Top Christian Book Reviews

Preaching With Passion Book Review

Preaching With Passion Book Review
Preaching with Passion by Alex Montoya, John F. MacArthur Jr.
Published by Kregel Academic & Professional
October 16th 2007
Pages: 160
Rating:
five-stars
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Book Synopsis

Passion is the power, the energy, the life in the delivery of a sermon. A "dull preacher" should be a contradiction in terms because the essence of preaching should be energetic thinking, spiritual power, and passionate delivery.
Pastor and seminary professor Alex Montoya takes you on a Journey through eight characteristics of passionate preaching, Showing how preaching should contain (1) spiritual power, (2) conviction, (3) compassion, (4) authority, (5) urgency, (6) brokenness, (7) your whole being, and (8) imagination.

Introduction

What is the greatest danger for conservative, bible-based preachers who are committed to solid exposition every week? According to Dr. Alex Montoya, Pastor of First Fundamental Bible Church, the greatest danger is a lack of passion. With over thirty years of pastoral experience, as well as a background as a Homiletics professor at the Master’s Seminary, Montoya is well equipped to address this concern. “The problem,” says Montoya, “is not what we say; it is how we say it. Our sermons lack passion” (10).

Montoya believes that preaching with passion is something everyone can learn, even if one is not passionate by nature. He speaks from personal knowledge, as he is by nature shy and inhibited and during his early years possessed a high degree of stage fright (17). The reviewer can relate to this and it is encouraging to read that God has allowed Montoya to go beyond his weakness and develop a degree of passion in his preaching (17). In eight chapters, Montoya instructs preachers on how to preach with passion. In order to preach with passion, Montoya believes preachers must learn to preach with: Spiritual Power; Conviction; Compassion; Authority; Urgency; Brokenness; The Whole Body; and Imagination. A fitting description for Montoya’s aim in this book is that preachers would never be known as “boring” or “dull” (18).

Summary

In chapter one, Montoya takes on what he believes to be the secret of passionate preaching, namely, spiritual power. He provides six requirements for preaching with spiritual power: Contrition of Soul; Confession of Sin; Communion with the Savior; Commission by the Spirit; Control by the Spirit; and Consolation by the Saints. While each requirement provides helpful insight, Montoya’s consideration of control by the Spirit is distinct. Montoya pushes back against the notion of “unction” and “anointing preaching” that other well-known preachers such as Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Jerry Vines have written about. He contends that the idea of “unction” and “anointed preaching” are both nebulous and confusing, leaving preachers more miserable than when they first began (34). Montoya believes that if there is a special power and supernatural endowment available that must be sought for, yet in the end is never guaranteed, then a sore and unnecessary burden has been laid upon the preacher (34). His bold conclusion is that such a thing does not exist (35). Instead of “anointed preaching” or “unction,” Montoya provides an alternative, namely, the constant control of the Holy Spirit. The preacher can expect to be used by the Holy Spirit if he will yield to His control (Eph. 5:18), not grieve or quench Him (Eph. 4:30), nor resist Him (Acts 7:51). His conclusion is that an obedient preacher can experience God’s power if he will simply yield his life to the obedience of Christ and seek faithfully to carry out His charge (36)!

In chapter two, Montoya develops the necessity to preach with conviction. Most preachers know that this is necessary, so he gets right to the point with guidelines on how to preach with conviction. Most notable is his admonition to preach the main thesis of the text. By this, Montoya means that expositors must preach the subject and predicate of the paragraph and chapter (45). It is not necessary to “explain every jot and tittle, every grammatical and syntactical nuance, or every stylistic tangent in order to be truly called an expositor” (45). Identifying the main thesis and seeing its vitality, says Montoya, will help the expositor feel deeply about it and thus preach it with passion (45).

In chapter three, Montoya explains that passionate preaching must be characterized by compassion for people. It is here where he clarifies the goal of preaching, which is the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12). True preaching must be people oriented (60) with the goal to “present every man perfect in Christ” (Col 1:28). Montoya goes on to provide practical ways to gain compassion. Of particular note, he exhorts preachers to “study their own heart” (65). When preachers do this, they can then form their sermons in such a way that they are really preaching to themselves – to their needs, their weaknesses and their desires (65-66).

