Book Review: The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

During last year, I spent a good amount of time reading on books dealing with sanctification. While there are many books that address this teaching, I’ve come to realize that most books on this topic within Reformed circles have two basic problems: (1) they merely repeat and/or reword the doctrine of sanctification found in Reformed confessions and catechisms and (2) they spend an inordinate amount of time discussing what is sanctification is NOT. While these are helpful and have their place, I wouldn’t say that these books are convicting or challenging. In looking for a change in pace, I picked up a classic from Jerry Bridges entitled The Pursuit of Holiness. Although it’s a relatively short book (less than 160 pages), it was one of my favorite books of last year.

Jerry Bridges begins his book with the following statement:

We Christians greatly enjoy talking about the provision of God, how Christ defeated sin on the cross and gave us His Holy Spirit to empower us to victory over. But we do not as readily talk about our own responsibility to walk in holiness.

This is a perspective that I did not grow up with as a young Christian. As a child of the Holiness Movement, I grew up with the testimony “Are you saved and do you know you’re saved? Are you free and separated from sin?” However, since I have begun fellowshipping with Reformed believers, I’ve noticed that holiness is not a common topic of discussion. In an effort to avoid legalism and various strains of perfectionism, many have fallen for the opposite error – namely that sanctification functions in the same manner as justification.

The title of this book comes from the biblical command found in Hebrews 12:14

Pursue holiness, for without holiness, no one will see the Lord.

In many ways, this book circles around this essential statement by carefully explaining what this verse means and by explaining what this verse doesn’t mean. However, the book goes a step further in actually discussing appropriate spiritual disciplines necessary for a genuine pursuit of holiness.

The book begins by simply declaring that holiness is basic to the Christian life and thus holiness is for all believers. One of the points that Jerry Bridges repeats is that God wants us to walk in obedience, not victory. This is a subtle point, but often times, our discussions on “victory over sin” is oriented toward self whereas walking in obedience is oriented towards God. Bridges address this concern head-on in his chapter Obedience, Not Victory, where he states

Our reliance on the Spirit is not intended to foster an attitude of ‘I can’t do it’, but one of ‘I can do it through Him who strengthens me.’ The Christian should never complain of want of ability and power. If we sin, it is because we choose to sin not because we lack the ability to say no to temptation. It is time for us Christians to face up to our responsibility for holiness. Too often, we say we are defeated by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient.

Secondly, Bridges argues that part of the larger problem of ungodliness among Christians is because of a misunderstanding of what it means to live by faith. He discusses this point multiple times in the book by examining the nature of our union in Christ and by examining relevant passages in Romans 6-7. The reality is that the battle over indwelling sin is lifelong and thus there is a legitimate need to cultivate personal discipline. In his chapter The Place of Personal Discipline, Bridges argues that the sure way to obtain godliness is through Christian discipline. In referencing 1 Corinthians 9:25, Bridges states:

If an athlete disciplines himself to obtain a temporal prize, how much more should we Christians discipline ourselves to obtain a crown that lasts forever?

This Christian discipline includes a regular healthy diet of the Word of God (which includes Scripture memorization and meditation) along with a regular habit in disciplining our physical body. His commentary regarding our physical body is particularly insightful. In his chapter entitled Holiness of Body, he writes

Materialism wars against our souls in a twofold manner. First, it makes us discontent and envious of others. Second, it leads us to pamper and indulge our bodies so that we become soft and lazy. As we become soft and lazy in our bodies, we tend to become soft and lazy spiritually… When the body is pampered and indulged, the instincts and passions of the body tend to get the upper hand and dominate our thoughts and actions. We tend to do not what we should do, but what we want to do, as we follow the cravings of our sinful nature.

Hence, holiness in mind and spirit cannot be accomplished without holiness in body.  This methodical discipline in our body is not contrary to “living by faith”, but it is wholly consistent and harmonious with it since true saving faith has many graces that accompany it. Based on this above discussion, this means that the battle for holiness is centered around how our human will operates and how we need to develop godly habits in order to direct our will in the appropriate direction.

Much more can be said about this little book, but it is a very challenging and very convicting book. It is not a legalistic book, but it is a book that will challenge you if you are currently apathetic regarding your growth in grace. This book will exhort you to treat your sanctification with as much skillfulness and discipline as an athlete treats his own body. This book will cause you to rejoice in the provision that God has given you as a person united to Christ. Finally, this book will encourage you to see the blessed joy that comes with obeying the Lord and walking blameless before Him.

