Jesus on Every Page by David Murray


In the first Bible study I ever led, I did something stupid: I took the group through the book of Daniel. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but in hindsight it wasn’t something I could call good. Why? Because someone kind of important was missing:


At the time I was a far newer believer than today. I loved the Bible, but I didn’t know the “big story” well. I couldn’t see the big picture—that all of Scripture is about Jesus.

If I could build myself a time machine and go and visit past-me, I’d do two important things:

First, I’d tell past-me to smarten up and read some good books before trying to teach a book (any book!) of the Bible.

Second, I’d put a copy of David Murray’s Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament in past-me’s hands.

Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, wants Christians to read the Old Testament Christianly—that is, to see it for the piece of Christian Scripture that it is. It’s the Bible Jesus read. The Bible Jesus taught. The Bible Jesus Himself said testifies to Himself.

So wouldn’t it be in our best interest to know what it says? [Read more…]

Death by Living by N.D. Wilson


I have this friend, John. He’s got many wonderful qualities (as good friends should). But one of my favorite things about John is when he’s working out an idea. When we’re trying to come up with a hook for a sales piece or batting around ideas for how to start a presentation, a comment or word will grab him. A mischievous grin appears. That’s when I know it’s time to sit back and let John go. At the end of one of these sessions, we don’t always end up with something useable, but we always have a lot of fun trying.

Reading N.D. Wilson always reminds me a little of brainstorming with John—I’m not always sure where he’s going, but I always enjoy getting there.

His latest book, Death by Living, is a great example of this. Here, he encourages readers to reorient their thinking on what it means to live; to “focus on a way of living, a way of receiving life” (xi). How? By seeing that our lives are meant to be given away.

I realize that, for Christians, this is not a terribly groundbreaking idea—after all, this idea is central to the ethics of life in Christ’s kingdom. We are to consider the needs of others ahead of our own, to “decrease” so that Christ might increase, to be “poured out” for the sake of the gospel….

“Lay your life down,” Wilson writes. “Your heartbeats cannot be hoarded” (84).

But you know what?

We clearly don’t get it. If we did, I suspect books like this wouldn’t need to be written. We seem to be confused that our lives aren’t meant for us (and I put myself at the head of the line on this one), so we spend our time pursuing things that don’t really matter. We grab for every moment of importance and significance we can, forgetting it’s kind of pointless.

Grabbing will always fail. Hoarding always fails. Living to live always reaches inevitable and pointless Darwinian burnout—bigger fears, deeper mortal panic. Live to die… Grabbing will always fail. Giving will always succeed. Our children, our friends, and our neighbors will all be better off if we work to accumulate for their sakes. (110)

This is the idea that’s reinforced again and again throughout Death by Living. But the way Wilson does it isn’t be drumming it into our heads through simple repetition—he shows it through stories. “We are narrative creatures, and we need narrative nourishment—narrative catechisms” (11).

This is where Wilson’s strength as a writer really comes through. He spends little time discussing his family members’ backgrounds, but they’re fleshed out from the moment you read their names. They don’t appear as vapors, mere shadows on a page. They’re actual people (and not only because they’re actual people). Those who’ve tried (and failed) to write fiction will hopefully get what I’m talking about here.

But his stories don’t exist to tickle our fancies. He doesn’t spin yarns merely to entertain, but to show us what ideas putting “on flesh” (19) really looks like. As much as some of us may love abstract concepts, what we believe translates into what we do.

Christianity is no good at all as an idea. Stop thinking that an asserted proposition is the same thing as faith. It’s a start. But it can also be a costume. Enflesh it.…

If you think it, live it. If you don’t live it, you don’t really think it. You are not what you think (or what you think you think). You are not what you say you are. You are what you do. (20-21)

N.D. Wilson’s writing is an acquired taste. His writing isn’t entirely linear. He follows the rabbit trails of his mind wherever they lead. He leads you to conclusions in a way that’s sometimes so subtle it’s easy to miss.

