“Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith” by Dr. Joel R. Beeke.

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If you are a Christian, you’ve probably had questions about the topic of assurance.  We’ve all had doubts about our faith at some point in our growth.  While nobody can give you assurance of your salvation, this book can help you, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith;” 2 Corintians 2:5a (NASB)  Dr. Beeke cites the Bible, and the writings of some very astute Puritans, and their explorations of this topic.  The book is very logically organized, and walks you through a process, by which you can examine yourself, if you are having questions about your salvation.  He unpacks where some of our problems come from, and what we should know to help us on our way.  This is one of the most accurate, and helpful books I’ve ever read on the topic.  If you are having difficulties with your assurance, I highly recommend this book.

You can pick up a copy at any of these sites; Reformation Heritage Books, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.

ISBN-13: 9781781913000

A Snyder’s Soapbox Review of, “When my Ox Gores my Neighbor: Using Hermeneutics to Travel from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion” by Josiah Nichols.

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I was contacted by a mutual friend to do this review. Up until that point I had not heard of Josiah Nichols. This would be the first work that I have read of his. It might also be his first published work. It isn’t a long book, nor is it a book that requires a seminary education to read. The author’s purpose is to demonstrate how he employs hermeneutics to interpret, and derive applications from Exodus 21:28-32. The book is very evangelistic. I would say that it has been far more evangelistic than many theological books that I’ve recently read.

From reading the title, and the author’s intended goal treating the topic of hermeneutics, I expected a more in depth primer on hermeneutics, and a demonstration of the analytical methods of hermeneutics on the cited verses. While the author accomplished this goal, I think occasionally the author also got a little lost in some peripheral details.

It is also evident that the author is a big fan of Wretched Radio/TV and their work. Todd Friel is the host of the programs as well as the podcast. The people over there at Wretched have put out a number of very useful videos, and educational products. Josiah refers to, “Hermen Who?” numerous times throughout the book. Wretched should thank him for the plug 🙂 I liked both the book, and Wretched. I am a big fan of their work to, so I share that with the author.

The questions I consider for book purchases are, is it theologically accurate, and will it add value to the individual’s Christian library? That’s it. That’s how simple it is for me to decide, “yes” or “no” for a book. The answer to the first question is, yes this book is good and accurate if you are Reformed in your soteriology. If you are not, it is still accurate, and you are the one with the problem lol.  As far as value goes, it does add value to your library as a resource to loan out. This book is evangelistic. I would feel good handing this to someone who is new in the faith. It will teach them a bit about hermeneutics, and much more about other doctrines of God.

After reading it, I am still hard pressed to categorize this book, or write a more fitting title. The author does analyze Exodus 21:28-32. He does so accurately. He did not twist the scripture, or impose a meaning on it that was not intended by the author of scripture. It would be educational for a new Christian. I believe that was his intended audience. I look forward to seeing Josiah’s future projects. I think we will see bigger and better works from him. He was precise and nuanced without being rhetorical. Some theological books for laymen seem as if the authors had forgotten who their audience was. If Josiah reads this, “Keep up the good work.” You can pick up a copy of his book at Amazon, Christianbook, or Westbow to name a few. It can be purchased from many other online book retail sites.

ISBN-13: 978-1512782530

“The Heaven Promise” by Scot McKnight does not rise above.

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There are plenty of books out on Heaven currently.  This is one among them.  Scot Mcknight is a talented writer.  His book is interesting to read.  I can agree with much of what he said, if I give him the benefit of the doubt in some areas.

The difficulty I have with Christian books is that I look for books that will add value to the Christian’s library.  In the world of Christian books, I read works of scholarly endeavor, and works for the laymen.  In those two groups I apply the same standard, “Does this book rise above the current crop and add value to my library?”  Both categories are flooded, and in my opinion encumbered by copious amounts of average to damaging works.  Every once in awhile I run into a book that does add value to my library.  I heartily recommend those books.  In the laymen’s category, I loved, “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan.  I also loved, “The Holiness of God” by R. C. Sproul.  In the scholastic category, I relished, “Evangelical Influences” by J. I. Packer.  Books like those don’t come around often.

To answer the question formulating in your mind, “Nope, this isn’t one of them.”  Like I said above,  “Scot Mcknight is a talented writer.”  Unfortunately, this book just sets in the middle of the field.  This book was  not aimed at scholars.  It was aimed at the average Christian.  It kept things pretty simple.  It is obvious that Scott leans a little to the left theologically.  He seems like, “emergent lite.”  He obviously thinks Calvinists are wrong.  (Read page 174)  He quotes John Henry Newman and Richard Foster.  One is a Roman Catholic, and the other is an emergent Church mystic.  He makes speculations based on only four options expressed by Jerry Walls, about how God ensures that everyone, even the dead get to hear the gospel.  He does this without ever really presenting the gospel.  The four presupposed options are severely lacking.  This is done on pages 160, 161.

