BOOK REVIEWS

The White Flag Unfurled

wf

These are troubling times. We live in a day which is marked by theological error and apostasy. Leaders are falling, truth is routinely maligned, and compromise is celebrated. A glance across the cultural milieu reveals an unfurled white flag. The white flag has been hoisted high and a diabolical deal has been struck. This flag reveals a horrifying reality which must be addressed, namely – final surrender in the church.

The White Flag: When Compromise Cripples the Church diagnoses our current condition and offers biblical action steps for marching forward in a way that glorifies God. It is call to faithfulness in age that is characterized by weak knees, passivity, and capitulation. It instills courage in weary Christ-followers who toil in a post-Christian era.

“Here is a passionate call from a pastor’s heart, from a man widely read, who sees with great clarity the difficult situation the church now faces, with opposition without and weakness and compromise within, who believes the battle will be won by the faithful believing and by the courageous teaching and proclaiming of the Word of God.”

  • DR. PETER JONES, Director, TruthXchange; author of The Other Worldview, Escondido, CA

Pre-order the Kindle version here!

The paperback version will be available on Amazon soon.

BOOK REVIEWS

Free to Focus – Michael Hyatt

hyattMichael Hyatt, Free to Focus (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019), 250 pp.

The subtitle of Michael Hyatt’s newest book, Free to Focus is a fitting summary of the content – A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less. Readers familiar with Hyatt know that he has created a unique reputation as being a successful businessman who is committed to efficiency and impacting the lives of people.

Free to Focus accomplishes its intended aim as the author unfolds a three-step process which promises a more productive life that achieves more by doing less.

The three step process to productivity includes STOP, CUT, and ACT. Stop is a foundational step that encourages a time of reflection. Readers are urged to formulate a plan: “Productivity should ultimately give you back more time, not require more of you.” Hyatt borrows Stephen Covey’s popular “true north” model, which sets the stage for greater productivity. The author comments, “True productivity is about doing more of what is in your Desire Zone and less of everything else.” Such a strategic move creates margin, which in turn creates personal freedom.

Critical to this process is the step which involves rejuvenation, what Hyatt refers to as “energy flexing.” Rejuvenation, then, involves sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercise, connecting relationally with other people, play, reflecting, and unplugging electronic devices. Hyatt adds,

Amazing things happen when we Stop. We create space to Formulate, to get a clear picture of where we want to go and what we want our lives to become. We take the time to Evaluate, understanding exactly where we are and what our current situation looks like. And we make the time to Rejuvenate, investing in ourselves and our energy reserves through intentional steps forward in our best, health, and relationships.

Step 1, then, is the place to begin for anyone who seeks to become a more productive person.

Cut is the second step, which entails three critical elements. First, eliminate everything that falls outside the Desire Zone. Several practical tips are offered to enable people on the go to “say no” to special requests and projects.

Second, automate involves implementing steps such as self-automation or routines that help build consistency into the ebb and flow of life. Hyatt also includes an emphasis on template automation, which helps create margins and relieve stress in one’s life.

Third, delegate ”boosts well-being by reducing our number of stressful, disliked tasks, and by helping us regain a sense of control over our schedules.” Most people resist delegation but the author insists on implementing it for maximum productivity. Indeed, “to become a master delegate,” writes Hyatt, “you must develop the patience and attentiveness to match the task to the person. When you do, you’ll set yourself up for unbelievable success.

Act is the final step in Free to Focus. The author focuses on three more critical elements. Consolidate helps prioritize one’s weekly calendar. Designate helps priorities tasks. Various tools are offered to make this a reality. Activate is the author’s way of encouraging readers to eliminate distractions and interruptions. His counsel is extremely valuable here and we are bombarded with distractions, especially of the digital variety, throughout the day.

Summary

Free to Focus is a helpful book that makes a solid contribution to the growing number of resources that address personal productivity. Michael Hyatt refers to “free to focus tools,” which can be accessed online and includes several templates that help gain the necessary clarity and disciplines to move toward a more productive life. In the final analysis, Hyatt’s goal to help readers achieve more by doing less is accomplished in spades.

