Archives For Books

My Favorite Books of 2016

December 27, 2016


For the last few years, I have organized my reading based on a system I ran across from Al Mohler. Dr. Mohler encourages those who are serious Christian readers to read across six categories- Biblical Studies, Theology, History, Literature, Cultural Studies, and Church Life. My favorite books that I read in 2016 are organized based on these categories. These are not all books that publishers put out in 2016, but were the best books I read this year.

Biblical Studies

Identity and Idolatry by Richard Lints

The New Studies in Biblical Theology puts out quality volumes examining biblical books and themes every few months. Richard Lints argues that idolatry is the inversion of the identity that we should find in being created by God and in being united with Christ. He helpfully shows this theme across the entire Bible.

Return to Me by Mark Boda

In another great book from the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, Mark Boda examines the bible’s theology of repentance. Rather than just focusing on word studies or theological deductions from other doctrines, Boda dives in and reckons with the explicit teaching of individual biblical texts. Then he shows how all of these texts tie together to show what it means to return to the Lord.


Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller

Hidden Christmas covers the narratives of Jesus’ birth from Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2 before closing with thoughts on the first paragraph of 1 John. Keller shows why we can trust the message of Christmas and how these narratives show us the overwhelming grace of God. (You can see my favorite quotes from Hidden Christmas here.)

Why Trust the Bible? by Greg Gilbert

Every generation must fight its version of the battle for the Bible. In our day, many people don’t trust the Scriptures but hold Jesus in high regard. Gilbert shows why our high regard for Christ should lead to a rock solid trust in the veracity of the Bible.


George Whitefield by Thomas Kidd

George Whitefield still stands as one of the most popular and consequential figures in American evangelical history. Thomas Kidd’s portrait of him is thorough while staying at a manageable length. He’s honest about Whitefield’s weaknesses, but also shows what made him such an effective evangelist.

Destiny and Power by Jon Meacham

George H.W. Bush was President during my late middle and early high school years. I remember seeing him on the news every day, but Dana Carvey’s impression on Saturday Night Live and his seeming out of touch with ordinary people compared to Bill Clinton in the 1992 election formed most of my memories of him. Jon Meacham portrays President Bush in a way that is both honest and compassionate. We get to see the motives behind the actions and see the heroic sacrifices he made for his fellow-citizens.

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

If you see several Presidential biographies pop up on this list, it’s because I’m working on reading one on every President. I could not be more pleased with my choice on James Garfield, as Candice Millard’s narrative of his life and murder reads like a novel. She goes into great detail but never loses sight of the fact that she’s narrating a story. (I also read and loved her book on Winston Churchill, Hero of the Empire.)

Church Life

Discipling by Mark Dever

We need to recover the practice of personal discipleship in the life of the church. Mark Dever shows what discipleship is and how Christians can help other Christians become more faithful followers of Jesus.

Between Two Worlds by John R.W. Stott

I revisited this classic work on preaching for the first time in over a decade. Stott explains how Christian preachers can have one foot firmly planted in the world of the Bible and the other planted in our current culture to show how the message of Scripture should change people in the here and now. This book is a must for anyone seeking to understand the art and science of preaching.


The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A man and a boy walk through the burned-out ruins of the United States in an attempt to survive. The beautiful relationship between a father and his son shines through this incredible story. Once I got into the story, I could not put this book down.

The Martian by Andy Weir

I hesitate to include this one because of its language, but it captured me from the first paragraph. It’s the story of an astronaut who was left behind on Mars and his struggle to survive. We get to hear him work through how to grow food, communicate with earth, and try to figure out how to get home. On the other side, we are privy to the internal NASA discussions on how to handle the crisis and get him back to earth. There was never a moment I was not fascinated by the action and dialogue in The Martian.

Cultural Studies

The Vanishing Neighbor by Marc Dunkelman

One of the key ways Christians can make an impact for God’s kingdom is to be good neighbors, but we often don’t see our neighbors. Marc Dunkelman writes about the origins of our disintegrating sense of community and how we can recover it in light of 21st-century realities.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

If you have read any other “best of” lists for 2016, chances are you saw this on it. J.D. Vance tells the story of the chaos that characterized his life growing up in his “hillbilly” family that had migrated from Kentucky to Ohio. He pulls no punches in his personal narrative, and the result is a book that is difficult to put down.

