Book Review: Delighting in the Trinity


I really enjoyed Total Church from Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. It's biblical, theological, and practical. That was when Tim Chester really jumped on my radar and I became interested to read more from him.

I'm reviewing two books by Chester from TheGoodBook.com.

Coming soonFrom Creation to New Creation: Making Sense of the Whole Bible Story

TodayDelighting in the Trinity: Why Father, Son and Spirit Are Good News.

GREAT DEAL: For the next 7 days you can buy both titles for $15 total, or separately for $8.44 each. Just add both to cart and it shows up as $15. I really hope you take advantage of this. Both books are very good.

Now, to a brief review...


I'm always eager to find good books in the hands of my church and to recommend them to others. Much is written on theological issues to advance the conversation between scholars and pastors. I love those books and they are important. We also need good books for those who are growing in their faith or joining the conversation on issues they need to learn, who are not always fluent in the lingo. I believe Delighting in the Trinity (DITT) will bring "delight" to all camps.

DITT comes in three parts: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Practical Implications -- with 3-4 chapters in each. I'm not going trace the majority of Chester's argument because he isn't making any new ones. That's a good thing. Chester isn't offering a reworked doctrine of the Trinity to his personal liking. He's offers the adventure of delighting in God who wants us to know Him.

I have always found the doctrine of the Trinity exciting. Thinking it through takes us deeper into the triune God who is the foundation of all reality. This is the God who made us to know Him, and who gives meaning and joy to our lives. To explore Him is a wonderful adventure. To delight in Him is our chief end. (p 8)

I found Chester's writing to be fresh and pastoral. He isn't merely rehashing old arguments, though he does that well. He brings clarity and simplicity to what could be something cumbersome. And he quotes generously without burying the Scriptures, and from more than just basic theological stream. You'll get stuff from Owen, Calvin, Luther, N.T. Wright, T.F. Torrence, and more. In the Historical Developments section you'll hear from all sorts as the doctrine of the Trinity is considered throughout church history from heroes to heretics, from the early church fathers to contemporary theologians. But Chester doesn't end there. He says there's a continuing need to reform our theology...

Theology is a continuing project. We need to re-articulate the gospel afresh to our culture. At the same time we need to examine the influence of our culture on our thinking. The development of the doctrine of the Trinity illustrates how a slightly divergent view can turn out to be a wrong turning that will eventually lead us away from the biblical gospel. A shift of emphasis in one generation can become a dangerous heresy in the next generation. So theology is a serious task for all Christians. (p 117)

I maybe most appreciate how the book includes illustrations/diagrams and bullet points. The illustrations are both helpful and careful. Chester makes sure to explain are not complete or definitive explanations. The diagrams for historical thinkers I found very helpful to understand the differences. And the bullet points are helpful as we learn and should be helpful when we reference the book later to refresh.

I particularly like the way Chester deals with the Trinity and the Cross. This is a Gospel-centered book on the Trinity.

God is known only through revelation, but this revelation is hidden so that it shatters human pretensions. God is revealed in what is contrary. The wisdom of God is hidden in the folly of the cross. The glory of God is hidden in the shame of the cross. He power of God is hidden in the weakness of the cross. So if we want to discover the true character of God, we must look to the cross. And the God revealed in the cross is trinitarian. He is both single and plural; one united being and three distinct persons. (p 64)


We cannot understand the cross without the plurality of God. The cross shows us that there are distinctions within God. God can be forsaken by God. But neither can we understand the cross without the unity of God. If God is not one, then the cross becomes a cruel and vindictive act with an angry Father punishing an unwilling Son or a loving Son placating an unwilling Father. Only if God is one can the cross be for us reconciliation and inclusion within the divine community. (p 78)

Part 3 of the book, Practical Implications, is where it all comes together with the world around us. There is stuff on other religions, on individualism and pluralism and how this doctrine corrects cultural issue, and much more. There are pastoral considerations throughout, as well. 

My only real critique is that I really wish Delighting in the Trinity had a Scripture index and a subject index. Some may complain they would like a fuller treatment, but that's not Chester's purpose. There are other great books for that. This is highly accessible for your church members, and that's firmly where it belongs.