But, if you follow him where he leads as he celebrates lives lived well, you’ll see this important truth: our lives are meant to be spent. As much as we lament time passing us by, as much as we loathe the idea of death, we can see even death as a gift. Because we die, “we can run the good race. We can fight the good fight. Completion exists” (113). Our choice is this: “shall we die for ourselves or die for others?” (83)

Title: Death by Living
Author: N.D. Wilson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2013)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books | Vyrso

Judges for You by Timothy Keller


Some books of the Bible are incredibly inspiring… others are downright disturbing. Judges definitely the latter. It’s a painfully honest look at the fruit of spiritual decline and the depths of human depravity. This isn’t a book you read to get a warm-fuzzy or for moral examples.

Instead, writes Tim Keller, Judges reminds us that the Bible “is about a God of mercy and long-suffering, who continually works in and through us despite our constant resistance to his purposes.” No human hero can rescue us—we need a divine one.

That’s what Judges For You is all about.

The cycle of sin

In this book, Keller walks readers through this Old Testament book, tracing six key themes:

  1. God relentlessly offers his grace to people who do not deserve it, seek it, or even appreciate it after they’ve been saved by it.
  2. God wants lordship over every area of our lives, not just some.
  3. There is a tension between grace and law, between conditionality and unconditionality.
  4. There is a need for continual spiritual renewal in our lives here on earth, and a way to make that a reality.
  5. We need a true Savior, to which all human saviors point, through their flaws and strengths.
  6. God is in charge, no matter what it looks like.

As we read through Judges, it’s easy to see each of these themes at play in their half-hearted (at best!) following of the Lord. From the beginning, the Israelites failed to purge the Promised Land of idols, compromising their prosperity in the land—and most importantly, their commitment to the Lord. From there the cycle begins:

The nation slips into idolatry, doing evil in the sight of the Lord. Angered by their sin, the Lord hands them over to their enemies, who oppress them. The people call out for rescue, and the Lord brings salvation through a chosen leader and peace is restored to the land… at least until the judge dies. [Read more…]

The Promises of God by R.C. Sproul


We’re a culture with severe trust issues. Politicians have long struggled with this thing called honesty. Employers break their word when it’s in the apparent best interests of the bottom line. Spouses break their vows in the pursuit of “happiness.”

So it makes sense that we’d take our trust issues and put them on God, doesn’t it? When you strip away the nuances of so many of our doubts and questions about God, the thing we really want to know is:

God can really be trusted? 

R.C. Sproul wants to give readers confidence on this matter. To know that the God of the Bible is a promise-making—and promise-keeping—God. His most recent book, The Promises of God: Discovering the One Who Keeps His Word, examines the promises God has made and why we have good reason to trust Him to keep it.

Defining “covenant”

When seeking to understand God’s promises, you need to start with the concept of covenant. Our God is a covenant-making God. The concept, therefore, “is integral and foundational to the divine revelation” (9). But what does “covenant” mean and what are the covenants God makes?

Sproul begins by explaining that while all covenants are, at a fundamental level, agreements between two parties or more parties (think wedding vows or industrial contracts), biblical covenants are unique in that they “are established on the basis of a divine sanction. That is, they are established not on the foundation of promises made by equal parties, but on the foundation of the divine promise of God. In biblical covenants, it is God who declares the terms and makes the promises” (11). [Read more…]

Is God anti-gay? by Sam Allberry


Let’s be honest: many Christians have done a poor job of showing love to the homosexual community and to those among us who deal with same-sex attraction. Far too many have used particular verses to hammer people into submission, rather than explain the Bible’s position on sexuality as a whole.

That’s why we need books like Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry. In this short book, Allberry explains the biblical view of sexuality and addresses many of the common questions people ask about homosexuality. But more than that, this is a book about the gospel, and King Jesus’ call demands upon the life of all who claim to follow Him.