Book Review: Feminine Threads by Diana Lynn Severance

I literally just finished reading this amazing book (I was finishing it while giving my almost 2 year old lunch just now), and I had to sit down immediately to write this book review before my thoughts get jumbled up with other issues.

The book is entitled Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History written by Dr. Diana Lynn Severance, and my general synopsis is that you need to read 51qsr2xmrkl-_sx318_bo1204203200_this book this year. You’ve flooded your mind with Reformation history for the past year (or more), and this book goes through Church history also, but from the unique perspective of focusing on the roles and works of women in the Church throughout the course of time. So if Church history has been important to you recently, than you need to read this book.

Now, for the convincing details…

Dr. Severance divided her 312 page book into 12 chapters that span consecutively from the New Testament Era to the end of the 20th century. I was impressed by the number of women included in this work that included Roman slaves and aristocrats, Christian queens of Barbarian tribes and countries, martyrs, women devoted to the ascetic lifestyle, ministers, missionaries, and women who organized extremely influential para-church organizations that are still around today. Severance also paid careful attention to women writers throughout history (even including quotations from their works), thoughts and beliefs held about women from society and the Church leadership, and the evolving views of the Christian marriage, family, and home due to cultural and historical influences. I think Dr. Severance did an excellent job retelling a fascinating, although at times frustrating, history of women in the Church in an extremely objective manner. Her writing did not appear to gloss or sugarcoat the facts. She simply told “the good, the bad, and the ugly” in a straightforward manner.

In an effort to keep my words concise here and conclude, I want to highlight five points that made the biggest impression on me while I was reading.

  1. Reading about all of the incredible work done by Christian women throughout the centuries has my mind completely blown. I honestly didn’t know women did that much throughout Church history, and their ability to influence was also unbelievable given the restraints and difficulties they often faced. It was incredible to read about, and I honestly wish we heard more about these faithful saints along with the notable people we hear emphasized continually.
  2. The providence of God throughout the course of history is absolutely undeniable. His hand clearly “set the scene” for many works and acts of women within the Church.
  3. The craftiness and subtlety of Satan’s schemes was also incredibly visible while reading through this book. I can only compare it to the “By-path meadow” that lay alongside the narrow way in Pilgrim’s Progress. While some things women began to pick up were clearly erroneous, many other things were much more subtle and had far reaching consequences. And while some women had natural limits and boundaries in terms of how far they would progress, other women following after them did not yield to those same boundaries and limits, and it appears that theyovercorrect perished in their sins. We have a very crafty foe that we need to be aware of.
  4. When we talk about people falling off into the other side of the ditch, only to overcorrect themselves and fall into another ditch, the discussion of the role of women within the church is always veering off to one side or the other. This pendulum has been swinging for centuries, and after reading this book, the discussion today (especially in the PCA) is only a rehashing of the same discussion that has been occurring for hundreds of years. As the Word tells us in Ecclesiastes 1:10-11:

    “Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.”

    Knowing this, I think that we ought to be shrewd and discerning and search out this history, understand what happened, consider what didn’t happen, determine would should have happened, contemplate the prevailing thoughts and influences (including global, social, and cultural) of the day, ponder the ramifications of the actions and lack of action of all people included, and wisely determine a way forward so that God continues to be glorified in the lives of both men and women in the Church.

  5. Finally, this book cannot but help to stir up the faith of believers. The Church has always been filled with some incredibly broken and sinful people who have done amazing and awful things throughout history, both men and women. Yet and still, the Church is the bride of Christ, and the Spirit of God has and continues His work of building, purifying, and preserving the Church of Christ today. And regardless of how things have appeared, appear to be, and appear to be progressing towards, we have the promise from our Lord and Savior that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.

Our history looks really really messy, and women have been the victims, creators, sustainers, and maintainers of a lot of mess throughout the history of the church. Nevertheless, it is a history worth knowing that can only help us to gain wisdom, teach us discernment, show us the importance of holding fast to the truth of God’s Word, help us to stand steadfast against the onslaught of the enemy, and increase our faith in our Sovereign Lord who continues to accomplish His purposes in each of us and in spite of us. As I am equally as confident as Paul when he said to the Philippians, “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”


(and get this book!)

Book Review: The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel

I wrapped up 2017 by finishing one last Puritan work entitled The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel, and I want to share with you my thoughts on the book.

