Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

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christian living

8 years 3 months ago
On one of John Ensor’s web sites, “Heartbeat of Miami,” is a most sobering map. Showing the locations of each Miami’s abortion facilities in red and ultrasound-equipped pregnancy help centers in blue, the red dots outnumber of the blue by a margin of fifteen to one. As leader of “Heartbeat of Miami,” Ensor hopes within the next two years to increase the number of adequately equipped pregnancy help centers to at least 4. From his work directing this organization that constantly sees people at their most broken comes Ensor’s third book, The Great Work of the Gospel.

The Great Work of the Gospel is a book about the human experience of God’s outworking grace—“the sin-forgiving gift of it, the guilt-removing power of it, the soul-satisfying joy of it, the cross-suffering mystery of it, the conscience-cleansing experience of it, the life-transforming quality of it, the muscular faith-building impact of it, the eternally reconciling splendor of it.” The book seeks to understand how God works out His grace and how we, as recipients of that grace, experience it. This is His Great Work.

Through ten chapters, John Ensor provides ten reflections on this Great Work. He writes about many of Scripture’s grand themes: the Great Work considered, desired, needed, promised, revealed, justified, experienced, enjoyed, shared and unsheathed. Each chapter revolves around a particular passage of Scripture and ends with several group study questions. Most chapters involve men or women Ensor has encountered in his vocation—many of whom are women who have been subjected to cruel and terrible treatment at the hands of others.

Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give this book is simply in pointing to the amount of fodder it provided for thinking and writing. I spent many hours pondering what Ensor wrote and dedicated several articles to exploring his themes. With tenderness and passion, Ensor explores the grace of God and how it manifests itself in us. It explores the great work of God; the great work of the gospel. A deeply moving book, it is also powerful in pointing always to the cross of Jesus Christ. I recommend it unreservedly. It is undoubtedly one of the finest books I have read this year.

 

8 years 4 months ago
There are many things in life that are easy to do poorly but are much more difficult to do with excellence. It did not take me long as a parent to discover that it would not be difficult to raise children, but that it would be exceedingly difficult to do it with excellence. In the six years since my eldest child was born I have looked often for help and advice in becoming an excellent parent. Unfortunately my wife and I have received little mentorship in this area. Thankfully, there are many books written about this topic so we have often looked to these resources to provide the wisdom and training we know we need.

Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp came to us highly recommended. In fact, I can’t think of a book on this topic that was recommended to us more often. It is a book that deals with speaking to the very heart of your children. Realizing that too many parents react only to symptoms of underlying sin, Tripp attempts to help parents look deeper, to see that all the things a child says and does flow from the heart, for as Luke 6:45 says, “…out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” If a parent can understand a child’s heart and shepherd that heart, he can deal most effectively with a child’s deepest needs. And through it all he seeks to keep the gospel central to a parent’s calling and to a child’s response.

The book is divided into two parts. In the first, Tripp lays the foundation for biblical childrearing. He shows that the heart of bad behavior is a sinful heart. He discusses a child’s development, showing that a child is shaped by various influences on his life and that a parent needs to help a child have a Godward orientation. He discusses authority and suggests that, despite our culture’s disgust towards authority, a parent must assert himself as being in a position of God-given authority over a child. A child must realize that parents speak not of their own authority, but of God’s. He also discusses goals, methods, communication and discipline.

Where the first part of the book lays a foundation, the second part guides a parent through shepherding a child through three stages of development: infancy, childhood and teenagers. For each of these periods he suggests the training objectives and then procedures a parent should use to attain these objectives.

A section I found particularly interesting, perhaps because I have young children, was the section dealing with punishment. Tripp advocates spanking as really the only biblical method of punishment (and certainly the only one that is specifically mandated by Scripture) for correcting young children. He lays out very clear circumstances in which children should be spanked and suggests many circumstances in which parents must not spank. He makes this type of corporal punishment very deliberate and very loving. He suggests that parents must be fully in control of themselves when they spank and must not be filled with anger. Parents do not punish their children out of anger, embarrassment or retribution, but to teach children that defying authority will bring about consequences. Children must know that God demands obedience to authority and that there are consequences for defiance.

