BOOK REVIEW: BRYAN CHAPELL’S “CHRIST-CENTERED SERMONS”

MODELS OF REDEMPTIVE PREACHING

CCS Chapell

 APPLYING CHRIST-CENTERED PREACHING IN YOUR MINISTRY

Book Review by David P. Craig

It’s hard to believe that its already been nineteen years since Bryan Chapell penned his classic text on preaching – Christ-Centered Preaching (CCP). Since that time Christo-centric preaching has been on the rise and pastors have become much more exposed to biblical theology and the redemptive historical method of interpretation in helping the busy pastor with sermon preparation. This new work by Chapell is a wonderful complement and sequel to his seminal text that his been so influential in both Reformed and Non-Reformed circles.

Whereas Chapell laid the foundational ground work for Christo-centric preaching in CCP, here he helps the preacher apply the groundwork by giving various examples of sermons that demonstrate the various genres of Scripture and how they point to Christ. Part One focuses on the structure of the Christo-centric sermon by giving examples of informal, formal, inductive, and expository sermons. Part Two delves into various redemptive approaches of Scripture passages. Part Three focuses on sermons that reveal how a variety of redemptive truths can be used from the Scriptures to apply to our lives.

The common denominator of all the expository sermons found in this book is that they focus on saying what God says in the passage. The preacher is encouraged to proclaim the truths gleaned from the passage in order to convey what was originally intended by the Holy Spirit. “Making sure God’s people know what God has said and why he has said it is the tandem goal of expository preaching.” All of the sermons in this book focus on the empowering power of grace through Christ that is found throughout the Scriptures. The message of the gospel and God’s grace in Christ is what leads us to repentance, salvation, and genuine transformation from darkness to light.

The author masterfully teaches and guides the preacher by showing him that “Christ-centered exposition does not require us to unveil depictions of Jesus by mysterious alchemies of allegory or typology; rather, it identifies how every text functions in furthering our understanding of who Christ is, what the Father sent him to do, and why.” In Christ-centered preaching the listener is helped to apply the biblical text by answering four main questions from the passage: (1) What am I to do? (2) Where am I to do it? (3) Why am I to do it? (4) How am I to do it?

Chapell writes, “In essence, redemptive exposition requires that we identify an aspect of our fallen condition that is addressed by the Holy Spirit in each passage, which he inspired for our edification, and then show God’s way out of the human dilemma.” The way out of the dilemma of our fallen condition is through the motivation of grace and holiness because the realities of the cross. We are enabled to have victory over sin due to our union and communion with Christ as revealed in the Scriptures.

I highly recommend that you read Chapell’s first book on preaching before reading this one. However, it’s not essential that you read his first book because he does a lot of review and explains everything he is doing in each sermon in this new offering. He lays out the foundations and theory in his first book as a solid basis for its application in this new one. Together these two books provide a tour de force of Christo-centric preaching resources for the Christ-centered preacher.

Chapell gives various ways that the same passage can be preached using different strategies without changing the biblical author’s intent. His introductions and demonstration of how the principles work for each sermon are immensely instructive. The sermons in this book are based on the following passages of Scripture: 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Judges 6-8; Psalm 126; Jeremiah 33:14-16; Isaiah 44:9-23; Numbers 20:1-13; Romans 15:4; Luke 17:1-19; Titus 2:11-15; and Romans 6:1-14. By providing sermons on various genres from the Old and New Testament Chapell has provided a wonderful guide for preachers to learn better how to apply the principles of Christ-centered preaching from Genesis to Revelation.

