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Living Without Worry by Timothy Lane – A Review

ldworry_mediumborder.hjog6xdm752qmagw2ebqmrohfru27xedLiving Without Worry (Good Book Company, 2014) by Timothy Lane is a helpful, concise, and accessible treatment about the roots of anxiety and methods of dealing with it. While recognising different degrees of anxiety and various physiological conditions that may contribute to, or arise from, extreme situations, Lane offers basic principles to try navigate the circumstances of worry in a positive manner.
Identifying causes of worry that arise from past (actions done by the individual, or to the individual), the future (situations that may arise), the present (what is happening now); Lane goes on to unfold a pattern by which the individual identifies how these circumstances supplant or distort focus on God and then cultivate a perspective that expresses trust in God.
Scripture is skilfully used to both provide the pattern of the counsel as well as the context for trusting it. Helpful questions practically unfold the process and an important section contextualises the process in terms of recognising that circumstances in life will provide opportunities to give in to worry and fear, but these are used by God to grow the faith of his people.
Personally, as a long-standing worrier who is inclined to periods of melancholy, Lane’s analysis rings true and his counsel resonates as being a constructive pattern to dealing with the various situations in life that can easily lead to anxiety. Even as I read it for this review I found current situations causing apprehension giving way to a sense of God’s power and purpose that brings peace.

The .mobi edition of Living Without Worry upon which this review is based was provided by Cross Focussed Reviews as part of a Living Without Worry blog tour. A positive review was not required as a condition of its provision.

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Acts by Guy Prentiss Waters – A Review

EPSC_Acts_1024x1024Guy Prentiss Waters’ Acts volume in Evangelical Press’ Study Commentary series is a helpful and thorough production.
It is a mid-range commentary aimed at assisting the preparation of sermons and Bible studies.
The style is not that of transcribed sermons or exegetical outlines, but rather the work that is carried out before preparing a sermon or writing a study.
Passages are sequentially analysed with attention given to language, structure and matters of theological and historical context. Each section concludes with a summary that provides application points.
Waters affirms a commitment to the theological positions of the Westminster Standards. Though these undergird the work it is the book of Acts that is given opportunity to speak.
There is a wide engagement with other scholarship; footnotes provide immediate access to points of reference, a welcome difference from many other volumes in this series. Sadly, beyond the footnotes, there is no stand alone bibliography.
It would also seem that the EP Study Commentary series is now moving to a paperback format. The previous hardback releases in the series were always a mixed bag in terms of binding standards. It is to be hoped that given the 604 page count of Waters’ Acts that a quality binding has been chosen.
Guy Prentiss Waters Acts neither overwhelms with detail or simply provides finished expositions. It is an accessible assistant to study of Luke’s historical and theological account of the early church.

The review copy of Acts – EP Study Commentary was a pdf edition provided by Cross Focussed Reviews as part of a Acts – EP Study Commentary blog tour. A positive review was not required.


Worshipping With Calvin by Terry Johnson – A Book Review

Worshipping-with-CalvinWorshipping With Calvin (Terry Johnson, EP Books, 2014) seeks to bed what may prove to be the fragile roots of a contemporary reformed and calvinistic resurgence in the liturgical soil of the reforms to corporate worship which occurred during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
This is not to say he argues for worship which mimics generations past, but rather makes a case that the theology of the reformation inseparably carries basic principles of corporate worship.
Examining both the bible’s instruction about worship, and the way in which that teaching has been understood and practised by the church throughout history, Johnson unpacks how the theological focus of the reformation came to bring a revolution to the worship of the gathered church. The elements of the corporate gathering are each examined in biblical context, church practice, and reformation expression. The way in which the elements are then brought together and ordered as a means by which God’s grace flows to his people is explored. The concern of the book is that departing from those distinctive patterns of worship malnourishes the theological emphases which they should otherwise nurture.
The breadth of study which Johnson demonstrates the dissertation which stands behind this book. References abound and the bibliography of original and secondary sources is a valuable resource on worship and church history in its own right.
Those who lead and participate in corporate worship will be instructed by Worshipping With Calvin. Perhaps they will come to understand and appreciate the presence and practice of elements that they have taken for granted, or may have considered dispensable. Anyone who holds office in a church which subscribes to the Westminster standards will find the book challenging and encouraging as it seeks to support the work of ministry by reminding us of the biblical means that God has provided for corporate worship to nurture faith.
Those who hold to calvinistic or reformed soteriologies, but who have yet to encounter the worship patterns that were developed from these understandings of Scripture will be led down a pathway of discovery that reveals how those understandings can be expressed in corporate gathering, and in turn how corporate gathering can foster those understandings of Scripture.
Worshipping With Calvin, or a book like it, did not exist when I was training for ministry. Most of its lessons have been learned through time, experience and from a variety of sources. Having a comprehensive resource like this is a gift.
Highly recommended.

