Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘richard baxter’

I usually share out encouraging and worthwhile reads that I find during the week over Twitter or Google Reader. However, I thought it might be helpful to weed through those a bit and share my favorites of the week. This week: Piper on Jesus as mediator, Douthat on the abortion paradox of our culture, Baxter on fighting sin, Keller on Christians and culture, and Wilson on technology.

Don’t Make Jesus More of a Mediator Than He is (by John Piper)

This is astonishing. Jesus is warning us not to think of God Almighty as unwilling to receive us directly into his presence. By “directly” I mean what Jesus meant when he said, “I am not going to take your requests to God for you. You may take them directly. He loves you. He wants you to come. He is not angry at you.”

The Unborn Paradox (by Ross Douthat, NY Times)

This is the paradox of America’s unborn. No life is so desperately sought after, so hungrily desired, so carefully nurtured. And yet no life is so legally unprotected, and so frequently destroyed.

Directions for Hating Sin (by Richard Baxter)

Think well what pure and sweet delights a holy soul may enjoy from God, in his holy service; and then you will see what sin is, which robs him of these delights, and prefers fleshly lusts before them.

Work and Cultural Renewal (by Tim Keller)

The most powerful way to show people the truth of Christianity is to serve the common good. The monks in the Middle Ages moved out through pagan Europe, inventing and establishing academies, universities, and hospitals. They transformed local economies and cared for the weak through these new institutions. They didn’t set out to ‘get control’ of a pagan culture. They let the gospel change how they did their work and that meant they worked for others rather than for themselves. Christians today should be aiming for the same thing.

Calvinism, Eschatology, and the New Media (by Douglas Wilson)

The constant and ever present temptation in the Church is the gnostic temptation of locating sin in the stuff, sin in the matter, sin in the wealth, sin in the technology . . . instead of locating it where it belongs, in the heart of man.

Read Full Post »

Books I briefly review in this post (click to jump to a specific book):

My Top 6

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson

Future Men by Douglas Wilson

CrossTalk by Michael Emlet

The Cure of Melancholy by Richard Baxter

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Dracula by Bram Stoker


Other Interesting Reads

ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Tipping Point/Blink/Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis


Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson

Give me priests. Give me men with feathers in their hair or tall domed hats, female oracles in caves, servants of the python, smoking weed and reading palms. A gypsy fortune-teller with a foot-pedal Ouija board and a gold fishbowl for a crystal ball knows more about the world than many of the great thinkers of the West.

What more can I say about this book than what I’ve said in this post? This is easily the best book I’ve read all year, a profound read that has impacted my theology, how I view creation, how I trust God in hard circumstances, and the very vocabulary I use now. Wilson’s book is an absolute must-read that has blown away everyone I know who has read it.

Future Men by Douglas Wilson

Great lessons can be acquired by small boys in a small garden. A rich farmer was once rebuked for having his sons work in the fields when they didn’t have to. His reply was apropos to this discussion. He wasn’t raising corn, he explained, he was raising boys. Boys therefore should be learning to be patient, careful, and hard-working.

Doug Wilson, N.D. Wilson’s father, has tremendous thoughts here for dads of sons, as well as daughters. Wilson’s wit always cracks me up and it’s always directed with a purpose. I appreciated the amount that he has to say here but also how well Wilson simplifies things and doesn’t merely give a recipe. Wilson is centered on the gospel and the centrality of God’s glory and it taints all his writing here about guiding sons into becoming men.

The point of discipline with boys is to channel and direct their energy into an obedient response to the cultural mandate. It is not to squash that energy, destroying it or making it sullen.

CrossTalk by Michael Emlet

We confess that all of Scripture is helpful for all of life, but that’s not the way the Bible actually functions in our lives and ministries. The challenge is not just in moving from present-day problems to the Scriptures. Many modern-day struggles and problems don’t seem to be addressed in the Scriptures.

I’ve already written a review here but I’ll just say again not to be intimidated by a book that seems to be more geared towards being an effective counselor for others. The first 6 chapters are extremely helpful in understanding and studying the Bible and see the Word with new eyes.

The Cure of Melancholy by Richard Baxter

And so, if he[Satan] can cast you into melancholy, he can easily tempt you to overmuch sorrow and fear, and to distracting doubts and thoughts, and to murmur against God, and to despair, and still think that you are undone, undone;

This is an excellent book, written in the 1682, by Richard Baxter, in which Baxter shows remarkable understanding of depression and deep discouragement. Read my thoughts here and here.

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking Dungeon, when I may as well walk at Liberty. I have a Key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any Lock in Doubting Castle.

