Book Review: The Good Book

Nearly every home in America owns a Bible. However, surveys and statistics from various sources show biblical illiteracy is present in our culture and even in our churches. In other words, people may have Bibles laying around at home but those Bibles are not being opened in their hands. What biblical illiteracy leads to is a group of people Deron Spoo, pastor and author, calls ignostic, “someone who is ignorant about the subject of God” (Spoo 15). This is one of the reasons for which Deron Spoo set forth to write a resource to teach people the message of the Bible. The result is The Good Book: 40 Chapters That Reveal the Bible’s Biggest Ideas.

In The Good Book, Pastor Spoo lays out 40 chapters broken into eight sections, with each section containing five different selections of Scripture. In such a brief work, he makes it clear from the beginning, “we’ll focus on the best-known passages of Scripture that form the basis of the faith” (Spoo 17). While he refers to the book as a guidebook to the Bible, he admits the depths are too deep to be explored in such a concise volume. Nevertheless, Deron Spoo serves the reader as a guide, leading them through the story of the Bible.

The Good Book by Deron Spoo is ideal for Bible beginners who are looking to understand the Bible in perspective and its passages in context. While the more experienced Bible reader may benefit (Spoo 18), the primary audience for this book is for those who do not have a great amount of knowledge of God’s Word. The book is easy-to-read, featuring concise and compact chapters, making it a fit for devotional time. Each chapter does impress upon the reader the need to apply the passage they are studying. I would greatly encourage the reader to follow the practice Pastor Spoo describes, “read the Bible selections first. Each chapter will take about five minutes to read. Then, after reading the entire Bible passage, read my brief exploration of that passage. Finally, I encourage you to reread the Bible chapter with the benefit of knowing more about the context and content” (Spoo 19).

The book does not come without critique, though. Two in particular are worth mentioning. The first concerns the point of the book. The subtitle to The Good Book states the book contains 40 chapters that reveal the Bible’s biggest ideas. While it is certainly true many of the Bible’s biggest ideas are expounded upon in the volume, his choice of a passage like Judges 16 reveals his philosophy. To be fair, he does state the focus of the book will be “on the best-known passages of Scripture” (Spoo 17) and his choice of Bible portions are more art than science (Spoo 18). The issue is the subtitle could have been rephrased to fit the book’s philosophy. Something like 40 Chapters that Put the Bible’s Best-Known Passages in Context (or Perspective) may have worked just as well.

The first critique is a minor detail. The second critique is a matter of understanding God’s Word. Deron Spoo wants to point the reader to the Bible’s biggest ideas and even says himself, “The Bible, from the first word to the last, points to the person of Jesus” (Spoo 21). What he says in theory, he fails to do consistently in practice. He teaches on Genesis 3 but makes no comment on the promise of Genesis 3:15. In 1 Samuel 17, he mentions the importance of David in the Bible, but he fails to mention how this event points to the greater David, Jesus Christ. Although the author does not describe how the passage points to Christ in those instances, in other places (Genesis 22, for instance) he does briefly draw the connection to Christ. If all of Scripture points to Jesus, wouldn’t it make sense to see how each chapter’s big idea leads us to the biggest idea of all, Jesus Christ?

Even with these critiques, The Good Book by Deron Spoo is a good resource to put into the hands of Bible beginners who are seeking to grow in their understanding of the Word of God.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from David C Cook via Litfuse Publicity Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

If interested in learning more about this resource, click here.

Book Review: Forensic Faith

As a pastor, it gives me great joy to share with people the hope of the gospel. As a young adult, I realize my generation and culture is skeptical and even hostile to Christianity. To their honest questions and to their objections, how am I to respond? I want them to know this hope but what do I do with their opposition? Sadly, too often in the church we have not taken seriously the questions posed. However, if we believe the Christian faith to be true, we must be willing to defend the faith. There are answers to skeptic’s questions and there are responses to their objections. Our faith is not based on mere experience but is affirmed by compelling evidence. As Christians, we should see it as our calling to know our faith and defend our faith with evidential faith. But where do we begin? The answer is J. Warner Wallace’s Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith.

In Forensic Faith, cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace puts forth his final work in a trilogy teaching Christians and non-Christians alike of the evidence for God’s existence and the Christian faith in particular. Yet, this third volume does not merely teach. Rather, Detective Wallace takes us behind the scenes and trains Christians to live out their calling as Christian case makers. In order to “embrace and model a forensic faith” (Wallace 59) Christians need to follow the example of Christ and throughout church history (chapter 1), to be trained in serving others and protecting the faith (chapter 2), to put into practice skills to be a Christian case maker (chapter 3), and to carry out the principles to share what Christians believe and why they believe it (chapter 4). These necessities are just the start. It is also helpful to be assisted with answers to common challenges (“Rebuttal Notes”) and to be given recommended resources to help equip you further (“Evidence Locker”).

