Book Review: Forgotten God

Francis Chan is known to many Christians as a radical leader. His first book, Crazy Love, focused on the need for believers to be living in light of who they serve. He talks about who God is, what the Church should be, and how we are to respond to God’s loving kindness. This time, Chan writes on who the Holy Spirit is and what His role is in the life of the believer. It is a great sequel to Crazy Love as believers cannot live out what he wrote in there apart from the Spirit.

In his book, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, Francis Chan investigates what we have done with the Holy Spirit. It appears that we all have our ways of misunderstanding this important member of the God-head. Some worship Him at the expense of the Father and Son, others put Him last in importance, and others don’t know what to think because they have heard mixed reviews. Chan does a great job explaining the Spirit’s role and helping us find some middle ground. I would encourage you to read this book and consider some of the following implications.

The Spirit

According to Jesus and the rest of the Scriptures, the Spirit is supposed to lead the Church and individual believers into a life of godliness and sanctification. Sadly, this doesn’t occur as often as it must. In our churches this means we replace His power with “Awesomeness” as Jared Willson puts it. But in our lives, it takes on another appearance.

They’re called idols

…but we call them savings accounts, 401k’s, and security deposits. Although most disagree, these things of comfort and safety detract from the power of the Spirit in our lives because they cause us to rely on Him less. When we are told in Romans 8.26 that the Spirit helps us in our time of need, but we so often think that everything else matters so much more. This fuels the idea that you need to get your life together and stabilized before you make any big life changes (like Josh Cousineau alluded to the other day and again today). But if we trust the Spirit to help and guide us, we can leave the hard things up to Him a fully rest in His counsel.

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Book Review: Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

As I was writing the last book review, I realized two things: 1) there is a better alternative to Warren’s book on Christmas, and 2) I recently read it again in preparation for a message on the death and resurrection of Christ.

Short Read

John Piper does a wonderful job of pointing us to the one who saves us. In Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, Piper brings up his favorite topic: Jesus, God’s glory, and our joy in Him. He again begs the question, “What would happen if we treasured Christ above all?” In simply 13 short chapters, he tells us of Christ’s glory in His death, resurrection, and ascension. We can see, with much Biblical evidence, that Christ is glorious and worthy of all honor and praise as He is God, and He is reigning in heaven now.

Haven’t we heard this before?

Yes, this has been a constant reminder to us from people like Piper, Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, et cetera. But have we really changed? We all need to constantly be reminded of how wonderful Christ is and how worthy of our praise He is. Atmosphere is going through year-long sermon series titled What If? that addresses this issue: What if we actually lived like we treasured Christ? Piper challenges us on this, and this instruction should not be missed.

Teach us to pray

I won’t say that everything in this book is great, but I am hard-pressed to find anything off after three readings of it. Perhaps the greatest portion is the prayer after each chapter. As this was written for anyone (Christian or not) Piper included prayers that could be read and prayer for reflection on the text. There are no promises before or after the prayers, they simply serve to remind the reader who is being written about. They serve as a great encouragement, and this book would be great for any believer or un-believer to read through and study the Bible with.

Book Review: The Purpose of Christmas

I am actually not a huge fan of Rick Warren. The Purpose Driven Life wasn’t that impressing, so I came to this book with some hesitancy and skepticism, which both turned out to be justified. However, before I tell you the wrongs, there are some rights of Warren’s book The Purpose of Christmas. (I know I am late for Christmas, but other books got ahead of it).

What we celebrate

Warren is right in pointing out that we celebrate Christmas because of Christ’s incarnation. And it should actually be a celebration. I enjoyed that he pointed out the need for us to recognize the birth of Christ being necessary for his death to occur, and his death and resurrection were necessary for our salvation. Having said this, we need to remember who not what we are celebrating. Our purpose and hope are found solely in Him. Thus we should not be angry when unbelievers do not hold the same view of Christmas as we do. It’s important to us because we love Jesus. Warren actually supports this to some extent by drawing attention to the fact that Christmas isn’t about the busy shopping season.

For all the good…

Warren does not center on the Gospel. True, he tells us the true reason for celebration, and writes about how to be saved and find peace, but his message is not focused on the Gospel. He is incredibly self-promoting (i.e: “In my book, the Purpose Driven Life…” is repeated often) and thus detracts from the message of Jesus. He tells us that Christmas is a time for celebration, salvation, and reconciliation. This is true, but his section on reconciliation is dangerous. After believing what Warren says about making peace, one could easily fall into believing that every area of life will be at peace with you. Not true. If it was, Jesus would be a liar. This is simply a different shaped prosperity gospel.

A souped up “sinner’s prayer”…

is still an ineffective evangelism tool. The Church has a habit of dumbing down the Gospel, removing the Lordship of Christ from salvation, and giving false assurance of salvation because of a simple prayer that, when said sincerely (as Warren states on page 122) gains you access into the kingdom. The prayer will not save you (no matter how cool sounding Warren makes it), Jesus saves you.

Rick Warren is not totally at fault for this, his closing invitation prayer is a product of our environment. Where the Gospel is lacking in our text as a whole, we try to make up for it with a single, rushed prayer at the end.

Book Review: Get Outta My Face!

Rick Horne’s heart is for counselors, teachers, pastors, youth leaders, and especially parents to be able to communicate the life changing message of the Gospel to their unruly teens. Get Outta My Face! deals with the attitudes, problems, and desires that teens are dealing with, and ends with a call to draw them to the Gospel. This is their greatest need.

While focusing on how to talk to teen-agers, this book could very easily apply to counseling anyone because, quite frankly, adults and little kids are sinners just like teens.

