JRF's #49 - Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It by John Owen

Last year I read John Owen's classic, The Mortification of Sin.  This year I tackled his much shorter, but no less potent, Of Temptation.

Using Christ's instruction to his disciples in Matthew 26:41 "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation", as the foundational verse of his book, Owen then dives deep into the meaning of temptation, the circumstances by which we enter into it, and the way of preventing and resisting it.

In typical Owen fashion, the heart is laid bare and the truth of God's Word is expertly applied to both convict and offer hope to those caught in the current of temptations' flood.

Ultimately and most poignantly Owen points his readers to a Trinitarian Hope: The faithfulness of God the Father's promises to those who believe, the grace of God the Son who secures and accomplishes the Father's promises, and the power and efficacy of God the Holy Spirit who executes those promises.

I hope to cling to these promises and the God who gives them more tightly in 2013 because of reading this book.

"Confidence of any strength in us is one great part of our weakness...He that says he can do anything, can do nothing as he should."

"What a man's heart is, that he is."

"Prosperity has slain the foolish and wounded the wise"

"He that would indeed get the conquest over any sin must consider his temptations to it, and strike at the root; without deliverance from thence, he will not be healed.  This is a folly that possesses many who have yet a quick and living sense of sin.  They are sensible of their sins, not of their temptations - are displeased with the bitter fruit, but cherish the poisonous root."

" the heart with a sense of the love of God in Christ, and his love in the shedding of it; get a relish of the privileges we have thereby - our adoption, justification, acceptance with God; fill the heart with the thoughts of the beauty of his death - and you will, in an ordinary course of walking with God, have great peace and security as to the disturbance of temptations."

JRF's # 44 - The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy by Tim Keller

This short book by pastor and author Tim Keller is an exposition I Corinthians 3:21 - 4:7 focusing on how a person who has been set from sin through Christ should esteem themselves and others.   In a few short chapters Keller dissects this powerful passage of scripture and lays bare the core of humanity's problem -  sinful, self-centered pride.

From there Keller shows how our basic bent towards selfishness and pride is at of the root of both those who esteem themselves too highly and those who "suffer" from low self esteem.  This section is an insightful exploration into a biblical view of the natural condition of the human ego and how Christ can rescue us from ourselves.

Keller goes on to explain that Christ doesn't transform our view of ourselves but actually transforms our very self.  Finally, Keller brings us back to I Corinthians and shows through Paul that ultimately it is not how others view us or even our view of ourselves that sets us free but it is God's view of us that matters and that through Christ, He can justly view us as holy and precious in His sight.  Our sinful nature and deeds no longer define us in Christ. We are accepted "because of what the Lord Jesus has done.  Then, the only person whose opinion counts looks at me and He finds me more valuable than all the jewels in the earth."   That is freedom.

A very helpful, powerful little book.

JRF's #42 - Adopted for Life by Russell Moore

This is the book that started a movement in the church local and global to call God's people back to orthodoxy and orthopraxy in the area of adoption, both earthly and heavenly.

I have no doubt that I will look back at the end of my life and see this book as one of the most influential I read.  You may think that you only need to read this book if you are considering adoption.  You would be wrong.

While the entire book is wonderful, I believe the most helpful portion is not the practical wisdom given about earthly adoption.  It is the more foundational section at the beginning about the theology of adoption and its implications for God's children.  After reading this section I share Moore's conviction that the doctrine of adoption has been severely neglected in the modern church.

This book has been amply reviewed by both Mark and Ron here and here.  Seeing these men strive to be faithful to the truths the Gospel as laid out in this book over the past few years has been a great encouragement to me.

This book will change you and change how you see your Heavenly Father.  Read it.


