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.
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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Enjoy Your Prayer Life by Michael Reeves
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BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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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.
Enjoy Your Prayer Life by Michael Reeves. 10Publishing. 48 pages. 2014
In this short, but helpful book, the author tells us that sadly, most of us are not good at prayer, and that even church leaders are not communing with God much.
He begins by writing that we need to think about what exactly prayer is. John Calvin called prayer the chief exercise of faith. Prayer is the primary way true faith expresses itself. We are all sinners, but the solution, what will give us the true life of real communion with God, is the gospel of Christ that awakens faith.
The author tells us that Jesus was the first pray-er. The salvation he brings is a sharing of his own communion with his Father. The first thing Jesus would have pray-ers know is the name Father. That is the first and basic lesson in prayer. To address God as Father and mean it is to understand the gospel well.
The author tells us that praying is enjoying – and pleading for – the friendship and friendly assistance of God. To know you are a beloved child of God protects you from thinking of prayer as a ladder to God or an exercise by which you work your way into his favor. Prayer doesn’t make us more accepted. Instead, prayer is growing in the appreciation of what we have been given.
If prayer is communion with God, then it can take many forms. I found it helpful that the author tells us that we don’t need to try to ‘fit’ God into each day. We shouldn’t see our prayer life as something different from the rest of life. When we default to thinking of prayer as an abstract activity, a ‘thing to do’, the tendency is to focus on the prayer as an activity – which makes it boring.
The author states that being a Christian is first and foremost all about receiving, asking and depending. Prayer is enjoying the care of a powerful Father, the antithesis of self-dependence.
In writing about the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer, the author tells us that the Spirit is the wind in the sails of our prayer as he catches us up into the Son’s love for the Father. The Spirit knows that we’re weak, that we struggle to pray and that we often don’t know what to pray – and his desire is to help us. The Spirit doesn’t just bring us in Christ to the Father – he brings us together to him as the Father’s family. Therefore, we also pray together with Christ as brothers and sisters before our Father. Communal prayer is the Christian life in a nutshell – the family of the Father coming together to him to share his concerns. Prayer for each other is sharing our Father’s compassion. Prayer with each other is being family, and it fosters the unity our God loves.
So, prayer is not an abstract activity. Rather, it is the chief exercise of faith. It is exercising belief that the Almighty is my willing and kind Father, and that, accepting me in the Son, he wants to hear us and bless us.
- The Chronicles of Narnia Still Grips Our Imagination, 70 Years Later. Russell Moore writes “Narnia persists in our imaginations because Lewis knew something about us that we sometimes forget. We’re not mere cerebral networks or limbic systems, but creatures made to look for signposts.”
- The Children’s Series You Should Start Reading in 2020. Ginger Blomberg interviews Andrew Peterson about why we need stories now, what’s next for the Wingfeathers, trusting the author when bad things happen, and ice cream.
- Every Moment Holy, Vol. 2. “Every Moment Holy, 2: Death, Grief, and Hope by Doug McKelvey, is a book of liturgies for seasons of dying and grieving–liturgies such as “A Liturgy for the Scattering of Ashes” or “A Liturgy for the Loss of a Spouse” or “A Liturgy for the Wake of a National Tragedy.” These are ways of reminding us that our lives are shot through with sacred purpose and eternal hopes even when, especially when, suffering and pain threaten to overwhelm us.” I have been encouraged by Vol. 1, and look forward to this new volume, to be released in February.
- Why White Fragility Fails. Denny Burk writes “If you wish for racial healing, you must not accept a cure that is arguably worse than the disease. And yet that is what is on offer in White Fragility. Diangelo points out a lot of problems but provides no real solutions. The gospel of Jesus Christ, however, does have the solutions. It reveals the good, the beautiful, and the true and gives us guidance on what it really means to be reconciled and to flourish in God’s world. It even provides the antidote to culpable racism. Christians need to beware of the prescriptions of White Fragility. It is not leading people to this solution but away from it.”
- A Field Guide on False Teaching. Tim Challies reviews the new book A Field Guide on False Teaching from Ligonier. He writes “A Field Guide on False Teachingis tremendously helpful in both its content and its format. Its content shows a deep understanding of the different faiths and false teachings and, even better, of the biblical truths that can best challenge each one. Its format is effective in its consistency, brevity, and simplicity.”
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. The 20th anniversary edition of the book has revised and expanded the original version to handle contemporary challenges. The debate over what some have called “lordship salvation” hasn’t ended—every generation must face the demands Christ’s lordship. Will you read along with us?
This week we look at Chapter 19: The Promise of Justification. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:
- God graciously saved people by reckoning His righteousness to them because of their faith. No one has ever been saved through the merit system — salvation has been available only by grace through faith ever since our first parents fell.
- Justification may be defined as an act of God whereby He imputes to a believing sinner the full and perfect righteousness of Christ, forgiving the sinner of all unrighteousness, declaring him or her perfectly righteous in God’s sight, thus delivering the believer from all condemnation.
- Justification is an instantaneous change of one’s standing before God, not a gradual transformation that takes place within the one who is justified.
- The cornerstone of justification is the reckoning of righteousness to the believer’s account. This is the truth that sets Christian doctrine apart from every form of false religion. We call it “imputed righteousness.” Apart from it, salvation is utterly impossible.
- Justification is the polar opposite of condemnation.
- The salvation He promised brings not only justification, but also sanctification, union with Him, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and an eternity of blessing. It is not merely a one-time legal transaction.