The Good Book Company has some really good deals for the entire week—including some good Advent resources!
Reformation Heritage is one of my favorite publishers, and they've got some awesome deals!
WTS Bookstore has deals up to 80% off including study bibles, children's books, and theological resources.
Banner of Truth has a limited list of Black Friday specials, but their Christmas deals are phenomenal!
New Growth Press has some excellent deals on several good biblical counseling books including God Made Me and You by Shai Linne. Get 50% off Black Friday deals using BLACK50.
Gentle and Lowly (Paid Link) by Dane Ortlund
This is one of those must-read books on my list this year. Several of my closest friends and mentors have recommended it, and it has definitely lived up to the hype! It feels as though I'm reading a modern Puritan who is cross referencing the original Puritans to bring even more depth and rich biblical teaching on the heart of Christ. I dabbled in the Kindle version for way too long before I just had to purchase the hard copy to make it my own. If you're looking for a heart-stirring, Christ-focused read to stoke the fire of your love for God and your experience of His love for you, get this book.
Reading While Black by Esau McCaulley
In a year of racial turmoil and political chaos, Esau McCaulley's Reading While Black offers a biblical, exegetical, and theological insights into how the African American Christian has found hope in such racially tumultuous times, both past and present. Esau is scholar who writes at the popular level. His bibliography and citations coupled with his compelling prose are evidence of this. Whether you're black or white, woke or anti-woke, you will benefit from McCaulley's rich study of God's Word as he seeks to show the hope of God in the life of the African American experience.
Anyone But Me (Paid Link) by Ray Comfort
Ray Comfort is a masterful evangelist who has reached thousands of people through his evangelism ministry. In addition to his own evangelism, he has trained perhaps thousands more who have also gone out to share their faith. Regardless of how you feel about his evangelism methods, this book is worth the read. He shows that he's not a super-Christian who can just evangelize without apprehension. He is a real guy with a real heart, and he's experienced a lot of hardship in his gospel work. However, he has learned numerous lessons and led many souls to trust in the Savior for eternity. Read my review of Anyone But Me.
Advent is coming soon! In a turbulent and chaotic year, it's often difficult to keep our gaze focused on what's most important. Advent is as good time to prepare your heart to celebrate the birth of Jesus with your loved ones—even if it's socially-distant or limited in capacity. Here are a few Advent reads that have caught my eye this year!*
A Better Than Anything Christmas (Paid Link) by Barbara Reaoch*
After enjoying Barbara Reaoch's A Jesus Christmas (Paid Link) last year, I was excited to check out her latest Advent devotional! Just like her previous work, each chapter includes:
Reaoch doesn't bring cheap theology to the table. This Advent devotional allows us to teach our families about faith, freedom in Christ, forgiveness, salvation, atonement, union with Christ, true righteousness, etc. The best part is that it's in kid-friendly language and anchored in the actual text of Scripture!
There's a Lion in my Nativity (Paid Link) by Lizzie Laferton and Kim Barnes*
This captivating little book will remind our busy little ones that Christmas is not about us at all! With the Christmas play coming up, a little actress wants to be the star of the show. As she lets everyone know who she thinks the play is about, all sort of confusing and frustrating things keep popping up in the play.
Each element proves to be more than some silly hijinks or distraction, and our little Mary finds out what Christmas is really all about! In the end, we get to understand why all of these random little items and characters show up on the scene. And I think you'll really enjoy why there's a lion in the nativity!
I'm a sucker for good illustration and rhyming books, so I have had a blast reading through this book with my little ones. If you want to help your children focus on the star of the show this Christmas, you'll surely want to let them know why there's a lion in Mary's nativity! The spotlight is always on Jesus!
The Christmas We Didn't Expect (Paid Link) by David Mathis
I haven't read this one yet, but I'm really looking forward to digging into this one. I have been blessed by Mathis' Habits of Grace (Paid Link), and with endorsements by Sinclair Ferguson, Tim Challies, and Julius Kim, I'm expecting it to be a good one. Mathis' aim is to point out some surprises and turns along the way to Jesus' arrival. If you're looking for an Advent devotional, I'd say this will be a good one to check out!
What are paid links? I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Evangelism doesn't seem to come easy for most of the believers I know. Perhaps that's a Western problem, I'm not sure. If I were to ask you, "How have you been growing in evangelism?", you might get a little uncomfortable. I know I would. For much of my Christian life, it has been difficult to share the gospel with strangers and unbelievers I don't have a strong relationship with.
