Caleb Cangelosi

Summer Reading

The title of this article either brings back fond memories of curling up in your favorite reading nook and entering fantastic worlds with your new best friends, or it brings back terrible memories of monotony and dread at the prospect of a reading quiz the first day of school in August. But summer reading is a good idea – and not just for children in school. The different pace of the summer months, vacations, and longer days give ample reasons for picking up a book or e-reader and expanding your mind.

Ecclesiastes 12:12 is a good check on those who love to read, of course: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness to the flesh.” But when Paul in prison, for what did he long? “When you come [he says to Timothy], bring the…books, and above all the parchments.” Though like any created thing they can become an idol, books are a blessing. Indeed, they are indispensable to growth as a Christian life. Without reading (or listening to an audiobook) we cannot have the word of God implanted deep into our hearts and minds. And it’s not only the Bible I’m talking about. Books that explain the Bible, books that explain the human condition, books that describe the journeys of Christians throughout history, books that explain how God’s world works, whether fiction or nonfiction, whether written in the 21st century or the 17th century or the 2nd century – all are worthy of our time and energy.

The elders of Pear Orchard long for all of God’s people to be readers. That’s why we’re teaching through Pilgrim’s Progress this summer. More importantly, that’s why we’re reading through it. I want our class to be able to say they’ve read all the way through this Christian classic. But 17th century Puritans didn’t write the way we’re used to writing or reading. And so reading them is not easy. In fact, it might feel like work. But as the saying goes, “No pain, no gain.” I’ll never forget reading through Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom in 11th grade. Now that was hard reading. When I finished it, though I didn’t remember much about it, it was the first time that I felt I had accomplished something in the reading of a book. The Puritans are far easier than Faulkner! But they’re still tough sledding, and so by reading Pilgrim’s Progress together, we’ll help each other make it through – and I hope that we’ll be more prepared and desirous to pick up other Puritan classics on our own. Or the 18th-19th century American Presbyterians. Or even the 20th and 21st century authors. The latter are far more accessible, so why don’t you start there this summer?

Here are a few recommendations. If you’ve never read Trusting God by Jerry Bridges, do it. The same goes for Knowing God, by J. I. Packer. R. C. Sproul’s classics Knowing Scripture, Chosen by God, and The Holiness of God should be required reading for every believer. John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied is more difficult, but absolutely worth the effort (though he lived in the 20th century, he wrote like someone from the 19th century, so have a dictionary handy). John Stott’s The Cross of Christ is pure gold, as is Donald Macleod’s Christ Crucified. And don’t forget our own John Perritt’s Your Days are Numbered, and his newest book, What Would Judas Do?

May the Lord grant us – through words – a deeper knowledge of Him and His word this summer. 

Satan's Will for Your Life

How does God want His children to live? The answer is found in the pages of the Bible, particularly his "holy and righteous and good" commandments (Romans 7:12). But how does Satan want you to live? In a way contrary to the commandments of God, of course. If you took each of the ten commandments and turned it inside out, like a photo negative (remember those??), what would you get? I think you'd get something that looked like this...

Sent as Priests

This past weekend I had the privilege of preaching the Missions Conference at Bay Street Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, MS. It was a delight to be with these saints and to open up God's word with them. We meditated upon the glorious reality that our election is for the purpose of mission - our identity is also our calling. We saw from John 17 that Christians are in the world, though not of the world - because we have been given to the Son by the Father out of the world - and the Son sends us into the world, even as He was sent by the Father into the world (17:18), so that we might speak the truth of the gospel in love. We are sent into the world as a kingdom of priests (I Peter 2:9ff.; Exodus 19:4-6), to represent God to man and man to God. We are the Lord's special treasure, His chief delight, a people for His own possession, for the purpose of declaring His excellencies - His holy character and mighty deeds - among the nations. He has called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light, He has taken us who were not a people and has made us His people, He has showered us with mercy - and now He calls us to go into the world, living holy lives and being always ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. We go into the world as fishers of men, seeking the lost, taking the initiative with them even as God took the initiative with us. And as we go, we have the confidence that the Lord will draw His elect to Himself through His word. He has His people across the world, and it is our privilege to be used as instruments in bringing them to a knowledge of His grace. 

Some think the doctrines of grace - the five points of Calvinism - are a hindrance to evangelism. Unfortunately, those who embrace the doctrines of grace are often practical hyper-Calvinists, living as if we don't need to speak the gospel to the lost for them to be saved. But if we really believed our theology, we would have the strong conviction that the gospel must be spoken. For the God who has ordained the end has also ordained the means, and it is through the means of His word that the lost are found, the dead are raised to newness of life, the guilty are forgiven. The more strongly we embrace the sovereignty of grace, the more fervently we should desire to speak the gospel to those around us.