Tag Archives: Book Review
HOPE AND DIRECTION IN OUR PRESENT CRISIS
Book Review by David P. Craig
Anyone who has lived their lives in the United States as a Christian for the past 20-50 years has witnessed a radical change in five major areas: (1) Our economy; (2) Our morality; (3) Our education; (4) Our Legal Rulings; and (5) The gaining privileged position of Islam and the decline and vilification of Christianity.
Lutzer gives ample illustrations to demonstrate the decline of the Judeo-Christian worldview and values that many of us grew up with, but doesn’t stop there. Going back to the Bible and history he gives us examples of how these types of changes and hardships for Christians have always been the norm. Hardship and suffering are certainties in the life of a Christian, but Lutzer reminds the reader “the consistent lesson of 2,000 years of church history is that the church does not need freedom to be faithful…If there is any truly good news in America, it will not be announced in Washington but will be heard through the lips and lives of believers who share the good news of the Gospel wherever God has planted them. Our task, quite simply, is to witness to the truth of the Gospel in a nation that is under judgment.”
Erwin Lutzer writes compellingly about the calling of the Christian as aliens in this world. He doesn’t minimize the hardships or sufferings that lie ahead. However, he uses examples from the Scriptures to demonstrate that our sufferings are purposeful and that we ultimately will win in the end. We have amazing resources and promises from God by which we are to live in the world and make a difference until Jesus returns. Lutzer’s book is more encouraging than depressing, because he reminds us of the sovereignty of God and how we are a part of His plans that cannot be thwarted no matter how bad things look now. Ultimately everything we do for Jesus matters and lasts for eternity.
I highly recommend this book because it offers numerous constructive things to focus our attention on until the return of Christ. It offers biblical thinking, principles to live by, and actions to take that really do make a difference in our society and for the sake of eternity. It offers hope for the present and for the future. You will be encouraged that you can stop being part of the problem, and how you can be part of God’s solution in our culture.
GOD’S INTENTION FOR SEX
Book Review By David P. Craig
Denny Burk has written both a brilliant critique of errant sexual views and presented a cogent case for the biblical meaning of sex that transcends all cultures and time. Burk’s thesis developed in this book is that sex is a gift from God that is to be enjoyed exclusively within the covenant of marriage so that it might magnify God’s own covenant love for his people and thus bring glory to Him. The glory of God [all of who God is put on display] is the ultimate purpose of everything a Christian does – including sex.
There have been many books written by Christians in the past several years but they usually fall short in applying a teleological view of sex. In other words they address what the Bible has to say about sex, but not necessarily what the purpose of sex is. Burk writes: “What they [with reference to Mark Driscoll's recent book on sex and marriage - but can be applied to various other authors] never asked, however, is the teleological question: Does this act fulfill God’s purposes for the sexual union? Does this act fulfill Gd’s ultimate purpose for marriage and sexuality–the glory of God? This is where teleology can help us.”
Burk proceeds to write a biblical theology of sex with a God-centered ethical foundation based on virtually everything the Bible has to say about our bodies, our interpretation of the relevant passages pertaining to sex, our marriages, conjugal unions, family planning, gender, sexuality and singleness. In all these areas Burk does a remarkable job of what he describes as blending biblical theology, ethics, and cultural issues pertaining to sex. He writes, “I am favoring a bleded approach that gives a privileged place to teleology within the framework of divine revelation. Scripture is plainly concerned with the formation of moral character as the basis for moral choices (as in character ethics). Scripture is also concerned with rules and divine commands (as in deontology). But Scripture also focuses on the glory of God as the purpose of all things (as in teleology).”
Therefore, Burk argues that the four aspects of sex as defined by God in the context of marriage as a covenant between and man and a woman are designed for (1) the consummation of marriage, (2) procreation, (3) expression of love, and (4) pleasure. However, these four purposes “comprise the means by which we glorify God with our sexuality.” Burk unfolds his thesis methodically, clearly, and with great theological depth that “the ultimate purpose of human sexuality is the glory of God and that the ultimate ethic is to glorify God with our sexuality.” I can’t possibly recommend this book high enough for both Christians and non-Christians to come to grips with the reason, meaning, and purpose for one’s gender, identity, sex, and marriage according to God’s great design.
*I was provided with a copy of this book for review by the publisher and was not required to write a fovorable review.
MODELS OF REDEMPTIVE PREACHING
APPLYING CHRIST-CENTERED PREACHING IN YOUR MINISTRY
Book Review by David P. Craig
It’s hard to believe that its already been nineteen years since Bryan Chapell penned his classic text on preaching – Christ-Centered Preaching (CCP). Since that time Christo-centric preaching has been on the rise and pastors have become much more exposed to biblical theology and the redemptive historical method of interpretation in helping the busy pastor with sermon preparation. This new work by Chapell is a wonderful complement and sequel to his seminal text that his been so influential in both Reformed and Non-Reformed circles.
