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Book Review: The Wisdom of God by Nancy Guthrie

Jesus Only Wise – Jesus in the Wisdom Literature

One of the most exciting things about living in the times in which we are living is the anticipation of the return of Christ and the ushering in of His kingdom. Along with this prophetic reality is the intensification of our study of God’s Word to look for Christ from Genesis to Revelation. According to the author this study is “uniquely designed to help you look into the wonder of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament (covering 10 weeks of studies in Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon) and see how it prepares us for and points us toward Christ.

This book will help you:

(1) Learn how to study the Bible inductively (each chapter contains questions for personal Bible study);

(2) Understand the Bible and how the different books of the Bible fit together as a whole (each lesson contains a teaching chapter on the core truths of the Biblical Book being studied);

(3) Interact with the central truths of each Wisdom Literature Book and how they relate to the whole Bible (each chapter has a discussion starter and a dozen or so questions of exposition based on the passage of study;

(4) Apply the relevant applications from each passage in your life (each chapter has one or more questions to put the passage into action in one’s life);

(5) Love and worship Jesus Christ (each lesson is loaded with cross references, charts, discussion, and a “Looking Forward” section highlighting Jesus as the central figure, hero, and theme of each passage of study and of the entire Scriptures).

I don’t know of a small group study out there today that has more depth, more of Jesus, is more fun to study and discuss than this new series by Nancy Guthrie. It is simply outstanding in its depth of Biblical exposition, helpful in its applications, and highlights the fact that Jesus is what the Bible and life is all about. It’s about time that someone has put together a series of books designed for serious lay people about, by, and for Christ at the center of all of the Scriptures. If you are looking for a phenomenal Bible study that is theologically deep, practically relevant, and will help you to worship and love Jesus more than ever then this is the Bible study for you!

Note: I was provided with a free copy of this book from the publisher for review and was not required to write a positive review.

About the Author: Life can knock the wind out of you, taking with it your confidence in God. Or at least who you thought he was. Perhaps this explains why those who survive heart-breaking tragedy with their hope intact, and their faith expanded, have the power to inspire us. We want to hear from those people, we want to learn what they’ve learned. This may be why so many people love hearing from Nancy Guthrie. In burying two of her three children, Nancy has endured the kind of loss most of us hope we never have to face. Yet her hope has not dimmed, and her easy laugh has not disappeared.

Those who have watched Nancy and David Guthrie walk through the loss of two infant children, and the millions who have read their story worldwide inTIME Magazine and USA Today, have wondered at their ability to emerge from such sorrow with joy for life and passion for God. In reality, this deep place of pain caused Nancy to dig into the scriptures like she never had before, looking for answers to her questions and a deeper relationship to God. She offered many of the lessons she learned from this sorrowful experience in her 2002 book, Holding On to Hope: A Pathway of Suffering to the Heart of God (Tyndale House Publishers) which has helped thousands of people pursue God in the midst of their suffering. She regularly hears from readers book from all around the world who have been touched by the as the book as it has been translated into numerous languages including German, Danish, Norwegian, Korean and Chinese.

Her second book, The One Year Book of Hope (also Tyndale), a daily devotional for people who are hurting or grieving, released in 2005. The Guthries have seen God continue to use their loss to minister to other people going through loss in a variety of ways, including serving as co-hosts for a new production of the GriefShare video series. GriefShare is a 13-week video curriculum series that is used to facilitate weekly grief groups in more than 4,000 churches nationwide.

Today, Nancy’s energies and passions are focused on her growing Bible teaching ministry, Her newest book comes out of the study of Hebrews she taught for the women at her church in the fall of 2005. Hoping for Something Better: Refusing to Settle for Life as Usual (July 2007, Tyndale House Publishers), provides readers and small groups with a 10-week journey through the book of Hebrews and includes study questions for a weekly discussion.

Nancy’s previous books have received significant media coverage includingUSA Today, Christianity Today, Beliefnet, and stories syndicated nationally by Religion News Service and Associated Press. Nancy has been a guest on radio and television programs such as “FamilyLife Today,” “The Bible Answerman,” “Back to the Bible,” Moody Radio, “Life Today with James Robison,” “The 700 Club,” and many more. Her books have been promoted by international ministries including Focus on the Family, New Life Ministries, Insight for Living, the Christian Research Institute, and Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox.