So I highly recommend Delighting in the Trinity as a resource for your church members. It may be of particular help to Bible study teachers and/or small group leaders. And let me add that one group I hope will pick up Delighting in the Trinity: pastors. I'm always surprised to hear pastors & preachers who don't grasp the Trinity, who speak incorrectly as to who does what and when and how. Or who just default at the generic when the Bible gives us the specifics. Let's sharpen our understanding of our Triune God as we preach His Word! This is a helpful refresher, or something to give you more solid footing on this beautiful doctrine.

Go buy Delighting in the Trinity. Buy From Creation to New Creation at the same time and get both for just $15 total. You won't regret it. And check out the growing number of theologically solid resources from TheGoodBook.com.

Tim Keller on Preaching to Himself


Tim Keller, at about 7 minutes in to the 2nd Q&A session with Bryan Chapell (from these discussions), is basically asked, How do you ["preach the gospel to yourself every day"]? I worked hard to do justice to how Keller stated these things. Hope it's helpful.

I try to do petition in the morning. I try to do repentance in the evening. So I try to pray in the morning and in the evening. In the evening I look back on what I did wrong and repent. 

But in the middle of the day I try to catch myself and I look for four kinds of emotions. 

I always pray in the morning, "Lord make me happy enough in the grace of Jesus to avoid being proud, cold, scared, and hooked."

  • Now, by proud I mean what you think, too self-congratulatory. And maybe disdainful of people who I don't think have it together.
  • Cold means I'm just too absorbed in my concerns to really be compassionate and gracious and warm and joyful to the people around me. 
  • Scared means I'm just obviously too anxious and worried.
  • Hooked means...when you're overworked, it means for me...eating. Eating things I shouldn't eat just because it's a way of keeping my energy up, and also because it's a way of rewarding myself. Or looking at women more than once.

So: proud, cold, scared, hooked.

Now, in the middle of the day I get it out and say, "Have I been proud, scared, cold, or hooked in the last 3-4 hours. And the answer usually is "Yeah." And then I say, "How do I bring the Gospel to bear on that? How does the grace of God deal with it?" And you try to catch yourself in those feelings. So basically finding problem feelings and inordinate desires, catch them when they're happening, try to deal with them with the Gospel right there.

I call that "Quick Strike" on my idols around noon, if I can remember it. And repentance at night and petition in the morning. So I try to get into God's presence three times a day.


I know the times in which I've been most prone to temptation is when I've basically drop-kicked the whole practice, the discipline of it, for weeks on end because I've just been so busy and running ragged and that's when I can really sense myself being vulnerable.

Family Worship & Bible Reading


I'm learning & growing to be the pastor of my family I've been called to be, and I'm enjoying leading them better in family worship and Bible reading. The recent Desiring God Pastor's Conference message by Joel Beeke on family worship was convicting and encouraging. You should check it out.

Right now we have five main resouces for family worship &/or Bible reading (singing resources aren't listed). For the most part our kids read Scripture in the morning and we use the other resouces at night. Let me know what resources you have found helpful in the comments below.

1. The Bible | Each of our kids has their own ESV Bible (compact Bible for my boys, my daughter has a prettier one). They are reading James every day in the mornings, sometimes on their own and sometimes with me and/or Molly.

2. ESV Study Bible | Same text with notes that help the family when we need a few interpretive helps on a passage. We have a copy permanently stationed in our living room for the kids to open if they need to check notes on their own. They don't do this much yet, but will get the hang of it.

3. The Story of God for Kids | Created by the good folks at Soma Communities in Tacoma, Washington. My family LOVES this. Well written and helpful notes for using it well, good questions to help it sink in. I have been reading it off my Kindle to them. Last night Elijah was peppering me with questions as he is piecing together the larger "Story of God" from the lessons blending together. Wonderful resource. Check out their other resources for adults and small groups.

