Archives For Recommended Reading

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. I nearly froze taking the garbage out. And that means it is time to think about what books to buy for those who are readers. Here are some suggestions.

Book Recommendations for Those Thoughtfully Considering Christianity

Encounters with Jesus by Tim Keller – Highly readable and well reasoned.

Despite Doubt by Mike Wittmer – We don’t need to be afraid of our doubts. Mike Wittmer – – gifted as always – – shows how we can confidently embrace faith. (By the way, you ought to read Mike wondering if it isn’t a little over the top to give elementary kids flowers for singing “The Little Drummer Boy).”

Book Recommendations for Those Who Love to Study God’s Word

God’s Wisdom in Proverbs – I recommend this one all the time. See here.

A Book Recommendation for those (like me) Given to Introspection

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller

Books for Those who Love a Good Mystery

Anything by Charles Todd. I read everything that Todd (a mother and son) write.

My Most Recent Book

Bound Together by Chris Brauns

For Photographers

I use Adobe Lightroom to both organize my pictures and for 99% of my edits. In addition to being a wonderful tool for organization, the below before and after pics make the case for using it to edit pictures.

CDB_5030CDB_5030-2

Of course, when I do occasionally want to get rid of power lines or make major edits, Photoshop is the preferred method! Notice: Church with power lines and church without.

DSC_0159Fall Festival parade going by church photoshopped-Edit

In terms of cameras – – and I know this gets a little pricey – – but you will be pleased with any of the following:


Nikon 7100
– I use the previous version of this camera.

Nikon D600 – If you get this camera for me for Christmas, then I will take a very nice picture of you.

Do You Know “Talkative”?

Chris —  September 25, 2013 — 5 Comments

Have you met Talkative from Pilgrim's Progress?Sadly, many will discover on Judgment Day that their name is merely “Talkative.” Matthew 7:21-23. . . 2 Cor 13:5

If your; name is “Christian,” then you will soon meet “Talkative” from Pilgrim’s Progress. He has these characteristics:

Talkative looks better from a distance than near at hand.

He was a tall man, and something better looking at a distance than near at hand.

Talkative enjoys talking about Christianity.

Talk. I like you wonderfully well, for your saying is full of the truth; and I will add, What thing is so pleasant, and what so profitable, as to talk of the things of God? What things so pleasant? that is, if a man hath any delight in things that are wonderful. For instance, if a man doth delight to talk of the history or the mystery of things, or if a man doth love to talk of miracles, wonders, or signs, where shall he find things written so delightful, or so sweetly penned, as in the Holy Scripture?

Talkative knows the Bible.

Talk. All that I know very well, for a man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven; I could give you a hundred scriptures for the confirmation of this.

Talkative’s hypocrisy shows in his home life.

“His poor family finds it so: he is such a fault-finder, such a railer at, and so unreasonable with his servants, that they neither know how to do for or speak to him.”

Talkative is self-deceived. His prayer life and words do not match what he says.

Deceived! you may be sure of it. Remember the proverb, “They say, and do not;” but the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. He talketh of prayer, of turning to God, of faith, and of the new birth; but he knows but only to talk of them. I have been in his family, and have seen him both at home and abroad, and I know what I say of him is the truth. His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savor. There is there neither prayer nor sign of turning from sin; yea, the brute, in his kind, serves God far better than he. He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion to all that know him. It can hardly have a good word in all that end of the town where he dwells, through him. Thus say the common people that know him: “A saint abroad, and a devil at home.” His poor family finds it so: he is such a fault-finder, such a railer at, and so unreasonable with his servants, that they neither know how to do for or speak to him. Men that have any dealings with him say, it is better to deal with a Turk than with him, for fairer dealing they shall have at their hands. This Talkative, if it be possible, will go beyond them, cheat, beguile, and overreach them. Besides, he brings up his sons to follow his steps; and, if he findeth in any of them a foolish timorousness (for so he calls the first appearance of a tender conscience), he calls them fools and blockheads, and by no means will employ them in much, or speak to their commendation before others. For my part, I am of opinion that he has, by his wicked life, caused many to stumble and fall, and will be, if God prevent not, the ruin of many more.

Christians should speak plainly with Talkative so that he cannot easily continue in being self-deceived.

