Book Review – Passing Through (20/7)

What one word would you use to describe the christian life? More and more, I think the word pilgrim is the perfect word to describe the christian life. That is also what Jeremy Walker wants to convey to his readers.

Passing ThroughWhy is pilgrim the word to describe the christian life? Because it tells so clearly that we are on a journey — the journey to our real home. For far too many christians, we find ourselves far too often living for the here and now, rather than living as pilgrims. Yet, we are taught so clearly in the bible that we are not to live for this age alone, rather we are to live this life and waiting to transit for the world to come.

Walker does this excellently in this book, he reminds readers that we must live this life as pilgrims who are just passing through. Walker traces this through for us in the first part, show us how the bible teaches us that we are to live as pilgrims in this world.

Walker does this by introducing the reader to the environment we’re in, and also tells us about the vicious enemy that we’re facing. As christian we shouldn’t be surprise if the world hates us, the bible tells us that this world is at enmity with Christ and His followers. Conversely, we must learn to understand our times and not seek friendship with the World.

Walker then brings the readers to see the need to actually fight the battle. We don’t just read about the enemy, we must face against the enemy. We fight the enemy using the strength and weapon provided by the Lord, and patiently endure any suffering that come with it.

Lastly, Walker reminds the readers our destiny at the end of our pilgrimage where we and the whole of creation will be made perfect, where we will be fully holy and will see God face to face and where we will spend eternality with God in heaven, world without end.

What is great about this book is how Walker always helps the readers see what the scripture says about these topics. He always puts the bible verse out clearly to his readers then moves on to explain and show the application of the text. This book will help to ground christians to see why their journey as a Christian is but a pilgrimage. Similarly, it will help them be able to walk this journey with an informed knowledge.

What I thought could be improved is how Walker could have spent more time talking about how the pilgrims journey together in a community. Our pilgrimage is certainly not done in isolation, but within a community of believers. But I must say as I was reading this book, I am reminded again of my identity as a pilgrimage and not to make this world my permanent home. I’m thankful for this book and hope christians will pick up this book and read it.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

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Book Review – God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation (8/3)

Many christians know the importance of reading the word and praying. But what about meditation? Would you think they are essential to the faith? Chances are, we probably will not place meditation as high up in our list. But as this book will argue, the Puritans would certainly disagree with us on that point.

God's Battle Plan for the MindDavid Saxton has observed a lack in this crucial topic and has written a book that fights for the importance of mediation and teaches readers how to mediate. Saxton first shows the readers the rewards of meditation and why meditation is important to the christian faith. Next, he shows us what meditation is, and is not. Saxton highlights to the readers the difference meditation means to the christians as compared to the non-christian. The meditation Saxton proposes is one that is actively thinking about a certain topic, verse or doctrine, and not trying to empty one’s mind or to clear one’s head over an extended period of time.

After defining what meditation is. He shows the readers what the Puritans has to say about meditation. First, the Puritans has thought through these matters very carefully and thoroughly. He showcases two kinds of meditation to the readers — occasional and deliberate meditation. One can be done when one has a spare moment or two, the other are extended time purposely planned to think through about a certain bible verse.

Next, Saxton moves to show what topics a christian can meditation on, and how to go about choosing it. Having taught how and what to mediate on, Saxton then shows the readers the reasons for meditation and the benefits that one can derive from constant meditation. Lastly, Saxton talks about the common enemies one have against meditation.

I found this book to be exceptionally well written, it is be an excellent book on meditation. Not only so, this is an excellent introduction to the Puritans, Saxton consistently quotes different Puritans and what they have to say about meditation. It was truly a joy to read this book and will certainty be the book I’ll refer others to when talking about this topic. Highly recommended for every christian.

Rating: 5 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Discovering Delight (31 Meditations on Loving God’s Law) (23/12)

Do you have a habit of meditating on God’s Word? I’ll admit I do not have. But I do want find myself mediating on God’s word. But living in a fast-paced world it is often hard to sit down and think through what God’s word means and how it shapes our lives.

Discovering DelightThis is where this book will be helpful. Glenda Mathes has written a book filled with 31 meditations on the word of God. Mathes concentrates primarily on Psalm 119, but she also have some meditations on other psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Romans and Revelation.

I found the book excels at it’s meditations on Psalm 119, it covers one stanza per chapter. Each chapter then expounds on the what text says, and how we should apply what the text says. Mathes also interacts with the Three Forms of Unity, Westminster Shorter Cathechism within her meditations on the verses, and is thoroughly reformed in her writing. Mathes also writes clearly and uses no technical jargon making this book suitable for young and old christians alike.

