Library

 library sign

Exciting things are happening at the Pilgrim Library. We are expanding! This page will introduce you to some of our latest books and book reviews. We are always getting new books in that help teach us more about our faith, and its implications in Christian living. We already have a great selection of books on theology, church history, commentaries, Christian biographies, and more. Our library has books for all types of readers from the serious student, to the casual inquiring mind. What would you like to see in our library? Do you have any reviews of our books you would like to submit? We’d love to get an email from you.

Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary

– Aimee Byrd , blogger at Housewife Theologian

Theological Fitness: Why We Need A Fighting Faith

B-BYRD-2 Theological Fitness small

 

– Aimee Byrd , blogger at Housewife Theologian

 

Latest Reviews:

Book Review: Theological Fitness

I could hardly believe Housewife Theologian author Aimee Byrd was actually coming to our annual retreat. I’d spent the previous months working out the logistics and anticipating her arrival. Since Aimee and I had met through blogging, I’d gotten to know her a little. I was responsible for bringing her to the women of my church. and I was practically giddy.When she opened with a Bruce Lee quote, I may or may not have wondered what I’d done.Aimee opens her second book, Theological Fitness: Why We Need a Fighting Faith with the same quote. Like me, readers may shake their heads but, also like me, they will soon understand the connection between Bruce Lee’s words and persevering in the Christian faith. Throughout the sessions, she gave us a peek into her book. I was intrigued and told her I was looking forward to its release. I wasn’t disappointed.

Theological Fitness is a study of Hebrews 10:23

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Drawing upon her unique background, Aimee brilliantly constructs an analogy between physical fitness and healthy Christian living. She writes, “Theological fitness, then, refers to that persistent fight to exercise our faith by actively engaging in the gospel truth revealed in God’s Word. It isn’t just a remembering of some Bible verses about God, but a trust in his promises that motivates us in holy living.” (16, original emphasis).

Throughout the book, Aimee breaks down the meaning of each section of this one verse, encouraging readers in how to have a practical, fighting faith that will help us endure. From the imperative at the beginning of the verse to the reminder at the end, each word is tremendously important if we are to persevere. Theological Fitness is a call to stop resting on our theological laurels and to work out our salvation (see Phil. 2:12). It is a reminder that this world can be brutal, and we will be pummeled by it unless we are theologically fit.  It isn’t easy, but it’s the call on our lives as believers in Christ.

One of my (many) favorite excerpts is found in the chapter entitled “Plateau Busters”

I am fighting for a Warrior who has already assured my victory. He paid the highest cost, robbing Satan of any collateral. He has given us our assurance to persevere. The beauty of the Christian life is that you don’t peak in your twenties. Our goal isn’t merely to read through the whole Bible or to reach some moral platitude. Our goal isn’t to have a Christian life that looks squeaky clean to the watching world. It isn’t to marry the perfect person, get the right job, or raise brag-worthy children. Our goal is nothing less than to see Jesus Christ face to face and eternally dwell with him in the new heaven and the new earth. (147-148)

Focusing on this goal encourages me to keep practicing my faith, to keep running the race toward the finish line of heaven. Just as we reap benefits when we set ignore the potato chips and go for a walk instead, the rewards of theological fitness will be evident in our lives.

For those who want to have a fighting, victorious – and yes, sometimes difficult – faith, Theological Fitness is like having a personal trainer teach and encourage you to reach that goal.

*Thanks to P&R Publishing for allowing me to review this book.

Melissa is a working mother, living a quiet and simple life in rural Virginia with her husband and teenage daughter.  She enjoys reading, writing, coffee, and chocolate. She is passionate about the Word of God, her family, and discipling teenage girls. She blogs at One Quiet Life.

Sacred BondSacred Bond, Michael G. Brown and Zach Keele (Reformed Fellowship, 2012)

Sometimes I feel like some of my family and friends start tuning out when I begin throwing the “covenant” word around. It isn’t one that the Baptist churches I grew up in used very often. The lingo sounds kind of strange to those who aren’t accustomed to it, and yet it is the framework of God’s dealings with his people. Learning about the covenant God has made within the Trinity, and then throughout history with mankind and his church has helped me to understand both Scripture and my relationship with the Lord more clearly. So I talk about it too much.

Sacred Bond is the most concise book I have read explaining the basic structure of covenant theology. Everyone needs a copy.

Our God is a God who promises. And he is a God who keeps his promises. Some of his promises are unconditional, and some are conditional on the performance of the other party. Brown and Keel do a great job of illustrating the importance of promises to a relationship in their first chapter, What is Covenant Theology and Why Should I Care?

