The Gospel & Marriage (The Gospel for Life Series)

bool gos life.jpg

Though this is my first foray into The Gospel For Life series, I’m impressed with its potential. The series aims at major issues of our day and connects them to the Gospel. Once I learned what the series attempts to accomplish, I thought as I read this one on marriage that its presentation is ideal. Perfect for small groups or personal reading, this book edited by Russell Moore and Andrew T. Walker delivers the goods within the aims of the series striking the right balance between length and depth.

The first chapter by Mary Kassian gives a great overview that sees marriage as God sees it. Chapter 2 by Denny Burk was superb in presenting marriage roles in light of the Gospel—think biblical, conservative, and balanced. Familiar marriage author Dennis Rainey takes chapter 3 to discuss the practical work of marriage and sees it as a place for our Christianity to be displayed. Chapter 4 by Dean Inserra explains how the church should engage the issues of marriage while Andrew Walker explores the cultural shift on marriage in chapter 5. Both kept ties to the Gospel prevalent and wrote engaging help for us.

This book is one I’d be happy as a pastor to recommend to everyone. It’s not exactly a self-help book, yet it helps Christians orient their thinking in one of the most explosive issues of our day. If Christians can’t keep their thinking straight on this defining matter, the consequences will be dire. We need what this book says!

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.

 

 

Scrappy Church by Thom Rainer

book scrappy church.jpg

Scrappy Church continues a series of wildly popular small hardbacks on church issues by Thom Rainer. This one strikes me as different than some of the earlier ones. It’s less practical this time, yet much more a plea. He seems to be asking us to take what he has been saying over several of his previous books and have the courage to just do it. It reads something like a don’t-give-up entreaty or maybe a start-now appeal. There could be, then, a little less information in this title, but more persuasion.

Rainer is in his wheelhouse in his declaration that God isn’t done with churches yet. He sees the issues and is well aware of the difficulties, but there’s no doubt he believes what he’s saying. There’s no sugarcoating in these pages, but no excuses either. Being a megachurch may not be in a church’s future, but distinct progress is possible to his mind.

The approach that’s given beyond the appeal is wrapped up in a turnaround cycle of outward deluge, welcome readiness, and backdoor closure. After you read this book you will likely agree that these three are the outline of the work that’s needed. I know I got some ideas out of this book and some challenge too. Another winner!

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.

 

Here in Spirit by Jonathan Dodson

book here spirit

This book has a wonderful approach to the study of the Holy Spirit. Most such books run straight to controversy as if the Spirit was nothing more than an academic question or a “spirited” debate. The better ones remind us that the Spirit is a Person. This one by Jonathan Dodson goes one better by stressing that He desires relationship—a relationship that is not merely representative of the Father and the Son, but personal to Himself. The author went so far in that vein that repentance was required in his life for what was rank neglect of the Spirit on his part. Perhaps like me, you aren’t far behind him!

Dodson knows how to connect with this generation. I’m not sure the word “hip” is still in currency as I don’t have a hip bone in my body, but he knew how to pull in a great deal of popular culture. For the record, I don’t think I had ever seen even one movie he referenced, but he told enough of the plot that I could connect the dots easily. What won the day for me was his prevalent sincerity and contributive content.

He didn’t drown in tongues, or gifts, or other strange favorites, but he displayed a clear understanding that preferred to stay on task for a relationship with the Spirit. My strongest recommendation for this book is the positive conviction it brought to me. In short, I prayed differently this morning. In a book aimed at Christians at all points of our journey, what could be a better endorsement?

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.

Counseling Techniques: A Comprehensive Resource for Christian Counselors

book coun tech

This book is the best resource on Christian counseling that I’ve seen. I’m sure it would be a winning textbook for students and a major resource for counselors. Let me add, though, that as a pastor, I found the book fascinating as well. I’m not ready to be a professional counselor just because I have this book at my fingertips, but I can much better grasp what help they might be able to accomplish in a variety of difficult situations. What was offered in this volume was so clear and well written. The amazing consistency across the book shows an excellent editorial effort too. You could easily forget that every chapter was written by a different author as the continuity was seamless. It didn’t read like a dry textbook at all.

The book is divided into three main parts: theory-based strategies, population-based strategies, and clinical-based strategies. All three have captivating subjects to reveal. Coping skills strategies, attachment-oriented strategies, couple-focused strategies, and the last 4 chapters on special marriage issues were among the most helpful. The REACH forgives model in chapter 20 was as biblical as it was stimulating for counseling sessions.

Each article points to the literature without stalling in it. Summaries are refreshing and to the point. Examples that bring concepts alive are often provided. Compassion is always evident as is grace for our brokenness. Again, it’s not my field, but I can’t imagine how a book that covers such a wide swath of counseling issues could be any better. I predict I’ll always be glad to have this resource within reach!

