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April 17, 2015

A friend and I were talking recently, and we discussed the current state of Christian publishing. He asked me, “What really good books have not yet been written?” I thought about it for a little while and came up with 7 books I would definitely read.

Al Mohler’s memoirs. There are some people whose lives merit a biography, and Mohler is definitely among them. But I would prefer to read Mohler’s memoirs than to read a traditional biography. He has a unique way of expressing himself and of relating his experiences, and I am convinced that some of this—too much of this—would be lost if someone else wrote an account of his life. So Dr. Mohler’s memoirs: this is at the top of my list, and I hope that some day he will publish them. I’d be first in line at the bookstore.

A biography of John MacArthur. Yes, I know that Iain Murray has already written a biography of John MacArthur, and it was pretty good. But, by Murray’s own admission, it is far from the final word. After all, its subject is still alive and still active in life and ministry, so the story of his life is not yet complete. What is undeniable is that MacArthur has had a profound influence on the world and on the church; few people have a real understanding of all he has accomplished, and all the Lord has accomplished through him. A great biography would allow us to glorify God for all he has done through MacArthur’s life and ministry.

R.C. Sproul on how to teach. R.C. Sproul has proven himself one of the most gifted Christian teachers of our time. While there may be more gifted preachers, I cannot think of a single Christian leader who has greater skill as a teacher—something you probably know if you have watched any of those teaching series where he stands in front of his chalk board and simply explains theology or philosophy or any other topic for 25 minutes at a time. I would love to read a book in which Sproul provides guidance on the art, the skill, and the necessity of teaching.

D.A. Carson on Revelation. D.A. Carson is, of course, a notable theologian who has already written several excellent commentaries as well as a host of other important books and articles. He has already left his mark on the church in many ways, but I would love to see him also add a commentary on Revelation. This would give us one of our most brilliant theologians commenting on the most difficult book of the Bible. What a gift! (And yes, I am aware that Carson is slated to write the PNTC volume on Revelation.)

Iain Murray on the Young, Restless, Reformed. It was a few years ago now that Collin Hansen wrote his book Young, Restless, Reformed, and a lot has transpired since then. While it is probably still too soon, I would eventually like to read a full history of the movement—where it came from, what it has accomplished, and what weaknesses were inevitably exposed over time. I suspect Iain Murray is close enough to the movement to understand it, but distant enough to be able to bring objectivity.

The final book by John MacArthur and the final book by R.C. Sproul. This one may not be realistic, but I would love to read a book written by each of these authors that was intended as his final book. This would be a book each of them intends as his last word to the church, the last word at the end of a long and faithful ministry. Here is where they would offer their final challenge to the church as their public ministry comes to an end. I think both books would be utterly fascinating and deeply challenging.

There are many other books I would love to read, but this list represents at least a good start.

April 17, 2015

45 years after Apollo 13 - What actually went wrong and why? You’ve probably seen the film, but not surprisingly, the reality is a little bit more complicated. 

Preaching the Ten Commandments - Ray Ortlund shows how each of the Ten Commandments does 4 things.

Who Can You “One Another” Today? - How are you living out the Bible’s “one anothers?”

5 Ways the Gospel Transforms Your Work - Here’s a summary of what Tim Keller teaches about the gospel and work.

This. Is. The. Day. - “It will do me no good to wish for another day. A different day. The day that someone else is having. This is the day that I’ve been given.”

Hiring Well - Here are some traits of those leaders who hire well.

The worst sort of clever men are those who know better than the Bible. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

April 16, 2015

I recently sat with a group of young adults, men and women in their late teens and early twenties, and we spoke about singleness, dating, and courtship. Eventually the conversation advanced to marriage and to both the joys and the difficulties of marriage. We realized together that as these young adults are considering relationships and begin to pursue marriage, they are wondering how they can divorce-proof their marriages. Many of them have grown up surrounded by divorce and its effects. Some are afraid of commitment because they are afraid they may not be able to keep that commitment.

