God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel – Costi Hinn (2019

hinnCosti W. Hinn, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 223 pp.

The so-called prosperity gospel has been a virtual “wrecking ball,” inflicting damage on the unsuspecting, infiltrating local churches with a diabolical message of health and wealth, and inviting the wrath of a holy God. The prosperity gospel is not another version of the gospel. It is “a different gospel,” one that not only devastates and deceives – this gospel damns.

The apostle Paul addressed the church in Galatia and confronted the false gospel of his day:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-9, ESV).

False gospels must be confronted, as Paul addressed the Galatians who turned to the “gospel” of the Judaizers in the first-century. Costi W. Hinn confronts the prosperity gospel in his latest book, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel. Hinn clearly defines the poisonous effects of this pernicious movement: “The prosperity gospel is here to stay and is spanning the globe, doing damage to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. It is an evil that poses as a blessing but is truly a curse. It appears to be a loving extension of God’s goodness but is arguably the most hateful and abusive kind of false teaching plaguing the church today.”

Hinn describes how he grew up and was groomed to serve alongside his famous uncle, Benny Hinn and how God revealed the diabolical underpinnings of the prosperity gospel, which led to his repentance, conversion, and departure from the movement.

The author describes the origins of the prosperity gospel and the core elements with all of its trappings. He demonstrates from Scripture why prosperity teaching is abominable and warns readers to flee from its deadly influence. Hinn reveals ten reasons that the prosperity gospel is antithetical to Scripture:

  1. It distorts the biblical gospel.
  2. It insults God’s nature.
  3. It confuses the atonement.
  4. It demeans Jesus Christ.
  5. It twists Scripture.
  6. It is motivated by love for money.
  7. It produces false converts.
  8. It overcomplicates faith.
  9. It ruins Christianity’s witness.
  10. It abuses vulnerable people.

Thoughtful and discerning readers will take these principles to heart and be careful to guard the biblical gospel.

Costi Hinn does not shy away from controversy. But he also speaks the truth in love and his arguments are grounded in grace. God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel is sure to raise eyebrows. Hinn’s work is a labor of love that will serve the church well. And it will surely draw some people out of this false system and lead them to the truth.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Coronavirus and Christ – John Piper

John Piper is a trusted biblical scholar and pastor who has shared his wisdom in writing for decades. I first encountered Dr. Piper as a young man. I remember eagerly devouring his book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist when it was originally published in 1986. Since those days, John Piper has without a doubt, shaped my Christian worldview and theological framework more than any other living writer.

Standing on the Solid Rock of Christ

In his latest work, Dr. Piper provides a well-reasoned and biblical response to the current global pandemic. Coronavirus and Christ is not only saturated with Scripture; it is also a deeply personal book. Piper shares his battle with cancer and empathizes with anyone who is suffering during this season of sorrow.

The book presents the biblical vision of who God who is sovereign over everyone and everything. This God works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11). Piper adds, “This is not a season for sentimental views of God.” Therefore, the vision of God here is deeply helpful and satisfying.

The book concludes with a series of ways that the author sees God using the coronavirus in our world for his glory. Readers will be educated, refreshed, comforted, and challenged – in the midst of the horrible pandemic. They will, in the final analysis, be confronted with the majestic God who offers salvation through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ for anyone who turns from their sin and trusts his completed work on the cross.

Coronavirus and Christ is a must-read book; one that will make a huge impact around the world.

Why Should I Join a Church? – Mark Dever (2020)

Mark Dever, Why Should I Join a Church? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 52 pp.

One of the most surprising hot topics that emerges among Christians concerns the matter of church membership. It is not unusual to encounter people who have strong opinions that oppose the notion of church membership. Mark Dever’s short book, Why Should I Join a Church? offers a response that is both biblical and compelling.

Dever’s book is a part of the new Crossway series, Church Questions Series that addresses topics which are on the minds of concerned Christians. The authors response is seven-fold. I offer Dever’s rationale here in order to motivate readers to pick up the book and explore his arguments further:

  1. Join a Church to Display the Gospel
  2. Join a Church Because the Bible Requires It
  3. Join a Church to Love Other Christians and Edify the Church
  4. Join a Church to Evangelize the World
  5. Join a Church to Assure Yourself
  6. Join a Church to Expose False Gospels
  7. Join a Church to Glorify God.