In chapter four, Montoya looks to Jesus for the example of what it means to preach with authority. The gospels testify that the crowds were continually amazed at how Jesus taught as one with authority (Matt. 7:28-29; Luke 4:32). Like the scribes of Jesus’ day, preachers today look to current events, psychology, history and commentaries to verify their message (74). John Broadus concurs with Montoya, writing, “…if a man is not accustomed to come for himself to the Bible, and form his own judgment of its meaning, his teachings, whatever else they may possess, will have little of living power to sway men’s souls” (74-75). Montoya sums this thought up powerfully: “We need to preach the Word, not what people say about the Word. Authority lies in the Word of God, not in the teachings of men of renown” (75).

In chapter five, Montoya addresses the need to preach with urgency. Here he exhorts preachers to preach: with judgment in mind; toward a verdict; for the uniqueness of the moment; and under divine sovereignty. The reviewer was impacted by Montoya’s exhortation to preach toward a verdict. “It is to our shame,” writes Montoya, “that we preachers can go through the routine of preaching and never expect that our people will do anything with our sermons. We plan no response, so we have no response” (94). The problem is the tendency for preachers to make “exposition” the end in itself, rather than a means to an end (95). There is something to know, something to do, a way to act, and now is the time to do it (96)!

In Chapter six, Montoya urges preachers toward preaching with brokenness. The focus of this chapter is on the necessity for preachers to die to themselves. Man is by nature self-righteous, self-sufficient, and just plain selfish. God will break a man who is full of himself (106). In this chapter, Montoya takes aim at seminarians and young preachers, calling them “idealists” (110). Brokenness is the one thing that will “remove the rose-colored glasses” (110).

In chapter seven, Montoya focuses on preaching with the whole body. Preaching with the whole body entails delivery and non-verbal communication. He covers all the important areas, such as: the heart, eyes, voice, arms, and torso of the preacher. Of particular note here is Montoya’s emphasis on the importance of eye contact and facial expression with the audience. Montoya cites others who have emphasized this as well. It is here where Montoya discusses the different methods of sermon delivery: reading, recitation from memory, impromptu, and extemporaneous (122). It seems that he favors the extemporaneous method, though he does not say this outright. His main point is that preachers must learn to develop audience awareness, which is the ability to read the audience to see whether they are following and connecting (123).

In Montoya’s final chapter, he calls preachers to preach with imagination. This is an important chapter when considering his target audience, which seems to be conservative, bible-based preachers. Preachers must beware of the tendency toward thinking that only right doctrine and a plain statement of the truth is required in preaching (134). One must only look to the Bible itself for examples of how truth is presented in varying forms (story, poetry, prose etc.).

Critical Evaluation

There are two main weaknesses that must be pointed out. First, Montoya would have done well to devote a whole chapter on the importance of preachers spending time alone with God in His Word and prayer. To his credit, he does touch on this in chapter one under the section “communion with God” (27-30). However, due to the struggle many preachers have in this area, readers would have benefited by Montoya drawing this out further. For example, how does a preacher separate his personal time with God from his sermon preparation? Or, what does a preacher do when he walks in his office and is behind on his prep for the week, is anxious to get started, but he has not yet spent personal time with God? Is it okay to skip personal time with God when crunched for time? Will this result in preaching with less passion?

Secondly, and along these lines, in Montoya’s introduction, he lists five causes of loss of passion. While each cause is helpful, the reviewer believes more time should have been given to the tendency of preachers to put their identity in ministry and not in Christ. There is a subtle tendency among those in ministry to preach the gospel week in and week out to others, but forget to apply that same gospel to their own lives. The inevitable result is a loss of passion. If preachers are to preach with passion, they must fight daily to find their identity, significance, meaning, comfort, joy, and hope vertically (in the gospel) and remember these things will never be found horizontally in ministry success (including preaching with passion).

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Conclusion

As one who enjoys reading books about how to improve preaching, the reviewer was not disappointed with Alex Montoya’s Preaching With Passion. The book is outlined very well and is easy to read. He covers a lot of ground while staying focused on his goal to help preachers learn to preach with passion. For preachers, in particular those in the conservative camp that tend to get too bogged down with the details, this book will provide much needed inspiration to mend their ways and never be known as “dull” or “boring” again.

five-stars
2018-01-08T11:43:57+00:00 By |



A Christian Manifesto Book Review

A Christian Manifesto Book Review
A Christian Manifesto by Francis A. Schaeffer
Published by Crossway Books
March 8th 2005
Pages: 157
Rating:
four-half-stars
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Book Synopsis

In this explosive book, Francis Schaeffer shows why morality and freedom have crumbled in our society. He calls for a massive movement-in government, law, and all of life-to reestablish our Judeo-Christian foundation and turn the tide of moral decadence and loss of freedom.
A Christian Manifesto is literally a call for Christians to change the course of history-by returning to biblical Truth and by allowing Christ to be Lord in all of life.

