Five books Christian dads should read

  
I’m a first generation Christian—meaning I’m the first in my family (as far as I’m aware) to come to faith in Christ. As you can imagine, that means I’m flying by the seat of my pants as a Christian parent. Though, to be fair, that’s probably all parents (at least more than we’d like to admit). As a dad, I’ve tried to read as many helpful books as I can, as well as modelling for my kids what a Christian man looks like (and often having to apologize for not modelling it well).

Thankfully, I’m not alone in this. No matter if we were raised in a legacy of faith or are coming to faith as a parent, we all have a ton of room to grow. Here’s a look at a few of the books I’ve found particularly helpful as I’ve been trying to figure out this whole parenting thing.


The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller

Parenting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Our marriages are the context in which we raise our children. So we would be wise to do all we can to make sure our marriages are actually healthy. In The Meaning of Marriage, the Kellers reflect on their 30-plus years of marriage to offer a very strong and biblically faithful look at what makes a lasting marriage. Read it carefully and make lots of notes. (For more on this book, read my review.)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


Intentional Parenting by Tad Thompson

Intentional Parenting is among the most practical and insightful guides to family discipleship available. Its “Now Make It Stick” section, a series of questions for personal reflection that allow the reader to take stock of how they’re doing, where they’re strong, where they’re weak and what they can do to change, is probably the most helpful (and challenging element). Dads, you need to read this book. (For more on this book, read my review.)

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Books | Cruciform Press


Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

The difficulty some might face reading the book is because the focus is on bringing God’s grace into your parenting, it’s not as easy as following steps one, two and three. It’s offering more of the theological framework for parenting instead of drilling down into the nitty gritty details of specific situations, though many practical examples of how grace-filled parenting looks (and doesn’t) are presented. (For more on this book, read my review.)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

This is one of those “gold standard” books among many Christian parents, and for good reason: it’s biblical, compassionate, and extremely practical:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart is about how to speak to the heart of your child. The things your child does and says flow from the heart. Luke 6:45 puts it this way: ‘…out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.’ Written for parents with children of any age, this insightful book provides perspectives and procedures for shepherding your child’s heart into the paths of life.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


The Shepherd Leader at Home by Timothy Z. Witmer

This one has received a ton of acclaim from its readers as it compellingly addresses the important role of dad in the family:

Husbands and dads play a crucial role in the health and survival of the family. That’s why leadership expert Tim Witmer has written this book—to strengthen our efforts to lead well. He applies a biblical framework to the role of leadership in the home, showing how effective shepherding involves “knowing, leading, protecting, and providing for your family”; all the while communicating solid principles with a down-to-earth, relatable tone.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


Have another book you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments!

 

Six books I want to read this summer

summer reading

Summer vacation is already here for some of us, and nearly upon us for others. Although my reading has left me feeling a little unfulfilled of late, I’m still looking forward to what some time off with a good book or two will bring. Here’s a look at what I’m planning to read this year:

The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo by Jared C. Wilson

This is one I’ve been meaning to get to for a while now. I’ve read a few pages, though, and it’s delightful.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien

I’ve been reading the Lord of the Rings series for the last little while, so it’s going to be fun to finish it up.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore (trilogy box set)


Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke

I am a big fan of the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway, and based on what I’ve seen so far, this volume looks pretty spectacular.

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Bookstore


Onward by Russell Moore

Though this one has the least practical relevance to my life (since I live in Canada), it should be a thought-provoking read nonetheless.

Buy it at: Amazon (pre-order)


Preaching by Timothy Keller

The people we have the most to learn from about preaching (aside from those to whom we preach) are those who have done it for a long time. Given Keller’s decades of pastoral ministry experience, I’m really looking forward to learning from this one.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Batman Adventures, vol 2 by Puckett, Parobeck, and Burchett

For an entire generation, Kevin Conroy’s Batman from Batman: the Animated Series is the definitive Dark Knight. I finally introduced Abigail to this staple of the 90s, and she thinks it’s pretty rad. It’s also one of the few superhero comics I’ve been able to find that isn’t kind of porny or otherwise wildly inappropriate to share with my kids (but that is a story for another time…).

Buy it at: Amazon


That’s a quick look at what I’m trying to read. Some of it I’ll be done sooner than others, naturally, but I think it’s a reasonable goal. What’s on your reading list?

The best of April at Blogging Theologically

top-10

Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in April:

  1. What should the church expect as same-sex marriage moves forward? (April 2015)
  2. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  3. Why aren’t unknown pastors headlining Christian conferences? (April 2015)
  4. 3 favorite teaching moments from #TGC15 (April 2015)
  5. What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? (April 2015)
  6. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  7. Six books every Christian should read on prayer (August 2014)
  8. Announcing my next book: Hannah’s Dilemma (April 2015)
  9. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  10. 5 books every new Christian should read (March 2015)

And just for fun, here are five favorites written over the month:

  1. The answer to our worship problem
  2. What do you do when books attack? (a #bibliophileprobs poem)
  3. What do true teachers do?
  4. The only reasonable thing to do
  5. Don’t invite them to church this weekend

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

New and noteworthy books

New-noteworthy-May15

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 love finding out how many bills there are each month, but because there’s often a new book waiting for me from one of the many Christian publishers out there. TGC , so here’s a quick look at a few of the most interesting in the latest batch:

Becoming Worldly Saints by Mike Wittmer (Zondervan)

This looks really great:

As “worldly saints,” created in the image of God, we are natural creatures with a supernatural purpose–to know and love God. Because we live in a world that is stained by the curse of sin, we must learn to embrace our nature as creatures created in the image of God while recognizing our desperate need for the grace that God offers to us in the gospel.

