When we talk about salvation biblically, we have to be careful to state that from which we ultimately are saved. The apostle Paul does just that for us in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, where he says Jesus “delivers us from the wrath to come.” Ultimately, Jesus died to save us from the wrath of God. We simply cannot understand the teaching and the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth apart from this, for He constantly warned people that the whole world someday would come under divine judgment.
Here are a few of His warnings concerning the judgment: “‘I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment'” (Matt:522); “‘I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment'” (Matt. 12:36); and “‘The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here'” (Matt. 12:41).
Jesus’ theology was a crisis theology. The Greek word crisis means “judgment.” And the crisis of which Jesus preached was the crisis of an impending judgment of the world, at which point God is going to pour out His wrath against the unredeemed, the ungodly, and the impenitent. The only hope of escape from that outpouring of wrath is to be covered by the atonement of Christ.
Last week I shared three good books to read with your kids about Easter. Today I want to share three (and maybe one more) easy-to-read books you should read in preparation for Easter (y’know, aside from your Bible). Check them out:
Scandalous by D.A. Carson
Based on his lecture series A Day with Dr. Don from 2008, Scandalous is Carson’s “modest attempt . . . to provide an introductory explanation of the cross and resurrection,” as he looks at what five passages of Scripture have to teach us about this central point of the Christian faith. This short work is one of the best primers on not only the central event of the Bible, but of human history.
How are Christians to approach the central gospel teachings concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus? The Bible firmly establishes the historicity of these events and doesn’t leave their meanings ambiguous or open to interpretation. Even so, there is an irony and surprising strangeness to the cross. Carson shows that this strange irony has deep implications for our lives as he examines the history and theology of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection.
Scandalous…highlights important theological truths in accessible and applicable ways. Both amateur theologians and general readers will appreciate how Carson deftly preserves weighty theology while simultaneously noting the broader themes of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Through exposition of five primary passages of Scripture, Carson helps us to more fully understand and appreciate the scandal of the cross.
Learn more: my review
The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul
“If it is true that the cross is of central importance to biblical Christianity, it seems that it is essential for Christians to have some understanding of its meaning in biblical terms,” writes R.C. Sproul in the opening pages of The Truth of the Cross (pp. 5-6). This small work takes readers on a walk through the Scriptures to show the necessity of the cross:
Opening the Scriptures, Dr. Sproul shows that God Himself provided salvation by sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross, and the cross was always God’s intended method by which to bring salvation. The Truth of the Cross is an uncompromising reminder that the atonement of Christ is an absolutely essential doctrine of the Christian faith, one that should be studied and understood by all believers.
The Cross of Christ by John Stot
I can’t think of a more important book on the cross written in the last 20 years;
“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. . . . In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” With compelling honesty John Stott confronts this generation with the centrality of the cross in God’s redemption of the world — a world now haunted by the memories of Auschwitz, the pain of oppression and the specter of nuclear war.
Can we see triumph in tragedy, victory in shame? Why should an object of Roman distaste and Jewish disgust be the emblem of our worship and the axiom of our faith? And what does it mean for us today?
Now from one of the foremost preachers and Christian leaders of our day comes theology at its readable best, a contemporary restatement of the meaning of the cross. At the cross Stott finds the majesty and love of God disclosed, the sin and bondage of the world exposed.
More than a study of the atonement, this book brings Scripture into living dialogue with Christian theology and the twentieth century. What emerges is a pattern for Christian life and worship, hope and mission.
And here’s one more I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about:
Raised with Christ by Adrian Warnock
Adrian excellent book does a wonderful job of showing that it’s not just the cross that matters—we dare not neglect the resurrection:
Jesus truly is alive today. But compared to his atoning death, Jesus’ resurrection sparks relatively little discussion in the church. Inadvertently, we can become so focused on the good news that Christ died for our sins, that we almost forget he was “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
In Raised with Christ, author Adrian Warnock exhorts Christians not to neglect the resurrection in their teaching and experience.Warnock takes his cue from Acts, where every recorded sermon focuses on Jesus’ resurrection. He stresses that Christians who faithfully proclaim both the death and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and live out the implications of that message in vibrant,grace-filled churches, will be enabled to reach a world that lives in death’s dark shadow.