BOOK REVIEW: RANDY ALCORN’S “SEEING THE UNSEEN”

A DAILY DOSE OF ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE

STU Alcorn

MAKING YOUR DAYS COUNT FOR ETERNITY

Book Review By David P. Craig

This book assemble’s some of Alcorn’s best writings related to living for that which will last for eternity. It contains sixty days worth of devotions or meditations including perspectives from God’s Word and from God’s people in each daily reading. At the end of each devotional there is also a link to Alcorn’s blog where you can read more on the topic (in the Kindle version – you just click on the link and it takes you right there). Some of the topics addressed are as following: True Happiness; Homesick for Heaven; Grasping our need for Grace; Seeking God’s will; True Repentance; A Theology of Laughter; God’s Sovereignty; The Christian Optimist and God’s Glory and our Good.

Each day hones in on two to three key Scriptures on the topic; two to three great quotes from people like Spurgeon, Chambers, Lewis, Piper, Ryle, Sproul, Tozer and Luther; and focuses on the hope and joy that we have in our promises from the God who holds the future in His hands for our good and His glory. Alcorn’s insights from the Scriptures are clear, cogent, profound, and practical. This book makes a great gift for graduates, birthday’s, anniversaries, the elderly, and any disciple of Christ who needs comfort and encouragement for the ups and downs of life. We all need to reminded of the hope that we have in Christ. I highly recommend this excellent compilation of Alcorn’s finest thoughts on Heaven and living for eternity.

BOOK REVIEW: “COVERING YOUR LIFE IN PRAYER” BY ERWIN W. LUTZER

DISCOVER A LIFE-CHANGING CONVERSATION WITH GOD

CYLIP LUTZER

LEARNING HOW TO PRAY THE SCRIPTURES FOR YOUR LOVED ONES

Book Review By David P. Craig

Nothing has revolutionized my own prayer life more than learning how to pray the Scriptures. In this very practical book Lutzer was inspired to pray more intentionally and biblically for his 8 grandchildren. He decided to pray through the Scriptures for them, rather than just making a list of needs and praying these needs back to God in a ritual-like format day after day. He wanted to avoid the “meaningless repetition” of prayer that Jesus describes in Matthew 6:7.

Lutzer asks and answers these two important questions (1) What if I changed my perspective on prayer and began to pray Scripture? and (2) What if I echoed back to God that which I know is His will? – Wouldn’t that stimulate more faith and bring God more glory?

Praying the Scriptures has many advantages over “list” oriented prayer: Here are just a few: (1) It gives a freshness to your prayer life – because you don’t know exactly what you will be praying for on a daily basis; (2) It aligns your prayers with God’s will – it’s more difficult to pray errantly when you are speaking the truth from God’s Word back to the truth Giver; (3) It reminds you daily of requirements and promises of God; (4) It helps you to hear from and communicate  intimately with God as He reveals His heart to you from His very words. (5) It aligns you with the will and sovereign plans of God. (6) It brings God’s purposes and intentions to bear on your life each time you pray.

Lutzer divides the book up into 52 weeks or prayer sessions. In each session there is a passage of Scripture, a brief explanation of the passage, and a prayer to pray based on the passage. An individual can pray these prayers for a loved one, a friend, a child, a parent, co-worker, and so forth. The prayers are about two to three paragraphs in length and cover such passages and topics as: overcoming fear; hope; worshiping God in trials; identity in Christ; purity; resisting temptation; and resting confidently in God’s love. There are 52 subjects covered. Lutzer (and his wife) prays these Scriptures over his children and grandchildren (one each day, two on Saturday’s) seven days a week.

I have been praying these prayers for my spouse, children, and grandchildren and it has helped make my prayers more focused, spontaneous, and well-rounded. Since you are praying specific prayers instead of just praying “God bless so and so” it is more intimate, personal, and intentional. I find that it has helped my prayer life to be less wooden and ritualistic and much more exciting as I am learning to pray the whole counsel of God over my loved ones. Daily covering my loved ones with God’s promises, and purposes from the whole counsel of God is an exciting way to pray that benefits my loved ones immensely.

I sincerely believe that this book will help renew, refresh, and rekindle your prayer life, invigorate your walk with our Heavenly Father, and help you to pray balanced prayers for the good of your loved ones so that God’s will is done on “Earth as it is in Haven.”

