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Should Christians Be Environmentalists?
Should Christians Be Environmentalists?
Price: $12.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Review - Should Christians Be Environmentalists?, August 24, 2012
According to many Christians, all "environmentalists" are tree-hugging, bleeding-heart liberals who care more about the environment than people. According to many "environmentalists," Christians take their biblical mandate to "exercise dominion" over the earth to such an extreme that they unthinkingly (or perhaps even knowingly) abuse the creation for their own selfish purposes. In his new book, Should Christians Be Environmentalists? (Kregel, 2012), author Dan Story says both views are unhelpful, exaggerated caricatures. Story sets out then to: 1) "encourage godly environmental stewardship by systematically developing a Bible-based theology of nature," 2) " present an apologetic to anti-Christian environmentalists who claim that Christianity is the root cause of environmental exploitation and degradation," and 3) to "explore the potential evangelistic opportunities embedded in Christian environmentalism." (11-12) Story's desire is to bring light, rather than just heat, to the discussion by actually looking at evidence.

The evidence Story evaluates is twofold. In Part One, he evaluates the evidence regarding the nature of the modern "environmental crisis." He counters claims that Christians are primarily responsible for the crisis with evidence showing that all of humanity - those from every culture, religious background, etc. - have contributed to the current situation. He also evaluates scientific data to show a realistic, rather than alarmist, picture of the current environmental situation. The picture Story paints is balanced, appropriately noting the significance of some of the major environmental issues (Climate Change, Pollution, Habitat Loss and Extinction) while avoiding (un)scientific hyperbole.

In Part Two, Story examines the biblical evidence. He looks at the issue of Christian environmentalism from within the larger biblical framework of creation, fall, and redemption. In so doing, Story constructs a "Bible-based Theology of Nature." Further, he examines the biblical teaching on stewardship in general in order to show how Christian stewardship applies to creation care in particular.

In Part Three, Story proceeds to show the ethical implications of the biblical teaching. He looks not only at the progression of "America's Emerging Ecological Conscience" but also important practical questions like "Is Environmental Exploitation Sin?" In what is arguably his farthest biblical stretch, Story connects three elements of Jesus' life and teaching to the Christian's responsibility for caring for the environment. The final two chapters, however, are tremendously helpful, offering practical suggestions to churches not only for engaging members both corporately and individually in creation care-related ministry, but also in using creation care as an intentional platform for sharing the Gospel with those who do not know Christ. Story seeks to live out his own advice in a final section that recounts his personal journey from non-Christian environmentalist who advocated for the environment for its own sake to a Christian environmentalist who now passionately pursues creation care for the sake of the glory of the One who created it all in the first place.

Some aspects of the book certainly stretched me personally. I am still trying to decide if the internal pinch was more from the author's occasional over-reaching attempts to make his point, or simply from the sting of conviction felt because of the accuracy of his claims. Perhaps it was some of both. Overall, this is a very needed book in the environmentalism discussion. Demonstrating the research of a scientist, the biblical fidelity of a theologian and the winsome persuasion of an apologist, Dan Story has done a great service to the Body of Christ. He has given us research-based data, a biblical critique, and a plan for a God-honoring way forward. So, in a word, "yes." Christians should be environmentalists, to the glory of God.

(FTC Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review.)

Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation
Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation
by Ed Stetzer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.08
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5.0 out of 5 stars Living for a Different King and a Different Kingdom, August 11, 2012
Ed Stetzer says (and the Bible teaches), "Being a part of the kingdom [of God] means a new loyalty to King Jesus." He goes on to say, "Something is wrong when churches are filled with people who seemingly haven't changed their loyalties." And yet, both research studies and anecdotal evidence seem to indicate that the previous description is often painfully accurate among churches today. In an effort to present biblical truth and practical counsel as a much-needed corrective, Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, offers his new book Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation (Broadman & Holman, 2012).

