Gregory Wolfe of Image Journal interviewed Christian Wiman, a poet I've come to love who speaks a lot about Christ and faith, suffering and struggle. He has an amazing story, told in part here. This is a solid interview and, hopefully for many of you, introduction to a wonderful living poet.
Wiman looks like, and in some ways sounds like, a cross between the profundity of Tim Keller and the postmodern searching of Rob Bell. Please take that in a generous way as that's how I intend it. If you like what you hear, you should check out hispoetry. Most of my readers would thoroughly enjoy his recent book, My Bright Abyss. Enjoy.
In Jerry Bridges' beloved little book, The Pursuit of Holiness (Kindle), he describes in his chapter on the place of personal discipline three questions to ask as you read, study, or meditate on the Scriptures and then explains why being specific is so important.
What does this passage teach concerning God's will for a holy life?
How does my life measure up to that Scripture; specifically where and how do I fall short? (Be specific; don't generalize.)
What definite steps of action do I need to take to obey?
The most important part of this process is the specific application of the Scripture to specific life situations. We are prone to vagueness at this point because commitment to specific actions makes us uncomfortable. But we must avoid general commitments to obedience and instead aim for specific obedience in specific instances. We deceive our souls when we grown in knowledge of the truth without specifically responding to it (James 1:22).
Do you you know God or just know about God? That's the concern of J.I. Packer in the opening chapters of his excellent book, Knowing God ($2.99 for Kindle right now!). He lists four evidences explained through the book of Daniel of the effects the knowledge of God has on a person (pp 27-32). I'll give the four and quote from each of Packer's explanations, but I encourage you to read this section and the whole book. It's rich. I forgot how really great it is.
1. Those who know God have great energy for God
"Those who know their God are sensitive to situations in which God's truth and honor are being directly or tacitly jeopardized, and rather than let the matter go by default will force the issue on men's attention and seek thereby to compel a change of heart about it--even at personal risk."
"People who know their God are before anything else people who pray, and the first point where their zeal and energy for God's glory come to expression is in their prayers."
2. Those who know God have great thoughts of God
Packer takes a brief survey of the book of Daniel, ending by saying, "[God] knows, and foreknows, all things, and his foreknowledge is foreordination; he, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man; his kingdom and righteousness will triumph in the end, for neither men nor angels shall be able to thwart him."
"These were the thoughts of God which filled Daniel's mind."
3. Those who know God show great boldness for God
"They may find the determination of the right course to take agonizingly difficult, but once they are clear on it they embrace it boldly and without hesitation. It does not worry them that others of God's people see the matter differently and do not stand with them."
4. Those who know God have great contentment in God
"There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with full assurance that they have known God, and God has known them, and that this relationship guarantees God's favor to them in life, through death and on forever."
I was looking at my shelf and thinking there are some helpful books for reading around the holidays (though not holidays based books) that have come out this year. Here are a few...
UPDATE --> I added one more on top from Matt Anderson. He talks about all the pondering we should do...
Matthew Lee Anderson: The End of Our Exploring (or Kindle) | A great time of year to look to have our questions answered and answers questioned is Christmastime, New Year's, the end of a year and the start of another. We need to question well.
Timothy Keller: Encounters With Jesus (or Kindle) | This is an eBook series (chapter by chapter) finally packaged into a hardcover book. Each chapter is on a personal encounter someone had with Jesus. It's helpful for those who want to know better how to share the faith better, and for those who may need an encounter with Jesus.
Jim Belcher: In Search of Deep Faith (or Kindle) | I'm working on a review for this book, but let me just say here that I've enjoyed pacing my way through it as a meditation not only on the faith, but thinking of the faith of my kids and my responsibility as a Father to make our faith come alive to them. A worthy topic during the holidays and any day.
Timothy Keller: Walking With GodThrough Pain & Suffering (or Amazon | Kindle) | While Christmas is a happy time for many, it's a time of significant grief and struggle for many too. I'm very thankful for Dr. Keller's take on this subject and for providing this substantial book. It's not brief, so probably not for those fresh into suffering.
Kevin DeYoung: Crazy Busy(or Amazon | Kindle) | Christmas and New Year's is a nice break from the regular work cycle, but also for many of us shows just how busy we can make the un-busy times. Why not take a break and read this short book and see if it doesn't help to reorder your life, especially as the new year approaches.
Elyse Fitzpatrick: Found In Him (or Amazon | Kindle) | A book on "the joy of the incarnation and our union with Christ." Perfect for this time of year, though for every time of year. Many chapters end with a hymn to help us learn to worship because of what we just read.
Tullian Tchividjian: One Way Love (or Amazon | Kindle) | "Inexhaustible grace for an exhausted world." If you are anything like me, you know you need to remind yourself every day of grace. Bathe in it over Christmastime by reading Tullian.