I finally got around to reading this classic this past summer and I was not disappointed. Bunyan wrote the book in the mid 1600s and, through the help of John Owen, it was published in 1678. It is still one of the bestselling books of all time, second only to the Bible! Yes, the English is old and it starts a bit slow but give it a shot and you will find yourself encouraged by it. When you read it, remember that Bunyan likely wrote it while languishing in prison for 12 years because he refused to stop sharing the gospel.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

My friends, this is much, it is a terrible task that we undertake, and there may be consequence to make the brave shudder. For if we fail in this our fight he must surely win, and then where end we? Life is nothings, I heed him not. But to fail here, is not mere life or death. It is that we become as him, that we henceforward become foul things of the night like him, without heart or conscience, preying on the bodies and the souls of those we love best. To us forever are the gates of heaven shut, for who shall open them to us again? We go on for all time abhorred by all, a blot on the face of God’s sunshine, an arrow in the side of Him who died for man. But we are face to face with duty, and in such case must we shrink?

I wrote about this book not long ago here and here and I’ll say it again: I loved this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, loved the thrill, the characters and their love for one another, the masculinity and femininity displayed, Van Helsing, and theme of the sovereignty of God grounding everything. The last quarter of the book is such a ride.

Other Interesting Reads

ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Why don’t we just call plans what they really are: guesses. Start referring to your business plans as business guesses, your financial plans as financial guesses, and your strategic plans as strategic guesses. Now you can stop worrying about them as much. They just aren’t worth the stress.

I read this book most recently out of any of the books on this list and I’m still processing the paradigm shift Fried and Hansson present here. I don’t like most business philosophy “most effective people” leadership type books but I enjoyed and was stirred up by this one. From their thoughts on professionalism to changes in the workplace to trusting employees to encouraging inspiration, you will not be disappointed in taking the time to read this. I started reading this on a Friday afternoon and finished it about 24 hours later!

What is it about growth and business? Why is expansion always the goal? What’s the attraction of big besides ego? (You’ll need a better answer than “economies scale.”) What’s wrong with finding the right size and staying there?

The Tipping Point/Blink/Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Out of the Gladwell triumvirate, my favorite was Blink. Gladwell’s writing is very easy to read and the research he chooses to pull together is very fascinating. Why did I like “Blink?” The best thing that I took from this book is how we can transform our involuntary responses by training and by what we think about. This book is a demonstration of Romans 12:2 and power of our minds. We cannot overcome sin apart from the Holy Spirit’s power working in our hearts but the Holy Spirit will not work against us – we need to be diligent.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

Could I really call this an enjoyable read? Not really, but I both identified with CS Lewis in how his grief is displayed as well as many places where his grief seems wholly his own. That’s why this book is so valuable and worth reading – CS Lewis’ processing of the death of his wife displays what a fog grief can be, how it is truly different for everyone and yet how there are commonalities for all of us who have deeply grieved. If grief is relatively foreign to you, read this book and immerse yourself in the chaos and process that Lewis goes through and so vulnerably displays. If grief is fresh for you, read this book and let Lewis help you walk through it.


Read Full Post »

In my first post on Richard Baxter‘s The Cure of Melancholy, I laid out some of Baxter’s practical tips for those in the throes and fog of depression. Now, I want to walk through his tips for those who are trying to help those struggling with depression. Again, he has some great thoughts for us.

1. As far as you can, avoid those things that displease them and cause them to stumble. He has some strong words for us husbands here:

A husband that hath a such a wife [one that is struggling] is obliged to do his best to cure her, both in charity, and by his relatively bond, and for his own peace. It is a great weakness in some men, that if they have wives, who by natural passionate weakness, or by melancholy or infirmity, are willful and will not yield to reason, they show their anger at them to their further provocation. You took her in marriage for better and for worse, for sickness and health… Your passion and sourness towards a person that cannot cure her own unpleasing carriage, is a more unexcusable fault and folly than hers, who hath not the power of reason as you have. If you know any lawful thing that will please them in speech, in company, in apparel, in rooms, in attendance, give it to them: if you know they are displeased, remove it.

2. Divert them and interrupt their drifting thoughts! I appreciate what he says here:

As much as you can, divert them from the thoughts which are their trouble; keep them on some other talks and business; break in upon them, and interrupt their musings; rouse them out of it, but with loving importunity; suffer them not to be long alone; get fit company to them, or them to it; especially, suffer them not to be idle, but drive or draw them to some pleasing works which may stir the body, and employ the thoughts. If they are addicted to reading, let it not be too long, nor any books that are unfit for them; and rather let another read to them than themselves.

He recommends books from Richard Sibbes, also recommended here by my friend and pastor.

3. Set the great truths of the gospel before them which align most with what they’re struggling with. Baxter encourages us to read them encouraging books.

4. Help them find a solid pastor both for counsel and to sit under their preaching.

5. Gently seek to convince them of how much it grieves God to doubt His love. Listen to Baxter’s thoughts here:

Labour to convince them frequently how great a wrong it is to the God of infinite love and mercy, and to a Saviour who hath so wonderfully expressed his love, to think hardlier of him than they would do of a friend, yea, or of a moderate enemy; and so hardly to be persuaded of that love which has been manifested by the most stupendous miracle. Had they but a father, husband, or friend, that had ventured his life for them, and given them all that ever they had, were it not a shameful ingratitude and injury to suspect still that they intended all against them, and designed mischief to them, and did not love them?

6. Introduce them to strangers and strange company. This is an interesting suggestion to say the least! I think part of Baxter’s heart is to help folks struggling with depression to take their eyes off of themselves.

