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Welcome to the final installment of the For Aslan Christmas Gift Guides.  This guide will help you find a great gift for your evangelical theology nerd loved ones. This list is a mixture of really great books you can get for cheap and multi-volume collections that most theology nerds are too poor to buy for themselves.  These are all great gifts for your pastor, youth pastor, poor seminarian, theological blogger, or armchair theologian.

THEOLOGY NERD GIFTS – $0-$25

A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke$7.19

Thielicke Young Theologians

(http://www.christianbook.com/a-little-exercise-for-young-theologians/helmut-thielicke/9780802811981/pd/2811981?product_redirect=1&Ntt=2811981&item_code=&Ntk=keywords&event=ESRCP)

If you know someone in seminary or Bible college, I implore you to buy them this book.  This book is a swift kick in the gut to pride that can swell up when people get a semester’s worth of theology and Greek under their belts.  Thielicke provides a great reminder that the study of God produces humility when done properly.

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler$8.99

Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

(http://www.amazon.com/The-Explicit-Gospel-Re-Lit/dp/1433530031/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354111467&sr=8-1&keywords=explicit+gospel)

Matt Chandler is one of my favorite preachers alive.  He is an excellent example of biblical preaching, and he has glorified God throughout his suffering with cancer (Don’t Waste Your Cancer an Interview with Matt Chandler).

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney$10.87

Whitney Spiritual Disciplines

(http://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Disciplines-Christian-Pilgrimage-Growth/dp/1576830276)

Most young Christians that ask their youth pastor how to grow “deeper” in their faith will receive an answer somewhere along the lines of “Pray and read your Bible.”  This is true, but Donald Whitney provides very real and practical steps in this modern classic.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer$11.99

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

(http://www.christianbook.com/knowing-god-j-i-packer/9780830816507/pd/1650X?item_code=WW&netp_id=101130&event=ESRCG&view=details)

Other than the Bible, this is my favorite book on earth.

Martin Luther Bobblehead$18.95

Luther Bobblehead

(http://oldlutheran.cybrhost.com/oldlutheran/page.php?page=store&Screen=PROD&Store_Code=OL&Product_Code=800&Category_Code=HO)

Does anyone really need a Martin Luther bobblehead? No.  Would many people appreciate it as a gift? Yes.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones$19.48

Sermon on Mount by Martyn Lloyd Jones

(http://www.amazon.com/Studies-Sermon-Mount-Martyn-Lloyd-Jones/dp/080280036X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354112352&sr=8-1&keywords=sermon+on+the+mount+martyn)

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a brilliant expositor of the Bible.  This is a very long book, but it is worth the price and the time needed to read it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography by Eberhard Bethge$32.34

Bethge Bonhoeffer

(http://www.amazon.com/Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Biography-Eberhard-Bethge/dp/0800628446/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354111563&sr=1-2&keywords=dietrich+bonhoeffer+biography)

This is the exemplary biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Everyone loves Bonhoeffer, conservative evangelicals and theological liberals alike.  If you want to get them an actual Bonhoeffer book, go for Discipleship or Life Together.

THEOLOGY NERD GIFTS – $25-$50

Spurgeon’s Sermons, 5 Volumes by Charles H. Spurgeon$49.99

Spurgeon's Sermons

(http://www.christianbook.com/spurgeons-sermons-5-volumes/charles-spurgeon/9781598568325/pd/568325?en=google-pla&kw=church-and-pastoral-40-60&p=1167941&gclid=CL2b7Mfr8bMCFQU5nAoduikAXg)

Spurgeon was amazing.  All theology nerds get a bit geeked out about Spurgeon.  Plus, this set looks great on a bookshelf.

THEOLOGY NERD GIFTS – $50-$100

God, Revelation, and Authority, 6 Volumes by Carl F. H. Henry$96.99

Carl F. H. Henry God, Revelation, and Authority

(http://www.christianbook.com/god-revelation-authority-6-volumes/carl-henry/9781581340563/pd/40567?product_redirect=1&Ntt=40567&item_code=&Ntk=keywords&event=ESRCP)

Carl F. H. Henry founded Christianity Today.  He was one of the great evangelical voices of the 20th century, and this is the pinnacle of Henry’s scholarship.

