If They Could Talk by Rich Hamlin

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

Introduction

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

Summary

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

Review

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

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

Recommendation

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

Reformation Commentary on Scripture New Testament IV – John 1-12 edited by Craig S. Farmer

RCS Vol. IVReformation Commentary on Scripture New Testament IV – John 1-12.  Timothy George, General Editor Farmer.  Craig S. Farmer, Editor.  Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2014. 599 pp.  $50.00. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

I have reviewed another commentary in this series – Ezekiel and Daniel - and found it to be extremely informational.  Craig S. Farmer is associate professor of history and humanities and Joe O. and Mabel Stephens Chair of the Bible at Milligan College near Elizabethton, TN.

Summary

The “commentators” are adapted from the sermons and writings of 16th century preachers, scholars, and reformers.  They come from across all denominational stripes and seek to show the modern reader the rich heritage and the foundation from which

The editors seek to introduce readers to the depth and richness of the minds of the Reformation era. The four goals are, 1) enrichment of contemporary biblical interpretation through exposure to Reformation-era biblical exegesis, 2) a renewal of contemporary preaching and 3) a renewal of biblical interpretation through exposure to Reformation-era exegesis, and finally 4) a deeper understanding of the Reformation itself.

Review

This work is a treasure trove of information.  For example, John 3:16 has subheadings like “A Pledge of God’s Mercy to Those Who Fear God’s Wrath” by Caspar Cruciger, “Justification Originates in God’s Love” by Johannes Brenz, “God’s Universal and Particular Love” by Wolfgang Musculus and “No Greater Love” by Menno Simons.  In other words, one of the most oft-quoted verses today is shown to be understood quite a bit differently at the time of the Reformation.  Not that we are wrong to use it, but the application has not always been what it is now.

Further, this commentary is more than a commentary.  It includes biographical sketches of the people and their works during the time period.  It even includes a timeline of the Reformation which is invaluable as you seek to understand the context of when these sermons were preached or the books were written.  The timeline extends from 1337 to 1649 and includes the Reformers and the Puritans who continued the fight for the faith after the Reformers.

By reading this commentary, it can be read devotionally, the reader will glean much more insight into the thought processes of the Reformers and their adherents.  Farmer did a great job wading through the countless sermons found in the gospel of John and compiling an excellent representation of the thinking of the time.  In offering such a wide variety of authors, he introduces many new names to the plethora of common names from the time to today’s readers.

Recommendation

As I stated in the other review, $50 per book is a bit steep for most.  If, however, you seek to be a serious student of the history of the interpretation and application of the Word of God, especially as Protestants, this is an invaluable resource.  For pastors, I highly recommend this series as it will offer insight into your own understanding of the Word of God as you seek apply the timeless truths of God’s Word to your congregation today.

The Atonement by Hugh Martin

The AtonementMartin, Hugh.  The Atonement in its Relations to the Covenant, the Priesthood, the Intercession of our Lord.  Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2013.  236 pp.  $26.00  Purchase at Amazon and Kindle or at Westminster for less.

Introduction

Hugh Martin (1822 – 1885) was called “one of the most outstanding men in that ‘galaxy of gifted and devoted ministers of the gospel’ in Scotland during the second half of the nineteenth century.”  As with his other writings, he is deep theologically and long on practical application for today’s saints.

Summary

Each of the 10 chapters in this tome consist of various aspects and perspectives of the atonement of Christ.  The first chapter looks at the atonement in the context of the covenant of grace.  The second chapter offers a look at federal theology.  He spends two chapters dealing with the important topic of Christ’s atonement and His intercession.  The final chapter offers a look at the “distinctive peculiarity of moral law” in the context of Christ’s atonement.

Review

Sometimes you  come across a book that is extremely difficult to read though you know that if you read it you will be the better for persevering.  The Atonement by Hugh Martin is one such book.  Sadly, we do not see many books written or published today that attempt to do what Martin’s did.

At only 236 pages and 10 chapters, this work is both deep and accessible – if one perseveres.  To read this book is to introduce to the reader many aspects of Christ’s atonement that are not discussed very often today.  This work offers a smorgasbord of topics showing the tip of the iceberg to our understanding of the extent of the atonement of Jesus Christ as well as how much it impacts the life of every Christian.  Many have talked of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King, but few have sought to explore the depths of His fulfillment of these offices in His act of atoning.