Mr. Wallace goes beyond teaching; he trains and equips the Christian to be a case maker for the faith. He shows the Christian faith is not accidental belief but evidential belief. Throughout the book, Wallace lists profiles of people who have exhibited forensic faith as well as giving definitions, challenges, and assignments. These elements, in addition to the chapters overall, will show the Christian the importance of forensic faith and how they can be a Christian case maker. What the author puts forth is a case-making approach for evangelism.

If you are a believer who desires to see people know the hope of Christ, then getting equipped in Forensic Faith by J. Warner Wallace is for you. If you are a curious skeptic to the Christian faith, allow J. Warner Wallace to walk you through the steps revealing the Christian faith as an evidential faith. Simply put, this book serves both the Christian believer and the skeptic. In a day and age where young people are asking questions and considering leaving the faith, this resource by J. Warner Wallace prepares us to take on the challenge.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from David C Cook via Litfuse Publicity Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Check out the book trailer here and purchase the book here.

Book Review: Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted

Our culture finds itself amid a sexual revolution. We see the acceptance of same-sex marriage and the openness to transgenderism. For those who hold to the truth of the Bible, we know what God’s Word says and we know we must call sin what it is. Within the church, however, this is where we are tempted to stop. We are clear in our biblical teaching on sin concerning homosexuality and transgenderism. But we need to also share the hope people who struggle with these sins can find in Jesus Christ. A man who has struggled with same-sex-attraction himself, Pastor Ron Citlau sees the need to share this hope. That is why he has written Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted: Biblical Direction for Friends, Family Members, and Those Struggling with Homosexuality.

In this work by Citlau, his aim “is to show the rich provisions available for the same-sex struggler who wants to follow Jesus” (Citlau 23). To make his point, he divides the book up into two sections. In part one he lists out the obstacles that stand in the way of God’s gift for the same-sex-attracted. These obstacles include gay Christian identity (chapter 1), gay marriage (chapter 2), and the spiritual friendship movement (chapter 3). With the obstacles exposed, the next step is to recognize the gifts the same-sex struggler can embrace. Ron Citlau mentions five gifts: the church (chapter 4), healing communities and Christian therapy (chapter 5), singleness (chapter 6), marriage (chapter 7), and prayerful lament (chapter 8). The book closes with final thoughts for both church leaders (chapter 9) and a word of hope for the same-sex-attracted (chapter 10).

Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted is a clear resource for Christians as they think through how to care for those who struggle with same-sex attraction. What Ron Citlau puts forth in his book calls Christian leaders and the Christian same-sex struggler to hold to biblical conviction while also calling Christian leaders to show Christlike compassion. In his note to church leaders, Citlau says, “Don’t just learn the issue; be part of the gospel solution” (Citlau 155). While there are portions of the book where I may not have seen eye-to-eye with the author in theology or practice, chapter 5 in particular, one must commend this book on putting forth a solution and not merely stating the issue. Moreover, maybe the most foundational chapter of the book is the opening chapter on the obstacle of gay Christian identity. At the heart of the sexual revolution is this matter of identity. Pastor Citlau calls for a biblical corrective on identity by showing gay Christian identity to be an obstacle, not a gift, to the same-sex struggler. In his section on gifts, the most profound chapter may be the gift of prayerful lament (chapter 8). For the same-sex attracted who struggle and it appears there is no end in sight, this chapter is helpful. Throughout the book, the purpose of transformation in the context of the church community is where the same-sex attracted will be directed toward hope.

Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted lays out a biblical vision where true gospel transformation can happen. This book is for the same-sex attracted who seeks to live according to the Word of God even as they struggle and this book is a call for the church to be Christians of conviction and compassion.

I received this book for free from Bethany House for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Examining Ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-34)

I have always been intrigued by the job of a detective. Pieces of evidence and details people may gloss over detectives stop and study. They take a closer look, examining the material. Their purpose in doing this is to find something that will expose the person guilty of the crime. Now, translate the work of a detective to Christians partaking in the Lord’s Supper. As Christians, we must hear the Apostle Paul’s exhortation, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (11:28). In other words, before we partake of remembering and proclaiming Christ by eating the bread and drinking cup, we need to examine our hearts. The reason we ought to examine ourselves is to see if there is any unconfessed sin in our lives. If there is unconfessed sin, the proper response is to repent of it. We are to do the work of a detective, if you will, by studying and examining our own hearts. If we refuse to examine and repent, then we partake in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner (11:27). This does not come without consequences. These consequences of partaking unworthily speak to the significance of the Lord’s Supper.

