Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity – Tim Challies (2015)

•November 30, 2015 • Leave a Comment

challiesHere’s a lofty claim: “I believe this book can improve your life.” This is a claim we’ve all heard before. Infomercials, hucksters, and television preachers make similar claims. The net result is generally less than satisfying. The consumer usually walks away from such a claim with a lighter wallet, a bruised ego, and more skepticism to boot.

Tim Challies is hedging his bets in his new book, Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity. He believes that lives will be changed if readers will invest a bit of time in his book.

Do More Better (DMB) is a fitting title as the author sets out to help readers lead more productive lives. But DMB should not be confused with the typical self-help books that saturate most book stores. It should not even be compared to some of the most popular books on the discipline of productivity. Works like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, What’s Best Next by Matthew Perman, or Getting Things Done by David Allen made their respective contributions in the field of productivity.

But DMB truly stands alone in a sea of books that promise productivity. The author argues that our lives must begin with a solid foundation. Ultimately, this foundation must rest on a commitment to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Glorifying God involves doing good works and making God look good. In typical Reformation fashion, the author reminds readers that good works are only possible because of Christ’s completed work on the cross.

So the author encourages readers to establish productivity on the solid rock of the gospel. Indeed, this is the highest form of productivity, namely, a life that “glorifies God by doing good to others.” This lofty aim is what sets DMB apart from other books on productivity.

Challies highlights several barriers to productivity, what he calls “productivity thieves.” Readers are encouraged to structure and organize their lives so they can do “maximum good for others,” which in turn brings maximum glory to God. The call to Christian character is a dominant theme here. The author argues, “No amount of organization and time management will compensate for lack of Christian character, not when it comes to this great calling of glory through good – bringing glory to God by doing good to others.”

Next, DMB urges readers to define their responsibilities and their roles. Responsibilities are general items such as personal, family, and church. Roles are more specific. For example, personal roles may include spiritual fitness, physical fitness, administration, etc.

Readers are then encouraged to write a purpose statement for each area of responsibility. Challies gives helpful examples to help assure success in this area.

Three tools are recommended for maximum productivity: a task management tool, scheduling tool, and information tool. Challies points readers to digital tools that will help and encourage personal productivity. Specific action steps are spelled out for each tool. Ultimately, readers are challenged to “live the system” that is presented in the book.

I have been reading about personal productivity for nearly twenty-five years. I have benefited from some of the works mentioned earlier. But once again, Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity, by Tim Challies truly stands alone. Three features set this book apart. This work is God-centered, practical, and offers users immediate help that is sure to boost personal productivity. I commend this excellent work and trust that God will use it to encourage many people!

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

Awe: Why It Matters For Everything We Think, Say – Paul David Tripp (2015)

•November 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

trippSome books are meant to be read. Others are meant to be devoured. Paul David’s Tripp’s new book is of the later sort. Awe: Why It Matters For Everything We Think, Say, And Do is a soul-searching work that draws readers in, grabs them by the throat, shakes them around, molds and transforms their hearts – with the ultimate aim of setting them free to serve, worship, and glorify the God of the universe.

Dr. Tripp argues with Scripture that God’s goal is for creatures to be “in awe of his creation, but that awe cannot and should not be an end in itself.” “Where you look for awe,” says Tripp, “will shape the direction of your life.”

The author helps readers understand their position between the “already” of Adam’s sin and the “not yet” of final redemption. Our current position is where the war ensues. While sinners struggle with what Tripp calls “awe wrongness” (AWN), namely, misplaced awe, God patiently draws people to himself so they might find their satisfaction in him.

Dr. Tripp repeatedly shows how people turn to awe-substitutes to find satisfaction, a sure-fire road to depression, frustration, and meaninglessness. “Only grace can give us back our awe of God again,” writes Tripp. This marvelous grace principle dominates the book and urges readers to find their satisfaction, i.e. awe in Christ alone.

Tripp’s book is a real gem. Some Christian books are descriptive. Many are prescriptive. But very few Christian books these days include a deep, transparent, admission of personal struggle. That is to say, very few Christian writers these days admit weakness, struggle with temptation, propensity to fearfulness or anxiety, and the like. Paul David Tripp speaks clearly and biblically. But he also shares from the depth of his heart. He shares about his struggles. He shares his weaknesses. He admits that the ministry is often times lonely. He confesses his secret hope to “throw in the towel.” This kind of transparency is difficult for most writers. Indeed, it is difficult for most Christ-followers. So the author should be commended for his candid and transparent approach.