So what is Stetzer's counsel to followers of Christ who want to live for a different King (King Jesus), as subjects of a different kingdom (the Kingdom of God)? Live lives of rebellion and subversion! Sound like strange counsel? In Part I - A Subversive Way of Thinking - Stetzer calls believers to rebel against the reigning kingdom of darkness, which is itself in open rebellion against God, His will and His plan. So, as Stetzer puts it, Christians are to "rebel against the rebellion." Further, Christians are to live subversively, seeking actively and intentionally to subvert (undo, antagonize) the kingdom of darkness as we live under the reign of our King and promote the advancement of His kingdom.

In Chapter 2, Stetzer shares some of the "secrets" that believers need to understand in order to live rebellious, subversive lives. In Chapter 3, he goes on to provide both the current reality and future hope that should serve as the direction and motivation for the subversion. After laying this theological foundation, Stetzer sets out in the rest of the book to "flesh out what these kingdom realities should mean both in our personal lives and in our shared life together with other believers in the church."

In Part II - A Subversive Way of Life - the focus shifts to several ways kingdom realities should manifest themselves in the lives of God's subversive kingdom agents. Stetzer challenges Christ-followers to embrace three commitments as they seek to become the subversive kingdom agents God intends them to be: 1) Be [God's]; 2) Be different; and 3) Be faithful. Those who live according to these three commitments will not live simply as ordinary, "good people" in the world, but rather as those who are "uncommonly good" - giving evidence of the transforming power of the Gospel in their lives as they live according to a new Kingdom ethic. Drawing from Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, Stetzer describes the counter-intuitive, yet Kingdom-expected, ways believers must interact with those around them. In order for a kingdom citizen to live in these ways, he must live in complete surrender and submission to his King, which means there is no room for idols - any substitute that would try to take God's rightful place as supreme ruler - in his life.

In the final section - Part III - A Subversive Plan of Action - Stetzer begins by reminding the reader that God's ultimate mission is bringing glory to Himself; a mission which He accomplishes, in large part, by using kingdom citizens as ministers of reconciliation, calling people to repent and believe the Gospel. This mission of God is to be engaged both by believers individually, and believers corporately - gathered together as the Body of Christ. Stetzer notes the Gospel impact of the people of God living collectively for God's glory, demonstrating God's ability to transform lives. As Stetzer puts it, "In living together as God's people under his reign and lordship, our churches provide to the world the closest resemblance of the kingdom of God on this side of eternity. We are the invisible kingdom made visible through the people of God and their shared lives on earth." Stetzer challenges churches to live this way: "It's time our churches started reflecting a clear, noticeable, unmistakable kingdom difference." Living this way requires at least two important elements: living transformed lives, and living these transformed lives together with other believers. This kind of living helps us not only to be prepared, but also to live with purpose - kingdom purpose: "We have a purpose that's much greater than our individual purposes alone, and we find this purpose by teaming up with one another in shared kingdom adventure."

This book is both desperately needed and extremely helpful. Balancing both doctrine and practice, it gives the reader the necessary theological foundations to understand the "why" of Kingdom living, while also offering the "how" - practical tips for living out these theological truths. I will encourage other Christ-followers to read this book. I will encourage fellow pastors to recommend it to their congregations. My prayer is that God will help His people not only to understand the biblical concepts put forth in this book, but to live them out consistently in a way that will point to the power and glory of the God who loved them, brought them to Himself, and changed them, making them new. As we live in this way, may our lives - both individually (as Christ-followers) and collectively (as the Body of Christ) - advance His kingdom by bringing God glory and drawing others to know Him.

(FTC Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for writing this review.)

