Tag Archives: Books

Because My Wife Says I Should Share Some Personal Stuff…

I thought I’d share some random things today.

Every year my family and my sister’s family get together for a summer birthday bash. Instead of worrying about getting together 10 times through the year to celebrate birthdays we do it all at once. It’s kind of an All Saints Day type celebration, lumping us altogether at one time. Pretty genius I must say. This year we turned 290! We mangle the cake because everyone wants to eat their own name…except me. Mine was in the vanilla side this year. Boring!

On the Church history front, I’ve been diving into the tradition of Christian Saints for an upcoming series of posts, reading a great book on the subject: The Cult of the Saints, by Peter Brown. Good stuff. I learning some fascinating details about how death was seen by pagans and Christians in the first few centuries of the church. You will hear more on this.

A big reason I started this blog was to help me in a focused study of Church history. Just like teaching, there I nothing like committing to a blog to get you learning. And if someone else learns something too, more the better. I thought I’d share some of what I am reading these days. I read widely, reading several books at one time, a habit I learned from my father. It takes a while to get through a book, but I learn more about more things this way.

Readthefathers.org is a website that provides a 7-year reading plan through Schaff’s famous series, the Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 37 volumes of early Christian Writings. It is in year two right now. I’ve been following it for a little over a month now. The plan is in the New Testament Apocrypha. By the way, the entire set of books is available as a $3 ebook on amazon. It’s great for reading through the series, as I am doing, but not so great as a reference collection. It is so big, at 84MB, that it takes forever to search. Is easier to read than ccel.org though. If you don’t know ccel.org, you need to. Incredible resource.

Every week I read from some other books on Church history too:

Historiography – I am really enjoying Carl Trueman’s Histories and Fallacies. Short, to the point, written with precision and wit. I’ve had the opportunity to audit a class of his at Westminster Seminary. He is a great teacher.

General Church History Survey – Finally got started on Justo Gonzalez’ much loved Story of Christianity. I read Kenneth Latourette’s survey in seminary. This is a bit brisker and more a survey.

Classic Historian – Reading Herodotus’ History. It is much more engaging than I expected. Or I am more of a history nerd than I realized. Both may be true.

In my quest to read through biographies of all the US Presidents, I am up to James Garfield. I am reading The Destiny of the Republic, by Candice Millard, which is fantastic. I started reading a different biography, the Garfied volume of the American Presidents series, but found it to be pretty lousy and switched up. I have been blogging about what I have learned about ministry from these biographies. I am a bit behind. I am in the midst of the obscure presidents, though: Rutherford B. Hayes, Garfield, etc. I owe you one on Grant, though.

After reading The Whole Five Feet, by Christopher Beha, the author’s story of spending a year reading through the whole 51 volumes of the turn of the 20th century series, The Harvard Classics, I couldn’t resist, but had to do it myself. It will take me a long time however. I started in late June, and started volume 2 last week. So maybe 51 months, instead of weeks, for me.

Finally, I picked up The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman. Seems like a good year to read this history of the beginning of WW1. It is a detailed book, but I am enjoying what I have read so far.

Well, time for some leftover birthday cake. Have a great weekend, whatever you are doing. And you preachers out there, may you be blessed and be a blessing, by God’s grace.


“The Thin End of the Wedge”: John Stott’s Wisdom for Everyday Faithfulness

I just finished a little book by John Stott, *Problems of Christian Leadership*, published this year by InterVarsity. It is a collection of talks Stott gave on the subject at a conference some time ago. While a good distillation of Stott’s thoughts on leadership, it was an Appendix that most struck me. It contained two remembrances of John Stott, written by Mark Labberton and Cody Widmer, both of whom worked as Stott’s assistant for a time. It was a portion of Cody’s that struck me most:

I have countless memories of my three years serving as Uncle John’s study assistant, but two anecdotes are the most prominent in my mind. The first occurred after just a few months in the very mundane pattern of our daily life together. Every morning, at 11 a.m. sharp, I would bring him a cup of coffee. I would find him hunched over some letter or manuscript at his desk, consumed with the work before him, putting his un-paralleled powers of concentration to whatever task was at hand. Not wanting to disturb him, I would quietly set the cup and saucer adjacent to his right hand, and oftentimes he would mumble a barely audible word of thanks: “I’m not worthy”.

Initially I thought this comment was amusing, but after a few months I began to find it slightly bothersome. How could someone pronounce himself unworthy of an acidic cup of instant coffee? One morning I was feeling a little cheeky, and when Uncle John mumbled his usual expression, “I’m not worthy”. I quipped back, “Oh, sure you are.”

Uncle John stopped, and I saw the powerful magnetic look of his concentration ease from the papers before him. He slowly raised his gaze, and, with a look of immense seriousness, yet boyish playfulness, he responded, “You haven’t got your theology of grace right.” I laughed, grinned awkwardly, and then said, “It’s only a cup of coffee, Uncle John.” As I turned round and headed back into the kitchen, I heard him mutter, “It’s just the thin end of the wedge.”

It took me days to figure out what he meant by that final rejoinder in our exchange. Though I never discussed it with him, I am convinced that he meant this: if our commitment to Jesus Christ and our understanding of his grace do not impact the small places in our daily lives—the “thin end of the wedge”—then we are not living integrated lives. Our commitment to Christ may be most richly expressed in the most apparently inconsequential moments.

Corey Widmer in Problems of Christian Leadership, John Stott. IVP, 2014, emphasis added

This reflection was originally published in Portraits of a Radical Disciple: Recollections of John Stott’s Life and Ministry. Ed Christopher J.H. Wright. IVP 2011. 

I get into the habit of thinking I deserve all that I have. I do not. It is all grace.