“Spiritual growth is about recapturing your awe,” writes Dr. Tripp. Here lies the essence of the book, a theme that emerges throughout this fine work. Awe: Why It Matters For Everything We Think, Say, And Do may be the most important book of 2015. I trust that many will read, wrestle, digest, absorb, and be awakened to the beauty and majesty of Jesus Christ – the only One worth of our worship. Indeed, our awe should be found in him alone!

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


•November 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment

mindIn the late 1940’s, V.W. Steele resigned as the Senior pastor at Bethel Baptist in Everett, Washington. He stepped away from his pulpit at the height of a revival as he felt prompted by God to move to another ministry. He loaded up the car with his young family made the long journey to Los Angeles. Providentially, he was commissioned by Charles Fuller to partner together and preach the gospel in Idaho, Montana and North Dakota. Pastor Steele was my grandfather, so I have a particular interest in his venture with Charles Fuller, the popular preacher on the Old Fashioned Revival Hour radio broadcast.

My grandfather pastored churches in a day where the battle lines were drawn. He lived in a day when men were willing to lose life and limb for the sake of doctrinal convictions. But he also lived in a day when the church was in a titanic struggle against the cultural monster of modernism.

Dr. Owen Strachan’s book, Awakening the Evangelical Mind provides an invaluable service for the church as he explores where the battle lines were drawn and introduces readers to the key players. These neo-evangelicals, including Harold Ockenga, Carl Henry, Billy Graham, and others helped establish the Christian mind in a culture awash in a sea of modernism.

Strachan traces the evangelical trajectory of these seminal thinkers by guiding readers through key historical turning points and decisions that were decisive for the establishment of the Christian mind in America. The author demonstrates how select Christian colleges and Seminaries were launched and the men who envisioned them. These are important historical details that the author skillfully tells; stories that have either been forgotten or worse yet, never heard!

R.C. Sproul and Mark Noll have both lamented about the decline of the Christian mind. Strachan’s excellent work is a much-needed corrective and salve for the soul. Strachan is eager to prop up the long history of the evangelical mind and optimistic about its future: “If the evangelical mind is not always appreciated, this simply cannot be because it does not exist. It does exist, and its contributions over two millennia are monumental.”

The author argues that evangelicals face some important decisions in the days ahead:

The church faces a profound choice: it can retreat and huddle, nursing its wounds as it accepts its intellectual marginalization. Or, it can learn once more from Ockenga, Henry, Graham, and the Cambridge evangelicals, and promote outstanding education that not only engages the questing heart but freshly awakens the evangelical mind.

Awakening the Evangelical Mind is a call to the next generation of Christian leaders to lead with biblical conviction and bold courage; to continue the legacy that was established by some great men of the faith.


A LOST GOD IN A LOST WORLD – Melvin Tinker (2015)

•November 16, 2015 • 2 Comments

tinkerAugustine sounded the alarm in his magisterial work, The City of God.  The date was 426 A.D. Augustine’s battle cry alerted Christ-followers to the beauty, majesty, and sovereignty of a holy God.

Melvin Tinker sounds another alarm in his new book, A Lost God in a Lost World. His intent is to articulate the sobering truths that concern the lostness of people and to magnify the greatness and glory of God with the aim of encouraging Christ-followers to cling tenaciously to the Gospel of Jesus. They will, in the final analysis, be emboldened to stand strong in the grace which is found in their Savior. The author adds, “We shall become more effective instruments of righteousness in his hand for the salvation of many and the glorification of his name.”

Tinker diagnoses the problem and points his finger in the right direction – straight at idolatry. Calvin identified the propensity of people to turn to idols by describing their hearts as “idol factories.” The author elaborates on this problem which continues to plague humanity: “When we turn away in our hearts from the one true God we engage in a cheap exchange, swapping the one who is of infinite weight and worth for something which is empty and worthless.”

The remainder of the book describes the God-centeredness of God – the God who is crucified, the God who enters a life, the God who is proclaimed, the God who is embraced, the God who returns, and the God who makes all things new.

Tinker summarizes his excellent work in a concluding remark:

We have called this book, A Lost God in a Lost World because in the West an awareness of the real God has been lost and replaced by idolatrous thoughts with the result that people are lost, that is, they become disoriented, dissatisfied and detached form God and so from reality. It is not coincidental that this ‘loss of God’ and ‘loss of reality’ has gone hand in hand with a loss in the belief of heaven and hell – the ultimate realities.

