Taking God at His word: book review

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“We must not seek to know the Word who is divine apart from the divine words of the bible, and we ought not to read the bible without an eye to the Word incarnate … Scripture, because it is the breathed-out word of God, possesses the same authority as the God-man Jesus Christ.”

So says Kevin DeYoung in his most recent book “Taking God at His word.”

The book is really treatise on (he calls it a “doctrine of”) the Scriptures and, at times, even feels like a modern day “Fundamentalism and the word of God” (J I Packer’s go to text on the same subject from a few decades back).  It is utterly readable both in length (just over 100 pages in e-format) as well as continuing in DeYoung’s intellectual, yet distinctly modern and accessible style of writing, which packs a tonne into those 100 pages.

DeYoung treats different aspects of this treatise on/doctrine of Scripture in subsequent chapters: from the reliability and inspiration of the Scriptures (Ch.2), to the sufficiency of the Scriptures (Ch.3).  The following chapters continue what he presents from the “SCAN” acronym, to include the Clarity of Scripture (Ch.4), the Authority of Scripture(Ch.5), and the Necessity of Scripture (Ch. 6).  Chapter 7 deals helpfully with Jesus’ view of Scripture and Chapter 8 concludes with an exposition of 2 Timothy 3 (vs. 14-17 specifically) exhorting us (like Timothy) to remain in the word as well as remembering those from whom we learned it.  He then concludes the book with a list helpful resources for further reading at all levels of interest – from beginner to serious theological student.

All in all, for me, this book accomplished what it set out to do at the beginning with DeYoung’s exposition of Ps. 119, viz. it inspired and grew my love for God and His word – I believe it will do exactly the same thing for you.  Over and over again while reading this book I found my heart worshipping, and my Evernote buzzing as I wrote down thoughts and quotations. DeYoung has given us a real treasure in this little book in that it deals seriously (protectively even) with the doctrine of Scripture and yet it does so in a way that is engaging and which inspires genuine worship of the God who inspired it to be written.

I would highly recommend this book to a small group/discipleship group that wants to look at the doctrine of Scripture, the amateur theologian who wants to grow in their ability to handle the Scriptures, as well as anyone who just loves the bible and wants to be inspired to love it even more.  A great resource which – at just over 100 pages – is accessible, engaging and packed full of truth.

*Note: I received a free pre-release of this book for review from Crossway. 

“About” face

I know what you may be thinking as you read the title to this post: ‘Ah, a post on repentance!’  Sadly, no.  While that theme is certainly included in today’s post, dealing with repentance is not my specific aim.  It is, rather, to speak to the change on my “About” page of this blog [yehaw, right?].  I post this merely b/c i have no illusions in my mind that people actually read the ‘About’ pages on blogs frequently (let alone look for changes on them), and yet the change is a significant one for me. So: rationale for this post = check!

The change has two dimensions to it really: one has to do with calling and the other a submission to that calling.

Firstly then, for those of you just tuning in, for the past 3+ years i have pursued the calling of God on my life to be a firefighter.  I had pursued that calling both physically (hours of training to be sure i could compete with guys 10-15 years younger than me) and mentally (rigorous study for countless exams as well as frequent courses to improve my resume).  I had the support of wife and family, friends and church, and so prayerfully i was also sustained and confirmed.  The “Twitter” version of the story is, however, that understanding of calling and effort do not a career make.  In the end – while i fully believe it was the will of God for me to pursue this calling for the past 3 years – it was also not the will of God that i get this job.  For who gives favour in the eyes of men [and hiring panels] but God (cf. Nehemiah 1:11, Ex.3:21)?  And yet, we also know that all that comes to pass is in accordance with the secret will of God (Eph. 1:11, Dan. 4:35).  It was not without much sadness and wrestling that i surrendered this dream to my loving Father in heaven.  In my struggle, the Spirit of God led me to John 15:1,2 where Jesus says, “I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  I drew much comfort and focus from that text in seeing the pruning work of God in my life, in order to both guide my path and grow me in my sanctification, which is God’s ultimate purpose for all His elect (Romans 8:29).

This surrender however did not leave me with a clear idea of where to go from there.  I remember a somewhat frustrating [now i see providential] meeting with some elders from my church as well as trusted, godly friends in order to have a time of prayer in discerning God’s will for my life as it related to vocation, about a year ago.  I remember [inwardly] dropping my jaw when all three of these men told me that – in considering what they knew of my life and gifting – they all saw strong pastoral gifts!  I remember thinking, “Guys!!  I brought you here to pray with me and confirm this continued calling to be a firefighter, not call me to another calling!”  I felt like Balak after he calls Balaam to prophesy against Israel in Numbers, and instead of cursing them he continues to bless them.  But i see now more clearly that God had a guiding influence in that meeting.  It would be almost a year later – with an ever growing love for Christ and the Scriptures, a deeper understanding of sacrificial leadership in my home, and increasing responsibilities at my church – that i would come across Al Mohler’s post re: calling to vocational ministry Has God called you? The calling of a Christian minister.  Instantly, my mind went back to that meeting with the elders, and it is now becoming my increasing conviction that God may in fact be calling me now to serve as an under-shepherd in His Kingdom.  I don’t yet know where or how that will come to pass, but – as i say in my ‘About’ page – this is a calling that i now would welcome joyfully where, in the not so recent past, i would not have welcomed it at all.  Which leads me to the second dimension of this change.

When it came to the matter of vocational ministry, the above image would most aptly express my sentiments.  It was certainly not that i had no love for God or His church, nor did this mean that i was not regularly serving.  It was rather something more akin to an extreme apprehensiveness.  The biggest reason for this was seeing some of the all too common abuses that take place of ministers viz. (and most notably) by their own flock!  Serving in the church was one thing, but having to wade into all the politics and business behind the scenes just got my back up [don’t think Jonah here: i simply wanted to serve in the way i felt best from my vantage point].  ‘Blissful ignorance’ was the way i wanted to serve Christ’s Bride and (i assumed) the only way possible. But then the strangest thing began happening:

1: through ever growing love of God and His Word, i began to love His church more than i hated/feared the thought of what could go wrong and

2: i have now spent over seven years in a church that (while not perfect) has done much good to show me what church can look like.

And so, i see now this ‘calling’ to vocational ministry has probably been going on for some time now, and yet, my preconceived ideas about the real and perceived negatives of the church have kept me on the outskirts; believing that this was the fulness of where God wanted me to serve.  But God is a patient Father, and has continued to press and prune to the place now where my defences and justifications have all but attenuated, leaving me with nothing but a deep love for Him and His Word and, now,  a desire to feed His lambs.  How strange now to find myself pursuing that which i have, until now, feared and avoided.  Ever been there?

Whether you know me well, or not at all, i would covet your prayers for God’s wisdom in the coming months and years as i “change course” as it were.  With both the inner calling of the Spirit and outer confirmation of godly friends/family, i feel i can “Just Do Something” here without laying out a fleece or waiting for an audible voice from heaven.  Stay tuned in said ‘months and years to come’ to see what God has done from these beginnings.

Soli Deo gloria.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”  Heb. 11:8

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