Category Archives: Books Read

The Things of Earth (Part II)

I talked about the importance Joe Rigney’s book The Things of Earth had on me in the last post. In that post I quoted the main points of chapter 4 and in this post I will do the same for chapter 5. See that post for the reason as to why I am doing this.

“Should we enjoy everything that God richly provides? Or should we desire only God? Wrestling with these questions is at the heart of living the faithful Christian life (Pg. 97).”

There are “two complementary was of viewing God’s relationship to his gifts. The first is a comparative approach, in which God and his gifts are separated and set next to each other to determine which is more valuable (Page 97).”

“If we are thinking comparatively, then we should desire only God and not his gifts. He is worthy of all regard, all value, all love and delight and affection (Page 98).”

“The second is the integrated approach…When we love God supremely and fully, we are able to integrate our joy in God and our joy in his gifts, receiving the gifts as shafts of his glory. Supreme love for God orients our affections and orders our desires and integrates our loves. When we love God supremely, we are free to love creation as creation (and not as God). Because the divine excellence is really present in the gift, we are free to enjoy it for his sake. God’s gifts become avenues for enjoying him, beams of glory that we chase back to the source. We don’t see God and his gifts in opposition to each other, as though they are rivals. Instead, in the words of Charles Simeon, we ‘enjoy God in everything and everything in God.’ Or as Augustine prayed, ‘He loves thee too little, who loves anything together with thee, which he loves not for they sake (Page 99).'”

“The integrated approach is how we should live the bulk of our lives, and the comparative approach is a test to ensure that we maintain supreme and full love for God (Page 99).”

“A mind that is set on the things above spends an awful lot of time thinking about things on the earth. The heavenly mind-set is profoundly earthy, but it is fundamentally oriented by the glory of Christ (Page 102).”

“Rather than a momentary comparison for the sake of testing our affections, idolatry is a permanent separation for the sake of false worship. God divides things in order to gloriously reunite them. On the other hand, sin just separates (Page 103-104).”

“Sin is not in the stuff. Sin resides in  human hearts, and thinning out creation just makes us thin idolaters. We exchange indulge sins for ascetic ones, but rearranging the deck of chairs on the Titanic doesn’t alter the ships path. The flesh is still steering the boat, and a true course correction will require something more fundamental than a rejection of God’s gifts (Page 107).”

Ringer then answers the looming question of how the gospel deals with the “challenges of creation, given that we are finite creatures in a world full of gifts, and rebellious sinners in a world full of potential idols (Page 111).”

  1. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the greatest endorsement of the abiding goodness of creation and its capacity for amplification, transformation, and glorification.
  2. Jesus succeeds where Adam fails.
  3. On the cross, Christ draws to himself all of our idolatry and ingratitude, all of our glory exchange and sin, all of our guilt and rebellion, and he swallows it whole.
  4. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the transformation of his humanity, the transition in his experience from living as a human being ‘according to the flesh’ (Rom. 1:4) to being a human being glorified according to the Spirit.
  5. After his resurrection, he walked with his disciples. He showed them his wounds. He broke bread and ate fish with them…the resurrection and ascension of Jesus in a real, physical, human body proclaims not only that creation is good but that it is capable of being glorified. The physical is now deeply and irrevocably spiritual.
  6. Through the preaching of the gospel, spiritually blind sinners are awakened to the glory of Christ in the gospel and to the glory of Christ everywhere…We are liberated from our idolatrous enslavement to created things sos that we can now freely and gladly and gloriously enjoy created things the images and echoes and sensible shafts of divine glory that they really are.
  7. Like Jesus, our ultimate hope is not a disembodied, immaterial existence in an invisible realm.

“In all of our present enjoyment of God’s glorious gifts, our hearts echo with the knowledge that the best is yet to come (Page 114).”

Amen.