I would most recommend this book for christians as a one-month devotional, to spend one month really getting into the Word of God, meditating on His Word day or night. I foresee that this book will be utilise as a group or individual quiet time material by every church that wants to their congregation to learn or cultivate a habit of meditation on scripture.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review – Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen (9/11)

If you have been to any wine tasting or appreciation lessons or enjoy tasting samples given out, you will definitely know how helpful they are.  They help you appreciate the ranges and differences they bring as you taste their uniqueness and differences from each other. What’s more, giving you snippets of it allows you to really try out a whole range of goodies.

Foundation of Communion with GodThis is what this book is. It is a ‘taster’ of John Owen’s writing. Ryan McGraw first introduces John Owen to the readers, giving a brief overview of his life, and the times and culture he lived in. Next, he gives us the broad strokes of John Owen’s writing, essentially giving us a summary of the theology of John Owen.

Following which, he throws us to the deep end and allows us to interact directly with Owen’s writing. What the author has done excellently in this book is to distill out Owen’s writing into very small chapters, each lasting not more than 1 to 3 pages.  With that he allows the reader to start reading Owen in a fairly non-threatening way, albeit some readers may not be used to Owen’s writing even when reading this book, it is an excellent way to for new readers to start reading bits of Owen, and seeing how he plunges into the depth of the Word. Far too often, people are either scared by Owen’s notoriety, or turned off when actually reading his works. This book will no doubt help readers see that Owen, though difficult is definitely understandable and worth every effort to understand it.

McGraw very helpfully has also added in 2 appendices that should make the book extremely valuable, first he encourages and advises readers to continue reading Owen, and which books to start with. In the other appendix, McGraw draws out a timeline of Owen’s publishing, a very helpful piece of information for those who are interested to see how Owen’s thoughts and works grew through his years.

If you wish to start reading or knowing Owen, other than recommending you to read stuff that people have written about Owen, I would highly encourage you to read this book. I find that this is the best book to start anyone who’s interested and willing to read Owen’s work directly.

Rating: 4.75 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), Kindle

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review – Songs of a Suffering King (10/10)

One of the hardest things for a preacher to do is to find Christ in all of Scripture. This difficulty lies not in the text itself, but in the preachers themselves. As we are reminded from the story of what happened when Jesus walked with the disciples to Emmaus in Luke 24. We see how Jesus had no difficulty in trying to explain how all of scripture concerns him rather it was the disciples who were slow of heart!

Songs of a Suffering KingThe Psalms, in my opinion are one the of the most overlooked books in this aspect. John Fesko has written an excellent book to cover this gap. In this book, Fesko shows the readers exactly what the Psalms are: Songs. Next, Fesko is always careful to exegete the passage in it’s original context and bringing out it’s application from there. Finally, Fesko brings out Christ, not by force but naturally from the text. This is where Fesko really excels in this book. He is able to help readers see how each of the Psalm, from Psalm 1 to 8, is directly link to Jesus!

So within each of the chapters, Fesko expounds of the psalm faithfully and biblically. Although personally I not agree with the flow proposed by Fesko from Psalm 1 to 8, I do see that Fesko is able to link each of them from to the another and each from the context of David, and then to Jesus. Fesko should be applauded from his valiant effort! This is no easy feat to say the least. One can only lament that Fesko has not continued for the next 142 psalm. I highly recommend and anticipate Fesko to carry on this series so the whole of the psalms would be covered. And I recommend pastors to give this a thorough read, see how each and every psalm can preached in context and also be connected to Christ. One of the clearest books on how Christ can be seen in the psalms so far in the market currently, this is truly Christ-centred preaching at its’ finest.

Rating: 4.75 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review – A Vine-Ripened Life (16/9)

What does it mean to be a fruitful christian? Growing up as a christian, I knew that fruit bearing was important, but what fruits am I to bear? That was always thoughts that surfaced in my mind as I grew up and over time such thoughts slowly disappeared. Until I did a bible study on the fruit of the Spirit that made me grew in my understanding in this area. Now, after reading this book, I’ve gained an even deeper understanding of it.A Vine Ripened Life

Stanley Gale has attempted to write about the fruit of the spirit in a very unique way. He not only teaches each of the characteristics of the fruit of the spirit. But he teaches it in an expository way, for each of the characteristics, Gale would centre his teaching on one particular text, focusing on how God has first shown the particular characteristics on us, and how we are then to live out that characteristics.

Gale then proceeds to shown 2 important characteristics that are ‘missing’ from the fruit of the spirit, humility and grace. It might seem weird at first as to why the author has added these 2 chapters, but, on further thought, it certainly does make sense. If one grows in the fruit of the spirit, it may cause one to grow in arrogance or pride despising those who aren’t living up to what the fruit of the spirit says. Wouldn’t this be the un-working of the fruit of the spirit? I must say that often, Calvinist and those who are puffed up with knowledge are in desperate need of this chapter. I certainly see that this together with the last chapter of grace were the best part of the book.

