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Book Review: The Gospel Centered Life by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

How To Live For God’s Glory

 This is a fantastic concise guide written by two experienced church planters in England designed for individuals, one-on-one, or in small groups. This is one of four books in a series of guides on the themes of being gospel centered. All four of these guides (also on the Church, Marriage, and Family) are loaded with great topics, questions for discussion, and saturated with good theology and biblically based. The best thing about this guide is that it is short, without sacrificing depth – for people who don’t have a lot of time, or simply don’t like to read. It gets you straight and to the point of discussion quickly – designed for action.

This book has 14 short chapters that each contain these elements: 1) A Principle based on the biblical topic being discussed; 2) Consider this – a short case study on the topic at hand; 3) a biblical background reading on the subject of the case study; 4) Read all about it – a brief discussion on the topic tying in the context, bridging the biblical passage, and it’s relevancy to the topic; and 5) Questions for reflection and discussion.

Here are the Principles and Key Biblical Passages Developed in the Three Sections of this book:

Part One: Gospel-Centered Change

Chapter 1: “A Life for God” – Principle: “It’s not about me—it’s about God and His glory.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from 1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1.

Chapter 2: “A Life for others” – Principle: “It’s not about me—it’s about loving God and others.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Matthew 22:34-40.

Chapter 3: “A Life of change” – Principle: “God is making me more like Jesus for His glory and my good.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Hebrews 12:1-11.

Chapter 4: “A Life of Miracles“ – Principle: “The Holy Spirit changes me through the gospel.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Romans 8:1-17.

Part Two: Gospel Centered Perspectives

Chapter 5:  “Look up to God” – Principle: “I respond to the gospel with daily repentance and faith.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Acts 20:17-24.

Chapter 6: “Look back to the cross” – Principle: “The cross is the foundation and pattern of my life.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Romans 8:28-39.

Chapter 7: “Look around at the Christian community” – Principle: “Belonging to Jesus means I belong to His community.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Colossians 3:1-17.

 

Chapter 8:  “Look forward to eternity” – Principle: “Eternal glory offers more than this life.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Hebrews 11:8-11, 24-26; 12:1-3.

 

Part Three: Gospel Centered Living

Chapter 9: “Decisions” – Principle: “My top priority is serving Christ.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:3-12.

Chapter 10: “Relationships” – Principle: “I have a duty of care for others that involves taking the initiative to serve and resolve conflict.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from James 3:1-4:12.

Chapter 11: “Friends” – Principle: “My willingness to speak about Jesus arises from my delight in Jesus.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Colossians 1:13-20.

Chapter 12: “Horizons” – Principle: “The gospel enlarges my horizons, giving me a concern for God’s world.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from Isaiah 12.

Chapter 13: “Possessions” – Principle: “God gives me blessing that I might glorify Him.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from 1 Timothy 6:6-19.

Chapter 14: “Suffering” – Principle: “God gives me suffering that I might glorify Him.” The Biblical background for this chapter comes from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.

I highly recommend this book for all followers of Christ. The most beneficial way to read it will be in the context of community with other believers so that the many ideas in this book can be immediately fleshed out among real life. It is theologically sound, biblically saturated; Christ centered, and will truly help you live a more gospel-centered life.

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Book Review: The Gospel Centered Marriage by Tim Chester

Concise and Helpful Guide For Marriage

Tim Chester is a church planter and writer in England. I appreciated the way he elevated Christ, His church, and how he applies the gospel in every facet of married life. The chapters designed for couples and small groups are concise, biblically and theologically based, Christo-centric, thorough, practical, and tailor made to promote discussion and application.

Some of the features of this book that are highlighted in each chapter are the following sections:

Consider this – “A scenario—often based on a real-life—situation which raises some kind of dilemma or frustration in marriage.”

Biblical background – “A relevant Bible passage together with some questions to help you think it through.”

Read all about it – “A discussion of the principle, both in terms of its theological underpinning and its contemporary application.”

Questions for reflection – “Questions that can be used for group discussion or personal reflection.”

Ideas for action – “Some ideas or an exercise to help people think through the application of the principle to their own situation.”

What I have done below to give you a taste of the book is to give the principle elaborated on in each chapter and the key Scriptures covered in each chapter.

