Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching
Don Kistler, editor, Reformation Trust Publishing, Orlando, Fla., 2008. ISBN 9781567691078, 156 pages, hardcover, $15.00.
In this update of the 2002 book of the same name, 11 Reformed ministers present their passionate appeal for preachers and teachers to preach the Word. They contend that God-ordained ministers are not called to entertain or tell funny stories, but to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Contributors to the book include such household names as R.C. Sproul, his son R.C., Jr., John Piper, Al Mohler, John MacArthur, and the late James Montgomery Boice.
In his essay, Mohler emphasizes the primacy of preaching. He points out that its content must reveal the Lord Jesus Christ with the authority that comes from the Holy Spirit. MacArthur reminds preachers that the message-not the messenger-is all important, and that those who are faithful to the Word will receive criticism and persecution.
Several contributors, notably Boice and Derek W.H. Thomas, write on the importance of solid exposition and diligent preparation. They remind us that it is the Word of God we are imparting, and it must be taken seriously.
They also write about experiential preaching-teaching that the Christian faith must be lived through the saving power of the Holy Spirit. Preaching, Boice instructs, leads to conversions and builds believers and churches-faithful preaching must produce faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful ministers must also preach the whole counsel of God; they must not shun unpopular subjects in order to please the rich and powerful.
Sproul emphasizes that a minister must be knowledgeable in the Scriptures. Knowing the Word is vital to effective instruction and guarding against false teaching.
Three other writers present messages on preaching to the mind (Sproul, Jr.), preaching to the heart (Sinclair B. Ferguson), and preaching to suffering people (Piper).
Feed My Sheep is a much-needed reminder of the crucial task of proclaiming God's truth. Its intellectual style is challenging without being overbearing, and every teacher of the Word should find encouragement here.
Glen H. Jones
Target: Pastors / Teachers
Take: Highly Recommended
Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will
Kevin DeYoung, Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2009, ISBN 9780802458384, 144 pages, $10.99, softcover.
Few things garner as much attention and generate as much uncertainty in the Church as the pursuit of God's will. Most believers today devote a great deal of concern to finding and fulfilling God's plan for their lives, and are often tentative about proceeding with life decisions without a definitive "word from the Lord."
In Just Do Something, Kevin DeYoung suggests that widely held misunderstandings of the nature of God's will, combined with cultural shifts (such as the creation and expansion of adolescence), have created a crisis of Christ-following in the "younger" (under 40) generation of Christians.
In addressing this observation, he breaks down classic theological understanding of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility into a simple, straightforward concept of "spiritual common sense"-that is, we should rest in God's sovereign will, obey His revealed Word, and trust that the choices we make in that context will reflect His will of direction. The book's goal, as the title suggests, is to move younger believers to step up to the plate, get a job, get married, and get on with life rather than being consumed by fear that they are not "living in the center of God's will."
DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich., and co-author of last year's Why We're Not Emergent, speaks the conversational language of his (and my) generation with a doctrinal clarity seldom seen in today's "Christian" books. He undercuts many of our most wrong-headed ideas with loving candor and builds a solid, scriptural framework for living in their place. The book is a quick read, reflecting the simplicity the author sees in its subject. His goal is not exposition, but calling our attention to those vital truths that we've stopped allowing to steer our lives.
Target: All / Student Ministries
Type: Christian Living
Take: Very Highly Recommended
The Jesus Who Never Lived: Exposing False Christs and Finding the Real Jesus
H. Wayne House, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Ore., 2008, ISBN: 9780736923217, 310 pages, $13.99, softcover.
Jesus asked, "Who do you say I am?" (Matt 16:15). People have been answering that question in a variety of ways ever since, and they have gotten it wrong far too often.
This book stresses the importance of getting Jesus right, pointing out that eternal truth depends on a correct understanding of who Jesus is.
Even for those skeptical of His deity, Jesus is considered the most important figure in history. This book shows that heresies about Him have always been with us and will continue to be reinvented, repackaged and exploited until He returns.
The book cites arguments and controversies over ancient writings that have bearing on how Jesus is understood, pointing out that those who saw and knew him firsthand are the best witnesses. It explains how the creeds were formed largely as a response to dangerous and popular heresies.
House covers the cults and how Jesus is regarded by other religions, as well as modern music, scholarly efforts, and films that promote erroneous ideas. For example: This book's description of the Jesus Seminar is clearer than what I found on that group's website.
As a layman, I have heard most of these fallacies at one time or another. A pastor needs this knowledge and will find it here in an easily readable form. The work has a generous reference section for further study and the index will guide you back to particular subjects as needed.
It is sad that anyone must spend time and effort writing books like this, but the battle for truth goes on. Professor House deserves credit for giving us a valuable weapon, with a fresh tone that endures through the pages, helpful when we encounter distorted perceptions of our Lord.
Target: Pastors / Teachers
Approaching God: Accepting the Invitation to Stand in the Presence of God
Steve Brown, Howard Books, New York, 2008, ISBN 9781416567332, 283 pages, $14.99, softcover.
When one begins reading this book, it does not seem to be a book about prayer. Brown begins talking about our relationship with God, reminding us that He is all, and we are helpless children totally dependent on our Father. God, Brown shows, wants us to enter His presence, offer our praise, confess our weakness, and voice our petitions. It is useless to pretend before God that we are more than we are.
The writer gently drives home his points by numerous illustrations. He also gives short illustrative stories of answered prayer. Brown stresses that God delights when we enter His presence, even when we have sinned. He refers to "stiffness" in prayer that comes about by an uncertainty about God's response when He "learns" we have been so cold, wrong, and sinful.
In one section the author offers ten suggestions for prayer. His suggestions, summarized, are faith, patience, God's will, specificity, God's wisdom, praise, obedience, persistence, requests (not demands), and seriousness. A fuller discussion on these suggestions can be found on pages 206-209.
In Chapter 12 Brown answers perplexing questions: "If God already knows what I'm going to pray, why even bother?"; "I'm afraid to go to God. Is that the right attitude?"; "I've really sinned this time. Will God ever hear my prayers again?"
In all, the book is a refreshing refocusing of discussion about prayer. Instead of making about us and what we bring to the table (as so many contemporary books do), Brown places his emphasis on God and His awesome grace in allowing us to relate to Him at all.
Glen H. Jones