Friday, November 20, 2015

Book Review - The Secret Life of A Pastor by Michael Milton

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is advice I’d give about this book, whose title and subtitle do a poor job of reflecting the actual contents of the book. Rather than beckoning you into forbidden and unsavory territory, the letter brings wise and sage advice to seminary students from a experienced pastor. In the form of letters addressing topics from the study of original languages, to preaching, to home life, to ministry, the reader is given advice from a wise pastor.

This is a book worth reading, even for those who have left their seminary years far behind. Because this book contains a wide range of topics for ministering God’s word to people, this book also would be good for those who hold the office of elder and for those who teach small groups or Sunday School.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Review – Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ by Robert W. Kellemen

What a wonderfully practical yet theologically rich and gospel centered training manual for the pastor or layperson offering the comfort of Christ to suffering people.  “Gospel Conversations” is the second book in the Equipping Biblical Counselors Series designed to provide local churches with comprehensive relational training. It is best used in a group setting, but has been written to accommodate individual study.

A core thread in this book is the belief that all Christians are called to some level of caring that involves daily encouraging one to love and good deeds, and directing suffering and tempted sinners back to Christ and his gospel of grace. Toward that end “Gospel Conversations provides an intensive, relational, hands-on equipping manual. Through it you will develop twenty-one biblical counseling relational skills so you can care like Christ (p15)”.  

At the outset, I found the model for these competencies difficult to grasp. There are two guideposts (Soul Care for Suffering and Sanctification, and Biblical Spiritual Direction for Sin and Sanctification) and four compass points (Sustaining, Healing, Reconciling and Guiding). Kellemen does take some time, rather successfully, to flesh out these concepts. In the process he makes some distinctions which, as a novice, I find difficult to grasp.  For example, the common approach in biblical counseling is to consider the counselee’s story as Sufferer, Sinner and Saint. Kellemen prefers to expand the approach to include the privileges and responsibilities, so the approach becomes a consideration of saints, sons, sanctification, suffering and sin. This does turn out to be helpful, but I wondered how necessary this refinement is, given the complete treatment and explanation he gives to the twenty-one competencies.

 Each chapter has questions to help the participant mature as a Biblical Counselor as well as exercises in counseling others. Each chapter very helpfully has a tweet-size summary. I found the competencies very well illustrated and explained and profited a great deal from the model used in this book.

I would recommend for the inexperienced counselor or layperson, that he read Michael Emlet’s “Crosstalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet” before “Gospel Conversations”.  Kellemen’s approach and terminology will then make much more sense and be easier to grasp. Since I haven’t read the first book in this series, it may very well be it also would provide this foundation.

I received this book from Zondervan through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Book Review – Prayers for New Brides by Jennifer O. White

There is much about this book that I really like. Author Jennifer White rightly recognizes the priority of bible reading and study in preparing to fight the spiritual battles that come with being a Christian and particularly those related to Satan’s design to disrupt marriages. Each chapter rightly has plenty of theology in it and frequent reference to relevant scripture, some printed out and some referenced for reader lookup.  The chapters are logically arranged, starting with God’s design for marriage, and then weapons given us by God to use to rout out our own sin and resist the attacks of the evil one.  Each chapter has a short topic discussion, a prayer prompt section that has a sample prayer relevant to the subject at hand and “A Wife’s Call to Action” with a short passage to read and a sample prayer related to helping the new bride apply the principle of the chapter.

What I did not like about the book is her strange mixture of the doctrines of grace and her imprecise use of theological terms characteristic of contemporary evangelical errors. An example would be her statement considering Eve in the Garden of Eden on page 142 “Let’s acknowledge that her choice to lead was outside the will of God.”  Well that is both true and not true. It is true in the sense that her actions were disobedient to God’s clear command, but it is not true because in God’s sovereignty and omniscience, nothing is really outside the will of God. It would have been more biblical to say that her actions were disobedience. That would avoid the implication that God was powerless to prevent Eve from straying from obedience.

I received this book from New Leaf Press in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Review - Questions Jesus Asks: Where Divinity Meets Humanity by Israel Wayne

On the surface this book doesn’t appear to be a book on apologetics, but the basic question regarding the omniscience of Jesus is well handled in the introduction and the appendix. The author does a nice job of sorting out the Historic Christian views on the perplexing question of the divinity and humanity of Christ. Continuing in each of 20 chapters, a defense of historic Christian perspectives on very common questions regarding faith is competently handled.

