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Category Archives: Book Reviews

I usually review books that are of a Theological or from a Christian Worldview – I am sometimes asked to review books sent to me by publishers of all stripes – I usually read, review, and recommend books that help you grow in your love for and walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Book Review on Phil A. Newton’s “Elders in the Life of the Church”

Transitioning to A Biblical Model of Leadership

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Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

It’s been my experience that most churches are way off base in their leadership structures. In light of what the New Testament says about leadership in the churches this is difficult to comprehend. Nevertheless Phil Newton has done a great service to the 21st Century church by providing an introductory guide to developing a biblical infrastructure for churches that take being biblically based and effective seriously.

Newton divides his helpful book into three sections:

Part One is composed of answering the question: Why Churches Should have Elders. In Part Two Newton exposits  three key texts on how Elders functioned in the New Testament: Acts 20:17-31; Hebrews 13:17-19; and 1 Peter 5:1-15. In giving a thorough exposition of each passage he demonstrates how Elders are models for their congregations; how Elders and the congregation work together in harmony; and how their primary calling is to be spiritual leaders for the good of the congregation and God’s greater glory.

In my opinion the most helpful section of the book is in part three. In this section Newton shows how a leadership team can transition into a fully functioning Elder Leadership in the Church with Deacons as well. All four examples are of large Baptist churches going from a Diaconate Board to two separate functioning boards of Elders and another of Deacons.

Giving a step-by-step process Newton shares from personal experience [South Woods Baptist Church] and from the experience of other well-known ministries (Mark Dever’s [Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C.], Jeff Noblit [First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama], and John Piper’s [Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN.] transitions from Deacon Board structures to adding Elders into the mix). The process is slow, methodical, and takes into consideration traditions, a thorough study of biblical passages on leadership, and how the principles are studied and bandied about in teams. The process for the four cases studied is very helpful to keep in mind no matter what background your church has, and where it’s at in the transitional process.

I think this is an excellent book for leadership teams to study and for pastors, staffs, deacons, and elders to use in seeking to become as biblically effective as possible in seeking to develop a healthy infrastructure for the good of the Church and the glory of God. What I especially like about Newton’s book in particular is that he doesn’t impose any particular church government upon a church, but allows the Bible to speak for itself. He encourages a thorough study of the biblical evidence in arriving at one’s model of church government. I highly recommend this book as an extremely helpful guide in leading one toward a more biblical model of church government.

 

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Book Review on Mariano Rivera’s “The Closer”

The Closer: Reviewed by Tim Challies

Mariano Rivera has never been one of my favorite people. After all, for many years he was a fixture for the New York Yankees, divisional rivals of my own Toronto Blue Jays. When a game came to the final inning and the Jays were down by a run or two, Rivera would jog onto the field and shut it down. Once he came onto the field, the outcome was rarely in doubt.

But he has retired now, and I like him a lot better. No sooner did he retire than he got to work penning his memoir, The Closer. It’s quite a story. Born in abject poverty in Panama, Rivera grew up in, on and around fishing boats, working with his father to scrape together a living. When the tides were out, he and his friends would play baseball on the beach, improvising the equipment they needed: wadded up fishing nets for balls, rocks for bases, tree branches for bats, and milk cartons for gloves. It was an unlikely start to one of the great baseball careers.

When he was in his late teens, Rivera began playing shortstop for a nearby amateur baseball team. One day the pitcher played so badly that Rivera was asked to take over for a couple of innings. The results were so impressive that friends contacted a scout for the New York Yankees. Rivera gained a try-out, then a minor league contract. And the rest, as they say, is history. He went on to become the most dominant closer in the history of the game, earning 652 saves in the biggest baseball market in the world. He was an All-Star 13 times, won 5 World Series, and was once the World Series MVP. He had a storybook career and through it became world famous and fantastically wealthy, with his earnings topping $150 million. He has come a long way from that fishing boat in Panama.

But there is more to his story than baseball. In his early twenties Rivera was exposed to the gospel and became a Christian—an unashamedly outspoken Christian. While the book describes his life, it also describes his faith and, to borrow a sport’s metaphor, he leaves it all on the field. He tells how important his faith has been, how it has sustained him, and how the Bible has given him guidance throughout his life.

The Bible can’t tell you the story of my walk with the Lord, but it can tell you everything about how I try to live, and why the love of the Lord is the foundation of my whole life. For me, the Bible is not just the word of God, but a life road map that is packed with wisdom that you cannot beat even if you spent the next hundred years reading spiritual books and self-help books. It is the best kind of wisdom: Simple wisdom. This sort of wisdom, from the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, verse twelve: Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

As is the case with most sports memoirs, this one is dominated by descriptions of games and plays. Those who love sports, and who love the Yankees in particular, will find it riveting. Those who are a little less enthusiastic about sports may find themselves skimming over certain sections. And if you’re like me, you may find yourself silently finding yourself hoping he’ll lose the games, just because he’s pitching for New York. In any case, Rivera’s story is a good one and well worth reading.