THEOLOGY NERD GIFTS – $100+

Church Dogmatics, 14 Volumes by Karl Barth – $129.99

Karl Barth Dogmatics

(http://www.christianbook.com/church-dogmatics-14-volumes/karl-barth/9781598564426/pd/564426?kw=karl%20barth%20dogmatics&event=PPCSRC&p=1018818&gclid=CISj0eTq8bMCFQkFnQod9EUAVQ )

I love Karl Barth. True, we have some major theological differences, but I respect him a ton.  This work usually costs upwards of $400, however, in recent years this publication has come out for much cheaper.

The Early Church Fathers, 38 Volumes – $229.99

Early Church Fathers

(http://www.christianbook.com/the-early-church-fathers-38-volumes/9781565630819/pd/30815?event=CF)

So…this is wicked expensive.  Most of these works are available online now.  But we all know reading a book on real paper is 1,000 times better than reading on an e-reader or computer screen.  This would be a great gift for someone if a bunch of people pitched in, but I personally think it’s a crazy amount of money to drop by yourself.

Until later friends…

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Life is rarely what we expect it to be. We make plans, those plans change. We expect health, health fails. We desire ease and comfort, but pain marks many of our days. Pain and disappointment find us at the most inconvenient times.  Such pain often causes us to ask “why?” Why me? Why now? Why her?

Book of JobLike Job, we wonder why the chips have fallen the way that they have. My wife and I are going through a difficult time right now.  Things are not going the way that I planned them.  There are unforeseen difficulties with our daughter.  Doctors believe these are fixable, but it is still distressing.  At times like this, I am thankful for the promises the Lord has given us in Scripture.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” – Romans 8:28-29

” He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

These promises remind me of two things:

God is sovereign over all things, even pain and suffering. – This means that everything I experience has meaning.  There is no such thing as meaningless suffering.  God purposes to conform me to his image through every experience I have.

Pain and suffering are temporary – “This too shall pass.” These are great words of comfort.  All pain will cease one day. The Lord Jesus Christ will wipe my tears away, and I will see how all things have worked together for good.

This week I have been particularly encouraged by my church, especially the sermon this past  Sunday “Faith in the Midst of Trials.”  I have also found great encouragement through music.  Hear are a few songs that have been encouraging to me this week:

Farther AlongJosh Garrels

I love the hymn “Farther Along,” and Josh Garrels has added some great verses to it. This songs points to the future hope of Revelation 21. One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and there will be no more pain.

In the Night My Hope Lives OnAndrew Peterson

This is poetic. I listened to this song for an hour straight the first time I heard it.

Approach My Soul, The Mercy SeatJamie Barnes (Sojourn Music)

“Thy promise is my only plea O God.”

Until later friends…

Happy Reformation Day everyone.  Today is the 494th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses, which began the Reformation.

Martin Luther 95 ThesesIf you are interested in reading the Theses, you can find the whole text here.

95 Theses Text

Here are two videos in honor of this day:

Martin Luther – “Here I Stand” (A Reenactment of Martin Luther before the Diet of Worms)

The Reformation Polka

Until later friends…

Jen and I from time to time go on what I affectionately call an “iTunes Binge.”  These binges usually begin with us going somewhere to use the internet and one of us saying, “hey, I’d like to download that song we heard the other day.”  That one song typically turns into 10-12 songs.  We are usually of the mindset that for every song one person gets, the other should get one too.  This time we were pretty disciplined…so we only bought five songs.  Here they are in the order we bought them. I also have noted who chose the song.  As you can probably tell from these five songs, our purchased playlist that we share is pretty eclectic from: Johnny Cash to Stryper to Sara Bareilles to the Doobie Brothers.  These most recent additions to the playlist fit well into the conglomeration that is our joint iTunes account.

The Freshman” by The Verve Pipe (Jen’s Choice)

Jen has had this song stuck in her head from time to time over the past several weeks, so she wanted to get it.

