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June 19, 2015

I am a voracious and omnivorous reader. While necessity dictates that I focus much of my attention on Christian books, I supplement with all kinds of other genres. Here are a few of those other books I have enjoyed over the past couple of months. (If you are looking for Christian book suggestions, you can browse my Book Reviews section.)

Empire of DeceptionEmpire of Deception by Dean Jobb. You have heard of Charles Ponzi, I am sure, and his infamous scheme to enrich himself at the expense of others. If history rewarded the greater scandal, the scheme would actually be called the “Koretz Scheme” after Leo Koretz. Koretz was a master swindler who carried on a very similar racket for a much longer period of time and with much greater personal reward. In Empire of Deception Dean Jobb tells the fascinating story of a forgotten figure. And it is not only Jobb who fascinates, but the thousands of people whose naivite and greed made them such easy marks. This tale makes for great summer reading and in the telling provides important lessons for us all. (Buy it)

So You Have Been Publicly ShamedSo You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. All through history shaming has been used as a tactic for punishing and preventing poor behavior. Shaming conjures up images of people in the town square with their head in the stocks. Eventually, though, shaming was banned for simply being too cruel. But shaming has made a sudden and vicious comeback in the digital age. Ronson traces some of the best-known recent cases of public shaming and suggests that we urgently need to address this behavior. While we must insist on justice for those who do wrong, we also need to ensure that we protect the innocent and allow due process before using our social media powers to shame whoever we believe is guilty. (Note: This book provides many real-world examples and, therefore, needs to be rated PG-13, especially because of the kind of language it quotes.) (Buy it)

Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers by David McCullough. It is for good reason that David McCullough has twice won the Pulitzer Prize. Few historians have his ability to recount history with such skill and verve. His latest, and perhaps final work, is a biography of the Wright brothers. From their humble beginnings as bicycle mechanics in Dayton, Ohio, they achieved lasting, worldwide fame as the first to successfully take to the air in a machine-powered aircraft. This account is both thrilling and fascinating, a quintessentially American tale of opportunity, ingenuity, and determination. No one could tell it better than McCullough. All of his works deserve to be read, and this one is no exception. (Buy it)

Dead WakeDead Wake by Erik Larson. WORLD magazine named Dead Wake their history/biography book of the year and said this: “[Larson] masterfully tells the story of those responsible for sinking the Lusitania and makes us empathize with the ordinary men, women, and children who were war’s collateral damage. That appeal to emotion as well as intellect makes Dead Wake our history/biography book of the year.” I quite agree with their enthusiasm and their assessment. I found just one matter to critique: At times the author tiptoes a little too close to outright mellodrama for my tastes. Still, it is a fascinating and enjoyable read and a wonderful example of popular history. It is another ideal pick for lakeside summer reading. (Buy it)

The Successful Virtual Office in 30 Minutes by Melanie Pinola. You can only expect so much from a low-cost, 30-minute investment. However, if you are looking for some helpful tips on working from a home office or coordinating remote teams, I believe that this book will prove itself worth the time and cost. It offered me several useful refreshers and a handful of valuable tips. Since I read it I have implemented a few of its ideas to good effect. I intend to return to it regularly. (Buy it)

CatmullCreativity Inc. by Ed Catmull. Ed Catmull has been with Pixar Animation Studios since its founding and currently serves as its president. In Creativity Inc. he shares many principles that will be of special interest leaders and creatives. Of course there are thousands of books that share similar principles. But what Catmull’s book different is that he is able to describe them through the many successful and popular movies he has been involved with over the years (including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and so on). If you have enjoyed Pixar films in the past, and if you are involved in leadership or creativity, you may find this an especially accessible book. (Buy it)

Man Who Saved the UnionThe Man Who Saved the Union by H.W. Brands. I listened to The Man Who Saved the Union as part of my project to read a biography of each American president (see Biographies of U.S. Presidents). Brand’s telling of Grant’s life is lively and written at just the right pace. Of particular interest is Grant’s anonymity and consistent history of failure leading up to the war contrasted with his status as a national figure and presidential candidate by the end of the war. (Buy it)

May 25, 2015

It may be the email I get more than any other: Can you help me find a church? Sometimes I receive it when a person has come to new theological convictions and realizes that his current church is completely unsuitable, but far more often he has just moved across the country or across the world, has settled into his new home, and has now started the search for a new church.

