The Ultimate Kindle Giveaway: Buy a G4S Book; Enter for a FREE Kindle

Torrey Gazette and Grace for Sinners Books have joined forces for the ultimate giveaway. We are giving away a free Kindle. You heard that correctly. All you need to do is purchase one of these titles in any format and fill out the form below:

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Review: Charles A. Davis’ Making Disciples Across Cultures

Davis sets the goal high:

“What I needed, and what is needed today, is a set of universal disciple-making principles by which to evaluate the cultural and theological assumptions that in turn precipitate the methods and patterns of behavior common in churches and among church leaders” (22)

To do this he has crafted ten principles with sliding cultural values. They are:

  1. Disciples Let God Lead from the Invisible World (Visible vs Invisible)
  2. Disciples Hear and Obey (Knowledge vs Behavior)
  3. Disciples Develop Relational Interdependence (Individualism vs Collectivism)
  4. Disciples Do What Love Requires (Gospel-Truth vs Works-Justice)
  5. Disciples Make Disciples (One-Way Delivery vs Group Interaction)
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Order We Believe: Creeds, Confessions, & Catechism for Worship + Bonus Content

I want to thank everyone involved with the We Believe launch including but not limited to my wife LeAnn, Joshua Torrey, the endorsers, and everyone who pre-ordered it and/or shared it on social media. 

We Believe has over 350 pages of invaluable and timeless resources for your personal worship. The kindle version is available right now for $2.99. That's special pricing that will be available until Reformation Sunday—after that pricing goes up to $4.99. The paperback is $8.99 during pre-order. That's only $0.22 over physical cost of printing the book. After release, the paperback will be $12.99. 

Also, if you've purchased either format of We Believe, please fill out the form below (bottom) to receive a free bonus ebook by the end of November.

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New Book: We Believe: Creeds, Confessions, & Catechisms for Worship

I have some exciting news. My next book will be releasing September 25, 2015. We Believe: Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms for Worship will be a straightforward resource for ordinary Christians wanting a handsome and easy to use volume with all the must have creeds, confessions, and catechisms for worship. The current structure is:

  • Foreword (Surprise Writer!)
  • Introduction by Mathew B. Sims
  • Chapter 1: The Catholic Creeds
    • Apostles' Creed
    • Nicene Creed
    • Athanasian Creed
  • Chapter 2: The Dutch Reformed Tradition
    • Belgic Confession
    • Heidelberg Catechisms
    • Canons of Dort
  • Chapter 3: The Scottish-English Tradition
    • Thomas Manton's Epistle to the Reader
    • The Westminster Confession
    • The Westminster Shorter Catechism
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Are You Afraid or Poking the Bear?

I have a confession and a bit of repentance to do. You see a few weeks back I came across this “Open Letter to a Trapped Wife.” Douglas Wilson addresses a woman who feels her pastors are not disciplining her husband for his anger promptly enough. He talks about the necessity of due process and witnesses then gives this bit of pastoral wisdom:

I have seen situations where everybody in the family claimed to be afraid of the angry bear with a temper problem, but nobody appeared to have the slightest concern about his views, opinions, decisions, or values. But this made me wonder — if everyone was so afraid of the angry bear — why they all kept poking him with their sticks. They claimed fear so that they could use it as another weapon against someone they did not like, and did not respect, but actual fear was absent. I have seen other situations where the family was genuinely paralyzed by actual fear, and spent all day every day walking on egg shells.

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Review: D. A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Praying with Paul (Baker Academic)

When I first became a Christian the primary way that I learned to pray was by praying the prayers in Scripture. Sometimes I prayed them word-for-word, but often I would take texts as launching points and then move on to pray in my own words according to the structure, content, and principle illuminated in them. Though I later made two Christian friends who prayed amazingly eloquent and Spirit-filled (not pretentious) prayers, in my early months as a Christian I didn't encounter a pray-er whose praying I wanted to emulate. I don't think my struggle to find a model of prayer outside the Bible is uncommon. Cartoonist Adam Ford has humorously portrayed the way many Christians pray in a comic titled, “If we talked to people the way we talk to God” (see comic to right).

