Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Greatest Love

"If you only hope for unconditional love from God, your hope is great, but too small. Unconditional love from God is not the sweetest experience of his love. The sweetest experience is when his love says:

"I have made you so much like my Son that I delight to see you and be with you. You are a pleasure to me, because you are so radiant with my glory.""
-John Piper

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pursuit of excellence

How has God's divine power "granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:3)? We have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness "through the knowledge of him who called us to [or by] his own glory and excellence,: that is, God in and through Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:3; cf. 1:2). Let that sink in for a moment. It is not by reading self-help books, or by meditating on quotes by famous people-whether Confucius, or Buddha, or Mahatma Gandhi-that we are equipped for achieving excellence. God has supplied us with all that we need to attain excellence through our knowledge of God in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is God in Jesus Christ who called us by (or to) his own glory and excellence. Thus, not only is God characterized by excellence, but so is Jesus Christ. Our pursuit of excellence must, therefore, not only be theologically oriented and fueled by some vague belief in God; it must be christological in nature, that is, grounded in Christian discipleship, in active, committed followership of the Lord Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives in this world.

(Köstenberger, Andreas J. Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Print. 51)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Convictional intelligence

We get a lot of multiple intelligences teaching strategies in our professional development for teaching. However, Mohler's book is the first time I came across the idea of convictional intelligence. Mohler defines convictional intelligence as "the product of learning the Christian faith, diving deeply into biblical truth, and discovering how to think like a Christian" (Mohler, R. Albert. The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2012. Print. 31).

He continues,

Recently, moral catastrophes and scandals on Wall Street and elsewhere in the world of business and government produced calls for the development of moral or ethical intelligence in leaders. Business schools have been rushing to add courses on ethical business behaviors and practices. The reason is simple – financial intelligence will wreck itself without moral intelligence and the guidance of ethical reasoning.

Now, in terms of Christian leadership, all of these insights from the concept of multiple intelligences are helpful, but Christian leaders must develop and operate out of an additional intelligence – convictional intelligence. Leaders without emotional intelligence cannot lead effectively because they cannot connect with the people they're trying to lead. Leaders lacking ethical intelligence will lead people into a catastrophe. But leaders without convictional intelligence will fail to lead faithfully, and that is a disaster for Christian leaders.

Monday, January 28, 2013

True Christianity is a fight!

My favourite quote from the movie Braveheart:

Stephen: Fine speech. Now what do we do?
Wallace: Just be yourselves.
Hamish: Where are you going?
Wallace: I'm going to pick a fight.
Hamish: Well, we didn't get dressed up for nothing.

Now that we have our minds on fighting:
But what do we do when we don't feel joyful? Do we resign ourselves to disobedience? Should we abandon following Jesus? Not at all! We fight the good fight of faith. It is good to fight for belief in the Gospel. We fight for faith to believe that obedience to Jesus is better than disobedience. Religious affection is an expression of faith in the Gospel, but it does not constitute the whole of faith. Faith also includes trusting God when we don't desire him. It is this faith that fights to follow Jesus, even when we don't feel like it. We were recreated in Christ not to run emotional power but spiritual power-the filling of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Spirit comes to life when we trust in his Word. (Dodson, Jonathan K. Gospel-centered Discipleship. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print.80)
I love this quote by Dodson. I love his reaction to trials and difficulties and joy being robbed: fight the fight of faith. Following hard after Christ  is not going to be easy. But we need to resist cynicism and pessimism and be willing to put some effort into our walk with God. Consider this excerpt by Dodson in light of another excerpt from J. C. Ryle's classic on sanctification called Holiness:
The first thing I have to say is this: True Christianity is a fight. True Christianity! Let us mind that word “true.” There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. It passes muster; it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money. It is not the real thing which was called Christianity eighteen hundred years ago. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday, and call themselves Christians. Their names are in the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage service. They mean to be buried as Christians when they die. But you never see any “fight” about their religion! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict, and self-denial, and watching, and warring, they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His Apostles preached. It is not the religion which produces real holiness. True Christianity is “a fight.”