The temptation is to think, "People who me know I'm a Christian, and they'll see my life and wonder what makes such a difference". This may be true in a tiny percent of cases, but most people never just randomly ask me to share the gospel with them. Part of the reason for this passivity is fear. Part of it is unpreparedness. Ultimately, my flesh is crying out, "Anyone but me!".
Have you ever felt that way? If you have, you're not alone. Ray Comfort, a well-known evangelist and Bible teacher, recently published a new book titled Anyone But Me*. This is a book for people like us—people who struggle to with fear or feel unprepared to share the gospel. Filled with personal examples and anecdotes, Comfort walks us through 10 ways to overcome our fear and grow in our confidence to share the gospel:
In each of these 10 points, Ray paints vivid pictures and gives a biblical foundation for sharing the gospel. He is a man whose heart is moved with compassion when he encounters unbelievers. He doesn't let his convictions end with simply feeling sorry for them. Rather, he gives them the only news that is powerful enough to change their hearts. He is a man who practices what he preaches.
I'll leave with this quote, which sums up much of what is shared throughout this book:
"If you become addicted to winning souls, you are being wise with your time. The world is filled with brilliant people who are spending their precious lives doing great things that only matter in this life." (p. 166).
I don't know about you, but I want to be addicted to the Great Commission. Perhaps this book can be a catalyst for reaching the lost and making disciples of all nations.
*I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Gravity illustrates a glorious paradox.
In the beginning, there was goodness and bliss. There were trees ripe with delicious fruit, unrivaled by the grandest of orchards. The vegetation was lush, unlike any garden we've ever been in. It was teeming with life, and it was good.
But something was missing.
From the dirt, God formed something he called "Adam". This man was unlike anything else in the garden. He wasn't a plant. He wasn't just an animal. God talked with him, walked with him, and gave him authority over everything around. God even made a beautiful woman from Adam's flesh. Eve was her name.
Things were very good.
One day, Eve felt a strange tug while talking to the serpent. She decided to eat the forbidden fruit. Adam ate it, too. Sin came in. Death came with it. Now they were rolling down a hill, hitting every rock and branch as they tumbled toward death.
Things were very bad. They took us with them as they fell.
Down, down, down. It’s a rapid descent as we spiral downward. At times, there’s the feeling that our stomachs are in our throats as we plummet so fast. We lament. We grab our fig leaves and try cover up. But God sees us.
Down, down, down. It’s a long way down as we float along the lazy river of ungodliness, feeling weightless. We see a few trout swimming upstream and wonder to ourselves, “What's their problem?”. As we enjoy the warm sunbeams of sinfulness, we don’t realize that rough waters are soon to destroy us.
As we nosedive toward death, by the mercy of God, the sinfulness of sin begins to take on an odious smell, like that of rotting flesh. Everywhere we go, there’s a faint stench that grows more and more foul until we can’t stand it anymore.
We are the ones rotting. The stench is coming from us, and this a grave situation. The gravity of our condition becomes unbearable. If we don't get help soon, we'll be lost forever! It feels like someone turned the gravity up a few notches, and we need a way out of this heaviness!
Then, suddenly our eyes are opened to a different sort of gravity. As we lament our depravity, crying “Woe is me! I am undone!”, the gravity of God’s glory is within our gaze. Suddenly, there's hope for us. The burning coal of God’s grace is placed on our tongues, and the glorious Son is revealed. He says, "Come to me, you who are heavy laden. I will give you rest."
The weight of sin is lifted.
Now the weight of God’s glory becomes our all-consuming passion. Our eyes are set where He is, in His abode. And yet He abides with us and in us until we get there. Day-by-day, moment-by-moment, we are becoming more like the One who opened our eyes and shined bright in our darkened, heavy-laden souls.
The gravity of this paradox compels us to share it with the world.
Do you ever read the Bible and feel like God purposely led you there so He could share His heart for you in a certain situation? Have you ever read a book that was so good you just couldn't put it down? What about a sermon that convicted you deeply and drove you to make resolutions to change? Has a conversation ever stirred you so much that you just want to get up and go do something?
This happens to me pretty often. I often read blog posts that pique my interest or stir up my heart about some biblical truth or experiential reality. Sometimes I read a game-changing sentence about the goodness of God toward His people. Other times I read a moving biographical sketch of a saint that makes me want to imitate them as they imitate Christ. Many weeks at community group, a sister will share how God has been at work in her heart as she meditates in the Word during the chaos of motherhood.
More often than not, the stirring ends there. But why? Why is it so easy to be hot one moment and ice cold the next? How can I have zeal for the Word during the sermon and then be apathetic by the time lunch is over? It's not that I care less about God or His Word when I've just finished my lunch after church. It's not that I know less of the Bible when my belly is full and my kids are winding down for nap time. What is it, then?
