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.

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.

Book Review: 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, & James

As Christians, we need to be people of the Word. We need to be a people who study and know the Word. This is needed today as much as ever. We live in a day of biblical illiteracy. Unfortunately, devotionals meant for growing a Christian’s understanding and living often fail to produce. Why? Because while it may share a Bible verse with the thought for that day, it does not encourage the reader to dig in deeper their study of the Bible. Not all is lost, though. There are those out there who see this same need and have the initiative to do something about. That is why I am excited to share with you Explore By The Book: 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, & James.

explore_by_bookPublished by the Good Book Company, this devotional features a verse by verse study through Romans and James as well as John 14-17. Pastors Timothy Keller and Sam Allberry serve as the reader’s guide through these three books of the Bible over the course of 90 Days. While some devotionals can be read with little Bible reading done, it is not so with this volume of Explore by the Book. This book not only points you to the Book, it also walks you through it. These devotionals place before the reader questions of the text in regards to observation and application. Keller and Allberry also direct the student of the Bible in how they can pray based on what they’ve just studied.

Explore By The Book: 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, and James will lead the reader into a great understanding of what God’s Word means and how it can be applied in life. What many devotionals lack, The Good Book company has produced in Explore By The Book. If you are a Christian who desires substance in their Bible reading, then pick up a copy of this volume.

I received this book for free from The Good Book Company 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.

Book Review: Bible Studies on Mark

This semester I have been entrusted with the responsibility to teach Bible college students how to properly interpret and apply the Bible. One thing is certainly clear: There is a great need for biblical literacy in the church today. Even when students are given the tools of studying the Bible in theory, they may find themselves asking what this looks like in practice. Thanks to William Boekestein an example is set forth in his work Bible Studies on Mark.

Conbib_studies_on_marktained in 21 lessons, Boekestein guides the reader through the Gospel of Mark. He begins the book by addressing the introductory matters of describing the genre of the Gospels, considering how we profit from the Gospel of Mark, and developing themes seen throughout Mark. Each lesson walks through the text in a satisfactory manner. Pastor Boekestein explains details of the text where needed, such as when Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” (Boekestein 66). He also tackles difficult matters, informing the reader Mark 16:9–20 was not included in the earliest manuscripts (Boekestein 203). The defining characteristic of Bible Studies on Mark is its knowledge of all Scripture. The author has a great knowledge of the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. In case one thinks the author is studying the Bible in isolation, the end of each chapter features endnotes of good sources, making it evident the book has been well-researched.

While the lessons are sound in their interpretation, some side applications of particular texts seem to be a stretch in making application from the text. One particular example is the lessons that can be learned from Peter’s denial (Boekestein 184). This is not to say one cannot make such side applications; it is simply that some side applications are not the most convincing. Yet, this minor critique does not take away from the solid teaching William Boekestein has provided in Bible Studies on Mark. The book begins by encouraging us to ask throughout the lessons, “How does Jesus’ life teach us good news?” (Boekestein 3). If you let Pastor Boekestein walk you through this Gospel, you will arrive at a biblically informed answer. Bible Studies on Mark is a study for those who want to be guided into a deeper study on Mark in a timely fashion.

I received this book for free from Reformed Fellowship Inc. 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.

Book Review: Finding Forgiveness

finding_forgivenessA couple of months ago, an incident occurred that was outside my control. A relationship which began rather quickly disintegrated like snow melts in warm weather. I was told it was not anything I had done. Yet, there I stood in a place I had not expected. A rush of emotions were present. In that moment I had a decision to make: Would I allow this incident to harden my heart and give myself over to bitterness? Or would I realize, as a Christian, I have been forgiven by God and have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to extend forgiveness? In Stanley D. Gale’s new book Finding Forgiveness: Discovering the Healing Power of the Gospel, he would counsel to choose the latter.

First published as a booklet Why Must We Forgive? Stanley Gale expands his biblical teaching on forgiveness. In Finding Forgiveness, Gale sets out to cover various questions on forgiveness. In chapter 1, he begins with considering why we should forgive in the first place. He lays the foundation of forgiveness by pointing the reader to the gospel. In the gospel, God forgives us by dealing with our sins in the atonement of Jesus Christ. With the foundation of the gospel laid, Stanley moves to chapter 2, showing how in the gospel God in Christ has forgiven us and what that means for each of our lives. In other words, as chapter 1 reveals the foundation to be the gospel, chapter 2 realizes one implication of the gospel is to forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven us. Using the parable in Matthew 18:23–33, forgiveness is looked at in terms of kingdom currency. Chapter 3, then, examines what the practice of forgiveness looks like with and toward others. Taking into account that we still live in a fallen and sinful world, chapter 4 paints a picture of authentic forgiveness. The author wisely admits here forgiveness applied to real-life circumstances will not always be neat and tidy but often will be more complex than theory. Chapter 5 closes out the book by tackling the question, “What about forgiving ourselves?”, informing the reader the Bible never speaks of forgiving ourselves (Gale 94).

This work by Stanley Gale is a gospel-centered, biblically-clarifying, and God-focused treatise on forgiveness. Throughout the book, the doctrine of justification is mentioned, both in its connection with forgiveness and in its distinction from it. In the later sections of the book, Stanley Gale corrects and clarifies commonly used Christian phrases by examining them in light of God’s Word. What he finds is to “forgive and forget” (chapter 3) and to “forgive ourselves” (chapter 5) are not biblical concepts or notions. Rather, he takes a God-centered approach, sharing we forgive and do not forget (the cross) and “the answer is not in finding a way to forgive ourselves, but in finding the way, the truth, and the life” (Gale 110).

Much can be commended in a book answering questions on forgiveness, but this work does create a few questions of its own. The most glaring inquiry comes when Mr. Gale says, “Forgiveness is not the goal; it is a step toward the goal” (Gale 65). The question this poses is: If forgiveness is not the goal, then why not spend more time in this book connecting it to the goal of reconciliation and restoration? I realize the purpose of the book was not to be exhaustive but the reader could have benefited from a greater focus on the ultimate goal forgiveness serves.

All things considered, Finding Forgiveness is a book which not only teaches you what forgiveness is but also challenges you to actually live it out. After my fresh experience from a couple of months ago, I can say, by God’s grace, I chose, found, and extended forgiveness. If you read Stanley Gale’s book, you will find yourself better equipped and prepared to forgive the next time you face a circumstance like mine.

I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books 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.