THE COLSON WAY – Owen Strachan (2015)

•July 28, 2015 • 2 Comments

colsonGospel-spreading, Jesus-loving, and worldview-shaping.  These short phrases describe a special man.  This man was bold, unafraid, and merciful.   He was filled with compassion for people and longed to see social justice in America and around the globe.  These are only a few brief descriptions of the former hatchet-man.  This man served under President Richard M. Nixon.  This man served time in a federal penitentiary.  His name – Charles Colson.

Owen Strachan provides an invaluable service to the church in his latest book, The Colson Way.  While the primary target is American millennial evangelicals, the author’s message should reach all age groups and is destined to not only inspire a new generation of leaders but also warn against moral decay and worldview erosion.  The book is a primer on the importance of loving one another and making a mark for the gospel – a gospel which is characterized by truth, grace, forgiveness, love, and mercy.

Strachan explores the formative years of Mr. Colson and walks readers through his days in the White House which ultimately led to a short stay in the “Big House.”  The Providential path of pain that Colson travelled led him to a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  As a result, his life was transformed by Jesus which resulted a series of unexpected events that would have an effect on people around him and thousands of people who never met him.

The author chronicles the various ministries of Chuck Colson, especially Prison Fellowship which spans around the world and offers hope, peace, and forgiveness to prisoners.

Strachan summarizes the Colson life creed:

His God-given role in the kingdom was to go to the needy, the suffering, and the forgotten, and to minister grace to them … As a former prisoner, disgraced in the public eye, he never lost sight of just how freeing the gospel truly was.  He knew what it was to have lost everything, to be at the mercy of routines and regulations that were not of his choosing, and to taste shame and guilt that left only to return.

This fascinating book not only introduces readers to the life and legacy of Charles Colson; it also serves as a primer for living with a bold faith in the public square.  It is a clarion call to young evangelical leaders.  It is an invitation to proclaim, defend, and live the truth in a world which is hostile to the truth of the gospel.

This much-needed book will serve the church well and prompt much discussion and debate.  Better yet, it will lead a new generation of leaders to the front lines where the battle is fought, and where our Commanding Officer beckons us to heed His sovereign call.

Highly recommended – 4.5 stars

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

GOD THE BEST PORTION OF THE CHRISTIAN – Jonathan Edwards (1736)

•July 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Two hundred years after Calvin published his first edition of The jonathan-edwardsInstitutes, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon about being content in God.  The title of the sermon was God the Best Portion of the Christian.  Edwards’s text is Psalm 73:25:

Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.

The central truth is set forth at the beginning of the sermon, in deductive fashion: It is the spirit of a truly godly man, to prefer God before all other things, either in heaven or on earth.

Two propositions comprise this short sermon

1. A godly man prefers God before any thing else in heaven.

Edwards presents the God-centered paradigm in this section by leading readers on the correct biblical path.  He notes, “Every godly man hath his heart in heaven; his affections are mainly set on what is to be had there.  Heaven is his chosen country and inheritance.”

The godly man sets his affection on beauty, which is to say his heart is oriented to God and the things of God.  “Now the main reason why the godly man hath his heart thus to heaven,” writes Edwards, “is because God is there; that is the palace of the Most High.  It is the place where God is gloriously present, where his love is gloriously manifested, where the godly may be with him, see him as he is, and love, serve, praise, and enjoy him perfectly.”

2. It is the temper of a godly man to prefer God before all other things on the earth.

The highest priority for the follower of Christ, according to Edwards is on the Triune God.  Three points highlight the heart of the Puritan preacher:

  1. The saint prefers that enjoyment of God, for which he hopes hereafter, to any thing in the world.
  2. The saints prefer what of God may be obtained in this life before all things in the world.
  3. The saints prefers what he hath already of God before any thing in this world.

