTIAN LIVING AND RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:
- Please Don’t Give Them Porn for Christmas. Tim Challies provides a warning to parents regarding the electronic devices that parents will be giving their children for Christmas this year. Tim will speak on “Purity in a Digital Age” at the 2015 Ligonier Ministries National Conference in Orlando on February 19.
- Top 14 Posts of 2014 at Desiring God. The number one article for 2014, and now all-time at Desiring God, was “Why Homosexuality is Not like Other Sins”.
- 10 Marks Of True Conversion. From a sermon by John MacArthur, David Murray provides a summary of the ten effects of true conversion in a Christian’s life.
- Overcoming the World Conference Messages. As I prepare my heart and mind for the 2015 Ligonier Ministries National Conference to take place in February, 2015, I’ve been listening to the messages from the 2014 conference, which had a theme of “Overcoming the World”. You can listen and watch all of the conference messages. Of all these wonderful messages, I will commend one to you in particular. It is Derek Thomas’ message “How Then Shall We Live in This World?” using 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 as his primary text.
- 20 Recommended Daily Devotionals. Here is a helpful list from Kevin Halloran.
- Editor’s Choice: The Best of 2014. Collin Hansen, Executive Director of the Gospel Coalition has compiled a list of his ten favorite 2014 Gospel Coalition resources.
MOVIES AND TELEVISION:
- Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to Release Documentary About Life of War Hero Louis Zamperini. Release date will be the same as Angelina Jolie’s film Unbroken.
- A Few Thoughts After Seeing Unbroken. Kevin Halloran shares his observations of the film, based on one of my favorite books. Spoilers included.
- Moses Without the Supernatural — Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings”. Albert Mohler looks at the new film loosely based on the biblical account of the Exodus.
- 5 Biggest Theater Chains Pull The Interview Over Threats. The Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy was set to open Christmas Day.
- Did Tolkien Waste His Life? Jon Bloom of Desiring God writes “Did Tolkien waste much of his life loitering in his own elaborate Elfland? And did he enable hundreds of millions of others to waste theirs by joining him there? In the face of such real desperate needs of very real souls in the very real world, isn’t Middle-earth just an escape?”
- Bilbo’s Last Goodbye David Mathis of Desiring God writes “Say what you may about (Peter) Jackson, he has done Tolkien and us a great service. Whatever disappointments we may have with the details, he has introduced millions of new readers, and a whole new generation, to Middle-earth. Countless of us, without Jackson’s midwifery, never would have buried ourselves in the pages of The Hobbit and its trilogy-sequel.”
- Birdman leads Critics’ Choice nominations. Birdman, which will be listed as my worst film of the year, continues to clean up awards nominations.
- God is in the Details on the Silver Screen. USA Today’s Nicole K. Jarvis takes a closer look at those who have filled the biggest role of all.
- Trailer for a New Documentary on Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The film Logic on Fire: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones will be released April 14, 2015.
- Paul McCartney joins Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. Check out the entire show here. Sir Paul comes on at the 25:00 mark in the show.
- First Look: The New Edition of the Reformation Study Bible. Assembled by R.C. Sproul, a team of the finest theologians and pastors have thoroughly revised and carefully crafted the new edition of the Reformation Study Bible to provide an unparalleled reading and discipleship experience.
- Michael Card reports that his book on hesed is coming together. He is currently working on 57 chapter ideas, and beginning to realize what a big job organizing all of the material will be.
- Tim Challies’ Top Books of 2014. My favorite blogger lists his top books of the year.
- Todd Pruitt’s Favorite Books of 2014. He lists his top twelve books and two more that he wants to read.
- The Gospel Coalition Staff Pick Their Best Books from 2014. I love reading end of the year “best” lists. Check these out from the Gospel Coalition writers.
- Christianity Today’s 2015 Book Awards. Christianity Today picks for “books most likely to shape evangelical life, thought and culture”. Congratulations to Steven Garber for Visions of Vocation receiving an Award of Merit.
- Top Ten Books of 2014. Kevin DeYoung lists his top ten.
- Another Top Ten Book List. Trevin Wax shares his top ten.
- The Top Ten Books that I Read in 2014. Former Covenant Seminary professor Sean Lucas lists his top books, which includes Steven Garber’s Visions of Vocation.
- The 5 Best Books I Read in 2014. Barnabas Piper shares his top five.
