We live in a day when the best books in Christian history are available from various publishers. The early church fathers (in various formats), the Reformers,
the Puritans, the evangelists of the Great Awakening, the 19th century pulpit giants and the best of the 20th century are all available to anyone with some money, some time and a heart for God.
To whom much is given, much is required! God will hold us responsible for what we do with the incredible wealth of Christian literature, CD's, DVD's and related media. We have little to no excuse to be stuck in a rut when the fresh breeze of the centuries and the best of the contemporary church can blow through our hearts.
Let me recommend some recent publishing gems.
ON OUR LORD & SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST:
D. A. Carson, JESUS THE SON OF GOD (A
Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes
Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed);
Crossway--From 4th century followers of Arius,
to modern Jehovah Witnesses (who allow for
Jesus to be a creature but no co-equal with God
the Father), to foolish skeptics (who say Jesus
never claimed to be God) to contemporary
missionaries, translators and missiologists who
want to tone down Jesus' title from "Son of God"
to something less offensive to Muslims, Jesus has
not always been given His due. Professor Carson
is clear and gentle but regarding stands fast on
the point that "Son of God" is a non-negotiable
title for the Savior.
Bruce Ware, THE MAN CHRIST JESUS (Theological
Reflections on the Humanity of Christ); Crossway
We are again in Crossway's debt for another
outstanding volume on the Savior as a bookend
to Professor Carson's book above. Professor Ware
takes us on a guided tour of the humanity of
the God-man and the implications for living the
Christian life. Highly recommended.
Both volumes would be good for pastors, elders,
deacons, seminarians and intelligent laymen.
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE:
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, SETTING OUR AFFECTIONS
UPON GLORY (Nine Sermons on the Gospel and
the Church); Crossway--Dr. Lloyd-Jones last trip
to the U.S was to the Pensacola Theological
Institute in Florida. These sermons were given
to people who were vacationing with a purpose.
They wanted to grow in the grace and knowledge
of their Savior. Not even the threat of a major
hurricane could dampen the spirits of those who
attended. Readers will note Dr. Lloyd-Jones
reference to the approaching hurricane. These
sermons are not just for fans of Lloyd-Jones, but
for all lovers of the Christian faith.
Gregg Allison, SOJOURNERS AND STRANGERS (The
Doctrine of the Church) [Foundations of
Evangelical Thought Series]; Crossway. This is
the latest contribution to the series,
FOUNDATIONS OF EVANGELICAL THOUGHT.
Other books in the series include Bruce
Demarest, THE CROSS AND SALVATION;
Graham Cole on HE WHO GIVES LIFE (God the
Holy Spirit); John Feinberg on NO ONE LIKE HIM
(The Doctrine of God the Father) and David K.
Clark, TO KNOW AND TO LOVE GOD, (Christian
epistemology, i.e. how do we know what we
know?!) It is a special gift to evangelicalism
which struggles to have any doctrine of the
church whatsoever! Professor Allison teaches at
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in
Louisville and as one would expect, his doctrine
of the church is for believers only. But he is
gracious towards views he does not accept and
gives pastors, elders, deacons, seminarians and
reading laymen all they need to develop a biblical
understanding of the church, universal and local.
One does not have to agree with all his
conclusions (e.g. multiple site churches) to profit
greatly from this helpful book.
Richard Winter, WHEN LIFE GOES DARK (Finding
Hope in the Midst of Depression); IVP--Professor
Winter teaches at Covenant Seminary and has
already helped the church with his earlier books
from IVP, STILL BORED IN A CULTURE OF
ENTERTAINMENT and PERFECTING OURSELVES
TO DEATH. They are outstanding books. His latest
comes from years of study, counseling and
dealing with his own "black dog" (Spurgeon's
phrase) of depression. An inerrantist and
Reformed in his theology, Professor Winter seeks
to search out how the Word of God and Christian
theology "explores with the complex medical,
psychological and spiritual issues surrounding
depression" (from the back cover).
These books will help the church to be more Christ-like and a better testimony to His grace and glory in our lifetime.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
The New Testament teaches that saving faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29, Romans 12:3; et al.). But it also teaches that we can add to our faith or grow our faith and alternately that faith can be lacking or diminished in a believer (cf. Romans 10:17; 1st Thessalonians 3:10; Luke 8:25; etc.).
As we face trials, heartaches, struggles and "frowning providence", the question of our faith and its strength or weakness comes into focus. In thinking about faith and what it means to trust God, I have been graciously reminded by the Lord that faith is an activity that can be exercised or neglected. It is not automatic. Our Lord Himself said: "According to your faith be it done unto you" (Matthew 9:29).
How do we grow in faith. "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). When the New Testament epistles were being written, people "heard" the Word read aloud and preached. They did not yet have New Testaments published. They had to rely upon the spoken word. Now that we have the New Testament Scriptures to go along with the Old Testament, we can read the Word for
ourselves (besides hearing it read and preached).
But one mistake we often make, and I have seen many make over my years as a pastor, is to focus on the subjective state of our faith and not the objective object of our faith. To put it another way, we often try to work up faith in a fuzzy God rather than having simple or small faith in the Sovereign, Loving, Holy and Omniscient God of the Bible. It is easier to exercise faith when we see God clearly. It is very hard to muster up something that can pass for faith when God is not clearly seen and known.
So to help you grow your faith in the great God who really is, I have selected some books that make God clearer. (I have not selected devotional books that try to get you to muster up more faith in your not so clearly seen God.) I have chosen books in which you can see God more clearly and have concrete reasons and encouragements for your faith.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, GREAT DOCTRINES OF THE
BIBLE; Crossway--prayerfully read the chapters on
the doctrines of God, the doctrine of God's
providence and see again how and why our God is
trustworthy. My wife and I read chapters aloud
to keep clear where we placed our trust.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, GOD'S ULTIMATE PURPOSE
(Sermons on Ephesians 1); Baker--my wife and I
read these aloud to be more clearly reminded of
our God and His purposes in time and eternity.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, THE ALL-SUFFICIENT GOD
Sermons from Isaiah 40); Banner of Truth--great
sermons on a great chapter of the Old Testament
to bolster your trust in God.
Sinclair Ferguson, A HEART FOR GOD; Banner of Truth
Great short chapters reminding us how worthy
our God is for our total trust and hope and peace.
The chapter on Ruth alone is worth the price of
Jerry Bridges, TRUSTING GOD (Even When Life Hurts);
NavPress--the best introductory book and inter-
mediate book on the doctrine of God's providence.
The Bible teaches that the hand of God is in the
glove of every one of our circumstances! Jerry
takes the reader through four attributes of God
that save our sanity--He is totally sovereign, He is
absolutely holy, holy, holy, He is totally omniscient,
and He is love. And as a member of the Navigators
Ministry, Jerry is concerned that you actually apply
the trust the Bible teachers. So 40% of the books
makes you work through how this applies to your
situation. I call this book "the great sanity saver"
for unless you understand and trust in God and
His providence you will be tempted to lose your
kind at times (life can be that hard).
Dear Reader, you must actually work at your faith, it is an activity; it is not a static reality that kicks in automatically. Seeing your God, you must preach to yourself and instruct yourself in the truth, regardless of circumstances, and feelings and devastating hardships. If you have not read or read recently Martyn Lloyd-Jones SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION, he gives great biblical counsel about how to apply your faith to the truth of God and His Word and the realities you face. Read it please and honor God by your faith and trust in Him--come what may!
May you honor your God and Savior by trusting Him and believing Him because you see Him and see how worthy He is of your trust.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
He was the hero of Charles Spurgeon, arguably the greatest preacher in English in the 19th century. He was the hero of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, arguably the greatest preacher in the English language of the 20th century. J. C. Ryle called him the first man among the great men who made up the Evangelical Awakening (called the "Great Awakening" in the U.S.) in the 18th century. Who are we talking about--George Whitefield.
First to do field preaching and in the streets, zealous evangelical, Calvinist, Anglican, indefatigable in his labors--preaching over 38,000 sermons in his lifetime. Considered by many to be the greatest Christian preacher of all time. He would be heard by more than 40,000 people at a time. Benjamin Franklin regularly heard him preach and walking as far back in a crowd as he could and still hear Whitefield clearly, then walking to each side and then doing the geometry to figure out the square feet and then figuring out how many square feet each person needed in their comfort zone, Franklin's calculation was that 25,000+ could hear Whitefield clearly and easily!
Let me tell you my own Whitefield story! I left ten years of parachurch student ministry to go to seminary after a call to the gospel ministry and internship at a church. I was 31, married with two small children and I needed to work part time to augment my church's scholarship. Unknown to many, including me at the time, seminary can be a daunting place. It can be Christian graduate school or graduate school with Christian content. In graduate school, one is graded for one's ability to master the subjects, not in mastering life. The Bible became a dry book full of "pericopes". Names and dates and esoteric facts became "real" and the "real world" faded into the background. (From talking to other students then and since, I have come to see that my experience was not
Three choices grounded me in reality. The first was my involvement in my local church in seminary. We attended faithfully, worked in the nursery and I even became a church officer during my matriculation at seminary. The second and third choices were that I would read two books which would keep me sane. I chose John Owen's Volume Six of his complete works, TEMPTATION AND SIN and Volume One of Arnold Dallimore's magisterial GEORGE WHITEFIELD (The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival); Crossway.
