The Cross in Four Words

Kevin DeYoung, Richard Coekin, and Yannic Christos-Wahab join forces in their recent book, The Cross in Four Words. With this recent publication, The Good Book Company proves once again how committed they are to putting solid resources into the hands of God’s people.

The Cross in Four Words is a summation of the gospel that is centered around the themes of freedom, forgiveness, justice, and purpose. Each author makes a unique contribution and accurately portrays the gospel by unpacking these crucial words.

The book is not polemical in nature but does defend the veracity of the gospel. Newcomers to the Christian faith would be especially encouraged to pour over these short chapters that exalt God and glory in his gospel.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Why is My Teenager Feeling Like This? A Guide for Helping Teens Through Anxiety & Depression – David Murray

David Murray, Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This? A Guide for Helping Teens Through Anxiety & Depression (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 140 pp.

David Murray’s newest book, Why is My Teenager Feeling Like This? A Guide for Helping Teens Through Anxiety & Depression could not have come at a better time. The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a corresponding mental health crisis, especially among young people. Many of the struggles existed prior to the pandemic but simply lay dormant. COVID-19 merely surfaced the mental and spiritual battles that exist in teenagers.

Anyone familiar with David Murray knows that he is a thoughtful and caring writer. What is more, his books are always saturated with biblical wisdom and encouragement. This book is no exception.

The introduction of Murray’s work helps readers understand the root causes of anxiety and depression. He provides an assurance upfront that there is help for anyone who struggles with a wide range of ailments.

The book addresses a myriad of mental health issues that utilize a case study approach. After describing an example of a person who is struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, workaholism, negativity, rebellion, etc. the author provides a brief prescription for offering help. Each chapter concludes with a section that offers real-life application. Generally, there is a verse to memorize, some practical questions, and a prayer.

In addition, David Murray has written a second book specifically designed for teens. I recommend these fantastic resources for both parents and teens and trust that God will use them to encourage young people during these troubling times.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

God’s Love: Better Than Unconditional – David Powlison

0875526861_bHow many times have you uttered the words, “God’s love is unconditional?”  Yet the term is strangely absent from Scripture.  One might argue that other terms are absent as well, like “Trinity” and “hypostatic union.”   Of course, the terms are missing but the truth of the Trinity and the hypostatic union are clearly taught.

So what does one make of the notion of God’s “unconditional love.”  David Powlison tackles this important subject in his book, God’s Love: Better Than Unconditional.  Here’s his proposal: “God’s love is much different and better than unconditional … God cares too much to be unconditional in his love.”

Powlison is not the only one who resists the notion of God’s unconditional love.  R.C. Sproul adds, “I can think of no more pernicious lie to destroy people’s souls than this, which some preachers are spreading around the world: God loves you unconditionally.  No, he does not.  If we do not meet the conditions that he established for us in creation, then God will send us to hell forever” (Truths We Confess, Vol. I, 216).

Powlison grounds his argument with four “unconditional truths.”

1. It is true that “conditional love” is a bad thing.

2. It is true that God’s love is patient.

3. It is true that true love is God’s gift.

4. It is true that God receives people just as they are.

The author admits that the phrase “unconditional” has a “noble theological lineage in describing the grace of God.”  But the term is fraught with difficulties.  He suggests four biblical improvements:

1. There are more biblical and vivid ways to capture each of the four truths just stated.  The Bible provides much richer descriptions of God’s love than “unconditional.”

2. It is clear that unmerited grace is not strictly unconditional.  While it is true that God’s love does not depend upon what you do, it very much depends on what Christ did for you.  In that sense, it is highly conditional.

3. God’s grace is something more than unconditional in that it is intended to change the people who receive it.

4. “Unconditional love” is filled with cultural assumptions.  Such a term implies the minimizing or even elimination of expectations on the one receiving the love.

Powlison urges readers to consider the notion of “contraconditional love.”  He continues, “God has blessed me because his Son fulfilled conditions I could never achieve.  Contrary to what I deserve, he loves me.  And now I can begin to change not because I can earn his love, but because I’ve already received it.”

I commend God’s Love: Better Than Unconditional to fellow pilgrims.  It contains the biblical answer to the questions in regards to the love of God.  Readers concerned with Powlison’s thesis will be quickly persuaded and encouraged to pursue God with greater obedience and passion – an overflow of the love received from the sovereign and loving God of the universe.

5 stars

Walking With God: Meditations on Psalm 119 – Brian S. Borgman

Brian S. Borgman, Walking with God: Meditations on Psalm 119 (Conway: Free Grace Press, 2019), 187 pp.

The apostle John writes, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4, ESV). As such, followers of Christ should be people of the book: reading, meditating on, studying, and memorizing Scripture. God’s people, by definition, then, should treasure the Word of God.

