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.

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

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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

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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

Book Review: Practicing Affirmation

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In Practicing Affirmation, Sam Crabtree asserts that affirmation should be practiced by every Christian on a regular basis. The author begins the book by arguing for the importance of affirmation from both Christian and non-Christian perspectives. Crabtree points out that the Bible is replete with commands and examples of how encouraging words can be life-infusing and character-forming. Furthermore, he uses illustrations from his work and family to illustrate how praising noble attributes of those around him led to the increase of those attributes and greater rapport overall. Although the author promotes praise-giving, he is careful to point out that such encouragements are not intended to invoke feelings of self-satisfaction or pride but to help the receiver of the praise recognize how God is working in their lives to produce good fruit. Moreover, Crabtree points to common grace that God dispenses to non-believers to act in altruist ways as something that Christians should applaud while drawing attention to God as the source of true righteousness. Next, the author devotes the middle chapters of the book to defending the practice of affirmations against those who find encouraging words to be manipulative, insincere, or ineffective. To these arguments, the author firmly advocates that timely, authentic praise reinforce what is positive in others as appropriate and helpful so long as God is the One who receives the ultimate praise. In the closing chapters, Crabtree discusses how constructive praise that is God-honouring can be given effectively. In addition, the author provides a list of pragmatic steps and applications on how to encourage those in our homes, workplaces, and church.

I would recommend this book to all Christians as we are warned repeatedly in Scripture that the tongue in an incessant fountain of evil that poisons everything and everyone near and far. By observing and praising the commendable actions of those around us, we learn to tame our tongues by identifying how God is working in others to display His attributes in tangible ways. Moreover, by taking note of exemplary characteristics and actions in those around us, we grow in our own sanctification as we strive to put on these virtues in our own lives. Crabtree offers a balanced approach in urging readers to find the praiseworthy aspects of others’ words, behaviour, or actions but ensuring that God is the One who is ultimately glorified.

Book Review: Worship

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In Worship, A.W. Tozer challenges Christians to reconsider what it means to worship the triune God who created humans to glorify and enjoy Him forever. This short book is a collection of writings and sermons that Tozer preached on the topic of worship over the decades of his ministry that are still applicable to believers today. There are several main ideas reiterated throughout the eleven sermons that summarize Tozer’s theology on worship. Firstly, Tozer reminds us that true worship is God’s calling for all those who have put their faith in Christ. Only those who have been purchased by Jesus’ blood and adopted into the family of God can lift up praises to their heavenly Father. Secondly, Tozer asserts that worship is a serious, reverent undertaking in which we humble ourselves in the presence of Him who is perfectly holy. Our worship is only acceptable to God in that we approach Him clothed in Christ’s righteousness and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Believers should be keenly aware of their unworthiness apart from Christ as we eagerly draw near to the Fountainhead of all blessings and righteousness. Thirdly, Tozer points out that worship is a Spirit-filled, passionate exercise that involves all our affections as we offer our heads, hearts, and hands to the One who is worthy of all praise and honour. Lastly, Tozer urges Christians to commit every part and moment of their lives to worship God and extol His excellencies. It is dangerous and unbiblical to compartmentalize our lives by only committing a specific day, time, or aspect of our lives to worship our King.

I would highly recommend this book to all believers as the subject of worship is vitally important to the Christian life. Many of us approach worship as a joyless duty that we must do on Sundays as we continue to breed feelings of apathy and indifference. When we harbour such irreverent attitudes towards worship, we are being unfaithful to our call as Christians who have been saved by the boundless mercy, grace, and love, of God. Moreover, we are abdicating the precious privileges and blessings of worship made available through Christ who gave His life to bring us into God’s presence. Readers of this book will find Tozer’s encouragements and warnings invaluable in spurring us to worship God in awe, reverence, and joy.

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