Monthly Archives: December 2012

MY FAVORITE BOOKS READ IN 2012

2012 was a good reading year for me. Not only did a read a lot – I enjoyed a lot that I read. I could add more to the list of books provided below, but I thought the list should contain less than twenty items. I tried to come up with my top ten list, but it was too hard to reduce the list that much.

The next problem was how to arrange the order of the list. I finally took the easy way out. They are listed in the order in which I read them. Most if not all of the books listed are available for Kindle readers.

Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo

Harry Truman’s road trip after he left office.  An interesting look at the man, as well as life in the 1950’s

The Pine Barrens by John McPhee

This is probably only interesting to those who have been raised in our area.  But I enjoyed learning more about the history of life in the Jersey Pine Barrens (written in 1968 so it is dated in places)

On Hallowed Ground by Robert Poole

The well written story of Arlington National Cemetery

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller by Ron Chernow

One of the giant figures of the twentieth century

A Heart for Freedom by Chai Ling

Chai Ling was the leader of the famous Tienanmen Square student demonstration.  She eventually escaped China for the United States and became a believer

Bloody Crimes by James Swanson

The story of the funeral pageant of Abraham Lincoln and the chase for Jefferson Davis

The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Carl Trueman

Provocative and persuasive, Trueman’s indictment of evangelicalism also suggests a better way forward for those theologically conservative Protestants famously known as evangelicals

The Returning King by Vern Poythress

A readable guide to the Book of Revelation.  Rather than guess about the images in Revelation, Poythress shows how they are rooted in Old Testament word pictures. This book will give you a much better understanding of the New Testament book of Revelation much

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Chances are you know nothing about everyday life in North Korea, until you read this book.

Healing for a Broken World by Steve Monsma

Christian perspectives on public policy; I found the book challenging and balanced

Holy in Christ by Andrew Murray

Thirty one readings on holiness. Although written in an older style, all of the readings have good insights and some are exceptional

The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

A fascinating behind the scenes look at how ex presidents interact with each other and the current presidents in office.  This is a must read for those who are interested in politics

Community: Taking Small Groups off Life Support by Brad House

A look at how small groups can improve the way they build true community

The Art of Neighboring by Dave Runyon

Building genuine relationships right outside your door. This is a practical guide to reaching our neighbors with the gospel

BOOKS by Paul Tripp: All Tripp’s books are excellent guides to examining our own heart in light of Scripture

Lost in the Middle – Regaining perspective for those who feel as though life has become a great disappointment

A Quest for More – Living for something bigger than you. This is probably my favorite Tripp book

Forever – Why we can’t live without it. Since we all will enter eternity, it should shape how we think about life now

Find your own favorites and Happy reading!

A HABIT TO KEEP

One of the practices we should have, and desperately need to have in our lives, is the daily reading of God’s Word.

There are many reasons why we struggle with daily Bible reading. For some it seems like a daunting task. The Bible is a long book and we can feel as if we are not getting anywhere. Or perhaps you start and stop throughout the year and are no longer sure where you left off. It doesn’t help us to feel as though we are making progress when we keep starting over at the beginning.

One help to Bible reading is to follow a Bible reading plan. There are many Bible reading plans and it can be a good thing over the years to take different approaches. The key is to just get started and keep at it. A reading plan may help you take that crucial step.

Nate Treguboff at the Sovereign Grace Blog serves us well by providing links to a wide range of reading plans in this recent article. Surely one of these options would be a great way for you to start the wonderful habit of daily spending time in God’s Word. Some of the plans will help those who have been faithfully reading their Bibles to take a fresh look at their Bible study.

Why not start 2013 with a real plan that will help you stay rooted in the words which will feed, guard, guide, protect and bless you!

A DAY BEYOND COMPREHENSION

Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 

Matthew 1:12-21

 

A TIME TO CELEBRATE . . AND WORSHIP


“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.”
Matthew 2:10-11

GOD WILL WIPE AWAY EVERY TEAR

Debbie Huber, Guest Blogger

Christmastime:  “the most wonderful time of the year”!  We do anticipate the excitement of hearts glowing “when loved ones are near”.  I am so blessed that my whole family will be home together at Christmas. 