Whereas Chapell laid the foundational ground work for Christo-centric preaching in CCP, here he helps the preacher apply the groundwork by giving various examples of sermons that demonstrate the various genres of Scripture and how they point to Christ. Part One focuses on the structure of the Christo-centric sermon by giving examples of informal, formal, inductive, and expository sermons. Part Two delves into various redemptive approaches of Scripture passages. Part Three focuses on sermons that reveal how a variety of redemptive truths can be used from the Scriptures to apply to our lives.
The common denominator of all the expository sermons found in this book is that they focus on saying what God says in the passage. The preacher is encouraged to proclaim the truths gleaned from the passage in order to convey what was originally intended by the Holy Spirit. “Making sure God’s people know what God has said and why he has said it is the tandem goal of expository preaching.” All of the sermons in this book focus on the empowering power of grace through Christ that is found throughout the Scriptures. The message of the gospel and God’s grace in Christ is what leads us to repentance, salvation, and genuine transformation from darkness to light.
The author masterfully teaches and guides the preacher by showing him that “Christ-centered exposition does not require us to unveil depictions of Jesus by mysterious alchemies of allegory or typology; rather, it identifies how every text functions in furthering our understanding of who Christ is, what the Father sent him to do, and why.” In Christ-centered preaching the listener is helped to apply the biblical text by answering four main questions from the passage: (1) What am I to do? (2) Where am I to do it? (3) Why am I to do it? (4) How am I to do it?
Chapell writes, “In essence, redemptive exposition requires that we identify an aspect of our fallen condition that is addressed by the Holy Spirit in each passage, which he inspired for our edification, and then show God’s way out of the human dilemma.” The way out of the dilemma of our fallen condition is through the motivation of grace and holiness because the realities of the cross. We are enabled to have victory over sin due to our union and communion with Christ as revealed in the Scriptures.
I highly recommend that you read Chapell’s first book on preaching before reading this one. However, it’s not essential that you read his first book because he does a lot of review and explains everything he is doing in each sermon in this new offering. He lays out the foundations and theory in his first book as a solid basis for its application in this new one. Together these two books provide a tour de force of Christo-centric preaching resources for the Christ-centered preacher.
Chapell gives various ways that the same passage can be preached using different strategies without changing the biblical author’s intent. His introductions and demonstration of how the principles work for each sermon are immensely instructive. The sermons in this book are based on the following passages of Scripture: 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Judges 6-8; Psalm 126; Jeremiah 33:14-16; Isaiah 44:9-23; Numbers 20:1-13; Romans 15:4; Luke 17:1-19; Titus 2:11-15; and Romans 6:1-14. By providing sermons on various genres from the Old and New Testament Chapell has provided a wonderful guide for preachers to learn better how to apply the principles of Christ-centered preaching from Genesis to Revelation.
A DAILY DOSE OF ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
MAKING YOUR DAYS COUNT FOR ETERNITY
Book Review By David P. Craig
This book assemble’s some of Alcorn’s best writings related to living for that which will last for eternity. It contains sixty days worth of devotions or meditations including perspectives from God’s Word and from God’s people in each daily reading. At the end of each devotional there is also a link to Alcorn’s blog where you can read more on the topic (in the Kindle version – you just click on the link and it takes you right there). Some of the topics addressed are as following: True Happiness; Homesick for Heaven; Grasping our need for Grace; Seeking God’s will; True Repentance; A Theology of Laughter; God’s Sovereignty; The Christian Optimist and God’s Glory and our Good.
Each day hones in on two to three key Scriptures on the topic; two to three great quotes from people like Spurgeon, Chambers, Lewis, Piper, Ryle, Sproul, Tozer and Luther; and focuses on the hope and joy that we have in our promises from the God who holds the future in His hands for our good and His glory. Alcorn’s insights from the Scriptures are clear, cogent, profound, and practical. This book makes a great gift for graduates, birthday’s, anniversaries, the elderly, and any disciple of Christ who needs comfort and encouragement for the ups and downs of life. We all need to reminded of the hope that we have in Christ. I highly recommend this excellent compilation of Alcorn’s finest thoughts on Heaven and living for eternity.
