Monday, May 15, 2017

Authors Trueman and Gordon to Speak at Reformation Conference

Redeemer Church in Hudson, Ohio will be having two well known authors speak at it's upcoming Remembering & Renewing Reformation Conference in June. Authors and speakers Dr. T. David Gordon and Dr. Carl Truman will highlight the conference. Presentation topics include Preparing for a Reformation, Luther’s Reformation, and Contemporary Reformation. The first 50 registrants receive a signed copy of Truman's Luther and the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom. For more information and to register, please check the website for the conference.







Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Review: No Uncertain Sound

I guess it was in 2008 or so that I had been looking on the internet for something to listen to. Any good Reformed sermon or lecture would do. At the time at I had an annoyingly long drive to work and detested the waste of time. I would find a sermon and burn it to a CD (that's as high tech as I could get then). At some point I came across the Reformed Forum podcast. I remember thinking this is what I've been looking for - some well educated, well spoken guys recording their theological conversations. Eureka! I was hooked. Since that time I have had the privilege to watch Reformed Forum grow into a multi-faceted, multi-platform ministry to aid the discipleship of Reformed Christians worldwide.

Their latest foray is a small tome entitled, No Uncertain Sound. It is a small collection of essays that "...set forth the salient features  of our Reformed identity" (pg. 3). Each chapter, authored by a podcast regular, is concise, well written, easy to understand, and well edifying.

Chapter Highlights

In chapter one, Camden M. Bucey, president of Reformed Forum, gives the reader the origins and impetus for Reformed Forum. It is now well beyond its humble beginnings.

Lane G. Tipton authors chapter two and begins the theological background necessary for comprehension of their Reformed identity. In "Jesus in the Old Testament," Tipton considers the Christocentric and Christotelic understanding of Christ in the Scriptures. Don't let those theological terms scare you off.
At stake in the debate is whether the church receives the Christ who is revealed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments by the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit, or whether we are to receive the imaginative construal of the religious experience of ancient Hebrews or Second Temple Jews (pg. 22).
Camden M. Bucey explains the necessity of Biblical and Systematic theology to work in harmony, rather than independently,  in chapter three.
Systematic and biblical theology are not antagonistic. Both rely upon exegetical theology, and they mutually contextualize, regulate, and inform each other. Systematic theology should never be engaged apart from biblical theology, and vice versa (pg. 30).
Jeffrey C. Waddington takes the next chapter where he "...unpacks[s] the meaning and significance of union with Christ..." (pg.32).

"Communion with God in worship is of the very essence of the covenant and goal of man's eschatology" (pg. 52)  writes Glen J. Cary in chapter six with a view of Covenantal worship.

In chapter seven James J. Cassidy explains the relationship that believers have in this world vs. the next.
Heaven is your home. Heaven is your city. And heaven is where you have your citizenship (pg. 73).
Jeff Waddington returns to author chapter eight on Reformed Covenantal Apologetics. Waddington clearly lays out the basics and elements of a Reformed Covenantal Apologetics method.

Other Observations

It is difficult to take issue with this work; either in content or format. It is well footnoted and has a listing of related podcasts at the end of each chapter. The work concludes with a recommended reading list and Scripture index.

I heartily recommend No Uncertain Sound. It would be an outstanding work to add to any church library and one to hand out to members and visitors. Get it now. The first printing is almost gone.

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Guest Post by R. Andrew Myers: Book Review: Godly Conversation


by R. Andrew Myers

Distinct from the ordinary or regular elements of worship prescribed by Scripture -- such as prayer, reading/hearing/preaching the Word, singing of Psalms, and the administration of/participation in the sacraments -- there are other spiritual ordinances, duties or disciplines which the Bible commands, both public and private means of grace, sometimes with overlap, such as extraordinary vows, meditation, fasting and godly conference.

The last three are among the most neglected and misunderstood aspects of Puritan piety. Meditation is a preparative to prayer and the best way to retain what is read or heard in the Word. Matthew Henry said: "Meditation is the best preparative for prayer, so prayer is the best issue of meditation. Meditation and prayer should go together, Ps. 19:14." Religious fasting is an extraordinary act of worship, and a discipline that helps to draw body and soul nearer to God; in the words of William Secker: "By fasting, the body learns to obey the soul; by praying the soul learns to command the body." These disciplines are largely unknown among professing Christians today, or poorly understood and infrequently practiced. The last, godly conference -- defined by J.I. Packer in the foreword simply as "edifying conversation, that is, about spiritual things" -- is also little known and poorly practiced by Christians today, even among those who follow the Puritan tradition. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I would introduce readers to Godly Conversation: Rediscovering the Puritan Practice of Conference by Joanne J. Jung (Reformation Heritage Books, 2011).

