Book review: Big Picture Story Bible
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Big Picture Story Bible Publisher: Crossway Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes It seems to me that most Christians fail to grasp the flow of redemptive history – understanding the actions of God in saving His church, from Creation to Consummation. I know I had very little training in this regard and have been extremely thankful for the work of scholars like D. A. Carson in helping to grow my understanding. While at the 2005 Bethlehem Conference for Pastor’s I suddenly had that rush of adrenaline as I realized I had not bought anything to take home to my kids yet! (My Dad always came back from business trips with a present and I loved it!) So, I ran down to the book tables to see what I could find for my brood. I didn’t have much of a problem stocking up for the older ones, but I could not find anything for my then 3-year old son. In desperation I grabbed The Big Picture Story Bible and rushed off to the airport (after paying for it!). My thought at the time was that this was just a Bible… that was big (since it is)… and…

Book review: Seeing with New Eyes
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Seeing with New Eyes Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture Publisher: P & R Publishing Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Author David Powlison is one of the foremost theologian-practitioners in the modern biblical counseling movement. Seeing with New Eyes compiles articles previously penned (over a period of two decades) by Powlison, all centered around the theme of a theology of biblical counseling. Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him Powlison defines counseling very practically as "intentionally helpful conversations." His goal in Seeing with New Eyes is to equip readers to look at such spiritual conversations through God’s perspective—this encompasses the "new eyes" of the title. We see everything in life and ministry entirely differently when God’s eyes become our lens. Powlison uses the common and very helpful model of creation, fall, and redemption to unfold Scriptures’ view of people, problems, and solutions. It is through this three-fold conceptual grid that Seeing with New Eyes seeks to assist the church in the care and cure of souls. The premise is simply profound: Does God have a take on counseling? Powlison answers in the affirmative: God’s gaze has everything to say about the myriad issues counseling…

Book review: Rethinking the Church
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Rethinking the Church A Challenge to Creative Redesign in an Age of Transition Publisher: Baker Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Rethinking The Church explores the nature of the church with a view to making the necessary changes that will ensure that the church remains relevant to our culture. The author proceeds from the foundation that much of what we do and see in today’s churches is derived from 17th to 19th century culture, and as such has lost much of its relevance to our postmodern society. We need to critically examine our churches to discern to the world today and what is simply tradition holding over from days gone by. White draws heavily on the writings of Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and George Barna: so heavily, in fact, that it often seems he has little to say that is truly original. If you have read The Purpose Driven Church and are familiar with Hybels’ writings, you will find a lot of repetition in this book. Still, at only 128 pages it is an easy read and still worth your while. If you have not read books on this topic before, this makes an excellent introduction. This…

Book review: Puritans and Calvinism
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Puritans and Calvinism Publisher: Reiner Publications Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Pursuing God – A Seeker’s Guide is a book for those who are drawn to God and yearn to understand more about Him. Intended as a tool for evangelism, it is written in a warn and conversational style. Over sixty pages, author Jim Elliff, president of Christian Communicators Worldwide, leads the reader through the all-important questions and answers in what is a clear and biblical presentation of the gospel. I took me only a couple of pages to realize that I was going to like this book. On page seven Elliff asks, "What does God think of me?" So many Christians are afraid to address this question from a biblical perspective for fear of driving people away. But Elliff answers, "The answer to this question may surprise you – and disappoint you. But the disappointment is necessary. If you do not fully understand the awful predicament that sin puts you in, you may never appreciate Christ’s coming, death and resurrection enough to become a Christian." Later he says, "Nobody was ever converted to Christ without knowing, and feeling deeply, the terribleness of sin and his or…

Book review: Not Even a Hint
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Not Even a Hint Guarding Your Heart Against Lust Publisher: Multnomah Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Two of the first books I ever reviewed dealt with the topic of sexual purity. One of these books, Every Man’s Battle by Steve Arterburn, stands out in my mind and the review I wrote continues to generate emails even several years later. The main teaching of his book is the concept of "bouncing" the eyes. What this means is that when a man sees something that is sexually tempting he is to immediately divert his eyes. The authors state that most men, after six weeks of doing this, will make it a habit and will no longer struggle with lust the way they once did. Their eyes will naturally bounce away from objects they once found alluring. When men stop filling their minds with lustful images, they can then learn to control their thoughts and stop the cycle of sexual fantasy. This is exactly the kind of solution people love to find in a book of this nature. It is a simple plan and one that depends largely on the willpower of the individual. Sadly, though, it is a…