BOOK REVIEW: “THE MAKING OF A LEADER” BY DR. J. ROBERT CLINTON

RECOGNIZING THE LESSONS AND STAGES OF LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

TMOAL Clinton

A PRIMER ON THE PROCESS OF BECOMING A LEADER

Book Review By David P. Craig

Knowing where one is at is crucial in moving forward in life. Nothing is more helpful when one is lost than having a map of where one is, and how to get to where we need to go. Recently, I experienced going through a difficult bout with cancer. The treatment and side effects of the treatment were absolutely brutal. However, I had a guide along the way to help me get through it. He was a man who had the exact same cancer and treatment as me, but he was already “cancer free” and a year ahead of me in the process. He helped me in my journey in two ways: (1) He helped me realize that what I was going through was normal and miserable, but necessary for the cancer to be killed; (2) He gave me a “living hope” that I would be cancer free like him if I endured to the end of the treatment without giving up. The process was excruciating, but now that I look back a year later – like him – I want to help people in their journey with cancer.

In the same vein as my illustration above Dr. Clinton helps emerging leaders understand the process of becoming a mature leader by evaluating the lives of biblical and modern leaders journeys. He identifies six primary processes’ that all leaders must go through on the way to becoming a healthy and mature leader of leaders. Some of the examples used in this book are the Prophets Jeremiah and Daniel, the Apostles Paul and Barnabas, and modern examples: Dawson Trotman, Warren Wiersbe, A.W. Tozer, Watchman Nee, Amy Carmichael and several others.

In his study Clinton articulates six phases or stages of a leaders development:

(1) Phase One is called “Sovereign Foundations” – This is where a leader starts to become aware of his or her calling to leadership. It is a time where  character issues are developing, skills are developing, and one’s calling is being wrestled with. There is a deep sense of God’s calling and purpose and the building blocks for the emerging leader’s life are starting to lay the foundations for a life of leadership.

(2) Phase Two is called “Inner Life Growth” – This is a time where the leader is learning to hear and obey God’s leading. It is a time of deep spiritual growth and intimacy with God. The leader is often put through several major tests during this process – will he or she obey and submit wholeheartedly to God?

(3) Phase Three is called “Ministry Maturing” – In this stage the leader is reaching out to others and discovering and practicing ones spiritual gifts. Both positive and negative lessons are being learned during this phase. The leader is learning his or her own strengths and weaknesses in working with others. Oftentimes there is a strong desire to get more training during this time to minimize one’s weaknesses and enhance one’s strengths. In the first three phases God is primarily working “in” the leader not through him or her. In the next three phases God is working “through” the leader. As Clinton articulates “Many emerging leaders don’t recognize this, and become frustrated. They are constantly evaluating productivity and activities, while God is quietly evaluating their leadership potential. He wants to teach us that we minister out of what we are.”

(4) Phase Four is called “Life Maturing” – This is a time in the leaders life where the leader “is using his or her spiritual gifts in a ministry that is satisfying. He gains a sense of priorities concerning the best use of his gifts and understands that learning what not to do is as important as learning what to do. A mature fruitfulness is the result. Isolation, crisis, and conflict take on new meaning. The principle that ‘ministry flows out of being’ has new significance as the leader’s character mellows and matures.” Communion and intimacy with God becomes immensely more important than one’s ‘success’ in ministry.

(5) Phase Five is called “Convergence” – God takes the leader and matches him or her with a role that matches his or her gift-mix and experience so that ministry is maximized. Life maturing and ministry maturing peak together during this phase. Many leaders never get to experience this phase. Some leaders like Dawson Trotman and Jim Elliott were taken to Heaven before entering this phase. Some leaders don’t get to experience this phase because of their own sin, or other providential circumstances. For those who experience convergence it is a time of transitional leadership where the baton is passed down to other faithful leaders who will continue to develop the leaders’ vision for the church or organization they have developed.

