Write More Better: a new eBook on writing well

I wasn’t a writer until I was one, and I didn’t plan on being one at all. I started writing out of pure desperation. It wasn’t a perceived calling. I didn’t have a fire in my bones or any such thing. I was thrown into a writing job and needed to figure out how to not suck at it.

I approach giving advice on how to write well cautiously because of this. This is not because I don’t know what to say, but because I often feel like I’m making it up as I go along (even when I’m not). Nevertheless,

If you’re in the same boat I was a few years ago, or are just looking for some advice on how to write well, this book is for you: Write More Better: Unoriginal (but helpful) tips for writing well:

This is not the work of someone who has “arrived” or anything like that. Nor is a “here I write, I can do no other” type piece. Just as in the blog series that preceded it, what you’re going to find in its pages that follow are the tips that I’ve found helpful on the journey to becoming a writer.

Download a copy of Write More Better: Unoriginal (but helpful) tips for writing well.

I hope you find the book helpful. Enjoy!

Five books to read near Christmas

origin_6895872661

Yeah, I know. You probably don’t want to think about that word any more than I do right now. I mean, Christmas has so much baggage surrounding it that it’s hard to have much fun. But it’s coming (just a few weeks away, friends).

Despite how we might feel about travel, awkward conversations, and the risk of really loud toys entering our homes, there is so much for us to be thankful for in the season, particularly as we remember the significance of the birth of Christ.

In light of this, we’ve been working to develop traditions in our family to help us be mindful of this truth. And, because it’s us, many of those traditions happen to revolve around books. Here are a few recommendations for books worth reading as we lead up to Christmas, both for personal enjoyment and family use:

Peace by Steven J. Nichols

This is a stunningly beautiful devotional that Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Trust released last year. Peace offers readings for the Advent season (four Sundays and Christmas Eve), as well as hymns and carols, readings from Christian theologians throughout history (such as this one from Augustine), and most importantly reminds us of the “earth-shaking implications of Christ’s appearance.”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


God Rest Ye Merry by Douglas Wilson (read a review here)

Okay, yes, Wilson is not for everyone. Some find his writing style pretty off-putting (he’s clever and he knows it). But in this volume, Wilson deconstructs the many false reasons for the season, provides an answer to the all important question, “how then shall we shop,” and shares how Santa Claus may or may not have slapped Arius across the face at the Council of Nicaea.

Buy it at: Amazon


The Lightlings by R.C. Sproul

An Armstrong family favorite, The Lightlings weaves an allegorical tale of redemption, focusing specifically on the incarnation. “A race of tiny beings known as lightlings represent humanity as they pass through all the stages of the biblical drama creation, fall, and redemption. In the end, children will understand why some people fear light more than darkness, but why they need never fear darkness again.”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper

This is the latest Advent devotional written by John Piper (the 2013 edition, Good News of Great Joy, is also well worth revisiting). Piper offers short daily readings (25 in all), intended to guide us in experiencing the joy of Christ in this season. I particularly enjoy the fact that Piper doesn’t stick to traditional Christmas passages, leading off with Luke 19:10, and Jesus’ declaration that He came to seek and save the lost:

So Advent is a season for thinking about the mission of God to seek and to save lost people from the wrath to come. God raised him from the dead, “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). It’s a season for cherishing and worshiping this characteristic of God—that he is a searching and saving God, that he is a God on a mission, that he is not aloof or passive or indecisive. He is never in the maintenance mode, coasting or drifting. He is sending, pursuing, searching, saving. That’s the meaning of Advent

Buy it at: Amazon | iBooksDesiring God (free PDF download)


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This is one of the stories we’ve been waiting for a loooong time to share with the kids, and probably need to wait a while longer yet. I’ve long been a fan of Dickens, and am eager to share this classic tale of transformation with the kids as they get older.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

What are a few books you’d recommend reading for personal reflection or family enjoyment as we prepare for Christmas?


Photo credit: ChaoticMind75 via photopin cc

Seven books Christian women should read

medium_3306684806

I love recommending books (clearly, since I seem to do it a lot). The books we read shape so much of who we are, and so we ought to think carefully about what we read. Recently, I was encouraged to share a list of books every Christian woman should read. I loved the idea… but I also realized pretty quickly that me making recommendations for ladies might not be the best idea. At least, not if I’m doing it alone. In light of that, I’ve called in some help in the form of my friends, Kim Shay and Staci Eastin. So, here are our recommendations:


Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung (recommended by Aaron)

Although it wasn’t one of my all-time favorites by DeYoung, there’s a lot of wisdom in the book that all of us would do well to heed (especially busy stay-at-home-homeschooling moms). While not all busyness is bad (after all, God made us to work), we need to be careful in learning how to rest well, even as we strive to work well.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


The God Who is There by D.A. Carson (recommended by Kim)

Kim says, “I think this should be read because it gives a good overview of the biblical narrative and redemptive history. I have found that having a big picture understanding of Christianity has helped me approach the more specific areas with more thought.”

