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.

Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders (Books on the Ministry #19)

book spiritual leadership

There’s good books and there’s books you simply must have. While every Christian can glean so much spiritual help from this fine book, it would almost be a crime for a pastor to not own and carefully read this book by J. Oswald Sanders. Originally written in the late 1960s, this million-seller finds a new life in this stunning paperback edition by Moody. I’m not sure how to describe the material the cover was made from, but it’s the best paperback cover I’ve ever seen.

I don’t think this classic became so popular through a savvy marketing campaign, but simply by the fact that it is so captivating. It covers leadership as the title suggests, and though there is some overlap with the modern subject of leadership that floods the book market, you also see that spiritual leadership is worlds apart from modern leadership. The book is true to the Bible, and you will find yourself saying over and over again “that’s so true”, even if what you just read nailed your hide to the wall.

The book begins by explaining how ambition fits into the picture and goes on to opine the lack of leaders today. As you would imagine, by chapter 3 you read of Jesus Christ’s master principle – the principle that leadership is servanthood. Later chapters will discuss how to become a leader even if you are not naturally one, insights that you can gain from Paul and Peter’s leadership, as well as essential qualities of leadership.

Later in the book we are told that spiritual leadership requires spirit-filled people. We are admonished how we can never be a leader in God’s work without being a leader in prayer. There’s suggestions on how to make use of time and how to incorporate the highly valuable act of reading.

Later chapters become even more soul-searching. There’s discussion of improving leadership, the cost of leadership, the responsibilities of leadership, the test of leadership, and the art of delegation. We are told of the necessity of replacing and reproducing leaders as well. Finally, in the most probing pages of the book, he reviews the perils of leadership. We should read that section repeatedly! He ends with a short chapter on Nehemiah, followed up by a short conclusion chapter.

Make this book one of the first five or six you buy if you are going into the ministry and read it carefully. It’s one of the great ones and its manifold impact on many Christian leaders over the last 50 years is its greatest recommendation.

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.

Born After Midnight by Tozer

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Classic Tozer! Tozer never disappoints whether it be one of his famous titles, or one not quite as well known like this one. I’ve read most of his titles by this point and loved them all, but this one is even better than several others. This title is one where he seems a little less on edge, but as challenging as ever. The title is a reference to his belief that revivals are born after midnight because that’s the time most have already given up. He really aims at personal spiritual renewal in this book. He tackles several subjects in light of renewal in his indomitable style.

He writes of our now missing inner witness that should radiate from Christians. He explains the concept of spiritually living in times of crisis. He explains the hollowness of words without deeds. There’s far more chapters than I can relay in this review, but he tackles dealing with the devil, our thinking, failure, “sanctifying the ordinary”, and much more. The chapter on wealth was especially good.

Moody has a whole series of these fine paperback Tozer titles and it’s a great idea to secure them all. Get this one near the beginning of your acquisitions! It is a dandy!

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 Counselor by A. W. Tozer

book tozer coun

Here’s another Tozer title that elicits soul searching. Moody Publishers now prints several of his titles and this one is slightly longer than some of the others I have seen. As you can imagine, this is another volume on the Holy Spirit. That was always a favorite subject for Tozer and he doesn’t disappoint here.  He reminds us of the Person of the Holy Spirit and entices us to be filled with the Spirit. If you are a Tozer reader, that will come as no surprise. Though he returned to this theme again and again in his writings, this one is the best I’ve seen from him on the subject so far.

He begins by explaining the Holy Spirit comes only when Jesus Christ is glorified. That entire chapter was outstanding and a great springboard for the book. He is in no way trite when he argues that the Holy Spirit doesn’t come through the intellect. In chapter 3 he comes at our churches. He says, “The Holy Spirit can be absent and the pastor goes on turning the crank, and nobody finds it out for years and years.” Ouch!

He is very sensible in what can be replicated from Pentecost and what cannot. He believes that the filling of the Spirit always arrives in an instant. In chapter 6 he turns the spotlight on we readers and how to evaluate. In the next chapter he explains spiritual gifts followed by the probing chapter on what we really need. The last chapter is a plea to be holy and not block the fullness of the Spirit.

Add this title to the string of pearls known as Tozer’s writings. It’s 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.

Seven Leaders by Iain Murray

book seven leaders

Iain Murray continues his impressive output of biographies in this latest volume published by Banner of Truth. Though some are more known than others, his 7 mini-biographies on John Elias, Andrew Bonar, Archie Brown, Kenneth MacRae, Martin Lloyd-Jones, W. J. Grier and John MacArthur makes for enjoyable reading. He intends to show that the Lord uses different individuals to similarly do a mighty work. Still, you might not see the connection in the seven here, and even surmise that a better list could have been assembled, yet that doesn’t hinder the book from being a good one.

