Living in the Light

•May 3, 2016 • Leave a Comment


aaaJohn Piper. Living in the Light: Money, Sex, & Power. The Good Book Company, 2016. 144 pp. $10.98

Three statements wonderfully capture the essence of this powerful little book:

Money, sex, and power exist for the great aims of God in human history. They are not detours on the path to God-exalting joy. Along with all the rest of God’s good world, they are the path. With them, we can show the supreme worth of God.

Money, sex, and power which began as God’s good gifts to humanity have become dangerous because all human beings have exchanged the glory of God for images.

Money, sex, and power will be restored to their God-glorifying place by the redemption that God brought into the world through Jesus Christ – the great liberation of creation from all sin and sickness and sorrow.

John Piper, in typical fashion, aims for the heart and soul of people in his newest book, Living in the Light: Money, Sex & Power. Piper demonstrates how money, sex, and power were ruined by the fall. “When God is restored as the supreme value of the heart, money, sex, and power begin to find their God-glorifying place in life. Everything hangs on what we value as supreme.”

Living in the Light may come as a surprise for many readers. Piper argues in a way that may appear counterintuitive but is, in the final analysis profoundly biblical and practical: “Money, sex, and power are three good gifts of God. We can either use them to reveal a heart of darkness, or reveal a heart of light. And in doing so, we will reveal the truth of God’s supreme beauty and worth, or we will portray him as inadequate for our soul’s desire.”

So with this context, the author helps readers understand the deep dangers of money, sex, and power when they are not used to glorify God. He helps readers understand the depth of idolatry that occurs when creatures treasure anything apart from the supreme value of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. For instance, “If you see anything as more beautiful, more attractive, more desirable than God, you are in the dark. You are not seeing reality for what it is … Living in the light is seeing God as supremely glorious, supremely beautiful, supremely desirable, and supremely satisfying.”

Living in the Light: Money, Sex, & Power is short in length but packed with Christ-saturated wisdom. This book should be required reading for every Christian. It will no doubt shake many people and alert them to many dangers and awaken many people to many delights. For the chief issue here is this: Is the Lord Jesus Christ our supreme treasure? Read and digest this incredible book. You’ll be changed, challenged, and motivated to pursue the Triune God with passion delight!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Zeal Without Burnout

•May 2, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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Christopher Ash. Zeal Without Burnout. The Good Book Company, 2016. 125 pp. $11.68

Let’s face it: Ministry, by definition is a brutal undertaking. Most pastors and Christian leaders have no idea what they’re getting themselves into when they sign up for full-time vocational ministry. Long hours, disloyal people, backstabbers, carnal habits and a propensity to pettiness are enough to drive the most mature minister to the sidelines if not the edge of despair. I’ve faced it personally. And the stories of pastors combined could provide fodder for a never-ending novel.

But ministry is not all drudgery. In fact, much of the time, ministry is laced with deep fulfillment and joy. New converts and growing disciples breath life and strength into the heart of the most discouraged pastor or Christian worker. Navigating the tension between the shores of futility and fulfillment provide a helpful key which enable Christian leaders to maintain perspective in the heat of the battle.

Additionally, ministry is time-consuming and stressful. Many pastors work extra hours and proudly wear a “badge of honor” that recognizes their diligent efforts. But there is a fine line between wisdom and workaholism. The prudent Christian leader is able to recognize the difference and maintain a healthy balance between hard work and burnout.

Christopher Ash provides a tool to help pastors and Christian leaders as they navigate these extremes. Zeal Without Burnout is a powerful field manual for Christian leaders who either battle burnout or moving in that direction. It is a helpful antidote for Christians who struggle to maintain balance between futility and fulfillment. It is a tool that if used properly will bear good fruit and enable Christian leaders to have a biblical perspective and move into the future with a godly zeal that is affirmed by the Word of God.

Christopher Ash provides seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice. Since the book is rather short, I will let the reader discover them on their own. One reviewer says this of the book: “A quick read that offers good applicational points, but not revolutionary.” A quick read, yes. But anyone who does not recognize the “revolutionary” nature of this book has either never experienced burnout or is not being honest with themselves.

I highly commend Zeal Without Burnout and anticipate a wide reading which will lead to encouragement for many pastors and Christian leaders in the days ahead.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

 

The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

•April 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

0307408876_bErik Larson. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. New York: Broadway Books, 2015. 443 pp. $11.00

Dead Wake is the historical account of the Lusitania, a massive ship in route to Liverpool. Erik Larson is no stranger to popular works of historical lore. He writes with the precision, depth, and passion of David McCullough and the depth of Walter Isaacson.

Erik Larson leaves no stone unturned in Dead Wake. His research is meticulous as he sets up the historical backdrop and traces the journey of the Lusitania from start to finish. No stone is left unturned in this wonderful work.

Characters are wonderfully presented in vivid detail. Most interesting is the portrayal of President Woodrow Wilson, a classic portrait of a spineless leader. The tragic events in his personal life weigh heavily on the leader of the free world. But world events also press in and battle for his attention, including the events that surround the Lusitania.