In Chapter 23 he claims purgatory is a doctrine that has divided the Church.  To that I can only shake my head in astonishment.  Unless, in his horrible ecumenism he thinks the Roman Catholic Church is part of the catholic faith, he is including them as Christian.  It also seems that he is teaching that we do things for an eternal reward primarily.  He fails to teach that we should be doing things primarily for the glory of God.  We know that there are rewards for us in Heaven, but that should not be our primary motivation for doing things that are pleasing to God.  He also seems to place an undue amount of importance on the environment.  I don’t know if he understands that God is going to destroy the world with fire.  He tends to speculate where scripture is silent.

So if you are looking for a book on Heaven, that will add value to your library, purchase, “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn instead.  “The Heaven Promise” by Scot McKnight is just mediocre.  It has some problems.  It gets some stuff right, but ultimately it is just o.k.

ISBN-13: 9781601426284

A Review of, “Answering Jihad” by Nabeel Qureshi

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The full title of the book is, “Answering Jihad A Better Way Forward.” The majority of the book is a concise primer on Islam, and some of its doctrines. It also briefly juxtaposes some facets of Islam with corresponding aspects Christianity.

The big question, in my summation, that it answered definitively was, “Do the authoritative founding documents of Islam prescribe violence as an integral part of the practice of Islam?” It would seem that the answer is, “Yes.” He also answers another question that has got our liberal friends in a tizzy, “Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” Of course, this is simply answered with a resounding, “No.” by people like me. Qureshi does answer in the negative but is more diplomatic with his response. He takes some time addressing why some people might think that they do. He also explains why some Christians from other countries might use the word, “Allah” as an interchangeable word for God. As an American, this would never enter my mind, so it was interesting to learn why it would happen in other countries. Nonetheless, we should answer the liberals in this nation with a, “No.” He explains how similar does not equate to same. It is not enough to have some similar attributes and then coincidentally make it consequential.

Nabeel Qureshi takes just enough time to flesh out the truth, without weighing the reader down with minutia. He utilizes a writing style that the layman will be comfortable with while maintaining accuracy. It is a quick read, that can be read in a day. It is a good resource to hand to friends who may have new Muslim co-workers or neighbors. I agree with Qureshi’s conclusion that the best way forward is friendship, not fear. If we can take the time to understand where they are coming from, and then invite them into our culture, it would go a long way to improving relations with the moderate muslims of the world. With the help of men like Qureshi we can also spot the Muslims who are educated in the founding documents of Islam and are engaging in the prescribed violence from the quran and hadiths.

I recommend this book as a primer. Definitely, get a copy for yourself, and then give it to anyone who would be in a position to befriend muslims. I would look for any other books this author might have coming out in the future.

 

ISBN-13: 9780310531388

A Review of, “The Underestimated Gospel” a Compilation of Edited Sermons from the 2012, “Together for the Gospel” Conference.

I know 2012 was a few years back, but that didn’t stop B&H Books from publishing this work in 2014.  Jonathan Leeman is the General Editor for this compilation of sermons.  He did a great job putting them together in book format.  Here is list of the Pastors whose sermons are featured in this book, David Platt, John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, Matt Chandler, R. Albert Mohler Jr. Thabiti Anyabwile, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, and J. Ligon Duncan III.  With this list of names you would expect to see some good sermons.  I did, and I wasn’t disappointed.  As you can tell from the name of the book, and the conference, the messages focused on the gospel of Jesus, and its power to change everything.  

I don’t want to do the typical critical review here.  It isn’t really that kind of work.  This was sermons, preached to Pastors, for their edification, by other Pastors, at a conference.  It was not a work of fiction, a history book, a “Christian living” book, theology book, or a biography.  Considering that, I would rather just encourage you to read this volume of sermons for your own edification.  You don’t have to be a Pastor to get the message from this book.  Any Christian could pick this up and read it for their benefit.  These men laid out for us the importance of preaching the gospel, and how it applies to every aspect of Christian conversion, security, life, evangelism, and discipleship.  You get a view through a portal into the head and heart of these Pastors as they preach about the gospel.  

I would recommend this book to anyone who is tired of hearing fluff that doesn’t actually change anything, to Pastors who lack authority in their preaching, to Pastors who want to see their flock changed by the word of God.  The worst that can happen is that you would spend a short time reading some very good sermons.  If you are a false teacher, and false convert, the best thing that could happen, is that you could be genuinely saved, and motivated to give up that useless moralism, life enhancement, prosperity, best life now, drivel, you’ve been pushing, and actually preach the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified.  Sorry if that seemed a bit harsh.  I have sat in Churches that don’t preach the gospel.  It gets me riled up now when I think about other poor souls sitting in  a Church having nonsense preached at them.  Seriously, if you are a Pastor, or know a Pastor, get them this book.  It will aid them and encourage them.

You can pick up a copy here at Christianbook.com

You can also watch the entire conference for free on the site.

ISBN: 9781433683909

Richard Baxter’s, “The Reformed Pastor” published by, “The Banner of Truth” is just as relevant today as it was in 1651.

