Sunday, March 24, 2013

Book Review: Larry Woiwode - Words for Readers and Writers:Spirit-Pooled Dialogues

The only way to describe this book is - A Romance of Words.

The author, who is an established writer, has collected a number of his articles and interviews on the subject of "words". He focuses on both reading and writing.

Being both an author and a poet, Woiwode's writing gives this book a very poetic tone. The words flow in a kind of dance. It seems it is written more as a craft than just for information.

I am an avid reader. Most of my reading is Theological in nature, but I do dabble in non-fiction and novels when the notion hits. I have also read some of the classics (Hemingway, Steinbeck, and a few others). They were mostly understandable.

I feel that Woiwode's writing is so reliant on literary knowledge that I am missing an inside joke. This is no reflection on his writing. It is tremendous.  It has more to do with my own deficiencies. To be honest, some of it was a little over my head - and I enjoy reading the 17th century Puritans.

Each of us should try to read a little over our heads. If we always read those writings that are easy for us, we tend to be lazy thinkers. I feel that this book deserves a second reading after I have referenced some of the literature that he writes about.

As I was reading, I felt as if I was reading a Cormac McCarthy book. I realize McCarthy only writes novels, but Woiwode who is also a novelist, writes non-fiction the same way.

I enjoyed this book and gave it a 4 out of 5. The reason for the decrease of one star could be more of the fault of the reader than of the author. 

I received this book, free of charge, from Crossway and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Claire Smith - God's Good Design

Did God design men and women with different positions in the Church?

Should women be in positions of authority over men?

What does the scripture mean when it says women should be quite in the church?

These and many more questions are answered in Claire Smith's book, "God's Good Design".

Even though this is a controversial subject, Smith tackles each verse with confidence and boldness. The book seems geared slightly toward women but it is also a very interesting read for men. Packed with exegesis of scripture, she has written a very fine commentary on those scriptures that speak of the role of men and women in the church.

In my 30 years as a Christian, I have been to a number of different churches. In the early days as a very young Christian, I was invited to attended a church with a woman pastor. I have witnessed first hand what takes place when a woman is in that position. Many of the women who attended this church said they were there because they would not have a man as a pastor. Some had been divorced and actually hated men because of it. It didn’t take long to recognize something was amiss.

Please do not get me wrong, women have the intelligence and ability to work in those positions. In many cases, they have even greater abilities than men. But is it God’s design?

Smith's book takes each scripture concerning women in the church and discusses the different views. She then shares her view of each. Most chapters consist of section of scripture and an explanation of the same. Others are more general. Her arguments are strong and well written.

There will be some strong opposition to her position, but that comes with the territory. Today's world seems to be on the opposite side of everything God commands. If God said “Thou shalt not eat grass”, there would be lobbyist marching on Washington to advocate federal funds for the eating of grass.

My wife and I have experienced opposition in our own life. Both of us desired that she be able to stay at home, raise our son, and take care of the house as I became the sole bread winner. I understand that the world would disagree, but you would think Christians would applaud that decision. We have had more derision than praise for that decision. As Christians we need to stand up for a biblical worldview, no matter what the world believes.

Smith writes that there is no inherent intellectual weakness in women. It is not the lack of ability. It has to do with God's plan and design. One of her arguments is the relationship in the Trinity. There are different positions in the Trinity, but that does not make the Father greater than the Son. They just have different roles. The same is true with men and women. Neither is better than the other, they just have different roles.

Smith also has a section on domestic violence. The man, having authority, should never use it to abuse physically or mentally. In her words - "There is absolutely no biblical justification or excuse for domestic violence or abuse".

The section on the Proverbs 31 wife is also excellent.

Proverbs 31:10-11

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.

I am blessed to have such a wife. After 23 years of marriage, she is still more precious than jewels.

I truly enjoyed this book and the interpretation of scripture is spot on.

I highly recommend it and would give it 6 out of 5 stars, if I could.

I received this book free of charge from Matthias Media and Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Book Review: Philip G. Ryken and Noah J. Toly - What is mercy ministry? is the forth book I have read in the Basics of Faith Series. Each booklet takes a doctrine and explains it in easy to understand language. This one is no exception.

