Book Review of R.C. Sproul’s Surprised by Suffering

41G7iTvvxJL._AC_UY436_QL65_ML3_.jpg

Biblically Based Reasons for Suffering

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

It’s difficult for Christians in the United States to grasp that a huge part of our lives entails suffering – probably due to the influence of the so-called “American Dream” and the onslaught of prosperity preachers in our midst. However, it’s really impossible to read Genesis through Revelation at face value without realizing that part of our vocation in a fallen world is that tests, trials, tribulations, and persecutions, are not only possible, but inevitable for those who follow Christ.

Sproul states early in the book: “The promise of God is not that He will never give us more weight than we want to carry. The promise of God is that He will never put more on us than we can bear…What is difficult to bear without Christ is made far more bearable with Christ. What is a heavy burden to carry alone becomes a far lighter burden to carry with his help.” He emphasizes how and why God uses suffering in Christian’s lives so that we can become more like Jesus – spiritually mature and useful to others.

Here are some of the strengths of this book:

(1) The amount of references used to show that suffering is a huge part of Christian growth and the development of our character.

(2) The stories of biblical characters that suffered and what we learn from their suffering: Joseph, Elijah, Job, John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, and Jesus.

(3) The hope that our sufferings aren’t worthy to be compared with the glories to be revealed in the new heaven and earth.

(4) He writes about how to prepare for, endure, and be victorious over trials and triumph in Christ.

I highly recommend this book to prepare you for suffering well, and with purpose, for the glory of God, and the glories that await us in Heaven.

Book Review of Joel Rosenberg’s The Last Jihad

515Lk55ZQYL._AC_UY436_QL65_ML3_.jpg

Fast Moving and Gripping Political Thriller

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

In this book – the first of five – in the Last Jihad series, Joel Rosenberg writes a fast moving and gripping political thriller. In a televised interview the author says that his goal in writing is “for the reader to not be able to put the book down – and stay up until the wee hours of the night until the book is finished.”

I didn’t stay up all night reading this particular book (I’ve only done that three times in my life: Reading John Grisham’s The Firm; R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God; and Randall Arthur’s Wisdom Hunter). However, if I didn’t have to go to work in the morning I probably would have, and could have read the book all the way through without a break. 

The narrative involves an assignation on the POTUS; a wall street multi-millionaire; Iraq, Iran, Israel, and various characters from the C.I.A., the President’s cabinet, a billion dollar corporation, and various other interesting characters like Saddam Husein.

What I like most about Rosenberg’s book is how he ties together contemporary events, people, and geo-political realities and tells a feasible and realistic thriller. He is an excellent story-teller and weaves in some good insight and wisdom along the way. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the next four books in the Last Jihad series.

Biography Of The Author of The Last Jihad

Joel C. Rosenberg (www.joelrosenberg.com) is a New York Times bestselling author of 15 novels and five nonfiction books, with over 5 million copies sold.

He has been interviewed on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including ABC’s Nightline, CNN, CNN Headline News, C-SPAN, Fox News, MSNBC, The History Channel, The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Sean Hannity Show, and The Glenn Beck Show. His articles and columns have been published by National Review,FoxNews.com, CNN.com, the Jerusalem Post, World magazine, and the Washington Times, among others. He has been profiled by the New York Times, the Washington Times, and the Jerusalem Post.

Joel has spoken to audiences and met with religious and government leaders all across the U.S. and Canada and around the world, including Israel, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the UAE, Turkey, Afghanistan, Russia, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, India, South Korea, and the Philippines. He has also addressed audiences at the White House and the Pentagon, addressed members of Congress on Capitol Hill, members of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, and a conference held at the European Union Parliament in Brussels.

He is the founder and chairman of The Joshua Fund (www.joshuafund.com), a nonprofit educational and charitable organization he and his wife launched in 2006 to mobilize Christians to “bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, according to Genesis 12:1-3.”

