Thriving At College

With student debt at an all-time high (over one trillion dollars in the USA), and one out of two new graduates unemployed or underemployed, it’s imperative that we equip our young people to launch successfully into their adult years.  About 70% of this year’s graduating seniors will pursue college this Fall, but past data suggests that approximately 30% of them will not successfully advance to their second year.

My friend Alex Chediak has written a wonderful book entitled Thriving At College: Make Great Friends, Keep Your Faith, and Get Ready For the Real World!

Alex has received several degrees from various institutions, and is a college professor – he knows college! More importantly, Alex is a thoughtful, godly brother in Christ and is concerned for the souls of young people. I give Thriving at College to students at Ephesus Church, and recommend every pastor consider doing the same. I will post a review of Thriving at College soon. In the mean time, check out these links:

1. Thriving at College was highlighted on two episodes of Focus on the Family, and the audio messages are available (episode one, episode two).

2. A short parent-child discussion guide is available as a free PDF download to help parents start talking to their kids about going to college.

3. This 800 word guest post at the Desiring God blog unpacks several principles on how to thrive at college.

4. Thriving at College is currently selling for only $7.99 (47% off), and $7.00/copy (for two copies or more), with free shipping on orders over $49.  (Offer good until June 8.)

Advertisements

A Rare MUST READ Book

There are very few books that I think a Christian MUST read, and maybe I’ll soon post a list of what I think those books are. But one I want to point out that has quickly moved toward the top of the list is called Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul by Octavius Winslow. If you are prone to backsliding (youare human, aren’t you?!) and discouragement in the Christian walk, get this book and read it every year. Devour it. Think on it. Memorize statements from it. Write down quotes and put them in places where you will read them regularly… it’s that important!

You can get it for $0.99 for Kindle! Go get it… right now!

No seriously, click here and buy it.

Ephesus Church Book of the Month: March

Children of the Living God: Delighting in the Father’s Love By: Sinclair Ferguson (Amazon: $8.00, also available on the Ephesus Church book table)

Jesus Christ taught his disciples to call God “Our Father”, and to live as members of His family. Although simple enough for every Christian to understand this is also so profound that its implications take a lifetime and more to explore fully.

Yet, despite Christ’s words and example, Christians have frequently ignored or forgotten his teaching. In these pages, Sinclair Ferguson reminds us of its importance.

Children of the Living God takes as its starting point the wise and thought-provoking question of an old writer: “If the love of a father will not make a child delight in him, what will?” It underlines that we were created for joyful fellowship with God, and explains how we enter his family by new birth and adoption. Its chapters show how the Spirit of sonship, Christian freedom, divine discipline, prayer and the sacraments all contribute to our experience of the love the Father has for his children.

Kevin DeYoung on eBooks

Kevin DeYoung:

Perhaps I am a wishful thinking bibliophile, but I just don’t think the physical book is going the way of the dodo bird. No doubt, many scholars and students will house parts of their reference libraries on an electronic device. Some frequent flyers will stick books on their tablets instead of in their brief cases. And some techno-geeks will conclude that everything is better on an Apple product. I’m sure ereaders will make inroads. They serve a useful purpose. But only to a point.
Old books are like old friends. They love to be revisited. They stick around to give advice. They remind you of days gone by. Books, like friends, hang around.
And they prefer not to be invisible.

February Book of the Month: The World-Tilting Gospel

The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips ($12.23, Kindle Edition $9.99)

Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight

The first generation of Christians were not popular. They were ridiculed, persecuted, yet according to Acts 17:6-7, they “turned the world upside down.” As a result, their message was communicated louder and clearer than any message before or since. Even with today’s social medias, big-name celebrities, and shiny evangelism techniques that add glitz and glamour to the gospel, today’s Christians fail to communicate as effectively as the first followers of Christ. Simply put, the early church turned the world upside down, but today’s church has been turned upside down by the world.

