The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘Joel Beeke

“Doctrine for Life”

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Monday 19 November 2012 at 12:59

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Review: “Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer”

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Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer

Eds. Joel R. Beeke and Brian G. Najapfour

Reformation Heritage Books, 2011,267pp., paperback, $16

ISBN 978-1-60178-120-8

Taking us to men who knew their God, the editors of this volume call upon various authors (in addition to their well-represented selves) to consider the lessons to be learned and patterns to be observed in some of whom it could truly be said that they walked with God. Luther, Calvin, Knox, Perkins, Burgess, Bunyan, Henry, Boston, and Edwards together with a more incidental but still significant host of others, all come under the microscope to teach us the nature and practice of true prayer. There is no appetite in this volume for dry instruction, for the whole breathes a devotional and exhortatory air, closing with Joel Beeke’s earnest plea for prayerful praying. Surely there are few who do not struggle with truly praying, occasionally or consistently? For all such, this book mines the treasures of the past for the profit of the present, reminding us of the blessings and beauties of taking hold of God in prayer, and urging us to the same.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 16 March 2012 at 10:48

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Review: “Developing a Healthy Prayer Life: 31 Meditations on Communing with God”

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Developing a Healthy Prayer Life: 31 Meditations on Communing with God

James W. Beeke and Joel R. Beeke

Reformation Heritage Books, 2010, 99pp., paperback, $10 / £7.50

ISBN 978-1-60178-112-3

This is the first in a planned series of volumes providing 31 meditations on a given subject. Each portion consists of a verse or two from the Word clearly dealing with the topic followed by no more than two or three pages of lucid and warm comment. There is a sense of development throughout the volume, giving the sense that if one were to use this as a daily devotional help over the course of a month, there might be genuine progress in understanding and engagement with God. A book like this cannot make us pray, nor will reading it instantly solve all our problems in prayer, but as a guide in the intentions and substance of prayer, gratefully received and earnestly practiced, it may be of much help in teaching us this holy discipline.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 8 February 2012 at 08:39

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Books and more books

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How many churches have recently heard a series or even a sermon drawn from the prophet Micah? How many Christians would recognise even the better known phrases of the man of Moresheth? He lurks among other prophets quickly overlooked as minor, rarely touched and probably little understood.

Dale Ralph Davies redresses the balance somewhat in this excellent commentary (Evangelical Press, 2010, 189pp). Beginning with a devastating illustration that leaves the liberal critic looking a little foolish, and providing an overview of the whole book, he then guides us through the three main sections of the book: through judgement to preservation, through judgement to peace, and through judgement to pardon. Under each section shorter elements are supplied in the author’s own vivid and illuminating translation, discussed briefly, and then pointedly and movingly applied to the church of Christ today.

The author’s ability and readiness to cut to the chase is welcome. He is clearly abreast of other material old and new, and gives us a swift and sure assessment of various interpretive issues, leaving us with little (or significantly reduced) doubt as to the Spirit’s probable intended meaning. Indeed, so surefooted and definite is the writer that there is a significant danger of simply being carried along and allowing him to do all the work for us. Micah’s messianic focus is made to shine brightly at appropriate points, and equally plain throughout is the Lord’s holy hatred of sin.

Those who have previously used and enjoyed the author’s commentaries on other Old Testament books will need little persuading to take up and read this new offering. For any reader who has not yet had the pleasure of making his acquaintance, this would be a fine place to start, and they may find themselves wondering how Micah so quickly yields up treasures they have never before appreciated.

I should imagine that many gospel ministers (who might otherwise not have touched the prophet with a reverent bargepole) are picking up this book and after a few pages beginning to wonder whether or not there might be a series or a few sermons in Micah after all. If they make this book a tool to help them and not merely a template to follow, then they will be right.

