Saturday, February 25, 2017

Book Review: "The Covenant of Works: Its Confessional and Scriptural Basis" (Recovering Our Confessional Heritage)

Author Richard Barcellos has given us a small, informative primer, The Covenant of Works: Its Confessional and Scriptural Basis. You may already think you have a good theological understanding of the COW however Barcellos brings out numerous historical and theological aspects as they relate to the Second London Confession of Faith of 1689 and as the 2LCF relates to the Westminster Standards (Confession, Larger and Shorter Catechisms).

The author reviews the history of the LCF with a definition of the COW - good stuff.  And though I disagree with some of the content, there is valuable information that can be gleaned and used for further study. At only 137 pages, this could be read quickly and used to kick start a study of the subject.

However, what I thought was going to be an interesting and informational book on the Covenant of Works turned out to be a difficult read. The book is chock full of parenthetical statements and references making the flow difficult and a time consuming read. Though well footnoted, numerous foot notes simply refer to the reader to the author's other books for fuller explanations. At times, as in chapter one, lesser known Latin theological terms are defined as a preface to what follows (well done), other terms are not defined and it leaves me wondering who the intended audience is. It appears to be written for the layperson but with the difficulties outlined above, I'm unsure if a good, introductory grasp of the COW can be obtained. A different,  more helpful approach to the subject could have been taken. A larger, but yet still slim volume eliminating the issues outlined above would have made this a much better read.

My main disagreement with this volume is that I don't believe the author has made a good case for the covenant coming after Adam's creation. I would hold  to the view that Adam was created in covenant. With that statement being made, I'll leave it to the reader to decide.

Perhaps, as the author states in his conclusion, this book can function as a launch pad for further study. I suggest this to be the case as I was left with more questions unanswered rather than answered.

The author has provided a complimentary copy of this book. The views expressed are my own.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Book Review: A New Song: Responding Poetically To The Psalms by D.P. Myers

It's really tough to find quality, Reformed devotional material. I'm always on the look out for it. A New Song: Responding Poetically To The Psalms by D.P. Myers is just such a book. Consisting of over 170 poems, most corresponding to the Psalms, Myers allows the reader to enter in to his lengthy study of the Psalms and his poetic response.

The Psalms can be our response to God in all of life's situations, particularly to affliction and for praise. I return to the Psalms often in times of darkness and light. Myers encourages us to do that and to see past the words to their true meaning.

From the book jacket we read

A New Song is both a devotional and a guidebook. As a devotional, the reader is offered a glimpse into Myers' multi-year journey through the Psalms resulting in writing over 170 poems. Each poem, when read alongside the accompanying Psalm, can help the prayerful reader to consider the ways in which God may be speaking through each Psalm As a guidebook, A New Song briefly discusses our innate creative nature and then offers suggestions which, when illustrated by Myers' examples, will encourage you to find your own creative voice with which to sing a new song unto the Lord.

Of course, I turned to some of my favorite Psalms that have offered me the most comfort and instruction over the years.

From the response to Psalm 35

Repentant is my weeping heart,
     Always longing for your touch,
Your breath of life, a fresh new start,
     I need these Lord, so much.

And again from Psalm 54

Still I sit in darkest night
    In my isolation's pain,
Waiting when for me you'll fight
   So I'll see the dawn again.

From Psalm 90

To lift me from the dark pit
   Of muck and death and sin,
Leading me so far from it,
   This hellish life I'm in.

To search out your grand measure
   Through all my years and days
And find no greater pleasure
   Than seeking all your ways.

Then be taken home one day,
   The castle of the King, 
Where your glories will be shown
   And sinner cleansed will sing.

Myers demonstrates that poetry has a way of taking us from an instructional mode to a contemplative mode. When we meditate on a Psalm and corresponding poem we can regain the perspective we often lose that the Lord wants us to have. In the Psalms the full range of emotions are found and can be expressed to the Lord on prayer. And there we can gather our thoughts and revel in God's glory and majesty.

This book has quickly become a favorite devotional tool for me. Let us remain diligent in our time with the Lord by reading, meditating, and praying. A New Song is a wonderful companion to the Psalms to do so.

