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2015/16 Summer Reading

As with previous Summers I have stayed away from social media (blogs, FB, Twitter, etc.) from Christmas through January. As in previous Summers I have thoroughly enjoyed the time and wonder why I would ever go back…

Technically January isn’t over yet and I am still staying away from social media with the exception of this blog post. 🙂

I have enjoyed a fruitful Summer of reading.

Like previous Summers I read a book requested of me by my wife. This year that book was, Amazing Grace : William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. A superb read, encouraging, challenging, and convicting. I pray I will stand faithful in my generation against all odds trusting in Christ fully as Wilberforce.

In addition I read the following books. I will just list them here rather than make comments. They have all be helpful and are books I would recommend.

Baptist Foundations : Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age

The Baptist Story : From English Sect to Global Movement

God’s Glory Alone – The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life : What the Reformers Taught…and Why it Still Matters

Grace Works! : And Ways We Think It Doesn’t

The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther

The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield

The Mighty Weakness of John Knox

Onward : Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel

The Thunder : A Novel on John Knox

Fool’s Talk : Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion (I am nearly finished with this book. It is easily the most significant book I have read this Summer. Truly profound, excellently written, deeply thoughtful, immensely helpful. Ought to be required reading for anyone who thinks they are interested in apologetics.)

Oh, yeah I forgot… I was given a pre-publication e-copy of Christopher Ash’s new book, Zeal without Burnout: Seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice, which I also read with real benefit. (This book is based on a talk he gave at the 2014 Truth for Life Conference. You can listen here, or watch here.)

I managed to finish another book before my “Summer Reading” time concluded, Knowing Christ by Mark Jones. This book as been described something like, “the book J.I. Packer could have and perhaps should have written but wasn’t able to.” It is truly magnificent. Unlike any other book on the person of Christ I have ever read. Each chapter is very short. It would be an excellent book to read slowly, one chapter a day or something, over the course of a month or so.

On the last day of my “Summer Reading” I was able to finish a classic. One I’ve read before many years ago. John Marray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied has been recently republished with a forward by Carl Trueman. This is a significant and important book for understanding the fullness of a believer’s redemption in Christ and the benefits in daily life.

 
 

John Wesley’s Instructions for Singing

I’m reading Fred Sanders’ Wesley on the Christian Life with great interest. This is the third volume in this seriesI’ve read and I found the other two very helpful. Additionally I know less about Wesley than the subject of the previous two volumes read, Luther & Calvin.

Of course, John’s brother Charles was a great (arguably second only to Isaac Watts in the English language) hymn writer. Sanders says the following regarding Charles’ hymns:

“Charles Wesley seems to have memorised the Bible and to have had it always on the tip of his tongue. A really dense Wesley hymn can somehow manage to fit three Scripture references in two lines. It zips along without clutter, but if you stop to unpack how much is being said, suggested, and alluded to, it takes a full page of exposition that exhausts the reader but not the hymn.” (Sanders, Wesley on the Christian Life, pg. 92.)

John Wesley penned the following instructions regarding congregational singing:

Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.

Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

 
 

John Wesley’s “Twelve Rules for Helpers” – 1744

I’m reading Fred Sanders’ Wesley on the Christian Life with great interest. This is the third volume in this series I’ve read and I found the other two very helpful. Additionally I know less about Wesley than the subject of the previous two volumes read, Luther & Calvin.

As Wesley began to train and equip lay men for the task of preaching, he outlined for them “12 Rules for Helpers”. They are worth reading and considering seriously even in our day.

1. Be diligent. Never be unemployed a moment. Never be triflingly employed. Never while away time; neither spend any more time at any place than is strictly necessary.

2. Be serious. Let your motto be, “Holiness to the Lord.” Avoid all lightness, jesting, and foolish talking.

3. Converse sparingly and cautiously with women; particularly, with young women.

4. Take no step toward marriage, without first consulting with your brethren.

5. Believe evil of no one; unless you see it done, take heed how you credit it. Put the best construction on everything. You know the Judge is always supposed to be on the prisoner’s side.

6. Speak evil of no one; else your word especially would eat as doth a canker. Keep your thoughts within your own breast, till you come to the person concerned.

7. Tell every one what you think wrong in him, and that plainly, as soon as may be; else it will fester in your heart. Make all haste to cast the fire out of your bosom.

8. Do not affect the gentleman. You have no more to do with this character than with that of a dancing-master. A Preacher of the gospel is the servant of all.

9. Be ashamed of nothing but sin: Not of fetching wood (if time permit) or drawing water; not of cleaning your own shoes, or your neighbour’s.

10. Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And in general, do not mend our Rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.

11. You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those that want you, but to those that want you most.

12. Act in all things, not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel. As such, it is your part to employ your time in the manner which we direct; partly, in preaching and visiting from house to house; partly, in reading, meditation, and prayer. Above all, if you labour with us in our Lord’s vineyard, it is needful that you should do that part of the work which we advise, at those times and places which we judge most for his glory.

