Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Helpful Books on Evangelism

In response to my post on Dever’s new evangelism book, Jeff asked what other books I had found encouraging and/or challenging on evangelism. We’re not back to full sleep yet at my house- so who knows how clearly I am thinking :) -but here are a few books that come to mind. Feel free to mention others in comments.

Directly on the topic:
Horatius Bonar, Words to Winners of Souls
Thomas Boston, The Art of Manfishing
Iain Murray, Spurgeon Vs Hyper Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching
Ichabod Spencer, A Pastor’s Sketches
C. H. Spurgeon, The Soul Winner

Pastoral Ministry Books which address this topic:
Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor
John Angell James, An Earnest Ministry

Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot
Michael McMullen, God's Polished Arrow: W.C. Burns

Share some that have been helpful to you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Baby is Here!

Timothy Van Neste made his appearance this morning at 8:16 am. He weighed 9 lbs 5 oz and was 20.5 inches long. He and mom are both doing very well.

Brothers and sister got to come visit and were delighted with him.

Yes, I am cropped out of the picture!

We are grateful to God for our new little boy, and his and Tammie’s good health through it all.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dever’s New Evangelism Book

Just yesterday I in the mail came my copy of Mark Dever’s new book, The Gospel & Personal Evangelism (Crossway; pb., 124 pp.). I am about a third of the way through it now and it is really good. Dever states clearly his purpose:

“My prayer is that because of the time you spend reading this book, more people
will hear the good news of Jesus Christ” (16).
This is a good, succinct discussion of the task of evangelism and a clear, strong, humble exhortation to get to it from a fellow pastor who has worked at being more faithful and intentional in this important task. He closes with “A Word to Pastors.”

This is really helpful book.

Amazon says this book is not yet available but it is at Crossway. It should be available at Amazon any day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

J. B. Gambrell, Pastorate is Hard Service

I just came across this quote in a paper written by Tom Ascol. Gambrell was a leader among Southern Baptists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries serving as President of Mercer, professor at Southwestern and SBC President.

In his commencement address in 1913 at Southwestern he said:

My first word is that you are going into a hard service. There is a place where good preachers and good Christian workers will have a good, easy time–but it is not in this world. It lies beyond Jordan. There is not going to be any way for you to get out of a hard place. If you undertake to run out of it, you will run into it and all the harder because you run. It is a great thing for soldiers to know what they are going into.

The key word this morning is: Hold fast. I have less and less regard for the brilliant people who soar aloft and more and more regard for the plain man who sticks to his work and just keeps on, and keeps on, and keeps on. (Baptist Standard June 15, 1913)
This is a good word for today as well. Let us not seek ease but faithfulness. Let us not whine or complain as if we are the only ones to face difficulties but rather embrace the calling God has given recognizing it is only by His mercy that we have the privilege of serving His church. Let us persevere by His grace for His glory.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Davis on OT Narrative

Dale Ralph Davis. The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts.
(Christian Focus Publications, 2006) pb., 153 pp.

I have already mentioned several other really good books from this year on preaching the Old Testament. Here is one more which may be my favorite. I have appreciated Davis’ popular commentaries in the past and am really enjoying this book. He shares the concerns of books previously mentioned that the Old Testament has been taken out of the church’s hands. Some blame he places on the way the OT has too often been handled:

“For nearly two hundred years a skeptical brand of Old Testament criticism has largely held sway in our universities and divinity halls; it ‘un-godded’ the Old Testament, implied the Old Testament documents were extremely complex and involved, and managed to make Old Testament studies mostly boring, lifeless, and dull.” (i)

“I still believe that traditional Old Testament criticism has had the effect of killing the Old Testament for the church.” (ii)
Davis then makes it clear that we are not seeking some magic key to unlock the Old Testament. Too much of hermeneutics is so complex it ends up sounded like this. Instead Davis calls for a sensible, sensitive, and careful reading of the text.
“Nor do I have any tricks. I cannot offer any magical procedure which, if followed, will unlock the riches of the Old Testament narrative. . . . I simply want to stir up the biblical juices of preachers and students, to help people walk away from the text muttering about what a delightful book God has given us.” (3)
If we read in this way looking particularly for what we can learn about God we will understand much and be enriched.
“It’s safe to say that usually the writer’s purpose is theocentric – he intends to communicate something about God, i.e., his character, purposes, demands, or ways.” (4)

“…whenever you see God clearly in a text you can be sure there is something very applicable there for you.” (9)
I think Davis succeeds admirably in his goal. I found myself stirred up reading the book. He writes well and shows how, even though there are difficult and confusing parts of Scripture, it is not that difficult to find key truths. This is a very encouraging and helpful book.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Meet the Puritans

Meet the Puritans, Joel Beeke & Randall Pederson
(Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), hb., 896 pp.