Each answer is supported by Scripture and sound reasoning. I urge skeptics to pick up the book and engage with the author. Such an approach to lead thoughtful and obedient readers to take the necessary steps to join a local church!

Mark Dever has a reputation for passionately promoting church membership. His heart is and ecclesiastical convictions are clearly portrayed here. Take up and read. Take Dever’s advice and join a church.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Reviving the Lost Art of Letter Writing

Once there was a day when the nib of a pen would intersect with a piece of paper, revealing the contemplations of a thoughtful person. The end result would yield a letter that would inspire a willing recipient and breathe fresh courage into a human soul.

Less than 200 years ago, letter-writing flourished in the American colonies. Yet, the convenience of technology has all but extinguished the power of the pen. The convenience of text messages and emails have replaced the personal touch of the letter. Indeed, the art of letter writing is nearly dead. For this reason, it is time to revive the lost art of letter writing.

A Rekindled Friendship

The strained friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson is well known and documented. Thankfully, Dr. Benjamin Rush intervened and convinced Adams to renew his friendship with Jefferson. The second president of the United States responded with a letter to Jefferson. Subsequently, the two men exchanged letters back and forth until their respective deaths, which occurred on the same day – July 4, 1826. The power of pen and ink combined with some thoughtful words supercharged a friendship on the brink of collapse.

A Rekindled Art

A handful of letters have arrived in my mailbox over the past several years that left a meaningful mark and provided much-needed fuel to propel me in a Godward direction:

  • An affirming letter from my father
  • A letter of personal counsel from Dr. John Piper
  • A letter of encouragement from my grandfather, Samuel Barger
  • A letter from Pastor Wayne Pickens, who mentored me in the defining years of pastoral ministry

One letter from my 89-year-old friend, Bruce who recently went to be with the Lord sits permanently in my study:

“Knowing you is to learn, as our Lord measures it, more than just the message of Scripture. You sow also of yourself in His name. More than His word you teach by example, tireless sacrificial giving for His glory and in furtherance of His love …”

Each of the letters above are safely preserved and serve as a permanent reminder of a special time in my life.

Opening a timely and encouraging letter is like receiving oxygen at the summit of Mt. Everest after a grueling climb. It is like salve on a wound in need of healing. A letter is a welcome guest that is never turned away.

It is not too late to revive letter writing in our generation. I suggest we revive the art of letter writing for at least five reasons.

1. Personal Touch

First, a letter is personal. Taking time to compose words on a page, sealing the letter in an envelope, and dropping it in the mail involve a series of additional steps and effort but the payoff is worth it. The personal touch of a letter deeply impacts the one who receives it.

2. Powerful Memories

Second, a letter helps enshrine memories that preserve friendships, provide a permanent record of significant thoughts, and instill hope for the future. When I read a memorable letter, it helps recall significant thoughts and feelings that may have otherwise been forgotten.

3. Permanent Keepsake

Third, a letter becomes a personal and powerful memento. An email can be cataloged in Evernote or saved in some other digital format. An email can even be printed and tucked away for future reference. But an email can never replace the special quality of the written letter.

4. Portrays Selflessness

Next, a letter is an act of selflessness. It takes a certain amount of discipline, time, and creativity to craft a meaningful letter. Such a pursuit, then, involves an intentional act of kindness or selflessness as the one composing the letter must think of others before herself. One might say that letter writing is a way of fulfilling the Golden Rule: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NLT).

5. Proclaims a Blessing

Finally, a letter is a way of proclaiming a blessing. At the heart of a blessing is the need for acceptance. “Genuine acceptance,” writes John Trent, “radiates from the concept of the blessing.”1 A letter has a way of unleashing a person to become all that God intends them to be. It is a way of communicating the kind of support that is empowering and life-changing. A letter has a way of inscribing an indelible seal of blessing on the soul of one of God’s image-bearers.

black and silver fountain pen

A simple letter has the power to inspire hope, instill confidence, and initiate action. A letter communicates devoted love and lifts the human spirit. A letter unshackles the hands and feet, inspires hearts and minds, and communicates love and support to the people we care about.

