Biography · Calvinism · Church History · Church History · Gospel · Martin Luther · Preaching · Reformation · The Gospel

Gospel Reformation

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The excommunicated monk sits alone in silence. Beads of sweat accumulate on his brow as he reads from the pages of the Greek text. A dark cloud casts a shadow over his homeland as the grace of the gospel is obscured by a church that cares more about tradition than truth.

For the next ten months, Luther will pour over every word, translating the Greek into the heart language of the German people. When his work is complete, the German people will be able to read the Bible for themselves. They will no longer be dependent upon a priest who has misrepresented God, mangled the truth of his Word, and maligned the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For hundreds of years, the gospel had been buried and replaced by a system of “man-made righteousness.” The Roman Catholic Church exchanged truth for tradition. The power-brokers of tradition maintained a chokehold on people who didn’t know any better.  Confessing sin to a priest replaced confessing sin to a holy God.

Yet, Luther unearthed the precious jewel of the gospel, a reality which is unveiled in my new book, Bold Reformer:Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther. Only $0.99 for a limited time on Amazon.com.

Biography · SPORTS

Shaken – Tim Tebow

shakenTim Tebow, Shaken. Austin: Waterbrook, 2016, 209 pp. $13.21

A roller coaster is a fitting term for Tim Tebow. As a Heisman Trophy winner and with two national championships under his belt, his future appeared bright. Tebow was originally drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos in 2010. He was subsequently traded to the New York Jets and did short stints with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

While thousands of people flocked to see their hero on the gridiron, not everyone was as enthusiastic about Tebow’s performance. He was criticized from the start and endured the scorn of people who rejected his outspoken Christian faith.

Tebow underscores the events of his life as a professional athlete and guides readers through the emotional rollercoaster in his latest book, Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms. The book is a window into the heart of Tim Tebow as he shares about his bumps and bruises along the way.

Tim Tebow is the “Dan Quayle” of the sports world. Here is a man who works harder than most athletes and has exemplary integrity to boot. Like Dan Quayle, though, Tebow has been treated unfairly. He has been unjustly criticized by the media. And his Christian convictions have been cast aside by many.

But Tebow does not write as a martyr. He writes as a fellow-traveller. He writes to inspire young people. And he succeeds in achieving his goal. Shaken is packed with inspirational stories that provide a much-needed perspective in an entitled world. The book reminds readers that they are significant in the eyes of God; that they have a contribution to make. Tebow’s wisdom and enthusiasm are contagious and will no doubt encourage many young athletes.

I respect and admire Tim Tebow. His love for the Lord Jesus Christ and people is worth emulating. And his character is above reproach. Indeed, Tim Tebow is a worthy role model for America’s young people. However, a few critiques are in order as one who desires to fairly review a book. First, the emphasis on the “unconditional love of God” should be modified and re-articulated. Readers are encouraged to see David Powlison’s book, God’s Love: Better Than Unconditional . Powlison’s book is the best starting point and will offer a better explanation that conforms to the pattern of Scripture.

Second, while readers are urged to trust in Christ and accept his gift of salvation, there is a missing element of repentance.  It is certainly true that Scripture invites/commands sinners to believe but saving faith always includes repentance.  Signs of repentance are absent in this work.

Summary

Shaken is a basic biographical account of a well-known sports icon. As such, it is written with the student-athlete in mind. Christian athletes will be inspired and touched by the testimony of Tim Tebow. The author’s worldview is spelled out in clear terms here:

Trophies don’t last. Awards come and go. Impressive titles move from one person to the next. But how we live can make an eternal impact.

Tebow has been unfairly caricatured and criticized. He continues to move forward, despite the abuse that his critics hoist upon him. Indeed, he has been shaken, but he has not been moved. He continues to use his gifts to glorify God and encourage many people. His newest book is a testimony to this fact.

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

Biography · BOOK REVIEWS · Calvinism · Church History · MARTIN LUTHER · Preaching · Reformation · The Gospel · Theology

The Legacy of Luther – R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols, Ed.

lutherR.C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols, The Legacy of Luther. Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2016, 308 pp. $15.66

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the castle door in Wittenberg. One act of courage sparked a theological firestorm in Germany that set the world able in a matter of days. Spreading like wildfire, thousands were introduced to the gospel, which is received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

The Legacy of Luther celebrates the accomplishments of this godly man. Edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols, the book surveys Luther’s life, thought, and ultimately his legacy. A wide range of pastors and theologians contribute to this volume; men like Steven J. Lawson, Michael Horton, Sinclair Ferguson, and Derek Thomas, to name a few.

