Tim Franks

About Tim Franks

Tim's Blog
My name is Tim Franks, I have been married to my wife Alicia for seven years, and I am a Foster Parent. I graduated from Moody Bible and Southern Seminary. I currently serve as Associate Pastor at Eureka Bible Church in Eureka, IL. I really enjoy reading and am an avid sports fan.



The Gospel According to Paul Book Review

The Gospel According to Paul Book Review

The Gospel According to Paul

by John Macarthur
Length: Approximately 6 hours. To read (219 pages).
TCB Rating:
four-half-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

There have been few writers in the history of the world that could compare with the Apostle Paul. He provided us with some of the best writings on what the Gospel message of Jesus Christ was. In his book The Gospel According to Paul John MacArthur gives us an overview of the Gospel writings of the Apostle Paul throughout his epistles. With his usual academic vigor mixed with accessible writing style we find here a strong sense of the good news message given to us in the Bible.

Who should read this?

One of the unique strengths about this book is that it has depth and richness that really could help scholars and pastors. But also, this work is very accessible and easy to read making it available to all believers. This would be a very helpful read for those seeking and wanting more understanding of the Gospel message. Lastly, this read is important for those that have heard or are following the New Perspective on Paul.

The Gospel According to Paul Book Review 1

SUMMARY

The Gospel message of Jesus Christ is at the heart of the Christian faith. Many times in our world today we seek out other avenues for understanding the Gospel message beyond the Scriptural authority itself. In the book The Gospel According to Paul, John Macarthur compels us to return to the scriptural authority for our understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ. He specifically in this book drives us to look at the inspired words from the Apostle Paul.

As with his other Gospel books he begins in the introduction by preparing us for the task at hand. He reviews the life of Saul who turned Paul, and gives an overview of the “guarding of the gospel” that must be done by all true Christians. He concludes in this section with, “No truth in all the universe is more uplifting than the good news that we have a living Savior who removes the great burden of guilt and cancels the power of sin for those who truly believe in Him” (xxxvii).

The book chapters flow from things of first importance to the problem and solution of the Gospel message. Macarthur here using different sections of Paul’s writings addresses each of these Gospel issues. He begins by highlighting the most important areas of the Gospel message from the Apostle’s letters. One of the issues highlighted here is that there is only one Gospel message, not many.

The first chapter of Galatians is where Paul really drives this point home. Also included in this section of most important items of the Gospel are the atonement, and the burial and resurrection of Jesus.

One of the major problems with modern Gospel beliefs is the misunderstanding of the true problem. John Macarthur highlights in chapter two that the true problem is that we are all universally sinners, without a way on our own to reconnect with God. He comments here, “That is because all false religions are systems of human achievement… By contrast, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of divine accomplishment” (24, 25).

The problem is that we are totally depraved and it leaves us facing the ultimate punishment of physical death alongside spiritual death. The author points out that this must be the starting place for the Gospel message as it is in Paul writings in Ephesians 2:1-10.

The rest of the book is the solution to the above problem through answering the question, “How can a person be right with God?” He highlights here the need for salvation not by our own merit, but on the merit of Jesus’ death and resurrection. One of the highlighted passages of Paul’s writings here is Romans 3:21-26. These passages teach the important doctrine of faith alone that is one of the key components of the Gospel message.

One of the most disputed parts of salvation is what John Macarthur calls “The Great Exchange.” He supports the penal substitution view using the writings of Paul here. One of the best passages written by Paul is Ephesians 2:8-9- “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

This passage really teaches us how salvation works, and the great grace we have been given by our Savior. The author comments here, “But when Christ, God incarnate, came to earth, He quite literally personified grace and truth” (122). Paul gives us so many great passages to teach us about Christ’s Gospel.

The writer also includes a strong epilogue, which further discusses some specific salvation issues through the Apostle’s inspired words.

Philippians 3 is addressed as a great testimony in how Christ’s salvation has worked in his personal life. John MacArthur in the back part of the book discusses issues such as the substitutionary atonement of the Lord, the glory of God being the reason for Christ’s death, and sermons on Paul salvific writings from the author and Charles Spurgeon. This gives the reader different perspectives and allows them to hone in on specific issues that needed to be addressed with salvation.

ANALYSIS

The most important aspect of the Christian belief and life is our salvation through Christ. There has and will be continual discussion, debate, and division about the different aspects of this topic. John MacArthur lays out clearly in this book using the words of Scripture, specifically the writings of the Apostle Paul on the topic of Christ’s salvation.  

One of the greatest strengths of this book is the ability for the reader to have depth and richness, but also make it easy to read, not being overly academic in nature. John Macarthur has always had the ability to reach all of his audience as he writes. This book as stated above would be helpful for all Christians and non-Christians alike. However, it would be really good for scholars and pastors to work through this work as well. It takes a great deal of intentionality and thought to provide this wide reaching nature of this book.

The author also does an excellent job of exegeting the passages that come from Paul’s writings in Scripture. There is a lot of controversy currently about the truth about the meanings and nuances behind the Apostle’s writings on salvation. It is refreshing to have in this book some very intentional and direct looks at the most impactful passages on the Gospel in the Pauline Epistles.

His take on the importance of the burial of Christ was quite beneficial to me personally. Some of the sweetest and most impactful passages discussed in this book are Ephesians 2:1-10, Philippians 3, and Romans 3. Paul had great skill in short, concrete, and direct statements on the Gospel. John Macarthur in an important way brings out the salvific truths from these passages.

There is also a great flow and progression in the outline of this book. Being that it probably comes from a collection of sermon series, it makes perfect sense it would be so. It surely helps the reader to have a clear direction and heading as you are reading. It is a very natural outline that keeps the reader more engaged throughout.

He begins by looking at the most important truths of the salvation issue, progressing to the looking at the problem and solutions that are a part of the salvation timeline. It is one of the most overlooked parts of writing as with preaching, the strong outline that is known by the reader or listener. John MacArthur here provides us with a clear direction through a strong outline.

Lastly with the strengths of this work, I see the appendecies in the back of the book adding great value to this work. The author addresses more specific issues that couldn’t be talked about in the larger section of the book. He also provides us with words and sermons from other voices, which I find always important when talking about these deep issues.  

Charles Spurgeon, one of the other voices, had such a deep love for the Gospel, and especially the writings of the Apostle Paul. I am thankful for the added resources that Dr. MacArthur gives us at the end of his work.

There is not much to critique with this book, but I think a few things could bring improvement. Firstly, I think that it was great to have heard from other people in the appendix area of the book. But, throughout much of the larger section of the book there isn’t much more than Paul’s writings and John MacArthur’s thoughts.

I do appreciate that he sticks so well to the text and the biblical authority. I think it is also okay to use some quotes from other authors and pastors to help bring clarity to the salvation questions at hand.

Secondly, it would have been great to have a little stronger, and direct defense against the New Perspective on Paul. Many teachings of N.T Wright and others needed to be addressed. Some of them certainly were through the Pauline texts, but a stronger and more direct line against these views would have been helpful for all readers.

There is a growing sense of denial from many different areas of Christianity on the Apostle Paul’s teachings on salvation that need direct defense in works such as these. He didn’t do a bad job by any means here, but could have been a little more direct.

Overall, this book was an excellent read and I would highly recommend to any person to take the time to read this. We all need daily refreshers and reminders of the Gospel message. The Apostle Paul’s words and John MacArthur give us a great work here on the power of grace and mercy that gave us salvation from our sins.

CONCLUSION

We are living in a time and culture where strong convictions and beliefs are paramount to our faith. What we believe about the Bible and Christ’s salvation is very crucial to all Christians. In his important work, The Gospel According to Paul, John MacArthur provides us with a strong case for the true biblical salvation through the very words of God through the Apostle Paul. This is a thoroughly biblical work that is clear, and compelling, alongside the usual truthfulness and depth we usually get from this seasoned author.