Looking Ahead to 2017

I just started a few books that I won’t finish until after the first of the year. So far, Justin Holcomb’s Know the Creeds and Councils is showing itself to be a great introduction to the controversies of early Christianity and the theological formulations they produced. Andreas Kostenberger and Richard Alan Fuhr’s new book on biblical interpretation, Inductive Bible Study, looks like it will be a helpful resource for helping people understand how to read the Bible. In the first few months of the year, I look forward to reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for the first time as well as The Last Lion, which everyone says is the definitive biography of Winston Churchill.

A Few Good Reads

November 30, 2016
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

The Sunday After: A Post-Election Lesson from Jimmy Carter
Jennifer Crossley Howard made the trek to Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia the Sunday after the Presidential Election to attend former President Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School class. She recaps discussions with the other people who were there, the process for getting to attend his class, and what he talked about that morning. While I have significant theological issues with many things the former President believes, it was interesting to hear how he addressed his class on this particular Sunday. “When you pull into the parking lot at Maranatha, you’re given a number, and when Jan Williams, the church pianist, calls out your number, you’d better listen and step in line. That secures your spot in the sanctuary. The overflow crowd has to watch Carter on a TV in another room.”

Theology of the Carols: Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Some of the hymns we sing at Christmas are loaded with some amazing theology that informs our understanding of who Jesus is and draws our hearts near to him. In my opinion, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is the best of them. Michael Kelley walks through this wonderful hymn to unpack some of the truth contained in it. “The original lyrics were written by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley, and was called ‘Hymn for Christmas-Day.’ It was included in John Wesley’s collection called Hymns and Sacred Poems that was published in 1739. The great evangelist George Whitefield adapted the lyrics in 1754, changing the opening line to ‘Hark! the Herald Angels sing’ from the original, ‘Hark how all the Welkin rings.’”

How to Read the Major Prophets Devotionally
Mike McKinley helps us understand how we can read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel in a way that draws us nearer to God. “The New Testament authors repeatedly mine these Major Prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel—for themes and prophecies that would illuminate what God was doing in sending his Son. Jesus clearly understood and explained his own ministry in terms laid out by the prophets (Luke 4:16–21). So Christians who want to know their Bible needs to wrestle with these books.”

Deep in the Weeds on MONOGENES and Eternal Generation
Since the Summer there has been a good discussion going on about the Trinity and the proper way to understand the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Many Christians yawn at these kinds of debates, but since they get to the heart of who God is, we should care deeply about them. Denny Burk digs into the Nicene Creed and applies what he sees there to how we translate MONOGENES. Should it be “only-begotten” or “only/unique?” “After reading the Creed in Greek, it immediately became clear to me that the Nicene Fathers’s interpretation of MONOGENES is in direct conflict with a near consensus among modern New Testament scholars.”

Which Old Testament Promises Apply to Me?
John Piper deals with a question that gets to the heart of how we read and grow from reading the Old Testament. “Now, I think that means that in union with Christ, the Messiah, Christians become the heirs of all the promises in the Old Testament. And there are different ways to explain why that is, and one is to realize that in spiritual union with the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, Christians are the messianic people, the true Israel, the heirs of everything promised to the true Israel.”

A Few Good Reads

November 22, 2016
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

We Cannot Complain about America if We Do Not Listen to Others
This year’s Presidential election revealed not just the divides between Americans, but also our complete lack of understanding about those on the other side of the divide. Lore Ferguson Wilbert discusses this problem and shares books we all need to read so that we can better understand our neighbors who are completely unlike us. “If you turn away from those who don’t think like you, you simply cannot complain about the state of politics in American today, you do not have the right to choose an America that only works for you or people just like you. Chance offense or hurt, your own or others, but actually listen to someone with intent to hear them instead of listening with the intent to change their mind. There’s only one who changes minds, and thank the Holy Spirit, it isn’t you.”

9 Things You Should Know about C.S. Lewis
Many Christians have some familiarity with C.S. Lewis through either his novels or better known Christians writings, but few of us know much about him. Joe Carter, as part of his helpful “9 Things You Should Know” series, shares some interesting and important facts about the life of C.S. Lewis. “On November 22, 1963, exactly one week before his 65th birthday, Lewis collapsed in his bedroom at 5:30 p.m. and died a few minutes later. Media coverage of his death was almost completely overshadowed by news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who was killed less than an hour earlier.”