(6) The final phase is called “Afterglow” or “Celebration” – Clinton describes this stage as “The fruit of a lifetime of ministry growth culminates in an era of recognition and indirect influence at broad levels. Leaders in Afterglow have built up a lifetime of contacts and continue to exert influence in these relationships. Others will seek them out because of their consistent track record of following God. Their storehouse of wisdom gathered over a lifetime of leadership will continue to bless and benefit many.”

Clinton defines leadership as “a dynamic process in which a man or woman with God-given capacity influences a specific group of God’s people toward His purposes for the group.” This book is written for leaders and potential leaders who are (a) wondering what God is doing in their lives – asking the question “Is God calling me into Christian ministry?”; (b) are beginning to discover ministry opportunities; (c) need a fresh challenge from God; (d) need to understand how to select and develop younger leaders; (e) are at a crossroads, facing a major decision; (f) want to know how God develops leaders; (g) want to know where you are at in the process of your leadership development – is what you are experiencing normal for a leader?

I think all emerging and veteran leaders will benefit immensely from reading this book. It is packed with useful examples, illustrations, charts, and principles to help you become a godly leader. Also, it is immensely helpful to help you understand the process’ of leadership and how to invest in other emerging leaders. If you believe God is calling you to leadership, or has already entrusted you with a leadership role, you will most definitely benefit from Clinton’s wisdom – from one leader to another.

BOOK REVIEW: JOHN PIPER’S “DOES GOD DESIRE ALL TO BE SAVED?”

GOD’S GENUINE DESIRE AND OFFER FOR ALL TO BE SAVED

DGDATBS? Piper

Book Review By David P. Craig

John Piper states his purpose for writing this book as follows, “My aim in this short book is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God’s will for all people to be saved and his will to choose some people for salvation unconditionally before creation is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion. A corresponding aim is to show that unconditional election therefore does not contradict biblical expressions of God’s compassion for all people and does not rule out sincere offers of salvation to all who are lost among the peoples of the world.”

In Chapter One Piper acknowledges and addresses some of the more perplexing texts that are cited to show that God’s will is for all people to be saved: 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23; and Matthew 23:37. Piper concludes his examination of these passages by stating that the only conclusion we can arrive at is that the Scriptures show that God has two wills: “willing something in one sense that he disapproves in another sense.”

In Chapter Two Piper illustrates God’s “two wills” by examining five explicit examples of this from the Scriptures: (a) In the death of Christ (Acts 2:23); (b) In the war against the Son of God (Rev. 17:16-17); (c) In the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus); (d) In the restraint of a King’s evil (Proverbs); (e) In not delighting in the punishment of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23).

Chapter Three is an exposition of the Sovereign will of God. Piper’s thesis is that “behind the complex relationship of the two wills of God is the foundational biblical premise that God is sovereign in a way that makes him ruler of all actions.” Piper examines various passages of Scripture and concludes, “Terms such as ‘will of decree’ and ‘will of command,’ or ‘sovereign will’ and ‘moral will,’ is not an artificial distinction demanded by Reformed theology. The terms are an effort to describe the whole of biblical revelation. They are an effort to say yes to all of the Bible and not silence any of it. They are a way to say yes to the universal will of Ezekiel 18:23 and Matthew 23:37, and yes to the individual, unconditional election of Romans 9:6-23.”

In the final Chapter Piper ties his argument together by discussing how God does not sin in willing that sin takes place. He answers the question: “What keeps God from saving whom he desires to save? And he goes into a lengthy discussion of the question “What is free will?” In the process he comes back to 1 Timothy 2:4 and gives an exegetical and philosophical argument from some of the great theologians of the Church: John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Stephen Charnock, Robert L. Dabney and a wonderful illustration from the life of George Washington.

