Tag Archives: Christian Focus Publishers

Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine

Eswine, Zack. Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression. Geanies House, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2014. 144 pages. $9.99. Purchase at Westminster for less or for Kindle.

Note: The review first appeared in The Pathway.

Gary L. Shultz, Jr., Reviewer

Many Christians know what it is like to go through dark times of the soul, whether because of circumstances, disposition, or dryness in one’s relationship with God. Many other Christians know what it is like to watch those they love go through those dark times, wondering how they can help or what they can say. Sometimes those dark times persist, becoming so overwhelming that all of life seems to be a burden and a struggle. Unfortunately, Christians are not immune from depression.

Yet for many in the church, depression is a taboo subject. Some Christians assume that depression is always a result of sin, is really just a bad attitude with another name, or that Christians are immune from depression because of the promises of Jesus Christ. These false assumptions have hurt many people struggling to see how God can help them through their long bouts of grief and anxiety. This is where a book like Spurgeon’s Sorrows is so helpful. Zack Eswine, a pastor in the St. Louis area, uses the experience and preaching of Charles Spurgeon, a well-respected and beloved pastor from the past, to help us understand what depression is and how Jesus Christ offers grace and hope even in the midst of the darkest times.

Charles Spurgeon was the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, a Baptist church in London, for 38 years in the latter half of the nineteenth century. As pastor of one of the earliest megachurches, Spurgeon regularly preached to thousands of people. Early in his ministry, at age 22, Spurgeon was preaching when someone falsely yelled, “Fire!” The panic that resulted left seven people dead and 28 seriously injured. Married for less than a year, with newborn twins, Spurgeon was blamed by many for the disaster. All of this stress had a profound effect on Spurgeon’s disposition, and left him struggling with depression not only in the aftermath, but for the rest of his life. Depression was a subject he returned to in his preaching again and again.

The book is divided into three sections: understanding depression, learning to help those with depression, and learning daily helps to cope with depression. Eswine uses Spurgeon’s experience to help us understand that even the most faithful Christians can battle depression. Sometimes depression results from painful circumstances or spiritual crises, but sometimes depression is a result of a person’s physical chemistry or disposition from birth. Spurgeon believed this about himself, and often encouraged those in his congregation suffering from depression to seek out not only spiritual causes and remedies, but physical ones as well, using preventive supplements like cissus quadrangularis to keep healthy joints and overall health is important for anyone. Yet no matter the cause or the depth of the depression, there is help in Jesus Christ.

So learning how to help those who suffer from depression or working to overcome our own depression means acknowledging that depression does happen, even to Christians, and that there is no one-size-fits-all cure. Coming to see ourselves in Christ, and that his grace is deeper than our sorrow no matter the cause or the depths of our despair, is what brings genuine hope. Jesus Christ himself suffered with us and for us as the “man of sorrows,” and comes to us in our own unique pain and circumstances. Eswine helps us remember that as we strive to remember and pray Jesus’ promises, take advantage of the natural helps he gives us in creation, and choose life over death, we experience his grace. We might even come to a time where we being to see what God is doing in our lives through our suffering.

Theodore Beza by Shawn D. Wright

Wright, Shawn D. Theodore Beza: The Man and the Myth. Great Britian: Christian Focus Publications, 2015. 256 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Amazon or for Kindle for less.

Introduction

Dr. Shawn Wright is Assistant Professor of Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves in the local church as an elder.

Theodore Beza (1519-1605) was the successor to one John Calvin.

Summary

With only 8 chapters divided over 256 pages, Wright looks first at Beza’s life and the context in which he ministered. He then paints with broad strokes the theological vision of Beza. The majority of the book is a summary of five publications of Beza:

  • Confession of the Christian Faith
  • Tabula Praedestinationis
  • Treatize of the Plague
  • Treatize of Comforting such as are Troubled about their Predestination
  • Maister Besaes Household Prayers

Review

Wright pulls no punches and is unapologetic in his own personal views. He is a Calvinist and he endorses the commonly used acronymn, TULIP. He writes with great sympathy toward Beza in the hopes of dispelling some of the myths that have come to be accepted throughout the history of the church.

