Review: Practicing the Power

30649315Sam Storms is Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Storms has a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. He is the author of numerous books, including Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist (Enjoying God Ministries, 2005), contributing author to Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views (Zondervan, 1996), and The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts (Bethany House Publishers, 2013). Most recently, Storms has provided a practical guide for both churches and individuals looking to incorporate the gifts of the Holy Spirit into everyday life.

Practicing the Power: Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is a breath of fresh air. Storms is biblically sound, theologically trustworthy, and pastorally sensitive to the issues at hand. He has written for those “theologically sophisticated followers of Christ who are open to and hungry for the present tense voice of the Spirit while always subject to the functional and final authority of the written text of Scripture” (p. 13). This includes both the corporate and individual level—the former making it unique for pastors looking to influence the culture of their church. The book is comprised of twelve chapters and two appendix articles, covering everything from the fasting, healing, and prophecy, to desiring spiritual gifts and the importance of worshiping in the Spirit.

There is much to be appreciated about this book. First, and probably foremost, Storms rightly recognizes that “Bible-believing evangelicals will never be truly open to the pursuit of spiritual gifts unless they see them clearly taught in Scripture” (p. 28). Thus, the pastor must be willing to guide his people to that end, and Storms does a compelling, and even encouraging job assisting the reader to observe that reality. Second, Storms provides seasoned advice that is both practical and easily implemented. Storms penetrates to the heart of the matter and speaks with clarity and truth from God’s word. Third, Storms offers example after example for the readers to use and learn from as they press into the gifts of the Spirit. Lastly, Storms consistently places emphasis where emphasis is needed. He is in no way concerned or satisfied with emotional exercises of superficial spirituality. The desire of his heart is clearly for the betterment of the body of Christ and the edification of God’s people.

Practicing the Power: Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit by Sam Storms is easily one of the most important books on spiritual gifts available on the market today. It is practical and informed in more ways than one. Storms is easy to read and enjoyable, and the eager reader will learn a lot from his gracious approach. As someone who is theologically in agreement with Storms’ position, but more times than not functionally opposed to it, I found myself both challenged and encouraged to practice the power. This a book every should Christian read in time, and do so carefully. It comes highly recommended!

Review: Hearing the Message of Daniel

519vz6EpqULChristopher J. H. Wright is International Ministries director of the Langham Partnership and the author of numerous books related to global missions, the Old Testament, and the people of God. Wright is both a veteran scholar and a seasoned pastor, and like many of his books, Hearing the Message of Daniel: Sustaining Faith in Today’s World demonstrates this blended reality with excellence.

Hearing the Message of Daniel is not a commentary. This needs to be stated and understood at the beginning so readers are not disappointed with the outcome. As Wright notes, “[the book has] its origin in preaching, and retains much of that style” (p. 12). Furthermore, as should be expected, Wright avoids the critical questions of the book and takes no position on “the unity of Daniel, or dating of its later chapters, or of the book as a whole” (p. 12). Hearing the Message of Daniel is an encouragement rooted in the exposition of the book of Daniel. As Wright explains, “the entire book is indented to be an encouragement to God’s people in the midst of hostile and threatening cultures and to affirm God’s sovereign control of all that happens, even as fallen human beings ‘do as they please’ in exercising their own rebellious wills in opposition to God and his people” (p. 12).

The book is comprised of numerous expositions on the book of Daniel. Each chapter in the book corresponds to a chapter in the book of Daniel, apart from the final chapter which covers Daniel 10-12. It should also be noted that chapters 1-6 were previously published in Tested by Fire: Daniel 1-6—Solid Faith in Today’s World (Scripture Union Publishing, 1993). Wright does an exceptional job keeping the reader focused on the message of the book while avoiding much of the theological, namely eschatological concerns many readers will be familiar with from the book of Daniel. He does well to provide the reader with background information pertinent to the message of the book and doesn’t shy away from offering theological observations founded upon the larger narrative (i.e. God’s sovereignty).

