Review: The Grace of Shame: 7 Ways the Church Has Failed to Love Homosexuals

Tim Bayly, Joseph Bayly, Jurgen Von Hagen, Warnorn Media, 2017, 180 pages, 5 of 5 stars

As the car of American culture hurls off the cliff of biblical morality, it’s good to know there are still faithful men that can see through the fog of today’s sexual revolution.

One example is Tim Bayly and his book The Grace of Shame: Seven Ways the Church has Failed to Love Homosexuals. Bayly is a PCA pastor at Clearnote Church in Bloomington, Indiana (one of America’s gay meccas) and a contributor at the insightful blog warhornmedia.com.

The subtitle makes one think this is just another liberal Christian apologizing for the church’s Neanderthal oppression of today’s sexual minorities. “You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Continue reading

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Review: Slave

John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, 2010, 225 pp. 3 of 5 stars

What is the most unforgivable notion in today’s world? Slavery is good.

In Slave, John MacArthur explores the paradox that people never stop being slaves. Pre-conversion, we are slaves to sin. Post-conversion, we are slaves to Christ. “Although you used to be slaves of sin…you became enslaved to righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18, HCSB). Continue reading

Review: Praying the Savior’s Way

Derek Thomas, Christian Focus, 2001, 124 pages, 3 of 5 stars

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 12.05.51 PMThe great Scottish minister Robert McCheyne said if you want to humble Christians, ask about their prayer lives.

Prayer is difficult. It doesn’t come naturally and, thus, must be learned. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, and Derek Thomas aids us in explaining that prayer. This book is an exposition of the Lord’s Prayer to help Christians in learning the priority of prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer contains six brief petitions (three toward God, three toward man) and embodies three of the four key elements of prayer: adoration, petition, and confession (the other being thanksgiving).

Here is a recommendation: use each day of family worship time to adopt one of the six petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, then employ Thomas’ work as an ally in explaining those requests.

Excerpts:

  1. [Regarding “Hallowed by thy name”] It is not that God is made more holy than he is, but that he is more holy than we have imagined him to be. We are to pray that he will become more glorious in our eyes.” (39)
  2. [Regarding “Thy will be done”] It is a sign of meekness, not weakness, to add, “If it be your will.” (63)
  3. [Regarding forgiving the unrepentant] To hint that forgiveness may be possible without repentance is to fly in the face of the gospel way. God does not forgive without repentance!” (90)

 

Review: Ordering Your Private World

Gordon MacDonald, Thomas Nelson, 2003. 330 pages, Three of Five stars

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 3.55.00 PMGordon MacDonald’s Ordering Your Private World is a book for undisciplined and disorganized people. That this book was a national bestseller with over one million copies sold tells us that most of us fit into these two categories.

This book on spiritual disciplines is for pastors, but applicable for everyone—one reason being the host of excellent illustrations.

The “private world” includes the aspects of our lives that are invisible to those around us. It is spiritual. It is vital. Indeed, it is private. MacDonald balks at the clichés used today to describe the private world, “quiet time” being one of them. A person’s “quiet time” is too easily measured; it is too rigid. Our private world encompasses everything we are before God. Unless a person is militant in managing this aspect of his life, he eventually will “hit the wall”, which is the title of MacDonald’s first chapter. Continue reading

Review: The Hole in Our Holiness

Kevin DeYoung, Crossway, 2012, 162 pages, 3 of 5 stars

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 1.15.35 PMHave you ever been mocked by other Christians for trying to do right? Ever been jabbed with the eye roll or tagged with the title “legalist” for efforts to be holy?

The author of this book has. He wants to help you. In some ways, this work is a response to the popular Hypergrace movement today that suggests the unmerited grace of Christ is the only–or one of the only–legitimate motivators in doing right. Do right because of the gospel. 

DeYoung disagrees. Of course the gospel is the focus, nucleus, and hinge of everything we do, but the most helpful section of the book is where the author lists 40 ways Scripture motivates Christians to pursue holiness (e.g. duty, Christ’s example, folly of sin) (56-60).

Ephesians 5:3 has to mean something (“sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you”). Christians may disagree on exactly what it means, but it’s certainly not there to poke fun of. God has called us to holiness (1 Thess. 4:7), we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10) and husbands are to love their wives so that they “might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). Continue reading

Review: Neither Poverty Nor Riches

Craig Blomberg, Apollos, 1999, 300 pages, Four of Five Stars

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 2.35.21 PMNeither Poverty Nor Riches is one of the many excellent books in the NSBT series edited by DA Carson. I have gravitated toward Systematic Theology because of champions like Grudem, Berkhof and Reymond.

But I am warming to the Biblical Theology. This method highlights historical context and inductive study by tracing important biblical themes throughout the whole Bible. Blomberg’s task here is to study money and possessions from Genesis to Revelation.

The author begins with two thorough chapters on the OT view of possessions, deftly addressing the major difference in principle between the testaments.

Never was material wealth promised [in the NT] as a guaranteed reward for either spiritual obedience or simple hard work. This omission flows directly from the fact that the people of God are no longer defined as one ethnic group living in one divinely granted piece of geography (242).

