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book reviews

A Peculiar Glory by John PiperA Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness by John Piper. Crossway. 304 pages. 2016

This is Piper’s first major work since 2011’s Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. His objective is to answer the questions of how are we to know that the Scriptures are the word of God, how can we trust the Bible, and what do the Scriptures claim for themselves. Piper’s main passion has been toward the non-scholarly. He asks how the common (non-seminary trained, non-scholar) Christian has a well-grounded trust in Scripture. How can they know for certain that the Bible is confirmed by the peculiar glory of God?

He begins with his own biographical story about the Bible. He asks the reader ‘on what do you stand?’ He writes that God was holding onto him by making the view compelling. Piper didn’t just hold a view of Scripture, he was held by His glory through His Word. He tells us that he went from being a teacher of the Bible in Bible College to a preacher of the Bible for 33 years at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

He then looks at what the Scriptures claim for themselves, and how we can know such claims are true. His concern is the Bible’s self-attestation, or the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. He then looks at what books make up the Scriptures. From there he looks at what the Scriptures claim for themselves through the Old Testament, Jesus and the Apostles. Piper writes that he believes in the inerrancy of the original manuscripts, though we do not have the original manuscripts at our disposal.

He then addresses the main questions that are listed above. He concludes the book with six chapters on how the Scriptures are confirmed by the peculiar glory of God.

Piper contends that God’s Glory and His Word are inseparable. He draws heavily from Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, the Apostle Paul (specifically 2 Corinthians 4:3-6) and Westminster Larger Catechism question 4 to address the questions the book poses. He argues that the Bible exposes us to the glory of God and in that way gives us complete confidence that it is, indeed, God’s own word.

As he addresses the questions he sets out for this book he looks at saving faith and what he calls Pascal’s “misleading wager”, miracles and how the New Testament fulfills Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. He writes that we may believe that the Bible is the word of God but not be able to explain why. He offers helpful illustrations here, including one from the life of Billy Graham.

He states that Jesus is the embodiment of the peculiar glory of God. He looks at God’s self-glorification and how that confirms the Scriptures. He states that the Bible has the final authority in all areas of our lives.

This is a serious and thorough work by Piper. I recommend that it be read slowly so that you can fully grasp his points. He tells us that a second volume on the Scriptures is planned. Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture will be published April 30, 2017.

Enjoy these 10 Quotes from the book:

lucky-bastardLucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad, and the Things I’m Not Allowed to Say on TV by Joe Buck. Dutton. 304 pages. 2016

I listened to the audiobook version which was well-read by the author.  As a St. Louis Cardinals fan and someone who grew up listening to Jack Buck broadcast the games on KMOX, I was looking forward to this book by Jack’s son, Joe. Yes, I stated that intentionally, as Joe mentions several times that people have said that he got the opportunities he did only because he was Jack’s son.

“Buck”, which was his father’s nickname for him, really does have an incredible story to tell, which starts with his father having an affair with his mother Carol, resulting in the birth of Joe and the end of his father’s first marriage. He mentions several times of the difficult relationship he had with his father’s six children from his first marriage. Later Joe’s own marriage to first wife Ann, which produced two daughters, would also end.

By far, my favorite parts of the book were the author’s remembrances of his father, who he calls his best friend. Joe was known as “Jack’s boy”. Joe grew up in the press box at Busch Stadium in St. Louis sitting next to his father, learning by watching and listening to his Dad. He would often get to travel with his Dad on road games during the summer. On his 18th birthday in 1987, after getting dumped by his prom date, his Dad put him on the spot, having him broadcast a half inning at a Cardinals/Mets game at Shea Stadium. He would later broadcast Cardinals games with his father and Mike Shannon on KMOX.

He writes of having to share his father with the rest of St. Louis, where Jack was much loved. Jack would be diagnosed with lung cancer and die in 2002, seven difficult months after the diagnosis.

Joe auditioned with Fox Sports to broadcast football at age 23. He had never broadcast a football game but was hired, and later would broadcast the Super Bowl and even later the U.S. Open Golf tournament.

Joe started broadcasting baseball on Fox with his partner Tim McCarver, who had been very critical of his father when the two were paired together on CBS, leading to Jack being fired. The two cleared the air, and would work together well for 18 years, and are friends to this day.

He would work his first World Series for Fox in 1996. His memorable “We’ll see you tomorrow night” after the Cardinals’ David Freese’s 11th inning in game 6 of the 2011 World Series, the same call he had made almost 20 years to the day after his Dad had made a similar call in the World Series.

