Book Review: Pass It On

The philosophy of intergenerational ministry calls for one generation to pass on to the next the truth and wisdom of God’s Word. The desire to partake in such a ministry is visible in our churches. However, the steps of implementing and practicing intergenerational ministry can be a struggle. How can one generation intentionally pass on biblical wisdom to the up and coming generation? Maybe the greatest and longest-lasting avenue is by placing words on paper to give to the next generation. This is exactly what Champ Thornton does in his new work Pass It On: A Proverbs Journal for the Next Generation.

Champ Thornton opens with a section on how to use this journal with its design in mind. The book, then, gives a bird’s-eye view of Proverbs, noting its structure and worldview, before guiding the journal’s owner through the 31 chapters found in Proverbs. Each chapter in Proverbs is introduced with an opening “Guided Tour” paragraph, noting observations of the passage and how they fit together. Following the paragraph, the “At-A-Glance” portion lists a brief and simple outline of the Proverbs chapter before having the owner read the biblical text, a particular English translation provided by Dr. Bruce Waltke. The most personal aspect of the journal follows with space for the first journal owner to write reflections of their reading, to answer questions to go deeper, to make connections to the gospel, to personalize the text into a prayer, and to share their own story as it pertains to the passage. This is all done with the intention of passing the resource on to someone in the next generation.

The vision of this journal is unique and encouraging. Thornton does not take verses of Proverbs and isolate them into their own clusters. Rather, he seeks to show the structure and outline of each chapter. To be fair, some Proverbs are more loosely connected together than others and Thornton is quick to admit that (Thornton 78). As a result, some of the journal entry questions are broader while some are more specific to the passages. Another unique feature is a section on how each chapter connects to the gospel. I found this to be one of the most encouraging elements of the journal. It is important to remember Proverbs is included in the grand narrative of Scripture, not isolated from it.

The vision goes further, though. The purpose is not to merely read Proverbs and apply it to your own life. You must do that, but that by itself is not enough. This journal is meant to be used with the intentions of giving it away and passing it on. The vision alone makes this journal commendable for any parent or grandparent. With so much to offer, one area of critique should be stated. As a pastor of youth, one of my great passions is to equip families to disciple their children to learn and grow in biblical wisdom. A resource like this would be ideal for me to journal and pass on to my youth. Yet, there are some questions throughout the journal entries that require someone twenty years my senior to answer (at least by how the question is stated). Restructuring such questions with more generality would have provided a greater range to give this resource out. Still, younger adults like myself as leaders in the church can use these journals to pass on God’s Word to students.

Pass It On: A Proverbs Journal for the Next Generation by Champ Thornton is a gospel-centered, disciple-making resource for parents and grandparents alike. If you a godly parent or grandparent whose passion is to pass on the wisdom of God’s Word to the next generation, then start with this book. Be ready to read Proverbs, grow in your understanding and application of this book of the Bible, and to pass it on to see what God will do in the life of the next generation for His glory!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from 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.

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Book Review: Irenaeus of Lyon-Christian Biographies for Young Readers

This past month many Christians celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Yet, in the midst of the celebration, a good number of Protestants only knew in a vague sense what the Reformation stood for. They were unable to name the 5 Solas foundational to the Reformation. While they could name Martin Luther, to discuss what his problems were with the Catholic church would lead to a stiff in the conversation. Simply put, when it comes to church history, a good number of Christians remain ignorant, not informed. For this reason, I am excited about the newest addition by Simonetta Carr to the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series: Irenaeus of Lyon.

The book is composed of six brief chapters that highlight the life of Irenaeus, one of the earlier church history figures. This is encouraging because even in discussions on church history, many times the focus is on the Reformation. Yet, church history did not begin there. Carr’s addition in this series of Irenaeus, who was born only 100 years after the death of Jesus, should not be underestimated. To find out more about Irenaeus the book concludes by listing a timeline, a list of “Did You Know?” answers, and then a piece of Irenaeus’s writing.

With a book focused on the person of Irenaeus, the reader may wonder why the first couple of chapters spend a length of time on Polycarp and Justin Martyr. It is true both lived during the time of Irenaeus, especially with Polycarp as his teacher, but the space given to them is more than one would expect. To be fair, Simonetta Carr states we do not know as much about Irenaeus as other figures in church history (Carr 63), so more details needed to be added in somewhere. Therefore, a more appropriate title might say The Times and Life of Irenaeus of Lyon.

