Book Review: Escaping Escapism

BLOG Escaping Escapism

In Escaping Escapism, Dave Griffith-Jones hopes to motivate readers to move from fear to courage through the person and work of Jesus Christ. In Chapter 1, the author discusses how escapism is rooted in a divided heart that refuses to commit to God’s ways while seeking selfish solutions that exacerbates the issue even more. Furthermore, Chapter 2 explains how fear is the fuel of escapism so that all our decisions become subject to those fears instead of the only One we should fear which is God Himself. In the next chapter, Griffith-Jones points out that the solution to fighting escapism is through Jesus who lived a perfect life in accordance with God’s will. Through His life, death, and resurrection, we are now filled with His Spirit who changes us to become more like Christ. The author highlights in Scripture how God is the One who re-creates our divided hearts to be completely devoted to Him. Moreover, we need to constantly fix our eyes on Jesus instead of focusing on the idols of our escapism. The next chapters describe how seven aspects of who Jesus is to us can stir us to courageous action. Firstly, Jesus is our refuge so we find solace and security in Him against our fears. We also know that Jesus is our shepherd so He guides us through the ups and downs of life. Moreover, Jesus is our light that illuminates the darkness in our lives and helps us to see the truth that is in Him. Next, Jesus is our portion so we can be content with all the goodness and blessings that flow from Him. Jesus is also our rock giving us a firm foundation to stand against the pressures of life. Furthermore, Jesus is our strength so we do not need to try fixing life’s troubles in our own power. Lastly, Jesus is our salvation thus our identities are rooted in Him and do not need to fear failure. In the final chapter, Griffith-Jones concludes by using the analogy of mountain climbing to describe practical steps that one can take to begin the journey away from escapism.

I recommend this book to Christians who may be gripped with fear which often breeds apathy and indifference. Many of us experience great joy when we were first converted but difficulties and troubles eventually choke all joy out of our lives and we become dominated by fear. Griffith-Jones reminds us that we are not alone treading water in the storm but have Jesus as the One who carries us through every trial and tribulation when we feel weak and helpless. This does not mean that we sit idly waiting for God to remove our troubles but rather, we move forward by constantly meditating on God’s Word, submitting ourselves to Him in prayer, and encouraging each other to carry on. Every little step that we take allows us to pursue godly initiatives that grow our love for God and others instead of satisfying our own selfish desires. When we take enough of these steps, we find that we no longer take the easy way out through escapism but progress towards greater holiness and spiritual maturity.

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Book Review: Christ Has Set Us Free

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In Christ Has Set Us Free, a group of notable pastor-scholars tackle the gospel issues that the apostle Paul presents in the book of Galatians. The book material is based on a series of messages delivered by most of the contributors along with some additional supplementary material to help provide greater context and cohesiveness. The first two chapters provide a framework for interpreting the epistle with a general introduction by Thomas Schreiner and a survey of how Reformers interpreted Galatians by Gerald Bray. The ensuing six chapters exposit the contents of the epistle in sequential order. John Piper begins in Galatians 1 in which Paul explains how his gospel is the one true gospel as given to him by Jesus Himself and that any other gospel is false. Next, Sandy Willson delves into Paul’s arguments in Galatians 2 on the sufficiency of Christ as our only means of salvation and how justification is by faith alone. The next chapter by Peter Adam focuses on Galatians 3 where Paul helps the believers recognize the deeper significance of the Old Testament laws and how it relates to God’s promises of a future new covenant that includes all peoples regardless of race, gender, or any other distinction. In addition, D.A. Carson further expounds how Paul in Galatians 4 urges believers to be free from slavery under sin by becoming slaves of Christ and righteousness. Next, Thabiti Anyabwile develops the topic of Christian freedom as found in Galatians 5 in which Paul warns against returning to the Mosaic law as a means of justification and encourages the believers to lay hold of Christian liberty through the work of the Spirit. For the last chapter of Galatians, Tim Keller examines how Paul urges the Galatians to not boast in themselves but to boast in Christ as the One who redeems and liberates us to enjoy true freedom in Christ. The final chapter of the book is by Sinclair Ferguson who gives a summary of how the epistle helps us navigate between legalism and antinomianism.

