Jonathan Edwards by Simonetta Carr

Jonathan EdwardsCarr, Simonetta. Christian Biographies for Young Readers – Jonathan Edwards. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014. $18.00.  Purchase at Westminster Books. Also, at Amazon.

Introduction

Readers here at Christian Book Notes know Simonetta Carr. Every book in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series has been reviewed here to date.  Also, I have been bless to have interviewed her as well.  She is certainly a favorite of the readers of this book site as well as a personal favorite of mine.

Summary

Simonetta takes a different approach to this biography given her younger audience.  She looks first and foremost at a young Edwards which also happens to be the inspiration of the cover.  She then moves quickly through his being a student and a young pastor only to spend much time on The Great Awakening and his work as a missionary to the Native Americans.  She closes the book with a copy of a letter from a concerned father to his daughter, Mary.

Review

In only 64 pages, Carr delivers an excellent summary of the life of Jonathan Edwards. For those that know Simonetta personally or via Facebook, they will be aware that this particular biography took on a very personal aspect for the author as she endured great tragedy in her own family.  The providence of God would be such that she was working on the final touches and one can’t help but read the final chapter with great gravity as Simonetta pours her heart and soul into its pages.

To be able to say so much in such a small biography about America’s greatest theologian of which so much has been written is a testimony to Simonetta’s ability as a biographer and writer.  She has become a master of the informative highlights of these great clouds of witnesses that have gone before that I would hardly trust another biographer to write such succinct and historically accurate biographies than Simonetta Carr.

Recommmendation

I have recommended every one of these biographies in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series and I do not see any reason why I cannot recommend this biography to all.

I Quit Being a Christian to Follow Jesus by Alan Scott

To Follow JesusScott, Alan.  I Quit Being a Christian to Follow Jesus.  CreateSpace, 2014.  272 pp.  $15.99.  Purchase at Amazon and for Kindle for less.

Introduction

Alan Scott has served as one of the pastors at Cumberland Community Church in Smyrna, GA since 2006.  He has also written It’s A God Thing…Miracle in a Cornfield.

Summary

I Quit Being a Christian is divided into thirteen chapters with each chapter consisting of a strategy to help you become a better follower of Jesus. The book is rooted in the Gospel of Luke and Alan makes it a point to tell you that the Bible is the best source for anything resembling our understanding of Jesus.  The strategies, from reviving or gaining your certainty of faith to stop settling to smelling like Jesus are written to provide you a method in which the reader will be driven from a cultural Christianity to a biblical Christianity.

In each and every chapter, Alan Scott offers the reader Christocentric teachings found in the Bible, especially the Gospel of Luke, designed to rip the blinders off your eyes and point you back to the Source which is the Word.

Review

Scott writes with an obvious passion and offers keen insight into the cultural war that has overtaken most churches as they seek to remain relevant in the world today.  Scott seems to not care about the perceived irrelevancy and instead draws from the timeless truths found in the Word of God.

I will be honest, as I was beginning this work, I was fearful that it would wind up being another New Age, let’s jettison biblical truths in order to accommodate the masses look at Christianity.  Instead, it is the exact opposite.  While I may disagree with how he states the truths, I cannot disagree with the truths he states.  His entire work, I can only guess meant for a younger generation, is written to the American Christian who is more concerned with living the American Dream than living a God-honoring life.

Recommendation

I recommend this book (especially on Kindle) to all younger Christians wanting to know what genuine Christianity looks like.  I recommend this resource to all older Christians wanting to understand a means by which they can relate to the younger generations.  The message does not change, but the cultural context does.  Alan Scott instructs on how to bridge that gap.

The Heresy of Orthodoxy by Kostenberger and Kruger

Heresy of OrthodoxyKostenberger, Andreas J. and Michael J. Kruger. The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity has Reshaped our Understanding of Early Christianity. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2010. $19.99.  Purchase at Amazon and for Kindle for less.

Introduction

Andreas Kostenberger is professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and has written a number of books. Micheal Kruger is President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary. HE blogs at Canon Fodder.

Summary

Divided into three parts, the authors begin with a look at the origins of the New Testament and how today’s understanding of diversity and pluralism are impacting our view on early Christian tradition.

The second part traces the development of the New Testament Canon.  Here they spend three chapters explaining the historical evidence as understood by the historical time and place of the actual occurrences of the formation of the Bible.