Friday, January 25, 2013

Our God

"O Christians, God is so yours in Christ, and so yours by covenant, and so yours by promise, and so yours by purchase, and so yours by conquest, and so yours by marriage union and communion, and so yours by the earnest of the Spirit, and so yours by the feelings and witnesses of the Spirit, that no power on earth can ever pilfer your portion or cheat, or rob you of your portion."

Thomas Brooks

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Twenty-two Tweets on Sin from HOLINESS by J. C. Ryle

Here are 22 tweets (140 characters or less) from the chapter on sin in J. C. Ryle's classic work on sanctification, Holiness:

  1. Wrong views about holiness are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption
  2. The plain truth is that a right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity.
  3. Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies, and false doctrines of the present day.
  4. Sin…is that vast moral disease which affects the whole human race, of every rank, and class, and name, and nation, and people, and tongue…
  5. … “a sin,”…consists in doing, saying, thinking, or imagining, anything that is not in perfect conformity with the mind and law of God.
  6. The slightest outward or inward departure from absolute mathematical parallelism with God’s revealed will and character constitutes a sin…
  7. …when we make our own miserably imperfect knowledge and consciousness the measure of our sinfulness, we are on very dangerous ground.
  8. …the sinfulness of man does not begin from without, but from within.
  9. The fairest babe … is not, as its mother perhaps fondly calls it, a little “angel,” or a little “innocent,” but a little “sinner.”
  10. Sin is a disease which pervades and runs through every part of our moral constitution and every faculty of our minds.
  11. Mighty indeed must that foe be who even when crucified is still alive!
  12. I do not think…that mortal man can at all realize the exceeding sinfulness of sin in the sight of that holy and perfect One.
  13. Terribly black must that guilt be for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction.
  14. I fear we do not sufficiently realize the extreme subtlety of our soul’s disease.
  15. Oh, no! sin comes to us, like Judas, with a kiss; and like Joab, with an outstretched hand and flattering words.
  16. Sin rarely seems sin at first beginnings.
  17. What a mass of infirmity and imperfection cleaves to the very best of us at our very best!
  18. There is a remedy revealed for man’s need, as wide and broad and deep as man’s disease.
  19. …in all this, I say, there is a full, perfect, and complete medicine for the hideous disease of sin.
  20. Awful and tremendous as the right view of sin undoubtedly is, no one need faint and despair if he will take a right view of Jesus Christ…
  21. Those whom the Spirit draws to Jesus are those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin.
  22. …a Scriptural view of sin is one of the best antidotes to the extravagantly broad and liberal theology…

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I had the opportunity to write an article for Gospel Centered Discipleship's website. Here is an excerpt:
I may have been taping my wrists, or perhaps I was adjusting my game-socks so the proper amount of white showed below my knees. Though I do not remember exactly what I was doing, I do recall I was sitting at my locker preparing to take the field for a football game as a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. This was my rookie season in the Canadian Football League and I was about to learn a valuable lesson.

Mike Kerrigan, a Northwestern football alumnus and one-time New England Patriot quarterback, strode confidently into the locker room. He was not only announcing to the Christian athletes that the pre-game chapel was starting, but he was also doing his best to encourage the non-Christian players to participate in our weekly ritual.

Mike approached my locker and reminded me of the chapel that was about to start. Then he looked at the man in the locker beside me. “Dale, you coming to chapel today?” he asked. Our starting offensive center, a product of Tennessee’s football program, looked up from adjusting his knee braces with a mischievous grin. “What does Jesus have to do with hitting, slapping, punching, pain, blood, sweat, and tears?” he replied half-serious, half-joking.

