Tag Archives: Christian Focus Publishing

Why Everything Matters by Philip G. Ryken

Why Everything MattersRyken, Philip G. Why Everything Matters: The Gospel in Ecclesiastes. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2015. 160 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Westminster books for less or on Kindle.

Introduction

I reviewed Philip’s work King Solomon a few years ago and found it to be very informational and an excellent read. He currently serves as the President of Wheaton College. Before this, he was Senior Minister of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. He has written a number of books and commentaries as well as contributing to many more. You can find many of those here.

Summary

Divided into ten chapters over 141 pages of text, Dr. Ryken delves into arguably the most philosophical book found in the Bible. He begins by asking, and answering, the question, Why Bother? and then works his way through the text of Ecclesiastes.

Other chapters include a look at the ultimate quest and meaningful hedonism. He takes from the Puritan Thomas Boston with a chapter entitled The Crook in the Lot in which he seeks to answer the problem of personal pain and suffering.

The last chapter sums up the entire book as only the Holy Spirit could do. Ryken unpacks for us Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil,” in a chapter entitled The Final Analysis.

Review

For many the book of Ecclesiastes is one of those difficult books that we tend to shy away from while reading and studying Scripture. This is to our detriment since the Lord’s Holy Spirit saw fit to include it in the canon. Philip Ryken does a masterful job of unpacking the essence of this extremely important book found in the Old Testament.

Heavily footnoted, one can build a commentary and study library based on the footnotes alone. This also shows that Ryken is not leaning on his own understanding. Rather, he is seeking the thoughts of others who have gone before him. Personally, I find this more and more refreshing as I read and review books.

What is more, he shows how the entire book, chapter by chapter, points us to the necessity of faith in Christ. This, in turn, shows today’s reader not only the importance of the Old Testament, but its authority and practicality for the Christian today. Reading more like an exposition of the text, this work will serve both laymen and pastors at varying levels.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about Ecclesiastes. It will serve both the pastor in his study and the laymen in theirs. Reading Why Everything Matters and seeing how Ecclesiastes points us to Christ is a gift from Philip Ryken to the Christian church.

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.

 

Suffering by Brian H. Cosby

SufferingCosby, Brian H. <em>A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Suffering</em>. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2015. 96 pp. $7.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

 

 

Introduction

Brian is the pastor of Wayside Presbyterian Church (PCA) on Signal Mountain, Tennessee. He has authored a number of books that can be purchased here.

Summary

Divided into six chapters over ninety-six pages, seventy-seven pages of text, this book is obviously meant to be an introduction to the subject. The first chapter seeks to answer the question of where suffering originates. After answering that question, Cosby offers a chapter on understanding suffering and the sovereignty of God which leads to another question answered in chapter three – why does God ordain suffering?

After laying the theological foundation, Cosby transitions to the practical application in the fourth chapter where he offers tips on how to rightly respond while experiencing suffering. Chapter five explains where to find true hope in the suffering. Finally, his concluding chapter is an explanation on how to minister to those who are suffering. The book ends with a suggested list of books for those who want to read further on the subject of suffering.

Review

For being a pocket guide, there is much information and deep theology packed into this book. Perhaps one of the best features of this resource is the symbols in the margins peppered throughout the book. Before the preface, there are four symbols with their meaning given to the reader. The first is a triangle with an exclamation point which alerts the reader to a “warning”. The second is a paperclip with the announcement “don’t forget.” The third symbol is a circle with a question mark that implores us to “stop and think”. The final symbol is and arrow pointing to an asterisk that lets the reader know this is a “point of interest.”

These are helpful as they offer quick references to the more pertinent sections of the book. This could allow the reader in a pinch to skim the book and get the major gist of it. Once you do read it, however, you will find these symbols to be great reminders as you seek to apply the biblical principles.

Recommendation

In a fallen world that experiences suffering on a daily basis, Brian Cosby has produced a phenomenal resource that would make a perfect addition to anyone’s theological library. If the topic of suffering is one that you feel you want to understand more thoroughly, you can purchase this book and then build a library on the theology of suffering based on the suggested resources found in the back. I highly recommend this book to all Christians.

