Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper

Seeing and Savoring Jesus ChristPiper, John. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001. 142 pp. $9.99. Purchase at Westminster for less or on Kindle.

Introduction

Note: I read and am reviewing the 2001 edition. What is pictured and linked to is the 2004 revised edition which is a paperback.

John Piper needs no introduction. For those that have never heard of please check out his ministry’s website, Desiring God. You can get most every book they have free in PDF as well as all of his sermons and podcasts.

Summary

Divided into thirteen chapters, Piper takes the reader on a journey from understanding the ultimate aim of Jesus to nuggets of truth as to what what Jesus came to do. Along the way, you will learn the deity and excellence of Christ while also considering His power and wisdom.

As Piper brings the reader to the apex of the joy of Christ, he also shows us the glory of Christ as he helps you to consider the anguish and saving sacrifice of Jesus. He concludes with meditation on Christ’s resurrection and His promised Second Coming.

Review

I read this book because in a recent podcast, John Piper stated that if he were to recommend any one book of his to read first it would Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. That caught me by surprise a bit. I had read this years ago when I first came to Christ but had it sitting on my shelf collecting dust. I decided to reread it and now understand why Piper says he himself rereads this book often.

Each chapter is short and can be read devotionally or, quite honestly in one night. I chose to read the book in the morning after my daily Scripture reading. My discovery was that it quickened my heart to the things of God in such a concerted effort that I could not help but meditate on Christ throughout the day.

Each chapter was saturated with Scripture and every chapter ended with a concerted prayer in to help one converse with God. I usually do not read these prayers as I find it often difficult to pray someone else’s prayer, but these were different. I found the prayers to be a spring board to deeper communion with God.

Recommendation

It would be easy to say that if Piper recommends this book, I recommend this book. Too be honest, it was because he stated that he rereads this book often to be reminded of Christ’s glories. If John Piper needs a reminder, then so do I, and I think I can safely assume, so do you. Please get yourself a copy and read and reread this quality devotional that will draw you to Christ.

The Genesis Factor Edited by Ron J. Bigalke Jr.

Genesis FactorBigalke, Jr. Ron J. The Genesis Factor: Myths and Realities. Green Forest: Master Books, 2008. 260 pp. $13.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for much less.

Introduction

Ron Bigalke Jr oversees Eternal Ministries which is a ministry devoted to discipleship and evangelism dedicated to teaching and proclaiming the Word of God. This work is a conglomeration of many authors speaking on subjects from fossil evidence to geologic and historic evidence in order to “reinforce the validity of the Scriptural account of Creation, the Great Flood, and the Tower of Babel.

Summary

Divided into nine chapters with an introduction and an appendix, Ron assimilates nine different authors to speak to specific topics in which they are most equipped.  Henry Morris is the only author to write more than one chapter (he writes the introduction in addition to a chapter).

Morris does introduce the book with the importance of a literal 6-day creation account. Christopher Cone offers a survey of the Biblical/Scientific Creation conflicts throughout history. Next, Terry Mortenson discusses the boundaries on Creation as well as Noah’s Flood.

Eugene Merrill explains why Genesis 1-11 is a literal history while Ron adds a chapter on the preeminence of Biblical creationism. Tas Walker shows how the geological evidences point to a young earth and Jonathan Henry explores the evidence beyond earth for a young earth. Lary Vardiman concludes this mini-subsection with evidences of a young earth from the ocean and the atmosphere. Finally, John Whitcomb writes a chapter on the Genesis Flood while Henry Morris is back to discuss neocreationism.

Don DeYoung concludes with an explanation of the RATE Project.

Review

The value in this book is found in the many different authors and scientists and theologians who contributed to it. Some of the chapters are based on presentations and lectures while others are articles that have appeared elsewhere. By bringing all of these together in one source, Ron Bigalke has compiled a condensed encyclopedia of who’s who in the creation discussion.

By having various individual writers focus in on their specialty, each chapter is, in essence, the strongest in the book on that particular perspective in the larger conversation that is young earth creationism. I personally found the first chapter to be very interesting as Christopher Cone showed how the debate has evolved (intended) through the years and how Christianity has largely given ground to science in order to understand the Scriptures rather than allowing the Bible to formulate our worldview on all things…including Science.

