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Book Review: Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions

Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions. By Craig L. Blomberg. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999, 300 pp., paperback.

Many people in the Church have ideas about money, but how many of those ideas are actually founded on principles developed through a solid biblical theology of the scriptures? This is an important issue, especially for Christians living in affluent societies such as, Canada, USA and much of Europe. In my city for example, I often struggle as I drive through downtown Ottawa and see the many homeless people with nothing while I drive by them in my nice car with heated seats, drinking a hot coffee, while checking email on my iPhone 5 etc… As a Christian, what actions should I take on behalf of the poor in my city? Blomberg masterfully answers these questions and many more through the lens of a global view of scripture.

Blomberg presents the subject of possession with a biblical and pastoral balance. The title of the book is borrowed from Proverbs 30:8 “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” As Blomberg notes the Bible mandates an avoidance of extreme riches, or extreme poverty. Blomberg’s point is clarified by verse 9; “Lest I be full and deny you and say, “who is the Lord?” Or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of God.” Therefore, poverty or riches are not always bad. One can be exceptionally poor yet pious, or exceptional rich yet godly; the emphasis of condemnation is the impious impoverished and the unrighteous rich.

The introduction is much more than just an introduction. Blomberg sets the stage of the statistics regarding poverty. He brings out statistics that continue to elevate our wealth as North Americans.

  • At least one billion out of the more than five billion people in our world fall below any reasonable poverty line.
  • Two million children die every year from preventable infectious diseases.
  • A survey of expenditures in the late 80s and 90s demonstrated that Americans spent annually twice as much on cut flowers as on overseas Protestant ministries, twice as much on women’s sheer hosiery, one and a half times as much on video games, one and a half times as much on pinball machines, slightly more on the lawn industry,  about five times as much on pets, almost one and a half times on chewing gum, almost three times as much on swimming pools, approximately seven times as much on sweet, seventeen times as much on diets and diet related products, twenty times as much on sporting activities, approximately twenty-six times as much on soft drinks, and a staggering 140 times as much on legalized gambling
  • And constantly, Americans with lower incomes give more of their earnings than those with higher incomes.

There is a real shock value to these statistics. I believe it shows us where our heart is. (Matthew 6:21) In this volume, Blomberg attempts to ground our Theology of Money on the whole console of God, and not on pop-culture teachings. In the introductions he also addresses the Issue of the prosperity Gospel. Blomberg explains that his type of teaching can only be developed by ripping text after text from its context and making applications that would seem ludicrous in most two-thirds world settings (page 25). He quotes John Stott saying, “We have to have the courage to reject the health-and-wealth Gospel absolutely, it is a false Gospel.”(Page 25)

For the rest of the book Blomberg faithfully and diligently works through all of the books of the Bible pulling on what they say about Material Possessions. His summary of the Torah is worth sharing, he says, “God created the material world wholly good but sin has corrupted it along with humanity. In the first stages of God’s plan for redeeming his creation, he chose a man (Abram) from whose family would come a uniquely chosen nation (Israel) which was to be a blessing to the entire world. (page 55) Blomberg continues through rest of the books of the Old Testament, drawing out truths that many people may not notice during a reading of the text.

The largest section of teaching is devoted to the New Testament. He surveys the teachings of Jesus on money and says, “in light of the larger pattern of Jesus’ teaching which we will observe, we dare not under estimate the potential deceitfulness of wealth to keep people out of the kingdom.” (Page 115) Jesus teaching of money is clear. The good news of the Gospel is consistently holistic. Materiel sustenance with spiritual salvation proves meaningless, but the liberation that God in Christ grants regularly included a physical or material dimension to it. Blomberg says, “It goes too far to say that one cannot be rich and a disciple of Jesus, but what never appears in the Gospels are well-to-do followers of Jesus who are not simultaneously generous in almsgiving and in divesting themselves of surplus wealth for the sake of those in need.

