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book reviews

There have been several wonderful articles about Jerry Bridges since his death on March 6. Here are a few of them from Tim Challies, Bob Bevington, Justin Taylor, Robert Brady, Randy Alcorn and Tony Reinke. Justin Taylor also shared the entire memorial service for Bridges.

God Took Me by the Hand: A Story of God’s Unusual Providence by Jerry Bridgesjerry bridges. NavPress. 192 pages. 2014.

Jerry Bridges, who passed away on March 6, was one of my favorite authors. A few years back, my pastor asked if we could bring him to our church to speak. Unfortunately, by that time, he had made the decision only to accept speaking engagements with those he had already had a relationship with. I was blessed to see him speak at a Ligonier National Conference some years back however.

In this, his last book released while he was alive, written at age 84, he tells his life story in light of the doctrine of the providence of God. Bridges originally intended to have this become a published book explaining and exalting the providence of God. But the more he worked on it, the more he sensed it was too personal to become a book, so he changed his mental audience to family and close friends. However, some people at NavPress read the story and thought it could be useful to a larger audience. Bridges’ prayer is that this book will be helpful to his readers to see how the providence of God can work in the life of a very ordinary individual.

Bridges states that the purpose of the story is to explain, illustrate, and exalt God’s providence. Bridges intends his life story is meant to be only a backdrop and a series of illustrations of specific acts of the invisible hand of God so that many believers will come to recognize and appreciate more of God’s work in their own lives.

When Bridges was born he had four physical defects (crossed-eyes, deafness in his right ear and deformities in his breastbone and spine). His parents were financially poor, education dropouts, and religiously and socially isolated.

Bridges looks at three truths that are necessary to understand biblically the events of his life and the lives of most Christians. These truths are:

  • The providence of God
  • The common grace of God
  • The instruction and guidance of the Holy Spirit

Bridges writes that God’s providence is His constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people. His common grace is an expression of His constant care for all of His creation.

The primary means that the Holy Spirit guides us is through His authoritative Scriptures. The Spirit may also instruct, or guide us, in particular situations through direct impressions on our minds. These impressions may be a strong sense of urging that we should do something or a strong sense of restraint that we should not do something. A third way the Holy Spirit instructs or guides us is through precise words planted in our minds, so precise that it seems as if another person is speaking to us. Bridges calls this the “inaudible voice” of the Holy Spirit.

Bridges tells his story of salvation, his time at the University of Oklahoma, where he earned a degree in general engineering, his 26 months of active duty in the Navy, and a lifetime of service with the Navigators ministry.

Bridges writes: “Through these twists and turns in my own life, I finally came to a principle which I articulate as the principle of dependent responsibility. We are responsible. We cannot just let Jesus live His life through us, but at the same time we are dependent. We cannot make one inch of progress in the Christian life apart from the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. This became a major emphasis in my teaching.”

He writes about becoming a Calvinist, describing a Calvinist as one who believes in the sovereignty of God in all things, including the salvation of sinners.

He discusses his developing a relationship with Eleanor, which led to marriage. He details some of his most significant accomplishments with the Navigators and the beginning of his writing ministry with his first book The Pursuit of Holiness, published in 1978.

Bridges write that the period 1984–1994 was difficult for him. There were significant issues at work with the Navigators and the death of Eleanor in November 1988 just three weeks after their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. He would marry Jane a year later.

He reflects on the seven most important spiritual lessons he has learned in over sixty years as a Christian. They are:

Lesson One: The Bible is meant to be applied to specific life situations.

Lesson Two: All who trust in Christ as Savior are united to Him in a living way just as the branches are united to the vine (see John 15:1-5).

Lesson Three: The pursuit of holiness and godly character is neither by self-effort nor simply letting Christ “live His life through you.”

Rather, it does involve our most diligent efforts but with a recognition that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to enable us and to bless those efforts. I call this “dependent responsibility.”

Lesson Four: The sudden understanding of the doctrine of election was a watershed event for me that significantly affected my entire Christian life.

Lesson Five: The representative union of Christ and the believer means that all that Christ did in both His perfect obedience and His death for our sins is credited to us.

Lesson Six: The gospel is not just for unbelievers in their coming to Christ. Rather, all of us who are believers need the gospel every day because we are still practicing sinners.

Lesson Seven: We are dependent on the Holy Spirit to apply the life of Christ to our lives.

Bridges concludes the book with a helpful summary/review of the significant acts of God’s providence in his life that have been recounted throughout the previous chapters. The book includes helpful questions for reflection, discussion and application for individual or group study

This is a wonderful book by Jerry Bridges. I enjoyed hearing how God worked in his life. A final book, The Blessing of Humility: Walk within Your Calling, is due to be published June 1.

