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Author Archives: lifecoach4God

About lifecoach4God

I am the Lead Pastor of Valley Baptist Church (Bay Area), born and raised in Huntington Beach, Ca,, and currently living in Novato, California. I am married to my best friend of 24 years - Dana - and five adult children; and five grand children. I have been a Teaching Pastor for over twenty years. I was privileged to study at Multnomah University (B.S. - 1988); Talbot School of Theology (M.Div. - 1991); Westminster Theological Seminary & Northwest Graduate School (D. Min. - 2003). I founded Vertical Living Ministries in 2008 with the goal of encouraging Christian Disciples and Leaders to be more intentionally Christ-Centered in how they live by bringing glory to God in nine key areas of life: personal spiritually, in marriage, in their families, with friends, vocationally, physical health, finances, discipleship, and mentoring .

Book Review of Peter Scazzero’s “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality”

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The Missing Element Of Biblical Discipleship

By Dr. David P. Craig

The two ministry points that I’m most passionate about are biblical preaching and making multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ. I have been discipling men for over thirty years and I have found that the missing element in most discipleship curriculum and workbooks is the whole area of emotional health. Peter Scazzero’s books (he’s also written  The Emotionally Healthy Church and The Emotionally Healthy Leader) are like Biblical Discipleship 201, 301, and 401. It is essential to know how to study the Bible, pray, share one’s faith, etc. However, the emotional health of Christians is often ignored, neglected, and never addressed. Along with other discipleship oriented books – Emotionally Healthy Spirituality will help make a Christian disciple truly whole and holy.

As a pastor for the past thirty years In four different churches I have seen many elderly people who have been Christians for many years, but instead of being mature emotionally, many of these people have simply plateaued at the age of 10, 20, or 30 and have lived stuck in their immaturity emotionally for years. Instead of being Christians for sixty years it’s more like they have lived for sixty years as a ten-year-old Christian.

In this book Scazzero addresses the emotional make-up of people using a plethora of biblical and practical applications. He also draws on historical figures that have much to say about biblical emotions. He also addresses the ramifications of generational sin, familial dysfunctions, and cultural distractions that get between us and our walk with God.

The first seven chapters primarily deal with the problems associated with emotionally unhealthy spirituality and the last three chapters give hope through solutions. Using a variety of spiritual disciplines and personal examples Scazzero helps the Christian identify emotional unhealthiness and easy cures based on the Scriptures. For anyone who is passionate about transformation, liberation from bondage, and following in the steps of Christ this book is a must read. It’s extremely beneficial to read this book in a small group along with the workbook and DVD that are based on this book. I have taken five groups of men through this book and several of the men have described this book as “revolutionary,” “paradigm-shifting,” and “life-transforming.”

I highly recommend Scazzero’s books be read along with their workbooks in small groups (men with men; and women with women) for maximum transparency, accountability, and transformation into the likeness and image of Christ.

 

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Book Review of Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson’s “Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection”

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Why the Death and Resurrection of Jesus is The Bull’s-Eye of The Gospel

By Dr. David P. Craig

Pastor’s Dodson and Watson write two chapters each in this short, yet powerful book, reflecting on what they call the “bull’s eye of the gospel.” They referring to Paul’s substantial treatment of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 15. A big part of the focus on this book is that it is much easier to embrace the reality of the death and burial of Jesus Christ than it is his resurrection from the dead. They demonstrate that believing in the resurrection was just as difficult 2,000 years ago as it is today.

The author’s deal cogently and honestly with how both Jews and Gentiles struggled with the idea of a bodily resurrection when Jesus lived. During the time of Christ there were many doubters–Jesus’ friends, contemporary Greeks and Romans, and countless Jews. They go on to show why they doubted the resurrection and demonstrate that “if you doubt the resurrection, you are in good company. Jesus understands your doubts, and he welcomes them. To those who are skeptical and struggling with belief, Jesus remains ready to receive your questions. He will listen to your doubts.”

This book wrestles with the historical evidence of the resurrection, addresses the doubts related to the supernatural event of Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead (both ancient and modern), and gives in clear and concise answers some of the best reasons to believe that the resurrection of Christ really happened historically. There are also some wonderful applications of this book about how to live the resurrected life in Christ. The resurrection changes everything and this book marvelously makes a case for the practical ramifications of the gospel.

I highly recommend this book to strengthen the faith of believers, and start the journey on the way to faith for non-believers and skeptics. This is a good introduction in answering why millions of people around the world continue to follow Jesus and are convinced in the historical realities and ramifications of his life, death, burial, and resurrection.

