Basics for Believers: The Core of Christian Faith and Life by D.A. Carson ( A Review)

Basics for Believers by D.A. Carson

Originally published in 1996 Basics for Believers by D.A. Carson is a concise and helpful overview of the Christian life based upon Carson’s exposition of Philippians. For those who have a prior printing of this title the only thing different is the cover. As is expected one finds exegesis and thoughtful application combined to provide a resource that is is both convicting and constructive.

In five chapters not only does Carson walk readers through Philippians he also walks readers through the core realities of the Christian life. Carson points readers to the centrality of the gospel, the cross, Christlikeness, and an overall commit to pursuing holiness and Christ to the Christian life.

New believers and even more mature believers would benefit greatly from Carson’s work either as introduction or as a reminder. As has been my experience with Carson this is a book worth reading and rereading.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Always in God’s Hands (A Review)

Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards by Owen Strachan

A new year is just around the corner and this latest title provides a devotional resource that will introduce readers to Edwards’s God-exalting writings on a day by day basis. Owen Strachan ,who coauthored The Essential Jonathan Edwards and teaches at MBTS,  has given readers daily excerpts from the works of Edwards as well as Strachan’s reflections upon the various excerpts.

Strachan’s work in this devotion helps give an introduction to Edwards thought as well as providing contemporary reflection. This devotional will be a helpful resource in the new year, not just in introducing readers to the writings of Edwards, but also in thinking big thoughts about a big God.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Rewire Your Heart by David Bowden (A Review

Rewire Your Heart: Replace Your Desire for Sin with Desire For God by David Bowden

David Bowden in his latest title provides a helpful resource for readers in the lifelong battle against indwelling sin. This book is firmly in the tradition of such classics as John Owen’s Mortification of Sin giving readers an understanding of how to fight sin that is rooted in the truth of Scripture.

In 14 chapters Bowden helps readers see the true nature of the battle of sin and the vital importance of addressing the heart issues behind our struggles with sin. He provides a biblical understanding of sin which is necessary motivation in battling sin. Bowden corrects many poor strategies in battling sin such as the avoidance ethics that focuses more on the avoidance of sin than the active pursuit of drawing near to God. Bowden clearly shows that battle against sin is in reality a battle for delight in God.

There’s not a reader that won’t benefit from this book. Throughout this book Bowden draws from some of the best classics in the Christian tradition on the issue of sin and in doing so provides an accessible and understandable battle plan. This is a battle all Christian will face until the their dying breath and this book will provide fresh motivation, instruction, and encouragement in this battle.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

A. W. Tozer: Three Spiritual Classics in One Volume: The Knowledge of the Holy, The Pursuit of God, and God’s Pursuit of Man: A Review

A. W. Tozer: Three Spiritual Classics in One Volume: The Knowledge of the Holy, The Pursuit of God, and God’s Pursuit of Man

A.W. Tozer was one of the great preachers of the mid-twentieth century. His sermons and his writings, including the three in this present volume, exhibit a man immersed in the life of God. Tozer wasn’t an academically trained pastor or theologian but he was a pastor-theologian with a profound understanding of the things of God.

This volume brings together three of Tozer’s greatest and most influential works. The first classic found in this edition is Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy. This work is in my opinion one of the best works on theology proper, it’s profoundly biblical and rooted in classic Christian orthodoxy. In  a time where many theologians were attempting to redefine the divine Tozer points readers to the biblical understanding of the triune God. Readers will be in awe of the perfections of God if they read this work. The second classic is Tozer’s treatment on the Christian life The Pursuit of God. In ten shorts chapters Tozer distills the biblical truths surrounding our lifelong pursuit of God as believers. In these chapters Tozer speaks to realities that were and are distant realities in American evangelicalism. The third classic is God’s Pursuit of Man which focuses in upon the realities of the Spirit in the Christian life.

Contemporary evangelicalism is greatly lacking in men like Tozer who was so immersed in the things of God. This volume with his three most significant books is a helpful corrective to much of the shallow theology and anemic spirituality found in many pulpits and pews. Read Tozer and you will see the heart of one who has penetrated the veil in his pursuit of God.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

The Forgotten Church : A Review

The Forgotten Church by Glenn Daman

Rural ministry hasn’t been an area of ministry that had garnered a lot of attention either in the publishing world or at the denominational level. Glenn Daman’s title The Forgotten Church seeks to make sure that rural churches are not forgotten and rural ministry is not ignored. It’s all the better that this book is a written by a rural ministry practitioner instead of someone detached from the realities of rural ministry.

