A Review of Taking Hold of God

When I see a book on prayer, it is usually and immediately followed with the Spirit’s conviction. I consider how long it has been since I last prayed or how shortsighted and local they have been. I feel overwhelmed with guilt and rightly so. I don’t usually buy that book. I, instead, veer towards the theology section to catch up on the latest arguments for God’s complete sovereignty in salvation. It is not that there is a lack of desire to learn to pray, but if only reading the title of a book on prayer convicts me then what will reading it in full do?

Taking Hold of God has been an immense blessing and encouragement in my life. Knowing that for too long prayer has been too neglected and missed far too little, it was a pleasure to be set right by these faithful puritans and reformers.

For those of us that get a sense of dread when forced to read a book on prayer (or any spiritual discipline), Taking Hold of God gives you exactly what you need without pummeling your poor soul into the dust (just don’t skip to the last chapter). With many powerful arguments, these reformed men show you the blessings and gifts that prayer offers believers–the foremost being God Himself.

The focus on prayer’s great benefits is much needed in my generation especially where loving God with all your mind seems easier to accomplish than communion with God. If you love God’s sovereignty over the nations, then how exhilarating is it to pray for those very nations knowing that God will hear you and bring His kingdom to fruition in all the earth?

In the book you will learn how and why these great men of God spent so much time in prayer–and the answer isn’t simply because it is a duty. No, rather they loved prayer, and it is the starting point for converting orthodoxy into orthopraxy. You’ve learned about God’s love, power, and grace, but it is a great thing to meet with God and experience those things in prayer.

The book is broke into multiple sections by author and emphasis. In this book you’ll find, among others, Bunyan on praying in the spirit, Perkins on the Lord’s Prayer, Edwards on prayer and the Triune God, and Matthew Henry on praying daily

Leave no doubt that these men will challenge you and convict you. However, you will get a fresh sense of how great a thing it is to pray to our Father in heaven in the name of the Son with the Spirit’s help. This book is not a quick fix for the prayerless, but it is a medicine for those who know they should pray, but don’t know how to pray, when the best time to pray is, or what blessings come with prayer.

Book Review: Parable of the Ten Virgins–Thomas Shepard

(review by me, Chadd Sheffield)

Jesus Christ relentlessly divides the world into two. There are houses built on a rock, and on sand. There are sheep, and there are goats. There is wheat and there are tares. There are trees that bear fruit, and there are thorns and thistles. And, according to Jesus in Matthew chapter 25, there are wise virgins, and there are foolish virgins; and the one you are makes all the difference here now, and in eternity.

I first came across the name Thomas Shepard while reading Jonathan Edward’s classic Religious Affections. Edwards quotes Shepard in Religious Affections more than he quotes any other author—in all of Edward’s books combined. However, it was not this recommendation from Edwards that inspired me to read Shepard’s book. The words that Edwards quoted struck my heart particularly deep, and revealed to me that I tended to trust God wrongly; that I tested myself according to my culture, that I would often times try to make my election sure by mental assent and not a full, vibrant faith and love towards the Lord. It was Thomas Shepard that revealed to me by the scriptures that a foolish virgin could have just as easily passed my tests, and then the fear of God drove me to get a deeper understanding of the differences between those beloved by God and regenerated by His Spirit, and those who—as Shepard says—love the Lord Jesus only from the teeth outward.1

At first, the size of the book and the language both make it appear that reading it may seem like a burdensome task, but I would like to propose that it shouldn’t be. Dr. John Gerstner in the foreword says, “Don’t read it. Study it, a few pages at a time; decipher it… It may not save you, but it will leave you in no doubt if you are saved, and even less if you are not!” We ought not try to just read through The Parable of The Ten Virgins. When your motive is to finish the book rather than understand it—it does become burdensome. But if your motive is to learn from the faithful expositions of God’s Word, and if your motive is to have assurance about the things of God, and if your motive is to fight to enjoy Christ here and to be prepared in the hereafter then this book is not a burden; it’s a blessing.

The book is a collection of Shepard’s sermon notes on the Parable of The Ten Virgins found in Matthew 25:1-13. He takes you verses by verse, sentence by sentence, and word by word. Though the work is a little over six-hundred pages, Shepard does not repeat himself. The points of doctrine always seem reasonable, and are never forced. It is never boring, especially when you realize his sermons are directed to you.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins is a parable that covers much of the Christian life. This is precisely the reason why Shepard has written so much concerning it. It affects how we view the church, sin, wasting our time, and assurance of salvation. It affects how we view the most important of things.

Lastly, I think this book has a prophetic message to our current generation. In every church there are foolish virgins who believe they await our Lord and it will be well with them. But the Lord knows them not, and the foolish virgins will be shut out at last—and they don’t know it! They lack oil in their vessels, but they either don’t notice, or know where to buy without price! We must not let them perish in ignorance by our slumbering. Oh, that we would wake, and pray that we ourselves do not fall into temptation, and that the knowledge of the Lord would spread through our churches and the earth—in hope that some foolish virgins would wake and get oil in their vessels before he comes to them in death or at the end of time.