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Humility: True Greatness
Humility: True Greatness
by C.J. Mahaney
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 12.26
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seeing the Truth about Ourselves, June 30 2007
Finally, a book on every Christian's favorite subject!

Well, I suppose that's not quite right, is it? Most of us don't really want to be more humble. At least we don't want to be more humble unless someone notices how humble we are and congratulates us for it.

C. J. Mahaney defines humility as a realistic evaluation of ourselves in light of God's holiness and our sinfulness. Humility is seeing the truth about ourselves. I think I can say with confidence that there's not one Christian who oughtn't be more humble. When we assess ourselves, we are much more likely to evaluate ourselves as better than we really are, than we are to see ourselves accurately. Our problem is not lack of self-esteem, but too much self-esteem. So this is a book we all ought to be interested in, even though we might find the subject...well...humbling.

This is a short book and a quick read. The first two sections deal with the biblical reasons we ought to be humble and the biblical example of humility that we find in Christ himself. The last section is the largest section of the book, and it's the "how-to" of humility: What can we do to grow some in ourselves and in those we are responsible for.

This last section is where the strength of the book is. I'm not a big reader of "how-to" books, but this is not pop-psychology, but practical biblical advice. For instance, this section examines things like what we can do first thing in the morning to give us a humble outlook, what we can do at the close of the day to remind us of our dependence on God and his grace, and how we can encourage others.

I wish there had been more exegetical examination of the various scriptural texts that deal with humility--like my personal favorite: Philippians 2: 1-11--but that's probably just me wanting a book that's more the sort of thing that I really, really like to read. Practical is good, and Humility: True Greatness is nothing if not practical. It gives us the down-to-earth, bottom-line, nitty-gritty on a quality I need more of, and I bet you do, too.

Work Excellence: A Biblical Perspective Of Work
Work Excellence: A Biblical Perspective Of Work
by Charles M. Garriott
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rethinking Work, June 30 2007
This book is short, easy to read, and conversational in style, but not shallow. There was probably nothing in it that I didn't already know at some level, and yet I found myself constantly rethinking my attitude toward work throughout the book. It is peppered with biblical stories, and principles relating to work in the life of a Christian are drawn from the stories. Each chapter ends with a few questions to help the reader reflect on how to apply those principles to his own life and work.

The chapter titled Conflict, for example, draws its principles from the story of the fall. Since the fall, our work experiences are marred by the results of God's wrath against sin. Our work is not going to be easy. There will be an element of struggle and futility in it, and we will experience conflict and tension. This is something that we need to accept about our life and work in a fallen world.

Yet we are not left without hope. The struggle within our life and work are temporal things, and they point us to the hope of the gospel.The gospel has no meaning without the recognition of the pain from sin that ignites the anger of God. Our hope is in Christ alone, and not in the absence of pain. We can find comfort in Christ from the suffering we experience in our work, and reconcilitation and forgiveness in the conflicts that arise there can be found in him, too.

Keeping these two basic biblical principles in mind--the fall mars our work experiences, yet there is hope in Christ--Garriott gives us a few questions to answer for ourselves at the end of the chapter, including, "What are the 'thistles' that exist within your work?" and "Are there relationships at your place of employment that need to be addressed with grace and forgiveness?" Finally, we are given a short prayer to pray regarding the effects of the fall on our life and work.

Each of the eleven short chapters in the book follows this same basic format: an examination of the principles, questions to help us think about how we might apply them to our own situations, and a prayer to pray. It's simplicity and subject matter make it a valuable book for almost any believer. Who isn't just a little dissatisfied with their life and work? Who doesn't need a reminder of our obligation to use the talents we have been given in a way that brings God glory? The format would also make it suitable for use in a discussion group setting, using the questions for reflection as starting points for group discussion.

Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions
Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions
by Wayne Grudem
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 19.41

5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive Defense of Complementarianism, June 30 2007
This is some book! By that I mean that Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth is about as comprehensive a treatment of the issue of the proper biblical roles of men and women in the home and in the church as anyone could hope to find--856 pages, 80+ pages of which are bibliography and indexes, 8 appendices totaling over 200 pages, and 536 pages of text--all painstakingly documented and referenced.