The very thought that Jesus would ask a question seems odd considering that we usually think of God as knowing all things.  So right away the author deals with a question of his own: “Was Jesus, in His incarnate state as a man on earth, omniscient?” He answers this question by breaking it down into a series of questions which unfolds his understanding of the mystery of God’s human and divine nature. He concludes that Jesus was not asking questions for his benefit, but for ours, to help us search our hearts.

In each of the 20 chapters Israel Wayne does a very nice job of carefully defining terms which helps us to understand the question being asked by Jesus. Much scripture is quoted to support his conclusions as well as quotes from well-known and respected Christians. In the process of examining the questions that Jesus asked people, Israel Wayne discusses a number of topics including Christology, the Virgin Birth, family, discipleship, money, healing, counseling, fear, demonology, servanthood, government, forgiveness, apologetics, prayer love and suffering.

I received this book from New Leaf Press in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Review - A Well-Ordered Church: Laying a Foundation for a Vibrant Church by William Boekestein and Daniel Hyde

If you are looking for a good book to use in Elder Training on the nature and function of the church and order in the Church, than your search stops here.

If you are new to the church and wondering how it is all supposed to work, then this book would be an excellent pace to start.

The book is divided into four parts: Identity, Authority, Ecumenicity, and Activity.  Each chapter concludes with questions relevant to the material in the chapter and suggestions for further reading. Reference is frequently made to scripture and includes material from both the Westminster Standards and the Continental Standards. There is a helpful Appendix summarizing foundational principles of Reformed Church government.

Identity: The author rightly point out that how we view our identity has a big impact on the decision we make in living as a community of faith. Here it is made clear that Christ owns the church, is head of the church and is the basis for unity in the church.

Authority: In this section Divine Revelation and Office Bearers are discussed as they relate to authority for living as church members.

Ecumenicity: In this section the question of how we related to churches both inside and outside our denomination is discussed. The question “How do we appropriately express the catholicity of the church?” is answered.

Activity: This section is the longest of the sections and covers a number of questions that have risen a number of times in my experience with each of the churches I have been a member of. What really is the central mission of the church? How does the mission of the church relate to the particular mission of individual Christians? Are we spending our individual and corporate resources of time and money in the right places? In separate chapters what it means to be a worshiping church and a witnessing church is paired with chapters on the practice of each characteristic. Two other important topics covered are what it means to be a teaching church and what it means to be a repenting church.

These sections are followed by a concluding chapter on the need for God-glorifying Church governance.

Michael Horton provides a concluding word which is an extended commendation of the scriptural approach the authors made in presenting the ecclesiology outlined in the book.

I received this book from Evangelical Press via Cross Focused Reviews and was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Book Review - Marie Durand by Simonetta Carr

This is one of those books that is a pleasure to read aloud with someone else. There is a variety of original artwork mixed with photographs, drawings and illustrations.

The story of Marie Durand’s imprisonment is supplemented with an Epilogue containing relevant history of France and the Protestant movement after Marie Durand’s death. There is also a useful timeline, pronunciation key, additional facts in an interesting “Did You Know” section and a reproduction of a wonderful handwritten letter from Marie to her Niece, Anne.

This book is not a quick read, set aside kind of book. The variety of formats requires engagement with the book and I found myself going back to reread and ponder the person and the history, wondering what response I would have had in similar situations.  History tied to a person is much more memorable than straight facts. For this reason this makes an excellent book for teaching history to young children.
This book is part of the “Christian Biographies For Young Readers Series”

I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Book Review – Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in The Wilderness by Jeremy Walker

As if Jeremy Walker could anticipate the recent monumental Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Ruling and my reading his book, he begins the book with the poem “Passing Through” by Horatius Bonar, which aptly describes the way I increasingly feel about living in this world, but yearning for the Kingdom.  In true Puritan like fashion, Jeremy Walker gives extended precise theological grounding and extended sound practical suggestions for living in this world but not being of the world.