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.

An All-Round Ministry by Spurgeon–A Beautiful Reprint! (Books on Ministry #23)

book all round

What a beautiful reprint of a classic has Banner of Truth given us in this volume! What a wonderful book worthy of this first-rate presentation! This book has been reprinted repeatedly since it was put together after Spurgeon’s death from his passionate addresses to preachers and those training to be. This hardback, though, is the nicest I’ve ever seen. It’s the one you will want on your shelves—one that will last for years and can be passed on.

If you are not already familiar with this book, you should understand that it differs from his famous Lectures To My Students. That fine book is more practical about ministry and is something of a handbook. An All-Round Ministry is all feeling and fire. Spurgeon became more isolated among English Christian academia as liberal headwinds began shifting and strengthening in his day. For him, it was Christ, the Gospel, and souls! The Gospel had not lost its power and he gives one impassioned plea after another in this book for preachers to not become unmoored from what we were called to do by Christ.

Be sure to read the fine introduction by Iain Murray. He excels in this kind of writing and enriches what you are about to read from Spurgeon.

All twelve addresses strike at the preacher’s heart. All call for loyalty to Christ and zeal. A few of the later ones reflect the battles he endured regarding the Downgrade Movement, but all speak to our passing opportunities. This book contains the exact encouragement we all need from time to time! It’s an essential book for preachers.

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.

Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal

book mod tech.jpg

We must have discussions like this one. A couple of decades pass and our very world has changed with smartphones and other electronic devices. It has affected Christians along with everyone else. We are finally pausing to search out the implications of this seismic shift. Several practical Christian books have probed how we might deal with a world that has changed and is not going back. (One by Tony Reinke lies on my desk). In this volume by Craig Gay, however, the broader theological implications are mined. This book is less of how you ought to alter your life in the days to come and more of what does it even mean. Both types of books are needed and I’m rooting for their success.

The author writes with balance. He neither denies his own use of the technology he writes about nor encourages its complete rejection. In fact, his analysis seems to embrace its good at least to the extent of sharing the Gospel and other wholesome features while exercising caution on the other end. Our society has changed. To what extent should a Christian change with it?

To bulk up his premise, the author surveys other paradigm-shifting technological advances from the plow to automated manufacturing. He traces how economic concerns are usually the driving force. He turns his discussion toward theology by considering “ordinary embodied human existence” with the background of the Incarnation of Christ and God’s mission for us.

The book is deep reading. If you find that kind of theological reading difficult, this book will be a challenge. Theological junkies will find it the perfect discussion of an all-encompassing subject. If you can handle academic reading, and enjoy well thought out analysis, this is the book for you.

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 Christian Doctrine of Humanity (Crisp and Sanders, Editors)

book chr doc humanity.jpg

This collection of cutting-edge essays on the doctrine of humanity is the sixth installment in a series entitled “Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics”.  They proceed from the Los Angeles Theology Conference hosted by Fuller Theological Seminary. Previous entries addressed Christology, Trinitarian Theology, the Atonement, the Word of God, and the task of dogmatics. A wide-ranging group of specialists is assembled in each case and this time includes Marc Cortez, Hans Madueme, Ian McFarland, Richard Mouw, Lucy Peppiatt, and Frances Young, and total 12 contributors that look at humanity from many vantage points.

Let’s be clear. There’s no shallow wading here. Though these essays are not geared toward a popular audience, they are well written, There’s a good chance, however, that they will go deeper than you get in most volumes. If you’re game, then, this book is an important, challenging read. As I read, it struck me that many of these essays were in the realm where the doctrine of humanity bumps against the other major doctrines—Christology, Eschatology, Pneumatology, among others. Along the way, you will get a clear overview of where scholars are still debating this key doctrine. You will notice as well that current events are bearing on these theological issues as questions of how we personally identify ourselves is addressed as well, yet with a warmness toward biblical clarity and longstanding Christian belief.

All 12 essays were well done. My favorites were Marc Cortez’s look at “Nature, Grace, and the Christological Ground of Humanity”, Hans Madueme’s “From Sin to the Soul: a Dogmatic Argument for Dualism”, and  Lucy Peppiatt’s “Life in the Spirit: Christ’s and Ours”. I took something that helped me from each of them.

I imagine this will be a much-cited and influential book for some time to come as it fully succeeds in what it sets out to do.

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.

Daniel (TOTC) by Paul House

book daniel totc

The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series scores again. This latest title is at least the tenth release in this current revision of the venerable series (current writers used earlier editions as young Christians in many cases!) and they are all a success—keeping the winning format and scope with more up-to-date scholarship and good writing. Snagging Paul House was a coup for the series too as he has already produced a much-used Old Testament Theology as well as coauthored an Old Testament Survey. To my mind, he worked within the established TOTC format as if it fit him like a glove.