Men, Women, and the Meaning of Marriage
Men, Women, and the Meaning of Marriage
Price: $2.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Marriage - a biblical perspective, July 12, 2012
There are many ways to measure a marriage. When asked if their marriage is a "good one," many couples answer "yes" if in it they feel relationally connected, sexually satisfied, and/or emotionally fulfilled. In short, they consider their marriage "good" if it is meeting their perceived needs and benefiting them in tangible ways. What if, however, the God-given institution of marriage had far more to do with teaching us spiritual truth than simply meeting our temporal relational/emotional/sexual needs. In his short e-book Men, Women and the Meaning of Marriage, David Jones argues that this deeper understanding of marriage is what God had in mind when He instituted marriage in creation order. To put it succinctly, God gave marriage not simply to make us happy, but to make us holy.

Jones calls for a theocentric (G0d-centered), as opposed to anthropocentric (man-centered), view of marriage. He argues that marriage is primarily about two things: mankind's sanctification (being conformed into the image of Christ) and, even more importantly, the glorification of God. Jones states, "The fact that marriage ultimately entails the glorification of God leads to the conclusion that the Lord did not create mankind primarily for fellowship with one's spouse, but rather for fellowship with himself." In fact, because God's design for marriage demonstrates God's relationship with His people, it can serve, in some measure, as a visual demonstration of the Gospel. Toward this end, Jones writes, "Marriage is revelatory and, as such, the institution of marriage communicates the gospel." The God-ordained institution of marriage is so designed to demonstrate God's relationship with His people that Jones says, "In getting marriage in a very real sense living and preaching a false gospel."

There are at least a couple of reasons this little book is important. First, it offers clear biblical teaching on the importance of marriage. This is particularly important in light of our contemporary penchant for using a "what's in it for me" perspective to measure the value of things. Second, it deals with the hotly debated issue of gender roles within the biblical context of marriage.

At only about 20 pages, this e-book is a wonderful, short resource for understanding the biblical foundation for marriage. Some may feel that this little book is written at a level that is a little too advanced for the average reader, an understandable perspective given that this material was originally created as a biblical introduction to marriage for the author's seminary students. I believe, however, that the book is written at a level that makes it accessible to most readers who are interested in gleaning from its content. It is important for Christians today to understand marriage from a biblical perspective in order to be able to speak to people within our culture (and even within the church) who have a far less than biblical view of marriage. This book will help toward that end. Pastors could use the content of this book to teach on marriage in their churches. Dr. Jones has taught much of the material contained herein in our local church, to the great benefit of those who heard him. I strongly commend this work to you.

Dr. David Jones is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Th.M. program at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His other print books include God, Marriage and Family (with Andreas Kostenberger - Crossway, 2010); Marriage and the Family (with Andreas Kostenberger - Crossway, 2012 - a popular edition of the former); and Health, Wealth and Happiness (with Russell Woodbridge - Kregel, 2010).

Why Church Matters: Discovering Your Place in the Family of God
Why Church Matters: Discovering Your Place in the Family of God
by Joshua Harris
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.63
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5.0 out of 5 stars Why Church Matters - An Important Book for Today, June 29, 2012
Author Joshua Harris "Kissed Dating Goodbye." In "Why Church Matters (Waterbrook Multnomah, 2011)," he now is calling on everyone to "Stop Dating the Church" - the title under which this book was originally released in 2004. (The new version has small group discussion questions in the back). No matter your perspective on young men and women dating (when/if it should start; what is its purpose; how it should be done; etc.), every follower of Christ who takes the church seriously should acknowledge that a "dating" relationship with the local church is neither what Christ intended nor what the Bible prescribes. Yet, in many cases in contemporary church life, a "dating" relationship is an accurate description.

What does it mean to be "dating" the church? It might look something like: "attending on the weekends" and enjoying "the social benefits of 'church'" while seeking to avoid "the responsibility that [comes] with real commitment" (4). In more extreme cases, it might mean attending one church on Sunday morning because you like the music or the message and attending another church on Sunday nights because you like their topical Bible studies. It might mean going to a third church on another weeknight because you like the program they have for children. Overall, it makes church participation much like the practice of the thrifty shopper: going to Wal-Mart or Sam's for bulk items; Fresh Market for produce; and Harris Teeter for meats - any of which is subject to change weekly based upon the coupons/ads in Sunday's paper. There is no sense of real commitment or life investment, simply a consumerism approach borne out of a "what's in it for me" mentality. He says those who take this approach to the church tend to be "me-centered" (going for what I can get); "independent" (not wanting to get too involved); and "critical" (being short on allegiance and quick to find fault) (6-7).

