God is our joy. We may have to fight through a lot of obstacles to see that and remember it but that fight is essential.
1. Have an open heart.
Search me, test me, show me
A prayer for inner honesty in Psalm 139:23, 24.
2. Focus on the Gospel
Forgive me, cleanse me, transform me
The finished work of Christ received and internalized.
We need reminders of the "vast, unmeasured, boundless and free" grace of the Good News. Unless we consciously rest on Christ we will not be able to handle the Spirit's work in uncovering our sins. We will either withdraw from God completely or we will rest on our own empty and vain righteousness and our faith will suffer atrophy.
3.My heart on a pilgrimage
My psalm as my way home. My way; my song. Leading me to Christ.
Find a Psalm to use for the year. Read it over and over. Meditate on it. Dwell in it. Memorize it.
Use it as a familiar, grace-filled, path for your own walk everyday as a pilgrim in God's call and toward home.Become an expert in your psalm. Listen to it read to you (Biblegateway.com) and find sermons on it. Finally -- contemplate the questions "How does this psalm lead to the work of Christ on the cross? Is it necessary that Christ die and be raised in order for this psalm to be fulfilled in me?"
4. Solid food to strengthen me, change me, and sustain me
2017 in Ephesians
Begin to read and to re-read Ephesians.
This can be done one chapter at a time or one half chapter at a time. Do not worry about making it a study project or in this moment chasing down question that rise. Use different translations and keep reading it over and over for the rest of this year. After a year the book of Ephesians and the grace of God in that book will live for you.
5. Worship, fellowship, praying, and "one-anothering" with other pilgrims.
This is a thing outside your use of the other 4 elements. Take full advantage of the people of God among whom you serve and walk toward home. Make full use of worship and of the provisions through a group. Pray, bear burdens, encourage, repent, rejoice, grieve, remain faithful, glorify and enjoy God together.
Below are books that Pastor Bill recommends. The books are grouped by categories.
KNOWING THE TRUTH: THEOLOGY
Everyone’s A Theologian – R.C. Sproul.
A readable and clear survey of the complete scope of how we look at all the theological categories.
The Holiness of God – R. C. Sproul
A book written to elevate this aspect of God’s nature to correct a low, small view that exists in some corners of Christianity.
What Is Reformed Theology – R. C. Sproul
Overview of the system of reformation theology
Faith Alone – R. C. Sproul
The doctrine of Justification by Faith
Chosen By God – R. C. Sproul
A step by step presentation of the sovereignty of God in the salvation of the elect.
Knowing God – J.I. Packer
The best book on who God is; his attributes and his character as revealed in the Bible. A book every single Christian should read.
The Cross of Christ – John Stott
The best book on the work of Christ as Savior and why a right understanding of the cross is essential to true Christianity
He Is There and He Is Not Silent – Francis Schaeffer
A short book making the case for why ultimate reality is that God truly exists and that God has given us his true word.
How Should We Then Live – Francis Schaeffer
A landmark book for many on the comprehensive and compelling topic of seeing everything through a Christian world/life view. Al Mohler speaks of it as a life changing work for him.
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Too few have read through this short and profound series of questions and answers. It is brief, clear, biblical and gives a short answer to the central questions of Christian living.
The Bible And The Future – Anthony Hoekema
The best single look at the matters of the last things. Used in seminaries yet is written to be usable by those without seminary training.
Institutes ofThe Christian Religion – John Calvin
A classic that shaped Christianity and the world for 500 years. Easier to read than one would expect. Make sure to get either the translation by J. T. McNeil & Ford Lewis Battles or the new one by Robert White and NOT the older translation by Henry Beveridge.
The Holy Spirit – Sinclair Ferguson
Theologically solid and written at a high level. Cannot do better on this topic than this book.
From Heaven He Came & Sought Her – ed - By David Gibson & Jonathan Gibson
Collection of essays on the overwhelming, conquering grace of the atonement of Christ. Every aspect of the truth of the particular atonement is treated carefully in this 700 page book.
Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus – D. A. Carson
A reliable and readable study of the atonement.
The God Who is There: Your Place in God’s Story – D. A. Carson
Drawing the name of Schaeffer’s great book this is something of an update and continuation of that theme.
The Glory of Christ – John Owen
Owen was the greatest of all English puritan theologians. He is not easy to read but this is a short and manageable work by him.
The Introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death – J. I. Packer
Best found on the internet though it is in fact the introduction of Owen’s great work. 30 pages and a must read for all.
Jesus The Son of God – D. A. Carson
Short work on the claims of the NT about Jesus of Nazareth
Redemption Accomplished and Applied – John Murray
Murray was the professor of theology at Westminster Seminary for generations of men and this is his short, logical and conclusive treatment of the reformed understanding of Christ’s work.
DEFENDING THE TRUTH: APOLOGETICS
Making Sense of God – Tim Keller
Keller’s best and most useful book on how to understand Christianity and speak Biblical Christianity in a culture that dismisses it out of hand.
The Reason For God – Tim Keller
An excellent book on why it makes sense to be a Christian. He challenges 7 reasons why modern people do not believe Christianity and then builds a case for believing.
Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis
Lewis’s foundational book on apologetics – why Christianity is reasonable and true.
The Question of Canon – Michael Kruger
The solid and reasonable evidence for why the NT documents are reliable. Gives clear, academically sound answers to the recycled challenges that are made about the NT text.