But this Christmas, our hearts break for those who are living with immense sadness because they have been affected by the horrifying shooting in Connecticut.  There are others who do not have a home to wake up in on Christmas morning following Super Storm Sandy.  And there are so many in our families and in our church who are dealing with a life-threatening illness, or spending Christmas separated from a loved one because of death.

It is difficult to know how to respond in these situations.  We cannot shield our children from every tragedy.  What should our focus be with our children in the light of the suffering around us?

These tragedies at this time of year do shed light on the world’s biggest need.  We live in a broken world and we so desperately need a rescuer!  At Christmas we celebrate more than just a baby in a manger; we celebrate that our God condescended to be born as a baby and live a sinless life, then take the punishment for our sins that we deserve. 

And one day, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,” (Isaiah 25:8a)

I have found the following excerpt from the children’s Bible, “The Jesus Storybook Bible”, by Sally Lloyd-Jones to be helpful for me personally as well as for children.  She uses prophecies from Isaiah to beautifully focus on the hope that is the promise of Christmas.

“Now God let Isaiah know a secret.  God was going to mend His broken world. He showed Isaiah His secret rescue plan:  Operation ‘No More Tears!’….

 Dear Little Flock,

You’re all wandering away from me, like sheep in an open field. You have always been running away from me. And now you’re lost. You can’t find your way back.

But I can’t stop loving you. I will come to find you. So I am sending you a Shepherd to look after you and love you. To carry you home to me.

You’ve been stumbling around, like people in a dark room. But into the darkness, a bright Light will shine! It will chase away all the shadows, like sunshine.

A little baby will be born. A Royal Son.  His mommy will be a young girl who doesn’t have a husband. His name will be Emmanuel, which means “God has come to live with us.” He is one of King David’s children’s children’s children.

The Prince of Peace.

Yes, Someone is going to come and rescue you! But he won’t be who anyone expects.

He will be a King! But he won’t live in a palace. And he won’t have lots of money. He will be poor. And he will be a Servant. But this King will heal the whole world.

He will be a Hero! He will fight for his people, and rescue them from their enemies. But he won’t have big armies, and he won’t fight with swords.

He will make the blind see, he will make the lame leap like a deer!

He will make everything the way it was always meant to be.

But people will hate him, and they won’t listen to him. He will be like a Lamb – he will suffer and die.

It’s the Secret Rescue Plan we made – from before the beginning of the world!

It’s the only way to get you back.

But he won’t stay dead – I will make him alive again!

And, one day, when he comes back to rule forever, the mountains and trees will dance and sing for joy! The earth will shout out loud! His fame will fill the whole earth – as the waters cover the sea! Everything sad will come untrue. Even death is going to die! And he will wipe away every tear from every eye.

Yes, the Rescuer will come. Look for him. Watch for him. Wait for him. He will come!

I promise.”

WHAT DO WE SAY ABOUT THE UNSPEAKABLE?

Newtown, Connecticut. Those two words no longer bring to mind thoughts of an ordinary American town. Now they haunt us through a grotesque human tragedy.

How do we process these unimaginable events that have become all too vivid in our minds? There is much to sort through as individuals and as a nation, but in these days we grieve and pray.

What I will present today are a couple thoughts to help lead where we go from here.

We can never make sense of great evil

Oh, we can and should find connections, but there was nothing logical in what Adam Lanza did or thought. Evil corrupted his heart and cast out reason.

As time goes on we may understand early threads that charted his dark course. But there is a vital lesson that should leap out at us. Sin should always be greatly feared.

It is too easy to think the path Adam took has nothing remotely in common with our sins. Yes, the degree of his sin is rare, although not as rare as we think – unspeakable things are committed every minute of the day – but the reality that sin always corrupts and always destroys what God made good is a graphic reality we face every day.

Fear sin, immediately and always. When we hate our sin in its early beginnings, it can never mature to darker forms.

No has been more pained than God

God created each individual whose life was taken. God has eternally known each parent, family member and friend whose heart has been ripped apart. God had good desires for Adam, which he spurned and then trampled.

The heart wrenching sights, sounds and feelings that have seared the waking hearts of hundreds if not thousands never leave the attention of God who does not sleep.

So many questions quickly come to us: Where was God? Why didn’t God ….? Surely these or similar questions have tugged at or even shouted in your minds. We simply cannot understand those “whys”, we can only trust Who.