The Things of Earth (Part I)

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The first book I read this year was The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney. The book is going to probably in the top five of my lifetime reads when I gauge how reading a book has shaped the way I view and live in this world daily as a follower of Jesus Christ. Desiring God by John Piper, Heaven by Randy Alcorn, Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung, and Bloodlines by John Piper are currently the other four.

Just going through my highlights in the book make me overwhelmed with wanting to wrap my head more around what is in it. Rigney covers a lot of topics (the trinity and sovereignty of God vs. free will just to name  two topics) but each of them is used to build on the other and make the point that we are meant to enjoy God by treasuring his gifts. Chapter 4 and 5 were the home runs for me. They were the chapters that fundamentally changed the way I think.

I highlighted the major points through the chapter so that I could go back and more quickly read his arguments. My brain forgets quickly, so for the sake of repetition, I’m going to write out what I highlighted. Maybe you can benefit from getting a quicker overview here, but you’d serve yourself well to buy the book and read it from front to back; then read it again.

“Here is the fundamental challenge: if we believe that we should value things according to their value, and if we know that God has infinite value and everything else has finite value, then we begin to feel that, if we are to be faithful Christians, there must be an infinite gap between our love for God and our love for everything else. Our enjoyment of God must infinitely surpass our joy in his gifts (in our family, for example)(Pg. 89).”

“A subtle sense of guilt arises because we know that our joy in Christ (however great it may be) is not infinitely greater than our joy in our family (Pg. 90).”

“Now there are a number of false and unbiblical notions in this application of the principle of proportionate regard. The first is viewing love for God and love for creation exclusively in comparative terms. Might there be another way to relate to God and creation? (Pg. 90).”

“One of the primary aims of this book is to put to death all false guilt flowing from our existence as creatures…finitude and limitations are not defects; they are designed. Meeting needs and giving joy through creation was God’s idea, and despite the ways that we’ve misused and abused his good gifts, he hasn’t rescinded the offer or the gifts (Pg. 90).”

“To love God supremely is to love him above all else, to place him at the pinnacle of our affections…To love God fully is to max out our capacity with love for him. Whatever capacity we have to love, be it with heart, soul, mind or strength, we should give God our all…Finite creatures are naturally incapable of loving God infinitely. But we do have the natural ability to love him supremely and love him fully (Pg. 91).”

“The Great Commandment (Love God fully) leads straight into the second greatest: love your neighbor as yourself…love for neighbor is not at odds with full love for God…I believe this principle can be extended beyond neighbors to every other good thing that God provides. What does full and supreme love for God look like when it meets one of his gifts? Glad reception and enjoyment of his gifts (Pg. 92).”

“This is what it means to be a creature: finite, temporal, limited, but very good, with needs met both directly by God and through the manifold gifts that he supplies. We are God’s priests, his kings (and queens), and his prophets, and he has lavished us with gifts beyond our imagining, both for our glad-hearted enjoyment and for the fulfillment of his great and glorious mission. We are valuable because God values us, and we ought to value him according to his value. Nevertheless, we banish every form of false guilt that condemns us for being creatures and for failing to love God infinitely. Instead, our love for God should be supreme, full, and expanding forever (Pg. 94).”

Chapter 5 will be next.

 

 


Church Membership

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Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman

At the outset Jonathan Leeman asserts most Christians don’t know what they believe about church membership or have vague understandings of it.  It is seen as something they can take or leave. The purpose of the book is not to defend church membership from its critics but try and spread a vision for it by showing what it is biblically. Church membership probably doesn’t strike excitement in the heart of many readers and I put myself in that category.

However, Leeman takes a seemingly dull and uninteresting subject and helpfully proclaims the importance and need for church membership. He does this not by beginning with church membership in chapter one but beginning with the church. By drawing out what the New Testament says about the church he shows what it is not, what it is and what Jesus said about its power and authority.

After laying out a high view of the church as an embassy outpost in a foreign land he than shows from the first century Christians what the church looked like as we read through the book of Acts. The picture he paints through the use of analogies and Scripture give the reader a high view of the church and the need for Christians to identify with it. The New Testament uses metaphors to describe what the church is and Leeman continues in this pattern to the benefit of the reader.

