Free Jerry Bridges E-Book

Amazon is giving away free downloads of Jerry Bridges’ new book, True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia (NavPress 2012). The free download is a kindle edition, but you can read it on your PC or tablet with amazon’s free software. Here’s what the back cover has to say:

Fellowship among believers is more than just talking over coffee after church service. Biblical fellowship in New Testament times—or koinonia—had rich and varied meanings, including covenant relationship, partnership in the gospel, communion with God and others, and the sharing of earthly possessions.

In True Community, best-selling author Jerry Bridges (The Pursuit of Holiness, Respectable Sins, Trusting God) explores koinonia and the practical implications it has for today’s church. With discussion questions at the end of each chapter, this book will help you dig deeper into what Christian community in the twenty-first century should look like. You will come away with a new appreciation for fellowship, the church, and what God intended the body of Christ to be.

I haven’t read my copy yet, but I expect it to be an interesting and edifying read. Get yours while it’s free.

 

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Free Martin Luther Audiobook

In honor of Reformation Day, Christian Audio is giving away free downloads of Martin Luther: In His Own Words. This free offer will be available until October 31st.

The audio book is a short (2.75 hrs) collection of Martin Luther’s writings. Included are some of his most significant works such as the Small Catechism, 95 Theses, On Faith and Coming to Christ, On Confession and the Lord’s Supper, Of the Office of Preaching, Excerpt from Luther’s Tower Experience, and the Last Written Words of Luther.

If you have never read these works, it would be well worth your time to pick up this free download and listen to it in your car this week. Perhaps it will give you an occasion to start an evangelistic conversation on this year’s Reformation Day, October 31st.

How to Buy Children’s Books

Children’s books can be expensive, and many are age appropriate for only a few years. If you want shelves full of brand-new books for your children to read, you had better be ready to spend some serious dough. Many parents decide to buy children’s books used because–as with children’s clothes–they are quickly outgrown. Unfortunately, even when bought used, children’s books can still be expensive.

Erasmus said, “When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.” Hopefully, these tips will ensure you always have enough money to buy your kids books…and food.

1. Find Bulk Deals on Books

While you can get great deals on books at thrift stores and yard sales, you can get even better deals if you buy in bulk. See a box of gently used children’s books at a yard sale? Instead of picking out a few at fifty cents apiece, offer them five dollars for the box. Check with your local library to see when they have their annual book sale. Often you can fill up a whole bag for a few bucks. Also check thrift stores in your area or when traveling. Many will offer bag deals that will allow you to get as many books as you can fit in a plastic grocery bag for $3-7 dollars. Even if such a deal isn’t posted, ask if they ever hold such a sale.

2. Buy Books to Use and Trade

So you’ve found a bag sale. Make the most of it. Start with getting your bag. Not all bags are created equal. If the sale has a box of bags for you to serve yourself, take a couple seconds (not minutes) to look through the box. Plastic bags from restaurants and clothing stores are bigger. If the sale offers you a large paper bag for a couple bucks more, the paper is usually a much better deal. Grab two bags and start filling.

There are a lot of great children’s books out there. You can afford to be picky. However, at a bag sale, it is unlikely that you will be able to fill your bag with books you want. I rarely find more than five books I want to keep. So what to do with the rest of the space in your bag? Buy books that other people will want.

Start with the children’s section because that’s what you came there for anyway. Look for anything in reasonably good condition by Disney, Boynton, Carle, Curious George, Beginner Books (Cat in the Hat logo on spine), or anything with a Movie/TV connection. Look also for board books in good condition, especially if they have some unusual (and undamaged) feature.

Skip the young adult for the time being and head for the paperbacks. Fiction works tend to hold their value better in paperback than in hardcover. Look for popular authors. Trade paperbacks are more valuable. Romance novels are generally worthless unless they are about Amish people (I don’t know why, but there seems to be a big market for them. Personally, however, I avoid romance entirely). If an author is super-popular like John Grisham, get only his most recent stuff and perhaps some older stuff if they have new covers. Never buy books with clipped corners or stamped “not for resale” as a bookstore probably gave them away for free at some point.

In the hardcovers, don’t buy anything without a dust jacket in reasonably good shape. Also, don’t buy anything that is a book club edition. These editions are slightly smaller and virtually worthless (however, some authors like Nicholas Sparks write shorter works that are always published in this size). As a general rule, never buy a book that was withdrawn from library circulation (contrary to popular opinion, library sales are usually comprised mostly of donated books rather than withdrawn books). Nonfiction hardcovers will generally be your most valuable finds, but there’s a fickle art to picking out the right ones.

Young adult books tend not to hold much value. However, you might consider picking up books with Movie/TV connections and popular series like Choose Your Own Adventure, Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and Hardy Boys. Remember that your child will one day be old enough for these, so you might want to keep some.

Remember I said to pick up two bags? Once both bags are loosely filled. Take out all the books and stack them according to their size. Place the two largest stacks in the bag and fill in around the sides. Stretch the bag to its limit and then double bag. Believe me, you can fit an amazing number of books in a single bag.

3. Trade the Books You Don’t Want

Take your unwanted books to a used bookstore. Since most towns have more than one, go to the one with the nicest selection first. They probably won’t take all the books you bring them. Take the rejected ones to the next nicest etc.

