Category Archives: Book Review

Engaging With Keller: Is Selfishness the Core of Sin?

Note: This is a thinking-out-loud kind of post. It’s my current reflections on an important chapter in Engaging with Keller. My view on this, like everything else on this site, is subject to correction. In fact, I will read Campbell’s book on anthropology this semester in my WTS course Doctrine of Man. There may be an update to this post in the next few months.


Tim Keller is kind of a big deal.

He is a gifted communicator, a deep thinker, and his insights on culture and human nature make people take notice. Many Christian leaders, especially young ones like myself, are heavily influenced by his teaching.

But like any man he has flaws. His teaching isn’t perfect and we should always be Berean in our thinking. Engaging with Keller, Thinking through the theology of an influential evangelical, attempts to do just this.

What’s In The Book

The authors take Keller to task on several issues:

  • His view of Hell seems to be deficient. In his writings it appears that he believes that God’s wrath doesn’t factor into Hell. In effect, your own sin is what torments you. I’ve always had a issue with this in Keller’s teaching.
  • They believe Keller misuses the genre of parable. Instead of letting the rest of Scripture interpret the parables he uses the parables to interpret the rest of Scripture. I’m not certain they gave him a fair shake on this one.
  • The authors interact with his engagement in theistic evolution. This isn’t a conversation I’m interested in wading into.
  • And several others…

The Big Issue: What Is Sin?

But what I really want to talk about is the chapter on sin.

Keller, in the eyes of Ian Campbell, has “rebranded” sin with Continue reading

How I Use Logos For Sermon Application

The sermon process begins with the Bible and ends in the heart.

Every preacher is built differently. Some are counselors and others are theologians. Some have trouble discerning the meaning of the text while others have a harder time at the other end: applying the text to the heart. I’m in the latter class. I love the truth of God’s word but I’m often unsure how to land that truth in the heart. Here is the three-step process I use in Logos Bible software to jump-start the application portion of my sermons.

Summary: The basic idea is to automatically search all of my counseling, discipleship, and Christian living books for the passage I’m preaching to see how all the authors in my library apply the passage to everyday life.

Step 1: Create an “Application” Collection

Logos allows you to group your library based on rules. If I want to add all of my counseling resources to a collection I can just type “subject:counseling” and the collection now contains every book I own on counseling. Here’s the rule I developed for my “Application” collection:

subject:(discipleship, “christian life”, “pastoral care”, counsel, “spiritual growth”, sanctification, formation, holiness) OR (title:grow ANDNOT title:church)

I’m including books on counseling, discipleship, and Christian living in my application collection because those are the books that deal with practical, everyday issues that people face. They are the “rubber meets the road” kind of books that are often overlooked in sermon preparation.

Here’s what it looks like in Logos: Continue reading

Review: Innovation’s Dirty Little Secret – Larry Osborne

Innovation's Dirty Little Secret

I’m in my first semester of seminary with a plan for pastoral ministry so I’m very interested in leadership books by Christians like pastor Larry Osborne. I managed to get a free review copy so I could evaluate it for you.

What is it about?

This short book contains Larry Osborne’s reflections on how he made innovations happen in his ministry. He’s very open that the “secret” of innovation is that you need to try lots of new ideas, most of which fail, until something succeeds.

The book is really about how to fail at innovating in a safe way until something works.

What I liked

There is a ton of practical insight in this short book. Osborne looks at a few of the bigger changes he made in his church and how those changes happened. But this isn’t just a book about successes. True to the secret, Osbosrne talks just as much about failure.

Very helpful chapters are found on how to limit any potential damage caused by a new idea (chapter 4) and how to get people engaged (chapter 7). In one of the most valuable sections (chapters 11-14) he looks at structures and ideas that most of us think contribute to success. He shows how each of them is actually a hindrance – for instance, surveying your congregation is almost always a bad idea – and gives ideas to get past them.

One of the most helpful features of the book is a list of 5-10 questions you can ask yourself at the end of most chapters. They are the kind of questions you might want to ask as you try to implement changes.

It’s a quick read with a lot of good content.

What I didn’t like

This book misses something I really expected to see. I’m not sure if it’s something Osborne set out to cover, but it seems vital in a book like this.

I wanted Osborne to tackle the question: Continue reading

Gospel Amnesia Book Review

Gospel Amnesia by Luma Simms

Gospel Amnesia by Luma Simms is the perfect introduction to the gospel-centered movement.

The Writing

Luma Simms has a rare gift. Her writing is concise, approachable and profound. Most writers can do one of those things. Good writers can do two of them (I like to think I’m in this category). Great writers can do all three:

If we deemphasize God’s infinitude, then the gospel shrinks in our minds. The gospel is inextricably tied to God’s infinitude because the grace shown in the gospel is infinite. The chasm God breached in calling us to him from our state of sin is infinite. The capacity of Christ to reverse sin, disease, decay, entropy itself – is infinite.
(Emphasis original)

This book is so easy to read but it’s, at the same time, so powerful in the way it presents truth:

Because of God’s justice, Jesus had to come, live, and die. Because of God’s love, Jesus had to come, live, die and live again.

Simms makes incredibly helpful distinctions including recognizing that there are things we believe and, a subset of that, things we’re excited about. That makes all the difference When discussing our motivations.

This book does three notable things: Continue reading

The Gospel And Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever

The Gospel And Personal Evangelism

The Gospel And Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever

You need to read Mark Dever’s preposterously good book on evangelism.

This short book gives the who, what and why of evangelism. It’s a short read and a good one. Dever does an excellent job of making important distinctions that aren’t often made in our churches:

  • He explains the difference between the gospel and good truths which aren’t themselves the gospel.
  • He differentiates between evangelism and the results of evangelism.

Following are a few quotes I highlighted:

What isn’t the gospel?

The Good News is not simply that we are okay… The Good News is not simply that God is love… The Good News is not simply that Jesus wants to be our friend… The Good News is not that we should live rightly.

What is the gospel?

The good news is that Continue reading

proclaiming-jesus

Proclaiming Jesus – A Pleasant Surprise

When I stumbled across Proclaiming Jesus – Christ-Centered Teaching and Preaching by Tony Merida I was intrigued. The book description reads:

Proclaiming Jesus calls us back to the apostolic pattern exalting the hero of the Bible in every message. At the heart of Proclaiming Jesus is the belief that the gospel is what everyone needs, and it’s what everyone needs to learn to communicate.

“Wow,” I thought, “this sounds a lot like the book I just released! I wonder how they compare.”

The two books share many similarities:

  • Both Merida and I believe our redemption in Christ is the climax and focal point of the Bible. Our scriptural proofs for this are very similar.
  • We both stress that Christ-centered messages shouldn’t be assembled by inserting Jesus where he isn’t naturally. Instead, we should look for natural connections to redemption within a passage.
  • We both want gospel-centered messages to cause worship in ourselves and hearers and believe that this worship is the fuel for sanctification in believers.

They are, however, very different books: Continue reading