In this basic introduction to faith, D. A. Carson takes seekers, new Christians, and small groups through the big story of Scripture. He helps readers to know what they believe and why they believe it. The companion leader’s guide helps evangelistic study groups, small groups, and Sunday school classes make the best use of this book in group settings.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup (recommended by Staci)

In Practical Theology for Women, Alsup uses the power of theology to address practical issues in women’s lives. Her book opens with a general discussion of theology and addresses the most fundamental and practical issue of theology: faith. Then sheexplores the attributes of God the Father, Son, and Spirit fromScripture, concluding with a look at our means of communicating with God-prayer and the Word.Throughout the book Alsup exhorts women to apply what they believe about God in their everyday lives. As they do this, their husbands, homes, and churches will benefit.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


God’s Good Design by Claire Smith (recommended by Aaron)

Feminism is part of “the cultural air we breathe”—it’s so ingrained into our society that it’s just a given. It’s the status quo, and no longer something to be questioned. But Claire Smith wants us to see that, despite arguments to the contrary, men and women really are different—and that’s exactly the way God intended it. In God’s Good DesignSmith examines the critical texts surrounding gender roles, offering valuable insights into the debate over the responsibilities of men and women within the church and home.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Bound Together by Chris Brauns (recommended by Kim)

Kim says, “As women, we balance a lot of ‘stuff,’ like motherhood, work, marriage, family, church, and sometimes, we don’t see how our actions affect others. We can get caught up in ‘life’ and act more in reaction than decisively, not realizing how something now could affect someone a couple of years down the road. It left me thinking for a long time after.”

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Made for More by Hannah Anderson (recommended by Staci)

Is your identity based on a role? Is it linked to a relationship? Do your achievements influence how you view yourself? What does your family say about you? Who are you as a woman?

Honestly, these are not the right questions. The real question is, who are you as a person created in God’s image? Until we see our identity in His, we’re settling for seconds. And we were made for so much more…

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Pleasing People by Lou Priolo (recommended by Staci)

Staci says, “Everybody struggles with fear of man and anxiety, but I do think they are particular stumbling blocks for women.”

Full of Scripture and challenging to the reader, Pleasing People takes aim at a problem common in all of us: the desire to be liked by others. But the book also wisely delineates when pleasing people is biblical. The penetrating exercises throughout the text will help readers see how this sin manifests itself in their lives. Pleasing People will be useful for both personal reading and group study.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Anything you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments!


Photo credit: EJP Photo via photopin cc

What should I review?

medium_3306684806

Every so often, it’s fun for me to ask your advice on what to review. The very first time I asked was back in 2010, and wound up reviewing Sun Stand Still as a result. The next time, I reviewed The Gospel Transformation Bible and Delighting in the Law of the Lord. And most recently, with your encouragement, PROOF and Facing Leviathan.

And now, I’d love your help once again! Here are five options I’m considering:

…or something else! If these choices look a bit too “safe,” recommend something else!

So how about it—if I were going to review one of these books, which should it be?

Let me know in the comments over the next couple days, and I’ll let you know which to expect a review of in a few days.


Photo credit: EJP Photo via photopin cc

New and noteworthy books

new-noteworthy-october

One of my favorite times of the day, after coming home and greeting my family is seeing what mail has arrived. This is not because I super-love receiving bills in the mail, but because I’m in the position where a number of Christian publishers regularly send me copies of many of the latest Christian books. Here’s a quick look at a few of the most interesting in the latest batch:


After They Are Yours: The Grace and Grit of Adoption by Brian Borgman

The latest from Cruciform Press looks like a powerful read:

After They Are Yours talks transparently and redemptively about the often unspoken problems adoptive parents face. Combining personal experience, biblical wisdom and a heart for people, Borgman recalls the humbling and difficult lessons God has taught him and his wife. This is not a success story, rather it’s a story of struggles and failures set in the broader context of a God who is gracious and continually teaches us the meaning of adoption.

Buy it at: Amazon | Cruciform Press


Hope Reborn: How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus by Tope Koleoso and Adrian Warnock

Everyone is looking for hope and meaning in life. Are you sure that you really are a Christian and will live forever with Jesus? If you have drifted away, this book encourages you to come back and find certain hope.

Buy it at: Amazon


Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel and Damaging the Faith by Chelsen Vicari

The provocative title certainly caught my attention. It’ll be interesting to see how balanced its content is. Could be really great or made of crazy. I suspect there is no middle ground:

Peek behind the curtain of some “hip” or “progressive” evangelical churches, past the savvy trends and contemporary music, and what you find may surprise you. Liberal evangelicals—despite how apolitical they claim to be—are gaining ground, promoting a repackaged version of Christianity that distorts the authority of Scripture and is causing a mass exodus of young people from the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Buy it at: Amazon


Heaven by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson (editors)

The latest in Crossway’s Theology in Community series offers much-needed perspective for Christians confused about the doctrine of heaven:

Our culture has a lot to say about heaven. But too much of it is based more on imaginative speculation or “supernatural” experiences than on the Bible itself.

