Works of Richard Sibbes Volume 2

Sibbes 2Sibbes, Richard. Works of Richard Sibbes Volume 1. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001. 550 pp. $27.00. You can purchase Volume 2 at The Banner of Truth for $24.30. You can purchase the complete set of 7 volumes for $162.00 at Westminster Books or for a mere $10.00 on Kindle.

Introduction

I have reviewed a few other titles by Richard Sibbes (read those here and am currently working through the 7-volume set of the Works of Richard Sibbes.

Sibbes was appointed a lecturer at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. Later, through the influence of friends, he was chosen to be the preacher at Gray’s Inn, London, and he remained there until 1626. In that year he returned to Cambridge as Master of St Catherine’s Hall, and later returned to Holy Trinity, this time as its vicar. He was granted a Doctorate in Divinity in 1627, and was thereafter frequently referred to as ‘the heavenly Doctor Sibbes’. He continued to exercise his ministry at Gray’s Inn, London, and Holy Trinity, Cambridge, until his death on 6 July 1635 at the age of 58.

Summary

There are only five books included in this particular volume. They are Bowels Opened (Sermons on the Song of Solomon 4-6), The Spouse’s Earnest Desire After Christ, A Breathing After God, The Returning Backslider (a commentary on Hosea 14) and the Glorious Feast of the Gospel.

Review

As with most writers and pastors of the Puritan age, I believe they go to far with their allegorical understanding of the Song of Solomon, but the practical aspects and conclusions are extremely helpful. Specifically due to the modern-day relaxing of the view of the church.

For most Puritans, the Song of Solomon was meant to be read as a description of Christ and His relationship with the church. While that may be true today, it certainly was not the authorial intent of Solomon when he wrote it. Regardless, Sibbes makes some most comforting claims for the comfort of the believer throughout his sermons on these four chapters of Scripture. For example, God makes us good and stirs up within us holy desires.

His second book in this volume is a short look at the second verse of the first chapter of Song of Solomon and offers a treatise on the Christian’s need to earnestly desire after Christ.

The third book is an exposition on Psalm 27:4: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Being the great surgeon he is, Sibbes offers an in depth look at how our every living moment ought to be consumed with Christ. He states that Christ is the object of the Christian’s desire and that we ought to be continually in prayer if we are to persevere in our desires.

In a poignant, and perhaps much needed look at Hosea 14, Sibbes looks at the way in which a backslider should return to the faith and also how we, as believers, ought to receive them. Perhaps Sibbes offers us a different perspective on Hosea, but one thing I  know, is that this particular book of the Bible is a bomb waiting to go off in many churches and Christian lives due to its portrayal of radical grace.

The final book in this second volume looks at the Gospel and is an exposition of Isaiah 25:6-9.  Of all of the books I have stated that the church needs today, it may be this book in this volume that is most needed. To understand just what a feast this gospel message truly is cannot be overstated. In just under 100 pages, Sibbes draws the reader into the beauty of the gospel and helps us to see how we have been starving ourselves with the modern gospel presentations and offering we regularly serve up to others.

Recommendation

In all honesty, I approached this volume as being one of the weaker volumes in the whole set. Turned out, I could not have been more wrong. Though I disagree with his understanding of Song of Solomon, I found his application to be appropriate. His look at Hosea 14 is a sweet balm for those weary souls looking to return to Christ. Christian, you should read that in order to be better equipped to minister to those who are hurting.

The final book, however, is  most needed. We need to know what the gospel is (ALERT! Most Christians can’t articulate it!) and know that it is the greatest offering we can give to anyone in the world today.

I do recommend this volume by itself if you are struggling with your affections for Christ or need to meditate on the necessity of the gospel. Ultimately, Richard Sibbes has never failed to offer me help and hope through his exposition of the Word of God.