It seems like nobody really knew what was happening until it happened. With seemingly lightning speed, court cases, corporate memos, and unexpected political candidates began pushing Judeo-Christian ethics to the outskirts of political discussion. Any perspective that advocated godly sexuality, personal responsibility, or true civil liberty became anathema almost overnight. What is the driving force behind this extreme change and what should Christians do about it? This is the central question that Francis Schaeffer answers in A Christian Manifesto.

Schaeffer begins his manifesto by detailing the core problem of modern day secularism. His special labor is to show that the war between a Godly government and a God-hating government is not waged primarily over each issue, nor even the total sum off all the issues. Rather, the war is won or lost at the worldview level.

The worldview, or ideological starting point, which has pushed much of Western civilization in the past century is the primary cause for the widespread adoption of homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, and evolution as positive moral facts. When Schaeffer wrote A Christian Manifesto in 1981, many things on this list were just emerging or gaining significant ground in legal battles. But today, we are seeing the inevitable end of the “Material-energy, chance concept of reality” which Schaeffer carefully proves is the culprit behind the moral decay. What we see today is the effect of what Schaeffer prophetically wrote about in A Christian Manifesto.

As any good manifesto must have, Schaeffer includes not merely the problems he sees, but also the solutions. And as the title suggests, these solutions are rooted in the Christian Bible, that is, the Word of God. Schaeffer masterfully navigates the murky waters of civil disobedience, lesser magistrates, and persecution. It is these topics and more that make this book as important today as when it was published in 1981.

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Christians have a holy obligation to seek the welfare of the city in which they live. But we have not only the obligation, but the holy law of God and the grace of Jesus Christ to seek the welfare of our nation, our city, and our neighbor. And as Schaeffer argues, the war will be won through Christian obedience, persistence, and sacrifice.

four-half-stars
2018-01-09T11:22:42+00:00 By |



Whole: Restoring What Is Broken in Me, You, and The Entire World

Whole: Restoring What Is Broken in Me, You, and The Entire World
Whole: Restoring What Is Broken in Me, You, and the Entire World by Steve Wiens
Published by NavPress Publishing Group
August 22nd 2017
Rating:
four-half-stars
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Book Synopsis

Look around, and you'll notice: The world is covered with jagged edges. People and places are broken all around us.

We were made for better than this: We were made to be whole, and wholly human, to tend a world that is wholly humane. We were made in the image of God. This book is a quest to recover that image in ourselves and our neighbors, to help us all become human and humane again.

For Christians who lament the brokenness in themselves, their neighbors, and the world around them, Whole offers a rallying cry to pursue wholeness together.

“There are things that need to change in me; they just won’t be changed by feeling bad about myself or trying really hard to fix them. That isn’t how wholeness works. The journey of wholeness is not a self-improvement project. It’s a journey of loss, trust, transformation, and eventually hope.” – Whole by Steve Wiens.

Honestly, before reading Wiens’ book, I would have hesitated to read something about “wholeness.” I’ve read about it a lot! It’s almost a buzzword, as is “brokenness,” and “journey,” which together make up the main themes and threads of Whole. Wiens, however, is not your typical writer. He doesn’t waste time defining terms, and while he speaks clearly about the need for a journey, the greatest thing Wiens does through dazzlingly beautiful, almost poetic language, is bring you along with him on the journey, exploring the depths of what it means to be broken and then put back together.

With all the pain and suffering in the world and an ambitious subtitle that promises the restoration of it all, you might expect a weighty book, and it is, though only in the depth is displays. Whole is eminently readable, and throughout my reading I always had a sense of hope, which is clearly a reflection of the author’s hopefulness in Christ. These words perhaps capture the tone of the book best: “I am more convinced than ever that what restores us most fully is the belief that Jesus wants us to be with him, exactly as we are and not as we should be…”

Wiens builds the first part of the book around five questions, both biblical and personal. These questions must be asked as one moves through brokenness and toward wholeness:

Where Are You?
Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
What Are You Seeking?
Where Are You Going?
What Will You Bring?

