BOOK REVIEWS · Counseling · Discipleship

When I Am Afraid – Edward T. Welch (2010)

When I Am Afraid by Edward T. Welch is a short book.  It is also a very powerful book.  The author sets forth his intended goals at the beginning of the book.

  • You want to hone your spiritual instincts so that you turn to  Christ when anxious thoughts arise.
  • You want to know what Jesus says because when you turn to him in this way his words go deep.
  • You want to be less fearful and anxious and more content and hopeful.
  • You want to be more confident that God’s communication to you in the Bible speaks meaningfully to all the struggles of life.

Welch tackles fear and anxiety at the outset.  He admits, “to be human is to be afraid.”  Therefore, the responsibility of the reader is to recognize and isolate fear and anxiety.  He affirms, “So sometimes you will see that your fears mean you are trusting yourself rather than the Lord.  But you will always find that fear and worry are opportunities to hear God, to either turn toward him or to keep facing him and grow in trusting him.”

In chapter two, the author continues to focus on the need to trust God.  He sets forth some practical principles that point to God’s promise to deliver his people:

  • We trust in God not because he delivers us from every fearful situation, but because he alone is King.
  • He will always be with us in fearful situations.
  • He will deliver his people, but at times his deliverance will be more sophisticated than we can understand.
  • God will give you grace when you need it.

Chapter three discusses the relationship between fear and money.  Welch writes, “When you turn away from securing your own kingdom, which teeters on bankruptcy anyway, you get the true kingdom.”

Chapter four summarizes the fear many people have concerning death.  Chapter five contains practical counsel for dealing with the fear of man: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Prov. 29:25).

Welch goes to the core of the matter in chapter six with a good discussion regarding the promises of God: “God is not passive in his nearness.  When God says he is present, it means he is doing something on your behalf.  He is giving you manna.  He is keeping promises and giving grace when you need it.  God is never passive, and certainly he is never powerless.”

Chapter seven makes an appeal to Psalm 46 and leads the reader to the redemptive work of Christ: “With the Cross of Jesus proclaiming that your sins have been paid for, and with his resurrection assuring you that he is now the reigning King, you can trust him for the future and focus on today.”

When I Am Afraid is worth reading.  Edward Welch steers readers away from the precipice of selfishness and directs them toward the work of Christ.  He clearly articulates the biblical reality that “love expels fear.”  Built into the book are a series of thought-provoking questions and space for biblical meditation and response.  When I Am Afraid would be best utilized in a small group Bible study or a one on one discipleship.

 

BOOK REVIEWS

Light in a Dark Place: The Doctrine of Scripture – John Feinberg

lightJohn S. Feinberg, Light in a Dark Place (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 799pp.

Many issues have come to the forefront for Christians in recent years. However, I cannot think of an issue of greater importance than our view of the Word of God. This crucial matter is addressed by John Feinberg in his recent work, Light in a Dark Place: The Doctrine of Scripture. This is the latest installment in the Foundations of Evangelical Theology Series, which is also edited by Dr. Feinberg.

The Doctrine of Scripture (or Bibliology) is one of the branches of systematic theology and is the starting place for anyone who desires a thorough look at sacred Scripture. Indeed, our doctrine of Scripture frames our whole approach to the Christian life.

John Feinberg clearly and comprehensively outlines what Scripture, theology, and reason teach about the Word of God. He discusses in great detail the usual themes that occur in the study of Bibliology, including revelation, inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, authority, canonicity, illumination, perspicuity, sufficiency, and preservation. Each of these themes is subjected to careful study and analysis. Feinberg is meticulous in his approach and holds views that are Reformational, conservative, and informed by church history.

No stone is left unturned here. Light in a Dark Place is a massive piece of literature. Weighing in at nearly 800 pages, readers who desire an in-depth look at Bibliology will not be disappointed. Like the other volumes in the Foundations of Evangelical Theology Series, Feinberg’s work educates, encourages, and helps equip the next generation with the unshakeable, authoritative Word of God.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Dangerous Good – Kenny Luck

luckKenny Luck, Dangerous Good: The Coming Revolution of Men Who Care (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2018), 195 pp.

Dangerous Good: The Coming Revolution of Men Who Care by Kenny Luck is directed at Christian men who want to make a difference. It is a short book that contains ten powerful lessons which are designed to push men in the right direction. These lessons are prompted and informed by Scripture, which runs against the cultural grain in every instance. For instance, Luck makes this lament early on: “Don’t take your masculine identity too seriously, or people will label you as narrow-minded, intolerant, or just stupid.” This lie is confronted and challenged throughout the book.

