Book Review – A War of Loves

Title: A War of Loves
Author: David Bennett
Publisher: Zondervan
Publishing Year: 2018
Pages: 266
My Rating: 4 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

There is probably no issue that is more hotly debated among Evangelicals than this issue of homosexuality.  The issue is at the forefront the so-called cultural wars and is constantly being brought to our attention in the media.  How as we as Christians supposed to remain faithful to Scripture but at the same time love our gay neighbors? Are we doomed to bigotry and hate?  Its a topic I’ve thought much about so I was thrilled at the chance to review this new book, A War of Loves by David Bennett.

Basically, the book is about Bennett’s struggle as a celibate, gay Christian.  As a teenager he came out as gay and abandoned the Christian faith altogether as he sought to be true to himself and pursue love in the arms of another man.  Yet, through his search he was plagued by the fact that nothing seem to satisfy his basic emotional needs. He tried researching various religions and philosophies, became a gay rights activist and engaged in several homosexual relationships – not one led to satisfaction.  Then suddenly, God broke through and changed his heart of stone to a heart of flesh. God worked through both friends and family to draw David to Himself. But then he was left with a new struggle, how does he reconcile his same sex attraction with his belief in Scripture? The rest of the book details how David sees his sexual struggle as an opportunity to bring God more glory.  He decided to live a celibate life choosing to find his identity in Christ rather than in his sexuality.

There are many positive aspects about this book that I really enjoyed.  First, I greatly appreciated David’s brutal honesty and candor. He spares no detail in describing his struggles before and after salvation.  He gave me a glimpse into a world I never knew existed. Second, the book sought to slay a growing and ever-present idol in the church – marriage and family.  He is not suggesting these are bad things in and of themselves but can become idolatrous. God does love and have a plan for single men and women in church. Not everyone will be married.  Also, the church seemingly ignores the need for meaningful, platonic same-sex friendships. David and Jonathan show us the value of such a friendship. Third, it is fascinating to see a man struggling through his homosexuality but still submitting to the Scriptures despite what his own desires tell him.  There is a lesson here for all of us as we struggle with sins that seem so natural yet contradict the will of God. Finally, there is a stunning rebuke of callousness and ignorance of the Evangelical church toward the homosexual community. All men made in the image of God are worthy of dignity and respect.  Instead we are often guilty of treating homosexuals as “icky” and evil without the love and compassion Jesus showed toward lost sinners.

However, there were a few parts of the book that I found wanting.  The main issue I has was the large emphasis in the book about personal experience, individual prophecies and hearing God’s voice audibly.   I would rather have seen an objective defense of Scripture rather than a subjective experience in defending the Christian faith. I know the author is capable of such a defense, but it was not clear in this book.  

But, all in all, the book is well-worth reading and the story is one that needs to be heard as we think through this issue within the church.  I would urge you to get your copy today, and perhaps lend it to a friend later.

Purchase the book here.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

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Book Review – The Prayer that Turned the World Upside Down by R. Albert Mohler

Title: The Prayer that Turned the World Upside Down
Author: R. Albert Mohler
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publishing Year: 2018
Pages: 181
My Rating: 4 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

It’s been said that if you want to make a Christian feel guilty, ask about his prayer life.  Many of us struggle with finding time to pray, wondering if we are praying enough and sometimes it’s just difficult talking to someone you can’t see.  In his latest book, the Prayer that Turned the World Upside Down, Dr. Al Mohler takes up the request once asked of Jesus, “Teach us to pray.”

Jesus’ response to that question is what we know refer to as the Lord’s Prayer.  Maybe you remember reciting it as a child or something you often repeated in church.  As familiar as it is, how many of us have really thought through this crucially important lesson on prayer?  This book helps us do just that. Dr. Mohler takes us through the prayer line by line giving an in-depth exegesis of the text that grounds us in sound theology yet leaves us with practical application we can put to use in our own lives.  