Writing in a devotional style that is theologically rich, biblically accurate, and aimed at ordinary readers, Mike Wittmer helps readers understand who they are, why they are here, and the importance of the story they tell themselves. In Becoming Worldly Saints, he gives an integrated vision that shows how we can be heavenly minded in a way that leads to earthly good, empowering believers to seize the abundant life God has for them.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Saturate by Jeff Vanderstelt (Crossway)

Drawing on his experience as a pastor and church planter, Jeff Vanderstelt wants us to see that there’s more–much more–to the Christian life than sitting in a pew once a week. God has called his people to something bigger: a view of the Christian life that encompasses the ordinary, the extraordinary, and everything in between.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

The Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson (Crossway)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: when Jared Wilson writes on church ministry, I pay attention. So should you:

Pastors want to reach the lost with the good news of Jesus. However, we’ve too often assumed this requires loud music, flashy lights, and skinny jeans. In this gentle manifesto, Jared Wilson—a pastor who knows what it’s like to serve in a large attractional church—challenges pastors to reconsider their priorities when it comes to how they “do church” and reach people in their communities. Writing with the grace and kindness of a trusted friend, Wilson encourages pastors to reexamine the Bible’s teaching, not simply return to a traditional model for tradition’s sake. He then sets forth an alternative to both the attractional and the traditional models: an explicitly biblical approach that is gospel focused, grace based, and fruit oriented.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision by Paul R. House (Crossway)

Anchored in a variety of influential lectures, personal letters, and major works such as The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, this book attempts to recover a largely unexamined part of Bonhoeffer’s life, exploring his philosophy and practice of theological education in his original context. It then builds on this foundation to address the drift toward increasingly impersonal educational models in our own day, affirming the value of personal, face-to-face seminary education for the health of pastors and churches.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

The Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman (Crossway)

This one is geared toward women, but Gloria’s writing is always worth reading:

In this encouraging and often humorous book, Gloria Furman offers pastors’ wives a breath of fresh air, reminding readers that Christ stands ready to help regardless of the circumstance—whether it’s late-night counseling sessions, unrealistic expectations about how they spend their time, or complaints about their husbands’ preaching.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Living Without Worry by Timothy Lane (The Good Book Company)

This warm and pastoral book by Tim Lane helps readers to see when godly concern turns into sinful worry, and how scripture can be used to cast our concerns upon the Lord. Christians will discover how to replace anxiety with peace, freeing them to live life to the full.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice (The Good Book Company)

I’ve only heard good things about this one so far:

Short, clear, realistic and humorous, this book will challenge you to be honest in your conversations about Jesus, help you to know how to talk about him, and thrill you that God can and will use ordinary people to change eternal destinies.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Gospel Shaped Worship by Jared C. Wilson and Gospel Shaped Outreach by Erik Raymond (The Good Book Company)

I’m mentioning these together because they’re the first two parts of a five volume series based around the distinctives of The Gospel Coalition. I’ll be sharing more of my thoughts on these once I’ve given them a thorough review, but here’s what I can say after a cursory review of the leader’s guides: if you shared the Mortification of Spin podcast’s take on it, apologize to everyone on your social network.

Engaging with Muslims by John Klaassen (The Good Book Company)

This short book is designed to help both Christians and whole churches understand more about the variety of Muslims there are living in the West, and to reach out to them with the good news of the Gospel.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

The ISIS Crisis by John Dyer and Mark Tobey (Moody)

This is one of the books I’ve been looking forward to reading this year, so I’m glad it’s now in my hands.

ISIS—a name that inspires fear, a group that is gaining momentum. Horrors unheard of are plaguing the Middle East, and ISIS may be the responsible for the worst among them. And yet there is so much we don’t know about ISIS.… Drawing from history, current events, and biblical prophecy, they guide readers through the matrix of conflicts in the Middle East. Then they explore the role of ISIS in all of these matters. Finally, they encourage Christians to look to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Buy it at: Amazon

Books I’m packing for #TGC15

TGC15-books

The Gospel Coalition’s 2015 national conference begins this coming Monday, which means in just a couple of days, I’ll be hitting the road for Orlando for a few days of teaching on the new creation, conversations with far off friends I don’t see nearly often enough, and, hopefully, a little time in the sun.

And because I’m going to be sitting on a plane for a few hours each way, it’s also a great opportunity to catch up on some reading. Although I’m almost certainly not going to get to everything (because that’d be silly), here’s a look at what I’m packing:

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung. I’m about half done this one already, so it might not actually make it onto the plane. Incidentally, if you’re at the conference, you can get a copy for $5 in the bookstore. If not, be sure to get it while it’s on sale at Westminster Bookstore.

Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate,and Commissioned Church by Collin Hansen. What I’ve seen of this, I’ve really liked, so it might be my next read after DeYoung’s book. This is also another one of the $5 deals in the conference bookstore that is worth considering.

Defying ISIS by Johnnie Moore. Moore’s book came on my radar just recently, and thankfully I’ve been able to get my hands on a copy. Looking forward to seeing how he handles the subject matter.

Fear and Faith by Trillia Newbell. Trillia’s new book is one that showed up in my mailbox last week. This one I’m looking forward to almost more because I enjoy how Trillia writes (that’s a huge part of what makes a book worth reading for me—style).

Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God by Joe Thorn. I’ve been meaning to get to this one for a while now, and just haven’t had the opportunity to start. Thorn’s last book, Note to Self, was terrific and I have high hopes for this one, too (especially based on my friend Joey’s recommendation of it).

I’ll also be continuing my trek through Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ by Herman Bavinck. Conference or no, I’m on a schedule, and I’ve already had to push back my completion date once. Thankfully, this one will be particularly easy to pack since it’s sitting in my Logos app.

While at the conference, I’m actually not planning on purchasing any books, although that may be easier said than done. There’s a title or two I already know will be there that I’ve been meaning to take a look at…

Travelling to TGC this weekend? What are you planning to read along the way?

5 books Christians should read on Islam

books-islam

What do Christians really know about Islam and Muslim people? It’s tempting to view them solely in light of what we see in the news, and hear in the rhetoric of many commentators. While it might be easier to treat all Muslims as though they are sleeper agents for ISIS, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to help us actually reach them with the thing they need most: the gospel.

And if we’re going to do that, we need to have a better idea of what they actually believe, the questions they are really asking, and the objections they hold about Christianity. So, here are five books you should read that will help:

The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile

This was the first book I read on this subject years ago, and it’s still one of the best I’ve found. It offers a great deal of thoughtful explanation and critique as well as pastoral encouragement. This combined with Thabiti’s personal story of converting to Islam and then Christianity, make it a must-read. (For more, read my review).

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an by James R. White

White, one of the finest apologists and debaters of our day, has spent a great deal of time investigating the claims of Islam and the particulars of the Qur’an, and it shows. As one review puts it, “Dr. James White has exemplified how Christians should speak to Muslims in accordance with their respective worldviews.”

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Breaking the Islam Code by JD Greear

Born out of his personal experience living within a predominantly Muslim community for two years, Greear writes this book to help us “see what questions Muslims are asking, and how the gospel provides a unique and satisfying answer to them.” (15) Trevin’s written an excellent review of it, which you can read here.

Buy it at: Amazon

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

This, like Thabiti’s, is worth reading because of the author’s personal experience with Islam. A formerly devout Muslim, Qureshi “describes his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity, complete with friendships, investigations, and supernatural dreams along the way.”

Providing an intimate window into a loving Muslim home, Qureshi shares how he developed a passion for Islam before discovering, almost against his will, evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and claimed to be God. Unable to deny the arguments but not wanting to deny his family, Qureshi’s inner turmoil will challenge Christians and Muslims alike.

Buy it at: Amazon

Jesus, Jihad and Peace by Michael Youssef

My wife found this book particularly helpful. She says, “If you want to get a first-person take on what it’s like to live in a Muslim world and understand the worldview underpinning the militant Islamic world, and the passages used to support, this book will help.”

Buy it at: Amazon

Those are a few of the books I’d suggest checking out. What would you add?

5 books our kids should read

books-for-kids

I love reading great books—and really love introducing new books to my kids.

My oldest (at the time of this writing) is coming up on eight years old, but she’s already a super-reader, having recently completed abridged (child appropriate) versions of Moby Dick and Treasure Island. Our middle child is nearly five and has a strong grasp of the basics (she just needs to develop her attention span a little). Our youngest, well… at almost three, he’s only really starting to identify letters, which I think is pretty good. He’s also memorized Beatrix Potter’s The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit, particularly loving the line, “This is a man with a gun…”

Sometimes in my zeal, I get a little ahead of myself, though. I want to share really great books with them, but there are so many they’re just not quite ready for yet. But they’re getting closer. Here are five that I’m looking forward to sharing with them (some of which are series, which may or may not be cheating), and think every kid should read, too:

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. This one should be obvious to everyone: Lewis’ writing is spectacular. The story is compelling throughout each volume in the series. And you get the added bonus of having some really fantastic faith-related conversations with your kids as they work out what they’re reading.

2. The Ashtown Burials and 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson. I actually picked up these two series for myself—not because I’m an avid Y.A. reader, but because Nate Wilson’s got style. He knows how to spin a good yarn, to keep it entertaining for both children and parents. He even manages to keep things clean (some violence, but nothing graphic, and no teens with “the feels” for one another), but doesn’t play things safe.

3. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond. Bond’s stories of a talking bear from “darkest Peru” are some of my favorites. I recently picked this one up as my oldest is actually at the right age to read it, so she may start digging in as part of her homeschool curriculum, or in reading time with Dad.