The subtitle of the book gives some of the drama away as readers should not be surprised when the massive ship sinks. A German U-20 submarine launches a torpedo which cripples the Lusitania and leaves over 1,000 people dead. This tragic ending is presented thoughtfully and tastefully by Larson as he recounts various stories of both death and survival.

Dead Wake is a wonderful read, filled with interesting biographical detail and helps piece together some of the events of World War I which have been largely forgotten. I commend it highly.

 

THE REFORMATION STILL MATTERS!

•April 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Click HERE for more on the Reformation!

Visual Theology

•April 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment

challiesTim Challies and Josh Byers. Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Books, 2016. 155 pp. $10.60

Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God is the highly anticipated book by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. This is an absolutely beautiful book! The larger than life cover welcomes readers to dive headlong into the journey of grace. A quick glance through the book will reveal colorful infographics that attract the eye and lead the heart in a Godward direction. It truly is a stunning display of graphics that will no doubt, receives rave reviews.

The book is arranged in four sections:

  1. Grow Close to Christ
  2. Understand the Work of Christ
  3. Become Like Christ
  4. Live for Christ

Visual Theology attempts to communicate the basics of biblical doctrine. It provides readers with a stunning visual introduction to the Christian faith. It is an invaluable aid to Christians who are beginning their journey into grace. But it will benefit longtime believers as well. Readers will receive encouragement that will serve them well as they are nurtured and strengthened, all for the purpose of Christian health, growth, and maturity.

The Importance of Theology

One of the great strengths of Visual Theology is the stress that Challies and Byers place on theology. Challies adds, “Doctrine is never meant to be a cold pursuit of the facts, but a red-hot pursuit of the living God that leads to joyful obedience.” Doctrine should captivate Christ-followers, not make them weary:

Doctrine is meant to amaze you as you encounter the sheer power and magnitude of God.  It will astonish you with the awful sinfulness of mankind.  It will humble you with your own insignificance apart from God and yet your sheer significance in his plan of redemption.  It will move you with the incredible mercy of God as expressed in sending his Son to die for you and with the amazing grace of God as expressed in sending his Spirit to dwell within you.  It will swell your heart with hope for Christ’s coming return.

Visual Theology reaffirms the central role that theology should have in the life of every believer. But the authors rightly stress the need for the application of theology, as well. The final two sections of the book are a vivid reminder that theology is meant to be lived.

Chapters 6 and 7 describe the essential activity of “putting off” and “putting on.” Indeed, these chapters are worth the price of the book as Challies and Byers alert readers to the contribution of the great Puritan, John Owen. In the matter of sanctification, this work mirrors what John Owen proposes in his massive work, Sin and Temptation (Volume 6). This book brings Owen’s treatment of sin and sanctification to a level that any Christian can understand and immediately make use of the material in the Christian life. Owen famously says, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” These authors help readers actually do it!

The strengths of Visual Theology are wide and varied. This work is intensely gospel-centered, Christ-saturated, and Bible-based. It is practical. The infographics catapult this book into the stratosphere – blending the best of systematic theology with the artistic genius of Josh Byers. The best gospel resources are commended along the way, giving readers a helpful tool to continue the process of Christian growth.

I commend Visual Theology which is the perfect blend of truth and beauty.  May God use this creative work to strengthen and edify many people in the days ahead. Well done, Tim and Josh!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

CORNERED IN A CASTLE: THE RESOLVE OF MARTIN LUTHER

•April 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

IMGP0693The Protestant Reformers were men of unbending principle. They were men of unyielding conviction. These men fought relentlessly for the truth. Some of the battle took place privately as godly men wrote books and treatises, which magnified the mighty work of the gospel.

The story is well-known about how Frederick the Wise arranged to have Martin Luther “kidnapped” and secretly transported from the city of Worms to the Wartburg castle where the Protestant Reformer would spend the next ten months in seclusion. These days were spent largely in isolation under the pseudonym, Junker Jörg.

Luther made good use of his time at Wartburg, translating the Greek New Testament into German, the language of the people. Leather spent hour after hour, laboring over the text and translating God’s Word for the common man. Soon, thousands of people would read the Word of God in their mother tongue for the first time. They would hear the Word of God thunder from the pulpit in their heart language.IMGP0676

After his brief stop in Wartburg, Luther made his way back to Wittenberg where his reformation efforts continued. Indeed, the Reformation tides continued to swell as the Word of God grew and people were transformed by God’s Spirit.

For more on this topic, see David Steele’s new book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther.

Dr. David Steele is the Senior Pastor at Christ Fellowship in Everson, Washington.

REFORMATION THOUGHT – Alistair McGrath (1988)

•April 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

0470672811_bAlistair McGrath. Reformation Thought: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1988. 285 pp. $40.54

Reformation Thought: An Introduction by Alistair McGrath explores the fascinating contours of the sixteenth century. The author helps readers understand the historical, cultural, and theological context of the events that led up the Protestant Reformation.

McGrath guides readers on a fascinating Reformation tour and overviews key areas such as justification by faith, predestination, Scripture, and the sacraments.

There is much to commend about this excellent work. Pastors, students, and theologians will greatly benefit from McGrath’s work.

 
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