Growing Toward Christlikeness

BOOK REVIEW
AN INFINITE JOURNEY by Andrew M. Davis (Ambassador International; 2014)

An Infinite Journey is written by author and pastor Andrew Davis. Davis also heads up a ministry called Two Journeys, which focuses on the two journeys of the Christian life, which are the outward journey of the advancement of the gospel message and the inward journey toward sanctification. This book, obviously, focuses on this vital inward journey for every Christian.

Davis begins this book by making the case that sanctification is always tightly bound up with justification — indeed, sanctification is only possible after we have been justified and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Then, the majority of the book covers the aspects of the believer that grow and mature in sanctification: knowledge, faith, character, and actions. As Davis delves into each of these aspects that set believers apart from the world, he draws upon his experiences and skills honed over years as a pastor and seminary professor. The result is a book on what could be an overwhelming subject to one that lovingly and encouragingly draws readers to better understand spiritual growth and then to actively desire it and pursue it.

It is sad that more churches do not make sanctification more of an emphasis and provide more specific directions and exhortations toward growth. But this book does a very admirable job in filling this gap and is approachable for any believer in any stage of their Christian walk. Highly recommended!!

LEARNING TO LOVE THE PSALMS: Book Review

Learning to Love the Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey (Reformation Trust Publishing; 2017)

In this most enlightening and informative book on the Psalms. Godfrey laments the fact that this vital part of holy Scripture which played such an important role in the life of the Jewish community for thousands of years, as well as for the Christian church for almost 1800 years has now fallen into a theological corner. In this book, Godfrey hopes to spark a new interest in the use the Psalter, both in corporate worship services, and in the personal devotions and prayers of believers everywhere.

Learning to Love the Psalms is neither a commentary or a devotional —- technically speaking. Yet the author both explains the occasions and use of the Psalms in ancient Israel —- like a commentary; but also shows how the theme of each psalm discussed can be used as a devotional and as a springboard to prayer and communion with the Father.

Godfrey describes the make-up and apparent theme and aim of each of the five Books that make up the Psalms in our Bibles today. After that description, the author details more of the interesting facts behind the psalms described (over 80 in all), how they tie into the overall theme of the Book in which they are found, and how modern-Christians can better understand and make more practical and spiritual lessons contained in each psalm. The book is written in a clear and entertaining manner, making it very accessible to the general reader; but with enough theological and expository insight to be very useful for pastors. Most highly recommended!

Devotions for Men by Men

BOOK REVIEW: STAND STRONG by Our Daily Bread Ministries (2020)

This is a devotional designed for men that provides a short Scripture passage, followed by an applying devotion — enough for each day of the year. The contributors to this devotional are all seasoned pastors, seminary teachers, and writers for Our Daily Bread. Men will find this devotional full of bite-sized wisdom a help to start their days in line with Jesus.

How to Accomplish More and Stress Less

WIN THE DAY: 7 Daily Habits to Help You Stress Less & Accomplish More by Mark Batterson

Win the Day is the latest book by pastor and author Mark Batterson, and I predict this book will be as popular and helpful to people as his other books, such as The Circle Maker and Chase the LionIn this book, Batterson read a large number of secular and Christian books on leadership and productivity to deliver this book on how to redeem each day to its maximum extent…but without making yourself frantic and stressed out. This is a big goal, but Batterson accomplishes his purpose in this helpful and thought-provoking book.

Batterson makes a compelling case to discipline our minds to stay in the present and not waste time ruminating on the past. The author contends that only by focusing on the goals and tasks for each day on a one-day-at-a-time manner can a person maximize their efforts with the least amount of stress.

The book is divided into three parts. First, to win the day, we must bury our dead yesterdays. In Part 2, Batterson gives the main habits and tips necessary to win the day. Finally, in Part 3, he discusses how important it is to have God-sized dreams for the future to help get through the daily grind. Like an athlete who pushes her body to the limit daily with purpose, but all done so that they can win the gold medal at the Olympics.

I am a facts/history/little-known things nerd, so I really enjoy reading Batterson’s books because, in this one, he uses all kinds of unique and unknown facts of science and history to make his points more memorable. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is tired of driving in neutral and ready to make the most of each day and year the Lord gives them.

Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together

BOOK REVIEW

THE IMPERFECT DISCIPLE by Jared C. Wilson ( Baker Books; 2017)

This book is about discipleship but takes a different approach from most Christian books on this subject. The typical book by a pastor or Bible teacher who wants to explain how the Bible defines discipleship and how a person can become wholly sold out to Jesus — like the author! But this book is written by a former pastor who had to give up his pastorate due to stress, depression, and burnout. And he sets the goal for himself to write a book that encourages the average Christian who is trying to walk with Jesus while raising kids, going to school, and working long hours at a job that they are not exactly crazy about.

Wilson accomplishes this goal by openly admitting how messed up and thoroughly ordinary he is. He is no kind of example for other believers to follow. But this is the point, because until a believer is honest enough to admit how hopeless they are in trying to walk like Jesus on their own skills and willpower, the sooner they will be able to recognize the extraordinary grace found in the gospel. The author makes an interesting point that our Christian lives can be summed up in Romans 7 and 8 — that we fail in our sins daily, but God has given us the Holy Spirit as a down payment of His intention to cause us to become like Christ through the efforts of the Spirit. And that God will not give up on us until we become glorified in heaven with Jesus and all of our spiritual brothers and sisters.

