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 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 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 Finding Forgiveness

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Finding Forgiveness by author Stanley Gale is a concise and helpful work on the issue of forgiveness. The topic of forgiveness is one of the most important themes in Scripture touching upon the promise of forgiveness in the gospel and extending to our responsibility to forgive others.

In five chapters the author is able to bring much needed clarity to important aspects of forgiveness. In the first chapter addresses the gospel and the joy found in knowing the forgiveness of sin made possible by Christ and his work. In the second chapter the importance of forgiveness in the Christian life is highlighted. Chapter three addresses the actual how of forgiveness addressing how forgiveness is to be practiced in relationships. Chapter four addresses the issue of what makes forgiveness real and genuine. The final chapter addresses the new concept of self-forgiveness.

This book stands out in how the author is able to draw out the principals of forgiveness clearly and concisely while also addressing important misconceptions that have crept into the church. This book would help anyone seeking to understand what biblical forgiveness is.

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: 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.

 

Review: Daily Readings From the Christian in Complete Armour

In Daily Readings from the Christian in Complete Armour James S Bell Jr. has edited William Gurnall’s massive work The Christian in Complete Armour into a more modestly sized daily devotional.

Gurnall’s original work unabridged comes in at 1240 pages in the single volume Banner of Truth addition. Utilizing the three volume revised and abridged edition, which itself is 1036 pages, Bell has drawn out devotional gems for the reader to feat upon daily. For those who don’t read older English works the updating of language will help the modern reader grasp what Gurnall is saying. I have compared this work with the full unabridged edition which I have, and the update is faithful to the original.

Why should you consider reading this devotional this year? In my opinion Gurnall’s work is one of the most important works on spiritual warfare out there. The Puritans had a view of God and commitment to Scripture that is lacking in many instances in contemporary evangelicalism. Others have commended Gurnall’s work better than I could. John Newton author of the hymn Amazing Grace said, ‘If I might read only one book beside the Bible, I would choose The Christian in Complete Armour.’ J.C. Ryle said, ‘You will often find in a line and a half some great truth, put so concisely, and yet so fully, that you really marvel how so much thought could be got into so few words.’ Gurnall’s concise way of stating  biblical principals is faithfully captured in this devotional.

If you haven’t found a devotional to use in this new year get this one. If you have already found one, get this one anyway. Simply put get this.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from Moody Press 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: Martin Luther – Christian Biographies for Young Readers

 

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Martin Luther – Christian Biographies for Young Readers by Simonetta Carr is a timely volume to add to that series. Simonetta Carr and illustrator Troy Howell have put together a book that will capture the attention and imaginations of children. When I got this book in the mail the first thing I did was read it to my two oldest boys ages 3 and 4. They have both been interested in Martin Luther since I read The Barber Who Wanted to Pray by R.C. Sproul. This biography of Luther provides the most important details in the life and ministry of Luther.

This book is historically accurate and engaging beginning with Luther’s  early life and ending with his death. The narrative moves from Luther as a reluctant Reformer to Luther a respected leader in the Reformation and family man. Carr draws out the humanity of Luther by pointing to his heart break over the loss of his daughter who died in his arms.

It should be noted that while accurate this biography for children isn’t exhaustive, nor should it have been. Some might wish Luther’s debate with Zwingli and the Marburg Colloquy or other such episodes were his explosive temperament showed itself were included. Thankfully parents who buy this won’t have to worry about explaining some of Luther’s vulgarities to their children, that will have to wait till they read Luther: Man Between God and the Devil by Heiko Oberman.

In short with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation quickly approaching there is no better book out there to introduce children to Martin Luther a crucial figure not just in the history of the church but in world history as well. Get this book for your children and grand children, they will enjoy it, I know my boys did.

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: The Other Side of Infamy

I’ve been saving this review for today. Today marks the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the attack the precipitated our entrance into World War II and that called for men like Jim Downing to make sacrifices that seem so distant from anything we know of today. The Other Side of Infamy is Jim Downing’s story of the path that led him to Pearl Harbor on that fateful day and the impact his life has had since.