I gladly recommend this book to anyone who hopes to grasp the core messages of the book of Galatians. The contributors concentrate on explaining the most essential themes of the epistle without being entangled by scholarly arguments or hypothetical conjectures. The book of Galatians played a central role in shaping the Reformers’ rallying cry for believers to return to the true gospel and the authority of the Scriptures. The temptations to believe in alternate gospels, obey our fleshly desires, and earn our own justification are alive and well to believers today. When we fall into these temptations, we are re-enslaving ourselves when Christ has already set us free. Galatians reminds us that true freedom comes from putting on Christ and living in the power of the Spirit. When we do so, we are living according to the law of love which fulfills the entire law of God as summarized by Jesus in the first and second great commandments to love God and others.

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

Book Review: The Hand of God

BLOG The Hand of God

In The Hand of God, Alistair Begg walks readers through the events of Joseph’s life as a prime example of how God works all things for good despite the most difficult circumstances. Instead of delving into the contents of each chapter, three pertinent overarching lessons will be highlighted here. Firstly, Begg emphasizes the importance of godly character formation at an early age that gradually matures over the course of a lifetime. Despite being mistreated and sold as a young teenager, Joseph was undergirded by the theological heritage passed on down from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob so that he could respond with grace, perseverance, and integrity to adverse situations. For those of us who are parents and grandparents, we ought to focus our energies on teaching our posterity to walk in God’s ways so that they have a firm foundation to ground themselves in times of trouble. Secondly, godly patience and endurance are critical virtues of Christian maturity. Joseph’s life went through a series of ups and downs, but he never gave up hope that God would rescue him and waited patiently for that moment to arrive. We may also be subject to trials and tribulations that make us want to give up or find a convenient shortcut. However, just like Joseph, our assurance comes from our everlasting God who will carry us through each dark valley in His way and time. Thirdly, our earthly lives are pilgrimages of which heaven is our ultimate destination. Joseph made sure his descendants understood that God was going to fulfill His promises to their forefathers by asking that his body be brought with the Israelites out of Egypt when God eventually delivers them. Our short lifetimes here on earth are fleeting compared to the endless moments of eternity that we can look forward to spending before the presence of God. As such, we ought not be entangled by the cares of this world but to focus our eyes on the rich promises of God made available through Christ. As the book’s material is based on a series of sermons that the author preached, Begg expertly intertwines the gospel message in this study of Joseph’s life. Throughout the book, the author states how Joseph is a type of Christ as displayed in many instances of his life such as his suffering as a slave and prisoner, his triumph over temptations, and his forgiveness despite his brothers’ malice.

I recommend this book to all Christians who are in prolonged suffering and struggle to comprehend how God is working all things for their good. Begg encourages readers to find comfort and encouragement in the story of Joseph. In every moment of Joseph’s life, he was able to experience how God’s hands were always upon him in both the highs and the lows. What allowed Joseph to remain steadfast was his unswerving faith in God’s power and promises. Just like Joseph, we can be confident that every specific detail of our lives is within the sovereign will of our Father who cares for even sparrows. As those who are blessed with the complete revelation of God’s written Word, we have even greater assurance in knowing that God’s love and care for us is so great that He sent His Son to die for us. When the dark clouds of tribulation obstruct our vision, let us grasp the pierced hands of Jesus who will never let us go.

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

Book Review: Parenting with Words of Grace

BLOG Parenting with Words

In Parenting with Words of Grace, William Smith urges parents to use words wisely to grow their relationships with their children. Smith explains how our mouth is the primary instrument by which we interact with God and those around us. As such, the words we choose to utter need to be carefully balanced with truth and love. Furthermore, Smith reminds parents that their role is to represent God in responding to their children when they walk in godliness or fall into sinfulness. Each conversation’s aim is to enable our kids to recognize their sinful hearts and their need for a Saviour. The author agrees that using our words intentionally to build up our children is hard work that takes much effort and time. However, our motivation and encouragement come from God who never grows weary in seeking us and giving us more grace when we ourselves fail. Moreover, the author warns parents against simply pursuing behavioural change as such change is not enduring. Rather, we should look to guide our children in experiencing and responding to God’s grace which is truly transformational. Parents ought to be quick in dispensing encouragement by identifying God’s work in their children’s lives and purposefully aiding their children to grow in areas where they are lacking. Conversely, parents ought not to speak hurtful, demeaning words that tear down the child’s spirit and cast God in a negative light. This does not mean that parents should avoid confronting their children’s disobedience. However, this is done not by using harsh words to guilt or shame the child but by acting as a mirror to help the child perceive the situation accurately. In doing so, we are not trying to impose our own selfish ways on how we think the child should act but to shed light on the situation and provide guidance on how to respond in a God-honouring way. In speaking honestly with our children, we are showing them that we care about them and that we ourselves also need the Spirit’s power to grow in godliness.

