Category Archives: Books

A Book I Read: Personal Evangelism and The Gospel

Mark Dever thinks clearly. He prizes concise and precise thought. This book reflects his thinking. If you are looking for a book to help you witness and challenge the obstacles that stand in your way, this book is spot on.

Dever outlines the Gospel then discusses why we often do not witness.  The book consistently uses scripture to encourage and illustrate evangelism.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the scripture he uses to prove all Christians are responsible for evangelism, not just pastors or those with a “gift”of evangelism. He also establishes that personal evangelism is a fruit of a culture of evangelism within the local church.

He also deals with ideas that are often confused with evangelism. These were worth mentioning specifically:

EVANGELISM  IS…

1. Not an Imposition: Sharing the Gospel is not an imposition “anymore than a pilot can impose his belief on all the passengers that the runway is here and not there.”

2. Not Personal Testimony: Although testimonies are powerful and can contribute to evangelism, a testimony alone is not the gospel.

3. Not Social Action and Public Involvement: Being involved in mercy ministries help commend the gospel (Matt. 5:16), but such actions are not evangelism. Proverbs 11:30 says “…He who wins souls is wise.”

“When our eyes fall from God to humanity, social ills replace sin, horizontal problems replace the fundamental vertical problem between us and God, winning elections eclipses winning souls.”

4. Not Apologetics: “Apologetics is answering questions and objections people may have about God or Christ or about Bible or the message of the gospel.” While Dever agrees apologetics are a good thing, he clearly and correctly observes apologetics are not the gospel. Rightly answering questions about original sin or the problem of pain is not evangelism.

Dever also includes a stern rebuke against the “closing the sale” mentality of evangelism that crept into the church since the early 1960’s. He explains the awful disservice done to the church and the kingdom of God through such evangelistic methods.

This book was useful to me because it challenged me about the fundamental urgency of evangelism. I recommend it to any christian.

I am including below a short video about the book produced by its publisher.


“The Gospel & Personal Evangelism,” Mark Dever from 9Marks on Vimeo.

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A Book I Read: Humility

I am not humble.  I sadly know this.

But when my big sis recommended this book, it seemed like a good idea rather than an insult.  She gets in her fair share of insults. Don’t worry.

“Humility” is one of those books I wouldn’t have read were it not for a recommendation.  Who wants to read a book called “Humility?” Not me. Sounds slow and painful.  Like having my unibrow tweezed.

But I love C.J. Mahaney.  He is passionate. He is full of heart for the Church. And he is humble.

If you are looking for a very practical and Biblically sound book to help fight pride and increase humility, then get this one. It is not slow and painful to read. It’s very good.  It will challenge you, but you will be better for reading it.

I think I am better for it. Wait. That wasn’t very humble.

A Book I Read: Prodigal God

As far as unexpected goes, this book by Tim Keller may top my list.  I have heard, reheard and heard again the story of the Prodigal Son.  Not once have I heard it told like Keller tells it.  And I think he got it right.

Prodigal God is an amazing tale of redemption and hope found in an unlikely place.  I hate to be a spoiler so I won’t be. I will only say that I really liked this book. So much. So much, in fact, that I talked my dad into letting my church do small groups to discuss it. And we did. Three times.  Each time, the consensus from the small group members was something like “I have never heard it taught like that before.”

If you want a little teaser video about the book, here ya go:

A Book I Read: Devil’s Knot

I admit that reading this book was a change of pace from my normal fare.  While the phenomenon of the West Memphis Three case has swept over the entire country, a smaller, more vocal, group is completely obsessed with all things WM3.

However, my interests are two fold.  First, I grew up in the same county where the killings and subsequent events took place.  Places I see every day are mentioned in the accounts of the trial. People I work with every day were characters involved. Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin were familiar names to people I knew growing up. So the story is fascinating to me in that regard.

Second, the most popular view of the case is that a grave injustice took place. Three innocent boys were tried and convicted based on books they read and shirts they wore.  Small-minded, ignorant and intolerant Mayberry-ites willingly participated in a worse-than-lynching because they loved hard rock music and wore black clothes.  That theme rings true to me as a person and a defense lawyer.

Honestly, the trial evidence amounted to a bit more than shirts and books, but was still paltry for a triple homicide. Nothing was introduced in the way of traditional damning forensic evidence. Some proof consisted of shaky testimony and a even shakier confession by a borderline retarded Misskelly who had been sequestered from his lawyer in one of the most unethical aspects of the case (or any case, for that matter).

I do not have the space or skill for a full review of the evidence so I will try to limit my comments to the book as a whole.

Other than scholarly works I read in college (or was supposed to read), Mara Leveritt supplied more footnotes authenticating her account than any other book I have ever read.  Full disclosure is that I do not tackle many historical account books.

I thought the book was a thrilling read and enjoyable for anyone who is interested in legal themed documentaries or legal drama and fiction.

