STORM – Jim Cymbala (2014)

•October 23, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Jim Cymbala has a warning for the church.  The warning is an urgent plea.  The stormwarning is for every Christian.  Cymbala is afraid that the influence of the church is on the decline in America.  Biblical competency is at an all-time low.  Pastors are leaving the ministry.  Young people are jettisoning the Christian faith.  Trinkets are peddled but theology is minimized.  Pragmatism is celebrated but prayer is downplayed.  These are themes that the author develops in his latest work, Storm: Hearing Jesus For the Times We Live In.

Cymbala offers a prescription for these perilous times.  His solution is a return to prayer and a reliance on the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  The author writes with certain degree of boldness which may offend some.  Certainly, church growth proponents will be repelled by Storm.  But the essential message stands – “Everyone knows that a church must have a strong pulpit and strong preaching … But all this is utterly impossible without the enablement of the Holy Spirit.”

Storm is filled with stories of God’s grace and practical help for struggling pastors who serve in struggling churches.

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review. 


•October 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

aowenThe Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson is the latest installment in the Long Line of Godly Men Profile Series, edited by Dr. Steven Lawson.  Ferguson presents a readable introduction to the most well-known Puritan, John Owen.

The book includes five chapters which overview Owen’s life and theological commitments.  Chapter one focuses on his life as a pastor and theologian.  Owen’s upbringing is discussed and his pastoral experience is surveyed.  Additionally, the author touches on Owen’s tenure as vice-chancellor at Oxford University.

The remaining chapters overview Owen’s theological framework which focuses more narrowly on his robust doctrine of the Trinity.  Sinclair Ferguson carefully summarizes Owen’s pursuit of the God in all his glory as expressed in the three persons – Father, Son, and Spirit.  Ferguson adds, “To become a Christian believer is to be brought into a reality far grander than anything we could ever have imagined.  It means communion with the triune God.”  The author demonstrates how Owen regarded the Trinity as a chief cornerstone of the Christian faith.  Numerous primary sources are cited and explained.  In addition, Dr. Ferguson provides helpful analysis along the way.  He beautifully captures the essence of John Owen’s devotion to the Trinity.

The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen is a perfect introduction for the beginning student of the Puritan divine.  But this work is also suitable for veteran students of Owen as well.  Ferguson bring his typical scholarly approach to the table but writes with the heart of a pastor/shepherd.  This work should help revive further interest in Puritanical studies and is a welcome guest at the table of these godly men.  My hope is that Ferguson’s work will catapult readers to Owen primary sources – a practice which is certain to encourage, edify, and equip a new generation of Christians.

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review. 





•October 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

imagesJonathan Edwards presents his doctrine at the front end of the sermon: We should be willing to engage in and go through undertakings, in order to our own salvation.

Noah, in this case is the exemplar.  As Noah obeyed when God commanded him to build the ark, so we too, should go through “great undertakings, in order to our own salvation.”

Three specific propositions undergird the doctrine.

Proposition # 1: There is a work of business which must be undertaken by men, if they would be saved.

“If we would be saved, we must seek salvation,” Edwards argues.  He explains, “It is on account of the works which Christ hath done for us.  Works are the fixed price of eternal life; it is fixed by an eternal, unalterable rule of righteousness.  But since the fall there is no hope of our doing these works, without salvation offered freely without money and without price.”

Proposition # 2: This business is a great undertaking.  Six statements describe this great undertaking:

  1. It is a business of great labor and care.
  2. It is a constant business.
  3. It is an undertaking of great expense.
  4. Sometimes the fear, trouble, and exercise of mind, which are undergone respecting this business, and the salvation of the soul, are great and long continued, before any comfort is obtained.
  5. It is a business which, by reason of the many difficulties, snares, and dangers that attend it, requires much instruction, consideration, and counsel.
  6. This business never ends till life ends.

Proposition # 3: Men should be willing to enter upon and go through this undertaking, though it be great, seeing it is for their own salvation.  Edwards notes four reasons for seeking salvation:

  1. A deluge of wrath will surely come.
  2. All such as do not seasonably undertake and go through the great work mentioned will surely be swallowed up in this deluge.
  3. The destruction, when it shall come, will be infinitely terrible.
  4. Though the work which is necessary in order to man’s salvation be a great work, yet it is not impossible.


