Lincoln’s Battle With God: A President’s Struggle With Faith and What It Meant For America (2012)

linStephen Mansfield, Lincoln’s Battle With God: A President’s Struggle With Faith and What It Meant For America Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012, 254 pp. $13.31

The sixteenth president of the United States is dearly beloved by conservatives and liberals alike. He is known for his exemplary leadership, uncompromising character, and love for liberty. Yet his approach to God and the Christian life is something that is either assumed or neglected altogether. Either option shows a certain amount of naivety and must be challenged. Stephen Mansfield’s book, Lincoln’s Battle With God: A President’s Struggle With Faith and What it Meant for America addresses this matter in a way that is educational and inspiring.

Mansfield presents Lincoln as one who was raised in a strict Calvinistic home which was discarded during his teenage years. During his legislative years in Illinois, he was referred to by friends and associates as the “infidel.” One friend spoke candidly about Lincoln’s early rejection of the Christian faith: “Lincoln denies that Jesus was the son of God as understood and maintained by the Christian world.”

Yet, when Lincoln began his bid for the White House, his antipathy toward historic Christianity appears to cool. In his earlier days, some considered him to be an atheist, yet as he progressed in politics, his worldview begins to shift. He is a man who as Mansfield writes, “believes in a God who exerts some degree of sovereign rule in human affairs … whatever the case, he appears to have emerged from his season of ‘infidelity’ and moved toward a less skeptical view of Christian truth.”

Pastor James D. Smith may have played an important role in Lincoln’s view of religion. Smith was a scholar in his own right and was welcomed by Lincoln for his rational approach to Scripture. He stood head and shoulders about some of the revivalists who were excessive in their methodology, not to mention their theological foibles. Whatever the case, Smith was convinced that Lincoln was converted under his ministry. “It is a very easy matter to prove,” writes Smith, “that while I was Pastor of the 1st Presbyterian Church of Springfield, Mr. Lincoln did avow his belief in the Divine Authority and Inspiration of the Scriptures.” Considerable debate has taken place and continues to this day whether or not Lincoln put his faith in Christ at this point.

But in 1850, Lincoln son Eddie grew ill and eventually died on February 1. Most agree that significant change in Lincoln’s worldview occurred during this time. Mansfield writes, “Had Lincoln become a Christian? We cannot know definitively. We do have reason to suspect, though, that something had changed in his ongoing battle with God … A process of spiritual broadening had clearly begun.”

The author continues to document the ongoing theological development in Lincoln and argues convincingly that a work of grace had likely taken place. Later speeches and letters force one to conclude that at the very least, Lincoln had turned a theological corner; at the very best, a true conversion had taken place. Much of Lincoln’s correspondence and especially his speeches give evidence of a truly converted man.

Lincoln’s Battle With God is an illuminating look at one of the most influential leaders in American history. Mansfield writes objectively and provides a depth of research that guides readers into the inner recesses of our 16th president’s heart. I commend Steven Mansfield for offering such a heartfelt book and encourage many to enjoy the fruit of his labor.

Shaken – Tim Tebow

shakenTim Tebow, Shaken. Austin: Waterbrook, 2016, 209 pp. $13.21

A roller coaster is a fitting term for Tim Tebow. As a Heisman Trophy winner and with two national championships under his belt, his future appeared bright. Tebow was originally drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos in 2010. He was subsequently traded to the New York Jets and did short stints with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

While thousands of people flocked to see their hero on the gridiron, not everyone was as enthusiastic about Tebow’s performance. He was criticized from the start and endured the scorn of people who rejected his outspoken Christian faith.

Tebow underscores the events of his life as a professional athlete and guides readers through the emotional rollercoaster in his latest book, Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms. The book is a window into the heart of Tim Tebow as he shares about his bumps and bruises along the way.

Tim Tebow is the “Dan Quayle” of the sports world. Here is a man who works harder than most athletes and has exemplary integrity to boot. Like Dan Quayle, though, Tebow has been treated unfairly. He has been unjustly criticized by the media. And his Christian convictions have been cast aside by many.

