Worship that Pleases God by James W. Bartley

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worship that pleases God book cover Introduction and Background

About The Publisher

Before I introduce this particular book and author, I would like to introduce the publishing company behind the book since they are based out of Nigeria with an office in New York. I must admit that I chuckled at first at the name Baal Hamon Publishers for the (hopefully) obvious reason of the name “Baal.” However, the name is found in Song of Solomon 8:11 where it reads, “Solomon has a vineyard in a place called Baal Hamon. There are farmers who rent it from him; each one pays a thousand silver coins. (GNB).

I was pleasantly surprised to discover their views of publishing and their standard for what they will publish. According to their website, “publishing is not just business. It is ministry. Our ultimate goal in publishing books is not profit but to affect lives and the society positively for Christ.” Baal Hamon says they are an “imprint” of the Joy and Truth Christian Ministry, which “is committed to promoting non-denominational, non-discriminatory, non-racial brotherliness among Christians from ALL backgrounds.”

About The Author

Dr. James W. Bartley has a Bachelor of Divinity (1951), a Master of Theology (1965), and Doctor of Theology (1975) from the Baptist Theological Seminary though I am not sure where this seminary is located. I can only assume that it is Uruguay since he taught there as well as became a missionary in that country until 1993. He has taught at numerous Baptist Seminaries throughout the world and according to the back of the book, “has earned an enviable international influence and recognition.”

Given all of his international ministry and teaching, he confesses that “This book is his confession [that] at 57 years of age and after 35 years of ministry, [he] came to discover for the very first time many of the biblical principles of worship” (p. i). That sentence is the second sentence of the Preface of the book and shows the reader the humility in which he writes. This humility is found on every page. His heart is to better equip believers to worship our awesome Triune God who alone is deserving of worship.

Summary of Worship that Pleases God

When I first picked up the book to read it for this review, I assumed that I would be reading an apologetic for the Regulative Principle of worship. In a sense, that is what I read; however, there was nothing about what we call the Regulative Principle to be found in the book. Dr. Bartley sticks to the scripture alone as his guide and offers a biblical theology for what kind of worship it is that pleases, and brings glory to, God.

The book is broke down into three sections: the Old Testament, the New Testament and a synthesis of the two. He breaks down both testaments according to the genres of books (OT: law, history, poetry, and prophets; NT: gospels, history, Pauline epistles and apocalyptic). He then systematically, and in canonical order, goes through each passage wherein the word worship is translated from the original languages. In Hebrew, the word is shachah. In the Greek, the word is proskuneo.

Dr. Bartley shows how the five modes of worship (response, dialogue, offerings, drama, and celebration) are found extensively throughout the Old Testament. He also shows how the Bible is clear in explaining what kind of worship is not pleasing to God and is considered idolatry. He has the same approach in the second section of the book looking at the New Testament.

In the final section, Dr. Bartley offers up a synthesis of what the whole Bible says regarding worship. He groups his findings under three general categories with subdivisions found in each. First, there is what precedes worship. This would include becoming aware of God and His nature. Second, there is what happens in the act of worship itself. Recognition of God’s glory and grace and man’s sinfulness are a couple of elements found in this category. Finally, there is what follows the act of worship. Here we discover God’s manifestations of pleasure (or displeasure with sin) and He is glorified further.

Critical Evaluation of Worship that Pleases God

I am not sure if Baal Harmon is a self-publishing company or not, but this book gives the feel of having been self-published. By that, I am referring to spelling and grammatical errors throughout the entirety of the book. They are not as glaring as many self-published titles, but they are present.

About the only other real critique, other than not always agreeing with his understanding of a few passages (this is to be expected for no other reason than we don’t all agree on everything), is his writing style. I realize this is more personal matter and therefore will not cause problems for others, but I found his style of writing a bit cumbersome at times. I only include this because I was asked to give the book reviewn In no way did it take away from the content of the book.

Conclusion

While I am highly suspect of smaller publishing companies who seem more along the lines of a self-publishing company, I found this book to be fairly sound theologically and exegetically. I find the subject matter to be unique in the sense that most people write for a particular historic understanding of worship with an appeal to the Bible. Dr. Bartley, on the other hand, appeals to the Bible in order that we may worship God according to what pleases Him.