What exactly are such results? In two words: guilt and judgment. For the person who eats the bread and drinks the cup without examining their heart, the word of the Lord says that person is guilty concerning the very thing they are supposed to be remembering and proclaiming in taking the Lord’s Supper (11:27). Put another way, in the Lord’s Supper we, Christians, remember and proclaim the death of Christ. When we partake of the elements in an unworthy manner we sin, revealing our guilt. Moreover, the Christian who fails to examine themselves eats and drinks judgment on themselves. For the Corinthians, the unexamined issue was around church unity and caring for others in the body of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 11:17–22, 33–34). Although division was the specific concern Paul addressed in the Corinthian church, any unconfessed sin leads to partaking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. Whatever the sin may be, what is this judgment one eats and drinks upon themselves? It is the disciplinary judgment of God (11:31–32). For Christians, they are in Christ and cannot be condemned as unbelievers in the world (see Romans 8:1). However, a follower of Christ does face the discipline of God when they have unrepentant sin in their life (see Hebrews 12:6). Simply put, to neglect examining yourself before partaking in the Lord’s Supper is to bring the disciplinary judgment of God upon yourself. For the Corinthians, this disciplinary judgment took the form of weakness, illness, and even death (11:30). For us, it may take a different form. We may not become physically ill and may not die, but there will most assuredly be serious consequences.

Therefore, the next time you partake in the Lord’s Supper, examine your heart and life. The purpose of taking the elements, the bread and cup, is to remember and proclaim the death of Christ, not to bring the judgment of God upon yourself (11:34). In examining ourselves and repenting if need be, we honor the Lord by taking His Supper in a worthy manner.

Reflection Questions:

  • How does 1 Corinthians 11:27-34 relate to the significance of the Lord’s Supper?
  • Why is it important to examine yourself before you partake of the bread and the cup in the Lord’s Supper?

This post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

Remember and Proclaim (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

If two people say they love each other, then what is the proper step for them to take to declare that love publicly? The proper step is a wedding ceremony. In the wedding ceremony, the couple exchanges vows, verbalizing their commitment to one another. While not all vows are taken seriously, the wedding ceremony should be the occasion where the meaning of marriage and the significance of marriage is made known. Matters like this are not limited to wedding ceremonies, though. Within the church, a ceremony exists. This ceremony is an ordinance known as the Lord’s Suppe or communion. The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is not to be taken without understanding the meaning and significance of the event. If we fail to understand and apply what the Lord’s Supper means, we will fail to be taking the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Corinthians 11:20). The Apostle Paul knew this and that is why in his letter to the Corinthian church he takes space to remind and exhort the Christians in Corinth to realize the meaning and significance.

The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper: Remember and Proclaim

Before we can consider the significance of the Lord’s Supper (as we will look at next week), we need to grasp the meaning of it. This meaning precedes Paul and takes us back to the words of Jesus. In Matthew 26 we read Jesus and His disciples were making preparations to eat the Passover meal. It was within that context the Lord Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26–29). How does knowing that contribute to the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Well, the Passover meal was instituted by God to the people of Israel for His act of deliverance and redemption for them as they were delivered from Pharaoh and Egyptian slavery. With the Passover meal the Israelites were to remember and proclaim their redemption from Egypt (see Exodus 12:14, 25–27). Put simply, in celebrating the Passover the people of Israel remembered and proclaimed.

What Jesus does with His disciples in the Lord’s Supper, then, is He institutes a new Passover meal. The purpose of this new Passover meal is for the same purpose, to remember and to proclaim, but on a greater scale. The deliverance and redemption were not merely from physical slavery and oppression. The deliverance and redemption in this new meal was from spiritual slavery and oppression, sin and death.

How would this deliverance and redemption occur? For that, we look to the elements used to remember and proclaim. The bread and wine cup are meant to represent and symbolize the body and blood of Jesus. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “the Lord Jesus…took bread, and when he has given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (11:23–25). The bread we partake in the Lord’s Supper is meant to symbolize the body of the One who was put to death on a cross in our place. Jesus took the punishment we deserved for our sin and He absorbed the wrath of God that we may be forgiven. By the blood of Jesus we can enter into a New Covenant. This New Covenant does what the Old Covenant was not able to provide (see Romans 3:20). In the New Covenant, God gives a new heart and puts a new spirit in all who believe in Him (Jeremiah 31:31; Ezekiel 36:26–27). This means by which this can occur is through the blood of Jesus Christ.

In partaking of the bread and the cup, we not only remember the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross. We also proclaim it. The Apostle Paul continues, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (11:26). All who partake in the Lord’s Supper, that is those who have repented of their sin and have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, make a proclamation. When they take the Lord’s Supper with others Christians in the church gathering, they are proclaiming the death and, by implication, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The bread and cup portray what Christ has done for those who believe in Him. Those who believe in Him, then, proclaim until Christ returns what He has accomplished on the cross. His death on the cross was not the end, however. He has risen from the dead and He is coming back. We proclaim Him and what He has done in the gospel while we anticipate His return. That is what we remember and proclaim.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why is remembering the Lord’s Supper important to the Christian faith?
  • In what way does partaking in the Lord’s Supper proclaim Christ’s death?

