Pastor Dave's
Book Recommendations
& Reviews

Douglas McKelvey's Every Moment Holy, Vol. 1 & 2

One of the coolest books I purchased this past year was Douglas McKelvey's Every Moment Holy, Vol. 1.(Rabbit Room Press, 2020). If you have not heard of it, Every Moment Holy is a liturgy book of prayers for the very ordinary parts of life! I really like it.

Apparently, Vol. 1 resonated with many people around the world, and next month, Every Moment Holy, Vol. 2: Death, Grief, and Hope (Rabbit Room Press, 2021) will be released. The title alone sounds like it will be encouraging and helpful for many in these difficult times. Back in October, the Rabbit Room shared a preview of this upcoming book, by sharing one of the liturgies from it, called, "A Liturgy for Embracing Both Joy & Sorrow".  I hope it is an encouragement to you today!  If you are interested in learning more about this book, you can read the original post and pre-order Vol. 2 here:

Enjoy your day friends!

With you in joy and sorrow,

Pastor Dave

A Liturgy for Embracing Both Joy & Sorrow

Do not be distant, O Lord, lest I find this burden
of loss too heavy, and shrink from the
necessary experience of my grief.
Do not be distant, O Lord, lest I become so
mired in yesterday’s hurts, that I miss entirely
the living gifts this day might hold.
Let me neither ignore my pain, pretending all
is okay when it isn’t, nor coddle and magnify
my pain, so that I dull my capacity to experience
all that remains good in this life.
For joy that denies sorrow is neither hard-won,
nor true, nor eternal. It is not real joy at all.
And sorrow that refuses to make space
for the return of joy and hope, in the end
becomes nothing more than a temple
for the worship of my own woundedness.
So give me strength, O God, to feel this grief
deeply, never to hide my heart from it. And give
me also hope enough to remain open to
surprising encounters with joy,
as one on a woodland path might stumble
suddenly into dapplings of golden light.
Amidst the pain that lades these days,
give me courage, O Lord; courage to live them
fully, to love and to allow myself to be loved,
to remember, grieve, and honor what was,
to live with thanksgiving in what is, and
to invest in the hope of what will be.
Be at work gilding these long heartbreaks
with the advent of new joys, good friendships,
true fellowships, unexpected delights. Remind
me again and again of your goodness, your
presence, your promises.
For this is who we are: a people
of The Promise—a people shaped
in the image of God whose
very being generates all joy
in the universe, yet who also
weeps and grieves its brokenness.
So we, your children, are also at liberty
to lament our losses, even as we
simultaneously rejoice in the hope
of their coming restoration.
Let me learn now, O Lord, to do this
as naturally as the inhale and exhale
of a single breath:
To breathe out sorrow,
to breathe in joy.
To breathe out lament,
to breathe in hope.
To breathe out pain,
to breathe in comfort.
To breathe out sorrow,
To breathe in joy.
In one hand I grasp the burden of my grief,
while with the other I reach
for the hope of grief’s redemption.
And here, between the tension of the two,
between what was and what will be,
in the very is of now,
let my heart be surprised by, shaped by,
warmed by, remade by,
the same joy that forever wells within
and radiates from your heart, O God.
Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane C. Ortlund
In the providence of God, this book coming out early in a year like this was a blessing!  It is a soul-refreshing feast for weary, discouraged and tired people - like you and me! With a heavy reliance upon the Puritans and careful examination of various Scripture passages, the author points us to the heart of our Savior for us.  It really is a healing and encouraging book because it reorients our thinking about the nature and expression of God's love for us.  Highly recommend you not only read it, but plan to read it once a year (or more) - it's that good!

