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

 

 

Advertisements

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).

 

Jesus: The Mighty Breaker

Mighty Breaker

There brake He the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle.” –Psalm 76:3

Our Redeemer’s glorious cry of “It is finished,” was the death-knell of all the adversaries of His people, the breaking of “the bow and the battle.” Behold the hero of Golgotha using His cross as an anvil, and His woes as a hammer, dashing to shivers bundle after bundle of our sins, those poisoned “arrows of the bow”; trampling on every indictment, and destroying every accusation. What glorious blows the mighty Breaker gives with a hammer far more ponderous than the fabled weapon of Thor! How the diabolical darts fly to fragments, and the infernal bucklers are broken like potters’ vessels! Behold, He draws from its sheath of hellish workmanship the dread sword of Satanic power! He snaps it across His knee, as a man breaks the dry wood of a fagot, and casts it into the fire.

Beloved, no sin of a believer can now be an arrow mortally to wound him, no condemnation can now be a sword to kill him, for the punishment of our sin was borne by Christ, a full atonement was made for all our iniquities by our blessed Substitute and Surety. Who now accuseth? Who now condemneth? Christ hath died, yea rather, hath risen again. Jesus has emptied the quivers of hell, has quenched every fiery dart, and broken off the head of every arrow of wrath; the ground is strewn with the splinters and relics of the weapons of hell’s warfare, which are only visible to us to remind us of our former danger, and of our great deliverance. Sin hath no more dominion over us. Jesus has made an end of it, and put it away forever. O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end. Talk ye of all the wondrous works of the Lord, ye who make mention of His name, keep not silence, neither by day, nor when the sun goeth to his rest. Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Charles Spurgeon

3 Signs We Are Not Spiritually-Minded

“Even now you are not ready.” These are the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:5. There is more nourishment in the word of God for us to take in and enjoy, but too often we are not spiritually-minded enough to receive it. Too often we are spiritually immature.

How would we know if we are spiritually immature when one of the symptoms of being earthly-minded is being blinded to our own condition? Much like losing your appetite can be a symptom of being malnourished. The following phrases from scripture could possibly wake us up, if we are, in fact, earthly-minded.

1. Are we living in a way that is destroying our bodies? When it comes to drunkenness, drugs, or any other dependence that is damaging our health, Paul says,

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” – I Cor. 3:16-17

If we are involved in any of these activities, we are not spiritually-minded, no matter how much theology we know. How can we have spiritual understanding if we don’t even understand how our bodies relate to honoring God.

2. Are we involved in sexual immorality? If so, we are not ready for the deep things of God. We are earthly-minded. Paul is so bold as to say, if we were living this way, we should be removed from the church until we repent.

“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” – 1 Cor. 5:11

If we are involved in any of these things, we are not spiritually-minded. We are spiritually immature, if we are Christians at all.

3. Are we willing to be fools for Christ? This world sees the truth of Jesus as foolishness, and if we’re not willing to be seen as foolish for Jesus, it is because we are not spiritually-minded. For those who are, we will know that bearing the reproach of the world is worth it if we receive the riches of Christ Jesus. Paul says,

“We [Paul and the apostles] are fools for Christ’s sake,” and shortly after that he says, “Be imitators of me.” – 1 Cor. 4:10,16

If we are not willing to give up comfort, and the approval for this world, for the kingdom of God, then we do not understand the passing nature of this world and the eternality of all that has been born of God.

I do not write this to be judgmental. The word of God judges me as much as it does anyone else, and there are areas in my life that need improvement too. I write this so that all of us, the children of God, can grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ by being reminded how serious sin actually is. It impacts us much more than we think it does. May we discern our condition by the word of God and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, for “if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.” – I Cor. 11:31

If anything in the short devotion exposed sinfulness in your life, run to Christ where forgiveness is freely offered, and sanctification can be found. Finally, remember the words of Psalm 97:10-11:

“O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.”

The Memory Of Old Jack by Wendell Berry – Book Review

Image result for the memory of old jackI always enjoy spending time in Port William, but this time was a bit more tragic. Wendell Berry has a way of taking what appears to be an ordinary, well-lived, life of a man in Kentucky and showing you the hidden tensions and pressures that are at work. Sometimes the seemingly trivial choices we make have profound emotional repercussions, even if no one else will ever see them. To borrow a metaphor from Andrew Peterson, they are like mountains on the ocean floor.

Jack Beechum is nearing the end of his life, and Berry gives us insight into the memories he holds, even while that memory appears to be fading to those around him. As always in Berry’s writings, the expression of Jack’s tragedies and triumphs will be tied to his land in multiple ways. I have read most of the Port Williams series, and Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter still top my list. The first half of this one left me wondering if this would be my least favorite, then it began to come together. This book may now be my third favorite, not because of the enjoyment it gave me, but because of the glimpse it gave me into the emotional complexities of life. It functioned more like a warning shot than a target at which to aim. While at the same time, it did not fail to leave a little hope in its wake.