Before I answer the question, can I encourage you to consider the importance of finding a new church before you move? If public worship and church community are as central to your life and faith as the New Testament suggests, then it can be perilous to move anywhere without first determining that there are suitable churches in that location. So many people will go and scout the neighborhoods, check out the schools, and leave a deposit on the new house, but forget all about the church until they have actually made the move and settled in. I recommend the opposite approach: Find the church first, and then start thinking about the other factors.

Now, how can you find a church in a new area? The easiest way I know is to begin with a trusted source that can make a recommendation. If you are affiliated with a denomination, it will be as simple as visiting the denomination’s web site. But for those who wish to search wider, I recommend beginning with a handful of church directories, each of which lists like-minded churches. These are the best three I know of:

The Gospel Coalition maintains a church directory that is open to any church that affirms their Foundation Documents. This at least narrows the search and can provide a few churches to visit and consider.

The Master’s Seminary maintains a Find a Church page which lists churches founded or pastored by their alumni. 

9Marks Church Search offers a similar directory for churches that wish to be affiliated with them. 

Between the three directories, you now have a good place to begin your search. In every case, a search of my area turns up very good results. One thing to keep in mind: The organizations that provide these directories simply list the churches, but do not vouch for them, so you will need to visit and assess.

Let me close with a suggestion for local churches: I think one of the most helpful features you can add to your church’s web page is an affiliations or recommendations page where you list and recommend like-minded ministries. This helps people who visit your site make connections with the wider Christian world. They may not know the name of your pastor or the theological positions of your church, but through these affiliations they can at least get a glimpse of who you are. Here is what we do at Grace Fellowship Church:

  • The Gospel Coalition is a group of pastors and churches that exist to promote gospel-centered ministry and biblically-faithful resources for the church. Grace Fellowship Church shares the doctrinal convictions and theological vision for ministry as outlined in their Foundation Documents.
  • Desiring God Ministries has influenced Grace Fellowship Church primarily through the writing and preaching of Pastor John Piper. Though we are not in formal affiliation with Desiring God, we share John Piper’s convictions about the Bible’s teaching on God’s sovereignty, salvation, mission, suffering, and the way one should live the Christian life.
  • 9Marks Ministries, founded by Pastor Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, has been formative in our understanding of how a church is to be governed.

Those who visit our site as part of their search for a new church invariably find this page just as helpful as our sermons and our statement of faith.

Image credit: Shutterstock

May 22, 2015

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books, and every few weeks I like to provide a round-up of what is new and particularly notable. It has been a full month since my last update, and an awful lot of books have shown up since then. I will start with new additions to several excellent commentary series, and then move to a few general interest books.

