Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Preachers & Preaching: Martyn Lloyd Jones Sermons available free!

Preachers & Preaching: Martyn Lloyd Jones Sermons available free!

Preachers & Preaching: Martyn Lloyd Jones Sermons available free!

Posted: 22 May 2012 02:12 AM PDT

The messages that the classic preaching text Preachers & Preaching is based on are available free for the first time. You can download them on the MLJ Trust site. You will have to register first.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Charismatic Gifts in Church Meetings & sensitivity to unbelievers

Charismatic Gifts in Church Meetings & sensitivity to unbelievers

Charismatic Gifts in Church Meetings & sensitivity to unbelievers

Posted: 09 May 2012 11:58 PM PDT

Post from Andrew Wilson.

"Charismatic-Missional Tension"

I've been thinking quite a bit about the "charismatic-missional tension" recently. Some prefer not to think of it as a tension for theological reasons (since to be truly charismatic and truly missional are, surely, one and the same), and many will object to framing it as one because it makes it sound like a spectrum - highly charismatic and non-missional at one end, highly missional and non-charismatic at the other - that necessarily requires believers, and leaders, to compromise. But that said, I am confident that most readers of this blog will know what I mean when I call it that.
When David Devenish from Newfrontiers speaks of the challenge of becoming more missional while remaining charismatic, as he did recently at Together for the Nation, and when Dave Smith from Kingsgate, Peterborough talks about a shallow end / deep end approach to spiritual gifts in meetings (Sundays are shallow end, prayer meetings are deep end), they are addressing the issue I am talking about when I refer to the charismatic-missional tension, even if they don't call it that. So I'll use the phrase for now, because it's a convenient shorthand, although I happily acknowledge that another way of framing it, like Simon Brading's picture of an aeroplane with two jet engines on full blast, is probably needed.
But here's what I've been wondering about. What, specifically, are the areas of concern, compromise or even conflict when we think of a charismatic-missional tension? What are the trade-offs, if that's what they are? And what are the practical decisions we have to make about them? Because I'm not persuaded that the superficial analysis - that is, that being charismatic is entirely about encouraging spiritual gifts in meetings, and being missional means banning them - is accurate. I think the issues can be more subtle, and less explicitly biblical, than that. So here are a few areas where, in my experience, some of us can feel a tension between being fully charismatic and being fully missional.
Spiritual Gifts in Public Meetings.
Having just said that this is not the whole story, it clearly is a sizeable part of the story. At the charismatic end of the spectrum, there are those who believe that encouraging spiritual gifts in public meetings is a core value, based on exhortations like 1 Corinthians 14:1 and summary statements like 14:26, and that a decision to ban them or discourage them in the interests of being "missional" is to sell out, and to directly disobey 14:39. At the missional end, there are those who argue that the Holy Spirit's intention is always to draw unbelievers to Jesus through the gospel, and that expressions of spiritual gifts in the church are always to be subordinated to this wider purpose, on the basis of 1 Corinthians 14:23; doing this, and administering a meeting in a way that is "fitting and orderly" (14:40), might well (in some cultures) involve restricting spiritual gifts in public meetings for the sake of the outsider.
The extremes are relatively easy to see. I've been in Sunday meetings which are full of spiritual gifts but virtually incomprehensible to me, let alone to any unbelievers who might be present. I've also been in formerly charismatic churches which are so seeker sensitive that spiritual gifts have been all-but-banned in public contexts. But in between those extremes, there are lots of us who think that prohibiting spiritual gifts in a meeting is unbiblical, and that Paul sees prophecy in particular as highly missional, but who also think that everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way, that wackiness doesn't necessarily glorify God, and that it is important for unbelievers to be able to understand what they see and hear. Navigating that one is not impossible, but it can be challenging.
Pursuing Breakthrough in Healing.
This might sound odd, because healings in Scripture, as well as today, present such an excellent opportunity to preach the gospel. What could be more missional, some wonder, than seeing a healing happen in front of you? Well, yes. But the point is, it is almost incontestable that pursuing breakthrough in healing as a church - as opposed to, say, being satisfied with the occasional sick person getting well - requires a commitment to stepping out in risk-filled faith, and an openness to failure. The churches today that see the most people healed in response to prayer are, almost without exception, the churches that also see the most people not healed in response to prayer. They take more risks, pursue greater and more dramatic signs and wonders, and frequently find that people don't get healed. As John Wimber apparently said, I'd rather pray for a thousand people and see one healed, than pray for nobody and see none healed.