I gladly recommend this book to Christian parents who feel challenged in using their words to build up their children. Indeed, the same principles that Smith offers to parents would be applicable to all Christian who want to grow in the gospel. As much as we feel that we are more spiritually advanced than our children, our shared need for Jesus to help us defeat sin and live in holiness is identical. Smith reminds us that parents are not trying to grow miniature versions of themselves but to nurture their children into becoming godly image-bearers who will eventually become their spiritual peers. Thus, parents and their children are walking together to experience the forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love that God bountifully lavishes upon us through His Son. Our daily conversations with our kids are invitations for them to run to our Saviour who always speaks truth to us through His Spirit and His Word.

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

Book Review: The Love of Loves in the Song of Songs

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In The Love of Loves in the Song of Songs, Philip Ryken brings readers on a tour through the Song of Songs to gain a deeper understanding of love, marriage, and the gospel. The central premise is that the Songs of Songs offers us a guide on God’s design for marriage in this world and the next. More specifically, the marriage covenant in its earthly form is a signpost towards the heavenly marriage between Christ and His church. Ryken discusses each chapter of the Song of Songs in detail and brings out important truths critical to all Christian believers whether married or single. Firstly, the author emphasizes the communal aspect of having godly, experienced Christian believers guiding couples who are contemplating marriage. Secular society views marriage as a personal affair between two individuals which can easily become self-serving and sinful. In our relationships with others and with Christ, we also need the watchful care of mature believers to ensure we are walking in God’s ways. Secondly, Ryken points out that intimacy should be in the context of marriage and not before it. Many temptations can arise when two believers are in such bliss that they neglect the lurking dangers of sinful desires. Sexual sins are forgivable by the grace of God but Ryken urges believers to stay far from flirting with sexual temptations. Moreover, we need to maintain our purity in our relationship with Christ by actively abstaining from arousing sinful desires and fleeing from temptations. In addition, the author states that marriage is not merely about physical intimacy and sexual union but also the union of friendship and companionship between the two lovers. Ryken takes a careful approach by not viewing the Song of Songs as an allegory or narrative but as a love poem that describes the joy of love and marriage. By doing so, the author avoids incompatible and unnatural interpretations of the text while drawing out valuable observations that implicate our relationships with others and Christ.

I recommend this book to all those who feel discouraged by how far culture has departed from the ideal marriage depicted in the Song of Songs. The beautiful imagery of the progression from two strangers to oneness in marriage between the lover and his beloved re-orients us to God’s design for marriage. Furthermore, when we properly reframe our perspective of human love and intimacy through Scripture, we can gain a greater understanding of the steadfast covenantal love that God has for His people. No matter how many times we fail to be the perfect wife worthy of the perfect groom, God never ceases in covering us with His grace and mercy when we turn to Him for forgiveness and acceptance. Ryken asserts that Jesus is the key by which we unlock the treasures of this love poem to cure the longing in our souls for intimacy and love. This is because Jesus is the perfect Lover who sacrificed Himself so that we can be joined to Him forever when He returns to marry His bride.