You can download a beautifully scripted version of these “12 Rules” here. (HT:Jonathan Andersen)

 
 

Holding Your Eschatological Convictions with Grace

For quite some time, as a family, we have been reading Richard Belcher’s Theological Novels. We are nearly finished with A Journey in Eschatology.

Of the seven volumes read thus far, this has been the most challenging to read out loud to the family. The material presented is quite complex and thorough. Yet, the narrative storyline has been sufficiently interesting to keep the children’s attention. They regularly ask if we can read more!

I found the chapter titled “Can We Agree on the Second Coming?” very encouraging, challenging, and helpful.

“I suggested to him that we list some principles concerning the Second Coming of Chris that whereby Christians who hold various views could find strong agreement. I began to list them as follows:

  1. The doctrine of the Second Coming should cause our hearts to rejoice because we all would agree that Christ is coming back physically, bodily, visibly, suddenly, and gloriously.
  2. As we study this doctrine, we should focus on Him, and not on minute intricate details, demanding that all agree with us, or we will not fellowship with them.
  3. As we study this doctrine, we should study it humbly and graciously, not academically and theoretically, seeking to apply that which we learn to our hearts and lives in a manner that it will lead us to godly, Christ-like living.
  4. Thus we should be able to judge our hearts as to whether or not we are studying this doctrine correctly, as we see what attitude it is producing in us – humility, graciousness, love for Christ and others, worship, praise and adoration, or pride, sharpness of attitude, loss of love for Christ for others, division, grieving of the spirit of worship, and vile passions rather than godly passions.
  5. Thus we should be able to judge our actions to how this study affects us, as we see whether we have a pride of knowledge, longing to be able to out-argue others, become offended because others cannot see it the way we do, and feel a sense of superiority because we have it all put together (we think) in a fullness of knowledge from which others must draw and agree.
  6. Are there not some key ideas that all views should see alike and emphasize?
    1. Christ is the only Saviour and only Lord who will come back someday in power and great glory to defeat and judge all of His enemies with an eternal separation from Him, and to bless and reward all of His saints with an eternal presence with Him.
    2. God’s people in the meantime should live holy and godly lives preaching the truth to every creature and to every corner of the earth whether the lost world around us receives or rejects the gospel, or whether they receive or reject us or even kill us.
    3. God’s people should be ready and watching for His coming, because it will make no difference if we are perfect in our interpretation of Biblical prophecy if we are not read for His coming. All the expertise and knowledge will be to no avail, if we are found wanting in the day of His coming.
    4. The enemy is the devil, not other Christians, and our energy and efforts should be forged against him, not against other Christians with whom we may disagree in these areas of Bible prophecy.
  7. That there are some views that would set one in a camp of heresy, such as the following, though we cannot possibly give a complete list:
    1. To deny Christ is coming back.
    2. To deny Christ is coming back bodily.
    3. To deny Christi is coming back victoriously over all His enemies whether men or angels or demons, whether Satan and all his power.
    4. To believe that anyone can state the day or the hour [of His return].
    5. To believe that His coming will not include the resurrection of lost to their eternal damnation nor the resurrection of the saved to their glorification and His eternal presence.”

I happily & heartedly commend this entire series to everyone and every family!

 

My Top 10 Books of 2014

Well, it seems the thing to do each December, so I’ll join the fun and list here my top 10 reads from 2014, in no particular order.

  1. Selina: Countess of Huntingdon by Faith Cook. I try to always be in the process of reading a biography. This proved to be one of the most enjoyable I’ve read in a long time. Selina was a friend and contemporary of Whitefield and the Wesley brothers (along with many others during the Great Awakening) and used her position and finances to help enable their ministries.
  2. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective – A fantastic read. Very challenging and helpful. I found myself better able to think Biblically about a very important doctrine and to consider carefully its practical implications.
  3. Journey of Grace (Theological Novels) by Richard Belcher – I have been reading these books to the family most evenings. We’ve now read the first six volumes. They are fantastic. Excellent stories that keep the kids attention yet, all the while, teaching solid theology. Really unlike anything else I am aware of. I can’t recommend these more highly for families and/or individuals.
  4. Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti Anyabwile – I found myself, due to the kind providence of God, planting a church this year with a great group of believers here in Rolleston. This book proved timely and extremely helpful in equipping me to think carefully about who and how to appoint as leaders in Christ’s church.
  5. 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches – There’s actually seven books in this series. They are each excellent. They are short and concise, yet thorough. These are highly recommended to anyone who loves this church.
  6. Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide & Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty by Brett McCracken – two books which have some overlap in content and intention. I was surprised how helpful, informative, and challenging I found these books. I seriously think these two ought to be required reading for anyone in ministry or considering ministry under the age of 40 (at least).
  7. Christ-centred Biblical Theology: Hermeneutical Foundations and Principles by Graeme Goldsworthy – I try to read a volume of Biblical Theology each year. This was my choice for 2014. I found Goldsworthy helpful and challenging. I wouldn’t agree with every point, I think he finds Christ in places and ways I am not sure is intended. However, I was helped to think and for that I am thankful.
  8. C. S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath – An excellent new biography on the life of a profoundly influential 20th century author and intellect. I learned a lot about Lewis, the era in which he lived, and his influence on Christians today.
  9. Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? by Randy Alcorn – I teach ethics and try to read up on related materials often. This is an older book but one I was unfamiliar with until it was recommend to me by a friend. I found Alcorn’s evidence and arguments compelling and convincing.
  10. A Controversial Churchman: Essays on George Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand and Lichfield, and Sarah Selwyn by Allan Davidson – I found this book really cheap on a discount table. I don’t think I would have ever gone looking for it. I decided to read it as I now live in the district named after Selwyn and I have heard bits about him over the years. I am very glad I read the book as it provided me with a number of insights into the early years of the church here in New Zealand and helped me to see many of the roots to the current mess the church is in today.
 
