The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper

Indestructible JoyPiper, John. The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2014. 98 pp. $7.99. Purchase the print copy at Westminster Books for less or on Amazon Kindle for $3.99.

Introduction

John Piper needs no introduction though to my surprise I have not reviewed a book by John Piper since 2011. I have, however, read many in that time.

Summary/Review

This is a twenty-five day devotional meant to stir your heart to a greater and deeper joy in God. Each devotional is maybe 4 pages long at most. Though in those few pages, your mind will be set squarely on the riches of the grace and mercy of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Unlike many devotionals meant to help you feel good about yourself, Piper writes so that we might begin to understand that it is not about us but instead all about God. Every devotional is a meditation kick-starter that will leave you pondering the glorious truths of God all day long.

Recommendation

I personally have always enjoyed Piper’s works. They are challenging and wonderfully written in such a way that you are driven to your knees in worship of an awesome, holy, and loving God. I highly recommend The Dawning of Indestructible Joy to all. This is the perfect antidote to being weighed down by the cares of the world.

 

The High King of Heaven by Dean Davis

The high king of heavenDavis, Dean. The High King of Heaven: Discovering the Master Keys to the Great End Time Debate. Enumclaw: Redemption Press, 2014. 754 pp. $34.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

This is now the third book I have reviewed for Dean Davis. You can read the reviews for The Test and In Search of the Beginning. This was also a book I was asked to endorse. I did so gladly as this is a topic of which I am still unsettled. Dean is the Director of Come Let Us Reason – a ministry of apologetics and worldview studies.

Summary

Divided into five parts consisting of twenty-five chapters and ten appendices, Dean Davis seeks to inform the reader on the subject of Biblical Eschatology. Part one defines the terms while looking at the issues and options within a biblical worldview.

Part two, chapters five through eleven, help the reader to understand the Kingdom of God. He looks at God’s Kingdom from the perspective of the beginning (creation), His covenants, the OT promises, and the Good News of the Kingdom here and yet to come.

Part three, chapters twelve through eighteen delve into the pertinent Old Testament passages which prophecy the Kingdom.  Part four, chapters nineteen through twenty-one, attempt to explain the millennium.  The final part, chapters twenty-two through twenty-five help explain the consummation – that is, the end of it all and the coming of Jesus Christ.

The appendices consist of critiques of other models that are not amillennial (spoiler alert! This is the position Dean holds) and also ties up loose ends with various lists of biblical texts and creed through the history of the church that concern the end times.

Review

While it would be easy to attack any particular perspective on the discussion of end times, I do not want to do that here. What I do want to do for the ‘review’ of this work is to point out that Dean Davis truly flexes his biblical scholarship methods in this work. At 754 pages, he has authored what may be the most systematic treatment (certainly that I have read) on the discussion of end times. He shows how he arrived at his conclusions based on studying the Scriptures.

You will obviously not agree with everything he says or every conclusion he arrives at. What you will not be able to say is that he did not arrive there through a careful study of the word. He does not get caught up in what some call “newspaper eschatology” where people look to the world to try to explain the Bible. Rather, he lets the Bible explain itself and then, through the lens of a biblical worldview, he attempts to explain how this world as we know it will come to an end with the Second Coming of Christ Jesus.

Finally, I appreciate that Dean offers a myriad of ways in which to use this resource. He gives a seven chapter smattering at the outset that will give the reader an aerial view of the book with the hopes that the curiosity will be piqued and the reader will read the entire work. After all, at over 750 pages, this is certainly a daunting book to pick up!

Recommendation

If you are interested in studying biblical eschatology, I could not recommend a starting point much more than The High King of Heaven.  Dean is as objective as possible and offers biblical support for his views and against those of others.

Jesus, Continued by J.D. Greear

Jesus ContinuedGreear, J.D. Jesus, Continued…Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You. Nashville: Zondervan, 2014. 232 pp. $15.99. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less.

Introduction

J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham which has been ranked by Outreach Magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in the U.S. I have reviewed one of his previous books, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, which I found to be extremely helpful.

Summary

Divided into three parts and sixteen chapters, Greear takes on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.  The first part deals with the reality that the Holy Spirit is usually missing in most evangelical discussions. He does discuss how this could be an overreaction to the Pentecostal/charismatic movement, but, need not be the case.

The second part is a frank and biblical discussion on how we are to experience the Holy Spirit. This part is the meat and potatoes of the book. Here we find that we experience the Holy Spirit in the gospel, the Bible, in our various giftings, in the church, in our own spirit and in our circumstances. It is this second part that the rubber meets the road when it comes to biblically understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The third part explains how we are to seek the Holy Spirit in our lives. Here, J.D. offers an apologetic against the charismatic ideas though he never really engages them directly.