In our harried, individualistic, fragmented society, as Dr. Jung notes (pp. 157-159), too many Christians today walk on their pilgrim way isolated from other believers and consequently, in large measure, deprived from the benefits of mutual edification. Just as in our culture few neighbors actually seem to really know one another well, and are involved in one another's lives, so likewise in the church, believers often assemble to worship God together on the Lord's Day and yet fail to share the joys and burdens of life with one another during the rest of the week. The evangelical importance attached to an individual's conversion and salvation seems overemphasized to the point of neglecting the corporate aspect of the Christian life. The need for small group Bible study and activities is known and efforts are made to fill this void in the Christian experience, but perhaps poorly employed. The fact that the Puritans recognized this need and practiced this discipline so diligently is largely unknown, not only within the church at large, but also among modern Puritan scholarship, making Dr. Jung's study a valuable contribution to what she refers to as "piety's forgotten discipline."

Dr. Jung, who has written about this topic elsewhere as well, begins with an overview of Puritanism and Puritan piety, drawing on modern scholarship, notably that of Dr. Charles E. Hambrick-Stowe, to emphasize the point that Puritan piety, though it speaks first to the communion between the believing soul and his God, was also corporate. Biblical piety, is not confined to the individual but permeates all of our relationships in the spheres of family, church and society. As much as the even the unbelieving world understands and appreciates man's need for companionship in life, Puritans also recognized that Christian fellowship is even sweeter, and indeed needful. The communion of saints is a doctrine taught by the Westminster Assembly, and in an age of "lone wolf" Christianity, where relationships between believers are often limited and superficial, or even purely virtual (online only), it is no wonder that this chapter of the Westminster Confession receives comparatively little attention from even those who follow the Puritan tradition. But as Dr. Jung quotes (pp. xiv, 12-13) from a New England Puritan, Jonathan Mitchel in his "Letter to a Friend," appended to A Discourse of the Glory (1677), pp. 15-16:
If you have a friend with whom you might now and then spend a little time, in conferring together, in opening your hearts, and presenting your unutterable groanings before God, it would be of excellent use. Such an one would greatly strengthen, bestead, and further you in your way to heaven. Spend now and then [as occasions will permit] an hour [or so] with such a friend more then ordinary [sometimes a piece of a day, sometimes a whole day of extraordinary fast, in striving and wrestling with God for everlasting mercy]. And be much in quickning conference, giving and taking mutual encouragements and directions in the matters of Heaven! Oh! the life of God that falls into the hearts of the Godly, in and by gracious Heavenly conference. Be open hearted one to another, and stand one for another against the Devil and all his Angels. Make it thus your business in these and such like ways, to provide for Eternity while it is called today.

After an overview of Puritan piety, including a discussion of the place of conference as it served to mutually edify the saints, Dr. Jung traces the history and origin of conference as practiced by Puritans from the European continent and the British isles beginning with the exercise of prophesyings. Grounded in the words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Cor. 14.29-31 and 1 Thess. 5.20, prophesying -- that is, a method of training ministers by regularly gathering them together to expound the Word of God in each other's hearing -- began in Zurich as early as the 1520s, where "two or three" "nongraduate clergy" would exegete the Scriptures in the original languages, after which sermons were given on those texts for the attending laity. And in Geneva weekly meetings took place outside of stated worship wherein the pastor would discuss doctrine with all church members where the laity were free to speak openly and ask questions. Thus were the seeds planted that were to cross-pollinate across the North Sea by way of the Marian exiles and ultimately flower in England following the Elizabethan settlement. Dr. Jung (p. 125) categorizes this type of ministerial conference as either professional (clergy expounding Scripture to their peers) or pastoral (Scriptural exposition with lay-auditors present, often involving a question-and-answer format).

But in addition minister-to-minister consultations and exhortations, and to speaking with one's own minister, it is private conference (layman-to-layman, within families or without) that particularly augments the spiritual benefits of public preaching for most Christians. "Private conference would contribute much to our profiting by public preaching" (Matthew Henry on Matt. 13.24-43). "Besides the secret worship performed by particular persons, and the public services of the whole congregation, there may be occasion sometimes for two or three to come together, either for mutual assistance in conference or joint assistance in prayer, not in contempt of public worship, but in concurrence with it; there Christ will be present" (Henry on Matt. 18.15-20). This is a duty and a help for families on the Lord's Day following the public sermons ("and the publick worship being finished, after prayer, [the head of household] should take an account what [the family] have heard; and thereafter, to spend the rest of the time which they may spare in catechising, and in spiritual conferences upon the word of God" -- Scottish Directory for Family Worship, 1647). And it extends to women as well as to men (and children), as Dr. Jung notes, pp. 146-153. All saints are to admonish, exhort and provoke one another to love and good works, Mal. 3.16; Col. 3.16; 1 Thess. 5.11, 14; Heb. 10.24 (see Robert Shaw's remarks on the Westminster Confession of Faith 26.1-2). 

This is a well-researched study of a spiritual discipline important to Puritans, which surveys the writings of such men as Joseph and Richard Alleine, Isaac Ambrose, William Ames, Richard Baxter, Lewis Bayly, John Beadle, Richard Bernard, Nicholas Bownd, John Bunyan, John Downame, Richard Greenham, Arthur Hildersham, Thomas Hooker, Cotton Mather, John Owen, William Perkins, John Preston, Richard Rogers, Timothy Rogers, Thomas Shepard, Richard Sibbes, Henry Smith, Thomas Watson, and many other sixteenth and seventeenth century divines, as well as modern secondary literature concerning Puritan piety. 

