Top Shelf Book: The Man Christ Jesus

Book: Ware, B. The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ. Crossway, 2012.

Pages: 160

Point: Jesus Christ, the second person of the triune God, emptied himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. This truth has a profound impact on how I view his life, my life, and the coming life.

Path: Ware walks through the key passages speaking of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and future reign with an eye toward how Scripture presents his humanity. He answers common questions and critiques oversimplifications and quick responses which we are prone to make.

Sources: Based on exegetical studies of pertinent texts and also historical theology, the author helps the student or the layman to find a better foothold when considering the profound ramifications of Christ’s humanity.

Agreement: I found this to be a great encouragement both theologically and devotionally. Ware helped me to shore up different areas of my Christology and point out the errors of my sometimes sloppy explanations of our Savior’s life and ministry.

While there were a couple places where I was disappointed in how he ended a discussion but I was encouraged throughout the entire book.

Personal App: Jesus Christ, the God-Man, obeyed God perfectly through his dependence upon the Holy Spirit. This same Spirit he has promised to his followers. Therefore I have been provided all that is necessary for my faith and godliness in his Word and his Spirit.

Favorite Quote:

“Second, given the fact that this was the greatest act of obedience he rendered, requiring the deepest commitment of faith and hope in his Father, in light of the severest of all suffering he was about to encounter on the cross, does it not stand to reason, then, that the Father had prepared Jesus for this moment? Can we not now see that all the previous tests of his faith, the divine demands that he followed and the sufferings that he experienced, were preparatory and strengthening for his obeying the Father in the garden?”

Stars: 5 out of 5

Top Shelf book

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

– Is seeking to understand better our Savior Jesus Christ

– Someone willing to think through the complexity of Jesus the Messiah.

Other books along this theme would be:

Scott, J. The Incomparable Christ

Piper, J. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

Athanasius. On the Incarnation of the Word of God

The Common Rule

Book: Earley, Justin. The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction

Point: Our daily habits form us. If we are not intentional about those, or if we buy into the lie that unrestrained freedom is the good life, we will wither.

Path: Earley helps those of us lost in our business to begin to order our lives around 8 keystone habits. These simple (not necessarily easy) habits form how we view ourselves, others, our world, and our God. These are separated into two categories, daily and weekly and include: (Daily) Kneeling prayer, Meal with others, Phone-free hour, Scripture before phone, (Weekly) Hour conversation with a friend, Curated media, 24 Hour fast, and Sabbath.

Agreement: This book was a challenge to me. I appreciate much of what he said. Some of the habits were new to me, some were not. Some I continue to practice, some I have yet to try. I have even incorporated other habits not mentioned in this book, but as a direct result from reading it.

The simplicity of the habits is deceptive. Some are really hard. I could feel myself fighting against them. For example, putting the phone away for an hour was revealing for me.

I don’t disagree with any of the keystone habits he has chosen. They are good. There are other ones, for sure, but these are helpful.

Earley is both thoughtful and interesting in his writing. I enjoyed reading the book. The simple charts were helpful to reorientate myself in the overall movement of the book, in the same way that the habits themselves help me to reorientate myself daily and weekly.

Disagreement:

He is a good writer, however there are points in the book where an idea or a sentence sounds great, but it fails because it is 1) false; 2) unproven; or 3) vague. In those moments I could sense the undercurrent into which we easily fall, namely, “Everyone is saying it, and it sounds good, so it must be true.”

Here are some examples from the chapter on prayer:

“I believe in the power of words – and especially the words of prayer – to shape the world” (32). Is this sentence, and the paragraphs surrounding it, saying his words are powerful, his praying is powerful, the one he is praying to is powerful, or all three? There is truth here, but it is vague.

“There are two kinds of prayer” (34). Only two? Are there more? Where do you get this from?

“You say your prayers until your prayers say you. That’s the goal.” (43) Is this true? Is it false? It may be true, but where do you get that from? Help me to understand why it is true.

His epilogue, On Failure and Beauty, was both encouraging and confusing. I recognize that trying to live a thoughtful life is not easy. There will be failure. But what is this “failure”? How do you defining “failure”? Is failure just another way to say, “I didn’t pursue a thoughtful life”? By failure do you mean sinning against others by responding in anger, indifference, or apathy? If failure “is making you a work of art” (166), I need to know what that failure is. I think if he were to switch out the word “failure” with “dependence”, “humility”, “faithfulness”, or perhaps another word, I would be able to better understand his point. As it stands, this appears to be a “you’re messed up and I’m messed up, so we are good” type concession. That may make me feel ok about myself, but that doesn’t help me. I need to hear that God’s mending is what makes all things beautiful, not my “fault lines” (166).

Personal App: Living life without intentional habits to reorientate me toward God and others will numb my relationships, shrivel my soul, and hasten my body to the grave.

