Book Review: Kingdom Come by Sam Storms

17328232When I started my ordination process one of the areas of theology I knew I needed to firm up on was eschatology. I knew enough to get by but if I was going to really defend this area of theology and clearly state where I fall on some of the finer points of eschatology I had some work to do. One of the major areas of tension for me was where I stood on the issue of premillennialism versus other views of millennialism as well as the topic of dispensationalism and the views related to it. These were the views I was taught in my younger years as a student in a Christian school as well as my time as a student in Bible college. I was presented with the other opposing views but dispensational premillennialism was the one championed as the correct view. I basically accepted this view as the correct one and leaned heavily into it until the last few years.

As I started to rethink where I stood on this area of eschatology I read three books that started to reshape my views. The first one was What is Reformed Theology by R.C. Sproul. This book really helped me understand the strengths of Reformed Theology (which I confidently hold to now). One of the chapters in particular helped me see the difference between dispensationalism and covenant theology. This chapter started showing me some of the areas of dispensationalism I couldn’t hold with confidence anymore (one example would be the separation between Israel and the church). The second book was Four Views on the Book of Revelation which helped me see some of the different ways to interpret the book of Revelation. Then lastly I read Sam Storm’s book Kingdom Come which stands in my opinion as the best defense for amillennialism out there when it comes to books. All three of these books, especially the last one, has helped me not only better understand, but lean heavily towards amillennialism in my own view of eschatology.

I want to highlight of few things about this book as way of recommending it to you.

Critiques the popular view of dispensational premillennialism. He starts by explaining this view very clearly but then does a great job of showing some of the weaknesses of it. He does so with great humility and with great scholarship. In this critique he shows some of the weaknesses in both the pre-tribulation rapture view as well as premillennialism. Many people have grown up in a church culture that held and taught these views and they have come to adopt it as their own without any critical thinking. This section helps the reader do just that.

Gives clear explanation of views the author doesn’t hold as his own. Of course much of this book is a defense of amillennialism. However, Storms spends some of the book explaining other views that he himself doesn’t even hold as his own (as seen in the example above). I think this shows Storms scholarship as well as respect for others who hold different views. In one chapter he explains very clearly the view of postmillennialism. Many times this view is seen as an evil third view of millennialism but Storms does an excellent job at showing some of the things this view does well. As much as I disagree with this view my understanding of it and respect for those that hold to it grew. He also has a section where he explains view of preterism.

Honesty. Many times throughout this book Storms admits he hasn’t arrived at all the answers. By doing this it shows the complexity of eschatology. At points in the book he admits he is still searching for where he lands on certain issues. At the end of one chapter he says this about the difficult passage of 2 Thessalonians 2: “I had hoped to be more definitive in my conclusions concerning the meaning of this passage. I had hoped that by studying the text closely I might contribute something substantive to the never-ending attempt to identity the ‘man of lawlessness’ or at least expand our grasp of what he will do upon his appearance. Alas, I fear I have failed in this regard. As much as I hate to say so, I feel compelled to agree with Augustine and say, ‘I frankly confess I do not know what Paul means’ in this text!” That’s humility and it shows throughout the book.

Strong defense of amillennialism. As I said before, as far as books are concerned this seems to be the strongest defense of amillennialism. It’s thorough, clear, and compelling. I’d even argue the conclusion where Storms sums up all the points he made for amillennialism throughout the book is one of the best reference guides for this view.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in better understanding amillennialism and eschatology in general. I’d highly recommend this book no matter what view of eschatology you hold to. It will give you a great understanding of all the views as Storms covers a lot of ground in this book by explaining and critiquing many views found within eschatology.  It will stretch you and at times confuse you but will be worth the work to digest the material offered up by Storms.

