Our Eternal Reward by Erwin Lutzer

book lutzer

Erwin Lutzer has written several best-selling works that are popular among the rank-and-file of Christianity. I consider him a model preacher and as a pastor personally find great devotional value in what he has to say. In this book, he tackles a subject that is, strangely, rarely written about. There is no doubt that the Bible has plenty to say about rewards for Christians and possible loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ. I agree with him that we do much harm to Christians today by dodging this powerful topic.

He begins his book by describing tears in heaven. Besides mentioning that “God shall wipe away all tears” is in the future tense, he really uses this chapter to explain some misconceptions that we have. The first one is something I hear all the time–our sins are judged on the cross and forgiven, so they couldn’t really be brought up later. He makes a great case for separating judicial forgiveness and fatherly discipline. He also explains that there are both degrees of punishment in Hell and degrees of reward in Heaven. He explains future rewards in a way that doesn’t allow us to take any glory away from Jesus Christ. I thought he did a good job with it.

His next chapter was more specific to the Judgment Seat of Christ. Though he well demonstrates the gravity of it, he never becomes too fanciful as some writers do on the subject. The next chapter discusses what we can gain and reminds us that we must remember the positive side of this biblical discussion. Still, chapter 4 helps us see what we can lose. That is an unpleasant thought that cannot be avoided.

Chapter 5 was the best in the book. In it, he described what Christ will be looking for, or really examining what the Bible says we will be rewarded for. The next 4 chapters contain encouragements to positively strive for rewards and a good Judgment Seat of Christ experience. The final chapter explains the Great White Throne Judgment and even encourages those who have not yet trusted Christ to do so.

This is a fine, encouraging, challenging book. I recommend it to Christians everywhere!

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 Introduction to Christian Worldview–A Fine New Textbook

book int chr worldview

It’s great to see this outstanding textbook come down the pike on Christian worldview. Tawa J. Anderson, W. Michael Clark, and David K. Naugle have teamed to produce an eminently readable book on understanding worldview as it presents itself in a pluralistic age. Teachers will love it for its accuracy while students will appreciate it for its clarity.

The book is divided into three main parts. In Part 1 three chapters introduce worldview, in Part 2 three chapters explain the contours of a Christian worldview, and in Part 3 two chapters analyze various worldviews.

Part 1 succeeds in explaining the overall concept of worldview. Philosophy and logic are expertly brought in while up-to-date examples are provided. For example, it was amazing how one of the author’s love of TV detectives could be brought in on a few occasions to make a great point. I loved it.

When Part 2 transitioned to explaining a Christian worldview, the book continued to deliver. In this case, I was amazed at how well theology, and I mean in-depth theology, was worked into the discussion in a perceptive way.

Part 3 was somewhat less interesting to me but had to be discussed in a book of this nature. Western philosophical alternatives, as well as global religious alternatives, were reviewed. The conclusion tied the parts together in a meaningful way.

You will appreciate, as well, how the book is laid out. In each chapter, you will find reflection questions, illustrations entitled “scenic view”, as well as some charts that really advance understanding. Every chapter ended with a list of things that you should be able to do if you mastered the chapter, a glossary of terms for that chapter, and even a list of possible term paper topics.

This book exceeded my expectations. I’m convinced I will be pulling it down from the shelf with profit in the future. It deserves an A+ rating.

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.

Spiritual Discipleship by J. Oswald Sanders

book sp dis

This book is the third of J. Oswald Sanders’ volumes republished in attractive paperback editions by Moody Publishers. Though, perhaps, not as extraordinary as his Spiritual Leadership and Spiritual Maturity books, this volume on spiritual discipleship is a worthy read. As the subtitle suggests, Sanders draws out “principles of following Christ for every believer”.

After a brief introduction, he describes the ideal disciple in chapter 1 straight from the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. In chapter 2, he uses the words of Jesus to describe the conditions of discipleship. The next two chapters are on evidences and tests of discipleship, but I found these two chapters to be the least clear in the book.

The remaining 16 chapters examine discipleship from every possible vantage point. You will read of the disciple’s master (the Lord), his senior partner (the Holy Spirit), his servanthood, his ambition, his love, and his maturity. You will have described the disciple’s Olympics (a review of Paul’s allusions to athletics), compassion, prayer life, rights (meekness is preferred), example, loneliness, the second chance, renewed commission, dynamic, and hope. It’s all excellent fodder to review your own level of discipleship.

