Today is my youngest son Josiah’s third birthday. Recently, my older son, Asher, turned five. For me at 35, my birthday is not super significant. It’s a good milestone each year, and a chance to celebrate with those I love, but it doesn’t hit for me the same way as my kids’ birthdays. I imagine there’s a certain amount of reflection that is unavoidable as a parent celebrating your child’s birthday, and when your child’s health journey is, shall we say, less than straightforward, it feels like this is amplified even further. Just last week we had one of those moments where everything sort of pauses or slows down temporarily due to a health scare, as we wait to find out what is wrong below the surface, what can be done, how quickly and what the outcome will be. Thankfully, this time was a minor one, but more on that later.
This reflection is healthy, I think, and worthwhile, but has its challenges too – but first, an update…
I began reading this book at Easter, and recently finished this journey through ‘the most important week of the most important person who ever lived’. Tracing the events of the final week of Jesus’ life leading up to (and including) his death, burial and resurrection, I found this journey through the Easter story to be a refreshing and helpful way to ponder, meditate upon and think through these events which are so central to my faith and the faith of Christians across the globe.
Arranged with two primary elements to each chapter – namely the scripture passages from each of the gospel accounts, broken into appropriate sections and included one after the other for easy comparison, followed by commentary by the authors – this book serves certainly as a harmonisation of the gospel accounts, and also as a tool for bible study/personal devotion. If you have ever wanted to delve deeper into some of the criticisms levelled at the gospels by unbelievers, you will likely find this to be a helpful volume to read and keep in your library!
Prompted by a sense of wanting to honour and learn more about the life of Dr J.I. Packer on the occasion of his passing into glory, I began reading this volume by Sam Storms on 19 July 2020, just two days after Dr Packer’s death. I had heard about Packer from a distance over the years – including in Iain Murray’s single volume biography of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones – and I seem to recall subsequently hearing from the man himself in interviews, but at the time I began reading this book I had not read a full book of Dr Packer’s. This quickly changed as I devoured Weakness is the Way: Life with Christ our Strength shortly after starting Packer on the Christian Life, and I very much appreciated Dr Packer’s wisdom in dealing with the topic of the appropriate stature for us to take as believers – walking faithfully and humbly through this life with Christ as our strength, understanding that when we are weak, He is strong and His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). While it was wonderful to finally have some entry into reading Packer himself, Packer on the Christian Life helped me to get to know the man and the theologian that was Dr J.I. Packer, and for that I am very grateful.
Two years ago today my youngest son was recovering from his second invasive brain surgery. This time, to place a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt into the right rear side behind his ear, to constantly drain cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the ventricles in the brain where it is produced, into his abdominal cavity via a catheter tube running internally down his neck. This device, though far from perfect in its design, with something like a 50% fail rate in the first year or two after placement, is a life-saver for children with hydrocephalus. It stops the fluid, which has trouble draining naturally, from building to the point where it squashes the brain against the skull, leading to brain damage and eventually (if left untreated) death.
Way back then, when he was just three months old, we were amazed at how resilient he was and how he had bounced back from his first brain surgery like a champion, but there were so many unknowns about how much his conditions would impact him as he grew and developed.
I think it could be said that Romans 8 may well be the most glorious, joy-inspiring, hope-giving chapter in the book containing the clearest and most comprehensive treatment of the Christian gospel message in the entire Bible. It’s hard to choose favourites, and of course we must let all of scripture speak rather than honing in on one chapter or book in isolation, but I have certainly found in my own walk with God that the truths contained in Romans 8 and 9 in particular have been a balm that breaks through the difficulties and sorrows of life, shining a light that causes our sufferings to pale in comparison to the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17), and helping us to face them in faith and with joy and hope.
In this wonderful book by Australian pastor and author Ray Galea, the reader is taken on a journey through this chapter, section by section, beginning with our life in the Spirit as believers (including the incredible declaration of ‘no condemnation’ for those who are in Christ), our status as heirs with Christ as a result of our adoption as children of God, the way in which God works through and in the midst of our suffering – with the Spirit interceding for us in our darkest moments – for our good and for God’s glory, to the assurance we can have thanks to God’s unbroken chain of redemption, and concluding with the amazing reminder that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God.
Full disclosure: I did not buy this book – I was given it after ‘winning’ an informal online contest through the Christian podcast sphere of which I have been a part since 2015. I’m also not the target audience (it is written for women). With that said, I am very glad to have received a copy, and although it was not written to a male audience, I can say I found aspects of it were certainly applicable to my own walk with God, while other parts gave me valuable insights into some of the fears faced by my sisters in Christ. For both of these things, I am thankful.
Trillia covers a lot of ground in a fairly concise book, from fear of death/tragic loss to fear of not measuring up, parenting guilt/woes, fear in or arising from marital matters, body image issues, and more. Throughout the book, and often using personal real-life examples, Trillia brings the gospel to bear (helpfully and without piling on the guilt) on the tension that commonly exists between fear and faith.
Humble Calvinism is a relatively short, very well constructed overview of the five points of Calvinism, with a distinct focus on how they should cause those of us who subscribe to them to live, act, and evangelise as believers.
Having come to Reformed theology around five years ago, one of the first books I read at that time was John Piper’s Five Points Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace – a book I would highly recommend to this day. Jeff’s book Humble Calvinism reminds me of that volume in its pastoral approach to explaining and applying the five points to the life of the reader.
The Imperfect Disciple has been sitting in my library for some time, and it is the first book I have ever owned (and now read) by Jared Wilson. When I finally got to reading it recently I found myself asking, “why on earth did I wait so long to read this?”
The book is written conversationally, making it highly accessible, and yet there are so many brilliant turns of phrase it feels masterful! This relatively informal style doesn’t distract, it helps you settle in, it connects you to the message – and goodness knows it is a message we all need to hear.
In this very timely, Bible-saturated yet succinct volume titled ‘Coronavirus and Christ’, John Piper’s wise pastoral heart and masterful application of the ancient truths of God’s word to a sick and dying postmodern world once again come to the fore. He shows us how to see the glory of God and the goodness of God and the sweetness of God’s sovereignty in and through the COVID-19 coronavirus, he helps us understand some of the billion things God is doing through this current situation – which is not outside of His control and plan – and he helps us focus on the call of Christ presented to us in the coronavirus… a call to repent and believe in Him, a call to stay awake because we do not know the day or hour when He will return, and a call to love and serve and pray for others during this significant time of suffering. Finally, a reminder of God’s ability to use the coronavirus to serve his global mission, and a pastoral prayer, offer much needed perspective and give voice to those who may not not always know how to pray as we ought during this global pandemic.
In short, I highly recommend this book to all believers seeking to think biblically through the COVID-19 pandemic, and to those looking to find comfort, peace, wisdom and joy in God in the midst of it.
Visit DesiringGod.org and download the free eBook or audiobook.