Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Worthy Books from 2008

Note: These are not necessarily books published in 2008, but rather books I read or reread in 2008, that stick in my memory as notable in some way. I regret that I did not keep as good a record of books read as I usually do, which is unfortunate since I read more books this year than I have in previous years.

These are presented in no particular order.

When Sinners Say I Do (Dave Harvey) - An excellent book on marriage, among the best that I have read. It is good for all couples, whether with problems or without. I have used it for premarital counseling as well.

The Complete Husband (Lou Priolo) - An excellent book for husbands,complete with practical steps to be a godly husband. Men, just don't let your wife see it. She will raise her expectations.

Depression (Ed Welch) - Welch deals with this topic is a sensitive way, but loaded up with Scripture. This is neither a "get over it" book, nor a "get the meds" book. It deals with a tough topic in a biblical way that neither minimizes it nor glorifies it. (Though I didn't read it this year, I am reminded of Welch's Addictions: Banquet in a Grave. It is the best book I have read on life-dominating sins.)

Seeker Small Groups (Gary Poole) - From Willow Creek Resources, this is not a book about how to "do church" so to speak. It is a book about how to engage unbelievers in spiritual conversation with the goal of seeing them converted. This methodology fits well in any kind of church. If you are going to do "seeker" ministry, this is the way to do it.

Kingdom of Priests (Eugene Merrill) - An excellent history of OT Israel from an excellent writer and scholar. It contains a breadth of extra-biblical data that helps to place the biblical record in its historical context, while holding unashamedly to a high view of Scripture.

Toward an Exegetical Theology (Walter C. Kaiser) - An older volume, both worth rereading in terms of the exegetical process for preaching.

Cracking OT Codes (Brent Sandy and Ronald Geise) - A book on interpreting the various OT genres. Excellent for those who want to give  more thought to how we should interpret the various literary genres in the OT Scriptures.

Turning the Tide (Nigel Cawthorne) - A recounting of the significant battles of World War II. It is a very fascinating overview, particularly of the Pacific Campaign. It is surprisingly poor in terms of publishing quality (numerous typos), but it is a good read. These types of books always provide me with a plethora of illustration ideas for preaching and teaching.

On Being a Pastor (Derek Prime and Alistair Begg) - I have picked this book up at the end of the year to reread it and am reminded again that it is an excellent book on the nuts and bolts of pastoral ministry.

Do I even need to say that inclusion in this list is not a blanket endorsement of the book itself, the author, the ministry of the author, anyone cited in the book, or all the theology of the book?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Things to Read (in your spare time)

Here's an interesting article on NFL quarterback Kurt Warner who is very outspoken about his faith, even to the point that teammates wouldn't come to his house because they didn't know if they would get preached at or not. It is an interesting read about the Christianity of someone in the spotlight. I have never been a big fan of people who use Jesus as a line in a post-game press conference, and I am not sure that the endzone is the best place to pray, but the article is worth a quick read.

Here's an article by Greg Gilbert at 9 Marks on the hot topic of the church and the cultural mandate. In the age of the emerging church, people from all across the spectrum of the EC have a renewed interest in social justice as a legitimate pursuit of the church as an institution (as opposed to the legitimate pursuit of the Christian as an individual).

IMO, there are two extremes that are both easy to reach. On the one hand it is easy to say that the church itself has no social or cultural responsibility. Just preach the gospel and don't worry about the culture. On the other hand, it is easy to say that the church must pursue the social transformation of the community that it is a part of, even to the point of making social and cultural transformation a part of the gospel itself (which led to the social gospel of the late 1800s and early 1900s, in which the message of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection for sin was replaced by a message of social justice). I think Gilbert gives some helpful insights to begin thinking about this topic.

Lastly, here is an excerpt from D. A. Carson on the nature of preaching. It is great for the pastor, and good for the church member. Dear church members, please be gentle with us pastors, and pray that  we might measure up to the great task of declaring the glory and truth of God from his word.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Walton on Jepthah's Daughter

OT Scholar John Walton weighs in on the always ticklish passage concerning Jepthah's vow and the subsequent sacrifice of his daughter (Judges 11:29-40). Of course, you are likely familiar with the tension--Did Jepthah actually offer her as a human sacrifice? Or did he merely commit her to temple service.

Walton says,

It can therefore be concluded that Jephthah is anticipating a human sacrifice. If his expectation is clear and the intended action is clear, the text leaves us no legitimate alternatives.

I admit to not being entirely convinced, but only because, like most of us, I object to human sacrifice. But Walton's case is pretty strong.

It brings to mind how often we let our own sensibilities weigh in on the interpretation of a passage. If something doesn't "fit" in our minds, we look for other alternatives, regardless of what the text says.

While God certainly does not expect us to check our common sense at the door of Bible study, he does expect us to recognize that the text is inspired and infallible, rather than our own sensibilities.

So if something in the Bible does not fit with my own thinking, I should first suspect my thinking.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Spoke More Than He Knows?

An op-ed piece in the NY Times by Frank  Rich quotes Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson on Rick Warren's inclusion in the inaugural ceremony of Barack Obama:

“I’m all for Rick Warren being at the table,” he told The Times, but “we’re talking about putting someone up front and center at what will be the most-watched inauguration in history, and asking his blessing on the nation. And the God that he’s praying to is not the God that I know.”

