Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


J. C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone by Iain H. Murray. Banner of Truth. 275 pages. 2016
****

I was excited to read this new biography of J.C. Ryle, a respected 1800’s theologian/author, published on the 200th anniversary of his birth by Iain Murray, an author who I always enjoy reading. Ryle was born into a family that were leaders in the emerging new merchant class in Macclesfield, England, his grandfather having built a prosperous silk mill, and upon his death left an immense fortune to his son, John, J.C. Ryle’s father. John would become one of the best-known figures in the county, being elected to Parliament.
J.C. was raised in the greatest comfort and luxury, and had everything that money could buy, but his father took little notice of his children.  He would be sent to a private preparatory school for three and a half years, twenty miles from home.  He would next go to Eton College, which was twenty-one miles west of London, where he spent nearly seven years and begin his love of the sport of cricket. In 1834 he entered Christ Church, Oxford, where he spent three years. During his first 18 years he writes of being barely exposed to biblical Christianity in his home.
He did not know the exact date of his conversion, but his turning point took place in 1834. He would return from Oxford a different man.
He was attracted to the legal profession in London, where he stayed for just six months due to poor health.  His father’s bank would be ruined and all of his wealth would be lost – his properties, bank, and silk mill. J.C. writes of his life being turned upside down and thrown into confusion, stating had he not been a Christian at this time, he may have committed suicide.
He became a clergyman because that would bring him some income. At Exbury, he would visit each home in his parish at least once a month, but stated that he didn’t really learn how to preach until he was 50.
Resigning due to poor health, he would be offered the rectory of St Thomas, Winchester, serving some 3,000 people in 1843, where he would stay for only five months.
He would meet and marry Matilda in 1845. She would die just three years later of lung disease. He would marry Jessy in 1850, who would become ill six months into the marriage, dying just ten years into the marriage. He would again become a widower with five children.  He then married Henrietta in 1861, and they would enjoy long years of happiness together before her death in 1889.
Of the significance of Ryle’s writing (tracts, addresses, books), Murray writes that they must be appreciated in their wider historical context. He states that at the beginning of the nineteenth century there were few popular writers in the Church of England.  Most of his books came about in the same way: Holiness in 1877, Old Paths in 1878, Practical Religion in 1879, Coming Events and Present Duties in 1879. All brought together material previously published as separate tracts. By 1888 it is said that between 200 and 300 tracts of various lengths had been published, with over 12 million issued. From his first tract at Helmingham in 1844, the primary intention was evangelistic and pastoral. He produced a large amount of writing in his difficult years at Helmingham. Murray writes that he could produce so much of enduring value, and that in the midst of many trials, is indication enough that he was himself being fed from rich sources. Ryle would become the vicar at Stradbroke in 1861.
In 1869, he would become a rural dean of Hoxne which involved a measure of oversight for twenty-five other parishes, and in February 1872 he was made an honorary canon of Norwich.
At age 63. Ryle would become the Bishop of Liverpool. Murray writes of challenges that Ryle faced in his leadership. For the sake of unity and better relationships with other Churchman, he urged toleration over what was not fundamental. He encouraged attendance at mixed gatherings such as Convocations and Church Congresses.
One of the greatest disappointments in his life, would be his son Herbert aligning with the opposition theologically. His father saw the strength and unity of the Church in a return to definite evangelical doctrines. Herbert saw the Church attaining peace and unity by the allowance of a broad doctrinal liberty. Murray writes that despite their differences, the bond between father and son had not failed, and that they would remain close.
Ryle was to express regret that he had not come to Liverpool as a younger man when he would have been able to do more. By the beginning of 1899 Ryle’s health was in evident decline. On January 8, 1899, he preached at St. Nathaniel’s on John 17:15. It would be his last time in that pulpit. Passing his 84th birthday on May 10, he would die on June 10.
The book includes appendices on extracts from Ryle and on son Herbert. Continue reading


Leave a comment

How I Spent Spring Break: 9 Reflections on the 2017 Ligonier National Conference

Almost every year since 1997, my wife Tammy and I have left the cold of the Illinois winter to head down to the sun and warmth of Central Florida to attend the annual Ligonier Ministries National Conference. This year’s conference, held March 9-11, was their 30th National Conference. It had a theme of “The Next 500 Years” and was being held on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Thus, many of the speakers referred to Martin Luther and his influence in their addresses. The conference was held in the wonderful facilities of the First Baptist Church in Orlando where it has been held most years, sold out months in advance, and featured an excellent lineup of speakers, including John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Albert Mohler, Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton and more.