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Posted by on 21/12/2014 in Books, Ministry, New Zealand

 

2015 Planned Theology Reading

For the last several years I have sought to read a major theological work by scheduling a reading plan. (See more here.)

I am convinced I need to read sound, deep, and profound theology regularly as this practice helps shape my thinking. It assists me in thinking carefully and rightly according to God’s Word about God, myself, the church, and the world.

In addition this practice increases my love for Christ as I am helped to more fully grasp His nature, character, and work.

I read a lot of other, smaller books throughout the year. However, second to my daily Bible reading, I am convinced this is the most important reading I do.

I schedule this reading through the year for several reasons:

  1. These types of books are generally very large and are not the type of books one just sits down to read in a sitting (at least not me).
  2. With a life that is quite full of other responsibilities a schedule helps me to be reasonable in my attempt to read such large volumes.
  3. By scheduling this reading for the entire year I am ensured to maintain a steady diet of good, helpful theological reading in the midst of other activities.

For 2015 I plan to read two large volumes:

  1. Hamilton, James M. God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment A Biblical Theology. 2010.
  2. Horton, Michael Scott. The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2011.
    • I’ve given myself some room for flexibility in case I fall behind.
  3. Beeke, Joel R., and Mark Jones. A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life. Grand Rapids, Mich: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012. (Kindle Edition)
    • I didn’t finish this book in 2014, so I will continue on in 2015.

You can download a PDF of my 2015 Planned Theology Reading here.

 
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Posted by on 09/12/2014 in Books, Theology

 

A Major Deadline Every Week

Reading this, this morning and finding myself in a significant amount of pain from a tooth extraction this week, prompted me to think on the following:

When you’re a pastor with responsibility to teach/preach every Sunday (or more frequently even) it is like having a major deadline at work every week. It doesn’t matter what else comes up, how many holidays in the week or how many sick days you have – the next Sunday is still only seven days away.

As I consider this I am stirred to give thanks for:

  1. The external affirmation of my call to pastoral ministry beginning many years ago with the church I grew up in, in the States and further affirmed by other churches where I’ve been privileged to minister over the years. From my time in seminary to this day, especially during hard weeks, I am helped by remembering that going into pastoral ministry wasn’t just an idea I came up with on my own. My church leadership and those within my church family affirmed my desire for ministry and sent me for theological training.
  2. My seminary training. I cannot imagine doing the work of the ministry without the training I received in Greek, Hebrew, Church History, Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology, Hermaneutics, and Exegesis. I am thankful for the courses I had in counselling and preaching as well. But frankly I could have done without those as much of that you learn just by doing ministry. Not one minute of one day of six years of graduate theological education has been wasted. I know there have been many men in the history of the church who have served faithfully without such training, I am just so very thankful I am not one of them!
  3. My wife. I was married in between my first and second semesters of seminary. (After only knowing each other for four months.) Our first 5+ years of marriage was spent with me studying full-time, working full-time, teaching in church (and serving in other areas like creche, and my wife in music), and adding three children to our family! The last 7+ years has been spent serving in various ministry roles and moving all over the world! I cannot imagine ministry, nor do I believe I would still be in ministry, if not for the sacrificial service of my wife.
  4. My pastor in my 20’s. The Lord blessed me beyond description in giving me a pastor during my 20’s, while in Uni and a couple of years after, who modeled and taught me a love for the Word, reading/studying sound theology, how to be a husband & father, & how to shepherd the flock. Related to this post and this past week, I am so thankful for the appetite he gave me for reading sound theology. By God’s grace I have been privileged to build a significant theological library and have continuously read extensively. This was all modeled and encouraged by my pastor. One huge blessing from this, is I am never really “starting from scratch” in preparation. For this I am very thankful.

I am certainly thankful for more, but Sunday is coming, there are people to visit, and preparation to complete! 🙂

 
 
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