BOOK REVIEW: RANDY ALCORN’S “SEEING THE UNSEEN”
A DAILY DOSE OF ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
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.
Is It Wrong to Want Heaven Now? By C.S. Lewis
We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about ‘pie in the sky’, and of being told that we are trying to ‘escape’ from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or no. Again, we are afraid that heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by definition, seeks to enjoy its object.
(Lewis, C. S. A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 357). Harper Collins, Inc., excerpted from The Problem of Pain).
Aim At Heaven
Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more—food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilisation as long as civilisation is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.
Lewis, C. S. (2009-03-17). A Year with C. S. Lewis (p. 358). Harper Collins, Inc., excerpted from Mere Christianity).
Book Review: Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing By Peter Kreeft
The Book of Ecclesiastes says “God has placed eternity in our hearts.” I have read this book several times and have been waiting to do this book a just book review, but the first thing I have to say is that it’s mind boggling that so many books other than this one have received such a wide reading – and this book hasn’t. I think it’s a classic masterpiece by a brilliant philosopher who in the mold of C.S. Lewis and Thomas Aquinas writes one of the best reasonable defenses for life after death that have possibly ever been written.
The book is not an “easy” read, but an incredibly “rewarding” read. I think the depth of Kreeft’s knowledge of philosophy coupled with theology and his wide range of reading and creativity makes for writing that feeds the soul and the mind. So much of what we read today is “fast food.” Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing is a seven-course gourmet meal that leaves you full and satisfied. After contemplating what you have just read it makes you long for Heaven and a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus.
The reason I call this an “Apologetics Masterpiece” is because I think Kreeft brilliantly articulates how Heaven is necessary in order for all our desires to be satisfied in the afterlife. He makes a great case for the existence of God and the necessity of our home with Him. There is so much that we long for in this life that will never be satisfied, but will be satisfied in the next. The atheist, agnostic, or even varieties of “ists” and “isms” can’t really explain why our hearts long for so much that can’t be obtained in this life. Peter Kreeft articulates with tremendous insight and creativity to show that Heaven is what we were made for and why that’s the case.
I can’t do the book justice. All I can say is what the Holy Spirit said to Augustine so many years ago: “Take up and read, take up and read…this book.” If you are philosophical and a deep thinker you will absolutely love this book. If you are not a deep thinker, you may struggle along, but I would encourage you to read the book slowly and thoughtfully. Anyone can benefit from this book, but especially those who read it slowly and thoughtfully. One thing this book always does for me, is increase my joy and my hope in my future home – where I will finally be satisfied with everything I’ve ever longed for and more.
Book Review – Forever: Why You Can’t Live Without It by Paul David Tripp
Typical Tripp – Christ-Centered, Biblical, and Immensely Practical
If you have ever asked yourself questions like: Why is it so hard to find satisfaction? Why is it so hard to find a good relationship? Why do I keep getting myself more and more into deeper debt? Why does it seem like life keeps getting more difficult? Why am I suffering so much? And many other questions like these – than this is a fantastic book for you.
Paul Tripp writes with theological acumen, numerous biblical examples, brilliant illustrations, and practical insights in showing how we were made for eternity and that we need to factor in our lives the fall and the future in order to live in the now. Our current life is simply preparation for our ultimate destination. He shows how we typically view current realities without an eternal perspective and how devastating these consequences are and then shows on the flip side how we were designed to live with Christ at the center of all of life and how living with a forever mindset has gracious overtones leading to great peace and joy.
Tripp delineates specifically how having an eternal mindset makes a substantial difference in our lives in our relationship to God, those closest to us, at work, in our priorities, etc.
I highly recommend this book as “must” reading and an excellent choice to give as a gift to those who are disillusioned, deceived, discouraged, and without hope in this life. The gospel is clearly articulated here over and over in masterful brilliance shows how Christ is our only satisfaction in the now and how all our dreams will be satisfied in eternity through a personal relationship with Him.
Book Review: Unseen Realities: Heaven, Hell, Angels and Demons by R.C. Sproul
Good Introduction to Heaven, Hell, Angels, and Satan
Eminent Pastor, Writer, and Theologian R.C. Sproul has written a very helpful book addressing the “uncompromising supernaturalism at the heart of the Christian worldview.” The stated purpose of Sproul in this book is to provide a “brief tour through the Bible’s teachings in regard to heaven and hell, angels and demons [in order to] bolster your faith in Scripture’s teachings regarding the supernatural.”
