Faith Among the Faithless: A Review

Faith Among the Faithless by Mike Cosper

What can Christian’s today learn from a Jewish girl who became a queen thousands of years ago? A lot actually as Cosper reveals in this book that follows the life of Esther drawing and fleshing out the implications her life has for believers in a world that isn’t that different from the world she lived in.

In nine chapters Cosper explores the impact that Esther had in the world she lived in while showing how believers can have an impact on the world we live in today. In the  first chapter Cosper helpfully points out that despite our initial thoughts the world of Esther was in a lot of ways like the world we live in today. The reason being while technology has changed the human heart has not and neither has God. Just as God raised Esther to be a faithful witness in her day, bringing deliverance for her people, God raises up believers today to be a faithful witness. Throughout this book Cosper avoids whitewashing the events that occurred in Esther’s life while also showing even though God seems to be hidden in the book of Esther He was always working even in the messiest of situations.

We live in a messy world today a world of pluralism that desperately needs faithful witnesses to Christ. Christians need to be reminded that while the earth seems to be so chaotic, God is still at work in the world. This book calls Christians to faithfulness and reminds them of the God who is always there.

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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How The Nations Rage: A Review

How the Nations Rage by Jonathan Leeman

Recent years have demonstrated that there is much confusion and division within the county in general and among evangelicals in particular in regards to how faith and politics interact. In this book Jonathan Leeman, a noted political theologian, provides biblical clarity to the issues at hand.

Leeman in the eight chapters explores both the division that currently exists in the political sphere and how Christians should live in light of biblical mandates. In the first chapter addresses the current chaos of the political spheres and provides goal for Christian interaction. Chapter two is especially helpful as Leeman dispels the myth that the public square is some neutral zone that faith values are not supposed to be kept separate from. The third chapter explores the impact of the Fall on the political sphere. Chapter four addresses the role of Scripture  and how to apply it to politics. Chapter five addresses the biblical role of government. The sixth and seventh chapter addresses the role of the church and believers as ambassadors for Christ.  The final chapter explores the theme and importance of justice.

Anyone who has paid any attention to how the Church and Christians have interacted with the political processes will see that this is indeed a timely book. Rather than taking our cues from the changing agendas of parties we are to draw our understanding of how we interact with the political realm in light of Scripture. This book points believers to a better way of interacting with politics in light of their faith.

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.

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.

The Law, Christmas, and Culture

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One text often comes to my mind during the Christmas season and that is Galatians 4, particularly verse 3-7:

 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:3–7 ESV)

The coming of Christ is the answer to our greatest need freedom from sin and redemption from the curse of the law. He redeems those under the law not by negating the law. As Christ says in Matthew 5,  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17–18 ESV).” We are redeemed through the law’s fulfillment.

In our day the redemption of Christ is greatly diminished in the eyes of some because they have a diminished understanding of the law of God. In the Old Testament there were three types of laws given. Those types were the ceremonial, civil, and moral. Christ in his death on the cross fulfilled the ceremonial through his sacrificial death. The civil law was contextual to the civil government of Israel. We are left with the aspect of the law most often ignored by our relativistic culture. One particular aspect of this is the sexual chaos of our society evidenced in the promotion of homosexuality and the transgender movement.

Ignoring and disregarding the moral law of God are not legitimate courses for Christians in this or any society.  Then what must we do? Nancy Pearcey, in her forthcoming book Love Thy Bodypoints to a way forward in pointing our culture to the redemption in Christ. Pearcey says:

To make Christianity credible, we must create homes that reach out to those who do not have homes or families of their own— including those with sexual issues. Christians have often operated by a double standard, treating same-sex sin as though it were more sinful than other transgressions…Christians must repent of their unbiblical attitudes and find ways to communicate to those who struggle with sin of any kind that they will find a refuge in the church. Jesus said, “a bruised reed he will not break” (Matt. 12:20). People must be able to trust that churches will protect and nurture the bruised and broken parts of their lives.

As Christ’s body, the Christ who was born of a woman to bring redemption, we must be redemptive in our relationships with all sinners, knowing they need what we need the redemption that Christ has accomplished.

Review of Real Love in an Angry World

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In Real Love in an Angry World Rick Bezet addresses the tension of holding on to truth and being graceful at the same time.

This book in nine chapters helps readers see how to handle disagreement without resorting to a scorched earth policy which seems to be the practice of many in our day. There are too ditches that the author shows that many fall into, maintaining truth without grace or abandoning truth. Both ways end up in a ditch, the only path forward for believers as the author points out is grace and truth, truth and love.

Given how fractured our society is this book is a helpful correction to much of the divisiveness found inside the church. A look at the comments section on any website, Facebook, or Twitter would clearly demonstrate how greatly needed books like this are. If your struggle with how to hold on to your convictions while maintaining a tactful and gracious Christian witneess this book will show how to deal with those who disagree inside and outside 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 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.

