BOOK REVIEWS

From Death to Life: How Salvation Works – Allen S. Nelson IV

deathAllen S. Nelson IV, From Death to Life: How Salvation Works Conway: Free Grace Press, 2018, 200 pp. $10.99

The doctrine of salvation is awash on a sea of Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. Marked by the curse of sin, the image-bearers of God have a need to “earn” their salvation. “Surely, there must be something I can do to merit favor before a holy God,” says the modern man. This false “gospel” is propagated in churches around the world and creates chaos and confusion. A works-based “gospel” is not only found in Roman Catholic dogma; it is also found in many so-called evangelical churches.

Allen Nelson’s book, From Death to Life is a much-needed corrective and is a positive step in the right direction. The subtitle expresses the essence of the book – How Salvation Works. In this short but powerful treatise, the author sums up the message of the gospel: “God saves sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” This gospel is summarized by five points which make up the basic argument in the book:

  1. The gospel must be proclaimed.
  2. God must move.
  3. The sinner must respond in faith and repentance.
  4. God justifies the sinner.
  5. The sinner grows in the Lord over a lifetime.

Nelson articulates each of the above points and argues strenuously from the Word of God. One striking thing about this book is the author’s ability to both confront error and commend truth. For instance, he is quick to confront (and condemn) pragmatism, seeker-sensitivity, antinomianism, cheap grace, and altar calls. But he also commends bold proclamation, faithful ministry, and authentic faith which is driven by the biblical gospel.

Nelson explains each aspect of salvation with precision and biblical faithfulness. He weaves in the biblical doctrines of total depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints in a careful and winsome fashion. Indeed, this is an ordo of salutis for the common man.

I commend From Death to Life for students, pastors, and Christ-followers who are eager to digest a solid, gospel-centered book that is committed to historical orthodoxy, robust theology, and a soteriological framework which is faithful to Scripture!

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

BOOK REVIEWS

The Gospel Comes With a House Key – Rossaria Butterfield

rossariaRosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes With a House Key Wheaton: Crossway, 2018, 240 pp. $15.82

“Imagine a world where the power of the gospel to change lives is our to behold.” This is the soul-stirring, gospel-focussed message that Rosaria Butterfield proclaims in her most recent book, The Gospel Comes With a House Key.

The author aims to inspire readers to follow her example of radical hospitality that reaches out to family, neighbors, and complete strangers. The book is packed with personal examples of how this kind of Bible-saturated hospitality can invade a willing home.

One theme that will no doubt draw critics is the matter of patriarchy. Butterfield calls her female readers to accept their God-ordained call to submit to the authority of their husbands and reap the benefits of this biblical-minded obedience: “Imagine a world where biblical patriarchy – the benevolent leading of servant-hearted fathers – made all of us breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the good fathers would protect us from the roving gangs of evil men,” writes the author.

But she continues by articulating how this countercultural model of manhood and womanhood should play out among Bible-believing Christians:

“The godly submission of a faithful wife to her head – her husband – does not diminish the power and strength that God has given to women but instead channels it to serve the most important people first … Godly patriarchy means rule by the godly fathers, the good men who sacrifice their lives for the protection of their family. In God’s hands, when the good fathers lead, the roaming gangs of violent men are kept in check and away. We need godly patriarchs because sin is real, and the droving gangs of male violence are real too. If men aren’t trained to lead by God’s design, they often destroy by Satan’s command.”

The theme of biblical patriarchy stands in the background yet provides the fuel for the larger theme of gospel-driven hospitality. The Gospel Comes With a House Key is a challenging, thought-provoking read that will prompt many discussions and even debates in the days to come. The end result will be a strengthened church whose covenant members commit themselves to demonstrating radical hospitality for the good of the neighborhood as well as the nations.

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

BOOK REVIEWS · Leadership

Reagan on Leadership – James M. Strock (1998)

098407743X_lHe is man who inspired the United States of America after four years of economic disaster in the Carter administration.  He is the man who called out a Communist leader as he stood before the  Brandenburg Gate in Germany.  He is the man who is largely responsible for the demise of the former Soviet Union.  He is the man who restored faith in the American ideal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  His name – President Ronald Wilson Reagan.