The power of the risen Christ is active in every true Christian, transforming our lives. Raised with Christ will help you discover afresh the massive implications of the empty tomb. Jesus’ resurrection really has changed everything.
Learn more: my review
Those are a few of the books I’d recommend checking out as you prepare for Easter. What are some you’d recommend?
The hearts and flowers are gone, the candy aisle and end caps are filled with chocolate rabbits and eggs… It can only mean one thing: Easter is nearly upon us.
While the world wants to fill our children’s heads with visions of Easter egg hunts, bunnies and candy, Easter presents a wonderful opportunity to continue to share the gospel with our children. But what’s the best way to start?
While there are a lot of excellent books available, here are three I’d encourage you to read with your children:
The Prince’s Poison Cup by R.C. Sproul
Geared toward kids four and up, this book provides an excellent introduction to the doctrine of the atonement—that Jesus willingly endured the curse of our sin in order to rescue His people from spiritual death:
When Ella gets sick and has to take yucky medicine, she wonders why something that will help her get well has to taste so bad. When she puts the question to Grandpa, he tells her the story of a great King and His subjects who enjoyed wonderful times together—until the people rebelled against the King and drank from a forbidden well. To their horror, they found that the beautiful water in the well made their hearts turn to stone. To reclaim His people, the King asks His Son, the Prince, to drink from a well of horrid poison. The poison will surely kill the Prince—but He is willing to drink it to please His Father and help His people.
We’ve been reading this one with our kids from the time they were very small (that is even small than they are now) and it’s been fascinating to see the wheels turning in their minds as they begin to grasp the message of this terrific little book, especially when we dig into the questions provided in the “For Parents” section.
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
Yes, I realize pretty much everyone loves The Jesus Storybook Bible, but there’s a reason for that: It’s really well done. Our oldest daughter wanted to read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion over and over and over and… She couldn’t get enough of it, it seems. If by some chance you’re unfamiliar with this one, here’s a quick description:
The Moonbeam Award Gold Medal Winner in the religion category, The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the Story beneath all the stories in the Bible. At the center of the Story is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. Every story whispers his name. From Noah to Moses to the great King David—every story points to him. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, as the Story unfolds, children will pick up the clues and piece together the puzzle. A Bible like no other, The Jesus Storybook Bible invites children to join in the greatest of all adventures, to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God’s great story of salvation—and at the center of their Story too.
The Donkey Who Carried a King by R.C. Sproul
The second book by Sproul on this list, The Donkey Who Carried a King focuses heavily on Jesus’ role as the Suffering Servant who carried the sins of His people to the cross from a very unique perspective:
Davey was a young donkey who was bored and unhappy because he was never given anything to do. Then one day, some strangers came to the gate—and Davey’s master picked him for a very special task. Davey carried the King, Jesus, into Jerusalem. A few days later, Davey saw some angry people making the King carry a heavy beam of wood. Davey could not understand it—until another donkey helped him see that the King was being a Servant on behalf of His people.
The Donkey Who Carried a King offers a unique perspective on the events of Jesus’ Passion Week and calls all believers, both young and old, to follow in the footsteps of the Suffering Servant for the glory of God. Jesus was willing to leave the glories of heaven to suffer and die in this world on our behalf, so we should serve Him with all our hearts.
Again, this is another one our kids really enjoy. We’ve not read it as many times as some of the others we have (mostly because it’s newer to the house), but it’s fun to see them considering the story once they’ve heard it. You can view the opening pages here.
These are a few of the books we’ve found particularly useful in helping our kids understand the events of Easter. What books would you recommend?
It takes a lot to incense Canadians, but someone’s managed to do it. How?
By messing with Anne of Green Gables.
Make fun of the way we say “about”? We’ll let it slide. Assume we live on Hoth? There’s some truth to that.
Turn Anne of Green Gables into a blonde farm girl for who loves to lean against haystacks and give you the bedroom eyes?
While this whole fiasco definitely provided a good laugh at the Armstrong house, it also got Emily and I thinking:
If we were going to create new (and ridiculous) covers for a few famous public domain classics, what would we do?
Here’s what we came up with:
Clearly these covers were made in jest, but there are many out there—available for sale right now—that completely miss the mark. Which ones have you noticed?