Moving on more swiftly, if you still have no idea why you should care about the fact that John Calvin has just had his 500th birthday, then Calvin for Today, edited by Joel Beeke (RHB, 2009, 296pp), may be the collection with which to start. Bringing together the addresses from the 2009 conference of the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, it is a deliberately popular, entry-level survey of Calvin the man and his faith and life. Considering Calvin and his Bible, as a theologian, Calvin and the church, Calvin’s ethics, and his contemporary impact, a range of contributors bring their minds and hearts to bear on some fifteen separate topics. If some of the material coming out of the quincentennial has seemed too dense and weighty, here is an antidote, providing accessible but careful scholarship in engaging fashion. (Amazon)

Following on from This Little Church Went to Market and This Little Church Stayed Home, in This Little Church Had None: A Church in Search of the Truth (Evangelical Press, 2009, 236pp) Gary Gilley continues his assessment of the illness of the church in the modern West, perhaps with particular emphasis on the US. Though by definition any snapshot of a situation dates quickly, there is plenty here that will remain relevant for some time. The author begins by looking at six problems the church faces: seeker-sensitivity, the emergent movement, paganism, the prosperity gospel, pragmatism and the new atheism. Having analysed the problems, he moves on to the solutions, calling for true spiritual leadership by men who are confident of the truth of God’s Word. His co-author steps in particularly in the final section, calling the saints to evangelism that speaks of a holy God, sinful men, judgment to come, and a great Saviour. One particular virtue of this book is its clarity and brevity in providing a helpful overview of present assaults on the church of Christ (from within and without), and calling her simply and plainly to stand where she should and trust whom she should and do what she should. Not ground-breaking, but earnest and helpful. (Amazon)

How many well-intentioned efforts to read systematically through the Scriptures have come a cropper on the book of Numbers (Evangelical Press, 2009, 479pp)? With his final commentary on the Pentateuch in this EP Study Commentary series, John Currid puts in the hands of believers a helpful guide not merely to get us through this book but to feed us from it. Showing how the Book of Numbers centres on the worship of the God who is present with his people in the wilderness, guiding us carefully through alternating sections of lawgiving and historical narrative with penetrating insights, and with thoughtful applications along the way, the author equips us to profit from our tour through the wilderness to the borders of Canaan. Currid says no more than needs to be said, never allowing us to get bogged down in multiple competing perspectives but rather giving a clear and concise understanding of the text. Knowledge and wisdom combine to make this a very helpful addition to any library for those who need stimulating direction through this portion of God’s Word. (WTS/Amazon)

Another helpful commentary in this line, in Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (Evangelical Press, 2010, 255pp) Iain Duguid illuminates the three too-often neglected prophets who close out our Old Testament. Taking particular pains to demonstrate how much these authors are taken up with the Messiah and his coming, and with this series’ familiar pattern of clear exegesis and crisp application, Duguid uses these low-key authors in low-key settings to highlight lessons for churches like ours, too readily obsessed with glitz and glamour, who forget that our true glory is God with us, whether or not that glory is publicly displayed. Preachers or leaders of Bible studies or Christians working through their Bibles – anyone who has wondered at Haggai’s concern for God’s house, stumbled through Zechariah’s visions, or felt that they are missing something in Malachi – will find clear instruction, helpful guidance and heartening exhortation in this volume. Where many readers might feel that they are not quite getting what they might, here is a commentator who takes us by the hand, and – without treating us like nincompoops – helps to clear a way for us to enjoy the treasures of these men of God. (Amazon/Monergism)

Why On Earth Did Jesus Come? by John Blanchard (Evangelical Press, 2009, 40pp) is a booklet about Jesus Christ. Debunking all manner of myths and mistakes along the way, it sets out the reality of and reason for the incarnation of Christ with the author’s customary clarity and logic. Drawing constantly upon the gospel records, setting forth the truth and addressing objections along the way, Mr Blanchard builds to a punchy climax with a call to acknowledge the truth, repent of sin and believe in the Son of God. If you are giving gifts this Christmas, and want to add to the stack something that will bring Christ to bear, Why On Earth? would make a very useful addition to your Christmas stockpile. (WTS/Amazon/Monergism)