Kerrigan’s profound response was, for me, unforgettable. It is etched in my memory and I have found myself replaying this veteran quaterback’s reply many times over the ensuing 14 years of my professional football career and beyond. With complete seriousness, and with a passion that indicated the gravity of his words, Mike said, “Jesus knows more about hitting, slapping, punching, pain, blood, sweat, and tears than you or I ever will.”
Read the rest of the article here: Similitudes

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Gospels are not video recordings

Vern S. Poythress, in his book on harmonization of the Gospels entitled Inerrancy and the Gospels, brings to light that we can become unreasonable in our expectations of the information available in the Gospels. He discusses our desire to get a report of events that would approach equating truth to a video-recording-like narrative of the proceedings of different events. He writes,
If we push expectations far enough in this direction, we might call the results a "video-recording" concept of truth. A "true" narrative, according to this theory, produces a mental picture equivalent to a video recording of the entire episode.

But this conception is unworkable. A literal video recording of reasonable quality provides massive details about colors, textures, shapes, and positions of every person and object in a scene, all of the motions of the various persons and objects, and all the sound audible within the scene (including, for example, the sound of a dog barking in a neighboring yard). Verbal communication does not equal a video recording. Verbal communication is "sparse." It does not mention all the colors or all the positions of all the persons and objects. Typically, it does not mention all the bystanders in a scene. Were some of the apostles present when the centurion sent elders? Which ones? What were the expressions on their faces? We simply do not know. In our mental picture we may, if we wish, begin to fill out in our imagination many of these details. But neither Matthew nor Luke gives us massive details. Even if they did, they would still fall short of a video recording. (49)
If we bring unreasonable expectations to bear on the Gospel accounts, such as a desire for an almost exhaustive description of events, we are sure to be disappointed. Let's remind ourselves as we read the Bible that the accounts given in the four Gospels are just that, accounts. They are not video recordings.

Monday, January 21, 2013

No Guarantee

"Pray, meditate, hear, read, do your best, and expect his blessing. Though your ploughing and sowing will not give a harvest without the sun, and rain, and the blessing of God, yet the sun and rain will not bring a crop unless you plough and plant."

-Richard Baxter

Helpers on their way to glory

In Lecture V of Charity and Its Fruits by Jonathan Edwards, the author discusses the outworking of charity in our relationships with one another. Charity, the author claims, disposes us to good to others. And of the ways in which we can do good to our fellow men, "Persons may do good to the souls of others, which is the most excellent way of doing good." With that in mind, consider the following excerpt (line breaks mine):
Saints, too, may be the instruments of 
comforting and establishing one another,
and of strengthening one another in faith and obedience;
of quickening,
and animating,
and edifying one another;
of raising one another out of dull and dead frames,
and helping one another out of temptations,
and onward in the divine life;
of directing one another in doubtful and difficult cases;
of encouraging one another under darkness or trial;
of promoting each other's spiritual joy and strength,
and thus being mutually fellow helpers on their way to glory.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Freedon from judgment, not obedience

Some thoughts from Jonathan Dodson on spiritual license:
Liberated Christians boast a spiritual license that says they are not bound to rules. This license may be expressed by drinking too much, watching inappropriate films, or refraining from Bible reading, all in the name of spiritual freedom. The subtle assumption here is that true freedom comes from the ability to not keep rules. However, when freedom is constructed against rules, it is a false sense of freedom. The lie of spiritual license is a partially true. Because of the costly death of Christ, forgiveness has been purchased for our disobedience. Because judgment has fallen on Christ for our sin, we are free, but not as we might think. God's forgiveness frees us from judgment, not from obedience.
(Dodson, Jonathan K. Gospel-centered Discipleship. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. Print. 72)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Whenever He decides to hold it

From All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy:

You think there’ll be a day when the sun wont rise?

Yeah, said John Grady. Judgment day.

When you think that’ll be?

Whenever He decides to hold it.

Cormac McCarthy, author of The Road, Blood Meridian and No Country For Old Men, is a writer that I enjoy to read. His style is interesting; minimal punctuation coupled with brilliant vivid description and poignant dialogue. He has written 10 novels which have variously several awards and prizes.