Chris. You did well to talk so plainly to him as you did. There is but little of this faithful dealing with men now-a-days; and that makes religion to be despised by so many; for they are these talkative fools, whose religion is only in word, and are vile and vain in their life, that, being so much admitted into the fellowship of the godly, do puzzle the world, blemish Christianity, and grieve the sincere. I wish that all men would deal with such as you have done; then should they either be made more suitable to religion, or the company of saints would be too hot for them.

Talkative will part company soon enough

He had rather leave your company than reform his life. But he is gone, as I said: let him go; the loss is no man’s but his own: he has saved us the trouble of going from him; for he continuing (as I suppose he will do) as he is, he would have been but a blot in our company. Besides, the Apostle says, ‘From such withdraw thyself.'”

Read below the full excerpt from Pilgrim’s Progress.

See also How Can a Person Be Sure of His Salvation?

The “Talkative” Excerpt from Pilgrim’s Progress

Moreover, I saw in my dream that, as they went on, Faithful, as he chanced to look on one side, saw a man whose name is Talkative walking at a distance beside them; for in this place there was room enough for them all to walk. He was a tall man, and something better looking at a distance than near at hand. To this man Faithful spoke himself in this manner:

Faith. Friend, whither away? Are you going to the heavenly country?

Talk. I am going to that same place. Faith. That is well; then I hope we may have your good company.

Talk. With a very good will, will I be your companion.

Faith. Come on, then, and let us go together, and let us spend our time in talking of things that are profitable.

Talk. To talk of things that are good, to me is very acceptable, with you or with any other; and I am glad that I have met with those that incline to so good a work; for, to speak the truth, there are but few who care thus to spend their time as they are in their travels, but choose much rather to be speaking of things to no profit; and this has been a trouble to me.

Faith. That is, indeed, a thing to be lamented; for what things so worthy of the use of the tongue and mouth of men on earth, as are the things of the God of heaven?

Talk. I like you wonderfully well, for your saying is full of the truth; and I will add, What thing is so pleasant, and what so profitable, as to talk of the things of God? What things so pleasant? that is, if a man hath any delight in things that are wonderful. For instance, if a man doth delight to talk of the history or the mystery of things, or if a man doth love to talk of miracles, wonders, or signs, where shall he find things written so delightful, or so sweetly penned, as in the Holy Scripture?

Faith. That’s true; but to be profited by such things in our talk should be that which we design.

Talk. That is it that I said; for to talk of such things is most profitable; for, by so doing, a man may get knowledge of many things; as of the folly of earthly things, and the benefit of things above. Besides, by this a man may learn what it is to turn from sin, to believe, to pray, to suffer, or the like; by this, also, a man may learn what are the great promises and comforts of the Gospel, to his own enjoyment. Further, by this a man may learn to answer false opinions, to prove the truth, and also to teach the ignorant.

Faith. All this is true; and glad am I to hear these things from you.

Talk. Alas! the want of this is the cause that so few understand the need of faith, and the necessity of a work of grace in their soul, in order to eternal life.

Faith. But, by your leave, heavenly knowledge of these is the gift of God; no man attaineth to them by human working, or only by the talk of them.

Talk. All that I know very well, for a man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven; I could give you a hundred scriptures for the confirmation of this.

Faith. “Well, then,” said Faithful, “what is that one thing that we shall at this time found our talk upon?”

Talk. What you will. I will talk of things heavenly or things earthly; things in life or things in the gospel; things sacred or things worldly; things past or things to come; things foreign or things at home; things necessary or things accidental, provided that all be done to our profit.

Faith. Now did Faithful begin to wonder; and, stepping to Christian (for he walked all this while by himself), he said to him, but softly, “What a brave companion have we got! Surely this man will make a very excellent pilgrim.”

FAITHFUL DISPUTES TALKATIVE

Chris. At this Christian modestly smiled, and said, “This man with whom you are so taken will deceive with this tongue of his twenty of them that know him not.”

Faith. Do you know him, then?

Chris. Know him? Yes, better than he knows himself.

Faith. Pray what is he?

Chris. His name is Talkative; he dwelleth in our town. I wonder that you should be a stranger to him: only I consider that our town is large.

Faith. Whose son is he? and whereabout doth he dwell?

Chris. He is the son of one Say-well. He dwelt in Prating Row, and is known to all that are acquainted with him by the name of Talkative of Prating Row; and notwithstanding his fine tongue, he is but a sorry fellow.