Image result for four stars out of five

The Memory of Old Jack – Buy on Amazon

Why Many Christians are Wrong About the War on Christmas

War on Christmas

I am of the opinion that the way many Christians are responding to the so-called war on Christmas is wrong. We live in a time when many people, organizations, and business will not publicly say “Merry Christmas” because it might offend someone. Likewise, many of the traditional decorations and songs will no longer see the light of day. Starbucks even has the audacity to fail to decorate their coffee cups to our liking. This has prompted many people to say that there is a war on Christmas.

What many Christians don’t realize is that the Prince of Preachers himself, Charles Spurgeon, also had a war on Christmas.

“We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871).”

Since I refuse to be taken in by the in the genetic fallacy, I would strongly disagree with the conclusion some might derive from this that it is sinful to celebrate Christmas because of its origins, but we must agree that it is not a holiday mandated by Scripture. So my questions for those who believe that there is a war on Christmas would be, “Would you consider Spurgeon part of the war on Christmas if he were alive today because he certainly would not say, Merry Christmas?” Or is he a man with Christian liberty exercising his conscience?

The point of those questions is this, just because some people will not say Merry Christmas, or decorate their businesses the way we want, does not mean there is a war on Christmas that we must hold at bay.

I bring up the Spurgeon quote only to prime the pump and get us thinking. I believe there is a more direct problem with the way many Christians respond to the “war on Christmas.”

Building on the premise laid out by Spurgeon that there is no biblical mandate that we celebrate a holiday called Christmas in December, we, therefore, have no biblical foundation to require anyone to celebrate Christmas, not even other Christians. If it has no biblical basis, then it is a tradition of men. Some non-biblical traditions of men are good, and some are bad, but they all become evil if we make them a requirement to be a Christian in good standing.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8

Now some may protest and say, but we are not saying they need to celebrate it to be good Christians, and you said some traditions are good. All we are saying is that it is a good tradition that should not be under attack, and stores should not be so worried about offending people. They should say “Merry Christmas” because that is what holiday it is. To that, I would say, I understand the sentiment. Political correctness has run amuck, but is the Christmas holiday the hill upon which we really want to take a stand?

The foundational problem with political correctness is that it trades truth for falsehood to avoid offense, but what exactly is the reality of the Christmas holiday that they are violating. What holiday truths need to be pressed upon those who refuse to celebrate it or are trying to avoid offense? Santa, elves, reindeer, decorated trees, the Christmas spirit?

There are wonderful truths of the birth of Christ that every Christian should broadcast to the world, even if it is illegal to do so and lands us in jail, but we do not need to convolute those truths with the traditions of the holiday. Doing so does more damage than good.

Until I hear better reasons why we should fight the “war on Christmas,” my conclusion is this, as much as I love and celebrate Christmas every year, it is not a holiday required by the word of God. Christians should not require other Christians, and certainly not non-Christians, to celebrate it.

Happy Holidays,

D. Eaton

Depart From Me, I Never Knew You

Image result for depart from me i never knew you

It is hard to believe that it has been almost nine years since I posted the video below on YouTube. Of course, some of the images in the video make it look like it is 20 years old. Though the media may be dated, the truth stays the same. This is a clip from a sermon I preached called, Can You Lose Your Salvation?

 

In Preparation for Christmas

Image result for Christian ChristmasIt is that time again. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and many have already frantically begun to prepare for Christmas. The sales are plentiful, the shoppers are swarming, and the decorations and music add warmth everywhere you visit. The preparation has begun, but none of it can compare to the preparation that took place for that first Christmas. Take a moment to imagine what it would have been like to live during a time when they didn’t know the name of the coming Savior.

In preparing for Christmas, our hearts will be helped by meditating on what it must have been like for those of the household of Israel who had been waiting for the Messiah. It all started immediately after the fall when God told Eve that there would be a seed that would have His heel bruised by the serpent, but that same heel would ultimately crush the serpent’s head. Already, God had promised a remedy for the spiritual death they had brought upon themselves and all subsequent generations, and also for the physical death that was working in their bodies at that very moment.

As time went on, God’s people were taught many things about the future one who was going to redeem them from the wages of sin. To name a few, they were told that He was going to be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), and He would speak in parables (Ps. 78:2-4). Along with that, He would be hated without reason (Ps. 35:19), He would be spat upon and stuck (Is. 50:6), and He would be pierced (Zech. 12:10). He would do it all to save His people by being a substitute for them in order to make atonement for their sins (Is. 53:5). Then in the darkest hour, He would walk victoriously out of the grave (Ps 16:10, Ps 49:15).