This is an important book for Allberry to write. He’s is a pastor in the United Kingdom. He believes the Bible is true and authoritative in all it teaches.

He’s also a man who deals with same-sex attraction. So, as you can imagine, he knows about that which he writes. There’s a real sensitivity in his approach, both from a pastoral perspective and also from that of one who has had to wrestle deeply with these issues.

There are two areas that I personally found incredibly significant. The first is dealing with our tendency to place too much or too little emphasis on a given subject. When it comes to homosexuality, many want to take the (relatively) few references made to it and declare that it doesn’t matter. But, Allberry writes, “The Bible does not frequently make direct reference to how we are to care for creation, but that does not let us off the hook from following what is said in the places where it does.”

[Read more…]

Letters and Life by Bret Lott


Writing is tricky business.

Everyone writes things throughout their day, so everyone thinks they can be write (as the staggering number of abandoned blogs testify). And because everyone thinks they can do it, they have a hard time appreciating the work of a writer (even when they like that writer’s work better). For the writer, it’s incredibly difficult to balance the tension between wanting to write something that’s going to benefit people and something that’s going to actually be read (the two are not always the same). Then there’s the constant cycle of self-doubt, feeling like you’re faking it… but maybe that part’s just me. So when a writer finds some some degree of success, people start asking: what’s the secret?

Bestselling author Bret Lott (sort of) answers this question in his new book, Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian. In this book, Lott shares a series of essays blending practical take-aways for prospective writers along with a look at his own life as he comes to grips with the death of his father.

Readers might be surprised to learn that Lott is a Christian. Although I knew of him from my college-job days as a bookseller, I had no idea about his faith. So his opening essay, “Why have we given up the ghost?” was quite a surprise, opening with the Apostles’ Creed and moving into his experiences of God’s supernatural work in the world—all while defining “literary fiction” (which, he says, is distinguished from popular fiction by it’s willingness to “confront us with who we are and make us look deeply at the human condition”).

As he continues through his essays on the relationship between art, faith and the world, precision, influences, and Flannery O’Connor, he takes advantage of the opportunity reorient the Christian writer’s understanding of his or her craft around a Christian worldview. [Read more…]

The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson


Christians don’t really know what to do with questions. Some of us seem afraid to ask anything; others seem terrified to receive answers. But questions were never meant to be a source of angst nor a mask for unbelief.

In his new book The End of Our Exploring, Matthew Lee Anderson challenges us to examine the heart behind our inquiries and embrace the God-glorifying design of asking questions—to see them as opportunities to edify and encourage, to grow in our faith.

Better questions means better answers

After reading this book, one thing is abundantly clear: Anderson is a uniter. He finally brings “progressives” and “conservatives” together—but it’s not to hold hands and sing “Kumbuyah.” Instead, he recognizes that both are guilty of the same thing: simplistically approaching questions.

Many progressives tend to view certainty as the great enemy of faith; doubt is the mark of true faith and humility (ironically, they’re very certain about this). Many conservatives, conversely, either see asking questions as either a sign of a shipwrecked faith or a rebellious spirit. If they don’t eschew questions altogether, they do rush to be the answer police, giving (and gleefully receiving) an easy answer and moving on.

But neither approach leads to maturity; both leave us childish in our approach to the Christian faith. “If we want people to think adult thoughts, then we should stop catering to their felt needs for quick answers,” he writes (74).

But being simplistic about answers isn’t the only problem—we have difficulty even coming up with the right questions. Anderson writes:

We Christians should not be so answers oriented that we render ourselves incapable of coming up with the questions ourselves. We might think it a miracle that anyone learned about the Bible before we had study guides, given our total dependence upon them. What questions could the early Christians have possibly asked without the prompts we now have? And how did readers ever learn from books without prepackaged questions at the end of each chapter? If we are going to move beyond being a community that simply regurgitates “easy answers,” then we must also be willing to put an end to spoon feeding the questions. (74)

Do you get a sense of the difficult balance Anderson is trying to describe here? He is emphatic that we need to ask more and better questions about our faith, and especially the Bible—and we need to expect to have those questions answered. [Read more…]

The Big Story by Justin Buzzard


Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Do I have a purpose? Answers to such questions make up our worldview, and our worldview drives the course of our lives whether we’re aware of it or not. For many of us, however, the stories of which we’re a part are simply inadequate to answer these kinds of questions.