In his endorsement of this book Edward Welch wrote, “Dr. Tripp’s material on parenting is clearest, most biblically framed, and most helpful that I have ever encountered. It has become the backbone of my own parenting.” I agree entirely. Throughout the book Tripp focuses on Scripture and on the gospel. He focuses on human nature and on the grace of God in providing a solution to the needs of our children. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to any parent, and especially to new parents. Read it now, pray about it, and let God direct you to His ways of shepherding the hearts of your children.

8 years 4 months ago
There are some sins that torment only some of us, while there are others that are universal. Pride is a universal sin. So is anger. And, unfortunately, I’m good at both of these. I do love to be angry. It feels good to be angry at times, and especially when the anger is righteous, or is perceived to be righteous. But, if anger feels good during the moment, it can sure feel embarrassing and shameful when reason has been restored. Because it is so often sinful, anger needs to be overcome.

Uprooting Anger, written by Robert Jones, offers biblical help for a common problem. A universal problem, even. “This book is written for the average reader who recognizes that anger is a too-frequent issue in his life and a too-prevalent problem in his family, work, and church relationships…Further, this book provides pastors, counselors, and other people-helpers with a practical Christ-centered resource to guide them in their ministries and to pass on to those they serve.” Jones defines anger as “our whole-personed active response of negative moral judgment against perceived evil.” He goes on to suggest three classifications of anger: divine anger, human righteous anger, and human sinful anger. While we might like to think that much of our anger falls into the second category, the shameful truth is that we are much more prone to fall into the third type.

Jones takes the reader through a tour of Scriptural wisdom on the subject of anger dealing with all types of anger and all expressions of anger. He allows no room for pop psychology or what Gary Gilley refers to as “psychological mumbo-jumbo.” He consistently leads the reader to the Bible, to the gospel, to address the problem of anger. He refuses to allow any excuse for sin but sees it for what it is and addresses it accordingly.

While admittedly this is the only book I’ve read on this topic, I can’t imagine one that could be better. Jerry Bridges says “Every Christian ought to prayerfully read this book and apply its teaching.” As is usually the case, I agree with Bridges. This book will help the reader escape the bondage of anger and find freedom in peace.

8 years 5 months ago
Richard Mouw’s inspiration for the name Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport came from the film Hardcore, directed by Paul Schrader, an ex-Calvinist. In this film, Schrader presents Jake Van Dorn, a pious Calvinist played by George C. Scott. In one scene, Jake sits in an airport in Las Vegas while trying to track down his daughter, who has gotten involved in the pornography business and is reported to be in Vegas. He has enlisted the help of Niki, a young woman who knows his daughter. As they sit, Niki challenges Jake on what she feels is an exceedingly negative outlook on life. He responds with a dry, irrelevant explanation of TULIP, the five points of Calvinism. Schrader takes this opportunity to poke fun at the tradition he grew up in and to poke fun at his memories of Calvinists.

Dr. Richard Mouw sees the humor in this scene and uses it to springboard a discussion of Calvinism. “I believe that TULIP, properly understood, captures something very central to the gospel. And I want to bring that gospel to Niki and her kind” (14). This book is an examination of Calvinism and an attempt to answer the question, “What does Calvinism have to say to our present world?”

This book is not a detailed examination of Calvinist thought. It is not an apologetic for that system of thought. Rather, it is a series of reflections upon the doctrines known as Calvinism as well as the type of Christian these doctrines seem to produce. Mouw relates much of his story and the experience of people he has met with as he attempts to affirm these doctrines, and yet to challenge those who adhere to them. After spending a chapter providing a primer on the five points, he returns to the doctrine of particular redemption (or limited atonement) and suggests that this is a doctrine that, while true, should be easily shelved for the sake of unity. He does not seek to resolve the tensions that seem to exist in Scripture between a general and a particular atonement. This spirit of what may be either charity or compromise, depending on perspective, foreshadows what is to come.