Grudem argues for the complementarian viewpoint, which holds that the equal value and dignity of the sexes do not mean that men and women have the same God-given roles in marriage or the church. (I would consider myself a complementarian--although not necessarily a studied one--so I was not reading this book as someone whose bias is critical of this viewpoint.) However, no matter what your personal view is--complementarian or egalitarian--if you are interested in this issue, you will find this book invaluable for the careful documentation of the arguments for both sides. I wish everyone writing books arguing for a particular viewpoint were as fair as Grudem is in his representation of the arguments of the other side. In fact, he solicits comments from any egalitarian author who thinks he has unfairly quoted or summarized their arguments, giving an address for their complaints to be sent to.

In the first two chapters of this book, the positive case for the complementarian viewpoint is given. In the bulkiest section of the book, chapters 3-12, Grudem systematically answers the arguments made by egalitarians. If you've heard the argument made, you will undoubtedly find it set out for you in this section, right alongside Grudem's evaluation of the claim. There are 118 egalitarian claims examined in detail in this middle section of the book. Even if you don't read this section clear through from start to finish, you should find it handy to have as a reference, no matter where you hang your hat on this issue.

The two summary chapters of the book contain Grudem's argument that evangelical feminism tends to lead to other liberal positions within a church, and an overview of the viewpoints held by the various denominations and parachurch organizations. He ends the text with some of his personal observations and opinion as to how and why egalitarianism is advancing in the church and what complementarians ought to do about it.

Then there are the previously mentioned appendices, which are almost a book in themselves, and just as interesting and informative as the regular text of the book. They include, for instance, two lengthy works on the meaning of the Greek word translated head. If you've heard many egalitarian arguments, you know that the meaning of this word figures large in their arguments.

To sum up, if this is an issue you care about, then you'll want to read this book in order to make sure you have a full grasp of the arguments on both sides. And your library is lacking if you don't have this book as a reference to draw from. If you, like me, are not a scholar, you'll appreciate that while Wayne Grudem is a scholar--and this is a very scholarly piece--it is still quite readable and understandable for the nonscholar.

Total Truth : Liberating Christianity From Its Cul: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity
Total Truth : Liberating Christianity From Its Cul: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity
by Nancy Pearcey
Edition: Hardcover
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Dense Book, But Worth the Effort, June 30 2007
I hope that my calling Total Truth dense won't scare you away from it, because what Nancy Pearcey has given us in this book is too valuable to avoid just because it's not a quick read. Besides, in this case, dense doesn't mean difficult to understand, only that there's lots to take in.

Why should you care about this book? Why will you find it valuable? Unless you've been living under a bridge in Norway eating billy goats, you've heard the word worldview bandied about lately. We've all got one, you know. What is your worldview? How did you get it? How do you evaluate a worldview? How do you apply your worldview practically and personally? These are all questions that this book will help you answer.

The sort of questions in the study guide are probably more useful for group discussion than for someone just reading through it on their own. However, if you are buying Total Truth (and you should!), I'd suggest getting the study guide edition even if you plan to just read the book by yourself and never discuss it with anyone. I guarantee there'll be a question or two in there that'll get you going and help expand your understanding of the principles in the book.

Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus' Name
Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus' Name
by Bryan Chapell
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.36
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Devotional Book with Substance, June 30 2007
If I'd seen this book in a bookstore and read only the title, I'd have passed it by without a second glance. I hate gimmicks, associating them with shallowness, and this title sure sounds gimmicky to me. There is a reason for the title. Praying Backwards is all about praying in Jesus' name--you know, that little phrase that we like to tack on to the end or our prayers as an afterthought--and what praying in Jesus' name really means.

It's a devotional sort of book, but devotional in the best sense. This book's got substance, not only encouraging and instructing us to pray boldly and persistently, for instance, but giving us the biblical reasons that we ought to. I'm not going to say that this book transformed my prayer life--my prayer life was transformed more in the circumstances of my husband's illness and death--but it reminded me of many of the things I learned about praying in those difficult times.

And I needed the reminder. Depending on God for everything is something that comes naturally when times are tough, but when things get better we once again begin to fool ourselves into thinking that have just a little control over our own lives, and that robs our prayer life of the richness of total dependence on God. When times are tough, we are not afraid to say, "Lord, have your will, no matter what it is", but when things run smoothly again, that's a much more difficult prayer to say and mean.

