Category Archives: Books

Review of @ivpress’s “Problems of Christian Leadership”

“…Discouragement: The greatest occupational hazard of the believer…”

As I began to read this book for the first time, preparing for my review, I had to stop in the phrase above in total awe of the truthfulness of it! Anyone who is honest about their feelings, especially those in the ministry, will have to admit that an aspect of being a Christian minister that is as connected to the ministry as the calling to minister itself, is the fact that ministers will often be discouraged and unfortunately many, for lack of resources, committed fellowships, etc. will allow the discouragement to become such a heavy burden that they will no longer be able to function as ministers and worst, as Christians!

Thankfully there is this book, written brilliantly and in a way that ministers, specifically, but also the folk in the pew, will understand the reasons for discouragement and hopefully deal with them.

Chapters are subtitled “How to…” which turns the book into an useful “how to” manual. It is always refreshing when an author not merely points to problems but also prescribe valuable and applicable solutions to such problems. Stott does that very well in this book.

Français : Photographie du révérant John RW Stott
Français : Photographie du révérant John RW Stott (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

THE TARGET AUDIENCE

As I mentioned above, every Christian can find useable information in this book as to how to deal with discouragement. But ministers, those who minister to congregations of any size, bound to a denominational creed, or the self-proclaimed independents will benefit from the “how to” prescriptions offered in this book. If you are not a minister — but have experienced bouts with discouragement, or the euphemistically called “spiritual burn-out,” — do not shy away from reading and applying the “how to” principles of this book. These concepts are easily adaptable to you whether you are a Sunday School teacher, a choir director, a music director, or in any activity in which one may be overcome by this “occupational hazard” called discouragement.

THE BOOK

It is not a large book, so in reviewing it I was often tempted to review chapter by chapter, and perhaps allow my feelings and experiences as someone who have been honored by God to exercise the function of a minister in two different countries — as one who could not escape seeing my own personal story written in the pages of this book! Had I done so, however, I would never have finished this review and it would not be as easy for those who are considering reading this book to make a decision about reading it; the review would be perhaps larger than the book!

So, my method here will be to comment on some outstanding portions of the book. Here are them classified not specifically in any order of importance:

  1. A Personal Ministry to you: When Stott mentions the “Problem of Discouragement – How to Persevere Under Pressure,” he inserts the teaching of the Apostle Paul as a direct mention of discouragement: In “Do not lose heart…” — as if Stott is preaching directly to you — he writes, “I’d like us to turn to 2 Corinthians 4 and I hope you don’t mind if I give you a little Greek lesson” – this type of personal ministry to the reader will make this “how to manual” be a very intimate conversation with the author, whose credentials to provide advice, and “give us a little lesson in Greek” is indisputable. He then proceeds in a brilliant exposition of the text — crowning his arguments by stating to us why we should not “lose heart.” Readers will be glad they are not reading some broad concepts of a haughty author dispensing his erudite knowledge of a particular text, but he is actually ministering to you! That’s the way I felt; as if I were in his office and he was talking to me! Discouraged people, or people struggling with discouragement, need this personal ministry and Stott provides it  throughout the book!
  2. It is a book of personal discipline: Most of us, people in the ministry often struggle to be disciplined and orderly. The book lines up three kinds of discipline that are especially beneficial for those compulsive workers that frequently, in times of stress, are open to discouragement — the need for time off, even an afternoon siesta (God is good after all…) taking the example he learned in Latin America; along with the repentance of the vice of punctuality; the need for hobbies; and, time with family and friends, meaning, friendships. He, as a biblical preacher, applies a text of Paul in 2 Timothy to support to his thesis by mentioning that Paul who was a great Christian was not afraid to admit that he needed friends. Oh, that hurts, I would say, because most of us ministers know very well that we are not supposed to have “close friendships” with no one since that may impair our ability to minister to them, but here Stott says, YES, we need friendships as Paul also needed.
  3. Time for Devotion: Ministers have to study so much to teach that they deplete themselves of that they need to learn for themselves. I learned that one when I was still in ministry school. This is one of the areas of Self Discipline within the remedies to combat discouragement. In fact, this book is a book in and of itself of Self-Discipline in my opinion! Anyone who needs a “list” of Self-Discipline applicable suggestions will find it in this entire book!
  4. A book about Respect and trust in Relationships: Throughout the book Stott uses “live” first-hand experiences in his life to teach us some principles. When laying out principles of trust in relationships he tells a humorous one about one of his missionary recruits who responded to “how he was getting along in his new country.” Worth reading and laughing at the response. However, better yet to check it out and honestly conclude that perhaps all of us would have given the same answers and still would not have identified such answers as a problem. I feel tempted in transcribing the story here — but, read the book, read the chapter. Find how important it is to learn how to trust and respect committed relationships, whether they be with your peers or with the people whom you are entrusted by God to work. Furthermore in the aspect of relationships, Stott deals with very simple principles, or mistakes, that we all commit, such as the inability to recognize redemptive worth on people, the incapacity to listen, and all the other aspects that many of us take for granted and consider them to be an “aside” (and why, even an inconvenience) in our ministerial life!

