Book Review: Ordinary by Tony Merida

In a world being inundated with books calling for a radical, weird, or crazy kind of Christianity it is refreshing to see someone write a book about ordinary Christianity. Pastor Tony Merida, the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina shares his heart and soul in a book that calls Christians to make an impact on the world through ordinary Christianity. If this book had been written a few years ago it would have been quickly tossed aside. No one sells books talking about doing ordinary things do they? Aren’t we all looking for the glamorous and romantic idea of selling off our goods, downsizing our lifestyle, or moving overseas to impact unreached people groups for the glory of God and the sake of the nations?

ordinary-book-cover-tony-meridaTony Merida is convinced that we can make an impact by practicing ordinary Christianity through such things as humble acts of service, loving our neighbors, and showing hospitality towards others. Tony begins the book by sharing how a simple Bible study on social justice in which he prepared for a youth group shook the very core of his faith causing him to reevaluate everything he had ever taught or believed in.

The foundation for the book is calling Christians to “do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” – Micah 6:8. The book looks at practical ordinary ways which we can make a difference in the world without compromising the Gospel. Merida shares many of the same struggles that we all face when confronting the issues of social justice. Many churches and ministries lean too far towards social justice issues and neglect the Gospel while others do the complete opposite. Merida brings balance to both sides while challenging our perceptions of social justice issues and particularly those who aren’t really sure what they need to do.

The book begins drawing heavily on the life of William Wilberforce who was a prominent leader in the movement to abolish the slave trade in the early 1800’s. The reader is encouraged through a brief cursory look at his life and his desire to humbly submit himself to the Lord through a life of meditating on God’s word and through prayer.

Merida calls us to surrender our lives to meditate on the Word of God believing the Word will cause ordinary Christians to live extraordinary lives.

“Personal heart transformation doesn’t happen simply by information transfer. It happens, as you adore God, based on His revelation of Himself if the Word. If we can behold Him, admire Him, esteem, Him, enjoy Him, be captivated by Him, then we will imitate Him.”

This short book (five chapters) is packed with much practical and theological help to show us how to live with Gospel-intentionality being a voice for the voiceless and a father to the fatherless while staying rooted in the truth of the Gospel. I’ve read many books that have a strong focus on alleviating suffering and fail to stress the importance of the Gospel, but this book always brings the reader back to the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

“Mercy ministry is about alleviating suffering. Those who want to alleviate suffering should want to alleviate more than temporary suffering. They should also want to alleviate eternal suffering, which can only come through faith in Christ.”

Tony Merida shows us that being an ordinary Christian works. It works to further the Gospel by being the hands and feet of Jesus to a world who is in desperate need of something beyond simply having their felt needs met. Ordinary is a great resource for those who are trying to understand the difference between sensationalism and practicing a life of justice and mercy.

About the Author:
Tony Merida is the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. Tony is the author of Faithful Preaching, co-author of Orphanology, and serves as a general editor and as contributor to the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series (B&H Publishing Group) along with David Platt and Danny Akin. He is married to Kimberly, with whom he has five adopted children.

Advertisements

Book Review: Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace To Us

Grace is messy. If I could sum up the latest book by Preston Sprinkle in three words that is what I would say. Preston Sprinkle is the director of Eternity Bible College’s extension site in Boise, Idaho. Preston made his impact on the evangelical world a few years ago when he co-authored a book with Francis Chan titled Erasing Hell.

Charis-Book-ReviewThe question that came to mind before I began reading Charis is one that many of us wrestle with. Do we really need another book on grace? Christian bookstores have become so inundated with books on this topic that many of them have their own grace section in the book store.

Preston admits his own struggles to that question, and his book titled Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace For Us is the answer. The original Greek word for grace is charis (with a hard “ch” like karis) which simply means ‘gift’. The book begins unfolding the premise of charis and the many misconceptions that come with trying to define exactly what grace is. The term has become a buzzword in Christian circles, and the power of transforming grace seems to be missing all together.

Each chapter of the book takes us through a vivid and sometimes shocking picture of grace in the Old Testament. Preston takes our glamorized picture of the Old Testament heroes and shows us the reality of their own struggles and how God chose to use them despite their many flaws, failures, and laundry list of sins.