But Tebow does not write as a martyr. He writes as a fellow-traveller. He writes to inspire young people. And he succeeds in achieving his goal. Shaken is packed with inspirational stories that provide a much-needed perspective in an entitled world. The book reminds readers that they are significant in the eyes of God; that they have a contribution to make. Tebow’s wisdom and enthusiasm are contagious and will no doubt encourage many young athletes.

I respect and admire Tim Tebow. His love for the Lord Jesus Christ and people is worth emulating. And his character is above reproach. Indeed, Tim Tebow is a worthy role model for America’s young people. However, a few critiques are in order as one who desires to fairly review a book. First, the emphasis on the “unconditional love of God” should be modified and re-articulated. Readers are encouraged to see David Powlison’s book, God’s Love: Better Than Unconditional . Powlison’s book is the best starting point and will offer a better explanation that conforms to the pattern of Scripture.

Second, while readers are urged to trust in Christ and accept his gift of salvation, there is a missing element of repentance.  It is certainly true that Scripture invites/commands sinners to believe but saving faith always includes repentance.  Signs of repentance are absent in this work.

Summary

Shaken is a basic biographical account of a well-known sports icon. As such, it is written with the student-athlete in mind. Christian athletes will be inspired and touched by the testimony of Tim Tebow. The author’s worldview is spelled out in clear terms here:

Trophies don’t last. Awards come and go. Impressive titles move from one person to the next. But how we live can make an eternal impact.

Tebow has been unfairly caricatured and criticized. He continues to move forward, despite the abuse that his critics hoist upon him. Indeed, he has been shaken, but he has not been moved. He continues to use his gifts to glorify God and encourage many people. His newest book is a testimony to this fact.

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

Andrew Fuller: Holy, Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission

John Piper, Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2016, 57 pp. $8.99

For years now, John Piper has been churning out a series of stunning biographical portraits of pivotal leaders in the church. His newest offering is no exception as he offers up a refreshing volume on the life and legacy of Andrew Fuller.

Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission is a sweeping overview of the well-known pastor/theologian. Dr. Piper highlight’s Fuller’s passion for world missions and the impact he had on the expansion of evangelism around the globe.

The life of Fuller is presented as one that was both theologically rich and traumatic. Fuller was committed to expository preaching and expended a great deal of energy in his weekly sermon preparation. Yet, his life was also plagued by tremendous suffering, losing eight children with his first wife.

The intellectual life of Andrew Fuller is explored in some detail. Most interesting is the impact that Jonathan Edwards had on Fuller’s thinking and theological framework.

At the heart of the book is Fuller’s antipathy for hyper-Calvinism. Piper alerts readers to this pernicious error and shows the development in Fuller’s thought and his gradual repudiation of a system of theology that discouraged evangelism and failed to call sinners to believe the gospel.

Readers should understand that while Fuller rejected hyper-Calvinism (or high Calvinism), he did nonetheless embrace historical five point Calvinism with a great deal of vigor and enthusiasm. Fuller stands in a long line of godly men who cling to the doctrines of grace and faithfully proclaim a “faith that was once delivered to all the saints.” Once again, the influence of Jonathan Edwards loomed large on Fuller’s theological commitments.

Finally, the author unveils Fuller’s stance against the heresy of Sandemanianism, a teaching that twisted the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission is a deeply encouraging book that should be devoured by gospel-loving, truth-saturated Christians. This book is sure to spark good discussion and prompt many to dig deeper into church history.

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

God Took Me By the Hand

Jerry Bridges. God Took Me by the Hand. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014. 192 pp. $12.60

When Jerry Bridges went to be with the Lord in March, 2106 I set out to write a tribute. Bridges played a key role in shaping the theological foundations of my early Christian life. After writing several pages, words simply could not capture the influence of Bridges on my life.

Jerry Bridges fine work, God Took Me by the Hand sums up in many ways what I originally meant to write in my tribute. This autobiographical account of Bridges’ life summarizes the important details that characterize the man so many have grown to love over the years.