Brian S. Borgman’s book, Walking with God: Meditations on Psalm 119 is a tool that enables Christians to saturate themselves with Scripture. Specifically, the book introduces readers to Psalm 119.

Walking with God is a devotional commentary that guides readers through each stanza of Psalm 119. The author writes, “I am convinced that the Psalm reflects the challenge of walking with God as an exile in a hostile world.” In light of this, each chapter is filled with exegetical insight that helps readers forge a God-centered path in a world that opposes God and the ways of God.

The great strength of this resource is its brevity and readability. The content may be accessed by readers at every stage of the Christian journey. Each chapter concludes with a short application that includes points of pastoral counsel and guidance for Christians.

I heartily recommend Walking with God and trust that many will be strengthened and encouraged by this fantastic book.

When Doctrine Divides the People of God – Rhyne R. Putman

Rhyne R. Putman, When Doctrine Divides the People of God (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2020), 314 pp.

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching (didaskalia) that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of great gain” (1 Tim. 6:3-5). Paul’s words to Timothy struck a chord then and continue to reverberate in our day.

Doctrine has always divided people, sometimes rightly so. But other times, doctrine creates unnecessary division because people are unable to humble themselves and hear and opposing position. Rhyne R. Putman develops these themes in his recent book, When Doctrine Divides the People of God.

Part One: Why We Disagree About Doctrine

Part one focuses on foundational matters that are hermeneutical in nature. The author helps readers understand various approaches to hermeneutics and discusses how texts and doctrines are handled on the basis of tradition and belief. Readers who do not have a background in hermeneutics may be intimidated and struggle to put the pertinent pieces together.

Part Two: What We Should Do About Doctrinal Disagreement

Part two is more reader-friendly as the author offers practical suggestions for moving forward with doctrinal disagreement. His counsel is solid, measured, and biblical.

Chapter seven was the most valuable chapter for me, personally. Putman zeroes in on heresy and provides practical help with moving forward in an age marked by theological compromise. Additionally, various tests are offered that helps Christians navigate the “choppy theological waters” that characterize our age.

In the end, When Doctrine Dividesreminds us that doctrine matters. Indeed, Spurgeon said, “Those who do away with doctrine … are the worst enemies of Christian living.” Our challenge is to determine where the lines need to be drawn. Putman helps draw those lines.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense – Paul David Tripp

tripp 2Paul David Tripp, Suffering (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 210 pp.

C.S. wrote, “If I knew a way of escape I would crawl through the sewers to escape the pain.” Whether a person agrees with Lewis’s radical conclusion or not is a matter of personal opinion. However, the problem of suffering is a universal dilemma that every person must face. How we respond to suffering reveals the strength of our Christian resolve and character.

Paul David Tripp’s recent book, Suffering explores a weighty subject and invites readers onto a personal journey that will encourage deep humility and personal growth. Speaking personally, Dr. Tripp’s book took my breath away. The author’s transparency and humble approach spoke deeply to my heart and lifted my spirit.

In the final analysis, this book has less to do with coping with suffering and more to do with how suffering can supernaturally transform the lives of God’s people. Listen to Tripp’s meditations and allow his words to sink in deeply:

“Suffering has the power to turn your timidity into courage and your doubt into surety. Hardship can turn envy into contentment and complaint into praise. It has the power to make you tender and approachable, to replace subtle rebellion with joyful surrender. Suffering has the power to form beautiful things in your heart that reform the way you live your life. It has incredible power to be a tool of transforming grace.”

Suffering in many ways is like pouring ice-cold water on an unsuspecting victim; a battering ram that brings even the most powerful to a place of humility and surrender. This volume is quick to remind us that all those who suffer are in desperate need of grace. Tripp adds, “This physical travail, in the hands of my Savior, is a tool used to drive me away from self-sufficiency and into a deeper dependency on God and his people.” Therefore, suffering is greatly used by God to propel his people to a place they never would have reached apart from suffering.

This fundamental message of transformation stands at the heart of Tripp’s book and has the power in itself to encourage and equip a lot of people in God’s kingdom.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers – Dane Ortlund

Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 221 pp.

Dr. Dane Ortlund has gained a reputation for writing Christian books that are solid, edifying, and gospel-centered. His newest work, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Suffers is No Exception. Ortlund uses Matthew 11:29 as the basis for his writing:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

The author writes, “This book is written for the discouraged, the frustrated, the weary, the disenchanted, the cynical, the empty. Those running on fumes.” Ultimately, Ortlund is jealous to draw the attention of readers to the heart of Jesus Christ.

23 chapters await readers who will be captivated, encouraged, and loved y their Savior. Some readers will need to readjust what they have previously learned about Jesus and move in a more biblically oriented direction. Ideally, this book should be read one chapter at time, in a devotional sort of way. Such an approach will allow the mind to be sufficiently instructed and the heart to be filled with encouragement.