The publishers have attached a small group study guide at the end of the book. There’s also a helpful index of Scripture.

If you have read Sanders’ other volumes, you will know what to expect. I’d recommend that you grab all three of these recently reprinted volumes. Sanders knows what spiritual writing is all about. This book is a meaningful, devotional read covering a subject that every Christian should entertain.

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.

Understanding Your Teen by Jim Burns

book un teens

Jim Burns is president of Homeword and a radio broadcaster. His other books are in the area of parenting or family issues. In this volume he comes right at the issues that are so prevalent for teens today. He makes you feel at ease by confessing his own shock when his children reach the teenage years even though ministering to families was already his lifework. At 200 pages it’s pitched just right for busy parents today.

Part one is made up of 11 chapters that deal with big picture ideas about parenting teens. The first two chapters aim at helping us understand our teenagers and how they develop. Then he gets into how it might affect behavior appropriately and help their spiritual life. His chapter on a media-safe home is very thorough and balanced. He tackles the subject of sexuality by suggesting we teach healthy sexuality. He further talks about how to handle homework, keep communication open, and our forcing ourselves as parents to understand the changing culture our teens live in. He wisely added the chapter on intimacy between the parents as a way to help your teams. Many overlook this important aspect. The final chapter of the first part is how to deal with a troubled teen. Everyone hopes that will not be their situation, but if the dreaded happened, here’s a great guide.

Part two has 13 chapters that are shorter and narrower. I almost see them as pointed discussions of how to implement the broader concepts learned in the earlier chapters. Here he covers bullying, dating violence, depression, dinnertime, driving, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, obesity, self-injury, sexual abuse, sleep, suicide, and dealing with tragedy.

I appreciate the calm way in which he advises us. He seems at once to be telling us to be diligent and patient. He encourages us not to lose our cool, nor our resolve. He doesn’t suggest that parenting isn’t hard work, yet he explains how the individual responsibility of the teen can never leave the picture.

This book is a solid help in these difficult times for raising teens. I recommend it.

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.

Walking Through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis

book teilight

This book grabs you. You pick it up, anticipate what you will find, and then get surprised. Though being real, or “raw” as they say, is all the rage these days, after you read this book you may decide, as I did, that you’ve hardly ever read something that’s “raw”. So much of the rawness of our day is merely façades more painstakingly crafted, but here the author detonates dynamite under his façades. He is a philosopher, an academic, an accomplished speaker, the man that is supposed to have it all figured out, but in the waves of bewilderment that crashed upon his soul as his wife descended into the twilight of dementia he found out he did not. What he could figure out when he forced himself to examine this bizarre, unexpected place is worth contemplating. It reminded me of my dark places, which were not as dark as his, and taught me what to examine the next time.

This effort is not along the same lines as the other titles Mr. Groothuis has produced, other than his quality writing skills. For example, I was greatly instructed by his “Philosophy in Seven Sentences”. He was able to marshal philosophy and especially the Bible for his struggles. He did it without an ounce of superficiality. He wasn’t able to tie everything up in neat little packages either. The profound part was that the more crushed he became the more sufficient his Savior became. I was moved.

Usually, when I review a book I overview the contents, but I think that would be a mistake in this case. Just experience it. Approach every chapter with a clean slate. You won’t regret it!

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.

Spiritual Maturity by J. Oswald Maturity

book spiritual mat

Oswald Sanders writes in a similar vein as he did in “Spiritual Leadership”. Though this title is not as well-known as his leadership classic, it probes with the same depth into spiritual maturity. As the subtitle says, he brings out principles of spiritual growth for every believer. It is an outstanding book.

He has a Trinitarian breakdown in the three parts of this book. In part one he writes on the overruling providence of God, in part two on the supreme vision of Christ, and in part three he writes on the Holy Spirit as the breath of God. As the editors say in the preface, this title “is not just a ‘how-to’, but a ‘be’ volume”.

In part one, he first tackles Romans 8:28 and goes beyond the usual shallow interpretations we find for that verse. He does find the good. In the next chapter, we get an outstanding vision of our God and how it always led to “profound self-abasement”. I love this chapter. Next, he finds the persevering love in the Lord being called the God of Jacob. In another chapter, he reviews the purposes of God’s disciplines as well as the perfected strength He gives. In chapter 6, he probes the ugliness of pride. After that, he discusses faith, deliverance, and the compensations of faith.

