Steal Like an Artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative (New York NY: Workman Publishing Company, 2012)

Even if you are like me and have problems drawing coherent stick figures, you can benefit from this work.

But, certainly, if you write, paint or photograph, Austin Kleon advises you — and his younger self — on how to steal creativity without resorting to outright artistic theft.

Pablo Picasso said “Art is theft” because artists don’t produce anything completely original. Kleon helps the artist recognize the good in others’ work, make it his own, and make it better.

Recommended.

Wordsmithy: hot tips for the writing life (Moscow ID: Canon Press, 2011)

Cultivate your interest and skill in writing, or in any creative enterprise, with Douglas Wilson’s Wordsmithy.

Wilson discusses his writing wisdom in light of seven commands, which, in keeping with good instruction, (mostly) constitute active verbs:

  • know something about the world
  • read
  • read mechanical helps
  • stretch before your routines
  • be at peace with being lousy for a while
  • learn other languages
  • keep a commonplace book

Lists of recommended resources (the bane of any tributary-traveling bibliophile) fill almost every section, and are alone worth the cost and expense of the book.

Recommended.

The Backslider (Birmingham AL: Solid Ground, 1801, 2005)

Andrew Fuller wrote about backsliding in 1801, but he might as well have been writing to many in the church today.

Listen to some of these gems from J.A. James’ Introduction:

…the symptom of declension [backsliding] were but too evident, in a diminished interest on the subject of religion, and in less frequent attendance on its public ordinances, till at length, nothing but the form of godliness remained, and even that so mutilated or wasted, as to have lost all its symmetry as well as its vitality.

Living in an age of commercial and political excitement, and acted upon by surrounding scenes, they have little time and less inclination for those exercises of devotion, self-examination, and watchfulness, which at all times are necessary, and especially so in the present, for maintaining ore regaining the vitality of religion; and thus they slide down into a lukewarm state, and settle at length in a confirmed departure from God.

Diminished interest, declining attendance, and lack of attention to devotion, self-examination and watchfulness. Was he a time traveler?

Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus (Wheaton IL: Crossway, 2016)

The Christian life is the discipled life. … It is for for a people traveling together down the narrow path that leads to life. You must follow and you must lead. You must be loved and you must love. And we love others best by helping them to follow Jesus down the pathway of life.

Mark Dever provides a working definition of discipleship: “helping others to follow Jesus.”

Discipling is one of a series of books in the 9Marks series of practical resources for building healthy churches. This particular series addresses each of the Nine Marks of a Healthy Church individually. I’ve been waiting for some time for the last two, of which Discipling is one (we’re still waiting on Biblical Conversion).

According to Dever, “any claim to love for God that does not show itself in a love for neighbor is a love of a false god, another form of idolatry,” and that “discipling others … demonstrates this love God and others as well as anything.”

Getting Back Into the Race: The Cure for Backsliding (Adelphi MD: Cruciform Press, 2011)

I’ve never much cared for the term “backsliding” in reference to the Christian life.

This probably stems from its use as a sort of quasi-excuse for a believer’s disobedience to the Lord’s commands to walk with him daily, as in “Oh, he’s just a backslidden Christian.”

I thank Joel Beeke for redeeming the term, and reminding me that the concept is clear in Scripture, with many translators using that exact term for the biblical concept of God’s people turning away from him in sin, lethargy, indifference, spiritual coldness, and outright rebellion.

Even professing Christians who remain long in such a condition can no longer claim an assurance of having been regenerated in the first place, but for those who profess Christ and for whom the hope of restoration is still applicable, the term fits.

Backslider.

Beeke defines what backsliding is, biblically speaking, then gives an excellent description of the backslider, useful for thorough and humbling self-examination. Some of the signs of backsliding or “falling into the spiritual rut” that Beeke identifies are 1) coldness in prayer, 2) indifference under the Word, 3) growing inner corruptions, 4) love of the world, 5) declining love for believers, and 6) man-centered hopes.

Rather than a “normal” condition for Christians to periodically fall into, Beeke demonstrates that backsliding is a terrible sin against God, and that the failure to recognize and appreciate its significance is also sinful.

But for the backsliding believer who doesn’t with to remain in that condition, there is great hope. God welcomes the returning backslider, providing the means for his restoration in “justifying”, “adopting”, and “sanctifying” grace.

Beeke gives an excellent treatment of the subject, clarifying for believers that many times if we aren’t already in a “spiritual rut” of backsliding, we are dangerously close, and should take heed to flee again to the grace of God for preventive measures.

One seeming omission is Beeke’s lack of reference to declining love for the lost as a sign of backsliding, as it is manifested in failure to evangelize and disciple others.

On the whole, however, Beeke’s treatment is excellent, and one that every Christian should review.

Holiness (Carlisle PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994)

When the Lord calls people to himself, he calls them to give whole life and pure life.

Joel Beeke maintains that when we consider what the Bible says about “holiness,” we can understand better what God requires by considering whole-ness and purity. That is, we are making progress in holiness when we set aside our whole lives to God, and when we are striving for purity in every aspect of them.

This is a good summary of holiness in the Christian life.