Edwards LukeThe Gospel According to Luke by James Edwards (Pillar New Testament Commentary). It is always noteworthy when a major commentary series receives a new volume, and that is the case with the PNTC, which is widely regarded as one of the most consistently excellent series. Here is the publisher’s description: “Though Luke is often thought to have a primarily Gentile focus, Edwards counterbalances that perspective by citing numerous evidences of Luke’s overarching interest in depicting Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s providential work in the history of Israel, and he even considers the possibility that Luke himself was a Jew. In several excursuses Edwards discusses particular topics, including Luke’s infancy narratives, the mission of Jesus as the way of salvation, and Luke’s depiction of the universal scope of the gospel. While fully conversant with all the latest scholarship, Edwards writes in a lively, fluent style that will commend this commentary to ministers, students, scholars, and many other serious Bible readers.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Hebrews HughesHebrews by Kent Hughes (Preaching the Word). Previously published in two volumes, Kent Hughes’ excellent commentary on Hebrews is now one volume and updated with the ESV text. “In this insightful commentary, readers will find a gold mine of helpful discussion related to a book of the Bible that is easily misunderstood and often overlooked. Written by a pastor with decades of ministry and preaching experience, this volume abounds with wise insights into the book of Hebrews. With divisions and outlines that are never forced but flow naturally from the Biblical text, this commentary will be a great resource for anyone studying or teaching the book of Hebrews.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Song of Songs DuguidThe Song of Songs by Iain Duguid (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries). Here is yet another series being updated with a volume written by a trusted author. “This Old Testament book, ‘the best of songs,’ has fascinated and perplexed interpreters for centuries. We hear the passionate melody of romantic love, and are confronted by erotic imagery—but whose love is described? Is it a couple’s love for each other, God’s love for his people, or a poem that speaks to love in all its dimensions? Iain Duguid’s commentary explains how the Song is designed to show us an idealized picture of married love, in the context of a fallen and broken world. It also convicts us of how far short of this perfection we fall, both as humans and as lovers, and drives us repeatedly into the arms of our true heavenly husband, Jesus Christ.” (Buy it or learn more at Amazon or Westminster Books)

May 20, 2015

WTS Commentaries
Westminster Books is having a great sale on commentaries—the Tyndale Commentary series that spans both the Old Testament and the New. For the next few days you can buy single volumes at $12 each. (The list price is closer to $18.) If you buy 5 or more volumes the price drops to $10 each, which represents quite a bargain. These are reader-friendly commentaries ideal for layperson or pastor alike. I get excited about sales like these because I love great commentaries!

While I am not aware of any of these volumes being bad, there are quite a few that are especially good. Some time ago I compiled a list of the top-5 commentaries for each book of the Bible (though I still need to finish out the Minor Prophets). This top-5 was not based on my assessment but on a group of experts who have written commentaries on the commentaries. Here is a list of each of the Tyndale commentaries that is considered among the best on that book of the Bible.

Old Testament

New Testament

Happy shopping! And even better, happy reading!

April 24, 2015

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books, and every few weeks I like to provide a round-up of what is new and particularly notable. Here’s the most recent list as we come to the end of April.

PsalmsPsalms: From Suffering to Glory by Philip Eveson. Despite their centrality to the Bible and their importance to Christian worship, the Psalms seem under-served when it comes to excellent, orthodox commentaries. This commentary is the newest volume in the excellent Welwyn Commentary Series and it looks promising. Here’s what the publisher says: “The Psalms continue to have an enormous influence on people’s lives all round the world and down the centuries they have brought comfort and encouragement to countless millions of people. In this commentary, Philip Eveson brings his skills as an Old Testament scholar, blended with a warm pastor’s heart to produce a work that will serve the student, the preacher/teacher and the devotional reader equally well.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

GenesisGenesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?, edited by Charles Halton. This is the latest volume in Zondervan’s Counterpoints series of multi-authored books, and it deals with an issue of critical importance: what exactly is the book of Genesis? “There is little doubt that in recent years the nature of the Genesis narrative has sparked much debate among Christians. This Counterpoints volume introduces three predominant interpretive genres and their implications for biblical understanding. Each contributor identifies their position on the genre of Genesis 1-11, addressing why it is appropriate to the text, and contributes examples of its application to a variety of passages. The contributors and views include: James K. Hoffmeier: Theological History, Gordon J. Wenham: Proto-History, and Kenton K. Sparks: Ancient Historiography.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

