As believers, we are to be filling our minds first with Scripture, then with writing that is biblically faithful, in order to build ourselves up in the faith. But that does not mean that secular writing has nothing to say to us. Occasionally, there are books coming from other worldviews that offer insights, help us learn, stretch us, and most of all, make us think. Here are five books that have helped me do that in thinking about relationships, mostly within a family, but also moving beyond. In no particular order:
Terry Johnson, Catechizing Our Children: the Whys and Hows of Teaching the Shorter Catechism Today (Banner of Truth, 2013). Perhaps the greatest inducement to reading this book comes from a letter that the author received from a grieving mother: “To my shame (and detriment) we never taught our children catechism, and I believe this is a huge part of the reason why they are in their wasteland abyss of a life now. Not just learning of doctrinal points, but the time we could have spent with them, and them seeing how important these things were to us. What a sweet time lost… I want to shout it from the mountain tops, ‘Parents, please, please, please teach your children the catechisms.’” (p. 71) Johnson’s book will help you do it.
Catharine J. Stewart, ed., Letters to Pastor’s Wives: When Seminary Ends and Ministry Begins (P&R, 2013). The women who contributed to this volume aren’t well known, on the whole. That’s one of the great things about this book Continue reading
If I told you that the Tanner of Bruth was a lay preacher who lived just outside of Edinburgh in the mid-18th century, would you believe me? What if I added that he was a Presbyterian lay preacher who experienced a blessed ministry to the non-conformist communities in Lothian? That his first name was Duncan and his wife was a highland lassie whom he had met at a communion season in Inverness?
Now that’s starting to sound rather like a cheesy Christian romance novel, isn’t it? The Tanner of Bruth is just a spoonerism: it’s really the Banner of Truth. And, thankfully, their books have better theology than any novel, little romance, and no cheese.
Since 1957, The Banner of Truth has been providing solidly biblical books for the Reformed and Presbyterian worlds. Continue reading
If it is possible to binge on biographies, that is what a friend of mine spent the summer doing. Books on Luther, from The Barber Who Wanted to Pray to Bainton’s classic Here I Stand, she ploughed her way through volume after volume. There were also a couple books on Katharine Luther, Martin’s wife, that she read and passed along. Mother of the Reformation: The Amazing Life and Story of Katharine Luther is a keeper. If you are married to a pastor, professor, missionary, or extrovert, it would make an especially relevant read.
Originally published in German in 1906, Ernst Kroker’s work was republished this year (Concordia). Mark E. DeGarmeaux’s translation is easy to read but still retains an early 20th century flavour. Katharine is known because of her famous Reformer husband and she lives in his shadow in our minds. Continue reading
Here are some new and noteworthy books we’re reading these days:
Jason Helopoulos, A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home. I grew up with family worship: Scripture reading, discussion, catechetical instruction, prayer, and singing every night. I couldn’t imagine what life would be like not doing it, and thought every Christian family did it. I was wrong. Family worship really is a neglected grace in the church these days. Helopoulos’s book is a wonderful tool for those who need to learn what family worship is and how to do, and also for those who are doing it and want to do it better. A Neglected Grace is full of grace, so spouses and parents can read it and find encouragement instead of a guilt trip. The book explains what family worship is, why it is vital, and how to do it (including great testimonies of families telling what it looks like in their home). There is also a great list of resources, including sample structures, questions to start discussions on a Scripture passage, and guides to prayer structure. And very kindly, Helopoulos has condensed all of this into a slim paperback, which even parents with a crowd of preschoolers can read in an evening or two. Continue reading
“It is Christ’s delight, as well as His sovereign ministry and mission, to redeem and save men, women, and children from sinful alienation to new birth, to new life as sons of the Father. He brings us to know the Father–just as He does by His Word in 1 Peter.
It is this connection to the Father by and in Christ that Peter goes on to declare to us as the people of God in the latter part of verse 3: “God the Father has begotten us [or caused us to be born again] by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Our new birth, our new life as children of God, is the result of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
You who are mothers know by experience, and fathers by seeing, that giving birth is costly. It is a tremendous sacrifice of life energy and effort. It is painful and hard–agonizing. Birth involves suffering and shedding blood. This is perhaps one of the closest illustrations of the costliness of being born again. Continue reading
He has used the prayers of my grandparents in my life. All four of them lifted me up before the Throne before I was born, pleading for my safe arrival in this world and a faithful pilgrimage to the next. Three of them still remember me daily in prayer, as they watch a granddaughter walk through stages of life that they mastered decades ago. This is so humbling. A praying grandparent is a powerful person. Continue reading
Kevin DeYoung’s book, The Hole in Our Holiness, came out last year. I read it a couple weeks ago, because I listened to a series of conference talks that DeYoung gave at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC. The talks whetted my appetite for more of the same; I wasn’t disappointed by the book, which thoughtfully unpacks the topic of holiness, grounding the exposition in Scripture.
After discussing what holiness is and why we should pursue it, De Young tackles some of the apparent contradictions inherent in the topic: My heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9); how can I say that I am holy? If we believe that it’s grace alone through Christ alone and there’s nothing we can contribute to salvation, why is it biblical to pursue holiness? Continue reading