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Book Review: Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian

 Clearly Articulates the “Now-ness” of The Gospel

I was gripped by this book from the outset because it was in going through the hardest difficulty in my life a few years ago (similar to what Tullian describes in chapter one) that I realized the idolatry for what it was in my own life and learned to once again treasure the “now-ness” (not newness) of the gospel. It’s easy to take the gospel for granted when you have been a follower of Christ for many years, but I think having to personally live out or flesh out the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ makes one better appreciate the significance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ – not only in the past and future – but especially in the now.

I am very grateful for this book because Tullian articulates the gospel with passion, clarity, and hones in on how the gospel makes a difference in the now. If you have already read a lot of Tim Keller or Paul Tripp this book will have a lot of new insights for you. However, if you have never read Keller or Tripp than you are really in for a treat. I think Tullian writes in a way that’s simpler, and more concise than Keller or Tripp. No matter how you slice it, this book has great information on the distinctions between justification and sanctification and how everything we long for can only be satisfied in Christ.

I highly recommend this book especially for people who are prone to legalism, or have come from a background where “works righteousness” has been emphasized. I think this book is MUST reading if you haven’t read any of Tim Keller or Paul Tripp’s stuff. If you like this book than you will really love Keller and Tripp. These three guys have really got a good grasp of the gospel and how it applies to all of life – past, present, and future – with a special emphasis on the present.

As Tullian writes and you read his illustrations, a plethora of Scripture, and a lot of great quotes – my hope is that you too will come to treasure and apply the gospel in your own life more than ever before. It is so exciting to see so many new writers, and pastors going into the depths of the gospel with passion and clarity. He must have a generational gift inherited from his grandfather for this ability (Billy Graham). Tullian has a great story and we all do, if we have repented of our sins and put our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and seek to pursue Jesus + nothing – we will indeed get everything we have ever longed for here and beyond!

Note: I was provided a free copy of this book by the publisher and was not required to write a positive review. Thanks – Crossway – for continuing to put out the best books in Christian publishing (in my humble opinion).

 

*William Graham “Tullian Tchividjian” is a Florida native (born July 13, 1972 in Jacksonville) and is the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. He is named after third century theologian Tertullian.

A graduate of Columbia International University (philosophy) and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando (M.Div.), Tchividjian is the author of The Kingdom of God: A Primer on the Christian Life (Banner of Truth), Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life’s Most Important Relationship (Multnomah), Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different  (Multnomah), Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (Crossway) and, most recently – from which the review above is based, Jesus + Nothing = Everything  (Crossway).

Before becoming senior pastor of Coral Ridge, Tchividjian was the founding pastor of New City Presbyterian Church, an Evangelical Presbyterian Church congregation which merged with Coral Ridge in April 2009.

After taking over as pastor, Tchividjian instituted sweeping changes. He made the services somewhat more contemporary than they had previously been. He canceled the church’s long-running television program, The Coral Ridge Hour. He also significantly deemphasized politics; Coral Ridge had long been reckoned as one of the most politically active churches in the country. Tchividjian’s opponents garnered enough support to force a congregational vote of confidence, but a solid majority voted to retain him as pastor. In response, more than 400 members–including a large part of the music ministry–broke off to form “The New Presbyterian Church.”

He speaks at conferences throughout the United States and his sermons are broadcast daily on the radio program Godward Living. He is the new chaplain for the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Cowboys.

He married his wife Kim in 1994 and they have three children – Gabe, Nate, and Genna.

 

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Book Review: Thinking, Loving, Doing edited by John Piper & David Mathis

Theological and Practical Help For Balancing the Mind, Heart, and Hands

This book is a compilation of several outstanding pastoral addresses from experienced Christian leaders from a recent Desiring God Conference on the theme of balancing the mind, the heart (emotions), and the hands. I will seek to summarize what each chapter/leader addresses in their specific topic of choice and what I benefited from in my reading of each chapter:

The Introduction is written by David Mathis (an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis). He makes a helpful distinction between churches that focus on being pure and those that focus on unity and encourages those who lean one way or the other to learn from the other side. He then proceeds to use Dr. John Frames helpful distinctions of tri-perspectivalism, whereby some churches emphasis The Kingly role, some the Priestly role, and others the Prophetic role of Christ. He then sets up the following chapters in the book and shows how each contributes to bring balance to how we can love Christ with our minds, hearts, and hands.

I personally really enjoyed this chapter as it caused me to reflect on my own strengths and weaknesses in my personal and corporate involvement in the body of Christ and what I have to offer others and what I can learn from others in becoming more Christ-like in balancing the tri-perspectivalism as described in the chapter via John Frames helpful schema.

Chapter Two is entitled “The Battle for Your Mind” by Rick Warren (everyone knows who he is – if you are on planet Earth). He does a topical study from the Scriptures on the pitfalls we wrestle with in the battle between our ears, and then proceeds to give four principles on thinking; five levels of learning; and five things to remember when we are teaching others.

As usual, Warren is very practical, and gives some good acronyms whereby one can remember easily his various points. What I liked about this chapter is that it was very thorough and broad and it is a chapter I will go back to again and again in my teaching others, and being reminded myself how to win the battle for the mind utilizing distinct principles in taking every thought captive for Christ.

Chapter Three is the most intellectually demanding chapter written by Albert Mohler – the President of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville. He gives a very thought provoking analysis of our present state of thinking in light of Romans 1:18-32 and postmodernism. He gives 14 insightful noetic effects on the mind due to the fall; five precepts of the modern mind, 12 features of the natural mind, and three practical ways to combat the blind spots that we all have due to the fall.

Dr. Mohler has an amazing mind and what this chapter did for me primarily is to help me think more theologically about how thinking must be reformed and renewed by the Scriptures and the amazing effects of the fall upon our minds. It really motivated me to study the Scriptures and Culture more thouroughly then I typically do, so that I give more thought to how to declare the gospel the “natural” mind, and well as to the “spiritual” mind of those I seek to reach and grow in the gospel.

My favorite modern theologian – Dr. RC Sproul – founder of Ligonier Ministries writes about how Paul addresses the secular mind from Acts 17 and what we can learn from what he did, in our own approach to skeptics today.

Dr. Sproul makes the case for how we can never find “an explanation for being, for life, or for motion if we try to find it outside the being and character of God.” I was encouraged by this reminder of how amazing it is to have the perspective of God in my worldview, when so many have suppressed this, and are thus in great need of modern “Paul’s” to address the issues of the day from a Theo and Christo-centric perspective.

In Chapter Four Thabiti Anyabwile (Pastor in the Cayman Islands) addresses how we may encounter Islam by using the mind of Christ as opposed to being driven by fear where he rightly says, “where fear takes control, thinking does not.”

Pastor Anyabwile (a former Muslim who converted to Christianity as a young adult) does a fantastic job of giving an overview of pluralism, Islam, and how we should respond to Muslims. His chapter helped me to fear Islam less, and gave me a bigger heart to share the good news with the many Muslims who live in my community.

In Chapter Five, Francis Chan (Pastor and Writer in San Francisco) addresses how to think hard, combat pride and stay humble based on an exposition of 1 Corinthians 8. In this chapter Chan really does a great job showing how we can love more like Jesus by thinking more like him.

The Concluding chapter is by John Piper (Preaching Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church) and addresses how love flows out of us when we love God with all of our minds. He gives 8 points that he hopes this book will prevent in Christians, and then what he hopes that this book will awaken and increase: ‘Thinking for the sake of loving.”

I really enjoyed this book because it was deep theologically, and gave helpful applications from the Scriptures in how to love God and others with our minds, emotions, and actions. I highly recommend it and give it 5 stars because it’s a book I will come to again and again for my own personal walk with the Lord, and because it will help me to be more balanced in my own teaching, and coaching ministries.

*Note: I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to give a favorable review.

 

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Book Review COMMUNITY: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support by Brad House

An Exceptional Resource For Building and Sustaining Multiplying Missional Communities

Brad House is on staff at Mars Hill Church in Seattle – a church that is solid theologically, philosophically, and missionally. They are a church that is exceptional in theological depth and missional outreach in impacting their culture for the sake of Christ. The message of the gospel comes through loud and clear, and without compromise in both their corporate and communal contexts. In one of the least churched cities in America they have proven that what took place in the book of Acts, is still possible today – especially through the medium of the teaching of the Word and its balanced application within the context of community groups.

According to the author one study indicates that less than 18% of young evangelicals ages 18-23 participate in a small group, Bible study, or prayer group that is sponsored by their local churches. This book is not only written to combat this problem, but provides ample Biblical solutions and real life illustrations of how to build a solid foundation for building community groups that are healthy and result in personal, corporate, and communal life transformation via living out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I highly recommend this book for the following types of people:

1)    Senior Pastors – It will motivate you to launch community groups in your church and help you to be more strategic and missional in your ministries of in reach and outreach.

2)    Existing Small Group Leaders and Participants – It will help give you ideas, tools, and applications that you have never thought of – in order to have a more effective, strategic, and balanced community group.

3)    Church Planters – This book will give you a huge jump-start on what you need to launch a healthy church that provides ideas for training, equipping, and providing the infrastructure needed to have a healthy and growing gospel centered church.

Overall, I loved this book because it’s Biblical, practical, and comprehensive in scope. Any one who loves Christ and His church will benefit from the study and practical implementation of this excellent resource for building gospel communities that make a huge difference for the glory of Christ.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Book Reviews, Small Group Resources

 

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Book Review: What is The Mission of The Church? By Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert

Balanced Because It’s Biblical In What It Says About The Mission of the Church

As a pastor for over twenty years you see a lot of fads come and go in the way churches seek to make an impact in our communities and culture.  I have never met a pastor (worth his salt) who didn’t want to be pleasing to God and make a difference for the sake of Christ in his community and culture. However, I have become more and more concerned as I see pastors watering down the message of the gospel; focusing more on programs than on the message of the gospel; and being influenced more by the culture, than influencing culture with the message of the Bible. Therefore, I wholeheartedly endorse and applaud this latest offering on the “mission” of the church because I think it is an excellent treatment of the relevant biblical passages and how they bear on the issues we are facing in the 21st century on what the mission/purpose of the church should be. It is missional and Biblical; truthful and loving without compromise; theologically profound and culturally relevant.

Without giving away the mission of the church as defined and defended in this book, I can say that DeYoung and Gilbert do a fantastic job of discussing issues like helping the poor, economics and social justice, the Kingdom, the gospel, and how a church can make an impact on the world without sacrificing the truth and absolutes.

The strengths of this book lie in its simplicity and clarity, exposition and insightful interpretation of the Scriptures, and it’s very clear explanation and application of the gospel as revealed in the 66 books of the Bible. I recommend this book especially for pastor’s young and old, leadership teams of churches, missionaries, and Christians who want to know how they can be purposefully a part of the only organization of which the “gates of hell will not prevail.”

At the end of the day – this book is highly recommended because the author’s build a great case for how to be biblically focused, God-centered, and culturally penetrating without sacrificing the most important truths and main story line of the Bible – the centrality of Jesus Christ as Lord and King to whom is all praise, glory and honor forever.

 

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Book Review: My ABC Bible Verses by Susan Hunt

I bought this book in 1998 when our youngest children (of five) where aged 3 and 5. This was one of their favorite books – now our oldest children are having their own children and I picked up this book to read again to my two grandchildren (and counting). Our family loves this book because it contains stories starting with A-Z and has a Bible verse starting with a new letter of the alpha bet for each story.

My wife and I would read the stories to our kids – oftentimes on the way to school, or at the dinner table – and then we would all quiz one another, “What’s the ‘A’ verse, or what’s the ‘d’ verse. There are several benefits to reading this book and discussing it with your children:

  1. You get to learn 26 verses that delineate great truths about the Gospel, Christ, and godly values.
  2. You and your children get to memorize 26 verses of the Bible.
  3. The verses are made practical in each story – so your children get to learn how applicable and relevant the Bible is to their own young lives.
  4. The gospel is taught, explained, and calls for a response in this book. All of our children have made a profession of faith in Christ, and it is very possible that the seeds planted from this book contributed to their salvation.
  5. The stories are excellent for kids – it worked out really well for our kids because it always involved a boy and girl (and we had a boy and girl) that were curious to see who the hero of each story was.
  6. There are good discussion questions for each story and it lends itself well to prayer and a personal response time of repentance, or encouragement.
  7. Susan Hunt is not only a good children’s writer, but a very good theologian – she weaves the story line together with Biblical Theology in such a way that the book is not moralistic, but Christ Centered and gospel driven.
  8. Having all the verses start with a letter of the alphabet is a brilliant mnemonic device that we still use even with our children today at the ages of 15 and 17. As a matter of fact – probably not a month goes by where one of us in the family doesn’t quiz each other on the “A-Z” verses. Sometimes we can even recall the story that went with the verse.

Since 1998 I’ve probably bought at least twenty of these books to give away to parents and at baby dedications in our church. I highly recommend it. I believe that my wife and I have benefited as much (maybe more) than our kids have. Now we are excited to read this book again and again to our grandkids. I highly recommend it for parents of young children, for grandparents, and for Sunday school teachers.

 

*Susan Hunt’s Bio:


Susan Hunt is a former director and a current consultant for the Presbyterian Church in America’s Women in the Church ministry. She has written Sunday school and discipleship curricula and Bible study series, as well as a number of books for women and children. Her published titles for women include:Leadership for Women in the Church (co-authored with Peggy Hutcheson),Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Mandate for Women Mentoring Women, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church (co-authored with Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III), and Heirs of the Covenant. Her children’s books include My ABC Bible Verses, and three titles co-authored with her son Richie Hunt: Big Truths for Little Kids, Discovering Jesus in Genesis, and Discovering Jesus in Exodus. She has spoken in women s conferences across the United States and in several other countries. Susan is married to Gene Hunt, a retired Presbyterian Church in America pastor. They have three adult children and twelve grandchildren.

 
 

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