Of his ten novels, I have read five: The Road, Blood Meridian, All The Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain. Throughout these novels, as in the quote above, McCarthy uses various characters to suggest that behind all the events of history, often chaotic and full of despair in his novels, there stands a sovereign God. I have no reason to believe that McCarthy us a Christian, but this theme of a sovereign God is one of the unifying threads of the books of his that I have consumed.

In the quote above, the protagonist John Grady Cole recognizes two aspects of God's sovereignty. First, he hints at a sovereign God by suggesting there will be a judgment. There will be a reckoning. And who else could call all people to account except One who is sovereign over all people and all things. Second, the character emphasizes this point by indicating the Judgment Day will occur when God decides it will occur. God is sovereign over time, present, future, and history.

In the novels of McCarthy that I have read, the author promotes through his characters some type of meticulous, divine sovereignty that also entails humans with free will who are held responsible for their choices. This, in my opinion, is closer to the truth than views espoused by many Christians.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Oliphint suggests the premier challenge to Christianity

This is an interesting excerpt by Oliphint and we should heed what he says. Our response should be to have some answers to this premier challenge for the defense of the Gospel and the promulgation of the Gospel.

Perhaps nowhere in philosophical discussions is the need for a specifically Christian philosophy more evident than in discussions that have to do with the assumed incompatibility between existence of the triune God and the existence of evil in this world. The challenge that comes to Christianity, in light of this incompatibility, must be taken with all seriousness and addressed. This, it seems to me, is the apologetic task in excelsus; it is the premier challenge to Christianity. It is a challenge that comes most often from those wanting to show Christianity to be false. It is a challenge that, at least prima facie, takes seriously much of what we believe about God and much of what we experience in this world. A response to this challenge, therefore, cannot be set aside; it must be careful and biblical. (Oliphint, K. Scott. Reasons [for Faith]: Philosophy in the Service of Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., 2006. Print. 262)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Twenty tweets on reading from The Conviction to Lead

I am thoroughly enjoying, and being edified by, reading The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler. Here are twenty tweets (140 characters or less) from the chapter on reading entitled Leaders Are Readers: When You Find a Leader, You Find a Reader, and for Good Reason:
  1. ...there is no substitute for effective reading when it come to developing and maintaining the intelligence necessary to lead.
  2. Leading by conviction demands an even deeper commitment to reading and the mental disciplines that effective reading establishes.
  3. The leader learns to invest deeply in reading as a discipline for for critical thinking.
  4. Reading is like any other skill-most people are satisfied to operate at a low level.
  5. Develop you own rules and habits for reading, and don't worry about what some teacher told you tears ago.
  6. Reading is much more effective if the reader knows where the book is headed.
  7. If you find a book is not contributing to your life and leadership, set it aside.
  8. Think of reading as a silent but intensive conversation.
  9. Treat the book as a notepad with printed words. In other words, write in your books.
  10. The activity of marking your books adds tremendously to the value of your reading and to your retention of its contents and your thinking.
  11. Think of reading like you think of eating. In other words, pay attention to your diet.
  12. Should leaders read fiction? This is where many leaders admit uncertainty, but the answer is surely yes.
  13. Leaders need to read fiction for enjoyment, for learning, and for context.
  14. Leaders are ravenous consumers of historical biographies.
  15. There will never be enough time to read all you want to read, or even all you think you ought to read. Just keep reading.
  16. set aside segments of time devoted to reading and grab every spare minute you can find.
  17. I have found it helpful to plan reading projects.
  18. For some years now we have been warned that the book, specifically the printed book, is soon to be extinct. Don't believe it.
  19. ...the arrival of digital reading devices should be celebrated for what they can add to a leader's reading.
  20. Those who would lead with conviction must read with conviction.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Ware on Phil. 2:5-7 and the kenosis

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5-7 ESV)