In his exploration of the questions, Wiens reminds us of the personal, communal, and global dimensions of human sin and our need for the ongoing work of salvation.

The last part of Whole completes the journey, pulling us through exodus and wilderness toward the promised land. Many books tend to trail off at the end, but Whole is the opposite, mirroring the biblical story in building to its final note. To the final chapter, Wiens stays committed to the human struggle, noting astutely that the promised land is not quite what we always expect or want it to be.

“The Promised Land is not a cure-all for everything that has gone wrong previously in our lives. If that were true, the words that God gave to Joshua wouldn’t make any sense. We don’t need to be strong and courageous to drink milk and eat honey all day.”

Perhaps the best thing about Whole is the storytelling. If you read it, you will be pulled into great stories, sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes funny, always honest. Besides the fantastic personal stories, Wiens also includes a number of imaginative re-tellings of scripture.

This may not sound like a big deal, but it really is! His retellings are bold, fresh and sometimes risky. In particular, his retelling of the temptation of Jesus by the devil is stunning. It challenged me to really think about how I have understood that story, and made me reflect on what it meant that Jesus was tempted, and in the end, what it means for Jesus, and all of us, to be human.

Steve Wiens displays all the signs of a master, skillfully weaving story, scripture, and prose to take the reader on a journey upon which every Christian, or rather every person, ought to embark. I cannot recommend Whole enough.

four-half-stars
2018-01-09T11:37:00+00:00 By |



Kingdom Come Book Review

Kingdom Come Book Review
Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative by Sam Storms
Published by Mentor
November 20th 2015
Pages: 592
Rating:
four-half-stars
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Book Synopsis

The second coming of Christ is a matter of sharp disagreement amongst Christians. Many hold to premillennialism: that Christ's return will be followed by 1,000 years before the final judgement, a belief popularised in the popular Left Behind novels. However, premillennialism is not the only option for Christians. In this important new book, Sam Storms provides a biblical rationale for amillennialism; the belief that 1,000 years mentioned in the book of Revelation is symbolic with the emphasis being the King and his Kingdom.

Summary: I would not put this on the “must read” list for pastors. However, this is not to downgrade the work. It is extremely valuable especially for those still wrestling with their eschatology or who want to understand the Amillenial perspective.

Storms does a superb job on outlining the amillenial, postmillenial, and premillenial perspectives. The book can be difficult to read at times simply for the fact that most pastors are probably not as up on their eschatology as Storms (I know I’m not!). I would also say that it’s not ok to be a “Panmillenial”, you know it will all “pan out” in the end.

The bible teaches us eschatology so we need to know what we believe even if we are continuing to grow in this area. Kingdom Come is a great place to begin, and a great work to read even if you are already settled in a particular “camp”.

Inspiration/Conviction Power: 6.5

Readability: 7.5

Practical Usefulness: 7.25

Enjoyability: 8.7

Best Trait: Thorough!

Worst Trait: It’s like drinking from a fire hydrant at times.

I gave the “Inspiration/Conviction” section only a 6.5 but this is because the book isn’t written to “convict” you so to speak but it is written to challenge your thinking. Storms also shows why holding to a certain eschatological position affects your stance on the here and now. What we believe about the “end times” matters. However, he also shows us that while eschatology is important, it’s not the gospel. We can be fellow church members but disagree on our eschatology.

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With the Nicholas Cage version of “Left Behind” coming out this year, this book may be a helpful addition to your library so that you can at least refute some of the errors that are sure to laden the film.

Ultimately, I whole heartily agree with G.K. Beale’s assessment: “Even those who may disagree with Storms’ amillenial approach will definitely benefit from his book.”

A final warning: This book is 559 pages. It ain’t your vacation reader. It takes some thought to read, but it’s worth it. You’ll be glad you picked this one up.

four-half-stars
2018-01-09T11:50:11+00:00 By |



George Whitefield Book Review

George Whitefield Book Review
George Whitefield: God's Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century by Arnold A. Dallimore
Published by Crossway Books
March 31st 2010
Pages: 219
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Book Synopsis

God's accomplishments through George Whitefield are to this day virtually unparalleled. In an era when many ministers were timid and apologetic in their preaching, he preached the gospel with zeal and undaunted courage. In the wake of his fearless preaching, revival swept across the British Isles, and the Great Awakening transformed the American colonies.