The Lost Art of Feasting
David Mathis contends that we have forgotten how to enjoy a feast together. This is a good reminder as Thanksgiving approaches. “We’ve grown dull to the wonder of ample food and drink through constant use, and overuse. When every day is a virtual feast, we lose the blessing of a real one. When every meal is a pathway to indulgence, not only is fasting lost, but true feasting is as well.”

A Father’s Fight for Joy
I needed to hear this word from Scott James today. Often, in the midst of raising our children, we focus on the difficulties and forget to enjoy them. We can become harsh and negative, forgetting that God offers us gladness and joy in our parenting. “Biblical gladness is not an enemy of parental efficiency or success. Biblical gladness is fuel for the faithful parent. It’s humbling to realize my parenting can be so shortsighted that I forget something as obvious as that.”

Pastors Library: Hillbilly Elegy
I loved J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy and learned a lot as I walked through it last month. At the Lifeway Pastors site, I share what pastors can learn about ministry from this important book. “One of the great ironies of this 21st century is that we are connected to more people that ever while building a bubble for ourselves where we don’t encounter people with opposing viewpoints or people who have a different way of life from ours. This can especially be true of pastors who spend most of their time either writing sermons or ministering to those who are already inside the church.”


Every year the Christmas season provides a great opportunity for believers to reflect on Jesus’ incarnation and how its message should change us. All too often, we don’t begin to think through how we can put these truths before our own hearts and our family until the season is upon us. This year Tim Keller gave us a great gift by releasing his new book, Hidden Christmas, four weeks before the beginning of the Advent season.

I started reading through Hidden Christmas this morning and found myself unable to put it down. Keller works through the narratives of Jesus’ birth from Matthew and Luke as well as the opening paragraph of 1 John. In doing so, he reminds us of our great need for a Savior and the overwhelming grace of God in sending his Son. Hidden Christmas shows how the message of Christmas undermines our pride and self-sufficiency while giving us hope, peace, and security in the process.

As I read I found myself highlighting on almost every page and nearly went through a whole canister of book darts. These are my favorite quotes from Hidden Christmas.

“The emphasis on light in darkness comes from the Christian belief that the world’s hope comes from outside of it… Jesus comes as the Light because we are too spiritually blind to find our own way. Jesus became mortal and died because we are too morally ruined to be pardoned any other way. Jesus gave himself to us, and so we must give ourselves wholly to him.” (2)

“In the Bible the people who actually saw and heard Jesus never reacted indifferently or even mildly. Once they realized what he was claiming about himself, either they were scared of him or furious with him or they knelt down before him and worshipped him. But nobody simply like him. Nobody said, ‘He is so inspiring. He makes me want to live a better life.’ If the baby boy at Christmas is the Mighty God, then you must serve him completely.” (13)

“Christmas means that we are so lost, so unable to save ourselves, that nothing less than the death of the Son of God himself could save us. That means you are not somebody who can pull yourself together and live a moral and good life.” (17)

“Matthew does not begin his story of Jesus’ birth by saying, ‘Once upon a time…’ He says, ‘This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ.’ That means he is grounding what Jesus Christ is and does in history. Jesus is not a metaphor. He is real. This all happened.” (21)

“These Gospel narratives are telling you not what you should do but what God has done. The birth of the Son of God into the world is a gospel, good news, an announcement. You don’t save yourself. God has come to save you.” (22-23)

“People who are excluded by culture, excluded by respectable society, and even excluded by the law of God can be brought in to Jesus’ family. It doesn’t matter your pedigree, it doesn’t matter what you have done, it doesn’t matter whether you have killed people. If you repent and believe in him, the grace of Jesus Christ can cover your sin and unite you with him.” (32) (This is a reflection on the genealogy in Matthew 1 and Jesus coming from the line of the murderer David.)