In part two, he first uses Revelation 5:9 to look at the transcendent worthiness of Christ. Chapter 10 looks at intercession, which he calls the unfinished work of Christ. In chapter 11, he takes one of the Beatitudes and describes Christ’s ideal of character. We also get looks at discipleship on Christ’s terms in one chapter and another on seeing the message to the church at Ephesus as a personal letter from Christ. In chapter 14, he describes what he calls a “reigning life through Christ”.

In part three, he first describes what he means by the Spirit being the breath of God, followed by an explanation of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Later chapters consider the purging fire of the Spirit, the mighty dynamic of the Spirit, and the missionary passion of the Spirit. The remaining two chapters makes sense of the controversial subject of speaking with tongues.

I underlined many lines in every chapter. The beautiful part about this work is how he draws his conclusions from the biblical text itself. In addition to being such a helpful devotional book, this is a good example for preachers in communicating truth. Mark down this title as a real jewel.

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.

Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges

book grace

Jerry Bridges has a way of writing that requires you to deeply search your heart. While this volume might not be as famous as a few others he has written, it’s still a bestseller with good reason. He strives to make sure we don’t miss the amazing in grace. I preferred reading it one chapter at a time and then dwelling on what he had to say.

His first chapter on the performance treadmill pulls you in. So much of Christianity has degenerated to this unscriptural performance Christianity. He reminds us that we are so bankrupt, so spiritually bankrupt, that no amount of performance could ever get us anywhere anyway. He explains how we are legalistic by nature and how that warps our thinking. He also begins a discussion of what grace is that carries into the next chapter. There he explains who needs it. If you don’t already know, he makes it clear that you and I do. Chapter 3 discusses how amazing Grace is and chapter 4 uses a well-known parable of Jesus that Mr. Bridges entitles “the generous landowner” to further illustrate grace. That discussion continues in chapter 5 when he asked the question: does God have a right? He explains that we can never obligate God. This was one of my favorite chapters in the book.

Chapter 6 explains how we are compelled by love, not a list of “oughts”. Chapter 7 well explains how the proof of love is obeying Christ’s commandments. Chapter 8 is where Mr. Bridges connects one of the subjects he is most famous for writing on, holiness, with grace. Note the chart on page 121 too. Chapter 9 explains what true freedom is and that it springs from grace. Chapter 10 beautifully describes the sufficiency of grace while chapter 11 proceeds to remind us of the humility we should take on that subject.

Chapter 12 turns even more practical as he describes how to appropriate God’s grace. In that chapter, he describes how we must “die” to produce fruit. There’s more discussion of submitting to God in humility as well. He concludes with a chapter on the garments of grace.

There’s a nice, lengthy discussion guide added to this edition. You will want to check it out.

Reading this book just helped me decide that I need to read everything that Jerry Bridges has written. These newest editions are rather attractive, quality paperback volumes. I began this book wondering if he was even going to go too far, but he beautifully described grace and guided us between legalism and licentiousness. I don’t see how a Christian couldn’t be helped by reading this wonderful book. In fact, we would all be better off if we did.

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.

Faith and Reason by Henri Blocher

book faith reason

Henri Blocher is a respected theologian who delivers here what he calls “a primer on apologetics”. Though I would disagree with him on a few points, he gives much wonderful fodder for the tension between faith and reason. His style reminds me in some degree of C. S. Lewis. He has a knack for making some deep concepts understandable. This is my first encounter with Mr. Blocher, but rank him as a voice worth considering in the area of practical apologetics.

Chapter 1 is something of a historical survey that describes where we’ve come from and where we are today. He makes clear how reason has become in conflict with Scripture. He even explains that many of us feel fatigue because we are required to use reason every day. In chapter 2 he exposes rationalism to the light of Scripture. That entails explaining what rationalism is and how its use can never be free of assumptions. He ends the chapter with explicit explanation of what the Bible teaches on the subject.

