My Ten Favorite Books, after the Bible

I didn’t take the time to put these in order. These all had a significant impact on my life. They will change your heart.

1. Hudson Taylor’s 2vol biography by Howard Taylor

2. Knowing God by J.I. Packer

3. The Christian Ministry, Charles Bridges

4. Biography of  John Payton

5.The Pursuit of Holiness by Tozer,  Knowledge of the Holy by Tozer, The Best of Tozer v1 & v2

6. Desiring God by John Piper

7. The Letters of Samuel Rutherford

8. The Diary of David Brainerd

9. The Biography of Edward Payson

10. To the Golden Shore, the biography of Adoniram Judson (Three Mrs. Judsons by Emily Judson)

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Cross and Christian Ministry

Having completed C.J. Maheney’s very popular book The Cross Centered Life, and now having completed half of D.A. Carson’s book, Cross and Christian Ministry, The: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians, I would strongly recommend the latter over the former. Much of Maheney’s book finds its basis in Carson’s.  I find Carson’s  writing much more in depth and much more Biblically supported. Here are a few excerpts:

  • Crucifixion was reserved for slaves, aliens, barbarians.  Many thought it was not something to be talked about in polite company.
  • Our self-centeredness is deep. It is so brutally idolatrous that  it tries to domesticate God himself. In our desperate folly we act  as if we can outsmart God, as if he owes us explanations, as if we  are wise and self-determining while he exists only to meet our  needs.

  • The gospel is not simply good  advice, nor is it good news about God’s power. The gospel is  God’s power to those who believe. The place where God has  supremely destroyed all human arrogance and pretension is the  cross.

  • For many Jews, the long-expected Messiah   had to come in  splendor and glory; he had to begin his reign with uncontested  power. “Crucified Messiah”: this juxtaposition of words is only a  whisker away from blasphemy,

  • of the world’s  rebellious self-centeredness is precisely what ensures that it cannot   understand the cross, while God’s wise plan of redemption  hinges on God himself taking self-denying action to bring about  the consummation of his authority.

  • I fear that the  cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of  being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively  peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far  removed from idolatry.

  • the  Countess of Huntingdon used to say that she was saved by an m:  God’s word declares “not many noble,” not “not any noble.”

  • the better we  know God, the more we will want all of our existence to revolve  around him, and we will see that the only goals and plans that  really matter are those that are somehow tied to God himself, and  to our eternity with him.

  • When the pressure to “contextualize”  the gospel jeopardizes the message of the cross by inflating  human egos, the cultural pressures must be ignored.

  • the good news is  announced, it is proclaimed. God is not negotiating; he is both  announcing and confronting.

  • preaching mediates  God himself.

  • If  he really holds that God has supremely disclosed himself in the  cross and that to follow the crucified and risen Savior means  dying daily, then it is preposterous to adopt a style of ministry  that is triumphalistic, designed to impress, calculated to win  applause.

  • Have  professional competence and smooth showmanship become more valuable than sober reckoning over what it means to focus  on Christ crucified?

  • when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor.  12:10). That is the testimony of a man who has learned to minister   under the cross.

  • It is the truth and power of the  gospel that must change people’s lives, not the glamour of our  oratory or the emotional power of our stories.

  • That is what we need: unction, the anointing of the Spirit, the  demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Where that power is  present, people cannot help but know it, and the faith of those  who turn to Christ is safely anchored in God himself. Where  that power is absent, nothing can repair the loss, and the faith  of new converts is likely to be attached, in part, to the wrong  things.

  • The message of the cross smashes the great idolatries of the  ecclesiastical world: our endless self-promotion, our love of  mere professionalism, our addiction to well-defined methods.

  • the cross is not  only our creed, it is the standard of our ministry.

  • If biblical interpretation is held hostage  to some sort of mystical experience of the Spirit, they say, and  taken out of the realm of words, history, grammar, and exegesis,  then there is no logical stopping place.

  • The message of Christ  crucified is the only fundamental dividing line in the human  race.

  • There is no deep and stable spirituality that does not acknowledge   what an utterly profound privilege it is to know God and be  reconciled to him by the crucified Messiah.

  • If we should express unqualified  gratitude to God for the gift of his Son, we should express no less  gratitude to God for the gift of the Spirit who enables us to grasp  the gospel of his Son.

  • if we are to  understand God, to think his thoughts after him, truly to “know”  him, we are going to have to receive the Spirit of God. We simply  cannot find him by ourselves.

  • The heart of our  lostness is our profound self-focus. We do not want to know him,  if knowing him is on his terms.

  • What it means to be “spiritual” is profoundly tied to the cross,  and to nothing else. More precisely, to be spiritual, in this passage,   is to enjoy the gift of the Holy Spirit-and this means  understanding and appropriating the message of the cross,

  • those who  are most mature are most grateful for the cross and keep coming  back to it as the measure of God’s love for them and the supreme  standard of personal self-denial.

