Visions from the Vincents

December 30, 2008

Joshua’s top ten books of 2008 (not necessarily in order).

Filed under: Books — Joshua @ 3:02 pm
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1. The Gospel & Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever—The most fruitful evangelist I have ever met personally wrote this book. This easy to moderate, short read is chock full of practical advice on how to evangelize faithfully (apprx 100 pages).

2. Prayer and the Knowledge of God by Graeme Goldsworthy—This work looks deeply at a full-orbed biblical picture of prayer. It is a moderate to difficult read, but is extremely helpful for the person seeking a deeper understanding of prayer (apprx 200 pages).

3. What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile—Thabiti preaches with power as a six-foot tall African-American man with the voice of a Lion. More importantly for this book, he writes with simplicity and clarity—much of this, I think, comes from the fact that all of his preparation for ministry came from the church. The book itself is brief and easy to read (apprx 100 pages).

4. Reasons why we believe: 50 lines of evidence that confirm the Christian Faith by Nathan Busenitz—This work can be used in a number of ways. The book is approximately 200 pages in length–an easy to moderate read–and offers 50 arguments for the existence of God. Ultimately, we know that belief requires a work of the Spirit, but truth is the seed that needs to be sown to reap its benefits. Busenitz does an excellent job of making difficult thoughts easy and short—most chapters are 3-4 pages. This is helpful for apologetics and evangelism (apprx 200 pages).

6. Reason for God by Timothy Kellar—Kellar is one of my favorite thinkers—mainly due to his brilliant mind and humble heart (I long for both!). This book addresses 7 of the most common arguments today against belief in God and 7 reasons for belief. I would say that this is a medium to hard read, and fun (apprx 240 pages).

7. When People are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch—the deacons read through this together. This book addresses the natural tendency we all have to seek to please man (or woman) above our desire to be faithful to God. Welch does an excellent job of grappling with heart issues in this work. It is an easy to moderate read and (apprx 200 pages).

8. Vintage Jesus by Mark Driscoll—Mark represents a respectable movement towards seeking to bring strong doctrine in relevant, fresh ways. This book takes a look at Jesus from a historical and biblical perspective and his full of excellent doctrine as well as fun turns of phrase. I hear this book quoted a lot. The younger crowd will love it. This too is an easy to moderate read (apprx 200 pages).

9. Resurrection of the Son of God by NT Wright—this book is a mammoth, 800 pages and a difficult read. I am not even done with it yet. But, Wright’s work on extra-biblical and biblical resources to understand what the resurrection meant in the context of the Ancient Near East is profound. Anyone willing to work at this book will be blessed.

10. Holding Hands Holding Hearts by Richard and Sharon Philips—the Philips communicate helpful thoughts on dating from a biblical perspective. Every person who is not married should read this book. Even though highlights dating, I even found helpful insights for married people. It is an easy read (apprx 200 pages).

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June 26, 2008

Holding Hands Holding Hearts

Filed under: Books,Youth — Joshua @ 6:43 pm
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Holding Hands Holding Hearts (H4) by Richard and Sharon Phillips is perhaps the best book on dating I have read.

The basic gist of the book
The Phillips say, “Our challenge is to think biblically about an activity that isn’t in the Bible” (12).  The biblical approach that they present–dating is an opportunity to honor God and grow in grace–stands in stark contrast to that which, even, many Christians hold–dating is the pursuit of romance and meeting emotional needs.  Too often, the Christian’s understanding of dating is shaped more by the world than Scripture.  The beauty of the approach found in Holding Hands Holding Hearts is its simplicity.  Dating is more that holding hands, and more than seeking to manipulate situations into mere self-gratification.  Dating involves holding hearts, and taking responsibility for the present and future spiritual condition of the individual. The main point of this book is that Christians need to freshly apply the gospel to relationships between men and women.  The Phillips flesh this out in two parts.

Part 1: A Biblical view of dating and relationships
In the first part, the authors explore the three-act-drama: God’s design in creation, the relationship fallen through sin, and the relationship redeemed by God’s grace.  Instead of beginning with dating and trying to work towards marriage, this book begins with the biblical principles of a healthy marriage (as seen in the primordial garden of Genesis 2) and works backwards to describe a healthy biblical dating relationship, because the foundations for a healthy, godly marriage begin while dating (cf. 13).  They list three dynamics in particular.

