5 books to encourage the offended

Earlier this week, I asked asked the fine folks on Twitter to recommend a book to help someone work through feelings of offense. As I’m finding is frequently the case, I can always count on you guys to come up with great recommendations.

Here are a few of the highlights:

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People Pleasing by Lou Priolo (P & R, 2007)

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.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


When You’ve Been Wronged: Moving From Bitterness to Forgiveness by Erwin Lutzer (Moody, 2007)

Conflict in relationships is inevitable, but healing and reconciliation often is not. Time and again after we’ve tried every option and failed, all we are left with is a load of guilt and pain. Best-selling author Erwin Lutzer shows how the blessing the Lord gives to those who suffer unjustly is worth the pain involved. He also illustrates the need to leave our broken relationships in the hands of God, and move forward in our lives toward freedom. It is only through His healing power that we can overcome the bitterness and resentment that has overtaken our world.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon


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When People Are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch (P & R, 1997)

Overly concerned about what people think of you? Welch uncovers the spiritual dimension of people-pleasing and points the way through a true knowledge of God, ourselves, and others.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (Zondervan, 1992)

Having clear boundaries is essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not. Boundaries impact all areas of our lives: Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances — Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions — Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others — Spiritual boundaries help us to distinguish God’s will from our own and give us renewed awe for our Creator — Often, Christians focus so much on being loving and unselfish that they forget their own limits and limitations. When confronted with their lack of boundaries, they ask: – Can I set limits and still be a loving person? – What are legitimate boundaries? – What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries? – How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money? – Aren’t boundaries selfish? – Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries? Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend offer biblically-based answers to these and other tough questions, showing us how to set healthy boundaries with our parents, spouses, children, friends, co-workers, and even ourselves.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon


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Who Am I? by Jerry Bridges (Cruciform Press, 2012)

A direct, honest presentation of biblical truth, and all new material from Jerry Bridges, Who Am I? demonstrates for believers that they can and should rightfully claim for themselves an unshakeable, lifelong, personal foundation of confidence in one thing and one thing alone: the gospel of a victorious, resurrected Savior.

Learn more or buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


Those are just a few of the books recommended—what other books would you recommend to someone struggling with feelings of offense?

5 book reviews worth revisiting

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Over the last four years, I’ve written at least a couple hundred book reviews (give or take), and every reviewing experience has been different. Some leave you with seemingly endless thoughts and takeaways; others you struggle to remember the title.

Today, I wanted to share a few reviews you might enjoy that span the range of the last four years. Some books I loved. Others I found silly. But I enjoyed reviewing all of them for different reasons. I hope you’ll check them out:

Why We Love The Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

In their sequel to Why We’re Not Emergent, DeYoung and Kluck tackle the question: Can we love Jesus but not the Church?

For many, it’s experimenting with disorganized religion, where there’s no authority, everyone speaks and no one really learns anything. For others, it’s abandoning corporate gatherings altogether in favor of possibly having a spiritual conversation on the golf course or at Starbucks.

What Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck offer in Why We Love the Church is a passionate, biblically centered, God-honoring look at the Church—and why, for all her warts, we need to love her as much as Christ does.

The Armageddon Factor by Marci McDonald

Some books are meant to really grow you in your faith with positive encouragement. Others are meant to sharpen you as you’re confronted by silliness. The Armageddon Factor is the latter:

When I first I first heard about this book, I was pretty sure it had to be a joke. After all, Canada is far more post- and even anti-Christian than our friends to the south (that is, most of the people reading this right now). Our evangelical Christian population weighs in at an impressive 3.3 million people. To give you some perspective, we have more families with dogs than we do individuals who are evangelicals. Our political conservatives look more like the Democrats than the Republicans. So the idea just didn’t fit with my understanding of the Canadian landscape. While they may not look like an impressive bunch, McDonald argues, Christian Nationalists—whom she derogatorily calls theo-cons—are on the move and have connections to the highest levels of government.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian

While people I greatly respect are divided on this book, I found it incredibly helpful and liberating—I still do:

Do you ever feel like you’re just spinning your wheels in terms of your relationship with Christ? You’re trying, trying, trying to “go deeper,” to serve well, to do all the things that we’re supposed to do as Christians—and you’re just stuck? Why does this happen to us? Why do we feel this constant need to do-do-do, as if we’re trying to impress someone?