Bruce Ware, in his excellent book on the humanity of Christ called The Man Christ Jesus, comments on Paul's writing above:
 ...he cannot mean that Christ gave up equality with God or that he ceased being fully God. Since he is fully God he cannot cease to be fully God. God is eternal, self-existent, immortal, and immutable, and thus he cannot cease to exist as God, nor can he fail to be fully God. Surely what Paul means is this: Christ being fully God, possessing the very nature of God and being fully equal to God in every respect, did not thereby insist on holding onto all the privileges and benefits of his position of equality with God (the Father) and thereby refuse to accept coming as a man. He did not clutch or grasp his place of equality with the Father and all that this brought to him in such a way that he would refuse the condescension and humiliation of the servant role he was being called to accept ... it is crucial to see that Christ's "not grasping" equality with God cannot rightly be taken to mean that Christ gave up being God or became in any way less than fully God when he took on also a fully human nature. (18-9)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Resentment and unforgiveness

This quote from Jonathan Edwards' classic Charity and Its Fruits was painful to read the first time and is equally so in writing this post. I am easily to take offense because I think much of myself. I know there are people out there who might think too disparagingly of themselves, but I'm not one of them. My own estimation of myself rarely displays humility, but often evidences pride. Thus, I am oft-offended and slow to forgive. Consider:
A humble spirit disinclines us to indulge resentment of injuries, for he that is little and unworthy in his own eyes, will not think so much of an injury offered to him as he that has high thoughts of himself. For it is deemed a greater and higher enormity to offend one that is great and high, than one that is mean and vile. It is pride or self-conceit that is very much the foundation of a high and bitter resentment, and of an unforgiving and revengeful spirit. (79)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Differences in the Gospels

From Inerrancy and the Gospels: A God-Centered Approach to the Challenges of Harmonization:
The Gospels are intrinsically in harmony, but also complimentary. No one Gospel says everything that could be said. Each one is completely true in what it presents about Christ and his life. If we had access to only one Gospel out of the four, it would give us knowledge of God in Christ, and we would be saved by trusting in Christ  as he is presented in that Gospel. We would have true knowledge. But it would not be all the knowledge we could ever have. We learn more when we read a second Gospel because it brings out aspects of Christ that were not so much in the foreground in the first. The four Gospels together give us greater riches than any one alone. They harmonize in a symphony rather than giving a unison performance. This symphonic harmony agrees magnificently with the very character of God who is magnificently rich, and with the character of Christ, who reveals God to us in his fullness. The richness in inexhaustible. The differences among the Gospels make known the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10). (36)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Excellence and the pursuit of virtue

Andreas J. Kostenberger on excellence through the pursuit of virtue:
(1) Who are we? We are a people of faith who have been given all that we need for living a godly life and have been called to (or by) God's own glory and excellence. In this way, we participate in what God is doing in the world (2 Peter 1:1-4). (2) What ought we to become? The persons we ought to become stand in direct continuity with who we already are . . . The goal is progressive transformation into Christlikeness. (3) How do we get there? We achieve God's purpose for our lives by making every effort to add to our faith the virtues that will make us more and more completely the people God has called us to be. (Köstenberger, Andreas J. Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Print. 47)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Performance and Perfection

From Gospel-Centered Discipleship:
Whenever we replace Jesus with another lord, we displace the gospel from the center of our discipleship. We substitute Jesus's perfect performance for our imperfect performance, which will always fail.  The gospel reminds us that our approval before God rests, not on our performance but on the performance of Jesus in his perfect life, death, and resurrection. Religious performance deceives us by saying: "Impress God and he will approve of you." The truth of the goepl, however, says: "You don't have to impress God because Jesus has impressed him for you." (71)

Substitution in the atonement as understood by evangelicals is a beautiful doctrine. But when the substitution you're practicing is one in which you substitute your good works in place of Christ's, to quote the younger generation, "you're doing it wrong."

