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A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God
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on May 21, 2010
A Sweet and Bitter Providence is Pastor Piper's newest release and is a short book that examines the Book of Ruth. Like the Book of Ruth, Piper's book consists of only four chapters - Sweet and Bitter Providence, Under the Wings of God, Strategic Righteousness and May My Redeemer Be Renowned. I chose to read this book because I wanted to read an examination of a specific book of the Bible, but not a volume as heavy as the recent commentary of Ephesians I finished. I do not want to give the impression that this book does not discuss deep matters. It does, but you do not need to be an academic to understand Dr. Piper's interpretation of what the Book of Ruth communicates. Pastor Piper introduces A Sweet and Bitter Providence with seven reasons why you might want to read the book. He concludes the book by turning the reasons into seven appeals.

1. The Word of God/Study the Scriptures
2. A Love Story/Pursue Sexual Purity.
3. (Pursue Mature) Manhood and Womanhood.
4. Ethnocentrism/Embrace Ethnic Diversity.
5. (Trust) the Sovereignty of God.
6. Risk-Taking Love/Take the Risks of Love.
7. (Live and Sing to) the Glory of Christ.

If these reasons and appeals matter to you in the least bit, you might want to read the book.
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on February 22, 2010
The man is a dynamo. Knowing as I now do how much heartache and mental effort can go into just one book, the many volumes that Piper has produced are a monumental achievement. Most of us find it hard to even keep up with reading all of them. They are all good, but some of his works stand out as exceptional. I believe that his book on Ruth called A Sweet and Bitter Providence (Crossway, 2010) is one that it is important you do not miss. Piper crams a lot of teaching into a short book which also includes the full text of the biblical book. He shows us the sovereignty of God and portrays the value and dignity of women. He shows how, when God calls us to suffer there is always both bitter and sweet components to the experience. Here are a couple of extracts:

[Ruth] is different from most people today. We have a sense of entitlement. We expect kindness and are astonished and resentful if we don't get our "rights." But Ruth expresses her sense of unworthiness by falling on her face and bowing to the ground. Proud people don't feel amazed at being treated well. They don't feel deep gratefulness. But humble people do. In fact, they are made even more humble by being treated graciously. They are so amazed that grace came to them in their unworthiness that they feel even more lowly. But they receive the gift. Joy increases, not self-importance. Grace is not intended to replace lowliness with pride. It's intended to replace sorrow with joy. (Page 64-65)

Here Piper explains why it is that some people can honestly say that they are humbled by great success. I pray that I will always be amazed at how well I am treated. Certainly my recent trip to the USA with its warm welcomes from so many people, and so many people opening their homes to me was an incredible blessing. I thank God for how he has directed my paths, and for how graciously I have been received. It was far greater than I deserve. May we all learn to drop our idea that we have "rights" and our sense of entitlement.

God's sovereignty even over our sin is nicely explained in the next quote I also want to share with you:

In fact, during the time of the judges, it was sin to demand a king. Nevertheless, near the end of this period, the people asked for a king . . . Asking for a king meant that they were rejecting God as their king. This, Samuel says, was a great wickedness . . .

Nevertheless, the book of Ruth is written with a clear sense of joy that Ruth and Naomi and Boaz are the forebears of the king of Israel. So in the same period when it was a "great wickedness" to ask for a king, God was preparing to give the people a king. We are meant to conclude that, without approving of sin, God governs the sinful acts of men for his own good and wise purposes. He was planning that Israel would have a king, though it was sin for the people to demand one. (Page 114)

Knowing God rules even over my mistakes gives me great confidence that he will make sure I finish the race well. I am confident to trust my life into Jesus' hands and to ask him to guide me and mold me into what he wants me to be. He will makes sure I become the man I was meant to be.
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VINE VOICEon January 6, 2010
John Piper is perhaps best known for his teaching on and passion for seeing the glory of God in all things. You cannot read or listen to him without him making a beeline for proclaiming the wonder of the sovereignty of God. I was excited to have the opportunity to read his newest book, "A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race & the Sovereignty of God" and see how the sovereignty of God played out in the Biblical story of Ruth. I was not disappointed.