The Reformed Book Cellar received a complimentary copy of this book.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Book Review: No Little Women by Aimee Byrd

...if we are serious about the distinctiveness of men and women, and if we really do believe that women are created to be necessary allies, then above all we should want to equip competent, theologically minded, thinking women, which has been the theme of this whole book.

The male-female dynamic has been much in the news lately, so much so that when I saw that Aimee Byrd's new book, No Little Women had been published, I was anxious to get my hands on it and dig in.

Aimee Byrd is a wife, mother, church member, author, and co-host of the Mortification of Spin podcast. Well known in many Reformed circles, she is intelligent, thoughtful and a capable writer. Her style is provocative and well worthy of reading.

Byrd's theme is as we find it above from page 138. With that in mind, she sets out to demonstrate that women are indeed the ally to men. Through several chapters she outlines the approach we should take offering correctives and concluding several chapters directed to church officers.

Much of the focus of this book covers the bad theology so often pandered to women in its many forms but especially in books. One need only to wander around the local Christian book store or search Amazon's website to see the latest drivel aimed at the female Christian demographic.

In many cases, women's ministry is the back door for bad doctrine to enter the church. (pg. 22)

And it comes on the heels of doctrine promoted in these books.  Can this be changed? Yes, by women with discernment learning good theology with recognition and care from their church officers. Byrd offers the necessary insight to reach this needed goal.

We  are to recognize that women are created in the image of God as necessary allies to men carrying out his mission. Because of this, women are to be good theologians with informed convictions. We are to take this call seriously and invest quality time in our theological growth and Bible study within the context of our local church as a foundation to our service and contributions to the church, our families, and society. The church is to recognize this and help to equip competent women as necessary allies. (pg. 178)

I was particularly interested in how Byrd would address the plethora of bad theology published to and for women. I wasn't disappointed. In chapter 8 she describes how to chose a book and author, how to read a book, and of utmost importance, how to be discerning. She gives examples from these books by authors such as Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp, Sarah Young and others so that the reader may learn and practice discernment. Well done.

No doubt, No Little Women will evoke some visceral responses but I urge the reader to thoughtfully and Biblically think through what Byrd is advocating.

This book abounds with wisdom - for women and men. I strongly urge men and church officers to read, digest and apply what is found within it's pages. Women, if you are reading these false teachers that offer religion through sentimentality, please ween yourself from that rubbish. Invest in quality reading material that teaches the truth as found in God's Word. It is all that will ever satisfy your soul. Make a good start by reading No Little Women.

(I would give this book a 5 Star rating but the author does not like that rating system so pretend you didn't read this bit.)

P&R Publishing has provided a complimentary copy of this book.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ (Foundations of Evangelical Theology) By Stephen J. Wellum

Wellum is not one of the high profile Evangelical leaders but, for my money, he is one of their best systematicians and deserves to be widely read and listened to.   If one of the key weaknesses with contemporary Evangelicalism is its detachment of biblical theology from dogmatic history, and notions of orthodoxy from church history, then Wellum’s approach is a welcome and necessary corrective.   - Carl Trueman

Stephen J. Wellum (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and editor of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Stephen lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, Karen, and their five children.

This work is Carl Trueman's book of the year. What's yours?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Author Spotlight: Dr. Carl Trueman

Dr. Carl Trueman is a favorite author, speaker, and podcast host of mine. I never seem to tire of his British accent or sarcastic wit. He is a learned man and is known as an expert on the lives of Martin Luther and John Owen. His writing style is understandable and witty. With any of his works one can settle in for a good read (add pipe, cigar, craft beer or glass of wine to make it even better).

His Amazon bio: Carl R. Trueman (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is the Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary and pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Ambler, Pennsylvania. He was editor of Themelios for nine years, has authored or edited more than a dozen books, and has contributed to multiple publications including the Dictionary of Historical Theology and The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology.

The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historical and Contemporary Evangelicalism


The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind


The Creedal Imperative


Fools Rush in Where Monkeys Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone


Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom

 Read the Reformed Book Cellar review here.


If you want understand history, laugh, enjoy a good read and sometimes be offended, Trueman is the man. Highly recommended from the RBC.




Friday, November 18, 2016

Looking for a Christmas Book?

Looking for a quality read this Christmas Season? We suggest Boice's The Christ of Christmas. The season does evoke warm feelings but it should be much more than that.

