Counter Culture

Posted by on May 28, 2015 in Christian Living, Featured

Counter Culture

Counter CultureIf you haven’t noticed, we live in a culture that is deeply divided over major issues such as race, sexuality, immigration, religious liberty, abortion, and poverty just to name a few. Even the two major political parties draw battle lines based on how they view each of these issues. In the midst of politics and the endless noise of media coverage, it is easy to plug our ears and hope the issues simply resolve themselves. However, the Bible speaks to these issues and through it God calls all believers to speak to the culture. This is what bestselling author David Platt discusses in his new book Counter Culture published by Tyndale House.

Platt is known for making waves in culture with his New York Times Bestselling books: Radical and Follow Me. His new book Counter Culture follows in the footsteps of his previous books. As a former pastor and current president of the International Mission Board, Platt holds a unique position to write a gospel-centered book on biblical ethics. In the book he speaks to such issues as how to handle poverty, end sex-trafficking, deal with racism, stand for religious liberty, stop abortion, and relate to homosexuals all in a Jesus-focused, discipleship-driven, gospel-centered way. Each chapter follows the storyline of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Redemption, New Creation. At the end of each chapter, Platt challenges the reader to pray about the issues, participate in changing the issues, and proclaiming God’s Word about the issues.

Counter Culture is the “how to” application of his previous books Radical and Follow Me. As a disciple of Jesus we cannot stay silent about cultural issues. “Gospel possession requires gospel proclamation,” he says in the book. But sadly, the church in America has settled for status quo and is comfortable sitting idle in a culture that desperate needs to hear the truth. Counter Culture is a call to all believers to get off the bench and get into the game of living and speaking the gospel into a culture that desperately needs it! This book is a must read for all believers who desire to make a dent in our culture for the sake of the gospel! You cannot read this book and stay the same!

Personal Note: This book has challenged me to pray about ways that I can speak to these issues in my own life and point people to the gospel.
I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers as a member of the Tyndale Bloggers Network program in exchange for an honest review of the book.  

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Developments in Biblical Counseling

Posted by on May 27, 2015 in Church, Featured

Developments in Biblical Counseling

51xR3TocoiL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Biblical Counseling is, by all accounts, a young movement. Just barely out of its infancy it is experiencing some of the pangs of growth and maturation. J. Cameron Fraser has an earnest desire to help readers understand some of those pangs and that process of maturation. In Developments in Biblical, Counseling Fraser offers a brief survey of the movement, in order to applaud some of the changes that the second generation of counselors has made to the initial framework that Jay E. Adams developed. This is a work that will place the current Biblical Counseling culture within its proper historical context.

There are many biblical counselors, like myself, who have only come into the movement in its sort of post-Adams stage. Adams, of course, is not gone completely from the movement. He is still discussed and still respected, yet he is not nearly as influential as he once was. Many of us have come into our own counseling under the leadership of men like David Powlison and Ed Welch. Yet it is important for us to see these men in light of the history of the movement as a whole. To that end, Fraser has written a brief survey of the transitions, modifications, and nuances that have developed within the Biblical Counseling movement. It serves readers well to distinguish between the various contributions of different teachers and instructors, and the nuances of their position. He interacts with both external critics and internal revisionists to help all us think carefully about how we understand the Nouthetic model of counseling.

The book’s four chapters are brief discussions of these matters. Readers wanting a more detailed analysis will need to look elsewhere, and thankfully Fraser has granted us a good trail to follow to locate those other sources (most notably Lambert’s The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams and Powlison’s The Biblical Counseling Movement). Yet his survey is very useful as an introduction to these matters.

His introduction gives us some good history on Adams, John Bettler, and the initial launch of what would eventually become Biblical Counseling. Again, this won’t cover everything but it does gives some major touch points to the history of the movement. Fraser discusses the initial interest, the eventual birth of Christian counseling and the waning interest in the Nouthetic approach, and then a sort of renaissance in the movement in the mid-nineties. There’s lots of valuable information here to help set the context for the rest of the work.

Chapter one dives into the foundational views of Nouthetic Counseling. Here readers will get a rough outline of Adam’s development of the approach. Issues such as the Sufficiency of Scripture, definition of the term Nouthetic, and its relationship to psychology and psychiatry are all introduced. Of particular interest and significance is O. Hobart Mower’s influence on Adams, which gets discussed some here and picked up in later chapters again. Fraser also discussed Adams’ methodology and his views on sin, suffering, and Satan which comprise his approach to counseling. These issues set-up the following chapters, which focus on critiques from without and within the movement.