Share your favorite covers that miss the mark in the comments section.
You and I—we’re not that big a deal.
And it’s okay.
In fact, it’s a really good thing.
In reviewing Zack Eswine’s Sensing Jesus, I mentioned that while not condemning “celebrity” outright, Eswine does remind us that even if our platform is greater than most, we’re still not excluded from the “daily grind” of the ordinary aspects of life and ministry.
This is an important reminder for us all. But there’s another danger that we face far too often, probably more than celebrity:
I don’t mean this in the sense of being ill-equipped or unprepared. God’s given us His Word that we might be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). The danger many of us face in any form of vocational ministry—not just those who serve as preachers and teachers—is turning our calling into something crass.
We want to be respected by the world in the wrong sort of way—admired for our gifts and talents, all the while forgetting that this, perhaps, isn’t what God has in mind. I love the way John Piper puts it in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals:
I think God has exhibited us preachers as last of all in the world. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but professionals are wise. We are weak, but professionals are strong. Professionals are held in honor, we are in disrepute. We do not try to secure a professional lifestyle, but we are ready to hunger and thirst and be ill-clad and homeless. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things (1 Cor. 4:9-13). Or have we?
Brothers, we are not professionals! We are outcasts. We are aliens and exiles in the world (1 Pet. 2:11). Our citizenship is in heaven, and we wait with eager expectation for the Lord (Phil. 3:20). You cannot professionalize the love of His appearing without killing it. And it is being killed. (p. 2)
Seeing ourselves as professional Christians is sure to destroy not only our effectiveness in ministry, but also our love for Christ. When we think we’re a big deal, we forget that it’s only by God’s grace we’re capable of doing anything… and sooner or later it begins to show.
The updated edition of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals is on sale now for seven dollars at Westminster Books. If you don’t already have a copy, I’d encourage picking one up from WTS while this sale lasts.
Yesterday I asked the folks on Twitter and Facebook to recommend two books every prospective minister should read. Obviously, the Bible should always be primary, but we would do ourselves a profound disservice to neglect the thoughtful writings of others. Two books are never going to be enough to capture everything a pastor needs to know, and so I’ve compiled the six most frequent answers into the following short reading list for every prospective minister:
Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp. Here are a few thoughts from my review:
Dangerous Calling is easily among the most important books I’ve read this year. Although written specifically for pastors, it will be a blessing to both leaders and laity alike as pastors are challenged to examine themselves for the good of their own souls (and the people they serve) and laypeople’s eyes are opened to the unique challenges of pastoral ministry.
Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. From the publisher’s description:
Based on a series of lectures originally given by Lloyd-Jones to the students of Westminster Theological Seminary in the spring of 1969, this collection of essays on the essence of powerful preaching has become a modern classic. Lloyd-Jones defends the primacy of preaching, showing that there is no substitute, and he challenges preachers to take their calling seriously: ‘The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching.’ He also provides practical direction on the task of preparing a sermon, sharing insights on the shape and form of a message as well as covering such topics as the use of humor, giving invitations in a message and the preacher’s relationship to the congregation. If you can own only one book on preaching, make this the one you read.
The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter. From the publisher’s description:
In his introduction, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” This charge from Acts 20:28 only is the beginning of a solemn and overarching task to be personally involved and disciple all of your congregants. Richard Baxter’s plea for shepherding his flock continues with a charge to pastors to verify their own spiritual walk and then walks them through various disciplines, strategies and goals to guide and instruct their congregation.
Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon. Here’s a favorite passage:
That a teacher of the gospel should first be a partaker of it is a simple truth, but at the same time a rule of the most weighty importance. We are not among those who accept the apostolic succession of young men simply because they assume it…No amount of fees paid to learned doctors, and no amount of classics received in return, appear to us to be evidences of a call from above. True and genuine piety is necessary sa the first indispensable requisite. Whatever “call” a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry.
Christ Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell. From the publisher’s description:
This complete guide to expository preaching teaches the basics of preparation, organization, and delivery–the trademarks of great preaching. With the help of charts and creative learning exercises, Chapell shows how expository preaching can reveal the redemptive aims of Scripture and offers a comprehensive approach to the theory and practice of preaching. He also provides help for special preaching situations.
