Saturday, March 20, 2010

Book Review: "Counterfeit Gods"

Title: Counterfeit Gods
Sub-title: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters
Author: Timothy Keller
Publisher: Dutton
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 177 (210)
Chapters: Intro, Seven chapters, Notes, Acknowledgments
SRP: $19.95
Suggested Audience: Anyone struggling with the idolatry of money, power, and sex.

Strengths: It’s not incredibly long and it doesn’t skimp over necessities to maintain its brevity. This book addresses the American idols at the top of the idolatry list. Sex, Money and Power are all exposed as the counterfeit gods they are. The big three topple underneath the weight of Christ’s supremacy and Keller displays this clearly with his words in this book. This book hits hard and hits quick and you won’t want to put it down if you have any desire to kill sin and be rid of counterfeit gods that threaten to grab your attention away from Jesus.

Weaknesses: It’s a little pricey. It’s worth $20 but I’d recommend finding it on Amazon.

My thoughts: I finish Keller books pretty quickly, not because they are easy to read or really chipper and nice—he writes as if he was high-kicking his readers in the face with love, grace and harsh, residual truth. He is a great writer and communicator. I never feel comfortable when I read a Keller book and this one is no different. He addresses issues of my heart and he loves us as readers well enough to tell us the truth and display the grace of Jesus and his supremacy over stuff and idols.

Notable quotes:
“If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.”
“There is only one way to change at the heart level and that is through faith in the gospel.”
“He had just learned that this God is not an extension of culture, but a transformer of culture, not a controllable but a Sovereign Lord.”
“Rejoicing and repentance must go together. Repentance without rejoicing will lead to despair. Rejoicing without repentance is shallow and will only provide passing inspiration instead of deep change.”
“You cannot get relief simply by figuring out your idols intellectually. You have to actually get the peace that Jesus gives, and that only comes as you worship.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Review: "The Prodigal God."

Title: The Prodigal God
Sub-title: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Author: Timothy Keller
Publisher: Dutton
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 135
Chapters: Introduction, “The Parable,” 7 Chapters, Acknowledgements, Notes
SRP: $19.95
Suggested Audience: I recommend this book to everyone who wants to know themselves loved greatly and recklessly by a Prodigal God.

Strengths: Keller is brilliant at communicating God’s love and grace for us. He clearly communicates how “reckless” God is in pouring His love out on us as He runs to meet us and take us into His house. The word prodigal means “recklessly extravagant or having spent everything.” Well, God is reckless in how He loves us and He has spent everything, even His life as Jesus, on us! The book is short and sweet—meat and potatoes all the way through. Keller quotes notable people that are relevant to people who will read this book. This book implicitly and yet, clearly displays how pastors in all denominations have been miss-teaching and miss-preaching parables—mainly the Parable of the Prodigal Son. They’ve been doing this for years and Keller makes the reader of this book aware of this and he reframes the parable for us and contextualizes the parable for us in a fresh and yet orthodox and biblical way.

Weaknesses: I really don’t see any weaknesses in this book over than it’s a little pricey, but well worth it if you get it from Amazon used rather than in the store new. It’s beautifully written.

My thoughts: Keller actually writes a better version of Chan’s “Crazy Love” but it’s just called “Prodigal God” and it’s twice as expensive and in a sweet orange-gold hardback. It’s also shorter. If Keller releases a paperback and sells it for $12 he could sell a bunch in the cheap PB. I recommend this book. If you can get Crazy Love by Francis Chan or Prodigal God by Tim Keller for the same price—like, if you had to or you could choose between the two...I would get Prodigal, instead of getting Crazy. Don’t get me wrong—I dig Chan and his books—but Keller’s book is better. Not by much mind you, but it is better. I’ll put it this way: if Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Prodigal God by Keller got into an octagon together to duke it out in the cage, Prodigal God would wear the belt at the end of the night. Hands down.

Notable quotes:
“When Christianity first arose in the world it was not called a religion. It was the non-religion...Romans called them atheists.”
“So there is not just one lost son in this parable—there are two.”
“The gospel of Jesus is not religion or irreligion, morality or immorality, moralism or relativism, conservatism or is something else all together.”
“He not only loves the wild-living, free-spirited people, but also hardened religious people.”
“As one of my teachers in seminary put it, the main barrier between Pharisees and God is ‘not their sins, but their damnable good works’.”
“The point of the parable is that forgiveness always involves a price—someone has to pay.”
“Jesus’s miracles were not so much violations of the natural order, but a restoration of the natural order.”
“Religion operates on the principle of ‘I obey—therefore I am accepted by God.’ The basic operating principle of the gospel is ‘I am accepted by god through the world of Jesus Christ—therefore I obey’.”