Is it because we are?

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by ND Wilson

Delightfully peculiar is the only way I could describe this book:

Have you ever tried to use your sense of smell to describe how a fresh bowl of fruit looks? What about sight to describe the sound of a two-year-old happily playing in her room? If so, you understand a little more about the challenge N.D. Wilson faced in writing Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World. In this delightfully peculiar book, Wilson attempts to recapture a sense of wonder at the world that God has spoken into being and does so with intriguing and thought-provoking results.

Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James

If you’ve read “ezer-warrior” in a blog post or book recently, you’ve got this one to thank:

From a male perspective, reading Half the Church was an unusual experience. It’s primary audience is women and James writes with that assumption in mind. In some ways this was quite refreshing as it gave me a glimpse into the female perspective, but it was also difficult at times to relate, particularly as she got into the nitty-gritty of her argument. And her arguments are where things get really interesting.

3 ways to keep you reading old books

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

“Of making many books there is no end,” the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us. If this was true three thousand years ago, how much more true is it today when, in America alone, more than 900 books are released every day.1

Call me crazy, but that seems a bit… insane.

Now clearly, not all of these books is meant to be read by everyone, which would be impossible even for über-reader Albert Mohler!

So how do Christians keep up—and how do we make sure the really great books of the past aren’t left behind?

Here are three suggestions to add and keep classic works in your reading diet:

1. Follow the footnotes. If you’re reading a lot of newer books, pay attention to the footnotes and/or endnotes. Start reading the sources read by your modern favorites. For example, if you’ve benefitted from books by someone like Tullian Tchividjian (say Jesus + Nothing = Everything), you can step back a few decades and read Justification by Faith: A Matter of Death and Life by Lutheran theologian Gerhard Forde. Or read Martin Lloyd-Jones and go back and read Puritans like Richard Sibbes. Or if you read John Piper, read Jonathan Edwards, and so on.

The point is simple: Start with the influences of your influences and work your way back. This will give you a healthy starting point for reading older books.

2. Rotate your books. “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between,” C.S. Lewis wrote. “If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”2 This is good advice, and we should take it seriously.

While I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for the specific numbers Lewis suggests (although I’m not against them by any means), the point is this: don’t just fill your head with new books. I try to read at least one older book for every three to four new, but this can vary depending on circumstances. Because I review books, there’s a greater sense of urgency with newer material that I have to fight against. It’s not possible to read all the new books I want to read, so my goal is to have a healthy intake of new and old.

3. Watch the times and pay attention. Many new books are very good and very helpful, but few have a lasting sense of importance. They’re so grounded in a particular time and context that they’ll be incomprehensible within five to ten years (although I love the book, The Explicit Gospel is one of these).

Where older books have a great deal of strength, though, is showing us how unoriginal theological error really is, as well as the timelessness of the truth.

When J.C. Ryle writes on the Saducees, for example, he writes from his 19th century context—but his point is equally applicable today in the 21st. He describes a kind of person, patterns of behavior, but his language isn’t so tied to this context that we can’t make heads or tails of it. Or consider a more recent example in J.I. Packer and his book, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God. There he writes a scathing rebuke to the liberal movement of his day that, if you were to change the locations mentioned, would perfectly describe the climate of North American Christianity today.

Older books remind us that as bad as things seem right now, we’ve been through them all before and the gospel always prevails in the end.

What would you add to this list? How do you balance a healthy reading diet?

What’s on your to-read pile?

