The Best Books I Read this Year

Out of the 60 books I read this year, eight were given five-star ratings. Here are my favorites regardless of the genre and in no particular order.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon  Autobiography: The Early  Years 1834-1860 Volume 1  -     By: Charles H. Spurgeon The Autobiography of Spurgeon – Vol. 1 – Charles Spurgeon

This book is significant in length and full of thoughts of a man filled with the Spirit of God. Not only will you learn more about his story, but it will be delivered to you in a way that exalts the living God. If you are one to underline or make notes in your books, be sure to have a pen ready because this book is full of great spurgeonisms.

Image result for Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus - Nabeel QureshiSeeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Nabeel Qureshi

I pick up this book because I was moved by hearing of Nabeel’s untimely death near the end of 2017, and I am so glad I did. Not only will you be moved by a beautiful true story of conversion, but, along the way, you will also pick up several apologetic arguments delivered in an accessible and engaging way. As a fellow Christian, I was given a glimpse into the heart of my brother in Christ as the Lord patiently called him to himself over the course of several years. I highly recommend this book.

Image result for The Letters of John - Colin KruseThe Letters of John – Colin Kruse

Ligonier lists this book as their number one commentary on the letters of John, and I can see why. Even if you don’t agree where he lands on every issue, Kruse’s clarity and precision are unmatched. This commentary is perfect for anyone who will be teaching through the letters or simply studying alone at home.

Image result for The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen - Sinclair FergusonThe Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen – Sinclair Ferguson

I picked up this book because I wanted to learn a little more about a man of faith I admire, and I ended up being ministered to. Sinclair Ferguson presents some of the biblical truths that centered John Owens life in such a way that it had me rejoicing in those truths as well. It is a short and easy read, and you won’t be disappointed.

Image result for Voices from the Past - Richard RushingVoices from the Past – Richard Rushing

A little over a year ago I received Voices from the Past, edited by Richard Rushing, as a gift, and what a gift it was. This devotion is a collection of writings from great Christian writers like John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, and Thomas Watson et. al. If you are looking for substance in your daily reading, this is the book for you. Rarely will a day go by where you are not given something that spurs you on in godliness. It will comfort you where you need to be comforted, and it will convict you where you need to be convicted.

Image result for The Gospel Come With A Housekey - Rosaria ButterfieldThe Gospel Come With A Housekey – Rosaria Butterfield

What an encouraging book this is. I enjoyed this book more than her autobiography, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. In this book you will be challenged to put your gospel love into practice by opening yourself and home in a way that focuses more on the people present than the usual way it is done, being more attentive to our homes than the people to whom we are ministering. This book will challenge you.

Image result for The Diary of David BrainerdThe Diary of David Brainerd – David Brainerd

This is not a book to read quickly. I read it over the course of a year. Since these journal entries, some sections will start to seem repetitive if you try to read it in a short time, but if you read it over a more extended period, you will be able to marinate in the mindset of this godly man. You will be reminded daily that we are part of something much bigger and we should be redeeming the time.

Image result for four laws of executionThe Four Disciplines of Execution – Chris McChesney and Sean Covey

I tend to read several business books a year in the desire to be better at my job. However, few of them end up making it to the top of my list. This is one of the few. If you are responsible for leading a team to accomplish big things, this book will help you get it done.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter – Liz Wiseman
  • The Saints Everlasting Rest – Richard Baxter
  • Dragon Teeth – Michael Crichton
  • And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie

 

 

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Freddie Mercury: A Christian Meditation

 

trailer-bohemian-rhapsody-biopik-band-l-ffee1a

The movie Bohemian Rhapsody has hit the theaters to chronicle the life of Freddie Mercury and his untimely death to aids.  To reflect on such a life as a believer is sobering.  To reflect on the life and death of anyone would do the same, but there seems to be something more significant when we think about the death of someone like Freddie Mercury.  To imagine that rock royalty, Queen, will one day stand before the King of kings, should cause us all to pause and reflect on our lives for a moment.

Image result for freddie mercury

Scripture tells us that it is appointed once for a man to die, then the judgment (Heb. 9:27).  All men, even those who seemed to have the world by the tail for a time, are subjected to it.  What is more troubling for the Christian who considers such an event, is to see how many people are still clamoring to have what Freddie had at the height of his fame, knowing that they fail to see how quickly these kingdoms will come crashing down.

There is no doubt that the pursuit of fame has engulfed many to the point that it seems to have consumed them. Knowing this, it should not surprise us when we read in scripture that “the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest” (Isa 57:20).  Even if we end up with all that we dreamed of in this world, unless Christ is our treasure, we will be unable to find the rest that seems to be eluding us (Matt. 16:26).  In fact, we often impale ourselves with many troubles as we continue the pursuit (1 Tim 6:10).