Joel’s books, most of which are published in numerous languages, include:

FICTION

The Last Jihad (2002)

The Last Days (2003)

The Ezekiel Option (2005)

The Copper Scroll (2006)

Dead Heat (2008)

The Twelfth Imam (2010)

The Tehran Initiative (2011)

Damascus Countdown (2013)

The Auschwitz Escape (2014)

The Third Target (January 2015)

The First Hostage (December 2015)

Without Warning (March 2017)

The Kremlin Conspiracy (March 2018)

The Persian Gamble (March 2019)

The Jerusalem Assassin (March 2020)

NONFICTION

Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future (2006; revised version, Epicenter 2.0, released in 2008)

Inside The Revolution: How the Followers of Jihad, Jefferson & Jesus are Battling to Dominate the Middle East and Transform the World (2009)

Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic and Spiritual Challenges in Time? (2012)

Israel at War: Inside the Nuclear Showdown with Iran (2012)

The Invested Life: Making Disciples of All Nations One Person at a Time, written with Dr. T. E. Koshy (2012)

He has produced two documentary films, based on two of his nonfiction books, Epicenter and Inside the Revolution.

Several of his books have won national awards:

The Ezekiel Option—ECPA Gold Medallion Award for Best Novel of 2006.

Epicenter—Retailers’ Choice Award for Christian Living (Christian Retailing magazine)

Dead Heat—Retailers’ Choice Award for Fiction: Mystery & Suspense

Inside the Revolution—Retailers’ Choice Award for Social Issues

The Twelfth Imam—Retailers’ Choice Award for Fiction: Mystery & Suspense

The Tehran Initiative—Retailers’ Choice Award for Fiction: Mystery & Suspense

The Auschwitz Escape—finalist in the 2014 GoodReads Choice Awards for Best Historical Fiction

Several of his books have reached the top or near the top of national bestseller lists:

The Last Jihad hit #1 on the Amazon.com bestseller list. Dead Heat reached #4 on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list. The Third Target hit #4 on the Publishers Weekly hardcover fiction bestseller list and spent two months as the #1 bestselling work of fiction in the Christian market in North America. The First Hostage was also the #1 bestselling work of fiction in the Christian market in North America.

Joel was born in Syracuse, New York. His father is a first-generation American from a Jewish background whose parents and grandparents emigrated from Russia and settled in Brooklyn, New York. His mother, a Gentile, was raised in Rome, New York. When Joel was two, his parents moved to a community just outside of Rochester. He grew up in the small town of Fairport and graduated from Fairport High School in 1985. He attended Syracuse University (1985–1989)—spending one semester of his junior year studying at Tel Aviv University (August 1987 to January 1988)—and graduated from SU with a BFA in film drama in May 1989.

Joel married his college sweetheart, Lynn, in June of 1990. Together, they made their home in the Washington, D.C., area for 24 years. They and their four sons—Caleb, Jacob, Jonah, and Noah—now live in Israel.

For more information on conferences Joel organizes, please visit www.epicenterconference.com. You can find his weblog at https://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/. You can follow him on Twitter @joelcrosenberg.

 

Last Hour: An Israeli Insider Looks At The End Times by Amir Tsarfati 

71VZ99-EriL._AC_UY436_QL65_ML3_.jpg

Fascinating Israeli Perspective on the End Times 

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig

This book is a good introduction to how the Bible culminates prophetically with a special emphasis on doctrines on the Rapture; God’s plan for Israel; and Armageddon and the last battle according to Ezekiel Chapters 36-39.

Amir Tsafarti has some fascinating takes on the key players of the last days and has some good insights of what is transpiring concurrently on the prophetic calendar in the Middle East and in Europe. Without using the theological terms – he is staunchly pre-millennial and pre-tribulational and defends this position throughout the book. In other words, he believes that the church (all believers in Jesus) will be raptured before the Tribulation period and that after the duration of seven years the church will return with Christ to reign for a literal thousand years before the final rebellion known as Armageddon.