As Ligonier President and CEO Chris Larson told the attendees at the beginning of the conference, “Pace Yourself”. The three-day conference can be exhausting. In total, there were 26 sessions you could attend, in addition to a prayer session, two mini-concerts, and a bookstore tour. I always purchase copies of the messages and listen to them multiple times in the months after the conference. Here are the daily highlight posts that Ligonier posted about the conference:

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Here are 9 reflections I have from this year’s conference: Continue reading


Leave a comment

25 Quotes from Anxious for Nothing by John MacArthur

Anxious for NothingI recently read Anxious for Nothing by John MacArthur, a book I would highly recommend to you. Here are 25 wonderful quotes from the book:

  • Jesus said three times, “Do not be anxious” (see Matt. 6:25, 31, 34). Paul later reiterated, “Be anxious for nothing” (Phil. 4:6). Worry at any time is a sin because it violates the clear biblical command.
  • We allow our daily concerns to turn into worry and therefore sin when our thoughts become focused on changing the future instead of doing our best to handle our present circumstances. Such thoughts are unproductive. They end up controlling us—though it should be the other way around—and cause us to neglect other responsibilities and relationships.
  • Jesus gave us, His children, three reasons for not worrying about this life: It is unnecessary because of our Father, it is uncharacteristic because of our faith, and it is unwise because of our future.
  • Christians who worry believe God can redeem them, break the shackles of Satan, take them from hell to heaven, put them into His kingdom, and give them eternal life; but they just don’t think He can get them through the next couple of days.
  • When you or I worry, we are choosing to be mastered by our circumstances instead of by the truth of God.
  • Lack of joy is a sin for the child of God.
  • Prayer is our chief means of avoiding anxiety.
  • Being thankful will release you from fear and worry. It is a tangible demonstration of trusting your situation to God’s sovereign control.
  • The real challenge of Christian living is not to eliminate every uncomfortable circumstance from our lives, but to trust our sovereign, wise, good, and powerful God in the midst of every situation.
  • Only from humility comes the ability to truly hand over all our cares to God.
  • Spiritual maturity begins with these fundamentals: an attitude of humility toward God and others and trust in God’s care.
  • Another weight or sin that “so easily entangles us” is doubt.
  • Every time we sin, it’s because we believe Satan instead of God.
  • Anxiety cannot survive in an environment of praise to God. If you have a problem facing you that you don’t know how to solve, remember to praise God.
  • It’s exciting to know you can’t ever get yourself into a situation that God can’t remove you from if He so chooses. Let that truth help melt away any anxieties you have about a situation you currently dread.
  • Pride and anxiety focus on self, whereas humility focuses on others.
  • The church does well as a whole when the shepherds and the sheep bond together to correct the wayward, encourage the worried, hold up the weak, be patient with the wearisome, and repay the wicked with love. That is the bigger picture on attacking anxiety.
  • There’s no greater gift for the anxious than God’s peace. It is not subject to circumstances.
  • God’s grace saves us, helps us cope with our anxieties, equips us for service, and enables us to grow spiritually and to be rich in God. Like God’s peace, it is always available, and there is no limit to it.
  • It is a sin to complain against God, and we must see our complaints as such.
  • Complaining is the symptom of a deep-seated spiritual problem—a failure to trust God and submit to His will.
  • Two roadblocks to contentment are grumbling and disputing.
  • The quality of your life is the platform of your personal testimony. A murmuring, discontent, grumbling, griping, and complaining Christian is never going to have a positive influence on others.
  • The Bible speaks of contentment not only as a virtue but also as a command.
  • The example of Paul’s life throughout the New Testament is this: Work as hard as you can and be content that God is in control of the results.