In a chapter entitled “Not A Stranger,” Mouw digs into the issue of suffering. Following the teaching of several Rabbis, he suggests that Christians are permitted to address God in a way that many may feel is irreverent or even blasphemous. “God ordains/permits everything that comes to pass, but we don’t simply have to accept that fact. We can complain to God rather vigorously about the things we have a hard time accepting” (51). He concludes this chapter by affirming that God is not a stranger, but a friend. Thus, while we may question Him and His motives, we can take comfort in the fact that it is no stranger we are dealing with.

The next couple of chapters encourage Calvinists to consider not only how they were saved, but what they were saved for. Mouw also examines “Kuyperian” Calvinism (Calvinism influenced by the teaching of Abraham Kuyper).

Chapter eight suggests that Calvinists, rather than focusing on the idea that only a select few will be saved, should believe that the wideness of God’s mercy will cause a great multitude to be saved. Unfortunately, this leads him almost into universalism. He discusses a friend, a rabbi, who “because of what he knows about a rather shameful history of Christian persecution of the Jews may not be capable of focusing clearly on the true person of Christ” (90). He believes that his friend will be saved, even if he never turns to Christ in this life. While he is not sure of this, he considers it a hunch, and clearly a firm enough belief that he is willing to publish it. While Mouw declares the importance of Calvinist doctrine, he also downplays theology that is directly opposite to it, for a couple of chapters later, he mentions that, if Niki ever becomes a devout Roman Catholic, that would be okay with him as a Calvinist. He suggests that this understanding of Calvinism that stands opposed to Catholicism is generational and that we can now move past it.

While I applaud Mouw’s attempt to reflect upon his theology and to reconcile faith with practice, it seems that he is only too willing to create a type of Calvinism that is in many ways opposed to historic Calvinism. In recent days Dr. Mouw has been influential in a whole new type of ecumenism which attempts to build bridges between even Protestants and Mormons. While building a personalized brand of the Christian faith may be all the rage today, I don’t find any biblical warrant for doing so. Truth is truth and error is error. Sadly, Mouw seems to be willing to embrace both.

8 years 6 months ago
In earlier reviews I have mentioned my increasing and generally well-founded suspicion of books that have been self-published. The internet has made it possible for just about anyone with a few thousand dollars (and sometimes even less) to produce a book that looks both legitimate and professional. Yet hard experience has shown that often these books display a distinct lack of professionalism as they are sometimes replete with spelling mistakes and poor grammar. Many of them are little more than 200-page rants. I am rarely surprised, when I read these books, that they have been turned down by traditional publishers. But there are exceptions. The Story of Joseph and Judah (my review) was an exception, and I am glad to say that All Nations Under God by Mike Beasley is as well.

Beasley is pastor of Pilgrim Bible Church in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He was trained at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley California and has been a pastor since 1994. In that time he has seen waves of attack fall upon the doctrine of the atonement, surely one of the most important doctrines in Scripture. There is much at stake in this battle, for “without this important doctrine, Christ’s sheep will become spiritually malnourished, emaciated, weak, and filled with despair… The end result is that many in the church are weakened, disoriented, distracted; many are busy fighting battles which offer no real victories for anyone” (24, author’s emphasis). “The purpose of this book,” he writes, “is quite simple: to give glory to God our Savior and thus foster a greater love among the church of God for the One who purchased our pardon—the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The means to this very important end will consist of delving into the joyful celebration of Christ’s victorious work of atonement” (25).

