Archive for the ‘Book review’ Category

Certainly these are sad times for American politics. But is we love our nation and our neighbors, this American sadness should only redouble our resolve. Our nation needs us. So let’s put our Christian faith to work.

41pitzwfqzl-_ac_us218_We do live in turbulent times – perhaps the most in my lifetime. There is no part of our lives, regardless of political persuasion, race/gender issues, religious identity, or moral and family values, that is not under attack. This is what Bruce Ashford addresses in Letters to An American Christianwritten to a hypothetical college student named Christian who attends a liberal university and majors in, of all things, political science and also interns for a cable network. Ashford coaches Christian to steer clear of both the secular progressivism of his professors and the secular and often radical of conservatism of his family, especially ‘Uncle John.’

Ashford’s hopes to remind readers of two important truths: we cannot afford to shrink away from our earthly citizenship, and we cannot afford to lose sight of our heavenly citizenship.

He accomplishes this by honestly and straightforwardly assessing where:

  1. Conservative Christians often are 1) misunderstood because they present their case clumsily or forcefully, or 2) disregarded because they are overzealous or come off as ignorant.
  2. Liberal and progressive secularists are, well, liberal and progressive secularists.

Ashford addresses the following topics and hot-button issues of our time with Christian:

religious liberty, free speech, women’s rights, social injustice, political correctness, big vs. small government, Constitutional interpretation, gun control/ownership, marriage/family, immigration reform, nationalism, just war theory, gender identity, environmentalism, fake news, and Christian political involvement.

Each letter to Christian offers an excellent introduction to and overview of each topic and will serve the reader well in that fashion, prompting further study on each issue. I found this to be an easy and simple read, one that I would recommend passing along to other Christians to inform and educate – and perhaps humble as well. It will also be useful in sharing with liberals/progressives who often misunderstand what we are trying to portray on social media outlets and 30 second sound bytes – and sometimes harshly. This book will help the Christian to live an earthly citizenship in a heavenly way.

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Book Review: Graciousness

Posted: Friday, February 9, 2018 in Book review, Counseling, Pastoral

Sometimes we have some important things to say to our Christian brothers and sisters, but the way we say it directly affects the way they receive our message. Sharing your message with harshness, a critical spirit, a condescending attitude, anger, or even a scowl is like communicating wonderful things with terribly bad breath. The person you are talking to could completely miss out on the benefits of your message simply because of the way you deliver it. [Loc 56, Kindle ed.]

31xophoamtl-_ac_us218_Does the above describe something you have done in the past? Or when another person thinks about your character and your approach, would they describe this as part of who you are? A person the means well – but is sometimes just mean? Then John Crotts has much to say to you (me) in Graciousness: Tempering Truth with Love (Reformation Heritage Books, 2018). He offers a biblical understanding of the danger above along with the cure – graciousness.

After defining and associating graciousness with gentleness, kindness and love (Chapter 1), Crotts walks us through the biblical passages that speak directly to the issue (Chapter 2), and offers examples of how Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul lived out graciousness: Jesus always, without sin; Paul not so much before his conversion, but much so after. Graciousness is something we can learn and ought to be learned from their examples (Chapters 3-4).

But not only is graciousness to be learned (head), it must be cultivated (heart) (Chapter 6). As with any biblical principle or imperative, it is one thing to know, quite another to act; to be doers of the Word and not hearers only (James 1:22). It is in cultivation that our own heart is changed and our mindset and actions for others is changed (Chapters 7-8). This is demonstrated, or ought to be demonstrated, notably in community, in the church, as brothers and sisters encourage one another, exhort one another, rebuke one another, correct one another, etc. And one of the best ways to cultivate graciousness in your own heart is to spend time with other gracious Christians. It is in the context of community that Crotts offers solid, practical counsel on cultivating graciousness (Chapter 9).

Of course, real biblical graciousness cannot be learned or cultivated apart from the transforming grace of the gospel, God saving a person and changing them by His grace and for His glory. This is the final chapter in book, but primary for the chapters that precede it (Chapter 10).

While the Spirit of God faithfully creates the kind of gentle character within the hearts of true believers in Christ that the Word of God requires, believers are also responsible to use every means available to cultivate the heart attitudes that lead to consistently gracious interactions with others. As you grow in your knowledge and love for God’s truth, you must fight your pride against using God’s truth to club those around you. As the Lord Jesus has been so kind, patient, and gracious to you, those marks must melt your heart…

As your heart becomes softened by His transforming grace, you should be motivated to do what it takes, with the Spirit’s help, to communicate that same grace to everyone around you. [Loc 1700, Kindle ed.]