This song is depressing (as many good songs are).  It deals with the depression that comes from moral failure and loss.  Its lyrics of “I won’t be held responsible, she was touching her face,” and “I can’t believe we’d ever die for these sins, we were merely freshman” coupled with “now I’m guilt-stricken, sobbing with my head on the floor” illustrate the pain and desire to avoid responsibility brought about by tragic choices. At first I didn’t like this song, but as I’ve listened to it I have come to see the truth to which it points.  We all long for some kind of return to innocence, and none of us wants to really face up to our misdeeds.  The old phrase “your sin will find you out” is true.  Not talking about the mistakes of our past will not make them go away. All people are indeed broken, and we need redemption.

Made Me Glad by Hillsong (Jen’s idea, but I like it too)

This song is inspired by the Psalms.  This song isn’t some vague affirmation of Christians being happy people.  To be a Christian does not mean you’ll be bubble gum sweet and prosperous in all you do, but it does come with a joy (or peace) even in the midst of difficult life events.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Amos Moses by Jerry Reed (My Choice)

This song is obviously my choice. Jen is too classy to listen to this apart from me.  This song is just pure entertainment.  No one can say “yeah” like Jerry Reed.  You might know Jerry Reed from his role in The Waterboy. “Set out on ’em Amos!”

Jerry Reed Waterboy

(Jerry Reed as Coach Red Beaulieu)

Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Jen’s Choice)

I had never heard of this song until we played Rock Band with Jen’s little sisters several months ago.  This was one of the few age appropriate songs, and the girls loved it.  So…we played it many times. It is a catchy song, and I like the fact that this band is named for a Beatles song (“She loves you yeah yeah yeah).

Thank God I’m a Country Boy by John Denver (My Choice)

John Denver has always had a special place in my heart.  I grew up listening to my Dad’s records…yes, records.  They’re like flat-round-vinyl MP3s.  One of my favorite records my dad had was John Denver’s Greatest Hits.

John Denver Greatest Hits Record

I love this song.  There’s just something about rural life that is very appealing to me.  I like the city alright. I enjoy the amenities of a city like Louisville, but I also like being able to shoot a gun in a field. I am thankful to have grown up with certain “country” influences.  My favorite line in this song is: “I’d play ‘Sally Goodin’ all day if I could, but the Lord and my wife wouldn’t take it very good, so I fiddle when I can, work when I should, thank God I’m a country boy.” Enjoy life, work when you should.

That’s all I have for today. I hope you enjoyed the songs. Until later friends…

On Friday July 22, 2011 a political zealot named Anders Behring Breivik committed multiple murders in the name of his concept of God and right-wing politics.  This man was so insane, xenophobic, and full of hate that he decided to perpetrate murder against his own people in the name of God.  Some have called this man a “Christian fundamentalist.”  I will try not to get sidetracked on the use of this word, but seriously, this is just an inflammatory word that needs clarification.  For the media using “Christian fundamentalist,” they could be just as easily talking about Jerry Falwell denouncing Teletubbies as Anders Behring Breivik committing mass murder.  Stop using such pejorative terms.  Say what the guy really was: a crazed, xenophobic loner, that was so hell-bent on his political system and idiosyncratic religious beliefs, that he decided to murder his perceived enemies.  This does not equate to Christian fundamentalism.

What is a Christian Fundamentalist

Lets use our brains people.  To call this man “Christian” at all is a complete misnomer.  No one who truly follows Jesus could misconstrue “turn the other cheek” to “go shoot all the politically liberal teenagers you can find.”

In similar news, have you heard about what Glenn Beck said?  I groan any time I hear someone ask that. For some reason, people think that Glenn Beck speaks for American evangelicals (which is really strange, because he is not an evangelical Christian – he is Mormon).  I’m not sure if this was yesterday or today, but Glenn Beck compared the victims of the shooting to the Hitler Youth.

Glenn Beck and Nazi Comparisons?Glenn Beck should be ashamed of himself.  This is one of the most ridiculous comparisons he has ever made.  First, shame on him for saying something so derogatory about the recently murdered (he should apologize to their families).  Second, it’s just an awful comparison.  Apparently, Mr. Beck thinks that the Hitler Youth were the only political youth group of any consequence to ever have existed.  He needs to read more history before he makes such comparisons.  Not to mention that this was a center-left political party – not a far-right party like the National Socialists. Third, if he was going to make Nazi comparisons to anyone, it should have been the shooter.  Breivek epitomizes much of what was so evil about National Socialism: a vitriolic xenophobia, far-far-right politics, violence perpetrated against political opponents, and the murder of children.

