Monthly Archives: November 2013

Epic Grace by Kurt Bubna

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Epic Grace

by Kurt W. Bubna

 

This book was written by Kurt W. Bubna, the founding and lead pastor of Eastpoint Church…and a self-professed “recovering idiot.” Bubna’s father was a pastor who made some major mistakes and walked away from the ministry, and Kurt also made some mistakes and came close to walking away from the faith. The book contains many personal stories and illustrations from Bubna’s life, and Bubna wrote in a very encouraging manner. The book contained chapters on sexual sin, religion vs. grace, unrealistic expectations, and other relevant topics. In everything he wrote, Bubna focused on our tendency to make poor and sinful choices, as well as our need for God’s grace.

 

I enjoyed the book. It is not the best book I have read on grace, but it was entertaining. Bubna has a good sense of humor (often self-deprecating), and I found myself chuckling at sentences and stories throughout each chapter. Bubna is also a good storyteller. His stories were interesting, and he was able to tie his stories into his main ideas; there were no pointless stories in the book. One of the most impressive (and probably most difficult for Bubna) aspects of the book was the transparency with which the author wrote. He told some very personal stories about his family and himself, laying it all out there for the world.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax.

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Clear Winter Nights

by Trevin Wax

I usually don’t read fiction, but Trevin Wax’s book is a great blend of fictional narrative and theology. In his book, Trevin tells the story of Chris, a young man wrestling with his Christian beliefs. The book begins with Chris engaged and involved in a church plant. His religious professor had gotten him doubting his faith, however, and he breaks off his engagement and backs out of the church plant. His grandfather, Gil, has a stroke and Chris goes to stay with him. Most of the book is dialogue between Chris and Gil, with Chris expressing his doubts and Gil answering his questions/objections.

I really enjoyed this book. As a matter of fact, I had a hard time putting it down. The conversations seemed real, for the most part, and it was easy for the reader to picture the relationship between modern, doubting grandson and older, wise grandfather. Also, it was a quick and easy read. The book was only 160 pages, and the pages were relatively small. It would only take an “average” reader a couple of hours to read from front to back. I also felt the content was good. Many of the questions or struggles that Chris faced are actual struggles that modern students face. The book does a good job addressing these issues, and I think the book would tremendously benefit students.

I would certainly recommend this book to others. It is a quick, easy read, and the content and message of the book are solid. Students would especially benefit from this, as it attempts to answer many of the arguments against Christianity that are made on secular college campuses. Gil models a gracious spirit in providing a defense for the Christian faith, so the book contains apologetic material AND an apologetic model. If you enjoy fiction, or theology, or both…pick this book up and read it!

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Limitless Life by Derwin Grey

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Limitless Life

by Derwin L. Grey

 

Derwin L. Grey is the pastor of Transformation Church in Indian Land, South Carolina. He is also a popular conference speaker and an ex-NFL player. The main thesis of the book is that people pick up labels throughout their life that they allow to define them, and only Jesus can help people overcome those negative labels and give them “life-giving labels” (xiv). The chapters were organized based on negative labels and the “life-giving labels” that Christ gives to replace them. The titles of the chapters were “From Afraid to Courageous,” “From Addict to Free,” “From Mess to Masterpiece,” “From Orphan to Adopted,” “From Damaged Goods to Trophy of Grace,” “From Religious to Grace-Covered,” “From Consumer to Contributor,” “From Purposeless to Purposeful,” “From Worker to Worshiper,” and “From Failure to Faithful.” As the chapter titles indicate, the book covers fear, addiction, shame, religion, purpose, and other religious issues.

 

There were several aspects of the book that I really appreciated. First, the tone of the book was hopeful. In the introduction, Derwin wrote:

 

The message of Limitless Life will utterly transform you.

You will become more courageous and take greater risks.

You will accomplish things you didn’t even know you were allowed to dream about.

You will be set free from destructive habits that once harmed and limited you.

You will experience and see yourself in a whole new light that will cause you to shine like the stars in the sky.

You will forgive people you never thought you would forgive.

You will love those you thought you would forever hate.

You will live a life that, when you’ve breathed your last breath, will leave the world better because you’ve existed (xii-xiii).

 

This is just a small sample of the hope that Derwin gives his readers. Second, the style of the book was very “contemporary,” or relevant. Derwin used current issues, personal illustrations, and common language throughout the book, making it a very easy read. Third, the book itself was ultimately practical. At the end of each chapter, Derwin included a “Transformation Moment,” where he addressed the head, heart, and hands. The “head” section dealt with the big idea of the chapter, the “heart” section was a prayer related to the information in the chapter, and the “hands” section was a direct application of the big idea of the chapter.

