Book Review: A Lost God in a Lost World

Posted: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 in Book review

51er7-q4yhl-_sx318_bo1204203200_If you are a fan of David Wells’ writings on the effect of culture on the church and evangelicalism, then you will not want to miss A Lost God in a Lost World by Melvin Tinker. It is an excellent series of biblical expositions that will enhance your preaching (if you are a preacher) and your listening (if you are a parishioner) – and both preacher and parishioner will profit in their study.

Tinker offers the following expositions to show how God is lost in a lost world – and the necessary corrective to get Him back:

(1) When God is Weightless (The Problem of Idolatry – Isaiah 44:9-23)

(2) When God is Replaced (The Problem of Pride – Ezekiel 28)

(3) When God is Revealed (The need for the grandeur of God – Isaiah 40:1-31)

(4) When God is Crucified (The necessity of the Cross – Philippians 2:5-11)

(5) When God enters a Life (The work of the Holy Spirit – John 14:1-31)

(6) When God is Proclaimed (The necessity of Gospel proclamation – Romans 10:12-18)

(7) When God is Embraced (The need for effective grace – Acts 16:11-15)

(8) When God Returns (The Necessity of the Second Coming – 2 Peter 3)

(9) When God Makes All Things New (The Need to be Heavenly Minded – Isaiah 65:17-25)

You can see that Tinker agrees with Wells – the main problem in the world is a low view of God and a high view of self, which produces idolatry and pride. The corrective is to reverse that view by the grace of God through the power of the Spirit changing lives through the proclamation of Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and return – when order, God’s order, will then be restored.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Book Review: The Martyrs of Malatya

Posted: Friday, October 2, 2015 in Book review, Books, Missions

We live in dangerous times in the West. The attacks of ISIS and radical Islamists around the world are real. These attacks are born out of a misguided understanding of Christianity and the Word of God. These misunderstandings are brought to light in this excellent biographical work on the martyrdom of three men in eastern Turkey city of Malatya. This is the story of Necati, Uğur, and Tilmann, three men who gave their lives to Christ and for Christ in the land they loved.

James Wright (pen name) gives to us a valuable tool for evangelism to Muslims through the testimonies of these men. First, he reveals the key tenets of Islam against Christianity. Many in the West think the Islamic animosity is founded solely on the Crusades centuries ago where ruthless men took the lives of thousands of Muslims “in the name of Christ.” However, the Crusades are only mentioned once in this book, and then indirectly. The major disagreements of Islam over against the Christian comes from what they are taught – a teaching that is incorrect and if compared to the Scriptures are found to be so. They are taught that the Scriptures have been changed from the original writings, that Christians worship three gods, and that the Christians real agenda in missions is to “undermine the political and social unity of the state by setting religious sects against one another and partnering with the PKK and Israel” (p. 184 – part of one of the murderers “defense”). These are things that children are taught in their textbooks (at least the first two) at an early age. Radical Islam would take these things to an extreme and embrace the falsehood of evil intentions of missionaries from the West, as illustrated by the “onion” (p. 96 – you will need to see for yourself!). Wright also offers a good historical background for how these beliefs came to be. As part of that history, however, Wright shows how the seeds of faith were planted along the way in the very region where this tragic event took place.

Wright also shows how these men came to faith in Christ. Tilmann, being a German, had what we might consider a more typical testimony whose heart for the Muslims was formed while in Indonesia and further by his future wife. Necati, a Turk, came to faith in Christ as a young woman patiently listened to his questions about Christianity and led him to Christ. She also became his wife! And Uğur, a Turk, who followed Christ after a self-study about Christ and the Word of God where he determined that what he had been taught as a child about both were incorrect. In all three men, we find the power of God at work.