We Need To Slow Down and Keep Coming Back
For me, it is a lack of meditation. If that sounds too new-age for you, it’s actually a biblical principle. Meditation is slowing down to think deeply and apply truth to our hearts. Whether it's a rousing quote from a good book, a deeply moving blog post, or a verse that sets my soul on fire, without meditation, it seems to stop as soon as I move on to the next sentence.
It's like getting only a teaspoon of my favorite thanksgiving food--my mom's corn pudding. I'll enjoy every bite of the other food, but I'm showing up for Momma's corn pudding. I need more than a bite to really enjoy it. In fact, I need some leftovers for Black Friday, too! This is how it is with Scripture, sermons, good books, and quotes, too.
James Ussher wrote that meditation is “worth more than a thousand sermons, and this is no debasing of the Word, but an honour to it.” If we want to get the most out of reading the Word, hearing sermons, talking with friends, or reading good books, we will have to slow down and let our minds dwell on what we've just encountered.
30 seconds may be all it takes.
Why 30 seconds? Honestly, it's an arbitrary number. But in 30 seconds, I can pull out my prayer journal and jot down a quick prayer. In 30 seconds, I can jot some thoughts into my notebook about what I've just read or heard. In 30 seconds, I can stop what I'm doing and ponder what I've just heard. In 30 seconds, I can think of at least one way to put into practice what God is revealing. In 30 seconds, I can pray.
God Can Do A Lot With A Little
Tweaking a John Piper quote, God can do more with our 30 seconds of prayerful meditation than we can do in 30 hours of information intake. This article is an example. I was reading Blogging For God's Glory in a Clickbait World when the authors asked if I would be willing to keep writing if my page views were zero and only God read my writing. This resonated with some recent thoughts and struggles I've had about writing and making music.
Normally, I would've just kept reading, but this time I stopped. It might've been 30 seconds. It could've been less. Regardless, I paused. I pondered. I prayed. I wrote a simple, short sentence in my prayer journal: "Lord, give me a desire to write and rap regardless of the applause".
I've never prayed this specific prayer, though the thoughts have crossed my mind plenty of times. This 30 seconds could shape the rest of my life and ministry, whatever God may allow. It could be that God prevents anyone from reading this post or anything else I ever write. It could be that God uses my writing to bless a multitude of saints. Either way, I am hopeful that He will continue to shape my heart to write for the right reasons.
From the Head to the Heart
I share this not to boast in my own piety. The Lord knows how weak I am! Rather, I'm sharing this to show how quickly we can move from information to transformation. When we take our head knowledge and bring it to the Lord in meditation and prayer, He makes it heart knowledge.
The implications for this are boundless. For example, if we read the "one anothers" of Scripture and take them to the Lord in prayer, we will begin to have gospel-centered, biblical unity and reconciliation stamped on our hearts in a time when we desperately need it. We won't be heady, puffed up, theological snobs seeking to devour everyone who disagrees with us.
Paul said it best when writing to the Philippian Church:
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
By grace, our right thinking will lead to right doing. If we want the God of peace to dwell in and among us, we must fight to slow down and meditate on the right things. If we are in the presence of God seeking the power of God, we will know the peace of God that surpasses understanding.
Year after year, I start a lot of books. Some are worth finishing. Others aren't. Regardless of whether I finish them or not, I highlight and take plenty of marginal notes as I read. I make plans to use the highlights and notes, but I often never get back around to it. This is especially true for my digital books. It's bittersweet that I love reading and learning because there's usually another book on my radar before I've even finished the one I'm reading now. I take in a lot of information, but it often seems like it's in one ear and out the other.
Sometimes I wonder if retaining books is worth my time and effort when there's so much to learn directly from God's Word. to be sure, I want to hide Scripture in my heart (Psalm 119:11). This is the most important book for me to remember, retain, and apply to my life. However, I also want to use the insights of godly men and women who have been impacted by God's Word in their lives. He has given them insights and experiences that have greatly benefited saints throughout history. I want to glean from them the best that I can.
Review What You Read
One of the best ways to do this is to review what I know. Recalling information makes it stick—especially when that recall is active. Think about it. When you were in high school or college, few of us could read something once, memorize it on the spot, and use it on a test or a paper. We at least had to memorize a study guide, meet at the library for a study session, or quiz ourselves over relevant topics in our class notes. In the busyness of life, this not always so easy, though. We have full time jobs, children, ministries, and real life!
Tim Challies, an avid reader, daily blogger, and pastor shared that he hires someone to enter his notes and highlights into a database for him. There are options for us, too. If you're diving deep into a good book right now, perhaps you could stop at the end of each chapter and type out all of your notes and highlights. Maybe you're the type who tries to read a book every month or two. If so, you could devote a week to typing out and updating your quotes and notes at the end of each new book. It would definitely take a lot of work, but if you're willing to take the time and effort to do this, the payoff would certainly be worthwhile.
If you read digital books, highlighting and note-taking are pretty simple, depending on your device. If you use a Kindle or Scribd, you can look up your notes and highlights for each book with relative ease and add them to your favorite note-taking app, Bible software, etc. There's still a time commitment required after you finish reading, but it's significantly less than looking back through a physical book and typing out everything.
3 Tools For Remembering Books
Books Summaries. Companies like Accelerate Books produce high-quality summaries of Christian books for leaders and readers pressed for time. While I love reading a book for myself, Accelerate Books has helped me review the key insights and quotes from a book while also providing application questions and short chapter summaries. Whether it's a book you want to read or a book you've already read, book summaries help you review books quickly. These summaries do a good job of distilling the book down for easy review.
Book Databases. My friends over at Homeschool Happens have created a book database development tool using Air Table and Google Forms. If you're reading more physical books, this database can be used on a smartphone in conjunction with an OCR app to quickly grab quotes and add them to your database. For digital readers, you can grab your highlights and notes to copy and paste into your database. This tool is not free, but it is very helpful for devoted readers who want a long-term solution.
Readwise. Tim Challies recently wrote about a new app that resurfaces quotes and notes from books that would have been otherwise long-forgotten. Readwise has proven to be a game-changer for me in this season of life. It links to Amazon (for Kindle highlights), Instapaper, Pocket, Goodreads, etc. to grab your highlights as well as popular highlights from books you've read but haven't highlighted. It features a daily list of quotes as well as an endless newsfeed of quotes from books you've read (repurposed scrolling, anyone?). You can also add your own quotes to their system. It's not free, but the convenience may be well worth the cost.
Regardless of the tools you use, reviewing what you've read is vital in the process of remembering what you read. Most books are worth reading once or twice. Few books are worth reading and rereading once every few years. If you're going to invest the amount of time it takes to read through a whole book, it's at least worth recalling what kept you reading.
What are some ways you review and remember the books you've read?
Presidents come and go. Whether or not your candidate wins, one thing is for certain: he won't be there forever. Even the greatest presidents have come and gone. Some have been assassinated while others simply finished their term and gracefully drifted into old age. Some people may still say, "President Obama" or "President Bush", but their leadership is obsolete because they are no longer in office. They may have some cultural and political sway, but they have no more authority.
Jesus Will Reign Forever
Jesus is different. Isaiah says, "...of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end" (Isaiah 9:7). His rule and dominion will increase. He will continue to bring peace. His government will never end. Ever. Jesus has no term limits. Many weeks at corporate worship, I have been reminded of this reality as we sing: "You will reign forever, let your glory fill the earth". His reign is forever, and it is globally expansive.
Jesus’ Rule Knows No Bounds
Jesus has no national borders. Though some erroneously claim exclusive ethnic or national ownership of Jesus, they are dead wrong. It's not as if He only owns a small plot of land in the Middle East. His Word is clear: "the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah 6:3). Jesus is not bound by national boundaries or man made walls. His Kingdom spans the globe. Men and women, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, slave and free from every land have been grafted into Jesus Christ, the True Vine (Galatians 3:28 and John 15:1-17).
Jesus Never Changes
Unlike government leaders who change over time, Jesus is remains infinitely great and matchless forever. Jesus' people grow more fond of Him every day. He is infinitely glorious and He never changes with the times. Christians submit to His lordship and His reign every day, giving more and more allegiance as each moment passes by. Why? Because He rules with love and peace over those whose hearts have been shaped and molded by His Words (Hebrews 1:1-2). Even when we fail Him and violate His commands, He disciplines us in His loving care rather than wrathful vengeance. He joyfully laid down His life for us and He intercedes on our behalf to His Father (Hebrews 12:1-17). We who are His subjects have new hearts, new citizenship, and a new aim in life. This is the work of His Spirit (Titus 3:5).
Jesus Rules With Infinite Joy
Jesus rules and reigns with great joy. He takes joy to reign over the people who trust in Him. For His joy and ours, He died on the cross. In His kingly presence, there is fullness of joy for us (Psalm 16:11). When we dwell with Him, His joy is in us and our joy is made full. When we abide in Him and He in us, we bear much fruit—including joy.
Lift Your Drooping Head!
Lift your drooping and fearful head! There is still hope and joy for us today!
