Thursday, May 9, 2019

Book Review: An Introduction to the Greek New Testament by Dirk Jongkind

I have a great interest in how we got our Bible. The history, the accuracy, doctrines associated with it and more. I find it all very fascinating and it’s all connected to my faith. In studying these issues, I have found that Christians can have every confidence in the Bibles they have today. Moreover, we can gain confidence as scholars continue to study and publish their works on the Scriptures. This is what we have with The Greek New Testament, Produced at TyndaleHouse, Cambridge and its introductory book, An Introduction to the Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge.

One need not know how to read ancient Greek to appreciate the work of Dirk Jongkind in An Introduction to the Greek New Testament. The work is a fascinating look behind the scenes as to the “how’s and why’s” of the production of The Greek New Testament.  Jongkind is an able scholar and clear writer. As an introductory work, it is not heavy or scholarly work. It is short and can be read in a few hours at most. Even if the reader has no desire to explore this field of study further, An Introduction to the Greek New Testament offers ample introductory information.

What can the reader expect? For a short book it contains a vast amount of information: Origins of early manuscripts; which manuscripts were used in The Greek New Testament and which were not and why not; manuscript designations, scribal habits (good & bad); how did the scribes copy the texts (their patterns and influences); important variants are addressed; how to use The Greek New Testament and much more. This monograph takes the reader on a fascinating, albeit short, journey into the world of the Greek New Testament and textual criticism.

If you know nothing about textual criticism or the Greek New Testament this is still a valuable read. If you have purchased or are considering purchasing The Greek New Testament, you need this book.

This is a great read and fully recommend it.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Book Review: Reformed Systematic Theology Vol. 1 by Joel Beeke and Paul M. Smalley

In the world of Reformed Theology works on systematic theology abound. Many are simply outstanding and without equal. However, Joel Beeke and Paul M. Smalley have produced an outstanding work with Reformed Systematic Theology Vol. 1 which doesn’t fit the standard mold. Besides exploring deep theological doctrines, theology can and should speak to the heart.

"Today’s churches need theology that engages the head, heart, and hands. Too often, we have compartmentalized these aspects of life (as if we could cut ourselves into pieces). The result has been academics for the sake of academics, spiritual experience without roots deep in God’s Word, and superficial pragmatism that chases after the will-o’-the-wisp of short term results." (Pg. 18)

And this they have achieved. This was not written exclusively for the seminary student or scholar in mind, although both would benefit, but rather the common person who sits in the pew every week hungering for more. Our study of theology should never remain stagnate but should always produce doxology.

Academically this is a sound work. It delves deep into theological subjects without weighing the reader down with over-the-top language. "While we discuss very deep subjects, our treatment is not technical but accessible." Even a cursory reading will demonstrate this to the reader.

"Since we firmly believe that systematic theology must be grounded in Scripture, not only will you find thousands of proof texts here, but you often will find us exegeting, expounding, and applying key portions of Scripture that lie at the heart of each doctrine. For example, in chapter 51, we walk through Romans 9, showing what it teaches concerning the doctrines of election and reprobation. We trust that you will see by our example how important it is that systematic theology is grounded in exegetical and biblical theology." 

Additionally, and unlike other systematic works, study questions for the average Joe and also the advanced student are found at the end of each chapter. A psalm or hymn is also provided that can be sung in response to the lessons in learned in each chapter.

This is a vast work at 1000 pages plus, far too much to explore in this brief review, but perhaps a look at the contents will give you an idea of the depth of this work:


Analytical Outline: Prolegomena

Section A: Introduction to Theology
1 What Is Theology? Part 1: An Academic Discipline
2 What Is Theology? Part 2: A Spiritual Discipline
3 Who Does Theology? Where? When?
4 Which Theology Do We Do? Part 1: Christian, Catholic, Evangelical
5 Which Theology Do We Do? Part 2: Reformed: Historical, Confessional, Theological, and Hermeneutical Perspectives
6 Which Theology Do We Do?