I wish I hadn't been reading this book with a deadline. I would have read one chapter a day, or even one chapter a week, so I could concentrate on putting each principle into practice before I moved on. It's a book that would be better savoured than skimmed, and I'm going to try to reread it more carefully later as I have more time.

The feature I appreciated most in Praying Backwards is the written prayer at the end of each chapter--a prayer that puts the chapter's key thought into the words of a prayer. Each one was moving to read and moving to pray. The feature I liked least was that title. I'm afraid it will put off the sort of people who would be drawn by the substance of the book, and those who would be attracted to the cuteness of the title might not be willing to do the hard work of reading it or putting its principles into practice.

But if you let the title put you off, you'd be missing a valuable book for any Christian to read. Prayer is another one of those things we probably don't think enough about, and we too easily let our prayers become rote, or even nonexistent, and we lose out on the blessings--confidence, peace, and joy--that come from shaping our prayers to conform to those words we always tack on to the end of them: "In Jesus' name, Amen."

Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?
Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?
by Wayne Grudem
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.86
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where Is Egalitarianism Leading Us?, June 25 2007
The focus of this book by Wayne Grudem is his concern that evangelical feminism will prove, over time, to draw people into theological liberalism. By liberalism, Grudem is referring to a system of belief that does not accept the Bible as the supreme authority in the lives of believers, or accept the absolute truthfulness of what is written in it.

Grudem bases this concern of his in many of the arguments made in support of egalitarianism. They are, he says, often exactly the same arguments used first in liberal Protestant denomination--arguments that deny (although sometimes in subtle ways) that the text of scripture is completely error free, and that what we find written there is the final arbitrator of things in a believer's life and in the life of the church.

Grudem's first argument is from history. He makes the case that, generally speaking, denominations that ordain women are also denominations that at least tolerate liberalism. The lists are interesting, and it does seem that the ordination of women and a denial of the inerrancy of scripture (or at least a tolerance of those who deny the inerrancy of scripture) tend to go hand in hand within denominations. I'm ot sure exactly what this proves, but the correlation is worth noting.

The second section of the book is a collection of short chapters (fifteen in all), with each one examining a single argument put forward by evangelical feminists. Each arguments examined is one that Grudem believes undermines the authority of scripture. I won't run through the various arguments, but I will give you one example, and a summary of Grudem's reasoning for his charge that this particular argument undermines scripture.

The first chapter in this section deals with a couple of arguments that put forward the idea that the account of creation given to us in Genesis 1-3 is not exactly accurate. One of the arguments, made by William Webb, is that the priority of Adam's creation, with instructions given by God to Adam alone, is not the way things really happened; but rather, is a literary device, perhaps used to foreshadow the curse, or used by Moses to make things easier for people of his time and culture to understand the story, or used to anticipate life in an agrarian society. The point of denying the historicity of the text that says that Adam was created first is that this makes it possible to argue that when Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:13, where he argues from Adam's creation before Eve that women are not to exercise authority over a man, the argument he uses is merely a cultural one, and not one rooted in the actual events of creation. At the very least, it's an odd way for someone with a high view of scripture to handle the text; but further, it seems a little like toying with the evidence for the purpose of coming to one's desired conclusion. Grudem's point is that this argument iss a step on the road to denying the inerrancy of scripture by denying that the Genesis account represents the historical events of creation.

There are many more troubling arguments in this section. Some, like the example above, deny the authority of scripture by claiming that the text is wrong in some way. Other arguments simply claim that there are certain things that trump the authority of scripture, like experience, or "calling" or individual circumstances.

The next section of Evangelical Feminism deals with arguments that are based on claims that come mostly from conjecture, either about what a certain word really means, or what the particular circumstances surrounding a text really were. These conjectures allow for whole new interpretations of some passages, but the unsubstantiated nature of the claims upon which these interpretations are made make the interpretations themselves speculative at best, and yet the claims are not presented as speculations, but as already proven facts.