Only after this foundation is laid does Leeman begin to define church membership. By tackling the subject this way he shifts the conversation from addressing why one should become a member of a church to why one gets to be a member of a church. Why would a Christian not want to formally identify with the people of God?

Leeman also helpfully dives into the practical details of how a church should conduct membership and how a church member should act towards the church. He gives 12 reasons that church membership matters and 8 ways that a church member should submit to a local church. He also points out that while the structure of church membership will look differently given the culture, the mission and task are the same.

This book took me a couple chapters before I started catching the vision that Leeman is trying to spread. Looking back on the book now I see that he had a reason for how he laid out chapter 1 and what his trajectory of the book was. The book is short and manageable and I would love to see everyone in our church take a couple hours to read it. The results may be a greater passion for the church a higher view of Jesus Christ as King over it.


Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl

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This book has been on the shelf a while, waiting for me to read it. I’ve heard from several people that it is a jolting read that looks into the mundane and pulls out the extraordinary. I’ve heard that Wilson’s description of everyday life reveals the incredible complexity and creativity that is before us each day.

Indeed this book does, but it took me almost to the end of the book to “get” Wilson’s writing style. He writes the book like a musician writes a song filled with staccatos. It jumps all over the place. I’m certain a second reading would allow my brain to pull much more out of each chapter.

The chapter entitle The Problem of Kittens: Cuteness and Beauty stood out to me as the best. He asks, “Why do Christians think of purity, holiness, and even divinity as something with big eyes and soft fur?” Why do we take a horrific image of a cherubim and turn it into a precious moment? He goes to passages in the Bible that show us what angel is. This chapter was gold.

Holiness is terrible. It comes with the whirlwind. It is a purifying fire. We are not the first Christians to trivialize the cherubim. We are not the first to make things soft on our imaginations and comfortable in our dreams. 

When you think of a cherub, do you see a gingham dress full of grandma? Do you see a fat, winged infant riding on the wings of a storm, something at home in the funnel clouds. Something with four faces and four wings, the color of burnished brass, unconsumed by an infolding fire?

The trite is more comfortable. I like angels I can hug. Forget the pillar of fire; a teddy bear is more fitting icon of holiness (149). 

 


Books Read

Let The Nations Be Glad! by John Piper is a book on what missions is, why it exists and how we should have a biblical understanding of it. The chapters on prayer and suffering were like spotlights on my sinful soul, yet Piper writes in a way that inspires me to pursue obedience rather than bring muck-wallowing guilt. The middle of the book is tough slogging as he dissects what the Bible has to say about the difference between nations and people groups. It was worth the slow trek through though.

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The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung is a short, helpful book on what it means to be holy in God’s sight and how we should be about pursuing holiness. I read through this book with my wife and am meeting a friend and talking through it as well. There are questions in the back for each chapter which facilitate helpful conversation with another person who you could read it with. DeYoung has a way of writing succinctly, articulately and helpfully that is worth the time spent turning his pages.

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Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller is the first book of his I have ever read. I was looking for a theologically saturated book that would help me think through how my vocation is connected with my God. This book was helpful although there were times I got lost in it. The first two parts of the book were the most helpful as Keller shows from the Bible what God’s plan for work is and then what our problem with work is.

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Family Devotions

On February 1, 2011 I attended my first Desiring God Pastor’s Conference. The theme of that conference was prayer, yet the first session was on leading family worship. The message was by Joel Beeke and it stuck in my soul like an annoying strand of meet that you can’t get out from between your teeth. Beeke helped lay out a case for a man to lead his family in daily family devotions.

“One generation shall commend your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4

The time invested in family worship since then has been sweet. There have been failures and setbacks. There have been times when I have given in to laziness and not lead well.  There have been times when the kids have been small toddler hurricanes; not wanting to sit still for two seconds. Yet we keep at it and it has been worth it. I will never regret the time spent in prayer and reading the Word with my wife and two little children.