What is mercy ministry? shows us what ministry to those who are in need looks like. So many times we go to church week after week and never see the needs around us.

So many are hungry and in need of clothing. We are not only called to take the gospel to these, but we are also to feed and cloth them. We are to imitate the love of God. If God saved us and had mercy on us, are we not to show our gratitude and help those in need?

We are all created in God's image. We should all be treated with dignity. The authors show how each biblical doctrine calls us to show mercy. Everything God has done for us has been because of His mercy.

They end the book with a look at the ministries of John Calvin and Thomas Chalmers. They both had ministries to the poor.

I recommend this book. It will both convict and encourage.

I give it a 5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book free of charge from P & R Publishing and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Richard d. Phillips - What Happens after Death booklet in the Basics of Faith Series, "What happens after Death", is a good addition the the rest of the series.

Phillips starts off showing the difference in the death of a Christian and the death of an unbeliever. There is a vast difference. As Christians we still grieve, but our grief is different than the unbeliever. We have a hope, where the unbeliever has none.

At death, the believer goes to the presence of the Lord, but the unbeliever goes to eternal torment.

If death is part of the curse, why is it considered beautiful when a believer dies? Death was brought on by sin. It is still an enemy, but Christ has removed it's sting.

Phillips does a good job in a small amount of space, showing us what death is like and how we should react to it. He relates his own experience of the death of his father, to what other Christians go through. 

I recommend this booklet, especially to those believers who have lost a loved one.

I give it a 5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book, free of charge, from P & R Publishing and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Sam Storms - Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25Challenging Questions

I have always enjoyed reading Sam Storms. I have read his books on the doctrine of election and also a study of Jonathan Edwards and the Signs of the Spirit.

This book contains a list of questions that are on controversial subjects to say the least. From questions about the "destination of those who haven't heard" to "does God heal today". He has included some of the most interesting questions a Christian would want to know.

Like myself, Storms considers himself a Charismatic Calvinist. That let's you know that his view on tongues is not going to be a boring read. Many times I am a little reluctant to tell someone I am Charismatic because they think of someone who does not believe in using their mind. But I believe God wants us to worship Him in "Spirit" and in "Truth". He wants us to love him with our heart and mind.

Sam Storms is in the same catagory as C.J. Mahaney and John Piper. He is a great thinker, but does not shrink away from open worship toward God.

Storms spends a good amount of time on each question. He does not gloss over any subject. He gives different views of each question then gives a logical reason for his own view.

There are some great questions here book. He would do well to write a whole book on many of them.

Tough Topics was a very satisfying read and I highly recommend it.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book, free of charge, from Crossway and Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Timothy Keller - The Grieving Sisters

Keller has always been a good read and this book is no exception. It is really a booklet from the "The Encounters with Jesus" eSeries.

It is short but to the point.

As the title suggest, this is a book about the death of Lazarus. The two sisters are Mary and Martha. Jesus doesn't get there in time and Lazarus dies. The sisters are bereaved, as is Jesus. This is the section of the Bible that records Jesus wept.

Keller shows how Jesus treated the situation. Each sister acts in a different way, causing Jesus' response to be different when speaking with each woman.

It reminds me of the doctrine of Law and Gospel. Some people need the law. They are puffed up and think the world revolves around them. They need the Law to show them that they are not as great as they think they are. Others need the Gospel. They are already devastated and the Law would break distort them.

It is a great little booklet. I am interested in reading the others.

As an added bonus there is a preview of his new book,  "Every Good Endeavor", which is a biblical case for work.

I give it a 5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book, free of charge, from Penguin and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Book Review: Jim McNelly III - The Romance of Grace

When I started this book I did know what to expect. It was a little bit of a surprise and a pleasant one at that.

There was much more depth than is many modern books. It is not a list of ten things you can do to have a better marriage or how to manage you money.

It was a good read. The discussion of two types of "good" was worth the whole book.

Here is one quote from that section.