Finding Time and Fighting Flesh

While I certainly appreciate technology and its benefits, there are also many downsides. Technology is not neutral! One of the most significant negative influences of incorporating the current technological milieu into our daily diet of information intake is the speed at which we are almost instinctively drawn to consume it. Checking e-mails, reading blogs, reading articles, watching YouTube videos, checking Facebook and Twitter… and then when the cycle is over, doing it all over again. I am of the opinion that 21st Century Americans live in a culture of information overload, and we’ve become addicted. Therefore, sitting down with a book for more than a few minutes is a fight with the flesh – a fight we must win if we’re going to be growing, disciplined Christians. Reinke offers some good insight to the flesh war involved in book reading:

“Book reading is not just a matter of time management; it’s a matter of warfare. Wherever sinful self-indulgence dominates our free time, we can be certain that personal idols are at work in our flesh, seeking to divide and conquer the soul (1 Pet. 2:11). Idols of entertainment and pleasure make the discipline of book reading a battle with our flesh. We’d rather avoid discipline and be occupied with easier tasks like e-mail, Internet browsing, and movies. We neglect books because our hearts reject the discipline required to read them. And that is a spiritual problem, a lack of personal discipline, not a lack of time. And until we apply the sin-freeing gospel to our own hearts—and the idols therein—we may never cultivate the self-discipline required to read books. Our flesh wars within us. If we don’t kill the idols of laziness and self-indulgence, these idols will kill our literacy. So expect a fight from your flesh.”

Reinke, Tony. Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011). Kindle Edition, 131.

You Can Read 70 Books per Year…

“First, most people can find sixty minutes each day to read. It sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t: fifteen minutes in the morning, fifteen minutes at lunchtime, and another thirty minutes in the evening. No problem. At this pace, you can devote seven hours to reading each week (or 420 minutes). The average reader moves through a book at a pace of about 250 words per minute. So 420 minutes of reading per week translates into 105,000 words per week. This book is roughly 55,000 words. Assuming that you can read for one hour each day, and that you read at around 250 words per minute, you can complete more than one book per week, or about seventy books per year.”

Reinke, Tony. Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), Kindle Edition, 130.

Women and Theologically Weighty Reading

I have always had a goal of encouraging Christians to read substantive Christian books. As was mentioned in a previous blog post, reading fiction and/or non-Christian books isn’t wrong (and most certainly can have value), but Christian people are only hurting themselves when they do not pick up and read good Christian works. The Lord has blessed His people with many generations of theological gold, and it would be a shame to ignore it. Many wise Christian men and women have penned some excellent words to help us know and love God more. Let us not neglect this kind of reading!

I found Reinke’s quote about reading theological weighty books among women to be interesting. I think the challenge/encouragement to women he offers through a quote by Elyse Fitzpatrick is fitting and helpful:

Theologically weighty books about Christ are essential for the soul—for men and women. And although women purchase the majority of books released by Christian publishers, women are far less likely to read theological books, writes counselor and author Elyse Fitzpatrick. In her 2003 evaluation of the Christian publishing industry, she writes, “Many women are intimidated by the thought of studying something that is ‘theological’ in nature. They are afraid of being bored, looking foolish, becoming unattractive to men, or becoming divisive.” And she confronts women who would rather read only novels as a way to escape personal disappointments, and who read these books to “build fantasy castles filled with knights on white steeds who will come to rescue her from her mundane, stressful, empty, or disappointing life.” Rather, she offers this challenge: “Let’s become known as a generation of women who delight in, tremble before, receive counsel from, drink, devour, digest, muse upon, and absolutely cherish God and the truth that He’s revealed about Himself and about ourselves. Let’s not worry about whether we look dumb or too smart.”

Reinke, Tony. Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2011). Kindle Edition, 96-7.

Devotional Reading

Second only to Bible reading plans at the beginning of each year, I am asked about devotionals that can be read in conjunction with the Scriptures. Devotionals are very helpful, and give us good things to think on throughout each day in addition to the Scripture we’ve read. Admittedly, many devotionals are shallow at best, but there are some that I have found to be helpful, meaty, and worth my reading time.  Here are a few of my suggestions:

Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn ($8.66, Kindle Edition $7.99)

While not necessarily written as a devotional, I have read Note to Self as a devotional and found it to be full of good thoughts to ponder throughout the day in small chunks. In other words, I would typically read a shorter book like this one in a sitting or two – this book is better consumed a chapter per day. And they are only a few pages each, making this an excellent choice for devotional reading.

Morning Thoughts and Evening Thoughts by Octavius Winslow (Kindle Only, $0.99 each)

Winslow was a very well known reformed pastor in the 1800s. His writings are deeply devotional and have proven to be a wonderful balm to my soul on countless occasions. At 99 cents each, these morning and evening thoughts are hard to beat!