Their martyrdom ranks with all the great saints whose lives were taken because of their testimony in Christ. Faithfulness, Jesus said, will come with suffering and persecution in this world – to test our faith, the faith of others, and to provide and example to others of the love of Christ. While the lives of these three men might fade from the pages of history, they will never fade from the book of life and the pages of eternity. And the mark they left in Turkey needs today, 8 years after this tragedy, to be remembered not just in Turkey, but around the world. May we learn to love our enemies as they loved theirs…

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Book Review – The Baptist Story

Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Tony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin is a concise look at the history of Baptists from 17th century England to the present day. The chronology includes the Baptist movement in England and North America, which is no small task as admitted by the authors:

Our attempt to produce a history of the Baptists has caused us to feel a mountain of weight… Indeed, writing such a history some 200 years after American Baptists first organized an international mission agency (the Triennial Convention) has placed us in the context of writing about more, not fewer, Baptist groups. Consequently our audience includes, but is not limited to, independent Baptists and Cooperative Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists and Southern Baptists, Free Will Baptists and Reformed Baptists, regular principle Baptists and seeker-sensitive Baptists. Among these groups are differing views of biblical inspiration, age of baptismal recipients, elder-led churches, women pastors, sovereign decrees, and the propriety of vacation Bible school – to name only a few! (pp. 1-2)

The authors cover this herculean task of different schisms and doctrinal/practical issues in Baptist life very well. They provide a truthful assessment of the influence that Anabaptists had on English Baptists. They are honest about the effects of slavery in both England and North America amongst Baptists and how that led to a split that led not just to the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention but also to the formation of the National Baptist Convention. Of course, the missions movement in Baptist life was an impetus to these schisms as well, whether it be hyper-Calvinism/Calvinism/Arminianism or whether slave owners should be allowed on the mission field.

One of the benefits of the book is its concise and readable format. It will prove helpful as an introduction to Baptist history and will undoubtedly become a favored textbook in Baptist universities and seminaries. But the layperson will be able to use this as a valuable introduction and resource as well.

Another of the benefits is the recommended “For Further Study” and “Questions for Discussion” at the end of each chapter. Again, this will guide the student in suggested readings to gain a deeper understanding of the time and topic and prove helpful for personal study and/or lesson preparation for a small group study.

A final strength is that each of the author’s writes according to their great knowledge of Baptists in a particular era:

Ours is both an individual and a collaborative effort. We divided this project according to our specialties: Michael Haykin wrote the chapters on the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Baptists, Anthony Chute authored the section on nineteenth-century Baptists, and Nathan Finn concluded with the twentieth century and beyond. However, we have each provided substantive input and editorial oversight regarding the book as a whole. This textbook is a collaborative effort at every level. (p. 2)

I highly recommend this book to student and layperson alike – you will not be disappointed! Its conciseness is its strength. If you want more detail you will want to read Leon McBeth’s The Baptist Heritage and/or Tom Nettles’ 3-volume work, The Baptists..

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Book Review: Gaining by Losing

Posted: Monday, August 24, 2015 in Book review, Books

Gaining by Losing: Why the Future belongs to Churches that Send by J. D. Greear is a wake up call for the church – because the church is asleep. The following is startling:

According to a recent Lifeway Research study, in the next seven years 55,000 churches in the United States will close their doors, and the number of those who attend a church on the weekend in the United States will drop from 17 percent to 14 percent. Only 20 percent of churches in the US are growing, and only 1 percent are growing by reaching lost people. So 95 percent of the church growth we celebrate merely shuffles existing Christians around.

So churches aren’t just asleep, but when awake busy doing the wrong things. The enemy doesn’t care which ditch we’re in – as long as we’re in a ditch.

For Greear, the problem is a result of both a lack of concern for Kingdom growth and a lack of gospel discipleship. The solution: “Churches that want to penetrate their world with the gospel think less about the Sunday morning bang and more about equipping their members to blast a hole in the mountain of lostness” and “the future of Christianity belongs to churches that send.” Why?

  1. Increasingly, in a “post-Christian” society, unbelievers will simply not make their way into our churches, no matter how “attractive” we make them.
  2. Multiplication beats out addition, every time.
  3. The presence of God accompanies those who send.
  4. Jesus’ promises of “greatness” in the church are always related to sending.

Gaining by Losing seeks to get the church out of the ditch and back on the right path. Following a candid testimony of how Greear’s heart was changed concerning Kingdom growth (chapter 2), he then gives the 10 things (plumb lines) the church he leads did to bring the focus back to center.

