Tolle Lege: Evangelism

Readability: 1Evangelism

Length: 114 pp

Author: Mack Stiles

Here is an excellent book on evangelism for the whole church, which is the only kind of evangelism that should be. The church is God’s program for evangelism and the gospel is the power of God to salvation. In Evangelism you’ll find simplicity and sanity concerning what has too often, unnecessarily,  been complicated and done insanely.

Evangelism is teaching the gospel (the message from God that leads us to salvation) with the aim to persuade. If a church does not understand biblical evangelism, over time that church will be subverted. If we don’t practice healthy evangelism, the dominoes start to fall:

  • The focus of preaching and teaching turns to living a moral life, not a gospel-centered life.
  • Non-Christians are lulled into thinking that they are okay in their lost state.
  • Christians think that non-Christians are believers because they made a superficial outward commitment.
  • The church baptizes those who are not believers.
  • The church allows non-Christians into membership.
  • Eventually, non-Christians become leaders in the church.
  • A church becomes a subculture of nominalism.

Unbiblical evangelism is a method of assisted suicide for a church, so there is much at stake in getting evangelism right.

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Tolle Lege: What’s Best Next

What's Best NextReadability: 1

Length: 325 pp

Author: Matt Perman

What’s Best Next is by far the best book on productivity I’ve read, and this isn’t because it has some clumsy obligatory gospel focus. The gospel, rightly understood and well applied, makes all things better. Matt Perman demonstrates this in the area of productivity. When a man dies and is resurrected he is resurrected a better man. Perman baptizes productivity, and he isn’t “Presbyterian”. This isn’t productivity sprinkled with some Christianity. It is dunked, drowned and resurrected.

The only way to be productive is to realize you don’t have to be.

Productive things, then, are things that do good. Productivity always has to be understood in relation to a goal, and God’s goal is that we do good works. Hence, we can redefine productivity this way: to be productive is to be fruitful in good works.

But the Bible has a very different view of good works. According to the Scriptures, good works are not simply the rare, special, extraordinary, or super spiritual things we do. Rather, they are anything we do in faith.

Good character is not an excuse for not knowing what you are doing. Trustworthiness is based not on character alone, but on character and competence.

[The core principle of productivity] Here it is: know what’s most important and put it first.

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Tolle Lege: Every Good Endeavor

Readability: 2

Every Good EndeavorLength: 253 pp

Author: Tim Keller

Because of sin, work is hard. Because of God, work is good. Because of God’s work, sin is being undone. God worked. We’re supposed to. It’s a way we image Him. Because God in flesh worked like none of us ever have, because he sweat drops of blood and bore the heaviest of burdens, we can again worship God in our work. Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor looks at work as it was meant to be, as it is because of sin, and how the gospel changes things. If you work, you should read this book. If you don’t work, you should work, and this book will help you to do so in a God glorifying way.

Work is our design and our dignity; it also a way to serve God through creativity, particularly in the creation of culture.

Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God’s place, as his representatives. We learn not only that work has dignity in itself, but also that all kinds of work have dignity. God’s own work in Genesis 1 and 2 is “manual” labor, as he shapes us out of the dust of the earth, deliberately putting a spirit in a physical body, and as he plants a garden (Genesis 2:8). It is hard for us today to realize how revolutionary this idea has been in the history of human thinking. Minister and author Phillip Jensen puts it this way: ‘If God came into the world, what would he be like? For the ancient Greeks, he might have been a philosopher-king. The ancient Romans might have looked for a just and noble statesman. But how does the God of the Hebrews come into the world? As a carpenter.’

The applications of this dictum—that competent work is a form of love—are many. Those who grasp this understanding of work will still desire to succeed but will not be nearly as driven to overwork or made as despondent by poor results. If it is true, then if you have to choose between work that benefits more people and work that pays you more, you should seriously consider the job that pays less and helps more particularly if you can be great at it. It means that all jobs—not merely so-called helping professions—are fundamentally ways of loving your neighbor. Christians do not have to do direct ministry or nonprofit charitable work in order to love others through their jobs.

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Tolle Lege: Fear Not!

Fear Not!Readability: 1

Length: 94 pp

Author: Ligon Duncan

When we ignore death, we ignore God. God is the doer of death. When we ignore death, we ignore Jesus. Jesus is the defeater of death. Death is an enemy, and death is defeated. To ignore death is to ignore the sinfulness of sin, and the greatness of salvation. If you are afraid to think about death, Ligon Duncan will help you in Fear Not! by answering five simple questions.