The previous two-volume work George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival is now condensed into this single volume, filled with primary-source quotations from the eighteenth century, not only from Whitefield but also from prominent figures such as John and Charles Wesley, Benjamin Franklin, and William Cowper.

Best Trait: Dallimore has Two Volumes on Whitefield. This book is a summary of those volumes. He does an excellent job giving us a concise overview of Whitefield’s life. Unfortunately, George Whitefield is one of those people in Church History that is too often overlooked. Dallimore writes in such a way that not only will you appreciate the ministry of George Whitfield, but you will be challenged on your own walk with the Lord.

Worst Trait: At times, the timeline can be a little difficult to follow, but not so much that it really affects the value of this book.

Summary: Biographies are something we all need to read more of. Reading about a great man of faith who lived in a different time period than you should help cultivate humility in your life as well as encouraging, convicting, and challenging you in your walk.

Inspiration/Conviction Power: 9

Readability: 8.5

Practical Usefulness: 9

Enjoyability: 9.25

If you don’t know much about Whitefield you should. Perhaps you’ve dismissed him simply because he is of a different denominational persuasion than you. If you read this biography you will see Whitefield’s zeal for the gospel, passion in preaching, heart for discipleship, and desire for unity that is grounded in the gospel, not denominational allegiance.

Dallimore writes “When the present author is stirring at 7 in the morning, he frequently reminds himself that Whitfield had been active since 4. Arising at that early time, he spent the first hour in communion with God…At 5 he preached, and virtually always to a host of men and women…And by 7 Whitfield had often set out on an evangelistic journey or was writing letters or meeting the first of the number who came seeking spiritual advice” (pg. 196).

One of the things that personally challenged me the most was Whitefield’s heart for souls. He took 13 voyages across the Atlantic. While on board he would do his best to build relationships with people, preaching to them, witnessing to them, and catechizing them. He also was a generous man with his time and money. He often preached multiple times a day for sometimes as much as 2 hours a sermon, but also found time to oversee two London churches and an orphan house in the American Colonies. He chose to forsake the pleasures of money in order to give all he could for the furtherance of gospel ministry both in Great Britain and the Colonies. Whitefield was often visibly broken for the lostness of the 18th century. Would to God that I was for the 21st!

No doubt there are other good works on Whitefield out there. Both Steve Lawson and Thomas Kidd have books on him that I highly recommend. I think, however, that this book by Arnold Dallimore is where I would have anyone who is interested in learning more about this great man of God begin. You will not regret learning more about George Whitefield.

2018-01-09T11:57:19+00:00 By |



Hiding Place Book Review

The Hiding Place Book Review by Lauren Dunn

 

There are many books I’ll never read. Some I shouldn’t. Some I should have a long time ago. When I first cracked the cover of The Hiding Place, I couldn’t figure out why it had taken me so long to decide to read it. I also didn’t know that this very book would become one of the most riveting and absorbing stories I will ever read.

What is a Christian To Do?
World War II was an epic time. The world suffered unimaginable evil, astronomical losses—our adjectives aren’t big enough to describe the heartache and depravity of the time.
As Nazi tanks rolled over the Dutch border, they brought moral questions for Christians like the Corrie ten Boom and her family. How were Christians to live in times like these? How were they to honor the authorities when those authorities were murderous and illegal? Could they break God’s commandment “You shall not lie” to save a life? What about forging papers and stealing ration cards?

Under the Swastika
In The Hiding Place, Corrie shares the Ten Boom story, sharing about the memorable people living above Father’s clockshop that had been his father’s before him. She tells about her first day at school and how her father’s love carried her through a painful broken dream. She tells about her mother’s soft yet strong example, and the varying personalities and depths of her siblings and aunts that filled her childhood days.
But soon those idyllic years end. In their place came the Nazi swastika, chasing off Jewish neighbors and sparking violence like their community had never seen. As neighbors disappeared and rumors spread, the Ten Booms knew they had to take a stand. Somehow.

