Book Review: Chasing Contentment

BLOG Chasing Contentment

In Chasing Contentment, Erik Raymond delves into the topic of contentment and how Christians can be truly content in their lives. The author first begins in explaining why we are endlessly seeking satisfaction and why contentment is so elusive. He then moves on to show that God is the ultimate source of our contentment by defining His character and attributes along with an analysis of the creation narrative to show that God created us to find our contentment in Him. However, alike the sin our first parents committed, we fail to seek contentment in God Himself but look for satisfaction and joy in created things that are only poor reflections of the Creator. In His love, God provides the solution to our longing by sending His Son who conquers Satan, sin, and death thereby restoring our distorted relationship with God. In doing so, through Christ, we can once again find our greatest pleasure in God as the One who creates, sustains, and provides for all that we can ever want or need. In the second half of the book, Raymond discusses how to move towards contentment as we await the day when we can fully enjoy God forever. He includes many illustrations and examples from his pastoral experience along with practical recommendations such as Bible reading and prayer. Along with basing his arguments on Scripture, the author also references many classic hymns, poems, and authors to encourage readers to find their contentment in Christ alone.

I would recommend this book to all who are struggling to find contentment in their lives. In our contemporary culture, we want everything and we want it right away. This way of thinking is distinctly opposite and opposed to what the Bible teaches us about how we should view our lives here on earth. Instead of hoarding what pertains to fleshly desires, we are to take hold of what God has given us and use all of it to glorify Him. Raymond reminds us that contentment is not unreachable but rather, it is readily available to those who find their complete satisfaction in God. We come to this satisfaction by first taking hold of Christ as the One who saves us and reconciles us to God. Moreover, we can immerse ourselves in the means of grace He provides us such as the local church community and spiritual disciplines to keep us steady in the present as we look forward to eternity where we will be perfectly content in God’s presence.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.

Book Review: Is the Bible Good for Women?

BLOG Is the Bible Good for Women

In Is the Bible Good for Women? Wendy Alsup searches through the Bible and discusses how it reveals God’s good divine design for women. Alsup argues that many feminists attack the Bible by extrapolating half-truths without considering the entire biblical canon, cultural implications, and literary complexities. Thus, she spends the first portion of the book laying out a framework for reading the Bible in a Christ-centered way. In doing so, the author asserts that this method avoids cherry-picking and misusing biblical texts to fit our own sinful preferences. Next, Alsup tackles specific parts of the Bible such as Old Testament Law and New Testament epistles to illustrate how these texts serve to reveal God’s intent for women. For example, she brings up the example of Dinah who was raped and mistreated by the men around her. Alsup argues that the narrative is not prescriptive but descriptive of sinful human hearts that fail to live up to God’s commands. Other texts that she focuses on include the wearing of headdresses and directions against allowing women to teach men publicly. Being a short book that aims to tackle such a massive issue, the greatest weakness of the book lies in not being able to dissect the issues presented in a balanced and comprehensive way. Thus, I find that readers are often left with a brisk stroll through texts without careful analysis and discussion which greatly reduces the strength of the author’s arguments. With the vast amount of scholarly work written on biblical gender roles along with thousands of commentaries on the various books of the Bible, the book falls much short of convincing readers to agree with its premise concerning the Bible’s positive view of women.

I would recommend this book to those who want a general introduction on feminist claims against the Bible. Alsup is commendable for upholding the authority of the Bible as being the Word of God. Moreover, the author advocates for a Christ-centered approach to reading the Bible which is integral to interpreting and applying scripture to our lives. However, I urge readers to dig deeper into the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit and His servants who have laboured to seek greater understanding of the different nuances of each text. Regardless of our theological positions, let us remain committed to the Bible as the inspired Word and humbly pray for wisdom to embrace what He commands concerning His will for women and men.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from The Crown Publishing Group in exchange for a book review.

Book Review: Practicing the Power

BLOG Practicing the Power

In Practicing the Power, Sam Storms challenges Christians to experience the power of the Holy Spirit through the use of spiritual gifts. As a continuationist, Storms believes that the spiritual gifts as described in the New Testament still operate in the life of believers today. The book goes one step further and illustrates how spiritual gifts should be used in biblical and beneficial ways in the context of the local church. Storms uses his own church’s approach as a template for consideration and also mentions a number of his personal experiences with spiritual gifts either in his own life or those around him. Despite his insistence on the usage of spiritual gifts, the author urges caution and discernment to ensure that when these gifts are being exercised, God is the One who is glorified and the church as a whole is being built up. For example, he suggests that church leadership should be prepared to deal with how gifts of prophecy and tongues are to be exercised in public during worship services. What I appreciate about Storms is his straightforward style and logical arguments along with his practical suggestions which would be helpful to those who have not attended churches in which outward spiritual gifts are regularly practiced.

I would recommend this book to those who hope to learn more about how spiritual gifts should be used to edify the church. Regardless whether one holds to a continuationist or cessationist viewpoint, the material presented by Storms is helpful to challenge both sides to a greater appreciation of the Spirit’s work. Storms reminds those who doubt that despite many instances of misuse for the sake of fame, fortune, or recognition, the Holy Spirit is still actively dispensing His power on believers to further the gospel and build up Christ’s body. At the same time, Christians need to utilize wisdom and discernment to identify misuse or abuse of spiritual gifts and prevent such occurrences from becoming distractions that divert attention away from God.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I was provided a review copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.