Beasley begins by defining the atonement, teaching what is often missed in such discussions: that the greatest purpose for which we have been redeemed is so that we could be presented as a gift from the Son to the Father. We are saved first and foremost by the purpose of God and for the glory of God. Thus we are a reason, not the reason that Christ died for us. He discusses the intent versus the extent of the atonement, but premises the discussion on the statement that “Christ’s sacrifice on the cross bore no failure, but was an immutable victory accomplished by the Son, for the Father” (31). The cross was, then, a complete and total victory, and a victory of the Son’s love for the Father even more than a victory of God’s love for us.

An entire chapter of All Nations Under God is dedicated to applying this doctrine to the life of the believer. This was a strong chapter and one that proves that Beasley believes this is an issue that is not to be relegated to the academy and is not an issue that is purely theoretical. Rather, this is an issue that, if ignored, can lead to dire consequences to individual believers and to Christianity as a whole. Conversely, if Christians turn to Scripture and trust what the Bible tells us about the atonement, it will lead to stronger individuals, a stronger church, and God will be honored.

The final two chapters challenge Christians to examine their tradition and ensure that tradition is not governing their understanding of the atonement. The book concludes with a reflection on adoring Christ forever. Beasley states that at the day of judgment “no one will complain that the number of saints in heaven are too few; instead, the children of God will all marvel that the Lord was graciously willing to save any at all; and our sense of wonder will be overwhelmed by the sight of, not a few, but a countless number of the redeemed, whom the Lord saved for His own glory and good pleasure” (143).

All Nations Under God was a pleasant surprise. It does a good job of presenting a biblical, Reformed understanding of the atonement, both its intent and extent. It was reasonably easy to read despite a few Greek words and the occasional sentence diagram. Still, it is written to be read and understood by those, like myself, who do not necessarily have degrees in theology. I always feel like I am sticking my neck out when I recommend a book dealing with a specific point of theology, but in this case I believe I am safe in doing so, for this book continually returns to Scripture. It does what it claims: it celebrates the eternal victory of our Lord and Savior.

8 years 6 months ago
Only a Puritan could write a full book, 300 pages, expositing a single verse of Scripture, or more accurately, a portion of a single verse of Scripture. And only a Puritan could do it successfully. In Gospel Worship Jeremiah Burroughs (1599 - 1646) does just that. Recently reprinted by Soli Deo Gloria Publications (a division of Ligonier Ministries), Gospel Worship seeks to instruct the reader in worship that is worthy of God.

Burroughs takes as his text Leviticus 10:3 which reads, “Then Moses said unto Aaron, it is what the Lord spake saying, ‘I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me, and before all people I will be glorified.’ And Aaron held his peace.” He narrows in on the phrase “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me.” Through a series of fourteen chapters, which were originally delivered as sermons, he discusses worship under a variety of headings. Among those topics are: the importance of preparing for worship; suiting our duties to the God we are worshipping; sanctifying the name of God in hearing the Word; Why God will have His name sanctified; and sanctifying the name of God in prayer. There are also three chapters dealing explicitly with sanctifying God’s name in the sacrament of Lord’s Supper.

The content of this book is simply too significant and too dense to neatly summarize in a few succinct points. I thought it may be instructive to share a few of the teachings that I found particularly thought-provoking or edifying.

