You Must Read – Books that have Shaped Our Lives | Christian Book Notes

You Must Read – Books that have Shaped Our Lives | Christian Book Notes.

YouMustReadCoverI have been waiting for an opportunity to highlight this recent publication from the Banner of Truth, and then I received this brief review last week (July 3, 2015) from Terry Delaney through his book blog. I have not seen or read the book personally, but it is certainly the type of book to which I like to call attention. And I am hoping to obtain a copy for myself and work my way through it soon.

Today I make use of Terry’s review and introduce you to the book You Must Read: Books That Have Shaped Our Lives.

This is the publisher’s information on the book:

Have you ever wondered what influences have shaped the preachers, teachers and authors you respect? You Must Read brings together more than thirty well-known Christian leaders and gives them the opportunity to talk about a book that has made a lasting impact on their lives. Their personal narratives and recommendations of the literature that has moulded and matured them combine to produce a book full of interest from start to finish, but also one that can be ‘dipped into’ for occasional reading. Best of all, You Must Read will be an indispensable guide to some of the truly great books that have transformed, encouraged, instructed and challenged countless Christians’ lives. You Must Read is a ‘must read’ in itself, and a marvelous stimulus to read more.

You Must Read is an ambiguous title. As Christians ‘we are what we read’. God’s word is the instrument by which the Holy Spirit renews our minds and transforms our lives. The same is true, to a lesser extent, of Christian literature. The biographies of Christians whose lives have left a permanent mark on the church often disclose the influence of a particular book, or books, they themselves have read. So, You Must Read is a perennial maxim. You really must read!

But we also use these words when we are enthusiastic about a good book. We instinctively ask our friends, ‘Have you read …?’ And if the answer is ‘no’ we tend to say ‘Oh, you must read …’

But where do you begin? There are so many books from which to choose. Many of us want to ask, ‘Can somebody please tell me what books I should read?’ You Must Read provides some answers from the pens of a number of well-known Christian leaders, including Joel R. Beeke, Alistair Begg, Jerry Bridges, Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., John MacArthur, Stuart Olyott, R. C. Sproul , Derek W. H. Thomas, Geoffrey Thomas, and many others.

And this is Delaney’s review of the book:

Summary

A total of 35 individual chapters (3 “chapters” comprise the epilogue) are written by 35 different men and women. Each chapter looks at that contributor’s most influential book they have read published by The Banner of Truth Trust.

Review

This is an unusual book in that it is a book about books. The draw will not necessarily be the books discussed. Rather, the draw is the many “heroes” today sharing why a particular book resonated with them and how it has shaped their respective ministries. To that end, this book is extremely fascinating.

Perhaps a critique of the book may be that all of the books that have been influential have been published by The Banner of Truth Trust. This is to be understood, however, since this book was compiled by the Trust itself. That being said, not all of these books were originally published by the Banner.

The end goal according to the introduction is an eagerness “that others will discover what we have been privileged to discover.” In essence, then, this work is not only about how particular books, now published by the Banner influenced some of the greatest Reformed minds today, but also how the Banner has selected what works to bring back into publication in order that others may be influence.

Recommendation

If you are Reformed in your thinking at all, or have been influenced by any of those who contributed to this resource at all, you will want to read this book. If you were to begin a library consisting of You Must Read and then adding to it the books discussed, you will find that your library will have one of the most solid foundations for a library ever. I highly recommend You Must Read to all interested in quality resources about the Christian faith.

July 2015 “Tabletalk” – The Eve of the Reformation

The Dawn of Reformation by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-July-2015With the July 2015 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries continues it series on the centuries of church history. This issue features and focuses on the fifteenth century, with the appropriate sub-theme, “The Eve of the Reformation.”

For a great overview of this century and to be reminded of how God was preparing the world (especially Europe) for the great Reformation of the 16th century, read Dr. Nicholas Needham’s article, “The Fifteenth Century”, half of which I read yesterday.

For today, we take a few paragraphs from editor Burk Parsons’ introductory article, “The Dawn of Reformation.” Find the entire article at the Ligonier link above.

The brightest object in the sky, after the sun and moon, is the morning star. It appears about an hour before dawn. John Wycliffe (c. 1330-84) is often called the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” and for good reason, for his life shone brightly as a forerunner of the Reformation. Jan Hus (c. 1370-1415) worked by the light of this morning star, even as the greater light of the Reformation was about to dawn. Through Wycliffe, God brought light to people who were dwelling in darkness—one of whom was Hus. Hus boldly carried on the controversy that Wycliffe began, the controversy over the final authority of Scripture that would soon engulf the entire continent of Europe in the Reformation of the sixteenth century. In fact, Martin Luther (1483-1546), in his debate with Johann Eck, even declared, “I am a Hussite.”

