Monday, December 28, 2009

New Donald Ross paper

James Harvey has recently completed a paper that explores "the doctrine of salvation held by Donald Ross". From his blog post, he hopes that the essay will help the following groups of people:
  • Brethren who appreciate teachers like John Piper and John MacArthur and their high view of God, yet feel that such bold Calvinism is somehow inconsistent with received or legitimate Brethren theology
  • Brethren who view Calvinism as an unwelcome intruder, a threat to robust evangelism and a divisive doctrine of no great importance about which a few mostly irrelevant older Brethren erred
  • Non-Brethren believers who may benefit from a warning about the change that only a few decades can bring in foundational doctrine–even among a conservative communion of churches as informally organized as Open Brethren
I haven't read this paper yet, but according to the conclusion, the following are common misconceptions whose times are up:
  • That Calvinism is a recent and alien intrusion into Revival Brethren theology
  • That vigorous evangelism is fundamentally incompatible with Calvinism
  • That among Brethren, only Exclusives have held a Calvinistic soteriology
  • That Calvinism, if ever taught by early Revival Brethren at all, was always a minority view
  • That even if some early Revival Brethren were Calvinistic, they never strongly held these doctrines

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Steve Runge: the σαντα clause is a myth

I'm not embarrassed that I got this joke, and I'm not even embarrassed that I found it funny!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Learning Vocabulary

Alan Knox has a helpful post here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Leading with a Limp

Leading with a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness Leading with a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness by Dan B. Allender

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Most of what I got from this book was gleaned from the title; leading with weakness is a powerful concept, and a biblical one too. I was challenged by the notion that as a leader I should embrace my weaknesses, for they are my strengths.

Beyond this, I didn’t get a lot. Allender does not speak my language. And that’s not necessarily his bad. As a limping leader I must confess: I didn’t read every page in the book.

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The World Wars

The World Wars: An Introduction to the First & Second World Wars The World Wars: An Introduction to the First & Second World Wars by Paul Dowswell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Good illustrated primer on both world wars. Pitched for younger readers, but also good for parents who lack basic familiarity with the 20th century’s total wars. The book features lots of pictures and maps, and it progresses in two-page units, making it the perfect book to set down on your coffee table—-and pick up again.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, December 18, 2009

Just Do Something

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will or How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random ... Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will or How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random ... Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. by Kevin DeYoung

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The alternate title says it all: "How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random Bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc".

This book is a needed corrective on a much-discussed subject. Many emerging (as in coming-of-age) adults, DeYoung says, are tinkering, and the author intends to get them off their butts. As leverage, he distinguishes between God’s will of decree and his will of desire, exposes the false ways we go about discovering God’s will (including Gideon’s fleece), and extends the biblical way: the way of wisdom.

Just Do Something includes a zappy foreword written by Josh Harris.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a great book for helping Christians discuss their faith with others. Acknowledging that such discussions have often led to heated exchanges, Koukl advocates engagements that “look more like diplomacy than D-Day” and “an approach that trades more on friendly curiosity…than on confrontation” (19-20). But this doesn’t mean that he’s big on love and soft on reason. The author upholds the importance of logic, reason, and apologetics against those who frown on their use.

At the heart of Koukl’s method is the colorful Columbo tactic, which “is to go on the offensive in an inoffensive way by using carefully selected questions to productively advance the conversation” (47). Much of the book is an unpacking of this principle as the reader learns what questions to ask.

This book is not unlike Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism. I would heartily recommend both of these books.

View all my reviews >>

Robert C. Chapman

Robert C. Chapman: 70 Years of Serving the Lord Robert C. Chapman: 70 Years of Serving the Lord by Frank Holmes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I would be willing to read pretty much any book about R. C. Chapman. Holmes is a devoted biographer of Chapman, and his admiration of this great man is not lost on the reader. One can tell that the author is not interested merely in preserving historical knowledge about some man of God; he wants his readers to live like him.

Note: I do prefer Peterson's biography.

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Sultana: Surviving the Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History Sultana: Surviving the Civil War, Prison, and the Worst Maritime Disaster in American History by Alan Huffman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A remarkable mesh of stories of survival. Traces the hardships of several men through the Civil War, culminating in the disastrous sinking of the Sultana steam boat. Huffman introduced me to the horror of 19th century war, prison camps, and post-war life, including the trip home…

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Prodigal God

The Prodigal God: Christianity Redefined Through the Parable of the Prodigal Sons The Prodigal God: Christianity Redefined Through the Parable of the Prodigal Sons by Timothy Keller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A great introduction to Jesus and Christianity for moderns and postmoderns. Keller takes us deep into the heart of one of finest stories ever told by Jesus. The self-righteous will squirm as Keller points out that there are two prodigals, not one, in the story. But both kinds of people—religious and rebels—will feel the attractive pull of Christ when they discover what kind of elder brother He is.

