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What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (October 2023 through December 2023)

Ascol, Thomas (ed.), Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry. Founders Press: Cape Coral, 2016.

This is a collection of essays written in the form of letters to a fictional young minister (“Timothy”) as he begins his first pastorate. The wisdom comes from a variety of well-respected Reformed ministers and scholars from the United States and International. Such names as Mark Dever, Conrad Mbewe, Ted Tripp, and Joel Beeke are represented. As typical of such works, some of the essays are outstanding and some are mediocre. In my opinion the better ones were Tom Ascol on watching your priorities in pastoral ministry, Conrad Mbewe’s on watching your life, Ligon Duncan on keep studying, and my friend, Geoff Thomas on settling is superior and worthy to be passed out in the ministerial classrooms for their wisdom. I would say the book is comprehensive and would offer good discussion while training elders.

Beale, G.K. D.A. Carson, Benjamin Gladd, and Andrew Naselli (eds.), Dictionary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, 2023.

For ten years I have been using Beale and Carson’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament and it has been a wonderful tool as I exegete the text of New Testament Books. But I have often desired a topical based resource for easier use when I am studying the text of an Old Testament book. Now that is available to me. And it has been extremely helpful studying Genesis. For example, how did the New Testament writers understand the person of Abraham? Now I can merely look up the article on ‘Abraham.’ What did they think about circumcision? Or Idolatry in the period of the Old Testament. This has made studying quick and easy to use. I will confess I have not read this book cover to cover. But I have worked with it enough now for a few weeks, that I am comfortable endorsing it. The articles are written by over sixty conservative and accomplished scholars. I highly recommend this for someone teaching a text of scripture.

Hamilton, Pauline. To A Different Drum. 10ofthose Publishing: Leyland, UK, 2023.

This is a reprint of the autobiography of Dr. Pauline Hamilton (1922-1988), an OMF missionary in China and Taiwan. Every now and then, I stumble upon a truly inspiring story of one of God’s servants. Hamilton was addicted to drugs as a college student. It prevented her from getting into medical school. And due to this, in shame she tried to take her own life. But God had other plans. The car she planned on plummeting over a cliff ‘happened’ to have a flat tire. And from that moment on her life changed. Hamilton found Jesus and began studying as a scientist. She eventually acquired a PhD but left behind a teaching job at an ivy league university to become a missionary in China. Her years of service were incredibly fruitful as she ministered primarily to Chinese gangsters and young people. She developed cancer and had to return home when she was told she had 2-3 months left to live. That eventually stretched to 20 more years of service as a speaker to university students seeking to do missions. This was an incredible story - one of those only God could orchestrate this type of narratives. I highly recommend it.

Davis, Dale Ralph. Faith of our Father: Expositions of Genesis 12-25. Christian Focus Publications: Fearn, UK, 2015.

I typically love reading Dale Ralph Davis. He has a brilliant way of explaining the Old Testament in a very accessible way. He is always good for a clever quote or anecdote. When I saw he had two books on Genesis, I was really looking forward to reading them. However, this one missed the mark for me. It was too much of a broad overview to very edifying. And there were times I found his illustrations to be confusing to the point of the Biblical text (extremely rare for Davis). There are a few nuggets here that I will use in preaching through this text, but I am not sure I would recommend this one- especially to start you off on reading his books!

Davis, Dale Ralph. God’s Rascal: The Jacob Narrative in Genesis 25-35. Christian Focus Publications: Fearn, UK, 2022.

So, after my review of Faith of our Father, I was somewhat reluctant to continue with this volume. But I did, and I am glad I did so. This book still suffers from some of the weaknesses of the previous book in that it tries to cover too much material in as few pages as possible. There are several times that Davis fails to address some pretty important topics. But this is also vintage Davis. His remarks were poignant, and the illustrations fit the themes much better than the previous volume. Again, I would recommend this book more for more devotional use than for proper study. But with the exception noted, Davis always makes reading the Old Testament entertaining.

Gibson, Jonathan. O Come, O Come Emmanuel: A Liturgy for Daily Worship from Advent to Epiphany. Crossway: Wheaton, 2023.

Last quarter, I reviewed Jonathan Gibson’s Be Thou My Vision. And much like that volume, I struggled through O Come, O Come Emmanuel. The liturgy just doesn’t seem to suit me on a daily basis. I like being reminded of the Church’s early confession (and this time he supplies the questions from the Heidelberg and Westminster Catechisms that pertain to the incarnation. But I find it to be too repetitive for my tastes. I do not feel as though I am connecting with the Bible like I should. The historical prayers and meditations on the incarnation from figures like Calvin, Ambrose and Augustine are golden. But that is not enough to feed me daily. There are some who might enjoy this book. And I do think it is better to read in this format in the advent setting than his previous devotional. But I probably will not pick it up again.

Ventura, Robin (Ed). A New Exposition of the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. Christian Focus: Fearn, Scotland, 2022.

Our Presbyterian brothers have been publishing expositions of the Westminster Confession regularly over the past two hundred years. But we Baptist have failed in this. The last solid exposition was Sam Waldron’s back in 1989. So, it is delightful to see that Robin Ventura has selected a number of capable authors to explain our great confession of faith. As is typical of such a work, some chapters exceed others. Ventura’s chapter on adoption and Chanski’s chapter on the Supper are exceptional. But every chapter is worthy of study as it leads you through the confession. This is a much-needed work. And I commend it to every person who wants to understand the Reformed Baptist position.