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.

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Review of Reformation Women

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Reformation Women by Rebecca VanDoodewaard makes accessible many biographical sketches of Reformation women who have not received a great deal of attention in Reformation studies.

This book provides insight into the life and impact of twelve women who greatly shaped the progress of the Protestant Reformation. The women come from a wide range of backgrounds but have one thing in common their commitment to seeing God glorified in their lives. One of the most remarkable women encountered in this work is Katharina Schutz whose involvement and interaction with the leading Protestant Reformers of her day is truly amazing.

While there are many books being published on the Protestant Reformation this one stands out in bringing to attention women whose accomplishments and service though great are largely forgotten in church history. If you’re looking to get a better understanding of the contribution women made to the Protestant Reformation this should be one of the first books you pick up.

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 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 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 Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation

Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation is a helpful resource that guides readers into allowing the word of God to have its proper place in our lives. Morgan helpfully provides readers a biblical understanding of meditation which is in stark contrast to eastern and  New Age meditation practices that focus on emptying one’s mind. Rather than having an empty head we are to have a head that stores up God’s word to think it through and apply it to our life.

In nine chapters Morgan addresses the importance of biblical meditation and provides practical steps to put this spiritual discipline into practice.  Throughout the book there are quick tips which provide simple ideas that help make biblical meditation something that any reader can easily implement in their day-to-day life. In chapters 2 through 8 Morgan helps readers understand how to think about Scripture as they meditate on it as well as providing techniques that can be used. The final chapter addresses Bible memorization which is really foundational to meditation as one cannot meditate on Scripture that has not be stored in memory.

Given the lack of priority professing Christians place on the Bible Morgan’s book is both timely and valuable. It’s written at a level where most readers will find it accessible and understandable.

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 Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching

In Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching the various contributors have provided an important resource for pastors. Many pastors avoid preaching the Old Testament for the simple fact they don’t know how to preach it.

A large chunk of the Old Testament is narrative, and often when it is preached it is mishandled. Lawrence Turner helps pastors understand the importance of plot in preaching the narrative passages. Paul Kissling likewise focuses in on narrative but with an eye toward preaching on characters. Christopher Wright’s work on preaching the law is particularly helpful in understanding the principles which apply to today. Through each chapter of the book every major genre and the major sections of the Old Testament are addressed with the closing chapters providing guidance in how to deal with difficult texts and how to preach Christ from the Old Testament in such a way that one does not butcher the text.

As a preacher I have to be honest that until I read this book I had not given the Old Testament the attention it deserves in my preaching ministry and had thus robbed my hearers of a balanced diet so to speak. This resource has reminded me of the importance of preaching the Old Testament and has helped me to think through how to actually preach the Old Testament in such a way that is faithful to the text and beneficial to the hearers.

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 The Heart of the Church

The Heart of the Gospel, part of Joe Thorn’s three part series on the church, focuses in on  the most important aspect of the church the gospel. Thorn in his introduction demonstrates the fact that one of the primary problems the church has is the fact that it is not driven by the gospel which should be the central driving force of the church.

This book is comprised of three parts divided into twelve short and easy to read chapters. In the first section of this book Thorn addresses the gospel as the central theme running from Old to New Testament. In the closing two chapters of the first part the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are addressed. The third part of this book addresses the doctrinal truths of the gospel beginning with justification and its consequences and ending with sanctification and good works. The final section addresses the character and nature of God as revealed in the gospel.

Of the books in this series I think this one stands as the most important as it reminds pastors and church leaders of the central place the gospel is to have in the church, a place that it does not have in many churches. Without the gospel being central the aspects of character and life will never be what they need to be. In a day where there is increasing abandonment of the biblical gospel Thorn has given the church a wake up call to the supreme importance of the gospel, the whole gospel, for the very existence of the 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.

Review of The Character of the Church

 

The Character of the Church by Joe Thorn is great introduction to the marks of a health biblical local church.

The concept of the the marks of a church goes back to the time of the Reformation and standing firmly in that tradition Joe Thorn provide five marks that are essential to the health and existence of a local church. The five marks put forward in this book are right preaching of the Word, right observance of the ordinances, biblical leadership, church discipline, and the Great Commission.

Thorn shows the importance of each mark for the life of the church from the Bible itself. He at times addresses how some of the marks have been ignored or confused in contemporary evangelicalism to the detriment of local churches everywhere.

This has been the second book I have read in this series and must say I am impressed at the quality of each book so far. As a local church pastor I have been keenly aware that up until recently there have not been a great number of resources that one would recommend to the the average church member to better understand the local church. I think Thorn’s three part series is a much needed resource that would lend itself to many uses within the local church by pastors and church leaders.

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 Dawn of Christianity

Author Robert Hutchinson most recent title  The Dawn of Christianity provides a narrative account of the origin of Christianity beginning with the start of Jesus’s ministry and concluding with the Jerusalem Counsel which is recounted in the Acts of the Apostles. In this work Hutchinson draws heavily on the Scriptures and uses some secondary material to to shed light on the historical background of Jesus and the early church.

One of the greatest faults in this work in is Hutchinson’s willingness to discount the clear testimony of the gospel writers as occurs in the third chapter in which he casts some doubt as to whether those Jesus brought back to life were actually dead as is recorded in the gospel accounts. There isn’t much you’ll learn from this that couldn’t be learned through studying Luke and Acts, and in fact Luke in his accounts in Acts narrates more of the early church’s history concluding with Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. While well written there isn’t much to commend this book as ground breaking.

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 Practicing the Power

Practicing the Power by Sam Storms has been an eye opening read for myself. Being from a cessationist background myself my only encounters with charismatic worship and use of the gifts have been seeing the types of uses Sam Storms would be critical of as well. One example comes to mind, for my world religions class in college we had to attend a worship service at a place of worship different from our faith background and I chose to attend a nondenominational charismatic church. That day they had a guest speaker who commanded everyone to speak at tongues at the same time, no order no interpretation just unintelligible noise. This book has helped me see that not all those who believe in the ongoing use of the sign gifts are like that or like the televangelist fakes found on TV.

I think the first four chapters of this book are probably the most useful as there are many points of application that would prove valid and useful for those in the cessationist camp. In those chapters he focuses on the importance of the Spirit’s presence in the believers life, the need to have an earnest desire for the work of the Spirit, and the importance of prayer and fasting in regards to the spiritual gifts. In those chapters he shows reflects in his writing the biblical balance between appropriate use of means and an understanding of God’s sovereignty. I did find his chapter on deliverance a help review of an area that seems to be largely neglected in Baptist circles.

The greatest issue I have with this book is the fact that Sam Storms seeks to differentiate between prophecy in the Old and New Testament, having one serve as authoritative while the other it seems to be is more subjective. I do not see anywhere in the New Testament where this distinction is made or where it is so subjective.

The most important thing this book has one for me is to help me understand those coming from a charismatic background better.

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.