Backchat: Answering Christianity’s Critics

Posted by on Nov 28, 2014 in Apologetics, Book Reviews, Featured

Backchat: Answering Christianity’s Critics

To say that Christianity and by extension the Word of God is under assault in our world today is arguably the biggest understatement of the century. Seemingly everywhere one looks, biblical truth is viewed as antiquated, intolerant, and subject to the shifting sands of the daily opinion polls of society. In the midst of this furor, believers are called by God to stand firm on the foundation of biblical truth and to be ever ready to give a defense for what we believe. Chris Sinkinson, in his helpful book Backchat: Answering Christianity’s Critics, outlines a number of ways in which believers can provide an apologetic to issues in society, matters of history, the big overarching questions of life, the church, and daily news events.

Sinkinson rightly notes in the introduction to this timely book, “Rather than being meekly apologetic, the Christian is to be confident in putting forward their case and dealing with objections.” Our comportment in doing so is often just as important as the information we provide in our apologetic. After all, we are exhorted in Scripture to provide our apologetic with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). It is quite tempting to lash out with ridicule those who themselves ridicule the truth of Scripture. Such an approach should not be a hallmark of the believer’s apologetics toolkit and I appreciated Sinkinson driving home that important point right at the outset.

For those desiring a deep dive into various matters of apologetics whether that is apologetics methodology, in-depth responses to critics of any number of theological matters, or an elaboration of how to respond to the problem of evil, be advised that is not the focus of Sinkinson throughout this book. While he does indeed address a number of important issues, his purpose is not to provide a lengthy thesis on matters of apologetics. Conversely, this book is intended to help the reader understand what some of the current issues facing believers are and how best to formulate a response to such issues.

For example, many willingly or unwittingly jump on certain bandwagons such as the seemingly continual declaration that some archaeologist or hiker has stumbled across Noah’s Ark. While such a discovery would certainly be very interesting if it were true, promulgating unsubstantiated claims of what continues to be in reality nothing more than an internet hoax or a story depleted of actual fact does not serve the apologetical mission of the believer well at all. Sinkinson advises the reader, if they indeed desire to utilize matters of history to defend the faith to focus on actual verifiable historical evidence even if that evidence does not carry the spectacular appeal of discovering Noah’s Ark or the long lost Ark of the Covenant. Such things are the stuff of Hollywood. Sinkinson aptly notes that in response to historians who try to minimalize biblical history such as in the case of King David, the Christian apologist can utilize archaeological finds such as the excavations at Dan and the inscriptions found at that site that reference the “House of David” and “King of Israel.” These are finds that shout from the archaeological rooftops that “King David and his royal dynasty could not be dismissed to the shadows of mythology.”

While Backchat is not as noted earlier a compendium of apologetical facts and methodology, it is a helpful introduction for the new apologist and a helpful reminder to even the most seasoned apologist of remaining focused on the true task at hand. For those who desire to engage in more depth the various issues Sinkinson presents, he does provide an excellent bibliography divided into the various sections he covers in his book. These resources will provide the reader with excellent material as they further develop and hone their apologetical arguments.

I highly recommend Backchat for those new to the effort of apologetics as well as those who have been engaged in the battle for some time. Sinkinson does an excellent job of giving the reader much food for thought on a number of important issues of our day while ensuring that in the middle of the back and forth battles with those who decry the truth of Scripture, we remain vigilant as well as responding with the utmost grace to those who so desperately need to hear God’s message of truth found in His word.

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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Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus

Posted by on Nov 27, 2014 in Book Reviews, Christian Living, Featured

Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus

The Christmas season is a wonderful time of family traditions to include putting up decorations, gathering together for a sumptuous meal, and unwrapping presents early on Christmas morning. Much has been said about the commercialization of Christmas and the tendency to forget the true reason we even celebrate the occasion. Marty Machowski in his helpful family devotional aptly titled Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus, returns the reader to the proper focus of Christmas, namely the incarnation of the Son of God and all that entails.

As noted, this book is a devotional and thus is written in a manner that allows it to be used over the course of the Advent season as part of family devotions. Each week of Advent has three parts devoted to it by Machowski, each focusing on a particular element of the coming of Jesus. In an effort to maximize family participation in the devotions, Machowski provides suggested activities such as listening to Handel’s Messiah or constructing an Advent wreath. Additionally, he outlines a Scripture passage which forms the crux of that week’s devotion to include some very helpful commentary.

I also appreciated the tips for conversation provided by Machowski such as the example provided by Mary the mother of Jesus and her trust of God’s plan. The focus on praying together as a family with suggested prayer topics as well as hymns by which to join together in song and the suggested craft activity round out each week’s insightful devotional material.

