On Temptation by John Owen

TemptationOwen, John. Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It; the Danger of Entering Into It; and the Means of Preventing That Danger with a Resolution of Sundry Cases Thereunto Belonging. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2007. 128 pp. $9.00. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle.

Introduction

Note: I actually read this from Volume VI of The Works of John Owen published by The Banner of Truth Trust. The book I am picturing, and the one most commonly read, is the “abridged and made easy to read” version.

I have been reading quite a bit of John Owen of late and have reviewed a few of the books I have read. You can find those here.

This particular book is the second of what amounts to a trilogy of dealing with sin in the life of a believer. Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor brought these three together in a book published by Crossway a few years back.

Summary

Based on Revelation 3:10, John Owen continues his discourse against sin in the lives of believers. This work originally appeared in 1658, two years after On Mortification of Sin. This work is comprised of a mere nine chapters and begins with a look at what it is to “enter into temptation.”

The third chapter offers many advices on how to avoid falling into temptation. They include prayer and consideration of the temptation. Further, in this chapter, he takes a hard look at the self and considers how weak we are as humans but also how we can safeguard our self from sin.

Degrees of temptation comprise the fourth chapter while chapter six looks at various seasons of temptation. Chapters five and seven and eight offer insight into particular methods of avoiding sin. The ninth chapter concludes with a short, but powerful exhortation to the duty of avoiding temptation.

Review

I finally got around to reading this work, again in Volume VI of the Complete Works, because I was personally struggling with temptations and, quite frankly, wanted to read one of the most recommended books on the topic of temptation.

Of the three in the “set,” I probably took the most notes in my notebook and wrote the most in the margins of the book than the others. Chapter three was most helpful as he really gave a solid outline of “a consideration of the self.” He offers a general look at the heart and how it must be a heart of flesh and not a heart of stone.

He then moves into particulars of how to actually safeguard your heart from entering into temptation. Looking over this list (after having read it a few months back!) I can see his wisdom in everything he writes.

Again, it must be noted that the language is a bit difficult, but it is definitely worth persevering in order to glean the wisdom from the pen of arguably one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this book to all Christians. It might be easier if you purchased the previously mentioned Overcoming Sin and Temptation instead of this by itself. Regardless, if you are breathing and you are a Christian, you need this book.

Going Beyond the Five Points Edited by Rob Ventura

Going-Beyond-the-Five-PointsGoing Beyond the Five Points: Pursuing a More Comprehensive Reformation. Rob Ventura, General Editor. Pelham: Solid Ground Books, 2015. 279 pp. $25.00. This book is forthcoming (May 2015) and can be pre-ordered at Solid Ground Books.

Introduction

Rob Ventura has co-authored two other books, A Portrait of Paul and Spiritual Warfare. I have had the privilege of reviewing both. This particular work is a conglomeration of four recognizable pastor/theologians writing on Calvinism and how the 5-points are meant to be a starting point rather than a finishing point. The men who contributed to this work include Dr. Richard Barcellos, Dr. Sam Waldron, Dr. Robert P. Martin, and Pastor Earl Blackburn.

Summary

From the back of the book:

In recent years, a doctrinal shift has taken place among believers so great that even the secular press has taken notice. Christians across denominational lines are laying hold of the biblical truth of God’s electing love and saving grace in Christ, commonly called ‘Calvinism.’ For many, this marks the beginning of a deeper study into the whole counsel of God in Scripture. A thirst to be thoroughly biblical in all areas of life is driving a more comprehensive present-day reformation beyond the famous ‘five points.’ This book captures the voices of seasoned Reformed pastors graciously guiding and encouraging Christ’s beloved sheep to press on and to seek the ‘old paths, where the good way is’ (Jer. 6:16). In this anthology you will be instructed concerning the abiding relevance of the Ten Commandments, God-centered worship, the masterful unfolding of God’s great plan of redemption through divine covenants, the identity, nature, and work of the church, and the help that confessions of faith lend to our grasp of God’s glorious Word.

