Next Step by Timothy K. Lynn

Next StepLynn, Timothy K. Next Step: How to Start Living Intentionally and Discover What Go d Really Wants for Your Life. Franklin: Carpenter’s Son Publishing, 2014. 128 pp. $24.99. Purchase at Amazon and for Kindle for less.

Introduction

Timothy was born in Chicago, Illinois, where he still resides. He is an entrepreneur and the founder and chairman of a “successful company.” He is also a man of faith.

Summary

The book is presented with a nice glossy, spiral bound cover with glossy pages (makes it hard to write with a fountain pen!). The contents are divided into 6 sessions following the foundational chapter.

The foundation of the book is found in what Lynn calls the four pillars of life: faith, self, family, and life’s work. The first session focuses on who you are as a person and who it is exactly that is in your circle of influences. The second session looks to one’s faith. The work is unashamedly Christian.

The third section centers on the self – your “identity, ego, you, and all that God created you to be.” Section four begins to expand out by looking at your family. Life’s work comprises section 5 and is the longest as far as actual content is concerned. The final section is comprised of one page about “conversations with God” followed by 20+ pages of journaling paper.

Review

I would have loved to have seen more written in the section on faith. There is no gospel though faith (“in God, love, a dream, or a goal”) is discussed at length. The result is basically a faith in faith baptized as Christian because God has been capitalized. As a matter of fact, Jesus is never mentioned to my recollection.

The book centers primarily on you, the reader. This can be alright as it does give you a brief moment to pause and take stock of your life and look around to see how you are living before God. I believe there are more journaling pages than pages with content.

In the end, the presentation is excellent, the content not so much.

Recommendation

While the book will appeal to a wide audience, I cannot call it a Christian resource due to the lack of Christ and the gospel. In the end, I cannot justify spending $25 on this resource.

Love or Die by Alexander Strauch

Love or DieStrauch, Alexander. Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-up Call to the Church. Littleton: Lewis & Roth Publishers, 2008. 106 pp. $9.99. Purchase at  Westminster or Amazon for $8.99 or Kindle for $3.99.

Introduction

I have reviewed a number of books by Alexander Strauch. Each one has been helpful in its own right and each one has proven to contain the wisdom of a mature believer and seasoned pastor. He has served as a teaching elder at Littleton Bible Chapel for over 40 years. You can view all of his books here.

Summary

Divided into three parts with two appendices, this concise work begins with the foundation that we are called to love God and others as Christians. The first part looks at the problem of lost love and finds its biblical emphasis in Revelation 2:4. The second part, the meat of the book, is how to cultivate love. Here, Strauch launches from Hebrews 10:24 and implores the reader to study, pray for, teach, model, guard, and practice love.

The final part is a study guided designed for personal and/or group study and meant to drive home the essential foundation of love. Finally, the two appendices look at other books on love by Alexander and, more importantly, 50 key texts on love found in the Scriptures.

Review

Sadly, this is a book that is needed in most congregations today. So many local churches are marked by infighting that the community knows and avoids anyone who may be affiliated. Strauch does an excellent job of diagnosing the problem of the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:4 and applying it to our modern context.

Like a surgeon, he offers a remedy but lets you know it will be a difficult surgery. As he begins the procedure in the second part, he meticulously removes any objection from the necessity to love and begins process of replacing how one views love. Laying the foundation of studying love (as found in Scripture), the Christian reader will not be able to withstand the important application of actually doing love.

Each chapter is saturated in Scripture and grace and mercy. Each chapter will point the reader to a closer relationship with God the Father because of Jesus the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. From that relationship the love for neighbor will over flow and, on one hand, not be held back. In other words, after reading Love or Die, the Christian will better understand the greatest and second greatest commandment in the right order.

Recommendation

This book is for all Christians. The importance of the love mandate found in Scripture cannot be overstated. Alexander Strauch’s concern for the church is evident and ought to be emulated. I recommend this book to any and all who claim the name of Christ as Lord and Savior.

7 Ways to be Her Hero by Doug Fields

7 HeroFields, Doug. 7 Ways to be Her Hero: The One Your Wife Has Been Waiting For.  Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2014.  208 pp.  $15.99.  Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for much less.