So how do you handle it when unbelievers are around, and you say that God heals today, and pray for people on that basis, and then nobody gets healed? In practice, I've found myself in that situation on several occasions: how do you respond in a way that doesn't fake it, doesn't patronise the unbeliever, and doesn't destroy faith in the church? How, also, do you handle partial, temporary or unimpressive healings: with a potentially faith-diminishing honesty ("OK, you didn't really get healed, but people often don't; we'll carry on praying, though!"), or with a potentially honesty-compromising faith ("that's amazing that you're a tiny bit better! Praise God")? The charismatic guys might decide to pursue and testify to healing come what may, even if unbelievers are led to conclude that they're deluding themselves; the missional guys might shut the whole thing down, in corporate gatherings at least, for fear of making the church look weird to outsiders. What to do?
Corporate "Ministry Times" in Public Meetings.
Another area where some will perceive a charismatic-missional tension is in the handling of so-called "ministry times" (I say so-called, not to cast aspersions on them, but just because the phrase itself is not a biblical one, and "ministry" simply means "service"). Fifteen years ago, any charismatic church worth its salt would have had a "ministry time" at the end of their meeting, in which people would respond to the message, pray for each other, lay hands on one another, prophesy over each other, and (often) respond to God in a variety of visible ways including crying, laughing, falling down, shouting out, and so on. These days, any missional church worth its salt would be highly sceptical of things that would appear bizarre to a visitor, and would often regard such "ministry times" as a rather self-indulgent practice that should be reserved for corporate prayer meetings. Again, in the middle, there are many who want the people of God to experience him in a deeper way when they gather together, and who suspect that if something gets bumped from Sundays the saints will instinctively think it doesn't matter much, but who also don't want to seem needlessly strange to visitors, and who struggle with how to fit a thirty minute ministry time into a ninety minute meeting alongside a forty minute worship time, a forty minute talk, a few necessary notices, breaking bread, and whatever else.
Even when ministry times take place, some leaders will wonder which sorts of responses should be allowed, encouraged or pursued. As anyone who has heard Kim Walker will testify, laughing out loud in the middle of a song can bring a huge sense of joy to the Christians - but then again, it might also seem strange to visitors. An individual crying out as they encounter God's love often raises the spiritual bar significantly for believers who are present, and it can thereby foster greater openness to the Spirit - but it can also spook people who have no idea what is going on. We could say similar things of falling down, whooping, dancing, and the like. We could also say it of the lengthy silences that often precede people encountering God in power. So even if "ministry times" are unequivocally embraced as a powerful way of engaging with God, it remains the case that leaders, not to mention individuals in the church who have brought guests along, may feel the charismatic-missional tension.
Preaching and Teaching on Sundays.
Preaching and teaching in such a way that is faithful to the biblical text, teaches doctrine clearly to Christians and communicates the gospel clearly to non-Christians is hard work. It's not impossible, but it's hard work. If you then add into the mix the need to encourage, exhort and equip Christians regularly to pursue spiritual experience, ideally by modelling it yourself, things become even more difficult. It is probably no coincidence, then, that virtually every gifted preacher or teacher I can think of excels at one or two of these (doctrine and mission, mission and Spirit, Spirit and doctrine), but not all three. It's just an awful lot to achieve in forty minutes.
Websites and Social Media.
This is a curveball, but: I know of some church websites, and some Facebook friends, that by being charismatic express things in ways that alienate some non-Christians. I know of others that, in the name of being missional, say next to nothing about what God has done or is doing in their lives. The former raise faith amongst Christian friends but risk freaking out others; the latter remain friends with everyone, but miss opportunities to testify to God's power for the benefit of their fellow believers. Just a thought.
So there we have it: the "charismatic-missional tension" boiled down to five issues. There are some other notable examples - the planning vs spontaneity spectrum, the issue of the church's focus in its efforts and its prayers, etc - but those strike me as the main ones. And I think they need some thoughtful reflection, particularly from those of us called to lead and pastor God's people. Tomorrow, I'll try and make some sense of it all.
Andrew is the author of several books including, most recently, If God, Then What?.

Heavenly Mindedness by Randy Alcorn

Posted: 09 May 2012 11:47 PM PDT

A post by Randy Alcorn, something of a heaven focused writer, on heavenly mindedness.

If you lack a passion for heaven, I can almost guarantee it's because you have a deficient and distorted theology of heaven (or you're making choices that conflict with heaven's agenda). An accurate and biblically energized view of heaven will bring a new spiritual passion to your life.
When you fix your mind on heaven and see the present in light of eternity, even little choices become tremendously important. After death, we will never have another chance to share Christ with one who can be saved from hell, to give a cup of water to the thirsty, to invest money to help the helpless and reach the lost, or to share our homes, clothes, and love with the poor and needy.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

What to do when you identify a sin in your life (John Owen)

What to do when you identify a sin in your life (John Owen)

What to do when you identify a sin in your life (John Owen)

Posted: 08 May 2012 12:24 AM PDT

This extract is from a post in a series of posts on Tim Challies excellent blog on John Owen's Overcoming Sin & Temptation. You can read an updated version of the entire book for free here.