Three dynamics bind couples together. H4 draws three dynamics that bind couples together from Genesis 2: commitment, intimacy, and interdependence.  These helpfully display the trajectory of a relationship that seeks to be faithful to the Lordship of Christ and to love your neighbor as yourself.  These three should increase with codependency as the relationship evolves.

Commitment “involves an increasing exclusivity in terms of relationships with others; it means giving time to the relationship; and it involves a growing attention to the needs of each other” (32).  Commitment begins low and so should expectations for time and exclusivity.  In other words, “their obligation is little higher than that toward any other brother or sister in Christ” (33).  This progresses and increases steadily until the two are married.  If commitment doesn’t grow, neither will the relationship.

Concerning intimacy, they say, “Men and women are made to fit together for the most intimate ministry one to another–spiritually, emotionally, and physically” (34).  This is both beautiful and profound.  But, it is for this reason that H4 claims, “the breaking of these bonds does so much damage” (34).  The connection between intimacy and commitment is as follows: “one is foolish to expose the secrets of his or her heart to someone who has not made a tangible commitment to faithfulness” (35).  So, intimacy should follow commitment.

Interdependence is the final dynamic.  This involves the fact the idea that they man and woman are not “just two people doing their own thing” (35).  This means that marriage is about more that cohabitation.  Couples must be able to work together for the glory of God.  As relationships grow, all three dynamics should grow.  With this foundation laid they move on to offering some practical guidance.

Page 85 offers a list of 7 suggestions as to what submission and respect look like for a woman in a dating relationship.  This can be quite dicey given that dating is not marriage.  The Philips helpfully council a woman as to what that progression of intimacy commitment, and interdependence looks like before moving on to considerations of practice in part 2.

Part 2: Biblical Wisdom for Dating and Relationships
This second part considers the practical topics of attraction, first dates, commitment, and growing from dating to marriage, and struggling with contentment as a single person.  Chapter 5 challenges men to reevaluate what kind of beauty they are looking for.  They should seek the kind of beauty that God values.  Interestingly, this book doesn’t get to the first date until chapter 6.  From this point on, wisdom flows freely on the practicalities of dating in light of the gospel.  Some helpful examples include:
•    Page 115 considers the ideal situation in which the man would approach her father for consent, advice, and oversight.  On 116, a number of ideas are given to protect the woman’s heart.  Given a fallen world, they suggest that, if the father is absent physically (or otherwise), the woman should seek counsel from a pastor or a trustworthy friend.
•    Chapter 6 addresses issues like where to go on a first date, how to dress, and even when to call the girl back after the first date.
•    Page 155 provides 5 questions a couple should ask before engagement.
•    Page 160 contains a list of 5 essential matters a couple should talk about, pray about, and strive together for if they are hoping to be happily married.
•    H4 clearly articulates the dangers of dating a non-Christian, the particular sinful proclivities of men and women that result from the fall, how a man should lead the relationship in light of God’s intended purposes for marriage and how a woman is to faithfully live our her God-intended purposes.
•    Chapter 9 addresses how not to be dating.  In other words, they acknowledge that thinking through dating naturally leads some to be discouraged over not being in a relationship, and that dating isn’t a gift for everyone.  Instead, for many, it is a great trial.  The Phillips’s gentle counsel to those who hate being single carries the gospel specifically to their situation and challenges them to fight sinful desires that exist outside of relationships.

Hot thoughts to consider
This book flows steady with wisdom on dating in light of revelation in such a way that purifies a Christians vision of dating like fire purifies metal.

