Favorite Books

I often get asked what books should someone read; this is a hard question because there are so many things that would affect one’s answer. But here is a series of questions that a brother has posed that somewhat helps. I hope this helps you in your pursuit of God and His truth. (PLEASE do not forward this to anyone or post this anywhere; it is also planned for future publication use in other settings.)

The book I am currently reading –

I Shall not Die but Live by Douglas Taylor
This is wonderfully pastoral, experiential, and devotional, and centers on seeing and knowing Christ in all things in life and when facing death.

The book that changed my life –

I have to mention two! The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer and Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Martin Lloyd-Jones; Tozer’s book directed me toward a God-centered life of desiring to know God personally, and the Lloyd-Jones’ book demolished my dispensational interpretation of the Lord’s mount sermon and made me see that Jesus was revealing what a true Christian is and how they live.

The book I wish I had written –

Either Redemption Accomplish and Applied by John Murray (one of my top three favorites of all time) or The Gospel According to Jesus by John Macarthur, which shook the American evangelical world by exposing the falseness of non-Lordship salvation and has had lasting reformational effect on so many churches and Christians.

The book that helped me in my preaching –

Most recently, The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper; simple, brief and clear, the book calls the preacher back to the romance and simplicity of what preaching truly should be. Also, on preaching the Old Testament narratives, Dale Ralph Davis’ book, The Word Made Fresh, greatly helped me in how to approach preaching difficult sections of the Old Testament.

The book I think is most underrated –

Thoughts on Religious Experience by Archibald Alexander; simply profound and deeply helpful in understanding the nature of true Christian experience.

The book that made me say many Amens as I turned its pages –

For me, it has to be Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray, simply because I was raised in a “revivalism” culture and was trained in that setting, and this book opened my eyes fully to understand that what I was already seeing was a faulty system, and what revival was historically and theologically.

The last book that made me weep –

This is a hard one because the 2 volume life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones made me weep at times, but the one I read more recently that produced this effect on me is The Scots Worthies, a massive account of the lives of Scottish Covenanters who suffered so greatly in Scotland during the 17th century. Fair Sunshine by Jock Purves is a smaller version with the same theme by that produced the same effect on me – real tears!

The book I’m most ashamed not to have read –

Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Expositions on Ephesians; I’ve been reading other things and haven’t gotten around to them! That’s a poor thing on my part. Un-mined gold is sitting in my study yet untouched!

The book I most often give to new church members and young Christians –

This is an easy one for me; The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction by Sinclair Ferguson; I think it can be the most helpful book a new or untaught believer can read.

The book I give to people thinking of becoming Christians –

I would begin with John Blanchard’s small Ultimate Questions and then follow up with his book, Right with God. Nothing better evangelistically that these 2 gospel treasures.

The book I wish I were able to write, and want someone to write –

It would be titled this way: The Power of the Holy Spirit among the Scottish Covenanters in their Suffering. There was phenomenal reality that those preachers and believers experienced by the ministry of the Spirit in those years of persecution because God was so real to them; He was so real to them because they so needed Him as their present help and deliverer.

Happy reading to you!

Mack

“The trial of your faith.”

1 Peter 1:7

Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too. Let the winds rush howling forth, and let the waters lift up themselves, then, though the vessel may rock, and her deck may be washed with waves, and her mast may creak under the pressure of the full and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway towards her desired haven. No flowers wear so lovely a blue as those which grow at the foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam so brightly as those which glisten in the polar sky; no water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity. Tried faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God’s strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods. Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too.

Let not this, however, discourage those who are young in faith. You will have trials enough without seeking them: the full portion will be measured out to you in due season. Meanwhile, if you cannot yet claim the result of long experience, thank God for what grace you have; praise him for that degree of holy confidence whereunto you have attained: walk according to that rule, and you shall yet have more and more of the blessing of God, till your faith shall remove mountains and conquer impossibilities.

– C. H. Spurgeon

All Prayer

Prayer, prayer, prayer must be more of a business than it has been previously.

Prayer is seed sown on the heart of God.

God likes to see His people shut up to this — there is no hope except in prayer. Herein lies the church’s power against the world.

It is a sign that the blessing of God is not at hand when God’s people are not praying much.

Delayed answers may be very abundant answers.

Ask God for anything, but let Him judge as to the manner, measure, and timing of the giving.

Every time God hears us cry, “Abba, Father”, He remembers Christ’s prayer in Gethesame.

When any passage of Scripture comes alive to us, it is the equivalent of God coming to us and saying, “Ask me what you would have me give you.” The apostle says, “Ask of Him, who gives liberally and upbraids us not.” It should be great things that we ask and expect from a liberal Father.