President Reagan was a first-rate leader.  His approach to leadership emerges clearly in James Strock’s excellent project entitled, Reagan on Leadership: Executive Lessons From the Great Communicator.

Part one discusses President Reagan’s approach to Leadership.  The author notes the importance of crafting a compelling vision.  Anyone who is familiar with Ronald Reagan will admit that he was the master of vision casting.  Reagan’s leadership was tough and decisive.  He proposed policies with boldness and humility that was laced with a depth of character the many Americans relegate to the good ol’ days.

Part two discusses the Management philosophy of President Reagan.  A plaque that set on his desk in the Oval Office communicates the heart and soul of his approach to management: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”  He repudiated a micro-management approach and was happy to delegate authority to his staff.    He said, “The way I work is to identify the problem, find the right individuals to do the job, and then let them go to it.”  So his management philosophy had an inherent trust in people.  His desire was to unleash the gifts and talents in others for a the benefit of the American people.

Part three overviews Communication.  Of course, Reagan is best known as the great communicator.  In a poignant moment, the former President admitted, “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things.”  And so the leader of the free world inspired Americans with lower taxes, a strong military, and a smaller government – three pillars that have all but crumbled under the current administration.

Part four focusses on Self-Management.  The author zero’s in on the character qualities of courage, authenticity, confidence, optimism, empathy, grace, charm, discipline, constancy, perseverance, and humility to name a few.  These are the marks that made the made.  The combined total of these characteristics shaped the man that we know as President Ronald Reagan.

Reagan on Leadership is a reminder that leadership matters.  It is a reminder that great men are great leaders.  It is a reminder that character matters; that leaders are made, not born.  This is a book that is greatly needed in our day and will help inspire the next generation of leaders committed to the rise of conservative values and policy.

BOOK REVIEWS · History · Politics

Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan – Craig Shirley (2015)

 

a reagThe legacy of President Ronald Reagan is securely established in history. Liberals can scoff and moan but the fact remains; Ronald Wilson Reagan is one of the most influential Americans of all time. Indeed, Reagan is not only one of the loved and respected presidents in American history; he is also one of the most effective.

Most books focus on the life of President Reagan and work hard to establish his presidential accomplishments. Craig Shirley’s new masterpiece, Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan takes a different approach. Shirley sets out to help readers see Reagan in a different light and in a different context. This book serves as a lens for Americans to view President Reagan in his post-presidential days, including the days which followed his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Last Act begins with President Reagan on his deathbed. The author highlights Reagan’s life and legacy from different perspectives – including friends, family, and foes. One of the constant themes that weave through the book is the deep and abiding love that America has for the 40th president of the United States.

We would do well to listen to the words of Reagan’s old arch nemesis, Senator Ted Kennedy who offered these fitting words, upon hearing of Reagan’s death:

“He brought a special grace to the White House and the country in everything he did. We often disagreed on specific issues, but he had an undeniably unique capacity to inspire and move the Nation. On foreign policy, he will be honored as the President who won the cold war. It was more than the fact that he was a superb communicator. Some attributed at least part of his success to the fact that he was a superb communicator. Some attributed at least part of his success to the fact that he had been an actor. But his deepest convictions were matters of heart and mind and spirit, and on them, he was no actor at all.”

Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan bears the marks of a book which is informed by thorough research and careful study. Craig Shirley should be commended for his clear writing and respect for the 40th president of the United States. Last Act is not only a tribute to one of the most beloved leaders in American history; it is a gift to the American people.

The legacy of Ronald Wilson Reagan speaks for itself and will continue to reverberate throughout history. Antonin Scalia notes, “Ronald Reagan needs no one to sing his praises.” Justice Scalia may be on target. But the fact remains: History will not stand by in silence. The legacy of Ronald Reagan will endure for generations.