In The Big Story, Justin Buzzard upholds the story of Scripture as the only one able to “explain all the beauty and all the brokenness we see in this world, to make sense of our desires, dreams, and disappointments” (11). He urges readers to consider the story they’re living in, to recognize the gaps and failings of competing worldviews, and to embrace “the old and ongoing story of the Bible.”

Much to Like

Buzzard, lead pastor of Garden City Church in Silicon Valley, California, presents the Bible’s narrative in five acts: Jesus, God, creation, rebellion, and rescue.

Beginning with Jesus is the right decision, one unfortunately passed over by many books attempting to show the power in the story of redemption. He is, after all, the main character in this unfolding drama—and the whole point of the story. Whether for him or against him, everyone must somehow respond to him. His presence is too disruptive for us to remain neutral or silent. Buzzard makes this point clear: “People have to respond to Jesus because . . . he doesn’t leave things as they are; he both attracts people to himself and meddles with their lives” (17).

Anyone who has put his trust in Christ understands this process. Again, Buzzard writes, “Jesus doesn’t adjust to us, and he doesn’t submit to our whims. We adjust to Jesus and submit to him. Jesus is King, not an accessory” (115). Once again, Buzzard is exactly correct: King Jesus lovingly hates your status quo. [Read more…]

The Mystery of the Lord’s Supper by Robert Bruce


It seems the Sacraments are a source of confusion to many believers today. Much ink has been spilt on different views of baptism; many blog posts and debates have been had about how often to have communion… but of late, it seems too few people are talking about what the Lord’s Supper actually is.

How should we view the Lord’s Supper? Is it a mere ritual, or is there something deeper behind it?

To find an answer, sometimes the best thing to do is to look to the saints of old. The Mystery of the Lord’s Supper offers the insights of Robert Bruce, one of Scotland’s most influential spiritual leaders from the 16th century. This book collects five of his sermons addressing the sacraments in general, the particulars of the Lord’s Supper and the preparation of our hearts.

To some looking to study this important matter, Bruce’s book might seem like an odd choice. The original sermons were preached in the late 16th century, with the Protestant Reformation in full swing and continuing to sweep across Europe. Because of this, much of the book is focused on refuting the Roman church’s understanding of the Mass while explaining the Reformed (and more specifically the Presbyterian) view.

An extremely beneficial element of his theology of the Lord’s Supper actually comes from Bruce’s understanding of the sacraments in general: They are a “holy sign and seal that is annexed to the preached Word of God to seal up and confirm the truth contained in the same Word” (33). It’s not just that the Lord’s Supper is a symbol or a sign—a concept that we have no problem understanding even today—it’s a seal of a promise. [Read more…]

1,500 Quotations for Preachers


As a writer, it’s super-helpful to have a collection of great quotes from books, TV shows, movies, songs—pretty much anything really. You never know when one might help illustrate a point I’m trying to make. The books in my library have huge chunks underlined, bracketed or otherwise highlighted with nuggets of (what I believe is) gold.

But, y’know, it’s a real pain to have to type them out when I actually need them.

Many pastors and writers have similar issues. For pastors especially, sermon prep time is at a premium and the best use of time may not be retyping a passage of a book just to add some punch to the weekend’s message. That’s where 1,500 Quotations for Preachers, a new resource from Logos Bible Software, comes in handy.