The second edition contains updates and clarifications, allowing this classic to continue to serve the needs of budding preachers. Numerous appendixes address many practical issues.
Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper. From the opening words of the book:
We pastors are being killed by the professionalizing of the pastoral ministry. The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of the Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake. For there is no professional childlikeness, there is no professional tenderheartedness, there is no professional panting after God.
What other titles would you add to the list? If you’re a pastor, what books have been most beneficial to you and your ministry?
Paul writes that “all Scripture is … profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The package of “reproof plus correction” is critical to our understanding of how the pastor contends for God’s people. To offer reproof means to confront error, declaring in no uncertain terms that some particular idea, attitude, or action is wrong. But reproof is insufficient in itself. Reproof identifies the problem but doesn’t clarify the solution. The “Don’t do that” must be followed by, “Instead, do this, and here’s why.”
Indeed, when Paul addressed the Corinthians in the face of their rampant failures to practice self-control, he didn’t stop at “Quit it!” or even merely “Now try this” and so promote mere morality. He began with reproof but then moved on to Christ-centered correction, calling them back to a holy and self-controlled life and pleading with them to recall the grace of Christ. Paul emphatically reminded the Corinthians that they were a people purchased by Christ, that God was at work among them, and that they were to live in light of that truth. He reproved them for their error, but then he also corrected it for the sake of Christ. Faithful pastoring and preaching must do likewise.
—adapted from Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World (pp. 59-60)
Book reviews are a strange animal. There’s a lot to consider:
- How many words to use
- How much summary is needed
- How much commentary should you offer
…things like these.
But there’s one factor that, for me, is more important than any of the above: how much time should I spend between reading the book and writing the review.
The answer, of course, is it depends.
Some books require a great deal of time to properly process and critically evaluate. This is work that, very often, can’t be done while you’re reading the book. You need time to work through it all and make sure you’re not making a judgment in the heat of the moment (like when the author writes something that’s embarrassingly stupid, for example).
More important, though, is when you’re reading a great book—when you’re in the middle of it, your fired up, super-excited and ready to give a glowing recommendation. Maybe, though, it’s better to give it a few days, even a few weeks, breathing room.
See if the passion you felt for the book is still there.
See if you’ve done anything with the content you’ve read.
Let that temper what you write.
This is my normal practice for book reviews. I typically try to leave as much as four weeks between reading a book and reviewing it. I need to make sure I’m not just saying something’s great and life-changing, but am actually trying to apply the positive take-aways.
Truthfully, it’s rare that I review anything immediately after reading it. For me, it’s just unwise.
I want to be thoughtful and careful about what I say about a book, largely because I don’t want to mislead a reader. I also don’t want to have to go back and say, “Whoops I changed my mind” unless I really have to (and so far, I think there’s only one or two books I’ve reviewed where I’d probably change a few things about what I’ve said).
The Bible encourages us to be slow to speak, to restrain our lips (James 1:19; Prov. 10:19); this should be reflected in how we critically evaluate movies, books and articles. It’s always better to take a bit of time to think things through (and sometimes seek advice when needed). The results will always be worth it.
“Sooo, what’s your next book?”
I remember the first time I was asked this. It was just after Awaiting a Savior came out, and I’ll be honest—I loved it. I’m not sure why, but there was just something so cool about getting asked this. Suddenly I was a real-live author and people wanted to know what I was going to do next.
I didn’t realize how intimidating a question this could be.
See, at the time, I already had another idea for a book, one eventually realized in Contend. So it was cool to be able to say, “Well actually, I’ve got another book in the works already…”
Then the question started coming again.
Only there’s a small problem:
I have no idea what the next book is going to be.
It’s not that I don’t have ideas for different subjects—I’ve got a pile of half-started outlines. But it’s different this time. There seems to be this unexpected pressure that there is going to be a next book that isn’t necessarily coming from me (at least, I hope it isn’t), which can lead to a bit of anxiety:
- “Should I be working on something now?”
- “What if I can’t think of anything valuable to say every again?”
- “What if I do pitch something and no one likes it? *WAAAAAAAH!*”
On and on the spiral goes…
I never realized how terrifying the question “what’s your next book” can be until my answer became, “I dunno.”