RECOGNIZING THE LESSONS AND STAGES OF LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
A PRIMER ON THE PROCESS OF BECOMING A LEADER
Book Review By David P. Craig
Knowing where one is at is crucial in moving forward in life. Nothing is more helpful when one is lost than having a map of where one is, and how to get to where we need to go. Recently, I experienced going through a difficult bout with cancer. The treatment and side effects of the treatment were absolutely brutal. However, I had a guide along the way to help me get through it. He was a man who had the exact same cancer and treatment as me, but he was already “cancer free” and a year ahead of me in the process. He helped me in my journey in two ways: (1) He helped me realize that what I was going through was normal and miserable, but necessary for the cancer to be killed; (2) He gave me a “living hope” that I would be cancer free like him if I endured to the end of the treatment without giving up. The process was excruciating, but now that I look back a year later – like him – I want to help people in their journey with cancer.
In the same vein as my illustration above Dr. Clinton helps emerging leaders understand the process of becoming a mature leader by evaluating the lives of biblical and modern leaders journeys. He identifies six primary processes’ that all leaders must go through on the way to becoming a healthy and mature leader of leaders. Some of the examples used in this book are the Prophets Jeremiah and Daniel, the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, and modern examples: Dawson Trotman, Warren Wiersbe, A.W. Tozer, Watchman Nee, Amy Carmichael and several others.
In his study Clinton articulates six phases or stages of a leaders development:
(1) Phase One is called “Sovereign Foundations” – This is where a leader starts to become aware of his or her calling to leadership. It is a time where character issues are developing, skills are developing, and one’s calling is being wrestled with. There is a deep sense of God’s calling and purpose and the building blocks for the emerging leader’s life are starting to lay the foundations for a life of leadership.
(2) Phase Two is called “Inner Life Growth” – This is a time where the leader is learning to hear and obey God’s leading. It is a time of deep spiritual growth and intimacy with God. The leader is often put through several major tests during this process – will he or she obey and submit wholeheartedly to God?
(3) Phase Three is called “Ministry Maturing” – In this stage the leader is reaching out to others and discovering and practicing ones spiritual gifts. Both positive and negative lessons are being learned during this phase. The leader is learning his or her own strengths and weaknesses in working with others. Oftentimes there is a strong desire to get more training during this time to minimize one’s weaknesses and enhance one’s strengths. In the first three phases God is primarily working “in” the leader not through him or her. In the next three phases God is working “through” the leader. As Clinton articulates “Many emerging leaders don’t recognize this, and become frustrated. They are constantly evaluating productivity and activities, while God is quietly evaluating their leadership potential. He wants to teach us that we minister out of what we are.”
(4) Phase Four is called “Life Maturing” – This is a time in the leaders life where the leader “is using his or her spiritual gifts in a ministry that is satisfying. He gains a sense of priorities concerning the best use of his gifts and understands that learning what not to do is as important as learning what to do. A mature fruitfulness is the result. Isolation, crisis, and conflict take on new meaning. The principle that ‘ministry flows out of being’ has new significance as the leader’s character mellows and matures.” Communion and intimacy with God becomes immensely more important than one’s ‘success’ in ministry.
(5) Phase Five is called “Convergence” – God takes the leader and matches him or her with a role that matches his or her gift-mix and experience so that ministry is maximized. Life maturing and ministry maturing peak together during this phase. Many leaders never get to experience this phase. Some leaders like Dawson Trotman and Jim Elliott were taken to Heaven before entering this phase. Some leaders don’t get to experience this phase because of their own sin, or other providential circumstances. For those who experience convergence it is a time of transitional leadership where the baton is passed down to other faithful leaders who will continue to develop the leaders’ vision for the church or organization they have developed.
(6) The final phase is called “Afterglow” or “Celebration” – Clinton describes this stage as “The fruit of a lifetime of ministry growth culminates in an era of recognition and indirect influence at broad levels. Leaders in Afterglow have built up a lifetime of contacts and continue to exert influence in these relationships. Others will seek them out because of their consistent track record of following God. Their storehouse of wisdom gathered over a lifetime of leadership will continue to bless and benefit many.”
Clinton defines leadership as “a dynamic process in which a man or woman with God-given capacity influences a specific group of God’s people toward His purposes for the group.” This book is written for leaders and potential leaders who are (a) wondering what God is doing in their lives – asking the question “Is God calling me into Christian ministry?”; (b) are beginning to discover ministry opportunities; (c) need a fresh challenge from God; (d) need to understand how to select and develop younger leaders; (e) are at a crossroads, facing a major decision; (f) want to know how God develops leaders; (g) want to know where you are at in the process of your leadership development – is what you are experiencing normal for a leader?
I think all emerging and veteran leaders will benefit immensely from reading this book. It is packed with useful examples, illustrations, charts, and principles to help you become a godly leader. Also, it is immensely helpful to help you understand the process’ of leadership and how to invest in other emerging leaders. If you believe God is calling you to leadership, or has already entrusted you with a leadership role, you will most definitely benefit from Clinton’s wisdom – from one leader to another.
