Today’s Kindle deals include a couple of newer books and some older ones as well.
(Yesterday on the blog: Read This First)
How often do you get to read an article by someone who is celebrating a century of God’s faithfulness? “In November 2020, I celebrated a hundred years of the Lord’s faithfulness to me. I can hardly believe I have reached such a milestone as I don’t feel any sense of aging in my spirit, even if my body is weaker than before.”
“At the risk of leaning too far into generational stereotypes, which are indeed lazy and perpetuate slipshod thinking, I’m going to observe yet another difference between people of my age and of my parents’ age.” It’s an interesting observation, and one that helps explain the times.
This is a good and helpful term: pastoral finesse. “Most of the challenging situations with which pastors are confronted demand what I like to call pastoral finesse, namely, approaching a challenging situation with a combination of intentionality, love, boldness, wisdom, and patience.”
And speaking of pastors, here’s a needed reminder. “The Bible doesn’t tell us to preach when the Word is in season and to try something different while it isn’t. We are to preach in season and out of season. In fact, we only know what season it is by preaching! We don’t put a finger in the air and check the weather, we preach the Word and the results tell us what season it might be.”
Michael Kruger distinguishes between two kinds of deconstruction within Christianity: total deconstruction and reforming deconstruction.
Brittany Lee Allen reflects on changes in life and anticipation of heaven. “We’re excited about no longer experiencing sin, no longer walking through suffering, but what if there are things we’ll miss? Will we look back longingly at our life before eternity?”
We can, should, and must be grateful for each deliverance, for each person who finds victory over pornography. It is right and good to celebrate with them. But then we must roll up our sleeves together, knowing there are more battles to come in this great and terrible war.
Prayerlessness is practical atheism, demonstrating a lack of belief in God. —Michael Reeves
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By Tim Challies — 3 weeks ago
The great general had led his troops to a hard-fought but resounding triumph on the field of battle. With the enemy army now vanquished and scattered, he rallied his regiments to press on toward the capital where they would secure the final victory. And though the men marched briskly, he urged them to still greater speed. In their haste, they began to toss aside whatever was superfluous, whatever was redundant, whatever was unnecessary. Soon the road was littered with all that would burden them and slow their progress, for they knew that with their conquest would come honor, home, and rest.
We have left behind one year and entered into another. And with our cries of “happy new year,” with our cheers and hugs, each of us took one more step toward our final victory. We are one hour, one day, one month, one year closer to the end of our days, the end of our march. And the nearer we approach our destination, the more we long to arrive, the more we long to be in that place of triumph, that place of ease.
In the great march that is the Christian life, the passing of the years ought to be marked by what has been laid aside, by what has been taken off and tossed away. As we progress toward our destination, our pathway ought to be strewn with the sins, weights, transgressions, and burdens that slowed our steps, that thwarted our advance. Tossed in the ditch beside the roadway should be the fear of man that tempted us to honor man instead of God. Trodden underfoot should be the lust that tempted us to forsake purity in favor of adultery. Left in the dust should be the love of money that almost swayed our hearts to store up treasures on earth rather than in heaven.
In this way, as the years pass by, our steps become lighter rather than heavier, easier rather than harder. Though the way is narrow, though the way is sometimes rough, though the path forward is sometimes hard to discern, still our march grows more steady, our step more confident, for we have unburdened ourselves of so much of what would hinder us and impede our progress.
And so, as we consider the path that leads through 2022, as we consider the city that lies just beyond the distant horizon, may we resolve to make our step light in the year ahead, may we resolve to make our way as easy as possible, and not by cheating or by shortcuts, but by stripping ourselves of every sin, every weight, every hindrance. May we resolve to divest ourselves even of needless extravagances that might get in the way of our momentum. And may we tread our way with a heart that is free, a step that is light, and a heart that is set on what is true and lasting and eternal. May we walk and jog and run and sprint to our triumph, to our home, to our rest. May we do it all for the great joy that is set before us.
Inspired in part by the works of F.B. Meyer
By Tim Challies — 2 months ago
There is perhaps no book of the Bible that offers as many interpretive challenges as the book of Revelation. I sometimes debate whether the book is actually perfectly clear while we are pathetically thick or whether the book is extremely difficult to understand because God intended it to be. Either way, though the intent and general message of Revelation is clear enough, the details present a challenge worthy of the most eminent theologian.