IN SUMMARY, I said that I did not want to make this review larger than the book. Let me just tell you that if you are in ministry you should do what the writer of the Foreword (Ajith Fernando, Teaching Director of Youth for Christ) says: “…I read this book slowly, as part of my devotions…” Yes, this is a devotional book! I loved it, I recommend this to anyone.

Remember, often it is not “if” you will get discouraged, but “when!” Discouragement may not be something that is inherent to your activity as a minister, but rather, I remind you, it is an “…occupational hazard…” This book will, at a minimum, if you are one of the lucky ones whose dangers of discouragement have not yet assailed you, prepare you “when” it comes!

In the (e)mail from @AccordanceBible, @ivpacademic’s “Ancient Christian Doctrine (5 Volumes)”

NA28 on AccordanceThanks to H at Accordance for this!

From the Accordance Website:

This exciting five-volume series follows up on the acclaimed Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture to provide patristic commentary on the Nicene Creed. The series renders primary Greek, Latin, Coptic and Syriac source material from the church fathers in lucid English translation (some here for the first time) and gives readers unparalleled insight into the history and substance of what the early church believed.

Including biographical sketches, a timeline of ancient Christian sources, indexes, bibliographies and keys to original language sources as well as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in Greek, Latin and English (ICET version), this series illuminates key theological essentials in the light of classic and consensual Christian faith and makes an excellent resource for preaching and teaching.

This module includes the following five volumes:

  • Volume 1 – We Believe in One God (Edited by Gerald L. Bray)
  • Volume 2 – We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ (Edited by John Anthony Mcguckin)
  • Volume 3 – We Believe in the Crucified and Risen Lord (Edited by Mark J. Edwards)
  • Volume 4 – We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Edited by Joel C. Elowsky)
  • Volume 5 – We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Edited by Angelo DiBerardino)

You may also be interested in the 29-volume Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS Complete) and the 3-volume Ancient Christian Devotional (Ancient Devotional).

BTW, as of today, there is a 20% discount storewide.

This is what it looks like on my Mac:

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 9.26.04 AM

 

This is what it looks like on my iPad with 2.0 Accordance App:

  

  

I mean… how awesome is that!

in the (e)mail from @logos – The John Wesley Collection

English:
I’m digital, baby – John Wesley

As many of us get ready for our Annual Conferences and then the General Conference, it would behoove us to go back and reread, relearn, or even learn the first time Wesley’s thoughts, theology, and heart. Granted, only his sermons and notes on Scripture are part of the Doctrinal Standards of the United Methodist Church, but I think the entire Wesleyan Corpus should help us grow as Christians and Wesleyans, even if they are not Standard.