Chapters two and three pick up that critique, starting with some external criticisms leveled against Adams in particular. The same headings are used as Fraser quotes from a wide array of voices who offer pushback on Adams views, those include counselors like Larry Crabb and pastors like D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Chapter three’s critiques come from within the movement itself, as Fraser discusses the modifications, nuances, and developments that second generation counselors have made to the approach. The two central figures in this chapter are David Powlison and Edward T. Welch, both who work at the Christians Counseling and Education Foundation. There are others who are brought into the conversation as well, such as Adams’ first colleague John Bettler, pastor Tim Keller, and Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Heath Lambert. Following the same pattern and under the same headings Fraser lists their critiques and modifications to Adams original model. The changes focus largely around an emphasis on idols of the heart, and a willingness to embrace the valid contributions of psychology and psychiatry (in so far as such contributions conform to a biblical worldview).

The final chapter explores the relationship between contemporary Biblical Counseling and the methods of the Puritans. This was a strange inclusion in this book, but it’s content was insightful. Fraser concludes that the second generation counselors are closer in approach to the Puritans than Adams, though he recognizes none is an exact replication of their methods and views.

Overall this is an incredibly informative and insightful book. Fraser is fair in his treatment of the subject and the individuals involved, often allowing Adams to give a response to the criticisms leveled against him. He offers plenty of quotations and citations to evidence his research and allow readers to trace out his work. He also has an entire post-script that, at some level, lets Jay Adams have the last word. Fraser’s sympathies lie with the so-called second generation of counselors (Powlison and Welch), but he sent a draft of this work to Don Arms, Jay’s right-hand man at the Institute for Nouthetic Studies. Don was allowed, then, to offer some push back on the various comments and criticisms leveled in Fraser’s work. As I said, it is an incredibly fair treatment of the subject and the individuals involved.

This is a good book for helping those of us who are still young in this young movement to get some perspective. There are certainly other volumes that offer more detailed analysis, yet Fraser’s work is concise, fair, and insightful. In this regard, it is a good resource for surveying the Biblical Counseling Movement. I commend it to all counselors, but especially those who have come into the movement after Adams.

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Defying Isis: Preserving Christianity In The Place Of Its Birth And In Your Own Backyard

Posted by on May 26, 2015 in Church, Featured

Defying Isis: Preserving Christianity In The Place Of Its Birth And In Your Own Backyard

downloadEvery day we’re confronted with more news about Isis and the terror they are reigning on the world around us. Yet what is often not reported on not nearly enough is the massacre that is happening at the hands of Isis. This massacre is the persecution, and killing of Christians. Thousands of Christians arrive in refugee camps daily in countries like Jordan, Northern Iraq, and Lebanon. Churches have been demolished, crosses burned and replaced with ISIS flags, homes destroyed, entire communities displaced, religious conversions forced, human torture enacted, children slaughtered, and all in plain sight. ISIS is bound and determined to wipe Christianity off the map completely. Knowing this is why Johnnie Moore wrote Defying Isis: Preserving Christianity In The Place Of Its Birth And In Your Own Backyard.

This book has three sections. In the first section, the author explains what ISIS is doing—namely burning our churches and killing our pastors, slaughtering God’s people, and making our children their soldiers, along with enslaving our wives and abusing our daughters, and more. In section two, the author explains how ISIS is in our backyard since all of their training is done via the internet. In chapter six the author gets into how we defeat ISIS. He explains that we need to educate ourselves about ISIS, give to those preserving and rebuilding society, and don’t underestimate or oversimplify the crisis, and befriend people. I thought it was interesting here that there was no mention of going to war with ISIS nor in the rest of the book. Part three looks at what we are losing. Here the author explains the history of IRAQ and all the history we’re losing.

A lot of people are writing and speaking about ISIS these days. It seems nearly every day when I look at my Facebook newsfeed there is almost always something on ISIS and our failure to do much if anything to help the people over there. As Johnnie’s book shows there is a lot that is being done, but there is a lot more work to do. As Johnnie rightly notes we need to get to work. We should not remain silent as our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and killed. Instead, we must raise our voices because of the gospel. We must speak out against the injustice that is being done to our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being sold into sex trafficking and or killed.

Whether you agree with all of Johnnie’s conclusions or not, Defying ISIS is a very needed and helpful book. This book will help you to understand the problem that ISIS is in a way that will help you to pray intelligently, become informed, and call you to action on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ. I highly recommend this book and believe you’ll be informed and challenged by this excellent book.