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Of all the apostles, the Holy Spirit chose Paul, the profound scholar, to defend the gospel’s simplicity against any hint of academic elitism or philosophical gentrification.” (Intro)

“So the burial of Jesus is a vital part of the gospel narrative, mainly because it serves as another reminder that the gospel is rooted in history, not mythology, the human imagination, or allegory.” (17)

In the preaching of Christ and the apostles, the gospel was always punctuated by a clarion call to repentant faith.” (75)

“In explaining Paul’s gospel, we must begin with Christ. The Person of our Savior is the foundation-stone of our hope.” (177)

four-half-stars
By | 2018-06-06T09:18:57+00:00 June 11th, 2018|

Jesus Among Secular Gods Book Review

Jesus Among Secular Gods Book Review

Jesus Among Secular Gods

by Ravi Zacharias, Vince Vitale
Length: Approximately 7 hours. To read (248 pages).
TCB Rating:
four-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

We live in a current cultural climate that doesn’t know what it believes about God and the world. There are so many different viewpoints, and we are asked to view them all as equals. In Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale’s thorough and apologetic work Jesus Among Secular Gods we get a glimpse of many different worldviews and how they fail in key points the God of the Bible does not. Through this book we see broad strokes on worldviews including atheism, humanism, and relativism. The end of each chapter and the final chapter of the book look at how the Bible speaks to the issues of these worldviews.

Who should read this?

This book would be profitable for each Christian believer. All of us could benefit in the world we live in from more apologetics and tools to help us defend our faith. This book would also be helpful for intellectual non-believers in seeing the failures of all other worldviews compared to the Bible’s.

Jesus Among Secular Gods Book Review 1

SUMMARY

The questions about the meaning of life can be some of the most debated or neglected topics of the time. Some to choose to take dogmatic stances without facts, while others ignore the big questions on life, citing difficulties finding real answers. In the work Jesus Among Secular Gods authors Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale provide readers with an apologetic guide to differing worldview viewpoints. They seek to show the folly of these worldviews, while showing the power of the God of the Bible and the truthfulness behind a Biblical worldview.

The authors begin the book by addressing the “altars against God” that permeate the culture around us. One of the keys in this chapter is the writer portraying the lack of true dialogue we see despite all of the differences there are. Much debate and conversation is shut down to avoid any confrontation. The altar of tolerance is a great crutch that leads to nowhere in our culture.

Zacharias writes here, “History has taught us to beware of extremists in any camp that sacrifice cordial conversation at the altar of demagogic enforcement” (4). They are looking in this book to show how the worship of these worldviews leaves many of life’s questions unanswered. Having a worldview that can answer life’s questions is crucial to navigating through it.

Most of the rest of the book is a critique of the many different prevalent worldviews we see today. The authors begin with discussing atheism; the belief there is no God at all. Much of this section features Richard Dawkins and his work God Delusion. The main arguments made by atheists for there being no God is all of the evil and corruption we see in the world around us.

Arguing from a free will perspective Vince Vitale here presents the many problems and unanswered questions that atheism has. In contrasting atheism with teachings of Jesus he writes, “For the atheist, man becomes God; the body becomes the soul; time becomes eternity; the profane becomes sacred. In the teachings of Jesus, eternity, morality, accountability, and charity define our nature of our existence and the pattern of our behavior” (60).

Vitale also looks at two other major worldviews of our time in Scientism and Pluralism. The latter really drives home the point that all we need is scientific data for answering life’s questions and for disapproving of a God. The author here points us to the absurdity of proving through science the lack of a divine being.

He does this by presenting the bridge from science to God through the universe as knowable and the regularity of the world. In a strong apologetic tone we also see the pitfalls of following the idea of pluralism. He addresses three major fallacies in this chapter that lead to pluralism. Firstly, that all of the major religions of the world are fundamentally the same.

Next, intellectually they are equal in their claims to be truth. Lastly, they all have the same impact on the world we live in. Using several passages of Scripture and again strong apologetics Vitale defends the position that pluralism fails us at all points. He says here, “Only a God who reveals Himself can save us from arrogance about the most important questions on life” (112).

Ravi Zacharias comes back to discuss two more worldviews that are important for us to know. He addresses the hard to nail down humanism first. This worldview is based on the idea that we are able to handle everything ourselves and have no need for God. The author provides a lengthy section here on the history of humanism, which was born out of the Renaissance period.

This viewpoint really draws from several others, which leads to a lot of confusion on what it really espouses. The writer adds, “Secularism may have been born in doubt, but maybe it failed because the listener doubts the answers it provides. The built-in limitation of secular humanism is to stifle the absolute in favor of the quicksand of multiple choice” (143).

The end goals of humanism fail of reaching true tolerance, balance, unity, and full self-reliance. Relativism is another worldview very common in our culture today. The author tackles this worldview by addressing four major areas: creation, incarnation, transformation, and consummation.

He says about creation, “You cannot be a genuine human without acknowledging the intrinsic worth given to every other human being” (167). He shows the quicksand we fall into when we fail to believe in a supreme idea of love alongside a pure moral law. Also, transformation through Christ and seeing the eternal perspective we can avoid the trap of seeing no truth as being absolute.

The author Vince Vitale returns to finish of the book looking at Hedonism and concluding with a few final thoughts. He addresses here the fallacy of their being no real morality through hedonism. How should Christianity address this issue? With sadness, calling the brokenness of this world evil, believing in the Imago Dei for all humans, and through compassion/justice to those around us.

He concludes the book by addressing how we with the absolute truth can interact with the world that is around us. He concludes here, “Gospel truth is sacrificial disagreement, it is disagreement defined by the generosity of an unmerited gift and the love of a personal sacrifice” (223).

ANALYSIS

There are several books written out there about apologetics from a Christian perspective. Few if any can do it with the clarity and intelligence put forth here by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale. Both of them come with great experience and knowledge of the leading philosophies of the time we will encounter.

One of the great strengths of Jesus Among Secular Gods is the thoroughness of covering all the belief systems pervading our world today. Each chapter comes with a richness and depth that allows for the reader to get a full grasp on what these different philosophies believe. It is important to have this depth if we are going to be able to as followers of Christ defend Christ’s claims from the Bible against these other beliefs.

From atheism to hedonism we are shown helpful definitions and great illustrations are given to help support as well. You will not find any better work at clearly defining what these philosophies adhere too. The authors say about this book on the back cover, “This book is about examining the “gods,” the secular thinkers “worship” and how repeatedly they leave their own questions unanswered.”

We also find in this book a great defense of the Christian faith and how to defend it against these differing philosophies. Most Christians have an underwhelming understanding of how to defend our faith against the other belief systems of the world. Many followers of Christ would benefit in a great way from reading this work. It is not stiff or unorganized way of weaving this defense of the Christian faith either.

They do a great job of naturally fitting in the apologetics for the Christ follower in their explanation of each false belief system. For example in the Scientism chapter, Vince Vitale in looking at the question of the beginning of the universe, gives an excellent defense for not just an intelligent design, but a design by the God of the Bible. If you are facing great challenge to your faith in your workplace, family, or with your neighbors this is the book for you!

One of the points made with the premise of the book that I found most helpful was that these other philosophies are in fact “secular gods” whether the proponents of these views belief so or not. One of the greatest farces of these false belief systems is trying to deny any moral reasoning or there not being a god at all. Zacharias adds here, “Law, philosophy, love, education, justice… all are built not on reason alone, but moral reasoning.

This is the discipline under which atheism fails, and the ideas of atheism will be crushed under the very system constructed to make the one who points the guilty finger effectual” (29). With any of these philosophies we see in our culture today there has to be an admittance that they are serving a god of their own making. Whether it be science, pleasures, or even themselves, they are certain to serve some god. This can be a helpful starting point for any Christian in our apologetics ministry in the world.

