Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Luther on Christ as Bridegroom

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 in Books, Gospel, Marriage, Reformation

51jhmpyz8ql-_ac_us200_The following is quoted by Sinclair Ferguson in The Legacy of Luther, chapter 7:

“Faith unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom… it follows that everything they have they hold in common, the good as well as the evil. Accordingly the believing soul can boast and glory in whatever Christ has as though it were its own, and whatever the soul has Christ claims as his own. Let us compare these and we shall see inestimable benefits. Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation. The soul is full of sins, death, and damnation. Now let faith come between them and sins, death, and damnation will be Christ’s, while grace, life, and salvation will be the soul’s; for if Christ is a bridegroom, he must take upon himself the things that are his bride’s and bestow upon her the things that are his. If he gives her his body and very self, how shall he not give her all that is his? And if he takes the body of the bride, how shall he not take all that is hers?… Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace?” (R. C. Sproul, Stephen J. Nichols. The Legacy of Luther (Kindle Locations 3570-3576). Ligonier Ministries, Inc. – USA.)

The bride got the better deal… Glory be to God!

Book Review: The Martyrs of Malatya

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

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

Book Review: I Will

Posted: Wednesday, July 29, 2015 in Book review, Books
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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 thomrainer.com/iwill/ for more information.

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

Why ‘Became’ Matters

Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2014 in Books

These two books are the current “Featured Selections” for History Book Club members. The books are described as follows:

How Jesus Became God – Christian faith claims that Jesus was, and is, God. Leading Bible scholar and historical Jesus expert Bart Ehrman reveals how an apocalyptic prophet crucified for crimes against the state came to be thought of as equal with God Almighty. Jesus’s followers accepted his message that God would overthrow the forces of evil; some anticipated that when the new kingdom arrived, Jesus himself would be its king. After Jesus was crucified, many came to believe that God had raised him from the dead and exalted him to his own right hand. Ehrman traces these epic events in a compelling and authoritative narrative, showing how belief in Jesus’ resurrection changed everything, and set the stage for the development of Christianity as we know it.

How the Bible Became Holy – In How the Bible Became Holy, Michael Satlow traces the story of how an ancient collection of obscure Israelite writings became the founding texts of both Judaism and Christianity. Satlow describes the creation of key biblical texts in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E. as mainly academic exercises. It was not until these were translated into Greek in the second century B.C.E. that some Jews began to see them as culturally authoritative—and not until a century later that the Sadducees assigned legal power to the writings. He also discusses the way Jesus and his followers understood the authority of the scriptures. Satlow offers provocative new assertions about commonly accepted interpretations of biblical history.

I have not read the books (neither is published yet but coming soon) – but I am familiar with one of the authors. Ehrman is the Chair of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He has written many titles in an effort to repudiate the claims of orthodox Christianity, most notably the deity of Christ and the God-spirated Holy Scriptures. I am not as familiar with Satlow, who is professor of religious studies and Judaic studies at Brown University.

The problem with both books is found in the verb used in title of both books: “became.” I am sure that both of these books will look “historically” at events surrounding the time of Christ’s life and the canonization of Scripture. Both will raise questions concerning orthodox Christianity and the early church. And both will conclude that Orthodox Christianity’s interpretation of these things written and the history of the times in not correct. In other words, Ehrman will again “validate” his conclusion that the deity of Christ is simply an invention of radical Christianity and Satlow will “validate” his findings concerning the fallacy of the God-inspired canon of Scripture (which I know he denies is a “closed” canon).

Jesus did not become God – He has been, is, and will always be God of very God. Jesus became man when He put on flesh and dwelt among us. And He is and will always be the God-man. Likewise, the Bible did not become holy – it has been, is, and will forever be holy because it is the very Word of God, breathed out by Him. These are His words given to man so that they might know about Him and know Him, so that they might know themselves and their need for Him. If this is what these two books proclaim, then I commend them…but I doubt they will! I am sure they should come with the warning: BUYER BEWARE!

