Apple Watch: iNeed?

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 8.53.22 AMThis week’s most recent issue of TIME magazine features a cover story about Apple’s latest attempt to resurrect a dead industry: the smart watch. As I’m sure is no surprise to you, last week Apple announced the Apple Watch, which has been the talk of the tech world for a week now. TIME’s article, by Lev Grossman and Matt Vella, was a wonderfully insightful look at Apple’s new venture into the “wearables” industry, and what mass consumption of this product may mean for us in terms of our privacy, our humanity, and our ability to disconnect from the digital world. I want to share with you a few particularly insightful parts from that article.

First, the article has a great article describing what it is that Apple does so well:

“Apple isn’t in the business of inventing things, or at least not primarily. It practices a grislier trade: resurrection … When it finds a likely candidate, Apple dissects it and studies the various causes of death. Then it builds something so completely thought through, so seductively designed, so snugly embedded in webs of content and services and communications, that it not only lives again, it thrives to the point of annihilating memories of anything that came before. Apple creates demand for things that there previously was no demand for. It takes products we never wanted and convinces us we can’t live without them. It does this better than any company in the world“(42, emphasis mine).

Regarding the Apple watch and the new industry it’s attempted to push into the mass-market:

“It has to be good, because Apple isn’t just reviving an old category, it’s moving a boundary. It’s attempting to put technology somewhere where it’s never been particularly welcome before: on our bodies … Like a pushy date, the Apple Watch wants to get intimate with us in a way we’re not entirely used to and may not be prepared for. This isn’t just a new product; this is technology attempting to colonize our bodies” (42).

This next paragraph was the most convicting paragraph to me of the whole article. I think that we all need to pay attention to what’s being said here and evaluate our own use of technology and its effect on our life. It’s lengthy, but worth it.

“When technologies get adopted as fast as we tend to adopt Apple’s products, there are always unintended consequences. When the iPhone came out it was praised as a design and engineering marvel, because it is one, but no one understood what it would be like to have it in our lives. Nobody anticipated the way iPhones exert a constant gravitational tug on our attention. Do I have email? What’s happening on Twitter? Could I get away with playing Tiny Wings at this meeting? When you’re carrying a smartphone, your attention is never entirely undivided.

The reality of living with an iPhone, or any smart, connected mobile device, is that it makes reality feel just a little bit less real. One gets over connected, to the point where one is apt to pay attention to the thoughts and opinions of distant anonymous strangers over those of loved ones who are in the same room. One forgets how to be alone and undistracted. Ironically enough, experiences don’t feel fully real till you’ve used your phone to make them virtual — tweeted them or tumbled them or Instagrammed them or YouTubed them — and the world has congratulated you for doing so” (44, emphasis mine).

Finally, the article concludes with this:

“Once you’re O.K. with wearing technology, the only way forward is inward: the next product launch after the Apple Watch would logically be the iMplant. If Apple succeeds in legitimizing wearables as a category, it will have established the founding node in a network that could spread throughout our bodies, with Apple setting the standards. Then we’ll really have to decide how much control we want — and what we’re prepared to give us for it” (47).

What do you think about the article’s assessment of the Apple Watch and the dangers of the “wearables” category. Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts. At the end of the day, I think that it at least gives us all some very good things to think about, and perhaps will even spark some investigation into our current use of technology as it relates to our families and personal lives.

The Mighty Weakness of John Knox

PUB_2237_DUSTJACKET_mighty_weakness_john_knox_1E_mar2a.inddJumbo Shrimp. Bitter Sweet. Deceptively Honest. Old News. All of these are examples of what we has been termed an “Oxymoron” — a combination of words that have opposite or very different meanings.

Oxymoron is the term that came to mind when I first read the title to Douglas Bond’s biography of John Knox: The Mighty Weakness of John Knox. “Mighty Weakness.” Now surely that’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one. These two terms certainly don’t seem like they fit together, do they? So what does it mean. Why does Bond use this phrase to describe the life and ministry of John Knox? Though weak in himself, Knox was incredibly mighty because of the God whom He served and the Word from which He found His strength and authority. The strength and might that Knox had was purely God-given. Bond says:

“When Knox is stripped of his God-given might and the thundering power of his calling, what remains is a mere mortal, a small man, ‘low in stature, and of a weakly constitution,’ one who, when first called to preach, declined, and when pressed, ‘burst forth in most abundant tears’ and fled the room” (xx).

