Unparalleled

•May 23, 2016 • Leave a Comment

wilsonJared C. Wilson. Unparalleled. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016. 233 pp. $9.25

Unparalleled by Jered C. Wilson cuts through the postmodern fog and alerts readers to the message of Jesus and his gospel. Wilson’s book highlights the compelling case for historic Christianity and draws out the features that make it unique.

Wilson paints with a broad brush but includes enough details to illicit an appropriate response from his audience, either believers or unbelievers. Topics include the nature and essence of God including an excellent discussion on the Trinity. The author discusses the doctrine of man, Christ, and salvation in a way that will attract long-time followers of Christ as well as people who are investigating the Christian faith.

Readers unfamiliar with Wilson will be immediately lured in by his transparency, clear writing, winsome style. In the end, the author succeeds in setting forth a lucid case for the Christian faith. Anyone who reads Unparalleled will be touched, encouraged, and prompted to seek the face of Jesus Christ. Indeed, he is the most unique and compelling Person in the universe.

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

Martin Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer

•May 17, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Take a moment to watch the clip below about Martin Luther and consider supporting my friend Stephen McCaskell’s Kickstarter Campaign! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stephenmccaskell/luther-the-life-and-legacy-of-the-german-reformer?ref=email

 

 

The Glorious Reality of Grace

•May 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

brownSteve Brown. Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2016. 158 pp. $17.99

Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart by Steve Brown is a “wake-up call” book. This book intends to shake Christ-followers and wake them up to the glorious reality of grace. The author points his finger a lot in this book. Much of the finger-pointing is at himself – as he shares about his own personal struggle with sin. His admission is enough to make the unsuspecting Pharisee bristle, “What qualifies a man to write a book who has not yet conquered his sinful proclivities?” If a thought like that crossed your radar screen, The Hidden Agenda is for you.

Steve Brown maintains:

  • People have hidden agendas
  • People wear masks that ultimately hurt the ones we love
  • People generally live in fear that their hidden agendas will be exposed

The hidden agenda is “a plan designed to accomplish, change, fix, destroy, remedy, reward, punish, promote, or hinder.” People fear the hidden agenda will come into the light which leads to rejection, punishment, shame, or failure.

The author encourages readers to dispose of their hidden agendas. He encourages them to be transparent about their struggle with sin. He writes, “Nobody speaks from Sinai, and when you appear to be an outsider to the human race, you truncate the message you communicate. You need forgiveness and encouragement as much as anybody. You need to cut some slack for the people you serve and they need to cut some slack for you.”

In communicating his desire for readers to dispose of their masks, he uncovers the motivation for writing the book: “I’m writing this book because I have a passion about God’s people creating spaces where masks aren’t necessary, where we can experience the freedom and joy of no longer being ashamed in the darkness behind our masks. Life is hard, our sins are great, and the wounds are deep. We simply can’t do this thing without one another, and the loneliness is making us crazy.”

Brown is quick to point out the failures and faults of Christians who feel as if they have “arrived.” He contrasts this self-righteous mindset with a powerful principle: “Every time a believer starts feeling good about personal righteousness and purity, at that point God is brought down to the believer’s level and becomes something less than the holy, righteous, and pure God of the Bible.”

The author encourages readers to shed the masks and dispose of the hidden agendas once and for all. He reminds them, “They are crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). Such a death and resurrection means forgiveness, redemption, acceptance, and love from a holy God. Brown argues, “The key to being reasonably free of hidden agendas and masks is remembering you’re dead and the key to knowing and applying that is the Holy Spirit.”

All this discussion leads to the most important part of the book where Brown guides readers on an important theological journey. Readers are reminded of their position in Christ, namely – they are justified, imputed with the righteousness of Christ, and adopted by God. The author writes, “You’re forgiven, you’re clothed, you’re adopted, and you’re sanctified. In the face of those truths, you now have a safe place . . . and his name is Jesus. You don’t have to impress, manipulate, lie, or pretend anymore.”

The topic of sanctification is an important theme in The Hidden Agenda. Brown rightly notes the distinction between definitive sanctification and progressive sanctification (without using the theological lingo). This places him in the center of the Reformed stream. Yet, some accuse Dr. Brown of antinomianism. The author speaks candidly about these accusations and denies them outright.

I understand why some would charge Dr. Brown with antinomianian. Yet such a claim for a man who believes in and preaches the doctrine of justification by faith alone has no merit and falls flat. The argument is erroneous and the accusation unfair.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones argues, “I would say to all preachers: If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examine your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you are really preaching the salvation that is offered in the New Testament to the ungodly, the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are enemies of God. There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation” (Romans 6, pp. 8-9). Lloyd-Jones continues, “There is no better test of gospel fidelity than the accusation of antinomianism.”