The review copy of Worshipping With Calvin was a kindle edition provided by Cross Focussed Reviews as part of a Worshipping With Calvin blog tour. A positive review was not required.


Captivated By Thabiti Anyabwile – A Book Review

Captivated-by-Thabiti-AnyabwileIn Captivated, Thabiti Anyabwile bids us behold ‘The Mystery Of Jesus’ Death And Resurrection’.
Originally five sermons, the chapters consider: Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane; his crucifixion travail; his death; the empty grave; and the road to Emmaus.
Though the passages of Scripture selected were familiar, and the narrative situations described in them find expression year after year around Easter time, I found Anyabwile’s treatments fresh, thoughtful and pastoral. The book is concerned with both conveying truth while also emphasising that Jesus’ death and resurrection is not simply a situation to be known, but an event which invites belief and trust. Given the richness and depth of the biblical materials, outside illustrations are used sensitively and to constructive effect.
Captivated is an engaging and insightful guide through the Easter narrative. Those who may not know the detail of the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday will benefit from straightforward explanation of concepts that develop an understanding beyond the ‘what’ into the ‘why’ of Jesus experience. For those who have already studied these texts, a wide range of further biblical references seeks to grow a deeper biblical theological context of the place Good Friday and Easter Sunday hold in God’s redemptive purpose. Study questions provide scope for further exploration of the content or starters for group discussion.
Inquirers, devotional readers, students and pastors looking for a warm and insightful treatment of the purposes of God at work in the Easter narratives are well served to make use of Thabiti Anyabwile’s Captivated as a companion and guide for their explorations into the Bible’s teaching on this central aspect of Christian theology.

The Kindle edition of Captivated upon which this review is based was provided by Cross Focused Reviews as part of a Captivated blog tour. A positive review was not required.

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Spiritual Warfare by Borgman & Ventura – A Book Review

Spiritual-Warfare-194x300Spiritual Warfare – A Biblical & Balanced Perspective by Brian Borgman and Rob Ventura (Reformation Heritage Books, 2014) aims to provide a framework for Christians to contend against spiritual darkness.
In doing so the authors affirm a biblical worldview in which supernatural and natural coexist, guarding against both a naturalistic approach to Christian life which lives without regard to spiritual realities, or at another extreme, treating life as a Christian version of ‘Ghostbusters’.
Though the book references both these tendencies, it is remains focussed on providing constructive instruction and exhortation about spiritual warfare using Ephesians 6:10-20 as a framework.
So, rather than criticising other positions, the tone throughout is pastoral. I appreciated the earnestness of the writers (who it appears have co-authored the work seamlessly). It was encouraging to be reminded that all the weaponry of spiritual warfare is given to the Christian through their salvation; while being challenged to lay hold of each aspect of Christ’s saving work as it relates to resisting temptation to sin and growing more like Jesus.
This emphasis on Christian growth and sanctification enables the reader to see how their neglect creates vulnerabilities to spiritual assault.
Of great value are two concluding chapters dealing with the proactive warfare practice of prayer. As the church to which I belong has recently emerged from an intense season of prayer arising from an accident which one of our own suffered, the content of these chapters reinforces a conviction regarding the need to continue in prayer now that the emergency has passed.
Helpful study questions serve to both summarise the content of each chapter and provide avenues for further exploration. The book is well referenced and each chapter’s end notes provide sources for further reading.
Spiritual Warfare is a biblical, accessible and concise introduction to an important intersection between Christian growth and Christian life. Pastoral and constructive in tone, it offers readers a guide as they consider what the Bible teaches about the reality of conflict with spiritual evil. Those who heed the counsel it offers will be vigilant without being fearful, and prepared to act without constant anxiety about the conflict.

The Kindle edition of Spiritual Warfare upon which this review is based was provided by Cross Focused Reviews as part of a Spiritual Warfare blog tour. A positive review was not required.