Glenn Beck must apologize to the families of the victims, and he must go read a history book (or eight).  The rest of us should pray for those still in the hospital and for the families of those who were lost.  My prayers are with all the families affected, and I hope Breivek faces the full extent of justice.

Until later friends…

On Friday I posted a short post about the new Harry Potter film featuring an artistic rendering of my patronus.  I have not yet been able to see the movie.  We spent all weekend studying for the GRE, which went really well (although I can’t blog about it or its contents for fear of losing my soul based on all the things I had to sign before I took the test). After the GRE, Jen had her wisdom teeth removed – all four of ’em.  She is still recovering, but is doing much better today.  We have made a double-date with some friends of ours to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 on Thursday, and I am pumped.

I am very excited about this movie.  I resisted the Harry Potter craze as long as possible.  The first book came out when I was in middle school, and I can recall some lady at one of those traveling book fairs waxing eloquently about how it was such a great book blah, blah, blah.  I was a burgeoning teenager in no need of more childish literature involving magic and wizadry.  I ignored Harry Potter.  By the time I was in high school, Harry Potter was a full-blown phenomenon.  I, however, was a Tolkien fan.  I rigidly stood against the Harry Potter series as a childish challenger to the great Tolkien and Middle Earth.  Plus, I was (and am) a devout evangelical, and many people in my circles of influence saw the “sorcery” of Harry Potter as suspect at best.

Harry Potter Conjuring EvilIn college I had a whole heap of friends that geeked out over Harry Potter.  I watched half of one of the films with some of them on a trip, and although interesting, I did not get hooked.  To me it simply was not nearly as epic as Middle Earth (and I use the term epic intentionally as a literary term, not like all these half-ignorant teenagers that constantly spout “epic fail”).  This all changed once I got married.  My wife liked all the Harry Potter films, but had never read the books.  She asked me to watch the films with her before Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came to theaters.  I agreed, and I enjoyed the films this go around.  I enjoyed each film more as the plot took on darker and more adult themes (and I mean adult in the common sense of the word, not in the perverted sense employed by the moral Cretans that run “adult bookstores”).

Being the book-nerd that I am, I decided that we had to read all of the books before the next film was released.  Being a seminary student, I really did not have much time to read for pleasure.  So, we borrowed the audio books from the Louisville Public Library in order to listen on trips to Tennessee.  We loved listening to these readings by Jim Dale (although i will forever hate his rendition of “Weasley is our king”).

Order of the Phoenix Audio Book Jim DaleWe completed the series shortly before the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 was released, and we greatly enjoyed the entire experience.  This series is spectacularly written (although I do still prefer Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings).   I have no qualms about being a Christian and enjoying this series of books and films centered on wizadry.  In the midst of going through the books and watching the films, I have never once thought, “I should look into practicing magic myself.”  Some people may think that, but they are already mentally unhinged.  Some of the fears that some Christians have about the popularization of magic may have some merit, but the fact that the vast majority of the anti-Potterites also love the Narnia series or Tolkien is hypocritical.

Harry Potter is not a Christian series.  It does not have a hidden allegory of the gospel.  But like all good literature, it bears marks of common grace.  Virtue is lauded, although one will not find a perfect character in the series.  Self-sacrifice and love are also lauded, and to quote Jesus – and Bagheera from Disney’s Jungle Book – “Greater love has none than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  For these reasons, and many more, I heartily recommend the Harry Potter series to anyone.  I also recommend that you read this great post from Christian songwriter Andrew Peterson on reading Harry Potter as a Christian, it is the best I have read yet.

Andrew Peterson and Harry PotterSo, if you haven’t already. Go read the series, or at least watch the films.  You will enjoy them, and if you don’t, it is very likely that you are uncultured.