The book begins with the key observation that your sense of identity determines your modes of activity and that both need to be examined in the light of scripture. The rest of the book then proceeds to draw this out primarily from scripture but also with numerous references to Reformed Christian thought.

I loved the format of the book. Each chapter takes a look at one aspect of being a Pilgrim. Within each chapter there are four sections: introductory remarks, the scriptural framework, summary thoughts, and specific counsels. Within these sections main points are italicized. So while for the modern reader the book may seem a little precise and nuanced, the form makes it easier to read.

This book is a very encouraging read. I found the chapters on understanding the environment, knowing the enemy, fighting the battles and respecting the authorities most relevant to living in today’s culture and world. I was reminded that I too easily dismiss our enemy the devil as if he did not exist or had little power. I was instructed on the importance of respecting the authorities while being able to stand firm, without being offensive, on those things which are non-negotiable.

A timely and helpful book.

I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Book Review -- Bitesize Biographies Ulrich Zwingli by William Boekestein

This is not an easy book to read for one unfamiliar with European geography and church and civil government during the sixteenth century. Words such as Diet, canton, burgomaster and “biblical humanist” were used without explanation, making it hard for me to follow much of the detail in the earlier part of the book. This is not a criticism of the author as much as a warning for those expecting to find this book a simple read.

The author, William Boekestein, has done a tremendous job in documenting the life and times of Ulrich Zwingli during the Swiss Reformation.  The author deals straightforwardly with the struggles Zwingli had with his own sin, with the Anabaptists, with the Roman Catholic Church and chronologically explains the reforms Zwingli instituted in Zurich and the differences he had with Martin Luther.  This book is a worthwhile read and a good introduction to a most influential, but lesser read reformer.  The quality of the writing and research is what you would expect from William Boekestein, who also co-authored Why Christ Came: 31 meditations on the incarnation.

I received this book for free from Evangelical Press via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Book Review -- Living Without Worry by Timothy Lane

Here is a book that provides insights to overcome or lessen worry.  The first part of the book states the case for overcoming worry and carefully describes it; what it is and what it is not.  Worry’s connection to fear and to things we love more than God is carefully described. 

Chapters three through six takes a look at worry past, present and future with comparisons and contrasts on how biblical characters dealt with worry and how Jesus meets the need. Timothy Lane provides suggestions for the way out of worry for anxiety that has its origins in each of these time periods.

Chapters seven through nine are filled will much practical advice on how to start to change, a presentation of truths to help counter your worry and advice on how to cast your cares onto Christ.  In these chapters Timothy Lane draws parallels between the call to wisdom in Proverbs and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. In both places there is the call to trust God to really experience life free from fear and harm.  On page 92 he says, “Until you are able to draw a line from your behavior and what is driving it, you can’t call out to God for grace to enable you to turn away from what you are living for and find the grace of Christ you need to start changing.”

Chapter ten is a look at the advice to Paul about his worry.

The conclusion wraps up the book with a reminder about God’s command to not worry, the tenderness with which God makes this command and the promise He makes about giving us the Kingdom which reassures us that we have everything we need for this life and the life to come.

The author does a good job of giving clarity about what worry is and how to begin to grow away from worry, replacing it with peace.  Although I consider Edward T. Welch’s book Running Scared: Fear, Worry and The God of Rest most helpful, Timothy Lane’s book comes a close second, providing different biblical illustrations and entry points for beginning to get a grip on worry.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Book Review – Honest Evangelism: How to Talk About Jesus Even When it’s Tough by Rico Tice

Honest Evangelism is a book that recognizes that changes in the culture call for changes in the way we communicate the Gospel to the nations. Gone are the days when people come to church to learn about God and gone are the days when most people know Bible basics. Rico Tice acknowledges we are in a culture of growing hostility toward Christianity and his advice to us in being faithful witnesses to Christ are grounded in this reality.

Setting the stage: In the first two chapters Rico Tice explains his own experience of becoming a new Christian, the excitement around sharing the gospel, and the reality of the opposition he experienced in sharing it.

Understanding why we often don’t evangelize: In chapter 3 he gives two reasons we often don’t evangelize. The first is that we plain get discouraged by the opposition and lack of enthusiastic response to our sharing the Gospel. The second is a misplaced love, where what we treasure prevents us from sharing the Gospel. For Rico Tice, it was the approval he wanted from his family more than the pain of rejection he might have to endure by sharing the gospel with his dying grandmother.