Edwards concludes with five pointed statements which serve as points of application for his hearers:

  1. How often you have been warned of the approach flood of God’s wrath.
  2. Consider the Spirit of God will not always strive with you; nor will his long-suffering always wait upon you.
  3. Consider how mighty the billows of divine wrath will be when they shall come.  Edwards adds, “The misery of the damned in hell can be better represented by nothing, than by a deluge of misery, a mighty deluge of misery, a mighty deluge of wrath, which will be ten thousand times worse than a deluge of waters; for it will be a deluge of liquid fire, as in the Scriptures it is called a lake of fire and brimstone.”
  4. This flood of wrath will probably come upon you suddenly, when you shall think little of it, and it shall seem far from you.
  5. If you will not hearken to the many warnings which are given you of approaching destruction, you will be guilty of more than brutish madness.

Edwards utilizes the historical narrative surrounding the events of Noah’s life to alert his congregation to the reality of God’s wrath and the importance of seeking salvation.  Included are his strong words; words of vivacity and intensity which seek to awaken sinners to the reality of sin, salvation, and final judgment.  Listen to the final warnings he utters in his sermon, warnings which are rarely heard from American pulpits in this generation.

“You have been once more warned today, while the door of the ark yet stands open.  You have, as it were, once again heard the knocks of the hammer and axe in the building of the ark, to put you in mind that a flood is approaching.  Take heed therefore that you do not still stop your ears, treat these warnings with a regardless heart, and still neglect the great work which you have to do, lest the flood of wrath suddenly come upon you, sweep you away, and there be no remedy.”


•October 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment


Edwards on the Christian Life by Dane C. Ortlund attempts to summarize the theology of Jonathan Edwards and pays special attention to his remarks on the Christian life.  For Edwards, living the Christian life is about “enjoying and reflecting the beauty of God.”

The author successfully achieves his goal by directing readers to twelve questions which capture the essence of Edward’s God-entranced worldview.  Consequently, the following themes emerge:Beauty, new birth, love, joy, gentleness, the Bible, prayer, pilgrimage, obedience, Satan, the soul, and heaven.

Each theme is surveyed from the perspective of Jonathan Edwards.  Historical highlights are included in order to provide a much-needed perspective and many primary sources are cited.  For the scores of people who believe that God’s wrath is Edwards’s controlling attribute, Ortlund provides a necessary corrective: “Not sovereignty, not wrath, not grace, not omniscience, not eternity, but beauty is what more than anything else defines God’s very divinity.  Edwards clearly believed in these other truths about God and saw all of them as upholding and displaying and connected to God’s beauty.  Yet none of them expresses who God is in the way that beauty does.”

Ortlund beautifully captures the theology of Edwards in this rather short volume.  The work is accessible to a wide range of people but never at the expense of solid content.  Of the multitude of secondary source books which explore the theology of Jonathan Edwards, Ortlund’s work is among the best.

Despite, the high praise offered above, I must take exception with one of Ortlund’s statements which takes aim at  Steven J. Lawson’s book, The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards.  Ortlund charges  Lawson of “succumbing to hagiography regarding Edwards.”  Clearly, Ortlund has missed the intent of the Long Line of Godly Men Series where pivotal figures in church history are introduced and commended as pillars of the Christian faith.  Anyone familiar with Steven Lawson understands his chagrin with the postmillennialism and paedobaptism that emerge in the Northampton preacher.  But the series is merely designed as an introduction to these pivotal figures, not a detailed exposition.  Taken seriously, Ortlund’s accusation should cast a dark shadow over every biographical account of figures in church history.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Ortlund’s book is his criticism which he directs toward Jonathan Edwards himself.  The criticism here is rightly placed and balanced.  His critique is timely and alerts students of Edwards to weaknesses in his theological infrastructure.

Edwards on the Christian Life is a well written book which should provide ample discussion for anyone interested in America’s greatest intellectual.  The brief criticism noted above does not marginalize any of the rest of the book.

Highly recommended

5 stars


•October 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

a frameHow does one review a systematic theology by one of the leading minds of the evangelical world?  How does one summarize the thoughts of a 1,100 page book that towers with truth; a book that takes readers to the top of the theological mountain?  Anyone who attempts to read and devour Systematic Theology by John Frame will be faced with such questions.  Indeed, while the oxygen is scarce at the top of this theological peak, readers will be delighted to enjoy the view that Dr. Frame presents.  As one might expect, every branch of systematic theology is explored.  The author invites readers on a journey which introduces them to God who relates to creatures as their covenant Lord.  The three lordship attributes are articulated throughout the book – control, authority, and presence.