In the portions of this book Daman illustrates how historically there has been a tendency to neglect rural ministry showing that the current conditions are nothing new. He continues in the book to dispel myths that have arisen clouding people’s understanding of rural areas, this section is particularly important as there is a major disconnect between urban and rural culture in America right now. He shifts to providing an understanding of issues that shape rural culture such as race and poverty. The closing chapters of the book help the reader develop a theological understanding of rural ministry, the impact rural churches have, and  a guide to partnering between church both rural and urban.

My ministry experience has been in rural areas and because of that I have a great appreciation for the fact that Daman wrote this book and that Moody published it as most preparation for ministry seems geared toward suburban/urban ministries rather than rural areas. I would commend this book to my fellow rural ministers but I would also recommend it to urban pastors so that they could gain a greater appreciation for rural ministry and even a desire to partner with rural churches.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

The Storm-Tossed Family : A Review

The Storm-Tossed Family by Russell Moore

Russell Moore president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC has written in my opinion his best book to date. The Storm-Tossed Family provides readers with a realistic and biblical understanding of the family which is all the more important given the many forces and pressure working against the family.

In fourteen chapters Moore explores some of the most important realities of family. In the early chapters he helps readers to see the importance of the cross shaping our understanding of family life, the reality of spiritual warfare in family life, among many other important issues. Each chapter is thoroughly rooted in the truth of Scriptures and provide helpful correctives to misconceptions about areas of family life both inside and outside of the church. His chapters on parenting and aging are particularly helpful.

In recent years many accusations regarding the trajectory of Russell Moore’s views on issues particularly pertinent to the issues addressed in this book. Those making such accusations would be better served reading this book as it dispels the criticism many “discernment” bloggers levy against him. This book has application for every believer whether married or single. It has been particularly helpful to me this week in preparing to teach on the family from Ephesians 5 this coming Sunday. In short this is one of the best books on the family I have read.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Luther’s theology of the cross and the church

In honor of Reformation I’m sharing some previous work I have done on Luther’s theology of the cross in relation to the church.
Luther’s view of the Church was shaped by his theology of the cross. Luther in his work On the Councils and the Church put forward a seventh mark of the true church which was considered revolutionary for his time. Luther is speaking of how the Church is to be recognized says:

Seventh, the holy Christian people are externally recognized by the holy possessions of the sacred cross. They must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trails and evil from the devil, the world, and the flesh (as the Lord’s Prayer indicates) by inward sadness, timidity, fear, outward poverty, contempt, illness, and weakness, in order to become like their head, Christ…In summary, they must be called heretics, knaves, and devils, the most pernicious people on earth, to the point where those who hang, drown, murder, torture, banish, and plague them to death are rendering God a service.

The Church in the eyes of Luther was not to be a privileged institution, safe and secure in the world. The idea that the true Church could enjoy peace and affluence in the world was unthinkable to Luther. For the Church to be the Church it must suffer for the sake of Christ. Where there is no bearing of the cross for the sake of Christ there is no Church. This is owing to Luther’s theology of the cross, because God can only be known through the suffering of the cross and this necessitates that the people of God partake in the suffering that comes through the cross. The cross is at the center of what it means for the people of God to be the Church of Christ. Oberman in addressing Luther’s understanding of the suffering Church points out tolerance and acceptance as a great danger to the Church. Luther calls the tolerance that he saw emerging as the trap of the devil because it threatened this mark of the Church.

Luther’s view of the role and gifting of the pastor display the outworking of the theology of the cross in the context of pastoral ministry. Luther says the following about God’s work in preachers: “God very wonderfully entrusts his highest office to preachers that are themselves poor sinner who, while teaching it, very weakly follow it. Thus goes it ever with God’s power in our weakness; for when he is weakest in us, then is he strongest.” Whereas human wisdom would think that the power of God would be evidenced in the strength and sufficiency of those whom he has called to proclaim his word, Luther sees that God works contrary to human wisdom. God will not allow human wisdom or human works to dictate whom he will use as his instrument. This is the outworking of the theology of the cross being worked out in regards to pastoral ministry. The theologian of glory would not accept this statement by Luther.