As noted above, Brown responds to the charges of antinomianism. However, this response in my mind does not go far enough. Perhaps the topic is beyond the scope of the book. Perhaps another book is needed to thoroughly address this matter.

All in all, Hidden Agenda is a wonderful read. Brown writes in plain language, offers helpful illustrations that cement the principles he presents, and guides readers in a direction that honors and glorifies God. Perhaps the most helpful thing about Hidden Agenda is the transparency of the author. He is candid about his own battle with sin, which in my mind qualifies him to weigh in on this crucial topic.

An important disclaimer: If you are easily offended, don’t read this book. If you take yourself too seriously, toss this book in the trash. If being politically correct or phony is your way of life, move on to a book that will match your Pharisaical propensities.

But if you’re tired of living in bondage, pick up a copy of Brown’s book. If you’re tired of playing games living a facade, pick up Hidden Agenda and devour the godly wisdom that Steve Brown presents. Your worldview will be adjusted, your outlook will be transformed, and the masks will end up the rubbish bin – where they deserve to go! May readers be awakened to the glorious reality of grace and revel in the mystery and majesty of the gospel!

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

ARE YOU A BOLD REFORMER?

•May 9, 2016 • 2 Comments

boldBold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther is available now!

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the ninety-five theses to the castle door in Wittenberg. One act of courage sparked a theological firestorm in Germany that set the world ablaze in a matter of days. Spreading like wildfire, thousands were introduced to the gospel which is received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther takes readers on a journey through a remarkable period of church history. It will challenge contemporary readers to learn the lessons of courage, and perseverance. It will inspire a new generation of people to follow Jesus, obey Jesus, and worship the Savior with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. It invites a new generation of Christ-followers to recover the gospel in their generation and make their stand as a bold reformer.

Bold Reformer is born out of personal pastoral turmoil and inspired by the courage of Martin Luther.  My hope is that many pastors, Christian leaders and Christ-followers will be encouraged as a result of reading this book; that God will propel them into the future by his grace and for his glory.

Endorsements

“David Steele’s Bold Reformer is a book for our times! As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, how appropriate to look afresh at ways the bold faith and action of Martin Luther can inspire and instruct our own faith and work. Christians today need strength of character and boldness of conviction. Steele’s presentation of Luther’s life moves readers to live bold lives that adorn the gospel of grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone.”

Dr. Bruce A. Ware, T. Rupert and Lucille Coleman Professor of Christian Theology, Chairman of the Department of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Pastoral ministry is often mingled with both blessing and despair. Many pastors experience seasons of opposition that result in discouragement and even depression. David Steele’s new work, Bold Reformer is an exploration into the gospel-centered convictions of the stalwart reformer, Martin Luther. Luther faced many pastoral hardships during his ministry, but emerged victorious because of his unwavering faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I encourage you to drink from the refreshing waters of this book and use the life of Luther as an example that emboldens you to stand strong in the midst of the fiery trial.”

Dr. Steven J. Lawson, President, OnePassion Ministries, Dallas, Texas

 

The Reformation Still Matters!

•May 9, 2016 • Leave a Comment

0801017130_bErwin Luther. Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016. 206 pp. $14.79

The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation will soon arrive. A handful of evangelicals await this special day of celebration, when on October 31, 2017 they will remember Luther’s courageous act as he nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Tragically, most will allow the day to pass by – completely unaware of the significance of the day.

Dr. Erwin Lutzer’s new book, Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation tells the fascinating tale of the Protestant Reformation and walks readers along a God-glorifying path that shine the spotlight on the central figures of the movement, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and Huldrych Zwingli.

The author covers much ground in this 200-page volume. He not only surveys the broad sweep of Reformation history; he also summarizes the foundational doctrines that were rediscovered during the Reformation.

Lutzer writes in a popular style which will no doubt appeal to a wide variety of readers and skill levels. The book is filled with beautiful photographs that bring the Reformation to life and invite readers on a journey that they will not soon forget.

The concluding chapter, Is the Reformation Over? is the most important part of the book. Dr. Lutzer interacts with theologians and historians that argue for the so-called demise of the Reformation. Nothing could be further from the truth as Lutzer makes painfully clear. Indeed, the doctrinal divide between Roman Catholics and evangelicals is deep as it is wide. The point of the chapter and the point of the whole book is this: The gospel was largely forgotten and under attack in the days leading up the to the 16th century. The battle for the truth of the gospel continues in our day as well.

Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation is an important book that will educate and inspire. It will drive readers back to the rugged terrain of history and the deep wells of Scripture. It will challenge them to engage in the ongoing work of rescuing the gospel and continuing the legacy of the Protestant Reformers. I would urge readers to pick up a copy of my recent book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther, as a companion volume to Erwin Luther’s excellent work.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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

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 • 1 Comment

zeal

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.

 

 
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