Category: tolle lege book reviews

Tolle Lege and Spectare, too

Anyone else find themselves with extra time on their hands?  In my last post I put up a Bible reading and memorization calendar for the month of April.  Click April 2020 Printable for a link to the printable version. It’s never too late to come to the table and feast on the Living Word.  Already filling up on Scripture and have even more time to spare?  I not only have some suggestions to “take up and read” but some “sit down and watch” ones as well.

The first book was highly recommended by John MacArthur at the G3 Conference I attended back in January when such goings-on were still perfectly normal and legal. “Delighting In The Trinity” by Michael Reeves is perfectly suited to it’s title.  I had never thought of the doctrine of the Trinity as something to be delighted in.  Mainly it just seemed vague and confusing. This book truly is a must read for every Christian and anyone else seeking to educate themselves about this foundational element of our faith.

I happened to be reading this book by my Dad’s bedside the week before he died (you can read more about that by clicking here). One of the things he kept saying while he was “journeying” (the Hospice term for the time of transition between life and death) was “Wow!” It’s like he was getting glimpses of the glories to come. I found my own heart echoing my Dad’s rapturous exclamations with each turn of the page.  Wow! “Since God is, before all things, a Father, and not primarily Creator or Ruler, all his ways are beautifully fatherly (23).”  Wow! “Because the Father’s love for the Son has burst out to be shared with us, the Son’s inheritance is also (extraordinarily!) shared with us (50).”  Wow! “While the Son establishes and upholds all things (Heb. 1:3), the Spirit perfects or completes the work of creation…the Spirit garnishes and beautifies the heavens and the earth… And so, while the Nicene Creed speaks of the Father as the ‘Maker of heaven and earth,’ it speaks of the Spirit as ‘the Lord and giver of life’ (51).”

Maybe this crazy time of social isolation is the perfect time to understand the relational aspect of God’s character. He is a God all-together “together.” And moreover, we were created to be in fellowship with that perfect Triune fellowship of the One True God, the Great I AM.  Any loneliness you might be feeling during this pandemic will vanish as you get to know God better through this book. As the introduction states,

“To know and grow to enjoy him is what we are saved for–and that is what we are going to press into here.  Nonetheless, getting to know God better does actually make for far more profound and practical change as well.  Knowing the love of God is the very thing that makes us loving.  Sense the desirability of God alters our preferences and inclinations, the things that drive our behavior: we begin to want God more than anything else.  Thus, to read this book is not to play an intellectual game. In fact, we will see that the triune nature of this God affects everything… (10)”

The second book was brought home by my husband from The Shepherds Conference right before the world shut down.  “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane Ortlund zeroes in on the second Person of the Trinity and His heart for “sinners and sufferers.” I haven’t finished reading this one yet but I’m recommending it anyway because I like it so much already and because I think it is such a timely read. Consider this description from the introduction:

“This book is written for the discouraged, the frustrated, the weary, the disenchanted, the cynical, the empty.  Those running on fumes.  Those whose Christian lives feel like constantly running up a descending escalator.  Those of us who find ourselves thinking: “How could I mess up that bad–again?”  It is for that increasing suspicion that God’s patience with us is wearing thin.  For those of us who know God loves us but suspect we have deeply disappointed him.  Who have told others of the love of Christ yet wonder if–as for us–he harbors mild resentment.  Who wonder if we have shipwrecked our lives beyond what can be repaired.  Who are convinced we’ve permanently diminished our usefulness to the Lord.  Who have been swept off our feet by perplexing pain and are wondering how we can keep living under such numbing darkness.  Who look at our lives and know how to interpret the data only by concluding that God is fundamentally parsimonious.  It is written, in other words, for normal Christians (13).”

But here’s the clincher, “Gentle And Lowly” totally builds right off of “Delighting In The Trinity.” It addresses key questions like “How does the heart of Christ relate to the doctrine of the Trinity–does Christ relate to us differently than the Father or the Spirit relates to us?…How does his heart related to his wrath? Yet again, how does Christ’s heart fit with what we find in the Old Testament and its portrait of God (14)?”

