Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom

demThe Puritan, John Winthrop spoke of America as “the city on a hill” as he gazed upon the shores of his new home from the confines of his ship, the Arbella. President Ronald Reagan inspired freedom lovers around the world as he too spoke in glowing terms of this “city on a hill.” Winthrop and Reagan captured the very heartbeat of every human being with that phrase as they echoed the cry for freedom – a freedom which is made possible by democracy.

Former Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleeza Rice paints a beautiful portrait of freedom in her most recent book, Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom. Rice explores the early foundations of American democracy by providing a basic framework for freedom.

Most of the book is devoted to telling stories about the hope of democracy in countries like the Russian Federation, Columbia, Poland, Kenya, and the Middle East. Readers will not be surprised to learn that while democracy is on the rise in the world, the promise of democracy is usually a long path and is usually accompanied by pain and bloodshed. Some nations like Germany and Japan are “stabilizing forces for good.” But other nations like Russian and China “seem determined to disrupt the global order.”

Dr. Rice makes full use of her experience as Secretary of State by sharing stories about her role in helping various nations move forward in their quest for democracy. Readers will quickly note that Secretary Rice has a passion for freedom and is quick to defend the downtrodden. Rice adds, “Giving voice to the voiceless is a moral cause for a country – America that is based on an idea: that human freedom is the source of human dignity and progress. That cannot be true for us and not for them.

Democracy by Condoleeza Rice is a book for every American. Liberals and conservatives alike should digest this book and be reminded of the great price of freedom. Indeed, “The United States has been a north star for those seeking liberty not because it is perfect, but because it was born imperfect and is still struggling with imperfection. That has always been the best argument for America’s example – and America’s engagement. We are living proof that the work of democracy is never done. For those who are just starting – stumbling, and starting again – that is reassuring and inspiring. And it is reason to be a voice for them as they struggle in their freedom – just as we do – to chart a better future.”

Dr. Rice tells about the time she visited the home of Lech Wałęsa in Gdańsk, Poland. One hundred thousand Polish workers were waving flags and shouting, “Bush, Bush, Bush … Freedom, Freedom, Freedom.” Rick turned to her colleague as said, “This is not exactly what Karl Marx meant when he said, ‘Workers of the world unite.”

So the atheistic worldview of Karl Marx is relegated to the ash heap of history. And the city on a hill shines brightly, still. However, there are still forces that loom large and cast a dark shadow on our liberty. Democracy is a celebration of our liberty and a vivid reminder of the freedom we enjoy as Americans.

Highly recommended!

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A Crazy, Holy Grace

acraBuechner, Frederick, A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017, 139 pp. $16.99

A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory by Frederick Buechner is a book about life and death and the contours of grace. This grace reaches into the deepest, darkest places of our lives in ways that are unfathomable and even indiscribable.

Buechner writes with a depth of transparency that not only reveals his own soul but invites readers to share a bit of their own. He speaks candidly about his father’s death and his own insecurities. Pain is dealt with in a variety of ways and readers are invited to be open and honest about their own personal pain.

I appreciate the Beuchner’s willingness to bare his soul. It is clear, however, that he stands in a theological stream which is more ecumenical and mainstream than some readers will be comfortable with. I encourage a careful, reflective reading which is informed by biblical discernment that accepts what is true and delights in God’s amazing grace.

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

A Small Book About a Big Problem

Welch, Edward T, A Small Book About a Big Problem, Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2017, 186 pp. $13.90

Edward Welch has become somewhat of a household name in recent years, especially in circles that welcome biblical counseling. Dr. Welch’s new book, A Small Book About a Big Problem is written for everyday people who experience everyday problems. In this short and powerful little book, the author presents fifty meditations that address anger, patience, and peace.

Each chapter contains a central thought that educates, inspires, and challenges readers. The meditations are informed by Scripture and force readers to wrestle with motives, hidden sin, and temptations that are common to all.

