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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category


“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”

The man responsible for those words is Sir Winston Churchill, a man for his times.  Notice he says “those who would do us harm,” not those who did us harm.  Many think we need a man like Sir Winston Churchill who understands our times and acts in light of that reality.

We have an interesting political battle going on as we have released our interrogation methods, yet refuse to put them into the context of the information received or circumstances in which they are used.  This unfairly politicizes the issue- trying to make things black and white when they are a little less so.

This quote from Sir Winston is at the beginning of Vince Flynn’s latest Mitch Rapp novel, Extreme Measures.   It is a novel for these times, trying to explain why it is important to have such rough men ready, for there are despicable men who hide behind religion to exploit others and protect themselves as they wage a war of terror on civilians.

Yes, Vince has found a formula that works (though he deviates from it at the very end of this novel), but I enjoy his books.  I do want that man out there protecting my family from those who would harm them simply because they live in America.

As Christians we can often confuse the issues, misapply Scripture and really be muddle headed about these issues.  Emotions can cloud the issue on both sides.

First, there is a difference in Scripture between the response of an individual to unjustice, and the response of a government.  We see that clearly in Romans 12 – 13.  The individual is not to seek revenge, but entrust such justice to God.  The government, on the other hand, bears the sword to punish evildoers.

Turning the other cheek is about insult, and again is the individual forsaking retribution.  This would not rule out self-defense should one want to physically hurt you.  Context is key.

We see something of a wartime ethic in Scripture.  Both the midwives and Rahab were blessed for deceiving those who sought to perpetrate evil.  Truth is not a black and white issue- sometimes we have to consider what will be done with the truth.  Will they use the truth to rob, steal or kill?  The context of “speaking the truth in love” is the covenant community moving toward maturity.  You can lovingly speak the truth to an evil person by calling their actions what they are, while refusing to divulge the information they want.

But we have some positive encouragements about the righteous man:

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Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law resist them.  Proverbs 28(NIV)

The righteous man/person resists the wicked.  He does not stick his head in the sand and let them commit great sins against others.  This is because God is seen as the One who defends the defenseless.  As those being renewed in God’s image, we are to act like Him.  We are to defend the defenseless, protect the poor, care for the widows and orphans.

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Jerram Barrs strikes again!  His book The Heart of Evangelism is a fantastic look at evangelism that truly gets to the heart of the matter.  He brings the same humble, gracious style to the subject of prayer with The Heart of Prayer: What Jesus Teaches Us.  He addresses topics that often seem to be guilt-inducing.  But he recognizes the internal and external obstacles to both evangelism and prayer.  He writes as a fellow struggler sitting at the feet of Jesus instead of as an expert practicioner.

Jerram focuses on Jesus’ teaching on prayer, so this book serves as a nice counterpart of D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation, which focuses on Paul’s prayers.  These 2 men are very different, and both books are excellent though different.  This book is very accessible to lay people.  He tackles issues like public and private prayer, fasting, persevering in prayer, and Jesus’ prayers for His people.  He includes an appendix on mysticism.

This is an encouraging book.  It is also a humbling book.  That is a great combination.

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Here are some of the quotes I ran across as I looked at this parable.  The parable is simple, yet humbling in so many ways.  It exposes our tendency toward self-righteousness, and points to God’s incredible disposition towards mercy toward the humble.

From Turning Your World Upside Down by Richard Phillips

“Pride is one of the greatest and most deeply embedded sins in human nature.”  Richard Phillips

“Pride is the worst viper in the heart … nothing is so hateful to God, contrary to the spirit of the gospel, or of so dangerous consequence…”  Jonathan Edwards

“The Pharisee is self-righteous because his standard of comparison is other people, and especially those who stand out in depravity.”  Richard Phillips

From Love Walked Among Us by Paul Miller

“Self-righteousness is like bad breath.  Others can smell it but you can’t.”

“Getting in touch with your inner tax collector makes room for God’s energy in your life.”

Jerram Barrs’ book The Heart of Prayer provided this great one.

“The most basic of all sins is seeking to live independently of God: to live pretending that we do not need him, to live as if we owned the world, to live as if we could make happen whatever we desire, to live as if we were in full control of our lives.”

And lastly there is this gem from Concerning the True Care of Souls by Martin Bucer.  It bears much meditation and attention, though it is quite simple.

“Thus the health and life of the inner man consists in a true living faith in the mercifulness of God and a sure confidence in the forgiveness of sin which Christ the Lord has acquired and earned for us.”

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I just loved David Halberstam’s book, The Teammates: A Portrait of Friendship.  It tells the tale of Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky and Bobby Doerr’s last visit to see their friend, Ted Williams, before he died.  It was the story of 4 friends who shared more than a love for the national past time.

I am reminded today because another of those friends passed away.  While watching a replay of last night’s Red Sox victory over the Indians, Dom DiMaggio passed away.  The brother of Jolting Joe DiMaggio, he was a superb player in his own right- being a 7-time All-Star.  Ironic that he was the brother and teammate to the 2 greatest hitters of that era, and all-time.  Williams is the last man to his .400, and his .406 may never be eclipsed.  Joe’s 56-game hitting streak, the same season, is also most likely untouchable.  More irony, Dom holds the Red Sox hitting streak record to this day.  He drew great praise from those superstars.  Ted called him the best lead off man in the American League.  Joe called him the best defensive centerfielder he’d ever seen.

After baseball Joe was a successful businessman.  He was one of the original owners of the Patriots, and tried to buy his beloved Red Sox.  He was able to excel at the very thing his superstar friend and brother struggled the most- family.  He was not merely admired for his athletic skill, but for his character and intelligence.  All true Red Sox fans have a special place in their hearts for Dom.  I am so glad the Red Sox are wasting no time in honoring him.