4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I remember loving this book as a child, but I never realized it was actually part of a series of books until much later in life (which means I may need to go and get the rest out of the library).

5. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. This one is probably the biggest challenge for a lot of  kids. Tolkien does so much world-building in his books, they can be a tad impenetrable if you’re not willing to put the work in. Nevertheless, The Hobbit is a terrific place to start as it is by far his most accessible work (and far more interesting than the recently released—and extremely bloated—movie trilogy).

Those are just a few of the books (and series) I’d recommend for kids to read. There are, of course, so many others that could be added—what’s one you think should be there?

New and noteworthy books

New and noteworthy

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 love finding out how many bills there are each moth, but because there’s often a new book waiting for me from one of the many Christian publishers out there. It’s been a while since I’ve shared what’s made its way into the house, so here’s a quick look at a few of the most interesting in the latest batch:

Ordinary by Tony Merida (B&H Publishing)

Ordinary is not a call to be more radical. If anything, it is a call to the contrary. The kingdom of God isn’t coming with light shows, and shock and awe, but with lowly acts of service. Tony Merida wants to push back against sensationalism and “rock star Christianity,” and help people understand that they can make a powerful impact by practicing ordinary Christianity.

Buy it at: Amazon

Who is Jesus? by Greg Gilbert (Crossway)

Intended as a succinct introduction to Jesus’s life, words, and enduring significance, Who Is Jesus? offers non-Christians and new Christians alike a compelling portrait of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, this book encourages readers to carefully consider the history-shaping life and extraordinary teachings of the greatest man who ever lived.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Behold the King of Glory by Russ Ramsey (Crossway)

In this carefully researched retelling of the story of Jesus, Russ Ramsey invites us to rediscover our wonder at his sinless life, brutal death, and glorious resurrection.

Featuring forty short chapters recounting key episodes from Jesus’s time on earth, this book expands on the biblical narrative in a fresh and creative way—giving us a taste of what it would have been like to walk next to Jesus and experience his earthly ministry first hand.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney (Crossway)

This looks to be excellent:

In this book, Joe Rigney offers a breath of fresh air to Christians who are burdened by false standards, impossible expectations, and misguided notions of holiness. Steering a middle course between idolatry on the one hand and ingratitude on the other, this much-needed book reminds us that every good gift comes from the Father’s hand, that God’s blessings should drive us to worship and generosity, and that a passion for God’s glory is as wide as the world.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Look and Live by Matt Papa (Bethany House)

All of us live in the tension between where we are and where we ought to be. We try our best to bully our desires into submission. And we all know, this is exhausting.

Are you tired? Stuck? Still fighting the same sin you’ve been fighting for years? The call in these pages is not to work or to strive, but to lift your eyes. You don’t need more willpower. You need a vision of greatness that sweeps you off your feet. You need to see glory.

Buy it at: Amazon

Jesus Outside the Lines by Scott Sauls (Tyndale)

I’m curious about this one:

Whether the issue of the day on Twitter, Facebook, or cable news is our sexuality, political divides, or the perceived conflict between faith and science, today’s media pushes each one of us into a frustrating clash between two opposing sides. Polarizing, us-against-them discussions divide us and distract us from thinking clearly and communicating lovingly with others. Scott Sauls, like many of us, is weary of the bickering and is seeking a way of truth and beauty through the conflicts. Jesus Outside the Lines presents Jesus as this way. Scott shows us how the words and actions of Jesus reveal a response that does not perpetuate the destructive fray. Jesus offers us a way forward – away from harshness, caricatures and stereotypes. In Jesus Outside the Lines, you will experience a fresh perspective of Jesus, who will not (and should not) fit into the sides.

Buy it at: Amazon

Comfort the Grieving by Paul Tautges (Zondervan)

Until the end of time, when the curse of sin is finally removed, suffering will be a large part of the human experience and a large part of that suffering will be walking through the painful reality of death.… Those who shepherd others through the pain and loss that accompanies death should seek to offer wise and biblical counsel on these precious and painful occasions. This book is a treasure chest of pastoral theology that will equip you to reach out to those who grieve with the Christ-centered comfort of God rooted in the gospel. The theological foundation espoused here, as well as the numerous practical helps that are included, will help any servant of the Lord to point the hearts and minds of the bereaved to the ‘man of sorrows’ who is ‘acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3).

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

The Happy Christian by David Murray (Thomas Nelson)

I started reading this, but had to put it on hold due to course priorities. However, what I read was excellent:

Hopelessness has invaded much of our culture, even reaching deep into the church. But while the world is awash in negativity, Christians have resources to live differently.

In The Happy Christian, professor and pastor David Murray blends the best of modern science and psychology with the timeless truths of Scripture to create a solid, credible guide to positivity. The author of the acclaimed Christians Get Depressed Too, Murray exposes modern negativity’s insidious roots and presents ten perspective-changing ways to remain optimistic in a world that keeps trying to drag us down.

