Book Review – Christian Answers To Hard Questions: The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture

Posted by on Aug 27, 2014 in Apologetics, Book Reviews

Pagan Heart of Todays Culture 194x300 Book Review   Christian Answers To Hard Questions: The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture Today’s Christian is confronted by challenges on nearly every side with the rising tide of relativism, secularism, paganism and many other “ism’s” that vie for the attention and affections of Christians. Following his excellent book One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference and many others, Dr. Peter Jones, the director of TruthXchange has written a helpful book distilling his excellent teaching on understanding our culture. Dr. Jones book looks at postmodernism, polytheism and Gnosticism showing how they are part of an ancient religious worldview that seeks to impose its view upon Western culture.

Having read other works by Dr. Peter Jones what I appreciate about his writing is he aims to help readers understand not only what is going on in our culture but also how we can reach the culture with the gospel. In a culture that is rapidly changing, we need writers and speakers like Dr. Jones to help God’s people to understand the times that we live in and to help us to speak the timeless message of the gospel to an ever-changing culture. This what Dr. Jones book The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture does well. This booklet doesn’t contain everything that Dr. Jones has said about these matters. Think of this booklet as a primer to wet your appetite. To read more, I encourage you to read One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference by Dr. Jones. Nevertheless, reading The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture will help readers to gain some insight from a leading thinker/writer on cultural issues. I highly recommend this booklet to understand cultural issues through a biblical worldview.

Title:  Christian Answers To Hard Questions The Pagan Heart of Today’s culture

Author Peter Jones

Publisher: P&R

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.”

Read More »

Book Review – Taking God Seriously: Major Lessons from the Minor Prophets

Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 in Book Reviews, Theology

Taking God Seriously Briscoe Book Review   Taking God Seriously: Major Lessons from the Minor ProphetsWith the exception of Jonah and a few passages in Malachi, the books of the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament are far too neglected. Perhaps it is due to their content or lack of endurance on the part of believers in regards to their yearly Bible reading schedule. Whatever the reason, many are highly unfamiliar with the important issues addressed by the Minor Prophets and therefore miss the importance of their message for believers today. Pastor Stuart Briscoe in his book Taking God Seriously: Major Lessons from the Minor Prophets seeks to bring back to the forefront these valuable books, driving home the overarching messages of the prophets from long ago and most importantly, why we need to pay attention to what they have to say.

As the subtitle of the book implies, Briscoe elaborates on the major lessons revealed in the books of the Minor Prophets. His overall intent is not to exegete every minute detail. Conversely, he provides the reader with valuable insight into the overarching message and most importantly, how believers today can cross the principalizing bridge of biblical exegesis to apply the truths found in these books to our lives today. To that end, Briscoe is highly successful in his efforts.

Despite studying the Minor Prophets at various times in both Bible College and Seminary, admittedly I remain largely unfamiliar with the message delivered by the Minor Prophets. After reading Briscoe’s book, I have a newfound appreciation for their message. Far too many approach the prophetic books of the Old Testament in an attempt to glean some sort of hidden or long-lost prediction of future events in an effort to unlock the “mysteries” of the eschatological puzzle. That is the wrong approach. As Briscoe so rightly notes:

“The primary objective of the prophet in the Old Testament, however, was not prediction. The prophets certainly had a predictive aspect to their ministries, but foretelling was not their primary objective. Thus, when we study prophecy we should not be treating it as a crystal ball through which we can see into the future. We should be looking at the messages of the prophets primarily as statements made by men of God who heard what God had to say and relayed that message to their contemporaries.”

The message the prophets so often relayed to the people of their day was one of returning to their first love, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who had rescued them from bondage and called them to be a people of His own who were to be a light to the nations.

Many of these Minor Prophets were used by God in some rather interesting ways. A case in point is that of the prophet Hosea. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute who would in turn be unfaithful to him to include bearing him children that were not his own. This was all for the purpose of demonstrating to the people of God their own tumultuous and unfaithful relationship with God. I appreciated the time Briscoe spent examining the Hebrew word hesed, an important term in the Old Testament pregnant with meaning. As he notes, this word’s meaning is quite hard to pin down specifically; however, the idea of faithfulness and steadfast love is most often attributed by scholars as its fundamental meaning and application. In the life of Hosea, in particular his relationship with his unfaithful wife, we see not a rejection by Hosea of his wife, but rather God commanding Hosea to purchase back his wife despite her constant rejection of the covenant marriage relationship. An interesting element of what Hosea did for Gomer (his wife) compared to the price received by Judas when he betrayed Jesus is the amount of money paid in each instance. Briscoe aptly explains that while Hosea paid 15 shekels for Gomer, the value of a slave at half-price, the full price of a slave, namely thirty pieces of silver, was what Judas received. This is interesting because it notes the great price Jesus paid for his bride, an unfaithful bride at that.

