Praise God for ChristianAudio. Each month they give away a free downloadable, high quality audiobook. This month they are giving away Spurgeon's All of Grace. This is actually the second time that they are giving away this book. It was originally made available in November of 2006 and I have listened to it a couple times since and have found it an excellent audio-book type book. It is an excellent book for seasoned Christian, new Christian, or non-Christian as Spurgeon spends the entire book speaking of how all in the life of a Christian must be and is of grace and only of grace. To get the book, simply add it to your cart at ChristianAudio, check out, enter the coupon code OCT2008, download and enjoy.
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.
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
No native pdf document support (conversion often destroys formatting)
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.
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.
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.
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.
We Are All Very Committed and Gifted Self-Swindlers (Quote: Paul David Tripp)
Sin lives in a costume; that why it's so hard to recognize. The fact that sin looks so good is one of the things that make it so bad. In order for it to do its evil work, it must present itself as something that is anything but evil. Life in a fallen world is like attending the ultimate masquerade party:
Inpatient yelling wears the costume of a zeal for truth.
Lust can masquerade as a love for beauty
Gossip does its evil work by living in the costume of concern and prayer
Craving for power and control wears the mask of biblical leadership
Fear of man gets dressed up as a servant heart
The pride of always being right masquerades as a love for biblical wisdom
Evil simply doesn't present itself as evil, which is part of its draw...Now, what this means personally is that as sinners we are all very commited and gifted self-swindlers...We're all too skilled at looking at our own wrong and seeing good. We're all much better at seeing the sin, weaknesses, and fialures of others than we are our own. We're all very good at being intolerant of others of the very things that we willingly tolerate in ourselves....Accurate self assessment is the product of grace. It is only in the mirror of God's Word and with the sight-giving help of the Holy Spirit that we are able to see ourselves as we actually are.
Paul David Tripp
Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin & Mercy (Amazon | Kindle | WTS)
As Read on my Kindle
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.
"Earn This" Lesson On the Cross from Saving Private Ryan
In the final battle scene from the World War II film, Saving Private Ryan, mortally wounded Captain John H. Miller whispers his last words into Private James Ryan's ears: "Earn this," he says between agonal breaths before he slumps his head, his task complete. His task was to find private Ryan and bring him home, a mission of mercy planned to give his mother some solace after she hears that three of her four sons died on the field. Miller and his specially picked squad end up completing their task, at the cost of most of their own lives; yet they successfully complete their mission, to bring Private Ryan home alive.
In the final minutes of the movie, after Miller's passionate imperative, "Earn this," the camera cuts an elderly James Ryan standing over Miller's grave. Tears in his eyes, Ryan speaks to the departed Miller at his grave saying, "Everyday I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge; I've tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that that was enough. I hope, that at least in your eyes, I earned what [you] have done for me."
Miller and his group of men sacrificed much for Private Ryan. They died so that Ryan could live. Their deaths for Private Ryan were not based on anything good in Private Ryan; it was a mission of mercy. Picking up on these themes, I heard a sermon shortly after the movie's release in which the preacher showed the clip and said that this gives us a glimpse of what Jesus did for us. Then with dramatic pause he asked each of us in the crowd, "Have you earned it? Do you live life the best that you can so that in God's eyes He will say you have earned what He did for you?" Then he dismissed everyone. I wanted to stand up and scream, "No! No! You've missed the point!"
This is precisely NOT the message of the cross. Jesus' death is completely different. Jesus died precisely so that we didn't have to earn it.
Just like private Ryan remembered his saviors' deaths every day, we must daily remember our Savior's death. But Jesus said something far different hanging on the cross than Captain Miller said on the bridge. Miller said, "Earn this." Jesus said, "It is finished." In essence, "I just earned what you never could and must not now try." When you remember the cross do you remember Christ's words? We must remember the cross and if you remember the cross rightly you will never try to earn anything. If Christ died for you, he died to earn you that which you never could earn. If you could have earned, Jesus wouldn't have had to die (c.f. Gal 2:21).