After offering the introductory and summary of the life and theology of Beza in the first couple chapters, Dr. Wright dives in head first into the more controversial works of Beza. His fifth chapter entitled “Letting God be God” is, in my estimation as a reader and reviewer, the purpose of writing the book.

It is in this chapter that Wright tackles Beza’s doctrine of double predestination – the belief that as God predestines some to salvation, He in turn predestines others to hell. Some may have heard of this doctrine called reprobation. They are one in the same.

What sets Wright apart, specifically in this chapter, but in the entire work as a whole, is his pastoral care as he wades into the deep end of theology. For many, these concepts kill evangelism and missions. For Dr. Wright, they give the messenger a greater boldness to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in an increasingly hostile environment (here in the U.S.).

Another aspect of this biography is the “Uses” section at the end of each chapter. These are designed to be discussion questions, but they are not simply a wrestling with the issues. Rather, Wright wants his readers to understand how the various truths Beza, and consequently what Dr. Wright writes about, impact our daily life and view of God.

Recommendation

For many, Theodore Beza is one of those historical theologians that they know little about and care to learn more because of his dangerous assertions. Dr. Shawn Wright has done a favor for the church in not only writing this biography and elucidating truth and dispelling myths, but he has also equipped a new generation of pastors and Christians to wrestle with divine truth. I highly recommend this biography to all Christians who want to take the time to get to know the heart and theology of perhaps one of the more misunderstood theologians in the history of the church.

The Person of Christ by John Owen

The Person of ChristOwen, John. The Person of Christ: Declaring a Glorious Mystery – God and Man. Scotland: Christian Heritage Imprint, 2015. 416 pp. $19.99. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle.

Introduction

I have reviewed a few works by John Owen (1616-1683) in the past. Those reviews can be found here. This particular book is part of a series that Christian Heritage (you can purchase a 5-volume set, minus this book, for $70.00) than  has been publishing as part of an emphasis on the works of John Owen. Additional titles include The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace, The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power, Communion with God: Fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Assurance: Overcoming the Difficulty of Knowing Forgiveness, and The Priesthood of Christ: Its Necessity and Nature.

For those who may be wondering, this is also the first volume in the 16-volume Works of John Owen published by The Banner of Truth Trust.

Summary

This entire book is centered on what theologians call Christology – the study of Christ. This massive 400+ page book is divided into 20 chapters with each chapter building on the previous. He begins the twofold foundation of Christ and begins moving meticulously through a complete theology of the person of Jesus Christ as the God-Man.

Some of the chapters include a look at the foundation of the counsels of God, Jesus as the great representative of God and His will, and the repository of sacred truth. A few other chapters look at love from the understanding of who Christ is. We see that love is the principle of obedience (chapter 12) as well as our motives to love Christ because of what He has accomplished (chapter 14).

Yet another section of chapters looks to the wisdom of God in Christ as well as the wisdom of Christ as shown to us in Scripture and His willingness to obey His Father unto death. The final three chapters look at the nature of the person of Christ, the exaltation of Christ, and finally, His mediatorial office.

If you are confused by this summary, here is what the publisher offered as a summary of the book:

John Owen sought to illustrate the mystery of divine grace in the Person of Christ. Regarded as one of the most important post-Reformation works, Owen’s Christology illustrates the mystery of divine grace in the Person of Christ.

In other words, this is a very difficult work to succinctly summarize!

Review

The theological strength of this book is its focus on the person of Jesus Christ. This is key as Owen wrote individual treatise on the office of Christ and the priesthood of Christ as well as the work of Christ. All that to say, this particular book looks solely at the person, that is the man, of Jesus Christ.

Obviously, the subject matter will bleed into other disciplines and there will be great overlap in theological and doctrinal conversation, but Owen peels back layer upon layer in his quest for understanding and explaining to the masses who the Christ is.

One reason a modern reader would prefer this edition over the first volume of the works is the updated language and chapter divisions. This includes a change from roman numerals to the more commonly used Arabic numbers. Also, as those who have read Owen know, he can get very verbose. This, too, has been restructured such that the modern reader can readily follow his train of thought.

Quite frankly, this volume is worth its price for the preface alone.

