This Life I Live by Rory Feek

Feek, Rory. This Life I Live – One Man’s Extraordinary, Ordinary Life and the Woman Who Changed it Forever. Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2017. 240 pp. $24.99. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for much less.

Introduction

Rory Feek is one of Nashville’s premiere songwriters. He has written two of my favorite songs: Some Beach performed by Blake Shelton (this my “Delaney’s Law” song!) and Someone You Used to Know by Collin Raye. He and his wife recorded an album of her favorite hymns.

You can find out more at This Life I Live.

Summary

Joey and Rory Feek were enjoying a steadily growing fan base in country music when Joey was diagnosed unexpectedly with a rapidly spreading cancer. This vibrant and beautiful young woman would soon be on a unique journey for which no one is ever fully prepared. Her husband, Rory, and children, Heidi, Hopie, and Indiana, were beside her each step of the way. Rory, a prolific songwriter, entrepreneur, farmer, and overall tender man, has seen God bless his life in countless unexpected ways and had started a blog, thislifeilive.com, not really knowing its purpose other than he needed to write. That purpose soon became clearer when Joey’s cancer battle hit.

By inviting so many into the final months of Joey’s life, this astounding couple captured the hearts of millions with their powerful love story, the manner in which they were handling the diagnosis, and the inspiring simple way they had chosen to live their lives.

In this vulnerable book, Rory takes us into his own challenging life story and shows what can happen when God brings both his presence and the right companion into our lives. He also gives never-before-revealed details on what he calls “the long goodbye,” the blessing of being able to know that life is going to end and taking advantage of it. Feek shows how we all are actually there already and how we can learn to live that way every day. He then goes into detail toward the end of the book on what it’s like to try to move on with your life once you’ve “had it all.”

Review

This book is a behind the scenes look so to speak at a public portrayal of one couple’s battle with an aggressive, and ultimately, terminal cancer. Joey entered in the presence of her Lord and Savior on 4 March 2016. There was a Facebook page in which Joey and Rory shared quite a bit of detail with those who were interested. This led to much attention and consequently allowed them to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world watching and hoping.

As we all do, they traversed the unknown with courage and shared many pitfalls and concerns with their “fans.” This book, This Life I Live, takes a step back less than a year later and offers a different more personal perspective.

It reads more like a private journal and a stream of conscience thought project. In other words, it can be quite raw in some areas which adds to the allure of the book. Far from perfectly edited, it shows the reader that the social media persona was not a facade.

What comes through on most every page is their faith in Christ and the hope that even though the cancer was going to take Joey’s life, it would not destroy her spirit.

Recommendation

If you are into love stories, feel-good stories, or stories of faith, I recommend this book. It will keep you up at night wanting to know more (even though you know how it ended!) and bring tears and laughter sometimes in a matter of two pages. Readers will enjoy the raw look and learn that even the “famous songwriters” put their jeans on one leg at a time.

Counseling the Hard Cases edited by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert

Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture edited by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2012. 332 pp. $32.99. Purchase at Westminster for less. Or, you can purchase for the Kindle for $9.99.

Note: This was adapted from a review of a book for a seminary class.

Introduction

There has been an erosion of the inerrancy of Scripture in many churches in the latter half of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century. This is witnessed in the varying perspectives of the authority of the Bible when it comes to counseling members of the church. Often, the pastor will delegate the counseling to the “professionals” who have been trained instead of seeking to tackle the problems himself using the Bible. Fortunately, Counseling the Hard Cases offers an apologetic for the continuation and revival of a biblically-based approach to counseling.

Each contributor has served extensively in the field of biblical counseling. Many of them are teachers and a majority of them have doctorates of varying degrees. In other words, these men and women are experts in their fields and while we may not attain their level of expertise as pastors or lay leaders, we do have the same Bible as our source material and can have the confidence that the Word of God will greatly aid us during our counseling.

