Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Unashamed by Lecrae

Posted: July 26, 2016 in Book Reviews

I’ve enjoyed Lecrae’s music from his very first album imgres.jpg(KAA-U KNOW) and have everything that he’s every made. I knew a little of his story but there was some real talk in this gut-level honest autobiography. I appreciate and understand his music so much better knowing what he was going through as he wrote his albums. I especially appreciated his thoughtful conclusions after processing traumatic events and then filtering them through a Biblical worldview. I found myself flying through the gripping stories but slowing down to highlight many poignant phrases.

This book, and his life, is a testimony to God’s amazing grace. I would encourage anyone to read it, but especially young people and especially young people in an urban environment.

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Unbroken

Posted: August 18, 2014 in Book Reviews

Unbroken by Laura Hildenbrand is the amazing story of the life of Louis Zamperini. imgresHe was a juvenile delinquent who became a high school and college track star with national records. He went to the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and was on his way to being the first man to run a sub-4 minute mile when WWII broke out. He flew on a bomber as the target man and did missions over the Japanese Empire surviving air battles that he should have died in. While on a search mission his plan crashed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean leaving him and two men stranded on rubber lifeboats. After surviving near starvation, shark attacks, and Japanese machine gun attacks the two remaining men were picked up by the Japanese and taken to Execution Island. After enduring humiliation and torture he was taken to POW camp. It’s hard to believe anyone could survive the cruel and dehumanizing torture by the Japanese. (Check the survival rates and life expectancy of POW’s in the Pacific theater verses any other front in any other war.) But Louis did survive and returned to America as war hero. However, the good times didn’t last long and he almost lost his new life to alcoholism. 

Throughout his life Louis met many famous people such as Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Frank Sinatra, and Ronald Reagan, but his life didn’t change until he met Jesus Christ. God saved Louis at a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles where Louis realized that life is more than just surviving and being a good person. Even the “best” person is a sinner in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Louis received God’s forgiveness and then was able to forgive those who tortured him for so long. He traveled as a missionary and preacher of the gospel and even returned to Japan to share Christ with his former captors. 

I liked the book by Laura Hildenbrand, but I also enjoyed Louis’ autobiography even more. It’s called Devil At My Heels and is a more personal view of his life. I really appreciated the final 20% of his autobiography because he spent a lot more time talking about his life after his conversion, which Hildenbrand did not cover nearly enough. If you have read Unbroken, and want to learn more about what he considered the most interesting and important part of his life, then buy or rent Louis Zamperini’s autobiography. 

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Lately I have been following the blog and podcast of Thom Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resource. As a person in church leadership I have found his research and analysis very helpful. His most recent book, I Am A Church Member, grew from a blog post that received a lot of attention. This was a great book because it was short and succinct. I could see using this for a new member’s class in a church or for all members who need to be reminded about what church membership is for.

Here are the five pledges of a church member along with a little explanation and my thoughts:

1. I Will Be a Functioning Church Member
     A functioning church member will recognize that he is a necessary part of a larger church family. No one part is more important than the whole, but all parts are important. A church member joins in order to give and not receive.
2. I Will Be a Unifying Church Member
          “You have a responsibility as a church member. You are to be a source of unity. You are never to be a divisive force. You are to love your fellow church members unconditionally. And while that doesn’t mean you agree with everyone all the time, it does mean you are willing to sacrifice your own preferences to keep unity in your church.”
Church members must intentional work at being a unifying member because disagreement, distrust, and division comes so easily and naturally.
3. I Will Not Let My Church Be about My Preferences and Desires
          “But the strange thing about church membership is that you actually give up your preferences when you join. Don’t get me wrong; there may be much about your church that you like a lot. But you are there to meet the needs of others. You are there to serve others. You are there to give. You are there to sacrifice.”
Ten dominant behavior patterns of members in self-serving churches:

          1. Worship wars.
          2. Prolonged minutia meetings.
          3. Facility focus.
          4. Program driven.
          5. Inwardly focused budget
          6. Inordinate demands for pastoral care
          7. Attitudes of entitlement
          8. Greater concern about change than the gospel
          9. Anger and hostility
          10. Evangelistic apathy
4. I Will Pray for My Church Leaders

Please do.

5. I Will Lead My Family to Be Healthy Church Members
This is often overlooked but so important. It is sad to see so many older church members whose children do not love the church as they once did.