Introduction

Doug Fields has served as a youth pastor and teaching pastor for more than thirty years at Mariner’s Church as well as Saddleback Church in Southern California.  He is popular conference and retreat speaker as well.  Currently, he serves as the executive director at The HomeWord Center for Youth and Family. You can read more about Doug at his website, DougFields.com.

Summary

Divided into 10 chapters, Doug begins with the appropriate chapter title of stop chasing the wind and start chasing your wife.  Here, he lays down the gauntlet of what is necessary if you are to truly be the hero in your wife’s life.  The second chapter looks at the foundation of the relationship.

Chapters 3-9 offer the seven actions each man must consider when it comes to loving and serving his wife.  I can say that most of it has to do with your keeping your mouth shut!  The final action is the need to shepherd your wife’s heart.  Doug appropriately concludes the book with a chapter on Christ setting the example for the men by loving His Church to the point of dying for her.  Men are expected to do the same.

Review

7 Ways to be Her Hero is pretty straight forward.  Doug pulls no punches and offers some pretty straight talk on a somewhat difficult, though always timely, subject.  I would have liked there to have been more gospel and perhaps the last two chapters being the first two chapters, but Doug’s audience is a bit different.

Since Doug is writing to an extremely wide and ecumenical audience, he paints with broad strokes.  He also uses what I would consider fairly crass language though not by today’s standards.  For example, the second chapter is entitled “How it got laid” and he claims to be intentional about the double entendre.  Granted this will help sell books, but I do believe it should cause one to pause when considering what is being advised in this work.

In the end, his advice is fairly practical and helpful. The discerning reader will see past the silliness and get to the heart of the issue in loving his wife.

Recommendation

I can recommend this work because it is rooted in Scripture and it does offer many solid conversation points among guys.  This is a great starting point for men, but, if they will want to take the next step, they will want to read those who have plumbed the deep theological depths of marriage and being a husband.

Richard Greenham: The Portrait of an Elizabethan Pastor by John H. Primus

Richard GreenhamPrimus, John H. Richard Greenham: The Portrait of an Elizabethan Pastor. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1998.  236 pp. $37.00.  Purchase at Amazon for much less.

Introduction

John Primus served as professor of religion/theology at Calvin College.  He has written The Vestments Controversy, Christian Perspectives on Learning, and Holy Time: Moderate Puritanism and the Sabbath. Richard Greenham (1540-1594) served as pastor for 21 years in rural Dry Drayton after having attended Cambridge.

Summary

Not much is known about Greenham’s early life before attending Cambridge. Neither is much known about his later life after leaving Dry Drayton.  But, what is known during his years of college and ministry are included in this biography.

Primus divides this biography into 8 chapters.  The first chapter looks at the Cambridge Years while the second chapter offers a bird’s eye view of his time in Dry Drayton.  Chapters three through seven break down Greenham’s theology into particular sections.  These chapters offer a look at what was the driving force in Greenham’s ministry.

We learn from chapter three that he steered as clear of controversy as he could and did not play the politics game that were so prevalent then (and now!) in the church.  We see in chapter four that his entire ministry centered on God and the Bible.  He was more known as the pastor who preached sanctification by faith rather than the stereotypical doctrine of election so many Puritans were thought to have preached.

Chapters six and seven offer the “guts” of Greenham’s theology.  Here we find the importance of the doctrine of means (the means by which the Christian grows in his faith and then the importance of the means of the means.  Ultimately, this is the importance of the Sabbath for which Richard Greenham is perhaps best known.  Regardless, Greenham’s ministry can be summed up in one word: proclamation.

The final chapter offers insight into what little is known about his ministry after leaving Dry Drayton and is an apologetic for the importance of Richard Greenham as an Anglican Puritan Protestant.

Review

I confess I was expecting this to be a dry read since it appears to have been a dissertation that was ultimately published.  I was wrong.  Richard Greenham is not known by very many today because he was not as glamorous as John Owen or as heavy handed as John Knox.  What he was, however, was a faithful pastor in a rural setting for 21 years.  Many thought he should have leaved the country for the city in order that he may find the fame and the audience that his audience and preaching deserved.  He, on the other hand, disagreed and believed God had called him to Dry Drayton for a reason.

I was first drawn to Richard Greenham some years ago when reading another work by JI Packer entitled A Quest for Godliness.  It was in that work that I read about this man who ministered for 21 years and had this to say when he left: “For I perceive no good wrought by my ministry on any but one family.”  This was a stunning statement to me and one I wanted to investigate further.

John Primus’ biography does much to explain why this man ultimately thrived in a rural setting when there was so much more pastoral fame and glory in the city.  Primus does not attempt to make Greenham more than he is.  Rather, he allows him to speak for himself.  His chapters on the means and the means of the means are must reading for today.  You will probably not agree with his view of the Sabbath (I did not fully) but you will be challenged as regards your view of corporate worship.

Recommendation

If you are looking for a good biography on a little-known pastor, this is the book for you.  If you are a pastor in a rural setting, I cannot recommend this biography highly enough for you.  There will be much encouragement found in these pages.

Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries Vol. 4 by James T. Dennison, Jr.

RCFIVDennison, Jr. James T. Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: Volume 4 – 1600-1693. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2014. 758 pp. $50.00. Purchase at Westminster or Amazon for less.

Introduction

This fourth, and final volume, in the Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries concludes a 7 year publishing adventure to bring to the modern, English-speaking reader the riches of the past.  You can read the reviews of volume 2 and 3 here.

NOTE: You can purchase the 4-volume Hardback set at Westminster for $150.00.
You can purchase the 4-volume set on Kindle for $89.99.

Summary

These particular documents are more familiar to the modern reader than many in the first three volumes. Included in this final volume is The Remonstrance (1611), the Scottish Confession (1616), The Canons of Dort (1618-1619), The London Baptist Confession (1644), The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), the London Confession (1646), The Westminster Larger (and Shorter) Catechism (1647), the London Baptist Confession (1677), and The Baptist Catechism (1693) just to name a few.

Again, Dennison includes introductory notes and historical contextualization in order that the modern reader may understand the importance of each document. Alost included in this final volume is an index for the entire series. These multiple indices include separate entries for Scripture references, names of persons, and subjects.

Review

With the publication of this final volume, we now have a complete set of Reformed Confessions found in the 16th and 17th centuries. Note, however, this is not an exhaustive list though it does contain 127 different documents in the four volumes. As one moves from the first document in volume 1 – the 67 articles of Zwingli (1523) and follow all the way to the Baptist Catechism in 1693, the careful reader will see how the church narrowed down what they believed and what they did not believe. Further, you will see how splits and fractures were dealt with concerning secondary and tertiary issues.

The index in this fourth volume is extremely helpful to also trace the thoughts of key figures throughout the Reformation. For what it is worth, it must be stated that one need not be Reformed in their eschatology to glean insight from these documents. Rather, if one is a Protestant, they will quickly discover the rich heritage from which they now descend.

Recommendation

If you are going to get one volume in this four volume set, I would recommend this one. This is because so many today are familiar with the documents found in this fourth volume. Further, the index will whet your whistle for what came before these documents. Irena Backus of the University of Geneva rightly proclaims this set of books “a must have for every library.” I agree.

None But Jesus by John Flavel

None But JesusFlavel, John. None But Jesus. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014. 164 pp. $6.00. Purchase at Amazon or Westminster for less.

Introduction/Summary

I have reviewed just about every Pocket Puritan in the series. John Flavel has proven to be one of my personal favorites. You can read the reviews of the Pocket Puritans here as well as John Flavel in particular here. This particular work is a compilation of quotes selected from the writings of John Flavel most of which are found in the 6-volume works of John Flavel.

Review

These quotes range from one line or sentence to a paragraph. Each quote is hand selected and meant to drive the reader to a contemplation of who Christ is. For example, on 11 you read, “He himself was deserted of God for a time, that they might not be deserted forever.” Also, just after that quote you read, “Repentance will cost you more than a few cheap words against sin.”

