Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

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Some Pastors and Teachers: Reflecting a Biblical Vision of What Every Minister is Called to Be by Sinclair Ferguson. Banner of Truth. 824 pages. 2017
****

Sinclair Ferguson is one of today’s most respected Reformed theologians. In fact the late R.C. Sproul called him his favorite theologian. Anytime Dr. Ferguson publishes a new book it is going to get my attention. This eight-hundred plus page volume is no ordinary book, and will be a welcome addition to any pastor’s library.
The book, which covers many of the themes and tasks of Christian ministry, is broken into five major sections, which include 39 chapters. The major sections are:

  1. Pastors and Teachers: Three Johns
  2. John Calvin: Pastor-Teacher
  3. Puritans: Pastors and Teachers
  4. The Pastor and Teaching
  5. The Pastor and Preaching

The title of the book comes from Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:11. The author tells us that many of these chapters were first published in relatively obscure places in the context of busy pastoral ministry. Now, he sees how the essays seem to self-select and rearrange themselves into a coherent whole. He hopes that these pages will encourage other pastors to stretch themselves beyond their normal pulpit or lectern preparation and accept invitations to study, speak and write on subjects outside of their norm.
He encourages pastors and teachers to utilize their gifts for fellow pastors. He sees this book as representing some of the gifts that the Lord has given him for others who have an interest in and a concern for the ministry of the gospel.
Although this is a massive volume, each chapter is an entity on its own. The author states that readers can enter and leave at any point they choose as no chapter is completely dependent on the previous chapter or any other chapter in the book. Though a seminary graduate, I’m a ruling elder not a preaching pastor. The arrangement of this book will allow me to focus on those sections that focus on teaching, rather than preaching, for example.
I look forward to benefiting from the wisdom contained in these pages for many years. This would be an excellent addition to any minister’s library.

Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture by John Piper. Crossway. 432 pages. 2017 
****

This is volume two of Piper’s projected trilogy of books on the Bible, with the third projected for 2018. This is the first book he tried to write, but he put it aside to write A Peculiar Glory in 2016. That book addressed the question as to whether the Bible was true. He begins by giving a recap of that book for those who haven’t read it. This new book is organized into three parts:

  1. The author addresses what the Bible tells us is the ultimate goal of reading the Bible.
  2. The author works out the inferences from part one that reading the Bible must be a supernatural act if God’s goals for our reading the Bible are to be reached.
  3. The author treats the practical outworking of such a claim in the seemingly ordinary human act of reading, the natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally.

Part 1
Piper writes that the ultimate goal of reading the Bible is that the infinite worth and beauty of God would be exalted in everlasting white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language tribe and nation. Piper discusses the relationship of God’s glory to His holiness, emphasizing the need to see God’s glory in Scripture through careful, reflective reading and to savor this glory for the sake of personal transformation.
He tells us that we “see” the glory of Christ through the eyes of our hearts when reading Scripture. We savor the Word when we move from discipline to yearning and hunger for the Word as we are being transformed.

Part 2
The reading of the Bible is a supernatural act. The author writes that if we have to see the glory of God in Scripture and if we have to savor the glory of God above all things, that is a miracle, because by nature nobody reads the Bible and sees the glory of God and savors it above all things.

Part 3
This section, the most practical of the book, is about the natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally. The author builds a biblical case for why Scripture must be read supernaturally. His aim is to encourage a deep dependence on God in the fullest use of your natural powers in the supernatural act of reading the Bible. He discusses in detail his APTAT acronym – Admit, Pray, Trust, Act and Thank. Within the “P”, he discusses the IOUS acronym – Incline, Open, Unite and Satisfy. He writes about the indispensable role of prayer in reading the Bible supernaturally.

He states that for many Christians Bible reading is often viewed as a duty to be scheduled and fulfilled rather than a feast to be anticipated and enjoyed. He stresses that as we read the Bible, we should seek to discover what the author intended by asking good questions. He recommends two translations of the Bible, the English Standard Version (ESV) and New American Standard Version (NASB).
He states that we should ask how ourselves how we are being changed by what we are reading.
The book contains some familiar themes for those who have read Piper books (“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”, Edwards quotes, joy). This is a serious book, but not a technical book written for scholars. It is a book that I would recommend for both beginning Bible readers and for mature Bible readers. It has changed the way I think about how I read the Bible.

