Review of The Treasure Principle

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Few authors have written as clearly and insightfuly on the issue of money and possessions as Randy Alcorn. In this revised and updated of The Treasure Principle Randy Alcorn provides a look at the heart of biblical generosity.

In seven short chapters Randy Alcorn cuts through so much of the cultural clutter that has clouded the church’s understanding in regards to issues of money. In this book Alcorn makes clear that rather than money being something we accumulate and use for our own personal pleasure we are to leverage our financial resources for eternity.

This book is a classic that should be picked up and read.

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 Progress in the Pulpit

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Progress in the Pulpit by Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix have written a resources that belongs on every preacher’s reading list. As one who benefited from their previous work Power in the Pulpit during my college years I was excited to see this work come to print.

This book is comprised of four main sections. The first section defines the task of preaching and the factors that shape it in and out of the pulpit with attention given to the cultivation of godliness, developing a preaching plan, and discipleship in and out of the pulpit. The second section addresses development of the sermon covering issues such as Bible translation, sermon points, word studies, and most importantly how to preach Christ-centered sermons. The third and final section addresses issues regarding delivery such as clarity of communication, giving an invitation, evaluating preaching, and teaching about preaching.

One of the most important chapters in this book is chapter 4 in which Jim Shaddix addresses the relationship between personal discipleship and pulpit discipleship. As Shaddix notes in his introduction to the chapter there is an assumed division between the pulpit and discipleship which in my opinion has probably contributed greatly to unhealthy churches. The last chapter was also particularly helpful in explaining the importance of teaching people the importance of preaching and how preaching is itself and act of worship.

Whether you’ve been in the pulpit for weeks or for years there is something in this book that will help you make progress in the pulpit.

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 Pastoral Theology

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Pastoral Theology by Daniel Akin and R. Scott Pace is a book that stands apart from other books on the issue of pastoral ministry. Whereas many books on ministry focus more on the how-to of ministry the authors of this book provide a biblical theology of pastoral ministry.

This book is divided into three main sections. In the first section the authors provide a look at the trinitarian foundation of pastoral ministry. In a day where pragmatism is so emphasized it is refreshing to read a book that emphasizes the character of God and the importance of having one’s identity centered in Christ. The second section provides a look at the issues of anthropology, ecclesiology, and missiology. The authors rightly point the leaders to the relationship of God’s grace and compassion in the ministry. The last section addresses the practical God commanded tasks that underscore the work of pastoral ministry. The authors address the pastor’s role as under-shepherd of God’s flock, the role of preaching,  and the priority of family in pastoral ministry.

I believe that this is one of the most important books on pastoral ministry that has been written in recent years. I would commend every pastor to buy this book and read it as what is lacking in much of evangelicalism today is a biblical understanding of pastoral ministry and this book is a helpful corrective to that.

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 Revitalize

My first awareness of Andrew Davis’s ministry came through a pamphlet I received in seminary entitled “An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture.”  In Revitalize his commitment to Scripture and love for the local church are clearly evident. In this work Davis provides biblical principals required for church revitalization. He doesn’t seek to provide some one size fits all program, he describes the biblical character and understanding that must exist in the heart and mind of the pastor for revitalization to occur.

I greatly appreciate the transparency seen throughout this book. Davis throughout the book illustrates the points he make either through his personal experience or through the history of the church. His emphasis on personal holiness and dependence on God to do a work only He can do are refreshing to read in a book of this sort. Too often it seems ministry leaders put forward programs as infallible tools to bring about revitalization in the local church, an error that Davis avoids in this book.

I think this book should be on every pastor’s book shelf. Some might hear about this book and think they have know need of a book like this and they would be greatly mistaken. First the vast majority of churches in North America or plateaued or declining and in need of  revitalization. Second even if one found themselves in one of the very few churches doing well the principals puts forward by Davis in this book are applicable to any pastor in any church context. It would be plain stupidity not to get this book and learn from one who has plodded through the difficult and dangerous journey of church revitalization.

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 As Kingfishers Catch Fire

Readers who have befitted from Eugene Peterson’s prolific writing ministry will want to read his latest book As Kingfishers Catch Fire, a collection of his sermons.

This book is divided into seven sections with each section containing sermons based on the books of seven different biblical authors. The first part of the book contains sermons from Genesis through Deuteronomy. The second contains sermons based on various Psalms by David. The third comes from sermons on Isaiah. The fourth draws on Solomon with an emphasis on wisdom literature including Job. The fifth contains sermons drawing on Peter as recounted in the gospels. The sixth contains sermons from Paul’s epistles. The seventh and final section draws on sermons based on John, 1 John, and Revelation.

Eugene Peterson’s pastoral heart and his skill as a pastor-poet are on full display in the sermons contained in this volume. The context that is given for the sermons helps shed light onto the work and challenges involved in preaching God’s word. I don’t think there isn’t a pastor out there who won’t gain some benefit from this latest work.

Disclosure: I received an advanced 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 Biblical Doctrine

This book belongs on the shelf or ereader of anyone who has benefited from the preaching and writing ministry of John MacArthur. Biblical Doctrine is a book that truly lives up to its name.

This systematic theology covers all the major categories that would be expected. In every doctrine that is explored and expounded one sees MacArthur’s pastoral heart and eye for application. From the very beginning of this work the importance of doctrine for spiritual growth is emphasized as it says , “Spirituality involves God’s Spirit taking God’s Word and maturing God’s people through the ministry of God’s servant for the spiritual growth of individual believers, which results in the growth of Christ’s body.” The second chapter of the book is in my opinion of the greatest in this work. In this chapter on sees the high view of Scripture that has been the bedrock of MacArthur’s ministry explored and defended.

Whether you agree with MacArthur on every point of doctrine or not you will find this a valuable resource. Each chapter begins with a hymn related to the doctrine addressed and closes with a prayer and recommended resources. The charts found throughout the chapters also add to the usefulness of this work.  I would say if you’re a pastor or student of the Word you can’t go wrong in adding Biblical Doctrine to your library.

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 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.

Review of This Is Our Time

 

In This Is Our Time author Trevin Wax identifies and explores some of the pervasive false beliefs shaping our culture, and in many ways shaping evangelicals. Wax in this work displays an adeptness for understanding the pervading views and values of our culture.

As Trevin Wax notes in his introduction this book is really divided into two main sections. In the first half of the book he examines the habits that shape our life, and in doing so really explores where and how the false beliefs of our culture are so easily transmitted. In the first chapter he addresses the habits surrounding our usage of smart phones and social media. Chapter two addresses the influence that Hollywood and popular entertainment have and how one can see either a reflection of what society is in entertainment or the vision the maker has for society’s future. The third chapter addresses the idea that happiness has become the ultimate good for many in society. The fourth chapter addresses society’s attempt to find happiness through materialism.

In the section in which the focus shifts to the larger myths of society the problem of feeling to at home in society. Trevin helpfully points to the importance of the needed tension of being in but not of. The next two areas of focus are marriage and sexuality. The final chapter addresses the false beliefs surrounding progress and the equally problematic view that the former times were better.

If you’re looking for book to aid you in exegeting culture than I would recommend this book for you. I do believe that Trevin Wax’s time in Romania has helped him understand American society and culture in a way that is not possible if one has not stepped outside of it. As the saying goes if you want to know what water is like don’t ask the fish, and I think to truly understand any culture one must be able to see it from both an inside and outside perspective, something I think Trevin does in this work.

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.