Dear Church Family,
I’m nearing the end of a week of study leave. I wish to express gratitude for the chance to focus on gaining knowledge (and, I hope, wisdom). I would also like to mention some of the resources I’ve enjoyed in case you want to check them out for yourself.
I’m thankful to serve a church that encourages its ministers to pursue further education and training. Ministry has a way of showing a pastor how little he knows and how much he has to learn to serve faithfully. Wisdom and maturity are needed. I pray, by God’s grace, I would make some progress in both to better serve our Lord and you. Thank you for your patience with me. I am deeply grateful for study weeks to be refresh and to continue learning.
Below are some of the books I’ve enjoyed this week.
Ernest Kevan, Moral Law. This book discusses the value of the Law of God in the life of the believer. This is a pressing issue in our day. Many people see no need for Christ because they have no knowledge of the Law. Many Christians don’t know how to live as followers of Christ because they neglect the Law’s uses in the Christian life. Kevan explains how the law, as part of God’s word, is a means of grace in the hands of the Holy Spirit. The Law restrains sin, reveals sin, humbles us, and directs us as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Iain Duguid’s new book, The Whole Armor of God: How Christ’s Victory Strengthens Us for Spiritual Warfare, is an outstanding exposition of the armor of God in Ephesians 6. We’re all likely familiar with this passage. What we may be less familiar with is the Old Testament background to the armor and the Christ-centeredness of the passage. Duguid explains, “The belt of truth is the belt that girds the messianic king in Isaiah 11:5. The breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation come the divine warrior’s arsenal in Isaiah 59:17. The feet shod with gospel readiness are the feet of those who proclaim the arrival of the Messiah’s kingdom in Isaiah 52:7. God himself is the shield of faith, as he describes himself in Genesis 15. The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is the weapon wielded by the promised servant of the Lord in Isaiah 49:2.” In other words, this is armor Jesus has already worn on our behalf. In Christ, we are called to put on the very same armor and stand against the devil’s attacks. We do so with the assurance of the finished victory of Christ and the knowledge that our strength to stand comes from the Lord.
Ken Golden, Entering God’s Rest: The Sabbath from Genesis to Revelation (And What It Means for You). The theme of Sabbath is traced from Genesis to Revelation. In summary, the Sabbath is creational and therefore it has ongoing importance as it relates to mankind entering God’s own rest. The Old Testament Sabbath was incorporated into the old covenant system of Sabbaths and was fulfilled in Christ. Rather than doing away with the Sabbath, the creational Sabbath (pointing to entering God’s rest) has been transformed by Christ who is Lord of the Sabbath (Mt. 12:8). The New Testament Sabbath (the Lord’s Day) emphasizes a new beginning, and looks back upon Christ’s resurrection, the ultimate guarantee that the saints will enter God’s rest through the finished work of Christ. But we must persevere since we have not yet fully entered God’s rest! To help us along the way, the Lord’s Day is a “dress rehearsal” for the eternal Sabbath rest that awaits the people of God (Heb. 10:21-25). If you’re interested in thinking through your understanding of the Sabbath as a day for Christians, I highly recommend this rich but little book. It’s less than 100 pages!
Michael S. Lundy and J. I. Packer, Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter. Many people, many Christians, are affected by depression and anxiety.
In this book, psychiatrist Michael Lundy and theologian J. I. Packer rely on Puritan Richard Baxter’s thoughtful works on melancholy in order to instruct, comfort, and strengthen those who struggle with depression. This is one of the most helpful and wise books I’ve read on the topic.
Michael R. Emlet, Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications. How should Christians think about psychiatric labels, diagnoses and medicines? This brief book gives us a “balanced, biblically (and scientifically) informed approach that will help us understand and minister to those who struggle with mental health issues” (Back Cover).
Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon, The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outsider Your Door. A challenging book about loving the neighbors right outside your door. The authors encourage readers to start taking the great commandment seriously. It offers practical steps for developing real relationships with your neighbors for the sake of Christ.
Michael LeFebvre, The Liturgy of Creation: Understanding Calendars in Old Testament Context. LeFebvre is a pastor-scholar who serves in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. His book examines the Old Testament calendar, the sabbath, festivals and feasts, and the days of creation. He suggests the creation account should be read as “historical calendar narrative.” Today, the opening chapters of Genesis are often relied upon to answer scientific questions they were never intended to answer. In contrast, LeFebvre shows how the creation days are structured to teach God’s people about the rhythms of labor and worship. The form fo the creation week was to “serve as a practical guide for the lay Israelite in his or her weekly labors and sabbath worship, and it does not even attempt to answer the curiosities of modern science regarding the processes or timing of the original creation event” (7). In other words, the structure of the creation week is practical for the people of God in this sense: it serves as a guide for “faithful work and sabbath worship” (7).
Mark Lauterbach, The Transforming Community: The Practice of the Gospel in Church Discipline. The church is a new community. We are called to live out what we are in Christ. That means the church community ought to look and live differently than the world. If you’ve wondered what the Bible teaches about Christian fellowship and discipline, this is a great entry point into those biblical topics. The book is a call to real Christian fellowship. Fellowship marked by “mutual confession, encouragement, accountability, prayer, love, burden-bearing, forbearance, forgiveness, compassion, speaking truth, using words that build up” (40). It avoids an idealistic understanding of the church this side of heaven without underplaying what the church even now is as a people redeemed and made new in Christ.
In Christ Jesus,