Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Preaching


Tim Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian (PCA) Church in New York City. This is Keller’s 15th book, three of which have been on the New York Times bestseller list.

Keller’s book looks at the three levels of ministering the Word. Level 1 is the informal teaching and counseling of the Word which is the responsibility of all Christians. Level 2 includes greater analyses and might include writing, blogging, teaching, moderating and mentoring. Level 3 involves the preaching of sermons. Keller’s book seeks to be a resource at all three levels, but focuses heavily on levels 2 and 3.

Keller is known for engaging the culture. He stresses that contextualization of Scripture is not the same as accommodation of sin. The message must be understandable to the listener so they can comprehend the truth and see where they fall short. The same God honoring message might be taught differently based on the socio-economic, historical, geographic or language variations between audiences. Contextualization must never alter or sacrifice biblical truths. One might ask how to teach the story of the woman at the well to a culture that has never seen a well. Is it most important to focus on the compassion of Christ or the structure that helps hydrate a community?

Preaching is not simply the explanation of the text at hand, but utilizing the text to engage the listeners. The hearers must be engaged without altering or sacrificing Scripture. When a preacher or teacher expounds Scripture they must demonstrate how only Christ can save us. Jesus must be the end result of every Sunday school class or sermon.

Preachers of the gospel must show in their words they remember the emptiness of a life without Christ. A preacher must allow the listeners to hear in his voice that he is, even after decades, amazed and grateful of the grace and mercy Jesus has shown him.

The preacher must engage the culture, but not be a slave to it. Hip cultural references in sermons run the risk of the preacher pointing to his own knowledge and relevance instead of the timeless truths in Scripture. The purpose of understanding the audience and their culture is to show how Christ differs from those things that have enslaved man.

Keller stresses that good preaching is the work of the Holy Spirit and not the preacher. The preacher must stick to the infallible Word of God, prayer and truth. Preaching is a privilege and should be treated as such.

This is a wonderful book for all levels. Admittedly, it is more appropriate for teachers and preachers, but offers much for all. Keller brings to this book the experience of preaching for decades and thorough biblical exegesis to help the reader see what our Father commands of those who share the gospel with others.

Book Review: Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church

theologyMichael Lawrence earned a M.Div. degree at Gordon-Conwell a PhD from Cambridge University. He served as Associate Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC and currently serves as Senior Pastor at Hinson Baptist Church in Portland, OR. This is Lawrence’s third book.

With biblical theology we posses what we need for effective ministry in the churches and in our lives. Outside of biblical theology we have a Bible full of moral tales and irrelevant history. Scripture is sufficient. Too many of our modern churches teach that the Old Testament is simply moral examples and the New Testament tells us how to get right with God. The Bible, however, is not a “how to” book or a book where we seek “the answers.” Instead it is an outline of how God, throughout history and in the future, will bring great glory to himself. It explains our purpose helps and us understand the gift we have been given. Theology places us in the center of the biblical narrative.

The author explains that our theology determines the shape and character of our ministry. Theology is how we move from the text of Scripture to how we should live our lives today. Exegesis is the disciplined attempt to pull from a text the author’s original intent, rather than our own personal preferences, experiences or opinions.

This is an easy to understand book on Biblical and Systematic Theology and how they apply to our churches and the average believer. The author helps us to understand that theology transforms the Bible from a group of unrelated Sunday school tales into an intricately woven series of related narratives that communicate God’s truth. The author helps the reader to apply God’s reality to our modern preaching and teaching.

As modern American culture, and even contemporary evangelical culture, has essentially deserted its Christian roots, it has become oblivious to the historic presentation of the gospel. Lawrence points out the pestilence that has become the modern, watered-down, feel-good, theology of the Western church. The author helps us see that theology has an important place in the life of every disciple of Christ.

Book Review: Conviction to Lead

convictionR. Albert Mohler, Jr. is a theologian and the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He earned a Master of Divinity and Ph.D. in Systematic and Historical Theology. He has authored, edited or contributed to a dozen theology books.

