Reviews & Recommendations

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Reviews & Recommendations
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Reviews & Recommendations: The Christian Husband

RJ Hesketh, Director of Discipleship & Education

“You should never judge a book by its cover.”

An old cliche to be sure, but cliche or not, it is usually true. In terms of “The Christian Husband” by Bob Lepine, I would take that notion a bit further and add that you should not judge a book by your own skepticism.

I have to admit when Pastor Joshua added this particular volume to my study and review list I took one look at it and assumed that I already knew everything I needed to about it. There was no doubt in my mind that the author would go one of two common directions. Either he would be preachy and lofty, excluding the down and dirty reality of marriage and replacing it with biblical idealism. Or he would subject me to a watered-down self-help mess, devoid of any real biblical truth. In my mind, at the time there was no in-between. I could not have been more wrong.

As it turns out Mr. Lepine had written something very different than my expectations could have anticipated. From page one, this book is designed not only to educate the reader but to engage them as well. It addresses the reality of the struggles and failures inherent in being a husband while at the same time unapologetically holding them up against the biblical standard.

“The Christian Husband,” is broken into three main sections each with several chapters that tease out the primary theme of that section. It opens with the dialogue of an interview for the position of husband. In the back and forth we begin to see that the applicant, though excited about the position, is woefully ill-prepared to execute or even understand what duties are expected of him. This interview theme runs throughout the book and allows the reader to continually return and recalibrate as new ideas are placed before them. At the end of each section, we are given a list of questions to consider before we move on to the next section. This allows the reader to move from passive reader to active learner, fully engaged with the material.

Now for the big question. “Is this book only for husbands?” I would have to answer that question with a resounding "NO". Though married Christian men may be the initial focus of this book, much like the Scriptures, the initial audience and the total audience are not the same.

I would recommend this book to several different categories of people. The first is obviously men who are currently married or about to be married. But we should consider the value it could have for parents of young boys as well. I believe that this could be a great road map for parents as they train up the young men in their lives and prepare them for the covenantal calling of marriage. Or, how about women and young girls? As a father, I desire that the man my daughter marries be a biblical husband, and one way to help her achieve such a union is to prepare her for what to look for in a potential suitor. Furthermore, in Eve we find that for a woman to be a godly wife, she must act as a “help-mate” to her husband; and it is my opinion that the greatest help a wife can be, is to be ready and willing to call her husband back to a godly standard himself and this book is a great jumping-off point for that endeavor.

In conclusion, “The Christian Husband” by Bob Lepine is a solid read that will challenge the reader without isolating them and has earned a place in my marriage counseling library. I hope that if this is a subject of interest for you that you will take the time to prayerfully consider this work.

Other readings to consider:

From the author: “Love Like You Mean It” “Helping Your Children Know God”

On the subject: “The Masculine Mandate” By Richard D. Phillips

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Reviews & Recommendations: That Incredible Christian

RJ Hesketh, Director of Discipleship & Education

Aiden Wilson Tozer was a pastor, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor in the Christian Missionary Alliance Church during the early 20th century. He was born into a small farming community in western Pennsylvania but became a follower of Jesus Christ as a teenager in Akron, Ohio where he had gone to work at a tire company. In 1919, five years later, and without formal education in Christian theology, he accepted an offer to serve as pastor of his first church. That began 44 years of ministry, 33 of them serving as a pastor in several different congregations. Born into poverty, he was entirely self-educated, and yet before the end of his ministry, he had been awarded honorary doctorates from both Wheaton & Houghton.

In the book That Incredible Christian A. W. Tozer sets forth to discuss the many facets and characteristics of the Christian life. The central conceit of the book, however, is that each of these actually revolves around recognizing God for who He really is and honoring Him as such (p. 8). The book is relatively short and the chapters are likewise short, similar to what one might find in a modern devotional. As such the reader can move through the book as quickly or slowly as they prefer.

One of my favorite parts about the book personally is the way that Tozer shows that we come to know the truth through living it. It is reminiscent of the axiom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that only those who believe obey, and only those that obey believe (cf. The Cost of Discipleship). Bible doctrine, in the estimate of Tozer, is utterly useless until it is actually practiced in the life of the individual. Essentially, Tozer's assertion is that a theological fact only becomes a life-saving truth, when it is coupled with the act of obedience (pp. 92-93). Our righteousness can never save us, but if we are truly in covenant with Christ, then we will walk in His Righteousness.

Someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

James 2:18-26, ESV

Other suggested reading:  

“The Pursuit of God” by AW Tozer 

“Knowledge of the Holy” by AW Tozer  

Reviews & Recommendations: Life Together

RJ Hesketh, Director of Discipleship & Education

“I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” I have heard this statement, or one similar in meaning, countless times. Then there is, “I’m closer to God in my deer stand than I am at church.” And lastly, one of my personal favorites, “I can praise God in my car as easily as I can in a Church.” 

I believe that all of these statements were born out of one simple thing, an overabundance of opportunity when it came to our access to gathering with the Body of Christ. For most of us, our ability to attend church is limited only by our desire to show up. Thus it has become common, and our expectation is that the gathering of the church will always be there for us when “we” are in the mood for it. 

Enter 2020. All of the sudden, across all platforms, the panic bells began to ring, “THEY are going to force churches to remain closed.” 

Everyone was talking about what a shame, a crime, an unholy thing it was that the government would mandate church closures. Pastors with a large amount of global influence began appearing on major news networks speaking out in defiance (and some in agreement) of local and national mandates. My social media accounts began to flood with “if you love Jesus pass this on” messages, and stories of the good ol’ days when the church… (You know a story to put here). 

As I read those posts and those stories, I couldn’t help but wonder just how important it really is for us to meet in person. Was this a case of “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” or was this an attitude of “you can’t tell me what to do”? That question very quickly began to change though. It began with asking “how important is the gathering to us,” and became “how important is the gathering to God?”

In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, “Life Together,” I believe we find the answer to both of those questions. 

Written during a time of great separation and persecution (World War II Germany), Bonhoeffer deftly walks us through the importance and value of a life lived together, the necessity of community in the Christian’s walk. With examples both from scripture and his personal experience leading a seminary that was forced underground, he illustrates God’s ideal relational system for the believer. Bonhoeffer contrasts the privilege that is meeting together against the isolation that many of our brothers and sisters have experienced throughout time; bringing to light our status as creatures made for community by a personal and relational God, and demonstrating what effect the lack of that fellowship can have upon the believer.

From shut-ins to exiles, prisoners to those who are called to places where Christians are the vast minority, we see the blessing that is community. How something as seemingly small as a short visit or even a letter, can revitalize us and strengthen our spirits. With each example, Bonhoeffer weaves together the tapestry of God’s ideal for his People -Community. He challenges those of us who have the privilege of getting together to do it often and with great joy, to cherish our time with one another and uplift and encourage each other. Likewise, he admonishes us to feel the absence of those who cannot be with us and therefore reach out to and pray for them.

I will admit, I have had many personal breakthroughs while in a deer stand or while fishing the riffle of a river, and I have settled many debates with myself while in the car; yet nothing (according to scripture as well as experience) can equal the blessing that comes from the gathering of the Body together. If you yourself are uncertain of the importance of regular gatherings or if you find yourself cut off from your fellow believers, this book is for you. It will encourage and challenge, edify and uplift, and it will bring into clear focus our calling to be unified in Christ. I would greatly encourage you to take the hour or so and read “Life Together,” to pray for those who are far away, and to rejoice in those who are near.

As Bonhoeffer writes, “Christian community means community through and in Jesus Christ. On this presupposition rests everything that the Scriptures provide in the way of directions and precepts for the communal life of Christians.” (p24) 

Other suggested reading: 

“The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Christ the center” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

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Reviews & Recommendations: Tactics

RJ Hesketh, Director of Discipleship & Education

Today I would like to share with you a book titled “Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions” by Gregory Koukl. This is a book that I wish I had read ten years ago before I began engaging the LDS (Mormon) missionaries in our area. I am heartbroken when I recall the number of negative and frankly hostile interactions in those early years. Though I can say that I am grateful for the hard-learned lessons from those failures, I now realize that many of those mistakes could have been avoided, and those conversations could have been far more fruitful. 