Any commentary on Daniel bears the additional weight of the varying prophetic outlook of the reader. While that’s not an issue in many other books of the Bible, Daniel is second only to Revelation in that dynamic. Many will unfairly rate any commentary on these two books on this issue alone before they read the first paragraph. For the record, the TOTC series has always been amillennial. Though that is not my viewpoint, I’ve always found great insight in these volumes. This volume, too, delivers on many levels in my judgment even though that differentiation of perspective exists.

The Introduction gets to the point as this series demands yet delivers the goods. Some of the more perverse scholarly train wrecks on Daniel that dominate much literature is happily not the focus here. Let’s call it a clear conservative presentation. History is carefully unfolded. Literary, genre, and textual issues are all concisely unpacked. Daniel’s role in the canon is probed before theological themes are presented. Structure gets one paragraph called “Analysis” and a detailed outline.

The commentary itself is well done, again, in the TOTC style. Its best contributions are historical and theological. You will be able to trace easily the flow of the text. A few passages will have the drama of a prophetic outlook that may not match your own, but you will still learn much in the commentary.

I really like this book and am happy to have it at hand for future studies. Highly recommended.

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 Christian Book of Mystical Verse by Tozer

book my verse tozer

This book intrigues me. If for no other reason, these poems, hymns, and prayers moved A. W. Tozer. When I think of what poured forth from his pen, and how it has moved my heart, I’m totally into whatever inspired Tozer.

When I first scoured these pages, I was immediately scolded. Not with a layer of guilt, but with a portion of conviction—I don’t slow down enough even when I read even from my own hymnbook. That deliberate, careful reading was one of Tozer’s secrets that he often tried to expose though usually without our cooperation. He always embraced the label “mystic” even after the term had some ugly baggage hoisted upon its back. The brief Introduction in this book makes the case that is more fully brought out in many of his other writings. Say what you will, but the person Tozer describes as a “mystic” walks with God.

Besides a few hymns (where reading slowly unlocks real treasure), the selections in this collection were unknown to me. Perhaps they aren’t all of equal lyrical value to the reader’s ear, but they are all rich. “Fluff” couldn’t describe any of them. Think more of strong doctrine going after the heart. Other sermons and books can handle the head. There are some expected authors like Wesley and Watts, or even Bernard of Clairvaux, but you’ll see that Tozer must have really loved Frederick William Faber too. And who would have thought of Oliver Wendall Holmes as a mystic!

Your favorites will be different than mine, but they’ll all be good. Look at this stanza from Watts:

Earth, from afar, hath heard Thy fame,

And worms have learned to lisp Thy Name;

But Oh the glories of Thy mind

Leave all our soaring thoughts behind.

 

Or this one by Faber:

O Lord! My heart is sick,

Sick of this everlasting change;

And life runs tediously quick

Through its unresting race and varied range:

Change finds no likeness to itself in Thee,

And wakes no echo in Thy mute Eternity.

 

There’s so much more! The poems are organized around important themes and you can come here for manna when you’re contemplating these subjects.

It’s Tozer. That’s enough to give it the highest rating. It’s his most unusual title and yet is of that same sterling quality. Probably the best book of its kind.

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.

Reformation Commentary on Scripture (OT VIII) on Psalms 72-150

book ps rcs

It’s great to see this work on Psalms completed with the release of this second volume covering Psalms 73-150 in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series. Editor Herman J. Selderhuis, a church history expert, had already delivered the winning earlier volume on Psalms 1-72. I don’t see how anyone would stop short of getting them together. They are both well-crafted, lovely on the shelf, and effective on the desk.

The only odd feature of this volume is the replication of a guide to the commentary (that’s in every volume in the series), a general introduction, an introduction to the Psalms, a map of Europe in Reformation times, a timeline, and a lengthy section of biological sketches. They are all without alteration in the earlier volume. Perhaps they wanted to ensure the reader’s ability to use as a stand-alone book. In any event, you will want this title for the commentary on Psalms 73-150 covering pages 1-399.

The same painstaking work found in the earlier volume continues to the end of the Psalter. Unlike some commentaries that peter out before the end of a longer biblical book, this one reads like a labor of love. I’m impressed by the amount of research required to distill for us the best the Reformers had. I also appreciate the scope of comment. You might be able to figure out the editor’s favorite Reformers, but you will get much coverage beyond them too. To my mind, the Reformers were at their best in the Psalms.

Look here for treasure that the exegetical commentaries won’t have. They weren’t afraid of practical Christianity and it shows. I highly recommend this book!

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.