Monday, December 31, 2012

James Martin, Pioneer Medical Missionary in Antioch

This short and well written missionary biography recounts the life and work of Rev. James Martin a minister and missionary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland.  His life spanned the 19th and 20th centuries.  While I was reading this book I was preparing to preach on John 12v24 "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit."  James Martin was a 12 24 man. His life was a burning example of what it means to be a radical follower of the great Radical Jesus Christ.
This little bio is well written, concise, clear and full of the life of a man whose heart was devoted to serving his Lord and Master.  The book recounts the witness of a man sent by a small Irish denomination to reach the lost and needy of Syria and Lebanon.  It is a fascinating, challenging and encouraging read.  One question was constantly in my mind - where are the men of this calibre today? Where are the men who will preach to the unreached, plant churches, set up schools and set up dispensaries displaying the mercy of the Lord?  James Martin could have been an exceptional pastor in the home church or a leading medic - but his heart was in tune with God's plan for the world - to reach those who had not been reached.  O that the Lord would put the same mindset into the hearts of 21st century pastors to go where His great name has not been heard or little known.
Any theological students reading this blog - you simply must read this.  Any young person reading this blog - you must take up and read and pray that the Lord of the ends of the earth might raise up more men with such a love for the Lord Jesus.  Read and fall into the earth yourself and die so that there might be some fruit from your short life.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Radical Together, David Platt

Having read the rave reviews I had to buy and decide for myself.  Even the subtitle gets you going in the direction of the slim volume, "unleashing the people of God for the purpose of God."  While written  primarily for a North American audience the point of the book transfers well this side of the pond.  This is obviously a follow on from Platt's best seller, "Radical."  In the book Platt sets out six key ideas to spur the Christian on to live a radical life together in the church.  These are all good and helpful in themselves and well summarised in the titles and subtitles of the chapters:
1. Tyranny of the good - One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the church.
2. The gospel misunderstood - The gospel that saves us from work saves us to work.
3. God is saying something - The word does the work.
4. The genius of wrong - Building the right church depends on using all the wrong people.
5. Our unmistakable task - We are living and longing for the end of the world.
6. The God who exalts God - We are selfless followers of the self centred God.
The book has a helpful study guide at the end which would assist the reader not only for personal study but in discussing with others.
While I enjoyed the book and found it challenging I had that sense that something was missing - God's covenant with God's covenant people binding us to Himself and each other - that is the key truth that makes us radical together.

The Gospel and Sexual Orientation

Well what could you get packed into 67 pages on such a subject?  Basically everything you need to know on the matter of sexual orientation and the Bible.  At least that is what Michael Lefebvre the editor of this masterly volume has managed.  The booklet is the work of the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America as they attempted to give guidance to the congregations they served.  "Compassionate scholarship" is the style of this booklet that should be in every Christian home in the western world.  The booklet comprises six main chapters.  The first chapter helpfully sets out the terminology stating clearly where all the words come from. In chapter two the writers set out clearly what the Bible says about the doctrine of man.  The third chapter deals sensitively and sensibly with present day pattern of speaking of gender patterns. The matter of principles for handling the Bible texts is addressed in chapter four before the main chapter five where the various passages are clearly and accurately expounded.  The book ends with a sixth chapter offering pastoral counsel and an extended bibliography.
For too long too many Reformed Christians have been in the dark on this matter.  That need no longer be the case.  Buy in bulk and give to your congregation.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Preaching the Psalms, McCann & Howell

Over the years I have noticed this book mentioned in various footnotes of other books on the psalms so thought that it might be worth a read. The book comprises three sections: Preaching the psalms - why? Preaching the psalms - how? Preaching the psalms - what?  While there were a few interesting comments here and there throughout the book over all it was a bit of a let down.  For me it was a "broadening my horizons read" as many of the people quoted would not be my usual favourite writers.  The main failing of the book in my opinion is missing the fundamental point that these songs of Zion are Christ's songs - His Spirit breathed them out, they are full of His person and work and He sang them.
Out of ten - I am afraid a humble 3.

Monday, December 17, 2012

JC Ryle Matthew

I just couldn't resist the £15 ministers set of JC Ryle's Expository thoughts on the Gospels.  And now I have finished volume 1 - Matthew.  Just the next section each morning as part of the daily devotions.  Better than any daily Bible reading note.  Ryle had that knack of feeding the people of God winsomely and wooingly.  This was a man who loved Jesus Christ and it just flowed from him.
Can't wait to get started on the next volume.
It is not too late to get the set for someone for Christmas.  Not sure if the minister's discount is still in operation  so you can but it for your minister but you can get the set for £55 at any decent bookshop.  This is just a must as far as Christian reading goes.

Not quite Mr. Obama

What was that you said Mr. President?  As the president gave an emotional address following the recent  atrocity in an American school he left the nation with the misquoting of Psalm 147. No doubt many were moved as he called the nation to their duty of giving help and comfort to those who mourn.  But then in an attempt to quote the Bible he omitted the most important word in the text. He said, in the words of Scripture - heal the broken hearted.  But the psalmist says that this is only what God can do - HE heals the broken hearted.  No president no nation, not even the mighty US can bind up the broken hearts of the grieving parents of twenty brutally murdered children.  The only one who can bring the comfort that such a trauma brings is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Yes He uses means and the comfort that we have received from God is to be an encouragement to others - but the rock bottom is that only Him who is God can give grace for such gaping wounds.  Only the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ who knows what it is like to have a son brutally murdered at the hands of the wicked can help. And because of that horrific death God can welcome all who call on Jesus in repentance and faith.
Just in case Mr. Obama reads this blog (Not!) here is the psalm in full for you to read sir. Bow and worship, love and adore.

iPraise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on xthe lyre!
He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the ifinest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters lfrost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
his pstatutes and rules to Israel.
20 He qhas not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.
rPraise the Lord!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Planting for the Gospel

This small book written by Graham Beynon and published by Christian Focus is a little primer to church planting.  It comprises 120 pages divided into six chapters:
1. Reasons for planting a church
2. Different models for planting a church
3. Deciding on a model
4. Different methods for church planting
5. Key issues in church planting
6. The early days of planting
I can't say that I benefitted greatly from this book as what he covers is stated elsewhere. Like most church planting books it lacks Scriptural rooting throughout.  The final chapter recounts brief historical sketches of a host of different types of plants.  These are quite interesting.  Though one point did irk me - that someone had a "prophetic word" about the growth of City Church in Dundee. Seems to me that Jesus made all the prophecy about church planting that we need - I will build My church.
In conclusion save your £4.00 for something better and more Biblically rooted.
When will someone write something useful on planting - like Church planting in Acts - that would be worth buying.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Last Enemy

Michael Wittmer's book subtitled "Preparing to win the fight of your life," is to help the believer die well.  Since every single person reading this post is dying you should read this.  The book comprises twenty three short chapters filled with Scripture and pastoral insights.  It is winsomely written, clearly connecting with the big issues around the theme. It is candid and compassionate, clear and concise and above all Christ centred.  All of these things make is so very suitable for the believer who has been sent and arrow from heaven to say that they will soon be required in the Master's house.
This is the book that you can give to that Christian friend who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  But more than that read it yourself and live in the light of it.
I can't recommend this little volume too highly.  A master lesson in pastoral theology.