Part One: Gospel-Centered Marriage – The Five Chapters in this section are on:

Chapter One – “Marriage and the passion of God” illuminates the principle: “Your marriage is an illustration of the relationship of Christ to His people.” The key passage in this chapter is a study of Hosea 1-3.

Chapter Two – “Marriage and the purposes of God” states the principle: “The purpose of your marriage is companionship and partnership in mission.” The biblical background for this principle is found in Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:18-24.

Chapter Three – “Marriage and the kingdom of God” contends the principle: “Your marriage is to demonstrate that it’s good to live under God’s reign.” The biblical basis for the thesis of this chapter is from Ephesians 5:22-33.

Chapter Four – “Marriage and the Submission of God’s people” states the principle: “As the church submits to Christ, so wives put their husband’s will before their own.” The background for the principle discussed in this chapter is from 1 Peter 3:1-7.

Chapter Five – “Marriage and the Loving authority of Christ” discusses the principle: “As Christ loves the church, husbands put their wife’s interests before their own.” The basis for discussion in this chapter is from Mark 10:40-45.

Part Two: Gospel-Centered Relationships – The Five Chapters in this section cover:

Chapter Six – “Grace” – The principle on grace is that “grace means we can always begin again.” The key passages are Titus 3:3-8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Titus 2:11-14; and Ephesians 4:26-27.

Chapter Seven – “Love” – Enumerates the principle: “daily thoughtfulness matters more than grand gestures.” The biblical content for this chapter is based on John 13:1-17.

Chapter Eight – “Conflict” – States the principle: “Conflict begins when my selfish desires are denied by my spouse.” The passage dealing with conflict is from James 3:13-18.

Chapter Nine – “Reconciliation” – Focuses on the principle: “Reconciliation begins when my selfish desires are denied by me.” The biblical basis of discussion for this chapter comes from James 4:1-12.

Chapter Ten – “Forgiveness” – Highlights the principle: “Trust must be earned and forgiveness must be given.” The key text on forgiveness is from Matthew 18:21-35.

Part Three: Gospel-Centered Sex – The five chapters in this section are on:

Chapter 11: “Enjoying sex” on the principle: “it’s our duty to enjoy marital sex.” The featured passage in this chapter is Song of Songs 4:12-5:1.

Chapter 12: “Loving sex” elaborates on the principle: “Good sex begins long before you take your clothes off.” The primary passage for this chapter is Song of Songs 4:1-16.

Chapter 13: “Transforming sex” develops the principle: “We get sex wrong because we get God wrong.” The key biblical passage developed is Romans 1:18-25.

Chapter 14: “Gospel-centered beauty” hones in on the principle: “Love finds us beautiful and love makes beautiful.” The numerous passages developed are Song of Songs 1:5-6, 8-10; Romans 12:2; Proverbs 5:18-19; 1 Peter 3:3.

Chapter 15: The conclusion of the book “Marriage is not forever” solidifies the principle: “Find your identity and joy in God rather than in marriage.” The main biblical passages developed are John 4:4-26; Mark 12:18-25; Revelation 21:3-4.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I will be using it in the context of counseling and coaching couples who desire marriage; those who are already married; and be using it in the context of small groups in the church. I highly recommend this book because it is indeed gospel centered; it covers the major bases of a Christian marriage; and is not overwhelming for those who are not readers. I especially recommend it for guys (and gals) who don’t enjoy reading, or simply don’t have a lot of time on their hands. Each chapter is only a few pages long, and you can get a lot of substance and help in a short amount of time if you just want to read on a specific topic in the book. It gives excellent food for thought and discussion and will be very beneficial to any couple no matter how long they have been married.

 

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Book Review: The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

A Compelling Vision of Christian Marriage

 Tim Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York since he planted it in 1989, and the church reflects the city’s demographics: approximately 80% of the people (in a church of several thousand) are single. So Keller has a lot of experience in teaching, counseling and shepherding singles in particular. This book had its roots in the early 1990’s when he did a series of sermons on marriage because of the skepticism, fear, and arguments that many of the singles in attendance had toward marriage in the beginning stages of the church – and still do today. He also wrote this book to share from his own experiences with his wife Kathy of 37 years and counting. However, most importantly he wrote this book to give a compelling vision of what marriage was designed to look like from the Bible from Genesis to Revelation – from the first marriage of Adam and Eve to the last marriage of Christ and the Church.