There are ten chapters in this section dealing with various unsubstantiated claims. You've heard some of them, I'm sure. There's the claim, for instance, that the women in the church of Corinth were particularly unruly or disruptive. Did you know there is really no evidence, either internal to the text of 1 Corinthians or historical, that this was so? Yet you will hear it repeated--I certainly have--as if it were historical fact/

Have you heard that the women of Ephesus were uneducated, so that's why Paul forbids them to teach? There is no historical evidence that this was the case, and what historical evidence there is points to the existence of educated women there--like Priscilla, for one. Nevertheless, you will hear this unsubstantiated theory bandied about as if there were something more than guess work behind it.

That last section of the book deals with Grudem's prediction of where it is that evangelical feminism is leading: toward the denial of the uniquely masculine (or feminine) except the physical differences; toward a God whom we can address as "our Mother", even though he never describes himself this way; and toward an approval of homosexual practice.

The last chapter is a summary of the argument of this book: that the evangelical feminist arguments persistently undermine the authority of scripture, and ultimately, it is the high view of scripture that is at stake in this debate. Perhaps you are thinking, as I was, that there must be egalitarians who do not use any of these sorts of arguments. Grudem's response is that every egalitarian author that he knows uses at least some of these arguments.

It should be noted that Grudem is not saying that all (or even most) egalitarians are liberals, or moving personally toward liberalism. What he is saying is that, while many egalitarians may affirm the authority of scripture, many of their arguments undermine scripture's authority, so that it is toward liberalism that egalitarianism is likely leading, with each successive generation going further in that direction.

Like all of Grudem's books, there are extensive footnotes that allow you to check out everything he says to see if his claims are really so. I also appreciate his care in presenting the arguments of those whose ideas he is opposing. He seems to go out of his way to get their position exactly right without any exaggeration, and I like that.

Even though I've written reviews of a couple of books on the subject of egalitarianism, this is not a subject I am naturally interested in. I'm a complementarian, and I know why I believe what I believe, but I've not been fascinated by the ins and outs of all the arguments. But I do think it's an important subject, perhaps more important than I understood previously, and Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? is an important book on the subject, and one that is easily read and understood by a non-expert reader like me.

What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics
What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics
by R. Sproul
Edition: Paperback
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Primer of Covenant Theology., May 20 2007
I read this book several years ago under it's original name--Grace Unknown. This new title, I think, is a better one, as it is more specific to what the book is - an explanation of the basics of Reformed Theology. One of Sproul's gifts is making things that could be complicated easy enough for the ordinary person to understand, and that's what he accomplishes in this book.

The basics of reformed theology are laid out for us in two sections, five chapters each. The first section has four chapters that correspond to four of the five solas of Reformation Theology, plus a chapter that explains the Reformed view of the covenants. The second section's five chapters each explain one of what we commonly call "the five points of Calvinism."

I'd forgotten, over the years, anything about the first section of this book except for the chapter on the covenants. Perhaps this is because this part of the book was more unfocused than the last part, with bits and pieces that seemed just a little haphazard, and it wasn't always clear exactly how everything fit into the whole. If you want a short explanation of the covenants of Covenant Theology, however, the chapter Nicknamed Covenant Theology will serve you well.

The second section of What Is Reformed Theology? explains the five points of TULIP, but Sproul renames them with names that more accurately reflect the ideas behind the points. Total Depravity becomes Humanity's Radical Corruption, for instance. Sproul doesn't exhaustively defend each of these points, but that's not his purpose. His purpose is more to explain exactly what each point is, although he does explain some of the reasons for believing each of the points to be right and also gives defenses to some of the more common arguments made against the five points.

If you don't know much about Reformed Theology, What is Reformed Theology? would be a good primer for you. You may not agree with Reformed Theology after reading it, but you will have a better understanding of it. If you like to argue against Reformed Theology, and people on the other side keep telling you you're misrepresenting their viewpoint, you might want to read this book so you can focus your arguments on what those who hold to reformed theology really believe. And if you're Reformed, this book is a good review of the basics of your theology.

Beyond the Shadowlands: C. S. Lewis on Heaven and Hell
Beyond the Shadowlands: C. S. Lewis on Heaven and Hell
by Wayne Martindale
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from CDN$ 6.56

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Considering the Afterlife, May 20 2007
In my younger years, I read almost all of the popular books C. S. Lewis wrote; and in the last several years, I've given many of them another run-through as my own children grow interested in them. Circumstances, too, have caused me to spend a lot of time recently thinking about the afterlife. I was pleased, then, to be given the chance to read and review a book that parallels my own interests so closely.