Favorite Quote: “But the rest that our souls need is not simply a nap. It’s the rest that comes with realizing we don’t have anything to prove anymore” (147)

Who should read this:

If you are expecting this to be the foundational book of any of these ideas, you will be disappointed. It was not written to be that. There are excellent books on prayer, fasting, community, etc. This book was written, not as the go-to manual, but as a reality check to get you interested in a life that is possible because of God’s work. This book serves as an agent of change in the same way a hallway of a home serves hospitality – people pass through it to the larger rooms. For that, I am thankful for this book. I will re-read it. I will recommend it.

Stars: 4 out of 5

Other books along this theme would be:

Reinke, T. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

*I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

The Vine Project

Book: Payne, Tony, and Colin Marshall. The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture around Disciple-Making. Matthias Media, 2016.

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Point: Making and maturing disciples is not something that a church does, it is something a disciple does. Here is a workbook on how to pursue disciple making in all of church life.

Path: The authors lay out five phases to work through, making sure that everyone understands that this is not as much of a how-to-manual, but rather a workbook. They lay a biblical foundation, explain logical truths, and give practical examples. This isn’t a book to just read, but to work through with others.

Sources: Based on their previous book and the interactions they have had since then, the authors do a great job at walking the reader through both biblical truth and e

 

veryday experience.

Agreement: Top shelf book. I am so thankful how they presented these truths not as a “five steps to your best church now” but “take time to think through these principles with others and you will change”.

Personal App: Am I seeing every relationship as an opportunity to encourage the other individual to take one step toward Christ?

Favorite Quote: Engaging unbelievers on Sunday is ”like taking in a gues

 

t at your house for Christmas dinner. This often happens in our part of the world. If there’s someone at church who doesn’t have any family to share Christmas with, then you invite them to join your family for Christmas lunch. Now in doing so, you don’t change who you are or what your family does in any significant way at all. But you make very sure that your guest is looked after. You warmly welcome them, and introduce them around. You explain what is going on at different points— why Uncle Fred always has to sit in that chair, what the background is to your funny family games or rituals, how to play, and so on. You put yourself out to make your guest feel at home and part of the family, even though it’s not their home or their family. Likewise in church— outsiders are not part of our church family. We don’t stop being who we are, or pursuing God’s purposes, just because we have guests present. But we do welcome our guests, who, like the ‘outsiders’ in 1 Corinthians 14, turn up and (God-willing) come to know and worship the living God in our midst.” (Kindle loc. 2967).

 

Stars:  5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • is planting a church
  • is leading a church
  • is
    serving in a church

Other books along this theme would be:

Anyabwile, Thabiti M. What Is a Healthy Church Member? 9Marks. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.

Dever, Mark. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Expanded. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2004.

Marshall, Colin, Tony Payne, and Matthias Media. The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything. Kingsford, N.S.W.: Matthias Media, 2009.

Rainer, Thom S., and Eric Geiger. Simple Church. B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Encounters with Jesus

Book: Keller, Timothy. Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. Reprint edition. Penguin Books, 2013.

For the full review, click on the title above

Path: Keller has given us a unique book which is both apologetical and devotional.

Keller takes a chapter to explain the interactions of various individuals with Jesus and how they can challenge us. Those individuals are: Nathanael the skeptic, the Insider – Nicodemus and the Outcast – the Samaritan woman, Mary and Martha the Grieving Sisters, the disciples and town at the wedding party,  Mary Magdalene, Satan and his temptations, Jesus at his Ascension, Jesus in the Garden, and Mary after the Angel’s revelation.

Keller explains the interactions in an interesting and enlightening way, and then applies them to skeptics, seekers, and mature believers.

 

Favorite Quote: “Jesus not only died the death we should have died in order to take the law’s curse for us, he also lived the great life of love and fidelity we should have lived in order to earn God’s blessing for us.“

Stars: 4.5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Is skeptical about Jesus
  • Is seeking to know more about Jesus
  • Is seeking to love Jesus more

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Pocket Guide to the Papacy

How is that for a title?

Book: Chirico, Leonardo De. A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Papacy. Christian Focus Publications, 2015. Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 3.01.32 PM

 

(For the full review click on the title)

Point: The papacy is a global institution with incredible influence but no Scriptural support.

Path: The author helps the non-Catholic navigate the question of the Papacy by explaining its origins, its history, its influence, and its current manifestations.

Favorite Quote: “…the official titles of the Pope: ‘Bishop of Rome’ ‘Vicar of Jesus Christ’ ‘Successor of the prince of the Apostles’ (i.e. Peter) ‘Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church’ ‘Primate of Italy’ and ‘Archbishop and Metro-politan of the Roman Province’ ‘Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City’ ‘Servant of God’s servants’. This list of Papal titles is astonishing and covers various religious offices, political tasks and organizational responsibilities. Each title provides a different perspective on the Papal office, and taken as a whole they help one appreciate who the Pope is and what he does” (Kindle, 97).

