Book Review: The Explicit Gospel

Let me start by saying that it is my opinion that every Christian should read this book. I know I may have a whole load of books that I could say that about, but truly this one should be read. Even Rick Warren says that. If Rick Warren’s book recommendation/review doesn’t mean anything to you, you should check out the lonnnnnnnng list of revered and respected pastors, teachers, and influential Christians that recommend this book. It is not long, it is not difficult, but it is so important.

Matt Chandler, Pastor at The Village Church in Texas, writes this book to separate the assumed Gospel from the explicit Gospel. I know all Christians think they have heard the Gospel and know it well. But maybe not. I know a lot of Christians personally who do not know it well and who may have never heard the explicit Gospel in their lives. This does not mean that people who love and trust Jesus are not saved. It just means, their understanding of their own salvation and their own God that they serve is clouded, incomplete, and sometimes unbiblical and errant.

Please, please read this book. Pass it around and let all your friends read it. Whether they grew up in Sunday School or not. Whether they are teaching Sunday School or not. There can be a whole lot of abuse, misunderstanding and misapplication of the Gospel, but there can never be too much Gospel proclamation, understanding and fluency.

Rating: A (++++++)
Highly Recommended!

Title: The Explicit Gospel
Author: Matt Chandler with Jared Wilson
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Spiritual Life

Book Review: The Gospel Story Bible

Wow, I am incredibly behind in my reading. I can’t fully blame it on this, but I will try: I am reading a 17th century classic and it’s tough. It’s one of the best books I have ever read so far, but it is tough in parts, nonetheless. Every other sentence I have to read and re-read. So it is setting me back some. I will have to play catch-up here soon with my 2012 Book List. In the meantime, here is a great Children’s Bible that is worth reading DAILY with your children.

I have praised the Jesus Storybook Bible in the past. It is a great Children’s Bible and we were reading it without missing a night. Then we discovered this one and bought it for our kids for Christmas. We haven’t read the Jesus Storybook Bible since December 24th. We will return to it, when we are finished with this one. We love it and so do our children. And to be honest, the (true) stories in here are a little longer and more complex, adding in more facts and bringing in more details to each story. I would say the age recommendations on both are accurate. This one sometimes goes above my 4 year old’s head. But it also has a smattering of stories that our other Children’s Bible’s do not include, like Rahab and Ruth, for example. And it’s always nice to mix it up to keep it fresh and hold their interest.

But what I love most about this Bible isn’t the variety or the fact that we haven’t read it before. It is the Gospel-Centeredness of it (as the title would imply). Written by a Pastor, the last paragraph of every story brings it back to Jesus, salvation, Christ’s work, God’s plan. It never leaves it at David and Goliath and the author doesn’t let you put your kids to bed teaching them moralistic lessons on how to not be like Samson or how Noah was so good and that’s why God saved him but killed all the others. He brings it back to what the Bible brings it back to, what the Gospel brings it back to, and that is JESUS.

Thank God that there is yet another children’s Bible that shows Christ on every page.

Rating: A. Highly Recommended!

Title: The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments
Author: Marty Machowski
Length: 328 pages
Genre: Kid’s Bibles

Book Review: Real Marriage

I am so grateful that the Driscoll’s wrote this book.

The whole book is worthy of highlights. The chapters are about friendship, being a man, being a respectful wife, fighting, sexual assault and abuse, pornography, and other issues extremely relevant for marriage.

There were two major take aways for me personally. These will be different for everyone, I’m sure, and I would love to hear what spoke to your marriage the most.

For me, #1 take-away: They talk about 3 ways to do marriage: shoulder-to-shoulder, face-to-face, and back-to-back. Shoulder-to-shoulder is what you want, with lots of face-to-face in there. It is so easy to neglect face-to-face and do shoulder-to-shoulder, working beside each other in life, ministry, kids, household, etc..

The other take away was the last chapter on Reverse Engineering your marriage. It is revolutionary and has already helped my good marriage in great ways. It is basically living intentionally in your marriage, deciding what you want your lives and marriage to look like in 2, 5, 10 years and writing that down. Then working toward those goals in your daily decisions and habits. Not letting life happen to your marriage, but being in charge of the direction your marriage takes. Preventative medicine vs. antibiotics and surgery.

