Book Review – “God’s Battle Plan for the Mind” by David W. Saxton

God’s Battle Plan for the Mind (Reformation Heritage Books, 2015) is a compelling call for believers to return to the lost art of biblical meditation, and to recognize this as the chief means of spiritual growth in each of our lives. In these 145 pages, Pastor David Saxton combs deeply through the writings of the Puritans, showing clearly and persuasively that meditation, though largely neglected among believers in our own day, has historically been  regarded as the most important of all the Christian disciplines, as well as one of the chief ways of discerning the spiritual health of a Christian.

In the foreword, Dr. Joel Beeke (the president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary) likens a Christian who fails to meditate on Scripture with a person who is presented with a gourmet meal but is unable to have the joy and benefit of tasting even a single bite for themselves. A similar distinction is made throughout the book, reminding us that it’s not enough to only read or hear God’s Word in a passing manner (though both reading and hearing Scripture are important!), but that we must also be intentional about contemplating that Word for ourselves and applying it directly to our lives.

The author explains that, in many respects, modern Christianity has increasingly become superficial and weak. He adds that we can respond to this growing problem in either one of two ways – we can either “adapt and concede to the reality of anemic Christianity,” or we can “return to true biblical spirituality – a serious focus on putting God’s Word to practice in one’s own experience” (1). This latter response – which is the only God-honoring response for believers – is known as “biblical meditation, or, the doctrine of Christian thinking” (1-2). With this in mind, Saxton explains “The goal of this book is to convince God’s people of the absolute necessity of personal meditation. The book will motivate the believer to begin this work; teach practically how to meditate on divine truth; and guide in right patterns of thinking throughout the day” (2).

The book begins by expressing to readers the vital importance of biblical meditation, explaining, in the words of Thomas Watson, that “Without meditation the truth of God will not stay with us; the heart is hard, and the memory slippery, and without meditation all is lost; meditation imprints and fastens a truth in the mind…” A further plea comes to us from Richard Baxter, that “if you would but set yourselves to consider of what you hear or read, one line of a chapter, or one sentence of a sermon, would lay you into tears, or make you groan, or at least do more than is now done” (6).

In the Puritan days, biblical meditation was regarded as the “nucleus of the Puritan devotional life, ” the “supreme means of grace,” and “the most important aspect of private Christian devotion” (5). However, it’s even more convicting for us to consider that when the Lord spoke to Joshua before he led God’s people into the Promised Land (and into battle), “that his greatest need was to live by meditating upon God’s word” (7), and that very likely, “David was called a man after God’s own heart because he meditated” (11, emphasis added). With such remarkable God-honoring leaders being led by God into a deeper knowledge of his Word, who are we to regard it with less value in our own lives?

Equally convicting counsel comes on every page of this book! Here, we learn that true meditation is challenging work, requiring both time and effort on our part, though the reward makes it more than worth the effort.  William Bridge highlights this truth as follows: “As it is a soul-satisfying work, so this work of meditation to a gracious soul is a most delightful work. What greater delight than to think on that God in whom he doth most delight?….Though it be hard in regard of its practice, yet it may be sweet and delightful in regard to its profit…” (13).

We also discover that even those of us who’ve not been intentional about meditating on God’s Word have nonetheless practiced meditation. The author writes, “everyone meditates on something. We either learn to practice and benefit from biblical meditation, or we inevitably allow our minds to wander dangerously through sinful or depressing thoughts” (15). More directly, Edmund Calamy chastens his fellow believers for our poorly directed contemplation, first by declaring, “Let us mourn before the Lord that we have misplaced our meditation.” He then instructs, “Now mourn before your God heartily, and go into your closets and bemoan it….You have been meditating all your lives long upon vain things, and have not meditated upon the things of eternity” (16).

After considering further what makes for unbiblical meditation, Saxton looks closely at what God’s Word teaches us about genuine, Christ-glorifying meditation and then turns again to the Puritans, whose comments on these biblical truths continue to enrich our study of this important doctrine. Remaining chapters consider the different types of Christian meditation (occasional and deliberate, with both being important, but daily, deliberate meditation being deemed most crucial by the Puritans), specific counsel regarding how to meditate in a biblical way, the specific benefits of Christian meditation and the “enemies” (such as busy-ness and entertainment) which are most likely to prevent us from meditating on Scripture as Scripture itself (and, of course, Scripture’s divine Author!) instructs us to do.

In every portion of this book, we are lovingly and biblically exhorted to make God’s Word the supreme authority of not only our church lives, but our daily lives as well. We are likewise warned that to neglect to do this makes us (to quote R. Kent Hughes) “Christians without Christian minds, Christians who do not think Christianly” (134). Personally, I have been deeply challenged – by both Saxton and the Puritan authors whose works he quotes – to intentionally carve out more time not only for reading God’s Word, but for meditating on it as well, and I have no doubt that other readers will be similarly convicted and blessed as they read this material for themselves.