Seven Churches, Four Horsemen, One Lord: Lessons From The Apocalypse by James Montgomery Boice
The late James Boice was a masterful preacher, and possessed an R.C. Sproul-like ability to communicate complex theology and difficult Scripture passages in a clear and understandable manner. Thanks to his widow Linda, and his friend and former protege, Philip Graham Ryken, these manuscripts of his final, unfinished sermon series on Revelation is now available for a wide audience. Unfortunately, he began this series in Nov. of '99, and during it was diagnosed with liver cancer, and preached the final message in April of '00.  Therefore it only covers Rev. 1:1- 6:17.  His explanations of various aspects of Revelation are such that once you read them, you think, "Wow, that makes so much sense - why didn't I see that before?".  Again, even though Revelation is a complex book, these lively, engaging sermons are easy to understand and extremely edifying!

The Good Name: The Power of Words to Hurt or Heal by Samuel T. Logan, Jr.
Samuel Logan is a former president of Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), who was asked to resign by the seminary board for "shading the truth and bearing false witness" in 2003.  In the introduction, he not only acknowledges his guilt, but how the Lord used it to lead him on a pilgrimage that eventually led to this book that seeks to unpack and apply the full extent of the Ninth Commandment.  As he puts it, "My purpose in writing is to show that, as Christians, our words exist to reflect Christ's character--his holy concern for God's good name, his constant love for others, and his absolutely reliable truth.  When our words are scornful, selfish, or false, they dishonor Christ.  And especially when we speak such words to or about fellow Christians, they can cause great damage in Christ's church.  We all must learn to use our words with godly care, I first of all." (pg. 1-2). I was hooked from that opening, and greatly convicted through the rest of the book.  Be warned, you will be challenged and convicted in new ways, and that's a good thing!

A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in An Age of Us Against Them by Scott Sauls
(Disclaimer:  Scott is a dear friend and my former roommate in seminary, but I think I would recommend this book even if I didn't know him!).  The book title comes from Proverbs 15:1 (NIV), "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." And I think, to paraphrase Esther, this is a book "for such a time as this".  In days where outrage and unfiltered speech dominates the internet and our public discourse, it is too easy for Christians to imitate the world's weapons.  But is that the way Christ would have us deal with the world (or each other)?  Scott convincingly shows us from God's Word how we are called to live differently, speak differently, and reflect the countercultural model that Jesus gives us in Scripture.  As the back cover says, it helps Christians:"grow in affection for Christ, who answers our hostility with gentleness; nurture a renewed, softened heart in light of Christ's gentleness toward us; and forsake us-versus-them mentalities, putting down our swords and permeating a hostile world with gentleness." In our current "outrage of the day" culture, this book was a refreshing reminder of what made the Gospel and Jesus so compelling and so different, and the Lord used it to convict me in many ways.  It's a great companion book to Logan's book above, but with a different emphasis.

Devoted to God’s Church: Core Values for Christian Fellowship by Sinclair B. Ferguson
I had just finished this book in the last week or so, and, as with most of Ferguson's works, I loved it!  How can we improve our church?  By understanding better what church life is supposed to look like!  This book looks at what the New Testament teaches about the values, functions, ordinances, and disciplines that are for all churches throughout all times and places.  As is characteristic of Ferguson, he takes God's Word, explains it clearly and plainly, and applies it.  The only thing better than reading this, would be listening to him read it in his Scottish accent! Seriously, this book will make you love the church more, and help you to be a better member of the church!

Pastors and Their Critics: A Guide to Coping with Criticism in the Ministry by Joel R. Beeke & Nick Thompson
Wait!  Don't skip past this one!  Yes, it is primarily focused on pastors, but I think it is more widely applicable and helpful.  Anyone in church leadership could benefit from this excellent work by long-time pastor and professor Joel Beeke, and (at that time) seminary student Nick Thompson.  In fact, I would argue, if you want to learn to better deal with criticism in any profession or relationship, this book is helpful!  They first give foundations from Scripture for coping with criticism, both from the Old and New Testaments, and then the bulk of the book is practical principles for coping with criticism.  I appreciate how the authors make the distinctions between hostile and friendly criticism, when to respond to criticism, how to receive it, and when not to respond to it.  They also give a section on how to give criticism well, and how to cultivate a church culture that is open to constructive critique.  And the book closes with an excellent chapter on developing a theological vision for coping with criticism that reorients your perspective.  As a natural 'people-pleaser', this book was a huge help and encouragement to me, and I think it will help you as well!

