Tag Archives: IVP Books

Walking Through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis

Groothuis, Douglas. Walking Through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness – A Philosopher’s Lament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2017. 176 pp. $17.00. Purchase at Amazon or Kindle for less.

Introduction

I have reviewed a couple of Dr. Groothuis’ works in the past including Philosophy in Seven Sentences and Christian Apologetics. He is a well-known philosophy professor at Denver Seminary as well as a Christian apologist. This particular book is a diversion from his normal writing genre and is more autobiographical in nature.

Summary

Divided into 19 chapters with 9 interludes, this work is organized somewhat chronologically though it is more free-flowing than that. While each chapter could readily stand alone, there is a richness in reading it cover to cover understanding that there will be moments of rich theological reflection mixed with human wrestling with the One who has deemed this the path of choice for the Groothuis family.

You will get to know, Becky, Dr. Groothuis’ loving wife as well as Sunny, their loving Goldendoodle dog. More importantly, you will see faith in action.

Review

Sometimes you pick up a book expecting it to challenge you and sometimes it meets those expectations. Often times it does not. Walking Through Twilight was both. This book did more than meet my expectations. It far exceeded any expectation I might have had. Having journeyed digitally with Dr. Groothuis via Facebook as he wrestles with God and the sweet hand of bitter providence in the life of his beloved Becky, I figured I would be treated to something profound. I was not prepared for what I read.

I picked this book up at 9:30 on a Friday evening. I finished it by 9:30 Saturday evening. I would have finished it by midnight Friday but sleep overtook me and the responsibilities of Saturday kept me from reading until later in the evening. Regardless, all I could think about was getting back to this book. It is raw and gutsy. Dr. Groothuis shows what it is like to have a deep-rooted faith in a loving God while still wrestling with Him.

Doug’s willingness to model biblical lament both incorrectly and as biblically informed is commendable and praiseworthy. Many Christians today do not know how to lament properly. Doug points out that he is still learning what it means to lament, but that is part of the process of sanctification and it is ok. He recognizes that God is still present and active and has not left him or forsaken him, but he also admits that he often feels at a loss to comprehend everything in light of what he knows to be true.

While there are certainly going to be theological points that Dr. Groothuis touches on in this book that you very well may disagree with, here is not the time or the place to engage those disagreements. Rather, now is the time to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). In this instance, we weep at the trials and tribulations and rejoice at the hope found in Christ all the while learning what it means to lament with hope.

Recommendation

Rarely have I picked up a book and not been able to put it down. Walking Through Twilight is one of those books that you will read through quickly only to find yourself wanting to go back and read again slowly. This book should be must reading for all hospice and in-home workers as well as pastors and anyone who is wrestling with long-term care of a loved one with dementia. As I said above, this book is raw and gutsy. It represents what I believe to be Dr. Groothuis’ greatest contribution to Christendom because of its practicality rooted in deep faith that has been on public display for decades.

The Radical Pursuit of Rest by John Koessler

Koessler, John. The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2016. 176 pp. $16.00. Purchase for less or on Kindle at Amazon.

Introduction

Let’s be honest, we all struggle with finding the balance between productivity in the work place and actually taking serious the third commandment to keep holy the Sabbath. That is, we struggle to rest in world that has become busy 24/7. John Koessler is chair and professor of pastoral studies at Moody Bible Institute.

Summary

John lays a biblical foundation of rest in the character of God throughout the first three chapters. In the fourth chapter, he explains what false rest pretends to be and what it truly is. Hint: the biblical word for false rest is “sloth.” The remainder of the book seeks to shift the reader’s paradigm on what genuine rest looks like.
Chapter six looks at worship as rest while chapter seven looks at rest in the digital age. Eight offers a lesson on rest and our future. Chapter nine looks at the ultimate final rest – death. In a mere nine chapters, The Pursuit of Rest attempts a biblical theology of rest.

Review

As a pastor of a rural congregation, a father of five children, and a husband to one wife, I seek to understand as much about rest as I can from solid, biblically-rich sources. When this book came across my desk, I was excited to dig into it. John seeks to introduce the need to reconceive our understanding of what genuine rest is and what it is not.

In the main chapters, he seems light on scriptural references though it is abundantly clear that his theology is rooted in Scripture. It is not until you begin reading the questions for group discussion found at the back of the book that you begin to see explicit use of Scripture. That is not to say that there are not Scriptural references throughout the book and is not necessarily a criticism. By the end of the book, the reader will have a better understanding of the need for biblical rest even in those crazy seasons of life where rest only seems to be available to those who die.

