How To Be A Perfect Christian: A Review

How to be a Perfect Christian by The Bablyon Bee

Brought to you by the satire website The Babylon Bee this book brings the usual sharp cutting wit that one has come to expect from them. No group or sacred cow in evangelicalism is left unscathed or unlampooned.

In ten chapters through the vehicle of satire this book helps to expose how ridiculous much of evangelicalism. Some might be offended at the satire but if it hurts it shows you probably have a problem. What is reflected in this book is a rejection of a subcultural Christianity that in many respects elevates traditionalism and culture above Christ and His word.

Not only is this book humorous but if read rightly it might wake the reader up to many of the current problems in evangelicalism.

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.

Love Thy Body: A Review

Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality by Nancy Pearcey

In her latest book Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcey addresses some of the key issues of controversy of our day particularly in regards to life and personhood. Pearcey in this book continues in the legacy of Francis Schaeffer in addressing the problems of our day from a biblical worldview. Pearcey addresses what Schaeffer once called “the loss of humanness” as it has continued to expand into our own present day.

In seven chapters Pearcey addresses issues ranging from the concept of personhood, the sanctity of life, to matters of human sexuality. Pearcy rightly points out modern personhood theory which seeks to divorce what it means to be a person from what it means to be a human. Personhood theory in essence argues that the question of humanness is one of fact relating to biology whereas the issue of what constitutes a person is a value definition. It should come as no surprise where such a mindset has take root has no problem with abortion, euthanasia, or any of the sexual confusion prevalent in the west. In each of the chapters Pearcey not only addresses the problem but she clearly points how the church can address these problems in a manner that is both redemptive and honoring to Christ.

Schaeffer once said, “If we ache and have compassion for humanity today in our own country and across the world, we must do all we can to help people see the truth of Christianity and accept Christ as Savior. And we must stand against the loss of humanness in all its forms.” This book will be an invaluable tool in doing that very thing. If you are a parent a I would encourage you to read through this book with your older children and work through the study questions in the back. Pastors get this book read it, recommend it, put it in the hands of others but mostly importantly let it open your eyes to how to practically minister to people in great need of grace and truth.

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

The Law, Christmas, and Culture

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One text often comes to my mind during the Christmas season and that is Galatians 4, particularly verse 3-7:

 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:3–7 ESV)

The coming of Christ is the answer to our greatest need freedom from sin and redemption from the curse of the law. He redeems those under the law not by negating the law. As Christ says in Matthew 5,  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17–18 ESV).” We are redeemed through the law’s fulfillment.

In our day the redemption of Christ is greatly diminished in the eyes of some because they have a diminished understanding of the law of God. In the Old Testament there were three types of laws given. Those types were the ceremonial, civil, and moral. Christ in his death on the cross fulfilled the ceremonial through his sacrificial death. The civil law was contextual to the civil government of Israel. We are left with the aspect of the law most often ignored by our relativistic culture. One particular aspect of this is the sexual chaos of our society evidenced in the promotion of homosexuality and the transgender movement.

Ignoring and disregarding the moral law of God are not legitimate courses for Christians in this or any society.  Then what must we do? Nancy Pearcey, in her forthcoming book Love Thy Bodypoints to a way forward in pointing our culture to the redemption in Christ. Pearcey says:

To make Christianity credible, we must create homes that reach out to those who do not have homes or families of their own— including those with sexual issues. Christians have often operated by a double standard, treating same-sex sin as though it were more sinful than other transgressions…Christians must repent of their unbiblical attitudes and find ways to communicate to those who struggle with sin of any kind that they will find a refuge in the church. Jesus said, “a bruised reed he will not break” (Matt. 12:20). People must be able to trust that churches will protect and nurture the bruised and broken parts of their lives.

As Christ’s body, the Christ who was born of a woman to bring redemption, we must be redemptive in our relationships with all sinners, knowing they need what we need the redemption that Christ has accomplished.

Christmas: A reminder of the goodness of creation

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Sometimes as Christians we can adopt an attitude that despises or neglects the goodness of God’s creation. For many there understanding of the created order begins with the fall and misses God’s declaration that everything that he created was good.