Owen of course laid my heart open and showed me my sins, how they operated and how to deal with them. I shall never be able to thank him enough. He made me a realist about my sin and showed me in a manly way how to face up to and fight my sin's by God's appointed means. I cherish my original annotated volume and its underlinings in red.
But Arnold Dallimore's life of George Whitefield showed me my heart in another way. George Whitefield knew God in ways that I only dreamed of. We parachurch workers were the "Special Forces" of evangelicalism, the "force recon" men of the Marines, the Navy Seals of God's advancing forces. Or so we thought. The churches were filled with the flotsam of Christ's kingdom. Local pastors were nice men who could not cut it in the rough and tumble world of evangelism. God was showing me that the local church was His primary means of grace to accomplish His Kingdom purposes. What struck me in reading Dallimore's life of Whitefield was how humble George Whitefield was and how loving. He could be brash and overly zealous as a young man but as he continued to grow, he became a man I could only hope to emulate in small ways. Yes he was given tremendous power to preach. Yes, he saw tens of thousands of real converts, decision who became lifelong disciples. But God made him a humble man, a Christ-loving man, very loving man. I have read the two volume set twice and both times I came away deeply affected, praying "Lord, make me into a man of God; make me humble and loving like George Whitefield. And Lord, be pleased to use me for the conversion of the lost all around me."
As a young Calvinist who knew no other Calvinists who were alive (one man told me all the people like me had died already and were in church history books!), I wondered how my new Calvinism related to evangelism. I knew the scare stories that those who believed in the doctrines of grace were against evangelism and missions. But my knowledge of church history told me otherwise. Wasn't William Carey, the father of the modern missionary movement a Calvinistic Baptist? And weren't George Whitefiled and Jonathan Edwards ardent evangelistic preachers and warm hearted Calvinists? Little did I realize what I would be in for in reading Dallimore's life of Whitefield.
As a parachurch worker engaged in full-time evangelism, I knew something of spiritual power. I had tasted the power of God in witnessing and preaching. But I was not prepared for the authentic power of God I saw in the life and preaching of George Whitefield. I was humbled to the ground. I knew nothing of God's power like this man knew God's power. I never saw one day like the thousands of days George Whitefield saw being used by God.
Preachers, if you have not read Dallimore's two volume life of Whitefield, ask your Elders or Deacons to buy the church a set and read it first. Laymen, buy your pastor a set and encourage him to prayerfully read it. He was that great a man and Dallimore's account will not be bettered any time soon.
And when you are through with the big biography, buy and read Lee Gatiss' 2 volumes, THE SERMONS OF GEORGE WHITEFIELD; Crossway. They are the perfect compliment to the Dallimore biography. Professor Gatiss has done a great service to Christ's church by taking the standard set of Whitefield's sermons approved in his lifetime, and introducing them and footnoting them and helping us to see what we are seeing and reading. The sermons are put in context theologically and according to the 18th century Christian ethos. The Introduction is outstanding and helpful really introducing Whitefield life and labors and showing us his strength and weaknesses. What a year it would make for any minister, just beginning or having already preached for many years, to prayerfully read through the 2 volume biography AND the 2 volume edited sermons! What a wealth of good things!
WHITEFIELD ITEMS TO PUT IN THE CHURCH LIBRARY:
Arnold Dallimore, GEORGE WHITEFIELD (God's
Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the
Eighteenth Century); Crossway paperback--an
abridgment of the larger two volume hardback
set. One should not read Whitefield in abridgment;
his life is too amazing; his work too big; his impact
to profound to settle for "Cliff's Notes on Whitefield"
(or in today's parlance, WHITEFIELD FOR
DUMMIES!). Put the abridgment in the church
John Pollack, GEORGE WHITEFIELD THE EVANGELIST;
(History Maker's Series); Christian Focus--racy
biography that gets the main facts right.
Robert Philip, LIFE AND TIMES OF GEORGE
WHITEFIELD; Banner of Truth--the best one
volume biography available. Really good.
George Whitefiled, SELECT SERMONS OF GEORGE
WHITEFIELD; Banner of Truth--taste and see!
Michael Haykin, THE REVIVED PURITAN (The
Spirituality of George Whitefield); Joshua Press--
the esteemed professor of church history at the
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville
shows us clearly and in detail the spiritual life of
this great man of God.
J. C. Ryle, CHRISTIAN LEADERS OF THE 18TH
CENTURY; Banner of Truth--the chapter on George
Whitefield is worth the price of the book but all the
chapters are heart-warming and challenging.
Randall Pederson, GEORGE WHITEFIELD'S DAILY
READINGS; Christian Focus--get a daily sample of
the piety and wisdom of this man of God.
Iain H. Murray, HEROES; Banner of Truth--an
outstanding book to warm the heart and cultivate
the soul. The chapter on Whitefield is outstanding!
Let me close by asking you two questions.
1.) If Charles Spurgeon, the greatest preacher and
one of the greatest Christian leaders of the 19th
century had George Whitefield as his hero, what
does that say to you, man of God?
2.) If Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the greatest preacher and
one of the greatest Christian leaders of the 20th
century had George Whitefield as his hero, what
does that say to you, man of God?
Here are some great Whitefield quotes on celebrity status and "significance", hot buttons for today's evangelicals (from Andy Naselli's Blog)
--"Let the name of Whitefield perish, but Christ be
--"Let my name die everywhere, let even my friends
forget me, if by that means the cause of the blessed
Jesus may be promoted. But what is Calvin, or what
is Luther? Let us look above names and parties; let
Jesus be our all in all—So that He is preached. . . . I
care not who is uppermost. I know my place . . .
even to be the servant of all."
--"I am content to wait till the judgement day for the
clearing up of my reputation; and after I am dead I
desire no other epitaph than this, “Here lies G.W.
What sort of man he was the great day will
--When asked by an over-zealous younger associate
whether they would see John Wesley in heaven,
Whitefield said he thought not. The younger
associate looked on with a proud grin. But Whitefield
went on a bit: "When we get to heaven. The line will
be long and Mr. Wesley will be at the front of the line
and I shall be at the back, so, No, I do not think I
shall see John Wesley in heaven."
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
One of the largely overlooked aspects of the fall of humanity is the impact of God's curse on our bodies and minds. You have never met a "normal" person. You have never met a person who was not in some way twisted, bent and misshapen by the Fall. All of us in some way bear the mark of sin's curse. And some of us bear this mark more obviously.
Today I want to suggest resources to help those who have children or loved ones with disabilities--whether they show up at six months or six years or sixteen years or adulthood.
What resources are available to those whose calling is to care for disabled children of all ages? What help is available for parents and caregivers of children who are otherwise handicapped by serious mental, physical and emotional problems?
FOR LOVERS OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES:
Stephanie Hubach, SAME LAKE, DIFFERENT BOAT
(Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability);
P & R--designed to renew Christians' minds to think
biblically about disability. Important for every
church library and a beginning foundation for
leadership to rethink how they view the
handicapped & families with handicapped children.
Krista Horning, JUST THE WAY I AM (God's Good
Design in Disability); Christian Focus Publications--
John Piper introduces the book by saying: "For the
people in this book, the sovereignty and goodness
of God have become a sanctuary for the soul in a
life they did not expect to live. When they affirm
the goodness and wisdom of God in creating them
for short term disability and eternal superability,
they do not do so without tears. There is no glib
trifling with pain. They are learning the paradox of
"sorrowful yet always rejoicing". They are learning
how to be brought low and how to abound. They
believe in this fallen age, God's loved ones groan
along with the whole creation, waiting for the full-
ness of adoption, the redemption of their bodies..."
Greg Lucas, WRESTLING WITH AN ANGEL (A Story of
Love, Disability & the Lessons of Grace); Cruciform
Press--Greg, a police officer, husband, Christian
and Jake's Dad, tells the gripping story of being the
father of a severely handicapped son with both
physical and emotional challenges. As a policeman
and father, Greg hoped to "fix" things. That didn't
happen. But God is still God and this can especially
be seen in homes with handicapped people. See
what Greg saw, felt, learned and endured. See
Christ and His grace in action in one family!
BOOKLETS ON DISABILITIES:
Ed Welch, BI-POLAR DISORDER; CCEF
Michael Emlet, ANGRY CHILDREN; CCEF
Edward Welch, EATING DISORDERS; CCEF
William Smith, HOW DO I STOP LOSING IT WITH MY
David Powlison, I'M EXHAUSTED; CCEF
David Powlison, RECOVERING FROM CHILD ABUSE;
Paul David Tripp, HELPING YOUR ADOPTED CHILD;
Rita Jamison, PARENTING YOUR ADHD CHILD (Biblical
Guidance For Your Child's Diagnosis); New
RESOURCES ON GOD'S GRACE IN SUFFERING AND HIS BIG-PICTURE PLAN OF REDEMPTION
John Piper and Justin Taylor, eds.; SUFFERING AND
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD; Crossway--a great
book on what God is doing in the midst of our
suffering. Why does a sovereign God allows misery
to happen? What can believers do about it? How
should they respond?