DeYoungWhat Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung. This is the publisher’s description, though I think the title pretty much says what you need to know: “In this timely book, award-winning author Kevin DeYoung challenges each of us—the skeptic, the seeker, the certain, and the confused—to take a humble look at God’s Word regarding the issue of homosexuality. After examining key biblical passages in both the Old and New Testaments and the Bible’s overarching teaching regarding sexuality, DeYoung responds to popular objections raised by Christians and non-Christians alike, making this an indispensable resource for thinking through one of the most pressing issues of our day.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Study BibleThe Reformation Study Bible. Ligonier Ministries recently released the second edition of their excellent Reformation Study Bible, and it’s bigger and better than ever. “The Reformation Study Bible (2015) has been thoroughly revised and carefully crafted under the editorial leadership of R.C. Sproul and the contributions of 75 distinguished theologians and pastors from around the world. Over 1.1 million words of new, expanded, or revised commentary represent 40% more content faithfully presented to emphasize the need for the grace of God to lead out of darkness and into the light of Scripture.” You won’t be surprised to know that it is distinctly Protestant and distinctly Reformed in its point-of-view. Be sure when you buy it that you are buying the 2015 edition. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Mormonism 101Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Revised and Expanded) by Bill McKeever & Eric Johnson. With Mormonism surging, and with some Evangelicals now minimizing the difference between Evangelicals and Mormons, it is wise to know a little bit about the Latter-Day Saints. “Mormonism is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. For those who have wondered in what specific ways Mormonism differs from the Christian faith, Mormonism 101 provides definitive answers, examining the major tenets of Mormon theology and comparing them with orthodox Christian beliefs. Perfect for students of religion and anyone who wants to have answers when Mormons come calling.” Make sure you look for the new second edition. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

Pastor and CounselingThe Pastor and Counselling: The Basics of Shepherding Members In Need by Jeremy Pierre & Deepak Reju. I don’t know of too many areas where pastors tend to feel they are weaker than in the area of counseling. “Pastors spend much of their time counseling people in crisis—a delicate task that requires one to carefully evaluate each situation, share relevant principles from God’s Word, and offer practical suggestions for moving forward. Too often, however, pastors feel unprepared to effectively shepherd their people through difficult circumstances such as depression, adultery, eating disorders, and suicidal thinking. Written to help pastors and church leaders understand the basics of biblical counseling, this book provides an overview of the counseling process from the initial meeting to the final session. It also includes suggestions for cultivating a culture of discipleship within a church and four appendixes featuring a quick checklist, tips for taking notes, and more.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

I will also let you in on a little secret: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of John MacArthur’s next book which is set to be released in October of this year. It is titled Parables: The Mysteries of God’s Kingdom Revealed Through the Stories Jesus Told. You can keep an eye out for that one this fall.

April 21, 2015

There is little doubt that abortion is one of the greatest horrors of our time. I am very confident that a day will come when future generations will express shock and amazement that we ever allowed such a genocide to take place. They will be amazed that so many stood idly by, and that so many others denied what is very obvious: That a pre-born child is still a child with the rights of any other human being.

I recently stumbled upon a new documentary series from PBS titled Twice Born. This series looks at the new and groundbreaking medical frontier that is fetal surgery. It gives access to the doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and who specialize in surgeries that are done on babies while they are still inside their mother’s wombs. This series is one of the greatest arguments against abortion you will ever see.

Through the three episodes of Twice Born we are introduced to four parents or sets of parents, though the vast majority of the attention goes to two of them: Lesly, a mother whose child was delivered via an EXIT procedure (where the baby is partially delivered so the doctors can perform her surgery) and Bobby and Shelly, whose daughter needed fetal surgery for Spina Bifida. I found myself especially intrigued by Bobby and Shelly since they make it clear that they are Christians and that they are filtering all they experience through a biblical lens.

As I watched the episodes unfold, there were several things that stood out to me.

The series testifies to God’s common grace. God is good and he freely and widely dispenses grace to the people he has made. In Twice Born we see that “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145:9). We see doctors and nurses who are not Christians and who may even deny the existence of God, but we see them using the gifts and talents God has given them to do astounding things. They perform the most difficult and intricate medical procedures, accomplishing things that just a few years ago we could not even have imagined. They do their jobs with love, compassion, and amazing skill.

