Book Review

The Heart of Christ for You

It has been quite the year hasn’t it. None of us could have imagined we would be traversing a global pandemic by staying at home (some of you are cheating I know). And in the midst of the wrecked routines and new normal maybe you have been surprised by some of the things that have helped you get through it all. I know I have.

One of those things for me is the new book from Dane Ortlund on “the heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers.” It’s called “Gentle and Lowly” and I think you need to pick up a copy as soon as you can.

Dane is one of Ray Ortlund Jr.’s sons, and the gospel doesn’t fall far from the tree here. What a gift this whole family is to the kingdom as they proclaim Christ.

In this thoroughly digestible book Ortlund interacts with writings from a collection of Puritans and how they would naw on one verse of Scripture and produce volumes in response. Most reflecting on the heart of Jesus toward his people. Taking his cue then from those writers the author opens the word afresh for us weary souls.

Jesus really is all about you and your sin and suffering are occasions for his love and grace toward you to be stoked. Crazy. Crazy good. This book should be mandatory reading for believers that have doubted God’s love for them, or for anyone desiring to be more acquainted with Christ.

Check some choice quotes below:

“Jesus Christ’s desire that you find rest, that you come in out of the storm, outstrips even your own.” 21

“…the dominant note left ringing in our ears after reading the Gospels, the most vivid and arresting element of the portrait, is the way the Holy Son of God moves toward, touches, heals, embraces, and forgives those who least deserve it yet truly desire it.” 27

“It is not what life brings to us but to whom we belong that determines Christ’s heart of love for us.” 65

“In Jesus Christ, we are given a friend who will always enjoy rather than refuse our presence. This is a companion whose embrace of us does not strengthen or weaken depending on how clean or unclean, how attractive or revolting, how faithful or fickle, we presently are. The friendliness of his heart for us subjectively is as fixed and stable as is the declaration of his justification of us objectively.” 115

“Whom do you perceive him to be, in your sin and your suffering? Who do you think God is – not just on paper but in the kind of person you believe is hearing you when you pray? How does he feel about you? His saving of us is not cool and calculating. It is a matter of yearning – not yearning for the Facebook you, the you that you project to everyone around you. Not the you that you wish you were. Yearning for the real you. The you underneath everything you present to others.” 166

“…it is the sun of Christ’s heart, not the cloud of my sins, that now defines me.” 187

“Christ’s glory is preeminently seen and enjoyed in his love to sinners.” 207

Grab the book for yourself here.

Book Review

The Perfect Gift For Those Still On The List

Okay, perfect might be a stretch, but if you are wanting to close out your Christmas shopping and are looking for that last gift, might I recommend Depths, a daily devotional rich with gospel goodness. I am biased of course as the author. But this really is the gift that keeps giving, 366 days of Scripture and reflection that mine the depths of the fullness of Christ.

You can grab your copy on Amazon, and download one for yourself on the Kindle.

To give you a flavor of the devotional, here is today’s entry:

December 3

Studying the works of the Lord

Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.” -Psalm 111:2–3

There is so much noise in our lives. The schedules, the responsibilities, the people we love, the people we are required to interact with… It can all add up to some hefty distraction and lead us to miss some important things, specifically the great works God has done and is doing in our lives for his glory and our good.

But his works are there, undergirding all things by his creative genius and authority. And oh, the work of the cross—what a miracle and wonder that God himself would be our substitute, meting wrath for sin and defeating death once-for-all! Then come Jesus’ resurrection and the new life it promises us in salvation. We even have the little things, the subtle kindnesses—the grace of rain on parched land or the sustaining wind of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.

It is these works, the unending works of splendor, majesty, and righteousness that we are now free to delight in, to enjoy as we live. In our delight, in our thanksgiving for them, we can study them, pursue them, read, hear, and tell of them. Let us be reminded once again of Christ’s great work for us and that we might proclaim it so others can experience it too.

Today, pick a few of the great works of the Lord in your life—be it salvation or the provision of a new day. Think about them, savor them, and rejoice in the giver of those gifts. Rest in his wondrous works.

Review and buy a copy of Depths here and Merry Christmas!

Book Review

Reclaiming a Biblical Pattern of Worship?

Last week Andrew Wilson’s latest book on the merger of eucharistic and charismatic worship landed in the mailbox and I think it presents a clear, if brief, argument for a wise way or pursuing a biblical expression of the church.

Wilson, well known to those in the “Reformed” and continuationist camp (holding to more Calvinistic theology and the belief that the miraculous gifting of the Holy Spirit continues today), invites the church to go both deeper and higher in a way that sounds nearly unfeasible but is actually quite intriguing.

Spirit and Sacrament is a “theological vision for the church that treasures all of God’s gifts, the eucharistic and charismatic, beginning with charis (grace) and culminating in chara (joy).” Marrying the passion of the church for the sacraments (communion, baptism as examples) along with historic creeds and prayers of the church with “low church” expressions where the gifts of the Spirit are passionately pursued.

Given my background and doctrinal positions, the book speaks to my desires in the life of the church but to be fair, it has enough to make each side anxious toward what could come of such a vision.

Wilson warmly persuades those unlikely to call their way of doing church “liturgical” to recognize their own liturgy and inject more of the tested and biblically taught things that adorn the gospel. A call to worship, reciting a creed, call and response, the reading of Scripture (apart from the sermon), and confession etc.

At the same time, he attempts to bring an embrace and fervent pursuit of supernatural gifts to places typically more reserved and cautious.

While ardent cessationists (those that presume the gifts ended with the end of biblical canon or ministry of the original apostles) will not be convinced, since Wilson takes just a brief moment to present a Charismatic basis, the interaction with the church fathers’ experience of the miraculous is worthwhile.

Throughout I was struck that what Wilson is presenting is a full-bodied biblical church. This is the model of the New Testament and should be a rich way forward for the church.

Wilson says this way of worship is aspirational, not descriptive, and aspire toward it we should. All said I imagine this little book will become the start of an increasing call to such things and it is something that I welcome with expectancy.

Here are some key quotes from the book:

“The historic church has always been more “charismatic” than either the cautious conservatives or sectarian enthusiasts have been willing to admit.”

“It must be possible to lament and celebrate, be serious and joyful, at the same time. It is important to consider how this kind of both/and can be cultivated and how being Eucharismatic can help us.”

“Gifts… are like vessels that carry us back to our homeland; they should be enjoyed, but only in that they are taking us to our true source of joy and our true love.”

“We need to plunge ourselves into the depths of our tradition, so as to spring to new heights. Down, into historic prayers. Up, into spontaneous ones. Down, into confession of sin. Up, into the celebration of forgiveness. Down, into the creeds. Up, into the choruses. Down, into knowing God’s presence in the sacraments. Up, into feeling God’s presence in song. Call, and response. Friday, then Sunday. Kneel, then jump.”

“The sacraments should be at the heart of our corporate worship, not peripheral and occasional interruptions to it.”

“If you want to be gospel-centered, be Table-centered. If you want to be truly evangelical, be eucharistic.”

“The chief actor in the sanctification of the believer is not a message, but a Messenger: a person who can be grieved or honored, not just a word that can be rejected or believed.”

“We are under the same covenant as our first-century brothers and sisters, and as such, we should assume that what the apostles taught them, they would also teach us.”

“It is possible, and in fact required of us, both to earnestly desire spiritual gifts – knowledge, wisdom, faith, prophecy, languages, interpretation, distinguishing spirits, teaching, healing, miracles, helping, administering, leading, giving, showing mercy – and to do so with scriptural wisdom, so as to build us the body, serve the common good, love one another, and exalt the risen Christ.”