"When someone goes to the dentist complaining of a toothache, the first thing the dentist does is pull out an evil-looking, sharp metal probe and start to poke around. “Does this hurt? How about this?” Is the dentist some kind of sadistic monster? I've always thought so. However, we all know that the dentist pokes around the mouth not for the purpose of inflicting pain but rather to find the problem tooth in order to heal it. The programmer tests his code, seeking to break it, so that he can fix the bugs. Jesus preaches a stringent moral code to fish out this inward division—to diagnose us as sick—so that He can bring us to a place of healing and transformation."

Wow, what great analogies! It sounds almost like a modern day Bunyan. It reminds me of Pilgrims Progress when Bunyan relates the Law to sweeping a dirt floor. It doesn't clean it just makes the dirt visible.

He uses this illustrations to show that it is not God's desire for us to be divided in our desires of doing right. God wants our desire and our morals to coincide. We have to be transformed to the point that both "goods" become one.

He spends a great amount of time speaking of the law and it's effects. The law not only tells us what we should do, it actually stirs up the sinful nature. Have you ever came across a sign that says, "Keep off the Grass!" ? What is the first thing we want to do? Walk on the grass! That is one use of the law. Paul says the law stirs up sin. We are back to the illustration of the broom in Bunyan's Progress.

There is nothing wrong with the Law. It is righteous. Our own sinfulness is to blame. The Law can not give us the power to live the commands of the Law. Grace is sufficient. Grace not only forgives sin, it also gives us the will to do righteousness.

That is the main theme of this book. Grace gives us the motive and desire to do the things of the Law, not through coercion or begrudgingly, but by the Grace of God. It is not a chore but a romantic gesture - The romance of Grace.

I enjoyed this book, There were a few spots where I disagreed. He is not Reformed. But I try to use the watermelon method when reading - eat the good part and spit out the seeds. 

recommend this book with some light discernment but give it 5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book free of charge from Cross Focused Reviews and Libertary Company in exchange for an honest Review


Book Review: George W. Robertson - Am I Called

How do I know if I am called to preach?
What is the ministry?
What does a minister do?

These are some of the questions answered in this small booklet.

Many, when they are saved, feel they need to do something special for the Lord. They are so excited that God has forgiven them, they feel something should be given back to Him. Many feel that they should preach. But are they really called?

What is their motivation to preach? Do they desire it so others can see them? So they can have more authority?

Pastor Robertson has written this fine book to teach those who feel God has called them to the ministry. 

A minister is to serve, not be served. They are to nurture the flock. He leads by example. The flock sees him bruised but not broken.

All Christians go through trials, the minister is to live a life that shows his congregation how to live the Gospel through the good times and bad.

His most important duty is preaching the word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the work of God. He is to feed his flock.

He is also to pastor his flock. He is to know them so that he knows how to pray for them. Just as Christ prayed for His church, the pastor is to pray for those he is overseeing.

This was a short but good book. I recommend it and give it 4 out of 5 stars.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: Mike McKinley - Passion: How Christ's Final Day Changes Your Every Day

The Cross is central to the Gospel. Without it, we would still be in our sins and have no hope for salvation.

McKinley's book on the Passion of Christ, not only takes us through the events leading to and culminating in the crucifixion but it also tells us what the cross accomplished.

If God is truly God, He must punish sin. If we have all sinned then God must punish everyone of us. What a dilemma we are in. Either God has to cease being just to forgive us, or He keeps His justice and sends us to Hell for eternity.

God provides the answer Himself. He will send his own Son to be born a man. He will live the sinless life we could not. Then He will take on the punishment we deserved. How wonderful is that. The Son of God who deserves all glory actually took punishment in my stead.

In this book, McKinley shows that we have much in common with the people who were around Jesus during the trial and Crucifixion. We would probably be one of those yelling, "Crucify Him". But His death and resurrection brings us forgiveness and righteousness.

I enjoyed this book. It is written in an easy to read style, but contains some great theological truths . God not only wants us to understand the truths of the Gospel, He wants us to live in the light of those truths.

The cross should melt our hearts and drive our lives. We should wake up each morning realizing that the only reason we are here is to glorify God.The cross made that possible.

I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

*I received this book free of charge from The Good Book Company and Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.