At the end of each chapter is an introduction to the author and some of the works they have written. Further, as you read through the book you will be introduced to a number of additional resources in the footnotes. If one is industrious and wanting to compile a library of young earth creation apologetic resources, they would do well to comb through The Genesis Factor and cull the notes.

Recommendation

Granted this resource is a bit older (published in 2008), it is worth your time and money to invest in. I recommend this resource for all who are interested in understanding the intricacies of the young earth creation account of Genesis 1-2 and the historicity of Genesis 1-11.

Roman Catholic Theology & Practice by Gregg R. Allison

Roman CatholicAllison, Gregg R. Roman Catholic Theology & Practice: An Evangelical Assessment. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2014.  496 pp. $28.00. Purchase at Westminster Books in print for less or on Kindle.

Introduction

Gregg R. Allison is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is secretary of the Evangelical Theological Society, a book review editor for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, an elder at Sojourn Community Church, and a theological strategist for Sojourn Network. He is the author of numerous books, including Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine,  and Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church.

Summary

This book follows the structure of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and therefore is not necessarily divided into chapters per se. Allison first presents the Roman Catholic doctrine and then follows up with an evangelical assessment. In other words, he does not shy away from the obvious differences in theology nor does he attempt to bring them together in a harmony of ecumenicism that so many often attempt today.

Review

This is one of those reviews that, if I had a different purpose than simply introducing you to quality Christian resources, I could spend countless hours and pages writing. Having grown up Roman Catholic (RC), I found Allison to be very informed on what the RC church believes. Further, his assessments were spot on and extremely balanced. He did not jump onto any theological soap boxes nor did he chase any rabbits such that he lost his focus. Rather, he stayed on task and dealt with each doctrine both independently and as a whole system of belief.

This work may or may not be read cover to cover. It can be dealt with based on various points of discussion with members of the RC Church. While I would suggest reading cover to cover as this is the only volume I have read that treats RC theology as a holistic worldview, many will find that it becomes an apologetic resource.

Roman Catholic Theology and Practice is accessible to all readers though written by an excellent systematic theologian in his own right. Allison does a masterful job of explaining RC theology on its own merits and through the lens of the RC Church. This work offers much insight into what they believe and how we as Protestants should understand and respond.

Recommendation

Having grown up in St. Louis, I call it the Rome of the West), this would have been an invaluable resource to own. I highly recommend this book to all who want to understand 1) the ongoing differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics, 2) how to respond to those differences, and 3) a deeper understanding of biblical truths. This work would also be an excellent gift to a Catholic who is questioning the differences between their beliefs and those of the Protestants.

On Guard by Deepak Reju

On GurdReju, Deepak. On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2014. 208 pp. $19.99. Purchase at Westminster in print for less or on Kindle.

Introduction

Deepak Reju serves as Pastor of Biblical Counseling and Family Ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He has contributed to Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling and Scripture and Counseling.

Summary

Divided into three sections with a number of appendices, Dr. Reju tackles a timely though difficult subject. Section one lays the foundation and the necessity of getting familiar with the problem of child abuse. The second section offers eight strategies for protecting against child abuse while section three offers three strategies to properly respond to abuse if it should occur in your church (or anywhere for that matter).

The appendices offer suggestions ranging from writing policies to talking with children to training scenarios for workers and volunteers.

Review

As much as I hate to say it, this book is much needed today. Stories abound, as do court cases and arrest records, of the pervasive nature of child abuse both in the home and the church. Obviously, we cannot be everywhere at once, but we can look for signs in the lives of those children and families who are under our care as a church.

Deepak’s work is rooted firmly in Scripture. From that solid foundation, he offers much practical insight in how to deal with this often hidden problem. On Guard is not lengthy though one ought to read it slowly and thoughtfully as we are all going to give an account one way or another.

Depending on where you stand in your knowledge of the pervasiveness of this problem, this work could be extremely eye-opening. Wading through section one for the one who is ignorant of the problem may be earth-shattering. Section two will prove to be a most valuable platform from which to build one’s ministry to protect against child abuse. Section three will serve as an exhortation to respond properly both biblically and legally when it comes to reporting these crimes.

Dr. Reju’s work is extremely accessible to all in the church. His desire to offer “a more comprehensive approach” to preventing and responding to child abuse has been met. This resource is not meant to be the end of the discussion but the beginning of a lengthy discussion designed to equip the bride of Christ to minister more effectively to a hurting world.