One young man asked how to ensure that a couple does not bring into their marriage a seed that could bloom into divorce. And it did not take me more than a moment to realize that in my marriage and in your marriage and in every marriage, there is already the seed of divorce. In every marriage is an issue, a belief, a habit, a heart idolatry—indeed, many of them—that can lead easily and naturally to the complete destruction of the union. The world, the flesh, and the devil are all committed to the destruction of marriage, and each of those enemies brings its own evil seeds. The question is not whether those seeds are or will be present in a marriage, but what we will do with them.

It may be that in your marriage, you have allowed the seed of divorce to grow. Perhaps it has already put down roots and is digging in. Maybe it has already poked its head through the soil and begun to grow to full bloom. Do not despair. There is still hope for your marriage. A marriage is not ruined by the presence of such seeds but by accepting, ignoring, or embracing them.

The very same seeds that may lead to destruction may also lead to increased strength and growth. Though powerful forces are arrayed against marriage, God is the creator of marriage, and He is far more committed to its growth than Satan is to its destruction.

Each of those seeds that may lead to divorce represents an opportunity for health. Each is an opportunity for a couple to have open and honest discussion, to identify these seeds, to talk about them, and to commit to stand firmly against them. Each represents a matter to take to the Lord together in prayer, to seek God’s strength and protection. And, of course, each represents an area in which the Bible can and must speak. Those seeds of error are countered and overcome by the truth of Scripture.

Stuart Scott says it well: “The more each mind is renewed (changed) by the Scripture, the more similarly a couple will think (Rom. 12:2). One of the worst things a couple can do is work to change one another into each other’s likeness. They are to be changed, rather, into Christ’s likeness.” And they are changed by going together to God’s Word day by day, week by week, and year after year.

April 16, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Everyday Worship by Trisha Wilkerson ($3.99); Lives Jesus Changed by Simon Vibert ($2.99); If I Should Die Before I Wake by Sinclair Ferguson ($3.99); Still Growing by Kirk Cameron ($2.99).

Delighting in Death? - This is a good question: “Why is it that the people most vocally committed to causes connected to death (abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia) are often the same who are committed to progressive sexual causes?”

Somebody Prayed for Me - You may enjoy reading this church planting update from Thabiti Anyabwile.

Three Cheers for Celibacy - Interesting: “Sometimes in the life of the church we need to reclaim a forgotten or dormant teaching. My sense is that now is such a time and that the teaching we need to dust off and put into practice is celibacy.”

Reparative Therapy - Denny Burk comments on why some Evangelicals have turned away from reparative therapy.

Being an Iceberg Pastor - “There is one rule that I think ought to underpin every pastor’s understanding of his calling, which is that he needs to be an iceberg.”

Faithfully Delivering the Gospel - “Christians are to simply be minimum wage table servers, taking the masterpiece from the award winning chef and bringing it to the tables.”

The soul’s deepest thirst is for God Himself, who has made us so that we can never be satisfied without Him. —F.F. Bruce

Bruce

April 15, 2015

Sometimes pride looks an awful lot like humility. There are times that our pride convinces us to put on a great show of what looks to all the world like humility so that we will be seen and acknowledged by others. We swell with pride when we hear, “He is humble.” It is a tricky thing, the human heart—prone to deceive both ourselves and others.

The Apostle Paul was a genuinely humble man. He had a deep awareness of his own sin and a profound sense of his own unworthiness before God. When he wrote to the church at Philippi, he went to great lengths to explain that he knew himself to be the chief of sinners. He remembered with shame that by persecuting the Lord’s church, he had persecuted the Lord Himself (Phil. 3:6; Acts 9:4). He had much to humble him.

Yet when he wrote to that church, Paul also told them, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Phil. 3:17). These might have been the proudest words he ever spoke. He might have been verbalizing the inclination of every heart, that the world would be a better place if everyone was just a little bit more like us. “Imitate me! I have this Christian life all figured out. Do things my way and you’ll be OK.” But was it pride that spoke? I don’t think so.

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” These might have been the humblest words Paul ever spoke. When Paul looked at his life, he saw undeniable evidence of God’s grace, and all he could do was marvel. Once a Pharisee, he now saw the beauty of grace; once a persecutor, he was now willing to be persecuted; once proud of his lineage as a Jew of all Jews, he now knew that this gave him no advantage. His life gave evidence of God’s grace in its every part. Paul knew it, and Paul rejoiced.