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

Biography · Calvinism · CHRISTIAN LIFE

A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin

godward gaze pixPick up a copy of my latest  book for less than a buck in this Amazon Kindle Countdown!

https://www.amazon.com/Godward-Gaze-Holy-Pursuit-Calvin-ebook/dp/B07SJJM1GP/ref=tmm_kin_title_sr?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1565006219&sr=8-1

A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin is a snapshot of a man on mission. It is about one man who set his sights on the Celestial City and never looked back. His name is John Calvin. He was a pious man, driven by God’s glory and a love for Scripture. His holy pursuit was rare among men and a model for followers of Christ. David Steele points readers to a truly remarkable man – a biblical expositor, a theologian, and a courageous reformer. Calvin changed a city and helped changed the world. His godly example may change your life.

Biography · Calvinism · CHRISTIAN LIFE

A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin

godward gaze pixI am happy to announce that the Kindle version of my latest book, A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin is available for 0.99 cents for a limited time.

https://www.amazon.com/Godward-Gaze-Holy-Pursuit-Calvin-ebook/dp/B07SJJM1GP/ref=tmm_kin_title_sr?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1564624486&sr=8-1

A Godward Gaze is a snapshot of a man on a mission. It is about one man who set his sights on the Celestial City and never looked back. His name is John Calvin. He was a pious man, driven by God’s glory and a love for Scripture. His holy pursuit was rare among men and a model for followers of Christ. You will be captivated by a truly remarkable man – a biblical expositor, a theologian, and a courageous reformer. Calvin changed a city and helped changed the world. His godly example may change your life.

Pick up a copy today or send a gift to a friend!

BOOK REVIEWS

Run the Mile You’re In – Ryan Hall

raceRyan Hall, Run the Mile You’re In(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 217 pp.

Run the Mile You’re In by Ryan Hall is an inspirational book for athletes who are looking for some extra motivation from one who is a Christian and a seasoned athlete. As the fastest American half marathoner, Hall’s athletic accomplishments are impressive indeed. The book is cleverly arranged in “twenty-six miles”, to match the distance of a marathon (less two-tenths of a mile)! Each chapter includes tips and motivational resources for athletes, most of which point to a faith-based model.

I admire the author’s grit, talent, and desire to magnify the Lord Jesus Christ and prompt others to do the same. Yet an honest review compels me to highlight a few concerns – and they’re significant.

First, throughout the book, Hall makes reference to hearing from God. To his credit, he refers often to the Bible but not always in the context of “hearing from God.” That is, there is a subtle undercutting of the sufficiency of Scripture. I often tell the people in the church I pastor, “If you want to hear from God, open his Word.” 2 Peter 1:3 clearly reveals the sufficiency of God’s Word: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…” While the author never makes a claim to extra-biblical revelation, one is left wondering what the purpose of these encounters with God are designed to accomplish. Our direct line to God is found exclusively in his Word. Anything else subtly undercuts the sufficiency of Scripture.

Some may surmise that my objection to Hall at this point leads to dry, abstract Christianity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Notice how Jonathan Edwards refers to his experience with God:

And as I was walking there, and look up on the sky and the clouds; there came into my mind, a sweet sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. I seemed to see them both in a sweet conjunction: majesty and meekness joined together: it was a sweet and gentle, and holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness; an awful sweetness; a high, and great, and holy gentleness.

After this my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearance of everything was altered: there seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost everything (Works 16, 793-794).

Edwards is communing with God and experiencing his sweet presence here, which is similar but so different than what Hall promotes. While Edwards enjoys fellowship with God, he never claims to hear the voice of God apart from Scripture.

Second, the author encourages readers to “declare” the dreams of their heart. Such a practice is very similar to what is promoted in the Word of Faith movement, i.e. “name it and claim it.” The author even compares this approach to a dangerous book associated with a new age book: “To some, the concept of declarations may seem eerily similar to a popular book called The Secret, whose premise is that you can get whatever you want in life if you just envision it and wish for it. Though I do not believe that to be totally true, I think there is some truth to the power of declarations.” Hall continues, “If I am made in God’s image and likeness, having His powerful Spirit inside me, so too I am able to speak with declarations and create life in any hopeless situation.” These admissions reveal a lack of biblical discernment that readers must take into account. At best, this kind of approach to the Christian life undercuts and compromises the sovereignty of God over all things. At worse, it elevates the creature to a level that is only designated for God.