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Magnificent Obsession by David Robertson – A Book Review

Magnificent-ObsessionIn Magnificent Obsession (Christian Focus, 2013) David Robertson seeks, in ten concise ten chapters to explain why Jesus is great.
The chapters take the form of open letters, a device which allows Robertson to respond to issues raised writers such as Christopher Hitchens, along with other atheists and critics of Christianity from other backgrounds.
While I’m not the target audience of the book I appreciated Robertson’s efforts to focus on the person of work of Jesus as contained in the Bible. His aim would be for those who would disagree with Christians to have a clear understanding of what they’re disagreeing with.
Robertson quotes from a variety of Christian, atheist and philosophical sources, demonstrating a wide range of study and interaction with points of view other than his own, but firmly stays focussed on his target of explaining why he believes belief in Jesus as Saviour and Lord is credible.
The ten alliterative chapter headings: Man, Miracles, Messenger, Murdered, Marvellous, Meaning, Mission, Modern, Maranatha, and Magnificent don’t always give an idea about their content, but each time Robertson seeks to clarify the difference between the failings of the followers of Jesus, or misrepresentations and misunderstandings of his thought, and Jesus himself.
I appreciated the tone of Magnificent Obsession and find Robertson’s communication style respectful and positive. Most importantly his writing here is an encouraging example of developing a Jesus centred apologetic. This is assurance and strength of opinion here, but not stridency or abuse.
I don’t know how many of his critics will be swayed by the content of Magnificent Obsession. Atheists are not a monolithic group in their methods and tone of interaction, yet I’d like to think that many of them would find works like Magnificent Obsession worthy of consideration, if for no other reason that to have a basic treatment of what they disagree with.

My kindle edition of Magnificent Obsession was provided by Cross Focused Reviews as part of a Magnificent Obsession blog tour they are hosting. Provision of the Kindle edition did not require the provision of a positive review.

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Rhythms Of Grace – A Book Review

RhythmsofGrace_Cover_Final_forewordWhat does Rhythms Of Grace (Mike Cosper, Crossway Publishing, 2013) promise?
In 220 pages Mike Cosper, pastor and musician, seeks to relate the biblical and historical expressions that underpin a corporate worship that week by week retells the story that “God is holy, we are sinners, and Jesus saves us from our sins.”
What I liked.
Cosper clearly does not over reach. The focus of the book is on the elements of corporate worship and their capacity to communicate the framework of the Gospel time after time.
The first four chapters lay out the interactions of God with His people in Eden, the wilderness, the land, and how these reach their culmination and fulfilment in Jesus.
The fifth chapter introduces Cosper’s own contribution, the paradigm “Worship – One, Two, Three.” By this he means worship has one object and author; two contexts; and three audiences. Unpacked the one is the Trinity; the two are Christians scattered and gathered; the three are God, the Church and the World.
This paradigm seems balanced, affirming the vertical aspects of worship as well as horizontal, acknowledging all of life as worship while still affirming the unique aspects of corporate gathering, and understanding that the presence of God, believers and unbelievers in worship does not lead to either/or choices in content.
The remaining five chapters provide practical expressions which seem to follow contours of a dialectical covenant renewal observed in Bryan Chapell’s Christ Centered Worship.
Material at the end of the book reveals how these principles are finding expression in a variety of ways.
What I was unsure about.
Worship emerges from theology and nourishes that theology.
While Cosper’s paradigm is Gospel and redemptive centred, the elements of preaching and sacrament, along with issues of ecclesiology are need to fill out the response of Christian living which underpins corporate and all of life worship.
This limitation is recognised and other works which address this need are referred to.
It should also be noted that these principles at the heart of this book are very much a work in progress among many of these non-denominational start-up churches and it is expected that further time will see their trajectory more fully address these concerns.

Rhythms Of Grace is a well thought out and primer and introduction to the link between biblical theology and at the actions of worship. For those who already have a confessional background, the book informs how part of the contemporary calvinist movement find themselves progressing in gathered worship towards forms that are similar to our own. For those who are frustrated with corporate gatherings that are either primarily didactic or subjectively emotive Cosper points out biblical worship is both intellectually nourishing and emotionally expressive.

Crossway Publishing provided me with a copy of Rhythms Of Grace, though I’ve also bought another copy for myself.
A positive review was not a requirement.