The one caution I do have is the apparent mysticism influences. He quotes heavily from Josef Pieper, a German Catholic philosopher who was a forerunner to the Neo-Thomistic philosophy. These were those Catholics who revived the influence of the writings of Thomas Aquinas.

Regardless, John offers a solid treatment of the theology of rest that will, at the very least, help the reader begin to wrestle with authentic rest in his or her own life.

Recommendation

Understanding the danger that mysticism poses to a solid biblical theology aside, I found much upon which to meditate in The Pursuit of Rest. I have been searching for a theological and practical treatment of rest that is biblically rooted and practical in our day and age. I believe I have found that here. I recommend this resource to any discerning Christian wanting to better understand rest and the importance of rest for the Christian.

New Dictionary of Theology – Historical and Systematic Edited by Martin Davie, et al

New Dictionary of Theology – Historical and Systematic. Edited by Martin Davie, Tim Grass, Stephen R. Holmes, John McDowell, and T.A. Noble. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2016. 1,200 pp. $60.00. Purchase at Amazon for $40.94.
*Price subject to change.

Introduction

The first edition of the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, published in 1988 and edited by Sinclair Ferguson and David F. Wright was monumental at the time and remains the standard single reference work in systematic and historical theology.

Here in 2016, this standard has been substantially expanded from 738 pages to 1,200 pages and now focuses on a wider variety of theological themes, movements, and even those who are responsible for the past and current trends of theological thought. The name of this resource has been altered to show this expansion. It is now entitled The New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic (NDTHS).

Summary

It is extremely difficult to summarize an encyclopedia. I will use what the publisher has on the back of the dust jacket.

From African Christian Theology to Zionism, this volume of historical and systematic theology offers a wealth of information and insight for students, pastors and all thoughtful Christians.

Over half of the more than eight hundred articles are new or rewritten with hundreds more thoroughly revised. Fully one-third larger than its predecessor, this volume focusing on systematic and historical theology has added entries and material on theological writers and themes in North America and around the world. Helpful bibliographies have also been updated throughout.

Over three hundred contributors form an international team of renowned scholars including Marcella Altaus-Reid, Richard Bauckham, David Bebbington, Kwame Bediako, Todd Billings, Oliver Crisp, Samuel Escobar, John Goldingay, Tremper Longman III, John McGuckin, Jennifer McNutt, Michael J. Nasir-Ali, Bradley Nassif, Mark Noll, Anthony Thiselton, John Webster and N. T. Wright.

This new edition combines excellence in scholarship with a high standard of clarity and profound insight into current theological issues. Yet it avoids being unduly technical. Now an even more indispensable reference, this volume is a valuable primer and introduction to the grand spectrum of theology.

Review

Not only has the book expanded by 33% of pages, the number of editors tripled from two to six. Originally, Sinclair Ferguson and David F. Wright were the editors. Now, we have Martin Davie, Tim Grass, Stephen R. Holmes, John McDowell, and T.A. Noble serving as editors. This is notable as the original two editors are noted as men of Reformed theology while these current six editors are noted more for their collective conservative theology. This immediately shows that the NDTHS is meant for a much wider audience than ever.

With over 300 contributors, this edition of the NDTHS is a resource for every Christian theologian whether they are liberal, Reformed, mainline, conservative, or whatever qualifier they choose. The work is simply a massive resource that will inform the pastor, teachers, student, or “mere” Christian on just about any subject found in historical and systematic theology.

Some of the additions have made this a greater global resource as they have added articles on African and Asian Christian Theology as well as Arab and Japanese Christian Thought. Given the ever shrinking world thanks to the Internet and air travel, this resource can be used to help prepare a missionary or even a pastor wanting to focus on a particular area of missions work.

New articles include a look at gender, post liberalism, analytic theology, and other issues that were not even on the theological radar in 1988. Again, this will help the Christian thinker to wade through countless articles, books, and blog posts by solid biblical thinkers and guide you to the most important documents and people through the bibliography after every article.

Further, by having so many contributors, the editors were able to pick and choose who wrote on which topic. This is key as you now have noted scholars writing on their specific areas of expertise. For example, noted church historian writes on the entry simply marked “history” while Mark Noll writes on B.B. Warfield.