GOD’S GENUINE DESIRE AND OFFER FOR ALL TO BE SAVED
Book Review By David P. Craig
John Piper states his purpose for writing this book as follows, “My aim in this short book is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God’s will for all people to be saved and his will to choose some people for salvation unconditionally before creation is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion. A corresponding aim is to show that unconditional election therefore does not contradict biblical expressions of God’s compassion for all people and does not rule out sincere offers of salvation to all who are lost among the peoples of the world.”
In Chapter One Piper acknowledges and addresses some of the more perplexing texts that are cited to show that God’s will is for all people to be saved: 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23; and Matthew 23:37. Piper concludes his examination of these passages by stating that the only conclusion we can arrive at is that the Scriptures show that God has two wills: “willing something in one sense that he disapproves in another sense.”
In Chapter Two Piper illustrates God’s “two wills” by examining five explicit examples of this from the Scriptures: (a) In the death of Christ (Acts 2:23); (b) In the war against the Son of God (Rev. 17:16-17); (c) In the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus); (d) In the restraint of a King’s evil (Proverbs); (e) In not delighting in the punishment of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23).
Chapter Three is an exposition of the Sovereign will of God. Piper’s thesis is that “behind the complex relationship of the two wills of God is the foundational biblical premise that God is sovereign in a way that makes him ruler of all actions.” Piper examines various passages of Scripture and concludes, “Terms such as ‘will of decree’ and ‘will of command,’ or ‘sovereign will’ and ‘moral will,’ is not an artificial distinction demanded by Reformed theology. The terms are an effort to describe the whole of biblical revelation. They are an effort to say yes to all of the Bible and not silence any of it. They are a way to say yes to the universal will of Ezekiel 18:23 and Matthew 23:37, and yes to the individual, unconditional election of Romans 9:6-23.”
In the final Chapter Piper ties his argument together by discussing how God does not sin in willing that sin takes place. He answers the question: “What keeps God from saving whom he desires to save? And he goes into a lengthy discussion of the question “What is free will?” In the process he comes back to 1 Timothy 2:4 and gives an exegetical and philosophical argument from some of the great theologians of the Church: John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Stephen Charnock, Robert L. Dabney and a wonderful illustration from the life of George Washington.
In the final analysis Piper arrives at 3 concluding statements about the universal love of God and the offer of Christ’s salvation to everyone in the world: “(1) Christ really is the all-powerful, all-wise, all-satisfying Son of God offered in the gospel; (2) by his death and resurrection, he has acted out God’s discriminating, definite electing, regenerating, faith-creating, every-promise-guaranteeing new-covenant love, and thus purchased and secured irreversibly for his elect everything needed to bring them from deadness in sin to everlasting, glorified life and joy in the presence of God; and (3) everyone without any exception, who receives Christ as supreme treasure–who believes in his name–will be united to Christ in the embrace of this electing love and enjoy him and his gifts forever.”
John Piper has done a beautiful job of explaining the mysteries of God’s sovereign will, the offer of salvation, and shown clearly that the Bible teaches that we believe in and practice both – that He is sovereign in His election of those He will save, and that we have a responsibility to declare the gospel to all of humanity because He desires their salvation. I recommend this book to help you understand the depths of God’s sovereign plan, love, and activity in carrying out His redemptive purposes until Christ returns again.
Highly Recommended for Any Believer Facing or Preparing for a Terminal Illness
God-centered Pastor-Theologian wrote this booklet on the evening when he had prostate-cancer surgery. I think his high view of God’s sovereignty and goodness is essential for anyone facing a terminal illness whether cancer or something else. In reality this booklet is excellent for all people to read and reflect on because as the writer to Hebrews says, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment (9:27).”
Dr. Piper elaborates on the following eleven principles with supporting Scriptures, and the compassion of a man who knows what it is like to look death in the face, and be able to kiss it – knowing that a loving God is in control of all things for His glory, and our ultimate good:
1) “We waste our cancer if we don’t hear in our own groanings the hope-filled labor pains of a fallen world.
2) We waste our cancer if we do not believe it is designed for us by God.
3) We waste our cancer if we believe it is a curse and not a gift.
4) We waste our cancer if we seek comfort from our odds rather than from God.
5) We waste our cancer if we refuse to think about death.
6) We waste our cancer if we think that ‘beating’ cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
7) We waste our cancer if we spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
8) We waste our cancer if we let it drive us into solitude instead of deepen our relationships with manifest affection.
9) We waste our cancer if we grieve as those who have no hope.
10) We waste our cancer if we treat sin as casually as before.
11) We waste our cancer if we fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.”
I highly recommend this little booklet for any Christian in preparation for suffering for a terminal illness; in the midst of a terminal illness; or to give away to someone who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. If you want God-centered and Biblical guidance in the midst of your suffering – look no further than Piper’s primer.