Monday, January 4, 2016

Reading List: January 4, 2016

What do you do on winter break? No break from reading for me! Now’s the time I can read some things that aren’t “required”!  I have so many books that I want to read so I tried to get through as many as I could while I have time. Not very many are so fortunate and I hope reading these summaries is helpful to some. In the next month I hope to get through several more – I have just 3 credits I’m taking over the J-term before the spring semester starts on February 8th so I will have some extra time.

Resisting Gossip: Wining the War of the Wagging of the Tongue by Matthew Mitchell

This book is going on my “books every Christian should read” list. I read it on my kindle, but I am getting a print copy because it’s one of those books that I know that I want to re-read. Yes, it’s that good.

Matt Mitchell defines gossip as “bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart”. He does a wonderful job discussing why it is that we are drawn to information/news/gossip and the different forms it can take. There are various forms of gossip and some are more harmful than others. He also discusses the heart and the motives behind why we listen to and share things about others. This book was quite convicting and yes, I’m guilty of a lot of this too! How easy it is to “vent” and share things that are completely unnecessary and are not helpful or edifying to others. When we are negative and critical towards others it certainly does say a lot about what is going on in our hearts. Ouch. It’s something we often don’t think is a big deal, or it’s something that we are so used to that we don’t realize we’re doing it. Matt writes that sometimes we do it out of unnecessary curiosity or plain boredom and that “the ‘gospel escape’ from boredom is active love, active service and active mercy for other people – including those who do not deserve it one bit.”

Matt gives practical help through stories and examples and also steps to how we can identify gossip, change our habits and also stop the spread of it. Throughout Scripture we are warned about the use of the tongue and told to love and build others up. There is of course proper times to tell information, and proper times where we need to confront others. But in all our speech may we become people known for our gracious and edifying words!

“Most, if not all, sinful gossip includes the sin of judging others…. There is an unnecessary kind of judging that leads to sinful gossip. This is the kind of judging Jesus talked about when he said ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged’ (Matt 7:1).” “Another name for sinful judging is critical judgment. The opposite virtue is called charitable judgment.”

“It is pride when we pick and choose what is most wrong about another based upon our own self-exaltation. We are all prone to do this.”

God’s Kingdom Through God’s Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology by Peter Gentry & Stephen Wellum

I started this a month ago on my kindle, but had to postpone finishing it until after finals. This book was an excellent treatise on the covenants in Scripture – what they are (and aren’t), how they relate to one another and most importantly, how they point to and are fulfilled in Christ and the new covenant. “...apart from properly understanding the nature of the biblical covenants and how they relate to each other, we will not correctly discern the message of the Bible and hence God’s self-disclosure which centers on and culminates in Christ.”  Biblical theology is looking at Scripture as a whole and is very important to understand if we want to rightly understand Scripture. “Our reading of Scripture and or doing of theology must attend to the historical unfolding of redemptive history that is organically related and ultimately centered on Jesus Christ.”

Does the study of the covenants in Scripture matter? Yes because “it is the interpretation of the relation of the old covenant to the new that is the basis of all the major divisions among Christians; i.e., all denominational differences derive ultimately from different understandings of how the covenant at Sinai relates to us today.” Whether you think there is one covenant, or two, or multiple ones (which is what this book argues for) makes a big difference in how you view Scripture and the relationship between the old and new testaments.  If you are not sure, or even if you think you disagree, I’d invite you to read this and examine it carefully in light of what Scripture itself teaches.

“Because Christ is the last Adam and the true Israel, the true and literal seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16), all of God’s promises to Israel (which includes the nations) are fulfilled in Christ and inaugurated in the church. God has not replaced Israel by the church; instead he has brought Israel’s role to its fulfillment in Christ and to Christ’s people.”

True Worshipers: Seeking What Matters To God by Bob Kauflin

This was a really great book too. As a Christian who loves the Lord worship had been something I have sought (and I don’t just mean singing), but Bob Kauflin takes a real deep look at what true worship looks like and it was both convicting and encouraging to my soul. He begins with our inability and the truth that true worship begins with us receiving from God. He writes, “worship is a gift we receive before it’s a task we perform” (p. 122). Also, there’s the fact that we need God in order to worship God and that the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit are the means to experiencing His presence. Truth is the only proper avenue to true worship and so we must know the truth, read/study the Bible and hear good preaching. “We cannot worship God apart from his Word” (p. 41). Music and singing play a role in worship, but there is so much more to it than that. Worship is our hearts being redirected to God. It’s exalting God. Bob also refers to worship and edification as “two sides of the same coin” (p. 86) for we were not made to worship God on our own, we were made to worship as a body and “one of the most important ways we worship God is by building up other members of the body” (p. 85).

Bob also gives some misconceptions about worship and answers a lot of questions about our words and behavior, about gathering as a church, about singing and music, and about serving within the church, for all of these are expressions of worship. What does it mean to worship? What does it look like to exalt God? What if you don’t feel like singing? What about distractions? What does it mean to experience and seek God’s presence? Despite the various difficulties we need to pursue God in desperate dependence, eager expectation, and humble responsiveness (p. 137).

