Graciousness: A Review

Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love Book Cover

Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love by John Crotts

This book addresses one of the most important characteristics in the life of the believer and the local church, graciousness. One doesn’t need to look far to see that there is a great imbalance among Christian in regards to grace and truth. This book helps demonstrate the great importance God places on graciousness and calls the reader cultivate that quality.

This book begins with addressing the importance of graciousness in that it is essential to being a loving person. The author the provides a practical understanding of graciousness and its value in the believers life. Following that Crotts points to the examples of graciousness found in Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul. In the fifth chapter we see the danger faced by ungracious churches as evidenced by the church in Ephesus and the warning given to it in Revelation. The final chapters of the book address provide practical ways of cultivating and practicing graciousness internally, individually, and corporately.

It’s my firm belief that the key cause of decline in local churches in America isn’t owing to the changes in our surrounding culture, it is owing to a loss of graciousness at both the level of the individual and the level of the local church. As Crotts points out the church in Ephesus was the supreme example of a church who was active and doctrinally correct but unloving. I heartily commend this book to all 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.

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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.

 

Theology, Church and Ministry: A Review

Theology, Church, and Ministry: A Handbook for Theological Education edited by David Dockery

In the past I have reviewed books directed at pointing pastors back to the importance of theology for pastoral ministry viewing the local church as primary sphere for theology. In this book edited by Dr. David Dockery the various contributors a resource that points to how theological education can be done in service to the church.

The first section of this book consisting of five chapters from five contributors provides an introduction to the basis and purpose of theological education in regards to preparation for ministry.  Michael Duduit’s chapter on theological education and ministry calling provides helpful insight into some recent trends in theological education as well as a reminder of the primacy of calling.

The second section addresses the content of theological education with chapters from experts in each area of theology. The authors of these chapters make clear there is no shortcut to theological education. I think the two most important chapters are on the two on biblical languages. Kenneth Matthews helps show the importance of the original languages of the Old Testament and the the value they have for ministry especially as pastors spiritual life is deepened in his reading the original Hebrew. Constantine Campbell’s chapter is equally helpful in regards to the importance and value of Greek.

The third and final section shows the importance of theological education for the ministry of the church from the work of the pastor to missions and its significance for the global church. Lawless’s chapter on theology, evangelism, and mission is significant for his attention to both the local church especially as in regards to preparing students to lead and equip congregations for evangelism in the future. I think the most important contribution in the whole volume is the chapter written by Dr. Daniel Akin, his axioms should in my opinion govern the actions and plans of all of our SBC seminaries.

We live in a time where two things have happened and continue to happen. One is the continuing lowering of commitment to theology among pastors, many pastors could care less about theology and this is wrong. The second is many in academia see theology as an engagement done for those in academia with no attention to the local church. This book is a helpful corrective in both areas. I hope that every faculty member of every SBC seminary gets this book and reads it. I would commend this book to those beginning their theological education as it will help show the value and importance of the task of theological preparation. Pastors who might have neglected their studies might be stirred from that neglect through this book.

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.

They Came for Freedom: A Review

They Came for Freedom by Jay Milbrandt

Much myth surrounds the Pilgrims and what led up to the first Thanksgiving. In his latest title Jay Milbrandt provides an engaging look at the Pilgrims and the events that surrounded them.  Well researched and well written this is history that makes that past come alive.

Throughout this book Milbrandt traces the journeys of both the Pilgrims and Squanto. Milbrandt faithfully records the pressures and persecutions that led the Pilgrims to leave England for Amsterdam and then from Amsterdam to America. One sees in the life of Squanto which in my opinion demonstrate  God’s providence. We often romanticize the Pilgrims but Milbrandt demonstrates the harsh realities they faced in the new world. In many ways I am convinced that it was the Pilgrims religious convictions that separated Plymouth colony from all the failed colonies that came before them.

This book is one I would recommend to anyone who wants to better understand the Pilgrims or earlier colonial America. While sometimes authors add more fiction that history or make history dull this is not the case with this book. There’s plenty of time to read it before Thanksgiving this year so make sure you add it to your reading list.

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.

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

CSB Spurgeon Study Bible: A Review

CSB Spurgeon Study Bible edited by Alistair Begg

This study Bible is one of many that have come out since the publication of the Christian Standard Bible which is the successor to the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Whether your looking to switch to the CSB or not this is a useful study Bible to have on hand.

Overall the CSB is a good translation that strives for fidelity and clarity. I would put it right alongside the ESV and the NASB. What sets this study Bible apart are two features. First the study notes are drawn from the preaching ministry of Spurgeon himself meaning the study notes are theologically rich and devotional in character. The second feature is that the book includes entire sermon outlines from the recently published first volume of The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon. 

If you have been encouraged by the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon this is definitely a study Bible to consider purchasing. It would also make a great Christmas present for any Spurgeon lover.

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.

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.

Preaching as Reminding: A Review

Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness by [Arthurs, Jeffrey D.]

Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness by Jeffrey D. Arthurs

While there are many good books written on the subject of preaching of them are rather unremarkable and fail to leave a lasting impression. Preaching as Reminding is both a good book and a remarkable one and I believe will leave a lasting impression on the preaching ministry of those who read it.

The basic premise of the book is that one of the primary roles of the preacher is that of remembrancer a title derived from Lancelot Andrewes sermon “Remember Lot’s wife.” As Arthurs notes in his introduction the role of stirring memory through preaching receives little attention although there many examples of that very role in Scripture. Arthurs states, “Ministers must serves as the Lord’s remembrancers because things learned can be buried, lost, amputated, or corrupted (p. 6).” In the first three chapters of the book Arthurs fleshes out a biblical theology of memory. In chapters one and two the importance and meaning of God remembering is developed. In the second our forgetfulness and the way to remember are addressed. In the third chapter Arthurs begins to address the role of preaching in stirring memory. Andrews makes the statement, “In a sense, all biblical preaching is in the context of a worship service is an act of reminding (pp. 48-49).” Andrews proceeds to argue the importance of memory in stirring the affection. In the closing chapters Arthurs draws out the implications of the importance of memory in the areas of style, the use of story, delivery, and ceremony and symbol in the context of preaching and worship.

I think Arthurs makes a sound case for the importance of stirring memory in the preaching of the word. His chapters on style on delivery have been truly helpful to me in thinking through and evaluating my preaching ministry. I would commend this book to all those called to be preachers called to be the Lord’s remembrancers.

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.