With Calvin in the Theater of God: The Glory of Christ and Everyday Life // John Piper and David Mathis (Eds.)

With Calvin in the Theater of God: The glory of Christ and everyday life

Produced from a series of (edited) lectures given at the 2009 Desiring God National Conference on the God-glorifying life, ministry, theology and praxis of John Calvin, this book provides an invaluable insight into one of the most influential pastor/theologians the world has ever seen.

Calvin himself uses the metaphor of the theater of God being the stage upon which all of history plays out, and each of the authors of this book’s chapters tackles, with an appreciative but fair hand, as aspect of the Christian life as it is rightly lived – in a manner that makes little of self, much of God and, specifically, most of his glorious grace to us in Jesus Christ.

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Packer on the Christian Life // Sam Storms

packer-on-the-christian-life-by-sam-stormsPrompted 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.

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From Here to Eternity: Assurance in the face of sin and suffering // Ray Galea

From Here to Eternity book coverI 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.

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Fear and Faith: Finding the peace your heart craves // Trillia J. Newbell

Fear and Faith by Trillia J. NewbellFull 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.

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Humble Calvinism // J. A. Medders

Humble Calvinism book cover by J. A. MeddersHumble 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.

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The Imperfect Disciple – Grace for people who can’t get their act together // Jared C. Wilson

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.

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Coronavirus and Christ // John Piper

Coronavirus and Christ by John PiperIn 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.

Kingdom Come [The Amillennial Alternative] // Sam Storms

Kingdom Come by Sam StormsEarlier this year I read Kingdom Come by Sam Storms. I suppose until recently I held the default eschatological position of many Christians, known as historic premillennialism. However, the ministry through which I came to understand the truths of reformed theology is heavily postmillennial and while I listen to their teaching and appreciate their optimism and passion for the world to continue to get better, I can’t fully reconcile postmillennialism with the world around me.

As I began to study eschatology more closely I said to several people that I think the church would be in a much better place if more Christians lived like post-millennial believers, but again, the overarching flow of historical events stopped me short of believing that we are heading for some sort of golden age on this side of the second coming.

Enter Sam’s book, which became for me a turning point and a source of clarity on the ‘end times’. It is quite scholarly and is not an easy read at times. I think it has more footnotes than any other theological book I’ve read to date (minus the Bible)! It is worth reading though and I commend it to all (reformed or not) who are serious about understanding what the book of Revelation means in light of the Bible as a whole.

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Desiring God // John Piper

Desiring God - Meditations of a Christian HedonistOver the last few years perhaps no other preacher, teacher or theologian has taught me as much as John Piper. For this reason I feel somewhat strange when I say it has taken me until now to fully read through his magnum opus ‘Desiring God’. I’m sure, however, that others will attest to the fact that this book is not one to rip through in an afternoon. The depth of theology and the paradigm shifting presentation of the Christian’s pursuit of joy in God as foundational to a Biblical understanding of the gospel requires much thought, contemplation and reflection.

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The life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones 1899-1981 // Iain Murray

The life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones 1899-1981 by Iain MurrayJust over 24 hours have passed since I finished this book, and I am still very much processing the weight of its importance both to the twenty first century evangelical church and to me personally. Before reading The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones 1899 – 1981 I could have counted on one hand the number of times I had heard of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The few occasions I did hear his name was when it was referenced by prominent pastors and Christian leaders whom I admire such as John Piper and Kevin DeYoung, but I had never come into contact with his life and ministry directly. Out of interest I put this biography on my birthday ‘wishlist’ in 2013, as I wanted to know more about this character who I’d heard reputable sources refer to as “the greatest preacher in the last 200 years”. Thankfully, I was given a copy on my birthday that year. At the time I had no idea just how profoundly the story of Dr Lloyd-Jones’ faith, life and ministry would affect me and indeed this is something I doubt that I currently know the full extent of. Some expansion on this will follow in this post, however I must start by saying I am forever grateful to author (and personal friend/assistant to Dr Lloyd-Jones) Iain Murray for his work on this condensed biography which has introduced me to a man whom I will not meet until I too am called home to be with Jesus, but whose story has caused me to give all praise to God for a life well lived in the service of the Kingdom, a life “worthy of the calling” he received (Ephesians 4:1 ESV).
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