Chrys Jones

About Chrys Jones

Chrys' Blog
Chrys is a husband, father, pastor, blogger, and Christian hip-hop artist from KY. If he isn't working, Chrys likes to spend time with his family and friends, read good books, and work on music.



Fear God In Your Worship

Do We Lack The Fear of God?

Last year, I saw a video of a pastor and some of his fraternity brothers dancing to the song “Atomic Dog” by George Clinton shortly after a worship service. The video, which went viral for a few days on Facebook before being removed, showed people who did not seem to take worship seriously.

The comments on the video ranged from calling them “false lights” to accusing those who disagreed of “majoring in minor things instead of majoring in major things.” It is of utmost importance to consider whether or not God approves of the way we worship Him. The question that has been running through my mind is: Do we lack the Fear of God? I began reading “Fear of God” by John Bunyan and wanted to share his answer to the question at hand.

Fear God In Your Worship

Bunyan’s Words To The Church in 2018

John Bunyan has a pertinent word for the Church in 2018 when he says, “…the whole of our service to God…ought to be done by us with reverence and godly fear.” Bunyan’s point here is that everything we do in corporate worship should be done with a reverent awe of God and a fear and trembling (Ps. 5:7).

This includes the songs we sing, our heart attitudes as we sing them, our choices of behavior during corporate worship, and a whole host of other aspects which would be too dense to cover in a short blog post. Whether it’s dancing to the Atomic Dog, heartlessly and mindlessly trudging through the hymns, or exuberantly praising God from the depth of our inner beings, our worship should not be absent of the fear of God.

 

  1. We are worshipping a God whose name and presence is fearful.

Just as a person would not foolishly or haphazardly enter the White House or the presence of a high ranking official, we must not be foolish and thoughtless in how we enter God’s presence for worship. Bunyan says, “God is so great and dreadful in himself and name (that) his worship must therefore be a fearful thing.” God is no mere mortal.

He is the Creator of the universe (Genesis 1), He upholds the universe (Hebrews 1), and He does all that He pleases (Psalm 115:3). In Ecclesiastes 5:1 we are called to guard our steps when we go to the house of God (which is not the building itself, but the gathering of God’s people for worship).

 

  1. God is present to watch us as we worship him.

The phrase “God is watching” is often used to scare children into obedience when their parents are not looking. This, however, is an immensely fearful reality when it comes to corporate worship. God not only sees our outward actions in worship but also our inward heart attitudes. He knows if you are more concerned about lunch, the NBA finals, or the the fact that you don’t like this particular song. Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:7-9 is a great warning for us today as we gather to worship God each week:

“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

Bunyan reminds us that in Revelation 1:13, Jesus stood “in the midst of the lampstands” with hair white like wool, eyes flaming like fire, feet like burnished bronze, and a voice like the roar of many waters. Jesus is in our midst and He deserves our reverent fear during corporate worship!

 

  1. God is jealous of his worship and service.

Oprah Winfrey is well known for rejecting the notion of a jealous God, and if we are honest, there are probably many more people who detest this wonderful attribute of God.  Here, Bunyan points us to the second commandment:

 

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…” (Exodus 20:4-6)

Any good spouse carries a sense of jealousy (intolerant of unfaithfulness or rivalry1) for their spouse due to the nature of love, commitment, and the desire for faithfulness. God’s jealousy for worship in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24) is an even stronger desire to see His people remain faithful to Him in their worship. As you worship, refuse to give yourself to the rivals of God. Don’t tolerate the world, flesh, and devil as they seek to draw you away from worshipping our Holy God.

 

  1. God has executed harsh judgment on those who failed to reverently worship Him.

The Bible is replete with examples of God’s response to corrupt and irreverent worship. Fearfully consider these examples of God’s judgment when people had not worshipped him properly:

  • Nadab and Abihu were killed for offering up “strange” or “unauthorized” fire to God instead of the incense called for in the law of God. (Leviticus 10:1-3)
  • Eli’s (the priest) sons were slain by Philistines as a result of their corrupt dealings with the Lord’s offerings. (1 Samuel 2)
  • Uzzah was killed immediately upon touching the ark of the covenant because God’s presence dwelt directly in the ark, and He didn’t allow men to touch the ark in their sinfulness. (1 Chronicles 13:9-10)
  • Ananias and Sapphira were killed for lying to the Holy Spirit about the selling price of the possessions that they offered to the Church community. (Acts 5)
  • Some in the church of Corinth became ill or even died for taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

We should “rejoice with trembling” anytime we enter the presence of God and aren’t slain for our sinfulness (Ps. 2:11).

Will you consider how you are worshipping the rich and wise God whose judgements are unsearchable and whose ways are inscrutable? Will you fearfully and reverently worship the God of whom it has been said, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)?