This biography on the life and ministry of Knox is intended to be a practical biography. After the first chapter, which gives an overall outline and overview of the life and legacy of Knox, the rest of the book investigates “how he was transformed from weakness to strength in various dimensions of his character and ministry” (xxi). Throughout these chapters, the readers gets an insight into John Knox as a “man of prayer, a preacher, a writer, a theologian, and as a shaper of worship, education, and public life in sixteenth-century Scotland and beyond” (xxi).

This biography of John Knox is an excellent work for a variety of reasons. First, if you’re like me, and don’t know a great deal about Knox — except the overview information you heard in a history class — this is a great way to meet the man. It is not an intimidating, scholarly, 600-page biography delving into every nitty, gritty detail of the man’s life. Rather, it is extremely practical, to the point, and easy to read.

Second, if you’re the type that doesn’t like that “in-depth” sort of biography, this is the book for you. It lays out the pertinent information of Knox’s life, so that you get a taste of who he was and what makes him important to church history. However, it does not dwell in the particulars. Rather, the author does a wonderful job at moving the reader through various practical areas of life and ministry and giving great insights to the reader from the life and ministry of Knox.

And why should you care about reading a book on John Knox? Listen to Douglas Bond as he answers that question so very well:

“The life of Knox, then, is not just for people who like shortbread and bagpipes, kilts and oatcakes. Neither is it just for Presbyterians or people whose names begin with Mac (or who wish they did). Knox is a model for the ordinary Christian, especially the one who feels his own weakness but who nevertheless wants to serve Christ in a troubled world. Knox is eminently relevant to all Christians who have ever been forced to come face to face with their own littleness” (xx).

Surely that has been all of us from time to time. May we all become more keenly aware of our weakness in order to magnify His strength and the might that the Lord has given us. May we all share in the “Mighty Weakness” of John Knox.

As I would recommend any volume in this “Line of Godly Men” series, so I would whole-heartily recommend this volume. You can grab a copy today by clicking here or here

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Reformation Trust publishers for providing me with a review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

How Will The World End?

How-will-the-World-End-by-Jeramie-RinneThe end of the world — this is a topic that has interested Christians and non-Christians alike for centuries. How’s the world going to end? Will we be here when it happens? What’s going to be the sequence of events? Will the world end through some sort of natural disaster? Through a zombie apocalypse? Through an alien invasion? As far fetched as these sound (and they are certainly far fetched), I’m sure that each of you can think of a recent movie (or two, or three) that depict the end of the world in exactly that fashion.

The astonishing thing, though, is that when we look at the Bible to answer the question of how the world will end, it describes something completely unexpected. The Bible describes the end coming about not by aliens or robots or asteroids or natural disasters, but by a lamb!

In his new book, How Will the World End? And other questions about the last things and the second coming of Christ, pastor Jeramie Rinne does just that: he looks to the Bible to uncover what exactly we are to expect in the end times, and how exactly we are to expect the world to end. He says:

“The problem facing the human race is not that it’s on a collision course with an asteroid. Our problem is far worse: we are on a collision course with a holy God who is coming to judge a sinful world’ (13).

When talking about the end times — or eschatology to use a big, fancy, theological word — you are probably tempted to respond in a couple different ways. On the one hand, you may be tempted to think: “Who cares? It’s all so confusing, I just get more confused the more I study it. I know that Jesus is coming back. That’s all I need to know.” On the other hand, you may be the type of person who gets so fascinated in the individual particulars of end-times theology that that’s all you focus on, and after a while, you lose sight of the forest for the trees.

This book is helpful to both sets of people. For the first group of people (those who are intimidated by end-times study), this book is a very readable and easy to understand introduction to the topic. As the author says:

“This book’s primary purpose is to help regular Christians regain that big picture about the end of the world … this book is intended to help Christians go past their ankles, get wet, and learn to enjoy swimming in the topic without drowning” (9).

For the second group of people, this book is a helpful reminder to keep our focus on the big things that we all affirm and know to be true about the end of the world rather than getting lost in the particulars and failing to see the forest because of the trees.