  • Christianaudio’s free book for January. Tony Reinke’s book 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You is Christianaudio’s free audiobook of the month. It’s a good one. Here’s my review of the book.
  • How (Not) to Read Next Year. Jon Bloom writes “If you don’t give some strategic thought to what you willand will not read, large amounts of your life will be eaten up next year reading demanding, urgent-sounding, trivial, or peripheral things, and you’ll hardly notice how much time they consume. You’ll simply get to next December and wonder where all the time went and why you managed to read so little of what you wish you had read.
  • The One Must-Read This Year. John Piper writes “Let me hold out to you seven reasons to read and meditate on the Bible every day next year.”
  • My Favorite Reads of 2017. Our friend Kevin Halloran shares his favorite books he read in 2017.
  • Best Books for Pastors in 2017. Alex Duke of 9Marks share the top books from a survey of 60 pastors around the world.
  • The Christian Leader’s Guide to Economics. Jeff Haanen reviews Tom Nelson’s new book The Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing in Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity. He writes “The Economics of Neighborly Love will surely encourage more pastors to “take seriously the profound stewardship of nurturing both Christian compassion and economic capacity.” This is indeed a part of a gospel that proclaims “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,” including our work, our cities, and even our economy (2 Cor. 5:19).”
  • Truth for a Transitioning Time: Andrew Walker’s God and the Transgender Debate. Owen Strachan reviews Andrew Walker’s new book and writes “I find a great deal to commend in God and the Transgender Debate.”
  • Deep Bible Reading Strategies for the Tired and Busy. In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast he responds to a question about the approach he takes in his daily devotional reading each morning?”
  • Audio/Video of Three R.C. Sproul Children’s Books. Kevin Halloran writes “One lesser-known fact about Dr. Sproul is that he wrote several children’s books—excellentchildren’s books. Several animated versions (or audio recordings) are available on YouTube and other places, and I have compiled them for you below.”

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

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch.  224 pages. 2017

In this important new book, Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making, draws on in-depth original research from the Barna Group, and shows readers that the choices we make about technology have consequences we may never have considered. He takes readers beyond the typical questions of what, where, and when and instead challenges them to answer provocative questions like, Who do we want to be as a family? and How does our use of a particular technology move us closer or farther away from that goal? Anyone who has felt their family relationships suffer or their time slip away amid technology’s distractions will find in this book a path forward to reclaiming their real life in a world of devices.  This week we look at

Chapter 9 Why Singing Matters

  • Like so much of technology, there is no way to deny that this easy-everywhere abundance of music is a gift. And it has also caused us to forget and neglect what every other generation of human beings, in every culture, remembered and cultivated: the ability to make music on our own.
  • The reorientation of our musical lives around consumption is robbing us of something deeper; it is robbing us of a fundamental form of worship.
  • If you want to be wise, then, the most important thing you can learn to do is worship.
  • Worship is also the path to real courage.
  • At its best, worship transforms us, making us people capable of things we could never work up the capacity or courage for on our own: the ability to sacrifice, to love, to repent, to forgive, and to hope.
  • One of the biggest threats to wisdom and virtue in a technological age is that we can so easily settle for something less than the best.
  • Worship calls us out of the small pleasures of an easy-everywhere world to the real joy and burden of bearing the image of God in a world where nothing is easy, everything is broken, and yet redemption is possible.
  • I believe the very best way to learn to worship, at home or in our churches, is to sing.
  • Simply, singing may be the one human activity that most perfectly combines heart, mind, soul, and strength.
  • To sing well—not in the sense of singing in perfect tune or like a professional, but in this sense of bringing heart, mind, soul, and strength to our singing—is to touch the deepest truths about the world. It is to know wisdom. And it’s also to develop the courage and character to declare that God is this good, that we are this in need of him, that we are this thankful, that we are this committed to be part of his story.
  • In too many of our churches, however, we have settled for a technological substitute for worship: amplification, which allows a few experts to do the worshiping on our behalf while we offer far too little of our own heart, soul, mind, and strength.
  • It is absolutely possible to learn to really sing. You may or may not be able to learn to sing on pitch, but you can learn to sing with heart, mind, soul, and strength.
  • There are many things we’ve done poorly, belatedly, or distractedly in our family, but one thing I am most grateful we have done intentionally is sing together.

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 38 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and Colossians 3:23 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

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