Archives For Book Review

Claims of sight-seeing return trips to Heaven and Hell are still in vogue among publishers today. However, I swear A Visitor’s Guide to Hell (Sterling Ethos, NY, 2014) is not a book vying to join that growing club. Launching from Jesus’ teaching about the rich man in Hell and Lazarus in Heaven the book explores the biblical descriptions of the afterlife.VGTH

Frankly, I’m surprised that the claimants of these apparent short-term visits to Hell don’t bother conforming their descriptions to what we have revealed in the Bible. It would make their stories more credible. If you were going to lie about a trip to Paris surely you’d at least peruse a guidebook to check your details line up with reality? Anyway, here is a brief excerpt from the chapter on Heaven titled “Alternate destination.”

(The ellipses represent large chunks missing for the sake of brevity; and so you’ll buy the book!)

Been there done that

Unlike Hell, the road to Heaven is not strictly a one-way street. There have been three credible people in history who have seen glimpses of Heaven, and been allowed to talk about some of what they saw. In this chapter we will draw from what these eye-witnesses saw.

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I didn’t realize my new book on Hell had hit the shelves until Tim Challies mentioned it on his blog.VGTH

Why a book on Hell? Interesting story:

Apparently some market research found that a trending topic is non-fiction “afterlife tourism” or first person narratives of people who claimed to have been to Heaven or Hell. This egregious genre is one of my pet publishing peeves (for evidence, see my review Heaven is for Real…Well Duh!) When my agent was approached by a secular publisher (Sterling Ethos, New York) looking for a book compatible with that genre, we instead pitched the idea of a non-fiction, biblical explanation of Hell framed in the first person of the Rich Man in Hades whom Jesus mentioned in his parable in Luke 16. Sterling loved the idea and the journey began. In keeping with the after-life tourism theme it is titled A Visitor’s Guide to Hell.

I should warn those who intend to read the book: though this sobering topic must never be treated flippantly, anyone who knows me understands that I can’t even preach a funeral sermon without using levity. This bugs some people, and I understand that. But I think in this book I avoid being glib while still being myself.

Also readers should bear in mind that this is not written only to an Evangelical market but is intended to be evangelistic. My intention was that the book could be given to an unbeliever, who would find it engaging enough to complete and be exposed to a clear explanation of the gospel.

Here is a snippet from the introduction, followed by the table of contents…

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The Great Divorce is C.S. Lewis’ most controversial work. It provides a vision of the afterlife where hell is a giant sprawling suburb where everyone gets what they want—except happiness. Heaven in turn is compared to towering mountains, where every blade of grass is filled with the glory of God.

The plot turns on a bus ride taken from hell to heaven—yes, there is a bus that connects the two—and the passengers are “ghosts” making their way from the bus to the threshold of heaven. Once there, glorified bodies meet these ghosts and seek to persuade them to continue up into the high country of heaven.   Continue Reading…

December 1, 2014

Why the Home Team?

by Clint Archer

People who know me well chuckle when they hear that I’ve written a book “about sports.” I am the least competent participant in any sport they’ve seen me attempt. But The Home Team: God’s Game Plan for the Family is not about sports; it’s about the one-flesh union of a biblical marriage as it affects unity of the whole family.

The content is culled, not from my experience, but my inexperience.

As a young pastor I was forced to rely entirely on Scripture in order to provide guidance to people who had been married for longer than I had been alive, and who had kids older than me.

And yet, I found the Bible was all I needed to provide help to marriages and family situations I encountered. And it’s all based on the family functioning as a team.

Here is a video I did for Shepherd’s Press Publishers, explaining a bit more about the book….

When I came to Immanuel in March of 2012, the first series I preached was Psalm 119. I chose this Psalm because I wanted to impress on people the foundational nature of the Bible. As Christians, we never get beyond the fact that the word of God is absolutely necessary for everything related to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Psalm 119 makes that point in every single verse.

Yesterday I catalogued the themes of each stanza. Today I want to pass along the most helpful Psalm 119 resources. All four of these interact with every single verse of the stanza (whereas most commentaries have sections on Psalm 119 shorter than the actual psalm!)

These four were the most helpful to me in my preaching, and three of them are free on-line:   Continue Reading…

October 13, 2014

Meet: The Home Team

by Clint Archer

Seeing a book in print is like seeing your child being born—except that people are generally more lenient in their reviews of your baby. Thanks Eric for your very kind and thorough review last week; you had the book before I did!

The-Home-Team-194x300

Click to order

This is an interview I did for Shepherd’s Press Publishers to introduce The Home Team: God’s Game Plan for the Family. 

What motivated you to write the book?

I dropped into the deep end of ministry while still quite wet behind the ears, at age twenty-nine. I had no kids and had never counseled anyone whose marriage was longer than my own (four years at the time). Suddenly people who had been married for decades and had teenagers in the home were knocking on my door for marriage and parenting advice.

Thankfully I had been trained that the Bible is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness and I realized these folks weren’t really interested in my advice anyway; they wanted God’s wisdom. So, I quickly learned to rely entirely on the word of God as the source of the counsel I gave.