15871997_10210430005099789_6580064576224717116_nThis post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.

Book Review: The Resurrection Fact

Easter is quickly approaching! This Sunday Christians will gather to celebrate the event which changes everything. To be sure, the incarnation and death of Jesus are essential and as important. Yet, if the resurrection of Christ did not occur, we are still left in our sins and are without hope (see 1 Corinthians 15:17-19). It is during this season, too, channels like CNN run specials on the claims of Christianity, usually to the neglect of biblical truth. These specials do not so much ask, “What does the resurrection of Jesus Christ mean?” as much as they are asking, “Did the resurrection of Jesus Christ even happen?” As Christians, we claim the resurrection of Jesus did indeed happen. But how do we go about affirming that and defending biblical truth amid those who disagree? Enter in The Resurrection Fact: Responding to Modern Critics.

In this work edited by Pastor John J. Bombaro and Professor Adam S. Francisco, The Resurrection Fact takes eight chapters written by various men in their respected fields to show the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a physical resurrection that happened in history. As well, these authors not only affirm the reality of the resurrection but they also speak to the significance and meaning of the resurrection. The authors of this work are aware of scholars and the like who disagree with them. As a result, they inform the reader what unbelieving scholars and people are saying and then they give the reader substantive evidence and material as to why we can be sure of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There is much to affirm in this book, although a couple of times an author may seem to be setting up strawman arguments of their opponent. As well, it should be said the book can be technical at times for some readers. Nevertheless, The Resurrection Fact: Responding to Modern Critics is a good resource for a Christian who is interested in investigating how to defend the reality of the resurrection.

I received this book for free from NRP Books/1517 Legacy via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Heart-Revealing Treatment (Matthew 25:31–46)

Matthew 25:31-46 is a worthy passage for reflection and thought. In this passage, Jesus describes the moment when He will return to establish His Kingdom here on Earth. Upon His arrival, “He will sit on his glorious throne” and “Before Him will be gathered all the nations” (25:32). In this moment, every eye will see Him, and every person will be obligated to stand before His presence. He’s going to bring everyone into account for the lives they have lived (Romans 2:6-8).

When He arrives, the King has some work lined up. He plans to separate those who come before Him. On His right will stand believers (the sheep), and on His left, unbelievers (the goats). The believers shall be welcomed by the King and invited into His Kingdom. Unbelievers will be cursed and condemned into everlasting torment.

What’s the determining factor? How does the King decide who will enter His Kingdom and who will not? Their works (25:35-46). The sheep are commended and blessed because they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and imprisoned. The goats, however, are cursed because they didn’t do these things. In the end, their manner of life determined their destiny.

Now, let’s be clear. Right standing with God (justification) is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). It is not a “result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:9). But, if this is the case, then why does Jesus make it very clear that entrance into the Kingdom is based on whether you have engaged in good works, such as assisting the needy? He almost seems to imply that you have to earn your way into His Kingdom.

But, Jesus does not mean that at all. He is not teaching that you have to earn your salvation. So, why does His judgment seem to depend on what the people did? It’s simple, your treatment of others reveals your heart.

The sheep have saving faith in Christ, and they expressed their faith through good works. Conversely, the goats didn’t have faith in Christ, and they showed this by their lack of love and concern for those in need. This is because genuine believers have transformed hearts, renewed by the Holy Spirit and unbelievers do not.

One of the top-tier evidences that you have received a new heart leading to saving faith is that you demonstrate love towards those in need. It’s feeding the hungry. It’s giving water to those who thirst. It’s clothing the naked. It’s comforting the afflicted. Christians have been radically changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the proof of their salvation is a life committed to serving other people, particularly the needy and helpless.

If you follow Jesus, I hope, to some extent, this describes you. We cannot live for ourselves. We must live sacrificially for Christ’s glory and the good of others. We must be willing to give ourselves to Jesus and be His servants. We cannot reduce our Christianity to mere church attendance and nothing else. If that describes you, then you’re missing the point.

If you look down on people and judge them as those who deserve hardship because they’ve made poor choices, you’re probably a goat, not a sheep. Sheep extend the love they’ve received. Goats self-righteously hoard all the goodness God has bestowed upon them.

So, which are you: a sheep or a goat? Where will you be when Jesus returns, on the right or the left? Look at how you treat the lowly and needy. There you will find your answer.

Reflection Questions:

  • What does the treatment of others reveal about your heart?
  • How can you extend the love you have received from God to others in your life?

This devotional was written by EBG Contributing Writer Brandon Sutton. He serves as the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana. He is currently a Master of Divinity student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the grateful husband of Sherrie and the proud father of Emma.