These men were by no means the source of light; they were tarnished mirrors who reflected the one source of light, the Light of the World—Jesus Christ. The living and active Word of God reveals this Light. In His sovereignty, God used these forerunners of the Reformation to direct His people back to His Word. Once Scripture was rediscovered, the light of God’s truth began to shine ever more brightly in the hearts of God’s people, which, in turn, led to the Reformation.

Though Wycliffe died a natural death, his remains were later disinterred, burned, and scattered. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church burned Hus at the stake, even though he was promised safe conduct to and from his trial. It is said that he sang a hymn to Christ as the flames engulfed his body. His remains, like Wycliffe’s, were scattered. Nevertheless, the darkness could not dispel the Light of the World. This light, long obscured but still shining, soon dawned on Europe anew and subsequently throughout the rest of the world.

Prayer for the Church – M.Bucer and P.Melanchthon, 1543

Grant also to us all, who here in thy sight come together in thy Word, prayer, alms, and divine sacraments, that we may truly come together only in thy name, and in the name of thy dear Son, that we may take hold of thy divine law and holy gospel with true faith, that dying daily more and more to ourselves, we may wholly give over ourselves to thy dear Son, our only Savior, who alone through his stripes and most bitter death hath redeemed us from sins and eternal damnation, hath restored us into thy favor through his resurrection and heavenly kingdom, hath called us into himself in his congregation, and hath planted into himself unto everlasting life, and made us his own members, that we should live more and more in him, and he in us, that thy holy name may be more largely sanctified by us in all our life and all our doings, that thy kingdom may be amplified by us, and in others, that at length all things may be done among us upon earth, with such promptness and cheerfulness as they are done in heaven. And for this purpose, that we may wholly live for and serve thee, give us also our daily bread. Amen.

prayersofreformers-manschreckTaken from another little gem found in the library of Prof.David J. Engelsma (and which I took home for the weekend), Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press in 1958 (p.58). Manschreck notes that this precious prayer was “originally from [the Reformers] Bucer and Malanchthon” with a date of 1543.

True Religion Before God and the Father – H.Hanko

faithmadeperfect-hhanko-2015The Reformed Free Publishing Association has recently published a new commentary on the epistle of James by Prof. Herman Hanko (emeritus, PRC Seminary). It carries the title Faith Made Perfect: Commentary on James (RFPA, 2015).

Doing some reading in it this morning led me to these two quotes that are also fitting for us on this Lord’s Day when we are called to practice “true religion and undefiled before God and the Father” (1:27). And that is contrast to a religion that is “vain” because we do not bridle our tongues (1:26).

Here is some of what Prof.Hanko says about these verses in the end of James 1:

The word translated as ‘vain’ [1:26] is not kenos, which means empty, but mataios, which means aimless. It refers to a religion that is without purpose, without fruit, without any goal, when the goal of one’s life ought to be the glory of God and praise to him who is alone worthy of it. Everything he does in the practice of religion is purposeless. His singing in church, his giving alms, and his careful attention to religious practices – all are without purpose, for they are only outward. God is not praised; nothing that man does is of any benefit to himself or to God, all because he does not know how to bridle his tongue. That is a devastating indictment (pp.78-79).

And then on the next verse, v.27, Hanko has this to say:

The addition of ‘Father’ is remarkable. It immediately puts all worship in the context of a father-son relationship. Worship is family fellowship – fellowship between a Father and his children. It is a relationship of love and mutual joy. It is a confession, with all that is implied, that worship is conversation between our Father in heaven and his children. It is conversation between our Father in heaven and his children on earth. Thus true religion before the Father is also religion that preserves the proper ‘space’ between the almighty and eternal God and creatures who are very, very sinful children. True religion is praise to God for his love for us in Christ (pp.79-80)

TV: The Cyclops That Eats Books – L.Woiwode

Last Saturday I stopped at a local thrift store and found a few more treasures in the book department. One is a collection of speeches give at Hillsdale College (Hillsdale, MI), which are often reprinted in their monthly publication Imprimis.

The book is titled Educating for Liberty: The Best of Imprimis 1972-2002 (Hillsdale College Press, 2002), and among the great printed speeches in it is the one given by Larry Woiwode in February of 1992, the title of which is in my heading above. Woiwode is a former college professor turned novelist, and of interest to our readers, an OPC elder (For more details on him, visit his website.).

CyclopsThough his speech may be a bit dated, it is a powerful description of what television has done to our reading abilities and desires. Today, we may add the book-devouring influences of laptops, video games, tablets, and “smart” phones.

You may find the entire print version at the Imprimis archives, but I give you just a few samples of what he has to say here:

What is destroying America today is not the liberal breed of one-world politicians, or the IMF bankers, or the misguided educational elite, or the World Council of Churches; these are largely symptoms of a greater disorder. If there is any single institution to blame, it is, to use the cozy diminutive, “TV”.

