This year I wasn’t sure how many books I would be able to read other than the books I had to read for Seminary. So to maximize my time I tried to remove time killers like I Netflix and the increasingly painful to watch cable news. I went with my strategy of having a physical book, an audiobook and a kindle book I am always reading at the same time. This year I read more old books than I have ever before. Some of that was for school part of that was because I believe that the crazier things get in the evangelical world the more we are going to need the voices of those who have been there and done that already. What orthodox believers need to comfort themselves with is not politics but the reality there is no new heresy, there is no new theologically liberal idea that someone hasn’t thought of already. You don’t know this unless you read old books. Like every year I encourage you to pick up an old book.
So here are my 10 favorite books for 2017
I haven’t read a parenting book in a while so when this one came out I jumped on it. Sandra and I actually have been using this for a small group we are doing with some friends. Tripp’s opening salvo states that parenting is primarily about confession. The whole book is framed around the idea that we need God’s help as much as our kids. Such a crucial read for every parent. We are going to be using it again this spring for our next small group.
Raising kids in today’s world doesn’t happen by parents hoping for the best, it happens because of relentless effort and relentless trust. We trust God but we also have to put in the effort to help our kids not just know the Bible but to allow the Bible to frame their thinking. Lewis says it brilliantly this way “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” This is one of those books it helps you see everything through the lens of the gospel over the lens of your gut instinct which is always wrong. If you have children anywhere near middle school buy this book.
Christmas is a paradoxical holiday it is filled with such joy and at the same time reminds us of great losses. When studying the other night, I came across a message by Tim Keller that talks about how the light of Christmas dispels the shadow of death. I found it convicting and encouraging. I hope that you who feel overwhelmed this Christmas can find your hope in the light the gospel provides. We have much to be hopeful for and rejoice about. We celebrate at Christmas how Jesus came close.
“As silent as snow falling, he came in. And when no one was looking into the darkness, he came.” – Sally Lloyd-Jones
Just before Bonhoeffer was executed, he wrote this to a friend: “Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom.”
“Death used to be an executioner, but because of the gospel, Jesus has made death just a gardener. All death can do is plant me in his love and make me come up in ways I’ve never been before.” George Herbert
What is Bonhoeffer saying? What is that? A light dawned on Bonhoeffer. In spite of the fact that there was darkness all around him, the shadow of the fear of death, because he believed Jesus Christ was from that other world, born into this world, Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the debt the human race owed to justice, so when we died believing in him we can have no fear of anything we have done somehow stymying us or drawing us down so we don’t have to be afraid of death in any way, what did that mean?
Because Bonhoeffer wasn’t afraid of death, he wasn’t afraid of anything. Because Bonhoeffer was afraid of death, he didn’t care about comfort. He didn’t care about affluence. He didn’t care about power or pleasure or sex or money. He didn’t care. That’s why his people said, “You have it made. You can be a successful professor out here away from Germany. You don’t have to go back in there.”
He didn’t want to not go back. Why not? The shadow of death did not fall on him. He lived in a dark world, but because he believed in Jesus, a light dawned. Because Jesus was born in a manger, that means this world is not all there is.
If you let the knowledge of what Jesus Christ is and has done dawn in your life like Bonhoeffer, you can walk around in any part of the world, any century, any situation without fear.
Bonhoeffer is the exact opposite of the kind of person western Civilization according to Ernest Becker is producing. He wasn’t obsessed with romance and love. He wasn’t obsessed with money. He wasn’t being driven to be successful. There was nothing frantic about him. Because he wasn’t afraid of death, he wasn’t afraid of anything. Christmas means fear no darkness. Christmas means fear not. The angels are always showing up in all the Christmas stories saying, “Fear not, Mary. Fear not, Zechariah. Fear not. Fear no darkness.”
Spurgeon said it this way.
The coming of Jesus to us, when he does really come into our hearts, takes away the darkness of ignorance, sorrow, carelessness, fear, and despair. Our night is ended once for all when we behold God visiting us in Christ Jesus. Our day may cloud over, but night will not return. O, you that are in the blackest midnight, if you can but get a view of Christ, morning will have come to you! There is no light for you elsewhere, believe us in this; but if Jesus be seen by faith, you shall need no candles of human confidence, nor sparks of feelings and impressions: the beholding of Christ shall be the ending of all night for you.
