If, as some church historians say, the Reformation was a discussion that took place in Augustine’s head, then this book is a discussion that takes place in the head of John Piper.

Piper famously calls Christians to delight in God and all that God provides, whilst simultaneously calling Christians to ‘wartime living’—leaving aside the pleasures of this life for a greater goal. How do you reconcile these two?

Or to put it biblically—How do we “Set our minds on things above” (Col 3:2) and yet “Taste and see that God is good” (Ps. 34:8)?

Sometimes Christians aren’t very good at balance, a ‘both/and’ approach to the Christian life. We like things to be black and white, to have simple boxes to put everything in. Which is it—the things above or enjoying the things God has given? Can a Christian be really spiritual and still enjoy a good Lamb Pathia from the local Indian restaurant? (I have a vested interested in the answer to this one!)

Joe Rigney set out to answer this question and to provide a balanced approach to living the Christian life. The subtitle of the book sets out his stall: “Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts”

Rigney starts in a wonderful place—the Trinity. Having investigated the rich delight of the members of the Trinity in each other, he roots and grounds the pleasures of earth in this delight. The Triune God is overflowingly good and the cause of all that is good, so that as we are enjoying the good things we can let the good things take us godwards.

These early chapters on the Trinity are perhaps the best of the book—its not that the book goes downhill, its just that the subject matter is so wonderful, and so wonderfully conveyed.

Rigney moves on to the creation itself, using Jonathan Edwards as a guide he sees the whole creation, not simply as the stage on which the drama of redemption is set, but as part of the communication of the goodness of God. “Every enjoyment,” he writes “has the capacity to be a ‘tiny theophany’, a touch from God’s finger”. “The infinite and eternal God created something that is not God, but nevertheless really and truly reveals and reflects that God.”

Having established the basic principle of the worth of the created order as revealing the richness of God, Rigney in succeeding chapters unpacks this to show how this enjoyment is connected with our mission, how idolatry of creation makes a gift into a god, how live a life that connects pleasure to God without being a pious pain in the neck, How to practice proper self denial, how to live when there is more pain than pleasure and much more.

This is a rich book, packed with great thoughts, and helpful and balanced application. In one particular section he asks what is our enjoyment of culture doing to us—“If you were to conform your actions and attitudes to those of your favorite characters, would your life be better or worse than it is now? … If you’re in a one-on-one conversation, yet you find yourself saying things in order to get a laugh from the viewers at home (or the viewers in your own head), then it may be time to take a hiatus from some of your favorite shows.”

Rigney writes well – pithy sentences, quotable lines, and makes you think by putting things in fresh ways. The book is in some ways his own journey from an overly-literal application of wartime living to a realisation that the war is bigger than we think and fighting is both engaged in, and fuelled by enjoying the good things God has for us.

This is a book to read if you love life and want to love God more. This is a book to read if you love God, and want to love life more. One of my books of the year.


Tolkien – How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century
Devin Brown


How did The Hobbit ever come to be published—not simply, what’s the story behind it; but how was Tolkien even alive, surviving a poisonous spider bite, surviving WW1, how did the story never intended for publication end up being scrutinised by the 10 year-old son of a publisher on whose word hung the existence of the book?

The whole story of Tolkien and The Hobbit, and subsequently The Lord of the Rings is a series of unexpected adventures. Devin Brown in this delightfully easily read biography straddles both the biography of Tolkien and the biography of the Middle earth sagas without getting lost along the way.

Some may say that the book is neither one nor the other, neither a full-on biography of Tolkien, nor a detailed account of the books he wrote, but I felt it sat very nicely in the middle, giving a great insight into both worlds without losing the wood for the trees.

The book is packed with fascinating details and insights that give the reader a sense of wonder that the book ever made it to print at all, and a sense of wonder at the vast complexity of the world Tolkien had already invented before pen ever got to paper.

You get to meet Tolkien himself, learning of the tragic death of his father, the heroic spirit of his mother bringing up two young boys, his lack of application to study, his pursuit of love, his home in Sarehole, his experiences in World War 1—all of which Brown shows their impact on the eventual storyline of the Hobbit.

His love of languages, his various professorships, his friendship with CS Lewis, and Lewis’ encouragement to write and publish the Hobbit are all covered, as is the whole other saga of The Lord of the Rings—a story which simply grew and grew, seeming to take wings and live under Tolkien’s pen.

Devin Brown closes the book with a brief tour guide of places in England for Tolkien fans to visit to get glimpses of the backdrop of Tolkien’s life and of Middle Earth.

This book was a delight to read—demonstrating in itself that the life of the author, and the life of The Hobbit both were something of an unexpected adventure.

Posted by: jmark | August 30, 2013

Book Review – Jesus on Every Page

Jesus on Every Page


  • I resurrected my old blog just to post this review. If talk 2 at camp got you thinking about seeing Christ in the OT, this book will really help.
  • The good news is that there is a free copy for one Senior Camper!
  • Just tell me what aspect of Jesus life and work has most struck you SINCE Camp this year – PM me your answers on Facebook, I’ll pick one and we’ll announce a winner! You’ve got a week!