First, if you’re a little unclear on what providence is in the first place, I think the fifth chapter of the LBCF can shed some light on the topic for you. In addition, Reformed Baptista took the time over the past year to expound on every chapter and paragraph of the LBCF 1689, and she covered the chapter on providence starting at Day 81 and continued through Day 103. So I highly encourage you to take the time to read up and understand what Providence is before beginning this book because I believe that John Flavel really jumps into the topic under the assumption that you know what it is (or at least have heard about it and can give a good definition of it).

Flavel organizes his book into three sections. The first section gives the evidence of looking_behind_providence in various areas of life (i.e. sanctification, employment, conversion, family life, etc.), but he has an obvious focus on how God works through providence on behalf of His children. I really enjoyed this section because Flavel pulled so many random stories from the Bible and Church history to give examples of providence, both good and bad, in the lives of people. The second section of the book was on meditating on God’s providence and why we ought to make this a regular duty of the Christian life. I also enjoyed this section, but I felt like it became a little redundant towards the end. The last section of the book goes through some of the practical implications of the doctrine of providence for the saints, and it offers encouragement to all believers to record our experiences with providence throughout our lives for our spiritual good and the good of others. I enjoyed this last section as well, and it was good to see some practical connections between a doctrine we can read about at length and how it can (and should) have an effect in our everyday lives.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I think I found the book to be slow at times because a lot of things seemed to be repeated so often. Reflecting back, I think he does repeat some things, but I think that the feeling is stronger because there are so many things that he mentioned that I read and picked up on in The Crook in the Lot and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. So in a way, I think I read these three books in a good order, and Flavel’s book was a great summary and wrap-up of everything that I’ve learned over the past year. However, I don’t want you to get the impression that Flavel didn’t really offer anything new in this book, because he expounds on a lot of things that you would otherwise not consider carefully enough. Thus, I still highly recommend this book to you.

In conclusion, there are three things that stood out most to me in this book. Two of those things are quotes that I spent a lot of time thinking about, and I think they are worth sharing with you now. The first quote is this:

O that you would once learn this great truth, that no man ever lacked that mercy which he did not lack a heart to trust and wait quietly upon God for. You never yet sought God in vain, except when you sought Him vainly.

The second quote is this:

O that we would but steer our course according to those rare politics of the Bible, those divine maxims of wisdom! Fear nothing but sin. Study nothing so much as how to please God. Do not turn from your integrity under any temptation. Trust God in the way of your duty. These are the sure rules to secure yourselves and your interest in all the vicissitudes of this life.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetThe final thing that stood out to me was Flavel’s insistence that we make it our Christian duty to remember God’s acts of providence in our lives. I know my own life is full of memories of God directly intervening in crazy situations, and there are also memories of impeccably timed mercies from the hand of God that brought relief just what I thought I would break and be lost forever. And on the other hand, there are distinct times of providential testing of my faith and resolve and other experiences that, though painful and difficult at the time, ended up maturing and sanctifying me in unforeseen ways. Flavel ended his book pressing home the fact that regardless of how ordinary and miraculous these experiences may be in our lives, we will all forget them as time goes on if we do not take time to record them and go back over them from time and time. And I have taken that idea and started a journal for 2018 where I will be recording God’s gracious and timely providences in my life. I think that alone is something all Christians should do more often in all of the changing circumstances of life, so that like Asaph, we can say:

“I will appeal to this,

to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;

yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Your way, O God, is holy.

What god is great like our God?

You are the God who works wonders;

You have made known your might among the peoples. –Psalm 77:10-14

Book Review: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs

I just finished The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs earlier this week, and I really enjoyed this book and wanted to share some of my thoughts with you about it to hopefully encourage you to get your hands on it soon.

Boston based his book on Philippians 4:11-12:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.

And I think the real question most Christians have is this: How do you get this kind of contentment? How do you get to be at that place like Paul that no matter what, you’re all good? You’re still happy, satisfied, and okay whether things are going great or falling apart at the seams. And we know it’s a valid question because even if we handle most of life’s curveballs well, there is always something that is bound to mess us up and leave us wondering why we just can’t be content and be over our sinful frustrations like we’re supposed to be.

So I approached this book with all of those thoughts (and more) in mind, and I was shocked by what I learned.

1) You can’t get contentment

Contentment isn’t like the love of God. You don’t just receive it and enjoy it. Contentment is something that must be developed in you like gaining wisdom and understanding or like bridling your tongue – you know what you have to do, and you keep making daily efforts to work on it and walk that out in your life as you receive grace for each day. It requires intentional effort. It’s difficult, and you’re going to feel like you’re failing at it constantly. But only time (and the Lord with one of those good providential tests) will prove how disciplined you have been in the matter and how much you have grown.