“It is not the good people who are in and the bad people who are out. Everyone is in only by the grace of Jesus Christ. It is only what Jesus has done for you that can give you standing before God. There is no one, then, not even the greatest human being, who does not need the grace of Jesus Christ. And there is no one, not even the worst human being, who can fail to receive the grace of Jesus Christ if there is repentance and faith.” (33)

“If he is who he said he is, then you have to center your whole life on him. And if he is not who he said he is, then he is someone to hate or run away from. But no other response makes sense.” (46)

“Christmas means, then, that for you and me there is all the hope in the world.” (47)

“The fact that God became human and emptied himself of his glory means that you should not want to hang out only with the people with power and glitz, who are networked and can open doors for you. You need to be willing to go to the people without power, without beauty, without money. That is the Christmas spirit, because God became one of us.” (50)

“Christianity says God has been all of the places you have been; he has been in the darkness you are in now, and more. And, therefore, you can trust him; you can rely on him, because he knows and has the power to comfort, strengthen, and bring you through.” (52)

“Only Jesus says, ‘I have come for the weak. I have come for those who admit they are weak. I will save them not by what they do but through what I do.’ Throughout Jesus’ life, the apostles and the disciples keep saying to him, “Jesus, when are you going to take power and save the world?’ Jesus keeps saying, “You don’t understand. I’m going to lose all my power and die- to save the world.’” (77)

“We should be just a shocked that God would give us- with all our smallness and flaws- such a mighty gift. And so no Christian should ever be far from this astonishment that, ‘I of all people, should be loved and embraced by his grace!’” (89)

“If in order to be at peace we need to be in control, beholden to no one, then we will constantly be afraid, because we learn as life goes on that we are at the mercy of people and forces we can neither predict nor manage.” (113)

“And what about the greatest fear we have- of surrendering control? How can we trust him with our lives? The answer is that the little baby in the manger is the mighty Christ the Lord. So think, perceive, ponder. If the omnipotent Son of God would radically lose control- all for you- then you can trust him. And that should undermine your fear.” (114)

“There is an offensiveness to Jesus himself, and in every time and place it will find expression, and anyone who identifies with him will be seen as offensive too.” (122)

“For one thing, God’s peace comes after the inner conflict of repentance. Repentance is like antiseptic. You pour antiseptic onto a wound and it stings, but it heals. That’s how repentance works. It creates terrible inner turmoil, because you have to admit things you don’t want to admit. You have to acknowledge weakness that you don’t want to acknowledge. However, that’s the only way to the new peace of forgiveness, reconciliation, and forgiveness. And it undermines your pride and self-righteousness, a terrible burden for you to bear, as well as those around you. There’s no way to get into the new peace that repentance brings without going through that pain.” (125)

“When you say, ‘Doctrine doesn’t matter; what matters is that you live a good life,’ that is a doctrine. It is called the doctrine of salvation by your works rather than by grace. It assumes that you are not so bad that you need a Savior, that you are not so weak that you can’t pull yourself together and live as you should. You are actually espousing a whole set of doctrines about the nature of God, humanity, and sin. And the message of Christmas is that they are all wrong.” (131)

“Christmas and the incarnation mean that God went to infinite lengths to make himself one whom we can know personally.” (135)

“The Christ life begins not with high deeds and achievements, but with the most simple and ordinary act of humble asking. Then the life of hope and joy grow in us over the years through commonplace, almost boring practices. Daily obedience, reading and prayer, worship attendance, serving our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as our neighbors, depending on Jesus during times of suffering. And bit by bit our faith will grow, and the foundation of our lives will come closer to that deep river of joy.” (140-141)

Related Posts:
The Best Quotes from The Meaning of Marriage

A Few Good Reads

October 25, 2016
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

Repentant Parenting Isn’t Hypocrisy, It’s the Gospel
Katie Hughes writes about the importance of repenting to our children when we sin against them. In our pride we react against this, but it’s vitally important to do. “Somehow in all the parenting literature and teaching I think we’ve lost the importance of repenting to our own children. Now, don’t get me wrong. Instructing children in the way they should go, when they rise up, when they walk along the way, when they sit down to eat, when they lay down to sleep, is vastly important (Deuteronomy 6).
We are called to it, and it IS indeed vile and disappointing when we don’t live it.
Yet we live on this side of the cross, where the perfect parenting life was lived by Jesus, and our punishment for sinning against God in parenting was taken by the death of Jesus. His life and death make it possible for us to both live holy parenting lives AND repent freely when we don’t.”

