Gibson on Enjoyment without God

“Endless enjoyment does not come in the box with your iPhone— if it did, why have you been considering that upgrade? Enjoyment is not automatically part of sex. It is not on the keyring to your dream house. It doesn’t ride with you on the passenger seat in your new car. We all know what it is like to have tasted the best life has to offer and still to be left wondering what comes next.”

David Gibson in Living Life Backwards

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Book Review: The Master’s Mind

BLOG The Masters Mind

In The Master’s Mind, Lance Hahn urges Christians to defend their minds from the attacks of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Hahn highlights how our thoughts are critical in shaping how we interact with the circumstances and people that we encounter daily. The author asserts that the best way to protect our minds is to actively put off our sinful old ways and take on life-giving thoughts through Scriptural truth and God-centered thinking. Hahn then outlines strategies that believers can use to equip themselves to counter strikes. For example, the author mentions Ephesians 6 in its depiction of the combat attire that Christians need to protect themselves from Satan’s attacks. Another strategy is to run away from temptation like Joseph and not allow our fleshly desires to gain a foothold. The most beneficial takeaway is the point Hahn makes on how we need to firmly grasp our new identity in Christ. Through Jesus, we can live victoriously and courageously as we have died to our old selves and are now a new creation.

Although the author’s ideas are helpful and practical, I am wary of one suggestion Hahn makes in how we should think spiritual realities into actual realities (i.e. think as if you were victorious over a particular temptation). It seems to me that the author is mixing up biblical promises and gospel declarations with a psychological technique to wish things into existence. Furthermore, despite the valuable insights Hahn provides, he seems to have misplaced Scripture’s emphasis on what fuels our motivations as being the mind rather than the heart. Throughout the Bible, we see that the chief issue is whether our hearts are set upon worshipping idols or on the one true God. I am not arguing that we should not be careful of what comes across our minds or that we need to train our minds to be in tune with the Holy Spirit and Scripture. However, the more pressing issue is the loyalty of our hearts as we cannot think, reason, or argue our way to holiness. We need the transforming power of the Spirit to change our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. It is the work of the Holy Spirit and the truth of Scripture that continues to sanctify our hearts until we enter into glory. Without a heart attuned to Christ, all forms and techniques will fall short and we will experience no freedom from the barrage of attacks that Satan and our flesh assails.

I would recommend this book with caution and urge readers to consider what Scripture says about our sanctification. The author offers many valid observations and tips that are largely constructive but the main premise seems to be anchored in the wrong assumption of what steers our motivations. If we concentrate on trying to make improvements to our thinking without changing our heart’s desires, we can only expect frustration and despair. Godly living does require deliberate actions and hard work but we need to first admit our inability and call to Him to rescue and restore us through Christ. It is only when we flee to Christ and submit ourselves wholly to God that we can experience true transformation and obedient hearts.

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

Book Review: Jesus

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In Jesus, A.W. Tozer invites Christians to gain a greater understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ. These selected writings span a wide range of theological concepts that are critical for believers to grasp hold of. Tozer reminds us that Christ exists eternally as the second Person of the Trinity who is the exact imprint of the Father. Moreover, Jesus created all things and continually sustains His creation for His glory and honour. As the Son of God, He reveals to us the Father and dwelt among us in human flesh but without losing His divinity. As the Son of Man, He came to sympathize with our condition and took upon Himself our sins and weaknesses as the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. In addition, He has become our Mediator as the One who obeyed the law perfectly and offered His blood as propitiation to make us right with God. Furthermore, by the Spirit’s power, He resurrected from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father ruling over all. Although Christ has ascended into heaven, He is still always present with us through His Spirit and in His handiworks. Lastly, we have the glorious hope in knowing that Jesus will return and re-create the world where He will rule as King forever.

I would heartily recommend this book as the selected topics are vital to the cultivation of a robust spiritual life. Christology is one of the most crucial theological doctrines since the Christian life is utterly dependent on person and work of Jesus Christ. Tozer’s reflections and pastoral concerns are just as important to believers today as doctrinal and cultural attacks on Christianity most often involve rejections or distortions of Christ as presented to us in the Bible. We need to embrace Jesus as the perfect God-man who has always existed with the Father and Spirit but chose to put on human nature as part of God’s divine redemption plan. Tozer shows us that He is Creator, Sustainer, Benefactor, Miracle Worker, Saviour, Offering, Lord, Remedy, Mediator, and Priest. When we continuously meditate on what Scripture teaches us about Christ, we will enjoy sweeter fellowship with God and aim to walk blameless lives to prepare ourselves to meet our King.