A few citations will give a sense of the tone and direction the book takes:

Jesus is not trigger-happy. Not harsh, reactionary, easily exasperated. he is the most understanding person in the universe.

The Jesus given to us in the Gospels is not simply the one who loves, but one who is love; merciful affections stream from his innermost heart as rays from the sun.

It is impossible for the affectionate heart of Christ to be over-celebrated, made too much of, exaggerated.

Jesus Christ is closer to you today than he was to the sinners and suffers he spoke with and touched his earthly ministry.

If God sent his own Son to walk through the valley of condemnation, rejection, and hell, you can trust him as you walk through your own valleys on the way to heaven.

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers is packed with heart-warming scholarship and Christology that moves the soul. It is eminently practical and encouraging from start to finish. It will prove to be one of the most important Christian books in 2020!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

What if I’m Discouraged in My Evangelism – Isaac Adams

Isaac Adams, What If I’m Discouraged in My Evangelism? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 57 pp.

Evangelicals, for the most part seem passive when it comes to evangelism. Passive is a kind term. Disobedient would be more accurate. Isaac Adams addresses this important subject in his booklet, What If I’m Discouraged in My Evangelism? A part of Crossway’s Church Question Series, Adams’s work is desperately needed as many Christians have a desire to share their faith, but are discouraged, as the title indicates.

After setting the stage for biblical evangelism the author presents nine important aspects of the hope we enjoy as followers of Christ. Each of the nine points draws readers to the Bible and points them to the gospel. The great strength of Adam’s work is its brevity (as is the case with the other booklets in the Church Questions Series. His gracious tone will invite many to grow in their obedience and confidence and set their feet on a path that leads to faithful evangelism.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Unified – Tim Scott & Trey Gowdy

unifiedTim Scott & Trey Gowdy, Unified  (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2018), 220 pp.

We may live in one of the most divided times in American history. The cultural climate is rising without any hope of resolution in sight. Senator Tim Scott and Congressman, Trey Goudy recognize the problems in our land. Yet, they both have a realistic outlook, which is laced with optimism. Their book, Unified invites readers to pursue racial reconciliation and restoration, which will strengthen the fabric of our fractured nation.

Unified is a very basic book that reads like a conversation between two lawmakers. These conservative thinkers, who have become the best of friends, bring their unique conservative perspectives to the table. Their mutual love and respect for one another are apparent from the outset. These two men, who are both committed Christ-followers model what friendship can and should look like.

Senator Scott and Congressman Gowdy steer clear of politics, however. Their aim is to promote an optimistic vision of hope for the future of our nation:

“We believe that our nation can be united and transformed by conversations and friendships that lead to reconciliation and understanding. As Americans, we must uphold the ideals of freedom, equality, justice, and opportunity, even as we continue to work together to make those ideals a reality for all. We must come together, find solutions, and get to a point where we can see that our strength as a nation is rooted in all that is good in our world.”

There are no quick fixes here. The authors understand and acknowledge that legislation will not cure the illness in American culture. True and lasting change must take place in the lives of people. In what may prove to be the most important insight in the book, Senator Scott writes, “We will change the nation only by changing the condition of the human heart.” This change, undergirded by the gospel of grace has the power to change individuals and families. Then and only then, will our nation see a renewal.

Unified is a worthy read by two men of integrity; men who are striving to make America a better place. This is the first of many steps but it is a step in the right direction.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Gathering Storm – Albert Mohler

R. Albert Mohler, The Gathering Storm (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2020), 223 pp.

The postmodern clouds loom large over our heads. What Francis Schaeffer anticipated in the sixties and seventies in now upon us – in full force. What was once suspected has now arrived. The full force of secularism has invaded our culture and is wreaking havoc in the church.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler addresses the theme of secularism, culture, and the church in his latest book, The Gathering Storm. Each chapter sounds a warning cry to followers of Jesus Christ as the author demonstrates how secular humanism has managed to essentially “dechristianize the culture.” I As Francis Schaeffer once wisely noted, “The tragedy of our situation today is that men and women are being fundamentally affected by the new way of looking at truth, and yet they have never even analyzed the drift which has taken place.”1 Over and over, Mohler demonstrates the radical nature of this seismic shift.

The central theme of the book is that the storm is real and unavoidable. In the eye of the storm lie several key issues – the sanctity of life, marriage and family, and matters that pertain to gender and sexuality. Ignoring the storm will not alter the forecast. Evangelicals, then, must refuse to plant their heads in the ground like the proverbial ostrich.

While the storm is alarming, Dr. Mohler is quick to leave his readers with hope: “The one true God is Lord over history, and he has now called Christians in this generation into the storm.” Anything less would be cowardly and unfaithful to God and his gospel. I commend The Gathering Storm to followers of Christ and also challenge them to pay careful attention to Al Mohler keen insight in this area.

  1. Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who is There (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1982 reprint), 5.