Harris takes this kind of practice head-on: "Every Christian is called to be passionately committed to a specific local church. Why? Because the local church is the key to spiritual health and growth for a Christian. And because as the visible 'body of Christ' in the world, the local church is central to God's plan for every generation" (5). In order to address this situation, Harris offers this book to "share with other sincere followers of Christ the profound blessings that come with living a life committed to the church," "to show that the church matters to God and it should matter to us," and to help Christ-followers "catch a glimpse of the beauty of God's plan for the church in each believer's life and the unimaginable power that could be unleashed through even one generation embracing that plan" (8).

The rest of the book contains biblical, theological and practical content describing everything from the church's make up and her mission, to meaningful church membership, etc. Harris also gives simple, practical advice for those who are looking for a local church with which they can unite their lives, offering "the Ten Things That Matter Most" when looking for a local church. Toward the end of the book, he helps the reader understand the importance of gathering corporately for Sunday worship. Finally, there is an admonition to commit to a local church and to worship and serve there faithfully.

In a day when church attendance/participation is so often viewed from the perspective of consumerism, this book provides a biblical and timely challenge and corrective. This book should certainly be read by anyone who is currently looking for a local church home. Far beyond that, any church member would benefit greatly from taking the time to read this book, being reminded of the necessity of the local church in the life of the believer and for the advancement of the mission of God. At only 120 pages, taking the time to read this valuable book is indeed a small sacrifice. As a pastor, I will encourage our church to require (or at least strongly recommend) that all potential membership candidates read this book. It really is that important.

(FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

Culture Shift: The Battle for the Moral Heart of America
Culture Shift: The Battle for the Moral Heart of America
by R. Albert Mohler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.92
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4.0 out of 5 stars We're Not in Kansas Anymore, June 14, 2012
If "Kansas" is a former time in our country where a Judeo-Christian understanding and ethic were largely understood and accepted, we are certainly not there anymore. That being the case, it is incumbent upon Christians to understand today's current cultural situation and to know how to live within, and respond to, that current situation in a way that is biblical. Albert Mohler (President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY) has done Christians a great service by writing his new book Culture Shift: The Battle for the Moral Heart of America (Multnomah, 2011). Originally released in 2008, this updated book clearly outlines many of the most dramatic cultural shifts that have taken place in America and evaluates them in light of biblical truth.

Mohler's approach to the book is certainly more broad than deep, covering topics such as "Christian Morality and Public Law," Abortion, Natural disasters, Atheism, Reproductive Technology, Family and Retirement, among others. Mohler addresses these topics in terms of how they have been viewed in the past, how they are being viewed today, and why Christians should care about these shifts. To a lesser degree, he describes how Christians should respond to these issues.

This book certainly does not answer every question or expose every detail of the shifts that have taken place in these key areas. It does, however, give some great background and simple introductions to the topics that will help Christians understand today's culture. The book is written at a level that is very accessible to most readers. Prayerfully, those who read it will be motivated to learn and read more about these things, equipping themselves to speak biblically about these topics with their friends, neighbors, family members, co-workers and others. As Christians, we are called to be salt and light in the world in which we live (see Matthew 5:13-16). This book will help us be better prepared to do so.

(FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

40 Questions About the End Times (40 Questions Series) (40 Questions & Answers Series)
40 Questions About the End Times (40 Questions Series) (40 Questions & Answers Series)
by Eckhard J. Schnabel
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.88
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How Will It All End and Why Should We Care?, April 27, 2012
The Bible talks about many things that will take place in the "end times." However, a multitude of questions remain about the how, when and why of many of these things/people/events. In 40 Questions About the End Times, Eckhard Schnabel (PhD, University of Aberdeen - Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) addresses 40 of those most pressing questions.

