Pastor’s January Book Suggestion

Cheer Up! The Life and Ministry of Jack Miller by Michael Graham

Michael Graham has written an enjoyable biography of a man whose ministry in Reformed circles in the latter half of the 20th Century was both controversial and powerfully used of God. Saved out of atheism, Jack Miller became a pastor, seminary professor, and missionary. His grasp of, and ability to communicate the gospel was influential in the lives of many future church leaders. Nevertheless, this work is not simply a series of glory stories about the man, but offers an honest widow into his faults and struggles, as well as his successes. In doing so, the author presents us, not with a picture of an individual that we should emulate, but of insight into the faithfulness of the God he served. This, in my opinion, is the best aspect of the book as it gives the reader a glimpse into the joy of the gospel that motivated this remarkable man to often say, “Cheer up! You are far worse than you think! Cheer up! God’s grace is greater than you’ve ever dared hope!”

Pastor’s December Book Suggestion

The American Puritans by Dustin W. Benge & Nate Pickowicz

Here is an interesting and captivating work about 9 historical characters whose lives have left a powerful mark on the American Christian landscape. The authors not only offer a biographical history of their subjects, but do so in such a manner that demonstrates the power of the gospel in their lives and circumstances. The reader will be encouraged by the commitment to Christ of these early puritans who faithfully followed their Lord through the trials and tribulations faced in the wilderness of a new land. Seeking to establish a pure church, they not only laid the foundation for generations of Christians to come, but greatly influenced a society that would become a new nation.

It is hard to select which was my favorite biography of the 9 mentioned. Nevertheless, the life story of Anne Bradstreet probably left the greatest impression on me. Through her poetry, she described the faithfulness of God, her love for her husband, her closeness to her parents, and the awe-inspiring beauty of nature. However, it was her courage and resilience in times of heartbreaking and overwhelming difficulties that gave the greatest testimony of the God she loved so deeply. I highly recommend this encouraging work.​

Pastor’s November Book Suggestion

Grace and Gratitude: The Eucharistic Theology of John Calvin by B.A. Gerrish

The following recommendation will mostly target those that enjoy reading scholarly theological works. For those that would like to know more about Calvin’s approach to the Lord’s Supper, Grace and Gratitude by B.A. Gerrish will not only offer insight into the Sacrament, but enable you to see in the Lord’s Supper “Christ giving himself to the church, and the church giving itself to God.” According to Gerrish, this idea of “double self-giving” is not only essential in understanding the “Eucharist”, but also shapes Calvin’s entire theology.

While the book spends a great deal of time discussing Calvin’s doctrine of God as the Father and fountain of all good, and the gospel as a message of free adoption into his family, the last two chapters offer a fair overview of the value of the Lord’s Supper and the mystical presence of Christ therein. Certainly, Grace and Gratitude will not appeal to everyone. However, those that enjoy theological works will find it beneficial and may even acquire a new appreciation for the sacrament.

Confess Your Sins: The Way of Reconciliation

by John Stott

Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – September 2021

Most Bible-believing Christians know that Scripture teaches us to confess our sins. However, to whom should we confess? By delving into his own Anglican tradition and the pages of Scripture, John Stott contends that sins are to be confessed either secretly to God, privately to those we offend, or publicly to the entire church, depending on the sin and its accompanying situation.

In making his case Stott also argues against the Roman Catholic practice of confession to a priest, while correcting the prevailing view of James 5:16 that is often misunderstood among many in evangelical circles. Throughout this work, the author presses home the importance, not only of confession of sin, but of forgiveness as well. As he mentions, “because God is willing to forgive sinners through Christ, we must forgive one another.”

The author points out that confession and forgiveness is a demonstration of the gospel to “a world burdened with guilt … and torn by bitter animosities.” He concludes with a two-fold challenge toward a deeper “faith in the promises of God to rejoice in divine forgiveness”, and a greater “love for each other to rejoice in human forgiveness.”

I highly recommend this refreshing and informative book, and pray that we might read it, and take to heart the encouragement to confess our sins as instructed in Scripture, and to forgive one another for the glory of God, our own spiritual well-being, and the health of the Church.