I cannot recall seeing a book or bible study devoted to solely to understanding what the Bible says about worshiping God and therefore would recommend this volume to be added to your library for a couple of reasons. First, the author sticks to the Bible alone for his study material. Second, he writes with passion and humility on a topic that, while it has been divisive in the past, should be at the heart of everything we do in our lives. Obviously, you will not agree with everything Dr. Bartley says, but that is not the point of his book. His goal is to offer a systematic and biblical study of what kind of worship it is that God finds pleasing. I believe he met his goal.

Don Whitney–Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (audio book)

Don Whitney Audio Book CoverDr. Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is available for the first time in audio book format. Dr. Whitney is the Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality (2005) and Senior Associate Dean of the School of Theology as well as the president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality.

The book is read by Grover Gardner and is available as an MP3 download at ChristianAudio.com. If you would like to purchase the audio cd, you can purchase it at the Westminster Book Store or ChristianAudio.com, or if you would like to support Dr. Whitney’s ministry directly, you can purchase it from The Center for Biblical Spirituality.

Truth and Grace Memory Books edited by Tom Ascol

***Originally posted at Ministry-to-Children***
Ascol, Thomas K. Truth and Grace Memory Book, 3 Volumes. Cape Coral: Founder’s Press, 2005. $15.00 (or $5.95 ea.). 

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Introduction and Background Information

Dr. Tom Ascol has been the Senior Pastor of Cape Coral Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida since 1986. He also serves as the director of Founder’s Ministries which, according to their website, says that part of the purpose of the ministry “is the recovery of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the reformation of local churches.” He is editor of the books Reclaiming the Gospel and Reforming Churches and Dear Timothy as well as Truth and Grace Memory Book (3 books). His heart is for the local church and that shows through in these books that he has edited.

These three books are based upon the instructions of the Lord to fathers (and mothers) found in Ephesians 6:4: “bring them (children) up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” While these books can be used by Sunday School teachers and children and youth ministers, they are meant for use in the home during a time of family worship, dinner, or anytime throughout the day. Continue reading Truth and Grace Memory Books edited by Tom Ascol

Holiness by Henry Blackaby

Book Review Holiness Henry BlackabyBlackaby, Henry. Holiness: God’s Plan for Fullness of Life. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003. 106 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Amazon.com

Introduction and Background Information

Henry Blackaby has been in the ministry for over 50 years. He has served in the local church, as a college president, as a missionary, and as an executive in the Southern Baptist Convention. Of the many offices he has held in the convention, his role as the leader of the Revival and Spiritual Awakening division is why Dr. Blackaby is qualified to talk about revival. Currently, he serves as the president of Henry Blackaby Ministries.

He states on the first page of the introduction he states, “these messages are the heart of my present ministry. They are my life-messages to God’s people, as God calls us to renewal, revival, and spiritual awakening” (ix). Having traveled all over the United States, Blackaby has witnessed revival in local churches and communities. However, he has witnessed more lip service about wanting revival than ministers and lay people actually doing something about it. This book is about the prerequisite for God’s people that must be met if true revival is to break out across the land or in your own church.

Summary of Holiness

The book is broke down into three chapters easily read in one sitting. The first chapter deals with a general sense of a loss of the fear of God by His people. Blackaby contends that it is the people of God who steer the nation. Many believe that because God does not judge immediately, He will not judge ever. We are too dull to notice God’s judgment on our nation.

In chapter two, Blackaby discusses seeing sin from God’s perspective. He traces the problem of a loss of fear of God in America (in a general sense) back to the 1960’s and then builds his case that most Christians in America no longer see sin as an offense to God. Rather, we now proclaim sin to be that which is not acceptable by the culture in which we live. He makes the point that most of what we find “acceptable” would have led to our being stoned in the Old Testament.

By far the longest chapter of the book is chapter three. This chapter entitled, “The highway of holiness” comprises more than 40% of the entire book. Based upon Isaiah 35, Dr. Blackaby shows how God moves in the lives of His people when they live a life holy unto the Lord. He argues that as Christians, we need to be accountable to living a holy life to God. We must first seek holiness if we expect God to bring about revival.