Faith. Well, he seems to be a very pretty man.

Chris. That is, to them that have not a thorough acquaintance with him, for he is best abroad; near home he is ugly enough. Your saying that he is a pretty man brings to my mind what I have observed in the work of the painter, whose pictures show best at a distance, but very near more unpleasing.

Faith. But I am ready to think you do but jest, because you smiled.

Chris. God forbid that I should jest (though I smiled) in this matter, or that I should accuse any falsely. I will give you a further discovery of him. This man is for any company, and for any talk. As he talketh now with you, so will he talk when he is on the ale-bench; and the more drink he hath in his crown, the more of these things he hath in his mouth. Religion hath no place in his heart, or house, or conversation: all he hath lieth in his tongue, and his religion is to make a noise therewith.

Faith. Say you so? Then am I in this man greatly deceived.

Chris. Deceived! you may be sure of it. Remember the proverb, “They say, and do not;” but the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. He talketh of prayer, of turning to God, of faith, and of the new birth; but he knows but only to talk of them. I have been in his family, and have seen him both at home and abroad, and I know what I say of him is the truth. His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savor. There is there neither prayer nor sign of turning from sin; yea, the brute, in his kind, serves God far better than he. He is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion to all that know him. It can hardly have a good word in all that end of the town where he dwells, through him. Thus say the common people that know him: “A saint abroad, and a devil at home.” His poor family finds it so: he is such a fault-finder, such a railer at, and so unreasonable with his servants, that they neither know how to do for or speak to him. Men that have any dealings with him say, it is better to deal with a Turk than with him, for fairer dealing they shall have at their hands. This Talkative, if it be possible, will go beyond them, cheat, beguile, and overreach them. Besides, he brings up his sons to follow his steps; and, if he findeth in any of them a foolish timorousness (for so he calls the first appearance of a tender conscience), he calls them fools and blockheads, and by no means will employ them in much, or speak to their commendation before others. For my part, I am of opinion that he has, by his wicked life, caused many to stumble and fall, and will be, if God prevent not, the ruin of many more.

Faith. Well, my brother, I am bound to believe you, not only because you say you know him, but also because like a Christian you make your reports of men. For I cannot think you speak these things of ill-will, but because it is even so as you say.

Chris. Had I known him no more than you, I might, perhaps, have thought of him as at first you did; yea, had he received this report only from those that are enemies to religion, I should have thought it had been a slander, a lot that often falls from bad men’s mouths upon good men’s names and professions. But all these things, yea, and a great many more as bad, of my own knowledge I can prove him guilty of. Besides, good men are ashamed of him: they can neither call him brother nor friend; the very naming of him among them makes them blush, if they know him. Faith. Well, I see that saying and doing are two things, and hereafter I shall better observe the difference between them.

Chris. They are two things, indeed, and are as diverse as are the soul and the body; for, as the body without the soul is but a dead carcase, so saying, if it be alone, is but a dead carcase also. The soul of religion is the practical part. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” This, Talkative is not aware of: he thinks that hearing and saying will make a good Christian, and thus he deceiveth his own soul. Hearing is but as the sowing of the seed; talking is not sufficient to prove that fruit is indeed in the heart and life. And let us assure ourselves that, at the day of doom, men shall be judged according to their fruits.

Faith. Well, I was not so fond of his company at first, but I am as sick of it now. What shall we do to be rid of him?

Chris. Take my advice, and do as I bid you, and you shall find that he will soon be sick of your company too, except God shall touch his heart and turn it.

Faith. What would you have me to do?

Chris. Why, go to him, and enter into some serious conversation about the power of religion and ask him plainly (when he has approved of it, for that he will) whether this thing be set up in his heart, house or conduct.

Faith. Then Faithful stepped forward again, and said to Talkative, “Come, what cheer? How is it now?”

Talk. Thank you, well: I thought we should have had a great deal of talk by this time.
Faith. Well, if you will, we will fall to it now; and, since you left it with me to state the question, let it be this: How doth the saving grace of God show itself when it is in the heart of man?

Talk. I perceive, then, that our talk must be about the power of things. Well, it is a very good question, and I shall be willing to answer you. And take my answer in brief, thus. First, where the grace of God is in the heart, it causeth there a great outcry against sin. Secondly,—

Faith. Nay, hold; let us consider of one at once. I think you should rather say, it shows itself by inclining the soul to hate its sin.