When the Stars Disappear: Help and Hope from Stories of Suffering in Scripture (Suffering and the Christian Life, Vol. 1) by Mark Talbot
(Disclaimer #2 - Mark is also a friend, and a trusted counselor for me).  This little book is the first of four books planned about suffering in the Christian life.  I really appreciated how the author displayed not only a keen sense of empathy with the experience of the Biblical characters and what they went through, but he explains both his own experience with suffering, and the traumatic death of one of his students and his interactions with that student's parents in the wake of his loss. So I might say the formula of this book is the experience of profound suffering + empathy for the sufferings of others + great Biblical and academic knowledge = a book that is both pastorally helpful and Biblically faithful. Highly recommended for those suffering, and for those who want to help them.

Finding the Right Hills To Die On: The Case for Theological Triage by Gavin Ortlund
This book is also helpful for our day, in navigating the balance between the unity we are called to as Christians, and the differences we have in various Biblical and theological interpretations.  How much can we unite with those who disagree with us on.... baptism?  charismatic gifts?  millennial views/eschatology?  Gavin Ortlund (son of Ray and brother to Dane) both shares his own story of wrestling with these things and presents a helpful fourfold ranking to help us distinguish between different doctrinal levels.  In other words, what are the most important ones, essential to the gospel itself, and what are second rank doctrines, "urgent for the health and practice of the church such that they frequently cause Christians to separate at the level of the local church, denomination, and/or ministry" pg. 19).  Third rank doctrines are important, but not enough to justify separation or division, and Fourth rank doctrines are unimportant to our gospel witness and ministry collaboration. While a reader might quibble on the placement of certain doctrines within these four sections, it would be hard for any reader not to benefit from this helpful little book.  For a personal example, it confirmed for me why I consider the pastor of Crawford Avenue Baptist a good friend and a brother in Christ, but that our differing views on baptism, as a second-rank doctrine, are why we are in different denominations.  Our differences of interpretation on that issue are urgent for the gospel, yet we are still ministers of that same gospel!  A great book to help think through these kinds of issues among believers.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution by Carl R. Trueman
I am early in this book, but it has been all over the "Best of" lists this year already.  It, as the foreword by Rod Dreher explains, seeks to explain modernity to the church, "with depth, clarity, and force".  In light of the drastic changes in our culture in so many areas, and particularly in the area of sexuality and gender, this book helps us see how we have come to this point, and where we might go from here.  It is weighty (400 pages), but not designed to be academic.  It is, as one endorsement says, "perhaps the most significant analysis and evaluation of Western Culture written by a Protestant during the past fifty years."  Carl Trueman is a clear and even witty writer, and that helps make this book more accessible than it might be in lesser hands.  He was a professor of Church History at Westminster Seminary for many years, and is now professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College.  He is an insightful historian, and a keen observer of culture.  This may not be a book you necessarily want to read, but it is a book that you really need to read to understand our cultural situation biblically, historically, and experientially (at least in the eyes and lives of those we are trying to reach).  I expect I will continue to be challenged, informed, disturbed, and equipped as I continue on in this book.

The Christmas We Didn’t Expect: Daily Devotions for Advent by David Mathis
Some of you may remember the Habits of Grace Sunday school class, based on a book by David Mathis, the executive editor for Piper's Desiring God ministry.  Here, he gives us meditations for advent designed to reignite our wonder, our joy, and our hope at the One who came down in human flesh to redeem a people for Himself.  Each devotion is only a few pages in length, and ends with an appropriate prayer to pray afterwards.  Allegra and I started using it last night, and I already think it will be very helpful in our meditation on and celebration of Advent and Christmas.  It's not too late to grab a copy for yourself!