Just like Ryan's memory of those who died for him affected his day to day life, so your memory of the One who died for you must affect your day-to-day life. But the motive for it affecting you must be completely different. To try to earn Christ's death through your good works or righteous life is to ignore the true meaning of all the Jesus did there as he died. On the cross, Jesus bore the wrath of God that you and I deserve and Christ's righteousness was applied to us (2 Cor 5:21). We have earned and can earn nothing but Hell. Precisely because we can't earn heaven by our own righteousness, Christ died to give us His.
If you look at the cross and try to earn it, Christ didn't die for you. That's not faith; that's works. Repent.
Rather, recognize Christ's finished work, and trust that it is sufficient to reconcile yourself to God. Christ's death purchased us out of the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His Beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:13-14). There is nothing left that you have to do. So now live like the new creature that God has made you, not to earn the cross but because of what the cross has earned for you.
Let's change Ryan's words spoken at the gravestone and say, from the foot of the cross, "Everyday, I think about what you said that day on the cross, 'It is finished.' I now live my life as one forgiven and freed from sins. I could never do enough, and I praise you that Christ has made me righteous in your eyes."
I have a deep desire for deeper fellowship within my smallgroup. Many relationships that I have within my group are the deepest I know, but some are regularly superficial. How do I remedy this? Spending time together is certainly part of the answer? Like C.J. Mahaney says in the quote below, "Social activities can create a context for fellowship, but they are a place to begin - not a place to remain." So as I plan the social activities in which I desire fellowship to occur, I must remember that hanging out, being friends, and having fun is not fellowship. We must push through in the midst of those activities to true fellowship - not formalism, religiosity, fakeness, or spirituality. If I spend the afternoon with you, fellow Christian, no matter what we are doing, I want to leave with a fresh understanding of and passion for God. I desire that that would be the effect of an afternoon (or smallgroup meeting) spent with me.
The depth of our personal
relationship with God determines the degree of fellowship
possible with each other. Thus, in order to know true fellowship,
one must maintain a passionate relationship with
and experience of God. Perhaps that is why biblical fellowship
is so rare.
Fellowship is not just another word for social activities.
I really enjoy watching the Washington Redskins or
Baltimore Orioles with my friends. This can be a healthy
part of small-group life…but it isn’t fellowship. And you
don’t have fellowship talking about the latest opinion
from Rush Limbaugh or Jesse Jackson, either. Social
activities can’t be equated or confused with fellowship.
They are distinctly different. Nothing compares to the fellowship
we enjoy when we worship together, study and
apply Scripture together, encourage and correct each
other, and communicate to one another our current experience
of God. Nothing. Social activities can create a context
for fellowship, but they are a place to begin—not a
place to remain.
When I spend an extended time with another Christian,
my main desire is that we know fellowship. I want to hear
of his relationship with God, and how God is revealing
himself to him. I want to communicate
my current experience of God as
well, and impart a fresh passion for
Is that your desire? If someone
spent an afternoon with you, would he
or she leave with a fresh understanding
of and passion for God? If not, you
need to change.
With this definition of fellowship in
mind, consider your small group. Are
you experiencing fellowship? How
much time do you spend in the meetings
talking about your current relationship
with God? When you meet
together outside the meetings, how
often do your conversations revolve
around God’s work in your life? If you are relaxing together more than you're relating together spiritually, you're not enjoying true biblical fellowship - and you have something to look forward to.
Reading according to CJ Mahaney, Jeff Purswell, & Josh Harris
I finally got a chance to listen to the third installment of the Sovereign Grace Leadership Interview podcast. The three speak in a pastoral way to pastors to help them to prioritize the practice of reading in their own care of their souls. It is great advice that is applicable for all, not just pastors; in fact, it may be advice that is most overlooked by non-pastors. I highly recommend the Christian reader of this blog, stop reading this blog, and download this installment (and all installments) of the Leadership Interview Podcast.
Most of the books recommended can be found linked here,
Also, while thinking on the topic, you must surf over to T4G blog and read some of the great posts there on reading that are designed to be read in order:
I hope these resources serve you well, convince you of the importance of reading, and motivate you to make the necessary adjustments in your schedule in order to reflect this priority. It certainly has renewed my motivation in this regard.