Open Bibles, Burning Hearts: A Response to Andy Stanley
I’ve posted links to several articles responding to Andy Stanley’s recent statements on using the Bible in preaching and on Christianity resting on the resurrection instead of the Bible. His arguments have profound implications, so it’s important to know how to think through and respond to them. John Piper summarizes Stanley’s statements accurately and then works through them in a way that shows why they are rooted in right intentions but ultimately fall short. “So my concluding suggestion is this: join Andy Stanley in caring deeply about winning “post-Christians”; join him in moving beyond simplistic and naïve-sounding shibboleths; join him in cultural awareness and insight into your audience; join him in the excellence of his teaching and communication skills; and join him in his belief in the complete truthfulness of the Bible. And then spend eight years blowing your people’s post-Christian circuits by connecting the voltage of every line in the book of Romans with their brains.”

What Does It Mean to Fear God?
I have been preaching through Proverbs for the last couple of months and have been reading it every day for many years. Proverbs begins with, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and we are often confused by what this means. R.C. Sproul helpfully clarifies how we should understand this important phrase. “If we really have a healthy adoration for God, we still should have an element of the knowledge that God can be frightening. “It is a frightening thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). As sinful people, we have every reason to fear God’s judgment; it is part of our motivation to be reconciled with God.”

Blessed are the Undistracted
Have you noticed how often we get distracted by buzzing phones or email notifications? We seem to live in constant distraction and this carries over into our worship. Matthew Westerholm shares five tips for dealing with our tendency towards distraction in worship. “And distractions do not stay in the car when we enter into church on a Sunday morning. We arrive with the intent to worship Jesus with focus. But the burdens of our week, the tensions of our morning, the children by our side, the anxiety of our upcoming schedule, and the wandering of our thoughts all conspire to distract us.”

Exodus 4:18-31: Made Like His Brothers in Every Way
Peter Krol at Knowable Word gives a great example of how to study a biblical text using the Observation, Interpretation, Application model that you can read about in Howard and William Hendrick’s Living By the Book. “The terminology of this section has much overlap with Genesis 46, where Jacob and his family move to Egypt: go back to Egypt, see if my brother(s) is/are still alive, took wife and sons, describe what they rode on, preparing to meet Pharaoh, encounter with Yahweh at a lodging place along the way, repetition of “people” and “son,” brother coming the other way from Egypt to meet him, happy reunion. Really, you should read Genesis 46:1-34 back-to-back with Exodus 4:18-31. You can’t miss all the similarities.”

Instead of a Late-Term Abortion for My Disabled Child; I Chose Life
Casey Fiano reflects on the debate about late-term abortion that has been spawned by last week’s Presidential debate. She does this through the lens of her own personal experience of having her son diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome while he was still in the womb. “People with disabilities are quite clearly seen as not deserving of life. Rather than seeing this for the eugenicist outlook that it is, this attitude is applauded and encouraged. It’s disturbing that this is where we have come as a society, where killing your preborn baby because he or she has a disability is now “compassionate” and “brave,” as opposed to the horrifying tragedy that it is.”

A Few Good Reads

October 19, 2016
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

The Biblical Necessity of Judging Others
Our culture loves to quote Matthew 7:1 as a way of silencing Christians for their critiques of wayward morality. Unfortunately, many Christians wrongly quote this verse to other believers who are called false doctrine to account or pointing out where people are not walking in step with what it means to follow Jesus. David Prince explains what this verse does mean and what it doesn’t mean. “The entire Sermon on the Mount requires moral judgments to be made by the followers of king Jesus. Elsewhere, Paul urges the followers of Christ, ‘Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil’ (1 Thess 5:21-22). The word translated test in this verse means ‘to prove, verify, examine prior to approval, judge, evaluate, discern’ (Ceslas Spicq, the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament [TLNT]).”

Hillbillies: My Kinsmen According to the Flesh
I loved J.D. Vance’s book “Hillbilly Elegy.” Here Jeff Robinson reviews it and shares his thoughts on how Vance accurately portrayed the struggles in rural America. Then he shows how the Gospel addresses the root of these terrible issues.  “Vance rightly detects the odd dichotomy of a people who hold affinity for Jesus, but none for his church. Personal transformation is a community project, so we need each other. We need churches that are serious about being the church.”