Application

As usual, Edwards concludes his sermon with several points of application.  Five penetrating questions are posed:

  1. What is it which chiefly makes you desire to go to heaven when you die?
  2. If you could avoid death, and might have your free choice, would you choose to live always in this world without God, rather than in his time to leave the world, in order to be with him?
  3. Do you prefer Christ to all others as the way to heaven?
  4. If you might go to heaven in what course you please, would you prefer to all others the way of a strict walk with God?
  5. Were you to spend your eternity in this world, would you choose rather to live in mean and low circumstances with the gracious presence of God, to to live forever in earthly prosperity without him?

Jonathan Edwards offers perspective and godly wisdom in a sermon that directed his 18th century hearers heavenward and continues to beckon followers of Christ to the Celestial City.

NEHEMIAH: An Expositional Commentary (James Boice)

•July 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

0801066409_bJames Boice was God’s special gift to the church.  When he died, Boice left an enormous hole that no other person will ever fill.  He demonstrates his giftedeness in his commentary on Nehemiah.

The author presents a series of “dynamics” that are packed into the book of Nehemiah.  Principles of leadership, delegation, and management are explored.

Boice helps readers deal with opposition by using Nehemiah’s godly example.  He notes how success breeds opposition, and how detractors will often use tactics of ridicule or even violence.  Nehemiah’s leadership shines brightly as he faces the opposition on multiple fronts as he rebuilds the wall.

Part two examines the rebuilding of the nation.  The broad strokes of revival are set forth which include prayer, the read of God’s Word, the preaching of God’s Word, and sorrow over sin.

James Boice is always a pleasure to read.  The gospel is front and center.  The scholarship is impeccable.  And God’s Word is exalted to its rightful place.

Highly recommended!

 

THE MOST HIGH A PRAYER HEARING GOD – Jonathan Edwards (1735)

•July 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

jonathan-edwardsPsalm 65:2 is Edwards text in the winter of 1735, January 8.

O you who hears prayer, to you shall all flesh come.

Doctrine – It is the character of the Most High, that he is a God who answers prayer.

Four headings drive the sermon.

1. The Most High is a God that Hears Prayer

Though he is infinitely above all, and stands in no need of creatures; yet he is graciously pleased to take a merciful notice of poor worms in the dust.

Edwards argues that God not only accepts the supplications of all the saints; he does so willingly with favor.  He adds, “While they are praying, he gives them sweet views of his glorious grace, purity, sufficiency, and sovereignty; and enables them, with great quietness, to rest in him, to leave themselves and their prayers with him, submitting to his will, and trusting in his grace and faithfulness.”

2. He is Eminently Such a God

Edwards provides several examples of how God answers prayer:

  • In his giving such free access to him by prayer.
  • That God is eminently of this character, appears in his hearing prayer so readily.
  • That the Most High is eminently one that hears prayer, appears by his giving so liberally in answer to prayer.
  • That God is eminently of this character, appears by the greatness of the things which he hath often done in answer to prayer.
  • This truth appears, in that God is, as it were, overcome by prayer.

3. Reasons for the Doctrine

A crucial point that Edwards makes is that God answers prayer because “he is a God of infinite grace and mercy.”

  • He hath by his blood made atonement for sin; so that our guilt need not stand in the way, as a separating wall between God and us, and that our sins might not be a cloud through which our prayers cannot pass.
  • Christ, by his obedience, has purchased this privilege, viz, that the prayers of those who believe in him should be heard.
  • Christ enforces the prayers of his people, by his intercession at the right hand of God in heaven.

Application

Edwards draws out many practical applications, the chief of which alerts the saints to make good use of prayer; to be prayer warriors in this wicked age.

“Seeing we have such a prayer-hearing God as we have heard, let us be much employed in the duty of prayer: let us pray with all prayer and supplication: let us live prayerful lives, continuing instant in prayer, watching thereuto with all perseverance; praying always, without ceasing, earnestly, and not fainting.”

 

THE NAVY SEAL ART OF WAR – Rob Roy (2015)

•July 6, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Former Navy SEAL, Rob Roy was inspired by Sun Tzu’s, The Art of 0804137757_bWar.  The result is a book of his own: The Navy Seal Art of War.  The book is filled with over fifty chapters of leadership inspiration.