Thrust into this crazy new reality, Corrie and her family did what they had always done. They prayed. They sought the will of God. And then they acted, pushing through fear and doubt and confusion and exhaustion to help whoever God brought to them. Soon they were hiding Jews, providing illegal ration cards, and finding safe places in other homes and towns. The work grew harder. More dangerous.
“That night Father and Betsie and I prayed long after the others had gone to bed. We knew that in spite of daily mounting risks we had no choice but to move forward. This was evil’s hour: we could not run away from it. Perhaps only when human effort had done its best and failed, would God’s power alone be free to work.” – The Hiding Place, p. 138

The Hiding Place is a narrative of real lives in real history, not a topic-by-topic discussion of moral questions. As we follow Corrie’s life, we learn lessons as she did—in real time, in a sense. It’s life as it comes to us, lived and learned in moments that stand out from the rest.
Instead of offering abstract advice for some future difficulty we might face, Corrie shares a testimony of how real Christians in real history responded in the face of very real evil. They had not prepared for it, really, but God had prepared them.

And we might find that God uses this story to prepare us for a difficulty we can’t see yet.

Witnesses With Us
It was a time no once could escape. And they didn’t escape it. Father, sister, brother, nephew, friend, neighbor—all were witnesses of God’s work through terribly dark times. In their suffering and heartache and confusion and doubt, they became examples for us, going before us. As we read their testimony, we see His work then through horrible circumstances, and we understand better how He works now. Through their story, we will be better equipped to see Him work in ours.
And through the incomprehensible grace of God, our stories fold into the one God has been writing for ages past—by far, the most riveting story ever told.

Favorite Quotes
“But this is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for a future that only He can see.” – p. 12

“It was a day for memories. A day for calling up the past. How could we have guessed as we sat there – two middle-aged spinsters and an old man – than in place of memories were about to be given adventures such as we had never dreamed of? Adventure and anguish, horror and heaven were just around the corner, and we did not know.” – p. 23

“I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.” – p. 31

“‘My dear sister-in-law,’ Father began gently, ‘there is a joyous journey which each of God’s children sooner or later sets out on. And, Jans, some must go to their Father empty-handed, but you will run to Him with hands full!’
‘All your clubs…,’ Tante Anna ventured.
‘Your writings…,’ Mama added.
‘The funds you’ve raised…,’ said Betsie.
‘Your talks…,’ I began.
But our well-meant words were useless. In front of us the proud face crumpled; Tante Jans put her hands over her eyes and began to cry. ‘Empty, empty!’ she choked at last through her tears. ‘How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?’
And then as we listened in disbelief she lowered her hands and, with tears still coursing down her face, whispered, ‘Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands. I thank You that You have done it all—all—on the cross, and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.’” – p. 55

“Betsie’s finger traced a pattern on the wooden sink worn smooth by generations of ten Booms. ‘I don’t know,’ she said softly. ‘But if God has shown us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me that He knows about them. That’s why He sometimes shows us things, you know – to tell us that this too is in His hands.’” – p. 80 – Betsie

“‘Don’t say it, Corrie! There are no “ifs” in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety – Oh Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!’” – p. 84

“Love. How did one show it? How could God Himself show truth and love at the same time in a world like this? By dying. The answer stood out for me sharper and chillier than it ever had before that night: the shape of a Cross etched on the history of the world.” – p. 108


 

Lauren Dunn top christian books

Lauren Dunn is a writer and toddler teacher who can’t remember the last time she read a book without highlighting in it or dog-earing it. Except for the ones from the library. She loves cookie dough ice cream, spending time with people, and seeing the clouds in the Midwestern sky. You can find more of her thoughts at These Traveling Days.

 

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2017-08-03T22:27:32+00:00 By |



Christian Book Review: Prototype by Jonathan Martin

Christian Book Review: Prototype by Jonathan Martin
Prototype: What Happens When You Discover You're More Like Jesus Than You Think? by Jonathan Martin, Steven Furtick
Published by Tyndale Momentum
May 1st 2013
Pages: 235
Rating:
four-half-stars
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Book Synopsis

Jesus is God and we are not. Most of us get that. But what we don't always understand is that God loves us just as much as He does His son.
Many times in the Old Testament, God refers to human beings as His "beloved." But when God called Jesus His beloved, Jesus did something truly remarkable: He believed Him. He lived every moment of His life fully convinced of His identity. And unlike every other person in history . . . He never forgot.

In Prototype, Jonathan Martin creates a vivid understanding of what it means to be beloved by God. To completely trust, as Jesus did, that God loves you. To live life without fear, confident in your identity and purpose. To handle life's wounds as Jesus did, and to wake every day with a deep awareness of God's presence.