Summary

Divided over eleven chapters with a lengthy introduction (chapter 1) and a few concluding reflections, editors Lambert and Scott offer ten different counseling situations that most pastors would not typically engage for the simple fact that the Bible does not necessarily speak to these issues. Chapter two is the first case and it comes out swinging as Laura Hendrickson looks at sexual abuse. Steve Viars deals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in chapter three while Heath Lambert offers counsel on Postpartum Depression.

Chapters five and six look at paralyzing fear and anorexia – both seemingly difficult topics to counsel solely from the Scriptures. Chapters seven and eight deal with how to counsel two recently popular disorder diagnoses: Bipolar and Dissociative Identity. Kevin Carson looks at how to counsel those wrestling with homosexuality while Robert Jones counsels addictions and adultery. Jon Babler shows the reader that not every case is going to be a hard case even though it seems to be from the start.

Critical Evaluation

I must confess that I was already in the “nouthetic camp” when I began reading this book. I was genuinely excited to see how the various counselors interacted with the counselees through the many different subjects. In that regard, each contributor, and therefore the entire book was successful in showing that the Bible is sufficient to counsel believers in most every area of life (there are some times where medical treatment must be sought and that should, of necessity, be out of the hands of the pastor or counselor).

I will be honest, there were many times I would find myself weeping while reading this book because of the sins that were committed by or against the counselees. Specifically, the sexual assault and the anorexia had me in tears. But as I would read the chapters, I would find myself “cheering” for the outcome to be the Lord’s grace and mercy shown to each counselee through His Word applied in their lives.

The chapter on counseling those wrestling with homosexuality hit close to home for me personally. I had a joint counseling situation where the counselee professed to be gay and Christian. The other counselor and I did not handle it very well and made some of the errors Kevin Carson warns against in his chapter. Needless to say, this chapter stuck out as evidence of one of the greater failures in my ministry.

Perhaps one of the key components of this particular resource is being able to “sit in” on the counseling sessions from beginning to end. It helps to see that the counseling is a process and it takes much time. Sometimes, the counseling will last longer than a year while other times it will last a few weeks. Most of the time, it seems that counseling individuals and couples will take a minimum of 3-4 months. This is a huge help as far as expectations are concerned for the pastor and for the counselor.

This book has already become an indispensable resource in my library and has given me great hope as a pastor whenever I find myself tackling these tough cases. I highly commend it to every Christian if for no other reason than it shows that the Bible is sufficient for life’s problems when properly applied.

Durable ESV New Testament

Durable ESV New Testament. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016. 256 pp. $24.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for $14.99.

Summary/Review

The Bible needs no introduction or summary. It is the Word of God and it will change your life. This particular edition of the New Testament is durable for a reason. It is meant to be used in the harshest ministerial conditions.

It is both water proof and tear-proof because it is made of synthetic paper. Interestingly enough, you can still write in it and highlight though you want to be careful with the ink you use as it could bleed and smear on the page if it were to get wet. Even though it is tear proof, you can cut a page with a knife or scissors and destroy the integrity of that page which may lead to tears. But, you cannot tear the pages just by ripping them.

The binding is a bit of overkill in order to keep everything together and to maintain structural integrity while using this New Testament in harsh conditions. They not only bound it with adhesives, but they also used a waterproof thread that will hold up to the rain and such.

I had intended on taking a second Durable New Testament and putting it through a test by leaving it out in the rain and such, but, too be honest, I could not bring myself to do it!

It is probably the heaviest New Testament you will own weighing in at 10 oz. In all honesty, it feels heavier than that and whenever anyone picks it up for the first time, they comment on the weight.

It must be noted that this New Testament is not indestructible. It can be torn if cut. It could get so water-logged that it is virtually unreadable. It can’t take a bullet, but it can change your life and the lives of whom you share the message of hope found in Christ with.

Recommendation

If you are an avid traveler or missionary who uses an English Bible, I highly recommend the ESV Durable New Testament. It makes a great addition as an everyday carry Bible in a briefcase or backpack and will stand up to the rigors of travel and being thrown about. Keep in mind, however, this is not for everyone as not everyone will have a need for a New Testament that needs to withstand many elements.