Each chapter offers an excellent starting point to further research the topic.  This work is meant to be read cover to cover but also serves as a resource book as each chapter can be read independent of the others (except the two chapters on atonement and intercession).  This work is not easy to read, but then again, an extensive work on the atonement of Jesus Christ should not be an “easy read.”

Recommendation

On the one hand, this book is not the first place one should begin when wanting to read on the atonement of Jesus Christ.  On the other hand, I cannot think of any other treatment of the subject that is more in depth than The Atonement by Hugh Martin.  I do recommend this to all Christians with the caveat that you read with an open Bible and a theological dictionary as there are many subjects that are not discussed in many of today’s churches to our great detriment.  May reading this work rectify that deficiency.

The Warden and The Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

The Warden and the Wolf KIngPeterson, Andrew.  The Warden and the Wolf King – The Wingfeather Saga Book 4. Nashville: Rabbit Room Press, 2014.  524 pp.  $22.99.  Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Andrew Peterson needs no introduction to most.  He is most known for his songs though I believe that is changing with the publication of this fourth (and final?) book in the Wingfeather Saga series.  You can read reviews of the first three books here.  It must be noted that the publication of this book was part of perhaps the most successful kickstarter campaign in the history of kickstarter campaigns.  His goal was $14,000 and he raised well over $110,000!

Summary

At over 500 pages and over 90 chapters, this book is actually a very quick read.  The story picks up right where it left off in The Monster and the Hollows.  We once again join Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli as they fight against Gnag the Nameless and bring peace to Anniera.

From the book synopsis:

All winter long, people in the Green Hollows have prepared for a final battle with Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs of Dang.  Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli – Throne Warden, Wolf King, and Song Maiden of Anniera – are ready and willing to fight alongside the Hollowsfolk, but when the Fangs make the first move and invade Ban Rona, the children are sparated.  Janner is alone and lost in the hills; Leeli is fighting the Fangs from the rooftops of the city; and Kalmar, who carries a terrible secret, is on a course for the Deeps of Throg.  Meanwhile in Skree, Sara Cobbler and Maraly Weaver care for the broken Artham Wingfeather as Fangs muster for battle across the Mighty River Blap.

Sea dragons lurk in the waters.  Stranders crawl through the burrows.  Ridgerunners and trolls prowl the land.  Cloven haunt the forest. Monsters and Fangs and villains lie between the children and their only hope of victory – in the epic conclusion of The Wingfeather Saga.

Review

I could not put this book down.  The problem with that is late nights and anxiety of what is going on in a fictional world.  Andrew writes with such passion in both his music and his fiction that the reader cannot help but get caught up in the action and the lives of the characters.  His ability to tell a complete story while changing everything at the same time is a gift to fantasy genre.

The only negative I discovered in reading this work is that I forgot to read the first three books again and was therefore a bit lost in the story. Nonetheless, Andrew dropped enough hints throughout the book that I was quickly up to speed on the lives of the characters.

As you progress from page one to page five hundred nineteen, you will not know what to expect.  Even the ending of the story is not really an ending.  He leaves open the possibility of yet another book in the series but in a way that is unexpected.  You will find yourself cheering for the Wingfeathers, crying for the Hollowsfolk, and, in the end grateful to the reality of life this Christian-based work of fantasy depicts.

Recommendation

If you have not read the first three books in the series, you will want to do that.  If you have and are eagerly awaiting this fourth book, you will not be disappointed.  We are indebted to Andrew Peterson for sharing his gift of story telling with us.  This series, now complete, will eventually, as it has already, find its way into the conversation with Lewis’ Narnia, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (a comparison I rarely make), and even the controversial Harry Potter series.

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life – Revised and Updated by Donald S. Whitney

51LEp8emldL._SL250_Whitney, Donald S.  Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life – Revised and Updated.  Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1991, 2014, 342 pp.  $15.99.  Purchase at Westminster or Amazon Kindle for less.

Introduction

Though it has been awhile, Don Whitney is no stranger to Christian Book Notes.  Personally, his books have ministered deeply to my soul and are always some of the first I recommend to others.  Don recently revised and updated his first, and best-selling book (over 400,000 copies sold of the original).  Back in 2010, I collaborated with Tim Challies, Owen Strachan, Trevin Wax, and Tim Brister to compile the five books every Christian needs to read.  Don’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life made the list.

The study guide has been updated as well.