I think Amir is especially insightful in talking about some key players in the end times: Israel, Russia, Iran, Damascus, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and others. He also makes a good case for the Antichrist coming from Europe. At several points in the book he makes an excellent case for God’s plan for Israel as distinct from the Church – especially with reference to their land promises from the Old Testament. Tsafarti writes, “How the Church treats Israel is a litmus test of its temperature, readiness and doctrine. A rejected Israel reveals a sick Church. You cannot love God and hate that which God loves, you will end up loving that which God hates.”

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in biblical prophecy. It’s especially written for beginners. What makes this book unique is his grasp of Middle East and European current events in relationship to the Bible from an Israeli perspective. 

Book Review on Dr. Emerson Eggerichs – “Love and Respect”

41xodAvnpPL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Your One-Stop Handbook for a Biblically Based Marriage

Book Reviewed by Dr. David P. Craig 

As someone who has been happily married for 28 years my wife and I have made a habit on reading and discussing at least one book on marriage a year. It’s a shame that so many people will spend 8-11 years getting graduate degrees and studying for thousands of hours and yet do not make the slightest effort to prepare for and make the best of their marriages. This was our third time reading through this book – which I can say without hesitation is the best single book on marriage I’ve ever read (and I’ve read around 50 books on marriage).

What makes this book worth reading? It’s based on a biblical principle from Ephesians 5:22-33. The principle is that what a husband needs most from his wife is respect; and what a wife needs most from her husband is love. Eggerichs fleshes this principle out thoroughly, clearly, and practically. He was a pastor who after writing this book ended up devoting his whole ministry to teaching the principle of “Love and Respect.” 

In Part One of the Book Eggerichs discusses what he calls the “Crazy Cycle.” The crazy cycle is what happens to a couple when the wife is not respecting her husband and the husband is not loving his wife. This results in a habitual punishing cycle where lack of love (what the wife most needs) and a lack of respect (what the husband most needs) are perpetuated in a vicious circle. In seven chapters Eggerichs discusses why, how, and when this happens. He gives an abundant amount of real life examples to show how both husbands and wives get on the crazy cycle and how this cycle spins around and around as a result.

In Part Two Eggerichs discusses how to get off the crazy cycle and onto the “Energizing Cycle.” In chapters 8-14 he uses the acronym: C-O-U-P-L-E to show the husband how he can get off the crazy cycle by specific ways to meet her greatest need to be loved. Each chapter takes each letter of C-O-U-P-L-E to help the man practically and actively love his wife. The letters stand for: (1) Closeness – She wants you to be close; (2) Openness – She wants you to open up to her; (3) Understanding – Don’t try to “fix” her, just listen to her; (4) Peacemaking – She wants you to say, “I’m sorry” (5) Loyalty – She needs to know you are committed; (6) Esteem – She wants you to honor and cherish her.

In chapters 15-22 Eggerichs specifically addresses the wife and how by using the acronym C-H-A-I-R-S she can demonstrate respect to her husband (what he most needs from her). The letters in C-H-A-I-R-S stand for (1) Conquest – Appreciate his desire to work and achieve; (2) Hierarchy – Appreciate his desire to protect and provide for you; (3) Authority – Appreciate his desire to serve and lead ; (4) Insight – Appreciate his desire to analyze and counsel; (5) Relationship – Appreciate his desire for shoulder-to-shoulder friendship ; (6). Sexuality – Appreciate his desire for sexual intimacy.

The book closes with what he calls the “Rewarded Cycle”. Ultimately, as a Christian whether you are single or married you live in submission and obedience to Jesus. He encourages those in lousy marriages to be obedient to Jesus in unconditionally loving or respecting your spouse regardless of whether or not your spouse responds to you. In most cases spouses do respond better when we unconditionally and habitually love or respect them. However, no matter how our spouse reacts or responds to the way we treat them, it’s important to know that God is pleased with our obedience to Him.

Love and Respect in my opinion is the best book on marriage available today. If you only read and apply one book on marriage, this is your one-stop handbook for taking a bad marriage to good, and a good marriage to great! I can give testimony after 28 great years of marriage that God’s principles work – a husband was designed by God to need respect and a wife was designed by her Maker to need love. Eggerichs gives a plethora of illustrations, examples, and biblically fleshes out how to do these things in a way that is pleasing to God and beneficial to the flourishing health of a biblical marriage based on God’s perfect design of “Love and Respect.”