According to Piper, the book of Ruth is for those who, like Naomi, see God's hand against them but cannot see that even in these dark times of suffering, God is working for their good and His glory. The question Ruth attempts to answer is "Can I trust and love the God who has dealt me this painful hand in life?"

Much of the book's focus is on God's sovereignty and how He is "plotting" for our good. Comparing the Christian life to a curvy, dangerous mountain road, Piper says Ruth was "written to give us encouragement and hope that all the perplexing turns in our lives are going somewhere good....In all the setbacks of our lives as believers, God is plotting for our joy." In the narrative of Ruth, Naomi could see that it was God's hand working against her in events such as the famine which drove them to Moab and the subsequent deaths of her husband and sons. It isn't until later in the story that Naomi also sees God's hand in bringing her through these trials.

As expected, Piper does a great job of pointing us through the story of Ruth to the comfort of knowing that not only is God in control, but He is "plotting for our joy." Even though I was familiar with the book of Ruth, it was refreshing to read it in the light of God's sovereignty, seeing how God was working even in circumstances that seemed to offer no hope. It was also interesting to read how Piper tied this book in with the ultimate Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Although the book talks about sexuality and racial diversity, these two areas didn't get very much attention and I felt they could have been flushed out a little more. Additionally, while many of the statements Piper makes regarding sexuality are true, he seems to be reading too much into the text, making it say something that it doesn't with assumptions about the situation's context that aren't stated. But these do not detract from the greater message of God's sovereignty in all circumstances.

On a note regarding the narration of the audio version, Grover Gardner is, as always clear, precise and easy to listen to. His voice seems to lend itself more to academic books and doesn't feel like it fits quite right with the book's poetic, pastoral style, but this doesn't overly distract from the book's message.

I would recommend this pastoral book for a study on God's sovereignty in our circumstances, but not necessarily for the issues of sexuality and racial diversity.

(Thanks to ChristianAudio for providing a review copy of this book.)
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on June 18, 2012
I normally really enjoy John Piper. My typical Piper reading experience involves me having to reread each chapter a few times before I can get through the whole book. This was a much lighter read than that, which is why I think I had trouble adjusting to this book. I'm still mulling over many of Piper's points. I don't agree with his discussion of Biblical manhood/womanhood (especially all the talk of what it is doing to the children) but that isn't surprising. I'm also still thinking through his interpretation of the threshing floor scene. On the positive side, always love and appreciate his reminders that our lives, the Bible, everything, all connects back to the glory of God and His sovereignty (even in our suffering). I'd be interested to read more of his commentaries like this.
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on May 4, 2010
A Sweet and Bitter Providence
By John Piper
Pastor John Piper has released a book called, "A Sweet and Bitter Providence" This is a book that covers the story of Ruth and then gives so much more. I picked up this book for mother, in which I am giving to her on Mother's day. I trust John Piper and his theology so I knew I did not really have to read the book to make sure it was biblical. I however decided to read the book to make sure it was a good suit for my mom to read.
I brought this book yesterday and finished it last night. John Piper does a great job of explaining the scripture and giving the history of Ruth. I was expecting to read a love story, in the man world what we call a, "bonnet movie" To my surprise as this was my first time exploring the book of Ruth, I found Christ to be the center of this beautiful story.
Pastor John Piper brought in so much history and genealogy with this study, I finished reading last night in breath taking amazement of God. Ruth has become a book I have learned to love with the help of John Piper.
John also does a great job at applying life applications with doctrine. Pastor John goes into exploring God's sovereignty and how God is in control of all things. This is a doctrine that is not really spoken on in mainstream churches today; thou I understood the doctrine before reading this book; this book has helped me to fully grasp the doctrine even more. John Piper also briefly touches on the Godly life of Ruth and Boaz, but that was a minor teaching in his book.
Pastor John did a great thing for the Kingdom of God by writing this book. If you are serious about studying the book of Ruth and knowing what sovereignty is I urge you to buy this book; you will not be let down.
This is not just a book for the women of God, men of God can be changed by this book, and theologians can use this book for their laymen; this book if rich full of Christ, full of God's sovereignty.
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on February 26, 2010
NOTE: This is a review of the audiobook version