But the Christmas story is more than sentimental. It is powerful. It deals with real people. It involves pain. It is one of the most strikingly unusual stories in all of history. And its main emphasis is not on Jesus' infancy, but on his deity -- and why Deity took the form of an infant.

 The Christmas story has deep meaning today, not merely as a nice bedtime story for children or a narrative in a choral concert, but as a foundation point of your salvation and your new life in Jesus -- the omnipotent, omniscient, righteous Christ of Christmas.

"The death of James M. Boice left a large void in the realm of Christ-centered exposition. These Christmas studies provide a master class for preachers and a terrific resource for all who wish to learn or present the greatest story ever told." --Alistair Begg, Parkside Church, Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Author Spotlight: Sinclair Ferguson

Author Spotlight
Today we begin a new series of posts spotlighting Reformed authors. There is much we can learn from these authors, old and new. So, let's dig in. Our first author  showcase is Sinclair Ferguson.

About the author
Sinclair Buchanan Ferguson retired in 2013 as Senior Minister of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, and returned to his native Scotland. Prior to this he held the Charles Krahe chair for Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and served Church of Scotland congregations in Unst (Shetland) and Glasgow (St George s Tron). He received his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen (1971).

Dr Ferguson retains his position as Professor of Systematic Theology at Redeemer Seminary, Dallas, Texas, and serves as a Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries. He continues to preach God's Word in churches and at conferences.

A few of his works

Devoted To God: Blueprints for Sanctification
In a series of Scripture-enriched chapters Sinclair B. Ferguson's Devoted to God works out this principle in detail. It provides what he describes as 'blueprints for sanctification' an orderly exposition of central New Testament passages on holiness. Devoted to God thus builds a strong and reliable structural framework for practical Christian living. It stresses the foundational importance of fundamental issues such as union with Christ, the rhythms of spiritual growth, the reality of spiritual conflict, and the role of God's law. Here is a fresh approach to an always relevant subject, and a working manual to which the Christian can turn again and again for biblical instruction and spiritual direction.

The Whole Christ
Since the days of the early church, Christians have wrestled with the relationship between law and gospel. If, as the apostle Paul says, salvation is by grace and the law cannot save, what relevance does the law have for Christians today?
By revisiting the Marrow Controversy—a famous but largely forgotten eighteenth-century debate related to the proper relationship between God’s grace and our works—Sinclair B. Ferguson sheds light on this central issue and why it still matters today. In doing so, he explains how our understanding of the relationship between law and gospel determines our approach to evangelism, our pursuit of sanctification, and even our understanding of God himself.
Ferguson shows us that the antidote to the poison of legalism on the one hand and antinomianism on the other is one and the same: the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ, in whom we are simultaneously justified by faith, freed for good works, and assured of salvation.

In Christ Alone
Noted theologian, pastor, and educator Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson explores aspects of the person and work of Jesus in his latest book, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life. This collection of articles, published earlier in Tabletalk magazine and Eternity Magazine, is designed to help believers gain a better understanding of their Savior and the Christian faith, and to live out that faith in their day-to-day lives.
In fifty short chapters arranged in six sections, Dr. Ferguson shows that Christ, who is fully God, took on humanity that He might be the Great High Priest of His people as well as the once-for-all sacrifice; that He now ministers to His people through His Spirit, crowning them with great and precious blessings; and that believers are called to duty, from cultivating contentment to mortifying sin. In Christ Alone is packed full of nuggets of Scriptural truth that will spark and fan the flames of the believer's love for the Savior who is so beautiful in His person and so faithful in His work on behalf of His beloved sheep.

Discovering God's Will
There are few more important things in the Christian's life than discovering God's will. The assurance that we are in the centre of God's purposes brings lasting stability to our experience. But how do we discover the will of God for our lives? Sinclair Ferguson answers this question by showing how God's will is shaped by his ultimate purposes for us. It is made known to us through his Word. At times discovering God's will demands careful thought: it may require patience; it always demands a right attitude to God himself. Discovering God's Will draws out fundamental principles by which God guides us, applies them to practical situations like vocation and marriage, and underlines many important biblical counsels. It shows that the guidance God gives comes primarily through knowing, loving and obeying him.