Wowzers. Quite a list of fantastic books. A couple of notable choices to start, and then the larger list. Pick up some and please pass the list on to others. Kindle is one of my favorite ways to add good & cheap books to my theological (and beyond) library. If you don't have one, I do recommend the Kindle Paperwhite, I use the Paperwhite 3G Version, or you can always read on free Kindle apps.
A nice long list of books that are cheap on Kindle right now. I read and/or reference Kindle books on my Kindle, on my computer app, iPad app, and phone. No reason not to have some of your library through such good ebook deals!
Yes, suffering is a mystery, but it is not a mystery without at least some explanation. Besides, life may be hard, but God is good—much more so than we can possibly imagine. And he stands ready to give, well, perhaps not the answers the world would like, but to give the One who holds all the answers in his hand.
Tim Keller does a righteous job of showcasing to us, and to the world, that Jesus is worth trusting. Period. End of argument. After all, when they hang you on a cross like meat on a hook, you have the final word on suffering.
Reading requires discipline. But the investment of time yields great dividends for our personal life and ministry. The depth and breadth that reading will add to our thinking and preaching are surely worth the effort. Fellow pastors, do not neglect reading!
In my opinion good preaching is something that flows through the heart of a man who is excited about Jesus because he’s personally enjoying the love of Jesus. I think the single most important thing a pastor can do is wake up each day and focus his energy on enjoying Jesus and having as much fun as possible. This is the only thing I know of that will protect you from the burnout most pastors experience from the relentless strain of preaching and leading a church. I don’t think there’s much power in preaching grace if you yourself are not reveling in grace.
The question is not whether deacons serve or lead. Leadership, scripturally defined, is servanthood. The question is in what way do deacons lead. Deacons maintain the unity of the Body by giving leadership to the serving of temporal needs. They’re not a corporate board, nor are they a spiritual council of directors. They serve the Body by removing potential obstacles to unity by meeting human needs.
If you can’t live somewhere that isn’t a big, bustling city and you don’t want to pay New York City or California rent, you can’t beat the Windy City, which boasts great bookstores like Myopic in Wicker Park, Powell’s in Hyde Park, and the best place to get your weird zine/chapbook/comic fix: Quimby’s. There’s plenty of art and architecture to admire, wonderful coffee from local roasters like Metropolis, nice-sized and somewhat affordable places to live, plenty of great bars, schools like the University of Chicago, writers and poets like Adam Levin and Lindsay Hunter calling the place home, the Printers Row Lit Fest … All of which is to say, Chicago plays second literary city to nobody.
O Lord, your gospel is true to life. It reads me as much as I read it. How lofty, how noble are my intentions! But how ugly, how squalid, how embarrassing are my actions! I see your law for the holy thing it is. And I see myself, in my imagination, running off on my white charger to do battle against sin. But so often, I am defeated and shamed and seen to be the fool I am. In this ongoing encounter between your law and my sinfulness, I am learning one simple truth: I really am a sinner, and I really hate it, and I really want you to be my Savior. Draw near to me now, dear Lord. Nurture within me an undying, persistent, rugged love for you that will fight on through the warfare of this life, never giving up and never giving in, but striving on for the holiness you have promised to perfect in me in heaven. Keep your bright promises before me, dear Lord, especially when I fall defeated in sin. In the holy name of Christ. Amen.
As a pastor I spend most of my money on books I want to read and reference. But I'm always on the lookout for solid books that are geared for those without a theological education. It's too rare to find a book that can be of significant value for both, like Jesus On Every Page (book website). This is a helpful resource.
Dr. David Murray is a growing voice in evangelicalism, and I'm glad to see it. You can read him at Head Heart Hand blog. More...
Dr. David Murray, president of HeadHeartHand, is the Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He live in Grand Rapids with his wife, Shona, and four children.
At just about 200 pages (plus study questions, and the very helpful Scripture and Subject indexes) Dr. Murray gives us an accessible and simple book on seeing Jesus in the pages of the Old Testament. I very much enjoyed the first four chapters where Murray explains how he went from someone who saw the Old Testament as a bit of an embarrassment who used the New Testament to bring contrast and relief to discovering Jesus everywhere in the OT. He talks about finding direction to read the OT this way from Jesus, Peter, Paul and John in the New Testament. I think there are many in our churches who need to take this journey with Dr. Murray.
As a pastor who preaches from the Old Testament somewhat regularly, I recognized myself in David's journey as well. In some ways I still struggle. I feel a lot better about preaching from the New Testament than the Old. I need this reminder too. David quotes a gem from Gleason Archer, a wonderful and eye-opening statement:
How can Christian pastors hope to feed their flock on a well-balanced spiritual diet if they completely neglect the 39 books of Holy Scripture on which Jesus and all the New Testament authors received their own spiritual nourishment?