Following Clowney, Keller has seen deeply into this parable. His skill and scope in applying its truth to modern people is breathtaking. His ability to relate Christ to so many things people today care about makes this book the best candidate to give to searching friends.

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Breaking Pornography Addiction

David Powlison is always helpful, even when he writes on pornography. Here's his article in two

Note: He also has a booklet for those who have suffered from child abuse.

HT: Justin Taylor

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How to read a book

How to Read a Book How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book promotes reading as an active art. Its goal ought to be more than increased knowledge; rather, it strives for increased understanding. Thus the authors can talk about reading as a form of research, elevating the task of reading far above its stereotype of passivity.

The authors describe four ascending levels of reading: (1) Elementary; (2) Inspectional; (3) Analytical; and (4) Syntopical. The levels are cumulative in the sense that, if you are to read at say level 3, you will have to be simultaneously engaged at levels 1 and 2. The analytical level receives the most attention by far, elementary the least (for those wanting help increasing reading speeds, look elsewhere).

One of the signs of good thinking is careful distinctions. This book introduced me to helpful distinctions between knowledge and understanding, aided and un-aided research, terms and words, practical and theoretical books, good and great books, and many more.

For years I have attempted to read book somewhat “analytically”, but often grew frustrated at the difficulty in outlining certain books. So I cheered when the authors suggested that sometimes that’s because the book isn’t worth reading at any level, never mind analytically.

This quote from p.166 gives the flavor of the book well: “A person who has read widely but not well deserves to be pitied rather than praised. As Thomas Hobbes said, ‘If I read as many books as most men do, I would be as dull-witted as they are.’”

View all my reviews.

Hunting Eichmann

Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World'sMost Notorious Nazi Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World'sMost Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
An intense tale of the quest to bring Adolf Eichmann, the operational manager of the Final Solution, to justice.

Made me think of what a great thing it is that Christ will bring the world to justice. All oppressors will be justly dealt with; all innocent suffers will be vindicated.

Contains a powerful quote from Robert Jackson, the lead American prosecutor at the Nuremberg trial. In his opening statement he said:

The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs, which we seek to condemn and punish, have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason.

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Links for your listening pleasure

Here are some links to sermons and lectures that I've been listening through recently (and not so recently). I promised to send these to some friends, and this seems to be a handy way to do it.

Tim Keller

Keller and Ed Clowney teamed up to deliver a 35-session class on preaching Christ in a postmodern world. I can't recommend these lectures too much. They have vastly shaped my views on
  • exegesis (you haven't properly exegeted a passage--even an OT one--until you see it in its redemptive-historical context, i.e., in relation to Christ)
  • illustration (the power of metaphor)
  • application (needs to be grace based)
  • various passages in the Bible (they preach "mini" sermons throughout the series to illustrate concepts)
All in all, they advocate preaching Christ in every sermon, and they show you how to do so legitimately.

Also, Keller preaches through his excellent book, The Reason For God. Check out other sermons of his for free here.

Don Carson

Mars Hill church sponsored A Day With Dr. Don. The second session, on Revelation 12, made more sense of Revelation than anything else I've heard.

Here are two excellent messages on How to Wait for Jesus.

Carson on complementarianism.

For more, you can head over to the page they've set up for him at the Gospel Coalition.

Sinclair Ferguson and Alistair Begg

Some good old fashioned, Christ-exalting Scottish exposition (Sinclair Ferguson and Alistair Begg).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

How to vastly improve your internet reading experience

Head over and try out Readability. It's wonderful. For any online article, news story, blog post, etc, it can

  • Remove annoying clutter (ads and such)
  • Increase font size the way you want it
  • Change the text to your preferred font
  • Adjust the margins to give you a comfortable column width

And best of all, it takes about 3 seconds to get going with it. All you have to do is go to the website, choose 3 settings, and then drag the bookmarklet. For all subsequent online reading simply click on the link on your toolbar and happy reading!

HT Alan Jacobs

Thursday, March 26, 2009

More Nate Wilson wholesomeness

As I've mentioned before, I really like N.D. Wilson. He brings out the kid in me. Anyways, things get humorous when this skilful storyteller tells his kids bedtime stories. And in this Q&A he recounts a funny family story involving a baby, a mummy, and "a very cavalier mouse".

HT Doug Wilson

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On this inconsistency, we need to be “called out”

I've noticed two ways in which we use the word "church" (Greek, ekklesia) differently from New Testament usage.

  • "They're doing some renovations at the Baptist church."
  • "He (an older Christian who has passed away) loved the assembly."

There's nothing wrong with using the word "church" or "assembly", but in both cases the speaker is (usually) using the word to refer to something other than people.

At any rate, to be consistent, those who criticise speakers prone to the first usage should also criticize the second.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Encouragement for the sporadic blogger (like me)

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Proverbs 10.20).

Perhaps I am one of the most prudent bloggers around!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Impoverish your audience: don’t read this

Con Cambell has an excellent blog series going on preaching evangelistic sermons. It's been helping me.