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Gay Marriage Was the Church’s Idea

Right now the Supreme Court is hearing several cases related to gay marriage in states that have yet to acquiesce to the current cultural tsunami. What’s coming out of that dialogue has been compelling and surprising. In The Daily Signal, Ryan T. Anderson reports,

Justice Samuel Alito pointed to a near universal historical consensus about what marriage is, and asked if the lawyer was seriously going to argue it resulted only because of anti-gay sentiment. Alito asked:

How do you account for the fact that, as far as I’m aware, until the end of the 20th century, there never was a nation or a culture that recognized marriage between two people of the same sex?

Now, can we infer from that that those nations and those cultures all thought that there was some rational, practical purpose for defining marriage in that way or is it your argument that they were all operating independently based solely on irrational stereotypes and prejudice?

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4 Essentials for Cultivating Disciples

For many years the Church has been conversing about what discipleship should look like. These conversations only buttress the truth that proper discipleship strikes at the heart of the Christian faith. Without proper discipleship, our faith is deformed. It turns into a circus, social club, dead “orthodoxy,” or worse. In my estimation, the church has overcomplicated matters. We must return to the ancient, tested, and biblical forms and enjoy liberty in the cultural expressions of these forms. Here are four essential forms for cultivating disciples.

1. Retell the Story

Storytelling has always been foundational to the Christian faith. In the Old Testament, God rescues Israel from Egypt in dramatic fashion. He could’ve entered Egypt day one and rescued His people in a variety of ways, but He didn’t. He chose to do it with plagues. He chose an angel of death. He chose to part the Red Sea. He chose the desert. Then after these chapters in His grand story of redemption, God gives His people a gracious law and as He gives it he keeps using phrases like “Do this because I redeemed you from slavery” or “When you teach your children, remind them of how I brought you out of Egypt.” Story was essential for the faith of His people. When they rejected God as their God, it was because they forgot where they came from.

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Mind the Gap, Mind Your Own Mess

Most incidents in my house involve music and a screaming child. Music is playing around the clock. Screaming children indicate every passing half hour. This incident was no different. I was rocking Olivia to sleep while Taylor Swift played. A scream originated from our children’s room and my wife got to the scene first. In my defense I was walking with a little baby while my wife did some speed walking. A later enunciation revealed more embarrassment than fear, “I had an accident.” Now yes, I was sad for my daughter but I was grateful that it was not something more serious. We had hoped to be past the accident stage but not worth getting upset.

Alaina moved Kenzie into the restroom, collected her spoiled clothes, and went for cleaning supplies. All the while Judah continued playing as if nothing had happened. I remained with Olive trying to settle her. I stood taking the scene in and was impressed at how the family handled it. There was a general mood of calm that helped Kenzie to settle down. Then a practical thought struck me. This was not a common occurrence in our home anymore. Yet the entire mood of the house was understanding and calm. It got me thinking about Paul’s teaching on church membership. When I teach on church discipline, one passage of Paul’s always received a double emphasis from me.

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No Rain Dance Required

“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” —Psalms 115:3

One of the greatest confrontations in the Old Testament—Elijah meets Ahab and the prophets of Baal on Mount Caramel. Elijah proclaims to Israel, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?” Elijah then proposes a contest. “Let’s get two bulls. We’ll sacrifice them . . . but without fire. Let’s see which God will answer.”

The prophets of Baal go first. This section is one of my favorites. The writer of 1 King relates:

[They] called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention. (18:26-29)

The best part of it all is Elijah mocking them. “I bet Baal is relieving himself . . . just a little louder.” Elijah is deadly serious when it comes to his loyalty to God, but he’s not so serious that he can’t poke fun at a false god.

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Ten Tips for Family Worship

Honestly, family worship has intimidated me since my wife and I first had children. Sure I have seminary training. Sure I love to talk about theology. But how do I transfer all of that to family worship?

Family worship was nearly non-existent for the first two years of my marriage. But then I realized something. My trepidation revealed a misgiving in my own heart. I confessed with my mouth that the gospel had changed my life. I confessed that it had the power to change others’ lives. But in my shepherding responsibilities as a husband and father I acted like it wasn’t enough. My family needed something more than the ordinary means of grace.

So here are my practical tips for family worship.

1. Get Into a Rhythm

I recommend having a flexible routine that your kids can count on. For instance, we struggled to find a time that worked for my family for a long time. Years back I realized when we eat dinner, I’m frequently done five minutes or more before my family (I’ve always been a fast eater). For a time this worked great. I would eat my food, and it was a natural time for our family to talk, share, and pray.