Part 3: Reformed: Polemical and Experiential Perspectives
7 Why Do We Do Theology?
8 How Do We Do Theology? Part 1: Spiritual Dynamics
9 How Do We Do Theology? Part 2: Academic Methods

Section B: The Doctrine of Revelation
10 Theological Fundamentals of Divine Revelation
11 General Revelation, Part 1: Biblical Teaching
12 General Revelation, Part 2: Philosophy and Science
13 General Revelation, Part 3: Natural Theology and Theistic Arguments
Excursus: Some Historical Perspective on Natural Theology and Theistic Proofs
14 Special Revelation: Biblical Teaching
15 Errors Regarding Special Revelation, Part 1: Romanism and Liberalism
16 Errors Regarding Special Revelation, Part 2: Liberalism’s Offspring
17 The Bible as the Word of God
18 The Properties of the Written Word, Part 1: Authority and Clarity
19 The Properties of the Written Word, Part 2: Necessity, Unity, and Efficacy
20 The Properties of the Written Word, Part 3: Inerrant Veracity
21 The Properties of the Written Word, Part 4: Objections to Inerrancy
22 The Properties of the Written Word, Part 5: Sufficiency 
23 The Cessation of Special Revelation, Part 1: Charismatic Continuationism
24 The Cessation of Special Revelation, Part 2: Prophecy Today
25 Applied Revelation for Practical Fruit

Analytical Outline: Theology Proper

Section A: The Doctrine of God’s Triune Glory
26 Introduction: The True Knowledge of God
27 Introduction to God’s Nature and Attributes, Part 1: Biblical Teaching
28 Introduction to God’s Nature and Attributes, Part 2: Theological Issues
29 The Name of “the Lord” (YHWH)
30 The Holiness of the Lord
31 Gods That Are Not God
32 God’s Spirituality
33 God’s Simplicity: “The Lord Our God Is One Lord”
34 God’s Infinity, Part 1: Incomprehensibility, Aseity, and Immensity
35 God’s Infinity, Part 2: Eternity: Infinity with Respect to Time
Excursus: Problems of Time and Eternity
36 God’s Immutability, Part 1: Biblical Teaching
37 God’s Immutability, Part 2: Theological Issues
38 God’s Knowledge, Part 1: Omniscience and Wisdom
39 God’s Knowledge, Part 2: Foreknowledge
40 God’s Sovereignty: An Introduction to Omnipotence
41 God’s Moral Excellence, Part 1: Goodness and Love
42 God’s Moral Excellence, Part 2: Truth and Righteousness
43 God’s Moral Excellence, Part 3: Jealousy, Impassibility, and Joy
44 God’s Moral Excellence, Part 4: Wrath and Compassion
45 The Trinity, Part 1: Biblical Teaching
46 The Trinity, Part 2: Historical Development
47 The Trinity, Part 3: Theological and Practical Considerations

Section B: The Doctrine of God’s Sovereign Purpose

48 The Decree of God: General Considerations
49 Predestination, Part 1: Election and Reprobation
50 Predestination, Part 2: Historical Development through Reformed Orthodoxy
51 Predestination, Part 3: Questions and Uses
52 God’s Providence, Part 1: Biblical Teaching
53 God’s Providence, Part 2: Problems and Applications
Section C: The Doctrine of Angels and Demons
54 The Holy Angels of God
55 Satan and the Demons

General Index
Scripture Index

And, dear reader, remember this is only volume 1!

As children of God with the desire placed within us by the Spirit, we can never learn enough about our Lord.  We spend our lifetimes seeking Him out and enjoying Him. Reformed Systematic Theology Vol. 1 is a wonderful place to start.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Mere Calvinism by Jim Scott Orrick

Looking for a good read on Calvinism? Here it is, Mere Calvinism by Jim Scott Orrick.
From Amazon we read
There are so many misconceptions about Calvinism that it is safe to say that even most Christians do not truly know what it teaches. You may have grown up in a Reformed church, or you may have heard about Calvinism mostly in arguments. Either way, it may surprise you to know that this belief has huge, and very positive, implications for a believer's daily life!