A weird dynamic is no book tells the story from the perspective that the Court got the verdict right. I am open to any view, but the only researched view I can find on the internet or in print is the view a colossal and embarrassing injustice took place due to both ignorance and willful disregard of the law.

The reason I mention it is because of a conversation I had with a local judge who told me Mara Leveritt is a liar who will write anything for profit.  Even if that is is true, and I have no idea, my problem with tossing the whole book out based on his view (and I respect him very much professionally) is there is no other account. There is no published alternative view.  (The author noted certain elements of the story that make her premise less believable. In doing so, she gained some credibility with me.)

All things being equal (which they are not or this book would never have been written), I would recommend this book.

A Book I Read: Imaginary Jesus

This book was weird. Like root beer Jelly Bellies.  Good-weird.

Matt Mikalatos writes in a whimsical way yet can be taken seriously as he lays waste to false views of Jesus.

I liked this portion of a review of his book:

“Jesus and I sometimes grab lunch at the Red and Black Café on Twelve and Oak.” The opening line of Matt Mikalatos’ debut Imaginary Jesus isn’t a figurative “date night with Jesus” way of describing time reading the Bible. No, he begins his madcap adventure with lunch with the Almighty in downtown Portland. Or at least he thought it was Jesus.
When a story involves multiple characters named Jesus, a talking donkey, a brawling apostle Peter plopped into downtown Portland, and characters like Motorcycle Dude and the Hate Club, it is a potential train wreck waiting to happen. Thankfully Mikalatos manages to steer this careening story in and out of the imaginary, the real and the painfully honest.

If I had a criticism of the book, it would be that in attacking stereotypes of Jesus, he defines little or nothing of what is the “Real Jesus.”  It is dangerous to say what Jesus is not, but then not say what He IS.   Furthermore, in describing imaginary Jesus’ — like Angry Jesus, Hippie Jesus, Free Will Jesus, Testosterone Jesus, Magic 8 ball Jesus, etc. — Mikalatos identifies many attributes of Jesus that ARE accurate and biblical. Sure, if I only think of Jesus in that one singular way, it would be an Unbiblical view, but taken as a part of the Whole, the attribute would be both accurate and Biblically based.

I would recommend it though. It was free for Kindle on Amazon last time I checked.

A Book I Read: What is the Gospel?

My wife and I have the privilege of meeting with a group of people in our home every six weeks or so to discuss a book. The most recent book we discussed was “What is the Gospel?” by Greg Gilbert.

The book excellently describes the core of the Gospel in a concise and clear manner which is helpful for  me because I need simple concepts to wrap my brain around.

Gilbert uses the four core themes of God — Creator and Righteous, Man — by nature a sinner and in violation of God’s law, Christ,  Jesus’ death on the cross substituted our penalty, and Response,  man’s repentance and faith is required.

The book helped me have a more accurate and Biblical understanding of the Gospel. It is often easy to for me to say something is Gospel just because it is in the Bible or because it sounds good. The book certainly broke me of that habit.  It will probably be a good book for me to revisit every few years.

The book also identifies many false gospels.  The prosperity gospel, cultural transformation, and “Jesus is Lord” (but not a savior) are a few of the false gospels Gilbert mentions.

I like a short concise book that tackles a truth effectively and this book does just that.

UPDATE: I found this video of the author talking about the book. It’s less than 3 minutes long.

Greg Gilbert – What Is the Gospel? from 9Marks on Vimeo.

A Book I Read: Intentional Parenting

Tad Thompson wrote a helpful book to equip parents in establishing a God-centered home life.  I thought the book was full of Biblical and practical direction — from how to pray with my children to how to incorporate Biblical theology and the Gospel into the rhythms of everyday life. I think the book’s thoughtful tips would benefit any parent. Especially me.

As an added bonus, it is short and could easily be read in a week.

One more important note: The book is published by CruciformPress. Cruciform Press is a new publishing company that will for a small price (6.00 or less) provide monthly titles from their selection.  A co-founder of Cruciform Press is uber-blogger Tim Challies.

Book Review: Churchill on Leadership


This is my first book on Winston Churchill. I was fascinated by his vision and organization. The book is set up with small readable chapters that are concluded with maxims by Churchill.

Some of my favorites are:

1. Do not become the passive matrix upon which others impose their designs.

2. Do no fritter away your energy on small schemes.

3. Ponder, then act. (Churchill’s point being that it does no good to ponder if it results in no action.)

4. “nothing avails but perfection” may be spelt shorter: ‘paralysis.’ Do not let the better be the enemy of the good.

5. I would rather be right than consistent.

6. It is sheer laziness not compressing thought into a reasonable space.

7.Laugh a little, and teach your men to laugh. Live dangerously; take things as they come; dread naught, all will be well.

