Thursday, September 25, 2014

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's Does God Control Everything?

It's a question that is often hotly debated - Does God control everything? If you don't know the answer to this question or if you are unable to defend your answer well, I highly recommend R.C. Sproul's Does God Control Everything? I have strong views concerning this subject matter, and Pastor Sproul's use of Scripture gave me an even greater understanding of several vital doctrines. Reading Does God Control Everything? will help you learn the difference between providence and foreknowledge, God's sovereign ordination, and the doctrine of concurrence. The book's 80 pages are divided into the following five chapters and can be read in no time:
  1. What Is Providence?
  2. God Makes It All Happen
  3. God or Chance?
  4. Is God Responsible for Human Wickedness?
  5. What About Human Freedom? 
If the topics seem difficult or uninteresting, I encourage you to still give this free eBook a chance. Does God Control Everything? is written for the layman, and covers topics that we simply should not ignore.

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Psalm 103:19

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Reviewing Kevin DeYoung's Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem

Prior to this school year, the past four years were the busiest time in my life. I accepted a new job as a divisional principal, completed an M.Ed. in educational administration, moved to a new school building, moved to a couple new apartment complexes, adopted a third child, and tore my ACL for a second time. I read Kevin DeYoung's Crazy Busy in December when I wasn't feeling crazy busy, and it's the second book by Pastor DeYoung I've read. Once again I wasn't disappointed. I found Pastor DeYoung's award-winning book to be a quick and enjoyable read. Crazy Busy is less than 130 pages and is endorsed by numerous big Christian names, many of whom are authors and musicians that have blessed me. Although Crazy Busy didn't cause me to make radical changes in my life, it did cause me to rethink my priorities in life. I'm happy to say life doesn't feel crazy busy now, and I'm thankful our Father has given me this time to slow down and smell the roses. Below are the ten chapter titles.
  1. Hello, My Name Is Busy
  2. Here, There, and Gone: Three Dangers to Avoid
  3. The Killer P's - Diagnosis #1: You Are Beset with Many Manifestations of Pride
  4. The Terror of Total Obligation - Diagnosis #2: You Are Trying to Do What God Does Not Expect You to Do
  5. Mission Creep - Diagnosis #3: You Can't Serve Others without Setting Priorities
  6. A Cruel Kindergarchy - Diagnosis #4: You Need to Stop Freaking Out about Your Kids
  7. Deep Calls to Deep - Diagnosis #5: You Are Letting the Screen Strangle Your Soul
  8. Rhythm and Blues - Diagnosis #6: You'd Better Rest Yourself before You Wreck Yourself
  9. Embracing the Burdens of Busyness - Diagnosis #7: You Suffer More because You Don't Expect to Suffer at All
  10. The One Thing You Must Do
He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

Crazy Busy - Justin Taylor Interviews Kevin DeYoung from Crossway on Vimeo.

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's Can I Have Joy in My Life?

Contrary to what some pastors teach, we cannot have our best life now. Life will be downright tough at times and that can certainly make it difficult to be the most chipper person in the world. It is possible though to have joy during life's most challenging circumstances. Last year I chose to read R.C. Sproul's Can I Have Joy in My Life? because various struggles in my life were attempting to steal joy from me. Can I Have Joy in My Life? is only 51 pages and consists of the five chapters listed below. Section headings are listed in parentheses.
  1. Don't Worry, Be Joyful (How Can We Rejoice Always?, The Way to Recover Joy)
  2. Counting It All Joy (Looking to the Bright Future, Trusting God Through Calamities)
  3. How Do You Spell Joy? (Elation and Dejection, Rejoicing Even in Losses, The Best Way to Spell Joy)
  4. The Greatest Joy (Guilt and Joy, Confusing Pleasure and Joy)
  5. Fullness of Joy (Life Through the Vine)
Pastor Sproul had a profound impact on me when I first became a believer (and he continues to teach me much) so I had to take advantage of this offer to add another book of his to my library. I'm glad I did. I recommend downloading this free eBook, one of 20 free books in a series from R.C. Sproul. Can I Have Joy in My Life can help you see what joy is and where true joy can be found.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Monday, September 22, 2014

Reviewing Randy Alcorn's If God is Good: Why Do We Hurt?

