A Sheep Remembers by David B. Calhoun. Banner of Truth. 200 pages. 2021
Ligon Duncan writes a warm Preface for this wonderful devotionally written book by one of my favorite professors at Covenant Seminary, where he taught for 30 years. I had two church history classes with him early in my time at Covenant, and he was also the speaker at our church years ago for a men’s breakfast. Duncan writes that the Lord called Dr. Calhoun home just as this book had been safely delivered to the publisher.
Calhoun, who describes himself as a preacher and teacher, tells us that the twenty-third Psalm is probably the best known of all the chapters of the Bible and among the most memorable words ever written in any language. In this book he tries to explain the words of Psalm 23 as David meant them, but also in the fuller light of the New Testament, a light that the psalmist partially saw. Psalm 23 is about the Lord Jesus Christ.
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For each chapter, the author has selected a version of the twenty-third Psalm or a hymn that is based on the psalm. The chapters of the book are divided into four parts: commentary on the verse or part of the verse that is treated in that chapter; writings from shepherds that help us to understand sheep and their ways; prayers, quotations, and stories illustrating the theme of the chapter; and, in the last place, his own testimony. Although I enjoyed this entire book, it is that final section that I most enjoyed and looked forward to.
He writes that it was during the fall semester of 1987 that his doctor called to tell him that he had a relatively rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (mantle cell lymphoma), a cancer almost always fatal within five years. Even today less than ten percent of people with mantle cell lymphoma have lived ten years. Occasionally his cancer would be in remission for a year or two, but it always returned. He would live more than 33 years after being diagnosed with an incurable cancer.
This book reads like a devotional, sprinkled with readings and hymns. You might want to consider reading one of the relatively short chapters each day.
Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
• Psalm 23 is not instruction in the law of the Lord. It is not exhortation. From its first word to its last, it is a testimony of the Lord’s love and faithfulness to his people.
• God not only saves us when we are lost sinners, but he restores us when we are wandering Christians.
• It is God who chooses my path, and even when that path leads to a ‘valley of deep darkness’ it is the right path for me.
• God does not promise that we will face no evil; he promises that we need fear no evil.
• When things are going well we may be content to talk about the Lord; but when we approach the valley of the shadow of death, and the sky darkens and the thunder rolls, we hurry to speak directly to him.
• God doesn’t promise to take away our troubles, but he promises to bless them.
• For Christians, pain is productive. It takes wings, goes somewhere, and does something. It glorifies God. It sanctifies us. It blesses others.
• God is in our darkness. And in his own time and in his own way he will change the night into day.
• Heaven will be amazing, astounding, overwhelming, but it will not be strange. It will not be like going to a foreign country, where we don’t know the language, the customs, or the people. It will be more like coming home after a long (or, for some, not so long) journey in a distant land.
- Mere Christians: Tim Keller. On this episode of the Mere Christians podcast, Jordan Raynor visits with Tim Keller, author of Forgive, to talk about the four actions that constitute true biblical forgiveness, how the gospel enables us to stop using work as a metaphorical fig leaf, and why mere Christians are going to be the ones most effective at making disciples in the next few generations.
- Why You Must Forgive. On this episode of the Gospelbound podcast, Tim Keller joins Collin Hansen to discuss his new book Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I?, what happens when a society doesn’t forgive, whether it’s ever OK not to forgive, the two stages of forgiveness, and more.
- 20 Quotes from Tim Keller on Forgiveness. Matt Smethurst writes “In an age in which everything is permitted and nothing is forgiven, Tim Keller’s Forgive: Why Should I and How Can I?(Viking, 2022) is a powerfully timely book. Here are 20 quotes on the freedom that real forgiveness provides a bitter and broken world.”
- Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold. My wife Tammy has published a book about HOW to study the Bible. The book is available on Amazon in both a Kindle and paperback edition. She writes “Maybe you’ve read the Bible but want to dig deeper and know God and know yourself better. Throughout the book I use the analogy of making a quilt to show how the Bible is telling one big story about what God is doing in the world through Christ. Quilting takes much patience and precision, just like studying the Bible, but the end result is well worth it.”
- At Age 80, ‘The Screwtape Letters’ Is Still Worth Reading. Joseph A. Kohm Jr. writes “If you’ve never read The Screwtape Letters, or if it’s been some time since you last did, the occasion of its 80th year is an excellent reason to pick it up. In doing so, you’ll skirt another of Screwtape’s trapdoors, as he tells Wormwood, “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”
- Tim Keller on Biblical Critical Theory. Tim Keller (who wrote the Foreword to the book) reviews Biblical Critical Theory: How the Bible’s Unfolding Story Makes Sense of Modern Life and Cultureby Chris Watkin. He writes “For the past several years I’ve called for a “Christian High Theory,” and what Chris Watkin is working on in this book is exactly what I had in mind. He prefers to call it a “Biblical Critical Theory,” and he convinces me to adopt his terminology.”
- Bono’s Punk-Rock Rebellion Was a Cry of Hopeful Lament. Mike Cosper of Christianity Today interviews Bono about his new book Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story.
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
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 36: Saving Faith as a Gift of Providence. Here are a few quotes from the chapter:
- Dead people do not originate their faith. God raises dead people, and he makes faith part of his miracle.
- God has done all things to make sure that our boast is only in the Lord, not in ourselves.
- It is not possible that faith could be given by God without repentance and vice versa. One never exists without the other.
- If we bring the assumption to the Bible that if God desires all people to be saved, he cannot refuse the gift of repentance to any, then we will misinterpret the Bible. That assumption is not taught anywhere in the Bible.
- Both faith and repentance are free gifts of God, which he owes to no one because of our sin, but which he grants mercifully and lovingly and graciously to many.
- God overcomes all our resistance, opens the eyes of our heart, and makes Christ so real and so beautiful and so compelling that our will gladly embraces Christ as our Savior and Lord and treasure.
- When God saves by grace, he makes alive with Christ, he raises from the dead with Christ, and he seats us with Christ in heaven. We are not given freedom to perish. We are given a permanent home—seated with Christ in heaven.
- What I see in Scripture is that God’s saving grace does not merely restore a kind of free will that can accept or reject Christ, but rather opens our blind eyes and grants us to see the compelling truth and beauty and worth of Jesus in such a way that we find him irresistible, and so gladly and willingly embrace him as our Savior and Lord and treasure. He brings us all the way to saving faith so that we give him all the glory for our receiving Jesus.