His writes of his eight hair plug surgeries. The eighth in 2001, resulted in the loss of his voice, his livelihood; he lied about the cause, saying it was due to a virus. He was also going through a divorce and the unhappiness of his daughters about it.

He writes of meeting second wife Michelle in 2012. He surprisingly writes very little about his mother Carol, noting early in the book that she is a Christian who wishes that her son would go to church.

He writes about Steve Horn, who is very important to his career and life, his best friend at this time. He also writes about recurring rumors that he is gay and recently getting tattoos. He writes about the impact of Twitter on broadcasters, and the short-lived HBO show Joe Buck Live and his new program Undeniable.   

I enjoyed this book a lot. It is bold and funny. But I was really disappointed by the author’s frequent use of vulgar and crude language, which adds nothing to the book. I recommend the book to Cardinal fans and those interested in Buck’s incredible sports broadcasting career.
book news

  • Devoted to GodDevoted to God. In Tim Challies review of Sinclair Ferguson’s excellent new book Devoted to God (my top book of the year) Tim writes, “Devoted to God is a brilliant work and one that I think is fit to enter the rare company of the Christian classics. It is an advanced work, perhaps overwhelming for the newest Christians, but challenging for even the most seasoned. It displays a deep knowledge of Scripture, a penetrating understanding of the human heart, and a great longing to “be holy, because I am holy.” There is not a Christian alive who will not benefit from reading and re-reading it. Not surprisingly, then, it receives my very highest recommendation.”
  • Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids. David Murray reviews Nancy Guthrie’s new book The One Year Praying Through the Bible for Your Kids. He writes “This would be a wonderful gift for parents to help them grow not just spiritually closer to their kids, and to one another, but, above all, closer to God.”
  • The Gospel According to Daniel. Richard Doster interviews Bryan Chapell about his excellent book The Gospel of Daniel.
  • Four Bad Reasons to Avoid Reading Old Books. Wyatt Graham writes “There are a number of bad reasons to avoid reading old books, which you should never use as an excuse to avoid reading old works of literature. I list four of them here, quoting C. S. Lewis liberally to make the point.”


  • Christmas Book Gift Ideas. David Murray offers this helpful list of book gift suggestions in a number of categories.
  • Christmas Playlist. Enjoy this video as Bob Lepine sits down with Alistair Begg to talk about his latest book Christmas Playlist. Here’s my review of this excellent book.
  • Tim Keller Wants You to Stop Underestimating Christmas. Matt Smethurst interviews Tim Keller about his wonderful new book Hidden Christmas, asking him why neither the god of moralism nor the god of relativism would’ve bothered with Christmas, how unbelievers try to “name” Jesus, and more.


  • My Top Books of 2016. Tim Challies gives his top picks out of the 100 or so books he read in 2016. I completely agree with him on author of the year – Sinclair Ferguson.
  • My Top 10 Books of 2016. Jared C. Wilson shares his top 10 books, with Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ at number 2, right where I will have it.
  • 10 Favorite Reads of 2016. Trevin Wax lists his top books of the year. The only one on his list that I’ve read is Tim Keller’s Making Sense of God.


  • Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture. I’m excited about Mark Miller’s forthcoming book –Leaders Made Here – which will be published March 13.
  • Steven Lawson has recently finished writing two books, which will both be released for distribution in February 2017. The first book is titled The Cost: What It Means to Follow Jesus. It is an expansion of a sermon that he preached several years ago entitled It Will Cost You Everything.It is on an exposition of Luke 14:25-35, with a hard-hitting message on the high cost of following Jesus Christ. The other book is entitled Philippians for You, and is a verse by verse commentary of Paul’s letter to the believers in Philippi. It is popular in style and is ideally suited for either one’s personal devotions, a small group Bible study, or a Sunday school class.
  • Reading Romans with Luther. I’m excited about Reading Romans with Luther, a new book from RJ Grunewald. I’ve been able to read an advanced copy of the book that will be published January 12. It’s available for pre-order now.
  • 12 Christian Books Releasing in 2017 to Keep On Your Radar. Kevin Halloran writes “I’ve been keeping a list of 2017 Christian books I’m excited about and thought I would share them with you to cut away the clutter.”
  • 50 Books to Watch for in 2017. Tony Reinke shares 50 upcoming books that get his attention.

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

Jesus Outside the LinesJesus Outside the Lines BOOK CLUB

Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls

This is a book I’ve been wanting – and not wanting – to read for a while. I’ve wanted to read it because I enjoy Scott Sauls’ blog posts and I’ve heard a lot of good things about the book. He’s a pastor in the same denomination I serve in, he served with Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, graduated from Covenant Seminary and is a St. Louis Cardinals fan. What’s not to like about the guy?