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Richard Baxter’s, “The Reformed Pastor” published by, “The Banner of Truth” is just as relevant today as it was in 1651.  It is a timeless classic of Christian writing and should be in every Pastor’s library and read by every Christian.  This book was written to address problems Baxter saw with his contemporaries.  He was going to address them with a speech, but fell ill.  Instead, he wrote to them, the words recorded in this book.  Some Pastors were unbelievers, some were, cold intellectuals with great educations, others were passionate, but not qualified to serve as Pastors, yet still others were just as crass and base as the carnal world they wallowed in.  Baxter took them all to task, and not just them, but himself also.

Don’t be mistaken.  This book is not a polemic, but a call to repent and be a loyal and true servant of God.  The work is broken down into three chapters.  Chapter one, “The oversight of ourselves” starts as a check up or a self-diagnostic per se.  Baxter effectively brings to light the necessity of a Pastor being truly regenerated.  Then, he warns Pastors about pitfalls of bad practices, as well encourages them.  Chapter two, “The oversight of the flock” is just that.  Instruction on how to perform the vocation dutifully for the Lord’s service and man’s benefit.  If it weren’t full enough of good applicable information, then comes chapter three, “Application.”  This Chapter is the largest of the book, and encompasses the most directly applicable information for Pastors.  The book in its entirety, convicts, informs, and exhorts.

Some of you might be concerned that this book will be difficult to read due to it being in Modern English. (like the King James)  I want to assure you that it was not a difficult read.  Baxter put much emphasis on being comprehensible.  He encourage the Pastors of the time to employ language and nomenclature that the common man would readily understand.  With that in mind, Baxter wrote.  This book, at times might slow you down, but not excessively or without easy remedy.  

One of the points that grabbed my attention and seemed anachronistic was his preaching against Pastors using their positions as a means to easy and comfortable lives.  It brought to mind many of the Television Pastors living in sixteen thousand square foot palatial homes, while owning fleets of private jets.  I guess bilking the hurting and needy in the name of God has been around for a long time.  That is why it, “seemed” anachronistic when it actually wasn’t.  

There is so much in this book to like.  I found myself underlining and highlighting entire sections.  It is extremely relevant for today, just as I am sure it was for the time in which Baxter wrote.  It reminds me of, “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan, but only for Pastors and from the perspective of a Pastor.  That being said, there are theological notions that Baxter held that I do not affirm.  He held to a sort of middle way when it came to soteriology.  He wasn’t Arminian and he wasn’t Reformed.  While I may not hold to Baxter’s theological convictions, I did thoroughly enjoy this book and will probably read it again and again over the years to come.  You can purchase your copy from the Banner of Truth here, or Amazon here, and finally Christianbook here.

A Review of, “A Guide to Christian Living” by the Protestant Reformer John Calvin, as Translated by Robert White for The Banner of Truth Trust.

A Review of, “A Guide to Christian Living” by the Protestant Reformer John Calvin, as Translated by Robert White for The Banner of Truth Trust.

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This book is an excerpt of the beginning of, “Book 3, Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1560 French edition.” It is 140 pages long. It has a short introduction providing some background information about John Calvin and his, “Institutes.” It also explains Calvin’s purpose in writing, “Book 3” His purpose is also made clear in this book’s title. At the end of the book are, the endnotes, and indexes of scripture references, as well as subjects. This book is published by The Banner of Truth Trust. It is printed by Versa Press Inc., of East Peoria Illinois USA. The font is a very legible 10.5/13.5 Adobe Caslon Pro typeset. It is available in print, e-pub, and Kindle.

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I found the paper to be very thick and easy to highlight. It is covered in green faux leather. The cover is decorated with a perimeter channel, image of Calvin, and the title stamped in it to resemble tooling.

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The spine looks to be sewn and glued.

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It has the title stamped parallel to the spine, John Calvin under that, and The Banner of Truth’s logo at the foot. Overall I found the book to be well constructed and easy to read.

If you are familiar with the works of Calvin, you’ll recognize this when you start reading it. Unlike many of his Latin works that were translated into English, this translation seems less formal and verbose. Due to that fact it lends itself to devotional reading. It works well for that purpose, and gives you something to ponder while you go about your day. I found myself nodding my head in agreement several times and wondering what other sections of Calvin’s works could be arranged as devotionals. It was very refreshing to read something scriptural in Modern English. As of late, the choices have been dismal.  Most devotionals in Modern English are full of extra-biblical revelations, or pseudo-self-help drivel. People have been feasting on cotton candy theology and as a result are malnutritioned.  Reading something that makes you truly consider what is being communicated is stimulating.  You have to engage your head and your heart, not just one or the other.  People say that Calvin is to dry, but if you read his work, you will see his passion for God come through.

My copy of Spurgeon’s, “Morning and Evening” is a bit too large to carry with me to work. This book is much smaller. I can fit it in my pocket. The paper is very thick and heavy, not like Bible paper at all. Highlighting and underlining works well. I was underlining and highlighting sections to quote on social media later on. This way you don’t have to mark up your nicer complete volume of Calvin’s Institutes.  This little book, unlike many devotionals, is more durable it stands up to being carried about.

I recommend this for personal devotions as well as a gift to the newly born again. I think it will aid them in getting their foundational doctrines in order. It can be purchased directly from The Banner of Truth, or you can purchase it from, Christianbook.com as well as Amazon.com.

To see all the pictures I took visit my flickr page.