A Different Kind of Happiness (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016)

Larry Crabb’s book is subtitled “Discovering the Joy that Comes from Sacrificial Love” and suggests an understanding of “true happiness” that comes from “true relationship.”

This description from the title and dust cover hits all those significant terms we might expect to generate book sales: joy, love, happiness, relationship.

First Thing versus Second Thing Happiness

Crabb begins with a good contrast of the kinds of happiness that vie for our attention, capture our imagination, and drive our actions: “first thing happiness” and “second thing happiness.” Crabb describes second thing happiness as when

We prefer to enjoy the good feelings that rise up within us when we are noticed, wanted, and respected by others, when things go well in our lives, according to our plans; and when we do fun things. We then often demand whatever produces the good feelings we want and feel bad when our demands go unmet.

By contrast, Crabb says, the Christian should strive for first thing happiness, which is “is entirely different”, and

develops when we struggle to love others with a costly love that is possible only if we have a life-giving relationship with Jesus that is grounded entirely in His love for us. … If we think we’re loving others and don’t experience something identifiable as joy, it would be good to wonder if we’re really loving anybody.

As with much of secular wisdom, particularly in the area of mental health, this demonstrates the truism that it might be adept at describing effects — behaviors, neuroses, attitudes, etc — but is dreadful at evaluating causes and prescribing remedies.

Questions about “The Character of the Church” (Chicago: Moody, 2017)

A more complete review of Joe Thorn’s The Character of the Church (Chicago: Moody, 2017) will be coming, but I wanted to put a question out there in advance.

Thorn has written a trio of books as primers for the gospel and church life (The Character of the Church, The Heart of the Church, The Life of the Church), and being on the constant lookout for good resources for the congregation, I obtained a set.

In resources on church practice, I typically turn to the author’s treatment of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper first. I found that Thorn advocates Open communion, though he doesn’t forbid Close and Closed communion (more on that in the full review). He supports Open communion in part by quoting John Bunyan. Here’s the paragraph from Thorn, in which he quotes Bunyan:

All who have trusted in Jesus Christ are admitted to the table. Differences in views on the mode of baptism, therefore, does not [sic] restrict them from receiving the meal. All who know the Lord and are “visible saints” are welcome to participate in communion. In his classic Differences in Water Baptism, No Bar to Communion, John Bunyan explains, “The church of Christ hath not warrant to keep out of their communion the Christian that is discovered to be a visible saint by the word, the Christian that walketh according to his light with God.”

At this point, I haven’t looked into Bunyan’s work for context, but hope to do so soon. In the meantime, here are the questions this raises in my mind:

  • How does Thorn define “visible saints”? (He doesn’t explain in the section on the Lord’s Supper)
  • How does Bunyan define “visible saints”?
  • For either Thorn or Bunyan, who determines whether a person is a “visible saint,” and thus welcome at the table?
  • What does it mean that the “visible saint” is discovered to be so “by the word”?
  • Who makes this determination?

If you’ve already completed Thorn’s material, or have read Bunyan on the subject and can shed some light for me, I’d be glad to here from you. Share your insights in the facebook comments below.

A Praying Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2009)

Judging by the number of books on Christian prayer, we’re pretty bad at it.

This is not surprising, since even the disciples had to ask Jesus for help (Luke 11:1).

Paul Miller attempts to help believers pray by reminding us that prayer is difficult when we focus on the process, rather than on the result. He likens this to gathering with friends and family after a meal to talk, and being more concerned with the mechanics of conversational protocol than with enjoying the people we’re with.

Praying Together (Wheaton IL: Crossway, 2016)

Prayer is a constant struggle for most Christians, and is consistently absent from the life of the church.

Megan Hill tries to show believers that this ought not be so, and persuades us of the need for corporate prayer be explaining its foundations, fruits, and practices.

I recommend this, but see a fuller treatment here.


Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart (Nashville: Broadman Holman, 2013)

The common understanding of salvation as “asking Jesus into your heart” is problematic for those who lack assurance that they “asked” enough or Jesus left, as well as for those who have a false sense of security, believing that because they “asked,” Jesus was obliged to enter and remain.

J.D. Greear addresses this issue, and hints that we are not left with either false insecurity or false security in his subtitle: How to know for sure you are saved.

From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading, and Applying the Bible (East Peoria IL: Versa Press, 2014)

As the subtitle suggests, Sinclair Ferguson here gives a three-part encouragement for Christians to follow Christ by knowing and obeying the Bible.

In Part One, Ferguson gives an explanation of how one can know that the Bible’s writings are God’s revelation, and not merely the product of human imaginings. He also demonstrates why the Bible consists of the books it does, and not other writings.

A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: the legacy of Jonathan Edwards (Wheaton IL: Crossway, 2004)

J.I. Packer declares in various articles and essays a biblical view of revival and restoration in the church.

I had found a few of these in a collection of his shorter writings, and then kept seeing hints and references to other resources, which I could never find. Then someone provided me a link to a column about revival that referenced Packer’s contribution to this book, so I had to have it.

Contributions by other authors initially held no interest for me, but I found a few other nuggets. John Piper reminds us why we still need Jonathan Edwards, and provides an “Edwardsean sermon”, as well.

Mark Dever explains how Edwards got fired, and what we can learn from that episode. Don Whitney describes how Edwards made us of the spiritual disciplines.

But by far the most interest for me was Packer’s article on revival, “The Glory of God and the Reviving of Religion: A Study in the Mind of Jonathan Edwards.” If you are familiar with Packer’s other work on the nature and meaning of revival, you should obtain a copy of this book to complete those materials.

If you are unfamiliar with Jonathan Edwards, and would like a good introduction to his significance to the church, his brilliant theological contribution, and his practical religion, this will serve well.