Provocative. I'm encouraged to dig in and help my people dig in to the OT. Here's the outline of the main section of the book. Murray gives us 10 ways we can find Jesus in the Old Testament:
Christ's Planet (Jesus in Creation)
Christ's People (Jesus in OT Characters)
Christ's Presence (Jesus in OT Appearances)
Christ's Precepts (Jesus in OT Law)
Christ's Past (Jesus in OT History)
Christ's Pictures (Jesus in OT Types)
Christ's Promises (Jesus in OT Covenants)
Throughout these chapters you find an abundance of insights, lists, points, word pictures, etc. He covers the OT broadly, but in more detail than you might think. You don't make your way through these chapters thinking that Dr. Murray is a top-notch scholar, though he obviously is. You read realizing Dr. Murray is speaking of the King and Savior he knows deeply and devotionally. And reading Jesus On Every Page should be a devotional experience for the reader.
Tim Challies explains this book well by writing that David Murray "focuses less on the stories and more on the story; less on the heroes and more on the Hero." If you want an introduction to each book of the Old Testament, a theology of the Old Testament, or something else, you need to look elsewhere for other excellent books. The real strengths of this book are its big picture view of the Old Testament and the accessibility of this book for all Christians and not just scholars or pastors.
Another way to look at Jesus On Every Page is as an introduction to Christology. It's not quite marketed that way, but it works. It works well. It's will serve as an introduction to Jesus in a way many haven't seen. Good on Dr. Murray for offering it to us.
I recommend Jesus On Every Page. The cover alone made me want the book! And the content was just what I hoped it would be. How many of our people will have so much of Scripture "unlocked" beyond the moralistic OT teaching they've heard or the assumptions they have of the OT through this book? Get your copy, and give some away. It's a resource I'm glad to keep on my shelf for future reference and to encourage my church to pick up. Here's where you can get yours: Amazon | Kindle | WTS.
I'm also offering a free copy of Jesus On Every Page to my readers. Simple.
1. Tweet or share on Facebook --> Check out the new book from David Murray, Jesus On Every Page http://bit.ly/Xeverypg <-- and then...
2. Comment below (be sure to input your real name and email so I can notify a winner) with your favorite OT book and why (keep it short). I'll use random.org to choose a winner from the comments below after the weekend.
...the pop-culture view that the suburbs are the place where the American Dream goes to die has an amusing flip side: That culture owes a huge amount of its inspirational vitality to hating the very place where many of its artists grew up and its audience lives. As both these movies and so many other novels, films, TV shows, music and plays over the years have proved, there’s nothing like suburban boredom to generate dramatic excitement.
Stephen King wrote one of my favorite books on writing called On Writing. His take on adverbs clearly has stuck with me. He has also written a popular book here or there. Terry Gross' interview of King on Fresh Air yesterday was really good, including a bunch of quotes worth checking out. Here's a great example. You should go listen to the whole thing.
I choose to believe it. ... I mean, there's no downside to that. If you say, 'Well, OK, I don't believe in God. There's no evidence of God,' then you're missing the stars in the sky and you're missing the sunrises and sunsets and you're missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design. But, at the same time, there's a lot of things in life where you say to yourself, 'Well, if this is God's plan, it's very peculiar,' and you have to wonder about that guy's personality — the big guy's personality. And the thing is — I may have told you last time that I believe in God — what I'm saying now is I choose to believe in God, but I have serious doubts and I refuse to be pinned down to something that I said 10 or 12 years ago. I'm totally inconsistent.
Been looking forward to it for a while, on an important topic that I think Barrs is well-equipped to tackle. Barrs was formerly involved for 18 yeas with Francis Schaeffer and L'Abri. Now he teaches at Covenant Theological Seminary and is Resident Scholar at the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute
The combining of the words ‘open-air’ with the word ‘preaching’ is likely to elicit a wide range of images and opinions in the mind of the person reading them. For some they bring to mind the great evangelists of the explosive revivals of the eighteenth century — Wesley, Whitefield, Tennent, and Edwards; or the prophets of the Old and New Testaments — Jeremiah, Isaiah, Peter, and Paul. While for others, these words conjure up negative images of angry street heralds, with sandwich boards strung over their shoulders, thundering down threatenings of heaven upon all who would wander unawares into their field of preaching. Whatever one happens to think about, few typically associate the practice of preaching in the public square with the missional church movement. Because the missional church places such a high priority on practicing evangelism in the context of ongoing discipleship — on mission and in community — the thought of preaching to strangers who are dissociated from church or discipling relationships may seem at first to be counterintuitive. It should not be.