Thursday, July 10, 2008

Two Quick Reviews

Since I had some free time today, as my family drives back to Georgia from New York, I decided to finish reading a couple of books.

The first is a text that I have been working on for quite a while - The Practice of the Presence of God. Based on Brother Lawrence's discussions with his followers about 300 years ago, this book is challenging because the author delves into his close relationship with the Lord. He discusses in depth the minute-by-minute communion he has learned to cultivate over years of abiding with God.

The description of this book says, in part, "Here is one of the most beautiful and touching stories of Christian devotion ever written. Brother Lawrence was a Carmelite Brother known for his profound peace and deep relationship with God; many came to seek spiritual guidance from him. The wisdom that he passed on to them, in conversations and in letters, would later become the basis for the book."

One of my favorite quotes from the book reads, "It is not enough to know God as a theory, from what we read in books, or feel some fleeting motions of affection for Him, brief as the wave of feeling, or glimpse of the Divine, which prompts them; our faith must be alive, and we must make it so, and by its means lift ourselves beyond all these passing emotions to worship the Father and Jesus Christ in all their divine perfection."

I recommend that you buy this book and plan to read it over the span of about a month. Brother Lawrence delves into some deep ideas that can't be fully comprehended quickly. It would be a good book to read as part of a daily devotional time. The chapters are short, which makes it easy to just read a little each day. This book will challenge you to walk closely with the Lord every minute of the day.

The second book is Thabiti Anyabwile's What is a Healthy Church Member? This is part of a series of short texts put out by IX Marks Ministries.

I'm surprised to watch myself write this, but I was a bit disappointed with this book. The reason is simple: it seems like a rehashing of a book that was already published - Mark Dever's Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. It is understandable why this all happened. Anyabwile used to serve at Capitol Hill Baptist Church with Dever. Also, this book is designed to follow in the same line of thought as the first Nine Marks book. If I had never read Dever's book, then I think Anyabwile's book would have been more interesting.

In What is a Healthy Church Member?, Anyabwile takes each of the nine marks of a healthy church, and and places it squarely on each church member. He looks at the church member as he ought to relate to preaching, the gospel, conversion, evangelism, discipline, discipleship, etc. The content and writing style are both good, but as I was reading this book I felt like I already knew what was coming on the next page.

Because of its short length (about 120 pages), this would be a good book for any church member to read - even those who don't normally like to pick up a book. It might help some Christians better think through what it means to be a member of a church. However, if you have already read the previous Nine Marks book, then don't bother with this one.

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