Motivations to evangelize: In chapter 4 Rico Tice says remembering three things transformed his willingness and practice of sharing the Gospel: God’s sovereignty, God’s grace and God’s power.

How we do it: In chapters 5-8 we have some real encouragement and very practical help in getting started sharing the Gospel or restarting this practice. Chapter 5 talks about necessary life skills, such as knowing what to say and “chatting your faith”. Engaging someone in conversation about the Gospel Tice says, is being yourself with the gifts God has given you and bringing naturally into the conversation what it was like becoming a Christian: What was I like before? What did Christ do for me? and What difference does he make?  The conversation can be taken further by reflecting on how you are growing in this relationship and what the cross and resurrection mean to you now.
The book ends with a listing by category of some very useful resources to use in more study, resources for sharing and one-on-one bible reading.

I did not find a whole lot new in this book, but I was very much encouraged by it. It is short, concise, quite readable but not trivial and with specific helps. I think the way Tice framed the issue, shared his own struggles and laid out some very practical advice reminded me in a powerful way of the great privilege and responsibility that is ours to testify to what God did and is doing, and to have courage to speak of the danger of not believing. My tendency is to share hard cold facts of who Christ is and what He has done. This book reminded me to be personal and share with others how God is redeeming my brokenness and that he can rescue them from the reality of hell to a life of eternal bliss, just as He is doing for me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Review - Heaven How I got Here: The Story of the Thief on The Cross by Colin S Smith

would classify this book as creative nonfiction. As such, anyone thinking they are sitting down to a good novel, will be disappointed.  A good novel communicates truth by showing it to us.  Creative nonfiction is telling something, rather than showing something, using a fictional story. Lee Gutkind, a pioneer in creative nonfiction says “Ultimately, the primary goal of the creative nonfiction writer is to communicate information, just like a reporter, but to shape it in a way that reads like fiction.”   I think this fairly sums up what Colin Smith accomplished in this book.

The Gospel is what Colin Smith lays out very clearly and nicely by imagining what the thief on the cross might have been thinking as he, along with Jesus was crucified. It is told from the vantage point of the thief, now happily in heaven, describing his life and thoughts while being crucified.
This book functions well to help one find words to explain the Gospel. It would help one who is struggling with how to share one’s faith; one’s experience of being ‘born again’.  It is also a good read for someone who does not understand the active and passive obedience of Christ. The thief on the cross explains both aspects of this in a very personal way.

I struggled through the first part of the book mostly because I was expecting a different genre, but I sang through the last half of this very quick read. It is 95 pages, large print, and worth taking the time to read it.

I received this book for free from Christian Focus Publications via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Review – Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer from Depression by Zack Erswine.

Pastor and author Zack Eswine never fails to make me feel human again.  He writes in such a gentle and empathetic way, he manages to pour oil on my brokenness and supplies a companion through the dark days felt by those familiar with suffering.

In this book, Eswine artfully describes Spurgeon’s experience with depression and how he ministered both to himself and to those under his care. Surprisingly, the approach Spurgeon took toward understanding and treating depression is quite in line with today’s understanding and treatment recommended by both pastoral and secular experts today. In Spurgeon’s time and our time, there is a recognition that both physical and certain patterns of thinking contribute to depression. Treatment may involve both the wise use of medicine and pastoral care
The book is divided into three parts with four chapters for each part. In each of these three parts Eswine describes Spurgeon’s experience and counsel. Part one helps us to understand depression. He describes the condition and it’s causes. In part two we learn what helps and what doesn’t help those with depression. In part three are the helps that Spurgeon himself used and he discusses the difficult issue of suicide. Eswines sensitivity to those who suffer from depression is reflected in leaving the benefits of sorrow to the last chapter.

I’ve read several books on depression, but this one is the most helpful. It is the first book I will recommend to anyone who suffers from depression or is close to one who does.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Review – God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation by David Saxton

In our day, Christians are much more apt to be familiar with Yoga and eastern meditative practices than with biblical meditation.  While some discerning Christians can utilize the positive benefits of Yoga without becoming involved in unbiblical forms of meditation, few really know how to engage in biblical meditation.