The third part explains how the Bible was copied through the years before the printing press and now, the digital age.  Throughout this section, they offer an apologetic for a right understanding of textual criticism and the importance of ones presuppositions.

Review

This book is not going to be for everyone. It is fairly technical in its jargon and study.  It predominantly takes on the Bart Ehrman and is a solid response to his work Misquoting Jesus.  Ultimately, The Heresy of Orthodoxy is yet another book that seeks to answer the challenges of the validity and authenticity of the Bible.

Sadly, there is nothing new under the sun.  This conversation will never end as long as Christ tarries.  I found that this work was extremely concise and and informational as to the nature of the argument in denying the authenticity of Scripture. The author’s make the case that it boils down to one’s worldview. The effects of higher criticism notwithstanding, Kostenberger and Kruger successfully show how one can be critical of the Bible while maintaining an orthodox view of its writing.  Furthermore, they detail with great accuracy the historical context from which it was written and came to be accepted as the final 27 books of the New Testament.

Again, this work is heavy on technical language, but is necessitated by the technical language espoused by those who profess to be scholars.

Recommendation

If you are questioning the authenticity of the Bible, specifically the New Testament, then this book is for you.  If you are a pastor or a budding theologian, then you ought to read this book.  We must be able to engage the charges leveled at the Bible especially when there are “innocent bystanders” in the cross-hairs.

 

Beyond Existence by Jeff Martin

Beyond ExistenceMartin, Jeff. Beyond Existence: Life, Death and the Search for Meaning. Mountain Home: BorderStone Press, LLC., 2012.  120 pp.  $14.95. Purchase at Amazon for much less.

Introduction

Jeff serves as the youth minister of Shearer Hills Baptist Church in San Antonio.  He is a graduate from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Summary

Divided into 7 chapters, Martin begins the introduction with this question “Have you ever told someone there is a better life available in Christ only to wonder if he or she may have felt lied to later down the road?”

He spends the next seven chapters explaining how we can equip those who profess faith for a life of abundance in Christ.  (Note: not material possessions.) The first chapter looks to what a better life means. After laying the foundation squarely on Christ and the Bible, Marin proceeds to explain the importance of focus, grace, trust, community, and service before closing with a chapter entitled “When Stuff Goes Wrong.”

Throughout the book, he asks questions meant to stir the reader to application of the biblical principles he offers in this book.

Review

Jeff’s small yet concise work will help the reader to understand that life is more than mere existence.  He strives to show what Christ meant when He said, “I came so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”

Perhaps the most foundational statement in his discourse is “Christianity isn’t a hobby. It’s a way of life.” The rest of the book effectively explains how to apply this truth to your own life.

I would have liked to see more references to Scripture made explicit throughout the book, but it is obvious that it is founded upon the Word of God.  Regardless, you can never go wrong with more Scripture.

Recommendation

For the Christian struggling with life, this resource will help to explain that life is not going to be easy. It is not supposed to be. It is, however, worth it and bearable if your life is centered on Christ.  I recommend this resource to all believers as well as pastors in that it makes quite an effective counseling tool.

Bonhoeffer Abridged by Eric Metaxas

Bonhoeffer AbridgedMetaxas, Eric. Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2014. 256 pp. $16.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

I have reviewed 7 Men by Eric Metaxas’ earlier this year. I have also read the original 625 page biography.  He is currently the voice of BreakPoint, a radio commentary broadcast on 1,400 radio outlets with an audience of 8 million. Metaxas was the keynote speaker at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, and was awarded the Canterbury Medal in 2011 by the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom. Metaxas has written for VeggieTales, Chuck Colson, and the New York Times. He currently lives in New York with his wife and daughter.

Summary

From the back of the book:

As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of dissidents and saboteurs worked to dismantle the Third Reich from the inside. One of these was Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a pastor and author, known as much for such spiritual classics as The cost of Discipleship and Life Together, as for his 1945 execution in a concentration camp for his part in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

In the first major biography of Bonhoeffer in forty years, New York Times best-selling author Eric Metaxas takes both strands of Bonhoeffer’s life – the theologian and the spy – to tell a searing story of incredible moral courage in the face of monstrous evil. In a deeply moving narrative, Metaxas uses previously unavailable documents including personal letters, detailed journal entries, and firsthand personal accounts?to reveal dimensions of Bonhoeffer’s life and theology never before seen.

In Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy A Righteous Gentiel vs the Third Reich, Metaxas presents the fullest accounting of Bonhoeffer’s heart-wrenching 1939 decision to leave the safe haven of America for Hitler’s Germany.

Readers will discover fresh insights and revelations about his life-changing months at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and about his radical position on why Christians are obliged to stand up for the Jews. Metaxas also sheds new light on Bonhoeffer’s reaction to Kristallnacht, his involvement in the famous Valkyrie plot and in “Operation 7,” the effort to smuggle Jews into neutral Switzerland.

Bonhoeffer gives witness to one man’s extraordinary faith and to the tortured fate of the nation he sought to deliver from the curse of Nazism. It brings the reader face to face with a man determined to do the will of God radically, courageously, and joyfully?even to the point of death. Bonhoeffer is the story of a life framed by a passion for truth and a commitment to justice on behalf of those who face implacable evil.

Review

Instead of 31 chapters, the abridged version is down to 12. While I understand the need in today’s context for a shorter version of such a massive biography, I cannot help but think the reader is being cheated if he or she chooses to read the abridged version.

The same story is told though it really does amount to a cliff’s notes version. I was impressed with the ability to cull nearly 400 pages from the original bio and still tell the life of Bonhoeffer quite effectively as well as offering the fresh insight that was important to the larger biography.

That being said, if you are one who is intimidated by such a thick biography, please read this abridged version. This edition will certainly introduce a new group of readers and spread even wider the fame of a controversial man in Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Recommendation

While I highly recommend this biography to anyone and everyone regardless of faith, I would first recommend you read the larger edition. If, however, that is daunting, then this resource will be a great introduction to the man who took a stand against popular Christianity and the Nazis.

 

Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage by Alan Dunn

Gospel IntimacyDunn, Alan. Gospel Intimacy in a Godly Marriage.  North Bergen: Pillar and Ground Publications, 2009.  168 pp. $12.95. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

This book is based upon sermons preached at a marriage conference at The Trinity Reformed Baptist Church, Baltimore, MD.  Pastor Dunn entered the ministry in 1982 and has been the Pastor of Grace Covenant Baptist Church since its inception 1985. He has taught ministerial students as an instructor in the former Trinity Ministerial Academy, Montville, New Jersey. He has also ministered the word in both family and pastors’ conferences in the United States and overseas. He currently resides in Frenchtown, New Jersey with his wife, Patricia and their four children.

Summary

Divided into three parts, Dunn looks first at what “marital intimacy” means for a Christian couple.  He begins where all Christian conversation should – with the doctrine of God and how it directs our journey.  He next moves to the doctrines of creation, fall, and redemption and how our understanding of these directs our journey.

The second part engages the the grace of gospel love and marital intimacy. In this part, he first looks at the challenges and the enemy of gospel love.  He concludes with what being a gospel lover is and the importance of the transaction of gospel love.

The final part offers tips on how to overcome challenges to marital intimacy. Challenges include headship and submission, selfishness, communication problems, and death.

Review

This work is a loving kick in the teeth as the reader, most likely a man as Dunn is writing as a husband, will be challenged on each and every page to “love his wife as Christ loved the church.” It is easy to think that we are doing this, but Pastor Dunn shows us otherwise.  In the end, he continually points us to our greatest need – grace that is only found in Christ.

At the end of each chapter is found a list of discussion questions. These are designed for conversation starting points and should not be viewed as homework to finish. The discussions that are possible from this section are endless.  But, like anything else that deals with our sinful natures, it will take work and discipline to arrive at gospel intimacy.

I do think the book loses something as it was based off of a conference where greater interaction between speaker and listener is assumed.  That being said, however, reading this resource in the evenings with your spouse (or future spouse) will be an excellent alternative to attending a conference.

Recommendation

Every now and then, I receive a book that is not published by a major publishing company that is pure gold and needs to be read by many people. Gospel Intimacy is one such book. I recommend this resource to all Christian couples. This could be a resource that, quite honestly, saves your marriage.

The Christian’s Great Enemy by John Brown

The Christian's Great EnemyBrown, John (1784-1858). The Christian’s Great Enemy: A Practical Exposition of 1 Peter 5:8-11. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014. 104 pp. $10.00. Purchase at Westminster Books or for Kindle for less.