Jerry Bridges, TRUSTING GOD (Even When Life Hurts);
NavPress--outstanding study of God's supernatural
rule of all things for His glory and His people's good.
Deceptively profound study of God's holiness, love,
wisdom and sovereignty in life's hardest times!
This is no study by an arm-chair theologian. Jerry
wrote this while his first wife was dying slowly
Irene Howat, FINDING GOD IN THE DARKNESS;
Christian Focus Publications--Life hurts at times,
sometimes overwhelmingly so! Disability, illness,
betrayal, murder, imprisonment, miserable working
environment, loneliness, etc are all experienced
through this study of various people who found the
grace of God in life's toughest laboratory--suffering.
Mike Milton, SONGS IN THE NIGHT; P & R--beloved
pastor, professor, seminary president and author,
Mike Milton was born to a drunk and an insane
person; he was abused and abandoned at five; his
parents came from different nationalities. None of
these were determinative for who he became!
God intervened and made Mike a new man. But the
new man was terribly hurt and suffered too. How
do we stay sane, not become bitter and cynical?
Read this precious book of the grace of God.
Nancy Guthrie, BE STILL MY SOUL (Embracing God's
Purpose and Provision in Suffering); Crossway--
25 classic and contemporary readings on the
problems of pain and suffering.
Nancy Guthrie, HOLDING ON TO HOPE; Tyndale--
one woman's journey through grievous loss and
great emotional pain.
Nancy Guthrie, ONE YEAR BOOK OF HOPE; Tyndale
Readings for a year of hope for those who thought
all hope was gone!
Joni Eareckson, THE GOD I LOVE
Joni Eareckson, WHEN GOD WEEPS
Joni Eareckson, PEARLS OF GREAT PRICE
Joni Eareckson, PLACE OF HEALING
Joni Eareckson, DIAMONDS IN THE DUST
Joni Eareckson, HEAVEN
Paralyzed from the neck down since a tragic diving accident at age 16, Joni has had to face disability her whole life. She is now 65. Though a professing Christian, when she realized she would be crippled for life, she wanted to die. But God would not let her. And she has grown in grace and been a much used vessel in which to display God's glory. She has been the most invited guest on Larry King's radio program because he is obviously fascinated with this lovely woman who lost it all but who has it all from God. She is biblical, real,
compassionate, clear sighted and honest. She came down with breast cancer at age 63. That was after two years of the most excruciating pain she had ever endured. She walks closely with God and its shows. Come sit and her fit and learn.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
It is not the reading of many books that help a Christian grow, it is the reading of the best books, the right books, the most biblical books that really help a Christian to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ.
For two thousand years, Christians have loved their books. Particularly since the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, Protestants have loved to read so they could read their Bibles. And the invention of moveable type by Gutenberg made the printing of books more feasible and more accessible to the masses. The printing press truly became "an agent of change". But this Blog is not about the printing press but good books that have come off of them, some in recent years that you might have heard about, maybe even intended to read......but never got around to it.
Today's featured books will make your head clear, your heart sing, put iron in your soul, and put purpose in your step. Try them and see if my remarks are not "hype" but soberly true.
Jerry Bridges, THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS; NavPress--recognized since it first came out thirty years ago as an outstanding explanation of what the Bible teaches about growing in grace as a Christian
(i.e. sanctification), THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS is now seen by many Reformed pastors and scholars as a modern classic--a profound yet simple and straight-forward digest of the Reformation's understanding of how Christians grow. I remember as a young Christian coming out of a zealous but overheated form of "holiness teaching" that was driving me up the wall. I put together my own little doctrinal understanding from studying Scripture and moved ahead with that. Then Jerry Bridge's book came out and he said eloquently and clearly what I said in my own little muddle way. And he has great footnotes leading to even more great resources for growing in holiness.
Octavius Winslow, THE PRECIOUS THINGS OF GOD; The Northhampton Press--Editor Don Kistler has done the church a great service by Pastor Winslow's work in print and ministering into the 21st century. When Spurgeon's church finished construction on its mammoth new Metropolitan Tabernacle, who did they ask to be the "guest preacher"? Answer: Octavius Winslow! What a sweet preacher and encourager of the soul. Winslow was an experiential preacher--he made Christ precious to hard pressed saints who might be tempted to lose sight of the glory of their Savior.
What are "the precious things of God" that the title refers to? The preciousness of Christ, of Faith, of Trial, Of God's Thoughts, of God's Promises, of Christ's blood, the Precious Anointing, of God's children, of God's Word, of Prayer, of Christ's sympathy with our infirmities and the death of the saints are precious.
Kevin DeYoung, JUST DO SOMETHING (A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will); Moody Press--I wish I had read this book in the early 1970's when I was being led down one blind alley after another by bad holiness teaching that overlapped the bad teaching I was receiving on "finding the perfect will of God for your life". I was taught that there is only one plan, one agenda, one blueprint for each life and it was the will of God for each Christian's life. To get anything wrong was to wreck the plan, leaving you to settle for "2nd best" for the rest of your life! What a burden! Pastor DeYoung will save a number of today's Christians from a lot of confusion and paralysis after reading how the Bible explains the will of God is known. A sub-title is very telling--"or How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random Bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writings in the sky, etc." Been there, done that. As they say at the restaurant after they serve your meal--"Enjoy!"
Alexander Carson, THE HISTORY OF PROVIDENCE (As Manifested in Scripture); Banner of Truth--when Jerry Bridges published TRUSTING GOD (Even When Life Hurts) in 1988, it was the first treatment in English in the 20th century (when the century was almost over). What had been garden variety Protestant preaching up to 1900, was just about lost when Jerry Bridges put it back on the table. In the 19th century, Alexander Carson's THE HISTORY OF PROVIDENCE provided another means of growth in trusting God with his marvelous treatment of how God's providence is seen worked out in Scripture. Old J. Vernon McGee once called the doctrine of providence, "the hand of God in the glove of circumstances". Alexander Carson takes the reader through both testaments showing how the doctrine of providence is explained and illustrated. A tour de force!
Arthus W. Pink, THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD; Banner of Truth--quoted by many who name him and by others who neglect to cite their source, their is nothing else quite like this monumental work on the total sovereignty of God. Baker has a longer work in print of an early edition of Pink's book. But the Banner edition is shorter AND more importantly, reflects where the mature Pink was in his understanding at the end of his life. Though not a "scholar" himself, humble scholars still read Pink. I have seen him cited with approval by James Montgomery Boice and James Packer. If you feel beaten down and trampled underfoot in today's culture, like you have an old tube sock for a backbone, this book will put steel rebar in your sock and make you to stand.
Jim Winter, DEPRESSION: A RESCUE PLAN: Day One Publications--in the plethora of books on depression that have been written in the past 30 years, few equal Jim Winter's helpful treatment. Committed to the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, a pastor for twenty years, Jim Winter is also a Ph.D.in counseling. He does not promise a quick fix nor pat answers. But those who I know who have used it have found help. I know of no other treatment of depression, for example, that has a section on how to use the Lord's Day properly when you are depressed.
I wish I could make every pastor and Christian read this book.
Tom Wells, A PRICE FOR A PEOPLE; Banner of Truth--name one book, besides this one, that seeks to explain "definite atonement" or "limited atonement" for the average person. Most books on Reformed theology are written for giraffes, not sheep. Tom Wells has the aim and the "grammar check" to write for high school students on up. This book is the only book I know of for laymen on how and why Christ died to secure a people the Father promised to give Him before the foundation of the world. Profitable not only for laymen but also for pastors and teachers who want to know how to communicate with laymen. Christ is a great Savior and this simply profound book shows us why!
James Packer, CONCISE THEOLOGY; Tyndale House
James Packer, 18 WORDS; Christian Focus--two brilliantly wonderful books that have a world of wisdom in few words. Dr. Packer chides himself: "Packer by name, packer by trade" because he packs in so much in his books. Both are wonderfully edited and both bear repeated rereading. CONCISE THEOLOGY consists of 94 little nuggets of theology--in fact if you have and use the NEW GENEVA STUDY BIBLE, now called the REFORMATION STUDY BIBLE, these nuggets are Dr. Packer's box inserts on various theological themes. Keeping to the Reformation theme of the study Bibles, Dr. Packer gives us a extremely helpful digest of the best Reformed theology on each of the 94 sub-sets of theology he chooses to write on. Whether for family devotions, personal meditation, a meter to check your own thinking on a particular theological topic, this book can't be beat. I have used it for over twenty years and it contains nuggets of gold and piles of gold dust. I predict that if you read and meditated upon this book for a year, you would be a much stronger Christian!