— Andrew Bonar

God might well reproach and rebuke us for our carelessness, negligence, smallness, or unbelief in prayer, but He will never be displeased with our asking too much–our Lord said, “Whatsoever things ye ask.”
— Mack Tomlinson

Daily Thoughts: Thankfulness and Praise

Oh, let the river of life rise higher and higher in my soul!

Thy people are no longer heavy-laden with sins, but are now heavy-laden with benefits.

We far more often meet a man laboring under a sense of sin more than one laboring under a sense of God’s mercies. We pick out all the little crosses and troubles of life and mourn over them, and forget our mercies. But the whole of our life is mercy, mercy, mercy.

We should always be wearing the garment of praise, not just waving a palm branch now and then.

Thanksgiving is the very air of heaven.

There are some saints who grieve so much over their imperfect holiness that they never rejoice.

I see that it is just as solemn a thing to be crowned with mercies as to be crushed with affliction.

Pharaoh forgot all of God’s judgments; do we also not forget many of God’s mercies?

Many a sorrow is calmed by a song of praise.

— Andrew Bonar

Tried by Praise, Pt 2

“If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing.” – John 8:54

This word strikes deep. It cuts straight through all self-praise, all pleasure in praise, and taking home to your heart what others say about you. It seems to me to be like that subtle thing of spiritual flattery coming from our lips. I believe that the only safe place for praise of any sort is the dust at the foot of the Cross. I am not thinking now of the encouraging word that a captain speaks to his soldiers or a fellow-worker to fellow-workers, or a teacher to students. I am rather thinking of a deadly thing, the praise of man that brings a snare and not a blessing. It is the acceptance of that which can wreck the soul. Our Lord utterly refused it, ignored it, and turned from it. It was nothing, less than nothing, to Him.

– Amy Carmichael

Your Heavenly Father Knows

In 1866, Hudson Taylor and his family were about to leave England and head back to China for fresh labor. Some said it was foolish business.

“You will be forgotten,” was the chief concern of some. “With no committee to represent you at home, you will be lost sight of in that distant land. Claims are many nowadays. Before long you may find yourselves without even the necessities of life!”

“I am taking my children with me,” was Mr. Taylor’s reply, “and I notice that it is not difficult for me to remember that the little ones need breakfast in the morning, dinner at midday, and something before they go to bed at night. Indeed, I could not forget it. And I find it impossible to suppose that our heavenly Father is less tender or mindful that I.”

– Hudson Taylor

Lady Jane Grey: Teenage Martyr

February 10, 1554: It is two days before Lady Jane Grey climbs the scaffold. The Catholic chaplain John Feckenham enters Jane’s cell in the Tower of London in the hopes of saving her soul. Or so he thinks. Queen Mary (“Bloody Mary”) had already signed her cousin Jane’s death warrant, but she sent her seasoned chaplain to see if he could woo Jane back to Rome before her execution. Jane is about seventeen years old.

A charged debate follows — Feckenham the Catholic apologist and Jane the Reformed teenager. He presses that justification comes by faith and works; she stands her ground on sola fide. He asserts that the Eucharistic bread and wine are the very body and blood of Christ; she maintains that the elements symbolize Jesus’s saving work. He affirms the Catholic Church’s authority alongside Scripture; she insists that the church sits underneath the piercing gaze of God’s word.

“I am sure we two shall never meet [again],” Feckenham finally tells Jane, implying her damnation. But Jane turns the

warning back on him: “Truth it is that we shall never meet again, unless God turn your heart.”
Lady Jane’s Sovereign God

From one angle, Jane’s life is a story of manipulation, of powerful people using a teenager girl as a social and political prop. Her parents forced a severe education regimen upon her in the hopes that she could marry the heir to England’s throne. When that opportunity passed, the Greys colluded with the king’s chief minister to wed Jane to Guildford Dudley, a man she despised. And then, at the king’s passing, a group of political conspirers handed her the crown that would cost Jane her head.

A true angle as far as it goes, but it belongs to Ecclesiastes — it’s the under-the-sun perspective on Lady Jane. Through the lens of God’s providence, a different Jane appears. A Jane who used her Greek and Hebrew to study the Scriptures in their original tongue. A Jane sent to Henry VIII’s court for grooming, only to meet Jesus through the Christian witness of Queen Katherine Parr. And, finally, a Jane who faces trial, imprisonment, and beheading with God’s very words on her lips.

This second perspective is no attempt at hero worship. The accounts tell us Jane could be stubborn as a weed. The perspective simply acknowledges that the God of Joseph still threads redemption through conniving relatives and lonely jail cells. “You meant to use me for your own ends,” Jane might have told any number of people, “but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
The Tower Cell

Lady Jane reluctantly took the throne on July 10, 1553, and willingly left it on July 19, 1553, when Mary gathered an army to depose her cousin queen. So Jane is often remembered by a number: the Nine-Days’ Queen.