Now for the actual structure of the book: The book is sectioned into 6 short chapters, each addressing a different question related to the end of the world:

  1. How will the world end? Why is it taking so long?
  2. What will happen before Jesus comes back? Who is the antichrist? Are we in the end times yet?
  3. How will Jesus come back? Will there be a secret rapture?
  4. Will Jesus come back before or after the “Millennium”? How show we interpret the book of Revelation?
  5. What happens after Jesus comes back?
  6. How should we live until Jesus comes back? When is Jesus coming back?

Overall, I think that this is a very good book to give any Christian (or non-Christian interested in the topic) who wants to learn more about the end of the world. The book is very small and a very quick read, which makes it very accessible for everyone. However, with it being so short and accessible, there are many questions left unanswered, and many topics just introduced but not explored in depth. So if you find yourself just wanting to step into the pool of end-times theology, this will be a great starting place for you. However, if you’re looking to wade a little deeper into the waters, there are other books out there for you. For what it is, I thought that this was a great book and a great addition to this series.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank The Good Book Company and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

REVIEW: The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace

lord's supper as means of graceWhat is the Lord’s Supper? What is happening when we partake of the Lord’s Supper? Is it simply a solemn memorial service, where we examine our lives in the present and partake of something to remind us of event in the past? Or is there more to Communion, to the corporate partaking of the Lord’s Supper?

These are the questions that Richard Barcellos is seeking to answer in his new book: The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More than a Memory. Barcellos sets out in this book to convince the reader the the Lord’s supper is more than a solemn memorial service — it is more than a memory. Indeed, the Lord’s Supper actually serves as a means of grace in the present for the people of God.

The question, then, is what are ‘means of grace’? Barcellos says, “I define means of grace as the delivery systems God has instituted to bring grace — that is, spiritual power, spiritual change, spiritual help, spiritual fortitude, spiritual blessings — to needy souls on the earth” (23). So, Barcellos argues that the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace, as are the Word of God, prayer, and the ordinance of baptism. These are, he says, “the primary or ordinary means through which grace from heaven comes to souls on the earth” (24).

This book is not meant, in any way, to be a full treatment of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. Rather, the author has a very narrow purpose in mind in writing this book — it is to answer the questions: “How is the Lord’s Supper a means of grace?” His answer: “The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace because of what the Holy Spirit does in the souls of believers when local churches partake of it” (28).

To argue for this understanding of the sacrament, Barcellos first introduces the reader to the various terminology connected with the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. These include “the giving of thanks,” “breaking bread,” “the cup and table of the Lord,” and “the Lord’s Supper.” In the second chapter, Barcellos looks at the most important text in the New Testament regarding the nature of the Lords Supper: 1 Corinthians 10:16. After offering a very detailed and careful exegesis of this passage, Barcellos summarized by saying,

“The point being made from this text is that bread and wine are signs which signify present participation or present communion in the present benefits procured by Christ’s body and blood” (52). 

He continues:

“Though it is not a converting ordinance, the Supper is a sanctifying ordinance. Like the Word of God and prayer, it is a means through which grace comes to us from Christ’ (53).

Next, in chapter 3, he answers the question: “But how do the benefits of his death become present for those that partake of the Supper?” The answer: The Holy Spirit. In this chapter, Barcellos offers a close look at Ephesians 1:3 and 1:14 and shows that the Holy Spirit is the means by which grace is brought from heaven to believers in the present. He says,

“Ephesians 1:3 supplies us with the theological mechanics which are assumed by 1 Corinthians 10:16. When we take the Supper, it is the Spirit of Christ who brings the benefits of Christ to the people of Christ” (71). 

Then, in chapter 4, he uses the example of prayer to illustrate the work of the Holy Spirit in this way, and illuminate His activity in the Supper. And in chapter 5, Barcellos looks at 3 historical confessions (The Belgic Confession of 1561, The Westminster Confession of 1647, and The Second London Confession of 1677/89) and four catechisms (Heidelberg, Westminster Shorter, Orthodox, and Baptist) in order to show that all of these understood the Supper to be a means of grace, and more than just a memory.

In the final chapter, Barcellos offers some final thoughts, including some theological musings and practical considerations. I found the practical and pastoral implications to be quite helpful in thinking through the nuts and bolts of some of this theology. He deals with issues such as the corporate attitude and climate during the Supper, the frequency of our partaking, the fencing of the table, and more.

