Books I’ve Read Recently

deyoungWhat Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung. It’s a question all Christians, and many non-Christians, have asked, “What does the Bible say about homosexuality?” In this very timely book Kevin DeYoung answers that question. He correctly states that “the Bible says something about homosexuality” (page 10). God is not silent on this issue and DeYoung does an excellent job in this book of communicating what God has said in regards to homosexuality. The book is nicely broken up into two parts. Part one deals with what God, through His Word, says about homosexuality. DeYoung carefully walks the reader through the main passages of Scripture where God addresses homosexuality and clearly explains what God is communicating. In my opinion, this section contains some of the very best interpretation and explanation of the central passages of Scripture that deal with homosexuality. The second part of the book deals with the common objections many have to what God has said in His Word about homosexuality. I was very pleased with how DeYoung tackled some of the hardest questions regarding this topic with a balance of boldness and grace. Overall this is a book I believe every Christian should read. It will help the Christian understand what the Bible says about this issue and also equip them to have grace filled conversations with those who may not agree with what the Bible says.

REASON-largeThe Reason for God by Tim Keller. This is a Keller book that has been around for a while now but I have never got around to reading it. I decided to pick it up and give it a read since at the time I was in the middle of an apologetics series with our students. With Keller’s background in preaching to and dialoguing with the skeptics in places like Manhattan, he tackles in this book the common objections to the Christian faith as well as the reasons one should instead believe in the truths of Christianity. Common questions like “There can’t be just one true religion?”, “How could a good God allow suffering?”, and How can a loving God send people to hell?” and many more are answered by Keller in this book. Then in response to all those questions Keller spends the rest of the book explaining the truths of Christianity and the reasons one should have faith in it. This is a book that’s perfect for both the person who is firm in their faith as well as for the person who is skeptical of the Christian faith all together.

41mG8HhtgDL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Anxious for Nothing by John MacArthur. This is a new edition of an older MacArthur book called Anxiety Attacked. I picked this book up to read in preparation for a sermon on the topic of worry. This book ended up being more than just a help for my sermon prep but was actually a game changer for me as a person who struggles with stress and anxiety. MacArthur covers a lot of ground in this book. Everything from key Scripture passages on anxiety are clearly explained to understanding how other people help or hurt you in the area of anxiety. What I loved about this book was MacArthur’s balance of theology and practicality. MacArthur helps the reader understand what God’s Word says about anxiety as well as how to apply what it says to their daily lives. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who struggles with worry, stress, or anxiety. It will be a blessing.

Another book I read recently that I chose not to review was Rx for Worry by James Gills. I am currently reading a few books on the topic of marriage, sex, and dating that I will review soon.

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Books I’ve Read Recently

jesus-continued-cover-largeJesus Continued by J.D. Greear. I have read a lot of books recently and this one was by far one of may favorites. I’ve always enjoyed reading J.D.’s books and they have played a big part in shaping my faith and ministry. In this book J.D. deals with the topic of the Holy Spirit and how believers have the advantage of not having Jesus beside them (like the disciples in the Gospels) but instead, through the Spirit, they have Jesus presence inside them. Not only that, but J.D. helps believers understand how they can experience the Holy Spirit in their relationship with God. J.D. says, “The Holy Spirit tends to be the forgotten member of the Trinity. Most Christians know he’s there, but they are unclear about exactly what he does of how to interact with him-or if that’s even possible. Yet something was so important about the Holy Spirit that Jesus told his disciples it was to their advantage that he go away-if his departure meant the Spirit came. The Spirit’s presence inside them, he said, would be better than himself beside them” (page 13). This is one of the most insightful and practical books on the subject of the Holy Spirit that I have ever read. It has a great balance of theological content (which is very much needed in the discussion of the Holy Spirit) and practical application (which is just as much needed in this topic) in regards to the Holy Spirit and how Christians can experience the Spirit’s ministry in their life. J.D. does a great job in this book building a foundation of what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit and explaining how believers can experience and seek the Holy Spirit. This is a great book I would recommend to anyone who wants to understand the Holy Spirit better and how they can experience him more in their relationship with God.

51VrdA14sfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Prayer by Tim Keller. Prayer is an area of my Christian life where I struggle the most. I go through seasons where I feel like I’m a “strong prayer,” but many times I feel like I am coming up very short in this area. This is one of the reasons I wanted to read this book. Also, I haven’t read many books devoted entirely to prayer so when I heard about this book I knew I had to read it. Keller has managed to put together one of, if not the most, thorough books on the topic of prayer. This book really does serve as a modern day handbook for what prayer is and how does one go about practicing prayer. The first part of the book is very academic and philosophical. Keller does a great job as painting the landscape of how people and religious groups view prayer. But this isn’t where Keller spends most of his time in this book. Once Keller helps the reader establish a definition and view of what Biblical prayer is in the Christian life he quickly moves towards helping them see how Christians can practice prayer. The rest of the book, and majority of it then, is a practical guide on how to practice prayer. Keller explores the prayer habits of early church fathers as well as walking through many Scripture passages on prayer. He also offers many practical tips on how Christians can practice prayer in their daily lives. If you want to grow in your understanding of prayer and how to practice it, read this book.