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

BOOK REVIEWS · Leadership · Politics

The New Reagan Revolution – Michael Reagan (2010)

Michael Reagan has captured the essence of President Reagan’s values, fiscal policy, 031264454X_band tough-minded leadership in his book, The New Reagan Revolution.  The sub-title should jolt any thinking American – “How Ronald Reagan’s Principles Can Restore America’s Greatness.”  Clearly, we have drifted far from President Reagan’s vision for America.  The city of the hill that he so loved has descended into the swamp of relativism and pragmatism that tolerates abortion on demand, celebrates homosexual marriage, and applauds big government and out-of-control spending.

The author walks readers on a path that traces Reagan from his days as a Democrat to his final days in the White House.  Readers learn that Reagan was a man of unwavering conviction.  He believed in a “banner of bold, unmistakable colors, with no pale pastel shades.”  The author adds, “Every leader who waves a banner of bold colors has plenty of critics.  If no one is criticizing you, you’re not being bold enough.  Ronald Reagan never worried about his critics.  He didn’t care what other people thought of him or said about him or wrote about him.”  Reagan’s son continues, “Pale pastel people try to straddle both sides of every issue in an attempt to get everyone to like them.  They try not to be too bold because they fear offending others or drawing criticism … Ronald Reagan knew he would never please everybody, so he staked out bold positions on the issues – then he proved he was right.”  This is the kind of leadership that brought the former Soviet Union to its knees.  This is the kind of bold leadership America needs now – bold, decisive, and unwavering in the face of adversity!

The author rightly portrays his father as the great communicator.  “Every leader,” writes the younger Reagan, “must communicate his vision in a way that persuades and inspires.”  And while Reagan truly inspired America in his two terms as president, he did not compromise his cherished values.  Nor did he play both sides for the middle in order to gain the loyalty of special interest groups.  The great communicator spoke with clarity and conviction.  He knew how to capture the heart of America.  He knew the power of the spoken word.

Additionally, the author portrays President Reagan as the great unifier.  The president once said, “We’ve got to quit talking to each other and about each other and go out and communicate to the world … We must go forth from here united, determined.”  Reagan worked to find common ground with his political opponents and even forged a friendship with his nemesis, Tip O’Neal.  America is in search of a leader who unifies like Ronald Reagan.

Finally, the author demonstrates the love that his father had for freedom.    Reagan was fond of saying, “Freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction.”  One wonders what he would say today.  One wonders what the former president would say about excessive regulation and a socialized health care system.  The author encourages readers to advance the New Reagan Revolution by “boldly standing up for the original Reagan Revolution.  Let everyone around you know the truth about Ronald Reagan, the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution.”

The New Reagan Revolution is a book that should be devoured by every American.  President Reagan is an inspiration for anyone who loves freedom, limited government, a strong military, and lower taxes.  The younger Ronald Reagan is on target when he says, “There will never be another Ronald Reagan.”  But we can certainly return to a day where the principles that President Reagan believed in are weaved into the fabric of American culture.

4.5 stars

Biography · BOOK REVIEWS · History · Politics

11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative – Paul Kengor (2014)

reaganRonald Reagan was a principled man.  Unlike most modern-day politicians, President Reagan governed from a set of unchangeable principles that guided his life, not to mention, his nation.

Paul Kengor presents these unshakable principles that undergirded President Ronald Reagan.  These principles of conservatism include:

1. Freedom

2. Faith

3. Family

4. Sanctity and Dignity of Human Life

5. American Exceptionalism

6. The Founders’ Wisdom and Vision

7. Lower Taxes

8. Limited Government

9. Peace Through Strength

10. Anti-Communism

11. Belief in the Individual

Kengor summarizes each principle and backs his study with a steady diet of Reagan quotes.  This is a highly readable and informative book that would be perfect for a high school student or anyone who seeks to learn more about President Ronald Wilson Reagan.

4 stars

Biography · BOOK REVIEWS · History · Leadership · Politics

When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan – Peggy Noonan (2001)

A number of years ago, I began devouring books about my favorite president.  When Character Was King by Peggy Noonan emerges as one of the most thoughtful and inspiring books about the former president.

