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. 

 

THE UNREASONABLENESS OF INDETERMINATION IN RELGION – Jonathan Edwards (1734)

•June 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Jonathan_Edwards_engravingAnd Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.” (1 Kings 18:21, ESV)

The title of the sermon is The Unreasonableness of Indetermination in Religion.  Jonathan Edwards preached this sermon in the summer of 1734.

Doctrine: Unresolvedness in religion is very unreasonable.  

Two central propositions support the doctrine.

Proposition 1: Many persons remain exceedingly undetermined with respect to religion.

Edwards notes that some people never resolve the matter of truth.  That is to say, they cannot determine whether or not historic Christianity is true.  The point is fascinating when one considers the current postmodern milieu where some maintain that truth is either culturally conditioned or even non-existent.  Our culture views truth as a “power grab.”  The 18th century Enlightenment mind believed in truth and the necessity of propositions.  Edwards argues that many people merely wavered between two opinions.  A sad state of affairs.

All people have two options before them – heaven or hell.  Edwards in essence argues that one must decide: “There are but two things which God offers to mankind for their portion: one is this world, with the pleasures and profits of sin, together with eternal misery ensuing; the other is heaven and eternal glory, with a life of self-denial and respect to all the commands of God.”  One cannot have his cake and eat it too.  For such a man is like the one referenced by James 1:8 – “double-minded in all his ways.”

Proposition 2: To continue thus undetermined and unresolved in the things of religion, is very unreasonable.

Indeed, the choice before all men is clear: “He hath given man so much understanding, as to make him capable of determining which is best; to lead a life of self-denial, and enjoy eternal happiness, or to take our swing in sinful enjoyments, and burn in hell forever.”

Application

Edwards makes several applications, all of which are worth noting:

1. Inquire whether you have yet come to a full determination with respect to the truth of the things of religion.

2. Inquire whether you have ever yet come to a determination about religion with respect to the practice of it; whether you have chosen heaven with the way to it, viz. the way of obedience and self-denial, before this world and the ways of sin; whether  you have determined upon it as most eligible, to devote yourselves to the service of God.

Edwards highlights four signs that indicate his hearers are halting between two opinions:

  • To put off duty altogether.
  • It is a sign of the same thing when persons are strict and conscientious in some things, but live in the omission of others.
  • It is a sign that you halt between two opinions, if you sometimes are wont to be considerably engaged in religion, but at other times neglect it.
  • It is a sign that you are halting between two opinions, if it be your manner to balk your duty whenever any notable difficulty comes in the way.

In this case, Edwards argues, “You are in the state of the stony-ground hearers, you have no root in yourselves, and like a tree without root, are easily blown down by every wind.”

Edwards urges his readers to trust Christ – to stop halting between two opinions.  A final admonition leave his listeners in a tenuous position, with eternity hanging in the balance:

Those who live under the gospel, and thus continue undetermined about religion, are more abominable to God than the heathen.

The Unreasonableness of Indetermination is a classic Edwardsean sermon that highlights an 18th century mindset which is thoroughly biblical and Christ-centered.  Oh, that the 21st century mind would gain the strength and fervency of worldview and passion for preaching as demonstrated by Jonathan Edwards!

REFORMED DOGMATICS – Herman Bavinck

•June 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

dogReformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) is arranged like a standard systematic theology text and includes seven branches of theology overall.  Bavinck was a seminal thinker in his day and deserves to be read in ours.  The new abridged volume by Baker Academic is a welcome addition to the growing number of theological works in print.

The writing, while dense at times is easy to follow and offers readers a Reformed framework which stands in the tradition as writers such as Warfield, Hodge, and Edwards.

Perhaps an assortment of citations will give readers a better idea of Bavinck’s style and theological convictions:

The entire life of the Christian is dedicated to the worship of God – we are not our own; we are God’s.  We belong to God completely and always, in life and in death.

Sin, therefore, is never an arbitrary matter, merely a whimsical displeasure of a jealous God.  Sin is knowingly breaking God’s command and flows from a heart that rebels against God.

… The human heart and head can rest in God’s will, for it is the will of an almighty God and a gracious father, not that of a blind fate, incalculable chance, or dark force of nature.  His sovereignty is one of unlimited power, but also of wisdom and grace.  He is both king and father at one and the same time.

Mystery is the lifeblood of theological reflection.  From the start of its labors, dogmatic theology is shrouded in mystery; it stands before God the incomprehensible One.  This knowledge leads to adoration and worship; to know God is to live.

The content of the Christian faith is the knowledge of God in his being and in his works.