  1. Chapter 3 lays the foundation – the gospel. “Everything in the Christian life grows out of the gospel” (p. 59).
  2. Chapter 4 shatters the “myth” of calling – ‘Everyone is called… the question is no longer whether we are called, only where and how” (p. 70).
  3. Chapter 5 challenges the church to be missional, to be the church during the week and not just on the weekend, to be the church in the world rather than trying to attract the world to the church.
  4. Chapter 6 shows the importance of good leadership. Good leadership is not a personality that the church grows around but leaders reproducing leaders.
  5. Chapter 7 is about living Christ in our world, to make Christ visible. “When local churches equip their people to embody the gospel in the streets, they make movements of and otherwise invisible Christ visible to their community” (p. 119).
  6. Chapter 8 is a reminder to the church of how to measure success – are they making disciples.
  7. Chapter 9 is simple enough, PASTORS! Every pastor is a missions pastor.
  8. Chapter 10 covers the mandate for the church to be multi-ethnic.
  9. Chapter 11 sets forth the “risk” that comes with being a sending church.55
  10. And chapter 12 – never give up.

I highly recommend Gaining by Losing. Pastors will be challenged – I know, I am one! Members will be challenged – I know, I have them! And may sending be our purpose for worship, discipleship, and fellowship.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Book Review: Questions Jesus Asks

Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2015 in Book review, Books

In Questions Jesus Asks: Where Divinity Meets Humanity, Israel Wayne looks at the mystery of the incarnate God with a biblical approach that the title suggests: 20 questions that Jesus asked while He dwelt among man. The introduction covers the omniscience of Jesus and the tension between Jesus’ divinity and humanity. He rightly concludes that Jesus’ knowledge was limited in His humanity (Mark 13:32) but offers a word of caution: “It is important for us to understand that in any way that Jesus was limited by His humanity, it was totally and completely voluntary. He was not weakened in any way that He did not choose to be.”

So why did Jesus ask questions?

I personally believe that Jesus’ motivation in asking questions was usually very similar to the reasons we explored Questions God Asks. He isn’t asking the questions for His own personal benefit but rather on behalf of the person being asked. Jesus was full of love and compassion for people. His questions penetrate the heart and probe our deepest motives.

I love the fact that whenever others sought to trap Him with a question, Jesus would almost inevitably avoid answering and respond with a question of His own (which usually left His opponents speechless).

Because these questions of Jesus have been preserved for us in the Scripture, I believe they are for our benefit as well. What does Jesus want us to consider about our assumptions, our prejudices, and out innermost thoughts and secrets? I invite you to join with me in this journey of discovery as we seek to find our answers through the Questions Jesus Asks.

Then follows 20 questions that Jesus asked, each with a doctrinal subject that Wayne considers to be the purpose for Jesus’ question, or what He would have us to learn from His questions. I offer the questions along with the topic… and encourage you to grab this book and read it as Wayne sets forth the humanity of Christ in dealing with us humans!

  1. Who do people say that I am? (Christology)
  2. Didn’t you know? (Virgin birth)
  3. Who are my mother and brothers? (Family)
  4. What are you seeking? (Discipleship)
  5. What will it profit a man (Money)
  6. Who touched Me? (Healing)
  7. Do you want to get well? (Counseling)
  8. Why are you afraid? (Fear)
  9. What is your name? (Demonology)
  10. What were you arguing about? (Servanthood)
  11. Whose image is this? (Government)
  12. Has no one condemned you? (Forgiveness)
  13. Are you not in error? (Apologetics)
  14. Why did you call Me Lord? (Lordship)
  15. Are you still sleeping? (Prayer)
  16. Why have You forsaken Me? (Suffering)
  17. Do you Love Me? (Love)
  18. Why do you persecute Me? (Persecution)
  19. How are you to escape from hell? (Hell)
  20. Do you believe this? (Resurrection)

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

Sufficiency of Grace in Salvation

Posted: Thursday, July 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

The following is from a recent sermon I preached from Galatians 5:1-6. This is taken from verses 5 and 6:

Paul makes four assertions in verses 5-6 concerning true salvation.  First, salvation is through the Spirit.”  True salvation is not a work of man but a work of God’s Spirit.  This is the major point of grace and central to the New Covenant.  Grace emphasizes that God is doing the work.  To say we believe in salvation by grace alone means that we (1) do not believe that we have any capacity for saving ourselves (works) and (2) that the whole work of salvation is according to God’s good pleasure and power (grace).  We cannot boast of our faith or of our repentance.  We cannot up and one day on our own decide to follow Christ.  We can decide on our own apart from grace to give Jesus a try, to follow Him in hopes that He will make our lives better.  But we cannot deny self, take up our cross, and follow Him, i.e. follow Him by faith, apart from grace.  We can only glory in the Lord when the Holy Spirit has worked savingly in our lives, enabling us to see an know God’s marvelous grace.