The author is concerned about shaping men whose hearts are completely sold out to God. To accomplish this end, Kenny Luck sends readers to the Word of God and invites them to participate in a revolution. This revolution is nothing less than the kingdom of God that is already/not yet.

Dangerous Good is an encouraging and informative book. Christian men who take Kenny Luck’s counsel to heart will not only be better off – they will find themselves are the center of a revolution of men who care.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Caring for One Another – Edward T. Welch

art of careEdward T. Welch, Caring for One Another (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2018), 71 pp.

Each Christmas, like most families, we gather around the Christmas tree. After telling the story of the birth of Jesus and celebrating his incarnation, we open presents. When I was a child, I remember gravitating toward the big presents. After all, bigger is better. “The bigger the package, the better the present,” I reasoned in my seven-year-old mind.

Sometimes people approach books with the same mentality. “How could a small book influence anyone’s life?” So goes the conventional mentality. But consider, one of the greatest speeches in American history was the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln. But this short speech only contains 272 words. The Declaration of Independence only has 1,458 words. Clearly, bigger is not always better. Indeed, these two documents help forge the history of America!

Edward T. Welch’s newest book is no exception. Caring for One Another is an exceedingly short book. The book is compromised of a mere 71 pages. But like the Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence, this book packs a powerful punch.

Dr. Welch describes eight ways to cultivate meaningful relationships. Each lesson begins with a biblical principle. The principle is explored and expanded and practical suggestions are offered that are specifically designed to care for the needs of people. Finally, the author includes helpful questions at the close of each chapter for personal and group discussion.

Caring for One Another is a small book with a big message. The central message is the gospel of Jesus Christ which fuels willing souls and equips them for a lifetime of ministry.

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

BOOK REVIEWS · Discipleship

Dangerous Calling – Paul David Tripp

1433535823_lPaul David Tripp’s book has been titled incorrectly.  Dangerous Calling should be titled, Lessons in the Woodshed.  The author guides pastors to the woodshed again and again and again.  While this is clearly not the most glowing and winsome way to begin a book review, readers will see firsthand that the author is committed to telling pastors the truth and leading them out of the desert of sin and into the high places of victory.

Part One:

In the opening section, Tripp explores pastoral culture and expresses deep concern from the start.  His primary argument: Many pastors are headed in the wrong direction – and fast!  The author draws the reader in by using his own life and ministry as an example of one who was headed for disaster – both in his ministry and in his marriage.  Evidently, pastors around the country are in a similar situation.  Some pastors are ignoring the need for biblical community, neglecting personal worship and devotional priorities, and carry the attitude that they have “arrived.”

Part Two:

Next, Tripp uncovers a problem among pastors that appears to be somewhat of an epidemic, namely – the danger of forgetting the majesty of God: “It is that familiarity with the things of God will cause you to lose your awe.  You’ve spent so much time in Scripture that its grand redemptive narrative, with its expansive wisdom, doesn’t excite you anymore.”

Tripp reminds pastors to regain their sense of awe by cultivating humility, tenderness, passion for the gospel, confidence, discipline, and rest.  He urges pastors, “… Run now, run quickly to your Father of awesome glory.  Confess the offense of your boredom.  Plead for eyes that are open to the 360-degree, 24/7 display of glory to which you have been blind … And remind yourself to be thankful for Jesus, who offers you his grace even at those moments when that grace isn’t nearly as valuable to you as it should be.”

Part Three:

Finally, Tripp warns pastors of the danger of “arrival.”  He confronts the propensity of pastors who falsely assume that they have nothing more to learn, what he refers to as “self-glory.”  His challenge is bold and timely: “You and I must not become pastors who are all too aware of our positions.  We must not give way to protecting and polishing our power and prominence.  We must resist feeling privileged, special, or in a different category.  We must not think of ourselves as deserving or entitled.  We must not demand to be treated differently or put on some ministry pedestal.  We must not minister from above but from alongside.”  Challenges and admonition like this appear throughout the book; challenges that call pastors to be servant leaders.

 Each page is filled with sobering challenges for men who call themselves a pastor/shepherd/elder.  Indeed, there are many  “lessons in the woodshed” but the author does not leave pastors in a hopeless condition.  Rather, he applies the gospel to pastors who have been wounded in light of unconfessed sin, pride, and arrogance.   I believe that Paul David Tripp has accurately accessed the condition of pastoral ministry.  But the assessment is not the most important observation.  What stands at the center of this discussion is the gospel.  Pastors must return again and again to the gospel.  It is true that pastors must deliver the message of the gospel from the pulpit each week.  But pastors must also preach the gospel to themselves.  They must see themselves as recipients of grace; sinners in need of grace; sinners in need of forgiveness.  May God raise up a new generation of pastors who are humble, contrite, and tremble at God’s Word (Isa. 66:2b).