The book is divided notably into five chapters. The first chapter looks at the Ten Commandments and how they still apply to the Christian today. The second chapter offers a discussion on the Regulative Principle. That is, how we are to worship God according to the methods He has described in the Bible for us.

The third and fourth chapters are written by the same contributor, Pastor Earl Blackburn. They encompass Covenant Theology (from a Baptistic perspective) and the church. The proper use of confessions is the subject of the fifth and final chapter.

Review

I was greatly impressed with both the passion and compassion these authors wrote. Their overarching concern is easily recognized as the glory of God. The secondary concern is to engage this new generation of Reformed Christians, specifically, Reformed Baptists, to help them understand that T.U.L.I.P. is just the beginning.

With only five chapters over 279 pages, one quickly understands that there is much thought and content in each chapter. While I am sure not everyone will agree wholeheartedly with everything that is written in these pages, it will be safe to say that they will need to wrestle not only with the Bible, but with a historical understanding of Baptists.

Sam Waldron’s chapter on the Regulative Principle, some 74 pages long is fairly daunting though he makes a convincing case that we ought to worship God according to the Scriptures even if it means stopping long-standing and cherished traditions in your local congregation.

All five of these chapters are saturated in Scripture, enriched with historical understanding, and are meant to drive the modern Christian to a deeper appreciation of the things of God that go beyond a flower or debate over soteriology.

Recommendation

Going Beyond the Five Points is one of those works that will aid the Reformed Baptist move beyond petty squabbles to a deeper, God-exalting faith that will ultimately spill over into every area of one’s life. It is with that thought as my context, that I highly recommend this invaluable resource to all Christians.

 

Mortification of Sin by John Owen

Mortification of SinOwen, John. On the Mortification of Sin in Believers. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004. 144 pp. $9.00. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle.

Introduction

Note: I actually read this from Volume VI of The Works of John Owen published by The Banner of Truth Trust. The book I am picturing, and the one most commonly read, is the “abridged and made easy to read” version.

For many, John Owen is a common name from the Puritan era. Even those who are not in the so-called Reformed camp are familiar with Owen largely in part because of this particular work. He was born in 1616 in Stadhampton, Oxfordshire and died in Ealing, West London, in 1683. During his sixty-seven years he lived out a life full of spiritual experience, literary accomplishment, and national influence so beyond most of his peers that he continues to merit the accolade of ‘the greatest British theologian of all time.’

Summary

In fine literary and Puritanical form, John Owen states succinctly the need to always be killing sin this side of eternity. The primary verse from which this small work is rooted is found in Romans 8:13, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (I quote the KJV because that is more typical of the language Owen spoke.)

After laying the foundation of the command to kill sin, Owen proposes a number of general principles as to the means by which the Christian ought to be engaged in this daily struggle. These general principles comprise the ensuing three chapters. The first is the necessity of mortification. The second is the means by which one may engage in this battle. The third is the usefulness of mortification.

He then moves into particulars as regards how we are to actually combat sin – a total of nine “directions.” The final chapter. the fourteenth, offers the encouragement that all of this is for the Christian’s assurance of salvation but shows that it is actually the Holy Spirit working in you to mortify sin in your body.

Review

How does one review a work that 1. has been monumental within Christendom concerning the topic of sanctification and 2. has withstood the test of time (it was published in 1656)?

Obviously, Owen writes in an form of English that most today are no longer familiar. Hence, the necessity to make this book easier to read in the Puritan Paperback. Also, it must be noted that the style of writing, as well as their preaching, is lost on many today. They do not follow a simple 3-point outline as we do today. Rather, they would look at one particular point of application and then break it down into a number of subsets and then break those down even further!

What you wind up with is a very thorough dealing with a particular topic that, once you have read the work, you have pretty much read all there is on the topic. Though that is hyperbole, it is safe to say that the treatment with which the Puritans dealt with their topic leaves the no stone unturned. It is from this work where the axiom, “be killing sin or it will be killing you” originated.