Held in Honor edited by Robert L. Plummer & Matthew D. Haste

Held in HonorHeld in Honor: Wisdom for Your Marriage from Voices of the Past. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2015. 144 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Westminster Books or on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Are you ever disappointed in your spouse? Do you fight? Do you disagree about money, sex, or in-laws? What if the very struggles you are facing were addressed by thoughtful Christians hundreds of years ago?In Held in Honor, you will find 50 devotional reflections on marriage carefully selected from 2,000 years of church history. Alongside each inspiring historical quote is a brief introduction to the person quoted and an accompanying biblical reflection.You are not alone in your marriage. The Lord has provided encouragement, correction, and hope in his Word. Held in Honor aims to strengthen you by pointing you to the promises of God’s Word and by showing you how past generations have applied this life-giving message to their own marriages.

Summary

Divided into five sections and arranged chronologically throughout the history of the church, Plummer and Haste offer an historic view of the sanctity of marriage in a devotional format.

The eras include:

  • The Patristic (100-500)
  • Medieval (500-1400)
  • Reformation & Purtan (1400-1700)
  • Early Evangelical (1700-1900)
  • Modern (1900-Present)

Writings are included from stalwarts of the faith like Athanasius, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis. Also, some lesser known writers and theologians of years gone by include The Shepherd of Hermas, Hugh of St. Victor, Anne Bradstreet, Henry Venn, and Thomas Merton.

Each entry includes an extremely short bio, a selection from that person’s writings and a devotion that is meant to drive us to think deeply about our marriage.

Review

Phenomenal! This is a must read for all Christians today. There is such a rich tradition and heritage of biblical marriage in the church and we would all do well to be somewhat familiar with it. Through every selection, the reader will find one common theme: Marriage is a beautiful gift to humanity when understood in light of the God who gave it to us.

This work serves as an introduction for many to the giants of the faith that have gone before us. It will also serve as a wonderful reminder of the depth with which God has blessed those with the gift of marriage. There is truly something in this book for everyone.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this resource to all who are married and those who are considering marriage. The church is indebted to Robert Plummer and Matthew Haste for bringing these writings together in one volume.

The Greatest Fight in the World by C. H. Spurgeon

Greatest FightSpurgeon, Charles Haddon. The Greatest Fight in the Word – The Final Manifesto. Scotland: Christian Focus Publishing, 2014. 128 pp. $8.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle for $0.99.

Introduction

I have reviewed a few of Spurgeon’s writings in the past and have always found him to be edifying. This particular “manifesto” was the final address he gave to the students at the Pastors College before he died.

Summary

Tom Nettles offers a lengthy foreword that offers the context of this particular address that helps to frame the importance of why “this” is the greatest fight in the world.  The “this” is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Spurgeon split the message into three parts: Our Armoury, Our Army, and Our Strength.

Review

He spends more than half the work discussing our armoury which is the Bible. Next, he discusses the army. That is, those who are members of the local church and how we are, in essence, the officers in the army and are to act as such when preaching all the while we are looking to the Chief Officer (my wording) for our marching orders.

Finally, and he states most importantly, he looks to the importance of where our strength lies.  Obviously, this is in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Though he spends less than 1/3 of the work describing our strength, the final 9 pages are pure gold and will only have its fullest effect on the reader if the message is read from beginning to end.

Furthermore, this is one of those works where you read the foreword and the introduction one evening and then you read the main body the next.

What makes this work all the better is that it contains the mature thoughts of Spurgeon, who had spent his entire adult life in the pulpit. Here we see the thoughts of a seasoned veteran and one who had fought the good fight for years. As he looks back on his time at the end of his life, he proclaims a battle cry for the weary soldier that should be heeded all the more today.

Recommendation

If you are a pastor, you need to read this manifesto. If you are thinking about going into the ministry, you ought to read this work. If you are serious about the gospel of Jesus Christ, then you, too, will find something in this manifesto that will appeal to the urgency of the work at hand.

I highly recommend The Greatest Fight in the World to everyone!

 

 

Confessing Jesus as Lord by Terry Chrisope

Confessing Jesus as LordChrisope, Terry. Confessing Jesus as Lord.  Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2012.  352 pp.  $19.99.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Dr. Terry Chrisope serves as Professor of History and Bible at Missouri Baptist University where he has also written Towards a Sure Faith: J. Gresham Machen and The Dilemma of Biblical Criticism. He also serves as a Sunday School teacher at First Baptist St. Peters, MO.  Finally, he was on my ordination council back in 2006 and never said a word!