I, personally, found the book to be quite interesting and challenging.  I especially appreciated the author’s emphasis on corporate prayer. So often I  fellow believers who believe that all prayer should take place in secret, confined to a closet as Jesus taught at one point.  But throughout the Lord’s prayer, it is plural pronouns that are used. In other words, at least some prayer was meant to be corporate, in public.  That’s just one insight of the many found in these pages.

Here’s a few quotes I found edifying:

“When we pray, we convey our entire theological system.  Our theology us never so clearly displayed before our own eyes and before the world as in our prayers.” – page 10

“God uses prayer to radically reorient our hearts, which can be disturbing.  Prayer can sometimes be ‘anti-therapy.’ This is because prayer is not first and foremost about us, but about the glory of God.” – page 15

“Prayer is not our bargaining chip with a reluctant genie.  It is our opportunity to commune with the Creator and Redeemer who loves us.” – page 17

“Jesus is reminding us that when we enter into a relationship with God, we enter into a relationship with his people.  When we are saved by Christ, we are saved into his body, the church.” – page 48

“This is why Jesus regularly referred to himself a the ‘bread of life,’ the true manna sent from heaven (John 6:35).  He is God’s ultimate provision for our spiritual lives. Each day as we pray for our daily bread, we should be reminded of our need for Christ to forgive our sins and empower us for obedience. Each time we pray for daily bread, we should recognize our deeper need for the bread of life – the only one who can truly satisfy.” – page 118

“The Bible does not teach that God helps those who help themselves; instead, God helps those who are at the end of themselves.” – page 148

Purchase the book here.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

Book Review – Cobra Kai and Sanctification

Title: Cobra Kai and Sanctification: Strike First. Strike Hard. No Mercy.
Author: Zachary Bartels
Publisher: Gut Check Press
Publishing Year: 2018
Pages: 96
My Rating: 5 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

This book will be featured in an upcoming episode of the Basic Bible Podcast.

If Johnny Lawrence and John Owen ever collaborated on book, this would be it. Zach Bartels does a great job of weaving together your favorite scenes from the Karate Kid movies, including the new YouTube series, and sound theology. Like we learned in Cobra Kai, we must fiercely fight against sin having no mercy. The illustrations he uses are helpful and quotes from Spurgeon and Owen are sprinkled throughout. This is all accentuated by the author’s keen wit and sarcasm.

As with all Gut Check Press books, this book is parody at it’s best, but with a solid, Biblical foundation. A sense of humor is a must if you want to enjoy this read.

Here are two of my favorite sections:

“As you are being made into his image, pray that the images hitting your retinas will be processed in a Christlike way! If I’m seeing that crass, spitting, swearing, shirtless guy walking down the road as loved by God—someone for whom Christ died—then I won’t find myself judging him. If that person knocking on my office door is someone whose “sheep-without-a-shepherd” demeanor would move our Lord with compassion, I’ll be unlikely to respond with annoyance. And if that woman in the yoga pants is a dear daughter of God, whose prayers he hears and whose fears he understands, then she’s definitely not some piece of meat to be ogled or lusted after.” (Kindle Locations 255-259)

“The omnipresent Christian stock photo guy with his hands up in some stupid Ted-Talk power-pose, overlooking a breathtaking vista, has done as much damage to Christianity as Nero. That friggin’ guy. He continues to reinforce the idea that Christian spirituality is a mountain-top thing to be chased during our vacation time—an add-on module that will improve your life. It’s not. Following Jesus is something you do everywhere. Ibid worshiping Jesus, ibid killing sin.” (Kindle Locations 323-327)

Download the book here.

Book Review – The Gospel and Adoption

Title: The Gospel and Adoption (The Gospel for Life Series)
Author: Russell Moore and Andrews Walker (editors)
Publisher: B&H Books
Publishing Year: 2017
Pages: 128
My Rating: 5 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

It was many years ago at a Texas Roadhouse in Janesville, WI that my wife and I, at the urging of our pastor, began to serious consider adoption.  For years we had struggled through infertility and wasn’t quite sure why God was putting us through that. At that meeting we were urged to read the book Adopted for Life by Russell Moore.  That was the beginning of our journey that led to the adoption of our two children (and two more to come). We owe quite a bit to Dr. Moore’s book.

