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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Book Review: Embodying Our Faith by Tim Morey

If I were to give the award today for the book that most exceeded the low expectations I'd placed on it, Embodying Our Faith by Tim Morey would certainly win (of course, I can't give that award out until the end of the year). The marked presence of such names as McClaren, Pagitt and McManus in the reference notes at the back of the book set me on high alert for anything "too Emergent" (don't ask for a definition, I have none).

However my fears were ill-founded. Tim Morey pleads with a generation of Christians who were largely won and schooled by a modernist apologetic, as many of these same Christians are at a loss as to why the same apologetic is ineffective with a postmodern crowd. After defining our postmodern climate as one that is characterized by deconstruction, moral relativism and religious pluralism, Morey poses his big question this way:
"How do we bring the message of Jesus to a culture that is deeply skeptical about truth claims, rejects metanarratives (such as the gospel), considers the church a suspect institution, takes offense at moral judgments and believes any religion will lead them to God?"
His answer in a phrase is the embodied apologetic. He suggests that our postmodern culture is hungry for transcendence, community and purpose. Of course, we have all experienced these to varying degrees within the walls of our churches, but seldom do we consider those our strongest cases for Christianity when reaching out.

For all the reading I have done on the postmodern mindset and philosophy, I had not considered—at least on the level Tim Morey has—how this should impact our apologetics and evangelism. I was completely thrilled by this book and the approach Tim Morey has offered—in largely orthodox fashion it seemed to me.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Church leaders and those interested in evangelism and apologetics.

This book was a free review copy provided by InterVarsity Press.

Book Review: The Five Points of Calvinism by Edwin H. Palmer

The Five Points of Calvinism was first published in 1972. Then again in 1980, the year of Edwin Palmer's death. And three decades later, you will still be hard pressed to find a more brief yet thorough treatment of the TULIP of theology. (No, really. I just spent ten minutes looking over my bookcase—to no avail.)

Don't let the cover of this book fool you. Though it says "A Study Guide" on the front, it stands up perfectly fine for personal reading. However, every chapter is followed by over a dozen (sometimes two dozen) in-depth questions about the previous chapter. When I say in-depth, I mean you should probably have a good grasp on the material at hand before leading a group through such questions.

If I had one disappointment, it was that Michael Horton didn't have more to say in the foreword. I thoroughly enjoyed both Christless Christianity and The Gospel-Driven Life and was hoping for more than just a glorified blurb in the front of the book.

However the resource materials in the back were a pleasant surprise, making up for my disappointment in Michael Horton's brevity. Here you will find excerpts addressing the five points of Calvinism from The Belgic Confession of Faith, The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Anyone investigating Calvinism, all those who consider themselves part of the Young, Restless and Reformed

This book was a free review copy provided by Baker Books.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Review: Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John C. Maxwell

With dozens books under his belt, John C. Maxwell has established himself as one of the foremost writers and speakers on the topic of leadership. While he finds a large audience among church leaders (being a pastor himself), Maxwell certainly has a crossover appeal with leaders of all sorts. My pastor, for one, has found multiple opportunities to bring up "the law of the lid" from one of Maxwell's bestselling book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

Yet it seems Maxwell has not run out of material or wisdom to share. In Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John zeroes in on the gap there can often be between communicating and actually impacting and motivating your audience. I myself confess spending hours pouring over the few sermons I have delivered in my lifetime, worrying about what I wanted to communicate but not even considering whether I would be connecting or not. This book will certainly impact any future presentations I will be giving.

This book was a free review copy provided by Thomas Nelson Publishers

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review: The Radical Disciple by John Stott

With The Radical Disciple, John Stott pens his final chapters in a writing career and public life that has impacted countless Christian lives for generations now and will certainly continue to do so for generations to come. I cannot imagine what goes through an author's mind as they write their final words as Stott, at eighty-eight, knew this would be his last book after announcing his retirement from public ministry in 2007. Contained herein are not only his parting thoughts for the Christian church but also the last public sermon he ever preached (as well as the address of his study if you are so inclined to visit him).

