Essential Sermons, by Saint Augustine

Essential Sermons

By: Saint Augustine
New City Press

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – December, 2017

I recently came across this interesting work that I’ve found valuable for my own personal devotions. Translated into modern English this volume includes various sermons of Augustine, bishop of Hippo, that deals with both theology and practical Christian living. Although as a Protestant, I find some of Augustine’s views untenable, such as his views on marriage and celibacy, his personal appeals to his congregation and profound insights make his preaching come alive to the reader. The bishop’s Christ-centered approach to scripture and church topics is refreshing, and his propensity of calling his people to holy living is quite challenging. I especially enjoyed those sermons on the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer. Toward the end of the book the editors included a few sermons delivered on the feast days of various martyrs. I began reading them with caution, fearing that these might lead to a form of adoration of “saints”. However, working through these sermons, I found most of them constantly bringing the reader back to a focus on the work of Christ to strengthen the faith of His people.

Therefore, with an admonition to use discernment, I would recommend this book as a devotional tool for those wishing to learn from one of the great thinkers of the Church as he taught the Scriptures to his people for their edification.

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A Secular Faith, By Darryl Hart

A Secular Faith

By: Darryl Hart

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – November, 2017

To what extent should the Christian in America embrace the separation of Church and state? This hot button topic is often discussed from a perspective that equates the existence of the United States with that of God’s covenant relationship to ancient Israel. In A Secular Faith, Darryl Hart argues that America was never founded as a Christian nation. Furthermore, when religious people attempt to find a universal Judaeo-Christian foundation for the political life of the country, they run the risk of watering down Christianity to the point where the gospel is no longer evident and we are merely left with a set of morals and ethics. The end result is that Christianity is redefined and presented, not as the message of redemption through Christ and the hope of the coming kingdom of God, but as moral standards that preserve the nation from ruin.

Hart’s presentation of the history of the Protestant influence in American politics and the current debate about separation of church and state is rather interesting, although I did find it a little tedious at times. Nevertheless, his position that Christianity can flourish in any political system, and that Christians are a people living in exile while awaiting a new kingdom is well worth considering. Whether one agrees with the author or not, A Secular Faith is worth the read for those facing the challenge of being Christians in a pluralistic America.

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Luther: Man Between God And The Devil, By Heiko Oberman

Luther: Man Between God And The Devil

By: Heiko Oberman

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – October, 2017

This October marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. In light of that movement it seems appropriate to suggest one of the better biographies of Martin Luther. As one of the foremost authorities on the Reformer, Heiko Oberman believed that the best was to understand this man’s life is to recognize that Luther saw himself as being engaged in a great spiritual battle. Throughout the book the author paints a picture of Luther with both failings and strengths. He reminds us to look at this monk, not through the lens of our own age, but as a man of his times. Weaving together the religious and social events of the day, Luther’s upbringing, his theological discoveries, marital relationship, and his view of the world as a battleground between God and the devil Oberman gives us an understanding of Doctor Martin that is both engaging and enlightening to the reader. I recommend this book for those that wish to read a biography of Luther that is more than just a chronological timeline of historic events.

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When Trouble Comes, By Phil Ryken

When Trouble Comes

By: Phil Ryken

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – September, 2017

Regardless of who we are, everyone will face trouble and sorrow during their life. In When Trouble Comes Phil Ryken offers encouragement to the reader in times of difficulty. By using various Bible narratives, the author provides insight into suffering and gives us a glimpse of God’s comforting presence in seasons of trouble. I recommend this book for all who travel life’s pathway and need to know that hardship is not our only companion, but we have a God whose faithfulness never fails.

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The Preacher and The Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House

The Preacher and The Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House

By: Nancy Gibbs & Michael Duffy

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – August, 2017

Two veteran TIME writers, Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy have written a fascinating book about a peculiar aspect of the ministry of Billy Graham. When being interviewed for this piece, Reverend Graham made the stipulation that the authors present the bad as well as the good. Following that wise counsel enabled Gibbs and Duffy to write a work that offers great insight for those wishing to understand the interaction between religion and politics in America.

Throughout his many years as an evangelist, Dr. Graham was also known as the President’s Pastor. This was not due to any official position but to the friendships he had developed with a number of these men as well as his influence in the evangelical world. From the presidency of Harry Truman to that of George W. Bush, Billy Graham was either seeking to influence the executive branch of government or was being sought after for his spiritual guidance. The Preacher and the Presidents demonstrates the danger to a gospel ministry that can happen when politics and religion become bedfellows, as well as the opportunity that a man of character can have in the spiritual lives of world leaders. After describing the early years when Billy Graham was naive and hungry for political influence, Gibbs and Duffy take the reader through the years of disillusionment and deception during the Nixon administration, and on into the later era of his life when worldly influence lost its luster but the gospel continued to shine. Reading this work, I was struck by the wisdom of the separation between church and state and for the godly character of Billy Graham. The former helps to mitigate against the danger of politicizing the message of the gospel while the latter is a reminder that God will carry on His work in spite of the imperfections of His servants. I highly recommend this book for its historical value as well as the lessons it teaches concerning the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of man.

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The Temple and the Tabernacle, By J. Daniel Hays

The Temple and the Tabernacle

By: J. Daniel Hays

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – April, 2017

For many Christians reading the Old Testament passages that describe the Tabernacle or the Temple can seem as tedious as reading the various genealogies in the Bible. One of the reasons why we might find such passages wearisome is that we are unable to recognize the connection they have with the biblical story of redemption. In his book, The Temple and the Tabernacle J. Daniel Hays describes how both of these structures depict the holiness of God, His relationship to Israel, and the advent of Christ, His person, and His atoning sacrifice. I found the chapter on Christ as the Temple of God in the New Testament to be very helpful in clarifying those prophecies in Ezekiel to which many appeal when insisting on a new temple in a millennial age. I recommend this work as help in finding Christ in the Old Testament and seeing the Old Testament fulfilled in Christ.

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