Book Review: By Grace Alone by Sinclair B. Ferguson

Title: By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me
Author: Sinclair Ferguson
Publisher: Reformation Trust (2010)

Does the grace of God amaze you?

Does the salvation that comes through faith in Christ overwhelm you with excitement and joy?

It did Emmanuel T. Sibomana, inspiring him to write they hymn, “Umbuntu Bg Imana,” translated into English as, “O How the Grace of God Amazes Me.” Sibomana’s hymn is a beautiful and powerful exposition of the story of salvation and the grace of God.

It’s also the inspiration for Sinclair Ferguson’s latest book, By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me. Following the structure of Sibomana’s hymn, Ferguson reflects on God’s grace from seven angles and shows us why the grace of God should amaze us.

A question that may come to mind when considering this book is, “Why do we need (another) book on grace?”

“Being amazed by God’s grace is a sign of spiritual vitality. . .  Yet we frequently take the grace of God for granted. . . . We have lost the joy and energy that are experienced when grace seems truly amazing,” writes Ferguson (Introduction, p. xiv).

In other words, if our amazement at God’s grace is a sign of our spiritual wellbeing, to take it for granted is an indicator that, spiritually speaking, we’re desperately sick. To regain our health, we must regain a sense of wonder when considering His grace.

So what does grace do, exactly?

Ferguson breaks it down quite effectively. Grace… [Read more…]

Book Review: Slave by John MacArthur

Title: Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ
Author: John MacArthur
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus…” (Rom. 1:1). Over and over again, the New Testament’s writers refer to themselves by this one word—doulos. Typically, we see it translated in English as “servant” or “bondservant;” but is that most accurate way to translate it?

Does doulos really mean “servant?”

According to John MacArthur, it would be better translated as “slave.” In his latest book, Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ, he examines the implications of what it means for each of us to be a slave of Christ.

MacArthur’s teaching gifts are on full display in Slave as he provides valuable insight into slavery in first century Rome, and illustrates how that understanding allows Christians today to better appreciate much of the language of Paul and the New Testament writers as they describe their relationship to Christ.

Against the historical backdrop of slavery, our Lord’s call to self-sacrifice becomes that much more vivid. A slave’s life was one of complete surrender, submission, and service to the master—and the people of Jesus’ day would have immediately recognized the parallel. Christ’s invitation to follow Him was an invitation to that same kind of life. (p. 43)

In reality, Slave isn’t simply about making readers see themselves as slaves of Christ. MacArthur, by focusing on the doctrines of grace—the total depravity of man, God’s unconditional election, particular redemption, irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints—gives readers a complete picture of who we are in Christ.

This ultimately culminates in MacArthur’s exposition of the doctrine of adoption. That is, all who put their faith in Christ are not merely slaves, we are also His sons and daughters adopted into God’s family with all the rights of a natural born child. [Read more…]

Looking Back: My Favorite Books of 2010

My love of reading good books has only increased in this last year. Over the course of the year, I decided to track how many books I read (and how many audiobooks were listened to).

Turns out that, as of this writing, I’ve read and listened to a combined 96 books in 2010. (People always ask me how I can read so much; now I’m beginning to wonder, too…)

Of these, some good, some great and at least a couple that were made of poop sandwiches, I want to share with you some of the best of the bunch—the ten or so books I read this year that were helpful, meaningful and enjoyable. There were a few others that probably should have made the list, but I had to restrain myself.

With that in mind, I give you the list:

Business & Leadership

Free by Chris Anderson

Why I liked it: I’ve listened to this one two or three times since I downloaded it from (free, naturally). All about the history and power of “free,” Anderson demonstrates how the concept of giving something away is a powerful tool to help make money. But more than that, “free” is changing our expectations (for example, the expectation on the web is that nearly everything is—or should be—free). While the author is a little too broad in some of his assertions, I found it to be a really insightful and very challenging look at marketing best practices, and just how much the concept of free is transforming how we think and how we do business. Well worth reading or listening to.