What did I learn? Well, for one thing, I understood more fully how extensively my reading of Lewis influenced my own view of the afterlife, particularly when it comes to how I envision heaven. For a long time, I've considered the fleeting experiences of true loveliness that we have in this life to be a brief glimpses into the heavenly realm; and the longing we have because those glimpses are lost so quickly is, deep down, a longing for the everlasting beauty of heaven. Heaven will give us what we long for; and the breathtaking beauty of a wilderness landscape, or a haunting piece of music, or even those moments when husband and wife understand and love each other so deeply that it hurts, point not to the beautiful wilderness itself or the music or the love, but beyond those things to the reality of heaven, when we will experience forever, always, steadily, the quality of perfect fulfillment for which those moments are but the briefest hints. These glimpses of heaven and the longing they cause are a theme found throughout Lewis's work.

Many of the other ideas I have about heaven may well have come from Lewis's writings, too. One of the things about myths and mythical stories is that we learn things without being so aware of it. They speak to us at a level below (or, more likely, above) the analytical one, and something that would have taken pages to explain to us in a didactic sort of writing--and even then we would not have gotten the heart of the matter--we understand fully, deeply, within our souls, with just one image. That's the greatest strength of imaginative stories: Through them we see and feel and know what we might not understand so completely otherwise.

And I suppose that's where the danger of mythical stories lies as well. It's easy for an imaginative image of things heavenly or hellish to become part of how we see the real heaven and hell without any thought on our part as to whether they are actually a helpful sort of image. Even when the image was meant to convey something right about heaven or hell, we may give little thought to whether the idea we carry away from that image is the correct one. For instance, in our mind's eye, we may see heaven as streets of gold and white angels and harps. If we take from that image the idea that heaven is a rich place, a pure place, and a joyful place, then the image has served us well enough, for it has conveyed real truth about the real heaven to us. If we see the image of golden streets, angels and harps, and we think "How unbearably boring!", then the image has not worked to give us the right idea about the real heaven, which will be the most exciting place ever--the sort of place for which all the Christmas celebrations and birthday parties and thrilling trips of our life have been the palest shadows.

Martindale shows us how C. S. Lewis has remythologized heaven and hell in his work. Lewis's work can help us see which of the ideas we have about the afterlife are wrong, and give us new myths to help us understand things more as they might be. Of course, we need to examine Lewis's myths as well to see if they are helping us grasp heaven as it really is or not. Martindale points to a few places where Lewis might have let what pleased his imagination stand over against what might be reasonably gleaned from scripture. Sometimes, perhaps, Lewis too easily let his love for an idea persuade him of the rightness of it.

There are times, too, when Martindale seems to accept the correctness of Lewis's thoughts when I wouldn't. For instance, there's the idea that predestination is simply historical events seen from the viewpoint of a timeless* God, who sees all of history laid out before him in one glance, and things that from our viewpoint are yet to come into reality are forever existing from his vantage point. It seems to me that this idea misses the boat because it misses the point that God intends to convey when he tells us that something was planned before the foundation of the world. When scripture tells us that something was predestined or planned outside of time, it is not telling us merely that God views that event "timelessly," and thus it is really a done deal before (or outside of) the experience of it by time-locked creatures; rather, it is also telling us something about the logical cause of that event. That event happens in time because God planned it, and God's plan brings it to pass. There may be other causes as well, like the choices of creatures in time, but the first cause is God's thought.

However, this is just a very minor quibble in comparison to the strength of the whole of this book. If you've read several books by C. S. Lewis, you'll probably find this book fascinating. All of his ideas about the afterlife gathered together in one book makes for a thrilling read. You'll be reminded why you long for the real heaven--a longing that is, above everything else, a longing for God himself. If you haven't read much from C. S. Lewis, I suggest you remedy that as soon as you can, and then read this book. We would all do well to think more on the substance of heaven and hell, for those who see the reality of the unseen--who, like the ancients, "desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one"--are those who live more nobly--more faithfully--upon this earth.

