Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review - Note to Self by Joe Thorn

A pitfall all of us can fall into is to look at the Bible as a book to conquer, like a Shakespearian novel, and not a book to be lived. We read, study and pray over a particularly hard text with understanding as the only goal when we should do those things so we can learn how to live the life of obedience God desires from us. Joe Thorn in his book Note to Self gives us multitude of examples of how we can put our doctrine into practice.

This books set up is simple; Thorn takes 48 different Biblical topics/doctrines and gives us a one to two page exhortation on how to live each, all from the perspective of his own shortcomings. He starts each chapter with the title “Dear Self” because he is expressing his own struggles with living that doctrine as it should be lived. Each chapter is hard hitting but those that deal with the war against sin are his best (maybe because that is my main struggle and it’s yours if you are honest with yourself).

This is a book that I can turn to throughout my life to find help and encouragement and conviction in the myriad of struggles I may and will face. It will do the same for you.

You can purchase this book at Christianbook or Amazon.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review - Miracles are for Real by James L. Garlow and Keith Wall

In the book Miracles are for Real the authors, James L. Garlow and Keith Wall, set out to prove exactly what the title says, that you and I can expect to receive miracles today. I came into the book already believing in miracles. I have seen them in my life and in the life of my family and friends. I had hoped that the authors would have clearly laid out proof of them founded in Scripture. I knew that there would be stories interspersed throughout but wanted to find backing in the Bible. Ultimately my hopes were dashed.

Every chapter had multiple examples of what people considered to be miracles but with very little support from Scripture. I know that there are those, even Christians, who don’t need or want Biblical proof of what they experience miraculously. They expect people to take them at their word. I and the Apostle Paul couldn’t disagree more. In Acts 17:11 we read that the Bereans were noble because they studied the Bible daily to see if what they were told by the Apostle Paul was true. We are not to take anyone’s word as truth when it comes to Spiritual workings, even the Apostle Paul’s. So we shouldn’t take the stories found in this book as truth unless they can be proven, particularly in Scripture.

In the chapter titled “Back from the Dead” they tell the story of Milton Green, a man had a heart attack that many claimed was dead and brought back to life. Unfortunately no medical professional had ever officially declared him dead, a point the authors make on page 158, so to say Mr. Green was miraculously brought back to life just isn’t verifiable. For a book whose main purpose is to prove miracles still occur giving examples of true miracles is a must.

They devote another chapter to “Heavens Special Forces” - angels. They give stories from people who say they have had the aid of angels. They write about “Angels on Assignment” and use Biblical text’s to support all of the examples of angelic helpers. The problem is that the Scripture references given do not show us that angles help us like the examples given. They have twisted Scripture to fit their ideas of miracles. That is a major problem throughout.

Case-in-point - in a later chapter they write about people (singular) who just seem to have miracle after miracle happen to them. These people they call “miracle magnets.” The authors believe we all can be like this and use Acts 2:43 as proof. Here is the text of that passage, “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles (plural).” How does this passage support miracle magnets? This passage talks about a collective group of people not a singular person. I understand that signs and wonders could be miracles but this passage in no way proof that we should have regular miracles happen to us.

These are just a few examples of not having Biblical proof for their assertions. I did find it interesting that on page 187 they state that we must carefully examine all miracles yet they failed to do so in this book (see above reference on Acts 17:11).

For 236 pages the authors lay out what they believe to be proof of miracles and by implication urge us to seek them. Then in the last chapter that is just 5 pages long they tell us not to chase after miracles but after character with no mention how to do that. They also say on page 241 that we should expect miracles but that they shouldn’t be our ultimate goal that “they can’t compete with the miracle of an authentic life and a focus on always seeking to do the right thing," again with no mention of how to do that.

For the believer and unbeliever alike I can’t recommend this book. Unbelievers will only find ammo against those that do believe in miracles. Believers won’t find any Scriptural support for something that is clearly from God. I do wish the book would have been about the miracle of sanctification, it may have been a better, more encouraging read.

Disclaimer- I received this book for free from Bethany House for this review.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review - Why Church Matters by Joshua Harris

I have read many books on the church and none has had the effect on me like Joshua Harris’ book Why Church Matters (previously released as Stop Dating the Church). It is clear from the first page to the last that Harris loves God’s church and wants to instill in the reader the same passion he has for the church. It is a complete success.

The opening chapter deals with the idea that we don’t need the church to be a Christian. Obviously we are not saved by going to church but the saved should desire, even long, to worship with other blood-bought believers. We need to fellowship with them and they need us. It is a two-way relationship. When we don’t commit passionately to a church we are cheating everyone, including ourselves, out of God’s best. Josh states that by not committing to a church we cheat ourselves, our church community and our world. Why? Because we are all part of the universal body of Christ and the body won’t function properly unless all parts are in fellowship with the others.

Josh goes a step further in showing the importance that Christ places on the church. He says, “The church is the vehicle that Jesus chose to take the message of the gospel to every generation and people.” If we want to be part of seeing the world transformed by Christ we must be part of the means to see that through - His church. And it is through Christ’s church that we put ourselves in the best possible position to be used by Him. Shouldn’t that be the desire of us all, to be used to the utmost by God?

After showing us the importance of the church Josh then shows us how we are Christ’s bride. This may be the best and really only reason needed to want to belong to a local church. Josh explains it this way - “the strongest argument I know for why you and I should love and care about the Church is that Jesus does. The greatest motivation we could ever find for being passionately committed to the Church is that Jesus is passionately committed to the Church.” That is powerful! Do we need any more reasons to find a church body to give our lives to than Christ gave His life for it?

The next chapter Josh deals with our view of the church as a club. A club is something we pour ourselves into. We talk about it, read about it, listen to others talk about it, meet with people who love it like we do. We need to do the same with the church.

In choosing a church Josh gives us ten things to look for. All I can say is as a leader in my church I want others to find all ten of them at my church. This chapter urges me to make sure that all ten become a reality.

The chapter that spoke most to me was the chapter titled “Rescuing Sunday.” In this chapter Josh addresses everything about the church experience we have on the Lord’s Day. How that day is to be a day “packed with promise, full of surprises, pulsing with life.” That alone is enough to get me excited about Sunday. God wants to do amazing things when His children meet at His house. He wants to do above and beyond anything we could ever imagine, if we would just come together in corporate worship as His body. Josh adds, “When your heart begins to beat for God’s glory and God’s people and you begin to glimpse His longing to visit you, Sunday changes. Actually, it becomes something extraordinary. Something sacred. Something essential.” To help us achieve in making Sunday the Lord’s Day he gives great points on what to do in the days leading up to Sunday, what to do during the service, then how to follow the meeting.

This is a book that I plan on reading again. I highly recommend this to everyone, no matter if you only occasionally attend church or darken the doors every time they are open, you will be encouraged.

You can purchase it a Christianbook or Amazon.

Disclaimer- I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.