Operation World

4. Operation World: A Prayer Guide to the Nations | Eye-opening for our kids as they learn about the world and the needs of the world from a missionary perspective. They love to thumb through the pages and learn about a new country. We are putting little biographies of missionaries in their hands and they want to learn about those countries today. We want to teach them to pray BIG prayers to our BIG God for our BIG world. UPDATE: Commenter reminded me of Window on the World, an Operation World of sorts for younger kids. We have that and the kids like it a lot.


5. Four Holy Gospels | Just got this in the mail yesterday. It's the most beautiful Bible I've ever seen, with artwork by NYC artist Makoto Fujimura. Our family was able to meet Mako and attend the Crossway Books release event for the project. We now plan on using the Bible at least once a week (Sundays) to take turns reading aloud from a Gospel together before we leave the house to gather with our local church. It's nice to add a substantial piece like this into our family worship & Bible reading that will last through the years as a family treasure.

Running With The Witnesses - Piper


In 2008 I wrote "How I Hit REFRESH." This is a great time of year to do that, and one of my favorite ways is by listening to "Running with the Witnesses" by John Piper, a sermon on Hebrews 11:39-12:2. I encourage you to listen to it leading up to New Year's Day. I'm preaching this passage on Sunday as well.

Book Review: Pursuing God

Pg-2nd-revised-ed I first heard about and met Jim Elliff at a Founder's Conference years ago. I've emailed him a time or two over the last several years about an evangelism project I've worked on that came from a lecture I heard him give. His articles have often been a source of inspiration (like "A Different Style of Evangelist: Laborers on the Loose"), as had the first edition of Pursuing God. So when I heard Pursuing God: A Seeker's Guide was being reworked, I couldn't wait to check it out. Jim & Christian Communicators Worldwide were kind enough to send me a handful of copies to give away & one I could review. 

PHYSICAL: The book is compact. At 86 pages (75 of main content) it's a quick read: Introduction, 11 chapters, "Twenty-one days with God" (10 pages for reading/reflecting in Gospel of John) and finally two pages on reading through the New Testament. That's a lot for a very small book. It could be easily divided into tiny, chapter chunks for daily reading, or consumed fairly quickly in one sitting. The cover is just great, black with a barely visible floral design. Really attractive. Better than I would expect from a small publisher. Well done.

CONTENT: This isn't a your-life-could-be-even-better-with-Jesus sort-of book. It's a hard-hitting, direct spiritual challenge intended for the seeker. Elliff writes in the introduction, "This book is for the person who knows God is there, and believes that somehow he must relate to him." Then a page-turn later Elliff says, "What does God think of me? The answer to this question might surprise you--and disappoint you. But the disappointment is necessary." Pulls no punches. 

While the content is strong and biblical, that doesn't mean Elliff runs you over. He doesn't. He walks you through the struggle with ample illustration and in a conversational tone. 

The first several chapters or so deals with sin: Who we are because of sin, our broken relationship with God, the coming judgment. Then Pursuing God leads toward an understanding of the power of the Gospel, the need & call to repent (not merely an explanation of repentance), trying vs trusting, and then a final challenge to not only believe, but to then go in faithfulness. In just a few paragraphs I think Elliff does well to explain the life of the Christian from conversion on. And again, there is a guide to 21 days reading in John to help with next steps.

MY TAKE: I really like this little book. Elliff doesn't say everything the way I would, but I'm not unhappy with that. It's solid theology, very practical and personal, and convicting. It takes you down a path toward a knowledge of Christ but isn't written as if it has to do everything or it has failed. It stays simple. I also really like how the first chapter can be used on its own: there's a problem and here's how God solves it.

I don't recommend giving this book to a skeptic, an active doubter. It's not rich on evidence or argument for "defeater beliefs." It's not supposed to be. Keller's The Reason for God is good for them. Pursuing God book is for the nearly convinced and open. And I think it's better than most books written for that category of folks.

One thing that stood out to me is it lacks one chapter on the Cross. I thought that was odd. I knew reading through the book that the Cross was there, but I figured it would be a full chapter right in the center. So I thumbed through again and noticed the Cross is everywhere. I actually sent a direct message on Twitter to Jim today and asked about why no one chapter on the Cross and he said, "My idea was to put the cross in many of the chs all the way through." Exactly what I observed, and I'm good with that. While it might be helpful in some ways to have one chapter giving the Cross full focus, it's not a weakness of the book. The Cross is there in full and clear throughout the book.