2) You know more about contentment than you realize

I had so many moments while reading this book where I said to myself “I know that!” And I think that as Christians, we do know more than we realize about contentment. We know to take all of our cares to the Lord because He cares for us. We know that self-denial is a part of the Christian life. We know that we have to remember all of the promises that we have from God and the joy that awaits us at Christ’s return. We know that our hearts are deceitful and wicked and that we have to be transformed by the renewing of our mind…..we know this stuff already! And guess what! Contentment is the product, or the fruit, of holding all of these truths together (there’s way more explained in the book) in your mind and deliberately contemplating on them each day.

3) Murmuring and complaining are sins that we really don’t take seriously enough

Burroughs spent three chapters discussing murmuring and complaining, and I felt like I was repenting every other page as I realized how sinful complaining really was. If you have ever read through the historical books in the Old Testament and wondered why the Israelites just couldn’t get themselves together and live the covenant life God commanded of them, especially after He delivered them from slavery in Egypt, then I want to wholeheartedly suggest to you that this book will crush all sense of pride (plus exposing areas of pride you didn’t even know existed) you have in thinking that you are nothing like those people. We are just like them, and we need to realize that and the sinfulness of having a murmuring/complaining heart and attitude before we can make any progress in growing in contentment.

As always, there is a lot that can be said about this book, but I want to conclude my thoughts with this:

picture-1If you’ve ever had a large jigsaw puzzle to put together, you know that you always try to get your border pieces put together first. But oftentimes, you see other pieces that go together, so you end up with little sections of the puzzle coming together before the border is even complete…..understanding contentment is a lot like that. The truth is, we have lots of small things that we know and have learned over time in our Christian life. But this book puts your border together so that you can take all of these small sections and assemble them together the right way so that the whole puzzle is complete. Consequently, I finished this book realizing that contentment is not some sort of ‘mysterious’ Christian fruit that only the ‘super pious’ Christians have. While it may be rare to see it in Christian lives, it is not mysterious at all. It takes holding lots of smaller lessons together. It takes practice. It takes discipline. It takes consistent work. It takes patience. And above all, it takes the Spirit of God granting you grace and opening your eyes each day to repent of your sins and diligently apply the lessons you have learned over the years in a way that brings encouragement, peace, and joy to your heart.

So I hope that you choose to add this book to your reading list soon. I pray that you are encouraged to work at the difficult discipline of developing contentment in your Christian life, and I pray that the Lord grants you grace and blesses your efforts exceedingly.

Book Review: Edification and Beauty by Dr. James Renihan

This week I finished a book that I truly enjoyed written by Dr. James Renihan entitled Edification and Beauty: The Practical Ecclesiology of the English Particular Baptists, 1675-1705, and this book is also a part of the Studies in Baptist History and Thought series.  I had an opportunity to meet Dr. Renihan and a small portion of his family in December, and so I was excited and interested to read this book (which also happens to be his dissertation, but it’s still very readable).

In a nutshell, this book is a history book, but a very intriguing history book about Particular Baptist history in England through the late 17th and into the very early 18th centuries. It is divided into six chapters (with plenty of subtitles….which I love) all expounding on the formation of the Particular Baptist churches (including the adoption of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of 1689), church government, the officers of the church, the practice of the regulative principle of worship, and the formation, necessity, and activities of church associations.

Now, I say this book is more intriguing than you would expect because Dr. Renihan spent countless hours examining old church records, minutes from church meetings, and lots of other primary sources that we wouldn’t even think exist today. Some specific topics that I found particularly interesting were

  • the demographic breakdowns of various congregations
  • how churches formed (especially in less populated areas)
  • the question and outworking of who holds the authority and exercises the power within the church
  • the role of “gifted brethren”
  • the outworking of “the communion of saints” among the churches
  • and all of the actual examples of how these Christians handled problems within their churches.

And after reading, you can’t help but be left with the deep impression that these Baptists were extremely serious about what they believed and equally as diligent to practice their faith very carefully. Faithful precision was of the utmost importance.

In terms of reviewing this book, if I had to capture my thoughts with a verse from Scripture, I would use Ecclesiastes 1:9-11, which says:

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.


And this passage comes to my mind because I think that books like this can help us. It’s important to remember the past, and it’s even more important to learn from the past, especially Church history. And I know that there is a plethora of books out about the Reformation and the history of various Protestant denominations, but as Reformed Baptists, we should make sure that we’re learning our own history too so that we can continue to grow in wisdom, understanding, and Christian maturity as knowledgeable Reformed Baptists.

