Writers' Wednesday


Butterfield, Rosaria Champagne. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Crown and Covenant Publications, 2012. 153pp. $19:98.

I am often asked to share my spiritual journey. People are interested to know what it is like to travel a long journey to Christ. I am often hesitant to oblige. How our lives bear the fruit of Christ’s spilled blood is important. The stories of our lives can serve to encourage and warn others. But telling the stories of our lives is heady business. . .

In the pages that follow, I share what happened in my private world through what Christians politely call conversion. This word — conversion — is simply too tame and too refined to capture the train wreck that I experienced in coming face-to-face with the Living God. I know of only one word to describe this time-released encounter: impact. Impact is, I believe, the space between the multiple car crash and the body count. I try, in the pages that follow, to relive the impact of God on my life (x-xi).

I really enjoy reading biographies and autobiographies but they are usually about significant individuals in history, rarely anything modern. I have hear numerous individuals recommend this book both at conferences and in conversation so I picked up a copy. It was fantastic. Sometimes it is mundane, sometimes raw with emotions and experiences of this life, but from start to finish it is an engaging eyewitness account of what it means to encounter the Living God.

I greatly appreciate her emphasis upon the local church as she mentions the various church families that she was a part of during her journey and how the people there were of particular encouragement and help during various events. I also appreciate her keen insight into church culture as she comes into the church as an outsider and there is much for the reader’s benefit there whether you grew up around church culture or became a follower of Christ later in life. Rosaria’s story is both challenging and encouraging and I highly commend this short volume to you.

This was an interesting read. Maybe some of you avid C. S. Lewis readers are familiar with or have read this volume before. I had not heard of it until I saw it mentioned in the footnotes of something else I was reading. A Grief Observed was originally published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk due to the raw nature of its contents I think there was some concern with publishing these grief stricken ramblings under the name of their true author. Did I just describe the writings of the renowned and beloved philosopher, theologian, and novelist C. S. Lewis as “grief stricken ramblings?” Yes and indeed parts of this journal verge on pure theological and philosophical nonsense. After his wife Helen died of cancer Lewis began to journal some of his thoughts as he wrestled with grief, the nature of God, and reality. Lewis never intended to publish these journals because of that his unashamed honesty gives the reader an unhindered window into the thoughts and heart of Lewis as he wrestles through one of, if not the, hardest moment of his life. Mid way through the third chapter in a moment of lucid brilliance Lewis writes,

The terrible thing is that a perfectly good God is in this matter hardly less formidable than a Cosmic Sadist. The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed—might grow tired of his vile sport—might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possible inflict or permit them if they weren’t.

I took a picture of that page and have read it more times than I can count and have now committed it to memory. It is both a tremendous comfort and yet a selfish source of fear.

To be brief I would describe this book as brilliant nonsense because Lewis’ seems to swing between those two poles as he chronicles his grief. Grief is something we are all either too familiar with or will grow more familiar with over the passing of time. Because of that I think you should pick up this brief volume and I pray it is a comfort, a challenge, and an exhortation to drill your theological wells deep that the grace of Christ may sustain you in times of drought.

I have recommended The Jesus Storybook Bible before, click here, but recently came across the idea to use it as advent readings at Adriel Booker’s blog.  That seems like a great idea and I wanted to pass it on to you.  If you have a particular I would also recommend Good News of Great Joy as another advent devotional.  What do you do for advent devotions?

Thune, Robert H. and Will Walker. The Gospel-Centered Community. Greensboro, North Carolina: New Growth Press, 2013. 136pp. $10:56.

I encourage you to read “How to Get Real, Honest Community” over at The Gospel Coalition.  The post was taken from The Gospel-Centered Community by Robert H. Thune and Will Walker.

Beeke, Joel R. Family Worship. Family Guidance Series. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2002. 66pp. $6.00.

I bought this book quite some time ago from the shelf in the café and put it in my ever growing stack of books I really need to read.  Over the past few days I have been watching a sermon from Joel R. Beeke on family worship from the 2011 Desiring God Conference for Pastors, watch the video below.  It was both very practical and convicting.  This is something we try to do every day by reading one of our children’s bibles, asking a few questions from one of our children’s catechisms, prayer, and singing some songs.