  1. What is death?
  2. What happens after death?
  3. What happens when Christ returns?
  4. What is heaven?

There is also a chapter on the final judgment. If you are looking for a deep treatment of these topics look elsewhere. But if you are fearful of death and need some pastoral help that is mercifully brief, this is an excellent book.

Death is too deadly for us. But when Jesus Christ conquered death and robbed it of its sting, He enabled every believer to pass through death—the last enemy—into glory.

In my sinful moments—and I stress my sinful moments, because every true believer knows that God is good—there is no doctrine that I want to be untrue more than the reality of hell. I wish I could say that this doctrine is not true. But hell is the fairest reality in this world.

If you want unfairness, if you want discrimination, I can give you that.That is called heaven by grace. Heaven by grace is the most unfair doctrine imaginable. Sinners deserving condemnation get heaven forever because the One who was without sin became sin for their reconciliation.That is unfair, but hell is the fairest doctrine in the world.

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Tolle Lege: Live Like a Narnian

NarnianReadability: 1

Length: 161 pp

Author: Joe Rigney

At the conclusion of Prince Caspian, Peter and Susan share with their younger siblings that they won’t be returning to Narnia because they “were getting too old.” Lucy exclaims, “Oh Peter. What awful bad luck. Can you bear it?” “Well I think I can,” said Peter. “It’s all rather different from what I thought. You’ll understand when it comes to your last time.” For the Pevensies, being in Narnia made them better for their world, not the worse. Though I’ve enjoyed the film adaptations, I have to agree with Rigney,  the filmmakers largely don’t get Narnia or Lewis. They need to go back and learn. Rigney, like the Pevensies, hasn’t missed the point. He has been well discipled by Narnia. He is the better for it in this world. You would be the better too for breathing deep of Narnian air. For those who have breathed, and love Narnia, Live Like a Narnian is a superb relishing of those breaths.

But it’s not enough to simply feel something in response to the objective reality of the world. You must also feel rightly and proportionately to the way the world is. …

Following Plato, Lewis believed that we ought to initiate the young into these right responses, even before they are able to rationally understand or explain what they are feeling. The goal of such inculcation of right responses is that, when a child raised in this way grows up and encounters Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, he will welcome them with open arms, because he has been prepared for, and indeed, resembles them already.

Which brings us, finally, to the function of the Narnian stories in Lewis’s vision of education. The Narnian stories display through imaginative fiction and fairy tale the way that the world really is. Here is courage and bravery in its shining glory. Here is honesty and truth-telling in its simplicity and profundity. Here is treachery in all its ugliness. Here is the face of Evil. Here also is the face of Good. A child (or adult) who lives in such stories will have developed the patterns of thought and affection that will be well-prepared to embrace the True, the Good, and the Beautiful (that is, to embrace Jesus Christ) when he finally encounters them (Him!). Like John the Baptist, Lewis and his cast of Narnians will have prepared the way.

Tolle Lege: A Place for Weakness

A Place for WeaknessReadability: 1

Length: 194 pp

Author: Michael Horton

With multitudes of Osteens infecting the masses with a fuzzy message of nothing-but-sunshine-and-smiles the need for something solid to stand on is dire. Lambs are being told that they are being fed, true, but for the slaughter. They are fed full; full of artery-clogging, fat-rich lies. Out of shape, and vulnerable, Satan roars and prowls on such weak one. Suffering strikes and such sheep are soft. and sickly.

John Piper wrote “the antidote for wimpy Christians is weighty doctrine.” Horton, puts strong truth under your feet in a gracious way. Sufferings presence in this life is not made light of, the gospel of the dark sky and the risen Christ is made much of. The time to prepare for suffering is before the suffering strikes. Christian, read books on suffering, even if you’re not suffering, read them. A Place for Weakness would be an excellent one to start with.

Understanding who God is, who we are, and God’s ways in creation, providence, and redemption-at least as much as Scripture reveals to us-is to the trials of life what preparing for the LSAT is to the practice of law. Theology is the most serious business. Preparing for this exam is not just a head game or a prerequisite for a temporal vocation, but it’s a matter of life and death. It is about our heavenly vocation and its implications for each day here and now. It’s about living, and dying, well.

In times of crisis, the most important thing we can do is go to church. Chiefly, this is where God’s herald announces that “external Word” that contradicts our private judgments. Working against the tide of our inner experience and thoughts, this announcement comes rushing toward us like water from the Himalayas: “You are forgiven; go in peace.” It is also where Christ gives himself to us anew, sealing his fidelity to our salvation in his Supper, joining us with his saints fellowship in invocation of his merciful presence, confession, prayer, and praise. Here we take our place, despite our misgivings, doubts, fears, and temptations, not with the scornful and proud, but with our fellow pilgrims.

