Category Archives: resources

Books, books, books…

As usual I am continually buying and borrowing books.  I feel it important, as a Christian, to constantly be reading and learning.  One of my goals is to build a modest library as a resource for my faith community.  I am always willing to lend out books and other resources I have to those who are interested.  Here are few books I have just recently acquired that I am planning to read in the next few weeks.

I recently was the winner of a Dave Black online contest.  As a result I am promised a copy of his book, The Jesus Paradigm. Dr. Black (who insists that we call him “Dave,” or “brother”, or something Biblical like that) has been a challenging influence in my life.  He is constantly encouraging others to serve Jesus in every area of their life.  I am always amazed by his intelligence, humility, godliness, and missionary lifestyle.

Sitting on my shelf is also a copy of Kevin Vanhoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine:  A Canonical Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology. This book was very useful to me in seminary.  I am looking forward to having my own copy and reading it in its entirety.

Zondervan has been kind enough to send me an advanced copy of Jason Boyett’s newest book, O Me of Little Faith:  True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling, for review.  After reading the introduction and first chapter I already have mixed feelings about the work.  On one hand I find the vulnerability and honesty admirable, on the other hand there are already serious methodological, theological, and philosophical flaws.  I do not want to come to any premature conclusions, so after I finish reading it, I will post a some thoughts.

Another book on my immediate reading list is Christian Smith’s treatise on young adult spirituality, Souls in Transition:  The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. I am hoping this book will provide some cultural insight into current trends in spirituality.  My goal is to gain tools to understand and communicate the gospel to young adults.

Finally, I am giving in to the myriad of recommendations and reading T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach:  The Media Have Shaped the Messengers. I have read recommendations for this book from David Nelson, Kevin DeYoung, J. D. Greear, and many others.  I figured I might as well peruse this little paperback and see what all the fuss is about.

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20/20 Conference at SEBTS

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the “20/20 Conference” at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  However, the audio and video from each session is now available online.  I would highly recommend everyone checking out the messages that were presented.

Matt Chandler spoke via video on Colossians 1 about “Defining the Gospel Clearly.”

Danny Akin described the “Proper Response to the Gospel” based on Romans 12:1-2.

David Platt explained what a “Gospel-Centered Community of Faith” looks like by teaching from Acts 3:1-10.

J. D. Greear clarified some “Cultural Assumptions That Make the Gospel Offensive” based on Acts 4:1-21.

Clayton King demonstrated “Paul’s Witness for the Gospel” in Acts 17:16-31.

Relevant Magazine

I mentioned “Relevant Magazine” in the previous blog post and figured I’d officially give them an unofficial public recommendation.  I have been subscribing to Relevant for more than a year now (you can read the mag online for free).  I have been consistently impressed by the content and presentation.  The magazine is often hilarious, usually objective (sometimes low on discernment), and deeply connected with contemporary culture.  Where else can you find articles by John Piper and Rob Bell or Brian MacLaren and Mark Driscoll?  Who else offers their thoughts on social justice and premarital sex or the merits of Hip-Hop Judaism or the resurgence of midwestern, basement manufactured synth pop?  Exactly.  You need some Relevant Magazine in your life!

Anyone interested in “progressive culture” and the views of many young evangelicals would do well to subscribe to this magazine.  I promise, you will be “cooler” for it.  Further, their website is very impressive with interactive content, streaming music, and a hilarious (occasionally insightful) news “slice” feed.  I think my favorite supplement to the bi-monthly magazine publication is the weekly free podcast.  The podcast is like listening to a group of friends engaging in random conversation (e.g., punching whalesharks, the impending chimpocalypse, etc.).  The podcast also features insightful interviews with Christian personalities, artists, and musicians as well as hilarious listener games and a guide to new music and movie releases.  Give it a try!

“Why We Love the Church” by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

Overall Impression

I just finished reading the most recent DeYoung/Kluck collaboration (they previously teamed up on Why We’re Not Emergent).  My only previous experience with either writer was through DeYoung’s blog and hilarious book on finding the will of God (“without dreams, visions, fleeces, open doors, random Bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.).  I was excited by the subject matter (as evidenced in the title) and the praise from theological heavyweights such as J. I. Packer, Al Mohler, and Mark Dever.  This book is well-informed, balanced, readable, funny, and God-glorifying.

