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

Monday, July 4, 2016

Works on the Trinity

With all the buzz on the Trinity currently on the 'net, below are a few works on the Trinity worth digging into. To see more works on the Trinity, check out the Reformed Book Cellar page.

Communion with the Triune God
By John Owen

A Brief Declaration and Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity
By John Owen


Delighting in the Trinity
By Tim Chester


God without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God's Absoluteness
By James E. Dolezal


The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox:An Interpretation and Refinement of the Theological Apologetic of Cornelius Van Til
By B. A. Bosserman

Essential Trinity: New Testament Foundations and Practical Relevance


For more books on the Trinity check out the Reformed Book Cellar page. This list was compiled from various resources on the 'net. RBC does not endorse every book listed. 

Keep up with the latest on new books, reading, book sales and more at the Reformed Book Cellar Facebook page. Join us!   


Monday, June 6, 2016

Five Ways to Improve Your Reading

How much do you get out of your reading? Perhaps you're one of the fortunate few you can read a book quickly and retain it. Most of us aren't like that. We toil over a book to learn and enjoy what we can but soon lose what we've read. Allow me to provide a few ideas to make your reading more profitable. Having trouble just getting started? Check out this link.

Read Slower
If you choose a work to read it must have some envisioned value to you. There's no need to rush through it. Take your time to read it. Slow down. Stop occasionally and ponder what you've just read and make note of it.

Take Notes
Many of us remember what we've seen, read or heard by writing it down. Read with a notebook at your side. Makes notes of the crucial passages you've just read. Write down what you want to take with you from the book. What you want to apply to yourself. I suggest a notebook or journal that you can shelve and refer back to repeatedly.

Write in the Margins
I know some of us are purists and don't like to write in our books. But a book is only a thing. It is the words on the page that are important, not it's pristine condition when we're through with it. Write in those margins! The next person who reads that book may profit from your marginalia.

Closely associated with the last suggestion I would add that highlighting makes it much easier to refer back to those portions that stand out to you. I often joke when I loan a book that all the important passages are already highlighted. So it is for yourself and the next reader, highlighting makes it much easier to go back and find that important passage the made you laugh, made you cry or simply something that you need to remember and apply to your life.

Review the Book When You're Done
Once you've finished reading, making notes and highlighting a book you've only completed the first step. Go back, review what you've read. Review your highlights and marginalia and your notes. Put it all together. Did you understand the thrust of the book? What exactly did you learn? How will you apply those ideas and suggestions from the author to your life and work.

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Book Review: Spurgeon's Sorrows by Zach Eswine

I would wager that you know someone who is depressed, someone who is suffering sorrow, emotional pain. You may not even know who it is but you know someone I’m sure. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you’ve felt this pain for some time now or perhaps a recent tragedy has invaded your life and it hurts – more than you’ve ever hurt before. The famous preacher of years past, Charles Spurgeon, experienced this sorrow, this depression. How did he handle it?

Zach Eswine, author of Spurgeon’s Sorrows, has done the research and shares with his readers the approach to suffering in all its varying forms that Spurgeon undertook to ease his pain while remaining faithful to the Scriptures. It was certainly a difficult road for him as it is for you, me or anyone else today. But the passage of time has changed little in the methods we should employ. This book does not propose to answer all the questions sufferers may have, there is no quick fix. Yet it does offer wisdom from Spurgeon himself who not only suffered physically but with depression and spoke and wrote about it often and his story is interwoven throughout the book.

Eswine guides us methodically through the many aspects of suffering that a person may experience. Not comprehensively as no one is depressed in quite the same way another may be. Commonalities however do exist and Eswine, with his own engaging style, has plucked them out of Spurgeon’s writings and sermons.

Eswine has broken down this small volume into three parts. Part one is an overview of depression and the difficulties in understanding it. Here we read what how it can differ in degrees of intensity and longevity. The difference between sadness and depression and how they intersect. How it began and how it deeply affected Spurgeon and some of the causes. He concludes this section with how circumstantial and biological depression comes into play with spiritual depression.

Part two consists of some of the methods we may employ to comfort those who are suffering and also the necessity to avoid trite rebukes (Proverbs 25:20). Depression and suffering is varied and there is no one-size-fits-all-diagnosis or remedy. But God's grace allows many to press on under these trying circumstances. Lastly in chapter 8, we read that Jesus was a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:4) and there is much we can learn from that.