From The Mouth of God
The Bible.
Why should we believe -- as Jesus did - that it is 'the mouth of God'?
When did it come into existence?
Is it inerrant?
What do we need to learn in order to understand it better?
How does its teaching change our lives?
In 'From the Mouth of God', Sinclair B Ferguson answers these and other important questions about trusting, reading, and applying the Bible.

 So, grab your favorite beverage and smoke and settle in for a good read with anything written by Ferguson. You'll be blessed.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Book Review: What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts) By Nancy Guthrie

If I had to boil down the message of this entire book to just two words, these two would probably cover it: show up. - Nancy Guthrie

Grieving is a such a painful process. We all handle it differently. Sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly. But those around us can have a huge impact on how we process our pain. And those grieving around us are impacted by what we say and do. Often, though well meaning, we can completely mishandle the situation resulting in more pain, frustration and pressure on those who grieve. Nancy Guthrie in here latest, What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts), gives a us a look deep inside those who are suffering the pain of losing a friend, family member, or loved one, to death. What should we say, what should we do? Sharing her own experiences of losing two infant children and of those she has surveyed, we see how we can help the grieving in deep and meaningful ways.

Guthrie's style is warm, loving, and on point. Knowing what to say, what to do is usually difficult. No two people grieve in the same way or in the same time frame. Thus, she takes us through the "hows" and "whens" to speak and act at various times and places during the process of grieving. Most importantly, at least to me, what to say and not to say. Common unhelpful phrases and actions are covered and why we should avoid them. Alternatively, encouraging and thoughtful words and actions are suggested. As people grieve, we need to understand that they are not thinking as logically perhaps as we are at the moment. Stuffing scripture down their throats is not always as helpful as we may think. We also can't fix their grieving. It takes time. What many want most is to know that we have come along side them in their grieving and will be there whenever we're needed.

Besides the loads of useful advice, it is well footnoted and has scripture and subject indices. I found this book most helpful. I recommend this to every elder & deacon and to every church library.

This was a difficult read for me. I realized how often I have failed those around me grieving a death. I repeatedly felt the twinge of guilt for mishandling a situation. But this was a necessary read as well. We need to love those around us who are grieving but we often, very often, don't know how. This book is a gift to every Christian to learn how to love those who are grieving.

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

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Book Review: Being There: How To Love Those Who Are Hurting by Dave Furman

As one who is a caretaker of a spouse with an debilitating illness, I was keenly interested in this new book, Being There: How To Love Those Who Are Hurting, by Dave Furman. It did not disappoint. Author Dave Furman shares his life with his difficult disease which is not only difficult for himself but also his wife, family and friends. Having an illness like Furman's when one doesn't look ill makes it all the worse for all those involved. Furman shares his joys and disappointments on a personal level and imparts wisdom for the caretaker, friend, spouse, pastor and everyone acquainted with someone suffering from any of life's trials.

This work is packed with advice for the caretaker and for the sufferer. From the outset however Furman makes it clear that, "The goal of this entire book is to point you to Jesus, who is your only hope, and to walk you through some ways to love those who hurt with the strength God provides." Indeed, the book ends with the same reminder. We are to point those who suffer to Christ. Words of encouragement or comfort often fail, but Christ never does. This is not all we can do but it is at the heart of what we do and say.

Furman's style is warm, funny and direct to the point. He quotes sufferers that have gone before us and points the reader to Scripture often. He shares events from his life that are sometimes humorous but often heartbreaking as his disability affects all those around him. But it makes the book real, not just a book of self help hints to get the reader through difficult times, but seasoned, hard advice for those dark, lonely times of hurting the caretaker endures.

He tasks the reader to refer to the gospel to find hope. "In order to adequately care for others, we must first need this news (and the Spirit of God) to stir in us a new and greater affection." We must also learn to listen rather than talk. "Listening is a great way to start loving and comforting someone who is suffering. Good friends and counselors understand that oftentimes the best thing they can do is be quiet and listen."

This leads me to one of the most important and helpful chapters of the book, Whatever You Do, Don't Do These Things. Though well intended, some words and actions of encouragement are more harmful than helpful. If you cannot imagine what these are then I strongly urge you to give close attention to this chapter.

