What Jesus Demands From the World
John Piper, Crossway, 2006, ISBN 1581348452, 399 pages, $19.99, hardcover.
In an age when Jesus is often soft-pedaled, a book declaring His demands for us catches attention. John Piper selects fifty places in Scripture where Jesus' words qualify as demands. He examines each in a thoughtful and insightful way. Some are done more than once, using other angles. He uses references to other Scriptures to gain clarity where needed.
In a preface to scholars, Piper rejects any Christian thesis that does not hold the Gospels as primary. Noting that three efforts in recent years to define Jesus historically have failed completely, he stands confidently on the Gospels. Only they have endured because only they contain the real Jesus.
As the title suggests Piper shows us that Jesus has expectations of His followers. Obedience to His demands enables us to glorify God. The author's understanding of Christ's demands and how we should meet them harmonizes well with the Gospels.
Rarely does such a versatile book come along. Though lengthy for a devotional, it would make a good one. Perhaps keep it handy for raw sermon material. You will recognize the demands as Jesus' words and find them easily in the contents. When a particular Scripture is your starting point the book's index lets you get Piper's thoughts on it. A very usable book, money well spent.
Target: All Believers
Type: Gospel Exegesis
Take: Highly Recommended
Foundations of Christian Thought: Faith Learning and the Christian Worldview
Mark P. Cosgrove, Kregel Publications, 2006, ISBN 0825424348,192 pages, $15.99, softcover.
Thinking well is only possible when done in conscious reference to "worldview." To ignore one's own underlying assumptions about reality and life, cripples meaningful discussion of matters of faith. Remaining ignorant of worldviews other than one's own, stifles any attempt to relate "being Christian" to fruitful life in this world.
Cosgrove's book is intended to aid the reader in learning to think in terms of worldview-the underlying assumptions and explanations we have about what reality is really like. The key is to identify and understand one's own worldview and those of others.
With an understanding of worldviews, one also comes to understand Christian faith in far different terms. It is no longer just another belief system among equals. Embracing the Good News not only delivers the soul, but provides a framework that excels all others for its comprehensive clarity and power to explain life and reality.
Foundations of Christian Thought is brief but packed with good information. Helpful Q/A sidebars help broaden understanding without sacrificing the main point. Definitions and explanations abound, making this a great introduction for the first-timer who wants to find out what this "worldview" stuff is all about. Somewhere between a college textbook and a "how-to," Foundations is a very helpful place for thoughtful beginners to launch a lifetime of learning.
I have taught worldview classes for many years. Cosgrove just got added to my must-read list!
Target: The "willing to go there"
Type: Christianity and Culture
Take: Read it!
Rock Solid Teacher
Gregory C. Carlson, Gospel Light, 2006, ISBN 0830739203, 170 pages, $17.99, hardcover.
If one wants to be an effective Bible teacher, he must teach as Jesus taught. That is the thesis of Gregory C. Carlson. The author shows us how Jesus taught by explaining and illustrating many of Jesus' methods. The Master Teacher moved from the Scriptural truth to the life principle to personal practice.
The goal of a rock solid teacher must be to confront hearers with their need of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, followed by growth in discipleship. Jesus firmly demanded that those who heard Him respond with their hearts and with their lives. Rock solid teachers must also faithfully present the gospel and press for a commitment to Christ.
One who teaches must know the Scriptures and proclaim them with authority. Like Jesus, we must proclaim that He is the only way to heaven and the Holy Spirit is the only sure guide for faithful Christian living.
Jesus' teaching methods included short lectures and utilized parables, allegories, comparison-contrast, current interest stories, historical examples, and visual objects. Jesus talked about things His hearers identified with-planting, harvesting, animals, money, rebellious children, and family conflicts.
In Chapter 6 the author presents 26 motivational ideas (one for each letter of the alphabet). A few of these ideas are C-ooperation, E-ncouragement, K-nowledge, P-lanning, V-isit your students, and Z-eal.
Carlson includes several self-check questionnaires to allow the teacher to evaluate his effectiveness.
Glen H. Jones
Target: Bible Teachers
Type: Teacher Training
Take: Highly Recommended
Pilgrim Heart: the Way of Jesus in Everyday Life
Darryl Tippens, Leafwood Publishers, 2007,ISBN 0976779072, 224 pages, $14.99, softcover.
What would happen if Christians stopped trying to "be religious" (i.e., hide behind the veneer of self-confidence and false piety that has become the norm for so many) and instead sought to live out the simple yet profound principles that Christ espoused during his earthly ministry? Darryl Tippens (provost at Pepperdine University) thinks that this would bring about a much-needed revival in the spirit of Christians and open the door for us to have a much greater personal and cultural impact.
The structure for the Christian walk that Tippens lays out in Pilgrim Heart is nothing new-in fact, it's ancient. The meat of this book is its rediscovery of the same truths that have transformed lives since the time of Jesus. With a passionate but measured style, he points out the disciplines of emptying, welcoming, resting (or Sabbath), befriending, confessing, forgiving, listening, discerning, singing, creating, feasting, reading and storytelling, suffering, and seeking as the ways through which the heart grows more like Christ. Each is elaborated upon in its own chapter (resting is given two chapters).
Tippens draws heavily on the works of his spiritual mentors (notably the inestimable Henri J. M. Nouwen and C. S. Lewis) to give form to his ideas, and their theme-that Christianity is something so much deeper, fresher, and yet simpler than the dry religious box we seem so desperate to squeeze it into-runs throughout Pilgrim Heart. This book should be both a profound encouragement and a serious challenge to all who read it. What the Lord wants from us most is simple submission to His will, and Tippens points us down that path with a refreshing honesty.
Type: Spiritual Growth
Take: Highly Recommended