Thorn on the Authority of Scripture

“Today in our Western individualistic culture, we tend to bristle at the idea of authority, unless it is our own. Most of us say we like freedom, but what we really want is radical autonomy—a life lived independently from the authority of another. We want to live life our way and for our own purposes. And when it comes to spirituality, most prefer anarchy to order and creativity to confession. But the Bible, as the Word of God, rightly claims a position of authority in the life of the church. As Christians, we may be quick to say that God is our authority, but we must say more than that. If we say that the Lord is our God, then we must also say that His Word is authoritative in the church and in our own lives.”

Joe Thorn in The Character of the Church

Book Review: Word-Centered Church

BLOG Word Centered Church

In Word-Centered Church, Jonathan Leeman argues that the Bible is the primary means by which the church as the body of Christ is redeemed, renewed, and transformed. Leeman approaches this subject with multiple angles by analyzing how Scripture is God’s power in the pulpit, the congregation, and the world. The author offers a helpful analogy in explaining how the Bible works in our lives by describing the transmission of God’s Word as reverberating in the hearts and minds of those who receive it. When Scripture is proclaimed faithfully, we witness spiritual renewal and revival in its hearers may it be through the preacher’s exhortation during the Sunday worship service, the prayers of the saints on Wednesday night’s prayer meeting, or during family worship on Friday evening. The book is divided into three parts examining the nature and function of Scripture, the preaching and proclamation of Scripture, and the role of Scripture in the church and the world. Leeman calls all Christians to love, meditate, and speak Scripture so that we, individually and corporately, can continue our transformation from depraved, spiritual corpses into Spirit-filled living bodies redeemed as the children of God and sanctified to become His temple. I greatly appreciate how the author approaches this topic through the lens of the local church which makes the observations and applications presented relevant to both clergy and laity alike.

I would gladly recommend this book to all Christians as the Bible should be central to all who put their faith in Christ as the living Word of God. Many churches have turned to using marketing, psychology, and business strategies to attract and retain non-believers and believers instead of focusing on the Bible as the authority and power of God that enables people to know and love God. Leeman pleads for the people of God to be saturated with Scripture and allow its richness and goodness to overflow into every arena of our lives and especially in the spreading of the gospel. The Bible is not an antiquated book of wise sayings and good advice but the most common means of grace by which the Spirit employs to convict, correct, and encourage us to increasingly reflect the image of God.

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

Vanderstelt on Salvation

“We are not saved just once in our past. We continue being saved in the present. God’s salvation didn’t just happen to us. It is also continuing to happen. He is actively saving us. The gospel is good news for our sanctification— the ongoing work of God saving us and conforming us daily into the image of Christ. Our activity in this process is ongoing repentance from unbelief to belief in the gospel.”

Jeff Vanderstelt in Gospel Fluency

Book Review: My Great Big God

BLOG My Great Big God

In My Great Big God, Andy Holmes and Marta Alvarez Miguens team up to introduce young children to God and His attributes through twenty Bible stories. Although the book is not considered a children’s Bible, the chapters progress from creation and ends with a reiteration of the Great Commission to tell others about how great God is. Many of the stories selected are typical but some are interesting choices such as Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai. Of the Christian children books I have read, this one has the most vibrant illustrations with careful attention to detail. For example, in the story about Joseph and his brothers, each individual is uniquely crafted with different clothes and physical attributes. As for the content, what I found most captivating is the author’s ability to summarize the entire story in a small paragraph. Also, the author maintains an appropriate balance of being true to original story while allowing some room for imagination. Furthermore, Holmes applies rhyme and meter in his sentences which makes the reading fun and engaging for both parents and children alike. The reading level would be suitable for ages two to five but younger children would likely enjoy having parents point out the bright pictures and sound out the catchy sentences.

I would gladly recommend this wonderful book to all kids who want to learn about our great God who creates, sustains, and rules over all things. The book is helpful in focusing on how the biblical narrative reveals God to us rather than simply drawing out a moral lesson that we can learn. Moreover, it is imperative for young children to attain a strong grasp of who God is as this has significant implications on how they view the world that they are exploring every day.