Those of you who were at Senior Camp this year shouldn’t need convinced that Jesus is on every page of the Old Testament. All I could give was a whirlwind tour, and a few helpful pointers for seeing Christ—but this book will help you see Christ on every page/genre/character/psalm/law/proverb and more besides. I wish it had come out before the talk!

David Murray has written a really helpful and accessible book, not primarily aimed at preachers, as these books often are, but at non-preachers. He writes openly and honestly, charting his own story of failure to see Jesus in the Old Testament as much as he should have done—even as a preacher. This openness and sense of journeying with him makes the book much more readable than if he had written a textbook on Christ in the Old Testament. It also allows his enthusiasm and delight at seeing Jesus to shine through.

The book falls into two unequal parts. Part 1, the shorter section, contains his own admission of failure, and then answers the question—What right have we to see Jesus throughout the Old Testament. Instead of being content with quoting a single reference such as Luke 24:44, he looks at the testimony of four key New Testament figures—Jesus, Peter, Paul and John—and unpacks both the evidence and objections.

Section 2 is much longer and looks at how to see Jesus in 10 different aspects of the Old Testament—the Creation, the People, the Angel of The Lord, in the Law, in History, in the Prophets, in the Types, in the Covenants, in Proverbs, and in the Poetic books.

Throughout Murray gives numerous helpful, and almost annoyingly alliterative (!), principles in each section to enable you to see Christ in a variety of ways in each genre. He provides safeguards so that you don’t fall into the dangers of turning insignificant details into unfounded illustrations of Christ’s work, as many have done.

One of my favourite parts of the book was the chapter on Creation—Christ’s Planet—and the way Murray draws out the fact that the earth is not just the arena for redemption, but that everything was created with redemption in mind. It is the accessory of redemption. We are used to thinking of this with marriage, created by God as an illustration of Christ’s love for his bride the church. But Murray points out so much more—from the creation of sheep to illustrate our need for a shepherd, to birds to teach us not to worry, to trees and metal ore designed and put in place ready for his own crucifixion.

How about Old Testament characters—are they more than good or bad examples for us to follow or not as the case may be? Often this is how they are treated, but Murray shows us the problems with what he terms “The Heroes and Villains” approach, before setting out 13 ways such characters can point us to Jesus.

His chapter on Christ’s Pictures—what theologians call types of Christ—provides four helpful guidelines, and a needed corrective to those who say that you can only legitimately call something a ‘type’ if the New Testament identifies it as such.

Murray’s closing chapter on Poetry deals with the Psalms and Song of Solomon. I would have loved to see a little more depth in the treatment of the Psalms, but his principles—we sing to Jesus, of Jesus, and with Jesus are helpful. His treatment of the Song of Solomon is helpful in a world and church gone mad on sex. Murray calls us to understand the Middle Eastern style of the Song, and to look at the emotional content rather than dissect every analogy. His principle of “Stop dissecting and start feeling” allows you to see the passionate love, the excitement, the generosity, the joy, the security that should exist between Christ and his bride.

One of the themes running through the book is that Old Testament believers grasped much more than we give them credit for. And when we realise that this was where the New Testament believers went to understand their salvation, and where Jesus himself went to grow in understanding of his work—this alone should encourage us to read the Old Testament with new eyes.

This is a great book, one that should be read by every Christian. It is clear accessible and packs a lot of teaching into a short space. In some ways Murray has had to give whirlwind overviews of massive theological topics in order to set the scene for seeing Christ. For example, he gives super overviews of the Covenants in scripture, and of how law and grace interact—all en route to showing us more of Jesus.

My only criticism of the book is that I would have wanted to see even more of Christ. Although Murray gives numerous examples, I would have liked to see more! In his Old Testament characters chapter, for example, I would have liked to seen more examples—something akin to Tim Keller’s list of ‘Jesus is the truer and better…”. I think a few more examples in each section would have allowed a greater feel for how to put all this to work, as well as warming our hearts even more. In some ways it is a ‘how to book’ rather than a ‘here is’ book.

However he has provided the tools, the map, and set me at the rock face where gold lies. It’s time to go digging. Get Murray’s book, read it and join me in the gold mine of the Old Testament.

You can find out more here:

You can get it here:
or at http://www.CovenanterBooks.com when it comes out.

Posted by: jmark | March 12, 2009

Living in a world of unfairness

  • A yearly pension of £693,000 for the former boss of a bank which recorded losses last year of £24 billion.
  • People investing for years in pension schemes only to see them crash and leave them with nothing.
  • Banks pulling in loans on little customers while writing off colossal debts of bigger ones as ‘unrecoverable’.
  • Bankers playing games with figures on paper, while mounting massive debts.
  • Chairmen and directors creaming off profits while those at the bottom of the chain get ripped off.
  • Developers and banks causing the problems, farmers and the man in the street left to shoulder the burden.
  • Small businesses crushed out of existence because bigger ones wouldn’t pay what they owed.
  • Faithful customers who regularly pay on time footing the bill for those who don’t.