It is worth persevering through the language barrier and the length of the treatment of each point and consequent subpoint to read this excellent work.

Recommendation

I have reviewed this classic work in order to introduce it to those who read this website in the even that they have never heard of John Owen or this classic work. I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about dealing with the sin in their life.

 

The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny with Jerry B. Jenkins

MathenyMatheny, Mike and Jerry B. Jenkins. The Matheny Manifesto – A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life. New York: Crown Archetype, 2015. 226 pp. $24.00. Purchase for less at Amazon. Also, for Kindle.

Introduction

Mike Matheny is a form Major League catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, and San Francisco Giants. He is currently the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals having replaced Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa after an epic run to become World Series Champions in 2011.

Jerry Jenkins needs no introduction to most readers of Christian books. He has authored or co-authored over twenty New York Times bestsellers and has helped a number of athletes write their autobiographies.

Summary

Divided into three parts over fourteen chapters, Matheny, with the help of Jenkins, brings to completion something he inadvertently started when asked to coach a youth baseball team. Part one looks at the problem of youth sports which feeds into the problem for so many young adults in the “real world.”

The second part lays the foundation for a better way to handle youth sports, and, consequently, youth in general. Along the way he pays homage to arguably the greatest coach of all time – John Wooden.

The final, and largest part of the book, offers eight keys to success. These include a proper understanding of leadership, having confidence (not arrogance), the ability to work together as a team, and the importance of faith. Further, he continues to explain the necessity of character and class as well as toughness and humility.

Review

The title, while long, is straight-forward. The reader pretty much knows exactly what is coming. Matheny, however, interweaves his own life’s story to show the reader how he arrived at what amounts to his philosophy of life. He does not shy away from his faith in Christ. As a matter of fact, he makes is extremely clear from the outset that this is foundational to everything he is and has become as a man and as a manager.

What he does well is to show how his life, and yours, does not take place in a vacuum. He gives credit to a number of men and women along the way that helped to shape him as well as reinforce what his parents taught him.

He writes with a conversational tone that almost makes the reader feel as though he is engaged in a conversation with Matheny. He is almost didactic in that approach as he seems to anticipate questions throughout the book. He even goes so far as to ask the questions himself and then proceed to answer them. Again, this helps you remain engaged.

My only criticism is that the picture of he and Jenkins on the inside dust jacket was taken at Wrigley Field. As a lifelong Cardinals fan, this is unacceptable. (OK, that does not really count as criticism, but it is extremely close!)

In the end, Matheny has authored a concise autobiography that can be used for all coaches and parents and yes, even business leaders. The fact that he has built on the foundation of Christ is very obvious as you read this book. In fact, I believe Romans 10:9-21 would make an excellent biblical summary of this biography.

Recommendation

I really enjoyed reading this short book. I believe you will as well. This book is highly recommended to anyone who has children, is involved in the lives of children, or once was a child. It is for both Christians and non-Christians.

God Dwells Among Us by G.K. Beale and Mitchell Kim

GDAUBeale, G.K. and Mitchell Kim. God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. 217 pp. $17.00. Purchase for less at Westminster Books or on Kindle.

Introduction

Mitchell Kim is founding and lead pastor at Living Water Alliance Church in Chicago area. G.K. Beale holds the J. Gresham Machen Chair of New Testament and is professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He has written or contributed to a number of books including many commentaries.

Summary

Divided into 11 chapters, the authors take the reader on a biblical theology of the temple from Eden to the Tabernacle to the Temple to Christ to the Church and to the New Heaven and the New Earth. Along the way, they explain how God commanded Adam to “multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). This verse, actually, verses 26-28, serve as the framework for the theology of the book.

The final two chapters offer an apologetic on why this has not been noticed before now and what it means regarding our call to missions.