Still, in this volume, young readers (and their parents) will learn about the time and life of Irenaeus. They will be encouraged to see his commitment to the Scriptures, his willingness to engage with false teaching of the Gnostics in order to expose lies and speak the truth of the gospel, and his heart of caring for people and preparing them for times of persecution. While not targeted for smaller children, Irenaeus of Lyon: Christian Biographies for Young Readers will encourage 7-12-year-olds (and their parents) to no longer be ignorant of church history but to be informed about it and appreciative for it!

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.

Book Review: She’s Got the Wrong Guy

“Where have all the good men gone?” This song lyric echoes in the hearts and minds of many single Christian women in our churches. They long for marriage. They hear sermons which hold marriage in special honor. What are they to do? The weight of uncertainty in waiting appears too heavy. When a man shows interest in them, they reason to themselves, “He says he is a Christian so that should be good enough, right?” They justify in order to fulfill the dream they have for their lives. They settle for less than God’s best. The ruling desire for marriage wins out over the type of marriage God desires for them to have. Deepak Reju, the pastor of biblical counseling and families at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, has witnessed these instances too often. As a pastor and a counselor, he wants to shepherd these women to be wise with their lives as they wait. The result is his new book She’s Got the Wrong Guy: Why Smart Women Settle.

Unlike most books on Christian dating, Pastor Reju does not give principles or anecdotes of what Christian dating relationships ought to look like. Instead, he warns single women against the type of men many settle for. The book is divided into three sections. Part 1 explains the problem of Christian women settling for less-than-godly men, and a way forward (chapters 1–4). Part 2, which covers the bulk of the book, asks the question, “Am I Dating the Wrong Guy?” and warns the reader of ten men to not settle for: the control freak, the promiscuous guy, the unchurched guy, the new convert, the unbeliever, the angry man, the lone ranger, the commitment-phobic man, the passive man, and the unteachable guy (chapters 5–14). The book ends with part 3 posing penetrating questions on how to break up for the glory of God if with a wrong guy (chapter 15), learning to value what God values in pursuing a real Christian man (chapter 16), realizing why waiting is okay and even redemptive and good (chapter 17), and recognizing grace remains for those who have settled (chapter 18).

The book is filled with stories and vignettes which are meant to cause you “to think and pray important these important matters, and to bring God’s perspective to your dating relationships” (Reju 32). The book reveals ten portraits of men Christian women should resist settling for. As a single Christian man who cares greatly for my sisters in the faith, I found Reju’s words an exhortation for me to examine my own heart for tendencies toward a specific type of wrong guy. Likewise, I was encouraged by the counsel in part 3 on how to know when to break up and how to do it in a distinctly Christian way for the glory of God. Pastor Deepak calls for a better and biblical way of thinking, placing two questions before the reader, (1) “Do I desire Jesus more than anything else?” and (2) “Would I settle for the wrong guy?” (Reju 21). She’s Got the Wrong Guy counsels single Christian women to trust in Christ in the midst of waiting and to treasure a relationship with Christ above any other relationship. Trust in Christ means starting your pursuit with a dependence upon Him (Reju 7) and submitting to His Word (Reju 78) while treasuring Christ involves valuing and prioritizing in a man what God values and prioritizes in a person. The question every single Christian woman needs to ask is, “Is Christ enough for you?” (Reju 150). Marriage is no guarantee. But the call still is to wait. By no means is this easy. Chapter 17 deals with the truth of waiting. But if “a man who is servant-hearted, faithful, and strong in his faith” is what a single Christian woman values, the wait is worth it. She’s Got the Wrong Guy does not merely warn single Christian women about who not to marry; it counsels ladies to look to Jesus in trust and as their treasure while they worship Him and wait for what He may have in store. To all single Christian women who want to follow the wisdom of God’s word in waiting and dating, I recommend you grab this book!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from 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.