His other book, 18 WORDS, is a reprinting of a book once titled GOD'S WORDS. Back in the 70's, word studies were the rage. Every theology and ministerial student had to own a set of Kittel's THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT (12 volumes); from Eerdmans. [The only trouble was that few people actually need such tools and as biblical theologian James Barr pointed out, the methodology and thus many of the conclusions of the contributors to Kittel's were seriously flawed!] James Packer wrote this book to show us how to really do biblical words studies and he chose 18 key words to unpack the Bible. But his studies are definitive as a distillation of the best of evangelical and Reformed theology on each subject.
S. M. Houghton, SKETCHES FROM CHURCH HISTORY; Banner of Truth--former headmaster of a British school and long time proof reader for Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the Banner of Truth, Mr. Houghton wrote the most user friendly introduction to the history of Christianity--from the time of the Apostles to he beginning of the 20th century. And it is full of pictures, drawings and photos that make the book come alive. In the past few years, a study guide has been written to accompany the book and help home schoolers and Sunday schoolers squeeze more juice out of the book. I know men and women who don't like to read most history who simply devoured this book. Pastor, elder, deacon, Sunday School teacher, campus Bible study teacher, have you read it? Do you have a basic working knowledge of Christian history?
Who was Pelagius? Who was Augustine (before he was a saint and later the founder of a city in Florida)?
Just kidding! Was Pelagius a good guy or was Augustine a good guy? They butted heads. Which was right? Or were they both right? How did people come to think that living in caves and out in the desert was supers-spiritual? What were the Crusades all about? What was Luther upset about and what did he do about it? Wasn't Calvin that guy who was always in a bad mood and taught some scary doctrines? Besides telling good jokes and having a really big church, what was so great about Charles Spurgeon? This book packs so much wise historical help for the average reader--it is like putting a peg board on the wall of your garage so you have a place to hang your tools. If you read this book, you will have a place to store your ideas and new information about where Christianity came from and how it came to be what it is today.
May the Lord help you to read more and read better in 2013 and may you become more of a man or woman of God as a result.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Each New Year brings new opportunities for spiritual growth and drawing closer to the Savior. For two thousands years, books in one form or another have been the source of Christian growth. From the Bible being put in a velum form (book) instead of scroll of parchment, books have been easier to use, transport and store. When the Protestant Reformation spread throughout Europe in the 16th century, the book was the medium of choice to spread the good news that sinners are saved by the grace of God alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone.
Since then, the preaching of the gospel has been the means of adding to the churches. And reading good books has been a means of helping God's people grow in grace.
So looking at 2013, what books might you and those you care about read to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ ? Let me recommend the following gems.
FOR TEENS AND TWENTIES YOUNG MEN:
Josh Fortune, THREE YEARS AT WAR; Day One
British SAS (paratrooper) soldier Josh Fortune must leave the military because of a bad knee without ever seeing his much craved "combat action". A professing Christian, he is far from God and miserable. Then he is given an opportunity to become a "combat cameraman" and his life changes. Not only does he see combat (far more than he ever wanted to see!), more importantly, he finds the Savior and grows in grace, finds a girl back home and lives to tell the tale. This book is perfectly geared for young men who are not professing Christians or who profess Christ but are not walking with God. Fast moving, honest to a fault and insightful. Very well done!
FOR TEENS AND TWENTIES YOUNG WOMEN:
Nancy Leigh DeMoss, LIES YOUNG WOMEN BELIEVE; Moody Press
Young women are manipulated very badly in this fallen world. They are fooled and coerced into making really bad decisions that can change the course of their lives. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has done a great job addressing young women and their assorted temptation via cultural lies.
FOR SPIRITUAL LEADERS:
WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH; Banner of Truth--the timeless expression of 17th century British Reformed Christianity, this leather like edition is great to carry in the pocket. Handsomely done and a really nice gift for pastors, elders, deacons, seminarians, S. S. teachers, etc.
1689 BAPTIST CONFESSION OF FAITH; Banner of
Truth--the timeless expression of 17th century Reformed Baptist Christianity. Equally handsome to the Westminster Confession above. Really nice gift for pastors, elders, deacons, seminarians, S. S. teachers, etc.
CLASSICS FOR YOUNG READERS; P & R
CLASSICS FOR YOUNG READERS (ALTERNATE EDITION); P & R
Two slip bound sets of 5 books which are great for young readers, home schoolers, your personal family library. These two sets have slightly different books you read carefully which set you would like to purchase.
Joel Beeke and Mark Jones, PURITAN THEOLOGY
(Doctrine for Life); Reformation Heritage--a masterpiece of a survey of what the Puritans believed and lived. Sure to be a foundational study for decades. Great for pastors and theology students.
FOR MARRIED COUPLES:
Tim and Kathy Keller, THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE; E. P. Dutton--great biblical wisdom and cultural insight from this couple that minsters to the lost and found of New York City. A seminal study, even for long married couples.
FOR CHRISTIAN COLLEGE STUDENTS:
Kevin DeYoung, THE HOLE IN OUR HOLINESS; Crossway--shows the rising generation that holiness is at the heart of biblical religion and that much of today's teaching is missing this emphasis. A cogent reminder from one of today's best young authors. Don't miss his other gems, JUST DO SOMETHING (on attaining to the will of God) and WHY WE ARE NOT EMERGENT (by two guys who should be), co-written by Ted Kluck.
May the Lord guide your reading in 2013 and may you become more of a man or woman of God.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Solomon, in Ecclesiastes, said: "Of the making of many books, there is no end." One cannot read them all. Nor should one want to. But the reading of the best books, after the Bible, are sure to help renew your mind and conform you to Christ.
The reader, the person who thinks about their Christian life, will want to look carefully at the following new titles from Crossway for buying and reading in 2013. The will be coming out in the next four months.
NEW BOOKS FROM ESTABLISHED AUTHORS:
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, SETTING OUR AFFECTIONS ON
GLORY--nine previously unpublished sermons on
the church and evangelism.
J. I. Packer, TAKING GOD SERIOUSLY (Vital Things
We Need to Know); glowing introduction by Carl
Trueman. What the churches must keep to stay
J. I. Packer, WEAKNESS IN THE WAY (LIfe With
Christ our Strength)--now in his late 80's, Packer
knows weakness and his own approaching
mortality. Here are his biblical ruminations.
Elyze Fitzpatriick, COMFORTS FROM ROMANS
(Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time);
veteran counselor and author applies Romans
John Piper, RISK IS RIGHT (Better to Lose Your Life
Than To Waste It); a 64 pages booklet excerpted
from his best selling book, DON'T WASTE YOUR
R. C. Sproul, MATTHEW (St. Andrews Expository
Commentary Series)--vintage Sproul.
Gordon Wenham, THE PSALTER RECLAIMED
(PRAYING AND PRAISING WITH THE PSALMS);
veteran Old Testament commentator and
professor, Dr. Wenham has already blessed
the churches with his commentaries on Genesis,
Leviticus, and Number, along with other studies
in the Psalms. Here he shows us why and how
they lead to prayer and praise.
Stephen Nichols and Justin Taylor, BONHOFFER ON
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE (From the Cross, For the
World)--by two veteran authors/scholars
Fred Sanders, WESLEY ON THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
(The Heart Renewed in Love); from the author
of the outstanding book, THE DEEP THINGS OF
GOD (How the Trinity Changes Everything).
William Edgar, SCHAEFFER ON THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
(Counter Cultural Spirituality)--apologetics prof
at Westminster Seminary and former member
of L'Abri retells the insights of Francis Schaeffer.
Pat Ennis & Dorothy Paterson, THE CHRISTIAN
HOMEMAKER'S HANDBOOK--a sadly dying art
is refocused and explained for those starting
Josh Moody, JOURNEY TO JOY (The Psalms of Ascent)
Pastor of College Church in Wheaton and
Ph.D. student of Jonathan Edwards shows us
how the Psalms sung by Hebrew pilgrims on
their way to Jerusalem to worship can teach us
how to worship and find joyl
D. A. Carson, ed. THE SCRIPTURES TESTIFY ABOUT
ME; (Jesus and the Gospel in the Old Testament)
renowned N. T. professor edits 8 contemporary
preachers who model how to preach Christ from
the Old Testament.
12 WEEKS STUDIES FOR S. S., NEIGHBORHOOD OR CAMPUS STUDIES:
1, 2, 3 John
Thank you Crossway for your continued production of some of the best new books for Christ's people.
Save your money and invest in your soul and read these books.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
THE END OF THE CHRISTMAS GIFT GIVING SEASON:
It's not too late to get a life changing or life enhancing book for someone you love or care deeply about. Its not too late to get a good evangelistic book for someone you care about
GIFTS FOR DOCTRINALLY SERIOUS CHRISTIANS:
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH; Banner
of Truth--soft leather like cover in a pocket size.
The truths of the faith as brought together in
one place by the Presbyterians from the Puritan
THE 1689 BAPTIST CONFESSION OF FAITH; Banner
of Truth--soft leather like cover in a pocket size.
The truths of the faith as brought together in
one place by the Baptists from the Puritan
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, GREAT DOCTRINES OF THE
CHRISTIAN FAITH; Crossway--the greatest
preacher in English in the 20th century
preaches the great doctrines of the faith out of
the Word of God to your heart. Truth on fire!
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT;
Eerdmans--the greatest exposition of the
Lord's sermon in the 20th century! Powerful,
practical, clear, life-changing. Many lives have
been changed and many young men called
into the ministry reading this book of sermons.
DEVOTIONAL BOOKS THAT GET RAVE REVIEWS:
Maurice Roberts, THE THOUGHT OF GOD;
, GREAT GOD OF WONDERS
, THE CHRISTIAN'S HIGH CALLING
Spiritual and highly stimulating devotionals from
the time when the author was editor of the Banner
of Truth Magazine. Highly recommended. I have
never given them to any serious Christian who did
not love them.
David Searle, ed.; THROUGH THE YEAR WITH
WILLIAM STILL; Banner of Truth--the "Martyn
Lloyd-Jones of Scotland", Willie Still was a powerful
preacher, pastor and leader of men. Many men in
the Christian ministry around the world look to
him at their spiritual father. Highly recommended
by Sinclair Ferguson
William Jay, MORNING EXERCISES; Sprinkle
Publications--filling the pulpit in his church in Bath,
England for 63 years, Jay was giant in the land.
These robust devotional thoughts have been much
appreciated for over a hundred years.
BIOGRAPHIES THAT CHANGE LIVES:
W. J. Grier, THE LIFE OF JOHN CALVIN; Banner
of Truth--a graduate of Glasgow and Princeton,
Grier was in the forefront of the recovery of the
Reformation in Great Britain in his lifetime. This
is a straight-forward biography about a man who
most people know nothing about BUT have strong
views about him nevertheless.
Roland Bainton, HERE I STAND (The Life Of Martin
Luther); Hendrickson--next to Calvin, the next
least known "great man" of the Reformation is
Martin Luther. At least Luther has had movies
made about his life. This powerful biography was
written by one of the great Reformation historians
of the 20th century. You will see why there was
a Reformation and why it mattered. Great gift to
give Catholic friends too!
Josh Fortune, THREE YEARS AT WAR; Day One
Publications--released from the Army because of
injury, Josh Fortune becomes embittered and
loses his grip on his faith in Christ. Then he has a
chance to become a combat cameraman in
Afghanistan. He gets all of war, suffering, death,
boredom, waiting and terror that he could ever
wish. A story well told. He literally does have a
desert experience to bring him back to faith in
Hope Marston, AGAINST THE TIDE (The Valor of
Margaret Wilson); P & R--the true story of 16 year
old Scot's Christian, Margaret Wilson, who is
told to deny her faith or die as a martyr--staked
to a post while she watches the long, slow tide
come up and slowly drown her. I won't divulge
the whole story but it is written for girls age 12
to 18. Highly recommended. (There are four
other stories in the series, CHOSEN DAUGHTERS.)
BOOKS FOR CHILDREN:
R. C. Sproul--several books to read aloud to your
children or grand children. Outstanding
contributions from this great theologian and
communicator. Check the website for all his
Sinclair Ferguson--several workbooks by this other
outstanding theologian and communicator.
Check the website for all his children's titles.
C. S. Lewis, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA--
various editions--Lewis needs no
recommendation from me.
May the Lord give you wisdom and discernment as
you give good books to folk this Christmas. May He
use these books to change their lives for good.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
Christmas is a time of giving. Yes, I know that the culture is crazy over gift giving and thereby has created the whole orgy of materialism that surrounds Christmas. But despite the wrong expressions of gift giving, there is the supreme example of our God giving His Son to a world of sinners to redeem those who would believe.
Let me give you more examples of the best books to give those on your list of grace gifts.
FOR ANY READING CHRISTIAN ON YOUR LIST:
James Packer, KNOWING GOD; IVP--A classic Christian
book in its own lifetime, many have had their lives
changed by this book. If you have not read it, then
buy one for yourself and give several away. It is
THAT GOOD! At this time of the year, chapter 5--
"God Incarnate" is a superlative example of how to
view the miracle of God becoming a man
(Christmas) and how everything else in Christianity
flows out of that amazing reality. Packer does a
stunning job at helping us to wonder at the
wonder of the Incarnation!
FOR PASTORS, MISSIONARIES, ELDERS, STUDENT LEADERS, SEMINARIANS & THOSE WHO WANT TO BE
Albert Mohler, THE CONVICTION TO LEAD (25
Principles for Leadership That Matters); Bethany
Highly recommended study that goes beyond the
trite cliches and "everyone can be a leader"
platitudes of most such books, this is a work of
substance and original thought.
Bryan Chapell, THE HARDEST SERMONS YOU'LL
EVER HAVE TO PREACH; Zondervan--Covenant
Seminary President and teacher of preachers,
Dr. Chapell enlists John Piper, Mike Horton, Tim
Keller, Dan Doriani, Jerram Barrs and a slew of
other seasoned preachers to address the kind of
funerals all pastors hope never come their way:
funerals as a result of abortions, child abuse, local
tragedy, national tragedy, special needs child, SIDS
death, young child, "lifestyle consequences", drunk
driver, cancer, murder, accidental death, special
needs adults, suicide, etc, etc. etc. A MUST HAVE
for every pastor, or future pastor!
Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, WHAT IS THE
MISSION OF THE CHURCH; Crossway--two young
and rising leaders of the contemporary "young,
restless and Reformed" legion of Calvinists answer
their own question by showing that the
proclamation of the gospel and the making of
disciples is the mission of the church. Christians
ought to be concerned about social justice BUT it is
not THE MISSION of the church.
Duane Litfin, WORD VS. DEED (Resetting the
Scales to a Biblical Balance); Crossway--critically
helpful realization that many modern evangelical
leaders would side-track the church into deeds of
the social gospel rather than the proclamation of
the gospel in words (which are powerful unto
salvation). By the President Emeritus of Wheaton
Eckhard Schnabel, PAUL THE MISSIONARY
(Realities, Strategies and Methods); IVP--an expert
on the Acts of the Apostles and the early church,
Professor Schnabel from Trinity Evangelical Divinity
School puts all of us who are missions-minded in
his debt with this tour de force study of Paul's
whole mentality about missions.
Eckhard Schnabel, ACTS (Zondervan Exegetical
Commentary); Vol 1--Zondervan--takes the reader
through the early chapters of Acts and shows the
unfolding of Christ's commission to His Apostles.
Could be read alongside Martyn Lloyd-Jones
masterful six volume STUDIES IN ACTS from
Christopher Ash, TEACHING ROMANS; 2 volumes;
Unlocking Romans for the Bible Teacher; Christian
Focus/Proclamation Trust--equips the preacher/
teacher to help his hearers to really engage the
Book of Romans.
FOR YOUR FAVORITE STUDENT (H. S. or College);
Anthony Selvaggio, A PROVERBS DRIVEN LIFE
(Timeless Wisdom for Your Word, Work, Wealth
and Relationships); Shepherd Press--great for
students since the author of Proverbs addresses
so much of his work to "My Son" or any young
person who is teachable.
Anthony Selvaggio, 7 TOXIC IDEAS POLLUTING
YOUR MIND; P & R--showing how ideas have
consequences, the author compellingly shows the
truly corrosive impact of Technopoly, Neophilia,
Egalitarianism, Individualism, Materialism,
Consumerism and Relativism ruin minds and lives
and nations. A good place to start a student
thinking about why his/her mind matters and
what to do about it.
Philip Graham Ryken, WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN
WORLDVIEW? (Basics of the Reformed Faith);
P & R--former Pastor of 10th Presbyterian Church
in Philadelphia and now President of Wheaton
College enables the reader to understand how a
Christian is to think about God, the world, him/her
self, God's plans for time and eternity, the church,
etc. A really good place to start to learn to think
FOR SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN (AND WANNABES):
John Woodbridge, HITLER IN THE CROSSHAIRS
(G.I.'s Story of Courage and Faith); Zondervan
well-loved and respected church historian turns
his talents to a little known episode and an almost
unknown person from World War II. A compelling
read with spiritual applications.
Laura Hillenbrand, UNBROKEN (A World War II
Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption);
Random House--the too true to be fantasy story
of Louis Zamperini, teenage rebel, incorrigible
fugitive from any controls, amazing track star,
the Berlin Olympics, shaking Hitler's hand, stealing
a Nazi flag, a bombardier in a Air Force bomber
that ditches in the Pacific Ocean, seven weeks
with three other men in a three man life raft,
starvation, enemy planes, ravaging thirst...and
then things got really bad. Zamperini and his
mates were picked up by the Japanese Navy and
sent to Japan as war criminals. Surviving some of
the most degrading and inhuman treatment of
the war and still surviving, Zamperini has to come
home and fight PTSD and his own estrangement
from God. Universally applauded as a great
biography of a great sinner who finds an even
greater Savior! And that's not the end of the
story Hillenbrand has to tell!
