Tuesday, December 17, 2013

a journey of the heart in scripture

Spiritual transformation what is it? How do we accomplish it? Much of what is called “discipleship” is nothing more than coaching to “do better” and “try harder” leaving one feeling spiritually exhausted and discouraged. This is not the approach taken by Robert Saucy in Minding the Heart The Way of Spiritual Transformation

Saucy’s singular focus is in the title to this delightfully refreshing book; Minding the Heart. The author takes you on a journey through scripture to uncover the meaning of “Heart” in all of it’s uses. The ideas shown in the book from scripture may feel a little strange to the modern mind set, but with the helpful explanation of the author the spiritual significance comes to light. There are thirteen pages of a triple column scripture index at the back of the book that may well be worth the price of the book. I know I will be referring to it often. 

Robert Saucy takes you on a journey of the heart in scripture. You will learn what the heart is, what is it’s nature, what is a heart that God desires, and what all this means for you. This journey is not pop psychology but scripture. It is well worth the effort and will have a profound affect on your life. This work is a great gift from the author to the church at large. 

The book I believe should be read by the widest possible audience. Church leaders and lay-persons alike will find it well worth the time. I would say that the only drawback is that the author is so well organized that I found I needed to slow down my reading pace. There are about 280 pages of actual text but each one is concentrated and deserves some reflection. The author builds on his ideas so I would recommend reading it straight through the first time. 

Many thanks to Kregel Academic & Ministry for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. 

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices

Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices by Chris Brauns

"principle of the rope" -- the simple truth that our lives, choices and actions are linked to the lives, choices, and actions of other people."

This book is not only timely in offering hope and practical action for today's questions about original sin but also timeless in that Chris Brauns digs deep into scripture and the reformed tradition, giving us much to meditate on and ultimately enlarging our vision of Christ, the gospel and the church.

This is an amazing book! The main idea is what the author calls “the principle of the rope” in that we are all bound together. He starts with an explanation of the doctrine of original sin and shows how that principle, “the principle of the rope” is not just bad news; We all get dragged down by Adam's mistake, but it is also great news; We all get lifted up by Christ's obedience if we are “bound together” with Him. Chris Brauns shows how this is true in scripture and offers very practical applications for those who have suffered from the poor decisions of family members.

Our union with Christ is more than a legal matter, it is also a vital organic connection.”

I was also surprised and delighted by chapter 7 which applies these ideas to Christian marriage. Husbands and wives will have a lot to think about what union really means.

The fear of death is treated in a marvelous way from Hebrews 2:10-18.
The author of Hebrews understood that if Christians were to be confident in the face of death, they must first be confident they are truly bound to Christ. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin.”

Finally the author offers a cure to our cultures radical individualism. The Gospel and the Church are shown to be the means of change. And by not understanding the solidarity that the Gospel creates in the community of the Church we have not had an answer for radical individualism.

Thank you to Zondervan for providing me an ePub copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rather Than Enlightening He Obscures

A review of God Desire and a Theology of Human Sexuality by David H. Jensen

I was very excited while reading through the introduction to this book. The author is attempting to offer a three pronged approach to understanding the Bible's teachings about human sexuality. Briefly stated they are:

  • A rule based approach that understands the guidelines for sexual behavior in the bible to be self evident.
  • A hermeneutic of suspicion that claims sexual rules no longer apply.
  • An approach that situates our understanding of sexuality along a long arc of divine desire.

However my excitement turned to disappointment as the arguments offered fell off my fork before reaching my mouth.

My first disappointment is with the author's use of scripture and some of the language used in relation to it.

On page 3 Jensen seems frustrated by Paul's use of porneia, in 1 Cor 5:1, but neglects to compare or contrast Matthew or John's use in the gospels.

Instead he appeals to a reference from The Ethics of Sex by Mark D. Jordan. Jordan claims that Paul's "lists give us very little evidence about the exact meanings of the terms in them... So, too, the Pauline texts may be using porneia metaphorically or symbolically, not intending to refer to specific sexual acts at all."

So if I use the term "child abuse" without giving the exact type and genre of abuse I must be speaking metaphorically?

Porneia is used in the New Testament in 25 verses. Jensen picks out two places and rather than enlightening he obscures.