Preston uses very coarse language at times, and this is really my only issue with the book itself. While what he says is true, he seems to push the boundaries of language for the sake of the shock factor itself. Some of the title chapters reflect his intentions to shock the reader, and at one point in the book, he admits himself that he shares some pretty harsh word pictures to drive the point home. Of course conservative Christians are likely not his target audience, but they will certainly benefit from the theology behind each chapter. Preston is speaking directly to the person who has been rejected, shamed, hurt, and burned out by religion in itself. There were certainly a few times I would read something wishing that he would have worded things a little differently, but it was also a reminder of the grace I am to extend to others.

The book drives home the truth that throughout the Scriptures it is clearly evident that God uses sinful, broken, and rebellious people to accomplish His will.

The last chapter of the book should address any concerns of the skeptic, who will likely accuse Sprinkle of using grace as a license to sin. Preston shares his theological underpinnings in the Epilogue titled ‘Where Does Obedience fit in’?   Preston agrees with the Apostle Paul who says in Romans Chapter 6:1-2 “Should we continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!”

I would recommend Charis to anyone who wants to understand grace in a deeper, yet more practical way, who isn’t going to be offended by gritty language (though not vulgar). I appreciate how Preston humanizes the Old Testament Saints in such a way that gives us all hope that God can and will use us despite our flaws. If you are interested in how to reach broken people in a dark world, you will benefit from this book.

WellnessBadge

This review has been published and shared through Netgalley.

Book Review: Kept for Jesus

“Can I lose my salvation?” This is a question that comes up quite frequently in discussions that I’ve had with many new (and old) believers. It’s a question that has troubled the souls of many people for hundreds of years. Kept for Jesus, the latest book by Sam Storms seeks to answer this distressing question and provide a solid biblical foundation to help believers understand the truth about assurance of salvation and eternal security.

kept-for-Jesus-book-review-CROSSWAYThe book begins with a story about a man named Charley who made a confession of faith at an early age, who wandered away from the faith a few years later, only to declare himself an atheist after two divorces, and an alcohol abuse problem. This is a fairly common scenario that many of us in the church can relate to. I know many people who have made professions of faith who have later walked away from it all-together.   The author takes us through three popular theological frameworks to help us understand what has happened to Charley. Mr. Storms explains the views of the Arminian, the Calvinist, and the Antinomian throughout the book to help us gain a better understanding of what the different camps teach on key doctrines in the Scriptures.

The book takes an expositional look at the core doctrines of eternal security and assurance of salvation taught in the New Testament while offering an apologetic view for the Calvinistic doctrine which the author supports. The first few chapters take us on an overview of the differences between the three theological viewpoints and Sam shares what he both agrees and disagrees with while bringing them to the light of what Scripture teaches.

Sam doesn’t shy away from addressing some of the tough passages in Scripture. In Chapter two he addresses such topics like blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, the parable of the soils, and what happens to those who will say “Lord, Lord,” in Matthew Chapter 7 that Jesus responds that He never knew.

Chapter Three – The Dangers of Fickle Faith presents a wonderful exposition of the famous passage in John 15 on abiding in the vine. The author carefully approaches the text from all three theological views and offers six solid reasons to support his view.

Kept for Jesus isn’t simply a theological treatment of doctrines but offers real hope for the church to believe that God will sustain you to the very end.

“As noted in Romans 8:30-39, God the Father has already done the greatest thing imaginable and made the most costly sacrifice possible to secure our eternal safety. He has crucified His Son in our stead. He spared Him not. He gave Him up for us all. Thus when it comes to keeping a tight grip on our souls as we encounter the many threats and temptations of life, He will not decline to do what is immeasurably less. Of this you can be certain, and in it you may rest assured: your loving and gracious heavenly father will never let go of your hand, He will never, by no means ever, leave you or forsake you, or allow you to leave or forsake Him.” – Sam Storms

If you are struggling to understand eternal security I would recommend this book as a great place to begin. Sam is a very engaging author who wrestles with many important questions that we all face at some point in our lives, and while it is not meant to be an exhaustive study, it is both a helpful and valuable tool for the church.

About Author: Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent 40 years in ministry as a pastor, professor, and author. He was visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004, and is currently senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and the author of numerous books, including Chosen for LifeTough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions, and Kept for Jesus.