FOR THINKING READERS:
Alexander Carson, THE HISTORY OF PROVIDENCE
(as Manifested in Scripture); Banner of Truth--the
Bible's teaching on Providence (the hand of God in
the glove of circumstances) is shown to the reader
in 139 examples from the Bible. A 19th century
classic that is faith building and hope sustaining!
David Searle, JOSEPH (His Arms Were Made
Strong); Banner of Truth--one of the great O. T.
examples of Christ-like grace, Joseph, is shown
to be sustained by His God.
J. I. Packer and Mark Dever, IN MY PLACE
CONDEMNED HE STOOD (Celebrating the Glory of
the Atonement); Crossway--Pastor Mark Dever
from Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington,
D.C. approached evangelical Anglican and Reformed
scholar J. I. Packer about Packer having his classic
short essays on the atoning work of Christ put into
print. Packer responded he would IF Dever would
include his essay originally published in
CHRISTIANITY TODAY magazine. A marriage was
made and we are the beneficiaries. This is sure to
be a classic. You will not find richer fare on Christ's
cross work for believers!
Wow! That's a lot of books. Yes, but a trip to Disneyworld costs far more and does not change your life like these books will. May God glorify Himself in your reading of this rich bill of fare.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
The following is an excerpt from the book "The Christ of Christmas" by James Boice reprinted here by permission. Enjoy!
Have you ever read the Christmas story according to Jesus Christ? I do not mean the Christmas story according to Luke, which we know so well, or Matthew, which we also know, or even the apostle John, but the Christmas story from the lips of the Lord Jesus Himself.
If we could meet the great personages of the Christmas story and interrogate them one by one, the story from each would be beautiful and stirring. Mary would have an account of the appearance of the angel, her trip to visit Elizabeth, the birth itself, the visit of the shepherds. Probably the early chapters of Luke give an account of those things as Mary herself told them. If we called the shepherds, they would be able to give us many details not in the biblical narrative, perhaps a description of the angels or the result of their later testimony to other people. Joseph would have his story. Yet having gone through all that interrogation, we would still want to hear from our Lord.
Where are we going to find that story? We do not have it in the gospels. The Lord’s own story is in the Old Testament, in the fortieth psalm—and in the New Testament, which repeats these words in Hebrews:
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the
I have come to do your will, O God.’”
That is what I call the Christmas story according to the Lord Jesus Christ.
B o r n t o D i e
What is it that our Lord emphasizes in these verses? First, that He came into the world for a purpose. That is important, for it is uniquely true of Him. It cannot be said of any other person that he or she came into the world to do something.
It is often true that there are purposes parents have for their children. They hope that the child lying in a crib will grow up to do something significant in this world. If the parents are Christians, they want their child to be kept from sin and be able to serve Jesus Christ. Parents have those and other aspirations. But the child does not have them. The child has to acquire them. That is why, from a Christian perspective, the child must be taught its destiny from the pages of the Word of God.
But Jesus was different. Our Lord says that He came (and was conscious of coming) for a specific purpose. Moreover, He spells that purpose out: “I have come to do your will, O God.”
What was that will? God willed Christ to be our Savior.
I do not know why it is, but we often lose a sense of that purpose in telling the Christmas story. We focus so much on the birth of the baby and on the sentiment that goes with that story—and there is a certain amount of legitimate sentimentality
that goes with it—that we miss the most important
things. Actually, the story is treated quite simply in Scripture, and the emphasis is always on the fact that Jesus came to die. The Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took a human body in order that He might die for our salvation. When our
Lord speaks of His coming it is therefore highly understandable that He is thinking along those lines.
In the tenth chapter of Hebrews the author contrasts the sacrifices that took place in Israel before the coming of Christ—the sin offerings and burnt offerings, by which believers testified of their faith that God would accept them on the basis of the death of an innocent substitute—with Christ’s
great and perfect sacrifice. It is in the context of that contrast, between the former things and that which has now come, between the shadow and the reality, that he brings in the quotation from Psalm 40. The Lord Jesus Christ came into
this world with a purpose, and that purpose was to do God’s will: to be our Savior. We miss the most important thing about Christmas if we fail to see that.
W h o C a n P a y ?
A second point emerges from these verses. It is not only that our Lord came into the world with a sense of purpose; He also came into the world with knowledge that He was the perfect one to fulfill that purpose.
It is possible to have a noble purpose and yet not be the one to fulfill it. We see that many times when we talk to children. They are aware of what they want to do, but often they cannot quite do it. They will say, “Here, let me do it! I can do it!” But they cannot do it, and after they have struggled
a bit—wise parents let them struggle—they must be helped to fulfill the task. That was not the case with Jesus Christ. As He came into the world, our Lord had His mind on His great purpose: to provide salvation for the race. But not only did He have the purpose in mind, He also was aware that He was the one perfectly suited to carry out that purpose.
He was perfectly suited by virtue of who He was. Unlike anybody else who has ever been born, He was not only man; He was God as well. Therefore while as a man He could die upon the cross, as God He died in order to pay the infinite price necessary for our salvation.
Harry Ironside used to tell about a young man who was a soldier in the Russian army. Because the young man’s father was a friend of Czar Nicholas I, the young man had been given a rather responsible post. He was paymaster in one of the barracks for the Russian army, and it was his responsibility to see that the right amount of money was distributed each month to the soldiers. The young man meant well, but his character
was not up to his responsibility. He took to gambling. Eventually he had gambled away a great deal of the government’s money as well as all his own.
In due course the young man received notice that a representative of the czar was coming to check the accounts, and he knew that he was in trouble. That evening he got out the books and totaled up the funds owed. Then he went to the safe and got out his own pitifully small amount of money. As
he sat there and looked at the two he was overwhelmed at the astronomical debt versus his own small change. He was ruined! He knew he would be disgraced. At last the young man determined to take his life. He pulled out his revolver, placed it on the table before him, and wrote a summation of his misdeeds. At the bottom of the ledger, where he had totaled up his illegal borrowings, he wrote: “A great debt! Who can pay?” He decided that at the stroke of midnight he
As the evening wore on the young soldier grew drowsy and eventually fell asleep. That night Czar Nicholas I, as was sometimes his custom, was making the rounds of this particular barracks. Seeing a light, he stopped, looked in, and saw the young man asleep. He recognized him immediately
and, looking over his shoulder, saw the ledger book and realized all that had taken place. He was about to awaken him and put him under arrest when his eye fastened on the young man’s message: “A great debt! Who can pay?” Suddenly, with a surge of magnanimity he reached over, wrote one word at the bottom of the ledger, and slipped out.
The young man was sleeping fitfully. He awoke suddenly in the middle of the night, glanced at the clock and, realizing that it was long after midnight, reached for his revolver to shoot himself. But as he did so his eye fell upon the ledger. He saw something that he had not seen before. There was
his writing: “A great debt! Who can pay?” But underneath it was the word the czar had written: “Nicholas.”
He was dumbfounded. He did not understand how it could have got there. There must be some mistake. He went to the safe where material that bore the signature of the czar was on file. It was the czar’s signature. He said to himself, “The czar must have come by when I was asleep. He has seen the book. He knows all. Still he is willing to forgive me.” The young soldier then rested on the word of the czar, and the next morning a messenger came from the palace with exactly
the amount needed to meet the deficit. Only the czar could pay, and the czar did pay.
In the same way only the Lord Jesus Christ was able to pay our debt to God. We look at the moral requirement of God’s righteousness spelled out in His law. We compare it with our own tawdry performance, and we ask the question: “A great debt to God! Who can pay?” But then the Lord Jesus Christ steps forward and signs His name to our ledger: “Jesus Christ.” Only Jesus can pay, and He does.
J o y U n s p e a k a b l e
The third thing in this text is that Jesus was delighted to do the Father’s will. That very word is in some of our versions. It is certainly in the fortieth psalm. We find in many places in Scripture that the Lord was satisfied in His ministry. The twenty-second psalm describes His death by crucifixion, and toward the end of that psalm He is praising
God. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah perhaps better
than any other Old Testament passage spells out the theme of vicarious atonement, the death of one on behalf of the many. At the end of that chapter we find Jesus looking upon the travail of His soul and saying, “I am ‘satisfied’”
(Isaiah 53:11). Hebrews 10:5–7 tells us He actually delighted to do the will of God.
Could Jesus be delighted to come to this earth from glory, to lay aside all the privileges and prerogatives He had enjoyed as the eternal Son of God, to take to Himself a human form, to become like us, to become poor, to suffer throughout life,
and then eventually to suffer upon the cross and die the death of a sinner, a malefactor, an evildoer? Yes, Jesus delighted in that, because it was His pleasure to do the Father’s will to achieve our salvation.
Imagine a person who sees something to be done and recognizes that he or she is the one to do it, but then either does not do it or does it reluctantly. The person says, “Well, I suppose it has to be done, and I guess I’m the only one able to do it. Nobody else will do it if I don’t. So, all right, I’ll do it.” The work is done, but there was no joy in it. I am glad our Lord did not think like that. Our Lord did not say, “Well, Father, I suppose that if this is what You want and if You haven’t got anybody else, I’ll go die.” It was not like that at all. Jesus delighted to do the Father’s will. It was His joy to
bring the sons and daughters of God into glory.
