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How About A Few New Books For the New Year?

20 Dec


As believers, a great thing we can do for our personal growth and encouragement is read books.  And while there are many books you could read, I wanted to suggest five that I have read and found very beneficial.  I hope that you will consider making it your “resolution” to pick one of these up in the New Year:

The Gospel & Personal Evangelism (Pastor Mark Dever)
This is a great resource on defining the Gospel and our calling to share it with others.

One-To-One Bible Reading (David Helm)
Did you know that over 60% of young people say they would read the Bible with someone if they were asked? David Helm’s book explores how to read the Bible one-to-one, and the way God works through His Word to draw people to Himself.

Tempted & Tried (Dr. Russell Moore)
In this well-written book, Dr. Russell Moore (professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) examines the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, the ways in which we are tempted in exactly the same ways each and every day, and the hope that we must cling to in order to escape sin. 

God’s Big Picture (Vaughan Roberts)
Have you ever wondered how the Old and New Testaments fit together?  Vaughan Roberts helps show the over-arching story of the Bible and the way it all points us to Christ.  

The Trellis and The Vine (Colin Marshall & Tony Payne)
This is a great book for leaders, exploring the trellis (programs) and vine (organic involvement, outreach, and growth) of the local church.  Asks the question: What should disciple-making look like?


Photo Credit: Carnlough Presbyterian Church


Book Review: CrossTalk

18 Jun

Its been a while since I’ve reviewed a book, but my preparation for the summer leadership training forum has led me to review Michael Emlet’s book, CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet (New Growth Press, 2009):

This book, aimed at helping pastors, elders, and lay people in counseling, looks at the topic from a redemptive-historical perspective.  Reflecting on the ways in which the biblical counseling movement has, at times, merely pointed people to proof-texts in Scripture and told them to change, Emlet (M.Div, M.D., and counselor at CCEF) proposes a better way for using the God’s Word–all of it–in providing counsel to those in need.  CrossTalk

In the book, Emlet takes time to point out passages we tend to turn to in order to address the problems people face.  Yet, the ways in which we use these passages tend to feel very wooden and cold in their approach, and when applied to people’s situations, come off as merely seeking behavior modification.  From here, Emlet lays out the central theme (and, for that matter, purpose) of the Scripture: God’s redemptive work, culminating in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  With a redemptive-historical framework guiding our use of Scripture, Emlet explains, we can better help people see where the stories of the Bible connect to their own experience, and point them to change driven by the Gospel and its implications for those who receive it in faith.

One of the reason I greatly appreciate this work is the threefold way in which the author explains we should approach people in counseling: as saints, sufferers, and sinners.  Believers inhabit each of these roles (oftentimes simultaneously), and helping them change, move forward, or deal with their circumstances requires addressing one or more of these roles and its implications.  Emlet’s case studies in the final few chapters are also helpful for getting a grasp for what this may look like.

In the end, Emlet’s book presents us with what I believe is the future of Biblical Counseling, and shows that one can rely on the Scriptures for the work of counseling because counseling is mainly about helping people in the work of sanctification (something for which God’s Word was revealed).  What is important is the way in which we go about doing this work.  We cannot just tell someone to “take two verses and call me in the morning.”  We have to understand how to rightly use Scripture so that we can reveal the way in which it intersects with the very situation a person finds him or herself in, and practically apply it to not just the person’s behavior, but to their heart.  And as people’s hearts are changed by the application of God’s powerful Word by the Spirit Himself, we will see them more and more reflect their Savior.

Fives Books That Would Make Good Gifts

4 Dec

So yesterday, I made a plug for my book as a gift option during the holiday season, but today, I want to point out five other books that would make great gifts, or even just good reads this winter:

Paradise Lost








1. Paradise Lost (John Milton)
“Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree…” These are the opening lines of Milton’s classic work on the Fall of Man.  It’s one of the most beautiful texts I’ve ever read.  Many consider this to be one of the top 5 greatest books ever written and one of the most influential volumes of all time.

Christless Christianity Cover








2. Christless Christianity (Michael Horton)
Looking at various popular evangelicals, and their teachings, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics Michael Horton points out how they miss the Gospel, creating instead a new system of laws built on spiritual disciplines and experience.

The Gospel In Genesis









3. The Gospel In Genesis (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
One of the best books I read last year, this collection of sermons from the late pastor, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, helps bring clarity to the first twelve chapters of Genesis by pointing out our inherent sinfulness and rebellion against God, as well as grace of God most supremely presented in the person of Christ.

Note To Self









4. Note To Self (Joe Thorn)
This is a great book to read a devotional in the mornings, or with the family in the evenings.  Short, concise, and Biblical, Joe Thorn helps us to honestly assess our hearts and lives in light of the Gospel and God’s calling for us as His people.  I’ve really enjoyed going through this book with my wife at the dinner table.

Concise Theology








5. Concise Theology (J.I. Packer)
Finally, one of my favorite books of all time, J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology.  In this volume, Packer succinctly addresses many important Biblical-Theological terms/topics, from God and His attributes, to man and His depravity, Creation to the Second Coming, this book is a helpful introduction from a great teacher.

A Couple Thoughts on Machen and Clement

3 Sep

I apologize for the silence over the past couple weeks.  Its been a great time for me to step back and enjoy life, focus on upcoming Fall plans, and think about what I’d like to write on in the next few weeks.

As for today, I merely want to post a couple thoughts I’ve had as I’ve been reading through two great books.  The first is entitled, Christianity & Liberalism (Eerdmans, 2009) by J. Gresham Machen.  This book was first published in 1923, confronting the challenges that orthodox Christianity faced with the rise of liberal theology.  The second book is a compilation of early church fathers and writers entitled, Early Christian Writings (Penguin, 1968).  In this volume is a letter from the bishop in the region of Rome in the first century, Clement.  He writes a letter to the church in Corinth chastising them for their dissension, lack of love, and forgetfulness of the doctrines Paul had taught them.

With these two texts dancing around in my head, these two things have come to mind:

1. I care not for Christian morality if it is divorced from Christian redemption through Christ. If all we do is conform people to a moral code (albeit a Godly, good one), we have done nothing but harden their heart to the gift of grace.  Likewise, if we merely exhort people to do, act, and engage without emphasizing the source of, and power for (the Gospel and Holy Spirit), then all we are doing is sticking people on the treadmill of works-righteousness.

And, building on this point…

2. With Clement of Rome, I exhort Christians to “by all means be pugnacious and hot-headed, my brothers, but about things that will lead to salvation.  Too many of the things that we fervently argue about, and passionately live for, have nothing to do with salvation, or the only means of finding it, the Gospel.  Of first concern should be proclaiming, reminding, and remembering the Gospel of God’s grace in sending Jesus Christ to redeem fallen humanity (by means of his perfect life, sacrificial death on the cross, and victorious resurrection), and its implications (the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, promises and blessings of God, renewal of the earth).  If we cement ourselves in these truths and let them marinate in our hearts and minds, they will flow out in worship to God and loving action towards our neighbor (and possibly Gospel-oriented responses to the things we tend to be most heated about).


16 May

“Reformed teaching on the double grace and the will’s bondage is very good news: rather than being ‘tossed back and forth without any certainty,’ with ‘our poor consciences..tormented constantly,’ as the Belgic Confession says, we come to rest in Jesus Christ, knowing that new life is a gift received in union with him. In this way, we are freed to actually love and delight in God and neighbor. Otherwise, our praying, our acts of mercy, our evangelism, all are done to build up our own holiness–which blocks God and neighbor from being our focus.”
-J. Todd Billings, Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Churchp. 47.

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