Rob Roy shares a wealth of leadership tips from his years in the military in The Navy Seal Art of War.  Each chapter contains a short but powerful meditation that will help anyone who aspires to influence others.  The author writes, “Real leaders inspire, direct, guide, and give hope.”  The book delivers as promised.

Roy’s book addresses various leadership topics like planning, mentoring, human resources, mental toughness, devotion, faithfulness, loyalty, and hard work.  Leaders from all walks of life will appreciate the approach here.  It is a good day to learn a few lessons from the world’s most elite fighting force.

Here are a few examples:

The Essential Seven

Extraordinary teams have a clear leader.

Extraordinary teams have quantifiable goals.

Extraordinary teams have well-defined roles.

Extraordinary teams share resources.

Extraordinary teams communicate effectively.

Extraordinary teams are 100 percent committed.

Extraordinary teams discourage big egos.

Mental Toughness

Be decisive.  Move quickly.

Don’t let stress result in your blaming others.

Don’t let distraction  deter you from accomplishing your objectives.

Never “take yourself out of the game.”  Always stay positive.

Under stress, good leaders learn how to compartmentalize tasks so they don’t get overwhelmed and shut down.

Stay focused on the mission.  Don’t let fatigue or stress deter your focus.

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

3.5 stars

HELP MY UNBELIEF – Barnabas Piper (2015)

•June 30, 2015 • Leave a Comment

“I believe; help my unbelief!” cried the father of a demon possessedpiper boy (Mark 9:24).  This cry of anguish is the cry is necessarily emerges from the mouth of every believer.  Why?  Our faith is growing.  Our faith is incomplete.  We are works in progress.  We still have much to learn.  In fact, Barnabas Piper argues, that questions are normal, even healthy in the Christian life.  This is the essence of Piper’s newest book, Help My Unbelief

When the man in Mark 9 cried out, “I believe, help my unbelief,” he was uttering more than a mere statement.  Piper adds, “Requests can stem only from belief, even it is just the tiniest inkling of belief.”  This kind of reasoning should breathe hope, strength and confidence in believers who doubt from time to time.  For the very act of doubt, precipitates saving faith!  Once again: we are in process.  We are still growing.  God is in the process of refining our faith.  And he will complete the good work he started!

Piper introduces readers to the idea of “believing doubt.”  He says, “Believing doubt will always anchor in God’s character and word as unshakeable and then take on questions that harass and attack.”  While much harm can come from doubt, Piper maintains, “Doubt can save us from much trouble and lead to much knowledge … Doubt that seeks the truth and stems from the belief that God is the source of all truth.”

But the author also presents the idea of “unbelieving doubt.”  “When unbelieving doubt poses a question, it is not interested in the answer for any reason other than to disprove it … These doubts are the wild monsters that wreck faith and destroy the simplistically peaceful Christian lives so many people try to lead.”

This doubt can surface in several ways – intellectual, emotional, or even theological.  Truth be told, every Christian battles with unbelieving doubt.  This is why the writer of Hebrews says, “See to it that none of you has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”

God has given us certain evidences of saving faith which include repentance, prayer, and humility: “Through repentance, prayer, and humility believers move away from unbelieving doubt and grow in holiness.  The refusal to do these things is a spiritual red flag and evidence of wanting to be one’s own god.”

Piper discusses disobedience as unbelief: “Disobeying the command of God is disbelieving His character … He [God] is authority itself, the essence of perfect, flawless authority.  To disobey is to deny this about him.”  Piper also discusses obedience as belief.  In a statement to is dripping with the wisdom of his father, he adds: “Obedience is not the end; God’s satisfaction in us and our pleasure in Him are.  It doesn’t feel tangible in the moment, but as we grow in belief, we will find it gaining power over the desire to sin.”  Pure Christian hedonism!

Walking in obedience to God is not a magic formula or a recipe for perfection in the Christian life.  The author rightly notes, “Belief [which is to say – obedience to God] does not mean sin will go away … True belief is that which perpetually, magnetically pulls us toward the ‘not yet’ of Revelation 21.”  Believing the promises of God and being satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ leads us in the direction of the new earth where Jesus will make all things new!