One more example should suffice. On page 13 Jensen writes, “Controversy over sex has been a part of Christian traditions since the calling of the disciples. Amid this controversy, the church has turned routinely to Scripture for guidance. The New Testament records some of these controversies: Paul's letters for example, document arguments over sexual behaviors that were subjects of Christian disagreement. Though the particulars of these New Testament controversies have receded from light, the rhetoric that Paul employed to address them abides.”

I would really have loved more information on the controversy over sex that Jensen is referring to. But alas since the particulars have receded from light, I suppose I will forever be in the dark. It is a shame all I have left is Paul's rhetoric!

The rhetoric that Jensen adds to the conversation does not enlighten in my opinion.

Thanks to Westminster John Knox Press for providing an electronic version for review purposes.  

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God

Anyone who wishes that the church in America today would have a clearer focus on Holiness needs to read this book. But a word of caution, be careful what you wish for. A quote from the preface gives a foretaste of the ten marvelous chapters;

“By raising our gaze, we come to understand the universal testimony of holy men in the pages of sacred Scripture, who, having had a momentary glimpse of the character of God, were reduced to trembling in dust and in ashes. I believe the church desperately needs this perspective like never before.” -R.C. Sproul

Each of the chapters of this little book is rich for devotion, meditation, and study. I have benefited greatly by my reading of it and I plan to keep it close for further reflection. These words are powerful with scripture and worthy of second and third helpings.

Ligonier Ministries has in these pages assembled some of the finest pastors and scholars in in America (and the Cayman Islands)

Contributors include: Thabiti Anyabwile, Alistair Begg, D.A. Carson, Sinclair B. Ferguson, W. Robert Godfrey, Steven J. Lawson, R.C. Sproul, R.C. Sproul Jr., Derek W.H. Thomas

In chapter 1 titled I Am the Lord”: The Only God, R.C. Sproul gives an excellent background on the nature of God and His uniqueness contrasting scripture with popular thought.

The chapters that follow are also excellent. I was especially moved by Sinclair Ferguson's comments in chapter 2 about unfolding the mystery. God has made us not only to have communion with Him, but in such a way that we can grasp and appreciate what that communion is like. . . . No man else may lock eyes with my wife and gaze at her the way I am privileged to do and say, “I love you with all of my being.” (pg 21.)

Thabiti Anyabwile in chapter 5 speaking about sin as treason says, “Beware the evidence of treason that resists correction. Resolve now, while you are in your right mind, while you are sober, that if at any
point a brother or sister should speak to correct you, you will receive that correction with God’s help. You cannot develop holiness of character in a pinch.(pg. 69.)

Lastly I'd like to mention that D.A. Carson gives much to chew on when he writes, “there is no biblical passage that says “be omnipotent, for I am omnipotent.” Let’s face it, omnipotence is an incommunicable attribute of God. On the other hand, there are many passages that enjoin us to love. God is love, and love is a communicable attribute of God.” and “holy means “separate” and they point out that God is utterly separate. But did the voices around the throne in Isaiah 6:3 really cry, “Separate, separate, separate is the Lord Almighty”? and “Moral, moral, moral is the Lord Almighty”? No. At its core, in the tightest concentric circle, holy is almost an adjective for God.” (pg 80.)

As you can see this book offers much to think about no matter what your tradition. If you value the scriptures you will be built up by reading this work. I commend it to all.

Reformation Trust Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes for which I am eternally grateful. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Summer Reading Queue

I am blogging my reading list this summer. Reviews will be available here and at my review site at tumblr. So far in the queue is:

Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God

FROMReformation Trust
PUBLISH DATEMay 31st, 2010
So far this one is a very inspiring read. Well worth each of it's 145 pages. I'll post my review hopefully soon. 

Next up is a controversial subject veiled a little bit by the title: 

God, Desire, and a Theology of Human Sexuality

Author: David H. Jensen 
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Pages: 170
Format: 6 x 9
Product Type: Paper
Publication Date: 4/19/2013

Ok, so who doesn't like sex right? Well this is a can of worms that I will be diving head first into. So far my preview of this text is, well, not favorable. Watch for my review here and at my tumblr site Mu.stEr.ion.