In the final analysis Piper arrives at 3 concluding statements about the universal love of God and the offer of Christ’s salvation to everyone in the world: “(1) Christ really is the all-powerful, all-wise, all-satisfying Son of God offered in the gospel; (2) by his death and resurrection, he has acted out God’s discriminating, definite electing, regenerating, faith-creating, every-promise-guaranteeing new-covenant love, and thus purchased and secured irreversibly for his elect everything needed to bring them from deadness in sin to everlasting, glorified life and joy in the presence of God; and (3) everyone without any exception, who receives Christ as supreme treasure–who believes in his name–will be united to Christ in the embrace of this electing love and enjoy him and his gifts forever.”

John Piper has done a beautiful job of explaining the mysteries of God’s sovereign will, the offer of salvation, and shown clearly that the Bible teaches that we believe in and practice both – that He is sovereign in His election of those He will save, and that we have a responsibility to declare the gospel to all of humanity because He desires their salvation. I recommend this book to help you understand the depths of God’s sovereign plan, love, and activity in carrying out His redemptive purposes until Christ returns again.

Book Review: Don’t Waste Your Cancer by John Piper

Highly Recommended for Any Believer Facing or Preparing for a Terminal Illness

God-centered Pastor-Theologian wrote this booklet on the evening when he had prostate-cancer surgery. I think his high view of God’s sovereignty and goodness is essential for anyone facing a terminal illness whether cancer or something else. In reality this booklet is excellent for all people to read and reflect on because as the writer to Hebrews says, “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment (9:27).”

Dr. Piper elaborates on the following eleven principles with supporting Scriptures, and the compassion of a man who knows what it is like to look death in the face, and be able to kiss it – knowing that a loving God is in control of all things for His glory, and our ultimate good:

1)    “We waste our cancer if we don’t hear in our own groanings the hope-filled labor pains of a fallen world.

2)    We waste our cancer if we do not believe it is designed for us by God.

3)    We waste our cancer if we believe it is a curse and not a gift.

4)    We waste our cancer if we seek comfort from our odds rather than from God.

5)    We waste our cancer if we refuse to think about death.

6)    We waste our cancer if we think that ‘beating’ cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.

7)    We waste our cancer if we spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.

8)    We waste our cancer if we let it drive us into solitude instead of deepen our relationships with manifest affection.

9)    We waste our cancer if we grieve as those who have no hope.

10) We waste our cancer if we treat sin as casually as before.

11) We waste our cancer if we fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.”

I highly recommend this little booklet for any Christian in preparation for suffering for a terminal illness; in the midst of a terminal illness; or to give away to someone who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. If you want God-centered and Biblical guidance in the midst of your suffering – look no further than Piper’s primer.

Book Review: The Pastor as Scholar and The Scholar as Pastor – John Piper and D.A. Carson (2011)

Two Men Focused on A Sovereign God and a Saving Gospel:

 This is a short book that I wish every pastor and theologian on the planet would read – especially American pastors and theologians. As an American pastor for over twenty years I have been, and am growing even more concerned over how pragmatism rather than theological foundations dominate our approach to life and ministry. The greatest movements throughout Church History have always occurred when godly men were consumed with the glory of God and through that focus were able to under gird their flocks with a solid foundation that prepared them for life via a robust belief in the Sovereignty of God and His glorious gospel and how that connects to all of life. This book demonstrates how two of the finest scholar-pastors in the 20-21st century make it happen. I long for a day when Theology will once again not be marginalized in our Institutions or Churches, but once again be deemed the “Queen of the Sciences” due to the efforts of men like John Piper, D.A. Carson, and those who will follow their lead – through their example as articulated in this wonderful book.

 The book consists of four chapters entitled:

1) “The Return of the Pastor Scholar” by Owen Strachan. In this brief introduction Strachan shows how history is replete with pastor-scholars, and scholar-pastors who demonstrate “that robust theology, so far from hindering the practice of ministry, actually enriches it, even as the practice of ministry enhances and increases one’s appreciation for theology.” John Piper and D. A. Carson fit this mold and he calls for pastors and scholars to be a “realistic combination” of both – scholarly and pastoral (practicing a theology of the heart, mind, and hands is the way I would put it).