Overall, I found this book to be helpful and illuminating. It helped me put into words some things that I’ve been thinking for a while, that there is more to the Lord’s Supper than just a simple remembrance of a past event. Barcellos did a great job of drawing out the Lord’s Supper’s links with the past, present, and future — the past in that it remembers the historical facts of the work of Christ; the present in that present, spiritual grace is brought to believers through partaking; and the future, in that the Supper looks forward to the return of Christ.

This book will not be for everyone. It is not an easy read; it is very technical and quite academic. But if you are interested in learning more about the nature of the Lord’s Supper, and are ready to think deeply and seriously about it, then I’d encourage you to grab a copy of this book. At just over 100 pages, it is certainly not unattainable for you to read through, and I am confident that if you do, you will walk away with a greater understanding of and appreciation for the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Mentor Books for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

REVIEW: Truth Matters

truth mattersReview by Jim Anderson

Very often my daughter will ask me a question that causes me to pause. Most often the pause is due to the depth and difficulty of the question. A simple two sentence explanation will not suffice for this one. I don’t mind the questions — in fact I relish them, for in the end both her faith and mine will be strengthened as we dig for the truth.  Truth never has to hide from the hard question. But what about the day and time when I’m not there, when the question is posed to her by those who do not hold a Christian worldview?  How will she hold up under the ever-increasing attacks on Christianity, the Bible, and the many truths we believe it expounds? How will your son or daughter fare when thrust into the secular world of public education and work?  What if your college freshman picks up one of Bart Ehrman’s many publications against Christianity and reads the following?

“The God I once believed in was a God who was active in the world. He saved Israelites from slavery; he sent Jesus for the salvation of the world; he answered prayer; he intervened on behalf of his people when they were in desperate need; he was actively involved in my life. But I cant believe in that God anymore, because from what I see around the world, he doesn’t intervene” (Bart D. Ehrman, God’s Problem, 16)

Attacks upon the truth of God’s word are inevitable in the world. But just as inevitable is the truth that if we fail to respond adequately our own faith and that of our children will weaken. How do we respond to such attacks in a biblical and intelligent way? A quote like this doesn’t have to be the last word on the subject. You or your child can benefit from a great resource in the form of this new book titled, Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World.

Truth Matters is written by three men, each of whom possess a PhD in his particular field of expertise. They are Andreas J. Kostenberger, Darrell L. Brock and Josh Chatraw. Together they examine some of the common objections to Christianity by some of its leading opponents, opponents who themselves carry weighty academic credentials.

This book delves into some of the more difficult to defend attacks upon our faith — attacks that many lay persons may not be prepared to answer without help. As they wrote this book, they deliberately focused on some of the most outspoken critics and examined the arguments that they bring against the Christian faith, arguments that can often trouble a weak believer.

The book is easy to read, avoiding difficult terms or at least providing explanation where it is needed. It is laid out in 7 Chapters, with each chapter addressing a commonly brought objection to the Christian faith. The Chapters are laid out as follows:

  1. The Skeptical Mystique: What Makes Unbelief So Terribly Believable?
  2. Is God There? Does God Care? Then Why Can’t He Do Better than This?
  3. Let’s Make a Bible: Who Picked These Books, and Where’d They Come From?
  4. Contradictions, Contradictions: Why Does My Bible Have All These Mistakes?
  5. I’ll Need an Original: How Can Copies of Copies Be the Same as the Real Thing?
  6. And the Winner Is… Who Decided What Christianity Was Made Of?
  7. A Likely Story: How Do We Know Jesus Rose from the Dead?

Throughout this book there is an ongoing emphasis on the truth that we are never asked to believe something that’s not true just for the sake of believing. There is a huge difference between blind faith and reasoned faith. As the attacks upon our faith become more sophisticated, so we too must meet the challenge with an equal tenacity and sophistication. The answers in this book are clear and intelligible. You come away feeling better prepared to defend your faith. God has nothing to hide. Truth is truth and it will always be able to defend itself. This book provides much in the way of answering the challenges that we all will inevitably face in our day to day lives. We don’t have to run and hide from our opponents. We have answers to the difficult questions.

I would highly recommend this book for parents, college students, and biblical counselors. It’s full of those “gotcha” moments where you pull your eyes away from the page and think “what a powerful argument for my faith.” You realize in that instant that your faith has been strengthened. I’ll close this review with the words of dedication by one of its authors….