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Why I liked it: The big idea of the book is discovering what it means to be indispensable. And the one of the keys is to see yourself as an artist in what you do. Do everything with excellence (even the dreary stuff) and be someone who “ships” (i.e. you get things done).

Godin’s thinking in this book is very much in line with a number of other works from the last couple of years like Fake Work, Why Work Sucks, Grown Up Digital and Drive. It’s less about showing up to do work that may not be in line with the vision and goals of your company and more about doing work that matters. And speaking of Drive

Drive by Daniel Pink

Why I liked it: In the industrial economy, carrots & sticks always seemed to work best to motivate people—if they do well, give them a reward (a raise, an extra day off) and if they don’t, well, perhaps it’s time for the pink slip. But what happens when that doesn’t work anymore? How do you motivate people in the information age?

Daniel Pink narrows it down to three factors: Autonomy, mastery and purpose. When people are given some level of control over what they do, the opportunity to become “masters” in it and the work is connected to a larger purpose (beyond making some person rich), Pink’s research has shown that employee satisfaction increases dramatically and the work they do gets better. We’ve been using these general ideas in our departmental reviews for about a year and it’s been extraordinarily helpful.

And as a bonus, the book also helped potty train our daughter.

Biography & Memoirs

Decision Points by George W. Bush

Why I liked It: I downloaded the unabridged audio from a few weeks back as a lark. Bush comes across as a far more thoughtful, capable and likable man than he was ever portrayed in the media. While no doubt the truth lies somewhere in the middle of how Bush (and—I assume—his ghostwriter) describes events and what the media gave us, it’s a fascinating look at the life and presidency of America’s 43rd President.

Fun fact about the book: Bush includes a surprisingly thorough and accurate gospel presentation in the book. I was not expecting that.

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas

Why I liked it: What I learned from Bonhoeffer, aside from gaining a wider understanding historically of the conditions in Germany that led to Hitler’s rise to power, and aside from discovering a deeper knowledge of the life of a twentieth century martyr, I gained a glimpse of what a life lived fully in-tune with one’s theological convictions can look like. Bonhoeffer’s focus on costly discipleship reminds us that the Christian life is one that is active, not merely reactive. And this is something we would do well to remember always.

Read my full review here. [Read more…]

Book Review: The Gospel and the Mind by Bradley G. Green

The Gospel and the Mind by Bradley G. Green

Title: The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life
Author: Bradley G. Green
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

What does the gospel have to do our intellectual life? While some would argue that it has nothing to do with it at all, it’s interesting to note that, “wherever the gospel goes, it seems to generate intellectual deliberation and inquiry” (p. 12).

Why? What is it about the gospel that it encourages deep thinking?

And why is it that, “when the gospel ceases to permeate and influence a given culture, we often see a confused understanding of the possibility of knowledge and the meaning of our thoughts”? (p. 19)

Is there a connection between the loss of the gospel’s hold on the modern world and the modern world’s increasing skepticism about the viability, purpose, meaning, and possibility of an intellectual life? (p. 21)

In The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life, author Bradley G. Green proposes a two-part answer to this challenging question. He argues that:

  1. The Christian vision of God, man, and the world provides the necessary precondition for the recovery of any meaningful intellectual life.
  2. The Christian vision of God, man, and the world offers a particular, unique understanding of what the intellectual life looks like.

Green supports his argument by examining five themes:

  1. That the doctrine of Creation provides the necessary basis for any intellectual pursuit at all. “Without a robust understanding of creation and history, we cannot—ultimately—account for the nature of the intellectual life,” writes Green. (p. 50)
  2. That a compelling vision drives the intellectual life. For the Christian, the vision (or “telos” as Green puts it) is that we will one day see Christ face-to-face and know Him fully even as we are fully known (cf. 1 Cor. 13:12). “With the loss of this sense of a telos . . . there has been a corresponding confusion in thought [that] leads ultimately to nihilism.” (p. 176) [Read more…]

Book Review: Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

Title: Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible
Author: Steven Furtick
Publisher: Multnohmah (2010)

I wasn’t sure what to think of Steven Furtick’s Sun Stand Still when I first received it.