The basic building blocks of covenant, therefore, are found every time one promises to do something for someone else with the implied positive and negative consequences determined by the cultural and relational context. The promise creates a relationship. It is a commitment with implied sanctions, like in those old western films when the cowboy says, “A man’s word is law around here.” Speaking creates commitments; our words bind us to actions and to other people (12).

Covenants aren’t just made between God and man. They are part of every relationship. God created us this way and he relates to us this way. When Moses wrote the beginning books of the Bible, the people of Israel were already familiar with the covenant language that saturates it because they already lived in a culture where these covenants between a suzerain king and lesser vassals were common. In fact, the Holy Spirit led Moses to write this historical narrative after God had initiated the covenant at Sinai. So they are not only familiar with covenant language, but they are in a covenant relationship with God themselves. They should see then that man cannot obey God and therefore stay in his presence. But the people of Israel should also recognize that the Mosaic covenant given at Sinai points to Someone who can, the Promised Seed announced as soon as Adam broke his covenant with God.

Brown and Keele define a covenant as “a solemn agreement with oaths and/or promises, which imply certain sanctions or legality…God’s purpose in history is to govern his kingdom of creation and bring forth his holy kingdom. His covenants, therefore, are the way that God administers his kingdom.” (17, 18). Each following chapter describes the main covenants God has revealed in Scripture, starting with the intratrinitarian covenant of redemption made in eternity. They are well executed with a description of each covenant, what the Bible teaches about this covenant in both the Old and New Testaments, and why it is important to the Christian life. I was amazed how thoroughly they pulled this off in such little space.

If you are curious to what these covenants are, let me give you the breakdown. After the covenant of redemption there is the covenant of works, the covenant of grace, the common grace covenant (Noah), the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, and the new covenant. The authors manage to teach all of this, along with a glossary of terms, a Scripture index, and name index in 165 pages. A.ma.zing.

If you want to understand your Bible better, read this book.  The authors glorify God by teaching his promises to which we can hold fast. We may break our promises, but God was pleased to make a covenant with his people, and then fulfill the full sanctions of that oath. He delivered his righteousness in Christ, as well as bore the curse of the covenant-breakers. Soli Deo gloria!

 

Organized HeartThe Organized Heart, Staci Eastin (CruciformPress, 2011)

I ordered this book for my church library with the intention of someday reading it myself. Someday.

Sure, it sounds positive, especially the subtitle, A Woman’s Guide to Conquering Chaos. I knew that my heart could use some organizing. I knew that there is plenty of chaos in my life. But I put it off. I didn’t want to be convicted. It’s not like I have horrible housekeeping skills or anything like that. There’s just something about overly organized people that can irritate me, if I’m being honest. I want to feel free, not controlling. I didn’t want to get more organized, thank you very much. I wanted to just hang out right where I am.

But I am familiar with Staci’s writing. I knew that she’s not the froofy church-lady type who was going to tell me to freeze casseroles and buy days-of-the-week underwear for my kids. Staci always focuses on the heart of the gospel in her writing. And so I knew her book was going to be good, and I knew that it would bless me to read it.

Eastin doesn’t write from the perspective of the queen of organization. She opens with her own disorganized testimony. This has led her to the conviction that “disorganization steals your joy. It causes you to go through your life frazzled and stressed. It causes friction with your husband and makes you snap at your children. It makes you perform ministry tasks grudgingly. It prevents you from developing friendships, because you’re always rushing from one task to the next You don’t feel like you’re doing anything well, let alone to the glory of God” (11). She had me at “steals your joy.” I can relate to that.

Staci does write from the perspective that disorganization is a heart issue. She points out some sin issues of which disorganization is the side effect. So the book isn’t filled with tips on how to fix the side-effect. She doesn’t offer formulas, seven steps, or a magical chart. “We never conquer sin by adding more rules” (12). Amen to that!

But in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but remember what irritates me about thereal organized people. When I never see you with a wrinkle in your clothes, when your house never has a thing out of place, or if your car looks like you only give rides to Martha Stewart, I am suspicious. I am suspicious that there is a sin-issue going on in the overly organized person’s heart as well.

And to my pleasure, I found Staci addressing some of my suspicions right in the beginning. The first “issue” she raises is perfectionism, which she cleverly calls “chaos turned inward.” I found this chapter to be very perceptive, as Eastin points out the problems with a preoccupation with appearance, being in bondage to impossible standards, and pride. This line particularly stood out to me: It’s also unloving, because perfectionism doesn’t give: it takes” (22). Great chapter.