6a00d83452063969e20162fef31dc1970dThe Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. I haven’t read many marriage books (even though there are many out there right now I want to read), but out of the ones I have read this was has been my favorite. I read this book along with a few other men in a men’s group I am a part of at my church. I really enjoyed this book because of Keller’s approach to the topic of marriage and how to do marriage well. He quickly admits and helps the reader see that marriage is impossible to do well apart from God. Throughout the book Keller keeps the Gospel at the center as he shares how marriage is only possible through having a personal relationship with God through the Gospel that helps you truly love and serve your spouse. Keller spends a great amount of time explaining and applying the main Scripture passages on marriage. I also enjoyed how his wife wrote parts of the book and brought another persecutive to this topic. I believe this is a book everyone who is married (or one day hopes to married) should read. It’s practical but always keeps God and the Gospel at the center, which is the only way to do marriage well.

I am currently reading What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung and 30 Events That Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky. I plan to review those when I am done reading them.

Book Review: Counter Culture by David Platt

41O76wsT0VL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Recently I finished reading David Platt’s new book Counter Culture. I’ve always enjoyed reading Platt’s books and found this one to be my personal favorite. It’s a timely book that speaks about major issues we are facing today as a church and as a culture.

In this book, Platt urges and shows how we as Christians must be counter cultural when it comes to the various issues that are in our world today. The issues Platt hits in this book are poverty, abortion, orphans and widows, sex slavery, marriage, sexual morality, ethnicity, and religious liberty. Platt dedicates a whole chapter to each one of these issues. Within these issues other topics that show up are same-sex marriage, immigration, persecution, and more. Platt bookends these issues with a chapter on how the Gospel is the great offense and calls us to be counter cultural. Then he ends the book with an urgent plea to not loose sight of the unreached world around us. Instead of going into detail about what Platt says about these issues (I’ll let you discover that on your own when you read the book) I want to share five things I really liked about this book. These are just a few of the many reasons I believe this is a “must read” for Christians today.

Boldness and humility. Throughout this book Platt balances boldness and humility well. There isn’t a page in this book that doesn’t have one or more bold statements that calls the reader out of complacency and indifference on these important issues. However, Platt’s boldness is balanced by a deep humility. Throughout the book Platt shares how he hasn’t always responded to these issues in the way God expects. He also shares how he doesn’t have all the answers and is seeking answers alongside the reader. Platt’s boldness for the Gospel and his deep humility is clearly seen throughout this book.

Gospel-Centered. If you have ever read anything about or by Platt you know he is a very Gospel-centered leader, writer, and person. It would be easy for anyone to write a book about social issues like these and do so in a way that isn’t Gospel-centered. However, Platt realizes and shares how the only real answer to these issues is the Gospel. That doesn’t mean he ignores the practical and gives us a pass to not take action, in fact, Platt shows us how the Gospel fuels action and demands we live counter culturally as well as doing something about these vital issues. Platt shows how the Gospel is the foundation and key to addressing and fixing these social issues. He also shows how the Gospel itself transforms Christians and how they see and act towards these issues.

Practical. Platt not only tackles these issues with a large dose of Bible and theology, but also shares a lot of practical things the reader can do in response to these issues. At the end of each chapter, Platt shares a list of things the reader can do in response to that particular issue. There is also a helpful website for this book that has more resources on each issue and more.

Focuses on the local church. The call to live counter culturally and respond to these issues is something that is not just given to the individual Christian, but to the church as a whole. The entire body of Christ has been called to counter culture and to respond in a way that God expects when it comes to these social issues. Platt keeps the local church at the center of how we should respond to these issues. He calls the Christian to partner with their local church in doing something about these issues. I believe that’s the way God wants it. God doesn’t want “lone ranger” Christians working their tails off alone against these issues. He wants Christians to work together as a church to counter culture and through the Gospel make a difference in the world around them.

Timely chapters for the American Christian on racism, homosexuality, and religious freedom. I’m not suggesting these issues don’t exists elsewhere in the world or that they are not timely for other countries, but I do believe these are very timely chapters for Christians in America. Our country is facing racial issues, a redefinition of marriage, and freedom of religion becoming less of a reality. Platt takes these issues head on and shows how the Gospel ascends race and breaks down the racial walls. He shows how homosexuality is wrong and against God’s design for marriage. He shows how religious freedom should be given but how we much approach such an issue. These chapters are needed for American Christians today.

As you can probably tell I really liked this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand more about these issues as well as how to respond in a God-honoring way. It’s a powerful book that packs a much needed punch.

Book Review: Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry

71gwlJNkHoLA few days ago my pastor gave me a copy of Is God-Anti Gay? by Sam Allberry. It’s a little book that tackles a big issue. Homosexuality is big issue both in our culture and in the church. It’s not only a big issue, but a complex issue. In this book, Allberry tackles this big and complex issue of homosexuality with a good balance between grace and truth.

