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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Songs of a Suffering King: The Grand Christ Hymn of Psalms 1-8

Posted by on Oct 16, 2014 in Book Reviews, Featured, Theology

Songs of a Suffering King: The Grand Christ Hymn of Psalms 1-8
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Songs of a Suffering King Songs of a Suffering King: The Grand Christ Hymn of Psalms 1 8 The Psalms have long been a source of encouragement and inspiration for believers. With that said the pouring out of the heart of the Psalmist during times of trial and times of rejoicing provide the reader with more than a feel good set of Scriptures. They direct the believer to a much greater theological and practical truth, namely serving to point to Christ. In his latest book, Songs of a Suffering King, J. V. Fesko explores how the Psalms make a beeline to the person and work of Christ.

An important element of the Psalms is realizing the message relayed by the Psalmist, and for that matter David, as the anointed king of Israel served as a foreshadow of the Messiah, King Jesus. Fesko rightly notes this reality stating, “What the Psalms say of David as a messiah…is prophetic of Jesus as the Messiah.” As he engages the first eight Psalms, Fesko continually drives home this reality, repeatedly noting how “The motif of the suffering king unquestionably plays out in David’s life on numerous occasions” and how that motif is revealed perfectly in the life of Christ.

As noted, this book focuses on the first eight Psalms in an attempt to assist the reader to grasp the progressive narrative found throughout the overall message found in the book of Psalms itself. Fesko aptly comments in this regard that “Ultimately, the Psalter as a whole trumpets the person and work of Christ, and we can examine a small slice of the Psalter’s grand Christ hymn in Psalms 1-8.”

The manner in which Fesko put this book together is quite useful for both personal devotions or even for a small group study on Psalm 1-8. Each short chapter is replete with sound biblical exposition and personal application, driving home the important message found in Psalm 1-8. It is this focus on the personal application driven by sound exegesis that is the true highlight of this book. There are a plethora of commentaries on the Psalms that explore every minutia of the Hebrew and that go into great detail on matters of theological exposition. While there is certainly a place for such commentaries, there is also a much needed place for books that take those grand theological themes and provide the “so what” to the reader, especially the “so what” when it comes to the person and work of Christ.

An example of this excellent focus on application can be found in Fesko’s exegesis of Psalm 1. A familiar aspect of Psalm 1 is the verse 2 which states “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” At times, some believe the law of the Lord is an outmoded element of Scripture, not realizing that it is the Lords instructions and guidelines found throughout Scripture on how we are to love God and love others. The righteous man delights in God’s instructions and constantly meditates on them, allowing the Word of God to guide him in all of life. Fesko takes that reality and directs the reader to the life of Jesus who perfectly kept His Father’s commands, noting “Christ was the One who did not walk, stand, or sit in the counsel, path, or seat of the wicked. Christ delighted Himself in the law of His heavenly Father; not only was He completely obedient to it but he also meditated upon it day and night.” Since that is the example set by Jesus, it is one we must follow and Fesko aptly reminds the reader of that important fact.

Another excellent aspect of this book was Fesko’s exploration of Psalm 4:6-8, specifically the Psalmist’s confidence that when he cries out to God in prayer, he knows God will listen and will hear his cry. David was a man who was often hounded by his enemies who seemed to have little good to say about him. Fesko rightly states “David’s confidence and boldness do not hinge on what his enemies say about him but rather what the Lord says he is.” This was because David was not afraid to approach the throne with his needs in the midst of his suffering. The righteous are able to approach the throne of grace boldly not because of anything they have done, but rather because of the work of Christ. Fesko comments, “God hears the cries of His people because of the perfect righteousness, or obedience, of His only begotten Son, Jesus…Because of the redemption that comes through Christ, God hears those who are found in Him.”

I also appreciated the “Questions for Further Study” at the conclusion of each chapter as they provide the reader with some additional food for thought to dig just a bit deeper into the topics engaged in that chapter. Of additional interest is the approach of singing the Psalms. These are after all Psalms originally meant to be sung, and doing so is a valuable way to lift up the word of God in song, allowing the message of the Psalms to be declared through the vocal cords. Singing the Psalms in the venue of public or even private worship is indeed valuable and I appreciate Fesko providing that tool for the reader along with providing some excellent resources for the singing of the Psalter.

Songs of a Suffering King by J. V. Fesko is an excellent resource for studying the Psalms and I highly recommend it for all believers. It is a valuable tool for personal or small group Bible study and most importantly, it will draw you closer to the Messiah, the Suffering King whose nail scarred hands, broken body, and shed blood gives us hope, deliverance, provides for forgiveness of sin, and provides us a reason to glorify God.

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

I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews 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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Can I Really Trust the Bible?

Posted by on Oct 15, 2014 in Apologetics, Book Reviews, Theology

Can I Really Trust the Bible?

If you have not noticed, we live in a culture that is hostile to the Bible and Christianity in general. One of the dominating criticisms of the Bible from non-Christians is it’s lack of verisimilitude, or the ability for it to contain absolute truth. This raises the question, “Can I trust the Bible?” Author Barry Cooper discusses this topic in his new book Can I Really Trust the Bible?, published by the Good Book Company.