 2) “A Personal Journey and the Joyful Place of Scholarship” by John Piper. Here Piper shares how his life and educational experiences combined to bring about the overarching theme of his life and ministry – “that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” He makes the point that he seeks to be like the apostle Paul in his ministry by “talking about his personal life and experience with God with a view to helping his listeners.” He then spends the large portion of the chapter answering the question: “What were the impulses toward scholarship and the pastorate?” Piper writes about the major writers, pastors, teachers, and experiences in his life that shaped him to study hard (he was not a naturally gifted student and shares his struggles) in order to communicate with sound logic and passion the glories of our all satisfying Savior and Lord. Piper gives us a fascinating glimpse into his personal life and what drew him into the pastorate after initially becoming a New Testament scholar. He calls pastors to strive for balance in their calling as scholars and the pastorate by becoming Christian Hedonists – bringing the head and heart in harmony by living for and declaring the glories of Christ in truth and passionate love for one’s flock. He articulates balancing the pastoral/scholarly life in this way, “Right thinking about God exists to serve right feelings for God. Logic exists for the sake of love. Reasoning exists for the sake of rejoicing. Doctrine exists for the sake of delight…If I were to claim the role of pastor-scholar, this is what I would mean by it. Think rightly and deeply about Word and the world with a view to seeing the greatness of God and his works (especially the work of Christ) so that the affections of our hearts might rest on a true foundation and God might be honored by how we feel toward him and by the behaviors that flow from his heart…If I am scholarly, it is not in the sense because I try to stay on the cutting edge in the discipline of biblical and theological studies. I am far too limited for that. What ‘scholarly’ would mean for me is that the greatest object of knowledge is God and that he has revealed himself authoritatively in a book; and that I should work with all my might and all my heart and all my soul and all my mind to know and enjoy him and to make him known for the joy of others…Surely this is the goal of every pastor.”

 3) “The Scholar as Pastor: Lessons from the Church and Academy” by D.A. Carson. Carson warns early on in this chapter, “Nothing is quite as deceitful as an evangelical scholarly mind that thinks it is especially close to God because of its scholarship rather than because of Jesus.” In other words, scholarship is not an end in and of itself but its pursuit must be out of love for Jesus and for what Jesus loves. There must be a balance of loving God with our minds and our hearts. Carson proceeds to give a dozen cautions, warnings, and vignettes of advice to scholars with the theme of accurately handling the Word and realizing the impact of lives that you influence for the sake of the church and culture via your research, writing, and mentoring influence for the generations to come.

4) “The Preacher, the Professor, and the True Pastor Scholar” by David Mathis. David Mathis shares how our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the perfect example of a pastor-scholar. Jesus perfectly models the function of the mind, heart, and hands in the Gospels. He is the one that all Christians want to emulate. Mathis gives some other examples of modern-day pastor scholars and calls those in the ministry to emulate their calling using our skills and talents to bring about a new reformation and concludes with a prayer with which I wholeheartedly concur, “So in charging pastors to be more serious about the life of the mind, and in challenging scholars to be more engaged with the life of the church, we conclude with this prayer, that all our thoughtful shepherding and all our pastoral scholarship may be to the great end of having the gospel message about Jesus dwell richly (Col. 3:16) both in us and in our people; that knowing Jesus would be the great end of all our pasturing and our scholarship; that we ourselves, in all our preaching, writing, studying, and counseling, would continue to see ourselves as the great beneficiaries of his great grace; that into eternity we would be followers of Jesus more and more shaped, saturated, and transformed by his person and work. To Jesus, the great pastor-scholar, be the glory. Amen”

This book was simply a delight to read by two of the men that have in the past, and in the present continue to radically shape and influence my developing Christological world-view and how thinking in a God-centered manner lays the foundation for everything in life. As a preaching pastor I owe a great debt to John Piper in helping me to find my joy and satisfaction in Christ above all things, and to D.A. Carson for helping me interpret the Scriptures so as to teach accurately the Christological significance of the Bible. Together – through their speaking and writing – they have allowed me to delve into the depths of God and helped me to better communicate His majestic sovereignty as exemplified in the glorious gospel.