Run the Mile You’re In is not meant to be a theology book – far from it. The intent of the author is to encourage readers to persevere, set goals, and live with the glory of God as their primary objective. But a closer look reveals that the theological foundations are shaky at best. I urge readers to embrace what is helpful here and discard the rest.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

The Soul of an American President: The Untold Story of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Faith

ikeAllan Sears and Craig Osten, The Soul of an American President: The Untold Story of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2019), 235 pp.

The Soul of an American President by Alan Sears and Craig Osten tells the fascinating tale of Dwight Eisenhower. While many historical details are uncovered about Ike, the authors primary attention is on his Christian faith. The president who was hailed by Time magazine as “The Man Who Beat Hitler” is portrayed as rock-solid figure who clings to his Savior, one who maintained a solid and stable faith.

The authors do not shy away from controversial details such as Eisenhower’s baptism, which took place shortly after his first inauguration. Skeptics can scoff and pundits can pontificate, but the faith of President Eisenhower was the real thing, according to Sears and Osten.

The Soul of an American President clearly reveals the Christian commitment and faith of Dwight D. Eisenhower. It is a book of fresh air in our political charged environment where negativity generates more heat than light. The courage, integrity, perseverance, and leadership of President Eisenhower are inspiring marks that should inform the next generation and remind them what our nation cherished in a day gone by.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Talk the Walk – Steve Brown (2019)

talkSteve Brown, Talk the Walk (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2019), 152 pp.

Whenever I read the work of Steve Brown, I am challenged, encouraged, and forced to think deeply. And sometimes, he is downright irritating! Dr. Brown’s newest book, Talk the Walk is no exception. Longtime readers will recognize Brown’s witty way with words, self-effacing personality, love for the gospel, and his uncanny ability to back you into a corner.

Talk the Walk is a book about evangelism. But it’s not a typical book about sharing one’s faith. Rather, it is a book about effective evangelistic influence. Tragically, the influence of some Christians has been found wanting, to put it mildly. Brown laments this sobering reality and urges his readers to pursue is different path, one that is filled with both grace and truth.

The subtitle of the book, How To Be Right Without Being Insufferable is an accurate description of the content and the heart of the author. Brown acknowledges up front that Christians are a people of the truth. In short, they are right. Christians are beneficiaries of a meta narrative (a big story that unveils ultimate reality) – the correct meta narrative. But the theme of the book is more about conveying the truth in a way that is compelling and winsome. Instead of focusing on theological minutiae, Brown challenges readers to look outward in order to make an impact on the lives of hurting people. People need the truth but they also need to see the truth modeled before their eyes.

The author reveals several ways that Christians can put the truth to good use in the marketplace of ideas. Instead of merely “being right,” Brown encourages his brothers and sisters to “live right” and to live in light of the truth.

Careful readers will notice that Steve Brown loves the Word of God. He loves the gospel. And he loves the truth. But he is unwilling to abandon a strong Christian testimony. This is unacceptable and is fittingly mocked along the way.

I personally benefitted from Talk the Walk and trust that many more will be prompted to move beyond the church walls to make a difference for the sake of the gospel. Then and only then, will they talk the walk.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel – Costi Hinn (2019

hinnCosti W. Hinn, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 223 pp.

The so-called prosperity gospel has been a virtual “wrecking ball,” inflicting damage on the unsuspecting, infiltrating local churches with a diabolical message of health and wealth, and inviting the wrath of a holy God. The prosperity gospel is not another version of the gospel. It is “a different gospel,” one that not only devastates and deceives – this gospel damns.

The apostle Paul addressed the church in Galatia and confronted the false gospel of his day:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-9, ESV).

False gospels must be confronted, as Paul addressed the Galatians who turned to the “gospel” of the Judaizers in the first-century. Costi W. Hinn confronts the prosperity gospel in his latest book, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel. Hinn clearly defines the poisonous effects of this pernicious movement: “The prosperity gospel is here to stay and is spanning the globe, doing damage to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. It is an evil that poses as a blessing but is truly a curse. It appears to be a loving extension of God’s goodness but is arguably the most hateful and abusive kind of false teaching plaguing the church today.”