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Books I’ve Read Recently

412glbtjnrl-_sx326_bo1204203200_On Preaching by H.B. Charles, Jr. I always enjoy reading books on preaching. This was one of my favorites because of all the practical insights it includes. It’s a short book that includes very short chapters. Each chapter covers something in regards to preaching. It feels almost like sitting at a coffee shop with a seasoned preacher who is sharing all the wisdom he has about preaching with you. I enjoyed every chapter of this little book. I’d encouraged anyone who is involved in preaching ministry to read this book. No matter if you’re a beginner or have been preaching for many years, this book will encourage and sharpen your skills.

407250Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle. This is one of those books that have been on my list for a long time. Because I am doing a series with our students on what happens after we die, which includes a sermon on hell, I decided to pick this book up and give it a read. Chan and Sprinkle do a great job at addressing the topic of hell from a Biblical point of view. This book almost serves as a short survey of what the Bible teaches on hell. Believers, and non-believers, would do well to read this book. It brings the reader face to face with the reality of hell and what the Bible says about it. There was much I enjoyed about this book but my favorite parts where the short survey of universalism (chapter one) and two chapters on what Jesus and His early followers believed about hell (chapter two and three).

51g97t4vywl-_sx370_bo1204203200_The Top Ten Leadership Commandments by Hans Finzel. The Bible is full of great leaders that God used to do amazing things. One of those great leaders was Moses. In this book, Finzel looks at the life and leadership of Moses and pulls out ten “leadership commandments” that leaders should follow. I enjoyed Finzel’s Biblical approach to leadership in this book as well as how he helped the reader understand how they can apply these lessons to their own leadership. Mixed in with all of this was many examples and illustrations from Finzel’s own leadership journey. This wasn’t one of the best leadership books I have read but it was encouraging and helpful.

Books I’ve Read Recently

416dXgd3D-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A Call to Resurgence by Mark DriscollMark Driscoll is one of my favorite writers. I usually try and read his books when they come out so when I heard about this one awhile back I knew I needed to grab a copy. I’m very glad I did. A Call to Resurgence is an interesting book in that Driscoll covers a lot of ground. Everything from surveying modern culture, tribalism, sexuality, the Holy Spirit, and more. Much of what Driscoll writes is nothing new. It’s stuff he has been saying via speaking and writing for years. However, the timing of this book is perfect. Our culture is rapidly changing and become more and more anti-Christian. With that wave coming and coming fast, we as Christians need not to run in fear, but hold tight to what we believe and move forward with the life-changing truth of the Gospel. That is what Driscoll calls for in this book. He reminds us of where we have been as a culture and where we are going, but more importantly reminds Christians what we believe and what God calls us to be and do. In Driscoll words the book is “for those ready to dig in and hang on…this book is an unflinching look at what we’re up against and what it will take to not just survive but to thrive and accomplish the mission God has given us to extend a hand of rescue to those drowning all around us. It is a call not of retreat but to resurgence” (page 29).

51x7FWCw3GL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Judgment Seat of Christ by Samuel HoytOne of my favorite topics to study when it comes to eschatology (the study of end times) is the judgment seat of Christ. However, not many books have been written specifically on the judgment seat of Christ. Most of the time it is simply just given a section within a systematic theology book. Hoyt even points out that “the doctrine of the judgment seat of Christ often has been denied or relegated to minimal consideration under the subject of a general judgment” (page 13). He furthers explain this idea of a general judgment in chapter 2 of this book where he explains the proponents of this theory “believe that there will be one final judgement at the consummation of the world. At this time all people of all ages, both believers and unbelievers, will be simultaneously resurrected and judged. At this event the righteous will receive reward and the unrighteous will be condemned to eternal punishment” (page 17). However, the Bible speaks much about different future judgments and is clear that believers will one day stand at the judgment seat of Christ. Hoyt writes this book to support the judgment seat of Christ and give the reader a thorough understanding of what the Bible says about it. He does everything from explain the historical background of what was going on when Biblical writers like Paul mentioned the judgment seat of Christ. He also explains the nature, purpose, extent, and rewards of the judgment seat of Christ. The thesis that Hoyt sticks to throughout this book is “the judgment seat of Christ is a most solemn evaluation at which there will be no judicial condemnation, nor will there be any judicial punishment for the believer’s sins, whether confessed or unconfessed, but rather commendation according to the faithfulness of the Christian’s life” (page 15). Throughout this book Hoyt supports that thesis with solid Biblical research and exegesis. If you want to learn more about the judgment seat of Christ than I recommend this book.

51fCiUYnbiL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Disciples Are Made Not Born by Walter HenrichsenThis is a book that was originally published in 1974, but is still a very good read for Christians today. The whole idea of this book is discipleship. Henrichsen spends the first part of this book talking about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. In the second part of the book Henrichsen talks about how Christians should share the Gospel and disciple others. He explains how Christians should practice evangelism and then help those they reach with the Gospel start to grow in their faith. Chapter by chapter, he goes through certain topics and things Christians needs to communicate to newer Christians in order to help them grow. This part of the book is extremely practical and contains a ton of great points on discipling new Christians. This is a short book that I recommend to anyone who is interested in becoming a more fully devoted follower of Jesus and want to help others follow Him as well.

Up next on my reading list is Gospel by J.D. Greear and Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God by Gordon Fee.

Picking The Right Worship Songs for Your Student Ministry

hands-lifted-in-worshipMost student ministries have some element of musical worship in their program. It may be an adult leading worship with their acoustic guitar or a group of students in a band leading their peers. However you do it in your student ministry, the fact remains that we need to strive to pick good songs. Don’t just sing every new worship song that comes out in an effort to be trendy (by the way, most of our students don’t listen to worship music outside of church so singing the latest and greatest worship hit is not that big of deal to them). However, we need to be intentional and pick songs that effectively help our students connect with Jesus through music. How do we pick songs that do that? Let me suggest three things that should guide us when we are picking worship songs for our student ministry.

Theologically Sound and Rich. Music teaches. Even if we don’t realize it or not, the words we sing during worship are shaping our view of God. Music has a powerful way of pushing truths deep down into our hearts. This is a great thing, but when we sing songs that are not Biblically accurate than we are in trouble. It’s important to make sure the songs we pick for our students to sing are theologically sound. That they line up with what Scripture teaches about God. Don’t settle for singing songs that have poor theology. Pick songs that teach our students accurate theological truths about God. An important thing to mention in regards to this is the importance of Gospel-centered worship music. Everything we do should be Gospel-centered, but we need to pick songs that focus on what God has done for us through Jesus. Too many worship songs make us (the singer) the center when in reality Jesus (the Savior) should be the center. In their book The Deliberate Church, Mark Dever and Paul Alexander sums up this point very well: “We want to sing songs that raise our view of God, that present Him in all His glory and grace. We want to sing songs that put the details of Christ’s person and work front and center. We want to sing theologically textured songs that make us think about the depths of God’s character, the contours of His grace, and the implications of His Gospel; that teach us about the Biblical doctrine that saves and transforms” (page 118).

Easy to Sing. Getting teenagers to sing is not easy. Especially when they are in a room full of their peers and they desperately want to look cool and not do anything stupid. But some students do sing and one of the most exciting things in student ministry to see is students who abandon the idea of what their peers think and they worship God freely. No matter how foolish they may look or how bad they may actually song, they are singing out in worship to their Savior. That is awesome! However, sometimes I believe students are not singing because the songs we pick are just not easy to sing. We need to make sure we pick songs that are easy for our students to sing. It may be a good song, but if it’s hard for the average student to sing than it may not be worth doing. We want to make it easy for our students to sing and connect with Jesus.

Balance between student ministry songs and the songs the church does on weekends. Let me explain what I mean here. I think it is healthy to sing some of the songs your church may sing during weekend worship in your student ministry as well. At the same time, I think your student ministry needs to do songs that your church may not do during weekend services. For example, our student ministry does a lot of songs from the band Citizens. The style and feel of their songs fit well with our students. However, Citizens may not fit well during our weekend worship service. The style is a little different from what our worship band normally plays on Sundays. However, many of the songs the band does on Sundays we do in our student ministry as well. The whole idea is to create a balance so students don’t feel like it’s the student ministry worship vs. the weekend adult worship. We are one local body of believers and the student ministry is part of the larger local church. It’s finding unity, but also creating different environments for the different groups.

