Friday, October 6, 2017

Book Review: Counseling Under the Cross

How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life
What does a man do when he encounters the grace of God and finds peace with God? In Counseling Under the Cross, Bob Kellemen introduces us to Martin Luther and shows us how he learned to apply the Gospel to daily life. Initially, "Luther had attempted to care for his soul through his own wisdom and it earned him nothing but despair. Only as Luther clung to the sufficiency of Christ and Scripture did he find peace for his troubled soul" (pg. 25). Kellemen relates how God used His people and His Word to open Luther's eyes to the Christ of the cross, transforming him into a man whom God would use to minister His Word to others.

If you have read any of Bob Kellemen's works, then you likely know of the significant influence that Luther has had on him and will recognize the lens through which he views Luther's counseling. Through Luther's writings, Kellemen illustrates his four biblical compass points to speak gospel truth in love, what Kellemen refers to as "gospel conversations," compass points which Kellemen would contend were derived directly from Luther's works. In a fresh way, Counseling Under the Cross demonstrates that:

“Changed lives occur as we apply Christ’s changeless truth to help suffering people know that it’s normal to hurt (sustaining) and possible to hope (healing), and as we help sinning people to know that it’s horrible to sin but wonderful to be forgiven (reconciling), and supernatural to mature (guiding)” (Robert Kellemen, Equipping Counselors for Your Church, pg. 65).

According to Kellemen, "...Luther's counseling followed the historic focus of pastoral soul care and spiritual direction...[that] dealt with the evils we have suffered in a fallen world and with the sins we have committed" (pg. 40). This pastoral concern of Luther's became the spark that ignited the Reformation making this work a timely gift in light of the upcoming 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Kellemen demonstrates how the: "'Sufficiency of Scripture' is the heartbeat of the Reformation. God's Word is sufficient, authoritative, and profoundly relevant for all of life and all of ministry" (pg. 221).

Counseling Under the Cross is well-documented and includes many quotes from Luther's letters, sermons, table talks, and other writings. While at times, Kellemen's terminology may seem cumbersome, his message is faithful to God's Word, centered on the Gospel, and provides useful categories for ministering the Word to others. Each chapter concludes with a "tweet-sized" summary for review, and the entire book wraps up with a call to make application from what we've learned. Kellemen shows how he has spent that last two decades of his ministry standing on the shoulders of a faithful brother who has gone before us. The thoughtfully selected quotes in Counseling Under the Cross are like flowers plucked out of books that will likely lead many readers to the garden of Luther's works in the future.** May we all continue to minister the Word to our brothers and sisters who are suffering, fighting sin, and seeking to grow in holiness, standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us just as Dr. Kellemen has done with Luther.

If you'd like a taste of the content that you can expect to find in the book, Dr. Kellemen has put together an edifying PowerPoint presentation.

You may also be interested in these related book reviews: Gospel Conversations, Equipping Counselors for Your Church, and Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling.

*Many thanks to New Growth Press and Litfuse Publicity Group for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

**(Many thanks to Aimee Byrd for introducing me to Hannah More's  excellent analogy through her book, "No Little Women". In it, Aimee Byrd writes: "One of the best treasure troves is the footnotes of the book you are reading. Authors pluck flowers out of books that will hopefully lead you to the garden they came from!" -- pg. 212.)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Book Review: How We Got the Bible

How We Got the Bible - Handbook   -     By: Timothy Paul Jones
Throughout my childhood, I was presented with a number of opportunities to examine the faith of my parents and the church that we attended. However, most of these opportunities were fairly black and white with challenges coming from folks who were generally antagonistic to Christianity. It wasn't until I attended a Christian university that my New Testament professor introduced me to the world of textual criticism and Bart Ehrman. In spite of his profession of faith and role as a pastor at a local church, that man seemed to do everything he could to undermine the Bible. I was unprepared to refute the claims I encountered, but I didn't thoughtlessly embrace the man's teaching or that of the books he was promoting. God faithfully brought me through that rocky season and used it to strengthen my faith. Over the years, I've continued to study the subject a bit, and I've sought to equip my kids to face "the real world" with a strong, biblical foundation. I want them to examine their beliefs and the beliefs of others and to think critically about them all. When it comes to considering the claims made about Scripture, Timothy Paul Jones has given us an excellent primer in How We Got the Bible.
According to Dr. Jones, the "purpose of this book is to deepen your trust in the Bible by helping you understand how God's written revelation made the journey from the mind of God to the sixty-six texts in your Bible today". In seven concise chapters, Jones explains what the Bible is, how the Old and New Testaments were composed and answers many questions, including:
  • What's so special about the Bible?
  • Is it different from other books?
  • Is it reliable?
  • What does it mean that it is inspired and inerrant?
  • Do Christians need the Old Testament?
  • How was the Bible collected and arranged?
  • Which books belong in the Bible?
  • Why do some Christian religious groups include additional books (like the Apocrypha) in their Bibles?
  • Why don't we continue adding books to the Bible today?
  • How did early Christians recognize which texts truly were God's Word and choose to receive them? 
  • Did early Christians care whether the events described in the New Testament really happened or whether the books were written by the authors who claimed to write them? 
  • How can the Bible be without error if the copyists made mistakes?
  • How do archaeological discoveries such as the 1947 discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls serve to confirm the accuracy of the Bible and result in increasingly accurate translations?
Throughout How We Got the Bible, Jones is faithful to the Bible. He utilizes relevant anecdotes and humor to keep his presentation engaging and relates many historical accounts to show the continuing importance of this subject today. He includes numerous visual aids such as colorful paintings, photographs, and charts that are sure to benefit the reader. Jones reminds us of the privilege of having God's Word in our language and concludes his work with a challenge explaining the work that remains for the 1,800 people groups who do not yet have a Bible translation in their language. I recommend this work for any group or individual who desires a gentle introduction to the means through which God has been faithful to bring His Word to us.

*Many thanks to Rose Publishing for a complimentary ebook copy of How We Got the Bible in exchange for my honest opinion!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Book Review: The Book of God

     Is the Bible from man or from God? Is there any evidence that it is different from other books? With the many years that have passed and the number of translations that have been produced, how can we be sure that the Bible we have is the same as the authoritative, infallible original? Are we sure that we have all of the books that should be included or are some missing, only yet to be discovered? There are many questions that can be asked of the Holy Scriptures.

The back cover of The Book of God: How We Got the Bible is reminiscent of the formatting of the text at the beginning of a Star Wars movie, an interesting way to entice people to read about the story of The Book of God. It certainly captured my attention. Upon arrival, I left this book on our coffee table to see how long it would take for someone to peruse it. Given the graphic novel format, it wasn't surprising to find that it didn't take much time for The Book of God to garner some attention for itself from my children, which was more than I could say about the other, slightly outdated "How We Got the Bible" book that we were scheduled to read. Clearly, this presentation won my kids over and makes this book unique among other books containing similar information.

     The Book of God: How We Got the Bible is comprised of four parts: "The Production of the Bible (How the Bible Was Written)", "The Process of the Bible (How the Bible Was Selected)", "The Preservation of the Bible (How the Bible Spread)", and "The Proof of the Bible (How the Bible Has Survived and Is Trustworthy)". Ben Avery did a good job of honestly answering many questions surrounding the Bible, concisely summarizing this information and offering a gentle introduction to the subject. I commend it to those seeking to be better educated concerning the substantial evidence that confirms God's hand in preserving His Word for our generation.

*Many thanks to Kingstone Comics for providing me with a complimentary copy of The Book of God: How We Got the Bible in exchange for my honest opinion!