The Message Of The New Testament: Promises Kept
The Message Of The New Testament: Promises Kept
by Mark Dever
Edition: Hardcover
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5.0 out of 5 stars Big Picture Sermons, May 20 2007
Do you like expository sermons, or do you associate them with boring explanations of every single phrase in a passage of scripture, with no detail too picayune for a long explanation? I happen to like the sort of expository preaching that moves phrase by phrase, or word by word (There is just nothing so trivial in text that I'm not interested!); but I know some of you are big picture sort of people, and if that's what you are, then The Message of the New Testament by Mark Dever contains your kind of expository sermons: Sermons that focus on the main themes--the big picture--of scripture.

There are twenty-eight sermons in this book--one overview of every book of the New Testament, and one introductory sermon overviewing the New Testament as a whole. Each sermon was originally preached by Mark Dever in his church--Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Overview-type sermons are unusual (I haven't heard many, have you?), and I would guess that they are more difficult to prepare than the more usual sort of expository sermon. I can only begin to imagine how much work it was to produce this series of sermons, but I'm glad Mark Dever went to all the trouble. It's a fresh new way of looking at the New Testament and what it is teaching us.

The main portion of The Message of the New Testament is divided into three sections: The Truth About Jesus, containing the sermons on each of the gospels and Acts; Key Ideas for the Times, containing the sermons on all of Paul's epistles; and Living in the Real World, containing the rest--Hebrews through Revelation. Each sermon contains a main body, concluding applications, a prayer, and then a section of questions for reflection that build and extend upon what could be learned from the sermon.

This is a long book--547 pages--and as you might expect with sermons, the text is dense, although not difficult to understand. I started The Message of the New Testament in January and read some of it almost every day, but only finished it up this week. It's not the kind of book I could skim because I wanted to get every single bit of it, since there was so much to learn.

Don't let that it took me so long to make my way through this book scare you off. It was certainly worth the time and effort. I looked forward to each reading session, even if it was only a few stolen minutes while I waited in the car for my son to finish up one of his activities. If I hadn't received the companion to this book--The Message of the Old Testament--in the mail last week, I probably would have been a little sad to finish it up. But as things stand, I've got a new, 800+ page book to start.

And I'd be willing to bet that if you take the time to read it, you'll learn something, too. I might even promise you that.

The Hidden Smile of God
The Hidden Smile of God
by John Piper
Edition: Hardcover
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4.0 out of 5 stars Three Suffering Swans, May 20 2007
This is the second book in the series The Swans are Not Silent. Like the other books in the series, it contains three of Piper's biographical sermons on historical Christians. In this case, those featured are John Bunyan, William Cowper and David Brainerd, three men who endured great suffering during their lives, and whose suffering bore fruit, both in their own times and onward through history to the present day. Piper's purpose in telling the stories of these men's lives and expounding on them is so that the story of "how they suffered, how they endured, and how it bore fruit will inspire in [the reader] that same radical Christian life, God-centered worship, and Christ-exalting mission."

The first section is on the life of John Bunyan, best known for writing The Pilgrim's Progress, one of the best-selling books of all times, although he wrote at least fifty-seven other books. Bunyan was a "brasyer", a tinker who became a nonconformist preacher. He suffered in many ways throughout his life, including spending 12 years in jail away from his wife and children for refusing to stop preaching. Bunyan's imprisonment drove him to God's word, and developed in him a keen sense of the presence of Christ. Hie suffering and what he wrote about suffering in the life of the Christian can teach us much about following Christ in difficult times.

Next up is William Cowper, who suffered from from depression and insanity, and yet left behind marvelous hymns of God's goodness that we still sing two hundred years later. He is proof of the truth of one of his most famous hymns, God Moves in a Mysterious Way His Wonders to Perform.

And then there's David Brainerd. Brainerd was a young missionary to the Indians in the 1700s who died at aged 29 of tuberculosis, following several years of illness. We remember him because of his journal, which has inspired many others to missionary service, including William Carey and Jim Elliot.

The lives of these three men, Piper says, are like pebbles dropped into a pond: "God has breathed on the waters and made their ripple into waves. And now the parched places of our lives are watered with the memories of sustaining grace."

This is a wonderfully inspirational book. It's not a long book, and I expected to finish it in a snap, but things didn't work out that way because of the richness of the stories. Don't take this to mean that The Hidden Smile of God is a difficult book. I'd call it an easy read, but one worth pondering as it's read.

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