The Awakening (One Man's Battle With Darkness)
Friedrich Zuendel, Plough Publishing (1-800-521-8011), 1999, 147 pages, $10.00, softcover.
The Awakening tells the true story of a spiritual battle between a young German pastor and demonic powers of darkness in a Black Forest village. The book is an abridged translation of the classic biography, Johann Christopher Blumhardt, which has been continuously in print since 1880, but is only now appearing in English.
When he became pastor of Möttlingen and its sister village of Haugstett in 1838, Blumhardt encountered a well-taught but coldly indifferent congregation and town. But when he attempted to relieve the torment of a demonically-possessed young woman, he found himself engaged in a battle with a demon horde which shrouded the area with their evil influence.
The struggle went on through two years of intense prayers and "terrifyingly real dialogues with demons" who spoke through the distressed woman, until a last demonic howl that "Jesus is the victor!" signaled triumph.
Though the conflict was dramatic, its successful conclusion was more exciting, for it led to a spiritual revival which caught up nearly every resident of Blumhardt's parish, and spread farther afield in the Black Forest.
Two features of the revival may make many Protestants uncomfortable, for the pastor insisted that confessions must be made to someone not already familiar with them (thus ruling out confessing to God alone), and the pronouncement of absolution after full confession. Blumhardt was charged with Roman Catholic tendencies, but he denied the charges, basing his defense on James 5:16 and John 20:21-23.
Regardless of whatever human errors Pastor Blumhardt may have fallen into, the evidence of many lives made vital for Christ is proof of the Holy Spirit's leadership in the movement. And which of us is so pure as to cast the first theological stone?
Blumhardt was a man of childlike faith that God means what He says, and his times were very like our own, for he said: "We are a dehydrated people. Nothing will quench our thirst and end the drought but God pouring out His Spirit once again."
Return to Worship - A God-Centered Approach
Ron Owens with Jan McMurray, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999, $12.99, 210 pages, softcover.
I have long believed that until the church worships it can do nothing else. Effective ministry will always flow from genuine worship. Worshiping God "in spirit and in truth" cannot be over-emphasized.
However, it seems today most of the focus in the church on worship has to do with the "how" and majors on styles and methods. Ron Owens and Jan McMurray powerfully write in Return to Worship - A God-Centered Approach the importance of the "Who" of worship.
Through letters addressed to the church and to worship leaders Ron and Jan look at worship in light of what the Bible says. The letters address the fundamentals necessary for acceptable offerings to God. They point out the contrast of what is seen in Scripture with what is practiced in churches today. Each chapter (letter) gives insight and helpful suggestions for the restoration of authentic worship. The authors quote from Warren Wiersbe's book Real Worship: "I am not worshiping God because of what He will do for me, but because of what He is to me."
I agree with Henry Blackaby in the Forward when he said, "To worship God acceptably should be our goal." This book fairly, thoroughly, and biblically addresses this issue. Every pastor should read Return to Worship.
The Second Coming
John F. MacArthur, Crossway Books, 1999, 239 pages, $19.99, hardcover.
The advent of the year 2000 has generated much discussion on the Second Coming of Christ. Some state that current events point to the soon-coming of the Lord. John MacArthur examines the key biblical texts that speak of Christ's return and advises patient expectation for the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
On one hand MacArthur refutes the charges of the hyper-preterists who say biblical texts that speak of Christ's return have all been fulfilled: there will be no literal second coming of Christ. The author equally criticizes those who sensationalize "signs" that they say show Christ will return to earth at a specified time. "Current events are no guideline for interpreting Scripture," states the author.
Scripture teaches, he says, that the return of Christ is imminent; that is, it can occur at any moment with no further intervening signs. Christians in the early church and every age thereafter have looked for His return during their lifetimes. We are to be patient, holy, and occupied with His work as we anticipate an event that may transpire as we speak.
Matthew 24-25, called the Olivet Discourse, has been the subject of varied interpretations. Does it represent events that were fulfilled shortly before or after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.? Or do these Scriptures speak of future events surrounding the future return of Christ? The author holds with the later view.
The conclusion: seek personal holiness with an intimate association with the Lord Jesus Christ while we carry out the Great Commission and minister to others.
Glen H. Jones
Truth Aflame (A Balanced Theology for Evangelicals and Charismatics)
Larry D. Hart, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999, 546 pages, $19.99, softcover.
Charismatics often overemphasize emotional experiences while evangelicals shun emotionalism. Larry D. Hart, a long-time Southern Baptist pastor who teaches theology and missions at Oral Roberts University, has written an expansive volume that attempts to bring the two groups closer together. Both groups hold many biblical truths in common. The author seeks to emphasize these uniting truths.
In rather detailed explanations, Hart presents the doctrines of revelation, God, creation, man, sin, Christ, and faith, hope, and love. Most Bible-believing Christians would have little disagreement with his views. It is an excellent handbook of theology for the pastor or the lay person. It is imminently readable and thoroughly enlightening.
Scientific creationists will have some difficulty accepting the author's conclusions on creation as he tries to reconcile the biblical story of creation and scientific theory.
It is the author's highest hope that evangelicals and charismatics will embrace a sound biblical theology that spurs us toward the goal of winning the lost to Christ and nurturing the saints.
Glen H. Jones
Who is God? (Bringing the Infinite into Focus)
J. Vernon McGee, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999, 184 pages, $14.99, hardcover.
Long-time host of Thru the Bible radio program, the late J. Vernon McGee had a grasp of the holy Scriptures matched by few in his generation. In this volume the author focuses on the character and work of God. Without using a host of theological terms, McGee shows how God chose to reveal Himself to sinning humanity. Nature reveals God's power, but apart from revelation we would not know the true nature of God. His full grandeur defies human understanding. Scripture gives us only a few glimpses of His glory.
Both love and hate are grounded in the holiness of God. The love of God allows Him to reach out to the very ones who have offended Him by their sin. His love, of course, finds its fulfillment in the life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has another side to His character-holiness. This holiness mandates His hatred of sin. Those who see only the love of God have an incomplete view of His character. And those who reject the love of God must at some point come face to face with His wrath.
McGee tackles one of the most difficult concepts in Scripture-the Trinity. God is not three Gods, but one. "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one!" (Deut. 6:4). Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all said to be God (2 Cor. 13:14, Rom. 1:7, Heb. 1:8, Acts 5:3, 4). Like thousands before him, the author confesses that the Trinity can never be adequately understood.
The chapter entitled "The Tears of God" offers some interesting insights into the love and care of God.
Glen H. Jones