Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris

dug down deepHow would you like to read a book on systematic theology that you could enjoy, learn from, and constantly forget that you were reading a book on theology? In this volume that is exactly what you will get. There’s real depth here but it’s sprung on you subtly. The cumulative amount of doctrine taken in will surprise you by book’s end. In our day when Christians would rather face an IRS audit than read a book on systematic theology, this book has great potential. In fact, I don’t think large theology books are read by anyone outside the categories of pastor or scholar, and probably few pastors have read such a work in years. This book will allow you to think of the great subjects again.
Mr. Harris can write. There’s no question about that. When he uses the example of rumspringa from the Amish world in chapter one to lure us in, I was caught a third of the way in. We realize the gap between what we say we believe and what we do is often helplessly far apart. This could be because we have never really grasped what the Bible is saying to us as we have imagined we have. Another hint: Jesus Christ is part of the answer no matter what the question is. I loved how he used his story and the earlier story of his father to tell this story. That’s how he pulls it off. The story is captivating and doctrine woven through it. When you finish the story, you think, wow, that was interesting. Then as you think about it, you find yourself wrestling with the greatest doctrines.

He begins with the doctrine of the Bible as a foundation to decide our beliefs. He reads well and is never superficial. From there he makes us face the doctrine of Christ. Next he carefully draws a realistic picture of the depths of the tragedy of sin in us. How our age needs this discussion! We forget how badly we need Jesus because we haven’t fully comprehended the mess we are in.

In chapter 7 the chapter is as good as its catchy title: “How Jesus Saved Gregg Eugene Harris”. I think you will find it quite similar to the story of how Jesus saved you. There’s no overt Calvinism in the chapter though you suspect he believes that regeneration precedes your putting faith in Christ. Still, the chapter was thought-provoking. In his chapter on the Holy Spirit I was absolutely shocked that he, to some degree, looked favorably on speaking in tongues. Had the few sentences that spoke of that   been deleted, you would find an exceptionally balanced presentation of the doctrine of the Spirit.

The book works on every level. He even addresses common misunderstanding that are driving the Christian world and how they don’t quite mesh with God’s Word. As a pastor, I found the book personally rewarding. It was review, it was more perspective, and it seemed to suggest dozens of sermon ideas. Beyond that, I recommend Christians every where read this book and mine its treasures.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 .

Guest Blogger Mark Fowler-The Value of a Good Book

Mark and Stephanie Fowler

I’m thrilled to have my friend Mark Fowler contribute a guest blog for us. He has worked for many years at Temple Baptist Church and Crown College in Powell, Tennessee and has now become the pastor of Pleasant Beach Baptist Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee. I am excited to see all that the Lord will do with his life in the days ahead.
What would you pay to attend Charles Spurgeon’s college in the height of its existence? How far would you travel to sit in the woods and listen to the birds with Vance Hanver? Would you like to pray with Andrew Murray or listen to Alexander McClaren preach? What would a seminar on money or time management cost? Would you like to talk to a dear saint of God who has gone through a great trial and found God faithful?

What would you give to sit in the study with the great theologians and be at their desk as they gather their thoughts on a Bible passage? And what would you give to spend a day with Moses or with Christ and the disciples? What Christian would not like to sit with Moody and Sankey in their great crusades?

Would you like to travel to Africa with Livingston or to India with Carey? Is there anything we can learn from those who study our culture and provide statistics and analysis? Is there any value in the great minds of our day? Can we be taught to be more effective in ministry?

Price would not be an issue for an opportunity to live a simpler life and spend time meditating with the Puritans. Imagine the great expense of traveling the sawdust trail with Billy Sunday or following Edwards and Whitfield through the Great Awakening.

Some would say this is not possible. I can not afford a trip to London, China, or the Holy Land. For a few dollars and a little of my time I have attended their colleges, listened to them preach and pray, and borrowed nuggets of wisdom in areas of life that they have mastered.

I just had a great weekend alone in the woods with Vance Havner enjoying God’s creation. I enrolled in Spurgeon’s college for less than forty dollars and spent the weekend with Havner for just five. I think I will spend the day listening to Spurgeon lecture, or McClaren preach, or Murray pray. This list could go on and you may choose different names and experiences. At times I can almost smell the leather and old books in their studies or see the dust from the earth on the aged missionaries faces. In my heart I hear to the revival singing of days gone by.

We choose who we travel with and who we learn from by the books we buy and read. There is immeasurable value in a good book. We can enter their world for a little while. Who will you travel with next?

Recommended Blog Post I Read

I enjoyed reading a fine blogpost about books by Scott Pauley here: http://scottpauley.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/a-few-thoughts-on-books/

He discusses his influences and where he is today in his thinking about a personal library. Then he proceeds to give advice. Since he is Vice President at Crown College in Powell, Tennessee, I’m sure he desires to impact students who will be in the ministry. Still, what he says applies to us all.
He gives pointers on sifting through options as there are so many books on any given subject. He reminds us where to keep the Bible in regards to the books we gather about the Bible. Then perhaps best of all, he offers suggestions on how to get the most out of your books. I encourage you to read his blogpost as he has said things that, in my judgment, need to be said.

