What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (from July 2021 through September 2021)
Ammon, Mark. The Power of His Reign: An Easy Introduction to Amillennialism. Lowerlight Books, 2019.
If one is looking for a brief overview of the amillennial eschatological position, this it. I have yet to find a better survey within an easy-to-read format. Ammon begins the book by defining the major eschatological positions fairly without criticism so that the reader will understand each basic premise. Then he precedes to put forth the Amillennial position beginning with the clear passages of scripture on the end times (rather than starting at Revelation 20). If one follows the readings, they will determine that the Bible consistently speaks of two ages: this one and the one to come. From there, Ammon portrays how this is the rest of the New Testament essentially promotes this understanding. He circles back around recovers how this view differs from the others and challenges the reader to look within the Bible for themselves. The author writes with clarity, but at times he gives such a general view of the various amillennial diversity of opinions even within the Amil camp that it can be confusing. But that is needed because much like within the dispensational and premillennial views there is a wide range of opinions. If you are looking for that quick overview in under 120 pages, you will find this book to be helpful. Hopefully, it will lead you to other works for clarification.
Beeke, Joel & Rob Wynalda. The 17:18 Series: Genesis 1-27. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016.
The 17:18 series is based upon Deuteronomy 17:18 where the law instructs the Ruler of Israel to copy the law in their own personal hand so it would be a means of understanding true justice to the people. The publishers at Reformation Heritage have capitalized on that idea and have provided these journals to assist students of the Bible to write their own copies. On one page is the Biblical text. On the opposite side are thought provoking questions. I have found the exercise to be commendable. It allows me to see nuances in the Bible I would otherwise miss. It took me ten weeks to write out the first 27 chapters of Genesis (7-10 verses a day). This is my fourth book of the Bible that I have written out n my own hand. I am not sure I will get to them all but it is a joy to immerse myself in the word. I begin the second volume this month.
Bredenhof, Reuben. Weak Pastor/Strong Christ.: Developing a Christ-Shaped Gospel Ministry. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2021.
Reuben Bredenhof has written an excellent study of the pastoral ministry of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian church. He provides proof that Paul had a messy church on his hands; a church that questioned his authority and his integrity. But despite this, Paul sought to love and serve this congregation as beloved children. In doing so, Paul is a model pastor for the contemporary church. In doing so, one models our Savior. I found Bredenhof’s book to be very encouraging and timely for our contemporary setting. The content is excellent. I do have one major complaint (and this is typical of books published by Reformation Heritage, not just Bredenhof). There are no citations throughout the book. There is a ‘select bibliography' at the conclusion. But the author never cites where his information comes from, which makes it seem as if he is claiming it as his own original ideas. There is no way from a general reading of the Corinthian letters one would arrive at an understanding of sophistry or patronage. I doubt this is the author’s fault, probably more the publisher. But this should never be done.
Carson, D.A. Jesus The Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood and Currently Disputed. Wheaton, Crossway, 2012.
This was another of my thrift store treasures. You can’t beat Don Carson for $0.49! This book attracted my attention due to my study of Matthew and the frequent use of ‘sonship’ language in the gospels. The book consists of three chapters. Carson spends the first chapter delivering a thorough study of how ‘the son of God’ title was used frequently throughout scripture. It was often applied to more than Jesus (such as the Davidic Kings and to angels in the heavenly courtroom. But when used of Jesus it takes o a unique nature as the Father eternally begetting the Son. In the second (again extended) chapter, Carson looks at specific passages using the son language by Jesus. It is inescapable that Jesus is God and the ‘son’ language describes a unique relationship within the Trinity. This has bearing on the third chapter in how this phrase is being translated into Bible Translations. Carson argues for a literal translation and to trust in the exposition of the text rather than making the text more palatable to readers who might be offended by such language (particularly a Muslim context). I found the last chapter surprisingly fascinating, not boring at all. It gave me a better understanding of the challenges faced by SIL and Wycliffe along with the missionary context.