There is a restlessness in the human heart as Augustine pointed out when he said,  “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”  This restlessness comes from the fact that there is a knowledge of God written on our hearts, and in our sinfulness, we want nothing to do with it (Rom. 1:18-20). It is from this point that our pursuits for peace take us everywhere except the one place we would be able to find it.

In our sinfulness we reject God, knowing that we have violated his ways (Rom 1:32), and to cover up that knowledge, we tend to work even harder to find things that can distract us from that truth.  In it, we tend to go further and further down a path of vanity, for all is vanity apart from Christ (Ecc. 1:2).

From here we create our own standards of what we think a virtuous person ought to be, but even by our own standards, we fail to measure up. Only by deceiving ourselves are we able maintain any level of self-approval. Often during these pursuits, we find ourselves engaging in all kinds of aberrant behavior merely trying to measure up to our own standards and fill our emptiness. In it, we cling to our own righteousness to appease the God we know is there and to assuage the guilt we know is ours.  We, even in our suppression of the truth, will create a God to our own liking and will try to appease it (Rom 1:23), and these little gods are tyrants without mercy. On top of that, the God of scripture tells us that all our righteousness is as filthy rags, and he wants nothing to do with it (Isa. 64:6).  But, praise God, He then goes on to tell us of the remedy that he has offered in Christ Jesus, for all of us have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Rom. 3:23).  God the Father sent his son to die upon the cross to bear the punishment for all who will believe in Him (John 3:16) to bring us into a right relationship with Him and give us the peace we are seeking.

Image result for freddie mercuryAs was mentioned before, it is appointed once for a man to die then the judgment. The only way anyone will be able to stand in the judgment is if they are in Christ because he is the only one who has lived a truly righteous life and paid the penalty for our sins (Acts 4:12), and if we are not in Christ, we will have to pay our own penalty for sins.  This truth applies to all men and women, whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, loved by the world or not.

To paraphrase John Donne, when we hear that someone has died and we wonder for whom the bell tolls, there is a sense in which it will always be tolling for us.  It is a constant reminder of our own frailty, telling us to be cognizant of our own end, and to ponder what awaits us afterward, and whether or not we are living life the way it should be lived; to the glory of God (Psalm 39:4). In it, you will find the fulfillment, rest, and, most importantly, the forgiveness of sins, you so desperately need. It was for this reason Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).

 

10 Signs You Have Just Entered An Emergent Church

10 Signs You Have Entered the Postmodern Zone

The video below goes back almost 10 years to when I used to spend a lot of time on YouTube. It is still one of the most popular videos on my channel. Though the term “Emergent Church” has been abandoned due to the bad press it received from its logical inconsistencies, the postmodern philosophies it embraced still have a firm hold on many Christians and churches.

These 10 signs still point out the self-refuting nature of the postmodern-zone.

  1. Their website has a statement of what they believe, and one of their statements is that they don’t hold to statements of belief.
  2. They constantly teach against churches and Christians who engage in polemics.
  3. They reject the commercialism of the modern church, by making their church feel more like a coffee shop.
  4. They have a strong desire to be relevant for the sole purpose of being relevant.
  5. The term “living incarnationally” means living less like Jesus and more like the world.
  6. They argue that there are no metanarratives that control all other stories besides their metanarrative that there are no metanarratives.
  7. They encourage using metaphor because propositional teaching does not work, unless, of course, they are propositionally teaching about metaphors.
  8. They argue that the church should be more relational and less theological, and then attempt to give theological arguments why this is the case.
  9. They use language to tell us that language is incapable of communicating truth.
  10. To argue against a propositional understanding of scripture, they quote Jesus’ proposition from scripture where Jesus says, “I am the Truth.”

10 Ways to Hinder Your Church

It has been said that there are no inactive members in any church. They are either actively building it up or actively hindering it. I’m not sure where this came from, but there is a lot of truth in that statement. With that in mind, here are 10 ways to work against your church.

1. Show up only when it is convenient.

2. When you do attend, show up late and leave as soon as possible.

3. Find something to grumble about (music, preaching, people).

4. Whenever your pastor or teacher makes a mistake in his theology, make sure everyone realizes it, but be sure not to talk about it with him.

5. Never appear interested.

6. Refuse to accept any responsibility.

7. Do not spend time in prayer for your church and pastor.

8. Realize that you know more than the leaders in your church, but do not be willing to use that knowledge to teach others.