WellnessBadge

This review has been published and shared through Netgalley.

Book Review: Experiencing the Trinity

What do you do whenever anxiety and fear have overtaken you? How do you respond with depression has overwhelmed you and it’s a struggle to see a purpose for anything? Lead Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Joe Thorn shares one of the darkest times of his life with us as he answers these questions in his book Experiencing the Trinity.

Experiencing-the-Trinity-by-Joe-Thorn-BookWritten in the same style and format of his previous book – Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself, Joe Thorn takes us through 50 short meditations that he wrote to himself throughout a very dark and painful season of his life reminding himself of only hope that any of us have in this life offered through the grace of our triune God.

Each meditation walks us through the character and attributes of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, beginning with a passage of Scripture and Joe preaching the Gospel to Himself through the truth of the Gospel. He admits in his introduction that each of these were written specifically to himself, and although some of the thoughts may not be where you are currently at in life, you will likely be able to relate to them. This was one of the most refreshing aspects of the book for me.

Joe writes with much conviction as he navigates through the fight of faith combating the lies of the enemy, with the assurance of God’s Word. Each chapter confronts many of the same struggles we all face and help the reader see the power of the Gospel at work through the hard things we face in this life.

In his chapter titled ‘God is Good’ he reminds us that understanding the sovereignty of God will do us little good if we do not also understand his goodness.

“He is not simply calling the shots, ordering the days of your life in some arbitrary way. What He does with and to you is always good, even if it doesn’t seem that way. The question is, do you believe that, or are you quick to question what God is doing, as if He isn’t good? As if He isn’t good to you? The goodness of God doesn’t guarantee ease, but it does ensure that He will not act carelessly, or out of frustration or fatigue. He is guided by His own perfect nature, and all His interactions with His people are good.”

Joe acknowledges the struggles that we all face and offers a Gospel solution through the character of God as the answer. It’s a short book, but don’t let the size of the book hinder you from taking the time to experience what God may be saying to you through these meditations.

Experiencing the Trinity is not just a collection of devotional thoughts put together but rather it is a tool that should be used to help us during our times of battle against the enemies of doubt and discouragement. The truths presented are helpful and impactful and like most tools you will want to keep it close at hand when you need it.

WellnessBadge

This review has been published and shared through Netgalley.

Book Review: John Calvin – A Heart For Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology

It is a humble task for me to review a book on a great theological giant of the past such as John Calvin, especially when it is written by multiple authors that I consider to be the great theologians of the present. The very mention of the name John Calvin sparks controversy, and throughout the years I have come to believe Calvin as either the most loved or most hated man in Christianity today.

John-Calvin-Heart-for-Devotion-Doctrine-and-Doxology-book-image-coverThe book – John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology was put together in celebration of the five hundredth anniversary of Calvin’s birth in 2009. Over 20 authors in twenty chapters have taken on the task to write about the different areas of Calvin’s life that take us beyond the debates, controversy, and straight into the heart of the man, the pastor, husband, and father.   The result of this work by contributors such as Jerry Bridges, Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, and John MacArthur among others is a well-rounded look at the man John Calvin and the theology that shaped every facet of his life.

The book begins with an in depth historical look at the question that many people today still do not know and struggle to understand – Who Was John Calvin? Derek Thomas gives us a biographical sketch of the man and his life which paves the way for the rest of the book to unfold.

One of my favorite chapters in the book is titled Calvin’s Heart for God written by Sinclair Ferguson and it is in this chapter that my own biases and perceptions of Calvin were challenged. Ferguson gives us a glimpse into Calvin’s heart and devotion to God through Calvin’s own writings through the years.

Calvin himself declares his need of God in his own life as he penned the words “Until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by His father care, that He is the Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond Him, they will never yield Him willing services. Unless they establish their complete happiness in Him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to Him.”

Sinclair Ferguson tells us that Calvin seemed to have been conscience of two things that shaped him: God’s sovereign renewal and his progressive transformation into the likeness of Christ.

Whatever perceptions you may have about the man John Calvin, one thing you walk away with after reading this book is his intricate understanding of the character of God, and of his own desires to submit every area of his life under the authority of Christ.

Calvin’s theology, his preaching, and teachings are what Eric Alexander defines as “Christocentric” inferring that he allowed nothing and no one to displace Jesus Christ from His Supreme place in every sphere of life.