New Dictionary of Theology – Historical and Systematic Edited by Martin Davie, et al

New Dictionary of Theology – Historical and Systematic. Edited by Martin Davie, Tim Grass, Stephen R. Holmes, John McDowell, and T.A. Noble. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016. 1,200 pp. $60.00. Purchase at Amazon for $40.94.
*Price subject to change.

Introduction

The first edition of the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, published in 1988 and edited by Sinclair Ferguson and David F. Wright was monumental at the time and remains the standard single reference work in systematic and historical theology.

Here in 2016, this standard has been substantially expanded from 738 pages to 1,200 pages and now focuses on a wider variety of theological themes, movements, and even those who are responsible for the past and current trends of theological thought. The name of this resource has been altered to show this expansion. It is now entitled The New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic (NDTHS).

Summary

It is extremely difficult to summarize an encyclopedia. I will use what the publisher has on the back of the dust jacket.

From African Christian Theology to Zionism, this volume of historical and systematic theology offers a wealth of information and insight for students, pastors and all thoughtful Christians.

Over half of the more than eight hundred articles are new or rewritten with hundreds more thoroughly revised. Fully one-third larger than its predecessor, this volume focusing on systematic and historical theology has added entries and material on theological writers and themes in North America and around the world. Helpful bibliographies have also been updated throughout.

Over three hundred contributors form an international team of renowned scholars including Marcella Altaus-Reid, Richard Bauckham, David Bebbington, Kwame Bediako, Todd Billings, Oliver Crisp, Samuel Escobar, John Goldingay, Tremper Longman III, John McGuckin, Jennifer McNutt, Michael J. Nasir-Ali, Bradley Nassif, Mark Noll, Anthony Thiselton, John Webster and N. T. Wright.

This new edition combines excellence in scholarship with a high standard of clarity and profound insight into current theological issues. Yet it avoids being unduly technical. Now an even more indispensable reference, this volume is a valuable primer and introduction to the grand spectrum of theology.

Review

Not only has the book expanded by 33% of pages, the number of editors tripled from two to six. Originally, Sinclair Ferguson and David F. Wright were the editors. Now, we have Martin Davie, Tim Grass, Stephen R. Holmes, John McDowell, and T.A. Noble serving as editors. This is notable as the original two editors are noted as men of Reformed theology while these current six editors are noted more for their collective conservative theology. This immediately shows that the NDTHS is meant for a much wider audience than ever.

With over 300 contributors, this edition of the NDTHS is a resource for every Christian theologian whether they are liberal, Reformed, mainline, conservative, or whatever qualifier they choose. The work is simply a massive resource that will inform the pastor, teachers, student, or “mere” Christian on just about any subject found in historical and systematic theology.

Some of the additions have made this a greater global resource as they have added articles on African and Asian Christian Theology as well as Arab and Japanese Christian Thought. Given the ever shrinking world thanks to the Internet and air travel, this resource can be used to help prepare a missionary or even a pastor wanting to focus on a particular area of missions work.

New articles include a look at gender, post liberalism, analytic theology, and other issues that were not even on the theological radar in 1988. Again, this will help the Christian thinker to wade through countless articles, books, and blog posts by solid biblical thinkers and guide you to the most important documents and people through the bibliography after every article.

Further, by having so many contributors, the editors were able to pick and choose who wrote on which topic. This is key as you now have noted scholars writing on their specific areas of expertise. For example, noted church historian writes on the entry simply marked “history” while Mark Noll writes on B.B. Warfield.

I have mentioned already the bibliography at the end of each entry, but I would like to express how helpful this is for the reader. If you are beginning to build a theological library or you need to write a paper for Bible School or seminary level training, this can easily be your one-stop shop for figuring out what resources you need to aid in the writing of your paper.

Furthermore, the editors saw fit to include three tremendously helpful indices at the end. The first index is a list of the names mentioned in the encyclopedia. The second index is simply the various subjects covered. The third index is for the articles. These three indices combined will help you to find whatever it is you are looking for in this resource. If you cannot find it here, it is just not going to be found in the encyclopedia.

