Book Reviews

Review – The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple

Life is a funny thing sometimes.  As I have journeyed down the path of discipleship, I have found many things along the way that helped my journey: people, books, audio messages and video messages and music that have inspired me at various times.  In the last couple of years, I have gotten to know a brother in the Lord who sprang from the same hometown as I did; but whom I didn’t know in person at that time, even though I knew his siblings (and even graduated with one of them).  I first started reading Darren’s work on his blog, Digging with Darren, which you will notice is linked in the sidebar here.  Over the last couple of years, we have exchanged the occasional message on Facebook or in the comments at either his blog or mine; but that was the extent of the interaction, until I noticed his posts and musings on discipleship.

Discipleship has been a strong point of emphasis for me as a believer for a long time.  I have long held that one of the reasons that our churches struggle as they do is because of a lack of intentional discipleship on our part.  We have done an excellent job of trying to get as many converts as we possibly can, but we have little idea what to do beyond that other than to tell people to “come to church” and participate in whatever their church has on offer.  This is why I was intrigued and excited to read some of Darren’s ideas regarding discipleship and I am glad to see them placed into written form that can be shared with others.  The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple is a work worth checking out if you are interested in discipleship and how to make disciples.

Darren has done a wonderful job of taking some of the more recent works about how we make disciples and blended these ideas with the “ancient paths” of discipleship that have in many cases been lost or ignored.  Essentially, this booklet has been structured around a simple process of forming disciples in four areas: Dedication, Memorization, Imitation, and Replication.  I will not expound on them here as the booklet does a good job highlighting what is needed in each of these areas.  Let me simply say that this booklet is a quick and challenging read that will give you a clearer vision and some concrete, practical tools for working to become a disciple of our Master, if you are not one already; or else it will give you a framework for working with others who wish to become disciples as well.  After all, you cannot make disciples for Jesus if you are not a disciple of Jesus yourself.  I highly recommend this work for all who wish to undertake the lifelong journey to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

Disclosure: Please note that I received a copy of this booklet as a thank you for my work in volunteering to help proof the text and format of the book.  I have included a link in the review to the site where the book is available for purchase at Emet HaTorah.

Categories: Book Reviews, Christianity, Discipleship, Messiah, ministry, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Grace for the Journey and Wisdom from the Battles – A Review of Surviving Sexual Brokenness by Thom Hunter

Since getting reacquainted and in the loop at SBC Voices, I have come to appreciate each time Thom Hunter shares a new post.  His writing is always penetrating and frequently takes a tack that few will ever ponder or dare to do, usually because it is born of personal and often painful experience of the sort that few are willing to share about transparently with others.  This is the main reason that I jumped at the offer to review Thom’s book, Surviving Sexual Brokenness.

If I were required to describe the book using a single word, I would go back to that same idea: transparent.  This isn’t a theory book or an abstract look at the problem of sexual issues in the body of Christ.  This is the story and lessons learned by a man who has been through the fire personally and been given the grace and the gift to share the lessons learned with those are at an earlier point in the journey or who have not gotten the courage to start.  Make no mistake about it, this book will challenge and prod in a good way.

There may be those who question the notion of sexual brokenness that Thom is talking about in the book, but statistics bear out the depth of the issue within the church itself.  We live in a culture that glorifies sex and promiscuity and promotes an “anything goes” attitude toward sex.  While most churchgoers understand the inherent problem with this worldview, we have struggled with how to respond.  Some pastor’s have gone along with the “sensationalization of sex” and made responding to it part of their marketing ploy if you will.  Others have chosen to not say much at all.  Thom addresses head on the fact of sexual brokenness that surrounds us in the pews and offers help on reaching out to those who have already wrecked into the shoals or are perilously close to such a disaster.

There is excellent advice for churches and pastor’s in this book that comes from a heart who has been on the receiving end of both helpful and hurtful help from those who were just trying to do the right thing.  Thom gives excellent advice on how we can relate to and help those who are struggling without compromising the truth of Scripture and God’s standards of righteousness.  He also invites us to take a hard look at attitudes and behaviors that may lead us to isolate or destroy our ability to minister to those who need it most, the broken.  One statement that stood out was, “from him who fails much, much failure is expected.”  This encapsulates the problem we so often have in extending the same grace to others or even ourselves that we so desperately need to have and to give.

I do not hesitate to recommend this book and I cannot imagine any person who would not benefit from reading it.  The issues surrounding sex and sexuality and how we respond to them, particularly in the areas of sexual sin are going to be a flashpoint for years to come.  If you want to be prepared ahead of time instead of scrambling for wisdom in how to respond in the wake of a crash and burn disaster, you should read what Thom has shared.  His wisdom from experience will provide grace for the reader and insight for the storm.  I am grateful to him for providing me a copy to read so that I could equip myself and those around me for the days ahead.

Categories: Book Reviews, Christianity, church, Culture, Gospel, Grace, ministry, Southern Baptist | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Radical Together by David Platt – A Review

I received my copy of Radical Together yesterday, and I am already finished reading it.  This was a book that was hard to put down.  It is challenging and engaging at the same time.  I confess that I haven’t yet read David’s first book, Radical, but I plan to do so in the near future thanks to this book.

