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.

 

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Review of Martin Luther and the Enduring Word of God

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Noted Luther scholar Robert Kolb in this work helps remind readers that the Reformation sparked by Luther was itself a rediscovery of the Word. Kolb in this book traces that rediscovery and how it brought about the Scripture-centered church that rose out of the Reformation.

Kolb begins by addressing the place of Scripture in Luther’s childhood and youth highlighting that though the people were largely separated from the Scriptures there were aspects such as the reading of Gospel lessons which prevented the gospel from completely withering away under the papacy. Kolb proceeds to address Luther’s discovery of the Bible in the university as well as his overall understanding and interpretive framework. Kolb addresses the role the Scriptures placed in Luther’s work as professor, preacher, and translator. Kolb proceeds to address Luther’s shaping of his fellow colleagues.

One is reminded in this work the enduring power of God’s word. The Reformation and Luther’s life and legacy bear witness to the power of a church that finds its rhythm in the Biblical realities of repentance and forgiveness of sin, and that power holds promise for today as well.

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 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, James

 

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There are some devotionals that draw attention to themselves and then there are devotionals that draw attention to the Bible and 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, James by Timothy Keller and Sam Allberry is one of the latter type.

Each days devotion helps the reader work through a passage of Scripture providing questions that help with reflection on the meaning of the text. Some of the devotions also help the reader pray through the passage in question. Each devotion provides ample space to write out prayers and reflections on the days passage.

This is my first exposure to the Explore by the Book series but given the quality of this devotional it will be a series I explore further. If you’re looking for a devotional that will aid that will attract you to the word rather than distract you this should be at the top of your list.

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 Bible Studies on Mark

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Bible Studies on Mark by William Boekestein provides an engaging look at Mark’s gospel and draws out practical questions for greater understanding of the text and personal application. This book would best be categorized as a devotional commentary of the best kind.

In 21 lessons Bokenstein walks the reader through Mark’s gospel helping the reader to understand the doctrinal and practical implications of Mark’s gospel. Boekenstein has an eye toward pointing the reader to the continuity between the gospel story and the gospel promise found in the Old Testament.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is the fact that Boekenstein doesn’t get bogged down in interacting with too much secondary literature. Anyone who has consulted a more technical exegetical commentary will see that in modern commentaries there is more interaction and reflection on other commentaries than interaction with the text itself. While not a verse by verse commentary, this work is a commentary nonetheless and one that reflects serious interaction with the Gospel of Mark itself. Throughout this work Boeknestein focuses the readers gaze on the person of Christ and presses home the importance of believing in Christ. As Bokenstein notes in his introduction there is a great danger of taking our eyes off of Jesus and the Gospels are vital for keeping our eyes on Christ. So if you are looking for a book that fixes yours eyes upon the person and work of Christ this is one such book that should commend itself to you.

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 God the Son Incarnate

In my reviewing if I receive an egalley of a book that I find truly exceptional and valuable  I purchase a hard copy for my  personal library. Stephen J. Wellum’s latest work on Christology God the Son Incarnate is one such title. Wellum’s work ably traces the historical trends surrounding Christology and defends the biblical teaching concerning the person of Jesus Christ.

In four major sections Wellum addresses the epistemological basis for Christology, the biblical basis of Christology,  the historical developments of Christology in the church, and finally addresses some recent developments surrounding kenotic Christology and defending orthodox Christology.

While this book blends apologetics, biblical theology, historical theology, and systematic theology addressing the most important question of who Christ is. Wellum’ s interaction with contemporary trends in Christology is needed reading especially as Wellum addresses many of the false Christologies that are paraded in documentaries around Christmas and Easter. Wellum rightly puts the emphasis upon Scripture in coming to rightly know and understand who Jesus is, something that seems to be lacking among evangelical pastors. Wellum states, “Rightly identifying Jesus, then, requires doing Christology from “above,” starting with Scriptures as God’s own accurate authoritative word written in texts that interpret one another (p. 106).” In a day and age when many evangelical pastors seem to want to build a Christology “from bellow” Wellum’s emphasis is a needed one. Wellum makes clear we are wholly dependent upon the Scriptures as divine revelation to rightly know Jesus. This book is worth the time and effort to work through because of the value of its subject Jesus the incarnate Son of the Father.

Disclosure: I received an 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.

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.

Reflection on Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. It seems for all it’s faults, flaws, and many unbiblical aspects the Roman Catholic liturgical impulse has one advantage over the complete indifference to such matters of of liturgy in popular evangelicalism. The advantage is that while most professing believers can go through the year(with the exception of Christmas and Easter) without really pondering the life of Christ, without considering the obedience of Christ which now stands as our righteousness those who hold to a liturgy are confronted with those realities whether they accept them or not.

Today many will begin their Lenten season committing to fast from many different things, in order to remember Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. It seems on the surface of it an exercise in missing the point. The point of the New Testament writers in recording the temptation of Christ is not to call us to make vows or to call us fast (fasting is a good thing but it’s not the point of Christ’s temptation). The point is that Christ is the new Adam, that where our first father Adam was tempted and fell Christ was tempted and crushed the head of the serpent.

Christ was not without a special kind of food in the wilderness. In John 4:34, Christ states that his food is to to do the will who sent him. In his temptation Christ responded to the temptation to turn stones to bread by quoting Scripture, and saying “Man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Where Adam and Eve doubted and disobeyed the word of God, Christ treasured, obeyed, and feasted upon the word of God. What if rather then merely fasting from some aspect of life we in the midst of our temptations treasured, obeyed, and feasted on God’s word? That would indeed bring about true change.

That we need liturgical calendars to remind us of Christ’s life and work is saddening because this is the lifeblood the very impetus of the Christian life. If we only reflect upon these great truths once a season we rob ourselves of a chance to be encouraged and strengthened by the reminder of what Christ has done for us.