Elections Matter; but What Matters Most?

A good friend asked me today why last night’s wave election actually mattered – and frankly its a fair question.  For those of you perhaps wondering the same thing, here’s how I summarized the tangible results from last night’s Republican wave election victory:

1. The Keystone Pipeline will likely pass the Senate now creating jobs, revenue etc.

2. There will be a check on the President’s lawlessness (I mean that in the strictest of senses; he’s a lawbreaker)

3. Federal judicial appointments – the positions that have been legalizing the homosexual revolution in America – run through the Senate and will undergo higher levels of scrutiny.

4. Gov. institutions that have been bullying Americans (IRS, EPA etc.) will face greater scrutiny

5. Administration officials will face greater consequences for Foreign affairs debacles like Benghazi et all. Those are just a few items, not to mention spending held in at least something of a check.

There are many more things that will result – many are political and have bearing on the 2016 Presidential race, and what will end up being a massive (and difficult) battle to keep control of the Senate for the GOP. I won’t detail them all, but 2 of them come to mind: 1. Fundraising parity with Democrats will probably be achieved by GOP senate committees and groups, and 2. Senators like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz will not be harangued by Harry Reid’s floor schedule while they travel and campaign for the GOP Presidential Primary.

Last night was a gigantic sweep for Republicans, and a clear repudiation of President Obama’s policies.  This wasn’t a small victory with barely a plurality of voters or seats won in close elections. This was a drubbing from the lowest offices to the highest. Erick Erikson pointed out this morning that, “More than 25 of the Senators who voted for Obamacare have now been thrown out by the voters since 2010.”  This collective reality is really important to remember.

All of this being said, as I hammered out final last-minute work orders yesterday from my desk, I had the movie Chariots of Fire playing in the background on my iMac and there’s a line uttered by Eric Liddell that is worth remembering here this morning:

God made countries, God makes kings, and the rules by which they govern.

Those who rule nations in pride and rejection of God’s purposes for man will eventually – inevitably – be brought low and driven from power, either today or in the years to come as eternity spans before us. This is in accordance with His purposes and according to His time schedule, not ours.

Therefore I encourage those reading to keep politics and their results in perspective. These things are of tremendous import, but they pale in comparison to what matters at the end of the race.  Perhaps Liddell knew that better than most:

It has been a wonderful experience to compete in the Olympic Games and to bring home a gold medal. But since I have been a young lad, I have had my eyes on a different prize. You see, each one of us is in a greater race than any I have run in Paris, and this race ends when God gives out the medals.

 

 

 

 

Weekend Reading: September 12, 2014

Happy weekend! I’m writing to you from the road on the way to the North Carolina coast, where we’re spending a few days enjoying a family wedding. This week was PACKED full of interesting stories, and world-changing events.

So flag this email for later, or grab a cup of coffee and pick out a few links that interest you.  Let’s begin with the anniversary of 9/11…

Here’s a great little youtube documentary on 9/11 from the eyes/perspective of President Bush, who, as it turns out, had an eerie prediction of the situation we now face in Iraq.  FoxNews had a short 13-slide timeline of the day’s events 13 years ago. For you Twitter lovers, you need to check out former Press Secretary Ari Fleischer’s feed from the Wednesday. He tweeted out the memorable events from 13 years ago as if they were live. His perspective is interesting to say the least. Lastly, here was the President’s speech standing atop the rubble 13 years ago – the bullhorn speech! 

President Obama gave a speech about taking the war on ISIS to Syria on Wednesday evening…not quite Churchill’s Famous ‘Fight on the Beaches’ speech…Assuming you read your quota of those stories, check out this interesting perspective from a muslim who wants us to consider Saudi Arabia’s role in supporting terror networks like ISIS and Al Qaeda, and gives some history of their genesis.  Also Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major general and former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, had an Op-Ed in the WaPo this week about how to defeat ISIS that I found worth the read….and if all that wasn’t enough, apparently the President has fallen victim to a good ol’ fashioned caption contest! (h/t Tracy Lear).

Meanwhile, on the home-front, the wealthy aristocracy of New York City are pondering whether its worth an extra million for a parking spot in NYC.

Speaking of the ridiculous, this actually happened…

Now back to something encouraging…Pastor Tim Challies has a great little summary on chapter 2 of John Owen’s classic ‘Overcoming Sin and Temptation’ in which he boils some things down very nicely.