Title: Defying Isis: Preserving Christianity In The Place Of Its Birth And In Your Own Backyard

Author: Johnnie Moore

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2015)

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson 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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A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament by Alec Motyer

Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Featured, Theology

A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament by Alec Motyer

9781781915806m“Without the Old Testament, we cannot know Jesus properly.” (21) Though Jesus is most clearly revealed in the New Testament (especially the Gospels), it is without a doubt that readers will miss much of what is being revealed about Him if they first do not have a proper understanding of the Old Testament which points to Him. An essential understanding of the Old Testament and it’s Christward focus is critical to understanding Jesus and the New Testament. “The Old Testament is,” as Motyer later says, “in many ways, a book standing on tiptoe, straining forward into the future.” (42) What we need are Christians who love the Old Testament for the same reason they love the New Testament – it’s all about Jesus!

To this end, Old Testament scholar and long-time teacher, Alec Motyer has written A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament: One Book, One God, One Story with Christian Focus Publications (2015). Through fourteen short and highly readable chapters, Motyer has provided readers with a fundamental and essential sketch of the Old Testament that will put them on the right track to understanding the central thrust of the Old Testament.

Beginning with an explanation of the threefold nature of the Old Testament (Law, Prophets and the Writings) and covering areas like the Passover as a means of one way of salvation, the Christward focus of the OT, the role of the Prophets and Psalms, Motyer writes to his readers as if they were going to be first-time readers of the Old Testament. For someone who has had a successful career in the academic world, Motyer has written a book that is aimed at the bottom shelf.

One thing that stands out throughout the book is the unified nature of the Old Testament as it presents one God and points to Christ. God is always calling His people out of idolatry to worship Him alone as the only one to who they owe their worship. Additionally, the OT points to a single person as the accomplisher of their salvation – the Messiah, Jesus Christ! To miss the Christward focus of the book is to miss the essence of the OT altogether.

As with all of the Christian Pocket Guide books from Christian Focus, I highly recommend Loving the Old Testament. It can be easily read in one sitting, used as a devotional guide, and would work great in a small group setting to help Christians become better oriented when they read the Old Testament. There is a lifetime of study and insight packed into this little book that every seasoned Christian can benefit from.

I received this book for free from Christian Focus 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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How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible by Keith Ferrin

Posted by on May 23, 2015 in Christian Living, Featured

How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible by Keith Ferrin

9780764213236When I was a kid I hated reading. My sister, on the other hand, loved it. I would read what I had to for school and that was it. When I reached high school I read through the Bible a few times for our youth group program and I did enjoy it. But outside of that I hated it. I wanted to be outside rollerblading, or skateboarding, or shooting my pellet gun. I did not want to read. Reading required me to slow down and be quiet. Sometimes I literally cried when I had to read.

Now I love to read and I love reading the Bible. Though my youth pastor played a large role in my current love for reading, there were a number of factors that led to my love of reading. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many Christians. Not only is there a decline in reading in the general population there is a decline in reading of the Bible by Christians. Not only is the culture post-Christian, it seems that the Evangelical Christian church is becoming post-Christian merely because less and fewer Christians are reading their Bible and, therefore, don’t know it.

So how do Christians begin to read the Bible so that they can develop an enjoyment of it? That’s why Keith Ferrin, author of Falling in Love With God’s Word, has recently written How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible (Bethany House, 2015). There are many factors that contribute to Christians not enjoying reading the Bible and Keith aims to help Christians overcome these and put them on a path to enjoying and loving to read the Bible.

The book is divided into ten steps to help people develop enjoyment while reading the Bible. Keith is not content for Christians to just read the Bible out of habit and duty. No, he wants Christians to enjoy reading the Bible. If Christians can move from reading out of duty to reading out of enjoyment then their Bible reading will be much more effective and, well, enjoyable!

Like with any other relationship, our relationship with God is built on time spent with Him and we do so through prayer and Bible reading/study. When we read merely out of a sense of duty we can tend to read out of guilt for the purpose of knowing more about the Bible. But Keith wants to remind us that reading the Bible is not just for knowing more of what is said but who is saying it. We read the Bible to know God better through Jesus. Knowing our Bibles better is always important but if we fail to know God better in the process then we have missed a lot in our reading.