Summary

The book maintains the original thirteen chapters.  He begins with the reason for practicing the Spiritual Disciplines in chapter 1 and then spends 2 chapters detailing the most important discipline of Bible Intake.  The second most important discipline, that of prayer, is found in chapter 4.  After these foundational chapters, he moves into worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, fasting, journaling and learning…all for the purpose of godliness.  The final chapter looks at the importance of perseverance in the disciplines.

Review

First of all, I appreciated the first edition so much that I had called it a necessary tool-box book for every believer.  This is even more true of the revised and updated edition.  There was much added regarding source information and works referenced.  Don worked to make this a more timeless book and he succeeded.  Also, he strove to remove a number of contemporary authors that, since the publication in 1991, have delved into mysticism and, in some cases, open heresy.  In so doing, he hopefully avoids the pitfalls of a theologian or Christian pastor leaving Biblical orthodoxy later.  He did, however, add a number of quotes from modern-day giants like John Piper and D.A. Carson. In other words, most of cited sources are from that “great cloud of witnesses” that have gone before us.

Another quality to this revised and updated work is that every chapter is not only more Christocentric, but also more gospel-centered.  This stems from a year-long series of articles for TableTalk Magazine entitled “The Gospel and Spiritual Disciplines” in which Don articulated the importance of the gospel in each of the disciplines.  Furthermore, there are even more Scripture references than the original edition which shows, in part, the spiritual growth of the author himself.

Too be honest, I did not think this classic work could be made stronger, but that is exactly what Don has accomplished.

Recommendation

I cannot recommend a book more highly this one (and, yes, I have said this before).  This book has been used of the Lord to help me grow much deeper in Christ.  It is the first book I recommend to anyone talking about wanting to grow in their relationship with Christ.  It is also the book I go back to over and over to better understand where my personal relationship is faltering.  This is the book JI Packer says you must read three times and for good reason.  I personally read it at least once a year.  You should, too.

Rediscovering the Church Fathers by Michael Haykin

Rediscovering the Church FathersHaykin, Michael A.G. Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church.  Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2011. 176 pp.  $16.99.  Purchase for less at Westminster Books.

Introduction

Though it has been a while, I have reviewed a number of books written and edited by Dr. Haykin.  I have also had the pleasure of interviewing him.  You can read those here. Dr. Haykin currently serves as the professor of church history and biblical spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  This particular book was published in 2011 and deserves our attention today.

Summary

Divided into eight chapters with two appendices, Dr. Haykin lays a foundation for why we should study the church fathers (known as the Patristics) and their continued importance to the church today.  In the first chapter, he simply states the importance of rediscovering them.  The next six chapters look at individual men who shaped the early church’s understanding of important doctrines.  These men include Ignatius of Antioch, the anonymous letter to Diognetus,  Origen, Cyprian and Ambrose, Basil of Caesarea, and (St.) Patrick.  He concludes the book with his reflections on a lifetime of study of the Patristics.

Review

While there are a ton of footnotes, this is not to be thought of as a dissertation or academic study.  This was written for the sole purpose of introducing the Patristics to the modern day evangelical community.  Having read many of his other works, it is evident that he purposefully wrote this book for the lay-reader and succeeded in his efforts.  Through reading this work, there will be some myths cleared up (especially about someone like Patrick).  Also, the confidence one will find in our current understanding of what we call “traditional Christianity” will be strengthened.  The reader will come to understand that we have not arrived where we are without the giants that have gone before us (Heb. 12:1) who also just so happened to come immediately after the eye-witnesses of Christ – the Apostles.

If there is one criticism it would be that there is not a recommended reading list.  The serious student, however, will be able to cull from the footnotes a list of works to read if they would like to study more about the Patristics.

Recommendation

I recommend this resource to anyone who wants to learn about the history of the church in a non-academic manner.  Further, I recommend this resource to anyone who desires to understand what it cost the early church to establish Biblical doctrines as found in Scripture and how heresies have been in the church from the beginning.

 

Unveiled by Heidi Kratzke

UnveiledKratzke, Heidi.  Unveiled: Writing prompts that reveal the heart of God.  Creative Culture Media, 2012.  238 pp.  $11.95.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Heidi Kratzke is a writer and visual artist who is passionate about inspiring, encouraging, and challenging fellow artists. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, with a degree in English-Creative Writing Emphasis. She has worked as a writer and photographer for several newspapers, in addition to pursuing freelance writing.