 Tim Keller’s – Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism

91U7OilrosL._AC_UY436_QL65_ML3_.jpg

A “Must Have” Handbook for the Modern Preacher

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

Tim Keller is as Bostonians say “Wicked Smart.” He has also demonstrated humility, wisdom, and faithfulness through much suffering and success in planting one of the most successful and model ministries for City Churches of the world – Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, New York. He has also blessed Christians around the world with wonderful Christ centered and gospel centered resources.

I have read this book twice – in English and Spanish, I am also taking several bi-vocational pastors and elders in my church through this book. In my opinion it is the first go-to handbook for preachers in the 21st Century. Why? Let me give five reasons:

(1) Tim Keller practices what he preaches (a) Tim Keller preaches the Word – he has been preaching for over 45 years in both a semi-rural context and a large city context and knows how to preach to “blue-collar” and “white-collar” congregations; (b) He always preaches the gospel in every sermon; (c) He always preaches Christ whether he’s preaching from the Old or New Testaments; (d) He preaches culturally relevant messages without compromising biblical truth; (e) He preaches so as to help you love Christ with your mind; (f) He preaches so as to stir the soul/heart, which leads to real life change and Christ-like transformation; (g) He preaches with the unction or power of the Holy Spirit.

(2) Tim Keller gives examples, illustrations, principles, and theological reasons for why and how to do all of what he models in his own preaching (see #1 above).

(3) The extensive footnotes are worth gold. Make sure you don’t only read the book – read the footnotes! About 30% of the material in this book is in the notes. There is great stuff in the notes – you will feel like you are sitting with Tim over coffee with what he shares in the notes!

(4) Much of what Tim writes about you will not get in Bible college or Seminary. I didn’t get 80% of what he writes about in Bible college or seminary – I did get about 50% of what he talks about with a month sabbatical I spent taking preaching courses at Westminster Seminary. However, if you didn’t attend a seminary that is reformed you most likely missed how to get to Christ from all of the Scriptures.

(5) The last chapter of the book is also extremely helpful – he gives ample example, principles, and illustrations to help you write and preach an expository sermon.

Tim Keller knows what he’s talking about – when he’s pretty much talking about anything. However, what Keller is best at is preaching. You have the opportunity in reading and studying this book to learn from one of the best preacher’s of our time. 

My Ten Favorite Books By R.C. Sproul by David P. Craig

images.jpeg

Since R.C. Sproul’s promotion into the presence of Christ’s glory on December 14, 2017 I have had mixed emotions. No single person has had a greater influence on my understanding of the Triune Nature of God, the Gospel, the Bible, Reformed Theology, Philosophy, Apologetics, teaching, and preaching than R.C. Sproul. There have been a lot of great tributes to R.C. in recent days, but I have been out of sorts since his passing. I have sorrowed as if I lost a blood brother and comrade in the ministry. He was the mentor who has most influenced me by far – especially intellectually – helping me to love the Lord my God with all my mind, heart, soul and strength. The way I am going to pay tribute to R.C. is by writing about the books he wrote that influenced me the most. I have read over 60 of his books.

At one time I could keep up with his writing and let him know at a book signing table at a Ligonier Conference (early 90’s) that I had read all his books and he said to me, “I bet you haven’t read Soli Deo Gloria: Essays in Reformed Theology: Fetschrift for John Gerstner; a book I edited for my Mentor in 1976.” He was right, I hadn’t read this book. I’ve since read his chapter in that book entitled “Double-Predestination.” But I was never able to keep up with his writing while he was alive. Since his death I have been re-reading some of his books, articles, watching videos, and listening to his audio recordings. I am so grateful that Ligonier Ministries has such a plethora of his resources available so that maybe before I die I can catch up on all the great writing, teaching, and preaching of this amazing Theologian and friend in Christ.