Wilson writes in a humorous and passionate style that is both engaging and encouraging. And he does a beautiful job in showing how spectacular and amazing God’s grace and love are and that any believer can live in confidence that by being a follower of Christ — even one who constantly stumbles — they are greatly loved and cared for by our heavenly Father. Highly recommended!

How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding of the Old Testament

READING THE BIBLE WITH RABBI JESUS by Lois Tverberg is another addition to her fine series on using insights from Jewish and 1st Century AD Middle Eastern life for modern readers to better understand the Bible. This particular book focuses on the Old Testament — which, of course, was the Bible for all Jews in the time of Jesus — and how Jesus would have read and interpreted what was written in those texts that were already over 1000 years old by the time He arrived on the scene.

As in other books she has written, Tverberg first helps the reader to understand that the Greco-Roman culture that gave rise to European and then North American culture and soceity is really very different from the worldview of the ancient Israelites, as well as Jesus and His disciples. She shows how this is important in examples like the word “walk.” In Greek and English, it simply means to travel by foot, but in Hebrew the way one “walks” reflects your moral character. Then, Part Three, the author uses the foundation built up by the previous sections to bring greater clarity and insight to various familiar passages and parts of the Old Testament.

Since very few believers will ever travel to Israel or learn biblical Hebrew, Tverberg provides an invaluable service to Christian readers who want to better appreciate the Old Testament, so that it truly is the source of information about God’s holiness, grace and love that it is meant to be. Highly recommended!

Planning and Living for the Glory of God

BOOK REVIEW

REIMAGINE RETIREMENT by C. J. Cagle (B & H Publishers; 2019)

This book is written by a Christian financial specialist, as well as being a recent retiree himself. But unlike a lot of other financial planning books I have read, Cagle does not make the reader feel foolish or a loser if they don’t have a million dollars already set aside for themselves.

Cagle first looks at how our modern world defines retirement and then compares that to a review of the biblical outlook on retirement. And, of course, the Bible knows nothing about retirement as presently experienced in the Western world. In Part Two, the author gets more into the numbers and wise strategies of preparing for and beginning to set your financial house in order. Then, in Part Three, Cagle emphasizes how to live out your retirement in a manner that demonstrates a trust and dependence on God, while also looking for various ways to continue to serve Him and mentor younger people.

This book is extremely practical and easy to understand for even clueless financial people like myself! Again, I found this book to be an encouragement even though I do not have a retirement nest egg personally. Highly recommended!

BOOK REVIEW: Flirting with Darkness

FLIRTING WITH DARKNESS: Building Hope in the Face of Depression by Ben Courson (Harvest House Publishers; 2020)

Young pastor and author Ben Courson writes about his own struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide, to offer hope, encouragement and direction for others who are also suffering. Courson reports he has battled against depression for over 15 years, but he is convinced that depression can actually be defeated.

Courson divides his book into three parts. In Part One, he examines both the clinical and personal information he has discovered about depression, including what light the Bible brings to bear on the commonality of depression and how God assists those who struggle with both temporary and long-term depression. Courson also focuses on the many Christians throughout history who have also dealt with depression, to challenge the erroneous idea that mature Christians should be depressed.

In Part Two, Courson offers eleven “weapons” to fight against the effects of depression on the mind, spirit and body, including exercise and other natural methods to boost endorphins, getting out of isolation and leaning on friends, and learning how to receive love from God. Finally, in Part Three, the author provides about 25 short devotional readings to provide hope and focus to depression sufferers — for them to read on a regular basis.

This book provides the kind of personal experience and Scripture-based viewpoint on depression to offer substantial help to believers who struggle with feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts. The author shares in an honest yet light-hearted way about his own battles with his mind and brain, and helps readers to feel like there is real hope for any Christian who makes the effort to follow through on the thoughts and strategies provided in this helpful book. Highly recommended!

BOOK REVIEW: It’s All About Jesus

IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS: A Treasury of Insights on Our Savior, Lord and Friend by Randy Alcorn (Harvest House Publishers; 2020)

This book by well-known author Randy Alcorn is a collection of impactful and insightful comments and quotes by various people throughout history on the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth is the most important person who has ever lived, and as such, Alcorn argues, it is important that we understand who Jesus was and is, and why He has had the effect on the world that He has had.

Using a mixture of pertinent Scripture passages and numerous quotes from both Christians and famous people throughout history, Alcorn examines important aspects of Jesus in four categories: (1) The nature, attributes and characteristics of Jesus as fully God and fully human; (2) The life and ministry of Jesus on earth; (3) The names and titles of Jesus; and (4) What Jesus taught and how He interacted with His disciples.

In this 300-page book, the reader will find perhaps one of the best collections in one place of the comments and quotations of both the famous and the believers in God on the unique person and life of Jesus. Highly recommended!