Monday, March 30, 2015

Comforting the Grieving

Comfort the Grieving: Ministering God's Grace in Times of LossComfort the Grieving: Ministering God's Grace in Times of Loss by Paul Tautges
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is much to mourn for in this world and much grief to be endured.  This creates ample opportunities for children of God to love, help, comfort, and hurt with those who are suffering.  Being able to minister properly through these situations will benefit all involved.

Comfort the Grieving by Paul Tautges is a wonderful resource.  It is focused on the word of God and immensely practical.  While it is designed for pastors, this is a volume that will equip and encourage all believers as we fulfill our Christian obligation to “mourn with those who mourn.”  This short volume is divided into sections covering pastoral care and preaching.

Tautges encourages the reader that care for the grieving does not conclude at the memorial service and offers a helpful guide on how to make sure that those needing continued care will receive it.  He also encourages pastors, and all Christians, to take up the art of letter writing as a means of offering care and then proceeds with some practical, “how-to” advice.

While Tautges is clear those grieving need personal, one-on-one care, he does not minimize the need of care from the pulpit.  He offers a few sample sermons from funerals to offer examples of Christ-centered, sensitive, evangelistic messages to share in corporate times of grieving.

This is a volume that will help many to love and care for those around them who are hurting.  It is short and accessible and I see no reason that it should not be read by many.


I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.


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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Experiencing the New Birth

Experiencing the New Birth: Studies in John 3Experiencing the New Birth: Studies in John 3 by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Martin Lloyd-Jones is considered, by many, one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century.  Maybe even the greatest.  This new volume from Crossway makes accessible previously unpublished sermons on John 3.  300+ pages of “The Doctor” preaching over John 3 is exactly what you would expect it to be-encouraging, challenging, and edifying.

This is a great, evangelical preacher pleading and prodding his congregation to consider Jesus, to consider their sinful state, to consider the Gospel, to repent and believe.  There is much to be praise about this volume, but the greatest commendation I can give started out as a gripe about the sermons.

Reading the sermons you could feel Lloyd-Jones’ passion.  As he encouraged his congregation to repent and believe, there was a multitude of times where he would make absolute statements.  Many of the statements could lead weaker brethren to unnecessarily struggle with their faith.  I was beginning to be troubled by these statements but then I became overwhelmingly encouraged.

I highlight that these were sermons delivered to his congregation and Lloyd-Jones as pastor comes through clearly.  As the sermons progressed, there were statements made that backed off of the implications of some of his earlier absolutes.  Or, at the very least, he clarified his position and offered qualifications on his earlier absolutes.  It is hard not to believe that a troubled congregant approached his pastor and “The Doctor” saw the need to offer treatment from the pulpit.  This is an assumption, of course, but it is not outside the realm of possibility or even probability.

Lloyd-Jones’ influence on many modern preachers can be seen in this volume.  The Lord used him in mighty ways and this volume is a treasure.

I received a review copy of this book from Crossway’s Beyond the Page program.


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Acts

Acts (EP Study Commentaries)Acts by Guy Prentiss Waters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Guy Prentiss Waters is a professor at RTS Jackson and is the author of a new commentary on Acts from EP Books.  A Study Commentary on The Acts of the Apostles is a volume written for pastors and interested lay people.  You do not have to be a scholar to read this volume and reap the benefits found within.

Waters’ volume is conservative and Reformed.  Waters is a confessional Presbyterian who ministers in the PCA and teaches at a Reformed seminary.  His commentary will offer no surprises with those facts in mind.

The format of this commentary is exposition and application.  Waters explains the text, giving background and context, and then proceeds to illustrate how the truths presented effect the life of the reader.

This volume is written from the perspective that the Scriptures are the word of God and present actual history.  While it is necessary to be knowledgeable of historical criticism, it is nice to find a work that is written with the purpose of believers learning the Scriptures better and applying its truths.

A fun surprise was the fact that it is not too heavily footnoted. Since this is not meant to be an academic treatise, you are not bogged down with a deluge of external material.  

The tone of the work is devotional, not academic.  With that being said, it is not surface either.  Waters digs in order to edify the believer, not to impress the scholar.  There is not a ton of original language, but there is some.  There is not a ton of 2nd temple culture and whatnot, but there is some.

