Posts Tagged ‘Books’

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Identity from relationships and opinions

Humble dignity in Christ

  • Need people to affirm me
  • Avoid those who make me feel worse about myself
  • Respond badly to criticism
  • Look up to some people wishing I think are better than me
  • Feel threatened by those I think are better than me
  • Treat people like an audience I have to impress
  • Can serve people without their affirmation
  • Can be with, and embrace, anyone
  • Can accept and listen to criticism
  • Am able to be myself
  • Can rejoice in other people’s abilities and gifts
  • Treat people as individuals I can love

I have been reading ‘Mirror, Mirror’ by Graham Beynon over recent weeks after a pretty barren spell of reading books.

This book often has a bit of a stigma attached to it as being a feminine book (partly due to its shiny cover), but I really think it is a valuable read for blokes too.

Self-image and identity are certainly not issues that only women struggle with. Far from it, many men (myself included) find their identity in goals that they achieve, status that they are seen as having, or even in same or different sex relationships.

This fairly short book is very easy to read, and with refreshing simplicity, it cuts to the core of how we see ourselves. How do we measure success in our life? Who am I? What does the Bible teach about identity? These three questions are just some of the crucial questions that Graham addresses.

The table posted above is found toward the end of the book. Man, it is challenging! Consider all the things you do in life, and think about whether your motivations fall more to the left or the right. Then confess your sin and thank God for his forgiveness achieved in the death of His Son at the cross and for His life transforming Spirit freely given which means meaningful change is possible.

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Think

Today I bring you a quote from John Piper’s latest book ‘Think’. I’ve only read one chapter and already I’m enticed by Piper’s claim that today’s western church has a dangerous culture of anti-intellectualism as well as a tendency of over-intellectualism which is equally poisonous. He seeks in this book to restore a balance, he says, to show how rigorous thinking leads to more seeing and savouring of Jesus Christ. And he assures readers that thinking is ‘soaked in the scriptures’, and so he starts to take the reader to the Bible, citing two key verses that will underpin the arguments of the book.

‘Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything’ (2 Timothy 2:7)

(The other is Proverbs 2:1-6)

And Piper talks about B.B. Warfield on the connection between knowing God better and time at work thinking hard about the Bible; ‘He reacted with dismay toward those who saw an opposition between prayer for divine illumination and rigorous thinking about God’s written Word. In 1911 he gave an address to students with this exhortation: “Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. ‘What!’ is the appropriate response, ‘than ten hours over your books, on your knees?’”

Both-and. Not either-or. That’s the vision I am trying to encourage in this book.’

I’m looking forward to getting more stuck in over the duration of the holidays as I seek to think correctly. I don’t think I’m a deep thinker by nature so I’m thankful that when I do start thinking hard, the promise is ‘the Lord will give me understanding in everything.’

Destined for Glory

The Discipline of Grace. What a book! I’ve just finished it, and recommend it to all my blog readers out there (all 3 or 4 of you!). It has challenged me to my core on looking at my pursuit of holiness. What are our motivations for holiness? How do we stay motivated? What happens when I sin? Where does God’s grace come into it all? Is discipline just another word for legalism? (No it isn’t by the way). All these, and many more important questions, are answered thoroughly, biblically and practically by Bridges, as he shows us God’s sovereign plan to conform the believer into the likeness of His Son, the living Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s an extract that has warmed my heart and given me great confidence as I neared the end of the book. The chapter is a great exposition of Hebrews 12:4-11;

‘It is not clear whether the author of Hebrews was writing of the peace that comes with maturity in this life, as Bruce interpreted him, or the rest that comes ultimately to the believer in eternity, as Hughes understood him. The truth is, both are taught in Scripture. Concerning this life, Paul wrote that our sufferings produce perseverance, which in turn produces character (Romans 5:3-4), and James said that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, which leads to maturity (James 1:2-5).