I hope that every single person, married or desiring to be married, reads this book.

It is different in many ways than the other marriage book I recently reviewed and recommended, “What Did You Expect?” by Paul Tripp. Both are incredible with differing approaches and both are my go-to recommended marriage books.

Mark Driscoll has also taught through the chapters in a recent sermon series at his church in Seattle. Go to Mars Hill’s website to listen and watch.

Rating: A. Highly Recommended!

Title: Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together
Author: Mark and Grace Driscoll
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Marriage

Book Review: Twelve What Abouts

Whether you hold to Reformed Theology or not, this book is well worth the read. It’s super short, but straightforward. It’s not the writing itself that is compelling; There is not much lofty speech or poetic language involved. But in nineteen (short) chapters, the author humbly gives Biblically sound answers to twelve common objections raised by those who have concerns or questions about Reformed Theology or Calvinism’s position on God’s Sovereignty and Election.

If you have ever thought the doctrine of Election or Predestination was unfair or that it painted a picture of a different God than the one you know, I would advise you to do three things:

1. Pray. Admit that you have blind spots, like all of us do, and humbly ask God to reveal the truths of the Word with you. Drop fear and defensiveness and anger and ask that He may reveal what the Scriptures really say and really mean, and that you may judge all opinions, positions, and stances by Scripture alone.

2. Read Scripture like you have never read it before. Read with unbiased eyes. Read without the traditions of man’s influence upon you. Get a new bible and don’t read the notes that you have written in your old one. Read John 3:16 and direct the Greek language used therein. Read all of the passages again that have given you trouble in the past. Really study and dig in. Read someone else’s take on it, besides the commentators, theologians, or Bible teachers you already listen to or read. So read the passages used as a defense against election, and study them. Then, read passages like Acts 13:48: “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” and Romans 9 (the whole chapter) and 2 Timothy 2:25 where it states that repentance is a gift. Read Jesus’ many words regarding election in the Gospels.

3. Read a book like this one (or this one!) Read someone’s detailed defense to objections raised.  It is helpful, even if you leave unconvinced. It is helpful to hear from “the other side.” To know, not where you think they stand, but where they truly stand. To let the words come out of their own mouths. That’s only fair, right?

Rating: A. Highly Recommended!

Title: Twelve What Abouts: Answering Common Objections Concerning God’s Sovereignty in Election
Author: John Samson
Length: (Kindle edition only)
Genre: Apologetics (of sort)

Book Review: What Did You Expect?

Despite the completely uninspiring, flashback-to-1950’s cover (which has now been redesigned for release in April), this was a seriously incredible and highly valuable book. Paul Tripp offers really wise, humble, godly, and gospel-centered advice for marriages… that is also intensely practical.

Most often I have found that marriage books to be either one or the other: very Biblically based, with 15 Scriptures on every page but lacking practical, take-home advice in a big way or not so philosophical but all practical, wreaking of pop-psychology and failing to appeal to God’s love and the Story of Redemption as it applies to our lives and relationships. Not so with this book.

For example, at one point in the book he says (I’m paraphrasing), “You don’t have a communication problem, you have a self-love problem.” He goes on to say (I’m not paraphrasing here), “It is self-love that makes you more committed to what you understand than to understanding your spouse. It is self-love that cause you not to listen well. It is self-love that makes you unwilling to wait until you are sure that you have understood your spouse. It is self-love that keeps you from viewing your spouse’s words, perspectives, desires, and opinions as valuable. It is self-love that fills your brain so full of what you think and know that you have little room for your spouse’s thoughts. It is self-love that makes you value your own way more than you value real functional understanding between you and your mate.”

See what I mean? Gospel-centered: showing that our problem is that we don’t trust in the Cross of Christ for our marriages; instead we are trusting in ourselves and loving ourselves. Jesus tells us to take up our cross, but instead we take up a sword because we’re ready to fight. And Practical: The Gospel is not some etherial thing that isn’t applicable to daily life in your marriage (though, neither does it offer Encyclopedic-type help). And it isn’t something that was just for when you became a believer; it isn’t just for getting saved, it is for living saved. So the Gospel there in a highly practical way for every day, every fight, every miscommunication, every lack of trust, every grumpy word, every personality difference and every disappointment in your marriage.