Recommendation

Mark Jones, author of the recently published Knowing Christ, stated in his endorsement, “If there is a richer book on Christology in the English language, I am not aware of it.” All I can add to that is a hearty Amen. I highly commend The Person of Christ to every believer who has called upon the name of Christ as Lord and Savior.

Faith of Our Father by Dale Ralph Davis

Faith of our FathersDavis, Dale Ralph. Faith of Our Father: Expositions of Genesis 12-25. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2015. 176 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Westminster for less.

Introduction

Dale Ralph Davis is Minister in Residence at First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC. He has written a number of books – most of which are commentaries or a compilation of sermons. You can find many of them here.

Summary

You can judge this book by it’s cover…or at least its title. This is a book of seventeen sermons preached by Rev. Davis on Sunday evenings at the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC. These sermons look at the life of Abraham in the book of Genesis.

Review

One must always take into consideration the context of a book that is comprised of sermons by one pastor to a particular congregation. There is always going to be a foreign element to an outsider reading these sermons as they are often shaped by the congregation and her needs at the time. That being said, this book of Sunday evening sermons is an excellent introduction to the life of Abraham.

Rev. Davis offers practical application with his excellent exegesis as he he looks at the highlights of Abraham’s life.  While I personally felt some of his stories overshadowed the text, I did find them to be entertaining and, ultimately, helpful in bringing the main point he was striving after home to the reader.

Reading a chapter a day, Faith of Our Father, will serve as a devotional that is more meat and potatoes than it is sweets and desserts (as many devotionals are!).

Recommendation

This is one of those easy reads that will have a large impact on the reader for years to come. I recommend this book to anyone looking to better understand the importance of Abraham’s life for our lives today.

 

Joel & Obadiah by Iwan Rhys Jones

Joel and ObadiahJones, Rhys Iwan. Joel & Obadiah – Disaster and Deliverance. Scotland: Cross Focus Publications, 2015. 128 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Iwan Rhys Jones is Director of Postgraduate Studies and Lecturer in Hebrew and Old Testament Studies at Wales Evangelical School of Theology in Bridgend, Wales. He also serves as an elder in his congregation.

The Focus on the Bible commentary series  “are popular level commentaries especially useful for pastors and small group leaders. They are useful for personal devotions and spiritual growth. Many of the authors of the commentaries are leading expositors of God’s Word on their speciality subjects. The series holds to the inerrancy of scripture and the uniqueness of Christ in salvation.”

Summary

Quite simply, this book is a commentary on the Old Testament books of Joel and Obadiah. As such, it is organized in chapter and verse format offering somewhat extensive introductions to both books.

From the back of the book:

Disaster and Deliverance, these two words sum up something of the message of both Joel and Obadiah. In Joel, the prophet begins by announcing a disaster in terms of a locust invasion, which has affected Judah. This, however, is but the pretext for warning of an even greater disaster on the horizon for Judah. Nevertheless, the prophet holds out the prospect of deliverance. In the case of Obadiah, the focus is on Edom. Edom’s pride and longstanding hostility against the people of God has led her to be party to an attack upon them, and as a result, she is threatened with disaster. The people of God, meanwhile, are assured of better things at the hand of the LORD.These two prophets and their message of disaster and deliverance will both challenge and reassure all who have ears to hear.

Review

This is a very readable commentary that is not dry nor insulting. There is much information to be gleaned from these books (as there is in all of the Bible!) that Jones does a phenomenal job of writing a commentary that offers an excellent introduction while also helping the reader to begin to plumb the depths of the riches of both.

This book can be used a simple commentary looking microscopically at the individual verses, but I believe there is something lost in using it only as such. The strength of this commentary is its devotional aspect. Jones tells the story with content and historical and theological insight lacking in many resource. He strikes a perfect balance of disaster and deliverance. Hence, the appropriate subtitle to the book.

As the name of the series is Focus on the Bible, you will want an open Bible next to you as you will want to know what the Word says and what Jones is saying about the Word. In the end, you will find that your focus will be entirely on the subject of the Bible…God.

Recommendation

If you are looking for a solid commentary that is both informational and not too academic, you will greatly appreciate Joel & Obadiah. If you are looking for an introductory academic commentary,  you will appreciate Joel & Obadiah. I highly commend this commentary to all Christians looking to engage the Bible with a more informed mind.