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

Basics For Believers – D.A. Carson

basD.A. Carson, Basics For Believers: The Core of Christian Faith and Life (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2018), 156 pp.

D.A. Carson’s book, Basic For Believers: The Core of Christian Faith and Love is a focused overview on the book of Philippians. Carson tackles Paul’s letter to the Philippians with the care and precision that readers are accustomed to.

Dr. Carson takes five chapters to exposit Paul’s epistle, all of which are packed with gospel-centered reality and principles that encourage and equip followers of Christ. The book is basic enough for new believers to comprehend but also contains a wealth of information that seasoned believers will benefit from.

Christians are encouraged to gaze intently on the cross of Christ, emulate worthy Christian leaders and stand firm in the gospel. The principles are an accurate reflection of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, all of which are timeless and transcendent realities. I commend this work for anyone who seeks a solid treatment of Philippians and needs Christ-centered encouragement in a godless age.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

No Silver Bullets – Daniel Im (2017)

bulletsDaniel Im, No Silver Bullets, Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2017, 268 pp. $11.02

Discipleship books are a “dime a dozen” these days. The upswing in these books is both a blessing and a curse. Great blessing comes when one of these books draws readers to Scripture, captures their hearts with Christ-saturated truth, and presents biblical principles for growing in the Christian faith. However, the rapid rise in books devoted to discipleship is also a curse for many of these books are trite, simplistic, and quite frankly, miss the mark entirely. Daniel Im’s No Silver Bullets is numbered among the former.

The subtitle captures the essence of Im’s proposal: 5 Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry. The author maintains, “The only way change happens – significant, long-lasting, macro-level change – is through a series of small decisions, steps, or micro-shifts, that are put into action and completed one at a time.” These shifts are set forth in Section One and include the following with brief summaries:

  1. From Destination to Direction – Emphasizing disciples who are focused on a direction instead of merely completed a set of check-lists, which is so common in many churches. Such an approach is bound to lead to both spiritual growth and numerical growth. Maturity in this model is “a result of equipping your church members with the right tools at the right time, so that they can ‘run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.’”
  2. From Output to Input – At the heart of this shift is a re-examination of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Extensive research reveals that maturing disciples read the Bible on a regular basis, strive to obey God, deny self, serve God and others, share their faith, exercise their faith, seek God, build relationships, and strive for to live transparent lives. These markers are referred to throughout as “input goals” which serve as indicators of spiritual growth and maturity. Once again, the emphasis is that micro-changes in these areas lead to life change.
  3. From Sage to Guide – This shift presents a fresh approach to theological education which places a premium upon application, a component that is missing in many church classrooms.
  4. From Form to Function – Here a renewed emphasis is placed squarely on the kingdom of God. Indeed, as Im writes, “A healthy church that is making disciples of all nations is supposed to be a forecast of the kingdom of God.”
  5. From Maturity to Missionary – The final shift focuses on the missional elements of the church. Mr. Im builds on the work of Timothy Keller who also emphasizes the missionary paradigm. Six specific components are presented: 1) The church must confront society’s idols, 2) The church must contextualize skillfully and communicate in the vernacular, 3) The church must equip people in mission in every area of their lives, 4) The church must be a counterculture for the common good, 5) The church must itself be contextualized, and 6) The church must practice unity.

These various shifts are explained comprehensively and linked to the Bible. Once again, readers are reminded that small shifts are preferable and will lead to lasting change in the lives of disciples and the corporate Body of Christ.

Section Two reveals the path of discipleship. This section unpacks the practical outworking of the material that Mr. Im presented in the first part of the book. Mr. Im suggests how to lead a church that needs to initiate strategic steps of change. But the author clearly communicates that change is never easy and requires courage.

An important step on the discipleship path involves vision, strategy, and values. Examples are offered and exercises are included to help pastors and leaders in this area.

Daniel Im’s presentation is biblical from start to finish. The principles are attainable in the local church setting and many practical suggestions are included that will help move churches forward on the path to discipleship. The emphasis on making “small shifts” is sure to be a hit with pastors and Christian leaders who are bombarded every day with ideas in books and suggestions from parishioners. At times, the material is repetitive but patient readers will be rewarded in the long-run for sticking with the author and following his life of thought.

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