Archive for the Books Category

Like Clock-Work … says Ecclesiastes

Posted in Books, Ecclesiastes, Lewis Smedes on September 4, 2013 by kevinwilkening

Clock“Most of us spend our time crawling, groping, climbing, sometimes running, but always moving like the works of a clock. But now and then joy comes to arrest the motion, it stops the tedious ticking of our life-clocks with the bracing discovery that we have received a gift. It works most magnificently when we feel our own life as if it were God’s gift to us.”

~ Lewis Smedes, How Can It Be All Right When Everything Is All Wrong?


Ecclesiastes: A Dangerous Book

Posted in Books, Ecclesiastes, Robert Johnston on September 4, 2013 by kevinwilkening

Useless Beauty book image“It is significant that the transcendent vision of life in both Ecclesiastes … comes without reference to the church of the synagogue, without reference to traditional religion. This is perhaps why the medieval church saw Ecclesiastes as a dangerous book. Although Qoheleth … knew the law (the story of God’s gracious provision for his people at the Red Sea and at Mt Sinai), he chose not to use it in his argument until the final coda.”

~ Robert K. Johnston, Useless Beauty: Ecclesiastes Though the Lens of Contemporary Film

Books on Ecclesiastes

Posted in Books, Ecclesiastes, Literature, Reading on August 26, 2013 by kevinwilkening

bibleMany at CHBC have asked what I have been reading over the past several weeks to prepare for preaching through the Book of Ecclesiastes. Thus, I have compiled a list of the books that I have currently read (in whole or in part). I have placed them in alphabetical order by author (not by order of preference or value).

A few words about the books you will find here: First, you will notice that the writers are from diverse backgrounds. It is important that you read widely. Second, you will notice that you will not agree with every author. It is important that you be discerning readers. Third, you will notice that I have listed twelve books and two sermon series. You should not try to read all of these books. Nor should you try to listen to all of the sermons. We cannot read everything, nor should we try. Lastly, if you have recommendations of books that I should add to my growing list, then please send your recommendations. Better yet, just send me the books. LOL.

Barrick, William D. Ecclesiastes: The Philippians of the Old Testament.

Bollhagen, James. Ecclesiastes (Concordia Commentary).

Chandler, Matt. Beyond the Sun: A Study in Ecclesiastes (16 Part Sermon Series by Matt Chandler at The Village Church in 2006 no longer available online).

Driscoll, Mark. Ecclesiastes (12 Part Sermon Series by Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in 2003 available online).

Greidanus, Sidney. Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes (Foundations for Expository Sermons).

Johnston, Robert K. Useless Beauty: Ecclesiastes Through the Lens of Contemporary Film.

Keller, Tim. Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work.

Kidner, Derek. The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes: An Introduction to Wisdom Literature.

Kidner, Derek. The Message of Ecclesiastes (The Bible Speaks Today).

Longman, Tremper. The Book of Ecclesiastes (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament).

Murphy, Rolan. Ecclesiastes (Word Biblical Commentary).

Pearcey, Nancy. Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning.

Ryken, Philip Graham. Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters (Preaching the Word).

Wilson, Douglas. Joy at the End of the Tether: The Inscrutable Wisdom of Ecclesiastes.

Wright, J. Robert. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture).

God Our Help in Ages Past and Years To Come

Posted in Books, Grace, Heaven, John Bunyan, Mercy, Puritans, Suffering, The Pilgrim's Progress, Valley of Vision on March 15, 2013 by kevinwilkening

This has been a particularly difficult couple of weeks. My best friend’s father passed away. A good friend’s mother passed away. Yesterday, my sister-in-law’s father suffered a severe stroke and it looks like he may not make it through the day. In addition, last night the Neely’s one-month old son passed away. All of this sorrow and heartache has once again reminded me of The Pilgrim’s ProgressThe Pilgrim’s Progress is a Christian allegory that was written by John Bunyan, and published in February 1678.

I was thinking particularly of a couple sections. First, when night is falling, and Christian has entered the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Christian finds himself in the middle of the valley amidst gloom and terror, but then he hears the words of the Twenty-third Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Christian makes it through the night trusting that God is with him. Then, he leaves valley as the sun rises on a new day.