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

Book Review: Parenting with Loving Correction

blog parenting with loving correction

In Parenting with Loving Correction, Sam Crabtree argues for the necessity of raising children with love, care, and discipline. The author asserts that proper discipline is a critical means by which we bring up children to become mature Christians that contribute to the church and society. Crabtree defines discipline as being the corrective response of a parent to steer a child towards compliance of established standards whenever the child’s behaviour, actions, or words contravene those pre-determined requirements. The first part of the book explains why discipline is so crucial to child-rearing and the profound implications of appropriate discipline throughout a child’s life. Next, the second part discusses the building blocks to proper discipline: ensuring discipline is God-centered, speaking truth in all circumstances, and rewarding obedience instead of disobedience. In the final part, the author shares pragmatic advice on how to handle general and specific situations with godly discipline. There are several nuggets of wisdom that the author insists upon throughout the book worth highlighting. Firstly, Crabtree argues that discipline must be dispensed quickly so that the child knows the parent is serious about addressing misbehaviour. This includes not allowing children to hijack the teaching moment by bickering, negotiating, or redirecting the core issue at hand which is disobedience. Secondly, the author urges parents to clearly outline what acceptable behaviour is, stick to the established standard, and follow through with the corrective action without deviation. By doing so, children will know what is expected of them and have no excuse for ignorance or forgetfulness. Thirdly, despite the book’s main focus on parenting with firm discipline, Crabtree emphasizes that generous positive affirmation at all times is just as important in shaping and growing parent-child relationships. Lastly, Crabtree states that discipline is no substitute for transformational heart change that comes from the Spirit regenerating young hearts to respond to the gospel. However, this is no excuse for abandoning corrective discipline prior to and after a child’s profession of faith.

I greatly recommend this book to all parents but especially to those who have young children as discipline is critical in the early stages of a child’s life. In our current culture, disciplining children is often viewed negatively as being abusive or harmful to the development of the child. Moreover, many parents tend to fear that corrective discipline will irreparably damage their relationship with their children. Contrary to such attitudes, Crabtree argues that when we do not discipline our children in the fear of the Lord, we are being unfaithful to our call as stewards of God’s gifts to us. Furthermore, we are also harming our children’s view of the authority of God and other legitimate authorities in their lives may it be teachers, bosses, or government officials. In doing so, children grow up to become adults who are malicious and spiteful towards anyone or anything that attempts to correct or subdue them. By administering consistent, appropriate discipline and lavishing loving affirmation, parents are fulfilling God’s will to use them as His primary agents to raise children who will honour, praise, and glorify Him.

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

Book Review: The Rule of Love

BLOG The Rule of Love

In The Rule of Love, Jonathan Leeman argues that love and authority are two terms that belong together which is a decidedly different viewpoint than what society upholds today. The author first describes how love is being redefined in our culture as being unrestrained acceptance towards everyone and everything so long as no one is offended and the individuals involved are happy. Leeman then moves on to discuss how love has been defined historically by theologians and how some distorted views have shaped liberal Christianity’s adherence to unconditional agape love as the gold standard of Christian love. The author agrees that unconditional love is an indispensable aspect of Christian love but contends that agape love is only one dimension of the love that God displays in Himself and to His creatures. Leeman expands his arguments by first examining the nature of God’s love in the context of the Trinity as being both self-exalting and self-giving at the same time. Next, the author addresses God’s love for sinners and how such love is best described as being contra-conditional rather than unconditional as our forgiveness is through the blood of Jesus in which we acquire His righteousness while He takes on our sins. Thus, our love for others should be God-centered and God-glorifying so that we yearn for what is best for others in considering what God is doing in their lives. As the book’s target audience is the local church, Leeman moves on to outline his vision of what the local church can do to practically show love to both its members and nonbelievers. The final two chapters ties in how law, judgment, and authority are all essential to exhibiting true love within the covenant community of the local church.

I would recommend this book to all Christians as the challenge to love others while upholding truth requires courage and wisdom that comes from God. Believers who desire to uphold the orthodox Christian faith are often viewed as being bigoted, old-fashioned, and intolerant. Even within the local church, there are frequent disagreements over the process of disciplining church members and whether such actions are indeed loving. Leeman argues that to truly love someone is to desire for the other person’s good for the sake of God’s glory. To love others as God loves us is the sincere hope that the individual grows in spiritual maturity and Christlikeness. The path towards spiritual growth is through the Spirit and Word of God which requires obedience, surrender, and submission. In the context of the local church, this will include exhortation, correction, and rebuke that is rooted in God-centered love. By doing so, the body of Christ seeks to reflect God’s holy love in actions of judgement and authority so that its members are growing in holiness which results in God gaining the ultimate glory.

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