Review of The Unreformed Martin Luther

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The Unreformed Martin Luther by Andreas Malessa provides a look at Luther that helps separate the man from many of the myths that have come to surround him.

Andreas in this works addresses a wide range of things attributed to Luther, some of which even I was unfamiliar with. In twenty-five chapters this book helps readers gain a more historically accurate picture of Luther. It is easy to think of Luther as some fire-brand revolutionary but as seen in this book the actual story of Luther is different. Luther’s intention was to actually see reformation in the Catholic church.

I think works like this in church history are invaluable for modern-day readers. Many times we can make figures from the past into larger than life figures blurring the line between historical fact and fiction. Some of the myths that are addressed and dispelled such as the story of Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door might upset some readers, but in matters of history we must go where the evidence leads rather than holding to myths that cannot be substantiated.

In light of the coming celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation I would commend this book to anyone seeking to better understand the man who played such a pivotal role in the history of the Christian 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.

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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 Jefferson’s America

Jefferson’s America by Julie Fenster tells the story of a pivotal and defining period of American history. This book looks at the influence of explorers whose exploits set the course for America’s westward expansion following the Louisiana purchase.

While most are familiar with the expedition of Lewis and Clark Fenster helps readers become more familiar with other important explorers and heroes of early America who oftentimes do not receive the attention they are due.

This book sheds light on both the politics and the adventure during Jefferson’s time as president. It is an exciting, well written, and well researched work. I enjoyed reading it and know others will too.

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 Word Centered Church

Word Centered Church a revised edition of Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman demonstrates the vital role the Bible should and must have in the life a local church. Given the fact that by and large the Bible does not have a central place in the life of many local churches this is a timely book.

This book is composed of three main sections. The first section addresses the ways in which God’s word functions. The second section addresses the role of the sermon which is to come from the Word. The final section addresses the word’s place in the life of the local church. Churches are to sing the word, pray the word, disciple with the word, and spread the word through personal evangelism.

While many pastors I know might agree with the centrality of the word in preaching I think the attention that Leeman gives to singing and praying the word are helpful correctives given the current conditions in many churches. Many leaders in the church would be greatly helped if they considered the importance of affirming the word of God in what is sung by the congregation. Leeman also addresses a clear problem in the prayer life of local churches in how divorced it is from biblical example and precept. In many church prayer meetings one would be hard pressed to hear the reverberation of God’s word in the prayers made.

Whether pastor or layman this book will prove to be helpful in thinking through the central place the Bible should and must have in the local church if we are to be faithful to God.

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 Pray about Everything

Pray about Everything is a classic under a new title. This work was previously published by Day One under the title Teach them to Pray.  This is one of the best resources to guide pastors in placing an emphasis upon prayer in the life of the church.

Chapters one and two address the importance of constant regular prayer for regular everyday believers. Chapters 3 through 9 provide reflections on important passages involving prayer. The appendices which is worth the price of the book provide valuable resources to help pastors cultivate prayer in every aspect of the church’s life from the pulpit to small group gatherings.

I would recommend this book to every pastor I know. If we’re honest with ourselves one thing that most churches struggle with is placing a proper emphasis on prayer. As it is many churches have a prayer meeting where prayer, real prayer rarely happens. I firmly believe that the church will never rise above the prayer life of its members and if this is true it would explain much of the decline facing many churches as we seem to have lost focus on our dependence upon God. I hope that other pastors will read this book and be inspired to place a renewed emphasis on prayer in their churches.

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

Lloyd-Jones and Pastoring Through Preaching

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones points to the example of peaching in dealing with the personal problems church members face. In pointing to the Puritans as an example of this the Doctor says:

The Puritans are justly famous for their pastoral preaching. They would take up what they called ‘cases of conscience’ and deal with them in their sermons; and as they dealt with the problems they were solving the personal problems of those who were listening to them. That has constantly been my experience. The preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit, applied by the Holy Spirit to the individuals who are listening, has been the means of dealing with personal problems of which I as the preacher knew nothing…1

The Doctor shows us that in this way member care is being done. That the Holy Spirit can and does apply the truth in general to the particular individual through preaching. It is through expositional preaching of the word of God that the church is faithful to the Great Commission command to teach disciples to obey all that Christ has commanded. For all of the commands of Christ are to be found in Scripture.

1Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 37.

Lloyd-Jones and the Primary Purpose of Preaching

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Lloyd-Jones in Preaching and Preachers provides a good view of the primary task of preaching in the following:

What is the chief end of preaching? . . . To give men and women a sense of God and His presence. . . . I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him. Preaching is the most amazing, and the most thrilling activity that one can ever be engaged in, because of all that it holds out for all of us in the present, and because of the glorious endless possibilities in an eternal future.1

This experience of God which comes through preaching comes through the exultation and exposition of the word of God. As opposed to a lecture or a running commentary, true preaching seeks to engage the hearts of the audience with the inspired word of God. The question that must be asked is why preaching must be expositional? The answer to this question lies in the authority of the Word of God as the self revelation of God. Lloyd-Jones in addressing how to form a sermon stated:“So you must be expository; and in any case my whole argument is that it should be clear to people that what we are saying is something that comes out of the Bible. We are presenting the Bible and its message.”2 It was this complete commitment to the centrality of the Bible that was the foundation of his ministry as seen earlier. For Lloyd-Jones every action and word was to point to the importance of the Bible as God’s revelation.

1D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching & Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1971), 97-98.

2Ibid., 75.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the Priority of Prayer in Preaching

 

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In Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s thought and practice there was no more important part of preaching and preparation then that of prayer. In addressing the students at Westminster seminary he pointed out the vitality of prayer to the work of the preacher. He says the following regarding the importance of prayer, “From every standpoint the minister, the preacher, must be a man of prayer. This is constantly emphasized in the Pastoral Epistles and elsewhere, and , as I say, it is confirmed abundantly in the long history of the Church, and especially in the lives of the outstanding preachers.”1 Prayer in the thought of Lloyd-Jones was so important because of its connection to the unction given by the Holy Spirit in preaching. It is this knowledge and dependence upon the unction and power of the Holy Spirit that comes in preaching through prayer which shaped his preaching.

1D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching & Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1971),171.