I am encouraged to see that so many are choosing to engage in a life of faith that goes beyond the culture we are accustomed to here in the western world.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a call to comfort or ease or wealth or prosperity; it is a call to sacrifice, suffering and possible loss in the midst of joy in the journey.  David captures the mind and the spirit and is careful to point his readers back to Scripture itself; directing his readers to see for themselves the basis for his assertions.

This isn’t a comfortable book.  If you elect to read this, prepare to be challenged and possibly changed.  Your view of God and His work and plan in the world may get turned upside down.  This book will challenge you to look beyond the good things to grasp the great things of God, as David uses a technique from our Master’s toolkit and works with phrases that seem almost contradictory at first glance but prove to be true in practical terms.

You can get a taste of this by checking out the first chapter online, in which David asserts that “one of the worst enemies of Christians is good things in the church.”  The other chapter statements offer similarly “backwards” concepts that have to be chewed on which you can see on the title page at the link above, but I have to say something about the final chapter.

The statement for the final chapter is, “we are selfless followers of a self-centered God.”  This one stood out to me the moment I hit the table of contents, but I resisted the urge to read the last chapter first and I recommend you do as well.  I won’t give it all away here, but it has to do with the fact that God doesn’t need you or I to accomplish His plan, yet He includes us in His plan because He loves us.

This isn’t an exercise in theory either.  David and his congregation are living the same journey he is inviting others to discover.  I highly encourage you to read Radical Together, it is a fantastic view of the work of God in His people.

One final thing, in order to be faithfully transparent, I must also mention that  I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

If you have found this review helpful, visit WaterBrook Multnomah and rank my review at their site. Thanks.
http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/bloggingforbooks/reviews/ranking/5256

Categories: Book Reviews, Christianity, church, Culture, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Giving, Gospel, Grace, Growth, Kingdom, Love, Messiah, ministry, Salvation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faith’s Firm Foundation

I just finished a great book (I know it was good, because I had to read it while still keeping up with my reading for my classes) called The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel.  This is the first time I have read one of his books, although I have always heard good things about the other ones, and I was very impressed with the depth and breadth of the discussion and case that he developed.  The takeaway from the book was twofold.

First, there is plenty of scientific evidence for God.  This actually surprised me somewhat.  In most of the discussions that I have had with atheists regarding Christianity, I have always sought to use historical proof (particularly of the resurrection of Christ) because it is such a strong line of evidence and reasoning.  I have never considered the scientific line of evidence to be that useful, but I see now that is only because I had no idea how much evidence is out there.  Early in the book, Strobel is discussing the kalam argument with William Craig.  The kalam argument is pretty straightforward and is sound in logical terms.  Here is the argument:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe had a beginning.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

This argument has been around a long time.  For most of its existence, the chief argument against it came at premise two by people who insisted that the universe itself was timeless and eternal.  As modern scientific evidence has managed to demonstrate that the universe did in fact have a “beginning point,” the fight against this argument has now shifted to discredit point number one.  This is ironic in the extreme as the modern “rational thinker” is now pitted against great minds of the past, that they would certainly otherwise admire, who thought questioning point one was quite foolish.  For example, David Hume wrote, “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause.”  Nevertheless, some of the “rational thinkers” of today try and argue just such an absurdity to get around this argument.

Of course there are those who say that this argument means that God must have had a “cause” as well, but the attributes of God don’t place Him in that category.  The Bible asserts that God is eternal and did not have a beginning or and end, which places Him outside of the parameters of this argument and leaves Him instead as a good candidate for the “cause” of the beginning of our universe.  Honestly, I am just scratching the surface of one section of the book, but hopefully you can get a sense of the depth of the conversation this book represents.

The other takeaway from this book for me is the awe of creation and its Creator.  Reading about some of the scientific discoveries of the last 10 or 15 years and seeing how they point to God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture is truly awe inspiring.  In my discussions with atheists in particular, I am always amazed at the lengths to which they will go to try and avoid even contemplating that God might exist.  It is even more amazing as you see the amount of “faith” they have to have to believe some of the explanations that modern science has put forth for the evidence they have found.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in pursuing the truth and is willing to follow the evidence wherever it will lead them.  If you aren’t willing to do that, why bother studying at all?

Categories: Agnostics, Apologetics, Atheists, Book Reviews, Christianity, Truth | 15 Comments

An Arrow Pointing to Heaven – A Must Read

One of my favorite musicians of all time is Rich Mullins.  He had a way with words that drove many people to either frustration or awe.  The man who penned the song “Awesome God” which has inspired and touched many, also penned the song “Jacob and Two Women” which has left many a person baffled and asking why he even wrote it.  rich-mullins-book-cover

Several years ago, I found a book written about Rich’s life by a man who knew him fairly well.  It is written as a “devotional biography,” which means that it is a portrait of Rich’s life intended to spur the reader toward a closer walk with God.  In this respect, the book is spot on the mark.  I have read this book a couple of times and spent some time skimming back through it the past week.  The challenges and insights in this book are oftentimes profound and simple at the same time.  In an era where Christian entertianment and media have sometimes been shallow and questionable, it is refreshing to see a picture of a man who never really got caught up in the whole fame and wealth and popularity game.

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Categories: Book Reviews, Christianity, devotional, Discipleship, Love | 5 Comments

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