While I think Rick Warren is too often too much about Rick Warren and not enough about Jesus, and while I think this inaugural prayer may be unwise on many different levels, I am fairly confident that Rick Warren holds a biblical position on homosexuality.

And Robinson is right: The God that Warren is praying to is not the god that Robinson knows.

If Robinson knew God, he would be living differently.

In a time where issues of homosexuality are becoming increasingly visible, Christians must renew their commitment to biblical love for those made in the image of God. And that love means loving people enough not to let them continue in these destructive lifestyles. The intolerance of others such as Rich and Robinson towards Christianity must not be returned to them.

We must respond with gracious tact and a firm commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ that gives a real alternative lifestyle along with the hope of heaven.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas

This is a nice early Christmas present, even if it was a little hard to get out of the wrapping. But well worth it ...

Her name is Elyse Maelinda Rogier. She was born December 20 at 1:58 p.m., and was 7 pounds, 11 ounces.

Mom and baby are fine. Dad and Laran are surviving, but it's no fun without Mama around the house.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Practical Theology for Women - Wendy Horger Alsup

Several years ago my friend Wendy Alsup sent me a manuscript for a booklet she was using in a women's class she teaches at her church. I read it through, made some comments, sent it back to her, and forgot about it. This past summer Wendy emailed me that her booklet, now titled Practical Theology for Women, had been published by Crossway Books. She very graciously sent me a copy of the book, and I was delighted to read it again.

Simply put, I like this book. It is short, just 152 small-sized pages, but it is filled with good meat that will provide great fodder for discussion and growth, whether used personally or in a group.

The book is based on the idea that theology is not just for men; it is for women. As Wendy puts  it, "No matter where our husbands, fathers, or pastors may be in their spiritual journey, when we ladies grow in our understanding of God's character and attributes, it can only be a blessing for our homes, our marriages, and our churches" (p. 22).

The book contains fifteen chapters divided into three parts: 1) What is Theology? 2) Who Is Our God? and 3) Communicating with Our God. In these chapters Wendy lays out a solid theology of who God is and how we should relate to him. It is thoroughly saturated with Scripture that is applied to the milieu of daily life.

Wendy has written a book of basic theology. It is not deep.It doesn't delve into deep thorny issues of theology proper. At the same time, this is not a book that is lightweight or filled with fluff. Aside from the Preface, it is fairly light on stories and it won't make you laugh a lot. It will simply drive you to know God more, and to know him in a way that overflows into the practices of your life.

This book can be profitably enjoyed by people from all levels of spiritual maturity and theological knowledge, though it seems geared towards those with less knowledge and experience in the Word.

The downside of this book? Men might not read it because of its title. I would recommend buying your wife a copy and reading it for yourself.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Might Be Interesting

English Professor Alan Jacobs wrote an article in which he lamented the blogosphere as "the friend of information but the enemy of thought." He had some excellent stuff to say.

Now this same Alan Jacobs is launching his own blog called Text Patterns.

It might be interesting to read how a man who doesn't particularly like blogs keeps one.

I have added it to my blogreader just in case it is good. I can always hit delete in a year or two (which is about how long blogs stay on my blogreader after I have ceased to find them interesting ... but I never want to miss anything).

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Great Lie of American Consumerism

Commenting on the recent Black Friday death of a Walmart worker, Leonard Pitts, Jr. says this:

We say children are a priority, but when did people ever press against the door for parents' night at school? We say education is a priority, but when did people ever bang against the windows of the library? We say faith is a priority, but when did people ever surge into a temple of worship as eagerly as they do a temple of commerce?

No, sale prices on iPods, that's our true priority. Jdimytai Damour died because too many of us have bought, heart and soul, into the great lie of American consumerism: Acquiring stuff will make you whole.


Hey, you may be a total loser, may not have a friend, may not have an education, may not have a job, may not have a clue, but it will all be OK as soon as you get that new Canon digital camera, especially if you get it for 50% off.

The truth is that Christians whose hope should be other worldly as just as likely to be caught in the "stuff" idolatry as the next guy.

We should be different. But we're not.

It is to our shame.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Mark Dever on Evangelism

I played golf with Mark Dever today (to cop a line from my friend Chris Anderson) while he talked about evangelism.

This message on "Evangelism for the Pastor or Preacher" is worth the time to listen to. In it, he addresses the priority of evangelism in both personal life and preaching.

He makes some interesting observations including the fact that many pastors are woefully disconnected from evangelism. Many view the pastorate as an opportunity for a Christian desk job and they lose their passion for the lost.

He suggests the pastorate should be almost a begrudging work (my words, not his) since it takes one away from regular contact with the lost. He does not mean that negatively necessarily, but he makes a comment to the affect that it is something a man should do for the sake of the kingdom, not in order to get out of evangelism.

He also has some good suggestions about evangelistic preaching, reminding us that an evangelistic message is not one with a "come-forward" invitation, or a sweaty preacher that yells. An evangelistic message is not even one devoted solely to seeing people come to Christ. An evangelistic message is determined by the presence of the gospel.

I recommend you listen to it sometime.