The Legacy of Luther is a sweeping look at the German Reformer. The book contains basic information that will appeal to first-time students of Luther. But it is also filled with a wealth of information that will satisfy the most deeply entrenched Luther scholar.

The Legacy of Luther certainly honors a significant man who stands head and shoulders above most others in church history. But at the end of the day, the book does not exalt a man; the book exalts the gospel of grace and celebrates the accomplishments of our Savior. The neglected gospel truths which were recovered by the Reformers are proclaimed with passion in zeal in this important volume.

Readers may be interested in my recently published book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther.

Biography · History · Law · Legal · Politics

True Faith and Allegiance – Alberto R. Gonzales

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Alberto R. Gonzales, True Faith and Allegiance. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016, 526 pp. $19.09

True Faith and Allegiance is the biographical tale of a man who has experienced the American dream. Rising from humble origins, this man served in a prestigious Texas law firm, and served under George W. Bush during his days as governor of Texas. He became the Secretary of State in Texas and was named as a Supreme Court Justice in that state. He was later appointed by then-President George W. Bush to serve as special legal counsel until he reached the apex of his career in an appointment to serve as Attorney General in the Bush administration.

True Faith and Allegiance recounts the life and career of Alberto R. Gonzales, the first Hispanic man to ever serve as Attorney General. Gonzales writes with a stunning amount of transparency in this book, sparing no details.

While the book is primarily about Gonzales, one of the most fascinating features is his insight into the forty-third president of the United States, George W. Bush. Gonzales speaks highly of Bush and alerts readers to his keen intellect, rock-solid integrity, loyal friendship, and his leadership abilities.

The most outstanding feature of True Faith and Allegiance is the depth of Gonzales character. It is a testament to personal integrity, courage under fire, and devotion to the Commander in Chief. Alberto Gonzales paid a steep price for being a man of integrity and for living according to a set of timeless principles. Gonzales shares in great detail about the painful assault on his character and the tragic dividends he reaped after his time in office.

Despite these painful events, Gonzales forged ahead. He never gave up and he continues to use his gifts to serve people and glorify God. The former Attorney General writes,

Everyone at some point, believes life is unfair, but you must learn to accept and overcome adversity, put your trust in God rather than human beings, and move on. I harbored resentment for a time against Democratic senators and staffers who attacked me, and against Republicans who abandoned me. Now I see that while they sought to do evil to me, God used it for good.

Gonzales takes a page out of Joseph’s playbook by maintaining a God-centered perspective. He encourages young people, “Step into the arena with your eyes open and your armor securely attached. Be bold and take risks. Never fear criticism; you will not be treated fairly; accept the fact that you will be criticized no matter what you do, so do good anyway.”

True Faith and Allegiance is a story for every American. Some may disagree with Gonzales convictions. Others may reject his politics. But none can accuse him of being unfaithful to his country. Gonzales is a model patriot worthy to be emulated. Indeed, he is a man of true faith and allegiance!

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

Biography · Calvinism · Christian living

Andrew Fuller: Holy, Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission

John Piper, Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2016, 57 pp. $8.99

For years now, John Piper has been churning out a series of stunning biographical portraits of pivotal leaders in the church. His newest offering is no exception as he offers up a refreshing volume on the life and legacy of Andrew Fuller.

Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission is a sweeping overview of the well-known pastor/theologian. Dr. Piper highlight’s Fuller’s passion for world missions and the impact he had on the expansion of evangelism around the globe.

The life of Fuller is presented as one that was both theologically rich and traumatic. Fuller was committed to expository preaching and expended a great deal of energy in his weekly sermon preparation. Yet, his life was also plagued by tremendous suffering, losing eight children with his first wife.

The intellectual life of Andrew Fuller is explored in some detail. Most interesting is the impact that Jonathan Edwards had on Fuller’s thinking and theological framework.

At the heart of the book is Fuller’s antipathy for hyper-Calvinism. Piper alerts readers to this pernicious error and shows the development in Fuller’s thought and his gradual repudiation of a system of theology that discouraged evangelism and failed to call sinners to believe the gospel.