Jim Orrick clears up misinformation about Calvinism and explains its basic yet profound ideas and teachings—using the Bible as the basis for everything he says.

Thank you Jim Scott Orrick for your incredible book Mere Calvinism. I have been looking for a book like this for  a long time, a book that lets me say, "I get it." Calvinism is difficult to explain and many Christian books are hard to follow because they get too technical. In  Orrick's book everything has  such clarity and is simplified for the reader. I feel as if I can't put this book down. It is so delightful and Orrick backs up every thing he writes about Calvinism with Scripture. If you ever wondered about Calvinism this is the book for you. - Jacqueline Lewison, Munroe Falls, Ohio 

Friday, March 8, 2019

Book Review: The Deacon by Cornelis Van Dam

Cornelis Van dam has blessed the Church with his book, The Deacon. Wonderfully written, easy to read, instructive, forceful, and Biblical, this work, I would suggest, is not just for deacons. Laymen may gain much insight into their duties and obligations in their local congregations and be able to do so with joy. 

Cornelis Van Dam is emeritus professor of Old Testament at Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario and has several years of pastoral ministry. His style in this work is easy to read with a well developed foundation. One penetrating point he makes clear and is repeated throughout the book is that the work of the deacon is that for those suffering may "remain in the joy of the Lord, free from all bondage (cf. Lev. 25:39-46)." This point is hammered home numerous times. Indeed, he writes very little about any other duties a deacon may have such as building care, etc. His entire thrust is to care for those who need it. It is difficult to disagree with him anywhere in this book.

What the reader gets

Table of Contents:
Part 1 - The Old Testament Background
1. The Poor in Israel
2. Providing for the Poor
Part 2 - New Testament Times
3. Christ's Teaching on the Poor and Needy
4. Ministering to the Poor in Acts 6
5. The Office of Deacon
6. Female Deacon?
Part 3 - The Office of Deacon in the History of the Church
7. The Testimony of the Early Church and the Heritage of the Reformation
8. Women and the Diaconate 
Part 4 - The Current Functioning of the Office
9. The Official Position of the Deacon Today
10. Enabling and Prioritizing
11. The Diaconal Ministry within the Congregation
12. The Diaconal Ministry outside the Congregation
13. The Blessing of the Poor 
Questions for Study and Reflection
Resources for Further Study on Deacons

As you can see from the table of contents, Van Dam walks the reader through the history of Israel and the Church in the care of those who need it. This help is not restricted to monetary or material care, either. Diaconal ministry goes well beyond that.  Is there a place for female deacons? What was there place in the history of the church? What does the Bible have to say? Van Dam covers these controversial questions.

As a deacon myself, I have a few take-aways.  As Van Dam makes quite clear, deacons need to be involved in the lives of those who are entrusted to their care. One strategy is home visits. These visits are not like an elder visit although there may be some crossover. It is simply a matter getting to know those folks who may need diaconal help one day. Another take-away is keeping in mind that giving care to those in the congregation should never be limited to something such as monetary assistance. It is far greater than deciding who gets help paying their electric bill. Is there someone in the congregation who just lost a loved one, who just found out she has cancer, or who has a rebellious child. The list is endless and the deacons can help in so many ways. 

Yet another take-away is how all of this work does not and should not be limited to the deacons. Members of the congregation often have many skills that can lovingly assist others. These works of love and kindness should not be left up to the deacons alone.

I would suggest any deacon or layman would benefit from reading this book. It gets a 5 out of 5 stars from this deacon.

Watch or listen to an interview with Van Dam here to learn more.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Bible Review: ESV Illuminated Bible, Art Journaling Edition

I think I'm correct when I say that buying a Bible is a personal thing. Publishers seem to pump them out at a rapid pace. Its easy to get overwhelmed or perhaps underwhelmed at the quantity of choices. You look and look in catalogs or online often not knowing what you're even searching for. All you know is your searching for a Bible. Well, let's take a look at Crossway's new ESV Illuminated Bible, Art Journaling Edition Bible and see if its right for you.

