While I have not posted book reviews or write-ups on this site for texts that do not fall within the theology/Christian living category; however, I felt compelled to make an exception in this case. I hope that as you read you will understand why and forgive the digression from the usual subject matter.
A couple of years ago, in 2019, the year of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight which saw three men fly to the moon and two become the first people to walk on the surface of another planet – I became somewhat interested in the subject of space flight and exploration.
It all began with listening to the fascinating ’13 Minutes to the Moon’ podcast by the BBC World Service. The series, hosted by Kevin Fong, chronicles the Apollo program’s finest achievement, focusing particular attention on the critical 13-minute descent period in which the space-age-alfoil-covered spider-like Eagle Lunar Module left the Columbia Command and Service module bound for the vast and desolate surface of the moon, eventually touching down at ‘Tranquility Base’ – a milestone in human history. Along the way, I heard this book mentioned as the seminal work of astronaut autobiography and eventually picked up a copy to read for myself.
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.
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.
A year ago todayI had just been through one of the most stressful experiences of my life.
A year ago today I was sitting in a hospital room with my wife, talking about our new baby boy and deciding on his name.
A year ago today I was leaving that same hospital room periodically to check on my brand new baby in the Special Care Baby Unit, hoping his oxygen levels would stabilise, and that the raft of negative outcomes and worst case scenarios we’d been asked to prepare for would not eventuate.
“His optic nerve is pale and visual activity is poor. The next step is more testing. I’m sorry I can’t give you a more definitive answer right now, but I’ll see you in four months time.”
These [paraphrased] words were not what we were wanting to hear when we took our almost five month old son to an ophthalmology appointment yesterday, but reality doesn’t care about what you want to hear. We have known ever since the diagnosis of hydrocephalus from a grade four bleed in the brain while in the womb that there was likely, medically speaking, to be some effects from the internal brain injuries during the developmental stages. The neonatologists even went as far as to say there was a high likelihood that the resulting impact would be fairly severe, given the serious nature of what occurred somewhere between 20 and 32 weeks. I remember asking about whether his hearing or sight would be impacted on the day when they broke the news to us about the likelihood of hemiplegic cerebral palsy on the left side of his body. I remember the horrible feeling when they said “we don’t know”. Fast forward several months. He has been through so much and bounced back from all his surgeries so well that it became tempting to think perhaps we were over the biggest hurdles. The last couple of weeks though, I’ve felt squarely back in the land of many unknowns as far as what lies ahead.
Have you ever experienced a miracle? I believe I have, and two days ago my wife and I brought him home from the hospital, praise God! After an ultrasound at 32 weeks revealed two serious issues in our unborn baby’s brain, which doctors were powerless to do anything about until he arrived, our world was in many ways turned upside down as a whole swathe of possible outcomes presented by neonatologists and neurosurgeons bounced around in our heads. You can read more about that stage of our journey here, as we sought to depend on God to get us through, but I’d be lying if I said the prognosis didn’t make the last few weeks of our pregnancy quite different to the unrestrained excitement we’d experienced with our first pregnancy.
Thursday the 7th of June 2018 (37 weeks and 5 days) was the day we were to meet our new baby via caesarean, which had been arranged due to the fact that the swelling in the brain was causing the head circumference to measure over the 99th percentile making natural birth dangerous as contractions would put too much pressure on the brain. At 3.19pm, a baby boy – a brother to our first son, Asher – entered our family, causing us to simultaneously give thanks to God while buckling up for one of the most intense weeks of our lives. The obstetricians and neonatologists had prepared us for the fact that the baby may need to be rushed to neonatal intensive care, would likely need help feeding and need to be fed via syringe, may have a visibly disproportionate head and could have a number of other complications, with the possibility of further symptoms developing down the track. There were between 15 and 20 people in the operating theatre… not exactly a reassuring sign, but they all played their role and we were relieved to hear the first cry as this little life entered the world outside the womb.
On Thursday I sat in a small room in a large hospital… again… waiting to hear some good news from the doctors, waiting for some answers, waiting to find out what they can do to help (and when), waiting to see what God will do in this situation and how He will use it for our good and for his glory. Before I go any further forward, I suppose I should go back a couple of weeks… It’s Sunday night. This time the previous week I had been sitting down with my wife, preparing for work to get busy again after a short holiday break, and just generally enjoying the stage of life we’re in with an almost two year old filling our days with joy and another little one on the way.
On Tuesday, we were to attend our final ultrasound before the next baby is born. The scan was booked for 32 weeks for a fairly routine check-up. I was excited to see our little baby for the second time. After attending the first scan I had missed the second scan, so I was keen to see how it had grown. The scan was going fine, we thought, and then the sonographer said she needed to get some extra paperwork. At this point my wife and I didn’t think much of her exit from the room, and I even (perhaps naively) thought the 15-20 minute wait until she returned was nothing to worry about. You just kind of assume things will go alright, well, at least that’s what I assumed. When she returned though, my wife and I heard words you never want to hear as expectant parents during an ultrasound; “I’ve noticed some things that I think you need to speak to a doctor about.” I remember sitting there thinking: hang on, this pregnancy has been quite smooth, the baby has been healthy all the way along, what could possibly be wrong all of a sudden? When I tried to ask for specifics, I was told “I think you really need to speak to someone who is trained to talk to you about this.” So it began…
Just 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). Continue reading →
Today is Good Friday. It’s a day that has always carried somewhat confusing or conflicting emotions for me, at least as long as I can remember. It is a day to remember something that is brutal and yet beautiful, horrific and yet heavenly, tragic… and yet triumphant. It is a day that I want to mourn over the way that humans just like me treated the only one who can save us from our depravity and sin, but it is also a day on which I am reminded of how blessed I am to live on this side of the cross. I know that in suffering for my sake, Jesus who was perfect and was in very nature God, humbled himself and became obedient to death on a cross, paying the price that bought me out of slavery to sin and death and therefore separation from God into a new life that will last for forever.