Born of the author’s own excitement at his discovery of the overarching theme of Scripture and how the great mountain chain of God’s covenants binds the whole together, From the Garden of Eden to the Glory of Heaven: God’s Unfolding Plan and How it Relates to Christians Today by James R. Williamson (Calvary Press, 2008, 240pp) sets out to bring that perspective within the reach of all of God’s people. With simplicity and balance, James Williamson treads along that mountain range, introducing the concept of covenants and zeroing in on God’s redemptive promises and purposes, before leaping from peak to peak, from Noah to Abraham to Moses to David and then to the New Covenant in Christ Jesus, before driving home some further lessons. The whole is thoroughly orthodox. The author’s Baptistic convictions naturally colour his approach at certain points; many will appreciate a book on covenant theology grounded in such a perspective. Enthusiastic and earnest, this is an excellent and thought-provoking introduction to covenant theology. As such, readers should not anticipate engagement at every point of contention and debate. This is essentially a positive book from which – caught up with the splendour of God’s saving plan – readers can progress to further study and rumination. (Amazon)

Piety’s Wisdom: A Summary of Calvin’s Institutes with Study Questions (RHB, 2010, 368pp), a series of studies by J. Mark Beach through Calvin’s Institutes, would be a useful tool for those who might have missed the opportunity that the 500th anniversary year provided to dig into the man himself, or those who felt that they simply lacked the capacity to do so. After brief introductions to man and book, Beach guides us through the Institutes in brief segments, beginning with an orientation (allowing us to follow the flow and development of the whole) and then a summary of each chapter of Calvin’s work (sometimes further subdivided for ease of understanding). Each unit ends with questions for reflection and discussion. Eschewing the infantile exercise in basic comprehension provided by many study questions, here we face demands for genuine and critical engagement with Calvin’s thought. All in all, whether for groups or individuals, this would be an excellent means of studying the Institutes at a slight distance, or as an insightful guide alongside them. (WTS/Amazon/Monergism)

The Philippian church is sometimes considered as the one model church to which an epistle was written. While not denying the blessings that they had received, Hywel Jones also recognises that Paul had good reason for writing to the Philippian church, and it is this perspective which guides his straightforward but helpful commentary, For the Sake of the Gospel (Philippians Simply Explained) (Evangelical Press, 2010, 167pp). Determined to protect the church from stagnation, division and declension, Paul writes a letter of instruction and exhortation, urging these saints to walk worthy of the gospel. While the language is generally simple, the occasional knotty problems of exegesis and application quickly reveal the author’s depth of understanding and degree of insight. Thus guided, we are able to enjoy this commentary communicating a stirring call to hold fast to the truth and to live a life of godliness. Those looking for a simple overview of the letter, or an easy introduction to it, might confidently start here. (Amazon)

Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (Crossway [RE:LIT], 2010, 176pp) is Don Carson’s attempt to get to the heart of the gospel and to address it in brief scope. He does so with a written record of five addresses on significant passages of Scripture concerning Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. Delivered at a conference in Seattle, these still have something of the flow and form of speech. As we would expect from Mr Carson, there is a wide range of reference outside the Scriptures, helpfully illustrating the text or its principles, and demonstrating the continuing applicability of those principles to our world. Occasional passages are particularly penetrating and powerful. In one sense, there is nothing new here, nor should there be; rather, we have the simple presentation of the scandal of the cross, the gospel of the crucified Christ which remains the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. (WTS/Amazon/Monergism)

This careful and colourful biography makes splendid reading: carefully constructing the context into which Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born and in which he was raised, tracing the influences intellectual and spiritual which contributed to his formation as man and Christian, and considering the principles and practices which he inculcated and worked out in his own life and the life of others, in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Thomas Nelson, 2010, 608pp) Eric Metaxas gives what seems an honest view of this complex, even contradictory character. For the most part, while the author’s esteem of his subject is evident, readers are left to make their own judgement of Bonhoeffer’s faith and life. His historical circumstances, theological convictions, intellectual pursuits, ecumenical commitments, educational dreams, spiritual aspirations and political actions are all laid out in their intricate relationships, revealing both harmony and tension. So much here to commend, so much to admire, and yet at points serious questions to raise. A book to engage both the mind and heart. (WTS/Amazon)

Portrait printing

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Well, hurrah and huzzah! A Portrait of Paul (more information) has been sent to the printers and should have a concrete existence (by which, naturally, I do not mean buried in concrete or tied to a block of concrete and sunk to the bottom of some convenient body of water) by the end of this month, God willing.