Another Randy Alcorn booklet I've recently read is If God is Good: Why Do We Hurt? A few years ago Megan purchased the 500-page version for me, but it continues to be a part of a stack of books I've yet to tackle. I was able to read the 75-page booklet on a recent trip, and if you desire to have a better understanding about the hurts of the world, Randy Alcorn can provide you the answers to this not so fun topic. As in previous books I've read by Mr. Alcorn, you'll find his answers supported with pages of Scripture. Below are the questions Mr. Alcorn, a man who has certainly experienced some suffering, handles with grace and truth. Check it out.

  • Introduction: The Search We All Share
  • How Is Suffering Related to Evil?
  • Where Do Evil and Suffering Come From?
  • What Causes Natural Disasters?
  • What Common Explanations Are Given for Evil and Suffering?
  • Doesn't the Reality of Evil and Suffering Expose God's Limitations?
  • Why Doesn't God Immediately Bring Evil and Suffering to an End?
  • Why Doesn't God Eliminate the Worst Forms of Evil and Suffering?
  • Can We Be Sure That Someday We'll Be Free of Suffering and Evil?
  • How True Are the "Health and Wealth Theology" Claims About Escaping Suffering?
  • Why Hasn't God Made the Reasons for Our Suffering More Clear?
  • Can We Really Trust God to Use Our Suffering for Good?
  • Is Suffering Really Necessary to Build Our Character? 
  • What's the Right Way to Respond to Our Suffering?
  • Since Suffering Is Inevitable, How Can I Prepare for It?
  • Jesus - The Only Answer Bigger Than the Questions

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Why I Like Living in Tianjin, China

Yesterday a Chinese security guard asked me how long I've lived in Tianjin. He was quite surprised when I told him I've been here for more than 11 years. When I tell foreigners this, it's not uncommon for them to remark, "You must like the city." I would actually prefer living in a van down by the Ohio River, not in a city of approximately 12 million people. Despite this, there is much I appreciate about living here, and below are ten of those things.

1. Hanging out with and making new friends
2. Eating street food, especially yang rou chuanr
3. Chinese kids practicing their English skills with me
4. Riding my 100cc motorbike on the mean streets of TJ
5. Coaching my daughters and other young girls the world's greatest sport
6. Constantly learning new aspects of this ever-changing city and culture
7. Worshipping with people from around the world at our international fellowship
8. Stumbling upon a special western find that I had no idea was being sold in the city
9. Teaching sixth graders the Good Book and geography at Tianjin International School
10. Living in a nice apartment complex with easy access to huge malls and yummy restaurants

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reviewing Vance Christie's Hudson Taylor: Gospel Pioneer to China

Three years ago when my former pastor paid me a visit in Tianjin, he gave me Vance Christie's biography about Hudson Taylor. Pastor Dimmick really couldn't have given me much better of a gift. I don't often read biographies, but whenever I have done so, I usually find the reads to be quite enjoyable. Vance Christie's book is definitely in that enjoyable category. Hudson Taylor: Gospel Pioneer to China is a 200-page book about a man who left the United Kingdom in 1853 to serve in the Middle Kingdom for 50 years. In the 19 chapters, you'll read some absolutely amazing accounts. Hudson Taylor faced a great deal of heartache and opposition; however, he remained committed to the work God called him to. Although the writing is simple enough for some of my sixth graders to handle, the book should engage most adults who enjoy Christian biographies. Tim Challies, my favorite blogger, gives his endorsement of the book, and you can add me to that list. Please know should you ever hear me complain about how challenging my life is overseas, you have permission to slap this book across my face. Xie xie.

Reviewing Randy Alcorn's Heaven: Biblical Answers to Common Questions

Aside from the Good Book, Randy Alcorn's Heaven is my favorite book. Randy Alcorn has taught me much about my future home and although you may not agree with everything he says, his book will very likely make you think deeply and smile often. If you're not up for a 500-pager with tiny font, I recommend his 60-page booklet. There are many who have misunderstandings about Heaven, and this booklet can provide you solid answers supported by Scripture. Below are the book's contents.

  • Introduction
  • The Present Heaven and Future Heaven
  • Will Heaven (the New Earth) Be an Actual Place?
  • What Will Heaven Be Like?
  • What Will We Look Like in Heaven?
  • What Will We Do for All Eternity?
  • What Will Our Relationship with God Be Like?
  • Won't Heaven Be Boring?
  • Will There Be Animals on the New Earth?
  • Will We Have Our Own Homes in Heaven?
  • What Won't Be in Heaven?
  • Will Time No Longer Exist in Heaven?
  • Will We Know Everything When We Get to Heaven?
  • Will We Remember What Happened on Earth?
  • Can Those in the Present Heaven See What's Happening on Earth?
  • If People in Heaven Are Aware of Bad Things Happening on Earth, How Could It Really Be Heaven?
  • Will We Be Reunited with and Recognize Our Loved Ones in Heaven?
  • Will There Be Marriage and Family in Heaven?
  • How Can We Know for Sure That We'll Go to Heaven?

