Pastor’s July Book Selection

Lessons from the Upper Room by Sinclair Ferguson

If we could choose to be transported back in time to when Jesus walked and taught on this earth, I suppose that we would each have a specific moment when we’d like to simply hear the Master’s voice. For some it might be the “Sermon on the Mount”, for others it might be the day Jesus dinned at the home of Zacchaeus, and yet others might wished to have been eye-witnesses of the context in which Jesus taught in parables. In “Lessons from the Upper Room” Sinclair Ferguson gives the reader an inside view of the final meal Jesus spent with his disciples. We see what motivated him most, how he would comfort those he loved knowing the trials they’d soon face, and hearing him describe the nature of his messiahship.

Having first presented this material as lectures for Ligonier Ministries, Ferguson does us a huge service by putting it in book form. I recommend this work for those who would enjoy drawing closer to Jesus as he teaches his disciples what he wants them to know most, before going back to the Father.​

Pastor’s June Book Selection

The practice of the presence OF GOD by brother Lawrence

This is a book I have been wanting to recommend for some time, but hesitated due to some of the negative press it receives in certain Protestant circles. (Call it, the fear of man.) However, after rereading it a number of times with great personal benefit, I thought I would take the plunge.

As a lay monk, living in France between 1611 and 1691, Brother Lawrence dedicated himself to drawing near to God above everything else. He called this endeavor, “The Practice of the Presence of God.” In whatever circumstances he was engaged, he sought to enjoy God’s presence, offer the moment to Him, and set his heart upon doing all things for the Lord. He truly believed that nothing made him worthy to approach God except for what Christ had done on his behalf. It would seem that the ability to consistently practice God’s presence flowed out of a heartfelt belief that God truly was the lover of his soul. Here was a monk that understood the power of, not only preaching the gospel to oneself, but continually basking in the love of God. This is not a theological treatise that expounds the fine points of doctrine, but a call to marvel at the splendor of your Savior. I recommend this book to anyone that simply wishes to consider the sweetness of living daily with Jesus.

Pastor’s May Book Selection

Come Back, Barbara, by C. John Miller and Barbara Miller Juliani

This is the true story of a prodigal daughter and her Christian parents, who learned to love through pain, trust in dark times, and grow in their own relationship to the Lord as He brought healing and restoration through his grace. Jack Miller was a pastor, seminary professor, and missionary, who along with his wife Rose Marie raised a family in the turbulent era of the 1960’s and early 70’s. In the midst of teaching others about Christ, and advancing the gospel, their world was rocked when their daughter Barbara announce that she wanted nothing to do with Christianity or her parent’s values. Throughout this book, Jack and his daughter Barbara take the reader through the trials that two parents experienced, watching their child grow rebellious and belligerent, as well as listening to Barbara describe her embarrassment and discontentment with the lifestyle of her mother and father. It was in these difficult situations that God’s grace began to work mightily, not only in Barbara’s life, but in that of her parents as well.

While reading this work, I am moved by the anguish felt by these two parents, and also by the tension this young woman felt as she tried to understand herself and the God who was calling her. There is a refreshing honesty in this book as both father and daughter tell their side of the story. In the end, this isn’t simply a narrative about one family’s struggle, but a reflection on the grace and power of God to change the lives of both the prodigal and her parents. I highly recommend this book to any parent struggling with troubled children, as well as to those of us who’ve been prodigals ourselves. We may just come to appreciate our parents, our children, and our God even more.​

Pastor’s April Book Selection

Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, Martin Luther

I was recently given this daily devotional as a gift from a friend. Although I follow a regular pattern for daily study, devotion, and prayer, I decided to incorporate these short selections of Luther’s writings into my routine. Whether the subject matter leans more towards the theological or the practical, the author’s insights never disappoint. Taken from Luther’s commentaries, sermons, and devotional writings they elevate Christ, and encourage faith and endurance. I have even been able to use this book with various family members before we dash off to our busy day. Since each installment is short, they can be read and prayed over together and then left to percolate in our minds after we separate.

If you’ve never read Martin Luther, or you wish to gain perspective from this man of faith, I highly recommend Faith Alone as a great tool that will point you to Christ and encourage your faith.

Pastor’s March Book Selection

The Mark of the Christian, by Francis Schaeffer

Although written in the latter half of the 20th Century, this short, but insightful, book continues to speak clearly to the church today. Schaeffer’s theme is that the greatest defense of the Christian faith (i.e. apologetic), and of our claim to be Christians, is that we love one another. While agreeing that we are to love all people as image-bearers of God, the author points out that Christians are especially called to an observable love for each other. This Christian love, practiced in holiness, is the highest demonstration of the veracity of our doctrine, and the character of God before a watching world. Throughout this work, Schaeffer deals with the problem of division among Christians, the need for heartfelt forgiveness, overcoming differences and disagreements, and the costly nature of the love to which all God’s people are called. If Bible-believing Christians are to take seriously their mission to be witnesses of Christ, nothing can be more important than that we love one another.

Written by one of the most well-known Christian thinkers of the last century, this brief, but timeless book serves as a helpful challenge to anyone wishing to live an honest and sincere Christian life.

Pastor’s February Book Selection

Defiant Grace by Dane Ortlund

In this short work by Dane Ortlund the reader is given a fresh view of God’s grace as presented in the four gospels. Traditionally the four Gospels are said to focus on Jesus as King in Matthew, Jesus as Servant in Mark, Jesus as Savior for all peoples in Luke, and Jesus as God in John. While each of these is true and helpful, Ortlund’s Defiant Grace takes the reader on a new journey, where Matthew uncovers the paradox of disobedient obedience, Mark looks at the king treated as a criminal, Luke investigates outsiders becoming insiders, and John sees the Creator becoming a creature. Each small chapter will challenge the reader to meditate on and appreciate the mission of Jesus as seen from four unique Gospel perspectives. For those who wish to enjoy a drink from the fountain of grace, come and read Defiant Grace.

Worship service change for January 9th

Dear G&PPC family and friends,

Due to the forecast of freezing rain for tomorrow morning, our service is being rescheduled to the afternoon at St. James beginning at 2:00 pm. when the conditions appear to be more favorable.  The service will be live-streamed via Youtube. Our planned fellowship meal will follow the service.  The discipleship hour is canceled for this week.  

Pastor’s January Book Selection

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 Selection

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 Selection

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.