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Entries in Books (82)


What makes a book timeless?

Yesterday, in my theology class, we were discussing the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and specificallly, the debate between continuation and cessation of gifts. Part of our assignment was to engage with a chapter from Charismatic Chaos and Showing the Spirit. Both of these books were published more than twenty years ago; Charismatic Chaos in 1992 and Showing the Spirit in 1987. I was curious if there had been any works that were more recent, and while I didn't spend a whole lot of time on the matter, I didn't find much. In fact, Carson's book is one of the Leader Recommended books at Westminster Books. My prof said that he thinks it is still one of the best books on the subject. John MacArthur, however, has written another book on the topic, Strange Fire.

I was perusing my book shelves this week, making space for books which had previously been beside my bed, and wondering what I could remove from the shelves. I noted that there were many books I purchased in response to some controversy or issue I'd been interested in. I think I can safely say that while I don't think I'd throw them out, the books on the Emergent Church (I have about four of them) can safely be tucked away in the Rubbermaid bin until such time as I have more bookshelves. Does anyone talk about the Emergent Church anymore? I don't think I'll read those books again.

There are other books on my shelf that I know I will read again. Books by Lloyd-Jones, David Wells, J.I. Packer, the Puritans, church history, and biographies by Iain Murray. The commentaries I have by Karen Jobes have been utilized more than once, and will no doubt be again. Yet there are other commentaries I have purchased which have made their way into the Rubbermaid bin because what I want from a commentary has changed over the years.

I've been trying to sort through what I think it is about a book which guarantees that someone will be reading it in ten years or even ten months. These days, books come so fast and furious, the lifespan of the interest in a good book can wane quickly. What was yesterday's "Must Read!" may be gathering dust on the shelf tomorrow.

One thing I think which makes a book have a longer appeal is what its concerns are. Matters like holiness, righteousness, conversion, the atonement, the Trinity, and the Scriptures are examples of ones that have always pre-occupied the church. And yes, marriage and children are similar topics, but the way those concerns are approached have changed. I doubt very much that the concept of "biblical womanhood" was probed too deeply 150 years ago, but men and women like the Puritans gave a lot of thought to marriage and family. I think many of the contemporary issues we spend a lot of time on ultimately become non-issues in a few years, despite our fascination with them at the time. Those books can ultimately provide historical material about the times, but there are still books which are read for their content which endures.

The question about what makes a book timeless is a question I continue to ask myself. Hopefully, my thoughts on the matter will shape my book purchases. I have far too many books which are kind of "obsolete" in a sense. I'm asking myself more and more if the book I'm investing in is something which will guide my thinking over the long haul or if it's just satisfying a momentary pre-occupation. If it's the latter, then maybe I don't need to buy a book, but instead just partake of a few well-written articles instead.

Yesterday, I finally acquired the Battles/McNeill translation of Calvin's Institutes. I wanted a hardback copy, and I didn't want to sell a kidney to get one. I found one used. It was cheaper than the new softcover edition. The dust jackets are pretty worn and its previous owner has underlined, but the bindings on both volumes are tight. I'm confident these will be well used for many years. Now, if I can just decide which books will be put into the Rubbermaid bin to make room, I'll have space for them.


Everyone meditates on something

We all worship something. It may be God, and may not be God, but we all worship something. Apparently, we all meditate on something. That is one of the intriguing things I've read so far in David Saxton's book God's Battleplan for the Mind. Technically, I should be waiting to read until Saturday after my final exam, but everyone needs a study break.

Saxton says this:

Everyone meditates on something, whether it is right, wrong, or neutral. Some meditate on problems in life or offenses committed by others. Some consider how to make more money or how to complete home projects. Others meditate on some truth of the Bible. Universally, though, meditation is practiced by all. Thomas Watson explaiined, "The farmer meditates on his acres of land ... The physician meditates upon his remedies ... The lawyer meditates upon his common law ... The tradesman, is for the most part, meditating upon his wares."

I think there is room to meditate on more than just the Bible. There is nothing inherently wrong with meditating upon our work. It is part of doing our vocations well. I think his point here is that we all mediate; the point is on what? Do we make room for biblical meditation?

I'm afraid I am too prone to meditate upon my particular problems of the day more often than I am on Biblical truth. We live in such a rush-rush world.

I'm looking forward to reading this. It's not a long book, so maybe I can finish it before Christmas.


