Bibliography for One: The Being of God in the Life of the Church

When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share resources I utilized in my study and preparation for sermons. Here is the bibliography for our recent series, “One: The Being of God in the Life of the Church.”

Bibliography for “One: The Being of God in the Life of the Church”

Gregory K. Beale. The Book of Revelation. NIGTC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998.

Raymond E. Brown. The Gospel of John, I-XII. Anchor Bible. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1966.

Tim Chester. Delighting in the Trinity. Oxford: Monarch Books, 2005.

Marva J. Dawn. Truly the Community: Romans 12 and How to Be the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997.

Michael O. Emerson and George Yancey. Transcending Racial Barriers: Toward a Mutual Obligations Approach. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Irwyn L. Ince, Jr. The Beautiful Community: Unity, Diversity, and the Church at Its Best. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2020.

Andrew T. Lincoln. Ephesians. WBC. Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1990.

________. “God’s Name, Jesus’ Name, and Prayer in the Fourth Gospel.” In Into God’s Presence: Prayer in the New Testament, edited by Richard N. Longenecker, 155-180. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The Assurance of Our Salvation (Studies in John 17): Exploring the Depth of Jesus’ Prayer for His Own. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013.

Scot McKnight. A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.

Christine D. Pohl. Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012.

Ephraim Radner. Hope Among the Fragments: The Broken Church and Its Engagement of Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2004.

Michael Reeves. Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012.

Ken Sande. The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004.

C. Christopher Smith. How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversations in the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2019.

Gerhard Von Rad. Genesis. Translated by John H. Marks. OTL. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961.

Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks. Genesis: A Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

Bibliography for The Kingdom of God

When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share the resources I used to help me study and prepare my sermons. Here is the first of two bibliographies for our current series, “The Kingdom of God.” Next week I will share a second bibliography specifically related to faith and politics that I leaned on for the last two weekends of this series.

Bibliography for “The Kingdom of God”

Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen. The True Story of the Whole World. Grand Rapids, MI: Faith Alive Publications, 2009.

John Bright. The Kingdom of God: The Biblical Concept and Its Meaning for the Church. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1953.

C. C. Caragounis. “Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 417–430. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

George Eldon Ladd. Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God. London: The Paternoster Press, 1959.

________. The Pattern of New Testament Truth. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1968.

________. Jesus and the Kingdom: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism, 2nd ed. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1969.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The Kingdom of God. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991.

Jürgen Moltmann. Trinity and the Kingdom. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993.

Nicholas Perrin. The Kingdom of God: A Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019.

Vaughan Roberts. God’s Big Picture: Tracing the storyline of the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

James K. A. Smith. “The Church as Social Theory: A Reformed Engagement with Radical Orthodoxy.” In The Community of the Word: Toward an Evangelical Ecclesiology, edited by Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier, 219-34. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005.

Al Tizon. Whole and Reconciled: Gospel, Church, and Mission in a Fractured World. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2018.

Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi. Kingdom Come : How Jesus Wants to Change the World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

Dallas Willard. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998.

N. T. Wright. How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. New York: Harper One, 2012.

Recovering Holiness

HolinessAs I continue to reflect on the nature of pastoral ministry, ministry in the North American evangelical church, and questions of ministry integrity, I find myself returning often to the topic of holiness. Even writing the word holiness makes me feel a little bit “old school.” However, if I hold the tension of that uncomfortable feeling for a bit, I cannot help but think we may need to be a little “old school” right now on this issue.

So, I turned to a voice from an earlier time, J. C. Ryle, whose classic book Holiness has been highly regarded for years, with pastors like J. I. Packer and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones urging Christians to read it. Let me share a brief excerpt from his introduction to this book, which, I believe, puts some perspective on where we stand today in North American Christianity.

I’ve had a deep conviction for many years that practical holiness and entire self-consciousness to God are not sufficiently attended to by modern Christians in this country. Politics, or controversy, or party spirit, or worldliness have eaten out the heart of lively piety in too many of us. The subject of personal godliness has fallen sadly into the background. The standard of living has become painfully low in many quarters. Immense importance of “adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour” (Titus 2:10), and making it lovely and beautiful by our daily habits and tempers, has been far too much overlooked. Worldly people sometimes complain with reason that “religious” persons, so-called, are not so amiable, and unselfish, and good-natured, as others who make no profession of religion. Yet sanctification, in its place in proportion, is quite as important as justification. Sound Protestant and evangelical doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless: it does positive harm. It is despised by keen-sighted and shrewd men of the world, as an unreal and hollow thing, and brings religion into contempt. It is my firm impression that we want a thorough revival about scriptural holiness, and I am deeply thankful that attention is being directed to the point.