Morning and Evening by C.H. Spurgeon ($12.17, Kindle Edition, $0.95)

Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening is a classic devotional read. As with all of Spurgeon’s works, it is highly readable and enjoyable, just as much today as it was in the 1800s. This is also available free online.

Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin ($26.28, Kindle Edition $0.99 or Free for download)

Two years ago I followed a daily reading schedule to get through Calvin’s Institutes. It was highly rewarding, and I think something every Christian should do at some point. Many people talk about Calvinism or claim to have an understanding of what Calvin taught without ever actually reading him. Here’s a great way to get through his magnum opus in one year.

Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul Tripp ($10.28, Kindle Edition $7.69)

Tripp wrote 52 short chapters, mainly working through Psalm 51, to address our sin and God’s mercy. Whiter Than Snow is a very rewarding read, and each chapter comes in at 3 pages or less, making it perfect for a devotional.

Tabletalk Magazine by Ligonier Ministries (1 Year subscription, $23)

Ligonier Ministries has published Tabletalk Magazine for many years, and has proven to be an excellent daily devotional for Christians. Tabletalk provides 5, 1-page readings for each week, and lengthy articles on a specific monthly topic to read on the weekends. It is well worth the subscription price.

Operation World by Jason Mandryk ($14.86, also available on the book table at Ephesus Church)

I’ve said many times, I believe Operation World should be in every Christian home. While this isn’t devotional reading, it is the most helpful guide available to walk Christians through praying for every country in the world every year. We have a mandate to pray for the nations and to do all that we can to see the advance of the gospel to the nations. Operation World will be very helpful to you and your family to accomplish that great task.

What devotional would you recommend? Leave your comments below!

2012 Reading List

Below is the list of books we will be reading each month in 2012. Below each title I have included the publisher’s description. I have chosen each book based on several criteria, and have either already read or been wanting to read them myself. I read a lot of books each year, so I’m excited to read a few of them in community in 2012! I have tried to pick books from a wide spectrum of focus that are not too lengthy, almost all coming in under 200 pages. I have also provided links where books can be purchased on Amazon.com, and when available, a link to the Amazon Kindle edition for those Kindle owners out there. If you are a member at Ephesus Church, I may be able to purchase the books for you at a discounted price, or already have them available on our book table. If you’d like for me to handle your order, please let me know, I’m happy to do so.

January: Lit! by Tony Reinke ($9.46, Kindle Edition $8.79)

A Christian Guide to Reading Books

I love to read. I hate to read. I don’t have time to read. I only read Christian books. I’m not good at reading. There’s too much to read.

Chances are, you’ve thought or said one of these exact phrases before because reading is important and in many ways unavoidable. Learn how to better read, what to read, when to read, and why you should read with this helpful guide from accomplished reader Tony Reinke. Offered here is a theology for reading and practical suggestions for reading widely.

February: The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips ($12.23, Kindle Edition $9.99)

Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight

The first generation of Christians were not popular. They were ridiculed, persecuted, yet according to Acts 17:6-7, they “turned the world upside down.” As a result, their message was communicated louder and clearer than any message before or since. Even with today’s social medias, big-name celebrities, and shiny evangelism techniques that add glitz and glamour to the gospel, today’s Christians fail to communicate as effectively as the first followers of Christ. Simply put, the early church turned the world upside down, but today’s church has been turned upside down by the world.

March: Children of the Living God by Sinclair Ferguson ($8)

Jesus Christ taught his disciples to call God ‘Our Father’, and to live as members of his family. Although simple enough for every Christian to understand this is also so profound that its implications take a lifetime and more to explore fully. Children of the Living God shows how the Spirit of sonship, Christian freedom, divine discipline, prayer, and the sacraments all contribute to our experience of the love the Father has for his children.

April: The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard ($8)

Striaght Talk About the Power and Defeat of Sin

Drawing from Indwelling Sin and The Mortification of Sin by Puritan John Owen, Lundgaard aims for the heart with a battle plan for radical spiritual transformation! He offers insight, encouragement and hope for overcoming the enemy within.