Calvin has been depicted by many as a tyrannical figure in Christendom, a monster, a murderer even, but these do not paint a very accurate view of his life. You won’t gain that kind of a view from his writings, nor from the history of his life, which was an incredible revelation for me in the chapter by W. Robert Godfrey titled “The Counselor to the Afflicted” which is one of my favorite chapters in the book.

“John Calvin – The Great Counselor” certainly isn’t something that most people think of whenever think of Calvin, but as this chapter shows us – he was a man who loved the church and the family of God. Calvin’s own heart as a shepherd was reflected by the spiritual, physical, and emotional needs of his sheep, where Calvin devoted most of his time ministering. This was evidenced greatly in his commentaries on the book of Psalms which he referred to as “an anatomy of all the parts of the soul.”

Each Chapter stands alone yet builds upon the life, character, and ministry of Calvin, leaving the reader with a greater understanding of one of the most misunderstood men in Christian history.

Although there are five chapters devoted to explaining the famous ‘five points of Calvinism’ the book paints a larger picture of John Calvin whose doctrine went far beyond the points that have wrongly defined the man and his ministry. What you uncover in the pages of this book is a man who loved God, who was devoted to the Gospel with all of his heart, soul, and mind. Calvin’s perception of the Christian life went well beyond five points.

In his famous work ‘Institutes of Christian Religion’ Calvin says this:

“We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: In so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s let us therefore live for Him and die for Him. Let all the parts of our life strive toward Him as our only goal.”

A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology is a must read for anyone trying to understand the not only the theology of Calvin, but the passion that drove Calvin to pursue Christ and treasure Him with his very life.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is serious about their study of theology, regardless if they agree with the five points of Calvinism because as this book shows us, there is so much more to this man’s life and ministry. If you are interested in studying the life of John Calvin there is no better place to start than here.

Book Review: Praying With Paul

What is the most urgent need in the church of the Western world today? If you were to ask others this question there would likely be many different responses. D.A. Caron contends that what “we most urgently need is a deeper knowledge of God.” His book Praying With Paul addresses one of the most foundational steps that we should take in knowing God is through prayer – “spiritual, persistent, and biblically minded prayer.”

praying-with-paul-2nd-edition-200x300There are many great books on the topic of prayer. It’s almost overwhelming to know where to begin because the topic is so vast in nature. How does this book differ from the hundreds of others that call us to become a better praying husband, wife, or parent? How does it stack up against the multitude of books that tell us how many steps it takes to become better at praying?

Praying with Paul takes us exegetically through the prayers of Paul in the New Testament and although it is deeply theological it majors on the practical. D.A. Carson takes us through the very heart of Paul’s prayer life by examining not only how he prays but who and what he prays for. The book begins with the honest confession of how prayer has been very much neglected in the Christian life.

Carson explains “When it comes to knowing God many of us constitute a culture of the spiritually stunted. So much of our religion is packaged to address our felt needs – and these are almost uniformly anchored in our pursuit of happiness and fulfillment, without rightly understanding where true happiness and fulfillment lie. We are not intoxicated by His holiness and His love; His thought and words capture too little of our imagination, too little of our discourse, and too few of our priorities.”

The pastoral heart of Carson shines brightly throughout this book and as he works through the many prayers of Paul, taking us through the framework of prayer, the petitions of Paul and his heart to pray for others. The reader is challenged with piercing questions throughout the book and at the end of each chapter that will cause you to consider your own prayer life.

This book is more than just a theological treatment on prayer it is written to help people in the practical every day twists and turns of life. Every chapter builds upon the next, creating a foundation that nurtures, instructs, admonishes, rebukes, encourages, and challenges the reader.  Carson reminds us that “If you are serious about reforming your prayer life, you must begin with your heart. “ This book asks us the right questions to help us see the issues of our heart and it helps us address them.

Chapter Seven – Excuses for Not Praying will likely speak to every heart, and if you are hesitant to read a book on prayer I would start directly with this chapter. Carson gives us a Gospel centered focus when we try to excuse our prayerlessness confronting excuses such as “I’m too busy to pray”, “I’m too sinful to pray”, “I don’t feel like praying”, among many others.

Praying with Paul is a book that will help you to overcome the everyday hurdles of spiritual dryness, a lack of faith and belief, and it confronts our excuses for not praying. One of the things that spoke to my heart was in how the author compares our praying in relation to our loving others.

“If we are to improve our praying we must strengthen our loving. As we grow in self-sacrificing love we will grow in intercessory prayer.” – D.A. Carson

Praying with Paul is biblical, theological, passionate, and practical. It has helped me to grow in my understanding of Paul’s heart for the church and his passion to see the Gospel go forth and flourish among the lost. Most of all, it has given me a greater desire to pray with a Christ-centered love for others. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to pray biblically, who struggles to know what to pray for, and who wants to grow in their love for God.

WellnessBadge

Book Review: When Will My Life Not Suck

“Is this as good as it gets?” I’m sure this is a familiar question to most of us. We’ve all experienced disappointments, crisis, and setbacks often back to back. Founder of LifeChange Counseling and Marriage Center of Franklin, TN, Ramon Presson get right to the heart of that question with an honest -yet less than stellar – book title, “When Will My Life Not Suck?”

When-Will-My-Life-Not-Suck-bookRamon writes with wit and humor, while getting his point across in a book that helps to focus the reader on the hope of a better world to come. He uses Paul’s letter to the Philippians to show how to deal with a broken and suffering world in the meantime. Ramon writes as a man who is in the trenches with us daily fighting the fight of faith against pessimism and depression. The stories he shares in this book are sure to connect with readers of every sort of background.

I was a little skeptical of the book until I came across something that really stood out to me in the second chapter that was powerfully convicting.

He writes “How strange is it that when we ask God to bless us, what we want is simply more of the best that the world can give? We want God to bless us with more money, fewer difficulties, more success, less conflict, more opportunities, and more influence. Sometimes what we want and expect from God is not very different from what we would want and expect from a really good president or even a benign dictator.”

Those words set the stage for the rest of the book where Presson leads the reader to acknowledge discontentment for the things of this world, and presents them with a better choice. The chapters take us on a journey to see a bigger picture. We live in a broken world with broken people and Ramon writes about the honest struggles of life, boiling it down to a question each must answer for ourselves. Will we continue being discontent chasing after the things of this world or will we pursue the One who gives true contentment?

Throughout the book I was reminded the simple things in life matter. I saw the value of reflecting on proper perspective, the need to cultivate friendships with other men, and keeping my gaze fixed on Christ.

It’s in the last three chapters that the book begins to shine as he unpacks how Paul dealt with Christian suffering. Ramon steps on a lot of toes and I get the feeling he is weary of American Christianity. I personally appreciated his thoughts against the idea of using corny slogans on church signs.

“I’m confident that Jesus is delighted to know that He is being touted like an effective underarm deodorant or lawn fertilizer.”

Ramon writes with humor and compassion (along with a little obvious sarcasm) while dealing with some serious subjects. If you are looking for a perspective shift, the stories and illustrations may be very helpful for you. If you are struggling with pessimism I believe you will find great encouragement and practical ways to experience hope and joy in this midst of the daily struggles of life.

Book Review: Pilgrim’s Progress

What can be said about this allegorical tale written in the late 1600’s by John Bunyan that hasn’t already been said?  Pilgrims Progress has been regarded as one of the most significant works of religious literature second only to the Bible.  Bunyan’s compelling tale of Christian and his pursuit of of reaching the Celestial City has been translated into more than 200 languages, and some 400 years later still remains in print.

The Pilgrim's ProgresIn this story we find a very troubled man named Christian weighed down by a great burden which we come to discover is the knowledge of his sin, after he read the Bible.  Seeking to be set free from his burden he encounters a man named Evangelist who tells him about the City of Destruction and beckons him to go out to the Wicket Gate where he will be relieved of his burden.  Christian is then sent on a quest to find rest in the Celestial City.

Crossway Publishing has recently released a revised edition of this classical work and I want to spend the majority of this review covering what Crossway brings to this beloved story.  If you have ever tried to read the free editions of Pilgrims Progress available online, you may discover that old English just isn’t your thing. If that’s the case, then you will be pleasantly pleased with the updated language from the editor C. J. Lovik.

The highlight of the Crossway edition of the book however comes in the illustrations.  The deluxe edition has 40 full page color illustrations by the award-winning illustrator Mike Wimmer that help bring this story to life for the reader.  They look great in the ebook edition but you really see the detail and color come to life in the printed edition.  If you’re a digital reader, this is one book you will likely consider buying in print.

The second best feature of this edition is the many footnotes along the way that help the reader understand the biblical principles behind this story.  A great example is Christian’s first question to Evangelist when he learns about the City of Destruction and the fate awaiting all who live there.  Christian asks “What shall I do?”

pilgrims-progress-18The footnotes explain to the reader “This question now flowers into the only question that can successfully launch his journey, “What shall I do to be saved?”  This question is predicated by his impending sense of danger, his humbled posture under the burden of sin, and his deep desire to receive guidance that will result in both deliverance and peace. If he seeks God’s face, it is a muted desire, temporarily overshadowed by his preoccupation with the tragic condition that fills his consciousness with fear and dread.”

The addition of the footnotes could be a great aid for a Bible study or a great tool to help children to understand the Gospel behind the story of Christian and his quest for the Celestial city.  Another great feature of the footnotes is a helpful look at the history of John Bunyan’s life.

Pilgrims Progress is a must read book for everyone.  There is something there for both the believer and the non believer.  The story of Christian is one that captivates the heart and leaves you anticipating what happens next at every turn of events. This has been a favorite story of mine for several years. Last year at bedtime I would read a chapter a night to my boys and they were captivated and couldn’t wait until bedtime the next time to find out what happened next on Christian’s journey.

Anyone who is serious about their faith should read this book. It is a book that is encouraging, challenging, and saturated with the Gospel. It reminds of that we are called to stay on the narrow road, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, and not to be taken away by the things of this world.

Book Review: Heart of the Matter

I don’t like reading daily devotional books. I believe I should tell you that up front since this book – Heart of the Matter is a one year daily devotional from the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. Daily Devotionals often seem generic in a sense – they are typically too broad to really speak to the heart and too short to really make an impact. So much seems left unsaid in a daily devotional and I have often found with many daily devotional books what ends up happening is that they are take Scripture and end up twisting it in a dozen different ways to fit the application part of the devotional (which is usually found in the last two sentences).

Heart of the Matter is a different kind of devotional book from what I am accustomed to reading. The book is a selection of excerpts from books and other materials written by the counselors at CCEF. Each daily you are anchored into the truth of God’s Word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ by such writers and counselors as Paul Tripp, Ed Welch, William Smith, among several others.

You won’t find very many “feel good” stories here. There are no word pictures being painted for us about Timmy’s dog showing us a parallel of God’s faithfulness, or taking Philippians 4:13 to show us how God will give us the strength and skill to improve our golf swing. I’ve read devotional books that have tried to show me both of those things. This is not that kind of book.

Instead we are given Gospel-Saturated truth for our time of prayer and meditation in seeking the Lord. Each day you are given a Scripture and some things to challenge you in your prayer time that cut straight to the heart of the matter.

Five days into reading this devotional series last year I was hooked, as God took the words of Timothy Lane and pierced my heart in his reflections on 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18.

“Taking you out of the center of things, deep and thorough repentance and faith enable you to see those around you. You know see them through eyes cleansed by the forgiving grace of Christ. You begin to see things that, in your sin, you were not able to see.”

That day’s devotion talks about the grace of God giving us eyes to see and a heart to love the lost, to repent of our sin, and our selfishness.

I have been encouraged and challenged through this devotional, convicted and convinced.

I think one of the reasons why this book has made such an impact in my heart is because the writers know that the Gospel is truly the heart of the matter and apart from the power of the Gospel there is no lasting change in our lives.

Another reason why I think this devotional book gets it right is because it is a devotional book that actually does what it was purposed to do – it leads your heart to devotion to God. It leads you to worship. It’s not a nice encouraging read, although it does it encourage, it goes beyond what your typical devotional series does, because it grasps the heart with the beauty of Christ, the glory of His grace, and the transformation power of the Gospel.

The Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation exists to teach people how to explore the wisdom and depth of the Bible and apply its grace-centered message to the problems of everyday living. This is evidenced throughout the pages of this book and I would encourage anyone who has ever struggled with reading a daily devotional book to pick this one up and dive deep into the treasury of riches that are written in these pages. I believe it will encourage you, strengthen you, and ultimately draw you closer to the truth of God’s Word.