Hearing the Message of Daniel: Sustaining Faith in Today’s World is quintessential Christopher J. H. Wright. It is readable, reliable, and sensitive to what matters in the Christian life. Wright sets out to strengthen and offer encouragement for those facing hostility and persecution and does so with an eye upon the grace and mercy of God. Wright demonstrates the relevance of the book of Daniel with little effort and captures the reader’s hearts in the process. This is a book that will stir your heart with confidence for God and his lovingkindness for his people. If you’re preaching or teaching through Daniel, then Hearing the Message of Daniel is an essential read. It comes highly recommended!

Review: Daniel (SOGBC)

418k1bx5DzLWendy L. Widder is a contributing editor at Logos Bible Software and the author of several books, including Living Whole Without a Better Half (Kregel, 2014), A Match Made in Heaven: How Singles and the Church Can Live Happily Ever After (Kregel, 2003), and various publications under Lexham Press. She holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern studies from the University of the Free State, a master of arts in Hebrew and Semitic studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a master of divinity degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Most recently, Widder offers readers a much-anticipated volume on Daniel in the Story of God Bible Commentary.

Daniel by Wendy L. Widder is a unique and welcomed addition to this increasingly popular series. Widder has a clear passion for the local church, and this volume demonstrates that on almost every page. The commentary opens with a brief introduction to the book, including comments surrounding some of the distinctive features of the genre of Daniel, the context and purpose of the book, authorship, date, etc. Widder affirms the events in the book happened to “a real Daniel and his Judean peers in sixth-century BC-Babylonian exile, and that the prophecies are accurate,” but also recognizes the limitations of knowing who compiled the book in its final form (p. 5).

As the commentary proper opens the reader is guided passage-by-passage through three major sections: (1) LISTEN to the Story—includes the NIV translation with additional references to encourage the reader to hear the story within its broader biblical context, (2) EXPLAIN the Story—explores and illuminates each passage within its canonical and historical setting, and (3) LIVE the Story—reflects how each passage can be lived today and includes contemporary stories and illustrations to aid teachers, preachers, and beyond.

Where issues of disagreements are inevitable for the book of Daniel, Widder does an exceptional job directing the concerns back towards the purpose of the book and away from theological traps. In this respect, Widder demonstrates how to handle the text in a corporate setting and allows the reader formulate thoughts in a similar direction. This, in my opinion, is one of the best aspects of Widder’s work here, and it will inevitably prove useful for the target audience of the series. Like I mentioned above, Widder has a clear passion for the local church, and it is evident on almost every page.

The Story of God Bible Commentary: Daniel by Wendy L. Widder is a unique contribution that offers a unified presentation of one of the most theologically significant books of the Old Testament. Widder is well-informed and easy to read, and any lack of distinctive interpretive contribution is made up for in her keen ability to keep sight of the whole amid the details. Widder makes Daniel fun and interesting again for those who may have “heard enough” about its many theological controversies. This is a worthwhile read if you are studying Daniel. It comes highly recommended and will be extremely useful for those teaching the book!

Review: To the Cross

34501638Christopher J. H. Wright is International Ministries director of the Langham Partnership and the author of numerous books related to global missions, the Old Testament, and the people of God. Wright is both a veteran scholar and a seasoned pastor, and his most recent book offers readers a wonderful glimpse into the intersection of the former with the latter.

To the Cross: Proclaiming the Gospel from the Upper Room to Calvary is a collection of sermons Wright preached at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. These five sermons guide the reader from the Lord’s Supper to the crucifixion (The Last Supper – Matt. 26:17-30; Peter’s Denial – Matt. 26:69-75; Insults and Paradise – Luke 23:26-43; From Darkness to Light – Mark 15:33-39; It is Finished – John 19:28-37). As expected, Wright provides an excellent example of what it looks like to blend Old Testament insight with a New Testament declaration of the Cross of Christ. Wright likewise does an exceptional job illustrating the major points of the text for the reader.

