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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Review: Randy Pope - Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church

Discipleship is a word you don’t hear much today. That in itself is a sad fact. Even though people change, the gospel does not. If we needed discipleship 20 years ago, we still need it today.

Randy Pope has given us an easy-to-read instruction manual for what he calls “Life-on-life missional discipleship”. He shows that need for accountability is as important as doctrine and worship. Without someone to stand alongside us, we can easily fall into sin.

In the past we have witnessed leaders from large ministries fall into sin. I heard an interview with one minister. He said that part of the problem was he had no one to talk to concerning his temptations. Because of that he had no one there to question him and his motives.

Pope takes us through a few fictional small groups and shows us how an intimate setting with a close church family can make a difference. He not only shows us what discipleship it looks like, he tells us how to get there.

I enjoyed this book. The stories added to the teaching he is trying to convey. I would have given it 5 stars, but I think he lacked a little in exegesis of the scripture.

I recommend it and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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

Book Review: Sam Allberry - Is God Anti-gay?

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/files/2013/07/allberry.jpgThe subject of homosexuality is very controversial these days. Just bringing up the subject tends to drive people's blood pressure up. With the changes in law concerning same-sex marriages, this book seems very timely. It brings a balanced tone to the subject .
Here, Sam Allberry takes us through the bible and exegetes the main scriptures concerning homosexuality. He shows us that the Bible does considers it as a sin, but we have to recognize that it should be treated just like all other sins people fall into. We become devastated when we find out that someone we know has an attraction to the same sex, but have no problem when someone is a gossip or gluten. The Bible speaks of all kinds of sins: gluttony, hatred, lying, etc. We tend to think that those sins are not as bad as homosexuality.
Here, Allberry shows his own  personal  struggles with what he calls SSA.  SSA stands for same sex attraction. This is something that many people deal with and the church needs to be there to help them cope with their struggle.
I thought this book was very good. It is short and to the point. It puts a different light on the subject. He is compassionate but firm.  The bible says that there is no temptation but those that are common to man. That means that others go through the same problems as each of us.
As Christians we should have a balance with law and gospel and should discern when to use each. Some people need the law to show them they are in sin, but others know they are in sin and need the Gospel to cleanse them from the same.
If you have never delved into the subject of homosexuality and the Bible, this would be a good introduction. If you struggle with SSA or just want to explore a biblical prospective, pick up a copy.
I recommend this book and give it 4 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.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Audio Book Review: Zach Hunter - Chivalry

http://files.tyndale.com/thpdata/images--covers/500%20h/978-1-4143-7635-6.jpgWhen I first decided to review "Chivalry", I though it was a book about the changes we have seen in our country and the world. We no longer open doors for others or take our hats off inside.

Even though those things are true, it is not the subject of this book. The definition of chivalry is "the qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry"

Zach shows us that we should have these same attributes as believers.

We need others and they need us. There are no “Lone Rangers” in the church. We are a body, A body has many different parts working together to accomplish a task. Think of what it would have been like in the "Lord of the Rings" if Frodo had no Sam. His journey would have never been a success. In fact there would have been no story.

Instead of working together, we tend to work against each other. Zach shows us that gossip and sarcasm often destroy others when we should be building them up. Instead of attacking other, we should be helping them in their weakness.

I have heard it said that "The Church is the only army that kills their wounded”. That is harsh, but true. We have been forgiven of our sins but we want to make sure others pay for theirs.

Through a series of observations and stories, Hunter shows us how to stop gossiping and tearing others down. He then inspires us to show compassion and lift others up.

Even though you can tell the author is very young, he does a great job and keeps the subject interesting. He is also the reader of this audio book version. He does a great job. It is nice to have the author read. He knows what he meant when he wrote it, so he can emphasize things that need emphasizing.

I recommend it and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I enjoyed this book courtesy of the Christian Audio review program at http://christianaudio.com and received the audio book, free of charge, from ChristianAudio.com and The Good Book Company in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: James E. Taylor - Introducing Apologetics

http://img1.imagesbn.com/p/9780801048906_p0_v2_s260x420.JPG

Why is apologetics so hot today?

There is a need for intellectual discussions of the Christian faith. There is much more to Christianity than a “blind faith”. The “New Atheists” believe they have a corner on intelligence. They see Christians as ignorant buffoons with the intelligence of a primate. For them, interacting with Christians is like shooting fish in a barrel. This is should not be and is no longer the case today.

Here Taylor has given us a detailed tour though every aspect of apologetics. We can see by the list of chapters below that he has given the subject a comprehensive treatment.