Eswine offers some practical helps in part three. Writing down God's promises and carrying them with us to refer to in the darkness and remembering prayers such as from Psalm 103:13 can carry the sufferer through sometimes. Natural helps such as rest, food and medications (taking medicine is a wise act of faith, not of unfaith) are also covered in this section. Suicide, the desire to depart from this world as Elijah did, is discussed. Even Jesus was stricken with this desire as we read in Matthew 26:38. Yet we choose life. Finally, sorrow is exceedingly beneficial for with it we know more of God's grace.

Spurgeon’s Sorrows is for all of us for we know or someday will encounter someone who is down, sad, depressed. Perhaps it will be our self. We need to have the perspectives that are found within the pages of this book and know how to use them for our good and God's glory.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Five Hints to Kick Start Your Reading

Many of us can't find the time to read or have some kind of life issues that prevents us from reading. The kids are screaming, the boss is screaming, your neighbor asked for one more favor; I'm with you, I'm no different. I may even be worse than you. I love to read but it can be difficult to find the time and then enjoy it. Here's a few hints to get moving on that stack of books and periodicals on your bedside table.

Just Do It
Read whenever and wherever you can. I don't have much time, either, so most of my reading is done at work on my breaks. It also gives me something to look forward to after I gobble down my sandwich on my lunch break. Read in the car while you wait for a friend in the store, when you go for a walk take a break and sit for a few minutes and read. Even just fifteen minutes a day adds up.

Read Even If You Don't Like To
I know many who aren't fond of reading. I get it. Its just not their thing. But watching a movie or documentary on your favorite subject just won't do if that's your main source of information on a subject. Read a book or magazine devoted to that field, it will sink in and your knowledge base will increase.

Read Regularly
If you only have 20 minutes a day as I sometimes do on my lunch break, take advantage of the time and read and do it everyday. Twenty minutes before falling asleep - read. Thirty minutes before leaving for second shift - read. Soon you'll be looking forward to it.

Use Whatever Media Suits You
Some folks like the feel of that printed book in their hands. So do I. There's just something about it that can't be explained. Even the small of an old book is enchanting. On the other hand, an iPhone, iPad or Kindle can serve the same purpose. There are advantages to both. A  printed book allows highlighting and its easier to move back and forth to different pages. Its also pretty cool to see that book on the bookshelf when I'm done. On the flipside, with my kindle I can quickly look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary, highlight special passages and have them grouped together for future reference,  jump between two or more books for studying reference works and much more. But whatever works for you, just use it.

Read With Purpose
Whatever you read, read with purpose. That may sound strange but it is valuable to keep that in mind. If you are you reading for enjoyment, then make it an enjoyable experience. Read in silence without distractions or read with your favorite music playing. Read at the park or in your favorite easy chair. Do what you must to get your head into it. Reading for knowledge? Keep a notebook with you and take notes. Whatever you read, read and absorb well enough to write a review of the book and then do it. Write a review for Amazon or Goodreads.

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Book Review: The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson

Have you ever heard of the Marrow Controversy? If so, have you studied it, worked out its implications? I had heard of it, wondered about it, but never took the time to dig into it. Now, with the publication of The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson we all have the means to comprehend and take hold of its significance. More importantly, to grasp its ramifications for the modern church. Sinclair Ferguson is well suited with the knowledge and expertise to write such a work.

To put it briefly, the issue at the heart of the controversy was how was the gospel to be offered and Thomas Boston was the key figure in this debate in the early 18th century.

To reduce the issue to simple terms: what do you say when you call people to come to Christ? On what grounds are they entitled to come? Several statements in The Marrow of Modern Divinity gave rise to this question.

And further

...Boston was in agreement with the intention of the Auchterarder Creed, that it is not sound to say that a man must first quit sin in order to be qualified for the offer of Christ. The offer of the gospel is to be made not to the righteous or even the repentant, but to all. There are no conditions that need to be met in order for the gospel offer to be made.


Boston felt the sheer graciousness of the Christ of the gospel was being stifled by a Calvinism that had developed a preaching logic of its own and had become insensitive to the style and atmosphere of the New Testament. In his view God’s particular election had too easily been distorted into preaching a doctrine of conditional and conditioned grace. That often goes hand in glove with a form of gospel preaching that is in danger of severing the elements in the ordo salutis from “Jesus Christ and him crucified” — that is, from Christ himself. 