Again, he said: “Wealth as a sign of God’s blessing and as a reward for one’s labor, then, are the two major strands of Old Testament teaching that for the most part do not carry over into the New Testament” (83).

Chapters 4-7 are given to the New Testament perspective on money. His belief that the percentage of giving should go up in relation to one’s income was convincing.

Not surprisingly, Blomberg’s analysis on our Lord’s perspective of money is most insightful. His exegesis on fifteen of Jesus’ parables was marvelous. If one does not have time to read the whole book, his closing chapter of conclusions is well worth it.

This book is not without its warts. Blomberg is sympathetic to the free market but doesn’t go far enough. At times he seems to promote some kind of hybrid of capitalism and socialism (26). I disagree when he says no single economic system can be called “biblical”.

Contrast this with Wayne Grudem (Poverty of Nations) and his straight-to-the point opening quote in a lecture on the free market: “There is only one solution to world poverty. It is the only solution that has ever worked and will ever work. This solution is evident from economic history of every wealthy nation of the world today and this solution is consistent with the teachings of the Bible.”

There were a couple other unsightly stinkers. Blomberg suggests that if Southern Baptists want to boycott Disney because of their friendship with homosexuality, they ought to be consistent and boycott Nike as well, who pays Michael Jordan more in one year than its 18,000 employees in Indonesia (251). Not only are the vices hardly on par, but one wonders if Blomberg has forgotten that if Jordan wasn’t paid, neither would the majority of those Indonesian workers.

Elsewhere he’s misleading in saying a man as the primary breadwinner is “completely generic in the Greek” of 1 Timothy 5:8 (208). But just two verses later a godly widow is described as one that brought up her children, obviously making the man the primary provider.

I had to shield my eyes when he suggested world poverty could be eliminated if Western Christians would merely tithe, since foreign aid has never eliminated poverty except for a corrupt few. Overall, this book was one of the best reads of the year.

Book Review: Addictions

Edward Welch, P&R (2001), 320 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 4.26.50 PMVoluntary slavery. This is how Edward Welch defines addiction. His thesis: the root problem of our addictions is not genetic makeup but ultimately a disorder of worship. He centers on addictions like alcohol and drugs but also addresses lying, pornography, overeating, and laziness.

Regarding the last point, my wife once asked our neighbor if she has any hobbies. “Sleeping”, was her reply. This book could help her.

Welch gets the big issue right. Addictions are not the fault of chemical imbalances. The deepest problem is sin, meaning the greatest solution is the gospel. He also shines when digging deeply into the psychological nature of sin, by “psychological” I mean in relation to the mind, not lying on a couch hitting a pillow tagged “Dad”. He is a bit soft on Alcoholics Anonymous but that is quibbling.

Husband, Father, Pastor, Preacher

As father and husband, I was convicted that anger is an addiction (see quote #8 below). As a pastor, I was convicted for not being more approachable. “Ask family members. Are you perceived as humble and patient by those close to you? Are you quick to anger? If so, no one is going to be eager to speak honestly with you” (70).

As a preacher, I need to be more practical in the pulpit. Welsh gives 7 behaviors to spot addicts, 8 ideas for private worship, and 14 ways to remember you are in a battle. P-r-a-c-t-i-c-a-l. He uses every weapon available, be it role-play, homework, or illustrations. Who said Presbyterians aren’t teetotalers? He rails against gateway drugs like cigarettes and alcohol and reminds us that addiction is monolithic. “Everything is alcohol (drug, food, sex) soluble.” Whatever the addiction, it can dilute guilt, alleviate depression, bring pleasure and quiet loss.

Excerpts

  1. Perhaps no other narrative portrays the irrational nature of sin so clearly [than Samson in Judg. 13-16]. With Delilah his lust defied all reason. Over and over she was exposed as a betrayer, yet Samson was intoxicated with her. Although aware of her plotting, his desire still blinded him. (57).
  2. Satan and sin are like wild animals (1Pt. 5:8; Gn. 4:7). There is no subtlety here. No wooing, attractive women. No idol that holds out promises it can’t keep. This is just plain old in-your-face, rip-you-apart warfare. Sin and Satan victimize. They enslave. (60)
  3. Addicts must know that they are being given a gift, and those who are helping addicts must know how to give this gift in a way that reflects its cost and beauty. Beautiful gifts must be presented in the most attractive way possible. Ask the person, “Does what we talk about sound like condemnation, or does it sound like a beautiful gift?” (63)
  4. When an addict is caught, excuses are masterful. They are offered immediately, without hesitation. They are bold, without averted eyes or a hint of “I just got found out.” Inevitably, they will somehow make friends and loved ones feel guilty. (75)
  5. [Use a gentle tongue]. If there is going to be a battle, you want it to be between the person and God, not between the person and yourself. (94)
  6. Being rebuked is not the same thing as being hypocritically judged. (114)
  7. We can quickly identify [evil] temptations by asking ourselves which of our desires prefer to stay in the dark. Which desires do we want to hide from certain people? (230)
  8. Let’s say a husband and father is dominated by anger. When he gives into his rage, he verbally abuses his family and destroys property. Rage is his addiction; he wants it. (241)