As Ryle continues his introduction, he outlines a series of issues related to holiness, some of which apply to our own day and some of which seem more bound to his own time. It is, however, his first point that I find particularly relevant to our own context. In the midst of our heavy emphasis on grace in North American Christianity, we have at times veered off into various versions of antinomianism, where there is no place – or at least disregard – for God’s law and obedience. As with the work of Dallas Willard, sometimes simplified in the writings of John Ortberg, we find Ryle grappling with the tension between faith and work, between earning God’s favor and application of effort to honor God. On the subject of holiness, he writes:

That faith in Christ is the root of all holiness; that the first step towards a holy life is to believe on Christ; that until we believe we have not a jot of holiness; that union with Christ by faith is the secret of both beginning to be holy and continuing holy; that the life that we live in the flesh, we must live by the faith of the Son of God; that faith purifies the heart; that faith is the victory which overcomes the world; that by faith the elders obtain a good report – all these are truths which no well-instructed Christian will ever think of denying. But surely the Scriptures teach us that in following holiness the true Christian needs personal exertion and work as well as faith….Justifying faith is a grace that “worketh not,” but simply trusts, rests, and leans on Christ (Rom. 4:5). Sanctifying faith is a grace of which the very life is action: it “worketh by love,” and, like a mainspring, moves the whole inward man (Gal. 5:6).

What Ryle emphasizes, and we rightly need to recover, is the emphatic coupling of justifying grace with sanctifying grace. We need to recover the truth that our unearned salvation by grace through faith in Christ overflows into a holy life strenuously lived as worship unto the Lord through obedience. I cannot help but think that one of the things we most need to recover today in North American Christianity is holiness.

Fasting: Is It Just from Food?

In the midst of all the posts on fasting, a few people have asked me if fasting is really all about abstinence from food, or is it broader than that. I think this is an important question for us to consider within this whole topic.

In an earlier post, I defined fasting as “voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.” If we were to do a biblical study on fasting (see my Old Testament and New Testament studies on the topic), we would find that fasting is always connected with physical abstinence from food.

Scot McKnight, in his excellent book Fasting, describes fasting as ‘body language’. It is a physical way of responding to a sacred moment; of communicating to God our desire, grief, repentance, etc. The very physicality of skipping a meal, or meals, is a means of expressing to God our spiritual longing for Him.

Thus, as Kari McIntyre, a friend and earlier commentator on my posts on fasting wrote:

The physical response from my body when fasting from food reminds me of the purpose of my fast, that I need God. So if I’m to abstain from food, the only thing that can satisfy my need is God. Therefore I spend more time praying to God for the reason why I am fasting.

At the same time, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a renowned British pastor and teacher of the Bible from the 20th century, defined fasting in a much broader sense:

Fasting, if we conceive of it truly, must not only be confined to the question of food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose.

So, is fasting just related to food, or is it a broader self-denying “abstinence which is legitimate sin and of itself”?

Although I agree with the direction of Lloyd-Jones’ thought, I would define what he calls fasting as self-denial or even simplicity. My view is that fasting has to do with food, not other things. I have not seen any connection between the term fasting and anything but food or liquids in the Bible. (The one exception to this is Isaiah 58 where fasting is connected with justice & righteousness.)

It is worth saying, though, that stepping back from other things that we give much time or energy to (e.g., TV, Facebook, work, shopping) can be helpful for our spiritual growth. However we categorize this (self-denial or a form of simplicity), I do not think of it strictly as fasting.

That being said, there are some folks for whom fasting as traditionally understood is not a realistic option because of health issues (e.g., diabetes, pregnancy). In cases like this, other forms of self-denial can be viewed as a viable substitute for fasting.

In the midst of these discussions, we do well not to get overly concerned with definitions and categories, but with the heart of the matter: putting ourselves in a place where God can truly transform us to be more like Jesus.

  • Leviticus 23:27 – “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves [or fast], and present a food offering to the Lord.” – This is an example of regularly scheduled (annual) days of fasting for God’s people corporately.
  • Ezra 8:21-23 – “There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions…we fasted and petitioned our God about this [need for protection on the journey] and He answered our prayer.” – Corporate fast called by Ezra, leader of the Israelite envoy back to the homeland, for help from God in the face of desperate need.
  • Judges 20:26 – “Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings of the Lord. And the Israelites inquired of the Lord.” – In response to terrible wrongs down by the tribe of Benjamin, the remainder of the tribes gathered in grief to fast and pray and seek God’s guidance as to how they should respond.
  • 1 Samuel 31:13 – “Then they took their bones [Saul and his sons] and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.” – King Saul and his sons had been brutally killed. They people of a nearby town, Jabesh Gilead, grieved in response with fasting.
  • Esther 4:16 – “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for m e. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law.” – This is an example of an absolute fast Keep reading →

March 30, 2010

Types of Fasting

In his book Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life, Donald Whitney offers a helpful list of different types of fasting that I found particularly helpful. I have distilled Whitney’s comments down here in hopes of giving a basic framework for understanding the variety of fasting seen in the Scriptures.

