Book Review – Good and Angry by David Powlison

Title: Good and Angry:  Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining and Bitterness
Author: David Powlison
Publisher: New Growth Press
Publishing Year: 2016
Pages: 246
My Rating: 5 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

This is one of those books that I’d like to say I read for a friend…  But, anger is an issue that has been in my family probably as long as it has been in existence.  So, it easy to excuse it away.  Not only does it come natural, it just seems right.  Getting angry, at its core, is a fight against injustice, so of course I’m going to get angry.  But, in the past few months the Lord has been convicted me of this sin that pushes away others and builds up my own pride.  With all of this in mind, I was excited about the chance to review Good and Angry for all of you.

I was disappointed in the book.  It’s not what I thought it would be.  I was looking for some practical tips of how to control the rage that sometimes bubbles up within me.  I was looking for ways to keep myself under control when everything inside of me wants to be out of control.  This was not that book.

Yet, what I found was that while this was not the book I wanted, it was indeed the book I needed.  Good and Angry taught me that my whole concept of anger needed to change.   For so long I have viewed anger as some sort of foreign entity that somehow resides in my body and from time to time surges up.  I was looking to control and force.  Yet, now I am coming to understand that anger is not something merely within me, it is me!

Powlison writes, “Usually angry people and those who give them advice focus on only one part of what is going on in anger.  And, curiously, the part they focus on is not you.  Anger becomes something that is happening to you or in you.  You deal with “it,” or harness “it,” or liberate “it,” or manage “it,” or rid yourself of “it.”  But you are not intrinsically responsible for “it.”  “It” is going on inside of you, but you aren’t doing it… One key to getting anger straight is to understand that when you are angry, you are doing something.  Anger is not an “it.”  Anger is not just one part of you.  Anger does not “happen” to you.  You do anger.”

That one little paragraph changed my entire perspective on anger and how I deal with my sin.  This entire book is a game-changer.  Very few books blow me away, but this one did for sure.  Good and Angry breaks apart the DNA of anger and helps us to see it at a basic level which then allows us to see its cause and core.  Then, Powlison takes on a journey to see anger not as a problem, but as an attribute of God meant for good.  Yes, anger can be a good thing when put in the right perspective with the right motive.  Anger does not have to lead to sin, though we are so accustomed to only think of it from that perspective.  Actually, patience and mercy may flow from the angry heart.

While Good and Angry does not offer tips such as counting to ten or punching a pillow, the book is filled with practical tips that will challenge your assumptions and take you the Word of God to see God’s intent and design.  This book was convicting on a deep level, but left me encouraged and inspired to rethink how I approach this entire subject.  I cannot recommend this book enough.

Purchase the book for yourself here.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

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Book Review – Journey to Heal

Title: Journey to Heal:  Seven Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual41mqlxo6ucl-_sx322_bo1204203200_ Abuse
Author: Crystal M. Sutherland
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Publishing Year: 2016
Pages: 171
My Rating: 3 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

Over the past four years, it has been my unfortunate experience to come across many people who have suffered through the trauma of an early childhood sexual assault.  What is even more unfortunate is that most of these people came from a church background.  What surprised me even more was that many of these people came from what appeared to be good, healthy families.  The one common denominator in all these cases is that the initial assault was covered up.  It would take years to unravel all the pieces if indeed all the pieces could even be unraveled.  I am more than certain there are many others ought there whose stories have yet to be told.  The avalanche is coming, church.  Are you ready for it?

It was with all of this in mind that I accepted the opportunity to review Journey to Heal:  Seven Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse here on this blog.  The church needs to be prepared to uncover and expose sexual assault within its own walls and then be able to love and minister to those victims.  So far, it seems as though we have done a terrible job in the area.

The major strength of this book is its tone.  This is written by a survivor for other survivors.  The author’s tone is one of comfort and sympathy.  She not only shares her story but the story of several others.  She does this in a way as to let the listener know, you are not alone.  What happened to you has happened to others.  They survived, and so can you.  From my limited experience, this is a crucial barrier that must be first broken down for any healing to begin.

Another great strength of the book is the notion that his will not be fixed in a few short sessions or with some neat coping tricks.  Neither is this healing obtained by memorizing a few Bible passages and throwing up a few prayers to heaven.  This is a journey not a moment.  This will take time.  I know many victims who feel the intense pressure to simply get over all this and simply move on through the power of Christ.  I wish it were that simple.  By way, placing such pressure on a person only adds to the guilt and shame that comes with such abuse.  We expect people to be champions but fail to give them the support they need which can only lead to defeat and failure.