Critical Evaluation of Holiness

Given the nature of the book, my critiques are to be held subjectively in that not everyone will agree with me. For some, what I view as a weakness will be a strength. With that in mind, I felt there were two glaring problems with Holiness.

First is Dr. Blackaby’s use of his own paraphrase of Scripture. While he does not violate the texts, in my opinion, he does reword some passages to make his point come more into focus. This is especially evident when he discusses the sins of David and God’s dealing with him. He uses his paraphrases so frequently that it is sometimes a bit difficult to discern what he is saying versus what God has spoken in His Word.

Second, on pages 24-26, Dr. Blackaby sounds the alarm that he believes this generation to be the generation in which Christ returns. I guess at some level, we must all think as though this is the case-it seems as though every generation since the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ has thought this. While there is nothing wrong in thinking like this, I believe that those who preach this particular message have caused many to become callous to the call of the gospel. How many preachers must proclaim that “this is the generation” and then the next generation comes and goes and we are still here?

I realize this is an extremely volatile issue for many so I do want to be careful with what I am saying. In my opinion, we should preach, “the end is closer than you think” because for you, it may be that you will die today. However, I think to preach the end of time will be this generation is extremely dangerous and unnecessary.

Conclusion

I have owned this book for more than three years and have read it at least a dozen times (I try to read it once a quarter). This book should be on the shelf of any believer whose heart cries out for revival. This little book, easily read in a couple of hours, is a must read for ministers and missionaries. Actually, a missionary serving in Botswana recommended the book to me. There are many “gut-checks” found within the pages of this book that ought to be meditated upon. Every time I have read this book, I find myself putting down in order to stop for prayer. It is a sobering call for personal holiness, which we could all use, in order that we may experience true revival that is of God and not man.

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Pastor Daddy by Lindsey Blair and Bobby Gilles

***Originally posted at Ministry To Children***
Pastor Daddy BookBlair, Lindsey and Bobby Gilles. Pastor Daddy. Louisville: Sojourn Community Church, 2008. 16 pp. $11.95. (available directly from the publisher)

In 16 short pages, this book introduces the view that the home is a little church. This was espoused by great divines such as Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards and more recently by men like Donald S. Whitney and R. Albert Mohler.

As I read this book to my two children, they enjoyed the pictures and the stories. This book is a great introduction to the practice of family worship and how the church and the home are interrelated. The authors alternate between church and home and show how each element of worship (outside of baptism and the Lord’s Supper) can be done at home through family worship.

This has become an important direction that many in the church are beginning to move toward. There has become an emphasis on family worship and its importance to the health of the church in recent years. If you are involved in children’s ministry, this is an excellent resource to own. It is also a way in which you can introduce family worship to the parents through the children.

Dr. Whitney Reviews Two Best Sellers on New Age Christianity

Chances are you have heard of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne or A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Both of these books have garnered much attention when Oprah Winfrey showcased them on her daily program. These books are nothing less than heresy but are being studied by Christians and churches as a new way in which to view the Bible and Christianity.

About The Secret, Dr. Whitney says, “So as with nearly all false teaching, the flaws of The Secret are most visible when you examine what it has to say about the Bible and Jesus.”

About A New Earth, he says

Tolle declares that “a new heaven and a new earth” are “the awakened consciousness, . . . not a future state to be achieved.” He’s sure that these “are arising within you at this moment” (p. 308). He believes you can achieve these with a self-centered, self-sufficient awakening based upon his teaching. You do not need Christ, the Bible, or the church for this. Do not think of death, judgment, and eternity. You are god. Just live in the “Now.”

Check out his review for The Secret and his review of A New Earth. While there, listen to Dr. Whitney’s recent interview (there is a transcript as well when you click on the link) on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ radio ministry Revive Our Hearts with Dr. Erwin Lutzer.

Scripture Memorization by Christopher Pearson

Pearson, Christopher. Scripture Memorization: Its Purposes and Its Benefits. Kearney: Morris Publishing, 2007. 62pp. $7.00.