Reviving the lost art of letter writing begins with you. Who will you influence or encourage today with a simple letter? Who will be the recipient of your timely wisdom or counsel? Who will be inspired to take a step into the great unknown because they received a letter from you? Who will be challenged by your courageous words? Whose life will be changed forever because you took the time to craft a well-thought-out letter? Let us, then, revive the lost art of letter writing – one letter at a time.

  1. John Trent, The Blessing (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986), 28.

All Torn Up

I cannot get the image out of my mind. It keeps playing back in slow motion, like Joe Montana hurling a football into the end zone to Jerry Rice. But 70,000 fans are not screaming. Instead, millions of Americans are horrified.

Nancy Pelosi is ripping the State of the Union Address to shreds. Slowly. Deliberately. Defiantly. Like a petulant child who didn’t get her way, the Speaker of the House is desecrating the speech which bears the name of the President of the United States.

Never in recent memory has anything like this happened in Congress. At least not in my lifetime. Political opponents have always disagreed, yet maintained a semblance of respect. Tip O’Neal respected President Reagan. Newt Gingrich was able to make good progress with President Clinton. Paul Ryan showed respect to President Obama.

But political discourse took an ugly turn on February 4, 2020 when the Speaker of the House brazenly tore the President’s State of the Union Address. Commentators did what they do best. Political pundits weighed in. Members of both sides the isle chipped in: Liberals offered excuses. Conservatives offered condemnation. This morning, Americans will discuss Pelosi’s latest stunt around the water cooler.

When the smoke clears and everyone has a chance to make their partisan contributions, we’ll still be left with a speech torn to shreds. That speech will likely end up on the desk of a politician – a memorial to the defiance of the Democratic party.

But think about what the desecrated speech really represents. When the Speaker of the House shredded President Trump’s speech, she didn’t merely disrespect the highest office in the land. She disrespected America. She disrespected the hopes and dreams of people.

When Nancy Pelosi ripped the president’s speech asunder, she offered a vote of no confidence to Americans like Army veteran Tony Rankins. She offered a vote of no confidence to Janiyah Davis, a beautiful little girl who was given an opportunity scholarship to attend the school of her choice. Speaker Pelosi dishonored the memory of fallen American soldiers. And she disrespected the most recent recipient of the President Medal of Freedom, Rush Limbaugh.

Today, President Trump will be acquitted. America will move forward. Some Americans will celebrate a vibrant economy, a rock-solid military, and a country committed to the cause of freedom. Others will be left with the fragments of a torn up State of the Union Address. Senator Lindsey Graham remarked, “You can tear up the speech but you can’t tear up the accomplishments.”

Thomas Jefferson allegedly said, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” Pelosi’s actions do not represent dissent, however. Her behavior was disrespectful and defiant. Her actions represent a new low in American political discourse. Her unprecedented and shameful act will be etched on the American conscience for generations.

On a day when Americans should be talking about a historic speech and hope for the future, the Speaker of the House has managed to turn the spotlight on herself. “Congratulations, Mrs. Pelosi. Your selfish and immature actions have swayed the public discourse.” Is it any wonder that so many Americans are all torn up?

What Should I Do Now That I’m a Christian? – Sam Emadi

Sam Emadi, What Should I Do Now That I’m a Christian? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 52 p.

For years, 9Marks has been producing literature designed to edify and equip leaders in the local church. Church Questions Series is the most recent project, a set a booklets designed to answer pertinent questions in short bite-sized portions.

What Should I Do Now That I’m a Christian by Sam Emadi suggests that new followers of Christ pursue a eight-fold path as they begin their journey to the Celestial City. Each step is explained along with the biblical rationale. For the purposes of this review, the eight suggestions shall remain untold in order to prompt readers to purchase the book and benefit afresh from Emadi’s counsel.