Now I confess that this is my first time reading anything about Baptist history, but I enjoyed it and want to read more. It reminded me of my own upbringing in a Baptist church, and although my church wasn’t Reformed, they practiced many things that I read about in Dr. Renihan’s book (i.e. the yearly review of church history and being active members in the local Baptist Church association). In particular, I remember when I came to faith as a child (around age 6), and most members (including my pastor) did not believe that children could truly come to saving faith in Christ. But my mother made me get up near the end of the service and go to my pastor to tell him that I believed the gospel. My pastor stopped before he gave the benediction to actually question me on the gospel and what I believed in front of the congregation. He was surprised and satisfied with my responses, and then he told the congregation that unless there was an objection from anyone, he was putting me forward to be a candidate for baptism. Thankfully, there were no objections, but they made me take foundation classes for a while before my baptism. And when I participated in the Lord’s Supper the Sunday of my baptism, I had to stand beside the table to receive “the right hand of fellowship” from every member of the church. Later, when church meetings were convened, I stupidly thought that I could run around and play with all my friends outside, but my mother made sure that I knew that as a member, it was expected that I would be in the church meeting and paying attention, although everyone else my age was outside playing. In fact, as the youngest believer in my church, everyone had a hand in “rearing” me and making sure that I was not thinking and behaving like the other children (my actual peers) in the church because I had made a confession of faith, and my whole life was changed and dedicated in service to the Lord and my church.

My church took membership very seriously, and even from childhood, they made sure that I was involved (i.e. serving as an usher, cleaning before and after services, serving in the choir, teaching Sunday School, helping with Vacation Bible School, helping with fellowship meals, and much more) and they made sure that I knew that I had to be involved because I was an actual member of the church. I believe this is one of the lasting impressions I have from this book: the need and duty of every member of the church to be actively dedicated and involved in the edification and sustainment of the church. And I am grateful that this tradition and practice was passed down in such a way that I was able to see it modeled faithfully in my church as a child.

Shortly after starting this book, I figured that it was a good idea to read The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment so that I would learn to be content and patient with the providence of God in my life currently, and that was a good decision. But I can honestly say that this book does not exalt Particular Baptists or their practical ecclesiology over and above other denominations in any way. It just gives you a brief window into Particular Baptist church life in the late 1600s, nothing more and nothing less. The picture that you see looks amazing and promising at times, and at other times, it’s difficult and disheartening because even with all of the hard work put into it, things don’t always end the way we want them to. Nevertheless, it is the Lord who is building His Church, and this book shows you His faithfulness in that work among the Particular Baptists. I heartily recommend this one!

Book Review: The Crook in the Lot by Thomas Boston

The Crook in the Lot by Thomas Boston is a real Puritan classic that I just happened to put in my Amazon shopping cart to get free shipping last month, but I am glad that I did! And I want to encourage you to get a copy of this one, and treasure it for the true gem that it is.

Boston wrote this book as an in-depth contemplation of Ecclesiastes 7:13, which says:

Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked?

As Christians we encounter a variety of difficult circumstances and situations in our lives (or our ‘lot’). For some people, the difficulty in our lot may be seen in physical problems with our bodies (i.e. health problems, illness, deformities, weakness, barrenness, beauty, etc.). For other people it may deal with their honor, or the failure to receive the honor and respect due to them. Still others may deal with difficulty in their vocations and stations in this world, whether it is ongoing difficulty on their job, frustrated hopes and expectations, or even a desire to do something else while you have to remain where you are. And another area of difficulty for many people lies in their relationships with family, friends, the world, and even the Church. However, as Boston continuously points out, it does not matter where your ‘crook’ is in your lot of life, it is of highest importance that we, as Christians, have the proper view of these difficulties and look upon them with the eye of faith, not just by our natural senses. And with a proper view, these difficulties will become advantageous to us as we learn how to adjust our deportment (loved that word) under them.