In this series of posts I am sharing some of what John Owen says about putting sin to death, or what he calls mortification. I have been going through his book Overcoming Sin and Temptation and trying to distill each chapter to its essence—to a few choice quotes that capture the flavor of what Owen is trying to communicate.
So far we've looked at The Foundation of Mortification, we've been encouraged to Daily Put Sin to Death, to understand that It Is the Holy Spirit Who Puts Sin to Death and to acknowledge that Your Spiritual Life Depends Upon Killing Sin. Then we saw What It Is Not to Put Sin to Death and What It Is to Put Sin to Death. He now moves on to the actual directions for how to put sin to death; first he deals with a couple of foundational issues and then with dangerous sin symptoms.

Today he moves to the first of his practical instructions on putting sin to death and the first action you need to take when you identify a sin in your life. It is this: 

(1) You need to ponder 
(a) the guilt, 
(b) the [future] dangers and 
(c) the [present] evil results of that sin 

(2) and let it rest in both your mind and heart. 

Or as he says it, "Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of your sin." He will discuss each of these three things in turn.

Top 5 Things Introverts Dread about Church

Posted: 07 May 2012 11:55 PM PDT

Interesting article on what introverts dread about church, from a blog by a guy who wrote a book on the subject. Looks interesting and I can relate to a few of these!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Introvert Saturday: The Top 5 Things Introverts Dread About Church

This post comes to you from Chelsey Doring. Chelsey posted a version of this on her blog last week and I asked if I could re-post it. It nicely and humorously captures some of the first issues that introverts have with church culture, especially in an evangelical culture that emphasizes sharing and transparency.

The Top 5 Things Introverts Dread about Church
(written so extroverts may understand)

5. "Welcome! Shake a hand, give a hug, share a name!"

In every church I have attended, this has been a precursor to the beginning of the service. What I want to know is why. There is no way that anyone is going to remember anyone else's name in the 2.7 uncomfortable seconds it takes to say, "Good morning! My name is so-and-so. God's peace."

And has anyone considered what that is like for people who have never stepped foot in that church, or any church at all? I've been in church my entire life, and this entire process ties knots in my stomach. I understand the rationale behind it (we want to be a friendly, welcoming community), but isn't this accomplished in a less forced manner before and after the service, over donuts and coffee?

Awkward encounters are so much easier with caffeine and sugar.

It is for this reason that I really love running slides or doing some other manner of work for the church during the beginning of the service. Can't shake your sweaty hand if mine are busy doing something else.

4. "Chelsey, what do you think?"

Okay, look. I will tell you what I think once I want to say it. Trust me, I am very opinionated. Just because I am sitting quietly in this group of people, listening to all of them talk about their lives or this Bible passage or this idea, doesn't mean I have a rock for a brain or that I'm too scared to speak up. Or, even worse: that something is wrong with me.

The worst offenders for this one are small group leaders and youth directors. And I know that for a fact, because I am one. Take it from me: if an introvert isn't speaking, it isn't because nothing is going on upstairs. It's because they're thinking. And once they feel comfortable enough, they will share. And yeah, that might take a couple minutes. A couple weeks. Maybe even a couple months. Their silence isn't a reflection on your leadership! Leaders like me need to be secure enough in ourselves so that we can let the silence happen. It's not "awkward" until you make it awkward.

3. "Let's get into groups and pray aloud and/or tell each other our deepest, darkest struggles."

At this point, you may be wondering if I actually like people. I like people. I really do.

Introverts tend to have deep relationships and friendships. They are often very few in number. Case in point: when planning our wedding, I told my husband Ted that I wanted three bridesmaids: my sister, my best friend, and his sister. He gave me his best puppy dog face and told me that he wouldn't be able to go lower than 9 groomsmen. People just love Ted. I get it, obviously. (We ended up having 7 bridesmaids and 7 groomsmen, and I love and cherish every single one of them.)

At the church where I work, we meet weekly to pray over the prayer requests we receive as a staff. We separate into groups of 3 to 5, go to separate corners of the church, and begin to pray over the list. I have a mini-panic attack every single time. I hope I'm adept enough to cover it. I'm probably not.