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March 14th, 2010

The Supremacy of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming. Today for me was a day that just overwhelmed me. I preached on the supremacy of Christ for 90 minutes over two sermons today, and he, like he has for the last 3 weeks, revealed to me just how unbelievable and gracious he truly is. He stands over my life and declares “Mine!” He stands over your life and declares “Mine!”

He stands over my life and declares "Preach the will cost you your life, but preach as if you do not care, for I am Jesus the Christ and I am supreme over all! I am more satisfying than life and ministry and preaching and comfort and stuff."

He declares his authority and supremacy over all things...even the salvation of men and women.

When Christ is so overwhelming that you just don’t care that you’re almost crying while checking your email in public...that is a great day. When he’s so evident in your life that you’re tempted to just start walking to Nashville so you can get on a plane for Haiti...that is a beautiful day.

I want to hold my life cheap and fling my life away for him. I want to be reckless with my life for the sake of Christ and his glorious kingdom. I want so desperately to not be like the world. Oh, Jesus come quickly for us, for your people. Oh, God may my generation throw it all away for your name: their college, their job, their life! May they see those things as instruments for glorifying you rather than seeking them as ultimate.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book Review: "Forgotten God"

Title: Forgotten God
Sub-title: Reversing Our Tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit
Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David C. Cook
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 186
Chapters: Introduction, Book cover explanation, 7 chapters, Afterword, Notes About the Co-author, Chapter One from Crazy Love.
SRP: $14.99
Suggested Audience: Anybody

Strengths: It’s Chan, he’s a good communicator and he loves people so he writes that way. This is easy to read but it will challenge you. It wets the appetite for further study on the Holy Spirit without overwhelming you with theology and doctrine that is so deep that only certain people can dive right in. It’s not a long drawn out book—he says what he needs to in seven chapters without making each chapter a long run-on of repetition. I would have liked more chapters, but this is a Chan book, not a Spurgeon, Calvin, Augustine or Piper book. Chan is the best at what he does so don’t expect this book to be his attempt at writing like others—and really...would we want him to even do that? No.

Weaknesses: He quotes Tozer a lot, which is good, but Tozer’s book on the Holy Spirit is deeper and weightier. This book fails to really dive deep—it’s merely just an appetizer when it could have been an appetizer, a drink, a salad, and the pre-meal bread that every restaurant has. To be honest, I’m hungry right now, so that’s probably why I just made the food reference. Sorry.

My thoughts:
I like this book a lot. As a Presbytist/Baptiterian (I’m both PCA and SBC in denomination which makes me a mutt) the Holy Spirit is in those two cultures tends to make most people nervous. We seem to be scared to talk about Him. The Spirit is seen as the black sheep uncle in the Triune Godhead to many Baptists and Presbyterians. This book will wet the appetite of any Christian who wrongly sees the Spirit as tertiary (secondary) rather than co-equal with Jesus and the Father. It will also make many people who are really excited about the Spirit, (i.e. the Pentecostals and charismatics who tend to focus on the Spirit more than Jesus or the Father) to perhaps refocus on what He biblically is and is not. Both the far right and far left Christians in the matter of who He (Spirit) is will be challenged to actually exam Him and re-think what they have been taught. My favorite part about the entire book is the 3rd chapter called “Theology of the Holy Spirit 101.” It is so clean-cut, concise and smooth and this chapter is probably my favorite chapter in almost any book I’ve read.

Notable quotes:
“When it comes to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, I don’t want to get caught up in abstract and nebulous distinctions. I want to focus on the theological issues that shape our faith and behavior.”

Book Review: "Atheism Remix"

Title: Atheism Remix
Sub-title: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists
Author: R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Publisher: Crossway
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 108
Chapters: Introduction and Four Chapters
SRP: $15.99
Suggested Audience: People who want a brief overview of the current theism/Christianity v. atheism battle raging in the intellectual community.

Strengths: This is a short book. Most books that discuss what Mohler dives into are at least 300 pages but this is a 100 page overview of the conversation that somewhat summarizes the key players in the conversation rather than addressing the conversation key points and countering them or affirming them. Mohler is a smart guy and he writes well. You’ll blow through this book if you have any interest in apologetics.

Weaknesses: It’s not really engaging the conversation in a weighty way and the issues are weighty so if the reader is looking to really dive deep then they will feel let down, but that’s not really Mohler’s fault. It’s not really a weakness of the book, but rather a weakness of the reader—why in the world would you think that you could dive into a weighty book about atheism and Christianity’s conflict driven relationship when the book is less than 110 pages? That’s a potential readers’ mistake, really—not so much a weakness of the book or the author.