Sproul Writes on the Supernatural in Four Parts:
Part One: Heaven – Using Key Passages of Scripture, personal anecdotes, and keen observations from theologians and philosophers – Sproul makes a biblical case for the realities of an objective material place called Heaven reserved for those who have been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In these four chapters Sproul appeals to those things that we all long for – a permanent and secure home, no more pain, and perfect relationships with others and with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Part Two: Hell – In four compelling chapters Dr. Sproul gives an excellent Biblical case for the existence of a literal place where God’s judgment is executed with perfect justice by a God who of necessity because of His Holiness must punish the sin, and refusal to repent of the unrighteous who have refused to submit to the Lordship and salvific offer of the gospel through Jesus Christ.
Part Three: Angels – In five interesting chapters R.C. addresses the nature, character, and purpose of angels and how they interact with God and humanity.
Part Four: Satan – In the final two chapters of the book Dr. Sproul addresses how Satan is our adversary and how he deceives believers and non-believers.
R.C. has written a very helpful book and answers a lot of questions that Christians are asking about the supernatural. In a skeptical culture – it is important for us to be reminded of what God has said, and that He doesn’t lie. His truth stands forever, and it is of the uttermost importance that we understand the significance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and that our trust in his atoning death on our behalf is our only hope to experience the wonderful realities that await those who have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Also, the warnings of this book and the importance of what awaits those who reject Christ – must be headed so that through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ hope may be yours.
I recommend this book as a good introduction to these topics, and an excellent summary of the clear teachings of the Bible with reference to the unseen realities that exist now and are a part of everyone’s future. I believe that what Sproul has written is cogent, Biblical, practical, helpful, and matters for eternity.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Christian Focus Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Book Review: God Wins by Mark Galli
The Antidote to Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”
Mark Galli is uniquely qualified as a journalist, historian, pastor, and leadership expert to write this cogent reply to “Love Wins” by Rob Bell. In this short book that covers the same territory as “Love Wins,” I couldn’t help but think that God was so pleased with Galli’s treatment of the same material. It was charitable, exegetically sound, and God glorifying. I found myself thinking about how great our God is as I turned each page. As a matter of fact – the song “How Great is Our God” by Chris Tomlin kept popping up in my mind as I was reading this book.
The Way Mark Galli Breaks this Book Down is as Following:
Chapter 1: The Really Important Question – In this chapter he discusses the importance of asking good questions and addresses some of the most important questions and answers that we need to be asking in the 21st century. His key point is that until we comprehend the nature and character of God that all of our questions are a “chasing after the wind.”
Chapter 2: Who Is This God? – A Brief Biblical Theology of the character and nature of God. He includes an excellent discussion of how to have our joy and satisfaction in God.
Chapter 3: Becoming One Again – An exceptional discussion of how the atonement of Christ is the perfect solution to seven deadly realities that all humans face before a Holy and Perfect God.
Chapter 4: The Wonder of Faith – What God has done for us in Christ and what our response should be toward His provision for us.
Chapter 5: The Point of Heaven – A very good summary of a God focused (not activities focused or man-centered) Heaven as detailed in the Scriptures.
Chapter 6: Hell and Judgment – Excellent exegetical discussion of these two topics.
Chapter 7: The Bad News: Universalism – Very good historical and biblical discussion of the issues related to those inside and outside of a relationship with Christ.
Chapter 8: The Victory of a Personal God – Brings the whole book together and concludes: “The God of Scripture is fuller, richer, deeper, and more real than the picture painted in “Love Wins,” and that God invites us to know him as he truly is.”
Appendix 1: Discussion Guide – Well done guide: it includes a key verse for each chapter; some key ideas and questions based on the key ideas from the chapter; and some key Scripture passages to read and discuss to bring clarity to each topic of discussion.
Appendix 2: Further Reading – Galli recommends a few books in the following categories: on the Atonement; Faith; Grace; Heaven; and Life in God.
Appendix 3: Charitable Engagement – Great advice here on how to engage with people that hold different opinions than you do – worth repeating here:
1) Try to listen carefully, and read and reread their arguments.
2) Listen in particular for the motive.
3) Aim to use the Bible as a guide to discern the truth of the person’s argument – and of your own argument.
4) Disagree with ideas, not with the person.
5) Be teachable.
6) Try to apply the truths of Scripture not merely as you understand them but as the historic church has held them.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I will be using it in a small group setting and I hope that this book receives a wide reading to reflect on the incredibly important topics of eternal significance that have been brought to the forefront of thinking biblically in order to impact culture for God’s glory and the supremacy of Christ.