Introspection vs. Self-examination

Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 in Books, Counseling

Yesterday I considered Edwards’ Resolution #24 and the call to examine ourselves. M. Posey asked an important question in relation to this practice, “How do we do it without becoming overly introspective?” Here a distinction should be made between biblical self-examination and introspection. The former leads to freedom in glorifying God, the other to bondage and depression.

One of the best treatments on this matter is by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book Spiritual Depressions: Its Causes and Its Cure. In Chapter One the very first thing that Lloyd-Jones considers is the necessity of distinquishing between self-examination and “morbid” introspection – and he notes how this is different in the extrovert and the introvert.

It is quite clear that we can divide human beings into two main groups. There are the so-called introverts and the extroverts. There is the type of person who is generally looking inwards and the type of person who is always looking outwards, and it is of the greatest importance that we should realize not only that we belong to one or the other of these two groups, but furthermore that this condition of spiritual depression tends to affect the one more than the other. We must start by knowing ourselves and by understanding ourselves.

There is a type of person who is particularly prone to spiritual depression. That does not mean that they are any worse than others. Indeed, I could make out a good case for saying that quite often the people who stand out most gloriously in the history of the Church are people of the very type we are now considering. Some of the greatest saints belong to the introverts; the extrovert is generally a more superficial person. In the natural realm there is the type of person who tends to be always analysing himself, analysing everything he does, and worrying about the possible effects of his actions, always harking back, always full of vain regrets. It may be something that has been done once and for ever but he cannot leave it alone. He cannot undo what has been done, but still he spends his time analysing and judging and blaming himself. You are familiar with that type of person. Now all that is transferred into the spiritual realm and into their spiritual life. In other words, it is obvious that the danger for such people is to become morbid. I have already said that I could mention names. Surely the great Henry Martyn belonged to this type. You cannot read the life of that man of God without seeing at once that he belonged to the introspective type. He was an introvert and he suffered from an obvious tendency to morbidity and introspection.

Those two terms remind us that the fundamental trouble with these people is that they are not always careful to draw the line of demarcation between self-examination and introspection. We all agree that we should examine ourselves, but we also agree that introspection and morbidity are bad. But what is the difference between examining oneself and becoming introspective? I suggest that we cross the line from self examination to introspection when, in a sense, we do nothing but examine ourselves, and when such self-examination becomes the main and chief end in our life. We are meant to examine ourselves periodically, but if we are always doing it, always, as it were, putting our soul on a plate and dissecting it, that is introspection. And if we are always talking to people about ourselves and our problems and troubles, and if we are forever going to them with that kind of frown upon our face and saying: I am in great difficulty – it probably means that we are all the time centered upon ourselves. That is introspection, and that in turn leads to the condition known as morbidity.

Here, then, is the point at which we must always start. Do we know ourselves? Do we know our own particular danger? Do we know the thing to which we are particularly subject? The Bible is full of teaching about that. The Bible warns us to be careful about our strength and about our weakness. Take a man like Moses. He was the meekest man, we are told, the world has ever known; and yet his great sin, his great failure was in connection with that very thing. He asserted his own will, he became angry. We have to watch our strength and we have to watch our weakness. The essence of wisdom is to realize this fundamental thing about ourselves. If I am naturally an introvert I must always be careful about it, and I must warn myself against it lest unconsciously I slip into a condition of morbidity. The extrovert must in the same way know himself and be on his guard against the temptations peculiar to his nature. Some of us by nature, and by the very type to which we belong, are more given to this spiritual disease called spiritual depression than others. We belong to the same company as Jeremiah, and John the Baptist and Paul and Luther and many others. A great company! Yes, but you cannot belong to it without being unusually subject to this particular type of trial.

The cure for “morbid introspection” is given throughout the book – the gospel! This is why Lloyd-Jones says that the believer should preach the gospel to himself every day. I think the key to understanding Edwards’ resolution is the word “frequently.” We “frequently” examine self – we constantly look to Christ. Doing so takes our eyes off of self in an unhealthy way (morbid) and puts them on Christ – the healer and forgiver of whatever ails us. It is to see ourselves as He sees us. To Him be the glory!