As Koukl points out in various places in this book, not every conversation will result in a gospel harvest. Most of the time, we are planting the seed. Our mistake, my mistake, was trying to reap the harvest before it was ready. These are what Koukl refers to as God-moments, opportunities orchestrated by God for His purposes.

The strategies which Koukl describes in this book will help you will learn how to slow down, how to recognize what type of opportunity is before you, and how best to handle the conversation. He does this by walking the reader through techniques that can be used to clarify the points they want to make while at the same time keeping us safe from the pitfalls that await when engaging in a discussion that has opposing views. Although the material is of great importance, and the tactics themselves require an adept hand to utilize, Gregory’s approach and interspersed stories allow access to anyone who desires to learn a more effective approach to evangelism. 

For me personally, learning not to see these God-moments as a confrontation but instead as an opportunity for the Kingdom has changed my entire approach to these interactions. However, this book does not only apply to evangelism. Mastery of these techniques can be helpful in any encounter that you may find yourself in, be it work-place negotiations to convincing your friends who the best football team is. Learning how to have hard conversations is a useful skill, no matter what.

With clever names such as “The Columbo,” “Steam Roller,” and “Sticks and Stones,” Koukl takes something that could be very academic and intimidating, and he turns it into a fun and memorable exercise that can be entered into by anyone on any level. I have personally taught this book to groups ranging from pre-teens to advanced adults’ classes and would recommend it to any believer who is called to the work of the Kingdom. 

If you, like most Christians I know, have ever found yourself in a conversation, or a situation that felt like there was an opportunity to share the gospel but remained silent due to fear of not knowing what to say or maybe how to say it, this is the book for you. It is an easy read approachable for every level of reader. It can be completed in a single sitting, or it can (as I would recommend) be taken piece by piece, giving your new skills time to be tested, tried, and refined before moving on to the next. However, you choose to approach this material, do so thoughtfully and prayerfully, and it will be worth it. 

‘Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out worker into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9: 37-38)

Other suggested reading:

“Stealing from God” By Frank Turek

“Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God” by J.I.Packer

“Jesus among other gods” By Ravi Zacharias

“Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” by Nabeel Qureshi

“Defending your Faith” by R.C. Sproul

Reviews & Recommendations: The Case for Christ

RJ Hesketh, Director of Discipleship & Education

“The Case for Christ,” by Lee Strobel is a fast-paced and well-written self-examination of the author’s journey from an atheist, to a skeptic, to Follower of Christ. Although biographical, it is penned in such a way that it reads like an action novel. It is engaging, and difficult to put down once you pick it up.

Lee Strobel, a former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, set out to answer one simple question: “Is there any actual evidence that Je

sus really is the Son of God?” In this first of Strobel’s “The Case for…” series, he recounts how his journey began when his wife Leslie started attending a local congregation. Upon coming to the Faith herself, she implored him to join her. Strobel obliged, solely to appease his wife and ultimately, to prove to her that the Christian Faith was an untrue mythology comparable to any other of the world’s religions.  

By putting his investigative skills to work, Strobel began to unpack and challenge the arguments that have been made over the centuries for the veracity of the Gospel accounts and the life of Jesus of Nazareth. He interviewed more than a dozen experts in various fields, including theologians, historians, and scientists. His intention was to put to bed once and for all the notion that this Jesus could really be God incarnate. His point-blank, hard-hitting questions, and the answers he received, began to stretch his own presuppositions and understandings on the subject until finally he too gave his heart to Jesus. 

I believe that regardless of your current understanding of the apologetics of the Faith, you will be able to get something of value out of this book. If you are new to the Faith, it may answer some of the questions you yourself have concerning Christianity. If you have walked with the Lord for some time now, it may give y

ou comfort in answering some of the tough challenges put forth by those that you are witnessing to in your own life. And if you think you already have all of the answers, it may push back against that belief by asking the questions that you are afraid to ask yourself, or have never even considered; as it says in 1 Peter 3:15, 

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Related Books to Consider: 

“The case for Easter” and “The Case for the Resurrection” by Lee Strobel

“Christian Apologetics” and “The Defense of the Faith” by Cornelius Van Til

“The Potter’s Freedom” and “The Forgotten Trinity” by James R. White