- iTunes I have 968 albums (or 42.4 days) of music in my iTunes library. I’ve recently started putting my favorite songs in playlists. For example, I have my favorite 100 (and growing) Christian hip-hop/rap songs in a playlist and have built playlists for many of my favorite artists from Amos Lee to Toby Mac. This year I built a Christmas music playlist. We usually pick up a few new Christmas albums each year and so we have quite a collection after 34 years of marriage. It was a lot of fun to build the playlist, which currently has 212 songs in it after adding four songs from the David Crowder Band’s Oh for Joy album. Using playlists is a great way to build your own “Greatest Hits”.
- Christmas Carols: Joy to the World. Randall Van Meggelen writes “This famous hymn is one of my favorite carols because it faithfully conveys the resounding message in Psalm 98 that Jesus saves.”
- “Say I Won’t” Video. The new single from Lecrae featuring Andy Mineo.
- Because He Lives. I saw Matt Maher perform this incredible new song in a recent concert, in which he appeared with Toby Mac. He told a nice story about contacting Bill Gaither when writing the song, because, well, Bill Gaither wrote the classic song “Because He Lives”. This is a great song and it’s now available on iTunes. Check out the video for the song.
- New Third Day Single. The band has released “Soul On Fire”, the first single from their new worship album Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship, which will be released March 3, 2015. The single is available on iTunes.
- Casting Crowns in Concert. Casting Crowns will be in concert at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, IL at 7:00 pm on February 26.
- USA Today names Taylor Swift’s 1989 Top Album of 2014.Well, I guess everyone has their opinion.
CURRENT EVENTS/IN THE NEWS:
- Time Is Now for Gospel Transformation in Race Relations. Jeff Robinson writes “One message rang clear from a two-hour dialogue of Christian leaders gathered Tuesday night in Memphis at the historic Lorraine Motel and National Civil Rights Museum: American evangelicals have far to go in race relations, but the gospel is enough to bring about genuine reconciliation”
- John Piper: 16 Thoughts on Thinking and Discussing Race and Christ. Justin Taylor shares thoughts from John Piper’s linked article.
- Engaging Race Face to Face. The American church is at a pivotal moment. It has been years since the issue of ethnic and racial tension has received the important attention and discussion it has in the last four months. While it might seem easiest not to engage this topic, or while some might expect the current discussion to quickly fade, Lecrae helps us see that there is a healthy, necessary way to move forward. The broad webcast isn’t the final word. But rather, as Lecrae explains in this six-minute video from last year, “There needs to be small, intimate settings of people coming together to wrestle through this, to ask the hard questions, pushing and pulling to have a better understanding of where we stand.”
- 3 Reasons Why I Stand with the Protesters. Thabiti Anyabwile writes “I stand with the protestors because they better demonstrate what genuine faith looks like.”
- Seven Things I Wish My Pastor Knew About My Homosexuality. In light of the recent controversial Wheaton College hiring of celibate lesbian Julie Rodgers as Ministry Associate for Spiritual Care in the Chaplain’s Office, I found this article of interest and wanted to share with you.
- Washington Post Offers Nuanced Look at Celibacy Among Gay Christians. Here is an article related to the Julie Rodgers issue. The full article from World Magazine is linked in this one.
- Robert Gagnon comments on celibate Gay Christians.
- Gay, Christian and … celibate: The changing face of the homosexuality debate. One final article on the celibate gay issue. This one references Rosaria Butterfield, a former lesbian who rejects the “ex-gay” label and the movement behind it. Butterfield will be speaking at the Ligonier Ministries 2015 National Conference February 19-21 in Orlando.
- Star Athletes Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Mariota Honor God On and Off the Field. Eric Metaxas writes “Twenty-fourteen is the year that America learned more about its athletes than it cared to know. Much of the off-the-field news made it clear that sports is not necessarily the place we should look for role models. There are exceptions of course, and this past week saw two athletes who could serve as role models honored for their accomplishments.
- Top Google Searches of 2014. Check out these global Google searches. Did they match up with what you searched for?
TO MAKE YOU SMILE:
Favorite Quotes of the Week ~ 12.22.2014
• Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest. Linus
• Your most irritated, impatient, uncaring self didn’t separate you from God’s love today; it made you a target of his love. Scotty Smith
• Aimless, unproductive Christians contradict the creative, purposeful, powerful, merciful God we love. John Piper, (from Don’t Waste Your Life)
•Salvation is not a reward for the righteous, but a gift for the guilty. Steven Lawson
•If you didn’t earn your salvation how are you going to un-earn it? Tim Keller
• Ironically, the insistence that doctrines do not matter is really a doctrine itself Tim Keller.