I’d heard a bit about Furtick, the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Most of it had to do with numbers —Elevation has a congregation in the thousands, and its founding pastor has only just turned 30.

But I didn’t really know what he was all about. I didn’t know what he stands for and what he’s passionate about.

The back cover copy of the book didn’t make things any clearer. As I cracked it open, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be completely ridiculous, or if it would be a lot more helpful than I anticipated.

By the time I finished the book, I had great deal more clarity regarding those questions. Furtick is deeply passionate about seeing Christians live in the fullness of their faith, and this book is his attempt to guide readers through the process of doing so.

Sun Stand Still is a call to what Furtick calls “audacious faith”—to live and pray like the God we worship and serve is actually capable of the impossible (because He is).

Furtick takes his inspiration from Joshua 10:1-15; there Joshua commands the sun to stand still so the Israelites can finish off their enemies, and God causes the sun to stand still. He wants readers to have God-sized visions; plans and prayers that are absolutely terrifyingly impossible to accomplish if God is not at work in them and through them.

In this sense, the book is right at home with Francis Chan’s bestseller,Crazy Love. That is, there’s this strong desire to see Christians living fully in their faith. To not try to live your best life now, but actually do big things for God’s glory.

That’s something that I greatly appreciate and resonate with, particularly in my own life. It’s easy to get wrapped up in getting by or sidetracked pursuing comforts in life that I might be at risk of missing an opportunity that God is giving me to take a big, bold step of faith. None of us should be content with actions that, as Ecclesiastes 1:17 says, are merely grasping or striving after the wind. A great deal of effort exuded for very little payoff. [Read more…]

Grounded in the Gospel by J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett

Title: Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way
Authors: J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett
Publisher: Baker Books (2010)

In Jr. High, I had a friend name Charlie. He was a pretty good guy and had great parents. He also had a Nintendo, which was a pretty big deal even as far back as 1991. Anyway, I remember asking him one day what he was doing after school, and he said, “Ugh, I’ve got to go to catechism.” His family was Catholic (I think), so he had to do this catechism thing until his confirmation (which I’d also never heard of).

Whatever catechism was, it sounded positively dreadful (after all, think of all the Nintendo he was missing out on…)

Likewise, in modern evangelical circles, the idea of catechism is shunned. It’s too Catholic, too dry, too dull. Instead, we rely primarily on self-learning, children’s church and sparsly-attended adult Sunday School classes for our doctrinal formation.

J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett want to change that. In Grounded in the Gospel, the authors strive to illustrate the biblical foundations of catechism and provide helpful outlines for how we can integrate it into our churches’ ministries. As they work they build their case, the picture of catechism they describe is anything but dreadful—for one who desires to know more about the Christian faith, it can be downright exhilarating.

I greatly appreciated the thoughtfulness and thoroughness the authors applied to the subject, particularly as they wrestled first with the historical and biblical foundations of catechism. Because in many evangelical circles, there is a discomfort about the idea of doing things because of historical tradition, it is essential to understand that the idea of catechism finds its roots in Scripture. The authors explain that the our word “catechesis” is derived from the New Testament word for “teaching,” katēcheō. Jesus, according to the authors, was and is the model catechist. And to catechize is to not only follow His example, but to obey His command (p. 49, c.f. Matt. 28:20).

After establishing the foundation, Packer and Parrett move to the content. If catechism is a biblical idea, what then, should its content be? Again, their breakdown of content in both the macro and micro is extremely helpful. [Read more…]

Book Review: Servanthood as Worship by Nate Palmer

Title: Servanthood as Worship
Author: Nate Palmer
Publisher: Cruciform Press (2010)

It’s Saturday night and you’ve just enjoyed a great night out. You get ready for bed, your head hits the pillow and you realize:

“Oh man, I’m on set up tomorrow. Ugh…”

I know that there have been times that I’ve felt that way. When I’ve volunteered to serve and can remember when I used to enjoy it… but now, I wish I could call in sick. Nate Palmer understands this—he’s been there. And in Servanthood as Worship, he seeks to help readers develop a theology of service that will bring joy to others (and ourselves) and glory to God.