Along with her husband, Jonathan, Heidi is owner of Creative Culture Media — a website, graphic design, and writing business.  You can find out more at UnveiledtheBook.com.

Summary

From the back of the book:

With everything from six-word stories to ongoing journal activities, famous quotes to intriguing photographs, this book provides hundreds of unique prompts to challenge you as a writer.

Unveiled is dynamically designed to encourage your growth as a writer, while helping to cultivate a deeper revelation and understanding of God. Whether you’re just starting out or have been writing for years, Unveiled is the perfect resource for individuals and writers groups.

Review

This is a fascinating little book that is full of simple one or two sentence writing prompts.  These can be used for journaling or even the beginning of a book.  The chapters include:

  • Near to God
  • Encouragement
  • Words & Music
  • Wise Quotes
  • A Challenge
  • All in an Image
  • Ongoing Prompts
  • No Limitations
  • God’s Words

An example of writing prompt from Near to God is, “What is one of the most powerful ways you’ve seen God answer the prayer of a family member?”  Yet another, from All in an Image is a picture of an old house with a windmill with the prompt, “Old buildings have their own stories to tell. What is this one’s?”

In other words, this work is for those who are serious about wanting to write.  The pages are not meant to be read like a regular book.  Rather, you can simply open to a random page and begin writing using the prompt on that page.  As you do, you will find that thoughts and ideas begin to flow and you may wind up starting a list of your own prompts for a later date.

Recommendation

I recommend this resource to any and all writers.  This work is unique in that it is not a book of quotes (though it contains quotes) nor is it a book of wisdom (though it contains pearls of wisdom).  Rather, it is a book meant to drive you toward your own quotes and your own wisdom.  It is meant to be a launching pad for those who need that extra little kick to get started.

The Law of Christ by Charles Leiter

The Law of ChristLeiter, Charles.  The Law of Christ.  Hannibal: Granted Ministries Press, 2012.  356 pp.  $17.00.  Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

I have reviewed Charles Leiter’s work Justification and Regeneration some years back.  Leiter still pastors in Kirksville, Missouri.

Summary

From the back of the book:

What does it mean to “serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter”? What is the Christian’s relationship to the Law of Moses? What is the “law of Christ”? How are love and law related? Are the commandments of the Old Testament still relevant in the Christian life? What does it mean to be “free from the Law”? How does love “fulfill the whole law”? These questions, and many others, are considered in The Law of Christ.

Too often Christians have looked to something other than Christ for their supreme rule of duty. They have centered their lives around a “list of rules” rather than His “new commandment” to love. Not realizing that the goal of all Christian instruction is love, they have too often valued Bible knowledge, preaching ability, “ministry,” and “gifts” above the one thing that matters most in the Christian life. Yet, according to the New Testament, love is the fulfillment of “the whole law,” and no amount of sacrifice, knowledge, or even faith means anything apart from it. The goal of this book is to point believers to their perfect Savior and standard, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Himself love incarnate, and who alone can enable them in some measure to love as He loved.

Review

Pastor Leiter offers a detailed and thorough treatment of the use of the Law from the Old Testament by New Testament Christians.  In a work that covers 300 plus pages, there is much to delve into as a reviewer though I will not do so.  This review will look at the major streams of thought and offer a (hopefully helpful) perspective as one seeks to engage this work.

The first part looks at the flow of redemptive history from the first covenant with Abraham to the culmination of all covenants in the person of Christ.  In the second major part, he looks at the Law of Christ and how He fulfilled the first covenant so completely that he radically changed the second covenant.  His entire argument hinges on one word: Love.  In the end, Leiter argues that with the advent of Christ, the legalism that is so readily found in the Old Covenant is done away with.  He argues, however, that those who claim this leads to lawlessness or licentiousness are just as wrong.

He ultimately argues that though the Law has been abrogated by Christ, it is necessary to point us to Christ.  Sadly, there are many, for various reasons, who hold dearly to the Old Testament Law as a means of sanctification and attaining holiness.  When they do this, they ultimately must leave Christ behind.  When all is said and done, Matthew 22:37-39 sums up the necessity of the Law for the New Covenant believer in that all the Law points us to a deeper and abiding love of God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is only when we love God with all our hearts, mind, and strength, that we can genuinely love our neighbors.  Christ explains that we can only have access to the Father through Him.  Therefore, the Old Covenant (the Law) points us to the mediator of the New Covenant.  In both covenants, we find grace and mercy though our sinful flesh wants to seek legalism or lawlessness.