Many may already have well established family traditions while others such as my own family are searching for ways to begin what hopefully will be longstanding traditions. Regardless of which of those spectrums you may reside, I highly recommend Machowski’s book as something to either include in what you already do as part of your Christmas traditions or as a great place by which to start a worthwhile tradition. In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it is very easy to forget the reason for the season. Thus, having a devotional that will help return the focus to its proper place, namely on Christ, will help ensure your family is fully able to “Prepare Him Room”.

This book is available for purchase from New Growth Press by clicking here.

I received this book for free from New Growth Press 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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Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry

Posted by on Nov 26, 2014 in Church, Featured

Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry

Ministry is not for the faint of heart, nor the uncalled. It is not a career path to choose, a job that simply pays the bills, nor simply something to try when no other career seems to work. Christian ministry is a path that can only be taken when God calls. This is what Dave Harvey discusses in his book Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry. In the book Dave briefly discusses how one should approach the call to ministry. The call to ministry is not merely a call to do something. Christian ministry is a call to know and serve King Jesus. Someone who has never been called to salvation cannot be called ministry. The cart cannot come before the horse.

Throughout the majority of his book Dave spends time asking six diagnostic questions for people considering a call to ministry. These six questions probe deep into the person and serve as a warning to anyone desiring to enter the ministry. Failure in any of these questions does not automatically mean that a person is not called to ministry. It means that the person must consider areas where they need to grow before they seek a ministry position. A person must be careful not to mistake the call to be a disciple-maker for the specific calling to be a pastor or ministry leader. All believers are called to minister and make disciples wherever the Lord has placed them in life. However, the Lord calls some people to be leaders in the local church to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The last chapter which discusses the concept of waiting proves extremely helpful because this can be the toughest part of the call. Many people who are called to ministry struggle in “the in-between.” This is a time between the call and first place of service. It can also be an extended season between ministry posts. If used correctly this season can prove to be an important time of discipleship and growth.

I would personally recommend Am I Called? to anyone considering serving the local church in pastoral ministry, and to those considering leaving pastoral ministry. This book has been extremely helpful for me as I have entered a season of ministry transition.

(I received this book through the Crossway Review program “Beyond the Page” in exchange for an honest review of the book.)

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10 Things for Teen Girls

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 in Book Reviews, Christian Living, Featured

10 Things for Teen Girls

As the father of a teenage daughter, I am increasingly keenly aware of the massive influence her peers and society at large has on her thoughts and actions. From One Direction to the latest clothing fad to the most recent manner by which to twist a positive word into a negative connotation, the parade of pressure on the youth of today to conform to societal “norms” seems to not want to let up. Thus, I greatly appreciate it when great books come along that are geared towards teenage girls in an effort to clearly delineate the difference between the clamor of society and its every shifting sands and the firm foundation of biblical truth. Kate Conner’s book 10 Things for Teen Girls firmly resides in the category of needed reminders for today’s youth of that sound biblical truth.

This book had its genesis in a blog post by Conner that went viral, so viral in fact that it received two million views in a span of only two weeks. Recognizing that what she was addressing had hit home, Conner wrote this particular book to further elaborate on the salient points she had discussed in her blog post. In 10 Things for Teen Girls, Conner addresses a wide range of relevant subjects including modesty, the temptation to alter your physical appearance to conform, issues regarding social media, relationship drama, following your passion and dreams, emotions, the need to belong, perceptions, and the need for teenage girls to realize they are beautiful in God’s eyes.

My wife and I utilized this book as part of our daughter’s homeschool reading and Bible curriculum. At first our daughter was a bit resistant to read a book she assumed was full of information she already knew. However, as she began to work her way through the biblically based and relevant concepts Conner shares throughout the book, our daughter began to quickly realize that she faces in some form or fashion each and every issue that is discussed. We found the principles and stories in this book to be timely, helpful, and accessible to our 13 year old daughter. Most importantly, Conner insights are full of biblical truth. Whether our daughter will readily admit it or not, we were able to observe through her actions following the completion of each chapter as well as conversations with her about what she read each day that this book had a positive impact on her outlook on the many issues Conner addresses.

For instance, concerning the issue of wearing appropriate clothing, Conner rightly notes that “modesty is not a dirty Christian word. It’s not oppressive or archaic.” Furthermore, she quite frankly and rightfully so notes that boys are attracted to girls bodies because of the reality that what God made is beautiful. In this time of adolescence when hormones are raging like a pot of boiling water, wearing immodest clothing only serves to stir up emotions and physical actions that should await their proper time. Conner aptly comments, “Sweet sisters, all attention is not equal. You think you want attention, but you don’t. You want respect. Use modesty as a tool to pursue that which is greater: admiration, respect, and love.” In a sex crazed society that seems to especially focus on every younger children, hearing this message of the need for modesty is sorely needed.

