The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson

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There’s no doubt that Sinclair Ferguson is a savvy theological writer. There’s no doubt that the Contours of Christian Theology series by IVP is a theological heavyweight either. While I couldn’t exactly call this my favorite Ferguson title, it did dig deep as the series is known to do. Books in this series don’t merely regurgitate the main tenets of a doctrine but linger where it makes sense to look under stones where treasure might be found. I always reach for this series when I’m starting a detailed study of a particular doctrine.

Chapter 1 introduces the Holy Spirit in an effort to shorten the distance that stands between Him and most believers while explaining all kinds of theological perspectives. Chapter 2 looks at the Spirit of Christ by explaining “Paraclete” and scoping out the relationship between Christ and the Spirit. Chapter 3 looks at the gift of the Spirit by examining Pentecost. Chapter 4 tackles the ongoing aspects of Pentecost. Chapters 5 through 7 wades through the Spirit’s role in salvation. I felt the author bogged down in a pet subject here. His theological positions are well known, and whether you agree or not, perhaps some of this would have fit better in a different book. Chapter 8 looks at other issues involving the Spirit and salvation like first fruits and sealing. Chapter 9 reviews the relationship between the Spirit and the body before chapter 10 dives into the explosive territory of gifts. The final chapter on the “Cosmic Spirit” serves as a great conclusion.

Ferguson always stretches my mind. Whether I agree with him or not, I always find a warmness of one who loves Christ as he writes. There’s no way I’d study the Spirit and not see what he has to say.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Romans (ZEC) by Frank Thielman

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The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (ZECNT) continues its sustained excellence in this latest release on Romans by Frank Thielman. Thielman has already proven his commentary writing skills by writing a well-received work on that other deep Pauline Epistle of Ephesians. In addition, he’s written on Paul as well as New Testament theology. Writing a commentary on Romans would be, I would guess, one of the toughest assignments, but as you can see, he is up to the task. Besides the necessary credentials to predict a winning commentary, Thielman’s actual results live up to expectations.

The Introduction was not as full as in some such works, but what he did tackle met with superb results. The historical background came alive as he took us back to the Rome of Paul’s day. The way he transported us to those days was far more captivating than the normal sterile approach that we commonly meet. When he transitioned into Christianity in Rome it only got better as was the section where he brought Paul’s life into the equation. There’s a little on the text of Romans before we get an outline and bibliography.

I’m a fan of the unique approach to every passage. It’s far superior to others that have tried to make its own way like, say, WBC. You get literary context, main idea, diagrammed translation, structure, exegetical outline, all followed by a quality explanation of the text and concluded with theology in application. In my view, that covers all the right bases. Thielman uses that design to advantage here in one of the most important epistles of the New Testament.

The competition is fierce on Romans but mark this down as a winner all the way.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Marriage Knot by Ron and Jody Zappia

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The marriage knot shared in this book ultimately ties the couple to Christ in a “cord of three strands”. Along the way we dig into the seven areas the authors feel are essential to a marriage successfully staying together. Authors Ron and Jody Zappia themselves almost lost their marriage early on because of Ron’s infidelity. Meeting a pastor who introduced them to Christ at that pivotal time avoided the complete shipwreck even if there were gashes in the hull of their relationship. The seven principles are presented as what was slowly learned the hard way, yet still, the revelations that led to a beautiful relationship these many years later.

They teach on these pages with the accurate assumption that we all come to marriage clueless of the most important things that make it work. I found some comfort in that approach as I’m 20 years in and am still learning and am still shocked about how far I have to go. If you are like me, you will appreciate the tone of this book. It’s not heavy-handed, doesn’t talk down to you, and presents its contents with a you-can-do-it attitude.

The book reads as if you were at a marriage conference. While that means it may not have the polish of some marriage books, it communicates personally and clearly.

