Ron’s #27: Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper

John Piper writes the collection of 30 short essays addressing topics affecting pastors today. Some of them are excellent (“Brothers, Read Christian Biography”; “Brothers, Fight for Your Life”), and some of them are duds (“Brothers, Pray for our Seminaries”). They all capture what we love about John Piper: creative insight, Scripture-based, and passionate pleas pointing us to Christ.

We read this book for our leadership meetings at church this year, taking one chapter to read and discuss. I enjoyed that way of reading this book.

My copy is well underlined, and I’m sure to return to it in the future.

I’m embarrassed to say that the part that I’ll always remember from this book is the fact that the Puritan Richard Sibbes was referred to as “The Sweet Dropper.” Piper never elaborates on why he is called that, or what that even means.

Pure gold.

Ron’s #10: Reckless Abandon by David Sitton

“I conclude that ‘losing my life’ for the gospel is literally impossible because my years on this earth are worth far less than the value of the eternal gospel.”

This sums up well David Sitton’s approach to both missions and to the gospel. Leaving Texas as a young man to the jungles of Papua New Guinea, David brings the gospel of Jesus to those who haven’t heard. He abandons all for something of far greater worth.

Reckless Abandon satisfies in giving a glimpse of what a radical life yields, as well as reading how God moves throughout the world. This is an encouraging book to read.

Ron’s #41: What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

Whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, Greg Gilbert’s What is the Gosepl? is one of the clearest overviews of what Christians believe. In about 122 pages, Gilbert discusses God, Man, Sin, the Cross, and Redemption. For the Christian, knowing the Gospel is pivotal in one’s sanctification.

Here is an overview of the Gospel and the book using Gilbert’s quotations:

“An emaciated gospel leads to emaciated worship. It lowers our eyes from God to self and cheapens what God has accomplished for us in Christ. The biblical gospel, by contrast, is like fuel in the furnace of worship. The more you understand about it, believe it, and rely on it, the more you adore God both for who he is and for what he has done for us in Christ” (20).

"We are accountable to the God who created us. We have sinned against that God and will be judged. But God has acted in Jesus Christ to save us, and we take hold of that salvation by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus. God. Man. Christ. Response” (32).

"A common view of God is that he’s much like an unscrupulous janitor. Instead of really dealing with the world’s dirt—its sin, evil, and wickedness—he simply sweeps it under the rug, ignores it, and hopes no one will notice. In fact, many people cannot conceive of a God who would do anything else. “God judge sin?” they say. “Punish me for wickedness? Of course he wouldn’t do that. It wouldn’t be loving” (43).

"Ultimately, it means that I’m the one who should have died, not Jesus. I should have been punished, not he. And yet he took my place. He died for me. They were my transgressions, but his wounds. My iniquities, but his chastisement. My sin, his sorrow. And his punishment bought my peace. His stripes won my healing. His grief, my joy. His death, my life” (68).

“Faith is not believing in something you can’t prove, as so many people define it. It is, biblically speaking, reliance. A rock-solid, truth-grounded, promise-founded trust in the risen Jesus to save you from sin” (73).

“Even as we slog through the trials, persecutions, irritations, temptations, distractions, apathy, and just plain weariness of this world, the gospel points us to heaven where our King Jesus—the Lamb of God who was crucified in our place and raised gloriously from the dead—now sits interceding for us. Not only so, but it calls us forward to that final day when heaven will be filled with the roaring noise of millions upon millions of forgiven voices hailing him as crucified Savior and risen King” (122).

Here is a link to Mark's previous review of this book.

Ron’s #23: Kingdom without Borders by Miriam Adeney

In preparing for our trip to Cambodia in August, our team is reading through a stack of books related to missions, and this is one of them. Of all the books, this is the one I looked forward to least. Reading a book on missions harkened me back to my Multnomah days, and I’d rather read something else. Even the subtitle sounded dull: “The Untold Story of Global Christianity.” I’m pleased to say that I was wrong.

Miriam Adeney, a professor at Seattle Pacific University, takes readers on a tour of Christians around the world, ones often under persecution for believing in Jesus. She highlights believers in China, Afghanistan, Iran, Philippines, India, Latin America, and in several African countries. In each, she offers stories of how the Gospel spreads in that culture, and gives a few stories of the believers there. The accounts are powerful, and they show two things: one, the Word of God goes forth in every tribe, tongue, and land; two, even the newest Christian in this book has more faith than I live like I do.

