The Key to Your Expected End by Katie Souza

Katie Souza’s life was a complete mess.  Drugs, crime and violence led to imprisonment, where eventually she came to Christ who turned her life around and gave her a specific purpose – her “expected end.”  Souza’s expected end was to start a ministry for prisoners and to write this book to aid in their spiritual transformation.  The author bases most of her teaching on Old Testament Israel, in particular its exile and captivity, and directly applies Israel’s experience to prisoners today.  She writes, “The Captivity Series: The Key to Your Expected End is a study of the exiles in ancient Israel taken from the Old Testament Scriptures.  Its purpose is to teach you about ancient Israel’s imprisonment, then help you apply this knowledge to your own incarceration” (p. 13).  Seeing Jeremiah 29:11 as a promise all can claim, especially prisoners, Souza believes God will bring freedom to all who apply…

The New Apostolic Reformation An Examination of the Five-Fold Ministries Part 1

(Volume 23, Issue 4, July/August 2017) The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is one of the largest, broadest and most powerful movements within Christianity today, yet it flies largely under the radar.  Even those involved often do not understand the movement to the extent that they may even deny they are part of it. This confusion is due to the fact that NAR does not have official membership or even leadership.  Rather, NAR is a loose coalition of mostly Pentecostal and charismatic Christians, organizations and churches that are united over a particular understanding and interpretation of certain portions of Scripture.  The interpretation of these New Testament texts are widely held by those connected with NAR and focus mainly on the miraculous sign gifts. Some have equated NAR with the so-called Third Wave of Pentecostalism (the first wave started with the birth of the Pentecostal movement in 1901, the second wave is…

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke

Tony Reinke seeks to answer the question, “What is the best use of my smartphone in the flourishing of my life (p. 20)?”  Few questions are more pertinent in an age obsessed with technology in general and the smartphone in particular.  While the smartphone was invented barely a decade ago (p. 15), one is now owned by most people and is checked on average every 4.3 minutes (p. 43).  Reinke appreciates the valuable tool that the smartphone has become but at the same time recognizes the dangers.  As a result, highlighting useful components of smartphone use, each of the twelve chapters zeros in on a unique danger.  Some of the more serious dangers include: smartphone addiction, distractions, increased loneliness and isolation, living vicariously, illiteracy due to short attention spans, misplaced hero worship, seeking approval of people rather than God, wasting time, online slander, and secret vices. Reinke does not recommend…

The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life, Connecting Christ to Human Experience by Jeremy Pierre

Jeremy Pierre, Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written in The Dynamic Heart a comprehensive, one might say intense, textbook designed to aid God’s people (pp. 9, 101, 105).  The author states early, “These pages are dedicated to showing how God designed people with dynamic hearts to experience the world fully only when connected to Christ” (p. 2).  Faith is the key in the process: “Faith is the means by which the gospel is received; thus, faith is at the center of heart transformation…Faith is how God restores his design for the human heart so that people can commune with him and reflect his character…faith allows people to think differently as they receive the knowledge of God from his Word” (p. 3).  With this in mind Pierre’s goal is to give “a theological vision of how faith in Christ restores the dynamic human heart and…

Taking Pascal’s Wager, Faith, Evidence and the Abundant Life by Michael Rota

Michael Rota is associate professor of philosophy at the University of St. Thomas and obviously a brilliant philosopher and apologist.  He has determined in this book to modernize and defend the so-called Pascal’s wager, developed by the 19th century French mathematician and theological Blaise Pascal.  In essence the wager is this: “It is rational to seek a relationship with God and live a deeply Christian life, because there is very much to gain and relatively little to lose” (pp. 12, 23).  The main argument of the book can be summarized as follows: If Christianity has at least a 50 percent chance of being true, then it is rational to commit to living a Christian life. Christianity does have at least a 50 percent chance of being true.  Thus, it is rational to commit to living a Christian life (pp. 13, cf p. 63). Part one of Taking Pascal’s Wager develops…

Every Thought Captive, A Study Manual for the Defense of Christian Truth by Richard L. Pratt, Jr