Positive

The basic premise of this book is that there is no such thing as a “churchless Christianity.”  The authors are clear that they are trying to correct the common notion that Christians do not need “organized churches.”  In fact, the Scriptures indicate that organization (i.e., structure in corporate worship, leadership, etc.) is essential to the health of a church.

“Community” is a buzzword among modern evangelicals, but many “emergent” (whatever that means) types are unwilling to be shaped by a community of believers that does not mimic their particular hipster style.  It is essential that each believer be a part of a church that is full of imperfect Christians.  The result of old and young coming together to worship despite differences of opinion regarding musical style and church architecture is mutual edification and personal sanctification.

DeYoung and Kluck are particularly critical of modern Christian “revolutionaries.”  Christianity, they argue, needs more “plodding visionaries,” that is, people who are concerned with obedience to the gospel and faithfulness to the commands of Christ.  Giving up on local church because it does nothing for you or because you can find a deeper spirituality somewhere else is, frankly, narcissistic and contrary to the commands of Scripture.

I was thankful for the historical perspective the authors provided in two areas:  (1)  They clarified the oft repeated maxim that “Christians have done terrible things throughout there history.”  While this statement, they say, is true it is not absolutely true without qualification.  For example, while race-based slavery was condoned by some Christians it was also abolished largely because of Christian abolitionists.  (2)  The authors also busted the myth of the early Christian utopia.  You and I have both heard the call to be a “New Testament church.”  There are few problems with this statement.  On the one hand the Bible is full of terrible churches rife with division, heresy, and immorality.  On the other hand, just because something is not mentioned in the Bible does not mean that is impure (e.g., buildings, pews, etc.).

The authors argue that the most important reasons to love the church are because it is the God-ordained means for the proclamation of the gospel and the sanctification of believers.  Good reasons that stand in stark contrast to the modern Christian’s “what’s-in-it-for-me” mentality.

Negative

This book is an admirable attempt to correct many problems in modern evangelicalism.  Despite claiming a robust ecclesiology, this book is far from comprehensive.  It has barely a mention of issues such as covenant membership and ordinances.

The authors demonstrate a great balance in their personal understanding of the church’s relationship to God and culture.  However, they set up a false dichotomy between “emergent-types” and “traditional-types.”  The authors unfortunately caricature “emergents” as a modern incarnation of the liberal social gospel.  This dichotomy is unnecessary.  One can be concerned with a true gospel and a culturally appropriate presentation of that gospel.

Though I understand the intention to defend the “traditional” church, I am still uncomfortable with the language of church as “institution” and the authors consistently assume that particular incarnations of modern church are Biblical and healthy.

Concluding Remarks

On the whole this book provides balance to contemporary tendency to “church-hate.”  While neither comprehensive or without fault, the authors are clearly attempting to glorify God and obey the Scriptures.  Love Jesus and love his bride.

Reflections on "God Exposed." (Part 1)

This past weekend (September 25-26) I attended the 9 Marks “God Exposed” conference held at SEBTS.  My heart and head are both full from the information and exhortations I received.

Audio from the event can be found at the SEBTS website.  On the IX Marks website some blog reflections can be found.

Mark Dever opened the conference with a message from Mark 4 that was encouraging and convicting.  He challenged us to depend totally on the power of the Word of God and not on our own personality, creativity, or intelligence.  Being dependent on God and His word leads to humility and confidence (two traits that I normally view as opposed).  We have humility because we realize that God is accomplishing the growth of the Kingdom of God.  We have confidence in the fact that God will accomplish what he promised.  I was reminded through this exhortation not to confuse size with significance in my own ministry.  Further, I am thankful that God chooses weak vessels.  One memorable quote from Dr. Dever:

If you think you can be filled with the Spirit without being filled with the Word, you need to check what Spirit you are being filled with.

Dr. Akin underscored this point during the Sermon Review (an idea I wholeheartedly recommend for teachers of the Bible) by showing the connection between being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) through the word of Christ (Col. 3:16).

The Word of God is powerful because God is powerful.  The Word of God will be victorious because God is the victor.

You have been born again: not originating from the mortal but from the immortal, that is through the living and permanent word of God.  ‘For all flesh is like grass and all its glory is like the flower of grass.  The grass withers and the flower falls off but the word of the Lord endures into eternity.’  Now this is the word which was preached to you (1 Peter 1:23-25).