 

 

Review of Dream With Me

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In a  day and age where racial division seems to be increasing we could all benefit from the wisdom and insight John Perkins provides in Dream With Me.

In this work John Perkins tells the story of his life and work in racial reconciliation. Perkins faithfully paints a picture of where things were in regards to racial relationships. Perkins life was one of seeking reconciliation across race boundaries. Reading Perkins recollections brings one truth to light, the good old days never were. What one sees in Perkins life is the impact that Christ can have in working through a life surrendered to His love.

We are country that is fractured along racial and socioeconomic lines and in this work Perkins shares his hope and dream that the church would be true to what it is called to be a people of love and reconciliation in a divided world. This is a book that will challenge any reader as it should. If your heart is burdened to see reconciliation happen in churches and communities read this book. If you aren’t burdened to see that happen repent and read this book.

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:First Freedom: The Beginning and End of Religious Liberty

In First Freedom: The Beginning and End of Religious Liberty editors Jason G. Duesing , Thomas White, and Malcom Yarnell have compiled a resource on religious liberty that should be in every Christian leader’s hands. While many are breathing a sigh of relief over the result of the elections, the truth of the matter is that religious liberty in America is ill-understood in the church and stands on precarious ground in our current cultural milieu.

The first section of this book addresses the historical background of religious liberty. Dr. Patterson demonstrates how religious liberty is entirely consistent with the New Testament doctrine of the exclusivity of Christ. In the historical context given it is readily evident that the rejection of religious liberty was one of the greatest shortcomings of the magisterial Reformers. What is made clear by White and Yarnell in their chapters is that religious liberty is a tenant inherent to the Baptist identity, and our republic has the influence of early Baptists largely to thank for the inclusion of this principal in our founding documents. The third section is particularly important in how thoroughly the contributors explain the meaning of religious liberty, which is particularly important as many are seeking to encroach upon individuals right to free expression of their religious beliefs, which is especially seen in the opposition encountered by those who are opposed to same-sex marriage. The third and final chapter addresses the looming challenges to religious liberty in contemporary America. The contributors address the dangers posed to religious liberty by the continuing encroachment of the progressive movement in regards to human sexuality, as well as implications to Christian schools,, and the bearing of international law on religious liberty.

What is the purpose of the religious liberty we strive to protect in America? Is it our own personal comfort and protection? Ultimately the purpose of our religious liberty is as Duesing says in his closing chapter, “the glory of God in salvation through judgment(256).” Our faith is a a faith that incorporates all of our life and currently we have been given great freedom to share the good new of the gospel with a lost and dying world to an extent that is truly unprecedented in human history. Read this book and let it remind you of the value and true purpose of religious liberty in bringing the gospel to those who need to hear it.

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.

3 Thoughts for Thursday

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This morning as I  saw some of the feedback concerning the debate and the election. Three thoughts occurred to me in regards to evangelical fears/concerns in regards to this election. Here they are:

1) What if we lose our religious liberty?

There is a great amount of fear among evangelicals regarding the issue of religious liberty in light of the presidential candidates. I think those most afraid are probably those least aware of the origins of Christianity. Just for reminder being a Christian means you claim to be a follower of the crucified Christ. We follow the Jesus who said this, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours(John 15:20).” The Christian religion is the only one that is practiced best in situations of persecution. If religious protections are removed we just might get to see in America what authentic New Testament Christianity looks like. A simple survey of the Bible would demonstrate the only way to avoid persecution in this age is to compromise our faith, as Paul says “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Ti 3:12–13).” If we have Jesus we stand to lose nothing, no prison, no fine, no death sentence can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Fear not we have a God whose strength is made perfect in our weakness and religion the beauty of which is not clouded by persecution.

2) What about abortion?

The first Christians lived in a culture where the prevailing pagan mindset believed it was entirely acceptable to leave unwanted infants to die of exposure. They did not just complain of the evil and compromise of the world, they did something. Many of the early Christian apologists pointed to how Christians rescued those left to die of exposure as a proof of the genuineness of their faith. If all we do is talk about abortion and vote for candidates that profess to be pro-life we aren’t doing anything. Abortion was widespread even when illegal. We need to follow the example of the church and do something in addition to voting. We need to support our local crisis pregnancy, not just verbally but with our time and resources. We need to do everything we can to support those who seek to adopt babies that would be aborted. Talk is cheap. Let us love the unborn not in word alone but in deed and in truth.

3)You say you want a revolution…

It seems like a lot of people feel if ______ wins we should revolt. That’s not a Christian response. The only commands I see written in the context of corrupt tyrants is that the people of God are to pray for them and be subject to them. You want a revolution? Share the gospel, it will turn the world upside down. Be different, be holy, don’t be angry, don’t afraid. I close with Peter’s admonition to a church about to enter a fiery trial:

 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?  But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,  but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,  having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil(1 Pe 3:13–17).”