 

Calling on the Name of the Lord by J. Gary Millar

Millar, J. Gary. Calling on the Name of the Lord: A Biblical Theology of Prayer. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016. 264 pp. $24.00. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less than $15.

Introduction

Gary Millar is Principal of Queensland Theological College in Australia. He has written a second book in the NSBT series entitled Now Choose Life as well as co-authoring Saving Eutychus.

This volume, the thirty-eighth in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series looks specifically at a biblical theology of prayer.

Summary

Divided into nine chapters and an afterward over 250 pages, Dr. Millar offers a canonical study on the prayers in the Bible. Beginning with Genesis 4:26, “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” he looks at when prayer began and then explains the foundation for prayer as noted in the Pentateuch.

Next, he looks at the prayers in the history of Israel and the prophets. Of course, these two chapters comprise the largest section of the book. He then looks at the prayers for the new covenant in books like Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles as he continues through more of a chronological timeline in the Old Testament.

Before moving into the New Testament, he explains the importance of prayer as found in the Psalms and how the psalter contributes greatly to a biblical understanding of prayer.

The New Testament looks at Jesus’s prayers as found in the gospels, prayer in the book of Acts and Paul’s prayers as a church planter. He finally concludes with a look at the writer of Hebrews, James, Peter, Jude, and John and how their prayers comprise the end of prayer.

Review

As one who has studied prayer quite a bit (and always feels a burden to pray more!!!), I found this book to be very enlightening. It is not necessarily a “how-to” pray book. Rather, it offers a theological foundation for why we should pray.

Rooted in Genesis 4:25, Millar offers an in depth, though still an introductory look, at the importance of prayer being a “calling upon the name of the Lord.” Christ changes our focus of prayer such that we no longer necessarily call upon the name of the Lord. Instead, we pray in Jesus’ name.

In the end, he offers a number of ways in which we can, and should, recalibrate our prayer life as we understand a deeper theology of who God is. I appreciate his frankness throughout the book letting the reader know that prayer is the hardest thing you will do if it is done correctly.

Recommendation

Many books abound on how we should pray and why we should pray. There are few books that offer a deep, yet accessible, theology of prayer. Dr. Millar has written a book that every Christian would do well to include in their library as an invaluable resource. More than that, every Christian would do even better if they read Calling Upon the Name of the Lord. If you apply the theological foundation to your understanding of prayer, your prayer life is bound to increase and be enriched like never before.

I highly recommend this resource.

Preaching By Ear by Dave McClellan

McClellan, Dave with Karen McClellan. Preaching By Ear: Speaking God’s Truth from the Inside Out.  Wooster, OH: Weaver Book, 2014. 171 pp., $15.99. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less.

Unfortunately it is all too easy as preachers to preach messages that are solid and biblical, even helpful, but aren’t personal. We can fall into a routine of mining the biblical text, writing our outline or manuscript, and delivering our message without ever being changed by God’s truth ourselves. This remove from Scripture doesn’t only hurt us, it hurts the congregations we preach to every week. Dave McClellan aims to rescue us from that reality, to re-invigorate our preaching by urging us to preach from the heart, from the inside out. He uses the controlling metaphor of playing music by ear as opposed to playing by musical score. His goal isn’t necessarily to get us to stop using notes when we preach, but to help us purposely preach from “personally held, deep convictions in a way that enables our words to unfold in the moment by considering the actual people present to us” (5). Drawing upon ancient rhetoricians such as Aristotle, Quintilian, and Augustine, as well as more modern scholars like Walter Ong, McClellan explains that we learn to do this by focusing first on who we are as preachers rather than our preaching, and then practicing an oral rather than a literary model of preaching.

