Top Ten Favorite Reads in 2014

During 2014 I was blessed to read a number of great books. Here are ten of my favorites. These were not all written in 2014, I just read them this year. I list these books in no particular order, just ten of my favorite reads in 2014.

  1. Ardent Love for Jesus: English Baptists and the Experience of Revival in the Long Eighteenth Century by Michael A. G. Haykin
    This book focuses on an special area of interest of Michael Haykin, who is a respected Patristic and 17th-century English Baptist scholar. But as a former student and friend, I know that very near to his heart are the Baptist men and women of the 18th century. Haykin’s love for this period is infectious in this delightful volume that explores both the need for revival among 18th-century English Baptists, their reaction to the Evangelical Revival, and the fruit of the revival among Baptists in the modern missionary movement.
  2. George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father by Thomas S. Kidd (Kindle)
    Thomas Kidd, professor of history at Baylor University, has quickly established himself as one of the foremost historians of religious life in colonial America. This book further cements this position. Kidd has successfully navigated the scholarly waters by offering an interpretation that is both true to his cultural context socially and Whitefield’s own self-understanding theologically.
  3. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (Kindle)
    This New York Times bestseller has been made into a major motion picture. Hillenbrand expertly describes the trials and triumphs of Louis Zamperini, 1936 Olympian and World War II POW. The book is an inspiring story of perseverance and the grace of forgiveness.
  4. The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared C. Wilson (Kindle)
    Pastors are often depressed. This book provides the only lasting remedy–the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pastors need the gospel too and this book applies the gospel to the unique struggles which pastors face.
  5. Daniel (Concordia Commentary) by Andrew E. Steinmann
    I preached through the book of Daniel in 2014 and I really came to love this commentary. It is a comprehensive commentary that combines both the exegetical and theological.
  6. Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Tom Nettles (Kindle)
    Although there are a number of biographical studies of the Prince of Preachers, there was lacking a systematic survey of Spurgeon’s theology. Nettles has filled this lacuna admirably with this massive tome. If you want to learn what made Spurgeon tick, you will want to read this book.
  7. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman (Kindle)
    I love books on productivity and I love the gospel. This book combines both of these in a practical way. Perman not only provides a gospel-centered look at productivity, he provides a model for how the gospel should infiltrate and impact every aspect of our lives.
  8. The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More Than a Memory by Richard C. Barcellos (Kindle)
    Baptists are often thought to have only held to a memorial view of the Lord’s Supper. Barcellos provides the biblical and theological data to support a higher view of the Supper. This case is not only made biblically and theologically, but Barcellos also demonstrates that this was the view held by seventeenth-century English Particular Baptists.
  9. One New Man: The Cross and Racial Reconciliation in Pauline Theology by Jarvis Williams (Kindle)
    With all the racial tension in our world today, this is a great biblical treatment of racial reconciliation. Racial reconciliation is not primarily a political or social issue, it is a gospel issue. Williams skillfully demonstrates this from the Scriptures. This volume is timely appropriate, eminently readable, and expertly researched. Read this and be reminded that racial reconciliation must begin at the house of God.
  10. The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism by Pascal Denault (Kindle)
    Many proponents of 1689 Confessionalism seem to view the Covenant theology contained in the 1689 London Confession as identical to its Westminster counterpart. Denault, however, shows that the seventeenth-century Baptists had a different starting place than their Reformed contemporaries. In short, they took the view of the new covenant espoused by the Congregationalist John Owen and took it to its logical ecclesiological conclusion. A very important work for understanding Baptist Covenant Theology.

“The Church of Christ, who upon Confession of Faith have bin Baptised”: Hercules Collins and Baptist Ecclesiology

This afternoon (November 19th) at 4:30 PM, I will present a paper titled: “The Church of Christ, who upon Confession of Faith have bin Baptised”: Hercules Collins and Baptist Ecclesiology (PDF) at the 66th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) in San Diego, California. The paper is part of the Puritan Study Group which has an annual slot at ETS featuring paper on, you guessed it, Puritans and Puritanism. The theme of the annual meeting this year is Ecclesiology and the Puritan Study Group chose to focus on the topic: “A House Divided: Competing Views of Puritan Ecclesiology.” Below is the schedule for the session. I’m not sure if they saved the best ecclesiology for last or the worse paper. Either way, my paper wraps up the session beginning at 4:30 PM.

