Tag Archives: Joel Beeke

Top Five Books on Preaching

I try to read at least one book on preaching each year.  So far, I’ve been in the ministry for nearly 20 years and I’ve read at least 25 books.  It looks like I’m keeping on track.  Some of the books have been mediocre, but most of them have had something worthwhile.  Some have really stood out in my mind and continue to.  If asked for my top five must-reads about preaching, this would be my list and in this order:

  1. Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, Bryan Chapell

A fellow student introduced me to Bryan Chapell’s book while I was in seminary.  I learned so much from this book about how to preach Christ.  I especially appreciate Chapell’s notion of the Fallen Condition Focus of each passage – often when I struggle to formulate a theme for my sermon, I go back to this notion and everything falls into place.  There is a second edition available, but I’ve only read the first.  I’m not sure about the differences between the two.

  1. Expository Preaching With Word Pictures: With Illustrations from the Sermons of Thomas Watson, Jack Hughes

I’ve always loved Thomas Watson.  He’s the most readable of the Puritans.  He has a style that’s stood the test of time.  Hughes demonstrates why and also how his approach can be appropriated by preachers today.  If you want to preach vividly, like Watson did, this book is priceless.

  1. Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People, Joel R. Beeke

This large volume is all about reaching not only the minds of listeners, but also their hearts.  It’s solid on the theology of preaching, as well as on the practice.  It’s grounded in Scripture, however it also works extensively with church history.  If you’re going to read this one, also read the next one – they overlap a little bit, but also complement one another beautifully.

  1. Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship, John Piper

Few people ever think about preaching as an act of worship.  But Piper convincingly argues from Scripture that both the giving and receiving of preaching are worship.  Then he shows how thinking about it that way makes a huge difference.  As with Beeke’s book, this one gets to the heart matters and also stresses the urgency of the preacher’s task.  I’ve read numerous Piper books and this is one of his best.

  1. Truth Applied: Application in Preaching, Jay Adams

I read this back in seminary, over one of my summer breaks.  More than any other book, it impressed upon me the need to have preaching that aims to change hearts and lives.  Even if you disagree with Adams’ approach to counselling, there’s a lot to glean from what he’s written about preaching.


Review: The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible

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Some time ago I wrote a review comparing the the ESV Study Bible with the Reformation Study Bible (you can find it here).  Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to get acquainted with another study Bible.  The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible (RHSB) was published in 2014 by Reformation Heritage Books.  In some circles, it has been widely acclaimed, whereas others are somewhat less enthusiastic about it.  At the outset, I can say that I heartily recommend it.

RHSB has most of the features that would expect in any study Bible.  There are over 20,000 study notes, introductions for each book of the Bible, an assortment of maps, a reading plan, and a small concordance.  It also has features that one would expect from any Reformed study Bible.  The study notes are orthodox and Reformed in orientation, the articles as well, and in the back pages one can find the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards.  Moreover, I think it can be said that in terms of biblical faithfulness, RHSB is unsurpassed.  For instance, as John Byl has pointed out, RHSB affirms creation in six ordinary days, as well as a global flood in the days of Noah.

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There are some unique features to RHSB that I find rather appealing.  There is a section of articles in the back on “How to Live as a Christian.”  Topics addressed include Coming to Christ, Reading the Scriptures, Why and How We Pray, Godly Contentment, How We Kill Pride, and Coping with Criticism.  Such a collection of articles could be helpful, not only for new or young Christians, but also for more mature Christians who are teachable and want to grow in their walk with God (which should be all of us!).  I’m so impressed with this section of the RHSB that I’m considering how I could incorporate some of this material into my catechism instruction.

Another unique feature is the “Thoughts for Personal and Family Worship.”  My wife and I have done daily family worship habitually all our married life.  As part of that, we have read through the Bible front-to-back several times.  As a husband and father, you want to say something edifying about each chapter you read.  It’s not always easy or obvious what to say.  To help with that, for the last few months we have been using this feature of the RHSB and to good effect.  Every chapter of the Bible includes one or two paragraphs with some edifying thoughts or questions about that chapter.  Oftentimes, these thoughts or questions are explicitly designed to point us to Christ and our life in him.  As an example, take 1 Chronicles 1.  The first nine chapters of Chronicles are taken up with genealogies.  It’s tempting to skip these chapters in family worship.  But with the help of the RHSB, you can read these chapters in an edifying way.  Here are the “Thoughts for Personal/Family Worship” on 1 Chronicles 1:

We have all descended from one man: Adam.  The existence of Adam was as much history as the existence of David.  In Adam, we were all made in God’s image and likeness.  God’s purpose for His people therefore remains to fill the earth with His living image.  In Adam, we all sinned and have fallen into spiritual corruption and enduring misery.  We all share the same fallen nature as the Canaanites.  We all die and face judgment, and human life is so transient that from God’s perspective all the generations from Adam to Israel fit on a single page of history.  God’s people consequently must be redeemed by the Lord’s grace if they will ever achieve their high calling and eternal life.  Mankind needs a new Adam.  How has God met that need in Christ?

Obviously these sorts of notes are geared towards older family members, but one should not right away assume that younger children will not get anything out of them or the discussion that comes from them.

