Fellowship with God by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
I received this beautiful edition of Fellowship with God at Together for the Gospel this year. You actually cannot buy this particular edition because it was made especially for T4G. That was one of the delights this year. They did this for three or four books including a nicely bound Holman Standard Bible. Fellowship with God is a transcription of MLJ’s sermon series on 1 John. It was a delight to read. He communicated the main ideas of the text thoroughly and down to earth. The chapter titles were accurate and helpful. Each chapter developed one main idea which built upon the chapter before.
Fellowship with God is about growing in our fellowship with God. He first seeks to understand our position in the world. He argues that the world is evil and we must restrain the evil as much as we can (p. 19). He then moves on to discuss joy and how we might grasp fully the kind of joy found in Scripture. He provides practical and biblical advice on growing joy and then on how we might lose our joy.
He had bold words of caution against seeking mystical experiences from the Spirit (chapter 8) when we should be seeking Christ in the word of God. I’ve often seen MLJ quoted as a modern proponent of the Charismatic movement but he seemed quite opposed to it here. He also had a strong word of caution against merely knowing right doctrine without knowing Christ truly.
He ends with a superb discussion on the holiness of God and sin which leads us to the final topic of fellowship with God. He defines what walking in the light must look like. What the blood of Christ has accomplished for us and the difference between justification and sanctification (very helpful for our present discussion) and ends with necessity of preaching Jesus always. I would recommend Fellowship with God for any believer but it may be especially helpful for new believers because of the ground it covers on so many foundational doctrines for Christian living.
If you want to purchase this title, there is an edition available to the public via Crossway.
Letters from the Front: J. Gresham Machen’s Correspondence from WW1 Edited by Barry Waugh
I love reading letters from past Christians. They often provide a human side to our heroes of the faith. Sometimes you might read something like Liberalism and Christianity by Machen and assume that he was a near perfect Christian who had no struggles and just went through life slaying theological dragons like liberalism. However, what the letters will show you is that his life is not that far off our own. He eats and sleeps and bleeds.
What I found so striking with Letters from the Front was exactly this. Even more so than other letters I have read, Machen’s are so simple and ordinary. He is for the most part not conversing with his family about the benefits of the historic reformed faith and the pitfalls of liberalism. He is telling us about how uncomfortable his wool uniform is and how it’s hot and itchy. That’s not to say that he doesn’t talking about Christian doctrines at all but you see the very human side of Machen.
The editor offers a intriguing suggesting before starting Letters. Machen throughout his letters mentions locations he’s stationed at and also goes back later and adds amendments in the text with specific locations. Many of these the editor recommends can be found on Google Maps and many of the church locations are still intact from Machen’s day. A very interesting way indeed to enhance the reading experience if you are so inclined. I didn’t look up every location but did find it useful those that peeked my interest. I’m kind of a geek but I also found the editors notes about his style and penmanship interesting.
Finally, Machen’s search for a church provided some interesting commentary. He says at one point that he prefers a Roman Catholic service to a liberal Protestant service. Says Machen (p. 319),
This morning the chaplain of the regiment, who is a catholic, has just held a general service & is now celebrating mass as I write. The general service was frankly supernatural . . . I was pleased with the service. It was far better than what we get from the Protestant liberals.
The editor is quick to note two things: first, Machen is writing this correspondence during the Mass which demonstrates his disagreement with Rome. Second, what Machen appreciated was the emphasis on the supernatural. The sermon was on the multiplication of the fish and bread. The liberal would have brushed that off while at least the Roman Catholic didn’t deny the supernatural. Overall, if you enjoy history, letters, or Machen then pick up this book. You won’t be disappointed. If none of those appeals to you then you may find yourself a little weighed down in Letters from the Front.
The Action Bible Illustrated by Sergio Cariello
I have two young kids and so I’m always on the look out for illustrated stories and Bibles. My oldest loves to read books and we supplement our family Bible reading time with another illustrated Bible. What I like about The Action Bible was that it rooted its narrative in Scripture. Each section had a subheading with “based on” and then the Scripture reference. That tells me the writers know that their book is a supplement to the Bible and not a replacement.
For me that’s huge because I want my kids to know the importance and primacy of the Word of God while also being able to enjoy illustrated Bible stories. I can start each section with “This is based off of this Bible story from Luke 1. Let’s look at that real quick” and then delve into the illustrated story it helps convey that truth. Also, the stories seemed more faithful to the Biblical narrative then some other Bible stories we have tried out. Again this conveys an important truth about the Word of God.
Something didn’t appeal to me with the illustrations and I wasn’t sure what it was. I did read comics growing up but not religiously like some and although I appreciate good art I don’t have the refined palette or the ability to explain concisely some of the finer points of good art. So I had my good friend Pastor Chase Blankenship take a look. He has a much more refined palette where art is concerned. I didn’t tell him my opinion and he confirmed and explained what I think I also saw.
First, he commented that he really liked the illustrated scene between Jesus and Nicodemus. He also said the style was more “comic book-esque” but that it felt dated. Stylistically he said it reflected the art and style of 90s comic books. If you’re a huge 90s comic book fan then you will most likely enjoy the artwork but if not you might find it a little dated. For the average illustrated bible purchaser I wonder if the stylistic subtleties might distract compared to what’s popular now.
Check out this video promo for The Action Bible below.