Introduction

John Brown served as minister of Broughton Place Church in Edinburgh from 1829 until his death in 1858.  He expounded 1 Peter over the course of 16 years.  He also wrote a commentary on Hebrews.

Summary

Divided into three parts (4 if you count the conclusion), Brown looks at the The Christian’s Great Enemy and seeks to answer who and what he is.  The second part offers the Christian’s duty in reference to this great enemy.  In this part, Brown details what we must do and how we may resist him.  The third part is an encouragement to perform these duties.

Review

This is my first introduction to the sermons of John Brown. I was personally greatly edified by this work. It is short enough that it can be read in one sitting (as I did) but I would not recommend doing this.  Rather, this work needs to be read slowly and chewed on for a time.

What leaps out most about Brown’s style is not that he was trying to be philosophical and highly intelligent though he was.  Instead, he is extremely pastoral and offers much encouragement to the Christian in what amounts to a daily, life long battle with the devil and his temptations.  His writing style transcends his time and is fairly easy to read even in the 21st century.

Finally, do not let the brevity of this work confuse you. John Brown is a surgeon who quickly discerns the text and explains it in simple terms that is the goal for every pastor.  This will be a work that is read, re-read, and re-read only to discover that you really want (need?) to read again and again.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this resource to all Christians as many in the church have lost a realistic and biblical understanding of the devil.  John Brown is still rectifying this grave error over 200 years after his death.

Far From Good by Stephen Van Zant

Far From GoodVan Zant, Stephen. Far From Good: The Trial of Sam Cray.  Enumclaw: WinePress Publishing, 2011.  263 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Stephen Van Zant is “not a real writer.”  He set out to tell a story in the imaginary Kidron County in Kentucky.  He graduated from University of Kentucky with a degree in American Literature and then from the University of Louisville with a law degree.

Summary

From the back of the book:

A town divided by racial prejudice . . .
When his school year draws to a close, Sam Cray looks forward to a carefree summer with his friends. However, now that his parents are divorced, it’s up to him to help his mom and tend to their rundown house. To make matters worse, their new neighbor is Coach Ray Bedford, a control freak known for his harsh manner on the football field and occasional racist remarks.

When angry words between Sam’s friend, Dewayne, and Coach Bedford turn to blows, Sam is called to testify in a sensational trial that threatens to divide a small Kentucky town. Sam’s difficult choices and the trial’s aftermath set events in motion that put his life in danger. When a summer ending canoe trip with friends turns deadly, will Sam return alive?

Review

Van Zant offers a realistic look at growing up in the 70’s.  In reality, he offers a realistic look at growing up in general. He tackles tough topics like divorce and racial prejudices in a manner that will provoke thought and conversation.

Missing is a Christ-centered approach to the problems and issues at hand, but again, this novel is meant to depict life as it is now how I personally hope it to be.  Regardless, I would have liked to have read of a Christian conscience throughout the story.

In the end, Far From Good is a page turner that will keep you reading late into the night and have you questioning your own attitudes.

Recommendation

I can recommend this book to teens and young adults as it will open their eyes to the reality that all choices have consequences.

The Maxwell Leadership Bible

Maxwell Leadership BibleThe Maxwell Leadership Bible – New International Version. Lessons in Leadership From the Word of God by John Maxwell. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2014. 1586 pp. $44.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

The NIV Bible is one of the more popular translations of the Bible in use today. This translation does use the gender neutral language. (Note: this review is not concerned with that discussion. For a deeper discussion, please read here and here.)

This review is concerned with the notes found in this particular study Bible. These notes are compiled and edited by noted leadership author John C. Maxwell and Tim Elmore, the founder and president of Growing Leaders.

Summary

Obviously, this Bible contains the NIV translated text of the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. On most every page, there is a note about leadership whether it looks to a particular person in the Bible or a principle found within a story.

Each book of the Bible has an introduction. This introduction does not offer date of writing or theological themes as other study Bibles do. Rather, these introductions offer a glimpse of the leadership lessons found in the book. The reader is offered a list of other people of influence and God’s role in that particular book.

Throughout the book, the reader will find a number of articles set apart from the text. These tend to offer guidelines for mentoring and influencing others in your own life. There are more than 100 biographical profiles that draw out the truths and principles of leadership according to God’s Word.