Book review: Spurgeon
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Spurgeon The New Biography By Arnold Dallimore Publisher: Moody Press Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes There are more biographies devoted to Charles Spurgeon than to just about any other Christian figure. The first were written before his death (including his own autobiography) and hundreds have been written since. In the two years following his death, new biographies were published at the rate of one per month! One would be justified in asking, then, why we need another one. Arnold Dallimore answers this question in the preface, saying that in his studies he discovered no definitive volume. He found, for example, that no other biography gave a satisfactory account of Spurgeon’s ability as a theologian or the methods he used in leading souls to Christ. Also, his character was often made to appear weaker than it really was. And so Dallimore sought to remedy these faults in his volume which was first published in 1984. I quote again from the preface: “I trust that, at least to some extent, this book provides a more satisfactory account of the great Spurgeon…I have endeavored to understand and present something of the inner man – Spurgeon in his praying, his…

Book review: Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Becoming Conversant With The Emerging Church Understanding a Movement and Its Implications Publisher: Zondervan Publishing Company Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes While much has been written about the Emerging Church (henceforth known as EC), D.A. Carson is, as far as I know, the first person to write a book-length treatment evaluating and leveling critiques at the movement. At any rate he is certainly the most widely-respected. And yes, I know the EC leaders prefer to call it a "conversation," but since Carson does not shy from calling it a movement, nor will I. In Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, subtitled "Understanding a Movement and its Implications," Carson seeks to introduce the movement, assess it, and address several of the most glaring weaknesses. There are few men who are better suited to this task. Carson is a scholar and is known for his conservative, biblical theology as much as for his sound research and presentation skills. All of those admirable attributes are displayed throughout this book. In the preface Carson writes, "Whenever a Christian movement comes along that presents itself as reformist, it should not be summarily dismissed. Even if one ultimately decides that the movement…

Book review: The Slumber of Christianity
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

The Slumber of Christianity Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth Publisher: Nelson Books Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: No I have long-since learned that when an actress launches a career in music it is best to avoid her album. Similarly, when a musician tries her hand at acting the results are usually painful. It seems the same is generally true when an author of novels tries his hand at non-fiction. So it was with some trepidation that I opened The Slumber of Christianity, a book written by Ted Dekker, an author known for his heart-pounding thrillers. This represents his first attempt at writing a non-fiction book. Thankfully, it turns out that he is a gifted writer who is able to express himself in either genre. "It seems that the lives of Christians are pretty much the same as the unchurched. We face the same challenges, the same heartaches. And, just like the rest of the world, most of aren’t happy" (from the back cover). Frustrated with the lack of joy he sees in those who profess Christ, Dekker came to see that many believers have fallen asleep to some basic truths that could forever change their…

Book review: The Pursuit of Holiness
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

The Pursuit of Holiness Publisher: Navpress Publishing Group Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes It took me twenty five years to read Jerry Bridge’s book The Pursuit of Holiness. A short while ago I received the “25th Anniversary Edition” and devoted much of this weekend to reading and absorbing the book. This book has become something of a modern day classic. Having read it, I know why! It is a deeply challenging book and one I’m sure I will read again before another twenty five years have elapsed. The premise of Bridge’s book is that holiness, like almost everything else in life, is something that we must strive for. Holiness is a gift of God and is something that can never be accomplished apart from the work of the Spirit. Yet it is our responsibility to strive for it and to work towards this goal. Bridges illustrates this by writing of a farmer. A farmer plows his field, sows the seed, and fertilizes and cultivates – all the while knowing that in the final analysis he is utterly dependent on forces outside himself. He knows he cannot cause the seed to germinate, nor can he produce the…

Book review: Singing and Making Music
Book Reviews / June 26, 2017

Singing and Making Music Issues in Church Music Today Publisher: P&R Publishing Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team Available on Amazon Recommended: Yes Paul Jones, organist and Music Director at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia is, by all accounts, a very talented individual. He was privileged to serve alongside James Boice (who once said "Paul is everything I ever prayed for in a music director") and now works closely with Philip Ryken in serving one of America’s foremost Presbyterian churches. Singing and Making Music, subtitled "Issues in Church Music Today" is Jones’ attempt to distill and share some of his years of accumulated wisdom and knowledge. Singing and Making Music is not a traditional book, emphasizing an argument that moves logically from introduction to conclusion, but is a collection of essays dealing with the common theme of worshipping God through music. To some extent this leaves the book feeling a little bit disjointed and without a consistent flow. At the same time, this format allows the author to cover a wide range of topics without having to bridge one to another. I feel that this is a suitable format for such a book book. Jones covers a great deal of ground through…