 

I have heard Derwin Grey speak several times at conference, and I have had the opportunity to meet him in person. He is a very charismatic person and a clear communicator, and these things come through in the book. My favorite chapter was the sixth chapter, which focused on the difference between religion and grace. Christianity is not works-based; it is not about religion. Christianity is grace-based; it is about a relationship with Jesus Christ. Derwin said, “When we live by religion, or works-based righteousness, we are never sure when God is pleased with our behavior. We are never certain that we are loved” (110). This is a message that many people today need to hear. Religion has left them empty, and they need grace; they need Jesus.

 

I would certainly recommend this book to others. It is an encouraging, hope-filled book that will challenge Christians to reject false labels that they have been given by the world and to embrace who they are in Christ.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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A Review of Church History I.

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Church History 1

by Everett Ferguson

 

Everett Ferguson is the professor emeritus of Bible and distinguished scholar-in-residence at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. Ferguson is a well-respected church historian, and this book will nicely complement his early book entitled Backgrounds of Early Christianity. Ferguson defined church history as “the study of the history of God’s people in Christ, a theological claim, or, speaking more neutrally, of those who have wanted to be God’s people in Christ.” This book covers the history of the church from the time of Christ to the beginning of the fourteenth century.

 

This book is a solid historical treatment of the beginning and progression of the New Testament church. Ferguson does a good job laying the foundation in the first few chapters, discussing the world of the New Testament writers, the life of Jesus Christ, and the ministry of the disciples of Jesus Christ. He also does a good job introducing his readers to extra-biblical, or non-canonical, writings from the first and second century (the third chapter was particularly interesting).

 

One of my favorite chapters was chapter five, where Ferguson discussed early church heresies. I think it is fascinating to look at some of the earliest challenges to orthodoxy and how the early church responded to these challenges. I also found the information on the canonization of Scripture, the rise of the church in Rome, and the church councils fascinating. History buffs, especially church history buffs, will enjoy this book.

 

One of the dangers of writing a church history book is that it can tend to be dry. I read Ferguson’s Backgrounds of Early Christianity for a New Testament class in seminary, and it was tough to read at times. This book, however, is not dry or difficult to read. It is written in a very clear and engaging manner, and I truly enjoyed reading this book. Scholars and those interested in church history should definitely purchase this book for their library. I whole-heartedly recommend this book!

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A Review of Evangelical Theology

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Evangelical Theology

by Michael F. Bird

 

Michael F. Bird is a professor at Ridley Melbourne in Australia, and this book is his attempt to write a systematic theology book for evangelicals. At the beginning of the book, Bird describes himself as an “ex-Baptist post-Presbyterian Anglican” (23), and his theological leanings are 1) a follower of Christ, 2) evangelical, and 3) Reformed (23-24). I appreciated Bird laying his cards on the table at the beginning of the book, and the book certainly seems to be consistent with the theological traditions that Bird mentioned.

 

I really enjoyed the layout of this book. Each major theological topic was broken down into smaller sections, making the book extremely easy to read. I also enjoyed the small pieces of humor throughout the book. Every several chapters, Bird included stories or jokes related to the theological topic to help break up the “seriousness” of the book. I thought this was unique in a theology book, and I appreciated it (even the lame ones!). The other thing I really enjoyed about this theology book was the author’s interaction with other theologians. Bird interacted with ancient and modern theologians, which was very helpful. For these reasons (among others), this theology book is a must-have for everyone interested in theology.

 

It should be noted that there were definitely areas of disagreement between the author and myself. This is inevitable, though, when writing a theology book. Very seldom with two Christians agree on every single area of evangelical theology. Even when I disagreed, I appreciated his explanation of his viewpoint and learned from it. I believe this book will become very popular and will benefit seminary students and Christians who are interested in theology. 

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A Review of Kingdom, Come!

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Kingdom, Come!

by Phil Ryken

 

Philip Graham Ryken is the president of Wheaton College, and this book is a compilation of sermons that he preached in chapel at the college. Ryken noticed that sermons on the second coming were not as common as they used to be, and he attempted to correct this common neglect by preaching on the issue in chapel at Wheaton. The sermons have been edited for the book, and each sermon focuses on a different issue related to the coming kingdom of God.

