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.

Book Review: Martin Luther-Christian Biographies for Young Readers

One area which I think tends to get neglected in Christian circles is church history. I don’t know whether it is because some do not like history in general or if they do not see the history of the church as important. The truth is church history has much to teach the current church in being faithful to the Word of God and standing firm for it. In reaching and raising the next generation, I think it is beneficial to point them to figures in church history who have boldly stood for the Word of God. That is why I am excited to share with you Simonetta Carr’s new addition to the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series. In this work, she teaches children about the life and work of Martin Luther.martin_luther_yr

Carr begins by informing the reader why it is important for Christians in general and for children in particular to know about Martin Luther. She writes, “Today, Martin Luther is considered one of the most influential leaders of the Protestant Reformation, and his words are still impacting Christians all over the world” (Carr 5). From there, she takes the young readers on a journey starting with his upbringing (chapter 1), then onto his search of finding peace with God (chapter 2), culminating in his contribution to starting the Reformation (chapters 3-5). Simonetta does not end the story there, though. She ends the book with chapters on Luther’s family (chapter 6) and his death (chapter 7). The appendices feature a timeline of Martin Luther’s life, a portion of Luther’s small catechism, and a very informative section entitled “Did You Know?”

While this book is targeted at children, adults will enjoy reading it too. Some of the stories Carr shares about Martin Luther I did not know about. She includes other details which helped clarify thoughts I had before. For instance, one might ask why Martin Luther did not come to his conclusion of justification by faith alone sooner than he did. In chapter 2, Simonetta states regarding Luther entering the monastery that “the monastery was the first places where Martin could seriously study this book” (Carr 13). Simply put, this book for young readers will inform adult and child alike.

Simonetta Carr’s Christian Biographies for Young Readers: Martin Luther is an excellent resource for teaching children about a key contributor of the Protestant Reformation and is a great conversation starter on what is truly means to be a Christian, justified by faith in Christ alone.

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: Alive in the Spirit

alive_in_spiritIt is clear there is a problem in the church today. Some remark the source is the consumer mindset of the culture. Others state the blame is on the church for allowing the culture to come in. Certainly these matters may contribute to the problem but they do not hit at the heart of what is the issue. So, what is the issues? According to A.W. Tozer, the problem is the church has ignored the Holy Spirit and has attempted to do God’s work without God’s Spirit. Although Tozer has been gone for half a century, James L. Snyder has compiled and edited the writings of A.W. Tozer on the person of the Holy Spirit in the book Alive in the Spirit: Experiencing the Presence and Power of God. This work is as applicable today as it was in Tozer’s day.

From the outset, Tozer makes clear the focus of his writing on this subject is for the individual. He says this is the case because these truths must first impact the individual and then flow over to the local congregation. In eighteen chapters, Tozer seeks to expose the problem the church faces and calls it to heed warnings while also pointing to Scripture for the church to see what experiencing the Holy Spirit looks like. Each chapter ends with reflection points and questions for further consideration.

There is much to commend on this work of Tozer compiled by James Snyder. It is clear Tozer’s emphasis on understanding and experiencing the Holy Spirit must be laid by the foundation of Scripture. In chapters 4 and 5, foundations and emphases are laid to make the point Scripture is the guide. As well, Tozer repeatedly warns the church about neglecting the Holy Spirit and, likewise, warns Christians of going to extremes. His purpose is to bring about a proper perspective of the Holy Spirit instead of going to extremes. His critique of the church ignoring the Holy Spirit is summed up when he says, “when we get these people in the church by using the world’s methods, we need to continue using the world’s methods to keep them” (Tozer 44). In other words, Tozer condemns the church for the using the method of the world. To be sure, he does not state the problem without providing a solution. Chapter 9 paints a portrait of what the Spirit-filled church looks like. It is a church which not only knows about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit but a church which experiences the person and power of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the book, A.W. Tozer points to Scripture for knowing about the Holy Spirit and showing the application of Scripture is experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit.

The highlights of book do not come without a few critiques. The warnings A.W. Tozer gives to Christians in the church are sometimes made too general and can be seen as too strong in areas. This may partly be due to the time of his writing since this was originally written years ago. Still, in this work of Tozer’s, some sections come across as confusing. This occurs in a few areas but one will suffice for this review. In describing his conversion, Tozer is not clear as to when he believes he was saved. It seems he talks about two different times when he shares about his conversion and being baptized in the Spirit (Tozer 19). The confusion here may be due to the lack of defining what is meant by “being filled with the Holy Spirit”.