Here’s a look at mine:

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If you can’t see all the titles, they are:

What’s on your to-read pile?

5 books on a subject you’re probably scared to look at

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Most people get a bit freaked out when you start talking about eschatology, with visions of Left Behind and Kirk Cameron riding unicorns dance through there heads. (You’ll never get that image out of your head now, will you?)

While many of us neglect studying this subject (primarily because of people talking about locusts being black hawk helicopters and such things), we all need to work out our understanding of the things yet to come.

Why? Because how we understand the world as it is—and how we relate to it—is as equally tied to our understanding of the last things as to our views on the first things. In light of that, I’ve compiled a list based in part on feedback provided by a few followers on Twitter to see what a few helpful resources to assist us in working toward a greater understanding of a difficult topic.


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A Basic Guide to Eschatology: Making Sense of the Millennium by Millard J. Erickson

In this fair, careful, and accessible study, leading evangelical theologian Millard Erickson provides an overview of various end-times perspectives. Pastors, students, and all those interested in end-times thought will find A Basic Guide to Eschatology an understandable, well-organized examination of the various viewpoints.

Each position Erickson examines includes (1) a brief overview, (2) its history, (3) a more thorough examination of its major concepts and of the arguments offered in support of them, and (4) an evaluation of both its positive and negative aspects. Previously published as Contemporary Options in Eschatology, this book contains an updated chapter that discusses new developments in dispensationalism.

Buy it at: Amazon


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A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times by Kim Riddlebarger

Amillennialism, dispensational premillennialism, historic premillennialism, postmillennialism, preterism. These are difficult words to pronounce and even harder concepts to understand. A Case for Amillennialism presents an accessible look at the crucial theological question of the millennium in the context of contemporary evangelicalism.

This study defends amillennialism as the historic Protestant understanding of the millennial age. Amillennarians believe that the millennium of Christ’s heavenly reign is a present reality, not a future hope to come after his return.

Recognizing that eschatology, the study of future things, is a complicated and controversial subject, Riddlebarger provides definitions of key terms and a helpful overview of various viewpoints. He examines related biblical topics as a backdrop to understanding the subject and discusses important passages of Scripture that bear upon the millennial age, including Daniel 9, Matthew 24, Romans 11, and Revelation 20.

Regardless of their stance, readers will find helpful insight as Riddlebarger evaluates the main problems facing each of the major millennial positions and cautions readers to be aware of the spiraling consequences of each view.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


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The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views edited by Robert G. Clouse

Since the first century, Christians have agreed that Christ will return. But since that time there have also been many disagreements. How will Christ return? When will he return? What sort of kingdom will he establish? What is the meaning of the millennium? These questions persist today.

Four major views on the millennium have had both a long history and a host of Christian adherents. In this book Robert G. Clouse brings together proponents of each view: George Eldon Ladd on historic premillenniallism, Herman A. Hoyt on dispensational premillennialism, Loraine Boettner on post-millennialism and Anthony A. Hoekema on amillennialism.

After each view is presented, proponents of the three competing views respond from their own perspectives. Here you’ll encounter a lively and productive debate among respected Christian scholars that will help you gain clearer and deeper understanding of the different ways the church approaches the meaning of the millennium.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


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Promise of the Future by Cornelius P. Venema

Though we can never, in our time-bound state, know the future in detail, God in his mercy has not left us in complete ignorance of what is to come. His revelation in Holy Scripture has cast a flood of light on what would otherwise remain an impenetrable mystery.

Even among those who accept the Bible’s authority, however, there has never been complete agreement on what Scripture teaches in this area.