In the latest addition to the Theology in Community series, Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson have assembled an interdisciplinary team of evangelical scholars to explore the doctrine of heaven from a variety of angles. Among other contributors, Ray Ortlund examines the concept of heaven in the Old Testament, Gerald Bray explores the history of theological reflection about heaven, and Ajith Fernando looks at persecuted saints’ special relationship to heaven in the New Testament. This team of first-rate scholars offers modern readers a comprehensive overview of this often misunderstood topic—shedding biblical light on the eternal hope of all Christians.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


The Legacy Journey: A Radical View of Biblical Wealth and Generosity by Dave Ramsey

It’ll be interesting to see where Ramsey ultimately lands on this topic. Much like Vicari’s book, it could either be really great or utterly not great. The only way I’ll know for sure? By reading it.

There’s a lot of bad information in our culture today about wealth—and the wealthy. Worse, there’s a growing backlash in America against our most successful neighbors, but why? To many, wealth is seen as the natural result of hard work and wise money management. To others, wealth is viewed as the ultimate, inexcusable sin. This has left a lot of godly men and women honestly confused about what to do with the resources God’s put in their hands. God’s ways of handling money caused them to build wealth, but then they’re left feeling guilty about it. Is this what God had in mind?

Buy it at: Amazon


Beat God to the Punch by Eric Mason

I actually finished reading this about a week ago. A review is forthcoming:

Author Eric Mason succinctly articulates God’s call of discipleship on every person. In a winsome, persuasive tone, Mason calls people into a posture of submission to the gospel.

Eric Mason masterfully roots out the areas of life where we try to tell God, “Do not enter.” In light of Jesus’ free offer of the good news, Pastor Mason challenges readers to turn our affections away from those things that hold hostage our hearts and consider what it means to be an authentic follower of the Messiah.

Buy it at: Amazon


The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C. S. Lewis by John Piper and David Mathis (editors)

C. S. Lewis stands as one of the most influential Christians of the twentieth century. His commitment to the life of the mind and the life of the heart is evident in classics like the Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity—books that illustrate the unbreakable connection between rigorous thought and deep affection.

With contributions from Randy Alcorn, John Piper, Philip Ryken, Kevin Vanhoozer, David Mathis, and Douglas Wilson, this volume explores the man, his work, and his legacy—reveling in the truth at the heart of Lewis’s spiritual genius: God alone is the answer to our deepest longings and the source of our unending joy.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Rising Above a Toxic Workplace by Gary D Chapman, Paul E. White and Harold Myra

This is another one that I finished pretty recently. Look for a review soon:

Many employees experience the reality of bulling bosses, poisonous people, and soul-crushing cultures on a daily basis. Rising Above a Toxic Workplace tells authentic stories from today’s workers who share how they cope, change-or quit. Candidly they open up about what they learned, what they wish they had done, and how to gain resilience. Insightfully illustrating from these accounts, authors Gary Chapman, Paul White, and Harold Myra blend their combined experiences in ministry and business to deliver hope and practical guidance to those who find themselves in an unhealthy work environment. Includes a Survival Guide and Toolkit full of strategies and realistic insights.

Buy it at: Amazon

Five fiction books you should read

medium_3306684806

One of the things I’ve really come to love as I’ve re-embraced fiction has been its power: good fiction is disarming. It allows you to enter into a world either very similar to our own or completely unlike it, and experience the mundane and the marvellous in ways you may not have imagined previously. It allows us to explore the nature of humanity in ways that you can’t as effectively through non-fiction. Often, by the time you’re done reading a really good fiction book, you’re surprised by how much you have to consider.

And yet it seems like so few Christians (at least in the circles I run in) read really good fiction.[Worse, it seems like even fewer Christian authors write really good fiction (as evidenced by the plethora of Amish romance novels available at your local Christian bookstore). But that’s an issue for another time.] I’d like to see that change (as would Justin Taylor, clearly). So, here’s a look at five fiction books Christians should consider reading. I do not promise profound picks—in fact, there’s a high degree of moral ambiguity represented in each—but I trust you’ll find them intriguing.


High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. But what got me in this book in particular (aside from it being so ridiculously quotable), is how much I identified with its characters, especially as an angsty 20-something music snob. I knew the guys at Rob’s record store. Actually, I was one of them—socially awkward and pretentious in my musical taste. (How is it that I ever got married?) Hornby’s greatest skill—giving us characters who read as real people, as opposed to ideas presented as people, if you follow—is on full display in this book, and why he is among my favorite modern authors.


The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Having read a few of his books, this remains my favorites (Wonder Boys is a close second). I grew up adoring comic books. I actually desperately wanted to work in the comic industry in my teens (and even in my 20s; don’t judge). Kavalier and Clay follows Jewish cousins Joe Kavalier and Sammy Klayman who find fame with their creation The Escapist in the golden age of comics (the late 1930s to early 1950s). This book deals with some pretty powerful themes—among them , the cost of fame, racism, sexual identity, and family—but refuses to sacrifice good storytelling for the sake of making a statement.


