Bearded Gospel Men: A Review

Bearded Gospel Men by Jared Brock and Aaron Alford

Beards have recently become popular, but as authors Jared Brock and Aaron Alford demonstrate in this book there is a long line of long bearded gospel men who can be looked to as examples of faithfulness.

The authors in this book 31 miniature biographies of bearded followers of Christ from a range of Christian traditions throughout the history of Christianity. Each chapter comes with reflection questions to help the reader better appreciate the legacy of the individuals addressed in the book. Each entry is well written and engaging and provides an introduction to historical figures that often go unnoticed in church history. Some might object to the wide range of traditions represented in this book from Catholic to Anabaptist and all points in between but that only helps to ensure that the book will have a wide range of readership.

What pleases me most about this book is that it packages church history in an accessible and interesting format that the average guy would be interested in reading. Young men living in a culture likes ours with so few heroes would do well to read this book and reflect on the legacy of the bearded gospel men who have helped shape the history of Christianity. I would commend this book to any man in my church, even the ones without beards.

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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How to Think: A Review

How to Think by Alan Jacobs

In this book author and professor Alan Jacobs provides a thoughtful guide to thinking, a subject many don’t give much thought to if comment sections on social media are any indication. Not only does this book help us think about how little we think it also helps in understanding how we understand and communicate with others.

I seven chapters Jacobs provides helpful clarity to the life of the mind. The first chapter helps shed light on the communal nature of thinking and the interaction between thinking and feeling. Jacobs provides a helpful definition for thinking, “the power to finely aware and richly responsible (p. 49).” Chapters two and three address why we are attracted to others and yet repelled and often times intolerant of others.  Chapter four addresses the issue of language. Chapter five addresses how and why we categorize people and ideas and also the importance of thinking critically about who and what we categorize. Chapter six points to the importance of an open mind being opened to close upon settled convictions. The final chapter is a reminder of the place of self-examination in regards to thinking.

You’ve probably read or commented on a comments section on the internet. If you have then you’ve seen how little critical thought is engaged in in our culture. This book is a helpful guide and corrective in that regard.

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.

How Does Sanctification Work?: A Review

How does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison

In this latest title from David Powlison he  addresses one area of the Christian life that is often deeply misunderstood with the clarity and biblical insight that mark his previous books.

Powlison in the early portions of the book ably addresses the careful balance between the biblical promise of sanctification and the biblical commands concerning our pursuit of sanctification. As Powlsion notes often we can become unbalanced in our view of sanctification and must seek to re-balance it in light of Scripture. Powlison helpfully reminds readers that there are multiples avenues by which God brings about sanctification in our lives. Powlison provides multiples case studies including his own personal experience demonstrating how sanctification practically works in the life of a believer.

I do think in addressing the subject of sanctification attention to distorted views such as Keswick theology and Christian Perfectionism would have greatly contributed to the value of the book. Those understandings of sanctification are still prevalent in evangelicalism and have demonstrably caused great harm driving believers to dispair rather than a hopeful pursuit of conformity to Christ. With that aside I do think this is one of the most helpful resources on sanctification I have come across. This book is greatly helped by the fact that Powlison provides personal examples to help readers better see and understanding the process of sanctification.

Disclosure: I received a review 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.

Eats With Sinners: A Review

Eats with Sinners by Arron Chambers

Arron Chambers in this book, that arose from a sermon series that made a great impact on the church he pastors, draws on the example of Christ in the gospels in pointing readers in how to practically engage the lost.

In this book Chambers draws out thirteen characteristics that marked Jesus and his outreach to sinners. In his chapter on urgency Chambers makes the argument that the church in America largely lacks a sense of urgency to reach out to the lost, whereas Jesus instilled a sense of urgency in his disciples in pointing out the harvest is ready. This also ties into his last chapter on vision, too often we don’t see or care to see the lost around us which in turn kills our sense of urgency.

More than a book on evangelism and outreach this book gives us a reminder of what Christ’s character was like in his earthly ministry. I think far too often our evangelism is stifled by the simple fact that we are not striving to be like the one who saved us by His grace. This book has far greater implications than simply evangelism as it touches upon qualities that are essential for us to be fruitful believers.

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.

Top 10 books of 2017

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I have read over 60 books this year and reviewed 58 books and of the new books that have been published in this past year this is my top ten list. Being a pastor a lot of my reading is in the direction of pastoral ministry and preaching. Last year’s list of top books can be found here.

  1. Revitalize by Andy Davis
  2. Walking through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis
  3. Church series: Life of the Church, Heart of the Church, Character of the Church by Joe Thorn
  4. Preaching in the New Testament by Jonathan Griffiths
  5. Preaching as Reminding by Jeffrey D. Arthurs
  6. Portraits of a Pastor edited by Jason Allen
  7. Pray about Everything by Paul Tautges
  8. Pastoral Theology by Daniel Akin and R. Scott Pace
  9. Progress in the Pulpit by Jim Shaddix and Jerry Vines
  10. Encountering God Through Expository Preaching by Ryan Fullerton, Jim Scott Orick, and Brian Payne

Walking Through Twilight : A Review

Walking Through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis

Douglas Groothuis’s memoir regarding his wife’s dementia is poignant one. Groothuis speaks from the heart concerning his wife’s decline. This is a book that deserves to stand alongside C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed.