I really enjoyed this book because it offers me a picture of what God is doing outside of America. I am guilty of thinking that somehow America is the main sender of missionaries, and this book shows how Christians from all over the world are missionaries, often in their own culture and town. Adeney seems to be intentional in leaving out Americans in this story, not because we don’t send out workers to the harvest, but rather because we must see that God is doing a good work all over the world. Often, it is the American missionaries’ stories that are told and published. The subtitle now makes more sense.

There are some features of the writing that annoyed me and obstructed the clarity of her message. Adeney was uneven in the narratives and connected stories that did not need connecting. She also started chapters and major sections with dialogue from the middle of a conversation. It felt a bit gimmicky. She also has unnecessary section titles with cutesy names embedded in many paragraphs. These criticisms are minor in light of the entire book, and they go to show that God’s story will be told, regardless of the vehicle telling it.

Kingdom without Borders further opened my eyes and heart to Christians around the world and how they interact and witness to their kinsmen who are Hindus, Muslims, or Buddhists. It also raised my awareness of the persecuted church that still exists all over the globe. We take our religious freedom far too lightly with our air-conditioned buildings, PowerPoint sermons, and ample parking.

I highly recommend this book to help you see the movings of God in proclaiming the majesty of Jesus Christ in all the countries of the world. It showed me that

“Jesus’ church will be alive, blossoming in a million places in several thousand languages, “salting” the earth, lighting neighborhoods, blessing broken people and connecting them with the God who made them and loves them and can empower them to live with meaning and joy in this terrifying and beautiful world” (39).

Ron’s #13: A Passion for God by Lyle Dorsett

If you are like me, A. W. Tozer is an important writer in your Christian journey. The Pursuit of God and Knowledge of the Holy are still two of my favorite books, ones I reread regularly. Tozer is one of those writers that has a special place on my bookshelf because he painted a picture of what it means to hunger after Jesus Christ. Reading his books made me want to be a better Christian, closer to God and eager to learn and experience more of Him.

If this describes your view of Tozer, don’t read this book.

Lyle Dorsett’s A Passion for God highlights two aspects of A. W. Tozer: it shows that he is a godly man who lived a life listening to God and spending hours in prayer; it also displays a man who was a hard, cold man to his family. In short, A. W. Tozer was a real jerk!

This book is filled with juxtapositions. One on hand, Tozer is a backwoods, uneducated hillbilly, and on the other he is a self-educated Renaissance man in later life. He was humble and quiet, yet bold and passionate in his preaching. He loved people and served all of his churches well, yet ignored his wife and children. While the book is a general biography of Tozer (subtitled, “The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer”), the constant frame story in this narrative is that he served God at great cost to his family. Tozer is the star of the story, but the book seems to be about his family, namely Ada, his wife. Throughout the book, I grew more sympathetic to Ada, who was dragged along, not consulted about major life moves, and left to care for seven children while Tozer spoke at conferences around the country. Their distance increased, and Tozer was unaware, or at least he didn’t seem to care.

I enjoyed reading about this deeply flawed man, and how God used him—and continues to use his work—in spite of his shortcomings. If God can use Tozer, think what He can do with me.

Mark's #5 - The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper

This book is a must read for all who stand in the pulpit and preach God's Word in our day.  In fact, it should be read at least twice, which is what I've done now with this book. This is not a manual for preaching and communication (though perhaps more can be learned about both from this book than most other so-called manuals).  Rather, this is an urgent plea by a man of God who has been a faithful preacher of the Supremacy of God over all things for decades to preach with passion, clarity, gladness, and God centered weightiness .

I remember sitting in my seminary preaching course and hearing my professor tell us to find another preacher we respect and study their preaching style.   In terms of preaching passionately and with depth, John Piper is that man for me (admittedly, I have a very very long way to go to emulate him).

This short plea to fellow preachers is divided into two sections.  In the first, Piper makes his case for Preachers to bring back the Supremacy of God in their preaching.  In section two, Piper examines the preaching methods and content of Jonathan Edwards.  Like me, in seminary Piper was encouraged to study a great preacher, he chose Edwards.  This part, while still good, was not as captivating for me as Piper's plea.  Though it was insightful to see Edwards passion to reach both the head and the heart for the glory of Christ in preaching.

I'll leave you with just a few 'nuggets' of wisdom from the book:

Laughter seems to have replaced repentance as the goal of many preachers.

It is not the job of the Christian preacher to give people moral or psychological pep talks about how to get along in the world.

Preaching is public exultation over the truth that it brings.  It is not disinterested or cool or neutral.  It is not mere explanation.  It is manifestly and contagiously passionate about what it says.

People are starving for the greatness of God.  But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives.

All genuine preaching is rooted in a feeling of desperation.

I urge you to rely on the Holy Spirit by saturating your preaching with the Word he inspired.