Currently, the Bible is under fire from critics who claim that it is socially, culturally, and sexually out of date. According to these critics the Bible is an ancient book that does not have the capability to speak to the issues of the modern culture. For this reason, the critics argue, it cannot be trusted. In the book Cooper uses the illustration from Winnie-the-Pooh. In the story Pooh sees a jar with the word “Hunny” written on the side. Pooh is doubtful that the jar truly has honey inside, until he tastes what is inside the jar. For Pooh, the jar claimed to be honey, it seemed to be honey, and upon examination it proved to be honey. The same is true for the Word of God. Throughout the book Cooper asks three questions: “Does the Bible claim to be God’s Word?,” “Does the Bible seem to be God’s Word?,” and “Does the Bible prove to be God’s Word?”

In the end, the Bible is not only a book we read, but it reads us. For this reason, it is not simply a book of facts, but a book of faith. The Bible is a book that demands to be obeyed by faith because it is does not simply contain the Word of God, it is the very Word of God. It is not a book that can be dismissed and ignored.

Cooper does an excellent job condensing the arguments of this topic in a way that can be understood. Can I Really Trust the Bible? is a theological book that the average Christian will actually read. The “Questions Christians Ask” series is extremely helpful in answering pressing questions facing Christians today in a biblically-focused manner. I highly recommend this book and series to every pastor, professor, Sunday School teacher, and anyone else seeking answers to hard questions of the Christian faith.

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Know the Creeds and Councils

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014 in Book Reviews, Church History, Featured

Know the Creeds and Councils

Understanding the history of the Church is an important element of the faith. Digging into the past, while for many is often viewed in a negative light as being dull and boring especially when it comes to reading about church councils and creeds, is nonetheless vital. Its importance resides in the need to have a firm grasp on what it is we believe, how such beliefs were developed throughout church history, the issues that were being dealt with by the various church councils and the subsequent establishment of the creeds, and how all that applies to our lives today. Justin Holcomb in his book Know the Creeds and Councils which is part of the continuing Know series from Zondervan, provides the reader with a helpful primer that brings to life these important aspects of church history.

I will readily admit that during Bible College and Seminary, church history classes were not my favorites. While the events of history were interesting, I often wanted to move forward to the study of more theologically related matters. What I failed to realize at the time and what was brought to light in Holcomb’s excellent book is that the importance of church history, in particular the development of creeds and the firming up of sound doctrine in the face of heresy, cannot be overlooked. As these heresies of the past were addressed, it forced the church to solidify her stance on a number of key theological issues, the very issues I wanted to move forward to study. It was those earnest efforts of men of God who were leading the church in the past that continues to influence how the firm foundation of theological truth we stand upon today.

Holcomb engages seven different church councils and six different creeds or statements of faith. Some of these councils and creeds are more well known that others but all are important to study and understand. His intent is not to provide an exhaustive excursus into every single element of these councils and creeds. Conversely, his goal is to help familiarize believers with the overarching intent of the councils, the issues they addressed, why the councils were important, and their lasting impact on us today. Additionally, his goal with the creeds he discusses is also not to dive into every nuance of theology them address but rather to help the reader understand why they were created and as with the councils, why they continue to have relevance for us today.

For example, the Council of Chalcedon was important because it “dealt specifically with the two natures of Jesus Christ.” At the time, this continued to be a rather large issue for the church as various heresies continued to try and gain popularity such as Nestorianism and Eutychianism. In speaking to the relevance of this particular council, Holcomb aptly comments “it might be helpful to think of Chalcedon as a way to correct extremes in our thinking. Because we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus is spiritual and far removed from us, it can be comforting to remember that he is really human.” Holcomb also rightly notes that at this council, not everything that was decided upon can be asserted as entirely theologically correct. In fact, many believed the definitions established at Chalcedon were too Nestorian in nature and others felt the issue of whether Christ had one or two wills was left unanswered. What we can take away from this council is what Holcomb saliently notes, namely the fact “it guides the discussion between two heresies and helps us understand what Scripture says about Jesus Christ, God’s own son and the son of Mary.”

Another example of the helpful information provided by Holcomb in this book is his treatment of the Westminster Confession of Faith, arguably outside of the Apostle’s Creed, one of the more familiar creeds and statements of faith. The importance of this confession resides in the reality that the “Westminster Assembly clearly understood that practice could not be divorced from the actions of the laity. The confession puts its heart into making the implications of this theology understandable rather than repeating a set of ideas.” Perhaps what makes the Westminster Confession of Faith so useful even today is the great care the Westminster Assembly took to compile a set of Scriptural proofs for each statement of faith they developed. As Holcomb so rightly states, “the Westminster Confession remains relevant as one of the most significant statements of faith for the Protestant tradition” because it strove to maintain a needed connection with previous creeds of the church such as the Nicene and Chalcedon creeds.

For anyone desiring to have a greater understanding of the major church councils and confessions of faith, Holcomb’s effort is a fine place to start. It is highly accessible, historical in approach without getting too far into the weeds of the events that took place, and most importantly it helps the reader gain a solid connection and appreciation for these councils and creeds, driving home again and again why these events and statements of faith remain important elements of the faith. I highly recommend this book for all believers for it is a valuable reference tool for understanding the creeds and councils.

This book is available for purchase from Zondervan by clicking here.

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