This new five volume series contains quotes from over 100 authors—including  Augustine of Hippo, Tertullian, John Chrysostom, John Calvin, John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, G.K. Chesterton, and dozens more—covering a variety of topics, from the age of the earth to the return of Christ and everything in between.

The quotations contained are organized by church era—the Early Church (covering the years 100–600), the Medieval Church (600–1500), the Reformation (1500–1650), the Puritans and the Modern Church (1650 forward)—as well as by title, theme, and associated Scripture references. Each quotation is also linked to the original resource in your Logos library (where those resources are available, naturally), making it easy to verify the context of any given statement and gain additional insight.

For example, if I’m writing or teaching on Titus 3:10, I can search through my library and I’ll find the following quote from Tertullian:

Our faith owes deference to the apostle, who forbids us to enter on “questions,” or to lend our ears to newfangled statements, or to consort with a heretic “after the first and second admonition,” not (be it observed) after discussion. Discussion he has inhibited in this way, by designating admonition as the purpose of dealing with a heretic, and the first one too, because he is not a Christian; in order that he might not, after the manner of a Christian, seem to require correction again and again, and “before two or three witnesses,” seeing that he ought to be corrected, for the very reason that he is not to be disputed with; and in the next place, because a controversy over the Scriptures can, clearly, produce no other effect than help to upset either the stomach or the brain.1

And I’ve also got an accompanying slide for use with a sermon or presentation:


The slide can be exported as an image file or sent directly to Keynote or PowerPoint.

How can you not love this?

Writers and pastors, do not pass 1,500 Quotations for Preachers by. This is a terrific resource, one I can guarantee is going to get a lot of use in the coming years. I’m thrilled to have in my Logos library—and I’m sure you will be, too.

TItle: 1,500 Quotations for Preachers, with Slides (5 volumes)
Editors: Elliot Ritzema, Elizabeth Vince and Rebecca Brant
Publisher: Logos Bible Software (2013)

Buy it at:

Manhood Restored by Eric Mason


As a rule, I don’t like books about being a “biblical man.” Too often they resort to describing a specific kind of guy: one who’s wild at heart, wants to slay a dragon, climb a mountain and play with power tools.

I am none of those things.

In fact, I’m forbidden from using power tools because I’m so inept. So if those are the things that define being a biblical man, what does that make me?

Fortunately, Eric Mason doesn’t resort to trite depictions of being a man of God in his new book, Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole. He gets that men aren’t motivated by declarations, covenants and promise rings to do more and try harder to be better men. Manhood needs to be transformed by the gospel. And this book is about how the gospel does exactly that.

Mason tackles four broad subjects, dealing with:

  • God’s original intent for mankind and sin’s distortion of it
  • “daddy deliquency” and the destruction of the family
  • Jesus as the restorer and supreme example of biblical manhood
  • a restored manhood’s affect on worldview, sexuality, vision (think leadership), family and church

I was surprised at how frequently I found myself underlining and commenting in my copy of the book. Every chapter is saturated with rich biblical teaching on manhood, the seriousness of sin and our only hope: the gospel. [Read more…]

Jesus the Son of God by D.A. Carson


Jesus is the Son of God… but exactly do we mean when we say that?

The answer may not be as simple as we may think. After all, Jesus isn’t the only person in Scripture referred to as God’s son—Adam, is God’s son (Luke 3:38), Israel (corporately) is God’s son (Ex. 4:22), Solomon is God’s son (1 Chron. 28:6), the Israelites (individually) are “sons of God” (Deut. 32:8), as are peacemakers (Matt. 5:9) and even the angels, in some sense (Job 2:1).

“So in what way is Jesus’s sonship like, or unlike, any of these?” asks D.A. Carson in Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed. “Why should we think of him as God’s only Son?” (Kindle location 84)

Carson knows there’s good reason to understand Jesus in this sense—after all, how we understand Christ drastically affects our understanding of the Christian faith. If we get Jesus wrong, everything else collapses. And, as Carson points out, this necessarily includes understanding his sonship.