Review

Too be honest I was extremely interested in this book primarily because I was doing a little bit of study on the Tabernacle instructions and the importance of it to the nation of Israel while in the wilderness. I was not prepared to have my mind blown the way I did. To read how Eden pointed to the tabernacle which pointed to the temple which pointed to Christ who inaugurated the church which looked back on the temple and forward to the new heaven and the new earth and how it is all summed up in Genesis 1:26-28 was enough to make my brain hurt.

Genesis 1:26-28 states

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’

I share this verse because it is the foundational commandment that has never been rescinded though it has been reiterated (see, Genesis 9:1, 7 and Matthew 28:18-20 as examples). This is their “controlling paradigm” throughout the entire study and was what drove them to understand the importance of Eden lost and Eden restored.

The authors treat this biblical theology with great care and do not shy away from challenges though I felt they attempted to sweep away any criticism with a few paragraphs in the second to last chapter. In the end, their motivation is a clarion call to fulfill the original command to fill the earth which is now accomplished through missions and evangelism.

I believe they succeeded.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this resource to any Christian what want to think a bit deeper and be challenged to see something they may have never seen before now. You will, however, have to read this book twice. The first time you read it will leave you in awe and wonder of the greatness of God. The second time will enable you to begin to understand the magnitude of what is being expressed.

Great Themes in Puritan Preaching Edited by Mariano Di Gangi

Great ThemesGreat Themes in Puritan Preaching. Edited by Mariano Di Gangi. Ontario: Joshua Press, 2007. 148 pp. $18.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less.

Introduction

After being converted by “God’s amazing grace” in 1930, Mariano graduated from Brooklyn College, Westminster Theological Seminary and received his Doctor of Divinity from Gordon Conwell Divinity School in 1965. He has served as pastor in Montreal, Hamilton, Philadelphia and Toronto.

Summary

Divided into fourteen chapters, Dr. Di Gangi looks at a number of Puritan preachers, many of which are not as well known today, and their primary concerns whenever they stepped into the pulpit. From the importance of the Infallible Word to the importance of the pastoral ministry, Mariano elucidates how the preachers used to the pulpit to teach and equip the saints for the daily battle of needing to defend their faith.

Other subjects include the revelation of the Messiah, the importance of guilt and grace and the need for radical repentance as well as the second birth. As can be expected, there are many deep theological issues dealt with. For example, justification and sanctification, spiritual conflict, the assurance of salvation and the coming judgment. Also, he deals with more practical issues like spiritual conflict and the importance of family values.

Review

If you have read the Puritans for any length of time (and I highly recommend you do!) then this little book will be both a treat and an encouragement. Far from a systematic theology of the Puritans, Great Themes takes samples from various sermons and writings to show how they shaped not only a culture then but also the entirety of evangelicalism for centuries to come.

Mariano does an excellent job of organizing these Puritanical thoughts into various themes and allowing them to talk for themselves.  His chapter on Radical Repentance is much needed for the church today. So, too, his chapter on guilt and grace.

I think what Di Gangi did more than other authors and editors have done is to show in short order why the time of the Puritans was so rich in theology and doctrine which led to a golden age of sorts for the Christian church. In the midst of persecution after the Reformation, these pastors preached their hearts out on the most important aspects of the Christian faith and Di Gangi shows this with great effect.

Further, at a mere 148 pages, this work can be read and read again by many today. This would accomplish perhaps a return to the most important aspects of the faith…a Bible-saturated theology informing every aspect of life for the believer.

Recommendation

As noted above, this is a very short book. I highly recommend this work first and foremost to all pastors and leaders in the church. These themes need to be emulated again today. Not because we idolize the Puritans. Rather, because the timeless truths they preached in 17th and 18th centuries are needed just as much now as they were then. I also recommend this resource to any Christian looking to understand what matters most in the Christian life.

Transcending Mysteries by Andrew Greer and Ginny Owens

Transcending MysteriesGreer, Andrew and Ginny Owens. Transcending Mysteries: Jesus’ Message from the Old Testament. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2015. 208 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Amazon and for Kindle for less.