TV is more than a medium; it has become a full-fledged institution, backed by billions of dollars each season.  Its producers want us to sit in front of its glazed-over electronic screen, press our clutch of discernment through the floorboards, and sit in a spangled, zoned-out state (“couch potatoes,” in current parlance) while we are instructed in the proper liberal tone and attitude by our present-day Plato and Aristotle-Dan Rather and Tom Brokow. These television celebrities have more temporal power than the teachings of Aristotle and Plato have built up over the centuries.  Television, in fact, has greater power over the lives of most Americans than any educational system or government or church.  Children are particularly susceptible.  They are mesmerized, hypnotized and tranquilized by TV.  It is often the center of their world; even when the set is turned off, they continue to tell stories about what they’ve seen on it.  No wonder, then, that as adults they are not prepared for the frontline of life; they simply have no mental defenses to confront the reality of the world.

The Truth About TV

One of the most disturbing truths about TV is that it eats books.  Once out of school, nearly 60 percent of all adult Americans have never read a single book, and most of the rest read only one book a year.  Alvin Kernan, author of The Death of Literature, says that reading books “is ceasing to be the primary way of knowing something in our society.”   He also points out that bachelor’s degrees in English literature have declined by 33 percent in the last twenty years and that in many universities the courses are largely reduced to remedial reading. American libraries, he adds, are in crisis, with few patrons to support them.  Thousands of teachers at the elementary, secondary and college levels can testify that their students’ writing exhibits a tendency towards superficiality that wasn’t seen, say, ten or fifteen years ago. It shows up not only in the students’ lack of analytical skills but in their poor command of grammar and rhetoric.  I’ve been asked by a graduate student what a semicolon is. The mechanics of the English language have been tortured to pieces by TV.  Visual, moving images-which are the venue of television-can’t be held in the net of careful language. They want to break out. They really have nothing to do with language. So language, grammar and rhetoric have become fractured.

Recent surveys by dozens of organizations also suggest that up to forty percent of the American public is functionally illiterate; that is, our citizens’ reading and writing abilities, if they have any, are so seriously impaired as to render them, in that handy jargon of our times, “dysfunctional”. The problem isn’t just in our schools or in the way reading is taught: TV teaches people not to read. It renders them incapable of engaging in an art that is now perceived as strenuous, because it is an active art, not a passive hypnotized state.

Passive as it is, television has invaded our culture so completely that you see its effects in every quarter, even in the literary world. It shows up in supermarket paperbacks, from Stephen King (who has a certain clever skill) to pulp fiction.  These are really forms of verbal TV-literature that is so superficial that those who read it can revel in the same sensations they experience when they are watching TV.  Even more importantly, the growing influence of television has, Kernan says, changed people’s habits and values and affected their assumptions about the world. The sort of reflective, critical and value-laden thinking encouraged by books has been rendered obsolete. In this context, we would do well to recall the Cyclopes-the race of giants that, according to Greek myth, predated man.

Tub Lit: New project offers waterproof books | Book Patrol

Tub Lit: Kickstarter project offers waterproof books | Book Patrol.

bibliobath Shakespeare

Just in time for summer outings at the beach, cool nights in the hot tub, or relaxing moments in the tub (or spa), comes news of a most practical literary development – waterproof books!

That’s right, you can now sit on water’s edge at the lake or let the bubbles splash water on your book without fear of damage. Now, titles are limited at this point, but Shakespeare and Mark Twain are not such bad places to start.

Here’s the story line – you can even support the project if you wish. A rather novel, ambitious project, wouldn’t you say?!

The latest crowdsourced gem for the book crowd comes to us from Bibliobath.

Thanks to Wing Weng and Jasper Jansen, a Dutch-Chinese couple based in Amsterdam, we finally have the waterproof book!

They have 4 titles ready to go; a selection of short stories by Mark Twain, one of the selected poetry by W. B. Yeats, an edition of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and a special Kickstarter-only edition of the Chinese classic The Art of War.

Published in: on July 3, 2015 at 6:42 AM  Leave a Comment  
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PRC Archives: Mystery Church Bulletin

For this Thursday – PRC archive day! – we post a bulletin recently found in some materials we are sorting.

I have edited the cover, removing the name and information of this PRC, but left you the image of the impressive structure. I have to admit I did a “double take” when I saw it, wondering if I was reading the cover correctly. But I have confirmed from those who know that this was indeed one of our PRCs (I SO want to give you a hint here, but I will refrain.).

MysteryBulletin-2015-cover_Page_1

I have also scanned the inside and present that to you intact. The announcements and names in the bulletin will be your hints. You will recognize some of them. Now you just need to make the proper association.