This is an incredible, monumental work! This is the most significant, most helpful guide to the Puritans I know of. The book provides a brief bio and list of reprinted works of over 120 Puritans as well as a brief history of English Puritanism and an essay on how we can benefit from the Puritans. It also contains similar bios and reprint lists of Scottish and Dutch writers who paralleled the Puritans. Less people are aware of these writers. I discovered some of the Scottish writers during our time in Scotland and only more recently have encountered some of the Dutch like Herman Witsius. All of these are covered here in one volume. This is now the one stop place for Puritan overview and we are indebted to the authors for such a helpful volume.

Available at Amazon or at the publisher’s site.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Motive for Studying Theology

In preparing to teach our opening Sunday School class on systematic theology- on why such study of theology is important- I read the opening of J. L. Dagg’s Manual of Theology. I thought the opening paragraph was particularly good and wanted to pass it along:

“The study of religious truth ought to be undertaken and prosecuted from a sense of duty, and with a view to the improvement of the heart. When learned it ought not to be laid on the shelf, as an object of speculation; but it should be deposited deep in the heart, where its sanctifying power ought to be felt. To study theology, for the purpose of gratifying curiosity, or preparing for a profession, is an abuse or profanation of what ought to be regarded as most holy. To learn things pertaining to God, merely for the sake of amusement, or secular advantage, or to gratify the mere love of knowledge, is to treat the Most High with contempt” (13)
May we pursue our study of Scripture with this aim and teach our people to do so as well.

NB: I have searched sometime for a copy of this book and thought it out of print since it was not available at Amazon. However it is available from Sprinkle Publications which can be reached at 1-800-460-3573 (no website).

Friday, September 07, 2007

Previously Unpublished Edwards Sermons

I am swamped just now with various things including preparation for a new baby (any day now) and a flood of good new books- both blessings! So, I will plan in the next several days to primarily post some book notes.

For the first one, I am excited to mention a brand new press, The Northampton Press, founded by Don Kistler. Kistler previously led Soli Deo Gloria Press where he edited and republished many great Puritan works and other books. He is continuing his work in Northampton Press and his first book there is Sermons on the Lord’s Supper, a collection of previously unpublished sermons by Jonathan Edwards. There is to me something exciting about the publication of old materials that have not previously been published. This volume contains nine sermons on communion and six other sermons on various topics. I have looked through proofs of the book and appreciated it. The book will be available soon and a pre-publication special is being until September 15.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Hercules Collins on Preaching

I have previously commented on contentment as a theme in the new book on 17th Century London Baptist pastor Hercules Collins. In the second half of the book a number of excerpts are drawn from Collins book on pastoral ministry, The Temple Repaired. I am very pleased to hear that Steve Weaver is preparing an edition of this book for publication. Collins has much wisdom for us today on pastoral ministry.

I was amazed at how so many of Collins’ comments spoke directly to our situation today. Take for example this quotation on preaching:

“A good workman in the gospel lays his work well together, or else it wants that profit and beauty that otherwise it would have. Our discourses should hang as it were in a link or chain. Thus it is in all our Savior’s sermons and Paul’s epistles. There is a wonderful coherence and dependence of one thing upon another. When we name a text we should not take our farewell of it, as too many do, and not return to it again in our whole discourse. But we should closely follow the scope and design of the Spirit of God in that text, with that order and connection of the parts, that it may look beautiful and prove profitable.” (93)
We still need such good exhortations for orderly, coherent preaching, especially preaching which follows the flow of thought of the passage at hand. I could not help but smile at Collin’s reference to preachers reading a text and then never coming back to it. I know this is a common problem today but it was interesting to find it so clearly described in the past.

Collins also addresses the common problem of procrastination in sermon preparation:

“We should get the substance of our sermons if possible for the Lord’s day before Saturday, or else we may be at a loss, and have very poor and lean discourses.” (103)
So, pastors struggled with Saturday Night Fever in the 17th century as well!

Collins exhortations are timely, wise, gospel-centered, and God-honoring. I have been helped and encouraged by this book.