I love reading books with my wife. Last year we had the great pleasure of reading Francis Chan’s book, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit. If there is anything that we as evangelicals tend to be unclear about in our thinking, it has to do with the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. Chan makes this case: we have simply forgotten or neglected the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians.
He is right. This is why the Church of Christ does not tend to be marked with power. After reading this book, I came to terms with all the misconceptions I had of the third Person in the Trinity both theologically and personally. The more I think about the message from the book, the more I am challenged to remember His power and influence upon my life in and through everything.
Chan’s passionate communication of the Bible bleeds all over these pages. The most unique feature to this book are the short biographies of real Christian men and women who have demonstrated the power of the Spirit in their lives through love for others, suffering, joy, risk-taking, and stepping out in faith. Chan’s greatest strength is his ability to be so personal and so simple in helping you to see the ways you might be neglecting the Spirit in your life. In particular, Rebekah and I have gained so much from the chapter on following God’s will with the Spirit’s leading. I really recommend it.
Here is Francis Chan, explaining more of what this book is about. Enjoy!
As Christians, we have a rich and beautiful heritage of men and women of faith who have and are fighting the good fight of faith for the sake of the gospel. One day, we will meet them all in glory. But, what if we could meet them and be encouraged by their spiritual legacy today? I believe this is what editor, Arthur Bennett has done in The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.
I urge every Christian to read and own this classic work of old prayers that inspires communion with Christ, longings for heaven, sensitivity toward inward sin, love for the gospel, service in ministry, a high regard for God’s greatness, and preparation for family and corporate worship.
I believe the burden of this work is to encourage drooping hearts to seek God’s face with the same intensity and passion of the prayers recorded in this book. With transparency, warmth, and transcendence, some of the prayers come from Puritans like Richard Baxter, David Brainerd, John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, Augustus Toplady, Thomas Watson, and Isaac Watts. Bennett has wonderfully included an introductory prayer that expresses this burden. He prays,
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, Where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; Hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox That the way down is the way up, That to be low is to be high, That the broken heart is the healed heart, That the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, That the repenting soul is the victorious soul, That to have nothing is to possess all, That to bear the cross is to wear the crown, That to give is to receive, That the valley is the place of vision
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, And the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine; Let me find thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.
Needless to say, this is a great book to read alongside your Bible. This book is available in our bookstore.
This book is so prophetic for today, if you started reading it you probably would not think it was written over 30 years ago. For this reason, Walter Chantry’s classic, Today’s Gospel, strongly and bluntly addresses the greatest need for the world and of the Church. It’s the gospel. Exposing the pitfalls of modern seeker-sensitivism and even shades of the postmodern emergent movement, Chantry pleads for a recovery of sound doctrine and the gospel in our time.
In just 83 pages, Chantry reexamines the gospel and how to preach it with an exposition from Mark 10, on the rich young ruler. He wonderfully highlights God’s attributes, the law of God, repentance and faith, and assurance as necessary ingredients of the gospel. On assurance, Chantry asks,
How many souls have been led to vain confidence by a man-made, evangelistic formula? How many are sent home from evangelistic services with calm, who should have gone away as grieved and disturbed as the [rich, young] ruler? How many unsaved children have been given assurance by the teachers of Bible classes, so that they have ceased to seek God’s salvation (66)?
The challenge from this book is clear: what is the agenda of present-day evangelism? The agenda for the seeker-sensitive movement was all about techniques and methods. The agenda for the fading emergent movement is all about relativism and imbalanced social justice. Even though we are seeing a reformation on these shores with excitement, we would do well to consider Chantry’s plea for remembering Jesus’ agenda: all the power rests in the gospel. Every Christian should read this little work!
As there has been a great resurgence for reformed theology in the West, I believe there has also been a recovery for Church history. Sketches from Church History, by Sidney M. Houghton, has rekindled my love for Church history with this easy-to-read survey of Christ’s power throughout the past 20 centuries.
This is not just another history textbook with random dates, unnecessary sayings, and marginal facts. History is a story and it is best told as a story. I believe Houghton has done this—with cool pictures! This volume is a beautifully written narrative of men and women of faith who have gone before us, gladly bearing the reproach of Christ in the same spirit of the witnesses described in Hebrews 11.
The stories of Augustine, the Waldenses, John Wycliffe, John Huss, Savonarola, Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Great Awakening, John Wesley and George Whitefield, William Carey, Henry Martyn, and Charles Spurgeon, are among the best-told stories in this volume. Houghton’s additional strength is his ability to invite you to exalt in the spread of the gospel throughout the past centuries and to invite you to continue in the same mission for today.