Slightly self-promoting

Horne’s method is an effective one. He outlines four key actions for parents and counselors to take in order to get across to their kids. They are:

Listen Big: Build a Bridge to You Teen
Clarify Narrow: Expose the Realities of Your Teen’s Experience
Look Wide: Discover Your Teen’s Solutions
Plan Small: Support Changes Your Teen Wants

These are great methods that should be used when trying to communicate the need for change in the teen. However, Horne’s repetition of some variation of the phrase “Using the LCLP approach works because…” gets tiresome at times. A casual reading would lead one to believe that he thinks his is the only method of change for troubled teens. This is not the case. He is sure to stress that there are other, Biblical methods to reaching people.

Big on the Gospel

The last two chapters of this book are perhaps the most important. He encourages us to Keep the Conversation going in the Right Direction (chapter 10) and to Point Your Teen to the Cross (chapter 11). Horne stresses that if you don’t aim for deep changes that are routed in the Gospel, you’ll lose your teen. They might do all the external changes that you are looking for, but if their hearts are unchanged, they will remain unchanged, and that is undesirable. We point everyone (teens, children, adults), every sinner to the cross of Christ for deep, lasting change. If you don’t do that, you have lost your teen.

Over all, a great read with great truths. It is slightly dry at times, but worth reading if you want to see change.

Book Review: Showing the Spirit

D. A. Carson has a pastor’s heart. In everything that I have read and heard from him, I have seen great evidence of his care and love for God’s people. So when I saw Showing the Spirit at Worship God 09, I made sure to pick it up because it looked amazing.

Not to be taken lightly

Carson’s exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 is excellent. He delves deep into the discussion between charismatics and non-charismatics, trying to find some middle ground where we can understand each other and be united in the bonds of peace.

However, it is a very weighty piece. Multiple times through out his writing, Carson goes into the Greek to discover what was truly being said by Paul in this section of Scripture. His knowledge is shown well in the first four chapters which deal primarily with the exposition of the text, and his heart comes out the most in the last chapter which deals well with the practical application of counseling through debates and what the real issue is.

Real Community

However dry it may be at times, this book is worth it just for Carson’s explanation of the body (1 Corinthians 12) in chapter one. His constant emphasis is that the body of Christ, in order to be healthy, requires every member. Put another way, if you are a believer, you are a member of the Church, and we are called to look past petty differences. He also confirms why love is vital in the Church and seeks to lead people to understand what love is according to God’s Gospel.

Final Word

In the last chapter, Carson gives the call to unity and discipleship. He says:

In short, the church must hunger for personal and corporate submission to the lordship of Christ.

Such is our mission and goal. Christ is Lord, and we must submit to him (and thus show great brotherly love and affection) in order to effectively build His kingdom. Without Christ and His Church, the gifts of the Spirit have no purpose.

Job: a book of poems

If you haven’t read it by now, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of John Piper’s book: Job.

Piper’s poetry is so deep and moving that you barely need the illustrations that go along with it. However, Christopher Koelle’s fantastic artistry is a great addition to the wonder of this book. Everything is combined so elegantly that you won’t want to stop reading.

So what’s it about?

It is the story of Job with some creative liberties taken. Piper gives names to sons, daughters, and his wife, and shows with great and colorful words that won’t let you leave. It is broken into four parts, each concluding with a section on how Job’s suffering is ten out on Christ, and how our hope must be in him. I mentioned one of these great passages on Monday.

In addition to the craftily woven words is a section in the back where Piper explains ten aspects of God’s sovereignty. The book is worth having just for this section. It is always wonderful to see where God has His hand working; Job helps us see just that. For those suffering, for those in need, we all need to know the truth of God’s sovereignty in all of life.

Book Review: University of Destruction

University of Destruction by David Wheaton is a four year old book about being a true witness to Christ during college. He has many good spiritual points including a particularly useful three part section towards the outlining what is necessary to keep one’s faith in college. These “Game Plan Fundamentals” include decent instruction on the interactions with God, peers, and authorities. Unfortunately, this book was not what it could have been. Wheaton is often patronizing in his delivery and it is difficult to believe that his theories would aid very many people in returning to Christ before heading to College.

Missing Community

Besides his condescending writing style, he encourages the believer to keep non-believers simply as acquaintances. He actually tells us that we should not have active communication with unbelievers more than a few times a month lest we fall into their sin. While I agree that the biggest influence in our life should not be an enemy of God, we should be more than an acquaintance to them. If believers are involved in small groups, the local Church, and a fight club (groups of three believers that encourage each other daily) they may be able to be good friends with non-believers meanwhile maintaining their faith.

No Repentance

Wheaton writes:

When you became a Possesor (a true believer), God forgave every one of your sins—past, present, and future. Therefore, you don’t have to ask forgiveness when you sin; rather, confess your sin and claim the forgiveness He has already given you at the point of your salvation. (pg. 147)

Now would have been a good time to talk about what true repentance is, but no such definition can be found. There is a brief reference to it near the end of the book, but other than that, he only encourages confession- which is only half the work. I think it was Luther who said, “The life of a Christian is one of daily repentance”. If you are going to teach about being a true believer, why leave repentance out?

No Gospel

Finally, Wheaton explains salvation but his audience is those who profess belief while living sinful lives. His solution? Offer the sinner’s prayer- the very thing that put these people in the spot they are in now. After having the reader pray this prayer, he excitedly confirms that, if they meant it, then they are now saved. I am sure this is not the first time this audience has heard this. Besides this potentially false hope, the motivation for most of his advice is moralism rather than the Gospel. As a (better) book about how to stay Christian in college has been written, this could be: “How to stay morally religious in college”.

Ultimately I would not suggest this book to Christian students going into college. As I said, he has some decent points about how to keep faith in Christ, but the not so good outweighs the good here, and for a good book about retaining one’s faith, I would stick with How to Stay Christian in College by J. Budziszewski.