  • If there is anything in His Word whereby we may come to gather the mind of God, God expects that we should gather His mind out of His Word. If we do not, it’s at our own peril.
  • The holiness of a [religious] duty will never bear a man out in the miscarriages of a duty.
  • The nearer any men are to God, the more need there is to take heed that they glorify Him, for they must expect to be spared the less if they sin against Him.
  • Such a friend is worth his weight in gold who can come to another friend in any affliction and evermore has something of the Word of God to apply to that affliction.
  • God stands upon nothing more than to appear to all the world to be a holy God. There’s the glory of God’s name in an eminent way. God does not so much stand upon this, to appear to be a strong God, to appear to be a powerful God, to be a God of patience, or to be long-suffering. God does not so much stand to be an omniscient God, though all these attributes are dear to God—but that He may appear to be a holy God, that He stands upon.
  • The duties of His worship are the chief channels through which God lets out the choicest of His mercies to the hearts of His people.
  • The truth is, [those who have carnal hearts] are more glad to let the duty fall than they are sorry for want of preparation of their hearts for the duty.
  • As one sin prepares the heart for another sin, so one duty prepares the heart for another.
  • If when you come to worship God, God has more of your heart than any creature in the world has, God accepts that.
  • The Lord first accepts the person before He accepts the action. Men, indeed, accept the persons of men because they do good actions; but God accepts the actions of men because their persons are good.
  • The great reason why people come and worship God in a slight way is because they do not see God in His glory.
  • It is a good sign of gracious fear when the soul can be struck with more fear from the Word, and from the sight of God in enjoying communion with Him in His worship, than when God appears in the most terrible way of His works, or when there is terror in a man’s conscience through fear of hell.
  • Know that God will be sanctified in those who draw nigh to Him. There are these two things in the point: if we do not sanctify God’s name, God will sanctify His name in a way of justice. If we do sanctify His name, then He will sanctify His name in a way of mercy towards us.
  • God may employ the most wicked men in the world in some outward services, but if He should accept them in the worship it would be a dishonor to God.
  • As it concerns the ministers of God that they preach not themselves, but that Christ should preach in them, so it concerns you that you do not come to hear this man or that man, but to come to hear Jesus Christ.
  • If you were to build such a place as this [the temple] was for the service of God, you would think it a great matter, But it is not as highly regarded as if you could bring a trembling heart to God’s Word.
  • As you reach out your hand to take the bread and wine, so there must be an actual reaching out of the soul by faith, putting forth an act of faith to receive Jesus Christ into the soul, to apply the Lord Jesus Christ to your soul with all His merits and good things that He has purchased.

For sake of brevity I will stop. Suffice it to say, though, that I have not come close to exhausting the treasures contained in this book.

For a Puritan work, this one is quite easy to read and it a worthy introduction to Puritan writings for those who have never attempted such a book. It does not contain a great deal of antiquated language or many words that have long since passed into history. While it was written centuries ago, the book is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Perhaps more so. It is living proof of the timeless nature and value of the living Word.

Gospel Worship is a book that is filled to overflowing with both teaching and application. It is clearly the outpouring of a lifetime of serious study and meditation. It is more than a mere book, but is a treasure that is a worthy read for any Christian. I cannot conceive of a believer who would not benefit greatly from reading it.

For those interested, Gospel Worship is available from the Ligonier Ministries Store. It is part of a six-volume set which you can purchase together at a discounted rate. If such things are important to you, let me assure you that the set looks wonderful on a bookshelf.

8 years 6 months ago
I am the worst artist in the world. I’m sure there are some who would contest that claim, but if you were to ask me to draw something (anything!) I think you’d quickly agree that I am about as bad as a person can get. It is strange that I am such a terribly poor artist as I come from a long line of very capable artists. Yet somehow, when the various family genes were combined to form me, all of those artistic genes fled.

Not only am I the worst artist in the world, but I also have a strong dislike for most of the visual arts. For many years I thought that my dislike of these forms of art stemmed from my lack of talent in this area. But after much reflection I think there may be another source for my dislike of art. In my education I was constantly taught that art is inherently subjective—that meaning is assigned to a piece of art not by the artist but by the person gazing at it. I was taught that I was to study a work of art, allow it to speak to me, and understand the meaning of the work to be whatever came to mind at that moment. I may not have been able to express why I found this unsatisfactory, but it led me to dislike art and even to distrust it.

In recent years I have been recovering from this viewpoint. Art For God’s Sake by Philip Graham Ryken, pastor of historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, has helped in this recovery. It is a short book, weighing in at only 64 pages, but one that is thick with satisfying, biblical reflections on the arts. Ryken argues for the recovery of the arts among Christians. He argues also for the objective nature of the arts—an objectivity which encourages us to seek out the meaning the artist meant a work to display.

