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December 19, 2007

Rebel soldiers were starting at one end of a large room, taking women away one by one and bringing them back after they were finished with them. Helen’s first impulse was to hide and not have to bear this humiliation again. Then she thought of Jesus. He put himself forward as a substitute for us. The fellowship of his sufferings—she moved to the front, to try to protect some of the other women from undergoing a new trauma they might possibly have escaped so far.

She looked back later on this whole period and wrote: “We learned why God has given us His name as I AM (Exodus 3:14). His grace always proved itself sufficient in the moment of need, but never before the necessary time…As I anticipated suffering in my imagination and thought of what these cruel soldiers would do next, I quivered in fear…But when the moment came for action…he filled me with a peace and an assurance about what to say or do that amazed me and often defeated the immediate tactics of the enemy.”

She writes movingly of how abandoned she felt…”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His answer to her was a removal of the fear as if it had been rinsed out of her—and a strong sense of his arms around her, holding her and comforting her. She felt as if he were saying, “When I called you to myself, I called you to the fellowship of my suffering. They are not attacking you. They are attacking me. I’m just using your body to show myself to the people around you.”

Those paragraphs are taken from Noel Piper’s, Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God and the chapter providing a brief biography of Helen Roseveare. It’s a portion of the book that has stayed in my mind, even a couple of years after first reading the book. It moved me when I first read it and it moves me now. The account has been meaningful to me as I’ve begged God to show me where sin has taken a hold in my life—those hidden areas that far too often are difficult to see. There is some sin in my life that is so obvious that I simply cannot deny it. But there is some sin that is buried far beneath the surface and only God can call it to my attention. A sin God has revealed to me as I consider the deliberate hardship of this faithful woman is that of valuing my own comfort. Life in North America, even as a Christan, can be far too comfortable for my own good. A comfortable faith is, I believe, a dangerous faith.

This account has also been meaningful to me as I’ve pondered what it means to give everything—to lay it all on the line for the sake of my Savior. In some ways it seems that there would be a certain heroic quality in giving my life for my faith. We reserve a quiet awe for martyrs and justifiably so. But somehow it seems that what Roseveare offered was almost more than her life. She suffered in a way that surely affected the rest of her life. She was willing to give her life, but in a sense gave even more than that when she made her way to the front of that line. What an example of faith!

How many people would be willing to lay not just their lives, but their bodies and their dignity on the line, as she did? How many would be willing to be used as she was, believing all the while that what men were doing to “the least of these” they were in fact doing to her Savior? How many would be willing to do this knowing that they would have to live forever with the consequences? How many would be willing to do this out of love for women she did not even know?

I stand amazed at this story. Really, I do.

It was only later, when Roseveare had returned to her native England, that she discovered an amazing chapter of her own story and one that had been written at the same time. “It was the very night of Helen’s attack. [A] woman had been awakened with a strong sense to pray intensely for Helen, whom she only knew of. She prayed and didn’t feel free to stop until a certain time that she named to Helen. Given the difference in time zones, that was the same time that Helen had been washed through by the peace of God and known that she wasn’t abandoned by Him.”

As Helen Roseveare abandoned herself to men, she was in reality abandoning herself to God and to His promises. She was willing and able to trust that as she gave herself to God, He would be her strength. She knew that her body was but a vessel God was using to show Himself to the people around. She knew in her heart of hearts that the anger of the men was really an anger directed at God. And unbeknownst to her, while she went through her ordeal, other believers were holding her up before the throne of Grace. He did not forget her.

In 1989, 120 young people sat cross-legged in the Piper living room and dining room, covering nearly every square inch of floor space. They had accepted our open invitation to anyone who thought missions might be in his or her future.

As Helen Roseveare stood by our fireplace and looked into their faces, she reached backward toward the mantel and eased a long-stemmed rose bud from a tall vase. As she spoke, she broke off the thorns, the leaves, the petals, the green out layer of stem—every element that makes a rose and rose. All that was left was a lithe, straight shaft. The pieces that lay on the floor were not bad things. But, she explained, they had to be removed if she were going to make an arrow. God does this to us, she said. He removes everything—even innocent, good things—that hinders us from being the arrows that he will shoot for his purposes at his intended target.