The series proclaims the value of life. The parents who walk into The Children’s Hospital do not talk about their blob of tissue or their little fetus. They have absolutely no doubt that they are carrying a child and they have no doubt that they want to do what is best for that child. While the subject of “termination” does come up at one point, the parents obviously cannot even tolerate the thought of ending the life of their child. Twice Born makes it plain: life in the womb is real life.

The series testifies that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). The doctors describe the intricacy of the human body and the amazing reality that they are operating on children who are just a few inches in size and still months away from being born. The cameras catch the incredible beauty and function of the human form. The parents marvel at the children given to them. God reveals himself as the ultimate artist.

Twice Born is a powerful documentary and one I commend to you. Though it makes no attempt to further the pro-life position, it cannot help but do so. It is a joy to watch as it powerfully proclaims the goodness and the greatness of the Creator.

If you are in America you should be able to watch the series for free online at PBS.org. If you are overseas you may be able to purchase the DVD, or wait and hope that it comes to Netflix.

Note: If you are squeamish you may want to be aware that the series can be a little bit graphic when it comes to the medical procedures. Also, some viewers may object to a scene in the first episode where a very pregnant mother sits through a photo shoot wearing just a bra or bikini top.

April 17, 2015

A friend and I were talking recently, and we discussed the current state of Christian publishing. He asked me, “What really good books have not yet been written?” I thought about it for a little while and came up with 7 books I would definitely read.

Al Mohler’s memoirs. There are some people whose lives merit a biography, and Mohler is definitely among them. But I would prefer to read Mohler’s memoirs than to read a traditional biography. He has a unique way of expressing himself and of relating his experiences, and I am convinced that some of this—too much of this—would be lost if someone else wrote an account of his life. So Dr. Mohler’s memoirs: this is at the top of my list, and I hope that some day he will publish them. I’d be first in line at the bookstore.

A biography of John MacArthur. Yes, I know that Iain Murray has already written a biography of John MacArthur, and it was pretty good. But, by Murray’s own admission, it is far from the final word. After all, its subject is still alive and still active in life and ministry, so the story of his life is not yet complete. What is undeniable is that MacArthur has had a profound influence on the world and on the church; few people have a real understanding of all he has accomplished, and all the Lord has accomplished through him. A great biography would allow us to glorify God for all he has done through MacArthur’s life and ministry.

R.C. Sproul on how to teach. R.C. Sproul has proven himself one of the most gifted Christian teachers of our time. While there may be more gifted preachers, I cannot think of a single Christian leader who has greater skill as a teacher—something you probably know if you have watched any of those teaching series where he stands in front of his chalk board and simply explains theology or philosophy or any other topic for 25 minutes at a time. I would love to read a book in which Sproul provides guidance on the art, the skill, and the necessity of teaching.

D.A. Carson on Revelation. D.A. Carson is, of course, a notable theologian who has already written several excellent commentaries as well as a host of other important books and articles. He has already left his mark on the church in many ways, but I would love to see him also add a commentary on Revelation. This would give us one of our most brilliant theologians commenting on the most difficult book of the Bible. What a gift! (And yes, I am aware that Carson is slated to write the PNTC volume on Revelation.)

Iain Murray on the Young, Restless, Reformed. It was a few years ago now that Collin Hansen wrote his book Young, Restless, Reformed, and a lot has transpired since then. While it is probably still too soon, I would eventually like to read a full history of the movement—where it came from, what it has accomplished, and what weaknesses were inevitably exposed over time. I suspect Iain Murray is close enough to the movement to understand it, but distant enough to be able to bring objectivity.

The final book by John MacArthur and the final book by R.C. Sproul. This one may not be realistic, but I would love to read a book written by each of these authors that was intended as his final book. This would be a book each of them intends as his last word to the church, the last word at the end of a long and faithful ministry. Here is where they would offer their final challenge to the church as their public ministry comes to an end. I think both books would be utterly fascinating and deeply challenging.