I thought that a book written by a famous English preacher who lived over 100 years ago would be drudgery. Other books that I have tried to read by old, dead, smart people seem to be illogical or unnecessary repetitive. This book was not like that at all. It was surprisingly easy-to-read, refreshing, and practical. I was also surprised that some of the issues that Spurgeon addressed were appropriate for our day as well. This could have been written last year rather than last century. This book was challenging not because it was hard to read, but because it was convicting. I pray that God would make me a soul-winner.

Here are a few of my highlights from the book:

To introduce unconverted persons to the church, is to weaken and degrade it; and therefore an apparent gain may be a real loss. (1)

“Our main business, brethren, is to win souls.”

-Believe what you are preaching and emphatically believe that God will save souls!

There is a something that must be said if you are to be the means of saving that man in the corner; woe unto you if you are not ready to say it, woe unto you if you are afraid to say it, woe unto you if you are ashamed to say it, woe unto you if you do not dare to say it lest somebody up in the gallery should say that you were too earnest, too enthusiastic, too zealous! (p. 26)

“How earnest we ought to be when we remember that in our work we have to deal with souls that are immortal, with sin that is eternal in its effects, with pardon that is infinite, and with terrors and joys that are to last for ever and ever!” (p. 29)

“You must feel it yourself, and speak as a man who feels it; not as if you feel it, but because you feel it, otherwise you will not make it felt by others.” (p. 39)

-I advise you to fight unbelief with belief, falsehood with the truth, and never to cut and pare down the gospel to try to make it fit in with the follies and fancies of men.

*The Bible says you will have tares and wheat together. Instead of trying to figure out who is who, water the wheat. It will make the wheat stronger.

*If we do not pray to God for a blessing, if the foundation of the pulpit be not laid in private prayer, our open ministry will not be a success.

-Brethren, we must tell men that there is pressing need of a Saviour, and show them that we ourselves perceive their need and feel for them, or else we are not likely to turn them to the Saviour.

“Cry and sigh until you have snatched some brand from the burning, and have brought at least one sinner to Jesus Christ, that so you also may have saved a soul from death, and covered a multitude of sins.”

Spurgeon, Charles H. (2010-03-19). The Soul-Winner : or How to Lead Sinners to the Saviour. Kindle Edition.

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My summary and highlights of the book are below. First, I want to say that I loved this book. It isn’t too long and as I read it I realized it would be perfect for a teenager, especially one raised in the church. My note have the Kindle page numbers for reference because I read the majority of this book on my Kindle. However, as I began to read it I bought a hard copy of the book to give/loan to the teenagers in my youth group.
 
Christianity is unique among religions of the world because of the gospel: Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification. We believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. Because salvation is not of works, a Christian can have assurance. This is completely logical as Greer explains throughout the book. So many people struggle with assurance because they think their faith is an act of work by which we earn God’s approval. It is not. Faith is a gift of God. 
 
The command of the New Testament is not to pray a repeated prayer but to repent and believe. I am so thankful for this work by Greer to help explain what that means in our life today. 
 
 
 
1. Baptized Four Times 
The biblical summation of a saving response toward Christ is “repentance” and “belief” in the gospel. (243-244)
Salvation comes not because you prayed a prayer correctly, but because you have leaned the hopes of your soul on the finished work of Christ. (314-315)
 
2. Does God Even Want Us to Have Assurance? 
I can say with certainty that God wants you to have certainty about your salvation. He changes, encourages, and motivates us not by the uncertainty of fear, but by the security of love. That is one of the things that makes the gospel absolutely distinct from all other religious messages in the world. (337-339)
 
Only the gospel and the assurance it yields creates a passion for the right in our hearts, because only the gospel goes deep enough to actually change the warped nature of our hearts. (403)
 
3. Jesus in My Place 
Our hope of heaven is based upon Jesus’ finished work, plus nothing. (695)
 
4. What Is Belief?
Repentance is belief in action. (744)
 
there is no noun for faith in Hebrews, because faith does not exist apart from its action. Faith starts with mental assent, but if this mental assent does not lead to obedience, it is not yet “faith.” (755)
 
Salvation is a posture of repentance and faith toward the finished work of Christ in which you transfer the weight of your hopes of heaven off of your own righteousness and onto the finished work of Jesus Christ. (794)
 
Don’t try to find assurance from a prayer you prayed in the past; find assurance by resting in the present on what Jesus did in the past. (862)
 
There is only one posture ever appropriate to Christ: surrendered to His Lordship, and believing that He did what He said He did. From the very beginning of their lives, I want my kids to assume that posture! (883)
 
