FINALLY FREE – Heath Lambert (2013)

heath

Pastoral ministry is filled with unique challenges.  One challenge that is growing exponentially, is the sin of pornography.  Pastors must deal with this issue directly – with grace and biblical authority.

I tend to pass on most books that address the topic of pornography these days.  The reason: Many Christian books miss the target all-together.  They either focus on addiction, make excuses for men trapped in the sin of pornography, minimize the sin, or offer graphically explicit “help” that does more harm than good.  Frankly, most books that deal with this topic are drowning in psychological nonsense that ignores the plain teaching of Scripture.  So I pass on most of these books.

However, Heath Lambert’s book, Finally Free is different.  Here’s are several themes I see emerging from the pages of Lambert’s book:

  1. A supreme allegiance to Scripture.
  2. A passion for holiness.
  3. A clinging the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. An intense hatred of sin.
  5. A longing to help men trapped by the sin of pornography.
  6. A long list of biblical strategies for defeating sin.
  7. A commitment to exploring themes of sanctification which are grounded in God’s forgiving grace and his transforming grace.

The main point of the book serves as the foundation for this excellent piece of writing:

To alert readers to the grace of God which forgives and transforms.  Grace that forgives is greatly needed and will of course, bring a great deal of encouragement to men who struggle with sexual sin.  

But forgiving grace does not go far enough.  Struggling sinners also needs grace that transforms.  This kind of grace brings healing.  This kind of grace bring hope, and health, and life change.  This kind of grace destroys the pull and power of the sin of pornography.

Lambert does a terrific job of blending gospel-centered hope, admonition, and rebuke.  Men who struggle in this area should turn to this resource as a source of deep encouragement which will lead to victory over sin.  Frankly, Heath Lambert’s work is the best contemporary help available in dealing with this kind of sin.  The book would be suitable for one-on-one discipleship and would also serve readers well in a small group setting.

Highly recommended!

Designed for Joy – Owen Strachan and Jonathan Parnell, Ed

joyOwen Strachan and Jonathan Parnell, Ed. Designed For Joy: How the Gospel Impacts Men and Women, Identity and Practice. Wheaton: Crossway, 2015. 144 pp. $10.92

Designed For Joy: How the Gospel Impacts Men and Women, Identity and Practice is an important book with a message for our generation. The editors, Jonathan Parnell and Owen Strachan team up with a well-seasoned team of writers that address the matter of gender from several different angles.

Topics range from masculinity and femininity to singleness and marriage. The subjects of parenting and purity are dealt with along with matters of gender and maturity. In one sense, this is a broad book designed to reach many people. In another sense, the book is very targeted as it subjects each subject to the gospel message.

The writing is clear and biblical. Each chapter hits the bullseye dead on, with stunning biblical accuracy. Each of the writers bring a perspective of complementarianism which views men and women as equals with specific roles to carry out to the glory of God.

It never ceases to amaze me that the most important books these days receive reviews that are critical and mean-spirited. One reviewer says this about the book: “This book is well-intentioned, but I feel it’s worth noting that the scholarship, particularly in the women’s sections, is very sloppy. There is little reference to biblical principles for the assertions they make around women’s roles …” To the contrary, the scholarship is commendable and designed to reach a popular audience.

Designed For Joy is a book for our day. May God raise up a new generation of Christian writers who bring a depth of clarity and God-centered wisdom to bear on these matters.

THE DUDE’S GUIDE TO MANHOOD – Darrin Patrick (2014)

1400205476_bThe Dude’s Guide to Manhood by Darrin Patrick is a primer on masculinity.  It is a very basic look at the essential ingredients of manhood.

Patrick focuses on a handful of themes that any man can read, digest, and apply in one’s daily life.  Themes include but are not limited to determination, discipline, career, contentedness, devotion, family, friendships, and emotions.

The final chapter links the preceding subjects to the gospel: “True manhood doesn’t mean being perfect ourselves; it means trusting in Christ’s perfection for us.    True manhood doesn’t mean being perfect ourselves; it means trusting in Christ’s perfection for us.  True manhood doesn’t mean getting everything right; it means having the courage to say when we get things wrong and the confidence that come from receiving our acceptance from God in Christ.”

I have benefitted from Patrick’s other works and he certainly does not fall short in his newest effort.   Readers should take into account the audience that Patrick intends to reach.  He’s clearly not after the seasoned Christian man.  Rather, he’s looking to reach the single man who has clearly not found his way.  He’s looking for the married man who is failing in his marriage and commitments.  His mark is set upon the man who needs some basic encouragement.

3 stars

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. 

MEN OF GOD – Trevor Archer and Tim Thornborough (2011)

Men of God is not for the faint at heart.  This excellent resource probes several areas that are of deep significance to Christian men.

The book is patterned after a typical Pauline epistle with a section on doctrine that is followed by a section on practical matters.