No doubt, its a beautiful book. The artwork by  Dana Tanamachi is simply outstanding. Gorgeous to the eye, well bound, 9.0 point font, cream paper. It is just a delight. From Crossway's website we get the stats

  • 9-point, Lexicon
  • Black letter text
  • 2-color printing
  • 64 full-page, custom book opener illustrations
  • 50 full-page verse illustrations
  • 250+ hand-lettered margin verses
  • 100+ other illustrations throughout
  • Illustrated by Dana Tanamachi, whose work has been featured by Google, The Wall Street Journal, Random House, USPS, and Target
  • Thick, cream-colored paper
  • Wide margins
  • Single-column, paragraph format
  • Smyth-sewn binding

And from the introduction

We believe that the Word of God is a treasure to be read, memorized, internalized, and shared. The ESV Illuminated Bible, Art Journaling Edition was created to continue in this historic tradition of illuminated manuscripts. Our prayer is that the added ornamentation and illustrations will draw the reader's eyes to the beauty of the Word of God itself, stirring up affection for the Creator and inviting deep reflection on the narrative and truths of Scripture.

This is certainly a Bible where you can spend some time engaging with the artwork , perhaps doing more of your own in the wide margins, writing notes, or prayers.

Drawbacks? Maybe a few. I’m not an artsy kind of guy but one observation is the artwork seems that it would appeal more to a female demographic than to the male. Just my dos centavos. I'm also not inclined to believe that it is in the tradition of illuminated manuscripts except perhaps in a very modern sense. It certainly doesn't remind me of the Book of Kells or the Lindisfarne Gospels.  Again, just my two cents. 

Overall, its a lovely Bible. Well made and appealing to the eye.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Book Review: Can We Trust The Gospels? by Peter J. Williams

If you’re anything like me, you find the study of textual criticism fascinating. But, most folks in the pews today do not. They instinctively or subconsciously trust the translators down through the centuries that the Bible they have is God’s Word. Moreover, they trust the Lord that He has given them His Word. And that’s OK. However, what about the man on the street who struggles with questions of the age, transmission, accuracy, and therefore the truthfulness of the Bible. Can We Trust the Gospels? by Peter J. Williams seeks to answer those questions and does so successfully.

I have personally encountered these objections from people who reject Christianity based almost solely on the rejection of Scripture and therefore they reject God. This is one area that we who accept Scripture as God’s Word must have a basic understanding in order to defend what we believe. I was drawn to this book as soon as I read the title.

At 160 pages, it is not an in depth study of the Gospels or their defense and was not intended to be so. This work offers a basic understanding for evidence to believe the Gospels are worth trusting. It is, however, also more than just a cursory walk through of the evidence. Each chapter is written to enable the reader to have confidence that what they are reading in their Gospels is not superfluous nonsense written long ago.

Chapter Titles

1 What Do Non-Christian Sources Say?
2 What Are the Four Gospels?
3 Did the Gospel Authors Know Their Stuff?
4 Undesigned Coincidences
5 Do We Have Jesus’s Actual Words?
6 Has the Text Changed?
7 What about Contradictions?
8 Who Would Make All This Up?

What stood out, among many, many things, is why we have four Gospels. What was the focus of each one? Why do they seemingly disagree at times (chapter 2 & 7)? How the Gospels authors were aware of people, places, names, and culture (chapter 3). Where the Four Gospels differ from the later non-canonical gospels and why. Contradictions – are they really contradictions (chapter 7)?  How it would be impossible for four independent authors, at different geographic locations, at different times within the first century, be able to relate the same accounts in the life of Jesus. Chapter 4 is uniquely interesting. It demonstrates how small details that may appear in one Gospel account but not in another Gospel, such as the feeding of the 5000, corroborate the accounts as accurate and true and impossible to coordinate between the independent authors if they were not true. Thus authenticating the accuracy of the individual accounts and the Gospels themselves.