Recommendation

At $60, this is obviously a pricey resource. Given the quality of the contributors and the time-tested usability of the first edition, however, I do not see how any serious student, scholar, pastor, or Christian wanting to study theology more in depth can do without it. For many, they will prefer a digital option as the book does weigh 4 ½ pounds! Regardless, this will be $60 well spent as it continues the quality of reference works for which IVP Academic is most noted. If you have the first edition, give it to someone just beginning to build a theological library and purchase this second edition as it is truthfully that much better than the first.

ESV Family Devotional Bible

ESV Family Devotional Bible. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2016. 1,408 pp. $29.99. Purchase at:
Westminster Books for $19.49.
Amazon for $21.97.
*Prices are subject to change.

Introduction

ESV continues its growing tradition of quality niche Bibles. While I understand some argue against this concept, I have found that they are extremely helpful for various seasons in life. I have reviewed a number of ESV Bibles. You can read those reviews here.

Summary

In addition to the full text of the ESV Bible (2011 text edition), The ESV Family Devotional Bible also features 130 retellings of particular Bible stories that are not only illustrated with full-color pictures, they are gospel-centered in such a way that the one leading the devotional need only read the story and the questions. Also, the maps were formatted in such a way that they are extremely child-friendly.

Review

While the text of the Bible is of the utmost importance, children do not always understand what is being said. Even though parents may read the text and strive to explain the story to their children, the kids still give you that deer in the headlights look. This is where the retelling of key Bible stories comes into play. I have included an example below to show you what I am talking about.

esv fdb back coverAs you can readily see, the retelling is faithful to the Biblical account and is done in such a way that the parent or leader need only read it. Next, you simply follow up with the questions provided. If you want to be more prepared, you can read the story a few times before and then provide different voices for the characters or even possibly act out some of the more familiar stories form Scripture.

If you only use the questions provided, you will do well. Typically, however, what will happen is the child will have more questions. Next thing you know, 30 minutes have passed and your family just talked about the things of God.

Finally, the “Key Verse” feature can be used in any number of ways. Some families may want to memorize these. Other families may want to make a list for future study. Still others may find them as an invaluable cross-reference (the Bible itself does not have any cross-references) to answering some of the children’s questions.

Quite frankly that is all there is to this particular niche Bible except for the kid-friendly maps of which I could not find a decent available image.

Recommendation

I am often asked if we need another niche Bible. In all honesty, I have waffled on this particular question. As my children have grown, we have taken turns reading the Bible out loud. We have used many resources to aid in family worship through the years. Unfortunately, our schedule is so crazy right now that we honestly struggle to carve out time for nightly family worship. We do say prayers together but we are not always in the Word together. As their father, this is my fault. Fortunately, the ESV Family Devotional Bible makes family worship extremely easy. With over 130 faithful retellings of familiar (and no so familiar) Bible stories, there is enough to kick-start a family in the direction of family worship.

If you are looking for a solid resource centered on Scripture for family worship, then I highly recommend the ESV Family Devotional Bible. The importance of having the full text of the Bible right there in your hands as you seek to raise your children in the Lord cannot be overstated.

Update and Changes

First, if you are reading this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have no idea how many people actually read this website as I chose to remove the statistics of the website because I found myself making an idol of those numbers. I also know that others in the “book review industry” have intentionally sabotaged me – they even told me so because they “thought my platform was amazing and wanted to take it to the next level.” I keep plugging away at this minimalistic website because I love to read and enjoy being able to share with others what I am reading.

Second, I have not been able to write a review since the end of March due to the recent season of life. There have been personal family matters that have needed to be dealt with as well as ministry situations in the congregation I pastor and a research paper I had to write for my seminary class. None of this was earth-shattering or necessarily negative. When my schedule gets hectic like that, as it is prone to do, I do not have second thoughts about not writing for Christian Book Notes. That being said, this is most definitely a labor of love and I want to continue writing.

