The great reversal

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,

cast off that I might be brought in,

trodden down as an enemy

that I might be welcomed as a friend,

surrendered to hell’s worst

that I might attain heaven’s best,

stripped that I might be clothed,

wounded that I might be healed,

athirst that I might drink,

tormented that I might be comforted,

made a shame that I might inherit glory,

entered darkness that I might have eternal light,

My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,

groaned that I might have endless song,

endured all pain that I might have unfading health,

bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,

bowed his head that I might uplift mine,

experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,

closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,

expired that I might forever live.

from The Valley of Vision

Reading, reading, reading

Recovering the Lost Art of Reading
by Leland Ryken and Glenda Faye Mathes

Having grown up on a small farm in a small town in Connecticut, I thought two hundred miles away from home was a long way. Where then did my love for travel come from? While reading Ryken and Mathes’ book, I began thinking about the question, and I believe my love of travel came from reading, specifically reading biographies of individuals who spent their lives in faraway places.

Reading has an impact on our lives, so how we read, along with what we read, is important. The authors’ premise is that we need to recover the lost art of reading physical books. Today the internet dominates our reading time, but only provides snippets of information and much of it, in a disconnected way. Books, on the other hand, can fill the mind and heart with wonder and awe.

Recovering the Lost Art of Reading is divided into three parts. The first part deals with reading in general and how to read specific types of literature. The second part looks at the concepts of truth, goodness (morally uplifting), and beauty, and how they apply to a good book. The final part addresses the issues of the author’s calling and creativity, along with how literature should impact our spiritual life.

Two other authors, Adler and Van Doren, have written a classic on the subject of reading (How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading). There is some overlap between the two books, but both can be read for great value.

I enjoyed and found profitable Ryken and Mathes’ practical suggestions on reading and finding specific types of books, i.e. non-fiction, fiction, children’s literature, etc. Now I will think through how to incorporate their ideas and suggestions into my own teaching.

Crossway was kind enough to provide me a copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

The Wisdom Pyramid, a review

Bless you, Mom, Mr. Juko and Joy, my wife. Mom for reading to us as kids, those many nights before sleep overtook us. Mr. Juko for lighting a fire under a lazy high school junior, a fire that has yet to go out. Joy for putting up with the many books I’ve bought over our years of marriage. The Wisdom Pyramid is another good book, and Crossway was kind enough to provide me a copy for an unbiased review.

McCracken uses the metaphor of the food pyramid to talk about wisdom. He begins by describing the reasons for the lack of wisdom in our times. He sees three, too much food, eaten too quickly, and a plethora of bad food on the buffet.

His solution? In order of importance from most to least up the pyramid, are the Bible, the Church, nature, books, beauty, and finally the internet and social media. While having some serious reservations about the internet and social media, he believes they have their place if used correctly. In order to understand what correct looks like, the final chapter of the book provides a description of what wisdom looks like.

I found the book intriguing and well worth the time to think through McCracken’s arguments. I’m glad that early in my life, an interest in books and learning was implanted and has since grown. Wisdom is so needed today, when anyone with any idea can find an audience on the internet. In one day, an unknown individual can become a publishing super star. But are this person’s ideas wise? Do those ideas have consequences that have not been fully thought through?

We need wisdom today, and The Wisdom Pyramid is a good place to start.

The Wisdom Pyramid is by Brett McCracken.

Anticipation: A review of Journey to the Cross

Journey to the Cross    A 40-day Lenten Devotional

by Paul David Tripp

Some special days set aside to commemorate an event, after being observed over and over, become trite or easily ignored. To the Christian church, the time of Easter has special significance theologically and practically. However, its practicality has been lost over the centuries of observance.

Tripp, using story and poem, tells the practical purpose of Easter. How does the death of a man two thousand years ago have application to my life today? What is so important about that death and subsequent resurrection that I would want to take time, never mind 40 days, to reflect on aspects of that death?

Lent comes in several months, and I will pick up Tripp’s book and read it slowly and carefully again, and may do it next year as well. My delight in the book shows the power of Tripp’s insights. I was challenged to slow down, examine my own life and attitudes, and listen closely to the words and actions of the God-man, Jesus Christ, as He went to the cross to die a sacrificial death for mankind.

Tripp’s stories had very personal application. He made it easy to identify with the ideas that he sought to communicate each of the forty days. I’m thankful for the opportunity to journey with him through Lent, twice this year.

I appreciate Crossway’s willingness to provide me a copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Put up your sword

Last month I was reading through the last few chapters of the Gospel of John each day. By doing so, it was impossible to miss the significance of the arrest, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. One incident in the whole drama now stands out.

When the religious leaders and soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear” (John 18:10). We know that Jesus healed the man’s ear (Luke 22:51) and then turning to Peter said, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). 

While Jesus was here on earth, he taught us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). The Apostle Paul lived under one of the most oppressive governments in history, yet he told us to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1) and to pray for “all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). 

We do not have to agree with everything our leaders say and do, after all we live in a fallen world. When we find ourselves not agreeing, we work through our democratic process for the change we seek. We engage with members of Congress, our mayors, and state representatives—we do not attack them. 

After viewing what happened last week, I believe we have a problem. That problem is that many evangelicals do not trust enough in Jesus. 

Scripture says that we are to be “conformed to the image of his Son” in every aspect of our lives (Romans 8:29). The Apostle John taught, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). We are to “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1–2). 