McClellan’s overriding concern is for our preaching to be authentic and personal, for God’s Word to take root in the preacher first, so that our preaching is no longer based on theory, but practice. He believes that since the invention of the printing press, our focus in preaching has been on preparing an outline or a manuscript instead of preparing ourselves to preach. Premodern preachers, orally driven instead of literary, viewed the sermon as something inside the preacher, as a spoken event rather than a thing written down on paper. A literary focus would be appropriate if we read or distributed copies of our sermons every Sunday, but because we deliver sermons orally, we should prepare them orally. This means preparing ourselves as preachers first, focusing on becoming the people God wants us to be before we ever preach the sermons he wants us to preach. It then means studying and practicing the text we are going to preach until we know it and can present it from the inside out. We should prepare, we should use the text devotionally and in a discipling context throughout the week, we should rehearse, and then we should go into our pulpits to deliver our sermons extemporaneously, by ear instead of by note. McClellan makes the case that this oral model of preaching is more faithful to the Scriptural model, better for the congregation, and better for us as preachers.

After reading the first chapter of this book I found myself intrigued, but doubtful. I manuscript my sermons, and while I deliver them extemporaneously, much of my effort and preparation throughout the week goes into writing my manuscript so I know what I am going to say on Sunday mornings. The more I read, however, the more convinced I became that McClellan is onto something fundamental in how we should approach preaching. We should work hard at internalizing the biblical text, not just exegeting it, before we preach it. We should commit ourselves to authenticity and vulnerability before our churches, even if it costs us some polish in our delivery. Sermons are first and foremost oral events that only happen in real time, and should be explicitly for our congregations; this truth should drive our preparation and delivery. McClellan spends a chapter describing his weekly routine of sermon preparation, and I have already started to incorporate some of his practices and suggestions into my weekly routine. His work is scholarly, but he also takes care to ground his assertions in Scripture and in years of practice and pastoral experience. I recommend it especially for experienced preachers looking for something fresh in their approach, as well as professors who are looking for a textbook that emphasizes the oral, personal nature of preaching.

 

Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment edited by Alan Stanley and Stanley Gundry

four-rolesFour Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment. Stanley, Alan P., and Stanley M. Gundry, eds. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013. 234 pp. $19.99. Purchase new at Westminster Books for $13.46. Purchased used on Amazon or for Kindle.

 

All Christians believe that there will be a final judgment of believers and unbelievers, with Jesus Christ presiding as the faithful judge of humanity.  Yet beyond this basic agreement about the reality of judgment and the identity of the judge there are a number of disagreements about the coming judgment.  Debates abound concerning the purpose of the judgment, the number of judgments, the timing of the judgment(s), and particularly the relationship between faith and works at the final judgment.  This last debate is the focus of this new book in Zondervan’s Counterpoint Series on Bible and Theology, which presents four prominent views on the role of works at the final judgment. These different views exist because the Bible itself clearly teaches two things: that people are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (e.g., John 5:24; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9), and that people will be judged according to our works (e.g., Matt 25:31-46; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 20:11-15).  Different ways of reconciling these two truths have led to a number of different views on the subject, of which the four in this book are representative.  As with all the books in this series, a proponent of one view explains and defends his understanding, and each of the other authors responds, raising objections and questions, with the goal of making the subject more accessible to the wider church public.

Robert N. Wilkin, the Executive Director of the Grace Evangelical Society, presents the first view, which is that Christians will be judged according to their works at the rewards judgment, but not at the final judgment.  Wilkin operates from a dispensationalist paradigm (though as Schreiner notes in his response to Wilkin, dispensationalism does not require Wilkin’s position) that recognizes the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10), the Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt 25:31-46), and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15), as distinct in both time and purpose.  Christians will be judged by their works at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but what is at stake is their eternal reward and position in the kingdom, not eternal salvation.  Christians can be unfaithful and not be rewarded, but they will still be saved (e.g., Luke 19:11-27). Unbelievers will be judged by their works at the final judgment, the Great White Throne Judgment, and eternal salvation is at stake for them.  One of the key points Wilkins makes is that entering the kingdom means gaining eternal life, but inheriting the kingdom refers to the benefits and experience of reigning with Christ (e.g., Gal 6:7-9; Rev 3:5).  Wilkin stresses that once a person believes she has eternal life once and for all, and therefore perseverance in the faith can have nothing to do with eternal salvation.  Christians’ salvation cannot in any way be related to their works or that contradicts salvation by grace through faith.

