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Archive for the ‘Puritans’ Category

fighting-satan-joel-beeke

Joel Beeke. Fighting Satan: Knowing His Weaknesses, Strategies, and Defeat.  Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, June 24th, 2015. 141 pp.

5 out of 5

There is a lot of strange and unbiblical teachings on the devil out there.  Sometimes we see Christians can fall into two extreme: on the one hand there are those who obsessed and overly occupied with the demonic while on the other hand there are those live their lives as practical philosophical naturalists (I know, “practical philosophical naturalists” sounds rather awkward).  In light of the state of contemporary Christianity this book by Joel Beeke is refreshing.  The subtitle of the book tells us more of what the book is about: Knowing his weaknesses, strategies and defeat.  Beeke’s book is pastoral.  That is, this book is both biblical and practical.  I appreciated that he wrote a book of Satan without it being strange or sensational.

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This book was one that was on sale at Shepherd’s Conference (Inerrancy Summit).

God Battle plan for the mind david saxton

 David Saxton. God’s Battle Plan for the Mind.  Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015. 144 pp.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and believed that it was God’s providence that I read this book at the time I was reading it since lately I have been thinking a lot about Christian devotions and prayers.  It truly ministered to my soul.

The subject of the book is on biblical meditation.  The author David Saxton correctly note that this is a loss discipline today among most Western Christians and it doesn’t help that the term “meditation” often invoke unbiblical form of meditation that is more in line with Eastern religion and mysticism than the Bible.  Thus the first two chapters argued for the importance of biblical meditation and also note incorrect forms of meditation.  True biblical meditation involves thinking about God’s spiritual truth from the Scripture rather than the emptying of the mind or looking within oneself.  Since some of the contemporary Christian meditation strategies are not necessarily biblical the book looks at the Scripture in constructing meditation that would please God while also looking at the rich insight that the Puritans had on this important Christian discipline.  Chapter three is a wonderful chapter that defined biblical meditation and providing the biblical support for this.  I appreciate the lexical word studies the author went through as well.

Both the author and the Puritans that the author quoted in the book had very good illustrations on the importance of Christian meditation.  For instance we read that “a godly person does not just snack occasionally on God’s truth; rather, the Word is his heart delight and hourly consideration” (2).  Constantly throughout the book meditation was compared to chewing food and the habit of studying the Bible and not meditating was compared to tasting food but not swallowing it.  We also see the illustration that it is important to let the Word of God soak your life thoroughly similar to letting a teabag sit in hot water long enough and not merely letting the tea bag that dip a bit into the water (10).

Another helpful part of the book is how the author explored the different kinds of categories of meditation that the Puritans understood.  First was the distinction between deliberate and occasional meditation in which the former was planned while the later was more spontaneous.  The Puritans noted that both had their place but also warned about the danger of only having occasional meditation since it run the risk of being subjective and not as systematic in one’s spiritual feeding through the whole counsel of God’s Word.  Deliberate meditation was further divided into two types with direct meditation focusing on understanding what the Scripture has to say about a given topic while reflexive meditation was more on what the application look like in one’s life.

I appreciated how practical both the book and the Puritans were on the subject of meditation.  Many times in the book the author emphasized that the purpose of meditation is to apply spiritual truths and not merely engage intellectually with Scripture.  I like that as I’m sure it will help many believers who like me can struggle with things being intellectual.  The book also covered various practical steps involved in meditation such as consideration of important occasions for meditation, selecting the subject of meditation and getting started with meditation.  While some might not like how the Puritans provided “steps” to one’s meditation the author does make a powerful argument from his analogy of how the lack of a step by step approach can be frustrating for those unfamiliar with this spiritual discipline of meditation in the same way the author found it frustrating when his GPS broke down while he was trying to travel from Rome to Pompeii (59-60).  The author insightfully points out that the Puritans were practical without being rigidly bound to unnecessary rules.  For instance, the Puritans talked a lot about what time of day one should engage in Christian meditation (morning or night) and while many have their reasons for their preferences they also saw Christian liberty on the timing of the duty of meditation and their writing portray sensitivity by taking into account individuals’ temperament (are they a night person or a morning person, etc).  Since the goal of meditation is to connect with God the duration of one’s meditation was also covered by the Puritans.  The author has a wonderful point when he said that meditation should be like eating a several course meal with someone rather than wolfing down fast food on the free way (57).  The duration should be however long until one connects with the Lord and are lead to apply God’s truth.  The book was also helpful in reminding the readers that Christians sin in specific ways so believers too must meditate on passages that address specific sinful habits.  There were so many helpful tips in the book that one must read it to gain from it!