The great benefit of this series of booklets is the brevity and commitment to biblical authority. The questions are addressed in a forthright manner in clear and unambiguous language. Readers of all ages will benefit from Emadi’s wisdom and would do well to pass this resource to friend who is new to the Christian faith.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

A Christian Reading Manifesto

Modern technology has launched us into the stratosphere of learning. With the click of a mouse or a few keystrokes, we can access information from around the world and gain a treasure chest of knowledge. Smartphones are at the forefront of the new technological frontier and provide users with a massive array of educational and intellectual tools. These ingenious devices have “thirty thousand times the processing speed of the seventy-pound onboard navigational computer that guided Apollo 11 to the surface of the moon.”1 Never before have we been able to access so much information. In addition, the rise of podcasting and audiobooks allow us to connect with current and previous generations in a way that was once impossible.

Despite the benefits of recent technological tools, we are also experiencing a phenomenon that should be of grave concern to pastors and Christian leaders. Many people, especially millennials (people born between 1981 and 1995) are eager to learn but appear resistant to reading. They are “on the verge,” in the prophetic words of Neil Postman, “of amusing themselves to death.”2 They may eagerly listen to a podcast or watch a YouTube video, but a growing number of people pass when it comes to the written page. They are quick to listen but slow to read. Thus, we stand at the crossroads. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips but many resist the challenge to read books. Pastors should be especially concerned as they seek to train and equip the next generation of Christian leaders, who are in many cases, reluctant to read.

UNPACKING THE CHRISTIAN READING MANIFESTO

Mark Noll laments, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”3 Thirty years earlier, Harry Blamires offered an even grimmer assessment: “There is no longer a Christian mind; there is no shared field of discourse in which we can move at ease as thinking Christians by trodden ways and past established landmarks.”4 These allegations should serve as a warning and alert Christians, thus refueling their resolve for learning and spiritual growth. My own view is one of cautious optimism. That is, I maintain (despite the evidence) there is still hope for the evangelical mind. But a new awakening will require a commitment to, you guessed it … reading.

I offer this Christian Reading Manifesto as a brief rationale and apologetic for evangelicals, especially young people. My hope is that many will respond to the challenge and enter a new era of learning which will accelerate their Christian growth and sanctification. Lord willing, this new resurgence of learning will impact countless lives in the coming days and help spark a new Reformation.

1. Reading forces us to think

The very act of reading is an act of the mind. Our culture invites and even demands us to have “open minds” about everything under the sun – religion, philosophy, and politics, to name a few. G.K. Chesterton warned, “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” Given the current trajectory, the next generation of Christian leaders will be open to almost anything. Thus, they will fail to discern between truth and error. They will be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). Their failure to invest in the life of the mind will result in a gradual epistemological erosion that will affect generations to come. They will bear a strange resemblance to Paul’s kinsmen who had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Rom. 10:2). They will, in the words of Hosea 4:6 be laid to ruin: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge …”

God gave us minds. He expects us to use them. Paul charged Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). The Greek term translated, do your best means “to be eager or zealous; to show a keen interest in something.” One of the ways we present ourselves to God is through consistent study: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God …” (KJV). Paul’s command to Timothy is no less a command to each of us. The fruit of such diligent study has three important results.

First, such a person is approved. This person has been tested and is shown to be genuine. The prerequisite for this approval, however, is a zeal for the truth. The person who is approved has committed himself to study and has a passion to pursue the truth and practice the truth. “So I will keep Your law continually, forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, For I seek Your precepts” (Psalm 119:44–45, NASB95).

Second, this kind of person has no need to be ashamed. This person is not open to blame. He is irreproachable. The great benefit of this quality is a life characterized by freedom. Lifelong learning characterizes the one who is committed to passionately pursuing the truth. But the prerequisite for such a pursuit involves reading.

Third, this kind of person handles the truth with precision. The person who commits to diligent study is in a position to handle the Word of God with accuracy. He is committed to reading and analyzing Scripture correctly. Such a person cuts it straight and maintains strict standards of orthodoxy. He will rise up with men like Athanasius by opposing false teaching and clinging to the truth.

