AVENUE OF SPIES – Alex Kershaw (2015)

•August 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

My introduction to Alex Kershaw took place several years ago as I spiespoured over his excellent book, The Longest Winter.  Kershaw is back again with another historical gem, Avenue of Spies.  The book chronicles the life and legacy of Sumner Jackson and his wife, Toquette.  These brave people joined the French in their pushback against the Third Reich during the heart of World War II.

Kershaw is a master story teller who has a special gift for transporting readers into the heart of Paris, a city that was overtaken by Nazi thugs.  He carefully guides readers through the historical drama, noting the tragic turn of events for Mr. and Mrs. Jackson and their family.

The author educates readers by helping them understand the worldview of Hitler’s henchmen as well as those who fought against the Third Reich.  The attention to detail is breath-taking.  The scenes are memorable.  The heroic deeds of the Jackson’s are sure to inspire readers.

I heartily recommend Kershaw’s excellent book, which is researched with precision and recounted in a thoughtful and memorable way.

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

4 stars

THE REASON FOR MY HOPE – Billy Graham (2013)

•August 17, 2015 • 1 Comment

grahamOne thing that marked my childhood was hearing Billy Graham preach several times.  I saw him preach at the Kingdome in Seattle in 1976 to a capacity crowd, the largest crowd in the history of the infamous dome.  I saw him preach in Spokane as a teenager and saw him in his last Crusade in his final visit to the Tacoma Dome in 1991.  I remember being impressed, even as a child with his boldness and courage in the pulpit – characteristics that never faded from the world-famous evangelist.

Boldness and courage are two words that describe Dr. Graham’s most recent offering, The Reason For My Hope.  After seventy years of ministry, the message remains the same.  The message is the simple gospel message that Christ came to die for sinners, securing forgiveness and eternal life for anyone who believes.

Graham weaves personal stories and anecdotes throughout his gospel presentation.  The narrative is warm.  The message is compelling.  It is no secret that Billy Graham proclaims a message that is peppered with doctrinal convictions that find a home in the Arminian camp.  The debate between Calvinists and Arminians will likely continue until the coming of our Lord.

I still have fond memories of seeing Billy Graham preach the Word of God.  I have since come to some soteriological conclusions that differ from Graham.  But my respect for the man has never wavered. Billy Graham is a consistent, faithful, Christ-follower.  He has finished the race strong.   He is a faithful witness to the reality of Jesus Christ and his gospel!

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

GAINING BY LOSING – J.D. Greear (2015)

•August 10, 2015 • 1 Comment

jdWhat is the criteria for a successful church that is growing and impacting its community for the sake of the gospel?  While many churches point to attendance numbers or the size of one’s campus, J.D. Greear argues in a completely different direction.  Greear says this: “Jesus’ measure of the church is not seating capacity, but sending capacity.”  Pastor Greear effectively makes this case in his newest book, Gaining By Losing.

J.D. Greear is the Pastor of Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.  His previous books, Jesus Continued, Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary, and Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart have been an immense encouragement to me, personally.

Gaining By Losing is equally encouraging.  The author argues that churches in our generation who make an impact learn to send people – ultimately to plant the church.  In part one, the author develops his philosophical and biblical case for being a sending church.

In part two, the author presents readers with ten principles, what he refers to as plumb lines for being a sending church.  These plumb lines are biblical, practical, and have been field tested in the church that Greear pastors.

At the heart of the book is an appeal for churches engage in systematic discipleship.  The author argues, “Every spiritual gift serves the larger purpose of making disciples.  The gifts are varied, but the mission is the same.”  In the final analysis, “The future belongs to churches that send.”

Gaining By Losing is a much-needed book in our age of pragmatism and man-centeredness.  This book provides both an important perspective as well as a corrective to some of the unhelpful practices in the church.

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

Highly recommended!

THE PASTOR AS PUBLIC THEOLOGIAN – Kevin VanHoozer and Owen Strachan (2015)

•August 4, 2015 • 1 Comment

pastorAfter serving in pastoral ministry for nearly twenty-five years, I can testify that the most discouraging moments occurred when the people of God failed to look favorably on theology.  R.C. Sproul rightly laments, “We live in the most anti-intellectual period in all of church history.”  Frankly, many pastors have the battle scars to prove it.  I know I do.

Kevin VanHoozer and Owen Strachan serve up a timely antidote to this troubling, anti-theology age we find ourselves in.  The Pastor as Public Theologian presents a fresh vision; a vision for “reclaiming the vocation of the pastor-theologian.”  But the authors have a larger vision that unfolds throughout the book.  Their vision extends to local congregations.  They too need to reclaim the vision and vocation of the pastor theologian.

Part one explores biblical theology and historical theology.  Part two explores systematic theology and practical theology.  Each chapter is drenched in biblical wisdom with an eye on kingdom priorities.

This book stands in the same stream as David Well’s excellent works, No Place For Truth, God in the Wasteland, and The Courage to Be Protestant – to name a few.  The great strengths lie not only in setting forth a description of the problems in the church but in the prescription for moving forward.  Such a move entails  pastors who are theologically motivated and theologically driven.  These pastors offer up theologically rich sermons which equip, edify, and send the people of God to the nations.

The Pastor as Public Theologian is a sweeping book.  It is, in many ways an epic accomplishment. Indeed, VanHoozer and Strachan achieve their goal in setting forth the biblical case for recovering the biblical portrait of the pastor-theologian.

The Pastor as Public Theologian is a profoundly encouraging book.  Pastors who are serious about their call should read and devour this excellent material.  Some pastors will find themselves repenting for embracing a secularized model of the pastorate.  Others will be re-energized to boldly proclaim the truth for God’s glory and the good of God’s people

Highly recommended!

4.5 stars

Divine Sovereignty

•August 3, 2015 • 1 Comment

Jonathan Edwards Quote

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.

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 845 other followers