Book Review: Descriptions and Prescriptions

Growing up, I remember playing on the teeter-totter at our local playground. The first few minutes were fun. However, such joy could be short-lived. With one person stuck in mid-air and the other relaxing with their side of the teeter-totter on the ground, one side weighed too heavy and the other side too light. A desire for balance was needed. Michael R. Emlet sees this need for balance in the biblical counseling realm with his new book, Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications (part of the Helping the Helpers series).

Dr. Emlet, who is a faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), is well-aware of the debate among the biblical counseling world regarding diagnoses of the psychiatric nature and the prescribing of medications to treat them. From his perspective, the two common stances toward the diagnoses and medications miss the mark. According to his analysis, we should not be too cold toward these diagnoses and medications, but we should not be too warm toward them either. With that perspective in mind, the book’s purpose is to take the reader from the extreme and move you to a middle ground, a view he proposes is “just right” (Emlet 2). The content of the book is divided into two sections. Part 1 details an understanding of psychiatric diagnoses, showing both the benefits and limitations which come with the matter. In this section, Emlet clarifies such diagnoses are descriptions and not explanations (answering the ‘what’ but not the ‘why’) and the implications that has for ministry. Part 2, then, walks the reader through understanding psychoactive medications, being cautious but not dismissive, and emphasizing this is a wisdom issue.

This book by Dr. Michael Emlet accomplishes the purpose it set out to reach. Emlet seeks to make his argument from a biblical worldview and to provide a biblical framework for understanding while also striking a balance in thinking through the subjects of psychiatric diagnoses and medications. Chapters 16–19 particularly bring a balance in understanding. The reader will appreciate the pastoral tone Dr. Emlet invokes when he shares his critique on diagnoses and medications, acknowledging the complexities and the sufferings people face. It is true this volume does not cover everything, as Emlet admits in the opening pages (Emlet 4), but he writes an introductory guide to equip helpers in the church understand and gain a biblical and balanced perspective on psychiatric diagnoses and medications. The book does not make you scientifically-ignorant but scientifically informed. Simply put, Descriptions and Prescriptions by Michael R. Emlet is a foundational resource for helpers in the church who desire to care for those they love. Whether you are a pastor, counselor, or lay leader, this book will begin to help you think through these categories. You may not concur on all of Dr. Emlet’s conclusions but this concise book will challenge you to think through them and to join in this much-needed conversation in biblical counseling.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from 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.

Book Review: The Satisfied Soul by John Piper

We live in a fast-paced culture. Busyness is the name of the game. Schedules are filled and time is packed. With little space left, things get squeezed out. Sadly, for Christians, this may include their time in God’s Word. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons some followers of Christ state they don’t read or study the Bible is because they don’t have the time. While understandable in some sense, it comes down to priority. This does not mean you are required to spend hours upon hours searching the Scriptures, although such study would prove fruitful. What it does mean is you need to get yourself into looking and meditating on God’s Word. For that, I introduce you to John Piper’s new work, The Satisfied Soul: Showing the Supremacy of God in All of Life. This third volume of 120 meditations by Piper contains readings from three of his other works, Pierced by the Word, Life as a Vapor, and A Godward Heart. In this work, Dr. John Piper seeks to point you to the supremacy of the only One who can satisfy your soul.

In this series of meditations, Piper gets to the heart of the book’s title when he meditates on Psalm 63. The problem, at least from my vantage point, is this meditation is not in the opening pages of the book but as #89 (page 301) in 120 meditations. Furthermore, one can be assured of an expected structure which mirrors his previous volumes; however, one might prefer a more organized set where meditations are grouped together into categories. Still, structural issues do not take away from the content of this book. Many of the writings from John Piper from this book will draw you into the biblical text and will serve you well in getting in the Word of God to look at and meditate upon it. One of the most impact meditations for me in The Satisfied Soul is titled “How God Teaches the Deep Things of His Word” which is a meditation on Psalm 119:65–72 (Piper 83–87). From time to time, though, the reader will come across a meditation which does not seem to fit with the rest. For example, meditation #16 (page 58) reflects on the lives of C.S. Lewis and Robert Louis Stevenson’s relationships with their fathers. While one can benefit from that particular reading, it does not seem to best capture the essence of the book’s purpose. Nevertheless, I would concur with John Piper, “full-circuited reflection is where my soul gets its best food” (Piper 107). The Satisfied Soul is at its best when it is guiding you in a meditation from Scripture. You will find your thirst quenched and your soul filled most when Piper reflects with you on the Word itself. I recommend The Satisfied Soul: Showing the Supremacy of God in All of Life as an on-the-go resource for Christians with event-packed and schedule-filled lives. Let John Piper lead you into a time of looking at and meditating on God’s Word.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books 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: How to Listen So People Will Talk

