Saturday I made yet another trip to that Mecca of Southern California, Archives Theological Bookstore. There is nothing in the world quite like hunting through shelf after shelf of bargain books, looking for that one diamond in the rough. Here’s the haul from Saturday:
1. Chosen By God (R.C. Sproul) This was the first theological (and I’m using that term loosely) book I ever read. Sophomore year in high school I picked this up and it solidified a my understanding of predestination and freewill. Sproul’s discussion about men always doing what they desire to do–for evil or for good–helped me understand how God is not responsible for man’s sin. This remains one of the best books I’ve ever read. ($5)
2. The Seven Saying of the Saviour on the Cross (A.W. Pink) I know very little about this book other than that one of my professors spoke very higly of it, the price was $3, and it is short.
3. Spiritual Leadership (J. Oswald Sanders) From what I understand, this is the book on spiritual leadership. The number of citations I’ve seen from books on pastoral ministry and calling made it worth picking up. (And it was only $2)
4. Pierced by the Word (John Piper) Piper is my favorite person I’ve never met. Desiring God, Future Grace, and Don’t Waste Your Life have each radically impacted my life. I’m usually not into devotional/meditational books, but picked this one up because Piper wrote it and it will make a good gift book sometime. ($5)
5. The Forgotten Spurgeon (Ian Murray) I was hoping to pick up a biography to read on the plane ride home. I’ve heard a lot about this book, and it’s published by Banner of Truth so it has to be good. Spurgeon was probably the best preacher in modern history and Ian Murray is a highly respected biography writer. Sounds like a good combination. ($5)
6. When People Are BIG And God is Small (Ed Welsch) My friend I went with said this book was worth $5. I’m not very widely read in biblical counseling and this book addresses something I see as a large issue in my life and the lives of those around me. Fear of man is debilitating and ultimately stems from having an minimalistic view of God. I’m way excited to read it.
7. The Necessity of Prayer (E.M. Bounds) The number of times I’ve heard this book referenced convinced me to add it to my stack. I know almost nothing about Bounds and know that prayer is a necessity and joy that I all too often brush aside. If I had to hazard a guess, I think this book is going to change my life and thinking the most out of all the books on this list. Incidentally, I saw the complete works of E.M. Bounds on prayer as I was walking toward the register for only a dollar more, but ultimately decided against it because a)it was significantly (i.e. 500 pages) longer and b) that would reduce the likelihood of me actually reading it given my current backlog of books to read. For some reason 600-page books are harder to dig into than 150-page books. ($7)
8 & 9. Charismatic Chaos (John MacArthur), The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit (C. Peter Wagner) These books go together. I was required to read a “Four Views” book on miraculous gifts for theology class, and both men were cited extensively. This is a widely debated topic (at least outside of Master’s circles), and being well researched means reading both views firsthand. ($3, $5)
Funniest Book Title: Prized Cows Make Gourmet Burgers
Book I Wanted to Buy But Didn’t: John Paton’s Autobiography
Book with the most “bargain book” copies: Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire (Jim Cymbala)
Author with the most “bargain book” titles: Paul Tillich
Popular author with NO “bargain book” titles: N.T. Wright
Popular author with large sign directing people to his books: N.T. Wright
You can learn a lot not just from books but from bookstores as well…
A few weeks ago, I was asked to write an article about life outside the classroom at The Master’s College. I don’t know if they decided to use this in The Current or not, but I thought it would be good to publish here, if only as a reminder of how great life at TMC is. The dorms have changed my life. I hope they’re changing yours.
I spent some time a couple nights ago browsing through journals of my time here at Master’s. It was fun remembering the faithfulness of God in hard situations, seeing Him transform my thinking, laughing over funny stories that I had forgotten. And yet in the midst of everything I’ve written about the last three years, I couldn’t find a singe paragraph about academics. This certainly wasn’t intentional. I didn’t plan to ignore what consumes a large percentage of my week. Rather, I write about what I care about. About what really matters to me. About what creates joy and laughter, sorrow and dependence. About what draws me closer to the Lord and grows my ability to minister to my brothers and sisters. If I’m honest, the most meaningful education I’ve received at Master’s hasn’t come in the classroom, but rather in the dorms.