At this point of a review, I usually discuss the contents of the book but think it better, in this case, to make you wait until you read it to get their 7 principles. You’ll probably think as you read that you could have guessed some of them yourself. It’s not that they present things you’ve never read in other marriage books but that they present them collectively. I’m no expert but they seem to be arguing that you could do several of the seven wonderfully and still loosen your marriage knot by overlooking a few of them. Succeeding in marriage is so challenging that you’ll likely need a lot of good marriage books. I know I do. This book is a fine one to add to your pile.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Foundations of the Christian Faith by Boice

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Here’s a book that deserves to slide not only onto your shelves among your important systematic theologies, but also to be open on your desk. James Montgomery Boice was the quintessential pastor-scholar. In other words, there’s real scholarly depth in what he shares to go along with a full-orbed real-life outlook. I’ve used several of his volumes that cover books of the Bible to real profit. I’ve seen glowing recommendations in book review sources printed in the 1980s of the original four volumes that later turned into this volume as well as the current reviews that suggest the luster hasn’t faded as is often the case in many academic titles. It’s nice to finally get my own crack at it.

What, then, is my own opinion of its value? Strangely enough, I opened it first to the section on the Spirit of God because I had been doing some in-depth study on that doctrine. I noticed two things quickly: a) he had something to say that was worth wrestling with, and b) it was not a regurgitation of what I just recently read in the well-known systematic theologies I consulted.  As I looked further into the book, I then saw that the section on the Spirit wasn’t even the best one in the book!

The book is an attractive hardback that also now has a study guide. I don’t agree with every conclusion he arrives at, but this is a quality resource. Better still, for pastors, it will help you see how to take deep theological concepts and make them palpable to those in the pew without devolving into watered-down, calorie-free doctrine trying to pass itself off as a real theological meal.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Marriage–A Helpful New Book!

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When I first picked up this book that professes to address marriage in its foundation, theology, and mission in a changing world and scanned the table of contents I thought—what a hodgepodge. Then, after closing the book at its end I thought—it worked! Somehow a book with 5 editors and dozens of authors came out with a unified, big-picture presentation of the Lord’s intention for marriage.

Section 1 contains four chapters on foundational issues. Looking back to the Trinity and its relation to marriage turns out to be the perfect starting place. Just read and you will see. From there, we look at Jesus in particular and the idea of commitment. Marriage gets such deep spade work here that how its presented in Scripture, the mistake of cohabitation, and the “high calling” of marriage along with the dignity of singleness all are unearthed. All these subjects will reappear later, but you’ll be better prepared because of this foundational view.

Section 2 addresses what it calls “description”. It’s almost like another pass at what Section 1 brought out, now with yet more depth. I have no idea how this section somehow presents theological understanding, addresses current societal derailments, and provides help for the challenges of marriage that all married Christians face at varying levels. Embodiment (you’ll enjoy knowing what that means), both the beauty and design of marriage, the biblical necessity of gender, and help with intimacy show up here.

Section 3 gives four helpful chapters on our brokenness in marriage. Again, there’s counsel on repairing that brokenness and restoring the beauty of marriage with even an in-depth discussion of marriage and divorce in Scripture. Section 4 presents four final chapters on mission and marriage. There’s even encouragement and guidance for churches to assist people with marriage.

As I said before, this book far exceeds my initial expectations. In addition to reading it through, it will serve as an excellent resource for a wide array of subjects that intersect with marriage that can be consulted as needed. It’s an attractive hardback that will bless Christians if it gets the large readership that it deserves.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

The Message of the Holy Spirit (BST) by Keith Warrington

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The Holy Spirit is expertly drawn by Keith Warrington from all across Scripture in this helpful volume that’s part of the Bible Speaks Today (BST) series. I’ve used BST volumes on various books of the Bible for a long time but have really started loving these ones on Bible Themes. The design is simple but laudable: develop the doctrine directly from properly-exegeted texts. You probably have your systematic theology volumes at hand, but these books come from another angle and add something meaningful to your studies. I’ve not seen a loser among those I’ve perused.

