Book Review: Reformation Theology

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In Reformation Theology, Matthew Barrett along with a host of reformed scholars offer a summary of the major areas of reformation thought in the sixteenth century. Focusing primarily on the magisterial reformers, the authors paint a vivid picture of the multifaceted dimensions of the theologies of the main reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Bucer, and Melanchthon. However, the authors do also take efforts to interact with the thinking and influences of related parties including the early church fathers, the medieval Roman church, and the radical Reformers along with other reformation movements in England, France, and Scotland. The chapters explore key topics including justification by faith, union with Christ, and the sacraments while also looking at lesser considered areas such as the reformers’ views on eschatology and the image of God. Each topic is prefaced by an overview of the historical, social, and theological contours before delving into the core issues. Moreover, instead of examining all the different nuances of each subject, the authors chose to interact with the most influential voices such as Calvin’s Institutes and the Reformed confessions. In addition to the many useful footnotes at the bottom of each page, there are lengthy lists of primary and secondary resources at the end for readers to access for further information.  The one drawback of the book in focusing so narrowly on the first and second generation reformers is that there is substantial amount of informational overlap in the sources and ideas presented among the different chapters. Nevertheless, this book serves as an accessible introduction to both laypeople and students alike as the authors are largely successful in condensing the material to concentrate on the most essential aspects of each topic.

I would most definitely recommend this book to those who are unfamiliar with the key issues at stake in the Reformation. A good understanding of our Protestant heritage is important for contemporary believers who often are not even familiar with the history of their own denominations. By studying how the reformers worked out doctrinal issues in the sixteenth century, we can gain greater knowledge and perspective in how we can face challenges to those same controversies, albeit in a different form, in the twenty-first century. Furthermore, we can come to a greater appreciation of the massive struggles, tensions, and sacrifices of those who have gone before us to recapture the vital truths of the Christian faith.

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

Book Review: Alive in Him

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In Alive in Him, Gloria Furman brings her readers on a journey to uncover the deep spiritual truths found in the book of Ephesians. Furman argues that the primary theme of Ephesians is that Jesus Christ is the one who unites all things in Himself both in the present age and in the age to come. Moreover, this theme unfolds with the first three chapters describing the basis of our new identity in Christ and the last three chapters addressing how to live out our new humanity in the light of the gospel. Instead of a verse-by-verse analysis, Furman chooses to focus on the major themes in each chapter thereby allowing readers to appreciate Ephesians as one cohesive letter as it was originally intended. The most important point that Furman makes is that everything in the universe has been subjected to Christ who will one day come and finally unite all things in Himself. When we view all things with this mindset, we gain great comfort and confidence that no matter what happens to us, victory has been secured through Jesus. We who were spiritually dead have now been raised through the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead and now inherit all the spiritual blessings that belong to Him. Furthermore, with Christ as the head, those who are redeemed, regardless of race, nationality, or class, are now one united body that wars against Satan through God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.

I would recommend this book to all those who want to be introduced or re-introduced to the magnificence of Christ and His gospel. I personally love the book of Ephesians very much and Furman has further ignited my appreciation of the vastness and depth of the gospel truths found in this epistle. Even though we were enemies of God, we are now adopted members of His household through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Because of our new identity purchased through the blood of Jesus, we can find peace and assurance in life’s most difficult trials or most trivial moments. Not only has Christ defeated Satan, sin, and death on the cross, He continues to subject all things under His feet until He returns. Moreover, He does not leave us helpless as we wait for His return but gives us His Spirit to protect, teach, and guide us on our paths towards holiness and spiritual maturity.

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

Book Review: This Changes Everything

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In This Changes Everything, Jaquelle Crowe hopes to encourage Christian teens to live all of life through the power of the gospel. Young Christians often think that what they do now is either insignificant or meaningless. However, Crow argues that the adolescent years are critical to the formation of a mature Christian life. The author reminds that all who have been saved and redeemed by God from death to life by the precious blood of His Son can no longer live the same way regardless of one’s stage in life. In each chapter, Crowe highlights a specific arena in life such as our community, habits, and relationships that need to be transformed in light of our blood-bought status in Christ. For example, in Chapter 8, Crowe discusses how our relationships with parents, siblings, and friends are no longer self-focused and self-serving but should instead be marked with humility and love for the other party. Even our relationships with the opposite gender is to be characterized by purity, respect, and honour. At the end of each chapter, there are dozens of practical suggestions that readers can try as they begin the process of submitting every thought, word, and deed to bring glory to God.

I would gladly recommend this book to young Christians looking for ways to genuinely live out their faith in all spheres of life. Although meant for a younger audience, the book’s challenge to live in a disciplined, Christ-centered way is applicable and necessary for all those who follow Jesus. As a young adult, Crowe’s honesty about her own struggles in following Christ faithfully makes the book relevant and attractive to teenaged Christians who face similar challenges. Instead of wasting those precious years of youth, now is the time for young Christians to take their walk with God seriously and develop godly habits to carry over into their adult lives. Even for those beyond their teen years, it is not too late to begin living abundant, gospel-driven lives as God always provides grace and mercy to those who seek Him. May we consecrate every moment of our lives to bring God all the glory that belongs to Him alone.

Book Review: The Berenstain Bears Friendship Blessings Collection

BLOG Berenstain Bears Friendship Blessings Collection

In The Berenstain Bears Friendship Blessings Collection, Jan and Mike Berenstain writes five stories revolving around the Bear family to teach precious life lessons from a Christian worldview. Each story is prefaced by a Bible verse and concludes with a series of questions that recap the story’s main idea and suggestions for further action to reinforce the lessons taught. In The Perfect Fishing Spot, the story speaks to the need to heed wise advice. In Reap the Harvest, Brother and Sister take on a summer job and earn money from their hard work. In Faithful Friends, Sister learns the lesson of making new friends and treasuring old ones. In Kindness Counts, Brother meets a young friend and mentors him just as Papa did with him. In God Made You Special, Brother and Sister meet a new friend and learn how to accept each person’s uniqueness. The stories are suitable for young readers in the early elementary grades and toddlers reading along with their parents.

I would recommend this book to young readers who love reading the adventures of the Bear family. In addition to bright illustrations and well-constructed plotlines, the stories are embedded with valuable life lessons that are important for children to internalize at a young age. Instead of simply writing stories with Christian values, I appreciate how even the characters’ conversations include quotes from the Bible which helps children understand how God’s Word is integral to our everyday lives.

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

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

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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.