This book is much shorter than Adopted for Life but is jammed-packed with Biblical and practical considerations concerning adoption.  This book features bit-sized chapters from several authors, such as Russell Moore and Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, that focus on a foundational, Biblical philosophy on adoption and then backs up to give practical considerations for both individuals and churches as a whole.

One thing I especially find helpful about this book is its honesty.  The authors do not sugar-coat anything. Adoption is sometimes seen as romantic – a gracious couple willing to rescue a poor orphan who then will be forever grateful.  It is NEVER that simple. Every adoption involves tragedy, heartache and unknown amounts of baggage. It is difficult and often awkward. The church needs to protect its sheep and sometimes that means telling a family they may not be equipped or ready to adopt.  While the ought to look for ways to care for orphans, it is not God’s will for every couple to adopt or enter the foster care system. Yet, the blessings of adoption are worth the struggles and reflect the heart of gospel and God Himself.

Here are a few helpful quotes from the book:

“Adoption helps explain how people from across the globe and across history become the family of God.  Adoption is an expression of the sheer willpower of God to create a family unto Himself that he’s proud to call children. (John 1:12)” – page 1

“Physical adoption is a reflection of God’s work of spiritual adoption in the lives of His people.  It is a reflection of a people who are living out the supremacy of Christ in a fallen world.”- page 20

“Adoption in Scripture is not an adjective in the Scripture – it’s a past tense verb.  God doesn’t say to some Christians, “I love you, and you are Mine,” and then turn to others and say, “I’m glad you’re here, but you’re just not as special” – page 33

“Far more than a requirement, caring for orphans is first a response to God’s love.  Its not just a mandate, but a mirror of God’s character.” – page 65

There’s much more worth reading so I would urge you to pick up this book for yourself.  If you are considering adoption, know a family that has adopted or is in a church that focuses on adoption – this book will be a help and blessing to you.  In short, this is a great book that should be found on your bookshelf.

Purchase the book for yourself here.

Book Review – Bearded Gospel Men

51u0kkqydsl-_sx335_bo1204203200_Title: Bearded Gospel Men: The Epic Quest for Manliness and Godliness
Author: Jared Brock and Aaron Alford
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publishing Year: 2017
Pages: 304
My Rating: 4 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

Bearded Gospel Men is a 31 day devotional written by Jared Brock and Aaron Alford. The book presents you with a Bible verse and quote for each day along with a short biographical sketch of an influential leader from church history. Of course all of these leaders are men, and men with beards. This is followed by a prayer and contemplative questions that help you carefully think through the material in an applicable way.

As someone with an appreciation of church history, I found this book both fascinating and hilarious. If you enjoy memes on social media, you will enjoy this book. The humor sprinkled throughout every page keeps you interested but the spiritual meat of the book keeps you engaged. While I was already familiar with most of the men featured, I still learned quite a bit I did not already know.

While I would recommend this book, it obviously has an intended, limited audience. There is quite a bit of truth we all can learn from, but the constant jokes about masculinity and beards would probably turn away most ladies. I would also caution that the book has more of a wide-spread Evangelical appeal and would not be as “reformed” as would like. Yet, the book is still worth the read.

Purchase the book for yourself here.

A Book You Need – Onward by Russell Moore

Normally when I post about books it’s either a link to a free one or a review of one I just read.  Today, I found out one of the best books I’ve read on faith on politics authored by one of my favorites guys is on sale for just $.99.  I cannot recommend this book enough.

Here’s the Amazon description:

As the culture changes all around us, it is no longer possible to pretend that we are a Moral Majority. That may be bad news for America, but it can be good news for the church. What’s needed now, in shifting times, is neither a doubling-down on the status quo nor a pullback into isolation. Instead, we need a church that speaks to social and political issues with a bigger vision in mind: that of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christianity seems increasingly strange, and even subversive, to our culture, we have the opportunity to reclaim the freakishness of the gospel, which is what gives it its power in the first place.