The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. Is this a “safe” pick? Absolutely. Anything by C.S. Lewis tends to be in Christian circles since he’s one of us. But this one is different than the other books in the Narnia series (all of which I enjoyed). While it is not unceasingly grim, and, indeed, ends on the highest of notes, there is a weight to it that is lacking in some of the earlier volumes. One of my favorite elements? The ape who insists he’s a man (see why at the link).


Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I picked up this book randomly during my last year of high school. I can’t remember why exactly, though it may have been for an independent study project. After reading it (and then reading it again. And again. And…), I think I finally wore out my copy. It’s the richness of the characters that makes Great Expectations so compelling. As Dickens tells the tale of a lower-class boy who desires to become a gentleman, he gives us far more complicated and conflicted men and women than you find in any of his other works.


Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams. Few authors can blend the mundane with the absurd as masterfully as Adams. Here’s one of my favorite passages:

The bathroom was not large.

The walls were panelled in old oak linenfold which, given the age and nature of the building, was quite probably priceless, but otherwise the fittings were stark and institutional.

There was old, scuffed, black-and-white checked linoleum on the floor, a small basic bath, well cleaned but with very elderly stains and chips in the enamel, and also a small basic basin with a toothbrush and toothpaste next to the taps. Screwed into the probably priceless panelling above the basin was a tin mirror-fronted bathroom cabinet. It looked as if it had been repainted many times, and the mirror was stained round the edges with condensation. The lavatory had an old-fashioned cast-iron chain-pull cistern. There was an old cream-painted wooden cupboard standing in the corner, with an old brown bentwood chair next to it, on which lay some neatly folded but threadbare small towels. There was also a large horse in the room, taking up most of it. (69)

You could really choose any of his books and you’d do well; but I’ve long had a fondness for Dirk Gently (which I also happen to be re-reading at the time of this writing).


Those are a few fiction books I’d recommend checking out. What are some of your favorites?


Photo credit: EJP Photo via photopin cc

Three books to read and a final encouragement on writing better

All this week, I’ve been writing on writing—specifically sharing what advice I can to help you grow as a writer. Today, I’d like to wrap up recommending a few books on writing that are well worth your time, as well as a final encouragement:

Wordsmithy by Douglas Wilson. Wilson’s writing is not for everyone (I know some who downright hate reading him), but the advice he gives in this book is some of the best you’re going to get anywhere. Seriously.

How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times by Roy Peter Clark. Clark’s advice is practical, helpful and geared to writing in an age of short-attention spans: “We need more good short writing—the kind that makes us stop, read, and think—in an accelerating world. A time-starved culture bloated with information hungers for the lean, clean, simple, and direct. Such is our appetite for short writing that not only do our long stories seem long, but our short stories feel too long as well.” Well worth checking out.

On Writing by Stephen King. There are few authors as prolific as King, and even fewer who’ve made the impact on popular culture he has. Although I’ve personally not been a fan of his work, On Writing is wonderfully helpful and full of tough love for aspiring authors.

Now, for the encouragement: The last bit of advice I’ve got for any aspiring writers is pretty simple: just write. 

Write more better tip 5

This isn’t mind-blowing by any means, but it’s so necessary. If you want to be a writer, you’ve got to write. Don’t write for an audience “out there,” write for you. Write what you enjoy. Write what makes you smile. Write what makes you feel something. Be really comfortable with stinking for a good long while. Don’t worry about how to get published. Don’t worry about how many people are or aren’t reading your blog. But do write. And the more you write, the more you learn from your mistakes, the more you are willing to be coached, if you truly do have a gift for the craft, the better you will become.

Seven books I abandoned

medium_5438459663

When the teacher warned his son, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12), he wasn’t kidding. There are so many books out there to read—and even more that may make you feel ashamed for ever having read them.

I’ve shared a number of book lists over the last few months—on books new Christians should and shouldn’t read, on homosexuality, and prayer, among others—and today, I wanted to shake things up a bit: instead of telling you about books I think you should read, I want to share a bit about a few books I’ve abandoned.

Some of these are good books that, for whatever reason, I couldn’t get into. Some are terrible ones that were simply too awful to finish. And some might be on your bookshelf right now. Here’s a look:

Moby Dick by Herman Mellville. I know this is a classic work, but oh my gosh, it is one of the most awful books I’ve ever read. Or tried to read. I think I got through about 100 pages and wound up watching the movie instead.

Lord, Change My Attitude: Before It’s Too Late by James MacDonald. I know some people love his books, and there’s probably an unspoken rule that I’m supposed to because I go to a Harvest church, but I’ve never enjoyed any book I’ve read by MacDonald. I’ve tried several and gave up each time within a couple of chapters (in fact, there’s only one I ever managed to finish). They are consistently terribly written and painful to read.

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller. This one is probably a surprise since I really enjoy Keller’s work. He is always thoughtful and well-written (which itself is a wonderful contrast to so many books written by pastors). This one, I think, is a victim of timing: I was just in the wrong headspace when I was trying to read it, so it was abandoned. Perhaps I’ll try again someday.