Practicality is the other strength that is worth noting.  Throughout these pages you will find practical advice that will help those who are struggling.  A heavy emphasis is placed on journaling which I believe could be extremely helpful.  I especially appreciate Sutherland’s admonition to share your stories with others.  You were never meant to bar this burden by yourself.  You can’t handle it.  You need others in the body of Christ to lift you up and support you.  This also opens the door for others victims to come forward and get the help they need.

Finally, one of the most helpful aspects of this book is constant theme of hope.  There is hope for those who can’t see through their shame, guilt and embarrassment.  For those struggling with feelings they feel can never be resolved, Christ provides hope for a normal life.

However, what I found lacking in this book was any serious engagement with the Word of God.  There are verses sprinkled throughout, but they are only accompanied by a shallow, brief application.  My personal pet peeve is the constant use of Jeremiah 29:11, one of the most misunderstood and misapplied verses in the Bible.  Yet, the gospel is highlighted and there are some helpful passages referenced from time to time.

I was also disappointed not to see the church referenced until the very end of the book.  The Church ought to play a crucial role in the life of any Christian.  She never mentions to seek counsel from one’s pastor.  I would think for a Christian, this is where we would begin.  Yet, I do realize that for some it may be difficult to even get to this stage of the journey.  But, it should be a step somewhere along the way.  The pastor is a gift to the church and ought to be utilized in the way our Lord intended.

With all this being said, I believe this book would be quite useful in helping those who struggle with past sexual assault.  I would use this book to get the ball rolling and to begin a journey down the road to healing.

You can purchase the book here.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

Book Review – Why Bother with the Church by Sam Allberry

Title: Why Bother with Church? 
Author: Sam Allberry
Publisher: The Good Book Company
Publishing Year: 2016
Pages: 95
My Rating: 5 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

If there is one conviction of mine that has grown over the years it is the necessity of the church in the life of the Christian.  I hold this conviction in spite of the fact that it seems as though more and more Christians feel like the church is not necessary for their spiritual walk.  Some claim the church is simply irrelevant to their lives while some would even go so far as to say the institutional church is actually a deterrent to their relationship with Christ.  Still others don’t see the need for a weekly hour long service when they already participate in small groups and Bible studies with like-minded believers.

Why Bother with Church by Sam Allberry is a great tool to share with friends who may hold to these errant views.  It’s a short, easy read that won’t intimidate the reader or confuse anyone with theological jargon.  It’s a straightforward look at what the church really is and one by one knocks down common objections against the necessity of church involvement.

God does not have a person, but a people.  We often speak of our personal relationship with Christ or our personal time with the Lord, but what Allberry makes clear in this book is that the Christian life was never intended to be solitary.  God does not merely have lots and lots of individual people scattered throughout the world trying to make it their own. Often times this just leads to people worshipping a God of their own creation.  No, Allberry instead asserts, “God’s purpose is not to have persons relating to him individually, but people that, together, are his.” (page 38)

The book basically serves as a primer to those who may not be familiar with church or those who are unsatisfied with broken churches and are interested to see God’s original design for this institution of his own creation.  This would make a great discipleship tool for new believers or new visitors to your church.

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“If you want understand how committed Jesus is to the church, here’s your answer.  He doesn’t just create it and let it be.  He marries it.  He is not just our almighty King; he is also our perfect Husband.  That’s how much concern he has for every member of his church.  That’s how much he cares about local church.  That’s how committed he is to us, for ever.” – page 22

“The point of preaching and worship is that they are corporate activities.  And therein lies the heart of what a church-skipping believer misses out on:  God’s people.” – page 32

“For all its faults and idiosyncrasies, your church is still a community that God has gathered together and in which he is present by his Spirit.  If the idea of that is boring, then the problem might be with us and not with the church.  Perhaps we’re just interested in the wrong things.” – page 75

“After all, your church is a miracle.  Next Sunday, look at those sitting around you.  It’s amazing that they’re there.  It’s amazing that they’re still trusting Jesus this Sunday – another week of God’s grace to them.  It’s amazing that you’re there, trusting Jesus this Sunday – another week of God’s grace to you.  And it’s amazing that you, with your differences and sometimes disagreements, are sitting in the same room, serving the same God and encouraging one each other – a wonderful visual aid of God’s grace to his people.  Your church is imperfect.  And that makes your church all the more miraculous.  Its imperfections are in themselves exciting, because they show just how powerful and loving the God who has brought you together must be.” – page 83

You can purchase the book here.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

 

Book Giveaway and Review – George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade

Title: George Washington’s Secret Six:  The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution
Author: Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger
Publisher: Sentinel
Publishing Year: 2014
Pages: 252
My Rating: 4 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

Disclaimer: This book was provided by Family Christian Stores for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

Ever since I was a child, I have loved history – especially American history.  As someone glued to the conservative political scene, I can’t help but spend time learning more about our Founding Fathers.  With all this in mind, I was quite excited when Family Christian Stores gave the chance to review Brian Kilmeade’s George Washington’s Secret Six:  The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution.

