The Counselor by A. W. Tozer

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Knots Untied by J. C. Ryle

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Banner of Truth has brought most of J. C. Ryle’s works back into print. Though Mr. Ryle is from another century, his works still have something to say to our generation. Not only have they brought these works back into print, but they have done so with nice bindings and attractive covers that will make these works last for years. This title, Knots Untied, is made with the same design as several others that they print to make a beautiful collection. For the record, they have also recently published an outstanding biography as well as Mr. Ryle’s autobiography.

Mr. Ryle did not write this volume for scholars. You could tell that he aimed at regular Christians, and perhaps, even new Christians. Since almost everyone in his generation attended church, he did write with the assumption that people knew about the churches in England at least. Still, there is at once no superficiality and clear, accessible guidance.

Unlike some of his volumes, this is not a book of sermons. Or at least if they are, they are of the topical nature. He never wavers in loving Scripture, being conservative, and clearly and logically laying out his case.

A few of the chapters were not especially interesting to me as they were too tied to the Church of England. I’m referring to things like the Thirty-Nine Articles and the chapter on prayer book statements about regeneration. In a few other chapters I did not completely agree with him, particularly on the mode of baptism, but don’t let a few disagreements keep you away from this fine book.

And in so many other places he wrote the things we so badly need to hear today. I rejoice in the clarity of his teaching on there being only one way of salvation, or in the help he brings to the subject of private judgment. I assumed I would not like his chapter on the church, but found it a great encouragement. My favorite chapter of all was on the fallibility of ministers. It was the tonic needed in our days.

This is a fine book and I warmly 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.

Hearing the Message of Daniel by Christopher Wright

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Christopher J. H. Wright has turned out some terrific commentaries on Old Testament books in the past, and now provides us with a little jewel on the Book of Daniel. This time out he does not provide us a commentary, but a book of expository preaching. As he explains in his preface, he does not get into critical questions, but intends the book to be “an encouragement to God’s people in the midst of hostile and threatening cultures, and to affirm God’s sovereign control of all that happens….” In my estimation, he fulfills his intention.

His introduction is brief, but encourages us to view Daniel from so long ago in a proper way for our day. He scolds what he calls the “end- times prediction industry” with criticism that is warranted. I say that as a premillennialist who would differ with Mr. Wright on several points involving prophecy. Books on Daniel tend to be judged on the prophetic views of the author rather than what he or she actually says about Daniel. It’s what Mr. Wright has to say about Daniel and his times that I find so compelling.

The historical background provided is superb. To my mind, he is at his best when the text is historical narrative. His theological observations are astute and helpful. Leaving out the issue of prophetic interpretation, this is what preaching should look like.

This book is one of those volumes that attempts to hit two targets at once – pastors and devotional readers. Most books in this category can’t quite pull off that feat, but Mr. Wright did with the best such effort that I’ve seen in a while.

The book reads well and yet is never superficial. I’m glad to have it on my shelves now and I predict you won’t be disappointed.

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.

Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt

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Mr. Vanderstelt is on to something. We are not fluent with the Gospel. As he strives hard to point out, a lack of gospel fluency is far worse than a little broken English. The stakes are so much higher. Getting the directions wrong to a tourist site because of ineffective language is of so much less consequence than getting wrong the directions to God because we don’t know how to talk about the Gospel.

This book is written for broad appeal among Christians. In other words, the net is cast all the way to the edge where the newest Christian lives, and yet is still meant to reach longtime Christians on the other side. Though that means some pages might seem to be on an elementary level, all Christians can be challenged.

The book is in five main parts. The first part explains what gospel fluency is and how so much of our attempts to speak to others lacks the Gospel. In a nutshell, if we don’t give them Jesus, we don’t give them the Gospel. I loved how he explained that even as Christians we like to speak the gospel to ourselves and really deal often with unbelief. He says a few shocking things like: “I have met too many people who love their Bibles yet have no genuine relationship with Jesus Christ”.

The second section is about the Gospel itself. In three chapters, he reminds us of what the Gospel is and how powerful it really is. Some of that is basic as many of his readers may not even have a fundamental understanding of the Gospel, but anyone will enjoy when he illustrates how wonderful it is. Part three covers the Gospel in me in three chapters. Don’t miss the chapter “Fruit to Root” as it had outstanding insights.

Parts four and five covered in six chapters attempts to take what we have learned and make it practical. His discussion of the importance of listening is a great reminder.

The book is easy to read. The only fault I found with it, and it is only a personal preference on my part, is that he illustrates too often with discussions that he had with people where he gave them great answers. While that strikes me as a little too self-promoting, we might remember that, in his defense, he might feel the need for us to know that he practices what he preaches.

The book is a success in the sense that it makes me remember that I need to put the Gospel so much more into my conversations with people. I pray the Lord will help me to do much better.

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.