Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns

Brauns, Chris. Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 235 pp. $17.99.

Chris Brauns, senior pastor at the Congregational Christian Church of Stillman Valley, Illinois has written a much needed exposition on a much maligned topic. In Unpacking Forgiveness, he offers a study of what Scripture says regarding the discipline of forgiveness. He then gives his readers some basic guidelines to begin what is the long journey to true forgiveness.

Every believer must forgive and ask for forgiveness daily whether they realize it or not. This book helps the Christian to see what exactly that looks like as well as what is entailed in forgiveness. Although it may be controversial, Brauns explains how forgiveness, according to the scriptures, is conditional. Most people want to claim that forgiveness is unconditional and must be handed out freely. This idea of “free forgiveness” is nothing less than a feel-good, therapeutic forgiveness that has nothing to do with the Bible and everything to do with the person who is doing the forgiving.

Brauns painstakingly shows how therapeutic forgiveness solves nothing and more often than not leads to bitterness. Biblical forgiveness is conditional upon repentance. Yes, you can offer forgiveness to someone, but if they are not repentant, then they cannot be forgiven. It may be tough for some to understand this concept, but it must be understood that forgiveness does not have as much to do with the people involved as much as it does with Who is ultimately offended—God.

Each chapter includes a list of discussion questions that can be done alone but is best suited for a group study. This becomes especially important when you are instructed to not forgive the unrepentant and allow for the wrath of God to have the final say (see chapter 12).

While I want to write so much more in this review, I fear I cannot. Because I was challenged in my own preconceived notions—however subconscious they were—of what forgiveness was, I want to share everything I learned. However, if I were to do that, I fear that I would in essence be plagiarizing the book in this review! This book is saturated with scripture and consequently, it is one of the more challenging volumes that has come across my desk in some time. If you are not challenged by this book, then you either did not read it or you are not a believer who has experienced true forgiveness at the foot of the cross.

Suffice it to say that this book belongs on the shelf of every believer. What is more is this book belongs in the libraries of every pastor or nouthetic counselor who really wants to deal with the issue of forgiveness with a member of your congregation or a counselee. For those who have been hurt by a spouse, or parent, or friend, this book is a must read. If you ever want to learn to truly forgive and be content with the person who offended you, then you need to read this book.

Book Alert: Jesus and the Feminists

Nearly every aspect of American society has been affected by the feminist movement, and the church turns out to be no exception. The feminist movement did not merely change the way evangelicals view themselves; it changed the way they view the Word of God.

In Jesus and the Feminists: Who Do They Say That He Is? Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger tells the story of a movement through the stories and writings of its principal figures. Köstenberger explains, “I have tried to supply you with the facts—the story of these women and their views of Jesus—so that you can form your own opinion as to whether their positions are tenable and biblical.”

Her survey of the feminist movement reveals the radical misunderstanding of Jesus it has facilitated by investigating a wide range of feminist views—including radical, reformist, and evangelical. Jesus and the Feminists enables readers to recognize the assumptions behind feminist interpretations of Scripture and the consequences of building upon those assumptions.

Köstenberger concludes by offering a constructive alternative to all types of feminism in complementarianism. In this way, Jesus and the Feminists guides readers into a better understanding of the biblical message regarding Jesus’ stance toward women and offers both men and women a biblical view of their roles in the church and the home.

Busted by Fred Von Kamecke

Von Kamecke, Fred. Busted: Exposing Popular Myths about Christianity (Advanced Readers Copy). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009. 208 pp. $16.99.


Fred Von Kamecke is assistant pastor at The Chapel in Graslake, Illinois and an adjunct professor at Bethel College. He has also served as an adjunct at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) where he also received his PhD in New Testament theology and exegesis. He teaches in the area of New Testament studies.

Summary of Busted

Busted is divided into four sections dealing with various charges, by non-Christians, against Christianity. For the most part, those who bring these charges consider themselves to be open-minded (except when it comes to truth) and more intelligent than those who have faith. However, most who say the things in this book usually parrot the claims. In other words, they heard it once said that the Bible contradicts itself so they now say it even though they have never researched the claim and probably cannot give a specific example.

In the first section, myths about the Bible are tackled. The problem of having so many translations is dealt with along with the reliability of the gospels. Also in this section is a chapter on the validity of miracles.

The second section engages the various myths about Jesus Christ. Was He just another guru? Did He claim to be God or the Messiah? In answering these questions, the author also answers the attacks on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

Myths about God is the subject of the third section. Subjects like relativism and the Trinity are dealt with in these chapters. Of particular note, the charge that Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God is handled.

Finally, myths about the Christian faith in general are discussed in the fourth section. Dealing with the concept of orthodoxy and anti-Semitism can be found here. Also, perhaps one of the more common charges of worshipping God on a golf course or somewhere but church is handled.


The author does an excellent job of writing to his stated intended audience—the “average” Christian who has not gone to a Bible college or seminary and honest seekers of truth. Having personally studied apologetics in the past, this book makes for an excellent introduction to the field of philosophically defending the faith.

The scholarship in answering the charges is present but unlike many other introductory apologetic books, Busted is not dry. Fred von Kamecke has a wonderful sense of humor and is very candid in his answers. Reading this book is not like reading a text book. It is conversational in tone and is more representative of an actual conversation that would occur in the workplace or the supermarket.

Each chapter is divided into easily identified sections that show you where the author is directing the conversation. The Going Deeper section at the end of every chapter is nice in that he traces his research and enables the reader to get a head start for his own investigation.


Busted is an excellent introduction into the world of apologetics. This would be a great book to put in the hands of a Christian college student who will undoubtedly be presented with many of these “problems.” I would recommend this book to any Christian or anyone who is questioning the authenticity of the faith.

While many Bible college and seminary students will look at this book as too introductory, I think they would benefit from reading this book as much if not more than the younger Christian who will never enroll in a Bible class at a Bible college or seminary. Sometimes it helps the seminary trained student to learn how to relate to the everyday person rather than the philosophical discussions that abound in the classroom.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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

Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books