The most helpful sections on the book for me personally were his discussions on tithing. Having really started studying and reading in the past couple years, I have some of my views confronted by the truths of scripture. I have realized that things I have been taught have been based off of poor interpretation of scripture, or traditionally held beliefs with little or no scriptural basis. I had been taught in this regard about tithing and material possessions. This book challenged a lot of my thinking, but it did not leave my hanging, because through scripture it brought me answers. In the end, this is a fabulous book and I would recommend it to anyone interested in this subject. It is a must for anyone serving in ministry, especially those who preach or teach.

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Book Review: Mark Driscoll – Who do you think you are?

who-do-you-think-you-are-bookWho are you? What Defines you? What is your identity?

How you answer these questions affects every aspect of your life. In Who do you think you are? Working his way through the book of Ephesians, Driscoll provides a long list of answers to this question of Who Am I?: I am in Christ, I am a saint, I am blessed, I am appreciated, I am saved, I am reconciled, I am afflicted, I am heard, I am gifted, I am new, I am forgiven, I am adopted, I am loved, I am rewarded, I am victorious. Each one is firmly grounded in Scripture. Each one flows from the good news of the gospel. This book strikes an important cord because many Christians, even those who have Christian for many years, do not understand their identity in Christ. I think a study like this is important for all Christians, but especially, new Christians to go through.

If you have ever listened to or read Mark Driscoll you know that his style is full of one-liners, and a level of crudeness not normally found in main-stream Christianity. However, this is not what I found in his newest book. I found Driscoll exhibiting a high level of pastoral care and maturity.The stories Driscoll shares to illustrate each point are powerful, and draw people toward the truth being taught. One thing I found special was that he dedicated the book to his daughter, Ashley. As a Dad to a beautiful young girl, I am always encouraged by Driscoll and his relationship with his daughter. He is a great example in this area.

I am especially thankful with any book that seeks to help believers ground their identity in Christ. As Driscoll says on page 3; You aren’t whats been done to you but what Jesus has done for you. You aren’t what you do but what Jesus has done. What you do doesn’t determine who you are. Rather, who you are in Christ determines what you do. Many Christians I talk to struggle because they are stuck defining themselves by a bad childhood, a lost job, a broken marriage, a better future, the things the own, or their suffering. Driscoll goes a long way to draw people out of these and bring them to all that is theirs in Christ.

My copy of the book is full of highlights…much to many to share. But here are a few;

Our cultural differences may distinguish us, but they do not define us and should not divide God’s people or allow them to accept the social structures and idols that wrongly divide people. In Christ, while we have great diversity, we ought to live in even greater unity because of how Jesus has reconciled us to God and one another. I encourage you to each and every day pray and contend for the unity that you have and that is found in Christ Jesus.

Paul was clear that if bitterness isn’t exchanged for forgiveness, it escalates and becomes increasingly devastating to both you and others. He listed a pattern that proceeds from bitterness: wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice.

Paul wasn’t afflicted because he sinned, but rather because others sinned against him.

My main concern is one that has been picked up by most other who reviewed the book. The book often repeats itself. Because Driscoll’s books are often compiled from sermons each chapter can stand up on its own. My friend Aaron Armstrong said well in his review, “ there’s a great deal of (arguably unnecessary) duplication of material, and a book that could have been around 150 pages comes in at close to 250 (for example, the chapters on reconciliation and forgiveness could have been merged since the two concepts are interconnected.)”

All in all, this books is a must read. I loved it, and will come back to it again. As a I said earlier, all Christians can benefit from the material, and I think the book could be utilized in a discipleship program for new Christians.

Go out and buy the book and let me know your thoughts.

If you found this review helpful. Please click the link below and mark the review as helpful. Thanks!

 

 

 

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Book Note : Father Hunger – Douglas Wilson

This is my first exposure to Douglas Wilson in print. My first exposure was in his debates with Christopher Hitchens.  I can hear Wilson reading the book aloud to me as I read. He writes like he talks. Father Hunger is a thorough and detailed expositions of the state of fatherhood and it related to masculinity and how it related to God. What I appreciated most about the book is it is real life. It goes beyond the home to the world. This is not an easy book, but it should be read by father who are serious about their God-given role.