There are many other books I would love to read, but this list represents at least a good start.

April 14, 2015

No Regrets No RetreatI don’t use the television much anymore. There was a time when I watched a lot of movies and a lot of programs, but these days there isn’t a lot that catches my attention enough to actually dedicate the time to it. There isn’t much that promises more value than I would get from the same time spent with a good book. But I always make an exception for Dispatches from the Front.

Dispatches from the Front is a growing series of videos that follow Tim Keesee as he travels around the world, looking for the hidden and persecuted church. Previous dispatches have taken him to Eastern Europe, North Africa, India, and just about every other region where the church is in danger. The most recent episode, No Regrets, No Retreat takes him all the way to China.

But fittingly, Keesee begins in England. It was, after all, England that first sent Christian missionaries to China. The great Hudson Taylor caught a vision for China and founded China Inland Mission which eventually sent a host of men and women to the far side of the world. As Keesee says at the outset, China has always been to missionaries what Everest is to mountain climbers. The sheer size of the country has always been both daunting and challenging. For most of her history, and certainly her modern history, China has been hostile to the faith. And yet the scope and danger of the challenge has only served as increased motivation for generation after generation of missionaries.

Those missionaries did what God called them to, and the gospel did its work. Today there may be as many as 100 million Christians in China, and China has a growing and thriving church movement all her own. While there are still dangers associated with being a Christian, and especially so outside of the government-sanctioned churches, the government is having to face the reality that their attempts to stamp out Christianity have utterly failed and, if anything, have only catalyzed greater growth. With the church in rapid decline in the west, it is not hard to imagine a future in which China returns the favor, and begins sending missionaries to England and North America.

In this episode, Keesee spends most of his time with one Chinese Christian, one woman, who for decades has been active in teaching and evangelism and even running Christian bookstores. He goes with her to major population centers and to smaller locations, always meeting other Christians, always hearing their stories, and always being encouraged by their deep-rooted faith.

I have enjoyed each one of the episodes of Dispatches from the Front and equally enjoyed the book by the same title. (You can read my review here.) I even took some time out of my vacation last summer to sit and enjoy a coffee with Tim. I regard him as a trusted guide to each of the locations he visits, and have benefited immensely from his interactions with Christians in those places I will never be able to visit. I look forward to each new episode and gladly commend to you both this episode and the entire series. Watch them and you will be both challenged and encouraged.

No Regrets, No Retreat: China is available only in DVD format; for the next few days you can get it for just $6 at Westminster Books (which is a 60% discount). You can also get the complete collection of 8 episodes for just $42.

April 10, 2015

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books, and, well, they just keep coming! In the last couple of weeks my mailbox has been very nearly flooded by books, many of which look just excellent. Here are a few of the highlights.

Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves. I intend to give this one a read, simply because of how much I enjoyed Delighting in the Trinity. “If we want to know who God is, the best thing we can do is look at Christ. If we want to live the life to which God calls us, we look to Christ. In Jesus we see the true meaning of the love, power, wisdom, justice, peace, care and majesty of God. Michael Reeves, author of Delighting in the Trinity, opens to readers the glory and wonder of Christ, offering a bigger and more exciting picture than many have imagined. Jesus didn’t just bring us the good news. He is the good news. Reeves helps us celebrate who Christ is, his work on earth, his death and resurrection, his anticipated return and how we share in his life. This book, then, aims for something deeper than a new technique or a call to action. In an age that virtually compels us to look at ourselves, Michael Reeves calls us to look at Christ. As we focus our hearts on him, we see how he is our life, our righteousness, our holiness and our hope.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

