Book Review : Christ’s Prophetic Plans

christpropheticOf all the theological disciplines and areas of study, eschatology (the study of end things) has to be the most interesting to study while at the same time the most difficult to understand. This truth can be seen in the popularity of end-times prophecy books, movies, and lectures. It’s not too hard to draw a crowd around a prophecy conference or course. I can understand the interest. Who doesn’t want to know what is going to happen in the future? Who doesn’t want to know how the events along God’s prophetic timetable will unfold here on Earth? This is natural. Despite the intense interest, confusion swirls. An honest study of eschatology will entail dealing with matters such as rapture, millennium, tribulation, dispensation, prophecy types, and the proper placement of Israel. As you peel this eschatology onion, layers such as pretribulation rapture, posttribulation rapture, premillennial reign of Christ, amillennial reign of Christ, replacement theology, and dispensationalism become exposed. It doesn’t take long for the average person to get lost and abandon their study, despite their intense interest in the subject matter.

In his latest work, author, pastor, and president of The Master’s Seminary John MacArthur, along with faculty members Richard Mayhue, Michael Vlach, Nathan Busenitz, and Matthew Waymeyer have contributed to Christ’s Prophetic Plans; A Futuristic Premillennial Primer. This primer, a work that provides basic elements to a given subject, zeroes in on very specific eschatological elements. Christ’s Prophetic Plans is an explanation and apologetic of futuristic premillennialism, the pretribulational rapture, and classical dispensationalism. On the surface these sound daunting and frightening. Futuristic premillennialism is the teaching that Jesus Christ will come back to earth in the future and will rule the world for one thousand years. Prior to Christ’s second coming, futuristic premillennialism teaches that there will be a Great Tribulation that the world will experience. The pretribulational rapture is the belief that Christians will be removed, “raptured” from this world before this Tribulation occurs. Classical dispensationalism states that God is still committed to the nation of Israel, interprets the Old Testament promises to Israel literally rather than spiritualizing them, and rejects the notion that the church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people (also known as replacement theology). For classical dispensationalists, Israel continues to be God’s chosen nation.

MacArthur begins stating the intended purpose of this book. He writes that this primer “intends to provide a clear and convincing biblical explanation for the interpretive approach to Scripture that results in knowable futuristic view of Christ’s millennial reign on earth, the certain validity of God’s promises to future Israel, and the crucial differences between Israel (as a people and a nation) and the NT church. With this primer dealing with three specific areas of eschatology, this book breaks apart into the same three sections. Futuristic Premillennialism holds to four main tenets: A normal interpretation of scripture used for prophesy, God’s promises to Israel in the Old and New Testament are future, God’s promises in Revelation are future, and the church is not Israel.

In his introduction, Richard Mayhue tells why we studying prophecy should matter to – the Biblical message of the end times is abundantly clear throughout Scripture. We can be certain about Biblical prophecy because God’s Word has clearly spoken on the matter. This book is not a glamorous “interpret the headlines” kind of book like those written by John Hagee or Tim LaHaye. These sensationalist authors have muddied the eschatological waters as to the true teaching of dispensationalism. Michael Vlach takes a few chapters to educate the reader on what dispensationalism is and what it is not. MacArthur believes there has to be a clear line drawn between eschatology and soteriology. He writes, “Dispensationalism shapes one’s eschatology and ecclesiology. That is the extent of it. Pure dispensationalism has no ramifications for the doctrines of God, man, sin, or sanctification. More significantly, true dispensationalism makes no relevant contribution to soteriology or the doctrine of salvation.”

This book’s strength is what other books of the same subject fail to do – it starts at the beginning with the interpretation of scripture. The differences in eschatology can be boiled down to one question: “How do we interpret the Scriptures?” Macarthur writes “Futuristic Premillennialism is the result of an understanding and application of the prophetic texts in a way that is consistent with the normal, literal approach to interpreting Scripture.” This is how the authors come to their Futuristic Premillennial view. Later chapters such as “What About Israel?”, “Does Calvinism Lead to Futuristic Premillennialism?”, and “Does the New Testament Reject Futuristic Premillennialism?” deal with the inconsistencies that form when literal and allegorical interpretation methods are used interchangeably. This book is not simply about hermeneutics. Instead, it establishes that the Futuristic Premillennial view is the natural conclusion after a literal interpretation of scripture is applied to prophesy.

Christ’s Prophetic Plans, a collection of essays on the subject of Futuristic Premillennialism is a good primer. I found the information offered to be well-researched and simply presented. It was not overly-scholarly. It provides a great starting point for your own personal end-times study. There are places where I wish the authors had gone a little more in-depth. Overall, a good work.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Moody Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review : The Maxwell Leadership Bible

maxwellI must admit that I am a fan of John Maxwell. For years now he has been a personal source of encouragement and inspiration when it comes to matters of effective leadership. Many of his works remain best-sellers and have become timeless resources for leaders in all types of leadership positions. When I discovered that Maxwell had leant his leadership expertise to the creation of a leadership Bible, whether or not I would read it was never in question. The Maxwell Leadership Bible; Lessons in Leadership from the Word of God is Maxwell’s latest work which combines the NIV Bible with a host of leadership tips, secrets, principles, and strategies woven throughout. With all the Bibles available today, why is another one needed? Maxwell writes, “The best source of leadership teaching today is the same as it has been for thousands of years. If you want to learn leadership, go to the greatest Book on leadership ever written – the Bible.”

