The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor by John Stott

The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor

By: John Stott

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – August, 2018

I found myself driven to my knees while reading The Living Church by John Stott. Very few books have had this effect on me. Written shortly before his death, this book is a reflection on the Church and lessons learned over 60 plus years of ministry. However, the author does not begin by looking back on what was and longing for the good old days. Rather, Stott takes note of where we are in the 21st century and reflects on what the Church can be.

He begins the first chapter by listing the essentials of God’s vision for His church – Learning, Caring, Worshiping, and Evangelizing. The next seven chapters show how these four characteristics unfold in the life of the Church. The author concludes his thoughts with a challenge to up and coming “Timothys,” and he includes three interesting appendices offering historical insight into his life.  Even in the few instances where I disagreed with Stott’s views, I was encouraged by the godly counsel from this wise and experienced saint.

Although it is a short read, I believe you will be pleasantly and gently challenged by this work. I highly recommend it for all of us at Grace & Peace as a nice book on a late summer vacation or to start the upcoming season at our church.

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Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper

Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God

By: Noel Piper

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – July, 2018

Since vacation season is here again, I hoped to find a book that was short enough for busy parents, yet interesting enough to keep one’s attention on the beach, relaxing by a mountain lake, or simply kicking back at home.  Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper (wife of pastor and author John Piper) meets those requirements. The writer has provided five biographies of godly women whose desire to serve the Lord challenges the reader to do the same.

The women that Piper chose to include are Sarah Edwards, Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim, and Helen Roseveare. All of these women come from different countries, serving on various continents throughout a period that stretches from the 18th to the 20th century. Sarah Edwards was the wife of the famous pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards. Lilias Trotter was born in England and sailed to North Africa to work as a missionary in Algeria. Gladys Aylward was a missionary to China in the 1930s where she became a naturalized citizen, working with orphans. Esther Ahn Kim was a Korean Christian who endured persecution when the Japanese military controlled that nation. Helen Roseveare served as a doctor in the Congo throughout many years of bloodshed and turmoil. Their love for the Lord drove them to not only serve but suffer for Christ and the advance of the gospel.

Although I had originally hoped to find a book that would appeal to the women of our church, I was drawn in to the various accounts of these courageous women and encouraged to see the faithfulness of God in each of their lives. I recommend this book as a good summer read about the lives of other Christians who gave all for the glory of God and found Him to be strong on their behalf.

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The Heidelberg Catechism: A Study Guide by G. I. Williamson

The Heidelberg Catechism: A Study Guide

By: G. I. Williamson

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – June, 2018

Both warm and theologically sound, The Heidelberg Catechism stands as one of the most significant creeds of the Protestant Reformation. Used to

nurture new believers in the faith as well as encourage those who are more mature, it is divided into three major parts: The Law of God (from which we understand our need of a Savior), The Grace of God in Jesus Christ (who we find is our only hope for redemption), and The New Life Through the Holy Spirit (that is lived out in gratitude by those saved in Christ.)

Although an older sister document to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, many Presbyterians know little about this work. G. I. Williamson, who wrote study guides for the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Shorter Catechism, has also provided a thorough examination of the Heidelberg Catechism that includes all 129 questions and answers. Having worked through this material in the past, I highly recommend it for those wishing to grow in appreciation of their salvation in Christ and a general understanding of the Reformed Faith.

 

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With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship, By: D.G. Hart and John R. Muether

With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship

By: D.G. Hart and John R. Muether

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – March, 2018

As many of us can attest, we often come into the Reformed Faith because of compelling theological reasons only to discover that there is much more to Reformed theology than the five points of Calvinism or the five solas of the Reformation. Sometimes we are surprised to discover that a major emphases of the Reformation was the nature and practice of worship. Reformed worship in particular can be a little puzzling to folks that have grown up with a broad evangelical background. In the book With Reverence and Awe the authors offer a study on the foundational principles of worship in a Reformed context. This short work challenges the reader to seriously consider a biblical perspective on the worship of God, thereby upholding what is known as the Regulative Principle. Although it is not an exhaustive study on the subject, it does turn our attention away from the common man-centered approach to a God-centered focus on what the Church does as it gathers together on the Lord’s day. I highly recommend this concise work to anyone wishing to understand the Reformed perspective of worship.

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Trinity Hymnal: Great Commission Publications

Trinity Hymnal

By: Great Commission Publications

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – February, 2018

Besides containing the hymns normally sung by our congregation on Sunday morning, the Trinity Hymnal is a treasure of worship material. Included in the back are responsive readings in the psalms, The Apostles and Nicene creeds, and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Shorter Catechism. Familiarizing ourselves with the great hymns of the Faith, not only enables us to worship more robustly on Sunday mornings, but connects us with the worship of the Church throughout the ages, and serves as an aid in adding music to our personal and family devotions. Therefore, I recommend this work to all those at Grace & Peace Presbyterian Church.

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The Songs of Jesus, By Timothy and Kathy Keller

The Songs of Jesus

By: Timothy and Kathy Keller

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – January, 2018

As we begin a new year many folks look for a devotional book that can be used for either personal or family time. In The Songs of Jesus, Tim and Kathy Keller offer a day by day look through the Psalms. Beginning with the Scripture text, the author gives a brief commentary followed by a prayer focusing on the passage. The writer’s design is to bring you closer to the Lord as you walk through every situation of life, finding guidance, comfort, and strength through the songbook of the people of God. Renee and I are finding choice morsels of wisdom as we read through this work together. I recommend it, not so much for deep theological reflection, but as a window into the heart of Jesus and His care for His sheep.

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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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