Substitution in the proper sense is necessary precisely because our own good works are not sufficient to assuage God's wrath and make him pleased with us. Thus, Christ became sin for us and suffered the penalty due us, that we might be reconciled to God. Our sin was imputed to him; his righteousness was imputed to us.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Book Review – The Man Christ Jesus

Tension is characteristic of the Christian faith. It doesn’t take long to realize that the Christian’s pilgrimage is one fraught with various positions, ideas, and beliefs that appear to be contradictory and yet are convictions we must hold. We experience an “already-not yet” redemption in which we are saved and yet await a final salvation. Our God is three and our God is one. God is sovereign and we have free will. And the list goes on. Author and professor Bruce A. Ware deals with one of seemingly contradictory doctrines held by Christians in his book The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ. Ware addresses the clear biblical fact that our Savior is fully God and fully human. He does so in a manner that clarifies how we ought to think about many of the apparent contradictions. His approach is one of worshipful study of Christ that leads the reader to join him in adoration. And the format of the book lends itself to both individual and group study.

In a relatively short and thus accessible book, only 156 pages, Ware engages with many difficult issues related to the united divine and human natures in the son of Mary who was also the Son of the Most High. Ware presents and satisfactorily addresses the following questions: How could two natures-the divine and the human-coexist? How could one who was divine be truly human? Was Christ able to live a perfect and sinless life of obedience because he was God or did he accomplish this as a human? How should one think about Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, increasing in wisdom and growing in faith? Did Christ really experience temptation as humans do? Was it necessary for Christ to be male? How is Christ’s humanity related to the atonement? These questions, and many others, are answered in a way that is understandable and awe inspiring. The author regularly uses helpful illustrations to support his points, some of which I have already shared with others who have also found them edifying. I was very impressed with the amount of ground this book covers and the teaching that it delivers on some very tough questions.

Ware states that he longs for “Jesus to be honoured through the reflections upon his humanity” (12) in The Man Christ Jesus. Having read the book, my guess is that his longing will be fulfilled as Christians read and digest this work. Ware regularly pauses in his explanations and answers to remind the reader of how certain aspects of Jesus’ humanity are glorious and praise-worthy. His consideration of difficulties and queries about Christ’s humanity do not terminate on the accumulating of knowledge but lead to adulation and adoration. For example, Ware grapples with how Jesus was tempted and concludes that his temptations were similar in every way to ours and the fact that as God he was impeccable (unable to sin) Jesus did not resist sin from his divinity but rather from his humanity. To this he writes, “For our sake and for our salvation, he steeled his heart to fight temptation as a man, in dependence on his Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Praise be to Jesus who, though tempted in every way as we are, never, ever sinned.” (85) This response-heartfelt worship-to theological truths encourages the reader to move from thinking in the head to adoring in the heart. Ware’s proclivity to pursue praise for Christ from doctrines about his humanity is a commendable characteristic of this book.

Finally, this book is very functional due to its format. Each chapter contains a section focused on application as well as a section of questions for further discussion. The application sections are wonderfully written and contain practical considerations that are pure gold. These support the reader by helping him to apply these significant spiritual truths to everyday life. These practical portions make the book helpful for personal study and growth. I am very glad that Ware included this aspect in his book. The questions for discussion that are positioned at the end of each chapter promote the benefit of this book as a resource for small groups. These questions help clarify the issues and ideas in each chapter and indicate what knowledge should be garnered. They lend themselves to a small group study and I intend to use them and this book for that purpose. Both individuals and groups will find the book’s format, sections for application and further study, beneficial for practical application.

This book was easily one of the top books I read this year. It was significant for its teaching on some difficult doctrines about Christ’s humanity. It elicited thoughtful exultation and worship of the great God-man who redeemed us. And it is a very functional book with a format that encourages practical application of its truths. I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top Books of 2012

Yesterday I posted my reading for the year 2012. Today I would like to share with you my top reads of 2012. I read many wonderful books last year, but I will select my best of the year from those titles published in 2012. Many of the older books are classic that would be on "must read" lists and their oldness, rather than taking away from them, are one of the things which makes them so wonderful; they have passed the test of time. However, three books published in 2012 rise above the rest in my estimation.

