First-Time Dad by John Fuller

I wrote recently on the idea that Fathers Matter.

In First-Time Dad, John Fuller provides some helpful reflections, ideas, and insights for guys about to start this incredible journey of fatherhood.

This book is not a “how-to” of being a dad. Nor is it a book on theory of parenting. It’s not an exposition of the theme from scripture. It’s not even exactly an advice book.

The best way I can think to describe it is like the conversations a young guy would have with an older, experienced dad at a coffee shop over the course of a few Saturday mornings.

Imagine the conversations you would have if you sat down and asked about:

“What expectations should I have?”

“What is fatherhood all about?”

“How do I balance time and priorities?”

“How will the baby change our family?”

“How do I love my wife and my baby’s mother?”

“What if it’s a boy? What if it’s a girl?”

Plus a few more questions…

That’s what this book is. It’s thoughtful reflections on topics like these. It’s full of great ideas and tips. It’s not a how-to book though, but a book of ideas, questions to ask, ways to think.

It was a helpful book to read in the weeks leading up to fatherhood and in the weeks since.

If you are about to become a father this would be a great book to pick up and mull over. If you know someone who is about to start that journey, this is a great gift that you could share with them.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free evaluation copy of this book. I did not receive any monetary payment nor was I required to write a positive review. I hope my comments about the book will help you evaluate whether or not the book is worth purchasing and reading.

A Godward Heart by John Piper

A Godward Heart is intended in some sense to be a devotional book. In reading a few other reviews I’ve seen criticisms that it doesn’t really succeed on that front.

In some ways I can see why people would say that.

It does not follow the line of traditional devotional books in walking through a text or leaving you with a simple boiled down truth to guide your day. I’ve never been a big fan of those books, though there’s nothing wrong with those. They are many times incredibly helpful.

A Godward Heart does have a little bit of a different feel. The book is a collection of 50 short chapters designed to draw your thoughts to “treasuring the God who loves you.” They are short essays on a whole host of topics from how Christians should vote, to the question of “does God lie?”, to how to love neighbors of other faiths, to the concept of hero-worship and the “celebrity pastor.”

He also walks through a few challenging or thought provoking scripture passages like Galatians 4:18, 1 Chronicles 10, Zephaniah 3, Psalm 96:7, and more. Not exactly the most common devotional passages.

The book would best be utilized as a quick read to set your mind thinking for the day. These short “meditations” are useful for just that – meditating. The are food for thought. Not a snack for quick consumption, but something that will set you going for hours throughout the day.

If you’re familiar with John Piper’s work you’ll know that his hallmark is drawing people into big thoughts about God. He is gifted at drawing people to delight in God, who he is and what he has done.

If you are looking for that, then you’ll find much here.

So here are my words about what the book is about or you can listen to the author explain for himself:

DISCLAIMER: I received a free evaluation copy of this book. I did not receive any monetary payment nor was I required to write a positive review. I hope my comments about the book will help you evaluate whether or not the book is worth purchasing and reading.

Altared by Claire and Eli

Altared: The True Story of a She, a He, and How They Both Got Too Worked Up About We
By Claire and Eli

Altared is written in a rather interesting style. It intersperses the story of the relationship of Claire, an aspiring writer, and Eli, a JD student at the University of Chicago Law School, together with some profound reflections on love and marriage and the place that they have come to occupy in present-day Christian circles.

The authors in this book wonder if we have made too little of love – by making too much of marriage. They are not at all against the institution of marriage, but based on their experiences – and it seems a fair description of far too many places in Evangelical circles – marriage is held up as the highest aim for the post-University Christian.

They reflect on whether or not perhaps we are missing something important that should be even more fundamental to whether or not marriage is the next step in life.

The goal here isn’t a simplistic yes or no to marriage overall, which would be both unhelpful and a bad idea. The goal is to ask if we missed something in our evangelical assumptions about marriage. What did marriage mean for discipleship? What did discipleship mean for marriage? If Christ’s love was the way others would know we are His (see John 13:35), what kind of love was it? (Loc. 77) 

What role does discipleship have in relationships? What role do relationships have in our discipleship?

These are helpful questions – they go back to the where is the core of our identity. Are we primarily defined by our relationship status – single or married or its complicated – or by our relationship status – redeemed child of God, heir, Christ-follower, disciple?

The book pushes towards a closer look at what Jesus said is the Great Commandment – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Do we do a good job at that?

His love will radically change both whom we choose to love, and how we choose to love them. (Loc. 383)

It is about abiding in Christ, locating His cross-shaped mold and living there. Obedience is abiding in His love. (Loc. 405)

These thoughts apply to relationships and pursuing marriage – but they go much deeper. They start to inform what it means to love our neighbors, what it means to live in community, what it means to be a church member, and the list could continue.

So – think about it – if you are single: Are you loving God and loving your Neighbor? Before you get caught up in the pursuit of the one, pursue the One.

If you are married: Are you Loving God and Loving your Neighbor? How does your life continue to model discipleship? In your use of time and resources are you continuing to obey Jesus? Are you living out his Love? If you have kids, is this being modeled in front of them? Do they see you intentionally loving God and loving neighbor?