The Gospel According to Jesus: What Is Authentic Faith? by John MacArthur. This, again, might be a shocker to some. There’s much that I agree with in the book, but dang, MacArthur’s tone makes it difficult to finish most of what he writes. This is one of those that I came really close to completing, but it took me a couple of years of picking it up and putting it down. It’s since left my personal library.

Community: Taking Your Small Group off Life Support by Brad House. My first thought as I started reading it: small groups, the Mars Hill way. That’s probably not giving House’s work a fair shake, but that combined with its dull (though technically correct) writing didn’t inspire me to finish it.

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink. Pink’s work is actually pretty well-written, and the research he presents is always fascinating (I especially enjoyed Drive). But this one just didn’t grab me. So, I never finished it (though my son did destroy the dust jacket).

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Again, another well-written book, but it just didn’t grab me. It’s on my “try again sometime” list, so we’ll see.

So those are a few of the books I’ve abandoned. What are some of yours?


photo credit: gioiadeantoniis via photopin cc

New and noteworthy books

New-Noteworthy-09-2014

One of my favorite times of the day, after coming home and greeting my family is seeing what mail has arrived. This is not because I super-love receiving bills in the mail, but because I’m in the position where a number of Christian publishers regularly send me copies of many of the latest Christian books. Here’s a quick look at a few of the most interesting in the latest batch:


You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis and Lisa Chan

In his latest book, Francis Chan joins together with his wife Lisa to address the question many couples wonder at the altar: How do I have a great marriage? Setting aside typical topics on marriage, Francis and Lisa dive into Scripture to understand what it means to have a relationship that satisfies the deepest parts of our souls.

100% of the net profits from You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity will go towards providing food, shelter and rehabilitation for thousands of orphaned children and exploited women in partnership with global charities.

And if you needed an additional reason to pick this one up…

You’re welcome.

Buy it at: Amazon


ESV Women’s Devotional Bible

The latest edition to the ESV Bible family:

Applicable for women in any stage of life, the Women’s Devotional Bible is theologically rich in content while remaining accessible and practical. Readers will be encouraged in daily, prayerful Bible study, and equipped to understand and apply the Bible to every aspect of life.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth by Mike Cosper

From horror flicks to rom-coms, the tales we tell and the myths we weave inevitably echo the narrative underlying all of history: the story of humanity’s tragic sin and God’s triumphant salvation. This entertaining book connects the dots between the stories we tell and the one great Story—helping us better understand the longings of the human heart and thoughtfully engage with the movies and TV shows that capture our imaginations.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Edwards on the Christian Life by Dane Ortlund

Dane Ortlund invites us to explore the great eighteenth-century pastor’s central passion: God’s resplendent beauty. Whether the topic was the nature of love, the preeminence of Scripture, or the glory of the natural world, the concept of beauty stood at the heart of Edwards’s theology and permeated his portrait of the Christian life. Clear and engaging, this accessible volume will inspire you to embrace Edwards’s magnificent vision of what it means to be a Christian: enjoying and reflecting of the beauty of God in all things.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Truth in a Culture of Doubt by Andreas Köstenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw

Truth in a Culture of Doubt takes a closer look at the key arguments skeptical scholars such as Ehrman keep repeating in radio interviews, debates, and in his their popular writings. If you are looking for insightful responses to critical arguments from a biblical perspective, easily accessible and thoughtfully presented, this book is for you. This is the first book to provide a comprehensive response to Ehrman’s popular works. It is presented in such a way that readers can either read straight through the book or use it as a reference when particular questions arise. Responding to skeptical scholars such as Ehrman, Truth in a Culture of Doubt takes readers on a journey to explain topics such as the Bible’s origins, the copying of the Bible, alleged contradictions in Scripture, and the relationship between God and evil. Written for all serious students of Scripture, this book will enable you to know how to respond to a wide variety of critical arguments raised against the reliability of Scripture and the truthfulness of Christianity.

Buy it at: Amazon


God’s Design for Man and Woman by Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger

This thorough study of the Bible’s teaching on men and women aims to help a new generation of Christians live for Christ in today’s world. Moving beyond other treatments that primarily focus on select passages, this winsome volume traces Scripture’s overarching pattern related to male-female relationships in both the Old and New Testaments. Those interested in careful discussion rather than caustic debate will discover that God’s design is not confining or discriminatory but beautiful, wise, liberating, and good.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Tom Jones by Fielding

This one’s a bit of a cheat since it’s about 200 years old and I bought it. But I bought it on the recommendation of Karen Swallow Prior.

Tom, a foundling, is discovered one evening by the benevolent Squire Allworthy and his sister Bridget and brought up as a son in their household; when his sexual escapades and general misbehavior lead them to banish him, he sets out in search of both his fortune and his true identity. Amorous, high-spirited, and filled with what Fielding called “the glorious lust of doing good,” but with a tendency toward dissolution, Tom Jones is one of the first characters in English fiction whose human virtues and vices are realistically depicted. This edition is set from the text of the Wesleyan Edition of the Works of Henry Fielding.