Tied for Top Spot

Two books I read this past year were edifying and enjoyable and enriching enough for me to suggest they were the best. But I cannot decide between the two. So I give you them both.

Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches

I have a review of the Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches here. It is an wonderful collection of 37 sermons on the book of Revelation and is written by Jim Hamilton. This book has many great qualities but there are two which are most significant in my estimation. First, the balanced and intelligent passion that Hamilton has for eschatology is evident on every page of this book, and it is infectious. It is clear that the author is excited about this book of the Bible and he manages to effectively transfer this affection to the reader in the pages of his book. And the main thing that this apocalyptic letter demonstrates, in the view of the author, is the magnificent and glorious all-sovereign God and the beauty of Christ his Son. Hamilton shows how these sometimes confusing passages demonstrate the glory and grace of our Savior and the all-powerful working of our God. Hamilton conveys these ideas and it follows that our affections for Christ are raised. The Christ-centered approach to this book is an endearing quality which is both edifying and enjoyable. Secondly, this book does a wonderful job of espousing the escatalogical position known as historic premillenialism. Hamilton explains difficult passages and clarifies confusing sections while humbly admitting that there is mystery present as well. His use of illustrations brings both clarity and cause for worship. Because of Hamilton's writing, I will never look at the canonical book of Revelation the same again.

The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections of the Humanity of Christ

I read this book in the last two weeks of the year. And right from the start it was obvious that it would be one of the best reads of the past 12 months. This relatively short book-156 pages-is overflowing with awe-inspiring reflections on the humanity of Christ. Author Bruce A. Ware delivers a book that encourages exultation of our wonderful Savior and also explains an evangelical position on some of the difficulties that appear when one considers the divine and human Jesus Christ.Ware explains how we should consider the suffering of Jesus; the growth of Jesus' faith, wisdom, and understanding; the taking on of a human nature; the manner of Christ's temptations to sin; and many other issues that Christians have struggled with. The Man Christ Jesus contains sections pertaining to the application of what has been discussed and these sections are gold. There are also many surprisingly helpful illustrations which I have already used in explaining the books ideas to others. This book would make a wonderful small group study with its topic and contents but the questions at the end of each chapter make it even more appealing as a small group resource. This book appropriately came to me at Christmas, when the incarnation of God's Son is already on our minds. It filled me with wonder about and worship for our Savior, the God-man Jesus Christ. I will be posting a full review of this book early in the new year.

A Very Close Second

Gospel-Centered Discipleship

I received Jonathan K. Dodson's book Gospel-Centered Discipleship as a gift and it has been the gift that keeps on giving throughout 2012. This book explains how a Christian's discipleship and growth in grace is anchored in the very same thing that brought him to salvation in the first place; the gospel. Dodson deftly describes how the gospel is of first importance in our coming to Christ and our staying in Christ. The gospel applies in a foundational way to how grace saved us and how grace keeps us and Dodson shows how we should think and act about our discipleship with this in mind. I found this book very helpful in integrating a Jesus-Cross-gospel centered approach to my daily sanctification. It builds on ideas of Christian hedonism as espoused by John Piper and clearly relies upon Jonathan Edwards as well. This excellent book was a welcome read in the past year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Reading for 2012

Happy New Year everyone. I hope your holidays have been enjoyable and that you have found some refreshment in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. I have not been blogging at all and I'm missing the mental engagement it requires. Hopefully I can pick things up in 2013.

My first post for the year will relate to the reading I did for 2012. I managed to read 55 books this past year. Though it is not about the numbers, I find that I need to challenge myself in my reading or I will slack off. I am happy with the amount I read this year and am gearing up for another year with my nose buried in books.

My reading for the year was somewhat planned and purposeful. Below you will see the list of books I read and underneath the list appears three areas of focus for my reading in 2012: fiction, the atonement, and the Bible.

