Archives For Book Review

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.

Continue Reading…

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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hatfield-mccoy_pigThis is a long story, but I’ll keep it short. In 1878 Floyd Hatfield had a pig. Somehow this pig got a tiny bit of its ear bitten off or otherwise severed, or so Hatfield claimed. You see, on the other side of Tug Fork river on the border of Kentucky and West Virginia, lived a family called the McCoys.

The McCoys notched their pigs’ ears, to be able to identify them if they got stolen. When Randolph McCoy saw the notched hog in a Hatfield sty, he accused Floyd Hatfield of swine theft. The matter soon escalated into a bitter lawsuit. Randolph McCoy took Floyd Hatfield to court over the issue.

The problem was complicated in that the local justice of the peace was the honorable Anderson Hatfield. He found no evidence that Floyd had stolen the pig, and based on the testimony of one Bill Staton, ruled in favor of the Hatfields,. The case was closed. Or was it?

Bill Staton was later killed–supposedly in self-defense–by two McCoy brothers. Around that time Roseanna McCoy was courting Johnson Hatfield and the McCoys arrested the young man for bootlegging. The Hatfields rescued him by force. But then Johnson Hatfield abandoned the pregnant Roseanna McCoy, and married her cousin. Later, Roseanna’s three brothers killed a Hatfield (I forget which one). The Hatfields then hunted down the McCoy brothers, tied them to pawpaw bushes and pumped them with lead. The Hatfields were arrested, but mysteriously got away with no punishment. So, the McCoys used political connections to reinstate the charges. In retaliation the Hatfields burnt down a McCoy cabin. Two McCoy children were killed that night, and eight Hatfields were arrested (one of them hanged). Well, to cut a long story short, the notorious Hatfield-McCoy blood feud raged bitterly for decades, claiming a dozen lives from both families. Eventually the governors of Kentucky and West Virginia intervened, and even the US Supreme court got involved! Like I said, it’s a long story.

I have no idea what happened to the pig.

What I do know is that when family feuds turn violent, the end is never initiated by the feuding families. The dispute must be settled by the intervention of supreme powers.

I’m about to begin preaching a series of sermons in the shortest book of the OT, namely Obadiah.

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I tend to read a fair bit, though not as much as I used to (ever since I’ve been fighting Hepatitis, my low energy levels have made reading far more difficult), but I definitely don’t write many book reviews these days.  One of the last reviews I wrote was also the most positively received review I’ve ever written, and the original long review is here.  I’ve truncated the review for Cripplegate readers in order to pass along a solid apologetic resource that will likely be of tremendous help and blessing to everyone!  So without further ado, here’s my thoughts on Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace.

Cold Case Continue Reading…

This is a précis excerpt from Holding the Rope: Short-Term Missions, Long-Term Impact

I felt called to Botswana. Actually I felt called to date this girl, and she was going to Botswana, so for me the call was just as clear. I was a freshman in college, a spiritual neophyte but this opportunity was for an all expenses paid trip—thanks to the widow’s mites and other donations. Ten days of roughing it in Africa, including four days of overland travel in 4×4 Land Rovers. It was a Camel adventure for non-smokers, a way to beef up my passport stamp collection, and a chance to serve God under the gaze of the girl I liked. I was sold. So, armed with four hours of training and the Roman’s Road freshly memorized, I over-packed my knapsack and joined the band of brothers and sisters who would take the gospel to the unreached masses in the Kalahari dessert. Whoever said being a Christian wasn’t fun?HTR

Kalahari Conundrums

The adventure was not exactly the way I had pictured it. Four dusty days in a Jeep seems a less glamorous journey now that I’ve experienced it. Since none of the vehicles had air conditioning, I selfishly opted for the convertible. I soon discovered that the most under-appreciated tool on my Swiss Army knife is the toothpick. I frequently employed it to exorcise from my teeth the legion of tiny bugs that lodged there as we zipped through the dunes like a brood of determined sidewinders being force fed with fauna all day long.