5. What Is Repentance? 
Repentance is evidenced by outward action, but it does not equal that. (1013)
 
Repentance is not securing a pardon before God so that we can go on sinning with impunity; it is a choice to submit to God and to seek ceasing from sin entirely. (1065)
 
Be encouraged: a desire to desire God is the first echo of a heart awakened to God. (1236)
 
6. If “Once Saved, Always Saved,” Why Does the Bible Seem to Warn Us So Often about Losing Our Salvation? 
 
Saving faith always endures to the end. (1364)
Faith that fades, no matter how luscious its firstfruits, is not saving faith. (1409)
 
“once saved, forever following.” (1491)
“Faith that fizzles before the finish was flawed from the first.” (1509)
 
7. The Evidence You Have Believed
Often the strongest evidence of my growth in grace is my growth in the knowledge of my need for grace. (1749)
 
8. When You Continue to Doubt
On your very best of days, you must rest all your hopes on God’s grace. On your worst of days, His finished work should be your refuge. (1781)

Greear, J.D. (2013-01-31). Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved. Kindle Edition. 

 

What is Reformed Theology?

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Book Reviews
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My review of R.C. Sproul’s book: What is Reformed Theology: Understanding the basics: 
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Honestly, I can’t remember where I got this book. I didn’t even really plan on reading the whole thing when I got it. I looked at the table of contents and thought that the chapter on “Covenant theology” would be helpful as I have been learning how the role of covenants have played into God’s relationship with humankind. The first three pages caught my attention with a story that the author told about visiting a Christian college in the Midwest. He made a distinction between the study of “religion” and the study of “theology” and why it was important. I kept reading and am glad I did. This book is simple to understand, yet deep in truth. I stopped highlighting because there were two many succinct, profound statements here. 
 
Many people would begin an explanation of Reformed Theology with TULIP. However, Sproul used the first half of the book to build a foundation of Reformed doctrine. It begins with, and is centered on, God. Next, we build on that with God’s Word and the third stone is that it is committed to faith alone. The next two concepts begin to differentiate Reformed doctrine from others: It is built on the offices of prophet, priest, and king, and the covenants of the Bible. These make complete sense to me which is why the TULIP becomes a logical conclusion. However, he adjusts the acrostic, TULIP, to help explain it better. And his explanation was extremely helpful. 
 
All of the five points of Reformed theology rest on the “T” of TULIP: Total depravity. However, Sproul’s definitions make much more sense because we know that no one is as bad as they could be. Therefore, the distinction of man’s sinfulness (aka corruption) is not in degree, but in extent. The five points are then better understood as 1) Humanity’s radical corruption, 2) God’s sovereign choice, 3) Christ’s purposeful atonement, 4) The Spirit’s effective call, and 5) God’s preservation of the saints. 
 
The subtitle of this book is “Understanding the basics.” I completely agree and wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone interesting in the study of God. 

Date Your Wife

Posted: February 17, 2013 in Book Reviews
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I just finished Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard. It wasn’t a book on my “To Read” list, but it was on sale on Kindle so I bought it. It’s hard to go wrong with a book that is published by Crossway and endorsed by Tullian Tchivijian. 

Overall, it was a good book, nothing profound. In addition to the following quotes, the most helpful thing that I took away from it was to make a plan to show your love to your wife. Good marriages are work…good work, but still work. They don’t just happen. It takes planning, preparation, and follow through. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • If you want to change a marriage, change the man. (433)
  • Boys are born with a mission: to work and keep, to cultivate and guard. (676)
  • God gives men enormous responsibility. And the weightiest responsibility he gives to a man is a woman—a wife. In this union, a man’s ability to cultivate and guard is put to the greatest test. Will the man lay down his life in order that his wife may flourish? That is the question that measures a marriage. In order for the garden of marriage to be properly cultivated and guarded, a man must give more than he’s ever given. (684-387)
  • Jesus makes men new—Jesus turns husbands like you and me into the best thing that ever happened to our marriages. (720)
  • God doesn’t demand men live life on the basis of their own resources; he summons us to live in confident dependence on his resources. He has the power. Our responsibility is to respond to his ability. (741-743)
  • The heart of sin is building your identity on yourself instead of on God and his grace. (840)
  • The most rebellious, countercultural thing you can do in our culture is to be happily married until death do you part. (1114-1115)
  • The point of your marriage is to date your wife in such a way that showcases Jesus and his power to a world of husbands and wives, men and women, boys and girls, in desperate need of a God who can rescue, reconcile, restore, and redeem their broken lives. Marriage isn’t ultimate. God is ultimate. (1516-1518)