Buy it at: Amazon

Seven books I’m reading this fall

medium_5438459663

Well, it’s finally here: Labor Day, and with it, the end of summer holidays in Canada. Tomorrow, kids all over Canada will return to school, and traffic will be slightly busier due to school busses. Life around the Armstrong home will be a little different, too, since it’s our first official day being a homeschooling family.

As new seasons approach, I like to consider what I’m going to read over the next several weeks. A few weeks ago, I shared a look at what I planned to read during the summer (and actually read most of them!) Today, I wanted to share a few books I’m planning to read (or have already started) this fall:

Killing Lions: A Guide Through the Trials Young Men Face by John and Sam Eldridge. This is one of those “I’m doing a book review” reads, because I don’t willingly read books by John Eldridge. That should also give you a hint about how much I’m enjoying it.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams. “The horse, it must be said, was quite surprised.” I last read this in my early 20s, and I’m looking forward to re-reading. Douglas Adams was a brilliant writer, a master of smart humor and clever titles. (See also The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.)

The Wonder-Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles by Jared C. Wilson. This has been on my radar since late 2013 and on my bookshelf since July. This is probably one of the books I’m most guaranteed to enjoy because, well, Jared’s about a thousand times better a writer than most Christian writers aspire to be. (In other words, he is the anti-Eldridge.)

The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship by Jonathan Holmes. The latest book from Cruciform Press looks very intriguing.

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More——Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior. I love a good biographies and good writing. This will, Lord willing, be a match made in heaven.

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. To call any of Wilson’s books “children’s fiction” is foolish.  He writes smart, compelling stories suitable for all-ages (certainly that’s what I picked up reading The Ashtown Burials series). It’ll be fun to see how this one turns out and if it’s something I can share with my kids eventually.

Everyone’s A Theologian by R.C. Sproul. I’ve been planning to read this one for ages now, so it’ll be nice to finally dig in.

So that’s a few of the books I’m hoping to read this fall. What’s on your list?


photo credit: gioiadeantoniis via photopin cc

Five books every Christian should read on prayer

medium_3306684806

Prayer is a discipline many of us need help with. Okay, maybe you’re doing great in your prayer life. I need a lot of help in mine. Thankfully, there are a lot of really great books out there on the subject. Here are five I’ve found particularly helpful and you might, too:


The Mighty Weakness of John Knox

True, I recommended this one when talking about biographies you and I should read, but Douglas Bond’s book on John Knox offers us an example to look to when we want to know what a life submitted to the Lord in prayer looks like. “Because of his candid acknowledgment of his great need, he sought the aid of the God of the universe, and one way he sought it was through the prayers of fellow believers.”

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor

Don Carson’s book on his father, Tom, is another powerful “pray by example” book (even if not technically a book on prayer). As I wrote elsewhere, Carson shows his father as a man who prayed as though the Lord really is sovereign—that He must intervene for the lives of his hearers to be transformed.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


A Simple Way to Pray: The Wisdom of Martin Luther on Prayer

Archie Parrish offers an examination of Luther’s prayer life, as well as the advice he wrote in his little booklet, The Way to Pray. As far as “instruction” books on prayer, there are few better than this because of it. (More thoughts related to this book can be found here. And for a related book, read R.C. Sproul’s The Barber Who Wanted to Pray, a child-appropriate retelling of Luther’s The Way to Pray.)

Buy it at: Amazon


A Call to Prayer

This little book is one of the most challenging, if for no other reason than J.C. Ryle’s willingness to call out the complacency of Christians in his day (a complacency that looks familiar in ours, as well). He writes:

Can we really believe that people are praying against sin — when we see them plunging into it? Can we suppose they pray against the world — when they are entirely absorbed and taken up with its pursuits? Can we think they really ask God for grace to serve him — when they do not show the slightest interest to serve him at all?

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Valley of Vision

As mentioned above, often the best way to learn to pray is by example rather than by instruction. Sometimes the best way to pray in a given moment is to pray with someone else’s prayer. That’s where the Valley of Vision, with its powerful, gospel-rich prayers, is so helpful.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Reader’s choice: A Praying Life by Paul Miller. I’ve not read this (yet), but I keep hearing I should and that you should, too! (You can get it at Westminster Books or Amazon.)

What books have you found helpful for cultivating your prayer life?

Seven books to read on Christianity and homosexuality

medium_9162806331

Last week, recording artist Vicky Beeching, whose songs are sung in thousands of churches in America (possibly even yours this weekend), announced, “I’m gay. God loves me just the way I am.” And she is just the latest among many who are either coming out as gay or in favor of same-sex marriage.

Far too many of us struggle to know how to respond. Is there a biblical case for same-sex relationships? Does the Bible really condemn it? Can we just “live and let live”?