If you have any interest in knowing the answers to the above questions (if you don't, check your heart rate) or desire to share the Good News with others, spend a buck and have the book delivered to your computer in seconds. Don't be a cheapskate.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. Revelation 21:1

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What I Miss About Indiana

Although my citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20) and nearly half of my life has been spent overseas (the past eleven in Tianjin, China), I have strong Hoosier roots. I'm super thankful for the summer breaks I get to spend in the great state of Indiana. There is much I miss about life in the Crossroads of America, and below are ten things I miss about living there.

1. Hanging out with family & friends
2. Driving a truck on long country roads
3. Worshipping at reformed church services
4. Juggling a soccer ball on a freshly cut lawn
5. Being able to check out a ton of books at the local library
6. Observing wildlife - gray squirrels, cottontail rabbits, white-tailed deer
7. Seeing amazing blue skies and giant white clouds nearly on a daily basis
8. Fishing in peaceful locations - largemouth bass, white crappie, longear sunfish
9. Eating homestyle cooking - pork tenderloins, catfish fillets, chicken n' dumplins
10. Going to parks - little league baseball games, swimming pools, creative playgrounds

Reviewing John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life

Recently after delivering a Sunday message, I was asked if I read a lot of books by John Piper. That made me chuckle because I've read more of his books than books by any other author. I first read his book, Don't Waste Your Life, over a decade ago shortly after the book's release and not too long after my move to China. I wasn't a very mature Christian back then (and I still have a ton to learn), but despite the seriousness of Don't Waste Your Life, it's easy to understand and can be enjoyed by believers and nonbelievers in all stages of life. This can't be said about all of Pastor Piper's books since some of his books are poetic pieces or highly academic.

Don't Waste Your Life is a 190-page book that is filled with Scripture and divided into the ten chapters listed below. I read the book as part of a small group study in which we tackled a very manageable one chapter a week. A group study edition, group study kit, and study guide are now available.

1. My Search for a Single Passion to Live By
2. Breakthrough - the Beauty of Christ, My Joy
3. Boasting Only in the Cross, The Blazing Center of the Glory of God
4. Magnifying Christ Through Pain and Death
5. Risk is Right - Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It
6. The Goal of Life - Gladly Making Others Glad in God
7. Living to Prove He is More Precious Than Life
8. Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5
9. The Majesty of Christ in Missions and Mercy - A Plea to This Generation
10. My Prayer - Let None Say in the End, "I've Wasted It"

Perhaps the biggest impact the book made on me was an illustration found in chapter three concerning a Reader’s Digest article. The article talked about a couple that retired early so they could ride a boat, play softball, and collects seashells in Florida. Unfortunately, this is the American dream so many are wasting their lives on.

If you are interested in learning how this tough life is supposed to be lived, I recommend Pastor Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life. You won’t get a feel-good message, but you will be pointed to the one who can make your life mean more than riding motorbikes, playing soccer, and collecting Starbuck mugs.

to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. Romans 16:27

Reviewing C.J. Mahaney's Don't Waste Your Sports

Sports have always been a big part of my life, but unfortunately, much of my involvement in sports has been for the wrong reasons. Although I can’t change the past, today I try to make my playing and coaching to be glorifying to God. Pastor Mahaney’s 50-page booklet can help you understand what that entails. Whether you’re a high school athlete, soccer mom, or coaching adults, Don’t Waste Your Sports is for anyone who wants to honor God through athletics. The six short chapters listed below can be read in less than an hour.

1. Sports at Their Best—and Worst
2. What Are Sports Really For?
3. Meeting God before the Opening Tip
4. Play to the Glory of God
5. Sports Idols
6. Your Next Game

At the end of the book, there are application and discussion questions for athletes and parents. I recommend that athletic directors provide the booklet to their coaches and discuss the material before their respective seasons get underway. It’s important we realize that sports are gifts from God so we compete in a way that shows humility, grace, and a heart of thankfulness.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14