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Risk is Right audiobook by John Piper; Foreward by David Platt

04/02/2013 Comments off

Thank you chrisitianaudio Reviewers Program for the opportunity to review this work and for your continued ministry to me and my family through bringing great books to audio.

What if God did not promise comfort in this world?  What if attempts we make to make God ‘safer’ actually misrepresented His plan for us?  What if risk is right and is a staple diet to the Christian today?  Can you risk for the wrong reasons?  These are the questions this re-packaged work remind us of.

As Tim Challies points out, this is not a new work by John Piper, it is a re-packaged one.  I agree with Tim though, that just because the newest part of this is the David Platt foreword, it is not reason enough to toss away the message.  The re-worked (Chapter 5 of Don’t Waste Your Life) contain the following headers;

What Is Risk?
Risk Is Woven into the Fabric of Our Finite Lives
Exploding the Myth of Safety
“May the Lord Do What Seems Good to Him”
“If I Perish, I Perish”
“We Will Not Serve Your Gods”
“I Am Ready to Die for the Name of the Lord Jesus”
“In Every City … Afflictions Await Me”
“If They Persecuted Me, They Will Also Persecute You”
To Become a Christian Was to Risk Your Life
How to Waste Forty Years and Thousands of Lives
What About You?
Risking for the Wrong Reasons
The Power to Risk Is in the Promise of God
Does God Really Supply All We Need?
All You Need to Do His Will and Be Happy Forever
I can Do All Things Through Christ, Even Starve
The Far Side of Every Risk, Triumphant Love
How Can It Get Better Than Being Conquerors?
The Only Road that Leads to Lasting Joy

These headers do a great job of outline the work as well as addressing the topic.  The above bolded items were the convicting reminders for me and the subject of this review.  In the section titled “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” which I think also complements the “What about you?” and “Risking for the wrong reasons” John Piper reminds us of the verses found in 1 Peter 4:12-14 (ESV);

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

These proof-texts can help to emphasize the point, but being a discerning reader, I believe God does not need my help and when presented with the FULL context of this text, the true heart of risk is revealed;  1 Peter 4:15-19 (ESV)

15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And

“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

The temptation is to skip over ‘murderer,’ ‘thief,’ ‘evildoer,’ and ‘meddler’ and say to ourselves I am none of these things.  However applying other parts of scripture in which Jesus equates hate with murder, lust with adultery etc, we can now clearly see that when we risk and in the context of these versus suffer, we too can have a wrong heart motive in the midst of these matters.  What has also struck me over the years with these verses is, who the author is, Peter.  Whom better with a doctorate degree in walking out all these things to exhort us to worship.  I believe this is the same calling our heart to task that Platt and Piper are emphasizing in this audio on Risk is Right.

Finally, in the last two sections that impacted me; “Does God Really Supply All We Need?” and “I can Do All Things Through Christ, Even Starve” I was reminded of the non-believers in my life with whom I have regular conversations with whom see through the platitudes we tend to dish out with “God won’t give you more than you can handle” or “See God feeds the birds, He will take care of you.”  Again, another attempt to make God ‘safe’ versus acknowledging His good.  The reality of the matter is that God does give you more than you can handle, (see 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (ESV)); and with good reason.  Further, the saints of the Bible reveal that suffering with risk is a part of the Christian life and never promises comfort (see Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV)) which is why we must be cautious with our calls to discipleship.  I am convinced that if you tell people the cost, they will understand the journey.  If there is fuzzy thinking about the cost, then like the seed that fell on the rock (Luke 8:6), when trials and tribulations come there is no foundation (Luke 8:13; Matt 7:7:24-27).  

I was also reminded of how ‘rich’ I actually am, with my 2 cars, a home, a good job, and money in the bank and how I am living in my ‘safety’ and never content (Phil 4:11).