Martin reveals a startling truth at the heart of the gospel: Jesus is our prototype. And as we discover how the knowledge of being God's beloved changed everything for Jesus--how it set Him free to live out his purpose and love God, others, and the world--it will begin to do the same for us.

I still remember. The complete ecstasy in the freedom I felt as a child, knowing I was completely loved by my father, completely adored by mother, and completely oblivious to the darkness of this world. Time has passed since then and the pain of this broken world is now no stranger to me. Depression and anxiety marked my soul early on, eclipsing for the moment any memory of my unadulterated childlike joy.

Jonathan Martin, pastor of Renovatus Church, writes this bookamazon-adsystem to call me back to that joy. And he does it well.

I hadn’t heard of Martin prior to reading this book, but I’m glad I have now. I admire Martin’s unique giftedness when it comes to writing — his ability to tell a story so compellingly and winsomely that I couldn’t stop reading.

In many ways, Jonathan’s story is my story. He writes vividly of the innocence of his childhood, a time of imagination, joy, and wonder. On his bike, he would ride around the cul-de-sac, transporting magically in time, conjuring fantasies that swept him up to God with each pedal — until the reality of this world’s brokenness shattered his own world.

However, in the midst of this darkness, Martin discovered the beauty and truth of the Gospel. He discovered that Jesus came to accomplish more than the removing of our sins, He came to restore us back to our child-like wonder, free in the love of the Father; he came to show us what it means to re-become human. He came to be our prototype.

In nine chapters, Martin endeavors to “show you how we can unite as beloved children of God — people from the future who are fully alive in the present.” With an eschatological thrust, this book breaks down into three parts that I’ve labeled Identity, Redemption, and Resurrection. In these sections, Martin explains the Christian life, modeling it after the life of Jesus.

The first section, consisting of the first two chapters, brings us back to the beginning and asks the question: Who are you? He argues that our generation struggles with being so inundated with different voices that demand us to define ourselves, that we lose sight of who we really are. He beckons us to remember a time before all the brokenness, when we felt fully loved, fully free to wonder. Drawing from his own life stories and using David as an example, Martin says that our primary problem is that we don’t realize how deeply loved by God we are. This must be our ultimate identity

The second section consisting of the preceding three chapters, Martin describes the journey of how we realize our identity. It is through the struggle of obscurity and pain that we truly begin to under our calling and our identity. He calls this the “gift of the wilderness.” This was my favorite section of the book — I found myself nodding my head, constantly in agreement.

Finally, Martin expounds the resurrection, showing us how the resurrection expresses itself through the sacraments, the community of believers, and our witness. Although Christ has saved us and we are loved by God, we are still awaiting the time when God will make all things new — a time in the future when we will return to being fully human. So through the sacraments, the community, and our witness to this new reality, we are ushering in this new reality, in the footsteps of our Prototype.

In an age of rugged individualism, Prototype rightly heralds a holistic view of the Gospel and calls us back to a Kuyperian view of the world, a vision that all things will be renewed and resurrected, both creation and humanity itself. Martin urges and exhorts his readers to believe that because of the resurrection, we are able to return to our belovedness. I am thankful for this and wholeheartedly commend this effort to do so.

Yet, this book overlooks a monumental aspect of the Christian life. So crucial is this omission I’d argue that a good chapter or two devoted to this is needed, and this omission is that of sin. Nowhere in the book does Martin ever discuss in length the effect that sin has on humanity. Rather, Martin argues that the difference between David and Saul was that Saul simply did not recognize his belovedness. What of his pride? What of his disobedience?

There needs to be a section that deals with God’s righteousness, our sin, and the cross, before we can reconcile our original belovedness and resurrection. If not, to talk of our belovedness apart from the cross is meaningless.