Hinn describes how he grew up and was groomed to serve alongside his famous uncle, Benny Hinn and how God revealed the diabolical underpinnings of the prosperity gospel, which led to his repentance, conversion, and departure from the movement.

The author describes the origins of the prosperity gospel and the core elements with all of its trappings. He demonstrates from Scripture why prosperity teaching is abominable and warns readers to flee from its deadly influence. Hinn reveals ten reasons that the prosperity gospel is antithetical to Scripture:

  1. It distorts the biblical gospel.
  2. It insults God’s nature.
  3. It confuses the atonement.
  4. It demeans Jesus Christ.
  5. It twists Scripture.
  6. It is motivated by love for money.
  7. It produces false converts.
  8. It overcomplicates faith.
  9. It ruins Christianity’s witness.
  10. It abuses vulnerable people.

Thoughtful and discerning readers will take these principles to heart and be careful to guard the biblical gospel.

Costi Hinn does not shy away from controversy. But he also speaks the truth in love and his arguments are grounded in grace. God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel is sure to raise eyebrows. Hinn’s work is a labor of love that will serve the church well. And it will surely draw some people out of this false system and lead them to the truth.

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

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A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin by David S. Steele

The Heavy Laden Bookshelf

When a book ministers to us is as important as how it ministers to us.  Just as some sermons strike some of us as adequate but are life changing to others.  So it is with books.  At this age and stage of life, I read many books that are merely affirming what I have long since believed.  Of course, the reminders are good, and every book will reveal some aspect of a truth or event that I did not know.

This brings us to my discussion of a new, brief book titled A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin by David S. Steele.  

My knowledge of John Calvin began in the fall of 1974 when I was taking an American history course.  The professor, who was both a well read history teacher and pastor, lectured on the role Calvin and Calvinism played in the settlement of the…

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BOOK REVIEWS

Untangling Emotions – J. Alasdair Groves and Winston T. Smith (2019)

emotionsJ. Alasdair Groves & Winston T. Smith, Untangling Emotions (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 225 pp.

Most people have experienced the frustration of trying to untangle the laces on a pair of tennis shoes. Frustration only escalates as the knot tightens which leads to a sense of heightened angst. This normal occurrence vividly depicts how many people approach their emotional lives. People approach emotions in different ways: Some deny their emotions; others allow their emotions to dictate their lives.

Untangling Emotions by J. Alasdair Groves and Winston T. Smith helps clear the fog about this confusing matter. The authors seek to nurture the emotional lives of their readers and ultimately point them to the Savior.

The book is arranged in three sections. The first section, understanding emotions, is a candid look at the way we live our lives. One of the most helpful aspects of this section is that emotions turn us Godward: “Every emotion you ever feel reflects your loves, or what you worship.” The authors examine the emotional life of Jesus and reveal how he lived to God’s glory. Real change is found in submitting our emotional lives to God.

Section two, engaging emotions, explores how we engage with God. “Engaging emotions” according to the authors, “without engaging God is a recipe for disaster.” The authors stress the importance of evaluating our hearts (which is a summary of our emotional lives): “Changing your feelings is not your biggest goal. Instead, we want to let our evaluation of our emotions drive us to act in ways that will actually have an impact on the deep loves and treasures of hour hearts.”

The final section, engaging the hardest emotions, tackles some common issues that people battle, namely – fear, anger, grief, guilt, and shame. I found the third section very helpful and touched a nerve in me. The above emotions are discussed candidly and subjected to the light of biblical revelation.

The truly encouraging aspect of this book is wrapped up in the reality and hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ: “The end of the story really is radical, complete comfort. No more tears. Every earthly pain a ‘light momentary affliction’ compared with the glory of heaven. And yet the trials we’ve been through and the sins we’ve committed are exactly the things that now make our souls hunger and thirst for redemption and God’s restoring all things. Our tears whet our appetite for heaven.”

Untangling Emotions is a deeply meaningful book. The writing is plain, but also penetrating. It carries the full weight of biblical authority but never comes across in judgmental tones. There is much wisdom to be gleaned here – so much that I will certainly revisit these pages in the days to come.

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