Through this book Groothuis is full honest with the full range of his reaction to his wife’s condition. He describes the eeriness of dementia and the chaos that comes with it. He speaks to the temptation to hate God that comes with such terrible suffering. The seventh chapter of the book which addresses lamenting and mourning should be required reading for every Christian. After quoting the command in Romans to mourn with those who mourn Groothuis states, “Mourning rightly is a rare skill and one that cannot be cultivated without the sacrifice of one’s ego on behalf of another soul and God. Any hospital chaplain worth having must develop this art of sympathy and empathy. But we are all chaplains in the hospice of life (p. 60).” Meaning that we all must learn to sacrifice our ego in order to cultivate the the sympathy and empathy that others will need from us. At the end Groothuis points to what keeps him going the love of a crucified Savior who still bears the scars.

This book reminds readers that even if one knows all the right answers regarding evil and suffering, as the author does, the pains of life are still very much real and felt. In our feel good age I think everyone would benefit from reading memoirs like this one. It’s a difficult read, as you are observing the heart ache of a man who’s wife is losing her ability to communicate and interact with the world. We need honest testimony like this in book form and in the church. Too often people find the church a terrible place when they are walking through twilight. Of all the books I have read this year this book has impacted me the most.

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.

Evidence that Demands a Verdict: A Review

Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World by [McDowell, Josh, McDowell, Sean]

Evidence that Demands a Verdict

As someone who believes in the importance of apologetics for the ministry of the local church I was happy to see that the classic Evidence that Demands a Verdict has been updated and republished for a new generation of readers.

The first addition of this book was of great importance as it brought apologetic resources and information to people when there was very limited access to information as Josh McDowell notes in the introduction. I would argue while there is greater access to information because of the internet that a resource like this is still needed as a lot of the information even and especially in the area of apologetics is false and fabricated. One only needs to scroll Facebook a few minutes to find a defense of Christianity based on false information, take for example the fake photos of giant skeletons that often make the rounds. I we are to defend the faith we must be certain that the evidence we use is truthful and not fabricated.

In this book Josh and Sean McDowell address the key apologetic battle fields. They make argue for a theistic universe and demonstrate the inadequacies of other explanations for life, meaning, consciousness, and free will. They address the issues regarding the Bibles reliability, transmissions, and the unreliable nature of the Gnostic writings and other non-biblical texts. They address the historicity and deity of Christ addressing many of the myths that are propagated by skeptics on documentaries. The reliability of and historicity of the Old Testament is defended. The authors in the closing chapters do a great job in addressing the challenges that arise from modern skepticism and post-modernity. The book closes with an appendix addressing the work of Bart Ehrman and addresses the weaknesses in his objections to biblical Christianity.

I am sure many pastors will add this book to their libraries as a reference. I would hope that lay members would add this resource to their family libraries. If you’re a parent consider the fact that when your child goes off to college they will be challenged with almost all if not all the objections the authors address in this book. By going over this book with your children before their faith is challenged you can give them the resources to contend for and hold on to their faith through their college years. If you know lost people, which you do, you are dealing with people who believe the objections to Christianity are stronger than the evidence for it this book demonstrates that the opposite is true.

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.

Never Settle for Normal -A Review

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Never Settle for Normal

Jonathan Parnell addresses the core desires of the human heart and faithfully shows how Christ is the answer to the longings of the heart.

In the early chapters of this book begins with the basics of God our fallen condition. Drawing from Romans, Parnell shows how we as fallen sinners have suppressed, stolen and supplanted the truth of God’s glory for lies. Lies that we are all to quick to accept and spread. In the following chapters  Parnell points us to Jesus, who he is an what he has done to rescue us from the penalty of sin and death and in exchange calling us to life of joy and significance.

Parnell’s writing is thoroughly biblical and Augustinian in its outlook. Reading it one cannot help remember Augustine’s famous quote from Confessions “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” As Parnell demonstrates there is no rest, no joy, and no significance outside of life in and with Christ, a life that proves to be anything but normal.

If you know someone trying to better understand Christianity this would be a great book to put in their hands.

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.

Irenaeus of Lyons (Christian Biographies for Young Readers) -A Review

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Irenaeus of Lyons (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)

The best test of whether a children’s book is any good is whether children actually like it, this book has been tested and it has passed the test. I have spent the past week reading this book to my two boys (ages 4 and 5) at bed time reading a chapter a day.

Simonetta Carr does a good job of describing the historical context in which Irenaeus ministered and the challenges he faced. Given the current course of our society it is a good time to introduce young readers to courageous Christian leaders who faithfully ministered and contended for the truth during times of persecution. An added bonus is the extra facts given at the end of the book which helps give a better understanding for the Roman world.

I would encourage parents to get this book and read it along with their kids. While we might be tempted to shelter from the harsh realities of persecution that Christians have experienced in the past and do experience throughout the world we should teach them about examples of faithfulness which this book does.

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.

Portraits of a Pastor -A Review

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Portraits of A Pastor: The 9 Essential Roles of a Church Leader

While there are many books on pastoral ministry most focus in on one aspect or roll of the pastor. Jason Allen has brought together a group of contributors to to give a well rounded understanding of pastoral ministry.

This book addresses the pastor in his role as shepherd, husband & father, preacher, theologian, church historian,  evangelist, missionary, leader, and man of God. The contributors all derive their understanding of the roles of the pastor from the instruction and examples found throughout the pages of Scripture.

In my opinion the three most significant chapters in this book are Strachan’s chapter on the pastor as a theologian, George’s on the pastor as a church historian, and Whitney’s on the pastor as man of God. These chapters help address and correct current problems in the understanding of the role of the pastor. Many pastors are theologically anemic an suffer from ecclesial amnesia, they have neglected life giving sound doctrine and are ignorant of the great cloud of witnesses that have come before. Whitney’s chapter is the most important because if a pastor takes to heart what it means to be a man of God  all the other roles found in this book will most likely come into practice in the pastor’s ministry.

I would recommend this book to any pastor I know and would encourage church members to get this book for their pastor.

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.