So, that’s why I am beyond thankful Logos has sent me the collection of Wesley’s works (this goes beyond his sermons and letters, but into his works (letters) and journals:

The John Wesley Collection (29 vols.) contains all of his theological works, including the four-volume Explanatory Notes upon the Old and New Testaments, plus his journals, essays, letters, sermons, grammars, psalms, hymns, and addresses. Those familiar with the Thomas Jackson edition of The Works of John Wesley are aware they include some of his journals, but these are incomplete and missing large chunks of important entries—sometimes entire years are missing! The Logos edition of the John Wesley Collection (29 vols.) contains the unabridged and authoritative eight-volume journals edited by Nehemiah Curnock. Also included in this massive collection is a three-volume, in-depth biography on this extraordinary man of faith.

I cannot wait to dig into these works!

Interview with @JoshuaTKent, author of “The Witch at Sparrow Creek”

Full disclosure. I know Josh. He is an awesome guy, a great friend, and a brilliant mind. He is not a witch, however. Not that I know of. Josh is a new author with an exciting entry into a nearly forgotten genre. I hope you take the time to read the interview and then buy the book. The Kindle Version is coming. The book is available at the publisher here.

Official Description:

As a boy, Jim Falk watched helplessly as Old Bendy’s Men dragged his father into the darkness. Now, Falk is lured by strange dreams to finish the incomplete work of his father, which was to rid the land of evil. He is hampered by his fears and addictions, but he leans on his father’s former archivist, Spencer Barnhouse, to help him secure ancient secrets and weapons for the fight. His dreams of a strange redhead and a dark figure lead him to the town of Sparrow, where he encounters a magician, a pack of wolves, and shadowy things lurking in the forest. When the local preacher tells him of a witch in the woods, his journey takes an even stranger turn.


sparrow creekJosh, tell us something about yourself:

The middle school I went to had a tiny children’s library in it. The first book that I became really engrossed with was called UFO’s and Other Strangeness or something like that. It was a yellow hardcover with a line drawing of what people would later call “gray” aliens on the front. It was a compilation of stories from bigfoot to the story of Betty and Barney Hill to the Loch Ness monster. I must have been about 10 years old. I was really into the fact that the stories involved eyewitness accounts of unexplained events.

Who are some of your literary mentors?

There are a lot! I grew up reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Brian Lumley, Robert McCammon, Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander and really loved those choose-your-own-adventure books. Later I read a lot of poetry – I like Roethke a lot and got into beat poets, Burroughs, and later Richard Brautigan. More recently has been GK Chesterton, Lord Dunsany, Robert E Howard – one of the best new books I read was Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Tell us about your book:

It’s inspired by supernatural tales from Appalachia, but it is set in a mythic place – I wanted to recreate a space and set a new cast and landscape for a supernatural adventure series. Since I grew up running around in the woods and hills of Ohio, it was a place dear to my imagination and ripe with really frightening stories of hauntings and monsters.

What’s it like to live in that world?

It’s fun! I hope that readers will experience some of that excitement.

What’s the best part about writing fiction?

There are a lot of rewards. I would encourage anyone to try it because I think it helps to exercise and expand your imagination. That’s important for kids and for adults.

Tell us about your your publisher

Hippocampus has been around for a few decades, they are smaller, but they have a solid following – their specialty is Lovecraft and Lovecraftian or Weird Fiction. They got interested in my stuffbecause it’s weird and because it’s been said to bear some resemblance to the writings of Manly Wade Wellman (who I’d never heard of) (http://www.manlywadewellman.com/)

What’s next for you?

The main character of The Witch at Sparrow Creek, Jim Falk is meant for several more books, so I’ve already started on the sequel. In the meantime I am working on some short stories for competitions. I’ve also recently written a stage adaptation of John Campbell’s Who Goes There? which was the basis for John Carpenter’s The Thing. A theatre company in Cleveland is contemplating it for a fall performance this year.

Josh, thank you for your time and we wish you well on the book. Anything else you want to add?

Yes, visit my blog for updates and stuff http://mysterioussources.com/ also I am running a giveaway on Twitter right now for the novel if folks want to follow me @joshuatkent – thank you, Joel! It’s an honor and a privilege!

Review, “Transformation, The Heart of Paul’s Gospel” @logos @lexhampress

Have we missed St. Paul’s message… the proverbial forest for the trees?