We seek the kingdom of God, before everything else. We connect that kingdom agenda to the culture around us, both by speaking it to the world and by showing it in our churches. As we do so, we remember our mission to oppose demons, not to demonize opponents. As we advocate for human dignity, for religious liberty, for family stability, let’s do so as those with a prophetic word that turns everything upside down.
The signs of the times tell us we are in for days our parents and grandparents never knew. But that’s no call for panic or surrender or outrage. Jesus is alive. Let’s act like it. Let’s follow him, onward to the future.

Download the book here.

My List of Top Books of 2017

This was a difficult year to post a top 10 list of books for the year 2017.  It is not difficult because there was a lack of good books, because there were a great number of worthwhile reads that came out this year.  The problem is that of all those worthwhile reads, I didn’t read very many of them.  I’ve got to admit, I didn’t hit my reading goals this year.  However, there are a few books that come out this year that I did read and that I do want to pass along to all of you.  These are not in order.

1-3.  The Church Trilogy by Joe Thorn

The Life of the Church
The Heart of the Church
The Character of the Church

These three books are very easy to read and give a great introduction of the doctrine of Ecclesiology, or the doctrine of the Church.  This is bite-size look into the life of church, how it ought to operate and how we ought to operate within it.  Topics such as the ordinances, leadership, evangelism and preaching are unfolded in a way that anyone could understand it.  I highly recommend these books to new believers and would be a great tool to use in discipleship and new members classes.

4.  The Gospel and Adoption by Russell Moore and Andrew Walker

As you all know, I have a heart for adoption.  This book is a collection of different essays dealing with how the gospel drives us to consider adoption.  The book is both doctrinal and practical.  The first two chapters explores the Biblical doctrine of adoption and how the gospel ties in while the three remaining chapters deals more with practical application and how the church can and should get involved in creating a culture of life.

5.  The King’s Mission by J.A. White

Pastor Aaron White of the River Hills Community Church is now only a gift to his local congregation, but a gift to the Church at large as well.  He has written a number of books well worth your time to read.  Pastor White has a passion for exalting Christ, a fact obvious in every page he writes.  This book is an Advent devotional I used with my family this year.  There is a short reading for each day of Advent along with the corresponding Scripture passage. The book has not only me recommendation but also that of Tom Schreiner and Bruce Ware of Southern Theological Seminary.

6.  The Secret Battle of Ideas about God by Jeff Meyers

Worldviews is something everyone has but few actually think about.  This year I began teaching through Understanding the Times in my worldviews class which was written originally by David Nobel but recently updated by Jeff Meyers.  At a teacher’s convention this past October I was introduced to the new book by Meyers.  It’s a smaller overview of the book I’m teaching through, intended for a larger audience.  Meyers explorers several different worldviews (secularism, spiritualism, Islam, Marxism and postmodernism) and explains how approach each one Biblically.  Many Christians know what they believe but easily fall prey to false ideas.  This book is helpful as week seek to guard the flock but also challenge the culture around us.  It is most helpful in aiding Christians to think through philosophies we are bombarded with each day.

Life After Abuse

I wanted to take a quick second to make you all aware of a new book that has just arrived on my doorstep.  The book is entitled, Living and Loving Again:  Life after Abuse by Dr. Don Woodard.  Here’s the Amazon description:

Living and Loving Again: Life after Abuse was born out of years of ministering to people who were victims of abuse. Years ago when I was first approached for counsel by an abuse victim, I was completely unprepared to deal with the issue and was not sure how to help the lady seeking healing and guidance. Over the years I realized there was a need for a Biblical resource to minister to the abuse victim, their loved ones and those who minister to them. My prayer is that this book helps the abuse victim in their journey from victim to victor!