Everyone will profit spiritually from this book. I would recommend it to pastors as a tool for counsel and correction. It is with 20+ years of pastoral experience (in one congregation!) that Crotts has practiced these things. His wisdom is well worth your time.

I received a copy of this book from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews. I was not required to write a positive review.

Book Review: Bible Studies on Mark

Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2017 in Book review, Gospel, Scripture

51tefsmeil-_ac_us160_What a delightful read! It is not often one can say such a thing about a Bible commentary. Commentaries vary in purpose – exegetical, homiletical, devotional, theological and/or doctrinal tradition. While all of these are necessary in a thorough biblical study with depth of meaning and application, not all can be called delightful. William Bernstein has provided a commentary that is both homiletical and devotional – and delightful!

Bible Studies on Mark will prove a great help to both shepherd and sheep, pulpit and pew. For the pastor, Boekestein provides a brief (each chapter is 8 pages) homiletical (each chapter appears to be a sermon) commentary for sermon preparation. It is brief, so the pastor will need to expand a bit on key theological and doctrinal themes. But this is a positive for the pastor – give to whet the appetite and spur meditation.

This will also prove beneficial to the Sunday School teacher or leader of a small group Bible study. In fact, with the questions provided at the end of each chapter, you already have 21 lessons (that is what Boekestein calls them). The easy-to-read format will be a great help, like for the pastor, for the teacher or leader in initial thoughts on Mark. It is brief enough that the student can read in one sitting and come to class ready for discussion.

And as mentioned, Bible Studies on Mark can be used as a devotional commentary. Brevity does not mean vacuous! Each reading will prove helpful in starting a day with thoughts tuned on Christ and His Word. It is simple to read for believers young and old. It is a delightful read!

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

Book Review: Portraits of Faith

Posted: Friday, May 6, 2016 in Book review, Pastoral

41yetpt-xjl-_ac_us160_Portraits of Faith by Joel Beeke is a series of expositions given at a pastors conference in Aberystwyth, Wales UK. It is an encouragement and exhortation in the different aspects of faith given through the narratives of biblical characters as follows:

  • Adam & Eve – simple or childlike faith (Genesis 3:20-21 and 4:1)
  • The Shunammite woman – submissive faith (2 Kings 4)
  • The Canaanite woman – growing or maturing faith (Matthew 15:21-28)
  • Caleb – persevering faith (Numbers 13:25-14:24)

Pastor Geoff Thomas offers the following in introducing the book:

Now that these addresses are in print, their usefuness is greatly increased. Ministers like myself will be glad to have such a pastoral tool. Christians young and old will be encouraged and strengthened by reading these delightful pages. And those with questions concerning the nature of saving faith will find helpful guidance in this book.

As a pastor, I heartily agree! If you have ever had the privilege of hearing Beeke preach, then you know how rich his expositions are, how easily they flow and draw you in – and keep you riveted. Each of these little vignettes will be a good resource for pastoral ministry and for personal maturity in the faith. If you have ever failed in your faith, if you have ever suffered in your faith, if you have ever felt rejected in your faith, if you have ever felt in the minority in your faith – read this book! You will be blessed.

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

41etkwzmopl-_ac_us160_Sam Allberry is associate pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Maidenhead, UK – an Anglican. So why does that matter? It doesn’t – but it could. It could if one approached the church of Jesus Christ from a strictly denominational perspective as if their own were the only true church. It could if one wrote for his own denomination  with no concern for others. Allberry does neither. His book Why bother with church? while brief answers the question biblically and biblically. Yes, that was intentional because contrary to much that has been written in recent years, God has much to say about His church and His people. Frankly, there is no way to interpret passages concerning the necessity of the church for us, and the necessity of us for the church, in a manner that allows anyone to conveniently stay away. No excuse or reason to refuse to be involved is allowed in Scripture – in fact, it is sin to do so and grieves both the God of the church and the church of God.