Introduction: I Believe, but Help My Unbelief! 5
Part 1 Apologetics and Commitment
1 A Reason for the Hope Within: The Nature of Apologetics 17
2 Faith and Human Wisdom: Evidentialist Apologetics 29
3 Jerusalem and Athens: More Objections to Apologetics 39
4 A God-Shaped Vacuum: The Relevance of Apologetics 51
5 Ears to Hear and Eyes to See: Apologetics and the Heart 63
6 Critics, Seekers, and Doubters: Audiences for Apologetics 75
Part 2 Commitment to God 7 The Global Village: Worldview Options 87
8 The Lord Our God Is One: Monotheism 99
9 In the Beginning: Cosmological Explanations 113
10 What the Heavens Declare: Teleological Explanations 127
11 Why Do the Righteous Suffer? The Problem of Evil 141
12 A God Who Hides Himself: The Problem of Evidence 155
Part 3 Commitment to God in Christ
13 Who Do You Say I Am? The Person of Jesus 171
14 Lazarus, Come Forth: The Miracles of Jesus 185
15 He Is Risen Indeed! The Resurrection of Jesus 199
16 The Word Became Flesh: The Trinity and the Incarnation 213
17 The Sheep and the Goats: Salvation and Damnation 227
18 No Other Name: The Problem of Religious Pluralism I 241
19 East Meets West: The Problem of Religious Pluralism II 255
Part 4 Contemporary Challenges to Christian Commitment
20 The Spirit of Truth: Commitment, Canon, and Community 269
21 The Spirit of the Age: Critiques from the Social Sciences 283
22 The Origin of Species: Christianity and Natural Selection 299
23 The Dust of the Earth: Resurrection, Minds, and Bodies 317
24 The Death of God: Postmodern Challenges to Christianity 331
25 It’s All Relative: Cultural Differences and Moral Universalism 347
Conclusion: Cultivating Christian
Commitment 361
Other Books on Christian Apologetics 363
Index 364

When looking for a book, the reader seeks for that one that fills the gap in his or her knowledge and understanding. The book can not be so simple that nothing is learned, but it also should not be so complicated that it is impossible to learn from. They look for a book with balance. Taylor's book fits in this category.

This is a one of a kind book. I have read many books defending the faith, but this one has to be at the top. What makes it unique is the balance he takes between the different views on apologetics. He sees the good in each approach and tries to use that.

Many times we put so much focus on one truth that we have lost our balance. Because we have such an intense focus, we do a disservice to other truths. Here, Taylor tries to harvest the wheat and discard the chaff from the differing views.

In the end, we see a balance between reason and faith. Both have their place.

Pardon me for the following rabbit trail, but as a reformed believer, the only disagreement I have with Taylor is his stance on the unbeliever and free will. He believes that the sinner has the innate ability to take the first step toward salvation without any outside help. In truth, there has to be a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, before the sinner even desires the Kingdom. Jesus said in John 6:65 “This is why I told you that no one CAN come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Can means ability, not permission. No one has the ability to come to Jesus unless the Father grants that ability. Man has the “mental” capability to choose God, but that is not enough. Because of his sinful heart, he does not have the moral ability, or desire for that matter, to choose God.

Taylor’s contradiction is as follows: He believes apologetics can not bring a person to salvation because facts alone can not change a sinful heart; only the Holy Spirit can do that – I totally agree! BUT, He then proceeds to try and prove that the unbeliever, through his own freewill, can change his own sinful heart and accept Christ. If facts can not change an evil heart, how can an evil heart change itself?

Here are two quotes, both only one page apart:

"God’s work in Christ does not in itself guarantee this psychological transformation because sinful people must freely choose to accept God’s offer of salvation in Christ before they can be free of the sin that prevents them from seeing the truth."

and

"We have seen that one of the consequences of sin is the suppression of truth about God. So a slave to sin is incapable of seeing the truth about God. Anyone who is not free to stop sinning is also not free to see the truth about God. In the end, it is a mystery how God in his grace reverses this situation without overriding human freedom, but it seems clear that he makes use of the efforts of evangelists, apologists, and the Holy Spirit in the process."

In these quotes Taylor says that, God himself can not change the heart to see the truth without the person’s freewill choosing first. Then in the second quote he says that a sinner is a slave who is, in his words, "not free" and “incapable” of seeing the truth of God. How can a sinner not “be free” to see the truth, but can freely choose to accept that truth that he can not see. How can he freely choose a God without understanding the truth concerning that God he freely chose? He would be pulling himself up by his own bootstraps.

In reality, no amount of evidence will convince an unbeliever to accept Christ. They love their sin too much. God has to turn their “heart of stone” into a “heart of flesh”. That is where apologetics comes in.

God uses means to change the heart. When I was saved, I was not changed by new facts that I had never heard before. It was the same truth I had heard many times but this time “I” was different. My eyes were opened. I saw what was there all along. A veil was lifted. All at once things made sense. I was made alive. I was BORN again. I used to be dead in sin, but now was raised from the dead. Like he did with Lazarus, God said come forth.


Sorry for the long divergence. Aside from the freewill debate, I believe this was a great book and should be widely read.

Simple, easy to read, and to the point, Taylor has written it in a way that can be used in the classroom or Sunday school alike.

If you want a detailed but readable introduction to defending your faith, look no farther than here.

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

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

Book Review: Mike McKinley - Did the Devil Make me Do it?

http://d19w3hj6vw9gu6.cloudfront.net/media/product_images/qcadevil_large.z2u4vzhti47eg5nx.jpgIn this short but informative book, Mike McKinley takes a very balanced and Biblical approach to the doctrine of the Devil and demons.