When I think of Master’s, I think of men who have had an impact on my life through the way they talked, lived, and pursued me in community. My understanding of the gospel transitioned from of the realm of intellectual ideas to my hands and feet as I watched people live every moment under the Word of God. Howard Hendricks says “Christianity is more caught than taught.” I fully agree with him, for there is no more powerful way to communicate gospel truth into someone’s life than to grab them by the wrist and say I’m following Christ, come with me.
I’ll never forget the first time someone challenged my superficial expectations of relationships. During my freshman year I was moving my laundry from washer to dryer when a senior asked me how things were in my room. I said something along the lines of “We’re just different, you know.” He looked at me and genuinely said, “No, I don’t know.” That was the first time someone my age asked me a question because they wanted to minister the gospel into my life, rather than to determine if we had enough in common to be playmates. At that moment I realized that I was at a fork in the road. Answering the question meant taking the risk to tell this person I really didn’t know well that I didn’t like my roommates, was struggling to keep up in classes, and was feeling pretty lonely. With a great amount of fear and trepidation, I invited someone into my life for the first time. I can’t even remember what he said to me in the rest of that conversation, but the fact that he pursued me opened my eyes to see that I was missing something. I’d never seen or been a part of a peer relationship where someone had said “Christ pursued me to the cross. Because of that, come hell or high water I’m not running way from you. Even when you sin. Come, let’s experience the grace of God together.”
Halfway through my sophomore year I began to feel as though the Lord was leading me towards pastoral ministry instead of law school. In the process I had lunch with my RD to talk about the wisdom of changing majors. Little did I know that this one conversation would turn into a discipleship relationship which would open up a whole new world I didn’t know existed. He invited me into his life, and I saw what it means to live a radical, on-edge, uncompromising life motivated by the understanding that to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Only when I came to understand that truth—life is Christ, death is gain—did the joy of pursuing people become real to me. The gospel is risk. It is not safe. Jesus doesn’t give disclaimers, He gives commands. And none of them are comfortable. Nothing other than the indwelling of the Holy Spirit could explain why it is a joy to love hard-to-love people. Nothing other than the indwelling of the Holy Spirit could explain why I’m willing to take a stand for pure speech. Unless Christ is the treasure and the treasure is everything to me, pursuing people doesn’t make sense. Because it hurts. It’s messy. And things don’t always turn out okay. But Christ’s pursuit of me led Him to a cross, and the sting of unkind words hurled at me is nothing compared to the whip of a Roman executioner and the wrath of a holy God.
Life in the dorms isn’t training for something else. It’s real, authentic ministry in the present. Real souls are saved at Master’s. The real Satan is trying desperately to overthrow this campus’ love for God. The real Savior stirs hearts in faith. When I started writing, I wanted to make sure I had room to talk about my roommate who looked at me one night with terror-stricken eyes and said in quiet tones “I’m not sure if I’m saved.” And about the joy of watching a wingmate strive to grow in his ability to relate to people. And about the sadness of having someone walk in and say “My grandpa just died. I think he’s in hell right now.” But there’s too much to tell. Even as I write these down, I can think of conversation after conversation where my hurting brothers and I met anew the tender love of Christ. This hasn’t happened in the classroom. It’s happened in small moments like brushing my teeth, going to Wal-Mart, or throwing away rotten watermelon. Because college is both the boot camp and the battle. I’m being trained for a life of joyful service to Christ as part of His church. And yet the battle is here. Now. The real war isn’t fought in the tactics room of academics. It’s fought in the trenches. When we’re charging the hill behind our captain Jesus Christ, there’s no greater confidence than to look to the right and left and see faithful men who aren’t scared of the battle, and, come hell or high water, who won’t run away.