I highly recommend this book.   Read it to start one’s spiritual meditations today.

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher Reformation Heritage Books through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest opinion. The thoughts and words are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

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Marriage to a Difficult Man

This is a book on Sarah, the wife of Jonathan Edwards.  I thought this was a wonderful book that was a window into the family life of the Edwards and also the larger Puritan world.  I know there are many negative stereotypes people have against the Puritans such as the fact that they wore solemn dark clothes and total killjoys but I was blown away at the description of Edwards’ family life that was filled with many joys and laughter.  I thought it was interesting that the book described how Puritan brides wore beautiful dress for the wedding and was expected to wear the same dress the following Sunday at church so that the rest of the Congregation could admire the dress for the occasion.  Again, this goes against the stereotype that exists in some people’s minds against the Puritans.

As a pastor I thought the book was insightful into the life of a pastor’s wife.  The book talked about how strong Sarah was but the author was also honest about Sarah’s struggle.  In particular I found it very helpful to see the author discussed the moment in which Sarah Edwards was at her lowest.  In the midst of her depression she learned more about God and grew from it.  This was wonderful to see in Sarah and made me think about the difficulties a Pastor’s wife faces in fulfilling her responsibilities all the while knowing that people have an expectation upon her.  The book was also insightful of the responsibilities of a Pastor’s wife during the Puritan era; in a day and age before Seminary, many young men interested in ministry would find a Pastor to be their mentor and they moved in with the Pastor.  That meant there was constantly another mouth for Sarah to feed.  This burden increased with the growing fame of her husband.

There were portions of the book in which the author went on an extended discussion that wasn’t focused on Sarah Edwards.  For those who are interested in the bigger picture of Jonathan Edwards’ ministry these moments in the book can be quite insightful although I imagine some might find this distracting.  I appreciated the book’s discussion about the missionary Adoniram Judson and also Aaron Burr (the father of the infamous Aaron Burr).  Both Judson and Burr married Sarah Edwards’ daughters.  It is interesting to know about the men of God whom Sarah’s daughters married to and their contribution towards the works of God.

I recommend this book.  In my opinion it is especially good for pastors and pastor’s wives to read.

Purchase: Amazon

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Politically Incorrect Guide to HistoryPurchase: Amazon

I’m writing this review from the stand point of the Christian worldview.

Learning history doesn’t have to be boring. This is a good example of it. The author does a good job exploring the many aspects of the good, the bad and the ugly of American history. I loved the discussion on the Colonist’s Christian heritage (I want to add the caveat that this does not mean that Christianity was the only stream in the founding of America nor do I want to imply that the founding fathers were all thoroughly Christian or Biblical); how the original intent of the establishment clause in the first amendment was not to ban religious discourse concerning public policy; and how the Puritans actually brought lands from native Americans and even punished settlers who took lands without doing it properly. I enjoyed the frank discussion in the chapters leading up to and on the Civil War, which the author’s chief thesis was that the war really did not begin because of slavery. As an interesting side issue from his main argument, I was shocked to learn and later confirmed that the Union highest general, Ulysses S. Grant even owned slaves! Among the things that I do want to research further and confirm in the near future: the extent of naval hostilities the US was already engaged in against the Germans while officially neutral prior to World War 1 and 2, who the true FDR really was and some of his forgotten policies such as turning in anti-communists Russians back to the Soviet Union (!). Things that I learned new that I later confirmed included the following: Fredrick Douglas, after the wrongful decision by the Supreme Court was nevertheless freed by his own master after the trial; Butler’s Union General Order 28 after New Orleans was taken over did compare hostile Southern woman to woman of the night, which received international outcry during the war. There were times while I was reading the book that I was surprised (especially in the footnotes) of the author’s familiarity with the Austrian school of economics especially in light of the popularity of Keynesian economics today among academia. I later found out Thomas Woods is himself an advocate of this economic view so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Though the author is a Roman Catholic, his work did not portray any obvious Catholic distinctive, though I do understand he has another published work on Roman Catholicism’s contribution to Western Civilization. Good book–I recommend it. Not everything is pretty in US history, getting uglier when it approached the twentieth century and beyond. At the same time, the book does make you appreciate the incredible insight the founding fathers had and what it was that informed their political ideology.

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Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

Short work on the Reformed view of justification. Expect the doctrinal devotional flavor that one would expect of Puritan work. The book is largely an attempt to defend against the charge that the Protestant doctrine of justification will lead to antinominalism. This works shows that this is not the necessary implication of Reformed soteriology.  It was originally written as a letter to someone in defense of the Prostestant view of justification and it’s relationship to sanctification.  I would recommend the book–it’s short and readable.

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