Archives For Recommended Reading

Plugging Into God’s Power

Chris —  February 17, 2017 — 1 Comment

In Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines David Mathis helps Christians understand how they can grow by God’s grace rather than wearing out in their own strength.

The key to growing as a Christians is to understand how to grow through God’s strength rather than by merely “white-knuckling” the Christian life through sheer force of will. 

David Mathis illustrates the idea cooperating or receiving God’s grace. He is careful to show that God supplies the power, but that we need to receive God’s grace. 

I can flip a switch, but I don’t provide the electricity. I can turn on a faucet, but I don’t make the water flow. There be no light and no liquid refreshment without some else providing it. And so it is with the Christian with the ongoing grace of God. His grace is essential for our spiritual lives, but we don’t control the supply. We can’t make the favor of God flow, but he has given us circuits to connect and pipes to open expectantly. There are paths along which he has promised his favor.

Mathis’ book, then, is about how we open the “pipes” and wait expectantly for God’s grace to flow into our lives.

In brief, the way that open the pipes or plug into the power is through God’s appointed means of grace: hearing from God in His Word, praying, and growing together in community. There are vast riches to be discovered on this topic. I highly recommend Mathis’ book.

You hear more in the below video where Justin Taylor interviews David Mathis:

Crossway provided time-stamps of the conversation

00:00 – What do the endorsements for the book tell us about what you were trying to do in Habits of Grace?
02:21 – What are you getting at when you talk about “habits of grace”?
04:39 – In your experience, what are some of the main challenges that Christians face with respect to the “habits of grace”?
07:48 – When it comes to our intake of God’s Word, why is it important to emphasize both breadth and depth?
09:51 – How do we ensure that our understanding and practice of the spiritual disciplines is biblical and not unduly shaped by non-Christian influences?
13:04 – Where and how is the Holy Spirit present in your understanding of living the Christian life?
16:30 – With the multitude of books already in print related to the spiritual disciplines, why did you feel the need to write another one?

For more see:

Is Growing as a Christian a Result of God’s Grace or My Strength?  

The Spiritual Disciplines are for Enjoying Jesus: A Review of Habits of Grace by Joe Harrod 

 

Why Read Great Literature?

Chris —  January 27, 2017 — Leave a comment

Read this article by Philip Yancey and your motivation for reading great literature — especially Dostoyevsky — will grow.

Many are aware that there is a collection of “great books” and that our minds and hearts benefit from reading them. We’ve heard comments like, “Everyone should read Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I haven’t for the record. But few get around to actually reading the great books. It’s just easier to read John Grisham.

Some of the reason we don’t follow through on reading great literature is that we have not understood why it is so important to do so. In short, we should invest time reading the great books because they consider the most important questions we face. The Brothers Karamazov (Signet Classics), for example, is considered by many to be the greatest novel ever written because it faces, head-on, the problem of suffering. And the problem of pain is unquestionably the most difficult question Christians face. (See point #6 here).

I don’t have the time — nor the expertise!! — to explain more in this post. But if you if you are interested in further motivation for reading great works of literature, then I would encourage you to read this article by Philip Yancey that reflects on Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and “The Sermon on the Mount.” You will come away knowing more about Russian literature and more about the gospel.

Both of the below books are excellent resources for those who wish to make better use of their reading time.

Louise Cowan and Os Guinness: Invitation to the Classics (Masterworks)

Tony Reinke’s: Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books

The Radical Book for Kids by Champ ThorntonIf you have grade school age children – – or if you buy presents for them — The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith order this book and check one item off your list. It JUST came out. So chances are the family you have in mind doesn’t already own a copy.

Here is the endorsement I wrote for, The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith:

Champ Thornton’s book shows families how to grow a root system in the Christian faith. It offers a broad base of rich content in meal-sized portions readily accessible to families. The content ranges from an introduction to Scripture, to biblical theology, to historical theology. The elephant jokes and knot tying lessons are a nice bonus. I am putting this on a short list of books I recommend that all our church families own.

A few other reasons this is an excellent choice for families:

  • Great pictures and illustrations!
  • The Radical. includes an excellent introduction to understanding the Bible. Champ helpfully explains the different types of literature in Scripture and then shows how the parts relate to the whole.
  • Champ explains why Christianity is “good news” rather than good advice. And the difference is eternally important.
  • As I mentioned above, Champ includes important stories from church history. If you don’t know the story of Polycarp or Athanasius or why they are important today, you can enjoy learning together.
  • But along with this basic information about Christianity, families will enjoy the practical lessons included. Who doesn’t need to be reminded of what it looks like to clean our rooms? Or why manners matter. You will be amazed at how Champ weaves different strands of content together into one tremendous resource.

This morning, as we conclude our time in 2 Peter by considering Peter’s admonition to grow in grace, I am recommending to our flock that they consider reading the book, Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

I hope to post more on this book in the near future, but for now I will simply point to it as an excellent resource for growing in the Christian life.

Early Book Gift Ideas

Chris —  November 23, 2015 — Leave a comment

Hopefully, you are buying a present for at least one reader this Christmas. Here are a few ideas to consider.

 

More from Jerry Bridges:

As I have said, one of the first 5 books I would recommend any believer read is The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness. This book shows how grace and personal effort go hand in hand:

To behold the glory of Christ in the gospel is a discipline. It is a habit we must develop by practice as we learn to preach the gospel to ourselves. As I have repeatedly said, although sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit, it is a work which involves us.