Nine Characteristics of a Real Man
In the last two weeks, we have heard a lot of talk about how “all men” act a certain way and what they discuss. Vince Miller explains who God has created men to be and what a man who is truly being conformed into Jesus’ image looks like. “We need a better definition of masculinity, and who better to define what masculinity is than the Creator himself. When God created life, he reached down to touch and mold man from the earth. With care and intimacy, he created man in a distinctive way. Ultimately, we learn that God is embedding his own image into man.”

10 Tips for Leading Kids to Christ
For those of us who are raising children, seeing them come to know Jesus stands as one of our life’s chief preoccupations. Jason Allen shares ten helpful tips to help us along the way. “Be faithful to teach them the Word, to shape their hearts, and, yes, to indoctrinate them. Even if your church is healthy enough to outsource your kid’s spiritual formation, do not do it. It is unbiblical, and it robs you of some of life’s greatest joys.”

The Power of a Dinner Table
When I think about my childhood, the first image that comes to my mind is our family dinner table. Around that table I experienced a lot of laughs, heard a lot of great stories, and received a fair share of correction. David Brook talks about the power of a dinner table, and how it can be a place where people find real friendship and community. “The problems facing this country are deeper than the labor participation rate and ISIS. It’s a crisis of solidarity, a crisis of segmentation, spiritual degradation and intimacy.”

A Few Good Reads

October 7, 2016
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

A Few Tips for Raising Boys
I need all the help I can when it comes to raising my children, so I was thankful to see some solid advice from David Murray on raising sons. “Be patient. This is perhaps the greatest challenge to us today. We expect instant results from our teaching and our discipline, but usually the fruit takes many years to even show a little green shoot. In the meantime, impatience, anger, and bad temper can destroy relationships and communication.”

Jesus Always, the Sequel to Jesus Calling
Tim Challies offers some thoughts on Sarah Young’s new devotional book Jesus Always. In short, Challies shows the major theological issues with the claims she originally made about the source of the devotions. “The big claim in her little books is that the words come to the reader from Jesus through her. At least, that was the claim ofJesus Calling and, as far as I know, it has not been retracted. Instead, it has been removed. If you are enthusiastic aboutJesus Calling or wondering about Jesus Always, this is the one claim you must face head-on. You cannot treat Jesus Always as just another Christian book when Young herself claims it is so much more.”

Where are the Gentlemen Theologians?
Unfortunately, the church often mimics what is taking place in the world. This year’s highly-charged, uncivil discourse has worked its way into the church’s theological discussions. Jason Duesing shares a great story about Roger Nicole and uses it to show the type of men and women we ought to be as we discuss theological issues. “If we consider someone a brother in Christ, and come to think what they’ve written or said denies a major standard of Christian orthodoxy, then, in the spirit of civil kindness, I think first a face-to-face meeting or phone call is advisable instead of a citation of condemnation in one’s public musings.”

Why Are Millions of Men Choosing Not to Work?
The percentage of working age men who are not currently seeking employment is approaching late Great Depression era numbers. George Will reflects on the new book Men Without Work by looking at the loss of meaning that can often go along with idleness and a lack of productivity. “Eberstadt, noting that the 1996 welfare reform “brought millions of single mothers off welfare and into the workforce,” suggests that policy innovations that alter incentives can reverse the “social emasculation” of millions of idle men. Perhaps. Reversing social regression is more difficult than causing it. One manifestation of regression, Donald Trump, is perhaps perverse evidence that some of his army of angry men are at least healthily unhappy about the loss of meaning, self-esteem, and masculinity that is a consequence of chosen and protracted idleness.”

Eaten by Lions, Facebook Style
Apparently, I am not the only one whose Facebook news feed often reads like some kind of alternative universe. Often many of the worse conspiracy theories about some of the best people can take off because people do not take the time to investigate what they read or say. “The appeal of conspiracy theories is that they offer a counterintuitive kind of comfort: If the conspiracy is real and if the deck really is stacked against me, then that means that the world is fundamentally not my fault. I am right about the way things should be; in fact, that’s the way things really are! The problem is that these people in power over me are using every waking hour to keep me in the dark. Change is impossible because it’s not in my hands. Life can go on as normal.”

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that Can Radically Change Your Family
Paul Tripp’s newest book looks like it will be a great tool for parents. Learning to build on the foundation of the Gospel to drive our parenting is something from which we could all benefit. “Freed from the burden of trying to manufacture life-change in our children’s hearts, we can embrace a grand perspective of parenting overflowing with vision, purpose, and joy.”

