JRF"s #47 - The Cup and the Glory by Greg Harris

This book wins the best book with the ugliest cover award.  This book came out of an exceptionally dark season in Dr. Harris life in which he was compelled to mine the Scriptures' teaching on suffering.  What resulted is a deeply doxological, practical, and theological work that is both challenging and encouraging to those who are suffering or trying to comfort those who are.

Harris' main discovery and thesis is that throughout Scripture the cup of suffering always precedes the experience of God's glory.  If we would seek to taste God in His glory, we must not be surprised when we first must share in His sufferings.

The strength of this book lies in the exegetical depth and excellence which Dr. Harris brings to the passages he explores, specifically the Gospel accounts of Peter's ups and downs as well as the corresponding passages in his epistles.  I also appreciated his candid accounts of his own struggles and how these truths were sowed in his soul and bore healing fruit.

The weakness of this book was that it often went simultaneously so broad and so deep that the scent of the main trail was often lost and only regained with much difficulty.  Perhaps this reflects my limited perspective and ability to make theological connections more than Dr. Harris's writing.

I would rate this book as a more theologically weighty and exegetical but not as well written version of John Piper's Spectacular Sins.


When you humble yourself, you abandon all other sources for hope except for God."




Jim's #24: A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada

If you aren't familiar with Joni Eareckson Tada's life story, you should remedy that.  Talk about someone making the most out of her disability to the glory of God and the good of millions of people worldwide.  A diving accident in 1967 left Joni paralyzed from the neck down for the past 43 years.  Since then she has become an internationally known mouth artist, accomplished vocalist, hosts her own radio show, and started Joni & Friends, an organization which provides wheelchairs to handicapped persons in third world countries.

Joni has grown to appreciate her disability over the years and see God work in miraculous ways through it.  Because of this, she is able to whole-heartedly thank God for making her a quadriplegic, an incredible healing in itself.  As she writes this book, however, Joni is faced with arguably an even more ominous foe: chronic, debilitating, unrelenting pain.  The pain relievers she is on barely dull it and her husband is forced to come in numerous times a night to help her roll over, providing a fleeting moment of comfort.

Every once in a while I like to listen to an audio book on my commute to and from work, and I am thrilled that I decided to choose this one to listen to.   Most people going through situations like this will write about it years after the event, allowing them to properly reflect on the difficult time.   But Joni decided to write it during her battle with chronic pain, and even record the audio book herself.  What a blessing this was to the listener.  She was only able to do portions at a time before the pain became too great, and you could hear it at times in her voice.  This made the points she was driving home on the sufficiency of God in suffering all the more believable, as there was not a hint of hypocrisy in her voice.  She also quotes many hymns in her book and sings them for you in her beautiful voice on the book--another treat!

I often find myself wondering how my faith would sustain me if I were to face something like Joni.  Would I be able to stand through it and see God's hand in it all or would I falter.  Hearing Joni's story makes me all the more confident in my God and helps me appreciate the biblical doctrine of suffering and the hope found there-in.  One day all those in a wheelchair who love Jesus will receive new, glorified bodies free of any ailment or handicap.  I'm guessing that they will have a greater appreciation for these bodies than I will... and I pray that helps sustain them in the present.

As I write this, Joni, has now been diagnosed with breast cancer on top of everything else.  Here is an interview with her from Christianity Today that helps drive home her perspective and the big idea of her book:

Mark's #3 - 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 Paton (The Swans Are Not Silent)

This book is part of John Piper's short biographies of great Christian men and women in church history.   Each book summarizes the life, faith, experiences, and lessons we can learn through the lives of three people.  The theme of this book, as the title suggests, examines the lives of three men who gave up everything to follow Christ and proclaim His name to the nations.  I enjoy these books as they serve as quick snapshots of significant lives that were not wasted.  Often, I am motivated to go on and read the more in-depth biographies as a result (as I have already done with Judson, and plan on doing with Paton).

The first person Piper addresses in this book is William Tyndall (1494-1536).  As English Catholic priest who began to read the works of other reformers of his day, God gave him a passion to translate and mass produce copies of the Bible in the english language.  To the modern man, this seems like a rather benign pursuit, but in Tyndall's day, this was an offense punishable by death.  Tyndall was forced to live the bulk of his adult life in exile on the European continent.  There he translated the entire New Testament and much of the Old Testament, which were subsequently smuggled into England by friends.   Tyndall and most of his cohorts were put to death by St. Thomas More (and to think that was the name of the Catholic church I grew up going to!).  Most people think of the authorized version of the King James Bible (1611) as the dominant influence of the spread of Reformed Christianity in the english speaking world.  however, Tyndall's Bible set the foundation, as nearly 80% of the KJV is directly from Tyndall's translation.

Next was the life of John Paton (1824-1907), missionary to the New Hebrides (present day Vanuatu).  Again, through much hardship, tribulation, persecution, God was glorified in his life.  A couple things of note: First, it is interesting that Paton had already a very successful inner-city ministry in Scotland.  When he felt called by God to go to the islands full of cannibals, almost everyone in his life tried to persuade him to stay in his fruitful ministry.  Nevertheless, strengthened by his parents faith and encouragement, Patton followed God's lead to a life of incredible hardship and incredible fruit.  Today, 91% of the people of Vanuatu identify as Christian.  Second, Patton said that when his life was on the line (which was quite often), it's in those times that he experience the presence and peace of God like no other.  He was convinced that if the rich and comfortable people back home could just have one such experience, they would gladly leave it all for the sake of following Christ.

Finally, Piper summarizes the life of Adoniram Judson (1788-1855), the first missionary from American soil.  I had already read the main biography on Judson's life - To The Golden Shore (which I highly recommend), so this short recap served mostly as a reminder for me.  Again through much hardship and tribulation, which included the death of three wives and many of his children, God was glorified in Judson's life as he took the gospel to Burma (present day Mynamar).  Here he was able to translate the Scriptures for the Burmese people.  Though Burma is currently under a communist dictatorship, Judson's legacy lives on today through the lives of more than 3,700 baptist churches.

If  you don't want to read long biographies, I would recommend all of the Swans are Not Silent series by John Piper.  They will challenge and encourage you in your faith.