And that is a lesson we can all draw from her story. We all need to abandon ourselves to God so that He can make us arrows fit to shoot for His purposes and at His intended targets. Like so many faithful men and women that God has used for His purposes, we need to allow Him to strip away layer after layer of ourselves, that we might be wholly and completely His.

December 18, 2007

Some time ago (July of this year) I posted a link to a book and said it is the best $4.03 you’ll ever spend. I don’t know that I ever told you what happened after that. Basically, and as I understand it, it went something like this: Within a couple of hours, the book had sold out at Westminster Books. A short time after that, the publisher sent all the available copies in the warehouse, but those too sold out. Then the publisher sent all the available copies from their warehouse in the U.K. and those also sold out. And then the publisher had no choice but to order a reprint since the book was basically completely sold out. Well, six months later, the book has been reprinted and is back in stock. Some of those who ordered it have since confirmed that it was a very worthwhile book. So for those who were not able to get one of the books while they remained, here’s a copy of the original post and the original link. Enjoy!

I was poking around a little bit today and found what I consider to be just a great deal. I’m posting for no other reason than to tell you that this represents what I’m sure you’ll agree is the best $4.03 you’ll ever spend. It’s one of my all-time favorites and a book worth reading at least once per year.

If you disagree and are absolutely convinced that another item worth $4.03 would have been a better buy, well, tell me what it is because I don’t believe it’s possible.

That is all.

December 13, 2007

A few days ago Tullian Tchividjian published his list of his favorite books of 2007 and asked me if I’d do the same. I had, in fact, already worked up a list, and thought that, now that the year is drawing to a close, I’d publish it. So these are my 7 favorite books that were published in 2007 and which I read in 2007. So this is the top 7 in 07 of 07. Or something like that. Why seven? Well, because it’s catchy to say “the top 7 in 07 of 07,” but also because keeping a small list makes it more meaningful, I think.

Do note that these are the “favorite” books I read in 2007, not necessarily the “best” books I read in 2007. Hence this list is a bit more subjective than objective and looks more to the joy of reading a book than the quantity of what I learned from it. Often they go hand-in-hand, but not always.

So here they are. The top 7 in 07 of 07. In each case I’ve linked to my review of the title. With the exception of the final title, they are in no particular order.

When Sinners Say I Do by Dave HarveyWhen Sinners Say “I Do” by Dave Harvey is probably the best book I’ve read on marriage. It’s a book I’d unhesitatingly recommend to any engaged or married couple because of the way it deals so well with matters of the heart and because of the way it points always to the message of the gospel.

running_scared.jpgRunning Scared by Edward Welch deals with the universal problem of fear. A book that is filled with great quotes and impactful teaching, it is one worth reading and worth reading slowly. Because I do not know anyone who is immune from fear, I do not know of anyone who would not benefit from reading it.

A Journey Worth Taking by Charles DrewA Journey Worth Taking by Charles Drew is the only book I read twice this year. It is a book that deals superbly with the notion of calling and finding our place in this world. Written by a pastor who is in the thick of things, planting a church in New York City, it provides a biblical perspective on the “self-help” genre.

Respectable Sins by Jerry BridgesRespectable Sins by Jerry Bridges is Bridges at his best. He deals harshly but biblically with the kinds of sins we too often overlook. This is exactly the kind of book I love to see coming from the pen of one of Christian publishing’s elder statesmen.

Pierced for Our TransgressionsPierced for Our Transgressions by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey and Andrew Sach is an important contribution in the area of theology. This book is a line in the sand, so to speak, and one that has served to shine a biblical light on the doctrine of atonement, standing for the orthodox view in opposition to the many alternate and unbiblical views.