The 40 questions addressed in the book are divided into four main categories: 1) General Questions About the Future; 2) The Return of Jesus Christ; 3) The Millennium and the Last Judgment; and 4) Interpreting the End Times. There are several reasons I would recommend this book:

It is thorough - I cannot immediately think of an eschatological stone that has been left unturned by the author. While the discussion of each question is somewhat limited (approx. 7-8 pages per question), the author addresses most, if not all, of the major questions regarding End Times. For this reason, this book will serve as a great resource for pastors and church members alike. The footnoting in the book will also lead the reader to many other sources for further personal reading and research.

It is accessible - Schnabel has written this book in a way that makes it accessible to most people. The language is not unnecessarily technical. In fact, he defines some of the most common eschatological categories/terms at the beginning of the book - A-, Pre- and Post-Millennialism; Dispensationalism (Classic and Progressive); etc. - and rarely uses the terms thereafter, opting instead for simply explaining concepts rather than using labels.

It is fresh - Schnabel opted to start with a fresh look at the text of Scripture, rather than offering explanations, critiques, or comparisons of the existing, historical eschatological paradigms.

It is practically relevant - This book helps the Christian understand why he/she should care about End Times questions. Though Question 40 is specifically dedicated to addressing the practical relevance issue, Schnabel utilizes opportunities in his discussion of other questions to help Christians answer the "so what" question.
This book will no doubt challenge the reader in many ways. It will challenge the reader to be a better student of Scripture with regard to the End Times. It will challenge beliefs the reader holds that are based, perhaps, more on opinion or tradition than Scripture. It will challenge the reader to do further research and study.

Some may claim that the author is too committed simply to finding to an immediate, first-century fulfillment of "end time" prophecies. Others may feel that the author is inconsistent in determining where a literal or symbolic interpretation of an End Time prophecy is applicable. Still others may think the author has taken a cop-out perspective on some of the questions, failing to give as definitive an explanation as could be offered. I believe the author has offered a balanced and biblical perspective, noting the available options for answering these questions and showing the benefits and/or challenges of each option.

My hope is that readers of this book will be challenged to follow the author's counsel for thinking and living Christianly with regard to these end times questions and discussions of them. He encourages his readers to let the Scripture be their guide, counsel which the author models in his approach. He encourages being gracious when discussing these matters with others. And most importantly, he reminds his readers that, because no man knows the day or time of Christ's certain return, we must live with our eyes fixed on Jesus; serving Christ faithfully and sharing the message of Christ with those who are lost and need to know Him.

(FTC Disclaimer - I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for writing this review.)

Living Close to God (When You're Not Good at It): A Spiritual Life That Takes You Deeper Than Daily Devotions
Living Close to God (When You're Not Good at It): A Spiritual Life That Takes You Deeper Than Daily Devotions
by Gene Edwards
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.44
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4.0 out of 5 stars Living Close to God - A Review, March 2, 2012
Some people seem to be naturally spiritually bent. They not only love God passionately but also find times of prayer, Bible-reading and communion with God as natural as eating or breathing. For others, this is certainly not the case. They find quiet times to be laborious, with their mind wandering and their heart lacking some kind of overwhelming emotional sensation. It is not that people in this second category don't genuinely love God. They do. But they seem to be lacking something that others have. This latter category was certainly the case for Gene Edwards, author of Living Close to God - When You're Not Good At It, who opened Chapter 1 by describing himself as "spiritually handicapped." (1)

Edwards writes this book for people like himself, people who "are not spiritually inclined." His goal? Not simply finding some textbook way to act or feel while spending some kind of obligatory time with God daily, but rather finding a vital Christian life. In his own words: "I was not looking for an experience; I was seeking a walk." (4, emphasis original) The remainder of the book, then, is a telling of the author's spiritual journey through this process. Along the way the author shares practical steps that helped him make progress in his journey.