Noonan paints a compelling portrait of President Reagan; a portrait that is an exceedingly human portrayal of a man who feared God, loved his country, and cherished freedom.  The author writes, “As president, Ronald Reagan believed without question that tyranny is temporary, and the hope of freedom is universal and permanent; that our nation has unique goodness, and must remain uniquely strong; that God takes the side of justice, because all our rights are His own gifts.”

Reagan opposed the godless ideology that held millions of Russians hostage from 1917 to 1991.  Lenin said in 1920, “We repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas that are outside class conceptions. Morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class war. Everything is moral that is necessary for the annihilation of the old exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat.”  In contrast, Reagan knew that virtue and morality are directly related to one’s relationship with God.

A few quotes reveal the man we know as President Reagan:

“We had strayed a great distance from our Founding Fathers’ vision of America.  They regarded the central government’s responsibility as that of providing national security, protecting our democratic freedoms, and limiting the government’s intrusion in our lives – in sum, the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  They never envisioned vast agencies in Washington telling our farmers what to plant, our teachers what to teach, our industries what to build.”

“Don’t give up your ideals.  Don’t compromise.  Don’t turn to expediency.  And don’t for heaven’s sake, having seen the inner workings of the watch, don’t get cynical.”

“All of these things – learning to control the government, limiting the amount of money it can take from us, protecting our country through a strong defense – all of these things revolve around one word, and that word is ‘freedom.'”

President Reagan was and continues to be a breath of fresh air in an increasingly pessimistic political climate.  He was unafraid to stare evil in the face.  He courageously stood for the cause of freedom.  Indeed, he was jealous to see the flag of freedom fly in every land.  He opposed despotism, communism, and socialism.  He promoted free enterprise.  President Reagan refused to capitulate in the face of adversity.

 

Biography · BOOK REVIEWS · History

The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan – James Mann (2009)

1400140625_bThe day was June 12, 1987.  President Ronald Reagan stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin and uttered these crucial and historic words: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate!  Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate!  Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

James Mann’s, The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan is a fascinating and readable account of the days leading up to the end of the Cold War.  Mann clearly describes the inner workings of the Reagan administration and the resistance from liberals and conservatives alike to the president’s approach and methodology.

The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan relentlessly presents the former president’s love for freedom and his passion to eliminate totalitarianism.   I was reminded of Reagan’s love for freedom in 2005 as I stood on a bridge that spans the Moscow river.  As I gazed at the Kremlin and reflected on the new found and relative freedom the citizens of Russia enjoy, I glanced at the”Goon-inspired” graffiti that was etched onto the bridge. The words, “Heil Hitler” were mindlessly inscribed on the edge of the bridge.  The graffiti reminded me that freedom will be short-lived if liberated people grow apathetic and fail to guard their freedom.  It reminded me that fascism is still visible in the rearview mirror, not to mention the horizon.   And it reminded me that Marxism still has momentum and must be stopped at every juncture.  Liberated people everywhere would do well to seriously consider the warning of Thomas Jefferson: “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

President Reagan was acutely aware of these concerns which helped fuel the fire of his policies and interactions with Gorbechev. The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan is a helpful reminder of events in the distant past.  While the Cold War is over, the ideology that inspired Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler is still very much alive. Ronald Reagan reminds us of the importance opposing the enemies of freedom; he reminds us to stand on the watchtower and jealously guard our freedom.  He reminds us that freedom is not free; it is a precious commodity worth dying for.  And he reminds us that freedom is never guaranteed in the future.

Reagan was aware of the protesters that gathered to voice their complaints about his appearance at the Brandenburg Gate.  His speech closes: “And I would like, before I close to say one word.  I have read, and I have been questioned since I’ve been here about certain demonstrations against my coming.  And I would like to say just one thing, and to those who demonstrate so.  I wonder if they have ever asked themselves that if they should have the kind of government they apparently seek, no one would ever be able to do what they’re doing again.  Thank you and God bless you all.”

