Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best book ever

I rarely read a book twice.  It is not that I take it all in on the first read by any means, but just that there are so many good books to read.  So any book I reread must be something special.  I have just finished this morning my annual read of an all time classic, the ultimate best seller. I never fail to find something new in it.  Though some bits were a tough read the overall story line was dead simple to spot.  The leading character takes the stage in the first few pages and appears in virtually every chapter.  At some stages early in the book it seems that the author is putting in a lot of unnecessary detail but only later do you work out that it was all there so that the main character will be seen as so unique.  At several stages in the plot it seems that evil will win, in fact there is one great climax moment when it seems that the book is about to come to an abrupt end as the leading character gets put through some vile torture and executed.  But then there is a masterly twist in the tail when the lead rises from the dead and is made king over everything.
Every time I read this book my heart is drawn out to this main character.  I am finding that I want to start all over again and reread to see what more I can find out about him.  And there is one other thing - reading this book was utterly different from every other read in 2013.  Something happened in my heart when I read this, not every time, but on many occasions - it was as if author was addressing me, pointing out things in my life.  Yet again it just sort of got a grip of me, I was in the plot line too.
There is only one thing for it - starting tomorrow  I am going back to the beginning and if I am spared to make the 31st December 2014 I will have read it through one more time.

Engaging with Keller

This book published by Evangelical Press does exactly what it says in the title.  This book is a series of well written, thorough papers that seek to interact with some of the teachings of Tim Keller.  The chapters are written in a balanced and gentle manner and at the same time clearly set out the issues that are just under the surface in some of the preaching and teaching of the popular American minister.  The areas that the writers highlight include what Mr. Keller teaches about: sin, hell, the trinity, mission, evolution and ecclesiology.  For any student for the ministry or minister who reads or listens to Keller this is a must read.  For years I have benefitted and been blessed in reading and listening to Tim Keller. I don't intend to stop that having read this book. But I will read and listen in a more informed manner.
As well as high lighting areas of concern in Keller's ministry this book also stirs the preacher to guard his doctrine and teaching closely.  While our ministries will not have the audiences that Keller's has, nevertheless a group of people are being moulded by our preaching and teaching - so let us be on our guard.  Useful book for seminary students to study and debate.  It will hone your ministry for good.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Psalter Reclaimed, Gordon Wehham

This Crossways publication is a collection of articles based on addresses that Bible scholar Gordon Wenham has given.  There are eight chapters.
What are we doing singing the Psalms?
Praying the Psalms
Reading the Psalms canonically
Reading the Psalms Messianically
The Ethics of the Psalms
The Imprecatory Psalms
Psalm 103 The Son of steadfast love
The Nations in the psalms
This is a good read and a must for any theological college student wanting some deeper examination of God's songbook.  You will not agree with all that you find in these chapters but it will deepen your appreciation of the Psalter

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hidden, The Secret of more in plain sight, Mark Buchanan

Mark Buchanan is a Canadian pastor and writer.  It has been a number of years now since I read his super book, Your God is too Safe.  This volume is based around II Peter 1v1-9 with each chapter working out in detail the components that Peter states are vital for a useful life.  Buchanan has some interesting and stimulating comments on each of the key characteristics - faith, virtue, knowledge, self control etc.  His style of writing in a strange sort of way is compelling reading and at yet at times frustrating, as for me, he gets carried away in his  description of details, pouring in every word in the Thesaurus.  You will certainly not agree with everything that he writes especially when he tends to speculation about the details of Peter's life.  However this is a worthwhile read and certainly thought provoking.  A useful stimulating read for any wishing to live a life of useful for the Lord Jesus and for anyone preparing a series of addresses on the life of Peter.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, John Volume 1, J.C.Ryle