If we’re going to be people who truly love our neighbors, we need to be people who tell the truth. And in order to do that, we need to know what the truth is—what God’s Word has to say about homosexuality. Here are a few books that I’ve found helpful and you might, too:


God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines

This one might be the surprise recommendation to some of you. But it’s one I believe we all should be paying attention to as it purports to offer a biblical foundation for the compatibility of homosexuality and Christianity. For that reason alone, it will almost certainly be the book progressive Christians will be appealing to on this matter (in fact, one of them—Rachel Held Evans—wrote a glowing endorsement for it).

Buy it at: Amazon


Is God anti-gay? by Sam Allberry (reviewed here)

Sam Allberry’s book is one of the finest you will read on the subject. He writes not simply as a pastor helping Christians wrestle with the implications of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, but also as a man who deals with same-sex attraction. So for him, the temptation to compromise on what the Bible says would undoubtedly be strong. It would certainly make it convenient for him. Instead, he reminds us of the simple truth: “God’s message for gay people is the same as his message for everyone. Repent and believe.”

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Bookstore


Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill

Like Allberry, Wesley Hill writes from the perspective of a man living with same-sex attraction. And like Allberry, he writes from the perspective of one who truly believes the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality and marriage. His approach is a little different than Allberry’s in that the message of his book finds its heart in the hope of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: that although some of the Corinthians practiced homosexuality, and adultery, and were thieves, drunkards, and swindlers, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The God of Sex by Peter Jones

Peter Jones broadens the discussion away from merely talking about homosexuality as if it were “the” problem, to the larger issue, which is one of worldview. For Jones, fundamentally, what we’re seeing is a clash of worldviews at work, the continued battle between the truth and the lie (Romans 1:25). Examining the relationship between sexuality and spirituality through this lens allows us to see how both worldviews see sex as sacred, but with purposes in mind.

Buy it at: Amazon


Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Rosaria Butterfield is another writing from first-hand experience, having been in a relationship with a woman for several years before her conversion to Christ. While the book is principally the story of her conversion, her thoughts on the conflict between the two opposing ideologies—especially given that she was a chief advocate for gay rights at an academic level—is fascinating.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage by Erwin Lutzer

It’s been about five years since I read this one, so a lot of the details are fuzzy. However, I do remember it being you’d expect from its author: biblical, careful, pastoral and extremely helpful. While he does strongly express the serious implications of homosexuality and same-sex marriage on society, his point is not to condemn this sin as though it existed in a vacuum. Essentially, even as he equips us to think biblically about the issue before us, he also gives readers a gentle warning (and rebuke) to not ignore the other serious sins among us, whether greed, adultery or gossip.

Buy it at: Amazon


Bonus book: Love into Light: The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Church by Peter Hubbard

This is not one I’ve read (yet); however, it is one that a number of friends and fellow bloggers have recommended. Here’s a look at what Tim Challies had to say in his review:

Hubbard writes as a pastor, as a counselor and as a man deeply marked by the gospel of divine grace extended toward human sin. He insists that the gospel makes all the difference, for before the cross we are all the same, we are all sinners, we are all in desperate need of grace.… The gospel makes all the difference and the gospel is exactly what Fred Phelps and so many others have thrown away in their misguided, hate-filled attempts to address homosexuality. “If our attitude toward a gay or lesbian person is disgust, we have forgotten the gospel. We need to remember the goodness and lovingkindness that God poured out on us. God should have looked at us and been disgusted. Instead, without condoning our sin, He loved us and saved us. And I want everyone to know that kind of love!”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

That’s a few of the books I’d recommend checking out. What about you: what books on this issue have you found helpful? 


Photo credit: Joe Parks via photopin cc

Five biographies you (and I) should read

medium_3306684806

Yesterday, Sam Allberry gave some great advice:

I love biographies, although, admittedly, I don’t read as many as I’d like. This is simply because I foolishly don’t prioritize them well enough in my reading (I sense a theme for 2015, how about you?). When it comes to getting started with the genre, however, it’s tough to know where to begin. If you start with volume one of Mark Twain’s autobiography, for example, you might be biting off more than you can chew. Or if you read an unauthorized biography of just about anyone, well, then you’ll have other problems.

So, to help us out a little with getting started, here’s a look at a few biographies I’ve enjoyed, and at least one I’m preparing to read.


The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon

This autobiography is a monster. There’s no other way to describe it. Spurgeon’s autobiography was compiled from notes, letters and journals by his wife, Susannah, and his private secretary. Virtually every other biography of Spurgeon owes a sizeable debt to it. Originally published in four volumes, and then again by Banner of Truth in a lovely two volume set that’s so big you can protect your house with it, this autobiography gives us a picture of the man behind the myth of Spurgeon, one who is just as in need of Christ as the rest of us. A mighty man of God who struggled with his own frailty, but relied wholly on Jesus.

I’ve been poking away at this one for years, both with the Banner of Truth editions, and more recently, a four volume edition courtesy of Logos Bible Software, which has proven invaluable since I’m currently hard at work completing the script for a documentary about the Prince of Preachers. Fourteen year old Spurgeon’s discussion of baptism with an Anglican clergyman, wherein the clergyman convinces Spurgeon of the necessity of believers’ baptism, is almost worth the price of the biography alone.