Another valuable aspect of this book is in Briscoe’s discussion of Obadiah, the shortest of the Minor Prophets at a mere 21 verses. Contained in those verses is a powerful reminder that God is sovereign and that He and He alone controls the affairs of men. As Briscoe rightly avers, “If we Christians believe that the Lord is Sovereign, that He is moving inexorably toward the ultimate and final establishment of His eternal kingdom, we must have an entirely different view of the developments in our world.” God called Obadiah to speak out against the Edom. Obadiah’s message was that God was intimately “at work in the military and political lives of these neighbors of Judah.” In fact, God was executing His plans to complete perfection. Furthermore, Edom would endure God’s judgment due to their arrogance and “misplaced security”. Subsumed in this very short prophetic book are three very important issues for us today that are aptly outlined by Briscoe in his discussion. Those points are “God works out His purposes in the actions and affairs of mankind”, “Pride always comes before a fall”, and “The King is building His kingdom and He will prevail.”

These are just two short examples of the fine exegetical work and the important elements of application for modern believers that Briscoe provides the reader in this outstanding book. I highly recommend this book for all believers, in particular pastors and those who have either neglected the Minor Prophets or who might need a refresher course in what they have to say. Since all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, and training in righteousness, having a solid grasp of the Minor Prophets is highly important. Pastor Stuart Briscoe has done an outstanding job in this book of sharing what God has to say for us today in the books of the Minor Prophets. I encourage everyone to reengage these books at the earliest moment and to use this book as a helpful guide.

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

Read More »

Book Review– The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther (Long Line of Godly Men Profiles)

Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Book Reviews, Church History

17171594 209x300 Book Review   The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther (Long Line of Godly Men Profiles)Martin Luther towers not only as one of the intellectual giants of Western civilization but arguably as one of the most influential men who has ever lived. Luther was a precise theologian, prolific author, fierce debater, captivating teacher and much more. While there is much talk abut Luther, what is often neglected is that he was a pastor and passionate preacher. In his new book, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther, pastor, author, and conference speaker, Dr. Steven Lawson writes to help readers understand not only who Luther was, but also why his ministry is important today.

The book has six chapters. In chapter one, Lawson explores the life and legacy of Luther. Chapters two provides the foundation for the book by explaining Luther’s views on the doctrine of Scripture. Chapter three and four show how Luther’s view of Scripture worked itself into his sermon preparation by illustrating how Luther, not only held to a high view of God’s Word, but, sought to apply it to his life and his hearers. Chapter five and six look at the boldness of Luther in the pulpit. The book concludes with a call for more Luther’s, those who passionately study the Word of God in order to declare the Word with authority and power in the pulpit.

The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther is a very good short biography that will help pastors, Sunday school teachers and lay people understand the significance of Martin Luther’s ministry. Luther, along with Calvin helped bring the gospel to a land, to people groups and nations that were in need of the gospel. There is the same need for reformation around the gospel as the church is always to be reforming around the Word of God. This is exactly why we need biographies like this one on Luther to remind us of how the gospel has transformed people’s lives in the past and how it will in the present and future. Luther was a man of deep gospel-shaped conviction and vision. His life was set ablaze by the gospel. I encourage you to take up and read this book. As you read I pray your passion will be renewed and your vision expanded to the glory of God.

Title:  The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther (Long Line of Godly Men Profiles)]

Author: Steven J. Lawson

Publisher: Reformation Trust (2013)

I received this book for free from Reformation Trust 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.”

Read More »

Book Review – Victory Through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain Language

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 in Book Reviews, Theology

Victory Through the Lamb 194x300 Book Review   Victory Through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain Language Revelation is admittedly one of the hardest books in all of Scripture to understand. The symbolism let the nature of the apocalyptic genre itself has led to a variety of interpretive stances over the years on exactly what the message of Revelation is, who it applies to, and how the events will unfold that are described in its pages. The complexity and the aforementioned variety of interpretations has led many to approach Revelation with either a strictly hands-off approach or they simply take hold of a popular viewpoint or even an unpopular viewpoint because their favorite Christian author or their pastor seems to hold to that view. Mark Wilson, in his book Victory Through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain Language, attempts to peel back some of the mystery concerning Revelation, approaching this book in a way that strives at helping the reader focus on the underlying theme of victory.