Recommendation

If you are a Christian, you need to read this book. If you are on a church staff or a member of a church, you must read this book. It is sad that it needs to be written, but the fact that it does indicates the importance of the subject at hand. We must no longer bury our heads in the sand. Rather, we must equip ourselves to bear one another’s burdens. Dr. Deepak Reju aids us in this endeavor and for that we are indebted to him.

Mark Twain: A Christian Response by Ray Comfort

Mark TwainComfort, Ray. Mark Twain: A Christian Response to His Battle with God. Green Forest, Master Books, 2014. 160 pp. $12.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Mark Twain needs no introduction to those who read books. Then again, he may given the perspective of this book. Ray Comfort’s books and movies and study courses have been reviewed quite regularly here at Christian Book Notes.  I have also been blessed to interview him.

Summary

Divided into 15 chapters, Comfort attempts a conversation with Mark Twain based on Twain’s writings. In the course of the book, Comfort establishes via Twain’s own words, that he was indeed a theist and that he was appalled at the God of the bible. Instead of seeking to understand God on His terms in the Bible, Twain used human reasoning to establish that the God of the Bible was not a God worthy of praise. If anything, the God of the Bible was to be derided and mocked and ridiculed because of His willingness to kill “innocent people” and take virgins captive.

Review

To be honest, the book was a bit difficult to understand at first. I could not tell if I was reading the words of Mark Twain or Ray Comfort. After a few chapters, I figured out how Comfort had organized this work and from there I found it to be quite enjoyable.

I enjoyed how Ray actually penned a conversation with Mark based upon his own writings. The obvious caveat is that Twain was limited to what he wrote and Comfort could easily anticipate the answer.

The charge could be leveled that Comfort was able to ask the question or offer a response such that Twain “loses” or looks bad. The truth is, Comfort is very generous with his conversation. He strives to keep Twain in his proper context and does not commit the sin of eisogesis (stripping a sentence or phrase out of a context in order to make it say something contrary to what was actually said).

Ultimately, however, Comfort did a wonderful job of exemplifying how one should engage an unbeliever and skeptic in the course of conversation. This work ultimately becomes an apologetics class on how to share and defend your faith. In the end, Comfort shows that while Twain was a theist, i.e., he believed that something existed that created everything, he was certainly not a Christian. In fact, he went so far as to mock Christianity and deride those who would worship a god such as the one depicted in the pages of the Bible.

Recommendation

Once I figured out the style of the book, this was a very enjoyable read. I found that as I read I was treated to a plethora of methods of evangelism and apologetics. Further, this work strips away the veneer and shine of the carefully crafted image that is Mark Twain and allows the reader to look underneath and see, in his own words, how genuinely angry he was. I recommend this resource to all Christians. It would make a great gift to the one you know who is a fan of Mark Twain.

The Beauty and Glory of Christian Living Edited by Joel R. Beeke

The Beauty and Glory of Christian LivingThe Beauty and Glory of Christian Living. Edited by Joel R. Beeke. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014. 168 pp. $25.00. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Joel Beeke is president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He is also pastor at Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation and has written and edited a number of books. I have reviewed a few of them here.

Summary

This book was compiled from the 2013 Puritan Reformed Conference on the beauty and glory of Christian living.

From the dust jacket:

When the seed of life is sown in their hearts, God s people grow up beautifully and gloriously. Taking up this botanical analogy, The Beauty and Glory of Christian Living opens by discussing the divine roots of the Christian life in being united to Christ in faith, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, becoming spiritually minded, and living by the means of grace. It then explores how our Christian lives branch out to influence our families, our workplaces, and the world. Finally, a series of chapters deal with weathering the storms of life, when we are pelted with affliction, sexual temptation, negative thought patterns, hard times, sickness, and death. In all of this, we see a faithful God who causes His people to flourish for His glory.

Contributors include Michael Barrett, Ian Hamilton, John Tweeddale, Joel Beeke, William VanDoodewaard, Brian Najapfour, Josh Dear, Gerald Bilkes, Brian Croft, and David Murray.

Review

The chapters in this book provide what amounts to a nice devotional read. They can be read in 10-15 minutes each and drive home the truth that Christ came so that we may have life more abundantly (see, John 10:10). The conference, and consequently the book, was split into three sections: the divine roots of Christian living, the human branches of Christian living, and living for Christ in the earthly storms.