It was a fundamental re-ordering and re-centering of all parts of our lives (Loc. 1201)

This is what we need to have happen for all of us. We need to be living in obedience  – abiding in His love. This starts first internally and then moves externally.

For the love of God to truly take root, our transformation must be inward first, then outward. God must pervade our interior lives before He can be truthfully present in our exterior actions. (Loc. 2157)

So – if you are searching for the one, if you are in a relationship, if you are married, the question should be – where is your love? Have you made the right relationship ultimate? If not, then all relationships will be out of whack.

Altared raises a number of helpful questions – confronts a number of false conceptions – and tells a rather interesting story along the way.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free evaluation copy of this book. I did not receive any monetary payment nor was I required to write a positive review. I hope my comments about the book will help you evaluate whether or not the book is worth purchasing and reading.

The End by Mark Hitchcock

The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days
by Mark Hitchcock

Book Description

The end times have seen a great amount of interest within the last two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive overview of biblical prophecy and eschatology for more than five decades. Mark Hitchcock’s book is that comprehensive resource for the twenty-first century The End will do for eschatology what Randy Alcorn’s Heaven did for people’s understanding of heaven. It will provide a solid biblical foundation for Christians to explore the essential truths around this topic—the end of the world.

My Review

The End aims to provide an overview of Biblical Prophecy and a vision of the Christian view of Eschatology. For anyone even the least bit familiar with views on eschatology, that is the end times, they are quite aware that there is a whole host of disagreement concerning any sort of particulars.

The Bible certainly has a lot to say concerning the last days. How exactly that information is to be understood is an oft-debated topic, however. Recognizing that this is the case Mark Hitchcock in the opening of his book acknowledges that their are differences and he touches upon some of them but also clarifies that he will articulate what he believes is the correct view and while interacting with the other views does not claim to fully articulate all of their teachings in detail. This was a helpful point to clarify up front.

Another point of clarification that Hitchcock makes early on is in acknowledging that there are vast areas of disagreement there are core fundamentals on which Christians do agree concerning the end times. He lists these as his non-negotiables. They are – the return of Jesus Christ to the earth, the bodily resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment of all people. Beyond these areas he recognizes there will be disagreement and acknowledges that may be acceptable.

Hitchcock presents a pre-tribulational, pre-millennial eschatology. The work is an impressive overview and interacts with nearly every major prophetic text, in both the old and new testament. It also provides a great reference work for dealing with particular topics. It is a quite lengthy text (500+ pages) but the chapters are short enough that it is not difficult reading.

The book is certainly well-researched and is not exactly “light-reading” but neither is it a dense academic tome. The book is written at more of a popular level that is accessible for most lay-people. It also serves as a great reference work and would be a very useful tool for preparing lessons and sermons. So it succeeds in this level but is not at the highest academic level.

The End is a very helpful reference work on the end times. It would be among the first books that I would reference for someone looking for an introduction to a pre-trib, pre-mil position on eschatology.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free evaluation copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers. I did not receive any monetary payment nor was I required to write a positive review. I hope my comments about the book will help you evaluate whether or not the book is worth purchasing and reading.

The Pleasures of God by John Piper

The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God

by John Piper

This book is shaped by one thought that gripped the author to write this book. That is this quote from Henry Scougal:

The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love. (loc. 255)

This is a truth which we can aim at ourselves and use to determine whether the things which we love are really of a value that that they define the worth and excellency of our soul. This has the potential to be a very challenging and thought provoking book. Yet, that is not what this book is. Piper takes this idea and rather than looking to determine what it is that man loves and delights in he aims to illuminate what God loves and delights in. That is the story of The Pleasures of God. It is an investigation of scripture to determine what God delights in. So in one sense that makes this book very much not about us. It is not written as an attempt to transform us but to illuminate and enlighten our understanding of God. This might be a detractor from the value of this book were we to fail to grasp this concept:

We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. – 2 Corinthians 3:18

Paul teaches that the act of beholding – contemplating – the glory of God results in our transformation. So if that is the case then a book like this that is full of beholding God’s glory can be extremely beneficial in bringing about personal transformation.

I have been a big fan of nearly everything that I’ve read written by John Piper. Whether or not I agree with it all word-for-word is irrelevant because his writings always are very scripture driven and drive the reader back to the text. At that level there is agreement.

This book is in some senses a follow-up (or maybe actually the precursor) to Desiring God. The core concept in that book is that “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him.” In other words, that the ultimate aim of our affections is to be God himself. This book asserts the idea that the ultimate aim of God’s affections is God.

I regard this book as a vision of God through the lens of his happiness. (loc. 302)

The structure of this book begins for the first six chapters with an investigation of the delights of God himself first. It is only in the seventh chapter that the focus turns to include the response of humans and how God is delighted in that. This structure is intentional to communicate that God is at the center of the Gospel. His delight is served in in the delight of mankind. When we pray or trust or obey it serves to further the delight of God himself as we express our delight in him.

Whether you are a Christian or not, young or old, I would recommend you read and reflect on this book. This is a book that demonstrates the orientation of life that leads to ultimate joy and satisfaction.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free evaluation copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers. I did not receive any monetary payment nor was I required to write a positive review. I hope my comments about the book will help you evaluate whether or not the book is worth purchasing and reading.