From Josh: For my children Addison and Hudson because one day you will need this book.

I have a copy for my family. I recommend that you get one too!

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank B&H Books for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

How Can You Know God’s Will?

Gods WillThe question of knowing God’s will for our life is one of the most common questions for the Christian. What college should I go to? What should I major in? What job should I take? Who should I date? Marry? These questions, along with thousands of others, are constantly in the Christian’s mind as they seek to make decisions that are honoring to God and within His will.

In trying to answer these questions, far too many of us are paralyzed by fear and frustration — fear that we would make a decision contrary to God’s will, and frustration because we feel like we can never “figure it out.”

TWO ASPECTS TO GOD’S WILL

When we come to the Bible, we find 2 different aspects to the will of God: His will of decree and His will of desire. God’s will of decree is simply how things are. This is what God ordains. So everything that comes to pass, from the biggest to the smallest detail, is in one way or another part of God’s sovereign, ordained will of decree (Eph 1:11; Ps 139:16; Acts 4:27-28). Then we see God’s will of desire, which is simply how things ought to be. Put another way, this is what God has commanded, what He desires from His creatures. We see many texts that speak of doing His will, with the understanding that you could also “not do His will.” This can’t be His will of decree, or what is ordained to happen, because we can’t thwart that. When the Bible speaks of “doing his will” in this sense, it’s referring to His will of desire, or what He has commanded that we do (1 John 2:15-17; Heb 13:20-21; Mt 7:21).

A THIRD OPTION?

So those are the two different aspects of the will of God that we see in Scripture. The problem arises when we try to create a third category. Let’s call it “God’s will of direction.” We want to know the who, what, and when for everything we do. We have a fear of the future and think that God needs to miraculously give us a voice from heaven or some supernatural sign for everything we do. Too often we think of finding God’s will, in this sense, like it’s a horoscope or a divine magic 8-ball. Put bluntly, our fascination with the future and the need to figure out all of the possible scenarios before making a decision is sin — it’s a betrayal of a trust in God’s providence and provision.

A BETTER WAY

So instead of being paralyzed by fear and frustration in our quest for God’s will in every aspect of our life, let me suggest a better way for thinking about making choices in your life:

1. Find out what the Bible says

Does Scripture speak clearly on whatever the decision is that you face. Are you trying to decide whether or not you should date this girl who’s not a Christian? Well the answer is clearly NO (2 Cor 6:14). “Well, maybe by dating her I can lead her to Christ.” There is no such thing as “evangelistic dating.” God has spoken in His Word. It’s a clear-cut issue.

So the first step would be going to Scripture and finding out if it is addressed explicitly there. Does God forbid what you’re wanting to do? Does He command what you’re not wanting to do? If so, the issue is not, “What does God want me to do in this situation,” but “Am I going to obey God’s Word or not?”

2. Find out what others say

We see all throughout the Proverbs that it is wise to seek the counsel of others (Prov 1:5, 12:15; 15:22, 19:20). So maybe you’re trying to figure out whether or not to take this new job. You’ve searched Scripture, tested your heart and motives, and found that it is not a moral choice of right vs. wrong. The next step would be to ask those around you their advice. Ask your friends if they think you have the talents and gifts for this job. Ask your pastor if he thinks this is a wise move for you and your family. Seek advice from those around you.

Kevin DeYoung puts it well when he says,

“We spend all this time asking God, ‘What’s your will?’ when He’s probably thinking, ‘Make a friend, would you? Go talk to someone. There’s a reason I’ve redeemed a lot of you — because you do fewer dumb things when you talk to each other. Get some advice'” (Just Do Something, 93-94).

3. Just Do Something

If you have searched God’s Word, and choosing one way or another doesn’t go against God’s Word, and if you’ve sought godly advice from those around you, then just pick one. Choose. And trust that He is in control, even when you have no idea what the future holds.

If you are drinking deeply of godliness in the Word and from others and in your prayer life, then you’ll probably make God-honoring decisions.

’50 Shades of Grey’ Movie

50 Shades of GreyAfter watching the trailer for the upcoming theatrical version of the popular “50 Shades of Grey” movie, I wish I could say that I’m shocked by what I saw — but sadly, I’m not. What we see coming to the big screen is an accurate representation of what the book is: pornography.