Here are some of the resources we have used that may be helpful for your family.

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The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm: My two children love these stories which have sprawling pictures. The pictures are big enough and stories short enough that it captures their attention for a long time. I read the entire book to Jack within the first three days we got it from Amazon. It also comes with a CD so that they can listen to it being read while turning through the pages.

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones: This book is amazing and I have been edified by it as I have read it during family devotions. Each Bible story is beautifully and powerfully linked to the gospel and a coming Rescuer. The stories are not turned into moral teaching points for children to do good things. Rather, the stories give the children an encounter with God and how amazing his rescue plan was to save us from sin through the coming of Jesus Christ.

The Family Worship Book by Terry L. Johnson: This book provides a blueprint and built-in resources on how to lead family worship. It is an extremely practical resource choked full of hymns, Psalms, and catechisms for use. We use this mainly to teach our children the catechism which is a systematic and helpful way to build solid theology into their developing minds.

Operation WorldI want my children to grow up with a grasp of the global cause of missions and the need for the gospel to penetrate unreached and unengaged people groups. One of the ways we do this is through Operation World’s website. Each day they have  a country to pray for and through the course of an entire year one can get through every country on earth! They also include points of prayer for the specific countries. You will learn much about what God is doing on a global scale.

Prayercast.com: Your children will love these videos. They are 3-5 minute videos that profile different countries to pray for. These videos will put flesh on bone as you see the various cultures and their need for the gospel.

My pastor once told me that the greatest influence and impact that I will have in the course of my life will be on my family. That has stuck big time with me. Family devotions is the means by which I want to teach the next generation to extol God and taste and see that he is good. I want to declare to them God’s might acts each day so that they will encounter God and build a pattern for going hard after him on their own.


One-To-One

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One-To-One by David Helm

What David Helm means by one-to-one is reading a part of the Bible with someone on a regular basis and discussing it. This type of discipleship is needed when churches are chock full of programs that they try to plug people into. Programs are fine, but Helm argues that we are missing something dynamic. He says that we are missing out on the straight forward power of gospel growth by reading the Bible one-to-one. We can’t rely on a program to do that fully.

He gives four benefits to do this which allow for it to be done with non-believers, new believers or mature believers. It could be used for salvation, sanctification, training and relationship building. This type of structure allows for flexibility in meeting with someone and doesn’t rely on a large structure for it to happen.

The examples Helm gives as to why one-to-one is beneficial to growth rather than a program are persuasive. He shows from Scripture how the Word is shown to be the source for salvation and growth. Jesus gave us an example of this as he chose 12 disciples and focused on three of them. He also gives an example of how he did one-to-one with a friend for a year which led to his salvation.

There are two things I appreciated most about Helm’s book. The first is brevity. A book on this type of topic doesn’t need to be long. Helm hits on the important points of why this is needed, who can do it and who it is designed for. The whole book encourages and moves the reader towards carrying out what he is arguing for.

The second appreciation I have for the book is the blue print that Helm lays out for starting a one-to-one. The first part addresses the what, why and how, which lays the foundation for doing one-to-one. The second part builds on that foundation by helping the reader construct a framework for meeting with someone. He gives two simple ways to read the Bible with someone and what parts of the Bible would be most helpful for different kinds of people. The instructions are to the point, practical, and don’t get the reader lost in complication.

With the enormous weight of seminars, conferences, DVD’s, books and sermons that are available in America, having a book like this attest to the simple power of reading the Bible with someone else is needed. It can lift us beyond the blinding maze of being in the forest and help see above the tree tops.

I wonder how my church would change if half of our people committed to do this with someone else? It would be helpful to have a chapter in the book in which Helm would address how to help a church catch the vision for doing something like this. Yet even a cursory reading can give ideas for doing so. Apart from that, I found this book needed, challenging to my soul and very helpful.