Talk. Why, what difference is there between crying out against and hating sin?

Faith. Oh! a great deal. A man may cry out against sin in order to appear good; but he cannot hate it except by a real dislike for it. I have heard many cry out against sin in the pulpit, who yet can abide it well enough in the heart, house, and life. Some cry out against sin, even as the mother cries out against her child in her lap, when she calleth it a naughty girl, and then falls to hugging and kissing it.

Talk. You are trying to catch me, I perceive.

Faith. No, not I; I am only for setting things right. But what is the second thing whereby you would prove a discovery of a work of God in the heart?

Talk. Great knowledge of hard things in the Bible.

TALKATIVE PARTS COMPANY

Faith. This sign should have been first; but, first or last, it is also false; for knowledge, great knowledge, may be obtained in the mysteries of the Gospel, and yet no work of grace in the soul. Yea, if a man have all knowledge, he may yet be nothing, and so, consequently, be no child of God. When Christ said, “Do ye know all these things?” and the disciples had answered, “Yes,” He added, “Blessed are ye if ye do them.” He doth not lay the blessing in the knowledge of them, but in the doing of them. For there is a knowledge that is not attended with doing: “He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not.” A man may know like an angel, and yet be no Christian; therefore your sign of it is not true. Indeed, to know, is a thing that pleaseth talkers and boasters; but to do is that which pleaseth God.

Talk. You are trying to catch me again: this is not profitable.

Faith. Well, if you please, name another sign how this work of grace showeth itself where it is.
Talk. Not I; for I see we shall not agree.

Faith. Well, if you will not, will you give me leave to do it?

Talk. You may say what you please.

Faith. God’s work in the soul showeth itself either to him that hath it or to standers by. To him that has it, it is shown by making him see and feel his own sins. To others who are standing by it is shown by his life, a life of doing right in the sight of God. And now, sir, as to this brief account of the work of grace, and also the showing of it, if you have aught to object, object; if not, then give me leave to ask you a second question.

Talk. Nay, my part is not now to object, but to hear; let me, therefore, have your second question.

Faith. It is this: Have you felt your own sins, and have you turned from them? And do your life and conduct show it the same? Or is your religion in word or in tongue, and not in deed and truth? Pray, if you incline to answer me in this, say no more than you know the God above will say Amen to, and also nothing but what your conscience can approve you in; for not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. Besides, to say I am thus and thus, when my conduct and all my neighbors tell me I lie, is great wickedness.

Talk. Then Talkative at first began to blush; but, recovering himself, thus he replied: “This kind of discourse I did not expect; nor am I disposed to give an answer to such questions, because I count not myself bound thereto, unless you take upon you to be a questioner; and though you should do so, yet I may refuse to make you my judge. But, I pray, will you tell me why you ask me such questions?”

Faith. Because I saw you forward to talk, and because I knew not that you had aught else but notion. Besides, to tell you all the truth, I have heard of you that you are a man whose religion lies in talk, and that your life gives this your mouth-profession the lie. They say you are a spot among Christians, and that religion fareth the worse for your ungodly conduct; that some already have stumbled at your wicked ways, and that more are in danger of being destroyed thereby: your religion, and an alehouse, and greed for gain, and uncleanness, and swearing, and lying, and vain company-keeping, etc., will stand together. You are a shame to all who are members of the church.

Talk. Since you are ready to take up reports, and to judge so rashly as you do, I cannot but conclude you are some peevish or cross man, not fit to be talked with; and so adieu.

Chris. Then came up Christian, and said to his brother, “I told you how it would happen; your words and his heart could not agree. He had rather leave your company than reform his life. But he is gone, as I said: let him go; the loss is no man’s but his own: he has saved us the trouble of going from him; for he continuing (as I suppose he will do) as he is, he would have been but a blot in our company. Besides, the Apostle says, ‘From such withdraw thyself.'”

Faith. But I am glad we had this little talk with him; it may happen that he will think of it again: however, I have dealt plainly with him, and so am clear of his blood, if he perisheth.

Chris. You did well to talk so plainly to him as you did. There is but little of this faithful dealing with men now-a-days; and that makes religion to be despised by so many; for they are these talkative fools, whose religion is only in word, and are vile and vain in their life, that, being so much admitted into the fellowship of the godly, do puzzle the world, blemish Christianity, and grieve the sincere. I wish that all men would deal with such as you have done; then should they either be made more suitable to religion, or the company of saints would be too hot for them.