The strength of this book is its brevity. The meditations are designed to be read on a daily basis and encourage deep thought and contemplation. Ultimately, the subject matter concerns sanctification and is written in such a way to attract both baby Christians and seasoned believers.

Anyone who desires short, readable and biblical encouragement should pick up a copy of this excellent book. Highly recommended!

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

The Son of God and the New Creation

sonGoldsworthy, Graeme, The Son of God and the New Creation, Wheaton: Crossway, 2015, 142 pp. $12.24

Graeme Goldsworthy has become a bit of a household name, especially as one considers the field of biblical theology. The Son of God and the New Creation is another solid contribution by Goldsworthy where he focuses on the second member of the Trinity and alerts readers to the mission of Jesus.

The author makes sure he establishes his bottom line:

Jesus as Son of God is also God the Son, the eternal second person of the Godhead. But our salvation and eternal destiny depend on his being the incarnate one who is revealed as Son of God. Jesus in his person and work, sums up the pattern of creation that establishes the nature of the kingdom of God.

This central thought is exposed and re-articulated in several ways as Goldsworthy reveals the person and work of Jesus from creation to consummation. “Jesus as the Son of God, by his death and resurrection, was putting the whole universe back together from the futility to which it has been subjected because of human rebellion against the Creator.”

The Son of God and the New Creation is designed for laymen but is a challenging read, nonetheless. I expect Goldsworthy’s work to be used in Bible Colleges and Seminaries and should be a welcome addition to every pastor’s theological library.

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

The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield – Steven Lawson (2014)

It is impossible to determine the impact that Reformation Trust’s,  A Long Linewhitefield of Godly Men Series will have.  have personally been enriched, challenged, and inspired by this excellent series that has surveyed the likes of Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Martin Luther, C.H. Spurgeon, and John Knox.  The latest installment, The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield by Steven Lawson packs a powerful punch and will leave readers hungry for more.

Several features make Dr. Lawson’s latest work noteworthy.  First, the book is very interesting and readable.  It is filled with historical facts that help readers contextualize the arena that Whitefield ministered in – on both sides of the Atlantic.

Second, the book raises critical awareness about the biblical relationship between the doctrine of election and the need to evangelize.  Lawson is quick to point out that while Whitefield embraced the doctrines of grace, he was also eager to proclaim the gospel to every creature – a scathing indictment of hyper-Calvinism and a challenge to anyone who scoffs at the two-fold  truths of election and evangelism.

Third, the book provides an inside look at a man who faced a myriad of trials and tribulations.  Every preacher, indeed, every Christ-f0llower experiences trials.  But I have yet to meet a pastor who was met by an angry mob who hurled dead cats and rotten fruit onto the platform.  Whitefield endured this and more.  Yet he endured each tribulation and he passed the test.

Fourth, the book acquaints readers with the evangelistic zeal of George Whitefield.  Here is a man who took the Great Commission seriously!  His ministry led to countless conversions – all a result of faithful proclamation.

Whitefield was a man who refused to compromise the truth.  He delivered the truth with power and passion.  And a multitude of lives of changed as a result of his preaching ministry.  Lawson cites Arnold Dallimore who writes about the God-centered stature of George Whitefield: “And what manner of men will they be?  Men mighty in the Scriptures, their lives dominated by a sense of the greatness, the majesty and holiness of God, and their minds and hearts aglow with the great truths of the doctrines of grace.”  Oh that men in this age would model the Whitefield approach.  May their hearts be consumed with nothing but the greatness of God.  And may people from every tribe and nation be drawn to the sovereign Savior.

Highly recommended!

5 stars

Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life

kelBob Kellemen, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2017, pp. 246, $19.99

One man blazed a trail in the sixteenth century that laid the groundwork for countless numbers of Christians. Martin Luther was the primary agent who God used in a mighty way as he hammered his 95 theses on the castle door at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. He unleashed a theological revolution known as the Protestant Reformation, where the doctrines of grace were recovered and the gospel began to exert a powerful influence in the lives of people.