After a bibliography and a brief Introduction, this book jumps in at Genesis and starts finding the Holy Spirit. The flow of argument follows the path the best works on the Holy Spirit do. We have two chapters on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Next, the author lingers over the relationship of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in six chapters covering the Holy Spirit in the Gospels. In my estimation, this section carried the most bullion on its pages. Part Three, as you would expect, presents the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts. The final seven chapters on the Holy Spirit in the Epistles covers many additional doctrinal subjects involving the Spirit such as gifts, the role in salvation, sealing, unity, and filling. You need not agree with every point made to glean from this careful walkthrough of the most important biblical passages on the subject.

I enjoyed this book, underlined many sentences, wrote the most important page numbers in the front to be able to return to them, and clarified many points along the way. What more could I ask for from this book well worth seeking out?

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Gospel of Mark by Witherington

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Perhaps you’ve already used other works by prolific commentator Ben Witherington. If so, you’ll know what to expect—broad research, lively writing, and a socio-rhetorical emphasis. This work on Mark is up to the same level as others of his that I have used. No one understands how he gets such copious amounts of writing done, but that is not ours to know. What is apparent is that he grades out well on quality amid all that quantity.

The Introduction will prove that he’s not skimming but probing deeply all the scholarly questions. In the first sections, unsurprisingly, he addresses genre and rhetoric. Next, he wades through Mark’s sources. I find both his ideas and the overall importance of the whole question of sources off the mark, but he again is clear as a bell on explaining what he thinks. There are, however, some good points on Mark’s style that he digs out that help no matter your perspective on sources themselves. From there he slides into authorship and dates Mark from 66 to 70. I enjoyed his explanation of Mark’s social context much more. You’ll find plenty of insights there as well as the next section on structure. He gives perceptive analysis on both Mark’s Christology and the widely-debated Messianic Secret viewpoint. All in all, the Introduction is a deep dive running over 60 pages.

The commentary proper maintains his level of work. You’ll see things introduced in the Introduction fleshed out even more in the commentary. There’s real value here and the writing remains engaging throughout.

I don’t always agree with Witherington’s conclusions, but I appreciate the clarity that he presents his with. Some scholarly writing so entertains differing viewpoints that you’re not quite sure which ones the author holds. Witherington will not fail you on that count ever.

While this commentary would not be my first choice for an exegetical commentary, it’s an excellent volume to give another angle. He’s not a parrot of any other commentator and that means you will get food for thought throughout.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A Legacy of Preaching–A Great Two-Volume Set!

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Every preacher will want this set! Occasionally, a book about the history of preaching will come along and serve as a mighty motivating force for preachers. Dedication, zeal, power—all put on display in the lives of the best preachers of days gone by. It’s been at least 20 years since a book that blends biography and preaching counsel in a way that makes you want to grab a biblical text and get going has come along. This set, edited by Benjamin K. Forrest, Kevin L. King, Bill Curtis, and Dwayne Milioni, has filled that lacuna for our generation.

Improving on the works of previous decades, this book employs a winning design. First, specialists on the subject were secured to pen each entry. Second, each writer had to follow the same format: historical background (biography), theology of preaching, methodology for preaching, and contributions to preaching. There’s even a helpful bibliography for each entry. This format was particularly helpful. You got to know the preacher and his preaching. You could say that the approach maximized the impact you could glean from each one.

Volume One covered the Apostles to the Revivalists. You got to think of Paul and Peter as preachers before heading into some of the Church Fathers. Next, Medieval times were covered including Bernard of Clairvaux, John Huss, and Girolamo Savonarola. The Reformers including Luther, Tyndale, and Calvin as preachers were given a look next. Puritan greats Perkins, Baxter, Owen, Bunyan, and Henry were great selections in that group of preachers. Only four revivalists were covered including Edwards, Wesley, and Whitefield, but they were preaching giants.

