Book Review: The Whole Message of the Bible in 16 Words

BLOG The Whole Message

In The Whole Message of the Bible in 16 Words, Chris Bruno takes readers on a journey through Scripture to discover the central message of the Bible. Bruno asserts that the Bible’s message revolves around the mission of God which is to proclaim His glory through saving a people for Himself. To prove his point, the author highlights sixteen terms that serve as a framework that we can use to understand the Bible’s grand storyline in a unified manner. Undoubtedly, those who are familiar with the Bible would recognize and agree with the vast majority of the selected terms including “covenant” and “Messiah” as being core biblical themes of the Bible. On the other hand, some of the words are more intriguing such as “wisdom” and “land” which would likely be challenging for most readers to see the immediate connection between the word and the Bible’s message. In addition to explaining the significance of each term, Bruno ends each chapter with two connecting Old and New Testament verses and a summary thought that concludes how the term relates to the overall message of the Bible. In considering all the terms presented, one curious omission is the word “cross” which I would regard as being integral to the story of the Bible. I would argue for the inclusion of this term as the cross is the instrument by which God accomplishes His mission to redeem a people for Himself through Christ’s death on the cross in which we attain forgiveness for our trespasses thereby declaring us righteous before God. It is because of the cross that we have resurrection hope whereby we will one day ceaselessly and perfectly worship and glorify God forever. Thus, it would seem appropriate to include the cross as being a crucial term to understanding the message of the Bible.

I would gladly recommend this accessible introduction to understanding the Bible’s story and how we play our roles in it. What makes Bruno’s book engaging is that in every chapter, he makes the connection between the Old and New Testaments which allows readers to appreciate the continuity of God’s written revelation as a reflection of His divine authorship of this beautiful story. Moreover, the author connects all these terms to Jesus as the One who ultimately fulfills the mission of God and redeems His elect to join Him. Although the book assumes some knowledge of the Christian faith, the material is straightforward and even mature Christians will benefit from learning how to trace the biblical storyline to edify their study of Scripture. Furthermore, this collection of terms could be used as a tool for evangelism enabling us to more effectively present the gospel message in a concise and organized way.

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

Book Review: The Character of the Church

BLOG The Character of the Church

In The Character of the Church, Joe Thorn outlines what are considered to be the distinctive marks of a church. Thorn focuses on the essential elements such as the preaching of the Word, participation in the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and baptism, faithful biblical leadership by elders and deacons, gracious yet firm church discipline, passionate evangelism, and effective discipleship. Although different denominations hold varying perspectives on how these marks are to be expressed, Thorn takes a balanced approach that incorporates the differing views while also voicing his own viewpoint on the issues. The part of the book that served as a timely reminder for me is the discussion on the mission of the church. Thorn points out that many churches today seem to gravitate towards being overly committed to social justice and community care instead of concentrating its resources on sharing the gospel. The author argues that churches should focus on spreading the gospel to the lost as its primary mission as this is the command that we are given by Jesus upon His ascension. This does not mean that the church should not care for the welfare of its neighbourhood but that our commitment to spreading the gospel should be of first importance.

I would recommend this book to all Christians as a proper understanding of the marks of a true church is particularly relevant for our times. Many Christians today subscribe to a low view of church that is not in line with what the Bible teaches. The material in this book is simple enough for non-believers and recent converts while also being helpful to Christians who may have developed a distorted understanding of the identity and purpose of the church. As followers of Jesus and members of God’s family, we need to have a biblically informed theology of the church and this short book serves to be an excellent starting point in this endeavour.

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

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.