Five books that every new, or renewed, follower of Jesus should read

Recently, I took up the challenge of considering the top five books that I would recommend for new, and renewed, followers of Jesus. If you’ve recently begun to follow Jesus, or are coming back to him, where do you start? What are the best books to get you “up-and-running” and heading in a solid, well-rounded direction? Here are my suggestions.  

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Eight encouragements to single men

This is for single men. However, I'm throwing it out to everyone because I want single ladies, in particular, to know what you are called up to. I’ve been married for twelve years, but I too was single at one point. I, for one, know the pro’s and con’s of singleness intimately. I made my share of honest mistakes and outright stupid moves. I also, by the sheer grace of God, made some good, godly, wise decisions that I am thankful for to this day. I know that the season of singleness, like marriage, comes with its own unique set of fears, temptations and idolatry. So, I want to help. If you're interested I addressed this topic about a year ago in our church's study through Proverbs in a sermon called, Understanding Singleness.

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Prayers answered by crosses by John Newton

On Sunday, January 26th, I preached a sermon on Mark 4:35-41 (“The Lord of the Storm”) and discussed, in part, the role of life’s storms as instruments in the hands of God. During my preparation I came across the poem below by John Newton (most famously known for writing Amazing Grace) called Prayers Answered by Crosses. What he calls “crosses” we'd also call storms, suffering or difficulty. If you’re currently in the middle of a storm or you’re praying to know God more deeply, you should read this and take heart. In God’s hands, no storm is in vain.

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Seahawk's Derrick Coleman, "outsiders" and the gospel

This short commercial about Derrick Coleman's (Seattle Seahawks) journey to the NFL has been getting a lot of attention leading up to the Super Bowl. Why? Because he's been deaf since he was three years old. His story is incredible and deeply moving, whether you're a football fan or not. And it got me thinking. Why do we love stories like this? Outsiders becoming insiders. Underdogs coming behind for the win. The weak overcoming the strong. The powerless out-performing the powerful. The bullied overcoming the bully. Clearly these stories are powerful, but why? Because deep down we know we are "outsiders" and remind us of our deep felt desire to be "inside". You may think I'm reading too much into this, but hang with me.

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The ultimate issue underlying the abortion debate (and how to learn more)

Yesterday marked the 41st anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision known as Roe v Wade. The annual March for Life rally - the world's largest anti-abortion rally - takes place on this date every year, nationally, in Washington DC and, locally, at many state capitols. This issue, like no other, evokes the strongest of emotions that make it particularly difficult to objectively consider. Even more, the rhetoric around this debate, such as "pro-choice" or "pro-life" confuses many. Polls indicate that most people do not even understand the basic differences that lie at the heart of this issue and just want it to go away. 

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Lloyd Jones on the main art of following God

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I have a deep respect and admiration for Martyn Lloyd Jones. If you're not familiar with him, you should alleviate that problem immediately and pick up his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount or Spiritual Depression: It's Causes and Cure. If you're a pastor and preaching is a regular part of your service to God's people, his book Preaching and Preachers is a must read. Over the last couple years many of his sermon recordings (which were originally only captured for church members who were too sick to gather with the church on Sundays) have been released here at MLJ Trust. If you're looking for more then I also recommend Iain Murray's double volume biography. There are a handful of defining principles I've learned from MLJ and one of those is the importance of knowing yourself well enough to preach to yourself. Here's a classic excerpt from Spiritual Depression

I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing 'ourselves' to talk to us! ... I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self....Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you...The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, questions yourself...And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say: 'Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within  me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.' (Spiritual Depression, 21)

Summer '13 baptism rewind (video)

Our church, that gathers in downtown Seattle yet scatters throughout the city, is around two and half years old. This last September we celebrated our third annual summer beach baptism and barbecue - and just completed the video that captures a snapshot of that evening on the shores of Lake Union. Without question, this was among one of the top highlights of the year. I share this with you so that you can share in our joy. 

William Lane Craig on God's existence and "apathy-ism"

On December 4th, world-class apologist and research professor, William Lane Craig (WLC) appeared on Fox News to discuss his latest book, A Reasonable Response: Answers to Tough Questions on Christianity, God and the Bible. You can access more of WLC's articles, debates, and books at Reasonable FaithI previously posted their latest, and very well done, clip on the cosmological argument hereIn this interview he offers a very brief snapshot of why it is important for followers of Jesus to have answers for why we believe what we do, along with his five primary arguments for the existence of God.

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The shadowy place between belief and unbelief

In October a news report came out concerning a small Norwegian town, deeply tucked between steep mountains, that is stuck in shadowy darkness for six months of the year. In order to bring more light into town they installed mirrors - yes, mirrors - on a nearby hillside to reflect the sun into town. You can read more hereThough it is an imperfect analogy, I was struck by how similar this is to how we often view following Jesus. 

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