I have mentioned already the bibliography at the end of each entry, but I would like to express how helpful this is for the reader. If you are beginning to build a theological library or you need to write a paper for Bible School or seminary level training, this can easily be your one-stop shop for figuring out what resources you need to aid in the writing of your paper.

Furthermore, the editors saw fit to include three tremendously helpful indices at the end. The first index is a list of the names mentioned in the encyclopedia. The second index is simply the various subjects covered. The third index is for the articles. These three indices combined will help you to find whatever it is you are looking for in this resource. If you cannot find it here, it is just not going to be found in the encyclopedia.

Recommendation

At $60, this is obviously a pricey resource. Given the quality of the contributors and the time-tested usability of the first edition, however, I do not see how any serious student, scholar, pastor, or Christian wanting to study theology more in depth can do without it. For many, they will prefer a digital option as the book does weigh 4 ½ pounds! Regardless, this will be $60 well spent as it continues the quality of reference works for which IVP Academic is most noted. If you have the first edition, give it to someone just beginning to build a theological library and purchase this second edition as it is truthfully that much better than the first.

Thumbprint in the Clay by Luci Shaw

Shaw, Luci. Thumbprint in the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order and Grace. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2016. 205 pp. $17.00. Purchase at Amazon or on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Luci Shaw is writer in residence at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. She is a poet, essayist, and lecturer. She has written a number of volumes of poetry as well as many other books. You can find many of them here. You can read much more about Luci at her website, LuciShaw.com.

Summary

From the back of the book:

“The thumbprint . . . is for me a singular clue to human identity. . . . Just as each human thumbprint is unique, its pattern inscribed on the work of our hands and minds, the Creator’s is even more so―the original thumbprints on the universe,” declares poet Luci Shaw. We worship an endlessly creative God whose thumbprints are reflected everywhere we look―in sunsets, mountains, ocean waves―and in the invisible rhythms that shape our lives, such as the movement of planets around the sun. And this creative and ever-creating God has also left indelible thumbprints on us. We reflect God’s imprint most clearly, perhaps, in our own creating and appreciation for beauty. A longing for beauty is inherent to being human. We don’t create things that are purely practical; we desire them to be aesthetically pleasing as well. Beauty is also powerful, in its redemptiveness, generosity, inspiration. In reflecting on the role of beauty in our lives, Luci Shaw writes, “Beauty is Love taking form in human lives and the works of their hands.”

Review

I have honestly never heard of Luci Shaw until I received this book to review. I was interested in the concept of seeing “divine marks of beauty, order, and grace” in the mundane and normal every day objects and experiences of life.  I was hooked after the first chapter entitled “Coffee Mugs” as Luci helped to develop a meditative attitude on something as simple as the various coffee mugs from which we drink.

Chapter after chapter, Luci offers a  unique perspective as only a poet can offer on the many different evidences of God’s beauty and creativity. She draws from a wide array of experiences in her own life and points us back to the Scriptures in ways that we might not have ever considered. What is more, she does not offer these views from an ivory tower. Rather, she wrestles with the hardships of life and leads the reader to understand that God indeed does use everything in our life to reveal Himself as more and more glorious.

Reading Thumbprint in the Clay can be as quick or as slow as you make it. To plow through it, however, is to do a disservice to the intent of the author to stop and smell the roses and begin to see afresh the glories of God. Without even realizing it, you will begin to see more of God and less of yourself and this fallen world after having experienced the writings of Luci Shaw.

This is not because she is a gifted expositor or even Biblical studies professor. This is because she is a woman with a gift for words and a love for her Savior. She is much like Jeremiah in their is a fire in her bones and she must speak of what she has seen and knows.

Recommendation

This was a surprisingly enjoyable read for me. I am often timid to pick up a new author I have never heard of, let alone one who is known for poetry. In this instance, I am grateful Thumbprint in the Clay came across my desk. I recommend this to all Christians who look for new and biblical ways in which to see the glories of God in everyday life.

Changing World, Unchanging Mission by M. David Sills

Changing World, Unchanging MissionSills, M. David. Changing World, Unchanging Missions: Responding to Global Challenges. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2015. 233 pp. $17.00. Purchase for less at Amazon or on Kindle.

Introduction

I met Dr. Sills back in 2007 when I was a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He published a book in 2008 entitled The Missionary Call (you can read my review).  Dr. Sills still serves as the A.P. and Faye Stone Professor of Christian Missions and Cultural Anthropology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is also the founder of Reaching and Teaching International Ministries.