In conclusion, Alive in the Spirit by A.W. Tozer is a decent work. Tozer accomplishes the purpose of sharing spiritual truth for application to life, learning about the Holy Spirit to experience the Holy Spirit. That said, this book is one among many on the subject. You will be challenged with this book but it may not be the most fruitful book you will read on the Holy Spirit.

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: Christ All Sufficient

christ_all_sufficientIn order to build, one needs to use tools in their toolbox. The quality of those tools will contribute to the quality of the building project. For students of the Bible, their goal is to build their spiritual life up. When studying the Bible, eager students seek to find tools to add to their toolbox to assist in their study of God’s Word. One example of such tools are commentaries. However, when it comes to these tools, they are not all created equal. Some commentaries aim to reach those well-educated in the Scriptures and neglect those who may be lay leaders in the church. Other commentaries target application in their writing but fail to be robust in its exposition of the text. Still, there are commentaries which aptly give sound theological exposition while being practical in its purpose. One such resource is Brian Hedge’s Christ All Sufficient: An Exposition of Colossians.

Brian lays out the book of Colossians in a way that is faithful to Scripture and can be understood by all who desire to grow in God’s Word. His focus throughout his commentary is Christ. Of course, this is not his own focus. It is the focus of Colossians. Sadly, a number of commentaries fail to point readers to Christ when they sometimes get so stuck in the details and miss the big picture. Hedges strikes a balance. He digs into Paul’s letter to the Colossians while shining the light on Christ through it all. Simply put, if you are looking for a tool that is both theological and practical for your Bible study, consider picking up Christ All Sufficient by Brian G. Hedges.

I received this book for free from Shepherd Press 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: Cold-Case Christianity for Kids

cold_case_xnity_4_kidsAs a young adult, I can be discouraged. My heart has been grieved to see people my age walk away from the faith after growing up in the church. They held to what their parents did and never examined the faith for themselves. As a youth pastor, though, I am encouraged. Not only do I have the opportunity to assist parents in discipling their children, I can also equip the youth to examine the faith for themselves. One avenue for this is to give kids good Christian books to read targeted at their age group. There may not be any better resource for kids to investigate the faith for themselves than J. Warner Wallace and his wife’s new book Cold-Case Christianity for Kids: Investigate Jesus with a Real Detective.

Warner Wallace draws on his experience as a real-life cold-case detective and he and his wife bring their passion of training young people in the church to produce this work that is engaging and edifying. Cold-Case Christianity for Kids is engaging because it is written in a narrative style and context kids can relate to and understand. Likewise, the resource is edifying, using the tools of investigating and examining to equip children to see there is a God who has created the world and that Jesus Christ has indeed risen from the dead. Each chapter expands kid’s vocabulary by giving “Detective Definitions” on terms children may not be familiar with. The “CSI Assignments” in each chapter weave in biblical content in the child’s learning. Toward the end of each chapter, kids will be equipped with a tool for their detective bag.

This book trains kids to think like cold-case detectives (Wallace and Wallace 16). In other words, the kids are taught how to think, not what to think (Wallace and Wallace 15). One of the issues, I believe, some young adults who have left the church have had is they were taught what to think but not how to think. I am grateful, then, to endorse and recommend such a resource that will encourage kids, between 8 and 12 years old especially,to examine Christianity and the Bible, to see they are true, and to see Jesus is worthy of our worship!

Purchase a copy here or enter below to possibly win a free copy of the book!

J. Warner Wallace and Susie Wallace’s ‘Cold-Case Christianity for Kids’ Blog Tour and Giveaway

At the crucial age between 8 and 12, many kids begin to wonder if Christianity and the Bible are true. Help your kids become truth-seeking detectives with the help of J. Warner and Susie Wallace’s Cold-Case Christianity for Kids. Detective Wallace gets kids excited about testing witnesses, examining the evidence, and investigating the case for Christianity. The book includes author illustrations and links to a website where kids can download activities, fill in case notes, and earn a certificate of merit.

Encourage your kids to investigate the case for Christianity by entering to win a faith examination kit and a copy of J. Warner and Susie’s new book.

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One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 4. The winner will be announced November 7 on the Litfuse blog.

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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.

Resources:

Cold-Case Christianity for Kids is the children’s edition of the book Cold-Case Christianity. As youth go through their edition of the book, parents would do well to buy this book to read alongside of them.

The learning and fun do not have to stop after your child has read the book. This website is interactive and is meant to complement what children about in the book.