The more I read of Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels the more that I am convinced that no Christian home should be without a set of these devotional commentaries on the gospels.  With each volume Ryle seems to crank up the intensity of comments.  This first volume on John's gospel only covers the first six chapters of the gospel.  Ryle's comments are as usual pithy and heart warming.  But this volume takes his notes to a whole new level.  Often in this volume the footnotes exceed the commentary.  But even the notes, which are his gleanings of his reading are filled with a host of good things.
Forget the perfume, aftershave or whatever this coming season of present exchanging and buy something that will last and make a real difference.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Risk is Right, John Piper

This is more a booklet than a book as it comprises just over fifty pages.  It is vintage Piper, calling the people of God to a life of active risk taking service for Jesus Christ.  The subtitle is as good as the title, Better to lose your life than waste it.  After a forward by David Platt the book has eight short chapters each designed to push and entice followers of Jesus Christ out of their comfort zone and into battle.  Piper writes this book to give readers and taste for the more substantial book "Don't waste your life."
If you are looking for a giveaway booklet to stir friends for the new year this is it.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Crazy Busy, Kevin Deyoung

This book caught my eye because I am 50 plus and far too busy.  But I guess I am not on my own.  It is just a short book of 120 pages but is packed with dynamite.  Be prepared to have your sin exposed as the writer gets to the heart of why we are often crazy busy.  After an opening chapter or two to set the scene the writer then gives seven reasons why we are so busy.  Each chapter is well written, honest and hard hitting.  The final chapter is the best of all.  There are no self make overs offered in this little volume, just honest heart searching and the only remedy clearly presented.
Highly recommended for all you busy people.  If you are too busy to read a 120 page book it is time to get a grip.

Because He Loves Me, Elyse Fitzpatrick

This is a masterly application of the gospel to the life the believer.  If you haven't yet realised it most believers suffer from spiritual amnesia and this book is designed to help you remember.  It comprises some twelve chapters and in each of these the gospel is clearly explained and gentle pressed into your heart.  The writer is a skilled communicator with that wonderful knack of getting the healing balm of the message of Jesus' life, death and resurrection slipped right into where we need it.
If you are prone to discouragement, depression, or just being downcast - you simply must read this.
Each chapter ends with some questions which could easily be expanded to form the basis of a small groups study. Excellent material here too for the preacher who needs to learn to apply the gospel to the people of God.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Gospel Commission, Michael Horton

If you are on the search to find out what the Lord really meant by "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations," then you need look no further than this volume by Michael Horton.  Each phrase within the Great Commission is teased apart and masterly applied to the life of the church today.  There are three main sections to the book: The Great Announcement; The Mission Statement and The Strategic Plan.  These three sections are covered in a total of ten chapters.  In the opening section the writer sets the scene of the Lord's charge to his church by setting out a Biblical summary of the kingdom of God showing why all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Christ.  In the middle section the command to go is investigated,  contextualisation wisely handled and the goal of making disciples is unpacked.  The final section is the largest and contains most of the practical material of the volume.  In this section the chapter entitled The Great Commission and the Great Commandment is one of the most helpful.  In this chapter the modern day emphasis on mercy ministry is given a careful rebalancing as we are reminded that the primary purpose of the church is to preach the gospel.
There is much in this volume that is wise and an important sound for the church today.  Well worth the read and a good volume for any seminary course on mission and evangelism.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ministers' Conferences - lessons from an early morning run

