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What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (from January 2019 through March 2019)

What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (from January 2019 through March 2019)

Alexander, T. Desmond. From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2008.

This was the most recent choice of my men’s group that meets on Thursday morning. It may seem elementary to some, but it is amazing how quickly people forget the meta-narrative of scripture. That is Alexander’s purpose- to remind readers of the Bible that God’s ultimate purpose as to restore mankind to his original state of communion with God. The history of the Bible is redemptive. And understanding this theme allows the reader (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to see how each event recorded in scripture points towards God’s intention for his people in the New Jerusalem. Alexander writes clearly and concisely on the subject. Perhaps the one drawback is that at times he frustratingly doesn’t go deep enough when he introduces a concept (such as the bondage of Satan in Revelation 20). This is a good primer for those who forget that the Bible tells one great story and not just a series of small ones. It grants the reader coherence and confidence in the scriptures as a whole.

 

Davis. Dale Ralph. Focus on the Bible: 2 Kings: The Power and the Fury. Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2014.

Last fall I used Davis’ commentary on 1 Kings. I decided to complete both 1 and 2 Kings and used his work on the latter. Once again, David had delivered a wonderful devotional commentary. Each chapter coincides with a chapter from 2 Kings and about the length of a sermon. Davis is witty and has a way of reducing the material to its best effect. Unlike his previous material, the author deals with a lot more of the historical issues and debates in the footnotes. By them he pointed me to a wonderful timeline of the Kings of Israel and Judah (found in Themolios) and also convinced me that the fall of Jerusalem actually occurred in 587 B.C. If you want a good overview of 2 Kings presented in an easy to read way but with good theological meat, then this is the book for you.

 

Dever, Mark. The Church: The Gospel Made Visible. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2012.

It might seem as though I am on a Mark Dever kick (and essentially I am). But myself and two elders are taking the 9Marks book challenge where we read nine books in the series over 2019. This was the first book suggested. And while I have read it before (we taught in Sunday School) I had not reviewed it. I had forgotten how simple and elegant Dever’s thesis is within this volume. Quite simply it is the Church that makes the gospel visible to the rests of the world. When the church is doing what it is supposed to be doing- administering the ordinances, serving one another, submitting to one another (in covenant), and loving one another all as described in the scriptures, then it is the most powerful evangelist tool in our arsenal. And it is simply because God is present within his people. This is an overview of basic ecclesiology. I would recommend that all Christians read it with delight.

 

Dever, Mark. Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016.

This is a small volume within the 9Marks Building Healthy Churches series. As Christ taught in Matthew 28, churches are designed to disciple. And Dever seeks to encourage discipleship I this book. He answers three basic questions; what is disicpling? Where should we disciple? And How should we disciple? I found the book to be very encouraging as he reminded us that if we are a believer in Christ, we are capable of disciplining. This is wonderful, easy reading that will inspire you to engage in the life of another so that you both may reap the benefits.

 

Dever, Mark. Understanding Church Leadership. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2016.

This is one of the short books in the Church Basic Series out of Capitol Hill Baptist in Washington, DC. The purpose of the book is to introduce the reader to the concept of Church leadership as found in the Bible. Dever advocates for congregational polity, but led (not ruled) by a plurality of qualified elders. He also advocates for a deacon ministry by function, not by board. I am pleased to say Providence arrived at the same conclusions as Capitol Hill Baptist, but independently from our own study of the word. Dever’s thesis affirms my own. This is a good introductory material for those unfamiliar with the subject and one I highly recommend.

 

Flavel, John. Binge Drinking. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2008.

About ten years ago, the Banner produced a series of booklets that address various topics such as anger, heaven, prayer, etc… They were meant to be introductory to the subject and introduce the reader to the writings of saints of old. Their brevity meant they could be passed out like tracts. This volume is an excerpt from a sermon addressed to Sailors by the Puritan preacher, John Flavel (1630-1691). It is only a portion of the sermon where Flavel present 10 arguments against binge drinking. I reviewed it prior to a sermon I was preaching on the same subject. Flavel very clearly communicates that binge drinking is a sin. But his weakness is that he doesn’t delineate when someone has crossed into that boundary. The booklet concludes with an excerpt from Spurgeon’s John Ploughman at the end that accurately describes an alcoholic so that one would avoid excessive drinking. Good for quotes, but I am not sure it is helpful for much else.

 

Francia, Luis H. History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos. New York: Harry Abrams, 2013.