The reader of this audio kept my attention and read very well, I listened to this short work for an entire week on my way to work.  Which allowed 3x in full.  It challenged, inspired, and enlightened me to think through my motives with risk and selfish ambition.   As always, David Platt and John Piper encourage us to love God with all our minds, and this work was no less of a reminder.  Piper’s original work (DWYL) also was presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner and because it is the same work, nothing has changed.  Further, the saturation of scripture references, the examples from both Old and New Testament successfully conveys Biblical truth that remind us that God’s plan has not changed from Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration.  I would recommend this audiobook to others, but I would emphasize the parent work in that it addresses the heart of our society with more items than just risk.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Dangerous Calling–a highly convicting audiobook review…

10/12/2012 Comments off

I want to give credit to the christianaudio Reviewers Program for the opportunity to review this work.

I remember when God began to draw me to Himself, and there are many ‘turning points’ that I now look back upon as God’s providential hand in my life.  I remember too the ‘dangerous call’ in my own life… 

The year was 1999, “Nothing you could ever do would ever make me love you any less… I forgive you.”  Brokenness.  Men’s groups, and a friend who taught me the ministry of Investing.  That later ‘investment’ was confirmation on a call to ‘leadership’.  I started seminary in 2001.  I changed my major from Christian Counseling to an M.Div. with an emphasis in Pastoral Counseling.  I finished my NANC certification in 2004 during my last trek toward seminary graduation in 2005.  Connie and I were on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ with the Military Ministry while I was finishing out internships at local churches.  Part of graduation was an acceptance of a fulltime position at a local PCA church as Tech Director, Small Groups Pastor, and Biblical Counselor.  In Oct 2007, I resigned from the fulltime position and Connie and I spent time in fasting and prayer and started an Organic Reformed Church in our home.  I also went to work for an system integration company (technology).  Oasis with elders, deacons, and a good trek with 32 participants at its height, lasted three years and it dissolved.  We are in our second year with a Sovereign Grace Church church plant. 

I could have used a resource like Dangerous Calling at ALL points of this short paragraph above.  The introduction introduces this work as Diagnostic Manual for the heart and in Paul’s words;

This is a diagnostic book. It is written to help you take an honest look at yourself in the heart- and life-exposing mirror of the Word of God—to see things that are wrong and need correcting and to help you place yourself once again under the healing and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This book is a gentle but firm conversation between pastors, discipler, counselors, followers, ministry leaders and the gospel of Christ Jesus.  From the uncensored personal testimonies of how God had people participating in Paul’s life, to turning points in thinking, this work is now a permanent part of my library of reference materials that warrant revisiting.  Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry is best summarized as YOU getting out of the way so Christ can work. 

Part 1: Examining Pastoral Culture could have also been called, “let’s level the playing field Dangerous Callingand get a few things straight…”  I easily identified with almost every illustration, story, and testimony of pride with my story painted all over it.  Part 2:  The Danger of losing your awe and forgetting who God is, was a pivotal chapter for me.  The exposition of Psalm 145 was much needed and I drank deeply.  Part 3:  The danger of arrival and forgetting who you are, reminds that despite all the knowledge, wisdom and experience, there is still room for improvement and that the Father still loves you despite your sin because His Son took your place. 

This worked reminded me that I have a very limited view of God’s holiness and of my sin. Paul reminds that the more I grow in my Christian life, the more I grow in my awareness of God’s holiness and of my flesh and sinfulness. Reinforcing consistent Bible reading, experiencing the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and living in community with other people, the extent of God’s greatness and the extent of my sin become increasingly clear and vivid. I was reminded that I will only rest in Christ when I am increasingly seeing God as He actually is (Isaiah 55:8-9) and myself as I actually am (Jeremiah 17:9-10).

This audio was interesting, challenging, inspiring, and redemptive for me.  Paul’s end of chapter heart questions were quite helpful, convicting, and great prayer topics.  The Father and I had some good discussions and you will too.  As per usual, Paul Tripp holds your attention, presents the topic in a cohesive appealing and sitting right next to you, personable manner.  Saturated in Biblical truth I found this to be a quite refreshing fountain much needed for my bitter heart.  My pastor and I are meeting this week, so I we can discuss the implications of this work in our lives (yes, I got copies for my pastors and you should too).  Over breakfast next week, he and I will continue the conversation of the Dangerous Calling.  I recommend that cases of this book appear at the end of the graduation stage of every bible college and seminary and be handed to each graduate, it may just touch a few lives.  In my story, I still have not arrived, but this work was right on time, on the stage of what I call my life and I cannot recommend it more highly…to everyone.

Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus–Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson — Audiobook Review

25/12/2011 Comments off

Thank you Christianaudio.com Reviewers Program for the opportunity to review this book!

Do you really need another Christian Parenting book and is your parenting really Christian?

Elyse and Jessica evaluate their work by this scathing statement and even get bold enough to state that the best parenting book is the Bible, then why another one you ask?  Because many of them teach parents how to train up their children to be either Pharisees or Prodigals.  That is all about to change when Mother and Daughter describe how to parent with grace and an emphasis on the Cross.

As a biblical counselor I see many Christian parents, in their desire to raise godly children, lean toward rule-centered discipline. There is, however, a far more effective method–a gospel-centered, grace-motivated approach that begins with the glorious truth of God’s love for sinners.

In Give Them Grace, parents will learn how to connect the benefits of the cross–especially regeneration, adoption, and justification–to their children’s daily lives. Chapters address topics such as our inability to follow the law perfectly, God’s forgiveness and love displayed at the cross, and what true heart obedience looks like. Fitzpatrick and Thompson also discuss discipline, dealing with popular culture, and evangelism as a way of life. Parents will find this book a great resource for raising grace-filled, Jesus-loving kids.

This was an exemplary and very interesting work, even now as kids have all grown and we are now interacting with grandchildren.  It challenged, inspired, and enlighten me to remember the gospel first for myself, and the benefits of making time in the moment with children.  Something not normally considered in the life of parenting or grand parenting.  The author(s) made me think about the ‘rules’ we have for the grandkids when they come over;

  1. No whining or complaining.
  2. Ask before you do anything.
  3. An adult will only ask you once.
  4. No tattle telling.
    In putting these through the grid, I see that every time we address these areas we get a chance to share the gospel with them, and it has been amazing to see the gospel of grace walked out as ages 5-10 respond differently to the same message.  I was made aware too, how these same ‘rules’ can can tend toward rule-centered discipline and I need to be cautious of that.  I thought the author(s) did a great job of holding my attention attention and the audio narrator even did a fantastic job of singing beautifully some of the songs in the book as well.  Elyse and Jessica presented gospel centered parenting information in a cohesive, yet appealing manner.  Even the appendixes were fantastic, especially the gospel story to share with kids!  It goes without saying that

NANC

    counselor Elyse successfully conveys Biblical truth and ensures that the Bible is the final authority for all matters of parenting.  I highly recommend this book to any parents and grandparents who desire to supplement their Bible reading with gospel-centered application.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:3-5 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F19127003-19127005(ESV)

A Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness by Gene Edwards and

06/05/2011 Comments off

much gratitude from christianaudio.com reviewers program!  They provide awesome opportunities to be discipled!  Great gospel-centered musings.

 

A Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness by Gene Edwards

Reviewed by:  Derek R. Iannelli-Smith 
Earl Eugene "Gene" Edwards (born July 18, 1932) is an American house church planter, a Christian author, and a former Southern Baptist pastor and evangelist. A graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, he is an outspoken proponent of the house church concept in the United States.

Is it a play?  paraphrased Bible stories? or healing salve for those as the ‘dedication’ outlines it,

To the brokenhearted Christians coming out of authoritarian groups, seeking solace, healing and hope. May you somehow recover and go on with Him who is liberty.

And the Christians who have been, or presently are, involved in the heart-rendering experiences of a division within your fellowship.  May this story give you light, clarity and comfort.  And may you, too, somehow recover and go on with Him who is peace.

And may you both be so utterly healed that you can still answer the call of Him who asks for all because He is all.

This is the second time I have visited this book in my life and the first time was going through leaving a church and starting seminary.  The second time on the other side of compassion fatigue and as a reviewer.  Both times, visited for different reasons.  First, the study of brokenness as that was what God was discipling me with at that time.  Those were sweet times but also emotional times of leaving and cleaving.  This time, we are slowly moving with a church plant and reviewing a book by a church planter!  This time hoping to truly learn humility and not bring reproach upon Christ as we serve our church/family.