Each year my congregation kindly cover the cost of me going to our annual ministers' conference.  Often in the run up to it a thought goes through my head, "You are very busy and two and a half days out of your preparation time will really put you under pressure - just duck out this year."  Thankfully I have a godly wife who knows how much I need these few days and encourages me to go.  This year was the twentieth conference since my ordination (though I think I missed one with a funeral.)
The teaching is always good, the food in abundance and the fellowship brilliant.  Three or four of us have developed a bit of a tradition for a run each morning at 7.30pm.  Just three miles these days as our combined age is now two centuries.  The pace is much slower than it was twenty years ago and the chat not as vigorous.  For me the challenge is completing the course.  To tell the truth I really didn't want to go out this morning.  But the rendezvous had been set for 7.30am in the lobby and my brothers were expecting me.  The first mile was grand, a reasonable pace and the odd sentence darted out between gasps.  But then the rain started and the wind increased.  Turning at the half way marker the growing awareness of aching limbs meant that the temptation for me to stop was growing by the stride.  The thought of battling all the way home into the wind was draining me of the last ounces of will and strength.  Then one of my brothers, one as broad as a barn door, strong and fit having sensed my struggles slipped in in front of me.  I was sheltered from the blustering wind and the spray of passing lorries.  He took it all.  One way home for me - stay as close in his slip stream as I could without tripping him up.  I didn't even see the gradients that lay ahead, just his back.  With half a mile to go my fellow minister by my side saw the tell tale signs of me just easing back on the pace.  Keep it going was all he had to say and a fresh wave of determination pulsed through my aging legs.  And so I made it to the end, I didn't stop.  I had one bigger and stronger than me in front and the voice of a brother by my side saying - keep going.  And that is the reason why I need to go each September to the conference.  We get weary as ministers.  The temptation to stop or ease back in the ministry seems to increase with the years.  And it is at the conference that I remember each year I have one right in front of me, Jesus Christ who sees every weary step I take and promises to shelter and strengthen me all the way home and I have brothers around to pray and say - keep it going.
It took twenty six minutes to do the three miles this year.  But every step was worth it just to have such a vital lesson why I need to go to the conference each year. Looking forward to the Conference in 2014.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Luke Volume 2 J.C.Ryle

Just finished this volume of Ryle's expository thoughts on the gospels.  I have been using Ryle as part of my daily devotions for quite some time and never fail to benefit from his wisdom and counsel.  I have been using the new editions published by BOT.  Simply can't recommend these highly enough.  Ideal for personal or family devotions.  Don't skip his notes in the small print - filled with golden nuggets of wisdom from writers of the past.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Men and women wanted for the hazardous journey of church planting

When Ernest Shackleton, the famous explorer, was seeking manpower for his epic Antarctic expedition he allegedly placed the following notice in the London press.

The great Pioneer,  the Lord Jesus, has his own call for manpower that is infinitely more demanding. To all who follow him he commands - in your going make disciples of all nations. Planting new churches is one main way to fulfil this commission.
The call to be involved in the planting of new churches has a host of hazards.  There will be no hiding from hard work, if the loos need scrubbed its your job.  You will be the first to arrive and the last to leave every time  the church gathers. If you have children they will not have the luxury of loads of other children their age.  You will have to leave behind tourism church attendance, flitting around on a Sabbath evening in search of a juicy sermon.  Forget about being a ten percent tither this is the deep end, it is two mite service territory.
You will have the danger of vulnerability as you open our home and heart to the stranger.
You will face the darkness of people leaving as quickly as they have arrived.  There will be the darkness of isolation when the prayer support of the many sifts away to the faithful few.
We can't promise you success with loads of new faces being added week by week.
In fact we can't promise you that there will even  be a congregation in ten years.  No one will ever read about your sacrifice in the papers or even this blog.
But in another world there will be honour and recognition, of that you can be absolutely sure.
If the King of the nations is stirring your heart to reach the tens of thousands in East Belfast, the hundreds of thousands in Dublin or the thousands in Enniskillen then go and speak to your elders. 
And talking about elders which of you is going to lead by example.  Let your people see that the Great Commission is indeed truly great.
Apparently Shackleton was inundated with men willing to go.  Of these he took twenty eight.  That would be enough to have each of our present church planting scenarios move on to a new level.
Will you be one saying, Here am I send me.

“Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
C.T Studd

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Secret Thoughts of an unlikely Convert, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

My wife read this a few months back and encouraged me to read it.
I know that I am prone to exaggeration when it comes to recommending books. But really, you simply must read this 150 page masterpiece.  I just could not put it down. In fact I did with this book what I rarely do with a paperback - I read it again. Actually I did with this book what I never ever do with a book - I annotated in the margins! There were simply so many lessons that leaped out screaming at me - Take note!
So what were the lessons?
In the forward Ken Smith notes that Rosaria's story was the answer to the prayers of the congregation over many years. It might not seem very significant that one person is converted but this book will be an ongoing answer. Who knows what The Lord might do through the conversion of one person. Church pray on.
The doctrine of conversion so down played these days in the evangelical world is given a high place in his little volume. The author refers to her own conversion as the train wreck and the impact of a God on her life. Slightly different from the easy believing that abounds today.
Ken Smith's warm questioning approach to evangelism is surely a vital method to learn from.  Sadly many Christians would have gone for the harsh newspaper article lambasting any in sight approach . His kind letter of opposition was used of God to open this lady's heart. Stop trying to answer all the questions and start thinking about better questions?
If you really want to reach someone with the gospel be ready for the long term approach. Two years Ken Smith and his wife invested in Rosario's life.
The church that God uses is strong in preaching and strong on compassion. The church that the author attended was able to counsel her an not farm her out to  para church ministry.  The church is competent to counsel.
The author reminds the reader that homosexuality like all sin is symptomatic and not casual.
On worship the writer asks some key questions. If God tells us how to live does that include how to worship? Is God pleased with creativity in worship? How much creativity does God want? So net time I am asked why I sing psalms exclusively I m for asking, why you don't?
A truly must read.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cruciform, living the cross shaped life

Got this some months back on a kindle deal and thought it was about time that I read it.  This is a short book - just 107 pages on my iPad.  There are 8 chapters.
1. Created to be cruciform
2. Redeemed to be cruciform
3. The elements of being cruciform
4. The cruciform life in action
5. Servants of God
6. Sons of God
7. Embracing the gospel
8. Expressing the gospel
Each chapter is a few pages that can easily be digested at the start of a time of daily devotion.
This little gem punches well above its weight.  The writer has one goal - that each reader will live like the Lord Jesus.  This book is informational and transformational.
Well worth a read, even if you didn't pick it up on a kindle deal.
Any of the booklets at Cruciform press are well worth a look.  Some good stuff. Usually at $5 a book.
Here a few bits I highlighted:

God’s people will not dissuade him from partnering with them as a holy community on his holy mission. God would claim, clean, and craft for himself a people who would live the cruciform life of loving God and others as it is required in his Law. He would forgive them for living a me-first life and give them a new heart and the power of his Spirit to live the you-first life they were made to live. Now that’s good news! 
The most important message we need to hear as believers is the gospel. It is not the only message; we do need to hear the requirements of discipleship. But the gospel is the most important, because it alone provides both the proper motive and the only enduring motivation to respond to our Lord’s call to discipleship.[8]
Hospitality opens its head, heart, and hands to others, offering help, healing, and hope.
And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central [part of you] either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. . . . Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.
[31]   “For every one look at your sin, take ten looks at Christ” has been attributed to Robert Murray M’Cheyne. Richard Sibbes said, “There is more mercy in Christ than there is sin in me.”

Friday, July 05, 2013

Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices

I am not sure who it was that recommended that every other book that a Christian should read is from a dead saint.  With that in mind and Tim Challies encouragement I downloaded Thomas Boston's classic. In case you aren't aware Brooks was a Puritan preacher from the 1600s.

This godly saint new the enemy's tactics and how to fend him off with the Scripture.  Every young Christian and every mature believer should read in inwardly digest.  Every gospel minister should digest and reword in a lifetime of preaching to help the saints guard their hearts and lives. This is a masterly volume beyond words.  
Here are a few of my highlights:

remember this, that your life is short, your duties many, your assistance great, and your reward sure; therefore faint not, hold on and hold up, in ways of well-doing, and heaven shall make amends for all!

It is not he who reads most—but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.

I have known a good man, says Bernard, who, when he heard of any that had committed some notorious sin, he was accustomed to say with himself—he fell today, so may I tomorrow.

Those who do not burn now in zeal against sin must before long burn in hell for sin.

Oh that you were wise, to break off your sins by timely repentance. Repentance is a work that must be timely done, or utterly undone forever.