During the debate between New Perspective, Old Perspective, and everything else about Paul’s intellectual origin, what may get lost is Paul’s goal of the Gospel. In a new book, the first in a series edited by renowned Pauline Third-Way scholar, Michael F. Bird, David A. deSilva proposes that at the center of Paul’s message is one simple concept: transformation.

The goal of Transformation: The Heart of Paul’s Gospel is simple: “to propose a way of thinking about Paul’s gospel — a vision for what God is seeking to bring about through the death and resurrection of his Son, the indwelling of his Spirit, and his future intervention in cosmic affairs.” (pg 5) While deSilva writes with an evangelical perspective in mind, his reach extends to others as well, especially with the centerpiece of his tripodic proposal. Indeed, the indwelling of the Spirit is what makes up the idea of transformation.

The book is divided into four chapters. The first chapter is deSilva’s case for a “broader understanding of Paul’s Gospel of Transformation.” He is hesitant about assigning too wide a gulf between justification and sanctification. He points to several Christian traditions that highlight one over the other. He posits that Paul would be troubled at the separation and a creation of “an order of salvation.” Indeed, I think we should be too. He argues five points against such a false separation (pg 10), all of which sound Wesleyan (if I may be so biased). Indeed, deSilva suggests an ongoing justification, from the initial acquittal to the “final justification.” For Wesleyans, we see this act as the journey of grace, albeit with three stages of grace (prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying). Regardless of my bias, the thesis is simple: There is no momentary act of salvation, but an ongoing changing of the person into the new creation, and thus, transformation. For the rest of chapter 1, deSilva lays out well the reasons why his five points are sound, calling on Scripture and Reason (scholarship) to aid him. He explores the “why” of transformation (i.e., God shows no partiality) and delves into the debate of what justification actually means.

Paul-iconChapter 2 turns to explore what transformation means to the individual and to the individual’s freedom within Christ. He begins, again, but setting the initial act of justification within the framework of the entire Christian journey. Paul simply does not spend a lot of time detailing this theological point, but rather spends a majority of his time instructing the Church what this means and how this looks (how transformation looks) in the body (and the body made up of individuals).

In chapter 3, deSilva explores the community’s transformation as individuals who are opposed to one another in life become conformed to a unified body. Yes, reconciliation is a part of the transformation which is the heart of Paul’s message (at least according to deSilva). So is ecumenicalism, it seems. I dare say, this chapter is important to the overall concept of Christian unity. This chapter speaks to me as one who believes heavily in John 17 as a mission for today’s Christian. The final chapter is deSilva’s answer to contemporary eschatological enterprises and, I think, empire criticism. It is a rewarding chapter, but one that is best not explained in a review.

I was apprehensive about this book. When I begin an introduction of a book on Paul’s message by exploring the Roman Road(s), I am easily turned off of the subject matter. However, I am glad my first, brief, and uninformed opinions were wrong. There is no hero worship of Paul, NT Wright, or Luther, only a straightforward and enticing examination of the heart of Paul’s message. The more I read, the more I enjoyed it. The more I read, the more I learned. The more I read, the more my opinion of Paul and post-Reformation views on Justification were…well, transformed.

I cannot help but to read books on justification and sanctification as a Wesleyan — and as one attempting to, occasionally, write a dissertation on the atonement mechanism in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. I see a lot of my views of Wesley’s views in this book, and not least because deSilva quotes the 39 Articles and refers to Wesley several times. I think I see a connection between Wesley and this book because of what I perceive as the ongoing work of Grace in the life of the Christian, which deSilva assures us is the heart of Paul’s message. I would encourage all Wesleyans (and Arminians) to pick up a copy of this book as a way to build their own personal theology. I would equally suggest all others read this book to understand better what other Christians feel about the journey of grace, but grounded only in Paul’s writings. Finally, those of us interested in Christian unity should at the very least read chapter 1 and chapter 4, first to understand the heart of Paul’s mission and second to understand how this applies to us today as we try to build Christian unity.

This book is available in several different formats from Amazon, Logos, and Lexham Press.