The second is when Christian and Hopeful, having just visited Vanity Fair, are traveling along a particularly rough section of road. They leave the highway to travel on the easier By-Path Meadow. However, there is a rainstorm that forces them to spend the night, and in the morning, they are captured by Giant Despair who takes them to his Doubting Castle where they are imprisoned, beaten and starved. The Giant Despair wants them to commit suicide, but they endure his misery until Christian realizes that he has a key called Promise, which will open all the doors and gates of Doubting Castle. Using the key, they escape. Eventually, Christian and Hopeful come upon some shepherds in the Delectable Mountains. And the shepherds show them some of the wonders of the place also known as “Immanuel’s Land.”

What a helpful allegory for the Christian life! I love The Pilgrim’s Progress for many reasons. However, the reason screaming most loudly to me this morning is: our lives are all pilgrimages, or journeys, or voyages. And all pilgrimages, journeys, or voyages have real danger, and put us in real peril. However, for the Christian, the peril is never experienced apart from God’s grace and His enabling power. Oh, for more grace!

Here is a Puritan prayer entitled “Voyage.” I pray this for my friend, and to my God!

O Lord of the Oceans,

My little bark sails on a restless sea, grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely; suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course; let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals; bring me to harbour with flying pennants, hull unbreached, cargo unspoiled.

I ask great things, expect great things, shall receive great things. I venture on thee wholly, fully, my wind, sunshine, anchor, defense.

The voyage is long, the waves high, the storms pitiless, but my helm is held steady, thy Word secures safe passage, they grace wafts me onward, my haven is guaranteed. This day will bring me nearer home, grant me holy consistency in every transaction, my peace flowing as a running tide, my righteousness as every chasing wave.

Help me to live circumspectly, with skill to convert every care into prayer, halo my path with gentleness and love, smooth every asperity (harshness) of temper; let me not forget how easy it is to occasion grief; may I strive to bind up every wound, and pour oil on all troubled waters. May the world this day be happier and better because I live.

Let my mast before me be the Saviour’s cross, and every oncoming wave the fountain in His side.  Help me, protect me in the moving sea until I reach the shore of unceasing praise.

In the words of the great hymn writer, Isaac Watts, “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.” ~ O God, Our Help in Ages Past ~ by Isaac Watts, 1719.

My friends, may our faithful God grace you on your pilgrimage, and shelter you in the midst of your current storm.

Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being

Posted in Books, Grace, Hope, Humility, Mercy, The Gospel, Zack Eswine on January 23, 2013 by kevinwilkening

Sensing JesusZack Eswine was one of my professors at Covenant Theological Seminary, and he is an excellent communicator of the gospel … but there is more. He knows his own continual need of the gospel, and how that gospel is continuing to shape his life. Justin Taylor just posted this video of Eswine who is the author of Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being, and he talks about significance in ordinary things and in the midst of failure. You should watch this video, and then buy this book.

Work As Worship

Posted in Aaron Armstrong, Books, Discipleship, Tim Keller, Vocation, Work, Worship on December 11, 2012 by kevinwilkening

every-good-endeavorAaron Armstrong is currently reading Tim Keller’s book, Every Good Endeavor. His teaser made me want to read the book. Maybe you will want to read it too. Here is a snippet. Armstrong writes:

He [Keller] reminds us that work is “one of the ways we discover who we are, because it is through work that we come to understand our distinct abilities and gifts, a major component in our identities” (p. 38).

So author Dorothy Sayers could write, “What is the Christian understanding of work?. . . [It] is that work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties . . the medium in which he offers himself to God.”

In other words, a Christian understanding of work leads you to see your work as an act of worship.

Armstrong then ask, “How might our weeks look different if we grasped that concept? That rather than being a drudgery or a necessary evil, work is one of our chief expressions of worship and imaging our Creator?”