You simply don’t have the option to ignore these vital questions, but thankfully, through Christ alone, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence because He has redeemed those have placed their full trust in Him. Pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you, your local church, and the global Church to truly reverent and fearful worship of God this upcoming Lord’s Day and all that follow.

By | 2018-05-08T08:10:02+00:00 May 18th, 2018|

Enter the Ring Book Review

Enter the Ring Book Review

Enter the Ring

by D.A. & Elicia Horton
Length: Approximately 7 hours.
TCB Rating:
four-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Marriage is a fight that every married couple must be willing to engage in. In boxing terms, we must be ready to “enter the ring” and actually take part in the fight. There is no sitting on the sidelines and watching. We have to be actively fighting day in and day out to have gospel-centered marriages.

Who should read this?

This book is written primarily for married couples. It is especially suited for young married couples who may still be in the honeymoon phase or think that their marriage could never have problems. I also think it will prove to be a great resource for pre-marriage counseling because it very honestly presents the true struggles of marriage from a gospel centered, biblical perspective.

Biblical counselors and pastors will greatly benefit from having this book on their shelves as they meet counselees in need of some genuine marriage counseling. Single Christians could benefit from the book as well, but it is not primarily geared toward them.

Enter the Ring Book Review 1

SUMMARY

Enter the Ring is written to provide tools and perspectives for how to fight for marriage in a world in which the institution of marriage has fallen on hard times. Horton and his wife Elicia take turns sharing wonderful stories about their marriage and how God has used the gospel to grow them as individuals and improve their marriage.

From the outset, they lay out the gospel and its implications on marriage. A strong emphasis of this book is that togetherness is a key aspect of a gospel-saturated marriage (p.9). Throughout the book, readers are called to pray and are shown how prayer has been a deeply foundational aspect of the Horton marriage. They open the book with this groundwork and tease that out throughout the rest of the book.

The opening chapter ends with this reminder: “The battle for the togetherness scripture prescribes does not come automatically… it takes each spouse committing to walk in step with the Holy Spirit who indwells them…” (p.24) D.A. and Elicia show this as they seamlessly bounce back and forth between their perspectives and present a picture of a gospel-centered marriage as they have experienced it.

Their illustrations are not simply fillers to make readers laugh. Each and every personal narrative found in this book helps readers to picture the very principles and attitudes being taught within its pages.

Enter the Ring covers several vital aspects of marriage including:

  • Oneness: D.A. and Elicia discuss barriers to communication and tips to overcome these barriers as married couples seek to become one in Christ.
  • Communication: The Hortons show breakdowns in communication, the various levels of communication, the implementation of the five love languages, and practical ways to resolve conflict.
  • Suffering: D.A. and Elicia give readers a glimpse into their own personal suffering and how this suffering impacts the marriage relationship.They work through Ephesians 6 and show how putting on spiritual armor is an absolute necessity when suffering arises in a marriage. Marriage is a spiritual battleground.
  • Family Life: This chapter is solid gold and provides framework for how to seek God as a family. There are sections for husbands, wives, and married couples as parents. Since both D.A. and Elicia write in this section, the husbands and wives sections are written from the perspective of each spouse. The parenting section, from my experience, is a rarity in a marriage book. There is so much practical help for parenting in the context of a godly marriage.
  • Purity: Sexual purity is a must for marriage, and this chapter provides some very practical wisdom for both spouses. The opening paragraph says a lot: “Marriage is not the cure for fornication, lust, or pornography. The gospel is.” That sentence needs to be stated to every unmarried person who is negatively impacted by sexual sin.
  • Finances: The Hortons share a biblical perspective on generosity, give practical tips on budgeting and taking care of finances, and provide readers with more personal examples of how they’ve managed their money. This is another excellent chapter! A must-read for pre-marital counseling.
  • Gospel-saturated individual lives: A gospel-saturated marriage must first be the result of gospel-centered spouses. If each spouse isn’t first living a gospel-centered life with an identity in Christ, they will not be able to have gospel-centered oneness in their marriage.
  • Singleness. Though seemingly out of place in a marriage book, this chapter was a great reminder for me that marriage isn’t a marker of true or mature Christianity. More importantly, singleness is a gift to the Church and married couples must do a better job of welcoming single people into their lives without trying to play matchmaker. This was a very encouraging and convicting way to end the book.

 

ANALYSIS

Personal Perspective:
As a married man, pastor, and student of biblical counseling, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. For me, the illustrations in this book are useful case studies to help leaders and counselors work through difficult scenarios in marriage. Though D.A. and Elicia don’t represent every marriage or every issue in marriage, they do provide readers with some very vivid and practical information to think through.

I felt as if I had a glimpse into a marriage that certainly would have fallen apart had it not been for God’s grace. Through biblical wisdom, community, accountability, and pastoral leadership their marriage went from being another statistic about divorce in Christianity to a remarkable example of God’s great grace!