HT: Boston.com

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I’ve come across Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community via the internet.  A growing number of church planters are utilizing the concept.  Steve Timmis, one of the authors of the book, is the new director of Acts 29 Europe.  The San Diego Church Planters’ Boot Camp, hosted by Kaleo, was on Total Church.  I’ve begun to listen, and just borrowed the book from a friend.

The concept is intriguing to me.  The church is a gospel-formed community of people being gospel-shaped.  They have a community-centered understanding of the gospel, which runs counter to the individualistic mindset of most Christians and churches today.  I’d like to consider the relationship between the gospel, community and mission more thoroughly.  It seems less like the “latest, greatest program” or method, but an attempt to return to the power of the gospel, and the emphases of the gospel.

Here is an interview with Tim Chester on Desiring God Ministries blog:

DG: Tim, what do you and Steve Timmis mean by the title Total Church?

Tim Chester: The phrase is actually adapted from the world of football (or soccer in the States!). “Total football” was a style of play associated with the Dutch international side in the 1970s.

“Total church” is our way of capturing the idea that church is not one activity in our lives. Church isn’t a meeting you attend or a building your enter. It’s our identity, our community, our family.  It’s the context for the totality of the Christian life.

DG: How would you summarize the message of the book?

TC: Total Church argues for two core principles: We need to be gospel-centered and community-centered.

Being gospel-centered means we’re word-centered (because the gospel is a message; it is good news), and it means being mission-centered (because the gospel is a message to be proclaimed; it is good news).

I think most conservative evangelicals are strong on this. But we also need to be community-centered. The Christian community is the biblical context for evangelism, discipleship, pastoral care, social involvement, and so on. That doesn’t mean meetings. It means the shared life of the community.

One of our catchphrases is “ordinary people living ordinary life with gospel intentionality.” It means doing the chores, having meals, watching sports, and so on with an intention to talk about Jesus, to pastor one another with the gospel, and to share that gospel with unbelievers.

DG: At several points in the book, you mention the value of hospitality. Do you see this virtue as lacking in the church today, and is there is an especially significant need for it in the 21st-century church?

TC: Here’s what I think is the key issue. In the book, we tell the story of a young man who invited us to do some street preaching with him. When we said it wasn’t really the way we did things, he clearly doubted our courage and commitment.

We began to talk instead about a whole life lived in mission and community, in which we were always looking to build relationships and always looking to talk about Jesus. By the end of the conversation, he admitted he wasn’t sure if he was up for that.

He wanted evangelism you could do for two hours on a Saturday afternoon and then switch off. Tick. Job done for the week. He didn’t want a missional lifestyle.

I think that’s the issue with hospitality. People want to put church and evangelism into a slot in the schedule. But we need to be sharing our lives with others—with shared meals and open homes. That can be demanding, but it’s also wonderfully enriching.

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This was my final article for Tabletalk Magazine, published after I left Ligonier Ministries.  It is a short review of Randy Booth’s book Children of the Promise.

I read many books on the subject of infant baptism, but their arguments never connected with my experience.  When I read that Robert Booth used to be a Baptist minister, I thought he could explain it in a way I could understand.  I was not disappointed this time.

He begins his argument with a thorough explanation of covenant theology.  The question of how to interpret the Bible in regards to covenant theology cannot be minimized.  We tend to read the Bible as post-enlightenment, 20th century, individualist Americans.  The original audience(s) understood covenants and the idea of headship.  Keeping this in mind makes the going easier.

Booth then argues for the continuity of the covenant community between New and Old Covenants.  He does this from a variety of New Testament passages.  This is an important part of the argument, and the biblical evidence must be reckoned with before reaching a conclusion.

The ideas which had presented a problem for me were those of signs and seals of the covenant.  Booth explained them in a way which made sense and made infant baptism nearly unavoidable.  His comparision of circumcision and baptism was most helpful.  They are not identical, but the continuity is important.  There is much misunderstanding concerning the meaning of circumcision today.  This chapter is useful in correcting this problem.  He also reminds us baptism represents what God has done, not what we do.  Here, too, there is much confusion to be removed from the conversationn.  Booth’s presentation is clear and powerful.

The last sections of the book deal with the concept of household baptism followed by a summary of the argument for infant baptism.  In these chapters, indeed the whole book, Booth interacts with the ideas of baptistic theologians like Jewett, Kingdon and Strong.  Booth answered all of the objections to infant baptism I had.  This book, published by P & R, can help those who struggle with this issue.

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A recent theology exam included questions about the teolology and methodology of the Apostles’ use of the Old Testament in the New Testament.  The candidate agreed with their Christological  goal, but had some criticisms for their methodology.  This issue is part of the controversy over Peter Enns’ book Inspiration and Incarnation.  His srgument in the book created quite the stir, resulting in his leaving Westminster Theological Seminary.  Enns and Bruce Waltke state their respective cases on the matter in the lastest issue of WTJ.

Good for us, Dr. Roger Nicole’s 1958 article New Testament Use of the Old Testament is now available online.  He addresses the range, authority and accuracy of the New Testament usage of the Old Testament. Dr. Nicole helps us to understand that we should not hold the New Testament authors to the standards of a doctrinal thesis.

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with criticism of how the Apostles used the Old Testament.  That is because I affirm the dual authorship of Scripture.  It is divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16), and God used real people in a way that they wrote in accordance with their personality, culture and circumstances.    This means that one cannot criticize the human authors without also criticizing the Spirit of Christ who inspired them.  That same Spirit inspired the original OT Scriptures which had an original meaning and a greater fulfillment in Christ.  The OT, in addition to having an original meaning, often has a typological function.  This explains why some verses seem to be taken out of context.

But who cares what the Cavman thinks- read Dr. Nicole!

HT: Between Two Worlds

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