Publisher Pulls David Barton’s Revisionist History of Thomas Jefferson

Posted in Books, Criticism, History, Joe Carter, Politics on August 15, 2012 by kevinwilkening

As CHBC knows: I am a lover of history. Yet, we must be careful that we give accurate history, real history, lest we deceive ourselves and our hearers.

Joe Carter has reported that the publisher, Thomas Nelson, will cease publication of The Jefferson Lies by David Barton.

The Story: After being criticized as factually inaccurate by historians and boycotted by evangelical ministers for glossing over racism, publisher Thomas Nelson decided to cease publication and distribution of David Barton’s controversial book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson.

The Background: Barton, president of Wallbuilders, an organization “dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes,” recently published a book claiming that America’s third president was a“conventional Christian” and a a civil rights visionary.

As World magazine reported, several Christian historians who have examined Barton’s books and videos agree, as Jay W. Richards says, that the works are full of “embarrassing factual errors, suspiciously selective quotes, and highly misleading claims.” Additionally, a group of Cincinnati pastors and church leaders initiated a boycott against Thomas Nelson because, they claim, the book glosses over Jefferson’s racism and justifies his ownership of slaves.

“David Barton falsely claims that Thomas Jefferson was unable to free his slaves,” Damon Lynch, pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church, said in a press release. “In fact, Jefferson was allowed to free his slaves under Virginia law, but failed to do it. The Jefferson Lies glosses over Jefferson’s real record on slaveholding, and minimizes Jefferson’s racist views.”

According to World, Thomas Nelson evaluated the criticisms, and after doing their own review, determined that the historical details “were not adequately supported.”

“Because of these deficiencies,” Casey Francis Harrell, Thomas Nelson’s director of corporate communications told World, “we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to stop the publication and distribution.”

Why It Matters: In 1950, British biologist Sir Peter Medawar said that French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin “can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself.” A similar criticism could be made about Barton. While his books and videos have deceived thousands of Christians about the historical record, Barton appears to be sincerely convinced of the superiority of his own interpretations.

Yet despite his claims to being an “historical expert,” Barton tends to make sloppy, factual errors and extrapolations that are wholly unsupportable. For instance, he claims the U.S. Constitution is laced with biblical quotations. As he told James Robison on Trinity Broadcast Network:

You look at Article 3, Section 1, the treason clause, direct quote out of the Bible. You look at Article 2, the quote on the president has to be a native born? That is Deuteronomy 17:15verbatim. I mean, it drives the secularists nuts because the Bible’s all over it! Now we as Christians don’t tend to recognize that. We think it’s a secular document; we’ve bought into their lies. It’s not. [emphasis in original]

Needless to say, nowhere in the Constitution is the Bible quoted verbatim. ConsiderDeuteronomy 17:15 (because the verse is only a clause, I’ll include the previous verse):

When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. [Deuteronomy 17:14-15]

Now lets look at part of Article 2 of the Constitution, the section Barton thinks is a direct biblical quote:

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President;

While there is a vague similarity, without additional evidence it is hard to imagine how anyone could make a connection  between the two passages. Does Barton have a quotation from a “founding father” making that connection? No, because none exists. Indeed, the fact that no professional historian—secular or Christian—ever noticed this “verbatim” quotation before would lead most people to assume that such an interpretation should be viewed with skepticism. But not Barton. He appears to subscribe to a type of gnostic contrarianism, thinking that secret knowledge that goes against the conventional wisdom is not only correct but self-confirming.

Unfortunately, many evangelicals who would dismiss the use of such revisionist methods by someone like historian Howard Zinn or novelist Dan Brown unquestionably accept them when used by a fellow Christian like Barton. Many are unaware, of course, that Barton has long been considered an unreliable source. But too many are aware of the legitimate criticisms and dismiss them because they want to subscribe to Barton’s vision that America was founded as a “Christian nation.” Indeed, as Tom Gilson laments, “Inevitably some Christians will be angry with those who have shined a light on David Barton’s errors.”

However, Gilson recommends a better approach: “Far better they recognize that the best way to rally around him is to encourage [Barton] to stick close to the truth. Far better we all stick close to the truth.”

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator.

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