I was extremely encouraged at how gospely this book was. There are many gospel-centered marriage books, and there need to be many more. I long for the day that there is an over-saturation of gospel-centered marriage books in our bookstores! On nearly every page there was some mention of scripture, Christ, or the gospel.

Even in the midst of their greatest marital woes, there wasn’t reliance on secular psychology or manmade methods to help improve their marriage. Instead, there was page after page of biblical and pastoral wisdom that is able to help struggling marriages.

Though rich with theological depth, D.A. and Elicia’s writing style made Enter the Ring an easy read. It was hard to put the book down! With strong exposition of scripture, poignant life situations, and practical advice, I was caught up in it! As I plowed through the pages, I had thoughts like, “Wow! I never would’ve imagined that other marriages had the issues ours does!” or “I can’t believe they struggle with that! I can use this as a way to encourage _________ in their marriage!”

I even purchased this book for a friend of mine because I thought it would be a help for his marriage.

The only weaknesses I noticed were small and do not hinder the message or excellence of this book:

  • The first weakness I noticed was the use of acronyms found throughout as they shared how they worked through their marital struggles. As a person who enjoys good acronyms, it isn’t difficult for me to file them away. Off the top of my head I can remember the FEAR, IDEAL, and Three C’s. However, it would have been nice to have an appendix listing these acronyms with worksheets to help couples practice using them.
  • Another weakness, which is an expansion of the previous point is that I wish there was an appendix! There are so many good practical aspects in this book! It would have been great to have them all placed together at the end of the book for readers to put to practice.
  • It would have also been good to get a list of recommended books and resources on each of the topics throughout the book (i.e. on finances, purity, conflict management, etc.). For pastors, it is easy to know which resources to grab, but the average reader may need some guidance for that.
  • Lastly, some readers may be turned off at how much the authors referenced themselves and their stories. Authenticity is important, and it is a strength of this book. However, using oneself as an example of how to do things right has the potential to spill over into to pride and self-righteousness. I don’t sense that is the case, but I see the temptation to read the assumption of pride into the book.


CONCLUSION

Today, marriages are in disarray. The notion of commitment is waning in the minds of young people today. As a millennial, I am downtrodden by the destruction of marriage in our society. Worse, my heart breaks at the dysfunction and disintegration of marriage even in the Church. Books like these must not only be written; they must be read and placed into the hands of our local church members.

If you don’t have a practical marriage book on your shelf, Enter the Ring is a great addition! If you know a family struggling in their marriage, a couple seeking to get married, or need practical, gospel-centered help for your own marriage, this is an excellent resource for you! It is filled with sound exposition of scripture, great illustrations and examples to follow, and practical tips on how fight for a good marriage. Don’t let this book fly under the radar!


FAVORITE QUOTES


“Marriage is not the cure for fornication, lust, or pornography. The gospel is.” (p.137)

 

“Our identity is not based on being married, divorced, single, or widowed—our identity is centered on the fact that we are in Christ!… If our identity is anywhere but Christ, we’ll dismiss, discount, and become discontent with God’s calling to live on mission.” (p.182)

 

four-stars
By | 2018-05-17T23:10:00+00:00 May 15th, 2018|

God’s Battle Plan For The Mind Book Review

God’s Battle Plan For The Mind Book Review

God's Battle Plan For The Mind

by David W. Saxtons
Length: Approximately 5 hours.
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Lack of biblical spirituality has created a superficial version of modern Christianity which was not known to previous generations. A major contributor, among many, to this superficiality is the missing discipline of biblical meditation.

Who should read this?

All Christians can benefit from this excellent resource. From the theologian to the new believer, all who desire to live a godly life with spiritual depth, fruit, and maturity will reap many benefits from this wonderful work. This work could be especially beneficial for pastors, counselors, and disciple-makers who are helping immature and struggling saints in their pursuit of God.

God's Battle Plan For The Mind Book Review 1

SUMMARY

The How
Saxton writes as one who is both passionate and well-versed in the inner life of the soul, particularly from two viewpoints: the scriptures and the Puritans. He makes this clear from the outset of the book and he is prolific in his use of both sources. He proves that he isn’t coming with a novel teaching and that he isn’t simply writing to present information about biblical meditation and its importance. Rather, he is persuasively striving to “convince God’s people of the absolute necessity of personal meditation” (p.2). To say in the postmodern world that biblical meditation is an “absolute necessity” is a bold and ought to make some ears to perk up—even among reformed, scripture-saturated readers.

Some will be turned off by the phrase “Puritan practice of meditation”, but his use of the Puritans is not to exalt or glorify them in an ungodly and idolatrous way. Rather, Saxton focuses on a group of Christians who produced an abundance of theological writings and sermons while also remaining profoundly pious in the way that they lived their lives outside of the corporate gathering, church office, and seminary classroom. Though the Puritan name carries negative connotations in the present day (due to unfortunate misrepresentation in New England), there is much to be gained from a generation of Christians who heard about and practiced biblical meditation so much that pastors took for granted that their congregants knew what meditation was.

