Spectacular Sins by John Piper

Piper, John. Spectacular Sins. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 121 pp. $15.99. Listen to the Spectacular Sins sermon series at Desiring God.

Have you ever picked up a book thinking it was going to be about one thing and it turns out you were completely wrong? Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ is one of those books. I thought it would be a testimony about how God has glorified His Son through men like Hitler and Stalin. I figured it would be about how God can use the major sins in your life to bring glory to His Son. Continue reading Spectacular Sins by John Piper

ESV Study Bible

Have you ever been in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where all you see is water everywhere you look? Have you ever driven in North Dakota where you actually see the rolling hills? In both instances, you realize that you are only able to see a fraction of the beauty that you could otherwise see from high above in the air. However, in most cases, you must be content with the fraction that you are able to see and praise God for the beauty you can behold. The same is true for the ESV Study Bible. There is so much in this study Bible that one does not know where to begin.

Contributors

With an editorial oversight committee including Wayne Grudem, J.I. Packer, and Thomas Schreiner, you know that you are getting quality study notes. The study note contributors come from institutions such as Union Theological College in Belfast, Regent College, Covenant Theological Seminary, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Westminster Seminary California.

In addition to the editors and the theological institutions, you have theologians like John Polhill, Ray Van Neste, Paul D. Wegner, and Gordon J. Wenham among those contributing to the study notes. As if these study notes were not enough, there are forty-four articles written by even more scholars that appear after the Bible itself. Some of the writers of these articles include Gregg R. Allison, Daniel R. Heimbach, Mark Dever, Darrell L. Bock, and Ron Rhodes.

Contents

A quick perusal of the table of contents pages shows how in depth this study Bible really is. The Old Testament begins with “The Theology of…” and then gives a timeline of the OT. Before each genre found in the OT, there is an introduction that explains how to read the next portion of scripture along with various themes found therein.

In between the testaments, there is a rather lengthy (18 pages) “Background to the New Testament.” The New Testament is introduced with the theology and the timeline of found in the Old Testament. Also included, is a great article on the date of the crucifixion of Christ. As before the various genres in the Old Testament, there is an introduction to the reading of the gospels and Acts and the Epistles. The Scriptures themselves are in a single column with a center-column cross-reference system. The single column is offset by the double column study notes at the bottom of each page.

Some of the articles after the text of the Bible itself include Biblical ethics, Biblical doctrine, the Bible and world religions, archaeology and the Bible, and the reliability of the Bible manuscripts. The color maps throughout the Bible are a nice added touch usually reserved for what is commonly called “The Book of Maps” at the end of the Bible. Finally, the concordance has been expanded for this study Bible.

Critique

Alright, with all that is right with this study Bible, there has to be something wrong, right? While I am sure there are more notable reviewers who have criticized various components of the ESV Study Bible, this particular reviewer is not one of them. However, I did notice a couple of things.

First, with over 2,750 pages, this Bible is best used at your desk. It is hardly a Bible that can be carried everywhere you go as some do with other study Bibles. Second, I would have liked to have seen an introduction to the book of Revelation. Because this one book has been the focal point of much theological discussion in recent decades, it would have been nice to see an intro to that particular book.

Recommendation

The love affair with the ESV will not only continue, but, I believe, will escalate with the publication of this study Bible which has become (almost by default and certainly by design) the premier study Bible available to Christians today. A tip of the cap goes to Justin Taylor (project director and managing editor) and Lane T. Dennis (executive editor) for their work in producing this magnificent Bible.

I think it goes without saying that I would recommend this resource to any Christian unhesitatingly. The ESV Study Bible takes a backseat to no other study Bible available on the market. However, I would not recommend this Bible as an everyday Bible. What I mean is that when you are reading the Bible for daily devotion and personal edification the study notes end up becoming more of a hindrance than a help. It is too big to carry with you to church or in the car or to the coffee shop on a regular basis.  I think it would be best suited as a desk reference Bible more than a “nightstand” Bible.

What more can be said than already has been said? I would like to submit that by reading through this particular study Bible a Christian would receive an introduction to the seminary educations found in the institutions represented by those who contributed.