Carson’s examination of this important title is focused on the following areas:

1. “Son of God” as a christological title
2. “Son of God” in select passages
3. “Jesus the Son of God” in Christian and Muslim contexts

In section one, Carson’s goal is to remind readers that in the Bible “‘son(s) of God’ can refer to a diverse range of beings” not simply the second person of the Trinity (location 369). Thus it carries with it a diverse range of meanings, all of which are only understood within their context. [Read more…]

Sound Doctrine by Bobby Jamieson


While “doctrine” is a dirty word in some circles, there are times when I wonder if it’s become a bit of a cliché in some of ours. Many of us in the “new Calvinist/YRR/whatever-you-want-to-call-this” movement love to talk about the importance of sound doctrine and why it matters. We have systematic theologies and commentaries, apologetics books and cultural critiques. But sometimes we forget to talk about what doctrine does in the life of the church, practically.

In Sound Doctrine: How a Church Grows in the Love and Holiness of God, Bobby Jamieson doesn’t give us another book on why doctrine is important. Instead, he reminds us how orthodoxy leads to a healthy church—one committed to the fulfilling of the Great Commission in the spirit of the great commandments.

Sound doctrine: for life in—and the life of—the church

Jamieson, assistant editor of 9Marks and managing editor of the 9Marks Journal, hooked me the moment I read his definition of sound doctrine: “Sound doctrine is a summary of the Bible’s teaching that is both faithful to the Bible and useful for life” (17).

How many other clear and helpful definitions of sound doctrine have you encountered—definitions that balance knowledge and practice? We understand the first easily enough, but when we neglect the second we tend to get into trouble. Application testifies to how firmly we actually hold to our beliefs, confirming the genuineness of our convictions or betraying the hypocrisy of our hearts. For example, what effect does how we treat one another have on the outside world? Does it attract or repel? Do people look at our congregations and really see a group of believers committed to one another? We’ve all heard stories of ugly church splits, divisiveness, pride, and cliquishness that leave people saying, “If that’s what a church is, I’m out.”

This is what sound doctrine lived out protects us from. It brings about greater unity when handled humbly. It increases our awe of the Lord and grows us in personal and corporate holiness. It drives our witness before the watching world and increases our love for one another. [Read more…]

Why Cities Matter by Stephen Um and Justin Buzzard

why-cities-matterHow should Christians approach cities?

Some approach the city as an enemy at worst or something to be exploited at best—its resources have value, but beyond that, it’s best left alone. Others give the qualities of a city little thought whatsoever, blending into its surrounding culture, but not really engaging it in a way that confronts its idols.

But is it possible to see the city as an opportunity for furthering the gospel?

Pastors Stephen T. Um and Justin Buzzard believe the answer is an emphatic yes. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, Christians need to think rightly about the city—to recognize the power cities have to shape culture and spread ideas. Why Cities Matter is their effort to help Christians think biblically and strategically about the city and cultivate “a deep vision for a global movement of the gospel in cities” (20).

Um and Buzzard set themselves up with a tremendous challenge in Why Cities Matter. Over the course of six chapters, the authors explain:

  • the importance of cities (chapter one);
  • the characteristics of cities (chapter two);
  • what the Bible says about cities (chapter three);
  • the necessity of contextualization (chapter four);
  • the storyline of the city (chapter five); and
  • developing a ministry vision for the city (chapter six).

Among the most helpful aspects of these chapters is the breakdown of the makings of a city—that cities are centers of power, of culture and of worship. Cities represent safety, government and economic opportunity. They serve as the cultural engines for our nations and our world—their greatest export is ideas. And cities “are built upon the things from which humanity attempts to derive its ultimate significance” (32)—cities reveal what we worship.

This idea of worship, in fact, comes up again and again. Um and Buzzard show readers how worship impacts everything in a city—its history, its values, its hopes and dreams—and how only the gospel can truly change its story. [Read more…]