More Suggested Reading

It has been a while since I’ve shared what I’ve been reading with you, so today I thought I’d offer just a few of the books that I’ve read since the beginning of the year that I would recommend to you.  Enjoy!

 father hungerFather Hunger, by Doug Wilson

Admittedly, I pretty much like everything that Doug Wilson writes.  Sometimes I will disagree with Wilson, but I still like the way he says it.  He is a wordsmith, and his ability to turn a phrase and cut straight to the heart of the matter is brilliant.

One description of the book states, Father Hunger takes a thoughtful, timely, richly engaging excursion into our cultural chasm of absentee fatherhood. Blending leading-edge research with incisive analysis and real-life examples, Wilson traces a range of societal ills — from poverty and crime to joyless feminism and paternalistic government expansion — to a vacuum of mature masculinity.  Extoling the benefits of restoring fruitful fathering, from stronger marriages to greater economic liberty, Father Hunger encourages and challenges men to “embrace the high calling of fatherhood” and become the dads that their families and our culture so desperately need them to be.

affectionsSetting our Affections Upon Glory by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

When Peter was walking on the sea with Christ in Matthew 14, it was only when he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to notice the waves and the wind that he started to sink.  For many of us even today, the troubles and trials of this world seem large and unconquerable, and we have taken our eyes off of our Savior, off of God.  When that happens, the world seems huge, and God seems so small.

Setting our Affections Upon Glory will help to correct that vision.  A collection of 9 sermons from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, challenges us to reevaluate the focus of our lives and the object of our affections, individually, and as the Church.  Covering topics such as prayer, evangelism, and the church, this timely book serves as a wakeup call to the church, exhorting all of us to remain faithful to the Word of God and fostering a spirit of renewed devotion fervor.

trellisThe Trellis and the Vine  by Collin Marshall and Tony Payne

In this wonderfully written book on ministry, Marshall and Payne show how all Christian ministry is a mixture of trellis and vine.  There is vine work: the prayerful preaching and teaching of the word of God to see people converted and grow to maturity as disciples of Christ. Vine work is the Great Commission.  And there is trellis work: creating and maintaining the physical and organizational structures and programs that support vine work and its growth.  The habit of many churches is to let the “trellis work take over” while all of the “vine work” is done by very few, so that the church is all structure and little fruit.

The Trellis and the Vine is a great study for the leadership of the Church, but also for every church member, calling for a major change in the way we “do Church,” so that the vine may flourish.

callingDangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp

This is one of the hardest, but most helpful books I’ve read on the Pastoral Ministry, but also one that I would recommend to everyone who is preparing for the ministry, or has ever felt discouraged in ministry, or who has ever had a pastor who has been discouraged and questions their call – in other words, I recommend this to everyone.

Writing as a Pastor who has counseled other pastors, and who has dealt with his own failures and frustrations, Tripp reminds Pastors that we are all in the midst of our own salvation, that we will struggle with insecurities and outright sin in our own lives, we will handle the struggle and sins of others very poorly at times, and we will be tempted to accept mediocrity in our ministry.  Refreshingly, the solution offered by Tripp is not a method or program to revitalize your ministry, but a heartfelt, humble return to the all-surpassing glory of God in Jesus Christ.  Dangerous Calling, above all else, is a powerful call for pastors to keep Christ at the heart of their ministry.

gileadGilead by Marilynne Robinson

This is not my normal fare for fiction.  When it comes to pleasure reading, I usually turn to J.R.R. Tolkien or Stephen Lawhead.  But from the very first paragraph of Gilead, I was hooked.  The novel is the fictional autobiography of the Reverend John Ames, an elderly Congregationalist pastor in the small, secluded town of Gilead, Iowa who knows that he is dying of a heart condition. Writing in 1957, Ames explains gives an account of his life for his seven-year-old son, who will have few memories of him.  Immediately the Father/Son, Iowa Pastor themes intrigued me, but quite honestly, this is some of the absolute best writing I have ever encountered.  You can feel the wear and worry of age on the old pastor, taste the scorched dust as Ames recounts his journey through Kansas with his father to find his grandfather’s grave, and glimpse the inexpressible glory that only a Pastor really appreciates as he gently wipes the water from a child’s forehead in baptism.  This has quickly become one of my favorites.

Good Reading!

Strive for Joy

 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be full.”
(John 15:11)

Lately I have been reminded that the Christian walk and the call to ministry is not to be a life begrudging duty, but rather a life of joyful obedience in the promise of the Lord.  Jesus, as we are told in Hebrews, set his eyes on the joy that was before him as he endured the cross.  James tells us to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4).

Along these lines, I came across something I read in a book by Martyn Lloyd-Jones called, Joy Unspeakable that I thought I must share.

Now all I am trying to establish is this, this is what the Christian people are meant to be.  This is the whole message of the New Testament, that the Son of God came into this world to deliver us.  It is salvation; he is a Savior who sets us free from the guilt, the power and the pollution of sin.  And no man can be aware of that without really rejoicing.  The Christian is not meant to be a man who is just managing to hold on and who is miserable and unhappy and forcing himself to do these things, dragging himself, as it were, to the house of God, as so many foolish people are saying at the present time.

What an utter denial it is of the whole of the New Testament, this foolish suggestion that one service a Sunday is enough, one that takes place at nine o’clock in the morning, to get rid of it, as it were, in order that you can then really go on and enjoy yourselves and have real happiness in looking at the television or in rushing to the seaside or in playing golf!

But what happens when people are baptized with the Holy Spirit – as you read throughout Acts – is that they want to keep together, to get together as often as they can – the continued daily, steadfastly, talking about these things, singing together, praising God together.  This was the thing that was first above everything else.  Everything else came second; even their work was something they had to do.  It was right that they should do their work, of course, but this was the thing that meant life to them, and joy and salvation.

What I am trying to put to you is this: I am certain that the world outside is not going to pay much attention to all the organized efforts of the Christian church.  The one thing she will pay attention to is a body of people filled with the spirit of rejoicing.  That is how Christianity conquered the ancient world.  It was the amazing joy of these people.  Even when you threw them into prison, or even to death, it did not matter, they went on rejoicing in tribulations.

I am commending this to you, not merely that you may have the experience of the joy of salvation, but also, I hope, as a matter of duty. I am exhorting you in this evil world in which we find ourselves that if you really are concerned about it, if you really do feel what you say about the daily evidence in the newspapers of the moral rot that is setting in in this country, if you feel that we are facing ruin economically and industrially, because people are worshippers and lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of god, if you really believe that and mean it and feel it, then it will be your duty to become a person such as is depicted here, because this is the only thing that is going to persuade men.  They say, ‘Oh we know your teaching and preaching, we have had it all before,’ but when they see it in operation they will listen because they are miserable and unhappy.  When they see this quality they will begin to pay real attention.  So there is nothing more important than for us to understand this teaching and to experience it in our own personal and daily lives.

Llyod-Jones,  Joy Unspeakable (Harold Shaw Pub, Wheaton, IL, 1984) 102-103.

Friends, Christ came for our salvation, and that salvation ought to produce in us great joy.  Have you lost it?  Has it been so long since you’ve tasted that joy that you’ve forgotten it was ever there?  Remember that our calling in life is established in joy – “for we are to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  Set your mind on the joy that is set before us, the joy that awaits God’s faithful (Matt 25:21).  Strive for joy, casting off the sin that would hinder, and fighting for the joy of the victor’s crown.  “And may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom 15:13).