The author proudly points out his book is different from the overabundance of the other secular and Christian leadership books that have deluged bookstores over the last 30 years. Mohler outlines 25 principles broken into chapters that will challenge how Christians view leaders and leadership. The author draws from personal, literary, biblical experiences as well as those of iconic world leaders to make his points about leading.

Mohler tells us the Christian leader must have mental reflexes that correspond to biblical truth. The leadership that really matters is all about conviction. The leader is rightly concerned with everything from strategy and vision to team-building, motivation, and delegation, but at the center of the true leader’s heart and mind you will find convictions that drive and determine everything else.

The more Christians learn about biblical leadership, the more effective we will be in our churches, families and ministries. Mohler successfully redefines the debate about leadership. He establishes clearly what Scripture says about leaders and why Christian leadership is important. The theology of leadership is clear throughout the Bible. From Adam to Abraham to David to Paul, Mohler shows us God’s heart towards those he has blessed with hearts to lead.

Anyone who has lead, is leading or hopes to lead should find this book Godly and enriching. Not everyone has been called to lead and few are natural leaders, but Mohler helps us see how to develop and hone leadership skills that can be used to serve God and advance his glory.

Book Review: Killing Jesus

killingBill O’Reily is the host of The O’Reilly Factor, which is the #1 rated cable news show. He has authored 15 books, including several that have made it to #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

This book, Killing Jesus: A History, was written with Martin Dugard. Released on September 24th, 2013, the book debuted at #1 on Amazon and on the New York Times Best Sellers List. The book was researched exhaustively and provides a historical look at the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth.

O’Reily, who is a Catholic, has been criticized by evangelicals and non-believers alike for this book. Some evangelicals take exception to the book because the author adds to Scripture by using non-canonical sources to discuss Jesus’ earthly life. Non-believers argue that O’Reily, as a believer in Christ, can’t be neutral on the topic of his life.

This is not a Christian book. If Christians are going into the book seeking a better understanding of Scripture, they will be disappointed. This book is a historical book and has been researched extensively. The authors use the Bible, secular writings and writings of those who opposed Jesus to provide a neutral view of the historical figure of Jesus. Jesus is the most influential and polarizing person in the history of the world. O’Reily is focused on his historicity.

O’Reily tells us that Jesus never wrote a book, composed a song, or put paint on canvas. But two thousand years after his death, after his message has spread to billions of people, more books have been written about his life, more songs sung in his honor, and more works of art created in his name than for any other man in the history of the world.

Both Christians and non-believers will find content in this book to be offensive. The authors do not intend this book to be a Christian book and it is not. As a historical book Killing Jesus has components that are not kind to the adherents to Christianity. It does not blindly support the views of the Christian faith.

Killing Jesus is not a candidate to be read as a book study in a church, nor should it be read to better understand the faith of Christianity. It is a good historical look at Jesus and provides an exhaustive look at the political, cultural and religious conditions of the time. It is a good read to help everyone better understand the historical implications of Jesus the man and those around him who opposed and supported him.

Book Review: The Cost Of Discipleship

costDietrich Bonhoeffer was a theologian, martyr, pastor, political dissident and author. He was known for his deeply intellectual theological writings and thought. Bohoeffer was arrested and imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and executed at the age of 39.

This book is considered by many to be a classic of modern Christian thought. It was published in 1937 under the backdrop of the Nazi rise to power in Germany. The book is focused on the Sermon on the Mount. Simply, Bonhoeffer outlines what it takes to be a Christian.

Bonhoeffer’s book unswervingly challenges those who call themselves Disciples of Christ. Discipleship is very simple and clear, yet discipleship is expensive and should cost us dearly. Those who declare Bonhoeffers theology unrealistic or unobtainable don’t understand the Scriptures. Christ did not ask for Sunday-only Christians, he called us to sacrifice all. This book is a gut punch and unbelievably informative.

In one of the most quoted sections of this book Bonhoeffer explains that cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

This book is one of the most thorough explanations of what it means to be a Christian. Bonohoeffer does not tell us that a Christian must simply pray a prayer, put a fish on his car or attend a conference. Bonohoeffer details the life altering, radical obedience and unwavering dedication that is required of a Christian. Longtime theologians and new believers alike should read this book. Check your modern views of Christianity at the door.