Sadly, the book swept the nation by storm and was a bestseller for quite some time. Now while that is sad, it shouldn’t surprise us that such filth is so popular in the world. But what should surprise us, and devastate us, is that professing Christians (especially women), were caught up in the hype along with the rest of the world.

Again…the book, and now the movie, is nothing short of pornography. Argue whatever you want, it is what it is. Even Forbes magazine calls it what it is in a recent article on the “Too Hot For TV” trailer that was released for the movie. In the article, Scott Mendelson says:

“Of course, the big question is whether or not adult moviegoers, female or male, will venture out to a theater and watch what is basically (and I say this without moral judgment) pornography amid other moviegoers.”

Though the release of this movie is a while away (set to release Valentine’s day, 2015), I hope and pray that professing Christians think seriously about this movie and identify it for what it is: pornography. No matter the guise it is released under — whether it be a seemingly harmless paperback novel at your local bookstore, or a big-screen, blockbuster hit — as Christians we must be discerning about what we are putting in our minds and finding pleasure and entertainment in. And let me be clear: I do not think that anyone will be able to watch this movie without sinning. This is not one of those questionable, follow your conscience decisions about watching a movie. This is a clear-cut, black and white decision: Will you watch this pornography or not.

I hope and pray that you will not.

And I urge you to join me in prayer for the many, many professing Christians who will be tempted to watch this with their friends or family. Pray that they would resist this temptation and would seek godliness

Against The Church

Doug Wilson has done it again — he’s written another provocative, pithy, and fun-to-read-while-frustrating-to-read book. This one deals with the church. Believe it or not, it’s actually a case for the church (a regenerated church…a reformed church), though the title of the book would never lead the passer-by to conclude as such. Why, then, does he title his book “Against the Church”? Wilson says that “it is only possible to be for the church…if you begin by mastering the case against the church” (1).

Against the churchLet me just say up front: this book was incredibly frustrating for me. I like a book to have a discernible structure, one that makes an argument and moves along in a logical flow of thought to make that argument. That is not at all this book. Rather, it reminded me more of a series of loosely connected Facebook statues, blog posts, and journal articles, all put together to try to form a book. Not only did the book not seem to have a discernible structure, neither did the different parts, and worse yet, neither did the individual chapters themselves. The chapters were broken up into randomly connected paragraphs and flows of thought. And just when I thought I was sensing a structure, there he went again…into some random aside for the fifteenth time.

Such is the case with the Wilson’s, I guess. I’m talking, of course, about Doug Wilson, and his son, N.D. Wilson — both of whom are prolific and engaging authors. My first (and only) experience with Doug’s son, N.D., was a few months ago when I read his newest book, Death By Living. His writing style is much like is father’s, though a little more arranged.

Anyway, I will give you the structure of the book that Doug Wilson lays out in his introduction, though the normal reader would have a hard time picking this structure out on his own.

  1. Part One: Against the Church – In this section, Wilson lays out the case against the church, both generally and specifically. Again, his reasoning for doing so is that he says one must master the case against the church before being able to be adequately for the church. Why is this so? It seems to me that what Wilson means by this is that one must be able to spot the areas in the church today that do not match up with Scripture’s description of the church. He does this in a variety of ways, by attacking everything from liturgies, the sacraments, tradition, and a whole host of other things.
  2. Part Two: Background Assumptions – This section addresses all sorts of different background assumptions that go into the discussions on the previous matters addressed.
  3. Part Three: The Father Principle – The third section is where Wilson discusses “the source of life in the heart, the family, the church, and the world” (1).
  4. Part Four: Doctrinal Leftovers – Finally, in this last part Wilson lays out his case for the church.

With that structure laid out, let me share with you just a few quotes that I found insightful and helpful:

“Many modern knostics have wanted to learn how to appreciate the arts of narrative. As far as that goes, nothing is wrong with it, but whether writing about novels, or movies, or stage-plays, they have found ‘redemptive’ or ‘death and resurrection’ themes in all kinds of grimy stories. It turns out that Dawn of the Dead has resurrection themes. In other words, an abstract thing, the structure of the story, is mysteriously able to sanctify the actual content of the story. By means of this amazing magic trick, any amount of Tarantino sludge can be made edifying. Now . . . three cheers for structure, but CONTENT MATTERS. CONTENT IS DETERMINATIVE” [Emphasis mine] (13).