Allberry has given us a short, readable, and necessary book on church membership. He begins by defining the church (chapter 1) and follows by answering the question of the book’s title (chapter 2). Flowing from this he shows that he understands that there exists today many places that call themselves a church that really aren’t a church as defined by Scripture. So in chapter 3 he answers another question, “What makes a good church?” and couples that with biblical church leadership, structure and discipline in chapter 4. He then deals with the individual and their need to be one who serves the church rather than just looking to be served, or to use his language, attending church as a Christian or a consumer. He closes by giving biblical counsel as to what makes a good church member.

Allberry also anticipates some of the questions that even faithful church members have concerning the church. These are shaded in gray at the end of each chapter and will prove useful for leadership and congregation alike.

Why bother with church? is an enjoyable and practical read. We will begin distributing it to those who attend our prospective members class as a way to set forth our expectation of them as members, and what should be their expectation as members of our leadership – biblically and therefore reasonably. I think you will find a use for it with your members as well.

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

514bnkyb3ll-_aa160_Biblical Counseling and the Church will prove to be a helpful resource in churches of any size and/or any demographic; country church, suburban church, or urban church. Simply put, if your church has people this book will be an asset for you and your ministry. Yes-you. “But I am not a pastor,” you might reply. “But I am not trained in biblical counseling.” “I am not called to be a counselor.” Read the book!

The purpose of the book is given at the end of the Introduction: “It is out conviction that God calls all of us to be biblical counselors. He calls every believer to know how to relate His Word to one another’s lives so that every believer in the congregation grows more like Christ. It is our prayer that Biblical Counseling and the Church will spark a one-another revolution in your life and in your church.” [18] Each author (and there are many gifted contributors) focuses on this goal as drawn from Ephesians 4:11-16. In fact, you will see that every believer counseling is discipleship and spiritual growth comes when all believers are involved with one another.

The vision is cast in six parts. Part One is More Than Counseling: A Vision for the Entire Church. This section serves as the foundation for what follows by showing how pulpit ministry and pastoral care is for the purpose of building up spiritual counselors who “counsel” as they live their lives in Christ.

Part Two is Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry. This section provides ideas and methods to help in promoting and promulgating the every believer involvement in counseling in whatever setting you have for small groups. I found some very helpful ideas in this section, and some that would need some adaptation for our church, and others that we might not consider, at least for now.

Part Three is Biblical Counseling and Conflict Resolution. Here the contributors hone in on why we need biblical counseling in the first place – conflict! These two chapters are worth the price of the book, especially if your church does not have an action plan for biblical church discipline and conflict resolution.

Part Four, Equipping Biblical Counselors, provides a strategy for implementing and practicing every believer biblical counseling. Chapters are provided for every size church and demographic to help.

Part Five, Biblical Counseling and Outreach, shows how every member counsel when lived out reaches the lost at home and abroad. The final section provides a historical prospective on biblical counseling.

Biblical Counseling and the Church is a complete manual on envisioning, planning, implementing, and sustaining a healthy biblical counseling ministry in your church. I highly recommend it for the glory of Christ and His Church.

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

 

Book Review: Pitchin’ a Fit!

Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 in Book review

217397Pitchin’ a Fit! by husband and wife team Israel & Brook Wayne is not just another book on parenting. Though it contains much you might have read in the past, you will identify as a parent with their experiences. Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, and others will have you think they must be in your household!

A word of caution should be noted from the outset: this book is mistitled, and therefore could be misleading (unless you read reviews like this! and other endorsements). You might think that the book is about children who throw uncontrollable tantrums and are seemingly out-of-control all the time. That would be an error in judging this book. While it is mistitled, it is subtitled correctly: Overcoming Angry and Stressed-Out Parenting. It is a book about our tantrums as parents and how we are seemingly out-of-control, not just to others who might catch us at one of these pristine moments, but to our children as well.

Even if you are not a parent, you will gain much from this honest approach to stress, its causes and its results if left unchecked. Anger, impatience, and outright hostility are born out of the pressure-cooker of stress that is not dealt with in a proper way. The things that lead to stress and the stress indicators are to be greatly considered from their biblical knowledge and experiences as parents.At the end of the day. do you as a parent feel like there is peace in the home, or is every day a war? Remember, you are the mature one! And this book will pinpoint some areas that all of us, no matter how experienced we are as parents, need to examine in our own parenting “skills.” (FYI – I am the father of two wonderful daughters, ages 25 and 24 and have been foster dad to numerous others – and I am thankful for this read)

For more on the Wayne’s and this book, listen to Shaun Tabatt’s podcast here.

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