Is it any wonder that the angels were joyful as they
announced the coming of that one who was to be the Savior?
We too should be joyful, not because we give gifts to one another, not because there is a certain lightheartedness or Christmas spirit in the world at large, not because there is a pretty story that is nice to tell children, but because Jesus Christ was joyful as He came into the world to be our Savior.
If He was joyful, we should be joyful as well.
“ I A m w i t h Y o u A l w a y s ”
There is one more thing to notice. When the Lord says, “Here I am,” He is speaking in the present tense, which is undoubtedly intended to make this important point: “I have come; but not only have I come, I have come never to depart again.”
Edmund P. Clowney, the former president of Westminster Theological Seminary, had been speaking about Christ to some individual. The person said, “The problem I have with Christianity is that it all happened so long ago. You’re
talking about something that happened two thousand years ago. If Christ had only been born, say, a hundred years ago, it would be different.” Dr. Clowney’s response was the correct one. He said, “Those events that happened so long ago have not ceased to be current. Rather, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came then, comes again and again through the person of His Holy Spirit to bring the accomplishment of His salvation to the individual.”
That is the reason the Christmas story is alive. It is the only reason it has the hold it has upon so many millions of people.
If the story were a fable or even an event that merely had happened 2,000 years ago (or even 100 years ago) and then ended, it would have no hold upon us. What does it really matter that somebody died long ago in a far-off land? I have my problems. You have your problems. So what? But if the One who came then still comes, if He comes to the individual through His Spirit to bring the results of the salvation He accomplished 2,000 years ago to where you and I stand and act now, then this story lives and enables us to live also.
Have you found the Lord Jesus Christ, who came at
Christmas, to be your Savior? Have you placed your trust in Him? He has come. He can be yours in this moment. Phillips Brooks, in his carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” has a stanza that is a delight at this point.
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming.
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
So He does! May this be your experience at this Christmas
I try to invest in people by investing in books to give them. A well chosen and well received book can change a life and sometimes a nation (read about the 19th century revival in Geneva, Switzerland when Robert Haldane opened the book of Romans to some lost seminary students).
Below are some choice to provoke you to think about what choice books you might give as gifts this Christmas. May I recommend the following?
FOR PASTORS, ELDERS, SEMINARY & BIBLE COLLEGE STUDENTS
Carl Trueman, THE CREEDAL IMPERATIVE; Crossway--a powerful and compelling read showing how our post-modern, post-Christian culture regards old things like confessions of faith and creeds and how people coming to Christ out of this culture bring their deficient views into the churches. The 1st chapter is worth the price of the book--the rest of the book is free!
Joel Beeke and Mark Jones, PURITAN THEOLOGY (Doctrine for Life); Reformation Heritage--a once in a lifetime publication of the theology of the Puritan giants put into one flowing study of "Puritan theology".
Although Baptist Puritans are not included, there is much else here that is so good.
FOR WOMEN, PASTORS, ELDERS, EVANGELISTS:
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, THE SECRET THOUGHTS OF AN UNLIKELY CONVERT (An English Professor's Journey into Christian Faith); Crown & Covenant Publications--a former feminist, lesbian academic at a major eastern university shares her journey without being lurid and with great biblical and cultural honesty. Compelling reading for all.
FOR YOUNG AND OLD MEN, COLLEGE STUDENTS:
Kevin DeYoung, THE HOLE IN OUR HOLINESS
(Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness); Crossway--take Jerry Bridges,
R. C. Sproul, J. I. Packer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the best of the recent Bible teachers and make them digestible to the 21st century reader and that is this book. A read gem!
FOR POSSIBLE PASTORS/MISSIONARIES and their spouses...
Dave Harvey, AM I CALLED? (The Summons to Pastoral Ministry); Crossway--takes the best of the Bible's wisdom and adds the best of the evangelical
Reformed world's guides and mix them with great writing and you have a trusty guide to a sometimes
FOR TEACHERS, PREACHERS, PROFESSORS:
Andreas Kostenberger, EXCELLENCE (The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue);
Crossway--past president of the Evangelical Theological Society and professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and prolific author of important books writes to challenge us to do our best work...for the glory of God!
FOR ANY CHRISTIAN WHO WANTS TO GROW
Alec Motyer, ISAIAH BY THE DAY; Christian Focus
Publications--renowned evangelical and Reformed Old Testament scholar who has spent decades thinking about, studying, teaching and publishing on the book of Isaiah gives us a splendid daily devotional on the book with a new translation and layout and daily thoughts to go with it.
Until next week...
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
No less of an important evangelical and Reformed theologian than James Packer has said that believers ought to major in reading the gospels for there we see the Savior on earth. That is great advice that we do not always heed. We like to read Paul's letters to explain how the person and work of Christ accomplished and applied our salvation. But we see the person and work of Christ a bit second hand, as it were.
In the gospels, we see the God-man come to earth who lived among sinners and spoke like no other man. He spoke with authority and clarity, with compassionate invitations and grim warnings. Mark's gospel records that "the common people heard Him gladly". How do we see Jesus relating to sinners? It depends upon what kind of a "sinner" Jesus is dealing with. With notorious "sinners" Jesus speaks to them in a straight-forward way and often with compassion, offering salvation to those who repent. To hard-hearted, self-righteous sinners, we see our Lord confronting and threatening them in their hardness.
How does Jesus relate to the weak, the powerless, the flotsam and jetsam of society?
Our Savior has not changed. "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever." Our need has not changed! The Christ who walked the hills of Galilee
and cleansed the Temple and spoke in the synagogues of Judah is the same God-man who sits at the right hand of the Father in glory, waiting for His enemies to be made His footstool! We can know Him and see Him in action by reading and studying and meditating upon the gospels.
The following books help us to read the gospels with greater insight and application. I hope you enjoy them as they help you to see the Savior.
Jonathan Pennington, READING THE GOSPELS WISELY; Baker Academic--professor of New Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY shows us how to read the gospels by seeing the gospel in the gospels!
Vern Poythress, INERRANCY AND THE GOSPELS
(A God-Centered Approach to the Challenges of Harmonization); Crossway--a reverent and in some ways profound help in understanding how to harmonize what appear to be contradictions and problems in the four gospels accounts of Christ's life. Professor Poythress puts the reader on solid ground in showing how the four gospels do harmonize if you take them as the Word of God and sit under their authority.
THE BEST EXPOSITIONS OF THE GOSPELS:
J. C. Ryle, EXPOSITORY THOUGHTS ON THE GOSPELS: Banner of Truth--the "man of granite with the heart of a child" was the way Ryle's successor described him. Scholarly by nature but profoundly practical and straight-forward by gifting, Ryle could not be muddy or vague if he tried. In fact, reading the gospels with Ryle will make you examine how you read the Scriptures! He makes you stop and look at things more carefully. Available now in paperback and hardback. Ryle wrote these volumes for fathers to read to their families in family worship who did not have an accessible place of evangelical worship. And we shall thank him for these gifts always!
--Luke-- 2 volumes
R. C. Sproul, THE ST. ANDREWS EXPOSITORY SERIES; Crossway--most evangelical and Reformed Christians know what a good communicator and theologian that R. C. Sproul is and this series is no exception. What is now helpful is that he has preached through Mark and John and we have the fruits of his exegesis, exposition and remarkable gifts. Great to read aloud in family devotions.
THE REFORMED EXPOSITORY SERIES; P & R--great expositors and preachers come together to open up God's Word and put the goodies down where we all can reach them. The following volumes on the gospels are particularly helpful:
--Daniel Doriani, THE INCARNATION IN THE
GOSPELS--shows the impact of our Lord
becoming man as recorded in the four gospels
--Daniel Doriani, THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW (2
--Philip Ryken, THE GOSPEL OF LUKE (2 volumes)
These should keep us on our knees in knowing and loving and following and trusting Christ. They would also make great Christmas gifts for Christians you know and love.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
There is a host of great reading for you, for a local book readers club, a ladies study group and more. I have tried to give you a taste of some of the most edifying books written by women about women. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have in reading several of them. (And I cheated a bit on what I said and included
a couple of titles written by men about certain women!)
Sharon James, ELIZABETH PRENTISS; Banner of
Truth--One of the best books on the Reformed
doctrine of sanctification is Mrs. Prentiss' STEPPING
HEAVENWARD. It is the story of a young woman's
growth in life and in godliness. EVERY CHRISTIAN
WOMAN AND TEENAGE GIRL needs to read this
book It is that good! I know one young woman
who has read it 10 times!!
George Prentiss, MORE LOVE TO THEE; Solid
Ground Christian Books--Named after the most
famous of Elizabeth Payson's (later Prentiss)
hymn. Her father, Edward Payson was nicknamed
"Praying Payson of Portland" for his outstanding
ministry of prayer and preaching in Portland, Maine.