Ferguson, Sinclair. Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2016.
Twenty years ago, I was introduced to J.C. Ryle’s book, Holiness. I had never read a book about sanctification better than that one … until now. Devoted to God is at least on par with it (and perhaps on second a reading later will surpass it). Ferguson has a master treatise on sanctification that teaches from different passages of scripture. His writing is clear and accessible and above all, encouraging. He gets the reader to understand what it means to draw down on the riches of Christ through our union with Him. He demonstrates from the Word that God uses circumstances to mold us into the image of his Son. ‘The friction God builds into the Christian life is, therefore, not accidental. It is deliberate, strategic, and intended to produce growth in holiness.’ (p. 27). The book is full of golden nuggets of truth. I highly recommend it.
Fisk, Sarah and Linda Riley (eds.). Lost Writings of Howard Weeden as “Flake White”. Huntsville: Big Spring Press, 2005.
I was recently introduced to Howard Weeden (1846-1905) when I conducted a wedding in her historic home. As an artist, she is a national treasure. Her paintings of African Americans are a delight to behold. Weeden also fancied herself as a writer and wrote for various publications but primarily for the Presbyterian magazine, The Christian Observer. She wrote under the pen name of ‘Flake White’ (which is a color from an artist pallet). This volume is a compilation of her writings. Sadly, she is not as gifted as a writer as she was an artist. She writes in a manner typical of the Victorian era. Her stories are intended to be allegories and they are not very striking. At best, I would describe them as quaint. However, the book was not a lost cause. The editors managed to weave a good bit of Huntsville history in the pages. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of the time period and the religious atmosphere in Huntsville. If you have not been to the Weeden House, you should make every effort to see her paintings.
Forsyth, William B. The Wolf from Scotland: The Story of Robert Reid Kalley- Pioneer Missionary. Durham: Evangelical Press, 1988.
It is always a thrill to find a treasure like this for $0.49 in a thrift store. I love biographies of missionaries. Robert Redi Kalley (1809-1888) was a pioneer medical missionary from Glasgow. His first interest was to go to China, but he ended up first in Madiera (an island off the coast of West Africa and owned by Portugal). He experienced severe hostility by the Roman Catholic authorities simply for sharing the Bible with the inhabitants. He was given the moniker ‘The Wolf from Scotland’ by one of the priests because he was picking off converts by teaching the Bible. Through his efforts, he was able to establish the first Evangelical protestant church on the island. He eventually had to leave the island due to the persecution. He migrated to Portuguese speaking Brazil and founded several churches in Rio De Janeiro and Recife. One of my favorite lines from the book was when he was asked about the validity of infant baptism. Kalley responded, I am quite satisfied that infants should be baptized, but only infants who do solemnly profess Christ and live lives becoming of the gospel’. When I read biographies like Kalley’s, I feel like I have wasted much of my life. He accomplished so much for the Kingdom in his 79 years despite persecution and a cardiac condition. This is an inspiring biography and one I commend especially to those interested in South America.
Jones, Timothy Paul. Why Should I Trust The Bible? Fearn: Christian Focus, 2019.
Christian Focus has published a group of books called ‘The Big Ten Series’. These books are apologetic and attempt to answer some of the bigger questions of the Christian faith to seekers. As I am preparing to teach a course on the Bible and Apologetics next semester at BTS, I picked up this volume to brush up on. Jones follows a simple argument. He begins with the plausibility of the gospels as historical documents. He dispels the myths by people like Bart Ehrman who make it seem that the original text of scripture is irrevocable and how translation principles operate. But the key to his argument is whether the reader must believe that the resurrection of Jesus actually occurred. There is plenty of eye-witness material and evidence. But if the skeptic can’t overcome a belief the resurrection cannot occur, then trying to prove the truth of the Bible would be impossible. This is where the Holy Spirit must intervene to help the reader overcome such a hurdle. This is an easy quick read and works effectively. I would likely recommend the author’s other title, Misquoting Jesus, over this one. But I see how this volume fits into the rest of the series.