9. Be more concerned with position and privilege than the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.

10. Above all else, realize that Church is about you and what you get out of it.

May we all work diligently in our churches in whatever capacity we can.

Distressed Yet Victorious

Distressed Yet VictoriousAnd He took with Him Peter and James and John and began to be very distressed and troubled. – Mark 14:33

If our Lord, who was sinless, had times in which He became distressed, how should we who are sinful expect to escape them? There have been many people who have preached what is called the “Victorious Christian life.” Although this is never actually stated, if you extend the arguments out, what is implied with this type of teaching is that if we walk close enough to the Lord and spend enough time in prayer and devotion, we will attain some kind of abundant life which enables us to walk in victory and be above sin and distress. When trials come, our faith will be stable, and we will feel at perfect rest knowing God is in control, and there are clearly times when we will go through outward trials with this sort of inner success.

However, to imagine that we can reach a point where we will not have times of heaviness and distress is not scriptural. For even our Lord had to face times like this, and He had no sin to remember in His times of trouble. Times of distress will plague us all, but in our grief, we are not to feel like we have failed to reach some spiritual peak, or as if we lack some, “deeper Christian life.” This type of thinking can lead to a spiritual elitism, which can excite pride when times are smooth. In fact, many in the church get so caught up in trying to reach these allusive spiritual peaks, that they have forgotten what pure an undefiled religion is, visiting orphans and widows, helping the poor and the downtrodden, and extending grace to the sinner.

The very phrase “Victorious Christian life” is redundant because to be a Christian is to be victorious. You cannot be a child of God and not have the victory. If you are a child of God, He is your Shepherd, and this Shepherd cannot fail. Though He may bring you through High water, He will be with you. In the dark valley of death, you may tremble, but He will not falter. There will be times where He will forge you over the fires, and all of this is done is to fulfill His purposes in your life. This does not mean the fire will not be hot, or that the hammer will not sting. As one southern preacher said, “When the Lord sends tribulation, He ‘spects us to tribulate.” As Christians, we will share in the sufferings of Christ and this suffering causes pain and distress, if it doesn’t, it’s not suffering.

When trouble and distress are upon us, we are to fight it, not by trying to reach some higher state of spirituality, but by holding on to the truth that He will bring us through every trial victoriously. Nothing, not even death itself can separate us from His love.
Failure and victory are not determined by feelings, but by our actual position in Christ, regardless of what our emotions tell us. Trust Him to lead you through and remember when Christ looks on those who are distressed, He has compassion, and is near to those who call upon Him in prayer. He is doing something through our sorrow, and we must trust Him with it. We must remember that the distress our Lord felt in the scripture above, led to the most significant victory that has ever been won.

My soul at times will not be still,
And tremblings with my heart doth fill
Yet perfect bliss was not His pledge
Nor paradise within His hedge
But every trial will be endured.
The victory has been secured.
And death itself’s a vanquished foe
By resurrection’s mighty blow.

The Haunting Effects of Sin

Haunting Effects of SinDavid thought he was done with it. His sin had been exposed, he had sought the Lord’s forgiveness, and it had been granted. A right spirit had been renewed, and a clean heart had been created. Then came the news that his child was gravely ill. As David was thrown to the floor in anguish, thoughts of his sin filled his mind. Months had passed, but now his sin had come out from hiding to remind him of his treachery against the God of the universe.

Years later another son of his rebels, and once again David is reminded of the sword that has been driven into his family because of what he had done. Another brutal reminder that he, at one point, actually thought he knew better than Lord of all creation. In his sinful nature, he desired something that the Lord had forbidden, but David ignored the law because he thought it would be better if things were done his way. Oh, but how that sin has haunted him. How many times he thought he was done with it. He had repented, he had been forgiven, but regardless of all that, it seemed to pursue him. Though it had no hold on his life, and there was no possibility that his sin could exact its wages from him, due to the redemptive plan and work of God, it was not going to let him forget.

It seemed to sit in silence for extended periods of time just to make David comfortable. Then as he would be going about his day, there would be those moments when something, whether it was something he saw or something he heard, gave his sin an opportunity to spring upon him and cloak his day with darkness by taunting him of his failures and reminding him of his foolishness.

You see, one or two moments of sin do not simply last for a season. Many times they have a way of coming back in little reminders which sink your spirits every now and again, and the fact that it comes on when you least expect it is what makes it all the more difficult. After it happens a few times, it can also cause you to begin to look over your shoulder in preparation for it to happen again, until you feel it trying to stifle you in your work for the Lord. It can even cause a hesitancy to step out into new areas in life because of what it might do when you reach the new territory.