If I had to capture the main points of this book, they would be:

  1. The hand of God is unmistakably involved in every aspect of our lives, both small and great. If He has decided to put a crook, or a difficulty, in some aspect of your life, you will not be able to change or alter that difficulty until He wills it to change. So you ought to quiet yourself with the knowledge that regardless of the difficulty, God is directly involved and is using this for your good in Him.
  2. Humility is of the utmost necessity in the Christian life, and if you will be loved and cared for by God, you must learn humility. However, humility is oftentimes very hard to come by in the Christian life because we wrestle with lofty opinions of ourselves and what we are due. Thus, God teaches us humility through the crooks in our lot, and His aim is to make this a thorough work. So, though we may be content to just deal with our various difficulties in life and work through them, looking for better days ahead, God desires that we learn how to lower our spirits down to our lots so that we indeed calm and quiet our souls as a weaned child with its mother (Psalm 131). The lowering down of our spirits in the midst of crooks is probably the hardest lesson to learn for the Christian; however, it yields the sweetest fruits.
  3. As we perform the duties of humility, we have this promise from the Lord that He will raise us up out of our difficulties (straighten the crooks) in due season. The due season happens at different times for each Christian, as the Lord sees fit. And there are some crooks that will not be straighten until we close our eyes for the last time and take our last breath. Nevertheless, we can trust that the Lord will exalt the humble at the appointed time, not a moment too late and not a second too soon.

There is so much more I can say about this book, but I will just end with this last point:

In these days, there is so much discontentment and dissatisfaction among people with their lot in life, even among professing Christians. Protests, rallies, blogs, and social media blasts abound as people take to voicing all of their problems with a variety of things around them that may or may not be actually affecting them. Nevertheless, the issues of fairness, equality, privilege, and rights dominate the news, and I found this book to be an extra tether for my soul, a balm for my aching mind, and a sweet, familiar melody to my heart that reminded me of the very basic things that I learned at the very beginning of my Christian walk. That is, we may not understand the ‘why’ behind all of the things in our lives right now, but we will understand them all better by and by.

Brothers and sisters, I pray that you get your hands on this book soon, and may you see with the eyes of faith in all of your crooks that the Lord has allotted to you.

Truth for the Next Generation

9781433614835-2It’s not everyday I get excited about the newest bibles on the shelves of Christian stores everywhere. There have been some game changers in the past, i.e. the ESV Study Bible or the Reformation Study Bible, and though those are great helps to the body the Scriptures have not had an apologetic aid to them until just recently. That’s one reason I’m excited about The Apologetics Study Bible for Students. Not only does this bible contain the inerrant and infallible word of God but it contains alongside it, well-researched articles on various aspects of our apologetic endeavor.

Continue reading

Book Review: “The Resurrection in Your Life” by Mike McKinley

resurrection in your life

The Resurrection in Your Life
How the living Christ changes your world

by Mike McKinley

[ Paperback: $12.22 | Ebook: $9.99 ]

1 Sentence Review:

This book is a good, straightforward, easy to read and understand explanation of the resurrection of Jesus and how that applies to your life. 3 stars

Just 3 Stars?

So why would I just give it a 3 stars (3 out of 5 star) rating on Goodreads? Well, in the Goodreads system that just means “I liked it”. It is weird for me to give a book that does a great job of explaining the greatest event in history three starts, but let me explain why and in doing so the book will be reviewed.


The book is straightforward and accurately explains the resurrection of Jesus and other core doctrine, all being presented in a very easy to access sermon format (I did think each chapter sounded like a sermon and at the end of the book it said that is what they where from.)

The book is a good tool for reminding long-time believers of the essentials of our faith, and a great tool for introducing those glorious truths to those who don’t yet know them or are new believers.

For me, this makes this book an excellent disciple or small group study tool. Each chapter is short, easy to read and understand, and concludes with questions for reflections.

I should also point out that his history with 9Marks shines forth. Though he doesn’t explicitly use the terms Ecclesiology and Biblical Theology he uses and explains them in simple and good ways.

What didn’t you love it?

Four stars would have meant “I really liked it” and five that “I loved it”. I can definitely say that about the truths in the book, but I’ve read better on the resurrection, but some of those “better” books may be too technical for some so I’d point them here first.

Another reason I didn’t “really like it” or “love it” was cause there was a couple sentences in there that seemed to keep the door open to Continuationism (strange, cause he used to be an elder at Capital Hill Baptist). However, it is a passing note and can easily be dealt with if taking someone along with you in this book. Also, the book seems to lose more and more focus as the chapters went on. I know the connections to the whole in my head, but I don’t think the book itself explained it well enough to make a new believer reading this on their own able to make sense of the last couple of chapters.

All in all:

All in all, the above aren’t huge deals but just why it didn’t get the four and five stars from me. 🙂 Outside of those small things I would recommend this book as a basic guide in the resurrection of Jesus and what living a resurrected life looks like, in that it answers the question that is ask, “How does the fact that Jesus is in heaven change the way that we live?”!

I’ll leave you with some quotes from the book:

“No one in Jesus’ service ever gives more to him than they get from him.”

“Jesus saves people into a community.”