One of the things I particularly liked about the book is the transparency with which the author writes. You can feel the weight of his struggle through this spiritual journey even through the titles of the first two sections of the book: "A Beggar Looks for Bread" and "From Praying to God to Fellowshipping with Him." Another thing that I appreciated was the simplicity of the author's practical steps toward seeking this "walk with God." While he said the standard admonitions of "read your Bible and pray" was not the answer, he did not give up either of these spiritual disciplines in this process. He simply approached them in different ways. In fact, the things that made the biggest difference in the author's life were both reading the Scripture and prayer. However, rather than simply enduring these activities as obligatory tasks, he instead approached them as personal fellowship opportunities with God.

He began reading the Scripture in a personal way, beginning with Psalm23. As he really slowed his reading process down, he sensed his spirit crying out, "Lord Jesus, You are my Shepherd." (22) As he continued to express his heart personally to the Lord in prayer, he says something amazing happened: "I discovered that while I had sought prayer, what I found was beyond prayer. I had found Christ." (23) In the remainder of the book, Edwards explains how he discovered that, rather than simply holding the answer, Christ was the answer to his search.

Edwards offers many practical tips for approaching this fellowship time with God. He doesn't give them as a formula everyone must follow, but as many suggestions for people to try for themselves. Edwards explains how self-evaluation showed him that his times of prayer was more about asking God for things, rather than simply fellowshipping with Him. He tells how he changed his morning routine to include simple fellowship with God without asking anything of Him. Edwards was not saying we should never ask anything of God. He simply realized that it is easy for our "relationship" with God to consist exclusively of asking God for things, rather than our asking flowing from our relationship with Him.

If you are one who struggles to have consistent quiet times and feel that a relational "walk with God" is something that eludes you, you might benefit from this book. The book also includes a study guide that can be used in personal study or with a small group. Let this book point you toward ways that you can begin to "taste and see that the Lord is good."

(FTC Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

Playing Hurt: A Guy's Strategy for a Winning Marriage
Playing Hurt: A Guy's Strategy for a Winning Marriage
by Brian Goins
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.05
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playing Hurt - A Call to be a Gospel-Centered Husband, October 10, 2011
Playing Hurt by author Brian Goins (Kregel, 2011) is, hands down, the best book of its kind that I have read. It is thoroughly biblical, Gospel-centered, and written from such a manly perspective you can almost smell the sweaty socks laying in the corner and see the underwear laying in the floor that didn't get picked up after the last shower (or maybe the one before last).

The book centers around Paul's well-known admonition to husbands in Ephesians 5:25: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." As such, Goins shows that Christ is the ultimate example for Christian husbands to seek to emulate. Goins does not, however, simply encourage husbands to look at how far we are from Christ's example, and then encourage us to try harder to do better. Instead, he shows that we cannot live in this way without Christ's power and presence with us. As Goins says, "God's not looking for willpower and good techniques. He wants men brave enough to depend on His strength more than their own." (139)

The great irony the author points out is that the very one we have been called to love sacrificially, our wife, is the one who often "hurts" us, whether through unmet expectations, harsh criticism, or in some other way. It is at this point that many husbands go running for the bench, either by lashing out in retaliation, or by clamming up, going into silent mode. Goins shows how it is at these difficult moments that men must man-up, "playing hurt" rather than simply giving up and being content to sit on the bench.

Goins writes not from the perspective of one who has achieved the status of "model husband," but as one who is a fellow traveler. He shares personal examples where he has gotten it right, as well as instances where he has blown it. All along the way, he continues to hold up the example of Christ, never allowing husbands to settle simply for "the best I can do." And, like a good coach, he is constantly shouting encouragement from the sidelines.