There is much to be praised about this volume. First and foremost, Wright is a brilliant scholar, and his sensitivity to the broader biblical narrative consistently informs his exposition. There are more insights in this volume, and thus the five sermons preached than most pastors would be able to feed to their congregation over the course of a year. Second, Wright has provided readers a glimpse into his preparatory work in the form of an appendix. For those interested in workflow and preparation tips, this appendix will be a joy to read. Finally, not only is Wright readable and engaging, but he captivates the heart with nearly every page. I could only imagine the impact of these sermons being preached live, but I am forever thankful they have been made available in print.

To the Cross: Proclaiming the Gospel from the Upper Room to Calvary by Christopher J. H. Wright is an excellent example of why there is still so much wonder available to captivate the hearts of believers in the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. This is not only an ideal book for the Lenten season or Holy Week; it is easily on the of the most important. Outside of the Bible, if you plan on digesting anything this season, I would highly recommend this new one by Christopher J. H. Wright.

Review: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Introduction to His Thought

41rTZTDkfULSabine Dramm received a doctorate in education science from the University of Bonn in Bonn, Germany. She has studied evangelical theology and social science as well as philosophy and education. Dramm is the author of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Resistance (Fortress Press, 2009) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer Eine Einführung in sein Denken (Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2001). The present volume, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Introduction to His Thought (Hendrickson Publishers, 2015), is a reprint (previously published in 2007 by Hendrickson Publishers and 2010 by Baker Publishing Group) of the English translation of Dramm’s latter mentioned title.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Introduction to His Thought is a unique and important work for anyone looking to get better acquainted with the life and theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Those familiar with Bonhoeffer (which should be many given the success of the biography Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas) will also find much to glean from Dramm’s work. The uniqueness of Dramm’s approach comes in the form of her unusual ability to intermingle a well-positioned introduction to Bonhoeffer’s thought (which encompasses Bonhoeffer’s sermons, letters, articles, and books) with a survey of his life story. Dramm not only captures Bonhoeffer’s theology with clarity, but she does it in a similar manner as Bonhoeffer did himself—integrating both life and theology.

There is much to be praised about Dramm’s work. For starters, she has meticulously documented her engagement and summation of Bonhoeffer’s work. The number of cross-references scattered throughout Dramm’s work is impressive. Unless otherwise mentioned, Dramm consistently references the official collection of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Works published by Fortress Press. Still, Dramm has provided more than a mere overview of Bonhoeffer’s works. She has developed a pattern of Bonhoeffer’s thought throughout his numerous works, and uses that pattern as a platform to guide the reader through the depths of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Finally, Dramm is extremely lucid and readable. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Introduction to His Thought is easily one of the the most accessible and informative books on Bonhoeffer available today.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has fascinated the hearts and minds of many in the twenty-first century. He is a symbol of courage and fortitude, with a passion for God’s people and a determination for the wellbeing of the Church. Bonhoeffer is a man of many mysteries and is often overlooked in the arena of theological rigor. Still, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Introduction to His Thought by Sabine Dramm will rightly ignite a newfound flame of passion in that arena, and open the doors to invite those in the streets on a tour. In fact, anyone with even the slightest interest in Bonhoeffer will do themselves a disservice if they overlook this book. It comes highly recommended

Curious? NIV Faithlife Study Bible

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Curiosity ignites a fire that both informs faith and encourages spiritual growth. There are several ways to feed this curiosity within the Christian life, but few are more impactful than uncovering new or previously unnoticed insights into the Bible. For those who study the Bible often it is easy to find yourself in a dangerous place when it comes to keeping this flame of curiosity alit. There is no easy or one-size solution to remedy this situation, but a well-rounded Study Bible such as the new NIV Faithlife Study Bible can provide an excellent point of engagement to kindle this flame. Let me tell you about a recent encounter I had with a well-known passage in the book of Hebrews.