Third, I have been reviewing books for nearly ten years. I made a conscious decision back in 2009 to not be the guy who makes a name for himself criticizing authors and theologians except in those rare cases where there is blatant misinformation or plain heresy. For the most part, I have been extremely positive in my reviews. I have tried to be the platform for the independent publisher and self-published authors which has allowed me to single-handedly review over 1,000 books through this modest website. Though I am not in it for money, and I really don’t make any money except some Amazon gift card money used to purchase books for my children, both of these decisions have proven somewhat costly.

As a matter of fact, I started reviewing books on a whim and then it became a way in which I could acquire resources for my personal library. As a pastor of a rural congregation the past three plus years, this has proven extremely helpful for me personally. But, the times they are a changing.

While I am aware that many book reviewers are going to podcasts or adding extra material to their websites in addition to their book reviews, I have continued to write introductory book reviews and articles dealing with books. I did try to post some pastoral thoughts, but have relegated those to a tab above and have only written a couple. Needless to say, this website is for book reviews and will remain a source for book reviews. That does, however, lead me to share with you some changes I feel I need to make.

  • More selective. I can no longer simply take any book to review. While I will strive to remain a platform for independent authors and publishers, I need to be more selective in what I offer to review. This is due in large part to my schedule with a family of seven, the demands of pastoring a rural congregation, and a continuing pursuit of a seminary degree. My hope is this will allow the content to be of greater quality than the simple introductory reviews I have published in the past.
  • Less published. In order to improve upon the quality, and in addition to being more selective, I will need to scale my reviews back to one or two reviews a week as opposed to the five a week I originally published and the three a week I had been publishing. The format I have used for seven or eight years will remain the same, but I intend to have more content in the “review” section than what I have had the time to publish recently.
  • More authors. At this point, I have been the sole author of Christian Book Notes. I have toyed with the idea in the past of bringing on other writers, but I didn’t want to become an editor in that sense. I believe now is the time for me to bring on another author or two. I will hand-select these next authors and will begin to intersperse their reviews into the steady stream of reviews published here at Christian Book Notes. This will obviously change the voice of the website, but I believe that will be for the better.
  • Continued Trusted Reviews. My prayer is that this next phase of Christian Book Notes will continue to serve the Christian reader with trusted reviews. Though they might not be as short as they once were, it is my hope they will be more informational.

I began this note thanking those of you who read this website. I cannot tell you how much of an honor it is to serve you in this manner. It is a stewardship I do not take lightly. I pray these changes will be such that I am able to continue to serve you for the next 1,000 book reviews and on.

Your servant in Christ,

Terry Delaney

The Reformation in England by J.H. Merle d’Aubigne

The Reformation in Englandd’Aubigné, J.H. Merle. The Reformation in England in Two Volumes. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016. 1,064 pp. $65.00. Purchase for less at Amazon. You can also get the e-book for free though the formatting is not that great.

Introduction

From a short biography found at Banneroftruth.org

Jean Henri Merle d’Aubigné (1794–1872) was arguably the most popular church historian of the nineteenth century. In July 1817, d’Aubigné was ordained a minister of the established church in Geneva, but he did not then enter the pastorate, choosing rather to travel widely through the German-speaking lands before continuing his studies in the University of Berlin.

In June 1818, d’Aubigné assumed the pastorate of the French Reformed Church in Hamburg which had been established by French Huguenots fleeing from their homeland during the persecution under Louis XIV. He remained in this pastorate until 1823.

In 1835 the first volume of The History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century was published in French. The five-volume work was completed in 1853. This was followed by The History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin in eight volumes, published in French between 1863 and 1878, the last three volumes appearing posthumously.

For more about this great historian, you can read about him at The Banner of Truth’s website.

