Walking Through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis

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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.

Understanding Biblical Theology by Klink and Lockett

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Edward Klink and Darian Lockett join forces to guide us in defining the term “biblical theology”. In doing so, they will divide the scholarly world into five major schools of thought on the subject. In addition, they will compare theory and practice as well as the origin of it being the church or the academy. Both authors have already published major works. In particular, I greatly admire Klink’s recent commentary on the Gospel of John in ZECNT. I see him as a theological and scholarly writer to keep an eye on in the future.

The introductory chapter surveys what the authors call the spectrum of biblical theology. Though I read widely, I was a little surprised to see what I thought was a commonly accepted term so exactly defined and widely debated. Along the way, they will further try to separate the concept of biblical theology from systematic theology. As will become important as you read the rest of the text, in this introductory chapter they define the issues involved that divide scholars. How the Old Testament connects to the New Testament, whether we should look for historical diversity or theological unity, the impact of the scope and sources of biblical theology, what the actual subject matter of biblical theology is, and finally, whether biblical theology should be defined by the church or the academy. Make sure you linger over the small chart on page 22 that shows a logical way to view the five schools of thought. Spoiler alert: there’s an outstanding summary chart at the end of the book that will make it possible for you to review and make sure you followed the line of thought given in this book.

The design of the book is simple. There’s a chapter of defining the particular school of thought followed by a chapter that fully examines one of its major proponents. In a nutshell, you have biblical theology as historical description with James Barr, as history of redemption with D. A. Carson, as worldview-story with N. T. Wright, as canonical approach with Brevard Childs, and as theological construction with Francis Watson. Please don’t ask me where I land even after reading this book, though I find myself vacillating between the first two schools of thought. Strangely, each point of view had some aspects worth considering, even if some of them had more serious drawbacks.

Some might find this subject a hair too finally split, but I can’t imagine a resource that could more capably define the parameters of this subject. Believe it or not, the authors were so faithful to their task of explaining why this issue is hard and how it’s been viewed that they never championed one viewpoint over the others. This is THE book on the subject.

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

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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.

Faith and Reason by Henri Blocher

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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

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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.

An Unhurried Leader by Fadling (Books on the Ministry #18)

book unhurried

I needed this book. So many leadership books offer up the same, though slightly retreaded, message of so many others, but this book is food for the soul. It’s the best book for pastors, or any in a leadership position, that I’ve read in a long time. There’s no gimmicks here to manipulate people, just a call to commune with God to the point He imbibes your work with His grace.

In a day where so many speak of effectiveness, Fadling prefers that we look at fruitfulness instead. He unearths the often-buried scriptural truth that fruitfulness comes from abiding in Christ. If the Lord makes you fruitful, you will influence others and the task of leadership is fulfilled. He makes it all sound so simple while the work of communing with God is at once challenging and the very opposite of work. If that sounds confusing, just read the book.

He begins by asking us to be unhurried leaders who stop seeing activity as productivity. He exposes the subtle pride that we often present as spiritual leadership. He explains our blind spot of working for God instead of with God. He challenges us to lead from abundance–a concept we frankly don’t get. He gently scolds us to stop running from the thirst of our souls to unquenching activity.

There’s so much more. The chapter on prayer is the most insightful I’ve read in years. More than being condemned as most prayer treatises, I want to implement what he says.

Outstanding is an understatement for this book. 5-star plus gets a little closer. I hope many will read and follow and be helped as I was!

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.

Interpreting the New Testament:Essays on Methods and Issues

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Here’s a collection of 22 essays on issues involved in New Testament interpretation. This collection boasts a host of highly-respected scholars including Peter Davids, David Dockery, Darrell Bock, Grant Osborne, George Guthrie, Craig Blomberg, Robert Stein, Gary Burge, John Polhill, Thomas Schreiner, and several others. I view this book as a superb secondary text on New Testament hermeneutics. Keep this book nearby to your chosen hermeneutics textbook and you will find the extra help that you need.

Part one is an introduction that contains the first two essays. The first one on authority, hermeneutics, and criticism by Peter Davids is quite provocative. Though I cannot agree with every statement he made, I couldn’t help being instructed by what he shared. The second chapter provides a fine historical survey of New Testament interpretation.

Part two contains essays 3-8 covering the basic methods in New Testament interpretation. All told, textual, source, form, redaction, literary, and sociological criticism are all covered in turn. Though I am skeptical of the value several of these critical methods, I find these essays outstanding in explaining what each of these criticisms are. Whether we agree or not, these critical methods play such a part in the modern scholarly world that we must at least grasp what they mean. Though these authors may find more value here than I do, they still write in a conservative vein.

Part three is the largest section and contains essays 9-22. Highlights include an explanation of the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament and another chapter on discourse analysis. Beginning in essay 13 several of the following chapters cover the literary genres of the Scripture. To my mind, these are some of the most difficult elements of hermeneutics and are a place where we can use help. I appreciated the final essay on New Testament interpretation and preaching by Richard Wells that reminds us that the task of interpretation is to lead us to the sermon.