Amazing Grace - Eric MetaxasAmazing Grace by Eric Metaxas. This is a biography of William Wilberforce that coincided with the 200th bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave-trade—a movement tirelessly headed by Wilberforce. I gave this book a slight edge to John Newton by Jonathan Aitken. But you may well wish to read both, especially since the men were friends and co-laborers in this work.

Jim Andrews - Polishing Gods MonumentsPolishing God’s Monuments by Jim Andrews gets the nod as my favorite book of 2007. I was drawn by the author’s ability to seamlessly blend biography with theology. Andrews models the kind of grace I hope I could display in a similar situation of pain and suffering. I’ve recommended it to more people this year than any other title. I’m going to make sure I read it again in 2008.

There are many other titles that could have made the list. There were plenty of books published this year that look excellent but which I have not yet read. While I admit that this list is no doubt imperfect, it does represent the books I most enjoyed reading this year.

December 12, 2007

Culture Shift by Albert MohlerYesterday I received a long list of emails with announcements for books that will be published early next year. Most of these I had already heard of or found entirely uninspiring. There was one exception. I was absolutely thrilled (honestly—I’m that big of a book geek) to see that we are going to see the first book from the pen of Dr. Mohler. Yes, it is hard to believe, but this is his first “real” book. He has edited and contributed to other titles, but this is his first solo effort. The book, set to hit store shelves in mid-January, is called Culture Shift and will deal with the challenging cultural issues of our day. I cannot think of anyone who is more qualified to answer these issues.

There are few people I would rather learn from than Dr. Mohler. He is such an asset to the church and particularly so in his ability to see into the culture in which we find ourselves. I can hardly wait to read his book! Here is what the publisher says about it:

Are you prepared to address the most challenging cultural issues of your time?

Mass media and technology are exploding. Popular entertainment relentlessly pushes the envelope. Biomedicine stretches ethical boundaries. Political issues shift with the polls.

The world in which you live is in the midst of a major cultural transformation–one leading to a widespread lack of faith, an increase in moral relativism, and a rejection of absolute truth. How are we to remain faithful followers of Christ as we live in this ever-shifting culture? How should we think about–and respond to–the crucial moral questions of our day? How can we stand up for the truth?

In Culture Shift, Dr. R. Albert Mohler–one of today’s leading Christian thinkers and spokespersons–addresses these tough topics clearly, biblically and passionately:

  • Christian faith and politics
  • The Supreme Court and religion
  • The truth about terrorism
  • Christian parents and public schools
  • The abortion debate
  • Christian response to global tragedies
  • And many more

Here is trustworthy help for developing a comprehensive Christian worldview. It’s timely information powerfully connected to timeless truth that will equip you to stand strong and speak out.

As you’d expect, the book comes with some great endorsements.

“From grade inflation to global calamities, Albert Mohler is a steady guide. From the psychological coddling of the American ego to the hollowing of the American conscience, Mohler is unremittingly clear-headed. From Nineveh to New Orleans, Mohler holds the mirror at a blazing fortyfive-degree angle between heaven and earth. The burning light of divine wisdom illumines a hundred shadows of our human folly. And at the center of the blaze is the mighty cross of Jesus Christ defining the final meaning of everything. I thank God for Albert Mohler.” —JOHN PIPER, pastor for preaching and vision,Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN

“Al Mohler is a unique gift to the church. His writing combines penetrating theological discernment and insightful cultural analysis with a passion to faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m delighted that Al’s wisdom is now available in this book. May it be the first of many.” —C. J. MAHANEY, Sovereign Grace Ministries

“We all know, as Dorothy said to Toto, that ‘we are not in Kansas anymore.’ But how to apply the deep truths of our Christian faith to a culture that seems to be transmogrifying before our very eyes, well, that’s perhaps the most difficult question facing the church today. In this well-written book, Al Mohler surveys the landscape and offers insight and wisdom that helps us do just this. A manifesto for responsible Christian engagement!” —TIMOTHY GEORGE, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and senior editor of Christianity Today