Review

From the beginning, I was impressed that Greear, a Baptist, would engage this topic. There have not been many outside of the Pentecostal movement that have attempted to deal with this subject except to deride the excesses.  Greear was intentional about staying within the parameters of Scripture while not being too concerned with the evangelical tradition from which he comes.

What he ended up writing was a clear and concise systematic treatise on the Holy Spirit that is accessible to all and not just theologians. I did notice, however, that this work is a bit longer than most that are being published today. I found that interesting and welcoming at the same time.

One way I think this work would have been made stronger is if he had a recommended resource list somewhere in the book (except in his notes) for anyone looking to study a bit deeper on this subject.

Recommendation

If you are looking for an accessible and biblically-balanced perspective on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, J.D. Greear’s work is an excellent place to begin.  I recommend this to all Christians as well as those non-Christians looking for an understanding of who the Holy Spirit really is.

Widgmus World by Randall Bush

Widgmus WorldBush, Randall. Widgmus World. Mountain Home: BorderStone Press, LLC., 2011. 232 pp. $12.95. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction/Summary

I reviewed the first book in this children’s series here.

From the description of this book:

An evil sorceress lurks in Arboria, terrorizing the Orna folk while cruising the Tinsel Canals in her abominable ship, surrounded by wicked creatures. Her goal: to banish Christmas from the Tree World and reduce the beautiful snow of winter to mud, mud that she can use to make her slaves, and worse. The evil queen is willing to go any lengths, including war, to bring about her plan. Who can stop her from building a mud empire that will forever bury the true meaning of Christmas? Can Jason and Kim discover a way to stop the mad queen before she creates her WIDGMUS WORLD?

Review

In a sequel that gives a different perspective on the world of Arboria, one is reminded of the seeming endless attacks on Christmas. Bush offers yet another fun-filled story that will point the reader to Christ and the real reason for why we celebrate Christmas.

There is much in here that leads to discussion from a Christian worldview that will also help to teach your child how to properly respond to those who refuse to acknowledge the Christ of Christmas.  In the end, the reader is left with a wonderful story, vividly told that will leave the reader to his or her imagination regarding the world of Arboria while here in our world, they will find that they have been thinking long and hard of the true meaning of Christmas.

Recommendation

This was a fun read and one I think children of all ages will enjoy.  I recommend this to any and all looking for a fun Christmas read chock full of meaning.

Gabriel’s Magic Ornament by Randall Bush

Gabriel's Magic OrnamentBush, Randall. Gabriel’s Magic Ornament. Mountain Home: BorderStone Press, LLC., 2011.  134 pp.  $11.99. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction/Summary

Dr. Randall Bush is Professor of Philosophy at Union University. He has written a number of book in addition to a number of children’s books.

From the book:

A Christmas Tree World called Arboria faces danger from a fearsome foe! In the wilderness at Tree Bottom, someone opened a bag by mistake and let out a hideous dragon! No angel star is safe, and Arboria’s Orna folk face grave danger.

Review

This work is a quick read and seems best read aloud. It is in the ilk of Lewis and Tolkien in that you get lost in the realm of Arboria. I appreciated the ready made gospel discussion points and the fun with which the children had (in the book) as they discovered a whole new world.

Bush’s ability to tell a good story is on full display here and leaves the reader longing for more. There are, after all, three more books in this little series.

Recommendation

If you are looking for a good Christmas story either as a read aloud or for your children to read, Gabriel’s Magic Ornament is what you are seeking.

 

The Greatest Fight in the World by C. H. Spurgeon

Greatest FightSpurgeon, Charles Haddon. The Greatest Fight in the Word – The Final Manifesto. Scotland: Christian Focus Publishing, 2014. 128 pp. $8.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle for $0.99.

Introduction

I have reviewed a few of Spurgeon’s writings in the past and have always found him to be edifying. This particular “manifesto” was the final address he gave to the students at the Pastors College before he died.

Summary

Tom Nettles offers a lengthy foreword that offers the context of this particular address that helps to frame the importance of why “this” is the greatest fight in the world.  The “this” is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Spurgeon split the message into three parts: Our Armoury, Our Army, and Our Strength.

Review

He spends more than half the work discussing our armoury which is the Bible. Next, he discusses the army. That is, those who are members of the local church and how we are, in essence, the officers in the army and are to act as such when preaching all the while we are looking to the Chief Officer (my wording) for our marching orders.