Help My Unbelief is a plea for a faith which is transparent and vulnerable.  It is a call for vibrant Christian living in the face of unanswered questions.  And if offer hope for people who are desperately looking for answers.  The search for answers is welcomed here.  Indeed, the search for truth is a vital part of the Christian life.  The book is a call to action; action which is grounded in biblical faith.  While faith may waver and is “prone to wonder” as  Charles Wesley wrote, we can be assured that God will never leave us or forsake us.  He will complete the good work he started.

“I believe; help my unbelief” represents the tension, the need the promise for every follower of Jesus.  We do believe.  We do live every day in great need.  Our belief is imperfect, so we cry out for help.  But that cry come from a place of belief.  We hold fast to God even as we feel pulled by the current of doubt, fear, and temptation.”

– Barnabas Piper

Highly recommended!

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

 

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY? – Kevin DeYoung (2015)

•June 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

aI read an important book today.  It is not a weighty theological treatise.  It is not a book about spiritual formation.  And it certainly is not written to inspire.  This book is about homosexuality.  Like it or not, in our culture, the topic of homosexuality has moved from stage left to center stage.  Everyone is talking about it.  Many people are affirming homosexual relationships – liberals and conservatives alike.

I recently read Steve Chalke’s booklet, A Matter of Integrity.  The author, who happens to be a Baptist pastor, seeks to legitimize and normalize homosexuality.  The booklet is written with tones of grace and the author appears very kind.  The only problem – the book is dead wrong.  The book opposes Scripture.  And the book fails to glorify God.

Kevin DeYoung’s new book, What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality addresses a controversial topic with grace but never at the expense of truth.

Part One – Understanding God’s Word

The author guides readers through a maze of texts and helps them unravel what Scripture really says about homosexuality.  His tone is gracious.  Yet he is unafraid to proclaim what God proclaims – homosexuality is a sin to be repented of.  Everyone who turns from their sin may find peace and forgiveness that flow freely from Jesus who paid to set sinners free.  DeYoung is quick to demonstrate that homosexuality is not acceptable in God’s economy.  But he is even more eager to point people to a God who forgives:

The God we worship is indeed a God of love.  Which does not, according to any verse in the Bible, make sexual sin acceptable.  But it does, by the witness of a thousand verses all over the Bible, make every one of our sexual sins changeable, redeemable, and wondrously forgiveable.  

Part Two – Answering Objections

DeYoung has left no stone unturned here.  In part two, he answers typical objections and responds with grace and truth.  All his answers are supported by the weight of Scripture.

There is much to commend here; more than one review can cover.  However, Kevin DeYoung helps readers understand what is at stake in this debate and uncovers four vital issues that every Christian should be concerned with.  I urge readers to purchase the book and study these powerful warnings:

  1. The moral logic of monogamy is at stake.
  2. The integrity of Christian sexual ethics is at stake.
  3. The authority of Scripture is at stake.
  4. The grand narrative of Scripture is at stake.

What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality will not be the most inspiring book you’ll read all year.  However, it may be the most important book you read.  It is a book that may cause you discomfort.  It is a book that will certainly cause you to reevaluate your position on homosexuality.    Ultimately, this book will point you to the Book.  And sacred Scripture clearly reveals God’s position on homosexuality.  Homosexual behavior, like any other ungodly behavior is sin; sin which must be repented of and forgiven.

The Supreme Court is spoken.  Their historic decision on June 26, 2015 will leave an indelible mark on American history.  But God has also spoken.  Our sovereign God has the final word on every subject and in every nation.  Our response must be to submit to his authority and render joyful obedience.  Unfortunately, obedience is being jettisoned in the highest court of the land.

May readers approach this subject with minds and hearts that are open to God’s revelation.  May they be challenged and moved to obedience.  And may the gospel open doors of hope so that many will find their rest in Christ the Savior!

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

 

 
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