Review of Answers to Prayer (Read & Reflect with the Classics)

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B&H has recently started a new series called Read & Reflect with the Classics which seeks to  engage a new generation with classics that have impacted generations of Christians. One of the first titles in this series is George Muller’s Answers to Prayer a spiritual classic that should be on everyone’s shelf.

The first thing that sets this edition of Muller’s work apart from other editions is the superior binding. As a bibliophile it always bothered me that the best publishers would do for this spiritual classic is a mass market paperback. Muller’s account is one that should be read and reread as one never fails to find fresh encouragement in prayer in looking at God’s faithfulness in Muller’s life. This edition put out by B&H has a solid cloth binding which will hold up through many readings.

The second thing that makes this a superior edition is the addition of various promptings and questions the reader to actively engage with the text.

Muller’s life was one that clearly demonstrates the value and power of prayer, Bible reading, and meditating on Scripture. His work in the orphanage and the display of God’s faithfulness in answering prayer deserves repeating to every new generation of believers.

Disclosure: I received an advanced 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 60 Days of Happiness

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In 60 Days of Happiness: Discover God’s Promise of Relentless Joy author Randy Alcorn draws on his previous book Happiness to make a devotional that will help readers understand the biblical truth behind happiness.

The title of each days devotion is a question concerning happiness and its relation to biblical teaching and the body of each devotion seeks to answer the question put forward. For example the first devotion addresses the question of why everyone wants to be happy and shows that our desire for happiness points us to a desire for something greater namely God himself. Alcorn addresses some of the most important misconceptions surrounding happiness pointing readers to the importance of happiness in the Christian life.

Christianity sometimes gets a bad wrap of being a religion for unhappy cranks. If you know someone who thinks that God wants everyone to be holy and miserable there are few resources out there that will help them understand the biblical nature of happiness more than this devotional. I would commend it to anyone who wants to better understand the biblical truth that God does indeed want us to have joy and happiness in Him.

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.

Review of The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb

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The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel is a much-needed book. One doesn’t have to look to far to see how many have fallen in their chase after fame in evangelical circles.

There is a subtle line in ministry between a desire to have a wide reach for the sake of making the gospel known and having a wide reach so that we are known. In this work wisdom and insight is drawn from J.I. Packer, Dallas Willard, Marva Dawn, John Perkins, Jean Vanier, James Houston, and Eugene Peterson. In a day and age where evangelical leaders are more concerned in building personal platforms based on their personalities the authors and those they draw from provide a helpful corrective.

The first part of this book in which the authors interact with J.I. Packer, Marva Dawn, and John Perkins provides a helpful contrast between a worldly pursuit of power and God’s power demonstrated in human weakness and love. The second section of the book helps the reader understand how to embrace way of Christ in ministry. In a church culture that entices pastors to fixate on platforms and popularity this serves as a powerful corrective.

The most important chapter in this book in my opinion is the seventh chapter as it fully explores the terrible reality that many churches and leaders have adopted the posturing of the dragon as seen in revelation as opposed to way of ministry that is faithful to Christ. Small church pastors might think themselves immune to the temptations for power that are evident in many mega church personalities, but the truth is the temptation to build a ministry that elevates self is found in churches of all shapes and sizes. This book should be required reading for anyone in ministry.

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.

Review of 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, James

 

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There are some devotionals that draw attention to themselves and then there are devotionals that draw attention to the Bible and 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, James by Timothy Keller and Sam Allberry is one of the latter type.

Each days devotion helps the reader work through a passage of Scripture providing questions that help with reflection on the meaning of the text. Some of the devotions also help the reader pray through the passage in question. Each devotion provides ample space to write out prayers and reflections on the days passage.

This is my first exposure to the Explore by the Book series but given the quality of this devotional it will be a series I explore further. If you’re looking for a devotional that will aid that will attract you to the word rather than distract you this should be at the top of your list.

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.

Review of The Legacy of Luther

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The Legacy of Luther edited by R.C. Sproul is a timely read in light of the coming celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. This work brings together some of the bes church historians to address important aspects of Luther’s life and thought.

