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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies. Challies. 128 pages. 2018

Tim Challies’ latest book, which celebrates mothers who were used to shape the men who changed the world, began as a series of articles. Rebecca Stark and Melissa Edgington added helpful “Questions for Reflection” for each chapter, and Edgington also adds “A Mother’s Reflection” at the end of each chapter.
He tells us that it may surprise us to learn how many of our Christian heroes were shaped by the attentiveness and godliness of their mothers. Even though they may have had fathers who were present, involved, and godly, they would insist that their primary spiritual influencer had been their mother. In this book, he takes a brief look at some of them. Below are a few items I highlighted about each of the remarkable women profiled in this short book:

The Hidden Strength of a Weak Mother – John Newton

  • Elizabeth consistently trained her son in Reformed theology.
  • Elizabeth prayed and hoped God would call him to ministry.
  • As biographer Jonathan Aitken says, “The spiritual lessons the boy had learned at his mother’s knee were never forgotten. They become the foundation for Newton’s eventual conversion and Christian commitment.”

The Prayer of a Godly Mother – Hudson Taylor

  • She determined to pray for her son until she came to a sense of assurance that God would save him.
  • Rightly would he be known as one of the great Christian missionaries. And his story cannot be told without giving due credit to the power of a praying mother.

The Unbreakable Bond of Training and Tenderness – J. Gresham Machen

  • It was on her knee that he had first learned the Bible and that he first learned of the Christian life through The Pilgrim’s Progress. In line with her Presbyterian roots, she diligently trained her son in the Westminster Catechism, leading him to understand and embrace its historic, Reformed theology. She consistently prepared Sunday afternoon Bible lessons and discussions for her boys.

The Perseverance of a Godly Mother – Christopher Yuan

  • Little did he know that Angela had been praying. For years, she had been earnestly pleading with God to save her son.

The Power of a Godly Mother’s Surrender – William Borden

  • Every day before school, he and his mother would pray together on their knees, asking that William would experience Christ’s power in his life.
  • She had consecrated him to the Lord’s service and now had to surrender him.
  • All through William’s life, he and his mother had prayed that God’s will would be done. And somehow it was, though not in the way either one had anticipated.

The Lasting Influence of a Mother’s Devotion – Charles Hodge

  • She herself took the lead in their Christian education, tutoring them especially in the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
  • This early theological training laid a foundation that would mark the rest of Charles’s life.

 The Quiet Grace of the Ordinary – John Piper

  • Her consistent example left John with a love of hard work.
  • No one had a deeper spiritual influence on John than his mother, so it seems fitting that when John was 6, it was Ruth who knelt with him and led him in prayer as he received Christ as his Savior.
  • She shaped the way he approached life. Through her willingness to bear any burden, through her simple but tenacious faith, through her tender empathy, through her ordinary life, she made an immeasurable impact on her son.

The Virtue of a Pleading Mother – Charles Spurgeon

  • Some of Charles’s earliest memories are of his mother gathering the children to read the Bible to them and to plead with them to turn to Christ.
  • He paid tribute to her for being his foremost teacher and for being the one who had so often begged God for the gift of salvation.

The Patience of a Godly Mother – Augustine

  • It was God’s good plan to use the patient and persistent prayers of Augustine’s mother to draw her son to faith.
  • She was his first teacher, his first instructor in Scripture and sound doctrine.

The Impact of a Hard-Working Mother – D.L. Moody

  • Betsy was committed to attending church and taught her children from the only books in the house—a Bible, a catechism, and a small devotional.

No Greater Accolade – Timothy

  • Timothy’s mother and grandmother had introduced him to the Bible. And the Bible had done its work in him.
  • Timothy was a man of the Word because he had been raised by a woman of the Word.

Heaven on Earth: What the Bible Teaches about Life to Come by Derek Thomas. Christian Focus Publications. 75 pages. 2018

The material in this short book, from a respected pastor and theologian, was originally preached as sermons. His prayer for the readers of the book is that they will get right with God, before it is too late. It is only then, he writes, that heaven can be entertained as an assurance and certainty.
He writes that for all the skepticism that abounds in our time, people still want to know what happens after death. But what do people mean when they talk about heaven? The author is persuaded that he shall be in heaven when he dies, but he won’t spend eternity in that heaven. No, at the Resurrection, he shall live in the new heaven and new earth, with the emphasis on the new earth.
He writes that preaching about what happens after death confirmed in him once again the vital importance of what happens after death. Apart from the gospel—faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, apart from any works on our part—it is not heaven (in either sense) that awaits us, but everlasting punishment in hell.
He writes that when we die, our consciousness, or our “soulish part”, continues to exist. We never really cease to exist, but simply continue in another realm of God’s created order, in that realm where Jesus lives in His resurrected, ascended body. That place is called heaven. He writes that we can be certain that heaven and hell exist because the Bible insists on it.
He tells us that death is not the end, just the start of another journey. It is like getting on a train, or bus or an airplane that will take us to heaven.  Christians have every reason to believe that heaven awaits them when they die. After death, Christians are more alive than they have ever been. They are in the presence of Christ, and they know it. Knowing the journey ahead with certainty enables us to face it with courage.
He writes that nothing could be more certain for a believer than the belief that when we die, our souls are with Jesus in a conscious state and, when Jesus returns, our souls will be clothed with the physicality of a resurrected body.
Where will believers spend eternity? In a world like ours, but only better, on a new heaven and new earth. Heaven in its final state will be like a new city, a new temple, a new garden and a new world. In the new heavens and new earth, Christians are going to reign with Christ.
Scripture is very clear that differences exist in the new earth. There is continuity and there is also discontinuity. The greatest experience of heaven will be to gaze on Jesus’ beautiful face.  We will bow in worship and praise and adoration and sing His praises.
This short, and very readable book, would be an excellent one to give to those who have questions about what happens after we die.