Summary

Divided into four parts, Chrisope has rewritten his much shorter 1982 work, Jesus is Lord, to the point that this is an entirely new work though its roots run 30 years deep.  In the first part, he looks at the Old Testament’s anticipation of the Messiah.  In part two, he reviews the historical establishment of Jesus’ Lordship.

Part three looks at the apostolic proclamation of Jesus as Lord  while part 4 seeks to explain the implications and importance of Jesus’ Lordship. Three appendices look at the meaning of ‘Lord,’ John Murray’s explanation of they Hypostatic Union, and finally, the Scripture as an expression of Jesus’ Authority.

Review

Chrisope, in his meticulous style, leaves no stone unturned.  His writings rest solely on the Word of God thus making any argument on the topic of the Lordship of Jesus with the Bible and not with him.  Yes, one may argue against his opinions, but they will need to root their discussion in the Bible.

He engages some of the discussion against Lordship Salvation, but chooses instead to let the weight of the Word of God have its say.

In the end, I believe his best, and most pastoral chapter, is the final, and I believe the shortest, is the final chapter.  Here, Chrisope looks as the Practical Significance of the Confession of Jesus as Lord. In this chapter he looks at the application of this doctrine for the non-Christian (in other words, your evangelism) and the evangelical Christian. This includes a call to reconsider methodology and preaching styles.  Finally, he looks at the application to the impact on Western culture and theological liberalism at large.  Here, one finds a seed for yet another book.

Recommendation

If you call Jesus your Lord and Savior, I highly recommend this resource to you.  It is a bit technical, but well-written.  Understanding the deeper implications of Jesus as Lord offers us a lifetime of study.  Christendom is indebted to Terry Chrisope for writing this book.

A Neglected Grace by Jason Helopoulos

A Neglected GraceHelopoulos, Jason.  A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home.  Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publishing, 2013.  128 pp.  $10.99.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Jason Helopoulos graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1999. He then attended Dallas Theological Seminary and completed a Masters of Theology degree (ThM) with a concentration in Historical Theology and Christian Education in 2003. He served on the staff of Park Cities Presbyterian Church as a pastoral intern for one year and then accepted a call as an Assistant Pastor at Meadowview Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lexington, North Carolina. In the fall of 2007, Jason was called by Christ Church PCA in Grand Rapids, Michigan to plant a daughter church in Lansing, Michigan. He accepted the call and moved to the field (and snow) as church planter and pastored Providence PCA in East Lansing until 2012. In the summer of 2012, Jason accepted the call as Assistant Pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan.

Summary

Divided into 9 chapters with four appendices, Jason offers sound biblical support for the necessity of family worship in the home.  Chapter one argues that we are all worshipers while chapter two gives you the main reason as to why you should include family worship in your home.  Chapter three supports chapter two by offering several other practical reasons.

Chapters four through eight offer practical tips on the how-to’s and seeks to answer the many questions (and excuses) of those too timid to begin.  Finally, chapter nine gets down to the brass tacks of just doing it.  You won’t start unless you just start.  You are not going to be the next John Piper but you are the front line offense for proclaiming the gospel to your children.

The appendices are extremely helpful to those who have no idea what they are doing.  There are a number of sample structures and how to begin as well as recommended resources and even particular catechisms and creeds you can use.

Review

Jason may be a new name to the plethora of resources regarding family worship, but he does not write with new ideas.  Rather, he writes with a heart to see our families structure their lives around what is most important – the gospel of Jesus Christ.  While one may disagree with his covenantal understanding of the importance of family worship (I do), they will find much help and advice rooted in Biblical principle and instruction that promotes a much needed paradigm shift in so many Christian homes today.

I found Jason’s arguments to be sound and nearly irrefutable though I suppose anyone can argue with anything.  One thing that cannot be argued is that Jason’s heart is for the gospel and for the proclamation of the gospel to all the world beginning in Jerusalem.  In this case, Jerusalem is your home.

Recommendation

I am grateful for all of the family worship resources that have been written and published in recent years.  I have been blessed to review many of them.  I am grateful for this new volume to add to my collection of recommended resources for those seeking to get serious about family worship in their own homes.  I highly recommend A Neglected Grace to anyone considering Family Worship in their home as well as to any youth pastor or children’s minister or any pastor in general seeking to begin a revival in the homes and, consequently, in their church

Witness Men by Rebecca Davis

Wintess MenDavis, Rebecca.  Witness Men: True Stories of God at Work in Papua, Indonesia.  Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2013.  144 pp. $8.99.  Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

Rebecca Davis is a teacher and speaker who hosts international students in her home.  She enjoys researching and writing true stories of missionaries for children and their families.  Witness Men is the third book in a series entitled Hidden Heroes.  You can get the first two books here.