May: The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge ($9.85, Kindle Edition $7.99)

Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence

With humor and honesty, Stephen Altrogge helps us do battle with discontentment by steering us back to the central truths of the gospel. He addresses issues such as complaining and idolatry, reminding us of all that we have, and will have, in Christ.

June: Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree ($9.71, Kindle Edition $7.69)

God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are not God

It happens in marriages, parent-child relationships, friendships, workplaces, and churches: Communication falters, friendships wane, teenagers withdraw, marriages fail, and bitter rifts sever once-strong ties. Christian communities are no exception. Why do so many of our relationships suffer from alienation, indifference, and even hostility?  Author Sam Crabtree believes that often at the heart of these breakdowns is a lack of affirmation. He observes in Scripture that God grants mercy to those who refresh others, and in life that people tend to be influenced by those who praise them. Crabtree shows how a robust “God-centered affirmation ratio” refreshes others and honors God.

Practicing Affirmation sounds a call to recognize and affirm the character of Christ in others. When done well, affirmation does not fuel pride in the person, but refreshes them and honors God. All who are discouraged in relationships will find wisdom and practical insight in this book.

July: The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges ($10.08, Kindle Edition $7.99)

Turn to the Liberating Power of the Cross…Every Day

The gospel provides for our eternal salvation, but how does it benefit us day to day?

August: Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh ($11.28, Kindle Edition $9.99)

Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

Introverts are called and gifted by God. But many churches tend to be extroverted places where introverts are marginalized. Some Christians end up feeling like it’s not as faithful to be an introvert. Adam McHugh shows how introverts can live and minister in ways consistent with their personalities. He explains how introverts and extroverts process information and approach relationships differently and how introverts can practice Christian spirituality in ways that fit who they are. With practical illustrations from church and para-church contexts, McHugh offers ways for introverts to serve, lead, worship and even evangelize effectively.

September: The Consequences of Ideas by RC Sproul ($10.63, Kindle Edition $9.59)

Understanding the Concepts that Shaped Our World

The greatest thinkers of all time are impacting us still. From public-policy decisions and current laws to world events, theology, the arts, education, and even conversations between friends, history’s most influential philosophies have wrought massive consequences on nearly everything we see, think, and do. It is critical for Christians to understand the ideas that are shaping them. The greater their familiarity with the streams of thought that have saturated Western culture through the ages, the greater their ability to influence this culture for Christ.

October: Broken-Down House by Paul Tripp ($11.16, Kindle Edition $7.99)

Living Productively in a World Gone Bad

Sin has ravaged the house that God created. This world sits slumped, disheveled, and in pain, groaning for the restoration that can only be accomplished by the hands of him who built it in the first place. The bad news is that you and I are living right in the middle of the restoration process. The good news is that the divine Builder will not relent until everything about his house is made totally new again. Emmanuel lives here with us, and he is at work returning his house to its former beauty.

Someday you will live forever in a fully restored house, but right now you are called to live with peace, joy, and productivity in a place damaged by sin. How can you be an active part of the restoration at the heart of God s plan? The book  will teach you to live productively in the here and now.

November: Developing a Healthy Prayer Life by James and Joel Beeke ($10, Kindle Edition $4.99)

Is your prayer life characterized by such things as sincerity, urgency, and delight? Engagement in prayer is a vital part of our communion with God, making a profound impact on our growth in grace. In this book, you will find thoughtful meditations on prayer in the life of the believer, as well as ample encouragement to cultivate this spiritual discipline in your own life. If you want to be more devoted to prayer, or simply want to assess the health of your prayer life, read this book. It provides both a helpful examination and a needed tonic for those concerned about growing in godliness.

December: Getting Back in the Race by Joel Beeke ($9.99, Kindle Edition $5.99)

The Cure for Backsliding

Drawing from the wisdom of the Scriptures and aided by the insights of godly Bible teachers through the centuries, Getting Back in the Race addresses the age-old problem of backsliding. Backsliding is a season in the life of a professing Christian when his sin grows stronger and his obedience to God declines. Even though our backsliding insults Him, dishonors Him, grieves Him, and pushes away His love, still He calls us to return to Him. When you grasp hold of God’s methods by faith, you discover that Christ has grasped hold of you. Our spiritual Physician has potent medicines to heal His people from their injuries and get them back on track to finish the race. This book is a wake-up call to careless Christians and an encouragement to all believers to keep running to the Lord.