All bibles are not created equal

Less than a year ago, I decided to invest in a bible with a genuine leather cover. Other than my ESV Study Bible, which is very heavy and doesn't come to church with me, the other bibles in the house were either bonded leather or TruTone. I discovered that the inside covers of bibles, if not made of good material, crack at the bottom and then the whole binding could be shot. I figured I'd pay a little more.

I bought an ESV Single Column Legacy bible from Christian Book Distributors. I bought one with a flaw at a really reduced price. The bible had been stamped with the owner's name, but the embossing was unsatisfactory, so it was returned. When I received it, that piece was removed, but I didn't care. The cover was genuine leather and I put it inside bible cover, anyway. I was very happy with it.

A couple of week ago I noticed that the inside cover at the bottom was cracking, and again, the binding was coming apart, leather cover notwithstanding. I was discouraged by this. I'm already losing the first few pages of the bible.

I had some birthday money and some extra "mad money" in the jar where I hoard the $1 and $2 coins that I get as change or fish out from pockets before laundry time. I decided I would do some research and buy a bible with a better binding.

I was led through the vast twists and turns that I came across through Google, to Evangelical Bible.

Yes, the bibles there are expensive. You can get some really reasonably priced ones, or you can invest quite a bit of money. After reading reviews of their bibles from Bible Design Blog, I took the plunge and purchased one. 

Evangelical Bible carries Allen Bibles, which are excellent bibles from what I've seen. I didn't buy one of those, but with a leather lining, I imagine their durability might make them worth the money. They have a really large selection of KJV bibles. Had I been in the market for that version, I may have got one.

I received my bible earlier this week. It is goatskin, and feels soft and buttery in my hands. The inside cover is not leather, but it is much more durable looking than any other bible I've ever had. The print is 9.5, just a smidge larger than the single column one I put away. I am keeping my single column at my nightstand for night reading, but I am happy with this new bible, because it is lighter and easier for taking to church.

It may seem odd to invest in a bible when everyone seems to take tablets to church. My husband loves his because he can adjust the font size (younger people -- and by that, I mean under 40 -- may not think font size is an issue. All I can say is: just wait). As for me, I like my books in paper, and I will continue to use a regular bible. In the words of Ebeneezer Scrooge, "I cannot change!"

I highly recommend Evangelical Bible if you're interested and willing to spend a little money. Their service was excellent, the book well-packaged, and tracking is available so you can anticipate your purchase. I'm hoping this will be the last bible I buy for myself.


There can only be four - good reads from 2013

Everywhere I look, I see people sharing their favourite reads from 2013. Some people read incredible amounts. When I see that, I want to ask:  how did you manage that? when did you eat? I don't know how many books I read, because I just didn't keep a list this year. But I did read, and what I read, I enjoyed.

Here are four that I really enjoyed. No, it's not a round number, but I'm late with this, and anyway, who really cares?

First, Is There a Meaning in This Text? by Kevin Vanhoozer. This was one of the books recommended by Rosaria Butterfield in her book. This book was not an easy read, but I loved it. It made me think, and it challenged me. It also revealed the toll of postmodern thinking on how we interpret the bible.

Second, On Writing, by Stephen King. What can I say about this? It was honest and inspiring. Who would have thought a guy who writes such gruesome novels would seem like a kindred spirit?

Esther, by Karen Jobes, from the NIV Application Commentary series. Who says commentaries are dry? This was an excellent read. Not only did it provide a lot of insight on the text, it gave great contemporary applications. 

Fall on Your Knees, by Anne-Marie Macdonald. This was a suggestion by my daughter. Macdonald is an award-winning Canadian writer. It is a haunting story of a family from Cape Breton. It was disturbing in many ways, but the prose was beautiful. It's not a book I can see myself reading again, but it left an impression on me.


Why pray?

John Knox gives two reasons why the Lord commanded us to pray:

First, that our hearts may be inflamed with continual fear, honour, and love of God, to whom we run for support and help whensoever danger or necessity requires; that we so learning to notify [make known] our desires in his presence, he may teach us what is to be desired, and what not. Second, that we, knowing our petitions to be granted by God alone (to him we must render and give laud and praise), and that we, ever having his infinite goodness fixed in our minds, may constantly abide to receive that which with fervent prayer we desire.

Quoted in Taking Hold of God, Edited by Joel R. Beeke and Brian G. Najapfour