Summary

In the first volume, d’Aubigné covers from the second century to the year 1528. Obviously, the majority of this first volume will comprise the years 1516-1530 with the first chapter covering 100-1516 in some 125 pages!

The second volume looks at the years 1529-1547 and centers more on the rift between England and the church of Rome. It is not until the third book of the second volume (1536-1547) that we get to the events of the actual Reformation in England.

Review

I somehow came to possess the original 1962 Banner publication of this magnificent two-volume set. While nothing has changed from the edition to this edition regarding the content, the quality of the printing and binding (paperback to cloth-bound) is a testimony to the quality of books published by The Banner.

The content of this two-volume set, however, is what you are most interested in. J.H. Merle d’Aubigné writes a detailed account of what took place in England in the 16th century. He writes with great care and accuracy the events leading up to and involving the Reformation in England. It is easy to see why he is called the greatest historian of the 18th century.

His writing is copious as evidenced by the thirteen total volumes of history of the Christian church. This particular two-volume set is indispensable to the modern church’s understanding of where we came from regarding the Reformation that started in Geneva and found its way to England.

Perhaps what sets d’Aubigné apart in his approach to the history of the church with an emphasis on the Reformation in England is his pastoral care in showing how it impacts the church at large as well as the individual Christian. In reading this these two books, Christians today will be introduced to a whole new level of understanding of what took place and why it had to take place. Furthermore, we will understand how we have benefited greatly from that great cloud of saints that have gone before us.

I believe the reprinting of The Reformation in England is timely for the church as we are once again being forced to take a stand for the faith delivered once for all to the saints in an age that is seemingly more opposed to Christianity than ever. This resource will show the modern read that “baby, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Recommendation

For many Christians in the United States, and obviously in England, the Reformation that took place in England in the 1530’s led directly to what we today call the Protestant Church.  I realize the cost is pretty steep for many, but the benefits will far outweigh the price of the books as you read and begin to grasp the importance of clinging to Christ and the Scriptures.

Theodore Beza by Shawn D. Wright

Wright, Shawn D. Theodore Beza: The Man and the Myth. Great Britian: Christian Focus Publications, 2015. 256 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Amazon or for Kindle for less.

Introduction

Dr. Shawn Wright is Assistant Professor of Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves in the local church as an elder.

Theodore Beza (1519-1605) was the successor to one John Calvin.

Summary

With only 8 chapters divided over 256 pages, Wright looks first at Beza’s life and the context in which he ministered. He then paints with broad strokes the theological vision of Beza. The majority of the book is a summary of five publications of Beza:

  • Confession of the Christian Faith
  • Tabula Praedestinationis
  • Treatize of the Plague
  • Treatize of Comforting such as are Troubled about their Predestination
  • Maister Besaes Household Prayers

Review

Wright pulls no punches and is unapologetic in his own personal views. He is a Calvinist and he endorses the commonly used acronymn, TULIP. He writes with great sympathy toward Beza in the hopes of dispelling some of the myths that have come to be accepted throughout the history of the church.

After offering the introductory and summary of the life and theology of Beza in the first couple chapters, Dr. Wright dives in head first into the more controversial works of Beza. His fifth chapter entitled “Letting God be God” is, in my estimation as a reader and reviewer, the purpose of writing the book.

It is in this chapter that Wright tackles Beza’s doctrine of double predestination – the belief that as God predestines some to salvation, He in turn predestines others to hell. Some may have heard of this doctrine called reprobation. They are one in the same.

What sets Wright apart, specifically in this chapter, but in the entire work as a whole, is his pastoral care as he wades into the deep end of theology. For many, these concepts kill evangelism and missions. For Dr. Wright, they give the messenger a greater boldness to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in an increasingly hostile environment (here in the U.S.).

Another aspect of this biography is the “Uses” section at the end of each chapter. These are designed to be discussion questions, but they are not simply a wrestling with the issues. Rather, Wright wants his readers to understand how the various truths Beza, and consequently what Dr. Wright writes about, impact our daily life and view of God.