I have been really looking forward to this book, since for the past year or so most of what I have read are textbooks for seminary.  It’s been awhile since I’ve done any pleasure reading.  Let me say, this book did not disappoint.  It’s a history lesson that captives you like a novel.  I enjoyed the chance to sit down and enjoy it.

The book begins with the fledgling American rebels in a difficult situation.  Capturing New York was the key to the British plan for victory and a loss Washington could not afford to lose.  Greatly outnumbered, Washington realized he needed something else, some advantage to capitalize on.  Intelligence gathering would be just the edge he believed would save this young nation from ultimate defeat.

Washington’s first attempts would end in catastrophe with an inexperienced Nathan Hale hung by the British.  Next Washington would turn to Benjamin Tallmadge lead a spy ring that would hand him the info needed to eventually take bake New York.  Tallmadge recruits his crew of unknown, yet Patriotic men and women who go undercover in the midst of the enemy at risk of certain death.

If you are into espionage and cloak-and-dagger type of tales, this is your book.  If you are into history, this is your book.  Even if you just enjoy stories of ordinary citizens stepping up and doing extraordinary feats out of love for their country, go out and buy this book!

Purchase the book here.

Click for your chance to win this book for free!!!  The fine folks at Family Christian are allowing me to give away one copy of this book.  http://is.gd/SeSkbR

Book Review – Interpreting the General Letters: An Exegetical Handbook

Title: Interpreting the General Letters
Author: Herbert W. Bateman IV
Publisher: Kregel Academic
Publishing Year: 2013
Pages: 315
My Rating: 4 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

Interpreting the General Letters is a valuable tool in unpacking all the great and wonderful truths found in these sometimes difficult to understand books of the Bible.  First, let me point out this book is not necessarily a commentary so to speak.  If you are looking for a verse by verse exposition of each of the General Epistles, this is not it.  Neither is this book an easy to read, gospel-saturated look at the Scriptures.  But, this was not the intent of this book either.

Instead, this book is one you would do well to read before picking up any commentary.  Before you start trying to interpret and apply the content of the General Epistles, this book gives you a pretty clear foundation upon which proper interpretation and therefore sound application can take place.  This book tackles both the historical, textual and biblical context of each book.  It also takes the time to discuss some of the more technical and grammatical issues brought up in each book, material that may be ignored in most popular commentaries and works.

This work is academic in nature, and that must be expected in order to benefit the most from this title.  I was especially blessed by all the historical detail in the discussion of context.  It really does help one understand the background in which these letters were written.  To get into the mind and world of both author and audience is of the utmost importance.

So, I would highly recommend this title to anyone preaching through or studying the General Epistles.  Go out, get this book, and set aside a few uninterrupted hours to give this book it’s due!

Purchase the book here.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

Book Review – Titus for You by Tim Chester

Title: Titus For You
Author: Tim Chester
Publisher: The Good Book Company
Publishing Year: 2014
Pages: 199
My Rating: 5 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

I have to say, I am thoroughly enjoying this “For You” commentary series from the Good Book Company.  Each volume is meant to be understood by the average person in the pew and is simply drenched in the gospel.  I cannot recommend this series enough.  So, even though I have been extremely busy this summer with seminary classes, church work and foster parenting (which, by the way, is why this review is so incredibly late), I did not want to pass up the chance to review the latest commentary, Titus for You by Tim Chester.

This book certainly did not disappoint.  Chester writes in a clear to understand, devotional manner.  He is both clear and concise.  Normally I find writers from the UK have a hard time connecting with an American layman audience, but that is not the case here.  The book is divided up into seven bit-sized chapters, each ending with a set of questions to help you reflect upon the material just covered.  It really is an easy read, but a read that leaves you contemplating the great things of God.

As I mentioned before, this book is drenched in the gospel.  There is a clear focus upon Christ, while not ignoring potentially divisive issues.  I greatly appreciated the clear Calvinistic perspective Chester takes in chapters one and two.

In short, this is a great book that should be found on your bookshelf.