The highlight of the book is nicely captured in the subtitle: A Story of God’s Unusual Providence. Most biographies capture the essence of one’s life, and rightly so. But this biography reads like a divinely inspired tapestry as the author refers over and over again to the invisible hand of God’s providence. He surveys the good, the bad, and the ugly – but in the final analysis, all the events which unfold in his life prove to be good (Rom. 8:38; Gen. 50:20).

If Jerry Bridges has influenced you or encouraged your Christian life, I commend God Took Me by the Hand. The book is packed with biblical wisdom and will no doubt, encourage many.

THE MATHENY MANIFESTO – Mike Matheny (2015)

“Whatever happened to the love of the game?”  Mike Matheny wants055344669X_b answers in his book, The Matheny Manifesto.  Less than ten pages into the book, I noticed my eyes began to well with tears.  Indeed, the love of the game has been displaced for ego, selfishness, and parents who live vicariously through their kids.

Back to the tears.  As Matheny made his lament, my memory bank rewinded back to the mid-70’s when I played baseball for Lacey Elementary.  I instantly remember the day when my buddy, John Rohr was on the mound.  John loved to throw the knuckle ball.  The only problem is that John’s dad was the manager of the club.  And Mr. Rohr didn’t like the knuckle ball.  So with two down and a runner aboard, John threw a knuckle ball.  “Johnny!” Mr. Rohr yelled.  Strike one!  A glance back to me at second base.  John wound up.  Another knuckle ball.  “I thought I told you …” Swing and a miss.  Strike two!  Another glance back to second base.  Everyone knew what was coming.  John tossed a third knuckle ball and struck out the poor little wretch at the plate!  “You’re out!”  Mr. Rohr couldn’t believe it!  We’ve talked about that scene dozens of times over the last forty years and will probably keep talking for another forty years!

Mike Matheny has a great point.  Young people have lost the love of the game.  I still remember the days of Dairy Queen, … And who could forget the triple play that John Rohr, Steve Robbins, and I turned in 1978.  We never turned another triple play again and I’ve only seen one turned since – at Safeco Field a few years ago.

The Matheny Manifesto is about the love of the game.  Manager of the St. Lewis Cardinals weaves his life story into this fascinating account which is in the final analysis his life philosophy and baseball philosophy.

Matheny explores the keys to success, not just in baseball – but in life.  These keys include:

  • Leadership
  • Confidence
  • Teamwork
  • Faith
  • Class
  • Character
  • Toughness
  • Humility

At the center of the book is a commitment to “old-school” views which find their origin in the teaching of Jesus.  Matheny is quick to give glory to God and is compelled to live out the kingdom priorities of Jesus – both on the field and off.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the book is Matheny’s commitment to servant leadership, what he refers to as an “upside-down organizational chart.”  Matheny articulates his vision of servant leadership:

The leader, the boss, puts himself at the bottom, in a supporting role, and empowers his subordinates to excel.  Somehow, he loses no power or authority or respect.  In fact, his stature is enhanced because he has honored the people entrusted to him.

While the author shares his original manifesto which was written to parents of a little league team he coached, the essence of the manifesto emerges clearly in the pages of this well-written book.

The Matheny Manifesto will remind you why you love the game of baseball and will spur you on to live life with passion, integrity, honor, and courage!

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

 

A JOURNEY TO HIGH PLACES – Larry Ikenberry (2011)

A Journey to High Places by Larry D. Ikenberry is a fascinating  inside look at the life of a man who lives coram Deo, before the face of God.  This stunning account of Ikenberry’s adventures confronts danger in the African bush, soars over majestic peaks, faces the mighty force of a volcano, and in short presents an up close version of God’s majestic creation.  This writer is clearly consumed with the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Reading Ikenberry’s work brings to mind the words of Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch statesman and theologian who famously remarked, “Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'”  Oh, that each person would embrace such a Christ-honoring worldview.  This book promotes such a view!

A Journey to High Places not only makes for interesting reading.  It captures the attention and imagination with breathtaking photography.  But most of all, it reminds the creature to magnify and exalt the Creator – the Lord Jesus Christ.  “For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory, forever.  Amen” (Rom. 11:36).