Chapter 3 is outstanding as he tackles the rationalistic belief that the Bible is a nebulous book twisted to say whatever the current user wants it to say. That leads to a discussion of the biblical text itself and its trustworthiness. The middle of this chapter is extraordinary in its explanation of the rationalist’s presuppositions that are brought into their conclusions. They see redaction and other things that undermine the trustworthiness of the text because of their own presupposition to reject it. In other words, they present a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Chapter 4 discusses what modern science is, and how a misunderstanding of what it is partly explains why it is so antagonistic to faith. In chapter 5 he disallows the conclusion that scientific research has positively concluded the Bible to be in error. I can’t follow him in what appears to be his belief in theistic evolution, or in his explanation of the reality of miracles in how he still downplays a few of them himself, but still there is much food for thought even in that discussion. I can agree, though, with him and his conclusion that the believer is not to press for miracles because the Lord only uses them on occasion to confirm his message.

At only a little over 100 pages, I imagine this is just right for what many people may want to ponder the dilemma that divides faith and reason. I think everyone would be helped by interacting with what is said here, so I recommend this volume warmly.

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.

Embodied Hope by Kelly Kapic

book e hope

Kelly Kapic dives deep into the theology of suffering in this fine volume. There’s nothing of glib, overly-generalized platitudes, or fluff to be found in its pages. There’s no attempt to dissect suffering in a dry academic way either. No, this book probes what the Bible actually teaches on the subject of suffering that interacts with all our lives in some way.

Though there is starting to be a sizable body of work on suffering in print today, this work can qualify as a theological work. That is not to say, however, that it lacks heart at all. In fact, the author was probably the perfect candidate to pen this book. On the one hand, he is a trained theologian, while on the other hand, his wife has faced incredible suffering. Having already survived cancer, she has also lived with connective tissue disease as well as Erythromelalgia, or “man on fire” syndrome. As you can imagine, the author struck the right balance between heart and head as he wrote here.

The book itself is divided into three main parts. In part one, he examines the struggle itself. He admits that we can have hard thoughts about God in times of profound suffering. Along the way, he explains how important lament is to suffering despite people’s preference for the stiff upper lip. In describing our questions that come with pain, he exposed our tendency to jump back and forth between self-praise and self-condemnation. Of course, neither are the sole answer. He also explained how we should be mindful of our mortality and how that might be tied up in the things we learn in suffering.

In part two, he tackles what he calls “the strangeness of God”. With skill, he takes us to Jesus Christ and His cross. In the final section, he makes worthwhile practical conclusions. I was enlightened as I read.

This book has already been recommended by several people who have our ear on the subject of suffering. For example, Joni Eareckson Tada, who herself has written much on pain, says she loves this book.

Whether to put on your theological shelves, or to help you wrestle in life’s dark moments, I recommend this book as a winning effort.

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 Real Facts About the Latest Generation!

blog phoneI’ve heard it in bits and pieces and had already decided that the smartphone was the defining factor of this generation approaching adulthood. Now I came across a substantive article that has hard data behind what it says. The point is not to bash this generation. How could we? Wouldn’t it be more a reflection of we who are as the generation raising them?

The truth is that every generation has its strengths and weaknesses. That translates to the latest generation being better in a few categories, but its problems are of concern and worthy of our attention.

This generation lives with its parents knowing where they are far more than any generation alive today. For that reason, you could say that they are physically safer. They tend to be less motivated to drive and have fewer wrecks. Their average age of the first sexual encounter is actually older than the last several generations – that’s certainly a plus. If you dig through the data in the article, you will see more of this type of positive information.

Strangely enough, some of their biggest problems springs from the same areas. This is the least-interested-in-independence generation we’ve seen. If they have a nice bedroom, in which to lay and be on their smart phones, they are satisfied. The article mentioned several of them have an indention in their bed from lying there on the phone so much. Many of them are not really interested in driving. Does that surprise you as much as me? Many of them are developmentally at least two years behind.

While the rate of teen homicide is down (that’s a plus!), the rate of teen suicide is far higher. Quite frankly, many of them are not happy. The article explained how the ones who are on their smart phones over the average rank much higher on the chart of unhappiness and suicidal feelings.

The article, which was not in a Christian publication, mentioned sports, other activities, and less social media as having great improvement in the data on being happy and not feeling suicidal. Although the article wasn’t Christian in any way, I couldn’t help but notice that those young people very active in what the author called “religious activities”, fared much better as well. I suppose the data will always bear out that the parents who forget God in their home will reap a whirlwind in their children.

Here’s the great article that you will want to ingest slowly: Has Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

There’s so much more in this article. Read it for yourself. We parents need some deep reflection about whether our homes are just going to be like the average of the world today, or are we going to swim upstream to go after different results. May the Lord help us all in the choppy waters that we Christian parents now navigate.