But in a weird way, I’m glad.
When you write the same kind of work all the time, it can get a bit stale if you’re not careful. Because our minds love routine, our work can become safe.
One of the things I realized after writing Contend is I need to try to do something different.
Like really, really different.
So I decided to try something new. I’m going to try my hand at a children’s book for my wife to illustrate.
She’s incredibly talented and turned down many of the “I can’t pay you now, but can promise you fame and fortune beyond your wildest dreams” offers from other prospective storybook authors. Yet for some reason, she didn’t turn down mine.
What will come of this project? Who knows. We might try to have it published, we might self-publish or it might just end up in a folder on our iMac at the house (that said, any publishers out there who want to talk about such a project, let me know). For me, this is a way to take the terror of not having an answer for what my next book is and turn it into an opportunity—and most importantly, to do something fun with my wife, who sacrificed a lot during the writing of both of my previous efforts.
This is something that we must not forget. Christ’s command means that we all should be devoting all our resources of ingenuity and enterprise to the task of making the gospel known in every possible way to every possible person. Unconcern and inaction with regard to evangelism are always, therefore, inexcusable. And the doctrine of divine sovereignty would be grossly misapplied if we should invoke it in such a way as to lessen the urgency, and immediacy, and priority, and binding constraint, of the evangelistic imperative. No revealed truth may be invoked to extenuate sin. God did not teach us the reality of his rule in order to give us an excuse for neglecting his orders.
A habit I’ve gotten into is looking ahead to certain books I want to read in the coming year. Here are a few that have caught my eye:
On the Grace of God by Justin Holcomb
The latest entry in Re:Lit’s “A Book You’ll Actually Read” series:
Packed with big truth, this little book on God’s grace can be read in roughly one hour, ensuring you’ll actually read it. Justin Holcomb, a pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and executive director of the Resurgence, highlights Scripture’s recurring emphasis on humanity’s desperate need and God’s extravagant grace. Holcomb convincingly demonstrates that grace—most powerfully manifested in the person and work of Jesus Christ—is the foundational theme and primary message of the whole Bible. An appendix succinctly summarizes how God’s grace is evident in each book of the Bible.
The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared C. Wilson
Ministry can be brutal. Discouragement, frustration, and exhaustion are common experiences for all church leaders, often resulting in a lack of joy and a loss of focus. Aiming to encourage and strengthen pastors in particular, Jared Wilson helps readers rediscover the soul-satisfying gospel of grace as he creatively merges biblical exposition and personal confession. In addition to covering topics such as holiness, humility, and confidence, Wilson explores the nature of pastoral ministry through the lens of the five solas of the Reformation. Full of real-world examples from the author’s own life and ministry, this book reminds all pastors that their justification is not found in ministry success or audience approval, but rather in the finished work of Christ.
The Promises of God: Discovering the One Who Keeps His Word by R.C. Sproul
What Promises Can You Believe? In The Promises of God, Dr. R. C. Sproul shows how God—the one true Promise Keeper—always keeps His promises. Drawing from his expansive theological background, Dr. Sproul addresses questions such as these:
- How do we know that God will fulfill His promises to us?
- What can we learn about God’s faithfulness as we wait for His promises to be fulfilled?
- What was the agreement God the Father had with Jesus before the beginning of the world?
- What does God’s covenant with Adam mean for us today?
- What common covenant do atheists and other non-Christians participate in with God?
- What does God’s covenant have to do with His forgiveness of our sins today?
- Why did Jesus have to die to complete God’s covenant with us?
God’s promises throughout history are the foundation for your relationship with Him. Here you will see how and why He keeps His promises to you, from now through eternity.
Setting Our Affections upon Glory: Nine Sermons on the Gospel and the Church by Martyn Lloyd Jones
Martyn Lloyd-Jones stands as one of the preeminent preachers of the 20th century. An ardent opponent of liberalism and a defender of orthodoxy, “The Doctor’s” legacy is still being felt today throughout the Protestant world. This collection of 9 previously unpublished sermons, originally delivered during his final visit to the United States, challenges us to reevaluate the focus of our lives and the object of our affections. Covering topics such as prayer, evangelism, and the church, this timely anthology serves as a wakeup call to the church, exhorting all of us to remain faithful to the Word of God and fostering a spirit of renewed devotional fervor.
Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence by Preston Sprinkle
The bold new book from New York Times best-selling author Preston Sprinkle is a tour de force that tackles the topic of violence and how Christians should respond.
In a unique narrative approach, Sprinkle begins by looking at how the story of God as a whole portrays violence and war, drawing conclusions that guide the reader through the rest of the book. With urgency and precision, he navigates hard questions and examines key approaches to violence, driving every answer back to Scripture. Ultimately, Sprinkle challenges the church to “walk in a manner worthy of our calling” and shape our lives on the example of Christ.
Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence is biblically rooted, theologically coherent, and prophetically challenging. It is a defining work that will stir discussions for years to come.
Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. by David Platt
What did Jesus really mean when he said, “Follow Me”?
In this new book, David Platt, author of the New York Times bestselling book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, contends that multitudes of people around the world culturally think they are Christians yet biblically are not followers of Christ.
Scores of men, women, and children have been told that becoming a follower of Jesus simply involves believing certain truths or saying certain words. As a result, churches today are filled with people who believe they are Christians . . . but aren’t. We want to be disciples as long as doing so does not intrude on our lifestyles, our preferences, our comforts, and even our religion.
Revealing a biblical picture of what it means to truly be a Christian, Follow Me explores the gravity of what we must forsake in this world, as well as the indescribable joy and deep satisfaction to be found when we live for Christ.
The call to follow Jesus is not simply an invitation to pray a prayer; it’s a summons to lose your life—and to find new life in him. This book will show you what such life actually looks like.
Brass Heavens by Paul Tautges
Sometimes we’re tempted to wonder if God can hear us. After months or even years of praying over a particular person or situation, we look for evidence that God is getting our message or even paying attention, and we can’t find much. Why is that? Why do the heavens sometimes seem as hard and reflective as brass? Doesn’t God love us and care for us? Isn’t he all-powerful? What’s going on?
In “Brass Heavens” author, pastor, and biblical counselor Paul Tautges grounds prayer in the character of our Triune God whose very nature is to share generously His good gifts with His children. Upon that foundation, he then explores six reasons why at times God appears to go silent. As we examine these causes of unanswered prayer, we discover the biblical means by which we may open God’s ears to our voice once again.
God has a good and holy purpose for periods of silence. He wants to test our faith that we might see for ourselves just how weak and dependent we are on him for all good things. His goal is nothing less than to heighten our spiritual sensitivities in order to draw us into more intimate fellowship with him and more faithful obedience to him.
Supernatural Living for Natural People by Ray Ortlund, Jr.
Romans eight is a favourite of many Christians for it contains verse after verse of pure spiritual gold. It opens up to us peace with God, the ministries of the Spirit, the urgency of personal reformation, the glory of our eternal inheritance, the power of God’s goodness at work in our daily lives and the invincibility of his loving intentions toward us. In this thoughtful and perceptive book, Ray Ortlund delves deeply into Romans 8. Our appreciation and understanding of the chapter will be thoroughly revitalised.
Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry by Gregory Alan Thornbury
The startling expansion of the evangelical movement has resulted in the lack of a coherent focus, common mission, and robust doctrinal core, and consequently the American church has struggled to effectively engage the modern world. Theologian and philosopher Gregory Alan Thornbury suggests that a renewed study of Carl F. H. Henry, one of the original architects of the modern evangelical movement, will help chart a new course for the next generation of evangelical theologians, pastors, and church leaders. The book explores topics such as the lost world of classic evangelicalism, epistemology, inerrancy, culture, institutions, and evangelism. Henry’s life and work are timelier than ever, providing crucial insights for a renewed vision of the church’s place in modern society.
Trent: What Happened at the Council by John W. O’Malley
The Council of Trent (1545–1563), the Catholic Church’s attempt to put its house in order in response to the Protestant Reformation, has long been praised and blamed for things it never did. Now, in this first full one-volume history in modern times, John W. O’Malley brings to life the volatile issues that pushed several Holy Roman emperors, kings and queens of France, and five popes—and all of Europe with them—repeatedly to the brink of disaster.