Source: http://www.challies.com (June 18, 2014)

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review on J.P. Morelands “The Soul”

The Soul

A Primer on Substance Dualism - Book Review by David P. Craig

I had the privilege of taking four classes from Dr. J.P. Moreland while a student at Talbot in the late 80′s and early 90′s. Honestly, I had an easier time understanding Dr. Moreland when he lectured than reading his books. J.P. is a deep thinker, brilliant philosopher, and  most importantly – an ardent follower of Jesus. While in school I read his book Christianity and the Nature of Science three times before I really got the gist of what he was saying. The Soul is a wonderful primer on the case for the existence of the soul in a sea of naturalistic thinking.

I am constantly dealing with proponents of physicalism or scientific naturalism as I seek to share the gospel with those who do not believe in God or the soul. I found that Moreland’s book was still challenging to read, but well worth the effort. The book gave me a good overview of the worldview of the proponents of scientific naturalism, and the case to be made for the soul known as substance dualism. Moreland constructs a strong case of both biblical and non-biblical arguments for the existence of the soul.

I highly recommend this book especially for college students and Christians who regularly engage in evangelism and apologetics. It is great place to start before getting into some of the more formidable books on the subject by Moreland such as his Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; Debating Christian Theism; Consciousness and the Existence of God; Christianity and the Nature of Science; and Body and Soul. Moreland knows his stuff. He has put the cookies on the bottom shelf in this book to help Christians understand the importance of the soul’s existence and how to present the case for the soul with skeptics.

 

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Book Review on J.I. Packer’s: Finishing Our Course With Joy

Finishing Our Course With Joy Packer

How To Finish The Race of Life Well

Who better to address how to approach the finish line of life successfully than 88-year-old and world-renowned theologian – J.I. Packer. Some people say when E.F. Hutton talks people listen, not me. However, when J.I. Packer talks I listen and if you are wise, so should you.

In this short e-book J.I Packer tactfully and theologically addresses the excuses that the ages 65 and beyond crowd make for “coasting” or “relaxing” in the final years of life. It’s a well-known fact that retirement doesn’t exist in the Bible, so what Packer does is show how we can learn from the Apostle Paul and how he finished his life by: seeking opportunities to invest in those who would outlive him; making the most of his maturity and wisdom (working smarter, not harder); with humility (as opposed to living pridefully); and with great intensity and zeal for the things that will last beyond the grave in eternity.

With his characteristic theological precision and humble guidance Packer will motivate you to live for those things that bring glory to God by investing in that which will outlast your own life by living for others. Joy comes to those who seek Jesus first, then in increasing the joy of others by pointing them to Jesus, and lastly by the joy that results for you in delighting in God and others. This book will definitely increase your joy and help you to finish your course well because of Him, and for Him.

 

 

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Book Review on R.C. Sproul’s: Everyone’s A Theologian

A PRIMER ON THE MAJOR DOCTRINES OF THE BIBLE

Everyone's a Theologian Sproul

Book Review by David P. Craig 

This book is almost a word for word account of R.C. Sproul’s DVD teaching series entitled “Foundations: An Overview of Systematic Theology.” Having watched this video series in the past I immediately recognized the content. I’m glad this series has now been made available in book form.

R.C. is a master teacher and in this book he covers the subject of Theology in its broadest sense. Theology not only refers to the study of God, but to everything that God has revealed to us in the Bible. In sixty short, but jam-packed chapters R.C. unveils with depth and clarity a summary of what the Bible has to say about its most important themes: Theology Proper – The study of God; Anthropology and Creation – The study of man; Christology – The study of Jesus; Pneumatology – The study of the Holy Spirit; Soteriology- The study of salvation; Ecclesiology – The study of the Church; and lastly (no pun intended) – Eschatology – The study of last things.

This book is an excellent introduction to all of these subjects and the sub topics they address. As R.C. Sproul says, “Everyone, is a theologian, but either a good or bad one.” You will come away from reading this book having learned a ton of important truths that will help you become a better theologian. With profound depth, clarity, historical, and practical wisdom Sproul will delight and intrigue you in helping you grow in your journey and intimacy with God – using your head, heart, and hands for His glory and your good.