  • We must come back to the cross, and to God’s plan of redemption   that centers on the cross, and make that the point of our self-identification.

  • does anyone   truly understand the message of the cross apart from brokenness,   contrition, repentance, and faith? To repeat rather  mechanically the nature of the transaction that Christians think  took place at Golgotha is one thing; to look at God and his holiness,   and people and their sin, from the perspective of the cross, is  life-changing.

I hope to complete this book shortly and to post another followup on the second portion.

Crucifixion was reserved for slaves, aliens, barbarians.  Many thought it was not something to be talked about in polite company.

Our self-centeredness is deep. It is so brutally idolatrous that  it tries to domesticate God himself. In our desperate folly we act  as if we can outsmart God, as if he owes us explanations, as if we  are wise and self-determining while he exists only to meet our  needs.

The gospel is not simply good  advice, nor is it good news about God’s power. The gospel is  God’s power to those who believe. The place where God has  supremely destroyed all human arrogance and pretension is the  cross.

For many Jews, the long-expected Messiah   had to come in  splendor and glory; he had to begin his reign with uncontested  power. “Crucified Messiah”: this juxtaposition of words is only a  whisker away from blasphemy,

of the world’s  rebellious self-centeredness is precisely what ensures that it cannot   understand the cross, while God’s wise plan of redemption  hinges on God himself taking self-denying action to bring about  the consummation of his authority.

I fear that the  cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of  being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively  peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far  removed from idolatry.

the  Countess of Huntingdon used to say that she was saved by an m:  God’s word declares “not many noble,” not “not any noble.”

the better we  know God, the more we will want all of our existence to revolve  around him, and we will see that the only goals and plans that  really matter are those that are somehow tied to God himself, and  to our eternity with him.

When the pressure to “contextualize”  the gospel jeopardizes the message of the cross by inflating  human egos, the cultural pressures must be ignored.

the good news is  announced, it is proclaimed. God is not negotiating; he is both  announcing and confronting.

preaching mediates  God himself.

If  he really holds that God has supremely disclosed himself in the  cross and that to follow the crucified and risen Savior means  dying daily, then it is preposterous to adopt a style of ministry  that is triumphalistic, designed to impress, calculated to win  applause.

Have  professional competence and smooth showmanship become more valuable than sober reckoning over what it means to focus  on Christ crucified?

when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor.  12:10). That is the testimony of a man who has learned to minister   under the cross.

It is the truth and power of the  gospel that must change people’s lives, not the glamour of our  oratory or the emotional power of our stories.

That is what we need: unction, the anointing of the Spirit, the  demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Where that power is  present, people cannot help but know it, and the faith of those  who turn to Christ is safely anchored in God himself. Where  that power is absent, nothing can repair the loss, and the faith  of new converts is likely to be attached, in part, to the wrong  things.

The message of the cross smashes the great idolatries of the  ecclesiastical world: our endless self-promotion, our love of  mere professionalism, our addiction to well-defined methods.

the cross is not  only our creed, it is the standard of our ministry.

If biblical interpretation is held hostage  to some sort of mystical experience of the Spirit, they say, and  taken out of the realm of words, history, grammar, and exegesis,  then there is no logical stopping place.

The message of Christ  crucified is the only fundamental dividing line in the human  race.

There is no deep and stable spirituality that does not acknowledge   what an utterly profound privilege it is to know God and be  reconciled to him by the crucified Messiah.

If we should express unqualified  gratitude to God for the gift of his Son, we should express no less  gratitude to God for the gift of the Spirit who enables us to grasp  the gospel of his Son.

if we are to  understand God, to think his thoughts after him, truly to “know”  him, we are going to have to receive the Spirit of God. We simply  cannot find him by ourselves.

The heart of our  lostness is our profound self-focus. We do not want to know him,  if knowing him is on his terms.

What it means to be “spiritual” is profoundly tied to the cross,  and to nothing else. More precisely, to be spiritual, in this passage,   is to enjoy the gift of the Holy Spirit-and this means  understanding and appropriating the message of the cross,

those who  are most mature are most grateful for the cross and keep coming  back to it as the measure of God’s love for them and the supreme  standard of personal self-denial.

We must come back to the cross, and to God’s plan of redemption   that centers on the cross, and make that the point of our self-identification.

does anyone   truly understand the message of the cross apart from brokenness,   contrition, repentance, and faith? To repeat rather  mechanically the nature of the transaction that Christians think  took place at Golgotha is one thing; to look at God and his holiness,   and people and their sin, from the perspective of the cross, is  life-changing.