The Quest for the Historical Adam: Genesis, Hermeneutics, and Human Origins by William Vandoodewaard. Here’s a work by a trusted author on an awfully important subject. “Was Adam really a historical person, and can we trust the biblical story of human origins? Or is the story of Eden simply a metaphor, leaving scientists the job to correctly reconstruct the truth of how humanity began? Although the church currently faces these pressing questions exacerbated as they are by scientific and philosophical developments of our age we must not think that they are completely new. In The Quest for the Historical Adam, William VanDoodewaard recovers and assesses the teaching of those who have gone before us, providing a historical survey of Genesis commentary on human origins from the patristic era to the present. Reacquainting the reader with a long line of theologians, exegetes, and thinkers, VanDoodewaard traces the roots, development, and, at times, disappearance of hermeneutical approaches and exegetical insights relevant to discussions on human origins. This survey not only informs us of how we came to this point in the conversation but also equips us to recognize the significance of the various alternatives on human origins.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Song of Songs: A Biblical-Theological, Allegorical, Christological Interpretation by James Hamilton. I deeply respect both the author and the commentary series, so I suspect this must be a really good resource. “In the Song of Songs the son of David, King in Jerusalem, overcomes hostility and alienation to renew intimacy between himself and his Bride. This most sublime Song sings of a love sure as the seal of Yahweh, a flashing flame of fire many waters could never quench. James M. Hamilton Jr, in this latest addition to the popular Focus on the Bible series, pours fresh light on this inspiring and uplifting book.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement: 3 Views, edited by Andy Naselli & Mark Snoeberger. This is one of two new volumes in B&H’s “Perspectives” series. “Perspectives on the Extent of the Atonement presents a point-counterpoint exchange concerning God’s intention in sending Christ to die on the cross. All three contributors recognize a substitutionary element in the atoning work of Christ, but disagree over the nature and objects of that substitution. Carl Trueman (Westminster Theological Seminary) argues that Christ’s atoning work secured the redemption of his elect alone. While infinite in value, Christ’s death was intended for and applied strictly to those whom the Father had elected unconditionally in eternity past. John Hammett (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) argues that Christ’s atoning work had multiple intentions. Of these intentions two rise to the fore: (1) the intention to accomplish atonement for God’s elect and (2) the intention to provide atonement for all mankind. Grant Osborne (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) argues that Christ’s atoning work provided atonement generally for all mankind. The application of that atoning work is conditioned, however, on each person’s willingness to receive it.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Perspectives on IsraelPerspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views, edited by Chad Brand. And here’s the second new volume in the “Perspectives” series. “The relationship between Israel and the church is one of the most debated issues in the history of theology. Some hold the view that there is almost seamless continuity between Israel and the church, while others believe there is very little continuity. Additional perspectives lie between these two. This debate has contributed to the formation of denominations and produced a variety of political views about the state of Israel. To advance the conversation, Perspectives on Israel and the Church brings together respected theologians representing four positions: Traditional covenantal view by Robert L. Reymond; Traditional dispensational view by Robert L. Thomas; Progressive dispensational view by Robert L. Saucy; Progressive covenantal view by Chad Brand and Tom Pratt Jr.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

Everyday Grace: Infusing All Your Relationships with the Love of Jesus by Jessica Thompson. “It’s hard, sometimes, to get over that thing your husband said weeks ago; or to resolve that tension with your colleague at work; or to fix a lifelong friendship that’s taken a bad turn. The biggest problem with relationships is they always seem to involve sinners—including ourselves. So how can we form strong, resilient bonds with people who, like us, are bound to mess up? Thankfully, it’s not all on us. Through stories and biblical teaching, Jessica Thompson helps us move beyond trying to “fix” the people we interact with, and shows us a better way. Though our relationships may be marred by tension and frustration, because we are welcomed and known by Christ, they don’t have to stay that way.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

March 19, 2015

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books, and at this time of the year my desk is almost overflowing with all of them. Here are a few of the highlights that have shown up in the past few weeks.

