Thursday, April 28, 2016

4 Book Reviews from Together for the Gospel

One of the blessings of going to Together for the Gospel is the free books! I'm going to be posting some brief reviews as I read through some of the books we got. Thanks to t4g for investing in us in this way! Three of today's reviews actually come from the Band of Bloggers giveaway. So a big thank you to them as well.

A quick rating review:

5 Stars - Stop whatever you're doing and order the book!
4 Stars - A great book, you should put it on your reading list
3 Stars - A good book, there are some helpful things in it
2 Stars - An ok book, it may have some beneficial things in it, but it's not worth buying
1 Star - Not really a good book at all
0 Stars - Heresy!

Let me say one final thing on books. Please don't ever let reading books trump reading the Bible. If you are one of those people that will read about the Bible instead of reading the actual Bible, please repent, pick up the Book and read! With that being said, if you do enjoy reading good books, I hope these brief reviews are a helpful guide...

1. Rescuing the Gospel: The Sory and Significance of the Reformation by Erwin W. Lutzer (Baker Books, 200 pp.)

Stars: 4.5

Review: Lutzer does a great job at introducing us to the Reformation. The book spends most of its time with Martin Luther, but does eventually delve into the lives and significance of Zwingli and Calvin.  This is a very engaging read. Once you start reading you'll be finished before you know it and hungry for more. Not only will you brush up on your Reformation history, you will also be emboldened to carry on the fight in 2016! We are still protesting...

Favorite quote: "Every generation, including ours, has to fight for the purity of the gospel."

2. Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle (Banner of Truth, 75 pp.)

Stars: 4.5

Review: Classic Ryle. A short book and an easy read. But don't let that take away from it's 'punch'. Ryle offers practical and pointed thoughts for young men warning them of the dangers of wasting their youth on sin and worldliness. It also contains applicable exhortations on reading the Bible, praying, godly friendships, and gathering with the church body, etc. I think men of all ages will find this work beneficial. It would be a great read for a father and son.

Favorite quote: "What will you believe if you do not believe the Bible? There is no choice but to believe something absurd. Depend on it, no man is so grossly credulous as the man who denies the Bible to be the word of God."

3. Passion Cry: How Apathy is Killing the Church and How Passion for Christ will Revive It by Robbie Symons (Word Alive Press, 140 pp.)

Stars: 3

Review: I wouldn't necessarily classify this work as a 'go put on your reading list right now' sort of book. But don't let that take away from the truth Symons shares with us. He is passionate about passion for Christ.  The church needs to 'wake up' and be reminded of the glorious gospel by which we've been redeemed. We must eschew worldliness and lay hold of the eternal truths of living for Christ and His glory. This is a pretty easy read. The sort of book you might take on an airplane with you or leave by your night stand. You don't have to 'think' hard to read it but can just let Robbie's passion encourage you, and in some areas (rightly) convict you!

Favorite quote: I love his quote of Ravenhill: "The only reason we don't have revival is because we are willing to live without it." As far as what Symons wrote, I liked: "To be dull of hearing is not an ear problem but rather a heart problem. A lack of hunger for the Lord and His Word is fundamentally a heart problem."

4. Who Moved my Pulpit?: Leading Change in the Church by Thom S. Rainer (B&H, 134 pp.)

Stars: 2

Review: I was greatly disappointed in this book. I thought Rainer's I am a Church Member was pretty basic, but also helpful. But this work takes a move in the wrong direction. There are some helpful points and some practical things to use as a Pastor. However, the glaring issue in my opinion, is that 'change' is not grounded in anything other than the fact that churches are dying. What I mean is, Rainer does not do well at grounding the need for change on the Bible. He does not do well with laying out Christ's vision for the church. In some ways, you could put this book in the hand of a CEO of any company and it be applicable. Yes, Rainer does use Bible verses. But the book is not Scripture driven. Of course you get the typical Lifeway stats and those are helpful, but as far as grabbing a book that will help you lead true reformation in the church, pass on this one.

Quote I didn't like: "If your church has declined in worship attendance from 300 to 175 in ten years, something is going wrong." Why? I was part of a church one time that worked on cleaning up the church rolls. Do you know what happened? We lost some worship attenders! But guess what? Something was going right and the church became healthier. I do not understand why we continue to equate numbers with health.

Later in the book Rainer does say "True biblical success is ongoing faithfulness." It would have been nice if he would have fleshed that out more and let Scripture drive the definition of 'faithfulness.'

BONUS! - The Absurdity of Unbelief: A Worldview Apologetic of the Christian Faith by Jeffrey D. Johsnon (Free Grace Press, 330 pp.)

Stars: 5

Review: No, I didn't get this book from t4g or Band of Bloggers! But, I wanted to include it on here nonetheless since it's the most recent '5 Star' book I've read (although I did really enjoy Lutzer's book on the Reformation). I encourage you to pick up Johnson's book and read it. I wrote a longer review HERE. But let me just say that in our increasing secular age it is vital that we know what we believe, why we believe it, and why to hold to any other worldview besides the Christian one is absurd.

Favorite Quote: (there were many!) "To treasure Christ and to know that He treasures us is the key to happiness; it is the true meaning of life."

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