Recommendation

For many, Theodore Beza is one of those historical theologians that they know little about and care to learn more because of his dangerous assertions. Dr. Shawn Wright has done a favor for the church in not only writing this biography and elucidating truth and dispelling myths, but he has also equipped a new generation of pastors and Christians to wrestle with divine truth. I highly recommend this biography to all Christians who want to take the time to get to know the heart and theology of perhaps one of the more misunderstood theologians in the history of the church.

Thumbprint in the Clay by Luci Shaw

Shaw, Luci. Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2016. 205 pp. $17.00. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Luci Shaw is writer in residence at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. She is a poet, essayist, and lecturer. She has written a number of volumes of poetry as well as many other books. You can find many of them here. You can read much more about Luci at her website, LuciShaw.com.

Summary

From the back of the book:

“The thumbprint . . . is for me a singular clue to human identity. . . . Just as each human thumbprint is unique, its pattern inscribed on the work of our hands and minds, the Creator’s is even more so―the original thumbprints on the universe,” declares poet Luci Shaw. We worship an endlessly creative God whose thumbprints are reflected everywhere we look―in sunsets, mountains, ocean waves―and in the invisible rhythms that shape our lives, such as the movement of planets around the sun. And this creative and ever-creating God has also left indelible thumbprints on us. We reflect God’s imprint most clearly, perhaps, in our own creating and appreciation for beauty. A longing for beauty is inherent to being human. We don’t create things that are purely practical; we desire them to be aesthetically pleasing as well. Beauty is also powerful, in its redemptiveness, generosity, inspiration. In reflecting on the role of beauty in our lives, Luci Shaw writes, “Beauty is Love taking form in human lives and the works of their hands.”

Review

I have honestly never heard of Luci Shaw until I received this book to review. I was interested in the concept of seeing “divine marks of beauty, order, and grace” in the mundane and normal every day objects and experiences of life.  I was hooked after the first chapter entitled “Coffee Mugs” as Luci helped to develop a meditative attitude on something as simple as the various coffee mugs from which we drink.

Chapter after chapter, Luci offers a  unique perspective as only a poet can offer on the many different evidences of God’s beauty and creativity. She draws from a wide array of experiences in her own life and points us back to the Scriptures in ways that we might not have ever considered. What is more, she does not offer these views from an ivory tower. Rather, she wrestles with the hardships of life and leads the reader to understand that God indeed does use everything in our life to reveal Himself as more and more glorious.

Reading Thumbprint in the Clay can be as quick or as slow as you make it. To plow through it, however, is to do a disservice to the intent of the author to stop and smell the roses and begin to see afresh the glories of God. Without even realizing it, you will begin to see more of God and less of yourself and this fallen world after having experienced the writings of Luci Shaw.

This is not because she is a gifted expositor or even Biblical studies professor. This is because she is a woman with a gift for words and a love for her Savior. She is much like Jeremiah in their is a fire in her bones and she must speak of what she has seen and knows.

Recommendation

This was a surprisingly enjoyable read for me. I am often timid to pick up a new author I have never heard of, let alone one who is known for poetry. In this instance, I am grateful Thumbprint in the Clay came across my desk. I recommend this to all Christians who look for new and biblical ways in which to see the glories of God in everyday life.

Evangelpreneur by Josh Tolley

EvangelpreneurTolley, Josh. Evangelpreneur: How Biblical Free Enterprise can Empower Your Faith, Family, and Freedom. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2015. 352 pp. $16.95. Available on Amazon and for the Kindle for less.

Introduction

Josh Tolley is a nationally syndicated talk-show host with listeners in all 50 states, as well as 160 nations. He is listed as one of the Top 100 business trainers in the world and is regularly on national and international television bringing his expertise to topics which include business, religion, relationships, and politics.