These quotes show us many things. First, they show us the depth in which the pastor theologian thought and wrote in a time when the church was under attack just as much as it is today. Second, these select quotes are, for the most part, perfect for our social media frenzied life. To sprinkle these quotes onto your Facebook wall or Twitter feed could very well cause a number of people to pause and consider their lives in light of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Recommendation

If anyone ever wanted to find a way to introduce one of the choicest of divines to modern readers, None But Jesus presents the perfect opportunity to do that. At less than $6, these quotes from Flavel can become the center-piece to a library building project unlike many other authors. As you begin here, you can then branch out into his introduction to a Christian response to drinking, lust, and sinful speech, also in the Pocket Puritan series. I recommend this little book to all Christians.

Heavenites by Shauna Collison

HeavenitesTylercoverHeavenitesMocoverCollison, Shauna. Illustrated by Christen Cushing. Mo and the Surfing Competition and Tyler and the Circus Lie. St. Louis: Revelation Products, LLC, 2014. $7.99. Purchase at Heavenites.com.

Introduction/Summary

In these two books, we learn of the importance of truth and the need for mercy. Tyler, a boy who wanted to tell a story finds out how quickly a lie can spread…even when it is supposed to be a secret. Throughout the story, we see how telling one lie leads to telling more and more lies. In the end, the only way to take care of a lie is to tell the truth.

Mo, a young surfer, was excited to enter the surfing contest. He was one of the best young surfers, and everyone knew it. One friend, Mikey, decided to keep Mo from participating so he could win. When Mo gets a friend’s surfboard (hint: it is a girl’s surfboard), Mikey gets upset. As they are competing, Mikey winds up in trouble in the ocean. Will Mo help Mikey or will he win at all costs?

Review

These two children’s stories are very well written and illustrated. They are real to life (except for us land-locked folks!) and help to teach the young reader his or her need to tell the truth or show mercy and help others when in need…even if it might cost you something.

It must be noted that they are moralistic in nature…which is not necessarily a bad thing when teaching young children. What they do allude to is that we learn how to be merciful and truthful from the Bible. While I wish they would have had more gospel in the story, I also can see where they put the impetus on the parents to cross those t’s and dot those i’s.

Recommendation

As with the other Heavenites books I have reviewed, I found these to be fun and engaging and full of biblical truth. They can be of great use to teach a child early in life of the need to be merciful (when was the last time a children’s book actually talked of that?) and to tell the truth. I recommend these to all parents of Christian children with the caveat that you need to be ready to share the gospel with your children as they read these books.

Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries Volume 3 edited by James T. Dennison, Jr.

RCFIIIDennison, Jr. James T. Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: Volume 3 – 1567-1599. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2012. 790 pp. $50.00. Purchase at Westminster or Amazon for less.

Introduction

James T. Dennison Jr. is back with volume three of the Reformed Confessions encyclopedia. Many of these confessions are translated for the first time into the English language. Not only has he compiled these confessions himself, but he also set out to introduce each one. In these introductions, he offers the historical context for the necessity of the confession. I reviewed Volume 2 here.

Summary

Volume three offers a total of 23 new documents between the years 1567 and 1599. Many of these confessions and Synods were brand new to me personally. For example, how many have heard of the Synod of Hercegszoloski (1576)? This synod was designed to bring a harmony of three different confessions. This was not accomplished.

Dennison also offers explanation as to which text was used to translate the particular document. He offers the dates in which the article, confession, consensus, or minutes from the synod were written.

Review

What Dennison has compiled in this third volume has been largely lost to the church at large today. In translating these documents into English, he has enabled modern readers to peer back in time and attempt to understand the context in which the 16th and 17th century churches found themselves. In other words, our beliefs and traditions were not formed in a vacuum.

Just like we have to refine our respective confessions to meet current issues in the world and church today, so, too, we see how the various churches of the Reformation met the needs in their own context. To that end, every Christian leader should be grateful for the work of James T. Dennison, Jr.

