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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: Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley

Vintage Stanley: Biblical Reflections On The Four Greatest Enemies of Our Soul

I think Andy Stanley has hit it out of the park with this book. He is so good at bringing God’s truth from the Scriptures to bear on the big issues of the day. I think that along with Pete Scazzero’s books Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and the Emotionally Healthy Church – that this book is must reading for pastors, leaders, and anyone who is a part of the body of Christ. Most Bible teachers, often neglect the soulish matters of the heart, – but Stanley calls a spade a spade and writes a convicting, challenging, and much needed corrective for us to address our blind spots.

In Part 1 he addresses the fact that sin comes from the heart as Jeremiah says and is incredibly deceptive. He talks about the damage that sin does, and how to identify it, and the importance of correcting it.

In Part 2 he addresses the dynamics of the debts that result from our sin. The four biggies are: Guilt – “I owe you”; Anger – “You owe me”; Greed – “I owe me”; and Jealousy – “God owes me.” Andy handles each of these brilliantly and gives excellent examples that we can all relate to, so that we can confess them and start working in a positive direction to overcome them with the help of God the Holy Spirit.

In Part 3 he focuses in on how to confront each of these sins, with their righteous (happy) counterparts: from anger to forgiveness; from greed to generosity; and reasons to celebrate the joy that we have in receiving Christ’s blessing and the Holy Spirit’s power at work in our lives.

In Part 4 he helps us focus on what we are modeling and the legacy we are leaving behind (especially parents for their children) and how to deal with lust.

The book includes a helpful discussion guide, which is excellent for personal application, and small group discussion. This book is vintage Stanley: full of Scripture, great examples and illustrations, and motivates you toward wanting to live the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. I can’t recommend it highly enough – life transforming!

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Book Reviews, Spiritual Life

 

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Book Review: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

The “Missing Link” in Christian Discipleship

Pete Scazzero (the pastor of a thriving church in New York) writes a very transparent and yet helpful account of how Christians have a tendency to neglect two areas of their lives: the emotions, and the realities of generational sin. He begins the book by demonstrating how devastating this can be in relationships, and how this affects the corporate health of the body of Christ. What this does ultimately is it creates a “false peace” that deals only with symptoms and not the causes of what makes for unhealthy relationships.

I think this book is must reading for all Christians, especially church leaders (pastors, teachers, small group leaders, etc.) because I think most interpersonal relationships, marriages, families, and thus churches live in this reality Scazzero calls “false peace.” In the book he gives various examples from his life, and others lives – as well as many biblical examples of how to identify these real emotional and sinful tendencies, and how to correct them through the biblical disciplines.

For example – I have discipled numerous men over the years (as a pastor and professional life coach) who know the Bible well, but their relationships are a mess. Sometimes they have a ton of repressed anger inside, or are trying to “make up” for the approval they never received at home, or they have an incurable “lust” problem, etc. Ultimately, all these “realities” are typically below the surface in the discipleship process – and never dealt with. We give people more verses; more lists of dos and don’ts, and continue to live in this realm of false peace.

Scazzero builds a great case in the book for identifying personal and generational sin, and gives excellent tools for grappling with, and overcoming these areas of sin with the help of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. I can’t recommend this book (and the workbook that goes with it) highly enough. I think if Christians and churches (he’s also written a book called the Emotionally Healthy Church with a workbook that goes with it) want to really become healthy and rid the false peace and barriers that have been built up over time, you can’t do any better than to read and work through this book.

My wife and I have read this book and gone through the workbook at least four times, and it has been absolutely life transforming. Along with R.C. Sproul’s the “Holiness of God,” and Peter Kreeft’s (“Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing”) and Randy Alcorn’s books on Heaven – this book has radically changed my thinking and behavior – and has helped me repent of, and deal with sin in my life in a way that few books have helped me to do. I think every Christian should read this book more than once and go through the workbook with another person, or several people (small groups are ideal – especially if they are a close knit small group).

As a pastor and church leader for many years I also recommend that staff’s, elders, and ministry teams go through this book and the Workbook based on this book for healthier teams that will radically benefit the body of Christ for good. If I could give this a higher rating than a five I would – this book is one of the greatest gifts of God’s grace I’ve received – it has helped me in all of my relationships – with God, other believers, and those who have yet to believe – and taken me to a deeper level in all these relationships than I ever thought possible.

 

*Peter Scazzero is the Founder and Senior Lead Pastor of New Life Fellowship Church. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell (MDiv) and Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (DMin in marriage and family), he is also the author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Nelson, 2006), The Emotionally Healthy Church: Expanded (Zondervan, 2010), and Begin the Journey with the Daily Office (WCA, 2009). Pete has been married to his best friend, Geri, and together they have four daughters – Maria, Christy, Faith and Eva. He loves libraries, bookstores, and the printed page — on almost any topic. Basketball, hiking and the outdoors (thanks to Geri), laughter, Italian opera, history, and great meals with family, are among his greatest joys. Pete and Geri are co-founders of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

 

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