That is what Paul means in our text. How can a sinner bring himself out of spiritual darkness or lift himself from spiritual blindness or raise himself up from spiritual death?  He has no power to do so.  He must be born again by the Spirit.

This work of the Spirit will accomplish Paul’s second assertion concerning the sufficiency of grace in salvation – a response to Christ alone for salvation, by faith.”  The opposite of “by faith” is ‘by works of the law.” Again, Paul confronts the notion that a person can adhere to the law and be justified before God.  This is not due to the law’s weakness but to the weakness of the flesh to keep the law (Rom. 8:3-4).  We are the problem, not the law.  The law has its purpose to show our inability to keep it and to point us to Christ.  When we come to Christ, we do not gain Him by some act of merit on our part, but only by faith in Christ’s work at Calvary.  Faith comes empty-handed to the Cross, spiritually bankrupt.  The law cannot save you.  Your good-intentioned efforts cannot save you.  Your family’s Christian heritage cannot save you.  Your friends’ impressions of you cannot save you.  Your walking down an aisle cannot save you – not even your prayer can save you!  Your baptism cannot save you.  It is only those who refuse to claim merit before God and who rest totally in Christ that are saved.

Now, in case you haven’t heard me so far, let me again say that salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone (that is in receiving and trusting) in Christ alone.  So I think you would agree that it is important to know, “Who is this Christ?”

According to Christian researcher George Barna, the majority of church youth have an unorthodox view about Jesus. Although 87 percent of teens believe that Jesus was a real person who live on earth, and 78 percent believe He was born to a virgin, nearly half (46 percent) believe He committed sins, and more than half (51 percent) say Jesus died but never rose from the dead.

Another survey done a few years later asked teens to affirm the following four statements:

  1. The Bible is completely trustworthy in what it says about Jesus.
  2. Jesus is God.
  3. Jesus physically lived, died, and came back to life.
  4. Jesus is the only way to heaven.

Sadly, only 9 percent of churched youth would consistently express confidence in these doctrines.[1]

His virgin birth; His perfect obedience; His sacrificial death; His glorious resurrection; His ascension to be with the Father; His return to receive those who have received Him).  Christ alone!

If regeneration by the Spirit of God and faith in Christ is true of you, then Paul says there are two other things true of you as well.  The “root” is salvation in Christ alone through faith alone.  The “fruit” is a faith that first has great “hope” (v. 5).  “We ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.”  What happens when the Spirit imparts grace and a sinner believes savingly in Jesus Christ?  What is the result of saving faith?  That person is filled with “hope.”  “Hope” has Christ as its object and with great anticipation looks to the future because “hope” in Christ is confident.  We often use the word “hope” when we lack confidence or are uncertain.  That is not the case when our “hope” is in Christ.  “Hope” in Christ brings assurance of salvation.  “Hope” springs from a resolved mind and a settled heart that Christ is sufficient!

How different this is from those whose confidence is in themselves, in their efforts keep the law by their own works.  The law breeds uncertainty because no man is able to keep it.  That is why I so often remind you that Christianity is the only religion based on grace.  All others are based on works, and there is no hope, no assurance in works because, regardless of your religion, you are always left wondering if you’ve done enough.  It is the gospel alone that brings assurance because it is based on the certainty that Christ, by His perfect life and death, met God’s righteous requirements of the law for you.  It is His work that is accepted, not ours!