Harry Kraus M.D., Breathing Grace

Kraus, Harry M.D. Breathing Grace: What You Need More than Your Next Breath. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007. 173 pp. $19.99. Buy from Amazon.com

 

While this may have been Dr. Kraus’ first of two non-fiction books, it is the second one I have read/reviewed. After reading The Cure (read my review), and being impressed by Kraus’ writing style and message, I was intrigued by what he had to say in this book. With the author’s permission, I obtained Breathing Grace for the sole purpose of writing this review to introduce once again Harry Kraus to the reader.  Even though I was reading it for a review, I found that I was greatly ministered to by reading it.

Once again, Dr. Kraus uses the two things he knows best and loves: medicine and his relationship with Jesus Christ, to cut straight to the heart. In this book, the metaphor used is explicit in the title. Just as if one is alive he must continue to breathe so too must a Christian live a life of grace. Therefore, breathing makes the perfect metaphor for the importance of grace in the Christian’s life.

Dr. Kraus gives us the medical ABC’s that all medical students are taught when attempting to help a patient who is dying: Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. He then shows how we can apply the ABC’s to breathing in the grace necessary for our next breath. We must first acknowledge our need of God’s grace. Next, we need to continue to believe the gospel. It is not just a one-time “I believe” message. The gospel is for unbelievers and believers alike. For unbelievers, the gospel saves. For believers, the gospel sustains. Finally, we must commune with God. Steady communion with God is necessary for us to continue living a grace-centered life.

While he does use medical jargon quite often, he explains what it all means. Once again, Dr. Kraus writes with a passion for grace and love and mercy evident on every page. He draws from real life experience and a deep walk of faith with Jesus Christ. This book is a must own for those who want to see what it means to live your life on grace. The study questions at the end of each chapter enable this book to be studied by a group of believers—especially a group of newer believers. Regardless of how long you have been a believer, this book will cause you to want to become closer to God than ever before.

Temitope Oyetomi, Does God Truly Exist?

Oyetomi, Temitope O. Does God Truly Exist? Why You Should Optimise Your Personal Relationship With God—And How You Can Do So—If He Truly Exists! Akure: Baal Hamon Publishers, 2006. 356 pp. $17.99. Buy from Amazon.com

Introduction

Temitope is the founder and coordinator of Joy and Truth Christian Ministries which is headquartered in Akure, Nigeria. He devoted his own personal resources and extensive hours daily to the comparative study of religions and beliefs in researching this book. This took more than eleven years of general and academic reading. Temitope believes that knowing God could, and should be, a matter of a personal one-on-one relationship with God. It is evident as you read this book that what is written was rooted in the author’s own personal experience of God.

Summary of Does God Truly Exist?

There is so much in this book that simply summarizing its contents would be an injustice, but for the sake of space, I will do my best. The book is divided into three parts: the root of sin, the kingdom of God, and make a wise choice. The first two parts comprise ninety-eight percent of the book split about even. In other words, you will spend much of your time learning where sin comes from and how God through Christ conquered sin. Continue reading Temitope Oyetomi, Does God Truly Exist?

Stand by John Piper and Justin Taylor

Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints, ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 157 pp. $14.99. Buy from Westminster Books or download as free PDF from Desiring God

Introduction

We have come to expect quality work whenever Justin Taylor and John Piper team up to bring Christendom a Christ-centered book. Stand is no different. With contributions from John MacArthur, Randy Alcorn, Jerry Bridges and Helen Roseveare, the rally cry for the troops is loud and clear—we must stand and face the daily challenges of life and the Christian walk if we are to adhere to the biblical principles of trials and tribulations. This is counter-cultural today when most flee the dangers and hardships.

Summary

Taylor defines the biblical precepts of endurance and perseverance and why these to doctrines are important for every person who calls on the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Jerry Bridges offers four essentials for finishing the Christian race well. None of them are completely new, but everyone can use the reminder every now and then.

Piper offers a chapter on getting old to the glory of God. Although many who read Piper “are not there yet,” they will be soon. This is an excellent chapter to begin meditating on even now. John MacArthur offers up several certainties that drive an enduring ministry. Having been at Grace Community Church since 1969, MacArthur can share with the next generation these certainties from his own personal experience.