2:00 PM-5:10 PM
PURITAN STUDIES
A House Divided: Competing
Views of Puritan Ecclesiology
Room: Towne
MODERATOR: STEPHEN YUILLE
(Redeemer Seminary)

2:00 PM—2:40 PM
W. BRADFORD LITTLEJOHN
(The Davenant Trust)
What Makes a ‘Puritan’? Hooker,
Ussher, and English Reformed
Episcopacy

2:50 PM—3:30 PM
MARK JONES*
(University of the Free State)
“The (True?) Gospel Coalition”:
English Presbyterianism in Puritan
England

3:40 PM—4:20 PM
STEPHEN YUILLE
(Redeemer Seminary)
The Primitive Institution of Christ’s
Church: Thomas Goodwin and
Congregational Polity

4:30 PM—5:10 PM
STEVE WEAVER
(Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies)
“The Church of Christ, who upon
Confession of Faith have bin
Baptised”: Hercules Collins and
Baptist Ecclesiology

You can download a copy of the paper I will present here (PDF) and you can order the audio here.

The 1689 Baptist Confession and Its Influence on Early American Missions and Church Planting [Updated]

20141114_101022Today I am in Indianapolis, Ind. where I am presenting a lecture at 1:30 pm today on “The 1689 Baptist Confession and Its Influence on Early American Missions and Church Planting” at the Baptist, Confessionalism and the Providence of God, 1689-2014 conference. Some have expressed interest in seeing the paper, so I have uploaded it here in PDF format [Updated].

Video and audio for the conference is available here. For audio of my talk, click here (MP3). Video below.

The Man Converted Through His Own Preaching

Elias Keach by Robert White line engraving, 1697 NPG D20943 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Elias Keach
by Robert White
line engraving, 1697
NPG D20943
© National Portrait Gallery, London

In the late seventeenth century, a son of the famous English Baptist pastor Benjamin Keach came to America. Although he was unconverted, Elias Keach posed as a minister to support himself. However, his plan backfired and he came under conviction while preaching one of his fraudulent sermons. Morgan Edwards, an early chronicler of American Baptists, tells the story.

He was son of the famous Benj. Keach, of London. Arrived in this country a very wild spark about the year 1686. On his landing he dressed in black and wore a band in order to pass for a minister. The project succeeded to his wishes, and many people resorted to hear the young London divine. He performed well enough till he had advanced pretty far in the sermon. Then, stopping short, looked like a man astonished. The audience concluded he had been seized with a sudden disorder; but, on asking what the matter was, received from him a confession of the imposture with tears in his eyes and much trembling. Great was his distress though it ended happily; for from this time dated he his conversion. He heard there was a Baptist minister at Coldspring in Bucks county between Bristol and Trentown. To him did he repair to seek cousel [sic] and comfort; and by him was he baptized and ordained. The minister’s name was Thomas Dungan. From Coldspring Mr. Keach came to Pennepek and settled a church there as before related; and thence travelled through Pennsylvania and the Jersies preaching the gospel in the wilderness with great success, in so much that he may be considered as the chief apostle of the Baptists in these parts of America. He and his family embarked for old England early in the spring of the year 1692, after having resigned the care of the church for a considerable time before to the Rev. John Watts.[1]

[1]Morgan Edwards, Materials Towards a History of the Baptists in Pennsylvania Both British and German, Distinguished into FirstDay Baptists Keithian Baptists SeventhDay Baptists Tuncker Baptists Mennonist Baptists, vol. 1 (Philadelpha: Joseph Cruckshank and Isaac Collins, 1770), 9-11.

Billy Graham’s Favorite Hymn

Yesterday (November 7th) was Billy Graham’s 96th birthday. As Evangelist Billy Graham nears the end of what by any estimation has been a remarkable life, some scholarly analysis is being given to where his life and ministry fit into the broader context of church and American history. One such study is America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation by noted American religious historian Grant Wacker. Another, more personal, study of Graham has also appeared recently. It is a collection of the transcripts of the television interviews conducted between Graham and Sir David Frost over thirty years. Billy Graham: Candid Conversations with a Public Man offers unique insight into Billy Graham and his perspective over the years on everything from biblical issues and contemporary (now historical) events. Between the book’s introduction and its first chapter there is a fascinating short exchange between Graham and Frost from 1997 in which the famous evangelist indicates his favorite hymn. Here’s the exchange:

Frost: What is the hymn that means the most to you?
Graham: You have a hymn in England that I first learned when I was there in the early fifties, “And Can It Be.”
Frost: “— that I should gain—”
Graham: “— that I should gain—”
Frost: “— An interest in the Savior’s blood; died He for me who caused His pain, for me who Him to death pursued.”
Graham: Good for you. That’s the one that is my favorite hymn.

April 1997

Sir David Frost, Billy Graham: Candid Conversations with a Public Man (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2014), 15.

This hymn by Charles Wesley also happens to be one of my favorites. I wrote a theological and devotional analysis of the hymn here. If you don’t know the hymn already, you should check it out. You can listen to the song and follow along with the theologically rich lyrics below.