There is counsel from Baxter (pp. viii-ix) as to how such spiritual conference should be conducted: 

Let the matter be usually, 1. Things of weight, and not small matters. 2. Things of certainty, and not uncertain things. Particularly the fittest subjects for your ordinary discourse are there: 1. God himself, with his attributes, relations, and works. 2. The great mystery of man's redemption by Christ; his person, office, sufferings, doctrine, example, and work; his resurrection, ascension, glory, intercession, and all the privileges of his saints. 3. The covenant of grace... 4. The workings of the Spirit of Christ upon the soul... 5. The ways and wiles of Satan, and all our spiritual enemies... 6. The corruption and deceitfulness of the heart; the nature and workings, effects and signs of ignorance, unbelief, hypocrisy, pride, sensuality, worldliness, impiety, injustice, intemperance, uncharitableness, and every other sin; with all the helps against them all. 7. The many duties to God and man which we have to perform, both internal and external... 8. The vanity of the world, and deceitfulness of all earthly things. 9. The powerful reasons used by Christ to draw us to holiness... 10. Of the sufferings which we must expect and be prepared for. 11. Of death...and how to make ready for so great a change. 12. Of the day of judgment... 13. Of the joys of heaven... 14. Of the miseries of the damned... 15. Of the state of the church on earth, and what we ought to do in our places for its welfare. Is there not matter enough in all these great and weighty points, for...conference?

As to its importance to believers in centuries past as well as today, consider the words of Richard Sibbes from his expository sermons on the Song of Solomon, quoted by Dr. Jung (p. 97): "Next to heaven itself, our meeting together here, is a kinde of Paradise, the greatest pleasure of the world is, to meet with those here, whom we shall ever live with in Heaven." 

What was true for Christian in Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" is true for all believers. As Dr. Jung notes, "In John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, private conference is what makes Christian's journey practicable. Time and again, as destruction is imminent, the advice and comfort of a fellow pilgrim enabled him to press on" (p. 12). Happy is the man who has a fellow pilgrim there to help him up when he falls with a word of encouragement and comfort (Ecc. 4.9-12). 

In the spirit of Dr. Jung's book and in the words of J.C. Ryle, "Let us resolve to talk more to believers about the Bible when we meet them. Alas, the conversation of Christians, when they do meet, is often sadly unprofitable! How many frivolous, and trifling, and uncharitable things are said! Let us bring out the Bible more, and it will help to drive the devil away, and keep our hearts in tune. Oh, that we may all strive so to walk together in this evil world; that Jesus may often draw near, and go with us, as He went with the two disciples journeying to Emmaus!" 

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

R. Andrew Myers is married to Jessica, and is the father of five precious children. He lives in Elkton, Virginia, and has studied at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He edited The Matthew Poole Project (2006-2012); published an essay on "The Puritan Legacy Considered" (2009, MPP); served as a transcriber and research assistance for the Westminster Assembly Project (2009); contributes to the website Reformed Books Online; blogs at Virginia is for Huguenots, a site focused on church history and devotional matters from a Puritan, Covenanter and Huguenot perspective; and is an avid reader and student of church history.  

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Book Review: ReSet: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray

I suppose it can happen to all of us. Well, it can happen to any of us - Burnout. Burnout can manifest itself in a number of ways and be triggered by a number of reasons. It's not black and white. It's multifaceted and can be affecting any of us without us realizing it, at least not a first. We may recognize many of the symptoms but be clueless to their origins and how we may resolve the issues we're experiencing.

Author David Murray, is a pastor, teacher, speaker, and blogger at headhearthand.org. Within the pages of ReSet he reveals the origins of burnout and as the reader progresses through the work is taught methods of effectively dealing with it. Murray calls it living the "Grace-paced life." We spend much time and effort in many worthwhile pursuits, but are they always beneficial?

Early on Murray calls the reader to a Reality Check as we miss many of the warning signs, Murray provides us with a list of warning signs to beware of or perhaps already experiencing. One should carefully review the warning signs and realize that part of the grace-paced life is slowing down from the "over-paced life."

In the following chapters Murray covers an array of areas wherein the reader should focus:

-What the cause(s) may be
-The need for sleep
-The need for routine mixed with play
-The need for exercise and rest and quietness
-Realizing our true identity
-The value of failure and the necessity to accept change
-Rethinking our purpose
-Eating right
-The need for proper and regular devotions

And much more.

Burnout is real and can affect any of us differently. My suggestion is to take this book seriously and consider the implications on your life. Consider if you are burned out. Murray offers much sound biblical advice from his own life experiences and from those he has counseled. I firmly commend this book to all men, especially those who are weary. There is much hope and value to be gleaned from its pages.

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

David Murray is also the author of Christians Get Depressed, Too and Jesus On Every Page. I can heartily recommend both of these works to the reader as well.

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.