PhilippiansPhilippians: A Mentor Commentary by Matthew Harmon. The Mentor commentaries from Christian Focus has long been an excellent and trustworthy series. Harmon’s volume now extends the series to Philippians. I have only skimmed through the book, but have already found some excellent insights. It comes with endorsements from Thomas Schreiner, Douglas Moo, Robert W. Yarbrough, Justin Taylor, and James Hamilton. Here is the publisher’s brief description: “Christians throughout the centuries have loved Paul’s letter to the Philippians for its call to rejoice in the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of life’s circumstances. But our familiarity with the letter can cause us to neglect or overlook Paul’s message to the Philippians. Dr Matthew Harmon in this uplifting and inspiring work brings context and application to this wonderful book.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

ActsActs by Guy Prentiss Waters. Mentor commentaries is not the only series that has grown this month. Evangelical Press Study Commentaries is another fantastic series and it has now added a volume on Acts written by Guy Prentiss Waters who is Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. Derek Thomas commends the volume with these words: “Dr. Waters is the ideal commentator on Acts. Scholarly, pastoral, theological all these and more combine in making this my first resource for Luke s second volume. An outstanding contribution to the series and deserving of the appellation, Essential!” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

MacArthurThe Shepherd as Preacher: Delivering God’s Word with Passion and Power, edited by John MacArthur. This is the first of a short series of books called “The Shepherd’s Library,” and the material is a kind of “best-of” from the many years of The Shepherd’s Conference. Here is the publisher’s description: “When you consider all that God desires to accomplish through preaching, it becomes apparent why it’s such a big deal. It’s God’s main means of feeding, comforting, correcting, and protecting His people—as well as pointing unbelievers to Christ. Such an enormous responsibility deserves a pastor’s best. In The Shepherd as Preacher, you’ll find the best encouragement and guidance available on how you can preach God’s Word God’s way. With John MacArthur and other outstanding Bible teachers, you’ll survey the essentials every minister needs to know, including the focus and purpose of biblical preaching, the character of a faithful preacher, the keys to effective preaching, how to preach in the Spirit’s power.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

BillingsRejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ by J. Todd Billings. I have heard a lot about this book, and every word of it has been glowingly positive. The publisher says, simply, “A Christian theologian shares his journey, struggle, and reflections on providence, lament, and life in Christ in light of his diagnosis of incurable cancer” but you may gain more insight by Michael Horton’s endorsement: “Every chapter brims with pools of insight, pointing us beyond platitudes to the God who has met us—and keeps on meeting us—in the Suffering and Risen Servant. This is a book not just for reading but for meditation and prayer.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

ThiseltonThe Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology by Anthony Thiselton. This is a big reference volume that looks very helpful. “Covering everything from “Abba” to “Zwingli,” The Thiselton Companion to Christian Theology offers a comprehensive account of a wide sweep of topics and thinkers in Christian theology. Written entirely by eminent scholar Anthony Thiselton, the book features a coherence lacking in most multiauthored volumes. Drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge, gained from fifty-plus years of study and teaching, Thiselton provides some six hundred articles on various aspects of theology throughout the centuries. The entries comprise both short descriptive surveys and longer essays of original assessment on central theological topics…” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

30 Events30 Events That Shaped the Church: Learning from Scandal, Intrigue, War, and Revival by Alton Gansky. I like books like this one, that approach history not only chronologically but also thematically. “The church of today did not appear on the earth fully formed; rather, it developed over the centuries. Following Jesus’ command to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, the apostles and their spiritual descendants have grown the church through times of peace and times of war, through persecution and pilgrimage. The church that began as a ragtag group of Middle Eastern fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots became the multiethnic, multifaceted church we know today through historical events that, while they may seem distant, have a direct effect on our everyday lives. Now thirty of these course-altering events are brought vividly to life by consummate storyteller Alton Gansky. Spanning twenty centuries of history, this lively book will entertain, educate, and enlighten you even as it enriches your appreciation for those who have come before us in the faith.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

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