Strength for the Weary by Derek W.H. Thomas. Reformation Trust Publishing. 137 pages. 2018

The latest book by a respected pastor and theologian is a devotional book written for the purpose of encouraging downtrodden pilgrims. He tells us that weariness in the Christian life is something we all experience at some stage or another. Finding help in the midst of our trials and finding God in difficult times is what this book is about.
This short book, which originated as part of a short series of sermons the author preached, is not a commentary on the entirety of the second half of Isaiah. Instead, the author has chosen some of the great texts from this portion of Scripture. The author uses passages that have meant a great deal to him over the years, and he writes that they seem particularly poignant for the antagonistic culture in which we currently live. The book is intended to provide encouragement to weary pilgrims on their journey through this world of trial and sorrow.
I was encouraged as I read this book and highlighted many passages as I read it. Below are a few that stood out for me.

  1. God knows the end and the beginning. And when we find ourselves in the fog of despair, He knows the way out. He knows how this story will end because He has planned it and controls it.
  2. For in the midst of the pain and heartache is our inscrutable, unchangeable, sovereign Lord. And when we discover Him, and fall into His arms, there is a peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7).
  3. There is always a purpose behind what is happening, even if we cannot see it. It is the purpose of God.
  4. Isaiah offers confidence for those who have lost all sense of hope. He offers meaning and purpose where there is only vanity and despair. When all you have is an ache or a longing, there is an invitation to salvation and wholeness.
  5. To both the hopeless and the dissatisfied, Isaiah offers confidence and fulfillment.
  6. It is one thing to impose laws and ceremonies that God has not commanded and make this everything. It is another to neglect laws and ceremonies that God has commanded and think this is nothing.
  7. The Sabbath is designed as help for the weary. It provides a taste of gospel rest and a foretaste of eternal rest.
  8. Until His kingdom comes. Strength is found in prayer.
  9. God intends for us an existence in which we will never die or experience the pain of loss or suffering.
  10. Giving yourself to things that ultimately have no lasting value will ultimately destroy you. Instead, and by the grace of God, give yourself to what really lasts: the new heavens and new earth. This alone provides strength for the weary.

  • 15 Popular Passages from Don’t Waste Your Life. In his best-selling book that has sold more than 1 million copies, Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper makes a passionate plea to the next generation to not waste their lives, but to live wholeheartedly for Christ. Below are 15 of the most popular quotations and excerpts from the book.
  • Book Review: Some Pastors and Teachers. Erik Raymond writes “Some Pastors and Teachers is less like having Ferguson for a seminary professor and more like having him for coffee. He disciples readers with his characteristic tenderness and biblical fidelity.”
  • New John Piper Book. “John Piper has distilled over thirty years of preaching experience into one book for the benefit of pastors and other Bible teachers. Building on the foundation laid by his previous two books, A Peculiar Glory and Reading the Bible Supernaturally, Piper makes a compelling claim about the purpose of a sermon: it should not just explain the text; it should awaken worship by being worship. Christian preaching is a God-appointed means of transforming its hearers in both head and heart — in both intellect and affections.”
  • Share Your House Key to Win Your Neighbors. Tilly Dillehay reviews the latest book from Rosaria Butterfield. She writes “The Gospel Comes with a House Key is both a theology of hospitality and a practical how-to in the form of stories.”
  • How God Used the Radical Gift of Ordinary Hospitality to Win Rosaria Butterfield to Christ. Watch this six-minute video which serves as an excellent introduction to Rosaria Butterfield’s powerful new book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post-Christian World.
  • Rosaria Butterfield: Christian Hospitality Is Radically Different from “Southern Hospitality”. Lindsey Carlson interviews Rosaria Butterfield about her new book The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post-Christian World.
  • Bob Buford Dies. Bob Buford, the author of Halftime, died recently.
  • Keeping the Evangel in Evangelism: Why Evangelicalism Can’t Abandon the Old, Old Story. Albert Mohler writes “As we evangelize we must keep the gospel and the person of Christ central and we must unashamedly and winsomely teach our evangelical commitments. We must talk about God’s holiness and righteousness, we must talk about sin, and we must talk about our need of a Savior. The core of the good news is the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the one we must talk about most of all — and without fail.”

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

 The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler. 224 pages. 2018

In this new book, step by step, phrase by phrase, Dr. Mohler explains what the words in The Lord’s Prayer mean and how we are to pray them.
This week we look at Chapter 5: Give Us This Day

  • The petition “give us this day our daily bread” reminds us of our dependence on God for even the most fundamental needs of life.
  • Food, rightly received, functions as a constant reminder of the greatness of God and our need for his goodness and provision.
  • Jesus highlights our regular dependence on God by teaching us to pray for our “daily” bread.
  • The word “daily” here teaches us to train our hearts to depend consistently on God, rather than just in times of need.
  • We may never experience great riches, but we can be confident that God will provide for us—though sometimes his perception of what we most need may be different from our own.
  • At times God may not provide for us in the way that we think is best. But we will always find that he provides for us according to his infinite love and care.

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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