You can purchase the book here.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

Book Review – The Making of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message

BFM1963Title: The Making of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message
Author: A.J. Smith
Publisher: Wipf and Stock Publishers
Publishing Year: 2008
Pages: 266
My Rating: 4 out of 5 (1 meaning I hated the book, 5 meaning I loved the book)

A.J. Smith in his book The Making of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message seeks to establish that Herschel H. Hobbs attempted to avoid a division within the Southern Baptist denomination by altering the Baptist Faith and Message in such a way as to appease both the conservative and liberal factions in that denomination.  He does so by exploring the background of the controversy leading to the revision, discussing the factors involved in the debate and finally explaining the revisions that were made.

Controversy erupted among the Southern Baptist Convention as two Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professors challenged the traditional and conservative understandings of Scripture held by most SBC pastors.  Professor Dale Moody espoused an ecumenical philosophy which appeared to challenge long-held views concerning the eternal security of the believer.  Professor Ralph Elliott published The Message of Genesis which, among other issues, denied Mosaic authorship and interpreted the first eleven chapters of Genesis as allegorical.  This lead to an uproar as many began to wonder why men who held to such beliefs were not forced to submit to the BFM.  The question was raised, should professors be given some level of academic freedom or should they be forced to accept the denomination’s statement of faith as a constricting boundary?

Several other concerns faced the convention at this time including the rise of racism and materialism within the nation.  Yet, the issue at hand was doctrinal.  Smith takes great pains to show that historically Baptists have held that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and it alone stands as the chief authority in all matters of doctrine.  Yet, this does not negate the use of confessions.  Baptist associations, claim Smith, did use confessions to articulate their beliefs and distinguish themselves from other denominations.  These confessions were expected to followed and used to keep purity within the association.  Though Baptists also subscribe to the concept of soul liberty, this was not seen as an opportunity to depart from confessional standards.

A shift began to take place under the leadership of E.Y. Mullins.  Mullins emphasized the teaching of soul competency.  Soul competency stressed the individual’s role in his response to God.  This led to a shift away from seeing the Bible as the authoritative standard and a move toward seeing the experience of the individual as a foundational understanding of God.  All of this would feed directly to the controversy facing the convention in the early 1960’s.  How can a doctrinal statement such as the BFM be thrust upon individuals who have the freedom to work out their own understandings of Scripture?

A committee was formed, chaired by Hobbs, to revise the BFM 1925.  Hobbs’s stated goal was only to revise, not rewrite the BFM, and do so in such a way as to make it palatable to both liberals and conservatives alike.  No major changes were to be made, or so suggested Hobbs.  The document went through several drafts and the faculty from both SBTS and Mercer University joined in the process.

While the goal was not to make any major changes, several significant chances were indeed made.  In regards to the Scriptures, the committee watered down the Bible as unique revelation itself and only recognized as a written record of revelation.   No longer would the emphasis be on Scripture interpreting Scripture but now Jesus would be the key to interpretation.  In regards to Anthropology, man was no longer seen as having once possessed original righteousness and holiness, but simply was innocent before the Fall.  Overall the document left a once Calvinistic understanding and now leaned more Pelagian.  The new revision also denounced Landmarkism and replaced the wine in the Lord’s Supper with “fruit of the vine.”

One of the strengths of this work is the heavy amount of research done to back up each assertion.  Painstaking effort was used to support each assertion with quotations taken from the leading figures in each debate even reaching into the past to establish the proper context in which this controversy took place.  This leaves the reader with little doubt as the reliability of each point mentioned.  Both side, liberal and conservative, seemed to be equally represented and fairly quoted.

Smith is quite straightforward in his approach to writing this book.  He makes his points very clear and obvious so as to leave no misunderstanding of what he has said, is saying or will say.  The book is organized in such a way as to make logical sense and establish a clear goal in mind.  He set forth his thesis at the beginning and each chapter served to back up that assertion.

However, I do believe Smith failed, in some degree, to show how if the BFM 1963 was accepted by liberals and conservatives alike.  The work ends with the final document written by the committee.  Though we know from history that the document was accepted, how did that come into being?  While the reader was informed of the reaction of some seminaries, what was the reaction from the conservative pastors referred to in the beginning of the book? Did the convention vote for final acceptance?  What was the vote?  Did it bring a sense of unity to the SBC?  In short, did the document meet the stated goals?  These questions go unanswered.

Another weakness of this book is found in the lack of consideration given to the effects liberal theology would have on the church.  How did these new doctrines effect the average believer during this time?  While much time was spent on the effect seen in seminaries, how was the individual in the pew effected?  While this was not the main focus of the book, it would have been appropriate for a few paragraphs of discussion.

This work by Smithis a valuable tool to any historian researching the life of the SBC or any person simply wanting to know more of how the liberal and fundamentalist clash of yesteryear had an effect on the life of the church.

Purchase the book here.