“God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak.” While we find this well-known saying humorous, the reality behind it is honest. On more than one occasion, we find our mouths are open and our ears effectively shut. Even when we do listen, we often do so with the intent of responding. The issue is such actions kill conversations, if not friendships and marriages. What should be clear: this is no small matter. With the problem identified, how do we go about searching for and finding a solution? Becky Harling, a certified John Maxwell speaker, coach, and trainer, seeks to lead us down the trail to the answer in her new book How to Listen So People Will Talk: Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connections.

In ten chapters, Mrs. Harling prods the reader to become a better listener by studying “biblically based, practical listening skills” (Harling 20). Throughout the book she emphasizes the importance of asking questions, learning to intentionally listen, and addressing the necessary heart matters. At the end of each chapter are practical exercises to strengthen your listening skills, with sections covering listening to God, listening to your heart, and listening to others.

This book is an immensely practical help for anyone who desires to grow in their listening skills. Harling does not write in the abstract. Her personal stories throughout the chapters and specific calls to application will challenge the reader to put into practice what they’re learning.

Yet, for Harling to hit the mark on the ‘what’ of listening, she does not fully draw out the ‘why’. She calls the reader to an others-oriented view of conversation but falls short in pointing them to a robust Christ-centered motivation. To be sure, she uses terms like in Christ, Christian, and Christ-likeness in her descriptions to the reader. The hole in her discussion, though, is the principles laid out assume the gospel. Each chapter contains good principles, but these good principles are given without rooting them in the gospel. Yes, we need to become like Jesus by learning to grow in our listening, as Harling states. However, before we can see Jesus as our example, we must trust in Him as Lord and Savior. We do not begin with what we do in imitating Jesus; we must start with knowing what Jesus did to save us. The author herself makes a great point when she says, “it’s impossible to be a good listener without developing a humble spirit” (Harling 29). When does this development start? When we receive a new heart by repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. To summarize, How to Listen So People Will Talk provides practical depth but lacks gospel depth. This book will help you learn to be better a listener even while it may miss the mark on telling you at the most foundational level why you should be.

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: A Small Book About A Big Problem

I don’t tend to think of myself as an angry person. I don’t burst out in yelling and my face rarely, if ever, turns red when I don’t get my way. So, when I picked up A Small Book About a Big Problem by Edward T. Welch, I was anticipating a read I would recommend to others who struggle with this problem. What I encountered was a diagnostic of my own anger problem. A Small Book About A Big Problem was a book for me too!

In 50 short meditations, Counselor Welch does the work of a spiritual surgeon. He first sits us down and lays out the depth of the problem. If anyone thinks they are exempt, the meditation for Day 6 on the many faces of anger will reveal we all face this problem in some manner. Before he takes us back for surgery, we are given hope. Although this problem exists, there is a solution. The meditation for Day 7 starts the patient down the path of wisdom in fighting anger and finding patience and peace. The theme of humility throughout this book makes clear this work is not an easy task. The scalpel of the gospel will strike us because it will expose us and our need for the Healer, Jesus Christ. Unless one has confessed their sin to God and professed faith in Christ, they will not be able to follow on what Welch has for them. Even for the Christian, these short meditations will present a challenge. It cannot be done apart from the empowering and enabling work of the Holy Spirit. As Dr. Welch points us back to Scripture, we not only see our hearts exposed but we find hope in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A Small Book About A Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by Edward T. Welch lives up to its title. The strategy of the book is to read one meditation each day for 50 days, to interact and engage with the questions posed, and to begin sharing this conversation with someone else (Welch 4). While I do wish the book would have addressed more elaborately what righteous anger looks like (although, as the book points out, most of the time our anger is unrighteous), Dr. Welch performs a thorough work, examining the problem, exposing each one’s heart, and encouraging transformation in the gospel. I recommend A Small Book About A Big Problem to anyone who knows they have an anger problem and to anyone who believes they don’t.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from 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.