Palmer view of servanthood is inspiring. He roots servanthood firmly in the gospel—that our service flows from Christ coming as a servant on our behalf. “As Christians, our standing with God—our very salvation—does not depend on whether we serve, but that Christ first served us. . . . All our service for God begins and ends with service from God,” he writes (p. 15). This is a shift that many of us—myself included—desperately need. Too often our view of service comes out of this place of trying to earn standing before God and men.

We put on a happy face and we work hard until we burn out.

The funny thing is, it seems like we’re being set up for this to happen, doesn’t it? I remember at one church hearing about how 20 percent of the people at a church were doing 80 percent of the work. As part of that so-called 20 percent, that puts a lot of pressure on you, because if you need a respite, there’s no one to fill the gap. The burden of duty leads to bitterness… and people don’t even realize it.

Instead, we need to embrace service as what it actually is—worship. To see it as an outward evidence of our inward transformation. [Read more…]

Book Review: Halfway Herbert by Francis Chan

“Herbert Hallweg was seven-and-a-half years old, three-and-a-half feet tall, and fifty-five-and-a-half pounds heavy. He had lots of friends, but none of them called him Herbert. Instead, everyone called him… Halfway Herbert.”

That’s how Francis Chan begins his children’s book, Halfway Herbert. Herbert only ever does things halfway. He brushes half his teeth, does half his homework, eats half his food and gets half the sleep he needs. So when he is riding his bike and is only half paying attention, he hits his dad’s car & decides to tell only half the truth… and gets caught in a whole lie. When his dad confronts him, he teaches Herbert that none of life isn’t meant to be lived halfway—especially our lives as Christians.

In this book, Chan does a terrific job of distilling the core message of Crazy Love into a powerful reminder of the importance of loving the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. That there’s no such thing as being halfway obedient to Christ—He demands all of us. Although we always follow imperfectly, even in that the Holy Spirit is making us more and more like Christ.

I was quite impressed when I read Halfway Herbert. It’s geared perfectly to children around ages 4-8 (my oldest daughter listened attentively as my wife read it to her before we secretly bought it as a Christmas gift)—but it also has a lot to teach adults. Our children learn as much from our example what it means to be a Christian as they do from reading the Bible themselves. And when they’re really young, they learn almost entirely from us. So what’s the example we’re setting? Do we live like people who are completely sold out for the cause of Christ… or are we, too, Halfway Herberts?

I’d highly encourage parents to pick up a copy of Halfway Herbert for their children. Read it together and encourage one another to live a life fully devoted to Christ.

Title: Halfway Herbert
Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David C. Cook

Book Talk: The Mighty Acts of God by Starr Meade and Tim O’Connor

Kids’ Bibles are a strange animal.

There’s a lot of effort that’s put into making the stories of the Bible sensible to children; in the process, however, many important facets of God’s interactions with His creation can get glossed over or lost altogether.

Enter The Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book.

Written by Starr Meade and illustrated by Tim O’Connor, The Mighty Acts of God is intended to teach children the essential doctrines of the Christian faith from a Reformed perspective.

Recently, I received a copy of The Mighty Acts of God and in the video below, my wife Emily and I share our thoughts on the book and how it impacted our family.

To summarize:

  1. The stories introduce key doctrines of the Christian faith in a way that children can understand;
  2. The content focuses on who God is and what He has done in creation;
  3. It’s extremely cross-centered, constantly bringing readers back to the gospel; and
  4. The “For me and my house” discussion section is one of the greatest strengths of the book, providing opportunities to discuss what’s been learned in the story and how it applies to our lives.

If you’re looking for a kid’s Bible that the whole family will benefit from, I would highly recommend The Mighty Acts of God.

Title: The Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book
Authors: Starr Meade & Tim O’Connor
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

A copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.

Book Review: The Church History ABCs

The study of Church history is an incredibly rewarding—and daunting—experience. In the 2000 years since Christ founded His Church, we’ve seen slave-traders dramatically converted into hymn writers, men give up their lives so that people can read the Bible in their own language, church fathers martyred for defending the faith, a reformation that transformed the world and countless other events. If there’s one thing Church history is not, it’s dull.