Buy it at: Amazon

Romans 8-16 For You by Timothy Keller (The Good Book Company)

Look for a review of this in the next week or two:

Join Dr Timothy Keller as he opens up the second half of the book of Romans, beginning n chapter 8, helping you to get to grips with its meaning and showing how it transforms our hearts and lives today. Combining a close attention to the detail of the text with Timothy Keller’s trademark gift for clear explanation and compelling insights, this resource will both engage your mind and stir your heart.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

5 books Christians should read on Church history

5 books

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it, as the old saying goes. And while you might want to roll your eyes, here’s the rub: it’s absolutely true. I’ve outlined my reasons for encouraging Christians to read church history in greater detail previously, but it bears repeating: if we do not know the issues the church faced in the past—particularly our conflicts and controversies over doctrine—we will absolutely fall prey to those errors once again.

Here are five books (plus a little something extra) I’d recommend every Christian read on Church history:

Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley

Now in its fourth edition, this is by far one of the most accessible and helpful overviews of the entire history of the Church—from the time of Christ right up to the turn of the 21st century—you’ll ever read. Without question, if you only read one book on this list, make sure it’s this one.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


Know the Heretics and Know the Creeds and Councils by Justin Holcomb

Although published individually, these two volumes should be read together. The first outlines 14 major turning points in church history—moments where, had a different decision been made, we would have lost the gospel altogether. The second looks at 13 creeds, confessions, and councils from across the spectrum of the Christian faith, with an emphasis on these still matter to us today and the impact they have on our faith. Both are absolutely essential reading for those taking their first steps into studying church history.

Buy Know the Heretics at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

Buy Know the Creeds and Councils at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon


Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe

This is a fairly gruesome book, which should be no surprise given its title. But this book is a recounting of the persecution faced by Protestants (and proto-Protestants) during the time leading up to the Reformation and beyond (it has subsequently been updated into the present day, with a somewhat broader focus). Although some—notably Catholics—have questioned Foxe’s work as a historian, this is still a volume worthy of consideration.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


2000 Years of Christ’s Power by Nick Needham

This is a tricky one because it’s actually the title on the list I’ve not read (yet). So why include it? Because it comes with highest of recommendations from many people I trust, including the pastors of my local church. This three (someday to be four) volume series is provides an overview of the major eras of the Christian faith: the Early Church Fathers, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance and Reformation.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


Bonus resource: Church History courses at Ligonier Connect. Ligonier has a number of interactive, video-based courses on church history taught by W. Robert Godfrey, Stephen Nichols, Michael Reeves, and R.C. Sproul. These are well worth checking out.

6 books I’m reading on apologetics and outreach

And so, the day has come: my reading has been assigned.

In just a few weeks, I’ll be starting my first course at Covenant Seminary, Apologetics and Outreach with Jerram Barrs. As you can imagine, I’m pretty excited about this course—but I’m also pretty keen on starting digging into my textbooks.

Here’s a look at what I’ll be reading over the next few weeks:

Lost In Transmission?: What We Can Know About the Words of Jesus by Nicholas Perrin:

lost-transmission

Bart Ehrman, in his New York Times bestseller, Misquoting Jesus, claims that the New Testament cannot wholly be trusted. Cutting and probing with the tools of text criticism, Ehrman suggests that many of its episodes are nothing but legend, fabricated by those who copied or collated its pages in the intervening centuries. The result is confusion and doubt. Can we truly trust what the New Testament says?

Now, Wheaton College scholar Nicholas Perrin takes on Ehrman and others who claim that the text of the New Testament has been corrupted beyond recognition. Perrin, in an approachable, compelling style, gives us a layman’s guide to textual criticism so that readers can understand the subtleties of Ehrman’s critiques, and provides firm evidence to suggest that the New Testament can, indeed, be trusted.

Buy it at: Amazon


The Heart of Evangelism by Jerram Barrs:

heart-of-evangelism

This biblical study of evangelism gracefully reminds us that the New Testament model of witnessing is not a one-size-fits-all methodology. With compassion for the lost filling every page, Jerram Barrs shows the variety of approaches used in the New Testament—where the same uncompromised Gospel was packaged as differently as the audience—and calls you to follow its example.… And as you watch God work in the lives of others and see the great blessings He brings, you’ll discover what a privilege it is to live out the heart of evangelism: truly loving others to Christ.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


Learning Evangelism from Jesus by Jerram Barrs

learning-evangelism

Studying Jesus’ conversations with diverse people in his day, Jerram Barrs draws lessons and principles for attractively communicating the gospel to unbelievers in our day.

Living in a culture that is opposed to Christianity tempts God’s people to conform, to retreat, to be silent. But Jesus showed the way to live faithfully before an unbelieving world.

As the greatest evangelist, Jesus exemplified how to attract people to the gospel. He modeled how to initiate spiritual conversations full of grace and truth. Christian evangelism, then, both in theory and practice, must be shaped by his pattern. … This highly practical book will guide Christians in how to live before unbelievers and how to love them into the kingdom, just as Jesus did.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


Evangelism in the Early Church by Michael Green:

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Evangelism in the Early Church provides a comprehensive look at the ways the first Christians — from the New Testament period up until the middle of the third century — worked to spread the good news to the rest of the world.

