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Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter by Tim Keller. Viking. 272 pages. 2021

Tim Keller tells us that he began this book on the resurrection and then the COVID-19 pandemic struck and he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Writing in such dark times helped him see in the resurrection new depths of comfort and power.
In this book, Keller looks at what Christ as the resurrected one gives to us for life now. He focuses on the resurrection as a key to understanding the whole Bible and to facing all the challenges of life—suffering, personal change, injustice, moral clarity, and the uncertainty of the future. I read with particular interest his five case studies of people who met Jesus after his resurrection and his discussion of unrest and dissatisfaction regarding all social relationships (between economic classes, the races and nationalities, and the sexes). He tells us that in the death and resurrection of Jesus, Christians have the resources for a transformation of social relationships that can be a powerful sign to the watching world.
A key theme throughout the book is what he refers to as “The Great Reversal”, an idea which he writes is at the heart of the gospel. Keller tells us that the cross and resurrection is the Great Reversal. Christ saves us through weakness by giving up power and succumbing to a seeming defeat. But he triumphs—not despite the weakness and loss of power but because of it and through it. His basic thesis of the book is that the resurrection, the Great Reversal, brings us both the power and the pattern for living life now connected to God’s future new creation. The way up is down, that the way to strength is through weakness, and that God has a plan and walks with us in the midst of our suffering, fragility, and helplessness.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper

Building on the theme of the Great Reversal, Keller tells us that we want the storyline of our lives to go from strength to strength, from success to success, and end happily ever after. But throughout the Bible we see something completely different—a persistent narrative pattern of life through death or of triumph through weakness that reveals how God works in history and in our lives.
Keller writes that even before the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and its aftermath, the Western world had been experiencing a growing crisis of hope. He writes that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is what Christianity offers a world that has lost hope. The resurrection of Christ offers matchless resources for hope and confidence in the face of fear.
Keller writes that the resurrection not only brings the future into the present but also brings heaven to earth. It reunites people with the glory of God. He looks at the implications of the reality that the risen Christ has brought heaven and earth together, indicating that when Jesus rose from the dead, he brought the future kingdom of God into the present and he brought heaven to earth. We enter this kingdom now through repentance and faith in Jesus, and through the new birth by the Holy Spirit. Then we are literally “transferred” out of the kingdom of this world into “the kingdom of his dear Son”.
Jesus brings his salvation through rejection, weakness, and sorrow. Yet not despite his weakness but through it, he brings the presence of the future and begins to build a whole new world through us.
Keller covers many topics related to the resurrection in this important book. It is heavily footnoted, with many references from N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis and others.
Below are 20 of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • The fact of the resurrection means we have a hope for the future not based on scientific advance or social progress but on God himself.
  • If Jesus was raised from the dead, it changes everything: how we conduct relationships, our attitudes toward wealth and power, how we work in our vocations, our understanding and practice of sexuality, race relations, and justice.
  • Perhaps the most ordinary, daily benefit of the resurrection is this. To follow not a dead, revered teacher but rather a risen Lord is to have him actually with us.
  • The kingdom of God is already here, but not yet in its fullness. We must not underestimate how present the kingdom of God is, but we must also not underestimate how unrealized it is, how much it exists only in the future.
  • The resurrection is a powerful sign to our consciences that Jesus fully paid the penalty of our sin on the cross. It brings us a freedom that the cross by itself could not give us.
  • The resurrection means that we do not merely follow the teachings of a dead leader. Rather, we have vital, loving fellowship with a living Lord. Jesus the King is present with us.
  • Are you serving the true King, who will forgive you and liberate you to be all you were created to be? Or will you serve something that will never absolve you for your failures and will never fulfill your heart?
  • He was rejected, condemned, tortured, executed, and therefore God raised and exalted him. The vindication of resurrection is both the reversal and the result of the condemnation of crucifixion. The darkness of Good Friday brings about the sunrise of Easter. This is how God works. This is the Great Reversal of history and the New Testament bears witness to it throughout.
  • Jesus Christ exchanged places with you. He came to live the life you should have lived and die the death you should have died so you could be reconciled to God, forgiven, and remade.
  • Other world religions teach salvation through ascent to God through good works, moral virtue, ritual observances, and transformation of consciousness. In contrast, Christianity is about salvation through God’s descending to us. This is the great difference between Christianity and every other philosophical and religious system.
  • Christian salvation is never our attainment, a prize after a long struggle while God waits for us. No, he comes to us and wakes us out of sleep. It is always a gift of grace.
  • Intimacy with the risen Lord is one of the gifts given to believers in the resurrection.
  • A Christian identity is based ultimately on a realization of the magnitude of God’s unchanging love for us. We cannot get God’s hope for times of fear without personally meeting the risen Lord.
  • The resurrection does not promise that all the circumstances of life will go smoothly, but it does give us hope that we can be turned into the kind of people who can handle whatever comes.
  • Spiritual resurrection means that we are, in a sense, living in heaven while still on earth, living in the future while still being in the present.
  • The death and resurrection of Jesus are the basis not only for Christian moral practice, but also for the inward spiritual growth that will enable us to carry out our mission in the world.
  • The resurrection means that the liberating, repairing power of God is here now, through the risen Christ and his presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit.
  • We have not been saved just to be safe, but saved in order to serve.
  • Christians looking forward to the fullness of the kingdom—to the final resurrection and the new heavens and new earth—should be concerned to see justice done now.
  • Good things received without God will become a curse. On the other hand, people who receive hard things with faith in God will discover that the seeming curses will turn out to be blessings.