There is depth in this volume but Waters doesn’t dive into the deep end simply for the fact of showing off his lung capacity.  When Waters wades into the deep end, there is a reason.  And he guides the reader there and back.  This is a volume on Acts that all readers will benefit from and enjoy greatly.


I received a review copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews.


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Monday, March 9, 2015

Luther on the Christian Life

Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and FreedomLuther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom by Carl R. Trueman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I had to choose someone to write a work on the life and thought of Martin Luther I am not sure who I would pick...but it would be a Lutheran. Definitely a Lutheran. That's a given, right?  Thankfully, the folks at Crossway did not consult me.

I have been a fan of the Theologians on the Christian Life series and one on a such a character as Martin Luther was bound to be a must-read.  When I saw that celebrity author and mega-seminary professor Karl Trueman was set to write it, I spent months waiting for it to release.  I am pleased to say that it was worth the wait.

Truman's strength as an author and speaker are mirrored in the strengths of this book.  Trueman is a tremendous historian.  And while this work is not solely a biography, it is thoroughly biographical.  Trueman shows how Luther's thought applies to the Christian life by showing how Luther's thought affected Luther's own life.

Trueman is a teacher.  Not just in vocation but in gifting.  And that gifting shines through in this work.  Trueman's volume in this series is approachable and engaging.  Trueman can write for MDiv studies, he can write for colleagues with PhDs, MDs, ThDs,  and RESPECTs,  but he can also write for the interested lay person. And do so in a way that doesn't feel watered down or like the reader is missing out on the good stuff.

Trueman is also quite funny, in a Martin Lutheran sort of way. I have never understood or enjoyed Lutheran humor (in my experience it was only about coffee, songs about slinkys, or why I will be barred from eternal bliss for my membership in a Southern Baptist Church). However, Luther himself was quite funny.  As is Karl Trueman, and in much the same manner.  Luther on the Christian Life is filled with Trueman-humor and Luther-humor, for better or worse (just for clarity, I vote "better"...for the most part).

For a confessional Presbyterian to write a biographical work on Martin Luther of such quality tgat it includes a foreword from Robert Kolb and an afterword from Martin Marty is quite a feat and should be enough of an endorsement to send you sprinting to your Crossway.org bookmark to download a copy of it immediately.  When you do, I feel confident in saying that you will not be disappointed.

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.


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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Acts Sermon

My sermon on Acts 2:42-47 from this morning.  Some slight additions(mainly the quotes) and some polishing on grammar and punctuation...but it is still rough.  Readable though, so I figured I would post for both of my readers. :-D
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Acts 2:42-47(14-47 for context)
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
            17       “ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
                  that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
                  and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
      and your young men shall see visions,
      and your old men shall dream dreams;
            18       even on my male servants and female servants
      in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
            19       And I will show wonders in the heavens above
      and signs on the earth below,
      blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
            20       the sun shall be turned to darkness
      and the moon to blood,
      before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
            21       And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
                  “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me,
      for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
            26       therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
      my flesh also will dwell in hope.
            27       For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
      or let your Holy One see corruption.
            28       You have made known to me the paths of life;
      you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
                  “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
                  “Sit at my right hand,
            35       until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:14-27)


This is the word of the Lord.  Blessed be his name.  Let’s pray. 
Almighty God,
Whose people are knit together in one holy church,
The body of Christ, our Lord:
Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment,
And to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you,
through your Son, Jesus Christ , our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen. (The Worship Sourcebook, 753)

Verse 40 moves us out of the sermon Peter is preaching and back into the narrative of Acts that Luke is recording.  When we look at a narrative passage we examine it as a narrative.  We look and see a subject, an action, and the results. Or, to put it another way, we can study it by asking and answering three basic questions.  This will not in any way exhaust the passage, but it will give us a good overall understanding of what is happening.  We can ask, “Who is this passage about?”, “What happens in this passage?”, and “What is the result from what happens in this passage?”.  Subject, Action, Result.  And this passage in Acts lends itself to this format as well as any other passage in the bible. 
First is the "Who" question? Who is this passage about?  This is simple.  Verse 42 tells us exactly who.  They.  Now, tempting as it might be to move to the next question, we might want to venture just a bit deeper than “they!”  Who is “they?”  Pronouns are used to refer to the immediately preceding nouns and in this context we see the “they” just a couple words back.  They are the souls that were added.