Introduction

Andrew Greer is co-creator of the “Hymns for Hunger” tour. Ginny Owens is a three-time Dove Award winner. The Refraction series of books is Thomas Nelson’s attempt to deal with taboo and ignored topics.

Summary

Divided into a mere 8 chapters, the authors seek to show Christ in the Old Testament and how it applies to us today. Some of the topics applicable to today is fear, unfulfilled longings, sacrifice, mercy, communion with God, surrender, etc.

Each chapter looks at a particular Old Testament Bible story and offers the singers’ thoughts and personal experiences. There are questions for reflections at the end as well as a featured song by the artists.

Review

I like the format and the intention behind the book. The authors have obviously given these topics some thought and have experienced enough silliness and even anger from other well-meaning believers to have wrestled with the the Old Testament. They are open and honest regarding their hurts and this invites the reader to a deeper discussion concerning who God is and what He genuinely expects of us.

My concern is found in the preface: “We believe that all of Scripture, when paired with our personal experiences, is important in discovering how He works through us, how He moves in us, and what He wants from us” (emphasis added). Sadly, this is not an uncommon approach to understanding God – extremely man-centered as though the Bible is about us and not God.

I applaud them for being straightforward about what they are seeking to do and how they are going to interpret the Bible. It remains, however, wrong. The Bible is God’s self-revelation given to man so that we may know who He is and what He demands of us. Yes, God works through us (Romans 10:13-15 as one example not to mention all the prophets, priests, and kings!) and He certainly works in us (Ephesians 2:1-10) because that is His means by which He advances His kingdom.

There is nothing inherently wrong in trying to discover your place in God’s Kingdom. We must, however, always be careful that when we do this, we do not become the king ourselves. This is the danger of a book like this.

Nonetheless, this work does a great job of engaging the reader.

Recommendation

I do recommend this resource to all Christians with the caveat that you be discerning and submit ultimately to the authority of the Bible.

Divided by Bill Delvaux

DividedDelvaux Bill. Divided: When the Head and Heart Don’t Agree. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2015. 208 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Bill Delvaux graduated Duke University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served as a pastor and high school Bible teacher. Currently, he leads Landmark Journey Ministries.

Summary

Divided into three parts and eight chapters, Bill seeks to show the difference between our head knowledge and our heart actions. He argues this drives us to fear and awe of God.

Part one looks at how the divided began and ultimately what it winds up destroying. The second part tackles this divide and seeks to lay the groundwork for closing the gap. Finally, the third part looks at how we ought to close the divide and what that might feel like for you.

Each chapter concludes with a prayer and the Father’s response as well as questions to help you journal and think through this issue.

Review

From the outset, I really like the idea and concept of this book in particular in the Refraction series. The fact is there are too many Christians with head knowledge that never finds its way down to the heart. I appreciated greatly his candor and willingness to peel away the layers of what I would call American Christianity.

You see, to qualify Christianity with any other word that is not used in Scripture is to ultimately not be Christian at all. This is the underlying power of what Bill accomplishes in this work. Through his very conversational and laid back approach, he drives the reader to Scripture and challenges their own cherished beliefs that have come from years of apathy and or neglect.

One could argue against the Father’s response to his prayers at the end of the chapters, but I actually found those to be quite insightful. I would not necessarily put much stock in them, but they certainly showed the reader how the Bible, and the doctrines derived from the Bible, lead to a conversation between God and man.

In the end, Bill really seems to argue that if you are not driven to action then you really do not believe what you claim you believe. If we are to be Christian, that is, a follower of Christ, then we must be moved to action while submitting to the authority of the Bible in our lives.

Recommendation

For me personally, and isn’t that what a review typically is – a personal reflection, I found this to be the best of the three Refraction books I have read and or reviewed to date. Not so much because this topic wasn’t taboo, but because it drives home the point and reality of our need to be active Christians instead of apathetic Christians. I heartily recommend this resource to all.

