Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making by Andrew Peterson. B&H Books. 224 pages. 2019
****

Andrew Peterson is a talented singer, songwriter and author. I heard parts of this book, which I couldn’t put down, and to which he refers to as a “barrage of thoughts and anecdotes” at his breakout sessions at the 2018 and 2019 Sing! Getty Worship Conference in Nashville.  He writes that the book is a glimpse into his own faltering journey as a songwriter, storyteller, and Christian. He calls it a love song about the life that God has given him, and it’s one of my favorite books of the year.
As you read this book you feel like a friend is casually talking to you. The book includes biography – he refers a lot to failure, being a poor student and not applying himself, reading fantasy and science fiction, attending Bible College, being dropped by his record label, and getting a break by opening for the band Caedmon’s Call. He writes about the influence of Rich Mullins, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, the Rabbit Room community he is a part of, researching his family ancestry, the now 20 year Behold the Lamb of God tour, moving to a woodsy corner of Nashville with his wife and three children and they refer to as “the Warren” and where he built a stone wall, gardening, beekeeping, as well as the creative (songwriting, book writing, painting) process.
He tells us that we are all creative and that there is a lot of similarity in process no matter what our discipline is. He references a number of books and includes them (and others), on a helpful “Reading List” included at the end of the book.
I highlighted a number of passages as I read this book. Below are 15 of my favorite quotes:

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of:

  • Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making by Andrew Peterson
  • Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Forever by Kevin Robbins

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BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

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.

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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
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BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond. Reformation Trust. 138 pages. 2011

****

While in Edinburgh, Scotland recently, we visited St. Giles Cathedral, and parking space 23, which marks the spot of John Knox’s grave. I was sickened to see a tour guide defaming Knox, dancing on his grave and encouraging his tour group to do the same. He called Knox an anti-Semite and misogynist. What could cause such behavior about someone I consider a hero?
In this book from the Long Line of Godly Men series, Douglas Bond writes that critics have found much in Knox to attack. Like the prophets of old, Knox was hated and feared by some, and honored and respected by others. He was not unaware that even in his own day that he was perceived as a thunderbolt, uncharitable and severe. In addition, Bond tells us that it is fair to say that much of the enduring hostility toward Knox is rooted in his doctrine of predestination. The English Parliament condemned Knox’s books to public burning 140 years after his death, and for the most part, Scotland has resented the life and ministry of Knox.
But Bond tells us that Knox is a model for the ordinary Christian, especially the one who feels his own weakness, but who nevertheless wants to serve Christ in a troubled world. Christ was at the center of every dimension of his life. It is this, and this alone, that made Knox mighty in his weakness.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review… and reviews of ~
~ Maturity: Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life by Sinclair Ferguson
~ God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies by Costi Hinn
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BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby. Zondervan. 256 pages. 2019
****

This was a difficult book to read, as it should be. In his “Foreword”, Lecrae writes that the author challenges us to take history seriously and account for it. He warns us that the account we are about to read is sobering and challenging. I would add to this that it is heart-breaking. I believe that it is an account that all Christians should read, especially Christian leaders. It is a well-researched survey of racism in America, what the author refers to as more than 300 years of race-based discrimination. The author tells us that this history of racism and the church shows that the story is worse than most imagine. He states that the stories in the book tell the tale of racial oppression. It is up to the reader to determine whether the weight of historical evidence proves that the American church has been complicit with racism.  Although the entire history is essential to know, I focused on the author’s emphasis, that is, the role of the church in racism.
The author focus is primarily on Protestant churches, and when he talks about the “Religious Right”, he focuses on those white evangelicals that align with the Republican party. The book focuses on prominent figures, precipitous events, and well-known turning points in American history. He writes that, historically speaking, when faced with the choice between racism and equality, the American church has tended to practice a complicit Christianity rather than a courageous Christianity. Even if only a small portion of Christians committed the most notorious acts of racism, many more white Christians can be described as being complicit in creating and sustaining a racist society. Christians deliberately chose complicity with racism in the past, but the choice to confront racism remains a possibility today. The book is a call to abandon complicit Christianity and move toward courageous Christianity. The author tells us that it is time to practice courageous Christianity.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…And reviews of Seven Leaders: Preachers and Pastors by Iain H. Murray, and How Can I Be Blessed? (Crucial Questions No. 24) by R.C. Sproul
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BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller. Penguin Books. 332 pages. 2014.
****

This is perhaps the best book on prayer that I’ve read, and I’ve read several. I’ve already read and discussed it with others on two occasions. Our discussions would move slowly, as there is so much rich material on prayer in the fifteen chapters in this book. This book will challenge you and your prayer life.
Keller writes that prayer is both conversation and encounter with God. He tells us that these two concepts give us definition of prayer and a set of tools for deepening our prayer lives. He tells us that prayer is both awe and intimacy, struggle and reality. These will not happen every time we pray, but each should be a major component of our prayer over the course of our lives.
He writes of wanting a far better personal prayer life. As a result, he began to read widely and experiment in prayer. In his pursuit of a deeper prayer life, he deliberately avoided reading any new books on prayer. Instead, he went back to the historical texts of Christian theology that had formed him and began asking questions about prayer and the experience of God.
In addition, he made four practical changes to his life of private devotion. First, he took several months to go through the Psalms, summarizing each one. The second thing he did was always to put in a time of meditation as a transitional discipline between his Bible reading and his time of prayer. Third, he did all he could to pray morning and evening rather than only in the morning. Fourth, he began praying with greater expectation.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Embracing Your Identity in Christ: Renouncing Lies and Foolish Strategies by Robert Davis Smart
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BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line by Abby Johnson with Cindy Lambert. Tyndale Momentum. 276 pages. 2014 edition
****

This is the book upon which the powerful film Unplanned is based. Abby Johnson begins by telling us that her story is not a comfortable one to read. It’s not a comfortable one, but it’s honest and true. The film follows the book pretty closely, but as always, a book can give you much more of the story than can a two-hour film. So even if you have seen the film Unplanned, I would recommend that you still read this book.
The book takes us through Abby’s story from being recruited as a volunteer by Planned Parenthood while a junior on the Texas A&M campus through rising to the position of director of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas. She was attracted to Planned Parenthood believing that its purpose was primarily to prevent unwanted pregnancies, thereby reducing the number of abortions. That had been her goal. She wanted to help women in crisis.
The book begins with Abby’s own crisis moment in September, 2009, when she was called into the exam room to help the medical team with an abortion. Though she had been with Planned Parenthood for eight years, she had never been in the room when an abortion had taken place until that time. Those ten minutes would shake the foundation of her values, and change the course of her life. She realized that what she had told people for years, what she had believed and taught and defended, was a lie.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review… and reviews of “How to Ruin Your Life: and Starting Over When You Do” by Eric Geiger, and “The Prodigal Son: An Astonishing Study of the Parable Jesus Told to Unveil God’s Grace for You” by John F. MacArthur
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BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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