No man knows either the love or hatred of God—by his outward mercy or misery towards them; for all things come alike to all, to the righteous and to the unrighteous, to the good and to the bad, to the clean and to the unclean.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Luke Volume 2, J.C. Ryle

My journey with Ryle through the gospels marches on. With Matthew, Mark and volume 1 of Luke under the belt that leaves volume 2 of Luke and the three volumes on John. I simply can't recommend these volumes highly enough.  They just drip godly wisdom and sound exegesis.  Volume 1 covers the first ten chapters of Luke.  As with the other volumes the passages of Scripture are bite size portions with a few pages of comment.  The footnotes should not be skipped - a gold mine stuff in there.
If you don't have this new set published by Banner you simply must buy it. No home should be without it. Useful for personal devotions for teenagers, busy middle agers, and OAP's.
Buy it for others for their birthday, engagement present, wedding present - whenever - just get it into the hands of others.
Now for volume 2 of Luke.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Famine in the Land

This useful book on preaching by Steven Lawson is sub titled "A passionate call for expository preaching." The book is divided into four chapters:
1. Feat of famine - the priority of Biblical preaching
2. The need of the hour - the power of Biblical preaching
3. Bring the book - the pattern of Biblical preaching
4. No higher calling - the passion for Biblical preaching
While there is nothing new in this short book there is much here to commend this volume to the reader. Steven Lawson has a clear and easy style of writing.  This volume is well dotted with super quotes from great preachers throughout the centuries.  A useful little volume for any student for the ministry and indeed for ever minister to remind themselves what ministry of the Word is about.
Below are a few of the notable quotes - some of Lawson and then some he quotes.

The typical preacher today aspires to be a motivational speaker rather than an exegete.

“The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is the greatest need of the world also.”

“The true idea of preaching is that the preacher should become a mouthpiece for his text, opening it up and applying it as a word from God to his hearers, talking only in order that the text itself may speak and be heard.”

Biblical preaching should always lead to bold praying. These go together like the two sides of a coin. As the Word goes out, prayer should go up. A preaching church will be a praying church.

The Scripture itself—not merely books about the Bible—must saturate the minds of pastors if it is to flow from their lives and lips as “bibline.”

A shrinking study time will result in shrinking power in the pulpit. 

D. L. Moody once said, “God did not give us the Scriptures to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.”

“Preaching is the public exposition of Scripture by the man sent from God, in which God himself is present in judgment and in grace.” JOHN CALVIN

“The great object of every minister of the Gospel ought to be to give the services of the pulpit the pre-eminence over every other department of ministerial labor.”

The preacher, as the worship leader, should follow Paul’s instruction to read the Scriptures publicly, and not allow other activities to crowd it out.

Preaching must do more than simply inform the mind; it must grip the heart and challenge the will.Biblical preaching is as much perspiration as it is inspiration.

The rigors of exposition drains the entire man—mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.“The pulpit calls those anointed to it like the sea calls its sailor; and like the sea, it batters and bruises, and does not rest…. To preach, to really preach, is to die naked a little at a time, and to know each time you do it that you must do it again.”

Laughter seems to have replaced repentance as the goal of many preachers. Laughter means people feel good. It means they like you, it means you have moved them. It means you have some measure of power. It seems to have all the marks of successful communication—if the depth of sin and the holiness of God and the danger of hell and need for broken hearts is left out of account.

These three aspects of his Word-oriented ministry—learn it, live it, and let it out.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Shepherd Leader

Sinclair Ferguson writes of this book on the eldership, "it is as readable as it is interesting."  It is both of those.  The book comprises three sections:
1. Biblical and historical foundations
2. What's a Shepherd to do?
3. Putting it all together.
The opening two sections are the best and the last one more a repetition of all that has gone before.  The central section of the book would be useful material for any team of elders to work through:
Shepherds know the sheep
Shepherds feed the sheep
Shepherds lead the sheep
Shepherds protect the sheep
A good practical manual for students for ministry to work through and discuss.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Life Together

Apparently it is a trendy thing to read Bonhoeffer - honestly I didn't know that.  I read this little classic under duress about ten years ago when I was doing some post grad study.  At that stage I was reluctant as a liberal university prof was recommending it to me.  I don't remember getting much out of it the first time through back then - I guess the filter level was too high.
It is not a long book but each paragraph needs pondered slowly to mine the nuggets just beneath the surface.  For me the massive nugget was the article in a previous post.  But here are a few more:

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” 

“Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.” 

