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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Book Reviews

Anxious for NothingAnxious for Nothing: God’s Cure for the Cares of Your Soul by John MacArthur.   David C. Cook. 3rd edition. 224 pages. 2012

John MacArthur is one of my favorite authors. I read this book recently on vacation, at just the right time. It covers themes such as contentment and anxiety. A few days before reading it we had flown out of O’Hare International Airport under a tornado warning. All day long I had been extremely anxious about the impending inclement weather and whether we would be able to get out of the Midwest on the way to our destination on the East Coast.  I couldn’t relax and just trust that God was in control. Contentment is another item that I struggle with, so this book was just perfect for me.

MacArthur states that the wrong way to handle the stresses of life is to worry about them. He indicates that worry at any time is a sin because it violates the clear biblical command. He states that we allow our daily concerns to turn into worry, and therefore sin, when our thoughts become focused on changing the future instead of doing our best to handle our present circumstances.

MacArthur indicates that he titled the book Anxious for Nothing because he wants the reader to know that we can overcome our anxieties. Each chapter and a special appendix at the end (“Psalms for the Anxious”, excerpts from the Psalms which are especially intended to attack anxiety) provide the reader specific biblical ways we can do just that.

MacArthur states that when we worry, we in effect are saying that we can believe God for the greater gift and then stumble and not believe Him for the lesser one. He goes on to state that a lack of joy for the believer is a sin.

He looks at Matthew 6 as Jesus’ great statement on worry and Philippians 4 as the Apostle Paul’s primary writing on how to avoid anxiety.  He states that those passages are the most comprehensive portions of Scripture dealing with anxiety and therefore foundational to understanding how God feels about anxiety and why He feels that way.

MacArthur looks at prayer as the foremost way to avoid anxiety, followed by right thinking and action.  We are to approach God with a thankful attitude, which will release us from fear and worry. This is a tangible demonstration of trusting our situation to God’s sovereign control. We also need to demonstrate humility, as only from humility comes the ability to truly hand over all our cares to God.

MacArthur states that to do a comprehensive study on what Scripture says about anxiety, we need to examine what it says about living by faith. Hebrews 11 and 12 are the faith chapters of the Bible. Chapter 11 gives a general definition of faith and a slew of Old Testament examples.

Another weight of sin that entangles the believer says MacArthur is doubt. Paul states that our protection again doubt is to “take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16).

MacArthur writes that when we have a problem facing us that we don’t know how to solve, we need to remember to praise God.  Remembering who God is and what He has done glorifies Him and strengthens our faith. To help us do that, he recommends that we read through the Psalms the next time we’re tempted to worry.

In discussing the role of the church in helping with anxiety he writes that the church does well as a whole when the shepherds and the sheep bond together to correct the wayward, encourage the worried, hold up the weak, be patient with the wearisome, and repay the wicked with love. He also discusses God’s peace, stating that it is not subject to circumstances.

He discusses complaining about our circumstances, an area I can certainly improve in. He states that it is a sin to complain against God, and we must see our complaints as such. He states that we are really complaining about God when we complain about our circumstances.

He states that two roadblocks to contentment are grumbling and disputing. He writes that the quality of the believer’s life is the platform of our personal testimony. A murmuring, discontented, grumbling, griping, and complaining Christian is never going to have a positive influence on others. He encourages the reader to try to make it through today without complaining about something. We should make a note each time we do complain. Unfortunately, we may be surprised to discover it has become a way of life for us.

He writes that until we realize that God is sovereign, ordering everything for His own holy purposes and the ultimate good of those who love Him, we can’t help but be discontent. We need to realize any circumstance we face is only temporary. We need to learn to be content by not taking our earthly circumstances too seriously. He suggests that we be confident in God’s sovereign providence, and don’t allow your circumstances to trouble you.

I found this to be a very helpful and practical book that I can highly recommend.

Dispatches from the FrontDispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places by Tim Keesee. Crossway. 240 pages. 2014

I recently heard Tim Keesee speak at the 2016 Ligonier National Conference. I was so moved by his short address, that I bought this book the next day and completed it within four days. I hope to watch the related DVDs soon.

Tim has a ministry of visiting gospel workers on the front lines. In this ministry, he has spent years crisscrossing the globe, visiting and supporting and documenting the church around the world. This book allows us to follow along with Tim on his journeys over the past several years as he travels from the former Soviet Republics to the Balkans, from China to Southeast Asia, from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, from the Horn of Africa to Egypt, from Afghanistan to Iraq. Tim’s wife Debbie took the dozen or more journals that he scribbled across four continents and turned them into a working manuscript for the book.

This was a book that I just couldn’t put down. It is ultimately encouraging to see what saints around the world are doing for Christ, but it is also heartbreaking at times as some of Tim’s friends and co-laborers pay the ultimate price. The author writes that in difficult places he has met brothers and sisters living like lambs among wolves. He tells us that these are “stories of kingdom advance—dispatches written along the way, often scribbled in the moment, praising our Captain’s brilliance, describing his victories, and telling of his gracious, sleepless care as he walks among us on the front lines.”

I affirm what Justin Taylor writes in the Foreword: “This is a dangerous book to read, for you may never be the same.” Highly recommended whether you go to the mission field or support missionaries who go to the front lines.