“Thoughtful Christians seeking to engage the culture from a well-informed and thoroughly bibilical perspective will find an impressive resource in this new work by R. Albert Mohler. Culture Shift is an outstanding contribution, which I heartily recommend.” —DAVID S. DOCKERY, president, Union University

“Dr. Albert Mohler brings his intellectual brilliance, moral wisdom, and theological insight together in a book that belongs on the shelf of anyone who is interested in both understanding the shifting sands of morality in our culture and how to deal with it. If you are in that category this is a must read.” —JAMES MERRITT, pastor of Cross Pointe Church, Duluth, GA, and host of Touching Lives media ministry

“Understanding our culture is a matter of Christian responsibility. Culture Shift helps us to do that and do it well.” —DANIEL L. AKIN, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC

I am looking forward to getting a copy of this one and will have a review completed in the near future. In the meantime, you may wish to pre-order a copy from Amazon.

December 11, 2007

PrudeI almost gave up reading Prude. I have read other books like this and have found they follow a fairly consistent pattern. The first few chapters are always the hardest to get through. Where my interest in this kind of book is in its cultural commentary and analysis, the initial chapters seem always to be filled with examples of sexual transgression. I suppose this is necessary to build the author’s case that “our sex-obsessed cultural damages girls (and America too).” And so the first half of the book tells story after story and provides example after example of the moral decline of America. The author moves through web sites, magazines, television shows, popular music and fashion, showing how in each of these areas, girls are receiving damaging messages about their bodies and about sexuality. Television shows model sexual perversion as freedom and popular music objectifies both sex and sexuality. Web sites provide lurid details of base sexuality and consider it normal while the latest fashions seek to bare bodies for all to see. We know all of this, though there is still room to be shocked and disgusted. This continues for nearly 150 pages and by the end of the seventh chapter I had just about had enough. I put the book down.

But I picked it up again after seeing advertising for this book in Christian magazines and publications. It seems clear that, though this book is not published by a Christian imprint or by a Christian author (as far as I know), it is being marketed to Christians. And for that reason I thought I would read the second part and seek to understand how the author, Carol Liebau, analyzes all of these forces—what they mean and how they are affecting American girls.

Liebau does this over about 100 pages. In chapter 8 she discusses “Paying the Piper: The Toll on Young Girls and the Cost to America.” Strangely, for a book being marketed to Christians, though she covers the physical toll, the economic toll and the emotional toll, she neglects the spiritual. While certainly the factors she outlines in this book may have serious consequences to girls emotions and bodies and to the nation’s economy, they also impact a person’s ability to know and to honor God and the way a person understands God. This is a serious consequence of our culture’s perverse view of sexuality but one that is, unfortunately, neglected in this book.

In subsequent chapters she proposes a new sexual feminism that will once again celebrate sexual restraint rather than promiscuity, suggesting that this will allow women to reclaim their true power—“the power to hold men to standards of behavior that honor the differences between the sexes, even as it recognizes their intrinsic equality.” She writes of the rise of moral relativism and the dire consequences of that major transformation and then of examples of hope—organizations that have arisen to challenge the status quo. And finally, she seeks to reclaim the concept and the word “Prude” so it is no longer a mark of shame, but of pride.

In a sense the book’s power is not in the analysis but in the descriptions; not in the latter half of the book, but in the first half. Reading the awful details of moral decline is not easy, but it does allow us to get a glimpse into the unique challenges girls face today. Gone are the days when fathers would protect their daughters and when mothers would seek to ensure their daughters were chaste. Gone are the days when sexual restraint was a virtue. Instead, girls, often from their earliest days, are sexualized—taught that they are little more than the sum of their [private] parts. This hypersexualization harms girls and, as the author shows, harms nations. I would argue, though, that the harm to America goes far beyond economics and outbreaks of new and ugly sexually transmitted diseases. The harm goes as deep as the soul, scarring girls who will soon be women, searing consciences and keeping women (and men!) from understanding the true power and beauty of sexuality.