 

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Book Review of Erwin Lutzer’s “Cries From The Cross”

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“Going Deep With Jesus On The Cross”

By Dr. David P. Craig

In this short book by Dr. Erwin Lutzer he does a wonderful job of taking the reader deep into the significance of what Jesus said in his last seven sayings on the cross. The work of Christ on the cross magnifies the holiness and  justice of God and the ugliness and heinous nature of sin. As Lutzer says, “The cross properly understood exalts no one whom it first does not humble; it gives life only to those whom it first ‘puts to death.’ The cross exposes the futility of our self-righteousness; it reminds us we are sinners, incapable of bringing about our own reconciliation with God. Before the cross we can stand with bowed heads and a broken spirit.”

As I devoured this book on Good Friday I was filled with sorrow and grief over my own sins and the sins of humanity; and yet I was also filled with joy over the reminder that Jesus could pronounce “It is finished.” A pronouncement that His life and death accomplished everything He set out to achieve. As the author of Hebrews testified, “But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). In the Old Testament, the priests offered sacrifices, but could never sit down. Their job was never finished. Jesus’ payment covered our indebtedness. He took our spiritual bankruptcy and covered it with the solvency of His perfect righteousness in exchange for our sin.

I love the way Lutzer expresses the truth of Christ as our substitutionary sacrifice: “This means that my sins are on Jesus, not on me. Yes, there is sin within me but not on me. My sinful nature keeps luring me toward sin, and even in my best moments my works are tainted with selfish motives. But legally, I am accepted on the basis of the merit of Jesus. Figuratively speaking, I have a new set of clothes and a clear record in heaven. The righteousness of Jesus has been successfully credited to my account. God’s justice has spent all its ammunition; there is nothing left to be hurled at us.”

Lutzer spends a chapter on each of the last sayings of Christ on the cross showing how they tie the Old Testament and New Testament together; fulfill prophecy; express the unity and purpose of the Trinity in accomplishing our redemption; and practical reflections and meditations that will help you understand and appreciate with greater depth the beauty of redemption. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand, and delight in the Savior who went to the cross in submission to the Father, to defeat Satan and death, and grant forgiveness of sins and eternal life to those who like the thief on the cross will repent of their sins and put their trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

 

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Book Review of J. Warner Wallace’s “Alive: A Cold-Case Approach To The Resurrection”

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Great Easter Give-Away

Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

J. Warner Wallace was once an Atheist and a Cold-Case Detective. He is now a prolific author and speaker on presenting evidences for the cogency of the Christian world-view. What sets Wallace apart from other modern apologists is that he really puts the “cookies on the shelf” for the general reader to be exposed to great evidence in an understandable and interesting manner.

In this short book – one designed to be cheap and as a giveaway for Easter – Wallace approaches the subject of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection the same way he would investigate a homicide. The minimal facts that Wallace investigates are the following: (1) Jesus died on the cross and was buried; (2) Jesus’ tomb was empty, and no one ever produced His body; (3) Jesus’ disciples believed that they saw Jesus resurrected from the dead; (4) Jesus’ disciples were transformed following their alleged resurrection observations.

Next, Wallace proceeds to tackle the skeptical explanations that deny the above facts: (1) The Disciples were wrong about Jesus’ death; (2) The Disciples lied about the resurrection; (3) The Disciples were delusional; (4) The Disciples were fooled by an imposter; (5) The Disciples were influenced by limited spiritual sightings; (6) The Disciples observations were distorted later – with each of these six skeptical views Wallace demonstrates how each of these views contains at least four to six inherent problems tied to the argument.

The most logical explanation requires a belief in the supernatural: a belief that Jesus had the supernatural power to rise from the dead and thus Wallace defends the position that The Disciples were accurately reporting the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus. Wallace concludes his examination of the evidence with a very important point: “Moving from the most reasonable inference to a decision of trust…It’s one thing to ‘believe that’ Jesus rose from the dead and is who He said he was, but it’s another to ‘believe in’ Him as Savior. Every one of us, at some point in our investigation of the claims of Christianity, has to move from ‘belief that’ to ‘belief in.'”

Wallace’s little book is a great way to get the essence of the Christian message in the hands of the curious and skeptics alike. This is a short book that deserves a wide reading and should be bought in bulk as a giveaway – especially during Easter as we celebrate the great hope of the world – the One who lived, died, was buried, and raised so that we might have salvation by Him and through Him – the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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BOOK REVIEW ON WILLIAM P FARLEY’S: “THE SECRET OF SPIRITUAL JOY”

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Pursuing The Path To Biblical Joy

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

I’m always looking for good resources to help me and others become more joyful in the Lord. Bill Farley has written an excellent little book that covers the topics of humility, thanksgiving, gratitude, God’s sovereignty, and the work of Christ on the cross and how these realities intersect to bring about deep joy in the follower of Jesus.