I’ve not wanted to read the book because I think it’s going to challenge me to get out of my comfortable box. How about reading along with Tammy and I?

This week we look at highlights from Chapter Eight: Chastity or Sexual Freedom?

  • Sex can be incredibly life giving, comforting, and healing when handled with care. It is among the most delightful of all human activities. It is also among the most dangerous.
  • When sex is taken outside its natural and created boundaries, it becomes destructive, leaving burn marks and scars. That’s why God is in favor of chastity, or sexual abstinence, for those living outside the covenant of marriage.
  • Biblically, the most interesting and attractive women and men are those whose hearts are at rest because they know that God loves them. Their beauty is from inside and is not fixated on cosmetic perfection, but on substantive character, driven by a reciprocal love for God that also frees them to love their neighbor.
  • A strong case can be made that casual sex and objectification—self-centered lust for people in general versus self-giving love for one person in particular—are chief contributors to unparalleled divorce rates, sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancies, body-image depression, teen suicides, terminations of life in the womb, and little girls being trafficked and sold into prostitution. Our culture of casual sex has led to outcomes that are anything but casual.
  • Until we learn to see people as people instead of things, as image bearers to be loved instead of objects to be used, sexuality will only become more confused and broken.
  • Some people are surprised when they find out that the Bible promotes and even commands sexual pleasure. God is in favor of sexual freedom—within the bounds of marriage.
  • Anyone who thinks the Bible is stuffy about sex either hasn’t read the Bible or hasn’t been paying attention to what it says.
  • Sex between a husband and wife points to this ultimate union: the union between Christ and his bride, the church. It also points to the wedding feast promised to believers in the new heaven and new earth as well as the “happily ever after” we will enjoy with Jesus the Bridegroom.
  • As a Christian I am bound to yield my personal feelings and wishes to the sacred words of Jesus, who affirmed that in the beginning, God made them male and female, and the man was united to the woman, and the two became one flesh.
  • If I am going to have anything meaningful to contribute to this discussion, it must begin with a recognition that temporary celibacy pales in comparison with what many same-sex-attracted people feel is a lifelong prison sentence of suppressing libido and romantic feelings. For those who are not same-sex attracted, this conversation needs to begin with compassion and maintain compassion as its foundation. We must never presume to understand what it is like to walk in shoes we will never wear.
  • “The Bible says it; that settles it” is a lazy and unthoughtful approach that alienates people who long for companionship yet bear the burden of unwanted singleness and celibacy.
  • We must ask the radical question of what it will take to ensure that every unmarried person has access to friendships as deep and lasting as marriage and as meaningful as sex. We must also ask what it will take for our communities to effectively cultivate such friendships.
  • What if the church were the place where being unmarried was not only accepted, but seen as a high and noble calling as it was for Jesus and Paul?
  • The first and fundamental goal in marriage is for a husband and wife to prepare each other for an everlasting marriage to Jesus.
  • The only marriage that will remain in the new heaven and new earth is the marriage between Jesus and his bride, the church.
  • It means that whether married, unmarried, divorced, or widowed now, every believer in Jesus is and will be united with him forever in the marriage that will fulfill every unsatisfied longing, every unfulfilled attraction, every missed opportunity for companionship, love, and intimacy.
  • Whether gay, straight, single, divorced, painfully married, or happily married, may we find strength, resolve, and hope as we remember that God created us ultimately for an everlasting marriage to Jesus—a marriage that can already be ours now and that will enjoy an intimacy even deeper than the marriage bed in the world to come.

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 Ten from Volume 2, “Be Not Anxious”:

  • There are two main aspects to be considered-what the Christian does in private, and what he does in public.
  • The great thing is to concentrate on this danger of being oppressed and obsessed by the things that are seen, the things that belong to time and to this world alone.
  • What our Lord is warning us against, therefore, is the danger of thus being distracted from the main objective in life by care, by this anxiety about earthly, worldly things, by looking so much at them that we do not look at God-this danger of living the double life, this false view, this dualism.
  • The main trouble with most of us is that we have forgotten first principles, and especially this vital one that the things we enjoy in this life are the gift of God.
  • It is God Himself who gives us life, and the body in which we live it; and if He has done that we can draw this deduction, that His purpose with respect to us will be fulfilled.
  • God never leaves unfinished any work He has begun; whatever He starts, whatever He has purposed, He will most surely fulfil. And therefore we come back to this, that there is a plan for every life in the mind of God. We must never regard our lives in this world as accidental.

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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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