Thomas Schreiner, Professor of New Testament at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is the author of the second view, which is that works will confirm salvation at the final judgment.  Schreiner agrees with Wilkin that salvation is completely by grace through faith, but disagrees in that he believes the New Testament also teaches justification by works.  Schreiner sees a coherent blend between these two truths because under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit empowers God’s people to obey him (e.g., Rom 2:26-29).  Therefore works are necessary for salvation because they are the necessary evidence of salvation, but still wholly of grace.  Works will be put forward as evidence at the final judgment as the necessary outworking of faith (e.g., Eph 2:8-10).  Works are not meritorious, but they demonstrate the reality of faith.  Schreiner, in contrast to Wilkin, understands salvation as a process and not limited to a point in time, and believes all who are justified by faith in the present will certainly be justified by faith in the future, because God will equip them to perform the necessary good works.

The third view, that salvation at the final judgment will depend to some extent on works, is written by James Dunn, Emeritus Professor of Theology at the University of Durham.  In contrast to the other three views in the book, Dunn doesn’t believe it is necessary to reconcile justification by faith with judgment by works, but to simply accept both as true.  Dunn is hesitant to systematize writings that arose out of different contexts and address different problems amidst different circumstances.  Focusing mainly on Paul, he insists that Paul emphasizes one truth when necessary and the other truth when necessary, and so should we.  Agreeing with Schreiner that salvation is a process, Dunn disagrees that is a certain one, teaching instead that apostasy is a real danger for converts, and that beginning in faith does not necessarily entail finishing in faith (e.g., 1 Cor 9:27; Gal 3:3).  Because obedience is a necessary condition for continuing in the faith while on earth, it follows that it is a necessary condition for receiving eternal life at the final judgment.

Michael Barber, Professor of Theology, Scripture, and Catholic Thought at the Great Catholic University, present the final view, that our works are meritorious at the final judgment because of our union with Christ.  He explains the traditional Catholic position, and stresses throughout his essay that believers’ works are only meritorious because they are the result of Christ’s work.  Barber agrees with Schreiner and Dunn that salvation is by grace and judgment is by works, but goes beyond both of them to affirm that salvation is also by works, because salvation is a process that is not confirmed until the final judgment.  He does clarify that works do not get one converted, but rather that it is through works, performed by the grace of God working in the believer, that is one is saved (e.g., Matt 25:31-46).

Each presenter is a knowledgeable proponent of their position, and their responses clarify what they see as the strengths and weaknesses of the other positions.  Alan Stanley, the general editor, offers a useful introduction to the debate, giving some brief historical and contemporary context, and also helpfully summarizes and contrasts all four positions in the conclusion. The format of the Counterpoints books does not allow for in-depth treatment of the issues or rejoinders to the responses, but footnotes in all four essays direct interested readers to further resources.  The book serves as a strong introduction to the topic and would most profit scholars, pastors, and students unfamiliar with the subject.  It would also function as a good supplemental textbook in a class on salvation or eschatology.  Most importantly, the book will help readers to see how each position understands the Scriptures in the debate, and will capably equip them to understand the full breadth of what the Bible says the role of works in the final judgment.

Gary L. Shultz Jr.

First Baptist Church

Fulton, MO

Trapped by Andy Farmer

trappedFarmer, Andy: Trapped: Getting Free from People, Patterns, and Problems. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2016. 208 pp. $17.99. Purchase at Westminster Books in print for less. Or for Kindle for $17.99.

Introduction

Andy has served as the pastor of Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA for 20+ years. He also serves on the Council Board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and has written two other books: The Rich Single Life and Real Peace.