“Christian community is like the Christian's sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.” 

 "The root of all sin is pride, superbia. I want to be my own law, I have a right to my self, my hatred and my desires, my life and my death. The mind and flesh of man are set on fire by pride; for it is precisely in his wickedness that man wants to be as God. Confession in the presence of a brother is the profoundest kind of humiliation. It hurts, it cuts a man down, it is a dreadful blow to pride..."

“A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.” 

“A pastor should never complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.” 

“The brother is a burden to the Christian, precisely because he is a Christian. For the pagan the other person never becomes a burden at all. He simply sidesteps every burden that others may impose upon him.” 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Life Together

Reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together at the moment.  What about this for some thinking. Read and ponder.
"Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.
By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both.
A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves this dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.
God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians which his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together.
When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first the accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller

The Christian book scene is awash with books on marriage.  Some are better left on the shelf as they are filled with self help DIY philosophy, you can do it ideology.  This book on marriage is very different and is a must read not just for everyone who is either married or planning to be married but for single people also.  The subtitle of the book summarises the content well - "Facing the complexities of commitment with the wisdom of God."  It is filled with solid Biblical exegesis and warm clear application of the Biblical principles that are well unpacked.  What this book does that so many books on marriage don't do - is to get you to the cross.
 It is made up of eight readable and thought provoking chapters:
1. The secret of marriage
2. The power for marriage
3. The essence of marriage
4. The mission of marriage
5. Loving the stranger
6. Embracing the other
7. Singleness and marriage
8. Sex and marriage
Every now and then I come across a book that I think - if I had a spare £200 I would buy twenty copies and give this to all my married friends.
I will take the cheaper option and say - if you are reading this and are married - then love your spouse by buying this read it and live it in the grace of God.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

JC Ryle Mark

Just finished going through Ryle's Expository Thoughts on Mark in my daily devotions.   Like the other volumes the text of the gospel is broken down into short portions and a two page warm and devotional comment made.  This is exceptional reading for daily devotions or family worship.  Not sure if the Banner of Truth publisher's offer is still in place for ministers.  I got the whole seven hardback volume set for £15 (minister's rate).  No Christian home should be without a set of Ryle.   In this volume Ryle starts to add just a few footnotes which are well worth the read.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Embracing Obscurity, Anonymous

The subtitle is, Becoming nothing in the light of God's everything.
In a day and age when self and promoting self is of the essence of life this is a needed book to call us back to Christ like humility.  It is a book to remind us to be content with who we are in Christ. Ten short snappy chapters to help you untangle yourself from yourself.  Be ready to be hurt and challenged.
This is a must read for every young Christian and a few older ones too who haven't stopped looking in the mirror.
Perhaps I should wipe this blog?

Right in their own Eyes, George M. Schwab

This 240 plus page commentary is part of a series edited by Tremper Longman III.  The book is an absolute must read if you are preaching through Judges.  It divides up into three main sections.  The opening section comprises three chapters to give the reader the tools to read the book with proper understanding.  The second section goes through the twelve cycles of the judges and the concluding section has two chapters on the conclusion of Judges.
This book has the balance of depth and application.