A Few Good Reads

September 27, 2016
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

The Church Needs the Bible
I’ll share a couple of posts on this issue today, but the church seems to be losing its grasp on the necessity of Scripture for its life and doctrine. Erik Raymond helpfully argues that the church needs the Bible to be the center of everything we do. “Christians who are being shaped by what the Bible says about the church will demand that the Word be central to everything that is done. There must be preaching from the Bible, teaching on the Bible, discipleship in the Bible, prayer in light of the Bible, community through what is in the Bible, discussions on the Bible. The same Word that gives life to the church is to actually shape the life of the church.”

Is the Bible Foundational to Christianity? Engaging with Andy Stanley
Andy Stanley’s recent sermon, “The Bible Tells Me So,” makes several foundational claims about the Bible that need to be answered. Here Michael Kruger summarizes his main points and responds to them. “But while Stanley has correctly diagnosed the disease, serious questions remain about whether he has offered an adequate cure. Indeed, in many ways, his suggested cure becomes problematic enough that one begins to wonder whether it just might be more troubling than the disease itself.”

For the Bible Tells Me So: Biblical Authority…Again
Speaking of Andy Stanley’s recent sermon, Al Mohler has weighed in as well. Dr. Mohler’s background in historical theology helps us see that we have been here before. “Some years ago, in light of another message Stanley preached at North Point, I argued that his apologetic ambition was, as we saw with Protestant liberalism a century ago, a road that will lead to disaster.”

Seven Principles for Angry Parents Disciplining Angry Children
Every parent knows the surge of anger that can go along with disciplining and correcting our children. However, we know that our anger never accomplishes anything of lasting value in parenting since, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Kevin DeYoung lays out some principles to help us as we navigate our anger and our children’s disobedience. “The goal is for children to be less angry, not for parents to join them in their fury. An explosion of anger often feels good, and it may even yield short-term results, but the fruit is behaviorism more than gospel sweetness. I can think of many times I’ve had to go back to my kids later and tell them I was sorry for responding to their sin in a sinful way.”

A Citizen’s Bill of Responsibility
Brett McKay has some great thoughts at The Art of Manliness on what responsibilities are attached to the rights we are granted by the Constitution. An entitled people need to hear this clarion call to accept the duties that go along with our privileges. “The simple act of casting a vote in and of itself is often seen as the ultimate expression of citizenship; but voting in ignorance is no better — in fact is often worse — than not voting at all. As the Scout manual admonishes, “Be a thinking citizen, not a thoughtless one.”

Being There: How to Love Those Who are Hurting
We often struggle to know how to come alongside suffering people. Dave Furman knows what it is like to need help on a daily basis, and offers counsel to those who have a heart to help. “Furman draws on his own life experiences, examples from the Bible, and wisdom from Christians throughout history to address the heart and ministry of those who are called to serve others. Deeply personal and powerfully pastoral, this book points readers to the strength that only God can provide as they love those who are hurting.”

A Few Good Reads

September 14, 2016
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

Six Reasons Why Adultery is Very Serious
Hardly a day passes without us hearing the story of another home torn apart by the foolishness of adultery. This sin breaks the marriage covenant, scars our conscience, and sends confusing messages about who Jesus is. Tim Challies helps us understand how serious this sin and its consequences can be. “Adultery is inherently secretive, inherently dishonest. It has to be because no one wants to trumpet that they are breaking a promise. Adultery loves the darkness and flees the light and for as long as it can it tries to remain a secret.”

Reading for the Rest of Us
“How do you find so much time to read?” This question has always bothered me. There’s not some time fairy who hangs around my office helping me find magic slots of time to accomplish things. We don’t magically find time to read; we make it. Sam Bierig offers some practical thoughts so we can do so more effectively. “Don’t be afraid to have multiple books going at the same time. I find that when I am reading multiple books at the same time, I finish more books—more than I do when plowing through only one book at a time. Crushing two or three small books while plodding through a larger work motivates me to read.”

How to Parent Like a Coward
We all make many mistakes in parenting, but a particular set of problems begin to creep in when we become afraid of calling our children out on their poor behavior. Michael Kelley walks through a few ways this temptation manifests itself. “As our kids have gotten older, I’ve found remnants of that old fear coming back again and again as we try the best we can to make decisions for our family. In the midst of all of them, I am finding that active, gracious, intentional, consistent parenting is not for the faint of heart. It takes strength, resolve, and most of all, faith.”