At the end of the book is found an index detailing the leadership laws, qualities, issues, and profiles found throughout the text for easy reference. Also, there are articles are articles that offer other challenges, rooted in the Bible, for the leader to best lead those under his (or her) influence.

Review

It is important to note that this is not a study Bible. Rather, it is a Bible designed to deal with one topic found in Scripture: leadership. In other words, the editors seek to draw out as many leadership principles as possible from the text of the Bible. To that end, they do an excellent job.

While I am not a huge fan of the NIV personally, I found the leadership notes to be extremely helpful and encouraging. The strength of this work is found in these notes. They are all placed in the text in such a manner that one will wind up with a biblical theology of leadership if read from cover to cover.

Second, the index at the end helps the reader to quickly find a particular person or leadership principle written in this Bible. Further, the introductions to each book are helpful to the one who is studying the Bible will want to see what can be culled there.
Sure, there are some psychological connotations found throughout which leads to a plethora of questions (for example, do we concern ourselves with the Bible or with psychologists?) but, to the discerning reader, these are also found to be beneficial and can apply in a number of contexts.

Perhaps the strength of this resource is that it focuses on the inner qualities of the reader as it pertains to his relationship with God through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. In other words, Maxwell makes it clear that the best leader is a Christian leader in submission to God through the Holy Spirit because of Christ’s death.

Recommendation

Again, while I do not personally care for the NIV translation, I found this Bible to be helpful in my personal quest to better understand leadership. As a husband, a father, a pastor, and a Christian, I am a leader whether I want to be or not. The Maxwell Leadership Bible is a valuable resource for all who aspire to be better leaders.

The Gospel-Centered Life for Teens by Robert Thune and Will Walker

Gospel Centered Life for TeensThune, Robert H. and Will Walker. The Gospel-Centered Life for Teens - a 9-week Study.  Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2014.  Leader’s Guide – . Participant’s Guide – . Purchase for less at Amazon or Westminster Books.

Introduction

This is a companion to The Gospel-Centered Life at Work also published by New Growth Press.  This is the second resource by Thune and Walker. I reviewed The Gospel-Centered Community about a year ago.

Serge means “joining together rough edges to form a smooth seam.” Serge (formerly World Harvest Mission) is a ministry that sees God weaving together the ragged parts of a fallen world with his goodness, making the tattered beautiful. This grace compels his people to go, to join their lives with the communities Serge serves around the world, as Christ makes all things new. This is God’s grace at the fray. Serge’s work consists of sending and caring for missionaries, discipling people around the world, and developing resources for spiritual growth. Learn more about our work worldwide at Serge.org.

Summary

From the back of the book:

Techie? Jock? Class Clown? You Can’t Build a Life on a Label.

Something or someone will always try to define you. Maybe others call you the “techie,” the “jock,” the “class clown,” or the “smart kid.” It’s easy to think that those labels sum up who you really are, express what really matters in your life, and define the things you should pursue.

But your identity goes far deeper than the positive or even the negative labels people use to define you. There is something at the core of a satisfying and meaningful life that can’t be summed up by any label. The Gospel-Centered Life for Teens offers you the chance to center your life on the only thing in the universe that actually has the power to define you, give your life meaning, and shape how you live each day.

This 9-lesson Bible study, adapted from The Gospel-Centered Life by Bob Thune and Will Walker, gives teens and young adults a road map for living a life centered on God and the gospel. Each lesson is self-contained, featuring clear teaching from Scripture, and requires no extra work outside the group setting. The self-explanatory Leader’s Guide helps small group leaders with discussion questions and background material that clearly explain and apply the gospel truths from each lesson.

Review

As with the previous review, this is a 9-week study that is extremely important as we continue to strive to decompartmentalize our Christianity.  Though this study is geared towards the teenager, I believe that many adults, who are “like newborn babies” in Christ will learn much from this study.  Further, I can see how this would be a great college campus ministry tool as well.

The 9 weeks are extremely practical and offer tips on how to incorporate gospel living in every day life.  Chapter 2 on pretending, is a very poignant chapter as there are a number of youth who do not believe what they claim to profess.  This is a difficult chapter to teach, but one that, if it hits the mark well, could change the hearts of many supposed Christians so that they see their need to be truly born again of God.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this resource to all parents and all youth pastors/leaders.  I am grateful for gospel-centered, Christ-exalting resources like this that New Growth continually publishes.

 

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books