This is the aim of God’s Battle Plan For The Mind and Paxton does this well. The pages of this book are filled with quotations and teachings from a generation of saints who didn’t shrink back from genuine biblical spirituality even in the wake of the Catholic mysticism prevalent in the Middle Ages a few hundred years before.

The Why
In this day and age, people either haven’t read much about biblical meditation or they’ve come across some strange mystical teachings. For most (in my experience), there is no concept of biblical meditation at all beyond quoting Psalm 1 or Joshua 1. Most have never heard a sermon on the subject, and even if they have, there was very little emphasis given on how to practice it. There are few biblical books written on the spiritual disciplines, and much of what is touted as “spiritual formation” falls short of being founded on the scripture rather than tradition or subjective spiritual experience. For these people, meditation is merely an optional practice that some super spiritual or super religious people do.

For others, biblical meditation is tied to Roman Catholic mysticism or New Age practices of people like Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, or Thomas Merton. These authors often introduce readers to the “inward life” and frequently quote Catholic, Quaker, and even Buddhist mystics as guides and examples for how the Christian ought to get alone and find God.

Paxton, on the other hand, writes to present a biblical view of meditation which highlights the necessity of meditation on scripture and the things of God while also helping Christians avoid the folly of the unbiblical forms that are often embraced by Christians. Rather than present strange methods that often emphasize listening/contemplative prayer, Lectio Divina, etc. Paxton opts for meditation on the scripture as exemplified in the lives, sermons, and writings of the Puritans.

The What
The main argument of God’s Battle Plan For The Mind is that biblical meditation, as embodied by the Puritans, is a joyful habit that must become a central part of Christianity today if we want to see believers flourishing as they did in times past—especially in the days of the Puritans and Reformers. He teases this argument out using both scripture, Puritan writings, and experience—with scripture and Puritan writings being closely tied together the due to the Puritans who quoted the scriptures copiously in their literature.

Paxton’s argument is supported by numerous examples of types of meditation, occasions for meditation, subjects for meditation, benefits of meditation, and enemies of meditation all steeped scripture and Puritan writing/practice. In his opening chapter he explains that meditation: heals the hearts of believers and settles their minds, provides enormous spiritual value, is a necessity for every healthy growing believer (Josh 1:6-8, Ps. 119:92), stresses what is practical, digests God’s Word into one’s own life and experience, and is delightful and joyful yet rare and difficult work.


ANALYSIS

Personal Perspective

I absolutely love God’s Battle Plan For The Mind. I purchased this book in August of 2015 and I have read through most of it three or more times! It’s a book I can keep coming back to because the pages are filled with informative, convicting, and encouraging quotes and teaching. The book is so practical that there are chapters which read almost like a Puritan manual on how to meditate biblically. When I am feeling dry or apathetic in my faith, I come back to this book as a reminder that I need to be deeply meditating on the rich truths of scripture; that I need to get the “fire” back, and that meditation is a way to stoke the fire of devotion.

I must admit that I am a huge fan of the Puritans and their writings. I found this book by doing a biblical search on Puritan meditation after hearing Joel Beeke teaching on the topic. Paxton, a student of Beeke’s, wrote this book as part of his studies at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Therefore, my enjoyment of this book is heavily influenced by the Puritan flavor of Paxton’s writing. Beeke’s words in the foreword ring true of this book: “David does not write as an academic, but as a pastor” (p. viii). Touting a long bibliography, Paxton did a wonderful job of avoiding the trap of writing to please scholars or prove a point in academia.

God’s Battle Plan For The Mind challenges readers to move beyond the dry, feeble Christianity of our days to a rich, scripture-filled Christianity which exemplifies that call to let the word of God dwell richly within (Colossians 3:16).

Strengths
The biggest strength of God’s Battle Plan For The Mind is that it is immensely practical. A quick perusal through the table of contents shows that readers will learn: the importance of biblical meditation, unbiblical forms of meditation, how to meditate on different occasions, how to actually practice meditation, how to choose subjects for meditation, and even a plan on how to get started meditating. As stated previously, this book can be used as a manual for how to meditate day and night in a biblical and God-glorifying way.

Another strength of this book is that it is steeped in quotes from the writings of the Puritans. The Puritans were some of the greatest preachers, writers, and divines in the history of the church, and that becomes readily apparent when reading the plethora of quotes Paxton provided. These quotes provide readers with arguments against the novelty of New Age spirituality as well the old Catholic mysticism which is beginning to resurface in mainline and evangelical churches (even in Reformed circles!). They also give readers a picture of why these writers could compose works so richly and deeply about the truths of scripture—their minds were so full of meditations on scriptures from both Testaments!