2. Spontaneous Public Prayer

If you could see into my head while I pray aloud, it would look something like this:

"Dear Jesus: I am completely blanking right now. I know that when we usually talk, the conversation never ebbs, but all these people are looking at me and listening to me and I feel like I'm naked and I'm going to hyperventilate. If you love me – no, I know you love me – please give me something intelligent to say in front of all these people. That I work with every day. Who are expecting me to form a coherent sentence. If it's fancy and a little theological, too, that would be great. Thanks a million. Amen."

Recently, one of the pastors at my church gave a devotion about how people pray out loud. He said that if a person asks for things that God has already promised, like his presence or his faithfulness, then it's foolish and they probably have a pretty weak faith.

Right. As if I wasn't already self-conscious enough.

On Jon Acuff's post about introverts, one very well-meaning woman tried to give an introvert some advice about praying out loud:

"Sometimes I have an apprehension of going to the bathroom in public with someone who is the in the stall right next to me. Sometimes it is really hard to avoid. However, I know I have to go, so what I do is close my eyes and just go with the flow. I would say the same to you the next time you are asked to pray out loud in front of others: Just close your eyes and go with the flow. He promises that as we open our mouths he will fill it with his words. I have found this to be true not only in my life, but also in the lives of others I know."

I'm convinced that "go with the flow" is a distinctly extroverted phrase. Also, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to use the phrase "go with the flow" again.

1. "You should be more…"

Talkative. Friendly. Open. Or, my personal favorite: "You should be more like your sister."

I once had a very influential camp counselor tell me that. My sister and I are very close now, and I would love to be more like her, because she is clearly cooler than I am.

When we were in high school, my sister was a beautiful, blonde, popular, fashionable, outgoing cheerleader. I was a somber, dark-haired band nerd who wore jeans and t-shirts and hated high school. Of COURSE I wanted to be more like her! Who wouldn't?!

You would think that this sort of thing doesn't happen to me anymore, but it does, actually. Even at 23, an age in which I am actually secure in my personality, this conversation takes place:

Me: "Yeah, I'm an introvert."

The other person: "Oh, I'm so sorry."

God has created us all so beautifully and uniquely. There is no reason to apologize for that.

I am very sure that other introverts out there have had similar experiences. Please feel free to share, because I know that I shouldn't be so presumptuous as to speak for all introverts everywhere.

But only if you feel comfortable enough.

If you want to read more about introverts and church, check out Adam's book Introverts in the Church. 

What is a Local Church (from the IX Marks Blog)

Posted: 07 May 2012 11:40 PM PDT

What Is a Local Church?

A local church is a group of Christians who regularly gather in Christ's name to officially affirm and oversee one another's membership in Jesus Christ and his kingdom through gospel preaching and gospel ordinances. That's a bit clunky, I know, but notice the five parts of this definition: 
  • a group of Christians; 
  • a regular gathering;
  • a congregation-wide exercise of affirmation and oversight; 
  • the purpose of officially representing Christ and his rule on earth—they gather in his name;
  • the use of preaching and ordinances for these purposes.
Just as a pastor's pronouncement transforms a man and a woman into a married couple, so the latter four bullet points transform an ordinary group of Christians spending time together at the park—presto!—into a local church.

The gathering is important for a number of reasons. One is that it's where we Christians "go public" to declare our highest allegiance. It's the outpost or embassy, giving a public face to our future nation. And it's where we bow before our king, only we call it worship. The Pharaohs of the world may oppose us, but God draws his people out of the nations to worship him. He will form his mighty congregation.

The gathering is also where our king enacts his rule through preaching, the ordinances, and discipline. The gospel sermon explains the "law" of our nation. It declares the name of our king and explains the sacrifice he made to become our king. It teaches us of his ways and confronts us in our disobedience. And it assures us of his imminent return.

Through baptism and the Lord's Supper, the church waves the flag and dons the army uniform of our nation. It makes us visible. To be baptized is to identify ourselves with the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as well as to identify our union with Christ's death and resurrection (Matt. 28:19; Rom. 6:3-5). To receive the Lord's Supper is to proclaim his death and our membership in his body (1 Cor. 11:26-29; cf. Matt. 26:26-29). God wants his people to be known and marked off. He wants a line between the church and the world.

What is the local church? It's the institution which Jesus created and authorized to pronounce the gospel of the kingdom, to affirm gospel professors, to oversee their discipleship, and to expose impostors. All this means, we don't "join" churches like we join clubs. We submit to them.

This article is excerpted from Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus (Crossway).

Recommended Books for Church History and Historical Theology

Posted: 07 May 2012 11:43 PM PDT

From Justin Taylor's excellent blog. Historical Theology is a look at how theological doctrines have been understood throughout the ages.