So how on earth do you begin to introduce kids to the riches of Church history? How about alphabetically?

In The Church History ABCs, author Stephen J. Nichols and illustrator Ned Bustard, introduce children to 26 heroes of the faith from Augustine to Zwingli. Nichols keeps his text lively and concise, avoiding getting bogged down in too many details about the people to whom he is introducing readers. I particularly enjoyed his write-up of Ulrich Zwingli:

I always come last because my name starts with “Z.” Zurich starts with a “Z” too. Go used me to teach the people of the city of Zurich about Jesus. From Zurich, the Reformation spread to other cities in Switzerland (there’s a “Z” in that word, too). I preached many sermons. One of them had a funny title, “On the Choice and Freedom of Foods.” . . . The Reformation came to Zurich. I wanted everyone to know that we should follow God’s Word and do what it says. The Bible tells us everything we need to know from A to Z.

Bustard’s clean illustration style is a lot of fun and very expressive. I’m impressed at his ability to communicate so much personality in such “simple” drawings (my wife is an illustrator, so I know how difficult a task this can be). It’s a style that serves the content and the audience well.

From a parent’s perspective, The Church History ABCs is a lot of fun—the basic premise is intriguing enough to  make you want to pick it up and take a look, the content is strong enough to give a firm foundation in the bigger picture of Church history, and it’s a neat handy tool for teaching your kids the alphabet. Get a copy for your kids today.

Title: The Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith
Authors: Stephen J. Nichols, Ned Bustard
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

DVD Review: Adventures in Booga-Booga Land

You never know what you’re going to get with kids videos. Sometimes they surprise you; they’re packed with great content and have terrific production quality. Sometimes they’re okay, but forgettable. And then there are the ones that are an absolute train wreck—mind-numbingly painful to watch and just awful, awful production values.

(I’m not sure if that’s the best opening for a review, but there you have it.)

Recently I received a copy of Adventures in Booga Booga Land, distributed by Tommy Nelson (Thomas Nelson’s children’s product division). Based on Richard Milner’s children’s book, the DVD features three stories that serve as retellings of Jesus’ parables & teaching: The workers in the Vineyard from Matt 20:1-16, The Wise & Foolish Builders from Matt. 7:24-27 and The Lamp under the Bowl from Matt. 5:14-16.

So, how did it fare? Well…

The stories on the DVD really only serve as a lead-in for parents to have a discussion of the biblical teaching. This can be a good and bad thing. On the one hand, it’s great to have something to call your kids back to as in, “remember when Marty and Gerard got all huffy because their boss paid people who started working at the end of the day the same wage as them? Well, let’s take a look at that story in the Bible…” So in that sense, it’s a helpful learning aid. On the other hand, if you don’t always have time to do a full lesson with your kids and need something that has a more “complete” message, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Another concern that came up was that the stories themselves are surprisingly violent; my daughter was very confused and concerned when Marty the Monkey and the Schwarzenegger-styled adult education teacher were fighting in the grocery store. Additionally, the attempts to recall fond memories of classic Looney Toons shorts fall flat; it just doesn’t work.

The production quality of the cartoons is terrible. My wife commented that it looks like it might have been done by the same people who made “Toopy and Binoo” (one of the strangest kids shows we’ve ever seen). Truthfully, it reminded me a bit of a bad Flash video.

The final thing I have to comment on is the voiceover work. The voices just grated on us adults. Gerard reminded my wife of Canadian author and radio personality Stuart McLean (it wasn’t, we checked). And the pseudo-Canadian bus driver… Really? We’re still doing that? (There’s another level of irony to this in that the government of Ontario receives a credit for playing a role in the production of the video.)

All that to say, while this certainly wasn’t the worst kids video I’ve seen and I greatly appreciate the intent, Adventures in Booga Booga Land is not something that will be a fixture in our home and I wouldn’t recommend it become on in your’s either.