Recommendation

I could recommend this resource to every Christian, but, sadly, not every Christian would be excited or even care about the magnitude of this series. I do, however, think that any Christian pastor today whose denominational roots are found in the Reformation ought to have a copy of Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries. We can learn much from those that have gone before us in times of tumult. To that end, I highly recommend this work to all.

Alphabet and Counting Book by Shauna Collison

HeavenitesABCBookCollison, Shauna. Illustrated by Christen Cushing. Alphabet Book and Counting Book. St. Louis: Revelation Products, LLC, 2014. HeavenitesCountingBook $9.99. Purchase at Heavenites.com.

Introduction

These Heavenites books are designed to teach children how to count and learn their ABC’s in a fun and God-centered manner. The front page of these two particular books state,

We are the Heavenites, God’s children through and through. We want to spread the Word of God and share His love with you.
God sent His one and only Son to die so we could live. If you put your faith in Jesus Christ a brand new life He’ll give.
God gave us the Bible, it’s His Truth for us to know. But you need to read it daily, if you really want to grow.
Our hearts belong to Jesus, our future is on firm ground. A citizen of Heaven, a Heavenite…Heaven born, Heaven bound!

Summary

Each book is simple. The Counting Book counts to number 12 while the alphabet book teaches the ABC’s. The illustrations undoubtedly will keep the attention of the children. The alphabet book offers both capital and lower-case letters to help the children to become familiar with both.

Review

There are a number of children’s books out there that teach the alphabet and counting. From the beginning, the Heavenites series sets itself apart by beginning with the Word of God and centering every page on who He is or what He has done for us.
For example, in the counting book, every page alludes to the fact that God created (or made). Also, this book takes an excursion through the zoo as you count various animals. The number 3 is about dinosaurs. I love that they are included in this zoo and it is made known that God created them, too.

The alphabet book is catchy will be a great aid in teaching your children or children in your church’s nursery how to count and know their ABC’s.

Recommendation

At less than $10, these Heavenites books are excellent for teaching your children to count and learn their alphabet. They are colorfully illustrated and bound in such a way that they will withstand the rigors of toddler use. I highly recommend them to all Christian families seeking to pour an early foundation of the gospel in the lives of their children.

If They Could Talk by Rich Hamlin

If They Could TalkHamlin, Rich. If They Could Talk: Letters from those who were there. 110 pp. $22.00.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Rich is the founding pastor of Evangelical Reformed Church in Tacoma, WA. He and his wife Lynn have been married for over 25 years and have three adult children. His sermons and blog posts can be found at SoliDeoGloria.org. This is his second published book.

Summary

This particular book is a children’s book designed to tell the story of God’s plan of redemption as found in the pages of the Bible. What is more, the author takes a Biblical theological approach to this work. In other words, he begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation. Naturally, he begins with Creation through the eyes of a sparrow and works his way through the Fall (rabbit) to the camel’s observation of the Abrahamic covenant to the horse’s history of the David covenant on to the dog’s diary of Jesus’ public ministry to the cow’s gazing at the resurrected Savior ascending into heaven and concluding with the Seagull soaring over Paradise restored. All in all, there are 24 crucial moments in Scripture detailed from the perspective of various animals.

Review

All I can say is Wow! This is a magnificent way to introduce the glory of God in His creation and redemption of man. The beginning of each story offers where the real story can be found in the Bible. Each animal has its own characteristics and offers its own perspective on the stories being shared.

Each animal asks questions meant to engage the children (and adults). Not only will they need to look up Scripture, but they will begin to realize that they are now accountable for the information they are learning. The illustrations are fascinating and the story is provoking.
In the end, reading through this children’s book will give the reader (or listener) a bird’s-eye view of the whole story of the Bible. It could also become an excellent foundation from which to build a child’s theology going forward.

Recommendation

I thoroughly enjoyed this children’s book. I believe it will be used of the Lord to develop deep theologies in children everywhere. I can recommend this for any parent or grandparent, church nurseries or daycares, or even veterinarian offices. Rich Hamlin’s creativity is a blessing to all of Christendom. Get a copy for yourself and one to give to a friend with children.

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books