Countless other examples could be given.  It seems so unfair.  What do we do?  Four options are: join in, be indifferent, get angry, or despair.

Nothing much needs to be said about joining in.  It’s just wrong.

Indifference is a self-centred response—“Me and mine are ok, so I don’t care about anyone else”.  But it all changes suddenly when we find out that we are affected.

Anger is fruitless.  We get angry and frustrated because we feel—rightly—that something should be done about it, yet we feel so impotent.  Even at a basic level we have very little by way of comeback.

Or we despair, simply because we feel there is nothing we can do.  What’s the point of trying to be decent and save, and invest wisely, and be a good consumer?  And how are we going to cope with these difficulties?  It leads to cynicism and a consuming bitterness that eats away at our souls.

Thankfully there is a fifth option.  What does God’s word have to say?  Psalm 37 is particularly relevant; here are some of its verses (although I’d encourage you to read it all):

“Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good…
Delight yourself in the Lord
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.
The wicked borrow and do not repay…
those the Lord blesses will inherit the land…
For the Lord loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
They will be protected forever,
but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off.

The songwriter acknowledges that life is unfair, but the day is coming when all will give account—they will only get away with it for so long.  God sees, and God takes note.

Instead of anger, he calls us to trust in a God who promises to judge all injustice, especially that which oppresses the poor and the needy (v14).  Instead of despair he calls us to trust in a God who will provide for his people.  Instead of joining in, he calls us to continue living justly, knowing that the time will come when God will reward our obedience.

But there is little point taking comfort in the fact that God’s justice will catch up with others, for it will also catch up with us—and so we need someone to bail us out, not a bank, but the Son of God.

Posted by: jmark | March 5, 2009

Worth listening to…Don Carson

Mark Dever interviews Don Carson about his books – sounds tediously dull, but Don Carson has written some of the best books across a wide range of subjects for Christians.

Think of it more as an introduction to Carson’s books and what to look for. Its also has a couple of great insights into the man himself.

You can find it here

My picks of Carson’s books are:

Difficult Doctrine of the love of God – short and very sweet.  Top notch theology in asmall space.

Sermon on the Mount – first Carson I read

Basics for Believers – Philippians

A Call to Spiritual Reformation – Studies in Paul’s prayers which will deeply change your prayer life.

Letters along the way – as Dever notes a ridiculously underrated book, full of wisdom for students and anyone starting the Christian life.  Set in the form of letters to a young Christian.

King James Version Debate – sanity reigns amidst the silliness

John – Not like his other commentaries, this one is a biggie – but top notch.

Christianaudio.com is offering Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life for free. If you haven’t come across it, it’s a great book. Get it now while you can. Listen to it, and put it into practice.

Posted by: jmark | February 22, 2009

Things I dislike – Graceless Calvinists

(There’s probably an ironic kickback in the title somewhere!)

One of the problems with people finding the beautiful clear refreshing God-centred streams of the Bible’s teaching on God’s sovereignty in salvation is that it goes to their head.

Literally to their head – bypassing their heart.  It makes such beautiful sense, that ironically they begin to think that they discovered it, and that with simple brainpower alone it can be battered into the skull of anyone they come across.

But if it has only grabbed your head, and not yet your heart, then you aren’t ready to explain it to anyone–because you don’t get it.

Here’s a cracking cartoon which makes the same point.  Read and enjoy.

Posted by: jmark | February 20, 2009

Best news item of the day

Garda (police for those of you not in Ireland) officers have at long last caught up with the notorious Polish driver Prawo Jazdy.  He has numerous offences all over the country, given a string of false addresses, and eluded fixed penalty charges.

Eventually some bright officer twigged the Prawo Jazdy means Driving Licence in Polish. Officers thought they were writing down a person’s name but were meticulously copying down the document name.

Almost too good to be true.

Read more here

Posted by: jmark | February 18, 2009

Answering fools according to their folly

Dan Phillips has a great series going on over at Pyromaniacs.  The posts consist of a very short response to common rubbish throw at Christians.  They aren’t just mouthiness, but deep.  They pull the rug out from under the person.  Consider dropping by and perusing.  Pay attention to the first post in the series, and also to the discussion of each post where he waits for input before unpacking the thing.

Next 1 – Homosexuality (including intro)
Next 2 – The invisibility of God
Next 3 – Is Jesus the only way?
Next 4 – Making whatever you want out of the Bible

Posted by: jmark | February 17, 2009

Have I ever preached?

From Ed Clowney in “Preaching Christ in All of Scripture”:

On one occasion I had tea with Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Ealing, London, and decided to ask him a question that concerned me. “Dr. Lloyd-Jones,” I said, “How can I tell whether I am preaching in the energy of the flesh or in the power of the Spirit?”

“That is very easy,” Lloyd-Jones replied, as I shriveled. “If you are preaching in the energy of the flesh, you will feel exalted and lifted up. If you are preaching in the power of the Spirit, you will feel awe and humility.”

I shriveled too in reading this.  I wonder if I have ever preached at all?  One or twice I can have felt utter awe.  Too often I have felt lifted up.

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