A complimentary copy of this DVD was provided through Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze Program

Book Review: Which None Can Shut by Reema Goode

What would it be like to live in a nation where it’s a crime to convert to Christianity—and where your family carries out the punishment? And what would it be like to serve there as a Christian missionary? Would there be much fruit? How would you share the gospel—and how would God show up?

This is reality for “Reema Goode” and her family. They serve in a closed country in the Middle East, working to see their Muslim friends and neighbors come to know Jesus Christ. And in Which None Can Shut, Goode shares how God is opening doors in the Muslim world and giving her and her family incredible opportunities to be a strong witness for Christ.

Which None Can Shut is not a “how-to” book for evangelizing Muslims, although there are certainly some principles that can be gleaned from the pages. For example, because of the cultural importance of hospitality, Goode and her husband have been able to have several conversations about the gospel with their neighbors as they’ve been in each other’s homes and built friendships.

Rather than serving as a “how-to” book, it serves more as an encouragement that ministry in these nations is bearing real fruit and offers fuel for increased prayer for missionaries to Muslims. Goode’s stories of how God is at work are incredible to read. She shares how she was ambushed at a friend’s home & threatened—but the words God gave her to speak to her attacker, Hamdan, left him reeling and possibly a secret believer in Christ (pp. 24-37). She tells how she was able to have a rather Elijah-esque showdown between herself and the local religious leaders when Dini and Hilma (her friend Mozi’s twin sisters) were afflicted by  a jinn that only left them when she prayed in Jesus’ name (chapter 6). She tells stories of visions, dreams and powerful works of the Holy Spirit in the lives of men and women in the town they live in. It’s truly incredible to read.

Perhaps one of the most interesting stories she shares is how a Muslim evangelistic event turned into a powerful opportunity for Reema to share the gospel to a room of more than 40 women (chapter 4). The speaker, a woman named Fatima, railed against Christianity for nearly two hours, with only two non-Muslims in the room—Reema and another Christian missionary, Diane. At the end of her argument, purple-faced, Fatima shook her finger in Reema’s face and said:

“It is obvious that you Christians are not the people of God because you’re all so different. We Muslims all dress the same and pray the same. We’re unified. You’re inconsistent! For one thing, some of you drink and some of you don’t drink. What does the Bible actually say about alcohol?” (p. 68)

This provided Reema with the perfect opening to clear up some misconceptions about what a Christian actually is. She explained the truth of the Bible—that it’s one book with a single message: the redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ. She shared how the Bible explains clearly that Jesus is, in fact, God. And as she spoke, hands shot up in the air and a forty minute question-and-answer session began, lasting well past the dinner announcement.

This story and all the stories that Goode shares in Which None Can Shut are a reminder that the world is hungry for the Word of God—that the gospel is powerful, that it transforms and Christ alone has the power to save. It’s also more than a little convicting as we’ve had a couple of instances where Muslim members of our community have invited us over to their homes out of the blue (one was a man I talked to for literally five minutes at the walk-in clinic one day while waiting to see the doctor). Were we shutting down something that God wanted to do out of the assumption that it wasn’t a serious offer? Were they only being polite? There’s a lot to think about here.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to have read Which None Can Shut. I’d encourage any who desire to see men and women come to know Christ—especially those from Muslim backgrounds—to read it for themselves and allow Goode’s stories to bolster their prayers.

Title: Which None Can Shut: Remarkable True Stories of Gods Miraculous Work in the Muslim World
Author: Reema Goode
Publisher: Tyndale (2010)

Book Review: Think by John Piper

Think by John Piper

R. C. Sproul once lamented that, “we live in what may be the most anti-intellectual period in the history of Western civilization.” Strong words, to be sure. But there’s something to them, isn’t there?

Consider, for a moment, how we determine our agreement with ideas and experiences. More often than not, it’s based on what we feel. If it feels good, we do it; and if it feels good, it must obviously be good for us, right?

This comes into play in how we develop (or don’t as the case may be) our doctrine as well; we chafe at the hard truths of the Christian faith—the exclusivity of Christ, the atonement, the authority of Scripture, and countless others—because they don’t feel good. So we don’t wrestle. We don’t engage. We don’t search the Scriptures.

We don’t think deeply.

