BOOK REVIEWS

Something Needs to Change – David Platt

plattDavid Platt, Something Needs to Change, (Multnomah, 2019), 208 pp.

In an age where it has become in vogue for pastors to question the Christian faith, compromise the faith, or even abandon the faith – David Platt is a breath of fresh air. The fiery Washington D.C. pastor and author of Radical is back with another thought-provoking book, Something Needs to Change.

Pastor Platt invites readers on a life-changing journey to the rugged Himalayan trails where he encounters poverty, human trafficking, and a host of problems that lead to personal crisis and life change.

Platt is not content to hoard his life-changing journey; he wants to share it with others. He wants to challenge others and inspire them to something greater. According to Platt, then, something needs to change. A few highlights help summarize the general flow of the book. The author intends:

  • To integrate what we know in our minds with our hearts and feel genuine compassion for lost people (my words).
  • Challenge readers to engage their hearts with a broken world.
  • Motivate readers: “What we need is not an explanation of the Word and the world that puts more information in our heads; we need an experience with the Word in the world that penetrate the recesses of our hearts.”
  • Spur reader to take action: “We need to dare to come face to face with desperate need in the world around us and ask God to do a work deep within us that we could never manufacture, manipulate, or make happen on our own.”

The real beauty in this book is found in Platt’s insistence to steer clear from the social gospel. To be sure, the author never minimizes the massive human need for food, shelter, medicine, or education. He never skits the difficult subjects of poverty, human trafficking, or disease. These are all areas that followers of Christ must address when the opportunity arises. Yet, these physical needs are penultimate. The greatest need of every image bearer is the gospel. The greatest need of human beings is being in a reconciled relationship with a holy God. The greatest need of creatures is redemption.

The response to social justice alone makes this book a worthy read. Too many churches are neglecting the purpose of the church by drawing lines that maximize social justice and minimize the gospel. Something Needs to Change is the biblical antidote to the misplaced emphasis of the so-called social justice movement.

David Platt is to be commended for his heart and passion for the truth. But strong dogma never discourages maximum impact. Rather, strong dogma demands maximum impact – so that God might be glorified among the nations!

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Not Home Yet – Ian K. Smith

not homeIan K. Smith, Not Home Yet (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 167 pp.

One of the recent encouraging developments in the church is an interest in biblical theology. 2 Peter 3:13 says, “According to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This grand promise is the theme of Ian K. Smith’s recent book, Not Home Yet.

Dr. Smith argues, “Home is where we belong.” Therefore, he urges readers to set their sights and affections on their heavenly home. But some will be surprised to learn that “Jesus’s return to this earth is the focus of the Christian’s hope, and this return will not just be for a visit, to pick us up and take us home to heaven. He is coming to stay. The new Jerusalem will descend to earth, and we will be at home, with Jesus, on earth.”

“The aim of this book,” writes Ian Smith “is to reawaken (resurrect even), a biblical understanding of the earth and God’s mission to it.” The author skillfully guides readers along the biblical plot line that leads them to their heavenly home on the new earth, where they will reside for all of eternity.

Smith’s work is a rich combination of scholarship, yet he never isolates those who have not enjoyed the benefit of a theological education. His writing is clear, straight to the point, a biblical from start to finish. In the end, he accomplishes his objective by re-engaging readers and helping them understand God salvific plan and redemptive purposes for his people.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Vulnerable: Rethinking Human Trafficking – Raleigh Sadler (2019)

vulRaleigh Sadler, Vulnerable (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2019), 267 pp.

“Preach the gospel – and if necessary use words.” This pithy quote by St. Francis of Assisi has captured the hearts and minds of many. The sentiment sounds right and may even feel right but fails in the final analysis to do justice to the gospel. Yes, the gospel is meant to be lived. Yes, the gospel makes a difference in the lives of others and demands sacrificial service. But St. Francis falls short in the matter of proclamation. We may serve people and love them but if we fail to proclaim the message of the good news, the “gospel” loses its efficacy.

Raleigh Sadler’s book, Vulnerable: Rethinking Human Trafficking works hard to maintain a commitment to proclaiming the gospel and reaching people by engaging them at every level. The heart of the author is unveiled at the beginning of the book and serves as the general theme of the book: “Jesus Christ motivates vulnerable people, like you and me, to love other vulnerable people for us, to the point of death.” Christ’s vulnerability, then, serves as a supreme example for his people and motivates them to love others.

Sadler exposes the trafficking industry and calls Christians to make a difference. His ultimate aim is to eradicate all human trafficking. Vulnerable is filled with stories of people who have been marginalized, manipulated, or trafficked in some way. The interview with Michael Horton is the highlight of the book as Dr. Horton weighs in on the subject of trafficking. “I’m not a co-redeemer with Christ when I’m opposing human trafficking; rather I’m witnessing to that redemption that Christ has already won, and will one day consummate when he returns bodily,” writes Horton. Such a perspective provides a keen biblical balance that remains obedient to Scripture but also steers clear from any liberalizing proclivities of the so-called “social justice” movement.

Vulnerable is not an easy book to read. The pain and suffering that the author reveals, however, is a reality that Christians must face. The only answer is the saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Letters to My Students: On Preaching (Vol. 1) – Jason Allen (2019)

letJason K. Allen, Letters to My Students – On Preaching (Vol. 1) (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2019), 173 pp.

In 1869, Charles Haddon Spurgeon published Lectures to My Students. The book is packed with preaching helps and anecdotes that pastors have benefited from for almost one hundred and fifty years. Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary takes a play out of Spurgeon’s playbook in his recent book, Letters to My Students.

The first in a series of books addresses the subject of preaching and is arranged in three sections: 1) Preparing to Be a Preacher, 2) Preparing Your Sermon, and 3) Growing in Your Preaching

The great advantage of Dr. Allen’s book is that contains a wealth of practical instruction for beginning preachers and veterans alike. While the book is introductory in nature, it does a good job holding the attention of experienced preachers. Frankly, much of the basic material is necessary review for men who have stood in the pulpit for most of their adult lives.

I’m eager to see Letters to My Students reach the next generation of preachers for Christ and build up men who have been serving for some time.

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

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!

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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.

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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.