I haven’t read stacks of marriage books. But I have read a few (although, I have not yet read Mark and Grace Driscoll’s “Real Marriage” or Tim and Kathy Keller’s “Meaning of Marriage” that are on my 2012 Book List). Hands-down, I would recommend reading this one above all the others that I have read to date. If you are married, getting married, or know someone who is married, this book should have a place on your shelf (after having a place in your hands and heart). I WILL be reading it again, as it is so rich and useful for my own marriage and also for other relationships in which I need love, self-denial, communication, etc… Paul Tripp and God’s Word are presented in such a way as to humbly bring me back to the Cross.

It deserves an A+++++, truly.

Rating: A. Highly Recommended!

Title: What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage
Author: Paul David Tripp
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Marriage

Book Review: Bloodlines

I read this book at the same time as reading The Help, which was a great move. This book is as timely in 2012 as it would have been in 1800 or 1964 as our issues have only slightly improved, but haven’t been radically changed or resolved. The book is moving as it tells John Pipers personal story of the racism he carried in his heart growing up in the South.

He begins the first few chapters by discussing the two-sided coin of personal responsibility (changing your life and culture with jobs, improved morality, etc…) and structural intervention (civil rights, government, etc…) when it comes to addressing the problem in this country. He quotes many people on both sides of the responsibility fence, including Juan Williams and Bill Cosby, as well as many academics. But after discussing the very large and present problem and just what everyone thinks we should do about it, he offers one and only one solution to the Christian for dismantling racism in the heart and in the culture: the Gospel.

Some may argue that there are other solutions to eradicating racism. Some things are beneficial and can advance love and acceptance of other races. Activism, education, social awareness, diversity in our schools and neighborhoods and churches can all benefit us. But the Gospel is the only thing that can, in an instant, change a person’s hate to love.

John Piper argues for the Gospel as the answer by presenting at least 9 different ways the Gospel is powerful against racism. I’ll give you #1 as an example. The Gospel is the only thing that has power against Satan and the workings of the evil one. You and I are not stronger than he is. He loves racism, loves hatred. He wants to see races continue to be segregated and separated by hate and fear, misunderstanding and ignorance. So if we, with all of our hope and personal responsibility and all of our structural intervention, aren’t stronger than Satan, there is no way that any of our programs or attempts will eradicate anything.

Read the book for reasons #2-9 that the Gospel is powerful against this issue.

You may not think there is anything to eradicate in your life or heart. You may not see yourself as a real racist. If you are white, you are the majority (at least for now) in this country. Imagine what you would feel and live like if you moved to Nigeria. Growing up as a minority may create a different outlook, different speech in your home, etc… Ask yourself a few questions: Do you ever tell racial jokes? What would you think, deep down in your heart even, if your daughter married a black man? What if there were only African-American people on TV shows that you watched? What if you eventually are the minority in this country? These questions need to be addressed personally and then find their answer and their resolve in the Gospel.

Bloodlines is available for free in PDF from Desiring God.

Rating: A. Highly Recommended!

Title: Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian
Author: John Piper
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Spiritual Life

Book Review: The Help

Welllllllll, I just wrote a lengthy book review on The Help. And it got erased. I thought auto-save helped with that…..

I just can’t write it all again.

Here’s my synopsis:

  • Fantastic book, great writing. Compelling, impactful, stirring.
  • Don’t read it if you have life to do. I couldn’t put it down. Kept it open on the counter so I could read a sentence as I walked by. Shame, shame!
  • Can’t believe that actually happened and in my parents lifetime. Can’t believe it still happens today in people’s private views toward black people and other races.
  • There are anti-Christian views and language used in this book. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it, just be aware. It makes it authentic and raw and real and is probably necessary. Probably less than a PG-13 movie.
  • The Gospel is the only thing that can truly change hearts. Activism, social justice, civil rights, education. All of these things help make progress, but none of them will do the work of eradicating hate in hearts. The Gospel is our solution. More on that in my next Book Review (which will hopefully be a real review): Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian.

Rating: A. Highly recommended! 

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Length: 464 Pages
Genre: Fiction