Review of The Treasure Principle

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Few authors have written as clearly and insightfuly on the issue of money and possessions as Randy Alcorn. In this revised and updated of The Treasure Principle Randy Alcorn provides a look at the heart of biblical generosity.

In seven short chapters Randy Alcorn cuts through so much of the cultural clutter that has clouded the church’s understanding in regards to issues of money. In this book Alcorn makes clear that rather than money being something we accumulate and use for our own personal pleasure we are to leverage our financial resources for eternity.

This book is a classic that should be picked up and 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.

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Review of Progress in the Pulpit

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Progress in the Pulpit by Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix have written a resources that belongs on every preacher’s reading list. As one who benefited from their previous work Power in the Pulpit during my college years I was excited to see this work come to print.

This book is comprised of four main sections. The first section defines the task of preaching and the factors that shape it in and out of the pulpit with attention given to the cultivation of godliness, developing a preaching plan, and discipleship in and out of the pulpit. The second section addresses development of the sermon covering issues such as Bible translation, sermon points, word studies, and most importantly how to preach Christ-centered sermons. The third and final section addresses issues regarding delivery such as clarity of communication, giving an invitation, evaluating preaching, and teaching about preaching.

One of the most important chapters in this book is chapter 4 in which Jim Shaddix addresses the relationship between personal discipleship and pulpit discipleship. As Shaddix notes in his introduction to the chapter there is an assumed division between the pulpit and discipleship which in my opinion has probably contributed greatly to unhealthy churches. The last chapter was also particularly helpful in explaining the importance of teaching people the importance of preaching and how preaching is itself and act of worship.

Whether you’ve been in the pulpit for weeks or for years there is something in this book that will help you make progress in the pulpit.

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.

Review of Pastoral Theology

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Pastoral Theology by Daniel Akin and R. Scott Pace is a book that stands apart from other books on the issue of pastoral ministry. Whereas many books on ministry focus more on the how-to of ministry the authors of this book provide a biblical theology of pastoral ministry.

This book is divided into three main sections. In the first section the authors provide a look at the trinitarian foundation of pastoral ministry. In a day where pragmatism is so emphasized it is refreshing to read a book that emphasizes the character of God and the importance of having one’s identity centered in Christ. The second section provides a look at the issues of anthropology, ecclesiology, and missiology. The authors rightly point the leaders to the relationship of God’s grace and compassion in the ministry. The last section addresses the practical God commanded tasks that underscore the work of pastoral ministry. The authors address the pastor’s role as under-shepherd of God’s flock, the role of preaching,  and the priority of family in pastoral ministry.

I believe that this is one of the most important books on pastoral ministry that has been written in recent years. I would commend every pastor to buy this book and read it as what is lacking in much of evangelicalism today is a biblical understanding of pastoral ministry and this book is a helpful corrective to that.

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.

Review of Chasing Contentment

Chasing Contentment

Chasing Contentment by Erik Raymond is one of the best books I have come across this year. In this book the Raymond draws on his own person study and the works of Jeremiah Burroughs and Thomas Watson in addressing the topic of contentment.

As is noted right on the cover we live in a discontented age. Almost every aspect of our culture seems to encourage discontentment so that our discontentment can become a source to profit from. I think the definition provided:”the inward, gracious, quiet spirit, that joyfully rests in God’s providence” is one that captures the biblical understanding of contentment. After defining contentment Raymond explores how we learn contentment. One of the keys to contentment as Raymond points out is understanding what we really deserve in light of our sin against God. Too often believers can drift into discontentment because they have not rightly understood the enormity of sin and God’s amazing grace. Throughout this book Raymond encourages the reader to see the pursuit of contentment in terms of our relationship with God and the promises of God something especially evident in the books closing chapter.

I would recommend this book to any pastor I know. Many pastors are prone to discontentment and even those who might not be still minister to people who are largely discontent in life. In a day an age where everything is telling us we need newer, better, and more this book points us to the path of true contentment in God’s care and provision for us in this present age.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the ebook 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.

Review of Reformation Women

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Reformation Women by Rebecca VanDoodewaard makes accessible many biographical sketches of Reformation women who have not received a great deal of attention in Reformation studies.

This book provides insight into the life and impact of twelve women who greatly shaped the progress of the Protestant Reformation. The women come from a wide range of backgrounds but have one thing in common their commitment to seeing God glorified in their lives. One of the most remarkable women encountered in this work is Katharina Schutz whose involvement and interaction with the leading Protestant Reformers of her day is truly amazing.

While there are many books being published on the Protestant Reformation this one stands out in bringing to attention women whose accomplishments and service though great are largely forgotten in church history. If you’re looking to get a better understanding of the contribution women made to the Protestant Reformation this should be one of the first books you pick up.

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.