 

There were several things that I appreciated about this book. First, Ryken often used contemporary events to illustrate his points. For example, the first chapter talked about the timing of the second coming of Jesus Christ and how no one knows the exact date (Matthew 24:36), and Ryken used Harold Camping as an example of people who try to identify the specific date of Christ’s return. Most readers will remember Camping’s prediction, which perfectly illustrated his point. Second, Ryken saturated his sermons in Scripture. Each chapter contained many scriptural references related to his topic, which is important when dealing with biblical issues. Third, Ryken spoke in a very clear and simple manner. The book avoided technical terms and complicated language, making it smooth and easy to read.

 

My only complaint is the lack of depth. The issues of the Kingdom of God and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ are not simple issues, yet the book is pretty simplistic. This may benefit beginning Christians, but mature Christians and scholars will likely find the book shallow and unnecessary. Apart from this, the book was a quick and easy read, and I think most Christians will enjoy it.

 

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A Review of Why Christ Came

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Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation

By Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein

 

This book was written to give Christians a greater appreciation for the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Although the authors stated that their list is not exhaustive, they provided 31 reasons that Jesus Christ came to this earth. Each chapter begins with one or more verses that express the stated reason that Christ came to die. The chapters were short and direct, and they adequately explained one of the reasons that Jesus Christ came to die.

 

I really enjoyed this book. The authors provided Scriptures for each “reason,” which I thought was important. Each chapter title was a reason that Christ came, and each title was followed by at least one verse that showed that reason. This helped the reader understand that every reason was biblical. Also, the authors wrote in a very clear and simple way. The biblical truth was deep, but it was communicated in an understandable way. These two aspects made this book successful in my opinion.

 

I would certainly recommend this book to other Christians. Actually, I plan on using this book during the month of December as a “devotional.” Each Christmas, my wife and I usually read through a book related to the birth of Christ, and this will be the book we use this year.

 

*I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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A Review of Sola Scriptura

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Sola Scriptura

Edited by Don Kistler

 

This book was an explanation and defense of the Reformation cry sola scriptura, or “Scripture alone.” In the book, the various authors argued that nothing, including reason or tradition, should be placed on the same level as Scripture. Although the book focused on the nature of Scripture (it contains chapters on the authority, sufficiency, and power of Scripture), much of the book is focused on refuting Catholic challenges to the concept of sola scriptura. W. Robert Godfrey summarized the differences of Protestants and Catholics as it relates to Scripture in the first chapter, writing:

 

As Protestants, we maintain that Scripture alone is our authority. Roman Catholics maintain that Scripture by itself is insufficient as the authority of the people of God, and that tradition and the teaching authority of the church must be added to Scripture (1).

 

The remainder of the book focused on defending the Protestant view, with each author briefly addressing Catholic views of Scripture.

 

I enjoyed reading the book, particularly the chapter by John MacArthur on “The Sufficiency of Scripture.” MacArthur made several comments that challenged the notion that tradition is equal to Scripture. He wrote, “The Jews of Jesus’ day also placed tradition on an equal footing with Scripture. But in actuality they made tradition superior to Scripture, because Scripture was interpreted by tradition and therefore made subject to it” (72). He continued, “Whenever tradition is elevated to such a high level of authority, it inevitably becomes detrimental to the authority of Scripture. Jesus made this very point when He confronted the Jewish leaders. He showed that in many cases their traditions actually nullified Scripture” (72). He noted that the Jewish leaders were not the only ones who elevated tradition to the same level as Scripture. Roman Catholicism also elevated tradition. He said, “Tradition is not only made equal to Scripture, but it becomes the true Scripture, written not in documents but mystically within the church herself. And when the church speaks, her voice is heard as if it were the voice of God, giving the only true meaning to the words of the ‘documents and records.’ Thus tradition utterly supplants and supersedes Scripture” (76). He closed with these words:

 

No man, no church, no religious authority has any warrant from God to augment the inspired Word of Scripture with additional traditions or to alter the plain sense of it by subjecting it to the rigors of a “traditional” meaning not found in the Word itself. To do so is clearly to invalidate the Word of God—and we know what our Lord thinks of that (Matt. 15:6–9),” (89).

 

MacArthur certainly defended the Reformation cry of sola scriptura in his essay.

 

I would certainly recommend this book to others. Protestants will benefit from the arguments presented in the book for the supremacy of Scripture. Each essay argues that Scripture alone is our guide in spiritual matters. Catholics will benefit from the book as well. They will gain a better understanding for the Protestant position on Scripture and become familiar with Protestant arguments regarding the nature of Scripture.

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