When I researched the subject of biblical meditation several years ago, the best I came up with is some good material by Edmund Clowney (Christian Meditation, Reagent College Publishing) , but I did not find anything that helped me overcome some of the hurdles in beginning a regular practice of biblical meditation.  Well, now I have it.  The Puritans give me exactly what I need and what you need to know and to engage profitably in the practice of biblical meditation.

The author’s goal in writing this book is “to convince God’s people of the absolute necessity of personal meditation.” His aim is to motivate and to teach people how to do this in a biblical way.  He draws heavily on the scriptures and on the “rich spiritual experience of Puritans who were committed to practicing spiritual meditation.”

Chapter 1 covers the importance of recovering the habit of biblical meditation. Drawing on the Puritans he says “Divine meditation has a multifaceted value. It provides us spiritual discernment; improves our Bible reading and prayer lives; applies the general truths of the Bible personally and specifically; strengthens our hearts by focusing on spiritual truths; and provides lasting benefit from dwelling on the truths we know.” In this and later chapters he adds much detail to these values.

Chapter 2 covers unbiblical forms of meditation. “Modern Christians have neglected the biblical practice of meditation to such an extent that many believe the entire practice is based in a pagan or Far Eastern religious concept. Certainly, when people speak about meditation today, they usually are not referencing the biblical practice. Thus, this chapter will identify and explain the common false notions of meditation.”

Chapter 3 defines and examines biblical meditation in the Old Testament, the New Testament and in the Puritans. I counted 42 Puritans in the Bibliography, so this chapter is well documented with a generous number of quotes to clarify the Puritan view.

Chapters 4 and 5 give definition to Occasional and Deliberate Meditation and spell out the benefits, dangers and proper use of each.

Chapter 6 is one of the most useful chapters in the book. As the Puritans were always quite detailed in their examination of things, so too are they in spelling out how to practice meditation. What follows is an outline of chapter 6.

The Best Time of Day for Meditation
The Best Place for Meditation
The Amount of Time Necessary for Meditation
The Importance of Consistency in Meditation
Steps in Beginning Effective Meditation
      Praying for the Spirit’s Help for Fervency
Choosing a Scriptural Thought by Bible Reading
Questioning, Considering, and Examining Oneself
Concluding with Personal Application, Resolution, and Prayer

Chapter 7 has extended discussions on important occasions for meditation.

Chapter 8 provides needed help in choosing subjects for meditation.

Chapter 9 is a very convincing chapter exploring the reasons why each believer should be regularly meditating upon God, His Word, and His works.

Chapter 10 considers eight benefits and blessings of cultivating a life of meditation.

Chapter 11 identifies the impediments and hindrances to meditation and gives suggestions for overcoming them.

Chapter 12 gets you started in developing the habit of meditation.
In the Conclusion author David Saxton takes a look at how the practice of meditation in the Christian life becomes a joy rather than a burden
The Bibliography is a wonderful resource of primary and secondary Puritan Sources.

One of the strengths of this book is its fair and detailed handling of unbiblical forms of meditation, particularly Roman Catholic Spirituality, mysticism and contemplative prayer. While the following quote is rather long, it is worth reading.
“One further caution should be made regarding a more recent, popular movement within broad evangelical circles called contemplative worship or prayer. Similar to traditional Roman Catholic mysticism, contemplative prayer is an unbiblical form of meditation that seeks a spiritual experience through some kind of existential encounter with God apart from His written revelation. Though not a new danger, many evangelicals have begun to fall prey to the false idea of maintaining spiritual communion with the Lord apart from His ordained means of the Bible and prayer. The contemplative prayer movement seeks to experience God’s voice apart from His written Word. This movement is a product of a larger evangelical departure from an absolute conviction in the sufficiency of Scripture. It does not use Scripture alone to address the spiritual needs of the inner person. These various fads of spirituality that minimize Scripture have come and gone over the centuries, but truth remains the same: “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97) and “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105). We should heed the counsel of Thomas Manton: “Do not try to pry further than God hath revealed; your thoughts must be still bounded by the word. There is no duty that a fanatic brain is more apt to abuse than meditation…. Do not leave bread and wine and gnaw upon a stone.””