Murray is chatty. He at times falls into the minutia of a doctrinal debate, he over-emphasizes election, and can jump around a lot. While being casual would sink most biographers, Murray comes out on top again. I’ve never failed to be blessed by his biographies. It’s the perceptive spiritual and devotional content he draws out of the lives of those he writes about that makes his books as edifying as they are enjoyable.

Any preacher will get a double blessing from this book. He has striking conversations about what we do as preachers from the words and actions of those whose story he tells. He refers several times to the difference in varying texts and the consecutive method and concludes both have a place. It’s only preaching devoid of doctrine that misses the mark.

The three he has already written biographies on were the ones he seemed to purposefully not give as much biographic details. He preferred to make more wry observations instead. I’ve always loved Lloyd-Jones and that chapter was what you’d expect. Of those I knew little, I especially enjoyed John Elias, Archie Brown, and Kenneth MacRae. Though I was familiar with Bonar, his chapter was enlightening and outstanding.

As an added bonus, Banner always provides beautiful volumes with its hardbacks. This book is a worthy choice to find its place on your biography shelves and to provide several hours of reading pleasure.

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.

Paths to Power by A.W. Tozer

book tozer path

I’m one of those people who find A. W. Tozer to be an incredibly challenging writer. Having always loved his more famous books, I’m enjoying discovering his lesser-known titles published by Moody Publishers including this little gem called Paths to Power. It’s a small book that you could probably read in one enjoyable sitting, though its thoughtful paragraphs might call for a slower perusal.

This title is subtitled “Living in the Spirit’s Fullness”. As you may know, that’s a prevalent subject and Mr. Tozer’s writings as he laments the anemic state of Christianity in a way few writers do today. Chapter 1, entitled “Power in Action”, describes the deadness of our day and our bizarre acceptance of it. Chapter 2 gets quite doctrinal on us as he says, “God cannot do our repenting for us”. You’ll find a lot to think about in that chapter. The third chapter discusses “The Fruits of Obedience” and how we have removed the idea of obedience from our lives by mistakenly describing it as a works-salvation approach.

Chapter 4 takes the famous text of Hosea 10:12 explains how miracles follow the plow. Chapter 5 discusses doctrinal hindrances while chapter 6 explains how power comes through the “Out-poured Spirit”. To get a feel for the flavor of this book you should read where he says, “another thing that greatly hinders God’s people is a hardness of heart caused by hearing men without the Spirit constantly preaching about the Spirit.” See what I mean? Chapter 7 is a concluding chapter that discusses the relationship between unity and revival.

As always, you can’t go wrong with A. W. Tozer and 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.

Revival Sermons of Jonathan Edwards–A Review

book edwards

Jonathan Edwards was an amazing man. Besides being impressive for his theological writings, he was one of the preachers God used mightily in the Great Awakening. Having read the book Jonathan Edwards on Revival in the past and being amazed by it, I was pleased to see this book that collects some of his most effective revival sermons of that time. In case you’re wondering, this book does include the famous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.

For those who are not that knowledgeable of Jonathan Edwards, this book provides a preface that gives a biographic overview of him. After that preface, you have seven of these great sermons. There are several things you will notice about the sermons. First, they’re long. Where it seems only fluffy sermons appeal to the masses in our generation, the Lord used deep, profound, scripturally-laden sermons in that day (I imagine that would still work!). Second, his style usually involves beginning with some doctrine on the subject and then branching out into pointed, applicable material to take the Scripture home to the hearer’s hearts. Finally, these sermons will not allow the listener to escape the searching light of God’s holy Word.

While the sermons have great historical value, they serve far better as a conduit to examine our own hearts. They serve also as a call for our sermons of today to get back to the Bible since it is the Bible that the Holy Spirit uses to pierce the heart of men and women.

This book is an attractive paperback edition that will serve as a nice addition to your library. 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.

Of God and Men A.W. Tozer

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This title is not as well-known as many of A.W. Tozer’s other volumes. Don’t let that lack of fame fool you as it has all the qualities that we have come to love in Mr. Tozer. In fact, even more than some of his other books he lived up to his title of modern-day prophet here. A few times he even sounded angry at our casual, carnal Christianity. He couldn’t suffer spiritual foolishness easily.

At 167 pages, this book is an easy, yet profound read. The chapters are short, but pack a punch. He knew God from the Scriptures and personal relationship and he knew men from his own heart and ministering to others. His clear perceptions sparkle on every page.

I’m sure what sticks out to me may not be the same thing that sticks out to you, but several things did stick out to me. I love his chapter on holiness before happiness. He compares Christians to soldiers who do not seek to be happy on the battlefield, but who seek to get the war over with so he can go home to his loved ones. Home is where you’ll find happiness. His point is that we be a good soldier no matter what as we have great happiness to come.