This is audio Bible study at its finest, and that needs to inform your listening approach. Here's what I mean.

John Piper's new book, A Sweet & Bitter Providence, is out in audio format at [...]. The book is more of a Bible study than just a drive-by reading. It is more polished than a sermon, more fervent than a commentary, with more Biblical depth than the typical Christian book.

Piper tackles issues like sex, race, and the sovereignty of God head-on. With gripping clarity, he opens the Book of Ruth chapter by chapter and proves that the three-thousand year old book is still relevant today.
So here is how I would approach this audiobook and turn it into an excellent Bible study on the Book of Ruth.

- Read a chapter of Ruth each week. Meditate on it, pray over it during your time with God.
- Then, set a time each week to listen to the audiobook. Approach it as a Bible study by digging into the text yourself, and then listening to John Piper add depth to your understanding.

You will enjoy the narrator of the audiobook. He puts enough expression into his voice to avoid sounding mechanical. I had a slight complaint at first blush as the narrator read all of the verse references. But that turns into an asset when you use the Bible study approach.

*Get a Taste for the Book: A Quote*
"One of the great diseases of our day is trifling. The things with which most people spend most of their time are trivial. And what makes this a disease is that we were meant to live for magnificent causes.

"None of us is really content with the trivial pursuits of the world. Our souls will not be satisfied with trifles. ...So our souls shrivel. Our lives become trivial. And our capacity for magnificent causes and great worship dies.

"The book of Ruth wants to teach us that God's purpose for his people is to connect us to something far greater than ourselves."

Note: This review was done as part of the christianaudio Reviewers Program.
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on February 16, 2010
John Piper's new book takes readers through the Old Testament account of Ruth, filling us with hope that leads to radical risk-taking for the glory of Christ. Piper excels at putting the Bible in context, exploring textual nuances that some readers may miss, and keeping the focus on Christ and his kingdom.

Some may be unconvinced by a couple of his exegetical conclusions, but all will find his treatment to be appropriately challenging and comforting. The imagery of God as the great eagle under whose wings we take refuge will stick with me the rest of my life.
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on January 20, 2010
I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of A Sweet & Bitter Providence by John Piper. The audiobook is available through [...] for purchase either on CD or in digital download form.

The book, which is narrated by Grover Gardner, is an exposition of the Old Testament book of Ruth told in a very readable (or in this case listenable) form. I downloaded the audiobook from [...] and listened to it on my iPod during longer drives in the car and while sitting at my desk in my office. The chapters are bite sized enough to enjoy one section at a time.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was how the author showed this ancient book to be so very relevant in today's world. Piper does a wonderful job of showing that this is no mere ancient love story. As the book's subtitle suggests, Ruth is a story that speaks to our human struggles and to our understanding of God's sovereign rule over this world.

I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of A Sweet & Bitter Providence. I would recommend this audiobook especially to those who may be new to audiobooks due to the relative shortness of this work.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Christianaudio as part of their Reviewers Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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on March 29, 2010
`A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race and the Sovereignty of God' analyzes, as only Dr. Piper can do, the book of Ruth. Here is the description from the back cover:
Ruth and Boaz were risk-takers - a younger, immigrant, peasant widow and a middle-aged, Jewish landowner, walking along the precipice of social exclusion with absolute integrity.

Here is the book trailer:
[..]

This book is broken down into four chapters - each chapter corresponds with a chapter from the book of Ruth.

