Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

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Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need by David Platt. Multnomah. 224 pages. 2019
****

In Something Needs to Change, you get exactly what you would expect out of a David Platt book – to be challenged biblically to get out of your comfort zone and take action. He takes a different approach in the writing of this book, one of the best I’ve read this year. He uses an experience – a trek through multiple trips with a few men on Himalayan trails – rather than basing the book on his sermons. On his trips, he came face to face with men, women, and children in urgent spiritual (those who have never heard of Jesus), and physical (illness, disease, hunger, trafficking), need, and tries to understand what it all means for his life. He knows that it must mean something, as certainly he’s not supposed to see and hear these things and then go on with business as usual in his life. I experienced the same feelings as I read this book about these urgent spiritual and physical needs.
In the book, we follow the author and his friends on their trek as they see faces and touch people. The region that he travels to includes about nine million people. Out of that nine million, there are probably less than one hundred followers of Jesus. He writes that the reality is that most of the people have never even heard of Jesus. The area is the birthplace of both Hinduism and Buddhism.  Throughout the book, the author shares scripture from Luke’s Gospel that he was reading on his trek, along with his journaling. Because the book is intended to be an experience on the Himalayan trails, the author includes a few questions for reflection at the end of each day of the trek to help the reader make the most of their own journey.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of…
~ 5 Minutes in Church History: An Introduction to the Stories of God’s Faithfulness in the History of the Church by Stephen J. Nichols
~ A Company of Heroes: Portraits from the Gospel’s Global Advance by Tim Keesee
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING….


The author addresses honest questions he has as a pastor as he experiences the trek. The world, and his life in it, make no sense to him. He knows that there is a God, and he knows He is in control of all things, but why has he received such blessing when so many others haven’t? He realizes that what the villages and the people in them need most is the gospel. They also need the church in them, but not an American version of church; they need a biblical version of church.
The author prays that God will help him do whatever He wants him to do with all He has given him, a prayer that we could all pray. He asks the reader what if each of us really considered all the ways we might play a unique part in the spread of the gospel where it has not yet gone. A challenging question is what should we do with the wealth and privilege we have. He tells us that ignorance of the poor and of the opportunities we have to help the poor is no longer possible. Neither is indifference.
He tells us that the book has missed the mark if our lives end up looking just like it did before we read it. If we know that people are suffering both physically and spiritually like this, then we are accountable before God for what we do (or don’t do) in response. He writes that God has created our lives to count in a world of urgent need.

The author concludes the book with a challenge:

  1. Work Hard to Help Well Amid Earthly Suffering
  2. Work Hardest to Keep People from Eternal Suffering
  3. Be the Church God Calls Us to Be
  4. Run the Race God Calls You to Run

He encourages us to live with a holy sense of urgency, as if today could be our last. He challenges us that for Jesus’s sake, to let gospel reality in our heads fuel gospel fervency in our hearts that leads to gospel urgency in our lives. He concludes with the question “What something needs to change in our lives to effect change with the hope of Jesus in a world of urgent spiritual and physical need?”
Below are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • God didn’t design the gospel of Jesus to be confined to our minds and mouths in the church, yet disconnected from our emotions and actions in the world.
  • We need to dare to come face to face with desperate need in the world around us and ask God to do a work deep within us that we could never manufacture, manipulate, or make happen on our own.
  • God is calling me to new heights of love for him and others. To a kind of love that goes beyond all my religious learning or sense of religious responsibility. To a kind of love only God can create. A kind of love that causes you to change the plans you might have had for your life or your family or your future. A kind of costly, uncomfortable love that’s neither complacent nor content to protect yourself from the needs of those around you.
  • These villages and the people in them need the church. The church as God has designed it to be. A people fearlessly holding on to God’s Word while selflessly sacrificing to share and show God’s love amid need around them. This kind of church can change the world!
  • Would you and I be content with belonging to a community that is simply committed to seeking God, loving each other, and sharing the good news of God’s love with the world around us no matter what it costs us? Isn’t this the essence of the church according to God’s design?
  • Devotion to Jesus means denial of oneself and death to one’s thoughts, desires, plans, and dreams. According to Jesus, following him means making him your entire life.
  • The life of a Christian is always costly—for people who are actually following Christ.
  • One of the greatest needs not just in the church in the Himalayas but in the place where I live is for us to open up our Bibles with fresh, unfiltered eyes and ask, “Are we really doing church the way this Book describes it?”
  • You are in your job, your school, your neighborhood, or your apartment complex with the gifts, skills, abilities, and resources you possess by divine design. God has sovereignly given you unique opportunities for the spread of gospel hope in the world around you. Open your eyes to opportunities you have to use your time, your money, and your talents to spread the gospel where it hasn’t gone and to serve people who desperately need to see and feel God’s love face to face.