I was looking for a survey of the Philippines before I went on my trip in January. This was the perfect book for the occasion. Francia provides a rich history of the Philippines from a native perspective. He deals with the American occupation fairly and accurately. The author also revealed much of the corruption that has plagued Philippino politics since it became an independent nation. Be aware that he writes as a Marxist historian where the emphasis is on class struggle (which at times makes his opinions a bit naïve). But I thought he provided an excellent overview of the last five hundred years of this great nation. On my visit, I had a good grasp of the culture and what had occurred. And I was able to mix in local historical facts with my church history lectures.

 

Jay William. The Works of William Jay, Vol. 1: Morning and Evening Exercises (January –March). Bath: C.A. Bartlett, 1842.

I am preparing a paper on Jay. In order to re-acquaint myself with this figure, I am re-reading his daily devotionals. I am still struck how Jay’s little four page devotions are still relevant for today. In fact, as a friend was going through a trial, I was able to share one for encouragement. Few have the gift of communication like Jay. Even though I had read these devotions before,  they still seemed fresh- perhaps I am able to read them less an academic exercise rather than for personal use. I still recommend Jay for the Christians use.

 

Kline, Jonathan. Keep Up Your Biblical Greek in Two Minutes A Day. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2017.

I am always on the look out for tools that will help me maintain my language skills. And I must say that Kline’s book did not disappoint. He takes a verse each day and translates it from Greek to English. The strength in his method is that he begins with a verse containing a word that is most frequent in the New Testament and works his way down the list so that you will come across the words and terms again. I have been surprised at how well my vocabulary has improved. If it has been a few years since your Greek class, this is a great and easy way to rekindle your passion for the language. I look forward to working through volume two in the upcoming year.

 

Lloyd-Jones, Martyn. The Cross. Westchester: Crossway Books, 1986.

I love used bookstores. And sometimes you find treasure within their doors. It is even better when you find a paperback that you have been looking for and only have to pay the price of $1.75! And while I paid a discounted price for the book, the contents are rich beyond measure. This volume contains nine sermons that Lloyd-Jones delivered in 1963 upon Galatians 6:14. And in typical Lloyd-Jones fashion he brought his hearers to meditate upon the full implications of glorying in the cross of Christ. I was moved and challenged as I read each sermon. I would commend each one. I am grateful for the recorded words of saints that preceded me. They truly edify me.

 

Piper, John. A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016.

John Piper has taken on a monumental task. In this volume, he seeks to defend the veracity of the Bible to those who are sincere seekers and Christians weak on their doctrine of the scriptures. That has been a time-honored goal of many over the centuries in which many have failed. Yet Piper’s contribution is unique. He takes a very personal approach in saying that he became convinced of the truth of the Bible not because he held a particular embattled view, but rather that the scriptures held him ‘captive’ by the beauty of God that they reveal. His point is that the Word of God is self-authenticating. And from that aspect, the Bible is a peculiar glory of God. A skeptic will not be convinced by the author’s argument. For, after all, these things must be discerned spiritually. But Piper presents a reasonable and credible defense from the perspective of the scripture itself and its intention. This is not easy reading. But for those seeking to understand the Christian understanding of the Bible, it is well worth the effort.

 

Shook, Ken. Reaching Cities. Chicago: Self Published, 2018.

Ken is a good friend of mine who is doing some remarkable work in South America. His concern for the lost in the two countries he works within is contagious. He has written this short book (both an English and Spanish version) to inspire Christian leaders to reach their communities. The beauty of the book is its brief simplicity. It is short, paced well and could be easily passed around a congregation that has a rudimentary education. His strategy is straightforward. Be evangelistic. Teach the Bible (along with a plan on how to do that). Focus on small groups and individuals rather than the masses. Develop leaders. Have regular retreats and prayer meetings. And make sure the preaching of the gospel is central. The book does have a couple of flaws. First, Ken is big on preaching the gospel with themes on discipleship as secondary. I do not see the two as mutually exclusive in the New Testament. Holiness matters not just to God, but it is part of our witness to the world. And second, he insists on using and reclaiming the title of ‘apostle’ to mean one sent from God. Traditionally that title has been reserved for the New Testament writers, and I prefer that to keep confusion from happening. But apparently, it is different in a South American context. But overall, I think the author has created a useful tool. I plan on trying to incorporate some of his ideas within my own stewardship of Providence.