Summary

Divided into 10 chapters, Pastor Andy shows his readers how to escape the various traps we encounter in life. His first chapter explains how being and feeling trapped is a real problem many Christians face every day. The second chapter explains that we are not as free as we would like to be even if we were not experiencing the many traps in life. The third and fourth chapters lay the foundation for the ultimate solution of escaping the true trap of sin through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Chapters five through nine look at common traps experienced at various levels throughout life. Though you may not experience all of them, you will undoubtedly experience some of them and know others who have experienced the traps you have not. These traps, in the order they are written in the book are; approval, laziness, secret escape, addictions, and troubled marriage. The final chapter brings the book to a close as he argues that we can indeed be free in a world of traps.

Review

I confess that at first I was reading this book simply for the purpose of review. Upon glancing through it, however, I realized that I needed to read it much deeper and seek to apply the biblical counsel and wisdom imparted by Pastor Andy Farmer.

Hardly a page exists in this book that does not have a reference to Scripture on it. In other words, the reader is not going to get what Andy thinks is the way out of the trap. Rather, you are going to see what the Bible says in regards to the various traps you are entangled. Furthermore, Andy, as all pastors must strive to do, offers biblical solutions and methods for dealing with what many believe to be the rigors of life.

Certainly, one of the greatest aspects of this book is the testimony of Pastor Farmer serving in the same church for over two decades. In other words, if his counsel was not worth reading, his congregation would have said so by now! The Biblical wisdom that flows from Andy’s pen is evident in both his ministry and his writing.

Recommendation

If you are living in this world as a Christian, I recommend this book to you. Though you may not be experiencing any of the traps listed as of right now, you will undoubtedly do so at some point. Also, you definitely know others who are experiencing these same traps. Allow Pastor Farmer to instruct you on how to help those for whom you love and care. This will be one of those resources that you pull off your shelf from time to time and are thankful you own it.

ESV Reader’s Bible 6-Volume Set

esv-readers-bible-6ESV Reader’s Bible 6-Volume Set. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2016. 3,364 pp. $199.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for much less.

Introduction/Summary

From the publisher:

The ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set stems from the conviction that the Bible is of immeasurable value and should therefore be treasured–and read in the most seamless way possible. Constructed with materials carefully selected to reflect the beauty of God’s Word, the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set is a unique collection designed for those desiring a cleaner, simpler Bible-reading experience. Printed on European book paper with smyth-sewn binding and packaged in an elegant slipcase, this edition features single column text that is free of all verse numbers, chapter numbers, and footnotes, as well as most section headings–resulting in a unique Bible-reading experience that helps readers encounter and delight in the beauty of God’s Word.

Check out this video for a great introduction and summary of this massive 6-volume reader’s edition Bible.

Introducing the ‘ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set’ from Crossway on Vimeo.

Review

My goal with this review is to offer an argument as to why you would do well to spend $100-$200 on a Bible.

1)  I reviewed the first Reader’s Bible Crossway published back in 2014. In that review, I did criticize the use of chapter numbers, though small, embedded in the text and offset by color as well as the use of chapter and verse numbers as reference guides at the top of each page. Those are completely missing from this 6-volume set leaving behind just the text.

There are, however, simple section headings that do help to break up the reading. For example, a long book like Jeremiah there are 7 section headings: Israel’s Faithlessness, Jeremiah Struggles with God and Judah, Jeremiah’s Confrontations, Consoling Promises of Restoration, God Judges Judah, God Judges the Nations, and The Fall of Jerusalem. These become the reference points whereas in the single-volume edition it was the chapters and verses.

2) The font size has been enlarged to a 12 point Trinite No. 2 Roman font rather than the 9-10 used in the original reader’s edition. This is, in some instances, twice as large as the 6-8 size font used in most Bibles.

3) The pages are thicker than most any other Bible. While not necessarily a big deal for most, I have found that the pages in other Bibles tend to tear easily from over use in sections where I am either preaching an extended series or have written quite a bit in the margins.

