The Pastor’s Wife (book review)

The Pastor’s Wife: strengthened by grace for a life of love
Gloria Furman
Crossway, 2015

the pastors wife

This book’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. It’s called The Pastor’s Wife, but relatively little of it actually speaks to the role of being a pastor’s wife. As Kristie Anyabwile comments after an otherwise positive review: ‘The only problem I see with this book is that the title is a little misleading’. And so any Christian involved in ministry (so hopefully any Christian) can benefit from this book.

The book is divided in three parts. The first part, ‘Loving the chief Shepherd’, is on finding our identity in Christ, not in our particular job or role, and so is relevant for everyone. The second section, ‘Loving an under-shepherd’, is more particularly focused on the role of a pastor’s wife, but could largely applied to any wife, or anyone wanting to understand their pastor’s role, and how they can better support him. The final section is entitled ‘Loving the bride of Christ’ and is helpful for anyone wanting to serve Christ through and in his church.

Furman writes well and the book is easy to read. Those looking for more specific guidance for pastors’ wives may be disappointed, while those who skip it because of the title may miss out. Is a minister’s wife a specific role? The book doesn’t directly address the question, but while marketed at a specific group, ends up being relevant to all Christians. Whether that is a strength or a weakness really depends on how you answer that question.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

Saturate (book review)

Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life
Jeff Vanderstelt
Crossway, 2015

They say you shouldn’t just read books you think you’ll agree with. It was with that attitude in mind that I approached Jeff Vanderstelt’s Saturate. I shared the concerns of TGC reviewer Joshua Hill, but was encouraged by his conclusion: ‘You may not be a proponent of missional communities—I still wouldn’t say I am—but Saturate will challenge you to live a life of intentional discipleship’. Having read the book, I would echo that conclusion.

I expected the book to consist of lots of things I didn’t agree with, but with a few useful principles to take on board. And while it would be easy to pick holes, I actually found the book really refreshing. Vanderstelt’s vision, like that of the authors of Everyday Church, is ‘of church as the people of Jesus living intentionally together on mission in the everyday stuff of life’ (p. 37). This book gives us both the principles and examples of what it looks like in practice.

It’s the examples that Vanderstelt gives that make the book. No matter how strongly you might disagree with the idea of such ‘gospel communities’ replacing Biblical church structures, it’s hard to fault the picture he paints of what the church should look like through the week. And most of his examples don’t require a huge budget or a massively talented congregation.

Vanderstelt says that after avoiding writing this book for 6 years, he could avoid it no longer because his heart was captured by a vision he couldn’t shake. And if this book helps that vision become a reality in the lives of ordinary church members from Monday-Saturday, that can only be a good thing.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

Senior Camp 2015

senior camp 2015 group pic

Here’s the audio from the talks by Warren Peel.

1. The Book of the Lamb (Lord’s Day – full service)
2. The Suffering of the Lamb (Rev 4-5) (Monday – audio not yet available)
3. The Sovereignty of the Lamb (Rev 4-5) (Tuesday)
4. The Power of the Lamb to Judge and Preserve (Rev 6-7) (Wednesday)
5. The Enemies of the Lamb (Rev 12) (Thursday)
6. The Wedding of the Lamb (Rev 21.9-22.5) (Friday)

To stream/download a film featuring Warren’s testimony, and support gospel work in Gambia, check out Shepherds’ Stories.

The man Christ Jesus (book review)

The man Christ Jesus: theological reflections on the humanity of Christ
Bruce A. Ware
Crossway, 2013

the man christ jesus

Bruce Ware contends that evangelicals understand Christ’s deity better than they do his humanity. We assume that he was able to perfectly obey God and do miracles because he was fully God. But is there more to it than that? And if not, how can we be called to follow him if he had access to a power source that isn’t available to us?

In this very helpful book Ware wrestles with questions like those, showing especially the role that the Holy Spirit played in Jesus’ life, and reminding us that we have access to the same Spirit. If it sounds like heavy going, it’s actually remarkable easy to read (I finished it in a minibus on the way to Jaffna). Ware seeks to bring these issues home to bear in the life of the reader, ending each chapter with an application section and discussion questions. He also comes up with some great illustrations to help get these difficult truths across. For example, to explain Jesus ’emptying himself’ (Phil 2:5-8) he uses the example of a king learning what it’s like to beg – he can’t live according to his rights and privileges while living genuinely and authentically as a beggar.

Throughout, Ware interacts with some difficult texts that we can tend to pass over. What does it mean that the Son of God increased in wisdom? (Ware’s answer – he was the Psalm 1 prototype). What does it mean that he learned obedience through what he suffered? The reader probably won’t agree with all his conclusions, but he certainly raises interesting questions, such as whether Jesus could have faced Gethsemane successfully at the ages of 12 or 30 (Ware says not).