Finally, and he states most importantly, he looks to the importance of where our strength lies.  Obviously, this is in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Though he spends less than 1/3 of the work describing our strength, the final 9 pages are pure gold and will only have its fullest effect on the reader if the message is read from beginning to end.

Furthermore, this is one of those works where you read the foreword and the introduction one evening and then you read the main body the next.

What makes this work all the better is that it contains the mature thoughts of Spurgeon, who had spent his entire adult life in the pulpit. Here we see the thoughts of a seasoned veteran and one who had fought the good fight for years. As he looks back on his time at the end of his life, he proclaims a battle cry for the weary soldier that should be heeded all the more today.

Recommendation

If you are a pastor, you need to read this manifesto. If you are thinking about going into the ministry, you ought to read this work. If you are serious about the gospel of Jesus Christ, then you, too, will find something in this manifesto that will appeal to the urgency of the work at hand.

I highly recommend The Greatest Fight in the World to everyone!

 

 

So…What Happens Next? by Jeremy Stevens

NExtStevens, Jeremy. So, What Happens Next? Exploring Biblical Prophecies to Make Sense of Today’s Chaos. Sisters: Deep Rivers Books, 2012. 216 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Jeremy Stevens is an award-winning teacher, currently instructing at St. Mary’s County Public Schools and is an adjunct professor at the College of Southern Maryland. He resides in Lexington Park, MD, with his wife Ali. Jeremy holds a B.A., from Cedarville University in history and secondary education, and a M.A. in history from the University of Indianapolis.

Summary

Divided into three parts over 13 chapters, Jeremy begins with a brief history of the role of eschatology in the west.  The second part looks at the prophecies of the future found in Scripture and how current events are fulfilling these prophecies. Part three seeks to answer the question how close is the end.

Review

From the outset, I was concerned about this work. On the back cover, it reads, “So…What Happens Next? explores the biblical prophecies of the past to learn about the potential future. IN it, Jeremy Stevens combines expert opinion with the predictions of the Bible, using a system known as biblical strategic forecasting.”

So, his expert opinion is going to be able to accurately assess the current issues are fulfilling actual biblical prophecy? I doubt it. His three arguments are:

  • geopolitical predictions mirror Biblical prophecies
  • the United States is crucial in the world’s future
  • the return of Jesus is closer than you realize

Here is the problem. I can read a Biblical prophecy and make it say anything I want it to if I am not applying sound, biblical hermeneutics (the science of interpreting Scripture). In other words, we ought to let the clearer passages interpret the tougher passages rather than reading a newspaper and then finding a prophecy that is being fulfilled.

Second, to claim that the United States is crucial to God’s plan on anything is both egotistical and a reading into the Word of God something that is just not there. The Bible makes it clear “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). In other words, the United States is not as important as any other country. If one country or nationality is to be the most important of all, it would, of biblical necessity be the Jews and this depends largely on your understanding of Romans 11.

Third, it is great preaching to say that Christ is closer than you think as far as His return. Regardless of how well it preaches, the only way we can truly say this is that 1) today is closer to the end than yesterday and 2) you could die today and therefore Christ will have “returned” for you.

Recommendation

I cannot recommend this book as it reeks of popular Christianity that is more popular than Christian. While I do think it is a good idea to study both history and prophecy, I think it is a poor venture to read the newspaper and then seek to interpret prophecy by the current events.  Rather, study your Bible and trust in Christ and proclaim His gospel to a lost and hurting world. Do not waste your time with this work.

Discovering Your True Self Worth by Rev. Dr. Gordon Van Namee

Discovering Your Self WorthVan Namee, Gordon, Dr.  Discovering Your True Self Worth: Awakening New Possibilities. Tallahassee: DG Publishing, Inc., 2014. 176 pp. $19.95. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle.

Introduction

Dr. Namee left the business world for ministry at the age of 50. He earned his M.Div. from Emory and his D.Min. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  He has served as a for the past 17 years.

Summary

Divided into twelve chapters, Dr. Namee begins with a solid foundation that the concept of self-worth is not good since it is most often defined from your surrounding culture. After turning your thoughts to finding your identity in Christ, he explains the importance of newness of life in Christ.

From chapter three on, it is assumed that the reader is a Christian. The rest of the work looks at how we are to shift our focus from self to God and how we are to listen to the positive rather than the negative.

Review

The book begins with the excellent point of establishing our need to not be as concerned about self-worth as the world tells us we should.  I think, however, he drops the ball in chapter two when he never really gives a clear gospel presentation.  He hints at it and alludes to it often but never really delves into it.