One of Elizabeth's lasting memories of her father,
who died when she was a young girl, was when she
ran into his office to find him on his face, pleading
in prayer for the souls of the inhabitants of
Portland. She quietly backed out but never could
erase from her heart that poignant memory!
Faith Cook, A TROUBLED JOURNEY; Banner of Truth--
tells the story of young Faith growing up in China
before the Communist takeover in 1949 and the
hard times of being a missionary child in a far off
place in the world in the day when missionaries
sent their children off to boarding school,
sometimes hundreds of miles away. Faith went on
to be the wife of a faithful and useful pastor in
England, Paul Cook. She is the author of many
really good mini-biographies and larger works.
Faith Cook, SAMUEL RUTHERFORD AND HIS FRIENDS;
Banner of Truth--another exception to the goal of
this Blog to highlight women authors or subject of
biographies. But Samuel Rutherford's letter are
exquisite and deemed by Spurgeon as the most
inspired documents he read after Scripture! Faith
fills us in on who the letters were written to and
how the biographical background makes the letters
of Rutherford come alive.
Faith Cook, SELINA, COUNTESS OF HUNTINGDON;
Banner of Truth--an important look into the life
and ministry of a wealthy lady during the Great
Awakening (called the Evangelical Awakening in
England) when Whitefield and Wesley were
household names. Selina used her wealth to
support preachers and build churches to encourage
the spread of the Awakening. A challenge to rich
and poor, man or woman.
Faith Cook, SINGING IN THE FIRE; Banner of Truth
" " , THE SOUND OF TRUMPETS; Banner of
Truth--two small paperbacks which each
contain several cameos portraits of godly
people who suffered for their faith (FIRE)
while remaining faithful and who suffered
until martyred for their faith (TRUMPETS).
Fanny Crosby, FANNY CROSBY: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY;
Hendirickson--a reprint of her 19th
century autobiography. Arguably one of
the greatest hymn writers in American
church history, her hymns have been
sung and loved by multitudes in many
Christian denominations. All by a girl who
was blinded through a doctor's error as a
young girl and did not become bitter but
became a godly woman, wife, and
Rose McDonald, MRS. ROBERT E. LEE; Sprinkle
Publications--in early centuries, wives were known
by their husband and his exploits. But behind the
famous general there was a godly wife who
suffered long and hard while apart from her
husband. This is her story and God's glory!
(Written in 1937 by a Virginia school teacher.)
John Mitchell, MY MOTHER; Sprinkle Publications--
another 19th century gem. A godly man writes an
appreciative biography of his godly mother who
was used under God to make him who he was!
Heidi Nichols, ANNE BRADSTREET (The Life and
Thought of the Puritan Poet); P & R--one of
America's first and best poets was a woman and
a Puritan woman. Her poetry was an expression
of who she was and Whom she belonged to.
Simonetta Carr, LADY JANE GREY; Reformation
Heritage--for girls, it shares the story of the 9 day
queen of England who was martyred for her faith
upon the death of her young husband, the
Reformed and pious Edward.
Diane Severson, FEMININE THREADS; Christian Focus
Publications--takes you on a journey from the early
church down to near today showing some of the
great and good women God has used for His glory.
Perks your interest to read more of them!
May the Lord encourage you in Christ-likeness and in dreaming bigger dreams for His glory!
Your Book Servant,
Many Christians are dejected, some depressed and many more disheartened. It seems to them as if the nation they love is going down the drain in their lifetime. Is there something Christians ought to be reading now that might counter-act if not dispel the negative thinking and defeatist emotions that many entertain?
If you will indulge me for a moment, let me tell you of an incident from my life that taught me the kind of lesson we need to hear at this time. As a young Christian who worked with students in a parachurch ministry, engaging students with the gospel on campus was the lifeblood of our ministry. After a complaint from a Jewish student's parents, we were rudely told we could never come back on campus again. Our access to the campus was now denied. How would we meet students? Where could we find a place to engage students? What would become of our ministry? I received the phone call about 1:30 in the afternoon and sat down to pray. God graciously brought to mind the Book of the Revelation. The final chapter of the Bible's storyline, Revelation tells us how the story ends. The Lamb wins! His people win! His enemies are vanquished! His person and work vindicated! The martyrs vindicated! All God's people live happily ever after!!
My mind was changed; my emotions were lifted; my perspective set right. This is God's world. A usurper has harmed God's world and sought to set God's work at naught. God sent prophets and then He sent His Son, seemingly to no good end. But the rest of the story is that God's Son and His gospel mysteriously, invisibly, but really grow and take over the whole earth of God's elect people. People from every tribe, and tongue and people group on the face of the planet will behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and pinch themselves with wonder for eternity that God would be so gracious to save them and make them His own.
So when was the last time you read the Book of the Revelation? Did you get bogged down trying to figure out who the Anti-Christ was and when the rapture would take place and who would be left behind? I can remember as a very young Christian hearing all the hoopla about the any moment rapture and who the Beast was and who the Anti-Christ was and I was scared, exhilarated and a bit defiant. I had things I wanted to do and an any moment rapture was going to short-circuit my plans! Well I was obviously willful and sinful and thinking only of myself. Bit I have learned much since 1969 and one of the most helpful things was to learn what the Bible does and does not teach Christ's final victory and return.
May I recommend some helpful titles to take you through Christmas? If you read them carefully and prayerfully digested them, they would energize your Christian life and remove the fog of discouragement from reading the newspaper?
ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT--THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Derek Thomas, LET'S STUDY REVELATION; Banner
Dennis Johnson, THE TRIUMPH OF THE LAMB; P & R
If you could only buy and read two, make it these two. They will lead you to other good teachers but they will encourage you in God's Word of Revelation.
Douglas Kelly, COMMENTARY ON REVELATION;
James Hamilton, REVELATION (Preach the Word
If you could read two more books, then read them with your studies in Revelation. You will see much of Christ and be able to ignore so much of contemporary fluff and non-sense.
Greg Beale, REVELATION (New International Greek
Testament Commentary); Eerdmans
IN A SPECIAL CATEGORY:
R. C. Sproul, THE LAST DAYS ACCORDING TO JESUS;
Baker--sober re-evaluation of the evidence for
a pre-A.D. 70 dating for revelation and a close
examination of what Jesus really said in the
gospels and Revelation, with a special focus on
"time oriented words" and the time frame our
Lord is discussing.
May your reading, studying and praying give you a big picture of your Savior and a steady hand on the plow of life as you move forward in following Christ.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
SERMONS OF THE GREAT EJECTION (Puritan Paperbacks); Banner of Truth; 2012
I have taken my title of this Blog from the popular notion that good things, sometime seven great things can come to an end, sometimes an inglorious end. When it seemed a decade or more ago that the Boeing Corporation might close down its vast Tacoma, Washington facility, someone paid for a billboard in Tacoma which read, "Will the last person leaving Tacoma please turn out the lights"! Things seemed dire.
Imagine if you will the nation of England (geographically the size of our U. S. state of Alabama) having over 2,000 of its best evangelical and Reformed pastors/preachers resign on the same day! And their congregations knew it ahead of time. And it would wreak havoc on the spiritual state of England for centuries to come.
Such happened in 1662 when the King and Parliament passed a law requiring all ministers to conform to the national church and its recent pronouncements. They knew that the Puritan element in the national church would never consent and would resign for conscience' sake. They could clean house in the church without personally the Puritan ministers out of their churches. That is exactly what happened.
The Banner of Truth has again put us in its debt and re-published SERMONS OF THE GREAT EJECTION (farewell sermons preached by these evangelical and Reformed pastors to the congregations). How men of such conviction, love for Christ, courage and character put us modern types to shame. Included in this collection are the sermons of famous Puritans like Thomas Brooks (author of PRECIOUS REMEDIES AGAINST SATAN'S DEVICES) and Thomas Watson (THE LORD'S PRAYER, A BODY OF DIVINITY, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, etc.). Names not as well known today but well known in 17th century church were Edmund Calamy, John Collins, Thomas Lye, John Oldfield, and John Whitlock. Their sermons make great reading and challenge us current ministers of the gospel as to our convictions and integrity. Are we men of principle or are we "Mr. Facing Both Ways"? Do we whet our fingers before we determine what to preach?
Sadly, the lights went out on the Puritan movement to a great degree after this sad Sunday in 1662--called Black Bartholemew's Day in England. Puritanism itself would not recover and England had to wait almost a hundred years for young Howell Harris and George Whitefield, later joined by the Wesleys and a host of other good men to see the power of the gospel in a great way moving again upon the hearts and consciences of men and women.
A bonus addition to SERMONS OF THE GREAT EJECTION is "The Non-Conformist's Catechism", drawn up by Samuel Palmer in 1772 and subsequently edited a bit for the 29th reprint of the book in 1890.
Searching questions and biblical answers stir our souls.
If you find yourself spiritually drowsy, imagine hearing someone blowing the bugle charge at the Old Soldiers'
Home! You will wake up from your slumbers!!
May love for Christ and His Church and the souls of the lost around us move us to courage, fortitude and integrity in our generation.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin