BOOK REVIEWS

Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards – Owen Strachan (2018)

owenOwen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day By Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2018), 415 pp.

I don’t usually get too excited about devotional books. They are typically too short and far too shallow. Such books gain a wide readership, which only adds fuel to my frustration. But when I learned about Dr. Owen Strachan’s new book, Always in God’s Hands: Day By Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, I eagerly secured a copy to review.

The book contains a short devotional for each day of the year. Readers are greeted by a short citation by America’s greatest intellectual and pastor, Jonathan Edwards. Strachan follows with an insightful devotion which is laced with Bible-centered wisdom and practical lessons that apply to the Christian life. Topics include the doctrine of the Trinity, justification, sanctification, battling temptation and worldliness, work ethic, faith, biblical authority, and many more. Each devotion concludes with a short Scripture that relates to the daily content.

Observant readers will notice several things about Strachan’s work. First, it is not short and it is not shallow. These are meaty, soul-stirring devotionals that ignite the affections and draw the attention of readers to the triune God. For instance, listen to how the author describes the promise of a Redeemer:

“It was foretold that Jesus would come as a holy warrior to face down his foe. Genesis 3:15 charts what the New Testament Gospels show us. Christ, Jonathan Edwards says, ‘went before us.’ He suffered ‘execution,’ dying to honor the justice of God, represented so vividly as a ‘sword,’ a great and terrible weapon. But the way of Christ is not a way of defeat. In dying, the Son of God crushed the serpent’s head. He rose from the dead. For believers, ‘there is no sword now,’ and eternal life awaits. The conquering hero will one day welcome us home, a liberated nation and a set-apart people.”

Second, it is a stellar introduction to the Christ-saturated worldview of Jonathan Edwards (approximately 30,000 words from the pen of Edwards are presented in this volume). Too many people unfairly caricature Edwards as a fire-breathing preacher, preoccupied with judgment and damnation. Edwards does indeed warn people to flee from the wrath to come. But this is not his only focus. The Puritan divine is fixated on the glory of God. He is consumed with the supremacy of Christ. His writing is saturated with gospel-centered joy.

Third, it provides practical help for believers at different maturity levels. This volume is certainly a great encouragement to seasoned believers. But it will also help strengthen the faith of believers who are just getting started. After completing Always in His Hands, I ordered an additional copy for my sixteen-year-old son. Inscribed in the opening pages are these words – from a father to his son:

“Jonathan Edwards life and writing have deeply shaped my views of God, the gospel, and the Christian life. No other writer outside of sacred Scripture has influenced me more. When you get to know this man, you get better acquainted with his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And his Savior is our Savior!”

I’m looking forward to reading these short devotions together. Each is inspired by Jonathan Edwards but the real joy will be treasuring the Lord Jesus and finding our satisfaction in him. As John Piper says, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him.”

Always in His Hands: Day By Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards is a landmark book. It is a captivating introduction to America’s greatest thinker and invites readers to biblical spirituality that is truly unmatched. I highly recommend this work and trust that it will receive a wide reading in the evangelical world. Always in His Hands is among the best books of 2018!

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

BOOK REVIEWS

The Moment of Truth – Steven J. Lawson

the momentSteven J. Lawson, The Moment of Truth. Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2018, 227 pp $17.16

Nothing is more important than contemplating the truth. Each person has a specific way of approaching the truth. For example, the Sophists did not believe in absolute truth – they were relativists. Protagoras said, “Man is the measure of all things.” Socrates believed that everyone could find the truth by looking within. “Know thyself,” was his mantra. Plato struggled in his quest for the truth is reported to have said, “It may be that someday there will come forth from God a Word (λόγος) who will reveal all mysteries and make everything plain. In our day, many people influenced by postmodern thought reject the very notion of absolute truth: “Nothing is certain, nothing is absolute,” they reason, failing to realize the built-in contradiction they suppose.

Jesus Christ was born to bear witness to the truth. “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice“ (John 18:37). Even though Pilate stood face-to-face with the Truth, he willingly suppressed the truth (Rom. 1:18). He exchanged the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:25). And he refused to listen to the truth (John 8:43, 47).

Steven Lawson unveils the importance of this vital subject in his new book, The Moment of Truth. Lawson invites readers to examine Pilate’s repudiation of the truth and contrasts his hostility with the crisis of truth in our generation. “The downward spiral always begins with the rejection of the truth,” writes Lawson. He continues, “This all-out refusal to recognize truth is hitting our society like a tsunami, and its breakers have submerged the majority of modern minds.” So the stage is set for what will prove to be a very important book.

Part One: The Reality of Truth

The first section contains foundational aspects of truth including eight distinguishing marks of truth:

  1. Truth is divine
  2. Truth is absolute
  3. Truth is objective
  4. Truth is singular
  5. Truth is immutable
  6. Truth is authoritative
  7. Truth is powerful
  8. Truth is determinative

The author underscores the reality of truth in the inerrant Word, which builds the confidence of people and demands total submission to a truth-telling God. Aspects of biblical revelation are explored and readers are drawn into an important discussion to focuses on the reliability and historicity of Scripture and the important dimensions of the cross.

Part Two: The Rejection of the Truth

The second section is a sobering look at the widespread repudiation of the truth, beginning with Adam and Eve. Lawson also reveals how truth is rejected by atheists and compromised by the church.

In what proves to be one of the most helpful chapters is a discussion on how truth is marginalized. Lawson writes, “Any disobedience to the truth of God’s Word must be treated as a serious encroachment against His holy name.” But in an unexpected turn, the author focusses on seemingly unimportant sins that prove to be devastating, in the final analysis. The sin of discontentment, impatience, envy, and the sin of the tongue are presented and readers are urged to mortify these sins by the power of the Spirit.

Part Three: The Reign of Truth

In the final section, Dr. Lawson presents four powerful expressions of truth – preaching the truth, living the truth, truth in worship, and the reign of truth in the final judgment. Each of these chapters are packed with God-centeredness as the truth of God’s Word comes to light. Readers will walk away humbled and encouraged as they are affirmed in the truth.

Summary and Commendation

The Moment of Truth is an explosive book that will encourage Christians from all walks of life and backgrounds. Pastors who have been beaten down and discouraged will walk away from this book with new resolve and energy. Teachers of God’s Word will be motivated to remain faithful. Compromisers will be encouraged to repent. And unbelievers will come face-to-face with the truth of God’s Word. Like Pilate, each reader will be forced to rejoice in the truth or reject Him. My prayer is that every reader will choose the former; that many will be compelled to live the truth, proclaim the truth, and defend the truth.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love – John Crotts (2018)

graceJohn Crotts, Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018, 137 pp. $14.00

The matter of truth is of utmost importance for the follower of Jesus Christ. However, sometimes a person with a passion for the truth has a tendency to “steamroll” the unsuspecting – the one who has either never learned the truth or the one who has chosen to reject “unreasonable aspects” of the truth. Loving the truth is both necessary and commendable. However, when the truth is eclipsed by arrogance or pride, the beautiful truth ends up looking ugly and fails to serve people well.

John Crotts has observed this problem directly and addresses the matter in his book, Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love. While truth is never minimized or marginalized in the book, the author challenges readers to tell the truth with grace and urges them to “temper truth with love.”

Description

The book begins with some basic biblical instruction concerning the art of graciousness. “God cares about more than just the words you say,” writes Crotts. “He also cares about how you say those words. It is not enough always to say the truth; you must also say the truth in love.”

Crotts surveys the subject of graciousness in Scripture. The depth and breadth of graciousness is explored and practical suggestions are offered. Specific examples of graciousness from the life of Jesus and Paul are commended. And biblical examples are cited that point out the propensity for people in the church to be ungracious. Of course, the subject matter is practical in our generation as much as it was in the first-century church.

With a solid biblical foundation in place, the author moves forward with a biblical prescription for cultivating habits of graciousness.

Prescription

Three specific angles are broached including the cultivation of graciousness in the heart, through actions, and in the community. Once again, the Bible guides the thoughts of the author as he presents practical ways to build graciousness as a habit into the fabric of one’s life.

The final chapter, The Gospel and Graciousness is a powerful closing word that will push readers in the right direction as they submit to the Holy Spirit and surrender to his promptings. “A gracious church will impact a community,” writes Crotts. So tempering truth with love is the proper balance that believers should strive for. John Crotts’ excellent work is a first step in the right direction.

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

CULTURE

ON FIRE FOR CHRIST: Remembering John Rogers (February 4, 1555)

The smell of burning flesh hung in the air.  The villagers turned their heads and gasped.  Stray dogs fled.  The man’s wife wept bitterly.  His children watched inThe_Burning_of_Master_John_Rogers horror and the smell burned their nostrils.  The stench was a vivid reminder of who sat on the throne.  Mary Tudor ruled with ironclad authority.  Her subjects were obligated to obey.  Any dissenters would pay the ultimate price.  The world would remember her as “Bloody Mary.”

The day was February 4, 1555.  The man roped to the pyre was known well in the British village – a man of humble origins.  A man with bold ambitions and simple obedience to match.  A man who dared to challenge the throne with two simple acts – preaching the Word of God and printing the Matthews-Tyndale Bible.  His name was John Rogers.  Pastor, father, martyr.  He was the first Christ-follower to pay the ultimate price of death during Mary’s bloody reign of terror.  He was the first of hundreds who would die at the hands of this blood-thirst tyrant.

John Rogers stands in a long parade of God-centered men; men who preached the truth, confronted sin, lived uncompromising lives, and finished strong.  Like Rogers, some were martyred.  Others died of old age or were tormented with disease.  Those who participate in this Christ-exalting parade still have something to say.  Their courage emboldens us.  Their lives inspire us.  Their theology instructs us.  Their devotion moves us to action.2014-02-03 08.41.07

February 4, 2018 marks the anniversary of Roger’s brave march to the pyre.  Over 460 years later, the world is a very different place.  Yet the persecution of Christ-followers has not decreased.  It has increased.  As people committed to the sovereign reign of Jesus stand for truth,  righteousness, and justice – the persecution will grow steadily.  As Christians take a stand against homosexual marriage, abortion, human trafficking, and pornography – the persecution will escalate.  Tolerance is the popular buzzword, yet fidelity to God’s Word will not be tolerated by many in this world.  John Rogers is a reminder to stand firm in the face of adversity.  His picture is glued to the flyleaf of my preaching Bible and beckons me to boldly declare the truth of God’s Word – unashamed, unhindered, and resolute – on fire for Christ!

Semper Reformanda!

BOOK REVIEWS

Worldview: Seeking Grace and Truth In Our Common Life

wolrdMarvin Olasky, Worldview: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life, Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2017, 200 pp. $17.55

“Fight or flight? Ride or hide?  Sometimes, it’s beneficial to be a Benedict, creating a community in which Christians can grow stronger and prepare to venture forth when the tide seems ready to turn.  Sometimes, we should dare to be Daniels, risking our lives in the centers of power by speaking and living truth before those who probably won’t listen.”

This is how Marvin Olasky begins his new book, Worldview: Seeking Grace and Truth In Our Common Time.

Olasky’s work is a series of articles that originally appeared in World Magazine. Readers of World will be familiar with the author’s pithy writing that is biblically informed and culturally sensitive. My hope is that a new batch of truth seekers will be introduced to this man who is driven by biblical conviction and captivated by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Getting the Gospel Right – R.C. Sproul

gospR.C. Sproul, Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 235 pp. $10.70

There are many things in life that we “get wrong.” Some of the things we get wrong may cause temporary pain or inconvenience but usually do not pose a significant challenge to our daily lives. But getting the gospel right has eternal implications. R.C. Sproul addresses this matter in his book, Getting the Gospel Right. Originally published in 1999, Baker Books has repackaged this timely book for a new audience that probably never had the chance to read the original work.

The book includes three parts. Part One discusses the Controversy Concerning the Gospel. The debate reaches back to the sixteenth century when Luther boldly challenged the doctrinal underpinnings of the Roman Catholic church.

Dr. Sproul helps readers determine the marks of a true church which is distinguished by the faithful proclamation of the gospel, the administration of the sacraments (or ordinances for Baptist readers), and church discipline. Since the Roman Catholic church has jettisoned the gospel by abandoning sola fide, which is essential to the biblical gospel, one would rightly consider Rome to be an apostate church. To assign such a label to the Roman Catholic church does not automatically mean that certain individuals have not experienced personal salvation; it merely demonstrates how Rome has abandoned the biblical gospel. The author adds, “When an essential truth of the gospel is condemned, the gospel itself is condemned with it, and without the gospel, an institution is not a Christian church.”

The author presents the historical debate between evangelicals and Rome by clearly identifying the meaning of the term, evangelical. The term means “the gospel.” Sproul continues, “The Reformers used the term evangelical to define their movement as it related to the central theological issue of the day, the doctrine of justification by faith alone … the Reformers believed that sola fide is essential to the gospel, that without sola fide one does not have the gospel.”

Sproul continues by explaining the rise of liberalism and the ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) document that “heralded another subtle but significant shift in the contribution of sola fide to evangelical unity.”

Part Two includes a critical analysis of The Gift of Salvation, the joint statement by Roman Catholics and evangelicals in October 1997. Sproul’s comments and critiques are straightforward and gracious. He affirms the points of agreement between Rome and evangelicals but he also identifies several doctrinal deficiencies. These deficiencies who prevent most evangelicals from endorsing such a document.

Part Three includes a detailed exposition of The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration, a document that was drafted by notable evangelicals including D.A. Carson, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, and others.

The document includes a series of affirmations and denials and is essentially an exposition of the document, which includes safeguards and doctrinal sideboards which help preserve the very essence and purity of the gospel.

We may get things many things wrong in life. Such decisions may prove painful in the short run, but in the final analysis, such decisions have little effect upon our lives. Failing to get the gospel right, however, has eternal implications.Getting the Gospel Right reminds readers of the importance maintaining our allegiance to the truth of God’s Word. Trifling with the gospel is simply not an option for followers of Jesus Christ.

CULTURE

ON FIRE FOR CHRIST: Remembering John Rogers (February 4, 1555)

The smell of burning flesh hung in the air.  The villagers turned their heads and gasped.  Stray dogs fled.  The man’s wife wept bitterly.  His children watched inThe_Burning_of_Master_John_Rogers horror and the smell burned their nostrils.  The stench was a vivid reminder of who sat on the throne.  Mary Tudor ruled with ironclad authority.  Her subjects were obligated to obey.  Any dissenters would pay the ultimate price.  The world would remember her as “Bloody Mary.”

The day was February 4, 1555.  The man roped to the pyre was known well in the British village – a man of humble origins.  A man with bold ambitions and simple obedience to match.  A man who dared to challenge the throne with two simple acts – preaching the Word of God and printing the Matthews-Tyndale Bible.  His name was John Rogers.  Pastor, father, martyr.  He was the first Christ-follower to pay the ultimate price of death during Mary’s bloody reign of terror.  He was the first of hundreds who would die at the hands of this blood-thirst tyrant.

John Rogers stands in a long parade of God-centered men; men who preached the truth, confronted sin, lived uncompromising lives, and finished strong.  Like Rogers, some were martyred.  Others died of old age or were tormented with disease.  Those who participate in this Christ-exalting parade still have something to say.  Their courage emboldens us.  Their lives inspire us.  Their theology instructs us.  Their devotion moves us to action.2014-02-03 08.41.07

February 4, 2018 marks the anniversary of Roger’s brave march to the pyre.  Over 460 years later, the world is a very different place.  Yet the persecution of Christ-followers has not decreased.  It has increased.  As people committed to the sovereign reign of Jesus stand for truth,  righteousness, and justice – the persecution will grow steadily.  As Christians take a stand against homosexual marriage, abortion, human trafficking, and pornography – the persecution will escalate.  Tolerance is the popular buzzword, yet fidelity to God’s Word will not be tolerated by many in this world.  John Rogers is a reminder to stand firm in the face of adversity.  His picture is glued to the flyleaf of my preaching Bible and beckons me to boldly declare the truth of God’s Word – unashamed, unhindered, and resolute – on fire for Christ!

Semper Reformanda!