A difficulty I find with this book would be the technical nature and difficulty of reading some of the sections. Due to the nature of the topic for many this work could be hard to read at times. I think for the most part I would consider this book to be accessible for most Christians, but there are times that the authors use vocabulary that make it hard to follow.

When you are discussing philosophy and apologetics this is a hard balance to find, certainly there are far more academic works then this as well. It is good however for the reader to be aware as you begin to read this book of the academic nature, and to prepare to take a little extra time to get through it.

One of the disagreements I would have with the authors and with this book is discussion on free will. Vitale writes, “In the Christian way of thinking, we disavow determinism and freely choose the truth to inform our conscience toward a destiny of a confirmed freedom of love. Freely, we choose the true joys of freedoms that are based on God’s truth” (42). I would fully reject the atheistic view of determinism, but also reject that we have full freedom to choose God as Christians.

Coming from the Reformed tradition I would believe with full freedom we would not be able to choose God. Ephesians 2:1-10 being a great text from the Bible that shows us the need we have for God’s choosing and initiation to know Him. I would agree with their excellent defense of the Christian faith, but approach the beginning from a different way.

CONCLUSION

We are living in a very confused time in how and why we exist here on this earth. Many of the other “secular gods” belief systems fail to answer these questions at all. The only belief system that stands tall in answering these questions comes from the God of the Bible. In their work Jesus Among Secular Gods, Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale prepare a great defense of the Christian faith while giving helpful definitions of many other belief systems surrounding us in the world. If you are looking to grow in your apologetics ministry or want to better understand those around you pick up this book today.

 

FAVORITE QUOTES:

 

“History has taught us to beware of extremists in any camp that sacrifice cordial conversation at the altar of demagogic enforcement.” (4)

 

“In Western cultural speak, we have basically gone from being a rootless society to a ruthless society.” (27)

 

“Jesus is a God loving enough and big enough to break in everywhere.” (127)

 

“In other words, loving God and resulting love for humanity are not only inextricably bound, but apart from that all else of morality has no other ground on which to stand.” (166)

 

four-stars
By | 2018-05-31T02:19:56+00:00 June 3rd, 2018|

Take Heart Book Review

Take Heart Book Review

Take Heart

by Matt Chandler
Length: Approximately 3 hours. To read (123 pages).
TCB Rating:
four-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Author Matt Chandler tells us that we are living in an age of unbelief. We are not to pull back completely from the culture and become a complete sub-culture as Christians. We are not to become inclusive and attempt to fully be a part of the culture. No, the authors call us to courage in this age of unbelief. With his usual wit, and strong biblical exposition Matt Chandler calls us as Christians to take heart and be difference makers in the time period and culture God has placed us in.

Who should read this?

This book is written with great power and strength, but very readable for all Christians. The stories, witty humor, and great explanation of the biblical themes allow for all believers to reap great benefits from reading this work. Pastors can use this as a great resource for those they are shepherding. Particularly, those that are struggling with living in this current culture climate.

Take Heart Book Review 1

SUMMARY

Most believers today are struggling and wrestling with how we respond to our culture as Christians. This has been a constant struggle since the dawn of the church over 2,000 years ago. Christians have responded in many different forms over the years, some good, some with extremes. In Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief, author Matt Chandler calls all Christians to engage our culture with great courage. He desires for us to find balance in our engagement with the culture.

The authors begin the book by presenting the case for the “age of unbelief” we are currently living with in America. By giving examples from Bernie Sanders and the culture of “intolerance over intolerance”, we see the world we are living in today. Chandler proposes for us the question of how we will respond to this world we are interacting with. He gives us four options to choose from in our engagement with culture. First, we can try to convert the culture to our biblical standards. Second, we can condemn the culture, leading to complete separation from the world. Third, we can just plain consume the culture, leading to compromise on major teaching from the Bible.

Lastly, we can find great balance by being courageous as a part of this age of unbelief. Chandler adds here, “With courage, this season of history can be viewed not with fear and trepidation, but instead with hope and a sense of opportunity” (19).

With this understanding of the way we can approach this culture the authors give us a history lesson on how we got here. Through Emperor Constantine, Christianity became the official religion, changing almost overnight our standing in the world. Matt Chandler argues that while certainly there are benefits to this event in Christian history, there were also downfalls including the social club and consumerism aspects we see in the church today.

He argues here that the church can thrive as it moves towards the margins of society by bringing more purity to the church and a deeper desire to share the love of Christ with others.

The writers then share with us the need to know God and His Word more in order to be courageous in the culture. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what compels us to engage our culture in a way that brings glory to God. Chandler says, “God isn’t looking for polished, perfect people. He’s always worked through people who know they are sinners and who are amazed that they have been saved” (41). The authors argue that God provides to us so many blessings, riches, and wisdom that allow us to reach our culture.

Chandler and Roark really impress on the readers the Hebrew idea of Shalom, which means peace. There is a longing in all Christians that there be restoration and peace on earth. The only way to find this is through the work of Jesus Christ. The authors call all Christians to be a part of that work and courageously interact with those around us.

Through the narrative of scripture Chandler shows us that God is a warrior that came in the flesh through Jesus to bring the Shalom we all need. How do we join in this victory? One way comes by salvation through Christ, and then “person by person, the church takes the victory out to the world as we proclaim the gospel of Christ” (69).

The last three chapters of this book center on the application of being courageous in this age of unbelief we are in the midst of. One of the ways starts with admitting that we are becoming more and more like exiles in this world. Secondly, courage looks like standing firm on the grace of God that we have been given.

Thirdly, we must show holiness and integrity in our conduct. Chandler stresses that we show less concern about behavior and more about posture as we strive to be courageous in the culture. Lastly, he discusses the importance of being evangelistic in all the areas of our daily lives.

The authors give us some very personal and challenging tasks that drive us towards action in being courageous with our culture. They begin by reminding us of the need to go and that the power to go comes from Jesus in the Great Commission of Matthew 28. One of the practical aspects that is highlighted at the end the work is the need for evangelistic hospitality.

Inviting neighbors, co-workers, and those friends your kids rub shoulders with into your lives for the purpose of sharing the love of Christ with them. Chandler writes, “When the Bible speaks of hospitality, it almost always ties it to aliens and strangers – that is, to people who are not like us” (96). They give several practical tips and personal stories here to illustrate how this all works out. They argue that hospitality like this takes great courage and patience for believers.

The book closes with a challenge to take heart and face with Spirit-led courage the time the Lord has placed us in. We should accept the challenge given to us because we serve a God that is bigger than any of these issues.

Take Heart
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ANALYSIS

In America today, Christianity is losing its grip as a flourishing and accepted part of the culture we are living in. Many pundits, bloggers, and authors are commenting and giving ways to react to this eroding influence of our faith on the world we live in. Many are living on the extremes of pulling back fully from the culture like in Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option.

Some are living in the other extreme of caving to the culture. Many have sacrificed the truth of God’s Word for acceptance in the culture. In Take Heart Matt Chandler and David Roark instead take the path of engaging the culture with courage, despite the massive amounts of unbelief and resistance we will face.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is the personal nature Chandler uses in writing this book. His leadership with The Village Church and Acts 29 provides him a voice that is respected and a prophetic voice of seeing the culture’s current movements. Eric Mason’s endorsement of the book says it all, “Matt is a voice I trust. Pick this up to get pointed in the right direction.” His personal illustrations, including his admissions of wrong doing in this area are refreshing and a great model for all believers. The author is a great man of conviction in his preaching, leadership, and shepherding, giving great credence to what he is writing here. We truly can trust he will live by what he writes in this work.