Several thoughts help capture the essence of this incredible book.  While some will be put off  by such thoughts, my hope is that a majority of readers will be motivated and inspired to pick up Dr. Frame’s work.  This powerful book is marked by at least ten features:

  1. It is God-Centered
  2. It is Scripture-soaked
  3. It is unashamedly Calvinistic
  4. It is conservative
  5. It exposes liberal scholarship and lays bare its erroneous presuppositions
  6. It is biblical
  7. It is mind-penetrating
  8. It is heart-softening
  9. It is personal
  10. It leads readers to worship God

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief  by John Frame is a theological tour de force.   This weighty volume is drenched with Scripture and is drowning with biblical wisdom.  I cannot think of any other writer who has influenced my thinking, outside of Jonathan Edwards himself.  This work is a true labor of love, a gift to the church, and a tool that will sharpen the minds of Christ-followers and serve as a heart-tenderizer for many years to come!

Highly recommended

5 stars

GOSPEL-POWERED HUMILITY – William P. Farley (2011)

•October 5, 2014 • 2 Comments

Gospel-Powered Humility by William Farley is a supercharged powder-keg for radical, humilityGod-centered Christian living.  There is much to commend in this little treasure.  A simple review will not do it justice.

Part one overviews the problem which faces every human being.  That problem is identified as a soul-numbing sin – the sin of pride.  Of course, the remedy for pride is humility which is defined upfront by the author: “Humility is the ability to see spiritual reality, to see things as they really are.  It is the capacity to see myself in God’s light, in the context of his holiness and my sinfulness.  In other words, it is the ability to see self, and this world, through God’s eyes.”

Farley underscores a major paradox that runs through the book: “The proud man think he is humble, but the humble man thinks he is proud.  The humble man sees his arrogance.  He sees it clearly, and as a result he aggressively pursues a life of humility, but he doesn’t think of himself as humble.  The proud man is completely unaware of his pride.  Of all men he is most convinced that he is humble.”  The author exposes and addresses this paradox throughout the remainder of his work.

Part two applies the gospel to the humble  man.  The author shows how people are humbled by God’s wrath, the final judgment, the sinfulness of sin, gospel-centered faith and preaching.  This section hits readers between the eyes and does a terrific job of revealing the biblical categories for life change.

Finally, part three addresses the fear of man and humility in leadership.  The practical application in this section is certainly worth the price of the book.

Gospel-Powered Humility is one of those books that never made it to the best sellers list.  William Farley writes with strong biblical conviction which is laced with pastoral wisdom and sensitivity.  If readers long for a feel-good book that panders to sin and strokes the ego, look elsewhere.  But if readers are looking for truth which transforms, look no further than Gospel-Powered Humility.

5 stars


ONE NATION – Ben Carson, MD (2014)

•October 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

carsonThese days there is no shortage on political books.  Both liberals and conservatives are making the rounds in the publishing industry.  Many books are filled with drivel and propaganda.  A few are worth reading and prove very helpful.  Dr. Ben Carson’s new book is numbered among the helpful books.

One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America’s Future is not your typical political work.  Make no mistake, the author wastes no time in grinding his political “axe.”  But Dr. Carson comes with a different tone.  He is a non-nonsense conservative; the kind of conservative that makes social progressives squirm.  But even liberals  who disagree with the author will find the good doctor a welcome voice in the political world.

One Nation begins with Carson’s address at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C.  Readers who are unfamiliar with the author would do well to carefully read and digest his remarks.  Again, he is an unashamed conservative but shares his views with boldness and humility – a combination which is rare these days, especially in Washington.

Part One: Causes of Disunity and Decline

In part one, Dr. Carson alerts readers to the multitude of cultural “brick walls” that prevent our nation from thriving.  He tackles political correctness, elitism (a favorite among the liberal “elite”), and bigotry, among others.  He accurately describes each problem with grace and tact.  Readers who are paying attention should be shaken by the depth of the problems which unfold in part one.

Part Two: Solutions

In part two, the author presents workable solutions to the problems he raised in part one.  He stresses the implementation of humility, cultivating a listening ear, and even-handed compromise, all of which are all but absent in Washington D.C.

Part Three: Who Are We?

Finally, Dr. Carson returns to the United States Constitution.  Unlike progressives and some liberals who maintain the Constitution is a “living document,” the author returns to the original intent of the founding fathers.  He stresses the importance of visionary leadership, role models, and morality – all necessary for a nation to thrive.

One Nation addresses all Americans – black, white, hispanic, Latino, and Asian.  Dr. Carson speaks to every person as a unique individual; an individual who is created in the imago dei.  But the most important feature of this book is the hope that Dr. Carson wields.  The  author waves mighty sword of freedom with boldness with the hope that other Americans will join in as well.

4 stars


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