I’m sure you’ve heard, thought about, discussed the new iPhone this week. Apple announced their new iPhone (the 6th edition), iWatch and Apple Pay and I think critics were pretty much satiated that the technology giant had really moved the ball forward for the first time in a few years. Of course there are haters who disagree with my generous assessment. 

Speaking of tech, the net neutrality battle is heating up in case you didn’t notice….AND in addition to his work on Owen, Challies penned a short 5 point list on how to protect your information online which I found very helpful.

Continuing in that genre, not all technology is thrilling the masses these days…meet the simple technology that some say has ruined baseball. 

If that story doused your inner tech spark, then scroll through this one which is sure to ignite it again: advanced DNA technology solved the 126 year old mystery of Jack the Ripper this week!

On to TV…PBS has partnered with Ken Burns once again, this time on a documentary featuring the Roosevelt family. I have no clue if its going to be good or not, but its worth taking a peak…Burns will always find a place in my heart for the ‘Civil War’ and some really love his exhaustive (and exhausting) ‘Baseball’. 

This past week, Kate and I took in a little series posted to YouTube called ‘Tales from the Green Valley.’  Even if you just watch one episode of the 12 part series, you’ll enjoy watching 5 experts try and run a farm with all 17th century technology, clothes, and food. Fascinating stuff, and lots of little things you’ll learn you never new before. (h/t Katie W.)

Now some random stuff…

I appreciated this little piece on titled ‘The Problem with Reclining Airplane Seat Design’

Now THIS is cool – Whole Foods is a pretty hip grocery story, now they’re bringing hip to your door – check it out!

How to pay for all that food?  Well check out what John Piper has to say about ‘How to Decide About Your Next Job’.  Great little resource here. If you don’t read it now, file it away for a rainy day.

Vitamins or no vitamins? Nate Silver’s blog is advocating in the negative – mostly because of the way the results/benefits of vitamins are tested. This is a story for you stats geeks out there.

And…some more on the culture

Now this is a terrific little post that will crack you up and have you saying “amen!” One man edits Oprah’s coffee cup cliches. 

Challies also had a nice little follow up on last week’s nude celeb photogate scandal.

But not all celebs are scummy – check out Carrie Underwood singing ‘How Great Thou Art’...whoa! (h/t Senator Dan Hall!)

And a wonderful man of God, and terrific businessman Truett Cathy died this week. What an impact and legacy that man had!

Jared Wilson is in fine form here with an article about the church titled ‘He Must Increase; Our Churches Must Decrease’.

One thing not decreasing is the moral shift in America. Al Mohler’s daily briefing from earlier in the week is an indication of where the battle lines are. The collegiate Christian group InterVarsity has been kicked out of the California State University System. 

Kuyperian Commentary has a really solid resource on confronting deep sin utilizing 2 Corinthians. This meant a lot to me personally because a) I love 2 Corinthians and b) I’ve used many of these verses to confront sin in very difficult situations. It’s hard to describe the sense of fortitude one has when the rock of Scripture is firmly under one’s feet in such a moment.

The Twitters were tweeting this week about grade inflation at ivy league schools, which may be interesting to some of you ivy leaguers out there.

Lastly, and wonderfully, Jon Bloom ever at Desiring God had a fantastic piece called ‘The Antidepressant of Wonder’ in which he uses football and the changing of seasons as analogies for God’s work in this world, and how taking time to enjoy that work lifts our spirits vis a vis our changed perspective.

These articles remind us that we live in a rapidly changing world. Let us hold fast to our convictions in every sphere, knowing that He is able to help us hold them in integrity until the final day:

But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:12)

 

 

Renewing the Old Toyota

1986-toyota-mr2
1986 Toyota MR2 from Motortrend Magazine

As I drove my brother and his wife and daughter to the airport yesterday it was hard to say goodbye.  My daughter Chloe came with me, and there was definitely a sense of loss as all the family we had in town for the weekend left around 4:30pm yesterday for their own homes and the routines of their lives.

As we drove back home from the airport I found myself very thoughtful, and grateful for a wonderful weekend. But I realized that it’s a cruel fate of this life that family should live so far away. We move away for work, or seeking a dream, or any number of reasons – many are highly necessary in order to live productively in this world.

When I think in my mind about scenarios that would allow me to live in the same 60-100 mile radius as my family (my brother is in Denver, my sister in Cleveland, my parents in Toledo, my grandparents in Portland) I can find none.