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

Hamilton on Work in Heaven

“We can scarcely imagine it, but everything that makes work miserable here will be removed. All our sinful concerns about ourselves will be swallowed up in devotion to the one we serve. All our frustration that we have to be doing this task, not that other one we prefer, will be abolished because of our experience of the one who gave us the assignment. All inclination to evil will have been removed from our hearts, so we will enjoy the freedom of wanting to obey, wanting to serve, wanting to do right. And the right that we have to do will no more be in conflict with needing time with kids or friends or spouse, because we will have forever. Never again will we fear that our work is futile, vain, monotonous, or meaningless, because we will see clearly that the significance of our work springs from the one we serve.”

James Hamilton Jr. in Work and Our Labour in the Lord

Book Review: The Heist

BLOG The Heist

In The Heist, Chris Durso presents the message of God’s lavish grace using the analogy of a thief stealing precious treasure to illustrate how Jesus took away our guilt, shame, and sin. The main premise of the book is that sinners desperately need God’s grace and God has already extended this grace to us through His Son. Durso retells the story of the infamous robbery undertaken by Leonardo Notarbartolo in 2003 to draw similarities between the meticulous preparation and execution of the crime to the incarnation of Christ as planned before creation and carried out covertly at the appointed time. The author also references the parable of the prodigal son as an example of how we are all lost and in need of the extravagant grace of God. Those familiar with the parable will understand that the prodigal’s story is a metaphor to describe the experience of how sinners finds grace through Jesus. The twist in the parable though lies in that the older brother who self-identifies as being righteous turning out to be just as in need of grace as the younger one. The greatest strength of the book lies in the author’s ability to present the gospel message of grace in a creative and engaging manner while being grounded in biblical truth. Moreover, I greatly appreciate how the author emphasizes the reality of our sinful condition and our responsibility to repent and turn away from a life of sin. At the same time, Durso reminds readers that we are unable to save ourselves and are doomed without the grace of God as extended through Christ. Holding these two truths in balance is critical to a biblical understanding of grace and salvation especially as wafts of antinomianism has been propagated in recent times.

However, one question that I would also like to raise is whether it is helpful to refer to Christ’s mission to save us as a heist. I am not too concerned with the negative connotations associated with a heist which the author himself eagerly defends against repeatedly in the book. What I am more troubled with is the necessity and usefulness of using a heist to capture the truth of the Incarnation. Except the chapter headings and a few details on how Notarbartolo was a mastermind thief who staged a grand robbery, the arguments in the book squares largely upon the parable of the prodigal son. Moreover, when we read the gospel accounts, we see that though Jesus aimed to be subversive in the early days of His ministry, His identity and mission is progressively revealed through Christ’s own words and actions. Jesus does not stealthily steal away our sins and die a quiet death on the cross leaving us to somehow search our way back to the Father. Rather, Jesus proclaims Himself as being the only way, truth, and life who comes to seek the lost in order to restore us to the Father. Naturally, I recognize that all analogies are imperfect and exact similarities are not to be expected but I find that using the term “heist” seems unhelpful given that the author is able to bring out the gospel message so well in retelling the parable of the prodigal son.

I would recommend this book to both believers and non-believers alike as the message of grace that is found in Jesus is necessary for all. Durso passionately urges those who still walk in sin to receive God’s unmerited grace that is freely extended to all. Despite how we blatantly reject God and head down our own sinful ways, the Father sends His Beloved unblemished Son to redeem us from the sin, guilt, and shame that we burdened ourselves with.  Furthermore, those who have already experienced such grace should be eager to extend mercy towards those who are still lost by calling them to embrace God’s grace instead of casting them away like the older brother. For all who are weary and burdened by the stranglehold of sin in their lives, now is the time to awaken to the abundant grace found in Jesus who paid the price for our sins on the cross and covered us with His blood so that we can be justified before the Father and adopted into His family.

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

Newbell on Enjoying God

“Sometimes God lets us come to the end of ourselves in order for us to enjoy more of him. That makes sense to me. When there’s nowhere else to run, we can run to our Savior. As we look to what it means to enjoy God, we are, in many ways, also losing ourselves. We gain something far greater when we are most concerned and obsessed with the One we’ll be concerned and obsessed with for all eternity.”

Trillia Newbell in Enjoy