I found it helpful to read this book along side The Masculine Mandate by Richard Philips. In the book, Wilson says, ““Fathers need to be masculine, and they need culturally assigned ways to express it profitably. In order to be biological fathers, they need to be masculine. Moreover, they need to be seen as being masculine. But before we press that point too much, perhaps we should spend some time defining what it means. And that means some debris clearing first — masculinity has some counterfeits out there” Reading The Masculine Mandate helps to clarify the idea of what it means to be “masculine”

I hope to interact more with content later. The book is very helpful and pertinent.

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A publishing company for the Francophone world

As many of your know I live in Quebec. Quebec is classified as the largest unreached people group in North America, only 0.5% of the population are evangelical Christians. As part of my living in Quebec I have been working to see the Gospel spread and flourish. One part of my work here is to provide Gospel-centered books at affordable prices.

A group of friends and I have started a publishing company with this goal. We have actually just finished our first book; a French language version of Jesus + Nothing = Everything. We are very excited about this project and think it will have a huge impact in the francophone world.

 

I have included below a copy of our purpose and a list of upcoming projects.

Cruciform Publishing is a non-profit company.

Our purpose

  • Cruciform Publishing aims to publish books that are Gospel-centered, Glorifying to God and prepare people to become everything for which they were created–to glorify God and Enjoy him forever.
  • Therefore, the works will be creative, biblical and centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ.
  • We want to use all mediums to promote a Christ/God-centered world-view.
  • We want to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Quebec and the francophone world. All of our books must be affordable and culturally relevant.
  • We want to encourage Christian authors to write in language that can be understood by their generation, because we believe that this can influence our culture in this generation and for generations to come.
  • We will also translate into French the best works that are advancing the Gospel, that focus on the redemptive story line of the Bible.
Also, here is a list of our current projects
Jesus + Nothing = Everything – Tullian
Explicit Gospel – Matt Chandler
Justification and Regeneration – Charles Leiter
This Momentary Marriage – John Piper
Church Planter – Darrin Patrick
Disciple – Bill Clem
God’s way of Holiness – Horatius Bonar
Imitation of Christ – With Commentary – Thomas a Kempis
What is the Mission of the Church? – DeYoung
God has a wonderful plan for your life – The myth behind the deception – Ray Comfort
A Women of God – Ann Beaulieu – This is written by a French Author
If anyone is interested in more info regarding purchasing books, or support our work please email me at Daniel@editionscruciforme.org

 

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Chapter 1 – Reading The Disciplines of Grace with Challies

The Discipline of GraceI have followed Tim Challies’ blog for year, but I have never taken part in his Reading Classics Together program. Like Challies,  I have wanted to read some of the classic books of the Christian faith, but I have been so tied up with new releases and books assigned by teachers. I am excited to read through this book because I love Jerry Bridge’s books The Pursuit of Holiness and Who am I? I am also excited because I just finished listening to the series Kevin DeYoung preach from his new book, The hole in our holiness and I interested to dig deeper into the idea of God’s role and out role in the pursuit of holiness…or as Kevin DeYoung puts it, Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled effort.

Everything I have read from Jerry Bridges has been helpful and accessible. Chapter 1 was no exception. He gets right into the Gospel asking us, How good is good enough? Below I will share a fee sections that I found most helpful.

The pursuit of holiness require sustained and vigorous effort. It all for no indolence, no lethargy, no half-hearted commitment, and no laissez-faire attitude toward even the smallest sin. In short, it demands the highest priority in the life of a Christian because to be holy is to be like Christ–God’s goal for every Christian.

I think bridges hits the nail on the head when he talks about a laissez-faire attitude toward even the smallest sin. I think many Christians fall into a dangerous place of not calling sin what it is. All sin is an offense to God, not just the so-called big sins.