Part One: Men and the Gospel

The authors ground their work in the gospel of God.  This gospel is compared to an engine: “To become a Christian is to have the gospel of God installed in our hearts like a new engine to power our lives.”  The author endeavor to show how this gospel provides the fuel to live a life that honors Christ and enables men to serve their families as godly fathers and husbands.

Men are challenged to embrace three crucial weapons, namely – prayer, holiness, and the Scriptures: “The man of God is called to fight by prayer, by holiness of life and by the Word of God; to follow the captain of the Lord’s hosts, who himself won the battle by a sacrificial bravery that took him to the cross, and who calls his disciples to follow him.”  Part one effectively demonstrates the necessity of the gospel and propels men to live for Christ with all their hearts.

Part Two: Living for Christ

Part two includes short chapters on practical matters including marriage, singleness, fatherhood, sex, the church, work, witnessing, discipleship, and leisure.  Each chapter is brief, yet is grounded in Scripture and provides a wealth of suggestions and challenges for Christian men.

Men of God is an encouraging book that should be a source of strength and education for men who are seeking to obey Christ.  Don’t expect weighty exegetical arguments here.  This is truly a primer, a mere introduction – but one that is well worth reading and digesting.

4 stars

FATHER HUNGER – Douglas Wilson (2012)

Douglas Wilson is not known for timidity or soft-peddling the truth.  His writing style is bold, pithy, and loaded with biblical admonitions and rebukes.  His newest book, Father Hunger is no exception.

Father Hunger is not your typical parenting book.  Readers looking for popular parenting principles should look elsewhere.  The subtitle of Wilson’s work aptly describes the theme that emerges throughout, namely – “Why God calls men to love and lead their families.”  The author succeeds and does so in style.

Wilson draws a line in the sand in the opening chapter by confronting egalitarianism – a movement that has a death grip on the church in America.  Wilson alerts readers to this deadly ideology and presents the biblical blueprint for fathers: “God wants men both to work and to protect.  Work has to do with nurture and cultivation, while protection refers to a man’s duty to be a fortress for his family.”  The so-called “provide and protect” framework emerges throughout the work and guides the writer’s thoughts along the way.

The author describes the fatherless generation we live in and argues that the solution is to return to God: “The need of the hour is to return to the worship of God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and all conducted in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  And so Wilson’s argument for fathers is rooted deeply in the doctrine of the Trinity.

Wilson draws the attention of readers to the true meaning of masculinity, defined simply as “the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility.”  He continues, “A man who assumes responsibility is learning masculinity, and a culture that encourages men to take responsibility is a culture that is a friend to masculinity.”  Tragically, this ideal of masculinity is being marginalized in American culture and is being replaced by effeminate men who are neglecting their God-ordained roles in the family and the church.

Perhaps the most helpful feature in Father Hunger is the balance and even-handed approach.  For example, Wilson goes to great lengths to encourage fathers to model the character of God the Father.  In one watershed moment, the author goes to the core of the issue: “This is why fathers need to learn how to be strict in the same way that God the Father is strict, and to be merciful in the same way that He is merciful  If we are strict only, we crush the spirit out of our children, or we provoke rebellion.  If we are merciful only, we create a culture of entitlement and self-indulgence in the home.  And, in the worst possible combination, if we are strict where God is merciful, and merciful where God is strict, then we are busy supplying the strip clubs of the future with all their pole dancers and customers.”  Readers offended by Wilson’s blunt language should seek to understand his heart here. In a stroke of pure genius, this author not only sums up a key plank of Christian parenting but demonstrates the painful consequences of disobeying God’s divine standard.”   In a stroke of pure genius, this author not only sums up a key plank of Christian parenting but demonstrates the painful consequences of disobeying God’s divine standard.

Father Hunger may not be for everyone.  One review gave Wilson low marks for using language that needed to be referenced in a dictionary.  Certainly not an admirable reason for rejecting a book!  Readers willing to think deeply and be challenged will greatly benefit from this book.  My prayer is that a new generation a godly fathers will commit themselves to providing for their families and protecting them in the way God intended – for his glory!

4 stars

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publisher in exchange for my review.

STEP UP – Dennis Rainey (2011)

Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood by Dennis Rainey encourages men of all ages to fulfill their God-given role.  They must as 1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Act like men.”

Rainey’s challenge to men is presented in five movements:

The First Step: Boyhood

The Second Step: Adolescence

The Third Step: Manhood

The Fourth Step: Mentor

The Fifth Step: Patriarch

Each section includes strong biblical rationale and real life stories which serve to motivate men to live with Christ-centered resolve.  Stepping Up is a breath of fresh air.  So many books devoted to men are in the final analysis, man-centered.  But real men are God-centered and their lives reflect the glory of a great and awesome God.  Rainey’s timely advice is sure to encourage men to step up and make a difference in God’s kingdom.

4 stars