The prologue begins with Downing on the day of the attack as committed follower of Christ preparing to defend himself and his country. In the following chapters Downing begins telling of his early life growing up in the midst of the first World War and then the Great Depression. He tells of his conversion that occurred after he joined the Navy. His time as a new Christian seems much like our own as he recounts in chapter 4, “At the same time I was committing myself to the tenets of the Christian faith, much of the rest of the world was steadily moving away from them. Nationalism, militarism, and expansion were increasingly the favored guiding principles for global leaders- particularly in Germany and Japan (p. 49).”  Downing records the impact Dawson Trotman had on his life, his role in mentoring him and ends this book recounting Trotman’s death and Downing’s decision to retire from the Navy and join the staff of the Navigators.

Downing’s life has truly been a remarkable although more so as he is still ministering and speaking in his 100s. If you’d like an insight into how faith can guide one through some of the most difficult experiences Downing’s story is one to pick up.

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: The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

In The Historical Reliability of the New Testament scholar and author Craig L. Blomberg has provided a resource that should be in every pastor’s library. Building on his earlier work in defending the historicity of the gospels in The Historical Reliability of the Gospels Blomberg explores the origins and the evidence for the historicity of the books of the New Testament.

Blomberg’s work begins with the Synoptic gospels addressing their formation. Blomberg makes a solid defense of the use of oral traditions by the gospel writers, demonstrating that in the Middle Eastern world in which the gospels were written oral transmission was a reliable way of passing on information. He moves from addressing the supposed contradictions in the gospels showing how they can easily be reconciled if understood properly to addressing the Acts and the ministry of Paul. Blomberg presents a strong defense in favor of Pauline authorship for all of his epistles. Blomberg also addresses the argument that would see a division between Pauline Christianity and the teaching of Jesus, demonstrating Paul’s dependence on the teaching Jesus showing clearly that Paul built on the foundation already laid by Christ himself and was not some religious innovator. I highly recommend the 13th chapter addressing the transmission of the New Testament. In this chapter Blomberg clearly addresses the challenges put forward by Bart Ehrman and shows how weak the claims of Bart Ehrman really are when they use textual variants as a reason to discount the reliability of the Bible.

This isn’t a book you’ll normally read cover to cover, maybe it should be though. Every Christmas and Easter people are inundated with documentaries claiming that the gospels and the New Testaments are suspect in their reliability. As a pastor I believe it is my responsibility to address challenges to the Bible and its truthfulness that might undermine the confidence my hearers have in the Bible. This book is a tool that every pastor should make use if in teaching in preaching. If I were to provide a complaint about this book it would be in regard to binding, I mean who thought it was a good idea to print a reference work of this size as a paperback, hopefully in future printings the publishers will print a version in hardcover.

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: After 50 Years of Ministry

After 50 Years of Ministry  by Bob Russell is helpful resource drawing from a wealth of pastoral experience. In a day when it seems so many pastors are stumbling and spotlight Bob Russell and the example of his ministry is a refreshing exception.

This book is born out of a reflection upon 50 years of pastoral ministry. Bob Russell in addressing the things he would do differently hits upon important challenges those in ministry face. I would highly commend his chapter on watching less TV to other pastors. It seems that many pastors in my generation want to argue for the liberty they have to watch programs like Game of Thrones, Bob Russell provides a compelling argument why we should not allow that and other content like it to fill our minds and homes. In  addressing the things he would do the same he draws out principals which demonstrate the roots of his pastoral longevity and effectiveness.

Nothing Bob Russell addresses in this book is unique to the reality of ministry in a megachurch. If you’re a pastor of a normative sized church, that is under 200, this book has pastoral wisdom for you. If you pastor a megachurch this is a book for you as well. While I have never sat under his preaching during my time in Louisville I could see the difference Southeast Christian and the ministry of Bob Russell made in the city. Our communities and churches would be blessed greatly by pastors who took seriously the things said in this book.

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.