Lessons from a Hospital BedLessons from a Hospital Bed by John Piper. Crossway. 80 pages. 2016

As I was finishing this short book from John Piper, I received a call that my Dad was in the Emergency Room of a local hospital. He would be admitted and spend three nights in the hospital. Talk about God’s providential timing for a book!

Joni Eareckson Tada, who has certainly spent more than her fair share of time in a hospital bed writes the Foreword for the book. There are few people that I respect more, so when she recommends a book it gets my attention. Joni writes “Read its lessons prayerfully and act on their counsel intentionally. Next to your Bible, this little book is your best guide in making certain your hospital stay does genuine good for your soul.”

Piper writes that he wrote the book in two stages. The heart of it came after he was hospitalized due to an unexplained blood clot in his lung. The rest of it was added about a year later as he reflected more on what God has taught him over the years through sickness and suffering. He concludes the book with a prayer.

I highly recommend this quick read from a respected pastor and author. I’ve read it once and plan to read it again and refer to it often in the future.

book news

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

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 26: An Eye for an Eye, and a Tooth for a Tooth

  • The main intent of the Mosaic legislation was to control excesses. In this case in particular, it was to control anger and violence and the desire for revenge.
  • From our very earliest days we have this desire for revenge; it is one of the most hideous and ugly results of the fall of man, and of original sin.
  • The punishment must fit the crime and not be in excess of it.
  • The principle of justice must come in, and justice is never excessive in its demands. There is a correspondence between the crime and the punishment, the thing done and what is to be done about it.
  • They were turning a negative injunction into a positive one and, furthermore, were interpreting it and carrying it out themselves, and teaching others to do so, instead of seeing that it was something that was to be carried out only by the appointed judges who were responsible for law and order.
  • There is possibly no passage in Scripture which has produced as much heat and disputation as this very teaching which tells us not to resist evil and to be loving and forgiving.
  • First, we must never regard the Sermon on the Mount as a code of ethics, or a set of rules to cover our conduct in detail. We must not think of it as being a new kind of law to replace the old Mosaic law; it is rather a matter of emphasizing the spirit of the law.
  • Secondly, these teachings are never to be applied mechanically or as a kind of rule of thumb. It is the spirit rather than the letter. Not that we depreciate the letter, but it is the spirit that we must emphasize.
  • Thirdly, if our interpretation ever makes the teaching appear to be ridiculous or leads us to a ridiculous position, it is patently a wrong interpretation.
  • If our interpretation makes the teaching appear to be impossible it also is wrong. Nothing our Lord teaches is ever impossible.
  • Lastly, we must remember that if our interpretation of any one of these things contradicts the plain and obvious teaching of Scripture at another point, again it is obvious that our interpretation has gone astray. Scripture must be taken and compared with Scripture. There is no contradiction in biblical teaching.
  • He says, `I say unto you, That ye resist not evil.’ They say, `an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’. What does it mean? We must inevitably start with the negative which is that this statement is not to be taken literally. The first main principle is that this teaching is not for nations or for the world. Indeed we can go further and say that this teaching has nothing whatever to do with a man who is not a Christian.
  • Therefore to advocate this teaching as a policy for a country or a nation is no less than heresy. It is heretical in this way: if we ask a man who has not been born again, and who has not received the Holy Spirit, to live the Christian life, we are really saying that a man can justify himself by works, and that is heresy. We are suggesting that a man by his own efforts, and by putting his mind to it, can live this life. That is an absolute contradiction of the whole of the New Testament.
  • This has nothing to do with nations or so-called Christian pacifism, Christian socialism and things like that. They cannot be based on this teaching; indeed they are a denial of it.
  • Secondly, this teaching, which concerns the Christian individual and nobody else, applies to him only in his personal relationships and not in his relationships as a citizen of his country. This is the whole crux of the teaching.
  • Here we have nothing but the reaction of the Christian as an individual to the things that are done to him personally.
  • The third principle which controls the interpretation of this subject is, clearly, that the question of killing and taking of life is not considered as such in this teaching, whether it be regarded as capital punishment, or killing in war, or any other form of killing.
  • Therefore, to interpret this paragraph in terms of pacifism and nothing else is to reduce this great and wonderful Christian teaching to a mere matter of legalism. And those who base their pacifism upon this paragraph-whether pacifism is right or wrong I am not concerned to say-are guilty of a kind of heresy. They have dropped back into the legalism of the Pharisees and scribes; and that is an utterly false interpretation.
  • What, then, is taught here? Surely there is but one principle in this teaching, and that is a man’s attitude towards himself.
  • What He asks you to face is yourself, and it is very much easier to discuss pacifism than to face His clear teaching at this point.
  • He is saying in effect that if we are to be truly Christian we must become dead to self. It is not a question of whether we should go into the Army or anything else; it is a question of what I think of myself, and of my attitude towards myself.
  • It is very spiritual teaching, and it works out in the following respects. First, I must be right in my attitude towards myself and the spirit of self-defense that immediately rises when any wrong is done to me. I must also deal with the desire for revenge and the spirit of retaliation that is so characteristic of the natural self. Then there is the attitude of self towards injustices that are done to it and towards the demands that are made upon it by the community or by the State. And finally there is the attitude of self to personal possessions.

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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.

One thought on “BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

  1. Awesome. I must get this book!

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