I highly recommend this book for parents to purchase for their children. Furthermore, I truly encourage parents to read this book as well. Conner includes some very helpful points for discussion at the end of each chapter that would be perfect for family bible study or even in a youth group setting. This book would also be useful as part of a homeschool curriculum, either for reading class or bible class. However you utilize this book, it will greatly benefit your teenage daughter.

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

I received this book for free from B&H 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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Delighting in the Law of the Lord: God’s Alternative to Legalism and Moralism

Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 in Book Reviews, Christian Living, Featured

Delighting in the Law of the Lord: God’s Alternative to Legalism and Moralism

Time and again we find in Scripture declarations such as “The law of the Lord is perfect”, “If you love me, then keep my commands”, and “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.” Despite those clear admonitions and statements, the word law seems to continually be treated as the ugly stepchild of the faith in favor of terms such as grace and freedom. On the other hand, there are those who seem to place an overemphasis on legalities. This leaves one perhaps wondering why the statements about the law of the Lord being perfect and the wise walking in it and being blessed if the law is something that is of no concern or for that matter, how much concern to place on such a topic. Jerram Barrs in his excellent book Delighting in the Law of the Lord: God’s Alternative to Legalism and Moralism seeks to set the biblical record straight.

We certainly live in a society that promotes the go your own way mentality. Morality seems to be a thing of the past and as noted by Barrs, “at the heart of our culture there is a steady drift from seeing law and morality as God’s gifts to us. Instead, law and morality are seen as having their origins on earth, as arising from human reflection about the nature of our lives and about how we should live.” When one turns from God’s perfect law, what is left is self to try and determine right and wrong. Such an approach results in the shifting sands of personal opinion we observe in society. Ultimately, this results in societal chaos with either each and every individual doing what is right in their own eyes or those in power deciding what is right. Barrs rightly notes “We can only find a true fountain for the good life for ourselves and our societies if we turn back to God himself.”

Turning back to God involves a love for the law of God. It is this love for God’s commands found in Scripture which Barrs spends a great deal of time exploring. Before one has an opportunity to misunderstand the law which Barrs is discussing, he aptly explains the law for example David had in mind when he declared the “law of the Lord is perfect” is the moral law of God. Barrs notes “The law should be seen as God’s gracious provision for his people, even in its moral demands, for these moral demands set out for us the way of life that God himself observes – and his way of life is altogether lovely!”

Barrs does an excellent job of noting why it is important when studying and appreciating the law of God to take a look at when and why the law was given in the first place. He rightly states “The law is given by the covenant-keeping, faithful God who has already delivered and redeemed his people.” Furthermore, Barrs correctly notes that the law was not given so that the Israelites might obey their way to deliverance from Egypt. Conversely, Barrs declares and rightly so, “The purpose of obeying the law is not to achieve salvation, nor to inherit eternal life, but to express one’s love and gratitude to the Lord because of the salvation he has already given to his people.” This is the model we see at Mt. Sinai and the model that still exists for believers today. We obey God in response to His merciful grace and we should do so with thanksgiving for God’s perfect and beautiful law He has provided us so that we can better know how to love Him and love others.

I fully appreciated Barrs’ discussion on the different approaches to the law that have been taught over the years in different denominations and theological systems. It was rather enlightening and informative to read the various positions on the law which unfortunately have resulted to a large degree in the incorrect perceptions of what the law is and why it remains important. For example, the dispensationalist approach have traditionally viewed “the law of Moses as having been given to Israel as the means by which the people were to establish and maintain a relationship with God. It is only with the death and resurrection of Christ that salvation by grave through faith is revealed.” Barrs avers that such an approach incorrectly understands that “The law is given to us by the God of all grace.” He further elaborates on that statement by noting “The truth is that we need to delight in the law in our inmost being and to teach this delight to others. Only this love for the law will bring utter dependence on Christ and on his grace for both our justification and our sanctification. There are no shortcuts, no quick routes to sanctification.”

To those who might view such a statement as a lead in to legalism, Barrs responds by commenting that “Legalism produces self-righteousness and pride because we can keep our rules about food and clothing, books and movies, times for prayer, amounts given, services attended, and the like.” Obeying God’s law in a spirit of love and in response to God’s grace bestowed towards His people does not result in legalism. In fact, quite the opposite approach results and Barrs correctly notes “God’s law, when properly understood as aimed at our hearts, does not produce self-righteousness and pride. The reason God’s law does not is that we cannot keep it.” That recognition continually drives us to depend on the work of the Holy Spirit working that process of sanctification.

One final helpful aspect of this book is the questions for further reflection and discussion provided at the end of each chapter. The topic of God’s law and the correct understanding of it might be a new point of emphasis for some. Thus, having additional questions provided to the reader which will help process and think through what might be new concepts is certainly an added bonus. Furthermore, these questions make this book quite useful in a small group setting.