In a clear indication that we have unwittingly persuaded otherwise competent judges that we know something, Carl Trueman has the following to say about the book:

This deceptively easy to read book consists of a series of reflections on Col.1:24 to 2:5 by two experienced pastors. In an age where there is much focus on technical aspects of ministry, Ventura and Walker analyse the topic in terms, first, of call and character, and then of the existential urgency with which the great doctrines of the faith are grasped by those called to the pastorate. Intended not just to be read but to be a practical guide in helping churches think through the role of the pastor, each chapter ends with a series of pointed questions, to Christians in general and to pastors in particular, which are designed to focus the minds of all concerned on what the priorities of the pastorate, and of candidates for the pastorate should be. This book is a biblical rebuke to modern trends, a challenge to those who think they may be called to the ministry, and a reality check for all believers everywhere.

Particularly enjoyable here is the employment of the phrase “existential urgency” – I don’t think I have ever been accused of something so unreasonable!

At the moment, orders can be placed with Reformation Heritage Books as well as Westminster Bookstore, Monergism Books, Christian Book Distributors (CBD), and Grace Books International as well as a growing number of other places.

Hopefully I will get some sample chapters up in the next few days, but for now, I can provide the foreword, kindly written by Dr Joel Beeke:

Have you ever wondered what the gospel ministry should be like? Or what kind of minister your church should look for? If you are a minister, have you ever established in your own mind what the ideal and pathos of an apostolic pattern of ministry should look and feel like?

Other than our Lord Jesus Himself, there is no better representative in the Scriptures than the apostle Paul for visualizing the gospel ministry. In numerous letters, Paul makes himself and his ministry stunningly vulnerable. Repeatedly, he sets before us not only the origin, essence, and goal of his ministry, but also its joys, hardships, conflicts, and warnings. Paul allows us not only to view his daily work but also opens up his mind and soul in an amazing way.

In this gripping, well-written book, Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker mine the riches of Paul, showing us the mind, heart, and life of a genuine minister who is on fire for the glory of God, the growth of believers, the establishment of Christ’s church, and the salvation of the lost. No minister can read this book without being profoundly convicted of his shortcomings and deeply moved to aspire to more faithful ministry. No church member can read this book without acquiring a better understanding of what a minister should be and without being stirred up to pray for his pastor, or, in the case of a pulpit and pastoral vacancy, for finding the kind of pastor these pages so vividly display.

Having taught in pastoral ministry for twenty-five years at a seminary level, I have never read a book that so powerfully presents a Christ-centered model for biblical ministry as A Portrait of Paul. Books, seminaries, and experience all play an invaluable role in preparing a man for the ministry, but this book affirms, with John Newton, that “none but He who made the world can make a minister.” After you read this book, you will understand Charles Spurgeon, who said, “Do not be a minister if you can help it,” as well as Thomas Watson, who said, “The ministry is the most honorable employment in the world. Jesus Christ has graced this calling by His entering into it.” You will also understand what my father said to me after I was called to the ministry: “To serve as a minister of Jesus Christ is a more important calling than living in the White House.”

A Portrait of Paul is a great book that should serve as required reading in an introductory course on Christian ministry. Every minister should own a copy and read it. Lay people should also read it to understand their pastor and ministry of all kinds in the church of Jesus Christ.