Even when He was falsely charged, Jesus would not slander those who opposed him (Matthew 27:11–14). Therefore, we must not slander people who oppose us. Jesus did not storm Jerusalem to free the Jews from the oppressive Romans, we must not storm the Capitol. 

Do we as evangelicals have enough faith in God that we trust His sovereignty? Do we trust that He is good even when things are not going our way? Are we willing to allow God to use His power and His ways to accomplish His ends?

Let us be subject to the governing authorities and pray for them!

Review of “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” by Carl R. Trueman

For realtors, it is location, location, location. For Trueman, writing on the sexual revolution, the expression would be context, context, context. I have lived several decades beyond a half century. In that time, I have seen vast changes in public acceptance of behavior, that in my teens would have been considered abhorrent, particularly in the area of sex and identity. Trueman’s point is that this revolution did not erupt spontaneously, instead its beginnings can be traced back to the early 18th century.

Allow me an analogy to describe what Trueman does. A “stew” began to be cooked in the early 18th century. One of the first ingredients was the ideas of Rousseau, enhanced by the likes of Wordsworth, Shelley and Blake. As the stew began to simmer, Nietzsche, Marx and Darwin were added. As in cooking, some ingredients are added only for a time to add flavor, but don’t remain for the entire cooking time. The ideas of Marx, and later Freud, were not absorbed totally, but were only simmered long enough to allow certain flavors to be added.

Trueman takes over 150 pages to explain the contribution of each of these individuals to the “stew” that we are now eating. The final product of the cooking is a stew made up of radical individuality that is characterized by the idea that who I am is what I feel I am. The result is a current culture that has exchanged freedom for autonomy. Thomas Sowell put it this way, “The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read or even that Johnny can’t think. It’s that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is. He’s confused it with feeling.”
The author’s book is divided into four parts. The first sets up the “architecture,” part two, the foundations, and three, the sexualization of the revolution. Part four talks about the “triumphs” that have been achieved by the LGBTQ+ movement. His final chapter takes a high-level look at some of the possible future outcomes of thinking that elevate the therapeutic self over all other identities.

Trueman writes in a way that takes careful thought. The book is very well footnoted. It is not a light read, but one that clearly characterizes the tenor of our time. It would be unfortunate for individuals, who understand their identity as shaped by their creator, to ignore the concepts in Truman’s book.

Crossway was kind enough to provide me a copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.

No matter who wins

“Cheer up, Christian! Things are not left to chance: no blind fate rules the world. God hath purposes, and those purposes are fulfilled. God hath plans, and those plans are wise, and never can be dislocated.” Spurgeon

In Isaiah 46:10, God says, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (NIV).

As a wise friend said, “I don’t follow a donkey. I don’t follow an elephant. I follow a Lamb!

Review of The Trinity: An Introduction by Scott R. Swain

Swain’s introduction to the Trinity is one in a series of books that “aims to present short studies in theology that are attuned to both the Christian tradition and contemporary theology.” He describes the book as “designed to serve beginning students of theology…and interested laypersons.”

As someone who has had some training in theology, I’m very glad that the book contains a glossary. Swain’s language is one of a professional, that at times needs a good glossary or dictionary to make sense of his thinking. Additionally, it contains both an extensive general and scripture index.

The book does live up to its description as short. I was surprised when I came to the end so quickly, but in those few pages there is a host of ideas to chew on.

The book is divided into three parts. The first three chapters deal with the language of the Trinity, the type of texts where the Trinity appears, and the “simplicity” of God. The second part, consisting of three chapters, deals with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The last section looks at how the Trinity works and to what end.

For a beginning student planning on going on to more in-depth studies, Swain’s introduction is a good place to start. For an interested layperson, I believe more basic introductions can be found. Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity would be a good one. However, I found Swain’s work is worth the time and effort to digest.

Crossway was kind enough to provide me a copy for an unbiased evaluation.

ESV Commentary Review

ESV Expository Commentary Vol. X Romans-Galatians
In the preface, the publishers and editors say, “God has revealed himself in the Bible, which makes the words of Scripture sweeter than honey, more precious than gold, and more valuable than all riches.”
If this is true, that Scripture is a valuable source of information and guidance, we need to understand the context of the books contained in the compendium we call “The Bible.” Then we can apply the words of God to our lives and world. Each author of the commentary on the individual books in Vol. X must be “exegetically sound” in their approach to the text. “Globally aware,” “pastorally useful,” and “application-minded” are several of the foci for explanation of the text.
Each book begins with an introduction that includes an overview of the book, discussion of the title, authorship, date and occasion, genre and literary features, theology of the book, as well as its relationship to the rest of the Bible and to Christ, and its use in preaching. After the introduction and an outline of the book, each author proceeds to explain the text, finishing with a bibliography.
This commentary series is geared to those who would be teaching and preaching the Word. Anyone who is interested in understanding a particular passage would benefit from the commentary. The use of Greek is not pervasive, allowing for someone who is not trained in the language to understand the text. I have been using the ESV as my devotional reading each morning, as well as my study text. I find this commentary helpful, along with others that have become favorites of mine.
Crossway was kind enough to provide me a copy of the commentary without an expectation of a favorable review.

A gift in the middle of the pandemic

It has been noted that across the whole of human history, “every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result—eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly—in you.”

Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything,