Deuteronomy: Loving Obedience to a Loving God

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in Book Reviews, Featured, Theology

Deuteronomy: Loving Obedience to a Loving God

Deuteronomy is one of those books that many find themselves bogged down in as they work their way through their yearly Bible reading plan. All of the laws, regulations, and endless chapters of do’s and don’ts seem very far removed from 21st century Christianity. Furthermore, finding a commentary that you can connect to and for that matter, one that demonstrates with great clarity the underlying message of the book of Deuteronomy is itself a challenge. Ajith Fernando’s effort on Deuteronomy aptly subtitled Loving Obedience to a Loving God which is part of the excellent Preaching the Word commentary series, is theologically deep while at the same time providing the reader with the necessary connections to the fundamental message God is declaring in Deuteronomy to believers throughout history.

A book of the Bible such as Deuteronomy can be confusing and admittedly boring to read unless one grasps what God is saying. Ajith Fernando rightly notes at the outset of this commentary that Deuteronomy emphasizes “The importance of constantly being aware of the holiness of God and how it influences a faithful life. In fact, in the Old Testament the life of faith is often described as walking in the fear of the Lord, an emphasis that may be needed today when people tend to be careless about sticking to Christian principles in every sphere of life.” Such a statement helps the reader better understand that Deuteronomy is far more than a collection of antiquated rules. It is a book about what obedience and holiness looks like and how we are to respond to God’s grace extended towards us.

Fernando first establishes some needed background information on Deuteronomy, noting matters of authorship, historical, and geographical importance noting the reality that “The fact that Deuteronomy was written to a specific context adds a freshness and relevance to it.” I appreciated the focus Fernando gave to helping preachers, who are after all the target audience for this commentary, understand and relate to the manner by which Moses shared God’s commands and word with the people of Israel. It is important to realize Moses understood the need to “give the people the word of God that will mediate to the people the health and stability they need in order to face their challenges successfully.” After establishing these vital foundational matters for engaging Deuteronomy, Fernando then begins his exegesis of the text. Since this is a rather lengthy commentary that is replete with salient insight, I will focus the remainder of this review on a couple of notable highlights.

In his analysis of Deuteronomy 1:19-33, Fernando aptly discusses the issue of fear versus faith. The people of Israel are camped at Horeb and have been given the command by God to depart in order to finally enter the Promised Land. One can only imagine the tense feelings that permeated the hearts and minds of the people during this time of uncertainty. Recognizing that element of fear, Moses reminded the people the Promised Land is the place “which the Lord our God is giving us”, demonstrating in that statement the certainty of the outcome. The first step towards entering the land of promise was faith in God and His promises. Fernando rightly notes “This passage shows us that fear is a reality that we should combat with our belief in the sovereignty of God. And to encourage us to believe, we have a whole history of God’s glorious dealings with his people. Fear is a reality, but it does not need to overcome us and lead to defeat. We can overcome it with our faith in God’s sovereignty.” Such a concept is something pastors can and should include in their sermons and Fernando does an excellent job of relating how the situation facing the people of Israel and their penchant for fear is nothing new. Such fear can only be defeated by faith in our sovereign God.

Another excellent portion of this commentary is Fernando’s discussion of Deuteronomy 5:18, namely the command “And you shall not commit adultery.” In an age where sexual promiscuity truly permeates all of secular society and unfortunately even within the church, it is as important as ever to declare from the pulpit God’s commands for righteousness when it comes to matters of sex and purity. Fernando correctly states “The seriousness of adultery lay in the fact that the family was an absolutely vital aspect of the covenant relationship of God with the community of Israel.” He further avers “The Bible takes the principle of commitment that lies behind God’s covenant relationship with humans and the covenant relationship between a man and his wife very seriously.” A violation of that covenant is a violation of God’s commands which of course is outright sin. Throughout Scripture, God continually demonstrates His abhorrence of adultery. Whether it was in the life of King David or Paul’s command to the Corinthian Church to flee sexual immorality, the covenant of marriage is something God takes very seriously meaning it is something His people should take with the utmost seriousness as well. There is no wiggle room with adultery. In order to combat the temptation of sexual sin, Fernando rightly reminds the reader to find an accountability partner and to “always remain on guard against the enemy. It is dangerous for anyone to think that he is above temptation in this area.”

A final aspect of this commentary I enjoyed was Fernando’s discussion of the pilgrimage festivals outlined in Deuteronomy 16:1-17. I have long found the Feasts of the Lord to be a fascinating study of God’s faithfulness to His people. They are far more than simply dates on the Jewish calendar or something completely unimportant for believers today to read and understand. As Fernando rightly states, “They were occasions of great joy and of affirming truths that bonded the community together.” Furthermore, these feasts carry great importance in God’s salvation history calendar as the spring feasts have been fulfilled by Christ and the fall feasts in large part have yet to find their complete fulfillment. In fact, when we partake of communion for example, we are remembering Jesus as the Passover Lamb. The Feast of Pentecost was fulfilled with the giving of the Holy Spirit of God in Acts 2. The Feast of Booths or Tabernacles reminds us of God dwelling with His people. Ultimately, these feasts speak of God’s faithfulness, sovereignty, and the need for community. They remind us of God moving throughout history on behalf of His people and Fernando does a great job of explaining that very truth.

I highly recommend this commentary for all believers but especially for pastors. The outstanding exegesis, valuable application, and recommendations contained throughout on how pastors can share the underlying message found in Deuteronomy of loving obedience to a loving God is what makes this volume well worth the read. It will become a valuable tool for developing sermons not just on Deuteronomy itself, but also in regards to the many topics Deuteronomy touches on that are repeated throughout Scripture.

This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Crossway Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Hidden in the Gospel: Truths You Forget to Tell Yourself Every Day

Posted by on Oct 23, 2014 in Book Reviews, Christian Living, Featured

Hidden in the Gospel: Truths You Forget to Tell Yourself Every Day

Preaching the gospel took on a whole new significance for me several years ago. I was going through a period where I was battling anxiety and fighting what to me seemed a losing battle. During this time preaching the gospel became one way I was able to face my battle with anxiety and other issues in my life head on. Even today, preaching the gospel has become a way to help me deal with the stress of life and ministry. In his new book Hidden in the Gospel, William Farley writes to help readers take hold of the truth of Scripture and apply it to their lives.

The book takes a journey through basic Christian doctrine with a view to help the reader apply it to their lives. The author states, “This book is about how to know God through the gospel story. It is about the joy that proceeds from getting to know God through the discipline of talking back to yourself—what some have called “preaching the gospel to yourself” (6).

Paul David Tripp is a well-known author, pastor, writer and counselor. On preaching the gospel to ourselves he talks about how we’re already preaching a message to ourselves. Our world is full of negativity and difficulty at every turn. How are we doing as God’s people eat looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith? Are we only being hearers of the Word and not doers. Farley wants us to take hold of our faith and appropriate it into every area of life. In chapter one he helps us do that through seven points: First, the gospel regularly and repetitively exposes us to the glory of God. Second, it helps us grow in humility. Third, preaching the gospel to ourselves will help us to be delivered from guilt, inferiority and low self-image. Fourth, preaching the gospel to ourselves accelerates our sanctification. Fifth preaching the gospel helps us to abound in thankfulness. Sixth, preaching the gospel to ourselves helps us to be hopeful. Finally, preaching the gospel to ourselves culminates in worship.

Maybe you’ve never considered the importance of preaching the gospel to yourself. Perhaps, you don’t know how to preach the gospel to yourself. Either way, Hidden in the Gospel has something for you. This book will help you to understand what it means to preach the gospel to yourself. This book will help even those who have experience preaching the gospel to gain further insight into this important spiritual discipline. Wherever you are at in your Christian life, this book has something for you. It will help you to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This would be a good book to get in the hands of a new believer to help them understand not only what preaching the gospel to themselves means but also how to do it. I highly recommend this book and pray the Lord would use it in the life of His Church to awaken God’s people to their first love in Jesus and deepen their love and understanding of the gospel.

Title: Hidden in the Gospel: Truths You Forget to Tell Yourself Every Day

Author: William P. Farley

Publisher: P&R (2014)

I received this book for free from P&R for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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That You May Know: Assurance of Salvation in 1 John

Posted by on Oct 22, 2014 in Featured, Theology

That You May Know: Assurance of Salvation in 1 John

Assurance of salvation is quite often a hotly debated topic with some affirming on one extreme that regardless of what we do we can never lose our salvation and the other extreme stating that salvation can be lost although exactly how that can happen is often itself up for debate. Add to this discussion the reality that a multitude of Scriptures affirm assurance of salvation while others seem to indicate at least the possibility of falling away from the faith on a permanent basis and it is no wonder this topic often gets rather heated amongst believers. In an effort to address and to provide some biblical clarity to this issue, Dr. Christopher Bass has written a helpful and informative book called That You May Know: Assurance of Salvation in 1 John.

Bass centers his discussion on the assurance of salvation by exploring the words of the Apostle John in his first epistle. He rightly notes “No other book of the New Testament speaks of the believer’s confidence or assurance of salvation as frequently and explicitly as the first letter of John, for the predominant theme of the entire letter is Christian certainty.” Furthermore, assurance is by no means grounded in our ability to do anything. Bass avers “assurance is not only grounded in the past work of Jesus on the cross but also on the promise of His ongoing work of protecting those who have been born of God.”

There certainly have been a variety of viewpoints on this issue throughout church history and Bass provides a helpful overview of those perspectives noting the Medieval Roman Catholic position that assurance of salvation was impossible except perhaps through some element of special revelation given to only a select few. Bass also outlines the position of Martin Luther who viewed assurance as “part and parcel of saving faith precisely because it is ground on the promises of God, where were fulfilled in the work of Christ and not on the works of man.” Opposing views to assurance are noted in the writings of Jacob Arminius who averred “a believer could have a present assurance of present salvation but not a present assurance of final salvation.”

After providing this historical insight, Bass begins to explore how the doctrine of assurance is revealed in the pages of 1 John. He first explains the purpose of why 1 John was written to include the various heresies and groups that were trying to sway the earlier Christians into false beliefs. These groups influence and teachings seemed to create a question in the minds of those believers as to matters of eternal life. Bass correctly states “Given that sin is inevitable in the life of the believer, nothing other than the work of Christ can be viewed as the foundation for assurance, for it is the only effective remedy for their sin and thus the only ground for the believer’s confidence of right standing with a God who is light.” So once again, Bass reminds the reader that assurance is not based on their own merit, but the reality that salvation is rooted in the work of Christ on the cross.

Bass also discusses the necessary topic of covenant, noting its connection to the doctrine of assurance as well as the need for believers to remain a faithful and obedience bride. He states that John “believed that the promises of the new covenant were fulfilled in the work of Christ, which is why he expected his readers to live in a manner that validated their divine birth.” He follows this important statement by commenting “It is precisely because the new covenant has been fulfilled in Christ that he expected his readers to have the Spirit dwelling in them and enabling them to pass the various tests of righteousness, love, and belief.” Thus, John’s statements devastate the belief that a believer can be “saved” and then live however they please because they engaged in a singular life event with no further evidence of a life lived in obedience to God’s commands. Furthermore, we continue to see that a child of God will be enabled by God to endure tests and to resist sin. Such individuals will as Bass so rightly notes “take John’s warnings and admonitions seriously and therefore persevere to live righteously and confess their sins along the way. Those who fail to do so demonstrate that they have never truly been born of God.” One’s fruit will reveal their heart condition.

Another helpful aspect of this book is the extensive bibliography provided by Bass of commentaries, books, journal articles, essays, and dissertations that engage the variety of opinions on the doctrine of assurance. This bevy of information will provide the reader with many valuable resources to read and study on this subject matter. I appreciated the fact that Bass did not just share resources that align with his own viewpoint as it is important with such matters to read and grasp the overall thought, both currently and throughout church history.

I highly recommend this book for all believers, especially those who want to better understand the doctrine of assurance and where that doctrine is grounded, namely Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us on the cross. Scholarly yet highly accessible, Bass’ effort will serve the reader well to know why they can have confidence that we can strive to live in obedience resting in the acknowledgement of assurance of salvation because of what He has done for us.

This book is available for purchase from B&H Publishing by clicking here.

I received this book for free from B&H Publishing for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word

Posted by on Oct 21, 2014 in Book Reviews, Featured, Theology

Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word

One of the greatest challenges of our day is biblical illiteracy. At first it may seem like nearly every person who attends church has a Bible in North America. People having Bible’s isn’t the problem. People reading their Bible’s is. To help address this issue, Dr. George Guthrie has composed Read The Bible For Life Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word. The book is structured around sixteen conversation with sixteen of Dr. Guthrie’s friends who are scholars in their fields.

The book has four sections. In part one the author considers the foundational lens for how to read the Bible as a guide for life, in context, in translation and for transformation. In part two the authors help readers to understand the Old Testament stories laws, Psalms, Proverbs and Prophets. Part three focuses on the New Testament and will help people understand the teaching of Jesus, the New Testament letters and Revelation. Part four explores how to read the bible for personal devotion, in times of sorrow and suffering, with the family and with the Church.

The book as I noted earlier is arranged around conversation with leading scholars. These conversations are intended to help the lay person on up to know what the Word says and how every passage fits into the powerful Bible’s powerful overarching story. While I’ve read quite a few books on this topic, I believe Reading The Bible For Life is better than How To Read The Bible For All it’s worth. This book addresses a very real problem in biblical illiteracy head on and will help its readers not only understand the various genres in the Bible but how they should read them. I highly recommend Read The Bible For Life and encourage you to not only read it but as you read it to pick up your dusty Bible and read it. As you do you’ll discover who God is and what He is like from His Word—His love letter to His people. Whether you’re a lay person or a serious Bible student, this book has something for you. It will help you not only understand what the Bible is saying but also what the Bible aims to do in your life—that you would no longer be a hearer only but a doer by His grace.

Title: Read The Bible For Life; Your Guide to Understanding and Living God’s Word

Author: George H. Guthrie

Publisher: B&H (2011)

I received this book for free from B&H for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections

Posted by on Oct 20, 2014 in Book Reviews, Christian Living, Church, Featured

Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections

In Matthew 15:11 Jesus stated, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Thus, issues of the heart, also termed out affections, are a true gauge of spiritual maturity. Dealing with the often sinful issues of the heart is a daily task as we battle against the urge to follow the desires of the flesh. Since addressing matters of the heart is such a relevant issue for the Body of Christ, it is necessary for this subject to be the topic of sermons that are focused on helping believers deal with these issues from a biblical perspective. Josh Moody and Robin Weeks in their book Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections, provide a helpful guide for pastors on how to focus their preaching efforts to this subject matter.

The authors rightly note that “Preaching to the affections means preaching that targets the heart. And the heart in the Bible is not merely our feelings, nor merely our thinking, but both intertwined; the heart is the centre of who we are.” Our response to the world around us should demonstrate godly affections that reveal our desire to love God and to love others. God gave us the capacity to reason and to have a wide range of emotions as a necessary element of relationship, both with Himself and with our fellow man. In a fallen world, our emotions and the accompanying actions often reveal a need for correction given our penchant for getting that element of life incorrect far more than we get it right. Moody and Weeks aptly comment, “Affections then – rightly understood – are part of what it means to be human and are to be increasingly oriented towards godly desires in the Christian.”

One focus of the pastor should be to help equip his flock with the biblical tools by which to increasingly orient their affections towards God and others in a way that reflects righteousness. This equipping is done through preaching. Moody and Weeks define preaching as the “God-ordained means by which He meets with His people through His Word and by His Spirit in such a way that His people’s eyes are opened to see Jesus and be captivated by Him.” This excellent definition sets the stage for their discussion on the need to preach to the affections, specifically the ten salient reasons they provide of why such an approach through the preaching of the Word is so needed.

The authors also provide not just the needed why of preaching to the affections, but also the practical how. Suggestions such as “Look out for the affections in the text”, “Think Christ, live Christ, apply Christ”, “Probe the workings of the heart”, “Preach the pathos as well as the logos of the passage”, “Learn from those who preach to the affections”, “Raise the affections with the truth”, “Prayer: the hour of power”, and “Preach with an awakened heart” are the excellent approach they discuss. These suggestions are fully bible and Christ centered, providing the pastor with the tools to “recapture that sense of preaching being the means by which God draws near to His people, and the time when we meet with Him.”

This timely and helpful book concludes with four examples of what preaching to the affections looks like inaction using examples from the author’s own sermon material and experiences. In each of the examples provided, Moody and Weeks help the reader learn how to approach the text in a way that looks at how God is addressing in that passage how a change of heart and affections should take place. In a book that seeks to assist pastors with learning the why and how of preaching to the affections, providing salient examples of what that looks is a needed element and the authors hit a homerun by sharing their own efforts in this area. Helping the pastor walk through a passage, noting how that passage speaks to matters of the heart makes this book extremely practical and useful and more than just a book with a few helpful hints mixed in here and there.

I highly recommend this book for all pastors. Matters of the heart are daily issues for all believers and something that needs to find more attention from the pulpit. Filled with practical and timely advice from a pastors heart and experience, this book will be of great service to those pastors who recognize the need to shepherd their flocks in dealing with sinful desires, why it is important, and how they can grow in this area in their walk with Christ.

This book is available for purchase from Christian Focus Publications by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Christian Focus Publications for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Date Your Wife

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Book Reviews, Christian Living, Featured

Date Your Wife

Date my wife? Why should I, as a married man, date my wife? After all, I thought dating was something you do before marriage Those are questions, that if they were honest with themselves, many married men would likely ask. Once the wedding vows have been said and the newness of marriage has worn off and replaced with the daily grind of life, wooing and continuing to get to know your wife seem to fall by the wayside. In an effort to help men correct this wrong approach to marriage, Justin Buzzard has written Date Your Wife which provides men with a helpful guide to addressing what it means to put the “wooing” back in the marital picture.

There is much to appreciate in this book and many important takeaways I gleaned from its pages that can be put into immediate action within my own marriage. This speaks to the extremely practical nature and approach of this book. Weaving stories, personal examples, and most importantly the truth of Scripture, Buzzard reaches right to the heart of the matter by discussing respectively the good, the bad, the new, and the perfect when it comes to marriage.

Most men when they were younger likely had some dream of that perfect woman, that beautiful maiden that you as the knight in shining armor would whisk away in your arms into the forever happiness of love, riding off into the sunset. For most, the first step towards that whisking away comes with an awkward request for some coffee or perhaps a movie which begins the process of getting to know this person who just might become your wife sometime in the future. As the potential suitor, you go all out to shower her with gifts, to open the car door, and to spend as much time as possible in her company. Next comes the nervous moment of asking for her hand in marriage, followed by fervent wedding plans and the big day of the wedding. A week or so of a wonderful honeymoon filled with romantic dinners and lots of memories soon leads into the reality of everyday life and the grind that it brings. Anymore dates and romance after that? Quite often the answer is no.

After establishing the good of marriage and the vibrant dreams of roses and romantic dinners each night of the week, Buzzard next explores what often goes awry in marriages, that time when romance and wooing gets lost in the shuffle of work, laundry, kids, and bills. Since this is a book focused on men, Buzzard gets right to the source of the issue, namely men falling prey to the same thing Adam did, failing to do the job of the husband, that of cultivating his wife, protecting her from danger. Buzzard rightly notes “Dating your wife means to cultivate and guard your wife and your marriage.” This, it is far more than just rose and chocolates. Dating your wife in part requires men to do their job as the husband, a job given to them by God. Recognizing we have been deficient in that area is a first step towards restoring the dating relationship with our wives.

With the bad stated, Buzzard next moves into a discussion of what goes right in a marriage. As with the bad, this section starts with the husband. The problem is often thought to reside in a lack of men being responsible. While that is true in part, Buzzard rightly notes this often incorrectly places the impetus for right behavior as something men can accomplish on their own accord. The reality is “You crush a man if you only take to him about responsibility. You empower a man if you talk to him about response-ability – about living life in response to the power and ability of God.” This places our focus on God who provides husbands with the ability to be the leader He desires them to be in the home, to nurture and love their wife following the example Christ has set for us.

With that as a background and a firm foundation, Buzzard then provides men with some excellent practical ways to date their wife, using some very common scenarios to drive home ways to implement what he calls the ground and air wars. Since this is a battle, the ground and air war motif is highly appropriate. The examples Buzzard provides are useful for marriages with or without children. Practical suggestions such as scheduling a monthly getaway can be accomplished with any budget in mind and goes a long way towards cultivating that needed level of intimacy and relationship necessary for a marriage to survive the conflicts of daily life. This takes planning and effort but Buzzard rightly reminds men of the time and effort God put into wooing His people to Him and the cost Jesus paid for his bride on the cross.

Finally, Buzzard points the reader to the perfect. He aptly declares, “The point of your marriage is to date your wife in such a way that showcases Jesus and his power to a world of husbands and wives, men and women, boys and girls, in desperate need of a God who can rescue, reconcile, restore, and redeem their broken lives.” That statement is truly the crux and foundation of this book. We date our wives not to score brownie points or to get out of the doghouse for a time. We date our wives because we have been called by God to declare His glory through our marriages, to point people to the perfect Bridegroom. Our marriages are to be a reflection of the relationship Christ has with us.

Men – I highly recommend this book as a must read. We all struggle with being a godly husband and more often than not fall very short of what God desires. The truths found in this book are biblical, practical, and timely. Read this book with pen in hand, take note of the practical application, and put into practice in your marriage what Justin Buzzard has shared. Woo your wife!

This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.

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