 

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Book Review: Tim Keller’s “The Reason For God”

The Reason For God Keller

Mere Christianity for the 21st Century - Book Review by David P. Craig

In 1943 in Great Britain, when hope and the moral fabric of society were being threatened by the relentless inhumanity of global war, an Oxford don – C.S. Lewis was invited to give a series of radio lectures addressing the central issues of Christianity. Over half a century after the original lectures, the topic retains it urgency. Expanded into book form, Mere Christianity set out to provide a rational basis for Christianity in an era of modernity.

Fast forward to the 21st century. We now live in a post-modern era in the western world. When Lewis wrote in 1943 lines of black and white, right and wrong were very clear, not so anymore. How can we believe in a personal God in an age of skepticism unlike the times of fifty years ago? Are there any cogent reasons to believe in God in an age of relativistic thought? Enter Tim Keller.

Tim Keller’s Reason for God has provided for modern Christians and skeptics what C.S. Lewis provided in his time – a reasoned defense over the main objections to Christianity: (1) There can’t be just one true religion; (2) How could a good God allow suffering? (3) Christianity is a straightjacket; (4) The Church is Responsible for So Much Injustice; (5) How can a loving God send people to Hell? (6) Science has disproved Christianity; (7) You can’t take the Bible literally…and then in provided seven offensive cases for the coherency of rational Christianity: (1) The clues of God; (2) The knowledge of God; (3) The problem of sin; (4) Religion and the Gospel; (5) The true story of the cross; (6) The reality of the resurrection; (7) The dance of God.

In reading the book one finds a step by step macro level picture of why a reasonable belief in God is rational and compelling in a postmodern world. All other world-views leave one full of loopholes and contradictions. Only Christianity  gives one the comprehensive lenses by which we can see ourselves, the world, and a personal God more clearly and logically. Life, relationships, and our place in the universe has meaning, purpose, and hope if there is indeed the existence of a Holy God who came and died for us to know Him and to make Him known.

I highly recommend this book for both skeptics of Christianity and believers in Christianity. It will answer the most important questions we can ever ask about faith, life, the after life, and the most important issues of our day. Tim Keller answers the profoundest questions we have with humility, sensitivity, biblically, and practically. It is one of the “must reading” books for our times. I especially would like to see Christians giving this book to their unbelieving friends and reading the book with them. It is a great book for discussion and building bridges to the gospel – and thus opening the door for a relationship with God through His Son – Jesus Christ.

 

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Book Review on Spiritual Warfare by Brian Borgman and Rob Ventura

A PRIMER ON SPIRITUAL WARFARE

spiritual warfare borgman

Book Review By David P. Craig

As a pastor for almost 30 years I’ve experienced corporate, individual, internal, and external spiritual warfare of various kinds. Spiritual warfare is a lot like a military battle nations face with its weapons and surprises that are unpredictable, and the attacks of the enemy often come when you least expect the enemy to show up. Over the years I’ve read books that see a demon behind every bad thing that happens in life (the extreme of demonic awareness) to those who say that Satan and his demons are totally bound today (no presence of the demonic). Borgman and Ventura have written a book that really does what they say they are going to do in the subtitle: strike a biblical and balanced perspective.

The authors have written a solid exposition based on the most extensive account on spiritual warfare in the Scriptures: Ephesians 6:10-20. The Puritan William Gurnall wrote the classic text on this passage a few hundred years ago, but it’s massiveness and ancient language makes it a popular but widely unread book on the subject. On the other hand, this book is short (128) pages, comprehensive, clear, illustrative, practical, insightful, theological, and focuses on the Majesty and Supremacy of Christ over the demonic realm.

I now have a new go to book to give to people who have questions about Satan and demons and how they operate today in the 21st century. Questions like How can I prepare myself for the spiritual battle? How can I fend off the attacks of the demonic? Can a Christian be possessed or demonized? And many others. I like the fact that the authors stick close to the text of Scripture and offer answers that are biblically sound and cogently articulated. If you’re only going to read one book on spiritual warfare – this is the one I would recommend you get. I think one of the best features of this book are the questions for the discussion at the end of each chapter so that it can be used for a sermon/small group series on spiritual warfare.

*I was provided a free copy of this book for review by the publishers and was not required to write a positive review.

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW: John MacArthur’s “The Truth About the Lordship of Christ”

Jesus is Lord of All, Or He’s Not Lord At All

The Lordship of Christ MacArthur

Book Review By David P. Craig

One of the most troubling aspects of Christianity at the end of the twentieth century on into the twenty-first century has been the bifurcation of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. There has been a tendency among modern Christians to view God as some sort of “Cosmic Genie” who grants us all our wishes – if we have enough faith. However, the Bible presents a different picture of God. He is a God who cannot be manipulated or controlled by Satan – let alone puny little human beings. God’s soverein nature and character needs to be heeded if we are to take the Scriptures and the Christian life seriously.