The book of Hebrews contains five major warning passages against apostasy (2:1–4; 4:12–13; 6:4–6; 10:26–31; 12:25–29). These warnings are scattered throughout the landscape of the book and all of them, except for 6:4-6, appear to be intrinsically tied to an Old Testament allusion or quotation. Here is where curiosity set in and a flame was lit. Given the consistency of the pattern found in the other warning passages, does it make sense to look for a similar type of pattern in 6:4-6? Moreover, if such pattern were present in 6:4-6, would it impact the current wave of theological conversation surrounding the passage? With these questions in hand, I began to survey what commentaries were saying with almost no success. I knew there was a chance that I was off track, but the pattern seemed too strong to simply disregard. As curiosity carried on and I turned to the NIV Faithlife Study Bible, I was pleasantly surprised by my discovery. Not only did it confirm my curiosity, but it opened a door to further insights of exploration.

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There are at least three features of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible that distinguish it from other Study Bibles on the market and position it for readers motivated to stay curious about the Bible. First, and probably foremost, because a Study Bible is only as good as those who contribute, the list of contributors is both impressive and wide-ranging, including scholars such as Michael Bird and William Varner, and best-selling authors such as Randy Alcorn and Charles Stanley. This balance brings both academic and pastoral considerations to the forefront of the reader’s minds. Second, the visual appeal of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible is unlike any other Study Bible available today. Readers will be met with beautiful full-color maps, timelines, tables, infographics (example above), etc. This aspect alone should activate the reader’s curiosity, especially the family-tree diagrams. Third, the level of depth provided in the introductions, articles, and notes offer an unparalleled experience.

No matter where you are in your faith journey, the new NIV Faithlife Study Bible has something exciting for everyone. It will keep your interest near and engage your heart as you continue to discover God’s word. Stay curious. There’s always more to explore.

Review: The Spirituality of Paul

29011657Leslie T. Hardin is professor of New Testament at Johnson University, Kissimmee, Florida. Hardin has received his D.Min. in Spiritual Formation from Ashland Theological Seminary and has authored articles in the Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, as well as several books, including The Spirituality of Jesus: Nine Disciplines that Christ Modeled for Us, Letters for Micah: Navigating the Internal Dynamics of your First Ministry, and the present volume, The Spirituality of Paul: Partnering with the Spirit in Everyday Life.

The Spirituality of Paul is a follow-up volume to Hardin’s previous work on the spirituality of Jesus. Hardin approaches the spirituality of Paul through ten prominent characteristics of Paul’s life and ministry: (1) the participation of the Spirit, (2) devotion to the Scriptures, (3) prayer, (4) disciple-making, (5) the proclamation of the gospel, (6) corporate worship, (7) holiness, (8) the spiritual gifts, (9) building one another up in faith, and (10) suffering. Hardin is easy to read and does and exceptional job bringing the reader into the life and ministry of Paul while remaining as theologically neutral as possible. That said, because of the nature of the study and the material at hand to conduct such, the content of this book is likely to follow with disagreement from some readers—especially those who are less sensitive to the New Perspective on Paul movement that has saturated the last few decades. Nonetheless, Hardin does an excellent job keeping readers focused on the life of Paul and provides a unique and practical contribution to the current wave of Pauline studies.

It was Paul himself that exhorted the Corinthians to, “imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). The Spirituality of Paul: Partnering with the Spirit in Everyday Life by Leslie T. Hardin offers a fresh pair of lenses for modern readers to view Paul’s life, and ultimately, to imitate him as he imitated Christ. Hardin offers practical insights into Christian spirituality through on of the most familiar Christians in the New Testament—the Apostle Paul. Christians of all walks of life would do well to engage with Hardin and earnestly reflect the Pauline principals that he assesses throughout. It comes highly recommended!