In describing life in the early church, Green explores crucial aspects of the evangelistic task that have direct relevance for similar work today, including methods, motives, and strategies. He assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the evangelistic approaches used by the earliest Christians, and he also considers the obstacles to evangelism, using outreach to Gentiles and to Jews as examples of differing contexts for proclamation. Carefully researched and frequently quoting primary sources from the early church, this book will both show contemporary readers what can be learned from the past and help renew their own evangelistic vision.

Buy it at: Amazon


Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times by Os Guinness

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Throughout history, the Christian faith has transformed entire cultures and civilizations, building cathedrals and universities, proclaiming God’s goodness, beauty and truth through art and literature, science and medicine. The Christian faith may similarly change the world again today. The church can be revived to become a renewing power in our society—if we answer the call to a new Christian renaissance that challenges darkness with the hope of Christian faith.

In this hopeful appeal for cultural transformation, Guinness shares opportunities for Christians, on both local and global levels, to win back the West and to contribute constructively to the human future. Hearkening back to similar pivotal points in history, Guinness encourages Christians in the quest for societal change. Each chapter closes with thought-provoking discussion questions and a brief, heart-felt prayer that challenges and motivates us to take action in our lives today.

Buy it at: Amazon


Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality by William Edgar

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Francis Schaeffer was one of the most influential apologists of the 20th century. Through his speaking, writing, and filmmaking, Schaeffer successfully transformed the way people thought of the Christian faith, from a rather private kind of piety to a worldview that addressed every sphere of life. This volume—written by a man converted from agnosticism within days of meeting Schaeffer—is the first book devoted to exploring the heart and soul of Schaeffer’s approach to the Christian life, and will help readers strive after the same kind of marriage of thought and life, of orthodoxy and love.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

Now I just have to figure out where to put them…

Two devotionals you’ll actually want to use

I’ve got to be honest: devotionals are weird. Seriously. Typically, devotional books are filled with short little nuggets of encouragement that maybe warm your heart, but that’s about it. And that’s fine, but it’s also what I haven’t really enjoyed about a lot of the ones I’ve seen.

Too many try to make people feel good, but they don’t point people to Jesus.

But there are a few really good ones out there, believe it or not. Here’s a look at a couple newly released devotional books I’m enjoying right now:

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New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp

Every book I’ve read of Paul Tripp’s has been worth my time, and New Morning Mercies is no different. What I love about reading Tripp is he’s direct. He knows what we need most, and what we wander from most frequently. He knows we constantly need to be reminded of the gospel.

And this is what you’re going to find in the daily readings of New Morning Mercies. For example:

Here’s what happens to us all—we seek horizontally for the personal rest that we are to find vertically, and it never works. Looking to others for your inners sense of well-being is pointless.… [It] never works.

The peace that success gives is unreliable as well. Since you are less than perfect, whatever success you are able to achieve will soon be followed by failure of some kind. Then there is the fact that the buzz of success is short-lived. It isn’t long before you’re searching for the next success to keep you going. That’s why the reality that Jesus has become your righteousness is so precious. His grace has forever freed us from needing to prove our righteousness and our worth. So we remind ourselves every day not to search horizontally for what we’ve already been given vertically. “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever” (Isa. 32:17). That righteousness is found in Christ alone. (January 11)

New Morning Mercies consistently reminds us that the gospel is the solution to the need we’re trying to meet through other means, the source of our hope and joy. There’s nothing else that matters, and nothing else that can encourage us or challenge us in the way it can.

(Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon)

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It is Finished by Tullian Tchividjian (with Nick Lannon)

Tullian Tchividjian takes a different approach than a lot of modern preachers. He doesn’t really play it safe, certainly not in his books. What doesn’t he play it safe with? Grace. He offers readers a big picture of God’s grace—one that reminds us of our security in Christ. One that reminds us of God’s love for us, and just how jaw-dropping that love is. And this is what he offers in the daily readings of It is Finished: pictures of grace at work.

The Bible is God’s single story of great sinners in need of and being met by a great Savior. We set time apart fro God through prayer and Bible reading, for example, because it is in those places where God reminds us again and again that things between us are forever fixed. They are the rendezvous points where God declares to us concretely that the debt has been paid, the ledger put away, and that, in Christ, everything we need we already possess. This convincing assurance produces humility, because we realize that our needs are fulfilled. We don’t have to worry about ourselves anymore. This, in turn, allows us to stop looking for what we think we need and liberates us to love our neighbor by looking out for what they need. The vertical relationship is secure, freeing us to think about the horizontal ones—about others. What comes next is a peace we could not attain on our own. (January 10)

Because of his big picture of grace, some suggest he underemphasizes our works. But Tchividjian instead seeks to remind us of the source of our works—that they stem from grace. That they are works of grace. If our position with God is secure, we are free to serve in a way that pleases him, something that is impossible so long as we lack even a weak grasp of God’s lovingkindness.

(Buy it at: Amazon)

Are either of these perfect? Nope. They’re devotionals. Every reading is intended to be a done-in-one, so sometimes it’s going to feel incomplete, or err a bit on the side of pithiness (the latter has a bit more of this than the former). But when they hit the sweet spot, they really hit it, really encouraging in the right sort of way—by reminding me of the grace God gives through faith in Jesus Christ. And though it’s easy to forget, when we catch it afresh, it changes everything.