Some other sin issues that Staci addresses in detail are busyness, possessions, and leisure. The great thing about this book is that Eastin is able to convict the reader without condemning what is very good and necessary in these same categories. She speaks with biblical wisdom and real life experience. It’s like getting advice from a favorite aunt. There’s no pretending we’re better than we are, rather, her intention is that the book will “help you serve God and your family more effectively, more fruitfully, and with greater peace and joy”(13)—as a real person, not a candied housewife.

And the author is particularly sensitive to “difficult circumstances” that we may providentially be under. In fact, there is a chapter dedicated just to this issue. While an organized heart has recognizable fruits, it has many creative and diverse expressions. I appreciated the passion I sensed between the words on the page to encourage the reader and not box us into a burden we can’t bear. Sometimes that means we need to face our pride in asking others for help. Sometimes it means that we need more contentment with our situations. It always means we depend on Christ.

Even in the last chapter, which includes more practical suggestions, Eastin keeps the theological focus in the forefront. For this I am very appreciative and glad to have read The Organized Heart. It has proved that an organized heart is freeing, not enslaving. And, as an added bonus, it’s also helped me to look at others with more compassion as a result.

 

 

images-4Carl Trueman, The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

This is the question that came to my mind as I was reading Carl Trueman’s booklet, The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Particularly after this statement:

Lacking a strong doctrinal center, evangelicalism’s coherence as a coalition of institutions and organizations is about to come under a huge strain—a strain that I believe will render the coalition unsustainable in the days ahead (29).

It was the first phrase that made me think of a Tootsie Pop. After all, what’s a Tootsie Pop without the Tootsie center? Trueman raises plenty to think about as he challenges the evangel of evangelism. When we have more confessionally in common with a Roman Catholic or Orthodox than we do with some who are considered evangelicals, the word has lost its meaning. Can someone who denies the Trinity be considered an evangelical? Does it matter what their stance is on soteriology? How about social issues such as homosexuality or complimentarianism? These are all matters that have been pressed lately among so-called evangelicalism.

Trueman sees the term to be more of “a social, cultural, or even marketing term than a theological one—the only time problems arise in this understanding is when the term ‘evangelical’ is used as if it has a doctrinal meaning, when in fact it does not” (19). Of course, he is associated with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, who have a statement fencing in what platform they are speaking from as evangelicals. Whether you’re more of an orange, grape, or chocolate person, they take at least five licks to get to the center, that is, the five solas of the Reformation: “grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, and to the glory of God alone” (18).

For evangelical to continue to be a helpful term, I think that we are going to need to be more clear about our doctrinal center. But as Trueman points out, that is just more exclusive than most want to be. As we try to engage with the culture as a Christian witness, have we lost our witness? Trueman concludes:

The real scandal of the evangelical mind currently is not that it lacks a mind, but that it lacks any agreed-upon evangel. Until we acknowledge that this is the case—until we can agree on what exactly it is that constitutes the evangel—all talk about evangelicalism as a real, coherent movement is likely to be little more than a chimera, or a trick with smoke and mirrors (41).

The world may never know our message. And that isn’t good news.

 

images-11-1Simonetta Carr, Lady Jane Grey

I didn’t realize when I was reading Simonetta Carr’s biography on Lady Jane Grey to my kids that this week marks the 458th anniversary of her execution. Today, in fact. This book is part of a series of biographies for 7-12-year-old readers. But they are so good, I enjoy reading them aloud. As wonderful as the books are, my kids just aren’t the type that get excited learning about the life of Athanasius yet. But as I read these gems to them, they grow in wonder, ask really good questions, and get a much grander picture of the glory of God in the lives of his people.

And so it was with Lady Jane. She was nine days Queen of England, and executed at 16 years old, per order of the infamous “Bloody Mary”. In this brief account of her life, a young reader will see some of the costs of true faith. It’s easy to paint the Reformation in pastels to our children, but Carr doesn’t do this. She shows the mess that went along with it. And in England, there were many political ramifications.

There’s much about Lady Jane’s story that glorifies the Lord. My reading of this condensed version with the kids coincided well with where I’m at in my study of Hebrews. This morning we discussed Hebrews 13:5 & 6:

Let your conduct be without covetousness: be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we may boldly say:
 
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?”

Jane had plenty of circumstances that could have turned her into a covetous, complaining woman. As loved ones died, Jane held strong in the faith. She didn’t seem to have the same inclinations as her parents, and their relationship was strained. And she had a very covetous cousin, Mary. It revealed itself in the worst kind of way when Mary’s deathly ill step-brother, King Edward, appointed Jane to be his successor to the throne. This wasn’t really a position that Jane was ambitious for, however, she shared in Edward’s passion for the Protestant faith to grow in England.