Finally, Paxton’s zeal for true biblical spirituality is seen throughout the book as he quotes scriptures and authors in their intended context. For example, instead of finding obscure passages and using them to suit his own purposes and practices, he shows how his arguments come from scripture on many occasions. He also doesn’t get caught up in the game of quoting Catholic, Quaker, or New Age mystics in such a way as to confuse readers or give the impression that he supports their teachings.

This is important because Christians must never seek to separate sanctification and spiritual practices from biblical teachings on the doctrines of God and Salvation—doctrines such as sola scriptura (scripture alone for God’s revelation) and sola fide (salvation by faith alone) which are rejected by Catholics, New Age, and Quaker mystics almost universally. Essentially, this book is orthodox and theologically sound enough to be given to believers in all stages of their spiritual walks. In other words, there is no chewing the meat and spitting out the bones here.

Weaknesses
One glaring weakness of this book (for some readers) is its reliance upon Puritans as the source and example of biblical meditation. For many, the term Puritan is slightly less offensive than a swear word! For others, the Elizabethan (and sometimes heavily Latin-influenced) English will be a tough pill to swallow. Admittedly, I struggled with these aspects when I began building my collection of Puritan works, but mining for gold is always worth the elbow grease and back pain that comes from getting beneath the surface for the depth they offer! At times, the quotes can be wordy and difficult for modern readers, especially when words like, “wilt”, “thou”, “thee”, etc. are unaltered in longer block quotes. There seems to be an unspoken war amongst Puritan readers regarding whether the works should be unabridged or not.

Another potential weakness is that this book quotes the Puritans heavily. As a fan of the Puritans, this aspect isn’t bothersome to me as I enjoy getting great quotes from books that I will probably never have the time to read or the money to purchase. However, I could imagine readers saying to themselves, “What does Paxton think about this?” or “I thought this was Paxton’s book!” This is tough for me because I love the numerous Puritan quotations but also like to see what a modern synthesis of Puritan teaching would look like.

If Paxton were to revise this book, it would be great to gain a perspective of how his life and ministry were changed by his deep studies in Puritan meditation. I wouldn’t reduce the number of quotes, though. I would simply add a bit more synthesis of the teaching throughout the book for readers who don’t want to comb through the quotes but could definitely benefit from the teaching of the Puritans on this topic.

CONCLUSION

Some books on the topic of spiritual disciplines or means of grace seem like a rehashing of Don Whitney’s classic book Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life. This is not a bad thing at all (in fact, Paxton quotes Whitney in this books). However, breaking down the individual disciplines is something that will be beneficial for generations to come. This book is important for all readers, especially those in the realm of Reformed theology, as it brings an old voice into an important modern conversation. God’s Battle Plan For The Mind by David Paxton is an excellent starting point for any believer wanting to improve their devotional life!

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “What does it mean to meditate? It means to think personally, practically, seriously, and earnestly on how the truth of God’s Word should look in life.” (p. 2)

  • “… the Puritans stressed the utmost importance of biblical meditation resulting in practical reform in one’s life.” (p.63)

  • “Because believers have allowed television to push a close walk with Christ into the shadows, the message to the Church at Ephesus applies well: “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4). Yet rather than forcing a believer against his will to leave this unhealthy love of amusements, biblical meditation woos our hearts to Christ with the offer of greater joy and sincere love.” (p. 134)
five-stars
By | 2018-04-04T08:40:07+00:00 April 4th, 2018|

Doctrine that Dances Book Review

Doctrine that Dances Book Review

Doctrine that Dances

by Robert Smith Jr.
Length: Approximately 8 hours. To read (228 pages)
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Preaching can be compared to two major metaphors: an escort and a dancer. Good preachers are “exegetical escorts” who lead people to the truth and “doxological dancers” who lead their hearers into the transforming power of God through their worshipful proclamation of truth.

Who should read this?

This is a preaching book that will benefit preachers and pastors from all of walks of life in churches of any shape, size, culture, or denomination. From the youngest of pastors to the most seasoned, Doctrine That Dances will teach preachers how excel in being both exegetical escorts and doctrinal dancers.

Doctrine that Dances Book Review 1

SUMMARY

The How:

Doctrine That Dances is well-written, and is accessible for readers with varying levels of education.  It is not full of technical jargon or seminary code language that would prove difficult for the novice preacher who hasn’t seen a homiletics textbook. However, it is also not simplistic, and is certainly capable of being placed on a seminary reading list.

An excellent and enjoyable feature of Doctrine That Dances is Smith’s prolific use of imagery and wordplay throughout the entire book. The book overflowed with pages containing vivid imagery and metaphor to keep readers constantly engaged and interested. This makes the length of some chapters much more sustainable for readers.