The way the authors outlined this book was particularly helpful for those reading through it. They presented the problem then gave historical background to see how we arrived here, finishing up with the solution for the current cultural climate we are dealing with in America today. One of the highlights of their solution is the chapter on looking to God for our answer above all and first. It truly shows how great of resource this book can be for all that are followers of Christ.

This book is very readable, alongside the powerful illustrations that make it very engaging. It really feels throughout the book like you are getting a one-on-one sermon from one of the most engaging preachers around today in Matt Chandler.

Another great strength of this book is the author’s willingness to hit deep with conviction where it is needed. There has been a way of dealing with the culture recently that will not work with our current status as Christians in the culture. Chandler is willing to push back against the “Religious Right” mentality and move us towards a more biblical and healthy way of engaging the culture. He comments that, “The church after Christendom can, by God’s grace rediscover that courage and rediscover that mission” (36).

One of the poignant sections that convicted me personally was about missional hospitality. I desire to invite more non-believers into my family’s daily life, and the author reminded us here that this is a way we can show courage in our current cultural climate.

Most importantly I believe the writers’ standing on the authority of God to direct our current path was the most helpful. We must stand on God’s Word alone to show us the way as we engage the culture we are living in with courage. It gives us the power and passion we need to do it rightly. So many of the other works written on this subject do not focus enough on scripture to drive the argument and persuade the readers.

Another impactful area for me personally was when he discussed the Hebrew word Shalom (peace). He moved through the history of Israel, ending with the Revelation 21-22 look at the return to Shalom the Lord desires for all of us. This really hit home with the main application of having courage in this age of unbelief.

One of the critiques I have for this book would be using more illustrations from his church and personal life where this idea of courage in the culture are fleshed out. There are a few sprinkled in, but I would have liked to see this more in action here. Many times it can be easy to be stuck on the theoretical knowledge of following this biblical path, but not enough illustrative proof that it works well. I am sure many of the readers including myself will see the benefit of this direction as we live it out in our own personal lives.

One of the points made several times throughout the book that I would push back on a bit is that the times the church is the center focus of society is always negative. I believe that the church is and does flourish on the margins as proposed here.

There are certainly dangers involved with church as the central point of culture, as we have seen in America. However, I believe that the Lord did do lots of good things during the times when the church has been the focal point of a culture. It faced a lot less martyrdom and saw the Gospel spread to many places it had not before. We need to show balance here as we discuss this topic.

Overall, this book is an excellent, very accessible read that is good for all believers as we move to the future. This work is important in light of other books that have been written recently on the topic that live in the extremes of facing the culture. I would highly recommend pastors and church leaders giving these out to those they are shepherding.

CONCLUSION

Christians are facing a culture that is resistant to any influence from our faith in the world. We are living in an ever-increasing age of unbelief. Matt Chandler and David Roark in their book Take Heart offer a challenge to engage the culture with great courage that brings great glory to the God that we serve. We do not need to be afraid of the cultural trends we are facing. We can take heart during this time of unbelief because, “You were literally, made for this moment. This is a great time to be a Christian. Take heart” (119).

FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Until Christ returns, this world will never look as it should. You can’t use politics to build the New Jerusalem, and you can’t legislate people into the kingdom of God.” (15)

“the more a government tries to subject and destroy Christianity, the more it flourishes. The more it is given friendly quarter, the more it grows and stale and soft- professional, rather than missional.” (25)

“God isn’t looking for polished, perfect people. He’s always worked through people who know that they are sinners and who are amazed that they have been saved.” (41)

four-stars
By | 2018-05-21T01:33:57+00:00 May 20th, 2018|

The Passionate Preaching of Martin Lloyd-Jones Book Review

The Passionate Preaching of Martin Lloyd-Jones Book Review

The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones

by Steven J. Lawson
Length: Approximately 4 hours. To read (190 pages)
TCB Rating:
four-half-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

We live in a day and age where preaching has been cheapened and softened for the hearer. With the modern resurgence of expository preaching, Steven J. Lawson gives us a powerful and concise look at most likely the father of modern expository preaching in Martin Lloyd-Jones. The author weaves in the major moments of Dr. Lloyd-Jones life throughout as he focuses on the preaching style of this great man of God.

Who should read this?

This work is a unique biography that touches on the major life points of Dr. Lloyd-Jones, but focuses on the passionate preaching of the late pastor. Any believer could get great benefit from reading this book. However, I would say the main audience for all of the books in this series is those in ministry or studying to do so.

The Passionate Preaching of Martin Lloyd-Jones 1

SUMMARY

Our culture and churches are starving today for preaching that is deep and has power packed behind it. There has been resurgence in the recent years for expository preaching in evangelical churches. In the Long Line of Godly Men Profile Steven J. Lawson writes about the father of this resurgence Martin Lloyd-Jones, highlighting both the major moments of his life and his passionate preaching.

Dr. Lawson begins by looking briefly at the early life and influences of Martin Lloyd-Jones. He was born in Wales with a strong church influence from the Calvinistic Methodists. The family was forced to move to London because of financial hardship, which would impact Dr. Lloyd-Jones immensely. Early on he nor his father ever had an inkling about ministry as a profession. Martin was very intelligent and being a doctor was his chosen profession. The author then shares with us the dramatic calling and change of life that Lloyd Jones makes.

He was converted when he was 25 and felt nearly an immediate call to ministry. When he came to England, he began to Pastor the church called Westminster Chapel. Steven Lawson says, “He would fill its pulpit for the next twenty-five years, during which time Westminster Chapel would become a great gospel beacon that shone forth the light of the gospel, resulting in countless lives’ being transformed” (15). He would see great success from his leadership and preaching during his time there. His influence even today cannot fully be measured and Dr. Lawson shows great praise for all the lives impacted from all the years of his ministry in England.

The final eight chapters of this biography cover aspects of Martin Lloyd-Jones passionate preaching, and how they can be an example for our pastors/churches today. The author begins by looking at the beginning point, which is the sovereign call from God to preach. Many people would challenge Martin’s decision to leave the doctor profession for the pastoral calling. He would challenge back that God calls us to our work, and we must follow that path. Lloyd-Jones would add, “It is God who commands preaching, it is God who sends out preachers” (32).

Also, important parts of his preaching were being biblically based and expository in nature. He was serious about letting God’s authority in His Word direct and guide all of his messages. He says about this, “There is only one way for any preacher to be a mouthpiece for God. That is to preach the written Word entrusted to him” (58). Steve Lawson brings out here the most important part of the legacy of his preaching, which is the expository style. Martin Lloyd-Jones believed there wasn’t any other kind of true preaching.

One of the lost arts in today’s preaching world is the time and careful use of study for sermons. Martin Lloyd-Jones gives us a great example of putting the effort and time into study. Many elements included in his sermon outlines like opening illustration, locating the main idea, and using study tools are what you see taught in most seminaries today. The author pulls out many quotes and illustrations of Lloyd-Jones to illustrate the careful study he put in for all of his sermons.

The last four chapters of the book discuss areas of Martin’s preaching that gave it the lasting power it had. It was divinely focused in the way it addressed the greatness of God more than any point in his messages. His preaching was doctrinally grounded, in the way it continually came back to teaching deep truths of the Gospel to those who were listening. The author says about his preaching here, “Theology for Lloyd-Jones was the match that lit the flame in the pulpit” (127).

His messages were also theologically reformed. One example of this was Friday night services dealing with great doctrines and studies on the Book of Romans. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones held strong in his life and preaching to the main doctrines of Calvinism. This is where his roots from Wales came to influence his preaching. Lastly, his preaching was spiritually empowered. Preaching Lloyd-Jones believed had to be backed by the work of the Holy Spirit in order to have any power. The author writes, “A world of difference exists, the Doctor believed, between being naturally gifted to deliver an address and being filled by the Spirit to preach the Word” (162).