I hope to think through this sermon and book and share some practical tips in a future post.  I highly encourage you to watch the sermon and think through this book.  If you have any thoughts please share them as I know we all need to learn much in this area.

Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York, New York: Penguin Group, 2008. 272pp. $16.00.

Rather than a summary I recommend watching the video below and if it piques your interest then check out Tim Keller’s The Reason for God.

Bewes, Richard. The Lamb Wins: A Guided Tour Through the Book of Revelation. Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2000. 156pp. $12.99.

Summary

It is unfortunate but likely true that Revelation has been transformed into more nonsensical silliness and impractical fantasy than all the other books of the Bible combined.  I own more commentaries on Revelation than any other book of the Bible.  I even began a study through the entire Bible in 2009 and then stopped once I got to the book of Revelation because despite taking an exegesis course on it in seminary I still wasn’t sure what to do with it.  The task of showing it to be both practical and applicable seemed daunting.  Now there are several commentaries I would recommend to anyone in our church but so far my favorite has been The Lamb Wins: A Guided Tour Through the Book of Revelation by Richard Bewes.

In the foreword Michael Baughen writes, “so often, when we come to the Book of Revelation, we meet branded, over-confident and over-detailed views that make us want to get up and move to another book!”  Rather than such a book he continues to explain that Bewes demonstrates how Revelation “is concerned with the living church on the streets of Bermondsey, Bangkok or Baltimore – with the Church in action and not cooped up in a theological retreat house.  If the Bible is the book for today’s Church (and it is), then the Book of Revelation should be a book for today’s Church (and it is)” (7).

Bewes writes, “You can get too clever with the book of Revelation.  The vision was intended to comfort and prepare us, not to test our ingenuity” (115).  I am thankful that he does not demonstrate his cleverness here.  At just shy of one hundred and sixty pages I cannot think of such a simple, straightforward, and practical explanation of what seems to be the most confusing book in Scripture.  I encourage you to read this

For anyone looking for a fantastic and practical Christ-centered resource on the temptation I would recommend Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ by Russell D. Moore.  Dr. Moore was one of my favorite professors in seminary due to his consistent emphasis upon the person of Christ and applying what we learned in the classroom to life.  Tempted and Tried is currently on sale for $7 at the Westminster Bookstore so get a copy and when you are done let me know as I would love to discuss this book with anyone reading it!

If you don’t own a copy of this then grab a copy now.  The hardback is on sale for $10 and the Kindle version is $2.  This is a fantastic resource for both your children and adults alike.  It does a fantastic job of showing how the whole of Scripture points to Jesus, even taking something as complex as Isaiah and making its message about Christ easy enough for small children to grasp.  I greatly appreciate that the hermeneutic here is not based upon a few scattered proof texts here and there but an understanding of how the various narratives, themes, and persons in Scripture all anticipate the coming Messiah.

Piper, John. Filling up the Afflictions of Christ: The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Patton. The Swans are not Silent. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009. 126pp. $17.99.

Introducing the Series

For an introduction to the series and book one please click here, for book two click here, for book three click here, and for book four click here.

Summary

This volume, as well as the other books in this series, is divided into an introduction, three chapters on the lives and theology of these individuals, and a conclusion.

In the Introduction Piper explains, “More and more I am persuaded from Scripture and from the history of missions that God’s design for the evangelism of the world and the consummation of his purpose includes the suffering of his ministers and missionaries” (14). Explaining this design he continues, “We proclaim the Good News of what he [meaning Christ] accomplished, and we join him in the Calvary method. We embrace his sufferings for us, and we spread the gospel by our suffering with him” (15). The remainder of the introduction explains why this is foundational to our understanding of missions. The next three chapters demonstrate how this theology is worked out in the lives of William Tyndale’s bible translation, John Patton’s ministry on the New Hebrides, and Adoniram Judson’s labor in Burma. He then concludes by issuing a much needed challenge if we are to remain faithful to the missionary task.

Conclusion

Few things are closer to my heart than this. These are much needed words that must be heard in our churches and take root in the hearts of our future missionaries and martyrs.

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