Keller states in the introduction, “its [the books] primary goal is to give both married and unmarried people a vision for what marriage is according to the Bible.” I believe that Keller succeeds in giving a very compelling case for marriage from the three stands above – from his experience, his realistic apologetic of building a case for the benefits and values of marriage, and then giving a compelling biblical vision throughout the book for the beauty of marriage when it reflects the glory of Christ at the center of it all. He does not minimize the difficulties, or the effort and hard work involved in a marriage, but is clear-headed, and cogently eloquent in presenting the “complexities of commitment with the wisdom of God.”

Here is a sample of an excellent example he gives for submitting to the Bible as God’s manual for marriage:

“Think of buying a car: If you purchase a vehicle, a machine well beyond your own ability to create, you will certainly take up the owner’s manual and abide by what the designer says the car needs by way of treatment and maintenance. To ignore it would be to court disaster…Plenty of people who do not acknowledge God or the Bible, yet who are experiencing happy marriages, are largely abiding by God’s intentions, whether they realize it or not. But it is far better if we are conscious of those intentions. And the place to discover them is in the writings of the Scripture.”

Some of the ambivalent views and objections to marriage Keller elaborates on and dispels in this book are as follows:

“Marriage is just a piece of paper that only serves to complicate love”

“Marriage was originally about property and is now in flux”

“Marriage crushes individual identity and has been oppressive for women”

“Marriage stifles passion and is ill-fitted to psychological reality”

The Outline of Keller’s book is as follows:

Chapter One – A rich and deep discussion of Genesis 2 and Ephesians 5 bringing Paul’s discussion into today’s context and demonstrating “why the gospel helps us to understand marriage and how marriage helps us to understand the gospel.”

Chapter Two – With great skill and penetrating insight Keller shows how the sin nature resulting in selfishness necessitates the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in making the saving work of Christ operative in bringing two hearts to beat as one.

Chapter Three – He helpfully shows what biblical love is – and what covenantal commitment is all about.

Chapter Four – He elaborates on the whole question of what marriage is for: “It is a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on their journey to become the persons God designed them to be…there is a kind of deeper happiness that is found on the far side of holiness.”

Chapter Five – He talks about the power of truth; the power of love – via affection, friendship, and service all in the context of grace.

Chapter Six – An excellent discussion of the Trinitarian roles and how that translates into gender roles in a marriage.

Chapter Seven – On Singleness and Marriage. Here is a sample of some guidelines he gleans for singles in relationships before marriage:

“Recognize that there are seasons for not seeking marriage.”

“Understand the “gift of singleness.’”

“Get more serious about seeking marriage as you get older.”

“Do not allow yourself deep emotional involvement with a non-believing person.”

“Feel ‘attraction’ in the most comprehensive sense.”

“Don’t let things get too passionate too quickly.”

“…don’t become a faux spouse for someone who won’t commit to you.”

“Get and submit to lots of community input.”

Chapter Eight – A good discussion of sex – realities and misperceptions – and the glory of it when it is practiced the way God designed it.

The book closes with a short epilogue and a short, but very helpful discussion on decision-making and gender roles.

All the chapters are very well written, have depth and penetrating insight, are logical and clear, balanced in dealing with the “then” and “now” of how the Scriptures apply and always pointing to Jesus at the center of the meaning of life and marriage. Dr. Keller knows what he’s talking about and has done an outstanding job of building a great case for marriage in a culture that simply doesn’t understand it and hasn’t been consulting the Creator’s manual and applying it in our marriages. I now have a new favorite book on marriage to recommend whole-heartedly to singles and married couples alike!

*TIMOTHY KELLER was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He was first a pastor in Hopewell, Virginia. In 1989 he started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan with his wife, Kathy, and their three sons. Today, Redeemer has more than five thousand regular attendees at five services, a host of daughter churches, and is planting churches in large cities throughout the world. He is the author of KING’S CROSS, COUNTERFEIT GODS, THE PRODIGAL GOD, the New York Times bestseller THE REASON FOR GOD & the forthcoming CENTER CHURCH (August 2012).

 

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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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