Jane was only Queen for nine days before Mary and the support that she gathered took the crown she believed was rightfully hers. As Jane’s status went from Queen to prisoner awaiting her fate, her faith only strengthened. As her own family members were renouncing their Protestant faith and embracing Roman Catholicism to try to save their own lives, Jane refused. Jane was content with the lot God had given her. Her knowledge and faith astounded even the monk, John Feckenham, who was sent by Mary to convert Jane. The 16-year-old held her own theologically with the monk. Moments before her execution, Jane was able to share her witness to onlookers that she was dying “a true Christian woman” who’s hope was “to be saved by none other means but only by the mercy of God and the merits of the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ” (52).

These words displayed the source of Jane’s contentment. God preserved her to hold fast to the confession of her hope (Heb. 10:23), even through the worst circumstances, because he really was her only helper. With the knowledge that God is faithful, and that he would never leave or forsake her, Jane echoed the last words of her Savior, “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (54).

The letters Jane wrote as she was preparing for death encouraged others that she was rejoicing in her impending death. She didn’t just resign to her fate, but she found joy in God’s will. Wherever she was called, Jane glorified the Lord who was with her. As she exercised the truths of who he is, Jane was strengthened to persevere. That’s what I call theological fitness.

 

images-21The Creedal Imperative, Carl R. Trueman (Crossway, 2012)

Apparently, this book is too cool for a subtitle. Carl Trueman has a market on cool by rebelling against cool. Especially skinny jeans. But I digress. I’m thinking something like, “The Indicatives are Imperative.” But that’s just me.

Does your church catechize or teach with creeds? Sure it does. Trueman makes the case that all churches and all people have a creed, whether they admit it or not. “No creed but the Bible” just doesn’t exist, and is a creed in itself (maybe that’s a good subtitle). He points out that as soon as you ask someone what the Bible is about, they answer with a summation of their belief, a creed. So when someone is insisting that they do not have a creed, they “are being unintentionally disingenuous: they still have their creed or confession; they just will not write it down and allow you to look at it and scrutinize it in the light of Scripture. They are in a sense more authoritarian than the papacy (161).”

Although that line may sting a bit, the tone of this book actually shows both Trueman’s passion for history and his pastoral side. He argues for the biblical imperative of the need for creeds and confessions. One of the main Scriptures he uses is 2 Tim. 1:13, “Follow the pattern of sound words you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” This is what the creeds and confessions help the church to do.  They give us a tried and true vocabulary to help the church teach what is orthodox.

Many believe that creeds divide, or that they take away from the authority of Scripture. But Trueman aims to show that “Christians aren’t divided between those who have creeds and confessions and those who do not; rather, they are divided between those who have public creeds and confessions that are often improvised, unwritten, and thus not open to public scrutiny, not susceptible to evaluation and, crucially and ironically, not, therefore, subject to testing by Scripture to see whether they are true” (15). Our expressed creeds give us a platform to sharpen one another’s biblical understanding.

For those of you who expect a not-so fetching critique of the evangelical culture from Trueman, you won’t be let down, especially in Chapter 1; “The Cultural Case Against Creeds and Confessions”. This is a great chapter that emphasizes the value of history, language, and the church. While the tone is more teacherly and pastoral in tone, Trueman’s Truemanisms do tend to seep out here and there. My favorite is when he gives us his response to a student in one of his classes on the ancient church when she questioned the value of her attendance. After all, “’some documents written in the seventh century seem to have very little to do with’ her ministry.” I can only imagine the tension that her classmates felt in the room following that brazen comment. But Trueman’s response is perfect…”I suggested with every ounce of gentleness and tact I could muster that she might perhaps better ask herself not so much what relevance they have to her ministry but what relevance her ministry had to the church” (25, 26). This interaction reveals much of the individualistic attitudes that our culture holds regarding the church.

The reader will get a lesson on “The Foundations of Creedalism”, “The Early Church”, and the “Classical Protestant Confessions” (chapters 2-4) that is worth the price of the book. I especially enjoyed Chapter 5, “Confession as Praise”. There are many gems in this chapter. Right in the beginning we read, “Historically, one could make the argument that Christian theology as a whole is one long, extended reflection upon the meaning and significance of that most basic doxological declaration, ‘Jesus is Lord!’ and thus an attempt to provide a framework for understanding Christian praise” (135). What we know about God affects our praise and worship. The last chapter before the conclusion is “On the Usefulness of Creeds and Confessions”. In it, Trueman proves his case of the creedal imperative.

Unfortunately, a lot of people I know who don’t like creeds also don’t like reading books. And that is a shame, because this one is excellent. It has certainly strengthened my resolve and enlarged my affection for the great creeds and confessions that have been faithfully handed down to the church.