During the council’s eighteen years, war and threat of war among the key players, as well as the Ottoman Turks’ onslaught against Christendom, turned the council into a perilous enterprise. Its leaders declined to make a pronouncement on war against infidels, but Trent’s most glaring and ironic silence was on the authority of the papacy itself. The popes, who reigned as Italian monarchs while serving as pastors, did everything in their power to keep papal reform out of the council’s hands—and their power was considerable. O’Malley shows how the council pursued its contentious parallel agenda of reforming the Church while simultaneously asserting Catholic doctrine.
Like What Happened at Vatican II, O’Malley’s Trent: What Happened at the Council strips mythology from historical truth while providing a clear, concise, and fascinating account of a pivotal episode in Church history. In celebration of the 450th anniversary of the council’s closing, it sets the record straight about the much misunderstood failures and achievements of this critical moment in European history.
Why would Jesus tell us to become like little children (Matt. 18:3)? Some use this as reason to say that children matter to God (which is true, although this text may not be the strongest to draw your argument from). Some look at it and remind us of the character of children—their propensity to love, trust and not be so darn cynical; their generally humble and teachable nature is what Jesus is getting at, they say (which again, is true).
But what adds power to this argument is the Incarnation, where Jesus—the One for whom, by whom and through whom all things exist, hold together and have their meaning (cf. Col. 1:16-17)—literally became a little child. Check out Doug Wilson’s take on it from God Rest Ye Merry:
…Jesus told us to become like little children. And what did He do in the Incarnation? He became a little child. The one, in short, who told us that we needed to be humbled, converted, and made like little children, was the same one who humbled Himself and took the form of a baby in the womb of a young maiden. Jesus told us to become like little children, but He did so as the one who had—in an utterly unique way—become a little child.
He, the eternal Word, the one who spoke the galaxies into existence, was willing to become a little baby boy who could do nothing with words except jabber, and in that jabbering, make glad his mother and earthly father. He, the source of all life and all nourishment for that life, was willing to be breastfed. He, the same one who had separated the night from the day, and had shaped the sun to rule the day, and the moon to rule the night, was willing to have his diapers changed for a year or so. It is not disrespectful to speak this way; for Christians, it is disrespectful not to. We believe in the Incarnation, in the Word made flesh. This is our glory; this is our salvation.
Jesus told us that in order to enter His kingdom, we would have to stoop. This is not surprising, because He was the one who stooped in a mystifying way in the creation of that kingdom. He stooped—the ultimate Word became a single cell, and then a cluster of cells, and then visibly a baby, although still less than a pound, and then a child who kicked his mother from inside, delighting her immeasurably. He became a little child, and then, years later, He told us to copy Him in this demeanor—to become little children.
Douglas Wilson, God Rest Ye Merry: Why Christmas is the Foundation for Everything (Kindle location 501)
[John's] prologue contains an awful word of judgment: He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him (vv 10-11). Jesus Himself spoke of this rejection He experienced, saying, “This is the condemnation, that the light has cone into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (3:19). Many years ago, I was interviewed by Dr. James Montgomery Boice for his radio program, and I had occasion to quote this verse. I attempted to quote the King James Version, which says, “Their deeds were evil,” but instead I said, “Their eeds were deevil.” That was the end of that interview, and as a result of it, even though it was long ago, I can hardly read that text without flinching. But we ought to flinch even when we read the words properly, for this verse tells us the world is exposed to the condemnation of God because people prefer the darkness to the light. They do not want to cone to the light, Jesus Christ, because their evil deeds will be exposed.
But John’s prologue also gives very good news: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (v. 12). This is the good news of the gospel, the great hope that John wants his readers to know John longs for them to believe in Jesus as the Christ.
O amazing condescension of the Lord Jesus Christ, to stoop to such low and poor things for our sake. What love is this, what great and wonderful love was here, that the Son of God should come into our world in so mean a condition, to deliver us from the sin and misery in which we were involved by our fall in our first parents! And as all that proceeded from the springs must be muddy, because the fountain was so, the Lord Jesus Christ came to take our natures upon him, to die a shameful, a painful and an accursed death for our sakes. He died for our sins and to bring us to God. He cleansed us by his blood from the guilt of sin, he satisfied for our imperfections. And now, my brethren, we have access unto him with boldness. He is a mediator between us and his offended Father.