Recommended Books for Church History and Historical Theology

Carl Trueman was once asked if he could recommend a couple of resources for students on church history and historical theology. He responded:
(1) The series being written by a guy named Nicholas Needham. It's called 2,000 Years of Christ's Power (Evangelical Press) and is proving to be a very good, comprehensive, but easy-to-read account of church history. It comes in several volumes.
(2) And the other book I recommend to students—the best single-volume on the history of theology —written by a Scandinavian Lutheran named Bengt Hägglund, titled simply, History of Theology (Concordia: 2007). It's a single volume that takes you from the early church almost down to the present day in terms of the history of theology.
So those would be the two books I would recommend.
Needham's 2000 Years of Christ's Power is a projected five-volume history of the church, of which three volumes have already appeared:
A few notes about these books:
(1) They are based on excellent scholarship, but they are quite accessible.
(2) There are virtually no footnotes, except as short explanatory material—including, helpfully, pronunciation guides on ancient places, names, and events that may be unfamiliar.
(3) This is not only a comprehensive overview of historical theology, but it also contains primary source reading at the end of each chapter, so that you are not only reading about, say, the church fathers, but also sampling their actual writings.
(4) These volumes originate in the UK, and as such, they have a different aesthetic feel in terms of cover design, font choice, typsetting, etc. than you would find in the United States.
For a better overview than this, see Tony Reinke's helpful post.
Reviewing volume 3 for Haddington House, Carl Trueman writes:
This book is the third volume in Dr Needham's projected comprehensive history of the church from the age of the church fathers to the present day. While Dr Needham is an accomplished scholar in the fields of church history and historical theology, in these volumes he brings his learning to bear in a manner which is easily accessible to the layperson.
In a time where neither history nor the reading of books seem to be a particularly strong part of church culture, we should welcome the fact that there are books such as these which compress so much valuable information into a such a relatively short compass is to be welcomed by all who have a concern for the church's historic heritage. . . .
In short, this book, indeed, this whole series, is well worth purchasing, reading, and inwardly digesting.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Series: Leland Ryken explains why Christians should read Camus

Series: Leland Ryken explains why Christians should read Camus

Series: Leland Ryken explains why Christians should read Camus

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 09:56 AM PDT

Reading Camus's "The Stranger" with Ryken

The Gospel Coalition's first series of "Commending the Classics" (where Leland Ryken guides us in a weekly discussion of Albert Camus's The Stranger) is now underway.
In a previous post he explained why Christians should read Camus.
Today he introduces the book.
Toward the end he discusses the schedule of readings:
The format for our discussion will be a chapter-per-week schedule. The guides that I will post for each chapter are intended as a preview to reading and discussing the week's chapter. This means that we will start our trek through the novel with the next posting. I will provide both analysis and sections titled "for reflection or discussion." The interaction will take place by way of "comments" on this site. Responses to this week's introduction are welcome.
There are six chapters in part 1 of The Stranger, and five chapters in part 2. So it looks like the schedule will be as follows, with a new post each Wednesday:
Part 1
  • Ch. 1, April 25
  • Ch. 2, May 2
  • Ch. 3, May 9
  • Ch. 4, May 16
  • Ch. 5, May 23
  • Ch. 6, May 30
Part 2
  • Ch. 1, June 6
  • Ch. 2, June 13
  • Ch. 3, June 20
  • Ch. 4, June 27
  • Ch. 5, July 4
He also includes a note about translations:
I end with a note on English translations of The Stranger. I first fell in love with this book in Stuart Gilbert's translation (available from Amazon from third-party vendors). This is the translation that made the novel a classic of English-language literature. Its style sparkles with descriptive and aphoristic brilliance. Among more recent translations is one by Matthew Ward (Vintage); since it is available directly from Amazon, it will be the "official" translation for purposes of this discussion. I will manage the discussion in such a way that either translation can be used. I myself regard Ward's translation of Mother as Maman to be unnecessarily distracting.

Narnia Resources (from Andy Naselli)

Posted: 23 Apr 2012 09:48 AM PDT

Ten Narnia Resources

My oldest daughter just finished hearing The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time. After we finished The Last Battle, Kara asked wistfully, "Daddy, are there any more Narnia books?" I had to confirm what she already knew: there are only seven Narnia books.
But she's already looking forward to reading them again and again and again.
We utilized ten resources to enjoy Narnia, and I recommend them all:

1. The Unabridged Books

These are essential. All other resources merely supplement them.
It is pure pleasure to read these aloud to your children.
I chose to get a boxed set in hardcover. 
It's also available in softcover.
Those sets have the same simple illustrations by Pauline Baynes sprinkled throughout them that I recall seeing when reading this set as a child.
This one-volume set (which I think is the same as this one) is large but very nice. It includes the original illustrations by Pauline Baynes, but they are hand-colored instead of black and white.
You can view thirteen of Pauline Baynes's color illustrations and seven maps at the bottom of this page.