The book takes its title from the one passage in all four gospels where Jesus gives us a description of His own heart–Matthew 11:28:30, which reads, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (18).” Ortlund builds heavily on this description, but with the following important qualifier:  “This is not who he is to everyone, indiscriminately. This is who he is for those who come to him, who take his yoke upon them, who cry out to him for help.  The paragraph before these words from Jesus gives us a picture of how Jesus handles the impenitent: ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!… I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Matt. 11:21.24). ‘Gentle and lowly’ does not mean ‘mushy and frothy.”

Go get on Amazon and buy these books. And I’m not even getting paid to say that.              I should be getting paid to say that.

And while you’re over at Amazon, might as well check out these watch recommendations:

  1. Tomorrow is April 9, the 75th anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by the Nazis.  My first recommendation would be to read his “Letters and Papers From Prison.” But if you happen to have Prime Video check out “Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace.”
  2. While we’re on the theme of martyrdom, my boys all gave two thumbs up to “Poycarp.”  This film was really well done and gave a beautiful portrayal of life in the early church, highlighting the faith of not just everyday Christians of the time but of such well known heroes of the faith like Justin Martyr and the Apostle John’s disciple, Polycarp.
  3. Another biographical film we enjoyed was “Charles Spurgeon: the People’s Preacher.”  Again, I always recommend books first, but this is a great introduction into this unparalleled pastor’s life for members of the family who aren’t quite ready for his “Complete Sermons.”
  4.  Now, hands down the absolute most thumbs up goes to “The Riot and the Dance.” Prime Video only has the first one up for free but we can’t wait to see the sequel to this stellar nature documentary from a creationist’s perspective. It is truly stunning.
  5. Finally, here’s one (actually two, wait.  three) just for mature teens and adults. I recommend “American Gospel: Christ Alone” and its sequel, “American Gospel: Christ Crucified” to every one but kids. The only reason I don’t recommend this series for children is not because of content but because of format. Because the interviews switch so quickly between false teachers and theological sound teaching, its really hard for a younger person to distinguish between “the good guys and bad guys” and they could walk away really confused about what is the truth. Those are the only two films on my whole list that you have to rent ($2.99 and $4.99 respectively). The rest are free, including my final recommendation, again, for mature teens and adults only and that is “Babies Are Still Murdered Here.”  Just watch it.  That’s all I’m gonna say.

Well, that oughta keep y’all busy for a while.

 

Tolle Lege: Feasting Amid Fears

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Yesterday was a big day for us.  Titus had been feeding his homemade sourdough starter (appropriately named Patrick) for 2 weeks and yesterday he turned it into fragrant, golden loaves to supplement our St. Patricks Day feast of corned beef, bangers, mash and all the fixings. Don’t know the story of Patrick, who after being kidnapped by Irish pirates and forced into servitude, escaped, and then went back to Ireland to bring his captors the good news of Jesus Christ? Click here for a great biographical article from Ligonier Ministries.  Since our kids are half German/half ScotchIrish we use holidays like Reformation Day and St. Patricks to celebrate and learn more about the Christian heritage of those cultures. And yes, we consume copious amounts of pork sausage for both. This year I made bookmarks with Saint Patrick’s “Lorica” printed on them so we could recite it together around the table. Timely words in a world riddled by fear of disease and economic upheaval.

Stuck at home with extra time on your hands?  Why not study up on other saints (and I mean that in the broadest, most Biblical sense of the word) in church history?  How have others believers braved times far more perilous than that which we now face? My boys have thoroughly enjoyed “Sketches From Church History” put out by Banner of Truth Publishing where you can read all about defenestration (Joel’s favorite new word, and don’t let anyone tell you German doesn’t have at least some Latin roots) and other such violent acts.  For my more genteel readers I want to suggest the two-volume set, “Memorable Women of Puritan Times” by James Anderson (Soli Deo Gloria Publishing). Tom bought me these when we were newly weds and I have returned to them again and again. In tumultuous times there is nothing to gird one up like considering others who have “endured opposition from sinful men.”