The six days that we were with the missionaries were even more challenging to my city-slicker constitution. Water took forty minutes to pump manually and transport back to the compound. We bathed in a steel drum, the entire grimy team reusing the same water. During the day under the blazing sun we dug and hoisted, mixed and measured, in order to erect a corrugated tin roof shelter that would function as a gathering place for the six or seven local believers who met weekly with the missionaries. In our prayer letters we labeled that project “building a church” but it was so shoddy that I suspect it cost the missionary some personal funds after we left to improve it.

Continue Reading…

July 23, 2014

Holding the Rope

by Jesse Johnson

A lifehack is a trick that makes common activities easier and more profitable. With many lifehacks, once you try them they seem common sense, and every other way of doing the same thing—even the way you used to do it until you learned that lifehack—seems so ignorant and strange.

Holding the Rope, by fellow Cripplegate blogger Clint Archer, is an attempt to show that most people do Short Term Missions (STM) wrong. Archer isn’t just content to show that they do it wrong, but he also then gives a better way. Reading this book felt like learning a new lifehack (a missionhack?). Once you understand his point, the other ways of doing STM just seem so outdated.

Here is how most churches do STM: they find a place they want to go, or perhaps a task they want to do. They then look for churches in that area and ask if they can host a STM team. Often the trip itself involves spending way more money on travel than it would have simply cost for the STM to get the job done by sending the cash. Generally there is no lasting relationship between the STM team members and those served—or more likely, those who serve the STM team! In best case scenarios, where a church might go to the same place year after year, even then the relationship looks like “Thanks for letting me crash on your floor…see you next year!”

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Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter by clicking here.

Before I get into things, I’d like to alert all the Cripplegate readers to a serious problem I’m currently facing and I’d like to ask for your prayer:  Please read this and this and this and definitely this and take a moment to praise the Lord with me before continuing.

Chapter 9 Summary

Michael Brown

1. A God to Be Experienced – Dr. Brown opens the chapter by talking about how God is a god who is not just known, but experienced.  He comments on how he encounters God through his written Word and gives the disclaimer “At the same time, God has not called us into a relationship with a Book but into a relationship with Himself, and, as a former cessationist once remarked, the Trinity is not composed of the Father, Son, and Holy Bible but of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Kindle Locations 4106-4108).  Dr. Brown  then asks the question “are you enjoying real fellowship with God?”

In order to illustrate the dangers of an exclusively intellectual encounter of God, Dr. Brown gives a few quotes from Dan Wallace who says things like “although charismatics have sometimes given a higher priority to experience than to relationship, rationalistic evangelicals have just as frequently given a higher priority to knowledge than to relationship. … This emphasis on knowledge over relationship can produce in us a bibliolatry.” (Kindle Locations 4122-4123). Continue Reading…

Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter by clicking here.

 afSpirit and Truth, Right Brain and Left Brain

Coming to chapter 8 of Authentic Fire, Dr. Michael Brown explains how charismatics and non-charismatics have something to offer the body of Christ. Rather than fighting, both groups will serve everyone better if they would seek to understand and learn from each other.  That way, both sides will glorify Jesus and touch a dying world [AF, 251]. 

While Brown acknowledges that he believes the Bible clearly affirms his position, charismatics and non-charismatics still have unique contributions to make. What may be one group’s strength, may be another’s weakness, and what may be one’s weakness will be the other’s strength. It is how God established the body of Christ to work together. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:4-5, there are many members, but not all members have the same function. So it is with charismatics and non-charismatics.

Take for instance how non-charismatics are heavily into studying the Word of God. They will know God’s Word inside and out in the original languages and all the theology that goes with that. However, they become so immersed into the “study” aspect of Scripture that they lose the vibrancy of fellowship and lack the empowering of the Holy Spirit. On the flip side, it is all too common for charismatic brethren to pursue the Spirit so heavily that they become sloppy with their Bible study and doctrinal foundations [AF, 257-258].

In order to remedy the differences between charismatics and non-charismatics, Brown suggests what he calls “cross-pollination” with charismatics learning to appreciate expository and doctrinal preaching and reformed congregations learning to include more congregational participation in worship and praise [AF, 260]. There has to be an emphasis upon both spirit and truth together so that all Christians are worshiping God “in Spirit and in truth,” John 4:24.

He then provides some practical examples of what he means. Continue Reading…