He uses Philippians 4:13 as a sort of vending machine verse. He even states on page 43, “The more you proclaim it the more you will believe it and the more you believe it the more you will be strengthened in His power within you.”

The rest of the book is pretty much man-centered as it discusses how you can get the most out of God as you find your true worth. My concern here is that if your identity is in your anything then you are completely missing the point. Your identity as a Christian ought to be in the blood of Christ shed for you.

His reading lists tip his hand of being influenced by enough mystics and liberal theologians that one ought to be wary of what he is saying regarding the use of mantras (Phil. 4:13, etc.) and the idea that enhance our future.

Recommendation

While I cannot recommend this book to most, I can say that if you are doing research and want to know what “mainline” Christianity holds to as far as theology, this would be a decent place to start. It is just confused enough to challenge biblical theology while at the same time introduce a path to mysticism that is not very biblical or Christian.

The Foundation of Communion with God edited by Ryan M. McGraw

The Foundation of Communion with GodProfiles in Reformed Spirituality – The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen edited by Ryan M. McGraw. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014. 136 pp. $10.00. Purchase at Westminster Books or on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Ryan McGraw is pastor of First Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sunnyvale, CA as well as serving as a research associate at the University of the Free State.

John Owen is known the world over for his works on sin and temptation. In this resource, McGraw seeks to show how Owen’s Trinitarian understanding of how one can cultivate a deeper communion with God.

Summary

He opens with a lengthy apologetic of John Owen’s theology and life and explains how his piety was peculiarly one rooted in the Triune Godhead.  From there, the work is divided into three parts: Knowing God as Triune, Heavenly-mindedness and apostasy, and covenant and church.  There are forty-one choice selections grouped together according to these three sections.

He ends the work with a suggestion on how to read this most difficult of Puritans. Interestingly enough, he does not recommend immediately the reading of Mortification of Sin (or volume 6 of his Works). Rather, he suggests starting with volume 9 (a selection of various sermons) and then moving back to volumes 2-4 in order to read Communion with God and his treatises on the Holy Spirit.

Review

I have reviewed most of the works in the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality set and have found each one to be beneficial both to my soul and to the introducing of these men of God to a newer generation. Ryan almost does the impossible when he takes the writings of Owens and arranges them in such a manner that they are readily understandable.

His ability to arrange them topically in the three categories he did helps the reader to understand Owen’s foundation for pretty much everything he wrote. Reading this work first may be the best way to slowly wade into the deep sea that is the writing of John Owen.

Recommendation

As I stated above, I really enjoy this series and have found each one to be excellent in its presentation of the particular theologian from years gone by. In this case, I highly recommend The Foundation of Communion with God to all Christians yearning for a deeper relationship with the Lord.

InScribed: A Collection of Studies by Women

InscribedFall_WebsiteBanner6-940x460A Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. Purchase at Amazon.

Introduction

The InScribed Collection is for anyone with a passion for God. Each title touches on a subject matter unique to the needs and issues that women face everyday. Whether used individually, in small accountability groups, or in larger discussion groups, readers will be challenged to engage their entire person in the study and can expect life change.

Current titles include Amazed and Confused, Barren Among the Fruitful, Inseparable, Dive Deeper, Just Rise Up, Leaving Ordinary, and Living so That.

You can read more about this series at their website, InScribedStudies.

Summary

Each book is different yet the same. They are too long to be a devotional but seem to be best read as such. Each book is rooted in a specific verse or topic and is meant to direct your attention to what the Word of God says concerning a particular issue that women face.

Throughout the book there are a number of pages for note taking and prayerful reflection on what has been read and what the Word of God says.

Review

As a man, there are certain issues that women struggle with that, quite frankly, I am unable to relate to. That being said, the work on women struggling with infertility was both daunting and insightful to me.

As a pastor, I appreciate that these resources are written by women struggling with issues that I may never deal with but can point women to for faithful counsel. Also, reading these resources offered me insight into how I can biblically empathize with women in my congregation.

The best thing that can be said about any resource is that it makes much of Christ. This series of books does just that. In the end, each book points the reader to apply the truths of Scripture, especially when Paul states, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11). In the end, the authors continually exhort the reader to find their identity in Christ and not in what is happening to them in this life.

Recommendation

I appreciate the insight these women offer in these resources. I recommend them for personal study as well as group study. Obviously, they are meant for women, but, let’s be honest, men would benefit from reading these if for no other reason than to glean insight.

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books