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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Building the Body: A Review

Building the Body by Gary McIntosh and Phil Stevenson

This book had  a lot of potential but falls short because of wrong prioritization in the church. The authors intended goal is to guide churches to greater levels of fitness as a church body.

The first section addresses the evangelistic fitness of the church. The second, member engagement  in the ministry of the church. The third, the worship and leadership of the church. The fourth section focuses on love, church systems, and prayer. With the final section giving practical ways to measure progress in the different areas addressed.

I would argue that chapters 10 and 12 should have been placed up front and that they should have been prioritized as a greater marker of the fitness of a church than flexibility.  In fact these two loving community are not just markers of fitness but they are markers of whether a church is indeed a biblical church. If a church is not a loving community it is not in any sense healthy or a biblical church. If a church lacks divine empowerment it may be many things but it is not a healthy church, if it is a church at all. This book would have been much better if it had not placed numbers as the greatest metric of a church’s fitness level.

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.

 

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.

8 Hours or Less: A Review

8 Hours or Less: Writing faithful sermons faster by [Huguley, Ryan]

8 Hours or Less: Writing Faithful Sermons Faster by Ryan Huguley

In this book Ryan Huguley puts forward steps he thinks will cut down time studying and preparing for sermons. In his introduction he draws from his experience of being one who loved preaching but hated preparation, something that I cannot in any way relate to. I enjoy sermon preparation I agree with many who say there is both an art and science to preaching. That being said I don’t think the problem most pastors face is that they are spending too much time in the study, given the weak and anemic condition of the pulpit in America it seems pastors are not spending enough time wrestling with the text and in prayer.

Hugley’s steps are based on his idea of five days of preparation and the preaching of the sermon itself. Day one is developing the outline, day two finalizing the outline with the help of a group,  day three write the introduction, day four write the conclusion, an day five complete the preaching notes. With the sermon preached on Sunday. While I appreciate his logical order of sermon preparation, I do take issue with the idea of faster being better. John Macarthur has said many times deep is better than shallow and slow is better than fast, and I believe that to be true for pastors in the and out of the pulpit.

This book and its advice might work for some pastors. But in preaching and preparation there can be no hard and fast rules for how long a pastor should prepare as each pastor is different in how they prepare and process the content of their sermon. I think many pastors, if they follow this book strictly, will go a great disservice to their preaching ministry. There are some good aspects to the  book, but overall I think there is a lack of balance in the emphasis on speed.

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.

How Does Sanctification Work?: A Review

How does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison

In this latest title from David Powlison he  addresses one area of the Christian life that is often deeply misunderstood with the clarity and biblical insight that mark his previous books.

Powlison in the early portions of the book ably addresses the careful balance between the biblical promise of sanctification and the biblical commands concerning our pursuit of sanctification. As Powlsion notes often we can become unbalanced in our view of sanctification and must seek to re-balance it in light of Scripture. Powlison helpfully reminds readers that there are multiples avenues by which God brings about sanctification in our lives. Powlison provides multiples case studies including his own personal experience demonstrating how sanctification practically works in the life of a believer.

I do think in addressing the subject of sanctification attention to distorted views such as Keswick theology and Christian Perfectionism would have greatly contributed to the value of the book. Those understandings of sanctification are still prevalent in evangelicalism and have demonstrably caused great harm driving believers to dispair rather than a hopeful pursuit of conformity to Christ. With that aside I do think this is one of the most helpful resources on sanctification I have come across. This book is greatly helped by the fact that Powlison provides personal examples to help readers better see and understanding the process of sanctification.

Disclosure: I received a review 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.

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.

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.

Portraits of a Pastor -A Review

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Portraits of A Pastor: The 9 Essential Roles of a Church Leader

While there are many books on pastoral ministry most focus in on one aspect or roll of the pastor. Jason Allen has brought together a group of contributors to to give a well rounded understanding of pastoral ministry.

This book addresses the pastor in his role as shepherd, husband & father, preacher, theologian, church historian,  evangelist, missionary, leader, and man of God. The contributors all derive their understanding of the roles of the pastor from the instruction and examples found throughout the pages of Scripture.

In my opinion the three most significant chapters in this book are Strachan’s chapter on the pastor as a theologian, George’s on the pastor as a church historian, and Whitney’s on the pastor as man of God. These chapters help address and correct current problems in the understanding of the role of the pastor. Many pastors are theologically anemic an suffer from ecclesial amnesia, they have neglected life giving sound doctrine and are ignorant of the great cloud of witnesses that have come before. Whitney’s chapter is the most important because if a pastor takes to heart what it means to be a man of God  all the other roles found in this book will most likely come into practice in the pastor’s ministry.

I would recommend this book to any pastor I know and would encourage church members to get this book for their pastor.

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.