5 Minutes in Church History: An Introduction to the Stories of God’s Faithfulness in the History of the Church by Stephen J. Nichols. Reformation Trust Publishing. 148 pages. 2019
****

This book is based on the author’s popular podcast of the same name, with the chapters originally being episodes on the podcast. The book offers a series of postcards of people, places, events, artifacts, dates and ideas. The forty short chapters are divided equally over the following categories:

  • The Early Church
  • The Middle Ages
  • The Reformation
  • The Modern Age

The book contains chapters on some familiar subjects – Spurgeon, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther and Edwards, for example, as well as some that you might not expect – the catacombs, the Bible that Shakespeare used, Robinson Crusoe’s conversion and the relationship between Ben Franklin and George Whitefield. One chapter that I particularly enjoyed was on cathedrals, reading this shortly after visiting a few of the great cathedrals of Great Britain.

I love history, particularly church history, and really enjoyed this short book. I’m hoping that the author will make a series of these books.

A Company of Heroes: Portraits from the Gospel’s Global Advance by Tim Keesee. Crossway. 284 pages. 2019
****

The author is the founder and executive director of Frontline Missions International. I’ve enjoyed and appreciated his excellent ten-part video series Dispatches from the Front. Much of this book has the feel of those videos as he travels around the world to visit believers. These believers are heroes to him, and they should be to us as well. They trusted him to tell their stories despite the risks they face as they live on mission in hard places. He has shared jungle paths, desert roads, and city streets on five continents with these believers. They are heroes for the ways in which they magnify the grace and power of the risen Christ. They are foot soldiers in the long campaign as Christ builds his church across the centuries and among all peoples. The author writes that every time he goes to another corner of the world and sees the church growing and the gospel changing lives, his view of God gets bigger.
The author also introduces us to some of his heroes from the past. Some of those heroes are his father and mother, Pastor Frank Washburn, Amy Carmichael and William Carey. He writes that whether well-known or unknown, past or present, these stories are important reminders that the gospel does not only reach across the globe, but it also spans generations and centuries. The ones he writes about in this book are those whose lives and impact he’s had the opportunity to trace during his travels. The stories that we hear about come from the author’s journals of his travels to places such as Jerusalem, China, Mongolia, Ethiopia, Turkey, Salt Lake City, Utah, Oxford, England, Philippines, Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos.
The people he writes about are ordinary men and women who have an extraordinary Savior. Their stories of courage and perseverance are both heartbreaking and encouraging. I highly recommend this book for all believers.

  • Book Review: J-Curve by Paul Miller. Mark Redfern reviews J-Curve: Dying and Rising With Jesus in Everyday Life, the new book by Paul Miller. He writes “J-Curve is a refreshing reminder that true spirituality is earthy spirituality.”
  • Os Guinness. Os Guinness joins The Eric Metaxas Radio Show, to discuss his new book Carpe Diem Redeemed.
  • Why Matt Chandler Chose to Suffer Publicly. On this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast, Matt Chandler joins Collin Hansen to talk about his own experience of suffering, which he tells in a new book Joy in the Sorrow: How a Thriving Church (and Its Pastor) Learned to Suffer Well.
  • David Platt Insists Something Needs to Change. On this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast, Collin Hansen interviews David Platt about a trip he took to the Himalayas, where physical and spiritual needs collided, and his eyes were opened to the urgency of reaching the unreached.

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

The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? by John MacArthur

We are reading through John MacArthur’s classic book The Gospel According to Jesus. What did Jesus mean when He said, “Follow me”?  MacArthur tackled that seemingly simple question and provided the evangelical world with the biblical answer.  For many, the reality of Jesus’ demands has proved thoroughly searching, profoundly disturbing, and uncomfortably invasive; and yet, heeding His words is eternally rewarding.

This week we look at Chapter 1 ‘What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, “Follow Me”?’ Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:

  • Jesus is Lord. That is the single, central, foundational, and distinguishing article of Christianity. It is also the first essential confession of faith every true Christian must make.
  • The belief that someone could be a true Christian while that person’s whole lifestyle, value system, speech, and attitude are marked by a stubborn refusal to surrender to Christ as Lord is a notion that shouldn’t even need to be refuted.
  • You cannot remove the lordship of Christ from the gospel message without undermining faith at its core.
  • The true gospel according to Jesus is a message that cannot be divorced from the reality of His lordship.
  • That is, after all, the whole gist of the no-lordship message: you can have Jesus as Savior and Friend here and now and decide later whether you really want to submit to His authority or not. It is hard to imagine a more disastrous twisting of what it means to be a Christian.
  • Slavery to Christ is not a minor or secondary feature of true discipleship.
  • Implicit obedience to His commandments is the necessary, expected, and natural fruit of genuine love for Him. It is also therefore the telltale mark of authentic saving faith.
  • The gospel according to Jesus calls sinners to give up their independence, deny themselves, submit to an alien will, and abandon all rights in order to be owned and controlled by the Lord.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 39 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 2 Corinthians 5:21 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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