Even the abridged edition weighs in at 777 pages, so readers will need to demonstrate a measure of discipline and patience in order to reach the finish line of Dogmatic Theology.  But the time and effort will be well-spent and one dives into the deep end of the theological pool.

Highly recommend!

 

 

WHAT IS EXPERIENTIAL CALVINISM? – Iain Hamilton (2015)

•June 16, 2015 • 2 Comments

calvinismEach year, I put together a “top ten list,” books that have personally encouraged me; books that I would commend to others.  It is unusual to include a booklet in such a list but after reading Iain Hamilton’s, What is Experiential Calvinism this book will certainly make the top ten list in 2015.

Calvinism is quite possibly one of the most misrepresented system thoughts – both in the church and in the marketplace of ideas.  Christians and non-Christians alike slice and dice this theological system into a cruel concoction which has nothing to do with Calvinism.  This twisting and maniacal maneuvering made famous by the likes of critics such as  David Hunt does nothing to serve people.  Rather, it confuses the unsuspecting and irritates those who no better.

But Hamilton makes this much clear.  While Calvinism as such is a theological system, it is much more than a system.  It is at the very warp and woof of biblical theology.  “Experiential Calvinism” writes Hamilton, has one preeminent concern: to glorify God.”

A substantial part of the book is committed to summarizing the main components of experiential Calvinism.  The author presents eight in particular.  Instead of summarizing each point, readers are encouraged to dig into Hamilton’s work so as to discover the deeper realities behind each component.  The eight points are summarized as follows:

  1. The experiential Calvinist honors God’s unconditional sovereignty.  The author cites B.B. Warfield, who argues, “Calvinists are humble souls, who, in the quiet of retired lives, have caught a vision of God in His glory and are cherishing in their hearts that vital flame of complete dependence on Him which is the very essence of Calvinism.”
  2. The experiential Calvinist cherishes God’s grace.
  3. The experiential Calvinist has a deep sense of the sinfulness of sin.
  4. The experiential Calvinist lives before God’s face.
  5. The experiential Calvinist shapes all of life by the revelation of God’s unimpeachable holiness.
  6. The experiential Calvinist is content and satisfied with scriptural worship.
  7. The experiential Calvinist pursues godly catholicity.
  8. The experiential Calvinist cultivates communion with God.

I stand with a handful of other Reformed minded people who take exception to the so-called Regulative Principle which is described in the sixth component.  Hamilton obviously writes with the best of intentions but get boxed in by a mindset which canonized the past and neglects elements of contemporary worship.  Certainly, there is much drivel in the contemporary music scene.  But much good is being accomplished as well.  To ignore some of the songs being written by artists such as Stewart Townend, Matt Redman, and Chris Tomlin is a mistake. Perhaps 1 Corinthians 10:31 should guide this discussion about worship.

This of course, is a minor criticism in light of the whole.  Indeed, this concern is a mere “bump in the road” and should not distract readers from devouring the rest of the book.  Iain Hamilton has served the church well by boiling down the essence of Calvinism which will lead people in the right direction for all the right reasons.

What is Experiential Calvinism is a must-read.  It is both corrective and Christ-centered and offers the right blend of admonition and encouragement.  My hope is that thousands and thousands of people will literally consume this little book and benefit immensely from the godly wisdom here.

5 stars

EMPIRE’S END – Jerry Jenkins (2015)

•June 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

“I preached Christ and Him crucified, and many more became empirebelievers.”  This sentence summarizes the essence of the book, Empire’s End by Jerry Jenkins.  It is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that fueled the resolve of Paul the apostle.  It is the gospel that motivated his every action.  It is the gospel that he lived for.  That same gospel, he died for.

Empire’s End is historical fiction.  Anytime an author sets out to capture a historical setting in a novel, he walks a fine line.  On the one hand, this genre allows a certain flexibility and enables the writer to utilize what some have referred to as a “sanctified imagination.”  This is entirely appropriate so long as the imagination stays within biblical bounds.  On the other hand, this genre poses difficulties for some readers have difficulty separating fact from fiction.

Jenkins does a good job of painting a portrait of Saul of Tarsus, the religious zealot who is miraculously regenerated on the Damascus road.  He shows the tension that exists in this newly converted man as he faces people he hated only moments before.

Jenkins develops several biblical characters and fictional characters that keep the story moving and help show the cultural context that Paul ministered in.

While the novel reads easily and holds the attention of the reader, there is a propensity to get caught up in the story while forgetting the actual historical context.  Whether that is the fault of the author or the reader is left for the jury to decide.

Overall, Empire’s End is an enjoyable read.  The intent is clearly to magnify the great God as his purposes unfold in the life of his servant, the apostle Paul.

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

3.5 stars

 
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