This is a five-star work. Easy to read, easy to digest and easy to enjoy. Well worth your time and effort.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Geerhardus Vos Biography

Looking for a fantastic Christmas gift for someone special? Check out the new Geerhardus Vos Biography. Great price and free shipping right now.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Bible Review - ESV Story of Redemption Bible: A Journey through the Unfolding Promises of God

I sometimes find it a difficult task reviewing a Bible. I'm not fond of niche Bibles such as a Women's Study Bible or a Men's Study Bible, etc. All of Scripture speaks to all people at all seasons of life. Still, there is a place for Bibles with notes and comments of men and the ESV Story of Redemption Bible: A Journey through the Unfolding Promises of God is one of those.

There are negatives and positives in every work of this kind. Allow me to point out a few on both sides:

-It is heavy. At 3 1/2 lbs. I don't think the average reader will want to carry it back and forth to church or Bible study. For some folks this is of no consideration. For others, like me, it is a decision factor to be weighed in the purchase. But it is not a deal breaker.

- My humble impression is that many of the notes are over-simplified - almost like a "Study Bible Lite." Information in the  notes is dead on but the language employed could be more refined. Again, this may not be a deal breaker based on other factors.

Positives, yes we have them.

-This is still the rich ESV text. Widely used in Christendom today, its easy to read and understand.

-It would be very useful as a personal study Bible. Though its weight may prohibit it from being an everyday carry Bible, it would be exceptional for home study. I'm thinking especially of a new Christian or one who is new to the Reformed faith. There are wide margins for personal notes, plenty of maps as we have come to expect and enjoy from Crossway, and a great fold out section that lays out the Redemption story.

Overall, the ESV Story of Redemption Bible: A Journey through the Unfolding Promises of God would be a well spent purchase for those inexperienced in the Redemption Story found in Scripture. RBC gives it a hearty four stars!

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page.

For more, check out these links, here and here.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Book Review: Depression, Anxiety and the Christian Life, Introduction by J.I. Packer, Notes by Michael S. Lundy

There has been numerous books written on depression from a Christian perspective, some good, some outstanding.  Depression, Anxiety and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter Introduction by J.I. Packer, Notes by Michael S. Lundy is one of the outstanding works. Within its pages the reader will find a wealth of practical wisdom dealing with depression and anxiety from the pen of Richard Baxter.

The preface and first chapter are authored by Packer (doesn't get any better, right?). Packer offers a definition of depression, such as one can be given, and advocates for modern day readers to take another look at Richard Baxter (1615-1691) as his wisdom and advice still apply today.

Packer authors a brief biography of Baxter in chapter 1. It focuses on why we should look to Baxter for help in this area. Baxter was fully acquainted with depression which he saw much of in his flock during his time as a pastor. A prolific author, he wrote often on the subject of depression in various

In chapter two co-author Dr. Lundy brings a modern day touch to the subject as well as bringing to light Baxter's counsel and why it still applies today.

Part two of the book delves into Baxter's advice to the depressed and anxious. Taken from three different works, updated and annotated for modern readers, they still retain the flavor of Baxter's authorship.

What stood out to me was how Baxter's advice was so practical. Far from a stoic and analytical appraisal of the issues, his counsel is a no nonsense approach with a Biblical foundation. Baxter had years of experience  dealing with the anxious and depressed. Combined with his deep understanding of Scripture has made him a viable source for counsel on these matters. Not only for the suffers, but for those who are attempting them through their suffering.

It is true that nothing changes under the sun. Baxter's counsel is as wise, comforting and as Biblical as when it was written in the 17th century.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Book Review: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert  is a book I set my sites on some time ago but thinking it may be a load of tosh I put off reading it. That is, until I received a verbal recommendation from a trusted relative I then decided it was time to dig in. As it turns out it is not a load of rubbish but rather a well thought out analysis of how we as individual Christians, churches, and parachurch organizations have failed, often miserably, at assisting the poor and alleviating poverty and how to address these issues.

From the back cover we learn what we can expect from the book

  • Foundation Concepts – Who are the poor?
  • Principles – Should we do relief, rehabilitation or development?
  • Strategies – How can we help people here and abroad?

And that is the thrust of the work.  These three points are fleshed out by the authors.