Introduction and Background Information

Chris Pearson thought he was saved, until God showed him otherwise. At 18-years old, he had a “moralistic” faith in which he lived in perfect contradiction to every thing he professed to believe. Then God saved Chris. After this, he went to Missouri Baptist University (then College) where he was introduced to Reformed Theology. He attended First Baptist St. Peters which is pastored by Joe Braden. This is where he was introduced to scripture memorization. Since then, he has memorized the books of Jude, Colossians, 1 Peter, and 1 Thessalonians. He is currently working on memorizing Ephesians.

This book came about because, James Briggs, a current student at SBTS and friend of Christopher’s, asked Christopher to write a study for his (James’) youth group about scripture memorization. You can visit Christopher’s website at www.dwelling-rich.org.

Summary of Scripture Memorization

Pearson begins the book by explaining that the purpose of memorizing Scripture, “is quite simple: The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God in our hearts to further conform us into the image of Christ” (12). He also shows that memorizing scripture leads to greater fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, enables the greatest defense against sin taking root in our hearts and mind, and allows for us to meditate deeper and more often on the things of God.

His main thesis in the book is that we should not memorize our “favorite” verses but should instead memorize whole books of the Bible. His reasoning is similar to a hermeneutic that is stressed in the SBC-context, context, context. While it is good to know the “key” verses, it is better to know whole books and be ready to meditate on the word of God or “read” the Bible wherever you are even if you don’t have a Bible with you.

Christopher spends the next six chapters explicitly stating why you should memorize whole books of the Bible. His first argument is that it is a great weapon to battle against Satan when engaged in spiritual warfare. Second, it helps in your prayer life. Third, your meditation on the things of God is greatly enhanced. He does offer three more chapters with other reasons, but you get the picture. In the last chapter, he offers a method of how he memorizes whole books of the Bible.

Critical Evaluation of Scripture Memorization

As far as accomplishing his goal of providing a lesson plan of sorts for a youth group, Christopher Pearson successfully accomplishes his goal. However, it is very obvious that this book was self-published. There are spelling errors and grammar mistakes on just about every page. Also, there are some major formatting issues that need to be taken care of if a second edition is published.

His writing style is conversant and engaging and you get the feeling that he is truly writing from the heart. He does write as one with a burden to teach others the benefits of scripture memorization. Errors aside, the book is full of Biblical reasons for memorizing Scripture.

Conclusion

If one is able to read past the grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, then this book should be very useful in your ministry or personal devotion time. I realize not most people are interested in a self-published title, but this is one worth looking into. Christopher has set up a 6 or 7 session study to prepare a young group to memorize whole books of the Bible. I would recommend it to a youth pastor or a young believer (or any believer) who is wanting to memorize scripture and teach others how and why it should be done.

You can purchase the book from his website here.

The Next Christendom by Philip Jenkins

Jenkins, Philip. The Next Christendom: The Coming Age of Global Christianity – Revised and Expanded Edition. Oxford: University Press, 2007. 261 pp. $14.95.

next-christendom-philip-jenkins.jpgIntroduction & Background Information

According to the back cover of the book, “The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity – Revised and Expanded Edition” is “a landmark in our understanding of modern Christianity.” Philip Jenkins currently is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities at Pennsylvania State University. He teaches in both the undergraduate (Modern Christianity, Sects, Cults and Religious Movements among others) and graduate levels (American Catholic: Roman Catholicism in Twentieth Century America as well as others). He has Ph.D. (1978) in History, an M.A. (1978) and a B.A. (1974) all from the University of Cambridge.

Summary of The Next Christendom

The thesis of this book is explicitly stated on page xi of the Preface. Dr. Jenkins states, “Far from being an export of the capitalist West, a vestige of Euro-American imperialism, Christianity is now rooted in the Third World, and the religion’s future lies in the global South” (xi). Originally, he sent his first edition to the publisher on 10 September 2001-“which was in fact the last day of the old world” (xi).

Dr. Jenkins sets out to show how the concept of modern Christianity is not found in America as many think. Rather, it is found primarily in what he calls the global South. In essence, he argues, quite successfully, that we should step outside our preconceived notions of Christianity and look to other cultures in order to see how modern-day Christianity is impacting the world as we know it. He defines Christendom as having supranational and antinational implications in that one is no longer an African as much as he is a Christian first and an African second.