You can read more about Josh and even check out his syndicated call in show at his website, JoshTolley.com.

Summary

Divided into five parts, Josh first seeks to answer the question, Why be an Evangelpreneur. These first six chapters lay his foundation for the rest of the book. The second part consists of five chapters that attempts to show the reader five lies we believe from the devil when it comes to money and business.

The third part offers five steps for how to do business. The fourth part looks at how we are to do life and concludes with a chapter on spreading the gospel. The fifth, and final, part looks at how we are to “do church.”

Review

There is much business insight that can be gleaned from the pages of this work. There is sound wisdom rooted primarily in Scripture and, at the very least, faith in God that is driving pretty much everything Josh Tolley states. Keep in mind that he has written this book to help churches reverse the trend of foreclosures and bankruptcies that are now taking place at an alarming rate.

There is, however, some cause for concern. For example, his first chapter in part 2 looks at a lie from the devil that we are to get rich slowly. In other words, Josh is stating that we must strive to get rich quick albeit through sound and shrewd business decisions and not by cheating others out of their money.

He does look at Matthew 25:14:30, the parable of the talents, to make his point. He moves quickly on to a calculation of how long it would take to become a billionaire if you earned $250,000 a year and how it is obvious that 4,000 years is not a practical time table for one to become “rich.”

My concern comes from his overlooking of quintessential passages on wealth building like Proverbs 13:11, “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” or Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

My point is not to pile on, but to show that while everyone goes into business to make money and earn a living, there is nothing in the Bible that demands we must strive to be rich. On the contrary, there are numerous passages warning against striving to be rich (1 Tim. 6:10, Hebrews 13:5, etc).

That being said, Josh Tolley does not espouse any kind of idolatry, though I guess we all do at some point or another. Rather, he is passionate about helping others grow their business. Does he take some things to far and misapply Scripture at times? I would argue that he does. After all, he is a businessman first and foremost and his faith, at least in my estimation of how he presents himself, tags along. He certainly is influenced by his faith, but a theologian he is not.

His stated purpose of reversing trends in the local church is met as far as laying a groundwork for reversing the trend. I fear, however, he may have swung the pendulum too far in the other direction.

Recommendation

Understand that when you pick up Evangelpreneur you are picking up a book on how to build a better business and live a better life based on sound financial strategies that is rooted in biblical principles. You are not picking up a theological treatise on how to run a business. That being said, I can recommend this book to all who have the dream of owning their own business. I would qualify that recommendation with be sure you know that there are some concerns to be found theologically and that, as with all books, you must be discerning.

Works of Richard Sibbes Volume 1

Works of Sibbes 1Sibbes, Richard. Works of Richard Sibbes Volume 1. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001. 550 pp. $27.00. You can purchase Volume 1 at The Banner of Truth for $24.30. You can purchase the complete set of 7 volumes for $162.00 at Westminster Books or for a mere $10.00 on Kindle.

Introduction

Richard Sibbes was born at Tostock, Suffolk, in 1577. He was converted around 1602-3 through the powerful ministry of Paul Bayne, the successor of William Perkins in the pulpit of Great St Andrew’s Church.

After earning his B.D. in 1610, Sibbes was appointed a lecturer at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. Later, through the influence of friends, he was chosen to be the preacher at Gray’s Inn, London, and he remained there until 1626. In that year he returned to Cambridge as Master of St Catherine’s Hall, and later returned to Holy Trinity, this time as its vicar. He was granted a Doctorate in Divinity in 1627, and was thereafter frequently referred to as ‘the heavenly Doctor Sibbes’. He continued to exercise his ministry at Gray’s Inn, London, and Holy Trinity, Cambridge, until his death on 6 July 1635 at the age of 58.

You can read more of my reviews of Richard Sibbes’ writings here.

Summary

Volume one consists of A Memoir of Sibbes by A. B. Grosart, A Description of Christ, The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax, The Soul’s Conflict with Itself and Victory over Itself by Faith, and Safety in Evil Times. Along with several other sermons and a brief series on 1 Peter 4.