In this short book (five chapters) John MacArthur makes a clear case for God’s sovereignty and clearly articulates what that means for our salvation and sanctification. In this book you will get a clear picture of the holiness of God and how His greatness. There is no juxtaposition between His holiness and justice. Because God demands and requires righteousness from His subjects he shows the necessity of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection on our behalf as the sole reason for our salvation.

Personal salvation demands repentance and faith in a sovereign and Holy God who requires nothing less than our submission to His Lordship in all of life. MacArthur clearly articulates who God is, who we are, and how salvation and sanctification manifest themselves biblically in our lives. I recommend this book especially for new Christians who haven’t read a lot of theology or have the time to commit to lengthier treatments on God’s sovereignty, His salvation, or how we can live the Christian life (sanctification).

*This book was given to me free of charge by the Booksneeze Program and I was not required to write a positive review.

 

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Book Review: David Jeremiah Study Bible

BOOK REVIEW: AN OUTSTANDING RESOURCE

David Jeremiah SB

By David P. Craig

One of the great things about living in the 21st century is the proliferation of great study Bibles that are now available. David Jeremiah’s Study Bible is the result of 40 years of study and 4 years laboring specifically on this Bible. The results are terrific. It’s a Bible that is chalked full of theological insights, practical applications, and a plethora of helpful information to help you grow in your understanding of, and application of the Scriptures.

Some of the unique features of this Bible are:

Easy-to-read type; Book Introductions; 8,000 study notes; 100′s of sidebars on 100′s of topics; Over 50 articles on Doctrinal issues; Helpful illustrations; Answers to tough questions; Wise insights; Words of Jesus in red-letter print; Colorful charts, tables, and maps; A massive topical index and concordance; and a Harmony of the Gospels; available in King James and New King James Versions. One of the best features can be found online or on your phone. There are places throughout the Bible to scan your phone or go on the web for even more articles and helpful tools by Dr. Jeremiah for Bible study.

You can get a great introduction to this Bible by watching a video from Dr. Jeremiah at http://www.JeremiahStudyBible.com. I purchased this Bible for my parents and my wife, and so far we are all really enjoying Jeremiah’s insights and notes.  I personally like the balance of theological explanation and practical application in the study notes. This study Bible will only help you better apply Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). I highly recommend this Study Bible for your personal growth in the Lord.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: Jerry Sittser’s “A GRACE DISGUISED”

RECOGNIZING GOD’S GRACE IN YOUR LOSS

A Grace Disguised Jerry Sittser

Book Review by David P. Craig

One of the most difficult things to grapple with in life is to lose someone you love deeply. In this book Jerry Sittser shares the gut wrenching story of how he lost his wife, mother, and daughter in a car accident.  What Jerry does well in this book is he walks us through his journey of loss and how God’s grace intermixed in the various contours of his pain. Jerry’s story is our story. We all experience loss – jobs, loved ones, status, youth, health, pets, dreams, and many more. The author not only grapples with his own loss, but also the realities of loss that we all have to wrestle with in life.

What I like about this book is that it doesn’t offer simple steps to dealing with loss. The author helps you identify and grapple with the difficult realities we face in our losses. In the preface to the book Eugene Petterson describes this book as a “companion” for your journey of suffering and loss. That’s the way I felt as I read this book. As a fellow journeymen in the path of suffering I felt like I had a wise companion to walk with me and share with me in my loss.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is struggling with loss: loss of a loved one, job, or anything that once was precious to us, and is now no more. Jerry helps you to gain God’s perspective in a compassionate and gracious manner. This not a “self-help book,” or an “easy answers book.” The author writes as a fellow struggler of the harsh realities of the tremendous loss he has faced. However, he also recognizes that all human beings have and will suffer loss and that we all desperately need the grace of God to sustain us. He shares helpful stories, insights, and pearls of wisdom to encourage you with your own losses and how to move forward in grace and truth.

As a result of reading this book you will be encouraged to go deep in the multi-faceted realities of your loss and pain, as well as gain a new perspective of how God’s grace is available to help you move forward in your loss. I am grateful for Sittser’s vulnerability, transparency, honesty, and amazing insights into the grace of God. He comes across as a friend, a counselor, and an empathizer. It’s a serious book, because it’s dealing with serious pain. Sittser walks the talk and in the end is a very helpful and gracious guide and companion for your own journey of finding your own disguised grace in your loss.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2014 in Book Reviews, David P. Craig, Suffering

 

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