Book Review: Taking God At His Word

In his latest book – Taking God at His Word, author and pastor Kevin DeYoung is on a mission to show us why the Bible is knowable, necessary, and enough and he attempts to tackle this in a book that weighs in under 150 pages (103 on my Nook reader).

Taking God at His Word - by Kevin DeYoungDeYoung admits in the opening pages of his book that he wants to “convince you (the reader) that the Bible makes no mistakes, can be understood, cannot be overturned, is the most important word in your life, and the most relevant thing that you can read each day.”

This is not an easy task, but DeYoung brings a convincing argument to the reader within the very first chapter of the book.

In a somewhat unorthodox fashion the book begins with it’s conclusion.  The rest of the chapters in the book are the necessary building blocks that work to show us what Kevin has set out to show us using Psalm 119 as the foundation. It’s not too difficult to see that young believers will most assuredly be the ones to benefit from this kind of book. DeYoung writes simply, passionately, and very matter of factly about his argument, and I believe this book will be used to help new believers understand why as Christians we do what the title suggests – take God at His Word.

“Psalm 119 shows us what to believe about the word of God, what to feel about it, and what to do with it.”

The books aim is to show us these truths:

1) God’s Word says what is true.

2) God’s Word demands what is right.

3) God’s Word provides what is good.

4) God’s Word is enough.

5) God’s Word is clear.

6) God’s Word is necessary.

I’ve read several of Kevin DeYoung’s books – most recently the book Crazy Busy, and I believe that this is one of his best so far. Some of Kevin’s books have been hit or miss in my opinion, but I’ve always enjoyed seeing Kevins personality come out within each book.  He is a very likable guy and you get a sense of knowing his heart for the Gospel, and as a writer myself that is something that I also strive for. This book is above and beyond his previous works and is very solid and enjoyable to read.  In a day and age when the authority and reliability of Scripture is under attack it is refreshing to see someone stand upon the Word of God as the foundation for living life.  The chapters flow well together, each one builds upon the next, giving the reader a well rounded argument for why we should believe this book is the inspired Word of God. Personally I found that his exposition of Psalm 119 in Chapter One alone to be worth the price of the book.

Being a lover of theology I also enjoyed his appendix on thirty of the best books on the Good book. If you are looking for similar books that delve deeper into this topic, Kevin has provided you with a great list of resources for the beginner, the intermediate, and the advanced reader.  Some noteworthy titles that he mentions – The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg, Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen, and Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon by D.A. Carson.

Kevin says some very challenging things in this book, but perhaps the most perplexing of those is a statement he makes early on in the book. He writes

“Too often, Christians reflect on only what they should believe about the word of God.  Psalm 119 forces us to consider how we feel about the word of God.  The Psalmist delights in it. The Psalmist desires it. The Psalmist depends on it.”

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my feelings towards the Scriptures because I know just how misleading my feelings can be. Reading Psalm 119 however does force us to consider how we feel about the Word of God.  I see how the Psalmist responds and I ask myself how well do I respond to the Word of God? How strong is my desire to know His Word?  How much of it do I truly understand?  Do I strive to keep the Word of God as the Psalmist does?  These are the questions that Kevin asks us and whether we like it or not, we must come to terms with these kinds of questions.

My only real complaint about the book is the length of the book itself.  I don’t fault the author so much as I fault the reader for this. Since the explosion of social media, it seems as though the readers want their information in bite size pieces. The Twitter and Facebook generation doesn’t want to read long books (nor long blogs) any longer.  (Note: at 793 words right now I gotta wrap this one up!). So writers are constantly being challenged to write shorter books to hold the attention span of an audience who won’t read a book if it is over 200 pages. This has advantages as well as disadvantages. It is good for writers to get to the point of what they want to share (DeYoung does this very well), but so much can be left out in the process. I felt as though this book could have gone much deeper into the topic and I believe DeYoung knows this as well, which explains the appendix at the end.  He is encouraging the reader to dig deeper, and is providing them with a list of resources in which to do it.

If you are looking for a great book on the authority and reliability of the Scriptures – Taking God At His Word is a good place to start.