The writer concludes with a two-page challenge to all pastors and churches to reclaim again the passionate preaching of Martin Lloyd-Jones. Steven J. Lawson’s challenge is this, “We must capture the primacy and power of biblical preaching once again. There must be a decisive return to preaching that is Word-centered, God-exalting, Christ-centered, and Spirit empowered” (177).

ANALYSIS

Oh what more of a difference the Gospel could have on our world if all those that fill the pulpit week and week out would follow the example of Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones. We have in this biography not only a brief summary of his life, but a strong biography on the dawning of a new age of expository preaching in the evangelical world we know today.

One of the great strengths of this book is getting to know Martin Lloyd-Jones through his greatest calling, preaching. We see throughout this work the affect that preaching can have on the life of anyone in the world. We see in the opening chapter with his life milestones, all of the things that God prepared for Martin to be the strong pastor and preacher he was. The rest of the book we see all of the elements of his preaching from careful study to being spirit empowered, that help us see the person of Martin Lloyd-Jones in a deep manner. We are emotionally connected to this Godly man by the time we finish this work by Steven J. Lawson.

There are honestly not enough books out there that address some of the strengths we can learn about preaching from Martin Lloyd-Jones. One example of this is the chapter on careful study. I was personally challenged by the importance of study, and ways that I can put more effort into my preparation for sermons. It is hard to estimate the impact that Lloyd-Jones has had on my preaching and pastoral ministry. This book has even broadened my desire to preach the Word, and do it in a way that gives God the glory every time I do.

What makes this work stand out as a biography above most else, is all of the actual words quoted by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones. You can know the man better, and understand clearly the points about preaching from this style of writing. I am so thankful that Steven J. Lawson decided to use so many of the powerful words of Lloyd-Jones about his life and preaching. Here is the example of one of those quotes, “The chief thing is the end of love of God, the love of souls, a knowledge of the Truth, and the Holy Spirit within you. These are the things that make up a preacher” (178). Feel the passion and direction behind these words that drove this man of God to the great calling of preacher!

One of the weaknesses of this book was the short biography of his life. It is understandable that the focus of this book was his passionate preaching, hence the title. I would have enjoyed a few more chapters discussing a little deeper the background that brought Martin Lloyd-Jones to the man he became. As the chapters went on there also was no harkening back to his life story to the influence on his preaching. The passionate and convictional preaching he became well known for was because of his upbringing, background, and calling from God.

The other weakness I saw in this work was the fact that the author never really addresses any of Martin Lloyd-Jones weaknesses as a person or preacher. There are a few allusions to some issues, but nothing substantial that would have deepened the book. It is important to learn from the mistakes and weak spots that each person has, in this work we did not have that opportunity. Godly men are flawed, and we should know about those issues in these profiles as well.

I would recommend this book as a great biographical work on the life and preaching of Martin Lloyd-Jones. Especially for pastors and those that are aspiring to be in the future, this book will be of great benefit to their ministries. Take the time to read this book by author Steven J. Lawson, if you want a refresh or motivation to bring passion to the pulpit God has called you too!

CONCLUSION

It can be very disheartening to look around at churches today and see the lack of depth and passion behind the pulpit. Many preachers today have sacrificed biblically based and expository preaching for fluffy and seeker sensitive messages. Steven J. Lawson in his work The Passionate Preaching of Martin Lloyd-Jones exhorts churches and pastors back to passionate and powerful preaching of the late Martin Lloyd-Jones. Oh how we would listen to the words of the author as we head into the pulpit every Sunday. He writes, “May the centrality of the pulpit be so recovered today in churches around the world in order that the matchless glory of God might be brilliantly showcased” (80).

 

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “Lloyd-Jones stands as an example of what God can do through a man who honors and heralds His Word.” (Introduction)
  • “In the pulpit, Lloyd-Jones would always be doing the work of an evangelist. He knew what it was to be in church but not be in Christ.” (9)
  • “Theology should always ignite the heart, both in the preacher and the listener. Theology must be the foundation of every sermon.” (133)
  • “In short, we need Lloyd-Jonses again to stand in the pulpits across our land and unapologetically proclaim the Word of the living God.” (178)
four-half-stars
By | 2018-04-12T03:03:08+00:00 April 12th, 2018|

Prayer Book Review

Prayer Book Review

Prayer

by Timothy Keller
Length: Approximately 8 hours. To read (325 pages)
TCB Rating:
four-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Many Christians struggle with their daily prayer life. Timothy Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God gives a treatise on prayer from God’s Word, history, and a pastoral touch that help us look for deeper communion with God in our lives. The focus is on preparing our hearts for prayer and knowing God more.

Who should read this?

This work can have a broad audience including Christians and non-Christians. Timothy Keller importantly has a knack in addressing issues for followers of Christ, but still really reaching non-Christians by keeping the Gospel as the focal point. The main focus for the audience with this book is Christians struggling and looking to strengthen their prayer lives.

Prayer Book Review 1

SUMMARY

Many times we are looking for a quick fix to the things that ail us in life, or even a fix for our lackluster, non-existent prayer life. Timothy Keller argues in his book Prayer that the authority of God’s Word and proper preparation before speaking with the Lord will lead to a deeper communion with God. He breaks up his book into five sections: Desiring Prayer, understanding prayer, learning prayer, deepening prayer and doing prayer.

The author begins by sharing the importance of prayer in the Christian life and how without it we lack a vital spiritual discipline that leads us to know God more. He proposes moving from duty to delight, where we desire to love God more through our open communication with Him. Timothy Keller writes, “Prayer, then, is both awe and intimacy, struggle and reality. (5)” The desire here is to avoid extremes with being just obedient in prayer and getting overly emotional in our prayer lives. Beyond just necessity comes the greatness of prayer. Through the words of Paul in Ephesians 1 and the life of a few believers, the author addresses the glory of God being shone through prayer.

Once we get a fuller understanding of why we should pray, understanding prayer is the next step for Keller. The truth is that most people and religions think prayer is important but don’t understand it correctly. He lands here on the idea of a “mystical prophet” by looking at the life of Jonathan Edwards and his prayer example. He addresses two key areas of conversing with God and encountering God in strengthening our prayer lives.

Quoting Martin Luther’s thoughts on conversing of God, Keller writes, “We must first hear the Word, and then afterwards the Holy Ghost works in our hearts, he works in the hearts of whom he will, and how he will, but never without the Word. (57)” Timothy Keller also speaks here about the importance of knowing more of God through prayer. A highlight section here talks about how we approach God desiring to encounter more of Him, giving our petitions to God directly through Jesus’ name.

One of the things we have gone away from is looking at what other Christians from history think on a certain subject. Timothy Keller here presents the idea of practicing prayer looking at several examples from church history. These are also very personal in nature as the first two are letters from early church theologian Augustine and the reformer Martin Luther.

These letters show the approach and technique to prayer, but also, most importantly, the passion these men of God had for seeking deep, daily communion with our Savior. Augustine’s focus on the Lord’s Prayer of adoration, petition, thanksgiving, and confession are very helpful. Martin Luther also instructs here with his ideas of praying according to God’s Word through instruction, thanksgiving, confession, and finally praying. The author here also uses the example on prayer from reformer John Calvin from his Institutes. The focus of his work on prayer is the heart attitude with which we approach the throne of God. Keller comments here, “Calvin says that this sense of awe is a crucial part of prayer. Prayer both requires it and produces it”(99). Concluding this section on learning prayer are strong chapters on the Lord’s Prayer example and main touchstones of prayer. Some of these include prayer as work, prayer requires grace, and prayer gives strength.