Review of Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention

In Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention Jarvis Williams and Kevin Jones have gathered voices from across the SBC to speak to a vital issue in Baptist life. Anyone familiar with the history of the convention knows that the SBC came to existence because of a disagreement with northern Baptists over the appointment of slaveholders as missionaries. As a Southern Baptist I readily acknowledge that the Southern Baptists were on the wrong side of the issue, slaveholders should not have been permitted to serve as missionaries, in fact were the churches in step with the New Testament ethic it would have condemned the slavery practiced in their midst.

In the first two chapters of this book Albert Mohler and Matt Hall address the root and historical causes of racism in the convention. Jarvis Williams draws on biblical steps toward remedying racism. Walter Strickland addresses the theological nature of racism. Craig Mitchell addresses the issue in light of Christian ethics. Kevin Smith’s chapter which stands out addresses the importance of the pulpit and the pastor’s personal example in addressing racism. The closing chapters of the book address steps needed to address racism in the more institutional aspects of Baptist life with attention given to the progress that has been made in Baptist life.

You might ask why this book is needed. I would point to that fact that I know pastors who have in their ministry had to push back against racism in the local church. One particular pastor at one point in his ministry had deacons who wanted a bylaws revision that would require the dismissal of a worship service should an African-American show up. I’ve had members of my own church admit to the fact that the world they group up in was blatantly racist. We can also look at our present, I pastor a church in an area that is half white and half black but my church isn’t. I am absolutely convinced that the ongoing segregated nature of Sunday morning worship speaks volumes about the fact that work is needed in this area. I hope many pastors will pick this book up and take the work of racial reconciliation seriously.

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.

Review of Jefferson’s America

Jefferson’s America by Julie Fenster tells the story of a pivotal and defining period of American history. This book looks at the influence of explorers whose exploits set the course for America’s westward expansion following the Louisiana purchase.

While most are familiar with the expedition of Lewis and Clark Fenster helps readers become more familiar with other important explorers and heroes of early America who oftentimes do not receive the attention they are due.

This book sheds light on both the politics and the adventure during Jefferson’s time as president. It is an exciting, well written, and well researched work. I enjoyed reading it and know others will too.

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.

Review of Word Centered Church

Word Centered Church a revised edition of Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman demonstrates the vital role the Bible should and must have in the life a local church. Given the fact that by and large the Bible does not have a central place in the life of many local churches this is a timely book.

This book is composed of three main sections. The first section addresses the ways in which God’s word functions. The second section addresses the role of the sermon which is to come from the Word. The final section addresses the word’s place in the life of the local church. Churches are to sing the word, pray the word, disciple with the word, and spread the word through personal evangelism.

While many pastors I know might agree with the centrality of the word in preaching I think the attention that Leeman gives to singing and praying the word are helpful correctives given the current conditions in many churches. Many leaders in the church would be greatly helped if they considered the importance of affirming the word of God in what is sung by the congregation. Leeman also addresses a clear problem in the prayer life of local churches in how divorced it is from biblical example and precept. In many church prayer meetings one would be hard pressed to hear the reverberation of God’s word in the prayers made.

Whether pastor or layman this book will prove to be helpful in thinking through the central place the Bible should and must have in the local church if we are to be faithful to 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.

 

Review of Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation

Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation is a helpful resource that guides readers into allowing the word of God to have its proper place in our lives. Morgan helpfully provides readers a biblical understanding of meditation which is in stark contrast to eastern and  New Age meditation practices that focus on emptying one’s mind. Rather than having an empty head we are to have a head that stores up God’s word to think it through and apply it to our life.

In nine chapters Morgan addresses the importance of biblical meditation and provides practical steps to put this spiritual discipline into practice.  Throughout the book there are quick tips which provide simple ideas that help make biblical meditation something that any reader can easily implement in their day-to-day life. In chapters 2 through 8 Morgan helps readers understand how to think about Scripture as they meditate on it as well as providing techniques that can be used. The final chapter addresses Bible memorization which is really foundational to meditation as one cannot meditate on Scripture that has not be stored in memory.

Given the lack of priority professing Christians place on the Bible Morgan’s book is both timely and valuable. It’s written at a level where most readers will find it accessible and understandable.

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.

Review of Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching

In Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching the various contributors have provided an important resource for pastors. Many pastors avoid preaching the Old Testament for the simple fact they don’t know how to preach it.

A large chunk of the Old Testament is narrative, and often when it is preached it is mishandled. Lawrence Turner helps pastors understand the importance of plot in preaching the narrative passages. Paul Kissling likewise focuses in on narrative but with an eye toward preaching on characters. Christopher Wright’s work on preaching the law is particularly helpful in understanding the principles which apply to today. Through each chapter of the book every major genre and the major sections of the Old Testament are addressed with the closing chapters providing guidance in how to deal with difficult texts and how to preach Christ from the Old Testament in such a way that one does not butcher the text.

As a preacher I have to be honest that until I read this book I had not given the Old Testament the attention it deserves in my preaching ministry and had thus robbed my hearers of a balanced diet so to speak. This resource has reminded me of the importance of preaching the Old Testament and has helped me to think through how to actually preach the Old Testament in such a way that is faithful to the text and beneficial to the hearers.

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.