Again, I feel this book quite valuable to have in your hermeneutic library. As I said before, I do not see it as a first choice for a hermeneutics textbook, but as an outstanding aid for extra reading in areas we find difficult to understand. It’s refreshing to have a conservative resource for such help. I think you ought to check out 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.

Dictionary of Christianity and Science

book dictionary cs

When you pick up this attractive hardback “Dictionary of Christianity and Science”, edited by Paul Copan, Tremper Longman, Christopher Reese, and Michael Strauss, your first thought will be to wonder if it can live up to its subtitle “the definitive reference for the intersection of Christian faith and contemporary science”. To my mind, it was a boast that turned out to be true.

That’s not to say, that you will agree with everything you read here. Fully conservative views are well defined, but in the interest of providing a comprehensive resource other views are as well. Since evangelical Christianity is not in full agreement on these subjects, you will discover here are all the opinions out there. If you do either theological or apologetic reading, you have already noticed the debate on its margins with science. In our post-Christian age, this is no time for trite platitudes. This resource helps us understand and intelligently discuss at the very point where so much of modern society is attacking Christianity.

The entries given are of three types. Some are short introductions intended to give an overview. There’s longer entries called essays that attempt to give a larger picture. Finally, some oft-debated subjects are given what they call multiple-view discussions. In these cases, scholars of varying opinions make their strongest case. That type of debate can be most instructive.

The range of topics covered almost anything I could think of regarding faith and science. Whether it was common terminology or less common scholarly jargon, you will find it here. You will find scientific terms, hot button issues of our generation, prominent movements and people, and some things I imagine you’ve never heard of before. There’s various creation/evolution theories, the Flood, fossil records, bioethics, and even climate change from various viewpoints.

I could easily see myself in the future reading an article and coming to an obscure concept or the element of debate I was a little rusty on and grabbing this book to get a grasp of what I was reading. This book has clearly found a niche missing in other Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias. This fine volume succeeded in what it set out to do and I think it’s an all-around winner. I predict it will be the go-to volume of its kind for many years.

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.

Announcing My New Book:Following Jesus Through The Gospels

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I’m excited to announce the release of my latest book Following Jesus through the Gospels. The Gospels have been a favorite of mine and the material in this book has been things I’ve studied over the last 10 years. There’s more charts than text in this volume and its designed for the busy person who needs a lot of information in a short read. It’s also designed to be small enough to easily tag along with your Bible.

In this book you will find a brief overview Harmony of the Gospels as well as an outline of the stages of Jesus Christ’s ministry. You will have a complete numbered Harmony of the Gospels that includes all the miracles, parables, personal encounters of Jesus, sermons of Jesus, private discourses of Jesus, cries of Christ on the cross, and Resurrection Appearances. Separate charts for all of the above are included for deeper study.

The final section of the book makes a special synthesis of the birth and infancy of Christ, the Upper Room and Gethsemane, the trial of Jesus Christ, the Crucifixion, and Resurrection Appearances. Perhaps you have seen my “Synthesis of the Crucifixion” that’s shared on this blog here. The others are designed similarly.

If you have interest in checking out this book in either paperback or a Kindle edition, check out the Amazon link below:

Amazon listing

Recommendations

This book is a great tool any student of the Bible needs in their toolbox. I’ve used many books that give Gospel parallels, but this is by far the most user friendly. The addition of geographical information makes this book especially wonderful, as combining the geographical information together gives new and improved understanding of the context of many of Jesus’ sermons and parables. The information is laid out in very easily understood tables that will make studying out common threads through the Gospels much easier. This reference book will be coming off the bookshelf on a regular basis, I can promise that.

Pastor Tom Otto

This book is a result of much careful study of the Gospel Records and is evidence that the author loves to study God’s Word. He answers many questions that most Bible students have had about geography and the harmony of the accounts of our Lord’s ministry. I really enjoyed the charts and notes that synthesized the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus. This book is an excellent resource for all students of the Bible.

Pastor Jamin Boyer

This short volume is packed full of helpful charts and list. The research and study involved in this work are a credit to the author and his team. This is solid choice for any serious student of the life of Christ.

Pastor Mike Montgomery

Jimmy Reagan has done a wonderful job of compiling a great deal of information in a very concise format. The charts make this volume extremely useful. I believe it will serve as a good quick reference for those who are serious about studying the life of Christ.

Dr. Scott Pauley

Pastor Reagan is one of the most well-read ministers that I have ever been around. For many years in my own ministry I have gleaned from his wisdom and study. Following Jesus through the Gospels is a culmination of years of study on the life of Christ. In this valuable book, he harmonizes the events of the Gospel records and presents the information in usable chart form. You can now see various aspects of the Gospel records on one page at a time. This is treasure for any student of God’s Word and a handy resource for all preachers.

Pastor Mark Fowler

This book will prove to be most helpful for anyone studying through the life of Christ. It is loaded with information that is able to be both quickly accessible and easily understood. You will find it more study guide than book, but its affordable price and handy size, make it a great companion to scripture while reading through the gospels.

Pastor Allen Gibson

Pastor Reagan shows the ability to simplify the most challenging of topics in this chart filled book. There is no more vital topic for understanding than the life of Jesus Christ! I remember when the topics were first taught and put into chart form; they helped me and they will help you.

Pastor Ryan Brown