Luther’s dealings with those those whom he disagreed with such as the Anabaptists, paptists, and other groups show the importance of the theology of the cross in his work. The theology of the cross was the theological framework through which he evaluated all the groups and thoughts he came into contact with. For example in writing to Melanchthon he gives the following guidelines:

In order to explore their individual spirit too, you should inquire whether they have experienced spiritual distress and the divine birth, death, and hell. If you should hear that all [their experiences] are pleasant, quiet, devout (as they say), and spiritual, then don’t approve of them, even if they should say that they were caught up up to the third heaven. The sign of the Son of Man is then missing, which is the only touchstone of Christians and a certain differentiator between the spirits…Therefore examine [them] and do not even listen if they speak of the glorified Jesus, unless you have first heard the crucified Jesus…

The mark of the Christian is to be quickened through being killed by the Word of God. God is the one who contrary to all expectation makes alive through killing. These prophets of glory spoke of wonderful experiences of rapturous delight and glory, that in itself was enough for Luther to call their teaching into question. That emphasis was entirely contrary to the core of Luther’s theology of the cross. One must have the mark of the Son of Man, the mark of the cross made upon the life of the believer. To have a glorious Christ divorced from the cross was to have a false Christ and was to be a false prophet. As suffering and persecution make the Church the true Church, so also bearing the cross on the individual level makes a Christian a true Christian. The mark of the Son of Man is to bear the suffering of the cross in this present world, this was something Luther felt was lacking in the experience of many of the false teachers he came in contact with.

Through My Father’s Eyes (A Review)

Through My Father’s Eyes by Franklin Graham with Donna Lee Toney

In this title Franklin  Graham provides a heart felt look at his father’s life and prolific ministry. While not an unbiased source Franklin provides a first hand account of his father that sheds light on who Billy Graham was outside of his pulpit ministry. Clearly evident in this work is the love Franklin has for his father which is one of the greatest testimonies any man could have.

In thirteen chapters Franklin explores Billy Graham’s marriage to Ruth, his spiritual life, his ministry, and his interaction with the broader culture. The greatest weakness of this book is that at times it becomes more of a defense and promotion of Franklin than a remembrance of his father. For instance the recounting of the resistance to placing Franklin as his father’s successor at BGEA seems out of place in this work and diminishes the chapter. Another example of where the focus seems unduly placed on Franklin rather than his father is the final chapter in which Franklin recounts Trump’s election and Franklin’s role in it, that seems to miss the purpose of this book in memorializing his father who was famously nonpartisan and ministered across political lines.

Despite the times when the focus seems to shift off Billy Graham to Franklin himself overall this is a good read and provides the reader a greater appreciation of the life and ministry of Billy Graham.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Ten Book Recommendations for Pastor Appreciation 2018

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Every year I compile  a list of book recommendations for Pastor’s appreciation month. They would benefit any pastor who receives them as gifts next month. If you’re a pastor and get a gift card consider one of these titles. For last year’s list go here.

  1. Susie by Ray Rhodes (reviewed here).
  2. 12 Faithful Men edited by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson (reviewed here).
  3. High King of Heaven edited by John Macarthur (reviewed here).
  4. Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey (reviewed here).
  5. Preaching by the Book by R. Scott Pace (reviewed here).
  6. Preaching as Reminding by Jeffrey Arthurs (reviewed here).
  7. Walking Through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis (reviewed here).
  8. Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom Rainer (reviewed here).
  9. Some Pastors and Teachers by Sinclair Ferguson.
  10. The Preacher’s Catechism by Lewis Allen

 

 

Letters to an American Christian (A Review)

Bruce Ashford, provost of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a valuable resource for Christians seeking to navigate our current cultural and political milieu without compromising Christian conviction.

Written in the form of letters to a young Christian in college Ashford addresses a wide range of issues. He addresses the role faith plays in the Christians public life, making clear that one’s faith influences life in both the public and private spheres. Ashford often makes clear that often times there is a reductionistic understanding of issues such as immigration on both the right and the left.  He helps readers think through hot-topic issues such as transgender movement and how Christians should respond to it.

I hope this book would have a wide readership and that those who read it will actually be moved to more thoughtful interaction with the issues of our day. If social media is any indication many believers are more prone to knee-jerk reaction than thoughtful response to the challenging cultural issues of our day. If you’re a parent of a teenager I would strongly recommend getting this book and studying it alongside your child. If your a pastor or youth pastor it would be a beneficial resource for believers of all ages.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.