Until later friends…

Related Articles

I didn’t feel like writing a long post today, but I figure a short one is better than nothing.  So, not feeling especially motivated, I perused Wikipedia’s note for May 10.  I discovered that today is Karl Barth‘s birthday. So, Happy Birthday Karl!

Karl Barth is one of the top five most influential theologians of the past two centuries.  When I was first exposed to Barth, all I was told about was his view of biblical inspiration (which I do not agree with).  With more reading, however, I found that there are many great things in his writings.  Even if we differ substantially on some points of theology, I respect the man deeply.  Karl Barth was the main architect of the Barmen Declaration, which stands as the most important document produced by the German churches under Hitler.  Barth was courageous, and he was unflinching in his resistance to Hitler and the heretical Deutsche Christen.  For that reason, Barth remains one of my heroes.

Recently Hendrickson began publishing Barth’s Dogmatics for just over $100.  This is a steal compared to the $400-$500 that these have historically cost.  One day I would like to get these, but right now they would only serve to collect dust and look good beside the Complete Sermons of Martin Luther that I have never gotten around to reading.

Until later friends…

For More Reading on Barth and the German Churches

Today is Good Friday.  It seems like a misnomer in some ways.  Were you there on that Friday, you probably would not have thought anything was good. Jesus‘ own people demanded his crucifixion and the pardon of a insurrectionist.  Pilate, the Roman ruler of the people, washed his hands of the situation and sent Jesus to his death.

Jesus was beaten and bloodied.  He was completely mutilated.  Jesus was nailed to two pieces of wood through his wrists and feet.  He struggled for breath as pain pulsed through every nerve in his body. Darkness fell over the land.  Echoing Psalm 22,  Jesus called out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”  The earth quaked.  And the curtain in the temple that separated the people from the Holy of Holies was ripped into two.  Mankind had killed God the Son.

This day was awful, but we can still call it Good Friday.  It is good, because this was no accident.  Yes, Man killed God the Son.  But Jesus gave his life willingly.  He was the shepherd laying down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).  Jesus bore on himself the sins of the world.  Mankind was a debtor to sin and the price was death.  Jesus canceled the record of debt on the cross (Col. 2:13-15).  This was humanity’s darkest day, but it also brought about humanity’s greatest hope.

Rouault Crucifixion

(Note: Christians have often been accused – and many times, with good reason – of being anti-Semitic.  The crucifixion account is not anti-Semitic.  It is anti-human.  It shows that all people (Jew and Gentile) are sinful, and given the chance to follow the incarnate God, we killed him.  My sin and your sin are equal causes of the death of Christ.  Hence, the name of this post.)

Until later friends…

The Last Supper

Today is Maundy Thursday.  Today Christians commemorate Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper.  We also remember Jesus’  high priestly prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.   He began this prayer as follows:

1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the onlytrue God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.5And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glorythat I had with you before the world existed.

John 17:1-5

Rouault Jesus Praying

Christ knew the pain and horror that awaited him the next day, but “for the joy set before him [he] endured the cross, despising the shame, and [he] is seated at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Until later friends…

I’m excited about my community group meeting tonight (my community group is a group of 9 people from my church that gets together weekly to hang out, talk about life, and talk about a book we’re reading).  We started the group a couple months ago by reading the Didache (which you can read for free online here).  We are now reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s Life TogetherLife Together is one of my favorite books, from one of my favorite authors.

I first got interested in Bonhoeffer my freshman year of college when I read The Cost of Discipleship.  Then, Jen took a Bonhoeffer Seminar class during her final year at Union University.  Because of this class, both our interest in (and our collection of) Bonhoeffer’s works grew.  I am really excited to read Life Together together with friends.  If you have never read Bonhoeffer before, I think Life Together is a great place to start.  It is a little book, but it is jammed with great thoughts.  After that, I would recommend The Cost of Discipleship.  If you are still interested after this, I would recommend Eberhard Bethge’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (I haven’t read any of Metaxas’ biography and based on the significant amount of debate around it, I think it safer to recommend Bethge’s of which I have read large portions).  After having read all of this Bonhoeffer, I recommend moving on to his Letters and Papers from Prison.  These are best understood in light of the context of his life, and there are some real gems.

That’s all for now. Go read some Bonhoeffer.  Until later friends…

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