Continuing in a long line of Scholar-Pastors in the mold of Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Spurgeon, and David Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Carson and Piper are a tremendous gift to the Church, and those who have yet to believe and follow Christ (even though they don’t know it). Through their prolific writing and speaking ministries in the Theological Institutions, Conferences, and the Church’s where they have served, Carson and Piper’s influence in promoting a robust Christo-Centric Theology is incalculable. My hope is that this book will be used by God to inspire pastors to be more scholarly in their endeavors, and for scholars to be more pastoral in their endeavors so that together we can stand on the shoulders of the pastor-scholars who have gone before us – so as to magnify the glory of God in Christ in our churches and penetrate the world with the soul satisfying gospel declared in the Scriptures.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher – Crossway Books – book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purposes of God by David Platt

As a pastor and life coach I am always looking for ways to better equip my flock to make an impact in ministering to one another, as well as making an impact for Christ in our culture. The author has given us an excellent resource to help us begin the process of fulfilling both of these endeavors by answering this profound question (if you ask profound questions – you get profound answers):

 “How can we in the church best unleash the people of God in the Spirit of God with the Word of God for the glory of God in the world?”

Platt proceeds to answer this question with depth, Christ-centeredness, and with practical insight into how followers of Christ can work together to impact one another and the world for the glory of Christ.

Here are the Chapter titles along with the “Big ideas” of each chapter:

1)    Tyranny of the Good: One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the church.

2)    The Gospel Misunderstood: The gospel that saves us from work saves us to work.

3)    God is saying something: The Word does the work.

4)    The Genius of Wrong: Building the right church depends on using all the wrong people.

5)    Our Unmistakable Task: We are living-and longing-for the end of the world.

6)    The God Who Exalts God – We are selfless followers of a self-centered God.

The book comes with a Small-Group Discussion Guide, which is a great plus for leaders like myself who desire to make multiplying teams of Christ-centered disciples who live to exalt the glory of Christ in our churches, and ultimately in our culture. I am so grateful that this book came out before Easter – as I will begin using it to train current and future servant-leaders in my church in a monthly training workshop in our church to help teams become more Christo-centric and others oriented for the exaltation of Christ in a man-centered world. I highly recommend this book and I’m excited about training others in the practical theological concepts delineated in this fantastic resource.


Book Review: Historical Theology by Gregg R. Allison

*Dr. Gregg R. Allison has made a very useful and practical contribution to the study of historical theology – especially for those familiar with Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.” Gregg writes clearly and cogently for those of us who desire to go deeper into the historical foundations, development, and significance of each major doctrine of the Bible.

 Allison gives us eight solid reasons for studying Historical Theology:

1)    “helping [those who study it to] distinguish orthodoxy from heresy.”

2)    “it provides sound biblical interpretations and theological formulations.”

3)    “it presents stellar examples of faith, love, courage, hope, obedience, and mercy.”

4)    “to protect against the individualism that is rampant today among Christians.”

5)    “it not only helps the church understand the historical development of its beliefs, but enables it to express those beliefs in contemporary form.”

6)    “it encourages the church to focus on the essentials, that is, to major on those areas that have been emphasized repeatedly throughout the history of the church.”

7)    “it gives the church hope by providing assurance that Jesus is fulfilling his promise to his people.”

8)    “finally, as beneficiaries of the heritage of doctrinal development sovereignly overseen by Jesus Christ, the church of today is privileged to enjoy a sense of belonging to the church of the past.”