I appreciated the organization of the book as we must always pour a foundation on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. Once we have set the foundation, we are then exhorted to live for Christ in the home and the workplace all with a mind to the Kingdom of God.

I found the last section on living in the storms to be of great value. Here the sermons look at affliction, sexual sin, negativity, sickness and death, and, ultimately, the hard times of life. Too be honest, these last five chapters are pure gold and will be messages I return to over and over.

If there is one criticism, for me personally, it is the use of the KJV exclusively. This is merely a matter of taste on my part, but I found that to be a bit difficult in the reading. Again, this is personal opinion and for some, this may be a great allure to read this work.

In the end, the structure of the book (and I believe the conference) and the Christ-centered proclamation of the need for the gospel in every day life makes this an excellent resource to own and to read either straight through or on an as needed basis.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this resource to all Christians who are serious about living their lives for Christ. Read, be filled, and then live to the glory of God through the sanctification of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

A Father’s Love Zonderkidz Adventure Bible

A Father's LoveA Father’s Love (I Can Read! Adventure Bible).  Illustrated by David Miles.  Grand Rapids: ZonderKidz, 2014. 32 pp.  $3.99. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction/Summary

A Father’s Love is a level two I Can Read! based on the NIV Adventure Bible. In it, young readers learn about how great a father’s love can be for his child. At this read-alone level, newly independent readers follow a young man who decides to go out on his own, with his inheritance. He wastes his money and makes bad choices but eventually realizes that home and family are more important than anything. When he goes home to make amends, his father welcomes his son home with open arms and joy.

Written for the newly independent reader, vocabulary and content is at a more advanced reading level, making this series appropriate for children almost ready for their first chapter books.

Review

This is a retelling of the parable of the prodigal son. It is again based on, though not the actual text of, the NIV Adventure Bible. The story is true and is, in essence, as if a parent is “breaking it down” for their child to understand what is happening. The final page alludes to the gospel which sets up a perfect opportunity to explain to your child his or her need of salvation in Christ.

There is also the fact that these books line up with Common Core. I say this not to engage in a debate (I am against CC for the record) but simply to let you know.

Recommendation

The fact that it is close but not exactly may ruffle some feathers, but as long as there is explanation that this is not the Bible but a paraphrase, then I see nothing wrong with giving your children this book to read. I recommend this book to all families as well as any who may have reason to be around children (whether a doctor or day care worker, etc). Take every opportunity you can to redeem the time. You can start with these age-appropriate I Can Read! books.

Hide or Seek by John Freeman

Hide or SeekFreeman, John. Hide or Seek: When Men Get Real with God About Sex. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2014. 144 pp. $17.99. Purchase at Westminster books for less or on Kindle.

Introduction

John Freeman is president of Harvest USA whose stated purpose is to bring the truth and mercy of Jesus Christ to help men, women and families affected by sexual struggles and sin.

Summary

Divided into ten chapters over 140+ pages, John cuts through the stained glass masquerade and gets down to business. In the first chapter he lays the foundation of how pervasive pornography and sexuality have become in our culture. The next three chapters articulate what life looks like for one who plays the game and ultimately hates God while creating idols to worship.

Chapter five begins the process of rebuilding our identity and theological foundation on the gospel. Here, he looks at the importance of living with integrity. Chapter six is the atomic bomb that the gospel will disrupt your life and give you hope that you have the power to overcome your sinful addictions. Next, he continues building and explaining that the gospel is indeed for you and how to live according to this truth.

The final three chapters offer explicit applications on living in light of the gospel and how to deal with one’s dark desires.

Review

Finally, some straight talk that is not meant to shock you! I have read a number of books about battling pornography. They have ranged from advice like “just stop it” to a new creation would never have this struggle. Their methods have been everywhere from understood coddling to shock-jock conversation meant to help you deal with it in the real world.  Hide or Seek does none of this.

Rather, John Freeman has authored a resource that is both frank and genuine while also being biblical and extremely understanding in its practical application. He does not shy away from the reality that pornography is everywhere and because it is everywhere it is pervasive in all of life.

His perspective is based on years of speaking to men (and women) about the problem of porn. He is saturated with Scripture and seeks to apply the biblical solutions to everyday life in order to offer a strategy to win the battle (because for the Christian, the war has already been won!).

In the end, there is no easy step solution to winning. This is a daily battle in which you will need to be fully engaged in at all times.