  • Finding the Confidence to Pray. John Piper’s new book Providence, is about the precious doctrine of God’s providence. On the Ask Pastor John podcast he is looking at a few of the ten implications. On this episode he looks at implication number eight.
  • Jesus and John Wayne: A Fair Portrait of Evangelicalism? Anne Kennedy reviews the book Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by Kristin Kobes Du Mez.
  • Men and Women in the Church. Tim Challies reviews Kevin DeYoung’s new book Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction. He writes “Those who read it will better understand the complementarian position and see how it is grounded in God’s Word. They will understand some of the contemporary challenges to that position and learn why such challenges are invalid. They will also know better how to live out their theology in their own lives, their own churches, and their own families. And for that reason, among others, I’m glad to recommend Men and Women in the Church.
  • A Brief Review of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman. Kevin Halloran reviews Carl Trueman’s acclaimed book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution. He writes “This is a seminal work that will stir more writing and discussion for years to come. If you’re a pastor or Christian leader, you need to read this to understand our times.”

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

Providence by John Piper

The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
You can download the PDF of the book free from Desiring God.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
This week we look at Chapter 5: Overview: From Abraham to the Age to Come. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:

  • It is important to see that God’s election of Israel, and his making her the focus of his saving blessings in the Old Testament, sets the stage in world history for the global impact of Jesus Christ and his saving work for the sake of the nations.
  • From the beginning, God planned to make the history of Israel serve all the nations of the world through the coming of the Messiah. There are not two stories. There is one story of redemption in history. And this single story will prove to have one overarching purpose.
  • The story of Israel’s history really is a story of God’s providential action. The Bible is radically oriented on God as the decisive actor in the history of Israel.
  • God’s securing a name for himself and God’s securing joy for his people are one. That joy is his name – his reputation, his glory.
  • The things of creation are good gifts to be received with thanksgiving and rejoicing. But joy in God himself – in and through (and, if necessary, without) his gifts – is what makes our final joy a sign of his glory.
  • God’s ultimate goal in the history of Israel is not only the exaltation of his glorious name in the joy of his people; it is also his own joy in their joy in him.
  • God’s glory is our joy. And our joy in God’s glory is his joy.

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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