Counseling Under the Cross by Bob Kellemen explores the life and legacy of Martin Luther and reveals how his theological framework influenced his counseling ministry.

What Shaped Martin Luther’s Pastoral Counseling?

Part one explores Luther’s background and alerts readers to the oppressive environment that was so common in the sixteenth century. Luther fought desperately to find peace with God but was doomed to failure apart from completed work of Christ which is received by grace alone through faith alone.

Kellemen explains how Luther’s anxiety impacted his life in his early adult years. Luther admits, “For I had hoped I might find peace of conscience with fasts, prayers, and the vigils with which I miserably afflicted my body, but the more I sweated it out like this, the less peace and tranquillity I knew.”

The author continues, “Before he came under the influence of the cross, Luther lived life as a man terrified that he would never find peace with God because his God was not a God of peace. Luther lived with a constant sense of guilt and dread in the face of a terrifying, angry, and unforgiving God.”

The only way Luther found relief is by casting all his hope and future on a sovereign God, by grace alone through faith alone. Kellemen writes, “The Christ of the cross transformed Luther the man terrified before God into Luther the man at peace with God.” This newly converted man now saw God in a different light which not only radically affected his life; it altered his ministry at every level.

What is the Shape of Martin Luther’s Pastoral Counseling?

“Luther’s counseling reflects his theology – it is cross-shaped and gospel-centered.” Part two reveals the shape of Luther’s pastoral counseling. The author examines Luther’s approach to pastoral counseling by exploring two primary angles.

First, soul care: comfort for suffering.Luther’s theology and methodology of sustaining and healing are presented with specific examples of how the Reformer encouraged and edified the saints.

Second, spiritual direction: confrontation for sinning.Specifically, Luther’s theology and methodology of reconciling and guiding are presented here. Again, the author paints a pastoral portrait of Luther and shows him at work among the Body of Christ. While soul care (noted above) involves comforting and encourages Christians, spiritual direction involves a confrontation with people. Kellemen adds, “In reconciling soul care, we seek to startle one another with the gospel.” Such a nouthetic approach is mandated in Scripture (Col. 1:28) and plays a vital role in biblical counseling.

EVALUATION

Counseling Under the Cross is a treasure chest of gospel nuggets. Bob Kellemen does a beautiful job of explaining how Martin Luther applied the gospel to everyday life. One of the most helpful aspects of the book is the emphasis on indicatives and imperatives. The author makes it clear that both are important aspects of the Christian life: “Salvation in Christ (gospel indicatives) frees, empowers, and motivates us through faith to serve others in love (gospel imperatives). Progressive sanctification is faith active in love – exercising the love that comes from faith in the grace of Christ.”

I strongly urge pastors, counselors, and church leaders to prayerfully study Counseling Under the Cross. Additionally, I 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 Bob Kellemen’s excellent work.

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

 

Enjoying God: Finding Hope in the Attributes of God

arcSproul, R.C. Enjoying God: Finding Hope in the Attributes of God, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 230 pp. $16.99

Enjoying God: Finding Hope in the Attributes of God by R.C. Sproul is written with the layman in mind. The author intentionally sets unnecessary theological jargon aside and aims for hearts and minds of everyday people. The end result is a biblical vision of God which draws readers into a profound sense of worship and awe.

The focus in Enjoying God is theology proper which sets forth a sampling of God’s attributes including omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, truth, immutability, justice, and love to name a few. Eleven chapters are devoted to exploring God’s attributes. Each chapter includes a brief explanation linked to the pertinent biblical passages.

I cannot think of any living author outside of R.C. Sproul who has so revolutionized my view of God. My first introduction to Dr. Sproul came in 1988 as I devoured his best-selling book, Chosen By God. Those were formative years where the theological foundations in my life began to slowly take shape. Since then, I have consumed every book I can find by Dr. Sproul. He consistently points to a God who is holy, holy, holy. And he faithfully exposits the Bible in a way that exalts the living God.

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