Book Review- The Work of the Pastor

One of the longings of young pastors is to spend time with older, seasoned men who have run the race well, and then stand close to the finish line full of zeal and focus. If you are privileged to have this type of interaction you will be greatly refreshed and encouraged.

This is what William Still did for me. Though he is now in heaven and I have never met him, his book The Work of the Pastor is a great blessing to me.

Still was the pastor at Gilcomston South Church of Scotland, Aberdeen for over 50 years! His ministry impact shows today through men like Sinclair Ferguson. Still worked closely with Ferguson in his teenage years until Pastor Stills died in 1997.

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Book Review- The Biggest Story

As a Dad with 6 kids I am always trying to get an edge with solid biblical material for my kids. Over the years I’ve found that solid biblical content paired with creative art seems to work very well. My kids stare at the pictures and listen. The most helpful content puts complex things in a simple, kid-friendly way without biblical compromise. When I heard that Kevin DeYoung was writing a children’s book I was eager to order The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings us Back to the Garden.

Upon receiving it I let the kids (6 & 4) know that a package came for them. They tore it open and began looking at the pictures. One thing you will notice right away with this book is the artwork. The illustrator, Don Clark, did an outstanding job. As you look at the pictures you will see that his brush strokes are theologically intentional. It is a fantastic auxiliary to the written content.

I started at the beginning and kept reading. The chapters are brief but chock-full of content. DeYoung is telling the story of redemption through the biblical narratives. He emphasizes and reemphasize key themes and concepts to prepare the children for the coming of Christ. I asked my kids, “Where did we see this before?” And they answered, “In the Garden when they sinned.” Exactly right. The arrangement of the narratives are intentional to showcase these key themes and prepare the reader to truly see the beauty of …

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Book Review- Mea Culpa

All vocations have their share of land-mines. Experienced, successful, and honest tradesmen will admit to making a ton of mistakes on their trip from journeyman to craftsman. Whenever a peer has the opportunity to listen in to these types of professional flubs they should take the opportunity. This vocational intel is gold. After all, what’s better than learning from a mistake without having to suffer its consequences?

I’m thankful for Kyle McClellen, a loving pastor who wrote a book to share his mistakes with other pastors. His goal is to share some of his vocational missteps, learning experiences, and bruises of sanctification with us. Through this relatively short book (120 pages in paperback) Kyle flips through his ministry scrapbook and offers commentary on his pastoral scars, black eyes, and speeding tickets.

Kyle went into seminary and ministry with a fair amount of approval. This did not serve him very well. It stoked his pride. He did well at seminary and then got called to a church. Well, multiple churches. In a short period of time he managed to burn through 4 churches! He found himself pulling orders at an Amazon warehouse. He was in a bad spot. Through a series of events he ended up reading Wendell Berry, falling in love with the town he grew up in, planting a church there, getting over himself, and pursuing what Jesus would have him pursue. He figured out who he is and what he is supposed to do. But, this did not come …

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Book Review- A Reformed Baptist Manifesto

Sometimes it is nice to not make too much of our differences–particularly theological differences. But other times we can actually be hindered from more fully understanding what others believe and why we really believe what we do. If one can study differences with a charitable tone then there can often be real progress. To do this though we would need to ask and answer the questions behind the questions.

I’ve asked and been asked before, “What is with the antinomians?” or, “Why are we different than paedo Baptists?” Often people go after the specific issue without showing the reason why or the strong support for their contrasting position. This may paint people in a theological corner but it does not provide the framework for solid understanding.

This is why I very much appreciated this short little book by Sam Waldron and Richard Barcellos. The title A Reformed Baptist Manifesto: The New Covenant Constitution of the Church. With a title like this you may be expecting some theological haymakers, but it is surprising irenic. These are a number of sermons that Waldron preached years ago at his church. He has also included some healthy appendices.

Early on they write:

The premise of this study is intimated in the subtitle: the New Covenant Constitution of the Church. To state the premise plainly, the New Covenant is the Constitution of the Church of Christ. In other words, what the Constitution of the United States of America is to our country, what the Magna Carta is to the British Commonwealth, that the …

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Book Review- Expository Preaching with Word Pictures

Preaching has fallen on hard times in our day.  Many insist that pulpit ministries are boring, ineffective, outdated, and irrelevant.  And if you listen to a sampling of sermons from various pulpits, there is an element of some truth to the frustrations.

So how does the preacher who wants to preach the word of God not get in the way and make the sermon become the Sunday morning equivalent to the flight attendant’s reading of the pre-flight safety instructions?

Author and pastor Jack Hughes has some ideas.  He has written a very helpful book entitled Expository Preaching with Word Pictures.  Hughes is convinced for the need of more colorful and descriptive preaching in our day.  To help with the task he enlists the pen of Puritan Thomas Watson.  Watson is renown for his ability to carve spiritual truth into our minds through powerfully weighted words.

Consider these examples:

“Zeal in a minister is as proper as fire on the altar. Some are afraid to reprove, like the swordfish which has a sword in his head, but is without a heart. So they carry the sword of the Spirit with them—but have no heart to draw it out in reproof against sin. How many have sown pillows under their people, Ezek. 13:18, making them sleep so securely, that they never awoke until they were in hell!”

“The sins of the wicked pierce Christ’s side.  The sins of the godly go to his heart.”