Volume Two that covered the Enlightenment through modern times was even better. I love Nineteenth-Century British preaching and so was Part One here was my favorite in either volume. Alexander Maclaren and Charles Spurgeon are two of my favorite preaching heroes and real insights could be gained from their entries. I’ve read much on both of them, but I learned more here. The story of Gipsy Smith surprised me too.

Many more outstanding entries finished out the book. You might quibble over a few selections or omissions, (Where was G. Campbell Morgan?), but these volumes are pure gold. Mark them off as must-have books for the preacher! I’ll be consulting my set many times in the coming years I’m sure.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Storm-Tossed Family by Russell Moore

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This family book will be a blessing to every person whether married or single. It bypasses surface issues at all points and couldn’t masquerade as a self-help book even with the best Madison-Avenue advertising campaign behind it. You might cross something on its pages that would make you want to do “better”, but this book soars in the brokenness of your family. Its Gospel light shines through whether you’ve felt the pain of family or were the perpetrator who inflicted the pain. As is more likely, it instructs when you’ve been part of both. In short, this book succeeds because of where it goes, a place that most Christian family books shop just short of—the foot of the Cross. I can’t be good enough. Spouse, parent, it doesn’t matter; I just can’t. My only hope is at the Cross, the place where I see myself as I am and the place I find redemption.

Besides the awesome material, this book wins as a book on every level.  I’ve read some Russell Moore on blogs, but I must say he impressed me as a writer here. His style was unique and really stood out among family books. Most telling was how he connected with the reader. I felt he was staggering to the Cross with me. He refrained from the allowing the reader to see him as the model husband or the champion father. Like me, he struggles with looking away from the Cross even if he can clearly enunciate why the Cross is the answer.

Moore had me by chapter 2 on “The Cross as Family Crisis”. My excessive underlining shows just how he hit me where I live. He with continued aplomb exposed spiritual warfare in the home, dismantled family idolatry and my using family for my own identity. All the while, he reminded me that the cross tells another story. His chapters on marriage and intimacy were neither trite nor common as he drug us again to the Cross from where we’d be most likely to go kicking and screaming. He stayed true to a conservative, biblically-faithful point of view while not being boxed in by some of its common misapplications too. His discussion of children and parents was equally perceptive and Gospel focused. Even his preview of aging proved I’ll be needing the Cross all the way.

The final chapter on “Free to Be Family” led to misty eyes for me. I’m not sure how to explain how truly wonderful this book is. Get it. You need it whether you know it or not. You need it because having the Cross but leaving it out of your home will mushroom into the most grotesque of errors. This winner is easily a book-of-the-year entry that every believer needs.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Love By The Book by Walter Kaiser

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Walter Kaiser has written many helpful works over a career spanning decades. I’ve enjoyed having many of them on my shelves. You know that you will get careful and capable help from a conservative standpoint. This work strikes me as him entering an area that differs from his usual academic work. In fact, the back of the book will show its classification as “Christian Life/ Love & Marriage”. Still, he can’t deny who he is and gives us something of a brief commentary on the Song of Solomon even as he attempts to give marital help.

As for the Song, he holds to a literal, non-allegorical approach that is most prevalent these days, though he is much more subdued than many such works in the intimate details. On the other hand, he presents a three-person interpretation (Shepherd, Shulammite, and Solomon) rather than the much more common two-person view (Shepherd and Shulammite). Though I believe some aspects of the allegorical view seeing Christ and His people must be true, and though I definitely can’t find my way around the difficulties of the three-person view, I found Kaiser clear and a good resource for me to check those competing views.

As for the marriage help, he holds to the traditional view of marriage that has been held up as the biblical position for centuries. He will have none of the radical trends pervading our culture and ensnarling the church. He makes a beautiful case for a superior way that is held up in Scripture.

My copy will be found on my Song of Solomon shelf, but this work can be used effectively in the “Love and Marriage” as well. How blessed we’d be if our views of marriage were what Kaiser champions here.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.