• What is the deepest root of your joy? What God gives to you? Or what God is to you? John Piper
• Sometimes we emulate the Pharisees more than we imitate Christ. RC Sproul
• Why couldn’t North Korea have found “Left Behind” offensive? Barnabas Piper
• We’re far worse than we ever imagined, and far more loved than we could ever dream. Tim Keller
• The question is not, “Why is there only one way to God?” but “Why is there even one way? R.C. Sproul
• Lay your burdens of self-contempt, cynicism, and shame at the feet of Jesus tonight. He welcomes them, and you. Scotty Smith
• When it comes to understanding and appreciating grace, our biggest problem is our so-called goodness…not our self-perceived badness. Tullian Tchividjian
• You pursue excellence when you care about something other than your own excellence. Michael Horton
• Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. John Wooden
• Christmas is telling you that you could never get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you. Tim Keller
• If you want to know God as your Father, you need to know Jesus Christ as your Savior. Kevin DeYoung.
• In heaven I’ll be shocked by those who aren’t there, those I didn’t think would be there but are. And the fact I’m there at all. Lecrae
• We live in a culture where the truth claims of Christianity are not only rejected, they are ridiculed. R.C. Sproul
• Faith is quenching the soul’s thirst at the fountain of God. John Piper
• Before crawling between the sheets tonight, preach the gospel to your heart and forgive whoever you possibly can. Scotty Smith
• Having hope is hard; harder when you get older. Wendell Berry
• Worry is a waste of energy. It can’t change the past. It can’t control the future. It only makes today miserable. Tullian Tchividjian
• What greater value could you possibly have than to be delighted in and sacrificed for by the Maker of the universe? Tim Keller
• When I find my justification in Christ alone, I am free to love and serve others in ordinary and unheralded ways. Michael Horton
- Spreading the Good News of Christmas at Work. This article from the Theology of Work Project states “According to research from Lifeway Research and the North American Mission Board, 47% of adult Americans say they have been more open to considering matters of faith during the Christmas holiday season. What might this mean for those of us who spend most of our waking hours at work, with non-Christians?”
- A Missio Advent. For this season of Advent, Missio invited writers from around the world to explore themes of Advent along the lines of faith, vocation, and culture.
- Whether It’s at Home or at the Office, Does it Matter Where Women Work? Carolyn McCulley writes: “Bedroom or boardroom, the Bible makes it clear that God wants us to think strategically about how to create everlasting value through our labors at home and in the marketplace.”
- 3 Ways to Figure Out What to Do, In Light of Who You Are. Trevin Wax uses Reggie McNeal’s book on spiritual leadership to focus on three elements we need to discern: personal life circumstances, personal gifting, and a sense of one’s calling.
- 10 Ways to Remove Stress. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes that “You can have a joy-FULL life and career if you use these ten stress-busting strategies.”
- Andy Andrews on How to Build a Life from Your Passion (and the Effects of Procrastination). On this week’s podcast, Andy talks about passion, procrastination, and how they will shape your future.
- Your Job as Ministry. Check out this sermon from John Piper, which he offers as a declaration and as a prayer. He writes “As a declaration it would be: How you fulfill the demands of your vocation is an essential part of Christian discipleship. Or to put it another way: How you do your job is a big part of your obedience to Jesus. Stated as a prayer, the main point today is: Father, grant to us all the grace to be conscious of your presence at our work and to obey your commands in all our vocational relationships.”
- A Better Understanding of Why We Procrastinate. Matt Perman shares an article that states ““Conventional wisdom has long suggested that procrastination is all about poor time management and willpower. But it may have more to do with how our brains and emotions work.”
- John Maxwell on Persistence. Maxwell looks at the word “Persistence” in this Daily Word from Maxwell.
- JumpStart Your Leadership. The new book from John Maxwell was released last week.
- The Sacred-Secular Divide Is Pure Fiction. Bethany Jenkins offers this excerpt taken from An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility by Martin Luther. She states “Although it is directed toward the Church in Rome circa 1520, its truth applies to any church at any time that advocates for a sacred-secular vocational divide.”
- Pressure. Our response to pressure reveals much about who we are and where we place our trust.
Steven Garber was the commencement speaker at my graduation from Covenant Seminary in May. Tammy and I have been reading and discussing this book for the past few months. This week we look at Chapter 8: Learning to Live Proximately.
Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller
In the recommended reading for developing a vision for your life section of Matt Perman’s excellent book What’s Best Next, Matt suggested Tim Keller’s book Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. I have read the book before but with the reminder from Matt, and in light of the recent decisions about the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, Tammy and I have decided to read and discuss it again at this time. This week we look at the Introduction.
God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith Jr.
When we recently visited St. Andrews Chapel where R.C. Sproul is one of the pastors, this book was the church’s “Book of the Month”. I’m excited to read it. We’ll look at a chapter each week – won’t you read along with us? This week we cover Chapter 8: Your Calling in the Church.