(This is an updated version of a post I initially composed on July 22, 2014.)
I've recently gotten a few questions from people asking very specifically how they can get emails with updated posts from the Brookside Institute blog, without having to remember to check in periodically on their own. They want to stay in the loop, but they won't always remember to go looking for new content. And when they do remember, they may not be near a computer or it may not be a convenient time.
I love this question. I love it that people want to stay in the loop, and that we're providing valuable enough content that people want to stay engaged.
Here's how I respond to this question:
There's no way that I know of to get emails specifically from the Brookside Institute, providing updated content as new posts are published. (If I'm missing something on this, someone please let me know!) However that doesn't mean there's no way to conveniently stay in the loop. The solution is to subscribe to something called a "feed reader" that will collect the content (the "RSS Feed") you want from sites you subscribe to. Then, you simply monitor your feed reader and can conveniently stay up to date on the content you've chosen to subscribe to.
Below I've included some detailed steps on how to subscribe to an RSS Feed and have it collected into a feed reader. Before I get into that, though, let me briefly share WHAT an RSS Feed is and WHY subscribing to the RSS Feed can be helpful.
A few good goals in reading books are (1) how can this book expand my horizons in certain areas? (2) how can I understand the author, such that I can articulate what he or she thinks about this subject? and (3) how can this book be a resource for me? Or, more succinctly stated, good goals for reading books are expanded horizons, understanding others, and accumulating (re)usable resources.
If these are some of my primary goals for reading, that shapes HOW I read books. For example, with some books, I can identify how this book can be a continuing resource for me without reading every word on every page. Or I can mine a particular chapter in a book to have my horizons expanded in that specific area, without having to read every other chapter. And then there are those books I spend LOTS of time in - reading and re-reading them, underlining and making notes in margins, and discussing with others.
I've created the acronym R.E.A.D. as a helpful way for me to consider HOW I want to work through a book, such that it meets one or more of these goals stated above. In case this is helpful for you as well, here's what R.E.A.D. stands for and how I try to use it. (As you read, keep in mind this acronym is a device used to aid reading well - don't look for overly technical precision or force some of the analogies too far!)
D.A. Carson begins his book How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil with these words:
One of the major causes of devastating grief and confusion among Christians is that our expectations are false. We do not give the subject of evil and suffering the thought it deserves until we ourselves are confronted with tragedy. If by that point our beliefs - not well thought out but deeply ingrained - are largely out of step with the God who has disclosed himself in the Bible and supremely in Jesus, then the pain from the personal tragedy may be multiplied many times over as we begin to question the very foundations of our faith" (p. 11).
In other words, there is tremendous value in thinking about suffering and evil even when our lives aren't directly touched at the current moment by these things. But let's be honest: For most of us, thinking about suffering and evil isn't an abstract thought-exercise. Thinking about suffering and evil brings real feelings to the surface, it revisits personal tragedy we've experienced or are experiencing, and it brings sin and the brokenness of our world to the center of our attention.
For all of these reasons, then, reflecting on a distinctly Christian perspective of suffering and evil is vital. Whether suffering "feels" distant or near, there's value in both embedding ourselves in Christian truth and surrounding ourselves with voices who can relate and speak to our struggles. As D.A . Carson goes on to say, "The truth of the matter is that all we have to do is live long enough, and we will suffer" (p. 16).
Certainly, the Bible should always take pride of place in providing perspective and coming alongside of us as we experience pain and suffering. Books like Job and Lamentations can be precious here. And learning that Jesus relates to our pain and suffering - that He himself experienced injustice, loss, tragedy, grief, and more - teaches us that Jesus is our ally and a shoulder to lean on as we endure and address our own suffering.
Other Christian books can also play a role here - at articulating biblical truth in a helpful way, and sharing personal experiences of suffering, grief, and pain. With this last comment in mind, then, below are six books that I suggest to those who are looking for resources to help them reflect on a distinctly Christian perspective on and approach to the reality of pain, suffering, and evil.
(One more quick, but really important, comment: Working through issues like suffering, pain, and evil should never be done with just you and a book - as helpful as books can be. Remember to also surround yourself with Christian community and consider the value of pastoral and/or professional counseling if appropriate.)
All right, on with the book recommendations:
As of yesterday, it's officially summer. I laughed when I saw this tweet from @ChrchCurmudgeon:
And since it's summer, I figured I'd post a few books I'm wanting to read and spend time in this summer. No guarantees, but here's to hope! :)
If you've got some extra time over the next couple of months - maybe you're traveling a bit, or your summer schedule allows you more time to read for other reasons, or you just want some book recommendations as you maintain a habit of reading - here are a few books you may want to consider. I encourage you to explore these books a bit (each is looked to their Amazon page where you can learn more) and jump in - the water's fine!
Earlier this week, I ran across this short video where R. Kent Hughes talks briefly about why pastors need commentaries. I encourage you to check it out if you're interested. (By the way: Hughes is always worth listening to, in my opinion. His pastoral wisdom is great, his love of the Bible is great, and he communicates well. Oh yeah, and his book Disciplines of a Godly Man is still one of my first "go to" books for dudes.)
So again: The video is worth watching. But it got me thinking beyond just why PASTORS need commentaries. (I agree with him on that, just so we're clear.) As a pastor and a teacher myself, I also want others who aren't in full-time vocational ministry to know that commentaries can be accessible (at least some of them!), and that commentaries can offer benefit to their own personal study and life of devotion.
