My Current Reading List

I have the habit of reading several books at once. I don’t know if this is good for me or not. On the positive side, it keeps me thinking about a wide variety of topics all at the same time. On the other hand, it takes me forever to finish a book, and when I’m finished, I sometimes have a hard time keeping everything straight.

I thought I’d take the opportunity with this Midweek Message to share the books that I’m currently reading, with a brief synopsis and an encouragement for you to keep reading.

kingThe King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker Academic) by Thomas Schreiner.  Biblical Theology studies the unifying themes of the Bible in their own historical setting, in its own terms, and forms; learning who God is and what God is doing through the ongoing story of Scripture. I have just started The King In His Beauty, but already I am loving the study of Scripture and the emerging themes that will unfold through the rest of the book. It’s almost ike reading a commentary that was written in story form.

baxterWalking with God (GLH Publishing) by Richard Baxter. I try to always have an old pastoral book on my reading list to keep me well rounded, and Baxter is one of my favorites. Baxter was an English Puritan of the 17th century (i.e., Presbyterian), a theologian and pastor most noted for his book, The Reformed Pastor. Reading the Puritans is not always easy, they love to make lists (and lists within lists), and they exhaust a topic before moving on to the next, so you really have to commit to ploughing through the reading. But the treasure is worth he work. “Walking with God” studies what it means to be in communion with God and to love him above everything else. Baxter’s work is challenging, but encouraging all the while.

elderFinding Faithful Elders and Deacons (Crossway), by Thabiti Anyabwile. It’s that time of the year again when we as a church prayerfully consider nominating men to serve as Deacons and Elders. This is not light work, and I’ve been studying and praying, not just about who should serve, but how I can work to develop discipling relationships to help identify and train future leaders in the church. Anyabwile’s book is a quick read, but incredibly informative and practical.

The Wholwholee Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Crossway), by Sinclair Ferguson. Admittedly, when I bought this book for a reading group I’m in, I had never heard of the Marrow Controversy, but I love Sinclair Ferguson, and I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I’ve read of his. The Whole Christ included. Recounting the Marrow Controversy of the 8th Century Church of Scotland which was essentially a divide over Legalism, Antinomianism, and the proper relationship between God’s grace and our works, Ferguson shows us that the antidote to the poison of legalism on the one hand and antinomianism on the other is one and the same: the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom we are simultaneously justified by faith, freed for good works, and assured of salvation.

nameName above all Names (Crossway), by Sinclair Ferguson and Alistair Begg. I picked this one up because I wanted to read something that wasn’t necessarily a theological study of Christ, but a biblical study on who Christ is and what He has one. Name above all Names is a reflection on 7 key qualities of Jesus’ identity and ministry, offering a meditation on the character of Christ. In case you didn’t notice, it’s another book by Sinclair Ferguson, with my second favorite scotsman preacher, Alistair Begg as well.

Studies on Daniel – As I am preaching through the book of Daniel for the next couple of months, I’m also reading a couple of commentaries on Daniel which I thought I’d mention here:

daneilPreaching Christ from Daniel (Eerdmans) by Sidney Greidanus. – In Preaching Christ from Daniel Sidney Greidanus shows preachers and teachers how to prepare expository messages from the six narratives and four visions in the book of Daniel. Using the most up-to-date biblical scholarship, Greidanus addresses foundational issues such as the date of composition, the author(s) and original audience of the book, its overall message and goal, and various ways of preaching Christ from Daniel. Throughout his book Greidanus puts front and center God’s sovereignty, providence, and coming kingdom. (from the website)

chapellThe Gospel According to Daniel (Baker) by Bryan Chapell. (From the cover) Often we read the book of Daniel in one of two ways – either as a book about a heroic man whose righteousness should inspire us to keep the faith, or as a roadmap to the end times that can, through careful study, tell us the day and hour (or nearly so) of Christ’s return. Both, says Bryan Chapell, are sadly missing the bigger picture – that God is the hero of the story, and he is in the midst of his unrelenting plan to rescue his people from their sin and its consequences. Pastors, teachers, and any Christian who wants to learn how to faithfully understand the book of Daniel without getting derailed by hero worship or prophetic mystery will value this grace-centered approach.