My family loves where they live – and I love where I live.  We all have lives that are built geographically around our homes.  We have different churches, different grocery stores, our friends are here, and those little dives that we dine at on Friday nights.

So there’s really no solution…in this life.

Driving home last night my eyes wandered onto an old Toyota – an MR2 – which was running parallel with us on 270 West. Admiringly I stared at the perfectly refurbished 1980’s classic, and I thought about how much time and effort it would have taken to have that car in such immaculate shape.

My mind then wandered to our Creator, and how He’s working in each one of His children to remake them after His own image (2 Cor. 3:18 was a topic of discussion at a family dinner on Saturday night).

The Bible promises that when Christ comes back He will renew the earth and the heavens (Rev. 21:1) – just like this man renewed this old Toyota.

That’s when it hit me – in the next life, when all is renewed and set right I will have family and fellow believers to fellowship with for eternity. I have no idea how distance will be traversed in the next life, and that’s not what I’m speculating about.  Rather, one of the feelings within my soul yesterday was that it isn’t a necessary eternal de facto state of being for family to be separated by vast distances for reasons that are so intrinsically tied to this earthly – temporary – life.

In other words, that Toyota minded me that the current state of play on the earth won’t always stand. I will have an eternity to fellowship with family and friends separated now by distance, or death, or other forces of this life which will not be associated with the next. And this is a comforting thought to dwell on the day after such a great time of fellowship ended.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21 ESV)

Weekend Reading: August 15, 2014

Happy Friday!  I’m glad to be back on U.S. soil this week, and am enjoying catching up on all that is going on here in America and with my family as well.  I’ve collected a series of interesting articles, interviews, and more for you to take a look at as you coast into the weekend.

Also, if you’d like to read about my adventure in Israel this past week, you can see pictures and read about what I did here on this blog. Each day is listed below:

Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7

Now for your weekend reading…

Islam is on the rise here in America...only trouble is there aren’t enough Imam’s do lead worship…

Nice little article citing three traits of kids who don’t grow up and leave the church.

Fantastic perspective on the Ebola outbreak and the choice to fly the Christian missionary back to the US for treatment.

There’s been a lot going on oversees right now – especially in the Ukraine, Iraq, and Israel.  If you didn’t catch this story about a helicopter crash FYI, also, a great little interview that Joel C. Rosenberg did with an Iraqi pastor is here (h/t Lisa Wenzel).  And these folks list very clearly 5 things you can do for Christians in Iraq. 

Also, along similar lines, Jonathan Parnell has a column at DG about loving and hating your enemies. I’m not sure he is very clear in his writing, or that he really gets to the heart of the issue in the final analysis, but found it an interesting conversation starter nonetheless.

Speaking of foreign policy…Hillary Clinton bashes the Obama administration...and is right on target with her assessments…too bad no one will take her seriously. And FP.com has a smart look at why the administration is failing oversees. 

The folks at CARM, a Christian apologetics organization, dismantled Joyce Meyer’s false teaching a while back and I finally got to read through this a bit.  Pretty good reference.  If you’ve been reading or following her, well, let me just say there’s plenty of other good teaching out there that isn’t heretical for you to enjoy!

Speaking of false teachers, Tim Challies did an entire series on these people, and came to a handful of conclusions based on what he saw across the spectrum of his research.  A few traits stood out…

Pastor Challies also had a succinct little post about ‘Why We Love to Read’

And the guys at Kuyperian Commentary have continued their series that looks at tattoos. 

Also, I stumbled on this really interesting info-graphic that details how early each early morning TV show host gets us, and what their morning routine looks like.

Speaking of off-the-wall stuff, DG has a post about nude TV…yes, you read that right…

That is it!  Enjoy the weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: June 20, 2014

Summer is finally here (officially)!  So grab a towel and the kids and head to the pool – and keep your ipad or smartphone with you for some weekend reading.  Here are my top stories, videos, and things to check out as you kick back, or gear up for a busy weekend:

Amazon Fulfillment Center Insider’s Look – this was just a fascinating look inside Amazon’s gigantic warehouses – highly recommend you skim through this one.

HGTV cancels show due to Christian overtones – this is pretty much standard fair these days, but in case you missed it, two brothers who were stars in a brand new HGTV show titled ‘Flip it Forward’ have had their show canceled because **shockingly** they oppose muslim terrorists, abortion, and gay rights.