Book Review: The Heart of the Church

BLOG The Heart of the Church

In The Heart of the Church, Joe Thorn introduces readers to the gospel which should always be the central focus of the body of Christ. The author breaks down the gospel message into three parts namely history, doctrine, and God. The history of the gospel is essentially an overview of the meta-narrative of the Bible and how each story leads to its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. Next, Thorn goes on to explain crucial terms that are used in the gospel message such as reconciliation, forgiveness, and sanctification. The last part is a short theological primer on the gospel using a Calvinistic perspective based on the five points of TULIP. Throughout the book, Thorn is careful in remaining biblical and Christ-centered while not wading into jargon or terminology that would add confusion. Overall, the author is effective in using simple language to help those new to the Christian faith to grasp the essential truths of the gospel in a cohesive manner.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking to get a quick introduction to the good news of Jesus. Although the book is just over 100 pages, Thorn does a remarkable job in being concise without missing critical details that would confuse readers unfamiliar with Christianity. Even those who have followed Christ for many years would benefit from this book as it is a helpful tool in learning how to present the gospel is an accessible way. I agree with the author that the gospel should be at the core of each local church and whenever we drift from it, we are not being faithful witnesses and ambassadors of Christ. May the message of Christ always be proclaimed by His people until the day He returns.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Moody Press in exchange for a book review.

Book Review: Reset

BLOG Reset

In Reset, David Murray wants to help readers slow down and evaluate whether the pace at which they are conducting their life is realistic and sustainable. Murray points out that many Christians, especially pastors, seem to run out of gas much too soon due to numerous areas of stress and pressures in their lives. Recalling his own series of health setbacks, the author advocates a ten-step model to review and make changes to our lives to prevent unhealthy habits from being formed over time. The premise of the book is that God’s grace enables us to live purposefully without having to feel guilty for not doing enough or complacent in that we do nothing. Thus, we need to learn how to recalibrate our lives so that every opportunity is used to live grace-filled, intentional lives to glorify God. For example, Murray encourages readers to pursue a healthy diet and regular exercise to ensure one’s body is fit and well rested. He argues that Christians often view their physical bodies as being much less important than their spiritual health as focusing on the former may seem self-seeking and ungodly. However, the author points out that God created us as embodied souls in which both our physical and spiritual well-being are inextricably tied together in this life and the next. Thus, Murray offers suggestions on how to build up one’s physical fitness such as standing for extended periods of time and enrolling in an exercise program. Although the book is primarily aimed toward pastors and leaders, the applications are helpful for people in all walks of life.

I would gladly recommend this book to Christians looking for a practical handbook with implementable steps on how to re-orient their lives to glorify God. Indeed, we may be able to run at breakneck speed but the Christian life is a race that we not only participate in but need to run well and finish. Murray wants readers to comprehensively review the spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects of their lives and make the appropriate adjustments accordingly before God places barriers and setbacks to force us to do so. Instead of trying to cram activity into every available time slot in our schedules, we can fall back on God’s grace and receive each moment as being another opportunity to fuel us towards finishing our race well.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.

 

Miller on Love

“You endure the weight of love by being rooted in God. Your life energy needs to come from God, not the person you are loving. The more difficult the situation, the more you are forced into utter dependence on God. That is the crucible of love, where self-confidence and pride are stripped away, because you simply do not have the power or wisdom or ability in yourself to love.”

Paul Miller in A Loving Life

Book Review: 8 Great Smarts

BLOG 8 Great Smarts

In 8 Great Smarts, Kathy Koch identifies eight major areas of intelligence and explains how parents can nurture these smarts in their children. The author shares from her experience as a speaker and teacher on how discovering and growing each of these smarts are critical for utilizing our abilities to our greatest potential. Koch emphasizes that every individual is unique in the combination of smarts that they possess which is a combination of what God has bestowed upon us at birth and the result of how we developed these smarts over time. For example, a child who is talented in music may not necessarily realize his or her full potential if parents do not observe this innate ability at an early age and introduce the child to different types of music or instruments. Moreover, the author reminds readers that it is never too late to work on each smart in order to gain greater aptitude despite her observation that early exposure yields the most enduring results. Nevertheless, the author states that once we identify the smarts that we have, we should also be aware of the benefits and dangers of each smart. For example, someone who is people smart may be a cheerful encourager but that same individual can use charisma to manipulate those around them. As a whole, the book is fairly practical dealing with areas such as possible future careers for each smart along with suggestions such as games and family activities to grow the different smarts in young children.

A caution that I would like to highlight concerning the book’s message is that we may end up becoming overly focused on our children’s smarts and successes which can easily lead to pride and selfish ambition. Also, we need to remind our children that each of us have our unique weaknesses. God may certainly choose to grow us in the areas where we are lacking however He may also be asking us to rely on others who have abilities that are beyond or different from ours to make up for our shortcomings. We are told in the Bible that He has given each of us as members of His body different talents and gifts that are useful for the building up of His kingdom together.

I would recommend this book as a good starting point to discovering the abilities that God has gifted to each of us. Instead of conforming to how most people would define smartness, Koch states that every person is smart in a different way depending on how those smarts have been developed.  I especially appreciate the author’s focus on the spiritual aspect of stewarding one’s smarts. Koch reminds readers that it is of first importance that we use our smarts to edify the church and bring glory to God. Moreover, as parents, we have the responsibility to help our children discover the abilities that God has endowed them with and look for opportunities to grow these smarts accordingly.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Moody Press in exchange for a book review.