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Category Archives: DR. DAVID P. CRAIG

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 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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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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Book Review of Ron Rhodes’: The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say To A Catholic

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Explains Key Differences Between Catholicism and Protestantism 

Reviewed By Dr. David P. Craig

I have a deep love for those who have been raised in the Catholic Church. As a Protestant we share many cherished beliefs and values. However, we have some significant differences of belief as well. In this book Rhodes tackles nine of the major areas where Catholics and Protestants disagree.

Here are the nine areas of conflict addressed by Rhodes: (1) Catholics believe that the Apocryphal Books should be included in the biblical canon – Protestants do not; (2) Catholics believe that tradition is authoritative for belief and practice, whereas, Protestants believe the Bible alone is authoritative for faith and practice; (3) Catholics believe that Peter was the first Pope, Protestants on the other hand hold that he was a great apostle (among various apostles in the early church); (4) Catholics hold to the infallibility of the Pope, the Bishops, and the Magisterium of the Church; whereas Protestants hold to the Bible as being infallible, but not the human leaders of the Church; (5) Catholics venerate Mary as a co-redeemer and mediatrix, a perpetual virgin, and various other views that conflict with Protestant views. Protestants simply view Mary as simply the godly mother of Jesus and nothing more. (6) Catholics mix justification and sanctification – adding human merit/works to one’s salvation; whereas Protestants view salvation as solely and entirely by grace through faith in Jesus – justification is instantaneous and once and for all. (7) Catholics and Protestants have a very different view on “mass” or the “Lord’s Supper.” Catholics hold to transubstantiation whereas Protestants hold to consubstantiation or the memorial/symbolic view. (8) In Catholicism Penance must be done to absolve sins, in Protestantism Confession of sin is to be made to God, not a human priest. (9) Catholicism believes in Purgatory (second chance after death); Protestants hold to no second chances after death.

For each of these views Rhodes offers the Catholic argument first, followed by a Protestant rebuttal and defense. The chapters are short and only the most salient points are made. For each chapter Rhodes uses different icons to identify points made by Catholics and Protestants. Each chapter contains points to use with caution, helpful witnessing points, and supplementary and more detailed material that can be found in Rhodes’ larger book entitled “Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics.” As of this review Rhodes has written a few other short books of this ilk on Creation and Evolution; Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, and Masons.

I highly recommend this resource. It’s short and to the point, and yet delineates some key points to help Protestants share the good news with their Catholic friends.

 

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Book Review of David Murray’s: The Happy Christian

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Applying This Book Will Make You Happier Indeed

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

I have always battled discouragement and depression as a Christian since I was a young boy. As a pastor for close to 30 years I still battle discouragement and depression to varying degrees. Therefore, I am always on the look out for anything that can help me in the process of becoming happier and more joyful. Even when I find myself being happy and full of joy I’m often around people in my church and the world that are struggling with depression and discouragement. Therefore, I am glad that David Murray – a pastor-theologian has written and given this wonderful resource for me personally to increase my own happiness, and to help others pursue happiness in a gloomy and dreary land.

Murray tackles ten specific areas that can increase our happiness in the chapters that make up this book. In a nutshell here’s what he tells the reader to focus on: The first thing we need to do is change the way we think. Oftentimes we can’t change our circumstances, but we can change what and how we think about them. Murray says that 40% of our happiness (he gives research evidence to back up this statistic) depends on how we think about things. Murray states, “Our hopes of living positive lives depend largely on getting our thoughts about the facts right. Most unhappy people are unhappy not because of their situation but because they let their feelings rule their thoughts, or they think about things in the wrong way.” Murray goes on to explain how the Psalmist changed his mood in Psalm 77 by honing in on proper facts, leading to right thoughts, resulting in positive feelings. He delineates the steps we can take in this process for any feeling or thought we encounter. I found chapter One to be immensely helpful. He gives four fundamentals for getting our thinking right: (1) Prioritize the facts; (2) Gather the facts; (3) Interpret the facts; and (4) Use the facts. “Ninety percent of your long term happiness is predicted not by your external world , but the way your brain processes the world.

In subsequent chapters Murray shares how to control your exposure to the media (which is largely negative); how are salvation is based on what Jesus has done for us (not on what we can do for Him); How Christ – not other believers should be our focus; how to focus more on the future than on our past; how to see grace everywhere; how to become more of a praiser than a criticizer; how giving increase happiness more than getting; and how both work and being around racial diversity lead to tremendous fulfillment.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is chalk full of statistics, psychological studies, case studies, great quotes, illustrations, examples, and practical ways to be proactive in becoming a happier Christian. Murray defines Christian happiness as “a God-centered, God-glorifying, and God-given sense of God’s love that is produced by a right relationship to God in Christ and that produces loving service to God and others.” He demonstrates from Scripture and through a deep theological understanding that “Christianity doesn’t deny the difficult and painful reality of sin and suffering that runs through our lives, but with one vertical line from heaven to earth, with the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus, Christianity promises to change the equation of our lives into a positive result.”

Murray’s book is wider, more theologically deep, and biblically accurate tun other books of this ilk – which tend to be shallow and thus unhelpful. Therefore, Murray has done a great service in writing a book that gives Christians foundational resources based on theological sound bedrock truths that can help one withstand the storms of life. I find myself at least 40% happier since I’ve read and applied some of the principles of this book. I believe that any Christian will be happier, and more useful in helping others be more like Jesus as a result of reading and applying the principles of this fantastic resource. Most importantly, God is glorified when we delight in Him and His creation – we were made to delight in the One who delights in us.

 

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