On February 7, 1554, Mary signed the death warrant that would lead Jane to the scaffold just five days later. In addition to sparring with Feckenham, Jane spent her final days preparing a brief speech for her execution and sending some last remarks. On the inside of her Greek New Testament, she wrote to her younger sister, Katharine,

This is the book, dear sister, of the Law of the Lord. It is his testament and last will, which he bequeathed unto us wretches, which shall lead you to the path of eternal joy.… And as touching my death, rejoice as I do, good sister, that I shall be delivered of this corruption, and put on incorruption. For I am assured that I shall for losing of a mortal life, win an immortal life.

On the Scaffold
The morning of February 12 brought Jane to the wall of the central White Tower, where a small crowd and an executioner awaited her arrival. Turning to the onlookers, Jane announced, “I do look to be saved by no other mean, but only by the mercy of God, in the blood of his only Son Jesus Christ.” She then knelt and recited Psalm 51: “Have mercy on me, O God. . . .”

Once blindfolded, Jane groped her way to the execution block and laid her head in its groove. The last sound the crowd heard before the axe thudded into the block was a prayer from Jane’s seventeen-year-old voice: “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” So ended the life of Lady Jane Grey, the teenage martyr.

– Scott Hubbard

Samuel Rutherford’s Love of Truth, Pt 2

My needs are my best riches, for I have these supplied by Christ.

I hope to over-hope and over-believe my troubles.

There is no sweeter fellowship with Christ than when we bring our wounds and sores to Him.

O, grief forevermore, that there should be such a one as Christ Jesus–so boundless, bottomless, so incomparable in infinite excellence and sweetness, and yet so few who take Him! They lose their love miserably who will not bestow it upon this lovely One, Jesus.

You will not get to steal quietly to heaven without conflict and a cross.

I have little, little of Christ, yet I long for more.

Let Him make anything out of me, as long as He is glorified through my salvation, for I know I am made for Him.

Every day we may see some new thing in Christ. His love has neither edge or bottom.

I find that our needs qualify us for Christ.

I urge upon you a nearer and growing communion with Christ. There are so many new unfolding and levels in His love; therefore, dig deep, sweat and labor, and take pains for Him; He will be won by labor.

– Samuel Rutherford

Samuel Rutherford’s Love for Truth, Pt 1

Believe God’s Word and power more than you believe your own feelings and experiences. Your Rock is Christ, and it is not the Rock which ebbs and flows, but your seas.

Whenever I find myself in the cellar of affliction, I always look for the wine.

Do not focus your thoughts among the confused wheels of secondary causes, as -‘O, if this had been, then this had not followed!’ Look up to the master motion of the first wheel. In building, we see hewn stones and timbers under hammers and axes, yet the house in this beauty we do not see at the present, but it is in the mind of the builder. Even so we do not presently see the outcome of God’s decrees with his blessed purpose. It is hard to believe when his purpose is hidden and under the ground. Providence has a thousand keys to deliver His own, even when all hope is gone. Let us be faithful and care for our own part, which is to do and suffer for Him, and lay Christ’s part on Himself and leave it there; duties are ours and all events are the Lord’s.

Faint not; the miles to heaven are but few and short.

If your Lord calls you to suffering, do not be dismayed, for He will provide a deeper portion of Christ in your suffering. The softest pillow will be placed under your head though you must set your bare feet among thorns. Do not be afraid of suffering for Christ, for He has a sweet peace for a sufferer. God has called you to Christ’s side, and if the wind is now in His face, you cannot expect to rest on the sheltered side of the hill. The greatest temptation out of hell is to live without trials. Faith grows more with the sharp winter storm in its face. Grace withers without adversity. You cannot sneak quietly into heaven without a cross. They cut away the pieces of our corruption. Lord, please cut, carve, and wound; Lord, do anything to perfect Your image in us and make us fit for glory! We need winnowing before we enter the kingdom of God.

O what I owe to the file, hammer, and furnace! Why should I be surprised at the plough that makes such deep furrows in my soul? Whatever direction the wind blows, it will blow us to the Lord. His hand will direct us safely to the heavenly shore to find the weight of eternal glory. As we look back to our pains and suffering, we shall see that suffering is not worthy to be compared to our first night’s welcome home in heaven. If we could smell of heaven and our country above, our crosses would not bite us. Lay all your loads by faith on Christ, ease yourself, and let Him bear all. He can, He does, and He will bear you. Whether God comes with a rod or a crown, He comes with Himself. “Have courage, I am your salvation!” Welcome, welcome Jesus!”

Your heart is not the compass that God steers by.

What fools are we who, like new-born princes weeping in the cradle, know not that there is a kingdom before them; then let our Lord’s sweet hand square us, hammer us and strike off the knots of pride, self-love, world-worship and infidelity, that He may make us stones and pillars in His Father’s house.

— Samuel Rutherford