This does not mean that we have not yet received righteousness, but instead, it means that the full complement of all that the righteousness of Christ has secured for us will be ours.  The infinite wonder of His grace shown to us will be made known for the ages of eternity.  It is this “hope” that secures the Christian in the difficulties of life.  Hebrews 6:19-20 – 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

What else happens to the person who has received the gracious work of the Spirit, has renounced trust in himself and cast his whole reliance upon Jesus Christ, and who has a new hope assuring him?  In verse 6, Paul again explains that circumcision and uncircumcision are not what counts, but being “in Christ” does.  And, he says, one in Christ will have “faith working through love.”  This is the first occurrence of “love” in the letter and demonstrates that where faith is real and vital it will operate through love.

The Reformation expression applies this truth: the believer is justified by grace alone through faith alone; but not by a faith that remains alone.”  The Greek expresses the idea of faith being “energized” so that it produces love.  Faith is never idle.  It produces love in the believer that shows up in his kindness and acts of charity toward others.  It is a love that is best evidenced not only in his love for God but in his love for others.  We love others not because we find them worthy of being loved but because our lives are now characterized by love. If God has done a saving work in you, then you are a loving person.  Love is not an option.  If you have been set free from the law, you are to love as Christ loved, showing compassion to others.  And this love is not to be in word only, but in deed.  That is the work that matters!  We don’t work to be saved, but because we are saved.  We don’t work for righteousness but our righteousness is demonstrated by our works born out of a love for and the love of Christ.

One of God’s great gifts to the Christian is the church. [The church] is for us, because God is for us too. The worship, though ultimately for God, is meant for our edification—for belivers’ edification, not immediate resonance with nonbelievers (though we want our services to be intelligible to them too). Just as important, think of the one another commands. Church should be a place to bear each others burdens, meet physical needs, express comfort, demonstrate care, exercise hospitality, exchange greetings, offer encouragement, administer rebuke, receive forgiveness—basically faith working itself out in love. And isn’t love for each other the distinguishing mark of the Christian community?[2]

[1] Israel Wayne, Questions Jesus Asks, chapter one, Kindle edition.

[2] Kevin DeYoung, quoted in William Boekestein and Daniel R. Hyde, A Well-Ordered Church, p. 24

Book Review: I Will

Posted: Wednesday, July 29, 2015 in Book review, Books

I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian is Thom Rainer’s a follow up to I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude That Makes the Difference. In the latter book, Rainer descibes how a Christian can and should experience joy as a church member – the Christian’s attitude. In I Will, Rainer moves from attitude to actions that can and should flow from the heart of a joyous church member.

Every church has, or has had, a Heather or two. Heather represents the Christian who was once happy in their church.  But something happens along the way (in her case a divorce) that opens or exposes a heart that is not joyful, and consequently not happy in the church.  They no longer feel a part or don’t feel like they fit in.  The result can lead to discontentment, divisive grumbling, and perhaps withdrawal from their present church or the church altogether. Often the reason for this comes from always expecting to be served rather than to serve others, to be “inward-focused” rather than “outward-focused.”

Rainer suggests that while there are problems in some churches that might lead to one not feeling a part, the member is often at least a part of the problem, if not the entire problem. He suggests nine “I Wills,” nine chapters that will help a member refocus and be intentional in their responsibilities in a local church, to move from an “inward-focus” to an “outward-focus”: (1) Move from “I Am” (attitude) to “I Will” (action), (2) Corporate worship, (3) Fellowship, (4) Serve, (5) Go, (6) Give, (7) Not Drop Out, (8) Avoid “Churchianity” (9) Make a Difference.  Each chapter challenges the member to make a determined effort to be “others” oriented.

Every pastor and church leader should read this book because they do have members who have, are, or will become disenchanted with the church – every church has a Heather or two. Rainer will help the pastor better understand the “problem” member an better disciple them, but also to examine their ministry to see if something or someone has “slipped through the cracks.” The greatest benefit for church leaders is that Rainer says what we sometimes know we ought to but don’t for the sake of “unity.” He is blunt at times in hopes of getting a member to recognize their inwardness and wrong or unrealistic expectations of the church.

Every church member should read this book because there will probably be a time when we feel like Heather – like we aren’t a part of the church.  We need to hear what Rainer says, and his words might step on your toes. If so, pray that the words would be used to change your heart attitude and lead to heart actions that will be more fulfilling to you, your church, and the kingdom of God. Check out for more information.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.