The purpose of the book is twofold. Ryken wishes to “encourage Christian artists in the pursuit of their calling and to give artists and nonartists alike a short introduction to thinking Christianly about the arts” (17). The proper place to begin thinking about this topic is Scripture. We will find that Scripture affirms the value of art and artists “while at the same time protecting it from the corrupting effects of sin” (17). And so Ryken begins in an obvious place, showing that in Exodus 31 God specially called and equipped two men to build His tabernacle. The passage teaches four fundamental principles for the construction of a Christian theology of the arts: the artist’s call and gift come from God; God loves all kinds of art; God maintains high standards for goodness, truth and beauty; and art is for the glory of God. The next four chapters expound upon these four principles.

Here is a brief summary of these four principles:

The artist is called and gifted by God—who loves all kinds of art; who maintains high aesthetic standards for goodness, truth, and beauty; and whose glory is art’s highest goal. We accept these principles because they are biblical, and also because they are true to God’s character. What we believe about art is based on what we believe about God. Art is what it is because God is who he is.

The book concludes with a reflection on our beautiful Savior and the exceeding ugliness that was His death and crucifixion. “The center of God’s masterpiece of salvation was an event of appalling ugliness and degradation” (54).

And so Ryken concludes that artists should use their artistic talents to bring glory to God. And further, the church should take a leading role in encouraging this type of expression. Art For God’s Sake, while a short book, was encouraging to me and I trust would be equally encouraging to those who feel the need to express themselves through their artistic talents. I hope that this book will prove to be a catalyst in sparking a recovery of the arts.

8 years 6 months ago

Some experts estimate that in Western nations as much as 50 percent of the adult population is now single. That is a statistic with tremendous significance for our nations, culture and churches. It is surely a statistic that is without historical precedent. Of course the decline of marriage coincides with increased sexual activity, showing that people like to enjoy many of the benefits and securities of marriage, but without the commitment. The Christian response to this new cultural landscape will prove interesting and will tell us much about the church’s commitment to hard truths.

Alex Chediak, currently apprenticing at The Bethlehem Institute in Minneapolis under the direction of John Piper and Tom Steller, addresses the particular challenges of singleness, marriage and dating in his new book With One Voice: Singleness, Dating and Marriage to the Glory of God. Alex previously edited 5 Paths to the Love of Your Life, an excellent book which I have previously reviewed If there was a criticism I would make against this book it is that perhaps the scope is a little too wide. After all, the wider an author’s scope, the more difficult it is to do justice to each topic. This is especially true of a book that is reasonably short at 150 pages. Still, this does not detract from the book as much as it makes me wonder if it could not have become two or three books, each more narrow in scope.

8 years 7 months ago
“A potter begins by centering his clay on the wheel. When the wheel starts turning, he can’t just grab the clay. He must carefully but firmly keep the clay in the center of the wheel. He has to work it gently but deliberately, applying just enough pressure to shape it while constantly adding moisture. If he lets the clay get cold, it becomes stiff, resistant, and unworkable. If he neglects the clay and fails to add water, it will dry out and crack. If he stops the process and then starts again, he may force the clay off center, or he may mar it by putting his hands on it too quickly or aggressively. It takes time, but if the potter is patient, creative, and firm but gentle, there’s no limit to what he can create.”

This brief excerpt is drawn from Love That Lasts, written by Gary and Betsy Ricucci. Gary, who wrote these words, applies this metaphor to a husband learning to practice romance as an art. “I am to pursue my wife consistently, warmly, and affectionately, lavishing her with encouragement and affirmation.” What caught my attention as I read this section of the book was the lesson he seeks to teach through these words. While the lesson is meant primarily for husbands as they relate to their wives, there is such a strong parallel between the marriage relationship and the relationship of Christ to His people that I could not help but see a lesson for my relationship with the Savior. “Every wife is different, and so is every season of life.” We could as easily affirm that “every person is different, as is every season of life.” And here is the lesson: “But like the potter, we are committed to the process as well as to the outcome.” That little sentence stopped me in my tracks.