Faith. Then did Faithful say, “How Talkative at first lifts up his plumes! How bravely doth he speak! How he presumes To drive down all before him! But so soon As Faithful talks of heart-work, like the moon That’s past the full, into the wane he goes; And so will all but he who heart-work knows.” Thus they went on, talking of what they had seen by the way, and so made that way easy, which would otherwise, no doubt, have been tedious to them; for now they went through a wilderness.

Growth in the Christian life must be by grace.Is growth as a Christian a matter of God graciously changing us through His power?

Or, is it that we discipline ourselves?

The answer is that it’s not one or the other. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling. But it is God who is at work within us. (Philippians 2:12-13).

It is not an easy concept to understand. Many people try and grow by their own force of will. Others “let go and let God.” Either error ends in failure. We must grow in grace. We need to quit paddling the water with our hands and hoist our sails into the warm breeze of God’s grace.

The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges is one of the first 10 books I would recommend to any Christian. The reason that it is such an important book is because Bridges offers an extended meditation on the relationship between our effort and God’s empowerment / grace. In the below paragraph, Bridges summarizes the subject of this book.

We try to change ourselves. We take what we think are the tools of spiritual transformation into our own hands and try to sculpt ourselves into robust Christlike specimens. But spiritual transformation is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the Master Sculptor . . . Grace and the personal discipline required 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.” (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, Colorado Springs (NavPress, 1994), 11,13).

Below is an excerpt from Unpacking Forgiveness in which I consider the relationship between our effort and God’s grace:

Think again of the invitation of Jesus.  This time, read the following two verses.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

Just for a moment now, block out all your concerns about whatever fight you may face at home or church or in the world. Consider Christ even more deeply.  Even as I have reminded you that he is the Wonderful Counselor and Almighty God, notice that when Jesus invites you to come to him, he describes himself as gentle and lowly in heart.  Though he is supremely exalted, Christ is not a vindictive taskmaster who would rub your face in your mistakes and beat you down over your failures.  Such a combination isn’t possible in the Savior of the Bible!  He stands at the ready to help. He is gentle and humble in heart.  Why would you not accept his invitation to unload the weight of your burdens?

How to Accept Jesus’ Invitation

But, wait.  Before you accept Jesus’ offer to find rest, read the invitation closely.  Jesus does not invite worn-out people to take a nap.  Nor does He does he suggest that if we will chant a one-time prayer, refreshment will be granted automatically.  No; Jesus says to assume his yoke and learn from him.  Jesus invites those who need rest to come work with him.

Jesus’ offer of discovering rest by means of a yoke is a paradox.  A yoke is a harness used for labor. You might legitimately ask, “How is that in taking on Jesus’ equipment I would find rest?”  The answer is that, as we follow Jesus and learn from him, the Holy Spirit graciously operates in our lives. This is how we who are weak can move forward—not in our strength, but in his.  This is the kind of thing that Paul pointed to in Philippians 2:12-13 when he said, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  The reason Paul told the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling is that when they do, God will graciously work in and through them.  God works in and through us as we cooperate with his gracious work in our lives.

A sailing illustration might help make this point.  Suppose you are in a boat and you have to travel an incredible distance.  And, to further complicate things, you don’t even know there is such a thing as sailing.

So, what would you do?  You would try and propel the boat in all kinds of futile ways.  You might lie on your stomach and paddle over the side.  If you were a little more creative, you might use a stick as an oar and row in circles.  But, soon enough, you would be worn out and frustrated.

But, then imagine that someone stepped onto your boat and said, “I see that you are exhausted.  How about I teach you how to get somewhere?”  He would then show you how to raise a sail and catch the wind.

You get the picture.  Sailing is still hard work. There is a reason that sailors – – like Popeye – – have big forearms.  But, it is not futile hard work.  Hoist a sail into the breeze and soon enough you are gliding forward in a strength that is beyond yourself.

This is the invitation that Jesus gives.  Are you tired of trying to work your way through forgiveness with one oar?  Are you worn out from trying to paddle with your hands?  Come and sail in the wind of his strength.  Soon you will be gliding forward in the breeze of his grace.