Summary

In essence, the author tells a story of a region known today as Papua, Indonesia from the vantage point of the beginning of Christian missions up to the present day.  She begins with a World Team missionary who began the work in the region years ago and moves throughout the history from approximately 1953 until now.  The reader is introduced to pilots flying airplanes to deliver missionaries, medical supplies, Bibles, etc, to the region in what is often overlooked as real sacrifice.  Most of them were with Mission Aviation Fellowship.

While some of the dialogue is not accurate, the author supports all of the main points and historic events with plenty of research and footnotes that can be used to learn more about specific incidents and missionaries.

Review

This is the first book in the series I have read and it was a joy to read.  Rebecca’s use of history and her intricate and detailed study of history.  Her ability to tell a story geared for children is still able to capture the imagination of the adult.  I love that we can pick up a resource and study a history of missions in one particular region of the world.

Recommendation

Witness Men is a great introduction to world missions.  It is resources like this that the Lord will use to raise up another wave of missionaries.  I recommend this book to anyone wanting to teach their children about missions.  It would make a great unit study for homeschoolers or even a great read aloud for families looking for Christ-honoring resources to read with their children.

Jonah: Navigating a God-Centered Life by Colin Smith

Jonah - A God-Centered LifeSmith, Colin. Jonah: Navigating a God-Centered Life. Scotland: Christian Focus, 2012. 158 pp. $12.99. Purchase at Amazon for as little as $3.99.

Introduction

Colin Smith is Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Chicago. You can find out more about him and his ministry, Unlocking the Bible or find him on the radio through his preaching ministry Unlocking the Bible.

Summary

Divided into eight chapters, Colin Smith takes a positive approach to the ministry of Jonah detailed in the four chapter book in the Bible that bears his name. Chapter one challenges the Christian to embrace God’s call while the second chapter exhorts the believer to receive God’s provision. The third chapter shows that you are to ask for God’s help while the next chapter demonstrates how we are to believe God’s word.

The next four chapters, five through eight, teach you how to affirm God’s grace and submit to His providence. Finally, Smith wraps up the study with a chapter on reflecting on God’s compassion and rejoicing in God’s salvation.

Review

I greatly appreciated the positive perspective Colin took in his exegesis and application of his series on the book of Jonah. Often times, the book of Jonah is misunderstood and misapplied. Sadly, most know of Jonah as the guy who was swallowed by a whale though that is not what the text even says! (It says “a great fish.”)  The subtitle, “Navigating a God-Centered Life” sets the parameters in which the reader is going to study this small little book. In essence, here is what Jonah did and here is what he should have done. From that, we learn that Jonah is quite the stereotypical Christian. Often begrudging God His goodness and mercy to others yet longing to feel that mercy ourselves.

Colin does a great job of drawing out the great themes of salvation and grace and mercy in the book of Jonah. His exegesis is accurate and his application of the text needs to be heard today.

Recommendation

There are those who look at Jonah and see only a rebel prophet or a great fish. Colin peels back the layers to reveal there is more than meets the eye to this little book. Jonah: Navigating the God-Centered Life is a wonderful resource that will lead the reader back to studying the Bible and focus their attention squarely on the Lord. For that reason and a number more, I highly recommend this book.

Amos: An Ordinary Man with an Extraordinary Message by T.J. Betts

AmosBetts, T.J.. Amos: An Ordinary Man With an Extraordinary Message. Scotland: Christian Focus Publishing, 2011. 208 pp. $15.99. Purchase at Westminster for less.

Introduction

Dr. Betts serves as the Assistant Professor of Old Testament Interpretation, School of Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has pastored for more than fifteen years. He has also written Ezekiel the Priest: A Custodian of Tora in addition to contributing articles to The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, the Biblical Illustrator, The Challenge of the great Commission, and The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Furthermore, he writes with heart-felt conviction and from personal experience of a gracious and merciful God.

Summary

Divided into fourteen chapters with a conclusion over 208 pages, Dr. Betts treats the nine chapter book of Amos with precision. The first chapter lays the foundation for better understanding that Amos was not the man we would have chosen for the job, but then again, God does not look upon man as we do! We are also shown that the mission in which Amos was given was not the choice mission.