May God use this book in a mighty way to stir pastors and lay people to fervency of heart for the church as the bride of Jesus Christ and for the amazing calling of pastoral ministry. Let us all pray daily for Word-based, God-fearing, Christ-exalting, sober-minded ministers to fill this needy earth with sound preaching, holy lives, and loving pastoral counsel—ministers whose very lives are transcripts of their sermons. This is the crying need of the universal church and of the world today.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 14 September 2010 at 17:16

Book blizzard

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Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation (Volume 2: 1552-1566) compiled and introduced by James T. Dennison (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), is the second volume in this excellent series.  Here, each with a lucid and brief introduction, are a further 35 confessions, including both the Forty-Two and the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, the Heidelberg Catechism, and such lesser-known works as the Geneva Students’ Confession (1559), Beza’s Confession (1560), productions from Tarcal and Torda and Enyedi, and the delightfully named Synod of Gönc (1566).  Particularly fascinating are those truths which our forefathers thought primary (and therefore worthy of confessing), and which today are often discounted as secondary (and vice versa).  One of the values of such a study is to send us back to our Bibles to recalibrate our sensitivities, informed both by the necessities of the present and the instruction of the past.  Well-bound and clearly printed, this series provides an excellent resource for those interested in examining and learning from the Reformed confessional heritage.

James M. Renihan puts 1 Corinthians 13 firmly in its context to explore True Love: Understanding the Real Meaning of Christian Love (Evangelical Press, 2010).  Beginning with God’s love for us in Christ, and the law and gospel of love, Renihan also situates chapter 13 in the epistle as a whole and then – without dealing with other contentious issues – focuses on this love, its importance and its outworking.  Given how misunderstood and abused the whole notion of love is both within and without the church, and how often abused and sentimentalized this chapter can be, this is a powerful corrective to shallow and errant views, providing us with a solid, careful, and challenging study of this most vital Christian grace and duty.

Along the lines of Banner’s ‘Puritan Paperbacks’ series, Reformation Heritage Books has begun a ‘Puritan Treasures for Today’ line.  First up is George Swinnock with The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of Faith (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010).  The aim of the series is to provide an easy way in to Puritan writings by making available a briefer work in updated English.  In this volume Swinnock expounds Psalm 73.26, demonstrating and applying the fact that man must die, and must therefore prepare to die, and that the immortal God is man’s only true happiness, and so the best preparation for the soul is to take God as its chief treasure.  With holy warnings and enticements, Swinnock addresses both believers and unbelievers with that warm exhortation and vivid illustration characteristic of Puritan preaching at its best.  Well-edited and well-presented, this volume (and the projected series) would provide a helpful gateway to the riches of the Puritans.

In this volume, we are Heading for Heaven (Evangelical Press, 2009) under the safe guidance of that Greatheart, J. C. Ryle.  A previously published and nicely redesigned (but not reset) selection from Ryle’s sermons on The Christian Race, here we see Ryle as a preacher rather than an essayist.  Leaving behind all the finery of eloquence, Ryle deals with the heart to urge the reader to ensure that they are on the right path, and then to pursue that path to the end.  Homely and earnest, these sermons on various texts will serve to stir and warm the heart, and any reader would be well-served by investing the time to digest these addresses.

In Spectacular Sins and their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ (Crossway, 2008), John Piper wades carefully into murky water to address the thorny issue of God’s sovereignty over and in the very worst events that have taken place and will take place in this world.  Familiar Piper themes and phrases pepper the book as the author spends time establishing the absolute supremacy of the Godhead over all things, including sin, and then begins to look at concrete examples that demonstrate both God’s sovereign power and his sovereign and good purposes even in the most grim events.  Satan’s existence, Adam’s fall, Babel’s rise, Joseph’s slavery, Israel’s monarchy, and Judas’ betrayal all provide opportunity to demonstrate how such apparent catastrophes served God’s purposes to glorify his Son and save his people.  Walking and sometimes wobbling along a tightrope between seeking to bring Scripture light to bear on the darkest matters and the danger of peering into things which God has intentionally left dark, Piper’s purpose is to equip the saints for the hard times that always come.  Given the nature of the case, it is invariably hard to bring the general lessons down to the particulars when one is overwhelmed with pain and grief, but this is nevertheless a clear and courageous reminder that God is never absent nor ignorant, but actively working all things together for good.