Judges Resources

Just finished preaching through Judges in 16 sermons and thought I would recommend a few commentaries and resources that I found helpful.
The New American Commentary, Judges, Ruth, Daniel Block, B&H Publishing ****
The NIV Application Commentary, Lawson Younger Jr., Zondervan ***
The Preacher's Commentary, David Jackmann, Thomas Nelson ***
Such Great Salvation, D.R. Davis, Baker *****
Right in their own eyes, George M. Schwab, P&R Publishing *****
Online Sermons
Michael LeFebrve http://www.sermonaudio.com/
Carl Truman http://www.cornerstoneopc.com/audio.php

Friday, February 15, 2013

Spirit Empowered Preaching, Arturo Azurdia

I usually avoid an author who states their name as "someone the III".  But I am glad that I didn't give this volume on preaching a by ball. It is in fact essential reading for anyone who preaches.
The book has three main threads:
Spirit empowered preaching is the principle means of advancing the kingdom of God
Spirit empowered preaching will be evangelical in emphasis
Spirit empowered preaching is the responsibility of the church
Azurdia argues that too much preaching going on today is void of the power of God.  In around 180 pages of packed reasoning the writer sets before the reader the need for the work of the Holy Spirit at every stage of preaching.
Azurdia has Biblical balance in his whole approach to preaching.  It is not pray more to prepare less - but prepare and preach in the power of the Spirit.
Highly recommended

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Work Matters

One of the most common pastoral issues that pastors face is seeking to counsel people who are struggling with their work.  Many who are in work suffer the Sunday evening blues and those out of paid work wishing they had the Sunday evening blues.  Many have a sense of dissatisfaction and frustration in work and have a disjointed view of work.  This 2011 publication from Crossway publishers from the pen of Tom Nelson will both equip the pastor to counsel and counsel those who need counselled.  The basic premise of this book is that we need to be able to reconnect what is happening in our lives on the Lord's day and what we do the other six. As you would expect this Christian book on work starts at the start ie Genesis showing why we work and why it is so frustrating. Each of the ten chapters are well thought through and applied.  There is much here that will encourage any believer in their work place.  My only criticism is that although the writer roots our work in the character of God a fuller covenantal view of work is rather lacking.  That said this is a very useful book.  It would be a great book for group discussion.  Much here too for the pastor wanting to do some teaching on work.  The big challenge that I found was teaching people that what they do in their work is valuable and important and not to speak in a way that gives the impression that the only work that is important is the life of the church.  Nelson is basically saying that our daily work is to be an extension of all that we are as the people of God.

Monday, January 14, 2013

What do you think of me?

This volume by Ed Welch has the sub title, Why do I care? As the title and sub title suggest this is a book designed for the young. But this "not so young" minister found it challenging because let's face it we can care too much what others think no matter what our age. Like much of the material published by CCEF staff it is published by New Growth Press. After two introductory chapters identifying the problem and then a further six on getting to the reason why peoples lives are lived looking for approval Welch then plots a path out of the maze by studying who God is, who we are and who everyone else is.  This is a superb book that will help counselling those struggling with peer pressure, low self esteem, co dependency etc. it is designed to be an interactive study though to be honest a briefer accompanying study booklet might be more beneficial.  This book has all the thorough Biblical exegesis and careful pastoral direction that we have come to expect from Ed Welch. A super read and well worth it's place on your counselling shelf.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

No dummies in the pulpit please

Jesus cried out is not about the agonising cry of the Lord from the cross but how He preached.  John gives a summary of His preaching in John 12v44-50 and he begins that summary with this profound statement.  His preaching was filled with passion, with emotion, with heart as well as head.  He wasn't simply delivering a message from God but did so in a manner that was in keeping with solemn, serious, eternally weighted message that He was proclaiming.
In the course of preparing to preach I listen to a multitude of preachers and am increasingly surprised at how many can have all the content but appear to be missing any emotion.  I have preached 1000s of times now myself and I have to say with Baxter of old, "I marvel how I can preach slightly and coldly, how I can let men alone in their sins."
Bruce Milne in his commentary on John writes with wisdom and great balance on this matter, "Preachers with cold hearts will never warm and awaken the consciences of their hearers....False emotionalism and unrealistic dramatization of the message do not honour God and tend only to alienate non Christians further.  But there is a true engagement of the heart in preaching... which is stamped with sincerity and which is an authentic reflection of the heart of the God whose gospel we proclaim.  God is looking today for preachers who, like His Son, will cry out."