USE: As I said, this is written for and truly meant for the seeker. But I've already found it useful in two other ways. First, I used it as a chapter by chapter devotional with my kids. Be careful when you get to the chapter on sex. I was reading to a 7 year old and had to creatively edit on the fly. :) Second, I'm using it with new guys I'm discipling. I think it's helpful to have something this brief as a starting point for discipleship. Plus, it keeps me from discipling someone who may think they have understood the Gospel but hasn't yet. 

BONUS: Don't miss the online, free, downloadable study guide for the book.

I highly recommend Pursuing God by Jim Elliff for yourself, family discipleship, church discipleship and, of course, for anyone considering Christ. You can even buy them in bulk.

Coming Attractions 3.11.10

Coming-attractions >< Starting to read Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh soon. So much good buzz out there on this book. I've needed a book like this for years, and now it's here. From the introduction...

My hope is that, through this book, God will begin or continue a process of healing introverts--helping them find freedom in their identities and confidence to live their faith in ways that feel natural and life-giving, the way that God intended.

>< I'm still working on a review for Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic by Chris Castaldo. I really like it. If you are doing outreach to Catholics or have Catholic family and/or friends (that's pretty much all of us), I recommend this book. 

>< Phriday is for Photos tomorrow. Some of the photos from the photography project for 5th grade art are up at the school and I snapped a couple of pics. Proud of these kids. 

>< The last few days have been an explosion in good, new music. Looking forward to a few great recommendations on Monday.

>< New Lots-o-Links post middle of next week or so.

>< I'm planning to put a post up next week on resources I've been using to study and understand Catholicism

>< Getting a lot of ideas for posts on both evangelism and discipleship. Hope to start getting to those next week.

>< April is coming up fast, which means National Poetry Month comes once again to Reformissionary. Can't wait!

Lots-o-Links 3.3.10

Bill Streger: Uncool People Need Jesus Too...

I have yet to assess a church planter who wants to move to a declining, smaller city and reach out to blue collar factory workers, mechanics, or construction crews. Not one with an evangelsitic strategy to go after the 50-something administrative assistant who’s been working at the same low-paying insurance firm for three decades now....Why is that?

Brent Thomas: Would You Like To Be Part of a Movement...

Though, on paper, we offer much less than other churches (we “do” Sunday mornings and Community Groups), we are actually asking you to consider an entire reorientation of your life around the Mission of God (Missio Dei), to be part of a movement, to transform the culture of the NorthWest Phoenix Valley through the power of the Gospel.

New resource from TheGoodBook.com called Beginning with God...

Beginning With God helps parents start a Bible-reading routine with their preschool-age children. The beautifully-designed book from The Good Book Company is an easy-to-use companion to the Beginner’s Bible and other popular toddler’s Bibles.

Check out new music from These New Puritans and The Besnard Lakes.

Review: Gospel-Centred Life

G-C Life  In the past several weeks I've reviewed Gospel-Centred Church and Gospel-Centred Family. Today, a review of Gospel-Centred Lifea workbook by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester (not to be confused with the workbook from World Harvest Mission). Their book, Total Church, has been such a helpful and provocative resource for me as a pastor. Highly recommended for pastors and other church leaders. I was glad to dive in an tackle these three short, practical workbooks. All of these books came to me for review from the good folks at The Good Book Company.

Onto my review of Gospel-Centred Life (GCL). Like the others this workbook runs under 100 pages. It's broken up into fourteen lessons/chapters in three main parts.

  • Part 1: Gospel-Centred Change
  • Part 2: Gospel-Centred Perspectives
  • Part 3: Gospel-Centred Living

In GCL each lesson is about 4-5 pages (a few a bit longer) and moves through five sections. In my copy at least there is no introduction explaining the five small sections for each study. GCC and GCF both had this and I think it's helpful. The online description says GCL is 128 pages long, so maybe this is remedied there. Either way, the sections are pretty self-explanatory to me so it's not in any way a deal-breaker. 