The prophecies progressively revealed details regarding the coming Messiah, and although His Children did not fully understand them, they gave them hope, but having the promise of a Messiah who was to redeem you from the grip of sin is not the same comfort as having that redemption finished and calling upon his name. Those among the Hebrews who truly believed must have continually wondered longed to know His name. Jacob wrestled with Him in His pre-incarnate form, yet when Jacob asked Him His name He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name? (Gen. 32:29),”and the mystery continued. Later, Samson’s father Manoah spoke with Him, and though he did not fully understand at the moment with whom he was speaking, he also asked Him His name, and the response was “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful (Judges 13:18). All of these events were shrouded in mystery, for the name was not to be revealed until the fullness of time.

With such wonder, hope, and speculation, they lived for thousands of years, including an approximately 400-year period following the prophet Malachi where God seemed to be silent. That all ended, however, the day an angel of the Lord appeared to young Mary and said, “You will conceive and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” His name would be Jesus, and He would save His people from their sins! The wait was over. Sinful humanity was to be redeemed, and the one who was to do it was going to be named Jesus!

Oh, how we have sung His name for thousands of years. How long we have known the only name under heaven by which man can be saved. How long it has filled our hearts with joy. We have not only known His name and His teachings, which are an endless supply of light and life, but we have also known Him personally because He is still with us today and will be with us always, even unto the end of the world.

He bore our sorrows and carried our grief. He took upon Himself our sins, thus putting an end to the condemnation that the law demanded, and He imputes to us His righteousness, making us co-heirs in the inheritance that He so rightly deserves, and we most certainly do not. None of the rapturous joys that fill the believer’s heart would be the same, had it not been for His birth in that lowly stable when God himself took on flesh.

It is easy to be swept away by all the trappings of the season, but the believer must not lose the infinite worth found in Christ in all the paltry tin of secular add-ons. As you prepare your home this season, be sure preparation is made to spend time with your Savior through meditation on His word and prayer, for no heart is as full as the heart that is filled with Christ.

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season!

D. Eaton

Fight With A Strength Not Your Own

 

It does not make any sense to me or to those looking on from the outside. The storm is attacking from every side. Like the wind that hit the house of Job’s children, it is striking all four corners of my life and is attempting to beat me into submission, but in the midst of it all, I have joy. This storm may perplex me, but I will not be abandoned. Though I am struck down, I will not be destroyed.

Those of you who know your Savior, understand what I am talking about. If the darkness of your sin has had to flee because of the light of Jesus, you know that your greatest groanings have been relieved. I once lived under the condemnation of the law, and I was awakened to my depravity. It is much more grievous than I ever realized. This great burden weighed me down to such a degree that I could not lift my head. The burden of sin was not merely something that was attached to me; it was me. Any attempt to remove it was insufficient, until the day when he lifted my head to look at his cross. At that moment the wrath of God was removed, and I became a child of God.

In this I greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, I am grieved with manifold heaviness (1 Peter 1:6). It is the testing of my faith, and the testing of that faith will be found to the praise and glory and Savior Jesus Christ. This Joy cannot be removed by pain. It cannot be removed by sorrow, and despair cannot quench it.

On top of the joy found in the redemption of my sins, I know that our Lord is sovereign over my trials. He is all-knowing and all-powerful, which is a comfort and a conflict. It is a comfort because I know these difficulties I am facing are not accidents. They are perfectly planned by the God of wisdom who makes no mistakes, and I know if he gave his life to save me, he will also be good to me even in the midst of these trials.

The conflict is this, how do you fight against the hand of God in your trials when you know that there is nothing you can do to alter his divine purposes? If nothing can stay his hand, what could my fighting do? There was a temptation at first to resign myself to these trials, but this Joy I am experiencing is telling me otherwise. The joy of the Lord is my strength, and it is leading me to fight.

Though he is sovereign over the battle I am facing, he is also equipping me with strength for the battle (2 Samuel 22:40). He has not called us to despair; he has called us to strength. It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace (Hebrews 13:9), even in the midst of God-ordained trials. In fact, if it were not for the affliction he allows in our life, we would never know the extent of the strength he can give us. Once we get a glimpse of it, we exalt him all the more, which increases our joy and our strength.

So I will fight with a strength that is not my own. My heart and flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).

Therefore, lift your drooping hands, and strengthen your weak knees so that what is out of joint may be healed (Hebrews 12:12). The battle belongs to the Lord. Seek him and his strength. Seek his presence continually (1 Chronicles 16:11). He will equip you with strength for the battle. You will find a power not your own, and that which rises against you, will sink beneath you (1 Chronicles 16:11).

D. Eaton