Another favorite chapter was on how not all faith pleases God. He said, “let us beware that the Jesus we ‘accept’ is not one we have created out of the dust of our imagination and formed after our own likeness”. I also loved the chapter on backing into our convictions. One other chapter that I especially appreciated was the one on cultivating simplicity and solitude. There he admonished us to avoid the “digest type of mind” that loves short facts. Wow, if he could see us now!

This is another great Tozer title that will bless your soul.

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.

To The Cross by Christopher Wright

book cross

After years of producing quality mid-sized commentaries, Christopher Wright has shown himself adept at writing fine sermons with helpful devotional material. In fact, this is his third such title in the last several months. One of those other titles was also by IVP and entitled Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit. This latest volume called To the Cross is just in time for Easter.

One of the things that I especially noticed in this volume is how well Mr. Wright follows in the footsteps of his mentor, John Stott. I mean that as a sincere compliment that it is. In this exposition, he brings the story of the last days of Jesus to life. The sermons are warm, thoughtful, insightful, and touching.

His first sermon is on the Last Supper. I appreciate how he tied the blood of the covenant to this story. The next sermon on Peter’s denial was even better. He showed how failure was a part of Peter’s life and how that Jesus knew those failures and could handle them. The sermon on insults and paradise highlighted the people around the cross and described how Jesus’ last three temptations were so full of irony. He ended the sermon with two of the sayings of Christ on the cross. The last two sermons covering Jesus’ sufferings on the cross were gripping. He brought that to life far better than most I’ve seen. The sermons were over by page 108 and make outstanding devotional reading for Easter.

I was surprised to find the appendix where he talked about the process of preparing these sermons. It’s like a nice bonus, especially for younger preachers, who can greatly glean from surveying the methods of an effective preacher like Mr. Wright.

This book deserves to find a large audience. Every reader would have to be blessed by what they find on these pages. You won’t regret the time spent reading this fine 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.

Following the Party Line

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Are you a faithful follower of the Word of God or are you a supporter of the party line? In the first case, you’re a pursuer of Christ, and in the other you’re a partisan following the group. I suppose I’ve never met a Christian who didn’t believe he or she followed was the former rather than the latter. But the far-ranging views out there today proves more are a hanger-on of a particular religious group than they would like to admit.

Though my background is in the Baptist world, I’ve seen this plague many denominations and groups. To make the problem even worse, many groups splinter into several smaller groups with their own unique set of beliefs. While we might find the presence of sin in our world as the cause of this problem, we should still pull ourselves away from it and go ever back to the Bible.

This problem begins innocently enough. At some point, we try to draw our beliefs from the Bible. Because the Lord has designed that we live in the local church setting as a group, we will also at some point decide what we believe together. So far, so good. But something changes after a time. We fall into the lazy habit of just believing what the group does. We reason that since they sought the Bible in the beginning they can always be trusted to follow the Bible now. Then, another problem arises. New issues arise that we hadn’t thought of, or at least hadn’t thought of how to make an application of the Scriptures to it, and so we specify exactly what we mean to keep our original set of beliefs.

Again, the whole process is one of well-intentioned purposes, and yet we get off track. Our current set of beliefs have been revised several times since our original digging into God’s Word. We now are 2 to 3 steps away from the Bible while thinking we are still firmly in its boundaries.

I’m quite the inferior carpenter, but have been around the process enough to know one mistake we shouldn’t make. If we are going to need several boards of the exact same dimension, we should carefully measure out the first one and cut from it. When I was a boy, I can recall my Daddy taking a pencil and making a mark on the carefully measured board to distinguish it from the others. I can remember from way back then that he told me not to pick up the boards cut from the original to cut other boards. Though it technically should have been the same dimension, he told me it’s easy to get off more and more by that process. I believe this is what we have done in our Christianity.

As you may have noticed, groups tend to get defined by their unique differences rather than what they have in common. That perspective incurs great cost for Christianity. If the error was not bad enough, the Christian divisiveness is catastrophic. Because of our warped egos and general depravity, we fight for those differences, at times, even more than we do for the great trues that we hold in common, such as, the death, the burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As is often the case, we judge each other by the wrong board. We become quite bombastic, cry separation, and criticize our brothers or sisters in Christ relentlessly. In many cases, we are convinced that we are standing for the Word of God. Our motives likely began as a desire to faithfully follow the Bible, but now the results are far below the motives.

We would all do well to stop and ask ourselves when was the last time we checked the Bible for our deeply held beliefs. To be sure, we must carefully check those Bibles as our casual reading just regurgitates without thought was someone else decided we believe the long time ago. If you haven’t carefully verified the beliefs you loudly proclaim, then put yourself down in the category of one who spouts the party line. When you spout that party line, you are saying that where the belief came from doesn’t matter as long as the party says it is correct. Why does what scares us in politics not even phase us in our own Christianity?

If we allow ourselves to follow the party line, we are only sycophants carrying someone else’s opinions. Even worse, if we attack and criticize where they tell us to, we are their henchmen. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a mere follower of the party line when I have the opportunity to be a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.