Now that I have been married twelve years and have four kids the only thing that’s changed in my counseling is that I have some stories involving snot and diapers. But my counsel is still only based on the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

I realized early on that most of the family issues people struggle with start with a break down of the primary unity in the family: the husband and wife “one-flesh” union. I first had to remind them that they are a team, a one-flesh union, and that the problems they face needed to be tackled together. Each spouse is not the problem; the problem is out there and the team needs to address it as a unit.

I also applied the need for unity to the issues that faced children and even situations with in-laws and grandparents. The book is the fruit of what I learned works well in counselling families.

 

How did you choose to use sport as the theme for the book?

People who know me chuckle when they hear I wrote a “book about sport.” Although I have played many sports in my life—soccer, hockey, rugby, fencing, karate, judo, krav maga, cross-country running, and of course, chess—I am really bad at anything that involves a ball, co-ordination, or sweat (which is why I include chess as a sport).team huddle

But the book is not about sport, it’s about family. I like to learn while being entertained, and the world of sports provides a ton of entertaining, interesting, dramatic, and humorous illustrative material to explain the biblical concepts that address family unity. Jesus used parables that involved whatever his listeners were familiar with—farming, weddings, etc.—and today people are familiar with the Olympics and the Super Bowl.

Another reason is that my wife reads a ton of parenting and marriage books, and then passes on to me those she thinks I’d like to read. Men lag notoriously behind women in their interest in books on family. I figured that if a lady read The Home Team, and benefited from it, the sporty stuff could be a “selling point” for her to get her husband or teenager to read it.

I also include illustrations about women in sport too, so it’s not a book for jocks. It’s a book for men and women and children who want to play the positions God has assigned for His game plan for the family.

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On December 31, 1995 something momentous happened.  Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins released the book Left Behind, a fictional account of their (somewhat fanciful) ideas of what the rapture would be like, as well as the 7 years of tribulation that followed.  The book spawned a series that would ultimately involve 16 novels and would sell 65+ million copies.  Many people read the books, many people hated the books, and many people presented the books as the reason for rejecting various points of end times theology (properly known as eschatology) for the next 20 years (if I had a dime for every time I found myself in a conversation about eschatology where someone brought up a series of fiction books as their reason for rejecting Biblical doctrine…).  But that wasn’t the end of it all.  On October 31st, 2000, the Left Behind series hit the big time when it (*gasp*) became a movie.  Not only did it become a movie, but it was a movie that starred Kirk Cameron (the Tim Challies of “Christian” cinema) as well as that guy from Walker, Texas Ranger…

Walker

…and some other show from the eighties that I cannot remember the name of.

This was one of the first “big budget” Christian films ever ($4 million), and I’ll never forget seeing my first “Christian” movie: confused shock.  Shock that people on my TV were talking about Jesus in a way that wasn’t idiotic or revealing a writer who apparently slept through every post-flannel board lesson in Sunday School.  I was weirded out, but mostly because I wasn’t used to seeing Christians act like Christians on my TV.  It was obvious that this was no Hollywood-quality production but it was definitely something I was not used to seeing.  That confusion and novelty factor was likely what gripped me the most about the movie.

Now that Hollywood has basically remade everything that was ever any good, they’ve remade Left Behind too.  This time, it was staring Nicolas Cage rather than Kirk Cameron, and the budget was 4x bigger ($16 million).  On October 3rd (opening night) I sat through the remake.

Here’s a summary of the movie and some thoughts (both positive and negative). Continue Reading…

The Home TeamIt is said that marriage and family counseling comprise something around 80% of all counseling issues. This means that the bulk of a pastor’s counseling will be in the throes of the family. It also means that the bulk of the strife, hurt, and pain out there exist in the place where they should be the most scare: the family.

Not a few writers have recognized that. For example, an Amazon search of books pertaining to help with the family serves up some 200,000 hits. Point being: in so many ways, the family is one of the great battlefields. Everyone needs help and equipping for it. But not all that glitters among the 200,000 hits is gold. For all those reasons, it was a joy to read Clint Archer’s newest book, “The Home Team.”

As you might guess, Clint uses the team theme throughout in order to flesh out the structure and happenings of biblical life in the home. Using that unique illustration, nine chapters are given to covering the family dynamics.

I benefited from the book and recommend it for several reasons:

1. It’s biblical.

This isn’t a given in the slough of family literature out there. In fact, it’s probably the vast minority. Clint’s work is an exception.

A sound theology undergirds each chapter. For example, in chapter one, Clint clears the air as to what the origin of the problem for all families: the Fall. This is critical to set up families up for realistic expectations and actual solutions.

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There are three books I often give away to non-Christians. I don’t use these like tracts. I don’t hand them out on street corners, or give them away at Starbucks. But I do hand them out frequently. I give them to those to whom I’ve explained the gospel, and who have indicated that they would be willing to read a book that urges them to come to faith in Christ.

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September 24, 2014

Five solas, two books

by Jesse Johnson

Painted by Stephen Procopio

Earlier this year my church went through a series on the five solas of the Protestant Reformation. In preparation, I went on a hunt for books that walk through them, explaining them and applying all five of them. I really only found two that I liked, and here I commend them to you:

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