5 stars

BOOK REVIEWS

Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning

grudemWayne Grudem, Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2018), 1212 pp.

Wayne Grudem has become a household name in evangelical circles over the years. His landmark book, Systematic Theology, is used in Bible Colleges and Seminaries around the world. I have personally taught through his excellent book at least six times. As a result, hundreds of men and women have been equipped and edified in the Christian faith.

Dr. Grudem’s newest offering, Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning is a wonderful companion to Systematic Theology. The book weighs in at over 1,200 pounds and will likely turn some readers away. But walking away from Grudem’s book would be like gazing at a massive treasure chest and refusing to open it for lack of time or desire. Both responses would be tantamount to foolishness.

The introduction alone is worth the price of the book as the author establishes the foundation for Christian ethics by grounding his discussion in the holy character of God and sacred Scripture. Indeed, the essence of Christian ethics is living Coram Deo, and to the glory of God.

The remainder of the book is organized around the Ten Commandments. The basic outline is as follows:

  • Protecting God’s Honor
  • Protecting Human Authority
  • Protecting Human Life
  • Protecting Life
  • Protecting Property
  • Protecting Purity of Heart

Grudem does not leave any stone unturned here. Every ethical topic imaginable is explored. Each topic, of course, is subjected to uncompromising biblical standards.

Christian Ethics is a breath of fresh air that will embolden followers of Jesus Christ and challenge them to live with God-centered resolve in a postmodern ethos that has forgotten God. It is not only a response to the zeitgeist that surrounds us; it is a rally-cry for faithful Christians to live in a way that pleases the triune God!

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

BOOK REVIEWS

The Aging Brain – Timothy Jennings

brainTimothy R. Jennings, The Aging Brain: Proven Steps to Prevent Dementia and Sharpen Your Mind (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018), 283 pp.

The Aging Brain by Timothy R. Jennings, MD addresses the growing problem of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. At the heart of this book is the idea that these pathological states may in some cases be avoided with a healthy lifestyle and choices. The book is arranged in four parts:

Part 1: History and Aging

The author is realistic in his assessment of aging. He understands that aging is a normal part of life and is a result of the Fall. But the effects of aging can be curtailed through a series of lifestyle changes. “The purpose of this book,” writes Dr. Jennings, “is to lead people to healthier lives, which slow the aging process and reduce the risk of dementia.”

One of the central takeaways of Part 1 is that a healthy brain requires a healthy body. So the author recommends a series of lifestyle changes including proper nutrition and regular exercise as a means of preventative care.

Part 2: Oxidative Stress and Aging

In my mind, Part 2 is the most helpful and most interesting section of The Aging Brain. Dr. Jennings discusses the three factors that lead to oxidative stress (inflammation) and aging which include obesity, sugar, and toxins (tobacco, illegal substances, and alcohol abuse). The author includes several actions steps that lead readers in a direction of health, which in the final analysis result in a healthier brain and longevity.

Part 3: Lifestyle and Aging

Part 3 includes several practical steps that lead to brain health including exercise, sleep, regular rest (sabbaticals), a healthy worldview, and stress management.

Part 4: Pathological Aging

Part 4 focuses on Alzheimer’s disease, more practical steps to help prevent dementia, and a short section that describes how to care for a loved one with dementia.

Critique

The Aging Brain is a helpful resource for anyone who seeks help in understanding the various pathological states, such as dementia. The medical and scientific discussion is readable and accessible to anyone who is willing to put in the time for study.

One of the most attractive features of The Aging Brain is the learning points that the author concludes at the close of each chapter. Also included is an action plan. Here, the author suggests practical steps for moving in a healthy direction that promotes brain health.

While much of the book is helpful, The Aging Brain does not come without weaknesses. First, the author refers in some places to God as the “higher power.” I understand his desire to reach a broad base of readers who may not be followers of Christ. However, the reference to God as a “higher power” is not only unhelpful; it proves harmful as readers may be subtly encouraged to turn to a false god.

Second, the author discourages readers from believing in a deity who is a “punishing god.” It is unclear whether he means the “punishing god” of Islam or the God of the Bible who is a God of wrath and promises to punish every unrepentant person, in the final analysis (John 3:36; 1 Thes. 1:9-10).

Third, the promotion of self-forgiveness is included which proves unhelpful and ultimately, idolatrous.

Summary

These theological disagreements are significant but should not prevent readers from benefiting from the medical wisdom that explodes from this book. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater would be a mistake. Instead, I urge readers to carefully digest the material in The Aging Brain which will involve biblical discernment and discretion.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Walk On – Ben Malcolmson

ben.jpgBen Malcolmson, Walk On (New York: Waterbrook, 2018), 209 pp.