ICHTHUS: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Saviour by Sinclair Ferguson and Derek ThomasIchthus. Banner of Truth. 166 pages. 2015

The authors, two pastors and good friends who have known each other for 40 years, are both Ligonier Ministries Teaching Fellows and recently for a period of two years served a congregation in South Carolina. They write that the symbol ICHTHUS is the Greek word for fish. More importantly, the five letters which spell ICHTHUS are also the first letters of a simple confession of faith “Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Saviour.”

In the final weeks of their time together at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, the two preached a series of sermons on the high points in Christ’s life and ministry. This wonderful book is the written form of those sermons. Ferguson and Thomas chose as the high points in Christ’s life and ministry those noted in pastor and hymn writer Benjamin Russell Hanby’s hymn “ICHTHUS”. Interestingly, Hanby also wrote the popular Christmas carol “Up on the Housetop”. Each chapter of the book begins with a verse from the hymn and the corresponding passage from Scripture that will be discussed in that chapter.

These sermons can be read devotionally. The authors write that the book is for everyone and anyone – believers and non-believers. I believe both will profit from the reading of this book.

Here are 10 great quotes from the book that I would like to share with you:

  1. We need to see him as he really is and not as we imagine he was. Not as a “great moral teacher”, or as a convenience to help us along in life, but as the inextinguishable Light who shines in the darkness.
  2. In summary then, Jesus’ baptism is an act of obedience. In submission to the Father’s plan he is publicly identified as the covenant-breaker who is taking the place of Adam and his posterity. He becomes the sin-bearer before the judgment seat of God.
  3. Yes, there is a great deal we can learn about how to respond to temptation from the temptations of Jesus. But that is not Luke’s point. He wants us to fix our eyes on Jesus.
  4. We have a thousand different needs. But at the end of the day, there is only one need. The satisfying of this one need will relegate all our other needs to the margins. It is to see the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to know that “he is able to save to the uttermost those to draw near to God through him”.
  5. The crucifixion was in the deepest sense a liturgy of shame, but it was also a fulfillment of the Scriptures.
  6. Jesus’ ascension to heaven appears in the very earliest forms of the (Apostle’s) Creed. Yet perhaps this is the most frequently neglected element in Jesus’ ministry.
  7. The Ascension is about the kingship of Jesus.
  8. The Ascension therefore is the forerunner of Pentecost. And Pentecost is Christ’s assurance to us that he has kept the promises he made in the upper room on the night of his betrayal. He has not forgotten us now that he is ascended.
  9. The return of Christ is the next great redemptive moment on the divine calendar. Whatever God may do between now and then does not form the horizon on which we are to fix our gaze. No, the Ascension teaches us to keep our eyes fixed heavenward.
  10. How marvelous it is that although we are brought to faith one by one, on different dates and in different times in history, we will all be transformed, glorified, on the same day, at the same time! No Christian will be left out. None can arrive early, none will come late.

book news

  • Pentecostal OurpouringsPentecostal Outpourings. My pastor of more than 21 years, Dr. Robert Smart, is one of the editors of this new book Pentecostal Outpourings. He has long had a heart and passion for biblical revival. Other contributors to the book include Steven Lawson and Joel Beeke.
  • We All Need Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Ben Bailie reviews Christopher Catherwood’s new book about his grandfather Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Martyn Lloyd-Jones: His Life and Relevance for the 21st Century. I recently had some very enjoyable correspondence with Christopher, and highly recommend the book to you. Here’s my interview with him and my review of his new book.
  • Pam Hodel BookSimply My Window. Our good friend PK (Pam) Hodel has released a new book Simply My Window. I’m reading it now and will post a review soon.
  • Did the Reformers Really Get Paul Wrong? A few Januarys back, I had a wonderful course on Jeremiah with Robert Yarbrough at Covenant Seminary. Here he looks at the book Reformation Readings of Paul: Explorations in History and Exegesis, edited by Michael Allen and Jonathan A. Linebaugh.
  • 11 Mind-bending Christian Book Covers You Can’t Unsee. Jesse Carey shares these truly bad book covers.

BOOK CLUBS – Won’t you read along with us?