The contributors to this volume are: Stephen Nichols, Steven Lawson, David B. Calhoun, Joel Beeke, Michael Horton, Guy Prentiss Waters, Sinclair Ferguson, W. Robert Godfrey, Gene Edwards Veith, Aaron Clay Denlinger, Scott Maentsch, Sean Michael Lucas, Terry Yount, Derek W.H. Thomas, and R.C. Sproul. The first section of this book provides a look into the life of Luther most significant in this section is Beeke’s chapter on Luther as a family man, which addresses Luther’s teaching on marriage and family and how he practically lived that out. This is one aspect of Luther’s life and thought that often goes underappreciated. The second section addresses Luther’s doctrinal understanding along the lines of the Solas of the Reformation. The final section addresses Luther’s ongoing contribution as a Bible scholar, his contribution to the broader Reformation, his impact as polemicist, his contribution to hymnody, and Luther’s impact on preaching. R.C. Sproul fittingly closes this work with a reflection on Luther as pastor-theologian.

Each author draws out important aspects of Luther’s life and thought. In reading this I did find it odd how little diversity there was in the denominational backgrounds of the contributors especially in light of the greater diversity in contributors found in John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion,  Doctrine,  Doxology. Especially surprising is the fact that a work on Luther only has two contributors from the Lutheran tradition. I think in exploring Luther’s more attention should have been given to the theology of the cross and its outworking in his theology.

Overall this is one of the better works out there on Luther that seek to address him in his own context and address his importance today. Some modern works seek to psychoanalyze Luther more than explore his doctrinal convictions and impact on church history, a pitfall these contributors happily avoid. If you’re looking to learn about Luther and why he is so significant in the development of church history this book is a must read.

Disclosure: I received an ecopy 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 Bible Studies on Mark

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Bible Studies on Mark by William Boekestein provides an engaging look at Mark’s gospel and draws out practical questions for greater understanding of the text and personal application. This book would best be categorized as a devotional commentary of the best kind.

In 21 lessons Bokenstein walks the reader through Mark’s gospel helping the reader to understand the doctrinal and practical implications of Mark’s gospel. Boekenstein has an eye toward pointing the reader to the continuity between the gospel story and the gospel promise found in the Old Testament.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is the fact that Boekenstein doesn’t get bogged down in interacting with too much secondary literature. Anyone who has consulted a more technical exegetical commentary will see that in modern commentaries there is more interaction and reflection on other commentaries than interaction with the text itself. While not a verse by verse commentary, this work is a commentary nonetheless and one that reflects serious interaction with the Gospel of Mark itself. Throughout this work Boeknestein focuses the readers gaze on the person of Christ and presses home the importance of believing in Christ. As Bokenstein notes in his introduction there is a great danger of taking our eyes off of Jesus and the Gospels are vital for keeping our eyes on Christ. So if you are looking for a book that fixes yours eyes upon the person and work of Christ this is one such book that should commend itself to you.

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.

Review of The Great Good Thing

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The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ by Andrew Klavan is a book that you just can’t set down. Klavan’s  account of how he came to life is testimony to the many influences that work to bring a person to faith in Christ.

Klavan begins recounting his early life in Great Neck, NY. Reading it I couldn’t help see similarities to his nominal Jewish upbringing and the nominal Christianity of many if the Bible belt. Klavan cites his bar mitzvah as the point in his life in which he became disenfranchised with religion after having gone through the motions while at the same time his family did not believe the underpinnings of Judaism. His families faith was more of a matter of cultural heritage than deep-seated belief. In addition to that he had what by all accounts was a troubled childhood with a father who never seemed satisfied in him and who also seemed to have a desire to sabotage his children. In many ways Klavan’s early adulthood was that of a prodigal loosing himself in the world. Each step of his life turn out to be one step closer to Christ. The book’s closing chapters revolve around his conversion, his father’s death, and his baptism following his father’s memorial service.

There need to be more testimonies like this. Klavan’s story is one of God’s mercy leading him to find the great good thing, the gospel. Human brokenness and God’s grace are evident on every page.

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.