If we wish to get sexuality right and if we wish to temper the decline of sexual morals, we’ll need more than prudes. We’ll need men who act like real men, protecting women rather than taking advantage of them; we’ll need fathers who love their daughters enough to protect them; we’ll need mothers who are deeply involved in their daughter’s lives; but mostly we’ll need to return to the Source, to the One who created sex, who gave it to us as a gift, and who desires that we use it for His glory.

Notable Quotes

Sometimes it seems that sexiness has become the most important measuring stick for determining what is worthy of public interest; being ‘sexy,’ as most celebrities would attest, has become the ultimate accolade.”

Ironically, many of the [dating] customs that today are dismissed as limiting were actually empowering, because they offered young women a way to resist unwelcome sexual activity without themselves being labeled as cruel, frigid, or uninviting.”

Every time looser standards for dress or behavior become socially sanctioned, it becomes more difficult to retrench—and twice as difficult to resist the next step toward the vulgar or extreme on the cultural continuum.”

December 05, 2007

A few notes of varying interest and importance:

Prime Time America

During the week of December 31 - January 4 I’m scheduled to guest on Moody Radio’s Prime Time America with Greg Wheatley. We’ll be discussing The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and all things related to spiritual discernment. We’ll be carrying on the discussion for a few minutes each of those days. So if you listen to Prime Time America, well, hopefully you’ll enjoy that.

Win A Gift Certificate Again

This is the final pre-order bonus offer! The last one went well and people seemed to enjoy it, so I thought I’d give it one more shot. If you pre-order my book between now and December 10 you’ll automatically qualify to win a $100 gift certificate from Westminster Books. You will receive one ballot for each copy you purchase. If interested, you can pre-order the book by clicking here.

Christmas Book Bargains

My wife has pretty well finished her Christmas shopping. Though I am well advanced in my shopping, I still have a ways to go. You may well be like me—still looking for that final perfect gift or two. I’ve been keeping an eye out for some deals and thought I’d pass along a few of them.

Westminster Books seems to be the first to have Sinclair Ferguson’s new book in stock: In Christ Alone. I have not had time to read much of it yet, but have progressed far enough to think it looks excellent and well worth the read (would we expect anything else?).

Westminster also seems to be the first to have the new Indelible Grace CD available: Wake Thy Slumbering Children. This is a favorite series of mine and I can’t wait to get ahold of that album.

Monergism Books has some good deals, such as 1 Timothy in the Reformed Expository Commentary set for $18.99 and the Calvin Commentary set for $169. Rummage through their Sale category for some bargains.

Christian Book Distributors, as they often do, has great deals on sets of books. They have sets of Spurgeon’s sermons and Luther’s sermons, church history, commentaries, and so on. I find it’s the best place to begin when looking to buy a complete set of books.

I also keep tabs on what’s happening at Amazon but don’t often find anything worth mentioning there. If you know how to dig up the great deals at Amazon, post a comment as I’m always eager to learn how to beat their system! It seems to me that they have great prices on most items (but prices that are routinely bettered by Westminster and Monergism Books), but don’t often offer sales on the books or items that interest me.

Happy shopping! Make sure you check shipping schedules this time of year to ensure that your items make it to you before stores and couriers close down for the holidays.

If you know of other good deals online that we should be aware of, feel free to post a comment below…

December 04, 2007

We had a busy week over at Discerning Reader and I thought I’d fill you in one some of the new reviews you can find there.

Along with my review of Thabiti Anyabwile’s The Decline of African American Theology (which I posted here yesterday), I’ve also added a review of Edward Gilbreath’s Reconciliation Blues. Both books deal with racial issues and both are well worth the read.

From Mark Tubbs comes a review of the book that followed the 2006 Desiring God Conference, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World. The book features contributions by John Piper, D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, Voddie Baucham and David Wells. Leslie Wiggins has a review of what looks to be an excellent new Bible Study book for women, With the Master In the School of Tested Faith. She says, ” Susan Heck has filled the vacuum of solid Bible studies for women. I am so thankful for this Bible study and I am very happy to recommend it.”