What earthly government can compare to Jesus' reign? Do we long to see Christ's government increase? Surely, we do! Do we wish our government could better reflect His government. Of course! But even if it doesn't, none can stop what He has been doing since before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). He could run against any candidate on any platform and utterly dominate. There is no smear campaign that could truly malign His character. No candidate can have better character, competence, or policies. Yet He chose a cross and a heavenly throne over an earthly one.
Remind yourself of this as you either lament a political loss, celebrate an election victory, or soberly ponder the future of our nation. Jesus is worthy of your thoughts. Give yourself to meditating on our great King. He is worthy of your affections. Give Him your joyful and zealous thoughts and emotions. The Lord is worthy of your obedience. Offer your life as a living sacrifice and a pleasing aroma in the nostrils of God (Romans 12:1). Do all of this by the grace supplied to you by the love of the Father, death of the Son, and power of the Spirit.
Let Christ's governance change how you lead the people in your life. Whether it's in your church, your office, or your home. Lead with joy, love, and peace. Put off unnecessary harshness and anger, knowing that the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20). Remove unreasonable burdens and expectations while offering the grace and forgiveness we find by faith in the Great King, Jesus.
Pray for our nation. Pray that you and I would long to obey Christ and cherish His commands. Pray that your neighbors who don't know Jesus would come to love Him. Pray for unity with Christian brothers and sisters who think differently about American politics. Pray that people around the globe can see the glory of God in His people this day.
The world will go on until Christ returns. Nations will rise and fall. But Jesus is King. Never forget that "of the increase of His government and of peace, there will be no end."
Note: This was written before a winner was announced in the 2020 election. These truths transcend American political parties.
Image Credit: Pixabay
I have a love-hate relationship with sleep. I love how great it feels to get a good night of sleep and how it reminds me of the goodness of the Lord who "gives to His beloved sleep" (Psalm 127:2)*. Even when I'm asleep, God is still at work upholding the universe, and He keeping the world moving according to His plan (Hebrews 1:3). Sleep is a time that I can let go of control and fully trust God to do His work—that's literally something I can do nothing about.
Yet this lack of control is why I also struggle with sleep. There are nights where sleep eludes me, and I fight with everything inside me to get some rest. I can't solve my problems while I'm laying there, but it seems impossible to shut my brain off. The stress of desiring to relax is exhausting! Yet I lay awake, tossing and turning, longing to get comfortable. This reminds me that I'm not in control—even of sleep itself. Those nights I cry out, "Lord, help me sleep. You can take care of my problems... but I can't seem to trust you enough!".
Sleep is deeply spiritual. There's no doubt about it. But it's also is heavily impacted by our physical environment and life choices. Since we aren't disembodied souls, we need to think about sleep. Consider what Scripture says:
"It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil"
Chasing vanity is spiritual, but it has physical consequences—rising early, going to sleep late, and toiling anxiously. We need to cast our anxieties on the Lord, and that's something we all know (1 Peter 5:7). However, we may also need to change our habits and take practical steps to get the rest we desperately need.
What Hinders Our Sleep?
Anxiety and vanity aren't the only reasons we aren't getting enough shut-eye. Some sleep hindrances are easy fixes, while others are going to require major changes—changes like a job change or waiting for your babies to grow up and sleep better! However, getting more and better sleep is something that most of us could probably benefit from. So we should learn what else could be keeping us awake at night.
Why Does This Even Matter?
For me, this matters tremendously. When I don't get enough sleep, I struggle in every aspect of life. I'm usually irritable, impulsive, and I have a hard time focusing. Worse, when I don't get good sleep, it's a struggle for me to wake up and spend time with the Lord. There are many days where I get an extra 15 or 20 minutes of sleep instead of getting up to spend time with the Lord. The day isn't a total loss, but I can definitely feel a fatigue in my soul that seems to match my body. Maybe it's just me, but when my sleep suffers, my soul suffers too.
You may not be as sensitive to changes in your sleep habits as I am, but sleep is still important. Perhaps better sleep could help you think more clearly or give you more energy to spend with your children. Surely a sharper mind could help you memorize more Scripture or teach with more clarity. Maybe you'd be more fun to be around because you have more energy and aren't moping around like Eeyore. I know my wife and children are thankful for the days that I get good rest!
What about you?
Are you getting enough sleep? What will you change to improve your sleep quality? How does gospel give you hope even if you can't make drastic improvements to your sleep?
*Your translation may say that God gives to His beloved even in his sleep. This rendering reminds us that God gives to us even as we sleep. He never stops providing and caring for us.
Photo by Julien Bachelet from Pexels