As it did with David, sin has a way of robbing us of peace and joy. It can weaken, embarrass, and grieve us years after the indiscretion. On top of all that, as the enemies of God hear about it, they begin to rejoice, mocking the God we love because of what we have done. If you are toying with sin or considering spurning God’s loving standards to feed your flesh, you might want to think twice because what you do could linger for years to come.

Now if this warning comes a bit too late and you already know from experience that all of this is true, you must remember that the haunting cannot ultimately hurt you. Bear in mind that our sovereign God, who has taken your sin and bore its wages on the cross, has promised never to lose His child, and has promised that all things will work together for the good of those that who love Him: even the haunting effects of sin. Though they can be troubling and painful, He is using all things to accomplish His purposes in your life. His plans are to prosper and not to harm you. He will finish the work he has started in you, and with a little wrestling, He can change your name from Jacob, the heel-catcher, and deceiver, to Israel; the prince of God.

Ultimately, David never forgot his sin, but that did not stop God from calling him “a man after His own heart.” As king of Israel, the Lord has used his example to show the world His love and forgiveness, and that the Lord can use anyone in a powerful way, even those with serious failures in their past. Sin can haunt the repentant believer all it wants, but ultimately it cannot separate them from God’s love. Even though the enemy naively believes that he is going to stifle them by it, the sovereign God is using it to conform them to the image of His Son. Let us never forget that it was the haunting effects of sin that the Lord used in David life, which caused him to draw up under the wing of his Lord, and through it birthed several of his Psalms which were inspired by the Holy Spirit and considered the very Words of God.

In an extraordinary way, the Lord uses the haunting effects of sin to bring his child to the point where we will no longer be able to be haunted by them. By using them to conform us to His image, not only will we avoid sin in the future, but when the accuser rears his head, we will understand that all his work is in vain and the more he tries to afflict us, the more we will grow. Then, before long, Satan will be looking over his shoulder, because greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.

-D. Eaton

10 Arguments Thoughtful Atheists Won’t Use

10 Arguments Thoughtful Atheists Won't UseThrough countless discussions surrounding atheism, it has become apparent that someone has been feeding bad advice to atheists. Since the following errors are repeatedly made, this partial list has been populated to warn atheists so they can avoid these pitfalls. If you are an atheist and hear any of the following advice, realize that these arguments are not good arguments.

1. Use a false analogy and believe that because you compare theism to believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster that you have made a good argument.

2. Apply absolute standards of morality that atheism is unable to produce, and argue that Christianity is an immoral religion.

3. When you are having trouble answering an argument posed by a Christian theist, simply throw out a red herring and say, “well even if this were true, it doesn’t prove the existence of the ‘Christian’ God.”

4. Confuse assumptions with arguments and assume that simply because you explain phenomena from a naturalistic perspective that it constitutes an argument which must be true.

5. When arguing against the Christian God, simply say that you only believe in “one less god” than most people, as if that has no other implications, and does not require you to defend an atheistic understanding of cosmology, anthropology, ethics, philosophy of history, philosophy of politics, philosophy of science, and epistemology.

6. Refute yourself by making statements that suggest that metaphysics are a waste of time while presupposing abstract first principles and the true nature of reality.

7. Contradict yourself by arguing that we should only believe things proven by empirical evidence without proving it with empirical evidence.

8. Borrow from the Christian worldview and use logic like it is a universal, transcendent, unchanging reality when atheistic naturalism cannot account for universal, transcendent, unchanging realities.

9. Beg the question and argue that there is no evidence to believe in the existence of God because all the evidence that is produced, fails to pass the standards of evidence which have been constructed from your belief that God does not exist.

10. Contradict yourself and argue that human beings are robots, puppets, and machines programmed by natural selection in a closed system of cause and effect, and then argue for free thought and moral agency.

For more on this, we spent and an episode of the Apologetics.com radio show discussing these arguments. You can find the mp3 at the following link 10 Arguments Thoughtful Atheists Won’t Use.

 

Has the Father Given You to the Son?