Alexander MacLaren (Great Preachers Series)

Everyone has his or her favorite, and here is mine–Alexander MacLaren. He is another of the great Victorian Age preachers. He pastored for many years, most notably in Manchester, England and died in 1910. He was no where near the pastor Spurgeon was, and perhaps Spurgeon outranked him in a simple Gospel message, but otherwise he is without peer. When it comes to preaching what the Bible actually says, which I hope you would agree is the actual job of the preacher, MacLaren stands at the head of the class among preachers in the English language.
Alexander Maclaren
Looking at his awesome sermons you will find them pretty evenly divided between textual and expository and always with faithfulness to the text. The text never suggests some subject to him where he feels the need to imbibe us with his soapbox opinions. It’s just the Bible. You always feel a “Thus saith the Lord” when reading him. That is not to say they lack creativity. In fact, they overflow with imagination. His artistry, though, always stayed within the confines of what the text said. You might say his preaching was the perfect marriage of the science of exegeting the passage and the art of preaching it.
His colleagues readily admitted that he was a master craftsman. W. Robertson Nicoll, a prolific editor of his day, said: “A man who reads one of MacLaren’s sermons must either take his outline or take another text”. He further said, “MacLaren touched every text with a silver hammer and it broke up into three natural and memorable divisions.”
We might learn from MacLaren. When asked the secret of his success, he would reply in a word: work. Not that he denied the divine enabling by the Holy Spirit, he just admitted that it is work to dig out sermons. A lack of hard work in preparing a message likely means you don’t have much of a sermon. He so believed this that he always wore work boots to his study. To read his sermons is to believe he lived what he advised. He never followed fads in preaching, or concerned himself with a message for the times, as he felt the Bible carried a message for the ages. When speaking of power in preaching he said personal godliness was the first and greatest criteria. He put preaching at the top of his ministry. He saw it as the answer to every conceivable issue we might face in the ministry. You might say that is taking it too far, but could you admit our emphasis on the power of preaching is lacking today? As one writer described it, MacLaren’s motto of ministry could be summed as “This one thing I do.” This could be a powerful corrective to  the trends of our day of pastors often working on the most trivial things while the greatest thing lies languishing under the weight of their busy schedules.
He shared a trait with most of those I would put in my greatest preacher category–an unusual personality. I don’t know why but they all have the most distinct peculiarities. Those who would try to interview him would be bewildered by its end and would likely learn nothing. He leaned heavily on his wife and would agonize over his sermons and often think them pitiful failures even when others were greatly blessed by them. Still, his sermons were phenomenal. David Larsen in his delightful The Company of the Preachers tells of one of his most memorable sermons. It was entitled “Mahanaim: Two Camps” on Genesis 32. Here’s the outline:
I. The angels of God meet us on the dusty road of common life
II. The angels of God meet us punctually at the hour of need
III. The angels of God come in the shape we need.
Look at the text–it’s there. I don’t know about you, but I call that an outline.
His messages collected in a set called Expositions of Holy Scripture (in either 11 or 17 volumes) contain the full set of his sermons. His sermons were originally given in various volumes, but this collection conveniently gathers them all in scriptural order. He also wrote great commentaries on Psalms and Colossians printed in The Expositor’s Bible and the helpful The Life of David Reflected in the Psalms. His sermons are as moving in print as they must have been when he delivered them.
For further study you could look for Life of Alexander MacLaren by David Williamson and Dr. McLaren of Manchester by E. T. McLaren (there is debate about the spelling of his last name). Warren Wiersbe’s Walking With The Giants, Ernest Jeffs’ Princes Of The Modern Pulpit, and W. Robertson Nicoll’s Princes of The Church all contain a great chapter on MacLaren.
To let you know how much I admire this man. Three years ago (2009) when my wife became paralyzed while carrying a child and we realized he would be our last one, I talked her into letting me name him. His first name would be Elisha for one of my favorite Bible characters. His middle name? You guessed it. MacLaren. Here’s a namesake for the man who in my opinion is the greatest preacher you could ever read.
Jimmy and Elisha Reagan

And The Winner Is…

Pastor Jerry Thrower

Congratulations Pastor Thrower. You won a free copy of “Healing Your Church Hurts” by Stephen Mansfield” from the publisher. Please send me your mailing address.I assigned each entrant a number (plus assigning any extra entries a person doing one of the things that qualified a separate number) and used an online random number generator to select the winner.

A big thanks to all who participated.

Since the review for the book “Healing Your Church Hurts”, I have written reviews for 2 volumes from different publishers that some of you might find interesting:

“The Jesus We Missed” http://reaganreview.blogspot.com/2012/02/jesus-we-missed-by-reardon-book-review.html

and “How To Read The Bible Through The Jesus Lens” http://reaganreview.blogspot.com/2012/02/jesus-we-missed-by-reardon-book-review.html

It’s worked out that I will be reviewing a few titles for Kregel and possibly Baker. These publishers publish some of the better Bible study books out there. These, with the others I’m working with, should provide me some great books I will in turn be able to tell you about in the days ahead. I still have some other blogs that I mentioned earlier that I will be putting on too. I intend to provide some more blogs from guest bloggers too.

Again, thank you for your support.