Readers should understand that while Fuller rejected hyper-Calvinism (or high Calvinism), he did nonetheless embrace historical five point Calvinism with a great deal of vigor and enthusiasm. Fuller stands in a long line of godly men who cling to the doctrines of grace and faithfully proclaim a “faith that was once delivered to all the saints.” Once again, the influence of Jonathan Edwards loomed large on Fuller’s theological commitments.

Finally, the author unveils Fuller’s stance against the heresy of Sandemanianism, a teaching that twisted the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission is a deeply encouraging book that should be devoured by gospel-loving, truth-saturated Christians. This book is sure to spark good discussion and prompt many to dig deeper into church history.

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

Biography

God Took Me By the Hand

Jerry Bridges. God Took Me by the Hand. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014. 192 pp. $12.60

When Jerry Bridges went to be with the Lord in March, 2106 I set out to write a tribute. Bridges played a key role in shaping the theological foundations of my early Christian life. After writing several pages, words simply could not capture the influence of Bridges on my life.

Jerry Bridges fine work, God Took Me by the Hand sums up in many ways what I originally meant to write in my tribute. This autobiographical account of Bridges’ life summarizes the important details that characterize the man so many have grown to love over the years.

The highlight of the book is nicely captured in the subtitle: A Story of God’s Unusual Providence. Most biographies capture the essence of one’s life, and rightly so. But this biography reads like a divinely inspired tapestry as the author refers over and over again to the invisible hand of God’s providence. He surveys the good, the bad, and the ugly – but in the final analysis, all the events which unfold in his life prove to be good (Rom. 8:38; Gen. 50:20).

If Jerry Bridges has influenced you or encouraged your Christian life, I commend God Took Me by the Hand. The book is packed with biblical wisdom and will no doubt, encourage many.

Biography · BOOK REVIEWS · Calvinism · Leadership

Battling Discouragement in Pastoral Ministry – C.H. Spurgeon

spC.H. Spurgeon. Autobiography, Volume 2: The Full Harvest, 1860-1892. Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1973. 524 pp. $36.00

In his excellent piece, 21 Maxims for Discouraged Pastors, Douglas Wilson reminds us that discouragement is part and parcel of pastoral ministry. Here is a piece of advice for men in pastoral ministry. Whenever you face the fires of adversity, unjust criticism, or swim in the sea of discouragement – pick up something by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The Full Harvest: Volume 2 is no exception to this rule.

The second volume of C.H. Spurgeon’s autobiography chronicles his life and ministry from 1860-1892. This account is a revised edition which was originally compiled by the British pastor’s wife, Susannah and Joseph Harrald.

This volume contains the high’s and low’s of Spurgeon’s ministry and demonstrates that Spurgeon was no stranger to controversy and adversity. Here is a man who battled a myriad of maladies and was plagued by chronic depression. The book shows how the Prince of Preachers overcame these barriers and trusted in his Savior to carry him through.

Perhaps the most impressive feature is Spurgeon’s resilient mindset. He endured many hardships in his London pastorate. Yet his influence remains with us today – with thousands of sermons for us read and digest.

Spurgeon was deeply committed to the doctrines of grace:

I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.

Spurgeon’s rock-solid belief in the doctrines of grace is a testimony to the power of the gospel and the joyful journey which is promised to God’s elect.

Biography · BOOK REVIEWS · Rock Music

Eyes Wide Open: Miracles and Mistakes on My Way Back to KoRn

wBrian “Head” Welch. With My Eyes Wide Open: Miracles & Mistakes on My Way Back to KoRn. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016. 214 pp. $16.36

With My Eyes Wide Open is the biographical account by Brian “Head” Welch, guitarist for the popular metal band, KoRn. Welch describes his conversion to the Christian faith, his departure from KoRn, and the days of bitter pain which followed. After several years away from the band, Welch tells the tale of his journey back into KoRn and some of the more recent events which mark his life. The author invites readers into his world – days that were marked by betrayal, loneliness, questioning, doubt, and a rebellious daughter to boot.

Welch writes with a level of transparency that is difficult to find these days. He does not shy away from sharing the painful details of his life, even as a Christian. The author is quick to point out how God’s grace transformed his life but also shares the low points of his Christian journey.