2. Graphic Novels

Robin Lawrie abridged and illustrated two graphic novels:
  1. The Magician's Nephew: Graphic Novel (64 pp.)
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Graphic Novel (64 pp.)
I'm surprised that there aren't more books like these. I wish there were seven and not just two of them.
Although these books horrify purists, I like them. I used them to introduce these two stories to Kara, and they helped draw her into the world of Narnia. She loves these books (though now she loves the unabridged books more). She loves pictures paired with stories; they engage her and stimulate her imagination.
The first book of the seven books that we read is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and we read the graphic novel first:
  • When we got to the part where the white witch kills Aslan, Kara started sobbing with grief.
  • When we got to the next chapter and read the title, "The Spell Is Broken," she cheerfully remarked through her tears, "That's good news!"
  • When I asked her if Aslan reminded her of anyone (and this is during her first time ever hearing the story), without blinking she replied, "Jesus."
  • The day after finishing the book, I asked her, "So what do you think of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?" She replied, "Well, I don't like the witch, but I like the lion and the wardrobe."

3. Focus on the Family Radio Theatre

Focus on the Family Radio Theatre's dramatized version of the Narnia books is outstanding. First-class.
It's abridged. The unabridged audio is about 31 hours, and this is about 22 hours. Among other things, this abridged version removes the few instances of objectionable language (see resource #9 below: "Some Caveats").
Douglas Gresham, one of C. S. Lewis's two step-sons, briefly introduces and concludes each book.
Related: Here are other Focus on the Family Radio Theatre stories:
  1. Amazing Grace: The Inspirational Stories of William Wilberforce, John Newton, and Olaudah Equiano
  2. Anne of Green Gables: An Endearing Story of a Young Girl Whose Spirit Could Never Be Broken
  3. At the Back of the North Wind
  4. Ben Hur: An Epic Tale of Revenge and Redemption
  5. Billy Budd, Sailor: A Classic Tale of Innocence Betrayed on the High Seas; Adapted from the Novel by Herman Melville
  6. Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom; A Man Whose Message Could Not Be Silenced (cf. my thoughts)
  7. A Christmas Carol: By Charles Dickens
  8. Father Gilbert Mysteries: Collector's Edition; All 9 Father Gilbert Mysteries
  9. The Hiding Place: The Acclaimed Story of Corrie Ten Boom
  10. The Legend of Squanto: An Unknown Hero Who Changed the Course of American History
  11. The Life of Jesus: Dramatic Eyewitness Accounts from the Luke Reports (cf. my thoughts)
  12. Little Women
  13. Les Misérables: Victor Hugo's Masterpiece
  14. The Screwtape Letters: First Ever Full-cast Dramatization of the Diabolical Classic (cf. my review)
  15. The Secret Garden: Frances Hodgson Burnett; A New Way to Experience the Beloved Classic
  16. Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe; The Transforming Power of a Child's Love
  17. Traveling Home for Christmas: Four Stories That Journey to the Heart of Christmas (The Shoemaker's Gift, The Gift of the Maji, Christmas Day at Kirkby Cottage, and Christmas by Injunction)

4. Unabridged Audiobooks

We also listened to the unabridged audiobooks by Harper Children's Audio:

They are very high quality (though not in the same class as Jim Dale's masterful reading of the Harry Potter series).
A different narrator reads each book, and all of them are English actors.
  1. The Magician's Nephew, narrated by Kenneth Branagh (who stars in Henry V)
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, narrated by Michael York
  3. The Horse and His Boy, narrated by Alex Jennings
  4. Prince Caspian, narrated by Lynn Redgrave
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, narrated by Derek Jacobi
  6. The Silver Chair, narrated by Jeremy Northam
  7. The Last Battle, narrated by Patrick Stewart
(These free podcasts are not as high quality as the above audiobooks.)

5. BBC's TV Serial

From 1988 to 1990, BBC aired a TV serial (available on 3 DVDs) that they produced based on four of the Narnia books (Wikipedia):
  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (169 min.)
  2. Prince Caspian (56 min.)
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (109 min.)
  4. The Silver Chair (168 min.)
We watched these films after reading and listening to the corresponding book and audiobook.
I watched these many times as a child on VHS and loved them. Now I own them on DVD so my children can enjoy them, too.
Compared to modern films, the pace is slow (which serves my daughter well) and the special effects tame.
The films stick pretty closely to the storyline of the books, but Kara was quick to point out ways that the films deviate (even if only slightly) from the books!