As the publisher says: “With the rich experiential theology of the Puritans, this book lays out a course for enjoying true meditation on God’s Word.”

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book Review - Romans 8-16 For You by Timothy Keller

This is the first book in the Series “God’s Word ForYou” that I have read, and I am quite glad I did. Timothy Keller is a master at clarity, thoroughness and anticipating the objections of his readers.  The book meets well the objective of the series to be Bible centered, Christ glorifying, relevantly applied and easily readable. This resource is not a commentary, but has depth and is suitable for private studies, group settings or for help in preparing to teach God’s word to others.  In the Kindle edition, words outside ordinary use are marked in gray and explained by touching the word.

The latter half of Romans is full of doctrine and instruction for living. Keller is not shy about dealing with the more controversial passages and taking a clear stand on them. Do you have questions about the role of Christians in government or the role of government itself? See Keller’s wonderful exegesis. What about the different views people have on whether national Israel will experience great renewal and come to believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah? Keller deals with this question in a thorough and convincing way.  To get an idea of the many other topics covered, turn to the Appendix where there is an outline summarizing all the topics covered.  In the Kindle version on the Kindle paperwhite, there is a neat feature that allows one to see the outline condensed. Tap on the screen and the Appendix is reformatted with tighter line spacings and smaller font with headings for the sections that stand out. You can easily scroll through the entire outline, complete with verse references.

One of Keller’s strengths is connecting Doctrine to the implications for the way we live right now, in this culture in light of the Gospel. Once the doctrine has been explained he makes clear application to the way we live in light of it. I find Keller’s writing leads me every time to worship God for the work of obedience Christ accomplished on my behalf. So now I am motivated to obey out of love rather than duty.

I received a free copy of this book from The Good Book Company via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book Review – Discovering Delight – 31 Meditations on Loving God’s Law by Glenda Mathes

In this book we have a helping hand in developing a love for and delight in God’s law. The book begins with a mediation on each of five law exalting poems, Psalms 1,19,37,40 and 112 which lead us in seeing that the origin of our delight is seeing the character of God in both creation and in God’s law.  This motivates us to want to know more. There are then 22 meditations on God’s law from the 22 stanzas of Psalm 119. The book closes with 2 promises from Old Testament Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah giving us clear pictures of what taking such delight will result in.  A meditation from Romans 7 then shows us that only in Christ are we enabled to love the law. The book closes with a celebratory meditation on Revelation 19.

Although this is a book about God’s law and by our old nature that law is abhorrent to us, Glenda Mathes does an excellent job of winning us over to delighting in the law in several of her meditations She does this not by clever tales or pretty language, but by a solid hermeneutic always drawing our attention to the scripture itself, the meaning of the text in the original languages, how genre affects our understanding of the text and by the analogy of scripture. One example of this is her mediation on Psalm 19 in chapter 2.

Psa 19:7-9 KJV  The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.  (8)  The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.  (9)  The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

“Notice all the descriptors? The law of the Lord is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and righteous. It is the ultimate ideal. Note also the many present participles, “ing” verbs in this section. What is the law doing? It is converting the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eyes, and enduring forever. Such action verb phrases vibrantly depict God’s law as living and active (see also Heb 4:12).”

Each chapter includes questions for reflection, helping the reader to make practical application.

This book will remain near my reading chair for help in frequent feasting upon and delighting in God’s law.

I received this resource for free from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Primer for the book "A New Apostolic Reformation"

Tim Challies today did a review of the less detailed book God's Super-Apostles by the same authors on the same subject as my previous post reviewing A New Apostolic Reformation. He provides more detail about the movement than my review does.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Review – A New Apostolic Reformation: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement by R. Douglass Geivett and Holly Pivec

This book deserves a 5 star rating for the careful, thorough, fair and discerning presentation of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement. The authors make clear in the preface the 15 criteria they used in evaluating the movement to give it a fair and balanced treatment. Both the order of topics and the content reflect the conscientious use of the criteria. I particularly appreciated the authors taking time to define the movement giving an historical account of the developments in the movement since it started in the 1980s. Fairness is evident in the structure of the book, as the movement is carefully described first (6 chapters) before an evaluation is attempted. What follows the description is a biblical definition of Apostles, a comparison of NAR Apostles with the Bible’s Apostles then an evaluation of NAR Apostles against the Biblical definition. The same process is used for Prophets and for Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare. Each chapter is concluded with a very concise summary. Everything is well documented with footnotes, referring to published works and websites.