Wilson readily admits at the outset of his book that he prefers the post-tribulational, pre-millennial approach to eschatology, largely rejecting the pre-tribulational approach. Thus, his focus in this book is driving home the message that despite the unfortunate reality that believers will face trials and tribulation heretofore yet unseen in the history of the world, we should not shrink back in the face of such trials because we have victory through the blood of the Lamb. While some may disagree with Wilson’s eschatological position regarding the timing of the Rapture, it is hard to disagree with the biblical fact that whatever transpires in this life, believers are to have an eternally focused vision, one that understands the movement of history is towards redemption and restoration. It is again this message that Wilson successfully drives home throughout this book.

Each chapter of this book begins with an account of martyrdom, whether from Scripture or from the annals of history. Those accounts are then followed by Wilson’s own translation of the text being discussed. He notes “The translation of Revelation and other New Testament texts is my own made from the Greek text.” The intent in providing such a translation is in keeping with his overall effort at presenting the message of Revelation, one that is so often wrapped up in a bit of mystery, in a way that is more easily understandable for the average layman. Wilson’s translation is then followed by his commentary on that particular section of Revelation. The commentary is scholarly yet accessible and Wilson does an admirable job of engaging and explaining the elements of each section of Revelation that typically form the basis for either confusion on behalf of most believers or issues that are most often debated. As with any commentary on Revelation, Wilson does provide his opinion on how the text in question should be interpreted and he does so in a manner that engages the various views, their strengths, weaknesses, to include the reasons why he takes the stance he does on that particular issue. I found the commentary to be largely helpful and not bogged down in the minutia of explicating the nuance of every Greek word used in Revelation or elaboration of every scholarly viewpoint on an issue that is found in more scholarly focused efforts on this subject matter.

I appreciated Wilson’s discussion of the terms wrath and tribulation, two words that are so often misunderstood in relation to the message of Revelation. Many suggest that since we are clearly told in Scripture that believers are not appointed to endure God’s wrath, that must mean the church will not be present for the rather horrific events described in Revelation or if any of the body of Christ are present, it will be only those who came to salvation during this time period. Wilson aptly notes “Tribulation, which sometimes leads to martyrdom, is brought upon the saints because of their witness. Its source is Satan and his accomplices. Wrath on the other hand comes upon the unrighteous inhabitants of the earth who refuse to repent, and its source is God and the Lamb.” Wilson hearkens back to the events in Exodus where God protected His people while at the same time pouring out His wrath on Pharaoh and Egypt. It is this same approach which Wilson believes will occur at the end of days with the enemy waging war on the saints and God’s wrath eventually being poured out on those who reject God. For many, this may seem like a troubling message, specifically the idea of God’s people having to endure tribulation and even martyrdom. Wilson does a great job both in the overall commentary with repeated emphasis at the beginning of each chapter that martyrdom for the sake of the gospel has been the lot of believers for centuries. With that said, death truly has no sting due again to the repeated message of victory found in Revelation, a theme Wilson continually hones in on.

As with any commentary on Revelation, there will likely be some aspect of Wilson’s approach that can be quibbled over or debated. We all come to Revelation from a particular perspective, typically from one of the three main eschatological approaches, namely pre, mid or post-tribulation with some still affirming a preterist viewpoint of end time’s events. On a personal level, I tend to fall more into the post-tribulation camp, so there was much of Wilson’s approach for which I found myself agreeing. With that said, there were some aspects of his position that gave me some additional food for thought and other aspects which I disagree at least in part with, something to be expected with any work on this subject. Ultimately, one’s eschatological perspective will greatly influence their approach to Revelation and eschatology in general. Despite any disagreement one may have with the specifics of Wilson’s perspective, the message of victory is certainly one that can be latched onto by all believers. As he so rightly states at the conclusion of his book, “Only by holding to the word of God and the witness of Jesus Christ are believers capable of being triumphant.” At each stage of the events of Revelation, we can see this true of victory unfold, even in what seems to be the darkest of hours. Wilson successfully empowers the believer to grab hold of that truth.