Part of the continued fall-out from the Calvin quincentennial is Calvin: Theologian and Reformer (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), a collection of papers from the John Owen Centre conference at London Theological Seminary, edited by Joel Beeke and Garry Williams.  The collection is divided into three sections – Calvin’s life and work, then doctrine and experience, and finally Christian living and ministry – and include contributions from Sinclair Ferguson, Ian Hamilton, and Joel Beeke.  Maintaining something of the style and sense of conference addresses, those who attended will enter again into the spirit of the meetings, and those who did not will get a taste of it.  As a brief introduction to Calvin’s life with God, thought of God, and pursuit of godliness, this is very helpful.

God’s sovereignty and God’s grace walk hand in hand through A Long Line of Godly Men (Volume 1, 1400BC – AD100): Foundations of Grace by Steven J. Lawson (Reformation Trust, 2006).  That complex title points to the structure of this projected five-volume series in which our author intends to survey history from a divinely-appointed perspective.  This first volume lays the foundation with a canter through the entire Bible seeking to establish, from first to last, the coherent and consistent and credible testimony of Scripture to God’s saving purposes.  From Moses to John, Genesis to Revelation, Dr Lawson traces his theme with penetrating insight and profound understanding.  With helpfully-flagged ‘Doctrine in Focus’ sections littered through the pages and a series of study questions at the end of each chapter, this is a book intended to address the whole man.  Sympathetic readers might query certain details while enjoying the very broad sweep of this thematic study as Lawson skips across the high hills of our Bibles in an attempt to link up and light up the peaks by firing the beacons of God’s grace at each point.  Do not misinterpret the title: this book is not about men but about their God and his glorious dealings with sinful men.  With an extended introduction by John MacArthur, this is no light read but it should prove an immensely profitable one.

In 2009, Joel Beeke was the main preacher at the Aberystwyth Conference, and addressed the theme of Contagious Christian Living, which sermons are now gathered into this slim volume (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010).  Desiring that the people of God will learn to live lives of godliness that have a profound and lasting impact on the people around them, Beeke presents four lives and their lessons: Jephthah’s daughter teaches us sacrificial submission (the author takes the line that she was consecrated to God and not sacrificed); Bartimaeus instructs us in Christ-centredness; Jacob, in contagious blessing; and, Daniel, consistent integrity.  The teaching is simple, earnest, and pastoral, and the spirit of it is the very one which Beeke wants to encourage others to cultivate.  There is vigorous challenge here, to be certain, but also direction and encouragement which will benefit every humble believer ready to learn contagious Christian living.

John D. Currid portrays for us The Expectant Prophet: Habakkuk Simply Explained (Evangelical Press, 2009).  Presenting the dialogue between the bewildered prophet and his all-seeing, all-knowing, all-guiding God, he guides us to and through the prophet’s closing psalm in which his expectant dependence upon the Lord comes gloriously to the fore.  Currid directs us sensitively, simply and wisely through this short but too-often-neglected portion of God’s Word, his often stimulating perspectives and insights making Habakkuk a truly profitable prophet for readers who, in the face of similar challenges and questions, need to find and rest in Habakkuk’s answers.

Amazing Conversions: John Ashworth and His Strange Tales (Tentmaker Publications, 2009) is a book for weeping over.  There will be tears of shame, that we are not more persuaded of and acting upon the saving mercies of God; tears of pity, for the fearful condition of the lost; and, tears of joy, for God’s goodness in bringing those under the power of darkness into his Son’s kingdom.  A brief biography of Ashworth, founder of the “Chapel for the Desitute” gives way to his records of God’s gracious dealings with needy sinners.  While all conversions are amazing, Ashworth – not neglecting to tell of difficulties and disappointments – nevertheless focuses on some of the more distinctive and unlikely (humanly speaking) regenerations he saw, accomplished by ordinary means, applied faithfully, prayerfully, winsomely and patiently.  This is a book to stir the soul, give confidence in God, and set the Christian, and especially the preacher, about his regular business with zeal and hope.  I commend it vigorously.