He makes his point quite clear that the global South has now become the “seat” of Christianity when he shows that North America actually has the lowest number of confessing Christians among the four major regions of the world. In order from most to least you have Europe (511 million), Latin America (511 million), Asia (344 million), and finally North America (226 million). This ought to cause us to take a second look at how we believe about Christianity and the global community.

He shows in the second chapter how Christianity is changing and impacting every culture where it is able to claim deep roots. He argues that syncretism is a major reason why Christianity is so successful in Third World countries. He also shows how forced conversions to Christianity helped to spread the religion outside of Europe. Whenever a Christian nation would conquer another nation, they would bring their religion with them. Another tactic he calls the Silk Strategy, was to bring the faith to the cultural elite and then allow it to filter down to the rest of the population.

In explaining the spread of Christianity today through missions work and missionaries, Jenkins believes that Christianity spreads effectively because it is perhaps the best worldview that is offered to the people. He seems somewhat amazed by the willingness of the converts to die so violently for their new found faith in God.

He also shows how Christianity becomes a political movement more than a religious movement. In essence, he explains that many revolutionaries (or at least revolutionary types) use what we call Liberation Theology to “rally the troops” and over throw an oppressive government in order to make life better for the poor.

Central to his understanding of the spread of Christianity is the power and persuasiveness of Pentecostalism. In his estimations, the Pentecostals are the most active with missions work and evangelism in the world. There message of health and wealth, while almost a laughable cliché in the United States by most Protestants, is a force to be reckoned with in the Third World.

Dr. Jenkins successfully demonstrates how Christianity, as a political and economic movement is infiltrating the Third World. It will not be long before the world’s understanding of Christianity will be that of what we see on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. It seems that the reasoning for this global expansion is more a matter of pragmatics than anything else.

Critical Evaluation of The Next Christendom

Before I begin with a critical evaluation of this book, I must state that Dr. Jenkins successfully accomplished his goal of showing how Christianity is becoming a more globally south religion given his understanding of Christianity. With that said, I believe his book fails at many levels to begin to understand what Christianity truly is. Quite often he makes statements about Christianity succeeding based upon its syncretism with other religions. He includes other religious groups like Mormons and says things like, “the term ‘Christian’ could be used only for someone who had experienced a personal born-again conversion” (100). Then he says, “These restrictions can seem overly narrow or bigoted (100).

All throughout the book, Dr. Jenkins refers to Christianity as the means by which one can experience political and economic freedom. This is not the end by which the means is after. Yes, it is true that as a by-product of Christianity, you are more likely to have financial freedom (we call this stewardship) and political peace (we become citizens of heaven), but these should never be our ultimate goal in this world or the next.

My final critique, and perhaps the most glaring given the subject of the book, is that he waits 102 pages to define what he means by the term “Christian.” His definition is one, “who believes that Jesus is not merely a prophet or an exalted moral teacher, but in some unique sense the Son of God and the Messiah” (102). This is why he can call Mormon’s Christians. They believe this but add so much more to who Christ is. This is also why he is able to exclude Jews and Muslims-they do not believe Jesus to be the Son of God.

However, his next sentence is what helped me to understand his extremely broad definition of Christianity used throughout the book. He says, “Beyond that (the definition given above), we should not inquire into detailed doctrine” (102). If Christianity is not a faith based upon essential doctrines that one must hold to in order to be a true Christian, then most everyone in this world is a Christian. I believe it is safe to say that if one limits the definition of Christianity to a set of essential and foundational beliefs, Dr. Jenkins thesis will not appear as striking as it does. When you include all who mention Jesus Christ in a positive manner in accordance with his definition given above, then it is no wonder the coming global Christianity is frightening with all of its syncretistic, political and economic benefits.

Conclusion

I think perhaps the best way to describe this book is that it is schizophrenic. On one hand, I think his extremely broad definition of Christianity violates what we know Biblical Christianity to be. On the other hand, he gives us a great peek inside how the world really sees Christianity.

Those who read this book with me have agreed that he is way off base in his inclusive view of Christianity. However, I would highly recommend this book to mature Christians who are able to discern what is and what is not true Christianity. It is good to see how negatively the world views Christianity and missions work. I think this book would be a great tool in seeing our failures as Christians and how we need to repent of past sins and seek to glorify God in our future work in global missions.

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Short, introductory reviews of Christian Books