In her forthcoming book Love Thy Body author Nancy Pearcey points to the hope of creation when she says the following in the first chapter, “Finally, at the end of time, all creation will be restored and renewed by God’s grace. The Bible speaks of salvation using terms like restore, renew, redeem—all of which imply a recovery of something that was originally good.”

Christmas tells the story of how God has begun the rescue of restoring, renewing, and redeeming creation.  This was done by the Word, which was God, becoming flesh. God displays the dignity of humanity and his love for creation in coming into his creation to rescue fallen humanity and redeem his creation from the curse.

Christmas reminds us that while creation is not the ultimate reality it is a good reality. A good and beautiful gift given by God not to be despised or rejected.

Review of Real Love in an Angry World

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In Real Love in an Angry World Rick Bezet addresses the tension of holding on to truth and being graceful at the same time.

This book in nine chapters helps readers see how to handle disagreement without resorting to a scorched earth policy which seems to be the practice of many in our day. There are too ditches that the author shows that many fall into, maintaining truth without grace or abandoning truth. Both ways end up in a ditch, the only path forward for believers as the author points out is grace and truth, truth and love.

Given how fractured our society is this book is a helpful correction to much of the divisiveness found inside the church. A look at the comments section on any website, Facebook, or Twitter would clearly demonstrate how greatly needed books like this are. If your struggle with how to hold on to your convictions while maintaining a tactful and gracious Christian witneess this book will show how to deal with those who disagree inside and outside of the church.

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 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 Abandoned Faith

In Abandoned Faith authors Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez explore the influences that have led to an increasing number of millennials distancing themselves from biblical Christianity.  I will admit that I’m not sure that lumping a group of people born in a 30 year window together as a generation is entirely helpful. As one who would fall into the age range of millennials  I think it is important to point out that as technology has rapidly progressed those born in the 80’s grew up in very different world that those born in the late 90’s or even in 2000.

Th first part of this book addresses some of the main causes behind the shift away from Christianity. Some of the causes addressed are the lack of parental involvement in shaping children’s faith in the home, increasing exposure to immoral influences such as pornography, and delayed maturity. The second section addresses challenges and forces influencing millennials. Sections three and four provide practical steps for parents to reach out to millennial children and instill a foundation of biblical faithfulness.

I think the authors provide some valuable insights but as with any book addressing such a wide range of individuals whether what is said will depend on the person in question. One thing is certain is that Christian parents and church leaders cannot continue to ignore the fact that many are growing up and failing to develop a biblical understanding of Christianity.

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 This Is Our Time

 

In This Is Our Time author Trevin Wax identifies and explores some of the pervasive false beliefs shaping our culture, and in many ways shaping evangelicals. Wax in this work displays an adeptness for understanding the pervading views and values of our culture.

As Trevin Wax notes in his introduction this book is really divided into two main sections. In the first half of the book he examines the habits that shape our life, and in doing so really explores where and how the false beliefs of our culture are so easily transmitted. In the first chapter he addresses the habits surrounding our usage of smart phones and social media. Chapter two addresses the influence that Hollywood and popular entertainment have and how one can see either a reflection of what society is in entertainment or the vision the maker has for society’s future. The third chapter addresses the idea that happiness has become the ultimate good for many in society. The fourth chapter addresses society’s attempt to find happiness through materialism.

In the section in which the focus shifts to the larger myths of society the problem of feeling to at home in society. Trevin helpfully points to the importance of the needed tension of being in but not of. The next two areas of focus are marriage and sexuality. The final chapter addresses the false beliefs surrounding progress and the equally problematic view that the former times were better.

If you’re looking for book to aid you in exegeting culture than I would recommend this book for you. I do believe that Trevin Wax’s time in Romania has helped him understand American society and culture in a way that is not possible if one has not stepped outside of it. As the saying goes if you want to know what water is like don’t ask the fish, and I think to truly understand any culture one must be able to see it from both an inside and outside perspective, something I think Trevin does in this work.

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.