In addition to teaching a weekly Bible class at her church, Nancy speaks regularly at women’s retreats and evangelistic events nationally and internationally including recent events at The Brooklyn Tabernacle, Second Baptist Church of Houston, a Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Conference, and a women’s conference in Scotland. Nancy has worked in the Christian publishing industry for over twenty years as a publicist and special project editor. She currently handles media relations for CBA: The Association for Christian Retail, and the ministry of Anne Graham Lotz.

Nancy and her husband, David, and son, Matt, make their home in Nashville, Tennessee, where they attend Christ Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in America).

 

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Book Review: Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson

Brilliantly Integrating the Gospel in all of Life

In 2009 I took a core group of leaders with me from San Diego to Dallas, Texas for an Acts 29 Boot Camp. The highlight for all of us while we were there was hearing Jonathan Dodson give a Biblical Theology on the Person and Work on the Holy Spirit from the Old and New Testament. I knew great things were going to come from this man’s life upon hearing him speak.

I hope that this will be the first of many books that Dodson writes integrating the gospel with all of life. What he does in this book in a very cogent manner is demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses in “traditional” discipleship and shows how the gospel should not be bifurcated, but central to the pre-Christian and post-Christian’s understanding of discipleship. He makes a great case for the “Great Commission” becoming the “Gospel Commission” and shows how repentance and faith in the context of community are constants in the gospel-graced disciple of Christ.

Tackling discipleship biblically, theologically, and practically Dodson has given pastors, church planters, and all kinds of Christians a wonderful handbook for understanding biblical discipleship, and how to practically live out the gospel in the context of community.

The best part of this book is how it exalts the gospel of Christ by pointing to a grace based discipleship that doesn’t err toward the extremes of self-righteousness, nor of antinomianism, but simply living out one’s new identity in Christ. According to Dodson, discipleship is our identity in Christ and everything else we are is related to our distinct roles as a disciples of Christ.

Our new identity in Christ has three distinct aspects that are developed in the book: rationality, relationship, and being missional. He also demonstrates that we must not err on the side of being only vertical (pietistic), nor horizontally oriented (missional). We must seek to diagonally balance the vertical and horizontal aspects of our identity in Christ — the head, heart, and hands aspects of discipleship in the context of community.

I highly recommend this book as one that will increase your understanding of, and application of the gospel – no matter how long you’ve been a Christian. It is one of the best books on discipleship to come out in a long time.

*Jonathan K. Dodson (M. Div; Th.M, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) serves as a pastor of Austin City Life in Austin, Texas. He has written articles in numerous blogs and journals such as The Resurgence, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, and Boundless. Dodson has discipled men and women abroad and at home for almost two decades, taking great delight in communicating the gospel and seeing Christ formed in others.

 

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Book Review: Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti M. Anyabwile

A Useful Primer For Biblical Leadership in the Church

 In this book experienced pastor Thabiti Anyabwile writes three sections on how to find deacons, elders, and specify what their roles are in the church. Pastor Anyabwile gives the pertinent biblical requirements for deacons and elders, and gives numerous helps on biblical qualifications, traits to watch for, and questions and observations for examining whether or not those under consideration are wise choices for the respective offices of elder and deacon.

I think the best way to use this book is to use it as Thabiti Anyabwile intended it to be used:

 “First, use it prayerfully. Pray for pastors and elders as they shepherd and serve the sheep. Pray for more men to be raised up in the congregation for this important work. Pray that the Lord would pour out his grace on those serving these tasks. Pray that the members of the church would show genuine appreciation, love, and care for their shepherds. Pray that all the men in the church would grow in the qualities that elders should possess. Pray that men would have a godly desire to give their lives in serving the body of Christ as servant-leaders.

Second, use this book practically. The book does not delve into a lot of detailed argumentation, hoping instead to make application easily and quickly. I want the book to help in actually doing something—identifying and training elders—not just considering something. Put the suggestions into practice, and improve them with the experience and wisdom that come from your particular church setting and other faithful leaders.

Finally, use the book pedagogically. That is, use it to teach and instruct. Perhaps a church needs to select its first elders after a period of planning and study. Pastors may wish to use these brief chapters to ‘flesh out’ for the average church member which qualities the congregation as a whole needs to be looking and praying for in their prospective elders. Examination and pastoral search committees may find similar help.”

Take it from my own experience in over twenty years of pastoring – you want to get all the help you can in the wise selection of, praying for, training of, and role implementation of your elders and deacons – because the church will ultimately rise to great heights or fall to low depths based on the quality, character, and biblical execution of it’s leaders.

I highly recommend this book for church planters, existing leadership teams, solo pastors, deacons, and elders. It serves as a concise handbook that you can use to strengthen your existing leadership, develop future leaders, and most certainly add health and value to Christ’s church as you seek to be a good steward of its most valuable resources.

 

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Book Review: Die Young by Hayley and Michael DiMarco

The Paradox of “Death to Self” Meaning “Abundant Life”

In this short book Hayley and Michael DiMarco offer seven chapters that cover seven paradoxes of the Christian life. Each chapter contains Bible verses, practical principles based on those verses, and short sidebars by both husband and wife as to how these principles have impacted their personal lives. This is essentially a handbook focusing on how Christianity teaches the opposite of what your flesh desires – which ironically leads to death – and how dying to self and living for Christ leads to an abundant life. Therefore, the younger you die the longer you will live. They carefully weave a model of robust Christ-like discipleship and articulate the importance of the gospel, justification by faith alone, and sanctification based on Christ alone. However, they also show that our faith does “work” itself out in the way Christ changes us from the inside out as we die to self and live for Him.

The seven chapters include these paradoxes:

1) “Death is the New Life” deals with what it means to die to self, learn contentment, and how suffering can be a very positive outworking of God’s working in our life. It also tackles what it means to be holy, and live a life of faith, hope, peace and love. One of the questions for reflection in this chapter was very thought provoking: “Will suffering destroy your hope and your faith, leaving you with nothing solid to stand on, alone and empty, or will your suffering destroy the parts of you that tie you to the things of this earth and keep your focus off the God of heaven?”

Some other gems from this chapter include:

“There is no fruit that grows from a seed that refuses to die.”

“When your life and all that it entails isn’t your portion, but God is your portion, then it will never diminish no matter what the world may bring.”

“There is a death that comes that isn’t meant to destroy you but to destroy that in you which was never meant to replace the hand of God in your life.”

“In the economy of Christ, love isn’t meant for self but for others.”

2) “Down is the New Up” is described perhaps best in the chapter as “the bottom isn’t such a bad place because it is only from the perspective of your own lowest point that you are able to see your sinfulness and need for a loving Savior and to be saved.” The chapter focuses on the importance of humility and contentment as opposed to pride. The perfect model of humility led to Christ becoming a man who died on a cross and procured our salvation.

3) “Less is the New More” is about how God gives more than anything we can get from the world. The less we have – the more we see how much we have in Christ. One of the key points of this chapter was, “The less there is that competes for our attention and favor in life, the more attention and favor we can give to God.”

4) “Weak is the New Strong” focuses on how waiting and depending upon God to work inspite of our weaknesses actually leads to great strength and a servants attitude that contributes to God’s working through us in a powerful way.

5)Slavery is the New Freedom because slavery to God gives those of us who embrace it freedom from all the other gods which express their hold on us in the form of struggles, addictions, fears, worries, and all other sins in our lives.” They also articulate how “our submission to God and to others proves our faith in God’s sovereignty.”

6) “Confession is the New Innocence” is all about the crucial importance of confession and ongoing repentance in the believer’s life. Here are some excellent quotes from this section:

“Without confession of guilt there is no innocence for the sinner…Confession precedes forgiveness…Our resistance to confession does two things: it keeps us from the forgiveness our sins need, and it also calls God a liar because to fail to confess is to say ‘I have not sinned.’…Confession of the biblical sort is the act of verbalizing not only error and remorse but also truth…So proper confession calls out the sins we committed and not just the pain we inflicted…Confession is best done instantly, and immediately…In the life of a Christian there are two kinds of confession. There is the confession that we make to God regarding our guilt and need for His forgiveness. This is the saving kind of confession that saves us from our guilt and makes us innocent. And there is the confession that we make to man regarding our guilt and our need of healing. Repentance is your changing your ways, determining what sin is in your life and how to avoid it from here on out…To refuse to be honest about our sin is to refuse to agree with God that there has never been and will never be a perfect person besides Jesus…Confession reveals not only our sinfulness but God’s righteousness.”

Hayley and Michael are very transparent about their struggles with sin throughout the book – Michael commenting on this fact writes: “That’s why the majority of our sidebars in this book are confessional; they destroy pride in us, create healing, and maybe even encourage the same action/reaction in you. Confession lets the confessor and the hearer (or reader) know that they’re not alone both in the pursuit of healing and the dismantling of a double life.”

7) “Red is the New White” – is on the necessity of Christ’s atoning blood to make us “white as snow.” The author’s write, “As red covers white so well and so permanently, so blood covers the sins of man…You must, in order to receive justification, believe that the blood is enough. You must die to the part of you that insists it do its part to participate in this salvation thing and help God out…If your heart has a hard time believing justification by the blood, then consider killing the part of you that would argue against God’s gracious and necessary gift.”

I highly recommend this book – especially for new Christians, young Christians – mature teens and college students. This book is loaded with good practical theology and will help you die to what’s killing you, and help you live a more abundant life in Christ by mortifying the flesh.

*Note: I was given an advanced copy of this book by Crossway and was not required to write a positive review.

 

 

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Book Review: Preaching Christ in All of Scripture By Edmund P. Clowney

How To Preach Sermons Leading You to Worship Jesus

I was trained in an Evangelical University and Seminary where I had an excellent Biblical education and training in Systematic Theology. After being a preaching pastor for about five years I realized that the best preachers I was admiring had been trained in Biblical Theology and so I enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry preaching program at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California.

I vividly remember one of my professors talking about how the story of David and Goliath wasn’t just about “David and Goliath” but pointed to the greater David – Jesus. It’s taken me years to learn how to preach Christ and not just moralistic sermons. However, one of the masters of preaching Christ from all of the Bible is Edmund P. Clowney. As a matter of fact a lot of preachers today are excited about the teaching ministry of Tim Keller in New York – who really learned most of what he knows (that’s what he will tell you) from the author of the sermons of this book – Dr. Edmund Clowney.

One of the first things I learned about at WTS was Redemptive Historical Preaching – which essentially follows the “big story line” of the Bible with an eye on Jesus and His Person and redemptive work in history. In my opinion, what Clowney does teaches and models in this book is the greatest need of the 21st century – getting back to preaching Christ from all of Scripture.

If you are a pastor who like me – has had trouble with “getting to Christ” from the passage – especially in the Old Testament – you will find some great examples of how to do this from the various genres in the Old and New Testaments from a brilliant and humble preacher who knew the Bible and the “big story” well.

Edmund Clowney’s book is an outstanding contribution in helping preachers do what the prophets and the apostles did – preach Christ. Clowney begins with a chapter demonstrating how all of the Scriptures point to Christ – and he makes a wonderful case for this reality. In the second chapter he gives his methodology for “preparing a sermon that presents Christ.”

The remaining chapters are sample sermons from different genres in the Old and New Testaments showing the application of the principles articulated in the first two chapters. The sermons are as follows:

“Sharing the Father’s Welcome” based on Luke 15:11-32

“See What It Costs” based on Genesis 22:1-19

“When God Came Down” based on Genesis 28:10-22

“The Champion’s Strange Victory” based on Genesis 32

“Can God Be Among Us?” based on Exodus 34:1-9

“Meet the Captain” based on Joshua 5:13-15

“Surprised by Devotion” based on 2 Samuel 23:13-17

“The Lord of the Manger”

“Jesus Preaches Liberty” based on Luke 4:16-22

“The Cry of the God-Forsaken Savior” based on Psalm 22:1

“Our International Anthem” based on Psalm 936:3

“Jesus Christ and the Lostness of Man”

“Hearing Is Believing: The Lord of the Word”

As of the writing of this review you can still hear Edmund P. Clowney and Tim Keller co- teach a class for free called “Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World.” It has 37 lectures and question and answers sessions from RTS and covers the full gamut of issues related to Christ–centered preaching. I highly recommend that you download this course and listen to it until you get it. It will make a huge difference in your teaching and preaching – and you will see real life change in yourself and your hearers as a result.

If you are a preacher, or teacher of the Bible you will definitely benefit from this book. More importantly, I hope that you will be influenced and impacted by this book so that your sermons and Bible lessons will be filled with Christ, lead to Christ, and bring glory to Christ in a way that articulates with passion and excitement – the greatest story ever told. I have been blessed in my own worship of Christ, understanding of Christo-centric preaching, and have become a better preacher and teacher as a result – going from teaching moralistically to Biblically and thus leading others to worship Christ the Lord.

 

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