From Scott Lamb comes a review of the newly published second edition of Paul House and Eric Mitchell’s Old Testament Theology.

Finally, we have reviews of two newly-published Study Bibles. The first, The Apologetics Study Bible, is published by Holman Bible Publishers and features contributions from Chuck Colson, Ravi Zacharias, Norman Geisler, J.P. Moreland and others. The second is The Literary Study Bible which is edited by the father and son team of Leland and Phillip Ryken and published by Crossway.

November 29, 2007

Today we continue reading the classics together by turning to the second chapter of John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation. If you’d like to know more about this project, you can read about it right here: Reading Classics Together. The opening portion of the book, which we will complete next week, is based upon an exposition of Romans 8:13: “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Owen came to three conclusions: The choicest believers, who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin; The mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies, that is may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh, is the constant duty of believers; The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh. Last week was encouragement on the necessity of putting sin to death. This week we move to this portion of the exposition: “The Holy Spirit is the great sovereign cause of the mortification of indwelling sin.”


The Holy Spirit is the great sovereign cause of the mortification of indwelling sin

  1. Other remedies are sought in vain
  2. Why mortification is the work of the Spirit
    1. The Spirit is promised of God to be given unto us to do this work
    2. All mortification is from the gift of Christ, and all the gifts of Christ are communicated to us and given us by the Spirit of Christ
  3. How the Spirit mortifies sin
    1. By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh
    2. By a real physical efficiency on the root and habit of sin
    3. By bringing the cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith
  4. If the Spirit alone mortifies sin, why are we are exhorted to it?
    1. All graces and good works which are in us are his
    2. It is still an act of our obedience


First, and by way of observation, I’d say that this chapter, though significantly shorter, was considerably more difficult than the previous one. It seemed that there were more difficult words and tough phrases than last week. Just when I was starting to get cocky and thinking that Owen wasn’t so difficult after all!

I carried one main thought out of this chapter. Much of this portion concerned “papists”—hardly a term in common use these days. This may serve to antiquate the chapter a little bit, but I think there is still much to learn from it. After all, I think Roman Catholicism is a perversion of true Christian theology and a system that so carefully incorporates man into God’s work. Owen would agree. While I may not be Roman Catholic, I still feel the temptation to allow my man-centered desires to interfere with God’s gracious work. Maybe this is what Owen means when he writes of “the natural popery in man.” I may not wear rough garments or take vows and orders as an attempt to mortify sin, but I may still look to myself and my remedies rather than to God and His remedies. Just as Catholicism has invented ways of mortifying sin, I may also invent ways and means and find them just as powerless to bring about true and lasting change.

I may use and insist upon means that were never appointed by God for this purpose; I may ignore the means that God has, in His grace and wisdom, appointed for this purpose; and, like Luther, I may always mortify, but never come to any sound mortification. “They have sundry means to mortify the natural man, as to the natural life here we lead; none to mortify lust or corruption.” This is the mistake of men ignorant of the gospel, and too often it is the mistake I make. As Owen says, “Duties are excellent food for an unhealthy soul; they are no [remedy] for a sick soul. He that turns his meat into his medicine must expect no great operation.” There is a lot to think about in those words. Do I turn meat into medicine; food into a cure? Do I misuse the wonderful means of grace God has given, thinking that they can mortify my sin when really they are meant to feed me, but not to cure me? Am I trying to “sweat out a distemper with working?”

I am looking forward to continuing with the book next week, but even more so, am looking forward to moving on to the second part where, I suspect, the rubber really begins to meet the road.

Next Time

Next Thursday we will continue with the fourth chapter of the book (which will mark the end of the book’s first part). We have only just begun so there is still plenty of time for you to get the book and to read along.

Your Turn

I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. Let’s make sure we’re reading this book together. The comments on previous chapters have been great and have aided my enjoyment of the chapter. I trust this week will prove the same.