A Scandalous Freedom: The Radical Nature of the Gospel

A Scandalous Freedom: The Radical Nature of the Gospel

By: Steve Brown

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – December, 2018

I wanted to recommend A Scandalous Freedom as a companion to our current sermon series through Galatians. It speaks loudly to those who A Scandalous Freedom: The Radical Nature of the Gospeloften feel overwhelmed with a sense of guilt, trying desperately to relieve their conscience by doing more work to please God. Although the author writes in a very humorous manner, his subject matter is serious. Knowing that personal scruples can turn the Christian life into a prison, the author invites his readers to experience the freedom for which we are redeemed in Christ. For some, liberty from rules and regulations might seem dangerous, but Brown points out that it is only by learning to live free that we can truly enjoy our God and delight in His marvelous grace.  I have found this book helpful in my own life, and I recommend it to anyone wishing to experience the joy of the Lord.

 

 

 

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Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat by James D. Bratt

Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat

By: James D. Bratt

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – November, 2018

 

Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat (Library of Religious Biography (LRB))By any standard, Abraham Kuyper was a giant of the Reformed faith and the national life of Holland during the second half of the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries. Like most of Europe, the Dutch society into which Abraham Kuyper was born had been greatly affected by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Seeing these as destructive influences on both church and state, Kuyper sought to implement a Calvinistic worldview that would stand against a purely humanistic philosophy.

As a man of great intellect, organizational leadership, and remarkable energy, Kuyper brought his numerous abilities to bear as a pastor, theologian, author, editor, and politician. During his lifetime, he helped to merge two Reformed denominations as a bulwark against liberalism in the church. He also stood for political office, rising to the position of Prime Minister of the Netherlands, and he founded the Free University of Amsterdam.

In this book, James Bratt does an excellent job of tying together the many periods and influences of Kuyper’s life and work. In doing so, he avoids both glamorizing and demonizing Kuyper. Bratt gives us a picture of a man of his time whose ideas and decisions might seem misguided to many living in the 21st century. Yet, he was a person who also understood the damage of a godless philosophy to both church and state, and he was willing to use his talents to turn the tide for the glory of God.

Although this work does become weighty at times, I recommend it for its historic content and also as an aid in understanding the continuing debate of the place of the Church in the life of the nation in which it exists.

 

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Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer

Escape from Reason

By: Francis Schaeffer

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – October, 2018

Escape from Reason (IVP Classics)In a culture where men and women and boys and girls question their basic biological identity, it seems logical that we might ask ourselves, “How did we get here?” That is the question that the late Francis Schaeffer tackled in the latter half of the 20th Century when he wrote Escape from Reason. In this short but powerful work, Schaeffer critiques the vanity of modern philosophy that has destroyed any unity between faith and reason and has bankrupted public morals, leaving us with no solid basis for law and unable to adequately address the reality of evil.

However, the author contends that if the Christian will seek to understand the thought processes of the surrounding culture and grasp the Bible’s truth about God and man, he/she needs not despair. Since humans are made in God’s image and since He has created all things, the believer is able to proclaim the teachings of Scripture “in the marketplace of ideas” and allow God’s word to stand on its own and speak into His world. Escape from Reason challenges the reader to communicate the gospel in terms that are understandable to the world of our day.

I highly recommend this book to those who have never read Francis Schaeffer before or to those who wish to understand how our society has devolved into its present state and to be encouraged to be light in the darkness.

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The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson

The Doctrine of Repentance

By: Thomas Watson

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – September, 2018

The word “repent” or “repentance” is one of those theological terms that seems antiquated, old-fashioned, or foreign to many Christians today. It’s not uncommon to hear someone articulate a gospel message that is void of any reference to this teaching.  Although many assume that this is simply characteristic of the 21st century state of the Church, Thomas Watson’s classic work on this topic reminds us that Christians are constantly in need of studying and applying this doctrine regardless of the age in which they live.

Although written in 1668, this short book (122 pages) is easy to read and filled with valuable insights. In a very pastoral manner, Watson looks at the nature of, rationale for, and hindrances to repentance before showing the reader how to repent. I highly recommend this work to all Christians since, by nature of God’s work in our hearts, we are all repenting people.

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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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L’Abri, By: Edith Schaeffer

L’Abri

By: Edith Schaeffer

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – April, 2018

Here is a book I recommend simply because it was a joy to read.

Although many Christians are familiar with the works of the late Francis Schaeffer, not as many are familiar with his wife Edith or the instrumental part she played in their ministry. I recently picked up her book entitled L’Abri, describing their mission work in Switzerland after World War II. Not meant to be as theologically focused as her husbands writings, this small book demonstrated the importance of deeds alongside the ministry of the word. Through these pages, the author described the sovereign guidance of God, numerous answers to prayer, and the faithfulness of God’s provision for the Schaeffers and the ministry to which they were called.

What impressed me most was how this one family gave of themselves to whomever God would bring into their home, offering them hospitality and an opportunity to hear the gospel as they wrestled with the questions of truth and meaning. I was moved by the passion for Christ, the firm belief that God does answer prayer, and the genuine love of others shown by Edith Schaeffer to their many guests.

I recommend this book to anyone wanting to be encouraged by seeing God move through the lives of two ordinary people and their children.

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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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