I never thought I would be so sad at someone’s death that I only met a few times “live”. I attended four Ligonier Conferences and was able to say hello to him each time and thank him for his ministry in Fullerton, and Pasadena in CA; and Orlando twice. I also got to spend some time in a smaller group setting with him at WTS in Escondido while working on my D.Min. there. Dr. Sproul was always humble, gracious, and kind. He treated me with dignity and respect and modeled what he taught. As others have made great tributes to him, I’d like to give my “two-cents” with the hope that maybe I can influence others to read, or listen to him. I can honestly say that I love R.C. and can’t wait to see him on the other side. I am grateful beyond words for what he has meant and will continue to mean to me and has tremendously deepened my relationship with Jesus.

I will write a little blurb on each of the 10 books he wrote that have impacted me the most:

39655.jpg

(1) Apart from the Bible itself – no other book has made a greater impact on me than The Holiness of God. At the time (summer of 1986) I had never heard of R.C. Sproul. I was a second year student my sophomore year at Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. I was working at a church near my home as an intern that summer working with college students. On my day off I went first thing in the morning to read a book at my favorite spot in a cove in Corona Del Mar near my home in Huntington Beach. On the way to the beach I stopped by the bookstore (Pilgrim’s Progress Bookstore – long since out of business, unfortunately) and R.C.”s book caught my eye. I was fascinated by the topic and decided that I would read it at the beach.

I don’t know how long it took me to read the book, but by sunset I was reading the last words at the beach and found myself literally on my knees weeping over my sin in repentance before this Holy God of which Sproul knew so well. I realized that though I had been a follower of Christ from the age of six; I was in practice full of unconfessed sin; a great idolater; and desperately needed to elevate my view of God and His character and attributes.

Since 1986 I’ve probably read this book a dozen times. It’s my go to book when I need to re-charge my spiritual batteries. It’s also set the tone for my personal life; relational life, ministry, teaching, and preaching. Reading this book helped me strive to place God at the center of all of life and seek to live “Coram Deo” – before the face of God and for His glory.
13354.jpg

(2) A close second to R.C. Sproul’s Holiness of God in impact is his classic Chosen By God. Like many young college or seminary students I wrestled with the concepts of predestination, foreknowledge, free will, faith, election, and how all these work together. I was definitely (though I’d never heard the term before) a Semi-Pelagian or Arminian before reading this book. R.C. brilliantly and cogently helped me see that I was dead in my sin and that I needed nothing short of the miracle of God’s electing grace to save me from a destiny banished from Him – had He not sovereignly  graciously and mercifully intervened. I’ve given at least 100 copies of this book away over the years and it’s my go to book to recommend to anyone who wrestles with how God saves His chosen ones. If anyone wants to understand the biblical doctrine of predestination – this book is an outstanding introduction.

31bDLmcKPzL._AC_US436_QL65_.jpg

(3) Shortly after reading Chosen by God while in Bible college I read a book called the Psychology of Atheism by R.C. Sproul which I found in the school library. The book has been re-published under the title: If There’s A God, Why Are There Atheists? This book peaked my curiosity because at the time I had an ongoing ministry with philosophy students at a college department across town called Reed College. There was a period of time where I would drive over to Reed College once a week and wait outside the Philosophy Department to talk with Philosophy students (most of whom adhered to Atheism or Agnosticism). R.C. Sproul’s book is essentially a practical exposition of Romans 1. It makes a great case for the fact that people are atheists not because of the evidence of atheism, but because they want to live in sin. I found this to be the case then; and I still find this to be the case. In our secular culture I consider this book “must” reading for believers who take evangelism and apologetics seriously. It gives one a deep understanding of the psychological makeup of those who are in rebellion against God.

12370p.jpg

(4) Another book that has helped me tremendously in the area of apologetics and evangelism is Reason to Believe. I read this book when it was titled Objections Answered when I was doing a lot of evangelism with professing Agnostics and Atheists in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I still think this is the best book available to give to lay-people to help them answer the 10 biggest objections to the Christian faith. R.C. is famous for making the complex simple via his use of language, illustrations, and biblical theology and exegesis. I have used his arguments in this book hundreds of times over the years in evangelism, teaching, and apologetics.