The book begins with a short history of how we, primarily North American Christians, got to where we are now. What happened between 1900 and 1930 that changed how we address poverty alleviation and why we are failing miserably at addressing it? Why is a Biblical world view important to the methodology of helping the poor?

Next we find out what the poor think of our efforts to help them. Its entirely possible we fail as we have no clue how other cultures, even sub-cultures within our own culture, think emotionally and politically of their plight. Failure to recognize these distinctions cause our failures in assisting the poor and therefore our evangelism. From our North American point of view are we really helping the poor or just making ourselves feel better by thinking we have? Poverty is rooted in broken relationships, with God and each other, not in financial or material wealth. Only Jesus can fix that.

In chapter 4 we begin to get into the real meat of the work. Help comes in three forms according to the authors: Relief, rehabilitation, and development. Failure to recognize these three and implement them as needed or in correct order can do more harm than good. Many churches and organizations, for example, start and stop with relief. That is, providing immediate help for a need. Though necessary it falls short of providing for the long term needs of the person or persons in need. The authors flesh this out clearly and define what steps, relief, rehabilitation, and development, to take at appropriate times.

Of chapter 7 I took special note. Short term mission trips (STM) have always left me wondering how effective they can be. How can a group of people who blow into town for only a week or two expect to provide any long lasting good? Indeed, they can be helpful as the authors explain however they are often not for several reasons the authors lay out. If only relief is provided the STM is doomed to failure. Development is often what is needed and that can’t be done in a two week STM. In helping the poor we must be in it for the long haul by helping the local churches and organizations in the area as necessary.

The authors continue and conclude with concrete strategies to help the poor in numerous ways and especially spiritually. The issue is often, "Finding armies of people to volunteer one Saturday to paint dilapidated houses is easy. Finding people to love the people who live in those houses is extremely difficult" (pg. 210). We must take the time to walk and love these folks for the long term. Are you ready? Am I ready?   
This is a justifiable read. The authors are intelligent and experienced. Expert analysis, true life accounts, and clear strategies are provided. I wholeheartedly commend When Helping Hurts .

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Bible Review: The ESV Archaeology Study Bible published by Crossway

As an armchair Biblical archaeologist I was excited to see that Crossway has published The ESV
Archaeology Study Bible. I have numerous Bibles of all bindings, covers, translations, etc., but this Bible just may become my “go to” Bible.

Features? This Bible is full of them. It is a hardbound volume and at over 2000 pages, it’s no light weight. Features in this volume make it a valuable tool for pastors, teachers, layman, and armchair enthusiasts, like myself. Even if archaeology is not the reader’s main focus it would be an exceptional addition to any library.

Just some of the features in this volume are:

  • Archaeology articles of interest
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Sidebars (with an index)
  • Concordance
  • Table of weights & measures
  • Timelines
  • Maps (with an index)
  • Background of the OT
  • Background of the NT
  • Author Bio’s
  • Copious notes
  • Cross references
  • Did I mention maps?

This study Bible will be well used in my library for study and lesson preparation. And, it has maps. Did I mention that? Maps always give me a helpful point of reference for the Biblical narrative and this Bible is packed with useful maps and an index.

For the non-teaching laymen, this volume would simply be enjoyable to slowly sift through gaining practical knowledge while bolstering spiritual understanding at the same time.

Drawbacks? The pages are extremely thin. But at 2,024 pages and nearly 2” thick, they need to be. On the other hand, to contain as much useful information as it does, those pages need to be thin.

This study Bible is well worth the purchase price and contains so much info you won’t be able to put it down. I have spent many enjoyable hours just paging through it, picking up info I didn’t have. It may very well become your "go to" Bible as well.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Book Review: Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials by Dave Furman

There are many works on the subject of suffering. Many of them good, some very good, Kiss the Wave: Embracing Your Trials by Dave Furman is exceptionally good. Dave Furman is a pastor in Dubai and is no stranger to suffering. He has endured a nerve disorder that gives him pain everyday. He speaks not only Biblically on this issue but also from his own experience. Throughout the book he offers personal stories from his life. Suffering comes in many forms and Furman delves into them all.