Paul’s command to Timothy and every subsequent follower of Christ involves careful thinking. “Deep within the worldview of the biblical authors and equally within the minds of the earliest church fathers was the understanding that to be fully human is to think.5 And careful thinking involves reading. There is simply no way around this principle. People who resist reading will likely be quick to appeal to other learning venues like audiobooks and podcasting. But the written word is the gold standard of learning. Reading the written word is the great equalizer. John Piper reminds us:

“The way we glorify him is by knowing him truly, by treasuring him above all things, and by living in a way that shows he is our supreme treasure … I am pleading that in all your thinking you seek to see and savor the Treasure. If thinking has the reputation of being only emotionless logic, all will be in vain. God did not give us minds as ends in themselves. The mind provides the kindling for the fires of the heart. Theology serves doxology. Reflection serves affection. Contemplation serves exultation. Together they glorify Christ to the full.”6

To ignore reading, then, is tantamount to turning away from a treasure chest filled with precious jewels.

2. Reading cultivates discipline

While audiobooks and podcasting have their place, one of the major drawbacks is a passive approach to learning. Very few people will commit to sitting down with pen in hand during a podcast session. It is not unusual for audio content to go in one ear and out the other.

Reading, on the other hand, cultivates discipline. It forces us to follow the arguments, reasoning, and rationale of the author. It invites the learner to pay attention to key words and phrases. Reading requires taking notes and highlighting for future reference. The very act of reading promotes attentiveness. The precursor to attentiveness is discipline.

The connection between doctrine and discipline is unavoidable in 1 Timothy 4:6-8. Paul admonishes the young pastor:

“In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

Paul’s passion is that Timothy would be constantly growing and learning. Instead of fixating on worldly things, Paul instructs him to discipline (or train) himself for the purpose of godliness. Reading, therefore, is an essential aspect of Christian discipleship.

3. Reading forces us to reckon with words

The historic Christian faith is one that is built around words. In Genesis 1:1 God spoke the cosmos into existence. God uttered three words, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Gen. 1:3).

The Jewish people clung tenaciously to a tradition that was undergirded by words.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:4–9, ESV).

Words, in all reality, are at the very center of the Christian faith. “God has revealed himself in words to minds. His revelation is a rational revelation to rational creatures.”7 Remember Paul’s challenge to Timothy, namely – to be “constantly nourished on the words of faith” (1 Tim. 4:6). Imagine where you would be as a Christian if you were unable to read. Kevin DeYoung highlights the importance of this emphasis on words: “We make no apology for being Word-centered and words-centered. Faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). That’s how God designed it because that’s how he has chosen to reveal himself.”8 So reading forces us to pay careful attention to words. Instead of condemning words, then, we celebrate words and affirm their importance to historic Christianity.

4. Reading fuels our minds and ignites our hearts

R.C. Sproul spoke frequently about the rampant anti-intellectualism that dominates the postmodern theological landscape. “This same specter of anti-intellectualism rises regularly to haunt the Christian church,” wrote John R.W. Stott.9 Such is the case of a church that seeks entertainment over education. “We are” in the words of Neil Postman, “amusing ourselves to death.”

Reading, however, fuels our minds and ignites our hearts. It connects us with the great heroes of church history. Reading invites us into their world, helps us see things from their perspective, and acquaints us with their sufferings.

Reading leads us to the Word (logos). “In the beginning was the Word,” writes John, “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1-2). In other words, reading introduces us to the Savior (Rom. 10:17) and helps cultivate our faith in Christ, leading us into deeper fellowship and communion with him (1 John 1:1-3).

The very act of reading, then, serves as a sort of kindling that helps fuel our minds and ignite our hearts. Reading is a great boon to the soul.

5. Reading helps us love God with our minds

Scripture commands us to love God with all our minds. Yet this imperative is routinely ignored by many: “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). J.P. Moreland adds, “If we are going to be wise, spiritual people prepared to meet the crises of our age, we must be a studying, learning community that values the life of the mind.” John Piper takes it one step further: “Loving God with the mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.”10 Such a pursuit, as Moreland and Piper assert, is not optional. Rather, it is essential. Loving God with our minds stands at the very center of our Christian lives.