McGrath, Alister. Apostles’ Creed: Life Guide Bible Studies. Doners Grove: IVP Connect, 2016.
This is an inductive study on the Apostles’ Creed. It is meant to be conducted in a small group setting over six sessions. As this particular series is intended for the novice student, I found it to be very helpful (even though I did it by myself). McGrath’s introduction on the use of creeds was especially good. I am not sure I have read a better synopsis. Since the Apostles’ Creed is studied over six session, there is not too much depth, but just enough to pique the student’s interest to grow in their knowledge. I was pleased with the first session explaining what belief actually entails. The format of the personal reflection and group questions along with the leader’s guide were well done. If there is a drawback to the book, it is that at no point in the text is the Apostles’ Creed presented in its entirety so that the reader may see it comprehensively. Surely there could have been an extra page for that.
Murray, John. Divorce. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1961.
The issue of divorce is such a tender matter for so many in the church. Few enter into marriages thinking they will ever break apart. I try to stay up to date on all the Biblical information on the subject and a recent event has caused me to study it once again. I love to read John Murray. But this is not one of his best works. The biggest flaw is just outright rejecting the idea that the Matthew 19 clause could be related to pledged marriages. He does so without supplying any reason at all as though the idea was absurd even though Jesus used two different Greek words in the same teaching; ‘sexual immorality’ (pornea) for one and ‘adultery’ (moicheia) for the other. It leaves the author having to do a bunch of theological twists and turns to make his arguments work when a plain reading of the text seems justified. To top it off, the writing is very dense which made for hard reading. There were places Murray did challenge me and I am appreciative of that. But this is not a book I would generally recommend on the subject.
Reeves, Michael. What Does It Mean to Fear the Lord? Wheaton: Crossway, 2021.
We have often heard from Proverbs 9:10 that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But what does that mean? Does that mean that the Christian is to be afraid of God? Reeves does a spectacular job of unpacking this important topic. Sinful fear will drive you away from God. Righteous fear will draw you to him (see Jeremiah 32:38-40). He will convince the reader that the fear mentioned in scripture is a fear of delight (Nehemiah 1:11). The book is an abridgment of a larger volume that Reeves wrote on the subject (and published this year as well). It is brief and well planned and only entices me to desire to read the more extensive work. I highly commend this little book. It will help you delight in the Lord. It seemed providential that as I just finished reading it, one of our elders did a devotion on this very topic.
Wright, N.T. For All The Saints?: Remembering the Christian Departed. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 2003.
I would be surprised if many readers of my reviews would pick up this volume. I chose to read it because I have a fascination with the Church of England that coincides with my study of non-conformity in Britain. Also, I am curious about how various denominations handle the ‘after-life’. The Anglican church has a Roman background, and I was curious how it handled such issues such as purgatory and an ‘All Saints Day’ within their lectionary that prayed for the saints in heaven. Therefore, Wright (being a professed Evangelical) seemed a good source to address this topic and he did not disappoint. He points out the fallacies that still remain (though dormant) within the traditions of the church- especially at All Saints Day, All Souls Day and the Feast of Christ the King prior to Advent. Each teaches an improper narrative of the gospel, It is strange on one hand that Wright decries these aberrant teachings from New Testament, but on the other, he doesn’t explicitly call for the cessation of such days (the simplest solution); he desires to change the focus of each (or move to a different week in the case of the Feast of Christ the King). He has enlightened me that is not wrong to pray to God regarding Saints that have gone before us. We should not pray for their ‘souls’ as though they should be released from purgatory. But it is proper to talk to God about those we love within our grief and pray for their enjoyment of God before the throne. This was a fascinating study on one of the finer points of Anglican practice.
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