…an all to common misconception of the Christian life: the thinking that, although we are saved by grace, we earn or forfeit God’s blessings in our daily lives  by our performance.

I’ve read this before…In JD Greear’s book Gospel, he put this issue as the number one way to pray the Gospel. In Greear’s Gospel Prayer he puts it like this;

In Christ, there is nothing I could do to make You love me more, and nothing I can do to make you love me less.

This is number one of the Gospel. This is the great exchange. Not only does Christ pay the penalty for our sin on the cross, but his righteousness is transferred to us, so when God looks at us he sees 33 years of perfect obedience!

Preaching the Gospel to ourselves everyday addresses both the self-righteous Pharisee and the guilt-laden sinner that dwell in our hearts. Because the Gospel is only for sinners, preaching it to ourselves everyday reminds us that we are indeed sinners in need of God’s grace.

There is much more that I mentioned above that was highlighted in my book. But what is evident from these quotes is that Jerry Bridges gets the Gospel. It permeates his thought process and lifestyle. He is not a super saint, just a Saint who knows he is in constant need of God’s grace and mercy.

This book smells like Gospel.

 

 

 

 

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Book Recommendation : Historical Theology – Gregg Allison

Wayne Grudem’s Systematic theology has been a standard reference work for many Christians for many years. It is well-structured and quite familiar to many students of theology, so I was very excited when I heard that Gregg Allison’s Historical Theology was written as a companion to Grudem. Allison, like Grudem, has targeted his book not to theological teachers and professors, but to Students and Christians who have never studied doctrine before. I love this approach because my academic studies of theology have greatly deepened my faith and love for Christ; so I wasexcited to have that resource available and accessible to everyone!

Historical Theology is the study of the development and history of Christian doctrine, and what Allison does which is helpful to the average reader is he arranges the book thematically rather than chronologically. This helps the reader search for doctrines (which is more useful for study) rather quickly and efficiently.

For the purposes of this article I will interact with one of my favorite chapters of the book, the section on inerrancy. Each chapter is very well layed-out. The book is very clearly written and read like a narrative, not like an academic theological work. First, Allison defines the doctrine of study.  Then he tracks the teaching of that doctrine throughout church history chronologically. Allison writes clearly and accessibly using footnotes not only for reference but also to explain complicated or obscure words or people.

Allison covers the development of the doctrine of inerrancy by highlighting the major players throughout church history. He starts with the early church fathers Tertullian, Iarnaeus, and Arnobius. Tertullian said, “The statements of Holy Scripture will never be discordant with truth.” Iranaeus said, “The scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and his Spirit.” Early in the game, Arnobius addressed the issue that Scripture can be true in spite of grammatical errors. What I found so encouraging while reading these quotes from so early in church history is that there is no new heresy in the church and the church has had a fairly consistent response to these heretical teachings.

My only problem (which isn’t really a problem) is the limited space given to each period of history. The book however has fulfilled its role as an introduction to Historical Theology. Because of this book I have already gone ahead and read some of the writings of Tertullian and Chrysostom.

Historical Theology by Allison is a must-buy for those who are serious about their faith and Christian history. If you own Grudem, get this book today; and if you dont…Get both of them!

 

Thanks to Emily @ Zondervan for giving me this book for the purpose of review

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Book Review – The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology For Pilgrims On The Way

Being a big fan of Louis Berkhoff’s Systematic Theology and Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Docmatics, I was quite excited about the release of Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith. I do think that Horton’s work may be the finest systematic theology since Berkoff’s theology was written in 1938. The Christian Faith is written with passion, life, vibrancy, but most of all, a passion for the glory of Christ. While reading it, I did not find myself struggling to get through the chapters, but it truly read like a page-turning novel and by the end my copy was quite marked up with underlines and notes of insights gained.

In each chapter Horton weaves together biblical, systematic and historic theology beautifully.