The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society sums up this book well: “Richard Pratt has written a manual to help ordinary people engage in apologetics along the lines of Van Til’s approach.  In the process he has translated the philosophical terminology of Van Tillian apologetics into everyday language…both sound and stimulating.” Pratt has little use for evidential apologetics (pp. 72-80) believing that such arguments are unproductive.  He opts instead for Van Tillian’s presuppostionalism (pp. 81-98).  The four closing chapters provide specific biblical defenses against common objections by unbelievers.  He suggests two broad approaches—an argument by truth and an argument by folly, both based on Proverbs 26:5.  The argument by truth has three steps: The Christian should admit his answers rest on his commitment to Christ. Evidences from Scripture should be given. The unbeliever is shown that his rejections of these evidences is due to his commitment to independence (that is,…

Right Thinking In A Church Gone Astray, Finding Our Way Back To Biblical Truth by Nathan Busentiz

Right Thinking is a collection of articles written by a dozen men associated with The Master’s Seminary, Master’s University and/or Grace Community Church and edited by Nathan Busentiz, professor and Dean of Faculty at TMS.   Some years earlier a similar book, Right Thinking In A World Gone Wrong, was published from the same source dealing with ethical and social issues.   This present volume supplements nicely the earlier work, however focusing more directly on matters related to the church.  There are three sections of five chapters each: the church and contemporary issues, the church and sound doctrine, and the church and the Great Commission.  Within each section there are chapters dealing with contemporary and pressing challenges to truth, the church and the Christian life.  As expected with a multiple authored book, various styles and approaches are evident but each writer covers his subject well, with obvious research and biblical insight.  Subjects…

Church Elders, How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus by Jeramie Rinne

Human leadership of the local church is delegated in the New Testament to elders (also called overseers and pastors or shepherds—p. 73).  Jeramie Rinne has written this little volume “to provide a concise biblical job description for elders” (p. 15).  His target audience is not only elders and those who aspire to be elders, but the entire congregation which needs to understand God’s instructions for church leadership (p. 15). Rinne does an excellent job of interweaving biblical teaching and practical application.  The author correctly lists and explains the qualifications for elders (pp. 18-30) and details their primary ministries of teaching the Word (pp. 48-50), defending sound truth (pp. 50-56) and shepherding the flock (pp. 32-41).  Concerning the latter, Church Elders offers a nice section on how to keep track of members who are straying (pp. 57-69), as well as specific ways to encouragement and pray for the flock (pp. 109-120).…

Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (revised and updated) by Frank Viola and George Barna

Frank Viola and George Barna believe that virtually everyone misunderstands the church because they draw almost everything they do from pagan sources instead of the New Testament, and thus the modern church has become an organization and an institution rather than a living organism.  The solution is to return to the New Testament model which describes the organic church which the authors define as “simply a church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs.  Organic churches are characterized by Spirit-led, open-participatory meetings, and nonhierarchical leadership.  This is in stark contrast to a clergy-led, institution-driven church” (pp xxiii; see also pp 240-241).  The organic church has no human leadership, organization or formal teaching, meets in homes with no more than 35 people (pp 43-44), and is the only authentic expression of the local church, according to Viola and Barna. …

Interpreting Old Testament Wisdom Literature edited by David G. Firth & Lindsay Wilson

This volume is written by eleven United Kingdom Bible scholars, including four women.   The authors consider only Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes as wisdom books proper, but find wisdom themes in Ruth, Song of Solomon, and Psalms as well as laced throughout the Old Testament.  Wisdom is defined as “basically skill in living, in how to order one’s life so as to achieve desirable goals” (p. XIV) and “how to navigate life successfully” (p. 6).  This is not a commentary and if one is looking for analysis of individual wisdom books, they should look elsewhere.  Having said that, there are short sections, scattered through the book, which offer some excellent overviews of the books and wisdom themes (e.g. Ecclesiastes, p. 184, and wisdom themes found in the Psalms, pp. 194-204).  The final chapter discusses the interesting topic of the relative absence of God in the wisdom literature and how this absence…