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Tolle Lege: Finally Free

Finally FreeReadability: 1

Length: 159 pp

Author: Heath Lambert

A porndemic is upon us, Christians not excluded. Inoculation is possible, even for the infected. In such deadly times I am deeply thankful for Heath Lamber’s Finally Free. I say with many others that this is best book I know of to help those battling pornography.

This book is not about pornography. You can find countless books about pornography.

…The goals of these other books are noble. There is a time and place to talk about all of these issues. But this book has a different purpose. For the past decade, I have spent thou- sands of hours talking with hundreds of people who struggle with pornography. I have never met anyone who experienced profound change because someone told them how many billions of dollars are spent on pornography every year. I have never met anyone whose life was radically changed by hearing (again) how damaging the pornography industry is and how they desperately need to think differently about it. Rather, every person I have ever talked to who sincerely wanted help already knew most of this information. People who are trapped in the deceitful web of pornography do not need more information about pornography.

This book is about something much better than pornography. This book is about the amazing power of Jesus Christ to free you from pornography.

In this book, I want to share with you the amazing depth and effect of Christ’s power to eradicate pornography from your life. Whether you struggle with pornography yourself or are trying to help someone who struggles, I have good news for you: no matter how intense or long-standing the struggle, it is the work of Jesus Christ to set people free from such sin.

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Tolle Lege: Reforming Marriage

Reforming MarriageReadability: 1

Length: 144 pp

Author: Douglas Wilson

There are few authors I enjoy more than Douglas Wilson. There is no subject I enjoy reading Douglas on more than family. Here is a smattering of why that I hope will intrigue.

God is the one who called our first parents by the collective name Adam. Now Adam is also a generic term for man or mankind. This shows clearly the biblical practice of including women under such a description. Our English use of the generic man and mankind follows this biblical example exactly. Far from being insulting to women, as feminists want to maintain, it reflects a biblical pattern of thought. The feminist reaction to this, and their rejection of taking a new last name (in order to keep their father’s name!), is not just a small bit of modern silliness. It is a fundamental rebellion against God. So when our Susan Miller becomes Mrs. Robert Carter it is not just “something we do.” It is covenant security.

[Commenting on Ephesians 5:23 where Paul says, “the husband is the head of the wife.”] Because the husband is the head of the wife, he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to abdicate in some way, he may, through his rebellion, lead poorly. But no matter what he does, or where he goes, he does so as the head of his wife. This is how God designed marriage. He has created us as male and female in such a way as to ensure that men will always be dominant in marriage. If the husband is godly, then that dominance will not be harsh; it will be characterized by the same self-sacrificial love demonstrated by our Lord—Dominus—at the cross. If a husband tries to run away from his headship, that abdication will dominate the home. If he catches a plane to the other side of the country, and stays there, he will dominate in and by his absence. How many children have grown up in a home dominated by the empty chair at the table? If the marriage is one in which the wife ‘wears the pants,’ the wimpiness of the husband is the most obvious thing about the marriage, creating a miserable marriage and home. His abdication dominates.

[A] husband can never stop talking about Christ and church. If he is obedient to God, he is preaching the truth; if he does not love his wife, he is speaking apostasy and lies—but he is always talking.

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Tolle Lege: The Philosophy of Tolkein

Philosophy of TolkienReadability: 2

Length: 225 pp

Author: Peter Kreeft

There are a lot of The Gospel According to (fill in the blank with latest hip movie) titles out there. Corny seems too cheesy a word to describe my reaction to such titles. Gag reflex. Not interested. Sure, Star Wars has spiritual themes, and there is a worldview behind The Matrix, but I sense that such books labor hard to put something there that isn’t.  Like trying to turn a Slim Jim into a steak. Sure, technically it’s meat, but I’m not paying $14.95 for it. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I need to expand my palate, but I’m almost certain most such titles are junk food of the worst kind, something like Crystal Pepsi.