Why is their evil in the world? Is there a God and how can I know him? The biggest questions, demanding the most rigorous intellectual analysis, are really doctrines that arise from a particular story that we either assume or embrace with explicit conviction. The Christian answers these big questions by rehearsing the story of the triune God in creation, the fall of the creatures he make in his own image, the promise of a redeemer through Israel, and the fulfillment of all types and shadows in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus Christ. (page 14)

For Horton the Christian faith really is first and foremost an unfolding drama. Throughout the whole book Horton aims to show readers that doctrine, separated from an understanding of its dramatic narrative, becomes abstract, like mathematical axioms. But, that if we focus only on the story we miss crucial implications of the plot and the inner connections between its various sequences. Horton emphasizes this aspect through how the book is organized. Unlike most systematic theologies, which organize like a reference source, Horton has arranged The Christian Faith to tell the story of redemption.

  1. Knowing God: The presuppositions of Theology
  2. God who lives
  3. God who creates
  4. God who rescues
  5. God who reigns in grace
  6. God who reigns in glory
A Christians Faith by Michael Horton is a must read systematic theology for pilgrims on the way. His goal is not only teaching understanding of theological truths, but helping the reader gain an understanding on how each doctrine fits into the big picture. Highly recommended! 

Rating : 5/5

Reading Level : Intermediate. Pastors, Bible students, Christians who haven’t been to seminary

 

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Review: God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments

James M. Hamilton.God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old & New TestamentsNAC Studies in Bible & Theology. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2006. 233pp. $19.99.

My first exposure to James Hamilton was with his book, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgement, and since that point I have been hooked on his writing. His writing is clear, clever, well researched and very insightful. The issue presented in God’s Indwelling Presence is not a topic I had considered much before picking up this volume. In the book, Hamilton seeks to understand and articulate the role of the Holy Spirit in the faithfulness of believers who live both before and after the exaltation of Jesus.

Throughout the book Hamilton works on developing the case for a separation in the understating between indwelling and regeneration. He draws out this point through a quick study in the Old Testament, but most of his time is spent in John. One particular helpful insight is offered on page 118.

 

The thesis of this section is a central tenet not only for this chapter but for the argument of this study as a whole. John’s distinctive contribution to the biblical promise of eschatological Spirit was that the Spirit was expected in the messianic age would be received only after Jesus was glorified (John 7:39)

For me, the Goldmine of study in this book is offered in Chapter 6. Chapter 6 is well worth the price of admission. Hamilton starts by expounding the teaching of regeneration and indwelling in John. These studies are important, because as Hamilton showed earlier in the book; individual indwelling was not possible before Jesus was gloried. But, the questions stands, what changed in the hearts of Old Testament believers to cause them to believe.

To summarize the main points of this sections, while some reject the use of the term “regenerate” to describe Old Testament saints, since the term is not used in the Old Testament, i view this metaphor as being equivalent to “circumcision of the heart.” Further, the reality signified in the term “regeneration” is a theological necessity if those who lived under the old covenant were dead in sin and became believers…

Surprisingly, this is not where the book stops. Hamilton continues for another 50 pages expanding on temple imagery to further this point.

Overall, this book is highly recommended. I would recommend it to Scholars, Pastors, students of the Bible, and anyone who is interested in going deep in the issue. Overall, the book is very accessible and has convincingly and scripturally made its point.

 

Thanks B&H for giving me a copy of the book to review.

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Book Review : Explicit Gospel

Matt Chandler has long been known to many in the Young Restless and Reformed movement as a powerful and convicting preacher of God’s word. He is also someone who does not only knows the truths of the Christian Faith, but he knows and has experienced them. Matt Chandler has faced death and it is with this urgency that he preaches, and it is with this urgency that he has written his newest book, The Explicit Gospel. Rick Warren said that this is the book to read this year if any… and he is right.