Speaking of which, Thomas Schreiner has recently taken on that challenge in three forms: a general-level commentary in the ESV Expository Commentary series; a major academic commentary in the Baker Exegetical Commentary series (which is still forthcoming); and The Joy of Hearing, a short book on the theology of Revelation. The latter work represents the debut volume in a new series titled New Testament Theology, co-edited by Schreiner and Brian Rosner. Each volume will examine the big ideas one of the books of the New Testament and do so in a readable and relatively concise format. (The second volume, The Mission of the Triune God: A Theology of Acts, will release in January.)
The Joy of Hearing, then, offers a theology of Revelation, which means it approaches the book thematically rather than chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse. Schreiner begins by telling why it is so important that contemporary Christians read the book of Revelation carefully and know it well. And, of course, this means he needs to address what the book is and is not. “The book of Revelation is not a prophecy chart about the future but a call to be a disciple of Jesus. John tells us to be faithful and fruitful, and we should not give in to despair, for in the end, all will be well.”
My contention is that we desperately need the message of Revelation for today’s world. There is a great conflict between good and evil in our world, and the Christian faith is under attack, as it was in the first century. John reminds us in this book that God rules, even in an evil day; that God has not forsaken his people; and that goodness will finally triumph and prevail. In the midst of evil, in a world in which the Christian faith is under attack, we need hope and assurance that evil will not have the last word, and Revelation teaches us that a new world is coming, that a new creation is coming, and that all will be well. God is just and holy and righteous, and those who turn against God and his Christ will suffer judgment. At the same time, we see in the book that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the center of history, or the fulcrum of history. Evil has been defeated because of what Christ has accomplished. The triumph over wickedness was realized not by an act of judgment but through the suffering of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, through the Lamb who was slain. What do believers do as they live in Babylon, as they live in a world in which the governments of the world are like ravenous beasts tearing apart the church? John tells us that we are to stay close to Christ, that we must not compromise with evil, that we must endure to the end, and that we must look to the final reward.
Schreiner then advances to a brief examination of the book’s setting, date, and genre, suggesting that the best evidence is that it was written during the reign of Domitian, which would date it somewhere between AD 81-96.—a time when the churches in Asia Minor were experiencing state-sanctioned persecution. Yet he insists that “no interpretation should be accepted that demands a particular date—an important hermeneutical conclusion that we can draw from the imprecision of the historical situation.” As for the genre, while Revelation is clearly apocalyptic, Schreiner also emphasizes that it was a personal letter. “The epistolary genre in the book reminds us that we should not indulge in what I call ‘newspaper eschatology’ in reading the book. The book was written to readers who occupied a particular social location, and presumably they understood, at least mainly, what was written to them. The hermeneutical significance of this fact is massively important, for it eliminates the popular conception that modern readers interpret Revelation better than the original readers.”
With all this groundwork in place, Schreiner begins the study proper and, through seven chapters, picks up on the major themes of the book:
The deafness of those living on earth
The saints hear and heed
The declaration that God rules on his throne
The good news of the Lion and the Lamb
The testimony of the Holy Spirit
The promise of blessing and the New Creation
Reigning with Christ for one thousand years
Many will want to read this book to know where the author lands on the question of the millennium (and, therefore, which of the three major positions he advocates—postmillennialism, premillennialism, and amillennialism). He treads carefully and writes charitably without advocating one position far ahead of the others. That said, he is clearly most sympathetic toward historic premillennialism and amillennialism while fairly easily setting aside both postmillennialism and dispensationalism.
As he concludes his study, Schreiner says “In a world full of evil, selfishness, materialism, and sexual exploitation, John proclaims a message of hope, although it is an apocalyptic message that is hidden from the world. Thus believers must attune their ears to hear a transcendent message, to hear the words of the Son of Man and the Holy Spirit.” This wonderful little book, which is equally appropriate for pastors, academics, and general readers, will help accomplish just that—it will better equip us all to hear, understand, and apply that transcendent, hope-filled, life-giving, soul-sustaining message.