Summary

Divided into 10 chapters over roughly 200 pages of text, Dr. Sills looks at how missions compete and conflict with one another while the world is slowly being urbanized and definitely globalized. He offers a chapter on short term missions and then explains how we are to reach oral learners and help people without hurting them.

Chapter seven looks at churches as being the sending agents for missions while eight offers a look at your business as mission. Find business signs here. Finally, chapter nine offers a look at how missions changes governments with chapter ten giving a paradigm shift (for Christians in the West) regarding the global south and how we can facilitate the growth of Christianity there.

Review

I love that Sills writes with passion, conviction, and perhaps most importantly, experience first hand of the ever-changing mission field. It is from the latter that this book was birthed. His goal is to show that while the world may continue to change, the message of salvation in Christ alone will never change. It is as timeless as the God who saves.

His chapters on the local church serving as sending agencies for missions and the recognition of the global south as reality will, I pray, be instrumental in raising up a new generation of missions work. As a pastor myself, I find that the need for sending out missionaries is great but the workers are few. It is my responsibility to ring the bell of missions but in a way that is kingdom building.

He also helps the reader to think through how our initial response is typically to fix problems (either with money or materials) often does more hurt than good. This, too, is a paradigm shift for many in the West, but one that needs to take place. Again, David Sills helps initiate this change.

Recommendation

If you are a Christian, you need to be aware of the need of missions and how though the culture is ever-changing, our message is not. The global Christian church is indebted to Dr. Sills for his willingness to translate his expertise into a book in order to train up even more missionaries. Every Christian should read this book.

 

New Testament Essentials by Robbie Fox Castleman

NT EssentialsCastleman, Robbie Fox. New Testament Essentials: Father, Son, Spirit, and Kingdom. IVP Essentials Series. Downers Grove, 2014. 151 pp. $17.00. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Robbie Castleman is professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at John Brown University. She previously served on the staff of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship with an emphasis in graduate students. The IVP Essentials Set is a series of in-depth workbooks that can help spiritual growth. Books include topics such as discipleship, leadership, and evangelism with more on the way.
This particular edition “introduces the New Testament in three parts: 1) The Revelation of God in Jesus, 2)The indwelling of God in the church by the Holy Spirit, and 3)The present and coming Kingdom of God.

Summary

Designed as a 12-week study divided into three parts the first part focuses on Jesus Christ as the rull revelation of God. The five chapters include Jesus as the Messiah, as Lord of Heaven and Earth, and looks to His work and His teaching culminating in Christ as the Incarnate and Risen Savior.

The second part is a 3-week study of the church and the importance of understanding the Holy Spirit as indwelling her and giving her the power and ability to change the world. The third part spends 4-weeks looking at the present kingdom of God and a general understanding of the His coming kingdom.

Each week there is a memory verse (always good) rooted in a Bible study. The Bible study is an in-depth look at a particular passage that will take an evening to accomplish. Further, there is a reading that acts as a teacher explaining the passage with particular application. Following the reading, there are more questions designed to implement and establish the lesson being taught.

Finally, the author helps the reader connect the New Testament to the Old and applies it our personal lives today. There is a “Going Deeper” section that recommends yet another book to read.

Review

This work is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, designed to draw the reader into the Word of God in a deep and meaningful way. This is not a study you can finish in 10-minutes and feel as though you accomplished something. Rather, this is a 12-week study that will take you a full 12 weeks to finish.

This study is well written, and in my estimation, a very thorough work meant to put your faith and mind to work. It is biblically centered with a premise that God’s word is sufficient for life and unchanging. The various sections of the study can be done one per evening throughout the week and discussed together as a group.

As part of a larger series, this work can and does stand alone. It will, however, cause you to want to investigate the rest of the series.

Recommendation

For the new believer, this study can be considered indispensable. For the mature believer, this study can be a refresher. For all believers, this study will enhance and deepen your understanding of these four subjects. If you are looking for a solid Bible study for yourself or small group, you will find what you are looking for here in New Testament Essentials.

Clouds of Witnesses by Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom

Noll, Mark A. and Carolyn Nystrom.  Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia.  Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2011.  288 pp.  $25.00.  Purchase at Westminster Books for 35% off.