Reflecting upon the rock from which we were hewn

Henry Martyn, missionary to Persia, died on October 16, 1812 at the age of 31. His Life and Letters, edited by John Sargent, reveal a man that is passionate for his God, holy, courageous, compassionate and devoted to the Saviour and His service. He writes:

Who, then, that reflects upon the rock from which he was hewn, but must rejoice to give himself entirely and without reserve to God, to be sanctified by his Spirit? The soul that has truly experienced the love of God will not stay meanly inquiring how much he shall do, and thus limit his service, but will be earnestly seeking more and more to know the will of our heavenly Father, that he may be enabled to do it. Oh may we be both thus minded! May we experience Christ to be our all in all, not only as our Redeemer, but also as the fountain of grace! . . .May [God’s Word] teach us to breathe after holiness, to be more and more dead to the world, and alive unto God, through Jesus Christ!

Henry Martyn, John Sargent editor, The Life and Letters of Henry Martyn, (Carlisle, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985). First published 1819. ISBN 0851514685.

Oh! what is nearness to Him?

This is likely my final post that focuses on extracts from the Letters of Samuel Rutherford. I have been personally challenged by the time I have invested in reading of this godly man’s life and heart for the people of God. Mr. Rutherford was a pilgrim having his eyes fixed on the glory of Immanuel’s Land and sought to inspire his people to gaze upon it. The circumstances of my life and the direction of my study has been providentially influenced by my time with Rutherford. I close with one final extract:

Oh! what is nearness to Him? What is that, to be “in God,” to “dwell in God”? What a house must that be! (I John 4:13). How far are some from their house and home! how ill acquaint with the rooms, mansions, safety, and sweetness of holy security to be found in God! Oh, what estrangement! what wandering! what frequent conversing with self and the creature! Is not here “the bed shorter than what a man can stretch himself on it? and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it? (Isa. 28:20). When shall we attain to a living in only God! and be estranged from all the poor created nothings, the painted shadow-beings of yesterday, which, and hour and less before creation, were dark waste negatives and empty nothings, and should so have been for eternity, had the Lord suffered them to lie there forever!

It is He, the great “he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: that bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity” (Isa. 40:22,23). And He, the only He, and there is no He beside Him (Isa 43:10, 11,13-25). Men or angels, they are not any of them a he to Him! But a living, breathing, dying nothing is man at his best, a sick clay-vanity; and the angel, to Him, but a more excellent, living and understanding nothing. Yet we live at a distance from Him; and we die and wither when we are out of God. Oh, if we knew how nothing we are without Him!

. . . Wait upon the speaking vision: “Behold, he cometh! behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him!” (see Isa. 40:10)

Perhaps these extracts have spoken to you as well. If so I encourage you to read the full book. Banner of truth publishes a copy, my copy is a hardcopy  published by Moody Press in 1951. I have two other volumes from the same series that I would also recommend: The Memoirs of McCheyne by Bonar and The Suffering Saviour by Krummacher.

How fast doth our ship sail!

This following quotation is taken from one of Rutherford’s letters written while in exile in 1637. The content from this one passage is reflected in many of the stanzas of the previously posted poem.

“How fast, how fast dot our ship sail! and how fair a wind hath time, to blow us off these coasts and this land of dying and perishing things! Alas! our ship saileth one way and fleeth many miles in one hour, to hasten us upon eternity, and our love and hearts are sailing close backover and swimming toward ease, lawless pleasure, vain honor, perishing riches; and to build a fool’s nest I know not where, and to lay our eggs within the sea-mark, and fasten our bits of broken anchors upon the worst ground in the world, this fleeting and perishing life! And in the meanwhile, time and tide carry us upon another life, and there is daily less and less oil in our lamps, and less and less sand in our watchglass. Oh, what a wise course were it for us to look away from the false beauty of our borrowed prison, and to mind, and eye, and lust for our country! Lord, Lord, take us home!”

I spent Thursday evening discussing this poem with some friends. What struck all of us was Rutherford’s Pilgrim spirit and how vividly he was able to portray the glory of Immanuel’s Land. Spending time in such discussions is a tremendous approach at beating back this worlds encroachment and to catch a clearer vision of spiritual things. What a blessing the edification and mutual encouragement the many members of the church can be in our pilgrim journey.

Hebrews 11:14-16   14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Entering the Popular Reading Fray

I just ordered The Shack & Young, Restless and Reformed.

Currently I am reading:

  • MacArthur Study Bible NKJV
  • Mark, Pillar Commentary Series by James Edward
  • The Letters of Samuel Rutherford
  • Our Lord Prays for His Own by Marcus Rainsford

Just completed:

  • The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin by John Piper.
  • The Pleasures of God by Piper.

My reading has been hobbled by eye issues, but Dr. Bauder has inspired me/kicked me in the seat, to get going. I don’t know if I can do fifty but I can do much better. What is everyone else reading? Any recommendations?