These works were edited by Alexander B. Grosart from when the first complete set of Sibbes works appeared back in 1862-1864.

Review

One of the most notable features to this first volume is the memoir of Sibbes authored by Grosart himself which is an excellent introduction the pastoral nature of Richard Sibbes. Much like the modern day JI Packer, Sibbes was very involved in writing and preaching as well as endorsing a number of other works and books for his fellow divines.

Personally, I was most struck by the words I found on one website as I was doing some research on this series that this first volume contains “all the works published during Sibbes’ lifetime.” I literally sat stunned after reading this. The Banner of Truth Trust has published 5 Puritan Paperbacks and one Pocket Puritan by Richard Sibbes. Upon comparing those titles with what is found in this first volume, only The Bruised Reed has been republished as a stand alone book. Every other book is based on Sibbes’ exposition of passages.

This makes this first edition invaluable as we can read today what Sibbes thought most crucial for publication in his day. Even these books that he published in his lifetime are expositions of passages. The difference is they seem to deal with extremely urgent issues of the day and a theme of perseverance seems to arise from the pages. The Bruised Reed and The Saint’s Safety in Evil Times certainly point to this need.

The Soul’s Conflict with Itself points also to the inner turmoil it seems every Christian faces regardless of the era. All of this helps us to understand why Richard Sibbes was known as the Heavenly Doctor. His messages are timeless and perhaps more needed today than ever.

Recommendation

Of the seven volumes in this series, if you are going to purchase only one, this is it. The Bruised Reed is worth the price of the volume, but to be able to set it in the context of the other published works during his lifetime is open your eyes to the need of the gospel every day. If you have never read Richard Sibbes, you are missing out. This volume will show you why.

Why Everything Matters by Philip G. Ryken

Why Everything MattersRyken, Philip G. Why Everything Matters: The Gospel in Ecclesiastes. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2015. 160 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Westminster books for less or on Kindle.

Introduction

I reviewed Philip’s work King Solomon a few years ago and found it to be very informational and an excellent read. He currently serves as the President of Wheaton College. Before this, he was Senior Minister of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He has written a number of books and commentaries as well as contributing to many more. You can find many of those here.

Summary

Divided into ten chapters over 141 pages of text, Dr. Ryken delves into arguably the most philosophical book found in the Bible. He begins by asking, and answering, the question, Why Bother? and then works his way through the text of Ecclesiastes.

Other chapters include a look at the ultimate quest and meaningful hedonism. He takes from the Puritan Thomas Boston with a chapter entitled The Crook in the Lot in which he seeks to answer the problem of personal pain and suffering.

The last chapter sums up the entire book as only the Holy Spirit could do. Ryken unpacks for us Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil,” in a chapter entitled The Final Analysis.

Review

For many the book of Ecclesiastes is one of those difficult books that we tend to shy away from while reading and studying Scripture. This is to our detriment since the Lord’s Holy Spirit saw fit to include it in the canon. Philip Ryken does a masterful job of unpacking the essence of this extremely important book found in the Old Testament.

Heavily footnoted, one can build a commentary and study library based on the footnotes alone. This also shows that Ryken is not leaning on his own understanding. Rather, he is seeking the thoughts of others who have gone before him. Personally, I find this more and more refreshing as I read and review books.

What is more, he shows how the entire book, chapter by chapter, points us to the necessity of faith in Christ. This, in turn, shows today’s reader not only the importance of the Old Testament, but its authority and practicality for the Christian today. Reading more like an exposition of the text, this work will serve both laymen and pastors at varying levels.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about Ecclesiastes. It will serve both the pastor in his study and the laymen in theirs. Reading Why Everything Matters and seeing how Ecclesiastes points us to Christ is a gift from Philip Ryken to the Christian church.

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books