The Joy of Hearing is available at Amazon or Westminster Books (where it’s currently 50% off).
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By Tim Challies — 4 months ago
Sometimes one person’s story can stand in for that of millions. Sometimes one person can explain a situation that affects not only themselves but also countless others. Those of us who were blessed to grow up with fathers who were present, active, and engaged may struggle to understand the particular sorrows and challenges that come to those whose fathers were detached, uninvolved, or perhaps entirely absent. Blair Linne’s Finding My Father: How the Gospel Heals the Pain of Fatherlessness tells her own story but, in its own way, tells the story of so many other people as well.
She begins in this way: “The section on my birth certificate reserved for my father’s name is blank. The inside of the narrow, barren horizontal box has neither been struck through nor erased. It simply lies willfully untouched. So my birth certificate, like many others, tells by omission the story of a mother and father who were never married. This piece of paper was seldom referred to. It almost didn’t exist at all, because I almost did not.”
Her mother was young when she had her first child and was young still when she became pregnant with her second. She determined she would pursue an abortion, but was dissuaded by a pastor and soon gave birth to Blair. And while Blair was much loved by her mother, she remained distant from her father—or the man she believed was her father. But that story is her’s and is best told in her own words.
The reason I read her book is that I know a number of people who have grown up without fathers and I am eager to know how to better love, serve, and support them. I know that to do that, I will need to better understand the particular struggles that are theirs. And I’m glad to say that Finding My Father has proven helpful.
Linne describes why, despite the insistence of our culture, a mother cannot be a father. “For understandable reasons, our culture tells us every day that women like her can [replace a dad]. This world pushes for a merging of parental roles. The media portrays men as inept, while women are warriors—especially Black women … Some women hint or shout out that they don’t need a man or a father. I know from experience that these things are usually said to cover the hurt: I will say I don’t need you before you show you don’t need me. But despite all that, the truth is that men are important and dads are needed. Mothers have a different calling than men. My mother was never created to take my dad’s place, any more than he could have taken hers.”
She explains why fatherlessness is so often a predictor of certain struggles and patterns of sin: “When I was younger, I thought that having my dad in our home would solve all of my problems. I thought that the presence of a father would fix everything that the absence of a father had broken. And I was right to sense that. Studies show that poverty, teen pregnancy, obesity, drug and alcohol use, criminal activity, infant mortality, and behavioral problems are all linked to fatherlessness. And this doesn’t even begin to get to the spiritual implications.”
She tells how she has come to understand fatherhood as heavenly before it is earthly, as a description of God before a description of any man. She explains how the church is able to step into the void left by absent fathers and provide some of what they have not or will not. “In church, fellow believers become our spiritual brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. Although we may not have had a dad, we can pray that God will send us a family in our church that will be willing to care for us and provide us with a father-figure who will be the masculine influence we need for our development. After all, in Christ, we actually have more in common with a father-figure who is a believer than we do with a biological father who is not. There are some things our fathers would have taught us had they been there. Since they were not, we’ve been left to figure these things out by ourselves. This is not God’s plan, since he has not left us alone. We have a church family to help us walk through life.”
In one chapter she hands the pen to her husband Shai who explains how he has been able to become the dad he himself never had. “Back when Blair and I first started talking, we were both struck by how similar our family backgrounds were. We were both adult converts who were raised in urban areas by single mothers. We both had fathers who were in and out of our lives. We both had a lot of brokenness and instability in our families. One of the things that excited us about coming together was the prospect of a fresh start. I’m a firm believer in the idea that just one godly married couple can have a lasting impact on many generations that follow them. As we looked in our family trees, we didn’t see that couple. We believed that the Lord was giving us an opportunity to be that couple.” And by God’s grace they are, indeed, becoming that very couple.
Finding My Father is a book that deals biblically and compassionately with a sorrow that is familiar to so many. It is no cold textbook on the matter, but rather a warm and compelling account of one daughter’s desire to know her dad and be known by him, to love and be loved. I expect that many who know that sorrow will blessed and encouraged by it; I expect that many who do not know that sorrow will be better equipped to serve those who do.
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