Dr. Piper makes the important point that the book of Ruth is just as relevant to us today as it was when it was written 3,000 years ago:

As a means to that end - and everything is a means to glorifying Christ - the book of Ruth reveals the hidden hand of God in the bitter experiences of his people. The point of this book is not just that God is preparing the way for the coming of the King of Glory, but that he is doing it in such a way that all of us should learn that the worst of times are not wasted. They are not wasted globally, historically, or personally. (p. 24)

He also addresses the truth of God's sovereignty as portrayed in Ruth's story:

Thousands of Christians who have walked through fire and have seen horrors embrace God's control of all things as the comfort and hope of their lives. It is not comforting or hopeful in their pain to tell them that God is not in control. Giving Satan the decisive control or ascribing pain to chance is not true or helpful. When the world is crashing in, we need assurance that God reigns over it all. (p. 27)

Dr. Piper points out that Boaz is a God-Saturated man, and Ruth provides a wonderful example of Godly qualities in a woman (pp.-62):

* She takes the initiative to care for her mother-in-law
* She is humble
* She is industrious

He goes on:

She is different from most people today. We have a sense of entitlement. We expect kindness and are astonished and resentful if we don't get our "rights." But Ruth expresses her sense of unworthiness by falling on her face and bowing to the ground. Proud people don't feel amazed at being treated well. They don't feel deep gratefulness. But humble people do.... [T]hey receive the gift. Joy increases, not self-importance. Grace is not intended to replace lowliness with pride. It's intended to replaced sorrow with joy. (pp. 64-65)

I love how Dr. Piper gets to the truth of the Word, regardless of how it may make us feel getting there! I have always appreciated that about his writing, and this book is no exception to that rule. I love the thorough exegesis of each passage.

I so enjoy Pastor Piper's writing style. This section in particular stood out to me:

At one level, the message of the book of Ruth is that the life of the godly is not an Interstate through Nebraska but a state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. There are rockslides and dark mists and bears and slippery curves and hairpin turns that make you go backward in order to go forward. But all along this hazardous, twisted road that doesn't let you see very far ahead, there are frequent signs that say, "The best is yet to come." (pp. 99-100)

As is the case with every John Piper book I have read, I highly recommend this one as well. He understand scripture so well, and I appreciate his overview.

You can learn more about Pastor Piper at his comprehensive website, Desiring God ([...] His catalog of sermons from the last 25 years, as well as other materials, is available there at no charge; he also blogs on that site. He tweets on Twitter ([..]/JohnPiper); I would highly recommend that you follow him if you haven't yet. You can also become his fan on Facebook ([..]).

This book was provided to me for review purposes by Crossway Books ([..])of Wheaton Illinois.

Reviewed by Andrea Schultz - Ponderings by Andrea - [..]
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VINE VOICEon January 2, 2010
In A Sweet & Bitter Providence, John Piper explores the story of Ruth and its impact on all mankind. The lineage of David and Jesus Christ emerging through Ruth is astounding and wonderful, and a testament to the fact that God can use anyone for his glory.

I have read a few of John Piper's books, but I was a little disappointed with some of the ideas that he explored in this book. The subtitle of the book was Sex, Race and the Sovereignty of God, and he eloquently covered the role of race (Ruth was a Moabite) and the sovereignty of God (Naomi's role of hearing her heart); however, I think that he stretched the role of sex a bit too far for application. It is not that I disagree with his statements (masculanity / feminity roles) in general, but it seemed that they did not fit in the context of the story of Ruth.

Piper beautifully illustrates God's wonderful plan for Ruth and Naomi, and although Ruth is barren for ten years, God is preparing her for history. Ruth's faithfulness to Naomi is a testament to the power of family. The book was a good listen, and I received many good insights into the role of Ruth for future generations that I was not aware of previously.

The book has some good insights, and it is worth a listen if you like the story of Ruth or are a John Piper fan.
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