“Like the potter, we are committed to the process as well as to the outcome.” You see, I know that God has great things in store for me in heaven. I believe firmly that, when I die or when Christ returns, I will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. I will be instantaneously made perfect and will be restored to the state of perfection in which I was created to live. My relationship to God will be fully restored and I will no longer desire what is sinful. I know that this is God’s ultimate goal, to display His glory in transforming me fully and finally into His likeness. God’s goal for me is nothing less than glorification.

While I have full confidence in God’s ultimate plan, I find that I have far less confidence in His committment to the process that precedes this consumation. When I read Ricucci’s words I had to pause and reflect and ask myself if I truly believe that God is as committed to the process of sanctification as He is to the final act of glorification. Is Christ pleased with the baby steps He sees in my life, or does He lament that I do not grow more—that I do not grow faster? Does He rejoice with me as I grow in my knowledge and love of Him? Is He glorified even in the smallest, halting step I take towards being further transformed into His image?

I thought about this for a while. And then I saw in myself and in my attitude towards my wife just a shadow, a fleeting glimpse, of the work of Christ. I love my wife dearly. I love Aileen so much that my heart aches for her sanctification. I love few things more than seeing my wife reading her Bible, teaching the children about God, and being with her in times of worship. I pray continually that God will continue to mold her into His image. And, if I look carefully, I can see times when I have provided the leadership to help move her (and myself, and our children) towards this goal. I can see where I have been committed to the process. And best of all, I can see the joy I have taken both in leading her through the process and in seeing the results of the process. In my relationship with Aileen I can see, as if in a dim, clouded mirror, a reflection of the work of Christ in my life.

Of course I can also see with startling, shameful clarity the inumerable times that I have failed. I can think of opportunities missed or deliberately avoided. I can see times where my own selfishness and laziness have no doubt robbed Aileen of many a blessing. Yet my faith is stirred when I think that God never misses an opportunity. God is faithful where I am faithless, committed where I am laxadasical, strong where I am weak.

And I am grateful. My marriage ought to be a near-perfect metaphor of the relationship of Christ to His church. Because of my sin, and because of Aileen’s sin, it cannot be. Yet through God’s grace it can still be a shadow. It can still point to a greater, more perfect reality. It can point to Christ.

It also occured to me that there is a point at which the metaphor of marriage ends, for there is no glorification in a marriage. There will never be a time in which every marriage will be made perfect. Instead, marriage will cease. Like the sacrifices of the Old Testament, marriage will cease for it will no longer be necessary. We will no longer need this shadow to point to a greater reality since, thanks be to God, we will live within the final reality. As the feasts and festivals and sacrifices of the Old Covenant were fulfilled in Christ’s death, so the ultimate purpose of marriage will be fulfilled in His return.

What became clear to me as I read this book is that by studying marriage as it is presented in Scripture, we are studying Christ. When we learn about how a husband is to love and care for His wife and how a wife is to submit to and respect her husband, we are learning how Christ cares for us and how we are to respond to His love. When we, as husbands, commit ourselves to the pursuit of our wives and to shape their hearts and lives through loving leadership, we learn how Christ molds and shapes us as we learn of the loving committment it takes to do this. When wives submit to the leadership of their husbands and respond to their initiative, they display the love and faith they must also have in the Savior.

Love That Lasts is a book that is well worth reading for both a husband and a wife. It is, in the words of Jerry Bridges, “thoroughly biblical, very practical, and quite convicting.” The Ricucci’s are members of Covenant Life Church in Gathersburg, Maryland and one can clearly see within their writing the influence of the ministry of C.J. Mahaney. I dare say that if a person attempted to combine C.J.’s books Humility and Sex, Romance and the Glory of God along with Carolyn’s Feminine Appeal, he would end up with something much like this.