After defining what prayer is, the author spends the second half of the book giving practical advice for prayer in our daily lives. The first section portrays the deepening of communion with God through prayer. Keller talks about approach to prayer when discussing meditation of God’s Word first. He says here, “Nonetheless, if prayer is to be a true conversation with God, it must be regularly preceded by listening to God’s voice through meditation in Scripture”(145). The writer also addresses looking to have a serious encounter with God, allowing for a deeper relationship and more knowledge of Him to be the fruit of these conversations.

One of the largest problems seen in the church today with prayer is misunderstanding the right techniques to make prayer joyful. He finishes up Prayer by giving us several aspects of prayer that should be included regularly for all of us. We see the need for an approach of awe and wonder for the God we serve. We see the need to find intimacy in our relationship with God through grace. We often need help, so struggling with God is important.

The grind can also distract us from the importance and need we have for prayer.  As Keller says, it needs to be a vital aspect of our lives. 1 Thess. 5:17 is the key passage to this section. There are also several types of prayer examples given for specific situations, such as grief, loss, and forgiveness. The book includes several appendices at the back of the book to help with the practical side of the daily prayer life of Christians.

ANALYSIS

Even outside of Christian circles, there has been extensive writing done on the idea of prayer. Quite often these books, blogs, and articles can be less than helpful and can also become repetitive. That is not the case with Timothy Keller’s Prayer. Keller gives us a unique and refreshing work that adds greatly to the conversation about finding communion with the Lord. We are blessed to have this book in the catalogue of works on prayer.

There are certainly several strengths with this book, but the one that leads the way is the depth throughout. Many books on prayer stay on the surface and focus entirely on the practical nature of the prayer life. Timothy Keller works hard in Prayer to give a fuller definition of what prayer is before diving into the practical nature. As with much of the Reformed crowd, the author focuses on God as the center of prayer instead of the person who is praying.

Keller comments, “That’s the ground motive of Spirit-directed, Christ-mediated prayer—to simply know him better and enjoy his presence” (77). There is a seriousness and reverence seen across the book that is rarely seen, and brings much needed depth to this. The two focuses of the book that addresses this the best are the awe of God in prayer and the true intimacy of approaching God’s throne.

One of the most unique and helpful sections of the book comes in Timothy Keller’s study of history on the subject of prayer. What is the most striking about this section is that two of the people discussed, Martin Luther and Augustine, are writing personal letters. This part of the book really pulls at the heartstring of a pastor as it looks at ministers sharing with others the power of prayer in their natural context.

Also, discussed here is John Calvin in his great theological work, Institutes. The most helpful section in that chapter is where Calvin balances out restful hope and confident hope in our prayer lives. The strong reminder from R.A. Torrey at the end of this section about assuming we are owed by God through prayer is really convicting.

Timothy Keller spends the second half of the book with a very strong, practical section. This is where many books on prayer park for the whole of the work, but not Keller’s Prayer. Having the proper perspective and understanding before heading into the practical really makes this book the excellent work it is.

The practical side of this book focuses on approaching God in the right manner, knowing more of God’s glory through prayer, and seeking deep communion with God in prayer. An example of the author’s earnest care for the daily prayer life of the believer, Keller writes, “Prayer should be done regularly, persistently, resolutely, and tenaciously at least daily, whether we feel it or not” (121). We can be challenged very deeply throughout this work about the practical nature of prayer for our lives.

There isn’t too much to fault with this book, but one of the areas of weakness is many of the larger, theological words used by the author. I truly believe this book, for the most part, will have a large audience across the board, but some of the words used by Keller will make it harder for some to follow. It would help this work to be more accessible if some of the terms were a little less academic for those just reading this that might struggle with prayer.

I would with no hesitation recommend all Christians and those seeking Christ to read this great God-centered book on prayer. This book will benefit many who are looking for a refreshing look on their daily prayer lives.

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God
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CONCLUSION

Is it time for a reflection on your prayer life? Are you trying to find that deeper communion with the Lord? Timothy Keller’s Prayer brings us to a place where we need to reflect and renew our passion for prayer.

Giving a full definition of prayer that focuses on God Himself, looking at historical ideas of prayer, and giving strong, practical advice on how to strengthen our daily prayer lives, we have one of the best works on prayer today. 1 Thess. 5:17 says to “Pray without ceasing,” and this book helps a long way to achieving this very thing.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “We may pray for the coming of God’s kingdom, but if we don’t enjoy God supremely with all our being, we are not truly honoring him as Lord.” (Introduction- 4)
  • “Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change- the reordering of our loves. (18)
  • “To fail to pray, then, is not merely to break some religious rule- it is a failure to treat God as God. It is a sin against his glory.“ (26)
  • “We should ask God for things with boldness and specificity, with ardor, honesty, and diligence, yet with patient submission to God’s will and wise love.” (238)
four-stars
By | 2018-04-01T22:34:58+00:00 March 28th, 2018|

The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down Book Review

The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down Book Review

The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down

by R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Length: Approximately 5 hours. To read (181 pages)
TCB Rating:
four-half-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Most Christians struggle to find good traction and time for deep fellowship with the Lord. In this work by Dr. R. Albert Mohler we are given a manifesto to use the Lord’s Prayer as a launching pad and example in finding more freedom and power in our daily prayer lives.

Who should read this?

This book is written for all Christians, balancing the big picture with the deep details of our prayer life. Especially those in a rut or looking for more strength behind their daily prayer lives, this book is for you!

The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down Book Review 1

SUMMARY

What is the answer to a beleaguered prayer life that lacks the passion, and punch that God’s Word calls us too? The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 has been a guide for centuries, even really since the Lord Jesus gave us this teaching at the dawn of the church. Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. in his work The Prayer That Turned the World Upside Down we get a fresh perspective on the Lord’s prayer, focusing on a the prayer leading us to revolution in our daily walk with Jesus.

The author begins the book by setting the table of revolution and longing for the coming kingdom through prayer. He begins by showing the importance of prayer in the life of a Christian. He comments here, “But giving up on prayer is not only a sign of evangelical weakness. It is disobedience. Jesus not only taught his disciples to pray- he also commanded us to pray”(xviii).

Dr. Mohler really presents a case here for putting all of ourselves into prayer and avoiding the normal distractions of the modern believer. He quotes the great reformer Martin Luther here, “How much more does prayer need to have the undivided attention of the whole heart alone, if it is to be a good prayer”(xx).

What exactly is prayer? The author gives a working definition here. One of the key points he tells through a personal story.  He says, “prayer is difficult. Like anything of great value, prayer takes great effort, tremendous care, and Spirit-filled discipline”(6). He also here compares the ways different strands of belief in Christ have practiced prayer in the past. He focuses on the importance of the Regulative Principle, which takes all practice only from what is prescribed from Scripture.

Prayer gives us the theological convictions we need to understand who we are and more importantly who God is. The author gives us the understanding that prayer is not a matter of creative self-expression, also not an act of therapy, nor are we are also not able to manipulate or persuade an all sovereign, all knowing God through prayer. Lastly, prayer is also not defined here with any form of giving God a news report or coming with any bargaining chips to barter with.

The rest of the book we dig into the actual text from God’s Word that is known as the Lord’s Prayer. The author begins by writing about how our attitude and approach to prayer matters as much as what we say in our prayers. We are seeking regular communion with God over all else in the way we pray. Dr. Mohler comments here, “The real issue is not so much where we pray, but doing so in a way that does not parade your piety in front of others” (31). The authors of the Gospels gives us here the great setup to the actual Lord’s Prayer in reminding why we should pray, how we should pray, and what we should expect from prayer.

Looking at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer we see the words, “Hallowed be your name.” Dr. Mohler here is driving the point of setting our hearts right as we pray to God our Father. We are to enter with the correct reverence and anticipation of meeting with the One who has created all things. Our prayers should never only center on you and me, but be centered on whom we are praying to.