I wanted to increase my fiction reading mainly because I am an English teacher and this is probably the best thing I can do for my personal development in my vocation. I have some interesting plans for fiction reading in 2013. I do want to note for you that though many of the books below are highly recommended by me and others, personally I cannot recommend Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov. Lolita is a book that makes many "best novel" lists and I decided to read it. It is a dark book that revolves around pedophilia. It is not graphic in details, but in my estimation, it has very little redeeming value.

I think the other two foci of my reading need no explanation. The Bible and the atonement are as foundational to the Christian walk as any topics.

Let this list be an encouragement to you to keep reading in 2013.

Reading for 2012
1. Atonement by Ian McEwan
2. The Man Christ Jesus by Bruce Ware
3. That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis
4. Excellence by Andreas J. Kostenberger
5. Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy
6. Perelandra by C. S. Lewis
7. Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis
8. Inerrancy and the Gospels by Vern S. Poythress
9. The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
10. Christ Crucified by James Durham
11. Julius Ceasar by William Shakespeare
12. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
13. Basic Christian by Roger Steer
14. Generous Justice by Timothy Keller
15. Gospel Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson
16. Why Read Moby Dick by Nathaniel Philbrick
17. Christ Our Mediator by C. J. Mahaney
18. Charity and its Fruits by Jonathan Edwards
19. The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung
20. Freedom and Boundaries by Kevin DeYoung
21. What Is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert
22. Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
23. Run to Win: Perseverance in the New Testament by Thomas R. Schreiner
24. Jonathan Edwards and Justification by Ed. Josh Moody
25. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
26. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
27. Reasons for Faith by Scott Oliphint
28. The Doctrine of the Word of God by John Frame
29. Literature: A Student's Guide by Louis Markos
30. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
31. The Big Picture of the Bible by eds.Wayne Grudem, Thomas Schreiner, and C. John Collins
32. Gods Glory in Salvation Through Judgment by Jim Hamilton
33. Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler
34. The Atonement by R. W. Dale
35. Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman
36. No Innocent Affair by Edward F. Mrkvicka Jr.
37. The Atonement and the Modern Mind by James Denney
38. The Apostles' Doctrine of the Atonement by George Smeaton
39. Am I Called? by Dave Harvey
40. The Glory of the Atonement eds. Charles E. Hill and Frank A. James III
41. The Legacy of Sovereign Joy by John Piper
42. Understanding Scripture by eds. Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins, and Thomas R. Schreiner
43. The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
44. From the Resurrection to His Return: Living Faithfully in the Last Days by D. A. Carson
45. C. H. Spurgeon: The Prince of Preachers by Christian Timothy George
46. The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris
47. The Battle Belongs to the Lord by K. Scott Oliphint
48. Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches by Jim M. Hamilton Jr.
49. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
50. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
51. How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart
52. Salvation Accomplished by the Son by Robert A. Peterson
53. Affirming the Apostle's Creed by J. I. Packer
54. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
55. Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

1. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
3. The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
4. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
5. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
6. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
7. Julius Ceasar by William Shakespeare
8. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
9. The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
10. Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy
11. Atonement by Ian McEwan
12. Perelandra by C. S. Lewis
13. Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis
14. That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis
15. Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

Bible Related
1. Inerrancy and the Gospels by Vern S. Poythress
2. The Doctrine of the Word of God by John Frame
3. The Big Picture of the Bible by eds.Wayne Grudem, Thomas Schreiner, and C. John Collins
4. Understanding Scripture by eds. Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins, and Thomas R. Schreiner
5. How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart

Atonement Related
1. Christ Crucified by James Durham
2. Christ Our Mediator by C. J. Mahaney
3. The Atonement by R. W. Dale
4. The Atonement and the Modern Mind by James Denney
5. The Apostles' Doctrine of the Atonement by George Smeaton
6. The Glory of the Atonement eds. Charles E. Hill and Frank A. James III
7. The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris
8. Salvation Accomplished by the Son by Robert A. Peterson