6. Blockbuster Films

Three of the Narnia books are adapted into blockbuster films (Wikipedia):
  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005, Disney)
  2. Prince Caspian (2008, Disney)
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010, 20th Century Fox)
(On the possibility of future films, see here.)

  1. quality cinematography
  2. cool special effects
  3. good acting
  1. They focus on intense scenes, especially violent battle scenes. We skipped the really intense scenes and watched other intense scenes at 4x speed or higher because they are too intense for a little girl.
  2. They drastically revise the storyline of the books.
  3. They gut the books of their core message and turn them into feel-good messages about believing in yourself and having faith (I always ask, "Faith in what or whom?!"). For example, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader ends with Carrie Underwood singing "There's a Place for Us." Is the message of the book really that "we can be the kings and queens of anything if we believe" and that "exactly who we are is just enough"? Incredible. They turn a book steeped in Christian themes into narcissistic self-esteemism.
See Doug Wilson's reviews (which are generous!):
Wilson concludes,
So, here is my gradebook on these movies as adaptations so far:
  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — B
  2. Prince Caspian — D minus
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader — C
Here is how I would rate the movies as stand alone ventures, if C. S. Lewis had never existed, and producers had not been laboring under the burden of finding someone who understood the books. Of course, we shouldn't be too hard on them. They only have many millions of dollars. How could they possibly find somebody who understands the books? Give them a break.
  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — A
  2. Prince Caspian — B
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader — A minus
See also Christopher Cowan, "C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, and Women in Combat: Part 1 and Part 2," Gender Blog (May 20–21, 2008).

7. Theater

It just so happened that a nearby play of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe coincided with our reading the Narnia books.
It was Kara's second play, and she loved the experience. But as with the film adaptations, she disliked how much artistic license the play took with the storyline. (I agree.)

8. Pretending

We (mostly my dear wife!) have spent dozens of hours play-acting with Kara as all sorts of Narnia characters. Kara lives in an imaginary world, and she constantly reenacts scenes and improvises new ones using the characters from the stories (and sometimes conflates imaginary worlds: Narnia meets Winnie the Pooh!).
It can get exhausting living in this pretend world, but it's worth it. It's good for her on so many levels (e.g., see Nurture Shock, ch. 8).
We took our time enjoying the seven books, spending about two to three weeks in each one. We read each at least three times before moving on to the next one:
  • I read the unabridged version aloud once.
  • We listened to the abridged version by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre at least once.
  • We listened to the unabridged version at least once.

9. Some Caveats

Kevin Bauder's "The Christian and Fantastic Literature—Part Six: The Chronicles of Narnia" (In the Nick of Time [March 25, 2005]) praises the Narnia series but adds two caveats:
This is not to say that the story is without flaws. In fact, it has two defects that sharply limit its usefulness. A discussion of the Chronicles would not be complete without mentioning these defects.
First, Lewis sometimes puts profane language in the mouths of his characters [e.g., taking the Lord's name in vain and Uncle Andrew's repeated line in The Magician's Nephew]. To be fair, Lewis would probably not have regarded these uses as profanity. Most likely he would have argued that the language was not gratuitous and, therefore, was not speaking in vain of holy things. This is not convincing, however. A certain number of oaths serve no apparent purpose other than to add color to the story. They do cross the line into profanity, which is especially disappointing in stories that were written for children. Even though these occasions are rare, once is too often.
Second, some of Lewis's theology was aberrant, and one or two of his quirks do show up in these stories. Probably the most serious is Lewis's inclusivism. In the final story (The Last Battle) a young worshipper of the demon Tash is admitted into the "true Narnia"—Lewis's version of heaven. Lewis uses Aslan to explain that whatever worship was offered sincerely to Tash was really offered to Aslan. Such episodes reflect one of the errors of Lewis's theology, namely, that all sincere people can be received by God, even if they have not received the truth of Christianity. This is not a minor error.
The error is compounded precisely because the fantastic presentation makes it seem appealing and palatable. The flaw is magnified further by being offered to children who cannot be expected to recognize it for what it is. Lewis's story has the power to capture the child's imagination and to render it sympathetic to inclusivism before the child ever develops the capacity to think critically about the issue. This is a serious matter.
Kevin DeYoung's "Cautions for Mere Christianity" (January 28, 2011) highlights "two significant problems" with Mere Christianity, and the second in particular appears in the Narnia series:
  1. Lewis rejects a penal substitutionary atonement.
  2. Lewis "believed in what we might roughly call 'anonymous Christians.' That is, people may be saved through Christ without putting explicit faith in Christ."
Cf. John Piper, "Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul: Learning from the Mind and Heart of C. S. Lewis," 2010 Pastors Conference (February 2, 2010).