One issue prevalent in the church today is the assumption of different truths of the Gospel; not that we don’t believe in certain functions of the Gospel, but that we assume them, and do not state their functions explicitly in our preaching. DA Carson said, The first generation of Christians believes the Gospel, the second assumes it, the third rejects it. and this is what makes this book important. The problem comes when people who do not the Gospel hear our preaching, our exhortations to good works, to love our neighbour etc…instead of connecting it to the Gospel, they put together a type of therapeutic moralistic deism. The idea behind therapeutic moralistic deism is that we can earn favor with God based off of our good behavior. This idea is creeping into the church through many popular Christian books and is often how people apart from Explicit Gospel preaching assume they can be saved.

The book is divided into three parts. First, The Gospel on the ground, second, the Gospel in the Air, and third the implications and applications. The first section, the Gospel on the ground, talks about the Gospel and how it relates to God’s work of the Gospel in the lives of individuals. This section is broken down into four sub-sections; God, Man, Christ, Response. In this sections, in his usual style Matt Chandler knocks down previous held conceptions of the Gospel, and put us in the place of truly understanding the Gospel.

One great text is found of page 33,

Here’s my point: what if the Bible isn’t about us at all? What if we aren’t the story of God’s revelation?…

From the beginning to end, the scriptures reveal that the foremost desire of God’s heart is not our salvation but rather the glory of his own name. God’s glory is what drives the universe; it is why everything exists. This world is not present, spinning, and sailing into the universe, so that you and I might be saved or lost but so that God might be glorified in his infinite perfections.

The second part is the Gospel in the air. The Gospel in the air is the unpacking of the global vision of Salvation. The cord of redemptive history. Here is a quote from page 90 that summarizes well the section.

Some may argue that to pull back from the gospel on the ground is to love the real gospel, but what we see in the Bible is a grand story of redemptions that, yes, is about us, but is more primarily about God. If we hold to the gospel on the ground only, we commit the cardinal error of dismissing context. The context of the gospel message is not our benefit or our salvation; the context of the gospel is the supremacy of Christ and the glory of God.

This book comes at a key time in church history. So many Christians today cannot articulate the gospel and aren’t alarmed, so many Christians today aren’t growing into the image of Christ and aren’t alarmed. This book also confronts head-on the idea that our good works somehow rub the spiritual lamp that inclines God to give us the things we wish for and that our bad works send sickness and poverty. This is a huge issue in the church, and Matt Chandler has done a bang-on job addressing the issue. To come back to Rick Warren’s recommendation; “If you read only one book this year, make it this one. It’s that important.”

Thanks to Angie @ Crossway for providing a copy of this book for review.

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The Masculine Mandate e-Book sale

 

Reformation Trust announced last month that for a limited time they will be making select titles even more accessible as we lower their eBook price to 99¢. They are continuing this month by offering you, The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men by Richard Phillips, a book that issues a call to reformation in the evangelical church’s attitude toward the role of men in the family, the church, and society.

Originally published in January 2010, The Masculine Mandate is now in its sixth printing with over 20,000 copies in print and distribution. We thank God for the continued popularity of a book written on such an important topic, and with Father’s Day quickly approaching this would make for a timely gift.

What The Bloggers Are Saying

Well-written and presenting tough truths within such a simple grid of work and keep, this book is a very useful call for men to live out their mandate before God. I feel challenged and equipped for having read it and am glad to recommend it to any man. Read it, apply it, live it. — Tim Challies

The Masculine Mandate is a breath of fresh air. The biblical “oxygen” that the Richard Phillips offers is the cure to the polluted air of egalitarianism that is plaguing the church. It offers strong encouragement for Christian men who are serious about obeying God, loving their families, serving their churches and making a difference in their world. — David Steele

There is a crying need in the church today for men to be men. Richard Phillips believes the problem and the inadequate solutions being put forward demand sound exegesis of biblical passages relating to masculinity. The Bible alone has the answer to what men are to be in the eyes of their Creator. In The Masculine Mandate, Richard Phillips provides this essential exegesis.