Tinker’s work is a solid piece of work that will serve Christians well and will especially serve new comers to the Christian faith.

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

FAITH ALONE – Thomas Schreiner (2015)

•November 9, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Faith Alone by Thomas Schreiner is much-needed treatment of the scrinedoctrine which was rediscovered during the days of the Protestant Reformation, namely, justification by faith alone. The author makes it plain from the beginning that he does not intend to offer a comprehensive treatment of this doctrine. Rather, he guides readers through a tour of the doctrine of justification. The contours of this fascinating tour are informed by history, theology, and biblical/exegetical arguments.

Dr. Schreiner is unique among theologians as he fairly represents opposing positions and graciously refutes them. His stance toward Rome, in particular, is refreshing and sure to pose a challenge to Roman Catholic thought.

Despite the gracious intent of the author, his arguments are robust and biblical. His allegiance to the Sola Scriptura principle is evident throughout and his love for the doctrine of justification by faith alone is clear.

I commend this work highly and expect it shall receive a wide reading.

THE SURPRISING IMAGINATION OF C.S. LEWIS – Jerry Root and Mark Neal (2015)

•November 5, 2015 • 2 Comments

“We have seen, whether in his fiction or nonfiction, that Lewis is alewisgiven to depictions, creating windows and images, inventing stories, developing metaphors, and crafting illustrations so his readers can see what he saw and more. He did these things that readers might better see and understand the real world.” So says Jerry Root and Mark Neal in their fascinating treatment of C.S. Lewis.

The book is The Surprising Imagination of C.S. Lewis.The authors survey the literary mountain of books written by Lewis and focus their attention on his attempts to spark the imagination of readers. From the non-fiction works, Surprised by Joy and Mere Christianity to his fiction works like The Great Divorce and The Chronicles of Narnia, Root and Neal work hard to excavate the “imaginative ore” from the deep recesses of C.S. Lewis treasure trove. Indeed, “Lewis’s use of the imagination makes it possible for us to enter into collaboration with things once outside of our vision of the world.”

Having read much of Lewis’s work, I was personally fascinated and and inspired by the authors attempts to highlight his imagination. For the works I was less familiar with, such as the Space Triology the treatment was more difficult to follow.
The authors write, “Ultimately, the imagination is a vital ‘organ of meaning’ that we must cultivate if we desire to live well, if we are to grow and change and expand our understanding of the world that God has placed us in. God calls us to know it, and to know it well.”

Overall, the authors succeed in their attempt to draw readers into the imaginative world of C.S. Lewis. They conclude on a high note by challenging readers to fight a falsified notion of the imagination: “We encourage you to fight the notion that the imagination is simply ‘make-believe’ and therefore not to be trusted. Modern science certainly has not helped to foster the imagination as a source of truth. Reason, intellect, and method are prized above all else, while imagination is patted condescendingly on the head.” In the final analysis, readers are encouraged to marry reason and imagination – all with the intention of glorifying God.

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


BRAND LUTHER – Andrew Pettegree (2015)

•November 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

lutherHow can an unpublished, obscure Roman Catholic monk move from the shadows to the world stage in a matter of years. This is the subject of Andrew Pettegree’s book, Brand Luther. Pettegree walks meticulously through the events of the Reformer’s life; events that would mark a nation and rock the world. This is Brand Luther.

The author sets the stage by alerting readers to Luther’s fascinating background. From his birth in Eisleben to his university days in Erfurt, and his teaching days at in Wittenberg, Pettegree establishes Luther’s cultural context along with vivid allusions to the theological landscape. Ultimately, his design is to show how Luther rises to prominence in a most unusual way.

Brand Luther is unique in that it captures the pathos of the 16th century. The author delves into matters that pertain to culture, theology, economics, and personal emotion – to name a few. The author has an uncanny ability of navigating readers on the path that Luther walked and placing them in the emotional state he experienced and the physical ailments he endured. The turmoil that Luther felt and the threat of impending death looms like London fog on a cold autumn evening.

The author argues that Luther’s writing along with the establishment of the printing press are integral to his success, not to mention the gains of the Protestant Reformation: “Many things conspired to ensure Luther’s unlikely survival through the first years of the Reformation, but one of them was undoubtedly print.” The book is filled with evidence that points in this direction which bolsters the author’s thesis along the way.

Brand Luther is a serious work of history which spans nearly 400 pages but the book reads like a novel – quite an accomplishment for a scholarly work!

Essential reading for students of the Reformation!


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