With the exception of this flaw, I still appreciate the call back to our belovedness in Christ, as well as our vision for a renewed, resurrected reality. Ultimately, this was a captivating book — Martin writes skilfully to our emotions, pulling both from his own life and from Scripture, albeit with an understandable Pentecostal bent (he is a Pentecostal), challenging us to believe as Christ, our Prototype, did. While I would pair this book up with another book that explicitly talked about sin and the Gospel, I would nonetheless recommend this book to others, easily.

four-half-stars
2018-01-09T12:12:58+00:00 By |



Christian Book Review: Counterfeit Gods by Timothy J. Keller

Christian Book Review: Counterfeit Gods by Timothy J. Keller
Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters by Timothy J. Keller

January 1st 1970
Pages: 210
Rating:
five-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Synopsis

In Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller shows how a proper understanding of the Bible reveals the unvarnished truth about societal ideals and our own hearts. This powerful message cements Keller's reputation as a critical thinker and pastor, and comes at a crucial time

A former pastor in Manhattan, New York, and a prolific writer, Keller writes with incredible clarity on the biblical concept of idolatry in his book Counterfeit GodsAmazon Ad system. This book promises to engage the non-believing seeker and to convict the believer, identifying the pattern of idolatry in the bible and modern culture, and drawing an uncanny parallel.

This book is relatively old, but the wisdom Keller unpacks within it is far from archaic. From the very beginning of the book, he gently exposes the idolatry of the human heart, both from a 10,000 ft. altitude and on the ground; He tackles idolatry on a cultural level and on a personal level.

Our Modern Idolatry

So, what is idolatry?

Idolatry, Keller writes, is taking anything — relationships, power, success, money — and making it an ultimate thing. Idolatry is prioritizing anything over God, and frankly, anything can serve as an idol. Idolatry is a counterfeit god. This may seem puzzling to the average person, as the mention of idolatry usually conjures a picture of statues and prostrated bodies. Yet, the bible writes that idols are actually in the heart. And the catch? They’re not bad things.

Idols are usually good things. Great things, even. In fact, “the greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.” But when good things are valued in an inordinate fashion, they enslave the heart. They destroy the heart.

What I appreciate about Keller is his ability to take complex concepts and then present them in a clear way. This is seen in how he categorizes idols — personal, cultural, and intellectual. So whether it’s at an individual level, or a national level, there is no escaping our gravity towards worshiping a counterfeit god.

 

The Four Idols

The book then begins to address four of the most common idols: Love, Money, Success, and Power.

Each of the following chapters is devoted to these four things (good things) that very often consume and destroy people and even nations. Keller does this by first highlighting each case with a biblical narrative that reflects each idolatry. He explores the broken relationships between Jacob, Leah, and Rachel to demonstrate the idolatry of love, he writes about Zacchaeus and his worship of money, he uses Naaman as an example of the idolatry of success, and takes the King Nebuchadnezzar to depict the love of power.

What impressed me the most was Keller’s skillful usage of many contemporary authors and thinkers, both Christian and non-Christian, weaving them effortlessly in each chapter to further build his point. Keller’s keen awareness of culture helps Christians like me understand biblical concepts like idolatry with a full, comprehensive worldview.

What was most helpful to me, however, was his distinction between surface idols and deep idols. I began reading this book with a familiarity of idolatry already; I knew anything could be an idol, be it a girl, a hobby, a dream, etc. However, what was new to me was the fact that underneath these visible “surface” idols were deep idols. “Each deep idol — power, approval, comfort, or control — generates a different set of fears and a different set of hopes.”

Keller ends the book by arguing that the only way to remove idols was the replace it. The only way to eliminate the idols of our hearts was to replace it, not with other idols, but with God Himself. “They go back to the beginning of the world, to our alienation from God, and to our frantic efforts to compensate for our feelings of cosmic nakedness and powerlessness. The only way to deal with all these kinds of things is to heal our relationship with God.”

A life of idolatry is ultimately a life out of step with the Gospel. Peter’s idolatry led him to racism and Jonah’s idolatry led him to nationalism. But only the Gospel, as Keller puts forth, has the power to melt our hearts when we fix our eyes on the God who meets every need that our hearts are truly looking for.

 

Favorite Quotes

“Every human being must live for something. Something must capture our imaginations, our heart’s most fundamental allegiance and hope. But, the Bible tells us, without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that object will never be God himself.” (p. 3)

“If, however, God becomes the center of your life, that dethrones and demotes money. If your identity and security is in God, it can’t control you through worry and desire.” (p. 57)

“When you see Him dying to make you his treasure, that will make Him yours.” (p. 67)

“To be your own God and live for your own glory and power leads to the most bestial and cruel kind of behavior. Pride makes you a predator, not a person.” (p. 121)

“But Jesus shows us another way. By giving up his power and serving, he became the most influential man who ever lived.” (p. 125)

five-stars
2018-01-09T12:21:06+00:00 By |

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