And finally. Once upon a time, Christian families had the time, or rather I should say, MADE the time to read God’s Word together and talk about what it said. The result of this was more often-than-not believing children who grew up knowing what they believed and why they believed it.  If you’re one of those families who have never tasted of the sweetness of reading scripture TOGETHER (and judging by the rampant Biblical illiteracy even in our churches, there’s probably more of you than you’d care to admit), why not use this time to invest in a habit that according to Isaiah 55:11 is guaranteed eternal returns? Our family is using the chronological Bible reading plan this year but we’ve used all kinds of others. You don’t need a reading plan. You just need to read. Aloud. Together.

And talk about it. If you want to combine church history with your Bible readings, Crossway has put out a couple really excellent Bibles to keep on hand for that purpose. I already did a review of their ESV Prayer Bible. You can read it by clicking here.  Recently they sent me a copy of their “ESV Bible With Creeds And Confessions.” It’s really beautiful and has large enough print that if you’re passing the Bible around during family read aloud time your younger and elderly readers will have no trouble participating.  It really is the perfect “family Bible” and has enough of that “heirloom quality” to be cherished for generations. Best of all it is a great tool for all believers who want a better understanding of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Because it contains all the creeds and confessions of Orthodox Christianity you will see not only the doctrines considered by all to be essential, but also the variances deemed (relatively 🙂 )unessential such as the different views of baptism contained in the London Baptist Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism.

Please understand that I’m not throwing this all out there to make anyone feel like we’re using this as an opportunity to prove our own holiness over others’.  But people I love are starving.  I see friends and family picking at crumbs fallen from the table and drinking great gulps of poisonous teachings that have spread like the yeast in Ty’s bread through our churches. All the while, we more than any generation have a splendidly nourishing and sumptuous feast spread before us 24/7.  Oh dear ones, please, take and eat. You too, can choose feasting over fear.

Some of you really liked the link to one of Titus’s youtube videos that ended up in the comments last week so here’s another one for your listening pleasure.

Tolle Lege: “Growing In Holiness” and “Sanctification”

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I was super excited to get a copy of “Growing in Holiness” by the late R.C. Sproul and saved it as my flight read to the recent G3Conference in Atlanta.  Not only was I expecting it to be the perfect appetizer to all the teaching on worship I was about to receive but I fully expected it to fill in the lonely airport hours like an old friend would. Yes, the subject of holiness is EXACTLY where my heart needed to be planted in preparation for that conference. But no, I never found that friendly, familiar voice within those pages.  “Growing in Holiness” might well be taken from Sproul’s lectures on the same subject, and the information is well organized, easily digestible, and theologically sound, but it wasn’t Sproul doing the telling.  If you, like me, were impacted for life by “The Holiness of God” do not expect the same kind of force from “Growing in Holiness.” It’s good, but it’s not the knock-you-off-your-feet-never-view-God-in-the-same-way-again-buy-a-copy-for-every-one-you-know kind of good that “The Holiness of God” was.  Therefore, I was disappointed.

Interestingly, another book just came out by Sproul’s good friend, John MacArthur on holiness’ twin subject.  “Sanctification” packs a powerful 64 page punch.  The tone is very pastoral, recognizing first “The Good Shepherd’s” goal for His flock. This was the perfect place to start for me.  For some reason, hearing the “why” of our sanctification made me desire that which Christ desires for me more than I ever had before.  MacArthur then turns his attention to pastors, including the apostles own interactions with the the early church. Wo to pastors who don’t have the same goal for the flock as our Good Shepherd!

Because MacArthur’s book is so short and really lays the ground work for Sproul’s, I recommend reading “Sanctification” first, then fleshing out the practical details with “Growing in Holiness.”  Together, you have a well-rounded read on a subject that is far too neglected by evangelicals today.

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