This book is simply a marvelous plethora of useful information on the development of theology gathered in one place, synthesized masterfully by Allison for those who want to know how theology has come to us by the greatest theological minds in history. The author follows the same outline of Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology,” (also available from Zondervan), and thus it makes this resource an excellent companion of Grudem’s outstanding work. I highly recommend both of these resources to be used together for anyone who desires to know what we believe and how the greatest God-centered theologians of history have developed the sound theology needed to transform lives and culture today in the 21st century.

 

*Dr. Greg Allison in his own words: I am Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where, in addition to teaching the three core theology courses, I teach electives on the doctrine of Scripture, the doctrine of humanity (with a focus on human embodiment), the doctrine of the church, historical theology, and Roman Catholic theology. I do occasional teaching for the Institute of Biblical Studies and Re:train. I am also secretary for the Evangelical Theological Society and serve on the editorial committee as book review editor (in the areas of theology, history, philosophy, etc.) and referee (for articles).

I was born and raised in Chicago, which means I am a Bears fan, Bulls fan, Blackhawks fan, and Cubs fan (and hate the White Sox). I have a B.S. in biology, a M.Div., and the Ph.D. in Systematic Theology. Beside teaching and writing, I enjoy reading, sports, music, and the outdoors. I swim a mile five times a week to keep healthy.

My wife Nora and I were married in 1976 and have three grown children: Lauren is married to Troy, lives in the Seattle area, and has two kids (Caleb and Alia) with another on the way; Hanell is married to Mike, lives in Louisville, and has two kids (Annelie and Hudson); Luke is a senior at Union University majoring in math and secondary education with a minor in Church history.

Some unusual tidbits about me: while in high school I designed the offical seal of my city (Riverdale, Ill.); my wife and I had a private audience with Pope John Paul II (along with 9,998 other invited guests); we lived in Rome and the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland for a total of seven years.

Book Review: Max on Life by Max Lucado

In this resource, popular pastor and writer, Max Lucado responds to some of the letters he has received from people pursuing answers to some of life’s more important questions. Max answers close to two hundred practical questions based on these letters. The questions along with his subsequent answers – supported by the Scriptures – are handled in the following categories:

 1) Hope: God, Grace, and “Why am I here?” – pages 1-36.

2) Hurt: Conflicts, Calamities, and “Why me?” – pages 37-74.

3) Help: Prayer, Scripture, and “Why church?” – pages 75-118.

4) Him/Her: Sex, Romance, and “Any chance of a second chance?” – pages 119-150.

5) Home: Diapers, Disagreements, and “Any hope for prodigals?” – pages 151-176.

6) Haves/Have-Nots: Work, Money, and “Where’s the lifeline?”  – pages 177-196.

7) Hereafter: Cemeteries, Heaven, Hell, and “Who goes where?” – pages 197-230.

8) Addendum: The Write Suff – helpful and brief advice on: how to write, when to write, who can publish, who can edit. – pages 231-235.

9) Notes – pages 236-238.

10) Topical Index – a helpful index for quick access to the topics addressed in the book beginning with “abortion” and ending with “worship.” – pages 239-245.

Overall, the answers to the questions are gracious, practical, clear, and concise. I’m sure I will consult his answers again as they come up in my own ministries of counseling and life coaching. I think his book is definitely worth having and consulting – especially for new believers in Christ.

I think Max does an adequate job in his answers to these questions, but Max represents what I would deem a “Generic Christianity.” I would prefer to see the questions answered within the framework of a robust Biblical Theology with Christ at the center. I would love to see Tim Keller or D.A. Carson write a book answering the same questions. For those who would prefer a more Theological approach (considering Biblical and Systematic Theology) to frequently asked questions I would recommend R.C. Sproul’s, “Now That’s a Good Question” as a much better resource with more depth of insight into the Christo-centric emphasis of the Scriptures and their connection to life in the 21st century.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”