How God Uses Suffering in Our Lives as Believers

When there is pain and suffering in our lives as believers, we shouldn’t be surprised. Suffering is a reality of this fallen world. We must remember that whatever the immediate source of suffering is in our lives, the ultimate source is a loving God who is working for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). God uses “all things” in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus. Suffering in sometimes a form of God’s disciplining His children (see Hebrews 12:4-11). Sometimes as parents we can be guilty of disciplining our children for our own convenience or for the sake of our pride, but God only disciplines us for our good (Heb. 12:10-11).

I believe God disciplines His children for corrective, preventative, & educational purposes. Therefore, whenever we experience suffering we should ask the following diagnostic questions:

1. Is God correcting me for some specific sin of which I need to repent?

We must distinguish between God’s corrective discipline and His judgmental punishment. God brings suffering into our lives as Christians because of sin, but He will never judge us fully for our sins. Our sin account has already been settled at Calvary where Jesus Christ took all the punishment for our sins. If you’ve never trusted in Christ there is an eternal day of judgment coming for you which will make the sufferings of this life pale in comparison. Corrective discipline then is God’s loving response of some specific area of disobedience in our lives as Christians. The best way to think of this is in the context of the relationship between a loving parent and their child. God disciplines us in this way because we belong to Him and because He loves us.

2. Am I heading in a dangerous direction that God is warning me about through preventive discipline?

God may also discipline His children to prevent them from putting themselves in danger. Parents do this for their children all the time. We want to protect our children from things that will harm them (eg., electric outlets, roads, knives, etc). God loves us more than we love our own children (Matthew 7:7-11). If He sees us heading in a dangerous direction, He will often bring adversity in our lives to keep us from going down that wrong path. The classic biblical example of this type of discipline is the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. There Paul says that he was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him from becoming proud (2 Cor. 12:7). God sometimes uses suffering in our lives to keep us from sin.

3. What is God teaching me through this suffering in my life?

God uses suffering to teach us. I think this is always true, whether or not the other two purposes our true in your specific situation. When we suffer we learn more about ourselves and more about God. In our sufferings, we learn of our weakness and we learn of God’s strength. In our sufferings, we learn of our insufficiency and that God is all-sufficient. In our sufferings, we learn that we are undependable and that God is always faithful.

For the Christian, suffering always has a purpose. There is no meaningless pain for the child of God. Usually, when a Christian faces suffering, the question is asked, “When will it end?” Instead of asking the “when” question, we should ask the “what” question. What is God teaching me through this trial? God’s ultimate desire for us as believers is to conform us to the image of His Son. To grow in Christlikeness is also the ultimate desire of the true child of God. Using the three questions above will help ensure that we receive the benefit that God intends in our suffering.

The Third Sunday of September of 1978

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Upstairs window is in bedroom where my father was converted.

On the third Sunday of September of 1978, I was four years old. On the third Sunday of September of 1978, my mom and dad were having marriage problems. On the third Sunday of September of 1978, they decided to go to church and turn over a new leaf. On the third Sunday of September of 1978, they were having an argument about the second coming in Sunday School at Bell Avenue Baptist Church in Lenoir City, TN. On the third Sunday of September of 1978, the pastor wrapped up the Sunday School hour by saying, “No matter what you believe about the timing of the second coming, one thing’s for sure. Jesus is coming again and you better be ready. If you’re not a believer you should tell your friends and family that are trusting in Christ good-bye, because when Jesus comes you will be forever separated.” On the third Sunday of September of 1978, my dad was struck with his lost condition and fell under conviction. On the third Sunday of September of 1978, my dad went forward during the invitation and prayed, but could find no peace. He asked God for a sign and for a feeling, but no sign or feeling came. He stayed in the altar until everyone else had gone home and his legs began to ache. Finally, he went home himself still with no peace. On the third Sunday of September of 1978, he went up to the upstairs back bedroom of 701 Kingston Street, Lenoir City, TN. On the third Sunday of September of 1978, he cried out, “God, I’ve done all I know to do. All I know to do now is trust You!” On the third Sunday of September of 1978, my dad received assurance of his sins forgiven and his life was transformed. He was almost immediately called to preach and within two years was serving as pastor of his first church. My dad’s life was forever changed and so was mine and my siblings.

On this third Sunday of September I am spending the night in the city where my father was converted 3 dozen years ago and I can’t help but think about how different my life would have been had God not saved my father that day. I would likely not have ever met my wife. My children would not exist. I would not be a preacher of the same gospel that saved my dad. On this third Sunday of September I am grateful to God for His providential grace shown on the third Sunday of September of 1978.