JRF's #41 - Good News of Great Joy by John Piper

Although I tend to be schizophrenic when it comes to traditions (my tradition is not being tied down by tradition...unless I want to be) -  getting married, growing a family, and getting older has shown me the importance and value of traditions, especially within the family.  Every family has traditions, even non-traditional families.  The question is to what purpose do our traditions serve?  Are we are slaves to our traditions, as if they exist for their own sake?  Or are traditions our slaves, our tools, or old testament Ebenezers - reminders to point us to something more important and meaningful than the tradition itself?   As we strive to create a Christ-centered culture in our family, we have looked to some traditions that God's people have observed throughout history and tried to incorporate those that help us keep our eyes and hearts fixed on the Gospel.  Advent is one of those traditions.  And that's where this book comes in.

Released this year as a free ebook, Good News of Great Joy, is a collection of short daily Advent devotionals taken from John Piper's sermons and writings.  We found this to be a great resource for focusing us on the celebration of the Incarnation of God at Christmas.  It's short daily readings made it more realistic that our family would find the time to actually read it and meditate on the truth it highlighted.

A great Scripture driven, Gospel-centered, Christmas resource.  I think a new tradition has begun.

Ron’s #34: Candide by Voltaire

I reread this novel before teaching it again in my 10th grade class. I love this unit, as it allows for discussions on the problem of evil and the nature of God. Here’s my past review.

In a satire against the optimism of Leibniz, Candide has its young philosopher traveling the world searching for his love and attempting to see if his tutor Pangloss is correct in that this world is the best of all possible worlds that God could have created.

The story begins as Candide is expelled from the Edenic castle in Westphalia for his scandalous kiss to the baroness, the fair Cunegonde. He travels across continents meeting a variety of common people and royalty; priests and sinners; wealthy and poor. Candide continues to struggle with the question of whether Pangloss (and ultimately Leibniz) is correct that this world, the one filled with greed and murder and hypocrisy and cruelty, is the best possible one out of the mind of God. He fights with what he believes and what he sees, and cannot justify the two. Candide is left to “cultivate his garden” rather than waste any more time thinking through these issues.

For the Christian, this book explores one of the key objections to a theistic faith: how can a good God allow suffering in this world? While that question is not specifically addressed, is it at the heart of Candide’s uneasiness. What happens when our world is filled with pain, disappointment, and horror? Can we reconcile a God with our life experience? This is a topic that Christians must not only address to those around who question the claims of Christianity, but we must also have an answer for ourselves when the horrors come.

It would be the height of hubris to state a simple answer to this issue, but we must begin our search for one in the gospel itself. We must remember that God the Father knows suffering and murder, as his Son hung on the cross to die for the sins of the world. He watched as Jesus was tortured and killed to become the payment for sins that we not his own. When we are trying to justify a good God with suffering, our question must begin with God himself. Candide met a cast of characters spewed from the bowels of humanity, but never discussed sin.

Christian doctrine teaches that Adam’s sin brought this world from perfection to the wastelands with people corrupted in the downward spiral. Leibniz’s optimism is wrong: this world is depraved and men have the capability to act like animals to one another. Candide’s observations should bring us back to the God who has provided his Son as a sacrifice to restore humanity to our true image-bearer state. The murderers, the rapists, the thieves in Candide’s journey point us back to a God, one who is perfect because we see that man is not. Corrupt men in the world show a moral structure beyond us that defines what corrupt men act like.

Candide’s decision to focus only on his own garden shows a hopelessness that Christians ought not have. Even in the light of pain and difficulty, we should see our “gardens” in light of the larger garden, the only that has the Tree of Life swaying. Because of this, we can have hope in that other world that is the best of all possible worlds.

JRF's #40 - The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul


This short but potent book is an explanation and apologetic of the doctrine of the substituionary atonement of Jesus Christ.  It does a good job of being accessible and simultaneously profound.

As Sproul points out, "the words crucial and crux both have their root in the Latin word for 'cross,' crux, and they have come into the English language with their current meanings because the concept of the cross is at the very center and core of Biblical Christianity."

There's a lot packed into this little book.  I recommend it to anyone interested in deepening their understanding of the necessity, meaning, and implications of the cross of Christ, from the new believer to the seminary student.