Select Letters of John Newton

Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – August, 2021

Since its publication, Christians have been captivated by the words of the hymn, Amazing Grace. In the recommended book for this month, Banner of Truth Publications gives us an intimate glimpse into the heart of the writer of that famous piece. As a pastor, John Newton took great care in encouraging people through many letters that he composed and sent to those who struggled with sin, doubts, and sorrows. His tender heart for others, and his grasp of the good news of the Lord Jesus combine to make this book a soothing remedy for a worried mind or troubled soul. Delving into various topics, Newton not only comforts weary saints, but challenges those in ministry, encourages those who stray, offers timeless practical advice, and brings Jesus to bear in all aspects of life. This is an excellent follow-up for those who’ve read extravagant grace, by Barbara Duguid, who used many of Newton’s insights in her work. If you haven’t read Duguid, don’t let that stop you from refreshing your soul with these letters of John Newton. You will quickly see what motivated the man to write such magnificent hymns as Amazing Grace

extravagant grace: God’s Glory Displayed In Our Weakness

by Barbara R. Duguid

Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – June, 2021

If God is not the author of sin, which He is not, and if God desires that Christians be sanctified and transformed into the image of Christ throughout their lives, why doesn’t He stop us from sinning? Why do so many, if not all Christians struggle with besetting sins, feeling the burden of personal disappointment and failure? Why do we often find ourselves limping along in a cycle of victory, failure, guilty feelings, lack of joy, and a cry for repentance?

By delving into the writings of John Newton and the testimony of Scripture Barbara Duguid opens a window through which we can see that God has a purpose even in our stumbling, confusion, and gnawing sense of guilt. Through illustrations of her own life and experiences in counseling others, the author helps the reader to turn from a focus on his/her own failures to God whose grace is more than sufficient to relieve us of our deepest hurts and sense of brokenness. Extravagant grace is a book that helps us to make sense of our sins in the light of the gospel, reminding us of the tender love of our God who will not let us go.

I highly recommend this book for all those who desperately wish to follow the Lord Jesus, while also battling the confusion of being both sinner and saint.

Gentle and Lowly

by Dane C. Ortlund

Pastor’s Monthly Book Suggestion – September, 2020

If there has ever been a book I am thoroughly excited about suggesting to the congregation it is Gentle and Lowly, by Dane Ortlund. Gathering insights from various Puritans, Reformers, and preachers Ortland digs deeply into Scripture to uncover the heart of God in the heart of Christ for God’s people. This magnificent treatment of God’s kindness and compassion toward us refreshes the soul. Once I began reading this book, I didn’t want to put it down.

If you have struggled with truly believing that Christ is for you, even when you have committed that sin again, then read this book. If you intellectually believe that God loves you, but find it difficult to understand what that means, then read this book. If you have ever worried that maybe Jesus is simply fed up with your many failures, read this book. If you simply want to take a fresh look at your Savior that will make you smile, then read this book.

While the entire work presents the marvelous love of God toward us, I especially appreciated the way the author uncovers the heart of Jesus in His works of compassion throughout the four Gospels. I wholeheartedly recommend this east-to-read, but deeply satisfying volume to every person in our church family.

Coronavirus And Christ

by John Piper

Pastor’s Monthly Book Suggestion – August, 2020

Early on in the advance of the Coronavirus, John Piper wrote a very short book that basically answers the question, “Where is God in this pandemic?” Although there is nothing new or earth shaking (IMO) in the way Piper responds to that inquiry, this work is a helpful reminder of who God is and how He uses tragedy in the lives of His people. While Piper’s specific intent was to speak into the situation surrounding COVID-19, his biblical insights are helpful when facing any catastrophic event. Therefore, I would recommend this brief volume as an encouragement, not only in the difficulties regarding the Coronavirus, but in light of the many trials we often face.

Church History in Plain Language

By: Bruce L. Shelley

The Pastor’s Monthly Book Selection – July, 2020

The history of the Church is nothing less than the continuing story of God’s work of redemption in the world. It is filled with interesting characters, powerful movements of the Holy Spirit, and events that can stir the soul. In this one-volume work, Bruce Shelley tells the history of Christianity in a manner that is captivating and enjoyable.

It is my firm belief that the lack of theological understanding by many Christians today can be somewhat attributed to an insufficient knowledge of Church history. Beyond knowing something about the Apostles’ Creed and hearing a few quotes by Augustine, most Protestants know nothing of the Church before Luther. In fact, it might even be fair to say that most know little about Luther and less of Calvin as well. In other words, we suffer from a spiritual malnutrition regarding God’s work in the Church. Consequently, we have little appreciation for the theology of the Bible even though we claim to believe its teaching.

Therefore, I am recommending this easy-to-read volume for anyone who wishes to understand that our Faith is much more than just “me and my Bible.” As Christians, we belong to a people called out of the world by Jesus Christ. We are part of His kingdom as it presses forward into this world. And we would do well to know of our spiritual ancestry so that we might learn from it, and appreciate the work of Christ in this age.

On a final note, please don’t let the fact that this is a history book scare you. Shelley writes so that his work reads like a story and captures your imagination. May you read and appreciate the activity of God through His Church. As Christians, this is a work of which you are all a part.

WPE