30 April 2010

Book Notes-April 2010

1. What's so Great About the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard D. Phillips (2008). This is a great introductory book on TULIP, or the doctrines of grace. I would recommend it for anyone who has an interest in Reformed theology. 4 stars.

2. Seeing With New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture by David Powlison (2003). This was my first introduction into Biblical counseling. David Powlison is a master at explaining his craft and identifying how to meet people's needs in the midst of their brokenness. 4.5 stars.

3. Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur (2010). Ashamed of the Gospel, now in its 3rd edition, was first published in 1993. In it, MacArthur issues a strong call for a return to Biblical theology rather than "church marketing." He points out many of the "trends" that come and go in the church and how they are decidedly not Biblical. He bases much of his book on Charles Spurgeon's outcry against "the Down Grade." It seems a move away from Biblical theology plagues every generation, but God's word continues to stand. 4 stars.

4. Polishing God's Monuments by Jim Andrews (2007). This book was Tim Challies' favorite book of 2007. Although I don't quite share his enthusiasm for this book, it was well written, and as he noted, combines biography and theology well. It is a worthwhile read, particularly for those in the midst of long-suffering. 3.5 stars.

5. Can I Trust the Bible? by RC Sproul (1980). This short book was Sproul's commentary on the Chicago summit on Biblical inerrancy. It is a good intro, for those interested in such things. 3 stars.

6. The Richest Man Who Ever Lived by Steven K Scott (2006). As I was pondering the direction of my life recently, a good friend of mine lent me this book. Once I began reading it, I realized that I had previously seen Scott at a conference selling what seemed to be a new "get rich quick" plan. This book is essentially a success manual based upon the wisdom of king Solomon as laid out in Proverbs. There is a lot of useful information in the book, but all in all, I found it disagreeable. First, Scott holds up Oprah Winfrey and JD Rockerfeller as the standards of success in several places. From a Christian perspective, their lives are anything but successful. He also basically says that following these guidelines is a recipe for success and happiness. What happens if a person follows the advice and still does not meet his definition of happiness? Phillipians 1 says that we will suffer if we are Christ followers. In the last book I read, the author wrote, "the abnormal state of Christian existence on this planet is an untroubled life." So, the bottom line is that although Scott rightly points out that there is deep wisdom to be gained in Proverbs, I think we need to be cautious of openly seeking prosperity in this life. 2.5 stars.

7. Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William Struthers (2009). Struthers presents a perspective on pornography from the perspective of a Christian neuropsychologist. Interesting book. Some of the brain stuff is pretty basic, but appropriate for the level of the book. He also clearly espouses a position of non-reductive physicalism (rather than dualism), which is so common among Christian neuropsychologists. I am not sure I am sold on it yet; I guess I will have to do more reading. 3 stars

8. Be Still My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering edited by Nancy Guthrie (2010). This book was recommended by my good friend, Gen. It contains a wonderful selection of writings from an exceptional group of writers, ranging from Augustine to John Piper about the issue of suffering. I would happily recommend this book to anyone dealing with the issue of suffering. 5 stars.

9. 100 Cupboards by ND Wilson (2007). First book in the fantasy trilogy. Very captivating story of a young man who discovers a series of cupboards in his bedroom at his aunt and uncle's farm that lead him to a world of adventure. 4.5 stars.

10. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever (2007). Short little book on evangelism, not just getting commitments, but presenting the full gospel of Christ. Definitely a worthwhile read. 4 stars.

11. Tactics: A Gameplan for Discussing your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl (2009). I first encountered Greg Koukl on Zach Nielsen's blog and he piqued my interest. I then started listing to the Stand To Reason podcast with some regularity because Mr Koukl makes apologetics accessible to everyone. I decided to read this book and, much like his podcast, I was not at all disappointed. He communicates clearly about how to communicate clearly. 4.5 stars.

12. Does Prayer Change Things? by RC Sproul (1984). Excellent book on prayer by Sproul. His theme is that prayer does change things, but does not change the mind of God. Next to Paul Miller's A Praying Life, this is an excellent little volume--not only about why we pray, but also how to pray, what we can expect from prayer, and when we should pray. 4 stars.

This month, my book of the month would have to go to the short little collection by Nancy Guthrie. It is an exceptional resource for those going through suffering and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

20 April 2010

Awesome God

We have too small a view of God. Signs are all around our culture. Two bumper stickers I saw recently bring this into stark view. One read "God is my co-pilot" and the other, a celebration of Dale Earnhart, "I guess God needed a driver." I also heard recently that a Christian merchandising company, with complete disregard for the 2nd commandment, is planning to make a 2 foot "stuffed God" complete with a flowing white beard.

Although I have not read Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, apparently one of his key arguments against the existence of God is that the universe is huge and God would need to be even bigger and more awesome than the universe. Yes, Dr Dawkins, He would need to be and He is.

God needs nothing from us. He is the great I AM.

King David did not have a small view of God. Consider Psalm 97: 1-7.

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and burns up his adversaries all around.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
who make their boast in worthless idols;
worship him, all you gods!

Fire goes before Him, not a polyester white beard. He burns up those who stand against Him. The earth itself trembles. Mountains melt. Have you ever tried to melt a stone? Even just a pebble? In God's presence, mountains melt away like wax. Does this really seem like someone who needs a driver?

American Christians have a hard time understanding the concept of fear of God. David got it. So did Abram, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John--all Godly men--all terrified in the presence of God. If you read about any of these men, you will discover that when they encountered the glory of God, they immediately fell on their face. I doubt they tenderly got to their knees and then slowly laid on the ground. They fell out.

It is only through Christ's sacrificial work on the cross that we can bear to be in the presence of our holy and powerful God. When it says to fear God, take it seriously. He is truly awesome. When we understand his awesomeness and what it means to fear Him, the gift of Christ on the cross will also lead us to a much deeper humility.