8. Let it end only when each of us lies choking in our own blood upon the ground.

9. There is no merit in putting off a war for a year, if when it comes, its a far worse war or one much harder to win.

Book Review: Reforming Marriage


Douglas Wilson lays a Biblical and solid foundation for God’s intention of the marital relationship. I think an interesting way to “review” this book is to give you a quote or two from several chapters.

Chapter 1: A practical Theology of Marriage
[W]hen a man leaves his father and mother, and takes a wife, he makes a proclamation concerning Christ and the church. Depending on the marriage, that declaration is made poorly or well, but it is always made.

Chapter 2: Headship and Authority
Every marriage, everywhere in the world, is a picture of Christ and the church. Because of sin and rebellion, many of these pictures are slanderous lies concerning Christ. But a husband can never stop talking about Christ and church. If he is obedient to God, he is preaching the truth; if he does not love his wife, he is speaking apostasy and lies– but he is always talking.

…So the first thing necessary is that a husband must establish a confessional home. This means he must know what he believes , and he must communicate and teach his confession of faith to his family…[H]e must be the resident theologian… Second, he must why he believes as he does so that he can communicate and teach this to his family as well…Thirdly, he must seek to cultivate certain virtues which are built upon this confession of faith.

Chapter 4: Efficacious Love

Once young girls used to play with baby dolls seeing themselves in the role of nurturing mothers; now they can be seen playing with Barbie dolls, seeing themselves in the place of the doll. And of course the doll is both pretty and stacked. The pressure is on and stays on.

The perversion in this is not that women desire to be attractive of lovely. The perversion is the modern divorce of a woman’s loveliness from the behavior of her father and husband. There is nothing wrong with wanting a lovely garden; there is great deal of folly in wanting a lovely garden that will tend and keep itself. The Bible teaches that the husband is responsible for the loveliness of his wife.

…A beautiful woman without discretion presents the same kind of incongruity as lipstick on a camel…[W]hen women are beautiful and unholy, their beauty is a provocation to the Lord…He hates beauty when it is internally ugly.

The Bible requires us to honor women … in verbal and visible demonstrations.

Chapter 5: Keeping short Accounts

Never split up until things are resolved.

Never let anyone into your home when there is no harmony there.

Never go anywhere else when you are out of fellowship.

Never wait until later to fix things even when you are surrounded by others.

Never have sexual relations when you are out of fellowship with one another.

Chapter 6: Miscellaneous Temptations: The Nice Guy Syndrome

[The marriage] is not right because a marriage cannot be spiritually consummated if the husband acts the part of a spiritual eunuch. Such eunuch is one who is impotent in his masculinity…Unfortunately, this “niceness” is not Biblical gentleness. It is not the love discussed above; it is abdication, or “wimping out.” … He must not wield his authority in a self-seeking way. but he must wield it; he is a husband.

…When someone undertakes to husband a woman, he must understand that it cannot be done unless he acts with authority. He must act as as though he has a right to where he is. He is the lord of the garden, and he has been commanded by God to see to it that this garden bears much fruit. This cannot be done by “hanging around” in the garden and bing nice. The garden must be managed, and ruled, and kept and tilled…If someone wants a garden full of weeds, no husbandry is necessary. And if someone want a wife full of frustration, nothing needs to be done to accomplish that either. All a man has to do is leave her alone. And nice guys are very good at leaving their wives alone.

Chapter 8: Multiplying Fruitfully

Some husbands think they have a commitment to the biblical view of family just because they are male, opinionated, and dislike condoms….Presumption in the conception of large numbers of children is no virtue…What then are we to make of a male who begets little ones he will not teach, fathers children he will not feed, and sires offspring he will not pastor? As if one millstone were not enough, he has demanded more. The Lord is just and will grant his request.

One of the most valuable things I learned from my father is the loveliness of a pregnant woman…Christians should honor those God has blessed.

Epilogue

The castration of Christian men, and the consequent feminization of the family, church, and culture, began in earnest in the last century when the power of an efficacious gospel of grace was abandoned, and the substitute of religious sentiment was set up instead. In our doctrinal defiance, the feminine response of faith was confused with the masculine initiative of God in the Gospel. Husbands, who are required in Scripture to imitate the love of Christ, were then taught that the love of Christ for his people was impotent. The efficacy of love was then abandoned, and the sentiment of loving was enthroned. And men became impotent in their imitation of an impotent Lord.

You can buy it here.

Book Review: Don’t Waste Your Life


Because a simple googling of this book would yield far better results than any review I could do, I want to simply say that this book contains a challenging message for the old and young alike. As I finished it, I was struck by how well John Piper puts his finger on my problem of materialism and my unwillingness (or cowardice) to see myself as an alien and stranger on this earth. I was convicted at my grip on temporal pleasures; I was saddened by my misguided priorities; I was ashamed of my misplaced resources; and, I was overjoyed that there are practical remedies for the problem of my soul. Read it.