The sections: Principle (one sentence), Consider This (intro to the principle using a brief story), Biblical Background (read a Scripture and think through short questions), Read All About It (the meat of the lesson and the principle made full), and Questions for Reflection (helpful end questions to apply to life and provoke us to further thought). For full lesson titles go here, where they also have a sample to read.

As with the other workbooks this one is really good. Solid theology and practical. Good for personal use or group discussion. Let me hit a few highlights for me from this study.

Properly, the authors start with God's glory, the "great, unchangeable principle against which everything is assessed." I'm pleased to see a nice foundation on the spiritual as well. So easy to miss. We too often overly focus on personal goodness through denial without emphasizing enough the Holy Spirit. There's even a chapter titled "A Life of Miracles." 

I really like the emphasis on the family of God in decision-making rather than merely seeking God personally is so helpful and broken in most of our churches. The authors encourage us to think about the implications of the Christian community as we make decisions AND to make significant decisions in consultation with members of our Christian community. As a pastor I am shocked at how often my people make decisions without seeking advice, considering the consequences for the church, without mentioning it to their community groups, etc. 

Really GCL is far more about community life and relationships than I expected. I should have expected it after reading Total Church, but I didn't. I think this is needed as our churches have such poor community life and is too dependent on programs. 

Lastly let me explain how the Questions for Reflection section at the end of each lesson is so helpful in GCL (as with the other workbooks as well!). The authors think through areas of application that are easy for us to miss in everyday life. We often think of the obvious and easy applications and the authors are good at finding the missed ones that should be more obvious to us. After a first time through the questions at the end of the lessons will be easy to return to as refreshers and as reminders of how to think through the process of good application. Well done. Even as I write this I'm feeling conviction and encouragement to live differently as I flip through the book. Below are some examples of these helpful application questions.

From chapter 2, A Life For Others...

If you are a shy person, the next time you find yourself sitting next to someone you don't know, remind yourself that God has made you to be a lover of God and others. Ask Him for the grace to express that love in the moment. If you are an outgoing person, the next time you are in a social situation and the centre of attention, remind yourself that God has made you to be a lover of God and others. Ask Him for the grace to express that love in the moment.

From chapter 8, Look Forward to Eternity...

What did you do last week for your present comfort or security? What did you do last week for God's future?

From chapter 13, Possessions...

Look at advertisements in magazines or on the television. What does each one promise? How do these promises parody the promises of God?

This is yet another valuable resource from The Good Book Company. Buy Gospel-Centred Life for $8 and get it cheaper in bulk. Highly recommended.

Review: Gospel-Centred Family

G-C FamilyA few weeks back I reviewed Gospel-Centred Church, a workbook by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. I found it very helpful and I'm using it with some guys at Doxa Fellowship. I have two more reviews of similar resources on the way. In the next week or so I hope to review Gospel-Centred Life by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. Today it's Gospel-Centred Family by Ed Moll and Tim Chester. All of these books came to me for review from the good folks at The Good Book Company. FYI, I review and promote resources that I like and don't just give everyone a shout-out. If I don't like stuff I won't review it. 

Onto my review of Gospel-Centred Family (GCF). The book, running just over 90 pages, is broken up into twelve lessons/chapters in four main sections.

  • Part 1: A Gospel-Centred Family
  • Part 2: A Grace-Centred Family
  • Part 3: A Word-Centred Family
  • Part 4: A Mission-Centred Family

Like Gospel-Centred Church, each lesson is roughly 5-6 pages long and moves through six segments. The first is a principle--the core of the lesson. A scenario is introduced to raise a dilemma in gospel ministry. Then we consider Scripture (only a reference given so you can use your own Bible) with questions, a section discussing the theology and application of the principle, discussion questions, and actionable items are finally suggested (see the lesson titles).

I enjoyed the workbook a lot and think it will be helpful for the church. Let me start with a few weaknesses in GCF. 

I would have liked if the book dealt early on with God's created purpose for the family. Why do we have families in the first place? Why are we to "be fruitful and multiply"? In some ways this workbook drops in on parents in the middle of where they are and works out of it rather than laying a foundation in the biblical story and then building on it. That's still good, but one chapter on creation foundations would have been nice.