The Christian mind, therefore, must be nurtured and developed. It must be shaped by Scripture and learn to rejoice in God’s truth. At the same time, the Christian mind must reject worldly ideology and philosophy. “The mind of man,” writes Harry Blamires, “must be won for God.”11

Cultivating a Christian mind requires a basic understanding of knowledge. David S. Dockery suggests that “the starting point of loving God with our minds, thinking Christianly, points to a unity of knowledge, a seamless whole, because all true knowledge flows forms the one Creator, to His one creation … all truth has its source in God, composing a single universe of knowledge.” 12 Such a robust understanding of knowledge will enable us to take the first step to loving God with our mind. Reading facilitates this process and moves us in a decisively Godward direction.

6. Reading is essential for Christian growth

Paul was concerned for the spiritual growth of his friends in Colossae:

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Col. 1:9–11, ESV).

First, Paul prays that the Colossians would be consumed by the truth (v. 9). He prays a similar prayer for the Ephesian believers and asks God to grant them a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of God (Eph. 1:16-17). He prayed that the Philippian believers would grow in knowledge (Phil. 1:9). Paul understood that the marginalization of knowledge would be deadly to the sanctification process.

Second, Paul prays that the Colossians would be transformed by the truth (vv. 10-12). The progressive marks of ongoing transformation include worthy walking, bearing fruit, and increasing in the knowledge of God. “We must always make progress in the doctrine of godliness until death.”13 Such a commitment results in spiritual strength.

Reading, therefore, becomes an essential ingredient that helps fulfill the prayer that Paul prays for the people of God.

7. Reading builds humility

On one end of the spectrum, reading reminds us of what we don’t know. When we make a concerted effort to read, we come face-to-face with this reality: We don’t know as much as we think we do! Surely, this reminder will work wonders and help transform us into the humble people that God is looking for (Isa. 66:2; Jas. 4:6-10).

On the other end of the spectrum, reading will alert us to the dreadful deficiencies in our own personal pilgrimages. “Without strong theological traditions, many evangelicals lack a critical element required for making intellectual activity both self-confident and properly humble, both critical and committed. To advance responsible Christian learning, the vitality of commitment needs the ballast of tradition.”14 It is this realization that should prompt us to begin afresh and commit ourselves to reading, which will keep us on a path of humility.

A MODEST PROPOSAL

A fourth-century pagan heard a child mutter two Latin words that would change his life forever. “Tolle lege,” said the child. “Take up and read.” Augustine opened a Bible and read, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Rom. 13:13-14, ESV). The Spirit of God quickened the stone-cold heart of Augustine that day. A pagan was delivered from the darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13-14).

My concern is that those who will benefit the most from this article will never read it in the first place. In other words, the strange irony is that those who need this the most simply will not take the time to “take up and read.” While some young evangelicals bemoan the discipline of reading, they sever the root of the tree which is designed to help them grow and flourish. Malnourished and immature Christians will populate our pews and propagate a new breed of spiritual immaturity.

Despite the current state of the church, however, there are some encouraging signs on the horizon. Even Mark Noll, who has offered a grim assessment on the Christian mind has recently written, “We are indeed witnessing improvement in Christian intellectual life from evangelical, but this improvement does not point toward the development of a distinctly evangelical mind.”15 A move in the right direction will require a concerted effort. It will require discipline, as we have already seen. Therefore, I challenge Christians to set themselves to the task of reading. This modest proposal includes four basic goals that anyone can implement immediately.

1. Commit to reading

The first challenge is to begin reading. It should go without saying that the Bible should be foremost in our reading diet. A cursory glance reminds us of the importance of daily time in God’s Word:

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11, ESV).

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12, ESV).

“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:15—18, ESV).

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts” (Jer. 15:16, ESV).

The Scripture “is the foundation of the Christian mind. A biblical worldview – a view of the world informed and shaped by the Bible – has always marked the most developed and formidable of Christian minds.”16 Therefore, the Word of God should have priority in our reading goals.

Additionally, we should commit ourselves to a steady diet of Christian books. The average American reads twelve books per year. That figure is likely inflated. Whatever the case, there is a desperate need to introduce good Christian books as a part of our daily lives.