My 3 Biggest Fears as a Teenager”
We will be navigating the teenage years in our house in the near future and I want to do my best to understand how to best guide my children through these often difficult years. Because of this, I was grateful for Jaquelle Crow’s post on the fears teenagers face. “As a teen just now crossing into the threshold of adulthood, I’m all too familiar with the fears of adolescence. All that instability, confusion, and decision-making can be stressful and even painful. I’ve laid awake at night because of a melting pot of fears bubbling in my mind, poisoning my peace.”

Hidden Christmas
This new book by Tim Keller will be a great help to us as we approach the Christmas season. We always need to be reminded of the great truths surrounding the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. “By understanding the message of hope and salvation within the Bible’s account of Jesus’s birth, readers will experience the redeeming power of God’s grace in a meaningful and deeper way.”

A Few Good Reads

September 8, 2016
photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

photo credit: solidether via photopin cc

Andy Stanley’s Statements about the Bible are not Cutting Edge—They’re Old Liberalism
Andy Stanley has caused no small amount of controversy in the last few weeks over his new sermon series. “Who Needs God” is designed to address those who grew up in church but later abandoned the faith. Stanley’s desire to bring folks who walked away from the church back into the fold is laudable, but the message he has been preaching goes astray. David Prince helpfully walks through what Stanley has been teaching and shows that his message isn’t that new. In fact we went through this 100 years ago. His response blends biblical exegesis with relevant historical theology, and we need to hear it. “Stanley argues that our faith is based on the resurrection and not the Bible. Severing the Scriptures from the resurrection is the very thing that Jesus said could not be done, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead’ (Luke 16:31).”

Simple Ways to Spark a Lukewarm Devotional Life
We all know what it is like for our devotional life to suffer. There are times our Bible reading and prayer times feel as stale as old bread. Tim Challies offers some practical ideas for breathing life into your devotional times again. “Sometimes a plan is the problem and sometimes a plan is the solution. If your reading is infrequent and unstructured, why don’t you think about finding and following a plan? While we typically think of annual plans that begin in January, there are also great plans that run for weeks or months. A three- or four-month plan may be just the thing to get you through to the end of the year.”

Grieve Your Loss in Another’s Pain
In an excerpt from his new book, Being There: How to Love Those Who are Hurting, Dave Furman talks about the loss his wife Gloria has experienced in helping him through his physical disability. He shows why it is okay for those who care for another who is in pain to grieve the loss they experience through the care that they give. “In some ways, our grief as Christians is amplified because our hearts of stone have been made hearts of flesh, and now we hurt for other people differently. You hurt for your family and friends who are suffering. It’s imperative that you’re honest about the pain that you’re going through. Rather than just trying harder and keeping it to yourself, it’s important that you grieve your loss and come to terms with reality.”

The Haunted Hayride of Human Approval
I would rather be beaten with a stick than to disappoint people. This is not an overstatement, I struggle mightily with the desire to please people, and I know I am not the only one. The desire to make everyone happy is an endless treadmill that leaves you exhausted and empty on the inside. Marshall Segal helps us understand the danger of longing for human approval and the antidote for it that we find in the Gospel. “Perhaps the single most significant hindrance to Christian witness in the world today is our hunger for human approval. By nature, we think more about what people think of us than about what they think of Jesus. We crave acceptance and dread rejection — which inclines us toward whatever might improve others’ perception of us. And that will very rarely, if ever, lead us to call them to repent from their sin and believe the gospel.”

Married for God: Making Your Marriage the Best it Can Be
Few families in our culture have been untouched by the pain of divorce. It seems that in our culture that is obsessed with personal happiness, we are willing to quickly jettison a marriage when things get hard, not realizing that there is a greater purpose in marriage or that enduring through the hard times makes a marriage more joyful in the end. In this new book, Christopher Ash reminds us of the beauty and sacredness of marriage by pointing us to the truth that we are married for reasons bigger than our own happiness. “By realigning our hopes, expectations, and goals for marriage according to the Bible, we will discover the deep joy and lasting fulfillment that comes from a God-centered marriage.”