The Character and Quality of Jesus’ Life

“The character of Jesus has not only been the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive in its practice, and has exerted so deep an influence, that it may be truly said that the simple record of three years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists.”

– Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods, p. 4

Great Definition of Spiritual Gifts

“Spiritual gifts are not God bestowing to his people something external to himself.  They are not some tangible ‘stuff‘ or substance separable from God. Spiritual gifts are nothing less than God himself in us, energizing our souls, imparting revelation to our minds, infusing power in our wills, and working his sovereign and gracious purposes through us. Spiritual gifts must never be viewed deistically, as if God ‘out there’ has sent some ‘thing’ to us ‘down here.’ Spiritual gifts are God present in , with, and through human thoughts, human deeds, human words, human love.” – Sam Storms in The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, p. 13.

Book Review: What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

Simple and Clear Presentation of the Gospel

In eight short chapters Greg Gilbert does an excellent job of sharing what the gospel is, by contrasting that with what it is not. Early on in the book Gilbert summarizes the essence of the gospel by stating, “We are accountable to the God who created us. We have sinned against that God and will be judged. But God has acted in Jesus Christ to save us, and we take hold of that salvation by repentance from sin and faith in Jesus.” In the rest of the book he breaks these four points down by showing what the Scriptures have to say about how a person can have a right relationship with God through repentance and faith in Jesus and what that means. I think his discussion of the “Kingdom” was particularly helpful and well explained.

If you aren’t sure whether or not you are a Christian this book is a simple read that will clearly help you understand what you need to do in order to be “saved.” If you already are a Christian this book will help you appreciate the gospel all the more and motivate you to share the good news clearly and cogently with others. I think this book will be around for a long time to sharpen Christians in the amazing truth of the gospel, and as a resource to give to non-Christians with the hope that they will read it and receive the amazing gift of grace that has been offered to us in Jesus Christ. I highly recommend this book!

On Apologetics

“Our priority in apologetics is not to make the nonbeliever listen to us, but to help the person be ready to listen to God and be taught by him.”

– Joe Boot in Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend

Book Review: Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Comeback

I have always loved baseball – and now have a reason to love it even more – Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers stand out, and 2010 American League MVP. The book chronicles the rise and downfall of the number one pick of the Major League Baseball draft in 1999. Josh took a turn for the worse in the minor leagues by getting addicted to tattoos, alcohol, and drugs. The best part of this book is the story of grace – God – the hound of Heaven pursuing Josh despite his rebellion and out of control life-style.

The book gave me a new appreciation for the amazing grace of God, the patient love of grandmas, and the power of never giving up on people no matter how down and out they may seem. Josh literally went from rags to riches, to rags to riches again. It is a story that will inspire anyone battling addictions, or those who want to help those with addictions.

I give it 5 stars – especially if you love baseball, God, and apple pie – well, maybe not apple pie – but definitely – a story filled with God’s grace from start to finish.

Book Review of Tim Keller’s “The Prodigal God”

Tim Keller (Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, N.Y.) is a very gifted thinker and communicator. His book “The Prodigal God” is one I have read 3 times in the last year. The book is based on perhaps the most famous story that Jesus told in the New Testament (Luke 15) – often referred to as the the parable of the “prodigal son.”I have been a Christian for 39 years now (24 of those years in the pastorate), and I have never read a better presentation of the gospel than he presents in this book. Dr. Keller helped me to fall in love with the God of the gospel again. He helped me to realize that the gospel isn’t just about forgiveness for what I’ve done in the past, or for the promise of Christ’s return and the hope of Heaven for the future, but that the gospel is essential for living today. God’s grace through a relationship with Christ is what we need to be reminded of every day in order to basque in the pleasure, peace, and presence of a wonderful God – who loves us despite our tendencies to rebel, or revel in our own righteousness – either way – our sins of thinking we are too bad, or too good keep us at a distance from knowing God the Father through His perfect Son – Our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Out of 5 stars – I would give it a 10. The principles in this book are invaluable and I sum up what I learned from this book here:

1) I am a bigger sinner than I thought I was – I have a tendency to be like the “older brother” in Luke 15 – who sees himself as more righteous than he really is.

2) God is more gracious than I thought He was – He provides forgiveness for both the rebel (the younger brother) and the older brother – who is lost because it is his supposed righteousness that keeps him from having a relationship with his father – he is an idolater becasue he loves his father’s “things” more than the father himself.

3) It has helped me to understand the gospel and explain it better. Religions have a tendency to lead to idolatry – we think we are good – because we follow rules, or do “good works,” but these good works are self serving and make us look down on others.

4) Ultimately, I owe my salvation solely and totally to the goodness, patience, mercy, grace, and provision of God through Christ. He sought me while yet a sinner. He gave me His righteousness in exchange for my sin. He forgave me despite my rebellion and pride, and revealed His love for me in that He sent His one and only sin to die for me on the cross – Romans 5:8.

5) The Prodigal God wants me to go after all people with the good news that He has made provision for their salvation – no matter what separates them from Him. What a mighty and wonderful God we serve!