Perhaps concerned at being undersold, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne give us The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything (Matthias Media, 2009).  The book is built around the metaphor of the relationship – and often the imbalance – between the trellis (the structures and supports of church life) and the vine (the conversion and growth in grace of the people who make up the church).  In essence, it is a plea to focus on the growing of the vine and not the building of the trellis, investing in people rather than structures.  There is much to appreciate, especially the concern to see Christian maturity that enables them to invest in the lives of others.  At the same time, the authors occasionally present some false dichotomies in trying to distinguish their approach from others, and run into self-contradictions on several occasions.  In attempting to encourage the saints to employ their gifts, there is a danger of flattening out Christ’s own structures in the church, especially when the notion of vocation (pastoral or otherwise) is fairly swiftly dismissed.  Certain assumptions evidently lie behind some of the teaching here.  A very worthy and entirely laudable aim, together with some helpful and insightful suggestions, can still leave one feeling that, for a book that wants to be about vines, there is an awful lot of trellis being constructed, not least in the sustained advertisement of other programmes and materials available from the same publisher.

Wayne Grudem’s Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business (Crossway, 2003) is a kidney-punch of a book: 91 pages of to-the-point striking.  Developed from an address at a conference for entrepreneurs, it is an unapologetic hymn to the positive moral goodness of ownership, productivity, employment, commercial transactions, profit, money, inequality of possessions, competition, and borrowing and lending.  Grudem is not blind to the temptations in and potential abuses of these things, and seeks to address them, albeit briefly.  He also has short sections on heart attitudes and world poverty.  Concerned to encourage those in business to use their calling to glorify God, it is less about doing business in a godly way, and more about the inherent goodness of business in itself.  Loaded with assumptions, pithy rather than profound in its employment of Scripture, and provocative in its absoluteness, some will be tempted to wonder if this book could have come out of anywhere but 21st century America.  Businessmen and women will find every encouragement to continue in and pursue their callings here.  However, the claim for fundamental and inherent goodness in some of these aspects of our culture raises questions that the book itself does not answer.  A vigorous book to be read vigorously, and requiring determined engagement.

Rest in God & A Calamity in Contemporary Christianity (Banner of Truth, 2010) is a pithy contribution to debates over the Lord’s day by Iain Murray.  Beginning in Genesis 2.3 and working through the ceremonial law, with a brief excursus on the earlier and later Calvin’s thoughts on the matter, we arrive at length in the New Testament and then take a short survey of post-apostolic church history.  Five terse conclusions draw this booklet (35 pages) to a close.  There is nothing new here, but a simple and earnest rehearsal and representation of the Scriptural and historical orthodoxy of the Lord’s day.  The subtitle and the tone of the book make plain that this is no take-it-or-leave-it matter, but a battle of vital importance for the present and future health of Christ’s church.  Many will no doubt dismiss or despise Murray’s assessment, but many more will join with him in recognising an area in which contemporary Christianity badly needs to set its house in order.

In The Breeze of the Centuries: Introducing Great Theologians from the Apostolic Fathers to Aquinas (IVP, 2010), Michael Reeves provides us with the first book of an intended two-volume set giving an overview of major contributors to theology during the first thirteen post-apostolic centuries.  He surveys the apostolic fathers, moves on through Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, before spending some time on Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas.  The aim is to provide a straight report – with a good smattering of original material, and surveys of major works –though our author occasionally breaks cover to add a little spice of his own.  Helpful recommendations and timelines add usefulness, although the lack of an index is a problem with a book that many would find a handy ready-reference.  Written with verve and respect, this should prove a very helpful introduction to novices and a good overview for more experienced readers.

Robert Morrison Project

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The Robert Morrison Project (new link in sidebar) is dedicated to the publication of Reformed literature in China.  Dr. Tom Nettles, Dr. Brian Vickers, Dr. Michael Haykin and Dr. Joel Beeke serve on the board of directors.  You can read more about it at the White Horse Inn.

Robert Morrison was the first Protestant missionary to China.  He began his labours in 1807 and died in 1834 in Canton.  Read more here or here.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 29 January 2010 at 17:11

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