The last chapter on grace teaches us on will keep us growing in the fruit of the spirit: Grace. Surely Paul was right! It is only God who can let us grow in the grace-enriched soil.

This book is especially helpful if you want to grow in the understanding of the fruit of the spirit, and would be good for groups as the author has produced very short and helpful discussion questions that will help summarise and consolidate what the readers have learnt in each of the chapters.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Meet the Puritans (8) (11/8)

Lewis Bayly (c. 1575 – 1631)

Lewis BaylyLewis Bayly was born most probably to Thomas Bayly, a curate  and Judith Appleton. Lewis was known for his preaching, and was appointed chaplain to Prince Henry, when King James became the King. He was a conformed Calvinist, who respected the authority of the church.

The Practice of Piety is the most famous work by Lewis Bayly, which was published in 1608 written shortly after his wife had passed away. Bayly then went to earn a Bachelor and Doctorate in divinity in 1613. He was then appointed to be chaplain to the King in 1616, and was consecrated as Bishop of Bangor in December that year.

Bayly died in Oct 1631, but his remaining years was filled with accusations and charges which harassed him for around 10 years. Bayly however, was able to successfully defend himself through all the charges, and was never charged for any of the accusations.

Here are some of his works:

The Practice of Piety: here, and here (free international shipping), Kindle, mobi, pdf, html

 

Paul Baynes (c. 1573 – 1617)

Paul Baynes is the sort of prodigal son we are familiar with. He was born in 1573, and was so ungodly that the father removed him from any family inheritance until he showed some signs of repentance. Soon after his father’s death, Paul Baynes was converted and was soon growing in his godliness. He was known for being well-read, sharp wit and depth of judgement, and heavenly conversations.

Paul earned a Bachelor of Arts (1594) and a Master degree in 1597 from Cambridge. And succeeded William Perkins as lecturer in St Andrews after he served a few years as a fellow at Christ’s College. Baynes was a nonconformist, and was heavily opposed by Samuel Harsnet, the chancellor to Archbishop Brancroft. Being exceptionally gifted, Baynes was targeted by Harsnet to be banished,  however he handled himself so well that all charges against him was dropped!

Baynes lived his remaining years in poverty and in ill-health, and was finally passed away in 1617. Richard Sibbes, his successor at St Andrews, who was converted under his preaching, and was deeply shaped by his teaching, often called him “our Paul”.

Here are some of his works:

Brief Directions unto a Godly Life: here, mobi, pdf, html

A Caveat for Cold Christians: mobi, pdf, html

Commentary on Ephesians: here, and here (free international shipping), mobi, pdf, html

The Diocesans’ Trial: here, and here (free international shipping), mobi, pdf, html

The Christian Letters of Mr. Paul Baynes: here, and here (free international shipping), mobi, pdf, html

Meet the Puritans (7) (4/8)

Richard Baxter (1615 – 1691)

Although Richard Baxter was the only son, he lived the first 10 years of his life with his maternal grandparents, instead of his own parents due to his father’s debt and gambling habit and mother’s poor health. But upon returning, Baxter had a good serious talk with his father, Richard Baxter, Sr. who since had converted through the reading of scriptures, it was through these serious talks with his father that Richard Baxter recounted as his conversion point.Richard Baxter

Richard did not have much formal education, but mostly learnt through his self-reading, he was deeply influenced by authors like William Perkins, Richard Sibbes and Ezekiel Culver. He then enrolled into a grammar school and was persuaded not to enroll into university and instead was mentored for 18 months under Richard Wickstead, the chaplain of Ludlow Castle.

At the age of 23, Baxter was ordained deacon and therefore had joined the conformist, thinking that they had a better cause. Baxter would later develop a deeper appreciation for nonconformity when he served briefly for 9 months as assistant minister at Bridgnorth, Shropshire. Baxter also had accompany the army during the early days of Civil War, and was compelled to leave in 1647 due his his prolonged illness. It was during this period of illness that Baxter wrote the first part of ‘The Saints’ Everlasting Rest‘.

In the ensuing years, Baxter laboured laboriously through pain as he served at Kidderminster, in which the congregation grew not only in numbers, but also in godliness. In 1662, almost at the age of 50, Baxter was ejected from the Church of England because of the Act of Uniformity. It was also around this time where Baxter married Margaret Charlton, this marriage at first raised some consternation, due to their age disparity (Margaret was in her early 20s then). But their fears were dispelled after the excellence of their marriage was seen by others.

For his remaining years, Baxter would be hounded by magistrates, with possessions being confiscated and imprisoned various times. All these lasted until 1989, 2 years before Baxter eventually died, where the Toleration Act was passed. Baxter spent his remaining time writing and eventually penned about 150 treaties, not counting his hundreds of unpublished letters and papers.

Here are some of his works:

A Call to the Unconverted: here, and here (free international shipping), mobi, pdf, html (Some discernment is required for this work since Richard Baxter do hold some weird stance towards a hypothetical kind of universalism)

Dying Thought (Abridged): here, and here (free international shipping), mobi, pdf, html

The Practical Works of Richard Baxter:

4 Vols: here, and here (free international shipping)

Vol 1: here, and here (free international shipping)

Vol 2: here, and here (free international shipping)

Vol 3: here, and here (free international shipping)

Vol 4: here, and here (free international shipping)

23 Vols: Go to here

The Reformed Pastor: here, and here (free international shipping), mobi, pdf, html

Reliquiae Baxterianae: None currently, but here’s an upcoming project on it

The Saints’ Everlasting Rest: here, and here (free international shipping), html

The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (Abridged): here, and here (free international shipping)

 

One of the best kindle deals for Baxter:

Four of his works in one (Reformed Pastor, The Causes and Danger of Slighting Christ and His Gospel, Saints’ Everlasting Rest, A Call to the Unconverted) in mobi ($0.99)

Meet the Puritans (6) (21/7)

Sorry for the short post today, we have only 1 puritan today, but lots of resources from him. And do look forward to the next puritan on the list! I’m pretty sure you would have heard of him!

William Bates (1625 – 1699)

William BatesWilliam Bates was a well-esteemed nonconformist preacher, who had surprisingly played a major role int he restoration of King Charles II. Bates graduated from Queen’s college with a Bachelor of Arts in 1625, and a masters of Arts in 1648. He was a very fruitful minister, first he was appointed to be the royal chaplain in 1660, after Charles II was restored, was also appointed commissioner for the approbation of ministers and was (by royal mandate) given a doctorate in divinity from Cambridge University.

The following year, Bates was also involved in the review of public liturgy (representing the Presbyterian) which includes identifying weaknesses in the The Book of Common Prayer.

Finally in 1662, Bates was ejected because of the act of uniformity, he took no offense at it, and in his last sermon to his congregation at St. Dunstan’s Church, made no mention of the coming ejection and only mildly mentioned in his conclusion about his fear of offending God.

Many of Bates’s work are deemed to be practical and heavenly yet never tedious, and ought to be read by many who are interested in the works of puritans.

Here are some of his works:

Complete works of William Bates (4 vols)Here

Here are the online versions.

Vol 1pdf

Vol 2pdf, mobi

Vol 3pdf, mobi

Vol 4pdf, mobi

The Harmony of the Divine Attributes in the Contrivance and Accomplishment of Man’s Redemption Here, and here (free international shipping), pdf, mobi

The Four Last Things, Death, Judgment, Heaven and HellHere, and here (free international shipping), pdf, mobi

 

Next week: Richard Baxter

Meet the Puritans (5) (14/7)

Robert Asty (1642 – 1681)

The life of Robert Asty seems rather sparse. His father was ejected from the church of England on St. Bartholomew’s Day (24th August 1662), and he  too stay out of the church from then on.

He then opened a grammar school in 1663 and taught there for the next 10 years. In 1668, Asty married Lydia Sammes, and had 7 children together. Asty would eventually grief over the lost of 3 of his children before his own death in October 14 1681, at the age of thirty-nine. One interesting fact, his second son, John, was actually classmate with Isaac Watts whilst studying together for the ministry, they eventually went to be associated colleagues in the Independent Church.

Here is one of his work:

A Treatise of Rejoicing in the Lord Jesus in All Cases and Conditionshere, html (This looks like an excellent book, I think I might be getting it myself)

 

Sir Richard Baker (1568 – 1645)

Sir Richard Baker

Richard Baker was born in 1568 to a wealthy family, his father was a lawyer and his mother was the daughter of Reginald Scott. At the age of 16, Baker then went Oxford to study law, however he left some time later and went to the continent to acquire languages and experience cultures. He finally went back to Oxford and complete his Masters in 1594.

Baker then married Margert Mainwaring, whereby he became a surety for her family’s debt. In 1625, Baker was reported to be a debtor to the crown and was thrown into prison in 1635 where he stayed for the next 10 years until his death.

Richard Baker is well known for his historical writings, such as A Chronicle of the Kings of England.

Here is one of his work:

Meditations and Disquisitions upon Certian Psalmshere, and here (free international shipping), mobi (this is just converted over from the pdf from the format may not be the nicest while in mobi), pdf