“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

As many know, this is a Charles Spurgeon quote.  Spurgeon suffered much in his own life from depression and several physical ailments as well. He was fully aware of the pains of this life and thus we have this famous quote from which the title of this book was taken.

In thirteen easily readable chapters Furman addresses the many aspects of suffering. Whether it be a physical difficulty, emotional distress or from many other issues, he takes us through and offers endless encouragement and many Biblical helps to sustain the reader.

Furman points out that we too often look for our significance from the world, depend on our circumstances for happiness, beg for physical and emotional healing all the while we may be missing God's point.

Rather with great pastoral care and love the author directs us to "...embrace the reality that God is using your pain to make you more like Christ." That's difficult to fathom but Furman explains this truth. "...The way to fight through our trials and grow in holiness is what we've talked about all through this book. Growing in holiness doesn't start by trying harder, but by believing better. We need to hope in the future grace we have in Christ..." God uses weakness to show our need for dependence upon him." Because ultimately, "This is why we kiss the wave. Our trials  are an endless buffet table with opportunities for us to grow and look more like Christ. As you struggle through your pain, be comforted that God is not wasting this trial but is doing a good work in you..." (All quotes from Kiss the Wave: Embracing Your Trials by Dave Furman.)

Furman never minimizes the pain the reader may be going through. He knows of it all too well. But he equally knows how easy it is to let frustration rule, to feel self pity, and to give over to sin in our darkest moments.

Furman's final chapter and conclusion are most encouraging. I'll leave that for the reader to explore. The appendix includes helpful recommended resources, a general index and a scripture index.

Give this book a read. You'll find it most helpful and encouraging.

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page.

Check out Dave Furman's book Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Book Review: Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography by Herman Selderhuis

You'd be forgiven if you thought you knew a fair bit about Martin Luther, especially now at the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. But Luther was a different kind of man; bombastic yet understanding, harsh yet kind, over the top yet pastoral. He is a difficult man to understand. We think we know him with the plethora of Facebook memes and the numerous tidbits from historians lately. But like any other historical figure that has initiated world changing events, the man must be studied and like any other man, he was a man of his time. At this point we can thank Herman Selderhuis for his biography of Luther, Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography. The mysteries of the man who changed Christendom forever have been mined and his story told.

Many see Luther as the man at ground zero of Lutheranism and moreover, the Reformation. Indeed, he was. However, his life's story is more convoluted, more variegated and more wrought with strife than most of us can imagine. His time was much different than ours. His world was one of sickness & disease, the plague, where church and government was inextricably intertwined, where excommunication was far worse than perceived today, and where going against the Roman Catholic Pope could get one killed. He persisted with his theology which focused on justification by faith; something we in the Reformed world today almost take for granted but it was miles away from what the church taught at the time. Rarely a kind word for those who opposed him, even friends could fall under his wrathful pen or spoken word if they dared to disagree with him.

Unlike Calvin, Luther wrote much about himself, both the happy times and those of strife. From these written words we know much about Luther and his struggles. Selderhuis has written a fascinating account of his life outlining his troubles and joy in both his personal and public life and quotes often from his works. Selderhuis doesn't candy coat his story, though. Luther was often harsh with his words, both written and spoken, and was not afraid of anyone, including those who could take his life. When issues arose he would travel to preach, speak at disputations and write volumes on issues needing change and explanation within the church. At any one time in his later years Luther could be preaching, writing, teaching, attending meetings and answering correspondence on a myriad of subjects. He was often exhausted. His home life was made enjoyable thanks to his wife Katharina who managed the household well. Luther loved her and his children much, however home life could be chaotic. Money always seemed to be an issue and their home was always filled with friends and lodgers. Katharina held it all together managing their money and vegetable gardens well. These various aspects tell the story of Luther's life, much the average Christian doesn't know, and Selderhuis does it well.

Selderhuis' writing is direct, enjoyable, and informative. In 350+ pages he shares the life of a man that changed history and to who every Christian is indebted. 

Crossway has provided a complimentary copy of this book through Beyond the Page.

Looking for other works on Luther? Check out this link at Reformed Renegade.