This major new examination of biblical teaching on the future of the individual, of the church and of the universe as a whole will be useful both to theological students and to informed non-specialists. Ranging over the whole field, it interacts extensively with recent literature on disputed issues, such as the nature of the intermediate state, the millennium of Revelation 20 and the doctrine of eternal punishment, always seeking to answer the fundamental question: “What do the Scriptures clearly teach?” The Christ centered nature of biblical teaching on the future is emphasized, as is the importance of the church’s historic confessions for an understanding of eschatology. The chief note sounded is one of hope: “God’s people eagerly await Christ’s return because it promises the completion of God’s work of redemption… The future is bright because it is full of promise, the promise of God’s Word.”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books (A study guide for this book is also available)


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The Bible and the Future by Anthony A. Hoekema

Writing from the perspective that the coming of God’s kingdom is both present and future, Hoekema covers the full range of eschatological topics in this comprehensive biblical exposition. The two major sections of the book deal with inaugurated eschatology (the “already”) and future eschatology (the “not yet”).

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


What are some other books you’d recommend on this subject? Leave your recommendation in the comments.

There’s no hope in self-help

This month is sexual assault awareness month.

It’s yet another awareness month I wish didn’t need to be. 

The statistics surrounding sexual assault are staggering—no less than one in four women have experienced it in some fashion; no fewer than one in six men have, too. It’s a sin that robs its victims of more than a sense of safety.

It robs them of their dignity.

So how do we best minister to victims of sexual assault, in whatever sphere of influence we have?

It’s not with self-help. 

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In their important, painful and hopeful book, Rid of My Disgrace, Justin and Lindsey Holcomb remind us that self-help is horrible news for those needing to be rid of the stain of sexual sin:

Sexual assault victims are frequently told some version of the following: “One can will one’s well-being” or “If you are willing to work hard and find good support, you can not only heal but thrive.” This sentiment is reflected in the famous quote, “No one can disgrace us but ourselves.”

This is all horrible news. The reason this is bad news is that abuse victims are rightfully, and understandably, broken over how they’ve been violated. But those in pain simply may not have the wherewithal to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” On a superficial level, self-esteem techniques and a tough “refusal to allow others to hurt me” tactic may work for the short term. But what happens for the abused person on a bad day, a bad month, or a bad year? Sin and the effects of sin are similar to the laws of inertia: a person (or object) in motion will continue on that trajectory until acted upon by an outside force. If one is devastated by sin, a personal failure to rise above the effects of sin will simply create a snowball effect of shame. Hurting people need something from the outside to stop the downward spiral. Fortunately, grace floods in from the outside at the point when hope to change oneself is lost. Grace declares and promises that you will be healed.

The Kindle edition of Rid of My Disgrace is on sale right now for 99¢ at Amazon. If you want to know more about the book, you can read my review here, but if you’re ministering to anyone in any capacity, please read this book.

If you don’t have a dollar, let me know and I will buy you a copy.

There’s no hope in self-help. The only thing that can cleanse the stain of sin is the gospel. This is what we must offer victims of sexual assault and this book will help us do it well.

Jesus’ theology was a crisis theology

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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.

R.C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross, pp. 78-79
(available from: Westminster Books | Amazon | Ligonier Ministries)

Three books (plus one) you should read for Easter

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:

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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

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon | Ligonier Ministries


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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.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon | Ligonier Ministries


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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.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


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

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Those are a few of the books I’d recommend checking out as you prepare for Easter. What are some you’d recommend?

Three books to read with your kids at Easter

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:

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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.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon | Ligonier Ministries


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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.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


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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.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon | Ligonier Ministries


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?

Book covers that miss the mark

It takes a lot to incense Canadians, but someone’s managed to do it. How?

By messing with Anne of Green Gables.

Last week, the media was all abuzz when an industrious individual reimagined Anne, a ten-year-old redhead as… well, not a ten-year-old redhead:

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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?

It’s.

On.

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:

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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.

“We have become the refuse of the world…”

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:

Professionalism.

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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.

A short reading list for every prospective minister

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:

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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.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


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.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


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.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


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.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


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.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


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.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


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?

“Quit it!” doesn’t cut it

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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)

Available now at: Westminster | Amazon | Cruciform Press

How much time does it take to write a book review?

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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.