No study Bible is perfect.  Any discerning reader will always find things with which to disagree or things that one might wish were different.  For instance, RHSB is committed to the allegorical approach to the Song of Solomon.  So in the introductory notes for that book the theme is said to be “The union and communion of love between Jesus Christ and His church.”  I am not convinced, but I hold that there can be a legitimate difference of opinion amongst believers on this question.

That brings me to the biggest stumbling block that many face when it comes to this study Bible.  Dr. Joel Beeke (the editor) and Reformation Heritage Books are committed to using the King James Version.  In an introduction, there is an explanation for this commitment and I personally respect their explanation.  At the same time, I recognize the value of a translation in more contemporary language.  I know that many will struggle with reading the King James Version.  Some times it’s simply a prejudice which has to be overcome, but at other times there are genuine difficulties.  To be fair to the RHSB, I need to point out that the study notes do contain explanations of all the difficult or archaic words and expressions from the KJV.  I would urge readers not to impulsively write off the RHSB on this point.  The positives I’ve mentioned above by far outweigh this issue.  Moreover, there are workarounds.  You can use the RHSB in tandem with an ESV or some other Bible in a more contemporary translation.  In our family worship, for example, we read from the ESV, but then use the “Thoughts for Personal/Family Worship” from the RHSB.

In our household, we currently only have one copy of the RHSB.  But this one copy is already starting to look ragged from being used so often.  Doesn’t that say something in itself?  Again, it’s not the perfect Reformed study Bible.  After all, it was created by fallible human beings.  Yet I do think it’s fair to say that, in terms of biblical fidelity, this is as good a study Bible as we can find in print today.  The ESV Study Bible may have more resources (maps, charts, etc), but RHSB has it beat in the potential for real spiritual edification.

NOTE:  you may also want to check out this Infographic from Tim Challies comparing different study Bibles.


Book Review: Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation

Why Christ Came

Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation, Joel R. Beeke & William Boekestein, Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013.  Paperback, 108 pages, $10.00 USD.

Back in 2004, John Piper published a little book, The Passion of Jesus Christ: Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die.  This is a helpful little volume of meditations on Christ’s suffering and death and the reasons behind it.  This new book by Joel Beeke and William Boekestein is in the same vein, except that it treats the conception and birth of our Lord Jesus.

The authors scarcely need any introduction.  Joel Beeke is the author of numerous books and articles, a well-known preacher and conference speaker, and president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids.  William Boekestein is the pastor of a United Reformed Church in Carbondale, PA and the author of several well-received books for children.

Each of the 31 meditations takes one or more Scripture texts to expound a particular aspect of Christ’s incarnation.  While a fellow preacher might disagree on a few points of exegesis, these meditations take the Word of God seriously and faithfully.  The writing is clear and illustrations are helpfully used in many of the meditations.  Another element that I appreciated was the authors’ many references to Calvin, a Brakel, and other Reformed theologians of the past — as well as the Reformed confessions.

This is a great little devotional book for those who want to dedicate some extra attention to the incarnation of Christ, whether at this time of year or any other time.  Beeke and Boekestein point us to the Saviour in a way that strengthens faith.  Let me conclude with one paragraph that will give you a taste of what this book offers.  This comes from meditation 27, “To Be a Merciful and Faithful High Priest”:

Because he saved us by the offering of His body, Christ had to become flesh and blood like us in every way except for our sin (Heb. 2:14, 4:15).  What amazing love He has for us!  Christ as God is an infinite and immortal spirit, yet He took a human head so it could be struck, crowned with thorns, and beaten with a reed.  He took a human body so it could be ripped open with a Roman scourge.  He took human arms and legs so they could be stretched out on the cross, and human hands so that they could be nailed to its wood.  He took a human soul so He could feel the unspeakable pain of His Father forsaking Him in the darkness.  He took our very nature, so that He could bleed and die for the sins that we committed.  As John 15:13 says, “Greater love hath no man than this.”


Read the Puritans

I believe it was C.S. Lewis who promoted the reading of old books and authors; something to the effect that we should read one old book for every four new books.  That is sage advice.  There is so much to be gained from going to those who’ve gone before us.  Unfortunately, when it comes to our own Reformed tradition, there’s not a lot of old stuff in English.  However, we do have close relatives to whom we can turn.  Joel Beeke has an excellent article entitled “Why You Should Read the Puritans.”  You can find it here.   I concur for the most part.  It’s nothing new under the sun, but not all Puritan authors are equally worthy of our time and effort.  For some, their obscurity is history’s judgment on their prolixity and obfuscation.  For others (like Thomas Watson), the fact that they’re still being republished bears witness to their effectiveness in communication and the timeless message they held forth.

I know what some of you are thinking:  the Puritans spoke and wrote an English that’s hard to understand.  Sometimes that’s true.  But I say, “So what?”  Are we afraid of having to work a bit to understand an author?  Are we so narcissistic and lazy that we can’t put some effort into our reading?  But having said that, I would highly recommend beginning with Thomas Watson and his All Things for Good.  Give him a try.  You might be surprised.

(reposted from 07.21.07)