While the book focuses on the man's role as husband, Goins takes a spiritually holistic approach to the topic by demonstrating the necessity of elements such as discipleship, mentoring and accountability. He also reminds us about the reality of spiritual warfare, and the booby traps of lust, pornography, etc. And, he manages to write a spiritually-challenging book by incorporating a great balance of strong biblical truth, real-life examples, and a healthy dose of humor (including his use of the "Black Knight" scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail!)

Men should buy this book and read it. They should encourage their friends to read it. Women should encourage their husbands to read it, and tell their girlfriends to encourage their husbands to read it as well. It will be required reading for any man for whom I provide pre-marital counseling, including my two sons. May God use this book for His glory as husbands answer the call to love their wives as Christ loved the church.

(I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for writing this review.)

The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight
The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight
by Dan Phillips
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.88
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Biblical-Gospel That Will "Tilt" the World, October 4, 2011
In many cases, the world today seems to mock Christianity, rather than marvel at it. Further, of all the ways to describe today's Christian-impact on the world, few would likely describe it as "turning the world upside down." Yet, as blogger/author Dan Phillips points out in his new book The World-Tilting Gospel (Kregel, 2011), that is precisely the description used of the early church's impact in Acts 17:6. So what is the difference? Why were believers in Acts demonstrating a "world-tilting" impact upon the world while those claiming to know Christ today seem more likely to be impacted by the world?

Describing the tendency of some to be more impacted by the world, than having an impact on the world, Phillips opines: "The world tilts them because of various barriers erected in their minds through exposure to bad teaching. A variety of false doctrines hold them back from enjoying the life to which God calls them in Jesus Christ. They bank on bad teaching, they're burdened by bad teaching, and they're bound by bad teaching." (18, emphasis original)

What then is the answer? Phillips gives a straightforward answer: "The greatest need of the church today is a strategic , full-orbed, robust, biblical grasp of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its transformative implications. We don't need more glitz or glamour, better marketing or programs, snazzier décor or entertainment. We do need a whole-Bible grasp of the Gospel." (19, emphasis original) And a "whole-Bible grasp of the Gospel" is exactly what Phillips sets out to provide.

Phillips organizes his content in a form that is similar to the creation-fall-redemption-restoration paradigm, though not exactly the same. He labels his four "movements" "Who We Are," "What Has God Done for Us?" "How Do We Get In?" and "How Do We Get Going?" He ends with a chapter entitled "Culmination" wherein he seeks to show the practical implications of living out this whole-Bible Gospel.

Phillips writes with a style that is extremely engaging, while keeping his content both rich and biblical. At times he shows his depth of knowledge and experience in theology and the biblical languages, while still writing at a level that most people can grasp. He certainly does not lay the theological cookies on the floor, but at least puts them on the lower shelves.

If someone is going to find a problem with Phillips, it will likely have to do with his heavily-Calvinistic bent. It is no surprise that three of his endorsements were written by John MacArthur, Phil Johnson and Ligon Duncan, all well-known Calvinists (or, as they might prefer, those who hold to the "Doctrines of Grace"). If you are reformed in your theological perspective, you will likely only find cause to celebrate this book in its entirety. If you are allergic to certain petals on the theological TULIP, you will still find much in this book to affirm (in fact only chapters 7 & 8 are likely to cause you to need a good shot of the "whosoevers"). In fact, as one who is not a 5-pointer, I found much that challenged me to pursue greater faithfulness in my walk with Christ; particularly in the section on progressive sanctification.

What we can all affirm is that much of evangelicalism today has embraced a pseudo-gospel that is not biblical. It should not surprise us, then, that those who are broadly labeled as "Christians" today are having little true Gospel-impact on the world, and, in many cases are actually being impacted by the world. I believe Phillips has given us a book that can serve both as a wake-up call and a training aid. It will hopefully awaken true Christians to the need to live and share a thoroughly biblical Gospel. Further, it will serve as a tool with which young believers can be trained to understand more fully, live more faithfully and proclaim more passionately a biblical Gospel that will, through the power of the Holy Spirit, `tilt' the world in which we live for the glory of Christ.