Dr. Woodard is a personal friend of mine who a great love for others.  He has a special desire to minister to those who have been forgotten or rejected by those who ought to be mirroring the love of Christ.  Don has been a great blessing to me during particular times of difficulty.  So, I want to make sure I help him out whenever I get the chance.  Please check out the book and consider purchasing a copy for yourself.

Purchase the book here.

Check out the book’s website here.

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Book Review – 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, James by Tim Keller and Sam Allberry

51bqeytnh3l-_sx350_bo1204203200_Title: 90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, James
Author: Tim Keller & Sam Allberry
Publisher: The Good Book Company
Publishing Year: 2017
Pages: 192
My Rating: 5 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

The search for a meaningful devotional that actually focuses upon Scripture is finally over!   90 Days in John 14-17, Romans, James by Tim Keller & Sam Allberry is a great book that will actually enhance your devotional time in the Word.  Many devotionals simply use Scripture as a launching pad in order to get to the author’s helpful thought or deep reflection.  In other words, you read the Scripture and then forget about it.  This book was intended to be read with your Bible open and continually points you back to Scripture thereby giving you a better understanding of the Word.

On the other hand, neither is this book an in-depth commentary.  You won’t be digging deep into systematic theology, although there is the occasional reference to the original languages.   The real aim of this book is to get you into the Word and learn how to study with an aim toward personal application.  Dig into the Word and live it out in your daily life.

Each passage is divided up into several sections.  First Keller and Allberry break down each book passage by passage with just a few explanatory notes to aid you in understanding the text.  You will be answering questions along the way to challenge your mind, also helping you to get behind the true force of the text.  These sections end with prayer and thoughtful application.  Finally there is a section for you to journal your own thoughts and reflections.

This book is helpful to both the theology students and laymen alike.  The authors recommend setting aside a half an hour’s time to really get into this and from my experience that seems about right – and time well spent.  Buy the book and jump right in!

Purchase the book here.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

Book Review – Martin Luther by Simonetta Carr

51xywxv42ol-_sy416_bo1204203200_Title: Martin Luther
Author: Simonetta Carr
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Publishing Year: 2016
Pages: 63
My Rating: 5 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

Ever since Tony and Tommy came into my life, I am constantly on the hunt for good children’s books.  Not only do I want to instill a love for reading into their lives, but my greatest desire is to create opportunities to enrich their faith.  Martin Luther by Simonetta Carr is just the book to open that door.

As a teacher, I’ve come across quite a bit of children’s biographical material.  Much of it is ok and basic.  They give you the basic story and throw in a few helpful lessons along the way.  But my concern has been that they are moralistic tales that leave one with a heroic appreciation of the achievements of that individual and that’s about it.  I’m glad to say this is not the approach of Simonetta Carr.

Martin Luther is more like a theology book told from a biographical perspective.  As I read this with my oldest son, there were ample opportunities in every chapter to stop and talk about spiritual truth.  The gospel is a clear emphasis all throughout these 63 pages.  I loved exploring this with Tony, that is once he got past the fact we were talking about Protestant Reformer Martin Luther and not civil rights champion Martin Luther King…

While the theology is rich and deep, Carr is does not sacrifice historical accuracy.  The story of Martin Luther is one that captivates me and one I’ve studied quite a bit.  Yet, even I learned a few new things from this children’s book.  I also found her story-telling ability to be fantastic.  She tells a gripping tale that has you wanting to know more and keep on reading.  My son never wanted to put the book down.  I’ve already begun looking into other titles in this series.

The only real complaint I would have is that Carr is a little too historically accurate.  When writing of Luther at Worms, she leaves out his famous words, “Here I stand.”  While I recognize that historians tell us he probably did not say these words, I still like to imagine it.  Oh well…

This is a great book for both children and parents alike.  It’s accurate, reliable and interesting.  This is a great tool not only to introduce your child to Church History but also provides teachable moments to have meaningful conversations about the gospel and theology.  I only read it with my oldest son (9) as I thought it a little advanced for my five year-old.

This would be great to read next Reformation Day in October, but might also make a spectacular Christmas gift next week!  You can purchase the book here.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

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