And because we don’t think deeply, we rob ourselves of a deeper love for God.

In his latest book, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, John Piper seeks to help readers understand how the heart and mind glorify God together and that “thinking is indispensible on the path to passion for God” (p. 27).

Taking its inspiration from Proverbs 2:3-5 and 2 Timothy 2:7, Think has a very sermonic feel to it. It’s less an academic work than a practical and pastoral admonishment. As Piper examines the necessity of thinking to the Christian life, he makes it clear that thinking is not the end goal, love for God is.

“Thinking under the mighty hand of God, thinking soaked in prayer, thinking carried by the Holy Spirit, thinking tethered to the Bible, thinking in pursuit of more reasons to praise and proclaim the glories of God, thinking in the service of love—such thinking is indispensible in a life of fullest praise to God,” he writes (p. 27).

Piper’s writing in this book has a certain comfortableness about it that allows him to communicate some fairly complex subject matter in great ease. He writes simply, without being simplistic. This is especially apparent as he deals with the issue of relativism. About this, he writes:

When objective truth vanishes in the fog of relativism, the role of language changes dramatically. It’s no longer a humble servant for carrying precious truth. Now it throws off the yoke of servanthood and takes on a power of its own. It doesn’t submit to objective, external reality; it creates its own reality. It no longer serves to display truth. Now it seeks to obtain the preferences of the speaker. . . . The goal of language is no longer the communication of reality, but the manipulation of reality . . . function[ing] in the devious capacity of concealing defection from the truth. (p. 109)

Particularly insightful was Piper’s examination of the two texts that some consider the pillars of anti-intellectualism. In Luke 10:21, Jesus thanks the Father that He has hidden His truth from the wise and revealed it to little children and in 1 Cor. 1:20-24, Paul writes that God has confounded the wisdom of the world in the Cross.

So do these texts encourage an anti-intellectual attitude? Not at all, says Piper. What they point to is the issue of pride. There are those who pursue wisdom arrogantly—to know for the sake of knowing. There are those who pursue a lack of knowledge with equal arrogance. “The warnings that Jesus and Paul have sounded . . . are not warnings against careful, faithful, rigorous, coherent, thinking in the pursuit of God,” he writes (p. 154). Instead, they are warnings against pride. “Pride is no respecter of persons—the serious thinkers may be humble. And the careless mystics may be arrogant” (ibid).

This insight is extraordinarily helpful, especially as one who errs on the side of pride in human intellect. The proper response for one such as me is not to give up intellectual pursuit, but instead pursue right thinking—thinking that is marked by a love for God and love for people.

All branches of learning exist ultimately for the purposes of knowing God, loving God and loving man through Jesus . . . it is profoundly right to say all thinking, all learning, all education and all research is for the sake of knowing God, loving God, and showing God. (p. 175)

This is what a biblical attitude toward intellectual pursuit looks like. Piper’s vision is captivating in its scope and application. Thinking and feeling aren’t opposed. Knowledge isn’t the enemy of experience. It’s not either-or. It’s both-and.

Read Think and be encouraged to love God with all your mind, and letting that fuel your passion for God in all your life.

Title: Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God
Author: John Piper
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

Tell Me What to Review!

One of the great things about reviewing books is that you get to read a lot of different material that you probably wouldn’t purchase on your own. Every once in a while, though, you find yourself in a bit of a dilemma:

Trying to decide what to review!

That’s where you, dear reader, can help.

I’ve got a list of three books and I want you to tell me which you want to see me review.

They are:

Sun Stand Still Cover

Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

About the book:

If you’re not DARING TO BELIEVE GOD for the impossible,
some of the BEST PARTS of your Christian Life.

“This book is not a Snuggie. The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien. I’m not writing to calm or coddle you. With God’s help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind. Trip your breakers and turn out the lights in your favorite hiding places of insecurity and fear. Then flip the switch back on so that God’s truth can illuminate the divine destiny that may have been lying dormant inside you for years.

In short, I’m out to activate your audacious faith. To inspire you to ask God for the impossible. And in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose and potential.” [Read more…]