Randy Alcorn presents a chapter on the importance of one’s daily decision making. He also speaks to having courage for a call (in his case it is the unborn) and standing resolute by your convictions. Finally, Helen Roseveare offers an encouraging word regarding Christ’s walking with His saints through all of trials and tribulations.

Recommendation

One thing I have learned as a seminary student at SBTS is that to be able to drink from the well of experience that our professor’s possess is one of the greatest “perks” of studying on campus. While not everyone can have a mentoring relationship with the contributors to this book, reading and learning from them is the next best thing. Every Christian could use to read this book—we all struggle with endurance and praising God in all things at all times. Pastors will find that this book will become an excellent resource to give away as they seek to minister to the various needs of the congregation God has entrusted to their care.

In the Steps of Paul by Peter Walker

Walker, Peter. In the Steps of Paul: An Illustrated Guide to the Apostle’s Life and Journeys. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008. 214pp. Hardback, $19.99. Buy From Amazon

Introduction

Peter Walker studied early church history at Cambridge University and has done extensive post-doctoral research on Christian attitudes toward Jerusalem. He has written a sort of “prequel” to this book titled, In the Steps of Jesus upon which he says he assumes knowledge of that information and he therefore “deliberately passes over” that information in this volume (11).

Summary of In the Steps of Paul

The author takes us on a chronological journey of the life of Paul beginning with his “Damascus Road experience” and ending in Rome. However, before he begins with the life of Paul, he presents a very helpful overview of Paul’s ministry including a map of his travels and a table including the date and location of the letters Paul wrote. While it is easy to skim this introductory section, it would be to your advantage to become familiar with it as you will be referencing it as you read the book. Continue reading In the Steps of Paul by Peter Walker

Experiencing God Revised and Updated

Modern ministry classic revised

Seventeen years later, Experiencing God retold

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – In 1991, Henry Blackaby unleashed a new style for practicing Christianity. Although the book quietly went to press and hit shelves without a stir in the media, it would go on to sell more then seven million copies (in addition to related materials and studies) and was translated into 45 languages. It was such a phenomenon, even a musical was adapted from the manuscript. Continue reading Experiencing God Revised and Updated

Death by Love by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears

Driscoll, Mark and Gerry Breshears. Death by Love: Letters from the Cross. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 272 pp. Hardback, $19.99. Buy from Westminster Books

Introduction

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wa. He is also the president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network as well as the leader of the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative. He also has a series entitled “A Book You Will Actually Read” on various theological topics including God, the Bible and church leadership. Continue reading Death by Love by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears

Game Day for the Glory of God

Altrogge, Stephen. Game Day for the Glory of God: A Guide for Athletes, Fans, & Wannabes. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 119 pp. $9.99. Buy from Westminster Books

Introduction

Stephen Altrogge currently serves as a pastoral intern at Sovereign Grace Church in Indiana, PA. He is head of the college ministry as well as the worship leader. He is unfortunately a Pittsburg Steelers nut fan. He and his wife have one daughter.

His love for God and sports led to this book. After finding himself feeling guilty for his actions on the playing field, he found himself praying to God asking how he could still play sports and glorify God. That is when it dawned on him that there are in essence two ways to play sports: for the glory of God or for the glory of Self. Continue reading Game Day for the Glory of God

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus ed. Nancy Guthrie.  Wheaton:  Crossway Books, 2008.  142 pp. $12.99. Buy from Westminster Books

Note:  This is not a book review per se because of the genre of the book (devotional) and the seasonal nature of this devotional.

Christmas is that time of year when everyone gets rushed and hurried in the home, in the office, and in the shopping stores.  We go about our daily business with the addition of the Christmas festivities.  It is so easy to get caught up in it all and shove the real reason we celebrate Christmas to the back burner.  Nancy Guthrie has put together a book of 22 meditations from some of the pastoral giants of past and present.  (Joni Eareckson Tada is one of the contributors and is not included in the phrase ‘pastoral giants.’)

Continue reading Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books