“Some of us say we want to encounter God, but we aren’t expecting him to show up. We don’t really think he’ll do or say anything. We’re like a parent opening a closet door to check whether the monster our child heard is really there. We appear to be expecting something, but we’d faint or scream if we found anything.” (p. 139)

“[Worship is] an all-of-life response to the forgiveness we’ve received through the gospel… Worship begins in our hearts, but always works its way out into visible actions.” (p. 53)

Holding Hands, Holding Hearts: Recovering a Biblical view Christian Dating by Richard & Sharon Phillips

This was a really good book! When it comes to the topic of guy/girl relationships this was a real practical book with a beautiful Bible-based foundation. Whether you call it “dating “ or “courting” or something else, I would say this is a great resource for establishing a Biblical perspective on relationships. They start off building a Biblical framework for godly relationships and how God intended men and women to function. Then they address the characteristics men and women should be seeking in a spouse and seeking to develop in themselves. Richard and Sharon share their own experiences as well and discuss what men and women usually tend to focus on and what they should be focusing on instead, mainly, godly character. When getting to know someone and/or pursuing a relationship how should you be communicating? How should you approach a (first) date? What is the appropriate way to go about growing a relationship? They emphasized that marriage should not be built on compatibility. Compatibility is certainly important to a degree (especially on essential things like doctrine, raising children, etc.), but being overly focused on that is not what will make marriage succeed. Instead marriage should be built on a willingness to love – no matter what. One key to marriage is repentance, forgiveness, and renewed obedience to God, “and if Christians can live in such a way, then they can be happily married.” (p. 165) Richard & Sharon give 3 main things that they see as central in a relationship: commitment, intimacy and interdependence. Commitment should grow first (and be clearly communicated), followed by a growth in intimacy and then more and more interdependence. The goal in our relationships (as Christians) should be to honor, encourage and build up our brother/sister and guard their hearts. We should be striving for honor and holiness in our relationships and to ultimately bring glory to God. Three important tools in this process are counsel, prayer and accountability.

This book will give you some real practical advice not just on relationships but on how you can grow personally to be the man/women that God is calling you to be. Godliness is expressed through a life lived in trust in the Lord and a desire to serve others not seeking what you can gain. True feminine beauty is trust and peace in the Lord. True manly confidence is built on godly character and trust in God not self-confidence. I was reminded of how much I still need to grow in my relationship with the Lord and how much character I can still grow in. The last chapter speaks about singleness as a trial and how we should strive for contentment, joy and purpose in this season just like in any other trial. It is indeed true that if you cannot be content while single you will not be content married either.

“We would gladly settle for mere happiness in life. But God is determined that we should be holy, and through holiness partake of his own glory.” (p. 168)
 “Many men think of the call to give themselves for a women solely in terms of her protection… But they fail to realize that when a women enters a dating relationship, she mainly needs to be protected from the sins of the very man to whom she is offering her heart.” (p. 72)

Jesus, Justice & Gender Roles by Kathy Keller

This was such a great little book, it was recommended to me by a friend and I was super happy to discover it! If you want to read a book on gender roles this would be my go-to! It’s short (39 pages) but Kathy does a great job of answering the question about gender roles in the church. There are two main views: Egalitarianism says that there are no differences in roles at all, complementarianism says that while the genders are equal there are differences in role. Kathy takes what I would call a more liberal complementarian view which I personally would consider very balanced. She shows from Scripture that men are given the unique role of authoritative leadership in the church in that they alone can be elders (or have a position in the church that is overseeing the pastor, involved in church discipline, etc.). However, there is evidence in Scripture as well that women can still lead and do as much as any other layman in the church.

“Having an open mind doesn’t mean leaving it open on both ends.” (p. 29)
“Justice, in the end, is whatever God decrees. So whether or not you are able to see justice in divinely created gender roles depends largely on how much trust you have in God’s character.” (p. 38)

What’s the Difference by John Piper

This shorter book was kind of an excerpt from Piper & Grudem’s longer book “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”. It was a very good essay that does a good job defining manhood and womanhood according to Scriptural principles. He is very clear and very balanced in his approach and how he defines the characteristics of manhood and womanhood and I found the book refreshing and encouraging.

“In the home when a husband leads like Christ and a wife responds like the bride of Christ, there is harmony and mutuality that is more beautiful and more satisfying than any pattern of marriage created by man.” (p. 66)

Men and Women, Equal Yet Different: A Brief Study of the Biblical Passages on Gender by Alexander Strauch

Maybe you’ve noticed a theme here. I got into some discussions on gender role over the last few months so have been reading books on this subject. Holding Hands, Holding Hearts (above) actually discusses this as well and does a really great job! This one was good, although I’d probably recommend the above books before this one. But still, he beautifully lays out God’s design for roles in marriage. Loving leadership (headship) by the husband and submissive support & help by the wife is God’s design and when you see how it was intended to be it is indeed beautiful.

“…the distinguishing mark of the Christian home should be selfless, self-sacrificing love initiated by the husband.” (p. 60)
“Christlike love adds a divine and mutually beneficial character to the role differences between Christian men and women.” (p. 11)