One other major focus of this section is the idea of “father.” The Father is God who has chosen, redeemed, and adopted those in His family, loving and caring for all of us deeply. Dr. Mohler gives us reality here when he says, “Only by God’s grace and mercy through the atoning work of Christ do we now have the right to stand before the God of all creation and speak the words “Our Father in heaven. (52). We are to be reminded here as we approach God’s throne of who we are speaking to, what he has done for us, and that Jesus himself exalted God at the beginning of His prayer.

The next petition in the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:10 is “your kingdom come.” The author makes a turn here to show how truly revolutionary and radical this prayer is. Dr. Mohler comments here, “The Lord’s prayer is anything but tame” (73). He uses the City of God by Augustine here as an illustration on the anticipation of the kingdom of God coming again. We are called to yearn for the day when we will all be citizens of God’s kingdom in all its beauty and honor. The writer gives past examples from history such as the Garden of Eden in Genesis, and the covenant made with David in 2 Samuel 8 on this topic.

He finishes this section looking at the phrase “Your will be done.” God has revealed to us here the need to have our shaped and molded to be like His. Dr. Mohler comments here, “The reign of Christ is the reign of a true king: one who demands allegiance; one who will disrupt the order of our lives; one who will call us to abandon our own pursuits for the sake of his” (95). What are we praying for? HIS kingdom to come, and YOUR will to be done!

What are three areas the author wants us to see that are vital to know about the Lord’s Prayer? They are daily provisions, the art of confession and repentance, and help in fighting temptation. God has truly designed for us to be fully dependent on Him. We do have daily physical needs, but because of sin we also have great spiritual needs too. Lastly, the author shows us in this chapter that our reliance on Him means we trust him to give us what we truly need. He says, “At times God may not provide for us in the way we think is best. But we will always find that he provides for us according to his infinite love and care” (116).

One of the areas that Dr. Mohler believes we all struggle with when it comes to prayer is confession and repentance. The words used in the Lord’s Prayer here are “forgives us our debts.” The author says here, “We can only rightly pray the Lord’s Prayer when we recognize that we are deeply sinful and only God’s grace in Christ can remedy our souls” (124). He focuses this section on getting the Gospel right and applying that theology to way we approach prayer, especially confessing regularly. Lastly, he shows us some important tips in thinking about how we ask for forgiveness as we expect others to do so for us.

The last major point discussed about the Lord’s Prayer is fighting against temptation with the Lord’s help. Dr. Mohler gives a picture here of the seriousness of sin and how we need to rely on the Lord to fight against this. We also need to pray as a part of this for endurance to fight sin to the end, because the temptation will never leave us. One point stressed here is the anatomy of temptation. It is does not start or come from God, but from our own sinful pride and lust for sin.

We have the power through Jesus Christ to fight against these temptations. Dr. Mohler desires for everyone to use this radical and revolutionary prayer to the benefit of their daily lives following after the Lord Jesus Christ’s example.

ANALYSIS

The idea and practice of prayer is something that has been elusive and difficult for so many Christians, especially in our current culture climate. This is a very refreshing and new look on the idea of prayer through the lenses of Jesus’ example to us. I plan to pass this one along to many of those that we shepherd at our local church. There have been many commentaries, books, blogs, and prayers shared about the Lord’s Prayer. This work comes with a freshness that both hits at our theological understanding and gives us practical use in our own prayer lives.

One of the greatest strengths of this work is the author Dr. Mohler himself. He is well read and speaks/writes with such great conviction and passion on any topic. One of his greatest strengths is his expository teaching and writing style that puts the focus on the Word of God above all else. God’s Word is our foundation and his use of it throughout this book helps us to understand prayer better. He is characteristically illuminating and pastoral in his sermons and when he writes as is the case here.

Another great aspect of this book is the mix of the theology and practical nature throughout. Dr. Mohler sets the stage for the practical by reminding us the theology behind why and how we should pray. The way we approach the throne of God in humility, expectancy, and vibrancy is shown through every chapter. We must truly known God in relationship and knowledge before we are able to practically see growth in our prayer lives.

One of the great parts of the Lord’s Prayer is that it is naturally very practical in nature. We are truly attempting to put our theology to the test as we practically live it out by prayer. The author really does an exceptional job in providing some great insights in both areas in this book.

With the Lord’s Prayer having such a practical nature providing some great visual illustrations and personal stories can help provide us with added understanding to the topic. Dr. Mohler does exactly that throughout this book. He pulls from childhood, all of his ministry pursuits, and great historical figures to present a great overview of the Lord’s Prayer. His use of Martin Luther in showing us the need to pray and the way we approach the throne of God was particularly helpful to me personally. The story of camping with his father was a very powerful visual picture as well.

The pastoral nature of how Dr. Mohler approached this topic of the Lord’s Prayer enhanced this book very much. Drawing from all of his experience in being a pastor and more importantly training up pastors on a regular basis really gives credence to what he writes here. Dr. John MacArthur says of this book, “His ability to distill complex theology in understandable language is unsurpassed.” That is the definition of writing pastorally!

One of the weaknesses of this book was the size of the sections written on the different aspects of the Lord’s Prayer. Dr. Mohler wrote several longer chapters on the beginning portions of the Lord’s Prayer and smaller chapters on the latter areas. I would have enjoyed a little longer sections on the topics of repentance/confession, and temptation areas of the Lord’s Prayer. It felt that he ran out of space at the end and had to hurry through it a little more than it should have been.

With the practical nature of the Lord’s Prayer it would also have benefited the book to have some personal stories from others in the struggle with prayer, and how the Lord’s Prayer affected their Christian walk. Hearing from Dr. Mohler’s personal experience and ministering was excellent, but I desired to hear more from others and their struggles as well. Possibly from a foreword or allowing a few others to be a part of the work could have helped in this area.

I would highly recommend that all Christians read this book and any work by Dr. Mohler for that matter. You will be challenged and encouraged in your walk with the Lord Jesus.

CONCLUSION

Paige Patterson says of this book, “For a guide to future fruitfulness, purchase this book. To be a recipient of the benedictions of our God, read and practice this volume.” I echo this commentary on such a great book given to us understand God more, and our reliance on Him further. This was an excellent work that will strengthen many Christians in their prayer life, but more importantly in having true communion with God that is revolutionary and radical for the glory of God alone.

FAVORITE QUOTES

  • “We are actually desperate for what no earthly revolution can produce. We long for the kingdom of God and for Jesus King of kings and Lord of lords. We are looking for a kingdom that will never end and a King whose rule is perfect.” (Introduction)
  • “These experiences witness the same reality: prayer is difficult. Like anything of great value, prayer takes great effort, tremendous care, and Spirit-filled discipline.” (6)
  • “At times God may not provide for us in the way that we think is best. But we will always find that he provides for us according to his infinite love and care. “ (116)
  • “But forgiveness is a necessary evidence that we have received forgiveness. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. Hard hearts have no place in the kingdom of God.” (138)
four-half-stars
By | 2018-03-16T00:11:31+00:00 March 16th, 2018|

Portraits Of A Pastor Book Review

Portraits Of A Pastor Book Review

Portraits Of A Pastor

by Jason K. Allen
Length: 6 hours. To read (192 pages)
TCB Rating:
four-half-stars
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

What exactly is the main role of a Pastor? In Portraits of a Pastor, general editor Jason K. Allen and nine other authors share nine essential roles of a church leader. Looking at leadership roles like theologian, and practical roles such as husband/father.

Who should read this?

One of the great strengths of this book is that it is very readable. This book is focused on current pastors and those inspiring to the calling of pastor. This book would find a great home in pastoral classes at bible colleges and seminaries alike.