My only real disappointment was that it sometimes seemed that the authors were holding back. I know that they know so much more about marriage than they were able to relay in the 160 pages of this book and I wish that I could have learned more from them. Perhaps God will provide the opportunity for them to write more thoroughly in the future. I hope He does.

This is a book about marriage, about the relationship of a husband and wife. But on a deeper level, it is a book about the church, about the relationship of Christ to His people. And this is the way it ought to be, for marriage exists primarily for His glory. Marriage is not about me, it is not about her, and it is not about us. Marriage finds its purpose primarily in God. As the Ricucci’s say, “A truly Christian marriage starts with the reality that the institution of marriage does not belong to us. It belongs to God. He designed marriage, and his purposes for it are paramount.” Having read this book I can truly say that never has marriage seemed so important, so worth the investment, and so great a means of sanctification. I will let this sentence stand as my endorsement for this book, for I’m quite sure that there is no higher praise I could provide.

8 years 8 months ago
“When was the last time you felt rested and peaceful in this fast-paced, go-to-go culture? It’s a world of instant message, speed dialing, and express lanes that often create a sense of mania and fragmentation. Has your life become like a 24-hour convenience store that is up and running 365 days a year?”

We all feel like that at times, don’t we? Our society values few things higher than action. We are to be busy all the time and to spend our lives in the frantic pursuit of more: more money, more affluence, more power. We are, it’s safe to say, out of control.

Ben Young and Samuel Adams think that we need to just stop for a while and find peace. We need to stop being victims of a frantically-paced society. We need to learn to use and master technology rather than allowing it to rule and complicate our lives. We need to rediscover spiritual disciplines and seek a life of peace and simplicity.

Does this sound familiar? It may well sound familiar as there have been multitudes of books pouring from the presses of Christian publishers suggesting this same remedy. It seems that Christians are either not understanding or responding to this message. After all, today’s Christians seem to be every bit as busy and frantic as those who do not profess Christ.

In Out of Control: Finding Peace for the Physically Exhausted and Spiritually Strung Out, Young and Adams, having first proven the danger of living this type of frantic existence, prescribe a three-part remedy. It all starts with Sabbath. Sabbath, they teach, requires us to take one day out of seven where we move at God’s pace rather than our own. “We want you to experience this rest because we are convinced it is foundational to all the other ways God wants to bring peace and sanity to your life.” While they argue primarily from the benefits of Sabbath rather than the biblical foundation, they build quite a convicting case for the blessing and necessity of celebrating the Sabbath. The second part of the solution is to rediscover the practice of silence and solitude. As we might expect, they draw much of this chapter (and the next) from the writings of Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster and Mother Teresa (who, unfortunately, appears repeatedly throughout the book). While I advocate the importance of silence and solitude, this chapter was weakened by leaning on the teachings of undiscerning and unbiblical men and women. The third solution is to practice the presence. Needless to say, this chapter draws liberally upon Brother Lawrence and his book Practicing the Presence of God. The authors describe the importance of prayer and encourage readers to begin to practice different forms, among them the prayer of release, which involves visualization, and “palms up/palms down” prayer, which allows the body to symbolize releasing cares to God and receiving patience, love and joy from Him. This type of prayer is absent from Scripture, but present in eastern and New Age religions.

The final section of the book, easily the strongest section, suggests “three movements for lifestyle change.” Young and Adams encourage readers to move their priorities, to move away from technology and to move into community.

Out of Control is one of an ever-increasing number of books dealing with the importance of cultivating spiritual disciplines. While there is much within this book that is valuable, too much of the heart of the book is drawn from poor, unbiblical, undiscerning teachers. The first and third sections of this book are quite good. Alas, the middle was very disappointing. With the great variety of books available dealing with this topic, there is little reason to bother with this one. Turn instead to Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and learn from godly, biblical teachers.

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