Of course, that begs the question, how do I work in such a way that God gives me strength and grace?  How specifically do I assume the yoke of Jesus and learn from him?  How do I raise a sail into the breeze of God’s strength?”  The answer to how is that God works in our lives through certain appointed means.  Sometimes theologians call these “means of grace.”  Means of grace are how God pours out his grace into the life of a Christian.  These means of grace include his Word, prayer, fellowship with other believes, and worship.[1]  When you participate in any of these means of grace, you hoist your sail into the wind of God’grace.  If you have been trying to work through forgiveness without consistent involvement in the means of grace then you are only paddling with your hands.

The way to accept Christ’s invitation to find rest is to be in his Word, to listen to biblical preaching, to pray, and to be sharpened by other Christians.  While at first, it may seem that you are moving only a bit, before long you will be sailing forward—ridding yourself of the baggage that weighs you down.

You may object at this point! “I have already tried unpacking the Christian way of unpacking my burdens,” you may say. “And it didn’t really work.  I tried Jesus!  He didn’t give me rest.”

Did you really?  Did you really assume Jesus’ yoke, his instrument of work, and learn from him?

  • Have you been involved consistently in a local church where the Bible is preached?  Have you participated in Sunday School or small groups or whatever Christian education opportunities your church offers?
  • Do you pray consistently in a disciplined way?  Not just talking about praying in the car on the way to work.  Have you really gotten down on your knees and earnestly prayed?
  • Are you involved in a Christian community or fellowship?  Are you sharing your life with other Christians?
  • Do you worship Christ on a regular basis?  Do you listen to Christ centered worship?  Have you identified with Christ in baptism?  Do you faithfully participate in observing the Lord’s Supper at your church?

These means of grace are how we take Christ’s yoke upon us and learn from him.  Christ’s way of unpacking forgiveness is not three easy steps.  It is about a way of life, about following Jesus, learning from him, being involved in his Church, hearing his Word preached.  Apart from consistent involvement in these disciplines, you are trying to paddle with a stick.  It won’t work.[2]



[1] The idea of “means of grace” may be new to you.  But I assure you it is not something I invented.  Berkhof writes, “Sanctification takes place partly in the subconscious life, and as such is an immediate operation of the Holy Spirit; but also partly in the conscious life, and then depends on the use of certain means, such as the constant exercise of faith, the study of God’s Word, prayer and association with other believers.  L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Fourth ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 534.

Grudem adds, “The New Testament does not suggest any short-cuts by which we can grow in sanctification, but simply encourages us repeatedly to give ourselves to the old-fashioned, time-honored means for Bible reading and meditation (Ps. 1:3; Matt. 4:4, 17:17), prayer (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6), worship (Eph. 5:18-20), witnessing (Matt 28:19-20), Christian fellowship (Heb. 10:24-25), and self-discipline or self-control (Gal. 5:23; Titus 1:8).  Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 755.

[2] If you would like to learn more about this area, I highly recommend Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace.  It was an ECPA Gold Medallion Book Award.  In it, Bridges wrote, “Grace and the personal discipline required 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.”  This is what Bridges will help you understand: how grace and vigorous effort work together.  Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1994), 13.

Reading to children is one of the most important things parents do.If you are a parent or grandparent of young children, at the very least watch the below video of Max Lucado reading aloud.

My younger sister’s children are the perfect age for Max Lucado’s new book, The Boy and the Ocean. I hope she reads it to them soon. While my sister doesn’t need me to tell her how to snuggle with her children and read a beautiful book. Still, as a pastor and author, and older brother, it’s fun to point out several aspects of Lucado’s beautiful story:

    1. Most important, the little boy isn’t named. By not naming the child, Lucado makes this a story for for all children. He invites children to insert themselves into the story, and they will. As sure as little boys and girls knew they were the run-a-way bunny, children who hear The Little Boy and the Ocean read aloud will picture themselves as the ones looking out their windows at the mountains.
    2. The descriptions of the beauty of God’s creation will invite more discussion with little boys and girls. God reveals himself in creation (Psalm 19:1-7). My nephews and nieces don’t have oceans and mountains outside their windows, but they have vast fields and the open sky. They know about big rivers and beautiful birds. So they can follow Lucado’s lead and write their own poetry about the greatness of God.
    3. The beautiful pictures will inspire children to “read” the book on their own. In a previous post, I shared why our family needs the below picture of my nephew: it’s good for the soul to know beauty is possible and real. Children love books with pictures. Their minds absorb the words of the story and when they put on their Elmo slippers and read them on their own, they will hear the story read aloud.