Granted, I do not see myself writing in this Bible, but if I ever did, I       am confident of no bleeding or smearing. I typically enjoy writing         with fountain pens and the 80 gsm weight paper is the perfect               paper upon which to write.

4) The single column format along with the 12-point font makes for easy reading. Since there are no chapter or verse numbers along the way, it is easy to get lost in the story line of the Bible. As a matter of fact, the aforementioned reference points at the top of each page serve the reader by orienting him or her in the big story of the particular book of the Bible being read. Before you know it, you have read more than you intended to read and you almost can’t put the book down.

This has become extremely important to me as I am prone to get lost in cross references and even myopic in the individual verses. I tend to lose the forest for the individual trees. Also, I have been searching for a Bible that I could read purely for my own  edification that is not by sermon preparation Bible. I have found that Bible.

5) Because of the six volumes, you can either read straight through from Genesis to Revelation or you can pick and choose to read specific volumes whenever you want. I read the original 1-volume reader’s edition straight through this past year. Since acquiring this 6-volume set, I have settled on my own reading plan which I read from one volume each day and then choose another volume to read on day 7 which for me, is Sunday.

For example, I read Volume 5-the Gospels/Acts on Monday; Volume 1-the Pentateuch on Tuesday; Volume 2-the Historical Books on Wednesday; Volume 6-Epistles and Revelation on Thursday; Volume 3-Poetry on Friday; and Volume 6-Prophets on Saturday. By doing this, it allows me to saturate myself in Scripture in different places each day of the week. When I finish each book, I will simply start over. This is akin to Dr. Grant Horner’s Ten List Bible Reading Plan. The best part about having the six volumes is each volume has its own ribbon thus there is no searching a reading plan or having an over abundance of book marks in one Bible.

6) Finally, as a pastor, I will confess that it is tough to read my Bible without thinking about a future sermon or someone in my congregation. Whether it is my personality or my calling, I have increasingly found it more difficult to read my Bible for simple communion with God. This 6-volume reader’s Bible has enabled me to do just that. It has truly made my Bible reading time more about soaking in the Word of God for my personal sanctification. I find that I am not “studying” for any other purpose than what God is revealing to me about Himself.

While this this is perhaps more true for the pastor or the Bible teacher, I cannot express how important reading for communion with God is for all Christians. I do not know if I am ashamed or amazed at how this particular reading Bible has transformed my Bible reading, but I can say that I am thoroughly enjoying just reading the Bible.

Recommendation

I honestly asked to review this 6-volume set because of all the publicity it was receiving. I know Crossway is one of the best companies when it comes to publicizing their resources, but I was hearing more than the usual buzz for this particular resource. I say this to say that I approached this review with skepticism but have been extremely impressed with this reader’s Bible.

Study Bibles have their place and function in a Christian’s library. There are many reasons to have cross-references and footnotes and wide margins and journal pages as well. There remains, however, much to be said for getting along with God. By alone, I mean you and the Word of God with nothing to distract you on the page.

I realize most would balk at the MSRP of $200, but I will be honest, I do not think I cannot have this Bible now that I have experienced it first hand. The 6-Volume Reader’s Bible strips away every distraction except the Word of God by itself. That alone is worth the price of the Bible. I heartily recommend this 6-volume reader’s Bible to every Christian who wants to simply get alone with God and commune with Him.

I am sure there will come along another Bible that will be the “gotta have” Bible and I will (hopefully) review it and tell you I recommend it, but I can also tell you that this particular Bible is worth every penny you will pay. As you read it, you will find the truth that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

 

 

 

 

Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 4

sibbesv4_scan-205x320Sibbes, Richard. Works of Richard Sibbes Volume 1. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001. 550 pp. $27.00. You can purchase Volume 3 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 many of Richard Sibbes’ books in the past. This is now the fourth of seven volumes in his collection of Works produced by The Banner of Truth Trust.