If your response is to say, you could never again trust a God who didn’t stop this horror; recognize the only way for God to stop all human horrors, is to destroy all human sinners.

There is an answer that we have been given. God has an eternal answer for the sorrows of our world. The answer is Jesus Christ, who entered this world in order to die for sinners. By taking the just punishment our sins deserve, Jesus made it possible for us to be reconciled to God with unbreakable bonds. By his death and resurrection Jesus conquered sin, death and evil.

When will we see the consummation of this victory? When God rids the world of all sin and establishes His Kingdom which will never be touched by sorrow. On the day when as the Bible tells us:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

For many of us, the initial response to the unfolding of this horror, was to pull our children near and hold them tight, whispering to them of our love. The heart of your Heavenly Father holds more love than ours. He reaches out to draw you near. His arms are strong to hold you, they ache to hold you. And His voice whispers of love that will “never fail”. In this moment He assures us again, I will never leave or forsake you – I will never let you go.

 

OVERCOMING SIN

How do you respond to your struggles with habitual sin?

In a brief, but insightful article, Tim Kerr discusses two common responses that don’t work (trying harder and self-pity), and then provides what should be our response, because it contains what God tells us will work.

Since we all face besetting sins, this article by Tim should be of great interest to all who love the Lord and want to want their sin. For the good of your soul and for the honor of our Lord, I hope you will read it.

DOES IT MATTER?

 A parent once wrote the following question:

The parent who asked this question obviously thought their avoidance of God and His word had not mattered. Suddenly it dawned on them that it actually does – for ourselves and for others. Part of the sadness of this case is that the parent thinks they are capable of “modeling” behavior that is consistent with God’s heart, however you cannot lead where you are not going.

Are you prepared to lead those in your life by word and deed? This doesn’t mean you have to get it right all the time, or that you need to have an answer for every theological question. It does mean that your life has a direction. What God speaks, you put into practice. Where God leads, you follow.

The only place spiritual “abstraction” leads to is eternal condemnation by God in hell that is anything but abstract.

THE ROYAL “BABY”

Those who defend the virtues of abortion have to contort themselves through a myriad of contradictions and inconsistencies. These range from the active role of government, to the choices we should have, to the meaning of life itself. Denny Burke brings up one of those inconsistencies in a recent article on his blog entitled “Why aren’t we calling it the royal fetus?”.

Denny Burke who is consistently worth reading provides us with another thought provoking article here

EMBRACING OBSCURITY

I read a review at the Gospel Coalition on a book that sounds promising. I can recommend the book but not the author, because it is anonymously written. The writer wanted to underline the theme of their book entitled Embracing Obscurity by remaining …obscure.

As the unknown writer tells us:

“The trouble with you and me and the rest of humanity is not that we lack self-confidence (as we’re told by the world) but that we have far too much self-importance”

If you are not sure about this statement, quiet yourself down and listen to our world. We are a people of concentrated self-centeredness. We grasp for attention, we get offended when we are not receiving attention. Our desire to be somebody is so great, that a significant amount of television content is made up of people revealing their foolishness in the attempt to be famous. Or, as we call it – “reality shows”.

I used to think that description was off the mark because much of it seems so contrived, but the more I think about it, people doing all they can to have others look at them is real.  It is not very smart, and it is opposite of godly, but it is very real.

And if you think this description is not accurate about you, because you are not trying to promote yourself to the world, consider the fact that you are still laboring to promote yourself to yourself. We are all seeking to be the center of our own world.

We want to be the center of attention, we want to get our way, we want to be made happy, and we want to be liked.  All of this takes more of our energy than the labor of submitting our life to the Lord of all – who actually deserves to be the center of everyone’s world?

Trillia Newbell who wrote this review of Embracing Obscurityfor the Gospel Coalition, shares these thought about the book:

If you don’t read anything else in the book, read chapter 4: “Embracing Significance;” put the book down, and then reread it. Here is where we begin to see that the Christian is somebody—in Christ! Our significance and worth are not derived from ourselves; rather, our worth is related to the worthiness of Christ, because of the value of knowing Christ, of being known by Christ and of being in-Christ. It’s all about him!

If you can get a copy of this book by whomever – it looks like it will be worth the investment of time and money. But even if you don’t read the book, please consider who is being pursued as the center of your attention. Most likely it is you and that is something we all should change.