Smith lays the book out by first presenting his definition of doctrinal preaching before moving the driving metaphors of the exegetical escort and doctrinal dancer. He then spends a few chapters teasing out the importance of doctrinal preaching and the need for both aspects of his metaphor. The last few chapters are very practical appeals and instructions on how to carry out these metaphors in the preparation and act of preaching. These sections of the book are especially helpful as he brings in church history and other broad sources to illustrate the importance of words and how we use them for doctrine and proclamation.

The Why:

Doctrine That Dances was written to help pastors keep the marriage between doctrine and passion in preaching from becoming obsolete. Far too often, it seems as though pastors are forced to choose between preaching dry, dull, and doctrinal sermons or flashy, feel good, fruitless sermons. Smith does an excellent job of pushing pastors on both sides of the coin toward the middle ground which is his definition of doctrinal preaching.

This is vital in a day and age where seeker-sensitive churches sacrifice doctrine to please the masses while doctrinally-sound churches can find dull preaching as a badge of honor. Preachers, young and old, black and white, can learn how to preach better. Preachers from different backgrounds (i.e. predominantly black church, southern baptist, presbyterian, methodist, etc.) can benefit from growth in either exegetical excellence or powerful proclamation.

The What:

The book is broken down into seven chapters which aim at a definition of preaching that includes both high doctrine and high passion. Smith begins by defining doctrinal preaching, and his definition brilliantly encapsulates both the head and the heart. According to Smith, preachers need to be reminded that “doctrinal preaching not only informs our learning but also influences our living.” (p.15). This means that the preacher is not focusing solely on the intellect (instruction) or solely on the lifestyle (application).

He presents the metaphors of exegetical escort and doctrinal dancer to show us how to carefully escort our hearers to sound doctrine while preaching to praise God in the act and moment of preaching. Some have said the greatest distance is from the head to the heart, and Doctrine That Dances seeks to help the preacher excel in this difficult but vital act. These two aims are then brought into closer perspective as readers learn to have doctrinal balance and yet not fear the “jazz” of preaching—the Spirit-led improvisation that happens during good sermons.

To finish, Smith gives readers two sermons of his own in order to show the powerful doctrinal preaching he has just defined throughout the book. This was a wonderful way to show the practice of doctrinal preaching in his ministry. It was refreshing and encouraging to see how that preachers can truly balance exegetical precision with passionate proclamation.

There was a commitment to exegetical prowess as well as a worshipful use of metaphors and illustrations to help hearers get ushered into the presence of God and envision the application of the doctrines and instructions being presented.

ANALYSIS

Personal Perspective:

I thoroughly enjoyed Doctrine That Dances, and it had an immediate impact on the way I think about and approach preaching. I am a preacher who is very sold on the value of sound doctrine through exegesis of biblical texts. I was under sound, expository preaching within two years of my conversion, so I have also placed a high emphasis on “cutting it straight” or rightly dividing God’s word.

However, as a black preacher who came up in predominantly-black churches, I can’t help but see and remember the value of proclamation and worship that came from hearing a sermon by someone who seemed to be so on fire with the Word that they could not help but burst forth in great joy and passion. This is not to say that white preaching is deficient, but that black preacher is greatly marked by this sense of zeal and passion.

This book was a strong reminder that both of those aspects of preaching are not only acceptable but absolutely essential to my preaching. Without doctrine, preaching is empty emotionalism. Without fervor, preaching is just a bible-saturated seminar aimed at the mind. Neither of these options is what God had in mind.

Strengths

Smith’s personal touch definitely adds to the enjoyment of the book. He is a seasoned black preacher with metaphors and similes for days and days. I have grown in my ability to “think out of the box” with how to convey basic thoughts and ideas. I have read some preaching books that speak about the importance of word choice, but I have not seen many which go in depth on the importance of the metaphor or illustrative language throughout rather than just in illustrations. His sprinkling in of this language helps preachers know how to do the same as they write their manuscripts or outlines and deliver the sermon.

Doctrine That Dances is also a book which draws from numerous sources outside of Smith’s area of expertise. He uses many of these outside sources to discuss dancing, jazz, etc. Readers will get a sense that he is a prolific reader who has his ear to the culture while also keeping his mind on God’s Word and sound teaching. His discussion of preaching and how to define it shows that he is very well-read in terms of preaching and preachers.

This gives readers confidence that Smith knows his roots as well as where to add his own voice to the conversation. The confidence he exudes in sharing his metaphor is not groundless, and it is clear from the opening pages of the book that Smith is not looking to add novelty to the world of preaching—he is striving to expand on what has already been laid before him.

Weaknesses

Though this book was clear and the arguments were made in a well-crafted way, some of the chapters felt rather long. For example the first two chapters were 15 and 19 pages (respectively) whereas the third and fourth chapters were 30 and 28 pages (respectively). Those chapter lengths are not necessarily excessive as a whole, but they do feel quite a bit longer than the others. As stated above, this weakness was mitigated by Smith’s engaging style.

