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Book Review on Dwight Bernier’s – One: A Gospel Guide to Pre-Marriage Counseling

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God-glorifying One Stop Resource For Counselors and Pastors

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

As a pastor for the past thirty years I have done my share of pre-marital and post-marital counseling. I have found more and more that couples spend more time planning their wedding day, than they do preparing for being married to a partner for life. A man and a woman will spend four to eleven years post high school for their careers, but often will not even crack open one book to help them with their marriage. This book provides seven guided sessions for a Christian couple to be well-prepared for marriage.

Bernier wisely writes at the outset, “The great challenge in marriage is to lose ‘me’ and become ‘us’ while our hearts, in contrast, want to glorify ‘me’…the great hope in marriage is that Jesus is changing ‘us’ and our hearts…The Spirit of God begins the process of morphing our motives to be more in line with the kingdom of God rather than the kingdom that we once belonged to.” In seven sessions Bernier provides a Christo-centric approach as being absolutely essential and foundational to building a great marriage. In seven sessions there are assigned readings from three excellent resources (not included – these books need to be purchased apart from this guide): Dave Harvey’s When Sinners Say I Do; Timothy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage; and Justin Buzzard’s Date Your Wife.

In the seven sessions Bernier includes homework assignments from the readings; questions to discuss based on Scripture; personal application questions; and helps the counselor weave the gospel into the story of marriage. Each session contains a list of tasks to complete before each subsequent meeting. The various topics the book covers are: biblical love, friendship, glorifying God through marriage, roles and God’s design for marriage, how to be merciful and forgiving, implementing soul care via the gospel, and sex.

Bernier has provided a wonderful resource for pastors and counselors. It’s literally a step by step guide that is gospel centered, Christ glorifying, and covers the biblical foundations for establishing a God-glorifying marriage. I think it’s the best resource of its kind that I’ve seen and thus highly recommend it as an effective resource for those who value God’s design for marriage.

 

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Book Review on Tim Keller’s and Sam A Sam Allberry’s. Explore By The Book: 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, and James.

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A Devotional That Helps You Think About and Apply God’s Word

Book Reviewed By Dr. David P. Craig

There are several great features in this devotional. (1) It feels like you are sitting down with   the authors and having a Bible study with them in an intimate setting (Sam Allberry writes the sections on John 14-17 and James; and Tim Keller writes the section that takes you through the book of Romans). (2) Each author walks you through verse by verse exposition and interjects thought provoking questions related to interpretation and application. (3) The devotional aspect of the study relates to guidance in ways to think, pray, and act on the basis of what the passage for the day articulated.

Allberry and Keller ask great questions and draw excellent practical implications from each daily devotional. It is recommended by the author’s that you take notes and record the following for all 90 studies: (1) Record the highlight of the passage – the truth about God that most struck you; (2) Record the questions you have about what you have read and your best attempts at answering them; (3) Record the way/s you want to change on the basis of how the Holy Spirit is prompting you to change your attitudes and actions on regard to what you have read from Scripture; (4) After you have finished the study, record one sentence summing up how God has spoken to you through His Word; and lastly (5) Pray a short prayer in response to what you have been instructed to believe and do.

I highly recommend this devotional – especially for new Bible students. It will guide you into becoming a “doer of the Word” as James 1:22 instructs.

 

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Book Review on Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism

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Engaging People Like Jesus

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

As world views become more polarized in the twenty first century we find ourselves as Christians constantly trying to find more effective ways to build bridges with non believers. Randy Newman has written a wonderful resource to help in this very important endeavor. Newman organizes his book into three primary sections: Part 1: Why Ask Questions?; Part 2: What Questions Are People Asking?; and Part 3: Why Aren’t Questions and Answers Enough?

In Part 1 Newman tackles three objectives to help one become more effective in evangelism: (1) He exhibits why questions are more effective than just giving answers; (2) He gives examples from the book of Proverbs in what he calls “Solomonic Soulwinning”; (3) He articulates how questions pave the way for answers.

In Part 2 the author does an excellent job of showing how to maintain an ongoing dialogue with those who ask us the following questions (by devoting a whole chapter to each): (1) Why are Christians so intolerant?; (2) Why does a good God allow evil and suffering such as Columbine and AIDS?; (3) Why should anyone worship a God who allowed 9/11?; (4) Why are Christians so Homophobic?; (5) What’s so good about marriage?; and (6) If Jesus is so great, why are some of His followers such jerks?

The last section in the book hones in on why its important to have more than just good questions and answers in evangelism. He addresses why having real compassion, empathy, and when knowing when to “shut up” are extremely important. Also, in the back of the book there is a helpful section entitled “Unanswered questions” and a study guide for each chapter in the book for group study.

I highly recommend this book for 4 reasons: (1) Newman writes by example. He has been sharing the gospel on University campuses for many years. He gives tons of personal examples of both how, and how not to, begin conversations with skeptics of all stripes. (2) Most of the questions Newman brings up are helpful – he gives lots of scenarios that most ambassadors of Christ will actually encounter in the real world. (3) This book will equip you to grow in the important skill of what Newman calls “dialoging” the gospel. (4) This book will give you more boldness and confidence in establishing meaningful conversations with nonbelievers that are friends, as well as strangers. It will give you various “lead ins” that you can use with confidence and bring naturally into everyday conversations.

Evangelism has always been challenging but this book will make dialoging the gospel more pleasurable. Personally, I’ve already used much from the book in dialoging with skeptics and have found these conversations stimulating, and look forward to more opportunities to share with others what I’ve learned. Most importantly, Newman reminds us to be more like Jesus in our character, the way we ask questions, and share the gospel – and that’s a very good thing indeed!

 

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Greg Koukl’s Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions

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How To Winsomely Build Bridges With Non-Believers

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

Living in one of the least churched areas in the USA (Bay Area, Northern California) I am always looking for better ways to build bridges with non-believers. I have found that many of the old ways I was trained in (e.g., 4 spiritual laws, and various tracts) assume a common world-view. However, we aren’t “in Kansas” anymore as the saying goes. Times have changed and are ever changing rapidly. In our cultural climate we can either retreat or engage. Tactics is a tool for those who wish to engage – and a very helpful tool it is indeed.

What I love about this book is that it helps Christians (of all stripes) engage non-believers in a very simple manner. Koukl helps you become a better engager by looking for opportunities, asking good questions, and listening well so as to build bridges toward understanding, and ultimately truth. All truth is God’s truth and Koukl gives examples of how to arrive at moral truth, philosophical truth, scientific truth, and religious truth.

One of the strategies Koukl highlights in his book is letting the other person defeat their own view by asking them to share what they believe. If what the person believes is false it will manifest itself as false eventually through our questioning (essentially they end up shooting themselves in the foot). At this point they may want to consider the truth claims of the Christian worldview. He gives many examples of how to do this from his own experiences in conversations and debates with non-believers.

One of the key illustrations used over and over again in the book is that of the beloved Lieutenant Columbo (the homicide detective played by actor Peter Falk). Columbo would always solve murder cases by asking good questions, being a good listener, and controlling each case (usually unbeknownst to the murderer) until the case was solved. Koukl uses a plethora of examples to drive the “Columbo method” home.

Koukl masterfully weaves case scenarios throughout the book and demonstrates how we can utilize the tactical methods of Columbo to gain a hearing and build bridges with anyone. I highly recommend this book for Christians who are interested in evangelism and apologetics. It’s also filled with ethical examples as well.  I will continue to personally use principles from this book and train those I disciple to do likewise. Koukl has blessed followers of Christ with a wonderful resource to help all believers be better equipped to strategically and effectively influence those of differing views to consider the cogency of the Christian Worldview.

 

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Book Review on Scott Klusendorf’s: The Case For Life

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A Compelling Case For The Pro-Life Position

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

It’s hard to fathom that somewhere in the vicinity of 50 million babies have been legally killed since the historic Roe v. Wade decision made on January 22, 1973. In this book Scott Klusendorf brilliantly and graciously marshals a sound case for the pro-life position; namely, that the unborn are “distinct, living, and whole members of the human species regardless of size or location.”

In Section One Klusendorf clarifies the issue by honing in on the key issue in the debate that divides the pro-choice abortion and the pro-life position. The key issue is “What is the unborn?” He makes a strong case from the science of embryology and from philosophy that the unborn are indeed human and thus valuable and worthy of protection in the womb.

In Part two the author frames the abortion issue around whether or not life has meaning. Are we merely randomly evolved or are we endowed with value because we are God’s special creation. He makes a great case for the existence of God; the cogency of the Christian faith; and the purpose for which human beings are made to worship and bring glory to God.

Part Three gives a plethora of excellent and carefully articulated answers to six of the most used objections from the pro-abortion choice position. Each question is taken up by a whole chapter and in my opinion Klusendorf makes an extremely good case for the pro-life position in answer to each objection.

Part Four is extremely encouraging. All four chapters are full of hope for the days ahead. Filled with practical ways that pro-lifers can work together to bring about an eventual end to the travesty of legalized abortion.

Klusendorf has written a tour de force indeed. This book will encourage pro-lifers with tremendous evidence for their position. It is also encouraging because it seems that the tide is changing – just like it did with slavery earlier in our countries history. There are great resources in this book: review questions for group study; an appendix filled with training resources; and the way that the book is written – scholarly, yet non-technical; practical, and scientifically, theologically, and philosophically sound. Reading this book is like taking a graduate level course on the topic from a distinguished professor. I highly recommend this book and hope that it gains a wide audience and influences the convinced and non-convinced on this crucial issue.

 

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Book Review on Bold Reformer by David S. Steele

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Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

I have to start out this review by commenting on the author. Dr. David S. Steele, I am privileged to say is a very dear friend with whom I am blessed to have known for close to 30 years. We met at Multnomah University (Multnomah School of the Bible) back in the mid 1980’s, where we were roommates and have remained good friends ever since. We also earned our doctorates together in the early 2000’s in Seattle. I write this to say that I am very biased in whole heartedly recommending this book because the author is one of the men I most admire and respect on planet Earth. Whether he speaks or writes – I listen! He is one of the most disciplined pastors I know. He loves God deeply, and is passionate that others would come to know Him through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are both Lead/Preaching pastors in our respective churches (he in Washington; I’m in California); approximately the same age; and both have had our share of trials and triumphs in ministry. I believe what makes this such a great book to recommend is because Dr. Steele writes as a theologian, pastor, and practitioner. There are no theories here. What is written are biblical truths that have been forged in the trenches of ministry. Dave Steele is indeed a Bold Reformer in the ilk of men like Martin Luther, the Apostle Paul, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and other godly men who have been courageous in the trenches of ministry who preceded us.

Bold Reformer is a great book because it cuts through theories and fads and hones in on essential theological truths that are necessary whether past, present, or future. It is a book that I have now read twice, and will definitely read again. It’s especially a helpful book for pastors in the trenches and would-be pastors. In this book Dr. Steele writes about the essential foundations a pastor needs to believe and promises he can rely on through thick and thin. I am grateful for my friend, and grateful that out of his own trials he has written a helpful and encouraging book for pastors to never give up.

This year (2017) will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s famous nailing of the 95 Theses on the castle door at Wittenberg that sparked the Reformation. I truly believe that this book has the potential to spark a new reformation in pastors today. The same principles that Martin Luther applied are necessary today and needed desperately in order to bring about reformation and revival. I am hopeful that Bold Reformer will be used to bring about a new reformation of and for the glory of our awesome God as it is widely oread and practiced.

 

The Christian’s A-Z’s of Thanksgiving By Dr. David P. Craig

 

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What do Christians have to be thankful for every day and not take for granted as we contemplate the many blessings we have through Christ? Here are my A-Z’s of Thanksgiving:

A = Adoption – I have been chosen unconditionally and eternally into the family of God: Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

B = Baptism – I have been cleansed, washed, made new, and am now identified with Christ through the ordinance of baptism an external symbol of an inner reality: Romans 6:4, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

C = Christ – I am a new creation in Christ: 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

D = Disciple – I have a perfect Leader to follow – the Lord Jesus Christ: Luke 6:40, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

E = Evangelism – I have good news to share with every human being on the planet: Acts 20:24, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

F = Father – I have an intimate relationship with a perfect Heavenly Father who loves to answer my prayers: Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

G = Glory – Everything I do can be done for God’s glory: 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

H = Heaven – I know that Jesus has prepared a perfect place for me to live when I die: John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

I = Identity – In Christ my identity is totally secure: Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

J = Justified – Because Jesus’ righteousness has been imputed to me in exchange for my sin I am declared sinless and righteous by God the Father forever: Titus 3:6-7, “whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

K = Kingdom – I belong to an everlasting Kingdom ruled by a Perfect King: Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

L = Love – I am loved by a perfect Lover: John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

M = Mission – I have a purpose to live for that matters forever: Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

N = New Birth – I have been made alive spiritually in Christ by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit: Titus 3:5, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

O = Obedience – I have a new inclination to love God and my neighbor with my heart, mind, soul and strength: 1 John 3:23, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

P = Peace – I am at peace with God forever by faith in Jesus: Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Q = Qualities I share character attributes of God: Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

R = Rapture – I will one day meet the saints and Jesus in the air: 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

S = Scripture – In the 66 Books of the Bible I have all the revelation from God I need for salvation and sanctification: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

T = Truth – In Scripture I have all the objective truth I need to guide my every thought and decision for living a godly life: John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

U = Unity – Just as the members of the Trinity are one; I can be unified with my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world: Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

V = Vengeance – I don’t have to worry about my enemies; God will deal justly with those who have hurt or betrayed me: Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

W = Wrath – Thank God He has punished Jesus for my sins and as a result I will never experience His wrath: Romans 3:24-25, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”

X = Xenophobia – I no longer need to be afraid of God: Romans 5:10-11, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Y = Yahweh – I am grateful that God is the “I AM”. He has the power of being in and of Himself and thus is totally capable of sustaining His creation and carrying out His glorious purposes: Revelation 1:8, “ I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Z = Zion – I can look forward to a fortress – my eternal home – that will never be destroyed, or decay – a perfect city to live with Christ and His family forever: Isaiah 60:14, The sons of those who afflicted you shall come bending low to you, and all who despised you shall bow down at your feet; they shall call you the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”

 

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