407281.jpg

(5) Pleasing God. I can’t remember the first time I read Pleasing God, but it’s a book I’ve read and used in counseling, teaching, and preaching many times over the years as a great introduction to the biblical doctrine of sanctification. In this book Sproul tackles the greatest enemies in the battle of our seeking to please Christ: the battle with the flesh; the world; and Satan. Laced throughout this book is the reality of God’s grace and practical ways to please God. I still think this is the best introduction available on the biblical doctrine of sanctification.

075483.jpg

(6) I have read this book on the Attributes of God as it has transformed into three different titles over the years: One Holy Passion; Discovering the God Who Is; and most recently Enjoying God. There simply is no better introduction on the character, nature, and attributes of God than this book. R.C. does a wonderful job of explaining the major concepts of how God is different than us and worthy of our worship and passion.

844685.jpg

(7) The best introduction to how to read and study the Bible is still Knowing Scripture. In this short book R.C. gives a plethora of helpful information for anyone who wants to know how to read, interpret, and apply the Scriptures.

27094.jpg

(8) One of the most comforting and practical doctrines for Christians to understand is the providence of God. R.C. has helped thousands of believers around the world be comforted through his teaching on the biblical doctrine of God’s sovereign working to bring about His ends for our good and God’s glory in all things in his classic The Invisible Hand of God.

504816.jpg

(9) The least understood Person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. In The Mystery of the Holy Spirit R.C. handles the biblical portrayal of the Holy Spirit with great clarity and makes the complex and controversial issues related to the Spirit understandable and practical. I know of no other better introduction to the Holy Spirit than this great work by Dr. Sproul.

691849.jpg

(10) In 2012 I had a brutal bout with cancer. I read several books while undergoing treatment and wrestling with pain, unemployment, and even death. I have read a lot of books on suffering over the years, but this is still my first choice to give caregivers, people in pain, and those helping people understand the biblical purposes and practical ramifications of suffering.

I feel sort of bad because I’ve left out a lot of great books by Dr. Sproul. Even though many books of R.C. are introductory in nature. They are all deep, profound, cogent, and full of helpful theological truth that are practical, weighty, and lead one to becoming more and more like Jesus each day. It seems that almost every book R.C. Sproul wrote was well written, thorough, and yet he never said too much. I have given away more of his books as gifts than any other author by far. I’ve also recommend his books more than any other author. He was so omnicompetent it’s just hard for any modern writer or theologian to match him on just about any subject. I will continue to read Sproul’s books, listen to his teaching, and watch his videos. He had a unique style, was always interesting, and always taught me something new about the glory and grandeur of God. I can’t wait to see him in heaven and listen to him chatting it up with Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and the many he influenced along the way – like me.

At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon

81HHNyakuXL._AC_UY436_QL65_ML3_.jpg

Encouragement for the Soul

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

When I listen to music when I’m reading I usually listen to what most people would describe as “Easy Listening” music. It’s not too fast, not too slow, not too loud or distracting. Jan Karon’s first novel could be described as the book version or “easy listening.” 

The key characters are a pastor, various parishioners, and numerous stories that are taking place in the fictional town of Mitford (somewhere in the south of the United States). Jan Karon does a wonderful job of transporting you into this place and the lives that make Mitford a taste of heaven on earth. 

As a pastor myself, I loved this book. After thirty years of pastoring I find that I can relate to almost every person, story, and event that transpires. I love the mixture of all the emotions that Karon brings to the table: laughter, sorrow, joy, tears, elation, heartbreak, and everything in-between. She also creates intrigue, romance, expectation, hope, and does not disappoint with bringing together and weaving several plots.

At Home in Mitford is pleasant, calming, encouraging, and delightful. It’s “easy listening” for the mind and soul. I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to read the rest of the series (there are 9 books in the Mitford Series).