I occasionally disagreed with something, though nothing of great significance. One practical recommendation in GCF is to teach kids obedience by counting to five. The goal is to make it "clear that our children had to obey now" by teaching them to obey by the time we get to "five." But counting to five teaches your kids that they don't have to obey until you are almost done counting. Why not teach them to obey now by teaching them to obey now? Most of the advice is excellent and this one isn't a deal-breaker. But I still think it's odd advice.

Now for the strengths, and there are many more than I will list. I really like this workbook. GCF deals with several crucial issues of parenting with a bunch of helpful, practical advice. I particularly liked the "Grace for a Child's Heart" chapter. We can easily train our children to be legalists if we aren't careful by comparing them to other children, holding grudges against them, humiliating them in public, bribing them to obey, etc. The authors stay cross-focused...

Above all, bring your children to the cross. Teach them about the cross Extol the cross. Thank God with them for the cross. Sing about the cross.

The next chapter is about seeing children as a gift. This is so important right now in our culture. I know few people who truly act like children are a gift from the Lord we enjoy more than a burden to bear. College can't come soon enough for these folks! Sad. And GCF is helpful. Simple changes will change everything: time, conversation, meals, creating things together, games, etc. My favorite is the advice to tell stories. I have so many stories and songs in my head from grandparents and parents. My generation of parents isn't as good at telling stories. Good advice. 

One piece of advice I've just done poorly for too long is to "include the people from the church family in your family time." We used to do that, especially when working with college students. Too infrequently now. Family isn't just about what we do together for ourselves, but on mission to others. How can we be hospitable together? Support single-parents together? Model good family life together? And then GCF encourages us to lead our children to be servants, givers. Simple & concise, yet continually helpful advice throughout this workbook.

I like what the authors said early on in the book, which expresses what we should want for our families...

We're not calling our children to a life of obligation and hardship that they must tough out. We're calling them to treasure! We're calling them to treasure Christ.

Let's do it. 

I can see Doxa parents working through GCF together or on their own. I can see how hitting one chapter here and there in small groups might be helpful. 

GCF sells for $9.99 with discounts in bulk. I highly encourage you to use it with families in your church. 

Review: Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dodson

FightClubs I remember reading the article, Fight Club, from Jonathan Dodson when it was published by Boundless back in 2008. I read it several times. It's great to see this made into a fuller-length treatment, though it's still only just over 40 pages of text. Jonathan is pastor of Austin City Life.

Fight Clubs is about re-centering discipleship on the gospel in community, not merely individuals. It's a messy, tenacious struggle with honesty and authenticity. Dodson describes the biblical case for the fight, where we go wrong (legalism or license) and how to keep from extremes, the community focus of the fight (fighting with the church instead of against her), and practical advice for applying the gospel to everyday life through fight clubs: "small, simple, biblical, reproducible groups of people who meet together to regularly help one another keep the gospel at the center of their discipleship."

This book is really just a simple book on Gospel transformation, and the means and goal God gives us to fight together the good fight of faith. I love that. The only novel idea in Fight Clubs is the name itself. The concepts are soundly Scriptural. From the book/movie we know that "fight clubs" are about feeling alive again. Dodson picks up on this: 

Our spiritual war is a war against the flesh, that lingering vestige of our pre-Christian lives that must be beat to death so that we can live in the fullness of life given to us in Jesus.

Dodson defines "fight clubs" as "2-3 people that meet regularly to help one another beat up the flesh and believe in the promises of God." These groups have 3 rules: "1) Know Your Sin. 2) Fight your Sin. 3) Trust your Savior." For each rule he gives helpful questions and advice for these groups. He describes the group time as working through Text-Theology-Life - a very helpful, practical way to discuss Scripture together.

I really enjoyed Fight Clubs and will be reading it again soon with some in my church as we consider something similar. I want this kind of discipleship for my church. I need this kind of discipleship for my own soul.  

Go download and/or buy Fight Clubs. I highly recommend it.