C. H. Spurgeon
“The beholding of Christ shall be the ending of all night for you!” Powerful profound truths to ponder this Christmas season. Thank you, Tim Keller. Thank you, Charles Spurgeon. May the light of Christmas dispel the shadow of death in your life. May the hope and joy of Advent fill your heart as you seek him!
In my last blog post, I talked about protecting girls in a #metoo world. My hope was to give practical suggestions that will help empower girls and women to be kind yet proactive, respectful of all yet cautious with trust. I think teaching girls appropriate boundaries as well as teaching them how to respond to unwanted advances by any man in their life is always appropriate. That being said #metoo is predominantly a male problem that is a reflection of a culture that values sex above personhood. To abuse, women is to revert to the pagan view of women being a commodity or property. Christ changed the value of women and Christianity should be the greatest champion of women because of whose image they bear and because of the value Christ placed on them in his earthly ministry. To be clear the sexual abuse problem in our country is not the fault of women at all. Should women dress modestly? Absolutely. Is the modestly or immodestly of how a woman dresses justification for harassment or assault? Never.
What we teach our boys in the sex-crazed world we live in matters and matters greatly. The problem is we live in a world that says there are no boundaries that sex is free that anything that makes you happy is ok until somehow it’s not. This message is the exact opposite of what our boys need to hear if they ever want to become men. I teach my boys that God has made them strong to protect the hurting, the poor the weak and those who are treated unjustly. The measure of a man is not how strong he is but how he uses his strength. In a world that is constantly reinforcing to our boys through social restructuring, porn, and power that you can take what you want. We must remind them that the call to Godly manhood calls them to lay down their life for their wife. To love and protect. To be a voice for those who are without a voice.
I tell my boys some very specific things but I thought it might help to structure them in more universal terms provided by Rev. J.C. Ryle in his excellent short book Thoughts for Young Men.
(1) One danger to young men is PRIDE.
Young men, I beseech you earnestly, beware of pride. Two things are said to be very rare sights in the world–one is a young man that is humble, and the other is an old man that is content….The older you grow, and the more you see, the less reason you will find for being proud. Ignorance and inexperience are the pedestal of pride; once the pedestal is removed–pride will soon come down.
If you aren’t familiar with the #MeToo head over to twitter and read some of the tweets posted by famous women, known women and women no one really knows. Their stories are gut-wrenching. I read through a few feeds of evangelical women I deeply respect and tears came to my eyes because of the pervasiveness of abuse and the destructive power of sin in our world. As a father of two beautiful girls, I don’t want this for them. As a father, it is my responsibility to protect them love them and model to them how men should treat them. As repulsive as the whole Wienstine thing is I pray that good will come from it, that women will speak up and the culture of abuse will be dealt a severe blow.
Our country has spent the last 60 years preaching and worshiping the god of sexual fulfillment at all costs and we are starting to see the devastating legacy of our unrestrained sexual ethic. We see it in the dissolution of the family, in the celebration of every kind of personal pleasure without a thought as to the effect our actions will have on the people we love most and even broader society. This is not a new problem but is rather an indication as to how far our country has slipped from the Christian values that used to guide and define us. In Roman times when Christianity was in its infancy one of the unique things about Christians was their sexual ethics and their high view of women and children. Tim Challies describes Roman culture in such a way that it sounds like the picture that is being painted of the celebrity Hollywood subculture specifically and of American culture increasing.
Rome was a culture of extreme promiscuity and inequality. Those who had power—male citizens—were able to express their sexuality by taking who and what they wanted. Their culture’s brand of sexual morality was exemplified in the Caesars who, one after the other, “were living icons of immorality and cruelty,” using sex as a means of domination and self-gratification.
Yet this system, evil as it looks to our eyes, was accepted and even celebrated by Rome. It was foundational to Roman culture. To be a good Roman citizen a man needed to participate in it, or at least not protest against it. To be loyal to Rome, one had to be loyal to the morality of Rome. To the Romans, the biblical view “would have been seen as disruptive to the social fabric and demeaning of the Roman ideal of masculinity.” What we consider odious and exploitive, they considered necessary and good.
So seeing that our culture is slipping further and further into the sex-crazed pagan practices Christianity opposed. How do we raise our kids and protect our daughters from a sick culture that objectifies women?