MysteryBulletin-2015-inside_Page_1

Have fun with this one! I will eagerly anticipate your replies. :)

Luther, Libraries, and Learning (2) – John W. Montgomery

Wittenberg, Germany

Wittenberg, Germany

Last week Thursday we pointed you to an interesting book from Prof.D. Engelsma’s library (which we are working through this summer) – In Defense of Martin Luther, a wonderful collection of essays by John Warwick Montgomery.

In the third section of the book I discovered an essay that grabbed my interest – “Luther, Libraries, and Learning”  a defense of Luther’s (and the Protestant Reformation’s) love for, support of, and call for schools and libraries. After answering several attacks against Luther and the Reformation on these matters, Montgomery proceeds to a positive defense of Luther’s position on education and books.

Today we follow-up on our post from last week with another significant quote from this essay, which I believe worthy of your attention too. This is from that section that follows the previous one from which we quoted:

In the educational efforts of the early Lutheran reformers, schools and libraries went hand in hand. The concern for establishing suitable book collections is evident not only in many of the visitation articles and agenda drawn up during the period, but also and especially in the formal Kirchenordnungen [church ordinances or church order], drafted chiefly under the influence of Melanchthon (for central and southern Germany) and Johannes Bugenhagen (for northern Germany). In the work of Bugenhagen – like Melanchthon a colleague of Luther at Wittenberg – bibliothecal concern is particularly evident. The following typical Kirchenordnungen regulations are the product of his influence:

A library shall be erected not far from the school and the lecture hall, wherein all books, good and bad, which shall be acquired for this purpose in this city, shall be assembled; they shall be arranged in orderly manner, especially the best, each near others of its kind [this must have been the early classification system]; keys thereto, one or four, should be in the hands of some, viz., the rector and sub-rector and superintendent, that no damage may be done.

The old useful books should be brought together in the cities and kept safely in a library. The deacon of the treasury shall, as much as possible, increase the library every year, especially with German Bibles and volumes of Luther’s works. The parish clergy shall pray and exhort the people to increase the libraries through legacies [A great idea!]. The pastor and deacons shall see to it that an inventory is made and the library assiduously guarded.

The result of such regulations was the establishment of numerous church and school libraries… (p.127-28).

Fascinating, is it not?!

Prayer in Times of Great Peril – Valley of Vision

Once again the Lord’s sovereign hand has struck some of our families and congregations with the sudden death of a loved one, shaking us to the core, humbling us, teaching us, driving us to Him through Jesus Christ, our only Help and Hope.

In light of this I post this prayer titled “Peril” from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions (Banner of Truth, 1975). You will see that it is a cry for help raised “out of the depths” (Psalm 130:1), and yet a prayer of faith, with the child of God still clinging to the Lord of mercy.

At the end is a video recording of this prayer which may also be listened to and prayed in this way.

Peril – The Valley of Vision

Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
    in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
    and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeard,
    and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
    in horror and distress unutterable.
Help me, O Lord,
    to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
    for better, for worse, without comfort,
    and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
    morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
    so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
    a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.
All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
    sweetens every fear,
    reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
    brings real good out of seeming evil,
    makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
    to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
    and to teach me to live by faith upon
        thy blessed self.
Out of sorrow and night
    give me the name Naphtali –
    ‘satisfied with favour’ –
    help me to love thee as thy child,
    and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

Encouraging Church Members to Study (Read!) Theology – David Garner

Theological Fidelity: An Interview with David Garner by David Garner | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

300x467 Interview_GarnerThe interview feature in the June Tabletalk is with Dr. David Garner, associate professor of systematic theology at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. The entire interview (linked above here) is profitable, but I found this section especially encouraging. Here Garner talks about the importance of church leaders encouraging their members to study theology – including recommending reading resources.

Read on and be encouraged to study theology by reading good books! Don’t forget, your Seminary library is here to serve you too in this endeavor!

TT: What are some practical ways church leaders can encourage laypeople in their congregations to study theology?

DG: Due to the blessing of education and the accessibility of digital and print materials, congregation members can study Scripture in ways unprecedented in earlier generations. This privileged task bears a double edge. Accessibility and opportunity create accountability. With vast resources at our fingertips, should not this generation of believers imbibe the deep things of God and evidence unrivaled love and obedience to the Lord Jesus?

As church leaders, we must read and then recommend certain readings energetically and discerningly. We can vet and stock church libraries and encourage church reading groups. We can commend resources when teaching or preaching and pen our own theological and pastoral reflections for our congregations, aiming to whet their appetites.

Further, we should aid our congregations in cultivating biblically contoured minds and hearts. We should pray with the Apostle Paul “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph. 1:17). As part of this call to spiritual recalibration, we should expound how theology speaks into all spheres of life. Christ’s lordship is comprehensive (Eph. 1:15–23), and God’s people must come to know, love, and delight in this precious, poignant, and piercing reality.

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