 

Pleading for a Reformation Vision by David B. Calhoun

Pleading For a Reformation VisionCalhoun, David B. Pleading for a Reformation Vision: The Life and Selected Writings of William Childs Robinson (1897-1982).  Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2013. 336 pp. $27.00. Purchase at Westminster Books for less.

Introduction

David B. Calhoun is Professor Emeritus of Church History at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Mo. He has also served as a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. Much of his time in ministry has been devoted to missions though currently he is on the pastoral staff of an African-American Baptist church in St. Louis.

Summary

Divided into two separate books, the first half of this work is a biography of the little known theologian William Childs Robinson. Here, Calhoun traces Robinson’s life from childhood to his call to ministry to his becoming a professor at Columbia Seminary in the Southern Presbyterian Church.

The second half of the book is a conglomeration of Robinson’s writings that represent very well his thought on the need for the church to be ever reforming.  Writings include his thoughts on Columbia Seminary, the Trinity, Worship, and justification by faith among many others.

Review

As a Southern Baptist, I found this work to be extremely edifying and challenging. Edifying because it is nice to know there were others outside my “Baptistic circles” fighting for the faith within higher education in the 20th century. I say challenging because I was met with my own personal biases regarding the importance of preserving and teaching the truths delivered once for all to the saints.

Calhoun organized this book extremely well as he showed how Robinson’s theology developed over the course of his ministry and life. Further, he is clear to detail how ministry never takes place in a vacuum. We are constantly bombarded with alternate and “fresh” views of theology that in the end rape the Bible of any authority in the life of the church. Robinson stood toe-to-toe with many of these during his time as a pastor and a theologian.

Recommendation

The importance of this biography and selection of readings is the clarion call to take up the torch and defend the faith.  We are indebted to David Calhoun and The Banner of Truth Trust for this work. My prayer is that all who read Pleading for a Reformation Vision will take up the call and wage the good war whether from the pulpit or the pew.

 

Rediscovering the Lord’s Prayer by Kieran Beville

Rediscovering Lord's PrayerBeville, Kieran. Rediscovering the Lord’s Prayer. Mountain Home: Borderstone Press, LLC., 2012. 136 pp. $11.95. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Kieran Beville is pastor of Lee Valley Bible Church in Ireland. He is also a visiting professor of Intercultural Studies and Practical Ministry at Tyndale Theological Seminary. He is internationally known after having spoken at a number of conferences on the topics of mission, preaching, and postmodernism.

Summary

As evidenced by the title, this work is based on the text of the Lord’s Prayer, or, as others call it, the Our Father, as found primarily in Matthew 6. He does, however, strive for integrity in presenting this prayer and draws from the other gospels as well.

After a lengthy, albeit important, introduction, Beville divides the book into 9 chapters drawing on the the major phrases of this most familiar model prayer. This book is based on a sermon series by the author.

Review

Two things quickly emerged from reading this work. First, I did not quite know the Lord’s Prayer as well as I thought. Personally, I grew up Catholic and had spent the first 23 years of my life mindlessly repeating this prayer. I knew it. I know it. I still get stuck on whether or not I should say debts or trangressions!

Kieran opened up the layers of meaning with surgical precision while at the same time showing that there is so much more to learn from this model prayer. In other words, Rediscovering the Lord’s Prayer is a simple reintroduction to the tip of the iceberg and invites the reader to study further and plumb the depths of the Lord’s teaching.

A second thing that stood out was the different cultural perspective that one in Ireland has on a timeless truth than one in America. Too be honest, I cannot quite give an explicit example of what I mean than to say that the author has a different way of stating timeless truths than I have read. I can only gather that this is because of where he lives compared to where I live.

On one hand, Beville says nothing new. On the other hand, he genuinely helps the reader rediscover this magnificent model prayer of our Lord, Jesus.

Recommendation

If you have ever uttered the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer, or know anything at all about the model prayer given to us by Jesus, then I highly recommend this book to you. Read, and redisover this most important answer to a question we often ask: “Teach us to pray?”

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books