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

Book Review: I’d Like You More if You Were More like Me

BLOG I'd Like You More

In I’d Like You More if You Were More like Me, John Ortberg analyzes what true intimacy means and how we can grow deeper in our relationships with God and others. In the first five chapters, the author discusses why intimacy is important along with common misconceptions and challenges of establishing intimacy in our daily interactions. Ortberg demonstrates using biblical and everyday examples that the human urge for deep, heartfelt connections is part of God’s design for us. However, due to our fallen nature, we often choose to fulfill our own selfish desires and ambitions thereby failing to honour those around us as intimacy is a two-way road. Moreover, our culture and society try to convince us to find intimacy and connectedness through illegitimate substitutes such as adulterous relationships and unbridled consumerism. In the remaining chapters, Ortberg touches on how intimacy should be pursued in different situations and offers practical advice on changes we can make to improve those relationships. One chapter that was particularly challenging for me involves how suffering builds intimacy. The author states that times of suffering can become opportunities in which we can extend empathy and foster openness to those experiencing sickness and loss. Ortberg points to how Christ came to encounter and transform the lives of rejected, shamed people as the prime example of how we can also approach those yearning for intimacy in their most turbulent times.

I would recommend this book to all Christians as we witness our relationships grow increasingly disconnected despite being in a digitally connected era. The root of our disconnectedness lies in our sinful nature which cause us to be concerned of our own interests instead of those around us. We are often afraid to connect with others as we fear how people will view of our real selves while also fearing what we will have to deal with if others reveal their deepest thoughts and feelings. However, Christ came to remove the shame, guilt, and disgrace of sin and restore our relationship with God. Thus, it is only when we are intimately connected to Christ that we can establish peaceful, thriving relationships with those around us. Intimacy will always be a struggle as we battle our fleshly desires but God’s love fills and compels us to extend grace and mercy to everyone despite the costs, risks, and dangers of being vulnerable to fellow sinners.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a book review.

Book Review: Counsel from the Cross

BLOG Counsel from the Cross

In Counsel from the Cross, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson aim to help Christians rediscover the beauty and glory of the gospel and its implications to our daily lives. The book is intended to introduce Christian counsellors, pastors, and laypeople to counselling others and themselves through the good news of Jesus Christ. Fitzpatrick and Johnson point out that many Christians try to frame their lives based on the obligations and imperatives of the law instead of laying hold of the declarations and promises found in God’s grace. The result is that we easily succumb to the dangers of either seeing ourselves as being much more lovable than we ought to or viewing ourselves as being completely unlovable at all. Although the two views seem distinct opposites, they are both forms of self-righteousness that puts our own works as the means to attain God’s love. On the contrary, the authors argue that we need to constantly reflect and contemplate on the person and work of Christ as He is the One who have given us new identities as redeemed, forgiven children of God. We can confidently face every trial and temptation by relying on the righteousness of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Christians are not free from sin and failure but we can cling on to Christ who will surely keep and sustain us to the end. The latter chapters of the book are immensely practical with real-world examples of how a Christian who embraces the grace, hope, and love found in the gospel can find comfort, mercy, and motivation to grow in holiness. The concluding pages include four helpful appendixes of which Appendix 2 is particularly helpful as a list of Bible passages applicable to a host of common topics encountered during counselling.

I recommend this book to all Christians who are struggling to embrace the freedom and power of living in the gospel. The authors provide an accessible framework to help readers understand how biblical counsel is effective only when one views all of life in light of the gospel and the Bible. The good news of Jesus not only saves us from sin, Satan, and death, but also energizes and empowers us to live holy lives to God’s glory. When habitual sins overcome us and make us despair, we are forgetting our identity as forgiven sinners lavished with His unchanging, everlasting love. It is not up to our feeble efforts to keep us holy but it is entirely through Christ and His Spirit that we find assurance for our justification and progress in our sanctification. When we encounter those who are in despair or disappointment over their sins, we can confidently point them towards the cross as the enduring symbol of God’s love and grace that not only saves us but sustains and empowers us to live for Him.

Durson on Grace and Sin

“Let’s be clear here. There are no degrees of behavior or, more directly, sin. In God’s eyes sin is sin, which is why grace is freely given. You and I were never good; we were never good enough to receive what God has for us. He does not move faster to forgive the pastor than he would an adulterer. This logic does not exist in God’s economy, and because of our earthly logic, some of us take issue with such equal treatment. When we struggle with God’s desire and ability to forgive what we might classify as big sins and small sins and the fact that He forgives all who have fallen short, then we ultimately have an issue with grace. If we can’t give grace, then we certainly do not have an understanding of the grace we have been given.”

Chris Durso in The Heist