Recommendation

This book is not for the faint of heart.  Pastor Leiter offers a comprehensive work on an understanding of the two covenants (Old and New Testaments).  Not everyone will agree with him, but, then again, that is why he wrote this work.  I recommend this resource as it offers a level-headed, biblically-sound treatment of a conversation and discussion that started in Acts 15.  As you read, you will want your Bible open and a pen in hand.  This is a book you will interact with over and over even after you have read it.

The Lie by Ken Ham

The LieHam, Ken.  The Lie: Evolution/ Millions of Years.  25th Anniversary Edition.  Green Forest: Master Books, 2012.  220 pp.  $13.99.  Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Ken Ham needs no introduction here at Christian Book Notes.  I have reviewed over a dozen of his works as well as having interviewed him for my friend Tony Kummer at Ministry-to-Children.com a few years ago.  The Lie can be said in one sense to be the launching point for Ken Ham and the ministry the Lord has granted him.  It was first published in 1987 and served as a warning shot about the compromising of the book of Genesis and the consequent undermining of Scripture as a whole.  Twenty-five years later, the work has been revised and updated.

Summary

Divided into eleven chapters, Ham begins with the attack on the Christian faith rooted in human secularism.  He challenges the prevailing ideology of evolution and offers a biblical view of origins.  In chapter four, he cuts to the chase so to speak and offers the reason why so many want to deny a literal 6-day creation.  In so doing, he argues, this leads to an erosion of biblical foundations.  As he progresses through this work, he offers practical advice to those who will listen and pleads with the pastors to understand the importance of a literal Genesis.  He concludes with a sermon from 2 Peter 3 that warns against a denial God as Creator.

Review

On one hand, not much has changed in 25 years.  On the other hand, the situation has become more dire.  Ken Ham points to both of these as why the necessity remains to preach and believe in a literal six, twenty-four hour day creation.  Now, twenty-five years later, Ken has the ability to see what he wrote and what has transpired in the church since.  Without saying ‘I told you so”, Ken is able to say “I told you so.”  In essence, while the Southern Baptist Convention had fought and won the battle over inerrancy in the late 70′s and 80′s, Ham ably shows how not taking Genesis as literal history has eroded a belief in an inerrant Bible.

Recommendation

His words need to be read and heeded now more than when he first wrote them in 1987.  To quote another theologian, “a half lie is a whole truth.”  Ham shows that in this book, The Lie.  I recommend this work to all believers including those who do not believe in a literal 6-day creation.  Ham’s work is both logical, concise and consistent with the rest of Scripture.

Advice for Seekers by Charles H. Spurgeon

Advice for SeekersSpurgeon, Charles H.  Advice for Seekers.  Green Forest: Attic Books, 2013.  142 pp.  $14.99.  Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for as low as $.99.

Introduction

I have reviewed a number of Spurgeon’s books in the past.  To make this even more sweet, this particular book is part of the Attic Books label under Master Books.  You can read about the other Attic Books here.

Summary

Spurgeon needs no introduction and neither does his zeal for evangelism.  In Advice for Seekers, Spurgeon penned a short treatise for those wanting to know more about the gospel of Jesus Christ and in the words of the jailer, what they must do to be saved.  He begins by explaining that you cannot save yourself.  He offers the open invitation to all and then encourages the seeker to continue seeking.  In the end, he explains how one is saved through faith in Christ alone.

Review

Can I add anything to what has already been said about Spurgeon?  I hardly doubt it!  Nor can I say anything negative in what he has written in this work.  In this day and age of “seeker sensitive” churches and people-centered, psychologically-based evangelism, Advice for Seekers is welcome addition to the conversation.  Originally published after Spurgeon’s death in 1896, this reprint shows the importance of the old message of salvation unchanging in its practical application.  The glory of this work is the foundation laid with Biblical precept after Biblical precept.

By the time you read Advice for Seekers you will have a solid, biblical foundation for evangelizing the lost as well as a handy book-length tract to offer anyone seriously considering the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Recommendation

This books deserves to be on every Christian’s bookshelf.  You can buy a number of copies and have them ready to give away to those who are genuinely seeking salvation in Christ.  Spurgeon was a man of God used to advance the Kingdom of God during his lifetime.  Advice for Seekers continues that advancement for today.

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books