After this introductory chapter, Dr. Betts delves right into the heart of the book. He spends a chapter on the judgment of Israel’s neighbors as well as a chapter showing the wrong way in which we respond to God’s grace. Continuing through the book of Amos, the reader is treated to an understanding that being granted responsibilities is a privilege that should never be underestimated.

The fourth chapter of Amos, the fifth in the book, looks at our self-centeredness while chapter six exhorts us to seek after God. As Betts moves through the center portion of Amos, he explains how confidence can become a god and complacency can kill. All of this points to the necessity of trusting in God and witnessing His judgment and mercy while the prophet intercedes. The final few chapters conclude with the justice of God in passing judgment and finally, that the Lord always keeps His promises.

Review

Amos offers the reader an in-depth study of what is classified as a “minor prophet” which is really a misnomer given the importance of their role in Israel during a time of upheaval. While the positive does outweigh the negative, I believe both can go either way depending on one’s perspective. For the purpose of this review, I will offer the perspective of a pastor, a lay teacher, and an interested Christian wanting to know more about a particular book of the Bible.

The positive of Amos is found in its readability and accessibility. Dr. Betts masterfully weaves through difficult passages of an ancient text and explains to the reader how something written thousands of years ago to a people group that no longer exists as they once did (though they still exist today!) still applies to the reader of today. As a pastor, reading Betts’ work will challenge your exegesis and hermeneutic ability to relate this work to a modern audience in sermon form.

Most lay leaders (think Sunday School teachers) tend to shy away from the “minor prophets” because of their seeming irrelevancy to the modern Christian as well as the simple truth that many fear the unknown. Let’s be honest, many of the “minor prophets” are unknown today! The truth is, Betts offers the lay leader a wonderful introduction to a book that is often left untouched in study. Just having this work alongside the text will greatly enable the lay leader to instruct his or her class in the importance of reading and applying Amos.

Concerning the Christian who just wants to know more about the book of Amos and not necessarily teach it, again, the readability and accessibility of this resource is a breath of fresh air. Much of what is offered this particular reader is so watered down that nothing can be gleaned that would be beneficial to the soul. Betts never wavers from an inerrant, authoritative understanding of the Bible as he guides the reader on a journey using excellent illustrations and personal experiences that every child of God can relate to.

The critical in this particular work will actually depend on your perspective. Please allow me to qualify this section of the review: I believe this particular commentary series was written with the “everyday Christian” in mind as opposed to the scholar and pastor though they can be aided in their study as well.

From the pastor’s (scholar) perspective, this book is lacking in the area of technical conversation. Granted having too much of the technical will greatly reduce the readability and accessibility of the work, there still needs to be enough of the technical to warrant serious consideration for the thorough study that is required when preparing a sermon or teaching series. Yes, there are some footnotes that could lead to deeper study, but, for the most part, Dr. Betts does not delve into textual variations or original languages as much as say the New International Commentary on the Old Testament would. Again, this is more an issue of audience and perspective.

From a lay leader’s perspective, the same argument could be made though often times, the Sunday School teacher would rather not go into all that detail. Still, the teacher may learn quite a bit more than bargained for and wind up deciding that this wrestling with the original languages and the exegetical choices to be made do indeed have a major impact on the lesson plan and what the Holy Spirit is teaching in a particular passage.

Concerning the “average Christian” interested in studying more about the book, not having the more technical conversations may be detrimental to the growth of the believer. If, for example, somewhere down the line, this believer never knew there were such things as textual variations, they may be blind-sided by the “more educated” Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon which could ultimately be detrimental to their faith. Regardless, there is just enough of wrestling with the exegesis that the average reader will implicitly understand that there is more than meets the eye to just a simple reading of Scripture if one wants to study the Word of God in greater depth.

Recommendation

Depending on your needs, Amos may or may not be a resource you need. Nonetheless, Dr. Betts has written an excellent commentary that deals with an ancient text in a way that shows “how relevant it is” for the believer today. Because of his ability to deal with the subject manner in such a way that this resource can effectively be used by the pastor, the lay leader, and the “average Christian,” I highly recommend adding this resource to your library. If the rest of the commentary series has achieved the excellent standards presented by Dr. T.J. Betts in Amos: An Ordinary Man With an Extraordinary Message, then this series will prove invaluable to any who wants to study the Word of God.