I have written nearly five hundred book reviews over the past few years. My aim is to honestly review books, commending the good and warning what may be antithetical to historic Christianity. This book is no exception. While the story presented here is inspiring and heart-warming, there are some troubling signs that need to be addressed in an honest review. I present these critiques as if Brian Welch and I had the privilege of enjoying a cup of coffee together. Perhaps one day we can make that a reality! In the meantime, I would encourage the author to three commitments:

  1. Be driven and motivated by God’s Word, not emotions or feelings. Throughout the book, Welch refers repeatedly to “signs” which inform many of his decisions. Feelings certainly have a role to play in the Christian life, but should follow the principles of God’s Word not dictate God’s Word.
  2. Get grounded in biblical and systematic theology. Read solid works by men like R.C. Sproul, John Piper, and Wayne Grudem. Such an approach will require breaking free from extreme charismatic groups that focus on mystical experience and downplay doctrine.
  3. Recognize that God generally works in the realm of the ordinary. He uses the ordinary means of grace found in the local church, namely – the faithful preaching of God’s Word and the administering of the ordinances for the building up of the body of Christ. Yes, God works in the realm of the extraordinary and continues to perform miracles and mighty acts that display his power. But the ordinary means of grace are no less powerful that a visible miracle.

It would be easy to cast aside these doctrinal concerns and focus on the redemptive aspects of the biographical tale. But setting aside doctrine is tantamount to compromise and must be avoided at all costs.

This is a book I wanted to like and pass along to music lovers. While “Head’s” conversion to the Christian faith is exciting, the doctrinal problems associated with the charismatic movement make it difficult swallow and even more difficult to endorse. In addition, the affiliation with the recent documentary, Holy Ghost raises deep concerns and should give discerning readers pause.  Then and only then will the eyes of the readers have eyes wide open.

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

Biography · BOOK REVIEWS · Calvinism · Church History

The Reformation Still Matters!

0801017130_bErwin Luther. Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016. 206 pp. $14.79

The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation will soon arrive. A handful of evangelicals await this special day of celebration, when on October 31, 2017 they will remember Luther’s courageous act as he nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Tragically, most will allow the day to pass by – completely unaware of the significance of the day.

Dr. Erwin Lutzer’s new book, Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation tells the fascinating tale of the Protestant Reformation and walks readers along a God-glorifying path that shine the spotlight on the central figures of the movement, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and Huldrych Zwingli.

The author covers much ground in this 200-page volume. He not only surveys the broad sweep of Reformation history; he also summarizes the foundational doctrines that were rediscovered during the Reformation.

Lutzer writes in a popular style which will no doubt appeal to a wide variety of readers and skill levels. The book is filled with beautiful photographs that bring the Reformation to life and invite readers on a journey that they will not soon forget.

The concluding chapter, Is the Reformation Over? is the most important part of the book. Dr. Lutzer interacts with theologians and historians that argue for the so-called demise of the Reformation. Nothing could be further from the truth as Lutzer makes painfully clear. Indeed, the doctrinal divide between Roman Catholics and evangelicals is deep as it is wide. The point of the chapter and the point of the whole book is this: The gospel was largely forgotten and under attack in the days leading up the to the 16th century. The battle for the truth of the gospel continues in our day as well.

Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation is an important book that will educate and inspire. It will drive readers back to the rugged terrain of history and the deep wells of Scripture. It will challenge them to engage in the ongoing work of rescuing the gospel and continuing the legacy of the Protestant Reformers. I would urge readers to pick up a copy of my recent book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther, as a companion volume to Erwin Luther’s excellent work.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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

Biography · Calvinism · Church History · Uncategorized

RECOVERING THE REFORMATION

Today, you will have an opportunity to pick up Stephen Nichol’s excellent book, Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought (2002) for $1.99.

Students of the Reformation will also want to pick up my new book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther.  Here’s a brief sample: Bold Reformer - d5

The Protestant Reformers were men of unbending principle.  They were men of unyielding conviction.  These men fought relentlessly  for the truth.  Some of the battle took place privately as godly men wrote books and treatises, which magnified the mighty work of the gospel.  Much of the battle, however, took place in public as the reformers made their bold ascent into the pulpit.  Lines were drawn, the Word of God was declared, and lives were forever changed.

Oh, that we would recover the spirit of the Protestant Reformers in our day.  May our pulpits reflect the great truths that Luther boldly proclaimed.  May the great Name of Jesus be exalted in our generation.

Soli Deo gloria!