  • Normal fast – abstaining from all food, but not water (Matt 4:2; Luke 4:2)
  • Partial fast – abstaining from some food; a limitation of diet (Daniel 1:12; Matt 3:4)
  • Absolute fast – abstaining from all food and water (Ezra 10:6; Esther 4:16; Acts 9:9)
  • Supernatural fast – an absolute fast that surpasses normal human limitations; this requires God’s supernatural intervention (Deut 9:9; 1 Kings 19:8)
  • Private fast – a personal pursuit of God that is hidden from or not noticed by others (Matt 6:16-18)
  • Congregational fasts – gathering as a local group of believers in order to see God (Joel 2:15; Acts 13:2)
  • National fasts – gathering as an entire nation to seek God (2 Chron. 20:3; Jonah 3:5-8)
  • Regular fasts – specific days scheduled at regular times, such as the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:29-31) or monthly fasts (Zech 8:19); Lent (the 40-day period from Ash Wednesday to Easter) is traditionally seen as a time for fasting for Christians
  • Occasional fasts – seasons of fasting established by leaders in response to specific situations or cataclysmic events (see Esther 4:16 and 2 Chron 20:3)

The bottom-line is that while fasting is, as Whitney says, “a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual reasons,” there are a variety of ways that this is worked out.

[This is part of a series of posts related to our week of prayer and fasting at Brooklife Church from March 28 to April 4, 2010.]

March 30, 2010

Fasting: Why Do We Do It?

Throughout the Bible, there are many reasons given for fasting, from personal spiritual renewal to community repentance before God.

In this week of prayer and fasting at Brooklife Church, we are specifically connecting with times in the Bible where God’s people pray and fast in order to express deep needs before God. As a community, we are standing together by praying and fasting to say to God in a very tangible way that we need to hear from Him.

In the Old Testament, we see this when Ezra, the spiritual leader of the people, gathered the entire nation together to pray and fast in the face of a desperate need. They were returning to their homeland after an extended exile in Babylon.  “There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children …we fasted and petitioned our God about this [need for protection on the journey] and He answered our prayer” (Ezra 8:21-23).

[This is part of a series of posts related to our week of prayer and fasting at Brooklife Church from March 28 to April 4, 2010.]

March 29, 2010

Fasting: Some practical guidelines

Here are some very practical guidelines on fasting that have been helpful for me from Adele Calhoun’s book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook:

  • Don’t fast when you are sick, traveling, pregnant or nursing. People with diabetes, gout, liver disease, kidney disease, ulcers, hypoglycemia, cancer and blood diseases should not fast.
  • Don’t fast if you are in a hurry and are fasting for immediate results regarding some decision. Fasting is not magic.
  • Listen for a nudging from God to fast.
  • Stay hydrated. Always drink plenty of water and fluids.
  • If you are new to fasting, begin by fasting for one meal. Spend time with God that you would normally be eating.
  • Work up to longer fasts. Don’t attempt prolonged fasts without guidance. Check with your doctor before attempting long periods of fasting.
  • If you decide to fast regularly, give your body time to adjust to new rhythms of eating. You may feel more tired on days you fast. Adjust your responsibilities appropriately. (Expect your tongue to feel coated, and expect to have bad breath.)
  • Begin a fast after supper. Fast until supper the next day. This way you miss two, rather than three, meals.
  • Don’t break your fast with a huge meal. Eat small portions of food. The longer the fast, the more you need to break the fast gently.

[This is part of a series of posts related to our week of prayer and fasting at Brooklife Church from March 28 to April 4, 2010.]

March 29, 2010

Listening to God . . . Free From Guilt (re:listening 4)

This is the last of a series of posts on listening.

If we are to listen to God in His way, then we often have to have our feet knocked out from under us. We need to be re-trained by Him into the way of listening.

Sometimes this involves confessing sin. There are very real times when the sin in our lives hinders us from hearing from God. Likewise, there are times when sin in our lives hinders God from truly listening to us (Psalm 66:18-19).