Disease is on the Border – if you’ve been watching the news at all lately, you’ve noticed that a flood of illegal immigrants has been amassing in Texas and Arizona. Many have come from South America via Mexico and are bringing contagious diseases with them.

Is Success Dangerous? – Jared Wilson says so, and has some good things for Christians to keep in mind.

America in a Spiritual Crisis – potential Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul said Friday that America needs revival more than it needs political leadership…I agree with him there!

Great Music from Keith and Kristyn Getty – If you attend our Thursday Lifegroup here in Dublin Ohio you’ll know we sang a new song last night from this more recent release of the Getty’s.  Check it out!

Travel by Drone! – This is a neat website where you can check out videos from cameras strapped to drones in top cities all over the world. A fun little diversion if you’re curious what Berlin or Kiev looks like from a few thousand feet above the ground.

Seeking the Face of God – this 2009 article by John Piper was helpful to me this week as I did a personal study on what it means to “seek the face” of the Lord.  One of my favorite scriptures is 1 Chron. 16:11 because it was Katie’s signature verse used to sign her love letters to me in college and reflected her desire for me to put God first – even before her.  Preview: “This setting of the mind is the opposite of mental coasting. It is a conscious choice to direct the heart toward God.”  Along similar lines, check out David Mathis’ article on ‘Bringing the Bible Home to Your Heart’ – h/t Parris Payden

My dog ate my emails – Former IRS Chief Lois Lerner’s emails seem to have disappeared, yet White House officials are unapologetic.  Go figure.

What do you do when you’re stuck in the Vegas Airport overnight? Why, shoot a music video using your iphone of course! – pretty funny stuff here! h/t Parris Payden

Pornolescence – Timely article by Tim Challies this week on the nature of Porn and its affect on Christian homes across America. – h/t Parris Payden

Hollywood Hearts Abortion and PCUSA Gay Marriage Update – Al Mohler gives a rundown on the vote of the Presbyterian Church USA (the more liberal of the two mainline Presbyterian denominations) to allow their ministers to marry same-sex couples.  He also discusses a new movie out of Hollywood’s sewers which seeks to make an abortion plot-line into a romantic comedy. Discretion advised if you’re listening with kids around.

How Suffering Leads to Joy and Hope – Two weeks ago I preached a message from Romans 5:1-5 on how suffering brings endurance, character and hope which ultimately yields joy.  The audio from that sermon is now posted if you have a desire to check it out.

In the Aftermath of Disappointing Elections – Tim Challies writes about his disappointment in the aftermath of the Ontario Elections the other day and how his faith, like Abraham’s, must be grounded in God’s character.  I wrote a similar piece just after the 2012 elections – find that little piece of archive goodness HERE. 

Resources, Resources!

Pray like a Puritan! – Looking for help in your prayer life? Check out the Valley of Vision.  These puritan prayers will inspire, deepen, and lift your heart as you prepare to spend time with the Lord.  Really enjoy this book!

Spurgeon at 180 – This week would have been C.H. Spurgeon’s 180th Birthday, and to celebrate the Confessing Baptists are giving away a complete sermon series – enter to win at the link above! h/t Parris Payden

“Orthodox Christology” by Keith Mathison

Last night I was reviewing the latest blog post over at Ligonier Ministries and it was so good that I felt might be useful to repost here.  Keith Mathison is three parts into a series on what he’s titled ‘An Introduction to Orthodox Christology’.  It’s a look at the entire Bible – in parts – and how we understand different part of the OT (and I assume the NT in future blog posts) to be speaking of Christ. As you might know, the ending “ology” means “the study of”.  So “Christology” is naturally “the study of all things pertaining to Christ.”

The post I read last night was focused on 2 Samuel and some of the Psalms and was really enjoyable. It’s a little on the heavy side for those who might not regularly read scholarly work, but I think you’ll find it fascinating if you’ve never examined some of these things before, and I urge you to at least give it a skimming!

Post 1: Why Christology is Important 

Post 2: The Pentateuch 

Post 3: The Historical Books and Psalms

Soli Deo Gloria!

PJW

Can’t Hold Him Down

As I was studying another passage in Acts 2 with some guys this past Sunday, we ran headlong into Acts 2:24.  Check it out:

God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:24 ESV)

Now, we didn’t spend a lot of time on it then, but this has always been one of my favorite passages when regulating/guiding my understanding of the resurrection.  And since its Easter week (“Holy Week”), I thought I’d just bring this verse to your attention for meditation in the days ahead.

