Tuesday, May 24, 2016

John Piper on money, sex, and power

I’ve always found John Piper to be a delight to read. For some reason I really enjoy his shorter titles, perhaps because they get right to the point and still maintain a good balance of doctrine and application. His recent title Living in the Light: Money, Sex, and Power comes in at 144 pages, which lands it in that short and sweet category.

One thing I appreciate about Piper is that no matter how many books of his I read, new titles always feel fresh and new. By now he could easily repackage his older works, slap a new title on them, and they’d sell like crazy. But Piper is a deep thinker. Every time I pick up a new book he’s written, I encounter fresh thoughts on the subject. That’s not to say that Piper waffles on issues. He’s every bit as committed to the authority of God’s word, the sovereignty of God, and the chief end of man being glorifying God by enjoying him forever as he was decades ago when he wrote Desiring God. Piper just keeps thinking about these things, finding new ways to appreciate their beauty and applying them to our ever-changing world.

Here he looks at what the Bible says about money, sex, and power. He affirms the goodness of all three and he reflects on how we can use them to express our devotion to God and to serve him faithfully. He also identifies how each of these can trip us up, shifting our focus from God to our own sinful machinations, like seeking to satisfy our pride, satisfaction, security, and other desires that seek to dethrone God from our hearts. I love how practical and pastoral he is, such as when he looks at how online shopping and waiting for packages in the mail can become an idol.

This is another solid title from Piper, and if you’re on the fence about getting it, check out the free PDF available on the Desiring God website.

I received this title from christianaudio for the purpose of providing this review.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition

The title Pentecostal Outpourings may be a little misleading at first glance. It’s definitely a lot more provocative than Revival and the Reformed Tradition (the book’s subtitle). If anything, confusion over the title reveals our association of the word “Pentecostal” with things that often have little or no connection to events described in the Bible.

The movement of God in bringing large groups of people to faith and stirring up his people to love and live for him could be accurately described as a revival or a “Pentecostal outpouring.” Such movements have occurred in reformed groups, and this book focuses on such occurrences in the 18th and 19th centuries. Section one looks at revivals in the British Isles, and section two covers revivals in North America.

Anthologies have pros and cons. The use of multiple authors who’ve each spent considerable time studying and researching their topic makes the book better and broader in scope than it could be had it been written by just one person. No amount of editing, however, can make for a seamless read from cover to cover, so some chapters are definitely better written than others. I enjoyed most of the chapters, but by far the most interesting to me were chapters 2, 3, 5, and 6. I’ve discovered that virtually anything written by Michael Haykin is both interesting and well written. He specializes in Baptist history, and he always captures my interest and makes reading him a pleasure, not a chore. Ian Hugh Clary’s contribution on revival in Ireland matched Haykin as a joy to read. Robert Smart’s and Peter Beck’s contributions on the First and Second Great Awakenings kept my interest, though it’s not hard to do so because I find the subject matter interesting regardless.

In all, I liked the book. It was encouraging to me as a reminder that God can and does move mightily in a society that seems apathetic or even hostile to the gospel. It moved me to pray for revival here and now, and any book that gets you doing that is a worthy read indeed.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Great Stories of the Bible

One of the greatest things you can do with your kids is to read to them. Practically every day I find myself with one or more kids on my lap, a book in my hands, and another fifteen minutes to a half-hour gone before I know it. My four- and three-year-old love weekly trips to the library, and I enjoy looking for titles I read (or were read to me) when I was a kid too.

Since I read to the kids so much, I try to find books that take a little longer to read. Fifteen to thirty minutes can feel like an eternity once we get past book number four or five. I recently got a review copy of Great Stories of the Bible from Zondervan, and it fit my and my kids’ needs perfectly.

Great Stories of the Bible is an I Can Read Level 2 book, which is geared towards kids who are starting to read, but still need help with some words (level 3 is for kids who can read by themselves). Even though my kids can’t read, I found that the amount of text per page was enough that I didn’t feel like I was flying through the book yet my kids didn’t get bored looking at the picture waiting for me to turn the page.

This particular book is actually a collection of six smaller books in one. Individual titles are about 25 pages, but when bundled together it’s an excellent collection for story time. Some sites (including the publisher) have the wrong stories listed in the description, so to be clear, this set includes the following:

- Creation and the fall
- The fiery furnace
- Ruth and Naomi
- Miracles of Jesus
- Prodigal son
- The Good Samaritan

I’d recommend this book to most anyone with young kids. It’s a great way to expose your kids to the Bible, and the number of stories makes it a much better deal than buying the titles individually.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sharing a meal with people we've just met

Hannah and I moved to Buffalo for my job, but we wouldn’t have taken it if it didn’t come with an opportunity to continue ministering among Hispanics. Ever since we first arrived here we’ve been looking for ways to connect with Spanish-speakers.

We recently decided to be more intentional in our efforts. We found out about a special event at the library for the Día de los Niños (Children’s Day) and took our kids there. Our kids had fun and Hannah got to talk with some women who were there to support the event. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, after the kids are in bed, I visit a restaurant to order an appetizer and talk with the wait staff. So far I’ve focused on two different restaurants, and I plan to start visiting some more, but this weekend we saw the first fruits of our labors. On Sunday we had a few people who I met at a restaurant over for dinner at our house. We talked and laughed and had a great time, something I hope will be the start of a good friendship and, even more importantly, opportunities to share the gospel.

I’ve not kept it a secret that I’m a pastor or that I want to start a Spanish-language ministry here. When we had the people over I prayed over our meal, and Hannah and I talked about our church community back in Indianapolis—among a host of other things during the 2+ hours we had them over. I’m not interested in people as a means to an end. I genuinely want to get to know people here. But making friendships and sharing the gospel aren’t contradictory endeavors. And that’s why Hannah and I will take advantage of the opportunities that come our way to connect with people, share our home, and share our faith. Pray we would have more opportunities to do so.