For a longer explanation, See Is Growing as a Christian a Result of Our Effort or God’s Grace

See also Jerry Bridges on Dependent Responsibility

One of the first 5 books I would recommend any believer read is The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness. This book shows how grace and personal effort go hand in hand:

Grace the personal discipline require to pursue holiness, however, are not opposed to one another. In fact, they go hand in hand. An understanding of how grace and personal, vigorous effort work together is essential for a life-long pursuit of holiness.

For a longer explanation, See Is Growing as a Christian a Result of Our Effort or God’s Grace

See also Jerry Bridges on Dependent Responsibility

Robbi Cary’s new book, No Matter What, It’s A Good Day When, is out. It features Patricia Hunter’s beautiful photography.

If you are someone who struggles to find time in the day to relax and think of God’s goodness, you will enjoy this book.
I just received a copy today. Tonight we looked at it together as a family and then talked about ways we see the glory of God in Creation.

Painted buntings have long been Patricia’s poster child and her tradition continues with this book.

A Patricia Hunter picture of a male painted bunting.

No Matter What, It’s a Good Day When is a perfect book for your coffee table, family devotions, or to give as a gift.

You can find out more about the book at thegooddaybook.com.

Christian books on pain and suffering shouldn’t give simplistic answers. Yancey is right, “Why?” is a question that doesn’t go away.

I am preparing for a series on Job this fall at the Red Brick Church– – and I’m a pastor – – and a person living in a fallen world – – all of which means I read a great deal on suffering. Today, I’ve been encouraged by reading Philip Yancey’s honest, raw interaction with the Japanese Tsunami, the murder of children at Sandyhook elementary in Newtown, Boston and other awful tragedies.

Did you know?

  • The earthquake that struck Japan and caused the Tsunami released 600 million times more energy than the atomic bombs that fell on Japan (Yancey, 45).
  • 410,000 automobiles were destroyed in the Tsunami.
  • Approximately 19,000 people were killed or are missing.

Why?

There are no trite answers to suffering. In fact, simplistic answers are insulting. But there is real comfort in Yancey’s book.

Thankfully, there are a number of thoughtful Christan books on pain and suffering.

I will soon be reading carefully reading Tim Keller’s highly recommended Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.

I have previously recommended Unspeakable: Facing Up to the Challenge of Evil.

Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, is also excellent.

The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived by Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor offers an accessible overview of Holy Week. Reading it will help you meditate on the beauty of Christ and will enrich your worship this Easter season. This book would make a wonderful resource for families and a great gift for someone considering Christ. A free study guide is available.

One of our central goals  at The Red Brick Church is to equip and motivate our people to focus on Christ our King during Holy Week. I pray that our minds will be soaked in meditation on the Cross. As a part of that goal, I am making a number of posts available on line. These include summaries of:

The posts on my blog are not edited and particular articles or definitions are uneven in length and thoroughness. Admittedly, my blog posts are “rough drafts.” Hey, I’m a busy pastor.

The rough draft nature of my Easter posts is why I am thankful Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor have published The Final Days of Jesus. They have made my task of motivating and equipping our congregation to worship Christ far easier. In a world full of death and darkness, this book will help us rinse our minds in the resurrection.

I will pubish brief interviews with the authors later this week. In the mean time, here are 7 reasons why I am encouraging our church family to buy and read The Final Days of Jesus:

1. Help with Harmonizing  – Anyone who has closely studied Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John knows that at times it is difficult to see how the accounts fit together. For instance, compare the difference in wording of what was written above Jesus’s head on the Cross (John 19:19, Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38). Kostenberger and Taylor not only offer a harmonization, but they also give a wonderful explanation of how to read the gospel accounts responsibly and charitably (p. 19-20).

2. Parallel Gospel Accounts Brought Conveniently TogetherThe Final Days of Jesus is organized so that the Scripture for the events of each day is included in the text. Readers who want to read parallel accounts without flipping back and forth in their Bibles will benefit.

3. A Glossary and Reference Guide –  If you are new to the Easter story, then simply the task of keeping track of the various Marys  can send you over the edge of confusion. This is not to mention recalling who Caiaphas is or the Sanhedrin or Joseph of Arimethea. An alphabetized glossary and reference guide at the end makes it easy to look up anyone in the cast.

4. 21 Charts, Diagrams, and Maps – There is so much to “picture” when reading the Gospel accounts of Holy Week. Where did everyone sit at the Last Supper? Why was Peter motioning for John to ask Jesus who would betray him? Charts, diagrams, and maps provide resources that can quickly be reviewed.

The Final Days of Jesus (page 59)

The Final Days of Jesus (page 59)

5. Succinct Summaries – Kostenberger and Taylor blend depth and accessibility. Consider, for instance, their summary of Peter’s denial of Jesus.

Peter’s denial of Jesus stands as one of the most poignant and memorable events that transpired during Jesus’s final day. One of Jesus’s closest friends, a man who hours earlier had sworn to stand by Jesus no matter what the sacrifice or cost, denies even knowing Jesus and abandons him in his darkest hour. Pathos drips from the Gospel accounts— the tragedy is palpable, and Peter leaves the scene a broken man.

6. The Most Important Question Ever Asked is Directed to the Reader at the End – The first 202 pages of The Final Days of Jesus all lead up to the most important question about the most important person who ever lived, “Who do you say that he is?”

7. Holy Week is The Most Important Week of the Most Beautiful Person – Christ is the only true King. He deserves all our worship. There is nothing we could imagine that we would want in a savior that we do not find in Him. Nowhere is the beauty of Christ seen more vividly than in the biblical accounts of Holy Week. Seize this opportunity to look deeply at our Savior. The remaining items in this list are only miscellaneous observations. But this is the heart of the matter. Let’s think deeply of Christ.