My thoughts:
I have always been drawn to apologetics and the intellectual conversation taking place in 2010. I would not spend money on this book if you have no interest in apologetics. It’s a hardback, it probably could have been a paperback but it’s not so I love it. If you’re a Mohler fan or a potential seminary student at Southern, this might need to be in your personal library.

Notable quotes:
“Atheism is not a new concept.”

“The New Atheists are, in their own way, evangelistic in intent and ambitious hope.”

“Evangelical Christianity simply cannot surrender biblical authority...”

Book Review: "Crazy Love"

Title: Crazy Love
Sub-title: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God.
Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David C. Cook
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 205
Chapters: Foreword, Preface, 10 chapters, Notes, About the Co-author, Chapter Six from Forgotten God.
SRP: $14.99
Suggested Audience: Christians who want a glimpse of God’s Crazy Love for us.

Strengths: This is not a long book. It’s got some weight and some depth but it’s doesn’t overwhelm you with big words or heavy intellectual writing. Chan loves people and he writes as if he’s inviting you into being overwhelmed by our God. This is a wildly popular book right now, so reading this book will allow someone to engage most young adults/students in the Christian community. This book does well in small groups, seeker friendly groups, and discipleship groups. This book has a DVD/youtube video intro for each chapter.

Weaknesses: Chan doesn’t clarify or flesh out some of the divine tensions that we as Christians live in. For instance, how do we live open handedly with our money and yet live responsible financial lives of good stewardship with our funds? If I go and give all of my money and resources away, I will not be able to provide anything for my family when God has called me as a man to do so. Chan seems to forget that tension when he starts challenging readers. He would agree with the tension, but he writes as if there isn’t one when perhaps he didn’t mean for it to read that way.

My thoughts: I like this one. I think if you’re a Christian under 30 you should probably read this book. You can definitely get it for cheaper than $15. I’ve seen it new for as little as $9. You can get it used on Amazon for around six or seven dollars sometimes. Certain chapters just challenge you socks off. Chan models for his readers and his church what it looks like to give more away and seek God so as to be overwhelmed by Him. Read this book. Buy it for people you know. Love them enough to talk with them about it.

Notable quotes:
“The point of your life is to point to Him.” “Are we in love with God or just His stuff?” “Jesus’ call to commitment is clear: He wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a “Christian” without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd.” “You could follow him straight up a hill to be crucified.” “Lukewarm utterly disgusting to God.”

Book Review: "The Cross-Centered Life"

Title: The Cross Centered Life
Sub-title: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing
Author: C.J. Mahaney
Publisher: Multnomah
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 89
Chapters: Seven
SRP: $9.99
Suggested Audience: New Christians, Christians that needs a reminder about “the main thing” at the center of our faith, or Christians disciplining small groups of Christians.

Strengths: This book is brief and basic. It is meat and potatoes. There is no filler. It’s just seven chapters of Christianity 101. Mahaney writes this so well that powerhouse writers like John Piper, Jerry Bridges, and Josh Harris all recommend this book and suggest it to you to read. You could read this book in a week by yourself or seven weeks with a small group. Discussion flows easily from this read.

Weaknesses: I can’t really see any weaknesses in this book other than the fact that it is a hardback when it could be a really cheap paperback, but I actually prefer hardbacks. So I am really just thinking about the financial tight wads out there when I call this a “weakness” because I’m actually a book snob who really likes hardbacks. If you read this book to dive deep into serious intellectual thought, this book will be insufficient for you.

My thoughts: I liked this book. My roommate recommended it, so I read it and led a younger Christian through it over the course of six weeks. It’s easy, basic stuff. If you’re looking to read a book as a small group, whether you’re leading it or discipling the others in the group and going really deep with them personally, I recommend this book. If you can’t quite muscle through big books by Piper or Driscoll and maybe even Jerry Bridges’ books are too heavy for you at the moment, I would read The Cross Centered Life by Mahaney and then follow it up with Living the Cross Centered Life when you’re done. Find this on Amazon used for as low as $4 or just drop $10 at your local book store.

The More I read by Mahaney, and the more I read about him, the more excited I am about this book. Mahaney really is an unbeliever gift to both the present and future of Church goers...leaders, laymen and pastors alike.

Notable quotes: “But I find it surprising that any loving person would withhold this truth [the gospel of Jesus] from another person they love.”

“Don’t buy the lie that cultivating condemnation and wallowing in your shame is somehow pleasing to God, or that a constant, low-grade guilt will somehow promote holiness and spiritual maturity.”

“The Christian who desires to live a cross centered life will regularly face his or her own depravity and the seriousness of personal sin, squarely and unflinchingly. It’s a reality.”

“Let this day be governed by this one defining truth.”