Allberry tells a little bit of his story in the introduction of the book. I appreciated his authenticity as he shared his own personal struggles with homosexuality and same-sex attraction. Not only that, but he shares how he met Jesus and how the Gospel has transformed his life. By sharing some of his story in the introduction, he gains (or at least he should) instant credibility on this subject. He speaks from the stand point of a person who loves Jesus, the Bible, and the church, but also has a real struggle with this issue.

From that point forward, Allberry covers a lot of ground in this little book on the issue of homosexuality. He spends a chapter (chapter 1) laying the Biblical foundation for marriage and sex. Then from chapters 2-5 he dives into homosexuality in regards to the Bible, the Christian, the church, and the world. Within those chapters, Allberry tackles many tough Scripture passages and questions that often come up when talking about homsexuality. To each of them, he answers with a faithfulness to God’s Word, but also with commitment to the grace that comes through Jesus. I would love to share more about what Allberry says in the book, but I’d rather you grab a copy for yourself and read it. It’s worth it!

Two things I really liked about this book was Allberry’s Gospel-centeredness and his practicality. Throughout the book, Allberry makes a point to not make homosexuality a sin that is “worse” than other sins. He doesn’t put homosexuality on it’s own shelve. He treats homosexuality the way it should be treated-sin that stems from our brokenness and separation from God. He says, “Homosexual sin is not unique…Homosexual sin is incredibly serious, but it is not alone in being so. It is wicked, but so is greed. God will judge those who indulge in it. But He will also judge thieves” (page 36). He makes a point to always go back to the Gospel being our only hope and that the Gospel is the answer to all sin. He doesn’t make homosexuality into an issue that needs to be treated different, but a sin that separates us from God and our only hope in having that fixed is through the Gospel. Too many times we don’t treat homosexuality the same as other sins and we forget the answer to homosexuality is the Gospel. I’m glad Allberry doesn’t do that in this book. I also really like how practical this book was. Throughout the book, Allberry gives practical advice on what to do if you are a Christian and you struggle with same-sex attraction. He also gives practical advice on how the church can respond to homosexuality and how we can minister to friends and people we may come into contact with you struggle with homosexuality.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who may be struggling with homosexuality or just wants to learn more about what God says about this subject.

Book Review: Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating

parents-guide-sex-and-datingLast year I did a parent seminar called “Social Media 101” and in preparation for that seminar I read Mark Oestreicher and Adam Mclane’s book A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media. I really enjoyed that book and would highly recommend it to parents. A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating by Mark Oestreicher and Joel Mayward is another book in this series that I really enjoyed and would also recommend to parents.

Packed in this little book is a ton of helpful information for parents (and youth workers) about teen sex and dating. Oestreicher and Mayward start the book with laying a theological foundation for sex. Whenever we talk about things regarding sex it’s always important to go back to the theological foundation God put in place for sex, marriage, and relationships. I love how they started the book with this and even explained how the fact humans have been created in the “image of God” (imago dei) impacts how our sexuality. On that Biblical foundation the writers deal with myths from culture and the church about sex (chapter 2), gender-specific sexual issues (chapter 3), how to talk to your teenager about sex and creating boundaries for dating (chapter 4-5), and covering specific issues in regards to sex and dating such as masturbation, homosexuality, oral sex, and modesty (chapter 6).

As much as I liked this book, I did however disagree with some of the writers conclusions on a few of the sexual issues they covered in the last chapter, namely masturbation and homosexuality.

In regards to masturbation, they say, “Masturbation is one of those subjects that Christians have done a horrible job of addressing” (page 59). I totally agree with that. Masturbation is a subject many times in the church we overlook and don’t address while teenagers, especially guys, are struggling with this addictive habit. However, the writers seem to simply dismiss masturbation is an issue that is normal for teens (being part of their development) and we shouldn’t worry too much about it. I have a hard time being ok with that conclusion. I do not believe the act of masturbation is a sin. There is no verse in the Bible that says it is. However, masturbation and lust are linked. One cannot masturbate without lusting (well maybe 1 in 1 billion people can). Also, I would argue that God’s plan if for a man and a woman to come together in sex and when one masturbates that receive sexual gratification in a way different from what God has planned. Because of that, I think masturbation is an issue we need to address with teens and help them see it’s closely linked to lust, which is clearly a sin, and goes against God’s plan for sex.

Not only did the writers conclusion on masturbation not sit well with me, their conclusion on homosexuality was a little fuzzy and not clear. They seemed to skip around the issue of homosexuality being a sin and just addressed how we should respond to teens struggling with this issue. I agree we need to respond better than the church has in the past towards homosexuality and we need to love and help those grapple with their sexuality, but at the end of the day homosexuality is a sin and we must call it a sin.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and it gave me a better understanding of teen sex and dating. It also helped me understand how important parents are in this area and how I can encourage them to shepherd their child in the area of their sexuality. I would recommend parents of teenagers to grab a copy of this little book and read it. It will help you understand you minister and shepherd your teen immensely.