Truth Matters- Andreas Kostenberger and Darrell Bock
Written to give answers to the attacks on the Bible that one encounters in first year of college.
Taking God at His Word – Kevin DeYoung
A brief and widely applicable defense of the soundness of the Bible.
The Resurrection of The Son of God – N. T. Wright
The best book by far on the overwhelming evidence for the bodily resurrection of Christ. Wright is no evangelical nor a friend to evangelicals but this is a 600+ page, carefully researched and reasoned case for Easter.
The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? – F. F. Bruce
Solid and well documented defense of the NT by a scholar of the first order.
Christianity and Liberalism - J. Gresham Machen
Almost a century old this is still a powerful book that dissects the false Christianity and almost Christianity that rose in the 19th and 20th centuries and ruined mainline denominations.
THE TRUTH IN LIFE’S STORMS: AFFLICTION
Spiritual Depression: It’s Causes and Cure – Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Excellent treatment of this topic with sound theology derived from puritan sources.
Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering – Tim Keller
A detailed and applicable book whose purpose is in the title.
The Wounded Heart – Dan Allender
A book on the way our traumas wound us and how the gospel heals us. Uses the paradigm of sexual wounded-ness to show the false healing people seek and the way of true healing.
THE TRUTH FOR PILGRIMS: CHRISTIAN LIVING
Letters of Rutherford – Samuel Rutherford
Rutherford was a Scottish pastor of the 17th century, a member of the Westminster Assembly and profound writer. Charles Spurgeon said apart from the Bible his most valuable book was this one.
Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
A classic puritan work that every believer must read. Find a version that has been put into modern wording.
True Spirituality – Francis Schaeffer
A book on how a vital, comprehensive and transforming life is rooted in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
A Little Book on the Christian Life – John Calvin (trans. Burk Parsons & Aaron Denlinger)
This is Book III, Chapter 6-10 of Institutes published separately. Unequaled as a devotional book and summary of true Christian living. Short, comprehensive and the best of its kind.
Knowing God and Ourselves – David B. Calhoun
A devotional guide that is based on Calvin’s Institutes. Warm, applicable, very well written and designed as a true devotional resource drawing from Calvin’s writings and prayers.
Crazy Busy – Kevin DeYoung
A book of the year selection. I asked our elders to read it because it describes and gives real help to people whose lives are full and sometimes overfull. (Mercifully short.)
Seeing And Savoring Jesus Christ – John Piper
A short book that is what the title says – great for use by groups as a study.
Finally Alive– John Piper
A short book on the truth of being regenerated – born again – and why understanding this matters.
Desiring God – John Piper
The centerpiece of Piper’s writings and ministry. His best and most influential book.
The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis
7 books written ostensibly for children but of value for all of us.
The Screwtape Letters – C. S. Lewis
Creative book that is much more about us than it is about the devil and where you will meet yourself.
The Great Divorce – C. S. Lewis
My favorite of all Lewis’s fiction writings. How easy it is to fail to see the eternal consequences of our everyday choices and how we are toward one another.
Studies in The Sermon on the Mount – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The best book on this topic such that nothing else on it need be listed. A classic.
Devoted To God: Blueprints for Sanctification - Sinclair Ferguson
As the title suggests – comprehensive treatment from Ferguson who draws from John Owen and other sound reformed theologians.
A Heart for God – Sinclair Ferguson
Short treatment on Christian living by a top notch theologian and pastor.
Children of The Living God – Sinclair Ferguson
Short book on our identity in Christ and what it means to be God’s adopted child.
Dynamics of Spiritual Life – Richard Lovelace
Best book I have ever read on the Christian life. A life changing classic for me. Very long but if you can work through the first 200 pages you have the heart of the point Lovelace makes.
Openness Unhindered – Rosaria Butterfield
A look at sexuality, identity in Christ and the power he gives for living in a world that is broken by sin.
Morning and Evening – C. H. Spurgeon
Devotion guide from this great English pastor and writer.
2 Contents 2 Realities – Francis Schaeffer
A pamphlet from a talk Schaeffer gave in Lausanne Conf on World Evangelism. Best found on the internet.
A Praying Life – Paul Miller
Best and most practical book on praying that I know.
The Valley Of Vision: Collection of Puritan Prayers – Arthur Bennett
Puritan prayers to borrow and adapt as your own. Great, Christ centered, Christ honoring devotional reading
A Long Obedience in The Same Direction – Eugene Peterson
Use the Psalms of Ascent as a guide to daily walking toward home. Peterson’s best book.
The Christian Looks at Himself – Anthony Hoekema
A short study of union with Christ as our identity and the model for our pressing to maturity.
THE TRUTH FOR PARTICULAR QUESTIONS: ETHICS
Every Good Endeavor – Tim Keller
A study of the Christian view of our work as a calling from God and how God redeems our work.
Is God Anti-Gay - Sam Allberry
Excellent and Biblical. Allberry is a faithful believer who himself battles same sex attraction.
What Does The Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? - Kevin DeYoung
Brief, clear and biblical replies to the false and confusing voices on this topic.
Washed and Waiting – Wesley Hill
Hill is another faithful believer who deals with same-sex attraction personally. Excellent book.
The Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert – Rosaria Butterfield
Riveting narrative of conversion by one who had lived long in a lesbian context as a tenured college professor.