Take Up and Read!

One of the great benefits of my labors as a pastor is the time I am able to devote to study and reading. Here's a glimpse of a few of the books I've been enjoying lately, some for personal growth, and some for preaching and teaching. For Personal Growth:

The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer, by Frederick S. Leahy

This great little book has been food for my soul. Leahy takes the reader deep into Christ's suffering and powerfully drives home the significance of the cross for the believer. The first chapter, "Man of Sorrows," ends with this powerful paragraph:

'Jesus wept,' but never like this. No previous sorrow of his could match this. At the time of his arrest he declared, 'Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?' (John 18:11). That cup was constantly in view as he prayed in Gethsemane. What cup? 'THIS CUP' - not some future cup. The cup that was symbolized in the feat (Matt. 26:27,28) was now actual: God was placing it in the Saviour's hands and it carried the stench of hell. But stop! Schilder is right. 'Gethsemane is not a field of study for our intellect. It is a sanctuary of our faith.' Lord, forgive us for the times we have read about Gethsemane with dry eyes.

The Daily Reading Bible (ESV)

A great deal of my week is spent studying God's Word, a task edifying and challenging in and of itself. But at times I need to remind myself of the importance of reading God's Word, not merely for study, but as a treasure to be cherished. This great little Bible is organized into daily readings guiding the reader through the OT once, and the Psalms and NT twice over the course of a year. For anyone who needs some guidance and motivation in reading Scripture, this Bible is a great help.

George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival (Vols. 1,2), by Arnold A. Dallimore

Few books have been as influential in my Christian life as Christian biographies, and among the biographies I've read none surpass this biography of Whitefield. Whitefield was a man larger than life, zealous in preaching the gospel, generous in mercy, and gracious to all. Although far from perfect, I have learned much from Whitefield who sought out every opportunity he possibly could to proclaim the glories of the gospel. Indeed, his life was literally spent accomplishing this great task.

For Preaching and Teaching:

God's Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery, by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.

This book is part of a tremendously helpful series called New Studies in Biblical Theology, edited by D.A. Carson. One of the things this series does is examine how certain biblical themes play out through the entire scope of God's Word. This book in particular examines "spiritual adultery" as presented throughout the Old and New Testaments. I have used this book before, when preaching through Judges, but my most thorough reading of this book came just a few weeks ago when I preached on Luke 5:33-39 in which Jesus calls himself the bridegroom of God's people. In this book (and in this series) we see how serious study of God's Word inevitably leads to serious praise and growth. Ortlund says in his closing remarks:

Pastorally, the biblical story lifts up before us a vision of God as our Lover. The gospel is not an imperialistic human philosophy making overrated universal claims; the gospel sounds the voice of our Husband who has proven his love for us and who calls for our undivided love in return.... The gospel tells the story of God's pursuing, faithful, wounded, angry, overruling, transforming, triumphant love. And it calls us to answer him with a love which cleanses our lives of all spiritual whoredom.

Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road, by Timothy J. Keller

This Sunday I'll be preaching on how Jesus showed mercy to a man with a withered hand and healed him (Luke 6:6-11). Because this happened on the Sabbath, the Pharisees were infuriated, and in their anger they ultimately show that not only do they not have a proper grasp of the Sabbath, they also are far removed from the biblical idea of mercy. For all who are tempted to neglect our God-given mercy mandate to "do justice and righteousness" (Jer. 22:3), this book is a powerful call to care for all in need.

The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, by O. Palmer Robertson

Few theologians have articulated the practical significance of covenant theology as well as Robertson (see also his The Christ of the Covenants), and this book is a tremendous resource for any who are confused or have been mislead regarding the modern state of Israel. I've been teaching on covenant theology on Wednesday evenings, and Robertson's powerful exegesis of Romans 11 will inform much of what we discuss in our next class.

The Christ of the Prophets, by O. Palmer Robertson

On Sunday evenings I've started preaching through the book of Zechariah. This book has been a tremendous help in understanding Zechariah within a larger prophetic, biblical, and Christ-centered context. Again, Robertson brings his expertise in covenant theology to bear as he reveals Zechariah's Messianic message with clarity and power.