As the subtitle suggests, the book is made up of various reflections on Christ’s humanity, so it’s not all to do with the role of the Spirit, and individual chapters are only loosely related to each other. For example, in ch 6 he asks whether Jesus had to be male – and shows how recent versions of the NIV obscure some of the verses that help us understand why the answer must be yes. The penultimate chapter, ‘Dying in our Place’, comes with a great illustration about how God forgave people in the OT. Just like credit card purchases are legally yours but they are only paid for when the credit card bill is paid, so God forgave the sins of OT saints on credit.

There’s much here to encourage and stretch anyone who wants to learn more about their Saviour. This book is a perfect example of how theological discussion is good for us, rather than harmful. To give the last words to Ware himself:

“So often we consider theological discussion a waste of time or, worse, divisive and hurtful. But, oh, how our understanding of theological discussion needs to change. We should see such discussions of weighty biblical truths as opportunities for growth in our understanding of God and his Word, along with subsequent growth in our application of that Word to our lives and ministries. As with every other good thing in life, theological discussion can deteriorate into something harmful. But it need not and should not. Rather it can be the very thing that God would call us to do for the sake of being refined in our understanding and encouraged in our faith.”

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.

For some helpful interaction with Ware’s book, see the review at My Digital Seminary

The Flow of the Psalms (book review)

The flow of the psalms: discovering their structure and theology
O. Palmer Robertson
P & R, 2015

the flow of the psalms

The value of a map or guide to navigate the Bible is readily accepted. Books like God’s Big Picture help people make sense of where the section they’re reading fits into the overall scheme of things. Yet we tend not to see a similar need when it comes to the psalms, and apart from a few well known collections (the Songs of Ascents or the Egyptian Hallel), even psalm-singers are by and large happy to treat them as standalone entities. Palmer Robertson begs to differ, and his book provides a road-map (complete with diagrams) to help navigate your way through what he argues is a carefully arranged book.

Robertson sees distinct themes in each of the five books of the psalter – confrontation, communication, devastation, maturation and consummation. Evidence for a deliberate difference between book 1 and book 2 is seen in the first book’s almost exclusive use of Yahweh and the second’s almost exclusive use of Elohim. This is true even in psalms which otherwise are almost identical (eg 14 and 53). Why? Because book two is addressing the nations, and so in Psalm 53 confronting the atheists head-on. Robertson repeatedly emphasises the importance of the Davidic covenant, recognising that in the psalms David is the Messianic king, not an individual with ‘an imbalanced personality who sees all people who disagree with him as his “enemies”‘. Instead, the focus is on David as the covenantal head of the nation: if he achieves victory, his people triumph. Reading individual psalms in their redemptive historical context also emphases the clash between the seed of the woman and the seed of Satan. ‘To understand these I-psalms in their fullest significance for the individual, they must first be appreciated for their role in speaking for God’s anointed servant, the messianic king.’

He argues that structural markers throughout the psalter are there to aid memorisation, eg acrostics, the pattern of a Torah psalm followed by a Messianic one (1&2, 18&19, 118&119), repeated vocabulary and themes. Primarily the arrangement is biblical-theological rather than chronological. For example, 138-45 (which he argues were especially suited to exile) perhaps come before the great climax of the psalter because the final editor ‘wanted to retain a strong dose of realism at the very end of the book’. Robertson doesn’t interact with Alec Motyer’s insight that the Songs of Ascents are set out in five groups of three, each (apart from the last group) consisting of a mini-pilgrimage. Helpfully however he does point out how they function as a meditation on the Aaronic blessing. He also argues that Psalm 127 with its house, city and sons must be interpreted as the middle psalm of the Songs of Ascents and must be applied not just to the ordinary domestic scene but to Yahweh’s work as redeemer, showing that interpreting the psalms in their context helps avoid moralistic interpretations.

Less convincing are his attempts to show that an awareness of the structure of the psalter affected how the NT writers quoted the psalms, or that one must understand their quotes from individual psalms in the context of the psalter as a whole. When writing on the significance of the poetic name ‘Yah’, he attempts on exhaustive list of references outside the psalter, but misses Isaiah 26:4.

Overall though Robertson’s arguments are convincing and shed much light on this ‘glorious book of divinely inspired and God-glorifying Scripture’. If the scribes could take such care over the psalms that they knew and highlighted the middle letter of the psalter – could not the God who created the universe have displayed even more skill than them in weaving it together? Psalm singers have the advantage of already being familiar with many of the individual pieces – this book shows how they fit together. Just two years short of his ‘fourscore years’ (Ps 90:10), Palmer Robertson continues to bear fruit in old age (Ps 92:14), and has done a great service to the church with this book. His missionary heart comes across as he comments ‘how glorious it is to see new nations, peoples, tribes’ entering into Christ’s kingdom. With this map in our hands, we can not only teach them to sing psalms, we can help them navigate and memorise these songs of the King. Book of the year so far.

Thanks to P & R for providing a review copy.

Rosaria videos

Some insightful videos from Rosaria Butterfield (RPCNA) on David Platt’s Radical channel.

Addressing the Issue vs. Addressing the Individual

Engaging Homosexual Friends with the Gospel

“There is No Sin that is Larger than God’s Love”

The Cost of Following Christ

Why Rosaria Butterfield Calls Herself an “Unlikely Convert”