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. – John 6:37

The words of John 6:37 reveal the purpose of the Father in giving his elect Jesus Christ. The Father’s purpose was that they might come to him and be saved. This, says the Son, shall indeed be done. Sin, Satan, the flesh, or the world shall never hinder their coming to Christ. The Lord Jesus positively determined to perform such a sufficiency of grace, that it will effectually perform this promise, and use all of the means necessary to accomplish this purpose. The Father’s end will not be frustrated (John 6:39). By coming, we understand it to be the coming of the mind to him, and the moving of the heart towards him. It is a coming with an absolute desire to be justified and saved. There needs to be the sense of a lost condition to move him to come. This made 3000 come; it made the jailor come; and indeed makes all others come effectually. Death is before them and they see it and feel it, and it feeds upon them, and eat them quite up if they do not come to Jesus Christ. They come of necessity, being forced into by the sense they have of their being utterly and everlasting undone, if they do not find safety in him. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). This coming to Christ is a running to him, a flying to him from the wrath to come. When all refuge fails, and man is made to see that there is nothing left in him but sin, and damnation, unless he flies to Christ for life; then he flies, and not until then. There is a sense of absolute need of Jesus Christ: “Lord save me or I perish!” There is an honest and sincere forsaking of all for him: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27). He who truly comes must forsake all, cast all behind his back and cling to Christ Alone.

-John Bunyan

How God Gets Camels Through a Needle’s Eye

Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. – Matthew 19:24

How can God get camels through a needle’s eye, and what exactly is the difficulty to which this metaphor is referring? The context of this passage speaks volumes about the depravity of man and the grace of God. Jesus is talking privately to His disciples about the rich young ruler who walked away because his love for worldly treasures was greater than his love for the things of God. Jesus proceeds by stating that it is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew Henry makes some interesting observations when he says, “The way to heaven is fitly compared to the needle’s eye, which is hard to hit and hard to get through. Secondly, a rich man is fitly compared to a camel, a beast of burden, for he has riches, as the camel has his load.”

Jesus tells us that the road to heaven is difficult by calling it narrow, and He reiterates it by relating it to the eye of a needle, but we must be careful what we call difficult, because we know we cannot work our way to heaven and our striving cannot add anything to our salvation. So what is the difficulty that is being revealed here? The problem stems from our fallen nature. Our nature at birth is at enmity with God and loves the world. We know that “if any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 Jn. 2:15).” We also know if the love of the Father is in a person, then He has faith and therefore is saved. The difficulty is changing from a person who loves the world to one who loves the Father.

The rich man has twice the difficulty because he not only has to contend with his fallen nature but, like the camel, has heaped upon his back the burden of his riches, which his fallen nature clings to with iron clad shackles. The poor do not escape easily either because the world is full of charms, which our nature is bound to, but with wealth, we have greater means to pursue them.

The disciples are astonished at this teaching and respond with a serious question, “then who can be saved?” Jesus’ response is important because it is the key to salvation. He states, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” The difficulty of turning away from the world and breaking the fetters that bind us cannot be done by anything we do. In fact, because we are attached to the world with such a strong love for it, we do not desire to alter our affections away from it. The love of the world is in us and will never be removed without divine intervention, but, praise God, all things are possible with Him. He is the one who breaks the chains and places in us a love for the Father, and He never fails. Even if this work is being done in a rich man’s life, the love of the world, even with his passion for riches, will be conquered by the work of grace.

Salvation is the gift of God; no man in his fallen nature will ever turn his own heart to faith without God working it in Him. If we find ourselves desiring God over the riches of this world, praise Him because we could have never come to that point had God not wrought it in us. Riches, though not evil in themselves, are bindings that hold many out of the kingdom of God. May God do for us what is impossible for us to do ourselves.

Sin Digs Every Grave

A man's views of sin give a complexion to all his character.

Sin digs every grave and wrings out every sigh and wail from earth and hell. Sin is the worst of all evils. Nothing can compare with it. It is worse than the plague. Sin is unspeakably hateful. God calls it horrible and abominable. Godly men in every age lament it–lament it much in others, most in themselves.

A man’s views of sin gives a complexion to all his character. If he regards it as a trifle, he will laugh at it, when he should weep over it. He will make a mock of it. He will dally with it. He will take his fill of it. He will have low thoughts of God, and low estimates of salvation. He will despise Jesus Christ.

If, on the other hand, he considers sin as very dreadful and very hateful–he will hate every false way. He will long for holiness. He will hunger and thirst after righteousness. He will loathe and abhor himself on account of sin. He will have exalted thoughts of the being, perfections, word, and government of God. To him, Christ will be most precious, the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.

Job’s sense of sin was vastly increased by the great discoveries he had of God’s majesty and glory: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes!” Increased views of God’s glory had the same effect on Isaiah, and made him cry out, “Woe is me! for I am undone!” (Job 42:5-6; Isaiah 6:5).

God’s presence is infinite; His power is infinite; His nature is infinite; His existence is infinite; and so to sin against Him must be an infinite insult and wrong. Sin is an infinite evil. Sin is that abominable thing which He hates. He hates sin with infinite loathing.

-William S. Plummer-