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.

BOOK REVIEWS

Talk the Walk – Steve Brown (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOK REVIEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Heavy Laden Bookshelf

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

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

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

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BOOK REVIEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Maturity: Growing Up and Going on in the Christian Life – Sinclair Ferguson

matSinclair B. Ferguson, Maturity: Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2019), 231 pp.

In a style that Christians have grown fond of, Sinclair Ferguson gifts the church with Maturity: Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life. Originally penned in 1980 and distributed with the title, Add to Your Faith, and in 1981 as Taking the Christian Life Seriously in the United States. To refer to this short work as a treasure would be an understatement as Dr. Ferguson presents the high points of the Christian life.

The high points are set forth in five sections, namely, growing up, standing firm, facing difficulties, pressing on, and maturity. At the heart of Ferguson’s work is the Pauline mandate for Christ-followers to be mature in Christ: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). Ferguson adds, “The mature Christian has been finely shaped by the Holy Spirit and has been ‘filled out’ in a character which showed the fruit of the Spirit. Mature Christians possess the qualities which only Jesus Christ can produce, because he alone has exhibited them perfectly. This is maturity.” As such, we are not only “bound to the example of Christ, we are under the lordship of Christ.”

Each of the five sections assumes that readers desire to grow in Christian maturity. With the divine standard in place, the author carefully explains how maturity develops throughout the course of our lives. The various themes that emerge in these sections are deeply biblical and profoundly practical. Christians at all stages of maturity will benefit from Ferguson’s sound exegesis and practical application.

Maturity: Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life truly lives up to its calling and invites readers to press and continue the sanctification process that was initiated at the point of conversion.

Highly recommended.

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

For more information in Banner of Truth titles, please visit https://banneroftruth.org/us/

BOOK REVIEWS

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls – Matthew Barrett , Ed.

docMatthew Barrett, Ed. The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 912 pp.

Martin Luther boldly declared, “Justification is the article upon which the church stands or falls.” John Calvin argued that justification is the “hinge on which religion turns.” In the sixteenth century, scores of people found these arguments both biblical and compelling. The Roman Catholic Church deemed Luther and Calvin as heretics.

Fast forward to the current generation. While much has changed over the past five hundred years, the biblical wisdom of Luther and Calvin still stands. Many in the church trumpet the grand reality of justification by faith alone. But some continue to deny or discount this critical doctrine. Tragically, some of the dissenters are preaching in Protestant churches. At stake is more than a mere doctrine, important as that is – what is at stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is edited by Matthew Barrett. Dr. Barrett comes with impeccable academic credentials and is supported by a cast of world-class scholars and theologians. This book both a theological tome and a treasure chest. It is not for the faint-hearted. And it is certainly not designed for the armchair theologian.

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is arranged in four parts:

  1. Justification in Biblical Perspective
  2. Justification in Theological Perspective
  3. Justification in Church History
  4. Justification in Pastoral Practice

This book leaves no stone unturned. The team that Barrett has assembled has examined every theological, biblical, and historical angle that pertains to the doctrine of justification. The fundamental standing of position before a holy God is addressed with depth, breadth, integrity, and God-centered wisdom. The combined efforts have yielded a work that should be used for generations to come and will be of great service to pastors, professors, and followers of Christ.

Those who discounted Luther and Calvin in the sixteenth-century did so at their own peril. Of greater importance is the repudiation of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. To discount this cardinal doctrine is not only dangerous; it is tantamount to theological treason.

I commend The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls and trust that it will receive a wide readership.

Highly recommended

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