“If you have resisted getting deeply involved in a church because the people are lame or weird or messy, you are missing a beautiful opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ by loving others despite their faults. And you are robbing others of a great opportunity to love you despite yours!”

“Your church is not in heaven,… nor is mine. It is a church built on heavenly principles, but stuffed full of sinful people. That kind of community is not easy.”

“The Internet makes communicating with people around the world fairly easy, but it does little to encourage us to get to know our neighbors or co-workers.”

“The story doesn’t stop at the wooden cross. It doesn’t stop at the empty tomb…”

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Book Review: “The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen”

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[Publisher $7.50 | Kindle $4.99]

When I first opened up the mail package and took this book out I was surprised how small it was (6.9 x 4.4 x 0.5 inches), just a little bigger than my hand. However, when I first opened up the pages of this book and began to look at its contents I found it was much more substantial than its appearance.

This book is part of the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality” series, edited by Joel Beeke and Michael Haykin, which aims to, “introduce the spirituality and piety of the  Reformed  tradition by  presenting descriptions of the lives of notable Christians with select passages from their works.”

Example of one of the full page pictures

Example of one of the full page pictures

Ryan M. McGraw (ed.) achieves his aims by beginning with a short biographical sketch (21 pages including several pages of full size pictures) of John Owen, specifically highlighting major events in his life that shaped his writing. Then the bulk of the book moves onto giving you 41 chapters (yes 41, but don’t be dismayed; the book only chimes in at 136 pages), each about two to three pages long, of “collected portions from primary sources.”

I think we’ve all heard things like, “Owen is a tough read!” or, “You have to read and re-read him to get anything out of him,… oh, but it is worth it!”

That makes this a perfect book for anyone who has always been afraid to dive into John Owen. The primary source chapters have even “updated his language and punctuation and added paragraph breaks” to make dipping into Owen even more accessible. If that isn’t enough, it is full of helpful footnotes and it even has an appendix on where to go from here in your reading of Owen.

All that to say, I really love the format of this book. It is an easy and accessible way to introduce oneself to the spiritual giants of our church history. If one is already familiar with Owen, one might consider using it as a 41-day devotional. Read one chapter a day (two to three small pages) and meditate on the great truths that Owen is writing on and I can’t see how you couldn’t be stirred up!

I think anyone who reads this book will see the benefits of reading the works of Owen and will no doubt want to take up and read more and more of his works.

John Owen Coat of Arms

[Note: You may view my highlights from the biography portion here.]

Book Review: The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008. 254pp. $16.00.

0cec69c028853f708858c875b6693795_400x400In his 1952 book by the same name, C.S. Lewis attempted to defend what he coined ‘mere’ Christianity. He described Christianity as a house that included Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and various strands of Protestantism. When a person is first converted, that person is a mere Christian in the great hallway of the house. From that hallway, a mere Christian can and should choose to go into one of the various rooms (denominations). Lewis was not as concerned with getting unbelievers into his particular room as he was with getting them into the great hallway. In keeping with Lewis’ emphasis on converting unbelievers to mere Christianity, Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, seeks to meet unbelievers in their doubts and lead them into the great hallway. In Keller’s own words, “I am making a case in this book for the truth of Christianity in general—not for one particular strand of it” (121).


In The Reason for God, Keller strikes a very pastoral, almost conversational tone. He is not primarily speaking to Christians; his intended audience is made up of doubters. Like C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity and Cornelius Van Til’s Why I Believe in God, rather than being an apologetics textbook, The Reason for God presents as a conversation piece for Christians and unbelievers. The main body of the book is broken up into two main parts—Part 1: The Leap of Doubt, and Part 2: The Reasons for Faith.

The Leap of Doubt

In this section, Keller addresses a host of misconceptions about God and Christianity. In the first chapter, he addresses the assumption that exclusivity in religion leads to bigotry by demonstrating that Christianity, while being exclusive, is a religion comprised of members who should themselves have been excluded. Writing Chapter Two, in dealing with the problem of suffering, Keller paints pictures of God and of heaven that are so desirous that, in theory, it retroactively erases all pain experienced this side of death.

Chapter Three is a case for the glory of slavery in the service of a King who became a Slave and died for His subjects. Keller’s goal in the fourth chapter is to point out the inconsistency of committing injustice while claiming the name of Christ. In Chapter Five, he demonstrates the fact that the God of the Bible is not a God primarily comprised of an all-inclusive love, but neither is such a god found in any of the texts of the myriad religions of the word. The seventh and final chapter of Part One demonstrates the folly of trying to interpret God and the Bible through the lens of a modern approach to history and culture.