Using biblical stories and principles Farley demonstrates what we need to put off (e.g., grumbling, pride and self-pity) and that God ultimately motivates His followers by convincing us that the work of Jesus and all His commands are not burdensome, but for our own good and His ultimate glory.

As I finished this little book I was given practical ways to become more humble, trusting, content, and grateful. My joy significantly increased as I was exposed to the glory of God in His sovereign plans to bring about my salvation and sanctification.

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to deepen their joy in the Lord, or as a great book to give away to those who are battling discouragement, bitterness, or lack the joy of the Lord. In Farley’s book you will find that the secret to joy is found in the gospel and the blessings of living in the gospel realities of your every day life.

 

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Unshackled: The God of WM. Paul Young

Excellent review from my good friend Dr. David Steele – Thanks for taking the time to write such an excellent critique of “Lies”

Veritas et Lux

liesWM. Paul Young, Lies We Believe About God, New York: Atria Books, 2017, 273 pp. $13.48

Lies We Believe About God is the latest book from the author of The Shack, WM. Paul Young. The author originally penned The Shack   at the request of his wife as a Christmas gift to his six children. First published in 2007, this book has sold over 20 million copies and was recently unveiled as a feature film.

The Shack struck a central chord in people, many of whom confess that the storyline helped them overcome personal pain and tragedy, what the author refers to as, the Great Sadness. Wes Yoder, who endorses The Shack summarizes the ideas in this story. He writes, “The Shack is a beautiful story of how God comes to find us in the midst of our sorrows, trapped by disappointments, betrayed by our own presumptions.” Eugene Peterson…

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Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Book Review of Jammin Goggin & Kyle Strobel: “The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb”

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The Amazing Power of Weakness

Book Review By Dr. David P Craig

I can remember how discouraged I used to get when as a young pastor I would attend Pastor’s conferences and hear stories of pastor’s bragging about how “great” their ministries were. I would always come back from those conferences wondering if I was really “called” to ministry because I wasn’t experiencing the “greatness” these other pastors were experiencing. In my late twenties I took on a pastorate in a rural community that nobody (myself included) had ever heard of. About six months into my ministry I heard about a “rural pastors conference” and decided to see if this would help me in my new ministry. Before the first session, we had a “meet and greet” time and I remember everyone introducing themselves and trying to describe the area they were serving in – because nobody heard of each other, and nobody had what would be described as a “great” ministry.

There was such a liberating and freeing feeling being around pastors that knew they were weak, ministering in obscurity, and all recognized that if God didn’t show up – we were in big trouble. I love this book because all the examples in this book are encouraging. When you are around ego it deflates you, when you are around weakness it elates you! All of us pastors had nothing to prove, and nothing to brag about, but we all shared our need of the power of God to sustain and guide us in our respective ministries. Since that time I’ve primarily interacted with bi-vocational pastors and pastors of smaller churches because they are usually very real, humble, and focused on needing help from God – not on how they can help others be “great.”

It was at that conference that I realized that God calls most pastors to obscure places and average ordinary ministries. Most pastors will never make the cover of “Christianity Today” or write a book that makes a notable “best-seller” list. Honestly, I’m good with that. Enter Goggin and Strobel’s book. They aren’t down on mega churches (I don’t think they even use this word in their book). However, they give an excellent analysis of what makes for the ministry of the Lamb (ministering out of weakness – Kingdom ministry from above) versus ministry from the Dragon (ministering out of the flesh – from the Kingdom of Darkness and Satan).

I’ve experienced ministry out of the flesh driven by pride and ego; and I’ve experienced ministry that comes from weakness, brokenness, and of the Spirit. I think that once you experience the power of brokenness or ministering out of weakness you never want to go back to the “dark side.” I’ve been around pastors and churches where God doesn’t even have to show up and nothing would even have to be changed. The author’s do an excellent job of showing from the Bible how the way of power has infiltrated many churches today. It is not just dangerous – it’s demonic. This is a serious charge.

My favorite aspect of this book are the highlights from interviews that Goggin and Strobel share from several well respected faithful older Christians: J.I. Packer, Eugene Peterson, Jean Vanier, Dallas Willard, John Perkins, and Marva Dawn. Through the interviews and Scripture the author’s give a compelling case for why ministry in dependence on God rather than our own skills and resources are more powerful in the long haul of ministry. Power in ministry comes when the Holy Spirit is depended upon to show up because we are operating out of our relationship and satisfaction in Christ. Power is not about self, resources, skills, it’s evident from above when we humbly focus on exalting Jesus above all things.

I hope this book gets a wide reading. I think it is wise, biblical, and will encourage pastors and Christians who are serious about faithfully serving Christ in power out of weakness in dependence on Him for life-long ministry.

 

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