When reading Christian books on the Devil, we usually find them at two extremes:

-Demons are behind every sin and Satan has almost as much power as God.

Or

-Satan and demons were just metaphors in the Bible and there is no literal Devil in the world today.


McKinley has written a book that takes the middle ground. There is a Devil and he has power but is not all powerful. Not every sin we commit comes from Satan. Sometimes we are lead away by our own lust.

We tend to think that Satan is the evil version of God. We see it in cartoons where the two angels are sitting on the guy’s shoulder. One is telling him to do the wrong thing and the other telling him to do right.

In reality, the Devil is God's Devil. I don't mean that God makes the Devil do bad things. I mean that God has authority over Satan. God can stop Satan at any time. God allows Satan to do what he does because He has a plan.

As you can see from the table of contents, McKinley delves into some very intriguing questions.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. Origins: Where did Satan come from?
2. Activity: What is Satan like and what does he do?
3. Control: What is demon possession?
4. End: How did Jesus defeat Satan?
5. Walk: How should we live in a world where Satan still prowls?

I truly enjoyed this book. Even though McKinley tackles some tough questions, he does it in easy to read and a simple to understand language.

I highly recommend this book, especially to young believers who have not read the subject.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Information:

    Publisher: The Good Book Company (2013)
    ISBN: 9781908762306
    Page Count: 80

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book Review: Iain M. Duguid - Living in the Light of Inextinguishable

Part commentary - part inspirational, this book takes us through the life of Joseph. As the subtitle says, this is the Gospel according to Joseph.

This is the first book in the “The Gospel According to The Old Testament” series that I have read. The series’ main goal is to show how the whole bible was given to us for one purpose - God wanted us to hear the good news of what He has done for man. The Old Testament points to Christ and what He did in the cross, resurrection, and ascension. What was shadow in the Old becomes the reality in the New.

Here, Duguid takes us through the life of Joseph and shows us it's relation to Christ and the Christian life. Most think of Joseph as almost perfect, but the author shows us that there were things he did wrong that caused many of his troubles, especially in his early life.

We can take comfort that we do not have to be perfect for God to work in our situation. We see the struggles Joseph went through and how God used those hard times to accomplish His purposes. We see God working through impossible situations.

A look at the Chapter headings gives an understanding of the theme of the book:

1. Hope for Dysfunctional Families (Genesis 37:1–11)
2. Shattered Dreams (Genesis 37:12–36)7
3. A Breakthrough for Victims and Sinners (Genesis 38)
4. God’s Wonderful Plan (Genesis 39)
5. When Hope Gets Put on Hold (Genesis 40)
6. Becoming Fruitful in the Land of Your Affliction (Genesis 41)
7. Reunion or Reconciliation? (Genesis 42)
8. Making Peace (Genesis 43)
9. Reconciled at Last (Genesis 44:1–45:15)
10. From Famine to Fortune (Genesis 45:16–46:27)
11. Better Than We Deserve (Genesis 46:28–47:31)
12. Famous Last Words (Genesis 47:28–48:22)
13. Mixed Blessings (Genesis 49:1–28)
14. Dead and Buried? (Genesis 49:29–50:26)

Throughout the book, Duguid gives us hope in our own lives that the situations we struggle with are being used by God for our good. What we see as a setback, God is using to progress our lives to the ultimate goal He has in mind.

I enjoyed this book. It is written in an easy-to-read style and contains some good information.

I recommend it and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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

Book Review: Alun Ebenezer - Revelation

http://i43.tower.com/images/mm123374387/revelation-alun-ebenezer-paperback-cover-art.jpgRevelation is the most controversial book in the Bible. There has been more disagreement on its contents than all the rest of the Bible put together.

Ebenezer, while staying away from many of the more speculative aspects of Revelations, shows us the symbolism and how it relates to the rest of the Bible.

Revelation was not written to show us who the Antichrist will be or give us a preview of what we will read in the newspapers. It was written to encourage a persecuted Church and to show that God is in control. When everything looks it's darkest, we know that the King of the universe is on the throne.

The author takes us through the whole book, chapter by chapter and unwraps the symbolism so that it can be understood by the average reader. We see Christ in both vengeance and glory. We see the Church persecuted and glorified. We see Satan cast down and God’s truth triumphant.

With so many end time books today focusing on Black Helicopters and Middle Eastern wars, this one is a refreshing change. If Revelation was just about a war 2000 years after it was written, John could not have been speaking to the Church of his day. It was written for the whole church, past and future. Writing from an A-Millennial prospective, Ebenezer shows us that John wrote to the Church in all generations.



I personally lean toward the Post-Mill position, but it refreshing to read one from an A-Mill perspective.

This book was a good read. If you are interested in an easy-to-read commentary on a difficult book, this book is for you.

I highly recommend it and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book, free of charge, from EP Books and Cross Focused Reviews, in exchange for an honest review.