Buy it at: Westminster Books (volume one, volume two) | Amazon (volume one, volume two) | Logos

Other recommended Spurgeon biographies: The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson, and Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Tom Nettles.


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

This one’s on here not to earn culture cred (I mean, seriously—you have to have read this by now. There’s a movie coming out, for goodness’ sake!), but because Laura Hillenbrand’s account of Louie Zamperini’s life and experiences in the second world war and beyond are so darn compelling.

Buy it at: Amazon


The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones: 1899-1981

This book is a condensed and partly re-written version of Iain Murray’s earlier two volume biography of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, intended in some ways as a more accessible introduction to Lloyd-Jones’ life and ministry. I’ve had this one sitting on my shelf for a while now (and if you went to T4G in 2014, so do you), so I’m looking forward to digging in sometime in the next few months.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God

It’s been ages since I read it, I remember finding David McCasland’s biography of the author of My Utmost for His Highest fascinating as it takes readers from Chambers’ youth in Scotland to a YMCA camp in Egypt during World War I. But one story that’s stuck with me involves Chambers’ radical generosity—so generous was he that he frequently gave away all that he had to those who would ask, trusting the Lord to provide for his needs.

Buy it at: Amazon


The Mighty Weakness of John Knox

Douglas Bond’s short profile of Scottish Reformer John Knox focuses on Knox as a man keenly aware of his own shortcomings, and relied on the Lord in all he did, in a way that Westerners today struggle to understand. “Because of his candid acknowledgment of his great need, he sought the aid of the God of the universe, and one way he sought it was through the prayers of fellow believers,” Bond writes. “Empowered by the Almighty, Knox became the single most significant force to be reckoned with in an entire country.”

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon

So those are a few biographies I’d encourage checking out. What biographies have you really enjoyed and would you recommend?

New and noteworthy books

new-books-july-2014

One of my favorite times of the day, after coming home and greeting my family is seeing what mail has arrived. This is not because I super-love receiving bills in the mail, but because I’m in the position where a number of Christian publishers regularly send me copies of many of the latest Christian books. Here’s a quick look at a few of the most interesting in the latest batch (along with a few that aren’t so new, but I’m glad to have in the library):

The Wonder-Working God by Jared C. Wilson. The thematic sequel to his also recently released (and excellent) book, The Storytelling God:

Do you believe in miracles?

Walking on water. Multiplying the fish and the loaves. Raising Lazarus from the dead. The miracles of Jesus may be well known, but they’re often misunderstood. In The Wonder-Working God, pastor Jared Wilson wants to help us see that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the miraculous events recorded in the Gospels.

From the humble wonder of the incarnation to the blinding glory of the transfiguration, this book shows how Jesus’s miracles reveal his divinity, authority, and ultimate mission: restoring us and this world to a right relationship with God.

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. “Offering a clear and concise plan to help women go deeper in their study of Scripture, this book will equip you to engage God’s Word in a way that trains your mind and transforms your heart.”

The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context and Theological Insights by J. V. Fesko:

Church historian John Fesko walks readers through the background and theology of the Westminster Confession, the Larger Catechism, and the Shorter Catechism, helpfully situating them within their original context. Organized according to the major categories of systematic theology, this book utilizes quotations from other key works from the same time period to shed light on the history and significance of these influential documents.

Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. I loaned it out to a friend some time ago, and I’m not sure I’ll be getting it back. So I got another copy:

This book presents the case for loving the local church. It paints a picture of the local church in all its biblical and real life guts, gaffes, and glory in an effort to edify local congregations and entice the disaffected back to the fold. It also provides a solid biblical mandate to love and be part of the body of Christ and counteract the “leave church” books that trumpet rebellion and individual felt needs.

Encounters with Jesus by Timothy Keller. “In Encounters With Jesus, New York Times bestselling author and renowned pastor Timothy Keller shows how people were changed when they met Jesus personally—and how we can be changed today through our own encounter with him.”

The Gospel in Genesis by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I’m really looking forward to reading Lloyd-Jones’ insights into the early chapters of Genesis:

Along the way Lloyd-Jones talks of serpents and sin, of the Word of God and the Babel of man. But the destination of The Gospel in Genesis is clear: readers will be moved from fig leaves in the garden to faith in the gospel.…These nine sermons will snap nonbelievers out of their apathy toward God and will embolden believers to share the only gospel that offers answers to life’s biggest questions.

The Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S. Lewis:

The first book written by C. S. Lewis after his conversion, The Pilgrim’s Regress is, in a sense, the record of Lewis’s own search for meaning and spiritual satisfaction — a search that eventually led him to Christianity.…Though the dragons and giants here are different from those in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Lewis’s allegory performs the same function of enabling the author to say simply and through fantasy what would otherwise have demanded a full-length philosophy of religion.

And finally, after many months of saving my plum reward points from Chapters, I finally added this beauty to our family library:

What library is complete without The Complete Calvin and Hobbes?

None. The correct answer is none.

What stands out to you on this list of more notable than new books? What are some books you’re looking forward to reading over the next few weeks?