Reading the right kind of books is as important as reading the books themselves. I recommend getting started with these solid resources:

1. The Holiness of God—R.C. Sproul

2. Desiring God – John Piper

3. The Gospel According to Jesus – John MacArthur

4. The Cross-Centered Life – C.J. Mahaney

5. The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

6. The Prodigal God – Timothy Keller

Each of these books are relatively short, readable, and readily accessible. But most important, these books are gospel-centered, Christ-saturated, and biblical. They will encourage you greatly and help you move forward on your pilgrimage to the Celestial City. The key is to get started and make a commitment to reading.

2. Set an annual reading goal

When I got married, I began reading books regularly. I began with one or two books a month. Year by year, the number increased. These days, I generally read between ten to fifteen books per month. The number of books is not important. What is important is that you get in the habit of reading.

Once an annual reading goal is established, begin to track your books on Goodreads.com. This site gives you the ability to share your reading progress with others and post reviews for books, if you so choose. One of the great benefits of Goodreads is that you will learn about new books that you can add to your future reading list.

3. Read broadly

The mistake I made early on was to limit my reading to one subject—theology. Over the years, I began to broaden my reading appetite which also included history, philosophy, biography, leadership, management, business, personal growth, health and wellness, popular culture, and politics. Be intentional about the books you read. Reading broadly will make you a well-rounded person and will enable you to engage in conversation with people from diverse backgrounds, nationalities, and worldviews.

4. Read joyfully

Jonathan Edwards urged his congregation to delight in God. He said, “God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in.”17 We do that same when we read for joy. Reading enables us to know who God is and what he requires of us.

“And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” When the apostle John penned these words in 1 John 1:4, he assumed that someone would read his words. And upon reading, their joy would be complete.

The simple act of reading transformed Augustine as we have seen. When he heeded the words of a child in the garden, he read for joy that day. The very act of reading joyfully will revitalize your whole approach. Gone are the days of duty-filled reading. Why? Because you have purposed to set your gaze upon the Savior.

Summary

I urge you to make this Christian Reading Manifesto a part of your daily life. Begin with the Bible. Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11, ESV). And read a steady stream of good Christian books that will serve to strengthen and edify you. Perhaps one day, you’ll say with Erasmus, “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”

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Thanks to Dr. Ismael Gurrolla for posing the question which prompted this article.

  1. Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 41.
  2. Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (New York: Penguin Books, 1985), 4.
  3. Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 3.
  4. Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind (Ann Arbor: Servant Publications, 1963), 4.
  5. James Emery White, A Mind for God (Downers Grove: IVP, 2006), 15.
  6. John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 15, 183-184.
  7. Stott, Your Mind Matters, 20.
  8. Kevin DeYoung, The Ten Commandments (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 46.
  9. John R.W. Stott, Your Mind Matters (Downers Grove: IVP, 1972), 8.
  10. John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, 19.
  11. Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind, 81.
  12. David S. Dockery, Renewing Our Minds (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008), 15-16.
  13. John Calvin, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), 305.
  14. Mark Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), 165.
  15. Mark Noll, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011), 165.
  16. James Emery White, A Mind for God, 47.
  17. “Miscellanies” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vo. 13, ed. Thomas Schaefer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 495 (Miscellany 448).

The Logic of God – Ravi Zacharias

raviRavi Zacharias, The Logic of God: 52 Christian Essentials For the Heart and Mind (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 301 pp.

Ask students of apologetics, “Who has wielded the weightiest influence in the 20th century?” There may be a variety of responses, and will, no doubt include the well-known names of Francis Schaeffer, Gresham Machen, and C.S. Lewis. Each of these influential thinkers are with their Savior in heaven.

Who has stepped in to continue the legacy of these titans of the faith in our generation? In my mind, Ravi Zacharias must be included in that list. While his first book, A Shattered Visage: The Real Face of Atheism was largely unrecognized, it came at a crucial juncture in my Christian journey and continues to serve me over twenty-five years later. Since that day, Zacharias has continued to write in the field of apologetics and has influenced thousands of students around the world.

Ravi Zacharias has encouraged Christian thinkers to craft careful biblical arguments and equipped them to engage people in the marketplace of ideas. But he has also challenged the skeptical mind with his brilliant intellect, keen insight, and winsome personality.

The Logic of God is the newest offering by Zacharias. This book contains 52 Christian essentials for the heart and mind. The book is targeted to Christian readers but it would be an excellent resource for skeptics to consider as well.