As he looked at God’s transforming grace, he could humbly say, “Be like me.” He was not calling attention to his own innate skill or his own zeal. He was simply looking at what he had become through the mercy of God and telling the people he loved that they should display that same grace.

And how about you? What keeps you from calling upon that new Christian to use your life as an example in following Christ? What keeps you from speaking to that person you love and saying, “Follow my example here”? Could it be humility? It is possible, but unlikely. It is far more likely that pride is holding you back, that you are too proud to see grace where it exists, to acknowledge that grace as a work of God, and to call others to imitate it.

Image credit: Shutterstock

April 15, 2015

Seven Reasons We Hate Free-Range Parenting - “Why has America gone lunatic on the subject of unattended children? Parents hover over their kids as if every step might be their last…”

A Pragmantic Guide with Theological Teeth - This week’s deals from Westminster Books look pretty good. Westminster Books does deals well!

In honor of tax day, B&H has a couple of Kindle deals that may interest you: Making Change by Ken Hempill ($2.99) and Your Money After the Big 5-0 by Larry Burkett ($2.99). You may also want to consider A Theology for Family Ministry by Michael Anthony ($3.99).

Why Are Baseball Games Nine Innings Long? - Can you imagine if games still went on until the first team scored 21 runs?

Does Jesus Really Love Me? - It’s such a simple truth, but one we need to remember again and again.

The Ingenious Aluminum Can - Some things are so ubiquitous that we forget just how amazing they are. The aluminum can is a good example.

Check Your Investments - Here’s a challenge to invest in your children’s spiritual development.

Do not work so hard for Christ that you have no strength to pray, for prayer requires strength. —Hudson Taylor

Taylor

 

April 14, 2015

No Regrets No RetreatI don’t use the television much anymore. There was a time when I watched a lot of movies and a lot of programs, but these days there isn’t a lot that catches my attention enough to actually dedicate the time to it. There isn’t much that promises more value than I would get from the same time spent with a good book. But I always make an exception for Dispatches from the Front.

Dispatches from the Front is a growing series of videos that follow Tim Keesee as he travels around the world, looking for the hidden and persecuted church. Previous dispatches have taken him to Eastern Europe, North Africa, India, and just about every other region where the church is in danger. The most recent episode, No Regrets, No Retreat takes him all the way to China.

But fittingly, Keesee begins in England. It was, after all, England that first sent Christian missionaries to China. The great Hudson Taylor caught a vision for China and founded China Inland Mission which eventually sent a host of men and women to the far side of the world. As Keesee says at the outset, China has always been to missionaries what Everest is to mountain climbers. The sheer size of the country has always been both daunting and challenging. For most of her history, and certainly her modern history, China has been hostile to the faith. And yet the scope and danger of the challenge has only served as increased motivation for generation after generation of missionaries.

Those missionaries did what God called them to, and the gospel did its work. Today there may be as many as 100 million Christians in China, and China has a growing and thriving church movement all her own. While there are still dangers associated with being a Christian, and especially so outside of the government-sanctioned churches, the government is having to face the reality that their attempts to stamp out Christianity have utterly failed and, if anything, have only catalyzed greater growth. With the church in rapid decline in the west, it is not hard to imagine a future in which China returns the favor, and begins sending missionaries to England and North America.

In this episode, Keesee spends most of his time with one Chinese Christian, one woman, who for decades has been active in teaching and evangelism and even running Christian bookstores. He goes with her to major population centers and to smaller locations, always meeting other Christians, always hearing their stories, and always being encouraged by their deep-rooted faith.

I have enjoyed each one of the episodes of Dispatches from the Front and equally enjoyed the book by the same title. (You can read my review here.) I even took some time out of my vacation last summer to sit and enjoy a coffee with Tim. I regard him as a trusted guide to each of the locations he visits, and have benefited immensely from his interactions with Christians in those places I will never be able to visit. I look forward to each new episode and gladly commend to you both this episode and the entire series. Watch them and you will be both challenged and encouraged.

No Regrets, No Retreat: China is available only in DVD format; for the next few days you can get it for just $6 at Westminster Books (which is a 60% discount). You can also get the complete collection of 8 episodes for just $42.