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).
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 Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, what about the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us first class children of God! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, with everyone doing his own part; if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of meeting: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good! We shall meet there.
I'm preaching on the parables of Jesus over the summer. Here are some key books I'm using...
Stories With Intent by Klyne Snodgrass | [Amazon | Kindle | WTS] I got a lot of recommendations to pick up this book after a tweet asking for the best resources on the parables. After wading into the first bit, I've already collected a number of insights and quotes. And it's a massive resource. Excited to read more.
Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey | [Amazon | Kindle | WTS] Kindle version is 1/2 the price of the paperback. I've read the introduction to the section on the parables. Excellent.
Turning Your World Upside Down by Richard Phillips | [Amazon | WTS] I've used this before and it's been helpful.
The Challenge of Jesus' Parables edited by Richard Longenecker | [Amazon] Some good stuff from various essays by leading scholars.
Preaching the Parables by Craig Blomberg | [Amazon | Kindle | WTS] Haven't read much yet, but heard many good things.
Glory Veiled & Unveiled by Gerald Bilkes | [Amazon | Kindle | WTS] I love that this practical, devotional, personal book is there to temper more scholarly books above.
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.
Jonathan Dodson's new book is out, and it's free, and it's just in time for Easter: Raised?: Doubting the Resurrection. As you go download it for Kindle, iBooks, or as a PDF (or all three, like I did)...comment and share your favorite books on the resurrection.
Walking readers through Luke's Gospel, US pastor and well-known author Mike McKinley looks at the events of the last day of Jesus' earthly life. At each point, he pauses to marvel at the love Christ has for His people; and shows how Jesus' people can learn from His passion, His care, and His integrity.
It offers a sweet series of meditations on Jesus Christ’s life-changing and universe-altering final day. It is an excellent read for both seeker and Christian. Jonathan Leeman, Editorial Director of 9Marks Ministries; author of0Reverberation and The Surprising Offense of God’s Love
...his insights are like nails! Michael Reeves, Head of Theology, UCCF; author, The Good God
The cross stands tall at the center of the gospel. Understanding this deeply, Mike writes with an earthy, pastoral voice as he relates the drama of Jesus’ crucifixion. Thoroughly rooted in the beauty of the gospel, Passion draws us back again and again to reflect on these timeworn truths. Daniel Montgomery, Lead Pastor of Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, Kentucky, US; author of Faithmapping
I asked on Facebook, Twitter, and to one particular friend through email which books would be most helpful in thinking about/doing ministry to the poor. Here's what I got (with an attempt to put them in order of those most mentioned). I can't comment on most of them because I haven't read them, so don't see this as my recommendation. But you might want to look into these. I am. Also feel free to add more recommendations in the comments.
I have a booklet that includes both Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions as well as his short Advice to Young Converts (see online & Amazon). Most of us think of Resolutions this time of year, but his Advice to Young Converts is a nice, quick read and reminder toward what the aim of our lives as disciples of Jesus should be. Here are a few of my favorite points. He explains his points further in the booklet and has a total of nineteen.
1. I would advise you to keep up as great a strife and earnestness in religion in all aspects of it, as you would do if you knew yourself to be in a state of nature and you were seeking conversion.
2. Don't slack off seeking, striving, and praying for the very same things that we exhort unconverted persons to strive for, and a degree of which you have had in conversion.
3. When you hear sermons, hear them for yourself...
6. Be always greatly humbled by your remaining sin, and never think that you lie low enough for it, but yet don't be at all discouraged or disheartened by it.
7. When you engage in the duty of prayer, come to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, or attend any other duty of divine worship, come to Christ as Mary Magdalene did.
13. When you counsel and warn others, do it earnestly, affectionately, and thoroughly.
15. Under special difficulties, or when in great need of or great longings after any particular mercies for your self or others, set apart a day of secret fasting and prayer alone.
18. In all your course, walk with God and follow Christ as a little, poor, helpless child, taking hold of Christ's hand, keeping your eye on the mark of the wounds on his hands and side.
19. Pray much for the church of God and especially that he would carry on his glorious work that he has now begun. Be much in prayer for the ministers of Christ.
I don't usually post my favorite books of the year as a list, probably because I feel like compared to music it's less complete. I tend to spend the most time reading things that are of interest, that's for review, or that's scratching an itch as a pastor or disciple, etc. It's not a hobby as with music that I can do when also doing other things. Much of it is work or based on need. So it's just different for me.
But we all have books that have significantly affected us during the year. I figured a "The Reader Speaks" list would be a great place for getting a variety of books listed that we could all benefit from. So share your #1 book, a few faves, a Top 5 or 10, faves according to genre, or whatever works for what you consider to be the best books of 2012. ALSO (per Jared Wilson's comment), feel free to list books not published in 2012 but that you read in 2012. If you have an affiliate account somewhere and you know how to link your books in the comments with html, feel free. For other readers, if you see a book you like, use the affiliate links. It blesses those in ministry around you.
Dr. Timothy Keller continues to add to his library helpful books, now in a new format. Check this announcement from the publisher, Dutton...
On December 4th, Dutton will release the first essay in a new e-book series by renowned pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller. The series, entitled ENCOUNTERS WITH JESUS (December 4, 2012; $1.99), will feature ten installments, launching with The Skeptical Student.
The Skeptical Student is based on a series of talks Keller gave in Oxford, England to a campus group – most of them skeptics – earlier this year. During these talks, Keller explored the inspiring story of Nathaniel’s life-changing encounter in the Gospel of John. It has lessons for those who are skeptical themselves about Christianity and also for Christians who encounter skepticism from those who do not believe.
I doubt I'm the only one excited about this project. I've just received the first installment look forward to the rest. It should be a valuable resource for pastors, apologists & evangelists, and probably most of all to the everyday witness to Christ...those who love their neighbors.