President Reagan is no longer with us but the Reagan revolution is still alive and well; much to the chagrin of the liberal elite and secular progressives.  Big government, nationalized health care, excessive taxation, a reduction in personal liberty, and a weakened national defense was never tolerated by Reagan.  And the current progressive agenda which is aggressively promoted by the Democrats in Congress will not be tolerated by the American people.

4 stars

BOOK REVIEWS

Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life – Jason Meyer

jonesJason Meyer, Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life Wheaton: Cross, 2018, 265 pp. $14.91

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones could very well be the most influential preacher of the twentieth century. If there is any doubt that the Doctor carries such a weighty influence, Jason Meyer skillfully recants such a notion in his work, Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life.

The subtitle of Meyer’s book nicely captures the central theme – “Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire.” The author accurately captures the essence of Lloyd-Jones’s ministry: “Doctrine should start in the head, catch fire in the heart, and create a life aflame with true obedience in the will.” This notion which once dominated the evangelical landscape is presently eclipsed by experientialism, pragmatism, and theological liberalism. Such a notion would have been unacceptable to the Doctor and in his mind would have led to a weakened church.

The ministry of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is presented in four movements as outlined below:

Part One – “The Doctor,” which includes some important biographical highlights.

Part Two – The Doctor’s Doctrine

Part Three – The Christian Life

Part Four – The Doctor’s Legacy

Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life is a powerful portrait of a godly man who left a legacy of prayer and preaching that continues to impact pastors to this day. My hope is that God will see fit to use this helpful book to shape and sharpen the lives of the next generation of Christian leaders.

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

BOOK REVIEWS · JONATHAN EDWARDS · Jonathan Edwards

GOD THE BEST PORTION OF THE CHRISTIAN – Jonathan Edwards (1736)

Two hundred years after Calvin published his first edition of The jonathan-edwardsInstitutes, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon about being content in God.  The title of the sermon was God the Best Portion of the Christian.  Edwards’s text is Psalm 73:25:

Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.

The central truth is set forth at the beginning of the sermon, in deductive fashion: It is the spirit of a truly godly man, to prefer God before all other things, either in heaven or on earth.

Two propositions comprise this short sermon

1. A godly man prefers God before anything else in heaven.

Edwards presents the God-centered paradigm in this section by leading readers on the correct biblical path.  He notes, “Every godly man hath his heart in heaven; his affections are mainly set on what is to be had there.  Heaven is his chosen country and inheritance.”

The godly man sets his affection on beauty, which is to say his heart is oriented to God and the things of God.  “Now the main reason why the godly man hath his heart thus to heaven,” writes Edwards, “is because God is there; that is the palace of the Most High.  It is the place where God is gloriously present, where his love is gloriously manifested, where the godly may be with him, see him as he is, and love, serve, praise, and enjoy him perfectly.”

2. It is the temper of a godly man to prefer God before all other things on the earth.

The highest priority for the follower of Christ, according to Edwards is on the Triune God.  Three points highlight the heart of the Puritan preacher:

  1. The saint prefers that enjoyment of God, for which he hopes hereafter, to anything in the world.
  2. The saints prefer what of God may be obtained in this life before all things in the world.
  3. The saints prefer what he hath already of God before anything in this world.

Application

As usual, Edwards concludes his sermon with several points of application.  Five penetrating questions are posed:

  1. What is it which chiefly makes you desire to go to heaven when you die?
  2. If you could avoid death and might have your free choice, would you choose to live always in this world without God, rather than in his time to leave the world, in order to be with him?
  3. Do you prefer Christ to all others as the way to heaven?
  4. If you might go to heaven in what course you please, would you prefer to all others the way of a strict walk with God?
  5. Were you to spend your eternity in this world, would you choose rather to live in mean and low circumstances with the gracious presence of God, to live forever in earthly prosperity without him?

Jonathan Edwards offers perspective and godly wisdom in a sermon that directed his 18th-century hearers heavenward and continues to beckon followers of Christ to the Celestial City.