One more brief comment that may be helpful. If you're brand new to this word "commentary," here's the scoop: A commentary is basically a book written about a book of the Bible - it's a book that offers commentary on the message and meaning of either a book of the Bible or a few books of the Bible grouped together - often along with other important introductory material on the biblical book, like historical and cultural context, who wrote it and why, etc.. (In some cases, a Bible commentary is a single volume on the entire Old or New Testament, or even on the entire Bible itself.)
Here are three reasons ANYONE may want to read a commentary - even if you're not a pastor:
What Did the Early Church Include in their Training of Believers? 9 Categories of Catechetical Content
From the earliest days of the church in the centuries following the death of the apostles, an intentional "training program" (or catechesis) was developed to form and shape believers in the Christian community. Why was this track of catechesis important? Alan Kreider points out a key reason in his The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire: "...believers knew that their practices [i.e., their noticeable, distinctive Christian lifestyles] were not acquired genetically or absorbed from pagan society. As Tertullian puts it around AD 200, 'Christians are made, not born'" (p. 134).
Those following Jesus took intentional steps to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2); they took intentional steps to be made new in the attitude of their minds and to put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24); they took intentional steps to make sure they were strengthened and encouraged in their Christian faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:2). A key part of these "intentional steps" was a value placed on catechizing (i.e., intentionally training) those in the Christian faith.
It's important to note that a number of different components were included in catechesis. Catechetical practices developed over time in the first few centuries. And no single approach seems to be have been adopted everywhere as the early church grew. We need to acknowledge the numerous layers and the diversity that characterized catechesis.
Nevertheless, catechesis was valued. As Kreider points out in The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, by the fourth century we have enough samples of catechetical priorities that we can present a composite picture of what the early church included in their catechetical content.
So (more simply), what did the early church teach?
Assuming I've been keeping tally of things correctly, you're officially reading Post #200 on this Brookside Institute site! Over the course of the last 12 months, we've had 16,600+ unique visitors to this site, and over 87,500 total page views. Whether this is your first intro to who we are or you've been tagging along for a while, thanks for joining in!
As the posts continue accumulating, I don't want that to keep us from looking back every now and then - to review what the Brookside Institute is all about, and for me to mention posts that are either some of my personal favorites or that have gotten lots of traction. These sorts of "review posts" also serve as a sort of index (or Table of Contents?), organizing the material and helping orient you to who we are and what we're about at the Brookside Institute.
What I've done with this post, then, is organized some links under the following categories:
Underneath each category, I've included a short list of links to pages on this site where you can learn more about who we are and what we're up to.
My recommendation? Scroll through the index that's below, and find 3-4 posts you want to check out. This is a great way to see what we're doing and get to know the Institute a bit better!
I'm a fan of Jerry Bridges. I've been benefiting from his books for years, and have repeatedly recommended (and returned to!) such books as his The Pursuit of Holiness, The Practice of Godliness, Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God's Unfailing Love, The Discipline of Grace: God's Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, The Joy of Fearing God, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, The Bookends of the Christian Life, and more.
Just this morning over a breakfast with some other guys, we were talking about how we should never grow casual towards God's grace. Jerry Bridges' writings came to mind again then, as he helped me appreciate the "bigness" of God's grace in Jesus Christ, and how that grace should fuel my own pursuit of holiness and practice of the spiritual disciplines. And that is likely how I'll continue to remember Bridges - as one of my "author-mentors" who helps me never grow casual towards God's grace.
Recently Jerry Bridges passed away at the age of 86, after serving for decades with the Navigators ministry. The grace that was the focus of so much of Bridges' writings has now become for Jerry the reality of God's glorifying grace, as Jerry lives on in the presence of our Lord. Jerry Bridges' life and his writings are another example of the truth that theology should never remain abstract. What we believe shapes who we are.
To learn a bit more about Jerry Bridges click here. To view his Memorial Service held on March 11, 2016, click here. Or, read an excerpt from Jerry Bridges' own writings, in this article "4 Essentials for Finishing Well."
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Late last week, I was able to present at a Teacher In-Service for Cornerstone Christian School. The topic I was asked to teach on was "The Importance of the Christian Worldview." After studying for the talk and interacting with the teachers, I'm as convinced as ever that Christians need to understand what worldview is, why a Christian worldview is so important, and how we grow in our understanding (and embodiment!) of the Christian worldview.
This topic breathes purpose and perspective into how we think about the different "arenas" of our lives (e.g. jobs, entertainment, family, etc), and it prompts us to think well about God and His Word, the Bible.
Keep reading to see the talk I gave (in a somewhat modified, abbreviated form) on Christian worldview. At the very end of this post, I've included an "answer key" version of the handout I made available to the teachers.
I'm totally gonna geek out on a copy of D.A. Carson's (ed) new book, The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures, as soon as I can get my hands on it. (Which will be soon.)
As the title indicates, the book talks about the authority of the Bible. (In fact, it talks A LOT about the authority of the Bible. The book is 1200+ pages.) And as part of that, the book upholds a nuanced-yet-firm belief in Scripture's inerrancy - that the Bible tells the truth (i.e., it is "not errant" / inerrant).
As Carson says in an interview with The Gospel Coalition on the word inerrancy: Like so many other theological words, "[inerrancy] can serve as a useful one-word summary, even while it needs unpacking with care and with great attention to what Scripture says." This book helps us "unpack with care" and "give great attention to what Scripture says" regarding inerrancy and the closely-related topic of the Bible's authority.
In the following 17 min video, Carson gives some reasons why the Bible's authority and inerrancy are of continuing importance. I encourage you to at least watch the first 8 minutes, where Carson addresses this most directly. The remaining 9 minutes or so are still worthwhile, but they get into the nuts and bolts of the book a bit more.
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.