For readers who are not used to more picturesque language or metaphors in nonfiction writing, his style can be an adjustment. Not knowing his writing style, it took a little bit of time for me to catch the flow of writing. However, there are many others, such as John Owen, who grew on me as I continued to read. So it is with Robert Smith, Jr. I read most of this book a second time, and it was a great joy to read it on that second visit.

I caught on to the fact that I was learning how to do what he was teaching as I read through the book. Though it is my favorite feature of the book, I fear that some may not see the value in his style and pass this book on for more succinct and straightforward writing. They will surely miss out on a delightful and powerful book on preaching!

CONCLUSION

Doctrine That Dances is a must-have for pastors looking to grow in their preaching. This book is not a manual for how to write more passionate sermons. It is also not an exhaustive resource for how to properly exegete a passage. Doctrine That Dances will take the fundamentals of preaching—exegesis and proclamation—and tie them together to bring great benefit to both those who preach the Word and those who hear the Word. It is for these reasons that I offer a high recommendation for this great work!

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “The preacher of Christian doctrine is primarily a worshipper. Preaching is an act of worship”. (p.36)

  • “As doctrinal preachers, we need to be liberated from the sterile and predictable language used in our preaching”. (p.73)
five-stars
By | 2018-03-02T01:27:51+00:00 March 5th, 2018|

Think Again Book Review

Think Again Book Review

Think Again

by Jared Mellinger
Length: Approximately 7 hours. To read (196 pages)
TCB Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Unhealthy introspection crushes us. It often disguises itself as biblical self-examination, but it leads to deep melancholy. Jared Mellinger shows us in Think Again: Relief From The Burden Of Introspection that we can be freed from staring too deeply at ourselves by cherishing the Savior who can transform us.

Who should read this?

This book is for any Christian who needs to understand the biblical concept of self-examination and how it can often turn from a healthy practice of looking inward to an excessive and spiritually dangerous fixation on themselves instead of Christ. I especially recommend it for pastors, biblical counselors, and small group leaders who may find themselves helping and leading people through periods of hyper-introspection.

Think Again Book Review 1

SUMMARY

The How
Stop for a second and think about the description you’d give of a narcissistic person. What characteristics describe that type of person? Maybe self-absorbed, big-headed, overly confident, highly-opinionated, and self-assured, right?. Very few people would aspire to this state of vainglory! However, Think Again turns our definition on its head by showing that narcissism can come in various shapes and sizes, including a constant negative self-assessment.

Consider the person whose self-absorption manifests itself in constantly looking at his own flaws, feelings, and perspectives about his life and the people around him. In Think Again, Mellinger provides witty, practical, and pastoral insight for those who suffer from this burden in their lives.

Mellinger’s writing style is simple and yet not simplistic. He is very candid and open about his own introspection which gives the book much needed authenticity as we recognize the inner narcissist that resides with us.

He doesn’t write as one who is the master writing to ignorant students. Instead, he writes as a friend trying to help someone work through a problem that’s hard to see and even harder to fix. Most importantly, he writes with an encouraging tone, gently (and humorously at times) lifting readers from the pit of self-focused despondency.

The book is structured very clearly with a roadmap given at the beginning of the book. Mellinger walks readers through his own battle with introspection followed by how we can truly know ourselves. He then offers counsel to those suffering with unhealthy introspection before providing strategies to help us fight the false guilt that comes with introspection. The final several chapters compare true self-examination with hyper self-awareness as readers receive several important reasons to look outside themselves in a way that reflects God.

The Why

This book was written with three types of people in mind:

Mellinger wrote this book to help introspective Christians know how God wants them to think about themselves. Drawing from his personal experience, he shares his dealings with morbid introspection and provides readers with tools to help them know how to think about themselves. His aim is to help those who are broken, worn down, and in need of help.

Think Again is also a book to help us help others. Many of us are pastors, bible teachers, small group leaders, counselors, teachers, or friends seeking to help others. This is a book written to help us bear one another’s burdens as we live out our calling as the Church.

Lastly, this book was written to help all Christians learn how we should think about ourselves based on God’s Word. This is important because life brings so many challenges and changes that impact how we look at and think about ourselves. Also, taking exercising self-control in our thought lives is essential (2 Cor 10:5).

The What

Think Again lays out a biblical perspective on how Christians should view themselves. His primary argument is that we should view ourselves in light of the gospel, which frees us from thinking about ourselves too much. Mellinger opens the book by sharing his experience with introspection and how the gospel freed him from its tight grasp on his soul.