This year I’ve bought four bags of books at a cost of $16 (two for $3 each, two for $5 each). In the four bags, I got about twenty books I wanted (at less than a dollar per book). In addition, I got about $100 worth of trade credit at local bookstores.

Of course, most towns also have well stocked public library, but a personal children’s library can be a great help in teaching your children to love reading.

Have any tips for buying books or reading to your children? Let me know!

Cardboard Bicycles

An Israeli inventor has figured out how to make a bicycle almost entirely out of cardboard. The cardboard bike will enter mass production in a couple months and will retail for about $20. The bicycle weighs 20 pounds, costs between $9-12 to build, and can hold riders weighing as much as 485 pounds. It is coated with a super secret chemical that will make it both waterproof and fireproof. The bike is perfect for urban areas with high crime rates. Who is going to steal a dorky-looking cardboard bike that’s only worth twenty bucks brand new?

Ten Things I Learned While Reading to My Child

Reading children’s books can at times be a mind-numbing experience. I always have mixed emotions when we finish a book and my daughter says, “Read it again, Daddy!” On the one hand, I’m glad she loves books. On the other hand, I can quote most of her favorites, and I’m not always up for another recitation.

Besides entertaining myself by developing unique voices for each of the characters, I have found a number of interesting facts in my daughter’s books. Here are ten.

  1. A very hungry caterpillar can eat through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon all in one day. No wonder that night he had a stomachache!
  2. Bambi apparently mated with his first cousin, as Faline’s mother was his aunt Ena. It’s not that big of a deal for deer, but it could have been left out of a children’s story.
  3. Micky mouse has two nephews named Morty and Ferdie. It seems like Disney has a lot of Uncle-Nephew relationships in their tales. I don’t know why.
  4. The Cat in the Hat apparently managed to get a toy boat out of a cake and somehow at least fixed the icing so mother wouldn’t notice when she got home.
  5. When puppies walk in a row, that’s a puppy parade! I’ve never seen puppies walk in a row. Maybe I just don’t get out much.
  6. Dragons sing very badly, but they can hum. Humming is like singing. It can also come in handy if a dragon gets trapped inside a tree (remember that dragons spit fire when they shout and fire burns trees).
  7. Some brown bears, red birds, yellow ducks, blue horses, green frogs, purple cats, white dogs, black sheep, and goldfish can see in color. However, they can also talk so I’m not sure why one would be surprised by their visual abilities
  8. Doggies can say, “Woof!, Yap Yap Yap!, …nnn…nnn…nnn…, Rruff ruff, ArROOFF arROOFF!, BARKBARKBARK!, GRRRRR, and ARF ARF!” Children love hearing their parents imitate all these variations over and over. Thank you Sandra Boynton.
  9. The Cat in the Hat keeps 26 little cats and Voom in his hat. Don’t ask me what Voom is. I never will know. But, boy! Let me tell you it does clean up snow!
  10. The very quiet cricket isn’t very quiet anymore after being read a hundred or so times. However, if you pinch the book’s spine just right as you read, you can keep him silent until the end.

The Forgery of Jesus’s Wife?

It’s looking more and more like the so-called Gospel of Jesus’s Wife is a forgery. Andrew Bernhard has discovered what appears to be evidence of a forger accidentally perpetuating a typo that first originated in an online edition of the Gospel of Thomas. His preliminary report is available at his website. More details are available here.

Even if the document isn’t a forgery, it is still wrought with problems. However, with so many key words like Mary, wife, and disciple all in an area smaller than a business card, the find does seem a little too good to be true for those trying to find evidence that Jesus was married. It seems that the scholarly community will soon reject it as a fraud.

Should Churches Pay Taxes?

The Inspiring Body of Christ Church in Dallas, TX, operates the world’s largest privately-owned aquarium. The tank, which cost $4.7 million to build, is stocked with over $100,000 worth of exotic fish. Also in Dallas (perhaps everything just really is bigger in Texas), First Baptist Church announced a $130 million renovation plan in 2009 for their downtown campus. Of course, they’re not alone. American churches generally spend a huge percentage of their budgets on buildings.

I’m not against church buildings. Churches can often minister more effectively with a nice campus. However, lavish building programs can also be counterproductive sometimes. I’ve been told by several pastors that their churches were cutting back on missions because they bit off more than they could chew in a building program.

Whenever a church spends a lot of money on its building, inevitably somebody starts complaining about churches not paying taxes. The argument goes, “Since churches have enough money to build something like that, they ought to have enough money to pay taxes.” One group of researchers recently estimated that the U.S. could raise $71 billion a year by taxing churches.

This argument is generally a thin cover for an anti-Christian rant. Those arguing that churches should pay taxes aren’t willing to see all non-profit organizations pay taxes. You want to build a $4.7 million aquarium for the community? Great, here’s your 501c3. You want to spend a $130 million on an educational center? Wonderful, don’t worry about taxes. You want to put them in a church? Better pay Uncle Sam your fair share.

If we are going to have freedom of religion in this country, we have to be willing to let churches spend money on whatever they want–even if we think their choices to be wasteful. Should we start making churches pay taxes? I’m actually fine with that…just as long as every other nonprofit organization is taxed on an equal basis.