Stars:  4 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Is or was Catholic
  • Has an interest in Historical Theology
  • Is going to visit Rome

 

God’s Battalions

Book: Stark, Rodney. God’s Battalions. Reprint. HarperCollins, 2009.

 

[Read the full review by clicking the above link]

Point: “The Crusades were not unprovoked. They were not the first round of European colonialism. They were not conducted for land, loot, or converts. The crusaders were not barbarians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. They sincerely believed that they served in God’s battalions” (kindle 3371).

Personal App: When people bring to the conversation arguments about the Crusades and why ISIS cannot be blamed for their horrific violence, I can now say, “Yes, about those Crusades…””

Stars:  4.5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Is interested in history
  • Is interested in the Muslim world

Do More Better by Challies

Book: Challies, Tim. Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity. Challies, 2015.

Pages: 119

Point: To be productive is not merely to complete more tasks. Productivity means that one does what is most important and does it well. “Productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.”

Path: Challies does an excellent job of defining what productivity is, what it is not, why it is necessary, and how one can plan to be productive through the effective use of tools.

Sources: This book is not a composite of “prodicutivity gurus.” In the pages you can find hints of David Allen, Peter Drucker, and other time management specialists, but you don’t find strings of quotes.

Agreement: This is an excellent book and I found it very helpful. I went through Matt Perman’s book, “What’s Best Next” early this year and also Challies’ blog series on productivity, so my habits have not changed dramatically, but it was an excellent read. His brief but thoughtful critique of our obsession and misunderstanding of productivity was challenging to me. Everyone with a computer or smart phone would benefit from reading his chapters on tools.

Personal App: Am I just trying to get things done, or am I intentionally investing my time in meaningful pursuits in a manner of excellence?

Favorite Quote: “Productivity is not what will bring purpose to your life, but what will enable you to excel in living out your existing purpose” (10).

Stars:  5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • feels like they are daily spinning their wheels
  • wants to streamline their workflow
  • struggles with disorganized living
  • is way to busy to read a book
  • is just starting college or a new job

Other books along this theme would be:

  • DeYoung, Kevin. Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. Crossway, 2013.
  • Perman, Matthew Aaron. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. Zondervan, 2014.
  • Glei, Jocelyn K., and 99U. Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind. Amazon Publishing, 2013.
  • Allen, David. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an impartial review

Like swallowing chocolate covered arsenic…

I have been convicted about how I use my words. The conviction is part of the reason I picked up this book, and more conviction came as I read this book.

I criticize because I think I know better.

I mock because I think I could do better.

I belittle because I think I am better.

These ought not to be so. They are symptoms of a sinful heart. In “Resisting Gossip,” Mitchell defines gossip in this way, “Gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” And while it is tempting, pervasive, and easy, there is hope in Christ for those who gossip and those who are hurt by it.

I would recommend “Resisting Gossip” to individuals and small groups in personal reading, Bible studies, or church groups. It will be a challenge whether you have been on the receiving end of gossip, or the carrier. It will help to define, spot, and deal with gossip in your own heart and in your circle of friends.

Click here to read a full review, and consider picking up this short book and reading through it with a friend.

Mitchell, Matthew C. Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue. CLC Publications, 2013.

There’s a book for that…Homosexuality and the Believer

Book: Hubbard, Peter. Love into Light: the Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church. Ambassador, 2013.

619QRcXh-cL._SL1500_Point: The answer to SSA (same-sex attraction) is the Gospel – shared, taught, and lived out.

Agreement: This is the best treatment I have read on the issues of homosexuality and the church’s response to it. I will be referencing this work again.

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:

  • Struggles with SSA
  • Has a friend or relative who struggles with SSA
  • Goes to church and wants to truly love others
  • Wants to know more about the big issues behind same-sex Marriages

There’s a Book for that: the Reformation

Are you:

  • interested in church history?
  • a lover of a good story
  • coming from a catholic or lutheran background
  • confused on what “Protestant” or “Evangelical” actually means

Than I would highly recommend this book: Reeves, Michael. The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation. B&H Publishing Group, 2013.

Point: A return to the authority of Scripture opened the eyes of the reformers to see justification by faith alone, and forever changed history.

Path: In a clear and engaging manner, Reeves explains the background, the major players, and the continuing effects of the Reformation. He gives sufficient information to peak interest, but does not dive too deeply into debates and arguments from scholars. I would categorize the tone of the book as something akin to “sarcastic storytelling,” and have to admit that it is very appealing! The story is engaging, there is both suspense and humor, and the broad picture of the Reformation Era is very helpful!

For a full review click on the title above.