Through the ten steps for reading the Bible to enjoy it, Keith gives a lot of practical guidance that can be used immediately. One thing that really sticks out is the priority Keith puts on reading the Bible in context. That is, while many devotionals tend to focus on reading a few verses, or even just one at a time, Keith wants to help you develop an enjoyment for reading by reading in big chunks. For instance, the Epistles of the New Testament were written as letters to be read aloud at one time. Why do we break them up in bits and pieces? Keith notes, “We try to figure out what Philippians 4:13 means without being able to say what the book of Philippians is about” (67). Keith wants us to enjoy the whole Bible and not just a few of our favorite verses.

How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible is an excellent book with some of the best advice on how to develop a lifestyle of consistent Bible reading while enjoying it at the same time. This is a good book for new Christians who are not used to reading or for Christians who are going through a season in their Christian walk where they find reading their Bibles to be more of a chore than an enjoyment.

You can also check out Keith’s earlier book Falling in Love With God’s Word and his very helpful website www.keithferrin.com for more information and helps on reading the Bible.

I received this book for free from Bethany House 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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Living Without Worry How to replace Anxiety with Peace

Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Christian Living, Featured

Living Without Worry How to replace Anxiety with Peace

downloadMany, many Christians struggle with anxiety and worry. Such struggles are not theoretical, they are very real. Worry and anxiety are struggles I know personally. Often times they can come on at the most inopportune time. Other times there are seasons where worry, anxiety, and depression come in like the tide and roll out with no fanfare. This is why when I read Living Without Worry How to replace Anxiety with peace by Dr. Timothy Lane I was greatly helped. Dr. Lane writes not only out of his considerable knowledge of this topic but also his many years as a biblical counselor, and professor.

The first six chapters look at worry—why not worry, what is worry, worry and your past, worry and your future, and worry and your present. Chapter seven looks at how to address worry in your own life while chapter eight helps readers to counter your worry with the gospel. Chapter nine helpful looks at how to cast all your cares on the Lord. Chapter ten looks at how Jesus viewed anxiety and worry. The book concludes with a gospel call to cast our cares on Jesus, the One who cares for us.

As I mentioned at the outset of this review, anxiety and worry are two issues I’m very familiar with. Life comes at us a million miles an hour. When these feelings come up in my own life rather than running away from them I run to Jesus with them. Part of being an emotional, and mentally healthy Christian is to take what we know in the Bible and apply it to our lives. When I feel feelings of worry and anxiety rather than dwelling on them I take seriously what Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30 and what Paul teaches in Phillippians 4:6-8. The invitation of Jesus is to come to His throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). This means that rather than dwelling on all my problems which only breeds more anxiety and worry, I take them to Jesus the One who is our High Priest and Intercessor. After all, Jesus knows and cares. His invitation in Matthew 11:28-30 is for rest from our burdens. We can cast our burdens on Jesus because He serves as our High Priest and Intercessor. All of this is a biblical way of taking what we know from God’s Word and applying it to our lives.

Whether you are having intense of not so intense seasons of anxiety, worry, and depression you need godly friends around you to listen and care for you. This is one reason the New Testament teaches us to one another each other. Living in community, under qualified godly pastors and elders is also important. Being open and transparent with those you trust in your local church is also vital. After all, they can pray with you and encourage you. They can see, how you communicate your words and wrap an arm around you and care for you. They can remind you of the truth of the gospel. I’ve found all of this to be vital in fighting off anxiety, worry, and depression.

Yet, sometimes I’ve noticed in counseling other Christians is that we are so focused on earthly circumstances that we can’t listen. Our ears are stopped to hear what others are saying. Sometimes that is because of our pride. Most of the time though in my experience it is because we’re so focused on earthly things that we cannot fill our minds with heaven. In this case rather than filling our minds with God’s Word which is living and active and able to help lift us up out of our depression, anxiety, and worry—we instead choose to focus only on our problems. In this case, we’re choosing to be so focused on earthly things that we cannot be used for heaven. God wants us to fill our thoughts with heaven so that we’ll be of earthly good. This is what Living Without Worry does so well. It points us to God’s Word. It provides the means of the gospel as the only help for worry and anxiety. Sure, we may also need medication in some extreme cases for chemical imbalance. We are to look up to Jesus. He is what we need more than anything else. Jesus is our peace. He is our treasure. We are to trust Him who knows what is best for us and know that He will see us through. These aren’t just words. We are to truly believe these truths and to do battle as God’s soldiers since He’s given us His Spirit.

I highly recommend this book. Whether you are struggling with anxiety or worry this book will help you by pointing you to your greatest need in Jesus Christ. Jesus does care for you. He loves you. Read this book and be encouraged, and stirred up once again by way of reminder of the precious truth that Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you.

Buy the book at Amazon.

I received this book for free from The Good Book Company 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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