Amen!

And this one…

“Systematic theology is nothing less than remembering what you read in other passages while you are reading this passage. The kind of thing that gives systematic theology a bad name is remembering what you thought other passages said, privileging them in some form of special pleading, and making the verse in front of you do little poodle tricks. Illegitimate systematics is done by the kind of people who put together jigsaw puzzles with a pair of scissors and a mallet handy. The solution is not to abandon systematics, which is not possible anyway” (53-54).

And finally…

“Moralism is just a three-dollar flashlight to light the pathway to Hell…Overt immorality is the fifty-dollar flashlight” (85).

So, would I recommend this book to someone to read? No, I probably wouldn’t. There are many other great books laying out the case for the church, and in a much better way. Wilson makes some astute observations, to be fair, and does so in his characteristically humorous and pithy way. And I enjoyed quite a few of those. But overall, I thought that the book was confusing, disorganized, and flat-out wrong and misleading in a few sections, including infant baptism, children taking communion in order to make them feel like they are “part of the family,” and sentences like this: “We trash the sacraments, if and when we do, because we are ministers of the Word. We trash the Word, if and when we do, because we are ministers of the sacraments” (24). What does that even mean —  for a minister to “trash the Word?”

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Canon Press for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

REVIEW: Titus For You

Titus for youThe landscape of Bible commentaries seems to be endless. There are great ones, there are terrible ones, and there are a lot that are in the middle. There are pastoral ones. There are technical ones. There are devotional ones. Really, when you go to look for a commentary on a particular book of Scripture, it can be overwhelming (As a side note…let me suggest http://www.bestcommentaries.com as a place for you to go to help you sort through the wide array of options out there…).

Well, here comes one more. Actually, here comes a whole new series of Bible commentaries. The Good Book Company has started a new series of commentaries called “The Bible For You.” Check out the trailer for the series below.

The first in this series came out early last year (Feb, 2013) on Galatians, written by Tim Keller. In fact, the first 3 in the series were by Keller (Galatians, Judges, and Romans 1-7). Now enters Tim Chester, writing on Titus. Below is a trailer for Chester’s volume on Titus

The goal of these commentaries is to not just be a technical commentary, discussing the ins and outs of Greek and Hebrew grammar, the various debates swirling around individual texts and doctrines and so forth. Rather, they aim to lay out, clear and succinctly, the teaching of the passages of the book in question, and then show how these truths apply to people’s lives.

Each title in the series aims to be 4 things:

  1. Bible Centered
  2. Christ Glorifying
  3. Relevantly Applied
  4. Easily Readable

And this volume by Chester on Titus is all of these things. As I was reading through various sections of this commentary, I found each of these 4 aims to be present. Will you agree with everything in the commentary? I doubt it. But my guess is that you’re never going to find a commentary that you agree with everything in it.

Should this be your primary commentary if you’re preaching/teaching through the book of Titus? Probably not. As a pastor/teacher, you need to delve into some of the more technical issues of the grammar and some of the debates and opinions that are discussed in the more technical commentaries. Your job is to rightly handle and divide the Word of Truth, and you must arm yourself and prepare yourself with the necessary tools to do just that.

However, though this probably shouldn’t be your primary commentary, I do think that it should be on your list of commentaries that you consult. This volume will give you practical insights into the text and how to apply the text, and will do so in a language and a way that your everyday person will understand. I am thankful for this new volume in this series, and think that this series will serve a valuable purpose for every Christian — pastor, teacher, or not — to gain a better understanding of biblical books, while being written in a clear, concise, and practical manner.

If you’re interested in learning more about this series, and seeing what volumes are in the works now and will be coming in the years to come, check out this page

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank The Good Book Company and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

An Infinite Journey

“God has set before the Church of Jesus Christ two infinite journeys. These two journeys have one destination, one ultimate goal, and in the end will prove to have been one and the same journey after all.”

This is how Andy Davis, pastor of First Baptist Church or Durham, NC, starts his new book on sanctification called, An Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness. Now you are probably asking, and rightly so, “What are these two journeys?” Well here they are: (1) The external journey of the worldwide advance of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ to all nations; and (2) The internal journey of an individual Christian from being dead in sin to gloriously perfect in Christ. Davis shows how Paul displays both of these journeys in the first chapter of his letter to the Philippians — in v.12, he speaks of “advancing the Gospel” (Journey #1) and in v.25 he talks about our “progress and joy in the faith” (Journey #2). In both verses, the verb used is the same Greek word, and speaks of “progressing” or “advancing” toward a specific goal.