I really wanted to mention two things. First, there’s something amazing here about his ontology (His essence), and second, there’s some great truths that should put our mind to ease about our own salvation.

So first, a quick note about the “ontology” or “essence” of Jesus.  He is, of course, fully man.  That’s how He was able to be killed in the first place.   But because you cannot actually kill God, He is unable to die, and therefore death simply can’t hold him. You can’t snuff out the essence of life just like darkness, as a natural principle of science, flees from the room when you turn on the light. The rules that govern reality don’t work like that.  Had Jesus stayed dead, its not like people could say “well there goes that myth” because there would be not people to say that. When you kill the single entity that is powering and upholding our understanding of life and reality as we know it (Heb. 1:1-3, and Col. 1:15-20), then you would (or “might” since its impossible) also destroy all life which is tied to that power source pretty much instantly.

Let that thought settle in your mind a bit…can you imagine having crucified this man and then see Him walk around Jerusalem for 40 days teaching people?!  ……and you wonder why this whole Christianity thing really took off?  That, by the way, is what Easter is all about.  Time to bring your mind into a proper state to once again focus on this truth and then be subsequently blown by this truth.

But secondly, I love this verse because for those who might be struggling with that thought of “well, I definitely believe in Jesus, I definitely believe I’m saved, and I have repented of my sins…but, man, I just struggle with whether or not I’ll lose my salvation.  I know my sinfulness, and I know I’m just constantly failing!” This is the passage for you.

Why?  Well think about it this way – if Jesus is said not to be able to “be held by (death)” then that means He has power over death.  And when you combine that truth with another from Romans six which states, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:4-5 ESV)” — what you get then is the perfect combination for assurance that you’ll make it to the end without losing a thing!  

In fact, I think that’s exactly what the last part of Romans 8 is all about, and what the whole of the chapter is about, namely that since God is in charge and in control of the saving your soul from start to finish, you have to assume He knows what He’s doing AND that He can see the project through to completion.

Definitely check out Romans 8, but also check out John 6, because Jesus says some remarkable things there as well.  I’m going to leave you with a few of those verses — but first, you need to remember, and (rightly) assume that when Jesus teaches us something you can know with absolute certainty that its going to happen. Why?  Well, anyone who can control acts of nature, raise people to life, heal them of hideous diseases, multiply food without calling for takeout, and beat the grave can pretty much by guaranteed to keep your salvation safe until He comes back (note the sarcasm…).  Now here’s what Jesus says:

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:35-40 ESV)

 

Speaking at the Ligonier Partner Dinner 2014

Last night I had the privilege of giving a brief testimony of how God has used Dr. R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries in my life. Below is the video from the dinner – I hope you enjoy, and are edified by the content.  It was an extremely encouraging evening.  Katie and I went together and are in the midst of attending the Ligonier National Conference here in Orlando as I type this. For more information about Ligonier you can visit them here. I can’t say enough about this fantastic ministry.  They really do a lot to train people and bridge that gap between sunday school and seminary.

Most Influential Books Part 3

This is part three (and final post) in a series on the most influential books I’ve read.  I’ve also listed some “runners up” at the end.  To be honest, there are so many good books that I read each year, that a list like this is necessarily subjective, and its always growing. Not that some books don’t have obvious merit for all people, but I also recognize that some may have had impacted me more than they will you. Not only that – but there’s a good chance that next week I could read something that blows me away and it won’t be on the list. Just this past week I read two books that were pretty darn good – Matt Chandler’s ‘Explicit Gospel’ and Michael Reeves ‘Delighting in the Trinity’. Nevertheless, I have to draw the line somewhere!

I hope you enjoy this third installment!