And it is an odd thing to know this as a reader. Were it just another book somewhere in the mix of his library, I would be tempted to rush through it. After all, it is only 135 small pages. But knowing that this was the author's last—and knowing the author knew it too—I took my time, I suppose expecting a sort of swan song.

But instead, I found a simple picture of the author himself, and one of him pointing away from himself and to Christ. Much like its author, the book is humble in its brevity. These eight chapters on some of the more neglected spiritual disciplines often left me wanting more. I felt every chapter could have been several times their actual length—especially the one on Christlikeness—but John remained on task and to the point. There are no revolutionary ideas here. But the steady faithfulness of one believer translates into a simple final exhortation to radical discipleship, not of him but of Jesus.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Anyone who has enjoyed anything by John Stott, those looking for a book on Christian spiritual disciplines

This book was a free review copy provided by InterVarsity Press.

Book Review: Against All Gods by Phillip E. Johnson and John Mark Reynolds

Phillip E. Johnson has long been considered one of the leading figures in the intelligent design movement, due in large part to his book Darwin On Trial. His familiarity with both intelligent design and the various manifestations of evolution makes him a prime candidate to take on the new atheists and their age-old arguments. In Against All Gods: What's Right and Wrong About the New Atheism he is joined by John Mark Reynolds and the result, while lean in size at 116 pages, is anything but lean in content.

Though this book is a response to the charges leveled by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and the like, you will not find a point by point rebuttal. Rather, this book is what Johnson and Reynolds consider their contribution to the conversation. After all, they point out, "although they tend to give the wrong answers, they also tend to raise the right questions". This book is written in a very accessible manner and will make a good introduction to the conversation for all but those most unfamiliar with the topics at hand.

If there is one thing that complicates the Johnson/Reynolds side of the conversation, it's in the co-writing of the book. Phillip E. Johnson writes the introduction and chapters one through five then hands it off to John Mark Reynolds for three chapters before returning for the epilogue. There is certainly a shift in style and expertise—not for the worse, but it certainly breaks the flow.

In not simply answering a laundry list of challenges from the new atheists, Johnson and Reynolds (does anyone else think shampoo when I say that?) refuse to let the terms of the debate be set for them. All in all, Johnson and Reynolds have made a well-reasoned defense for the continued conversation between the two camps.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Fans of Phillip E. Johnson, those interested in intelligent design and the new atheist debate

This was a free review book provided by InterVarsity Press.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book Review: Radical by David Platt

Initially, I had no idea what to expect from this book or it's author. I should have, however, since David Platt made a big splash at the 2009 SBC Pastors' Conference, yet I only recognized his name after I was several chapters into the book. I would now dare to say that Radical stands to make a bigger splash and a longer lasting impact on the Christian community.

David Platt takes on the daunting task of deconstructing the "American Dream" that has crept in and subverted much of American Christianity. He does this primarily by demonstrating that the life of a Christian disciple should be one colored by dependence on God, by picking up our cross daily and by dying to self. Though this takes on many forms in our lives, Platt gives special attention to American wealth. The stats are familiar, but David makes one of the better arguments I have ever read for living simply for the sake of the poor and the Gospel. Finally, he presents his argument for why "Going is urgent, not optional" (just as Jesus told his followers, "Go make disciples").

Platt ends with a challenge he calls The Radical Experiment:
  1. Pray for the entire world
  2. Read through the entire Word
  3. Sacrifice your money for a specific purpose
  4. Spend your time in another context
  5. Commit your life to multiplying community
Without a doubt, this will be a book I will recommend, loan and re-read. My pastor and I are already making plans to work it into our Community Group curriculum. I pray this book makes a massive impact on the American Christian for the sake of Gospel, the same impact it has had on me.

Click here to download and read the first chapter! And to request a free copy of the companion booklet, The Radical Question, click here!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Every American Christian, but especially those in leadership

This book was free review copy provided by Multnomah Books.