My only squabble: I wish Houghton would have been less harsh when telling the story of Mohammed and the beginnings of Islam. I wish he would have offered more on ways to engage them as a people and how the power of the gospel might explode in their lands and hearts. Overall, you have got to read this book!
In the most recent Men’s Leadership Class we had, we read John MacArthur’s book, Why One Way? Overall, I think everyone in the class received this little book with warmth. In 74 pages he shows the differences between the inclusive view of postmodernism and the exclusive view of the Bible. Namely, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (see John 14:6).
Weaving history and culture together, MacArthur shows the spirituality of evangelicalism from the 20 century into the dawn of our century. The present problem in our culture begins with the ignorance of an absolute reality. This gives birth to skepticism. Skepticism amounts to tolerance. Tolerance erupts into self-autonomy. Self-autonomy breeds narcissism. Narcissism turns into anarchy. Anarchy leads to destruction.
He makes a plea to all ambassadors of Christ to beware of becoming like the world. The gospel is at stake and so are our lives. Although MacArthur has produced a biblical, passionate, and instructive case for guarding the gospel and presenting the current spiritual climate of the culture, I wish he would have written more on how we can engage the culture without becoming like the culture and without compromising the gospel.
You can read this book in one sitting if you have an hour to spare. Or, with seven chapters, you can read this in a whole week. Overall, this book is worth your time and worth musing over for the glory of God and the spread of the gospel in the world.
For this week's blogspotting, I'm going to pull something a little bit older, at least in the blog world. Over the summer, Rachel Jankovic wrote a series on motherhood in the Desiring God blog, focusing on being a mother to little ones. Now I can't really fathom how she has time to write a book while raising five childen under the age of 5, but somehow she does.
I pull out these articles every once in a while, just to remind myself of the importance of my "job" right now and not to slack off or be complacent. In a world where "mothering" is not seen as important as pulling in a five or six figure yearly salary, we as women especially need to remind ourselves daily the weighty task we have everyday to raise our children unto the Lord.
Some notable quotes from the blog posts:
"You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel."
"Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. ... If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work."
"Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone."
"The gospel is not just something to talk about Sunday morning while you are in clean clothes and the kids are looking orderly. It is not limited to quiet times and reflective moods. It is something to apply while you are in a difficult position in the back of the car trying to buckle a child up who is playing the kazoo and needs their nose wiped."
"God is not above these moments. He is teaching us, and leading us, and refining us, in them. He wants to see our faith in action. He wants to see us feeding our children with the grace that he has given to us."
"When you are a mother at home with your children, the church is not clamoring for monthly ministry updates. When you talk to other believers, there is not any kind of awe about what you are sacrificing for the gospel. People are not pressing you for needs you might have, how they can pray for you. It does not feel intriguing, or glamorous. Your work is normal, because it is as close to home as you can possibly be. You have actually gone so far as to become home."
"At the very heart of the gospel is sacrifice, and there is perhaps no occupation in the world so intrinsically sacrificial as motherhood. Motherhood is a wonderful opportunity to live the gospel. Jim Elliot famously said, “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Motherhood provides you with an opportunity to lay down the things that you cannot keep on behalf of the people that you cannot lose. They are eternal souls, they are your children, they are your mission field."
The author has also recently published a book titled "Loving the Little Years". I have read it and it is excellent -- very similar in style to the blog posts. Each chapter is very short, which is good for me because many times I only have 5-10 minutes here and there to take a break during the day. It is also available in our Calvary Book Nook, so check it out!
While my family and I were on vacation in October, we picked up a uniquely rewarding book by Timothy Keller, called, King's Cross: the Story of the World in the Life of Jesus. Every time we would get in the van and drive for miles and for hours, my wife would say, “It’s King’s Cross time.” We finished reading it in 2 weeks and its contents are still subsiding deep in our souls!
This book is really an exposition of the book of Mark. For me, Mark has always been one of the gospels that didn’t really stand out to me. I definitely appreciated it, but not the way that I appreciated Matthew’s gospel, or Luke’s precise style, or John’s way of writing about Jesus. After reading King’s Cross, I will never look at Mark the same way I did in the past.
Split up in two simple parts: “Jesus, the King” and “Jesus’ Cross”, Keller wonderfully weaves the world of Palestine in the days of Jesus and the world in which we live in the present by putting Jesus at the very center of them. These two seemingly distant worlds have been brought together through a crown and a cross, affecting everything in creation, everything in history, and even our very personal lives. Writing to both skeptics and to those who are skeptical of God’s love for them, Keller helps draw us into a relationship with Jesus.
With insight, wisdom, good biblical criticism, and a call to social justice and to mission, Keller gives us another look at Jesus from Mark’s gospel that is spiritually refreshing. A copy of this book is available in our bookstore.