Portraits Of A Pastor Book Review 1

 

Summary

Why is the local church in need of a book to understand the calling of pastor? There are many books, blogs, and opinions about this topic. Jared C. Wilson says, “But it seems almost accidental within the evangelical machinery to find a pastor who is actually a pastor”(16). In Portraits of a Pastor we are given a mix of leadership and practical roles in helping us understand the essentials of the local church pastor.

This book is written for those that are currently pastors or those inspiring to be pastors. It will likely be a book used in bible colleges and seminaries for a long time to come. The general editor is Midwestern Seminary President, Jason K. Allen and he also writes the chapter on pastor as preacher. There are nine contributors, covering topics such as pastor as shepherd, man of God, husband/father, evangelist, theologian, church historian, missionary, and leader. This book is written with great force driving the essential aspects of a church leader and a seriousness that fits the role of pastor.

Many times with leadership books there isn’t much to add to what has already been said on the topic. With Portraits of a Pastor, the calling of pastor is set up from a biblical mandate, and the clarity of the role of the pastor leans on the experience of many godly men. Jason K. Allen comments, “Pastors are those who have been set apart by God who are called by His Spirit, and who have submitted their lives to Him”(180).

This is a resource that can be used both in seminary classrooms, but also read personally by current and inspiring shepherds. We are facing today an ever-changing understanding by the culture and the church of what the pastor should look like on the inside and the outside. This work hones in on the biblical understanding of a pastor, giving a clear vision for the future understanding of the local church leader.

These church leaders have the voice and experience to speak on this topic of the pastoral role. Many of these men have been serving for many decades in ministry, focusing on the area of local church pastoring or serving in a seminary setting training pastors. This experience gives credence to these contributors as they wrote this balanced work. They are striving to give a fresh perspective on the role of pastoring that gives us both the concrete and practical ideas to this vital leadership position in ministry. They achieve this by going to our main authority, God’s Word, which gives their evidence for these nine roles of a pastor.

Each chapter is littered with verses that back up the arguments on why pastors should possess these qualities. Ephesians 4:11-16 speaks to equipping the church and is an implied text that weaves through the text chapter by chapter. Opening with a chapter on what the Bible term for pastor is, shepherding. Jared C. Wilson here focuses on the idea of feeding the sheep in several different forms starting with preaching the Gospel to them.

Danny Akin leads the way with the practical side of pastoring by touching on the family with pastor as husband and father. Other practical chapters found in this work are pastors as evangelist and pastor as man of God. In the final chapter Donald S. Whitney puts his expertise on the spiritual disciplines to share about how a pastor must strive to be a man of God. Whitney shares, “But being a man of God is much more than sin avoidance; it also involves cultivating specific fruits of righteousness”(172).

Some of the more concrete roles shared in this book about pastoring include leader, missionary, preacher, and two that really work together theologian and church historian. Owen Strachan and Christian George lay out in these chapters the importance of every pastor being a lifelong learner, striving to know more of God and the rich history of those that came before this. George argues, “The Bible itself was not only woven into the fabric of history, the Bible is history, for it records the dramatic story of God’s interest and activity”(94).

There are several personal examples and illustrations from church history to help support the points made by the contributors. The authors are striving to strike a balance between the scholarly and practical sides of shepherding the local church. Examples from their own pastoring in the local church or being a professor help to apply what we learn from the text of God’s Word. Danny Akin shares some stories about how to balance ministry with family.

Examples from church history and modern missions movement help to strength the arguments for the nine essentials roles of a church leader. Some of these examples include pastoring with Jonathan Edwards and missions examples from the life of Jim Elliot. This practical side is stressed to give more clarity to the issues at hand.

Analysis

It is easy to find great joy in reading this work being an associate pastor in the local church. I have had the fortunate opportunity of sitting under many of these men whether by reading or in the classroom. This book will be one I will keep on my shelves throughout my ministry career as a resource in pastoring in the local church. There is a freshness and seriousness taken by this work that has not been seen in awhile from a book on this topic.

The contributors of this book wanted us to get a feel for many aspects and angles of the pastoral ministry. It is not an easy task, but they are able to achieve this for the most part through giving different perspectives in many of these godly men’s field of expertise.

Also, all of the personal illustrations and stories from history allow for a practical aspect to supplement the roles presented. Lastly, and most importantly standing on the authority of God’s Word gives the great foundation and seriousness that puts this work head and shoulders above the field on this topic.

The biblical foundation is the greatest strength of this book. If we are going to talk about the role of the pastor we must begin with what the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ says about this topic. Right from the beginning Jared C. Wilson shares the story of Jesus speaking with Peter after the resurrection in John 21. Jesus calls us as pastors to “feed my sheep.” Wilson comments, “The central pastoral commission centers on our point number one: shepherds feed the sheep”(18).

On the practical side we see Danny Akin sharing from Ephesians 5 and 6 looking at the role of husband and father dynamic as a pastor. Akin continues, “After the Lord Jesus, put your wife and family first”(45). It is so important that we lay a foundation on anything spiritual (including being a pastor) on the ultimate authority given to us, God’s Word.

The great theme throughout the book is the pastor is striving to make much of God’s glory in how he leads his church. In his chapter on pastor as leader, Ronnie Floyd comments, “Pastors are not defined only by what they say or by what they preach. They are defined by what they do”(151). Let us pastors be defined by doing, giving the God the glory in all we do!

One of the unique chapters of the book was by Jason G. Duesing on pastor as missionary. Keeping your people informed on being on mission and helping your people go to the nations is so important for a church leader. Duesing comments, “The pastor as missionary means the pastor is a “world Christian” who serves as a model missionary”(134).

We also see that the contributors in this book are writing on subjects they are passionate about and have written extensively on before. Many contributors on this topic allows for so many important perspectives on a vital topic for the local church today.

For example, Owen Strachan wrote an excellent work alongside Kevin J. Vanhoozer called The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision, where he covered many of the same thoughts on pastor as theologian in the chapter in this book. Also, Donald S. Whitney teaches Personal/Spiritual Disciplines class at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has written extensively on this topic. Having this expertise and great personal illustrations alongside it allows for a work on the role of a pastor never seen.

One of the passages I mentioned earlier that is implied in the text throughout is Ephesians 4:11-14 which speaks to the great role of pastor. It reads, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

With this book being released on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it would have brought more fullness to have a chapter on pastor as equipper. We know about the importance of the priesthood of believers, and pastors should heed this in their ministry to their sheep.

The chapter by John Mark Yeats on pastor as evangelist had some good points, but was fairly cut and dry. Some more personal illustrations and thoughts from church history would have brought a stronger practical understanding to this topic overall. It would be helpful to read the other writings from these contributors to get a fuller understanding on these topics presented in this work.

Conclusion

I am very thankful for these godly men and their contribution to this topic of the local church leader. This work will bring great conversation to both the local church and schools on the essential roles of the pastor. The scriptural foundation, added by the experience of the nine writers, supplemented by great stories and illustrations from authors lives and church history give us a fresh take on the pastoral role, and provides us with a work that should resonate with current, and aspiring pastors for many years to come.

Favorite Quotes

  •  Thom S. Rainer (Forward)- “We are to be His leaders in His will in His churches for His glory…”
  • Jared C. Wilson (Pg. 17)- “If you do not feed the sheep, love the Lamb, and trust the Good Shepherd, you are not a shepherd.”
  • Danny Akin (pg. 38)- “A redeemed man cannot be satisfied with a halfhearted devotion to his wife and children. Christ in him compels more. Christ in him demands more. Divine expectations are laid upon him that he cannot and will not ignore.”
  • Owen Strachan (pg. 81)- “The pastor is a theologian, but not a theologian of upward mobility. The pastor is a theologian of the cross.”
four-half-stars
By | 2018-02-02T00:07:19+00:00 February 9th, 2018|

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