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How to Change What Children Worship

A few weeks back one of my friends interacting with Tim Keller on Twitter. Keller made the statement that we change behavior by changing what we worship. Chris asks a question I’ve asked and most parents are asking. How can we change what children worship? Now not every parents parses it just like that, but at the heart of the issue that’s what they want to know.

Putting Out the Fires

We’ve all been in the restaurant eating with our families. Our kids are engaged with the task of eating. There are a few bumps. And in the middle of one of those bumps, you hear what sounds like the cry of war. A child going full out Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. Screaming. Crying. Stomping feet. Demands are made. Parents embarrassingly give in. It’s over. Phew.

In many situations like that, I’ve leaned back to let my food digest and think, “At least my child is not like them.” Parents care about behavior. And it’s not that behavior is unimportant. We want to raise well-rounded people who function in society and love their neighbor.

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Freedom to Love Your Spouse

“Only if God’s love is the most important thing to you will you have the freedom to love your spouse well” —Timothy Keller

Jesus spent part of his earthly ministry dialoguing with the religious leaders of his day. Often times that took the form of these leaders trying to trip up Jesus. The Apostle Matthew reports on one of these times. “Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians” (22:15-16). Now this first round was about paying taxes to Caesar. He subverted their silly question by answering, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (v. 21). Just as we pay taxes to Caesar because his image is imprinted on the coins; we must give back to God what’s imprinted with his image. “They were amazed” (v. 22). Round two. The Sadducees tried a riddle about who gets the wife in resurrection if she had several husbands. Jesus answers their question, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage” (v. 30) then takes a simple verb is and makes the point God is not the God of the dead. “They were astonished” (v. 33).

Round three. You might think the religious leaders might have learned their lesson, but the Pharisees get together and think they may have found a sticky question about fulfilling the law. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (v. 36). As with the previous question, Jesus doesn’t just answer their question, but goes further.

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Deborah Harrell & Jack Klumpenhower’s What's Up: Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You Really Are

Jack Klumpenhower’s Show Them Jesus was my dark horse favorite book of 2014. I had never heard of Klumpenhower and had heard nothing about the book. But man did it blow me away—the deftness with which Klumpenhower revealed Jesus was refreshing.

I immediately jumped at the opportunity to receive this new project he partnered with Deborah Harrell to write. I received a teacher’s guide and student’s guide for What’s Up: Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You Really Are.

I trialed this with my two oldest daughters. I took bits from each lesson and used it in family worship. They loved it. It’s fresh, engaging, and aimed for the heart. Harrell & Klumpenhower tackle issues, insecurities, and sins that kids deal with daily.

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5 Integral Reasons Mature Disciples Sleep

What does sleep have to do with being a mature disciple? We all have seasons of life where we might get less sleep than we should, but the right amount of sleep is integral for being a mature disciple. Mature disciples get sleep.

D. A. Carson explains the importance of sleep:

Doubt may be fostered by sleep deprivation. If you keep burning the candle at both ends, sooner or later you will indulge in more and more mean cynicism—and the line between cynicism and doubt is a very thin one….If you are among those who become nasty, cynical, or even full of doubt when you are missing your sleep, you are morally obligated to try to get the sleep you need. We are whole, complicated beings; our physical existence is tied to our spiritual well-being, to our mental outlook, to our relationships with others, including our relationship with God. Sometimes the godliest thing you can do in the universe is get a good night’s sleep—not pray all night, but sleep. I’m certainly not denying that there may be a place for praying all night; I’m merely insisting that in the normal course of things, spiritual discipline obligates you get the sleep your body need. (Scandalous p. 147)

Without further ado, here are five reasons mature disciples sleep.

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Known by King Jesus

We followed the backgrounds home in our green pickup truck. Open communications has always been important as I parent my three daughters. On these ride homes from school, I ask one or two open ended questions until the floodgates open. Once they open though, they don’t close easily.

That day Claire and I had a productive conversation, but as we pulled up to the curb of our home she said, “Madelynn is so popular dad. Everyone knows who she is and likes her. She even got the main part in the song for music class.”

I didn’t know what to say. I stumbled over a few words. I’m sure most of what I said was forgettable. I know it was because I don’t remember what I said.

Then it hit me. Simple. I turned the truck off. Looked her in the eyes and said, “Claire, who loves you more than Daddy?” She thought for a moment, “God does.”

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