My nephew Graham loves books!


Enough from me. Maybe to start, show this excerpt to your children or grandchildren.  But finish by reading The Boy and the Ocean to them yourself!

“The Boy and the Ocean” – A reading by author, Max Lucado from Crossway on Vimeo.

God's Wisdom on Proverbs by Dan Phillips is well worth reading.If you love God’s Word, take advantage of the resources available. For instance, Dan Phillips book, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs, is a wonderful introduction to Proverbs. You can read my endorsement here.

I am preparing to preach on Proverbs over the Memorial Day Weekend at Camp Forest Springs. Tonight, I was in my study at my home with a stack of books (not necessarily related to one another) nearby . . . and it struck me that for all the particular challenges of our day, we enjoy unprecedented opportunities to study God’s Word.

When I was in seminary, there were relatively few books available on Proverbs. Derek Kidner’s pithy commentary was on the market. And there were a few others. Toy’s oft frustrating commentary was recommended by many.

But it is a new day. Twenty plus years later, there are a wealth of new resources highlighted by Bruce Waltke’s two volumes published by Eerdmans. Waltke’s commentary is technical and more than most will want to invest. For anyone who wants a wonderful introduction to Proverbs, buy Kidner’s Tyndale Old Testament commentary, along with Dan Phillips’s book, and you will be off to a great start.

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ProverbsbooksThe introduction to God’s Wisdom in Proverbs, “Essentials for Understanding Proverbs,” is worth the price of the book. Phillips has a wonderful regard for the Word of God. His writing style is clear and memorable. For instance, Phillips gives this helpful definition of a proverb:

A proverb is a compressed statement of wisdom, artfully crafted to be striking, thought-provoking,, memorable, and practical.

Or this important thought:

Proverbs convey pithy points and principles, not precious particular promises.

Finally, a beautiful definition of wisdom:

Wisdom: skill for living in the fear of Yahweh

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At Camp Forest Springs this weekend, two of my goals will be to encourage family campers to: (1) Read the day’s chapter of Proverbs and (2) Memorize Proverbs. Most of you can’t be at camp this weekend, but those are a couple of great ideas in any case.

Andy Naselli:

edenTim Keller calls this book “the most accessible, readable, and yet theologically robust work on Christianity and the arts that you will be able to find”:

Jerram Barrs. Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. (14-page sample PDF)

Chapter 8 is a gem: “Harry Potter and the Triumph of Self-Sacrificing Love” (pp. 125–46). It’s the best treatment I’ve read that (1) responds to Christians who think that the Harry Potter series is evil and (2) exults in its dominant (Christian) theme—self-sacrificing love.

A few years ago I appreciated watching this 7-minute video of Jerram Barrs reflecting on the last book of the Harry Potter series:

Read the rest here.

The Reason for God by Tim KellerRead Keller’s outline for Part I of The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. The chapter titles alone may motivate you to start reading:

  1. There Can’t Be Just One True Religion
  2. How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?
  3. Christianity is a Straitjacket
  4. The Church is responsible for So Much Injustice
  5. How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?
  6. Science has Disproved Christianity
  7. You Can’t Take the Bible Literally

While reading The Reason for God I found myself thinking that I would easily recommend it over C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. On the one hand, that is not surprising. Mere Christianity was the edited publication of lectures given during World War II. Whereas, The Reason for God was published in 2008. Lewis’s work is dated. On the other hand, it’s quite surprising given Lewis’s stature.

But a comparison of Mere Christianity with The Reason for God is silly in any case because Keller repeatedly acknowledges Lewis’s influence on his writings. Keller shares that it was a combination of three people who shaped his thought:

I also owe a deeper sort of acknowledgement to the three people to whom I am most indebted for the fundamental shape of my Christian faith. They are, in order, my wife, Kathy, the British author C.S. Lewis, and the American theologian Jonathan Edwards.

Lewis’s words appear in nearly every chapter. It would be wrong not to admit how much of what I think about faith comes from him.

Keller isn’t in competition with Lewis. He is standing on his shoulders and taking the discussion forward in the new millennium. If it’s true that Tim Keller advances C.S. Lewis’s thinking, and I think he clearly does, then The Reason for God is must reading.

Having said that, the best way to motivate you to read Keller’s book is to read the chapter titles.