Each chapter follows a predictable pattern. A topic is introduced, a Scripture is offered, and a brief 2-3 page discussion ensues. At the end of each chapter, readers are invited to consider a series of reflection questions and to walk down a path of personal application.

As an avid reader, I must say that Zondervan has gone to great lengths to make this a beautiful book. The hardback edition includes high quality glossy paper. The writing style is engaging and lucid. The person and work of Jesus Christ is celebrated. The Word of God is treasured. And readers are challenged to think through the exclusive nature of truth. Indeed, as the author notes, “Truth by definition is exclusive … The law of contradiction does apply to reality: two contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense. Thus, to deny the law of noncontradiction is to affirm it at the same time.” Such a statement reveals how Zacharias alerts readers to the importance of philosophy and how good philosophy contributes to effective apologetics.

One of the things that emerges in this book is Ravi’s passion to wed reason and faith. This makes his style unique and resembles the pattern that Francis Schaeffer popularized in the twentieth century. Zacharias writes,

“The connecting of faith and reason is the wonderful journey of the soul. When one’s thinking is set aright again and when the flesh has its shackles broken, the mind and body come under God’s liberating and fulfilling plan. Then we see as He designed us to see. When we come to know our Creator, the questioning is not for doubting but for putting it all together and marveling at His wonders.”

Zacharias has a gift for blending rationality and experience and wouldn’t think of having it any other way. His approach is desperately needed in these postmodern times.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense – Paul David Tripp (2018)

tripp 2Paul David Tripp, Suffering (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 210 pp.

C.S. wrote, “If I knew a way of escape I would crawl through the sewers to escape the pain.” Whether a person agrees with Lewis’s radical conclusion or not is a matter of personal opinion. However, the problem of suffering is a universal dilemma that every person must face. How we respond to suffering reveals the strength of our Christian resolve and character.

Paul David Tripp’s recent book, Suffering explores a weighty subject and invites readers onto a personal journey that will encourage deep humility and personal growth. Speaking personally, Dr. Tripp’s book took my breath away. The author’s transparency and humble approach spoke deeply to my heart and lifted my spirit.

In the final analysis, this book has less to do with coping with suffering and more to do with how suffering can supernaturally transform the lives of God’s people. Listen to Tripp’s meditations and allow his words to sink in deeply:

“Suffering has the power to turn your timidity into courage and your doubt into surety. Hardship can turn envy into contentment and complaint into praise. It has the power to make you tender and approachable, to replace subtle rebellion with joyful surrender. Suffering has the power to form beautiful things in your heart that reform the way you live your life. It has incredible power to be a tool of transforming grace.”

Suffering in many ways is like pouring ice-cold water on an unsuspecting victim; a battering ram that brings even the most powerful to a place of humility and surrender. This volume is quick to remind us that all those who suffer are in desperate need of grace. Tripp adds, “This physical travail, in the hands of my Savior, is a tool used to drive me away from self-sufficiency and into a deeper dependency on God and his people.” Therefore, suffering is greatly used by God to propel his people to a place they never would have reached apart from suffering.

This fundamental message of transformation stands at the heart of Tripp’s book and has the power in itself to encourage and equip a lot of people in God’s kingdom.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

When Pain is Real and God Seems Silent – Ligon Duncan (2020)

Ligonier Duncan, When Pain is Real and God Seems Silent (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2020), 55 pp.

For years, Ligon Duncan has been delivering faithful messages that glorify the Lord. Such is the case in his latest book, When Pain is Real and God Seems Silent. Crossway Books has skillfully condensed two recent sermons by Dr. Duncan that were delivered at Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C.

The texts for the two sermons are taken from Psalm 88 and Psalm 89. The theme for each is suffering. But more than suffering, Dr. Duncan draws our attention to the Lord Jesus Christ. Our gaze is diverted from suffering to the Savior.

These two sermons are classic examples of God-centered, Christo-centric preaching that elevate the Bible and the God of the Bible. I urge readers to sit down for an hour and absorb the timeless wisdom found in these gems. You will be refreshed and encouraged and your gaze will be riveted upon your Savior.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.