On the back cover of the book, an endorsement from John MacArthur encourages that believers should, “…get a copy, read it, put its principles into practice, and ‘be transformed by the renewal of your mind.'” I whole-heartedly agree, and further believe that the church of Jesus Christ will be greatly strengthened and made far less “superficial” as her members read and apply the soul-stirring contents of this book!

NOTE: I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books (through Cross-Focused Reviews) in exchange for my preparation of this honest review of the book.  However, I was not required to write a positive review of the book.

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Book Review – “Bible Revival” by Kenneth Berding

Bible Revival book cover

To begin with, the publisher who has produced this recent work is new themselves, and – based on this work – I imagine that we’ll be hearing about many more exciting books from them in the days to come! Weaver Book Company (not to be confused with Weaver Press, which is based in Zimbabwe) was established in 2013 by Jim Weaver, an established veteran of the Christian academic publishing world, who formerly served such highly respected publishing houses as Baker, Kregel, and Thomas Nelson. His most admirable goal in this new publishing venture is “to take the riches of the academy and make them accessible to the church” (https://www.weaverbookcompany.com/about/history-and-staff) – a goal which I believe is successfully reached in this book.

Bible Revival, by Kenneth Berding, is a short (121 page) and extremely accessible book calling direct attention to the current famine of God’s Word among believers, and reminding us of the vital place that Scripture should have in the life of every believer. In keeping with the goals of both the publisher and the author, this is a practical rather than academic work, obviously written from the perspective of an author who personally loves God’s Word and desires for other believers to do so as well. He hopes to accomplish this by offering us these six chapters, each of which considers one of the major obstacles preventing believers from growing in their knowledge of God’s Word and then offers practical solutions for overcoming these obstacles in our own lives.

From the outset, the undeniable problem is acknowledged:

“Christians used to be known as ‘people of one book.’ Sure, they read, studied, and shared other books. But the book they cared about more than all others combined was the Bible. They memorized it, meditated on it, talked about it, and taught it to others. We don’t do that anymore, and in a very real sense we’re starving ourselves to death.” (16)

Just to make sure that we’re good and convicted about this, though, Berding compares our current situation to similar experiences in the time of the Old Testament writings:

“In the book of Amos, people who experienced a ‘famine of hearing the words of the Lord’ are portrayed as undergoing divine judgment. Amos paints a picture of people without access to God’s revelation searching for a message from God like desperate people – hungry and dehydrated – in search of food and water (Amos 8:11-12). In Amos they want it, but are not permitted it. In our case, although we have unlimited access, we often don’t want it. The irony is intense. Who would deliberately and knowingly put himself under God’s judgment?” (19)

Thankfully, this book is filled with convicting passages like these – which may be just what we need to shake us from our spiritual lethargy and drive us to once again make God’s Word the priority in our lives that it truly needs to be!  Better than merely convicting readers, though, the author also provides us with great wisdom regarding how we should move past all of our various excuses for neglecting God’s Word and restore God’s Word to its rightful place as the authoritative guide for our lives.

In these chapters, we are freshly challenged – and helped – to overcome all of the obstacles that keep us from engaging with God’s Word on a daily basis. These obstacles include distractions and busy-ness (chapter 1), concerns about the Bible’s sufficiency for our lives (chapter 2), the common struggles with understanding, applying, and obeying God’s Word as we should (chapters 3 – 5), and the far too frequent unwillingness to incorporate God’s Word into our daily conversations with others (chapter 6).

In all of these ways, countless believers have allowed God’s Word to become virtually non-existent in their daily lives – especially when they aren’t gathered with the saints for weekly worship. Yet, in these pages, the author reminds us of the Bible’s unswerving insistence that genuine Christ-followers spend significant time encountering God in his written Word, and by the end of the book we have been greatly inspired to do so!

Each chapter concludes with a prayer for God to help us increase our commitment to the Bible, as well as questions for review to help us reflect on what we’ve just read. At the end of the book, there is a helpful appendix to help us learn to better memorize portions of Scripture (a crucial aspect of overcoming biblical illiteracy!), as well as a brief description of a forthcoming program intended to help believers and churches grow in their overall knowledge of the Bible.

Though an easy read and not necessarily filled with vast amounts of “new information”, this book serves as a powerful and inspiring reminder that a significant portion of our lives should be devoted to the reading, studying, memorizing, and applying of God’s Word, and enables us to freshly commit ourselves to setting Scripture as the priority in our lives that it needs to be.  What better purpose could a modern book serve?

NOTE: I received this book for free from Weaver Book Company (through Cross-Focused Reviews) in exchange for my preparation of this honest review of the book.  However, I was not required to write a positive review of the book.