Peter Kreeft’s The Philosophy of Tolkien is nothing like my guesstimation of the aforementioned titles. Here are some reasons why. First, Kreeft is a legit philosopher. I’d venture he reads a lot more books than he watches popular movies. It’s the difference between a hobbit trying to make magic, and a wizard. Second, he is dealing with good material. He has a real fillet in front of him, not a meat snack. Kreeft isn’t dealing with a film, but a book—a big book. Arguably the greatest work of fiction. Kreeft, as the subtitle says, is looking for “The Worldview behind The Lord of the Rings.” We bring our worldview to everything we do. What we do likewise reveals our worldview. With books, fiction especially, worldview can be powerfully and persuasively communicated. The Lord of the Rings was a massive undertaking and therefore communicates Tolkein’s worldview, a good one in my opinion, in a very potent, concentrated way. Further, Kreeft legitimately brings out, rather than puts in. Concerning Tolkein’s trilogy he does exegesis, not eisegesis. An added bonus is that The Philosophy of Tolkein also serves as a good introduction to philosophy. Finally, this steak is seasoned with Kreeft’s clear and enjoyable style. Tolkein is fun to read. This is too.

[I]t is no surprise that in a culture in which philosophers scorn wisdom, moralists scorn morality, preachers are the world’s greatest hypocrites, sociologists are the only people in the world who do not know what a good society is, psychologists have the most mixed-up psyches, professional artists are the only ones in the world who actually hate beauty, and liturgists are to religion what Dr. Von Helsing is to Dracula—it is no surprise that in this culture the literary critics are the last people to know a good book when they see one.

Beauty is the bloom on the rose of goodness and truth, the child conceived by their union; and thus it is not only good, but heavenly.

The weakness of evil is that it cannot conquer weakness. No matter how much power evil has, it is always defeated by the free, loving renunciation of power. It can be defeated in Middle-earth as it was on Calvary: by martyrdom. Scripture’s image of the last battle between good and evil is a battle between two mythical beasts: Arnion, the meek little Lamb, and Therion, the terrible dragon beast. And the Lamb overcomes the Beast by a secret weapon: His own blood.

Evil is limited to power; it cannot use weakness. It is limited to pride; it cannot use humility. It is limited to inflicting suffering and death; it cannot use suffering and death. It is limited to selfishness; it cannot use selflessness. But good can.

It takes selflessness to give birth, whether biologically or artistically. You let yourself be used as a birth canal, or as an instrument of divine inspiration. Evil cannot create, or give birth. For ‘nothing is evil in the beginning’ (LOTR, p. 261). ‘Trolls are only counterfeits, made by the Enemy in the Great Darkness, in mockery of Ents, as Orcs were of Elves’ (LOTR, p. 474) ‘The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make’ (LOTR, p. 893).

Tolle Lege: What Did You Expect?

What?Readability: 1

Length: 287 pp

Author: Paul David Tripp

What Did You Expect? bursts your rainbow-hued bubble of marriage utopia and trades it for storm clouds. But for those honest with themselves, those who realize that they are sinners married to sinners, the bubble bursting makes way for the refreshing, life-giving rains of grace. Play as if your marriage has no death in it and you will find death. Own up to all the ugliness you both bring to this glorious thing called marriage, and Beauty will invade.

Praise God there are several good books on marriage that I recommend, but this one might just be the most helpful for me for the task of counseling those who tried to live myth of sinless matrimony.

Marriage is a beautiful thing that only reaches what it was designed to be through the methodology of a painful process.

So, what does give you reason to continue when the little problems have gotten under your skin or the big problems have left you devastated? What does produce a marriage with sturdy love, unity, and understanding? I think the answer I am about to give will surprise many of you. Here it is: a marriage of love, unity, and understanding is not rooted in romance; it is rooted in worship. Now, you may be able to read all the words, but you still might not understand the depth of the insight of this principle.

What does it mean to say that a marriage is “rooted in worship?” The word worship is a tricky word. When the average person hears the word worship he thinks of a gathering, of hymns, an offering, and a sermon. But there is a biblical truth embedded in this word that is vital to understand if you are ever going to figure out why you struggle in your marriage and how those struggles will ever get solved. Worship is first your identity before it is ever your activity. You are a worshiper, so everything you think, desire, choose, do, or say is shaped by worship. There is simply no more profound insight into the reason people do the things they do than this, and once you get hold of it, it opens doors of understanding and change that were never before opened to you.

I have become more and more persuaded that marriages are fixed vertically before they are ever fixed horizontally. We have to deal with what is driving us before we ever deal with how we are reacting to one another. Every relationship is victimized in some way when we seek to get from the surrounding creation what we were designed to get from God. When God is in his rightful place, then we are on the way to putting people in their rightful place. But there is more. I am convinced that it is only in the worship of God in our marriages that we find reason to continue.

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