Walk On by is the inspirational tale of a young man who dared to follow his dreams onto the football field and beyond. Ben Malcolmson dreamed the impossible when he decided to play as a “walk on” during his days at the University of Southern California. Pete Carroll was the coach during those days which makes for a very interesting story.

Malcolmson not only shares the story about his athletic pursuits; he clearly describes how his relationship with Jesus Christ began and was fostered in those early days at USC.

Sports enthusiasts will appreciate Malcolmson’s heart, passion, and grit. His love for God shines clearly in these pages as he gives honor and glory to his Savior for enables his hands and guiding his feet.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Hope of Nations: Standing Strong in a Post-Truth, Post-Christian World – John S. Dickerson

hopeJohn S. Dickerson, Hope of Nations: Standing Strong in a Post-Truth, Post-Christian World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018), 313 pp.

Hope of Nations: Standing Strong in a Post-Truth, Post-Christian World by John S. Dickerson addresses the rising tide of pluralism in America and offers real hope for Christians who seek to be faithful to God. The thesis of the book is stated clearly:

“In the next three decades, Post-Truth thinking will overtake Truth-Based thinking in the United States, resulting in massive societal implications for all Americans. Meanwhile, massive global conflicts of ideology will be playing out beyond the US, and eventually these globally dominant ideologies will affect a less globally dominant US, which will rank about third in global power.”

The book is arranged in three parts. Part 1 asks, “What is Happening, and Why?” The author discusses the current ideological climate and includes five forces that merit further explanation:

  1. Humans are Sinning
  2. Satan is Scheming
  3. Ideologies are Warring
  4. Western Civilization is Unraveling
  5. Christ and His People are Prevailing

Part 2 asks the question, “Where Will It Lead?” Dickerson discusses nine post-Christian trends that Christians will face:

  1. A World that is Post-Christian
  2. A World That is Post-Truth
  3. A World That is Post-Knowledge
  4. A World That is Post-Church
  5. A World That is Post-Decency
  6. A World That is Post-Human
  7. A World That is Post-Prosperity
  8. A World That is Post-Liberty
  9. A World That is Post-Peace

Part 3 asks, “How Will We Live?” This question, which was originally asked and answered by Francis Schaeffer rescued this book. In the closing pages, the author moves from diagnosis to a prescriptive mentality. Nine resolutions are presented for Christians who seek to live faithfully in a postmodern milieu. The author encourages nine “postures,” which provide hope for moving forward:

  1. We Will Remain Rooted to the Christian Scriptures
  2. We Will Train Our Young
  3. We Will Be Known for Doing Good
  4. We Will Dignify All People as Image Bearers of God
  5. We Will be Ambassadors
  6. We Will Love our Persecutors
  7. We Will Remain Calm
  8. We Will be Invincible
  9. We Will be Fearless

Each posture is developed and readers are encouraged to stand strong in a post-truth, post-Christian world.

Hope of Nations is more of a sociological study that an apologetic mandate. Quotes are endlessly highlighted throughout the book in bold font. This practice becomes tedious and annoys thoughtful readers who would just assume highlight these passages on their own. Apart from these concerns, readers will benefit from this book so long as they understand the book’s purpose. Personally, I would encourage more interaction with Scripture, which is ultimately where readers find their hope, even in a post-truth, post-Christian world.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

12 Faithful Men: Portraits of Courageous Endurance in Pastoral Ministry

12Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson, Eds. 12 Faithful Men (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018), 187 pp.

12 Faithful Men is a collection of portraits that capture the lives and ministries of godly men, scattered throughout church history. These men come from a variety of backgrounds and have all made significant contributions to the kingdom of God.

Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson serve as editors of this project and enlist the help of several other pastors and scholars who paint short portraits of these faithful men. What makes this volume so valuable is that each of the twelve men has faced significant pain, suffering, or persecution in ministry. The men include the apostle Paul, John Calvin, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Newton, Andrew Fuller, Charles Simeon, John Chavis, C.H. Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle, Janani Luwum, and Wang Ming-Dao.

Most of the faithful men featured in this book are well-known names. The portraits are painted with skill, passion, and biblical wisdom. They are short introductions that will likely prompt some readers to do a more in-depth study. A few of the faithful men in this volume are lesser known figures, most notably, Janani Luwum and Wang Ming-Dao.

Each portrait is an invitation to pursue a life and ministry, which is tethered to sacrifice and suffering. The clear message is that ministry entails suffering and that God uses adversity to mark a man and make a man. And while each portrait provides a basic glimpse of one of these twelve faithful men, the greater message is that God is exalted and glorified in each of these men.

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