11. The Power of Positive Thinking – No one will accuse Norman Vincent Peale of being a theological genius, in fact much of his teaching undermines the basic Christian message that we are all sinner who need a Savior extra nos, but early in my theological awakening I didn’t seem to realize much of his incorrect teaching. So despite a deeply flawed message, God graciously used this book to help me learn two important things: 1. I need to be praying for others regularly and 2. The importance of Scripture memorization. This book literally pointed me back to the Bible’s importance for my physical and emotional well-being. I was suffering a great deal of anxiety and my doctor had prescribed anti-anxiety medication. My stomach was constantly in knots and I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with the problem…medication seemed like the only option. But when I fervently began to memorize scripture and pray for others and bigger items besides just my own desires, I began to slowly be cured of my anxiety. I stopped taking medication. I was a free man. And its not a big mystery as to why – this wasn’t magic, it was simply allowing the Word of the Lord and the power of the Spirit to become my top priority and renew my mind. The Bible can do that like no other book.  In addition, praying for others got my mind off my own troubles and focused on loving others (even if I didn’t know them). This book helped point me in the right direction. Would I recommend it now?  No way – but its prescriptions, most certainly. In fact if you want to learn more about Peale’s false teaching you can read Tim Challies’ write up on his bio: http://www.challies.com/articles/the-false-teachers-norman-vincent-peale

12. The Loveliness of Christ – During some of my darkest, most stressed-filled days this book has been a balm of healing. I have quoted it, memorized portions of it, I’ve taken it to the hospital multiple times, and it’s been a great tool of perspective in the midst of suffering. It is a small book, but a powerful book. Samuel Rutherford is probably one of the most influential puritan writers of all time, and his influence on me has been significant. If you were to add any one book to your collection as a result of this blog post, this would be the one I’d start with. The book is comprised of probably 100 (small) pages of quotes which are simply excerpts from his letters to other believers. In another way, if you are a Christian, Rutherford’s caring love for others around him ought to be a model for you as you seek to live in a way that is caring and reflective of the Savior.

13. Kingdom Through Covenant – Perhaps no book to date has had such an outsized impact on the way I understand the way in which the Biblical story is put together and unfolds throughout history. It made me feel good to be a Baptist (truth be told), and assured me that I wasn’t giving up any intellectual ground on that score (perhaps an intramural joke there)! It also explained for me a lot of the flow of events in the Old Testament and how they culminate in Christ – especially O.T. promises. This was an important book in my deeper theological development, and for those who have been Christians for a while and have always wondered at the dispensational and covenant approaches (i.e. you are/were head-scratchers like me), then this will prove very fruitful ground for you. You’ll have to ignore all the Hebrew and Greek text that the authors slip in from time to time. They are the scholars in that field and they do that to show their work (like you did in long division in 8th grade). My best advice is to do your best to read around it and not let it bog you down…its well worth it!

14. The Lord of the Rings – Growing up I was somewhat of a stranger to Tolkein’s work. I was aware of The Hobbit (I had seen a play, and perhaps had it read to me by my mom), but had no idea there was more to the story. Finally, while I was in college, my brother Alex introduced me to the story when Peter Jackson’s silver screen rendition of The Fellowship of the Ring came out in the theaters. I went as a skeptic, and left as a man head over heals in love. Later, in the weeks and days leading up to my wedding, I read The Lord of the Rings almost nonstop. I carried it with me everywhere, and my bookmark was our wedding vows which I was endeavoring to memorize. I still read this book whenever I can, and appreciate its depth and literary value more with each passing year.

15. Henry Drummond – This is not a book, it is an author (is that cheating?). During the 2007/2008 Romney Presidential Campaign I lived on the short sayings of Drummond. He gave me hope that science and Christian intellectualism could co-exist, and helped add perspective to my busy life away from home when I was sad and often feeling lost. Drummond lived and wrote in the mid-nineteenth century and devoted a substantial amount of time to standing up to the popular new scientific theory of evolution. He had a sharp logical mind, and I think just about anything he wrote is really fascinating.
Runners up – books that have taught me at least one major concept that has stuck with me:

God’s Greater Glory – In this sequel to Bruce Ware’s ‘God’s Lesser Glory’, Dr. Ware explains God’s “meticulous sovereignty”, a concept that has really been important in my own studies over the past year or so.  His Biblical and logical arguments are beyond arguing with from what I can tell of all I’ve read thus far. If you’ve read Chosen by God, and don’t want to blow your brains out with a puritan reading (i.e. Freedom of the Will) on the topic of God’s sovereignty, then this is the next step in your educational endeavors.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – This is a recent purchase and read and makes the list for how much it makes me laugh. It is easily one of the most enjoyable and hilarious books I have ever read! What I love the most about it is its trueness to the story as well as to Shakespeare’s famous writing style (the entire book is written in iambic pentameter).  If you love star wars and literature, this is the perfect combination – but be warned, this book is not to be read in any location where laughing out loud might be frowned upon!

The Transforming Power of the Gospel – Jerry Bridges explains “dependent responsibility”, which is the concept that men and women are both responsible for their actions and obedience to God’s laws, while at the same time dependent upon God for help to obey.  The tension here is worked out beautifully, and helpfully.

Give them Grace – Elyse Fitzpatrick examines parenting using the gospel. It is probably the best parenting book I’ve ever read, and it is easily the most challenging. There aren’t a lot of “to-do’s” from here, but there is a significant philosophical boost and reexamination that will likely take place.  If you don’t yet understand how the gospel fits into everyday life, this is one you must read.

A Case for Amillenialism – Kim Riddlebarger opened my mind to eschatology and taught me to enjoy it and not be scared to study it. I don’t think he’s the best writer, it seems a little clunky at times.  But he is really helpful in this area, and I find myself going back to his book and his blog again and again for wisdom.

The Trinity – Bruce ware explains divine roles better than anyone I had ever read. Especially subordination in role and co-equality in ontology.  If you’ve never understood the Trinity, this book will be huge for you.

The Freedom of the Will – Edwards proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that God initiates salvation.  Extremely difficult read though, so don’t read this unless you’re ready to pop a few Advil along with it! In fact, I would recommend not reading this unless you are an advanced scholar whose already read some other puritan works (or even other works by Edwards). But if you are pretty advanced in your reading and understanding of doctrine, then make sure to put this on your bucket list.

Bonhoeffer – This almost made my original list. I read it at a time when I was going through much pain and angst and it helped distract me and keep my mind fresh. It was a very very good book and a very interesting biography.  It will not leave you satisfied though, I warn you there…but I think that is for the best (though I know some who disagree).

The Pleasures of God – Piper explained how it was the will and pleasure of the Father to crush the Son. This concept just blew me away.  He goes into many other “pleasures” of God in this series, and they are worth reading or listening (there is a sermon series) through.

Holiness – J.C. Ryle explained to me that in order to enjoy heaven later I need to pursue holiness now. That concept is meted out over some three or four hundred pages. It was a very impactful book and showed example after example of how men and women from the Bible lived their lives in pursuit of holiness all pointing forward to the One who lived a perfect life of holiness so that when we fail that goodness, that righteousness, is there for us and keeps us in right standing before God.

The 5000 Year Leap – I read this in 2009 (I think) and it was one of the first books to awaken me to how far off course our country has gotten. It’s a great foundational book for anyone trying to figure out for themselves “what’s really wrong with this country?”

The Children of Hurin – This is one of J.R.R. Tolkein’s posthumously published works and probably the greatest thriller/tragedy I’ve ever read hands down. It was published with the help of his son Christopher and if you get the right edition it will have sketches by Alan Lee, which are really good. Just a fantastic piece of fiction.

Knowing God – This classic work of J.I. Packer helped shape a lot of my thinking on the nature of the Christian life.  Perhaps chapter 19 (on adoption) was most influential because it stuck with me the best. You can hardly go wrong by reading this book multiple times until its truth seeps in and helps you better grasp your life’s purpose, and more of who and what God is all about.

Battling Unbelief – John Piper works out some important ideas here in a book that is basically a boiled down version of ‘Future Grace’ and the idea behind the book is that most of our anxiety and sinfulness (and many issues in our lives) derive from a Christian’s failure to have faith in God.  In other words, we don’t believe Him and don’t trust in His promises etc. It’s astonishing how many times Piper is able to get to the root of things in this small book. I’d recommend this one to anyone who wants to get to the root of the problems facing them each day.

The Story of Christianity Volume I – I read this 500 (or so) page history book last year as part of a seminary class on the history of the Christian church. It was so easy to read and so good that I picked up its sequel (volume II) for reading on my own. What I liked so much about this book was Justo Gonzalez’ ability to simplify complex political and religious issues, and help the reader traverse hundreds of years of history without missing the small things, yet without losing site of the bigger picture.  It’s easily the best volume on the church I’ve read thus far (at least for a beginner like me).

Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God – This book is a compilation of essays written about the holiness of God by noted scholars and theologians.  The essay by Sinclair Ferguson entitled ‘Hallowed be Your Name: The Holiness of the Father’ left a lasting impression on me and I refer back to it again and again.