The Reasons for Faith

After a brief intermission where Keller offers a brief apologetic for his approach to the subject matter, he returns with Part Two: Reasons for Faith.  Having briefly dealt with several reasons unbelievers may have to doubt Christianity, he turns to a positive case for faith. Chapter Eight is Keller’s case for the Christian approach to empirical evidences and against evolutionary science’s unsatisfactory attempt at dismissing divine evidences. He points to internal evidences such as moral obligation, in Chapter Nine, as evidence for God’s existence.

With Chapter Ten, Keller attacks the issue of sin and shows the necessity of the cross. Chapter Eleven is devoted to the demonstration of grace’s triumph over self-righteousness. His twelfth chapter is a demonstration of the relational and social implications of the cross. In Chapter Thirteen, he lays out his apology for the resurrection. The fourteenth and final chapter is a brief treatise on the glories of heaven. Keller concludes this work with an epilogue titled: Where Do We Go from Here? In this section, he walks the unbeliever through the process of conversion and incorporation into the body of Christ.

Critical Evaluation

Christians can gain much from reading The Reason for God. One thing that is immediately noticeable is the fact that no one can write on this subject without upsetting some, if not all, parties: believers and unbelievers, liberals and conservatives, evidentialists and presuppositionalists. However, Keller strikes a tone in this book that can be described in no other way than pastoral. While a case may be made that he makes too many concessions, he does not draw lines in the sand and die on hills where it is not dictated by the subject matter. When writing with such pastoral overtones, it can be difficult to toe the line between unbiblical compromise and gross reactionism. Keller is not always successful in toeing this line, but no one could argue that he has not made a valiant effort at doing so.

Furthermore, though Keller is very accessible and pastoral in his writing, it must be noted that he is widely read on the subject matter at hand. He quite obviously reads broadly, quoting from a wide array of Christian and non-Christian authors. The subject is doubtlessly one of great importance to him, one that he does not think worthy of minimal research and much conjecture. Keller’s heart and his effort in The Reason for God is to be commended highly.

However, there are a few concerns that arise in his method of argumentation. Keller approaches the doubt of an unbeliever as something that is ethically neutral. He makes the gross error of equivocating the common with the honorable. Everyone has their doubts. Thus, it must be honorable to put your doubts on display, right? Wrong. If Christians were to understand doubt for what it is: the sinful suppression of truth, they would reject this equivocation and cease treating the doubts of Christians and non-Christians as something to be praised.

At the end of Keller’s “Introduction,” he describes two scenes where Christ dealt with doubt in others. When found in the apostle Thomas, Christ is said to exhort Thomas to believe and to give him the evidence for which he asked. This is an incomplete account of the confrontation. Christ also rebuked his sinful doubt, “do not be unbelieving” (John 20:27; NASB), and compared him in a negative light with those who do not doubt (vs. 29). In the same way, the father of the epileptic boy in Mark 9 obviously understood the sinfulness of persistent doubt when he said, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (vs. 24). The Greek word here rendered “help” is a word meaning “come to the rescue of.” The direness and sinfulness of doubt are not adequately conveyed in Keller’s approach to unbelievers. Rather, he appears content to applaud their honesty, and join them in it, as long as it moves them to the next point in the discussion.

Of further concern is Keller’s doctrinal minimalism. He admits, as does Lewis in Mere Christianity, that he does see a point where every Christian ought to assume a broad-reaching doctrinal and corporate identity. However, his primary concern in the book is to make a case for “the truth of Christianity in general” (121). As such, the question must be asked how soon a new Christian ought to find a local church. Keller addresses this issue only as a byword, and only after much admitted trepidation, in his Epilogue. He affirms that new Christians must find local congregations with which to identify, but all-the-while passively validating their residual disdain for the bride of Christ (246-247).


In The Reason for God, Timothy Keller sets a commendable example for approaching unbelievers. He is always very cautious to breach the tough topics with much gentleness and humility. However, his method is not representative of a proper hamartiology (doctrine of sin). Doubt is not neutral as it relates to sin; it certainly is not commendable. Christians who engage the unbelieving world do them no favors by pretending that it is, whether in word or deed. Readers would do well to imitate Keller’s tone and patience with the unbelievers with which they come into contact. They would do just as well to approach his many concessions with great discernment, careful not to die on non-essential hills, but willing to draw the line in the sand on matters that are unquestionable in God’s Word.



Pick up The Reason for God today:ReasonForGod_040809.inddThe Reason for God paperback

by Timothy Keller