The fallacy here? The subtle movement from seeing forsaking sin as the fruit of grace that is rooted in election, to making the forsaking of sin the necessary precursor for experiencing that grace. Repentance, which is the fruit of grace, thus becomes a qualification for grace. Sinclair B. Ferguson. The Whole Christ (Kindle Locations 591-653). Crossway.

And so began a lengthy debate involving Boston and his "Marrow Men" with their presbytery. But make no mistake, this is far more than a dusty run through of some old theological fine point. The same issues Boston was dealing with then are the same issues of grace the church today faces. They must be dealt with head on and Ferguson gives us the theological ammo. This is quite a fascinating and enlightening journey through the dispute which clarifies the position we should hold today.

Chapter titles reveal much about the level of detail.

1 How a Marrow Grew
2 Grace in the Gospel
3 Preparation, Distortion, Poison
4 Danger! Legalism
5 The Order of Grace
6 Suspicious Symptoms
7 Faces of Antinomianism
8 Causes and Cures
9 The Marrow of Assurance
10 How Assurance of Christ Becomes Assurance of Salvation
11 “Hindrances Strew All the Way”

Two points of special interest to me

Of particular importance and interest to me was Ferguson's clear explication of antinomianism and legalism and their relation to the proper offer of the gospel. Both would seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum and in one sense they are. Yet rather like brothers, they are similar, both errors in theology with more likenesses than one would think.

The errors in gospel presentation continue today and these are brought to the forefront.  Much of these past conflicts have direct bearing on our views and understanding of assurance today. Ferguson's writing on this subject exposes why so many believers don't have assurance, what it means to acquire it and indeed, enjoy it.

I enjoyed this book. It instructed me in both head and heart. It will be one I refer back to. It reminded me that "there is nothing new under the sun." We will always have theological error with us on this side of heaven. What may seem like simple semantics can and will have a great impact on Biblical theology and the gospel in particular. We need godly men like Boston and Ferguson to delve into these matters, expose them, and guide us to Biblical truth. Sinclair Ferguson has accomplished this in The Whole Christ.

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Looking For A Sola Or Two?

The Mortification of Spin gang interviewed Tom Schreiner this week on his new book, Faith Alone - The Doctrine of Justification. It was a fun an interesting interview. You can listen to the interview  here and check out the book here.

Jump over to the Reformed Media Review and hear the guys talk about Schreiner's book and David VanDrunen's God's Glory Alone - The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life. These and other new works are discussed. Keep up on all the latest with Camden and Jim at the Reformed Media Review.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Book Review: J.I. Packer: An Evangelical Life by Leland Ryken

J.I. Packer: An Evangelical Life by Leland Ryken is a fascinating account of one of the most influential theologians of the last one hundred years. Not always a pretty story but rather one where the reader, like the subject himself, can see the working hand of Providence. The only other work of this kind was written years ago by Alister McGrath who Ryken quotes often.

Rather than a cradle to grave biography Ryken chose a different avenue for this monograph. He has broken down the life of Packer into three areas: The Life, The Life of the Man & Lifelong themes. Each with appropriate sub headings. It is not strictly chronological, not a history, but a full orbed biography.

Part one recounts Packer's early life including his decision to become an Anglican priest. His first book, his first venture into controversy, his work with Christianity Today and his move to Canada also come to light.

Part two, The Man and part three, Lifelong Themes delve much deeper into the life & thought of Packer - what makes him tick. Each division includes a recounting of his extensive written works. Packer is a man of words and words he produced - in great quantity.

By far, part three was the most engaging portion of the work for me. Ryken details the major themes of Packer's writing and teaching career. He digs deep into Packer on the Bible, the Puritans, Anglicanism, theology and preaching. Each section was a pleasure to read. Finally in this section Ryken reveals the numerous controversies Packer has been involved in. From his early days to his move to Canada to signing the Evangelicals and Catholics Together documents, all have been captured. Packer's break with Lloyd-Jones and Sproul and dissonance with Stott are also recounted.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would suggest coupling it with Packer on the Christian Life by Sam Storms to get further insights into the teachings of Packer.

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