H4 applies the gospel to dating. “It is only as a man and woman come in faith before the cross of Jesus and find themselves restored to God that their own relationship can be redeemed from the guilt and the power of sin.  We find the ability to love one another rather than using one another to meet our needs and desires…In Christ, the Christian finds the ability to leave selfish manipulative relationships for a relationship that is empowered by the love that flows from the cross” (55).  H4 intends to say that just because the Bible doesn’t use the word “dating” doesn’t mean that it is a realm that stands outside of the Lordship of Christ.  In fact, Scripture actually has a lot to say about the relationship between a man and woman.  It is a theme that is central to the storyline of redemptive history.  H4 shows that the Bible has an answer for why relationships, including dating, are so messed up; sin!  The first part is actually a reflection on the effects of the gospel—God, man, Christ, Response—on marriage and dating.  The authors spend much of this book showing how the gospel can be applied as a redemptive tool for relationships. First, marriage is looked at prior to the fall.  Next, the effects of the fall on marriage are considered.  Finally, the work of Christ and its meaning for marriage and, thus dating, are considered.  So, it applies what the main message of the Bible has to say to this timely topic.  They say, “This is the glory of Christianity: that we are saved not just from our sin but also to the blessings for which God first created us and now has redeemed us through the blood of his only Son” (53).  This means that we can share in the blessings intended for man and woman by and through the power of the gospel!

H4 is incarnational in its approach. Far from being so heavenly minded they are no earthly good, the Phillips provide a model that considers the cultural context in which our younger people find themselves.  For example, they say, “Dating is essentially a twentieth-century invention” (12).  But, instead of jettisoning the whole project and hiding under a rock, they say, “it is nonetheless something that most of us can’t simply kiss goodbye” (12)—which could be a bit of joshing.  They conclude, “Under anything like typical circumstances, an adult man ought to be married. Given the way things are today, he probably needs to date someone.  And it also means that when he dates, it should be with an eye toward marriage” (21).  So, they focus not so much on what you call dating, but how you think about dating and the practical outworking of those thoughts in light of the gospel.  An example from above is the need of counsel in a woman’s life when considering a relationship with a man.  Ideally, that would be her father.  Given this fallen world, the Philips suggest thinking outside the box for wise counselors who can speak truth into the girls life and provide protection.

How the best could be better
I have already said that this is the best book on dating I have read.  The only potential drawback I see with this book concerns a vision for what dating looks like for those younger than college.  To be fair, the authors prepare you for this in the second line of the “Preface” saying, “It is geared especially toward single adults rather than to teenagers” (p. 9).  This book makes an assumption at the onset that “readers possess the maturity to enter into marriage” and that it is thus inappropriate for teenagers.  Given the detailed and helpful thoughts of this work, a chapter on the implications would be an asset to the numerous parents and ministers seeking to help teenagers consider relationships with the opposite sex in a more biblical way.  Then again, maybe its silence regarding the subject says something all together more powerful than words could communicate.

Conclusion
If you are single, read this book!  A flood of helpful thoughts contained in this book will help you make the decisions that will effect the rest you life, especially the one that will shape the rest of your life more than almost any other—marriage.  If you are currently dating someone, make reading this book a priority for you and your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Use it to educate and transform your relationship.  It is almost sinful for you not to read this book.  If you are the parent of a youth, encourage him, or her, as much as possible to read this work.  It may not be geared for them, but it certainly will prepare them for where they are going.  If you are a married person, it is valuable as well.  Because it begins with a model of marriage and then displays dating in light of working towards a healthy marriage, it offers a great deal of counsel for those who are married.  I just read the book for a second time and was freshly reminded of my own shortcomings and need to repent.  So, in short please read this book!  I am confident that it will reveal fresh venues for you to experience the grace and peace of God in your life.

(more…)

March 29, 2008

A Closer Look at 2 Children’s Books

Filed under: Books — Joshua @ 12:01 am
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The Big Picture Story BibleI recently wrote a post concerning an excelent children’s book, The Jesus Storybook Bible (JSB). I wanted to follow up with a comparison of another Children’s book that is similar and in some ways more helpful–The Big Picture Story Bible (BPSB) by David Helm with illustrations by Gail Schoonmaker. Our son Benjamin is 22 months old and loves both of them. The Christian reader will vaunt each for their theological insight. I know many parents just want to provide the basics to their children. The beauty of these books is that they actually do this while also filling in the seams of the story with explanation of how little stories fit into the big picture. Each artist masterfully assists the storyline with brilliant illustrations. JSB provides sharper pictures with soft colors and is 2/3 the size of BPSB. The main difference that I would draw attention to is word content per page. While each contain excellent teaching, Helm provides a masterful economy of words providing the basics plus great theology in short sentences. The way this practically plays out is that currently Benjamin can sit through each page of BPSB, but his attention drifts when reading JSB. JSB seems to be written for a little bit older audience (maybe 3-4 yrs), but BPSB is great right now.