Our ultimate hope, though, is not in maturity of character in this life, as valuable as that is, but in the perfection of character in eternity. The apostle John wrote, “When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The often-painful process of being transformed into His likeness will be over. We shall be completely conformed to the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Looking forward to that time, Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). As I think on what Paul said, I visualize in my mind a pair of old-fashioned balance scales. Paul first puts all our sufferings, all our heartaches and disappointments, all our adversities of whatever kind from whatever source onto one side of the balance scales. Of course, the scales bottom out on that side. But then he puts on the other side the glory that will be revealed in us. As we watch, the scales do not balance or even come into some degree of unbalanced equilibrium as we might expect. Instead they now completely bottom out on the side of the glory that will be revealed in us. Paul said our sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory we will experience in eternity.

In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote,

‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Here again we see the bottoming out of the scales on the side of our eternal glory that far outweighs our sufferings of this life.

This is not to say that that our present hardships are not painful. We have already seen from Hebrews 12:11 that they are indeed painful, and we all know this to some degree from experience. Nothing I say in this chapter is intended to minimize the pain and perplexity of adversity. But we need to learn to look by faith beyond the present pain to the eternal glory that will be revealed in us. Remember, the God who disciplines us will also glorify us.

So the discipline of adversity is given to us by God as a means of our sanctification. Our role in this discipline is to respond to it, and to acquiesce to whatever God may be doing, even though a particular instance of adversity makes no sense to us. As we do this we will see in due time the fruit of the Spirit produced in our lives.

Buy the Discipline of Grace at 10ofthose.com or amazon.co.uk

Holiness is a team game

Currently reading a chapter called ‘Dependent Discipline’ in Jerry Bridges’ Discipline of Grace and it has struck me that pursuing holiness is not something we can do on our own, neither is it something passive which God can do without our own discipline and effort;

Two extracts from the book that are particularly striking to me;

‘there is not a single instance in New Testament teaching on holiness where we are taught to depend on the Holy Spirit without a corresponding exercise of discipline on our part.’

‘The truth is, we must plant and we must water if we are to make progress in holiness, but only the Holy Spirit can change us more and more into the likeness of Jesus. Our problem is that we tend to depend upon our planting and our watering rather than on the Lord.

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:7)

Book Review: The Unquenchable Flame

I’ve read this short-ish book (185 pages) in just a few days since coming home from university, and it has been a fantastic read to kick off my summer list. Mike Reeves, UCCF’s Theological Advisor, writes with enthusiasm and admiration of the Reformation heroes of the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries.

He begins with a chapter on the background to the Reformation, the state of the world pre-Luther and his colleagues, showing the desperate state of Christianity under the influence of papal Rome, relying on a false justification and without a Bible anyone could understand.

Despite some of the negative voices there are in 21st Century Britain about the Reformation today, Reeves shows that the whole affair was a positive one, about bringing people the true message of the gospel, and not primarily to flee the evils of Rome.

The Unquenchable Flame unpacks the wonderful stories about the works of both mind and body of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli and the Puritans in bringing about Protestantism in Europe and further afield.

I have been challenged to see my half-hearted efforts at trying to please God are not enough to warrant salvation, and that is why justification by faith alone is so important. Martin Luther once wrote; ‘sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive.’

It is inspiring to see men willing to be burnt at the stake for the sake of sound primary doctrine. To the mistake of some, it was not the work of madmen willing to die for the small print of religious waffle. Those reformation martyrs were willing to die when salvation was at stake.

It reminds me of the God-man, the Lamb of the world, Jesus Christ, who humbled himself to death, even death on a cross to save the sins of the many.

Buy The Unquenchable Flame at 10ofthose.com or on Amazon

There is a Day

I’ve just started reading the Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, and am looking forward to getting my teeth into it in the coming days and weeks. I was gutted to miss Bridges’ seminars at New Word Alive 2010, and I hope to blog more on the teachings of the book in future posts, but for now I will leave you with one of my favourite songs.

The relevance of this particular song to the book is found in Nathan Fellingham who wrote this song for his band Phatfish. He wrote it having been convicted by the truths he read in the Discipline of Grace and it reminds me of the great hope I have in Christ (you can see the short interview on youtube here). One day we shall sing ‘Here is the day’!