I recommend this book for all believers to read and consider. While Wilson’s eschatological position may not fall in line with your own position, the message of victory culminating in restoration and redemption that underpins all of Scripture is something we should all appreciate and Wilson does a great job of explaining how that message is revealed in Revelation. For those who have far too often taken that hands-off approach to Revelation, this is a commentary that will help ease you into the further studies of this important book of Scripture.

This book is available for purchase from the Weaver Book Company by clicking here.

I received this book for free from the Weaver Book Company 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.”

Read More »

Book Review – Great Kings of the Bible: How Jesus is Greater than Saul, David and Solomon

Posted by on Aug 21, 2014 in Book Reviews, Theology

Great Kings of the Bible 232x300 Book Review   Great Kings of the Bible: How Jesus is Greater than Saul, David and Solomon  Some of the most riveting and engaging historical narratives in the Old Testament are the accounts of the lives of king Saul, David and Solomon. Their lives are a mix of heroism, tragedy, accomplishments and great loss. Israel wanted a king to rule them like the other nations and they got what they asked for and more.

In a colorful, biblically faithful and Christ centered book, Deepak Raju traces the lives of the three kings of Israel in Great Kings of the Bible: How Jesus is greater than Saul, David and Solomon. Raju is the pastor of counseling and families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church where Mark Dever is senior pastor. He received his theological training at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves on the board of directors for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Written for children between 5-11, Raju captures the central story line of each king with accompanying full page color pictures that grasp the focus of each event in the kings life. Raju does not sugar coat the lives of the kings but shows them in all of their glory and disgrace. This is all done to highlight the central character in the book – Jesus Christ the true and better king!

Throughout the book Raju shows time and time again how, despite the failures of the kings of Israel, there is a king coming who is better in every way. This king is Jesus. Though Saul disobeyed the Lord and rejected Samuel, Jesus perfectly obeyed His Father. Though David lied, stole, murdered and committed adultery, Jesus did not murder but used His power to protect the weak and raise the dead to life. Though Solomon acted like a fool, despite his great wisdom, and gave his heart away to idols and false gods, Jesus was perfectly wise in all He did. Though all of the kings of Israel died in sin, Jesus died for their sins and rose again that they might have life apart from the punishment for their sins.

Great Kings of the Bible is a great book to read again and again. Your kids will want to read it for nights on end. This is a great reading tool to teach young children the lives of the kings of Israel and how Jesus is a better king.

I received this book for free from Christian Focus for Kids 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.”

Read More »

Book Review – Silent Witnesses: Lessons on Theology, Life, and the Church from Christians of the Past

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in Book Reviews, Church History

Silent Witnesses Book Review   Silent Witnesses: Lessons on Theology, Life, and the Church from Christians of the Past One of the greatest needs for Christians today is to understand how their faith is rooted in the history of God’s dealing with man. In his latest book Silent Witnesses: Lessons on Theology, Life, and the Church from Christians of the Past Garry Williams tells the story of a selection of figures from Christian history, figures whose lips have now fallen silent but who still speak to God’s people through their testimony and writing. These figures will help us understand the essentials of the Christian faith, the Christian life and give advice to pastors and elders on ministry in the local church.

The book covers men from the fourth century through the twentieth, men like Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, John Calvin, John Owen and Jonathan Edwards. Each chapter includes some breakdown of the life of the figure being covered then goes into how their particular thought on the topic was helpful.

Books like Silent Witnesses are helpful for a number of reasons. First many Christians may not be familiar with the figures covered in this book. The men and the one woman covered in this book provides models in the author’s view of how Christians should think through the Christian life and ministry. Second, as noted earlier, Christians need to understand how their faith is not something new but something old and rooted in the history of His redeemed people. This book will help Christians to understand how what they think today about a variety of topics was influenced by men and women of previous generations. This means that we should learn from what others have said because we aren’t the first generation to study the Bible. Finally, this book is important because it provides guidance to pastors and elders from men like Luther and Calvin.

Whether you are a new to the study of church history or a seasoned veteran, Silent Witnesses Lessons on theology, life, and the church from Christians of the past has something for you. This is a book to read slowly and digest. It contains a lifetime of lessons from men whom God has used in the life of His people and continues to use through their writing to powerfully to equip and edify the people of God. I highly recommend this book and pray the Lord will use it powerfully to strengthen and encourage the saints in their various ministries.

Read More »