Conclusion: One of the things that is inevitably left off a list like this are the dozens of commentaries and study aides I read each year as I teach through books of the Bible. Men like Carson, Calvin, Ridderbos, Vos, Stott, Augustine, Boice, MacArthur, Morris, Kostenberger, Frame, Schreiner, Grudem, Beale and others who didn’t get mentioned in my book list have been equally influential on my thinking and understanding of life, death, Scripture, and many other topics under the sun. There have also been men and women whose books I have read and have been helpful or enjoyable, but if I listed them all it would take way too long!

But what I have learned is that reading changes lives, it does this in the way that Bruce Ware describes the study of theology: first it changes your mind, then your heart, then the actions of your hands, which in turn affects your habitat.  But it starts in the minds and hearts of those who seek wisdom. You’ll notice that many of my books are theological or Biblically based, and that isn’t because I haven’t read a slew of Gresham or my fair share of Star Wars, and it isn’t because I haven’t read the classic works from Dickens and Dumas (becauseI have), but its because the books that have shaped me, influenced me, and changed me for the better have largely been books whose topic is heavenly, and whose aim is joy in life and after it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the postings – feel free to comment with any questions!

Most Influential Books Part 2

I’ve begun a short series of posts about books which have greatly impacted my life. I mentioned in the first post that sometimes a book doesn’t have to be brilliant to have a major impact on your life. Sometimes it has to simply have the right message (assuming it is a truthful message, of course) at the right time. I’m a firm believer that books change lives and see us through the bright and the dull and the pain.

For the introduction to the series, and more background you can go here and read more.  In the meantime, here (in no particular order) goes installment number two in the series…

  • The Magician’s Nephew and The Horse and His Boy – These two need to go together because I heard/read them closely together and so their impact came in tandem. These are both children’s’ books and each one is part of a whole series of Narnia books written by C.S. Lewis. They were two of my favorites growing up and their value has held throughout my life. They enlivened my imagination and taught me to love literature at an early age. From a chronological standpoint the Magicians’ Nephew is first, though Lewis wrote them all out of order, and they were published out of order as well (to complicate matters!).  The whole series is worth reading to your children, if not to yourself, for their literary appeal, and their wonderful storyline.  The Horse and His Boy is such a great story that it can hardly be left off of any fiction list from the 20th century (in my opinion), and the Magician’s Nephew is highly enjoyable – though I think its better to have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and others first.  Only then will you appreciate all the little story clues Lewis drops into the mix (I would point your attention to such things as how the lamppost got into Narnia in the first place…).
  • The Holiness of God – This is a modern classic in the field of Christian books for the layman or average joe. I can’t remember now whether I read this prior to ‘Chosen by God’ or afterward, but it was enjoyable because of the tension that Sproul showed within God’s character between mercy and justice etc. I began to see God not simply as my “celestial bellhop” who comes to me in times of trouble, but rather as the God or all the universe whose majesty is both awesome and awful. In many ways, this book helped dispense of the false god I had mentally built up over the years and replace it with a God whose holiness is beyond what I had ever contemplated. If nothing else, this book will help you worship with a more complete view of who God actually is. And if you’re a newer believer, you’ll grow immensely from this study.
  • The Valley of Vision – Before I taught my first Sunday school lesson at Dublin Baptist Church I was so nervous that I found myself almost shaking. Recently I had come into possession of this book (Christmas present in 2010 from my mom), and I had “coincidently” brought it with me in the car on the way to church.  I have no idea why I brought it – at least I didn’t at the time. Arriving too early for the lesson, I decided to get donuts for the class, and as I sat in the Tim Hortons parking lot in Dublin trying to pull myself together, it was this book that helped me pour my heart out to God and seek His help at that moment. The humility and strength of this prayer book is unparalleled.  It helps me time and again remember how to pray: with all my heart, soul and strength.
  • The Ultimate Sales Machine – I read this Chet Holmes book in 2009/2010 when my business partner and I were learning how to do business and sell etc. When we combined this book with some suggestions and help from a business coach, the book really impacted my approach to sales and ultimately led to the building of a multi-million dollar company. I don’t pretend to be an expert at judging business books, but this one was very helpful to me.
  • Knowing Scripture – This may be one of the most important little books I’ve read prior to much of my teaching. The principles here kept me from making countless errors and committing numerous textual indiscretions!  If you are going to teach a Sunday School, Bible study or just want to get more from the text of Scripture, then this is your book. I don’t think any lay teacher can afford not to read this book.

Stay tuned for my next installment of Most Influential Books…