The resources contained with this Bible are immense. The best way to highlight them is to simply list what you will find within the pages of this NIV Bible.

• The Maxwell Leadership Bible offers dozens of “Profiles in Leadership”. These profiles highlight specific leadership traits of people such as Nehemiah, Samuel, Elijah, Priscilla, Elisha, and Paul to name a few.

• The Maxwell Leadership Bible provides a solid introduction to each of the Bible’s books looking specifically at the leaders, leadership lessons and highlights contained in each.

• The Maxwell Leadership Bible weaves his well-known 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership throughout its pages. Laws such as the Law of Influence (all leaders influence whether negatively or positively), the Law of Sacrifice (a leader must give up to go up) and many others. Articles and features appear throughout that highlight prime examples of these “laws.” A very helpful chart is found on pages 1282-1283 where Maxwell unveils “Jesus and the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”. Excellent.

• Indexes highlight of excerpts from other books such as 25 Ways to Win With People, Talent is Never Enough, The 360 Degree Leader, The Difference Maker, and Winning With People to name a few.

The Maxwell Leadership Bible is a winner. Smartly assembled and written with leadership development in mind, the unique approach to this Bible will without a doubt pay dividends to the reader. The only negative points I could offer would be that there is almost no margin for personal notes as the reader interacts with the content. Also, I am not a personal fan of the NIV version. Aside from that, Maxwell has given us a tremendous resource that will aid each reader in becoming a better leader. I highly recommend to all.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Harper Collins Publishers and BookLook Bloggers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review : Misfits Welcome

Imisfitst goes without saying that there are many different kinds of people in the world today. Different colors, nationalities, interests, backgrounds, life-experiences, problems, and physical appearances make up the fabric of today’s society. With that being said, our world has labeled a person based on characteristics like those above which has led to a hierarchy where some are perceived as more desirable than others. The end result of this errant classification is a people that are pushed to the fringes of society simply because they are “not good enough” for some. In his new book, “Misfits Welcome; Find Yourself is Jesus and Bring the World Along for the Ride”, Matthew Barnett shares the stories of this group of people. Barnett is the pastor of Angelus Temple and the Dream Center in Los Angeles, California. He refers to this group of marginalized people as “misfits” as they don’t seem to “fit” anywhere into the mainstream of society.

Barnett begins with a question that sets the stage for the book. He writes, “Have you ever felt like a misfit? Just saying the word misfit seems to strike a nerve. The truth is, in many ways, we all feel like misfits. We just don’t fit into the pattern and flow of life. But that’s where things get interesting. In fact, the unknown, the things unseen, is where miracles happen.” This book describes the life of Matthew Barnett, son a megachurch pastor in Phoenix who makes a move to the Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles and the events, people, and experiences that follow. His book is full of stories of how Angelus Temple and the Dream Center embraced and welcomed the kinds of people the world would have happily thrown aside. The “misfits” include prostitutes, gang members, drug addicts, drug dealers, runaways, alcoholics, and the homeless. Throughout the book Barnett continually emphasizes the fact God has called us to seek out, love, and care for the hurting, confused, and marginalized. He shares that most often people just simply want a second chance at life and to be valued as humans. This love and redemption can be seen in the fact that the great majority of his church staff include those who were once involved in the Dream Center’s various recovery programs.

Misfits Welcome is an encouraging book. It is a challenge, a dare, a call to reach out and love the hurting, the misunderstood, and the castaway. While not every church can be involved in the vast array of ministries that the Dream Center offers, Barnett challenge the reader to simply love those you can. Scattered throughout the book are testimonies of those who were helped and now are involved in helping others. The book does not provide the “how to” of social and recovery ministry. It does however clearly articulate the “why”. This book challenged me as a pastor and I recommend it without reservation.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Harper Collins and BookLook Bloggers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Why I Write

Power of WordsI enjoy writing. I enjoy turning internal thoughts, fears, feelings, and emotions into external words for others to read. I enjoy the process of organizing thoughts, arranging sentences, revising, revising again, and giving away the thoughts I have wrestled with. Call me strange, but I enjoy the sound that a pen makes as it pushes its way through the empty spaces of a page. There are days when this is very easy. There are days and seasons when this is agonizingly difficult. I am in such a season at present. Although writing is not my primary craft and not the manner in which I make a living, it is a big part of who I am as a person. You may ask, “Why?” Since it’s not the primary thing you do, you may ask “What’s the purpose of writing?” With all the other duties and responsibilities you have, you may ask “Why take the time and write?” These are all good questions.