Tim Keller's New Book on PrayerPrayer BOOK CLUB

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 12 – Awe: Praising His Glory

  • There are three basic kinds of prayer to God. There is “upward” prayer—praise and thanksgiving that focuses on God himself. We could call this the “prayer of awe.” Then there is “inward” prayer—self-examination and confession that bring a deeper sense of sin and, in return, a higher experience of grace and assurance of love. That is the prayer of intimacy. Finally, there is “outward” prayer—supplication and intercession that focuses on our needs and the needs of others in the world. This prayer requires perseverance and often entails struggle.
  • In Jesus’ instruction on prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, praise comes first. Praise motivates the other kinds of prayer.
  • The more we attend to God’s perfect holiness and justice, the more readily we will see our own flaws and confess them. Seeing God’s greatness also leads to supplication. The more we sense his majesty and the more we realize our dependence on him, the more readily we will go to him for every need.
  • We could say that awe-filled adoration of God corrects the other forms of prayer.
  • Praise and adoration are the necessary preconditions for the proper formulation and motivation of all the other kinds of prayer.
  • Another reason for the primacy of praise is that it has such power to heal what is wrong with us and create inner spiritual health.
  • C.S. Lewis answered: I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.
  • It reveals that we must praise God or live in unreality and poverty.
  • Our most fundamental identity and life behavior is a function of what we love.
  • The ultimate reason for our misery, however, is that we do not love God supremely.
  • If you love anything at all in this world more than God, you will crush that object under the weight of your expectations, and it will eventually break your heart.
  • The things we love individually not only determine our character, but what a society loves collectively shapes its culture.
  • To change people most profoundly, we must change what we worship.
  • Ultimately we are what we adore. We are what captures our imagination, what leads us to praise and to compel others to praise it.
  • Thanksgiving is praising God for what he has done, while “praise proper” is adoring God for who he is in himself.
  • When good things happen to us, we would expect that they would provoke thanks and praise in the same way that bad things cause petition and supplication. Yet that is not the case.
  • Cosmic ingratitude is living in the illusion that you are spiritually self-sufficient. It is taking credit for something that was a gift. It is the belief that you know best how to live, that you have the power and ability to keep your life on the right path and protect yourself from danger. That is a delusion, and a dangerous one. We did not create ourselves, and we can’t keep our lives going one second without his upholding power. Yet we hate that knowledge, Paul says, and we repress it. We hate the idea that we are utterly and completely dependent on God, because then we would be obligated to him and would not be able to live as we wish. We would have to defer to the one who gives us everything.
  • Praise is the alpha prayer—the one kind of prayer that properly motivates, energizes, and shapes the others.
  • “Gratitude exclaims . . . ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.” “What kind of God would create this, give me this?”
  • The “collects” or corporate prayers that Thomas Cranmer wrote for the book followed a general structure. The address—a name of God The doctrine—a truth about God’s nature that is the basis for the prayer The petition—what is being asked for The aspiration—what good result will come if the request is granted In Jesus’ name—this remembers the mediatorial role of Jesus
  • Here are a list of my own headings, based heavily on Matthew Henry – Adoring God and Thanking God.
  • All [true] prayer, pursued far enough, becomes praise.
  • C. S. Lewis says that a lack of praise of God is a lack of reality, and praising him helps us enter the real world and enjoy him more fully.
  • Prayer plunges us into the fullness of who he is, and his love becomes more real than the rejection or disappointment we are experiencing.

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at Chapter 25 – The Christian and the Taking of Oaths

  • One of the greatest problems with which Moses had to deal was the tendency of people to lie to one another and deliberately to say things that were not true.
  • Another object of this Mosaic legislation was to restrict oath-taking to serious and important matters. There was the tendency on the part of the people to take an oath about any trivial kind of matter. On the slightest pretext they would take an oath in the name of God.
  • That was the trouble with the Pharisees and scribes; they reduced the whole great question to one of perjury only. In other words, they thought there was no harm in a man taking an oath at any time as long as he did not forswear himself. As long as he did not do that he could take an oath by heaven, by Jerusalem and almost by anything. Thus they opened a door for men to multiply oaths at any time or with respect to any matter whatsoever.
  • The other characteristic of their false interpretation was that they drew a distinction between various oaths, saying that some were binding while others were not.
  • The case for not taking an oath in a Court of Law as based upon this Scripture is something which indeed seems unsatisfactory. The conclusion we can come to, based upon Scripture, is that, while oath-taking must be restricted, there are certain solemn, vital occasions when it is right, when it is not only legitimate, but actually adds a solemnity and an authority which nothing else can give.
  • The first thing that our Lord wants to do is to forbid the use of the sacred title always in the matter of swearing or cursing. The name of God and of Christ must never be used in this way.
  • The second thing He absolutely forbids is swearing by any creature, because all belong to God.
  • Furthermore, He forbids all oaths in ordinary conversation. There is no need to take an oath about an argument, and you must not do so. Indeed I go further and would remind you that He says no oaths or exaggerated avowals are ever necessary. It must either be yea, yea; or Nay, nay.
  • We must not exaggerate, or allow people to exaggerate for us, because exaggeration becomes a lie. It gives those who hear a false impression.

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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