10. Douglas Wilson's Book on Narnia

I read this book three times—twice with my ears and once with my eyes:
Douglas Wilson. What I Learned in Narnia. Moscow, ID: Canon, 2010.
I listened to this audiobook both before and after reading the series with my daughter, and then I read it and marked it up. Wilson draws insightful lessons from the Narnia stories.
I was going to share some excerpts, but I highlighted far too many pithy, shrewd observations to fit here.
Relatively few books are worth reading a second or third time. This is one of them.
Some trivia: My favorite character (other than Aslan, of course) is Puddleglum. As Wilson says, "Puddleglum is a character who has a comically dour and gloomy exterior, but he turns out to be quite useful, fiercely loyal, and suspicious about the world in all the right ways" (p. 91).


  1. "That's Why It's Called Progressive Sanctification" (Eustace Scrubb illustration)
  2. "Is C. S. Lewis the Patron Saint of American Evangelicalism?"
  3. C. S. Lewis, "On Three Ways of Writing for Children," in Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories (New York: Harvest, 1966), 22–34.
  4. Alan Jacobs, "The Chronicles of Narnia," in The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis (ed. Robert MacSwain and Michael Ward; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 265–80.
  5. Thomas C. Peters, "The Chronicles of Narnia," in Simply C. S. Lewis: A Beginner's Guide to the Life and Works of C. S. Lewis (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997), 77–110.
  6. George Sayer, "Into Narnia," in Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 311–19.
  7. Into the Wardrobe—a C. S. Lewis web site
  1. Alan Jacobs, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2005).
  2. Paul F. Ford, Companion to Narnia: A Complete Guide to the Magical World of C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia (2nd ed.; San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005). Includes 21 illustrations and 11 diagrams. Abridged: Pocket Companion to Narnia: A Guide to the Magical World of C. S. Lewis.
  3. Planet Narnia: You may find Michael Ward's thesis fantastical at first, but at the end you'll be much less skeptical if not convinced. Watch BBC's The Narnia Code, and read one of his two books: Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), which is the longer and more academic version, or The Narnia Code: C. S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2010).
  4. Colin Duriez, A Field Guide to Narnia (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004). The cover says, "An Overview of the Life and Word of C. S. Lewis | A-to-Z Coverage of Narnian Beings, Places, Things and Events | An Introduction to Key Spiritual Themes." It's an accessible, brief introduction (240 pp.). Cf. Colin Duriez, The C. S. Lewis Encyclopedia: A Complete Guide to His Life, Thought, and Writings (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000).
  5. Christin Ditchfield, A Family Guide to Narnia: Biblical Truths in C. S. Lewis's the Chronicles of Narnia (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003). Two later books by Ditchfield repeat corresponding sections from this book but include illustrations by Justin Gerard: (1) A Family Guide to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005) and (2) A Family Guide to Prince Caspian (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008).
  6. Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware, Finding God in the Land of Narnia (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 2004).
  7. Brian Sibley, The Land of Narnia (New York: Harper & Row, 1990).

Friday, 20 April 2012

Matt Redman: You alone can rescue (Video)

Matt Redman: You alone can rescue (Video)

Matt Redman: You alone can rescue (Video)

Posted: 19 Apr 2012 12:45 PM PDT

Heard this song at the weekend and loved it.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

2012 Together for the Gospel Conference Audio & Video Available Free

2012 Together for the Gospel Conference Audio & Video Available Free

2012 Together for the Gospel Conference Audio & Video Available Free

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 11:52 PM PDT

Speakers included David Platt, Matt Chandler, Kevin De Young and John Piper et al. Visit the T4G Resources Page for all the downloads. Here are the Main Sessions and the Breakout Sessions listed. You can also view the RSS for Together for the Gospel here.

2012 The Underestimated Gospel

Main Session

Glory, Majesty, Dominion, and Authority Keep Us Safe for Everlasting Joy.

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Glory, Majesty, Dominion, and Authority Keep Us Safe for Everlasting Joy

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The Fulfillment of the Gospel.

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The Fulfillment of the Gospel

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The Underestimated God: God's ruthless, compassionate grace in the pursuit of his own glory and his ministers' joy.

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The Underestimated God

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Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions

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Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort.

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Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions

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Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort

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Will Your Gospel Transform a Terrorist?

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False Conversions: The Suicide of the Church

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Will Your Gospel Transform a Terrorist?

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The Power of the Articulated Gospel

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When A Pastor Loses Heart

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False Conversions: The Suicide of the Church

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The Power of the Articulated Gospel

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When A Pastor Loses Heart

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