His last post really needs to be heard. Which is a shame, because evangelists shoudn't need to hear it. His advice? Exegete the text!

Often we have the mindset of, "Oh, I already know what John 3.16 is all about." Don't be so sure. Here's Cambell's list of things the preacher could discover about the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee (Luke 18.9-14) through exegesis, but probably won't without it:

1. The setting is likely one of the two daily atonement services at the temple.

2. The Pharisee does not ask God for anything, but his prayer is really a declaration.

3. Because the setting is likely an atonement service, there are other people present, which means that the Pharisee's prayer publicly denounces the tax collector (v.11).

4. Because the setting is public, the tax collector's standing far off emphasizes his shame (v.13).

5. It was extremely rare for men to beat their chest in public, and they would only do so in an instance of overwhelming grief (v.13).

6. The tax collector asks God TO BE PROPITIOUS toward him (λάσθητί μοι, v.13).

7. And thus, the tax collector is justified in direct connection to propitiation at an atonement service (v.14).

His conclusion:

I think that those things—which can only be understood through really working on the text in its historical and literary context—bring the passage to bear in a way that few evangelistic preachers would allow.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Trip to Ukraine

Our good friend Malcolm is back in Ukraine. Helen and I (and Aimee—in two-week-old fetus form!) went with Malcolm a year and a half ago. It was about this time two years ago that we were excitedly experiencing God opening doors for us to go. Hope He's got a big one for Malcolm to go through.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The greatest people are crazy about others

I used to think that when people remembered my name it meant I was really special. Now I realize I'm only special if I'm remembering someone else's.

Friday, March 13, 2009

In case I only get to preach this once

I've come up with a question that I've got to ask myself for every Biblical passage I'm going to preach:

What is the one thing in this passage that people need to hear someone get excited about?

Two qualifiers

  1. Need because it's there in the text (i.e., God put it there, so people must need it)
  2. Need because it's huge (i.e., I can see a dozen reasons why people of all ages and situations shouldn't live another day without knowing this)

Friday the 13th

Let John Piper help you allay any remaining fears of bad luck. My fears of Friday the 13th were erased 9 months ago.

Paul: An Apostle of Weakness

Became thoughtful while reading 2 Corinthians 12.5-10 tonight. I'll lay out verses 8 to 10 for you:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I was reflecting on how true this has been in my life. It's when I've been insulted and accused (sometimes rightfully), when I've been close to the heart of some controversy, when I've just narrowly avoided catastrophe, or when I've sinned awfully and good friends confronted me on it (like when I lost my temper in front of my family, or slandered a Christian brother), that I have learned what I was really made of. When I get glimpses of what my dark heart is really like, I'm forced to look at Christ and rely on Him. When I am weak, I am strong.

We all feel a need to hide our weaknesses as long as we can. We have to, we say, in order to protect our relationships. My relationship with Christ is the only one in which I am free not just to acknowledge my weakness, or confess it, but to actually embrace it. To boast of it.

To embrace my weakness is to be embraced (in a manly way, you know) by Him. To boast in my weakness is to boast in His strength.

Anyways, after my reading I noticed this good post by Nathan Weselake. Also, Dave Black's got a book on the subject (I think). I bet it's good!



Sunday, March 8, 2009

How good is the benefits package?

Would you evangelize with this tract?

Certainly Jesus did not sound like someone desperate to create a following when he summons us like he does in Mark 8.34: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me!"

"Anyone interested in following me? You get to carry a cross! You get to die! You get to be shamed!"

The Lord Jesus does not offer many perks. When men and women decide to follow him, it is because of how attractive HE is, despite the "perks".

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Size isn’t everything

Thought I'd do a little post on what I look for in a Bible. One of the most important criteria for me is that it lay out the text in paragraphs. As Fee and Stuart say in "How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth", we must learn to THINK PARAGRAPHS. It's vital to remember that the Bible is not a collection of golden nuggets and trite sayings, but rather it advances via paragraphs of thought. My reading of Scripture grew in leaps and bounds when I started using a Bible that laid out Isaiah or Mark's Gospel paragraph by paragraph. So much so that I'll rarely pick up a good version like the NASB95 because it doesn't place spaces between paragraphs. (For those who want to use the KJV, I believe Cambridge puts out a beautiful paragraph edition. The Penfold-Newberry is OK. The Scofield's paragraphing is too arbitrary, it seems to me.)

What criteria are important to you in selecting a Bible? Hopefully not size!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Friday, January 2, 2009

The power of repetitive Bible reading

A month of listening to his parents read Luke 2 enables little Orison Piper to be able to do this.

Also, Justin Taylor posts some excellent Bible reading plans. I'm going to follow Robert Murray M'Cheyne's this year, using one of Don Carson's books as an aid.

OK, so I've talked about Bible reading and Bible memorizing. That leaves biblical praying. John Piper has provided a very helpful list in answer to the question: what should we pray for? It's worth printing out and praying through.