Nearly every page of Think Again is filled with references from scripture. He walks readers through how the bible shapes our self-image and thoughts. He shows promises of God for those who are breaking under the weight of doubt and despair. He presents an intriguing and sound explanation of false guilt. He shows scriptural evidence of grace as our source of hope. He even presents a scriptural understanding of how to look outside of ourselves at creation, community, and Christ.

Not only does Mellinger use scripture as the foundation for his argument, he also shows readers that his understanding of introspection and self-forgetfulness didn’t arise in a vacuum. By quoting notable authors and pastors from the past and present. With quotes from people like D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, C.H. Spurgeon, Richard Sibbes, John Calvin,  Jonathan Edwards, Paul Tripp, J.I. Packer, and many more, we see that Mellinger is both well-read and in good company.

He doesn’t misuse or overuse their quotes to help prove his point, but instead shows how they wrote on such topics and where they pointed him (and their hearers and readers) in dealing with self-thought.

Mellinger makes great effort to point readers toward healthy and biblical self-examination rather than ignorant foolish denial of sin in their lives. He presents very practical ways for Christians to evaluate themselves in light of scripture with Chapter 9 may being the richest chapter in the book. This chapter shows us that we are worse than we think we are and that Christ is still gracious to us in our most sinful state. Keeping Christ at the heart of this book is what separates it from being a typical self-help treatment of introspection and negative thoughts.

ANALYSIS

Personal Perspective

As I perused the pages of Think Again, I couldn’t help but breath a major sigh of relief. For so long I’ve felt as though nobody understood the tangled mess of thoughts I live in each and battle every day. God used Mellinger to dig to the depths of my introspective heart and unearth the sin issues which have been buried beneath 28 years of a hyper-negative and excessively inward view of myself. Mellinger’s main aim is not to get introspective people to think more negatively (or more highly) of themselves but rather to think more soberly and less often about themselves.

Pride can be found in openly self-absorbed people, but it is just as easily found in those who can’t escape their thoughts for long enough to be present in their life circumstances and serve others. Many introspective people, myself included, think looking inward will solve their problems, but this is far from right, and it leads them away from the solution.

Strengths

Mellinger gives readers several very helpful illustrations and personal experiences to keep readers interested and engaged. The book is very conversational and feels like a friend giving godly counseling, weaving scripture and practical examples to drive his point home. This makes for an easy, though convicting, read. It is uplifting even when presenting readers with the reality of one’s own introspection and practical narcissism.

Though written to be understood by every Christian in your church, Mellinger is not theologically deficient. Rather than reaching for psychological treatments on self-esteem, he reached for the bible. Instead of quoting Freud to discuss the psychological impacts of a negative self-image, he shared the wisdom of authors like David Powlison.

Though he could have chosen to use only modern source to aid in the presentation of a healthy biblical view of self, Mellinger reached back to authors like J.C. Ryle, John Newton, and John Owen. This gives the book a richness that is to be much enjoyed without being inaccessible or laborious.

As an avid reader, I absolutely loved the recommended reading list at the end! Im a fan of Puritans as well as some of the contemporary authors also listed, so this section gave me some books to check out to help on my journey of battling introspection. This will be a much welcomed treat for those who love to read good books—old and new about Christ.

Weaknesses

I had never heard of Mellinger prior to reading Think Again. Yet it is nearly impossible for me to find weaknesses from this brilliant author. If there was one weakness, I would say it is this: Think Again could have been a longer book with even more practical applications and scenarios for the readers. Brevity is important in a day of fast-paced reading and short videos, so I understand the purpose of making it such a short book.

However, brief case studies from the lives of the people he has discipled or counseled in these areas would have improved this book as a tool for counseling and discipleship. Reading an illustration of how nature, art, or community helped free a person from excessive self-absorption would be helpful for some who want to take what they’ve read and apply it to their lives or others.

Think Again: Relief from the Burden of Introspection
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CONCLUSION

What is Mellinger’s solution? Mellinger calls readers to “Look up!”. We should take 10 looks at Christ for everyone look at ourselves. We should see Christ and His work in us when we look in the mirror. We should literally look around and see the God-glorifying scenery around us. We should look to love and serve God and others through a gospel-centered community rather than looking at ourselves.

This is how we can beat excessive introspection, and Mellinger does an excellent job of pointing to Christ rather than back to ourselves with self-help methods and tactics. If looking to ourselves is the problem, looking more to ourselves is certainly not the solution, and Think Again doesn’t leave readers to dig themselves deeper in the pit as they try to fix themselves.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “The gospel sets us free from thinking about ourselves too much. There is an outward-focused God who delights to rescue an inward-focused people”. (p.13)

  • “When we seek to discover ourselves by looking inside ourselves, we become lost in ourselves.” (p.22)

  • “Learn to celebrate even the smallest acts of obedience. Treasure the tiniest evidences of the Spirit’s work in you.” (p.96)
five-stars
By | 2018-02-22T02:16:06+00:00 February 23rd, 2018|

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