I highly recommend this book as an excellent primer on the importance of God’s law. In an age where self is king and laws are flouted with regularity, it is more important than ever to understand that the source of truth and life is found within the pages of Scripture. God’s law is the foundation for life and it should not be viewed negatively or as a burden. Barrs does an excellent job of noting for the reader what God’s law is, why it is important, and what we are to do with it in daily life. This will be a resource I will refer to in the future on this important theological and life subject.

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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Parenting Against the Tide: A Handbook for 21st Century Parenting

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Book Reviews, Christian Living, Featured

Parenting Against the Tide: A Handbook for 21st Century Parenting

As a relatively new parent of an adopted 13 year old, I definitely will raise both hands if asked whether parenting is a rough and tumble task. The responsibility of raising a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord in a society that at every turn seeks to undermine godly parenting principles makes the task all that more difficult. We live in an age where words like discipline are viewed with disdain in favor of a relative free for all approach with child rearing. Whatever makes them happy regardless of future consequences not just for them as productive adults but for society at large let alone the families they will someday lead is quite frankly a passing fancy in the minds of most. Ann Benton, author of numerous books on parenting and the family, has provided an excellent tool with her latest book Parenting Against the Tide: A Handbook for 21st Century Parenting.

The focus of Benton’s book is to address the commonly promulgated and utilized parenting myths in vogue today such as an over-emphasis on self-esteem, the confusion of gender roles, the rejection of biblical discipline, relativism, lack of communication skills within the family, poor spending habits, and the setting of life goals,to name only a few subjects she addresses. She aptly notes the reason she wrote this book was to help Christian parents recognize that the “majority of modern parenting advice, however nice and cozy it sounds, is rooted in a worldview that is quite foreign to the Bible and this very much affects the kind of advice that is given.” Given that the Bible is quite clear on matters related to parenting, it is refreshing to read a book such as Benton’s that wades through the clatter and focuses on sound biblical truths on child rearing and matters related to the family.

For example, one of my favorite parts of this book was Benton’s discussion of the postmodern penchant for relativism which flies in the face of the absolute truth claims made in Scripture. Many in society like to make the claim that Christian parents are indoctrinating their children. A perfect example of this position is in relation to the creation/evolution debate. Evolution proponents such as Bill Nye and Richard Dawkins have often averred that teaching children creation is akin to indoctrination and child abuse. Benton does a marvelous job of demonstrating the vast difference between indoctrination and teaching noting “when it comes to passing on the baton of truth to our children…we know at once that we are not in the business of forcing a mantra on our children or of making assumptions about them. We will teach them; we will engage their developing minds.” She then outlines what that looks like in real everyday practice with the powerfully practical passage of Deuteronomy 6 as a backdrop for that discussion; a passage that is pregnant with sound biblical guidance on what teaching children from a biblical framework is all about.

Another excellent aspect of this book is Benton’s discussion of right and wrong. She correctly states that “unless a parent is willing to meet the right and wrong question head on, and be clear and convinced about the answer he/she will find raising children very hard work indeed.” Children love to ask the question why when told by their parents to do or not do something. A wishy-washy response if one is even given to such a question results in a child not understanding matters of right or wrong or where the foundation for right and wrong behavior is derived. Responding to the common parenting myths of naturalism, happiness, and consensus, Benton provides the biblical structure for properly defining issues of morality to include God as the ultimate law-giver, understanding humanity being made in God’s image, noting the impact of the fall, properly grasping the job description of the parent, and noting the proper balance between law and grace. These points will help the parent have a defined and consistent biblical worldview which Benton saliently declares “will enable you to maintain a moral framework in disciple” as well as avoiding the “need to resort to bribery which is a mere arbitrary and quite cynical manipulation of variables to get the desired end-product.”

Finally, I truly appreciated the practical application section at the conclusion of each chapter. It is one thing to provide a barrage of helpful principles and quite another to help the reader apply those biblical principles where the rubber meets the proverbial road which is in this case the daily grind of parenting. Benton does the latter by giving the reader some valuable questions for further thought and consideration based on the concepts and discussion found in that particular chapter. These are questions parents can sit down and discuss amongst themselves that will certainly provide an opportunity for an honest and hopefully frank analysis of how they have been approaching parenting their child or children.

I highly recommend this book for all parents. Benton’s honest and engaging writing style notes the failures of modern societies parenting methodology while presenting a clear and biblically sound response that will serve parents well that take the time and effort to read and apply the truths and concepts found in this timely and excellent book. I know my wife and I will be utilizing what we have read in the parenting of our teenage daughter.

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

I received this book for free from EP 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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