Review of God the Son Incarnate

In my reviewing if I receive an egalley of a book that I find truly exceptional and valuable  I purchase a hard copy for my  personal library. Stephen J. Wellum’s latest work on Christology God the Son Incarnate is one such title. Wellum’s work ably traces the historical trends surrounding Christology and defends the biblical teaching concerning the person of Jesus Christ.

In four major sections Wellum addresses the epistemological basis for Christology, the biblical basis of Christology,  the historical developments of Christology in the church, and finally addresses some recent developments surrounding kenotic Christology and defending orthodox Christology.

While this book blends apologetics, biblical theology, historical theology, and systematic theology addressing the most important question of who Christ is. Wellum’ s interaction with contemporary trends in Christology is needed reading especially as Wellum addresses many of the false Christologies that are paraded in documentaries around Christmas and Easter. Wellum rightly puts the emphasis upon Scripture in coming to rightly know and understand who Jesus is, something that seems to be lacking among evangelical pastors. Wellum states, “Rightly identifying Jesus, then, requires doing Christology from “above,” starting with Scriptures as God’s own accurate authoritative word written in texts that interpret one another (p. 106).” In a day and age when many evangelical pastors seem to want to build a Christology “from bellow” Wellum’s emphasis is a needed one. Wellum makes clear we are wholly dependent upon the Scriptures as divine revelation to rightly know Jesus. This book is worth the time and effort to work through because of the value of its subject Jesus the incarnate Son of the Father.

Disclosure: I received an ecopy 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 The Family Life of a Christian Leader

The Family Life of a Christian Leader by Ajith Fernando is a resource that provides a biblical understanding of every aspect family life. While the title may direct it towards Christian leaders, it should be beneficial for any Christian whether they view themselves as a leader or not.

Fernando begins with the foundational truths of family life as they are built on the reality of God. He reminds that family is not a human institution but one divinely ordained. This truth and the fact that God desires to uphold our families is a good incentive to prayer. In the second chapter points to the importance of dying to self in our family relationships. Chapter three provides a biblical understanding of the love we are to have in our families, not the love of the world which is self-serving but the others-focused love which the New Testament calls us to. Chapters four and five focus in on the nature of marriage and the marriage bed. He moves on to address the fact that there is both joy in the family as well as pain and disappointment in the family. The importance of unity and the how to handle conflict in a way that promotes unity is explored. The closing chapters of the book address children in the life of the family.

There are some aspects of this book that are geared specifically for Christian leaders, however most of the instruction found is applicable and needed in the larger Christian culture. Fernando is able to address a wide range of issues in the family in a way that is both encouraging and convicting at times. In my reading I can’t remember a single book that addresses all the areas of family life as well as this one does. I would commend this book to any Christian seeking to understand what the Bible says about our family life as this work reflect a depth of biblical wisdom needed in order to address the issues facing families today.

Disclosure: I received an ecopy 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: Resolving Conflict

Last year was a year that brought many great resources in the field of biblical counseling. One that I was excited  to receive and have been greatly helped by is Resolving Conflict by Lou Priolo.

Lou Priolo’s introduction itself provides as a helpful corrective to current attitudes surrounding conflict. In my experience as a pastor I have seen what Priolo addresses in regards to viewing all conflict as inherently negative. This attitude leads to an unhealthy conflict avoidance which almost always makes problems worse. Rather than be avoided conflicts should be resolved in a biblical manner.

Priolo’s first section addresses the key characteristics that should exist for conflicts to be resolved in a biblical manner those being; humility, gentleness, patience, and loving forbearance. With that foundation laid Priolo looks at the biblical understanding of conflict. He addresses types of conflicts that can occur, the importance of communicating. Priolo examines the unbiblical ways we often handle conflict both in how we internally and externally respond. Priolo makes clear that biblical conflict resolution is hard work which is why it calls for diligence.

If you are a living breathing person you have had to deal with conflict in your life. Much as we try to avoid conflict it still happens. The question is not if conflict will occur at home, work, or in the church the question is how will it be handled. Priolo’s work provides a resource that gets to the heart of how to address conflict in a biblical manner with a desire for unity and peace.

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.