A year of time-tested theology: the Bavinck reading plan

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The new year is nearly upon us, and this year I’m spending a great deal of time reading time-tested works of theology. The first work on the list? Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics.

Thanks to the tools in Logos 6, I’ve put together a reading plan for each volume. The goal is to complete read each volume over about five weeks, give or take. Here’s what the plan for volume one, Prolegomena, looks like:

  • January 1: Editor’s Introduction (optional)
  • January 2: Editor’s Introduction (optional) – Dogma, Dogmatics, and Theology
  • January 5: The Content of Theology – Apostles, Bishops, and the Return to Scripture
  • January 6: The Turn to the Subject – The Impact of Philosophy
  • January 7: The Foundation and Task of Prolegomena – Christian Theology and/ or Philosophy: Two Ways
  • January 8: Dogma and Theology in the East – Chapter 5: Lutheran Dogmatics
  • January 9: The Beginning of Lutheran Theology – The Beginnings of Reformed Theology
  • January 12: Reformed Scholasticism – Theological Prolegomena
  • January 13: Foundations of Thought – Objective and Subjective Religion
  • January 14: Piety and Worship – The Whole Person
  • January 15: The Origin of Religion – Nineteenth- Century “Recovery” of Revelation
  • January 16: Mediating Theology – Chapter 11: Special Revelation
  • January 19: Modes of Revelation – To Fallen Humanity
  • January 20: As Triune God – The Reformational View
  • January 21: Rationalistic Naturalism – The Witness of the New Testament
  • January 22: The Testimony of the Church – Differing Views of Inspiration
  • January 23: Organic Inspiration – Descriptive and Prescriptive Authority
  • January 26: Moral Authority Only? – The Conflict with Rome
  • January 27: Tradition and Papal Infallibility – Religion is Always Concrete
  • January 28: Theology’s Distinct Method – The Speculative Method
  • January 29: Triumph of Reason: Hegel – Albrecht Ritschl and Moral Religion
  • January 30: The Search for the Unity of Believing and Knowing – Two Kinds of Faith
  • February 2: Faith as Intellectual Assent – Scripture is Self-Authenticating
  • February 3: Divine and Human Logos – Faith’s Knowledge
  • February 4: Dogma and Greek Philosophy – end of volume one

A couple of things you might be wondering:

Why no weekends? I intentionally limited this to weekdays only for a couple of reasons. First, I want to make sure everyone who participates has time to adequately process what they’re reading each week. I don’t want anyone to just consume Reformed Dogmatics, I was to think about it. Second, I felt it important to build in some buffer. I don’t want anyone to get caught in is the “desperate catch up” trap if we get behind in our reading (which shouldn’t be an issue, but you never know).

Where are the page numbers? Each entry shows the section heads where we’ll be starting, rather than a page number as this is built using the editions available through Logos Bible Software. If you’re following along with a hard copy edition, it works out to reading roughly 30-ish pages a day.

How long will it take to read all four volumes? The way the plan is structured, we’ll have completed the four volumes by by May 19th. This is a fairly comfortable pace.

How can I get a copy of these plans? Copies of the plans for each volume are available in PDF format and for iCal. You can download the PDF versions here and the iCal version here.

Enjoy!

11 books I want to read 2015

This year, I have a feeling my reading is going to look a lot different. I’ll be doing a bunch of reading for my courses at Covenant Seminary, and I’m spending a good chunk of the year reading time-tested works of theology. But even so, there are some new books coming out I’m genuinely excited about. Here are a few of the ones I’m most looking forward to reading in 2015:

Good News About Satan by Bob Bevington (Cruciform Press).

Most books on Satan are pretty… well, crazy. But, this one “walks the reader through the plain teachings of Scripture regarding Satan, demons, and spiritual warfare, at all times from an explicitly gospel-centered perspective that exalts the sovereignty of God and the finished work of Christ as paramount. Because of this focus, the book, while treating our enemy soberly and seriously, is devoid of the unfruitful speculations and illegitimate extrapolations so common to this topic.”

Can’t go wrong with a book that’s sticking strictly to Scripture, huh?


The ISIS Crisis by Charles Dyer and Mark Tobey (Moody Publishers)

I’m hopeful this book will be helpful for many seeking to make sense of what’s going on in the Middle East (and increasingly touching us here in the West):

ISIS—a name that inspires fear, a group that is gaining momentum. Horrors unheard of are plaguing the Middle East, and ISIS may be the responsible for the worst among them. And yet there is so much we don’t know about ISIS.… Drawing from history, current events, and biblical prophecy, they guide readers through the matrix of conflicts in the Middle East. Then they explore the role of ISIS in all of these matters. Finally, they encourage Christians to look to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.


Fear and Faith by Trillia Newbell (Moody Publishers)

Trillia’s tackling a subject that hits close to home with many people I know in this one:

In Fear and Faith, we will look our fears in the face, name their root cause, and learn together how to lean on the One who we can and should trust. Fear has a way of whispering lies to our souls about who God is. But the Lord is better and through exploring what the Word says about our sovereign, good, and loving God, we can learn to rest in His ever-open arms. Ultimately we fight fear by trusting in the Lord and fearing Him.


Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down by Tony Merida (B&H Publishing Group)

I’m glad there are more books coming out like this:

Ordinary is not a call to be more radical. If anything, it is a call to the contrary. The kingdom of God isn’t coming with light shows, and shock and awe, but with lowly acts of service. Tony Merida wants to push back against sensationalism and “rock star Christianity,” and help people understand that they can make a powerful impact by practicing ordinary Christianity.

Through things such as humble acts of service, neighbor love, and hospitality, Christians can shake the foundations of the culture. In order to see things happen that have never happened before, Christians must to do what Christians have always done­. Christians need to become more ordinary.


The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler with Jared C. Wilson (David C. Cook)

I’m looking forward to seeing how this differs from the hyper-sexualized approach of his contemporaries:

The Song of Solomon offers strikingly candid—and timeless—insights on romance, dating, marriage, and sex. We need it. Because emotions rise and fall with a single glance, touch, kiss, or word. And we are inundated with songs, movies, and advice that contradicts God’s design for love and intimacy.

Matt Chandler helps navigate these issues for both singles and marrieds by revealing the process Solomon himself followed: Attraction, Courtship, Marriage … even Arguing. The Mingling of Souls will forever change how you view and approach love.


Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send by J.D. Greear (Zondervan)

If this is as good as it sounds from the description, it might be the best book on ministry in ages:

Though many churches focus time and energy on attracting people and counting numbers, the real mission of the church isn’t how many people you can gather. It’s about training up disciples and then sending them out. The true measure of success for a church should be its sending capacity, not its seating capacity.… In Gaining By Losing, J.D. Greear unpacks ten plumb lines that you can use to reorient your church’s priorities around God’s mission to reach a lost world. The good news is that you don’t need to choose between gathering or sending. Effective churches can, and must, do both.


The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World by David Murray (Thomas Nelson)

This could be really great:

Hopelessness has invaded much of our culture, even reaching deep into the church. But while the world is awash in negativity, Christians have resources to live differently.

In The Happy Christian, professor and pastor David Murray blends the best of modern science and psychology with the timeless truths of Scripture to create a solid, credible guide to positivity. The author of the acclaimed Christians Get Depressed Too, Murray exposes modern negativity’s insidious roots and presents ten perspective-changing ways to remain optimistic in a world that keeps trying to drag us down.


The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo by Jared C. Wilson (Crossway)

Whenever Wilson writes on church ministry, I pay attention. So should you:

Pastors want to reach the lost with the good news of Jesus. However, we’ve too often assumed this requires loud music, flashy lights, and skinny jeans. In this gentle manifesto, Jared Wilson—a pastor who knows what it’s like to serve in a large attractional church—challenges pastors to reconsider their priorities when it comes to how they “do church” and reach people in their communities. Writing with the grace and kindness of a trusted friend, Wilson encourages pastors to reexamine the Bible’s teaching, not simply return to a traditional model for tradition’s sake. He then sets forth an alternative to both the attractional and the traditional models: an explicitly biblical approach that is gospel focused, grace based, and fruit oriented.


What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung (Crossway)

There have been a lot of really great books out on this subject, but I’m looking forward to seeing what DeYoung adds:

In just a few short years, massive shifts in public opinion have radically reshaped society’s views on homosexuality. Feeling the pressure to forsake long-held beliefs about sex and marriage, some argue that Christians have historically misunderstood the Bible’s teaching on this issue. But does this approach do justice to what the Bible really teaches about homosexuality? … Examining key biblical passages in both the Old and New Testaments and the Bible’s overarching teaching regarding sexuality, DeYoung responds to popular objections raised by Christians and non-Christians alike—offering readers an indispensable resource for thinking through one of the most pressing issues of our day.


Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate,and Commissioned Church by Collin Hansen (Crossway)

Christians talk a lot about church unity. Unfortunately, however, God’s people are often better known for their divisions and disagreements than for a common commitment to the gospel. At the root of this disunity are the blind spots that prevent us from seeing other points of view and reevaluating our own perspectives. In this provocative book, Collin Hansen challenges Christians from various “camps” to view their differences as opportunities to more effectively engage a needy world with the love of Christ. Highlighting the diversity of thought, experience, and personality that God has given to his people, this book lays the foundation for a new generation of Christians eager to cultivate a courageous, compassionate, and commissioned church.


Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God by Joe Thorn (Crossway)

This might be the book I’m most looking forward to of all:

For Christians, there is only one simple yet profound answer: turn to the triune God. Born out of lessons learned during one of the most spiritually challenging periods of his life, Experiencing the Trinity by pastor Joe Thorn contains 50 down-to-earth meditations on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Overflowing with scriptural truth, pastoral wisdom, and personal honesty, this book reflects on common experiences of doubt, fear, and temptation—pointing readers to the grace that God provides and the strength that he promises.


Those are a few of the titles I’m looking forward to in 2015. What about you?

Five books to read near Christmas

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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