I decided to reread Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross for Lent this year. It is a collection of essays edited by Nancy Guthrie and published by Crossway. This is just one of four essay collections available. And it probably isn't my favorite or best of the bunch. (One collection is for Advent--looking forward to the Savior's birth; one collection is about suffering; one collection is about death.) What I did like about this collection, about each of the collections, really, are the diversity of contributors. I love the blending. Readers are introduced to works by Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Saint Augustine, etc. AND works by contemporary teachers/preachers/theologians like John Piper, John MacArthur, J.I. Packer, C.J. Mahaney, Philip Graham Ryken, R.C. Sproul, etc. Her collections almost always include essays by my favorites--past and present. (I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE her inclusion of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, for example.)
If you're new to her essay collections, if you're new to Christian nonfiction in general, then I think you will really, really enjoy these books because it can serve as an introduction to some of the best authors out there.
I also love how each essay is three to four pages in length. These are not lengthy or long-winded. While some may be slightly easier to read than others--as far as language, vocabulary, and literary style--all are accessible. They're meant to be read and enjoyed.
- True Contemplation of the Cross by Martin Luther
- He Set His Face to Go to Jerusalem by John Piper
- An Innocent Man Crushed by God by Alistair Begg
- The Cup by C.J. Mahoney
- Gethsemane by R. Kent Hughes
- Betrayed, Denied, Deserted by J. Ligon Duncan III
- Then Did They Spit In His Face by Charles Spurgeon
- The Silence of the Lamb by Adrian Rogers
- The Sufferings of Christ by J.C. Ryle
- Father, Forgive Them by John MacArthur
- With Loud Cries and Tears by John Owen
- That He Might Destroy the Works of the Devil by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
- I Am Thirsty by Joseph "Skip" Ryan
- God-Forsaken by Philip Graham Ryken
- Cursed by R.C. Sproul
- Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit by James Montgomery Boice
- Blood and Water by John Calvin
- He Descended Into Hell and Ascended Into Heaven by J.I. Packer
- A Sweet-Smelling Savor to God by Jonathan Edwards
- The Most Important Word in the Universe by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.
- Resurrection Preview by Francis Schaeffer
- Peace Be Unto You by Saint Augustine
- Knowing the Power of His Resurrection by Tim Keller
- Sharing His Sufferings by Joni Eareckson Tada
- Crucified with Christ by Stephen F. Olford
Here's a passage from one of my favorite essays in this collection, "The Most Important Word in the Universe."
The English language has about eight hundred thousand words. Most of us get by with around two thousand words. That means about 788,000 words are sitting on the shelves, just waiting to be dusted off and used. The top ten most frequently used English words "are," "the," "of," "and," "to," "a," "in," "that," "is," "I," and "it"--but not propitiation. When was the last time you heard that word? When was the last time you used it? We don't hear it on the radio or television, because we've lost the vocabulary of God. But it's the most important word in universe. We need to recover not only the Word of God but the words of God. His words define relevance.
The word "propitiation" comes from the Latin propitio, meaning "to render favorable, to appease, to conciliate." To propitiate God means to appease his anger. Propitiation is all about God's wrath.
God's wrath? Wait a minute. Is God a fuming, frustrated person? Does he have a temper? Is he subject to mood swings? Is biblical propitiation like the pagan concept of throwing a virgin into the volcano to placate the pineapple god? And what if God changes back to anger? After all, we keep sinning--in the same old ways, too.
The first thing to say is that the wrath of God is a part of the gospel. It's the part we tend to ignore. Yet we don't mind our own anger. There is a lot of anger in us, a lot of righteous indignation. Listen to talk radio. In our culture it's acceptable to vent our moral fervor at one another. We watch it on cable TV news every night. It's our entertainment. But the thought of God being angry--well, who does he think he is?
Great question. Who is God? He's the most balanced personality imaginable. He is normal. His wrath is not an irrational outburst. God's wrath is worthy of God. It is his morally appropriate, carefully considered, justly intense reaction to our evil demeaning his worth and destroying our own capacity to enjoy him....
The God you have offended doesn't demand your blood; he gives his own in Christ Jesus. He knows what you deserve, but he wants to give you what you don't deserve. He himself has opened the way. He took the initiative. ("The Most Important Word in the Universe," Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, 115-116, 117)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible