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Book Review: When Will My Life Not Suck? By Ramon Presson

How To Live and Thrive in the Real World

 Most people have thought and spoken something similar to the title of this book. I for one think the title is unfortunate because it makes the book sound more sophomoric than it actually is. However, I think that every Christian has thought or uttered the words of the title – if not the actual words – definitely with the attitude that the title conveys. It’s actually a very good book which deals with and answers a lot of the questions and struggles that Christians wrestle with living in a fallen world.

The author primarily uses the apostle’s Paul’s writing to the Philippians as a guide in helping the reader deal with scars from the past, moving from “why?” to “what next?” and going from discontent to contentment. If there is a theme that ties everything together it’s the fact that we can use everything in life that we have encountered and integrate into our lives for something good and in order to bring glory to God.

I think this book has a lot of good principles from the life of Jesus, the apostle Paul, and the author’s personal life experiences as a counselor and pastor (he is very transparent and authentic) in order to show how we can go from our default modes to a God oriented way of thinking that leads to a productive, effective, and purposeful life.

The book is very encouraging, helpful, and full of wise advice. I recommend it highly – especially for people who feel like they have been given a raw deal. It will help get you out of the doldrums and onto the right track again.

 

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Book Review: Discovering God’s Will by Sinclair B. Ferguson

My Favorite Scottish Theologian/Pastor on God’s Will

 I am partial to pastor theologians (men that teach or have taught in the seminary and are also preaching pastors) like R. C. Sproul, John Piper, Mark Dever, Eugene Peterson, James White and the writer of this book, Sinclair Ferguson, because they are well studied, but as they have a book on one knee, they also have a lamb on the other knee. They know the Scriptures, but they also know people and how the two need the Word and Shepherding.

In this book Ferguson emphasizes the fact that the best way to get guidance in the Christian life is by knowing the Guide – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s very important to know about the Guide, but so much more important to know the Guide personally and intimately as your Shepherd, Leader, Supplier, and Restorer. He instills in us the idea that you will only do the will of God insofar as you follow His lead in your life.

In the first chapter of the book Dr. Ferguson develops the ideas that a Christian is one who walks on the paths which God has laid; enjoys the purpose for his life which God has ordained; and looks to the destiny which God has planned. Some of the key questions he grapples with are the following: Why has God made me? What is my life for? Will this course of action tend to further the glory of God? What does it mean that our lives should reflect his glory?

In chapter two Sinclair develops the idea of how God has revealed his character and ways in three specific ways: 1) God’s direct commandments and prohibitions; 2) The numerous principles worked out in the Scriptures; and 3) The illustrations and biographical accounts which reveal how these principles of God’s working with his people turn out in personal experiences. He states, “The chief need we have is that of increased familiarity with sensitivity to the wisdom of his word…But we are not called by God to make the mysterious, the unusual, the inexplicable the rule of our lives, but his word.”

Some practical principles on guidance:

1)    God’s guidance will require patience on our part.

2)    It is essential that we come to see the part which our own thinking should play in the discernment of the will of God.

3)    The discovery of God’s will and its accomplishment involves our own will.

In chapter three he develops the idea of guarding the heart, and deals specifically with our motives and conditions with an excellent treatment of the deceptiveness and transformation of the heart from the Proverbs, Psalms, and the book of James.

In chapter four Ferguson develops the idea that “to live in the will of God is to walk in love, to walk in light and to walk in wisdom.”

The principles of conduct he develops in chapter five are to help us answer six key questions when the Bible doesn’t specifically address something we have to decide about with reference to moral or ethical dilemmas we encounter:

1)    Is it lawful? (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

2)    Is it beneficial to me? Will it complicate, rather than simplify my life? (1 Tim. 4:4; Rom. 14:14; 1 Cor. 6:12)

3)    Is it enslaving? (1 Cor. 9:27; 2 Tim. 1:7)

4)    Is it consistent with Christ’s Lordship? (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 7:23)

5)    Is it helpful to others? (Rom. 14:20; 1 Cor. 10:33; Jn. 17:19; Rom. 15:3; Heb. 4:12)

6)    Is it consistent with the example of Christ and the apostles? Are there incidents, or is there teaching in Scripture, which can be applied to the situation in which I find myself? Will it give me a clue to the will of God for my life now? Is it for the glory of God? For that matter, am I living for the glory of God? (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 2 Thess. 3:7; 2 Tim. 3:20; Heb. 6:12; 13:7)

In chapter six he urges us to consider our calling by considering our gifts, needs, and settled interests.

Chapter seven underscores several principles and questions to ask concerning marriage:

1)    Be realistic in your expectations.

2)    Be biblical in your preparation by answering some of these key questions: What is marriage for? What should I look for in a husband or a wife?

3)    How do we fulfill the different roles of husband and wife? (Eph. 5:21-33)

4)    What is the character of marriage?

5)    What is the ultimate aim of marriage? I love what Ferguson says in answering this particular question, “The ultimate aim of marriage is to reflect God’s image; to reflect the glory of his grace and Being. This means that marriage can never be an end in itself. It exists for a greater purpose than its own fulfillment.”

Chapter 8 develops the theme of waiting on the Lord. He elaborates on issues we wrestle with like impatience, God’s apparent silence, and how to trust in God during these waiting times. Some of the difficulties of waiting are addressed as well like:

1)    We are reluctant to accept our status in this world as pilgrims.

2)    We are sometimes unwilling to bow to the sovereign providences of God in our lives.

3)    We lack faith in the goodness of God.

4)    We are too easily influenced by the attitudes of the age in which we live.

The last chapter of the book hones in on the ways God leads us. He closes by giving a practical exposition of Psalm 23 – God supplies our needs (v.1); God restores His people (v.3); God leads His people (v. 3); God protects His people (v.4); God richly blesses his people (v.5); God preserves to the end with his people (v.6).

I would describe this book as encouraging, Christo-centric, pastoral,  helpful, enriching, and biblically grounded. I highly recommend this book – especially if you don’t like to read a lot – the chapters are short and concise, and Dr. Ferguson does not waste words – short, sweet, and to the point.

 

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Book Review – Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur

Good Biblical Foundation For Understanding the Topic of God’s Will For Your Life

I am currently reading a handful of books on decision making. I figured I would start out with the shortest of them, and work my way to the longest (from the simple to the complex). John Macarthur’s greatest strength is that you can count on him staying close to what the Bible says and not giving any speculation as to what it doesn’t say. He doesn’t delve into the emotional or philosophical realm, but sticks like glue to what the Bible clearly articulates concerning what God’s will is for humanity.

In the first chapter John clearly spells out what he wants to do in this little booklet: “Let’s begin with a simple assumption. Since God has a will for us, He must want us to know it. If so, then we could expect Him to communicate it to us in the most obvious way. How would that be? Through the Bible, His revelation. Therefore, I believe that what one needs to know about the will of God is clearly revealed in the pages of the Word of God. God’s will is, in fact, very explicit in Scripture.”

Therefore, MacArthur proceeds to deal only with what the Bible states explicitly about the Word of God. He gleans six principles from six (actually more – but for the purposes of this review I will only give the key texts he uses) key passages of Scripture.

1)    The first thing about God’s will is that He wants all kinds of people (economic classes, high positions, low positions and all ethnicities) to be saved based on 1 Timothy 2:3,4 – “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (Referencing verses1 & 2 where Paul says “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way”).

2)    It is God’s will that we are Spirit-filled (numerous verses). The key verses used in the chapter is Ephesians 5:15-18 where the Apostle Paul says, “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” According to MacArthur the Spirit-filled life is “being saturated with the things of Christ with His Word, His Person.”

3)    It is God’s will for us to be sanctified. The key verses here are in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in passionate lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”

4)    It is God’s will that we be a submissive and obedient people. Colossians 3; Ephesians 5 & 6; and 1 Peter 2:3-15 all talk about the roles of submission that every believer has with ultimate submission to the Lordship of Jesus over our lives.

5)    It is God’s will that we mature in Christ through suffering. 1 Peter 4:19 & 5:10 specify, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good…And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

6)    It is God’s will that in all things we give thanks and delight in Him. In Psalm 37:4 David reminds us to “delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” And the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

In the final analysis if you are saved through the righteousness of Christ imputed to your account in exchange for your sin, and thus Spirit-filled, seeking to be sanctified, are submissive to Christ’s leadership in your life, endure suffering, and are continually giving thanks in all things – then according to MacArthur, and I agree – it doesn’t matter what you do. The foundation for all your decisions has already been established, and now you have great freedom within the parameters of God’s protective boundaries delineated in the Bible.

This book is by no means exhaustive, but is recommended because it lays a solid foundation for what the Bible does say about “finding God’s will for your life.”

 

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Book Review: Making the Best of a Bad Decision by Erwin Lutzer

 Encouragement and Hope For The Journey Ahead

Book Reviewed By David P. Craig

The subtitle of this book is “how to put your regrets behind you, embrace grace, and move toward a better life.” *Lutzer definitely does that, and much more in this very helpful book on how God’s sovereignty plays out in our lives, even when we sin, fail, make mistakes, and blow it every which way. The good news is that God works things out for our good even when we have messed things up pretty bad.

Using biblical examples like David, Moses, Paul, and numerous others, as well as numerous real life examples from his many years as a pastor, Lutzer shows time and time again that we can have a fresh start, a new hope, and be forgiven of our sins. Nothing we have done is too difficult for God to redeem through the shed blood of Christ, and in His sovereign plans.

Specifically, the author addresses bad decisions we have made in marriage, morally, financially, vocationally, and when we have hurt others. He gives biblical counsel for each of these poor decisions (most of us have and will make), and each chapter always has practical steps in how to deal with the past, the present, and gives much hope for the future. In the final two chapters he tackles how we can learn from our past and make wise decisions in the present and future. And lastly, he deals with the most important decision you can ever make – related to where you will spend your eternity.

The book also features a discussion guide for individual or group study. I highly recommend this book – especially for people who have ever said, or are saying things like: “My life is over;” I’ve sinned so much I could never be forgiven;” “I think I married the wrong person;” “I’m in debt up to my eyeballs, there is no way I can ever get out of this mess;” “I can never forgive ___________ for what they did to me;” “How can I ever repay ____________ back for how much I hurt them?” And any other question you have asked when you feel hopeless.

Lutzer’s book is easy to read, thorough, very applicable, and full of helpful biblical wisdom to help you get back on the right track – no matter where you got off! I believe that this book will help a lot of people recover, find redemption, and hope to help make the journey in the future a lot better than the past.

*Since 1980, Erwin W. Lutzer has served as senior pastor of the world-famous Moody Church in Chicago, where he provide leadership to Chicago pastors. Dr. Lutzer earned his B.Th. from Winnipeg Bible College, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, an M.A. in philosophy from Loyola University, an LL.D. from Simon Greenleaf School of Law, and a D.D. from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary.

ABOUT DR. ERWIN LUTZER

Dr. Lutzer is a featured radio speaker on the Moody Broadcasting Network and the author of numerous books, including The Vanishing Power of DeathCries from the Cross, the best-selling One Minute Before You Die and Hitler’s Cross, which received the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (EPCA) Gold Medallion Book Award. He speaks both nationally and internationally at Bible conferences and tours and has led tours of the cities of the Protestant Reformation in Europe.

Dr. Lutzer and his wife, Rebecca, live in the Chicago area and are the parents of three grown children. (Courtesy of Multnomah Publishers)

 

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