Introduction

Chances are if you are reading this, you live in what is considered the Western world.  Your view of Christianity is distinctly Western and you are more likely to think that your understanding of Christianity is most important to the whole of Christianity.  Thanks to Mark A. Noll, Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame and Carolyn Nystrom, a freelance writer from the Chicago-area, we are now confronted with a global understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit within the bride of Christ.

Summary

Divided into six regions of the world, the reader is introduced to seventeen saints of the Christian faith from the past 150 years or so who have fought the fight of faith and paid the price in this world but gained a rich crown in the life to come.  You will visit Southern Africa, West Africa, East Africa, India, Korea, and China.

Along the way, you will be confronted with the truth that the freedom of religious worship is not as pervasive as we think here in the Western world.

Review

You cannot read this work and not be moved to tears.  To see what these men and women withstood for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ will lead you to ask how strong is your faith.  Noll and Nystrom have done their homework in retelling these various histories.  For that, we are indebted to them. The list of sources at the end of each chapter keep the authors accountable and provide a launching point for which to do further study and investigation into the lives of these men and women.

Sadly, the stories may be too controversial for some but they will most assuredly quicken the heart, soul and mind for a deeper faith. While reading this historical overview, you will begin to gain a greater appreciation for the cost of following Christ.  In the end, the gauntlet is laid down and the challenge is given — Are you living your life for Christ or are you infatuated with the cares of the world?

Recommendation

Thanks to ministries like the Voice of the Martyrs much has been done to bring about awareness of persecution in the church.  Sadly, our Western mind wants to fight (rightly) for the rights of those being persecuted.  Clouds of Witnesses offers a different perspective and shows the joy one has in dying, peacefully, as a martyr for the gospel.  To all who believe on the name of Christ, read this book and be blessed.  Read this book and be challenged.

Closing the Window by Tim Chester

Chester, Tim.  Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free.  Downer’s Grove: IVP Press, 2010.  160 pp.  $15.00.  Purchase at Westminster Books for $10.05.

Introduction

Tim Chester is co-leader of the Crowded House, a group of international church planting networks as well as co-author of Total Church. You can read my review of a couple of Tim’s books hereClosing the Window is Tim Chester’s addition to a recent plethora of books dedicated to dealing with the sin of pornography.

Summary

Chester has divided his book into 5 chapters with an introduction and conclusion.  The intro gets right down to the point with the title of “Let’s talk about porn.”  This introduction is key as it sets the pace and tempo for the rest of the book.  From here, the reader is challenged to call a spade a spade.  Chapter one helps to show the reader what is really going on in each scene being watched.  More importantly, we are given a “behind the scenes” peek at what goes on in the studio as well as the lives of the “actors” and “actresses.”

Once this foundation is laid, Chester turns our attention to the Lord who alone is able to free you from the sin of pornography.  Chapter two explicitly talks about the beauty of God while chapter three moves the reader toward being freed by the grace of God.  Chapter four exhorts the reader to fight for the faith.  This entails a constant battle in the life of the believer.  Sometimes you will fail, sometimes you will win.  Regardless, as Tim shows us, it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to fight this battle.

The fifth chapter explains how, as believers, we are freed from sin–specifically, pornography.  What is more, we are freed for the glory of God.  The conclusion helps the reader to tie everything together and begin to win in the battle against porn.

Review

Chester’s no-holds-barred approach to dealing with pornography is refreshing.  His five-key ingredients in the battle against porn are extremely helpful and most beneficial.  He offers insightful and practical advice that is necessary though not often shared in books dealing with porn.  The five key ingredients (without explanation) are:

  • abhorrence of porn
  • adoration of God
  • assurance of grace
  • avoidance of temptation
  • accountability to others

These five key ingredients are explained in much greater detail throughout the book.  I share these with you in the hopes that it would prompt you to read this book and/or get it for someone you know who may struggle with this sin.

Recommendation

Do not read this book without a pen in hand.  You will be writing throughout in the margins and underlining like crazy.  I have said in a previous review regarding Daryl Wingerd’s book, Delivered by Desire, that I recommend it above all other books.  While I still stand by that statement, I do want to qualify it with the addition of Tim Chester’s Closing the Window.  These two books offer hard-hitting advice and exhortation salted with the grace and mercy offered by Christ.  If you have to pick up one copy, I would actually get Closing the Window first and then Delivered by Desire. Regardless, these two resources will quickly become invaluable to your library–trust me.