7. Engage them in comforting others that struggling more than they are. Why? Baxter’s thought and experience is that this will help them understand they are not alone in their struggle, that their struggle is not unique or incurable.

8. Do not neglect medicine! Depression may be just spiritual, might be just physical, or it might be both! Baxter encourages us to not rule out either.

The Cure of Melancholy is a great read and I highly recommend you read it, especially husbands. It should encourage us that depression and deep discouragement is nothing new and is not particular to our time and culture even. Baxter was dealing with same things in himself and in ministering to others almost 400 years ago!

Read Full Post »

Depression is a very common struggle, even in the church in America. You might call that merely a blanket statement, but in my experience I’ve seen a number of brothers deal with deep discouragement and even more wives of husbands I know. I’ve seen my own wife struggle with the fog of deep discouragement and borderline depression. Personally, I’ve never battled it; I’m more of a thinker and less of a feeler. On top of that, a major weakness and sin in my life has been a lack of empathy for others. For most of my marriage, I feel like I have not been hugely helpful to my wife! I want to grow and God has been working on my heart, using my marriage, my kids, and a slowly growing understanding of the gospel. Countless times I have had to confess my lack of love and there are likely many more times my family has simply given me grace for my coldness and lack of compassion.

Out of my desire to learn and keep growing, I read through John Piper’s When the Darkness Does Not Lift. It’s a worthwhile read with an excellent closing chapter. However, in the book, Piper kept referencing another book, The Cure of Melancholy by Richard Baxter. I looked it up on my Kindle and bought and downloaded it for 99 cents! It didn’t take long for me to realize what a jewel this book is and what wisdom Baxter has for us even 400 years later! Baxter’s book on dealing with depression (melancholy) and discouragement is tremendously insightful, practical, and revealed that depression is not a new struggle. He lists a number of tips for those walking through depression:

1. Listen to folks wiser than yourself and believe them!

2. Trust that God is sovereign even over the purposes of Satan.

3. Avoid prolonged times of thinking and prayer alone! (see quote below)

4. Do not spend much time alone! (see quote below)

Avoid your musings, and exercise not your thoughts now too deeply, nor too much. Long meditation is a duty to some, but not to you, no more than it is a man’s duty to go to church that hath his leg broken, or his foot out of joint: he must rest and ease it till it be set again, and strengthened. You may live in the faith and fear of God, without setting yourself to deep, disturbing thoughts. Those that will not obey this counsel, their friends must rouse them from their musings, and call them off to something else. Therefore you must not be much alone, but always in some pleasing, cheerful company: solitariness doth but cherish musings. Nor must such be long in secret prayer, but more in public prayer with others.

5. As much as you can, think on these things:

  • The infinite goodness of God
  • Christ’s immeasurable love for you and how that love is demonstrated in His redemption and sacrifice
  • God’s offer of grace and free covenant
  • The awesome love and joy which we have in Christ and God has promised.

Do not be given over to complaining but talk of these things. Be honest but run to the gospel in conversations.

6. When you pray, resolve to spend much of that time in thanksgiving and praising God!

7. Do not entertain the thoughts and lies and temptations of Satan nor be troubled by them. Ask for help from trusted friends when losing the battle against these thoughts!

8. Be encouraged that you are even wrestling with sin and the weight of it. This reflects the heart of a believer, not an unbeliever outside of His love. Baxter says this:

Again, still remember what a comfortable evidence you carry about with you that your sin is not damning, while you feel that you love it not, but hate it, and are weary of it. Scarce any sort of sinners have so little pleasure in their sins as the melancholy, nor so little desire to keep them; and only beloved sins undo men.

9. Avoid idleness but seek to work hard. Baxter is not saying to avoid rest or downtime altogether but that idleness is dangerous.

One more immensely practical thought from Baxter for the depressed:

I would give you this advice, that instead of long meditation, or long secret prayer, you will sing a psalm of praise to God, such as the twenty-third, or the one hundred and thirty-third. This will excite your spirit to that sort of holy affection which is much more acceptable to God, and suitable to the hopes of a believer, that your repining troubles are.

I highly recommend this short read and thank God for Richard Baxter, who is known for having been a very practical and a powerful preacher of the gospel in the early 1600s. I want to leave a final sobering thought for those of us whom the fog of depression rarely if ever invades. If you are reading this and struggling with depression, please stop reading, this last note is not for you! Most of us are not dealing with the deep fog that depression can be. Most of us, like me, are dealing with discouragement or discontentment from something else…

The more pleasure you have in sin, usually the more sorrow it will bring you; and the more you know it to be sin, and conscience tells you that God is against it, and yet you will go on, and bear down conscience, the sharper will conscience afterwards afflict you,

Sin does not bring me joy but pain and death. It may bring temporary pleasure, but it won’t last. Much of my wrestling with discouragement is my own battle to let go of sin and cling to greater joy in Christ. In my next post, I’ll delve more into Baxter’s thoughts on how to help others who are wrestling with depression or deep discouragement.

Read Full Post »