Into the Depths of God
Calvin Miller, Bethany House Publishers, 2000, 249 pages, $16.99, hardcover.
Calvin Miller challenges us to passionately reach for God in love so that He will meet us "where no eye has seen, no ear has heard...what God has prepared for those who love Him." We should plunge deep into intimacy with God. Deep is the dwelling place of God; deep is what happens to us when we find God.
Vivid word pictures present well-organized and important ideas. For example in unit two, "The Listening Life," Dr. Miller said, "When my son was a boy, I used to say to him, Son, take out the trash!' and he did. That was how we show our love and respect-by being obedient. But suppose at my command, he had replied, "Oh, Dad, you are so beautiful and resplendent, I want to sit here and contemplate your wi sdom and power.' That shows the dangers of lifting our hands in adoration when we ought to be using them to minister. We must first obey and then we can praise. The idea is not to simply talk the inner life, but actually to move in it."
Miller abundantly fills all sections of this well-written book with quotations and examples from noted Christian writers. He cites E. Stanley Jones in the introduction to "The Informed Life": "Jesus always looks not on what a man has been or is, but on what he is going to be. And that is right. The artist looks not on what a stone has been or is, but on what he is going to bring out of it-the living figure."
Winsomely, Calvin Miller introduces the last section of this compelling book, "Essentials of Confession": "Love means having to say I'm sorry." With illustrations and quotations, Miller shows how confession becomes our bridge to the Father. Only this can assuage spiritual neediness. Confession also relates to the fears of life: "Catch the real metaphor in Psalm 23. In the dark valley, the sheep move in close to His legs, touching Him as they traverse those narrow chasms of darkness and doubt." And in all this, "We confess that we exist to get ready to meet God."
Intelligent and provocative study questions are included with each chapter and there is a thorough bibliography.
Final Thought: very worthwhile
A. Karen Davis
Target: Pastor & Pew
Type: Deeply Devotional
Take: Stimulating, Provocative
The Legacy of Sovereign Joy
John Piper, Crossway Books, 2000, 158 pages, $17.99, hardcover.
Three noted theologians who lived in different countries and one living in a different age had something in common-they discovered God's plan for their lives and rejoiced in it. In company with ourselves, these men were flawed. They said and did things that were not a credit to the name of Christ. Yet, each in his own way worked through his faults and failures to discover the peace and joy that come from communion with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Augustine was born in North Africa. He lived the first thirty years of his life in selfishness and sensual pleasure. For a decade or more he kept a concubine who bore him a son. But the last forty years of his life were devoted to the service of Christ. He experienced the grace of God who brought joy and peace into Augustine's life.
Luther, the Catholic monk who ignited the Reformation, also was a flawed saint. He often burst out in angry and unsavory talk. Even though Luther held firmly to the grace of God, he was never able to surrender his belief in baptismal regeneration. But like Augustine this flawed saint wrought great things for God by his writings and his preaching. His work ignited Europe into rebellion against the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church . He, too, experienced joy in serving the Savior.
John Calvin, the Swiss theologian, was a contemporary of Luther although the two never met. Though Calvin was filled with zeal to illustrate the glory of God, he, too, was a flawed saint. He sanctioned the death of a religious heretic, Michael Servetus. The Institutes of the Christian Religion was Calvin's brilliant masterpiece that is still studied today.
Glen H. Jones
Safe in the Arms of Jesus (God's Provision for the Death of Those Who Cannot Believe)
Robert P. Lightner, Kregel Publications, 2000, 96 pages, $6.99, softcover.
When a young child dies, Christians often ask if this little one will go into the arms of Jesus or will he/she be forever damned from the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lightner gives gentle biblical assurance that God's provision of grace extends to all who are incapable of believing. Alienation from God extends only to those who have rejected the gospel of the revelation of God through His creation. God's love, holiness, wisdom, and goodness work together to assure the salvation of anyone who has never reached the point of rational belief.
The author also covers a series of other perplexing questions revolving around the subject of death and judgment: What is the age of accountability? What will babies be like in heaven? Will aborted babies be in heaven? What about those who have never heard the gospel?
Glen H. Jones
Type: Devotional and Instructive
God's Plan for Our Good
Paul Smith, Moody Press, 2000, 202 pages, $9.99, softcover.
One of life's most perplexing questions is "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Paul Smith has written a penetrating analysis of that question in this book. When unfortunate incidents happen, Christians have been told to think on Romans 8:28: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Yet that does not always satisfy us.
God's ways are often inscrutable. How can "bad" "work together for good"? And what is "good"? Natural disasters, disease, suffering and injustice happen to saved and unsaved alike. What does God mean by all this? God's silence in the midst of tragedy puzzles us.
Paul Smith offers a partial explanation. First, we rarely can see the big picture. God, in His infinite wisdom knows all things and has designed or permitted good and bad to exist in the world. Second, we do not always know what is "good" and "bad." Our evaluation of the situation often uses human knowledge in an attemp t to discern the workings of a sovereign God. Third, God works to conform us to the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Frail humans that we are, we rarely choose the unpleasant things of life to spur our growth in Christ. God alone knows those things that will purge and refine us.
Glen H. Jones
Type: Christian Living