Now the ultimate end goal of each of these is the same, as said in the quote above. And what isan infinite journey this ultimate end goal? The glory of God in the final perfection of the Church. On earth, in our finite existence, these two journeys exist as two distinct things. However, they will become one when every single individual elected by God comes to personal faith in Christ and is perfectly glorified in Christ. In the end, when it’s all said and done, these to journeys will become one and will accomplish their one, unified goal: “the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:12, 14).

This book is about the second journey, the journey of sanctification, or Christian growth. This internal journey of sanctification is the personal, internal struggle and battle that each Christian has daily with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Every single one of us struggles against these three things as we fight the fight of godliness and holiness, seeking to become more and more like Jesus, and being made by God more and more like Jesus. Davis argues that Evangelicalism has done much in the previous decades and centuries to focus on the first journey of evangelism and missions, but has largely neglected the second journey of sanctification and discipleship. Davis says,

“It is impossible for the Church to make progress externally to the ends of the earth if there are no Christians mature enough to pay the price to go as missionaries and martyrs” (24).

So to correct this neglect of the journey of sanctification in Evangelicalism, Andy Davis has decided to write this book and provide a full-scope, comprehensive look at the sanctification journey that every Christian is a part of. In the book, he argues that “all of Christian maturity can be found under four major headings: Knowledge, Faith, Character, and Action” (29). Using these 4 headings, Davis develops a map, or a pathway, to Christian maturity.

The pathway starts with KNOWLEDGE. This is factual and experiential spiritual information. This factual information is gained from Scripture, and the experiential information is gained from living in God’s world. The knowledge then leads to FAITH (Rom 10:17). Faith is the assurance and commitment to spiritual truth. Under this heading of faith are things like certainty that certain specific invisible spiritual realities are true, conviction of sin, and reliance on Christ as the all-sufficient savior, refuge, provider, and shield. Progressing in this pathway to Christian maturity, faith leads to CHARACTER (Eph 3:16-17). This is where the believer’s internal nature is conformed to Christ. In this section of the book, Davis discusses affection (what you love/hate), desire (what you seek), will (what you choose/reject), thought (what you think about), and emotions (what you feel). All of these things are encompassed in the believer’s virtues, who the believer is. Finally, this character leads to ACTION (Matthew 12:23). This is the believer’s external lifestyle of habitual obedience. Davis discusses here a 7-fold obedience to God’s commands (1. Worship; 2. Spiritual Disciplines; 3. Family; 4. Ministry to Believers; 5. Mission to Non-Believers; 6. Stewardship; and 7. Work). And finally, this action leads to more knowledge (Psalm 119:100) and the process continues.

The book is split into 4 major sections, each discussing one aspect of this pathway to Christian maturity, with each chapter in the section discussing a various aspect of that step in the path.

Honestly, this book surprised me. I got the book to review without having a clue who “Andrew M. Davis” was (this is how the author’s name is on the book. I later discovered this is the same “Andy Davis” that I knew of, particularly in relation to his help in my life on memorizing large chunks of Scripture). Not only did I not know who the author was, I wasn’t quite sure what the book was about. However, it had glowing reviews from people like Don Whitney, D.A. Carson, and Tom Schreiner, so I decided to give it ago. And let me tell you: I sure am glad I did.

This is the best comprehensive look at the sanctification and discipleship process that I have ever read. We all talk about wanting to “encourage discipleship” more, and how everyone should be discipling someone, but oftentimes we are left wondering where in the world we should start. Different people are at different points in their Christian growth, and I am often left wondering where I should start — How can I diagnose where this person is in their spiritual growth in order to better understand where I should focus with them? And how can I track spiritual growth not only in myself, but in those I am discipling? These are questions that I’ve had for some time now, and this book really helped me answer those question. I can assure you, this will be a book that I turn to repeatedly in my ministry, and one that I will recommend to others. I think it is the best comprehensive resource out there dealing with the topic of Christian growth. I’d 100% encourage you to get this book!

In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Ambassador International for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review