Tomorrow, I’ll share some tips for reading The Reason for God with profit.

C. S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant ProphetOne of the final steps in C.S. Lewis’s conversion was for him to accept the truth that Christians can truly be united or “Bound Together” with Christ.

In his excellent new biography of C.S. Lewis, Alister McGrath does more than any other author to help us understand how C.S. Lewis came to faith in Christ. McGrath takes us a step forward in scholarship about Lewis by more accurately dating key events in Lewis’s life. McGrath goes so far as to point out where Lewis himself was wrong about some of the dates. You will have to read the book yourself to see if McGrath persuades you of his chronology. He convinced me.

In any case, McGrath shows that by 1931 C.S. Lewis was close to becoming a believer. Lewis had determined he was no longer an atheist. But he still had not given his life to Christ. Through interaction with Lewis’s letters, McGrath summarizes why Lewis still had reservations about becoming a Christian.

Lewis explained that his difficulty had been that he could not see “how the life and death of Someone Else (whoever he was) 2000 years ago could help us here and now.” An inability to make sense of this had been holding Lewis back “for the last year or so.” He could admit that Christ might provide us with a good example, but that was about as far as it went. Lewis realised that the New Testament took a very different view, using terms such as propitiation or sacrifice to refer to the true meaning of this event. But these expressions, Lewis declared, seemed to him to be “either silly or shocking.”

In the end, it was an evening with J.R.R. Tolkien that God used to tip the balance and for Lewis to finally put his trust in Christ. Lewis soon confessed faith in Christ and was united together with Him.

But how was it that Lewis accepted that Christ can help us here and now? Lewis gives his answer in The Problem of Pain published 9 years after Lewis’s conversion in 1940. Lewis explained how Scripture helped him come to understand that we are not so individual as we think.

Everyone will have noticed how the Old Testament seems at times to ignore our conception of the individual. When God promises Jacob that ‘He will go down with him into Egypt and will also surely bring him up again’, this is fulfilled either by the burial of Jacob’s body in Palestine or by the exodus of Jacob’s descendants from Egypt. It is quite right to connect this notion with the social structure of early communities in which the individual is constantly overlooked in favour of the tribe or family: but we ought to express this connection by two propositions of equal importance – – firstly that their social experience blinded the ancients to some truths we perceive, and secondly that it made them sensible of some truths to which we are blind. Legal fiction, adoption, and transference or imputation of merit and guilt, could never have played the part they did in theology if they had always be felt to be so artificial as we now feel them to be.

. . . the separateness – – which we discern between individuals, is balanced, in absolute reality, by some kind of ‘interanimation’ of which we have no conception at all. It may be that the acts and sufferings of great archetypal individuals such as Adam and Christ are ours, not by legal fiction, metaphor, or casuality, but in some much deeper fashion. There is no question, of course, of individuals melting down into a kind of spiritual continuum such as Pantheistic systems believe in; that is excluded by the whole tenor of our faith. But there may be a tension between individuality and some other principle. C.S. Lewis, emphasis added (page 83).

Lewis accepted that we are not isolated individuals. Rather, we are “bound together.” In my book, Bound Together, I call this, “the principle of the rope“: that is, we are not islands unto ourselves. The ultimate negative example of the principle of the rope is the doctrine of original sin. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, their sin was imputed to all their descendents. And all inherited a corrupt nature from them. But the ultimate positive example of the principle of the rope is union in Christ. Those who believe in Christ are united together with Him as branches to a vine or bricks to a building.

As for McGrath’s biography of Lewis, in my mind it is now the best single resource on the life of C.S. Lewis. McGrath’s book and Alan Jacob’s wonderful book, The Narnian, are now the first two books to read on C.S. Lewis.

But first read C.S. Lewis himself!

Feel weak?

Chris —  April 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

Feel weak? Watch J.I. Packer on his forthcoming book.

Weakness is the Way by J. I. Packer from Crossway on Vimeo.

A Literary Quiz

Chris —  March 25, 2013 — 8 Comments

Literature is part of the “great conversation” in which authors interact with central questions. If you want a wonderful introduction to literature, then I recommend Tony Reinke’s book, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading. You can read more about Tony’s book on his web site.

The below is not a definitive list of quotes. Some of my selection had to do with what was handy on my shelves.

You can check your answers here.

Feel free to humbly brag in the comments below.