boiceDaniel: An Expositional Commentary (Baker), by James Boice. Boice was the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Philadelphia, and his sermons were heard around the world on The Bible Hour. His commentaries give a verse by verse study of the text, and help apply the text to the readers experience. Reading Boice’s commentary is like reading his sermons, and it has been very encouraging as I approach the difficult task of preaching through Daniel.

A Definition of Worship

Planning and leading worship services for the church week in and week out can sometimes drain the essence out of worship itself.  Worship becomes something I do, an act of professionalism rather than encounter with my heavenly Father.  As Presbyterians are known for doing things “decently and in order,” our worship often takes on a rehearsed tone, and “passionate worship” is not how visitors would typically describe the service.

So it is that I came upon the following by A.W. Tozer in his book, The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship.  May this serve as a corrective understanding for all of us as we prepare to enter into worship again.

A Definition of Worship

First, worship is to feel in the heart. I use that word “feel” boldly and without apology. I do not believe that we are to be a feeling-less people. I came into the kingdom of God the old-fashioned way. I believe that I know something of the emotional life that goes with being converted; so I believe in feeling. I do not think we should follow feeling, but I believe that if there is no feeling in our heart, then we are dead. If you woke up in the morning and suddenly had no feeling in your right arm, you would call a doctor.  You would dial with your left hand because your right hand was dead. Anything that has no feeling in it, you can be quite sure is dead. Real worship, among other things, is a feeling in the heart.

Worship is to feel in the heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe.  Worship will humble a person as nothing else can. The egotistical, self-important man cannot worship God any more than the arrogant devil can worship God. There must be humility in the heart before there can be worship.

When the Holy Spirit comes and opens heaven until people stand astonished at what they see, and in astonished wonderment confess His uncreated loveliness in the presence of that ancient mystery, then you have worship. If it is not mysterious, there can be no worship; if I can understand God, then I cannot worship God.

I will never get on my knees and say, “Holy, holy, holy” to that which I can figure out. That which I can explain will never overawe me, never fill me with astonishment, wonder or admiration. But in the presence of that most ancient mystery, that unspeakable majesty, which the philosophers have called a mysterium tremendum, which we who are God’s children call “our Father which art in heaven,” I will bow in humble worship. This attitude ought to be present in our church today.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was one of the greatest minds that ever lived. When he was only in his teens, he wrote advanced books on mathematics, astonishing people. He became a great philosopher, mathematician and thinker.

One night, he met God, and his whole world was changed. He wrote down his experience on a piece of paper while it was still fresh on his mind. According to his testimony, from 10:30 pm to about 12:30 am, he was overwhelmed by the presence of God. To express what he was experiencing, he wrote one word, “fire.”

Pascal was neither a fanatic nor an ignorant farmer with hayseeds back of his ears. He was a great intellectual. God broke through all that and for two solid hours, he experienced something he could holy characterize as fire.

Following his experience, he prayed; and to keep as a reminder of that experience, he wrote it out: “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and of the learned.” This was not a prayer for somebody who reads his prayers; this was not formal religious ritual. This was the ecstatic utterance of a man who had two wonderful, awesome hours in the presence of God. “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob not of the philosophers and of the learned. God of Jesus Christ… Thy God shall be my God… He is only found by thy ways taught in the Gospel… Righteous Father, the world has not known Thee, but I have known Thee. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy…” And he put an “Amen” after it, folded it up, put it in his shirt pocket and kept it there.

That man could explain many mysteries in the world, but he was awestruck before the wonder of wonders, even Jesus Christ. His worship flowed out of his encounter with that “fire” and not out of his understanding of who and what God is.

Tozer, A. W. The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship. (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker House Books) pg. 108-110.