The narration of the book starts like a theatrical audio that did make it kind of interesting in DESCRIPTION: Absalom hanging from a tree. Kid approaching with pinata bat. CAPTION: ABSALOM UNWITTINGLY PROVIDED ENTERTAINMENT FOR JOAB'S NEPHEW'S BIRTHDAY PARTYthe beginning.  The narration was well done and clear.  The ‘story-like’ theme made the 2+ hours zoom right by.  It was a great experience of story telling.

The distracting weakness for me however was the disconnect between the true history of Saul, David and Absalom.  For instance, Gene presents a querying David regarding Absalom’s actions and character.  When in reality, David knows exactly why he is going through this with his son.  A consequence of sin that started on a balcony long ago.

Book evaluation – maybe bringing a house church planter to the forefront may or may not be a good thing for the modern evangelical protestant church.  However when visiting Gene’s site, I found myself getting more interested in what he is doing since writing this work in 1980.

This book would be good for anyone (really, anyone – wink) as there are elements for everyone who enjoys a good book.

There is one thing, dear reader, this book is most certainly not intended to be.  It is not intended to be additional fodder in your cannon to better blast your adversaries, whatever your view.  I would beg you to be done with such ancient and brutish ways.  This book is intended for individual healing and private retreat.

Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ–Audio review

08/04/2011 Comments off

Many thanks to the christianaudio.com Reviewer’s program and the opportunity to write on this audio.

Reviewer: Derek R. Iannelli-Smith

RECOMMENDED:  A familial consistency from John MacArthur through strong historical grammatical reformed discipleship, reminding us of the gospel again!

A balanced view of the translational conspiracy on being a doulos (or slave, or in particular our slavery to Christ) and the role of Christ as kurios (Lord and Master).

Solid Solus Christus theme throughout,  combined with great historical exposition on the stories of Huss,  Spurgeon, Newton, Luther, some Piper quotes and great contextualization on doulos and kurios as it related to the 1st century church and the church today.

MacArthur says that doulos is used in the Greek New Testament 124 times, usually in describing the believer’s relationship to Christ: "Paul, a bond-servant [doulos] of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…" (Romans 1:1, NASB). At the same time, the Greek word kyrios, translated as "master," is often used for Christ. In first century Rome, where the slave/master relationship was well known, there was no avoiding what these terms signified.Discerning Reader

This was a refreshing exhilaration for renewing my mind as I know it will be for other MacArthur fans.  Having John MacArthur as the narrator of the audio book was also great.  There is just something ‘better’ when the author reads their own work. 

One of the main themes of the work is that we are reminded that we are slaves to Christ because we have been redeemed from our old master, sin, that "cruel tyrant" and the old has gone and the new has come, and we are no longer in bondage to sin because we have been reconciled and now ambassadors or reconciliation. 

MacArthur does a superb job of explaining the gospel rightly understood from a slave perspective something that is not too well received by our western hearts.  He goes on further to rightly place the Lordship of Christ in the pre-eminence it deserves while sharing the hope of scriptures saturated throughout the book.  No proof-texting here, all solid exegesis and excellent context.

imageThis is not new material for MacArthur however, in that he has been sharing this information for a while.  My wife and I saw a message by him last year on GTY on DirecTV that intrigued us to the point that when he came to Charleston SC recently, we we to see him speak on this topic at a small African American church downtown (think about that for a minute).  It was great to hear some of these items in person as well.  A well done YouTube promo for the book can be found here.

The audio book flows smoothly and MacArthur is such a great teacher that you are involved from the very moment is starts. It is well done and I highly recommend it.   This book will teach, rebuke, remind, admonish and exhort you about the privilege it is to be Slaves to Christ rather than Slaves to sin.

I feel so strongly about the message of this material that I am going to give away a copy of the hard cover book if you leave a comment on why you would be interested in this material (only 1 copy for give away, media mail, and US only).

"What does it mean to be a Christian the way Jesus defined it? MacArthur says it all boils down to one word: Slave. We have been bought with a price. We belong to Christ. We are His own possession."

I agree with the GTY website, “Embrace for yourself what the Bible really teaches about slavery—your relationship with Jesus Christ will never be the same.”

Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 1 Corinthians 7:21-23 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F46007021-46007023(ESV)

Knowing God: A review of the audio book by J.I. Packer

31/03/2011 Comments off

Thank you Christian Audio Reviewers program for the opportunity to review this GREAT Christian classic!

Knowing God by J.I. Packer, InterVarsity Press, 1993, 286 pages.

Reviewed by Derek R. Iannelli-Smith

Time Magazine listed J.I. Packer as one of the top 25 evangelicals and described him

“an Oxford-trained theologian, claimed the role informally with his 1973 book, Knowing God, which outlined a conservative Christian theology deeper and more embracing than many Americans had encountered. It did real justice to hard topics such as suffering and grace.” 

In summary, Knowing God is 286 page study on theology.  What is theology, Theopedia states that theology, “(from the Greek theos – God – and logos – word or reason) is reasoned discourse concerning God. More specifically, Christian theology is the rational study and understanding of the nature of God and doctrines of the Christian faith based on the God’s revelation of Himself, chiefly found in the Bible.”

This would accurately describe Packer’s work.  Packer states, “Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.

The book is divided in three sections, I. Know the Lord, II. Behold Your God! III. If God Be For Us . . .

I like how one reviewer stated,

“New and maturing Christians will find this book useful yet challenging, and may find it helpful to work through it with a mentor. More mature Christians will also be fed by its teachings. Some readers may be challenged by the theological vocabulary that Packer uses, but this is another opportunity to learn and grow. Knowing God will help the reader understand biblically who God is and who we are in Jesus Christ. This book is not only relevant to today’s Christian, it is an essential read.”

I read this book early on in my Christian walk and was impressed, and now 14 years later it made and even deeper impact.  Two sections impacted me this time around, Chapter 4 on Idolatry and Chapter 20 on Grace.  Why?

Idolatry is a topic that has not been discussed well in many Christian circles.  The pendulum swings back in forth from liberalism to extreme fundamentalism.  Packer’s expositional handling of this topic is highly recommended and one that I would recommend all of us who use the terminology of idolatry need to be reminded of.

The section on grace is one that is needed and I remember thinking to myself as I read this, how it reminded me of a body of believers I was associating with sometime ago.  They had some fuzzy thinking about grace and how I wished I could have remembered that this was out there and an invaluable resource we could have studied the topic together and been reminded correctly of the true definition of grace.  Packer’s discourse reminded me of an another author who also spoke of grace.

"Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate." — Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship)

The narrator for the audiobook from christianaudio.com did a great job with inflection, tone, pace, and it was easy to stay engrossed in the material.

It was great to review this book again and I was struck by the relevancy, the soberness, and the truth in which this book almost 30 yrs. old spoke.  It was a very discerning work and I highly recommend it for those who want to love God with all their mind.

Living by God’s Promises–by Joel Beeke & James A. La Belle (audiobook)

19/03/2011 Comments off

thank you christianaudio.com for the opportunity to review this book.

As a Biblical Counselor I am always intrigued by the Puritans.  When I saw the authors of this work I was excited as it reminded me of my PCA ordination study days in which I was first exposed to Joel Beeke on Family Worship.

However, although I was excited to be exposed to Andrew Gray, Edward Leigh, and William Spurstowe, I found the audio book disjointed, and hard to follow.  I had to constantly rewind sections (listened to it 2x in entirety as I thought I was not giving it good stewardship or missing something) and the LONG point lists that many times were over 20 points made my eyes glaze over. 

I hesitate to give a negative review as I have been so thankful for the opportunity to be9781601781048m exposed to audio books.  Many of them, I have referred and recommended to others.  However I cannot recommend this one. 

The authors attempt to contextualize living by the promises of God through the eyes of the Puritans which is a FANTASTIC endeavor and one that I was obviously intrigued with.  The scripture references throughout were right on and a great encouragement, it was the flow, possibly the writing, and the narration that made it so hard to listen to.  I kept listening for the key that I listen and read of many materials – who could this benefit and would they read/listen to it in its entirety?  Sadly, I would have to say no. I found it hard to find applications and relevance to the folks I disciple regularly.

Thanks again christianaudio.com for the opportunity to review this book.

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