BOOK REVIEW ~ You Must Read: Books That Have Shaped Our Lives. Various Authors. Banner of Truth. 304 pages. 2015
This book brings together more than thirty well-known Christian leaders and gives them the opportunity to talk about a Banner of Truth book that has made a lasting impact on their lives. The book is dedicated to Iain and Jean Murray, whose vision, dedication, ministry, and encouragement has undergirded the publication of every book selected.
As a book lover, and having read several books published by the Banner of Truth, this was a book that I loved. I was familiar with many of the contributors (R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Derek Thomas, Jerry Bridges, Mark Dever, Sinclair Ferguson, etc.), but many of the contributors were people I was not familiar with. Each shares a book that has made an impact on their lives, tells about the book and why it made such an impact.
The book is broken into 33 chapters. A few that I particularly enjoyed were:
- What Is an Evangelical? Written by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Alistair Begg. Begg writes about reading this book with his elders early in his ministry at Parkside Church in Cleveland.
- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Vol. 1: The First Forty Years; Vol. 2: The Fight of Faith by Iain H. Murray – John MacArthur. This was my favorite chapter of the book. MacArthur writes “I had never encountered another pastor whose biblical convictions and philosophy of ministry rang so true with me. No pastor I had ever encountered so closely paralleled my own thinking about the church, the gospel, doctrine, conflict, cooperation, and especially preaching.”
- The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended by Jonathan Edwards – R.C. Sproul. Sproul writes “I studied his classic work The Freedom of the Will in depth and found his arguments, especially on Romans 9, compelling and irrefutable. I fought him tooth and nail, but in the end, I was convinced that I had been teaching and believing what I wanted the Bible to say rather than what it actually said. To this day, I owe Edwards a huge debt of gratitude.”
- Tracts and Letters of John Calvin – Ian Hamilton. Hamilton writes “It is in his Tracts and Letters that, perhaps most memorably, we see the heart of Calvin the pastor, and it was a large and capacious heart.” He also states that “No pastor more faithfully laboured to defend the sovereignty of God’s grace—not only for the sake of God’s glory but also for the good and security of his flock.”
- Revival Year Sermons (1859) by C. H. Spurgeon – Stuart Olyott. Olyott writes “Spurgeon’s opinion was that ‘there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.’”
- The Glory of Christ by John Owen – Sinclair B. Ferguson. Ferguson writes “It is safe to say that he goes down deeper, stays down longer, and comes up with greater spiritual riches than can be found in the vast bulk of contemporary Christian literature.”
An Epilogue is included which looks at the books from three perspectives – from Latin America, the Philippines and from the Grey House, Edinburgh.
Two key verses for the Banner of Truth are:
Psalm 60:4 (which gave rise to their name): You have given a banner to those who fear you, that it may be displayed because of the truth.
And Psalm 127:1: Unless the Lord build the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and got several recommendations for future reading.
- ChristianAudio.com’s Free Audiobook Download -“Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up”. This is a story about God’s miraculous love of Ian and Larissa Murphy. It’s a story of their relationship, sustained by God’s patient and persistent love, through tragedy and into a Christian marriage. In that way, it’s a miraculous story, because in every sentence, there’s a whisper, then a word, then a celebration shout that always speaks of that persistent love in Jesus Christ.
- Why You Should Read Moby Dick. R.C. Sproul encourages his readers to “Read Moby Dick, and then read it again.”
- Bestsellers ≠ Best Books. Matthew Maule writes “The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association has compiled a list of the best-selling Christian books of 2014. If these books are characteristic of the thought and theology most associated with Christianity in America, perhaps it is not surprising that many are leaving and fewer people are joining.”
- 5 Best Books on Apologetics. Bryan Baise writes “The following are my 5 favorite,not the 5 most seminal works of apologetics.”
- David Brooks Charts the Road to Character. Collin Hansen interviews David Brooks, author of the new book The Road to Character, which I’m reading now.
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller
Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. Won’t you read along with Tammy and me? This week we look at:
CHAPTER ONE ~ The Necessity of Prayer
- Kathy’s jolting challenge, along with my own growing conviction that I just didn’t get prayer, led me into a search. I wanted a far better personal prayer life. I began to read widely and experiment in prayer. As I looked around, I quickly came to see that I was not alone.
- You are with Another, and he is unique. God is the only person from whom you can hide nothing. Before him you will unavoidably come to see yourself in a new, unique light. Prayer, therefore, leads to a self-knowledge that is impossible to achieve any other way.
- In a sermon on the gospel, Owen gave due diligence to laying the doctrinal foundation of Christian salvation. Then, however, he exhorted his hearers to “get an experience of the power of the gospel . . . in and upon your own hearts, or all your profession is an expiring thing.”24 This heart experience of the gospel’s power can happen only through prayer—both publicly in the gathered Christian assembly and privately in meditation.
- In my pursuit of a deeper prayer life, I chose a counterintuitive course. I deliberately avoided reading any new books on prayer at all. Instead, I went back to the historical texts of Christian theology that had formed me and began asking questions about prayer and the experience of God—questions.
- I found guidance on the inward life of prayer and spiritual experience that took me beyond the dangerous currents and eddies of the contemporary spirituality debates and movements.
- There is an intelligent mysticism in the life of faith . . . of living union and communion with the exalted and ever-present Redeemer. . . . He communes with his people and his people commune with him in conscious reciprocal love.
- As I pondered that verse, I had to marvel that Peter, in writing to the church, could address all his readers like this. He didn’t say, “Well, some of you with an advanced spirituality have begun to get periods of high joy in prayer. Hope the rest of you catch up.” No, he assumed that an experience of sometimes overwhelming joy in prayer was normal. I was convicted.
- We are not called to choose between a Christian life based on truth and doctrine or a life filled with spiritual power and experience. They go together.
- Rather, I was meant to ask the Holy Spirit to help me experience my theology.
- I made four practical changes to my life of private devotion. First, I took several months to go through the Psalms, summarizing each one.
- The second thing I did was always to put in a time of meditation as a transitional discipline between my Bible reading and my time of prayer. Third, I did all I could to pray morning and evening rather than only in the morning. Fourth, I began praying with greater expectation.
- I have found new sweetness in Christ and new bitterness too, because I could now see my heart more clearly in the new light of vital prayer. In other words, there were more restful experiences of love as well as more wrestling to see God triumph over evil, both in my own heart and in the world.
- Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves.Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. We must learn to pray. We have to.