As Furman was writing the conclusion to this book he suffered another severe attack of pain which left him discouraged. Though I don't wish pain on anyone, I am grateful he related this episode in the book. Even after penning this work he fell into a short period of discouragement. His honesty displayed his humanness in that he still does not have all the answers. Neither do we. Our hope is in Christ for now and evermore.

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

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book Review: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised

Sadly, many of us don't know our Old Testament. Moreover, we don't know the typologies, prophecies and other numerous connections to the New Testament. We live in an odd age where we have much information at our fingertips and we often choose to ignore it. A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised is a book not to be ignored.

This book walks the reader through he Old Testament offering an understanding many Evangelicals, many Christians, just don't have. It was penned for everyone from the layman to the pastor. Everyone can glean knowledge from this work. The authors are scholars and teachers, past and present, that know their subjects well. They have written in a clear, simple fashion, defining terms and footnoting heavily. Undoubtedly, this was written for the seasoned Christian and new believer alike.

Countless questions on the Old Testament are answered within these pages. If you don't realize many of these questions are issues perhaps you should begin reading BTIOT now.

How do we know these texts should be in the O.T. canon?
Who wrote these texts?
Which book is at the heart of the O.T.?
Why doesn't the book of Esther ever mention God?
What is the difference between Kings, Samuel and Chronicles? Are the differences important?
Why are there different genres within the O.T.?
Why should you read and study the most depressing book of the O.T., Lamentations?
What's the connection between Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles?

Yes each chapter contains book background, authorship info, key themes, excellent bibliography and extensive footnotes.

This one gets 5 out of 5 stars. Friends, it is time to start studying.

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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Alec Motyer (1924-2016)

Alec Motyer
We mourn the passing of Alec Motyer (maw-teer). Our loss is his gain. He was a beloved author and theologian and we shall be the less without him. He has authored several works worth investing our time and study in. Below are just a few of his works. We are truly grateful for his service. Read more about him here.

The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary
By J. Alec Motyer






Look to the Rock: An Old Testament Background to Our Understanding of Christ
By Alec Motyer


By J. A. Motyer






Isaiah (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)
By J. Alec Motyer






The Message of Philippians (Bible Speaks Today)
By J. Alec Motyer







The Message of Amos (Bible Speaks Today)
By J. Alec Motyer










“I’m not really a scholar,” says J. Alec Motyer softly, “I’m just a man who loves the Word of God.”. . . . - Alec Motyer from an interview in May 2000.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Two New Works You Need To Get Your Hands On

If you study theology to any degree, as most Christians should do, you need to pick up these two new works. I'm deep into the Old Testament volume and have found it to be outstanding.

A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised


A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized


Connect here to listen to an interview with Michael Kruger on this work.

We wish you good reading and growth in your spiritual life. Share your thoughts with us and please share this page with your friends.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Two New Books Worth a Look

There's two new books worth considering and I've put on my "to buy" list. 

First up is 

J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone
By Iain H. Murray

The life of J.C. Ryle has only to be heard once to be remembered. His 84 years (1816 1900) included remarkable contrasts the promise of a fortune, then the poverty of a bankrupt; a Suffolk country pastor, then bishop of the leading seaport of the British Empire. But there was a still greater change from the successful youth at Eton and Oxford, who did not pray or read his Bible till he was 21, to become a Christian 'bold as a lion for the truth of God s Word and his Gospel'.

Listen to a author interview at Reformed Forum here

Next we have



Zeal without Burnout
By Christopher Ash

Thousands of people leave Christian ministry every month. They have not lost their love for Christ, or their desire to serve him. But for one reason or another, they are exhausted and simply cannot carry on.

Christopher Ash knows this experience all too well. As a pastor of a growing church, and then in his role training people for ministry, he has found himself on the edge of burnout a number of times, and has pastored many younger ministers who have reached the end of their tether.

His wisdom has been distilled into this short, accessible book, in which he reveals a neglected biblical truth and seven keys that flow from it. Understood properly, and built into our lives as Christians who are zealous to serve the Lord, they will serve to protect us from burnout, and keep us working for God's kingdom and glory.

For a great perspective on this work, check out Camden Bucey's view at Reformed Forum.


Both books can be purchased through Reformed Forum or at RBC