(I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review.)
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From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology
From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology
by John Dyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.61
156 used & new from $7.20

5.0 out of 5 stars A Theological Look at our Technological World, September 28, 2011
Does the Bible have anything to say about modern technology? According to author John Dyer, in his new book From the Garden to the City, more than you can imagine! As Christians, we must evaluate every aspect of our lives in light of God's Word, the Bible. We often think about this with regard to pressing moral questions such as abortion, homosexuality, etc. But what about technology - things like cell phones, the internet, Facebook and Twitter? There is no question that our lives today are at least technologically-impacted, if not technologically-driven. Should we, then, not consider how technology impacts the way we live, and do so from a particularly Christian perspective? That evaluation is precisely what Dyer has given us. His work, however, is not just a biblical evaluation of technology itself, but also an evaluation of both what technology can do for us, and what it can do to us.

This critique of technology is a definite need in our day where the obvious achievements that can be had through one's use of technology can blind a person to the potential side-effects that come with its use. Dyer says, "Today's technology has the power to `heal the sick and make the blind see,' and yet it also has the power to overwhelm us and distract us from what is truly important. When technology has distracted us to the point that we no longer examine it, it gains the greatest opportunity to enslave us." (28) In such a state of distraction, many a Christian unwittingly wastes hours of life a week (or a day) due to `enslavement' to cell phones, email, text messaging, Facebook, and Twitter, all the while thinking the technology is serving them. (Though Dyer does not ask the question, I will: "How does the amount of time you spend `enslaved' to Facebook, text messaging and email compare with the amount of time you spend in concentrated, devotional reading of God's Word and in un-distracted prayer to the Father?" Asked another way: "Which would leave you more distraught - if you were forced to give up your cell phone and computer for a week, or your Bible and prayer time for a week?" Just asking.)

What gives this book its draw and its impact is the author's solid grasp of both biblical theology (ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary) and technological expertise (web-developer who has built tools for Apple, Microsoft, Harley Davidson, and the Department of Defense). Dyer then takes it to an even higher level as he assimilates his knowledge of both theology and technology into a book that is as readable and practical as it is biblical.

To say that Dyer's approach is "biblical" is really an understatement. That term is often used to describe a book where an author, in somewhat willy-nilly fashion, includes a few Bible verses that seem to support his conclusion. In this book, Dyer takes a decidedly biblical and gospel-centered approach, considering technology within the broad framework of God's plan of redemption - from Creation to Fall to Redemption to Restoration. (Dyer uses the terms "Reflection," "Rebellion," "Redemption," and "Restoration.") Dyer's evaluation of the practical implications of technology is equally in-depth, considering ways technology affects the way we read the Scripture, communicate with others, experience community, and even view ourselves.

Because of our technologically-saturated world, everyone would benefit from reading this book. This book is a particularly important tool for all Christians. It will help the Christian businessman or businesswoman understand the implications of choosing certain methods of communication with co-workers and clients. It will help Christian parents educate their children regarding the benefits and dangers of all forms of technology, and how to be biblically discerning when using them. It will help pastors and church leaders not only be better prepared to speak about technological issues with church members, but also to determine what kinds of technology should, or should not, be used in their corporate worship gatherings.

Dyer never states nor insinuates that the best option is for Christians to avoid technology like the plague, and to encourage others to do the same. Rather, he ends the book by saying, "It is my hope that the biblical and philosophical tools presented in this book will help us become better stewards of the technological tools God has entrusted to us, as we seek to live lives that honor him and the work of his Son. And on our journey from the Garden to the City, I pray that we never confuse the city for the Savior." (179)

Get this book. Read it. After you stop justifying the way you currently use/misuse technology, read it again. Then ask God to help you walk in greater obedience and discernment as you seek to use the tools of technology as yet another way to bring glory to His great name.

(I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.)

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