Summary

Volume 4 is the sequel so to speak of volume 3 in that it contains the rest of Richard Sibbes’ sermons from 1 and 2 Corinthians. These include the more well-known sermons like The Spiritual Man’s Aim and A Glance of Heaven. It also looks at his exposition of 2 Corinthians 4 which is more commentary than sermon, but gold nonetheless.

Review

As I continue through the Works of Richard Sibbes, I am continually challenged by his depth of study and application. As a pastor, I often feel inadequate to the task. When I read many of the Puritans, I find that I am inadequate to the task! One other thing I have found is that by reading the Puritans, I am ministered to. I do not think I can truly explain how important this is for Christian pastor or teacher or leader to have in his own life.

His work on 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 is pure gold. It is appropriately entitled The Excellency of the Gospel Above the Law. Reading this particular sermon in one sitting will do the Christian much good and, I believe, prove to be sweet balm to many a weary soul. In fine Puritanical fashion, Sibbes explains why so many Christians are struggling with joy and how the gospel frees us to truly enjoy life in light of Christ’s grace and mercy.

Recommendation

I have never been one to hide the fact that I love the Puritans for their depth of theological knowledge and practical application of the Word of God for our everyday living. While I realize that not everyone shares in my same excitement, I cannot recommend an era of writing more highly than I can the Puritans. They were saturated with the Word of God. Everything they wrote showed evidence of this truth. This volume of the Works of Richard Sibbes is no different. If you are wanting to study 1 or 2 Corinthians, you would do well to pick up this fourth volume.

The Radical Pursuit of Rest by John Koessler

Koessler, John. The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2016. 176 pp. $16.00. Purchase for less or on Kindle at Amazon.

Introduction

Let’s be honest, we all struggle with finding the balance between productivity in the work place and actually taking serious the third commandment to keep holy the Sabbath. That is, we struggle to rest in world that has become busy 24/7. John Koessler is chair and professor of pastoral studies at Moody Bible Institute.

Summary

John lays a biblical foundation of rest in the character of God throughout the first three chapters. In the fourth chapter, he explains what false rest pretends to be and what it truly is. Hint: the biblical word for false rest is “sloth.” The remainder of the book seeks to shift the reader’s paradigm on what genuine rest looks like.
Chapter six looks at worship as rest while chapter seven looks at rest in the digital age. Eight offers a lesson on rest and our future. Chapter nine looks at the ultimate final rest – death. In a mere nine chapters, The Pursuit of Rest attempts a biblical theology of rest.

Review

As a pastor of a rural congregation, a father of five children, and a husband to one wife, I seek to understand as much about rest as I can from solid, biblically-rich sources. When this book came across my desk, I was excited to dig into it. John seeks to introduce the need to reconceive our understanding of what genuine rest is and what it is not.

In the main chapters, he seems light on scriptural references though it is abundantly clear that his theology is rooted in Scripture. It is not until you begin reading the questions for group discussion found at the back of the book that you begin to see explicit use of Scripture. That is not to say that there are not Scriptural references throughout the book and is not necessarily a criticism. By the end of the book, the reader will have a better understanding of the need for biblical rest even in those crazy seasons of life where rest only seems to be available to those who die.

The one caution I do have is the apparent mysticism influences. He quotes heavily from Josef Pieper, a German Catholic philosopher who was a forerunner to the Neo-Thomistic philosophy. These were those Catholics who revived the influence of the writings of Thomas Aquinas.

Regardless, John offers a solid treatment of the theology of rest that will, at the very least, help the reader begin to wrestle with authentic rest in his or her own life.

Recommendation

Understanding the danger that mysticism poses to a solid biblical theology aside, I found much upon which to meditate in The Pursuit of Rest. I have been searching for a theological and practical treatment of rest that is biblically rooted and practical in our day and age. I believe I have found that here. I recommend this resource to any discerning Christian wanting to better understand rest and the importance of rest for the Christian.

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books