Those are just a few thoughts on picking worship songs for your student ministry. I love watching my students worship Jesus through music and it’s a privilege to partner with my student ministry worship leader to pick songs that help our students do just that. When you go about picking songs, make sure they are theologically rich, easy to sing, and there is a balance between your student ministry and the weekend worship.

Guest Post: Does Theology Really Matter in Youth Ministry?

theology-matters“Is theology really that important for youth ministry?” I would say that such a question is comparable to asking an auto mechanic, “Is gasoline really that important for my car?” Sure, a youth ministry can appear to be thriving with fun games, professionally performed music, and a growing number of students in attendance, but if it’s based on anything apart from sound doctrine, is it really a thriving “ministry”? I would say that sound doctrine is the lifeblood for every youth ministry. Here’s why:

The Bible portrays doctrine as a serious matter. The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” To men in the Bible, preaching another gospel was essentially the most harmful thing anyone could do – the word “accursed” means “eternally condemned” (Bible Knowledge Commentary). A youth minister doesn’t get a free pass on this warning just because students are younger than adults; Paul’s warning covers all generations. Why are words so strong? Think about it, if the gospel is absent in our youth ministries, then we have nothing of eternal value to offer – “chubby bunny” lasts 5 minutes tops. In all seriousness though, Scripture identifies the gospel – the message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection – as being “of first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). And if we ignore the gospel (which, if you caught the connection, is foundational to “sound doctrine”), then we are running our youth ministries on something other than Christ and His Word. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want that to happen in any youth ministry.

The way you run your youth ministry is a reflection of your doctrine. Why do you teach from the Bible? Why do you minister to your surrounding communities? Why do you sing songs to God? Why do you work within the context of a local church? The way you answer these questions and every question related to “why you do what you do” will reveal your doctrinal convictions. Think about these implications for just a moment. If your view of the Bible (bibliology) is weak, then you won’t care to spend much time teaching it corporately, nor will you counsel youth according to biblical applications. If your view of sin (hamartiology) is shallow, then you distort the message of the gospel and forsake its value. There is no reason for Christ to die for people that are spiritually “okay,” who simply need a solid moral example – that’s called heresy (Christology & soteriology). If your view of the church (ecclesiology) is unbiblical, then you could care less in being committed to your brothers- and sisters-in-Christ. Plus, there will be a mentality of “anything goes” when it comes to ministry philosophies and programs – that’s dangerous. I could go on and on with countless examples, but it just goes to show that your theology will direct your ministry.

Sound doctrine affects our personal lives. You are allowed to raise your hands on this question: “How many of you have ‘asked Jesus into your heart’ at least ten times in your life?” I remember growing up with such a terrible fear of not genuinely meaning my prayer of repentance and conversion. Yes, this is a pattern found in most teenagers today as well. If you’ve read your Bible enough, you will know that “asking Jesus into your heart” is not what saves you, it’s Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross for your sin, and Him being “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). All that a person needs to do is repent and believe in this good news. Man, I wish my theology wasn’t so messed up growing up; that would’ve saved me so much trouble. But sound theology affects more than your conversion to Christianity – it affects proper worship, evangelism, love for others, moral choices, work ethic, dating guidelines, responding to tragedies, fighting sin, etc. Every question that a teenager might have is related to theology in some way.

I am convinced that sound doctrine is the lifeblood to a healthy youth ministry. Are you?

This guest post was written by John Wiley. John is the Youth Pastor at Gospel Baptist Church in Archdale, North Carolina. He just finished his BA in Christian Ministries from Piedmont International University, and is beginning his MA in Biblical Studies from PIU this January. He is happily married to his beautiful wife Cindy, and enjoys drinking strong coffee with her on sunny Saturday afternoons while either reading or watching movies in Winston-Salem, NC.