Healthy Guilt
There are two sides to this problem and both relate to guilt. The first type of guilt is healthy guilt. This is when we fail to confess our sin. We ignore the fact that what we are doing is wrong and try to keep on going without dealing with it. We avoid the issue at hand. So . . . God avoids us. The guilt that hangs over our heads becomes like a wall built up between us and God. Our sinful activity – and the sin of our inactivity about it – clogs the communication lines. The clear answer to this side of the problem is that we need to face up to our sin, confess it honestly before God and others, and then turn away from it with our lives. Then God will hear and respond to us.

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14

Unhealthy Guilt
The other side of the problem of God hearing us and us listening to Him has to do with a different kind of guilt. It’s the unhealthy guilt that we build up from a variety of areas. It’s the guilt that says, “I’m not pure enough for God to hear me. I’m not holy enough. I didn’t have my quiet time this morning. I am weak with my lusts. I feel hopeless and suicidal. God could not speak to me, and wouldn’t want to hear me now.”

Unhealthy guilt is the wall that we build up between ourselves and God because of our fears and insecurities. We feel distanced. We feel unworthy. We feel too sinful to be interacting with our holy God.

But Jesus explodes unhealthy guilt. We see Him walking the dusty paths of Palestine with dirty, weak, sinful people. He let a whore wash His feet with her tears. He shared a meal with a despised and deceitful tax collector. He came to seek and save the lost, weak, sick . . . not those knowing themselves to be healthy (perhaps the greatest sickness of all!).

The Apostle John powerfully confronts our unhealthy guilt.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:18

Jesus wants to drive out our fear and unhealthy guilt with His furious love. He wants to draw us near to the Father where we can be who we really are without anything held back.

Jesus comes to us seeking to interact with us, listening and speaking. He wants to confront us with our sin through healthy guilt, but also wants to overpower our unhealthy guilt with His love.

He wants to talk with us in grace and truth.

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What is Fasting?

Fasting is simply voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. It is the opportunity to express to God in a very tangible way that we need Him more than anything else, even a physical meal. Fasting is always accompanied by focused prayer.

How Long is a Fast?

When you read the Bible, you will find various time-lengths of fasting. Esther, a Jewish Queen, called the people of Israel to fast for three days when she was facing a challenging situation (Esther 4:16). Daniel fasted for three weeks after receiving a vision from God (Daniel 10:2-3). The prophet Joel called the nation to one day of fasting and prayer in response to God’s judgment of their sin (Joel 1:14; 2:15). Jesus fasted for forty days as a way of preparing for His public ministry (Matthew 4:1-3). The Apostle Paul fasted for three days after encountering the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:9). The church at Antioch launched Paul and Barnabas out on their church-planting mission after a short time of prayer and fasting (Acts 13:2).

What Food or Drink is Involved in Fasting?

While there are different types of fasts in Scripture, fasting usually involves abstinence from all food and drink except water. This is typically called a ‘total fast’. There are some places in the Bible where people participate in partial fasts for a variety of reasons. The most memorable is Daniel and his colleagues who abstained from the royal foods in Babylon for spiritual reasons (Daniel 1:8-14).

If you are new to fasting, Richard Foster (author of Celebration of Discipline) offers some very helpful advice about: start easier with a partial fast (some food and juices to drink) and then work your way up to a total fast from food with only water to drink.

Quotations on Fasting

Here are a series of definitions of fasting by respected leaders in the church:

“Abstaining from food for spiritual purposes.” – Richard Foster[1]

“Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life.” – Scot McKnight[2]

“A fast is the self-denial of normal necessities in order to intentionally attend to God in prayer. Bringing attachments and cravings to the surface opens a place for prayer. This physical awareness of emptiness is the reminder to turn to Jesus who alone can satisfy.” – Adele Ahlberg Calhoun[3]

“Simply defined fasting is the act of doing without something in order to put more focus on God.” – David Drury.[4]

“Fasting, if we conceive of it truly, must not only be confined to the question of food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose. There are many bodily functions which are right and perfectly legitimate, but which for special peculiar reasons in certain circumstances should be controlled. That is fasting. There, I suggest, is a kind of general definition of what is meant by fasting.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones.[5]

“The self-denial of normal necessities in order to intentionally attend to God in prayer. Usually associated with food, but it could be from people, the media, phone, sleep, or even shopping.” – Steve Sonderman (in sermon “Becoming a Person of Prayer”)


[1] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, rev. ed. (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1988), 48.

[2] Scot McKnight, Fasting (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), xx.

[3] Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 219.

[4] David Drury, The Fruitful Life: What Will I Be Remembered For?, 2nd ed. (Spring Lake, MI: Spring Lake Wesleyan Church, 2004), 128.

[5] In Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1991), 160.