1 Comment

BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

Anxious for NothingAnxious for Nothing: God’s Cure for the Cares of Your Soul by John MacArthur.   David C. Cook. 3rd edition. 224 pages. 2012
****

John MacArthur is one of my favorite authors. I read this book recently on vacation, at just the right time. It covers themes such as contentment and anxiety. A few days before reading it we had flown out of O’Hare International Airport under a tornado warning. All day long I had been extremely anxious about the impending inclement weather and whether we would be able to get out of the Midwest on the way to our destination on the East Coast.  I couldn’t relax and just trust that God was in control. Contentment is another item that I struggle with, so this book was just perfect for me.

MacArthur states that the wrong way to handle the stresses of life is to worry about them. He indicates that worry at any time is a sin because it violates the clear biblical command. He states that we allow our daily concerns to turn into worry, and therefore sin, when our thoughts become focused on changing the future instead of doing our best to handle our present circumstances.

MacArthur indicates that he titled the book Anxious for Nothing because he wants the reader to know that we can overcome our anxieties. Each chapter and a special appendix at the end (“Psalms for the Anxious”, excerpts from the Psalms which are especially intended to attack anxiety) provide the reader specific biblical ways we can do just that.

MacArthur states that when we worry, we in effect are saying that we can believe God for the greater gift and then stumble and not believe Him for the lesser one. He goes on to state that a lack of joy for the believer is a sin.

He looks at Matthew 6 as Jesus’ great statement on worry and Philippians 4 as the Apostle Paul’s primary writing on how to avoid anxiety.  He states that those passages are the most comprehensive portions of Scripture dealing with anxiety and therefore foundational to understanding how God feels about anxiety and why He feels that way.

MacArthur looks at prayer as the foremost way to avoid anxiety, followed by right thinking and action.  We are to approach God with a thankful attitude, which will release us from fear and worry. This is a tangible demonstration of trusting our situation to God’s sovereign control. We also need to demonstrate humility, as only from humility comes the ability to truly hand over all our cares to God.

MacArthur states that to do a comprehensive study on what Scripture says about anxiety, we need to examine what it says about living by faith. Hebrews 11 and 12 are the faith chapters of the Bible. Chapter 11 gives a general definition of faith and a slew of Old Testament examples.

Another weight of sin that entangles the believer says MacArthur is doubt. Paul states that our protection again doubt is to “take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16).

MacArthur writes that when we have a problem facing us that we don’t know how to solve, we need to remember to praise God.  Remembering who God is and what He has done glorifies Him and strengthens our faith. To help us do that, he recommends that we read through the Psalms the next time we’re tempted to worry.

In discussing the role of the church in helping with anxiety he writes that the church does well as a whole when the shepherds and the sheep bond together to correct the wayward, encourage the worried, hold up the weak, be patient with the wearisome, and repay the wicked with love. He also discusses God’s peace, stating that it is not subject to circumstances.

He discusses complaining about our circumstances, an area I can certainly improve in. He states that it is a sin to complain against God, and we must see our complaints as such. He states that we are really complaining about God when we complain about our circumstances.

He states that two roadblocks to contentment are grumbling and disputing. He writes that the quality of the believer’s life is the platform of our personal testimony. A murmuring, discontented, grumbling, griping, and complaining Christian is never going to have a positive influence on others. He encourages the reader to try to make it through today without complaining about something. We should make a note each time we do complain. Unfortunately, we may be surprised to discover it has become a way of life for us.

He writes that until we realize that God is sovereign, ordering everything for His own holy purposes and the ultimate good of those who love Him, we can’t help but be discontent. We need to realize any circumstance we face is only temporary. We need to learn to be content by not taking our earthly circumstances too seriously. He suggests that we be confident in God’s sovereign providence, and don’t allow your circumstances to trouble you.

I found this to be a very helpful and practical book that I can highly recommend.
Continue reading