Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Gentle and Lowly


The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers

by Dane Ortlund
2020 / 224 pages

Note the subtitle. If Dane Ortlund has a mission for this book, it must be, at least partly, to show us that Christ loves His people, not only in spite of their sin, but even especially in their sin - not because He tolerates sin, but because sinners are sufferers. And how do we know that He loves sufferers?

Because He tells us. He tells us that His heart is "gentle and lowly" - that He yearns to extend His love to us. Dane Ortlund reveals how the Puritans loved to "wring out" the understanding of Christ's love for us, and in surveying their work, he also soaks us in the knowledge of how much God loves His people to come to Him for help and forgiveness. Ortlund excerpts the work of John Bunyan (the author of The Pilgrim's Progress reviewed here in this blog) and others in looking at verses from both Old and New Testaments that show how God yearns for His suffering (and even sinning) people:

  • John Bunyan looks carefully at every significant word in the verse "Whoever comes to me I will never cast out" (John 6:37).
  • Jonathan Edwards, the famous preacher of the fiery sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," still called grace God's natural work, and judgment His "strange work," on the basis, largely, of Hosea 11:8-9.
  • Ortlund also reveals how our "Lawish Hearts" often obscure the depth of God's "Lavish Heart" when we doubt (consciously or in our desperate attempts to earn His favor) whether He can or will forgive us. John Newton (the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace") indicts us for our "legal spirit" when he, like Bunyan, ponders God's grace revealed in John 6:37.
These are only three highlights of the book's 23 chapters looking at the "gentle and lowly" heart of Jesus Christ, and the corresponding love for suffering sinners from God the Father and God Holy Spirit.

If you want to understand the gentle and lowly heart of our Saviour better (including being guided in your devotions by the Scripture index), you can find Ortlund's book here, and here in Canada.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Echo Island

by Jared C. Wilson
251 pages / 2020

After celebrating their high school graduation with one last group camping trip, four friends return home to find the streets empty. The same is true of the sidewalks, the stores, and all of their homes – everyone is gone, and there's no sign of where they went, or what made them go. Bradley, Jason, Archer, and Tim have the whole town to themselves and they can go wherever they want and take whatever they want. But what they want is to solve the mystery in front of them. Of course, this isn't something they can just Google...even if their phones did work. So how are they going to find answers? And maybe the more important question is, are they really alone? 

I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I started Echo Island. The publisher has this in "Survival stories" and  "Action & Adventure" categories, and that sure doesn't capture it.  "Mystery" or "Christian allegory" are getting closer, but this one is hard to nail down. Is "Twilight Zone" a fiction genre? Maybe it isn't that the book defies description, but more that any proper description would have to include spoilers.

So I'm going to leave the description there and move on to who would like Echo Island. Author Jared Wilson said he was writing for teens who liked C.S. Lewis's Narnia series or his Space Trilogy. That's helpful, but I'll add that a 12-year-old who's only just figured out Aslan is a Christ-figure is going to find this frustratingly mysterious, whereas a 16-year old who has been chowing down on The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and The Hideous Strength will find it intriguingly so. 

So get it for your older avid-reading teen, and then be sure to borrow it yourself.