Another outstanding strength of this book are discussions in chapters 7, 12, 19 and Appendix A, which discuss Apostles, Prophets, miracles and the continuance of authoritative revelation. These chapters alone make a great resource for foundational knowledge needed by bible teachers who can expect questions about these topics to arise regularly in bible studies. This book added to my ability to discern truth from error.

I received this resource for free from Weaver Book Company via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Finshed - "Reading for Preaching" by Cornelius Plantinga Jr.

I have to admit there was a bit of uneasiness alternating with sheer delight in reading this book. The uneasiness comes perhaps from my own bias. As the author says "My outlook contains all my own shortsightedness, bias, bigotry. To have a shot at integrity, empathy, and understanding I need good writers to disturb my biases, to lengthen and widen my worldview, to challenge my bigotries." The scriptures along with the work of the Holy Spirit, does this work of uprooting my bigotry better than anything else. My uneasiness was that any bias I have needs to find priority in the Word. I wish the author had said more about this and about the literary value of the Bible itself. But then again, his argument was meant to get us to read literature for better preaching and connection with our audience. And I think he has done that well.

I found very instructive his many illustrations of the human condition from literature. Ruth Moore (whom he did not mentioned) helped me realize what might be going on in a persons mind that explained odd behavior and maybe even excused it.

I remain unconvinced of the necessity of reading to do good preaching, but I am convinced it can help. 

Now off to read some of the books suggested on the Selected Reading List at the end of the book...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Followup to Bible Revival by Kenneth Berding

Since writing a review of "Bible Revival", the website mentioned ( is now complete! It leads you through a 12 week program that will not only qualify you as biblically literate, but will also train you to recite the storyline of the whole bible. Visit the website and view the free videos, music and other free resources.

The program is suitable to do as a family. A suggestion: use it as a ready-made Family Worship/Devotions. It is best for Junior High to Senior Adult, but can easily be adapted for younger children.

Book Review - Salt, Light and Cities on Hills: Evangelism, Social Action and The Church - How Do They Relate To Each Other by Melvin Tinker

In three parts to this new book Melvin Tinker covers well the tension that exists in many churches over the relationship between and priority of evangelism and social action. In Part 1 he reviews the different stances taken by evangelicals and offers some critique. In Part 2 he lays the exegetical groundwork to model the relationship between evangelism and social action. In Part 3 he details what this looks like in his ministry at St John Newland.

One strength of the book is the clear and methodical way he documents the tension historically and the way more recent church leaders (Tim Keller, John Stott, Michael Hill, Tim Chester, D. A. Carson) have attempted to express and resolve the tension. Although the setting for the discussion is clearly Great Britain, there is much that is true here is America as well. It is a book of substance addressing a contemporary issue with a long and familiar history.

The most helpful part of the book for me are Chapters 6 and 7 where the parallels between Isaiah 61 and the Sermon on the Mount are discussed as Tinker unpacks the pictures Jesus uses of his followers being like ‘salt’, ‘light’ and a ‘city on a hill’. Here he concludes that the co-ordination of evangelism and social action is modelled by the Sermon on the Mount and shaped by the motifs behind Isaiah 59-61.  First there is the heralding of the good news from the new city on the hill. Second, since being the ‘salt of the earth’ is a symbolic reference to maintaining the covenant, we are to engage in a prophetic ministry in all our social relations to be sure that the integrity of the covenant remains operative. We are to preach justice and all those attributes characteristic of God and his designs for our living. Thirdly, we are to be light – shining examples expressing the new life that we have found in the Kingdom.

The last chapter is a very practical chapter where Tinker gives concrete examples how he manages to keep the proper biblical character to his practice of evangelism and social action.

One point of frustration with the book is the failure to define what Tinker means by ‘The Reforming Evangelicals” and the “Radical Evangelicals” in chapter 3. I suppose those are well understood terms in the U.K., but not for this American reader.

I received this resource for free from EP Books via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.