I write because blank pages hold great promise. They are full of potential. The Declaration of Independence began as a blank page desiring to say something about personal and national freedom. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation began as a blank page crying out against the human tragedy that was slavery. Iconic poems, short stories, and sermons by Frost, Angelou, Wells, Poe, and King all began as blank pages. Works by authors such as Melville, Dickens, Twain, Faulkner, Woolf, Austen, Hawthorne, Homer, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Orwell, Stowe, Mitchell, and Salinger all began as blank pages. I write because words wield great power. Words have the capacity to educate, inform, bless, express love, demonstrate hate, cry out against injustices, declare war, call for reforms, and transport us to different times and places. It has been the consistent combining of both pen and paper that has for centuries has called for revolutions, daily brought the news of the world to our mailboxes, challenged Americans to serve their country, instituted treaties, dissolved nations, and challenged the saved and the lost to make Christ a priority. I believe in the power of the written word. This is why I write.

Book Review : Never Eat Alone

nevereatOver the past few years we have seen an increase in online platform whose purpose is connect people to each other. Sites such as Facebook®, Twitter®, LinkedIn®, Foursquare®, and Google+® have made it much easier for us to stay connected with family, friends, and colleagues. As we become a more connected society, we must learn to leverage the tools that make these connections as meaningful as possible. In his new book, “Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time”, author Keith Perrazzi advocates the importance of networking. From the outset of his book, Perrazzi makes two things clear. First, he describes how networking is a built-in human desire that has always moved relationships and businesses forward. Second, he provides a formula for effective networking that comes from his years of experience as a leadership coach.

Never Eat Alone is divided into five main chapters: The Mind-Set, The Skill Set, Turning Connections Into Compatriots, Connecting in the Digital Age, and Trading Up and Giving Back.

Within these chapters Perrazzi covers such topics such as determining your purpose in connecting, be respectful to those who give access to those you want to connect with, conference/meeting principles, and finding and becoming a mentor. The updates and revised edition includes information on how to network, personal marketing strategies, and methods to acquiring followers/connections on new social network platforms.

There is one major hindrance to the effectiveness of this book: Perrazzi himself. He includes a chapter entitled “Never Give in to Hubris”. A better name for this chapter would have been “Hubris on Display”. On almost every page there is a mention of some award the author has won, incessant name-dropping, and a general belief in how important he thinks he is. In my opinion, this killed the effectiveness of his book. If you are looking for a book that provides solid leadership principles and shares similar content on how to interact with people, read John Maxwell.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Blogging for Books as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday Is For Scripture : Jonah 1: 1-3

1. Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2. “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3. But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

I would like to know what was going through Jonah’s mind when he arrived at the port that day  where  a ship  was preparing to leave. Perhaps he said, “This must be my lucky day.” Maybe he said, “I timed this just right.” He might even have said, “This ship is God’s will.” Jonah was a man on the run from God and Satan was holding the door wide open. We all have periods in our lives as Jonah did . Periods of direction and call, followed by an overwhelming fear that causes us to doubt our ability to come through for God. “Open doors” are tricky things. Jonah had  what he thought was an open door, but was clearly not of God. The life of Jonah teaches us this. If the believer desires to run from God, there will always be a ship leaving for Tarshish.

Book Review : Truth Matters

truthmattersWhen it comes to the existence of God, there are as many opinions and positions as there are people. There is certainly no shortage of competing voices seeking avenues to bolster their position. Whether through print, sermons, talk shows, social media, or lecterns of college classrooms, the declaration of “truth” seems to be big business. The problem is that all positions on what constitutes truth cannot be correct. In their new book, Truth Matters; Confident Faith in a Confusing World, authors Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw weigh in on this issue in favor of truth that has a firm conservative biblical foundation.

Truth Matters is a unique apologetic. On the primary level it is written to give the reader the tools needed to defend their faith against the more common objections. On the secondary level it is written for the college student who will certainly be challenged to defend their faith by secular professors who are skeptical about and even hostile toward the Christian faith. The authors make a consistent reference to Agnostic scholar and professor Bart Ehrman as the type of professor likely to be encountered on any college campus. The authors devote seven chapters to the objections that Ehrman makes/has made. Those chapters are:

1. The Skeptical Mystique: What Makes Unbelief So Terribly Believable?

2. Is God There? Does God Care? Then Why Can’t He Do Better than This?

3. Let’s Make a Bible: Who Picked These Books, and Where’d They Come From?

4. Contradictions, Contradictions: Why Does My Bible Have All These Mistakes?

5. I’ll Need an Original: How Can Copies of Copies Be the Same as the Real Thing?

6. And the Winner Is… Who Decided What Christianity Was Made Of?

7. A Likely Story: How Do We Know Jesus Rose from the Dead?

The authors give the readers the tools to go beyond a blind superficial faith to a reasoned faith that comes about through evidence and research. The answers that the authors give to Ehrman’s objections are intelligent, factual, and clear. As the attacks upon the Christian faith become more sophisticated and tenacious, so must the Christian counter with an equally aggressive defense. Truth Matters provides solid footing from which to give an honest and accurate defense of our faith. I would highly recommend this book to all youth pastors and parents who have students preparing for college and life outside the walls of the church. As a pastor I can say that this book will be a gift to our graduating seniors every year. Great work. Read it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from B&H Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”