“A godly man loves the Word preached, which is a commentary upon the …

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The Essential Edwards Collection

It is a scene that I’ve seen replayed several times over. Someone comes across a few lines from the famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and they are mesmerized. They ask, “Who talks like this?” When they find out that it was Jonathan Edwards they begin researching and then read the rest of the sermon and begin other writings. Then, like a drill running low on battery, they lose steam. Edwards’ writing is something of a thick piece of wood. Some would even say he is a stud. Because his writing is so theologically dense he is tough to work through. People get discouraged and decide to stay away from the guy with the fantastic quotes and outstanding hair.

What they need is some help. They need Edwards’ writing to be a bit more accessible. John Piper has done this for an entire generation, not the least with God’s Passion for His Glory. But even this, for some, is tough sledding.

Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney have worked hard to serve the church by putting together an accessible introduction to the life and thought of Edwards. It is both theological and biographical. The authors compiled a series of 5 books entitled The Essential Edwards Collection:  Jonathan Edwards Lover of GodJonathan Edwards On BeautyJonathan Edwards On Heaven and HellJonathan Edwards On the Good Life, and Jonathan Edwards on True Christianity.

The endorsements are helpful and spot-on:

“Why hasn’t this been done before? The Essential Edwards Collection is now essential reading for the serious-minded Christian. Doug Sweeney and …

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Book Review- From Eden to the New Jerusalem

One of the dangers for students of the Bible is to get so into details that we end up forgetting how these details fit together. It is not to say that the details are bad, for we love the details. However, if we don’t have a comprehensive understanding of the big picture and how the various details fit together, then how much do we really understand these seemingly unrelated facts?

This is a good tension to realize and address. To help us in doing so T. Desmond Alexander has written a terrific book entitled From Eden to the New Jerusalem. And as the title suggests it is a study that begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation. It is a study called thematic biblical theology. That is, he tackles the Bible’s meta-story of creation, fall, redemption and runs it through the various books to understand their contribution to the big story, or the whole.

Here is one of the quotes that impacted me:

God’s original blueprint is for the whole earth to become a temple-city filled with people who have a holy or priestly status. Tragically, the actions of Adam and Eve endanger the fulfillment of this project. In spite of this, God graciously and mercifully embarks on a lengthy process designed to reverse this setback and bring to completion his creation scheme. pp. 30-31

The treasure in a book like this is its simplicity. Alexander is not writing too far above us. He takes the themes and chases them down through the Scriptures …

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Book Review- The Christian Life

As Christians we know that our goal is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31). How do we do this? We do it by obeying God. But how do we know how to obey God? How do we know what he desires? This is where we see the important connection between Christian doctrine and Christian living. In view of this I try to regularly read a book on a particular doctrine or doctrines. This helps remind and refresh me with things I know and provide rich new discoveries of things I don’t yet know. It has been a very helpful practice for me.

This last month I picked up a book that has had great reviews for years but was not something that I had read personally. The Christian Lifeby Sinclair Ferguson is walk through 18 chapters on the “nuts and bolts” of basic doctrine for living. Anyone who is familiar with Ferguson knows that he is able to take complex topics and make them accessible without compromising. In particular, he is able to take the concept from the “classroom” to the “pavement” by teaching how it applies. I really appreciate this about the author.

One feature that makes this book especially helpful is how the author is able to distill very important concepts from authors that laymen may find intimidating. Ferguson quotes or pulls from authors such as John Calvin, John Owen, Augustine, and others, to further bolster his teaching. When you read Ferguson you are reading Calvin and Owen without …

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Book Review- The Prodigal Church

Like many people, I enjoy documentaries. Producers spend significant amounts of time investigating a topic, analyzing it, interpreting it, and then providing a way forward. The best documentaries are those that help you better understand—even feel—the tension in and burden for the subject. In his latest book The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo, Jared C. Wilson gives us something of a documentary on the contemporary evangelical church, particularly those who carry the enduring scent of the church-growth movement by means of attractional ministry.

Gracious Diagnostic for Churches

Wilson, director of content strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and managing editor of For the Church, is not an outsider to this topic. Serving as a pastor for a number of years in churches thoroughly committed to the newest and seemingly best ways to do church, he has what you may call “pew-cred” when discussing the attractional church. In The Prodigal Church he simply asks Christians, particularly pastors and church leaders, to reexamine what we do and why we do it. In this way, the manifesto is something of a diagnostic for churches that provides a simple, clear, and actionable plan for biblical reform.

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Book Review- How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens

Many people have been taught to read their Bibles as a collection of isolated books. The books spans over millennia and many different cultures. How do these books fit together? Does the Bible have an organized, coherent theme? Or, are we simply doing a biblical jig-saw puzzle without the picture?

Michael Williams believes that the Bible should be read redemptively. Or, to put it another way, he believes that the Old Testament looks forward to Christ’s work then the New Testament describes Christ’s work and then explains all of its implications. Williams is Professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary and a member of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation. In his book, How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens, he sets out on a task to help ordinary Christians see the person and work of Christ in every book.

The concept sounds simple but the task, in my opinion, is a bit daunting. We have 66 books in the Bible. Some are very long books (i.e. Genesis) and some are short (i.e. Ruth). Some are very complicated (i.e. Ezekiel) and some are more straightforward (i.e. Mark). Williams aims to take every book and introduce it, explain its basic objective and them, and then show how it points forward or reflects Christ. He does this in about 4 pages or so per book. Some may want more detail but I don’t think this is the point of this book. If you want to study in more depth perhaps a NT/OT …

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