March 5, 2008

Review of a good children’s book

Filed under: Books — Joshua @ 4:28 am
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A Very Grown-up Children's BibleRead a recent article on The Jesus Storybook Bible in Christianity Today. CT says, “The Jesus Storybook Bible is as theological as it is charming.”

February 27, 2008

Poythress on Jesus and the Law

Filed under: Books,The Law,Uncategorized — Joshua @ 2:10 pm
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“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:17-20).”

In what sense does Jesus fulfill the Law and Prophets and in what sense does he abolish them? This is a difficult question that Vern Poythress explores in his new online book “The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses.” Here are some helpful excerpts from this book on the relationship between Jesus and the Law.

“Some interpreters have argued that the word “fulfill” here means “confirm” or “establish.”4 According to this view Jesus reasserts the true meaning of the law over against Pharisaic distortions, and thereby confirms its validity”

“This view, I believe, in nearly correct. Jesus’ teaching in 5:21-48 does vindicate the law against distortions and does harmonize with its true intention. But I would argue that in verse 17 Jesus claims something more. The coming of the kingdom of heaven means a fundamental advance in the working out of God’s purposes. God’s promises of his reign and his salvation, as given in the Old Testament, are being accomplished. What the law foreshadowed and embodied in symbols and shadows is now coming into realization. What was earthly and preliminary in the function of the law is now fulfilled in heavenly realities. Jesus’ teaching represents not simply the reiteration of the law but a step forward, bringing the purposes of the law into realization. The law is to be written on the hearts of his disciples (see Jer. 31:31-34). Jesus does not assert merely a static continuation of the force of the law, but rather a dynamic advance–in fact, the definitive fulfillment.

John Murray says,

Hence what Jesus means is that he came to realize the full measure of the intent and purpose of the law and the prophets. He came to complete, to consummate, to bring to full fruition and perfect fulfilment the law and the prophets. Jesus refers to the function of validating and confirming the law and the prophets and includes much more than the fulfilment of the predictions of the Old Testament regarding himself. He means that the whole process of revelation deposited in the Old Testament finds in him its completion, its fulfilment, its confirmation, its validation. Still more, it finds in him its embodiment. To use John’s terms, “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). 6

The words “confirm” and “validate” by themselves might assert only static maintenance of the law, but Murray introduces terms like “complete” and “consummate” to indicate an advance.

Don A. Carson gives a more precise formulation as follows:

Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets in that they point to him, and he is their fulfillment. . . . Therefore we give plJ-ejroJ-oj (“fulfill”) exactly the same meaning as in the formula quotations, which in the prologue (Matt 1-2) have already laid great stress on the prophetic nature of the OT and the way it points to Jesus. . . . just as Jesus fulfilled OT prophecies by his person and actions, so he fulfilled OT law by his teaching. In no case does this “abolish” the OT as canon, any more than the obsolescence of the Levitical sacrificial system abolishes tabernacle ritual as canon. Instead, the OT’s real and abiding authority must be understood through the person and teaching of him to whom it points and who so richly fulfills it. . . . Jesus is not primarily engaged there [in Matt. 5:21-48] in extending, annulling, or intensifying OT law, but in showing the direction in which it points, on the basis of his own authority (to which, again, the OT points). This may work out in any particular case to have the same practical effect as “intensifying” the law or “annulling” some element; but the reasons for that conclusion are quite different.7

Carson’s idea of fulfillment clearly agrees with all that we have seen up to this point in studying Matthew and his theology of the kingdom, as well as what we have derived from our study of the Mosaic law itself. Carson preserves the normal force of “fulfill” within the context of Matthew, and explains how Jesus can confirm the law and make advances as he gives the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.

[HT Justin Taylor]

February 26, 2008

Guiness on Frank Schaeffer’s Memoir

Filed under: Books — Joshua @ 4:10 pm
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Os Guinnes offers a much needed critique of Frank Schaeffer’s new Memoir Crazy for God.

[HT Justin Taylor]

February 24, 2008

“In My Place Condemned He Stood”

Filed under: Books — Joshua @ 4:25 am
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Two of my heroes in the faith collaborate to produce In My Place Condemned He Stood. This book should be on everyone’s must read list.

[HT Justin Taylor]

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