Recommendation

There are a number of books on the problem of sexuality and pornography. I have recommended many of them and highly recommend Hide or Seek as well. His perspective is fresh and genuine. His advice is sound and time-tested.

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks

Precious RemediesBrooks, Thomas. Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2000. 256 pp. $9.00. Purchase at Westminster books for less or for Kindle for $0.99.

Introduction

Thomas Brooks (1608-1680), was a Puritan pastor who, along with so many others of his day, wrote and published many books. You can purchase his 6 volume Works here. At the time of writing this review, this is one book in a series of forty-six in the Puritan Paperback series of which Brooks has four. I have reviewed a few other books by Thomas Brooks. You can read those here.

Summary

As with most Puritan books, this work is easily summarized in its title: these are remedies against the devices of satan meant to either keep you in sin or keep you from repenting and trusting in Christ. This work is basically divided into six chapters. The first is the proof of the point in which he shows us the need for this particular book.

The second chapter looks extensively at the devices used to draw us into sin. Here, he presents a dozen such devices and how we can combat against them. Chapter three offers methods in which Satan keeps the believer from his spiritual duties.

The fourth chapter looks to how Satan keeps the believer doubting his salvation though it has been secured by and is kept by Christ. The final chapter takes aim at specific people found in the world. The appendix,which is basically another chapter, offers a hodge podge of additional devices and characteristics of false teachers with a conclusion as to how one ought to wage war against Satan and his devices.

Review

Brooks states in his introduction, “The strange opposition that I met from Satan, in the study of the following discourse, hath put an edge upon my spirit…” I can honestly testify that the mere reading of this work nearly wrecked me. I struggled with sinful thoughts more in the reading of this work than most any other save the Bible.

I will say that it was definitely worth persevering through to the end. I found chapter four, the devices designed to keep a believer sad and doubting, to be most helpful and emboldening to my soul.  Hardly a page goes by in the book that I did not underline or write a note. Oddly enough, the book is worth owning if for nothing more than the table of contents.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this work to all believers. The language may be dated, but the value of this work is in its complete treatment of a subject that is rarely discussed due to the nature of our spiritual warfare. You will be the better prepared to wage the war against Satan when you do.

Forgotten Girls by Kay Marshall Strom and Michele Ricket

Forgotten GirlsStrom, Kay Marshall and Michele Ricket. Forgotten Girls: Stories of Hope and Courage (Expanded Edition). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. 188 pp. $16.00. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Kay is a professional writer based in Eugene. OR. She has written more than thirty books and now speaks with her husband, Danile Kline on a variety of topics.

Michele Rickett is found and president of She is Safe, an international ministry seeking to equip women against poverty, oppression, exploitation, and spiritual darkness.

Summary

From the back of the book:

Think of the little girls you know: your daughter, a niece, a friend’s child. Then think about this: little girls are tossed away every day.

All over the world, women and girls face troubles such as starvation, displacement, illiteracy, sexual exploitation and abuse. In fact, statistics show that the world’s most oppressed people are overwhelmingly female.

Moved by the plight of these neglected girls, advocates Kay Marshall Strom and Michele Rickett took a trip across continents to interview girls and to partner with ministries working to help females in some of the most difficult places in the world.

These pages hold those girls’ stories: stories of deep pain and suffering, inspiring courage, and incredible hope. They are the stories of girls who have discovered their value in God’s eyes, in the midst of cultures that have rejected them. They are stories of rescue and redemption by God working through compassionate people—people like you.

Review

This is one of those books that you cannot “unread.” It is divided into five parts that look at the needs of physical, educational, sexual protection, freedom and spiritual lives in women across the globe. Most of these women are from Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist cultures. All of these women are stories of suffering.

The goal of the authors to give these “forgotten girls” a voice succeeds in a way that will change anyone who reads this work.  The stories are true to life and will break any illusion of comfort we may have in our lives (if you are reading this review, I would think it is safe to assume that your life is one of comparative comfort). Furthermore, what these girls endure will bring sadness to your mind while helping you to understand the hope that we can offer.

While not everyone will be able to necessarily “go,” everyone can certainly begin to raise awareness in their local contexts. This work has the potential to do just that.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this resource to all. Specifically, a women’s study group or a female youth small group would do well to read and consider the lives of these forgotten girls.

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books